Catching some Z’s: Why Sleep is Important

iStock_000000479476XSmallI don’t know about you, but I’ve noticed a lot of my nights seem to be getting shorter and shorter as time goes by. It seems like as soon as I fall asleep, it’s time to get back up and start a brand new day.

Most days, I’m excited to get up! But some days, it doesn’t feel like I’ve gotten enough rest. Sometimes I hit that snooze button to catch just a few more minutes of sleep before headed out.

Sound familiar? If you’re like nearly half of the US population, it might. A study by Gallup recently discovered that around 40% of all Americans aren’t getting a healthy amount of sleep. This means there’s a lot of drowsy people out there.

Sleep is VERY important when it comes to your health. Without it, we run out of energy, and our brains just can’t keep up with the world around us. Check out a few reasons why you need your beauty sleep:

Sleeping recharges your Brain – Have you ever had one of those days were you just can’t seem to focus? Or maybe you are presented with a problem, and you just can’t fathom how to even begin finding a solution. Sleep deprevation directly affects cognitive processing and decision making, meaning your brain is going to have to work extra hard just to keep up the more sleep you lose.

Sleep Helps your Emotions – Just like brainpower, your emotional well being is directly affected by the amount of sleep you get. You may notice that the more tired you are, the less patient and more irritable you become. Getting a good nights sleep allows your brain to reset and prepare for the coming day.

Sleeping fights Heart Disease – Your sleep is directly involved with repairs constantly being made to your heart and blood vessels. This means that the more time you have counting sheep, the more time your body has to make repairs. The less sleep you get, the higher risk you are to heart disease.

Sleep helps the Immune System – Your immune system responds to foreign dangers that your body encounters on a daily basis, keeping you free from the common cold and other ailments. When your sleep pattern changes, your immune system will start to react differently, making you more susceptible to these ailments.

Sleepiness makes you Hungry – Your sleep pattern helps maintain the hormones found in your body, which includes the hormones that tell your brain whether you’re hungry or full. The more sleep you get, the better blanced these hormones are, which means you’re going to be less hungry the more you sleep.

Do yourself a favor tonight: Go to bed an hour earlier than usual! Your body will thank you for it, and you will feel much better rested when morning comes!

Vegetables – The Neglected Section of the Food Pyramid

Senior Woman Eating Healthy SaladIf your childhood was anything like mine, there were many conversations (always one-sided) about the merits of eating your vegetables. I know I was a carnivore growing up, and anything green was always pushed to the side of the plate.

Of course, as we grow up, we grow out of our picky eating habits and start to eat much healthier than we ever thought we would as kids. But I have noticed that many vegetables still get sidelined when it comes to preparing meals.

Vegetables play a huge part in making sure you’re getting enough nutrition in each meal and we can’t afford to ignore them, especially as we get older and wiser. But it’s one thing to know that vegetables are good for you, and another thing to know why vegetables are good for you. Other than the fact your parents used to say “It’s good for you,” why should you make an extra effort to get some salad for dinner?

Take a look at some of the benefits you get by having a vegetable-rich diet:

Vitamins – Vegetables are a great source of Vitamins A and C, both of which are essential to keeping your body healthy. Vitamin A keeps your eyes and skin healthy, protecting from infection. Vitamin C helps your body absorb iron, and helps cuts and bruises heal. Vitmin A can be found in Carrots, leafy greens, and broccoli, and Vitamin C is found in parsley, broccoli, brussel sprouts, and peppers.

Folic Acid – This paticular type of acid helps your body create red blood cells in your blood stream. Pregnant women are usually encouraged to get their fair share of folic acid, but its importance doesn’t cease once you have had a child. Folic acid also helps liver and kidney functions, prevent colon and cervical cancer, and prevent stroke. Folic Acid can be found in leafy greens, okra, asparagus, mushrooms, and tomato juice.

Antioxidants – While fruits usually get credit for being high in antioxidants, vegetables also contain a lot of the chemical compound. Antioxidants help reduce oxidant stress, disease, cancerous cells, and can even help boost your immune system. Vegetables that are high in antioxidants include eggplant, spinach, onions, leeks, and oregano.

Dietary Fiber – Fiber is the uncredited hero in vegetables! Fiber does everything from helping reduce your risk of heart disease to reducing your cholesterol levels, helping your insides work correctly and even providing a sense of “fullness” so you don’t overeat. High fiber vegetables include artichokes, peas, avocados (technically a fruit, but still worth mentioning) and lima beans.

You might be thinking “I know that vegetables are healthy for me. That’s not news to me. It’s finding new ways to enjoy vegetables that challenges me,” and I understand that. Sometimes, the hardest part is finding new ways to enjoy different foods. That’s why this Thursday, I’m going to have a few recipes high in vegetable content that you can try over the weekend, and find that maybe, just maybe, your parents had the right idea when you were a kid.