The smell, the taste, the life-giving energy boost—coffee is all around pretty fantastic. So it’s no surprise we’ve been drinking the stuff with increasing enthusiasm since the 1400s. But beyond the obvious draws of this ancient brew, there are a slew of notable health benefits that deserve mentioning (as long as you don’t totally overdo it, of course—try not to exceed four 8-ounce cups a day (1)).
For one, coffee boosts mood, with one study finding that depression risk is about 20 percent lower among women who drink four cups of coffee per day (2). It may also increase long-term memory with as little as two cups per day (3), reduce risk of diabetes (4), protect against liver disease (5) and reduce risk of skin cancer (6).
But perhaps most importantly (at least for checking off items on your daily to-do list), coffee boosts energy and increases stamina—not only does it help you stay more alert and focused at work, but, according to one study, it helps you exercise longer if consumed one hour before a workout (7). Talk about black gold, huh?
5 Coffee Add-Ins You Should Try
While unadulterated coffee is great, some research (and anecdotal evidence from java junkies) suggests that adding in strategic ingredients can further its stamina-boosting effects. Here, we reveal five promising add-ins that will take your coffee to the next level:
Healthy Fats (Coconut or MCT Oil)
While drinking coffee black is acceptable, it can sometimes cause the jitters, or result in an energy crash when caffeine’s stimulatory effects wear off—especially when consumed on an empty stomach. That’s why it’s always ideal to drink coffee with a meal, says Jen McDaniel, a registered dietitian nutritionist based in Clayton, Missouri.
But often, there’s no time for breakfast when you’re frantically running out the door for work. In that case, the next most convenient thing is to blend some healthy fats into your morning brew. This buffers the effects of caffeine on your system and provides a true source of energy for your brain and body (in the form of calories) so you avoid the crash.
Some particularly good options: Coconut oil and MCT oil, both of which contain medium-chain triglycerides, a form of fat that is more rapidly absorbed and used as an immediate source of fuel by the body (8). Medium-chain triglycerides have also been shown to reduce lactate levels in muscles when consumed before a workout, complementing coffee’s already strong stamina-boosting properties (9).
How to use them: Simply blend a tablespoon of coconut or MCT oil into a cup of hot coffee using a regular or immersion blender (you can add some unsalted grass-fed butter, too, for a dose of omega-3 fatty acids) and sip that frothy goodness down. It tastes like a rich, foamy latte and will keep you full and focused for several hours.
Almond butter—much like the oils mentioned above—provides a dose of fat and calories to help buffer the jitter-inducing effects of caffeine and sustain energy levels. It also provide a dose of protein and fiber for additional satiating and energizing power, and a generous amount of magnesium, which is essential for countless biochemical reactions in the body. Many people who are low in magnesium tend to feel lethargic, and one study found that magnesium increased exercise stamina compared to a placebo (10).
How to use it: For a frosty, coffee-based smoothie: Combine 8 ounces of chilled coffee, 1 frozen banana, and 2 tablespoons of almond butter in a blender and puree until smooth. For a creamy nut butter-based latte: Combine 8 ounces hot coffee, a splash of milk (regular or plant based), and 1-2 tablespoons of almond butter in a blender and puree until smooth.
If you tend to enjoy your coffee with sugar—or along with a sweet treat—cravings and energy lulls can result, thanks (or no thanks?) to the blood-sugar-spiking effects of refined carbs. Luckily, cinnamon has been shown to help lower blood sugar and keep it stable (11), especially when consumed with carbs or sugars, says McDaniel. So sprinkling it into your coffee may help keep energy levels even, so you can stay active and avoid that mid-afternoon urge to take a nap.
How to use it: By itself, cinnamon doesn’t mix that well into coffee. So consider blending it into your java with a splash of milk or a little coconut oil. It’s also fantastic in either of the almond butter recipes above.
Adaptogens (Ashwagandha and Maca)
Stress and coffee typically shouldn’t mix. After all, drinking coffee when you’re totally overwhelmed typically just turns you into a jittery, anxious mess. But what do you do when you’re stressed out and really need an energy boost? First, try to limit yourself to just one cup of coffee. Second, consider adding some adaptogens to your brew.
Adaptogens are natural substances (often herbs or medicinal mushrooms, many of which have roots in Ayurvedic medicine) that help the body adapt to stress. There are a bunch of different options to choose from, each of which have unique health benefits, but two that may make a worthy addition to your coffee are ashwagandha and maca root powder. In addition to keeping you on an even keel, ashwagandha may increase physical stamina (12), while maca may increase energy and improve exercise performance (13) (and—added bonus—boost libido!).
How to use them: Alone, adaptogen powders tend to be quite bitter, so pairing them with a fat and flavor-boosting ingredient can help. Try adding a serving of ashwagandha or maca powder to a cup of hot coffee along with a splash of full-fat coconut milk and teaspoon of magnesium-rich cocoa powder.
Want the satiating and stamina-boosting power of eggs without having to whip out the cast iron skillet? Then collagen is a key coffee add-in for busy mornings, delivering a hefty dose of protein (about 18 grams per serving, depending on the brand) to help you power through that morning exercise session or work presentation with ease. Bonus: collagen also promotes healthy immune and digestive system health, and improves the health and appearance of hair, nails, and skin—making it an all-around good choice.
How to use it: Collagen powder is one of those rare ingredients that dissolves perfectly in both iced and hot coffee, and has zero flavor. So simply mix it into whatever type of coffee you like—or use it as an addition to any of the suggestions above! Personally, I like to add it to my morning brew with a splash of full-fat coconut milk for added staying power.
This post was provided by our friends at Atkins.
It’s common knowledge that consuming foods that contain large amounts of sugar may cause your blood sugar to spike. But did you know other types of carbohydrates may have the same effect on blood sugar?
We call this the “hidden sugar effect.” Hidden sugars are the carbohydrates that convert to sugars in your bloodstream and become excess sugars that are stored as fats.
On average, Americans eat 22 teaspoons of added sugar a day. Since the human metabolism can only process about 1-2 teaspoons of sugar at a time, anything greater than that is “dumped” into fat storages, leading to excessive fat and weight gain.
Constant increases in blood sugar levels may eventually lead to pre-diabetes and Type 2 diabetes. The majority of Americans are unaware of the hidden sugars in foods often deemed “healthy.” This is the hidden sugar effect.
For example, a medium-sized bagel may have the same impact on your blood sugar as eating 8 teaspoons of sugar (1). An Atkins chocolate peanut butter bar has the same impact as 1.5 teaspoons of sugar.
Since 50 to 60 percent of Americans’ calories come from carbohydrates (2), it is no surprise the coming generation has a shorter life expectancy than their parents (3).
By watching the quantity and quality of carbs you eat, you can prevent blood sugar spikes in your body and ultimately maintain a healthy weight.
You can find out more about the hidden sugar effect at Atkins.com.
Maybe you’ve heard of probiotics, those strains of good bacteria that live in your gut and may help your health? Well, prebiotics may also be a key to everything from maintaining a healthy weight to toughening up your immune system. Here’s what the science says.
What Are Prebiotics and How Do They Work?
Dietitians and health experts use the term “microflora” to summarize the vast, complex, and important world of bacteria living in your digestive system. “Flora” is an interesting way to put it, because in many ways the mix of good and bad bacteria in your gut is like a garden. If good bacteria, also known as “probiotics,” are the most beneficial plants in your garden, then “prebiotics” are plant food. Prebiotics help probiotics flourish by way of fiber, inulin (a form of soluble fiber), and resistant starches.
And like a garden, the more well-fed your microflora is, the more likely you are to reap the benefits associated with probiotics: a healthier immune system, a less worrisome digestive system, and less of a chance you have to go on Nutrisystem.
The good news is that you can find prebiotics in a host of common foods that also happen to be super healthful for you anyway.
The 8 Best Prebiotic Foods and Their Benefits
Leeks, Onions, and Garlic
These foods, all considered “alliums,” are good sources of the soluble fiber inulin. Consuming inulin as part of a high-fiber diet may help prevent colon cancer, lower the risk of cardiac disease, and may encourage a healthy weight, according to a 2013 study published in the journal Nutrients (1). Fair warning: Eat these foods to increase your inulin levels after your next big work meeting or date.
Unprocessed grains are full of the non-digestive fibers that good gut bacteria love. But note the world “unprocessed.” Sugary breakfast cereals, white bread, and pasta made from refined flour don’t count. Though more research is needed to determine how whole grains work as a prebiotic, a 2015 study published in Healthcare found that barley, rye, wheat, corn, rice, and oats were all contributed to feelings of fullness, otherwise known as “satiety” (2).
Everyone’s favorite yellow fruit (okay, fine, there aren’t that many) is a good source of fiber, but also fructooligosaccharide—a really long word for a beneficial form of natural sugar. Back in 2009, Spanish researchers determined that people who ate diets high in that really long word had less constipation than those who didn’t (3).
