8 Immune-System Strategies for Cold and Flu Season

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Cold vs flu symptoms
Cold vs flu symptoms

It just doesn’t seem fair; just when we are feeling upbeat and optimistic as we look forward to spring, songbirds, and short britches, the cold and flu season arrives. Just like clockwork many of us are coughing, enduring stuffy noses, sneezing, and worse. And to add insult to injury, this year we have to deal with the coronavirus (COVID-19). For any of these afflictions, these 8 immune-system strategies will help to avoid sickness and make life a wee bit more manageable while on the mend if you succumb.

  • Get a Flu Shot. OK, you should have gotten it some time ago but there is still time if what you’ve got is the common cold. When your immune system is already compromised the flu might see you as an easy target.
  • Cut Back on the Alcohol. Too much can leave you susceptible to dehydration and poor sleep which are the two immunity-boosters you need the most. Being a bit tipsy can also lead to unhealthy food choices, sleeping less than you need to, and a higher chance of skipping workouts, all of which will have a negative effect on your immune system.
  • Get Enough Sleep. This can’t be stressed enough. Not getting enough sleep can lower the immune response. Your body has to have the correct amount of restorative time that it needs to fight off germs of all types. Quality deep sleep is the key factor but it all counts. See the image below. This was my sleep history last night as recorded by my Garmin 235 watch. First, I didn’t get enough rack-time and my deep sleep wasn’t optimized. I still have work to do. Hey, I’m dealing with it.
Sleep pattern screenshot recorded with a Garmin 235 watch
Sleep pattern screenshot recorded with a Garmin 235 watch
  • Heft that Water Bottle. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate. Copious hydration keeps energy levels up and also allows your body to scoot toxins and other waste materials out of your system at a faster rate. This fine-tunes your immune system’s ability to fight infection. Remember that many fruits and vegetables contain both water and electrolytes.
  • Include Probiotics in Your Diet. A surprising proportion of your immune system is actually in your gastrointestinal tract. The cells lining your gut have a responsibility for producing antibodies which fight off bacteria and viruses. Foods such as yogurt with live cultures, kimchi, kombucha, and sauerkraut are your friends. Supplements are also effective for this and overall health to keep everything in balance.
  • Keep Your Hands Away from Your Mouth, Nose, and Eyes. You probably touch your face more than you think you do. Even though you might wash your hands often, germs can still build up on your hands shortly after. The CDC tells us that germs can easily enter the body via the eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Get Enough Exercise. Stick to your workout schedule. It improves the way your immune system combats germs and disease, making it more efficient at fighting subsequent infection, the National Institutes of Health points out.
  • Finally, Wash Your Hands Frequently. This one should be common sense but many people neglect it to their detriment. When it is not convenient, use a hand sanitizer. Keep a squirt pump bottle in one of your car cup-holders. Ladies, put one in your purse. Studies have shown that some of the most germ-laden surfaces are grocery store carts and restaurant salt shakers and menus. How often have you seen these items wiped down with sanitizer? That’s right. Never.

Adhering to these 8 immune-System strategies for cold and flu season may not guarantee that you won’t get sick but it will certainly shift the odds in your favor. And remember, you are not only protecting yourself, you aren’t spreading anything to others.

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Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

A History of American Medical Insurance

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Medicare health insurance card and benefits
Medicare health insurance card and benefits

Today we are surrounded by so much high-tech medical apparatuses and procedures that we take them for granted. For example I recently had laparoscopic inguinal (groin) hernia surgery. No scalpel slashing, just 3 punctures. All the work was done microscopically and I was on my feet withing 3 hours.

But it wasn’t always that way. More than 90% of commonly-accepted medicine did not even exist in the 1950s. One of the consequences is that people, average people, not just the monied upper-crust, are living longer. A greater understanding about things like controlling high blood pressure adds years and quality of life.

The Cost of Modern Medicine

It should come as no surprise that all this progress comes with a cost. In fact, it has been rising faster than any other expenditure when looked at on a national level. Flash back if you will to 1930–we spent $2.8 billion on health care. That equates to 3.5% of the gross domestic product (GDP) or only $23 per person.

In 2015 that rose to $3 trillion. That’s $9,536 per person or 15% of GDP. During the 1980s medical expenditures rose by 117%. Of that, 43% can be attributed to inflation. 10% can be attributed to the rise in population and longer life expectancy. 23% was due to new technology, medicines, and treatment innovations. The remaining 24% is due to another instance of inflation that resides totally within the medical community. This last number tells us that there is a lack of oversight and cost transparency. There is no financial propping up as with the banking, agricultural, and auto-building industries.

