Natural Stress Relief Relaxation Techniques

November 24th, 2012

Although some types of stress are productive and positive, much of the chronic stress that individuals experience on a day-to-day basis can be detrimental to their health. Chronic stress can lead to elevated levels of cortisol and adrenaline, both of which can be damaging to the body. Excess stress can also lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, overeating, binge drinking and smoking. Managing chronic stress with medications is not always the healthiest form of treatment. The following natural relaxation techniques can help you manage stress before it effects your health.

Exercise
Exercise can increase the levels of endorphins in your brain, which can lead to a feeling of well-being. This can help enhance your mood and lower your anxiety. In addition, exercising forces you to focus your mind on your movements, helping you take your mind off of the stressful thoughts of everyday life.

Natural Stress ReliefMassage
Massage is one of those natural relaxation techniques that can instantly reduce chronic stress throughout your body and mind. People tend to hold stress in their muscles, which can lead to pain and stiffness. A massage can loosen up tight muscles and make an individual aware of the physical effects stress causes the body. Don’t have time to book a massage? Just grab a tennis ball and roll it along your muscles, neck and feet while sitting at your desk, laying in bed or watching television.

Laughter
Have you ever heard that if you put a smile on your face even when you’re feeling down, you can actually feel happier? Many relaxation techniques take some time to practice and perfect, but you can laugh anytime and anywhere. Laughter can increase circulation, reduce the amount of stress hormones in your body and increase endorphins.

Breathing Exercises
Relaxation techniques that guide you to focus on your breath can help clear your mind of stressful thoughts. As you inhale deeply and exhale slowly, you can lower your blood pressure and heart rate, inducing a calming effect on your body and mind. It is generally best to pick a number between five and ten and count out your long slow breaths. This helps to give you both a mental and a physical focus.

Calming Visualization
Many relaxation techniques will not be effective if you continually think about the chaos in your life. For some people, replacing stressful thoughts with a relaxing image can force the brain to focus on calming feelings. Visualizing a sunset over the water, the gurgle of a cool fountain or even a happy memory can evoke a sensory experience that overrides tension.

Productivity and Organization
Living in a world of disorder and procrastination can leave you in a constant cycle of trying to catch up. This makes it difficult to feel the satisfaction of finishing a project because you are always focused on not falling behind. Scheduling your time can help you manage projects and daily routines, giving your life a sense of order. Making to-do lists can also give you a way t o tackle your tasks, freeing your mind to think about the more important, calming details of your life.

Share with others how you deal with chronic stress by writing your ideas in the comment section.

References –

Natural Stress Relief –
Breathing Exercises –
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Fight or Flight Stress Response

November 24th, 2012

Stress response increases the levels of cortisol and adrenaline in the brain, which slow metabolism and digestion in an effort to conserve energy and direct it toward the limbs. Known as the fight or flight response, symptoms include rapid breathing, a racing pulse, a slowing of digestion, constriction of the blood vessels, tunnel vision and diminished hearing capability.

When going through a fight or flight response, the body initially sends out an alarm, producing adrenaline and cortisol. As the stress response continues, the body goes through a stage of resistance, rapidly depleting its resources in an effort to manage the stress. Finally, the body will reach the point of exhaustion, once all resources have been depleted, and it cannot function normally.

Chronic Stress VariablesThe stress hormones that cause the fight or flight response throw your body off balance because they slow down natural bodily functions like immune system responses and digestive and growth processes. Stress response can physically interfere with the mechanisms that keep the body healthy. People who experience chronic stress are at a higher risk for heart disease, ulcers, digestive issues and obesity.

People who have trouble managing stress response may find themselves in a constant state of anxiety. This is caused by the body’s perpetual triggering of the fight or flight response. An inability to adequately manage stress can leave you mentally and physically drained and cause difficultly focusing on day-to-day tasks. Constant stress can also increase the risk of developing mental health problems, such as depression or memory impairment.

Find positive ways to cope with stress and help prevent it from affecting your mental and physical health. Also, pinpointing areas of stress in your life can help you develop a plan to better manage those factors. Perhaps you need to practice better time management, or maybe you need to surround yourself with more positive people. Exercising, practicing relaxation techniques and seeking support can help you manage stress response and live a healthier, happier life.

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Superfood Nutrition for Stress

November 24th, 2012

Providing your body with nutrition is intricately linked with nourishing your mind. If your body is unhealthy, you will be more likely to suffer from symptoms of stress, low mood and anxiety. Eating foods that are high in calories but low in nutritional value can cause dramatic spikes in blood sugar and leave you feeling unsatisfied and tense. Eating foods, such as cottage cheese or those high in vitamin C can help combat stress, take the edge off and keep you calm, no matter how tense life may get.

Paying attention to your nutrition can help you nurture your mental health. Try to incorporate the foods below into your daily diet.Superfood Nutrition for Stress

  • Spinach: This leafy green vegetable can regulate your blood pressure and keep you calm. Spanach also contains high levels of Vitamin C, A, B, and K.
  • Cottage cheese: Loaded with protein and calcium, cottage cheese can help you feel satisfied and reduce hunger pangs.
  • Citrus fruits: When you’re stressed, your body releases free radicals that can be damaging to your health. Eating foods that are high in vitamin C can provide the nutrition you need to maintain a healthy immune system and combat health hazards.
  • Chocolate: Although it’s best to avoid excess sugar when dealing with stress, chocolate may activate the pleasure centers in the brain, helping to boost mood and relieve anxiety. Dark chocolate, which has more cacao, can be more effective at reducing stress than regular or milk chocolate. Eating too much chocolate can cause moodiness after the effects of the sugar and caffeine have worn off, so eat chocolate in moderation to regulate your mood.
  • Fish: Fish with high levels of omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to reduce surges of stress hormones that are released during tense situations. Tuna, an excellent source of omega-3, is also high in vitamins B6 and B12, which support the production of stress-relieving neurotransmitters.
  • Oatmeal: Besides being a great remedy for soothing the skin, oatmeal can also soothe your nerves. The grain stimulates the production of serotonin in the brain, which has a calming effect on the body. Because the body digests oatmeal slowly, the calming effects are long-lasting.
  • Avocado: This rich, creamy, natural treat is packed full of healthy fats, vitamins and minerals used for to combat stress. The healthy fats and high levels of potassium in avocados can also help lower high blood pressure.
  • Beef: Lean red meat is a good source of nutrition and is packed with the mood stabilizers zinc, iron and B vitamins.
  • Asparagus: With high levels of folic acid, asparagus can help you regulate your mood. Folic acid helps create serotonin, a neurotransmitter that contributes to feelings of happiness.
  • Green Tea: Well known for its stress fighting ingredient Theanine, this soothing beverage is also packed full of free radical fighting antioxidants such as vitamin C. Studies have also shown that the act of making tea can help relax the mind.

What foods do you use to balance your stress levels? Share your nutrition secrets in the comments section below.

References –
Stress Relief –
Benefits of Cottage Cheese –
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Weight Loss Benefits of Raspberry Ketones

March 2nd, 2012

Raspberry ketone has been touted as a wonder supplement for burning fat. The compound, which occurs naturally in red raspberries, helps boost metabolism and lower glucose levels in the blood. Achieving weight loss through diet and exercise alone can be challenging. It’s easy to plateau before hitting your goal weight, because your body gets used to the increased exercise and reduction in calories. Adding raspberry ketone to your daily regimen may be just the jump-start you need to shed those extra pounds.

Raspberry ketone increases the levels of norepinephrine in the body, which can raise body temperature and boost metabolism. The compound also increases the levels of a hormone that regulates blood glucose levels. Less sugar in your blood and a faster metabolism result in decreased body fat and increased weight loss.

There are other benefits of raspberry ketone that extend beyond weight loss.

  • RaspberriesAs your body fat decreases, so may your cholesterol and blood pressure, boosting your overall health.
  • The antioxidants found in raspberry ketones can help repair damage caused by free radicals in the body and prevent future damage.
  • Patients with arthritis pain or those who have experienced sore muscles after exercising have reported pain relief while taking the compound. This may be due to its anti-inflammatory properties.
  • The supplement has also been shown to help protect against carcinogens in the body. In one study, after being administered raspberry ketone over a period of time, rats with liver cancer experienced a decrease in the size of their tumors. As more of the compound was administered, the tumors shrunk even more.