What you see bundled in the grocery store are actually the stalks of a small shrub. They’re high in the prebiotic inulin, but they’re also a rich source of disease-fighting antioxidants, according to a 2010 study by Indian scientists (4).
Sick of eating asparagus steamed? Take a sharp peeler to the stalks and cut thin ribbons into a bowl. Mix with fresh lemon juice, salt, pepper, and a little Parmesan for a fresh-tasting raw salad.
This spiky vegetable has a fibrous heart that’s also high in prebiotic inulin. Beneficial changes in gut bacteria may also improve sleep, according to a 2017 study published in the journal Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience (5). The research, which was conducted on rats, found that rodents who ate a diet high in prebiotics may lower stress levels associated with poor sleep. More studies are required to prove an effect in humans.
You know these pods of deliciousness as a pop-and-eat appetizer at Japanese restaurants. Well, edamame is actually a soybean and soybeans themselves are a high-fiber food that’s been classified as a prebiotic. Find a bag in the freezer aisle, steam the beans at home, and sprinkle with sea salt. Or try them shelled in your next stir-fry.
When Should You Take Prebiotic Supplements?
“Before diving into the prebiotic supplement game, look at your own diet and foods that provide naturally occurring prebiotics, like inulin, pectin and fiber, for example,” says Chris Mohr, a registered dietitian and co-owner of Mohr Results. “The fiber and other nutrients within these foods offer the ‘plant food’ that your flora needs to thrive,” Mohr says.
Still interested in a supplement? Talk to a dietitian before proceeding.
Stevia is a no-calorie, natural sweetener, but how does it stack up to other sugar substitutes? Here’s the backstory on stevia and a few things to take into consideration before making the switch from sugar.
What Is Stevia?
The first thing you need to know about stevia (or “rebiana,” as it is sometimes called) is that it’s not a brand name like Equal, Sweet’N Low or other artificial sweeteners. “It’s a general term for all sweeteners derived from the Stevia Rebaudiana bush, an herbal plant that’s prevalent in Asia and South America,” explains Carol Aguirre, a licensed, registered dietitian/nutritionist at Nutrition Connections in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. She adds that sweeteners labeled stevia are extracts called steviol glycosides. “The two primary steviol glycosides are rebaudioside A and stevioside,” says Aguirre.
Stevia is sold in the U.S. under several brand names, including Truvia, PureVia, SweetLeaf, and Stevia in the Raw. Classified as a non-nutritive sweetener, stevia provides consumers with a sweet taste that has fewer calories than sugar. You’ll find it in a range of sodas, sports drinks and dairy products as well as in tabletop packets, liquid drops, dissolvable tablets, and baking blends.
Stevia vs. Sugar
In addition to the fact that stevia comes from the leaves of a plant rather than a lab, the natural sweetener’s biggest draw is that it’s low in calories. One packet of stevia, which is equivalent to 2 teaspoons of sugar, provides 5 calories and 1 gram carbohydrates, while Stevia extract, a liquid form of the sweetener, contains no calories. How does sugar compare? Well, 2 teaspoons has 30 calories and 8 grams carbohydrates. While this may not sound like a lot, “people often use more than 2 teaspoons of sugar,” Aguirre says, “so the calories can add up quickly.” As she notes, many experts believe that sugar consumption is a major cause of obesity and many chronic diseases, such as diabetes, in the U.S.
Another plus: Stevia is not completely absorbed by the body. Therefore, those looking to lose weight and control blood sugar might choose stevia over sugar, observes Neal Malik, a registered dietitian nutritionist and chair of the Department of Nutrition and Basic Sciences at Bastyr University in California.
When it comes to taste, the raw leaves of the Stevia plant are approximately 40 times sweeter than sugar, and the powdered sweetener derived from them is up to 200 to 300 times more sweet. However, because the chemical compounds found in the Stevia plant interact with both the sweet and bitter receptors on your tongue, some complain about its signature bitter aftertaste. “That bitter taste is why, at least so far, beverages sweetened with stevia extracts mix in other sweeteners as well, such as erythritol, aspartame, or regular sugar,” says Aguirre, who cites a recent study, which analyzed the different components of stevia to find out why certain compounds were perceived as more bitter (1).
The findings will allow for future development of stevia-derived sweeteners to focus on the plant’s sweetest, least bitter compounds. But, she adds, while some researchers spend time identifying the sweetest chemical compounds in stevia, “others are working to breed the sweetest possible version of the stevia plant itself.”
In terms of versatility, stevia has proven as versatile as sugar. “The steviol glycosides found in the stevia plant are relatively stable compounds, which means they can be used in a variety of ways,” says Malik. “Stevia can sweeten drinks, like iced tea and coffee.” In addition, some food manufacturers have begun adding it to their dairy products.
Since stevia’s a concentrated source of sweetness, it can also be substituted for sugar in baked goods—with a few caveats. First and foremost, “it won’t brown the way sugar does,” both Aguirre and Malik point out. What’s more, sugar plays a role in the physical structure of baked goods, and stevia does not provide the same bulk. Thankfully, there’s an easy solve: For each cup of sugar substituted, use of 1/3 cup of a bulking agent, such as egg whites, apple sauce, fruit puree or yogurt, Aguirre suggests. “Sugar helps make cakes lighter, so the finished cake will be denser and potentially doughy,” she explains. “You can counter this by adding a bit more baking powder than is called for in the recipe.”
The American Heart Association and American Diabetes Association have given a cautious OK to the use of artificial sweeteners in place of sugar to combat obesity, diabetes and all risk factors for heart disease. “They are not magic pills,” Aguirre cautions, “but smart use of non-nutritive sweeteners could potentially help reduce added sugars in our diet, as a result lowering the number of calories you eat.” Reducing calories, in turn, may help achieve and maintain a healthy body weight, and lower the risk of obesity and Type 2 diabetes, while also lowering cholesterol.
When it comes to studies that specifically investigate stevia’s role in lowering disease risk, researchers from the United Kingdom and Belgium have found that stevia activates a protein called TRPM5, associated with taste perception. The protein also plays a role in the release of the hormone insulin after eating. These findings could lead to new treatments for Type 2 diabetes (2). However, more evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of stevia for both lowering diabetes risk.
There has also been research into stevia’s anti-cancer abilities. One study published in 2012 connected stevia consumption to breast cancer reduction (3).
Another showed that when stevia was added to natural colon cancer-fighting mixtures, such as blackberry leaf, antioxidant levels increased significantly. But again, more research is needed to confirm these findings (4).
Side Effects of Stevia
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has identified Stevia and its related compounds as “generally recognized as safe.” Currently, a safe dose is considered 4 milligrams/kilogram body weight per day (5).
As Malik explains, “this means that, at this time, there’s not enough scientific evidence to show that stevia consumption may be harmful to health in the short- or long-term.” However, he points out that animal studies have revealed that large doses of stevia may lead to genetic mutations (6). That said, the verdict’s still out on how large amounts of stevia impact humans, since evidence is lacking .
Although stevia is considered safe for people with diabetes, says Aguirre, “brands that contain dextrose or maltodextrin should be treated with caution. Dextrose is glucose, and maltodextrin is a starch. These ingredients add small amounts of carbs and calories. Sugar alcohols may also slightly tip the carb count.” Bottom line: If you use stevia products now and then, it may not be enough to impact your blood sugar. But if you use them throughout the day, the carbs add up.
Your stomach might also be affected. A 2015 study reported a possible link between non-nutritive sweeteners, including stevia, and a disruption in beneficial intestinal flora (7). The same study also suggested non-nutritive sweeteners may induce glucose intolerance. Additionally, in some people, stevia products made with sugar alcohols may cause digestive issues like bloating and diarrhea.
If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, stay on the safe side and avoid use, since there is not enough reliable information about the safety of taking stevia.
Lastly, certain medications may interact negatively with stevia. Experts warn those who take lithium to exercise caution because stevia might have an effect like a water pill or “diuretic.” Taking stevia might decrease how well your body gets rid of lithium. In theory, this could result in serious side effects. Talk with your doctor if you are taking lithium. Your dose might need to be changed if you partake in stevia regularly.
In addition, be mindful if you are on diabetes medications. Some research shows that stevia might decrease blood sugar in people with Type 2 diabetes. In theory, stevia might cause an interaction with diabetes meds that results in blood sugar levels going dangerously low. That said, not all research has found that stevia lowers blood sugar.
Therefore, it is not clear if this potential interaction is cause for concern. Until more is known, monitor your blood sugar closely if you take stevia and tell your doctor if you believe the dose of your diabetes medication needs to be changed. Similarly, if you’re on medication to lower blood pressure, using a natural sweetener might cause your blood pressure to go too low. Again, report any concerns to your health care provider.
