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Food and sleep: eat for more restorative sleep and productive wake time

Are you grogged out, ready to pummel your alarm when it goes off in the morning? Feeling clueless about why you even had to get up early? Or maybe you’re immune to the loud, repeating beep of it all together? I can relate! Food and sleep work together (or not) to heal your body. So make sure you’re syncing them up, or no amount of sleep will leave you feeling good enough.

food and sleepHow are food and sleep related?

It’s no news flash that some foods, especially those with sugar and caffeine, can thwart your quality of sleep. But on the flipside, your digestion may suffer if you’re lacking enough quality sleep.

For years, we’ve heard how REM sleep is the best sleep – that when we’re dreaming we are sleeping at our best. But now we can read about non-REM sleep, which is the truly the deeper, more restoring kind of sleep. This precious non-REM sleep seems more “available” during the earlier hours of the night, versus the wee 3am-ish hours, according to this article.

And if you’re not getting enough of the hardcore restorative sleep daily, the resulting sleep deprivation can stack up like a pile of unpaid bills, making it hard to catch up. These ‘bills’ may surface as digestive issues, mental health matters, exaggerated allergy symptoms and much worse.

I mean, if the iPhone comes with a bedtime app now, it must be a serious matter, right? So aim to get to bed between 8pm and midnight, allowing yourself 7 to 9 hours of sleep daily.

I could write a book about how to get better sleep. And maybe I will. Sleep is sooo important. But for now, let’s look at ways to make food and sleep play together nicely.

Keep certain foods and sleep separate

We’ve all heard to avoid caffeine close to bedtime. But did you know caffeine can “do its thing” for up to 8 hours? That means if you go to bed at 10pm, you shouldn’t have caffeine (chocolate, tea, coffee, soda) after 2pm – it should be finished, in the trash and not still in progress.

That means grabbing something decaffeinated for that 3 to 4pm crash. Stay tuned here.

Caffeine does not affect everyone the same, of course. But just because caffeine does not keep you from falling asleep, does not mean it’s not interrupting your sleep, unbeknownst to you. Nicotine, another stimulant, can sabotage your sleep in the same way.

Sugar can give you the rush and crash, along with disruptions – a train wreck in the works.

Though a depressant, effects from alcohol can wear off, also interrupting your much-needed restorative sleep.

Whatever you’re eating, avoid stuffing yourself at dinnertime. In fact, avoid heavy meals within 2-3 hours of your bedtime.

Maca powder, cardamom, cashews, apples, bananas and sweet potatoes help boost energy – so not ideal before bedtime, but great for that afternoon boost. Also, if eggs give you indigestion, they will hinder your sleep. Otherwise, the protein from eggs is thought to help sleep.

Drink half your body weight in ounces of water during the day and then only sip as needed after dinner. Practicing your trusty Kegel exercises might also save nighttime trips to the bathroom.

Finally, whether your medicines are food-based or not, consider the side effects carefully. You may want to take ones that jolt you in the AM and ones that make you sleepy before bedtime. If you wake up stuffy, try taking your allergy remedy before bedtime so it can work its best while you sleep.

Other foods pair nicely with sleep

Plenty of foods will help prepare your body for sleep. Choose foods that you know without any doubt help your body heal. (Dairy and grains often secretly wreak havoc, but I’m including them as options.)

  • cherries for sleeptart cherries
  • dark leafy greens
  • walnuts
  • herbal decaf tea (chamomile, passionflower, valerian)
  • miso
  • turkey or white Albacore tuna
  • low-sugar (no additives) yogurt
  • oatmeal

A few other suggestions for better sleep

Exercise is key to better health, but timing is everything. If you do a vigorous workout within 5 to 6 hours of bedtime, your body may cool down and wake you during that non-REM restorative sleep.

On the other hand, if you workout outdoors in the morning, make sure that 6 to 10am time period is not prime pollen time for your location. Sucking all the allergens in as your workout may leave you feeling unrested, regardless of how great of sleep you got.

Also to protect against allergens, keep your bedroom windows closed at night, shower pollens off before going to bed and stop pressing your snooze during the morning hours when again, pollens may be at their peak.

Finally, know how much sleep your body needs and stick to a regular sleep schedule. If you need, use a sleep diary, much like a food journal, to track what food and sleep habits help you get that deep, healing sleep, leaving you feeling most rested.

Healing food and sleep are essential for optimal health. Be highly intentional with both!

 

 

*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. 

 

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How to carve a pumpkin right into your diet and why: pumpkin health benefits

Adapted from Reap the health benefits of pumpkin year-round

 

carve a pumpkin into dietHalloween marks the time of year when grocery stores fill up with pumpkins. We go crazy over pumpkin carving. And a few souls actually roast and eat the seeds or start dreaming about that pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving. But did you know this hearty, fruit-producing vegetable is sooo worthy—you should carve pumpkin into a household staple?

