This Small Kitchen Tool Will Revolutionize Your Weekday Meal Prep

In an ideal world, I’d set aside a few hours every Sunday for an elaborate meal prep routine. Tunes would be blasting as I seamlessly chopped veggies, roasted chicken, and steamed rice. After putting in a couple of hours’ work, I’d stock my fridge with pre-portioned meals and snacks, do all the dishes right away instead of leaving them in the sink, and get ready to eat nourishing food for the whole week ahead.

In reality, this almost never happens. I work from home and continually delude myself that there’s no need to prep, because I’ll find the time to cook myself meals “as I go.” Spoiler alert: That doesn’t happen. Instead, I only start thinking about food when I get ravenously hungry, stumble to the fridge, and stare blankly at my latest farmers market haul while willing my produce to assemble itself into a meal right away with little to no effort on my part.

There’s a kitchen tool that actually helps with this: the mandoline slicer.

A few years ago I Googled “faster way to chop veggies” in the run-up to hosting a Friendsgiving dinner. My search introduced me to the mandoline, which slices produce and other foods super thinly, and I haven’t looked back since. I got even more ambitious and purchased this OXO set, which goes for $29.95 and includes different attachments that allow me to slice, grate, and julienne all manner of fruits, crunchy veggies, and hard cheeses in just a couple of minutes. When I need to eat ASAP before extreme hanger sets in, or throw together something quick before heading to a meeting or a workout, this handy little tool does all the finicky chopping work in no time at all.

It can take a little while to get used to having your hands so close to the blade (I was sure I was going to slice one of my fingers off the first couple of times I used mine), but many slicers come with safety options like a grippy food guard you can use to protect your fingers. You can also use a fork to hold whatever you are slicing, keeping your digits safe.

There are tons of different mandoline slicers and slicer/grater sets out there (here are a bunch on Amazon). Most are relatively inexpensive and very easy to clean by hand. Some models allow you to take out the blades to sharpen them, so they can last a long time if you treat them well. The one I have takes up very little space, which is very important in my small apartment kitchen, and it can also go in the dishwasher. (Score!) Generally, mandolines don’t have tricky instructions or come with alarming warning labels saying that something might explode if you make a mistake. You don’t have to plug them in, and they don’t generate heat—making them especially useful on those humid summer days where the idea of using your stove is unbearable.

Some great mandoline-friendly produce to keep around includes apples, cucumbers, bell peppers, carrots, and sugar snap peas. Basically, if you love crunchy vegetables but do not love to spend hours each week chopping, the mandoline slicer is a very worthwhile purchase good for more than just quick salads. The tool is also perfect for dishes with sweet potatoes, eggplant, or zucchini. And, it’s useful when you want to try your hand at homemade veggie chips, ratatouille, quick pickling, fancy-looking fruit tarts, creating a huge pile of sliced red onion for that bagel brunch you’re hosting…the list goes on.

Here are a few recipe ideas to get you started:

  1. Homemade Veggie Chips With Ranch
    Dressing
  2. Grilled Zucchini Roll Ups with
    Feta
  3. Vegan Sweet Potato Butternut Squash
    Tortilla
  4. Spiced Sweet Potato
    Quesadilla
  5. Potato Tart With Chevre, Tomato, And Quinoa
    Crust
  6. Autumn Tabbouleh with Cauliflower, Carrots, and Golden
    Beets
  7. Caesar Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad with Crispy Chickpea
    Croutons

Ultimately, a mandoline slicer is a must-have for salad fans, lazy meal preppers, and anyone who loves a good snack of raw veggies.

All products featured on SELF are independently selected by our editors. If you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Related:

How an Inexpensive Mandoline Slicer Can Revolutionize Your Weekday Meal Prep

In an ideal world, I’d set aside a few hours every Sunday for an elaborate meal prep routine. Tunes would be blasting as I seamlessly chopped veggies, roasted chicken, and steamed rice. After putting in a couple of hours’ work, I’d stock my fridge with pre-portioned meals and snacks, do all the dishes right away instead of leaving them in the sink, and get ready to eat nourishing food for the whole week ahead.