How to Use Stevia
There’s a huge variety of stevia on the market, and, in many cases, it comes in the form of fillers and additives. As a consumer, you must always read the ingredient list. Chances are, you’ll see more than just stevia on that list, especially if it’s an inexpensive brand. Most stevia products contain one or more additives to bulk up the product and create a more free-flowing powder. Some examples of fillers include:
Maltodextrin: A filler created from rice, potatoes, or corn that provides a sweet taste and creates an free-flowing product.
Dextrose: A filler made from corn sugar, fruits or honey. It is closer to sugar than other fillers on the market, and because it’s very low in carbohydrates and calories, Dextrose is allowed to be labeled as calorie-free.
Inulin: One of the safest additives is this vegetable, prebiotic fiber.
Erythritol: A sugar alcohol made from corn that’s generally tolerated well.
Xylitol: A sugar alcohol made from birch trees, this additive is one of the safest out there.
Glycerin: The safest of all additives, it is a liquid often found in alcohol-free liquid stevia products. It is derived from fruits and vegetables and does not raise the glycemic index.
If you want to purchase the purest stevia product possible, scour the label for the words “100 percent pure stevia extract” (not stevia powder, which indicates it is a blend and not pure extract). Liquid stevia products may also be in a base of alcohol (much like vanilla extract). However, many alcohol-free varieties are available, so read the ingredients panel closely.
The onset of Fall means it’s time for pumpkin spice and everything nice! Unfortunately, most pumpkin-spice-flavored goods are loaded with sugar—a challenge for anyone following a low-carb diet. Never fear! This caramel pumpkin smoothie is full of seasonal flavor, packed with nutrition and is just the thing to get you going in the morning. Alternatively, you can eat this as a dessert because it tastes like pumpkin pie in a glass!
This recipe is ridiculously easy and only contains 5 grams of net carbs. You’re free to use any vanilla protein powder you prefer, but the Isopure Perfect Zero is a great choice for anyone looking to stay as low-carb as possible.
1/4 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
2 Tablespoons Walden Farms Caramel Syrup
1 scoop Isopure vanilla protein powder
4 ice cubes
Blend until creamy & enjoy!
Meet the pegan diet. It’s the love child of two very different eating styles: the paleo diet and veganism. We know, we know—those two ways of eating seem to be the complete opposite of one another.
Vegans shun all animal products, while the paleo diet suggests we eat like our caveman ancestors and consume mostly high-protein meat. How could a new diet be created from those two approaches? Let us explain.
What Is the Pegan Diet?
Nutrition expert Dr. Mark Hyman introduced the pegan diet in 2015. He realized that the vegan and paleo ways of eating had common ground. They both recommend avoiding processed, packaged foods and instead filling your plate with natural, nutrient-rich ingredients.
“The pegan diet is a healthy compromise of the two,” says Carol Aguirre, a registered dietitian/nutritionist and owner of Nutrition Connections in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “It focuses on eating fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy protein and good-for-you fats. The best aspects of each are integrated for a balanced dietary plan.”
The Pegan Diet Plan
“While the vegan diet is often low in protein and key nutrients like vitamin B-12, the paleo diet is often heavy in animal protein and saturated fat,” Aguirre says. “The pegan diet is a healthy compromise of the two.”
And because it’s loaded with fiber-filled veggies and satisfying fats, you’ll feel fuller longer, which should help with weight loss. Sugary, processed foods aren’t part of the diet, so eliminating them will also help followers of the diet slim down.
Here’s how to follow the pegan diet:
- Opt for a small portion (1/2 cup or less per meal) of whole or gluten-free grains, including black rice, quinoa, teff, buckwheat, or amaranth.
- Eat sustainably-raised livestock (like grass-fed meat and pasture-raised eggs), which contain more nutrients and tend to be leaner.
- Fill your plate (approximately 75 percent) with fresh, minimally processed vegetables and fruit. But avoid starchy vegetables, like beets, pumpkin, potatoes (regular and sweet) and parsnips.
- Aim for 25 to 35 percent of your total calories to come from omega-3 rich fat sources. Think fatty fish, flax seeds, nuts, avocado, olives and their oils.
- Allow yourself one cheat day per week, along with two desserts and two alcoholic drinks per week.
- Choose foods that have been treated with pesticides, antibiotics, hormones, and GMOs.
- Eat foods that can cause a spike in blood sugar (such as refined carbs or anything with sugar or flour).
- Consume vegetable oils high in omega-6s, like soybean and corn oil.
- Include dairy, soy, legumes and gluten in your diet.
The Pegan Diet Formula
To follow the pegan way of eating, Aguirre suggests remembering “5-4-3-2-1.” Over the course of your three meals and two snacks each day, aim for:
- 5 or more cups of fruits and vegetables
- 4 servings of low-glycemic carbs
- 3 servings of lean protein
- 2 servings of healthy fats
- 1 dairy substitute
Pegan Diet Recipes
Here are two satisfying recipes from Aguirre that fit into the pegan way of eating:
Preparation: 10 minutes (active)
Ready in: 25 minutes
- 1 cup water
- ½ cup (red or white) quinoa
- 1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon cumin
- 2 green onions, thinly sliced
Bring water and quinoa to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat to low, and simmer 20 minutes or until quinoa is tender; drain. Stir in almonds, juice, oils, salt, and onions.
Prepare quinoa as directed in main recipe; drain. Place quinoa in a bowl. Add 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, 1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar, 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Stir and serve. Serves two.
Salmon with Salsa
Preparation: 10 minutes
Ready in: 25 minutes
- 1 medium plum tomato, roughly chopped
- ½ small onion, roughly chopped
- 1 clove garlic, peeled and quartered
- 1 small jalapeño pepper, seeded and roughly chopped
- 1 teaspoon cider vinegar
- ½ teaspoon chili powder
- ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 (4-ounce) salmon fillets
Preheat oven to 400°F. Place tomato, onion, garlic, jalapeno, vinegar, chili powder, cumin, and salt to taste in a food processor; process until finely chopped and uniform. Place salmon in a medium roasting pan; spoon the salsa on top. Roast until the salmon is just cooked through, 12 to 15 minutes. Serves two.
What to Consider Before Starting a Pegan Diet
Before you go completely pegan, talk to your health care provider to make sure the diet is a good fit for you. Most people will benefit from this way of eating since it focuses on whole, natural foods. However, we have five food groups for a reason—to get a wide variety of vitamins, nutrients and minerals.
“Slashing dairy can deprive the body of calcium and vitamin D (nutrients that keep bones strong and help fight fatigue, brain fog and depression, so you may need to take a calcium supplement or D vitamin,” says Aguirre. Plus, beans are packed with heart-healthy fiber. “Removing legumes and not eating enough meat can limit muscle-building protein and energizing iron in your diet, which can really devastate workouts.”
If you find the pegan diet hard to sustain, choose the elements of it that work best for you. There are many healthy components of the diet that people can benefit from, even if they don’t follow the plan to a T.
Antioxidants are trendy. You’ve probably seen them advertised in everything from tea and energy bars to moisturizers and facial oils. Antioxidants are the reason everyone has been telling you to eat leafy greens and indulge in dark chocolate.
And while common antioxidants like vitamin C and beta-carotene may be familiar, there is one health-boosting, super antioxidant that should be on your radar. We’re talking about alpha lipoic acid (ALA).
What Is Alpha Lipoic Acid?
“ALA is a powerful fatty acid that plays a role in metabolism. It binds with proteins to help the body convert carbohydrates into energy,” says Dr. Pamela Reilly, a naturopathic doctor and certified nutrition consultant based in Indianapolis. “When excess ALA exists in the body, it stops binding to proteins and begins to work as a powerful antioxidant. Antioxidants help the body eliminate free radicals that can cause cell damage and even cell mutation.”
One property that makes ALA particularly distinct is that it is soluble in both fat and water, says Dr. Evan Chait, a certified nutritionist and president and co-founder of AcuWellness. Most antioxidants are either fat soluble or water soluble, but because ALA is both, it has the unique capability of entering into all parts of a cell within the body.
There are three forms of ALA: alpha R-lipoic acid, alpha S-lipoic acid, and alpha RS-lipoic acid. Alpha S-lipoic acid and alpha RS-lipoic acid are both synthetic versions and are often found in ALA supplements. According to Chait, R-lipoic acid is the natural form of lipoic acid and the only version that exists in nature. It is produced by plants, animals, and the human body. “R-alpha lipoic acid assists in mitochondrial energy production,” says Chait.
Because ALA is only produced in small amounts in humans, supplementation is often recommended if people want to boost their ALA levels and receive the health benefits and antioxidant properties of the fatty acid.
