Health

Spotlight on Herbs: Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera photo

Called the “plant of immortality” by the Ancient Egyptians, aloe vera has been used medicinally for centuries to heal the body, rejuvenate the spirit, and—according to the Egyptians, at least—add years to one’s life. Now, science is beginning to prove what ancient cultures have known all along—that aloe vera promotes health and beauty!

The Aloe Vera Plant

Aloe vera is a succulent plant that grows in hot, dry climates. Its thick, fleshy leaves are made of a clear, odorless tissue with over 75 nutrients (including 20 minerals, 12 vitamins, amino acids, and antioxidants). The gel from the leaves is what we usually associate with aloe vera products. Because of all the useful ways this plant can come to the rescue, many people enjoy growing aloe in their homes—it’s one of the easiest plants to maintain.

The Many Uses of Aloe Vera Gel

Aloe vera gel can be used externally and internally to treat a number of health and cosmetic issues. One of its most popular uses over time has been its powerful effect on healing burns; one study showed that applying the gel to burns could reduce healing time by about nine days compared to conventional treatments. Using aloe on sunburns in particular is quite popular.

However, did you know that aloe can be used for other skin issues, not just burns? Topical use of the gel may help with conditions like acne and psoriasis by soothing, moisturizing, and improving the appearance of dry, irritated skin.

Aloe vera is also completely safe for dental health, odd as it may seem. The gel fights the bacteria that cause cavities just as effectively as commercial toothpaste, and in fact, it may be a more tooth-friendly option for those with sensitive teeth.

Aloe vera is also available as a juice (though a variety of juices that are just full of sugar masquerade as “aloe juice”) and also as a supplement. Studies show that both uses of the plant relieve constipation, improve blood sugar levels in diabetics, and lower cholesterol levels. However, consuming aloe vera can cause severe cramping and diarrhea in some people, so it’s probably best not to use the gel this way unless you are being guided by a health practitioner.

Harvesting and Using the Gel

To harvest aloe vera gel directly from the plant:

  1. Choose a thick, unblemished leaf and use a sharp, clean knife or scissors to cut the leaf as close to its base as possible.
  2. Wash off the leaf, lay it flat, and then cut off its serrated edges.
  3. “Filet” the leaf down the middle into two equally thick halves.
  4. Use a butter knife to collect the clear gel from the leaf. Try to avoid collecting the lower layers of white gel and yellow liquid closest to the skin.

The gel can be used immediately, or you can store it in the refrigerator for later use. If you are looking to purchase aloe vera gel, check the packaging to make sure that the contents were prepared with very low heat. Cold pressing is another method that ensures that the gel remains packed with its nutrients and does not deteriorate over time.
Have fun and experiment with this versatile gel. Consider combining it with other healing and anti-inflammatory ingredients like honey, oats, tea tree oil, and coconut oil to make masks, serums, and scrubs. Your skin will thank you!

Issue No. 52

Could Your Nap Be Causing Health Problems?  

Nap photo

The words “to much sleep” or “dangerous nap” isn’t really something you would ever expect to say. Let’s be honest, the majority of people don’t get anywhere near enough sleep and naps, well, that’s a fairy tale in most people’s day to day lives. But in a new study set to be presented at the American College of Cardiology 65th Annual Scientific Session, naps and their length are taken into observation regarding overall human health. The analysis included data from 21 different observational studies that involving over 300,000 subjects, in an attempt to tie naps and daytime sleepiness to a greater prevalence of type-2 diabetes and heart disease.

The test subjects were all asked a series of questions in order to report their daytime sleepiness.  The answers to the series of questions were used to evaluate the participant’s history of metabolic syndrome. Obesity, and type-2 diabetes. The results of the study showed a connection between the amount of time spent napping and metabolic syndrome risk. It was shown that people who spent less than 40-minutes napping at a time, did not show any increased risk of metabolic syndrome. However, those who napped for 40-minutes or longer saw an increased risk in their chances of metabolic syndrome. Napping for 90-minutes showed an increased risk by as much as 50 percent, being overly tired during the day showed a similar 50 percent increase in risk.

Despite the close relationship between obesity, metabolic syndrome, diabetes; the study did not show an increased risk of obesity. All of the studies evidence showed a slight decrease in the risk factors of subjects who napped for less than 30-minutes a day. The National Sleep Foundation advocates that people’s naps should be between 20 and 30 minutes a day in order to improve alertness without remaining groggy afterwards. However, the research all showed that more studies still need to be conducted in order to fully understand the connection between taking lengthy naps and metabolic syndrome.

It is believed that future research may help physicians track patience nap habits in order to predict their other health problems, such as those related to metabolic syndrome. Though the data from the study was derived from more than 300,000 participants, it may not necessarily be a good representation of the world population as a whole.  All of the information regarding the study and physicians can be found through. The American College of Cardiology.

How to Know if Your Olive Oil is Fake   

Olive Oil photo

Worrying about counterfeit or fake olive oil doesn’t seem like it would be a real headline, but it is in fact a constant issue in the US. In fact, if you were to check your cabinet right now, chances are the olive oil that you purchased for its many health benefits isn’t pure olive oil. The majority of olive oil that is sold in the US is counterfeit, which completely contradicts the entire reason olive oil has become so popular. While we are all trying to do the healthiest thing possible for ourselves and our family’s, we are actually buying something that we have no clue what is.

Have you ever even tasted true, virgin olive oil? I can tell you from experience that I have and it tastes nothing like any of the different olive oils that I have spent a fortune on in the market. In fact, I was quite put off by the taste. Not because it was bad, but because it was unexpected. My run in with real olive oil left me puzzled and curious as to what was going on. It had never once occurred to me that the pricey bottle of extra virgin olive oil in my kitchen was most likely diluted vegetable oil or I don’t even want to know what else.

We as a nation have become all to accustomed to grabbing something in the grocery store without giving it a second thought. It’s in stores and convenient; so, why give it a second thought? That is no longer the case and olive oil is something we should all consider paying a lot more attention to; Here are some of the things to keep in mind and what to look when purchasing pure olive oil in the future.

The Scandal Behind Olive Oil

As it turns out the majority of olive oil in stores have been altered by manufacturers and is in fact genetically engineered oil that is toxic. The billion-dollar olive oil industry has been plagued with corruption for some time. While most labels and manufacturers would leave you to believe that most olive oil is made in Italy. The problem is that most olive oil in stores is neither made in Italy or extra virgin olive oil, as the bottle says. The believed scandal is that lesser quality olive oil made in Spain and North Africa is shipped to Italy and then cut with soybean oil or other vegetable oils. The oil is then bottled and labeled as extra virgin olive oil and shipped around the world to unsuspecting consumers.

Many of the alleged counterfeit olive oils are brands that most of us know and trust. Research and testing have shown that many top brands have been passing off inferior olive oil for an uncertain period of time. In May of 2015 an Italian consumer magazine made allegations of the fraud, the allegations were later investigated by authorities. Out of the 20 olive oil brands that were tested by the Italian customs agency, 9 of them turned out to be of lower quality oil. Many of the manufacturers who were involved in the scandal were that are largely known olive oil companies, such as Bertolli.

The controversy and chaos prompted the University of California to test 124 different samples, ranging from eight different major retail brands of extra virgin olive oil and more than 70% of those tested failed. Some of the failing brands included: Bertolli, Carapelli, Colavita, Star, Pompeian, Santa Sabina, Primadonna, Antica Badia, Sasso, and Coricellia. While some of the passing brands were California Olive Ranch, Cobram Estate, Lucini, Kirkland Organic, Lucero, and McEvory Ranch Organic.

Many of the above listed olive oils have since been added back to The North American Olive Oil Association quality seal list of authentic olive oils. Every crop and every season is different, that being said, this list should be checked seasonally for changes in authentic olive oil testing results. Though the data collected and the testing on each brand have been public knowledge for some time and appear to come from an entirely reputable source; the olive oil companies listed still claim that the claims and test results are fraudulent and maintain that their product is authentic.

