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Mind Your Summer Rays

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What season is more highly anticipated than summer? It’s a word that’s packed with possibility and expectation, unburdened by the responsibilities of the school year. It’s a season for climbing trees, scraped knees, mild mischief, and oversized ice-cold watermelon. However, it’s also a season for unpredictable schedules, which could throw a hamper on a well-conditioned health routine.

Here are five tips for a happy and healthy summer:

  1. Stay Grounded

There’s a reason why we feel so good when we walk barefoot in the sand. It’s not just that being by the beach is therapeutic, which it is, but direct physical contact with the surface of the earth has real health benefits. The science of “grounding” or “earthing,” has been studied and published in multiple medical journals, including the Journal of Environmental and Public Health. These articles show that when we have physical contact with the earth, we are in contact with the vast supply of electrons on the ground. These negative ions promote physiological changes from reduced inflammation to better sleep. The simple practice of walking barefoot on grass, sand, or soil even for just five minutes every day can vastly improve your quality of life. So go ahead, take your shoes off and do cartwheels on the ground, have a picnic directly on the grass, and walk up and down the shore with your flip flops off.

  1. Eat the Season

Fruits and vegetables are healthier, fresher and tastier when consumed within its true growing season. Seasonal harvests typically don’t require long distances for transport. Crops that are picked at the peak of their ripeness have much more flavor than those that are picked before their time so they can ripen in their boxes during transport. You can typically spot farmer stalls driving up and down local roads. A USDA study found that local direct-to-consumer farmers are less likely to apply pesticides and herbicides to their crops to control weeds and insects than conventional growers. In supporting your local economy, you also get a tastier meal. Now, that’s what we call a win-win.  

  1. The Ultimate Sunny D

No, we’re not talking about the pre-packaged orange juice of our childhood. We’re talking about vitamin D, an essential nutrient, which we can get from certain foods like salmon, tuna, mackerel, beef liver, and egg yolks. However, these can’t be our sole source of vitamin D, since we don’t typically consume large amount of these foods. Which is why in the 1930s, manufacturers of milk, cereal, and some orange juices voluntarily fortify their products with vitamins D2 and D3 to help increase consumption of this necessary vitamin. Our body needs vitamin D because it helps absorb calcium from the intestines. This calcium mineralizes the skeleton over the course of our lifetime and is critical for forming hardened bone that keeps us healthy and strong. When we’re exposed to the sun, our skin can manufacture our own vitamin D, which through a chain reaction that starts with conversion of cholesterol in the skin can produce vitamin D3 when they’re exposed to ultraviolet B (UVB) rays from the sun. However, studies show that an excess of UVB can cause skin health issues - so take care to put on that sunscreen before soaking in the rays.

  1. Water Therapy

There’s this beautiful quote from Isak Dinesen, the author of the books “Out of Africa” and “Babette’s Feast,” that goes: “The cure for anything is salt water: swear, tears, or the sea.” Staying by the shore can be very therapeutic. While it isn’t an available option for everyone, playing in water could be. It’s the perfect season to explore water sports, go river rafting, tubing, play with a water slide, water balloons, water gun fights, practice cannon balls into the deep end of the pool, or running through the sprinklers. Whatever form of water is available to you, play in it and revisit the riotous thrill of a good splash.

  1. The Grill Deal

Barbecues are a summer mainstay. However, a University of Minnesota study that tracked the eating habits of more than 62,000 people over a nine-year period shows that eating charred meat may increase your risk for serious health issues. You can, however, cut down on that risk by adopting healthier grilling habits. These include:

  • Marinating your meat:
    • Marinating your meat can not only make your food flavorful but can help the meat avoid unwanted char
  • Avoid processed meats:
    • Go for the fresh cuts and skip the hot dogs and sausages
  • Don’t flame out:
    • Keep your grill to a low-heat setting, which keeps the meat from burning or charring
  • Grill your produce
    • Grilling instills a specific flavor that is reminiscent of summer, but you can swap out your meat proteins for veggies and fruits
  • Clean your grill
    • After using your grill, scrape it down to remove of any residue that can build up

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