Stand Up to Diabetes and Heart Disease

Think about how much time you spend sitting down. If you are like many Americans you spend hours every day in front of the television or the computer, in the car, on airplanes, in classrooms, and at your desk or in meetings at work.

Sitting or being inactive for long periods of time is referred to as being “sedentary” and it can have serious health implications. It increases your risk for heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and cancer. There are several studies that show that more time spent sitting means a shorter life overall.

If you are sitting down you are not exercising your heart, lungs, and muscles but you may also be damaging your blood vessels. Excessive sitting constricts the arteries in your legs.  This means blood flow is blocked and that can raise blood pressure and contribute to heart disease.

I used to believe that this would never be a problem for me because I am good about exercising but studies show an increased mortality risk related to sitting for long periods of time even in people who also engaged in regular physical activity.

I’ve been working at “not sitting” for a while and here are some of the things that have helped me reduce time spent on my butt:

Set an alarm – I have a fitness tracker with an inactivity alert that reminds me to get up and move. You could do the same thing with your phone, an alarm clock, or a kitchen timer.  Set the alarm for 60 minutes at the most (30 would be better). Every time it goes off stand up.  You could even take a little walk.

Walk and watch – Instead of just sitting in front of the TV, stand up and watch or walk around. I sometimes do laps around the basement while listening to the news. You’d be surprised at how little you miss even if you aren’t watching the screen constantly.

Stand up for other things – I am lucky enough to have a standing desk at work. In fact I am standing as I write this.  I’ve also found that, with a little creativity, I can read while standing by placing my phone or tablet on a shelf in the kitchen.

It doesn’t take much effort to improve sedentary behavior and reduce your health risk. You don’t have to spend hours in the gym or even move much.  You just have to stand up!

 

Crunchy Granola – Sweet and Simple

  • Peanut Butter Granola
  • Crunchy Quinoa Granola

You may remember that I am a huge fan of oats. I consume them in some form or the other almost every day.  At this time of year I tend to switch from my usual hot oatmeal to granola.  Granola from the store can get pretty pricy, not to mention that it often contains too much sugar or other ingredients I’d like to avoid, so I started making my own long ago.

Homemade granola is dead simple to make and you might already have all the ingredients you need at home.  For a long time I used a recipe that required boiling the liquid ingredients in a saucepan and pouring over the dry ingredients but recently I’ve tried a couple of new, easier to prepare versions that I can wholly recommend.

Peanut Butter Granola
I made this granola recently as a treat for my husband instead of the peanut butter cookies I’m sure he would have preferred.  I think this is my new favorite and I may have forgotten to tell him that I made it for him.  I found the recipe at the  Table for Two website and I love it that it’s only 5 ingredients. I doubled the recipe and it turned out great!

Ingredients
  • 4 tbsp creamy peanut butter
  • 4 tbsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats NOT quick oats

 

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Add peanut butter to a large bowl pop in the microwave for about 30-45 seconds until the peanut butter is melted. Stir in the honey and then add in the cinnamon and vanilla extract.
(Note: the original recipe calls for microwaving the peanut butter and honey together but my local honey expert says that microwaving honey is a NO NO!)
Add in the oats and stir until they are completely coated with the mixture.
Spread in a single layer on the baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes. It may take more or less time to turn a golden brown. I like to mix it up and move it around a bit about halfway through the cooking time so that it browns a little more evenly. The granola will still look soft when you take it out but it will  harden as it cools.  Here’s my before and after baking shot.

Here is how I have been eating this.  I microwave a cup of frozen, mixed berries and top it with the granola.  It tastes just like a fruit crisp. Yum – I am all about dessert for breakfast!

Crunchy Quinoa Granola

Quinoa is becoming more and more mainstream in the US.  It’s a high protein “pseudo” grain (meaning that it is actually a seed but has similar nutrition to grains) that grows well in poor soils.  Therefore many countries around the world are attempting to cultivate it as an answer to food shortages. There are several varieties of quinoa.  I like to use the red; not because it tastes any differently but because it is more colorful.

 

This recipe from Iowa Girl Eats uses raw, uncooked quinoa.  You will want to rinse your quinoa in a fine wire mesh strainer.  Quinoa has a natural coating that some people find bitter and washing removes this. It can go right from the strainer into the recipe; no need to dry it.

I really like this recipe because the quinoa adds not only additional protein but a nice pop, crackle, and crunch; hence the name.

  • 2 cups gluten-free or regular old fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 2 Tablespoons flax seeds (I used ground flax as whole seeds don’t get digested well)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • dash of salt
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 Tablespoons coconut oil, melted
  • 1 cup raisins
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees and line a baking sheet with a silpat or parchment paper.
  2. Combine all ingredients except raisins in a large bowl then stir to combine. Spread mixture on prepared baking sheet then bake for 15 minutes, stirring halfway through, or until golden brown. TIP: watch closely at the end to make sure granola does not get too dark. Granola will not be crunchy right out of the oven. Stir in raisins when granola is cool and store in an airtight container.

Please note: I have substituted maple syrup for the honey and canola or sunflower oil for the coconut oil with good results. And by all means leave out the raisins if you are a raisin hater.  You can substitute dried cranberries or serve with other fruits as you will see I did with the next recipe.

Making your own granola is a great way to save money and control your intake of processed sugars.  Try one of these recipes and let me know what you think.