The Different Types of Olive Oil

While there are many different varieties of olive oil, they tend to fall within only a few categories:

  • Extra Virgin Olive oil is the most commonly used and has significantly grown in popularity due to its medicinal and health properties. Extra virgin olive oil is produced by cold pressing and the process is completed without the use of chemicals during refinement.
  • Virgin Olive Oil is produced during a second pressing of riper olives. Virgin olive oil is still considered to be a good quality olive oil despite its lesser reputation.
  • Light olive oil or pure olive oil is a refined olive oil. Light olive oil is typically chemically processed and then mixed with lower quality oils.
  • Lampante is the lowest quality olive oil and in Italian translates to “lamp Oil”. Lampante oil is not intended for consumption. In many cases this olive oil is made from old or decaying olives. These olives contain free radicals and impurities that are not good for your health.

Just Because the Label Say’s, Doesn’t Make It So

When shopping for true olive oil there are any indicators that you should look for. Taking the time to fully observe your bottle of olive oil is extremely important, unless of course you like wasting your money on diluted olive oil, that Is most likely a form of vegetable or sunflower oil.

  • Bottling 

One of the key indicators of a true olive oil is right on the bottle. For instance, a plastic or clear bottle is never a good sign. Olive oil should be stored in a tinted glass bottle or a metal can to protect the olive oil from light. When olive oil is exposed to light It can easily go bad or rancid in a very quick period of time.

  • Look for Cold Pressed Olive Oil  

Cold pressed olive oil is produced using a minimal heat process. Overheating the oil can affect the flavor, longevity, and overall quality of the finished product. Every country has their own set standards for the cold pressing process and to be labeled cold pressed they must meet certain guidelines. Purchasing cold pressed olive oi isn’t just about the overall flavor, oil that isn’t cold pressed tends to be over heated during the extractions process. The introduction of high heat can compromise the nutritional value of the olive oil, which is typically why most people use it.

  • Check for A Date 

Examine your bottle of olive oil for a harvesting date. The harvest date is not the same as the best buy date, but regardless, neither of these dates should be more than 2 years in difference from the purchase date. Olive oil has a fragile taste that can begin to break down over time, not to mention the risk of it going rancid. A harvest date may be hard to find on a bottle and will most likely be in small to tiny text.

How to Tell if Your Olive Oil is Fake or Not

Approximately 70% of the olive oil sold around the world is fake; The problem is figuring out if your olive oil is real or counterfeit. There are many different methods that people believe can be used as a self-test for your olive oil. The most popular way to test olive oil is a simple taste test, but even the most mature palate can’t always tell the difference between real olive oil and fake. This is especially true when you don’t know for sure if you have ever even had real olive oil or if every bottle you have purchased has been a fraud. The taste test theory was debunked when even olive oil taste testing experts couldn’t depict the real olive oil from the altered ones.

The next olive oil test that many people depend on is the refrigeration method. The basis behind the refrigeration test is that olive oil is mainly made up of monounsaturated fats and should begin to solidify when refrigerated. If you place your olive oil in the refrigerator and it doesn’t become cloudy or solidify, it is fake. Since the uprising of fake olive oil distribution, this method has been found to be unreliable. The low grade olive oil that is being cut with low grade oil would still begin to thicken or get cloudy during refrigeration due to the small amount of olive oil that it does contain.

One other method is the oil lamp method. Extra virgin olive oil should be potent enough to keep an oil lamp burning without producing any smoke. This method has also been shown to be unreliable. Other oils are also capable of keeping a wick lit without the production of smoke, leaving this method to be just as unreliable as the others. The bottom line is that there is no fool proof way to check your own olive oil at home. The best way to guarantee that you are purchasing authentic olive oil is to look for an authentic seal of approval or purchase your olive oil from a farmer you know and trust.

Quality Seal of Approval

Look for a quality seal on the olive oil bottle. There are a number of quality seal programs that have been set into place to provide customers with an additional measurement of quality control. These programs are used to certify the quality of the olive oils tested. The oils go through a sensory testing and muss pass chemical testing. Some of the individual agencies have other forms of monitoring in place to insure their standards are met. Purchasing olive oil that has a seal of approval from any of following agencies is one of the best ways to verify that you are in fact purchasing high quality, authentic olive oil.

  • USDA Quality Monitoring Program is a voluntary seal program. It monitors products via random sight samples and chemical testing that includes fatty acid composition.
  • North American Olive Oil Association (NAOOA) certifies its oils by completing random testing of its member’s oils which are randomly purchased for testing. The NAOOA uses a stricter chemical testing gauge than the USDA quality monitoring program. The NAOOA program is also voluntary.
  • California Olive Oil Council test samples that have been submitted by producers. The olive oil is tested for quality and authenticity. They test olive oil through sensory procedures and chemical analysis, however, they test fewer chemical analyses than the NAOOA and the USDA.
  • Extra Virgin Alliance (EVA) is a non-profit trade association that has recently been launched. The Extra Virgin Alliance was launched to help restore consumer trust in the olive oil market. EVA’s seal program is world-wide and they receive their samples directly from store shelves.

Buying Local

Nearly all alterations of olive oil happen from the middle man, not the farmers. Farmers sell their olive oil in bulk to corporate buyers. The buyers are then responsible for branding, bottling, and distributing the olive oil. During this process the olive oil is often diluted and altered to make it go farther and bring in more money. Cutting out the corporation and buying from small family owned farms or co-ops can typically guarantee a good quality oil. Knowing your farmer and source means no middle man and likely no fraudulent alterations to your oil. During studies and testing, researchers have found that artisan and locally produced oils have always passed every test of authenticity.

Being able to purchase olive oil locally is not a luxury that everyone has. Unfortunately, local olive oil is not available in every area and that leaves consumers still searching for an alternative to purchasing olive oil from mass distributors. The best way to combat this issue is to research online farm direct distributors.

9 Surprising Hacks to Lose Weight  

Weight  loss photo

Weight loss is always a hot topic, I fact, I’m not sure if it has even not been a leading topic in conversations around the world. We have all seen the millions of ad’s and promotions promising you miracles overnight. Well, if you haven’t yet noticed, there is no such thing as a miracle weight loss supplement. There is no pill or perfect diet that will miraculously turn you into the person you have always wanted to be without committing to lifestyle changes. The good news is, there are so many natural ways to help boost your weight loss and give you the upper hand. These aren’t miracles in a bottle or even hidden secrets; instead, they are natural, healthy weight loss hacks to aid you along the way.

1  Cod Liver oil  

Among the many benefits of cod liver oil, is the high amount of vitamin D that it contains. The combination of the two brings many health benefits, including weight loss. Studies have shown that women with vitamin D deficiencies have a harder time losing weight and that the use of cod liver oil can not only work to increase your metabolism, it can also aid in turning fat into muscle. Cod liver oil is primarily taken for its high content of vitamin D and vitamin A, which lends itself exceptionally well to weight loss.

If you are trying to lose weight or considering starting a weight loss regimen, you should consult your physician about checking your vitamin D levels. This is especially true if you don’t spend very much time outdoors to soak in vitamin D from the sun. Cod liver oil gives you approximately 1,360 IU per tablespoon of a recommended 2,000 IU per day. The one concern with cod liver oil is the high amount of vitamin A. While it is beneficial to our health, it is also naturally produced by the body, where vitamin D is not. So, while you are taking a vitamin A supplement, your body is also mass producing the nutrient on its own; leaving the risk of too much vitamin A consumption.

od liver oil also contains a healthy dose of omega-3 fatty acids, which are equally beneficial for weight loss. While cod liver oil does not contain as much fatty acid as other fish oil, it can still prove to be a beneficial dose to aid in weight loss and obesity. Research and studies involving cod liver oil and weight loss are extremely limited; the majority of the merit given to cod liver oil for weight loss is focused around what we know about vitamin D and weight loss and the relationship between omega-3 fatty acids and weight loss.

