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Food & Mood

Food & Mood

Our bodies work much like a car does, and cars need constant care to ensure they run smoothly. The food we eat fuels our bodies and, like a car, the type of fuel we give ourselves influences how well we run. One such fuel is serotonin, also known as the “happy hormone,” which regulates sleep, appetite, and mood. Serotonin is made from the essential amino acid tryptophan, found in many foods you may already eat. 95% of serotonin is produced in the
gastrointestinal tract, so it’s no wonder our mood and our food are intermingled.

The beneficial bacteria in the stomach limit inflammation and improve how well we absorb
nutrients from food. They also activate neural pathways between the gut and the brain that are responsible for transporting chemicals like serotonin and dopamine. Essential nutrients like B6, folate, magnesium, and unsaturated fats also contribute to our mental wellbeing.

If you are struggling with low mood, consider combining a balanced diet with exercise,
stress-relief, and better sleep quality to amplify your mental health and happiness
progression. When planning your next meal or grocery run, try including some of the foods
below that boost your mood! *


Fermented foods. Choose fermented foods like yogurt, tempeh, miso, kombucha, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi. The fermentation process creates probiotics, which in turn, supports healthy bacteria in your gut.

Avocados. Eat more avocados, “the hormone balancer.”  Avocados contain healthy fats (mono-unsaturated and polyunsaturated) and stress reducing vitamins, ensuring your brain is making the right chemicals needed for sleeping well and feeling happy.

Dark chocolate. Nibble on some dark chocolate, which contains tryptophan, magnesium, and antioxidants that help boost your mood.

Bananas. Eat a banana to get 25% of your daily intake of vitamin B6 which is needed to create serotonin.

Green salads. Have a salad full of dark leafy greens, rich in magnesium and folate (vitamin B9), which provide the chemical
housekeeping necessary to battle the blues.

Fish and seafood. Eat foods rich in omega-3 (poly-unsaturated fats), like salmon and shrimp, to improve your mental wellbeing and reduce depression.

Water. Gulp down lots of water! Water helps carry the nutrients from your food to your cells and being well-hydrated has proven to improve sleep quality and cognition in addition to mood.

*  Make sure to listen to your body. If a type of food does not agree with you, consult with your doctor on whether you should consume it or not.

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Family Health History

“The laws of genetics apply even if you refuse to learn them.”

― Allison Plowden


Family Health History

Brown eyes and stubbornness are not the only things that can run in the family. Knowing your family’s health history is important for determining your risk for certain health conditions and diseases that can be inherited throughout generations. High blood pressure, stroke, certain cancers, and type 2 diabetes are all conditions for which your
family health history can indicate risk. With an up-to-date family health history, you can determine your own risk, plus the risk for your dependents and those you care for, then take preventative measures.

How do I collect my family health history?
Start by getting to know your family. If possible, create a family tree that spans at least three generations. This should include relatives like grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, siblings, half-siblings, nieces, nephews, and cousins. Next, begin to fill in the blanks. Include information on major medical conditions, causes of death, age at disease diagnosis, age at death, and ethnic background.

How can I use my family health history to improve my health?
While having a history of certain conditions is an indicator of your own risk, it is not a guarantee of inheriting the condition. Genetics is just one factor, as environment and habits can also play a role in your risk for disease. Staying active, eating well, and avoiding tobacco can certainly lower your risk for diseases like cancer and diabetes. In addition, screening tests, such as blood sugar testing, mammograms, and colorectal cancer screening help find
early signs of disease and can often mean better health in the long run.

Even if your family history is healthy, it does not mean a health event could not occur in the future, so you should always prioritize your health.

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Finding Care

Finding Care

A Primary Care Provider (PCP) might be a doctor, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant.

They know you and your family history, can better manage chronic disease, catch health issues earlier and save you time and money.

Choose Your Provider
If you do not already have a PCP, now is the time to find one. You can begin your search by asking for recommendations from trusted friends, family or
coworkers. Then, call a clinic in
your network and ask:

  • Are they accepting new  patients?
  • Does this provider accept your insurance?
  • What is the provider’s special field of practice or background?
  • Where should you receive care outside of  office hours if needed?
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Caring for Your Joints

Caring for Your Joints

Your musculoskeletal system consists of muscles, bones, tendons, ligaments, soft tissues, and cartilage. They work together to support your body’s weight, help you move, and maintain your posture. Aging and poor habits can lead to problems in your musculoskeletal system, however, what you do daily can impact your joint health and prevent pain and injuries.


