The Wellness Checklist for May


Chili-crusted flank steak with mango salsa (James M. Thresher for The Washington Post)
May 3, 2011

In the D.C. area, the weather in May provides plenty of incentive to get out and get moving before summer’s heat and humidity set in. You can fuel that activity with fresh produce from newly reopened farmers markets or grab a peak-season mango from the supermarket. It’s all good.

Salute the sun

The capital goes gaga for yoga during DC Yoga Week, which is May 15 to 21 this year. During the sixth annual event, 10 studios will offer free and $5 classes for students of all ages and abilities. For example, Flow Yoga near Logan Circle has a free Vinyasa Flow class on May 16 at 12:30 p.m. and a free Yoga Ecstasy Hour on May 21 at 5:30 p.m. Register in advance with each studio, as space is limited.

The celebration kicks off May 15 with Yoga on the Mall, from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. This huge communal yoga practice near the Washington Monument will be led by local teachers and famed yogini Shiva Rea. Kids can take part in a special class from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m.

New this year is what’s being dubbed a yoga flash mob on May 21. The Asia Heritage Foundation invites everyone, including the family dog, to gather at 10 a.m. in John Marshall Memorial Park (between C Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW, next to the Canadian Embassy) for an hour of mass sun salutations.

Why do any of this? Aside from the fun, there’s mounting evidence that yoga is good for you. According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, yoga may help reduce stress and anxiety and lower heart rates and blood pressure. And a recent study found that yoga can counter atrial fibrillation, a common and potentially dangerous heart arrhythmia.

Read about yoga in next week’s MisFits column.

Mango mania

They’re not local, but mangoes should be at their peak starting this month. Sweet and juicy, the tropical fruit is an excellent source of vitamins A and C and is packed with fiber. You can peel and eat them just as they are (that’s my favorite way), add them to smoothies or build a salsa around them.

Registered dietitian Keri Gans, author of “The Small Change Diet,” says adding mangoes to the shopping list can help fruit lovers add variety. “People need to be a little more adventurous in their diets,” she says. “Otherwise, they get bored.” Gans suggests trading your customary banana for a mango, “at least for a little while.” She likes to use mango slices to sweeten her oatmeal or plain Greek yogurt.

A word of caution, though: With sweet fruits such as mango, portion control is key. “One half of a small mango is a serving size,” Gans says. “Even fruit has calories, and they have a way of adding up, even if they’re nutritious calories.”

To market, to market

Many of the area’s seasonal farmers markets open in May. In the District, the Mount Pleasant Farmers Market (17th and Lamont and Mount Pleasant streets NW) is open Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. starting May 7. In Alexandria, the West End Farmers Market (4800 Brenman Park Dr.) is open Sundays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. And the Greenbelt Farmers Market (101 Centerway) is open Sundays starting May 8.

Find a complete guide to area farmers markets at washingtonpost.com/food.

Bike to work

The annual Bike to Work Day is May 20. Organized by the Washington Area Bicyclist Association and Commuter Connections, the event is expected to draw more than 10,000 people, says WABA Outreach Coordinator Greg Billing.

There will be 49 “pit stops” across the D.C. area where registered riders can pick up a free T-shirt and some food. The hours vary, but most will open by 6 or 6:30 a.m. (a little later in the District) and close around 8:30 or 9 a.m.

If you’re new to biking in the city, visit the WABA site to find the route of one of 20 “commuter convoys” being led by WABA members that day. Convoys leave various locations between 6 and 7:30 a.m. and end at Freedom Plaza downtown. You can just show up and wait to join a pack when it passes by.

Register for free and find more information about WABA.

Nutritious swag

Whole Foods Market has partnered with the Maryland Department of Agriculture on a weekly local-produce subscription program at four Maryland stores, starting May 21. For $25 a week, shoppers at the stores in Silver Spring, Rockville, Annapolis and Baltimore (Mount Washington) will secure a bag containing six to 10 varieties of freshly picked produce from a handful of area farms. Members also receive an e-mail telling what’s in the bag that week and tips on how to use the food. May’s bags will feature strawberries, broccoli, cauliflower, salad greens, spinach, tomatoes and asparagus.

Matt Ray, produce coordinator for Whole Foods, says the Maryland’s Best program “is not a moneymaker for us. It’s really to support local agriculture and farms near us and help them grow.”

Why just four stores, all in Maryland? The program was the state agriculture department’s idea, Ray says: “We decided to do it as a small rollout and expand from there.”

Walk it off

Walking, of course, is one of the best ways to get exercise and manage weight. Recent research has found that regular walking can also ward off dementia and slow its progression among those with mild cognitive impairment or even early Alzheimer’s disease.

If you need an excuse to go for a stroll, consider a beginners-friendly Weight Watchers Walk-It Challenge 5K. The weight-loss company is sponsoring walks across the country on May 22. (You don’t have to be a member to take part.) Local walking or running groups are organizing events in Alexandria and on Hains Point in the District. (Walks in College Park and on Theodore Roosevelt Island in Arlington are sold out.)

Registration is $25 to $30 plus a $2.50 sign-up fee. More information available at the Walk-It Challenge Web site.

For nutrition news, visit the Checkup blog, follow @jhuget on Twitter and subscribe to the Lean & Fit newsletter.

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