In reality, this almost never happens. I work from home and continually delude myself that there’s no need to prep, because I’ll find the time to cook myself meals “as I go.” Spoiler alert: That doesn’t happen. Instead, I only start thinking about food when I get ravenously hungry, stumble to the fridge, and stare blankly at my latest farmers market haul while willing my produce to assemble itself into a meal right away with little to no effort on my part.

There’s a kitchen tool that actually helps with this: the mandoline slicer.

A few years ago I Googled “faster way to chop veggies” in the run-up to hosting a Friendsgiving dinner. My search introduced me to the mandoline, which slices produce and other foods super thinly, and I haven’t looked back since. I got even more ambitious and purchased this OXO set, which goes for $29.95 and includes different attachments that allow me to slice, grate, and julienne all manner of fruits, crunchy veggies, and hard cheeses in just a couple of minutes. When I need to eat ASAP before extreme hanger sets in, or throw together something quick before heading to a meeting or a workout, this handy little tool does all the finicky chopping work in no time at all.

It can take a little while to get used to having your hands so close to the blade (I was sure I was going to slice one of my fingers off the first couple of times I used mine), but many slicers come with safety options like a grippy food guard you can use to protect your fingers. You can also use a fork to hold whatever you are slicing, keeping your digits safe.

There are tons of different mandoline slicers and slicer/grater sets out there (here are a bunch on Amazon). Most are relatively inexpensive and very easy to clean by hand. Some models allow you to take out the blades to sharpen them, so they can last a long time if you treat them well. The one I have takes up very little space, which is very important in my small apartment kitchen, and it can also go in the dishwasher. (Score!) Generally, mandolines don’t have tricky instructions or come with alarming warning labels saying that something might explode if you make a mistake. You don’t have to plug them in, and they don’t generate heat—making them especially useful on those humid summer days where the idea of using your stove is unbearable.

Some great mandoline-friendly produce to keep around includes apples, cucumbers, bell peppers, carrots, and sugar snap peas. Basically, if you love crunchy vegetables but do not love to spend hours each week chopping, the mandoline slicer is a very worthwhile purchase good for more than just quick salads. The tool is also perfect for dishes with sweet potatoes, eggplant, or zucchini. And, it’s useful when you want to try your hand at homemade veggie chips, ratatouille, quick pickling, fancy-looking fruit tarts, creating a huge pile of sliced red onion for that bagel brunch you’re hosting…the list goes on.

Here are a few recipe ideas to get you started:

  1. Homemade Veggie Chips With Ranch
    Dressing
  2. Grilled Zucchini Roll Ups with
    Feta
  3. Vegan Sweet Potato Butternut Squash
    Tortilla
  4. Spiced Sweet Potato
    Quesadilla
  5. Potato Tart With Chevre, Tomato, And Quinoa
    Crust
  6. Autumn Tabbouleh with Cauliflower, Carrots, and Golden
    Beets
  7. Caesar Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad with Crispy Chickpea
    Croutons

Ultimately, a mandoline slicer is a must-have for salad fans, lazy meal preppers, and anyone who loves a good snack of raw veggies.

All products featured on SELF are independently selected by our editors. If you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Related:

Can People With Sensitive Skin Be in the Retinol Club, Too?

It seems like every day I come in and hear another story or read another Reddit post about retinol and the havoc and/or miracle it’s wreaking on someone’s face. But because I have sensitive skin thanks largely to rosacea, I know I can’t go near the stuff. And, therefore, I’m feeling a bit left out of the inevitable bonding that comes from being in the Retinoid Club.

However, it turns out that not all types of retinoids are equally irritating. And, with some simple strategies, those of us with sensitive skin may yet earn our membership.

What do retinoids actually do?

All retinoids are forms of vitamin A, which your body typically gets from food and metabolizes into a few different “active” forms that can be used. Vitamin A plays a role in maintaining your vision and other bodily processes. And, when used topically, these compounds are thought to stimulate a variety of processes that cause skin cells to proliferate and shed more quickly and evenly, John G. Zampella, M.D., assistant professor in the Ronald O. Perelman department of dermatology at NYU Langone Health, tells SELF. That leads to well-studied medical and cosmetic benefits, such as smoother skin, less acne, and fewer wrinkles. “Retinoids are the only thing clinically proven to reverse the signs of aging, full stop,” Dr. Zampella says.