The Transformation of Hospitals

It was only in the 1850s that the medical community realized that diseases were caused by microorganisms. This became known as the germ theory of disease and it was indeed revolutionary. It led to research that was to begin to focus on preventative rather than just curative treatment. Rabies was banished from human population in 1885. Diphtheria and whooping cough were brought under control. When milk began to be pasteurized the death rate of children went from 125.1/thousand to 15.8/thousand in 1925.

In 1873 hospitals, of which there were only 149 in the country, were more like hospices; the poor and and deathly-ill went there to die; those institutions were little more than petri dishes, not at all sanitary. But that changed because of the changes brought about by germ theory.

By 100 years later the number of hospitals had increased to over 7,000 and their role had morphed into medical research and clinical medicine. Exciting times. But… they cost a lot to operate and the number of patients could not be reliably estimated. The solution? Late in the 1920s hospital insurance was introduced in Dallas, Texas to stabilize cash flow. For a premium of $6 per year Baylor University Hospital would provide 21 days of care to subscribers.

Soon other hospitals adopted this model and formed confederations so that patients could choose a treatment facility. This was the business model for Blue Cross which launched in California in 1932. These were rudimentary insurance plans; they did not include co-pays or deductions, just fixed premiums meant to stabilize cash flow. One consequence is that patients gravitated toward hospital stays (expensive) rather than outpatient treatments (cheaper).

This insurance was paid directly to the hospital and not to the individual. This eliminated any opportunity to “shop around.” Since the money was not coming itemized out of the patient’s pocket, why should he or she care what the price tag was?

The Government Fails to Regulate Medical Insurance

During the mid to late 30s Blue Cross was spreading rapidly. The states moved to try to regulate them to the same standards as other types of “insurance.” But the American Medical Association and the American Hospital Association lobbied to be exempt, claiming an exception due to operating on a non-profit basis. The IRS agreed and ruled that they were also exempt from federal taxation. Blue Cross and other insurance companies emerging in the field operated on a cost-plus basis. Now there was zero incentive to control costs an strive for efficiency.

Hospitals began to compete not on price but by wooing doctor referrals. Doctors were being paid “reasonable and customary” charges. If Dr. C began charging a bit more, Dr. A and Dr. B would follow suit and the standard of “reasonable and customary” inched up. No oversight.

The Modern Medical Insurance Paradigm

When World War II drew us in, two things happened. One, the labor market got tighter since more workers enlisted in the military. Two, price and wage controls were implemented. In order to attract the best employees, companies began offering employer-paid health insurance as a fringe benefit which the IRS recognized as a business expense.

The National Labor Relations Board imposed collective bargaining on health insurance plans so unions began to demand more and more, driving prices up. But a consequence was that the patient became further distanced from the medical system and they lost many choices; one must take what is offered.

In 1965 the government waded into the medical market with Medicaid and Medicare. Initially, hospitals and doctors resisted but when they began to reap the dividends they quickly changed their tune. Now state governments largely controlled the purse strings of most major hospitals and thus could influence policy.

More recently a major factor in driving up medical costs is litigation. Medical malpractice suits have exploded. Cases have increased by a 1:300 ratio in the years from 1969 to 1990 alone. A special class of lawyers have even emerged to take advantage of this low-hanging fruit; these are your ambulance-chasers and your class-action law firms where actual plaintiffs make pennies while the lawyers walk away with the bulk of the settlements.

This short history of American medical insurance should serve to put things into perspective as we have a national debate over how it really should be handled. Should we stay on our present course or model our system on Britain or Canada? Should we believe in a socialist “free for all” system as Bernie Sanders advocates? (Hint: there’s no such thing as free.) Should we adopt an Obamacare model complete with a Jacobin death panel? This will continue to be an evolving national debate.

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Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

A Fundamental Guide to Long Runs

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Long run on an asphalt highway
Long run on an asphalt highway

Many runners, especially newbies, are of the mindset that running long is a workout done solely for preparing for a half marathon, full marathon, or an ultramarathon. In actuality, there’s quite a bit more to the story. They are an important part of a properly balanced training program for runners of all stripes. It is just one aspect of the 10 habits of highly-successful runners. By the way, the same logic applies to walkers as well.

Weekly long distance runs also supply key benefits for athletes that are preparing for a 5K, 10K, or any distance. It also keeps the body from plateauing for individuals intent on burning calories for a weight loss program.