Although raspberry ketone is found in fresh red raspberries, you would have to eat an impossible amount of raspberries to achieve the same effects as a single dose of the supplement offers. However, eating raspberries and other whole foods is important. People taking the compound for weight loss should also strive to eat healthy meals with plenty of fruits and vegetables to achieve the maximum health benefits.

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Inflammation and Your Diet

March 2nd, 2012

You probably think of inflammation as redness or swelling that you can see and feel, when in fact, it can occur throughout the body, including in the digestive tract and the arteries. Inflammation is the immune system’s response to damage within the body, and chronic inflammation has been linked to many diseases, including cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.

Inflammation often begins in the gut. The gastrointestinal tract is the hub for the immune system, because it’s the elimination center for viruses and bacteria that enter the body through food. The digestive system is also sensitive to the toxins and chemicals that people ingest daily and if not properly balanced can lead to problems such as IBS, hemorrhoids or ulcers. Although foods are not the only cause of inflammation in the body, changing your diet can help your body repair itself and improve your health.

Inflammation DietPeople with heart disease, cancer, colitis, arthritis and other inflammatory diseases can benefit from an anti-inflammatory diet. Individuals who are at risk for these diseases can help prevent illness through an anti-inflammatory diet. Foods like polyunsaturated oils, trans fats and sugar can increase inflammation. Common allergens such as casein, which is found in dairy, and gluten, which is found in wheat, can also lead to an inflammatory response by the immune system. Eating fresh fruits, vegetables, wild fish and foods rich in omega-3 fatty acid help boost the immune system and reduce inflammation. Ginger and turmeric have healing properties as well.

People who are having trouble losing weight may be suffering from an inflammatory imbalance. Eating 100 calories worth of inflammatory foods has a much different effect on the body than eating 100 calories worth of foods that reduce inflammation. The unhealthy foods can increase insulin and glucose levels, which can cause the body to hold onto extra weight. Eating right isn’t just about eating fewer calories and less fat; it involves maintaining a balanced immune system.

Gastrointestinal issues such as irritable bowel syndrome, bloating, gas, constipation and diarrhea are often caused or exacerbated by inflammation. Eating foods that trigger an immune response can make symptoms worse. Many people are sensitive to eggs, soy, nuts, gluten and dairy. If these foods cause an inflammatory response in the digestive tract, it could wreak havoc on the entire immune system. An imbalanced gut can make it harder for a person to heal from any illness. Keeping the body balanced with diet is key to curbing inflammation and leading a healthier lifestyle.

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Quickly Overcome Sleep Deprivation

March 2nd, 2012

Sleep deprivation can make your mind feel sluggish and your body lack energy. Just getting out of bed in the morning can be incredibly difficult, not to mention staying sharp for a morning meeting or getting a workout in during the afternoon. Getting a good night’s sleep does not have to mean taking sleep aids or medication. Simple readjustments to your lifestyle and making sleep a priority can help create a healthy daily rhythm and have profound effects on your quality of sleep.

The Importance of a Sleep Routine
Consistency is one of the keys to sleeping well. Continually changing the time you go to sleep and wake up in the morning can leave your body confused and lead to sleep deprivation. Although you may feel tired, you may still have trouble tuning out and falling asleep. Resetting your circadian rhythm, or natural sleep cycle, by going to bed and waking up at the same times every day can help your body know when it’s time to wind down at the end of a long day.

We place a significant emphasis on bedtime routines for children, but we tend to fall out of those habits as adults. Taking the time to relax before going to bed can help signal to your body that it’s time for sleep. Turn down the lights, turn off the television and put away your laptop a few hours before crawling into bed. Don’t participate in stimulating activities right before bed either. Try to stay quiet to set the mood for relaxation, such as taking a warm bath before bed. By having a routine every night, your body and mind can start to switch into sleep mode.

Overcome Your Sleep DeprivationEat Right for the Best Sleep
It may be obvious that you should avoid caffeine in the afternoon and early evening if you want to avoid sleep deprivation, but eating big meals, fatty foods or meals that may cause heartburn can keep you awake too. Other diet factors such as food allergies or sensitivities to dairy or gluten can cause restlessness that affects your sleep.

Drinking too many liquids before bed can leave you with a full bladder that interrupts your sleep. Once you wake up in the middle of the night, it can be difficult to go back to sleep, so it’s beneficial to try to prevent night waking before it occurs. Also keep in mind that although alcohol may make you drowsy, it can cause you to sleep lightly and wake frequently.

Exercise the Body to Stimulate Sleep
Exercising earlier in the day can help you sleep at night. Working out regularly helps relieve the anxiety and stressful thoughts that may keep you awake at night. Outside activity and being exposed to bright light during the day can help reset your circadian rhythm and prevent sleep deprivation. But keep in mind that exercise before bed may cause you to have trouble winding down right away, so make sure to exercise long before you plan on turning in for the night.

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High Fiber Foods that Suppress Appetite

February 4th, 2012

No matter what diet plan you’re trying to follow, there always seems to be one thing that gets in your way: your appetite! It’s true that you’ll never lose weight if you can’t cut those calories, but doing so can leave anyone feeling hungry and deprived. Before you know it, you’re taking just a nibble of something you know you shouldn’t have. That’s perfectly fine within reason, but you know how easily that habit can get out of control.

However, you can eat sensibly and never feel starved if you learn how to use these high fiber foods to suppress your appetite:

Oatmeal
Skip the instant varieties and go with rolled or steel-cut oats for the best results. This traditional breakfast dish is one of the tastiest high fiber foods out there. Depending on personal preference, you can dress it up with a little brown sugar and dried fruit or even go savory with some low-fat cheese. A low-glycemic food, oatmeal is filled with slow-burning carbs that reduce your natural production of grehlin, a hunger hormone.

Salad Vegetables
This broad category includes all those crunchy raw veggies you’d typically throw into a salad including dark leafy greens, carrots, celery, broccoli and cucumbers, all considered to be high fiber foods. Studies have shown that starting your meal with a healthy salad means that you’ll eat much less during the rest of your meal. Make the most out of this part of your meal with an olive-oil dressing. These healthier condiments aren’t considered high fiber foods, but they are very satisfying and suppress the appetite in a different way.

Apples High FiberApples
Did you know that the common apple has four grams of fiber? That’s more than you can find in a typical piece of whole wheat bread! This fruit has a special kind of fiber called pectin that does even more than keep you feeling full. This substance helps regulate your blood pressure and maintains even energy levels. Toss a little apple and cinnamon in your daily serving of oatmeal for a double whammy of appetite-suppressing goodness!

Flax Seeds
These tiny little seeds taste great on just about anything including oatmeal and salads! They’re high in fiber and protein, but the real beauty is that they’re packed with omega-3 fatty acids. Flax seeds work overtime to regulate your blood sugar and reduce your appetite. As far as high fiber foods are concerned, this is one of the best.

These high fiber foods do their part to suppress your appetite and keep you healthy. Now, you have to do yours by making them a regular part of your meal plan.

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Maca and Its Super Food Benefits

February 4th, 2012

maca rootSimilar in appearance to a turnip or radish, the humble maca root has been used by the natives of Peru and Bolivia for centuries for its nutritional value and stimulating properties. Now recognized as the next in a long line of super foods, dried maca root is available in supplemental form for those who don’t have access to the real thing. The dried root consists of about 14 percent protein with high levels of calcium, potassium and essential fatty acids. If you’re interested in adding this super food to your diet, here are a few more of its benefits.

Maca is an Adaptogen!
This funny name simply means that maca can do great things for most people without causing any negative side effects for anyone. The list of benefits includes:

  • Boosts Immunity and Speeds Healing
  • Increases Energy Levels and Endurance
  • Supports the Endocrine System for Healthy Hormone Regulation
  • Enhances Memory and Brain Functioning
  • Nourishes the Skin, Bones and Teeth
  • Helps Build Muscle

Is Maca Root Really an Aphrodisiac?
Many claim it is, and the actual studies have shown some positive results in this area. A few random trials have been conducted that indicate maca root can increase the male sex drive and improve male fertility. Other studies conducted on animals found that male rats demonstrated an increased desire to mate when maca root was included in their diet compared to rats that weren’t given this food source. Some feel that these results are due to the hormone-balancing properties of the maca root while others credit the exceptional nutritional value of this super food.