2  Resistance Training   

Resistance training is similar to weight training and despite its name is not resistance to exercise, rather, training your body with external resistance. Resistance training can be done with any objects that cause the muscles to contract, such as, weights. Resistance training can be used to build muscle strength, increase muscle size, and build aerobic endurance. It is based on the principle that your body muscles will work to overcome a resisting force when needed. As you continue resistance training, your muscles will become stronger and larger. Some examples of resistance training are:

  • Exercising with free weights, such as, dumbbells and barbells.
  • Exercising with resistance bands that provide resistance when they are stretched, similar to a giant rubber band.
  • Exercises that use your own body weight to create resistance, such as, squats, push-ups, and chin ups.
  • Working out with weight machines or weight benches that have adjustable weights or hydraulics.

Resistance training is not only used as a weight loss aid, it also has many other physical and health benefits to your overall health. The attributes include weight loss, improved mobility and balance, increased bone density and strength, pain management, muscle strength and tone, flexibility, and balance. Resistance training can be used as a complete body workout routine that can benefit every problem are, as well as your overall physical and mental health.

Typically, a beginner routine for resistance training will contain 8-10 exercises that are used to work the major muscle of the body and are to be completed 2-3 times a week. The goal is to gradually increase the number of sets for each exercise. Once you have gained the muscle resistance to complete approximately 12 reps of a particular exercise, you then begin to progress further by continuing to safely and slowly introduce more resistance to your workout.  In order to get the most benefits from resistance training you will need to progressively increase the intensity of your work out. Some of the key factors to consider when contemplating beginning a resistance training routine are:

  • What program you will use. If you are new to resistance training, you should consider speaking with a trainer at your gym or someone knowledgeable in resistance training. If you don’t know what you are doing it could be easy to overdo it and cause damage to your muscles.
  • It is very important to remember that you need to rest between sets. You also need to allow time for your muscles to recover between workouts. Typically, a 48-hour period is preferred between workouts to allow for muscle repair and recovery before working the same muscle group again.
  • Warming up before resistance training is just as important as the workout itself. A light aerobic exercise, such as, walking along with stretches will do the trick. Just be sure to do a dynamic stretching in a full range of motion to prep your muscles for the resistance training to come.

3  Oolong Tea   

Oolong tea has essentially been dubbed the combination tea, with differing benefits found in both green tea and black tea, it is the super tea of health benefits. Oolong tea is believed to activate enzymes in the body that enhance the functions of fat cells, a daily consumption is said to fight obesity. It is still unknown whether or not the benefits of oolong tea and weight loss come from the caffeine content or from polyphenols. Regardless of which is more beneficial for weight loss, studies in mice have shown a decline in overall body weight and fat index from being given polyphenols, similar to those found in oolong tea. Leaving speculators to lean more towards polyphenols as the most beneficial weight loss component of oolong tea.

Though there are a limited number of studies surrounding oolong tea and its weight loss properties, one study in particular showed beneficial weight loss results for men who consumed oolong tea daily and determined oolong tea to be a beneficial way to increase metabolic rate and fat oxidation in men.  It is believed that consuming oolong tea daily can be beneficial for weight loss in both men and women.

 4  Vitamin D3   

As mentioned previously regarding cod liver oil, a vitamin D deficiency can be quite the culprit working against weight loss, especially in women. Vitamin D3 is not naturally created in the body, which leads to many people unknowingly having a vitamin D3 deficiency. Vitamin D3 is synthesized when your body is exposed to ultraviolet light, aka the sun. If you spend more than a generous amount of time outdoors or in the tanning bed, you probably have nothing to worry about. But if you are trying to lose weight and aren’t known for spending any more time outdoors than you have to, you should most definitely have your doctor check for a deficiency to be safe.

A vitamin D3 shortage could be slowing down your weight loss goals and causing you to lose less weight than someone with a healthy amount of vitamin D3 would. The recommended intake of vitamin D3 per day is 200 IU, but it is recommended that when taking a supplement that you take in at least 5,000 IU a day. However, spending a mere 20-30 minutes out in the sunlight a day can produce around 10,000 IU of vitamin D3. The best way to find out how much vitamin D3 you need is to consult a physician based on the results of a vitamin D test.

5  Cinnamon  

Many studies have been performed regarding cinnamon and its many effects on the human body. Overall the results from these studies have varied. Some believe that the use of cinnamon can be extremely beneficial in weight loss and controlling blood sugar, as well as insulin the body. While other results suggest that there isn’t enough of a change in these factors to count cinnamon as a good weight loss suppliant. This being said, there have been more studies showing results from cinnamon than un-beneficial results.

The way that cinnamon is believed to effect weight loss is through reduction in post-meal glucose hyperglycemia, a condition where there is an excess of glucose released after a meal. Studies have shown that cinnamon extract can reduce the amount of glucose released. Though the majority of the studies have been based around cinnamon, weight loss, and type 2 diabetes; it is believed that even those without type 2 diabetes can benefit from cinnamons ability to block excess glucose and has been especially effective in aiding those with metabolic syndrome.

Cinnamon works to regulate blood sugar and increase insulin levels, thus, increasing the metabolism of glucose. High blood sugar levels can lead to an increased amount of fat being stored in the body and cinnamon can help to prevent this excess storage. It can also have an effect on how your body metabolizes sugar, preventing it from being turned into fat. Cinnamon can easily be incorporated into your daily diet through tea, smoothies, or anything else you can easily fit the flavor of cinnamon into. Since cinnamon is not a scientifically proven treatment, more of a homeopathic one, there is no set daily dosage. However, some recommendations believe that 1 tsp. per day is a sufficient amount. The amount used in studies involving cinnamon have ranged anywhere from 1tsp to 6tsp per day.

 6  Protein For Breakfast   

We all know that eating breakfast is a key part of living a healthy, well balanced life. But for many of us breakfast consists of something sugary, greasy, or straight out of a vending machine. It is pretty safe to say that this isn’t what the experts are talking about when they say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Eating a well-balanced diet is extremely important and this starts with a healthy and nutritious breakfast. In fact, if you speak to most people who are very committed to a healthy lifestyle or workout regimen, the majority will probably tell you that they eat more at breakfast than at any other meal.

Breakfast is brain food and the kick start that sets the tone for the entire day; but it isn’t just important to eat breakfast when you are trying to lose weight. It is also important for you to eat a healthy serving of protein for breakfast. Protein is packed full of amino acids that are the building blocks for each and every living cell in our bodies. Eating protein produces insulin and the hormone glucagon that stimulates the body to burn fat for energy. Eating a healthy protein packed breakfast will allow you to stay full longer, eat less during the day, provide your body with the energy it needs to burn during the day, and is said to be a key component in living a healthy lifestyle.

7  Don’t Overdo Nuts   

In the attempt to eat healthier, you may be bombarded by nut based everything. Everywhere you look you have probably seen nut butters of every kind, nut milk’s, nut based grain replacements, and so much more. But the truth of the matter is, even though nuts are good for you, they need to be eaten in moderation. Nuts are high in phytic acid, which causes decreased iron absorption along with a decrease in other nutrients. Phytic acid is a form of phosphorus found in many plans that cannot be digested by humans. It binds minerals, especially iron, in food and prevents our bodies from absorbing it. So, while nuts are good for you based on their nutrient profile, we may not be absorbing as many of the benefits as we believe we are. Phytic acid also interferes with digestion by affecting enzymes that we need in order to digest food.

This doesn’t necessarily rule out all previous belief that nuts are good for you and work as a weight loss aid; it just means that you need to consume nuts in more moderation than some diets suggest. Nuts are still a great healthy snack that is far better for you than many other things that you may be trying to avoid. Just keep in mind that you aren’t benefiting from all of the nutrients on the label.