But topical retinoids are also known to cause some irritation, especially at first. That includes dryness, redness, itching, peeling, and flaking that may be worse for some people than others. And if you’re going into the process with sensitive skin, you may be hit especially hard. “People with more oily skin tend to tolerate them, while those with dry, sensitive skin tend to suffer skin irritation from retinoids,” Emily Newsom, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, tells SELF. So, is there any way for people prone to irritation to still get the known benefits of using topical retinoids?

Some retinoids may actually cause less irritation than others.

There are two major categories of retinoids: those found naturally in your body and those created synthetically. Natural retinoids include retinol, which is converted into retinal (retinaldehyde), which is later converted into retinoic acid.

Well-known products like tretinoin (Retin-A) and isotretinoin (formerly Accutane) are forms of retinoic acid. But these dermatological big guns are also likely to cause the most irritation—especially if you’re already prone to those sorts of reactions.

That said, tretinoin does come in different concentrations (all the way from .025 percent to .1 percent) depending on the brand or if it’s generic, Dr. Newsom points out, and your derm will likely have you start at the low end. If you find that you can only tolerate that level, you certainly don’t need to bump it up.

“Also, certain formulations are better tolerated,” she says. For example, some people have better luck with micronized tretinoin (Retin-A Micro or micronized generic tretinoin) because it’s formulated in a way that allows for smaller doses of medication to be delivered to the skin at a time. However, she says, micronized tretinoin tends to be more expensive. The brand Renova also has a reputation for being better tolerated due its formula, she says.

Additionally, Dr. Newsom explains, some people may also find that they’re better able to tolerate the synthetic retinoids (including tazarotene and adapalene, now over-the-counter). That’s because these medications are formulated to bind to only some receptors for retinoic acid. (Actual retinoic acid binds to these receptors and many more.)

For patients with sensitive skin, Dr. Zampella recommends they start with retinal, which comes in a few over-the-counter products such as Avène RetrinAL .05 Cream, $70, and MyChelle Remarkable Retinal Serum, $48. Some research does suggest that retinal is basically as effective as those heavy duty retinoids and less likely to cause adverse reactions. For instance, in a study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology in 1998, researchers randomly assigned 125 participants with sun damage to get either .05 percent retinaldehyde cream, .05 percent retinoic acid cream, or a control cream with no active ingredient. Within 18 weeks, the participants receiving retinaldehyde and retinoic acid showed a significant reduction in wrinkles and roughness while the control group did not show any significant changes.

So, they both work. But what about irritation? Interestingly, 77 percent of those in the retinaldehyde group showed no irritation reaction (13 percent had a mild reaction and 9 percent had a moderate reaction). But only 28 percent of those in the retinoic acid group didn’t have irritation, and two participants had severe reactions. So, these results suggest that retinal can be effective at reducing the signs of aging with less unpleasant irritation than retinoic acid.

Another study, this one published in 1999 in Dermatology, compared how well participants could tolerate retinol, retinal, and retinoic acid over 44 weeks. They found that retinol and retinaldehyde were both significantly better tolerated than retinoic acid.

What to know if you want to start using a retinoid:

Trying a retinoid when you have sensitive skin is a bit intimidating. So, as with all new products, this is something that should be introduced slowly and carefully (and, likely, with the help of a dermatologist). Here are some general things to keep in mind if you want to start using one.

Don’t use them too frequently. If you’re using a prescription retinoid, your dermatologist probably gave you some very specific instructions about how and when to use it, so stick with those. But in general, our experts recommend starting with a retinoid just three times a week. If, after a few weeks of that, you’re able to handle it without too much irritation, you can bump up your frequency to every other night or even nightly, Dr. Newsom says.

If you’re using an over-the-counter product that contains a retinoid, the advice is generally the same: Start just a few times a week for a few weeks before increasing your dose gradually. If you’re able to handle nightly application with an over-the counter product and you’re looking for something a little stronger, Dr. Zampella says you may want to check in with your dermatologist about a prescription retinoid that you can start using a day or two a week instead of the OTC product. The key is to gradually build up your tolerance to these products without doing too much damage in the process.

