The Incas faced problems with having to take long journeys and having a food productthat would travel well and sustain them for a long time. Chuno is an Inca discovery which is still a part of the culture of the population that inhabit the area surrounding the Andes. It is essentially freeze-dried potatoes that can be stored for years. The process is simple. Potatoes are sun-dried and then frozen at night and then stomped on to remove the water and skin. Inhabitants of both Peru and Bolivia lean on Chuno, which can last for decades. When there is a long lasting drought and there is little in the way of vegetables and meat to survive this is what they lean on. Many who have tried it say it is bad-tasting and foul smelling. However, it is abundant in carbohydrates while being high in iron and calcium making it a necessity for energy, strength and strong bones when little else is available.
Logan fruit is the actual name of this fruit. It is also referred to as euphoria fruit in China where it has been part of traditional Chinese tonics for anti-aging and sexual health. It is native to Southeast Asia and is not grown in the Americas. After the thick skin is peeled, it resembles a peeled grape and has a flavor similar to a lychee. The interior has a shiny dark lacquered brown pit which is where it gets its name “Dragon Eye”. The fruit is more easily found in Asian markets. Dragon eyes are rich in Iron, Magnesium, phosphorus, potassium as well as a rich source of Vitamin A and C. It has been used for centuries as a cure for reducing fevers and the leaves are rich in quercetin which is used to treat allergies.
Cereal has been a big part of the American breakfast diet dating as far back as the late 19th century. It was first introduced as a hard flat graham based flake by a religious vegetarian James Jackson. C.W. Post took off with the idea and created the first popular successful brand ”Grape Nuts”.The transition from what was a healthy digestive aid to what we presently know as breakfast cereal began about 1900 when the Kellogg brothers came up with a lighter flake made of corn and began adding small amounts of sugar. From 1910 to about 1950 somewhat healthier versions of cereal dominated the market with favorites like Puffed Rice, Wheaties and Shredded Wheat as the go-to breakfast cereal. It wasn’t until after World War II that sugar began to be the main selling point. Cereals such as Frosted Flakes(1950), Cap’n Crunch (1960), Count Chocula (1970), Smurf Berry Crunch (1980) and Puffins (1990) soon took over the category as the desire for more and more sugar-sweetened cereals persisted. In the year 2000, parents began questioning what exactly they were giving their children and a push for more transparency in labeling and wholesome ingredients started a revolution in the cereal industry. This in addition to the fact that sales were declining because the younger generation had turned more toward smoothies and yogurt as alternative breakfast foods. They considered these sugar-laden cereals to be more of a dessert and comfort food then a nutritious meal. As a result of consumer demands, Cheerios began using non-GMO wheat. Other food companies have turned to producing healthier grain cereals with less sugar, preservatives and food coloring. All of these changes are being introduced by the large food producers in an attempt to win back their share of what was once an extremely lucrative market. Change has been slow and long overdue. As consumers we do have the power to influence in a positive way what we choose to consume.
Researchers from Washington University in St. Louis found that assigning a date and time to a leisure activity actually made the experience seem more like a chore. The 13 studies that were conducted showed that being too specific about what to do and at what time decreased both anticipation and enjoyment. That is not to say that planning does not have its benefits but occasionally meeting a friend and leaving the meeting open to possibilities may turn out to be a great experience. Spontaneity is processed by the brain as more of an adventure with an increased level of excitement.
People who suffer from back pain are discovering the benefits of acupuncture as another option to pain medication. According to the National Institute of Health and an article printed in The Practical Pain Management, studies have suggested that acupuncture works particularly well in addressing back and neck pain, degenerative joint disease, as well as relieving the intensity of tension headaches and migraines. Acupuncture is able to accomplish this by controlling endorphin levels which are key in transporting signals along the central nervous system.
The lingering melody that remains in our heads has been given the term earworm. Earworms are simple, repetitious, melodic structures that wiggle their way into a person’s head and stay there. Psychologists compiled lists of the most popular earworms by interviewing over 3,000 individuals from 2010 to 2013. The results were published in “The Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and the Arts”. Scientists believe that before we had written language we communicated and passed information through song which is why certain repetitious melodies remain stuck. The study of earworms can help us understand how the brain networks perception, emotion, memory and spontaneous thought.
Whether we agree or not about global warming or threats to the environment, all of us need to step out and take a walk in nature. Getting away from it all and taking time to smell the trees (or roses whatever turns you on) can do so much for us both physically and psychologically. As far back as 2,500 years ago, it is recorded that Cyrus the Great built relaxation gardens in the busy capital of Persia. Being able to focus and avoid distractions is critical both to creativity and for solving problems. Modern life stresses make this process more and more difficult. Taking a break, and taking in the surroundings can restore our mental performance. Nature can improve creativity by as much as 50%. The stimuli of natural environments, trees, water, mountains etc. does not take any effort. The process disengages the brain and in turn restores its capacity to direct attention to a particular task. Forest walks can reduce stress hormones by as much as 16%. Caring for a simple, small garden can become a source of mindfulness meditation. Even just walking barefoot on grass can reconnect you with the world around us that we sometimes take for granted. Scientific studies have discovered that people living near a green space have reported less mental distress. This is across the board regardless of income, education and employment. In fact even just having a view of greenery from a person’s window, seems to encourage faster recovery from illness, better performance in school and less exhibition of violent behavior. Our connection to nature runs so deep that the idea that we are so co-dependent may be overlooked. We cannot exist without vegetation which provides us with glucose for energy and oxygen so we may breathe. On the other hand vegetation cannot exist without us. We provide carbon dioxide and at times water for them to thrive. It has not been determined if living near a green space is a stimulus because of the pleasing visual aspect or whether it just encourages people to get out and exercise more. There is an old South Korean proverb “Shin to buy ee” which means “ the Body and Soil are one”. Just get out there, shut down the electronics, take a 40 minute walk in nature and feel it for yourself.
Two electrical engineers J-C Chiao and Smith Rao of the University of Texas have developed a wind turbine that is half the size of a grain of rice. It is one of the attempts at making power outlets obsolete. It is made of a durable metal alloy and connected by tiny wires that would be integrated into an item such as a smart phone. This in turn would deliver a tiny burst of energy. Other such items in the development are solar powered fabrics and wind powered hats. The tiny turbines would make the solar backpacks a thing of the past.
An article in The American Journal of Epidemiology reported that sitting and too little exercise can speed aging by as much as eight years. A group of 1,481 women, average age 79, wore motion sensors for one week, after which a white blood cell count was taken. Those that were more sedentary with little exercise proved to have shorter telomeres. Telemeres are caps at the end of our DNA strands. The shorter and more frayed they are the more susceptible a person may be to to heart disease, certain cancers, type 2 diabetes and shorter life expectancy.
Dogs can play an important part in social interactions when it comes to children with autism. Children with autism who have a pet in the home have stronger social skills. This according to a study done at the Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction. The presence of an animal in the home made children more comfortable about introducing themselves and responding when something was asked about their pet. This form of assertiveness is extremely difficult for children with autism. The smaller the animal is the stronger the connection seems to be whether it is a small dog, cat, rabbit even a reptile. Since every child with autism is such a special situation, certain animals may elicit a better response then others.