4 Health Boosting Foods

20 Jul

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Natural energy is a quality we’re all seeking in our every day lives. Yet many of us are increasingly finding our energy stores depleted due to long working hours, along with the demands of raising a family or maintaining a household. The result is that our nutrition is often the first to suffer and as a result, we may make poor food choices and find it more difficult to stay alert and focused during the day as a consequence.

The good news is that by taking the right nutrients, it’s possible to give your body the nutrition it needs to feel revitalized and to fight fatigue and exhaustion. If you are having problems getting up in the morning or find it difficult to stay alert all day, consider adding the following four health boosting foods into your diet…

 

1. Coconut Oil. This is classed as a superfood and it’s because it contains saturated fats or medium chain triglycerides (MCT’s) that provide a unique source of energy. The MCTs are easily digested, without any need for extra lipid enzymes and bile salts. These are used directly by the cell’s mitochondria, that produces energy, meaning it is seldom stored as fat. It can also boost thermogenesis and the body’s fat burning abilities. Coconut Oil is excellent when added to a smoothie, to porridge or used in cooking.

2. Chia Seeds. These are full of omega 3 fatty acids that are excellent for giving the body energy and keeping you stable throughout the day. They are low-carbohydrate and won’t cause spikes or drops in blood sugar or insulin levels, meaning they can prevent cravings and the desire to overindulge later on. Add chia seeds to your breakfast smoothie or dessert for a tasty way to get a health-giving energy boost.

3. Legumes or pulses like black beans, buckwheat, chickpeas, mung beans and red lentils contain a rich source of fiber, protein, calcium, iron, B-vitamins and zinc along with other vitamins and nutrients. All of these nutrients have health boosting properties and can increase your energy levels naturally. For best results, it’s recommended to eat at least two servings of legumes per day.

4. Green Leafy Vegetables like Kale, Spinach, Collard Greens, etc. These are full of chlorophyll and magnesium. Chlorophyll has been shown in recent studies to manage hunger and food cravings, while keeping blood sugar levels stable. Chlorophyll can help to rebuild and replenish red blood cells, boosting our energy in the process. Magnesium plays an important role in more than 300 biochemical reactions within the body, and this includes the breakdown of glucose into energy. Good sources of magnesium include almonds, hazelnuts, cashews or oily fish. A more readily absorbed form of magnesium is to apply it topically to the skin as it’s readily absorbed on a cellular level in this manner.

Robert Redfern

The 6 Best Essential Oils for Natural Bug Repellent

19 Jul

 

With the summer months comes more time spent outside. Backyard get togethers, camping or sitting by a bonfire is always great until we notice the bugs joining us.

Along with mosquitoes, ticks and outdoor bugs being a nuisance, they also can carry some pretty scary viruses.

Obviously we need to protect ourselves, but many of us are concerned with the ingredients of regular bug sprays and insect repellents.

One of the ingredients used often is DEET. When it’s used frequently and heavily, it has been linked with skin irritation, respiratory effects, rashes, and even neurological effects. The chemical is particularly concerning in children, where in rare cases, it can lead to lethargy and headaches. In pregnant women, if used on bare skin, it could harm the baby.

The History of DEET

Chemically called “diethyltoluamide,” DEET is prepared by converting 3-methylbenzoic acid to acyl chloride and allowing it to react with diethylamine. It was developed for Army soldiers going through jungle warfare in WWII. Before that, farmers used it as a pesticide on fields. By the year 1957, manufacturers were selling insect repellents containing DEET to the general public.

The repellant is believed to work because insects don’t like the smell of it, and also because it may “blind” them to scents produced by human sweat and breath that typically are attractive to pests. However it works, studies have shown that it definitely does, repelling insects for up to 12 hours when applied at 100 percent.

Later studies, however, reported some concern about the chemical and how it may affect skin and internal health. Manufacturers now advise users to avoid applying the product to broken or damaged skin, or under clothing, and to wash it off after it’s no longer needed.

How DEET May Affect Skin and Overall Health

A 2014 report by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stated that DEET “continues to meet safety standards based on current scientific knowledge.” They added that “normal use” doesn’t present a health concern to the general population, including children, but advised consumers to “read and follow label directions.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) basically agrees, though they warn that “conservative use of low-concentration DEET products is most appropriate when applying repellents to children, and DEET should not be used on children younger than 2 months of age.”

General side effects of DEET may include:

  • Skin irritation (irritation, redness, rash, swelling).
  • Eye irritation (if you mistakenly get it into your eyes), including pain and watery eyes.
  • Stomach upset, vomiting, and nausea, if you mistakenly swallow it.
  • Neurological effects, such as seizures (at higher and consistent exposures).

DEET can get inside the body when you apply it to your skin. If the product contains alcohol as well, that can improve penetration, so that more gets into the bloodstream. Health experts warn that sunscreens containing DEET should be avoided because they cause more DEET to sink inside the body.

The CDC also lists a number of studies that raised concerns about how DEET could affect health. Here’s a glimpse of those, along with a few other related studies:

