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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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