Health benefits of pumpkin

Maybe you’ve roasted your pumpkin seeds before. Or maybe you haven’t—they are a little intimidating, all tangled up in the stringy insides of something that appears to be so darling on the outside. But don’t let looks scare you. Use those precious seeds as medicine. Pumpkin seeds provide:

  • phytoestrogens, which help prevent high blood pressure.
  • tryptophan, which supports production of serotonin and improves your mood and quality of sleep.
  • beta-carotene which helps prevent cancer.
  • phytosterols, which reduce our bad (LDL) cholesterol.

Moving on to the meat of its benefits, pumpkin also:

  • provides fiber, which helps keep your digestive system moving the toxins out. That fiber helps you feel more full and satisfied, which is a bonus for grain-free folks.
  • replenishes your potassium after a workout (it may even muscle that banana out of first position).
  • supports healthier vision, skin and bones due to the vitamin A content. According to this Huffington Post article, 1 cup of pumpkin provides more than 200% of the daily vitamin A recommendation.
  • supplements your zinc intake. For men, this helps maintain testosterone levels and male sexual health—always a good thing!

How to prepare a pumpkin

So how do you prepare these power gourds of nutrients? First, choose a pumpkin that’s meant for eating, such as a pie, Jarrahdale, cheese, peanut or Cinderella pumpkin. Next:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cut your pumpkin across the top to cut off the stem. Then cut it lengthwise in half.
  3. Scrape out the seeds and stringy pulp and set them aside.
  4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and put each half of the pumpkin face down.
  5. Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 1-2 hours.
  6. Scrape the meat of the pumpkin out of the rind, which can be thrown out or composted. Then cut the meat into small pieces and puree it in your food processor.

Try this recipe from takepart.com, for roasting the seeds without the wrestling match.

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 300 degrees.
  2. For every 2 cups of seeds and pulp, add 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil (and light salt or other spices as desired) and toss.
  3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread the seasoned seeds and pulp in a single layer on the baking sheet.
  4. Stir every 15 minutes, baking for about 50 minutes or until the seeds are crisp and the pulp is caramelized.
  5. Let cool and enjoy.

How to carve pumpkin into your meal plan

Pack pumpkin seeds as a snack. Sprinkle them onto a salad or vegetable medley for extra crunch. They make the perfect mood-boosting food at a time when we are adjusting to less daylight and Vitamin D.

Before pureeing it, sprinkle it with cinnamon and serve it as a side (instead of squash).

Use the puree in one of a zillion ways. Here are a few of my faves:

  1. Paleo pumpkin pancakes. Amazing. Grain-free. Easy to make and freeze for future breakfasts on the fly. They also double as sandwich bread in a pinch.
  2. Paleo pumpkin bars. Eat and energize any time of day, even on the go.
  3. Paleo chili without tomatoes. This is a gem for me, since tomatoes don’t love me and I miss them dearly.
  4. Add pumpkin puree or seeds to your smoothie or oatmeal.

Make pumpkin bread or pumpkin muffins. Add zucchini for more nutrition. Use pumpkin in sauces instead of tomatoes to avoid nightshades. Spread pumpkin butter onto anything. Experiment with pumpkin soup recipes. Even make paleo pumpkin ice cream. Your options are endless.

For even more information about the health benefits of pumpkin, as well as additional recipes, check out this article on jenreviews.com! Mmmm, pumpkin hummus!

Carve pumpkin into your diet regularly, instead of just during your fall carving craze. You’ll aid digestion, boost your mood and support better health even in the darkest of months!

 

*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. 

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Everything apples during apple season: why, which and how to eat them!

apples health benefitsApple season in the Midwest means apple everything. Apples for baking and snacking, apple cider and of course, America’s favorite – apple pie. But there’s much more to apples than what meets the eye. So let’s get to the core about the goodness of apples.

Acknowledging the health benefits of apples

Apples are loaded with vitamins including C, K, B6 and riboflavin, as well as the minerals copper, magnesium, manganese and potassium. This translates to a boatload of benefits. Apples of all sorts:

  • reduce risks of cancer, diabetes, heart disease and hypertension.
  • help prevent dementia and stroke.
  • lower bad (LDL) cholesterol.
  • promote good gut bacteria (Granny Smiths are rated best!).
  • combat anemia.
  • provide fiber (especially with skin on), which supports healthy digestion.
  • improve vision.
  • provide quercetin, which alleviates asthma symptoms.
  • help alkalinize your pH, reducing acid reflux (sweet apples are better).

An old go-to that’s regained the spotlight, apple cider vinegar also helps improve immunity and promote gut healing, while regulating cravings and blood sugar spikes. Be sure to buy an organic raw version for the true health benefits.