What’s the overall formula? The retinoid isn’t the only thing in the product. So you may have a better or worse reaction to a product for reasons entirely unrelated to the active ingredient. For instance, some people find that hydrating cream-based retinoids are easier to handle than gels, Dr. Newsom says. And we know that people with sensitive skin are especially likely to have reactions to fragrances, preservatives, and other ingredients that may be in over-the-counter products.

For the love of god, moisturize. Retinoids are irritating because they speed up a natural process that results in dry, flaky skin. The best way to counteract that is, of course, to moisturize. You may also find it helpful to mix the retinoid with your moisturizer when applying it, Dr. Newsom says, or to apply it right before or after the moisturizer to help dilute it a little bit.

Plan your bedtime routine. “Some dermatologists recommend using retinoids at bedtime on oily, unwashed skin,” Dr. Newsom says, so that you’re not applying the product on skin that’s lost any natural oily buffer. But, she says, if you do wash your face before applying, other derms (and the packaging on many prescription treatments) may recommend waiting until your skin is totally dry because any dampness could cause the skin to absorb more of the product. Plus, after washing your face, your pores will be clear (a good thing) and vulnerable to irritation (a not so good thing), SELF explained previously.

Avoid other products that might make you more sensitive. “Avoid harsh soaps or alcohol-based toners prior to application that strip the natural oils from the skin,” Dr. Newsom advises. Those oils can act as a protective buffer and help keep your skin hydrated—two very important things to preserve while using a retinoid. “Also avoid harsh scrubs or brushes that may cause microabrasions to the skin that set you up for more irritation,” she says. And, of course, avoid using more than one retinoid product at a time.

You may need to adjust your routine for your environment. Remember that there are many other things that can affect your skin, including the weather. “Some people with sensitive skin don’t tolerate retinoids during dry winter months, but find they can them use during more humid summer months,” Dr. Newsom says, which is why Dr. Zampella says that summer is actually a good time to start using one for the first time. Similarly, if you recently moved somewhere with a drastically different climate, you may want to check in with a dermatologist about changing up your regimen to better suit your skin’s new needs.

Remember, though, that everyone’s skin is different. So if one retinoid doesn’t work for you, that doesn’t mean they’re all off limits. And although these strategies might help some people, others might find that even after weeks of using a gentler retinoid it still causes irritation. If that’s the case, retinoids may simply not be for you. Luckily, there are plenty of other products out there that can do similar things. The catch is that their potential benefits may not have as much science behind them, Dr. Zampella says.

So, if you have sensitive skin and are curious about using a retinoid or finding another product that can do the trick without the irritation, talk to your derm about your options.

Related:

9 Wellness Products That Made Our Lives Better This Month

Here at SELF, we’re always testing wellness-related products—whether it’s fitness gear, food, skin-care products, makeup, or any other accessory that helps us live our best lives—we’re always trying out something. We’re fortunate that this is part of our jobs; brands send us stuff and we get to play with all of it, see what it does, how it works, and what it adds to our lives. It’s a pretty awesome perk for us, but it also means that we can report back to you; there’s nothing we love more than sharing something we’re excited about with our readers. That’s why you can be sure that we’re telling you about the stuff we that genuinely lives up to the hype and stands out from the pack. Here, SELF staffers gush about nine products we tried and legitimately loved this month.

(Note: This list includes a mix of stuff we received gratis for testing and stuff we purchased recently, but everything is here just because we actually really like it.)

All products featured on SELF are independently selected by our editors. If you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Pregnancy shifts the daily schedule forward

Add this to the list of what to expect: Getting up earlier, at least in the first trimester.

New research from Washington University in St. Louis finds that women and mice both shift their daily schedules earlier by up to a few hours during the first third of their pregnancy. A new study by researchers in Arts & Sciences and at the School of Medicine shows how impending motherhood induces changes in daily timing of a mother which, when disrupted, may put a pregnancy at risk, as reported in the Journal of Biological Rhythms.

