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Going Beyond the Numbers: Learn How You Can Support Good Cholesterol

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Going Beyond the Numbers: Learn How You Can Support Good CholesterolCholesterol has been a major focus of daily health for many years, especially when it comes to the heart. For a long time doctors and experts focused on a certain set of numbers based on LDL, HDL, and triglyceride levels to assess heart health. But recent studies have shown that cholesterol management is more than just a numbers game.

A Change in Approach

Almost everyone who watches their cholesterol knows there are two different types: LDL, otherwise known as "bad cholesterol", and HDL, known as the "good cholesterol". According to the Mayo Clinic, acceptable ranges for LDL cholesterol consist of anything below 70 mg/dl while anything between 130 mg/dl and 159 mg/dl is borderline high. For the good HDL, the higher the number the better. Healthy ranges consist of anything between 40 mg/dl up to 60 mg/dl.

A recent report released by the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology, however, gave updated insight into how other potential risk factors—not just cholesterol numbers—play a role in determining your cholesterol health. Cholesterol numbers by themselves sometimes don't always tell the full tale as the same numerical values can bear different meanings for different people.

In order to give a more accurate evaluation, doctors and health experts looked at other factors such as genetics, age, physical activity levels, diet, and blood sugar levels to assess what type of daily support an individual may need. Any one of these factors can raise your risk of heart concerns, which is why it's important not to focus on a single aspect, but rather the big picture of your well-being.

Ways You Can Influence Your Cholesterol Numbers

There are several controllable factors that you can engage in to support not just your cholesterol number readings, but other aspects that go into your health. Diet, for instance, can play a crucial role. Studies have shown that legumes can positively influence your cholesterol numbers. Foods like beans, nuts, peas, and lentils can cut cholesterol by 5%, which, in turn, can cut your risk factors for other heart health concerns by 5%, making a world of difference.

There are also supplementation options for a more natural approach to supporting cholesterol. The clinically tested Bergamot fruit continues to show promise for cholesterol health as well as balancing blood sugar levels. Other ingredients such as folic acid, omega-3 fish oil, and flaxseed have also shown the ability to provide positive daily support when it comes to managing cholesterol.

Depending on your personal variables, exercise is another often-cited factor in influencing cholesterol health. You don't have to dedicate yourself to workouts to see a difference, but adding 30–40 minutes of moderate-intensity workouts three-to-four times a week can support healthy cholesterol and blood pressure ranges according to the American Heart Association.

Other lifestyle components include resisting more obvious bad habits such as smoking and drinking too much alcohol, as well as not monitoring stress levels as they can impact blood pressure and your overall heart health.

It's More Than Just About the Numbers

While many people measure their cholesterol strictly by the numbers, there's much more to it than figures on a piece of paper. Your overall lifestyle—depending on how healthy or unhealthy it is—indirectly affects your heart. However, no matter your age, weight, gender, or family history, it's never too late to enact positive changes starting today that can bear great health rewards tomorrow.

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A Joint Effort: Tips to Help Influence Healthy Joints

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A Joint Effort: Tips to Help Influence Healthy JointsThe importance of supporting healthy joints throughout your lifetime is no secret. Many factors—from exercise to diet to lifestyle—are discussed at length when it comes to how and why you should take care of the joints that are tied so intricately to your overall well-being. But the fact remains that many people still suffer from joint stiffness and discomfort. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), as of 2012 nearly 52 million people are diagnosed as having a common type of joint concern. While natural wear and tear on your joints and muscles occurs throughout your life, taking some minute daily precautions can be the difference between ultimately helping or hurting the health of your joints.

To Stretch or Not to Stretch?

It's hard on your body to expect your joints and muscles to go from zero to fully exercising, but in the same respect stretching cold joints, muscles, and tendons is not good either. Even if you're not about to exercise you should stretch daily, or at least three times a week, to maintain joint flexibility. However, warming up before doing some dynamic stretches to keep your joints, ligaments, and tendons loose is necessary.

Warming up literally means raising your body temperature a little before stretching and exercising. Jogging in place, rotating your arms, or even moving your body around can help you warm up to properly stretch and allow you to protect your joints from injury when you eventually engage in physical activity.

Low-Impact Exercise Still Has an Impact

As you get older, joint discomfort may mentally deter you from being physically active. While everyone's limitations change as they get older, it's important to know that even if you have joint concerns there are low-impact exercises that can cater to your capabilities and still allow you to get the exercise your body needs.

