Junk food heaven
Eating pork rinds and staying healthy

If you think you have to avoid junk food to maintain a healthful diet, think again. Many taboo foods aren’t as bad as you think, or they at least have close alternatives that won’t kill you. Pork rinds, for example, are deep-fried pigskin, but “Junk Food That’s Good for You, ” an article on the Web site of Men’s Health magazine, points out that they also have zero carbs, nine grams of fat — 43 percent unsaturated — and 17 grams of protein, which make them more acceptable as an occasional snack than, say, a small bag of potato chips. (And there’s a less greasy microwavable variety available.) If you like a daily drink, you’ll be happy to know that in a study of 18,000 men, Harvard scientists found that men who consumed one to two alcoholic beverages a day had a lower risk of heart attack than non-drinkers. As for what kind of drink to have, consider that pinot noir is an antioxidant-rich wine that won’t give you a beer belly. Although beef jerky is usually loaded with preservatives, it’s also high in protein, and it’s possible to find jerky made from grass-fed beef that has no preservatives.

“Ounce for ounce, coconut contains more saturated fat than butter does,” says the article, by registered dietitian Jeff Volek. But it also boosts good cholesterol, so just look for the unsweetened kind. And finally, for those who worry about their love of chocolate, you can take solace in knowing that it contains flavonoids that improve blood flow to the heart. Regardless of their redeeming qualities, none of these qualify as healthful food, so moderation is key.

Long distance running
Say chi, and avoid injury
“Chi Marathon,” by Danny and Katherine Dreyer

In a grueling sport such as distance running, training harder can lead to injury, so training smarter is key. So say Danny and Katherine Dreyer — running and health coaches, respectively — who apply the principles of tai chi to running (and other activities). The idea, they say, is that with practice and focus, runners can use their minds to move energy, or chi, in their body to propel themselves forward, taking stress off the muscles and joints.

If this sounds a little too spiritual, they also emphasize proper technique and biomechanically sound movements to help serious runners avoid pain and injury. You’ll learn about everything from posture and foot strike to conditioning and nutrition. A major focus of the book is race preparation, which the Dreyers strongly believe to be equal parts mental and physical. They even debate hot-button issues, such as sneakers vs. barefoot running and what not to do the night before a race. (Their advice: no massages or alcohol.)

If you are a beginner or a casual runner, this book might be too intense, but if you’re a dedicated runner hoping maybe to try the Marine Corps Marathon one day, this might help you get to a new personal best.

Whitney Fetterhoff