8  Mineral Water 

While many of us have always believed that water was water; mineral water offers more nutrients than standard everyday tap water. Mineral water can be purchased pretty much anywhere that you would buy bottled water and can easily be identified by its label. Only water containing more than 250 parts per million of total dissolved solids may be labeled as mineral water. Mineral water is bottled from natural mineral springs, once known as healing waters. Manufacturers are not allowed to add any minerals to bottled mineral water and every bottle must be labeled for its mineral content.

When trying to lose weight, it is essential to nourish your body with the proper vitamins and minerals that it needs. Mineral water can provide a much needed nutritional boost, containing magnesium, sulfate, calcium, silica, and sodium. Mineral water also contains bicarbonate, which will help to maintain your body’s pH balance. Mineral water is suggested to be most beneficial during a weight loss journey when consumed during and after your workout regimen to keep you hydrated and replenish everything you sweated out during your workout.

9  Sleep 

Sleep deprivation is alive and well; if you haven’t experienced it, consider yourself lucky. The majority of people don’t get enough sleep and are rushing around with sleepy brain trying to make informed and healthy decisions that they aren’t really alert enough to accomplish. Not getting enough sleep can lead to a snowball effect on your day. First you wake up tire or late and skip your morning workout. Then, you replace breakfast with your favorite fatty, sugar filled x-large latte on the way to work. By the end of the day you have given up on healthy options all together and pick up takeout on the way home. See how this could have a negative effect on weight loss. Studies have shown that a lack of sleep leads to bad decisions, especially bad food choices such as, late night snacks and over eating.

A lack of sleeps connection to weight loss isn’t just about superficial comfort that we cave to during periods of exhaustion. A lack of sleep affects your hormones, ghrelin and leptin, the sleep hormones. The hormone ghrelin signals your brain that it is time for you to eat and when you are sleep deprived your body created more of the hormone than you need. The other sleep hormone, leptin, cues your brain that you are full. When you are short on sleep, leptin levels decrease, which in turn increases how much you are consuming. To top off the sleepy hormone imbalance comes cortisol, a stress hormone that tells your body to conserve energy, causing you to store more fat.

A lack of sleep and reduce the overall amount of weight that you are losing, not to mention it will leave you struggling to stick to any diet or weight loss plan. A good night’s sleep is a must for anyone, but especially so if you are trying to lose weight. You can’t look healthy and fit on the inside, if you aren’t taking the necessary steps to stay healthy on the inside.

The 7 essential steps to start Paleo 

Paleo  photo
Photo by beau.raines

So, you have decided you want to try your hand at the paleo lifestyle, but you don’t know where to start? Well, it isn’t nearly as complicated as it may seem; contrary to popular belief, going paleo doesn’t mean that you have to be a miserable hermit who only eats meat and plant based foods. Truthfully, with the proper amount of research, some creative recipes, and a little trial and error in the kitchen, you don’t really have to give up your favorite foods; you just need to re-invent them a little. Take a look at these 7 essential steps to switching to a paleo lifestyle.

1  Throw Out Unhealthy Food 

The first step you need to take to start your paleo lifestyle is cleaning out your pantry! There is no need to keep temptation lingering around the house, office, car, etc. Grab a trash bag and a box for the things you can donate to the local food pantry. The majority of things in your pantry may be pretty easily spotted as non-paleo. But, for the rest, you need to read labels! I cannot express this enough. Reading labels will become your best friend and before long, you will have a great idea of what things you can and cannot have with a simple glance.

Remember to keep in mind the simple paleo rules:

  • Avoid grains, such as, flour, bread, pasta, cookies, cakes, bagels, muffins, tortillas, chips, rice, quinoa, rye, oats, and buckwheat.
  • Avoid dairy including milk, cheese, butter, yogurt, cottage cheese, sour cream, and whey protein powders.
  • Avoid beans and legumes, meaning no soy in any form. This includes black beans, lentils, pinto beans, red beans, peanuts white beans, and garbanzo beans.
  • Avoid most oils, especially those labeled vegetable oil. Instead, use coconut oil or organic olive oil.
  • Avoid refined sugar and artificial sweeteners. This includes white sugar, corn syrup, malt syrup, Splenda, equal, and pretty much any other sweetener that is not 100% natural.

This list pretty much means you will be throwing out the majority of items in your pantry. If it is pre-packaged or pre-made, it is most likely not on the recommended eating list for a paleo lifestyle. Just be sure to check all of the labels just in case, many of the foods you have been eating as a healthy snack or healthy alternative, may not be so healthy once you glance at the label.

 2  Buy High Quality Ingredients 

You wouldn’t believe how important it is to buy high quality ingredients. This doesn’t just mean splurging on the “good olive oil” on occasion. Just like checking your labels to clean out your pantry, you will need to get in a good habit of checking labels on everything you buy. Eventually this will get easier and you will have a routine of what you should and shouldn’t be buying. Shopping for high quality ingredients isn’t about which item has the highest price tag or is imported. High quality in the paleo world means shopping for ingredients that are natural, have gone through minimal processing, organic, local, and raw.

  • Source out as many local ingredients as you can, such as, high quality meats and seafood, organic produce, organic honey, etc.
  • Take a look in the health food department of your local grocery store and seek out natural organic ingredients.
  • Shop online for the items you can’t find locally; just be sure to use a trusted source of reliable high quality ingredients.

 3  Plan Meals  

Once you switch to a paleo lifestyle, a quick trip into town for take-out isn’t really going to fit the bill anymore. The truth is, you will be spending a lot of time eating at home. The best way to beat the week night rush is to plant ahead. This goes for breakfast, lunch, and snacks to. Convenience food is not your friend! There is nothing about rushing into a convenience store, vending machine, or drive through that will meet your paleo lifestyle needs. Planning ahead will save you from a huge mid-week headache.

Start out by cooking what you know. Eating paleo is as much about eating healthy as it is to getting back to simplicity. The simplest meal can be so very satisfying when it is made with fresh, well-sourced, and quality ingredients. Meal planning is a relatively common practice with so many people living hectic lives. Start with a chart, calendar, list, or whatever works best for you. Then get to sourcing out ideas! Blogs, Pinterest, and recipe books can all give you some great ideas and recipes to make paleo cooking your own.

No matter how you choose to plan out your paleo meals, it won’t take long for you to get the hang of it and it will come as natural as picking up that take out menu.

4  Have Snacks Ready 

While it isn’t a requirement of your paleo diet to snack, most of us start searching for a snack at some point or another during the day or late evening. Obviously, most of the go to snacks we have all come accustomed to grabbing from the pantry are off limits. But, that doesn’t mean you have to give up your daily snack all together; you just need to switch it out for a healthier, paleo option. Try some of these simple switches:

  • If you normally go for a sweet snack, try going with a naturally sweet fruit. While fruits are still high in sugar, they are natural sugars that are good in moderation. Eating a hand full of fruit is the simplest switch, but possibly boring to some. With a little effort there are other options, such as, homemade fruit leather, pure dark chocolate, homemade fruit popsicles, etc.
  • For a savory snack substitute, some popular options are nuts, baked zucchini chips, homemade trail mix, hardboiled egg, homemade beef jerky, etc.
  • Some other simple options are the old faithful ones like baby carrots, cucumber slices, grape tomatoes, and other fresh produce picks.

You should also be prepared to pack snacks. When you pack your lunch for work, throw in a small snack, just in case. You never know when hunger will hit, especially early on when you are adjusting to the paleo lifestyle. The last thing you want is the 4 o’clock temptations of the snack machine at work.