The medical community rarely tests for low ALA levels, says Reilly, but ALA deficiencies may result in a variety of health problems. “Low ALA levels could potentially result in fatigue, poor insulin sensitivity, higher than normal blood sugars, nerve pain, vision issues, accelerated aging, coronary issues, and even wrinkles,” she says.
Dietary Sources of Alpha Lipoic Acid
ALA is found naturally in a variety of foods including leafy vegetables and certain types of meat. Chait explains that the following foods are rich in ALA:
- Brussels sprouts
- Brewer’s yeast
- Rice bran
- Bone broth
- Organ meats (liver, kidney and heart)
Although these foods contain natural ALA, people would have to consume large quantities to receive the full health benefits. “The levels from food are still far too low to be clinically relevant,” says Dr. Joseph Feuerstein, director of integrative medicine at Stamford Hospital and assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University. “For example, a gram of spinach might only have a few micrograms of ALA.”
Alpha Lipoic Acid Benefits
ALA has numerous benefits. In addition to facilitating energy production in the body, lowering ocular pressure, and reducing the likelihood of developing cataracts, ALA supplementation is commonly used to help treat patients with diabetic nerve pain. “ALA has a long history of being used to help the body restore insulin sensitivity, lower blood sugars, and improve the body’s ability to maintain nerve health in the presence of any form of diabetes,” says Reilly.
But assisting with insulin levels and diabetic nerve pain isn’t the only advantage of ALA. Studies have shown ALA to be effective in slowing down the aging process in the brain (1) and improving brain function in patients with Alzheimer’s disease, and in having small—yet significant—benefits in assisting with weight loss (2).
In addition, says Chait, ALA supports the liver and heart, promotes healthy skin, and assists with maintaining glucose levels. “ALA supplements also replenish vitamins C and E, which are so important for body function,” he adds.
When to Take an Alpha Lipoic Acid Supplement
Because the body only produces small amounts of ALA, supplementation is often necessary to experience the benefits of this multifaceted antioxidant. Supplements often come in capsule form that can be taken 1-2 times per day.
“Almost anyone can benefit from taking an ALA supplement, but I especially recommend them to anyone over the age of 50, anyone with known blood sugar imbalances, anyone with insulin resistance, and anyone with ocular issues,” says Chait.
Suggested dosages for ALA supplements vary, but often range from 300-600 milligrams per day. Doctors may recommend 600-1,800 milligrams for patients suffering from diabetic nerve pain, says Feuerstein, but dosages in this range should only be taken when recommended by a medical professional.
If you’re confused about where to start with ALA supplements, it’s a good idea to look for quality, clean products from respected manufacturers. Check for products with a USP or UL seal, says Feuerstein. Supplements containing these verifications show that the brands conduct regular testing to maintain quality standards.
If you feel overwhelmed, ask a medical professional for advice. “Check with your doctor,” says Reilly. “They may have a specific brand they prefer.”
Alpha Lipoic Acid Side Effects
Side effects from taking ALA supplements are rare, and they are usually associated with high dosages. But as with any supplement, consumers should pay close attention and watch for adverse reactions.
Alpha lipoic acid side effects may include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Stomach pain
“People with known blood sugar imbalances should check their blood glucose levels more frequently when they start taking ALA,” says Reilly. “Lower blood sugars may result and may create a need for reduced medication levels.”
Before taking ALA supplements, check with your doctor to make sure ALA supplementation is a good fit for your overall health and lifestyle.
This post was provided by our friends at MRM and written by Samantha Crosland.
OK, so we’ve all heard about the keto diet by now. It’s everywhere—all over your social media feed and your best friend’s boyfriend’s sister’s mom lost a million pounds and is in the best shape of her life. So, it begs the question: Why is everyone so obsessed with keto? Is it safe and healthy?
Keto Diet Benefits
The ketogenic (keto, for short) diet has been studied, and studied and studied over and over again, and the results continue to come back the same: The keto diet, when practiced correctly, can work wonders for our health. Yes, you’ll probably lose a bunch of weight, too, which is why it’s really become so popular. But, the benefits far outweigh going down a pant size. We’re talking gut health, brain health, anti-inflammatory lifestyle, energy for days…true internal physical health!
Did you know, the ketogenic diet was actually developed and practiced back in the 1920s for people who suffered from epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and other autoimmune diseases, especially in children’s hospitals? Since then, it has been found that a keto diet can help improve your health and encourage weight loss. This high-fat, moderate protein and low-carb diet has been seen to help battle other diseases like diabetes, cancer and even Alzheimer’s while helping to improve triglyceride levels, cholesterol ratios and cardiovascular disease risk factors.
Keto Carb Limit
What does “ketogenic” even mean? Ketogenic is to cause ketogenesis, or putting your body in an energy deficit state by limiting carbohydrates, so much so that your liver begins to convert fat into ketone bodies. These ketone bodies become the new energy source for your brain and body.
You might be thinking, “Wait, I thought carbs were an essential part of a healthy and balanced diet?” Here’s the thing: We eat too many carbs. The average American eats around 225 to 325 grams of carbs per day. Considering 70 percent of the population is overweight, it’s safe to say this high amount of consumption is not recommended for those who live the standard sedentary American lifestyle (1).
Yes, when we eat carbs and use them for energy right away—like going for a run—they’re great for us and used efficiently. Unless you’re extremely active every day or a professional athlete, the amount of carbs you need are much smaller than what we’ve been led to believe. When we eat too many carbohydrates and don’t use them for energy, they get converted and stored by and on the body as fat.
Contrary to popular belief, fat is not bad! Fat is, in fact, great for us. Our bodies prefer to use consumed fats as our energy source. Plus, when we eat the proper proportions of macronutrients (protein, carbs, fats), fat doesn’t get stored as fat. It’s used for, you guessed it, energy! In fact, you need to eat fat in order to lose fat. Healthy fats are used throughout our entire body and for so many crucial metabolic functions, it’s not even funny. To starve yourself of fat is to starve your body of essential, vital nutrients.
The human body can’t make essential fatty acids on its own, so we need to get them from our diet. Carbohydrates are not essential because we can make the carbs we need from other nutrients stored in the body. This is another reason the keto diet is popular. You eat barely any carbs, you convert the fat you have stored into energy for your brain and body, you lose weight and you feel fantastic. Our bodies do work more efficiently this way, which is another reason it’s being touted as one of the healthiest diets around.
Adapting to the Keto Diet
The process of becoming a keto powerhouse can be challenging, and some people even experience what’s called the “keto flu.” Now don’t worry, this isn’t necessary or permanent, and there are ways to help combat this. What’s really happening is you’re forcing your body to re-learn how to process foods in order for you to survive. This can take anywhere from two days up to a few weeks, depending on how many carbs you consume, your activity level, lifestyle and a little on your genetic makeup.
The keto flu happens when the reduction in carbs is so drastic, your body goes into shock and you experience withdrawal symptoms: headaches, fatigue, irritability and sugar cravings, just to name a few. You can slowly transition into a keto state by reducing your carb intake over time while increasing your fat and maintaining your protein intake until you get to the recommended keto ranges and stay there. You can also add supplements to your diet to help your body begin using and accessing fat stores more efficiently. (Check out our list of foods to eat and avoid on the keto diet below.)
Getting Into Ketosis
Keto only works when done right, and that’s easier said than done. To get into ketosis, the metabolic state of the ketogenic diet, you need to drastically reduce your carb intake to anywhere between 20 to 50 grams per day, or less. Remember, the average American eats around 225 to 325 grams of carbs per day, so it’s easier said than done for most.
What would a traditional keto macro breakdown look like? Of your daily caloric intake requirements, to maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle, you would want:
- Carbs: 5 percent
- Protein: 20 percent
- Fat: 75 percent
Essentially, you’re going to starve your body of carbs—*NOT to be confused with starving yourself*—and eat a moderate amount of protein and a high amount of healthy fats.
You would also want to up your water intake. More water is never a bad idea, but increasing water is a great way to help your body transition into this new type of diet and lifestyle.
What Foods Can You Eat on the Keto Diet?
- Low-carb veggies (greens, tomatoes, bell peppers, onions)
- Healthy oils (EVOO, coconut oil, avocado oil)
- Nuts/seeds (chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, walnuts, almonds)
- Unprocessed cheese (goat cheese, mozzarella, cheddar)
- Butter/ghee (opt for grass-fed, no hormones, etc.)
- Fatty fish (Salmon, tuna, mackerel, trout)
- Meat and poultry (chicken, turkey, steak, ham, sausage, bacon)
Here are some supplements to help make the transition easier:
- MRM Egg White Protein (23 grams protein, no fat, 2 grams carbs…great macros for keto!)