Walking, cycling, and swimming are some of the main types of low-impact exercises. Different types of sports can be jarring on your joints, but these simple ways of moving about without the high impact of your joints stomping the ground can provide a good cardiovascular workout while giving your joints the movement they need to stay in shape.

Other Helpful Tips for Keeping Joints Healthy

Sometimes joint health isn't just about focusing on your joints. Light exercises for muscles around crucial joints can actually help strengthen the joints themselves. Research has shown that having weaker thigh muscles can increase the risk of joint concerns. In addition to the muscles around your joints, make sure to workout your core. Having a strong core, midsection, and back can help you have better balance and a fuller range of motion, allowing you to put less pressure on joints.

Supplementation can also give your joints the well-rounded support they need. Ingredients like hyaluronic acid can help lubricate the joints to support mobility and flexibility while collagen, a main component of joints and skin, helps nourish cartilage to keep the connective tissues strong. MSM is another well-known ingredient for joint support as it supports tissue rejuvenation, nourishes cartilage, and is a major key for collagen production and overall joint support.

Understanding the Ins and Outs of Joints

To understand joint health is to know how the rest of your body is connected to movement. Just because you may experience joint discomfort, it should not be a reason to give up all hope for engaging in some type of consistent exercise. Of course, it is always important to know your limitations and be sure to check with your doctor before pushing your boundaries. Giving your joints the support they need is possible through both internal and external factors. Exercise, nutrition, and understanding how to best protect your joints can lead you to the healthy and active lifestyle you need.

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Knowing Your Daily Stressors and Taking Steps to Avoid Their Effects

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Knowing Your Daily Stressors and Taking Steps to Avoid Their EffectsStress and anxiety can come from a variety of places; whether it's deadline driven or due to life's sometimes overwhelming responsibilities. Everyone feels a little bit of anxiety and stress now and then, but when you are unable to properly deal with the daily anxieties of life they can build up and put excessive physical strain on your body. However, there are some simple techniques to dealing with the everyday stressors that can help you relax in the moment in order to keep your body from feeling the residual effects that stress can cause.

Concentrating on a Constant: Breathing

Breathing is an essential, unconscious process needed to sustain life. There are, however, many techniques which can help you control your rate of breathing. Whenever people feel stress or anxiety they naturally tend to breathe faster, which is part of the ingrained fight or flight response. By focusing on your breathing and taking slow, methodical breaths to avoid shallow breaths, you can slow your physical reaction to stress. One method is to produce long, deep breaths holding it, and then slowly exhaling over a few seconds. This type of deep breathing can reduce the effect those waves of anxiety can have on the body.

The Human Connection

Sometimes, relaxation is easier with company. Human beings are social creatures and throughout our lives we create deep, meaningful bonds with others. These connections to the people you love and care for can also be useful in reducing anxiety or stress when you're feeling frustrated. A positive word of encouragement from someone you love, or even a pat on the back or hug, can do wonders for your mood. Stress can make you tense and reserved, making you reluctant to open up and share your feelings. But having someone to talk to, or even just rant with, can relieve stress almost immediately. The power of the human connection should never be underutilized.

Moving to Stay Ahead of Stress

Whether you realize it or not, stress can also be a motivating factor that can be used to your advantage. This is aptly referred to as stimulation and engagement. When you feel bouts of anxiety or stress, you often feel as if you need to move around, which is why it's common to picture a person pacing back and forth when they're fretting on their problems. This idea can be used in a positive way if you engage in physical activity during instances of anxiety. Whether you work out, go for a walk, or even just dance around your room to a favorite song, you are naturally letting off steam and helping your body relieve the symptoms of anxiety.

Paying Attention to Your Stress Levels

Many people don't pay attention to stress and anxiety until it has a hold on them and sends their mood spiraling downward. Being aware of certain reactionary cues throughout your day such as changes to your voice, having sweaty palms, feeling burned out, or faster breathing can alert you to the fact that you may be dealing with unwanted anxiety.

Modern society is filled with things that can constantly make you stressed, from major nuisances (job, money, marriage, and relationships) to minor ones (traffic, cell phone service, and grocery shopping). By knowing what your trigger points are and being proactive in calming yourself through simple techniques, you can avoid stress before it takes hold and gain peace of mind, a healthier immune system, better focus, and more energy to concentrate on the things you love.

