Food and Mood: Stress-Busting and Feel-Good FoodsDo you eat more when you’re feeling stressed? You are not alone. In fact, in a survey that was conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health and the PNR, more than one-third of the participants revealed that their diets change during stressful times.

When the stress hits, a lot of people tend to turn quickly on highly refined carbohydrates like white pasta or bagel or sugary foods. Learn how to cope with stress by stacking up on these stress-busting foods and put them on your plate when you feel overwhelmed.

Asparagus

Experts believe that depression may be linked to having low levels of folic acid. Asparagus helps boost this mood-enhancing nutrient.

The good news is, it’s easy to fit asparagus into almost any meal. Plus, a single cup is enough for your daily needs.

Avocado

Feelings of anxiety may also be rooted from Vitamin B deficiency. Fortunately, avocados are loaded with this stress-relieving Vitamin. To top it all off, this green wonder contains potassium and monounsaturated fat, which helps lower blood pressure.

Oatmeal

Carbohydrates trigger the brain to produce a relaxing brain chemical called serotonin. Experts believe that the more slowly your body absorbs carbohydrates, the more slowly serotonin flows. Since oatmeal is high in fiber, it may take your stomach a while to digest it. For a quicker release of serotonin, you might want to top it with a swirl of jam.

Milk

It is a well-known fact that a glass of warm milk is the best way to combat insomnia and restlessness. This is because milk is packed with protein, calcium, Vitamins B2 and B12 and antioxidants.

The protein in milk is known to have a calming effect and soothes tension, while potassium helps addresses muscle spasm that is often associated with feeling tense.

Orange

If you are feeling stressed, go ahead and pour yourself a glass or orange juice. Or better yet, peel yourself an orange. Vitamin C is the magic nutrient here.

Vitamin C is another powerful vitamin that is known to lower a person’s cortisol and blood pressure levels.

 

Are You a Conscious or Unconscious Eater?We all eat. Most of us are hopefully eating a few times throughout the day. But are you thinking while you’re eating? What I mean is, do you intentionally put mindful energy in your eating/digestion process? If I haven’t lost you yet, please consider the following points, and then follow the next four steps to embrace “Conscious Eating” as part of your daily rituals.
*When you eat, whether you’re chewing something fresh and from the earth, or something out of a wrapper or can, you are consuming energy.  Your body will use that “energy” as fuel for your body, hopefully efficiently, or some of that “energy” will be expended quickly and the excess will be stored as fat.  (Deciphering “filling” vs. “fueling” foods is another topic altogether….)
*When you eat, your environment in which you are eating, has “energy” surrounding it. Whether you’re in front of a computer, a TV, at a sidewalk cafe, in your car, or at a table, you’re surrounded by energy: sound, light, smell, crowds, etc.
*Lastly, your body requires “energy” from your digestive enzymes, your digestive system, your liver, your entire body, to break down your food and digest it so it can be used efficiently and make you healthier, ideally giving you more “energy”!

*The more stressful, rushed, synthetic your food choice and even the manner in which you consume, including your environment can affect the entire digestive process.

Think about the above points: don’t you want the best possible chance at breaking down your meals and having them utilized in the body to the best ability, making you stronger, leaner, wiser and more comfortable. It is my opinion that most people suffering digesting unrest (heartburn, gas, bloating, etc.) are not conscious eaters, but eaters on-the-go, stressed-out, and gulping down their food.

Follow these simple steps to have a more peaceful and efficient handle on your own digestion. I challenge you to do this for 3 days in a row at every single meal. It may surprise you how challenging yet how rewarding it can be to consciously eat!

1. Chew.   We are not chewing our food slowly enough, or thoroughly enough. Take smaller bites, and chew every morsel of food until you cannot chew it anymore–until it’s unrecognizable, before you swallow. 
2. Rest between bites.  It’s a great practice to put your utensil (fork) down at least  between every two bites. Simply rest–even a few seconds, between every two bites.
3. Choose silence or comfort over function.  Eat in a comfortable surrounding, with people you like and admire, or by yourself. If you’re in a loud place, or with negative people, you are absorbing all that interference, which causes stress, which hinders digestion.
4. Highly present– not high tech.  Try your hardest not to eat in front of television, facebook, emails, even smart phones. I’m guilty of this too, but we are bombarded with enough cellular data, bad news, gossip, etc. as it is–keep it away from your brain as you eat so your belly doesn’t take on that energy.
Happy “mindful” eating!

