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Smart Tips for a Healthy Memorial Day

Memorial Day is a special occasion to honor and remember the brave men and women who have sacrificed their lives for our country. It is a somber day of remembrance, honor, and sacrifice; so, it is unique among American holiday traditions.

And yet, Memorial Day has also become a time for family gatherings, barbecues, and enjoying the warmer weather. At the Johnson Center, we believe you can celebrate this meaningful holiday while still maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Here are some tips to help you have a healthy and enjoyable Memorial Day.

1. Take Heliocare and start applying your sunscreen today!

While being outside is a great way to soak up some vitamin D, if you’re spending over 20 minutes outside, you should apply sunscreen or wear protective clothing. Be sure to also use freshly purchased sunscreen. If you’re still using leftover sunscreen from last year, it’s more than likely ineffective, even if the date on the label says otherwise.

You should also be using organic, non-toxic sunscreen. Chemical sunscreens typically contain fragrance, parabens, phthalates, and several ethoxylated ingredients. When you use chemical sunscreen, your skin will take in all of the harmful ingredients and nanoparticles. Some researchers believe such nanoparticles are absorbed by skin cells. When the nanoparticles heat up, they will accelerate sun damage.

Heliocare is another powerful way to protect yourself against sun damage. Its active mechanism is derived from the Polypodium leucotomos fern. Extract from this fern provides protection against free radicals. Free radicals can damage the skin in their attempt to steal electrons from other molecules which cause direct harm to our skin’s DNA. Damage to DNA results in accelerated skin aging. Heliocare prevents this damage by replacing the missing electron in free radicals.

2. Grill your meats the carcinogen-free way!

Cooking meat at high temperatures, especially over an open flame, has been linked to two different carcinogens:

  • Heterocyclic Amines (HCAs)

  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs)

HCAs and PAHs contaminate your grilled meat in two different processes. HCAs are the result of the amino acids, sugars, and creatine or creatinine in meat reacting to high temperatures. The longer you cook your meat at high temperatures, the more HCAs. PAHs are produced when fat (from a cut of grilling meat) hits an open flame. The chemical then rises in the smoke to cling to the meat. They can also form directly on the meat when it is charred.

Luckily, there are numerous ways to lower your exposure to HCAs and PAHs without sacrificing your grilled meats:

  • Reduce PAHs by removing the skin and trimming fat off of a cut of meat. This will reduce the amount of fat dripping into the flame. Choosing a light, lean piece of meat over dark meat will also limit fat.

  • Don’t place your meat directly over the flame.

  • Grill foods on aluminum foil or a cedar plan. Having a surface beneath your cooking meat will prevent fat from dripping into the flame below- reducing the amount of PAHs.

  • Avoid cooking your food too much. Overcooking food will result in more carcinogens.

  • Cook your meat on low for longer periods of time. The lack of exposure to a very hot flame will prevent the development of HCAs.

  • Be sure to frequently flip your food to prevent overcooking on one side and use a thermometer to determine exactly when your meat is cooked.

  • Drink beer as you BBQ! One study found that the yeast in beer can prevent the harmful effects of carcinogens in meat. Dark and stout beers are more effective than paler beers.

  • Marinate your meat! Several different ingredients have been found to reduce carcinogens in grilled meats:

  • Rosemary

  • Basil

  • Mint

  • Sage

  • Olive oil

  • Turmeric

  • Garlic

  • Lemon juice

  • Beer and wine

3. Offer healthy and filling sides

Having healthy sides will give you the chance to avoid over-eating sugary desserts or salty chips. We have compiled a list of our favorite healthy and delicious recipes!

4. “Healthify” your recipes

We know that around the holidays, it can be hard to avoid breaking your usual nutritional habits. Especially when it comes to delicious (but unhealthy) family recipes! Luckily, there are easy and simple ways to make substitutions to your favorite recipes without sacrificing flavor.

  • Reduce the amounts of fats, sugar, and salt in your recipes. Without sacrificing flavor, fats can be reduced by up to one-half, sugar can be cut by one-third or one-half, and salt can be removed by up to one-half.

  • Make healthy substitutions.

  • Flour can be swapped for a healthier, gluten-free alternative like millet flour, black beans, or almond flour.

  • Milk can be substituted by a dairy-free alternative like nut, oak, or rice milk

  • White sugar can be swapped brown sugar, agave, coconut sugar, or honey.

Click here to read more about “healthifying” your recipes!

5. Choose your alcohol wisely

While everyone (of legal age) would like to crack a cold one on Independence Day, swapping out a beer for a glass of wine is much more beneficial for your health! Multiple studies have proved that red wine is the only alcoholic drink that comes with health benefits, including reducing your risk of heart disease, relieving stress, supporting memory, and being good for your teeth! Just be sure you’re sipping a natural, organic wine. Natural wine is higher in antioxidants, nutrients, and has no exposure to harmful pesticides or herbicides.

We recommend you purchase your wines from Dry Farm Wines. Dry Farm Wines are not your typical Natural and organic wine producer; Dry Farm Wines Farms works with small farmers who grow their grapes organically. Dry-farmed grapes are higher in resveratrol, a polyphenol found in the skin of red grapes that gives red wine its antioxidant properties in protecting against cancer and heart disease. Dry Farm Wines are all sugar-free, no additives, and natural yeast, and have lower levels of alcohol (meaning less sugar) and lower levels of sulfites (meaning less risk of a hangover).

6. Go on a post-dinner walk

In Italy, after-dinner walks have been a tradition for centuries. They call it a passeggiata. As a growing trend in the health and fitness community, more and more research is being published about the health benefits of a passeggiata. Some of the findings are below:

  • Improved digestion- A walk after a meal has been linked to improved digestion. Moving your body after eating can stimulate the stomach and intestines, causing food to move more rapidly through the digestive tract. Several studies have even found that an after-dinner walk can prevent diseases like heartburn, irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, peptic ulcers, and colorectal cancer. Physical exercise after eating can also have a protective effect on the GI tract.

  • Better blood sugar levels- Taking a passeggiata has also been found to improve blood sugar levels. This is especially beneficial for people with diabetes, because a passeggiata can help prevent spikes in blood sugar after a meal. One study found that a light 10-minute walk after a meal was superior to a 30-minute walk at any time in terms of blood sugar management for people with diabetes.

  • Lowered blood pressure- Several studies have found that an after-dinner walk can play a role in regulating blood pressure. Specifically, 3 daily 10-minute walks have been associated with lowered blood pressure levels. Moreover, several short walks per day are more effective for lowering blood pressure than one long walk.

If there’s one thing service members and veterans want you to know about Memorial Day, it’s that the day is not meant to thank them for their service. Instead, they ask that you join them in honoring fallen military personnel, commemorating their lives, and reaching out to the families who have experienced loss.

As you gather with loved ones to pay tribute, it’s a reminder of the importance of taking care of ourselves and each other. Enjoying a healthy diet and lifestyle is part of this care. While it’s okay to indulge occasionally, ensure you savor the foods you eat and choose the healthiest, organic ingredients possible. This way, you can honor the day’s significance while also nurturing your health and well-being.


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