Maca has also been credited with helping the ladies in this same area. While we won’t go so far as to claim this super food is an actual aphrodisiac, feeling your best has to help put anyone in the mood. Those same hormone-balancing properties help ease the symptoms of menopause and pre-menstrual syndrome while filling the body with energy and vigor. Many women who suffer from iron-poor blood or thyroid conditions also benefit from including maca root in their diet. This super food alleviates anemia and helps regulate hyper-thyroidal symptoms.

How Much is Too Much?
Although maca root has no ill effects according to many, there is one thing to watch out for. If your diet is low in iodine, the glucosinolates in maca can cause goiters if you consume this vegetable in huge quantities. However, this is not a major risk for most people.

Like anything else, you should enjoy maca root in its original form or as a supplement in moderation noting any positive or negative effects on your body. No one has reported any allergies to this healthy super food to date, but you should always contact your doctor if you have an unusual reaction to maca root or any other supplement.

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Primrose Oil: Super-Nutrient a Vegetarian Alternative to Fish Oil

January 6th, 2012

If you don’t like the idea of ingesting any type of animal product, even in supplement form, primrose oil can provide the same benefits as fish oil while allowing you to maintain a vegetarian lifestyle. Extracted from the evening primrose, a plant that displays yellow blooms in the evening hours, this oil contains a high percentage of GLA, gamma-linolenic acid, also known as Omega 6 fatty acid.

Don’t I Need Omega 3s?
Your body does need the Omega 3 fatty acids contained in fish oil, but it’s also capable of converting plant-based Omega 6 compounds into Omega 3s. This provides the same health benefits as consuming them directly through either fish or fish oil supplements.

Primrose Oil and FlowerWhat are the Health Benefits of Primrose Oil?
The GLA in evening primrose oil is reported to support brain function, body growth and overall development. It also promotes hair and skin growth, healthy bones, an efficient metabolism and reproductive health. This vegetarian-friendly supplement has also been shown to help treat or manage a number of diseases including:

  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Ulcerative Colitis
  • Sjogren’s Syndrome
  • Osteoporosis
  • Hypertension

The Future of Primrose Oil
Because of primrose oil’s other benefits, researchers have been looking for new ways to use this vegetarian supplement. So far, it has been found to help with some cancers, especially cerebral gliomas. Primrose oil has shown some promise with skin disorders like atopic dermatitis, mastalgia and some uremic skin disorders.

Sticking with a vegetarian diet doesn’t mean you should ignore the nutrients traditionally provided by animal products.Instead, seek out plant-based alternatives that offer the same health benefits. The omega nutrients are a vital component to your overall health and should not be disregarded just because the most common form comes from animals. Primrose oil is the perfect alternative to the fish oil supplements.

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Is Gluten the Culprit for Your Mood Swings?

January 6th, 2012

Wheat Gluten MoodIf you’ve been struggling with mood swings and nothing has helped, there could be a simple answer: Your diet might be the cause of your emotional ups and downs. Gluten intolerance can wreak havoc on your body leading to adrenal fatigue, hormonal imbalances and mood swings.

What is Adrenal Fatigue and How Does Gluten Come into Play?
Adrenal fatigue is a state of chronic tiredness caused when the adrenal gland doesn’t work as it should. Reports indicate that as many as 80% of people will experience this disorder at some point in their lives. Warning signs include:

  • You’re tired most of the time for no reason.
  • It’s hard to get up and going in the morning.
  • You crave caffeine or sugar to keep going.
  • You feel stressed and run-down most of the time.

Thought to be a product of chronic stress, allergies or obesity in the past, many researchers now attribute adrenal fatigue to gluten intolerance. In a person with this problem, gluten, the basic protein in wheat, rye and barley, puts stress on the adrenal glands. These tiny organs sit just above the kidneys and regulate the body’s hormones.

How Does Gluten Intolerance Cause Mood Swings?
Gluten intolerance causes mood swings by stressing the adrenal gland. This in turn causes an imbalance in hormone levels. The main purpose of balanced hormones is to allow the body to repair itself and prevent aging. When this balance breaks down, your body can’t repair itself and each system starts to deteriorate. Eventually, this leads to unexplained fatigue, uncontrolled PMS, mood swings, hot flashes, depression and even a loss of libido.

How Can I Remove Gluten From My Diet?
It sounds so simple to just not eat bread. Unfortunately, removing all traces of gluten from your diet is a little more complicated. Start off by looking for gluten-free products and restaurants that serve gluten-free items. Learn to read the labels religiously for any type of flour that commonly contains gluten. When in doubt, remember that basic food items like meats and fresh fruits and vegetables are always gluten-free!

Although it’s perfectly fine to remove gluten from your diet to see if it makes you feel better, you should see your doctor if you think you may have adrenal fatigue. These symptoms could be a sign of a number of other health problems.

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What Fish Oil is Right for You?

January 6th, 2012

omega 3 fatty acidFish oil is reported to be a miracle supplement for every ailment under the sun from heart disease to depression. This has resulted in shelves crowded with a variety of products all claiming to be the best. To ease your confusion, here’s a practical guide to fish oil:

What’s so Great About Fish Oil?
The Omega 3 fatty acids found in fish oil are composed of DHA and EPA, docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid. Considered essential fatty acids, the human body requires these substances to function, but it can’t produce them on its own. In other words, you must obtain all of your DHA and EPA from your diet or through supplements. Omega 6 is another essential fatty acid that can be obtained from plant-based sources like flaxseeds, nuts, and olive oil. This substance contains a different amino acid called ALA or alpha-linolenic acid. The body can use Omega 6 fatty acids, but they must be converted into DHA and EPA first. Because this process stresses the body, it’s always better to get your daily requirement of DHA and EPA directly from your diet or through fish oil supplements.

Types of Fish Oil:
Fish oil comes in three basic varieties: old-fashioned cod liver oil, health-store fish oil and pharmaceutical-grade fish oil. All three include Omega 3 fatty acids, but these products are definitely not created equal. Here’s a breakdown of each one:

  • Cod Liver Oil – This inexpensive oil is harvested from fish liver. It’s OK in small dosages, but higher amounts can expose you to contaminants and excessive levels of Vitamin A. An entire teaspoon, five grams, contains about 500 mg of Omega 3 fatty acids, but you’ll also receive plenty of organic mercury and commercial chemicals including DDT and PCB.
  • Health-Store Fish Oil – Slightly more expensive, this type of fish oil is often extracted from salmon, tuna, anchovies, herring or sardines. Some products are filtered to remove a portion of the contaminants and concentrated to provide a higher dose of Omega 3 fatty acids. On average, this type of fish oil contains 300 mg of Omega 3s per one-gram serving, about three times as much as cod liver oil. Although safer than cod liver oil, this type of fish oil can be dangerous at high dosages.
  • Pharmaceutical-Grade Fish Oil – This type of fish oil has been filtered to remove almost all contaminants and concentrated to increase the Omega 3 percentage to very high levels. If you’re interested in using a high dosage of Omega 3s in your diet, this is the safest and easiest way to proceed. This type of fish oil generally contains 600 mg of Omega 3s per one-gram serving, about double the amount of the typical health store product.

Which Fish Oil Should I Take and How Much?
Although the FDA has not yet set a recommendation for fish oil intake, but several other medical groups have presented their opinions on the subject based on specific health concerns. Here are a few of the most popular recommendations:

  • Omega 3 Fish OilHealthy Adults – This group should get about 2,000 mg of Omega 3 fatty acids every day. This fatty acid supports brain development, brain health and memory. Children and seniors can also benefit from additional amounts of essential fatty acids.• Crohn’s Disease – The recommendation for this ailment is 2,000 mg twice a day for a total of 4,000 mg in a 24-hour period.
  • Lupus – This disorder responds well to 6,000 mg per day split into three 2,000 mg doses.
  • Asthma, Arthritis and High Blood Pressure – Doctors may recommend 3,000 mg per day for these health problems, split into three 1,000 mg doses.

Because of the contaminant levels associated with health-store fish oil capsules, pharmaceutical-grade fish oil is always the safest choice.Speak with your doctor about their recommendations for any of your specific health concerns.