In short, longer distance, slower workouts are just one more factor in a comprehensive workout program. Your easy and recovery runs should make up the bulk of your program in order to avoid injury.

Round out your weekly routine by adding in some interval workouts, fartlek, tempo runs, and sporadic pick-ups to activate your fast-twitch muscle fibers for developing speed. Adding in some hill training will boost leg strength and teaches your legs to handle lactic acid build-up.

Whatever type of workout you have planned for the day it’s important to stick to your workout warm-up routine. It might not seem necessary for a slow long run but in fact it is. And after all, there is something to be said for conforming to habit to keep you honest. The importance of rituals in our everyday lives keeps us balanced.

Long Distance Running Stimulates Physiological Adaptations

Running Times (sadly, a now-defunct magazine) coach and columnist Greg McMillan rightly pointed out that there are 3 distinct physiological adaptations that distance training provides us with.

  • New capillary growth. What are capillaries? These are the smallest of blood vessels; the more you have, the more oxygen-delivery your body is efficiently capable of. The end result is that they enhance your ability to do work. Capillaries are also key during the process of dissipating heat as they direct more blood close to your skin.
  • Musculoskeletal strengthening. As Arnold the Terminator would say, “I’ll pump you up!” Similar to the way lifting weights strengthens particular target muscles, when you add stress to your legs it promotes ligament, tendon, and muscle strengthening. To maintain and build bone density be sure to get enough calcium and vitamin D in your diet. As far as supplements go, CoQ10 is highly encouraged for the many benefits for runners, especially us, ahem, older ones. See the graphic below.
  • Enzyme changes. Running long distance encourages an increase in the amount of enzymes in the legs.
The many benefits of CoQ10
The many benefits of CoQ10

Increase Your Running Distance Slowly but Surely

The majority of wise runners do their weekly long runs when they can allocate the time for both the run and the requisite recovery; usually this means the weekend. I’m comfortable with my long run on Saturday and my recovery run on Sunday. Just look at a marathon training schedule and you will see that two things stick out. First, run distance increases adhering to the traditional 10 percent rule.

Secondly, the 10 percent build-up happens every other week in most plans; a good distance on the alternate week is generally about 10 miles for a good maintenance-distance run if you are training for a marathon. It goes without saying is that this rule becomes even more important as one gravitates to longer and more intense endurance events. The second caveat of the 10 percent rule is to limit your total weekly mileage increase to 10 percent.

Make the Long Run a Social Event

There are good reasons for making your long run a social event. And, not because “misery loves company.” Rather because accomplishment loves company. This is one of the best benefits of running clubs. It is certainly much easier to roll out of bed in the sleepy pre-dawn hours when you know your comrades are waiting for you to start laying down the miles. In fact, distance training and comradeship is the foundation of many long-lasting friendships.

As an example, organizations like USA Fit have made a cottage industry of it, and some would say, have taken the concept too far (strongly encouraged to buy merch, etc.) They’re everywhere; in Texas alone there are at least 20 clubs.

These kinds of organizations seem to be largely responsible for the growing phenomenon of marathon walkers (sometimes called turtles). Not that there is anything wrong with that as long as the race organizers let walkers start at least a couple of hours before the gun for the runners goes off.

Hopefully, this guide to long runs has encouraged you to to insert them into your training regimen. Your heart will thank you, your bathroom scale will thank you, and of course it goes a long way towards managing insomnia.

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Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Body Weight, Fat Percentage, and BMI

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Weight loss before and after
Weight loss before and after

Here we are in February. Was weight loss one of your New Year’s resolutions? How’s that working out? Weight loss is kind of a nebulous term. What most people really want is fat loss, not to be confused with lean muscle mass loss.

When a person goes on a diet and introduces weight training, the number on the scale starts to lose its meaning and those pounds reflected are not a good way to judge progress. Your “body weight” may not change much but your percentage of body fat does. Why? Because muscle weighs about 15-20% more than fat so the same “weight” of muscle occupies less real estate than fat. The way your clothes fit give a better indication of your progress than the scale does. Of course, if you do not introduce weight training the scale becomes more of a better indicator. This is also true if you take up running.

BMI is the Best Body Fat Guideline

To maintain optimal health it is important to reach and maintain a certain percentage of body fat. There are many components to your weight such as bone density, level of hydration (water), and organs. BMI or Body Mass Index is a method of estimating a person’s body fat percentage based on their weight and height measurement which it assigns a reference number to. It is easy to calculate. Try it below.