- MRM Smart Blend (advanced essential fatty acid blend in ratios that balance your diet)
- MRM Acetyl L-Carnitine (aid body in accessing fat stores to make energy, liquid or capsule available)
- Fruit (only small portions of berries are allowed)
What Not to Eat on the Keto Diet
- Sugary foods (cake, candy, pastries, soda, fruit juice)
- Grains or starches (wheat products, cereal, rice, pasta)
- Fruit (besides berries)
- Beans/legumes (peas, kidney beans, lentils, peanuts)
- Roots/starchy vegetables (carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes)
- Low-fat products (carbs/sugar are used to replace the low amount of fat)
- Unhealthy fats (processed vegetable oils, mayo)
- Alcohol (7 calories/g as carbs; the high-carb content will throw you out of ketosis)
- Sugar-free diet foods (highly processed and full of sugar alcohols)
Take note: before transitioning into any new diet, especially one that almost eliminates an entire food group, it’s important to consult your doctor. Remember what you learned in preschool: safety first, always!
From the outside, you might confuse turmeric with ginger. The two roots look very similar until you peel back the skin and see the vibrant deep yellow color (so deep you could call it orange) that distinguishes turmeric from its rhizome cousin. Aside from its medicinal and culinary uses, turmeric makes a great natural dye for anything from fabric to Easter eggs. The color is due to the curcumin, the main active ingredient in turmeric. That is where the magic lies within this fabulous plant, also known by the scientific name Curcuma longa L.
The use of turmeric dates back at least 4,500 years. Turmeric’s many benefits have been praised by and shared from India, where it was first used, to Asia, Europe and the rest of the world. Pliny the Elder described it as “an Indian plant with the appearance of ginger but taste of saffron” (1). Ayurvedic medicine has used turmeric for centuries to alleviate pain, inflammation and even cancer symptoms. The curcumin in the root itself is only about a 5 percent concentration, and even that small amount is enough to show a positive effect.
Let’s take a closer look at potential turmeric benefits and how to use this popular spice.
5 Turmeric Benefits You Should Know About
Arthritis is not only common—it’s painful and even crippling. Curcumin from turmeric performed as well or better than Western medicine in a study to see whether its anti-inflammatory properties could soothe painful rheumatoid arthritis (2). In addition, randomized clinical trials provide scientific evidence that supports the efficacy of turmeric extract (about 1,000 milligrams per day of curcumin) in the treatment of arthritis (3). However, more research still needs to be done.
“Turmeric is also great for sports recovery,” says registered dietician Kerri Schwartz of Los Angeles-based Creative Nutrition by Kerri. “If you are feeling super sore, you may want to add some turmeric to your juice or smoothie.”
With Alzheimer’s disease on the rise, turmeric’s ability to slow it down or prevent it has become an increasingly studied topic. You don’t need to have the fear of failing health to gain benefits from this potent plant stem. One study found that participants who ate curry often or even just occasionally had better cognitive performance that those who never or rarely ate it (4). Turmeric is a key ingredient in curry pastes, and the curcumin is thought to be responsible for its memory-enhancing effects.
Many studies have found that an age-related increase in oxidized proteins in the brain might contribute to the aging process (5). In addition to its antioxidant properties, turmeric has been shown to enhance the body’s natural antioxidant production, which may help combat oxidative damage associated with aging.
There is some evidence that both topical and oral formulations of turmeric may promote overall skin health, says Dr. Jeremy Wolf, a naturopathic doctor and lead health advisor at LuckyVitamin. Be cautious when using turmeric topically, however, as its yellow-orange color could stain the skin, he advises.
Many skin conditions are linked to imbalances of the inflammatory response, and curcumin has been shown to reduce or suppress inflammatory targets (6). Studies suggest that turmeric may help improve conditions like acne and psoriasis (7). In addition, turmeric has been shown to speed wound healing and help promote skin repair (8). Turmeric extract may also prevent the signs of aging from UVB exposure, an animal study found (9).
Several studies have shown that the curcumin in turmeric has anticancer effects and could potentially be useful for cancer prevention and treatment (10). Turmeric is also believed to enhance detoxification in the body, which could mitigate the effects of several dietary carcinogens, an animal study suggests (11). Other evidence indicates that curcumin may be effective in helping the body accept chemotherapy treatments when resistance occurs (12).
In addition to being a powerful anti-inflammatory, curcumin from turmeric may aid in weight control. It may also help with the adverse effects of obesity that make some people hold onto weight and create more stress on their system (13). One animal study found that curcumin could not only reduce weight gain, it could also stop fat cells from expanding (14).
How to Use Turmeric
If you buy the fresh root or the powder, turmeric might seem like a mysterious, staining mess. The key is not to go overboard or turmeric’s bitter notes can take over. You will get the benefits from smaller amounts, so go ahead and throw a 1/4 teaspoon in a stir fry, juice a little in with your smoothie, turn your pancake batter yellow by sprinkling it in, or add it to a sauce. You might like it in a pudding. Chocolate can hide the flavor, or you might enjoy it with enough sweetener and other spices such as cinnamon in your hot cereal.
Another great way to get turmeric into your diet is to enjoy an Indian-derived beverage called golden milk. You can make it yourself, or enjoy prepared mixes.
When using the fresh herb or convenient powder in your recipes, it’s best to incorporate black pepper along with it. That’s because studies have shown that curcumin alone is not easily absorbed by the body. Piperine, the major active component of black pepper, has been shown to increase bioavailability of curcumin by a whopping 2,000 percent (15).
Here’s one recipe for a creamy dressing that balances turmeric’s pungent flavor with the sweetness of carrots:
Turmeric Carrot Dressing Recipe
Makes: 4 Servings
Prep time: 3 minutes
Cook time: 12 minutes
This versatile dressing is great on a wide variety of salads. Try it poured on grilled vegetables, on raw lettuce, or any combination that appeals to you.
- 3 large carrots, washed and chopped
- 1/4 cup onion, sliced
- 1/4 teaspoon thyme
- 1/4-1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup water
- Sea salt and pepper to taste
- 1 teaspoon honey (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon ginger juice (optional)
- Place oil in the bottom of a saucepan over medium high heat.
- Add turmeric, thyme, onions and carrots. Stir to coat with oil.
- Sauté for a minute and then add water.
- Simmer for 8-10 minutes until carrots are fork tender.
- Blend all ingredients, adding in vinegar, salt and pepper.
- Store in refrigerator for up to three days.
Should I Take a Turmeric Supplement?
If you are not a fan of turmeric’s identifiable flavor, you might want to take supplements to get the anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and other studied benefits. There are many reputable brands that have created easy-to-swallow formulas filled with turmeric extracts that can be absorbed easier than a traditional powder-filled capsule.
At minimum, your supplements should contain an extract of black pepper called Bioperene to aid in absorption, LuckyVitamin’s Dr. Wolf recommends. “Forms of turmeric that I recommend looking for are called Meriva and BCM-95, which have even better absorption capabilities,” he says.
Turmeric Side Effects
Registered dietitian Schwartz noted that some studies have found diarrhea to be a potential side effect of taking large doses of turmeric. If you feel that your dosage is too high for your digestive system, you’ll still get great benefits by cutting down how much you are taking. Additionally, people with gallstones should ask their doctor before taking turmeric.
What do cherries, wine, broccoli and green tea have in common? All of these foods are rich in the bioflavonoid quercetin. One of the most commonly found bioflavonoids—seriously, quercetin is in a lot of foods—research has shown that this particular compound is a powerful antioxidant with widespread and encouraging health benefits for people from all walks of life (1). But what is quercetin exactly? And what are the top quercetin benefits?
What Is Quercetin?
“Specifically, quercetin is a plant pigment that offers that plant protective qualities. More broadly, quercetin is a bioflavonoid, which is in turn a phytochemical,” describes Marissa Ciorciari, a registered dietitian based in South Florida who specializes in inflammatory conditions, food sensitivities, plant-based eating and wellness through integrative and functional nutrition.
Phytochemicals refer to the biologically active compounds found in plants and are known to have antioxidant and anti-cancerous qualities, as well as an ability to regenerate essential nutrients (2).
6 Quercetin Benefits
Research has shown that quercetin can benefit a person’s health in many ways. The qualities listed below just scratch the surface, as more research is needed to further explore quercetin benefits.
Anti-inflammation. A known antioxidant, one of quercetin’s top health benefits is its anti-inflammatory properties (3). By battling inflammation, quercetin may positively impact people suffering from inflammation-related issues such as arthritis and fibromyalgia. “Inflammation can be the root cause of many chronic conditions,” Ciorciari notes. “So you can apply the potential benefits of quercetin to a lot of health concerns.
Anti-carcinogenic. Quercetin is also known to be anti-carcinogenic, which means it could potentially reduce a person’s cancer risk. Ciorciari says that there hasn’t been a lot of official research into this particular benefit, but she believes that it’s an area that deserves more attention. “As a nutritionist who used to work in cancer therapies, I think there’s a lot of great, promising literature out there showing quercetin’s role in this area. We just need more long-term studies.”
