Prairie Fare: Enjoy the Health Benefits of Music

By Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist
NDSU Extension

Some researchers have shown that music may have benefits for people with various health conditions.

(Click an image below to view a high-resolution image that can be downloaded)

Playing a musical instrument tends to improve school performance in a variety of subjects. (Pixabay photo)

Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension food and nutrition specialist (NDSU photo)

Prairie Fare graphic identifier

By Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension

“Did you crank up the music?” my friend asked.

“No. Music distracts me when I am writing,” I said. “I tend to focus on the music.”

I was alone in my work office finishing up some projects. No one else was in the building. Maybe instrumental music would have been OK.

If I had been cleaning my office, energetic music would have motivated me.

The clicking sound of my keyboard punctuated the silence. After I finished my projects, I tuned my radio to celebratory tunes on my drive home.

Music has always been part of my life. A few years ago, I joined a community band, and the members range in age from about 24 to 94. This experience has convinced me that I will aspire keep playing my flute for sheer enjoyment and also for its many benefits.

Unfortunately, the 2020 pandemic was not a good year for our band. We took the year off from playing.

Singing and playing some musical instruments in particular can release aerosols, which is a concern for spreading COVID-19. Trumpets, oboes, trombones and clarinets generated the most aerosols according to a study by the University of Minnesota.

In 2021, we were back playing. I want to be able to move my fingers, have the breath control to make a pleasant sound, and an agile brain to count the rhythm and follow a conductor’s lead.

After all, who wants to be the person in the band who plays a few notes after a piece ends?

Did you take piano lessons or play in a band as a child? If an instrument is available, remember it is never too late to learn a new skill or renew an old skill.

From infancy to advanced age, music has physical and psychological benefits. Some of music’s effect on health is related to the brain, but music’s effects are far-reaching.

Music can promote relaxation and improve our mood. In fact, depending on the music, your heart rate and your blood pressure may decrease as you relax to music. Stress hormones decrease as we relax.

Music can motivate people in their workout routines, whether you are walking briskly or dancing.

In fact, dancing to music is not only a good workout for the heart. It also is a workout for the brain as you learn foot patterns.

Some researchers have shown that music may have benefits for people with various health conditions. For example, patients with Parkinson’s Disease have shown improvements in their ability to speak, swallow and manage their breath control when they participate in singing.

Premature infants in the hospital have shown improvements when music is part of their therapy. Listening to someone singing was particularly helpful for the premature infants.

For children, playing a musical instrument tends to improve school performance in a variety of subjects. Music teaches you to listen closely.

For people with long-term illnesses, music can divert your brain from focusing on the pain. It also can conjure memories of happy times, especially for people with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

Put on some music as you enjoy a meal. The volume and tempo, or speed, of music influences how quickly or slowly we eat. Listening to soft music may help us eat more mindfully and enjoy each bite. We might eat less as a result.

During the holidays, my college-aged daughter invited several friends over for a visit. They arrived with musical gaming equipment. I didn’t know what foods to make for them, but these Sheet Pan Nachos were a big hit. Some Mexican fiesta music would have been ideal, but I stayed out of the way of the group of teens.

This recipe is courtesy of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension.

Sheet Pan Nachos with Chipotle Sauce

Step 1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Make meat mixture: Cook ground beef with onion until meat is well browned and reaches an internal temperature of 160 F. Drain excess fat. If you like crisp onions, add them after cooking the meat. Add remaining meat mixture ingredients.

Meat Mixture

1 pound 90 to 93% lean ground beef, cooked

1 cup onion, chopped

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained

Step 2. Cover a sheet pan with aluminum foil and add 13 ounces of corn tortilla chips.

Step 3. Prepare toppings.

1 cup Roma tomatoes, diced (or substitute favorite ripe tomato)

1/2 cup green onion tips, diced

1 cup yellow bell pepper, diced

1/3 cup cilantro, chopped

2 cups nonfat mozzarella, shredded (or other cheese)

Step 4. Prepare sauce.

1/2 cup Greek yogurt, plain, nonfat

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

1-2 tablespoons canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, diced (available in Mexican food aisle in some stores) or substitute picante sauce or salsa

Distribute the meat mixture evenly over the chips, then top with tomatoes, other toppings and cheese. Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake until cheese is melted, 15 to 20 minutes.

Remove nachos from oven and top with the yogurt sauce.

Makes 12 servings, about 1 cup per serving. Each serving has 320 calories, 13 grams (g) fat, 21 g protein, 31 g carbohydrate, 4 g fiber and 420 milligrams sodium.

(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension food and nutrition specialist and professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences. Follow her on Twitter @jgardenrobinson)