  • Skin effects in soldiers: A small number of soldiers who applied military-issued DEET repellents suffered serious side effects on the skin, including burning sensations, blisters, reddening of the skin, and scarring. In a controlled test, 63 soldiers applied a gauze pad soaked in DEET to the skin on the inside of their elbows. Nearly half—46 percent—developed a reaction to the treatment. Researchers advised users to always wash the DEET off their skin before going to sleep.
  • Skin and respiratory effects in National Park Service employees: In a study on National Park Service employees at Everglades National Park, researchers found that about 25 percent of workers using DEET reported health effects. These included rashes, skin or mucous membrane irritation, numb or burning lips, dizziness, disorientation, and difficulty concentrating, as well as headaches and nausea.
  • More skin effects: An analysis of all DEET calls into poison control centers between 1993 and 1997 found that 10.5 percent involved skin symptoms like irritation and rash. Another 21 percent involved eye effects, when users mistakenly got the chemical into their eyes.
  • Brain effects: A 2002 animal study by Duke University researchers found that frequent and prolonged use of DEET caused brain cell death and behavioral changes. The chemical actually caused neurons in the brain to die—affecting regions of the brain that control muscle movement, learning, memory, and concentration. Rats exposed to an average human dose of DEET performed far worse than control rats on tasks requiring muscle control, strength, and coordination. “If used sparingly,” said Mohamed Abou-Donia, lead author of the study, “infrequently and by itself, DEET may not have negative effects—the literature here isn’t clear. But frequent and heavy use of DEET, especially in combination with other chemicals or medications, could cause brain deficits in vulnerable populations.”
  • Neurotoxicity in Gulf War Veterans: After 30,000 Persian Gulf War veterans complained of neurological symptoms of unknown cause, researchers tested the chemicals they were exposed to during the war—which included DEET—on chickens. They found that hens exposed to a combination of three chemicals (DEET, an anti-nerve agent, and another insecticide) showed similar neurological side effects on the brain. Researchers noted that exposure to only one chemical alone didn’t have the same effect.
  • Effects in children: This is where DEET gets especially concerning. Children are likely to put their hands in their mouths and near their eyes and noses. If those hands are covered in DEET, that gives the chemical an easy entrance into the body. The CDC notes that though rare, reports of toxicity from DEET in children can include symptoms like lethargy, headaches, tremors, seizures, and convulsions. Accidental ingestion can result in loss of muscle control, loss of consciousness, and seizures. In one case, for example, a 6-year-old girl ended up in the hospital because she couldn’t control her body movements. It turned out she had been exposed to a spray containing 15 percent DEET over extensive areas of her skin on more than 10 occasions. In the summertime, that’s not totally unheard of, so the case serves as a good caution to parents.
  • Effects in pregnant women: While extremely rare, there have been a handful of reports of DEET use in pregnant women resulting in birth defects in the infant children. A 2001 study found that DEET applied in the second and third trimesters resulted in an 8 percent DEET concentration in the blood—indicating that it had crossed the placenta.

Because of these and other concerns, the CDC recommends using a DEET concentration of 30 percent or less, and advises “conservative use” of a low-concentration product in children.

The American Academy of Pediatrics also advises that children under the age of 2 months not be exposed to DEET, and that any product containing DEET be applied to any other children no more than once a day, and even then, not around the eyes or mouth.

In addition to its potential effects in humans, DEET has also been detected at low levels in 75 percent of streams sampled, where it could potentially affect drinking water.

For everyday insect avoidance, though, most of us would like to use something safer to protect our families from summer pests.

Fortunately, there are some essential oils that can help keep bugs away. We’ve got six of them here, along with recommendations for how best to use them. We are also sharing a recipe for making your own natural bug repellent (scroll to the bottom for the recipe.)

Natural Insect Repellents

Why would essential oils and other natural ingredients repel bugs?

They are made up of chemicals stored in the plant. In many cases, these chemicals work to repel predators—often the buggy kind. When we extract these oils from the plant, we can put them to work protecting us, instead.

Developing countries still use bruised plants in their houses to ward off pests. (They bruise them to release the oil and aroma.)

We like using oils because we know they’re natural and don’t include the synthetic chemicals that standard repellents may contain. They are less likely to cause skin irritation and reactions, and aren’t a threat to our internal health.

Not all essential oils work against pests, however. In fact, according to the research found so far, only a select few are truly effective, and each of these may differ in which bugs they are best at scaring away.

The active ingredients in essential oils also tend to be highly volatile, so they may be effective for only a short period of time (usually about an hour). After that, they evaporate and leave the user unprotected. Frequent reapplication is often necessary.

1. Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus

After DEET and picaridin (a synthetic compound recommended by the World Health Organization for protection against mosquito-borne diseases), the EWG recommends oil of lemon eucalyptus. (They note that natural lemon eucalyptus oil is not the same as oil of lemon eucalyptus, so be careful.)

This is a repellent that originated as an extract of the lemon eucalyptus tree native to Australia. Lemon eucalyptus essential oil is comprised of 85 percent citronellal—a compound (terpinoid) found in citronella, rose, and geranium oils.

Some insect repellents already carry PMD (paramenthane-3,8-diol), which is the active ingredient in oil of lemon eucalyptus. Some combine the two—PMD and the extract.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has listed this ingredient as effective against mosquitoes and other insects, though it’s considered about half as effective as DEET. Higher concentrations of PMD, however, can increase its effectiveness, with a 30 percent PMD product being about as good as a 15 percent DEET product, though its protection time is shorter. (You may need to reapply more often.)

Effective against: Mosquitoes and ticks, but not sand flies or “no-see-ums.” It also evaporates more slowly than most essential oils and will last for several hours. PMD is the only plant-based repellant advocated for use in disease endemic areas by the CDC.

2. Oil of Citronella

Citronella oil is obtained from the leaves and stems of lemongrass, and produces the compounds citronellal, eitronellol, and geraniol, which are all used in perfumes, candles, and soaps.

The oil has also been registered as a plant-based insect repellant in the U.S. since 1948. It’s already found in a number of commercial insect repellents and even some sunscreen products. Instead of scaring away insects with its scent, it seems to mask other scents that are attractive to them, making it difficult for them to locate their targets.

Studies have shown that citronella is effective, especially when combined with vanillin (the essential constituent of vanilla) to extend protection times. In a 2011 review of eleven studies, citronella protection times were lower than DEET, but combining the oil with vanillin helped increase those times. The two together were found to repel mosquitoes for at least three hours.

Effective against: Mosquitoes and other flying insects. If using alone, reapply every 30 minutes. Be aware that it is a skin sensitizer, and can cause allergic reactions if used on bare skin.

3. Catnip Oil

Keep the cats away—this repellent is for humans!

Catnip oil, extracted from the catnip plant, was found in a 2001 study to repel mosquitoes more effectively than DEET. This was only one study, so the results should be taken with caution, but they are promising.

Researchers put groups of 20 mosquitoes in a glass tube, half of which was treated with catnip oil (nepetalactone). After 10 minutes, only an average of about 20 percent (4 mosquitoes) remained on the side treated with a high dose (1.0 percent) of the oil, and only about 25 percent (5 mosquitoes) in the low-dose (0.1 percent) side. The same tests with DEET resulted in 40-45 percent (8-9 mosquitoes) remaining on the treated side.

A later 2006 study found similar results, with catnip oil being the most effective (among thyme, amyris, eucalyptus, and cinnamon), providing six hours of protection at two different concentrations. Thyme was also effective, but lasted only two hours.

