Archive for July, 2011

Sun Safety

Thursday, 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

Thursday, 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

Thursday, 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

Thursday, 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!

Thursday, 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

Thursday, 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

Thursday, 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

Thursday, 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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Gluten Free Diet – What’s it all About?

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

Gluten WheatIf you’ve paid attention to any media source recently, you’ve probably heard  about gluten sensitivity and gluten-free diets. Even Chelsea Clinton has gone gluten-free and had a gluten-free menu at her recent wedding. This fad has been triggered by the growing awareness of health benefits that a gluten free diet provides. In addition to Chelsea, Jennifer Aniston, Zooey Deschanel (star of Bones), and Rachel Weisz (star of The Mummy) have joined the ranks of the gluten free.

Why is Everyone Going Gluten-Free?
Gluten-free diets are not just for the rich and famous. Marketing surveys indicate that 15 to 25% of shoppers, a startling one out of four, are asking for gluten-free products. Doctor’s estimate that only 1% of the population has an actual gluten intolerance, so there must be some reason that everyone else is giving up gluten. Gluten-free followers find their new diet,  free of most processed foods and rich in fruits and vegetables, gives them a vitality and energy level they never had before. A gluten-free diet will naturally stabilize blood sugar as processed sugars are removed from the foods being eaten. While this is good for everyone, it is particularly good for diabetics.

What is Gluten?
People talk about gluten like it’s pure poison, the worst thing since fat and cholesterol. Gluten is simply a type of plant-based protein that is in many wheat and grain products. It is in most traditional breads, pasta, cookies, cakes, and other baked products. In other words, it’s the comfort foods that most of us think of as “the good stuff.” While a reasonable amount of gluten doesn’t seem to harm most people, if you have a gluten intolerance, also known as celiac disease, or diabetes, it can cause fatigue, disgestive problems and interefer with the absorbtion of nutrients.

Is a Gluten-Free Diet the Answer to Type 1 Diabetes?
There is a high occurrence of patients with both celiac disease and Type 1 Diabetes. U.S. statistics show that 1 in 100 people in the general population have celiac disease, while 1 in 10 people who have Type 1 Diabetes also have celiac disease. Many celiac patients find that their diabetic symptoms disappear when they follow the strict, gluten-free diet that is recommended for their gluten intolerance. In fact, researchers believe that this correlation may be their first clue to finding a way to prevent Type 1 Diabetes. This is quite a break through because this is the first indication of any firm idea on how Type 1 Diabetes could be triggered. Wouldn’t it be a miracle if Type 1 Diabetes could be prevented or driven into remission by simply changing your diet? It would give Type 1 patients the same hope that Type 2 patients enjoy.

To Go Gluten Free, or Not?
The gluten-free diet will effectively help those with wheat allergies, celiac disease and diabetes if followed 100% but gluten-free may not be for everyone.  If control over your diet is what you are aiming to achieve then gluten free can be beneficial, but if you don’t have a gluten intolerance or diabetes consider the gluten-free diet as a guideline.  Avoid the common foods that contain gluten, like pastries, pizza, beer and even soy sauce and remember to replace these with lots of fruit, vegetables, lean meats and low-fat dairy options.  Also, always be sure to read the nutritional labels on any “gluten-free” products; just because it is gluten-free doesn’t mean it isn’t full of calories, fat or sugars.

Some common foods that may contain gluten:

  • Pastries: Pretzels, muffins, cakes, pastas, cookies, etc
  • Gluten CrissantPizza
  • Beer
  • Lucheon  meats and sausages may contain gluten fillers
  • Soups with a flour base
  • Instant coffee
  • Licorice
  • Hot Chocolate powders
  • Soy Sauce
  • Dry mustard
  • Gravy powders and stock cubes
  • Baked beans
  • Pates
  • Anything with wheat, wheat germ, wheat grass, rye, barley, bulgur, couscous, farina, graham flour, kamut, matzo, seitan, semolina, spelt, or triticale
  • Also avoid foods that contain hydrolyzed vegetable protein
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Health Starts With Proactive Prevention

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

Staying healthy starts with proactive prevention.  One of the easiest ways to be proactive is to keep up with your suggested medical check-ups.  Staying up to date with important check-ups is one easiest things you can do to stay healthy and prevent disease and disability. Click on the link below to view a simple guide for scheduling your most important health screenings.