5  Go for simple  

Making an entire lifestyle change most likely sounds like anything but easy. But keeping things simple will make the process go so much smoother. Overthinking is not your friend; do the research that you need to, come up with a plan, and do your best to stick to it. Switching the things that you love out for paleo versions is just as much a part of keeping things simple as anything else. Start out by making the simplest changes that you can, without overwhelming yourself.

To begin with, you may find it easier to gradually introduce paleo into your life. For instance, cook a few paleo dinners a week instead of making the huge switch all at once. Gradually change out more and more meals until you are comfortable enough to clean out your pantry and switch over every meal to paleo. Keep things simple and ease yourself into your new paleo lifestyle.

When switching to a completely new lifestyle, stress and anxiety can be key factors in the make it or break it factor. Don’t push yourself too hard and remember that taking your time will best suit your dietary needs in the long run. Keeping things simple also applies to new recipes. Fresh high quality ingredients can do the work for you with simple and easy applications that are sure to prove that simple can be amazing.

 6  Make meals in batches (leftovers are your best friend)  

Any kind of cooking for only one or two people is, well, daunting. But it can also be a huge advantage. Think of it this way; the more you cook on Monday night, the more leftovers you have to eat during the week. You may be thinking, yuck! The same meal all week long, but different variations on one simple dish can make life easier in the long run. Plus, lunches and snacks can all be easily accommodated with leftovers.

There are several options when it comes to cooking meals in batches, whether you are looking to feed a house full or make meals last longer, all of these options can easily be adjusted to suit your needs.

  • A slow cooker can be your best friend! Slow cooker meals are an easy fix and with the proper ingredients, can make your week easier. Meat is the easiest thing to cook to last. For example, cook a large cut of meat with simple seasonings that can be used for many different things.
  • Grilling is another great option! If you are already planning to fire up the grill on the weekend, then what is the harm in throwing on a few extra cuts of meat that you can heat up or use in salads during the week.
  • Meat isn’t the only make ahead option; vegetables can last just as well. Try cooking your favorite side dish in bulk and using it in as many ways as you can for a few days. You can also prep uncooked veggies in advance to make weeknight cooking easy. Even salads can be prepped and stored in individual containers for easy grab and go access.
  • Another extremely popular option is to pre-assemble meals and freeze them. Some people spend their entire Sunday prepping and cooking in bulk to last an entire week.

7 Do It With A Friend or Family Member 

Doing things in pairs can help ease the stress and anxiety of going it alone and making such a huge life transition. If you are attempting to make a lifestyle change with a house full of not so eager participants, buddying up with someone can help. Even if you can’t find anyone in your house to convince of your lifestyle endeavor, you can always go with someone outside of your household or convince a friend to go it with you. It isn’t just about having someone to say is going paleo with you, it is about having a support system. Lean on one another when things are feeling a little tough or buddy up to create the perfect paleo meal plan to ease the transition.

If you have tried without much luck to find a paleo lifestyle partner, you could also seek out a paleo support group. You won’t have as much of the one on one experience that you could have with a family member or friend; but it would give you the companionship that you could use to get you through the tough times, you know, when the sugary snacks are calling your name. Regardless of whether you need someone to swap recipes with, meal plan with, or just have a paleo centered conversation; having a partner will ease the pressure and anxiety, thus making it a much smoother transition into your new paleo lifestyle.

Should You Eat Raw, Local Milk? 

milk photoYou may have never given milk much thought, we are trained from a young age that milk is good for you. But have you heard the many recent controversies of raw milk? Raw milk is as pure and natural as it can get. Rather than being sent to a plant to be pasteurized and monitored by the FDA, then off to a bottling factory; Raw milk is simply straight from the cow, to a bottle and to the refrigerator. Raw milk last for approximately 7-10 days, which is around the same time period as the milk we purchase from the grocer last once we get it. The difference is that the pasteurized milk we purchase last longer than that, it just uses up a great deal of its 2-3-week shelf life being processed, bottled and shipped all over the country.  With fresh raw and local milk, there is no need for a longer shelf life with no travel time needed.

Have you ever been on the freeway and seen a truck with a huge tank containing milk? That’s right, our milk that we are consuming is traveling around in a truck that could easily be mistaken for an oil tanker. Think about that the next time you pour yourself a glass of commercial milk. In recent years, local raw milk has become a hot topic, that up until then was only for the bravest of souls. But now, you can even find a black market of raw milk “dealers”. Raw milk still remains illegal or limited in the majority of the country, making it quite hard to obtain for most people, especially if you don’t live in a rural area. But what is the big fuss over milk? Is one that much better for you than the other?

Pasteurization Kills Healthy Bacteria

When milk is exposed to the “Pasteurization” process, the milk is heated to kill all bacteria and pathogens, including the beneficial bacteria, enzymes, and raw fat.  According to, Farm Aid, raw milk has been accredited with reducing asthma, allergies, digestive health, and other health benefits to those who consume it through childhood. These benefits are seemingly due to the lack of pasteurization and the consumption of good bacteria and pathogens. Though, pasteurization is in place to help keep people safe by making food safer for consumption, many people are very much against the pasteurization process. Milk isn’t the only healthy food that loses a lot of its good for you properties before hitting the store shelves, honey for instance, is always best purchased locally and raw. But it doesn’t have the same risk factors as raw local milk.

The Risk of Drinking Un-Pasteurized Milk

While seeking out the healthiest, most unprocessed foods has become growingly popular; most people won’t even consider kicking pasteurized milk. Instead, people are purchasing and consuming organic milk. Un-pasteurized milk has its risk, that’s why we have a pasteurization process to begin with. While the benefits of some of the good bacteria and pathogens could be immense, you also need to take into account that without pasteurization, you also have the bad bacteria and pathogens. The most common being E. coli and Listeria, which are killed during pasteurization. Food borne illness is nothing new, but the big question is, is raw milk too risky?

According to the, CDC, data studied the number of outbreaks from 2007 to 2013 showed that there were 81 outbreaks due to the consumption of raw milk. The outbreaks resulted in 979 illnesses and of those 73 people were hospitalized due to their illness. The majority of the illnesses were caused by salmonella. Out of the 78 outbreaks from raw milk, 59% of the people sickened were children under the age of 5. Young children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems are far more likely to become sick from consuming raw milk. Their immune systems typically aren’t strong enough to fight the bacteria and pathogens found in raw milk.

Should You Be Eating Raw, Local Milk?

The decision to leave pasteurized milk behind you and set out on the hunt for local raw milk shouldn’t be taken lightly. Generally speaking, yes, it is just milk, but there is risk involved that should all be considered. If you are considering making the switch, be sure to do your research. The majority of contamination in raw milk comes from the farm and the milking process. Something as simple as a handler’s hands or equipment not being properly cleaned before milking could mean an outbreak of illness caused by the milk produced.

If you are choosing to make the switch you should always be sure you know where the milk is coming from. Seek out high quality milk from grass fed cows and be sure that the environment is sanitary. In some states, where raw milk is legal, there are procedures in place; farms that have passed inspection, certification and testing may sell their raw milk. In many areas it is still illegal for them to even advertise the sale of raw milk, while in others you can occasionally find it in limited grocery stores.

As with everything, the choice to switch to raw local milk will involve weighing out the risk. While it is true that consuming raw milk can be risky, if you turn on the news today, chances are you we see something about contaminated food making people sick; and chances are whatever food that is, is from a factory where it has been processed or even pasteurized. Some would say that you have just as much of a risk getting ill from pasteurized milk as you do getting sick from local raw milk. The reality is, it is a gable regardless of the choice you make. Both could just as easily make you sick. Choosing raw local milk could prove to be a beneficial part of you and your family’s diet. It could just as easily turn out to be too extreme for you. Choosing to make an informed and well researched decision will help guide you to the answer of whether you should be eating raw, local milk.

Do Raspberry Ketones Really Help With Weight Loss?  

