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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Health benefits of caraway seeds

■ In addition to its use as medicinal values, caraway indeed has many health benefiting nutrients, minerals, vitamins and anti-oxidants.

■ Caraway seeds are rich source of dietary fiber. 100 g seeds provide 38 g of fiber. They increase bulk of the food and helps prevent constipation by speeding up movement of food through the gut. In fact, gastro-intestinal transit time of food is greatly decreased.

■ Fiber also binds to toxins in the food and helps protect the colon mucus membrane from cancers. In addition, dietary fibers bind to bile salts (produced from cholesterol) and decrease their re-absorption in colon, thus help lower serum LDL cholesterol levels.

■ Caraway has many health benefiting essential oils. Principle volatile compounds are carvone, limonene, carveol, pinen, cumuninic aldehyde, furfurol,and thujone. These active principles in the caraway seeds are known to have antioxidant, digestive, carminative and anti-flatulent properties.

■ Caraway has many many health benefiting flavonoid anti-oxidnats such as lutein, carotene, crypto-xanthin and zeaxanthin. These compounds are indeed function as powerful anti-oxidants by removing harmful free radicals from the body thus protect from cancers, infection, aging and degenerative neurological diseases.

■ Caraway spice is an excellent source of minerals like iron, copper, calcium, potassium, manganese, selenium, zinc and magnesium. Copper is required in the production of red blood cells. Iron is required for red blood cell formation. zinc is a co-factor in many enzymes that regulate growth and development, sperm generation, digestion and nucleic acid synthesis. Potassium in an important component of cell and body fluids that helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure. Manganese is used by the body as a co-factor for the powerful anti-oxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase.

■ The seeds indeed are storehouse for many vital vitamins. Vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin C as well as many B-complex vitamins like thiamin, pyridoxine, riboflavin and niacin particularly are concentrated in the caraway seeds.


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Calorie Needs to lose weight

There are approximately 3500 calories in a pound of stored body fat. So, if you create a 3500-calorie deficit through diet, exercise or a combination of both, you will lose one pound of body weight. (On average 75% of this is fat, 25% lean tissue) If you create a 7000 calorie deficit you will lose two pounds and so on. The calorie deficit can be achieved either by calorie-restriction alone, or by a combination of fewer calories in (diet) and more calories out (exercise). This combination of diet and exercise is best for lasting weight loss. Indeed, sustained weight loss is difficult or impossible without increased regular exercise.

If you want to lose fat, a useful guideline for lowering your calorie intake is to reduce your calories by at least 500, but not more than 1000 below your maintenance level. For people with only a small amount of weight to lose, 1000 calories will be too much of a deficit. As a guide to minimum calorie intake, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends that calorie levels never drop below 1200 calories per day for women or 1800 calories per day for men. Even these calorie levels are quite low.

An alternative way of calculating a safe minimum calorie-intake level is by reference to your body weight or current body weight. Reducing calories by 15-20% below your daily calorie maintenance needs is a useful start. You may increase this depending on your weight loss goals.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Preventing The Top Ten Injuries In Sport

Most of the injuries here are classified as "overuse injuries". These tend to have chronic symptoms of pain which build up over periods of time. Here are some tips to give you a better chance of avoiding overuse injuries:

1 Instead of cutting down on your exercise, create a plan which includes rest days between each specific workout. Rest days don't have to be complete rest from exercise or sport. For example, a rest day from jogging can be spent swimming or cycling. Although I do recommend including at least 2 days of complete rest in each week.

This "cross-training" aspect will work all areas of your body in the long term, and allow each specific part (e.g. knees or shoulders etc.) enough time to recover. That will keep any repetitive stress on any one muscle or joint to a minimum.

2 Specific stretching in your cool down is crucial. Research about stretching is never ending, and rightly so when it comes to injury. You should never stretch cold muscles, this may actually cause injury. General stretching should be included at the end of your warm up. But the biggest factor in preventing injury is specific stretching after your workout, in your cool down. Specific stretching means focusing thoroughly on the muscles used in your workout.

3 Include specific strength training exercises in your workout plan. No matter what your main exercise or sport is, you need to keep the most used muscles strong. This specific strength will reduce the affects of repetitive stress on your bones, muscles and joints. Ease into new activities to allow your specific strength to build up.

4 If you have an injury, no matter how great or small, you need to recover properly. Don't view it as something that will go away in a couple weeks. That attitude will invite more injury. An injury needs time only to heal. But healing isn't recovery. You need to take more time to re-build specific strength and flexibility. Then you can start to ease back into your exercise or sport.

5 Have the correct footwear or equipment for your activity. Think about the size, comfort and fit.


Thursday, July 21, 2011

What Is Traumeel?

Trigosamine is a holistic medication used for joint pain. It comes in a daily use tablet. Clinical studies by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) have allowed the medication to be sold to the public. Trigosamine is not a drug, but a supplemental medication since it contains all natural ingredients. On the surface, Trigosamine has no side effects of its own. But looking at the ingredients brings different information to the potential user. You should be aware of the ingredients and the possible reactions to them before taking this medication.


The three active ingredients in Trigosamine are Glucosamine, Chondroitin and Hyaluronic acid. The drug is allowed to claim there are no overall side effects because the combination of these ingredients does not cause adverse reactions. While the combination of these ingredients does not cause any known side effects, two of the individual ingredients, Glucosamine and Chondroitin, do have side effects reported in their use.


