Healthy Living

with Dr. Madelyn Fernstrom

Question of the Month

Q. Should I switch from bottled water to a water filter? Is there a health difference?

A. Bottled water and filtered water are equivalent from a health point of view. More important, when you’re filtering from the tap, your water remains purified as long as you make sure to change the filters as recommended; they don’t last forever! Plus, an old filter can be a source of bacterial contaminants.

Convenience, taste and cost are all important considerations for many people. When it comes to tap water without filtering, federal guidelines are in place to ensure safety. Regional recommendations can vary, so check with your local water supplier for more information.

The Truth About Salad

When we think of salads, the word "low calorie" always comes to mind. While a salad can be a great choice as a side dish or main meal, it’s easy to pile on loads of extra calories and fat (even with the best intentions) to produce a dieting disaster.

Here are some easy guidelines to build a salad that is both tasty and calorie-controlled:

Start with a bed of mixed dark greens (the darker the color, the more nutrients). Add some lean protein (chicken, turkey, ham, tofu) and loads of colorful nonstarchy vegetables (nix the peas, corn and potatoes). Also consider adding a little low-fat shredded cheese for extra flavor or a spoonful of the "treat" add-ons, such as bacon bits, croutons or crunchy noodles.

Choose a fat-free dressing or flavored vinegar. Like full-fat dressing? Keep it on the side, and use the "dip and scoop" method of dipping your fork into the dressing then scooping up some salad. And remember that heart-healthy fats contain the same calories as artery-clogging fats, so go easy on sliced avocados, nuts and seeds.

Sun-Proof Your Skin

Whether you’re at the beach or lounging in your backyard, a few basic tips will keep your skin healthy in the sun. Moderation is key when it comes to the sun, and you need protection from both UVA and UVB rays. Choose an effective sunscreen – and read the label (aim for SPF 15 or higher). Apply it regularly and in a generous amount: 1 ounce – the size of a shot glass – is the amount for body and face coverage; reapply the sunscreen every two hours (even for "waterproof" products!).

Avoid prolonged exposure during the peak hours between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., and grab a hat for added protection. Even when you don’t "feel" the sun – in the shade, or under an umbrella, or on a cloudy day – you’re not protected, and sunscreen is a sure thing. And don’t forget about your lips and scalp – they need protection as well.

In the News

Based on a new report from the American College of Sports Medicine, we should change our city’s name to "Fittsburgh"! A new national survey of America’s fittest cities finds Pittsburgh at No. 16 among the top-45 rated cities (Washington, D.C., was No. 1).

The list is based on several factors, including how many residents of a particular city smoke, get regular physical activity, are overweight and have medical conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. Local resources were also factored in, ranging from the number of parks and farmers’ markets, to crime rates and the number of primary-care health providers. A healthy environment is just one more reason to love living in the ‘Burgh!

If you have a health question for Dr. Fernstrom, e-mail her at

Categories: Top Doctors