Raspberry ketones are a chemical found in raspberry’s and other fruits such as kiwi, grapes, peaches, and apples. Raspberry ketones can also be found in some vegetables and tree bark. Raspberry ketones are most popularly used as an ingredient in cosmetics, a skin treatment for hair loss, and as a flavoring agent in foods. It has gained recent popularity as a weight loss supplement after being mentioned on a popular television show. After its national debut, people started seeking out raspberry ketones in any form of supplement they could find available. Raspberry ketone supplements are most often not made or produced from raspberry’s. Instead, raspberry ketones found in supplements are synthetically made.  The question is, do raspberry ketones really help with weight loss?

What do Raspberry Ketone Supplements Claim They Do for Weight Loss?

The majority of raspberry ketone supplements have the same general claims for weight loss. The supplements are supposed to do things, such as, burning stored fat, decreasing blood sugar, increasing adiponectin levels, boost metabolism, and appetite suppressing. Each different supplement has a different set of claims and uses, depending on the brand and dosage.

The Results

Studies have shown some results from raspberry ketones in lab rats and mice, but in high dosages. Test results for raspberry ketones on humans are limited and the few studies have had varying results.  According to, Authority Nutrition, humans would have to consume around 100 times the recommended dosage to see similar results to rats and mice used in studies. Even then, the test subjects did not lose weight, they simply gained 5% less weight when gorging on an unhealthy overfill of food.

Should You Try Raspberry Ketones for Weight loss?

The truth of the matter is, no one has any evidence that raspberry ketone supplement’s yield any weight loss results. It is believed that most weight loss results from raspberry ketones are more than likely from other additives in the supplements’. Most supplements contain not only raspberry ketones but also caffeine, ginger, and many other additives that are believed to help with weight loss. While the FDA has approved raspberry ketone supplement “Generally Safe”, there isn’t very much research backing their safeness or effectiveness. There is also a great deal of concern surrounding the fact that some raspberry ketone supplements are advertised as “natural”, when in fact they are artificial simulations of authentic raspberry ketones. This is because real raspberry ketones are both extremely hard to harvest and expensive.

Photo by Macnetize.com

9 Small Things You Can Do to Lose Weight 

Setting out on a weight loss journey can be far more intimidating that it truly should be. Signing up for a year-long gym membership filled with fees or a diet plan that purely takes the joy out of your day to day life, aren’t your only options. If you are just fed up with your weight or even just looking to maintain a healthy weight; the small things can always make a difference. It may not seem like something as simple as taking the stairs can make a difference, but remember that all of the small things add up over time! The most important part to benefiting from small changes in your day to day life is to stay committed and consistent. Opting to take the stairs once a month is likely to only give your ego a boost for that one day rather than effect your overall fitness level. Make a plan and stick to it; Start out with just one little change at a time, when it has become natural to you, add in another small step. Overtime, the benefits of your simple changes will start to show through to a healthier you!

stairs photo

1  Take the stairs 

Opting to take the stairs instead of the elevator is a no brainer and is more than likely the easiest workout to commit to. Taking the stairs is a free workout with no equipment needed and is a great way to build up leg muscle. Even if you have a gym membership, climbing the stairs daily can help the transition to harder leg workouts at the gym a breeze.

2  Avoid Going Out to Eat 

Going out to eat and picking up take out have become a normal occurrence in the hectic day to day lives of most people. But the reality is, it just isn’t very good for you. Even if you are going somewhere with the intention of ordering something healthy, temptation will be everywhere. Cooking a healthy dinner at home will give you control over everything you put into the dish and the portion size that hits your plate.

3  Workout During Commercials  

If you are feeling the guilt from curling up on the sofa to watch your favorite reality show rather than hitting the gym; customizing a workout that you can do during commercial breaks is a great idea. It gives you time to indulge in TV and do it guilt free. The average TV show has approximately 15 minutes’ worth of commercial breaks; if you watch two shows a day and workout during all of the commercials, that’s your 30 minute recommended daily workout!

4  Sit On a Ball at Work 

You may be thinking “but I work in a respectful office” on this one, but that is exactly the point! Trade out your office chair for a yoga ball. Sitting on a yoga ball at work all day can give you the ultimate multitasking ability! Trading out your chair for a ball will allow you to burn up-to 350 calories a day, just from doing the same thing you have been doing everyday already! It is also really good for your spine alignment and posture.

5  Use a Pedometer 

A pedometer is a tiny device that counts how many steps you make a day. You can buy one to clip to your waste, a bracelet, and even download them to your smart phone. Using a pedometer is about more than just counting your steps, it is about motivating yourself. Set a goal for how many steps you think you can walk in a day, start out slow and then increase it. At the end of the day take note of how many steps you took. Not only will you be burning calories, but you will also give you a sense of accomplishment when you reach your goal and continuous motivation.

6  Avoid Drinking Carbohydrates  

Of a 2,000 calories recommended daily diet, how many of those calories do you think you are drinking? If you, like so many others, love coffee, soda, tea, and alcohol, then you probably consume at least one or more of these a day. If you truly only indulge once a day, than you are probably on the right track; but as for the rest of us, we are wasting our allotted calories and carbohydrates on empty calories and carbs. If you feel like this could be you, start out slow by keeping a diary of what you ate and drank all day. Continue to do so and write down the calories and carbohydrates for everything you can. At the end of a day, calculate how many empty calories you drank vs. from healthy foods you ate. Once you see how many calories and carbohydrates you are drinking in rather than eating a healthy snack with vitamins and protein, you will start to hold yourself accountable and be more aware of what you are putting into your body!

7 Avoid Sugary Foods 

This may seem like the hardest thing ever, I mean let’s face it, sugar Is in nearly everything! Avoiding sugar has more benefits than just weight loss and is a change you should consider making, even if you aren’t looking for a dramatic weight loss. Sugar contributes to obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and the list just keeps going. Even if you start out small, like substituting the sugar in your coffee or tea for honey, will make a difference in the long run!

8  Get Plenty of Sleep 

Research has shown that when you are short on sleep or staying up late at night, there is an increase in how much snacking and overeating you do. Your brain needs sleep to and when you are short on it, you start to crave junk and overeat. Not to mention, if you are getting less than the recommended amount of sleep, you are less likely to work out the following day. Sleep is vital for energy and a healthy lifestyle.

9  Prepare Snacks

Snacking can easily be a downfall, if snacks are not prepared ahead of time. It’s easier to grab a bag of chips than to make a healthy snack.. the solution? Prepare those snacks ahead of time. Cutting up vegetables like bell peppers (in a variety of colors), wash off fruit or box up those leftovers for the next time your stomach grumbles.

How to Set up A Space for Meditation 

meditation photo
Photo by Moyan_Brenn

 

When you close your eyes and envision the perfect meditation space you may be instantly taken to a Zen garden filled with statues and serenity. Chances are, this serene place doesn’t exist in your hectic daily life, nor does it fit into your “I don’t have a million dollars for a Zen Garden” Budget. But that’s okay! Creating your own meditation space doesn’t have to be inconvenient or expensive. You simply need a quiet, somewhat serene environment that will allow you to focus and breath, even if only for a short time a day.

Choose a Space

The first thing that you will need to decide, is where you intend to build your meditation space. Ideally, in a perfect world, a garden or spare room than can be dedicated solely to meditation would be wonderful. But if this isn’t an option for you, don’t fret. Seek out a space in your home that you can steel a corner from or that is peaceful enough that you could easily sneak away to, without interruption.

If you are looking to create a meditation space at work, chances are your limited to the confines of your office. Creating a meditation space at work is still an option, even if you are limited on space. Choose an area on the floor, maybe by a window, where you will be secluded from the stresses of work. Little things, such as, clearing away your work, or laptop before you begin meditation may help you to clear away the stress of the work day and get it off your mind while you are meditating.

Decorate Your Space

Find the line between decorating a space and simplicity; while you need some things to make it feel like your surreal space, clutter and excess stuff are not likely to provide you with positive energy and a relaxing area. Instead of opting for many things, choose a few small things that complete the space for you.

