#atozchallenge: Today It’s Celery

Eat This!

I am a big supporter of FOOD. I think it is absolutely remarkable that everything we humans need to live and be in health is found on this planet.  It’s almost like it was made for us. In fact, it is exactly like it was made for us. I have never been a food blogger but I have done a stint teaching nutrition for the University of Florida Extension Service. I learned a lot and it was fun. I think I can share some of the fun and interesting things about some of my favorite foods – one each day during this A to Z Challenge. All these foods have some kind of health advantage and most of them are nutrient dense and very good for you. Today, it’s celery.

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Look! They’re even shaped like little C’s. A plant with such interesting structure, you have to love it!

.It wasn’t until I started noticing my blood pressure rising that I got serious about eating celery.  Before that it was chopped up in soup once in a while or on the veggie tray with other stuff and dip, of course. Now I buy several bunches at a time and always have it cleaned and conveniently ready. It contains a chemical called 3-n-butyl phthalide (you won’t remember this but when it has a name it’s more real, right?)  which smooths the muscles in blood vessels, creating better blood flow and a lower pressure. Studies have shown this to be true.  My own experience is that it lowers my systolic pressure about 10 points (but this is not a guarantee for everyone). About a cup of chopped celery a day should give results.  (http://www.drdavidwilliams.com/foods-that-lower-blood-pressure/)

It’s cool, crunchy, wet and a very pleasant color when it’s fresh (please don’t let it sit forever in the fridg drawer, please…) And you don’t need to do anything fancy with it – just eat it.  It’s quick and ready so keep it simple.

*** Important edit!  Please do not forget how important and upgrading peanut butter, raisins, or Ranch dressing can be to celery if you don’t mind the added calories. Thank you readers!

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Snack time. (Ok, you can have just a tiny bit of dip.)

On Riding a Bike

When do I really get serious about taking care of my body?  I’m asking the question because I really don’t know.  So many years have gone by when other things came first on my list.  There was only so much time and other things were urgent.  And didn’t I get enough activity in the course of daily living? I wasn’t a couch potato.  I lifted, pushed and pulled, walked and ran and stood up most of the time.  I had a young body and it took care of itself (because it had to).

Time has changed a few things.  Specifically, my blood pressure is higher and I think it’s having effects on other systems, like my vision.  I don’t want to start medication and deal with all those side effects, and of course, there’s the problem of my hating to swallow pills which I avoid by never remembering to take them. But I can exercise. Walking would have been my first choice but after feeling a few twinges of pain in my right knee, I’ve switched to riding my cheapo bike.

Because I am on the way to being more serious about exercise (I’m not totally there yet…) I give the bike ride a priority place in my “somewhat retired” daily schedule.  Morning, right after the gate to the nearby mobile home park opens for the day, I strap on my fanny pack, turn on the health app on my phone and get going.  It’s a fairly safe place to bike a large loop and not surprisingly, I am one of the fastest things moving on the road.

Biking in the mobile home park reinforces my desire to take care of myself seriously.  There are lots of people there who are trying to be active.  Many of them have been “not serious” longer than I have judging by the fact that their exercise consists of riding to get coffee and donuts at the clubhouse in their golf carts. The other bikers I see are usually stationary, talking to their neighbors.  Lots of people are walking but it’s the kind of walking where you can hold hands with your walking partner and take long looks at scenery.  And today I saw an elderly woman, probably the most serious exerciser I’ve seen there in a long time, who could barely stand upright and had a decided list to the right.  But she was moving as best she could.  Every time I think, “get serious now or this is the next version of you”.

I’ve had people (the husband) say “well, you’re not getting much exercise riding a bike here in Florida where it’s flat”.  But they are wrong.  First of all, it’s not flat.  I know there must be some kind of incline when I ride east.  I imagine there might be one riding north as well (because north is “up” on the map). And then there is wind resistance.  Pushing air is exercise and don’t let anyone tell you differently.  It’s true that wheels make moving easier but they don’t move by themselves – as evidenced by the husband’s bike which has not moved an inch in months.  I push hard and go fast and I feel the burn.

Which brings me to the part where I challenge myself, to keep it interesting.  My health app SHealth, Shea for short, is my co-conspirator in getting serious about my health.  In fact, she nags me to the point of irritation.  I’m always being asked if I want to record my sleep, or add a meal.  And she gets downright bossy when it comes to exercise.

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Yeah, just be more active yourself!

Shea gets on the job when I’m biking and talks me through the whole painful process, starting with a little five second countdown.  At each mile she announces my progress and tells me how long I have to keep going to reach my goal, which is five miles, at my present speed.  Behind the scenes she is mapping where I’ve gone and the places where I’ve gone the fastest.  And in a world where I will take any little bit of encouragement I can get, I love hearing her sweet voice at the start of the last half mile “Almost there – you can do it.”

Today I broke a speed record with my fastest ever average of 10.6 mph.  I found out that several of my gears actually work and I really booked it (going west, remember the incline) which brought it up, along with the fact that I didn’t have to wait 5 minutes to cross the highway before getting to the gate. If I get much faster I’ll have to leave the park where the limit is 15 mph.

I sweat when I bike so don’t tell me it’s not a workout, and do encourage me to keep it up.  It only takes half an hour and I’m breathing hard the whole time.  It’s better than a pill for my blood pressure – certainly doesn’t have as long a list of adverse effects – and it does make me feel a little more serious about taking care of myself.  (But it doesn’t mean I’m not looking for a used golf cart. Those things are handy.)