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The Triggers of Emotional Eating and What You Can Do

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The Triggers of Emotional Eating and What You Can DoBad day at work? Going through some issues in your personal life? Is your first response to grab the ice cream from the freezer or rip open that bag of chips and have at it? Human responses to stress can take various forms, many of them unhealthy. Whether it's anger, sadness, frustration, or stress that has infiltrated your daily life everyone needs to find an outlet to relieve the tension. Unfortunately, many people turn to food as their outlet. Binge eating or emotional eating can happen without you realizing how serious it can become. Understanding how to deal with powerful emotions, stress, and reactions can help you avoid the pitfalls of emotional eating so that you can resolve your issues in a healthier way.

What Induces Your Emotional Eating Response?

Sometimes the most important question to ask yourself is, "Why am I eating?" In the case of overeating, especially if it's emotional, pinpoint your triggers. These triggers can range from internal feelings to outside influences. Some people eat to fill a void; when they're bored, have no plans, and can't figure out what to do with their evening, they may eat as a way to pass the time. Others may be trying to fill an emotional void due to loneliness, anxiety, and stress. Sometimes the root of stress or anxiety can be connected to your thoughts on your body. Having a negative self-image can cause a cycle of destructive behaviors that includes finding solace in food.

Other triggers can be social, such as eating to fit in or being encouraged to eat by those around you. Physiological responses such as headaches or stomach aches due to skipping meals may also convince people that they need to eat more to curb their hunger.

Identifying your triggers and analyzing the issues in your life to find the problem can be the first step in pinpointing the question of "Why?" To help keep track of possible triggers, keep a food diary and write down what you ate, when you ate it, and what stressors, thoughts, or emotions you experienced while eating. Once you've spotted the pattern, address what you can do to change your lifestyle, stress factors, and other things that may be causing the reaction of overeating.

Spot the Pattern, Break the Cycle

For many, emotional eating can become a routine part of getting through situations. To break a cycle, no matter what it is, you have to change the pattern of repetition. Simple activities throughout your day, even if they only take up a small chunk of time, can alleviate the urge to use food as a coping response and finding a passion can go a long way to avoiding the static cycle of negativity. Going for a walk, exercising, reading, talking to a friend, or finding a hobby can replace the tendency to choose food as a means of filling up the emotional void in your life.

Taking Steps for a Healthier Future

Nutrition should always be a focus when it comes to your everyday diet. By focusing on healthy eating and learning about what your body needs you can help facilitate the lifestyle change you need. A recent study by USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University and at Massachusetts General Hospital recently revealed how a low-calorie, high-fiber diet along with the right behavioral counseling can actually increase one's cravings for healthy foods and minimize those for unhealthy ones.

While everyone responds differently to triggers and their surroundings, there are ways of overcoming emotional overeating and turning your lifestyle around. If you or someone you know struggles with overeating or emotional eating, learn how you can help that person reverse their negative behavior and deal with their emotions in a healthier way.

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Changing Needs: A Focus on Age and Proper Nutrition

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Changing Needs: A Focus on Age and Proper NutritionMany people can recite the names of the most popular vitamins and prominent minerals such as vitamin A, D, calcium, and potassium. But are you getting enough each day? Many people are, in fact, missing some of the main nutrients needed to sustain healthy living—especially older adults. As diets change, the number of calories older adults absorb can drop. This can lead to a deficiency in some of the more vital nutrients that are needed for good health and increased longevity. To help you sustain ongoing health, here are some of the top nutrients you should look out for to help ensure that you’re getting the proper amounts.

Bones, Cells and Heart Health

Calcium is essential to supporting healthy bones and teeth. Bone development continues throughout adulthood, which is why your body needs a steady supply of calcium. Not getting enough calcium can lessen your bone density over time, leaving them brittle and making you more susceptible to falling and incurring injuries. Besides dairy products, broccoli and kale are also rich sources of calcium. You can also turn calcium supplementing into a treat by making a smoothie out of yogurt, fruit, and vegetables.

Along with helping maintain healthy nerve function, vitamin B12 helps in the formation of DNA, RNA, and red blood cells. B12 is especially important for older adults because they can’t absorb it as easily as younger people can. To get enough B12, eat plenty of fish, poultry, meat, eggs, and milk.