Flavoring Up Your WaterIt is a well-known fact that water is super important as it keeps us hydrated and helps eliminate toxins, but sometimes plain old water just doesn’t cut it.

If you want to drink more water but aren’t crazy about its taste, you can add fruits, spices or herbs to turn your once plain water into a refreshing flavored drink. Jazzing up your water doesn’t take much time or effort.

Here are some tips to make drinking water more enjoyable.

Add citrus

Citrus fruits like limes and lemons are considered as classic water enhancers. They add a hint of flavor and make water look more sophisticated. But let’s not forget about other citrus fruits like tangerine, grapefruit, oranges and mandarin. These fruits taste great as well.

Keep a bowl of fruit slices in your refrigerator and feel free to add a variety of fruits in a pitcher of water. Orange and basil is a great combination. It may seem like an odd combination but it helps cut back my cravings for salty foods.

Mint cubes

Throw a small sprig of lemon mint, peppermint or spearmint into the ice cube tray and freeze it. For a refreshing drink, add the mint cubes to a glass of water.

This technique is recommended for people who dislike sweetened beverages but still prefer some flavor. You can also use this technique with your favorite herbs like basil or rosemary.

Cucumber

If you prefer a flavor that is less sweet, then this is for you. Just add a few slices of cucumber to a glass of water or fill a pitcher with a handful of cucumber slices, add water and let it sit in the refrigerator for a few hours. Its subtle flavor will give your water a fresh, spa-like taste. With its cool flavor, you might think twice about reaching for a can of soda.

Cinnamon stick

Infused with delicate sweetness and spice, cinnamon water is a great alternative to plain water. Drop a cinnamon stick in a pitcher of water, let it sit in the refrigerator and enjoy a drink that is both earthy and sophisticated. It does not only make your water taste great, it also comes with a long list of health benefits.

 

5 Simple Reasons You Should be Taking PROBIOTICS DailyThroughout our digestive tract, or “gut”, we have both “bad” and “good” bacteria. Poor diet choices, stress, not drinking enough water, parasites, yeast overgrowth, disease, age, and other environmental or internal stressors, cause a lack in the good bacteria in the gut.  We need a good, balanced, healthy gut terrain environment abundant in these “good” bacteria, we call probiotics.
I want to break down in very simple terms how essential healthy gut flora is to optimum health and body function.
Eating yogurt each day does NOT supply near enough probiotic support, and it is my opinion that the adverse effect of sugars in most yogurt, outweigh the benefit of the probiotics they contain. Greek yogurt may supply more high quality protein with each serving, but the sugar effect in the body is still there, and a serving (or 2) of yogurt daily simply isn’t sufficient supplementation.
I recommend a comprehensive probiotic formula including more that 5 billion colony forming units (c.f.u.) per capsule, from a safe/pure/additive-free source, taken at bedtime for optimum absorption through the night when our gut is at its resting/healing state. Some clients need a higher dose depending on their condition.
“Why should I be on probiotics or how do I know if I really need them?” you ask? I recommend probiotics to everyone, even and especially pregnant or nursing mothers for many reasons including:
1. Digestive Health.  Probiotics are essential in replenishing good bacteria that is killed off when we take any dose of antibiotics, which gladly destroy the infectious/bad bacteria, but kill the good ones too. Antibiotic use can create diarrhea and probiotics prove to help that unwanted symptom. Even outside of antibiotic use, probiotics provide a cleaner, healthier, more balanced gut environment, promoting regular more productive bowel movements, less gas/bloating, better nutrient absorption, and digestion of food.
2. Women’s Health. Healthy pH balance of the GI tract actually affects the amount of yeast in the body, which can have negative effects on the bladder and female reproductive system. Regular and therapeutic doses of probiotic combat vaginal yeast infections. Probiotics may also have a special role in maternal health, as pregnant women are particularly susceptible to vaginal infections. And bacterial vaginosis has been indicated as a contributing factor to pre-term labor, making probiotics a potential boon for fetal health.
3. Allergies/Skin Issues. Studies show a lower instance in infant and childhood eczema when the mother was taking regular probiotics during pregnancy. Because probiotics support the immune system, pH balance of the GI tract, and help to control yeast overgrowth, they also help keep seasonal allergies at bay, and can promote healthier skin, with less acne and dermatitis outbreaks.
4. Immune Support. Did you know close to 80% of your immune system is contained in the GI tract? With that in mind, giving your gut terrain the healthiest most balanced environment with copious amounts of probiotics/good flora, you increase lymphocyte activity, ward off infections, virus, yeast and parasites– boom– a stronger immune system!  Because the majority of your body’s ability to fight allergies, colds, viruses, bacteria, even cancer (your immune system) is in the digestive tract, what we eat, drink, ingest, along with how we can assimilate what we ingest is essential to our body’s immunity and health.
5. Weight Maintenance. In 2006, Stanford University researchers found that obese people had different gut bacteria than normal-weighted people — a first indication that gut flora plays a role in overall weight. Some preliminary research shows that probiotics can help obese people who have received weight loss surgery to maintain weight loss. And in a study of post-partum women who were trying to lose abdomnial fat, the addition of lactobacillusand bifidobacterium capsules helped reduce waist circumference.  (source: Dr. Shekhar K. Challa). Again, if we are assimilating nutrients better, we are able to maintain healthier blood sugar levels, eliminate toxins and waste–thereby maintaining our waistlines!