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Probiotics: A Little Known Stress Reducer

December 5th, 2011

Does your normal diet fall by the wayside during the holidays? Have you yet to introduce yourself to probiotics? If so, you’re definitely not alone! To fully enjoy this time of year, most people indulge in rich foods at every turn. Whether you sample your own gourmet creations or you can’t resist a second serving of your favorite aunt’s world-famous macaroni and cheese, a sudden change in your diet or meal schedule can quickly take its toll on your digestive health.

Yogurt and ProbioticsProbiotics Keep You Feeling Great!
The stress and discomfort of digestive problems only add to the pressure of the holidays, but you can use probiotics to take control of your troubling stomach issues. Unlike harsh medications, probiotics work naturally by gradually introducing healthy bacteria to your system in order to restore balance to your digestive tract. As your body begins to feel normal again, you’ll feel like a new person!

Can Probiotics Be Just as Good as Valium?
Probiotics have been proven in the past to help the body use nutrients more efficiently, but the latest research shows an even better reason to use this healthy supplement. In a recent animal study, scientists discovered that beneficial bacteria in the digestive system reduced the body’s level of corticosterone, a stress-related hormone. After feeding mice a diet rich in probiotics, they were noticeably more relaxed than other mice that were given a placebo. The researchers noted that this reaction was similar to the effects seen after injecting a mouse with Valium!

How Do I Get Probiotics?
Although the strain of bacteria used in the study is not yet commercially available, the market is filled with probiotic supplements that promote digestive health. If you’d like to introduce beneficial bacteria to your system naturally, here are the best foods to include in your diet on a regular basis:

  • ProbioticsYogurt – active-cultured with Lactobacillus bacteria
  • Sauerkraut – fermented cabbage
  • Kefir – a European health drink made by fermenting milk and kefir grains
  • Natto – fermented soybeans
  • Kimchi – pickled cabbage with Korean spices
  • Miso – Japanese seasoning made by fermenting soybeans, barley, rice and other grains with koji fungus
  • Tempeh – soybeans fermented with the rhizopus oligosporus fungus

Whether you choose a supplement or a dietary change, probiotics can reduce your stress levels and improve your digestive health. To feel your best during the holiday season, balance those rich meals with healthy choices and remember to continue this habit into the New Year!

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Control Emotional Spending During the Holidays

December 5th, 2011

Many people consider the winter holidays to be the best part of the year. It’s a time to give from your heart, spend extra time with your loved ones and enjoy some tasty food! For others, the holidays are bittersweet. They can get overwhelmed with hustle and bustle of the holidays and find themselves lost in the mix of it all.

Emotional SpendingNo matter which category you fall into, the holidays can add an incredible amount of emotional stress to your life. Without even thinking about it, you may start to change your normal habits to help relieve the pressure. If you’re not careful, these emotions can take control of your spending habits and put you into a further stressful state of mind. Here are some tips to prevent this from happening:

Buy Memories or Experiences Instead of Things
If you shower your children or grandchildren with toys this year, they’ll have a great day or two, but the excitement will soon wear off. In fact, they may not even remember the gifts a year from now. On the other hand, if you treat them to a stay at soccer camp or you take them on their first fishing trip, they’ll remember it for a lifetime. If you can’t afford anything that lavish, give them the gift of your time! This could be as simple as a new baseball glove and someone to actually play catch with.

Remember, Expensive Doesn’t Always Mean Better
We’re all so blinded by TV ads that try to make us believe that our life isn’t complete without the latest electronic gadget or an expensive new car. The truth is you’d probably be much happier in the long run with less expensive items and a better sense of financial security. Before you buy something you don’t need or can’t afford, think about whether one day of anticipated happiness is worth months or even years of financial struggle.

Fill Your Needs by Making a Difference in Someone Else’s Life
If you buy, buy, buy during the holidays because it makes you feel good to give to others, why not do something that makes a real difference is someone’s life? If you donate money to a charity, help feed the homeless or share your holiday with a neighbor who’s all alone, that feeling of being needed and making a difference will activate the same pleasure centers in your brain as spending all your cash and some of your credit at the mall. As a bonus, this type of pleasure lasts much longer than the quick-fix that comes in a fancy shopping bag!

Get Organized and Get Stress Free
Take time to plan out your gifts this holiday season.  By organizing your gift giving you will not only save time and money, you will also save a lot of emotional stress.  Start by writing out a list of who you plan to buy gifts for and approximately what you would like to spend on each person.  Take this list with you on every shopping trip this holiday season and stick to it.  Having this list will not only help you maintain your budget this year but it will also allow you to see where splurges or “the forgotten ones” can be squeezed in.

Money Can’t Buy Lasting Happiness
Studies have shown that people with more money are happier than those without, but only by a small degree. The same research found that the reason for this anomaly is that people don’t spend their money on the right things. Like a drug or a sugar rush, an impulse purchase can satisfy your emotional needs for a short time through instant gratification, but that high will quickly wear off leaving you feeling empty again. This is a path that can lead to a true shopping addiction during the holidays and even worse, year round. If you take the time to reflect on the emotions behind your purchases, you may be able to maintain control this holiday season.
Learn to recognize your emotional health and how it may be affecting your decisions this holiday season, both in and out of the stores.  By making choices that provide long-term pleasure instead of instant gratification, you and your entire family will enjoy the holidays more and be happier throughout the year.

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Cupuacu | An Exotic Super Fruit!

December 5th, 2011

Cupuaçu, also spelled Cupuassu, Cupuazú, and Copoasu is definitely not the prettiest fruit, but its health benefits are more than attractive! Just in case pronouncing this strange-looking name has you a little worried, here’s a phonetic representation to help you out: “coo-poo-wa-soo.”

This superfruit grows naturally in the lush Amazon basin as well as in the jungles of Peru, Bolivia, Brazil and Columbia. As a member of the Cacao family, Cupuacu is tasty, too! With a unique flavor that includes hints of banana, passion fruit and chocolate, you would enjoy adding this one to your diet even if it wasn’t good for you.

Cupuaçu Healthy Properties
Cupuacu gets its power from a healthy dose of phytochemicals and flavenoids, the same chemicals that are thought to make green tea, red wine, green leafy vegetables and so many other plant-based food items extremely healthy for humans. Here’s a breakdown of the specific chemicals that give Cupuacu its superfruit status:

  • CapuacuPolyphenolic Tannis – Found in red wine and grape juice, tannins have strong anti-inflammatory properties. Studies have shown they also have antiviral, antiparasitic and antibacterial effects.
  • Thegrandins – A unique polyphenol, this substance acts as a super antioxidant. Cupuacu is one of the only known sources of this healthy ingredient.
  • Catechins – This antioxidant is responsible for dark chocolate’s healthy properties. In animal studies, it’s been shown to protect the brain from experiencing a stroke when included as a regular part of the diet.
  • Quercetin – A beneficial flavenoid, quercetin has strong antiviral, anti-inflammatory and cancer-fighting properties.
  • Kaempferol – This flavenoid, also found in green tea and broccoli, protects the body from cardiovascular disease and cancer.
  • Isoscutellarein – A powerful flavenoid that promotes a healthy heart.

Additional Health Benefits of Cupuaçu
The health benefits don’t stop at the end of that impressive list! Natives use this fruit to ease the pain of childbirth and to increase stamina and energy levels. Although it does act as a mild, uplifting stimulant, Cupuacu has much lower levels of caffeine and theobromine than its cousin, the cacao seed. It is also high in vitamin C, and the seeds are often made into a rich moisturizer similar to cocoa butter.

When shopping for the raw fruit, look for an oblong, fuzzy, brown fruit that’s about eight-inches long with a hard shell. Once opened, the white pulp will smell of pineapple and chocolate. Cupuacu is also available in supplemental form including capsules and juice drinks. While the capsules will have little of the delicious Cupuacu flavor, the juice tastes mostly like pear with just a touch of banana.

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Atherosclerosis and Peripheral Artery Disease

October 7th, 2011

Artherosclerosis ArteryAtherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, is caused when cholesterol and fat build up on the inner walls of the arteries and form a hard substance called plaque. Eventually, this plaque buildup can clog the arteries and cause a variety of problems throughout the entire body. Restricted blood flow caused prevents an adequate flow of oxygen and nutrients to individual cells and can result in tissue damage, stroke, or heart attack. Narrowed arteries also make blood clots more likely, leading to an increased chance of a pulmonary embolism or peripheral artery disease.

