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    Guts and Glory: the Hidden Link to Anti-aging and Wellness

    [caption id="attachment_62" align="alignright" width="300"]Pickels Pickles and sauerkraut can add years to your life![/caption] We are all looking for the fountain of youth. Whatever our age, we want to feel younger, healthier, and more alive. Maybe you’ve increased the amount of vegetables you eat, added more healthy oils to your diet, and even started eating “superfoods” such as spirulina, cacao, or coconut. But you may be overlooking a vital category of anti-aging nutrition: fermented foods! They may be new to you, but your ancestors relied on them for centuries. Fermented foods, vegetables in particular, are now being looked at as the cutting edge of anti-aging medicine, as researchers dive deep into our guts to examine the human microbiome. Guts and Glory: the Hidden Link to Anti-aging and Wellness Your gut (intestines) is lined with micro-organisms that break down the food you eat, to provide you with energy and nourishment. The “friendly” or beneficial organisms also protect you from viruses and toxins that enter your system. These micro-organisms make up the inner ecosystem that is called your “second brain”. In fact, it’s estimated that 80-85% of your immunity is located in the gut wall. We need these friendly bacteria to keep us nourished and fend off disease. But in our modern lifestyle, we wipe out bacteria through pasteurized foods, antibiotics, and disinfectants. While doing this, we also wipe out the beneficial bacteria. Science is now showing us that this lack of friendly bacteria plays a role in chronic illnesses such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, and cancer. Probiotics can help, but evidence shows that they work better when combined with fermented foods, because fermented foods create an environment where the probiotics do their job best. What are fermented foods? If you think fermented foods are foreign to your diet, think again. Do you drink wine? Eat cheese? Eat dill pickles or sourdough bread? They are all fermented foods. We take our refrigerators for granted, but it’s a relatively new invention in the scope of human history. Before that, for thousands of years, people ate food fresh from the field, and then preserved them for the winter by drying, smoking and fermenting them. Fermented, or cultured foods, are natural to us, and our bodies know how to use them to make us feel vital and renewed. Depending on your cultural background, you or your family may eat sauerkraut, kimchi, Miso, yogurt, kefir, chutney, or soy sauce. They are all rich in probiotics. Wine, cheese, and sourdough bread certainly have their benefits and they taste great. But they also cause health problems for some people, especially when you have too much. Cultured vegetables and drinks provide amazing health benefits, without adding calories, alcohol, or sugars. Donna Gates, author of the book, “The Body Ecology Guide to Growing Younger” offers 10 benefits of fermented vegetables and drinks. Here is a summary: 1. Create a nourishing eco-system. The friendly bacteria in your gut provide the major source of energy and nourishment that feeds your nervous system, your brain and the rest of your body. This inner ecosystem of microbes is so vital to your health that it’s called your “second brain” or your “second immune system”. 2. Boost your immune system. Over 80% of your immune system is in your gut wall. Our human digestive tract is a long tube through which things enter our body, including food, and harmful chemicals and toxins from the outside world. The healthy microbes in our gut protect us against invaders, such as undigested food, toxins, and parasites. 3. More potent than probiotic supplements: Organic foods that we grow in the ground create synergistic relationships with each other that help them flourish so they can survive in nature. These foods create hardier strains of microbes than supplements. And supplements from a lab actually work better when you also have fermented foods and liquids in your diet. 4. Healthy raw foods: As we get older we need more digestive enzymes, which come from raw foods. But raw foods may also be more difficult to digest, and many are too acidic. Fermented foods have all the benefits of raw foods, from antioxidants to enzymes, without the disadvantages of raw food. 5. Improve digestion: If you have digestive problems, from gas and bloating, to IBS, fermented foods help you by protecting the gut lining. They also increase the bio-availability of the foods you eat, so you absorb more nutrients. 6. Control sugar cravings: Are you a sugar junkie? Sugar and simple carbohydrates leach minerals from our bones. But they are so addictive that many people don’t have the willpower to resist the sweet treats that constantly surround us. Cultured vegetables and drinks help you resist those cravings. 7. Restores acid/alkaline balance. Your body needs to be in alkaline balance to inhibit the growth of cancers, diabetes, yeasts and viruses. Fermented foods restore the acid/alkaline balance because the microbes are efficient in helping you absorb minerals and carry them to your cells. The correct mineral balance helps your body stay in the healthy alkaline range. 8. The ultimate detox: With environmental toxins in food, water, air and soil, we need fermented foods because they give us the friendly bacteria to fend off foreign invaders that can damage our bodies and create disease. 9. Improve elimination: If your digestion doesn’t work optimally, the sourness in fermented foods stimulates peristaltic movement, helping you eliminate properly. 10. Healthy “fast food”: Fermented foods can be a healthy alternative to fast food because they are rich in nutrients and easy to digest. For example, you can add kefir to a breakfast smoothie, or some fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut or a pickle to your lunchtime salad or burger. Ready to get started? Try adding some cultured or fermented vegetables to one meal at a time, with the goal of having a little at each meal. If you are not used to eating cultured foods, you may find the sour taste a little strong at first. In our western cultures, we are mostly conditioned to eat sweet and salty foods. But in Ayurvedic medine, a great meal should have as many of the six tastes as possible: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, and astringent. Start slowly with a teaspoon of sauerkraut juice and see how your body reacts. If you’re not used to eating probiotic foods and normally eat a lot of sugar, you may have indigestion or other symptoms as the “bad” bacteria “die off.” Keep adding a little fermented food to your diet slowly. Soon you will feel the energizing sensation, and you’ll want more!