Glucosamine can have side effects including stomach upset, headaches, sensitivity to the sunlight, skin reactions and insomnia. Rare side effects include nausea, heartburn, abnormal pain, a loss of appetite and constipation.


The side effects of Chondroitin, while reported, are rare. Some of the signs to look for include sensitivity to light, hair loss, difficulties breathing, hives or rashes, tightness in the throat or chest, chest pain, stomach pain, nausea, constipation and diarrhea. There is also a possible increased risk of bleeding. An unknown sense of euphoria indicates the need to cut back on the use of Chondroitin as well.


According to the Mayo Clinic persons with prostate cancer or a risk of cancer should avoid using medication with Chondroitin. Trigosamine has proven to cause allergic reactions in people who have asthma or have allergies to shellfish. This is caused by the Glucosamine supplement which can cause a serious reaction to people with a hypersensitivity to shellfish such as shrimp, clams, or lobster. Consult a physician if you are unsure of the possible effects.


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Benefits of "Raw" Honey

What is Raw Honey?

If you haven’t heard of raw honey, the term might seem a bit strange to you. When we refer to something as being raw, we’re usually thinking of a food that is normally cooked before it’s eaten, such as meat or eggs.

But when we eat foods such as raw apples or bananas, for example, we don’t usually think of them as being raw, because it’s common to eat them uncooked.

If you tell someone you just ate an apple, they will assume it was raw. Likewise, if you tell someone you just ate a hamburger patty, they will assume it was cooked (and would probably be considerably repulsed to learn otherwise!). The difference between raw and cooked hamburger is very obvious. And a raw apple differs greatly from a cooked apple.

With honey, though, the distinction between raw and cooked is less clear, and that’s why the term ‘raw honey’ is a bit misleading, and perhaps confusing to some. Just as milk can be heated (pasteurized) before being bottled without greatly altering its taste and consistency, so can honey. In fact, honey that has not been heated is sometimes called ‘unpastuerized honey.’

Raw honey is simply honey that has not been heated and filtered, but instead has been strained to remove debris before bottling.

Why is Honey Processed?

With the exception of comb honey, any honey you purchase will have been processed to some degree. But for the most part, honey that you might purchase in a supermarket – especially honey produced by a large supplier – will have been highly processed.


For two reasons: to improve the shelf life of the honey, and to improve its appearance.

Most large-scale honey producers heat and pressure-filter their honey.

The purpose of heating the honey is to melt any tiny crystals of granulation that may be present in the honey, and to destroy any yeast spores. Granulated crystals act as catalysts in causing the entire jar of honey to granulate (sometimes called ‘going to sugar’), and removing them ensures that the honey will remain in a liquid state. Destroying yeast spores prevents the possibility of fermentation.

The pressure filtering removes all sediment from the honey, including tiny bits of wax and pollen grains.

The result is a very attractive product with a very long shelf life.

But there is a price to be paid for converting raw honey into the pretty, sparkling, processed honey sold by most supermarkets. Some of the raw honey health benefits may be discarded in the process.

Many of the Raw Honey Health Benefits May be Lost

As with most processed foods, much is lost when honey is processed.

Though processed honey tastes much as it did in its raw, natural state, it’s still just not quite the same. The processing procedure unquestionably alters the natural flavor of the honey, even if only by little. Whether the taste of raw honey is better than processed honey is a matter of personal opinion, but most who are accustomed to eating honey in its natural state seem to prefer it that way.

Perhaps more important than alterations to the flavor, though, are some of the raw honey health benefits that may be lost when honey is heated and filtered.

Honey is a highly nutritious food, containing many minerals, enzymes, and antioxidants.

The process of heating honey destroys some of these valuable nutrients. And though there is some disagreement among experts about how much of these nutrients are destroyed, there’s no doubt that at least some damage is done to honey’s nutritional and healing properties during the process of heating it.

And the filtering process removes most of the pollen grains suspended in raw honey. This eliminates any value the honey may have had in helping to reduce allergy symptoms, and also removes the nutritional and healthful benefits of the bee pollen itself.

Raw Honey Health Benefits May Be Greater, But is it Safe?

To return to our earlier analogies, eating raw hamburger could be deadly dangerous, and drinking unpasteurized milk could also be risky.

So is raw honey safe to eat?

Perfectly – with one possible exception: Though rare, there have been cases of people having an allergic reaction when eating raw honey containing pollen spores to which they were sensitive. (You can read more about honey and allergies here.)

Remember, the purpose of processing honey is to increase shelf life and improve appearance, not to make it ‘safer.’

Virtually any type of raw honey will eventually begin to crystallize. When this happens, the honey can be re-liquefied simply by allowing it to sit in a pan of hot (not scalding) water until it’s liquid again. And when honey is harvested fully ripe, it’s rare for it to ferment until after it has completely granulated.

NOTE: It’s important that honey not be given to infants under 1 year of age due to concerns about infant botulism. This applies to ALL honey, whether raw or highly processed.

Nothing Wrong With ‘Supermarket Honey’

As long as it’s pure honey. There are some producers who sell a ‘honey product’ that contains honey mixed with another sweetener, such as corn syrup. So wherever you buy your honey, carefully read the label to be sure you’re getting what you expect.

But if you’re buying pure, unadulterated honey, it’s a perfectly fine product, and will offer most of the health benefits of honey, at least to a degree.

