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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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Why This Popular Beverage May Also Support Good Health

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Why This Popular Beverage May Also Support Good HealthFor many people a cup of coffee is part of the morning routine with its warming aroma, taste and also, for a quick burst of energy to start the day. But many studies have shown that there's more to coffee than just caffeine. Unroasted green coffee beans contain plant compounds called chlorogenic acid that have been found to possess antioxidant health properties. Although the process of roasting tends to decrease chlorogenic acid levels, recent research has shown that the amount of chlorogenic acid present in coffee can still provide several health advantages.

The Eye Test of Antioxidants

In a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, scientists discovered that the chlorogenic acid found in coffee may help promote a stronger resistance to oxidative stress in the retina, preserving eye sight and protecting it from macular degeneration. The retina is said to be one of the most metabolically active tissues; it needs high levels of oxygen to function, which can make it more prone to oxidative stress. To test the protective effects of chlorogenic acid, a group of mice were treated with a substance which can generate oxidative stress and damaging free radicals. In the group of mice that were given chlorogenic acid pre-treatment, no retinal damage was found. "The study is important in understanding functional foods, that is, natural foods that provide beneficial health effects," said Chang Y. Lee, professor of food science and the study's senior author. "Coffee is the most popular drink in the world, and we are attempting to understand what benefit we can get from that," Lee said.

The Green Side of Healthy Weight Management

While chlorogenic acid's retinal protection properties may be news, it is not the most well-known benefit that can come from coffee, or more specifically unroasted coffee beans. For some time, researchers have studied chlorogenic acid's positive effects in managing weight, metabolism, and blood sugar levels. At the 245th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) Joe Vinson, Ph.D., presented findings from his numerous studies highlighting the benefits of chlorogenic acid. In a weight management study, for example, Vinson gave green coffee bean extract to a group of overweight volunteers over a 22-week period. After 22 weeks the subjects lost 10% of their body weight. In a more recent study Vinson sought to further investigate the effects that different doses of chlorogenic acid had on 56 adults with normal blood sugar levels. All volunteers were subjected to blood glucose tolerance tests to see how their bodies normally reacted to the sugar. Following the blood sugar tests they were administered various doses (100, 200, 300, or 400 mg) of green coffee bean extract containing chlorogenic acid. Yet again, Vinson found that green coffee bean extract supplementation produced effective results. "There was a significant dose-response effect of the green coffee extract and no apparent gastrointestinal side effects," Vinson said. "All doses of green coffee bean extract produced a significant reduction in blood sugar relative to the original blank glucose challenge."

Perk Up Your Health with Green Coffee Beans

The antioxidant properties of CLA found in green coffee beans have been shown to help protect eye health, but the benefits don't stop there. It's also been clinically shown to promote weight management and balanced blood sugar. As more research and studies are conducted, other potential health benefits of green coffee beans may also be uncovered, so keep your eyes open for future developments.

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Stay Cool All Year Round by Staying Hydrated

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Stay Cool All Year Round by Staying HydratedOne of the easiest ways of regulating your body temperature, boosting athletic performance, and detoxing your body doesn't involve special exercises or supplements—all you have to do is drink more water. Most people tend to pay more attention to hydration during the hot summer months, but dehydration doesn't only happen in the heat waves of summer; it can happen anytime of the year to anyone at any age. Staying hydrated supports your alertness and helps control your appetite. Water is also important for healthy skin, hair, and nails; controlling your heart rate and blood pressure; and supporting healthy kidney function, which is why it's important to monitor your fluid intake throughout your lifetime.

Creative Ways to Get Your Fluids

Given that the human body is about 60% water, it's little wonder why hydration is so vital to everyday health. As a general rule, most physicians and nutritionists recommend drinking eight, 8-ounce glasses (or 1.9 liters) of water daily. The Institute of Medicine has stated that a more accurate intake for men is roughly 3 liters (about 13 cups) while women should drink 2.2 liters (about 9 cups) of total beverages a day. Athletes and people who spend a lot of time outdoors require more fluids because of water loss through sweating. There are plenty of ways to stay hydrated without relying solely on water. Juices and sports drinks can help you maintain your fluid levels whilst providing added nutrients and electrolytes. Fruits such as watermelons, oranges, grapefruit, and honeydew also have high water content. However, sports drinks and fruit juices also contain sugar, so take them in moderation. If there's ever any doubt about the sugar or caloric content of a beverage, nothing beats water as your purest method of hydration.

A Drink for All Occasions

While humidity and summer heat make it vital for staying hydrated, replenishing your body's fluids is important all year round. Whether you're sitting at a desk in the middle of winter or exercising in the fall, your daily hydration is vital to remaining healthy. Similar to how dieters keep food logs to track their calories, you can keep a water log by storing a marked container of water in the refrigerator to keep track of how much water you've consumed each day. Keeping hydrated, while seemingly the simplest of tasks, can be easily forgotten and the signs of dehydration are not often obvious. Whether you're young, elderly, moderately active, or a professional sportsperson, keeping your body properly hydrated is an important task in supporting daily health.

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Where Are You Getting Your Energy From?

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Where Are You Getting Your Energy From?One of the more recent crazes pervasive in today’s society is the influence of over-the-counter energy drinks. As modern lifestyles get increasingly busy, people are turning to energy drinks in an attempt to get a quick boost.

The Sustainable Energy Problem

Energy drinks have embedded themselves in many peoples’ everyday diets—even as increasing evidence shows just how unhealthy these “natural” energy booster drinks can be. Due to the high concentrated doses of caffeine plus a mixture of artificial stimulants that require warning labels about consumption, some short-term physical side-effects are commonly reported. Irritability, nausea, nervousness and jitters are only a few of the more simple side-effects. The long terms effects of energy drinks are increasingly coming under scrutiny, and many experts in the health and nutrition industry are concerned about the reliance on these types of drinks for daily energy. The FDA has recently posted adverse-event reports (AERs) on some of the more popular drinks filed by patients, doctors, and families. However AERs can simply warn that a product might have harmed someone. The FDA can only remove a product if—after investigation—they find that using the product as directed can cause harm. Some energy drinks available in your local gas station or food store contain up to a whooping 242 milligrams of caffeine per serving! By contrast, an 8-ounce cup of coffee contains about 100 milligrams of caffeine.

Energize the Healthy and Natural Way

Attaining energy from your diet and getting adequate sleep supports a healthier lifestyle and can prevent you from choosing unhealthy alternatives to boost your energy levels. A balanced diet with vegetables, fruits, protein, and the right amount of carbohydrates can help supply you with a healthy dose of natural energy throughout your day without resorting to caffeine and harsh energy drinks. Natural energy sources also last longer and won’t cause your system to crash after a sugar surge. If you can’t get the energy you need from your diet alone, there are supplements that boost your energy levels in a natural way by supplying your body the vitamins and minerals it would normally use to create energy. Shortcuts to boosting energy are just that: They last a short while and the boost they provide cuts out fast. For lasting energy, the payoff from healthier options can be more rewarding—and lasting.

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