  • You will need somewhere to sit, whether it be pillows, a yoga mat, omeditation photor a blanket, designate it for meditation. If you are creating a space at home, you may opt for cushions in soothing colors, while at work, it may prove easier to unroll a yoga mat and remove it when you are done.
  • Create an altar that can hold a few simple things that are symbolic to you. Anything that is of emotional or spiritual value to you can be placed on your altar. Consider a small statue or a bamboo plant.
  • If you are creating your space within another space, purchasing a small chest, storage ottoman or just a pretty box to place your things in when you are finished could be a good option. For instance, in your office, you could store your yoga mat and altar items for easy access. When you are ready to meditate pull them out. You could also use the box or chest as your altar; drape a pretty scarf or piece of fabric across the top and use it as the altar table.
  • If you are looking for more privacy, consider purchasing a privacy screen. Privacy screens are typically lightweight and easy to move around if you need to put it away or against a wall when you aren’t meditating and will give you the privacy you desire when you are meditating.

Photo by Moyan_Brenn

Think These Oils Are Healthy? Think Again! 

Choosing a healthy cooking oil can be a hard decision to make; especially when there are so many on the market and at some point or another, each and every one has been marketed as the healthy alternative. But what should you truly be looking for in a cooking oil? One of the first things you should take into consideration is what you plan to cook and what cooking method you are using to prepare it. Secondly, you should consider the oils fat content, specifically, fatty acids. Generally speaking, there are typically three classifications of fatty acids and each oil contain all three of them, however, it is classified as the fatty acid that it contains the highest percentage of. The three types of fatty acids are Saturated, polyunsaturated, and monounsaturated; each oil has different nutritional properties and the different types of fatty acids and content levels also effect each one’s cooking ability, according to, WebMD.

  • Saturated fats are most commonly solids when they are at room temperature, making them easier to spot. High levels of consumption of saturated fats have been linked to high cholesterol and increased risk of heart disease.
  • Polyunsaturated fats are different from saturated fats and can be distinguished by their liquid form. Polyunsaturated fats will remain in liquid form, even during refrigeration. In comparison with saturated fats, polyunsaturated fats have been shown to reduce high cholesterol levels, which in turn will show a reduction in the risk for heart disease.
  • Monounsaturated fats are slightly more challenging to spot. They do remain in a liquid for when stored at room temperature, but upon refrigeration, will appear cloudy as a partial amount of the oil begins to solidify. Monounsaturated fats have also been shown to reduce cholesterol and the risk of heart disease.

Are your healthy oil choices really the healthy option?

How many healthy oils have you purchased? And how many of them are truly the healthiest option for cooking oils?

Grape Seed Oil

Grape seed oil has made its name as a healthy oil simply by being rich in vitamin E and being a polyunsaturated fat. But it isn’t the healthy oil that it has been chalked up to. Grape seed oil is extracted from grape seed, as the name would imply. It has become a way for wine makers to use up the bulk supply of grape seeds they are left with during the wine making process. The oil is extracted from the seeds using chemicals and high heat. Grape seed was originally considered healthy due to the high volume of nutrients found in the grape seed. The problem is, that all of those nutrients aren’t found in grape seed oil. The chemical processing causes the oil to lose the nutrients, including all of the antioxidant’s. Grape seed oil is composed of 10% saturated fat, 16% monounsaturated fat, and 70% polyunsaturated fat. Similar to other seed and vegetable oils, grape seed oil is high in omega-6 and low in beneficial nutrients.

Canola Oil

While it is true that canola oil is one of the healthier options in cooking oil, many are concerned by the extreme amount of processing that it endures before reaching the supermarket. Due to its refined state, canola oil doesn’t contain the antioxidant’s that other otherwise healthy oils do. Most canola oil is genetically engineered. If canola oil is the healthiest cooking option for you, you should seek out organic canola oil to avoid the over processing and be sure that it is certified organic canola oil that you are purchasing. Some other concerns of consumers is that canola oil causes diseases; there is no scientific proof that canola oil causes any diseases what so ever. Canola oil has a relatively neutral flavor, that won’t have an ill effect on the foods that you are cooking in it. It also has a rather high smoke point, similar to vegetable oil, that makes it much more ideal for frying or cooking at high temperatures without burning and giving your food a rancid flavor. Canola oil is considered a monounsaturated fat, it is made up of 62% monounsaturated fat, 31% polyunsaturated fat, and only 7% saturated fat.

Vegetable Oil

What exactly is vegetable oil? I mean the term “Vegetable” isn’t very specific. Vegetable oil is a triglyceride extract that comes from plants and is defined as plant based oils that don’t solidify. Vegetable oil is chemically extracted from seeds. While soybean oil, corn oil, canola oil, sunflower oil, and grape seed oil are all technically “Vegetable Oil’s”, generally speaking when people mention vegetable oil they are talking about oil found in the supermarket that is simply labeled “vegetable oil”. For many decades, vegetable oil has been labeled as a heart healthy oil, leading consumers to believe that it is good for them. Vegetable oil is a polyunsaturated fat, which led to the belief that it is heart healthy, but it is also considered to be one of the unhealthiest fats readily available to consumers. Vegetable oils contain high levels of omega-6 fatty acids, which can be harmful to one’s health when they are consumed in an excessive manor.

Soybean Oil

Soybean oil is extracted from soy beans by heating them and then chemicals are used to extract the oils. Soybean oil is very commonly found in processed, pre-package foods. Similar to other seed oils, the majority of nutrients than can be found in soybeans, will be lost by the end of the extraction process. Soybean oil has a high smoke point, making it appealing to those who are looking to cook at a higher temperature. It is also more on the affordable side from some other oil choices. These factors make it appealing to consumers, without considering what the oil really contains.

Corn Oil

One of the biggest consumer concerns with corn oil is that it is made from different crops of corn all over the world, including, GMO’s. There is no evidence yet as to what GMO crops that have all been treated with more and more chemicals and pesticides, will have on the human body and organs as it works to break down the oil. Corn oil, is considered a vegetable oil and similar to the others has lost its natural nutritional value by the time it reaches our tables.  Corn oil also has high levels of omega-6, which can prove to be unhealthy in large amounts, such as that contained in oils.

Vegan Butter Substitutes

The initial fear of what a vegan butter could contain are almost self-explanatory. It can’t be butter or dairy at all, so that pretty much takes “natural” out of the equation. Vegan butter substitutes can be found in many forms, a common one being good old margarine.  While even margarine as a vegan supplement will need to be purchased as 100% dairy free, as most margarines still contain trace amount of dairy; most margarines are still made of extremely processed soybean oil and are hydrogenated. Just because it has a vegan label on it, doesn’t make this form of soybean oil any healthier than liquid soybean oil. It still has an extremely low nutritional value and is high in omega-6. Not to mention, the added processing that it has gone through to be used as margarine in a solid form.

6 Ways to Use Almond Oil for Glowing Skin  

Almond oil has been used as an age old remedy for a large number of skin conditions and is renowned as an essential carrier oil. There are two types of almond oil available, bitter almond oil and sweet almond oil. Bitter almond oil is toxic and is made from bitter almonds and is not intended for ingestion; while sweet almond oil is made from everyday almonds and has many uses, especially for skin ailments. Sweet almond oil is frequently used as carrier oil for homeopathic remedies using other essential oils that need a carrier oil that is gentle on skin in comparison to the added oils. Check out these great benefits of treating your skin with almond oil.