    Meat, Milk or Millet? Choosing the Best Proteins

    [caption id="attachment_55" align="alignright" width="300"]SONY DSC Choose good quality sources of protein.[/caption] Have you tried the high protein diet, the high carb diet, perhaps even the high fat diet? Or perhaps a mixture of them all, grouped into different plans such as Atkins, Paleo, Zone, or others? One thing they all have is protein. We need it to live, and stay healthy. But how much we need, and what kind….can lead to confusion. Experts say we should eat more protein for a lean body, and many of the popular diets are based on high protein, and low carbs. Yet other studies show that too much red meat may increase the risk of cancer, diabetes and heart disease. So how much protein do you really need, and what kind is best for you?

    Meat, Milk or Millet? Choosing the best proteins for health and energy

    Protein is essential for good health. Every part of our body is composed of protein, from neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers of our brains, to our bones, blood, hair and nails. If you were to remove all the water and fat from a human body, 75% of what’s left is protein. Protein is made up of chains of amino acids. There are 22 amino acids that combine to form different proteins. Nine of the 22 amino acids are called essential, because our bodies can’t make them, so we need to get them from our diet. Why do we need protein? Protein is a nutrient that builds and maintains lean muscle mass, strengthens your immune system, repairs damaged cells and tissues, and manufactures hormones. It provides long-lasting energy, without the insulin surge that promotes fat storage. Protein keeps us lean and slender throughout our lives, because it takes our bodies more energy to digest protein than to digest sugars and fats, which provide quick energy. As we age, many of us experience loss of muscle mass, called muscle wasting or sarcopenia. Consuming enough protein is crucial at this stage of life. How much protein do we need? The amount of protein you need depends on your age, body type, weight, activity level, and health condition. Growing children, and pregnant and nursing women need more protein than adults on a daily basis. In general, health experts recommend that adults eat 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. This would be about 47 g for a 59 kg (130 lb.) woman, or 66 g for an 82 kg (180 lb.) man. An easy way to tell if you’re getting enough protein is by your energy level. If you feel tired and dragged out, try adding more protein to each meal, and even to your snacks. For example, a hard-boiled egg or a handful of nuts can perk up your energy in an afternoon slump. What kinds of proteins are best? There’s no perfect answer to this question. Part of choosing the right proteins is to experiment with what gives you the most energy, what you digest well, and your personal preferences. Some people do well on a vegetarian or vegan diet, while others need some animal protein to feel their best. Here are some good sources of protein to consider.