Just be aware that you might not be getting quite the full range of flavor and raw honey health benefits that you’d get from eating honey in its natural state, just as the bees made it.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Buying local produce and other artesian foods is a personal choice. There are many options such as; buying online, going to the local supermarket, the

Buying local produce and other artesian foods is a personal choice. There are many options such as; buying online, going to the local supermarket, the natural foods store and buying from local farmers at farmers markets or co-ops. The benefits to buying from a local farm or co-op are endless but to name a few your purchase is sustaining that farm, your food is probably grown without pesticides and it’s probably not coming from genetically modified seeds. When in doubt, you can always grow your own produce and control which seeds you buy and how you manage weeds and bugs, the organic way.

When you think about fruits and vegetables the words “natural” and “healthy” come to mind and this is true, they are healthy for the body as compared to a “processed food” snack such as; potato chips, french fries or even pretzels. The body turns high glycemic, processed foods into sugar more quickly than foods seen in nature or low glycemic foods. Given the choice it is probably a better option to eat an apple over caramel corn when you need a snack but there are some other things to consider and with so many great options today, why not make the best choice?

The options in produce today are conventional, organic and local. It used to be that when you needed produce the supermarket was the place to go however that is quickly becoming the last place to buy and only in a pinch. It is true that if you have the choice between conventional or organic the organic option is always best. Conventional produce is grown typically with herbicides and pesticides.


The most recent discovery is that conventional produce is grown with genetically modified seeds or GMO seeds. A genetically modified organism (GMO) or genetically engineered organism (GEO) is an organism whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques and the seeds are resistant to commercial herbicides. It used to be believed that pesticides could simply be washed off before eating but these days, pesticides are built into the seed itself so chances are, you are eating those too. The USDA just approved the planting of alfalfa seeds that are genetically engineered GE.

Organic crops and most local crops are grown without the use of herbicides, pesticides and are planted using non-GMO seeds and the practices the farmers use are sustainable. Sure, local health food stores and even some major supermarket chains carry organic produce but one thing to think about is your “carbon footprint”. If you buy organic lemons from Mexico or California yet you live in Florida, you have greatly contributed to pollution by supporting that truck to make it to Florida. Why support a farmer in California when there is a local farm that needs your support? A lot of gasoline is used to get crops from the west coast to the east coast.

Local is Better

A new and popular trend is to frequent local farmers markets or co-ops. Most of the farmers use sustainable practices and do not use pesticides on their crops like Heart of Christmas Farms. It is a good idea to talk with local farmers and ask some questions. They might not be certified organic but that is no easy task and you might be surprised at how organic their produce actually is without the “organic” label. Many cities have local co-ops where the local farmers sell their offerings to the community. Overall, choosing fruits and vegetables is a better choice than a sugary snack and the body needs the nutrients that they provide.

The things to think about is what toxins are you putting in your body from that produce? What will those pesticides and genetically modified seeds do to your health long term? Finally, if there is an option to eat organically and locally, why not take that option? In the process you are not contributing to pollution by buying from elsewhere and you are helping local farmers that desperately need your support. What you might be surprised to find out is that buying local can be much cheaper than buying organic in any supermarket and might even be cheaper than conventional produce options. Check out a local farmers market today and enjoy!

Grow Your Own Garden

One final thought…you can always start a garden and grow your own produce. You can have an edible landscape that everyone can enjoy literally. This is a great way to ensure that the growing practices are up to your own standards without the use of pesticides or GMO seeds. Not to mention, growing your own food is also a brilliant way to keep food costs down as organic veggies in the supermarket can be very pricy. The best part is sharing your harvest with family and friends and who knows maybe you can even become part of the local farming community eventually and sell your crops at a farmer’s market, you never know?


Monday, July 18, 2011

Bottled Water: Not Worth The Price or Your Health

Well we knew this was coming sooner or later – the safety of bottled water not only questioned, but proven risky.

Since the past decade, millions of people, especially in the Western world have and do consume bottled water on a regular basis. Most of us do not know how life existed before this convenience was available to us.

Many people have switched over to bottled water for themselves and their families for none other than the belief that it is safer and hence better for us than tap water. Naturally convenience has also driven this trend, but safety has been number one.

Most of us have heard the odd water contamination scare or heard too many negative stories about how our cities and towns clean our tap water. The source of tap water is usually of course some polluted lake and one cannot forget that tap water was technically once toilet water.

Hence bottled water seemed like the safe and smart thing to invest in. After today however, you may want to rethink that.

For the past few years now there have been speculating reports as to the true source and quality of the so called “natural spring water.” In a recent report from the Environmental Working Group, those speculations have turned to facts – facts that bottled water is not at all what most people perceive it to be.

Research Shows Bottled Water Not So Safe

On October 15th, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) released an industry-rattling report that reveals the dirty truth about bottled water. If you regularly drink bottled water, brace yourself as the news is not pretty.

EWG conducted comprehensive testing on 10 brands of US bottled water and found an alarming array of contaminants, including:

* cancer-causing byproducts of chlorination
* fertilizer residue like nitrate and ammonia
* industrial solvents
* caffeine
* pharmaceuticals like Tylenol
* heavy metals and minerals including arsenic and radioactive isotopes
* a broad range of other, tentatively identified industrial chemicals

Overall the bottled water tested contained 38 chemical pollutants altogether, with an average of 8 contaminants in each brand. More than one-third of the chemicals found, are not regulated in bottled water.

In some cases, it appears bottled water is no less polluted than tap water and, at 1,900 times the cost, consumers should expect better,” said Jane Houlihan, co-author of the study.