Atherosclerosis Statistics
By the age of 35, two-thirds of Americans have some type of plaque buildup in their arteries although they generally have no noticeable symptoms. However, this slow, progressive condition of peripheral artery disease almost always leads to coronary heart disease, the number one killer in the United States.

Atherosclerosis Risk Factors
Hardening of the arteries happenAtherosclerosis Cholesterols to almost everyone as they age. However, some risk factors like an unhealthy diet filled with fatty foods can make this health condition happen earlier and faster than normal. Additional risk factors include:

  • High Blood Pressure
  • Excessive weight
  • Sedentary Lifestyle
  • Family history of atherosclerosis
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Smoking

Symptoms of Atherosclerosis
In most cases, atherosclerosis causes no noticeable symptoms for the first few years. Once blood flow to the heart is slowed or stopped, shortness of breath, chest pain, and other symptoms may occur. Blockages or narrowed arteries can also cause problems in other parts of the body including the brain, kidneys, intestines, or legs. In fact, atherosclerosis can eventually cause both metabolic syndrome and kidney failure.

Atherosclerosis Treatment
The best treatment for this condition is prevention. Drastically reduce your risk factors by eating a healthy diet low in saturated fats, exercise at least 30 minutes every other day, restrict alcohol consumption, and stop smoking. Blood pressure and blood sugar levels should be monitored and kept within healthy limits. Patients with an extensive family history of coronary heart disease, peripheral artery disease, or stoke may need to take prescription medications to keep cholesterol levels low and take an aspirin daily to prevent blood clots.

Sources

  1. Healthy Blood Sugar Levels – Blood Sugar 360°
  2. Coronary Heart Disease – PubMed
  3. Atherosclerosis – Science Daily
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The Glycemic Index

August 29th, 2011

The glycemic index, or GI, indicates how a specific food influences blood sugar levels. Foods with high glycemic index values cause blood sugar levels to rise faster and higher than foods designated with a lower glycemic index rating.

Using the Glycemic Index

Glycemic IndexTo be honest, it’s not always easy to use the glycemic index. Although most people can usually tell which foods are calorie laden without too much thought, the glycemic index isn’t that clear. For example, cherries are generally thought of as a sweet fruit, but they only have a glycemic index rating of 22, whereas watermelon on the other hand is also sweet, but has a much higher glycemic index rating of 72.

Most people simply refer to a list of glyemic index values until they know where most of their usual food choices fit, but these rules of thumb can help you make an educated guess when your list isn’t available:

  • White foods usually have a high glycemic index .
  • Foods with a lot of fiber usually have a low glycemic index .
  • High-protein foods usually have a low glycemic index.
  • Fats in general, are low glycemic foods but try to stick with healthy fats whenever possible.

When using the glycemic index to make dietary choices, look at your diet as a whole. To maintain steady blood sugar levels, consistently create complex meals composed primarily of foods that are low on the glycemic index. Add in some foods that are in the median range of the glycemic index for variety and well-rounded nutrition. Only consume high glycemic index foods sparingly.

Low and High Glycemic Index Foods

Generally, any food with a GI under 55 is considered low glycemic foods, and anything over 70 is considered high glycemic foods. Review the following lists to see where your favorite items fall on the GI scale:

Low Glycemic Foods

  • Broccoli – 25
  • Corn – 48
  • Carrots – 47
  • Wholegrain Bread – 40
  • Sausage – 28
  • Kellogg’s All-Bran Breakfast Cereal – 42
  • Whole Milk – 27
  • Apple – 38
  • Linguine – 40
  • Yogurt – 14

Medium Glycmeic Foods

  • Steamed Potatoes – 65
  • Bran Muffin – 65
  • Cheese Pizza – 60
  • Fruit Loops – 69
  • Oatmeal Cookie – 55
  • Pineapple – 66
  • Fruit Punch – 67

High Glycemic Foods

  • Instant Mashed Potatoes – 74
  • French Baguette – 95
  • Rice Chex Breakfast Cereal – 89
  • Instant Rice – 87
  • Low-Fat Frozen Tofu – 115
  • Rice cakes – 77
  • Brown Rice pasta – 92
  • Corn Flakes – 83
  • Parsnips – 97

For some people, using the glycemic index as a dietary aid to pick low glycemic foods seems counter-intuitive because it says that many formerly-safe choices are no longer acceptable. For example, macaroni and cheese is a good choice with a GI of 39, but plain rice cakes are a definite no-no with a high glycemic index of 82. Pretzels and popcorn, generally thought of as safe snack foods, deliver GIs of 83 and 72 while those greasy potato chips have a GI that’s considered low at 54.

While the glycemic index is a wonderful tool that can help maintain stable blood sugar levels, it can’t be used in isolation. When planning your diet, include a healthy dose of common sense and make choices based on the complete nutritional picture for the best results. Using tools such as the glycemic index, the USDA’s myfoodpryamid.gov, moderate exercise, and good judgment will help you manage and maintain a healthier lifestyle.

References:

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September Recipes

August 29th, 2011

Almond and Berry Muffins with Flaxseed and Lemon Zest

Almond and Berry MuffinsServes 12 muffin

Cooking Time: 36 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 ¼ cups of whole grain or wheat pastry flour
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ cup of ground flaxseed
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup of fresh blueberries
  • 2/3 cup of fresh raspberries
  • 1 cup of 2% milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 1 lemon

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400° F. Line 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, flaxseed and salt.  Wisk to mix.  Add berries and fold into dry ingredients.
  3. In another bowl, combine milk, eggs, sugar, oil and almond extract. With fork, beat until smooth.
  4. Pour egg mixture into berry mixture and gently mix to moisten dry ingredients. Do not overmix, a few lumps in the batter is normal and desired.
  5. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups
  6. Bake for 20-24 minutes, or until wooden pick inserted into center of a muffin comes out clean.
  7. Grate lemon peel over tops of muffin, to yield desired amount of lemon zest
  8. Let muffins stand for 5 minutes on rack before serving.

Nutritional Facts Per Serving:

210 Calories, 28 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of protein, 1 gram saturated fat, 35 mg cholesterol, 280 mg of sodium, and 3 grams of fiber

 

 

Dijon Pepper Steak

Serves 4 people

Cooking Time 20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp cracked or coasrsely ground mixed peppercorns
  • ¼ tsp of salt
  • 4 center-cut filet mignon steaks (6 oz each), about 1 ¼ inch thick
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • ¼ cup beef broth
  • 3 Tbsp red wine or 2 Tbsp of balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard

Instructions:

  1. Sprinkle peppercorns and salt on both side of steak and press in
  2. Coat large heavy skillet with vegetable or olive oil spray.  Place over high heat for 1 minute.
  3. Add oil. When oil is hot, reduce heat to medium-high and place steaks in pan.
  4. Cook steaks for five minutes per side for medium rare; 6 minutes per side for medium; or 7 minutes per side for well done
  5. Remove steaks to a large plate, and set aside
  6. Add broth and wine or vinegar to skillet.  Simmer for 30 seconds. Stir in mustard.
  7. Spoon sauce over steak
  8. ENJOY!

Nutritional Facts Per Serving:

300 calories, 1 gram carbohydrates, 36 grams of protein, 15 g of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 105 mg of cholesterol, 414 mg of sodium and 0 grams of fiber

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Sun Safety

July 21st, 2011

Mother Daughter Suncreen SafetySunscreen usage isn’t without controversy. Although the deeply-bronzed look has slowly gone out of style, skin cancer and premature aging is still prevalent in our society. To add to the confusion, each new study reveals conflicting research as to whether you should even be wearing sunscreen at all. In an attempt to clear this up, the FDA has passed a new set of regulations directed at the sunscreen industry, in order to force consistency in labeling and to protect consumer rights.

The New FDA Regulations
As the next step in their ongoing efforts to ensure consumers are receiving a safe, effective product, the FDA passed a new set of regulations on June 14, 2011, to regulate over-the-counter sunscreens. These new laws do not apply to prescription products and will go into effect next summer.

