January Healthy Living: Soda Alternatives, Sticking to Your Resolutions, Salad's Brain Power & 90% of Americans are Deficient in Potassium

Plus3's monthly health tips are brought to you by Amy Bertram, a Wellness Specialist in North Carolina. Learn more about Amy on LinkedIn and on her blog. 


Best Alternative to Soda 


You know you should cut back on your soda consumption, and the new year is a great time to do it. But those bubbles are so hard to give up! Not to mention the sugar. A great alternative to soda with little to no sugar is "fizzy" water, also known as seltzer, sparkling water, or carbonated water.  


But what is in sparkling water that makes it so satisfyingly bubbly? Carbon dioxide. Yep, that's it. Club soda often contains a bit of sodium and added minerals, but plain seltzer is simply infused with bubbles. Hence the popularity of Soda Stream and other homemade soda-makers as healthy alternatives.  Here are some pros and the few cons of fizzy H20:



  • Calorie free. Unless manufacturer has added chemical or natural sweeteners.

  • Satisfyingly effervescent. Soda addicts may find it a perfect replacement.

  • Hydrating. Just like "still" water, seltzer water hydrates.

  • Less harsh on tooth enamel than soda. Though slightly more acidic than plain water, much better than the high acid content of soda.

  • Inexpensive.


  • Possible stomach troubles. Added air may cause mild distress to some individuals.

  • Sneaky calories and chemicals. The Soda-Maker machines provide flavor packets that can add unwanted colors and sugars, as can the "calorie-free" flavored seltzers.

Warning! Don't confuse tonic water with seltzer water. Tonic water contains sugar, sodium, and quinine (originally used to treat malaria; originates from the bark of a tree grown in the Andes). While seltzer water is calorie-free, tonic water has 130 calories and 32 grams of sugar in 12 oz. For that much sugar, you may as well have a Dr. Pepper.


So if you are a current water drinker, keep it up! And if you are trying to back off of the soda consumption, try some fizzy water. Feel free to add a squeeze of lemon or lime, or a splash of juice to liven it up. 


Why Don't Your Resolutions Stick?

Because you don't really want to change.


Ouch. If that hurt, then it is probably true. So often we make a couple of mistakes when setting New Year's resolutions. Either:


1. The resolution is too vague, therefore making it feel overwhelming and unattainable;



2. We make a resolution surrounding something that we think we should change, but don't actually want to change.


Addressing #2, ask yourself why you think you should make that change in your life. What is the outcome for which you are hoping? Then take the part that you do want and create steps to get there.


For example, if your resolution is to exercise every day, but you are currently exercising very little or not at all, then you probably don't really like or want to exercise. But if you ask yourself the outcome that you would like, it is probably to lose weight, feel better, sleep better, etc. With those goals in mind, ask yourself what type of movement you do like to do. Perhaps you have always thought of "exercise" as running a few miles (but you hate to run), or taking a class at a gym (but you prefer to exercise alone). But maybe you love to play tennis, or dance, or would be willing to walk if you had company or a fun podcast to listen to. Perfect! Plan your resolution around one of those things that you actually have a likelihood of doing, and wrap it in some specifics.


Which leads me to #1. Vague resolutions tend to achieve vague results. Perhaps your resolution is to eat better in 2018. Think of specific steps that you could take (that are attainable for you) to make better food choices. For example, decide to pack a healthy sandwich or salad every day for lunch instead of going out to eat; resolve to buy one new fruit and one new vegetable each week at the store and add it to your meals or snacks; decide to cut down on soda intake (as mentioned in above article) by x amount; spend one evening each week looking up healthy recipes online. Simple but specific goals are much less likely to feel overwhelming and unattainable. 


If you are having a hard time determining how to move away from a "should" resolution and on to a "want to" resolution, talk with a friend and have them brainstorm with you. Sometimes others have a better perspective on our habits and inclinations than we do. Ask them what they think you really want in your life and what they perceive to be your greatest obstacles. Then go from there. I am sure that you can find a more successful path to the goals that you truly desire!


"If you don't really want something, getting it won't make you happy." - Gretchen Rubin: "Secrets of Adulthood"


Salad = Brain Power



Researchers found that people who ate 1-2 servings of leafy green vegetables such as collard greens, kale, lettuce and spinach daily lost less mental ability compared to those who ate fewer leafy vegetables.  After 5 years of about 1.5 servings of leafy vegetables a day, the effects were equivalent to a brain 11 years younger!


Even if you and your colleague exercise, abstain from smoking, and are of a normal weight, if you eat leafy greens and he doesn't, you will have a "younger brain" over just a few years.


Neurology: Dec. 20, 2017


You're Probably Deficient in This


Who knew that 90% of Americans are deficient in potassium? (1) In fact, less than 1% of women obtain the recommended amount of potassium each day (4,700 mg). And the more salt we consume, the more potassium we excrete. (2) But how are we to know if we are low on this underrated, but vitally important mineral? Here are some symptoms:

  1. Weakness, fatigue, generally tired: All of our cells use potassium to function, so a deficiency will cause tiredness.

  2. High Blood Pressure: Potassium helps regulate blood pressure.

  3. Muscle Aches or cramping: Potassium is used in muscle contraction, so a lack of it can cause pain.

  4. Heart palpitations:It might feel like a racing heart or a skipped beat. Definitely get checked out for this one. Potassium deficiency is just one potential cause of these cardiac issues.

  5. Bloating, abdominal cramping, constipation: Low potassium slows down many bodily functions, including digestion.

  6. Tingling and numbness: Pins and needles may be a sign of potassium-deficient nerves.

So how should one be tested for this, and how is it treated? Your doctor can test potassium levels. If they are low, you may be prescribed a potassium supplement, or simply a diet higher in potassium. Here are some foods that are high in potassium:

  • Sweet potatoes

  • White potatoes

  • Bananas

  • White beans

  • Yogurt

  • Avocado

  • Winter squash

  • Spinach

  • Milk

  • Fish 

Take an opportunity in this New Year to load up on some of these healthy foods and potentially regulate your potassium levels. (Note: Those with kidney disease should check with their physician before increasing potassium levels).


(1) https://www.ars.usda.gov/ARSUserFiles/80400530/pdf/DBrief/10_potassium_intake_0910.pdf 

(2) http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/sodium-affect-potassium-1113.html 



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