Reviewing the science of eating an apple

Keep the peels on your apples whenever possible, because that’s where most of the nutrients live. But avoid the seeds as they can be toxic.

Watch for any symptoms in your mouth, face, face, nose, lungs and intestines after eating apples because they can cause allergic reactions. If the reaction is not severe, try eating them without the peel or cooked to see if your body still rejects them.

Or, if the apples are not organic, you might be reacting to the pesticides instead of the apple itself. Organic apples won’t look as shiny and waxy but will be much friendlier to your body!

Sorting out the many types of apples

We can find more than 7,500 types of apples grown throughout the world, according to University of Illinois (GO Illini!) data. But use this list of popular apples to decide which variety is best for your latest apple hankering.

 

Sweet Cameo, Fuji, Gala
Tart Cortland, Granny Smith, Jonagold
Baking Braeburn, Empire, Golden Delicious
Snacking Braeburn, Cameo, Fuji, Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, Red Delicious
Crunchy Gala, Granny Smith, Jonagold (yes sweet and tart!)
(Not-so crunchy) sauce/butter/juice Golden Delicious, Honeycrisp, McIntosh
Anything apples Cortland, Fuji, Gala, Jonagold

Reformed favorites: recipes using apples

apple cider in apples

 

Eating better doesn’t mean you have to give up the traditional fun. Try making your next apple endeavor healthier and festive with modified versions of apple Waldorf salad, apple pie or apple cider – I can’t wait!

Creative ways to add apples to your diet

apples on saladIf it’s out-of-the-box ideas you need to make apples more appealing, try:

  • adding sliced, crunchy apples to a chopped salad, Brussels sprouts or kale salad, sandwich, quesadilla or smoothie.
  • coring and slicing whole apples thin, using the slices for bread (think PB&J on apples)!
  • grilling apples (with cinnamon for a dessert).
  • roasting cored apples filled with your favorite goodies (raisins, caramel, etc.).
  • making a veggie-based soup with apples (like pumpkin or carrots with apples).
  • creating paleo apple cinnamon ice cream using frozen bananas – YUM!

Make this apple season your healthiest yet, by adding these nutritional gems to your diet more often. Get creative with some old favorites and new ones. Fight fall allergies, ward off disease and feed your digestive health with your own apple extravaganza!

Read more about using foods as medicine in Digested – eating healthier made easier 3 ways or on my Facebook page.

 

*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. 

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High-protein diets: are they just a trend or truly healthy?

protein sourcesDiets high in protein sources and low in carbohydrates are taking over as we are becoming more health conscious. Paleo, ketogenic, South Beach, Whole30 and more – all focus on higher protein consumption with fewer carbs. Is this just a trend? Is it even healthy to eat so much protein?

The purpose of protein

In grade school, we learned that protein plays a vital role in our bodies, building muscles and tendons. But protein also supports enzymes, neurotransmitters, hormones and other organs including our skin. In fact there are 9 essential amino acids – ones our bodies cannot make – that we can only get from the protein we eat. So protein is crucial to our health!

Protein also lowers blood pressure and helps fight diabetes. A few sources suggest that too much protein might cause kidney damage over the long-term, but this has not yet been determined. Other evidence suggests this to be false. It’s too soon to know, but keep this topic on your radar as research develops.

According to Dietary Reference Intake, the average male should consume about 56 grams per day and the average female should consume about 46 grams per day (healthline.com). But these are minimal amounts – resulting in assumedly minimal benefits. And the amount of protein you need goes up as you lose muscle mass due to aging or other health issues, as well as when you are more active.

In other terms, the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest that 10-35% of your calories come from protein sources. So better goals for the average male and female may be 56-91 grams and 46-75 grams per day (healthline.com).

As always, it is best to chat with your healthcare provider before making any drastic changes, whether you are latching on to the latest trending diet or simply trying to improve your diet! This is especially important if you have existing health concerns – you don’t want to inadvertently make those worse as you replace other foods/nutrients with protein.

Best sources of protein

Just as we’ve learned all these years, lean meats make a perfect source for protein. That includes lean cuts of beef, pork, chicken, lamb, turkey and other game, grass-fed and organic ideally. Fresh-caught wild fish without additives should also be a regular part of your diet.

If you aren’t a meat-eater, you still have tons of protein options. And even if you do eat meat, these will add variety to your snacks and meals. These are listed in order of priority.

  • Vegetables: spinach and other leafy greens, broccoli, asparagus, potato (though this is really a grain)
  • Eggs
  • Seeds: sesame, sunflower, chia, pumpkin, hemp, flax
  • Nuts: walnuts, pistachios, nut milks
  • Legumes: black-eyed peas, peanuts (organic only, in moderation)
  • Dairy: low-fat ricotta cheese, cottage cheese, mozzarella, cheddar, Parmesan, feta, milk
  • Soy (organic only)

*Foods in orange are rich in all 9 of the essential amino acids, according to nomeatathlete.com. This is by no means a complete list of protein sources, but gives a starting point.