Finally, a 2011 study also found the oil effective against mosquitoes and ticks.

Effective against: Mosquitoes, ticks, and potentially other flying insects.

4. Neem Oil

A number of studies have shown that neem can help protect you from mosquito bites. In the late 90s, researchers in India found that kerosene lamps with one percent neem oil reduced bites on volunteers sitting in a room overnight.

Another study found two percent neem oil mixed with coconut oil and applied to the skin protected against a variety of mosquitoes, ranging from 96-100 percent protection against malaria transmitting types, to 61-94 percent protection against West Nile virus types.

Effective against: Mosquitoes, and possibly other flying insects. Most effective when combined with a carrier oil and applied to the skin. Less effective in sprays. Reapply regularly.

5. Soybean Oil

There is some evidence that this oil may provide longer-lasting protection than other natural repellants, particularly citronella.

In a 2004 study, Bite Blocker, which contains two percent soybean oil, protected against mosquito bites for 5-7 hours—longer than other options.

An earlier 2002 study found that soybean oil on its own protected against mosquito bites for an average of 94.6 minutes—longer than most oils on their own. And a 2011 study used a number of other essential oils mixed in soybean oil for repellant tests, showing that soybean oil may be the best choice for homemade insect repellant mixtures.

Lemongrass (citronella) has also been found to be protective when mixed with soybean oil—another good idea for homemade solutions.

Effective against: A variety of mosquitoes, and potentially other insects.

6. Cedar (Nootkatone)

If you’re looking for protection against ticks and other creepy-crawlies, be sure to include cedar in your mixture.

In a 2014 study, cedarwood oil was significantly effective against ants, red fire ants, and black-legged ticks. At the highest dosage (6.3 mg/ml), it killed 100 percent of the ticks. An earlier 2011 study also found the oil to be effective at repelling two species of ticks.

If you’re looking for a flea repellant for your dog, this oil may also be a good option. (Apply on a daily basis.) It not only kills fleas on contact, but can help heal itching and hot spots. Simply rub on your hands and run through the animal’s coat, or apply with a spray bottle.

Effective against: Ticks, ants, fleas, mites, lice, and other creepy-crawlies.

Some Other Oils that May Be Effective

There are a number of other oils that may provide short-term protection as repellents, but so far, these have shown to last only a short time, or to be less effective than those listed above. They do all have insect-repelling action, though, and you can still use these in your own homemade repellents to create your own mixture.

  • Pine
  • Thyme
  • Vetiver
  • Bergamot
  • Peppermint
  • Tea tree
  • Eucalyptus
  • Basil
  • Lavender
  • Rosemary

Make Your Own

If you’d like to make your own insect repellant using natural oils, you have a couple of options:

Dilute about 10 drops of your main oil (and a few drops of any other desired oils) in four ounces of witch hazel in a spray bottle and spray on skin and/or clothes. You can also add distilled water to the mix if desired.

Mix about 10 drops in the same amount of carrier oil, such as soybean (for added protection), sunflower, apricot kernel, or coconut.

Keep in mind that adding vanillin may help to extend the lasting power of your homemade solution.

Do you make your own insect repellents? How do they work for you?

Sources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Zika virus disease in the United States, 2015–2016

EWG – EWG’S Guide to Bug Repellents in the Age of Zika

EWG – EWG’s Advice for Avoiding Bug Bites

Children MD – Do natural bug repellents work?

PubMed – Repellency of IR3535, KBR3023, para-menthane-3,8-diol, and deet to black salt marsh mosquitoes (Diptera: Culicidae) in the Everglades National Park.

NBCI – Plant-based insect repellents: a review of their efficacy, development and testing

National Pesticide Information Center – Oil of Citronella, General Fact Sheet

Medical Daily – Is Citronella Grass Your Best Bet For A Natural Mosquito Repellent This Summer?

PubMed – Effectiveness of citronella preparations in preventing mosquito bites: systematic review of controlled laboratory experimental studies.

Science Daily – Catnip Repels Mosquitoes More Effectively Than DEET

PubMed – Adult repellency and larvicidal activity of five plant essential oils against mosquitoes.

PubMed – Repellent activity of catmint, Nepeta cataria, and iridoid nepetalactone isomers against Afro-tropical mosquitoes, ixodid ticks and red poultry mites.

Discover Neem – Neem Natural Mosquito Repellent

NBCI – Toxicity of a plant based mosquito repellent/killer

PubMed – Laboratory evaluation of mosquito repellents against Aedes albopictus, Culex nigripalpus, and Ochierotatus triseriatus (Diptera: Culicidae).

PubMed – Comparative efficacy of insect repellents against mosquito bites.

PubMed – Efficacy of herbal essential oils as insecticide against Aedes aegypti (Linn.), Culex quinquefasciatus (Say) and Anopheles dirus (Peyton and Harrison).

PubMed – Bioactivity of cedarwood oil and cedrol against arthropod pests.

Wiley Online Library – Essential oils of Cupressus funebris, Juniperus communis, and J. chinensis (Cupressaceae) as repellents against ticks (Acari: Ixodidae) and mosquitoes (Diptera: Culicidae) and as toxicants against mosquitoes

PubMed – Use of novel compounds for pest control: insecticidal and acaricidal activity of essential oil components from heartwood of Alaska yellow cedar.

Annmarie Skin Care

Seaweed: The Optimal Food for Ridding the Body of Toxins

15 Jul

weed1Nutrient-rich seaweed detoxifies the body as no other food can. Eating seaweed daily provides unique protection against the rising level of environmental pollution. The preparation of seaweed is easy, as it goes well added to stews, soups and cooked beans in daily meals. The cleansing effect from a daily portion of seaweed is ongoing and works better than just doing a detox program now and then.

All seaweed protects against environmental toxins, but most effective of all is brown seaweed such as kombu, wakame, arame and sea spaghetti. Brown seaweed contains sodium alginate, which binds heavy metals and even radioactive substances, and removes them from the body. A seaweed product called agar (agar agar) also contains indigestible sodium alginate, which binds the toxins in the digestive tract and takes them out through rectal elimination.

