Fresh-Pressed Olive Oil Club

The Olive Oil Hunter News #94

Pork Tenderloin with Tomato and Onion Salad Recipe, Spotlight on Pork Tenderloin, Meat Safety, Rethinking Moderate Drinking and Trading the Chair for Fresh Air

Labor Day is the perfect occasion to think about how much time you spend sitting while you’re at work and how this can affect your health—new research shows that we should all be moving more! As you gather with family and friends, talk about ways you can encourage each other to be healthier. This week’s celebratory recipe features pork tenderloin, a very lean cut, and two of the healthiest veggies—a great break from traditional burgers and dogs.

Pork Tenderloin with Tomato and Onion Salad

  • Pork Tenderloin with Cherry Tomaotes Pork Tenderloin with Tomato and Onion Salad

    If you’re firing up the grill this weekend, this simple but colorful dish makes an impressive centerpiece. For a crowd, simply double or triple the recipe. In addition to the tomato and onion salad, make a tasty side dish by first grilling up seasonal vegetables—brush them with olive oil and cook for two minutes per side or until tender. Note: You can enjoy this pork dish any time of year by cooking it in a large cast-iron skillet on your stovetop.


    • 2 cups red and yellow cherry tomatoes, halved
    • 1 small red onion, peeled and thinly slivered lengthwise
    • 1 to 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
    • 1 to 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar, or to taste 
    • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley or cilantro
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
    • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
    • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
    • 1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
    • Coarse salt
    • Freshly ground black pepper
    • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for coating the pork 
    • 2 pork tenderloins, about 1 pound each


    Step 1

    Place the tomatoes and onions in a medium-sized bowl. In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine the garlic, vinegar, parsley, cumin, oregano, thyme, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper to taste. Add the olive oil and shake vigorously until emulsified. Pour over the tomato-onion mixture and toss to combine. Set aside to marinate while grilling the pork. 

    Step 2

    Preheat an outdoor grill to medium-high heat. Lightly coat the pork with olive oil and season it generously with salt and pepper. Grill the pork until nicely browned on the outside, turning as needed, and cooked to an internal temperature of 145°F—it will be slightly pink in the center. Let rest for three minutes, then slice crosswise on a diagonal into 1/2-inch-thick pieces. Shingle on a platter.

    Step 3

    Stir the tomato-onion salad once more, taste for seasoning, and then spoon it around the pork. 

    Yields 4 servings

Healthy Ingredient Spotlight: Perfectly Petite Pork Tenderloin

Healthy Ingredient Spotlight

Perfectly Petite Pork 

Pork tenderloin is a choice, lean, and elegant cut, with a shape similar to that of a filet mignon, but with a smaller circumference and length. With so little fat, it’s best quickly cooked over fairly high heat, which is why a hot grill is a great option. Since a tenderloin weighs only about a pound, estimate one for every two or three people.

To prep it, use a boning knife to remove any strips of silver skin. Olive oil enhances pork’s delicate taste. To infuse it with even more flavor, marinate it in the oil, some wine vinegar, and the herbs used in the tomato salad—or any favorites you have on hand—for an hour before cooking. 

Healthy Kitchen Nugget: Meat Safety: Temperature is Everything

Healthy Kitchen Nugget

Meat Safety: Temperature is Everything

The directions concerning the internal temperature and resting time for the pork tenderloin come from important changes the USDA made in May 2020. It lowered the recommended safe cooking temperature for whole cuts of pork from 160ºF to 145ºF as measured with a food thermometer, and added in the three-minute rest time before carving or eating it. This translates to pork that is both safe and juicy. 

Rest time is technically the amount of time a food remains at its final temperature after it has been removed from a grill, oven, or other heat source. During those three minutes, the food’s temperature remains constant or continues to rise, which destroys harmful bacteria. Adding this rest time enabled USDA internal temperature guidelines to be lowered from 160ºF, which tended to dry out the meat. To check for doneness, always place your food thermometer in the thickest part of a food. Start checking toward the end of the anticipated cooking, but before you expect it to be done. Always wash your food thermometer with hot soapy water before and after each use.

For Your Best Health: Rethinking Moderate Drinking

For Your Best Health

Rethinking Moderate Drinking

Long-standing consumption caps on alcoholic beverages have suggested one or less per day for women and two or less per day for men. But a new study of nearly 21,000 people published in the journalPLOS suggests that drinking at the high end of that safe range is linked to brain changes and cognitive decline from iron accumulation in the brain, which has itself been linked with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases and is a potential mechanism for alcohol-related cognitive decline.