Aim to add vegetables first, since they should make up 40-50% of your diet. Then consider eggs, seeds and nuts as they are generally easier to digest and offer loads of other nutrients. Soy and legumes (crops that grow in pods) can be hard to digest, and soy is often grown using chemicals and/or modified. Dairy seems to cause more harm than good – consider limiting dairy if you do consume it.

How can you incorporate these foods?

Vegetables – well just eat them with every chance – raw, steamed or however. Eggs are hard to avoid, so embrace them, whether hard-boiled, over-easy, scrambled or whipped into a recipe. Sprinkle hemp or pumpkin seeds in your cereal, smoothie or salad. Grab some nuts as a snack instead of chips, crackers or worse!

Guava seems to be the king of protein when it comes to fruits. Hummus made with both garbanzo beans and tahini (sesame) provides a protein punch. And if you want to transform your kid’s carbolicious pancake breakfast into a protein party, have him help you create a tasty batch of pancakes made from pumpkin, amaranth or buckwheat.

Eating high protein could be life changing. Remember that the quality of your protein matters. Variety helps, so get creative when you can. As always, aim for better health!

 

*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. 

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Get the real scoop: how eating ice cream can be healthy for you

healthy ice cream coneIce cream. Who wants ice cream? Who doesn’t love ice cream? Well there are a few of you out there who don’t consume 23 pounds of ice cream per year. Even though ice cream doesn’t love me, I do still love it. I wish it wasn’t a one-way relationship. So what is the real scoop on ice cream – can you indulge in it and eat healthier at the same time? Is there such a thing as healthy ice cream?

What makes ice cream so loveable?

Smooth, creamy ice cream tastes so delicious, especially in the hot dog days of summer, but really any time of year. It comes in 1,000 different flavors according to one article, but I think our options are limitless.

Ice cream evolved from other frozen desserts, including a treat resembling today’s sherbet. According to this article, ice cream was born in the 16th century and the first flavor was not vanilla, but of fruit and nut persuasion. In 2015, U.S. companies made more than 898 million gallons of regular ice cream, which is the most popular category of frozen dessert, not surprisingly (International Dairy Foods Association).

The basic ingredients for ice cream include milk, cream and sugar. Some recipes call for eggs or egg yolks, vanilla or salt. And of course, you can go crazy after that, adding your flavors of choice.

But today’s packaged ice cream often contains so many other ingredients that aren’t good for you, and don’t necessarily even add to the deliciousness of this originally simple treat.

At first, we start with the basic ingredients for a popular vanilla brand. Not too shabby.

blue bunny healthy ice cream ingredients

 

 

 

Then we add a few other ingredients. Not as good.

prairie farms ice cream ingredients

 

Start adding simple flavors, such as chocolate, and it goes downhill quickly.

 

When shopping for ice cream, look for the brands with minimal ingredients and without corn syrup (high or low fructose). Also avoid all artificial sweeteners including Splenda and aspartame. If you can’t pronounce any ingredients, just avoid it.

Meanwhile, when wanting to make ice cream into an outing, do a little research to find out what that local shop uses in its ice cream. Make your outing a chance to support local producers who use wholesome, non-GMO ingredients.

Ice cream intolerance…does healthy ice cream exist?

Where there is a will, there is a way. If ice cream causes tummy troubles, headaches or skin issues, you’ll have to do some extra homework.

Experiment with different brands. Start by choosing ones without corn syrup and other unhealthy ingredients.

If you’re dairy intolerant, try a coconut or rice milk version of ice cream. Still be sure to check for other not-so-good ingredients.

Better yet, have some fun and make your own healthy ice cream. It doesn’t have to be difficult. You’ll know exactly what it’s made of. And you can even get some healthy ingredients from it.

So here’s the fun stuff. I’ve made the banana ice cream recipe below. The kids and husband loved it.

Experiment with these and report back with your opinions. No ice cream maker needed! It’s summertime, hot and sticky – the perfect time for ice cream done easily!

So you see, it is possible to indulge in healthy ice cream. Just find a version that works for you, and enjoy!

Want more about healthier desserts? Check out my blog “Discover the truth about dark chocolate vs milk chocolate”.

 

*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. 

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Hashimoto’s disease: could it be the underlying cause for your unexplained misery or fatigue?

Could Hashimoto’s disease secretly be causing hypothyroidism for you? And what does your thyroid do anyhow?

Let me tell you. It does a whole lot. And you need it to be healthy.

