Friday, March 27, 2009

Worst Thing for Ya

My dad is known for many things, but one of his quirks that we love most involves frequent and arbitrary proclamations of which things are the "best" and "worst” for ya. Because he usually cites his sources as "They" (as in "They say"), we wonder whether "They" are just the voices in his head or if perhaps there really is truth to what we perceive as his made up musings. After all these years of speculation, I thought it would be fun to do some research and test out two of his most prominent and longstanding theories:

1. Walking = The Best Thing for Ya

2. Peanuts = The Worst Thing for Ya

This walking bit is particularly relevant as we near our annual vacation in Florida, which involves a great deal of glorious walking. Walking on the beach, walking in the morning, walking after dinner...the man will walk upwards of three to four times a day. Now, the rest of us are active and may even walk a few times each day, but when it comes to sheer volume of the activity, he does circles around us. I may just have to strap a pedometer on him this time to log his total mileage (what do you say, Pops, are you up for it? Think about the bragging rights it would give you!).

And as for the peanuts, that one cropped up when I was in high school, abiding by the current fad that all food must be fat free, low fat, low cal, synthetically enhanced with chemicals if necessary, etc. But when it came to indulging in a good old fashioned sundae, made of course with fat free ice cream and fudge, there was just no substitution for the peanuts. Which leant itself to Dad's now infamous proclamation one day as a friend and I were exiting the kitchen, about to enjoy our delicious treats. "You know what They say about peanuts, don't you? [pause for effect] Worst thing for ya." And then he wandered off to eat a rice cake, or perhaps take a walk.

1. Walking: Best Thing for Ya
Part of me would love to debunk this one just because "They've said" it so many times, but how could I possibly try? There's very little to debate when it comes to the health benefits of walking. The Surgeon General recommends at least 30 minutes of moderately vigorous activity a day, and research shows that regular exercise reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, injury, sleep apnea and osteoarthritis. And the list goes on. (Source: AARP) So we know that exercise is good for us.

Further research even suggests that regular cardiovascular exercise is good for the brain as well. As for walking in particular, two separate studies published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in 2006 reported that walking regularly may help preserve mental sharpness (is it possible that Dad's six Florida walks a day are making him smarter than the rest of us who only walk once or twice a day???). Like other forms of exercise, walking has been shown to contribute to improved mood and sleep patterns and prevent depression. And unlike other high impact sports, walking is less likely to earn you a trip to the ER or require extensive knee or hip surgery down the line.

So, the verdict on walking? Walking is good - in fact great - for you. Is it the Best Thing for Ya? Well, that might depend on a variety of factors including how how regularly you walk, the duration and pace at which you do so, etc. But, yes, it appears that it's definitely up there in terms of the best things for ya. This one goes to you and the voices, Dad.

2. Peanuts: Worst Thing for Ya

Let’s ignore the recent product recall of certain peanut products and focus instead on the most obvious insults slung at this tiny but delicious legume. "Peanuts can kill you!" It's true that peanuts are tied to serious allergic reactions, which can even result in death for the most severely allergic. Peanut allergies certainly seem to be on the rise, and while it’s unknown yet exactly why, many schools, hospitals and other public institutions have banned all peanut products for safety reasons. But what does this mean for those of us who aren't allergic? Are there risks in our indulging in a few peanuts on our sundaes every once in a while? Which brings me to the second major allegation…

"Peanuts will make you fat!" Yes, peanuts are high in fat, but research seems to point to the fact that the kind of fat in peanuts may actually be good for you, in moderation of course. In fact, there is evidence that nuts may be useful in improving cardiovascular health, preventing cancer and providing essential nutrients. Because of their nutritional content, peanuts may even be a healthy choice because they offer a high percentage of monounsaturated fats (the good kind).

Research by the U.S. Department of Agriculture also shows that peanuts may help fight heart disease because they contain resveratrol, a chemical also found in red grapes that has been linked to lower blood sugar. Taking the list of potential health benefits one step further, peanuts can be a good source of energy. Their protein and calorie content - compared to other options - make it a reasonable choice for athletes. And many trainers and nutritionists recommend small amounts of peanut butter for appetite control under certain weight loss programs.

So the verdict on peanuts? Given all of these benefits, can it be possible that the Worst Thing for Ya is actually one of the best things for ya? It seems so. Wouldn’t it just boggle “Their” minds if They knew!

1 comment:

Ashlee Wetherington said...

i'd like to come with you to florida :)
also, i tried gluten free pizza dough... not exactly tasty, but i'm going to try again.

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