“This is a very important first step in understanding what’s happening in term pregnancy, and it has a potential to inform our ability to intervene and prevent preterm birth in certain populations,” said Carmel A. Martin-Fairey, a postdoctoral fellow in the department of biology in Arts & Sciences and in obstetrics and gynecology at the School of Medicine.

Nationwide, one in 10 babies is born too early, before 37 weeks of pregnancy have been completed. Shift work and other disruptions of a regular sleep-wake schedule have been associated with preterm birth and other poor reproductive outcomes. But previously little was known about circadian timing during pregnancy.

Monitoring before and during pregnancy

Nearly all organisms have a biological clock that keeps daily time, driving 24-hour rhythms in behavior and physiology. These rhythms involve sleep and wake cycles, metabolism, hormone secretion, activity level and other physical processes — and may influence reproduction in many species, including humans.

The new study tracked 39 St. Louis area women as part of a larger, ongoing study of 1,000 births. Study participants wore wristwatches that continuously monitored their daily activity and rest for two full weeks before they attempted to conceive. Once the women found out they were pregnant, they again donned the watches for the duration of their pregnancies up until delivery.

In mice, the experimental setup was very similar, with researchers monitoring both pre-pregnancy and during-pregnancy activity — in part by observing the time that the mice spent on a running wheel.

The study found that mice and women both shift their daily schedule earlier by up to a few hours during the first third of their pregnancy.

In mice, this advance in the daily rest-activity pattern was detectable by the third day of pregnancy and persisted until 10 days before delivery. Similarly, the advance of the daily schedule in pregnant women gradually returned to normal before delivering.

“For the mice at least, the fact their activity advanced so early in pregnancy was surprising. We had no idea,” said Sarah England, the Alan A. and Edith L. Wolff Professor of Medicine in obstetrics and gynecology. England is associate program director of the March of Dimes Prematurity Research Center at the School of Medicine and a co-author of the new study.

“What happens in early pregnancy is that they shift their total activity to earlier in the day,” said Erik Herzog, professor of biology in Arts & Sciences and lead author of the new study. “But they don’t seem to sleep more or be more active during their early pregnancy. It’s just a change in their daily timing.”

“Later in pregnancy, that’s when we start to see that they’re carrying a load and running less,” Herzog said, of the mice in the study. “So they seem to be separable processes.”

Certainly, a wearying workload can cause a childbearing mother to alter her schedule and sleep-rest patterns. But Herzog said this study shows it’s more than that because of how early in the pregnancy the clock shift occurs.

“There’s the fatigue perhaps, or extra work that’s required to carry a baby. But there’s something about the daily timing system that’s changing early in pregnancy probably due to the hormones that are associated with pregnancy,” he said.

Researchers also observed that the total amount of activity during pregnancy was significantly reduced — in both mice and women.

“In the mice it was centered around late gestation, whereas in women it was significantly reduced across the entire gestation,” Martin-Fairey said.

A first step toward understanding circadian rhythms in pregnancy

So the new research results provide a look into potential medical issues because they indicate that pregnancy induces changes in daily rhythms, altering both time of onset and amount of activity.

“This finding is fascinating because while we know that miscarriage, preterm birth and other serious complications during pregnancy are linked to disruptions in a mom’s circadian rhythm, we don’t know how it works,” said Kelle H. Moley, MD, chief scientific officer for March of Dimes in a statement. “This study takes us one step closer to understanding how normal circadian rhythm supports healthy pregnancy.”

This is the first publication that these collaborators have published related to circadian rhythms using data from this large St. Louis study. Other future work will help researchers better understand the impact of shift work and other high-risk groups for preterm birth.

“In preterm birth, there is a health disparity with African-American women having a higher rate,” England said. “We are well-situated in St. Louis to delve into some of the mechanisms underlying this disparity.”

“Sleep in medicine is poorly studied,” said Emily S. Jungheim, MD, associate professor in the department of obstetrics and gynecology in the School of Medicine and a co-author on the new study. “Even among healthy women and men — those who eat well, who exercise — the one thing they’re willing to do without a second thought is skimp on their sleep. A lot of people don’t pay attention to how important it might be.”

But sleep is something that can always be improved. Women who are looking to conceive can prioritize sleep.

