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Blog posts tagged with 'metabolism'

A Little Spice Goes a Long Way: The Surprising Benefits of Three Everyday Spices


A Little Spice Goes a Long Way: The Surprising Benefits of Three Everyday SpicesSpices have been a part of human society for thousands of years, with evidence of their use dating as far back as 2000 BC. Throughout human history different cultures have utilized them for food preparation, preservation, and religious ceremonies; and they have even been catalysts for global exploration. Some spices were such rare commodities that they were used for trading. The little, ground pepper flakes you shake onto your meal or salad were once used as currency, and nutmeg found in recipes and snacks was once so valuable that a historian has called it “the iPhone of the 1600s.” We tend to pay less attention to the details in spices these days because they’re so commonplace, but some of these simple additives can provide a pinch of support to your health. Here are some everyday spices with some surprising benefits.


It may come as a surprise that cinnamon provides anything beyond an interesting flavor—both spicy and sweet—to our foods. But this brown spice has been known to help promote healthy blood flow. The chemical responsible for these benefits—cinnamaldehyde—also possesses anti-inflammatory properties. In a 2011 study it was found that the use of cinnamon in diets can also help combat the negative effects of triglycerides found in high-fat meals.


Turmeric, like cinnamon was also mentioned in the same 2011 study as one of the spices that helped lessen the negative effects of meals high in fat. This orange-colored spice is commonly used in Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian cuisines. It is also known for its powerful antioxidant properties, often said to help neutralize or prevent free radical damage. Studies have also shown that turmeric can be a potent ally against joint discomfort, with one researcher commenting that “Turmeric is one of the most potent natural inflammatories available. Other studies found that the main component in turmeric, curcumin, can also support healthy skin, memory, digestion, and cholesterol levels.


Studies have shown that Chinese cultures have benefited from the use of ginger for over 2,000 years. It has been said to relieve symptoms related to upset stomachs and nausea, as well as support daily digestion. It has also been shown to be helpful in aiding colon health by acting as an anti-inflammatory in the colon. Ginger contains antioxidant-like properties as well. A study published in the Journal of Dietary Supplements states that ginger may help alleviate the instances of oxidative stress similar to vitamin E.

Make Your Spice Rack a Health Rack

Who knew these everyday spices held so much potential nutritional benefits? The best part is that they aren’t rare or expensive; they are readily available and lend themselves to a wide range of uses in meals, drinks, and desserts. It is also common to make hot teas out of these spices—try mixing cinnamon, turmeric, and ginger together to make a super-tea when you’re feeling under the weather. Some of the best sources of these ingredients can also be found in specific supplements, giving you exactly what you need in one bottle. So keep your eye on the spice isle and kick-start your health by adding some spice to your health.




Can You Guess Which Ordinary Fruit Is as Nutritious as the Trending ‘Superfruits’?


Can You Guess Which Ordinary Fruit Is as Nutritious as the Trending ‘Superfruits’?Fruits have long been touted as a necessary staple of our daily diet and nutrition needs. But according to experts, we aren’t getting enough. The USDA recommended serving of fruit—depending on your age—is at least 2 cups a day. The benefits of natural fruits are nothing short of wondrous, but every month there seems to be a new “superfruit” trend being hailed as the best fruit around. Often forgotten is one of the go-to staples that we have relied upon for years: the apple. While it may not be as glamorous or exotic-sounding as the acai berry, pomegranate, papaya, or kumquat (all of which are nutritious in their own right) an apple contains just as many vitamins and nutrients to give you the boost you need from your daily fruit intake.

Plentiful Benefits from a Familiar Fruit

A simple apple has many nutritional benefits. As a handy and relatively inexpensive snack a medium apple contains around only 80 calories and is fat free, sodium free, and cholesterol free. It can also support a healthy immune system because of its vitamin C content. A single apple holds enough nutritional value to cover half of your daily recommended intake of fruit!