Understanding Hashimoto’s disease

The autoimmune disorder Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, also called lymphocytic thyroiditis or Hashimoto’s disease, occurs when antibodies working against your thyroid gland lead to inflammation.

The inflammation inhibits your thyroid’s ability to produce thyroid hormones and can cause slow, chronic cell damage.

The damage then surfaces as an enlarged thyroid gland or hypothyroidism (an under-performing thyroid).

Detecting Hashimoto’s disease

What’s the big deal about your thyroid health?

depressed hashimoto's disease hypothyroidYour thyroid is like the motherboard of your body. Your pituitary gland controls your thyroid. And your thyroid controls just about everything else – your metabolic rate, energy, heart, digestion, muscles, brain development, bone maintenance and reproduction.

No symptoms are necessarily unique to Hashimoto’s disease. However, Hashimoto’s is the most common cause of hypothyroidism in the U.S. (http://thyroidbook.com), yet often goes undiagnosed. If you have hypothyroidism, you may suffer from:

  • anxiety
  • cold hands and feet
  • constipation
  • depression
  • dry skin
  • fatigue
  • irregular or heavy periods
  • low sex drive
  • muscle aches and lowered tolerance for exercise

Doctors will use a blood test to determine if you have hypothyroidism. Be sure he or she orders the full panel, and not just the basic test. The basic thyroid test provides 1 overall level or number, which is more likely to fall in the normal range, leaving you undiagnosed.

The full panel provides your levels of all 4 thyroid components – free T3 (triiodothyronine), free T4 (thyroxine), TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) and reverse T3. If you have elevated TSH and low free T4 levels, these are indicators of Hashimoto’s.

Treating Hashimoto’s disease

Traditional doctors will start you on a thyroid medicine such as Synthroid, Armour or Cytomel to help normalize your TSH. You will probably be on the medication for life, having to adjust it occasionally. The medication may help you feel better, but it doesn’t address your immune system’s imbalance.

Read a more scientific explanation of this shortfall here. Basically, the medication increases the T4 in your body, but doesn’t help you convert T4 to T3 and doesn’t address the ongoing inflammation.

So guess what holistic doctors will tell you if you have Hashimoto’s disease?

Yes – change your diet!

In Dr. Datis Kharrazian’s book, he explains in detail about why he advises thyroid patients to immediately remove gluten from their diets. Or you can read a briefer explanation in my blog post “Getting to the root of your thyroid problem and how your diet can help”.

Some doctors will ask you to eliminate dairy and soy, too. Still others will suggest the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) diet, or another diet, to give your body a break from all potentially inflammatory foods.

You may resent the idea of having to give up some of your favorite foods, and simply want to take the medicine and move on. But then you are not really giving your body a chance to heal. In fact, if you’re eating foods your body doesn’t tolerate, you are keeping it in overdrive on an empty oil tank!

If you think you have Hashimoto’s disease or hypothyroidism, ask your doctor to order the full thyroid panel and give all thyroid components full attention. Cut gluten and dairy from your diet, and use an elimination diet to identify any other foods you should avoid.

It may be a temporary tweak, or a permanent lifestyle change. But your body has to last your entire lifetime, right? Feed it accordingly!

 

*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. 

Discover the truth about dark chocolate vs milk chocolate

dark chocolate vs milk chocolateAre your taste buds and brain whirling as you try to choose dark chocolate vs milk chocolate? You’re not alone.

The average American consumes 12 pounds of chocolate per year (history.com). It’s definitely my go-to treat since I’ve been eating gluten free and dairy free.

We can find tons of information out there about chocolate, but we’re going to skinny it down now so you can enjoy guiltlessly!

Dark chocolate vs milk chocolate defined

All chocolate begins as cocao beans, which are the fruit of the Theobroma tree. Once harvested, the beans are fermented and dried before going to a factory, where they are processed into chocolate.

Raw cocao (cocoa) powder, however, is not processed the same way. It’s cold-pressed instead of heated.

Unsweetened (baker’s) chocolate typically consists of 100% cocoa with no added sugar. Because of its bitter taste, most people don’t eat this by itself, but use it for baking.

Extra dark chocolate, also called “bittersweet” chocolate, contains 70% or more cocoa.

Dark chocolate, or semi-sweet chocolate contains at least 35% cocoa.

The most popular version, milk chocolate, consists of at least 10% cocoa solids and 12% milk solids (condensed milk, cream, dried milk, milk powder, etc.). You’ll usually find lots of sugar and other not-so-good ingredients milk chocolate as well.

White chocolate has zero cocoa, and is not really chocolate at all. It’s made from cocoa butter and milk solids, often with vanilla and sugar, and provides no nutritional value whatsoever.