Dr. Anya Topiwala of the University of Oxford, United Kingdom, along with colleagues, explored relationships between alcohol consumption and brain iron levels. Study participants, whose mean age was 55 and who represented both sexes nearly equally, reported their own alcohol consumption, and their brains were scanned using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Almost 7,000 participants also had their livers imaged using MRI technology to assess levels of systemic iron. All completed a series of simple tests to assess their cognitive and motor functions.

Although 2.7 percent of participants classified themselves as nondrinkers, average intake was around 18 units per week, which translates to about seven and a half cans of beer or six large glasses of wine. The research team found that alcohol consumption above seven units per week was associated with markers of higher iron in the basal ganglia, a group of brain regions associated with control of motor movements, procedural learning, eye movement, cognition, emotion, and more. Iron accumulation in some brain regions was associated with worse cognitive function.

Although drinking was self-reported and could be underestimated, this was considered the only feasible method to establish such a large cohort’s intake. Another limitation of the work is that MRI-derived measures are indirect representations of brain iron, and could conflate other brain changes observed with alcohol consumption with changes in iron levels. However, the findings certainly justify taking a careful look at how much you’re drinking on a weekly basis and considering whether cutting back should be part of your brain health strategy.

Fitness Flash: The Dangers of Too Much Sitting

Fitness Flash

Trade the Chair for Fresh Air

New research done at Simon Fraser University in Canada and published in the journal JAMA Cardiology adds to what we know about the dangers of too much sitting. The international study surveyed more than 100,000 people in 21 countries over an average of 11 years and found that those who sat for six to eight hours a day had a 12–13 percent increased risk for early death and heart disease; for people who sat for more than eight hours daily, the increased risk went up to 20 percent. Those who sat the most and were the least active had the highest risk—up to 50 percent—while those who sat the most but were also the most active had a risk of about 17 percent.

“The overarching message here is to minimize how much you sit,” says study co-leader Scott Lear, PhD, professor and Pfizer/Heart & Stroke Foundation chair in cardiovascular prevention research at Simon Fraser.“If you must sit, getting in more exercise during other times of the day will offset that risk.” Less sitting and more activity is a low-cost intervention that can have enormous benefits, he explains, adding that we all need to better assess our lifestyle and take health seriously. “Our study found that a combination of sitting and inactivity accounted for 8.8 percent of all deaths, which is close to the contribution of smoking. It’s a global problem that has a remarkably simple fix. Scheduling time to get out of that chair is a great start.”

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The Olive Oil Hunter News #72

Nutty Oat Muffin Recipe, Spotlight on Oats (and Groats), plus the Body, Gut, and Brain Connection

This week’s news shows just how connected the body, gut, and brain are, with what we eat and how we move very much linked to our mental health. My nutty oat muffin recipe, so easy to make in less than 30 minutes, not only tastes great but can also help boost brain health as well as gut health, thanks to those oats. And we’re learning that movement goes beyond boosting physical health to also benefiting the brain—you can even pick types of exercise based on what mental benefits you seek. 

Nutty Oat Muffins

  • Nutty Oat Muffin Recipe Nutty Oat Muffins

    These muffins have a great crunch and are packed with whole grain goodness. 


    • 1-1/2 cups white whole wheat or whole wheat pastry flour 
    • 3/4 cup rolled oats 
    • 2 ounces almonds or walnuts, roughly chopped 
    • 1 tablespoon baking powder
    • 1/4 cup brown sugar 
    • 1 tablespoon stevia
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
    • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
    • 1 cup blueberries, rinsed and patted dry
    • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    • 2 extra-large eggs
    • 1 cup milk, your choice of dairy or plant-based
    • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract or paste


    Step 1

    Preheat your oven to 400ºF if conventional, 380ºF if convection. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, oats, nuts, baking powder, sugar, stevia, cinnamon, and salt. Add the berries and toss to coat (this will help them stay well distributed in the batter).

    Step 2

    In a separate bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the olive oil, eggs, milk, and vanilla. Pour the liquid ingredients over the flour mixture and use a spatula to fold them in just until no traces of flour remain.

    Step 3

    Use a large ice cream scoop to fill a 12-muffin tin and bake for 20 minutes or until the tip of a knife comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes and then transfer the muffins to a rack to finish cooling. Store in a covered tin for up to two days and then refrigerate.