The major difference with this new set of regulations is that the older guidelines were mainly concerned about a particular sunscreen’s ability to prevent sunburns, something that most products are fairly good at. The problem with this approach is that burning is caused by UVB rays, but skin cancer is caused by both UVA and UVB rays. The new regulations mandate that any product labeled as a broad spectrum sunscreen must protect the consumer from both types of radiation equally. To take this one step further, only sunscreens with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) rating of 15 or more are able to claim they can prevent sunburn, premature aging, and skin cancer.

Here are a few more details about the final FDA regulations:

  • Because the FDA felt that the terms waterproof, sweatproof, and sunblock overstated the effectiveness of sunscreen products, these claims are no longer allowed.
  • Sunscreen rated less than SPF 15 must specifically state that there is no proof that it prevents either skin cancer or wrinkles.
  • New labels must report the water-resistance of the product in hours according to official testing.
  • Sunscreen packaging must contain a standard list of “drug facts” on the side or back.
  • Cosmetic products and moisturizers that advertise an SPF rating must follow the same regulations as traditional sunscreens.

Additional requirements in the works include a plan to restrict the upper limit on the SPF rating to 50+. This change is warranted due to the fact that the FDA has no information showing that products with an SPF rating higher than 50 offer any additional benefits. If you happen to know how long you can stay in the sun without sunscreen before burning, multiply that number by the SPF to find out how long you should be protected by a specific product. For example, if it takes you 10 minutes to burn without sunscreen, an SPF 15 product should allow you to stay in the sun for about 150 minutes without burning. Of course, you have to use common sense along with the number; sunscreen wears off with exposure to water or sweat and must be reapplied frequently.

The Toxicity of Commercial Sunscreens
Much of the skin damage caused by sun exposure is due to the release of free radicals triggered by the radiation present in both UVA and UVB rays. It’s ironic that the very thing people apply to their skin to prevent the release of free radicals may actually create a chemical reaction that releases another set of the same damaging elements.

Even though the FDA clearly states that the ingredients in commercial sunscreens are perfectly safe, others disagree. Many products contain high amounts of Vitamin A, and the combination of sunlight and a specific form of this vitamin, retinyl palmitate, actually promotes the growth of skin tumors. When sunscreen absorbs the energy from the UV rays and diverts it away from the skin, free radicals are created as the molecules release the absorbed energy.

In practical applications, sunscreen appears to do more good than harm, and some manufacturers include antioxidants in their products to offset the damage. However, it continues to be a delicate balancing act. This following list of chemicals have been approved in the US for use as UV filters in sunscreen products, but they are also known to release free radicals of their own:

  • Beach Couple Sunscreen SafetyOctylmethoxycinnamate
  • Oxybenzone
  • Avobenzone
  • Octocrylene
  • Titanium dioxide
  • Zinc oxide
  • Padimate O,
  • PABA
  • Menthyl anthranilate
  • Mexoryl SX

Although many people feel that titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are safe ingredients when it comes to sunscreen, that’s not always the case. Many manufacturers are breaking these minerals down into nano particles to make a product that goes on clear instead of white. These items may look more attractive, but they can be dangerous. The smaller particles are quickly absorbed by the skin and can then be toxic to the human body.

The most common chemicals used in non-mineral products, oxybenzone, can cause allergic reactions and act as a hormone disrupter. In fact, many experts claim that sunscreens with this ingredient should never be used on a child’s skin because it is easily absorbed though the skin and can enter the bloodstream.

Natural Options for Sun Safety
If you’d prefer to skip the potential dangers that come with commercial sunscreens, here are a few natural options for sun safety:

  • Enjoy the sun early in the day or later in the evening. The sun’s rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
  • Wear protective clothing, wide-brimmed hats, and sunglasses with both UVA and UVB protection. New lines of clothing with built-in SPF protection are designed to be cool in the hot weather while protecting the wearer from the sun’s rays.
  • Mix your own sunscreen by purchasing zinc oxide at the drugstore and adding it to your favorite lotion. The raw zinc will look white against your skin, but it won’t be absorbed.
  • Add plenty of bright-red, vibrant-orange, and deep-green produce to your diet to protect against skin cancer. The carotenoids and lycopene found in these foods have been proven to boost your skin’s natural sun protection.
  • View the Environmental Workers Group website, www.ewg.org.  This website shows the toxicity levels of all consumer products, including sunscreen.  It also provides you with information about which sunscreens have little or no toxins.
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Benefits of Aloe Vera

July 21st, 2011

Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera

The Aloe Vera plant has been widely regarded as a “Master Healing Plant.” Aloe has been used for thousands of years to heal a wide range of conditions and digestive issues.

Aloe vera, the most common form of the aloe succulents, is very easy to grow, and a plant every home should have on hand for all-around first aid.  The Aloe plant may be grown indoors in a pot as well as outdoors in areas with a warm climate.  Aloe plants are very low maintenance and only need to be watered every 10-14 days, once the soil is completely dry.

The Aloe plant acts as an antiseptic, antifungal, and antibacterial agent.  Aloe soothes burns, skin irritations and even helps treat various skin conditions like eczema and ringworm.  When applied to wounds, aloe increases the blood flow to the injured area, stimulating fibroblast, the skin cells responsible for wound healing.  To use Aloe topically, simply cut off a leaf of your Aloe plant (or buy pure Aloe Vera Gel at your local market) and place the soothing clear gel on the areas where it is needed.

Aloe also provides many benefits when taken internally.  Drinking Aloe Vera Juice (which may be found at natural food stores) has shown to help ease digestive discomfort and treat both constipation and diarrhea. Studies also show that when taken internally, Aloe can stimulate and regulate various components of the immune system by stopping and soothing inflammation and improving blood circulation.  Taking Aloe internally is easy; drink around 3-6 ounces a day to benefit from all the wonderful healing properties that Aloe has to offer.

You can buy Aloe plants at most natural food stores, local farmers markets and nurseries.  The low maintenance and numerous uses of Aloe make it an economical and all-around beneficial addition to any household.

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Resveratrol: The Truth

July 21st, 2011

Resveratrol | Red Wine

At one time, the fact that the French could eat extremely rich, high-fat meals on a regular basis without suffering from the same levels of heart disease as the rest of the world was a mystery. It was such a mystery that it was named the French Paradox. The only significant difference was the people of France loved their local wines and enjoyed a glass or two with every meal.

Suddenly, everyone was eager to add wine to their diet. Some felt that it was the alcohol itself, while others thought it might be the stress relief that could come with a small drink or two. Other forms of alcohol in moderation provided small benefits, but nothing could compare to red wine. Soon, researchers discovered the chemical in red wine that was responsible, Resveratrol. Let’s take a closer look at this healthy, all-natural substance:

The Health Benefits of Resveratrol
Resveratrol’s biggest claim to fame is that it can reduce the levels of bad cholesterol in our blood stream to prevent heart disease. It also improves circulation, modulates blood pressure, and protects blood vessels. As if this wasn’t enough, Resveratrol acts as a strong antioxidant to prevent cancer. Studies in rats have shown that mega-doses of this miracle chemical can even destroy a large amount of tumor cells.

Resveratrol has been thought of as the fountain of youth by some. Although the jury is out on that one, it has been shown to be helpful as a weight loss aid. It is thought to activate the SIRT1 gene during low-calorie diets to burn fat instead of allowing the body to go into a starvation mode where it desperately hangs onto every bit of extra weight. This gene is also thought to be the key to prevent aging.

Even if Resveratrol can’t help us look younger, it can definitely help us feel that way. It prevents or slows the progression of  many age-related diseases including Alzheimer’s, gout, and inflammatory diseases. Many reports say that this red-wine component can even help with hair loss and increase energy levels.

The Problem with Supplements
Many people were interested in adding Resveratrol to their diet, but they weren’t so thrilled with drinking red wine with every meal. For most Americans, consuming enough of this healthy chemical through wine alone wouldn’t fit into their lifestyle. Most jobs nowadays frown on even a single glass at lunchtime.

Soon, the diet industry responded with Resveratrol supplements in both liquid and pill form. However, many were just marketing gimmicks that didn’t supply nearly enough active ingredients to reach therapeutic levels.  Many supplement products provide a daily dose of 200-600 mcg per day.  This is significantly less than 500mg-2000mg shown to be effective in various clinical studies.  Unfortunately these substantially higher dosages of Resveratrol would be equivalent to hundreds of glasses of wine per day.