Folate, or folic acid, is another B vitamin (vitamin B9). Folic acid supplementation is recommended in pregnant women because adequate folate levels during pregnancy may help reduce the incidence of neural tube defects in babies. It has also been connected to protecting heart health and reducing risks of heart concerns later on in life. As one of the eight B-complex vitamins, folic acid helps convert the body’s food into fuel and is a crucial part of overall wellness.

Essential Nutrients for Internal Conditioning

Much has been written and debated about vitamin D. At its core it helps the body absorb calcium and is important to bone density, skin health, immune function, and many other processes in the body. While your skin is capable of producing some vitamin D when you’re exposed to the sun, many people do not spend enough time outdoors to satisfy the recommended daily value. Vitamin D amounts can vary by gender and age, but adults ages 19–70 should get, on average, at least 600 IU each day by remembering to step out in the sun or eating cereals, milk, and juices fortified with vitamin D.

Potassium is an electrolyte that helps your cells, tissues, and organs function properly. It is also connected to the electrical activity of the heart, and aids healthy blood pressure and kidney function. The daily requirement for potassium is 4,700 mg, which can be obtained from bananas, prunes, potatoes, dairy products, soy, and some fish.

While the body doesn’t need much magnesium, it still plays a crucial role in some 300 different processes in your body. Often associated with heart health, magnesium is also pertinent to a high-functioning immune system and bone health as 66% of the magnesium your body needs is stored in the bones. Although magnesium is found in many common foods such as grains and nuts, it is still estimated that people only get 66% of the necessary daily value. You can help make up for this deficit by eating more unprocessed foods such as fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, beans, and seeds.

Keeping Well Fed and Watered

Your digestive tract has a lot of responsibilities that include nutrient absorption, waste elimination, and immune health. Fiber, which is a type of carbohydrate that can’t be digested by the body, aids the digestive system. It is also known for supporting heart health. The national recommendation for fiber is 30–38 grams a day for men and 25 grams a day for women ages 18–50.

The last area of nutrition that is often overlooked is hydration. Fluids are an important part of your diet; water being the most crucial. As you get older your sense of thirst can decline, but no matter what age you are, hydration is important for every process mentioned in the above paragraphs. It is often said that if food is your body’s fuel, then fluid is the coolant. Nutritionists recommend drinking 3–5 large glasses of water each day, or 8 glasses if you’re physically active.

Covering Your Bases of Nutrients

Sometimes keeping track of what your body needs can seem overwhelming. However, if you’ve already made the decision to eat healthier by managing your food groups and portions, you can easily figure out what vitamins and minerals you are getting enough of, and what areas you may need to focus on. Supplementation for many vitamins and minerals is always a viable option due to the various nature of different diets. Getting a wide variety of what you need, at each point in the aging process, however, is crucial to continued healthy living, and it starts with what you know.

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Facts You Probably Didn't Know About Dreaming

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Facts You Probably Didn't Know About DreamingEvery night you venture from this world into an entirely different one where the rules of physics, time, and mortality may not apply. It sometimes doesn't help that while you're inhabiting this world, you are unable to exercise any control over your dream land. However, that can be part of the fun. Where does this all occur? In the mind, of course.

Dreams as a Means of Memory Processing

Sleep and dreaming helps your mind process, sort, and store each day's events. Rubin Naiman, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist specializing in integrative sleep and dream medicine at the University of Arizona, likens dreaming to being a digestive system for your brain. "At night, the brain metaphorically swallows, digests, and sifts through information, and, just like the gut, eliminates," he says. "What the brain keeps becomes a part of who we are. Dreaming, is like the brain's digestive system."

Dreams are often said to occur only during the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) cycles of sleep. But according to Dr. Naiman, dreams actually happen all night long; it's just that you're more tuned in to them during the REM cycles. Interestingly, mammals, reptiles, and birds are the only animals that experience REM sleep.

The process of sleep also helps the brain rid itself of toxic proteins that may potentially affect neurological function. The brain has its own plumbing system—known as the glymphatic system—that carries waste material out of the brain nightly. During sleep, brain cells shrink, allowing fluids to wash out the brain.

Want to Remember Your Dreams?