    Animal sources

    Meat and poultry Organic, hormone, and antibiotic-free animals provide an excellent source of protein. Red meat has become less beloved because of the cruel conditions under which animals are now raised on commercial farms. Bison is a new option if you like red meat, because it’s raised naturally on pasture grasses, without growth hormones or antibiotics. Lamb is another excellent option to eat in moderation. Fish and shellfish Cold water oily fish like salmon, sardines, tuna and halibut are recommended by almost all health experts because they give us the Omega-3s that are lacking in most of our diets. Avoid farmed fish, which are fed hormones and antibiotics. Canned salmon is a good and inexpensive option if fresh, wild fish isn’t available. Eggs Don’t overlook this excellent source of protein. Contrary to media reports, the yolk is the healthiest part of the egg. Egg yolks have the good fats your brain and thyroid need, and are an excellent source of vitamins A, and the B vitamin choline, which is the precursor to acetylcholine, an important neurotransmitter that is found to be deficient in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. Dairy products If you can digest them, milk, yogurt and cheese are good sources of protein. Many people are lactose intolerant, but can digest a fermented dairy product such as kefir. However, the milk on your supermarket shelf is likely to have antibiotics, pesticides, hormones and antibiotics, so choose organic dairy products.

    Plant sources

    Nuts and seeds Nuts and seeds are very concentrated sources of protein but they contain phytic acid, which makes them difficult to digest. Phytic acid is considered an “anti-nutrient” and an enzyme inhibitor, because it binds with other minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and zinc. When we eat raw seeds and nuts, it prevents us from being able to absorb those minerals. Many nutritionists suggest eating nuts and seeds only in small quantities, and soaking them for 8-12 hours to make them easier to digest. Beans Beans also contain phytic acid which makes them harder to digest. They are basically a carbohydrate combined with some protein. To minimize the gas-producing effect of beans, soak them for at least 8 hours and then cook them in water for about 45 minutes. Eat beans with vegetables to digest them better, rather than the traditional method of eating them with rice. Ancient grains Amaranth, buckwheat, millet and quinoa may not yet be on your pantry shelf, but they are worth considering. Called the new “superfoods” these age-old staples are considered some of the most nutritionally complete foods. They are high in proteins and gluten free. Amaranth has three times the calcium of milk, so it’s excellent in preventing osteoporosis, and provides eight essential amino acids, including lysine and methionine. Millet is nearly 15 percent protein, and rich in B-complex vitamins, and magnesium, iron, phosphorus, and potassium. Buckwheat is rich in these vitamins and minerals as well, and contains all 8 essential amino acids. Quinoa is one of the most complete foods in nature because it contains a balanced set of essential amino acids. It’s also rich in enzymes, vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants. Hemp A whopping 33 percent of the hemp nut is protein, making this centuries-old crop a good source of protein, as well as Omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids. Sprinkle hemp seeds over cereal, yogurt or salads. Or add hemp powder, oil, or “milk” to smoothies. Pea proteins This newer form of protein offers an impressive 28 grams of protein in a 2-tablespoon powder, which you can add to smoothies, oatmeal, yogurt or rice pudding.  