The liver detox mechanism must have minerals such as zinc and magnesium to form the enzymes needed to remove toxins. However, many people now have a mineral deficiency that limits the production of detox enzymes. In many farming areas, the soil has become so depleted of minerals that the food produced there has only a fraction of the full mineral content of earlier times. Seaweed is the ideal food to fill this mineral gap as it has a much higher concentration of minerals and trace elements than land vegetables.

weed2

Small amounts of seaweed are enough. It only takes a few cm (a couple of inches) of dried seaweed to meet the body’s daily needs, since the seaweed swells to a much greater size when soaked. Kombu and wakame go well with beans, lentils and chickpeas, which you can cook in a big pot to last several days with cold storage. Work out how much seaweed you want to eat over the days the pot of beans lasts and add that amount. A further benefit of cooking pulses with kombu is that it makes them more digestible and less gas forming.  Wakame helps too. The cooking time for wakame is short, which makes it just right for soups. A small portion of wakame is enough. Sea spaghetti is the easiest of all. It is tasty soaked and mixed raw in a salad.

Japan is the main seaweed exporter and many consumers are uneasy about a possible radioactive contamination from the meltdown at Fukushima. However, top-quality seaweed from the Atlantic is available in natural food stores in Europe and North America. Australians can buy seaweed from Tasmania. This gives the added benefit of shorter transport to consumers with less fuel burned and less pollution as a result.

Those dealing with a thyroid disorder such as an overly active function or Hashimoto should start slowly with seaweed, especially kombu. Because it is rich in iodine, kombu can trigger an unpleasant reaction when the thyroid is unstable. With such a medical condition, it is better to begin with small amounts of wakame, arame and sea spaghetti, which are brown seaweeds with a moderate amount of iodine. In any case, most people need the iodine in seaweed, because iodine deficiency is common. The thyroid is the body’s pacemaker and it takes iodine to keep it functioning properly to support health, including strong detox ability.

Steven Acuff

 

8 Amazing Coconut Oil Health Benefits

14 Jul

Coconut Oil health benefits are vast and varied and its popularity has soared recently thanks to the media and health experts suddenly becoming aware of its amazing properties. Coconut Oil is now considered a ‘superfood’ within the alternative health industry and this is because it can be used in so many different ways.

In the bathroom, kitchen, bedroom, in your beauty or health routine or used for various other surprising purpose…these are just some of the many coconut oil health benefits. Here are eight of the best reasons to use Coconut Oil…

  1. It contains anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties. The Coconut Oil contains Lauric Acid and this is a medium-chain fatty acid that can fight bad bacteria. This means it can prevent candida and the spread of viruses. Whenever feeling sick or to reduce symptoms of nausea, it’s highly recommended to rub Coconut Oil onto any areas that need attention such as the skin, hair or nails. This can reduce any risk of bacterial or fungal attack.
  2. It’s anti-inflammatory. The high levels of antioxidants found in Coconut Oil have been shown to have a strong effect at lowering inflammation in the body. Research has also suggested that Coconut Oil health benefits are anti-inflammatory and contain antioxidant actions that are highly effective at reducing the symptoms of arthritis.
  3. Supportive of cardiovascular health. As a rich source of saturated fat, Coconut Oil can actually benefit your arteries – believe it or not. The saturated fats do not clog the arteries or increase the risk of heart attacks (as was previously thought), but it can promote healthy cholesterol levels. It does this by increasing HDL (good) cholesterol levels while lowering the LDL (bad) cholesterol. This means that adding Coconut Oil into the diet is therefore good for lowering blood pressure and reducing the risk of heart disease.
  4. Improved digestion and nutrient absorption. The saturated fat in Coconut Oil means the body is more readily able to absorb fat-soluble vitamins and minerals along with calcium and magnesium. A good way to do this is to add Coconut Oil in with your salad so as to absorb the vital nutrients, once you eat it. Taking Omega-3 fatty acids in the same way is also beneficial and a good way to ensure you are receiving the nutrients. When Omega-3’s are taken with Coconut Oil it improves their bio-availability and this means that the body is better able to break down the proteins for use within the body.
  5. Can support weight loss. Coconut Oil is useful for losing weight as it contains medium-chain fatty acids that research suggests can help with reducing abdominal obesity in women. It can also help to improve the function of the thyroid and the endocrine system too. The body’s metabolic rate can also increase as it removes any stress on the pancreas meaning more energy is burnt, resulting in weight loss. Anyone looking to lose weight will benefit from including Coconut Oil into their diet on a daily basis for this reason.
  6. Can provide relief for candida. Coconut Oil health benefits can ease inflammation caused by yeast imbalances in the body such as candida – both internally and externally. The high moisture retaining capacity of Coconut Oil means that it can help with eliminating Candida albicans.
  7. Strengthens immunity. Coconut oil can fight harmful bacteria as it contains antimicrobial lipids along with capric acid, caprylic acid and lauric acid that has anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties. This is converted into monolaurin in the body and this research suggests that it may be an effective way to deal with bacteria and viruses along with diseases like herpes, influenza and even HIV. Coconut oil health benefits can help in fighting this any harmful bacteria and protecting the immune system.
  8. Dental care. Coconut oil can facilitate the absorption of calcium into the body. This can help with the development of strong teeth and even stop tooth decay. New research is also suggesting that Coconut Oil can be beneficial in the reduction of plaque and gingivitis.

Robert Redfern

Mango

11 Jul

 

Mangos are one of the most popular and nutritionally rich fruits in the world and are often referred to as “The King of the Fruits”. Mangos are an amazing source of vitamins A, C, E, and B-complex as well as health promoting flavonoids such as beta-carotene and alpha-carotene. Mangos are a powerful anti-cancer food and are specifically known to help prevent lung, breast, colon, prostate, blood, and oral cancers.

They are also highly beneficial in the prevention of strokes, heart disease, arthritis, cognitive disorders, respiratory diseases, and kidney disease. Mangos can help to alkalinize the whole body by helping to flush out toxic acids and rebuild the alkali reserves in the body. Mangos are packed with enzymes and are a prebiotic food, meaning they contain compounds that stimulate and feed the good bacteria in the intestines which greatly aids in digestion and assimilation.