Another ingredient you’ll often see in chocolate bars is emulsified soy lecithin. Soy Lecithin improves the texture of your food, and is considered safe by the FDA. But remember that most soy products contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs). So choose a chocolate bar with organic soy lecithin or without it at all, especially if you’re sensitive to soy.

Dark chocolate vs milk chocolate compared

When comparing the benefits of dark chocolate vs milk chocolate, dark chocolate wins, without a doubt.

Cocoa provides flavonoids, a type of antioxidant known for many health benefits. Flavonoids help:

  • lower blood pressure.
  • lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.
  • lower your risk for blood clots.
  • lower your risk for disease and cancer.
  • increase your cognitive function and mood.

The “darker” the chocolate, or higher the cocoa content, the more flavonoids the chocolate offers.

See, milk binds with the flavonoids from chocolate, making them unavailable for your body’s absorption. This is why milk chocolate offers less health benefits. And it’s why experts advise not to drink milk when eating dark chocolate!

Plus, most candy makers add ingredients such as sugar and other fillers to the milk chocolate, making it unhealthy all together!

You’ll also get greater amounts of these other nutrients from dark chocolate vs milk chocolate: copper, iron, magnesium, manganese and potassium.

The only downside to dark chocolate? Well, the cacao plant absorbs lead naturally occurring in our environment. And because dark chocolate boasts higher cocoa content, it’s more prone to lead contamination. Read more on this here and research/shop accordingly. Some of the brands have hopefully addressed the issue since cited.

When shopping for dark chocolate, choose a brand that uses only 70% or more cocoa, cocoa butter, cocoa liquor, cocoa powder and minimal vanilla or sugar. As always, organic, fair trade or non-GMO verified is better.

Avoid chocolate with added hydrogenated oils, coconut oil or palm oil.

True dark chocolate should not contain milk, but if you’re unsure and need to eat dairy free, buy a product labeled “dairy-free” like these.

Of course, eat it in moderation because whether dark chocolate vs milk chocolate, it’s high in calories and does contain caffeine.

Choose your chocolate mindfully and savor it as a treat – let a little square of it melt deliciously in your mouth, late afternoon or right after dinner. Enjoy!

 

*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. 

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Too much of a good thing could go wrong: drink the best water for your body

H2Oooooo, there’s so much conflicting information about this being the best water, or that being the best. What is the simple truth?

You know drinking plenty of water each day helps your body do everything it’s built to do. But did you realize your choice of water could be wrecking your hard work to be healthier?

Reviewing: Why the rave about drinking water?

best water drinking

If you’re still unsure why it’s so important to drink water, and mostly just water, let’s review. Water keeps your skin and hair healthy and the rest of your body, especially your digestive and immune systems, working properly. If you don’t drink enough water, you will get dehydrated, which can result in:

  • headaches
  • fatigue
  • weight gain
  • sicknesses of all sorts

Also, hunger pains may actually be a symptom of thirst. So the next time you feel hungry, drink a glass of water, wait 10 minutes and see if you still feel hungry before you reach for that snack.

Why should you care about drinking the best water?

If water prevents all the symptoms above, why does it matter which type of water you drink?

Water, even bottled water, may have several contaminants in it, including but not limited to:

  • aluminum
  • arsenic
  • atrazine
  • chloride
  • drugs
  • fluoride
  • lead

Atrazine is an herbicide that can increase estrogen levels. Imbalanced hormones can mess up your immune system, digestion, mental health and so much more. According to Dr. Axe, atrazine has been known to turn male frogs in to female frogs. Yikes, that’s scary!

Dr. Mercola  warns that if pregnant, you should not drink unfiltered tap water because the prescription and over-the-counter drugs that seep into rivers from landfills could harm your unborn child.

Fluoride can lower your immune function and increase cavities.

These contaminants can do damage now and in the long run, from hyperactivity and gastrointestinal disorders to cancer and Parkinson’s disease.

What’s the best water to drink?

Well, not bottled water.

Way too many brands of bottled water are just bottled tap water, unfiltered.

Plus, the chemicals that seep into your water from bisphenol-A (BPA) containing plastic bottles can mimic hormones and get your body out of whack. Double whammy, friends!

Distilled water may have been boiled so that it’s evaporated away from the dissolved minerals, which can possibly result in a concentration that is even worse for you. Use distilled water for cleaning but not for drinking regularly.

Purified water has gone through some purification process but may still contain harmful elements or may have been distilled, leaving it as an unhealthy concentration for drinking long-term.

Spring water comes from a natural source and goes through minimal filtration, so it may not be that safe. Also, it may be transported and bottled in a way that adds contaminates.

Beware that the label “100% pure” only means the water comes from a natural source. But it says nothing about how safe that source’s water is. Water from natural sources can be contaminated by people directly or from contaminated water flowing into it.

Alkaline water may help with detoxification in the short-term, but can decrease your body’s acidity to a point that harms your digestive flora in the long-term.

