Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Importance of Sleep

By: Kristina Grabnikas, ARNP - UCF Health Center Provider
Sleep is a basic drive of nature. Sufficient sleep helps us think more clearly, complete complex tasks better and more consistently and enjoy everyday life more fully. Although many questions regarding the role of sleep remain unanswered, scientific studies have shown that sleep contributes significantly to several important cognitive, emotional and performance-related functions.

Sleep is, in essence, food for the brain, and insufficient sleep can be harmful, even life-threatening. When hungry for sleep, the brain becomes relentless in its quest to satisfy its need and will cause feelings of "sleepiness," decreased levels of alertness or concentration, and, in many cases, unanticipated sleep . Excessive sleepiness is also associated with reduced short-term memory and learning disability, negative mood, inconsistent performance, poor productivity and loss of some forms of behavioral control.

Sleep researchers believe that insufficient sleep in young adults is linked to increased injuries and death. About 1 million, or 1/6th , of all traffic crashes in the United States are believed to be attributable to lapses in the driver’s attention; sleep loss and fatigue increase the chances of such lapses occurring. A North Carolina state study found that drivers age 25 or younger cause more than ½ of fall-asleep crashes. Young adults who have not received sufficient sleep and who consume even small amounts of alcohol are at greater risk of injury than those who are lacking sleep because sleep loss has been shown to heighten the effects of alcohol.

Studies also suggest that sleep loss may be associated with a decreased ability to control, inhibit, or change emotional responses.

Perhaps the most significant behavioral change that young adults can make is to establish and maintain a consistent sleep/wake schedule. Understanding and practicing other behaviors that are considered good sleep habits are also important. These include getting enough sleep, avoiding caffeine and other stimulants late in the day and alcohol at night, relaxing before going to sleep and creating an environment conducive to sleep.

Sleep research has established clear relationships between sleepiness, health, safety and productivity. The sleep research field in general is relatively young, and we have much to learn about the role of sleep and the effects of sleep loss in young adults.

If you have any concerns regarding sleep issues, please call 407.823.2701 to schedule an appointment at the UCF Health Center to further discuss this major problem.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Organic Foods

By: Preeti Wilkhu, RD/LD - UCF Health Center Dietitian

There is big craze for organic foods these days but before you spend your money read this.

What is organic food?
Certified organic animal foods are produced from animals who are not given any hormones or antibiotics. Organic plant foods are grown without chemical pesticides and fertilizers made with manufactured components, bioengineering, or ionizing radiation. No national standards exist for organic seafood.

Is organic food more nutritious?
No. The content of organic and nonorganic foods are the same. The only differences are in the production and processing methods utilized. The American Dietetic Association states that the vitamin, mineral, and antioxidant levels in organic foods are no different from the nutritional qualities of conventional foods. A cookie is still a cookie nutritionally, whether it’s organic or not, and moderation in consumption is still needed.

So, why do people purchase organic food?
The two main reasons are the environment and health. People are concerned about the chemicals used in traditional food production. Some people insist that organic food tastes different than conventional food, but this statement is not proven by any studies or surveys.

How do I know if a food is organic?
The USDA organic food label, which is a green and white circle, guarantees that the food is at least 95% organic. Foods labeled “made with organic ingredients” must consist of at least 70% organic ingredients.

Which nonorganic foods carry the most pesticides?
Many groups, including the Environmental Working Group, think that the following 12 foods are most likely heavily dosed with pesticides. You may want to consider purchasing organic varieties of the following types of produce, if you’re concerned about pesticides:

▪ Peaches
▪ Apples
▪ Sweet bell peppers
▪ Celery
▪ Nectarines
▪ Strawberries
▪ Cherries
▪ Pears
▪ Grapes (imported)
▪ Spinach
▪ Lettuce
▪ Potatoes

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Planning: The Key to Better Health, More Energy and More Cash in Your Pocket

By: Meghan Van Camp, RD, LD - UCF Wellness Center Dietitian

We know you are busy and do not have a lot of free time. We know you “feel” out of control a lot, and planning seems like a luxury you just can’t afford. We are still suggesting you “STOP”. Slow down just for a few seconds. Take a deep breath and take a moment to think about this. A little bit of planning each week can help you eat healthier, increase your energy and save cash in the process. The summer is the perfect time to concentrate on building healthy habits because a lot of students have lighter class load, less stress, and more time. Making healthy habits now will make it easier to maintain in the fall when classes are piled on, inter-murals start back up, UCF football invades campus, and Greek life is in full swing.

The first step is to make a grocery list. Browse though your pantry and refrigerator and see what food staples you need such as milk, bread, eggs, whole grain pasta, granola bars, peanut butter, fruits, yogurt, and vegetables. Then sit down with your planner/PDA and plan out a dinner menu for the nights you are home to cook and decide what you want to pack for lunches you can take with you to work or class. Most importantly, do not forget breakfast foods. Always eat breakfast before leaving home or prepare something you can take on the road. Breakfast starts your metabolism for the day and without it you usually overeat later in the day to make up for it. So once you have made a grocery list make sure it looks balanced by having a variety of each food group. Lists will help keep you organized and limit impulse buys. We are all familiar with impulse buys, they are the cupcakes at the end of the aisle that we do not need but we want. Impulse buys usually do not provide us with any nutritional value but can take a chunk out of our food budget.

Next step is to go to the grocery store every 7-10 days. Here are some helpful tips for the grocery store:
-Be sure to be comfortably full when entering the store, because a hungry shopper spends about 17% more money on groceries.
-Shop the perimeter first. The foods that line the outside of the market are usually fresh ingredients. This is where you get your fruits, vegetable, fresh baked whole grains, fresh meats, and low fat dairy. Once you have filled your cart with fresh foods then go into the aisles to get needed items such as canned beans, cereal, brown rice, nuts, and dried fruits.
-Buy generic store brands. Over a year’s time this can save you up to 40% on your food budget. -Try the generic and if you decide you prefer the name brand then at least you gave it a chance. Most people can not tell the difference with generic items.
-Frozen vegetables are a great idea for students. You don’t have to worry about wasting money if your schedule changes and you don’t have time to cook when you thought you would. They are there when you need them and they are very nutritious.

Try to get into the routine of making grocery lists, regular food shopping, and cooking more at home. This will improve your health, help you lose unwanted weight, and give you more money in your bank account. Remember the more “fast food” restaurant meals you eat…the more weight you will put on. If you are not able to plan for a full week then try for a few days first. Once you get the hang of it, you can expand the time you plan for. So start planning today and feel better tomorrow.