The list of the 10 brands tested is anonymous as part of market based research, except for 2 brands: Wal-Mart and Giant bottled water brands. These 2 were actually named in this study because the first tests and numerous follow-up tests confirmed that these 2 brands contained contaminants at levels that exceeded state standards or voluntary industry guidelines.

Personally, I would not be banking too much on one bottled water being significantly better than another. The only safer choice, when buying bottled water is naturally sparkling or plain mineral spring water. These waters come from real mountain springs, usually found only in some countries like Europe. I also would make a point of preferring one that comes in a glass versus a plastic bottle.
Why Are Most People Drinking Bottled Water?

As I mentioned to you in the introduction, the majority of people out there today who drink bottled water are under the false assumption that bottled water is safer, better and/or healthier for them than tap water.

The truth is that bottled water companies are not required to disclose or notify consumers of the quality of the water. This includes the occurrence of contaminants in the water and also in most states, to tell their customers where the water comes from, how and if it is purified, and if it is merely bottled tap water. Also bottled water manufacturing does not adhere to the same strict testing that municipal water does.

Where as municipal water must be tested on a regular basis (in most municipalities even several times per day), bottled water does not go through the same testing. In fact the bottled water may be tested on the day of production, but being put in a plastic bottle and taking into considerations distance and temperature changes during shipment and sale – the quality cannot be guaranteed when you buy it, to that of that day it got tested.

The U.S. EPA website clearly provides and describes the lack of quality assurance for bottled water: “Bottled water is not necessarily safer than your tap water.”

An excerpt from Bottled Water Blues, a not for profit bottled water resource guide, further drives this point across:

The truth is that bottled water is only required to be “as good as” tap… not better. And the federal guidelines that govern bottled water quality only apply if water is transported across state lines. Most bottled water is bottled and sold within the same state in order to avoid regulation. It’s an industry full of deception. Bottled water is currently the fastest-growing and most profitable segment of the entire beverage industry. “Companies that market bottled water as being safer than tap water are defrauding the American public.” – U.S. FDA

This market is so profitable in fact, that many companies that have nothing to do with water try to enter the market because it is a sure profit. Known companies like Pepsi Co. and the Coca-Cola Company have been reaping the rewards of their products consistently since their release; PepsiCo’s Aquafina and Coca-Cola’s Dasani. Both of these bottled waters have been under massive scrutiny as to their true source and testing.

Check out articles like “Coca-Cola admits that Dasani is nothing but tap water” or “Aquafina labels to spell out source – tap water from CNN Health News.”
Health Consequences of Polluted Bottled Water

The scientists in this study also did something else that may shock you.

They included tests for breast cancer cell growth, conducted at the University of Missouri. One of the bottled water brands tested, stimulated a 78% increase in the growth of breast cancer cells compared to a control sample. (1,200 initial breast cancer cells multiplied to 32,000 in 4 days, versus only 18,000 for the control sample)

This outcome indicated that chemical contaminants in the bottled water sample stimulated accelerated division of cancer cells.

Now although a company may argue that the amounts of chemicals in any bottled water are far below any significant levels to cause any harm, think about the sheer volume of bottled water that the average North American drinks, not to mention all the other chemicals they intake through their food and other drinks. The accumulating effects have to account for something.

What the study did not mention is that there is also a risk to one’s liver if taking in chemicals on a regular basis as our liver has to detoxify any and all drugs, toxins and foreign substances that enter our bodies. Hence one can conclude that bottled water can also put a heavier than necessary burden on one’s liver, which may lead to future health complications.

Secondly, bottled water comes in PET or PETE #1 plastic bottles. (See article on understanding plastic bottle numbers for more information.) This substance that holds the water has been under scrutiny itself for being carcinogenic. Although this has not been fully proven to this date, what has been proven is that this plastic has a high incidence of bacterial contamination. Hence never ever should these bottles be refilled, especially if left in warm temperatures. Also the water from these bottles should not be drank after standing half full for days without refrigeration.

Environmental Consequences of Bottled Water

Although this study and article are health related, I do not feel that our discussion would be complete without mentioning the disastrous environmental aspects of bottled water.

The environmental effects of bottled water are widely known today, as it is no secret what a horrible effect plastic has on the environment.

For starters, plastic is not biodegradable in any way shape or form, so when we throw a plastic bottle away into a landfill (heaven forbid litter on the ground), it will sit there indefinitely.

Secondly, studies show that only 1/5 of all plastic water bottles produced get recycled. Ouch! The rest lie around polluting the Earth or worse being incinerated. Both of these actions are heavily detrimental to the health of our environment.

We know that the benefits of drinking plenty of water daily are too many to name where our health is concerned, hence ruling out drinking water is not an option. However, one can carry their water in safe, reusable bottles.

Aside from glass bottles, which most people shy away from for reasons of convenience, in my opinion the number #1 choice on the market today are Klean Kanteen bottles. These are made of high quality stainless steel.

These come in various sizes, shapes and colors and hands down are the safest choice out there next to glass bottles for carrying water with you anywhere you go.
So What Water Can One Drink Safely?

The best answer to enjoy plenty of water in a safe manner is to find a local spring. You can do so by visiting The next best thing if one is not available in your area is to drink properly filtered tap water instead of bottled or unfiltered tap water. Which filtration is best will require some research on your part.

Secondly, carry the spring or filtered tap water in safe, environmentally-friendly and reusable containers like glass bottles or high quality stainless steel bottles, such as the Klean Kanteen bottles mentioned above.

For more information, check out EWG’s Guide to Safe Drinking Water – great for sharing with others or printing for your own home or office use.

Personally, I have not drank or purchased bottled water in over 2 years now. It was in fact very easy to kick the habit.

As with many other things in my life that I contemplated on, one day it just did not make environmental sense for me to drink bottled water. Then I began my research on plastics, after which I researched the quality of bottled water and the whole picture just came together. There was no way I was going to pay for something that is not even better to that which I can get for free.

Hence that is the point of this article – to save you money and to save your health.

My solution when I lived in the city was to simply get a carbon water filter, such as Brita (a filter costs about $6 and lasts on average 3 months). Had I stayed longer in that house, I would have invested in a more thorough filtrating system. Secondly getting a safe, reusable bottle as recommended above, to enjoy water as best as possible when on the go. Today, I am blessed to live close enough to a natural, local spring which I visit once a week filling up a 20 liter glass bottle to satisfy all of our household’s fresh drinking water needs.

As an extra, if you feel strongly about the dishonest and money-grabbing bottled water industry and would like to see changes in the quality, price and distribution of bottled water, consider signing the “Think Outside The Bottle Pledge” from Corporate Accountability International (formerly INFACT).


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Why Eat Organic?

In the rush to produce more and more crops to satisfy growing demand producers have had to resort to using a lethal cocktail of pesticides to control disease and insect attack.

Good news for their bank balances perhaps but not good news for your health - this is why you need to be informed of the advantages of organic food.

Did you know that if you consumed an average apple you would be eating over 30 pesticides, even after you have washed it?

The quality of food has definitely gone down since the second world war. For instance, the levels of vitamin C in today’s fruit bear no resemblance to the levels found in wartime fruit.

Organic food is known to contain 50% more nutrients, minerals and vitamins than produce that has been intensively farmed. You will have to eat more fruit nowadays to make up the deficiency, but unfortunately that means eating more chemicals, more detrimental affects on your health eating something that should be good for you!

Also don’t forget about the cocktail of anti-biotics and hormones that cattle and poultry are force fed.

What happens to those chemicals when the animal dies?

Digested and stored in human bodies is the answer - have you seen pictures of animals in severly cramped conditions in battery farms?

advantages of organic food graphic 2It just does not make sense to state that any animal kept in these conditions is healthy and produces high quality food.

If you are as worried as I am about the health of your family then you need to read the articles on this and seriously consider converting your family to the organic lifestyle. Trust me, once you try some organic produce and taste an apple the way it should be, and perhaps how you recall it tasting in your youth, you will never go back to mass produced fruit again.

Sure there are issues with availability and cost but with a bit of research you should be able to find local stores who stock organic produce.

Also, don’t forget about your local farmer, I’m sure you will be able to find one that has seen the light and opened up a farm shop to supply local residents.

You should be able to get some very keen prices from these shops, why not take a look around and see who is offering produce in your area?

Some more startling facts now. Pesticides in food have been linked to many diseases including:

Some birth defects

Not a nice list is it? There are probably others but if you think about it, how can it be okay for you to eat chemicals and not expect some form of reaction in your body. Our bodies are delicately balanced wonderful machines. Any form of foreign chemical is bound to cause irritation at the least.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The "Skinny" On Sugars

Understanding the World of Sweets

I recently was an accomplice in a Halloween ruse when Wonder Woman chucked George Washington’s bulk-sized box of Splenda in a dumpster declaring, “I’m saving the world, one man at a time!”

Feeling like I could out-run George in roller skates and a helmet, I admitted, “Well, that stuff WILL kill you.”

George looked at me disbelieving and asked, “Why?” Funny you should ask Mr. President… Here’s a guide to good and evil in the universe of sweets.

A (Healthy?) Spoonful of Sugar

In the world of health and nutrition, sugar is surely a creation of a little red man with horns, a swishing tail, a red cape, and a pitch fork. Tempting, delicious, addictive, and destructive – sugar can simultaneously bestow us with immense joy and serious health problems. For nutritional angels and for those with health conditions exacerbated by sugar, elimination may be the only way. For everyone else, the goal is a finding a balance between radiating health and indulging our sweet-tooth.

Let’s keep something straight: SUGAR is SUGAR. It doesn’t matter if it’s natural (fresh squeezed orange juice) or refined (a Snickers bar), sugar is used the same in the body.

By fueling the body with fast, empty calories, sugar wreaks total havoc on the body’s blood sugar, causing it to spike suddenly and rapidly crash. This can cause low blood sugar or hypoglycemia and a whole host of side effects. When your blood sugar is low, you may find it hard to complete mental tasks, feel anxious, depressed, or fatigued. You will often crave more sugar or carbohydrate-dense foods that start the blood sugar spike and crash cycle all over again.

Here’s a partial list of some obvious and not-so-obvious effects of sugar:

* Promotes dental decay and plaque accumulation
* Exacerbates hyperactivity in children
* Upsets tummy
* Disturbs sleep
* Depletes the body of vital nutrients
* Weakens the immune system
* Creates a pH imbalance that can result in rashes, infections, and in the long-term can contribute to cancer

How Sugar Cane Becomes Junk

Real, natural sugar is derived by boiling sugar cane and harvesting the crystals that remain after the liquid evaporates. This type of sugar also contains valuable nutrients including fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals.

Unfortunately, most of the sugar readily available today is processed and refined, evaporated cane juice sugar. Even so-called “raw” sugar is washed, boiled, put through a centrifuge, filtered and then dried. All of the original plant materials that contained fiber and nutrients are removed when sugar is refined. What’s left is a high calorie food substance with no nutritional value.

All Sweeteners are NOT Equal

Here’s a guideline to understanding natural and artificial sweeteners :

1. AVOID all chemical and highly processed sweeteners and look out for them hidden in “sugar-free” foods, chewing gums, and toothpaste. They may be low in calories, but that doesn’t mean they’re safe or healthy.

* Acesulfame-K (aka Sunette or Sweet One) allegedly passes through the body unchanged, but this sweetener contains the carcinogen methylene chloride which can cause headaches, depression, nausea, mental confusion, liver effects, kidney effects, visual disturbances, and cancer in humans.

* Aspartame (found in Nutrasweet, Equal, and Sugar Twin) is dangerous for anyone who has phenylketonuria (PKU), but many people report negative side effects following consumption, including headaches, dizziness, memory loss, fatigue and depression to name a few. Children are especially susceptible to aspartame effects.

* Saccharin (found in the pink packets as Sweet and Low) has been associated with bladder tumors in animal studies and allergic reactions. Saccharin is also found in some infant formulas (!) and is linked to irritability and muscle dysfunction in babies.

* Sucralose (aka Splenda), the new golden child of artificial sweeteners, is made by chlorinating sugar. It offers no nutritional value and according to the book Sweet Deception, sucralose is made when sugar is treated with trityl chloride, acetic anhydride, hydrogen chlorine, thionyl chloride, and methanol in the presence of dimethylformamide, 4-methylmorpholine, toluene, methyl isobutyl ketone, acetic acid, benzyltriethlyammonium chloride, and sodium methoxide, making it unlike anything found in nature. Yum.

Despite manufacturer’s claims that it passes through the body without being metabolized, government ruling bodies in the US and Japan have conclude that Sucralose is partially absorbed and metabolized. Since Sucralose is a new product, significant testing has not been done. I recommend avoiding this an any substance that does not exist in nature when known, safe alternatives exist. (Sorry Mr. Washington!)

2. Use SPARINGLY: natural, unrefined/raw sweeteners. Natural sweeteners are calorie dense and will impact blood sugar levels very similar to white processed sugar, but they do provide additional nutritional value.

* Natural fruit sugars – Eating fruit may curb a sweet tooth, and fruit provides the body with beneficial fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and other nutrients. If a package reads:“Fruit-Juice Sweetened,” know that the food probably has no more health benefit that if it contained straight sugar.

* All-natural maple syrup is incredibly flavorful, and it’s also rich in calcium, potassium, iron, and other trace minerals. You can flavor foods with liquid syrup or purchase granulated maple sugar crystals for adding to recipes and for baking.

* Local raw honey that’s unprocessed and bottled straight from the hive is delicious used in recipes and is a great sweetener for warm beverages. Raw honey contains probiotic qualities, and is associated with many health benefits including improvement digestive problems and allergies.

* Black Strap Molasses is the thick, dark, by-product that remains when sugar is made from cane or beet. This flavorful sweetener is extremely nutritious and high in essential nutrients including iron, calcium, Vitamin B6, magnesium, potassium and others.

* Rapadura (available at many health food stores) is made from organic cane sugar but is unrefined, so it contains vitamins, minerals, and other trace elements.

3. Give these a try: Healthy Sugar Substitutes are essential for those wanting or needing to completely eliminate sugar. These sweeteners may sometimes be challenging to find or use in cooking preparations, but suggestions are plentiful online.

* Stevia plant extracts offer many possible health benefits and is recommended by nutritional experts such as Weston A. Price Foundation and Dr. Mercola, but you may notice a chemical-like aftertaste when consuming Stevia powders. I advise making your own decision with Stevia based on your own health needs and personal taste. If you do use it, seek out minimally processed products.

* Glycerine is not chemically related to sugar and seems to have a very negligible effect on insulin and blood sugar levels, thus making it a safe sweetener for diabetics, hypoglycemics and people with Candida yeast problems. Glycerine does increase blood volume so should be avoided by pregnant women and those with high blood pressure, diabetes or kidney diseases.

* Lo Han Guo is a powder made from sweet Chinese fruit in the cucumber, melon, squash, and gourd family and is growing in popularity for people that must restrict sugar intake. The Lo Han fruit has been used by people in southern China for centuries as a sweetener and a medicinal herb for the treatment of lung congestion, colds, sore throats and minor stomach and intestinal problems with no known adverse effects.

4. Use with CAUTION: New and Controversial sweeteners like…

* Xylitol – A sugar alcohol that is great for preventing tooth decay and inhibiting bacteria growth for respiratory and ear infections and has many more claims for benefiting health. Xylitol has no known toxic levels in humans but can cause mild diarrhea or slight cramping and is toxic to dogs. As with other sugar alcohols, the opinion is split as to its long term effects.

* Agave plant syrup is a purported as a natural alternative to refined, processed sugar, and it’s heavily marketed today as a “raw” foods sweetener. In reality, it’s extensively processed under high heat, and consumers should be aware they’re not paying for or consuming a “raw” or whole food sweetener if they buy agave syrup.

Soothing the Sweet Tooth

According to Chinese Medicine, sweet is one of the five essential flavors necessary to keep diet in balance. In small doses, naturally sweet foods actually support digestion. Here’s my three basic rules when it comes to eating sweets with grace:

1. Moderation – Unless you already suffer from diabetes or a condition that is worse with sugar consumption, the key is MODERATION for your children and yourself. It’s often the kids that are forbidden candy that horde it under their beds. It’s wise to practice moderation even if you’re opting for healthy alternatives to sugar.

2. Quality Not Quantity – If you skip gas station candy bars and hold out for handmade or home baked sweets, you insure you are getting higher quality ingredients.

* Organic is always best as over-processing strips healthy nutrients from the food, and even strips your body from essential minerals.

* Fair Trade Certification insures your treats are made with the highest standards of social and environmental responsibility. In other words, small children and rainforests did not die for your chocolate bar!

* A word about chocolate: If chocolate is your vice, go as close to dark, raw, and low sugar as your craving will consider for satiation. Chocolate actually contains anti-oxidants and other healthy nutrients, so just a bit will do a body good!

3. Eat With Joy! – Science shows that “mind over matter” is real. So if you feel guilty and “bad” every time you indulge in a sweet treat, your body will read your mind and agree that you’ve ingested poison! Whether you choose a cupcake or collard greens, celebrate it, and your body will be more likely to welcome your food as nourishment.

Source: Emily Bartlett, LAc

Monday, July 11, 2011

Relieving Stress Through Fitness and Nutrition

Stress in a person's life can be caused by many things, whether it be a good situation such as a job promotion, a move to a new home or a bad situation such as a relationship break-up or loss of loved one. No matter what the cause is, your body can help you cope with stress a lot better through nutrition and exercise.
Nutrition and exercise both play an important role in alleviating stress symptoms. Vitamins and minerals stored in the body are rapidly depleted when you are experiencing a stressful situation, therefore extra vitamins and minerals are needed during stressful times. Protein needs are increased when your body is under stress. This is because your body uses more amino acids to produce more stress hormones when you are experiencing stress. Also, your need for Vitamin C is increased dramatically. Take at least a 500 mg. of time-released Vitamin C supplement during stressful periods. It is not uncommon for a person to tolerate 4 to 15 grams of Vitamin C per day under physical or emotional stress. Extra doses of of the B Vitamins can also help you during a stressful period, helping to alleviate symptoms such as cloudy thinking, numbness and tingling.

Everyone should spend at least 20 minutes a day just to relax. There are many ways to do so which I will explain.

Going for a walk clears your mind, reduces tension and increases energy. It is an excellent form of exercise and it is easy to do . . . . and if you have a dog, take it along and he/she can benefit too! Tai-Chi and Yoga are both excellent stress reducers also. Choose an exercise program you enjoy.

Breathing and stretching exercises, when done correctly can promote relaxation and reduce stress. Calm yourself by controlling your breathing. Here are a few breathing/relaxation techinques you can try.

Exhalation Breathing

1. Lie on your back with your arms on your side.
2. As you begin to breathe in (inhale), raise your arms all the way up and over your head to the floor as you inhale.
3. Reverse the order; breathe out (exhale) slowly and smoothly as you return your arms to your side.

Do this several times for 10 minutes or longer.

Deep Breathing

Deep breathing can be done anytime, anywhere. It provides extra oxygen to the blood and causes the boy to release endorphins, which are natural occurring hormones that re-energize and promote relaxation.

1. Slowly inhale through your nose, expanding abodomen before allowing air to fill your lungs.
2. Reverse the process as you exhale. Do this for 3 to 5 minutes when you feel tense.

Progressive Relaxation

This help technique help to relax tense muscles.

1. Sit or lie down on your back in a comfortable, quiet room. Close your eyes.
2. Make tight fists, hold for five seconds, then relax your hands. Do this three times. Pay attention to the different sensations of tension and relaxation.
3. Repeat Step 2 with all of your muscle groups: arms, shoulders, chest abdomen, back, hips, thighs, lower legs and feet. At first, it may take you 20 minutes to do this but with practice, you will be able to do this in about five minutes.

Stretching Exercises

Stretch No. 1

1. As you stretch, think about the area being stretched; imagine the tension leaving as you gently take these areas to their comfortable limit.
2. Exhale into the stretch; inhale on the release. Breathe deeply and slowly and do not hold your breath.
3. Close your eyes for better awareness of your body's responses.

Stretch No. 2

This is a great stretch to relieve stiff muscles.

1. Sit up straight and inhale.
2. Exhale letting our head move down to your chest.
3. Roll your right ear toward your right shoulder while inhaling. Drop your chin to your chest again while exhaling. Repeat to the left.
4. Drop your arms to your sides and push both shoulders forward. Slowly rais them towards your ears and circle them back and downward to the starting point. After two or three rotations, change directions.

Getting a good night's sleep is very important to stress reduction. If you are having trouble sleeping, get up and into a chair and read a book , watch T.V., play Solitaire or just stay up and enjoy yourself and eventually, you will feel sleepy. If that fails, at least you will be relaxed and anxiety is reduced. Resist the urge to nap during the day and do not exercise during the evening. Spend your evenings "winding down" rather than "reving up". Avoid caffeine (coffee, tea, hot chocolate, cola) past 2:00 p.m. Hot milk before bed can help you get a good night sleep.

Remember physical fitness, positive thinking, healthy lifestyles and feeling good about oneself promotes better well-being.

Source: Gloria Ferri, Relieving Stress Through Fitness and Nutrition

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Pre Workout Meal

Here we take a look at the importance of the pre workout meal in your efforts to gain weight and build muscle. If you start your workouts unprepared, your results will be lacking.

Before hitting the gym you need to provide your body with the right nutrients to perform at your best. Your pre workout meal should be planned to do exactly this.