Vitamin waters – not good! Most of these and other sports drinks contain additives, sugar or artificial sweeteners (even worse), corn syrup, artificial colors and/or caffeine. Skip these, save money, just drink water and stay healthier.

So if drinking bottled water, do it in moderation. Purified or spring water will be best. Use ewg.org to determine which brand is safest.

Shew. Then, what does that leave as the best water to drink?

Consider these options for filtered tap water.

Granular carbon filters remove chemicals, herbicides and pesticides but due to the way these particles channel together, some of the water escapes the filtering process. Carbon block filters will prevent this channeling so that more water is truly filtered.

Ion exchange filters remove salts, soften the water and exchange ions in the water which essentially neutralize the otherwise harmful effects of it.

Reverse osmosis filters out contaminants including chlorine, fluoride, lead, detergents, pesticides, nitrates and sulfates.

Use one of these 3 options to filter your tap water to get the best drinking water possible. If this isn’t feasible for you right now, at least look for a faucet or in-line fridge filter that removes as many contaminants as possible – metals, sediment, chemicals including pesticide, chlorine and fluoride. Also, refer to ewg.org for recommendations.

Dr. Axe recommends getting your share of “live” (aka spring) water too. But do your research regularly to make sure that the water from it has not become contaminated! Check out findaspring.com for spring water near you.

How much water should you drink?

As a reminder, you should ideally drink at least half your weight in ounces of water. So if you weigh 130 pounds, aim for 65 ounces of water each day.

On hot days, or if you’re extra active, drink even more!

Teach the kiddos around you that their pee will be light yellow in color when they are drinking enough water. Brighter yellow is a big sign to drink more.

Summing it up

If you live near a spring with healthy, clean water, consider yourself special! Spend some time and money on a good filtration system for the water you drink regularly. Use stainless steel or glass instead of plastic. When you do need to grab bottled water, look for purified water (that hasn’t been distilled) or spring water that you trust.

Once you have your hands on the best water possible, be sure to drink lots of it. Consider it your go-to, your medicine and your life-line!

 

*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. 

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Eating healthy in the summer – is it insanity or a should-do?

Eating healthy in the summer may sound like an impossible feat. You tend to be on the go more, with less time to prepare meals. And if you have kids, they seem to be active and/or eating 24/7. So how can you make eating healthy in the summer more do-able and still have fun?

Why should you make healthy eating a priority during the summer?

Summer is supposed to be filled with vacation, activities and lots of fun foods, right? So why worry about eating healthy in the summer?

  1. Summer says …

eating healthy in the summer popsicles girlsDoes summer remind you of the ice cream truck, popsicles and snacks galore? With so many chances to eat the sweet stuff, summer actually gives you plenty of opportunities to be intentionally healthy, too. Begin by instilling boundaries and learning/teaching about healthier choices. But allow room for enjoying special treats on occasion.

If you have kids, ask them to help create the boundaries, explain why the boundaries are so important and stick to them. This will help give them a sense of ownership and responsibility.

Example: only 1 sweet per day (any candy, cookies, juice, soda = 1 sweet) but Saturday you may have 2.

When you establish these boundaries in the summer, you are showing just how important eating healthier truly is, year round!

  1. Increased activity = need for more fuel.

More than likely, you work your body harder during the summer. Make sure you’re nourishing your body and not just overloading it with carbs or whatever’s handy. Also, drink plenty of water – half your body weight in ounces each day on a regular day, so even more water on a hot day or if you’re extra active.

Examples: Replace usual snack bars, chips and cookies with fresh cut veggies. Add sweet potatoes (think hash browns), spinach or mushrooms to your breakfast. When you do buy chips, choose healthier versions made from apples, kale or beets.

  1. You have more time, actually.

Well, so you really have the same number of minutes each day, no matter what time of year, as pointed out by “Time Ninja” mom coach, Hannah Keely. But you do have more daylight during the summer, which means more time for grilling outdoors!

Plus if you’re a stay-at-home parent, you’ve got more time to experiment in the kitchen. Grab your kiddos and have fun trying a new fruit or vegetable each week, or make new recipes during a family “cooking lesson”.

Example: Grill enough meat and veggies for a couple of meals so you only need to quickly reheat them on nights when you have activities.

4) Adequate restorative sleep is crucial to your health, but may be most neglected during the summer. If you’re getting jacked up (as we like to say) on sugar before bed or naptime, you’re probably not getting quality sleep. Be mindful of which foods help versus hinder sleep.

Examples: Avoid caffeine within 8 hours of your bedtime. Also limit sugar before bedtime. If you’re eating a late dinner, consider offering a treat before dinner instead, as long as it doesn’t deter your kid from eating a healthy meal.