Nutrition is Skin Deep

Many of the nutritional benefits of an apple can be derived from its skin. The skin of an apple can contain up to 3.3 grams of fiber. This type of dietary fiber can help support healthy cholesterol levels, aid digestion, and keep you feeling fuller for longer. Apple skins also contain a high amount of the antioxidant, quercetin, which can help protect against free radical damage. Quercetin is a phytochemical possessing anti-inflammatory qualities that can be beneficial to your heart. Apples can be seamlessly integrated into your daily diet because they make for such a convenient and inexpensive snack that can last longer than most fruits. An apple kept in a bag in your refrigerator can stay fresh up to three weeks.

Covering the Crucial Areas of Your Daily Nutrition

The USDA guidelines for fruits and other food groups exist to help steer you towards making healthier food choices. Apples can be a tasty, nutritious way of complementing your daily intake of nutrients that your body needs for top performance and overall health maintenance. But if you’re on a diet that restricts the type of food you can eat, you don’t like a particular food group, or you simply don’t have time to eat healthy meals all of the time, you may not be getting all the nutrition you need. Supplementing your diet with the proper antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals is a perfect way to fill in the nutritional gaps regardless of your eating habits. Balance is always important and making sure you get sufficient levels of essential daily nutrients can be vital to supporting a healthier way of life.

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When It Comes to Immune Function, Go with Your Gut


When It Comes to Immune Function, Go with Your Gut"Probiotics are only good for digestion," or at least that's what most people assume when they think of these helpful microscopic organisms. However, the digestive system also plays a large role in immune function and according to researchers good bacteria are largely responsible for that relationship. In a new analysis conducted at Oregon State University (OSU) that was published in Clinical Reviews in Allergy and Immunology, scientists believe that communication between gut microbes and other cells is crucial to overall immune support. When there's a breakdown in communication between gut bacteria and immune cells, it may affect everything from immune function to moods to body weight.

What We've Got Here Is a Failure to Communicate

The human gut is home to millions of cells, including hundreds of types of helpful bacteria that can make up 3–5 lbs of an average adult's body weight. Other types of cells include T cells and other immune cells that make up about 70% of the immune system. Previous research has discovered that good bacteria, or probiotics, may influence the development of the immune system and help increase the number of T cells. According to Dr. Natalia Shulzhenko, assistant professor and physician in the OSU Department of Biomedical Sciences, communication between probiotics and immune cells that inhabit the digestive tract is crucial to help stimulate the immune system into action. However, she also points out, "There's an increasing disruption of these microbes from modern lifestyle, diet, overuse of antibiotics, and other issues. With that disruption, the conversation is breaking down." Besides affecting immune function and digestion, scientists speculate that miscommunication between probiotics and the immune system can affect other areas such as your mood and metabolism. When gut bacteria become accustomed to a high-fat diet, they also learn to "prefer" these types of food, leading to increased fat absorption and body weight.

Balance Gut Health in Your Favor

Dr. Shulzhenko and her fellow researchers hope that by having a better understanding of how gut bacteria influence immune function and overall health, future health care may include examining a person's gut bacteria and prescribing probiotics in addition to antibiotics to help correct any gut imbalances. It's also a good idea to take a probiotic supplement daily to help keep up the numbers of helpful microbes that populate your digestive tract. While good hygiene and sanitation are definitely important to everyday health, peoples' overreliance on antibacterial cleansers, antibiotics, and fear of all things germ-related may be largely responsible for many health challenges that can be traced back to gut imbalances. That's why it's important to make the distinction that while there are germs that can cause illness, there are also bacteria that help you in your day-today life. So be good to your gut because the benefits are worth it.



Liver Health in a Cup?


Liver Health in a Cup?Your liver performs many essential functions related to digestion, metabolism, immunity, and the storage of nutrients within the body. It is also crucial to the filtration and detoxification of your blood. Good liver function is an essential component of your overall health, and now, for coffee and tea drinkers, a recently released study just shed light on how these beverages can play a role in protecting the health of your liver.