Cardiovascular health. Studies have shown that quercetin may help reduce blood pressure and improve cardiovascular health (4).
Reduce the risk of infection. Quercetin has unique properties that may help reduce the risk of infection, a research review published in Nutrients describes. The same review stated that it may also improve mental and physical performance (3). Ciorciari also notes that quercetin can have a positive effect on wounds and skin abnormalities.
Allergies. Ciorciari says that some people have used quercetin to treat allergies, with some success.
Improving insulin resistance. There have been a number of studies showing that quercetin use can reduce insulin resistance, and it has been shown to improve diabetic condition in animals with both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes (4).
Ways to Add Quercetin to Your Diet
People looking to reap the benefits of quercetin use are in luck—it can be found in all kinds of produce. “There are so many ways to add quercetin to your diet,” Ciociari says. “Citrus fruit, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and Brussels sprouts, berries and cherries, onions, especially red onions, red bell peppers and the cacao plant, so cocoa is an option! You’ll also find it in green tea and lots of herbs, like mint. It can even be found in wine.”
Ciorciari recommends that anyone looking to add more quercetin to their diets look for foods rich in the flavonoid before resorting to supplements. “I always advocate for a ‘food first’ approach to adding nutrients to someone’s diet,” she explains. “If a person is eating a diet full of different colors—and by that I mean colors that occur in nature in fruits and vegetables—they’re going to be able to ingest a good amount of antioxidants just from their everyday food.”
How to Choose a Quercetin Supplement
If adding more fruits and veggies to your diet isn’t feasible, there are also quercetin supplements available. Ciorciari recommends caution, however, when looking into supplements because they aren’t closely regulated in the United States. “Purity and quality of the source is always something to keep in mind,” she says. “Stick to reputable brands that you are familiar with.”
Possible Quercetin Side Effects
Ciorciari says that one of the major benefits of adding more quercetin to your diet is that it doesn’t have many documented side effects.
She does say, though, that pregnant and breastfeeding moms, as well as anyone with compromised health, should consult with their doctor before starting a quercetin regimen.
“There’s some research that shows quercetin interactions with certain medications, like antibiotics and even blood thinners,” Ciorciari says. “It can also have some impact on chemotherapy. When in doubt, talk to your health care provider.”
A Harvard professor recently caused an online frenzy when she called coconut oil “pure poison” and “one of the worst foods you can eat” in a viral video. Her bold statements add further controversy to the great fat debate in scientific circles. Meanwhile, the rest of us are left wondering, is coconut oil good or bad?
In a lecture titled “Coconut Oil and Other Nutritional Errors,” Karin Michels, adjunct professor of epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said that health claims surrounding coconut oil are “absolute nonsense.” (Michels is also director of the Institute for Prevention and Cancer Epidemiology at the University of Freiburg in Germany, where the lecture took place.)
When it comes to fats, the answer isn’t clear cut. Yes, coconut oil is high in saturated fat (between 82 and 92 percent), but some recent studies have challenged the notion that saturated fat is “bad” for our health (1). If there is one idea that everyone can get behind, it’s this: dietary fat is only part of the equation.
“I believe that the ‘dose makes the poison’ when it comes to food,” says Becky Kerkenbush, a clinical dietitian and media representative for the Wisconsin Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “A person’s overall dietary pattern is what is important. Saturated fat is just one piece of the puzzle. The intake of fruit, vegetables and whole grains are also vital in the quality of a person’s diet.”
Many enthusiasts tout coconut oil as a healthy fat because it’s a naturally rich source of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). MCTs are broken down more rapidly and metabolized at a faster rate than long-chain triglycerides. Coconut oil consists of about 60 percent MCTs, nearly half of which are lauric acid (2).
Lauric acid is said to have antifungal, antibacterial, and antiviral properties and may even aid in weight loss (3). However, some nutrition experts believe that lauric acid behaves more like a long-chain fatty acid (as opposed to a medium-chain one) with regard to digestion and metabolism.
Evidence suggests that coconut oil, when compared with unsaturated plant oils, raises total cholesterol, though not as much as butter (4). “More research needs to be done before we recommend that people start adding coconut oil to their daily routines,” Kerkenbush notes.
The American Heart Association recommends that people who need to lower their cholesterol reduce saturated fat to no more than 5 to 6 percent of their total daily calories (5). That’s about 11 to 13 grams of saturated fat for someone eating 2,000 calories a day. One tablespoon of coconut oil contains about 13.5 grams of fat, 11.2 of which is saturated, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Nutrient Database.
That doesn’t mean you should go on a crusade against all saturated fat. “There’s no need to cut out all saturated fat (it wouldn’t be realistic as well), just reduce the amount consumed daily,” Kerkenbush recommends.
Fat is an essential nutrient and a crucial source of energy for the body. Without a certain amount of fat in your diet, your body would cease to perform a number of critical functions, such as enhancing absorption of fat-soluble nutrients (6). In fact, new research suggests that full-fat dairy foods are unlikely to increase risk of heart disease and stroke, two of the leading causes of death in the United States often associated with a diet high in saturated fat (7).
Marcia Otto, one of the study’s authors and an assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology, Human Genetics and Environmental Sciences at UTHealth School of Public Health, raises a valid point about the importance of evidence-based research in educating people about nutrition.
“Consumers have been exposed to so much different and conflicting information about diet, particularly in relation to fats,” she stated in a press release. “It’s therefore important to have robust studies, so people can make more balanced and informed choices based on scientific fact rather than hearsay.”
So, is coconut oil safe to eat or not? Again, it’s all about moderation, says Katrina Trisko, a registered dietitian based in New York City. “If you enjoy the taste of coconut oil, use it less often, and in smaller amounts,” she says. “It’s also important to take other factors into consideration when it comes to our relative risk for disease. Physical activity plays a very large role in our health—in parallel with what we’re eating.”
Most research shows that monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats, like those found in olive, avocado and canola oils, are the most beneficial, Trisko says. “Focus on getting in the majority of your fats from these unsaturated sources, which are linked to improved cardiovascular health,” she recommends.
For everyday use, Kerkenbush suggests olive, peanut, avocado, canola, sesame, sunflower and safflower oils as healthy options. Of course, that doesn’t mean you should douse your food in oil with reckless abandon. “Adding oil to your diet without decreasing fat intake elsewhere also leads to increased calorie intake, which can result in weight gain,” she warns.
When making dietary choices, it’s best to take a holistic approach. “Focus less on demonizing or glamorizing a single food, and prioritize the bigger picture of your overall health and wellness,” Trisko says. “Eat a wide variety of minimally processed, whole foods, and stay active as often as possible.”
When it comes to antioxidants, glutathione might not be the most well known, but it deserves more attention. Our bodies produce glutathione, also known as GSH, and use it for tissue repair, building the immune system and preventing cell damage.
Let’s take a closer look at what exactly glutathione is and glutathione benefits you should know about.
What Is Glutathione?
GSH is made up of three amino acids—glycine, glutamate and cysteine—and has been cited as useful in managing several health issues, including cataracts, glaucoma, liver disease, hepatitis, osteoarthritis, heart disease, dementia and anemia (1). Lylen Ferris, a naturopath in Portland, Oregon, calls glutathione “one of the most powerful antioxidants naturally produced in the body.”
5 Glutathione Benefits
While natural health practitioners tend to be big fans of GSH, peer-reviewed scientific studies to support such a wide range of uses are limited. There is, however, solid data to support these five major glutathione benefits from this super supplement:
Improves insulin resistance: GSH is involved in metabolizing insulin and regulating blood glucose levels, making it a popular supplement for diabetics. Research published in the journal Diabetes Care found that patients with uncontrolled Type 2 diabetes had severe deficiencies in glutathione synthesis and supplementation helped restore that function (2). A 2018 animal study found that using glycine supplements to correct GSH deficiencies helped improve insulin sensitivity (3).
Reduces inflammation: Given that inflammation depletes GSH, it makes sense that glutathione supplementation could help control inflammation. Studies have linked glutathione to regulating inflammation (4, 5). Maintaining normal GSH levels could also help protect against inflammatory diseases.
“[Glutathione] plays a critical role in the body’s defense system against oxidative stress by directly neutralizing free radicals [and] maintaining the activity of vitamins C and E,” explains Ferris.
Research published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that supplements helped restore GSH levels and reduce levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation, in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (6).
Alleviates side effects from cancer treatment: For cancer patients, glutathione can help reduce the toxic side effects of chemo. Patients with gastric cancer who received GSH via intramuscular injection showed a significant reduction in hemo-transfusion requirements and treatment delays, according to research published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology (7). In patients with ovarian cancer, one study found that administering GSH in conjunction with chemotherapy allowed health care providers to use higher doses of drugs while minimizing chemo’s debilitating side effects (8).
Helps burn fat: GSH helps control the oxidation of fat. When our bodies are deficient, we store more fat and burn less. For older adults, who find it harder to lose weight and are more apt to be GSH-deficient, supplementation helped restore fat-burning abilities, according to researchers at Baylor College of Medicine (9). Within 14 days, adults taking supplements boosted their metabolisms and improved their fat oxidation so it was on par with that of younger adults.
Reduces oxidative stress: Ferris notes that chronic exposure to toxins, such as smoke, radiation, chemicals and food additives, leads to an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants, including glutathione. The result is oxidative stress, which has been linked to a host of health conditions.
GSH supplements can help our bodies fight off free radicals, reducing the risks of developing diseases ranging from rheumatoid arthritis and asthma to cancer and liver disease, according to Ferris.
“Glutathione helps stave off the impact of oxidative stress, which may, in turn, reduce disease,” she says.
Ways to Boost Glutathione
Glutathione contains sulfur molecules, so Ferris recommends eating foods high in sulfur, including eggs, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts, and alliums like garlic and onions, to boost the natural GSH production. If a supplement is needed, a glutathione supplement is best, but Ferris notes that taking its building blocks, cysteine, L-glutamine (which converts to glutamate) and glycine, may also be beneficial. Vitamins C and E could help, too.
Glutathione Side Effects
Although GSH might offer health benefits, supplements should be taken with care. Ferris cautions against taking glutathione while pregnant or breastfeeding. In addition, asthmatics should not use the inhaled version of the supplement. To reduce common side effects like gas and bloating, take supplements at least 30 minutes before eating.
How to Choose a Glutathione Supplement
When choosing a glutathione supplement, Ferris suggests looking for liposomal, reduced glutathione for the best absorption, and liquid formulas might be better absorbed than powders or capsules. GSH can also be injected or inhaled. The most effective delivery depends on the condition being treated and the health of the patient. Common doses range from 250 to 1,000 milligrams per day. Your health care provider can recommend the right dose and delivery method to meet your health goals.
I’m going to be presumptuous here for a minute. Since you are reading this cashew milk recipe, I’m assuming you drink plant-based milks. Plant milks have become increasingly popular (which is great) and a lot of people have ditched dairy. Again, I’m being presumptuous. Many people have learned that calcium can come from plant sources and you do not need dairy to fulfill those requirements. With that being said, with or without dairy in your diet, this cashew milk recipe is one for the masses.
Shopping for a plant-based milk can be overwhelming. So many to choose from (they even make pea milk now) and when reading ingredients, we do not always recognize what a lot of those ingredients are. I’ll be presumptuous again, but I’ll assume that most people want to recognize ingredients in their milk before purchasing the product. Well, I have a solution! You can make your own creamy, lightly sweetened, delicious, and versatile milk right at home in under 5 minutes.
How to Use Cashew Milk
Homemade plant milks get a bad rep for being tedious to make, but cashew milk is strain-free, meaning you don’t have to pour it through the nut milk bag and use your hands to slowly seep out the milk. That makes it a quick an easy solution for a minimally processed, dairy-free milk. I put this milk in my morning matcha (or coffee), overnight oats, granola, and I’ll make it unsweetened by omitting the dates when I add it to creamy sauces.
Cashew Milk Recipe
- 1 cup raw, unsalted cashews
- 3 cups water
- 3 dates (if unsweetened – omit)
- Pinch of sea salt
- Put the cashews, dates, and sea salt into the blender and then add in your water.
- Blend! I blend mine for about 5-6 minutes, that’s how it gets so creamy.
- Store in an airtight container, and refrigerate.
- (Note: when it first is finished blending, it’s super warm and creamy so I try to use some of it immediately and store the rest.)
- It lasts approximately 5 days in the refrigerator. If you go through it as fast as I do, you’ll be making two batches a week.
I’ll be presumptuous one last time; you’re going to love this “milk.” Enjoy!
Waste not, want not. That was the motto of our hunter-gatherer forefathers and mothers. After the meat and hide was stripped from the day’s kill, they would stick any remains—including the animal’s bones—into a pot and simmer it over a low fire for hours on end.
The result: a steamy, flavorful stew we now call bone broth, the biggest trend to hit health food store shelves since açaí. Here’s what you need to know about this so-called miracle elixir, including bone broth benefits and how to incorporate it into your diet for maximum results.
What Is Bone Broth?
Like stock, bone broth is made by simmering the bones of an animal over a long period of time. But whereas stock might be used to make soup, bone broth can be a meal in itself, says Dr. Kellyann Petrucci, a naturopathic doctor and author of Dr. Kellyann’s Bone Broth Diet, Dr. Kellyann’s Bone Broth Cookbook and The 10-Day Belly Slimdown.
Many people add vegetables and spices to their bone broth to give it more flavor. “It’s like a fancier version of stock,” says Petrucci, who also serves on the medical advisory board for Genexa.
You can use cow, chicken, poultry and even fish bones. There is a slight difference in the amount of nutrients provided by each animal, but Petrucci says don’t overthink it.
“I always tell people, do not make this hard,” she says. At the end of the day, consuming any bone broth—whether it’s made from turkey or tilapia—is better than none. “This is one of the easiest health changes you’re going to make,” she says.
If you’re feeling ambitious, here’s her easy bone broth recipe: Throw your bones in a pot. Add some chopped celery, onions and carrots. (Again, don’t overthink it by worrying about finely dicing your ingredients, as Petrucci says, “There’s no finessing it. This is as rustic and easy as it gets.”)
Add “whatever spices move you” and cover your concoction with water until the liquid reaches about an inch above the bones.
Simmer on low heat for at least six to 12 hours. “That’s when all the goodness comes out,” says Petrucci.
Bone Broth Benefits
It’s that “goodness” that gives bone broth its healing power. Here are four bone broth benefits you should know about:
1). Reduce Inflammation
You may have been fed chicken soup as a kid when you weren’t feeling well. Heck, you may still break out the ladle when you’re under the weather.
Scientists have long sought to explain why soup is so soothing when we’re sick. So far, the farthest they’ve got is proving in laboratory tests that bone broth can reduce inflammation, according to an article in Harvard Medical School’s Harvard Health Publishing (1). This is the only benefit that’s been proven so far.
Amino acids like proline, glycine and arginine give bone broth its inflammation-fighting powers, says Petrucci. Reducing inflammation in the body can help with everything from weight loss to easing symptoms of chronic conditions like arthritis.
2). Assist with Weight Loss
If weight loss is a goal, it’s not just the broth’s anti-inflammatory agents that will help you reach it. Bone broth also contains fatty acids that can help you feel fuller longer. It’s low in carbs, and a mug only packs about 40 calories, says Petrucci.
“It’s like a meal in a mug, but it’s a powerful meal,” she says. “There’s so much nutritional density and so little calories.”
She uses it to stave off hunger pangs when fasting (“We all splurge,” she says). And remember those amino acids we were raving about earlier? They can help support a healthy liver, which in turn will help your body flush out toxins more efficiently, she says.
3). Support a Healthy Gut
If your bone broth is prepared properly, it will turn into a jelly-like substance when it cools. This is a good thing, says Petrucci.
That gelatin is a byproduct of cooking down collagen. Think of it as aloe vera for your insides, she says.
Just like aloe can soothe your skin after a sunburn, gelatin may help soothe and heal the gut, which can help in treating conditions like constipation and diarrhea. Bone broth is also hydrophilic—science-speak for helping your body absorb water and digestive juices—which means more efficient digestion of foods and nutrients, she says.
A healthier gut can have all kinds of beneficial side effects.
“Your gut expresses itself in the physiology of your skin. If someone wants to have beautiful skin, shiny hair and strong nails, they better make sure their gut is strong,” says Petrucci. “I can look at someone and get a really good 10,000-foot view of what’s going on internally.”
4). Provide Much-Needed Minerals
Bone broth is rich in minerals like calcium, magnesium and phosphorus, says Petrucci. Added bonus: The minerals in bone broth are in a form our bodies can easily absorb.
Many of us don’t get enough minerals in our diet, which is bad news for all the processes in our body that are powered by them, including our endocrine, adrenal and cardiac systems.
The minerals in bone broth can also help us chill out during stressful times.
“Bone broth contains magnesium, which can provide a calming sensation,” says Petrucci. “It takes us down a few notches.”
How to Choose a Bone Broth
While it’s incredibly easy to make your own bone broth, there’s no shame in buying a can (or three) from your favorite store.
Petrucci suggests looking for a broth made with organic ingredients and from the bones of pasture-raised animals. Other than that, it’s just finding a broth that suits your taste buds. “Sometimes you just have to buy it and try it,” she says.
You can also find dehydrated bone broth in flavors like vanilla and chocolate. These are fine too, she says. It’s like anything else: The natural form is better, but not everyone has time to boil down bones themselves.
Once you perfect your bone broth recipe or find a ready-made brand you love, Petrucci recommends drinking two mugs per day.
She says you should start seeing results in about three weeks, because that’s how long it takes the cells in your intestines to regenerate and make the most of the broth’s healing powers.
Golden Bone Broth Recipe
Yield: 1 serving
- 8 ounces homemade or store-bought bone broth
- 1/4 to 1/3 cup coconut milk
- 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric powder or 1-1/2 teaspoon fresh ground turmeric
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder or 1 clove garlic
Add all ingredients to a small pot and heat on medium until the bone broth reaches a slight rolling boil. Then enjoy!
Bone Broth Nutrition Facts
Here is the nutritional content for beef bone broth made with filtered water and broth from organic grass-fed beef bones, according to Petrucci:
Serving size: 8 fl. oz. (1 cup)
Total Fat: 0g – 0%
Saturated Fat: 0g – 0%
Trans Fat: 0g – 0%
Cholesterol: 0mg – 0%
Sodium: 290mg – 13%
Total Carbohydrate: 0g – 0%
Dietary fiber: 0g – 0%
Total sugars: 0g – 0%
Vitamin D: 0mcg – 0%
Calcium: 2mg – 0%
Iron: 0mg – 0%
Potassium: 191mg – 4%
Omega fatty acids play a pivotal role in companion animal health and may help relieve symptoms related to skin disorders, arthritis, allergies and a variety of other conditions. While more research is needed before omega supplements are considered a mainstream treatment option for cats and dogs, many veterinarians are open to recommending them.
Read on to learn what omega fatty acids are, how your canine or feline friend can benefit from them, and what to look for in a quality supplement. And of course, any discussion about supplements and diet changes should start with your vet.
What Are Omega Fatty Acids and Why Do Pets Need Them?
Omega fatty acids are a type of fat required for normal body functions, explains Dr. Deborah Mitchell, medical director and practice manager at Knollwood Hospital for Pets in Schaumburg, Illinois. “These include building the membranes of our pets’ cells, helping blood clot normally and muscles move properly, and for fighting inflammation of all kinds in our pets’ bodies.”
Omega-3 and omega-6 are essential fatty acids that play a role in optimal health. “Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are the most important for dogs and cats because their bodies can’t make them; they have to come from diet,” says Dr. Jennifer Coates, a veterinary writer, editor and consultant based in Fort Collins, Colorado.
The three main types of omega-3 fatty acids are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). EPA and DHA are found in marine sources, like fatty fish, while ALA is found in plant sources, such as nuts and seeds.
Omega-3s are incorporated into cell membranes, especially in the brain, the retina and sperm, says Coates. “The body also uses omega-3s and omega-6s to form signaling molecules (called eicosanoids) that have many different functions in the heart, blood vessels, lungs, immune system and hormonal system. Increasing the amount of omega-3s in the body relative to omega-6s may also reduce inflammation, which could have a beneficial role in functions like cognition, heart disease and reproduction.”
Omega-6 fatty acid deficiencies are not seen very often, but might be a concern if your pet is on an extremely low fat or calorie-restricted diet, says Coates. Although rare, signs of omega-6 deficiency include: “skin problems like hair loss, scaly skin, and a tendency to bruise easily,” Coates says. “Reproductive problems can be seen in breeding animals, and young animals may grow poorly if there aren’t enough omega-6 fatty acids in their diet.”
Where Do Omegas Come From?
Sources of omega-3 fatty acids include cold-water fatty fish (especially salmon) and oils from fish, krill, algae and flaxseed, says Dr. Nancy Scanlan, executive director of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Foundation.
Flaxseed oil is not an ideal source of omega-3s for dogs, Scanlan explains, because dogs are not very efficient at converting ALA into EPA and DHA. Cats cannot convert ALA at all, so they would require one of the other omega-3 fatty acid sources, she says.
Foods rich in omega-6 fatty acids (linoleic acid) include flaxseed, grapeseed, borage, evening primrose and black currant seed oils, Scanlan says.
4 Ways Omegas Can Benefit Your Pet
1). Improved Skin and Coat
The most obvious sign of an omega deficiency in pets is a dull, dry or greasy coat with dandruff, says Scanlan. “They itch a lot, even without any signs of fleas. Skin allergies are worse when they need more omega oils.”
Omega-3 fatty acids help the skin by reducing inflammation associated with allergies in dogs when used with other therapeutic agents, says Dr. Susan Jeffrey, a veterinarian at Truesdell Animal Care Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin. “Dogs with less inflammation are less itchy and thereby more comfortable.”
In one study of 16 dogs with itchy skin, researchers tested the benefits of a high-dose EPA fish oil supplement to treat symptoms (1). Pups receiving the fish oil capsule (versus corn oil) showed significant improvement.
2). Relief from Arthritis Symptoms
Omega-3s have been found to slow the progression of arthritis, says Jeffrey. Researchers created one study to determine if pet food containing a high level of omega-3s (using fish oils) would relieve symptoms in dogs with osteoarthritis (2). The team studied 127 dogs from 18 separate, privately-owned clinics.
Dogs fed a diet containing 31 times the amount of omega-3s than found in a standard pet food diet significantly improved in several areas, including in their ability to rise from a resting position, play and walk, according to pet owners.
In a separate study of 16 cats, those whose diets were supplemented with fish oil reportedly experienced a higher level of activity, including less stiffness, an increase in walking up and down stairs, and more interaction with their pet owners than those fed the (corn oil) placebo (3).
3). An Option for Heart Health
“Some studies show fish oils can decrease the progression of dogs with heart disease as well as help dogs with abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmia),” says Jeffrey, whose professional interests include preventative care.
One of these studies looked at whether fish oil would reduce the occurrence of arrhythmia in Boxers with arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy, a disease that impacts the ventricles of the heart (4). The findings showed that a six-week course of fish oil supplementation may be useful in reducing arrhythmias in dogs with this disease. Dose and duration still need to be studied further, however.
Additionally, Jeffrey says dogs with heart disease have been found to have lower plasma fatty acid levels than healthy dogs. “Fatty acid supplements such as fish oil will result in plasma fatty acid concentrations equal to healthy dogs.”
4). A Potential Aid for Certain Cancers
There’s some evidence that omega-3 fatty acids may be able to slow down cancer growth (5). “There has been a study in dogs with lymphoma (a type of cancer that usually attacks the spleen, bone marrow and lymph nodes) who were given omega-3 fatty acids,” Jeffrey says. “They were found to have longer survival times compared to those who didn’t receive the supplement.”
They also help with chronic weight loss and poor appetite seen in cancer patients, which can result in a better quality of life, she says. “Omega-3 fatty acids can help decrease the amount of inflammatory mediators that will inhibit appetite and increase the rate of muscle catabolism.” (Catabolism is a metabolic process that breaks down complex molecules into smaller ones).
What Type of Omegas Should You Feed Your Pet?
Feeding your dog or cat the correct type of omega fatty acid is critical, says Dr. Patrick Mahaney, owner of Los Angeles-based California Pet Acupuncture and Wellness. “As most pets have conditions related to inflammation for which owners seek improvement, I recommend that when providing an omega fatty acid supplement, owners should focus on omega-3,” he says. “Ideally, pets should consume a combination of omega fatty acids from animal and plant sources in their diets. Omega-6 fatty acids are still needed to promote healthy body structures, so do not eliminate them from your pet’s diet.”
For supplements, he recommends omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil (that are formulated for pets). “Deep-caught, fresh-water fish are my recommended source for fish oil and supplements should be free from heavy metals, pesticides, radiation and other toxic substances.” (Animal-based omega fatty acids satisfy their dietary requirements more efficiently than plant sources, he says.)
To ensure you’re purchasing quality supplements, look for products with the United States Pharmacopeia (UPS) seal or verified mark, advises Coates. “The USP sets quality standards for health care products that are sold in the U.S.” Jeffrey recommends looking for products labeled with the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC), “as it works with the FDA to ensure safety and quality control standards.”
Proportion is also essential. “Too much omega-6 oil can cause inflammation, especially if the amount of omega-3 is low in the diet,” says Scanlan. Vets recommend an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 10:1 to 5:1. In one study, researchers fed 18 dogs with pruritis (itchy skin) a commercial diet with a fatty acid ratio of 5.5:1 (6). The pruritis was controlled within seven to 21 days of the diet, but returned within three to 14 days after the original diet was re-introduced.
Ask your vet about dosage and duration of omega fatty acid supplements, especially if your pet has a health condition. “Extremely high doses can cause gastrointestinal upset and possibly problems with the immune and blood clotting system, so it is best to only use fatty acid supplements under the direction of a veterinarian,” Coates advises.