The Swap Challenge: Week One

Allan Mas/

Welcome to the Swap Challenge Week One!

I hope everyone is doing great.

If anyone has swapped out an unhealthy meal for a healthy one, please feel free to comment and share what meal you prepared and how things went.

I’ll start—I found this recipe for vegan crab cakes on the CNS Kitchen site that was very easy to make and delicious. I thought it tasted better than the crab cakes I used to eat. Oh, and the tartar sauce was so good.

Until next week, be well!

Early Blooms in Grand Teton?

Andrew Jensen/

According to an article by Kirsten Weir in the Spring 2023 issue of Nature Conservancy Magazine entitled “Bloom and Bust” (40-47), ecologist Frank Craighead lived in a cabin in Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park in the 1970s. He would venture out several times each week during the spring and summer and take careful notes regarding the plants that were flowering in the area. The article tells the story of Mr. Craighead’s cabin catching fire in 1978 and how his son and nephew were able to rescue the cardboard box that contained his priceless notes. 

I say “priceless” because those notes have allowed today’s scientists to know precisely where and when various flowers were blooming. Ms. Weir explains that from 2016 to 2019, ecologist Trevor Bloom and director of science for The Nature Conservancy Corinna Riginos retraced Mr. Craighead’s steps hundreds of times and compared their observations with those he made in his notes. They documented the flowering dates for 51 species and noted significant changes over the past 40 years. 

Given the warming climate, the article states that the average spring temperature in Grand Teton has increased by about 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, leading to the spring snowmelt happening around 21 days earlier. Thus, many flower species are blooming earlier. 

At first glance, this may not appear to be such a terrible event. However, countless aspects of the environment are connected and interdependent. Flowers take their cues for blooming from the climate and thus, as stated, have been blooming earlier. By contrast, many species of insects and birds take their cues for emergence and migration from the duration of daylight. This information makes the detrimental discrepancy apparent. These changes, which have occurred over a very brief period of only 40 years, can have harmful impacts on many living things. Many birds and insects that depend on flowering plants may suffer. Furthermore, some berry shrubs may produce their fruit earlier, possibly harming grizzly and black bears that need the berries to ready themselves for hibernation in the fall. 

Ms. Weir makes clear something that the reader should easily infer. Namely, these shifts in plant cycles are not isolated to Grand Teton National Park—they are happening around the world. Moreover, this can potentially create a massive domino effect of harm to the insects and animal species that depend on plants for survival. 

The above content may seem inconsequential to many. After all, millions of us may be far removed from nature in our daily lives. However, it is worthwhile and essential to note that the entirety of nature is woven together in an intricate web. At some level, a change to one aspect of nature will induce a change to another aspect. Everything humans have, from the food we eat and water we drink to the grand cities we have created, ultimately comes from nature. We are part of and depend on nature and should thus be exceptional stewards of nature, continuing to discover innovations so that humans and the rest of the natural world can flourish and live in harmony.

Mindset: The Swap Challenge

Leon Ardho/

Mindset is essential in everything you do. You will likely excel at whatever you do if you have the correct mindset or attitude. This same truth applies to living a healthy lifestyle. For instance, some people say that becoming healthy is a major chore. That is not the right mindset. Healthy behaviors such as eating wholesome foods and being physically active should not be considered burdens. Instead, people performing such behaviors should feel energetic, focused, and fantastic because that is how you feel when you’re healthy.

Some people may think that to be healthy, they must give up all their favorite foods. Again, this is the wrong mindset. Individuals trying to be healthy shouldn’t feel like they have to give up anything. What they can do is find healthy foods that they also love and substitute them for those they currently eat that may not be the best thing to put into their bodies. So, don’t ever feel as though something is being taken away. You should instead feel that some other mouthwatering food is being added. You are simply swapping out the delicious and unhealthy for the delicious and healthy. Moreover, a tremendous number of healthy recipes are available on the internet and phone apps—and many are free. I would encourage you to take advantage of them.

For example, take macaroni and cheese. That’s right—good old mac n’ cheese. We found a plant-based version of this classic that is much healthier. My wife prepares it, and—wow, it is just delectable! Bonus—I feel great about eating it because I know it benefits my body.

That is a great place to start. If you are trying to eat healthier foods, I encourage you to search the web or phone apps for a healthy recipe and swap it out for one that is not as healthy. Actually, how about a challenge? If you like, I challenge you to swap out an unhealthy meal for a healthy meal once each week for the next four weeks. Just one swap each week. Are you up for it?

If you are—that’s terrific! I would love to know what meal you prepared, how you liked it, and how you felt about it. Feel free to leave comments every week and let me and others know how you are doing. You may just be an inspiration to others!

Note: I will create a post each week for the next four weeks referencing this challenge where you may comment on your own swaps and how it’s going for you.

Reversing Diabetes: Medications and Lifestyle

Nataliya Vaitkevich/

Reversing Diabetes: Medications and Lifestyle

According to the CDC, more than 37 million people in the United States have diabetes, and most diagnosed cases (90-95%) are type 2 diabetes. Diabetes is a disease in which the body’s ability to use glucose (its primary energy source) is impaired due to a problem with insulin, the hormone produced by the pancreas that allows glucose to move into the body’s cells. Whereas a deficiency of insulin production occurs in type 1 diabetes, typically in children and adolescents, there is no deficit of insulin production in type 2 diabetes. The latter condition develops for several reasons, but one of the primary problems is that the body’s cells become resistant to insulin and are thus unable to utilize it to move glucose into cells. Blood sugar levels will be increased in both conditions. Over time, diabetes can cause serious health problems such as heart disease, kidney disease, vision loss, and amputations. Definitely not an illness you’d want to get if you can prevent it. The good news is that you can prevent it, at least the type 2 version. 

The reason type 2 diabetes is preventable is that it, like many other chronic conditions, is a disease of lifestyle. That’s correct—type 2 diabetes develops due to an unhealthy lifestyle. There are several studies showing that making healthy lifestyle changes can prevent this condition. Moreover, one group of researchers wanted to examine both a lifestyle-intervention program and a prescription diabetes medication called metformin and their effects on preventing or delaying the development of this disease.

Their article appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine (N Engl J Med 2002; 346:393-403). They performed a study in which they enrolled 3234 participants that did not have diabetes and split them into three groups. One group was given metformin; the second group was the lifestyle-intervention group, and the third group was assigned a placebo pill. The individuals in the lifestyle-intervention group consumed a healthy, low-calorie, low-fat diet to maintain a weight reduction of 7 percent and performed moderate-intensity exercise for at least 150 minutes per week.

The results of the study were fascinating. Compared to the placebo group, the incidence of diabetes was 31 percent less in the metformin group. However, the really captivating part was that the incidence of diabetes in the lifestyle-intervention group was 58 percent less than in the placebo group. So, a healthy lifestyle was better at preventing type 2 diabetes than a commonly prescribed diabetes medication—and without any adverse side effects!

Always remember that treating your body well and providing it with healthy foods will significantly lower your risk of developing lifestyle-related diseases.