What are more surefire ways of eating healthy in the summer?

1) Refuse to buy foods you don’t want your kids to eat. They’ll get plenty of that stuff at camps and friends’ houses anyhow.

2) Choose water as your family’s go-to drink. Make sure it’s available (within a kid’s reach) at all times. Offer lemon, lime, berries or watermelon slices as an occasional twist. Skip the sports drinks, which usually contain sugar and other additives that do more harm than good.

3) Make veggies a part of every meal and let fruits be the snack. Fruits are digested better when eaten solo, 15 minutes apart from other foods anyhow.

4) Make your own snack bars or meals in muffin ahead of time and freeze them, so you have healthier options handy at all times. These might thaw just in time for lunch at that summer camp, too.

5) Embrace some new go-tos, such as hard-boiled eggs, celery with cashew butter or steamed veggies, even chilled. (Steamed veggies are easier to digest than raw ones.)

Summer is the perfect time to make healthier choices. You may feel busier, but if you slow down enough to be more intentional about it, you’re sending a message that will remain timeless.

Spring, fall, winter or summer – eating healthy and getting lots of sleep will help make you more successful in everything you do!

 

*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice.

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Cured vs uncured meat: Is this a don’t do it or die decision?

cured vs uncured meat

Is banning cured vs uncured meat from your diet a matter of life and death? Or more livelihood instead of health struggles?

Bacon makes everything better. So why the bad rep?

What is cured vs uncured meat?

Have you been put on high alert to review product labels carefully for cured vs uncured meat?

We cure meat to add flavor, de-funk it and potentially add shelf life (aka preserve it). Truth is, usually even “uncured” meat is cured. By USDA standards, the label “uncured” simply means that the supplier did not use chemicals, but only natural sources for the curing process.

In fact, curing meat blocks the growth of a bacteria responsible for botulinum toxin, the most poisonous chemical compound known, according to this article on paleoleap.com.

So, curing is a good thing, right?

Let’s compare cured vs uncured meats.

Cured meats:

  • typically contain salt and nitrates.
  • will be pinker in color due to the preservatives.
  • increase your risk for cancer due to the chemicals used.

Uncured meats:

  • cook and taste similar to cured meats.
  • are cured without added nitrites.
  • have a shorter shelf life.

Meat suppliers can cure meat (whether labeled “cured” or “uncured”) by:

  • smoking it
  • packing it with salt
  • a wet-cure method, in which water is injected under the skin with tiny needles, and then the meat is bounced around in a tumbler to distribute the water evenly throughout (paleoleap.com).
  • a dry-cure method (a better option).

Does cured vs uncured meat involve higher health risks?

First, when reading labels, treat nitrates and nitrites the same – not good – because your body convert nitrates into nitrites. Your stomach will then convert nitrites into nitrosamines, a carcinogen, or substance capable of causing cancer.

Meats labeled “uncured” are typically cured using natural sources, such as celery powder and sea salt, so they at least do not contain carcinogenic chemicals.

But celery powder is a still a nitrite.

In fact, several vegetables contain nitrites. But the vitamin C in those vegetables prevents the conversion of the nitrites into nitrosamines.

So if shopping cured vs uncured meats, opt for the uncured versions. At least you know it was not cured using chemicals.

Also look for “no nitrites or nitrates added” on the label. Read the ingredients and choose products with fewer ingredients, such as the meat (preferably grass-fed, organic), celery powder and sea salt.

Even better, buy your meats from a local butcher who cures the meats most organically. Ask for all the details and understand what you’re getting. Or venture in to curing your own meats.

What else do you need to know about processed meats?

Zooming back from the cured vs uncured meat category, we see a broader category of “processed” meats, which includes meats that are smoked, cured, salted (or cured naturally) and fermented. This includes bacon, ham, pastrami, salami, pepperoni, hot dogs and some sausages and hamburgers if they have been preserved with salt or chemical additives (mercola.com).

According to Dr. Josh Axe, all processed meats are bad.

And Dr. Axe considers red meat a notch less evil than processed meats. If you eat red meat, he recommends using high quality, grass-fed meat and cooking it for just a short time to maximize the amount of protein and iron you can get from it. This meat cooked more rare also provides a cancer fighting conjugated linoleic acid.

However, many restaurants won’t cook meat rare because the (lower quality) meat they use would not be safe to eat that way!

So, eat more chicken, indeed. Or turkey and wild-caught fish. And experiment with more of the healthy, life-changing foods.

If and when you do eat meat, eat and prepare it at home so you know what you’re getting. Eat organic, grass-fed versions in moderation. If you buy it from a supermarket, opt for the meat labeled “uncured”. And most importantly, if your body disagrees with it, don’t eat it at all or take a break to find out if you can reintroduce it later.

 

 

*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice.