When it comes to energy levels, vitamin B12 and iron get all of the glory. But magnesium, an essential nutrient that supports almost every function in the body and improves energy, is relatively unknown by most of us.
So, What Does Magnesium Do?
“Magnesium is important in over 300 functions in the body,” says Tina Marinaccio, a registered dietitian nutritionist based in Morristown, New Jersey. “It aids in nerve and muscle conduction, immune function, and stimulates calcitonin, a hormone that helps pull calcium into the skeleton for strong bones.”
Despite how important magnesium is for overall health, the World Health Organization reports that less than 60 percent of Americans are getting adequate amounts of the mineral (6).
“Soils are not as nutrient-rich as they once were, and Americans are consuming more processed foods high in calories but low in nutrients,” Marinaccio says. Plus, our drinking water, which used to contain magnesium, is now mostly stripped of the mineral.
If you think you may have a deficiency, talk to your health care provider. There are many simple blood tests that can tell you for sure.
10 Foods High in Magnesium
The National Institutes of Health has set daily recommended allowance (RDA) targets of 400-420 milligrams for men and 310-320 milligrams for women (7). To ensure you’re getting enough of this crucial mineral, incorporate these magnesium-rich foods (8) into your meals:
Spinach (156 mg per cup): Whether you eat it cooked or raw, spinach provides a major nutrition boost. This veggie contains a variety of vitamins (including vitamins A, C and K1) as well as folic acid, iron and calcium (9).
Almonds (80 mg per ounce): Not only do almonds contain 19 percent of your RDA for magnesium, these little powerhouses also pack 6 grams of protein per ounce, plus fiber and 14 grams of heart-healthy fat (10).
Cashews (74 mg per ounce): Snacking on these naturally cholesterol-free nuts may prevent heart disease (11) because, just like almonds, they contain monounsaturated fat. Cashews also contain arginine, which may have a protective effect on artery walls.
Black beans (60 mg per ½ cup): Toss these legumes into salads, chili or tacos to help strengthen your bones. The hefty amount of magnesium in black beans paired with iron, phosphorous, calcium, copper and zinc (12) all work together to help build bone strength and ward off osteoporosis.
Edamame (50 mg per ½ cup, shelled): Next time you get sushi, start with edamame as an appetizer. These beans provide protein, healthy fat, dietary fiber, calcium, iron and phosphorus (13). Plus, like other soy foods, they contain isoflavones, a compound believed to lower the risk of cancer (14).
Avocado (44 mg per 1 cup): Avocado is known as a superfood for good reason. The fruit contains over 17 essential vitamins and minerals, plus protein, healthy fat and fiber (15).
Baked potato (43 mg per potato with skin): Potatoes are naturally free from fat, sodium and cholesterol. And they contain more potassium and magnesium than a banana (16).
Yogurt (42 mg per cup): Like many dairy products, yogurt is known for its high protein and calcium content. But it also contains probiotics, which research suggests may improve digestion and immune function (17).
Brown rice (42 mg per ½ c, cooked): This healthy whole-grain contains fiber, as well as a variety of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Banana (32 mg per medium banana): Although they’re known for their high potassium content, bananas also provide 8 percent of your RDA for magnesium. Studies show the fruit may also help regulate blood sugar (18), promote weight loss and prevent heart disease (19).
When to Try Magnesium Supplements
Adding foods high in magnesium to your diet may help prevent you from developing a magnesium deficiency, but if you already suspect that you have a true deficiency, speak to your health care provider. Your doctor can talk to you about how to choose a magnesium supplement and help you find the one most suited for your needs.
Some magnesium supplements (like those with magnesium oxide) may irritate the gastrointestinal tract or cause diarrhea. It’s also important to take into account how much magnesium you consume naturally in your diet. Although magnesium is a vital mineral and most people don’t get enough, getting too much can cause side effects like low blood pressure, confusion and other serious issues.
Now that you’re aware of how important this mineral is, keep an eye on how much you’re getting. And next time you need an energy boost, turn to foods high in magnesium!
This post was provided by our friends at 22 Days Nutrition.
Going plant-based sure comes with its perks. The benefits are endless, from increased energy, to guilt-free delicious foods, to saving hundreds of dollars on groceries and more!
Let’s take a dive deep into some of the perks of starting a plant-based diet.
Plant-Based Diet Benefits
Guilt-Free and Delicious Foods
The beauty of a plant-based diet is that you really don’t have to give up the foods you love. If you typically love foods like pizza, burgers and ice cream, you would be amazed with the variety of delicious plant-based alternatives you can find that taste just as good and maybe even better!
Plant Protein Outperforms Whey Protein
Whey protein powders can leave you feeling bloated and gassy, which is why more people are turning to plant-based protein powders. Not only are they easier to digest, but they are also free of antibiotics, cholesterol, gums and lactose. They can also help reduce inflammation and offer a complete amino-acid profile.
Studies show that people can save up to $750 on food when they cut animal products from their diet. Meal planning, especially, is a great way to organize your meals, save money and waste less food. The convenient 22 Days Meal Planner can help you do just that.
Full Body Health
When you take out excessive calories, fat and sugar, what do you get? Better health, of course! The high fiber content can help improve digestion and may prevent certain cancers related to that area. You’re also getting all of the benefits you get from the many nutrient-dense foods, vitamins and minerals you’ll be consuming. A plant-based diet can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels and decrease your risk of heart disease and cancer. It can also help promote overall increased health and reduce your risk of illness. Plus, you’ll be cutting all of the fats that make you gain weight!
Keep in mind, you’re making an impact even if you eat just one plant-based meal a day. You’re contributing to the reduction of your carbon footprint, conservation of water and the increase of more land and resources.
Here are some favorite recipes from 22 Days Nutrition that feature their organic, non-GMO, gluten-free and soy-freePlant Power Protein Powders, with 20 grams of protein per serving.
Fruit smoothies can be a delicious way to start your day, but they often fall short on protein. This Berry Coconut Almond Protein Smoothie recipe doesn’t skimp on nutrients—or flavor! The secret ingredient? Egg white protein.
By adding a scoop of egg white protein to your smoothie, you’ll get a whopping 23 grams of protein. Egg whites are not only high in protein but also free of cholesterol, fats and carbohydrates.
Non-dairy milk, coconut oil and almond butter provide a healthy fat boost, while mixed berries and banana add fiber and potassium.
Egg white protein is also lactose free, making this smoothie an ideal option for people with lactose intolerance. Here’s how to make it:
Meal replacement shakes are marketed to help kickstart a healthier lifestyle, aid in weight loss programs and act as healthier snack options, but can we trust that they are our best choice to achieve these goals?
When you’re on a time crunch and need to eat on the go, sometimes meal replacementsare the only option, so who can blame you? A smoothie or shake can be a great go-to—but only if it’s nutritionally balanced.
We talked to the experts to find out how to determine whether meal replacement shakes are your best bet and how to integrate them into your diet.
Meal Replacement Shake Guidelines
So should you integrate meal replacement shakes into your diet? Depending on your eating style, it can be a good idea to have a shake with salad or fruit alongside, given that the shake you choose is an appropriate one for your specific goals.
Eating healthy food is your best option, of course. But for simplicity and convenience—when time is of the essence and you just don’t have a moment to sit and eat—go for the shake that factors:
Vitamins and minerals
When It Comes to Replacing Meals
Rachel Kreider, a registered dietitian and supplement formulator for BodyBuilding.com, says that some meal replacement shakes can do just that—replace a meal. Look for shakes that are properly formulated though.
“Meal replacement shakes are a super convenient way to get nourishment,” Kreider explains. “But, look for a product that contains high-quality protein, fiber, healthy fat and a vitamin and mineral blend.”
When It Comes to Losing Weight
While some shakes can effectively help you control your calorie intake, which is a huge part of weight loss, it shouldn’t be your main source of fuel. Not all calories are created equal. In fact, Dr. Lori Shemek, diet and weight loss expert, nutritionist and psychologist, doesn’t recommend meal replacement shakes if you’re trying to lose weight.
“Overall, they tend to be short on calories, nutrients, fiber, healthy fat and protein,” she explains. “In order to lose weight, you must have all of these. If the shake is high in sugar—which, many are—it is promoting the fat storage hormone insulin.”
When It Comes to Snacking
If you’re on the go and need something quick and healthy, meal replacement shakes could be a great idea—given that they’re not packed with sugar or unhealthy fats, says Shemek. And while you can drink a meal replacement shake as a snack, you still have to make sure you’re consuming a balanced diet. Shakes can be a part of that, but not your only source for nutrients.
“All of this is goal dependent,” Kreider says. “If you want to lose weight, you’ll need to make sure you’re not consuming too many calories. If you want to build muscle, a product that contains high-quality protein is key and could be a great pre- or post-workout snack.”
Before You Drink a Meal Replacement Shake
And just like not all calories are created equal, not all shakes are created equal. “Some are packed with sugar, preservatives and troublesome ingredients, not to mention they’re not satisfying, which can lead to hunger and cravings,” Shemek warns.
Factor in your goals, understand what your body needs and take it from there. You may realize that a handful of nuts, a sliced avocado, a piece of fruit or a hard-boiled egg are your best go-tos when you’re strapped for time.
What makes a “superfood” so super, anyway? Well, sometimes it has more to do with the super-powered marketing team behind the product than the food itself. (Seriously, have you ever tried to enjoy powdered seaweed?) So, starting right now, let’s take back the word “superfood” and redefine it as a food that’s super good for you and also tastes super delicious. Here is our list of top 10 superfoods to work into your diet today.
Top 10 Superfoods
Sick of brown rice? Yeah, so are we. That’s why you should try this supergrain, which has a satisfying chewy texture and is a touch nuttier-tasting than brown rice. Even better, at 7 grams per ½ cup (cooked), freekeh contains twice the protein of quinoa. The same amount also has 8 grams of fiber (a medium Red Delicious apple has 5).”Freekeh has three times the fiber of brown rice,” says Valerie Goldstein, a New York-based dietitian. Serve cooked freekeh as a simple side to steak, pork chops or salmon. It’s also great mixed into meatballs and meatloaf.
Maybe your grandfather was on to something. These little fish contain a boatload of omega-3 fatty acids, a good kind of fat that research shows may help your heart. Canned sardines have 500 to 1,000 milligrams of omega-3s per 3-ounce serving, according to Seafood Health Facts (1). Salmon, by comparison, has 1,500 milligrams of omega-3s. But here’s the catch: Salmon is tricky to cook correctly; canned sardines are already cooked. To make them taste great, try a few stirred into your next batch of pasta with red sauce.
You may have seen this yellow-orange powder in the spice aisle. It comes from a root that looks similar to fresh ginger, though it tastes more like an Indian curry. Curcumin, a compound in turmeric, may help fight inflammation, according to a 2017 review of studies published in the academic journal Foods (2). Never tried the spice? When you fry up your next round of over-easy eggs, put a shake or two of ground turmeric into the butter. Then slide the golden eggs onto toast and enjoy.
Chocolate is great for your heart, your brain and your happiness (everyone already knows that last part). But there’s a catch: It’s dark chocolate that produces the cardiovascular and neuro-protective benefits, according to a 2017 study review by Italian researchers (3). That’s because milk chocolate strips out the beneficial compounds within cocoa beans called flavanols. Cacao nibs are the dried seed of the cocoa bean. Yes, they are bitter like dark chocolate, but they taste excellent on a peanut butter and banana sandwich, stirred into oatmeal or mixed into homemade granola.
These shelled creatures contain a sea’s worth of vitamins and nutrients. There’s zinc, which helps support immune health. There’s iron, which helps your cells do their many jobs. And there’s vitamin B12, which aids your metabolism. “Oysters are pretty much pure protein on a calorie budget. Six medium oysters have around 45 calories and 5 grams of protein,” says Abby Langer, a registered dietitian and owner of Abby Langer Nutrition in Toronto. If you’re squeamish about raw oysters, consider starting first with canned, smoked oysters. Their flavor is meaty and they taste satisfying atop crackers with a little lemon juice, sea salt and fresh chopped chives.
These teardrop-shaped seeds may look small, but they’re mighty. Eat 2 tablespoons of flaxseeds and you’ll consume 6 grams of stomach-filling fiber—about as much as one medium pear. They’re also a good source of lignans, compounds that may help protect against cancer, diabetes and kidney disorders, according to a 2015 review of studies by scientists in the Middle East (4). Plus, “Flaxseeds are a good source of plant-based omega-3s, which can help prevent heart disease, among other benefits,” says Langer. Ground flaxseeds are easier to digest than whole, she says. Sprinkle them over yogurt, into smoothies or even atop a salad for a nutty taste.
We’re not just talking about those white button mushrooms you’ll find in salad bar buffets and atop pizza. We’re talking about the varieties you’ll now see at most good supermarkets: shiitake, oyster, cremini, enoki, chanterelle, porcini and more. Shrooms are the only vegetables that contain vitamin D, a nutrient you usually derive from the sun. But many people lack the vitamin D—and that’s detrimental because D can help defend against cancer, hypertension and diabetes. “Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin so saute mushrooms in coconut or olive oil to help increase absorption,” Goldstein says.
Don’t want cancer haunting you? Eat more of these. Pumpkin seeds contain gamma-tocopherol, a type of vitamin E that may fight cancer better than other nuts and seeds, according to the USDA (5). “Pumpkin seeds contain magnesium, which helps us relax and can also assist with sleep. They’re a source of zinc, and contain heart-healthy unsaturated fats,” Langer says. They’re crunchy and satisfying as a snack, but they also add a pop of nuttiness to soups and stews. And to think that you toss them in the trash every Halloween…
These big, beautiful, two-toned root vegetables contain glucosinolate, a compound also found in broccoli, cauliflower and kale. Consuming high amounts of cruciferous vegetables like these may help reduce your risk of several cancers, including bladder, breast and prostate cancers, according to the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University (6). Save the turnip greens too! They’re delicious sautéed in olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper as a simple side dish.
First off, no, partaking in hemp will not produce, ahem, similar effects to partaking in marijuana. Though they come from the same plant, hemp seeds do not contain the “high” producing THC. These seeds do contain protein (about 9 grams per 3 tablespoons) and magnesium, which helps regulates blood pressure. “Hemp hearts are also rich in GLA (gamma-linolenic acid), which may help lower inflammation and promote satiety,” Goldstein says. Try hemp hearts in your baking. They’re good in muffins, banana bread and cookies.
Despite the rise in popularity of buying fresh fruit and vegetables, experts believe frozen produce is just as healthy
Obsession with fresh produce has led to a dramatic spike in food waste
When asked to choose between fresh or frozen produce these days, the average consumer is likely to opt for fresh. While some might even believe fresh produce is “obviously” better than frozen, the theory may not actually hold up to scrutiny, NPR suggests. Despite cultural beliefs, there is very little scientific evidence to suggest that frozen fruits and veggies are less nutritious than their fresh counterparts. In fact, fixation on fresh produce has led to an increase in food waste in recent years.
“About 43 percent of all food waste occurs in consumers’ homes,” said JoAnne Berkenkamp, advocate of the Natural Resources Defense Council, in a 2017 interview with the Washington Post. “It’s the largest single contributor to food waste, and much of that will be fresh product.”
While most people buy fresh produce thinking it will be consumed in a timely manner, evidence suggests otherwise (1). Most fresh produce has a short shelf life and the average consumer tends to buy more than needed in a single trip. Worse still, fear of “imperfections” with fruit and veggies has lead to perfectly-fine items being left to rot on the shelves (2).
Consumers who recognize their own wasteful tendencies might hesitate to switch to frozen due to the current cultural climate of “fresh is better.” In truth, most frozen produce options contain an appropriate dose of vitamins and nutrients (3).
The best way to judge frozen purchases is by looking at the ingredients. Frozen products that contain exclusively produce will boast much more nutritional value than options containing processed seasonings or sauces (4). Additionally, frozen produce prepared through blanching methods should be avoided, as this might reduce the nutritional quality of the product.
Fresh produce might be all the rage, but there is little evidence to suggest frozen produce isn’t just as good. Consumers who want the health benefits of fresh produce without the fear of it going to waste in a crisper drawer may find frozen options offer a practical and efficient choice.
Sales of milk alternatives have risen remarkably over the last five years while traditional dairy milk sales have dropped significantly
Plant-based milk options provide many of the nutrients found in dairy milk, but further research is required before bold claims can be made
Traditional dairy milk has long been considered a healthy source of calcium and protein. Still, there has been a pushback in recent years against dairy, and many consumers are turning to plant-based alternatives like soy or rice milk. Dairy alternatives were initially products aimed at individuals with lactose intolerance, though other factors like vegan dieting and animal cruelty concerns have contributed to this shift.
Whatever the exact reasons are for the change in consumer attitudes, it seems to be taking a toll on the dairy industry. Dwindling dairy sales and rising sales of milk alternatives were recently reported by CNBC. The report explains that shoppers are far more likely to gravitate toward almond milk, hemp milk or coconut milk.
Despite the push away from dairy, some experts warn there needs to be more research on milk alternatives before any claims can be made about any actual health benefits. “Nutritionally, cow’s milk and plant-based drinks are completely different foods, and an evidence-based conclusion on the health value of the plant-based drinks requires more studies in humans,” according to a 2016 study testing the health benefits of traditional milk (1).
While there might not be a ton of hard data, milk alternatives still contain a number of essential vitamins. A study released in 2017 compared the nutritional value of cow’s milk with alternatives like soy and almond. Soy milk was found to be rich in protein and a glass can provide the body with a comparable level to that of the same serving of dairy milk (2). Almond milk also proved to be low in calories and balanced in nutritional value. Still, allergies to soy or almond can prevent consumers from taking advantage of these alternatives.
Until more research is conducted, consumers are left to their own judgment on which milk alternative fits their needs best. And, of course, which tastes best with a little chocolate syrup mixed in.
Humans have been using hemp in some form or another for more than 10,000 years. In fact, evidence of hemp seeds and oil used in food, as well as hemp cord remnants, have been found in modern-day China and Taiwan dating as far back as 8,000 B.C.E. (1)!
In the millennia since, hemp has been used for all kinds of practical purposes—such as a base for rope and paper—as well as a source of nutrition. And, according to present-day nutritionists, it remains an excellent source of protein, amino acids and fiber that many people would benefit from adding to their diets.
Differences Between Hemp and Marijuana
Before diving into the hemp’s nutrition, it’s first worth differentiating between hemp and marijuana, as people often mistakenly conflate the two. “It’s a question we get all the time,” says Jane Schwartz, a registered dietitian who, along with her business partner, Stephanie Goodman, offers nutrition coaching through Princeton, New Jersey-based The Nourishing Gurus. “But while marijuana and hemp come from the same plant family, they are not the same thing at all.”
Hemp and marijuana plants are both part of the cannabis family, but hemp contains a very low amount—less than 0.3 percent—of THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis (2). Hemp seeds, from which hemp food products are derived, have absolutely no psychoactive affect on the people who eat them.
Nutritional Benefits of Hemp
What hemp does contain, however, is a boatload of nutrition. “Hemp is rich in healthy fats,” Schwartz says. “It provides essential fatty acids, including omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which can be hard to get if you’re not eating fish. These nutrients are good for brain function and cell health, so it’s important that clients work them into their diets.”
She adds that the omega-6 fatty acids are coming from a compound called GLA, or gamma linoleic acid, which can have an anti-inflammatory effect. “Hemp seeds also contain arginine, a specific amino acid linked with reducing the risk of heart disease,” Schwartz says.
Goodman, a certified nutrition consultant, says that another positive attribute of hemp is that it’s chock full of protein. “There are 10 grams of protein in just three tablespoons of hemp seeds,” she explains. “It also contains a lot of leucine, which is really good for muscle protein synthesis. This is particularly beneficial for people who exercise a lot.”
Goodman and Schwartz further explain that hemp also contains a lot of minerals, including phosphorus, potassium, iron, zinc, manganese and magnesium, all of which are important in a healthy, balanced diet. “That hemp contains magnesium in particular is fantastic because so few people actually get enough magnesium in their diets,” Goodman says. “Magnesium is good for heart health and bone health, and it’s good for sleep and digestion.”
Adding Hemp to Your Diet
Hemp can be purchased in several forms, but the most popular are seeds and powder. Schwartz notes that while both forms have dietary benefits, there is one marked difference: seeds tend to contain a lot less fiber than powder. This is because seeds are typically sold without their hulls, which is the part that contains fiber. Hemp powder, on the other hand, is composed of whole ground hemp seeds, hulls included. “So if our clients are looking to add more fiber to their diets, we usually recommend sticking to hemp powder,” Schwartz says.
There are other types of hemp food products, including oil and milk. Though, Schwartz is careful to mention that hemp oil is not temperature stable. “You never want to heat it. But it’s great as a replacement for olive oil in salad dressings,” she says.
Due to its many, many nutritional benefits, Schwartz and Goodman recommend hemp to almost all of their clients, and especially those who are vegetarian or vegan and may struggle to eat enough protein. “It’s really easy to add to most dishes,” Goodman notes. “It has a very mild flavor and tends to work well mixed into most foods. We recommend putting the powder in smoothies and sprinkling whole seeds over rice or oatmeal, but really, hemp works anywhere you might include nuts or seeds.”
Garlic has long been considered useful in the fight against certain cancers and other serious diseases.
Scientists consider sulfur compounds the main force behind garlic’s many health benefits. Unfortunately, the inconsistent nature of these compounds has led to varied research results.
Generally, researchers agree that garlic is useful in fighting cancer, but the exact nature of the connection is still mysterious and difficult to repeat.
For millennia, garlic has been used around the world to treat various diseases. Over the years, researchers have typically agreed on the fact that garlic is useful in preventing certain cancers, as well as cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes. Still, a recent study conducted at the University of Nottingham has elaborated on why the composition of garlic makes it difficult to make bold claims about garlic’s impact on our health.
Sulfur compounds found within garlic are what give the vegetable its robust and distinct flavor. Over the years, researchers have also suggested these compounds give garlic its reputation as a cancer-fighting agent. Unfortunately, there seems to be a great deal of inconsistency on how the human body absorbs these sulfur compounds. How the garlic itself is cooked, prepared and consumed can alter the effect of the garlic.
“[T]hat’s what makes this research so complex, because we don’t really understand how these compounds are metabolized in humans and it’s very difficult to identify common mechanisms of action for these molecules,” stated Peter Rose, one of the authors of the recent study.
Rose and his collaborators believe there might be a connection between sulfur compounds found in garlic and gaseous signaling molecules found in human beings. These molecules, like nitric oxide and hydrogen sulfide, are responsible for maintaining homeostasis in the body. Higher quantities of these molecules are usually present when a person is fighting a particular disease. Researchers have also noted that consuming garlic can increase the production of gaseous signaling molecules, which Rose and his colleagues believe might be the answer to how garlic works its health magic.
The researchers said further studies must be conducted in order to figure out exactly how garlic helps to fight cancerous cells. Until then, scientists and researchers alike agree that consuming garlic regularly through your meals and other supplementsis an excellent move for your overall health and wellness.
Fermented foods seem to have become quite popular in recent months. Whether you’ve heard about the benefits of drinking vinegars or are simply wondering why yogurt is such a hot option for breakfast, you most likely want to know what all the fuss is about. People are clamoring for fermented products lately because these foods and drinks are excellent sources of probiotics.
For those a bit shaky on what probiotics are exactly, it is best to think of them as good bacteria for your gut (1). While you might associate bacteria with germs and other sickness-causing agents, the truth is there are many bacterias your body requires for healthy functions. Probiotics help to encourage digestion by affecting the nerves that control the various muscle movements in the stomach and intestines, keeping a person regular and comfortable (2).
If you feel like you’re ready to explore these options for yourself, you will be happy to learn there are several simple ways to get started. Take a look at these tips on how to work fermented foods into your diet and see which tactics work for your lifestyle.
Do you like yogurt? If you do, then you’re already on your path to including more fermented products in your diet. The cultures found in dairy products like kefir and yogurt can provide your body with the right daily dose of probiotics to encourage a happy gut. Start your morning right by grabbing a bowl of yogurt and topping it with your favorite crunchy granola and fresh fruit slices. You might even enjoy the experience so much that you forget you’re treating your body to a healthy meal.
While dairy cultures are excellent fermented products to include in your daily meals, there are a number of people who cannot eat dairy. For those who are lactose intolerant or vegan, there are other avenues to explore. Coconut yogurt cultures can offer all the digestive power offered by dairy without the discomfort or bloating.
Yogurt is the centerpiece ingredient for fermented breakfast options, but there are less obvious ways to include probiotics in your meals. Plenty of people enjoy eating quick meals like sandwiches and salads for lunch. For those who want to work more probiotics into lunchtime, consider adding fermented pickles to the mix.
By themselves, pickles do not offer a ton of nutritional value. Though tasty, these briny cucumbers are more for flavor and crunch than anything else. Still, eating a pickle on or with your lunch has been reported to increase the good bacteria in your gut and promote easy digestion (3). While pickles might be an acquired taste, the simple health benefits can make them a lot more palatable.
Speaking of acquired tastes, sauerkraut is another great option when it comes to eating more fermented foods. Since it is made from cabbage, sauerkraut contains a ton of fiber. This by itself is enough to encourage a healthier digestive system (4). Due to the fermented nature of sauerkraut, it also enhances the digestive experience by introducing healthy probiotics into the mix.
It is also important to note that introducing too much sauerkraut to your system at once can have a negative impact on the way your stomach feels. You don’t want your stomach to turn from the experience, so it is best to use sauerkraut sparingly at first. Increase how much of it you use with time and you’re likely to feel the benefits in your stomach in no time at all.
Switch to Sourdough
Finally, you can do wonders for your diet by switching what kind of bread you eat at home. Unlike other options found at your local grocery store, sourdough bread packs a ton of digestive benefits into one loaf. This type of bread is made with only water, salt and flour, with the rest of the process being more about fermentation than anything else. While sourdough has long been considered a great option for people having trouble achieving glucose homeostasis (5), there are many who are now seeing the digestive benefits.
The longer the dough has been fermenting, the better it will be for your gut. Instead of opting for whole wheat or white, see how using long-fermented sourdough can transform your meals.
Get creative with the way you infuse fermented foods into your day. While you might not want to eat a sauerkraut and pickle sandwich on sourdough with a side of yogurt, you can easily find more practical ways to ingest these helpful sources of probiotics.
Got diarrhea? Take a probiotic. Irritated skin or acne? Again, probiotics. Bad breakup? Why not try a probiotic!?
There’s no denying that probiotics have a cult-like following. They’ve been taking over the supplement aisle for the past few years, thanks to a surge in research revealing the massive extent to which the health of our gut microbiome influences pretty much every other aspect of our health—from our mood to our digestion to our weight to our skin. Problems in these areas may arise when the “bad” bacteria in our gut start to outnumber the “good.” But some studies—and plenty of anecdotal accounts—suggest taking a probiotic supplement can ease health woes such as diarrhea, yeast infections, urinary tract infections and weight gain by fortifying your gut with good bugs and restoring balance.
But now, probiotics are extending their reach beyond supplements and into the snack, beauty and pet food aisles. Which begs the question, do you really need a probiotic face cream or granola? Or, uh…does your dog? Here, we reveal some of the more surprising new places that probiotics are popping up—and whether they live up to the hype.
Consuming probiotics via food used to mean opting for naturally fermented stuff like sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir and yogurt. But now, they can be found in everything from granola to popcorn to chocolate. Essentially, probiotics can be added to anything edible.
Nearly all probiotic-enhanced packaged foods today contain GanedenBC30, which is a proprietary preparation of the probiotic strain Bacillus coagulans (1). The good news: Research has shown that this type of probiotic protects itself in a spore-like casing that allows it to withstand (at least to some extent) the manufacturing process, time spent on a shelf and the acidic conditions of your stomach (2). Meaning, it actually stands a chance of reaching and colonizing your gut.
But does it help you once it gets there? After all, not every probiotic strain treats every ailment. Some studies suggest GanedenBC30 has promising digestive benefits and can reduce symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), including gas and bloating (3) and diarrhea (4). But still, it’s very difficult to know just how beneficial these probiotic-enhanced foods actually are in reality, says Jen McDaniel, RDN, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. A lot of that depends on whether there’s enough present in the food to begin with (1 billion CFUs is a good minimum number to aim for, she says). But because many foods don’t list a probiotic quantity on the nutrition label, it’s often a bit of a gamble.
Probiotic Waters and Teas
When you think of a probiotic-packed drink, you probably think of kombucha, which naturally contains gut-friendly bugs. But now, you can find probiotics in beverages like flat and sparkling waters, and even in tea bags.
Like probiotic-enhanced foods, many (if not all) of these drinks contain the probiotic strain GanedenBC30. So the benefits are likely to be the same. However, based on our research (aka scrutinizing lots of labels), bottled drinks are more likely to list the number of probiotic CFUs on the package than foods or tea bags, with counts ranging from 2 to 4 billion CFUs at time of manufacture. If you do opt for one of these drinks, just be sure it’s not loaded with sugars, artificial sweeteners or any other questionable ingredients that could counter the probiotic health benefits.
Bottom line: Both foods and drinks containing added probiotics could potentially be beneficial, but probiotic supplements and foods or drinks naturally rich in probiotics likely offer more bang for your buck, says McDaniel.
Probiotic Face Creams and Body Lotions
Turns out, our skin has its own microbiome that’s teeming more than 1 trillion bacteria, many of which are beneficial and help keep your skin clear, vibrant and healthy. But if your skin’s microbiome is out of whack (say, from harsh cleansers or a poor diet), this can compromise your skin’s natural barrier, which could result in painful and embarrassing skin conditions such as acne, rosacea and eczema, according to Whitney Bowe, MD, clinical assistant professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Medical Center and the author of The Beauty of Dirty Skin (5).
Bowe believes that increasing the variety of healthy bacteria species on the skin can help reduce inflammation and minimize these conditions, and that one way to do this is via quality probiotic-enhanced skincare products (6). A few beneficial bugs to look for in skincare products: Streptococcus thermophilus, which may help retain moisture (7); Bifidobacterium, which may help reduce skin sensitivity (8); and Lactobacillus plantarum, which may help prevent acne (9). Just make sure that the other ingredients in these products are gentle and preferably natural—no harsh chemicals, which will only compromise your skin’s barrier further.
So, if probiotics are good for your face, are they good for your pits? There are a bunch of new probiotic deodorants on the market promising fresh underarms without the chemicals. How it supposedly works: The good bacteria in the deodorant fights off the bad, odor-causing bacteria in your armpits, leaving you fresh as a daisy (or something like that). Unfortunately, there are no studies proving this benefit, and the strains of bacteria used in these deodorants (typically Lactobacillus acidophilus) aren’t naturally found on the skin—so, odor experts say, their deodorizing effects would likely be very short-lived (10). And who wants to reapply five times a day? If you’re looking to use a more natural deodorant, that’s cool…there’s just no obvious reason to make it one that contains probiotics.