“A lot of times if you’re looking at things during pregnancy, the cat’s already out of the bag,” Jungheim said. “There’s nothing you can do to fix it because things are already so far gone. But if you can identify a risk factor for preterm birth in a regular reproductive-age woman before she gets pregnant, you actually have time to modify it, and to see if you’ve fixed it — before she gets pregnant.”

Chatterbox parents may boost tots’ intelligence

Researchers have found that young children who are exposed to large amounts of adult speech tend to have better cognitive skills.

The major new study, led by researchers at the University of York, identified a link between kids who heard high quantities of adult speech and their nonverbal abilities such as reasoning, numeracy and shape awareness.

The researchers gained unprecedented insight into the secret lives of pre-schoolers by fitting tiny audio recorders into the clothing of children aged two to four.

The experiences of 107 children and their interactions with parents and other caregivers were recorded in the home environment over three days for up to 16 hours per day.

Parents were also asked to complete activities with their children — involving drawing, copying and matching tasks — designed to test their child’s cognitive skills.

Lead author of the study, Katrina d’Apice, a PhD student from the University of York’s Department of Education, said: “Using the audio recorders allowed us to study real-life interactions between young children and their families in an unobtrusive way within the home environment rather than a lab setting.

“We found that the quantity of adult spoken words that children hear is positively associated with their cognitive ability. However, further research is needed to explore the reasons behind this link — it could be that greater exposure to language provides more learning opportunities for children, but it could also be the case that more intelligent children evoke more words from adults in their environment.”

The researchers also found that high quality adult speech may have benefits for children’s linguistic development, as children in the study who interacted with adults who used a diverse vocabulary knew a greater variety of words themselves.

The study also analysed the recordings to look at the impact different parenting styles might have on the children’s behaviour.

d’Apice and her colleagues found that positive parenting — where parents are responsive and encouraging of exploration and self-expression — was associated with children showing fewer signs of restless, aggressive and disobedient behaviours.

The study’s senior author, Professor Sophie von Stumm from the Department of Education at the University of York, said: “This study is the largest naturalistic observation of early life home environments to date.

“We found that the quantity of adult spoken words that children were exposed to varied greatly within families. Some kids heard twice as many words on one day as they did on the next.

“The study highlights the importance of treating early life experiences as dynamic and changeable rather than static entities — approaching research in this way will help us to understand the interplay between environmental experiences and children’s differences in development.”

Story Source:

Materials provided by University of York. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Keeping fit is more than physical: It’s a state of mind

According to a new study differences in what motivates individuals and how they self-regulate behavior influence how they keep fit. The study appearing in the journal Heliyon, published by Elsevier, associates personal characteristics with whether people are likely to prefer solo or group exercise activities, CrossFit® training, resistance training, or team sports, how frequently they work out, and if they are likely to stick to their routine.

The investigators set out to better understand why individuals adopt and adhere to regular physical activity programs, whether differences exist in personality, participatory motives, and regulation-motivation styles associated with their exercise modes, and to determine the extent to which these factors predict their work-out frequency. Their findings show that individuals selecting CrossFit, sports, or group exercise were more highly motivated by social connectedness (affiliation) than those engaging primarily in aerobic (e.g., long distance running) or resistance training exercise. Although all participants were highly motivated to engage in physical activity for positive health, those who engaged in resistance training and sport were more motivated by a sense of challenge than ill-health avoidance or weight management.

The study also demonstrated that individual differences in exercise motivation and self-control can predict participation frequency. Individuals who were more motivated by intrinsic reasons such as enjoyment, challenge, and stress management, exercised more frequently; CrossFit participants ranked highest in intrinsic motivation. Prior research has shown that people who exercise typically are more extraverted and conscientious, compared to an average population, but this study did not find any significant personality trait variances linked with different forms of exercise.

“Many individuals who initiate exercise programs may actually select activities that conflict with their interests, styles, personalities, and/or reasons for engagement. Our findings support the need for individualized exercise programs, not only from a physical standpoint, but also from a motivational standpoint. Taking these factors into account may impact the amount of physical activity/exercise that individuals actually complete,explained lead investigator Ms. Allyson Box. who began this work as an undergraduate student at Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw, GA, USA.