It is helpful to continue to weigh yourself on the scale but to get a real grasp on your “weight”, keep referring to the BMI calculator for an assessment of what you really want to know. The longer you are overweight the more chance you have of high blood pressure, stroke, heart problems, and type 2 diabetes. Don’t relapse into your old fat-inducing bad habits.

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Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Top New Year’s Resolution Ideas and the Path to Success

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As the old year fades into the sunset and the new one is ushered in, people all over the world will be indulging, not only in partying but in vowing to self-help. Here is a list of the top New Year’s resolutions for 2020.

Running for fitness and health
Running for fitness and health
  • Getting in better physical shape. This is one we should all be doing and there is always room for improvement. Choose something you enjoy — running, walking, cycling, swimming, yoga; the list is endless. Physical fitness can be as frugal or expensive as you want. My favorites are running and walking (with the dog). I only shell out about $200/year in running shoes.
  • Stop procrastinating. The largest obstacle keeping most people from closing in on their goals is the natural desire to relax and indulge in some frivolity rather than working hard. As soon as you get used to procrastinating it’s hard to avoid, so be prepared to put in a lot of work to change this normal tendency.
Low-carb spaghetti carbonera
Low-carb spaghetti carbonera
  • Eat healthier. We could all do a bit of cleaning up our eating habits. The good news is that access to better food choices is better than ever. Try making something new like my low-carb carbonara pictured above. Eating out is fun but spending time in the kitchen will save you money (so you can pay for that workout gear) and allow you to control the ingredients. Go with whole wheat bread rather than fluffy white. James Hamblin of The Atlantic says, “As many eaters of bread came to understand that white bread is a nutritional equivalent of Pixy Stix—the nutritious, fibrous shell of the wheat having been removed, leaving us with only the inner starch, which our bodies almost instantly turn into sugar—it needed some rebranding.” Eat more fruit. Incorporate nuts into your daily eating regimen. Try a new diet.
  • Expand your confidence and take some chances. Most people don’t exercise their confidence enough and this limits their potential. This is true in the workplace and out of it. In fact, in most cases workers that display confidence are the ones that get ahead. This is true of taking chances as well. If you don’t try, you’ll never know. The best time to start the new you is the beginning of next year when New Year’s Eve is in the rear view mirror.
  • Bring in more money. It’s never enough, is it? While it is important to strike a work/play balance in life, there’s a lot to be said for having a cash cushion. It is never too soon to plan (and save) for retirement. And while we are on the topic of bringing home more bacon, consider improving your credit score.
  • Stop smoking. This one is a classic. Unfortunately, it is one of the hardest to achieve. I should know; I quit about 35 years ago. While we are on the topic, the jury is still out on vaping. Whichever habit is in question, it’s too much money for too little return.
  • Indulge in more quality sleep. Most people don’t get enough. The recommended amount is 7-8 hours. Do you get that much? According to livescience.com, “About 65 percent of Americans get a “healthy” amount of sleep, or at least 7 hours a night, while 35 percent get less than 7 hours of sleep per night.” My Garmin 235 watch syncs with the computer and one of the things it does is generate a graph of my sleeping time and pattern. It’s very eye-opening.
A money house
A money house
  • Read more books. Everything competes for our attention today — the internet, TV, radio, the cell phone. Books may seem old school but they educate, entertain, and improve the function of our brains more than anything electronic. And if you use your local library, it’s a (gasp!) free activity! One of my best reads this past year was Dennis Prager’s Rational Bible: Exodus. Here’s a list of my book reviews.
  • Get out of debt. We’ve already touched on the topic of making more money. If you are in debt (and who isn’t) it is just as important to change that. Look into consolidating your loans. Move credit card balances to a lower interest card. Ditch your bank and join a credit union; you will get favorable interest rates on savings and loans. All these small changes add up.
  • Learn a new language. This is good for your brain health and communication skills. For example, I am fluent in Spanish. Living in Texas, that’s a good thing. Learn a language that you can use locally. Use it or lose it, as they say.
Maggie the Border Collie
Maggie the Border Collie
  • Adopt a pet. We’ve got 4 adopted dogs. Science tells us that pets are good for us so we must really be doing great! Of course having a pet involves responsibility so be ready for that.
  • Take up a new hobby. As an example, my favorite is woodworking. Some people even parlay this into a side gig.

Hopefully this list of top New Year’s resolutions will get you off to a great start. Share it with your friends and social media! Enjoy a bit of frivolity as the old year drifts away.