Power Foods That Boost the Immune System

It turns out that we need more than an apple a day to keep the doctor away. If you are looking for ways to prevent colds and flu, then you might want to head out and visit the local grocery store. It is important to feed your body with certain foods with surprising nutrients in order to keep your immune system on guard.

Next time you’re at the grocery store, stock up on these foods and add them to your diet for an extra flu-fighting punch.

Citrus fruits

Most people tend to load up on Vitamin C after they’ve caught a cold. There’s a reason for that. Vitamin C triggers the production of white blood cells, which fights infections.

Since our body is not capable of producing or storing it, daily intake of Vitamin C is needed. Citrus fruits are the best sources of Vitamin C. With a wide variety of fruits to choose from, it is easy to add a squeeze of Vitamin C into your diet.

Broccoli

Broccoli is loaded with Vitamins A, C, E as well as several minerals and antioxidants; thus, making it one of the healthiest and most nutritious-packed foods you can put on your plate. Cook it as little as possible in order to keep its power intact. Or better yet, don’t cook it at all.

Garlic

Garlic does not only add a little zing to almost every cuisine in the world, it is also a must-have for your health. During the early years, garlic is known for fighting infections. Today, modern science has proven that it helps lower cholesterol and prevents hardening of the arteries.

Ginger

Just like Vitamin C, ginger is one of the most common ingredients most people turn to once they’ve caught colds. This is because ginger helps prevent that cold from taking hold. It contains the active ingredient allicin, which is capable of fighting bacteria and infection.

Yogurt

Yogurt contains Probiotics, which are helpful in keeping the gut and intestinal tract free of disease-causing germs.

When buying yogurt, make sure to check the labels and look for the ones that contain “live and active cultures”. This is beneficial as it can help boost your immune system and help fight diseases.

 

"Wanna Meet for Coffee?"Coffee. It’s warm, it’s comforting, it’s a social event, it’s a multi-billion dollar industry. For many, it’s as necessary as air, water and shelter–maybe more! Here’s my take on coffee, how much is too much, and is it really bad for our health? There are many theories, so I’ve posted some facts on caffeine below, and have a list of my tips for you too.
Caffeine, known in medical circles as trimethylxanthine, is an alkaloid that also works as a psychoactive drug and a stimulant of the central nervous system. Caffeine is found naturally in a variety of plants. Caffeine can also be created synthetically. The word caffeine is derived from the German word kaffee and the French word café, which both translate to coffee. When taken, caffeine is absorbed within 45 minutes and its effects wear off after three hours.