    Spring Forward: How to Reset Your Body Clock for Spring

    [caption id="attachment_47" align="alignright" width="300"]Reset your body clock for spring. Reset your body clock for spring.[/caption] Birds have them. Bees have them. We have them too. They are our internal clocks, and they can be as synchronized as the finest Swiss watch. They influence when we sleep, when we wake up, and everything we do during the day. If you’re feeling sluggish, tired, or out of sorts, this article will help you reset your body clock to usher in spring. What drives our body clock? Your body’s master clock is located in your brain, and controls a host of hormones, including melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that influences your wake and sleep cycle. It’s closely related to the 24 hour cycle of daylight. As darkness falls at the end of the day, your brain triggers you to release melatonin, which makes you feel sleepy. When the sun rises and you’re exposed to light, you start to wake up. That’s why you often wake up much earlier in spring, while in the dead of winter you just want to burrow deeper into your pillow and blankets and sleep. Modern life vs the birds and bees Modern life can be at odds with your circadian rhythm. For most of human history, people went to sleep when it got dark, and woke up when it became light outside. Our bodies harmonized with nature and the seasons. With electric lighting, we can now work at all hours. In addition, we spend a lot of time reading on tablets and working at computers that give off blue light. Some experts say this can affect melatonin and sleep patterns. Stress can also disturb our normal sleep-wake cycle, and leave us feeling sluggish, out of sorts, or even depressed. Are you SAD in winter? In the winter, many people suffer from SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder, which is considered a mood disorder where people experience depressive symptoms. Symptoms of SAD include difficulty waking up in the morning, and a tendency to oversleep and over eat. Other symptoms include a lack of energy, difficulty concentrating on tasks, and withdrawal from friends, family and social activities. This can lead to feelings of pessimism and depression.

    7 Ways to reset your body clock

    After a great night’s sleep, you feel energized and excited to take on the day. Here are 7 tips to help you reset your body clock, so you sleep better and feel more invigorated. 1. Get outside into nature. After months of being cooped up in the house, the first rays of sunshine will beacon you to get outdoors. That’s your body’s message that you need to start soaking up Vitamin D. Go for a walk in nature, or just around your neighbourhood. Even a 15 minute stroll at lunchtime can lighten your mood and boost your energy. 2. Tap into your normal body rhythms. Whenever possible, schedule daily activities so they are in synch with your circadian rhythms. Morning light cues your body to slow melatonin. Your temperature rises and your digestion becomes more active. Your concentration, alertness and memory are at their height. This is a good time to do your most challenging or creative work. 3. Do some physical activity in the afternoon. Your coordination, reaction time and muscle strength are all at their peak in the afternoon, making this a good time to go to the gym, or just get out for a walk. 4. Relax in the evening. As daylight fades, melatonin makes us feel sleepy. Instead of fighting the natural urge to sleep by pushing through for a second wind, try to take advantage of it reading, listening to music, or taking a bath, and then going to bed. 5. Try an adaptogen. If you suffer from seasonal affective disorder, try an adaptogen herb such as Rhodiola rosea, which you can find at most health food stores. Rhodiola is a plant that helps us adjust to changes, such as those with the seasons. It helps you build resistance to stress and fatigue. 6. Increase your beneficial fats. Add more healthy fats, such as avocado, and foods rich in Omega 3s. We need these fats for normal brain development and function, and to help our bodies make the hormones serotonin and norepinephrine. They block brain chemicals that can cause sadness or depression-like feelings, helping to influence mood. They also help alleviate symptoms of inflammation from conditions like arthritis and eczema. 7. Eat more leafy greens. Green leafy vegetables are powerhouses of vitamins and minerals They are rich sources of chlorophyll, which provides plants with essential nutrients. In the same way, they restore your health by strengthening your immune system and helping you eliminate metabolic waste. To revive your spirits for spring, incorporate a range of green veggies such as spinach, parsley, kale, coriander leaves, asparagus, and turnip greens into salads, soups and smoothies. They will help rehydrate your cells with vital nutrients, and you’ll feel a surge of energy as you improve your health almost instantly. The more you get in harmony with your body’s natural rhythms, the better you will feel. Now you don’t have to feel guilty for sleeping a little more in winter, and can look forward to revelling in the longer days of spring and summer.  