1  Dark Under Eye Circles almond photo

Almond oil, like it’s counterparts IE: everything almond based, is nutritious; your skin benefits from nutrition just like the rest of your body. There is no need to waste money on expensive creams or surgery to treat under eye circles, simply massage a small amount of sweet almond oil into the skin around your eyes daily. Almond oil is believed to be the best natural remedy for dark circles and it is safe, inexpensive
, and chemical free!2  Natural Make-up Remover 
Almond oil works as the perfect make-up remover; Not only is it chemical free and all natural, it effectively opens up the pores and helps to remove makeup from not only the top layer of skin but also the pores.

3  Moisturizer  

Almond oil ads a boost of natural moisture to your skin, without the worry of it clogging your pores. Almond oil is quickly absorbed into your skin for a soft worry free complexion. It can also be used for other moisturizing purposes, such as, dry hands and feet.

4  Scalp Health  

Almond oil is a great, natural, treatment for a healthy scalp. It works to moisturize the scalp, helping to eliminate dandruff, itchiness, and promote healthy hair growth. Almond oil can also reduce scalp inflammation that has been caused by chemical treatments and high heat styling.

5  Age Defying Skin 

Many believe that treating your skin with almond oil can help maintain an ageless appearance. Many people simply massage almond oil into the skin in order to reduce the signs of ageing, including, wrinkles and crow’s feet.

6  Protects Against UV ray’s 

Almond oil contains a great deal of vitamin E, which is believed to be the source of its skin protection properties. Almond oil is used as a natural sunscreen to protect against harmful UV rays, minimize skin damage, and minimize skin tanning.

Photo by HealthAliciousNess

Toxic Dust in Your House

toy photo

Toxic Dust Sounds like something out of a Sci-Fi film, but this dust is probably in your house!
Researchers
identified 45 potentially toxic chemicals in household dust samples from homes in 14 states, which could potentially expose people to toxins… in their own home!

Where do these chemicals come from?

  1. furniture
  2. carpets
  3. drapes
  4. electronics.. including cell phones
  5. toys

“Indoor dust is a reservoir for consumer-product chemicals,” Zota said (one of the researchers in the study). “Many of the times when these chemicals are added to consumer products, they’re not chemically bound to the products. They can migrate out of the product and into the air or dust,” she explained.

The 26 studies analyzed did not evaluate is these toxins are causing health problems; however, exposure to this degree should cause concern.

“Some of these chemicals are associated with serious health outcomes,” Zota said, “particularly children’s health.”

The American Chemistry Council, which represents the chemicals industry stated, “The mere presence of a chemical does not signify risk to human health. Assessing health risks depends not only on understanding which substances are present in something like dust but also on the actual amount, route, duration and timing of exposure to those substances. Most of this important information is missing in this study.”

Dr. Kenneth Spaeth, the chief of occupational and environmental medicine for Northwell Health in Great Neck, N.Y. , stated that “these potentially harmful chemicals in homes has been known for some time and should cause concern.”

“Each of us tends to spend the vast majority of our lives indoors,” Spaeth said. “That includes sleeping and most of our daily life.”

“Continual exposure to these dust-borne chemicals means that even substances that are quickly flushed from the body, like phthalates, continue to be replenished by our indoor environment, he said. “Other chemicals, such as flame retardants, tend to accumulate in the body, increasing the health risk… To what extent these chemicals are in our bodies or affecting our health are open and important questions.”

Scary Statistics

  • 90% of more of dust samples had 10 harmful chemicals known as cancer-causing agent called TDCIPP, a flame retardant. TDCIPP is found in baby products, furniture and other household items.
  • 100% of dust samples had DEHP, a phthalate thought to interfere with hormones in the body. Guess what? They are also linked to reproductive and developmental health issues, including IQ declines and respiratory problems in children, she said.

Classes of Dangerous Chemicals Found in Dust

  1. Phthalates — the chemicals found in the highest amounts in the dust samples. Phthalates, which soften plastics and act as solvents, are used to make cosmetics, toys, vinyl flooring and other products.
  2. Phenols — used in cleaning products and other household items — were the second-most common chemical class found in dust, followed by flame retardants and highly fluorinated chemicals used to make nonstick cookware, the study found.
  3. Highly fluorinated chemicals, such as PFOA and PFOS, which are found in cellphones, pizza boxes and many nonstick, waterproof and stain-resistant products. “These chemicals have been linked to problems of the immune, digestive, developmental and endocrine systems.”

What Can You Do For Your Home?

Zota and Spaeth said you can reduce your exposure to household dust by:

  • Wash hands frequently. Small children often put dust-covered fingers and hands in their mouths.wash 
    wash hand photo
    Photo by jar []
  • Vacuum carpets frequently using a vacuum cleaner equipped with a HEPA filter, and wet-mopping hard surfaces.
  • Buy Safer Household Products. Using online consumer tools to buy furniture without flame retardants or stain guard, or toys that are phthalate-free.
  • Opening windows. Allows fresh-air circulation.

“These kinds of simple measures can really make a difference,” Spaeth said.

The study findings were published Sept. 14 in Environmental Science & Technology.

SOURCES: Ami Zota, Sc.D., assistant professor, environmental and occupational health, George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health, Washington, D.C.; Kenneth Spaeth, M.D., MPH, chief, occupational and environmental medicine, Northwell Health, Great Neck, N.Y.; Sept. 13, 2016, statement, American Chemistry Council; Sept. 14, 2016, Environmental Science & Technology

https://medlineplus.gov/news/fullstory_160959.html

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Vitamin D3 Could Be Beneficial to Asthma Sufferers

Vitamin D3 has been touted to help with about every ailment from depression to cancer, but now research is catching up to what we already know.

Adding vitamin D supplements with standard asthma medication may lead to fewer asthma attacks for people with mild to moderate asthma, stated the new Cochrane review.

Researchers do caution that “relatively few trials, none of which has individually reported a sta

tistically significant effect of vitamin D on risk of exacerbation requiring treatment with systemic corticosteroids as a prespecified outcome.” The review looked at 9 double-blind, placebo-controlled trials with 435 children and 658 adults with mild to moderate asthma

 

Oral Vitamin D₃ Supplements and Asthma

Oral vitamin D₃ supplementation was administered for 4-12 months at 500-1200 IU/day (this is a really small amount to make a statistical change in blood work). Supplementation reduced the rate of severe asthma attacks from 0.44 to 0.22 per person. Supplementation also decreased the risk for hospitalization or emergency room visit from 6% reducing to 3% per 100 patients.

 

“What we don’t know is whether the benefits of vitamin D were restricted just to patients who were vitamin D–deficient or whether they were experienced by everybody, irrespective of their baseline status,” Dr Martineau explained.

Researchers continue to study the data about vitamin D3 supplementation and asthma with subgroup analyses and further testing.

According to Medscape:

“It is estimated that about 1 billion people around the world have vitamin D levels below 75 nmol/L, which is generally considered insufficient; levels below 50 nmol/L are considered deficient.

 In a large proportion of study participants, levels of vitamin D were deficient or insufficient. Mean/median baseline serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations ranged from 48 to 89 nmol/L. In a small minority of participants, levels were below 25 nmol/L, which is considered to be profoundly deficient.

“In the context of other vitamin D studies done by us and others, the benefits of supplementation tend to be stronger in those with lower levels,” said Dr Martineau. “Our hypothesis is that we will see more marked effects in people with lower levels.”

Vitamin D has an anti-inflammatory effect on the lungs and induces innate antimicrobial mechanisms, he explained.”

“I think the association is there. At this point, it would be perfectly legitimate for general practitioners, pediatricians, and even pulmonologists who are following people with asthma to put them all on 500 to 1000 units of vitamin D a day,” Fernando Martinez, MD, director of the Arizona Respiratory Center at the University of Arizona in Tucson said.

“For adults who have persistent exacerbations, measuring vitamin D levels would also be justified, and if they have low levels, you could give them even more,” said Dr Martinez.

Resources:

 

European Respiratory Society (ERS) International Congress 2016: Abstract PA4112. Presented September 6, 2016.

http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/868575?nlid=109199_2863

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