Something else to consider is that low-quality Resveratrol tablets are only about 50% pure. This would mean that a 100 mg pill only contains about 50 mg of Resveratrol with the remaining 50 mg taken up by other ingredients including emodin, a substance responsible for side effects like upset stomach and a variety of other digestive symptoms. When possible, only purchase supplements labeled as 99% pure trans-Resveratrol.

In addition to purity, the absorption rate is critical. After all, you can take pill after pill, but they will have little affect on your health if your body can’t absorb the Resveratrol. For the best bio-availability, choose supplements that are manufactured with a micronization process that has already broken down this chemical into small units for easier digestion. This is the reason that so many people rely on liquid supplements as opposed to the tablet form. Although it’s much easier to pop a pill than to drink a glass or more of Resveratrol in liquid form, the bio-availability is much better with the supplemental drinks.

Resveratrol | Red GrapesOther Food Sources of Resveratrol
Of course, it’s always best to get critical nutrients from your diet. In most cases, our body’s digestive system breaks down vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients better when they’re delivered through food sources. Over 70 plant-based foods contain Resveratrol including grapes, blueberries, peanuts, and Japanese knotweed. If you plan on adding grapes to your diet, the muscadine variety has the highest levels. Also, Japanese knotweed is so high in Resveratrol that this exotic herb is rapidly hitting the Western supplement market.

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15 Natural Aphrodisiacs

July 21st, 2011

Natural Aphrodisiacs MessageIt’s no accident that Valentine’s Day is placed exactly in the middle of the month dedicated to love. As the cold weather drives us indoors, a little extra togetherness often brings romance to mind.  However, age and poor health can often slow down even the strongest libido. If you’d like to find a natural way to spice up life in the bedroom, try one of these natural aphrodisiac suggestions:

Recipes for Romance
Although oysters have been rumored to be nature’s aphrodisiac for centuries, many common food items are just as effective. A night of romance may be as close as your pantry! If you don’t already have a few of these natural aphrodisiac items on hand, add them to your shopping list:

  • Tomatoes – Known as the “apple of love,” the tomato helps calm pre-coital nerves and promote muscle control.
  • Avocados – The Avocado is packed full of Vitamin E for enhanced arousal and more intense climaxes.
  • Chocolate – This sensual treat actually has the same chemical that our body produces naturally when we first fall in love, phenyl ethylamine. No wonder this is a favorite addition to those shiny, heart-shaped boxes.
  • Celery – This low-calorie vegetable includes androsterone, a male hormone. This chemical has a two-fold effect for women: it increases their sexual arousal directly and promotes the male production of pheromones, another source of female arousal.
  • Chili peppers – The natural capsaicin contained in the chili pepper stimulates the body to product endorphins, a feel-good chemical, as it speeds up our circulation and metabolism.
  • Honey – Spreading this sweet, sticky fluid on each other might get you all hot and bothered, but that’s not the only way honey can help in the bedroom. Honey helps the body produce both estrogen and testosterone, critical hormones when it comes to sexual function.

Supplements for Love
A healthy diet isn’t the only thing that can get your motor running! Next time you’re stocking up your Vitamin supply, look for these supplements:

  • Saw Palmetto – Promotes a healthy prostate and stimulates testosterone production for male sexual health.
  • Horny Goat Weed and Ginseng – These two herbs have been coveted for centuries by Chinese herbalists to improve sexual health.
  • L-Arginine – this all-natural amino acid opens up the blood vessels for a healthy heart and circulation. It has been compared to Viagra.
  • Ginkgo Biloba – another great supplement to promote blood flow to all the right places!
  • Zinc – This is what all those oysters are for! This mineral is reputed to help with both fertility and a healthy sex drive.
  • Fish Oil – If you haven’t heard about the health benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids yet, this natural substance helps with almost everything including your heart and circulatory system.

A Surprising Erogenous Zone
Chances are you never considered your nose a sexual organ. While offensive smells can be an instant turn off, the right fragrance can lead you straight into the bedroom! If you think the magic formula has to be held within a crystal jar with an expensive price tag, you couldn’t be more wrong. Choose from one of these affordable options for the next time you need a little push in the right direction:

  • Dancing Couple | Natural AphrodisiacsPeppermint Oils – This cool scent helps boost a woman’s climax. Opt for the all-natural products because synthetic peppermint aromas don’t pack the same punch.
  • Vanilla – A study once compared men’s preferences when it came to various aromas. Vanilla won out over expensive perfumes time after time.
  • Jasmine, Lavender, and Ylang Ylang – these flowery scents are often used in combination in perfumes at all price levels. Choose these fragrances when buying scented candles, bath oils, or air fresheners to set the mood.
  • Natural Body Odors – We’re not talking about BO here, but the body’s own pheromones. Everyone emits these scents, and they’re often responsible for the unexplainable attraction and chemistry between two lovers.

Massage Is Good for More than Your Muscles
Nothing feels better than a massage! Whether you like a rigorous rub-down or more gently manipulations, this therapeutic treatment increases your blood flow, reduces stress, and conditions your muscles. It is known to increase the production of both serotonin and endorphins for healthy moods and natural pain relief. If you can’t afford a professional massage, give this gift to each other! If either of you is a little shy, even a foot massage has been known to warm things up in the boudoir!

With these natural aphrodisiacs, no one needs any harsh chemicals from the pharmacy for the most romantic February ever!

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Chocolate – The Confection for Love and Health!

July 21st, 2011

Chocolate StrawberryIf you’re expecting a big box of chocolate for Valentine’s Day, you’re in luck! This sweet treat is actually good for you, in moderation, of course. That’s a good thing since over 58 million pounds of chocolate are sold in the weeks leading up to the February holiday.  To put an end to the guilt before opening that heart-shaped box, review this list of healthy facts about everyone’s favorite candy:

Heart-Healthy Treats
Can you believe that anything as decadent as chocolate can actually be good for your heart! It’s true! According to many different studies, chocolate contains flavonoids, an important antioxidant. Not only does it contain this substance, but it contains it in relatively high amounts. In fact, chocolate contains approximately eight times more flavonoids than strawberries – that means chocolate-dipped strawberries are doing double duty! Chocolate’s flavonoids can reduce bad cholesterol levels and hypertension, two big causes of heart disease.

A Psycho-Active Food
Don’t let this technical term scare you away from this creamy, dark confection. This simply means that chocolate contains substances that affect your brain – in a good way!

  • Some studies have shown increases in cognitive function after consuming a small amount of chocolate.
  • Chocolate contains a little bit of anandamide, a chemical found naturally in the brain that promotes feelings of wellbeing.
  • Chocolate contains tryptophan, an essential amino acid required to produce serotonin for balanced moods and reduced anxiety.
  • Best of all, chocolate contains phenyl ethylamine, also known as the “love chemical!”

The Healthiest Choices
Although chocolate is good for you, all chocolate isn’t considered equal. If you choose to eat candy with a ton of sugar and little natural cacao, the benefits will be diluted to the point of uselessness. When shopping for the best quality chocolate, keep these pointers in mind:

  • Valentine's Day ChocolateDark chocolate is healthier than milk chocolate.
  • For the healthiest options, look for chocolate bars with 75% or more of cacao.
  • Most cacao seeds are harvested in third-world countries. By purchasing Fairtrade chocolates, you can put an end to slave labor and other abuses in the chocolate industry.

When you consider that the scientific name of the cacao tree, Theobroma, can be literally translated into “food of the gods,” it’s no wonder that we’re practically addicted to chocolate.

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Molybdenum

July 21st, 2011

While you’re probably familiar with iron, calcium, zinc, and many of other minerals your body needs to function at peak levels, most people have never have heard of molybdenum. In fact, you might think you had caught some infectious disease if your doctor started talking about levels of this trace mineral. Molybdenum is an important mineral involved with everyday functions of the body.

Molybdenum ChartWhy is Molybdenum Important?
This little-known element helps every part of the body, from your brain to your liver, function properly. Molybdenum is essential for the proper metabolization of RNA and DNA, the acids that make up a large part of every cell in our body. This process converts food into energy, regulates blood sugar, and carries away the toxic bi-products. By helping our cells function properly and riding our body’s of toxins, Molybdenum prevents the development of cancer cells.