Trying to remember some dreams can be like catching smoke with a butterfly net. Sometimes the more you chase after it the more elusive it can become. The best way to try and remember your dream is to wake up slowly, lying in bed for a few moments and staying with your grogginess. By contrast, getting jolted awake by your alarm or any sudden sound can cause you to immediately forget what you were just doing in your dream. The shock of going from one state of mind to the next can leave you with only the vague residual memory of your night's adventures.

People who tend to remember their dreams have been found to have more spontaneous brain activity in a part of the brain called the temporo-parietal junction, when compared to those who more easily forget their dreams. These differences in recalling dreams don't just occur during sleep; people who remember dreams also seem to be more sensitive to sounds while they're asleep, too.

The Connection from Dream Land to the Waking World

Your body reacts the same way in your dreams biologically as it does to reality, says Dr. Naiman. "The experience we have in the dream registers in the body and in the brain in almost exactly the same way," he says. "Your blood pressure or heart rate might spike, for example, like in a real-life stressful scenario, helping to cement those emotional experiences of the dream." Contrary to popular belief, dreams also register in real time and can span anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour.

The realistic feel of dreams can extend to your awake self. A 2014 study found that many bad dreams elicited feelings of worry, confusion, and guilt. However, dreams never feel "weird" no matter how preposterous the situation you're in. "It's only after you wake up and step into the waking world and look at the dream that it seems weird," Dr. Naiman says.

A Good Night's Rest for a Multitude of Benefits

A good night's sleep will take you to imaginative realms but also gives your brain time to digest, sift and sort through information, while leaving you well rested for the morning. Sleep is also connected to other bodily functions such as your immune system, blood pressure, and even weight. Getting the proper amount of sleep, and enjoying the fantastical world of your dreams can keep you living healthy and happy during the day.

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What Your Body Looks Like On Worry and Anxiety

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What Your Body Looks Like On Worry and AnxietyMost people think of stress as something that weighs heavily only on your mind and emotions. Its effects, however, can also produce a physical response in your body that can have far-reaching consequences on your overall health.

Your body contains many different organs and systems that work symbiotically to react to both short term and long term mood and anxiety. Learning exactly what those pangs of physical reactions are doing to your body and how to properly manage these situations can help you overcome the mental and physical challenges they present.

Spotting the First Signs

When high-stress situations occur, your brain chemistry and hormone production changes, causing a cascade of reactions down to the rest of your body. Your adrenal system kicks in and the hormone, cortisol, is produced, which has a variety of effects.

At the first sign of anxiety, your heart rate increases, breathing becomes rapid, and the lungs take in more oxygen. Blood flow may actually increase 300%–400% in order to prime the muscles, lungs, and brain. To cope with your body's increased oxygen demands, the spleen becomes more active and discharges more red and white blood cells.

If your voice suddenly becomes creaky or squeaky, or there's a tightness in your throat when you swallow, it's because the body is dispensing fluids from nonessential areas, such as your mouth, to more essential areas of the body, often leaving you with a dry throat. Blood flow gets redirected from the skin so that the supply can be concentrated on the heart and muscle tissues. This is why muscles tighten up, and your skin can feel cold and clammy.

Cortisol also causes the liver produce more glucose, the main fuel your body uses for energy. For most people, excess glucose can be reabsorbed if it isn't used, but if you already have trouble balancing your blood sugar levels, excess glucose can make your levels spike even higher. And one of the more day-to-day effects of stress can be the compromising of your immune system. Once again, cortisol is the main culprit because it suppresses your immune system function, leaving you more susceptible to inflammation and infections.

The Body's Worries Over Time

One of the main concerns about anxiety is if it's constantly present. Besides causing an immediate physical reaction, the long-term effects can negatively influence other important areas of your health, leading to digestion problems, changes in metabolism, and increasing your chances of developing an ulcer. Studies have also linked it to weakened respiratory function.

Those who experience constant anxiety and periods of low moods are more at risk for heart-related concerns due to increased blood flow, higher blood pressure, and an increase in cortisol production. Cortisol is a means to increase blood flow to give you the energy needed to deal with the situation, however, too much of it can overwork the cardiovascular system, eventually weakening it.

Dealing with the Daily Distractions

You cannot completely avoid frustrating situations; it's a natural response of human nature. But there are some immediate and simple ways to deal with it.

Taking a few deep breaths or counting slowly to 10 when you start to feel anxious can help you control the immediate impact it can have on your day. According to the American Heart Association, 10 minutes of peace, quiet, and slow breathing can help you alleviate the influence of stress on your mind and allow your body to relax.