    Yields 12 muffins

Healthy Ingredient Spotlight: Groats and Oats

Healthy Ingredient Spotlight

From groats to oats

Oats are known as a good source of soluble fiber—the 5 grams per serving help lower cholesterol levels and heart disease risk. Oatmeal is just the beginning of what you can make from rolled oats. In the recipe above, they meld beautifully into the finished muffins. But when a hot bowl of oatmeal is on the breakfast menu, you might be wondering whether you should start with popular steel-cut oats instead. Both come from oat groats, the oat grain with the hull removed (the bran and germ are intact, so oats are still considered a whole grain). What happens to the groats next explains the difference between rolled and steel-cut oats.

Rolled oats are oat groats that have been steamed and then passed through roller mills. The thicker the rolled oats, the more nutrients they pack. 

Steel-cut oats are groats that have only been chopped into two or three pieces, no steaming or rolling. They need to be cooked much longer than rolled oats and are better in breakfast bowls than baked goods—they simply won’t soften enough. Because they need more water to cook than rolled oats, you end up with a bigger portion by volume. Finally, they’re digested more slowly than rolled oats; you feel full longer and have less of a spike in blood sugar—important if you’re managing a health condition like diabetes or prediabetes. 

Healthy Kitchen Nugget: A better vanilla?

Healthy Kitchen Nugget

A better vanilla?

If you’re looking for intense vanilla flavor but don’t want to go to the expense of buying vanilla beans, consider using vanilla paste in place of extract. You can use it teaspoon-for-teaspoon in recipes for a deeper flavor, plus it has vanilla bean seeds for that characteristic speckled look, and because it’s thicker, it adds less liquid to batters. Though you often see the suggestion to use vanilla bean paste in desserts where the vanilla is the star, such as ice cream, custard, and crème brûlée, I find it perks up the flavor of any recipe that calls for extract. 

For Your Best Health: Fiber: The new brain food

For Your Best Health

Fiber: The new brain food

You already know that fiber is a must for digestive health and that we often don’t get enough. Need more motivation to up your intake? Researchers in Japan found that fiber may help brain health. Their study, just published in the journal Nutritional Neuroscience, looked at the diet and health records of 3,500 participants from the 1980s to 2020. They found a link between a high-fiber diet and a reduced risk of dementia

There are two main types of fiber. Insoluble fibers, found mostly in whole grains and vegetables, are important for bowel health. Soluble fibers, found in foods like oats and legumes, are important for the beneficial bacteria that live in the gut, among other health benefits. When the researchers looked at the link between fiber intake and dementia, they found that soluble fiber had a more pronounced effect.

“The mechanisms are currently unknown but might involve the interactions that take place between the gut and the brain,” says lead author of the study, Kazumasa Yamagishi, MD, professor at the University of Tsukuba. “One possibility is that soluble fiber regulates the composition of gut bacteria. This composition may affect neuroinflammation, which plays a role in the onset of dementia. It’s also possible that dietary fiber may reduce other risk factors for dementia, such as body weight, blood pressure, lipids, and glucose levels. The work is still at an early stage, and it’s important to confirm the association in other populations.”

While we wait, there’s no reason not to stock up on those oats!

Fitness Flash: Movement for the brain

Fitness Flash

Movement for the brain

More amazing boosts to brain health come from exercise. A fascinating article posted by the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley, explores the new book Move!: The New Science of Body Over Mind (Hanover Square Press) by Caroline Williams, who points out that the connection between exercise and the brain goes deeper than the release of feel-good endorphins known as a runner’s high. 

She describes how movement or the lack of it can send signals we may not even be aware of to the brain. As the article explains it: “If our body is communicating to our brain that we are sedentary or weak, that might create underlying feelings of depression or anxiety, insecurity or uncertainty. On the flip side, moving and building strength could create positive changes in our bodily systems that, when passed along to the brain, give us a subtle sense of happiness, confidence, and positivity.” 

Based on interviews with researchers and practitioners around the world, Williams details the many ways that working your body can influence and improve your brain for the better. It’s full of suggestions for different ways of moving that have different brain health benefits. So, while any exercise is helpful for the body physically, you can also make choices tailored to your best mental health, like taking a group fitness class to feel more connected socially or dancing to your favorite music to escape anxiety while getting lost in its rhythms.