  • Blood Pressure Measurement: at least every two (2) years
  • Cholesterol Test: Every five (5) years starting at age 20
  • Blood Glucose Test: Every three (3) years starting at age 45
  • Thyroid Test (TSH): Every five (5) years starting at age 35
  • Eye Exam: Every two (2) to three (3) years starting at age 18
  • Hearing Test: Every ten (10) years starting at age 18
  • Skin Exam: Annually starting at age 20
  • Colonoscopy: Every ten (10) years starting at age 50
  • Mammogram: Starting at age 40 every one (1) to two (2) years
  • Prostate Exam: Annually starting at age 45
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Summer: The Time to Take Exercise Outside

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

T-shirt and shorts weather makes for perfect conditions to take your exercise routine outside. Whether you’re gardening, running through your neighborhood, tossing a Frisbee in the park or playing volleyball in the sand, summer exercise can increase your cardiovascular health, bone strength and mood levels, as well as be a fun part of your day.

Warmer weather allows us to change many of our car-related activities to bike errands or walking sojourns. Take advantage of your nearby grocery store or farmers market by walking or biking. You will be less inclined to purchase unnecessary junk foods and more apt to select healthier, natural foods. The benefits of walking or biking not only extend to your body, but also to your mind. You have a chance to appreciate your surroundings in a way that you seldom would see from the windshield, and exercise has been proven to be one of the most beneficial preventative measures for mental health issues like depression, anxiety and even Alzheimer’s.

Try taking a yoga or weight-routine outside.  These stress reducing activities help to keep your blood pressure normal and prevent heart disease.  Also, the natural effect of sunshine can boost your mood through Vitamin D synthesis, which helps to increase levels of serotonin in the brain. Numerous studies have shown people suffering from depression, especially those living at latitudes of 35 and higher, tend to notice improvements in mood as their levels of Vitamin D naturally increase during the summer months.  The recommended daily intake of Vitamin D is 400 IU for adults and 600 IU for those age 71 and up.  Erica T. Goode, MD, MPH, a physician at the California Pacific Medical Center’s Health & Healing Center-Clinic in San Francisco, says that everyone should try to get at least 1,000 IU per day through a combination of diet, sun and supplementation.

In addition to increased mood levels, the vitamin D you get from the summer sun also helps to improve the strength of your bones.  A 2010 Surgeon General report shows that lack of exercise and deficiencies in both calcium and Vitamin D, especially in women, has subjected as many as 48 million Americans to osteoporosis.  Adding a few weight exercises can  improve bone health by slowing down the replacement of bone marrow by fat inside the bones.  In as little as 15 minutes a day, you can  increase your bone strength by trying these resistant band exercises at your local park or in your back yard.

Here are a few simple exercises you can take outdoors:

  • Squat Press: Using a resistance band, stand with your feet on the middle of the band a little further than hip distance apart.  With the handles in your hands at shoulder height, palms up, slowly squat down like you are sitting in a chair.  Once your knees are at 90 degrees slowly stand up and press the handles up over your head in one fluid motion.  Lower back down to the squat without pausing and repeat 10-15 times.
  • Rows: Wrap the resistance band around a pole at about shoulder height.  Step back from the pole until you feel some resistance on the band with arms fully extended in front of your body.  Pull the handles towards your body, palms facing in, keeping your elbows in towards your rib cage and always keeping resistance on the band. repeat 10-15 times with slow, smooth movements.
  • Chest Press: Keeping the resistance band and distance from the pole in the same place as the previous exercise, turn around and face away.  Start with your arms bent, elbows facing out, at shoulder height.  Push the handles straight out from your chest.  Always keeping resistance on the band,repeat 10-15 times with slow, smooth movements.
  • Calf Rises (no band needed):  Standing on the edge of a curb or step with one foot, lower the dangling foot to the ground. Straighten the supporting leg and come all the way up onto your toes before lowering the opposite foot again.  Repeat 10-15 times per leg in slow motion.

One important aspect of the above exercises is quality not speed.  Remember the longer you hold the resistance the more effective the exercise will be.  Don’t have a resistance band?  Use your natural body weight by flexing the target muscles.

Try to schedule your summer activities during the time when the sun is low in the sky. This is important, as exercising during peak sun hours, usually between about 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., can cause heat exhaustion, increase dehydration and even result in sun stroke.   Always be sure to drink plenty of water  and as an added treat, take some unsalted nuts as a high-protein, post workout snack..