Positive reaffirmation can be beneficial to calming those moments where you feel overwhelmed. Similarly you can find solace throughout your day with common practices such as meditation, yoga, or exercise.

Remaining Aware of the Mind and Body

It's important to pay attention to how much stress you are dealing with in your life and take the appropriate action to avoid the negative health consequences. Give your mind and body the daily support you need so you can take on the task at hand and allowing yourself to maintain a healthy mind and body.

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Can Exercise Influence the Balance of Good Bacteria in Your Gut?

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Can Exercise Influence the Balance of Good Bacteria in Your Gut?Today more and more of what goes on in your stomach is being put under a microscope—in some cases quite literally. Gut health has been linked to many aspects of overall health, including your immune system, weight management, nutrition, and even mood. There’s much more going on in your gut than just the breaking down of food to extract the nutrients your body needs. Understanding how you can support your digestive system and your overall well-being with good bacteria can give you an added advantage to achieve a healthier lifestyle.

 

Making Way for the Good Bacteria

For most people, the mention of bacteria conjures pictures of harmful microbes that are associated with germs and sickness. However, there are actually millions of good bacteria, or probiotics, lining your colon that help your body digest nutrients. Probiotics also help battle bad bacteria that can wreak havoc on your immune system, energy levels, and overall health in general. While your diet is a large indicator of what your gut health can look like, a new study shows that even exercise can be beneficial in tipping the scales in the favor of the healthy flora your gut needs.

An Exercise in Better Gut Health

While diets can vary from person to person, researchers wanted to explore the degree to which exercise and diet in combination might be beneficial to the good bacteria count in your gut by observing several test groups. One test group consisted of rugby players due to their adherence to a more extreme diet and intense physical training. Athletes are prone to eating a more varied diet which would help enrich gut flora. The other control groups consisted of two groups of men: One group that had a normal body mass index (BMI) and engaged in periodic light exercise, while the second group were primarily sedentary and were considered overweight or obese. As one would expect, the group of athletes—due to their high level of activity and more varied diet, which included a higher protein intake—had not only more good gut bacteria, but also a variation in particular strains which has been linked to promoting healthy weight management and reduced risk of inflammation.

Food Quality Matters

Researchers and critics were quick to point out, that while these results do show a lot of promise, the link between exercise and healthy gut bacteria cannot be definitively proven from this study. Besides engaging in more physical activity, the athletes ate better-quality foods such as more fruits and vegetables compared to the sedentary test subjects who ate more snacks and processed foods. Diet, as many know, plays a major role in the health of your gut. Processed foods contain sugar, which can stimulate the growth of bad bacteria whereas fermented foods promote good bacteria growth. Health experts also caution against consuming too much protein if you aren’t a professional athlete because the metabolisms of athletes are very different from an average person’s.

Catering to Your Gut for Better Health

The study does make it clear though that sufficient levels of gut bacteria are crucial to overall health. People with more active lifestyles usually have a more varied, nutritious diet that supports healthy levels of gut bacteria, so even if the direct relationship between exercise and gut health hasn’t been established, it’s always a good idea to be physically active. Catering to your gut health with a balance of exercise, healthy eating, and probiotic supplementation is a great way to help the good bacteria in your digestive system gain the upper hand on gut health and lead to more optimal living.

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Revealed: Sabotaging Food Words We Often Fall For

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Revealed: Sabotaging Food Words We Often Fall For

Whether you’re scrolling through a restaurant menu or shopping for groceries, if healthy eating is on your mind you may tend to base your food choices on certain buzzwords you spot on menus or food packages. Some of these buzzwords clue you in to how the dish is prepared whereas at other times they may be used to make a food item seem more nutritious than it actually is. Using these buzzword indicators can help you avoid unhealthy eating options and aid your quest for healthy weight management this summer.

Danger Zone Food Descriptions 101

Sometimes it’s not the food itself but a sauce or dressing that can get you. Potatoes contain vitamin C and more potassium than bananas, spinach, or broccoli. But if they’re made “au gratin” then beware—this means the dish will most likely be covered with cheese, heavy cream, and bread crumbs. Similarly, “battered” and “creamed” are other terms to be wary of when used to describe a dish. Anything battered is made with flour, eggs, and butter, then deep fried. Creamed broccoli, spinach, and corn may sound healthy since they’re made with vegetables. However, the cream sauces are thick with butter and heavy in fats and oils, canceling out most of the nutritional value of the vegetables.