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The Olive Oil Hunter News #69

Spinach and Artichoke Dip Recipe, Spotlight on Artichoke, Why You Should Choose Glass for Food Storage, Getting the Recommended Amount of Fruits and Veggies, and The Connection Between Exercise and Brain Health

One of the greatest benefits of following a Mediterranean diet is that the all-important servings of fruits and vegetables are built in. But finding good produce can be a challenge in the dead of winter—this week’s newsletter has ideas to help. My spinach and artichoke dip recipe shows that the comfort foods we crave now can be healthy, too. And though it’s more tempting than ever to park yourself on the sofa, new discoveries on exercise and brain health will make you want to do more than get up to go to the fridge!

Spinach and Artichoke Dip

  • Spinach and Artichoke Dip Spinach and Artichoke Dip

    So much better than store-bought, this dip for chips and crudités also makes a great topping for baked potatoes.


    • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
    • 8 ounces baby spinach leaves, rinsed, patted dry, and coarsely chopped
    • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
    • 1/2 cup sour cream
    • 1/2 cup cream cheese softened at room temperature
    • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt 
    • 4 ounces artichoke hearts, roughly chopped
    • 3 garlic cloves, minced
    • 1 tablespoon fresh dill or 1/4 teaspoon dried dill 
    • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
    • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
    • Salt and pepper to taste
    • Red pepper flakes to taste (optional)


    Step 1

    Heat a sauté pan and add the olive oil and the baby spinach a large handful at a time. Sauté until completely wilted and all the liquid has evaporated. Let cool while you proceed.

    Step 2

    In a large bowl, use a spatula to fold together the mayonnaise, sour cream, cream cheese, and yogurt. When blended, add the cooked spinach, artichokes, garlic, dill, lemon juice, and onion powder.

    Step 3

    Season to taste with the salt, pepper, and optional red pepper flakes for an added kick. Drizzle with olive oil before serving.

    Yields about 3 cups

Healthy Ingredient Spotlight: Artichokes

Healthy Ingredient Spotlight

Amazing artichokes

It’s easy to be intimidated by the look of artichokes and easy enough to buy them jarred or frozen when using them in recipes. But a freshly steamed artichoke makes a tasty light lunch or great vegetable-based first course. Native to the Mediterranean region, but also grown in California (where it’s the state vegetable!), artichokes are low in calories and rich in potassium, fiber, and antioxidants. They are also a good source of vitamin C, folate, and magnesium.

Here’s how to steam whole artichokes, according to the California Artichoke Advisory Board: Wash under cold running water, and then pull off any small or discolored petals near the base of the stem. Working one artichoke at a time, cut off the last half inch of the stem and use a vegetable peeler to take off the stem’s outer layer. Next, cut off the top quarter of the artichoke, and place it in a large bowl filled with 4 cups of water and a tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice, to avoid discoloration. When all the artichokes are prepped, bring 2 inches of water to a boil in a large stockpot, add a steaming rack, place the artichokes on the rack, cover the pot, and steam until a petal near the center pulls out easily, between 25 and 45 minutes, depending on their size. 

To eat, pull off a petal, one at a time, dip it in olive oil, melted butter, or vinaigrette, and pull it through your teeth to get the pulpy portion of the petal. Discard the rest of the petal and repeat until they’re all gone. Use a grapefruit spoon to scrape out the exposed fuzzy layer, or the choke, in the center of the base and discard. What’s left is the sweet heart of the artichoke to enjoy along with the stem. 

Healthy Kitchen Nugget: Glass Storage Containers

Healthy Kitchen Nugget

Choose glass for food storage

If you rely on plastic containers for storing and reheating food, consider the benefits of switching to glass. Even BPA-free plastic has chemicals that can be released into food and have a negative effect on your endocrine system when ingested, a problem you avoid with glass. 

Not only do glass containers last almost indefinitely, but when necessary they can be recycled easily—something that simply isn’t happening with plastics. Look for glass containers that can be stored in the freezer as well as the fridge. 

Try to buy frozen foods packaged in paper, but if your favorites only come in plastic, move the contents of the bag to a glass bowl when you’re ready to defrost them. If it’s necessary to release the food from the packaging, run the bag under cool water for a few seconds, then transfer it. 

For Your Best Health: Importance of fruits and vegetables

For Your Best Health

More fruits and veggies, please!