    5 Steps to Spring Clean Your Pantry

    [caption id="attachment_37" align="alignright" width="300"]spring clean Time to spring clean your pantry![/caption] With spring on the horizon, do you feel like making a fresh start? You may feel your energy surging, and yearn to let the sunshine in. But sometimes….spring showers also trigger achy joints, and the throbbing you feel when the humidity rises. Contrary to what you may believe, achy and stiff joints are not “just part of life” or  a normal sign of aging. They are a sign of inflammation. The food you eat on a daily basis plays a big role in inflammation, which contributes to achy joints. So why not take a few minutes to spring clean your pantry, and replace foods that irritate your joints with ones that nourish you? “Spring is the time of plans and projects.” - Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina 5 Steps to Spring Clean Your Pantry First, let’s take a moment to discuss what inflammation is, and how it causes joint pain and stiffness. Inflammation is an immune response. When you are injured or come in contact with a virus or toxin, your body creates an inflammatory response to prevent invaders from attacking. For example, if you bump your knee hard or get a cut, your body reacts with pain, swelling, and redness. The blood rushes to the injured area to repair the damage. This is a good thing. The problem comes when our defense systems are turned on by the wrong things: sugars, hydrogenated oils, environmental toxins, and additives and pesticides in food. When you eat something that your body doesn’t recognize, such as processed food that has been chemically altered (common to most packaged foods), your immune system virtually asks, “What do I do with this?” Your body knows how to deal with a carrot or an apple. It’s dealt with fruits, vegetables and animal nutrients for millennium. But it doesn’t know how to deal with YELLOWS 5 & 6, and BLUE 1 in Captain Crunch cereal, which we added to our foods in the last 70 or so years. So you eat Captain Crunch for breakfast and your body launches an immune response by defending itself against these chemical invaders. For some people, the response might be a skin breakout. For others it might be a digestive problem. For you, it might be joint pain. Everyone is different, but inflammation causes problems in the short term, and can cause serious harm in the long term. So which foods cause the most inflammation, and how do you substitute better ones? Here are 5 types of foods to toss from your pantry, and the steps to better options: 1. Take-out food: Almost all fast food has hydrogenated oils, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and food that causes sensitivities to many people. The most common irritants are corn, wheat and dairy. People expect to pay low prices for fast food, so manufacturers look for the cheapest, most readily available ingredients. Step one: Try to eat less fast food. Even cooking or preparing just one more meal a week at home will benefit your health. The simplest healthy meal you can make is a salad – no cooking required! Mix some leafy greens with some protein such as hard-boiled eggs, chicken or tuna, and you have a quick meal that’s much healthier than any take-out fare. 2. Highly processed foods: Most cereals and packaged foods are basically chemical concoctions. If you try to read the label, you’ll be stumped after the few (bad) ingredients you recognize, such as sugar. In fact, studies show that eating the box can be more nutritious than the ingredients inside! Step two: Swap one packaged snack or breakfast food for a real one. Instead of cereal, have some yogurt or an egg. For a snack, eat an apple, pear or banana instead of a bag of chips. 3. Sugar: More and more evidence shows that we eat far too much sugar. This is contributing to an epidemic of diabetes, and also affects your arteries, joints, and heart. Step 3: Instead of a cookie or doughnut, try dark chocolate, with at least 70% cacao. Cacao is an antioxidant, so it’s actually good for you. Plus chocolate lights up the pleasure center of your brain, so a small square can satisfy your sweet tooth without spiking your blood sugar. 4. Hydrogenated oils (trans fats): These oils are toxic, and harm your heart, arteries and joints. They are found in many packaged foods, so read the labels carefully. Step 4: Avoid all vegetable and corn oils, which are highly processed. Stick to heart-healthy olive oils, or try sesame or nut oils which are good for you. 5. Soda, including diet soda: Do you grab a quick soda for energy or to quench your thirst? Studies show that the chemicals in diet soda make you crave more, and the sugar in regular soda contributes to diabetes and joint pain. Step 5: Instead of a soft drink, look for a beverage that supports your health. Water is ideal, and every health book tells you to drink more. But some people just don’t like plain water. Try herbal tea, iced tea or coconut water.  Check the sugar content, so you are not adding more sugar. Drinks made with Stevia, an herbal, non-caloric sweetener, are a better option. So there you have it, 5 steps to spring clean your pantry that will help you eliminate joint pain. If they seem overwhelming to you, don’t try to tackle everything at once. Take one baby step at a time. Once you start to feel better, you’ll want to take the next step. Added bonus: If you want to lose weight, these changes will help you shed pounds without even trying!