More Obvious Warning Signs

Many BBQ sauces and marinades contains lots of sugar, which can make your glycemic index shoot up. If you’re trying to eat lighter and going the soup and salad route, it’s best not to go the creamy route. When trying to choose a healthy soup, a vegetable-based broth is the best choice. If you’re on a salad kick try to avoid heavy dressing such as bleu cheese, or at least ask for it to be served on the side so you can control how much you want to add.

Checking That Label Twice

Advertisers and food companies might also use healthy-sounding buzzwords to persuade you to purchase their items. “No fat”, “low calorie”, and “whole grain” sound nutritious. However, sometimes a closer look at the label is warranted. Some labels will say “no added fat”, but this could still mean that the product is heavy in fat content; it just means that no fat was added during processing.

Choosing foods based on popular buzzwords alone can also be counterproductive to your healthy eating plan. Temple Northup, an assistant professor at the Jack J. Valenti School of Communication at the University of Houston, recently published a study in Food Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal. By putting 318 people through sample tests, given the choice between big-name products or products containing words such as “organic whole grain”, “heart healthy”, and “all-natural” on the packaging, he showed that the items containing the healthy buzzwords seemed immediately more appealing. But that didn’t necessarily mean the products were any healthier than items that didn’t have those key words on their packaging.

“Everything in our memory is connected, so everything associated with that word—like organic and thoughts of health—becomes more accessible and influences your decision,” Northrup said. For example, a can of soda may claim to be high in antioxidants because it contains one antioxidant. But upon closer inspection, there may be just a minimal amount of it in the ingredients.

Interpreting Descriptions for Health

Choosing healthier eating options becomes easier when you know what you’re looking for and what to avoid. You don’t have to spend hours scouring labels. Understanding how food is prepared and what a claim on a package really means can help you to avoid the bad and continually choose the good, allowing you to support a healthy figure throughout summer and beyond.

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Did You Know: Three Surprising Tips for Weight Loss

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Did You Know: Three Surprising Tips for Weight LossAs we reach the midpoint of summer, you may feel your motivation to maintain a healthy weight begin to slip, or maybe you're now feeling inspired to start taking your diet more seriously. Whatever your state of mind, there are plenty of ways to help you reach your objectives. Here are some unique tips to keep you sailing towards your summer weight goals.

Sometimes your body needs a little influence from the mind. If you often find yourself trying to juggle many tasks at once, take the time to put everything aside during mealtimes so you can focus on your food. A recent study done by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that if you're eating while doing another task, chances are you won't be satiated. In the study, one group of people ate a meal while playing solitaire while another group ate their meal without any distractions. Results showed that more people who played the game while eating couldn't remember what they ate—and they were still hungry afterwards. It also helps to plan your meals ahead. If your goal is to eat more servings of fruit and vegetables per week, for example, write it down and check it off your list the moment you do it. In one healthy eating experiment, participants who had a concrete plan to eat more fruit per week ended up eating twice as much fruit as those who simply tried harder without having a solid game plan. While a majority of people watch what they eat while dieting, it's also important to remember to watch for liquid calories. No matter how vigilant you are in monitoring your food intake, all that food-watching and calorie-counting can be undone with a few sugary drinks throughout your day. The American Heart Association recommends that adult men and women should consume no more than 37.5 grams and 25 grams of sugar, respectively, per day. A typical 20-oz. bottle of soda has around 65 grams of sugar and 240 calories—just one soda can almost double the recommended daily intake! Many store-brand fruit juices also contain as much sugar as sodas, so just because something has fruit in it, don't automatically assume that it will be low in sugar and calories. If you're feeling thirsty in the warm, summer sun, stick to water to stay hydrated or press your own fruit juices as a healthier option. Coffee can also help speed up your metabolism, but watch out for those sweetened coffee beverages because they can pack a lot of sugar and calories. The desire to enjoy the mid-summer season can be a great motivator to help you stay on your weight management course. However, the health tips here aren't just exclusive to summer; you can apply them all year long to maintain a healthy body weight. Find your motivation and enjoy the rest of the summer—and the entire year—in good health!

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