  • Stay physically active. In addition to weight management, aerobic exercise allows fluid to push into the cartilage, helping to prevent stiffness in your joints. Try low-impact activities like walking, biking, or swimming.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight puts extra stress on the joints, especially the knees and hips. Focus on controlling your portion sizes and staying active.
  • Build muscle. Strength training helps build stronger muscles and ligaments taking pressure off your joints. Strong muscles also improve posture and balance. Make sure you work all the
    major muscle groups, including your core, at least two times per week.
  • Stay hydrated. Your body will start to take water from other sources, including cartilage, if you are not properly hydrated. Aim for 64 ounces of water every day.
  • Stretch. Tight muscles and joints can lead to strains and injury. Stretching and range of motion exercises help keep the muscles flexible, strong, and healthy. The best time to stretch is when your muscles are warm, preferably after 10 minutes of activity. Engage in stretching and flexibility activities (yoga, Pilates, tai chi), at least 2 to 3 times per week.
  • Straighten up. Be mindful of your posture. Poor posture when sitting, standing, or lifting, can lead to strain or injury to your muscles and joints.
  • Veg out! Boost your cruciferous
    vegetable intake. Not only are they packed with antioxidants, vitamins, and fiber, but new research found that an antioxidant found in these vegetables block an enzyme that causes joint pain and inflammation. Aim for a half cup of a coniferous vegetable every day, such as broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, or kale.
  • Stand and move. Avoid sitting for the entirety of your workday. Take a movement break like walking or stretching every 30 to 60 minutes to prevent joint stiffness.
  • Protect yourself. When active, wear braces for aching or injured joints. Wear padding for activities like inline skating and contact sports.
About 1 in 4 U.S. adults have arthritis. Arthritis is a general term for conditions that affect the joints, tissues around the joint, and other connective tissues.
Implementing simple joint health tips can decrease your risk or improve the condition.
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grief awareness , management, & support

Grief Awareness, Management, and Support

Grief is a natural response to a loss of something or someone you love. Grief comes with the loss of a loved one, pet, friendship, job, dream, or your health. It can also show up with big changes like a move, breakup, divorce, or retirement.

No one tackles grief in a systematic way. Everyone goes through their own grief journey. Managing grief can depend on
many factors from one’s beliefs, background, personality, age, support network, mental health, and physical health.

Understanding grief and how to manage it can help improve your resiliency when going through a tough time and can also help you better support others going through the grieving process.


Each person navigates the stages in their own way. Some people may skip a stage as others get stuck at one stage for an extended period.

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

If you or a loved one are unable to perform daily functions, such as getting out of bed or going to work for more than an occasional day, consider seeking additional professional help.


Be patient and give yourself grace as you go through the grieving process

  • Acknowledge your pain
  • Know your triggers
  • Give yourself permission to feel
  • Understand the process will be unique to you
  • Share your feelings with a therapist or loved one
  • Let your family and friends help you Invest in your mental and physical wellbeing.
  • Meditate, pray, or journal
  • Maintain hobbies or find new ones
  • Try for 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night
  • Get some physical activity each day
  • Be mindful of your nutrition


Let your loved one know you are there for them. Often family, friends, neighbors, and
coworkers don’t know what to say or they are afraid of saying the wrong thing. Try not to let doubts and fears get in the way of reaching out to a grieving loved one. Simply showing up can make a huge difference.

Things to say:

“I’m here if you ever want to talk — now, later, even in the middle of the night. Whatever would help you.”

“I know I can’t possibly know what you’re going through, but I’m here for you. I’ve been thinking about you.”

“I’m checking in because I care about you. I just want to let you know that I’m here.”

“You cannot prevent the birds of sorrow from flying over your head, but you can prevent them from building nests in your hair.”

Chinese proverb

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Dodging Diabetes

How you can dodge diabetes

More than 37 million Americans have diabetes and 90-95% of them have type 2 diabetes. According to the CDC, diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in the United States. Type 1 and type 2 diabetes have different causes, but there are two factors that are important in both: you inherit a predisposition to the disease, then something in your environment triggers it. You can prevent or delay type 2 diabetes with proven, achievable lifestyle changes such as losing a small amount of weight and getting more physically active.

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is when your pancreas does not make enough insulin. Insulin is a hormone
made by your pancreas that lets blood sugar into the cells in your body for use as energy.

Type 1 diabetes can be developed at any age and can be inherited genetically. Controlling type 1 diabetes means checking your blood sugar regularly, taking insulin shots, managing stress levels, and monitoring your cholesterol and blood pressure by making healthy nutrition and activity choices.

Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is caused by insulin resistance, where your cells do not respond normally to
insulin in your body. Your pancreas makes more insulin to try to get cells to respond.