Data were collected from more than 400 physically active individuals who completed an online survey distributed via social media. Personality factors, motives for participation, and self-control styles were assessed using widely accepted frameworks including the Five Factor Model, revised Exercise Motivation Inventory, Self-determination Continuum, and Behavioral Regulation in Exercise Questionnaire.

Recent evidence suggests physical activity is important to decrease risks associated with metabolic, osteopathic, cardiovascular, and neurovascular diseases, as well as some cancers and mental health disorders. The positive impact of exercise on overall health is widely acknowledged, but most people tend to avoid physical activity and/or not stick with their regimen. Less than 20 percent of the population meets proposed Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (2018) by engaging in at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity and at least two instances of resistance exercise each week. This lack of physical activity has resulted in an escalation of chronic diseases, such as diabetes or heart disease.

“We encourage individuals to reflect on their personality and reasons for becoming physically active before diving into a physical activity program to ensure they engage in a physical activity that is compatible with their interest, personality, and goals,” the authors added.

“Our findings suggest that it may be more than just seeking the latest ‘fitness fad’ or ‘new diet’ in order to influence health outcomes; identifying individual characteristics and motivational factors will aid in developing an exercise program that individuals will stick to over a prolonged period of time, not just a few months.”

Story Source:

Materials provided by Elsevier. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Your genetic make-up has little impact on your dental health, new study finds

A new study has found genetic makeup does not predispose people to tooth decay, however the research did find that children with overweight mothers are more likely to have cavities.

The paper, published in the latest edition of Pediatrics, estimates that one in three Australian children have tooth decay by the time they start school.

Lead researcher Dr Mihiri Silva, from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, said the study looked at the teeth of 173 sets of twins (identical and non-identical) from pregnancy through to six years of age.

“How genetics impacts on dental health has not often been studied,” Dr Silva said. “This is the first twin study that looks at both genetics and early life risk factors, such as illness and lifestyle.

“We found that identical twins, with identical genomes, have varying degrees of decay. “This means that environmental factors, like a lack of fluoride in water, seem to be the prime cause of cavities not genetic makeup.”

However Dr Silva said the research did find a link between the mother’s health and lifestyle during pregnancy and the child’s future dental health, with obesity in pregnancy a definite marker for increased risk of child tooth decay.

“The relationship between maternal obesity and child tooth decay is complex,” Dr Silva said. “Perhaps the mother’s weight has a biological influence on the developing fetus or perhaps the risk of decay rises because of increased sugar consumption in that household.”

One in three of the twins studied (32.2 per cent) had dental decay, and almost one in four (24.1 per cent) had advanced decay.

Dr Silva said it was important that people don’t think of tooth decay as genetic.

“If people think the health of their teeth is down to their genetic make-up, they may not be prepared to make important lifestyle changes,” she said.

“Our findings also reinforce how important it is for pediatricians and other health professionals to educate children to start preventive measures early in life, prior to the onset of damage to dental tissues.”

Dr Silva said tooth decay was a serious health problem, because there was a clear link between child cavities and developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease later in life.

“Tooth decay is also the leading cause of preventable hospital stays for Australian children,” Dr Silva said.

(According to 2011 Victorian (Australia) Department of Health statistics, more than 26,000 Australians under the age of 15 are admitted to hospital to treat tooth decay every year.)

Dr Katrina Scurrah, from Twins Research Australia and the School of Population and Global health at the University of Melbourne (Australia), said the study illustrated the advantages of studying twins to find out about health conditions and the importance of considering the effects of early life risk factors as well as genes.

But she said it’s important to try to replicate these findings in other studies that follow children through to adulthood and to explore other risk factors for dental decay.

This latest study in Pediatrics collected data about the twins at 24 and 36-weeks’ gestational age, at birth, 18 months and six years of age. This included a dental examination at age six.

Questionnaires about the mother’s weight, illnesses, medication use, vitamin D levels, stress, alcohol intake and smoking were collected during pregnancy.