Mangoes contain a significant amount of pyridoxine (B-6) which is vital for the synthesis of serotonin and dopamine in the brain. Pyridoxine is also essential in maintaining hormonal balance and proper immune function as well as for helping the body break down sugars, fats and proteins. Mangos are thought to help prevent insomnia and provide for a better nights sleep. In some countries mangos are eaten right before bed as a natural sleep aid.

Mangos are known to help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol due to its significant fiber, pectin, and vitamin C content. Mangos are also excellent for promoting good eyesight and helping to prevent night blindness and dry eyes. They are also wonderful for skin health and can be used both internally and externally to help clear clogged pores, eliminate pimples, and add a natural glow to the skin. Mangos are one of the worlds most versatile fruits and can be used in both sweet and savory recipes.

Consider using mango in your smoothie, salads, salsa, avocado, and vegetable dishes. Spices also pair well with mango and try experimenting with cinnamon, curry, cloves, and chili pepper to boost the flavor and nutrition of your meals. Start or end your day with a simple but delicious mango pudding. Blend 2-4 ripe mangos (peel and pit removed) in a blender or food processor until creamy and smooth.

Pour into a bowl and top with fresh berries. There are several varieties available in supermarkets throughout the year including Tommy Atkins, Kent, Yellow, Ataulfo, Keitt, and Champagne. Some are sweet and creamy while others are juicy and bright. Experiment with finding new ways to add mangos into your diet. Your body will love you for it.

THE bountiful Health Benefits of Flaxseed

5 Jul

The Bountiful Health Benefits of Flaxseed

Flaxseed is no one-trick pony. These tiny, nutty-flavored wonders, also known as linseeds, are nutritional powerhouses loaded with fiber, healthy fats, lignans, and other protective compounds that account for many of the health benefits of flax.

As its botanical name suggests, Linum usitatissimum, is a versatile and valuable plant. (Usitatissimum means most useful.) The cultivation of flax dates back at least 9,000 years. Flax fibers were woven into linen, the cloth that swaddled mummies in Egyptian tombs, and used to make twine, rope, and paper. Flax oil was an ingredient in soap and paint, the blue flowers of the plant were rumored to ward off sorcery and evil doings, and the seeds were eaten to improve gastrointestinal health.

Flax has certainly withstood the test of time. Linen remains a popular fabric, flax oil (also called linseed oil) has a number of industrial applications, and additional medicinal benefits continue to be discovered. Here is why:

Health Benefit of Flaxseed #1: Rich in Fiber

One of the most impressive health benefits of flax is that it is an excellent source of both insoluble and soluble fiber. Insoluble fiber, or “roughage,” bulks up the stool and helps it pass through the intestinal tract, preventing constipation and other gastrointestinal complications.

Soluble fiber has even more benefits. It fills you up, which promotes satiety, and helps with weight control. It also delays the emptying of the stomach, allowing glucose to be released more slowly and keeping blood sugar on an even keel. This is not only valuable for anyone who has diabetes, but also for those with weight problems, since spikes and plummets in blood sugar levels can lead to intense food cravings.

Health Benefit of Flaxseed #2: Helps Lower Cholesterol

All that fiber leads to another noteworthy health benefit of flax: its ability to lower cholesterol naturally. In a landmark study, researchers in Rome studied the effects of flaxseed on a group of patients with total cholesterol greater than 240. They were randomly assigned to one of three groups: a low-fat diet, a low-fat diet plus a statin drug, and a low-fat diet plus 20 g (about 1/8 cup) of ground flaxseed daily. Cholesterol and triglycerides were measured at the start of the study and after two months of treatment.

The flaxseed group saw their total cholesterol levels plummet by 17.2 percent, their triglycerides by 36.3 percent, and their total cholesterol/HDL cholesterol ratios by 33.5 percent. The big news here is that these results were not statistically different from the statin group. What does this mean? In this study, flax worked just as well as statins in lowering cholesterol! And any time a natural supplement works better than a dangerous prescription drug, I’m all for it.

Health Benefit of Flaxseed #3: Great Source of EFAs and Lignans

The oils in flax are the most abundant plant source of alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 essential fatty acid (EFA). It is converted into DHA and EPA (the same fatty acids found in fish oil), which improve cognitive function, reduce inflammation, and boost overall health.

Yet another health benefit of flaxseed is that it’s nature’s richest source of plant lignans. Lignans are classified as phytoestrogens because they are transformed by bacteria in the intestines into compounds that bind to estrogen receptor sites throughout the body and exert weak estrogenic activity. In one study of menopausal women who were plagued with hot flashes (at least five a day), taking 40 g (a little less than 1/4 cup) of flaxseed daily reduced the frequency of hot flashes by more than one-third.

Equally important, flax’s phytoestrogens block more potent forms of estrogen. This not only helps keep hormone levels balanced, but it also does one other very important thing: It protects against certain types of cancer.

Health Benefit of Flaxseed #4: Protection Against Certain Cancers 

The “C” word is scary for everyone, which makes this health benefit of flaxseed an important one. The lignans in flax are protective against certain types of cancers. One type is breast cancer. New York researchers looked at the dietary lignan intake of more than 3,000 women in relation to breast cancer risk. After adjustments were made for age and other relevant factors, they determined that premenopausal women who consumed the highest amounts of lignans had a reduced risk of breast cancer.

Another is prostate cancer. Swedish researchers recently found that eating foods rich in phytoestrogens and lignans, such as flaxseeds and soybeans, is associated with a lower risk of prostate cancer.

Flaxseed also appears to reduce tumor growth in women with existing breast cancer. A Toronto research team gave participants with newly diagnosed breast cancer a muffin containing 25 g of flaxseed every day for about a month, while another group of women were given muffins without flax. In the group eating flaxseed, tumor proliferation was reduced by an average of 34.2 percent, and a 30.7 percent increase in apoptosis (cell death) in cancer cells was observed.

How to Reap the Many Health Benefits of Flaxseed

It’s easy to see why flaxseed is a part of my general recommendations for good health. To reap the health benefits of flaxseed, incorporate about 1/4 cup (50 g) of freshly ground flax into your daily diet. To grind, place whole flaxseeds into a coffee grinder, food processor, or blender and process for about five seconds. Sprinkle on yogurt, fruit, oatmeal, salads, and other foods; Look for whole flaxseeds in your local health food store.