Eventually your pancreas can’t keep up, and your blood sugar rises. Healthy choices to control your risk of developing type 2 diabetes include managing your weight, participating in regular exercise, and keeping glucose in normal ranges such as 100-125 mg/dl can help you dodge diabetes.

Research shows that you can lower your risk for type 2 diabetes by 58% by losing 7%
of your body weight, or 15 pounds if you weigh 200 pounds, and exercising moderately, such as brisk walking, 30 minutes a day, five days a week.

Don’t worry if you can’t get to your ideal body weight. Losing even 10 to 15 pounds can make a huge difference.

Source: American Diabetes

Uncontrollable risk factors:

  • Age (> 45 years)
  • Family history
  • Race (African American, Hispanic/Latino American, Native American, and Native Alaskan individuals may all be at greater risk for type 2 diabetes)
  • History of gestational diabetes

Prevent the development of type 2 diabetes with healthy choices:

  • Consume fewer artificial sugars Eat more fruits and vegetables
  • Be physically active (150 minutes each week)
  • Manage stress
  • Replace juices and soda with water
  • Talk to your doctor about your family history and get regular biometric screenings to know your numbers.

For more information, visit the
American Diabetes Association website at


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Employee Engagement

Employee Engagement

Based on recent Gallup research, only 32% of full- and part-time employees are engaged at work, while 17% are actively disengaged. That means almost
two-thirds of employees are on autopilot and performing their job without passion or energy. Improving your engagement at work can positively impact your productivity, relationships, happiness, and can motivate you to prioritize this as a work/life balance goal.

If you find yourself disengaged at work, here are some tips to reengage:


Have a strong purpose and connection to company goals.


Ask yourself, “What can I do to better align my work with the company’s goals and strategy?”

Feel heard within the organization.


Bring forth improvement ideas to your team or manager by stating “I’d like to share my ideas with you and also get your recommendations about who else I should share them with.”

Are accountable to accomplishing their goals and tasks.


Tell your team or manager, “I want to do a better job of being accountable for the work I’m doing.” Then ask them, “What would be the best way for me to proactively update you?”

Feel appreciated for the work they are doing.


Ask for regular feedback from your manager. If appreciation still is not felt, build a compelling case for what you need and deserve, and ask for it.

Feel challenged in the work that they are responsible for.


Share with your team or manager that you are looking for more challenging work and present project ideas that you’d like to start working on.

From technology disruptors, the rise of remote work, and the need for greater agility, the workplace has changed. But the measure of what makes a great workplace hasn’t. The best workplace is the one that cares for its employees, then positions employee engagement as the catalyst for improving important business outcomes.



“Since before the COVID-19 pandemic, the decline in the percentage of engaged
employees was evident across all three groups — exclusively remote, hybrid, and
exclusively on-site — but highest for employees who are exclusively remote.”
— G A L LU P . C OM

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Nutrition Resources

  • Virgin Pulse Nutrition Guide: Employees pick their nutrition profile and the Nutrition Guide serves up personalized healthy tips, such as what to eat if you have a sweet tooth or easy cooking ideas.
  • Monj: This online food and lifestyle programs helps employees improve the way they eat. Employees set goals, learn how to create healthy meals, and get help understanding restaurant menus.
  • Foodsmart by Zipongo: Foodsmart makes healthy eating simple and affordable. Employees can explore recipes; build digital grocery lists; and order groceries online for home delivery.
  • Eat Fit Go: Employees get healthy, ready-to-eat meals delivered straight to their homes or offices with Eat Fit Go. Made with high-quality, allergy-friendly ingredients, the flavor-packed meals stay fresh for at least 10 days in a refrigerator.
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Sun Safety

Sun Safety

Feeling the warm sun can feel like a dream compared to freezing Minnesota winters. But it is important to prevent exposure to ultraviolet
rays, the biggest risk factor for skin cancer:

  • Minimize your time in the sun when rays are the strongest, between 10am- 4p and don’t use tanning beds or lamps
  • Select a sunscreen with broad spectrum protection to guard against ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays
  • Re-apply sunscreen with at least (SPF) 30 or higher every two hours, after sweating or being in the water
  • Wear dark, dry, tightly woven clothes, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses with UV-protective lenses


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Summer Fun Challenge

Summer Fun Challenge

Think of how many steps you can rack up during your activities and summer getaways!

  • Register: July 1 July 13
  • Challenge Dates: July 11 July 25

Watch for email reminders from My Health Rewards and messages on the My Health Rewards portal and app under the Social/Challenges section.