MedicineNet.com reports that an eight ounce cup of coffee contains anywhere from 95 to 135 milligrams of caffeine. A cup of plain brew coffee possesses 135 milligrams of caffeine and a cup of instant coffee has 95 milligrams of caffeine. Even decaffeinated coffee contains caffeine. A cup of plain decaf coffee holds five milligrams of caffeine. A one-ounce espresso has 30 to 50 milligrams of caffeine.

A daily intake of 130 to 300 milligrams of caffeine is considered low to moderate, according to Medicine.Net.com. Anything more than 600 milligrams of caffeine per day is considered excessive. The average person consumes 280 milligrams of caffeine daily.

Based on the information I’ve provided above, here is my professional (and personal) opinion of coffee consumption, broken down in bullet points that I hope may clear some caffeine/coffee confusion:
1. Coffee and any caffeinated beverage is dehydrating to the colon, to your body cells, to the skin, and organs.  You really should make WATER your first beverage of the day, before having your cup of joe, and you should compensate with 2 glasses of water for every cup of coffee you drink.
2. I am less concerned with the amount of caffeine in your coffee, as I am with the choice of sweetener and/or creamer you put IN your coffee. Most non-dairy flavored creamers are chemically-laden, artificially-sweetened substances, that do not provide any nutrition but rather add toxicity. (Come on, a “Cinnabon” or “Thin Mint” flavored creamer???? Is that necessary?)  Adding a packet (or two) of “blue”, “pink”, or “yellow” sweetener, also negates nutrition by adding artificial/chemicals to the body.  If you’re starting your first few hours of your day with 2-3 cups of coffee PLUS 2-8 tbs of the above mentioned products, you are starting your day off on the wrong track, leading to possible side effects and continued carb cravings.  I prefer almond or coconut-based milk/creamers (even the flavored ones), or organic half-n-half with natural sugar-in-the-raw, stevia, or agave if you must have your coffee sweet and creamy. Read the labels and consider what you’re really putting in your body.
3. Coffee is acidic-forming in the body. We thrive in a slightly alkaline state, so if you’re consuming more than two cups of regular brew or decaf or espresso a day, I believe that acidity (more so than the caffeine) is detrimental to normal body function and pH balance of the digestive tract and bloodstream.
4. Some of us are more sensitive to caffeine, and some of us are dependent on it. My advice is, enjoy one cup in the morning, black, or with healthy cream/sugar options (mentioned above), sip it slowly, enjoying its richness and warmth. Drink it only after you’ve hydrated with water, and ideally eat something with healthy protein within a half-hour of drinking it so your body can assimilate the coffee more gently. If you desire an additional cup as a mid-morning or afternoon pick-me-up, consider what I drink–instant OrganoGold coffee, infused with ganoderma extract which has a lower but natural caffeine content, is alkalizing (vs. acidic) to the body, and promotes many health benefits, including anti-inflammatory and blood sugar-balancing properties. It also has a calming effect.  You know you’re dependent/addicted to coffee if you quit drinking it altogether for 24-48 hours and present with headache. That indicates dependency.
5. As with anything, drink coffee in moderation, hydrate, and check your daily symptoms: jitters? irrational irritability? temperature change? dry mouth? heartburn? racing pulse? can’t sleep at night? All of those things indicate a good chance you’re drinking too much coffee, or you may be ultra-sensitive to caffeine.
There’s much I could add to this story regarding the “super-size” coffee drinks that I consider indulgent desserts (i.e., frappucinos, mochas, etc.), but I’ll save that for the next blog. A little caffeine in a cute coffee mug each morning shouldn’t hurt anyone–it’s quite the enjoyable ritual. Just be smart about what you’re adding to it, how much water you’re drinking around it, and stop after two cups. In the meantime, call me for some “coffee talk”. 🙂

Should I Really Take Calcium Supplements to Prevent Osteoporosis?

You have probably heard that calcium plays an important role for bone health and how vital it is in the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis. However, bone health is more than just having sufficient amount of calcium. It also involves a number of factors like exercise, sticking to a balanced diet, and a sufficient amount of vitamin D.