Good News for Caffeine Consumers

An international team of researchers led by Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School and the Duke University School of Medicine released a study that suggests caffeine intake may reduce fatty liver in humans. Led by Dr. Paul Yen and Dr. Rohit Sinha, the study observed that caffeine stimulates the metabolization of lipids (fat molecules that include cholesterol and triglycerides) stored in liver cells and decreased the fatty liver content of subjects that were fed a high-fat diet. These findings suggest that consuming the equivalent caffeine intake of four cups of coffee or tea a day may be beneficial in protecting the liver from fatty tissue accumulation.

"This is the first detailed study of the mechanism for caffeine action on lipids in liver and the results are very interesting," Yen said. "Coffee and tea are so commonly consumed and the notion that they may be therapeutic, especially since they have a reputation for being ‘bad’ for health, is especially enlightening." This research could lead to the development of caffeine-like drugs that do not have the usual side effects related to caffeine, yet retain the therapeutic effects on the liver.

There’s a Few Coffee and Tea Drinkers Out There

So coffee and tea drinkers can celebrate. According to the International Tea Committee (ITC) and the International Coffee Organization (ICO), global tea production reached 4.3 million tons annually as of 2012 while coffee reached 7.88 million tons. With 2 grams of tea and 10 grams of coffee needed to brew a cup, this is enough to produce 5.9 billion cups of tea and 2.2 billion cups of coffee a day. That is a lot of coffee and tea, but it’s also important to remember caffeine consumption should be done in moderation. It is estimated for most healthy adults that 200 to 300 milligrams, or about two-to-four cups, of brewed coffee a day is an accepted range of consumption.

Go Easy on the Additives

There are, however, ways to turn your reportedly healthy dose of caffeine into an unhealthy start to your day. An abundance of cream and sugar can turn any cup of coffee or tea into a sugary and fattening nightmare, especially refined and artificial sugars with high fructose corn syrup. These sweeteners are associated with metabolic disturbances that can affect appetite, weight management, blood sugar levels, and heart health. Flavored creamers can also add sugar to your cup of coffee or tea, along with tripling the amount of calories and adding unhealthy trans fats. So when you can, go light on the additives and enjoy the natural flavors. When it comes to protecting your liver, you can now enjoy your daily cup of coffee or tea with a more satisfying, healthy feeling. But remember, moderation and a healthy diet are two of the best ways to keep your liver healthy and performing all its necessary functions.




Smaller Sized Snacks Can Give Equal Satisfaction


Smaller Sized Snacks Can Give Equal SatisfactionMany people tend to overeat on a regular basis. The disconnect between body and mind allows you to think you are still hungry and need more to be satisfied. However, a recent study published in an issue of the journal, Food, Quality and Preference, has shown the amount it takes to satisfy your hunger can be considerably smaller than you think it is, allowing you to consume smaller portions of snack foods and still receive the same amount of satisfaction. The study consisted of more than 100 adults who were given either small or large portions of the same snack. Those adults who consumed the large portions consumed 77% more calories than those who were given small portions. Both groups, however, reported significantly lower snack cravings 15 minutes after eating.

Size Matters

This evidence shows that the pleasure you derive from eating is driven by the amount of food in front of you rather than the amount you actually need to feel satisfied. A simple tip to condition yourself with smaller portion sizes is to take a few bites when snacking and wait 15 minutes. This allows your stomach to catch up to your brain. Just a few snack bites can satisfy hunger and not magnify it.

Keep Your Mind and Stomach in Synch

Eating smaller portions can provide numerous benefits to overall health including weight management, a healthy metabolism, and increased vitality. Taking the steps to curb the size of your snacks and meals along with supplementing your diet with the right vitamins and minerals will promote overall better health. You can also choose healthier snack options such as fresh fruit and nuts to add more vitamins and minerals to your diet (though be wary that fruit, like avocados, and nuts contain a lot of fat). Choices abound for you to satisfy your snack cravings and still be healthy, so be choosier about what—and how much—you eat.