The goal of your pre workout nutrition is to make sure you are at peak strength to begin working out, and to provide a steady stream of energy to your muscles and mind throughout your time at the gym.

What and When to Eat?

First things first, you need to be properly hydrated. Even though you should be drinking water steadily throughout the day, make sure that you drink some in the few hours leading up to your workout. If your workout is early in the morning, soon after waking up, just drink some water just after rising.

Now, with your pre workout meal, you should eat it at least 45 minutes before starting your workout so your food has time to settle.

The first component of the meal is protein. Eating enough protein will keep your body in an anabolic state during your workout to reduce muscle breakdown. I recommend consuming 30-40 grams of high quality protein in your pre workout meal. If you can, try to get your protein from whey protein and casein. You can achieve this easily by mixing 25-30 grams of whey protein in 300-400ml of skim milk.

Whey protein makes for a great pre-workout choice because it is naturally high in BCAA's, which help to prevent muscle catabolism during your workout. Mixing your whey with milk is a good idea because this will slow down the release of the protein and provide your body with a steady stream of amino acids throughout your workout.

The reason whey protein is a great choice for pre-workout is because it's naturally high in Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA's). BCAA's will help to prevent muscle breakdown during your workout. Also, mixing the whey protein with skim milk is a sound idea because this will slow down the release of the protein to give a steady stream of energy to your body throughout the workout.

The other part of effective pre workout nutrition is eating the right types of carbohydrates. Low glycemic carbohydrates are what you need as they provide a steady stream of energy to the body.

High glycemic carbohydrates are what you need to avoid before an intense workout. They are rapidly released in your bloodstream and your body will release a surge of insulin to try and level out your bloody sugar levels. This results in a quick rise of energy, then followed by a quick fall. This will leave you tired and weak, which is the last thing you want to happen during an intense workout.

So avoid high glycemic carbs and make sure to eat low glycemic carbs for your pre workout meal. Some good choices are apples, oatmeal, low fat yoghurt, low fat milk and wheat bread. These low glycemic carbohydrates will give you a solid stream of energy.

Summing It Up
Your pre-workout meal shouldn't be too large so you feel sick during your workout. On the other hand, you shouldn't ever skip this meal as working out on an empty stomach could even lose you muscle.

So to sum it all up, an effective meal could look like this:

* 30-40 grams of whey protein mixed in 300-400ml of skim milk or water
* A serving of low-glycemic carbohydrates (eg: apple, oatmeal, yoghurt, wheat bread, skim milk)


Thursday, July 7, 2011

Stretching before Working Out: How it Acts as a Circulation Booster

Stretching as a circulation booster is a long-established fact in the annals of medical research. All stretching really is is a form of physical exercise that elongates a specific set of skeletal muscles. The purpose for this elongation is the confirmation of muscle tone, along with improving the elasticity of said muscle. As a consequence of stretching before working out, you feel improved range of motion, flexibility and also muscle control. Apart from working out, stretching also provides therapeutic benefits, as in those benefits derived from relaxing cramping muscles. By reading this information, you will begin to understand just how stretching before working out can act as a circulation booster.

Increases the Flow of Oxygen

One way that stretching before working out can act as a circulation booster is by simply increasing the flow of oxygen to your muscles. This oxygen is carried by your blood to your muscles, and muscles which are deprived of oxygen as a result of poor circulation are muscles that tend to endure aches, pains, and generally increased tension and tightness. Furthermore, many of the aches and pains that you develop in your body from lack of oxygen moving through your blood are connected to the knee, hip, back and neck. The antidote to this is just basic stretching. Even stretching for as little as 15 minutes every day can lead to marked improvements in the flow of oxygen in your body and, as a result, in the alleviation of aches and pains you may feel during a workout.

Alleviates Tight Muscles

Stretching need not be complicated to be effective. In fact, a straightforward way you can improve your circulation problems before working out is by way of the 90 degree test pose. In this very basic and simple stretching exercise, all you are required to do is pull one leg forward to your upper body. As you gain more flexibility, your challenge is to increase how close you can pull your leg to your upper body.

The primary advantage of this way of stretching is alleviating tight and tense hamstrings, which are the primary cause of potential pain in both your knee and legs (which in turn are due to poor circulation from a lack of oxygen).

Nourishes Your Muscles

When your circulation is poor, stretching before a workout can bring much-needed nourishment to your muscles. When your muscles are not getting enough blood due to poor circulation, they are also not receiving enough oxygen, resulting in a whole host of aches and pains. Another consequence is a lack of nourishment in your muscles and also a buildup of waste by-products in your muscles. When more nourishment in the form of better circulation hits your muscles, you get the benefit of muscles that are less tense, less strained and less aching.


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Healthy Ceasar Dressing


* 1 clove garlic, crushed
* 1/3 cup low-fat cottage cheese
* 1/2 cup nonfat plain yogurt
* 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
* 5 teaspoons white-wine vinegar
* 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
* 1/8 teaspoon salt, or to taste
* Freshly ground pepper, to taste


1. Puree garlic and cottage cheese in a blender or food processor until smooth. Add yogurt, Parmesan, vinegar and Worcestershire and pulse to blend. Season with salt and pepper.


* Make Ahead Tip: Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.


Per tablespoon: 13 calories; 0 g fat ( 0 g sat , 0 g mono ); 1 mg cholesterol; 1 g carbohydrates; 1 g protein; 0 g fiber; 62 mg sodium; 9 mg potassium.