However you choose to spend time outside during the warm summer months, be sure to have fun, stay hydrated and always look for new ways to naturally improve your life.

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Best Summer Fruits

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

Oh the Joy of Summer Fruits!

Summer fruits glistening with their dew in the morning sunshine beckon us with the promise of sweetness and succulent juices. They remind us of roadside stands with homemade signs; of fresh berry pies and picnics. The summer fruits are more than nostalgia and watering mouths though. These fresh summer fruits pack a powerful punch of health benefits, including cancer fighting antioxidants, daily requirements of vitamins and minerals, and live enzymes used to aid digestion. Some of the most powerful summer fruits include  berries, mangoes, watermelon and peaches, just to mention a few.

Mango

Mangoes, though difficult to peel (see picture for easy slicing method), contain more beta-carotene than any other fruit, which helps to prevent cell damage leading to heart disease and stroke.  These multi colored fruits also contain high levels of fiber which help to control appetite and aid in metabolism. One cup of sliced mangoes supplies 25 percent of the needed daily value of vitamin A, important for the promotion of good eyesight.

Watermelon

Watermelons are a significant source lycopene, a carotenoid only obtainable through diet, known to help prevent and treat many types of cancer, including prostate cancer.  A watermelon contains about 6% sugar and 92% water by weight.  making it a perfect snack for any outdoor summer activity due to its natural hydration.  Watermelons are rich in electrolytes, sodium and potassium which are lost through perspiration. FUN FACT: Did you know that Watermelon is a vegetable?  It is part of the cucumber and squash family and your average American eats approximately 17lbs of watermelon each year!

Strawberry

Strawberries, like other berries, are famous in the phytonutrient world as a rich source of phenols.  Strawberries’ unique phenol content makes them a heart-protective fruit, an anti-cancer fruit, and an anti-inflammatory fruit, all rolled into one. Strawberries are a great diet food as well.  The low calorie and high fiber content helps to keep you feeling full.  A one cup serving of halved strawberries contains 49 calories and 3g of fiber.   Dip them in melted dark chocolate for a delicious heart-healthy dessert.

Blueberry

Sometimes referred to as “brainberries,” these little fruits help reduce the effects of mental health conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.  According to the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, the high content of anthocyanins found in blueberries  improves cognitive health by increasing signaling in brain centers associated with memory. This is important to help slow memory loss naturally associated with aging.  Other studies have shown that these magnificent berries also protect the brain from stress caused by oxidation.

Blackberry

Blackberries rank highly among fruits for antioxidant strength, particularly due to their dense contents of polyphenolic compounds, such as ellagic acid, tannins, ellagitannins, quercetin, gallic acid, anthocyanins and cyanidins. One cup of these bumpy berries contain more than 30% of your daily fiber requirements and 47% of the recommended intake for manganese.  This mineral promotes healthy skin, nerves and bones, and is important for muscle tone.  If only the aptly named smart phone were this healthy, too!

Peaches

These favorites of the summer stone fruits are rich in Vitamin A & C as well as iron and potassium, which promote proper cell function, nerve signaling and electrolyte balance.   Peaches comprised of more than 80 percent water and have a mild laxative effect, beneficial for constipation symptoms.  Like many other fruits and vegetables, a large majority of the health benefits are contained within the skin of the peach, so try to enjoy all the fuzzy goodness the peach has to offer.

To keep enjoying them during the winter months look for unsweetened dried varieties, or plan ahead and freeze some for use with smoothies and desserts. Whether you enjoy these sumptuous summer fruits, whole, sliced or baked, you’ll be sure to get high levels of cancer-fighting nutrients and minerals that tantalize your palate and keep your body well-hydrated for all your summer activities.

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Teaching Kids to Eat Healthy Food

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

Parents want their children to snack on high-quality foods instead of reaching for the junk. One way to do this, of course, is not to have the junk around. But if you keep a few indulgences, how can kids tell the difference without always asking you, “what’s there to eat” or “what can I have as a snack?”

 

Pull out your multi-colored pack of sticky notes and start labeling the foods. You can try a simple method of green means ‘go,’ so enjoy this food anytime; yellow means ‘caution,’ only eat once or twice a week; and pink/red means ‘once in a while.’ Your children, and also your partner, can quickly determine what foods make the best choices for good health.

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