Probiotic Supplements for Dogs
Probiotics for dogs are a thing now, too. And the research is promising. In a 2016 study, dogs given a probiotic supplement containing various strains of Lactobacillus bacteria maintained their appetite and recovered faster from a bout of acute diarrhea than dogs given a placebo (11). There were also fewer pathogens in the feces of the probiotic-treated dogs, making them less likely to pass on this harmful bacteria to other dogs. In another study, dogs with diarrhea that received a specific strain of Bifidobacterium animalis recovered faster and were less likely to need antibiotic treatment compared to the placebo pups (12). Many vets agree that probiotics are harmless for dogs and likely offer some digestive benefits (13).
The Paleo diet is trending up for a very good reason. It’s a diet simply based on cutting out food that is unhealthy and replacing with foods that are essential to our bodies. The principle of the Paleo diet is that we should eliminate foods that are relatively new to humans and go back to eating more natural, raw foods without the added preservatives and unhealthy ingredients. While relatively new to many people, questions and incorrect information about the Paleo diet have come up, preventing some people from giving it a try. So, let’s look at 4 common misconceptions about the Paleo diet.
1. Meat Is All You Eat
The biggest misconception about the Paleo diet is that all you eat is meat. Of course, meat is a significant part of the diet, as part of the approved food groups on the diet plan. But the Paleo diet also includes lots of vegetables, fruits and nuts. The secret of a successful Paleo diet is to balance different food groups to achieve more benefits.
2. No Carbs
Some people believe the Paleo diet contains no carbs, but that is also incorrect. Paleo excludes grains, sugar and other easily available carbs, but it’s not necessarily considered low carb. In fact, the diet recommends a variety of different carbohydrates, such as sweet potatoes, wild rice and squash.
3. The Fad Diet Talk
“Fad diet” is a term generally used for a type of diet plan that promises quick weight loss through drastic dietary changes. Fad diets are often very unhealthy and almost always unsustainable, as people cannot seem to live eating one or an extremely limited number of food groups. The Paleo diet is not designed for short-term weight loss. It’s simply a diet program for those searching for a long-term healthy lifestyle, based on feeling well by eating more natural, whole foods.
4. Too Expensive
Unfortunately, every single healthy diet will be considered “expensive,” as natural food often costs more than industrialized junk food. But can it be considered too expensive? Processed junk food might be cheaper at first, but ingesting tons of artificial ingredients can end up costing you in the long run. Of course, organic meats, fruits and vegetables are more expensive, but you will live much better and avoid expenses with your health later in life.
Hemp is gaining ground for all sorts of uses. The versatile oil made from hemp seeds can be an extraordinary way to enjoy eating healthfully. You get a nice immunity boost from hemp oil, with its high amount of essential fatty acids (EFAs). It is imperative that you get them in some form, because your body can’t produce EFAs on its own. So, you must eat foods that supply the all important omega-3 and omega-6. Hemp oil is a good source of both.
Wondering what other benefits there are to consuming hemp? Great skin, cancer prevention, lowered PMS symptoms, reduced inflammation, and some scientists are seeing improved memory and anti-aging, to name a few. There are a lot of reasons to experiment with hemp oil.
This dressing takes hemp’s nutty flavor into account, adding the delicate sweetness of pomegranate to make a balanced profile, with mint for extra sparkle. The honey and mustard are in quantities that won’t overpower. Instead, they boost up the dominate flavors of mint, pomegranate and hemp oil.
You can easily whip this up in about five minutes, which makes it rival the speed of opening a bottle of store-bought dressing that can be loaded with less healthful ingredients. This dressing won’t weigh you down, and it’s good for your heart.
Experiment with the amounts of the ingredients to get it just right for your own taste. You might want to try the same ratios but swap apple cider vinegar in place of the pomegranate and Dijon in place of the prepared mustard. There are lots of ways to enjoy making salads with hemp oil. Let’s get started!
Gather your ingredients. Assembly can go fast if you don’t have to go back to the cupboard or fridge to retrieve each item.
Chop the mint.
Pour the oil and vinegar into a bowl, along with the mint.
Add the honey, mustard, salt, and pepper. Use a whisk to blend the ingredients.
Pour or sprinkle over your salad. And voila!
Hemp Oil Dressing with Pomegranate Vinegar and Mint
1/2 cup pomegranate vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons hemp seed oil
Approximately 1/4 cup chopped mint, loosely packed and chopped fine
1/2 teaspoon raw honey
1/4 teaspoon prepared yellow mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
Whisk all ingredients together in a bowl and enjoy!
Anyone who is 100 percent done with the cold grip of winter will be happy to know that summer is just around the corner. Whether you are looking forward to longer days, afternoons spent unwinding on a sandy shore, or a chance to go on vacation with the people you love, summer has a way of infusing life with a bit of joy and excitement. Unfortunately, it also brings about some serious health concerns, such as skin cancer.
Statistics about skin cancer have not changed much in recent years (1). According to one estimate, more than 5.4 million cases of non-melanoma skin cancer are treated in more than 3.3. million people in the United States each year (2).
While finding the appropriate sunscreen should be at the top of your priority list, there are a few other ways to boost your skin’s natural sun protection. Eating specific foods, for example, can be a simple and effective way to increase your skin’s defenses.