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Habits that Sabotage Your New Year’s Weight Loss Resolution

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Metabolism and weight loss
Metabolism and weight loss

It is no secret that your metabolism and the state of your weight are closely connected. Your metabolism naturally slows as you age; the Public Health Nutrition journal confirms this. If one of your New Year’s resolutions is weight loss, be aware that some bad habits may be preventing you from reaching your goal. Consider the following.

Avoid these Habits to Boost Metabolism and Energy

  • Skipping the Breakfast Meal. Your metabolism slows as you sleep but eating will fire it back up and allow you to burn more calories throughout the day. If you miss breakfast your body gets the message that it should conserve rather than burn any incoming calories.
  • Consuming the Wrong Breakfast Food. A sugary doughnut or muffin will set you up for that dreaded sugar crash later. A better strategy is to choose food with filling protein and fiber. Try eggs, yogurt, and berries, or whole-wheat toast topped with peanut butter.
  • Too Much Sitting. Butt-time is not your weight loss friend. If you go from your office chair straight to your car and then to your couch you are developing a very comfortable albeit very sedentary routine. Why? Sitting for long time periods locks your body into the energy-conservation mode, resulting in your metabolism slowing down. The UK’s National Health Service says, “Sitting for long periods is thought to slow metabolism, which affects the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar, blood pressure, and break down body fat.”
  • Avoiding Strength Training. Cardio such as running is great, and it can quickly burn many calories, but once you’re done running or cycling, your calorie burn begins to decelerate. When you do HIIT and resistance-based workouts, however, your calorie burn stays elevated for longer as your muscles repair themselves. The American Council on Exercise (ACE) says, “Strength training is a key component of metabolism because it is directly linked to muscle mass. The more active muscle tissue you have, the higher your metabolic rate.” As a bonus, a pound of muscle burns an additional 4–6 calories each day compared to a pound of fat. Keep in mind that this is where your bathroom scale can mislead you. Putting on muscle mass can make it look like your weight isn’t changing much but you are in fact losing fat. Trust how your clothes fit more than the numbers. If you really want to know what is going on, invest in a digital scale that measures your body fat percentage.
  • Shorting Yourself on Protein. Protein literally is food for your muscles. It also promotes the feeling of being full and it is an important component of attaining and maintaining a healthy weight. If you consume too little of it you may have trouble building or maintaining muscle mass. In addition, protein needs more energy to break down than carbs or fat, so you’ll actually burn more calories during digestion. Win-win.
  • Shorting Yourself on Sleep. Just one single bad night’s sleep is enough to leave you feeling lethargic (almost as much as some high blood pressure medication) and impair your thinking process. Compounding several nights in a row or a lifetime of chronic insomnia can be a disaster; the International Journal of Endocrinology tells us that decreased metabolism and hormonal imbalances can result.
  • Being Dehydrated. In yet another study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, researchers determined that consuming 500 milliliters of water (about 2 cups) boosts your metabolic rate by an impressive 30%, and that boost lasts for more than an hour. The takeaway is to drink water throughout the day to stay hydrated, and you’ll get the added benefit of a boosted metabolism.
  • Being Stressed Out. When your stress levels rise, your body produces a hormone called cortisol which triggers increased appetite, leaves you craving comfort foods, reduces your desire to work out, and lowers sleep quality. All four of these things negatively impact your metabolic rate. Since it is unrealistic to think that you can always control your stress levels, using methods to manage stress can go a long way toward regulating your body’s internal fire.

Hopefully this information has helped you to address the habits that can sabotage your weight-loss resolution. If so, share the knowledge and pass the link on to your friends. Getting back in shape is always easier with your support group.

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Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation and financial and energy trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.


Is the Impossible Burger Better than a Beef Burger?

The plant-based impossible Burger
Meat… I mean meet the impossible Burger

The “impossible burger” has been getting a lot of press lately. Burger King was quick to jump on it by crafting a Whopper version to capture that part of the market stricken with carnophobia (fear of meat). Undoubtedly they have met with some degree of success. After all, if a group of carnivore co-workers drag along their vegan comrade, he or she doesn’t have to settle for salad. Go for that guilt-free burger!

Before we delve into nitty-gritty of composition and nutrition, let’s try to answer the burning question: does it taste right or does it taste like a salad patty? For the purposes of answering, I made a visit to Burger King. Result? It tasted like its beef counterpart to me. As a bonus, for 10 minutes there, I was saving the planet. Karma.

