Meditation reduces the markers of inflammation, which indicates a benefit to the immune system.

Mixing it up, the healthy way

When you need the convenience of a boxed breakfast goodie or sweet treat mix, keep these tips in mind to make it the best it can be:

1 Think inside the box. The nutritional information listed in our comparison - and on most food packages - is for the dry mix as packaged. As eaten, however, you may have added oil, eggs, milk, or other ingredients that contribute calories, fat, and sodium to the finished product. There are also mixes that call for just adding water. So, use our comparison chart as a tool to help you select the best in basic mixes.

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2 Put your own spin on it. You can't alter the mix itself, but you can make some improvements to the final product. Try using a bit less oil than called for, use skim milk instead of whole, or add fresh fruit to pancakes or muffins in order to boost the nutrition profile of your semi-from-scratch fare.

3 Look for whole grain. While whole grain terminology on the package front isn't a guarantee of a more nutrient-dense product, it's a good place to start. Flip over the box to check the ingredients list, looking for a whole grain in the first two or three spots. Check the nutrition facts panel while you're there for fiber content - look for at least three grams per serving.

Meditation helps to ease loneliness

When children leave the nest or a partner passes away, the person who remains behind can struggle with feelings of loneliness. Being lonely isn't just hard on your emotions; research finds it can also increase your risk for several medical conditions, including heart disease. A study published online in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity finds that meditation could be one effective method for combating loneliness.

Forty older adults (ages 55 to 85) were randomly assigned to either an eight-week meditation program or a wait-list control group. Researchers also collected blood samples to measure levels of genes related to inflammation.

Not only did the meditation program significantly decrease loneliness, but it also reduced markers of inflammation, which indicates a benefit to the immune system (although the study did not investigate whether meditation reduced disease).

This study was small and preliminary, but it does add to a growing body of research about the benefits of meditation and other relaxation techniques on mood.


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