A startling CDC report released on January 6 showed just how few Americans get the recommended daily 1.5-to-2-cup equivalents of fruit—just 12.3%—and the 2-to-3-cup equivalents of vegetables—only 10%. As part of a healthy diet, these food groups support immune function and help prevent obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and even some cancers. Of course, eating fruits and veggies can be harder to do in the winter months when seasonal produce is almost nonexistent and the temptation to eat comfort foods is high. 

Try a two-pronged strategy to boost your intake. First, remind yourself to get these daily servings: Write out a daily diet plan that includes them, so they’ll be front of mind. Next, make shopping for produce more of an adventure. Explore the produce section of your favorite stores to look for new and exotic imported fruits and vegetables—now is a great time to try them. Then check out the frozen foods aisle for selections that were flash frozen at harvest for best flavor, like corn kernels, sweet peas, raspberries, and melon chunks, among others. You’ll get a taste of summer by using them in your favorite warm-weather recipes.

Fitness Flash: Exercise and Brain Health

Fitness Flash

Explaining the exercise–brain health link

A recently published study in Nature got us closer to understanding how exercise slows cognitive aging and why it’s tied to better brain plasticity and less inflammation within the hippocampus. Lab experiments showed that exercise leads to higher levels of a naturally occurring protein in the blood called clusterin. Clusterin can bind to certain cells in the brain and reduce inflammation, a precursor to brain diseases like Alzheimer’s. Researchers studied a small group of people with cognitive impairment who followed a set exercise program for six months and found that they were able to increase the level of clusterin in their blood. One takeaway is that it’s never too late to start getting more physical activity for better brain and body health.

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The Olive Oil Hunter News #53

Chilean Empanadas de Pino Recipe, Spotlight on Grinding Your Own Beef, How to Manage Stress and a Link Between Exercise and Brain Health

I love empanadas (if I’m being honest, I love all kinds of meat pies!), but they can seem daunting to make at home. This week’s recipe breaks it down for you. One step that makes every ground meat dish better is grinding the meat yourself, and it’s a snap with a countertop appliance you might already have…as long as you follow one simple step. I’m also sharing two important health discoveries—a creative way to manage stress and a newfound benefit of exercise that’s the latest example of the mind-body link. 


  • Chilean Empanadas de Pino Chilean Empanadas De Pino

    Stuffed meat pies are part of nearly every culture. This very popular Chilean version builds on the pino—sauteed and beautifully seasoned ground beef—by adding a bounty of other flavors to the filling. 


    For the dough:

    • 3-3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
    • 1 tablespoon sugar
    • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
    • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and kept chilled
    • 1-1/4 cups ice water 

    For the filling:

    • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    • 3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
    • 3/4 pound of ground beef, preferably chuck 
    • 1 large onion, peeled and finely diced
    • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
    • 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
    • 1 teaspoon dried oregano 
    • 1 teaspoon hot sauce, or more to taste
    • Salt and pepper to taste

    For the assembly:


    • 3 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and quartered lengthwise 
    • 12 brined large green or black olives, pitted 
    • 3/4 cup golden or sultana raisins
    • 1 egg 
    • 1 tablespoon of water


    Step 1

    Make the dough: In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the flour, sugar, and salt just until combined. Add the chilled butter and pulse again until the butter bits are about the size of peas—be careful not to overprocess. 

    Step 2

    Transfer the mixture to a large bowl, then add the water, 1/4 cup at a time, stirring and pressing it into the flour mixture with a spatula until you get a cohesive dough (you may not need all the water). 

    Step 3

    Turn the dough out onto a clean, lightly floured work surface and divide into 12 portions. Form each portion into a ball, place the balls on a plate, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for an hour for easier rolling. 

    Step 4

    Prepare the filling: Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add the garlic, beef, and onion and sauté until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the spices, hot sauce, and salt and pepper and cook for another 3 to 4 minutes until the meat is cooked through. Set aside to cool for about 15 minutes.

    Step 5

    Assemble the empanadas: Set out two large baking sheets. Working on a well-floured surface with a well-floured rolling pin, roll one of the dough balls into a 6- or 7-inch circle about 1/8-inch thick. 

    Step 6

    Place 2 heaping tablespoons of the meat mixture in the lower half of the round and arrange an olive, an egg quarter, and a tablespoon of raisins on top of the meat. Fold the upper half of the dough over the filling to create a half-moon shape. To seal it, fold up the edge along the half-moon by about 3/4 inch and crimp all along the way with the tines of a fork for a braided look. Use a large spatula to transfer the empanada to one of the baking sheets. Repeat with the rest of the dough balls. 