Fruits and vegetables: best food for the bones

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to take calcium supplements regularly in order to get enough calcium. When you stick to a healthy diet and consume more fruits and vegetables, it is impossible not to obtain the recommended amount of calcium. In fact, one study revealed that the addition of more fruits and vegetables to the diet has shown to be effective in increasing bone health and bone density.

Nuts, beans, fruits and vegetables are not only good sources of calcium. They also contain magnesium, vitamin K, potassium and other nutrients that are essential for bone health. Additionally, these foods are alkaline. Meaning, they do not induce urinary calcium loss.

Calcium may be an important ingredient in keeping our bone healthy, but we really don’t need much of it. The only reason why dairy products and calcium supplements are considered as the main source of calcium is due to the fact that American diet is mostly centered on refined grains, sugar and animal fat. Unfortunately, all of which are void of calcium.

Vitamin D deficiency

Most women are taking an excessive amount of calcium as recommended by their doctors. However, most people are still not getting enough calcium. For it to be absorbed, we also need to have sufficient amounts of Vitamin D. You may be consuming milk by the gallons or taking calcium supplements regularly, but with the absence of Vitamin D, the calcium you take in won’t do you any good.

Since most people work indoors, they have sub-optimal levels of Vitamin D. In fact, one study showed that most Americans are vitamin D deficient. Today, more and more health professionals are recommending that we take an additional 800 to 1200 IUs of vitamin D on top of the 400 IUs, which are typically present in most multi-vitamins.

The solution

As mentioned earlier, calcium supplements are not the way to go if you want to prevent osteoporosis. Rather, exercise regularly to strengthen your bones and muscles, eat a high nutrient diet and take the right supplements.

 

5 Tips to Become Healthier

 

Being healthier does not necessarily mean that you have to overhaul your entire lifestyle. Sometimes, making a few simple changes in your diet, stress management and exercise will do the trick. To help you turn this knowledge into results, we have compiled a few quick and easy tweaks that will surely make a huge difference in the way you feel.

Sleep more

It is a known fact that getting enough sleep contributes greatly to both our health and beauty. Several researches have confirmed that people who do not sleep enough are more likely to get sick since their immunity is weak.

If you have trouble sleeping at night, you might want to try relaxation techniques like meditation. This is beneficial as it relaxes your mind and body. Also, bedtime snacks like chamomile tea, warm milks and oatmeal are shown to help shift the mind and body into sleep mode.

Eat your vegetables

Consuming about 5 servings of vegetables a day is recommended. By sticking to a high vegetable diet, you’ll be less likely to develop cancers of the pancreas, bladder, stomach, esophagus, cervix, colon and lungs. Additionally, the most powerful phytonutrients are usually found in vegetables with the boldest colors. Grapes, tomatoes, carrots, and broccoli are just some of the best examples.

Get a massage

Massage comes with an endless list of benefits. Aside from acting as a great form of relaxation and stress relief, it is also associated with a few health benefits. It lowers blood pressure, improves circulation and triggers the release of endorphins, the hormones that are responsible for bright emotions and good mood.

Laugh

We often find ourselves in a stressful situation, and this has a negative impact to our health.

Laughter is considered to be extremely beneficial to all of us. It has been proven to support our vascular health and expand blood vessels. So, if you have an opportunity to laugh, enjoy the moment and laugh as much as you want.

Regular exercise

You may not know it, but exercise has shown to reduce all the biomarkers of aging including lowering cholesterol, improving lean muscle, normalizing blood pressure, improving bone density and improving eyesight.

Studies have shown that even a 10-minute exercise makes a huge difference. So, if you wish to live longer and live well, you have to exercise daily.