Put down the protein shake: Variety of protein better for health

Amino acids have long been touted by the fitness and bodybuilding communities for their muscle building benefits. From ultra-bulk protein powders to lean mass-promoting snack bars, there’s no shortage of products available for those seeking a muscle boost.

However, protein’s popularity has also meant that less attention has been paid to researching its potentially negative side-effects.

Published today in Nature Metabolism, new research led by academics from the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre, Professor Stephen Simpson and Dr Samantha Solon-Biet, suggests that while delivering muscle-building benefits, excessive consumption of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) may reduce lifespan, negatively impact mood and lead to weight gain.

BCAAs great for adding muscle mass, but science says you could pay for it later

Dr Solon-Biet’s research has investigated the complex role nutrition plays in mediating various aspects of metabolic health, reproduction, appetite and ageing.

“While diets high in protein and low in carbohydrates were shown to be beneficial for reproductive function, they had detrimental effects for health in mid-late life, and also led to a shortened lifespan,” she explained.

“What this new research has shown is that amino acid balance is important — it’s best to vary sources of protein to ensure you’re getting the best amino acid balance.”

BCAAs could influence mood — and lead to overeating

The current research examined the impacts that dietary BCAAs and other essential amino acids such as tryptophan had on the health and body composition of mice.

“Supplementation of BCAAs resulted in high levels of BCAAs in the blood which competed with tryptophan for transport into the brain,” explained Academic Director of the Charles Perkins Centre’s and researcher from the School of Life and Environmental Sciences Professor Stephen Simpson.

“Tryptophan is the sole precursor for the hormone serotonin, which is often called the ‘happiness chemical’ for its mood-enhancing effects and its role in promoting sleep. But serotonin does more than this, and therein lay the problem,” he said.

“This then lowered serotonin levels in the brain, which in turn was a potent signal to increase appetite. The serotonin decrease caused by excess BCAA intake led to massive overeating in our mice, which became hugely obese and lived shorter lives.”

Mice were fed double the normal amount of BCAAs (200%), the standard amount (100%), half (50%) or one fifth (20%) for life. Mice who were fed 200% BCAAs increased their food intake, resulting in obesity and a shortened lifespan.

Increase protein variety for health benefits

Qualified dietitian and public health nutritionist from the University of Sydney’s School of Life and Environmental Sciences Dr Rosilene Ribeiro recommends eating a wide-range of proteins.

It’s important to vary protein sources in order to get a variety of essential amino acids, through a healthy and balanced diet rich in fibre, vitamins and minerals.

BCAAs are essential amino acids present in protein-containing foods, with red meat and dairy being the richest sources. Chicken, fish and eggs are also nutritious sources of BCAAs.

Vegetarians can find BCAAs in beans, lentils, nuts and soy proteins.

Foods rich in tryptophan include seeds and nuts, soy beans, cheese, chicken,turkey and interestingly, crocodile.

About BCAAs

BCAAs are a group of three essential amino acids: leucine, isoleucine and valine, and are most commonly found in red meat and dairy. Whey protein — the most popular form of fitness protein — is made from dairy by-products and contains high levels of BCAA.

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Materials provided by University of Sydney. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

14 Fruit-Packed Summer Mocktail Recipes

There’s just something about a cold, fruity drink that screams “summer vacation.” For me, any occasion instantly feels more fun and festive if I’m handed an icy cold beverage that also happens to be brimming with berries or sliced peaches. Super refreshing (and begging to be ‘grammed), it’s really the only acceptable way to serve drinks at BBQs and other gatherings this summer.

While the internet is bursting at the seams with cocktail recipes of every color and flavor you can imagine, it can sometimes be a bit harder to find equally delicious and impressive mocktails. Sure, some cocktails can be made non-alcoholic by simply leaving out the booze, but many end up becoming really boring and one-dimensional in terms of flavor. Which is why it’s great to have a few mocktail recipes on hand that were specifically created to be enjoyed exactly as they are.

The 14 fruit-filled mocktails below are worth drinking whether you don’t drink alcohol at all or just are just looking for a refreshing beverage to quench your thirst and cool you down on a hot summer day—consider them required drinking for when it’s sweltering out. And with all the fruit, these drinks basically double as snacks, too!