    Step 7

    Bake the empanadas: Preheat your oven to 425°F. Make an egg wash by breaking the egg into a small bowl and whisk it thoroughly with the tablespoon of water. Use a pastry brush to lightly brush the tops of the empanadas with the egg wash. Bake on two racks in the oven until golden brown, about 20 minutes, rotating the pans at the halfway mark for even browning. 

    Makes 12Recipe courtesy of the Fresh-Pressed Olive Oil Club

Healthy Ingredient Spotlight: Grinding Your Own Beef

Healthy Ingredient Spotlight

Grinding Your Own Beef

There’s no better way to elevate ground meat than to grind your own, and it’s not complicated. If you’ve got a Kitchen Aid stand mixer, invest in the grinder attachment (the kit also includes stuffer tubes for making your own sausages!). If you’ve got a food processor, you can simply use the steel blade—it will have a denser texture because it’s mincing rather than grinding.

For the best grind, everything needs to be icy-cold. Prep your meat by cutting it into 1-inch cubes, spreading them out on a baking sheet, covering with wrap, and popping in the freezer for 15 minutes along with your grinder or processor blade. For the grinder attachment, follow manufacturer instructions. For the processor, use the pulse button for the best control, so you don’t end up with a mash instead of a mince.

Healthy Kitchen Tip: Choosing and Using a Pastry Brush

Healthy Kitchen Nugget

Choosing and Using a Pastry Brush

Pastry brushes might seem like a luxury, but a simple natural boar-bristle brush from a company like Ateco is only a few dollars, and the golden finish from painting an egg wash on pastry before baking is more than worth it. Silicone brushes are easier to clean (they can go right in the dishwasher), but a thin egg wash doesn’t coat their bristles well—save silicone for a thicker application, like brushing BBQ sauce on ribs. To clean a natural bristle brush, rinse it under warm water, rub a small amount of dish detergent into the bristles, and rinse again. Blot the bristles with paper towels and let the brush air dry, flat, on a clean dish towel. When the bristles start falling out or if the brush develops any odors, it’s time to replace it. 

For Your Best Health: Making Stress Work for You

For Your Best Health

Making Stress Work for You

For years, Jeremy Jamieson, PhD, associate professor of psychology and the principal investigator at the University of Rochester’s Social Stress Lab, has been developing ways to rethink how people can deal with stress. Because stress is a normal part of life, it’s better to change how you think about it than to ignore it. For his latest study, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, college students were taught to see stress as a positive—a tool rather than an obstacle. As a result, they lowered their anxiety levels, scored higher on tests, and responded to academic challenges in a healthier way. 

“We use a type of ‘saying is believing’ approach to learn about the adaptive benefits of stress,” said Dr. Jamieson. For instance, tell yourself that your sweaty palms and racing heart are responses that can energize you to perform well. “Stress reappraisal is not aimed at eliminating or dampening stress,” he explained. “It does not encourage relaxation, but instead focuses on changing the type of stress response: If we believe we have sufficient resources to address the demands we’re presented with—it doesn’t matter if the demands are high—if we think we can handle them, our body is going to respond with the challenge response, which means stress is seen as a challenge, rather than a threat.” Try it and see for yourself!

Fitness Flash: A Link Between Exercise and Brain Health

Fitness Flash

A Link Between Exercise and Brain Health

A group of scientists led by Bruce M. Spiegelman, PhD, the Stanley J. Korsmeyer Professor of Cell Biology and Medicine at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School, has just released its latest research on irisin, a hormone produced by muscles during exercise and discovered by Dr. Spiegelman in 2012. After research on human brains found that irisin, named for the Greek messenger goddess Iris, was absent in people who had died of Alzheimer’s disease but was present in others, the team wanted to explore how the hormone might be involved in brain health. 

The most recent study, published in Nature Metabolism, used a variety of lab experiments involving mice to show that irisin can cross the blood-brain barrier and improve cognition—thinking and memory—in both healthy animals and those with a rodent version of Alzheimer’s. These findings suggest that the simple act of exercising could change the course of brain function as we age and lower dementia risk. While it will take research involving humans to learn what types and frequency of exercise are best, these results already suggest that exercise can be as good for your brain as we know it to be for your heart, which should motivate all of us to get moving.

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