Citrus fruits are packed with an assortment of vitamins and nutrients your body can benefit from. You might already know that fruits in this category contain ample amounts of vitamin C, but you might not be aware that citrus also generally contains potassium, vitamin E, copper, vitamin B6 and more.
By giving your body a nice dose of citrus each day, experts say you are significantly less likely to experience sunburn. Since these irritations to the skin increase your risk of skin cancer, citrus can be another line of defense for your body.
One study found that participants who consumed more citrus and citrus peel were far less likely to develop cancerous cells in their bodies (3). Though eating more citrus is not a cure by any means, it’s a preventative step that can help provide an extra layer of sun protection.
Tomatoes are a fruit closely associated with summer. Whether you grow them in your garden, buy them from a farmer’s market or order them online, you most likely incorporate tomatoes into many of your meals during the warmer months. A tomato is not only good for a salad. In fact, a number of studies suggest eating tomatoes regularly might help to significantly reduce the odds of developing certain types of cancer.
The science behind this study is quite interesting. Tomatoes, like almost all red fruits, are said to contain high levels of the carotene known as lycopene (4). Consuming tomatoes and other fruits rich with lycopene on a daily basis might actually help cut your skin cancer risk in half.
This is an easy addition to your routine. All you need to do is cut a tomato into slices for a snack, sprinkle on some salt and cracked pepper, and enjoy the delicious taste and the cancer-fighting properties. Don’t like tomatoes? Red cabbage, grapefruit and peppers are also excellent sources of lycopene.
Protecting your skin by eating ample fruits and veggies can be a great move to make. Of course, you might also want to add some meat into your diet. If you are a fan of fish, you’ll be happy to learn that wild salmon contains some incredibly useful nutrients when it comes to sun protection. Salmon, like most fish, are filled with omega-3 fatty acids. The omega-3s found in most wild salmon are said to actively work toward preventing skin cancer.
The fatty acids of the salmon not only help to increase the skin’s natural protection against harmful UV rays. Studies have shown eating fish rich with omega-3s can also help to prevent collagen in the skin from being damaged, diminished or destroyed by prolonged exposure to the sun (5).
While you don’t need to eat salmon as regularly as tomatoes or citrus, you can benefit from including fish in your weekly meal plan. When used in conjunction with sunscreen, eating a balanced diet can help keep your skin well-protected this summer.
When you’re looking for a bit of refreshment on a hot day, you might not immediately think about tossing back a cup of vinegar. Yeah, it sounds a bit weird at first. Still, drinking vinegars seem to be the newest obsession among people who want to revitalize their bodies.
While drinking this pungent liquid is not an appealing prospect to many, the people behind the brands of drinking vinegars currently lining the shelves have taken some great considerations to make the beverage more palatable.
If you still find yourself shaking your head, you are not alone. Many publications have been discussing how odd this beverage trend seems at first glance and pointing out that many celebrities are getting into the fad (1). Though drinking the tangy beverage might seem unusual, people also turned their noses up at kombucha when it first hit the market. Nowadays, kombucha is a very popular fermented drink for health enthusiasts (2), and it seems like drinking vinegars might be following the same path.
If you want to determine whether drinking vinegar should be a part of your daily routine, here’s everything you need to know.
We know vinegar is mainly comprised of acetic acid and water, but what else is inside the bottle? Vinegar also contains chemicals called polyphenols. These chemical compounds are naturally found in plants and help them to fight off predators, enhance pigmentation, and strengthens flora against potential infections (3). Beyond these functions, polyphenols have also been shown to be incredibly resistant to rot, whether found in a natural form or within a processed item like vinegar.
Research on polyphenols over the years has revealed some impressive benefits. While there are a number of different types of polyphenols found in the various plants of the world, the types found in vinegar are excellent when it comes to protecting and preserving the functions of the gut. Specifically, drinking vinegars help to strengthen the gut microbiota found along the lining of your stomach and intestinal tract. By using vinegar to keep this bacteria present and active, you are likely to experience improved digestive functions (4).
Gut microbiota aside, you might be wondering why people are drinking vinegar when there are so many other sources of this chemical chain readily available in nature. Polyphenols are just one of several antioxidizing components of vinegar. That’s right, vinegar is packed with antioxidants (5). While you’ve been hunting down blueberries and acai extract, there has been a great antioxidant source right in your pantry!
Now, to clarify, you probably should not just grab any bottle of clear vinegar from your kitchen, toss in a straw, and see what happens. In fact, you have to go for the right kinds of vinegar to see the benefits. Of the household varieties of vinegar out there, apple cider vinegar is your best choice. You probably have heard that gargling with apple cider vinegar is good for your throat and the same is true of drinking a small amount and feeling a difference in your gut.
If you want to test out the drinking vinegar craze, you’re not limited to sipping on the same apple cider vinegar you use to cook with. There are a variety of exciting brands currently on the market made with fruits, herbs and spices. Instead of plugging your nose and hoping for the best, you can explore a wide range of flavors and ingredients, including honey, ginger, turmeric, pineapple and pomegranate.
Whether you jump on the bandwagon or not, there is a lot of science behind the act of drinking vinegar for health. Look more into polyphenols and see what foods and beverages you can find these chemical chains in. If vinegar isn’t for you, then there’s bound to be another option to provide your body with some helpful antioxidants.