Smoothies

Here’s an easy and delicious way to enjoy the health benefits of flaxseed. In a blender, place 1/4 cup freshly ground flaxseed, 3/4 cup of water, 1 cup of ice cubes, 1 1/2 cups of fruit* (blueberries and strawberries), and 2 scoops of protein powder. Blend well and serve immediately. For variation, add plain, nonfat Greek yogurt or a scoop of greens. (Serves 2.)

*If you use frozen fruit, use less ice and more water.

Now it’s your turn: Are you reaping the health benefits of flaxseed every day?

Dr. Whitaker

Face Yoga – The Mini Facelift

30 Jun

Face Yoga Method (FYM) is a blend of yoga-like body postures and facial exercises that improves your appearance and sense of well-being. The
Face Yoga Method focuses on your facial movements and expressions, and teaches you to use your face muscles in ways you never thought
possible. The end result is younger, radiant and glowing skin.

Breathing also plays an important role in Face Yoga Method. In our daily breathing we do not fully exhale the air in our lungs. It is important to fully
exhale during FYM, replacing accumulated CO2 with fresh, oxygenated air. By focusing on your breath, you will relax and reset both your mind
and body.

The end results will uncover a youthful glow and tautness to your skin that you may not have seen in years.

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Benefits: Helps to lift up the side of the face, kind of like a mini facelift without all the trauma. Breathing is very important in this pose. Sit tall, open your chest and relax your shoulders for maximum results.

Remember, the Face Yoga exercises are just like body exercises. That means, you may have more difficulty performing one pose over another, that is normal. Just keep practicing and you will eventually get used to the movements. When you first practice the Face Yoga exercises, your face will probably experience new movements that you have never felt before.

You may have a hard time isolating some muscles on your face. Please take a look at yourself in the mirror and make sure you are performing the
exercises correctly even if you can’t move certain muscles at first. Don’t get discouraged if you can’t perform some poses right away. The poses you have a hard time performing may be the ones you really need to perform in order to see results. Eventually, you will be able to move face muscles you would have never thought possible!

If you ever feel any pain or discomfort while performing certain poses, listen and be gentle to your body.

Annmarie Skin Care and Fumiko Takatsu

How Zinc Can protect Against Various Infections

28 Jun

Zinc is an essential mineral that plays a vital role in combating inflammation and lowering the risk of chronic disease and infection. Research from Ohio State University indicated that the results of their study showed how it can control infections by tapping gently on the immune system’s response to prevent inflammation from going out of control. This inflammation can be both damaging and deadly, according to research.

Scientists worked with human cell cultures and have demonstrated how these specific proteins can push zinc into key cells, stimulating the immune response to fight infections. As the mineral has a cellular process, it can also neutralize infections, promoting a normal and balanced immune response.

The study also demonstrates how zinc can disable important pathways and how without zinc, there is an increased risk of becoming vulnerable to infections. The scientific research also looks at how being zinc deficient can place the defense system at a disadvantage. This is because the monocytes, or white blood cells can act as the first line of defense against invading pathogens. From this study, the researchers detected that when a pathogen is found, a series of complex responses start occurring that can wake the immune response and utilize the nuclear-factor kappa beta pathway (NF-KB). Once this gene is activated, it allows zinc to be moved into the bloodstream in the cell where it then binds with proteins, blocking the pathogen activity and preventing any excess inflammation.

It’s estimated that zinc deficiency affects 2 billion people globally and this represents an estimated 40% of elderly within the U.S alone. These figures are helping us to understand that an ageing population is increasingly unable to fight this most common infection. Evidence is suggesting by including more sources of zinc into the diet, it’s possible to prevent infections and systemic inflammation from occurring.

What are some good sources of Zinc?

Some good dietary sources of zinc include beans, nuts, whole grains, fortified cereals, along with some dairy products. Anyone looking to improve their Zinc intake is recommended to take the following nutrients that can be found in the products listed below.

Robert Redfern

 

Six Nutrients to Help Control Blood Sugar

24 Jun

Here are six nutrients that can help you control your blood sugar levels

cinnamon sticks amidst piles of ground cinnamon

Cinnamon

I’ve been recommending the routine use of cinnamon for years now. Recent studies have added so much support to this idea that you could now call cinnamon “the poor man’s insulin.” And with the full-blown epidemic of diabetes that we’ll continue to see for years to come, the world will need a form of insulin for the poor.

One gram (slightly less than a half-teaspoon) of cinnamon per day was given to 60 volunteers with type 2 diabetes. In just 40 days, this small amount of cinnamon reduced fasting glucose levels anywhere from 18 to 29 percent, triglyceride levels 23 to 30 percent, LDL cholesterol levels 7 to 27 percent, and total cholesterol 12 to 26 percent. No advantages or greater improvements were found when larger doses were given. Also, when the participants stopped taking the cinnamon, their blood sugar levels and other readings began to return to former levels. (J Agri Food Chem 04;52:65–70) (Diabetes Care 03;26:3215–3218)

Vitamin D

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A series of studies have shown that vitamin D levels are connected to insulin sensitivity and blood glucose levels. In a recent study, researchers at the University of California found that low vitamin D levels resulted in insulin resistance and improper function of the pancreatic cells that help produce insulin.

If you, or your family, have a history of type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, or hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), then adequate amounts of vitamin D are even more important. At least 30 minutes a day in the sunshine (without a sunscreen) would be helpful, and a daily multivitamin  that includes a minimum of 400 IU of vitamin D would be highly recommended. (Am J Clin Nutr 04;79:820–825)

Chromium

This element may very well be the single most important supplement for heading off diabetes at the pass. Many authorities now feel that dietary chromium deficiencies may be directly linked to the development of type 2 diabetes, the type that accounts for approximately 95 percent of all diabetes cases.

Chromium is required by your body to metabolize sugar (and fat). Without it, tissue cells become insensitive to insulin. With it, insulin becomes up to 100 times more efficient at getting glucose converted into energy. Chromium will help, though, only if your pancreas still secretes insulin. Chromium also doesn’t seem to improve the efficiency of insulin given therapeutically.

