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The How-To Guide to Your Health

25 Easy Things Every Minnesotan Can Do to Boost Immunity, Prevent Disease, Maximize Muscle, and Feel Better

The How-To Guide to Your Health
Photo by Kevin White

(page 1 of 6)

How to Get Enough of the “Sunshine Vitamin” in Winter

Because our bodies make it when exposed to direct sunlight, vitamin D is often called the “sunshine vitamin.” But Minnesotans are often D-deficient—particularly between September and April, says Greg Plotnikoff, MD, medical director of the Institute for Health and Healing at Abbott Northwestern. And that’s a problem: A lack of vitamin D has been linked to osteoporosis, diabetes, hypertension, chronic pain, and 17 types of cancer.

Most milk is D-enriched, but you would need to drink at least 10 cups a day to get enough. Salmon, mackerel, sardines, and tuna are good sources of D, too. And a tablespoon of cod-liver oil packs the biggest wallop. But if that thought makes your stomach churn, try a supplement with cholecalciferol (it’s a form of vitamin D). Or take Plotnikoff’s advice: “My favorite prescription is a vacation in the sun.” Doctor’s orders.

How to Be Happier (Even If You’re Lutheran)

Studies show that a person’s sense of happiness is mostly genetic, but there are proven ways to boost your mood. Try these remedies:

- Write down three things you’re grateful for every night—including the barista who remembered the extra foam on your latte.
- Act up. A six-week study of college students found that practicing five “random acts of kindness” throughout the week led to higher reports of happiness than five kind acts performed just one day a week.
- Stop comparing yourself to the neighbor with the lake cabin, the talented kids, and the Mercedes. Be thankful for what you have, rather than fixated on what you want.

How to Order at Caribou

Lattes may be good for your health! Drinking lots of coffee (four, six, or more cups a day) has been linked in some studies to lower rates of heart disease, Parkinson’s disease, liver cancer, type 2 diabetes, and gout. But it’s unclear whether a cuppa joe actually causes good health or is simply associated with good health (i.e., drinkers may simply practice other healthy behaviors, too). The chief benefit, says University of Minnesota nutritionist Joanne Slavin, may come from the socializing that often accompanies coffee-klatching—a boost to our emotional health.

Prefer oolong to Kona? Studies are mixed about whether tea fights cancer and heart disease. And a recent study of 16 postmenopausal women found that adding milk to tea cancels any antioxidant powers it might have. For now, order a cup of green tea sans the skim.

How to Pick a Walking Shoe

Walking a mile in someone else’s shoes, while good for the soul, is killer on your feet. And though it often seems difficult—nay, nearly impossible—to find well-fitted footwear these days, many of us underestimate the value of a quality pair of tennies, according to HealthPartners foot and ankle surgeon Troy Boffeli. “If people are getting into walking as their main form of fitness, they need to invest in their equipment, which is just their shoes,” he says. “And people tend not to spend enough on their shoes.” Boffeli recommends specialty shoe stores (he sends his patients to Schuler’s) because they usually have better brands and more knowledgeable sales staff than chain or discount stores.

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