The company that developed the Impossible Burger is, not surprisingly, Impossible Foods. Their mission statement reads as follows, “Animal agriculture occupies almost half the land on earth, consumes a quarter of our freshwater, and destroys our ecosystems. So we’re doing something about it: We’re making meat using plants, so that we never have to use animals again.” In all fairness I have to ask, don’t plants occupy real estate? Don’t they consume water? And how do cows destroy the ecosystem? I live in Texas where cattle is abundant and I have yet to see one of those lumbering brutes ravaging the countryside.

What Ingredients are in an Impossible Burger?

In 2016 the original Impossible Burger used texturized wheat protein. Then, this past January the company swapped it out with soy protein concentrate which has been served exclusively as of April. The soy was intended to deliver a higher-quality protein. But it also meant that the new patty was gluten-free, something the company said customers wanted.

Next, the research chefs added fats, notably coconut and sunflower oil. This was to give the burger a juicy sizzle on the grill in an attempt to more closely mimic “meat”. Additionally, they threw in fillers and binders like methylcellulose and modified food starch to hold it all together. Next they focused on additives to make the burger look, feel, and taste just right.

If that Impossible Whopper had an ingredient label on it you would see:

Water, Soy Protein Concentrate, Coconut Oil, Sunflower Oil, Natural Flavors, 2 percent or less of: Potato Protein, Methylcellulose, Yeast Extract, Cultured Dextrose, Food Starch Modified, Soy Leghemoglobin, Salt, Soy Protein Isolate, Mixed Tocopherols (Vitamin E), Zinc Gluconate, Thiamine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B1), Sodium Ascorbate (Vitamin C), Niacin, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Vitamin B12. Well, at least there’s some vitamins in there!

The Impossible Burger also contains heme, unlike other veggie patties. Heme is an iron-containing molecule commonly found in myoglobin in muscle tissue and hemoglobin in blood. This is what what makes meat taste like meat. Plants contain it as well.

Is It Healthier than Real Beef?

In the words of Elisabetta Politi, M.P.H., R.D., L.D.N., Nutrition Director of the Duke Diet & Fitness Center in Durham, North Carolina, “No. I don’t think it’s any healthier. As a nutritionist, I tell people that if we want to find a way to address obesity and diabetes, it’s to go back to the way our grandparents ate. I’m not saying that genetic modification is wrong, but I think it’s disconcerting to make up food. I would not consider this wholesome food because it’s something that has gone through a lot of changes and was created in a lab by the food industry.”

As far as saturated fat (the bad stuff) goes, she says, “An 85 percent lean beef burger, which is what you see in restaurants, has about 6 percent saturated fat. An Impossible Burger has 8 grams of saturated fat in a four ounce patty, because it contains all that coconut oil.”

The Impossible Burger falls short on protein. A beef burger offers 29 grams while the Impossible weighs in at 19 grams. If you live with high blood pressure like I do, you should also know that the Impossible contains 370 milligrams of sodium, or about 16 percent of the recommended daily amount whereas there are only 82 milligrams in a beef burger. That’s a huge difference.

The Impossible Burger has the edge when it comes to fiber, as you might imagine. Beef has zero but the Impossible delivers 3 grams, or about 11 percent of the daily-recommended amount. Regularity is a good thing.

The Bottom Line

Both Impossible Burgers and Beef burgers have their pros and cons. As I’ve said before, the “fake meat” tastes the same as the “real meat” to me so it’s really just a matter of choice. If you’re a vegan, environmentalist, or just making a political statement you can now enjoy a burger without guilt.


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About the author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation and financial and energy trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.


Exploring the Seabrook Hike and Bike Trails

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A Park Bench along the Seabrook Hike and Bike Trail System
A Park Bench along the Seabrook Hike and Bike Trail System

Seabrook, Texas was founded in 1832. It is just on the north side of the Kemah Bridge on Highway 146. Like most municipalities, as the years went by it added parks to the community. The real stroke of genius was connecting many of these parks with a crushed granite trail. This became the Seabrook Hike and Bike trail.

Parking at the Seabrook Trails

There are three convenient places to park safely. The easiest is the swimming Pool parking lot at Miramar Park, halfway between Todville and Meyer. The second is where Hester Park meets with Todville. The third is at the intersection of Todville and Red Bluff Road.

This trail system is one of my go-to spots for running and hiking. Depending on which options you choose, it is easy to get in ten miles. It doesn’t hurt that trails are so much more forgiving on the knees than concrete. Any kind of exercise is beneficial, whether you take health supplements or not.