With today’s highly processed foods and high sugar diets, it’s difficult to get adequate chromium through your diet alone. In addition, white sugar depletes the mineral. (Around 100 micrograms [mcg] of chromium are required to metabolize every 100 grams of white sugar.) Physical trauma and strenuous exercise also deplete chromium.

Most nutritional authorities now feel that we should be getting at least 200 mcg daily, and even this may not be enough for those with diabetes. One study out of South Africa showed that when diabetics were given a 600 mcg chromium supplement for four months, their fasting glucose levels fell by more than half! Almost half of those were able to significantly decrease their daily medication requirements.

Chromium is available as part of a variety of compounds, but I’ve had the best results with the form known as chromium polynicotinate.

Alpha Lipoic Acid

Studies have shown that 200 mg daily of alpha lipoic acid (ALA) can help reduce the kidney and nerve damage often seen in diabetes. One study found that 600 mg taken twice daily can significantly reduce the need for insulin. After a month of treatment, the ALA also reduced the fasting levels of lactate and pyruvate, and increased insulin sensitivity and glucose effectiveness. (Diabetes Care 99;22:280–287)

Gymnema sylvestre

For hundreds of years, practitioners of Ayurvedic medicine in India have recommended using the leaves of the plant Gymnema sylvestre to treat adult-onset diabetes. Through the use of this herb alone, at a dosage of 400 mg daily, many individuals have been able to discontinue their use of oral diabetic medications. Research also indicates that extracts of this tropical plant decreased fasting blood sugar levels, normalized blood lipids (cholesterol and triglycerides), lowered insulin requirements, and enhanced production of insulin by pancreatic cells.

It appears that many of these feats resulted from the repair and/or regeneration of the actual insulin-producing cells of the pancreas. In one study performed on rats, researchers had the added advantage of utilizing autopsies. Their findings were remarkable. In the diabetic rats pancreas weight increased almost 30 percent! The number of islets and beta cells (the structures responsible for producing and delivering insulin) more than doubled! To add even more icing to the cake, gymnema, unlike conventional medications didn’t alter hormone release in those rats with normal blood sugar. (J Ethnopharm 90;30:265–279, 281–305)

In studies involving human subjects, the results were positive not only for adult onset diabetes but for juvenile diabetes as well.

Ginseng

Doctors at the University of Toronto have reported that American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius L) can be used to reduce blood sugar levels by individuals with type 2 diabetes.

American ginseng capsules were given 40 minutes before diabetic individuals were given an oral glucose challenge. Those who took the ginseng were found to have a 20 percent reduction in blood sugar levels compared to the results obtained with placebo capsules.

This study was particularly interesting for several reasons. It revealed that when ginseng was taken with a meal, no change in blood sugar levels occurred. The timing of the ginseng consumption seemed to be crucial, requiring a period of at least 40 minutes to pass before consuming a meal.

Additionally, the researchers found that there was no drop in blood sugar levels when the ginseng was taken alone and not followed by a meal. This characteristic is particularly beneficial in therapies used to lower blood sugar levels. Drugs used to treat high blood sugar can cause dangerous drops in blood sugar (hypoglycemic conditions) if food is not eaten immediately after they are taken. Ginseng, on the other hand, doesn’t appear to work this way. Instead of directly lowering blood sugar levels, ginseng either increases the production or secretion of insulin, which in turn lowers the blood sugar, or it increases the effectiveness of the existing insulin. All of these factors make ginseng a potentially safe, natural, and effective tool for both treating and preventing type 2 diabetes.

I would suggest starting with 500–1,000 mg 40 minutes before meals and working the dosage up or down from there depending on what your blood sugar tests reveal.

Type 2 diabetes can almost always be controlled through proper diet, supplement use, weight loss, and exercise. When these factors aren’t properly addressed, however, the use of insulin or other medication becomes necessary. Before you go down that road, however, try giving these natural therapies a shot.

Dr. Williams

Ditch the Chemicals – 7 Ways to Color Your Hair Naturally

22 Jun

natural-hair-dye

According to one survey from the U.K., women change their hairstyles about 150 times over the course of a lifetime. However many times you make the change, it’s likely that coloring is a part of the process.

It’s not required, of course. The New York Daily News states that going gray is in vogue, with celebrities like Helen Mirren, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Meryl Streep embracing their natural silver.

Still, about 65 percent of women alter their natural hair color, about a 7 percent increase from the 1950s. We like playing with color. It makes us feel good…Until we open the bottle and smell all the fumes.

Traditional hair dyes are full of potentially harmful chemicals that at high exposures, have been linked with skin and respiratory irritation, a suppressed immune system, and even cancer.

Is there a way to cover the gray—or just enjoy a nice color—without exposing ourselves to these toxins?

The Concern About Regular Hair Dyes

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) states that over 5,000 different chemicals are used in hair dye products, some of which are reported to be carcinogenic in animals. Though manufacturers have improved dye products to eliminate some of the more dangerous chemicals that were used in the 1970s, most still contain things like:

  • Quaternium-15, which can release formaldehyde, a known carcinogen);
  • Alkylphenol ethoxylates (APEs), which may be hormone disruptors;
  • Phenylenediamine (PPD), which is a skin and respiratory irritant and has been classified in the European Union as toxic and dangerous to the environment.

The NCI notes that some studies have found that hairdressers and barbers are at an increased risk of bladder cancer, potentially because of coloring chemicals. Other studies have found personal use of hair dyes could potentially increase the risk of leukemia and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, but results have been mixed.

When we review the research, we can see that we don’t have enough studies yet to know how coloring our hair maybe 6-10 times a year really affects our health. Most likely—unless we’re hairdressers who deal with high exposures or we color more frequently than usual—the effects will be negligible. Still, it’s not comforting to imagine all those chemicals seeping into our scalps (not to mention the toll the creation and disposal of these chemicals takes on the environment).

Fortunately, there are other alternatives.

Coloring Your Hair Naturally

Turns out we can use a lot of natural ingredients—some of which we can find in our kitchens—to create new hair color. It depends on what color you’re looking for, how intense you want it, and how much time you want to spend.

Keep in mind that natural color products are not the same as chemical color products. They don’t usually last as long, you won’t be able to completely change your natural color, and the color may be slightly different than you imagined. (Of course, that often happens in the salon, too!)

