Archive for December, 2011

Probiotics: A Little Known Stress Reducer

Monday, 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!


Control Emotional Spending During the Holidays

Monday, 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.


Cupuacu | An Exotic Super Fruit!

Monday, 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.