COMMIT TO YOU (from the National Center on Health, Physical Activity, and Disability Newsletter, January 2013)

Needs vs. Wants  – This year, forget about unrealistic New Year’s resolutions that you’ll forget by February. In 2013, commit to be a better YOU. It is the time of year when many of us are talking about how much weight we want to lose, how we are going to exercise every day, how we’ll quit smoking, and so forth. These goals are great, but only if we do more than just talk! This year, let’s put aside good intentions and wants, and look at needs! What do you need to be a better, healthier you?

Do you really need to lose 45 pounds or do you need to lose only 10 pounds and start concentrating on eating more fruits and vegetables? Do you need to perform a vigorous workout program every day or do you really need to lower your blood pressure and cholesterol level by engaging in regular physical activity? Do you really need to look like you did when you were in college, or should you be thinking instead about being healthy so you can enjoy recreational sports, play with your grandkids, lower your blood pressure to decrease your chances of having a stroke, or keep moving so your joints won’t hurt.

Looking at things from the perspective of needs instead of wants helps us to see the true importance of our commitments, and in turn, we might work a little harder and stick with them a little longer to get the desired outcome. So, take an introspective look and decide what your true NEEDS are this year.

Change current habits:  Maybe you or your family members need to break some old habits this year like the amount of sedentary time you spend in front of a screen like the TV, computer, gaming system or phone. Other habits you might need to break:  smoking, eating dessert after dinner, or going to bed too late. All of these can lead to an unhealthy you.

 Develop new habits:  Let’s look at some things that you need to start doing. Should you be taking a closer look at your blood pressure or cholesterol levels? Do you need to do a better job of remembering to take your medication? Is it time to incorporate some type of physical activity in your life so that you can remain healthy or get your health back under control?

Regular physical activity is a “gift that keeps on giving” and the benefits are almost endless. For example, those who engage in regular physical activity can lower their blood pressure, increase their HDL’s (the good cholesterol), better control their blood sugar levels, lose weight, increase their energy –  the list could go on and on. With all the benefits, it is hard to imagine why more people aren’t participating. This year you can resolve to take control of wants and needs, and make a difference in your life.

Note:  Several research sources say it only takes 21 days to develop a new habit. So, if you do the new, improved action for 21 days and it may become a permanent way of life.


Blood Sugar Regulation:  The phytonutrients in apples can help you regulate your blood sugar. Recent research has shown that apple polyphenols can help prevent spikes in blood sugar through a variety of mechanisms. Flavonoids like quercetin found in apples can inhibit enzymes that are involved in the breakdown of complex carbohydrates into simple sugars; therefore, your blood sugar has fewer simple sugars to deal with when these enzymes are inhibited. In addition, the polyphenols in apple have been shown to lessen absorption of glucose from the digestive tract; to stimulate the beta cells of the pancreas to secrete insulin; and to increase uptake of glucose from the blood via stimulation of insulin receptors. All of these mechanisms triggered by apple polyphenols can make it easier for you to regulate your blood sugar.

Cardiovascular Benefits:  Even though apple is not an excellent source of dietary fiber, the fiber found in apple may combine with other apple nutrients to provide you with the kind of health benefits you would ordinarily only associate with much higher amounts of dietary fiber. These health benefits are particularly important in prevention of heart disease through healthy regulation of blood fat levels.

Recent research has shown that intake of apples in their whole food form can significantly lower many of our blood fats. The fat-lowering effects of apple have traditionally been associated with its soluble fiber content, and in particular, with its fat-soluble fiber called pectin. The amount of pectin found in whole apples has now been shown to interact with other apple phytonutrients to give us the kind of blood fat lowering effects that would typically be associated with much higher amounts of soluble fiber intake. In summary, it’s not fiber alone that explains the cardiovascular benefits of apple, but the interaction of fiber with other phytonutrients in this wonderful fruit. If you want the full cardiovascular benefits of apples, it’s the whole food form that you’ll want to choose. Only this form can provide you with those unique fiber-plus-phytonutrient combinations.

Managing Hunger:  The whole food form of apples is also important if you want full satisfaction from eating them. Researchers have recently compared intake of whole apples to intake of applesauce and apple juice, only to discover that people report less hunger (and better satiety, or food satisfaction) after eating whole apples than after eating applesauce or drinking apple juice. But especially interesting was an additional finding about calorie intake following apple consumption.

When healthy adults consumed one medium-sized apple approximately 15 minutes before a meal, their caloric intake at that meal decreased by an average of 15%. Since meals in this study averaged 1,240 calories, a reduction of 15% meant a reduction of 186 calories, or about 60 more calories than contained in a medium apple. For these researchers, “getting ahead” in calories with a net reduction of 60 calories was a welcomed outcome of the study, and an extra benefit to their study’s primary conclusion—the importance of whole apples (versus other more processed apple forms) in helping us manage our hunger and feeling more satisfied with our food.

Potential Bacterial Balance: Scientists have recently shown that important health benefits of apples may stem from their impact on bacteria in the digestive tract. In studies on laboratory animals, intake of apples is now known to significantly alter amounts of two bacteria (Clostridiales and Bacteriodes) in the large intestine. We expect to see future studies confirming these results in humans, and we are excited to think about potential health benefits of apple that will be related to its impact on bacterial balance in our digestive tract