It may take some time and experimentation to get the color you’re looking for, but meanwhile you’ll actually be doing something good for your hair.

A helpful tip: If you’re not sure you’re brave enough to try the following dyes on your entire head of hair, save some from your next trim or cut off a few locks and test a small amount of natural dye first.

Another helpful tip: Always rinse out your color with apple cider vinegar to help the color last longer. Try rinsing with a vinegar/water solution, or mix one-tablespoon apple cider vinegar with about a cup of water in a spray bottle and apply after coloring hair—don’t rinse.

If you’re not into making your own, there are a few brands of natural dye out there. Here are a few that look good to us:

  • Logona Herbal Hair Color
  • Naturtint Ammonia Free Hair Color
  • Herbatint Hair Color
  • Palette by Nature
  • Organic Color Systems

7 Ingredients To Color Your Hair Naturally

1. Coffee

Coffee works great if you’re looking to go darker, cover gray hairs, or add dimension to dark tresses. Simply brew a strong coffee (espresso works well), let it cool, and then mix one cup with a couple cups of leave-in conditioner and 2 tablespoons of coffee grounds.

Apply on clean hair and allow to sit for about an hour. If you use apple cider vinegar to rinse, it will help the color last longer. You may need to repeat the process a couple times to see noticeable results.

2. Tea

Like coffee, black tea can help you go darker, and can also help cover gray hairs. If you have lighter hair, though, there are other types of tea you can use. Chamomile, for example, is recommended for blondes, while rooibos may work for redheads.

Do keep in mind that tea works best with your natural color. You won’t be able to turn blonde hair brunette. But black tea can darken blonde hair and chamomile can lighten it—especially if you sit in the sun while you have it in.

The longer you leave the tea on the hair, the more noticeable the color will be. You can also try repeated applications.

The key is to make the tea highly concentrated. Use 3-5 teabags (or about the same amount in loose-leaf tea) for two cups of water. You can apply the cooled tea to hair alone, or mix with conditioner (as noted in the coffee recipe). If you’re seeking to cover grays, mix with some fresh or dried sage, which helps open up the hair follicles.

Leave on hair for at least an hour—more if you want more color. Some even put on a cap and wear the tea overnight, then rinse the following morning. Check your color to determine what intensity you need.

3. Herbs

Depending on what color you’re going for, you can use a variety of herbs to achieve it. Here are some suggestions, depending on what your natural color is:

  • Red hair: Try calendula, marigold, rosehips, and hibiscus to deepen the red shade or add a few red highlights. The effects are cumulative—if you keep using the dye regularly, you will notice more color. Simmer the flowers in water for about 30 minutes, strain, cool, and then spray or pour on hair and allow to dry in the sun if possible.
  • Brunette/dark hair: Rosemary, nettle, and sage are all great herbs for dark hair. Simmer all three with water for 30 minutes, cool, strain, and spray or brush through hair. Allow to sit about an hour. You can also use the rinse daily after your shower. Be patient—it may take several days to notice a difference.
  • Blonde hair: As mentioned above, chamomile tea works, but you can also try calendula, marigold, saffron, and sunflower petals. To hide grays, try rhubarb root in two cups of water, simmer, strain, and pour over hair.

Add black tea to the darker colors above to help the color last longer. Catnip works for lighter colors.

4. Beet and carrot juice

These two juices can add natural red tints to your current color. Depending on what shade you want, you can use each alone, or mix them together. For a more reddish tinge, use more beet juice (strawberry blonde, deeper red, or auburn). Carrot will produce a quieter reddish orange.

This one is easy—simply apply about a cup of the juice to your hair. You can also mix in some coconut oil to condition hair at the same time. Work it through, wrap hair, and leave on for at least an hour. (These juices stain—wear something to protect your skin and clothes.) Rinse the juice out, and seal with an apple cider vinegar spray. If the color isn’t dark enough, repeat the next day.

5. Henna

One of the most popular natural hair coloring ingredients, henna is a powdered form of the leaves that come from the henna plant. These leaves have a natural and effective coloring pigment that has been used for thousands of years to dye hair, nails, and skin.

Natural henna, on its own, creates a red-orange color, so if you see products offering other colors produced with henna, realize the manufacturers have mixed the henna with other ingredients to achieve those colors. Redheads and brunettes (looking for a bit of auburn) are the best candidates for henna hair color. Be careful with this one—the results can be more orange than you’d like, so you may want to mix a little chamomile in with the paste to tame the color.

To make your own henna hair dye, mix about one cup of henna powder with 2 cups lemon juice. You can also add in a tablespoon of vinegar to help release the color. Allow to sit about 4-6 hours until it thickens. Apply to hair and comb through. (This is messy so be prepared!) Wrap your hair in plastic wrap and allow to sit 2-3 hours before rinsing.

6. Lemon Juice

Looking for a few highlights? Try fresh-squeezed lemon juice sprayed and brushed through hair. Leave on for several hours. If you sit in the sun, you’ll notice more lightening. Blondes can enjoy even more lightening by mixing with chamomile tea.

Lemon juice works slowly, so expect to repeat applications several times before seeing results.

7. Walnut Shells

If you want to secure a dark brown color, this is the way to go. Crush the walnut shells and boil for about half an hour. Cool, strain, and apply to hair. If you’re wanting to cover grays, you can use a cotton ball to apply only to those areas where it’s needed. Again, be careful as this dye will stain everything, so take precautions.

To create a more intense dye, return the strained juice to the heat and boil until it’s simmered down to about a quarter of the original volume. Allow to cool in the refrigerator, strain if needed, and pour through hair.

To save time, use walnut powder instead of the shells.

Let sit for at least an hour (more if you want more color), and rinse. Try to avoid really hot water as it can take the color away. Wash in lukewarm to make the color last longer.

For more tips on DIY hair treatments, see this article.

 

Sources:

Molly Friedman, “Many women are going with the gray, just like Helen Mirren, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Meryl Streep,” New York Daily News, June 16, 2014, http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/amazing-grays-today-hair-trend-article-1.1829439.

“Hair Dyes and Cancer Risk,” National Cancer Institute, August 10, 2011, http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/causes-prevention/risk/myths/hair-dyes-fact-sheet.

Annmarie Skin Care

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