 

Healthy vs. Unhealthy Water EnhancersAs humans, we are about 60% water. Water breaks down food, provides natural energy to our cells, aids in weight loss and maintenance, stimulates digestive enzymes, hydrates tissues and organs, helps the body rid toxins, and is absolutely necessary for health and survival (among countless other benefits).
As a Certified Nutrition Therapist, one of the main things I notice is the majority of my clients are very dehydrated before they work with me, and one of the chief complaints I hear in my practice (namely by the dehydrated folks) is “I don’t drink enough water because I don’t like the taste of water. What can I add to my water to make it taste good?”
My number one preference is to simply add 100% lemon juice or fresh lemon or lime to water. It’s easy, tasty, and the lemon pushes the liver and naturally aids in detoxification. However, there are many options now on the beverage shelves of water “enhancers”. Crystal Light seems to be the first of its kind, and now has quite the competition with Mio, and other enhancers. As far as store-bought flavored (and colorful) water enhancers, I implore you–stay away. The ingredients in most of the water enhancers out there include artificial sweeteners (namely aspartame and sucralose–Splenda), or sugar, artificial food colorings, propylene glycol, among other preservatives and chemicals. Although these ingredients in small amounts are “safe” for human consumption according to the FDA, I see clients suffering from stomach and digestive disorders, headaches, allergies, and other side effects linked to these artificial ingredients.
Here are a handful of ideas to make your pure water a little more “fun” and tasty, hopefully enticing you to drink more, without ingesting unnecessary and unhealthy ingredients:
In a pitcher stored in a cool place or refrigerated, or in a single-serving glass with or without ice:
1. Blackberry and Mint Cooler
* Grow or buy fresh mint in the herb section of the grocery store: use for garnish in salads or in this instance, add as many mint leaves as desired to water, along with 1/4 – 1 cup of fresh or frozen blackberries.
2. Cucumber Spa Water
* One of my favorite “spa” treats pre-and post-treatment is cucumber water. Very simple to prepare: simply have sliced cucumbers on hand and store in baggies. Add as many sliced cucumbers to water as desired. Super refreshing and clean. Use any extra cukes as puffy eye relief (placing cold cuke slices over shut eyelids for 10-20 minutes), or as a healthy yummy snack dipped in hummus or guacamole, or tossed with tomatoes and basil in a salad.
3. Mock Mojito
* A festive way to “cocktail” without the alcohol, and with hydrating health benefits:  “muddle” fresh mint in the bottom of a glass, add water, ice, sliced cucumbers, and fresh lime juice/limes. Shake and sip– delish!
4. Tropical Paradise
* For a sweeter “punch”, add frozen or fresh chunks (try to avoid canned) pineapple to water, along with any citrus fruit on hand: orange, clementine, or grapefruit. Sweet and tart!
5. Better with Berries
* Perhaps the easiest water enhancer is to simply keep frozen or fresh berries on hand– raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, etc. and add to water in any combination. You can even fill ice cube trays with a berry or two in each square, pouring water over, then making the ice. Once frozen, simply pop out your “berry cubes” and add to water.

5 Awesome Ways to Use Apple Cider Vinegar

For most people, apple cider vinegar may seem like a humble salad dressing, but it’s actually loaded with healthy enzymes and has antibacterial, antiseptic and anti-fungal properties. It is also a powerful beauty tonic with endless amount of uses.

Hair rinse

With regular use, shampoo and other styling products can build up in your hair; thus, leaving your hair dull and lifeless.

After shampooing, add 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to a glass of water, and pour it over your hair. Leave it for about 2 minutes, then rinse. The acid in apple cider vinegar cuts straight through this buildup, giving your hair a glossy shine.

Facial toner

Vinegar is a natural astringent that help tighten pores while getting rid of dirt and grime from your skin. After washing your face, add vinegar to a cotton ball and use it as facial toner.

Most of you might be worried about the unpleasant aroma, but once it has dried, it will not leave any smell behind.

Balance blood sugar levels

Several studies showed that taking 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar before bedtime is beneficial for people with Diabetes. In fact, it helps lower the blood glucose level by up to 4-6% during the night.

Stabilize weight

When taken over a prolonged period of time, the acetic acid may also help decrease body fat stores. For daily weight management, add 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar in 2 cups of water and sip this concoction throughout the day.

In a study that was published in the Bioscience, Biotechnology and Biochemistry, researchers have confirmed that participants who consumed acetic acid, which is a main ingredient in apple cider vinegar, for 12 weeks experienced significant changes in body weight, waist circumference, abdominal fat and triglycerides.

Relieve constipation

Apple cider vinegar is known for relieving constipation in the same way that lemon juice can. If you feel bloated, take a shot or two to help your system flush out.