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The YOU Docs: First, take a deep breath

Want the chemical that will make your performance at work or school bulletproof? Well, almost bulletproof. All you need to do is breathe.

Inhaling deeply brings a chemical called nitric oxide from the back of your nose and your sinuses into your lungs. This short-lived gas dilates the air passages in your lungs and does the same to the blood vessels surrounding them so you can get more oxygen into your body. Nitric oxide also doubles as a neurotransmitter to help your brain function.

Sounds like a no-brainer, but after age 2, most of us never take a single deep breath all day long (have you done it yet?). Yoga is an excellent way to train yourself to take these deep breaths. A yoga sequence or two in the morning helps you get your blood going, think about your breathing and prepare yourself for your day (both of us do it). While you're meditating and noticing the sensations of your body, dream about one big idea you want to pursue today.

No matter what pose or sequence you do, this is the golden rule: Take deep belly breaths using your diaphragm to pull your lungs down as you inhale.

To exhale, suck your belly button toward your spine to push the diaphragm up and empty all the air from your lungs. Feel better? That's the kind of chemical it's smart to get addicted to.

Brush, floss, eat dates

When it comes to sweets, not all of them will land you in the dentist's chair.

Sweet, chewy dates have one up on chocolate kisses and gobstoppers: They have a substance that may help strengthen tooth enamel and guard against plaque. Dates are rich in the element fluorine, which sounds like what it is — a relative of fluoride, that enamel-friendly compound that can actually help reverse early tooth decay.

Raisins also may save you from extra trips to the dentist. Phytochemicals in these fruits appear to inhibit the growth of certain types of bacteria that mess with your mouth, and they help prevent it from sticking to teeth.

Try tossing chopped dates or raisins into your morning oatmeal or over your salad, or just enjoy them as a snack. Bonus: They also provide you with fiber, vitamins, amino acids and minerals. You can't get that from a candy store!

Of course, any tooth-friendly eating habit still needs to be accompanied by no-excuses oral care. That means regular brushing for two minutes every morning and night, and flossing. When you don't floss, you're not cleaning 40 percent of each tooth. Dentists consider flossing even more crucial for preventing tooth decay and periodontal disease than brushing is, and it may even help prevent heart disease. We think they're both important.

Get green tea's goodies

Green tea is overflowing with free-radical fighting compounds that help you stay younger and avoid the aging and decreased energy that accompany chronic disease. But there's a problem: Most of those good compounds in green tea never make it to your bloodstream. The risk-reducing antioxidants in this brew, called catechins, quickly lose their power in stored tea, and even more so in your intestine. In fact, as much as 80 percent of the catechins in green tea are never absorbed.

The solutions: Brew the tea fresh, and flavor your tea with freshly squeezed and strained lemon, orange, lime or grapefruit juice. The vitamin C in citrus juice may help with absorption by increasing the acidity in your small intestine. Other unidentified substances in the juice probably lend a hand, too. Researchers found a 50/50 tea/citrus mix had the greatest catechin-preserving effect, and lemon did it best, closely followed by orange, lime and, in last place, grapefruit.

For great green tea, heat water to approximately 160 to 180 degrees. If you don't have a thermometer, just bring the water to a boil and then remove it from the heat source for about a minute. Pour the water over your green tea bag or leaves and steep for no longer than two to three minutes.

The YOU Docs are authors of "YOU: Being Beautiful — The Owner's Manual to Inner and Outer Beauty."

The YOU Docs: First, take a deep breath 03/13/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 18, 2009 3:28pm]
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