Hester Park Bamboo Forest
Hester Park Bamboo Forest

Many, many years ago Hester Park was a working nursery. The land got donated to the city and many of the plants and trees that had been for sale just stayed where they were and thrived, like this bamboo.

Hester Park Crepe Myrtles
Hester Park Crepe Myrtles
Lilies Along the Trail
Lilies Along the Trail
A Massive Oak Tree has Its Limbs Supported
A Massive Oak Tree has Its Limbs Supported
Oak Tree
Same Oak Tree, Different View
Wild Muscadine Grapes
Wild Muscadine Grapes are Abundant Along the Trail (Yum) and are Ripening Now (Late June)
Pine Gully Along the Seabrook Trails
Pine Gully Along the Seabrook Trails

Every now and then an alligator can be spotted in Pine Gully. Other wildlife such as herons, hawks, egrets, turtles, rabbits, javelina, and deer are abundant.

A Heron Waiting for Lunch
A Heron Waiting for Lunch
The Old Iron Bridge
The Old Iron Bridge
The Bridge and Pine Gully
The Bridge and Pine Gully

Seabrook Lucky Trails Marathon

The trails are also the location of the Lucky Trails races each March. An entire weekend is a flurry of activity with a full marathon, half-marathon, relay marathon and 5K. The weather is almost always perfect and these events have no problem selling out.

The Bridge Leading to Pine Gully Park
The Bridge Leading to Pine Gully Park
A Racing Firefighter at the Lucky Trails Marathon.
A Racing Firefighter at the Lucky Trails Marathon.
Passing the Gazebo at Todville Road and Red Bluff Road
Passing the Gazebo at Todville Road and Red Bluff Road

The bottom line? If you are looking for a good way to spend the day, why not explore the Seabrook Hike and Bike Trail System. As an added bonus, the Kemah Boardwalk is only a couple of miles away.


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About the author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation and financial and energy trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.


How to Lower High Blood Pressure Naturally

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Omron Evolv blood pressure monitor
Omron Evolv blood pressure monitor

They call high blood pressure, or hypertension if you will, the silent killer. That’s because there are no outward symptoms. If you have it you’ll only know if your doctor slaps the arm cuff on and tests it. Your dentist might do it as well.

If you are diagnosed with high blood pressure, the first thing your doctor will do is tell you not to smoke, exercise more, and possibly lose weight. And then comes the inevitable medication. The problem with BP meds is that they all have side effects.

For example, I take Lisenopril and one of the side effects is that it makes me lethargic. I could tell you a thing or two about blood pressure meds and running. It also gives me a persistent cough. Luckily, there are some non-med things you can do to bring down your BP naturally.

Lower Blood Pressure by Slowing Your Breathing

Sounds like magic, doesn’t it? Well it’s not. The Resperate device has been proven to lower blood pressure. The idea is that using ear buds , a chest sensor strap, and the small device, it guides the user to breathe ever more slowly using guiding tones. The sensor monitors breathing and slows the tones accordingly. This has the effect of relaxing the blood vessels, thereby lowering blood pressure. Using the device over time has a cumulative effect. It is the only FDA-cleared device on the market to do this.