As a cleansing agent, molybdenum is particularly good at removing sulfite toxins from the human body. Because sulfites are commonly used in preservatives, most people are constantly adding them to their system through food and drugs. Without molybdenum, increased sulfite levels could cause symptoms similar to an allergic reaction.

Molybdenum also helps detoxify the liver, produce essential enzymes, and even prevents tooth decay. It is also critical to proper brain and kidney function. Low levels caused by genetic malformations, which prevent proper absorption, can lead to anything from neurological problems to mental retardation.  Impotence in older men can even be caused by abnormally low levels of this mineral.

How Much Do I Need?
Now that you know how important it is to get a sufficient amount of molybdenum, you’re probably wondering about your own body. Luckily, there’s no need to panic. Unless you have a genetic problem, you’re almost guaranteed to get enough of this trace mineral from your diet. Because molybdenum deficiency is so rare, an official recommended daily allowance (RDA) has not even been established. Opinions on the subject vary, but most experts agree that the 25 micrograms found in most supplements is enough to prevent problems.

Only a tiny amount of Molybdenum is needed for proper cell function and since it is a mineral you do not want to intake higher levels than necessary.  Too much can make your body lose copper, another important mineral, or cause gout, anemia, or diarrhea.

MolybdenumNatural Sources of Molybdenum
Lucky for us, molybdenum can be found in a wide variety of food sources. If you live in an area with hard tap-water, especially well water, this mineral-rich fluid probably contains molybdenum in addition to other important elements. While the highest levels of molybdenum can be found in legumes, leafy green vegetables, and whole grains, the type of food isn’t actually the biggest indicator of mineral levels. Because plants absorb this mineral from the soil, any plant product grown in molybdenum-rich areas will contain more than those cultivated in mineral-poor soil. This mineral can sometimes be found in animal liver and low-fat milk, as well.

Symptoms of Molybdenum Deficiency
There’s rarely a reason to worry about low levels of this mineral. Most of the time, symptoms can be attributed to other problems and aren’t a result of too little molybdenum. However, this is a list of possible symptoms just in case you need a little reassurance:

  • Mood swings and irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Impotence
  • Tooth Decay
  • Anemia
  • Poor General Health

 

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Eat This, Not That

July 21st, 2011

Eat This Not That FamilyIf you usually pile on the pounds around the holidays, this year can be different. Before you moan and think about all the once-a-year delicacies that you’ll be missing, remember that many of your favorite dishes can be figure-friendly. By making just a few smart choices, you can enjoy a festive dinner without feeling deprived of all those delicious holiday treats. This could even be your early start on a healthy New Year’s resolution. Below are some easy swaps to save on calories and fat, and to increase your essential nutrient intake.

Turkey Breast vs. Roast Pork
While both of these main dishes are succulent holiday traditions, a 3-ounce portion of roast turkey breast without the skin only has 117 calories and 1 gram of fat compared to the 199 calories and 11 grams of fat in the same size piece of roast pork. To make matters even worse, 4 grams of the 11 are saturated fat. This is just one more reason that every Christmas menu should include roast turkey!

Stuffing vs. Dinner Rolls
Ounce per ounce, the savory stuffing that accompanies that healthy turkey is a better choice at 50 calories per ounce than white dinner rolls that weigh in at 77 calories an ounce. While the fat content is about the same, once you start to butter those rolls, the fat content can skyrocket. To make stuffing even more nutritious, it allows the creative cook an excuse to add in a few more healthy fruits and vegetables. Depending on your recipe, you could include onions, celery, raisins, apples, or cranberries. Your imagination is the only limit.

Sweet Potatoes vs. Mashed Potatoes
Whether they’re baked, boiled, mashed, or candied, sweet potatoes in any form are generally healthier than mashed potatoes. While many people love buttery sweet potatoes, their natural sweetness and flavorful character doesn’t need many additions to make an appetizing dish. If you compare a 1/2 cup serving of baked sweet potato to the same amount of home-style mashed white potatoes, the sweet potato wins out in calories by a small margin. However, there is virtually no fat in the sweet potato while the mashed potatoes have 9 grams of fat. The real benefit of sweet potatoes is that they have a dramatically higher anti-inflammatory factor, almost eight times the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of Vitamin A, a 65% RDA of Vitamin C, and a healthy dose of beta carotene.

Cranberry Sauce vs. Gravy
This one should be a no-brainer. How could a healthy fruit-based sauce not win out over what really amounts to meat fat and white flour? Although an ounce of prepared cranberry sauce has 42 calories and an ounce of turkey gravy has about 20 calories, this is the only benefit to the gravy. Cranberries have a the highest concentration of a special category of antioxidants called phenols, a well-known disease fighter.

Collard Greens vs. Creamed Corn
If you’re not a fan of collard greens, you don’t know what you’re missing. This traditional southern dish is not only tasty, but healthy, too. Whether you like yours with a splash of vinegar or plain, a half cup of this fiber-packed vegetable only has 25 calories compared to creamed corn’s 90+ calories. Collard greens also have more Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Calcium, and Iron. While Popeye loved his spinach, we’re voting for collard greens for a healthy holidaytable.

Cranberry-Pear Cobbler vs. Yule Log
Create a new Christmas tradition this year by trading that tired old Yule log for a healthy cranberry-pear cobbler. While they both include their fair share of sugar, the cobbler leaves out the heaviness of a full stick of butter and adds in healthy cranberries and seasonal pears. As already mentioned, cranberries are packed with phenols and loads of anti-oxidants. To make this even more dish healthy, pears have almost as much phenol as the cranberries. This sweet treat gives you an added boost to the battle against the winter flu and cold.

Red Wine vs. Dark Ale Beer
When you compare a 4-ounce glass of red wine to a 12-ounce mug of dark ale, you’ll save almost 100 calories. In addition to lightening up your calorie load, red wine gets its beautiful warm-red color from resveratrol, an antioxidant that has been credited with everything from protecting the human body from cancer to reducing “free radicals” thought to contribute to heart disease. White winehas lower levels of resveratrol because the grape seeds and skins are removed much earlier in the wine-making process. Remember not to  overdo it with any alcoholic beverage. While one or two alcoholic drinks a day can be healthy for some, those glasses beyond two can  often cause more harm than good .

The One-third Plate Rule
When dishing out your meal at parties and family gatherings think of your plate in thirds.  One third is for vegetables, one for lean proteins and one for complex carbohydrates.  Each category gets one-third and one-third only of your plate, but of course if the vegetables are healthy and they want to spill over a little that is always ok.  Make your choices wisely because the best way to portion control is by never going back for seconds!

By making smarter diet choices you will be less likely to pack on extra holiday pounds and start the New Year off with a healthier, happier and lighter you!

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Scrumptious Butternut Squash Soup

July 21st, 2011

Butternut SquashIngredients

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large white onion, chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, chopped
  • 1 medium butternut squash (about 2-3 lbs) – peeled, seeded, and cubed (instructions below)
  • 1 (32 fluid ounce) container low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper

Directions

Cubing tips for your butternut squash soup:

  • Pick a squash that has a long section, as this is the part that is fully of fleshy goodness.  The round bottom part is mostly hollow and full of seeds to scoop out.
  • Start by cutting the ends off and then cutting the squash in half length wise.
  • Using a spoon, scrape out the seeds and fibers and throw away.
  • Use a vegetable peeler to remove the outside skin.  Work from top to bottom until you reach the bright orange part of flesh.
  • You are now ready to cube the squash! Cut in 1-1 ½ in cubes
  1. Butternut Squash SoupMelt the butter in a large pot, and cook the onion, carrot, and squash 5 minutes, or until lightly browned.
  2. Pour in the chicken stock so that it covers the vegetables, set aside remaining stock for later. Bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce heat and cover pot.  Simmer 40 minutes, or until all vegetables are tender.
  4. Transfer the soup to a blender or food processor, and blend until smooth.
  5. Add salt, pepper and nutmeg and blend for another 15-30 seconds.
  6. Return to pot, and stir in the remaining chicken stock.
  7. Ready to serve!
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