Foods to Lower High Blood Pressure

  • Watermelon. The important component here is citrulline . Once consumed, it’s converted to  L-arginine which is the precursor to nitric oxide. In the body nitric-oxide relaxes the blood vessels which causes the blood pressure to decrease.
  • Ginger- Cinnamon – Cardamom Tea. Ginger and cinnamon are both warming spices that improve circulation. Cardamom is an herb used to treat many conditions. In addition to high blood pressure, it is also effective with liver and gallbladder issues, bronchitis, urinary issues, and more.
  • Onions. The key ingredient is a powerful antioxidant known as quercetin. Quercetin helps lower blood pressure. It also helps to treat chest pain, and angina. It effectively lowers the risk of stroke and heart attack. The best way to get as much of this enzyme as possible is eating your onions raw or lightly cooked.
  • Hibiscus Tea. And you thought it was just a pretty flower! Tufts University conducted a study during which participants sipped three cups of a hibiscus tea daily. They lowered systolic blood pressure by 7 points in a 6 week period on average. These results are on par with many prescription medications.
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  • Pomegranate Juice. This fruit contains natural ACE inhibitors. These prevent those enzymes from damaging your circulatory system. The juice of the pomegranate performs like the medications doctors prescribe for high blood pressure.
  • Dark Chocolate. Good news for me and perhaps for you too! A Harvard study found that consuming just one small square of dark chocolate daily can assist in lowering blood pressure. The higher the cacao percentage the better. Look for over 70%. This study concurs with the growing body of research into the heart-healthy benefits of flavonoids. These compounds present in unsweetened chocolate cause dilation of the blood vessels.
  • Flaxseed. In 2013 a study was published in Hypertension that reported that flaxseed consumption lowers blood pressure in hypertensive patients. Over 100 patients that had been diagnosed with peripheral artery disease were in the study. This condition is associated with hypertension. The patients were assigned to either the flaxseed group or the placebo group. The former ate 30 grams of flaxseed every day for 6 months. There are many ways to add flaxseed to your diet. I even add it (milled of course) to my homemade hot sauce. Omelets? Oatmeal? Salad dressing? Yes, yes, yes.
  • Beetroot Juice. Although some of pressure-lowering effects are due to the minerals it contains, like potassium and magnesium, the real powerhouse here is the high concentration of nitrates. Consuming beetroot juice results in these nitrates being rapidly converted into nitrites by bacteria that live on the surface of the tongue, and in saliva. Next the nitrites are absorbed into the circulation system. Here they make a gas called nitric oxide (NO). This is a cell-signaling molecule which has a powerful relaxing effect on the small muscle fibers in your blood vessels. Consequently, the blood vessels dilate and your blood pressure falls.
  • Nuts. Who doesn’t like nuts? Pistachio nuts seem to have the strongest effect when it comes to reducing high blood pressure. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 21 clinical trials, all carried out between 1958 and 2013 bore out this conclusion.

This list will get you started on a delicious way to control your high blood pressure. If you have been diagnosed with it (or just are interested in tracking your health, like you do your weight), it’s a good idea to monitor it on a regular basis. Personally, I use the Omron Evolv Blood Pressure Monitor

It is very accurate and eliminates all the hoses and units. It’s just the cuff that has its own readout. It communicates to your phone by a Bluetooth app if you want to keep a running record of your results.

I hope you enjoyed this article on lowering high blood pressure naturally and found it helpful. If so, please share the link with friends and social media. And if you have some related ideas please share them with our readers in the comment section below. Thanks for visiting!


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About the author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation and financial and energy trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.


Habanero Hot Sauce Recipe

Habanero Pepper Plant
Habanero Pepper Plant
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This article was updated on 03/04/19.

I don’t make any bones about it; I like hot sauce and spicy food. I’m not sure if this is something masochistic or not–I try not to overthink it. We have a lot of hot sauce choices here in South Texas; we are not limited to the ubiquitous “Tabasco” brand. But I wanted something different. So here is what I came up with and I think you’ll like it too.

I have to tell you in advance that I am, as much as possible, a stickler for homegrown and organic ingredients (the photo above is one of the habanero pepper bushes I have been cultivating for the past year).

To be honest, I’m not sure about the name of the pepper. It depends. The one I bought called it habanero but they are also called Scotch Bonnet. Back home in Panama we called them Aji Chombo which is likely not a politically-correct term anymore so if you do not want to be called racist do not use it. Whatever you call them, they register, on the Scoville heat unit (SHU) rating, 350,000, which is 100 times hotter than a 3,500 SHU jalapeño. Hungry yet?

I am always looking for more seasoning and sauce recipes for dishes like low-carb egg noodles so here we go.

The Hot Sauce Ingredient List

I did a lot of research and took what I considered to be the best ideas for the ingredients. This is not to say that I plagiarized any other cook’s recipe. I simply developed my own and is quite simple.

  • 6 habanero peppers
  • 6 oz. balsamic vinegar (other recipes favored regular but I just prefer the flavor of balsamic)
  • Juice of 3 limes
  • (optional) 1/4 cup ground flaxseed. High levels of Omega-3 fatty acids is great for cardiovascular health.

Making the Hot Sauce

This is easy as well. Simply whip up all the ingredients in your food processor or juicer. I used my Ninja Bullet that I use to make spaghetti sauce, pesto, and smoothies.

To store the sauce I used one of those glass salad dressing carafes that you can find on the grocery store shelf. I haven’t researched it but I know that when I make hot pepper dishes like Panamanian ceviche I always have to use either glass or metal. It has to do with the acidity, hotness, etc. In any event, I don’t want to be melting a plastic container.


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Visit Kelly’s profile on Pinterest.


About the author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation and financial and energy trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.