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.
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.
You might know that gluten is lurking in all kinds of foods, from sauces and condiments, to lunch meats, to alcohol. You may not be surprised it’s in clays like Play-Doh, or routinely tags along with gluten-free grains like oats, but did you know there can be gluten sources in beauty products, supplements and sometimes even your toothpaste?
Gluten is not absorbed through the skin, according to the Mayo Clinic (1). But just a quick peek at one of the online forums for celiac disease and gluten sensitivity shows that many people get relief from their symptoms, such as gastrointestinal issues, skin rashes and brain fog, by eliminating all gluten-containing products, including topical ones (2).
Unfortunately, there is no way other than trial and error to determine a person’s tolerance level for gluten in topical products, says Dr. Amy Burkhart, a board-certified physician and registered dietitian based in Napa, California. “The amount needed to elicit a reaction varies from person to person,” she says. “Most people with celiac disease will react to any exposure over 20 parts per million (less than the size of a crumb), but some will react to even less.”
The range of reactivity for people with non-celiac gluten sensitivity varies greatly, she adds. “It can be equivalent to that of a celiac, or they may be far less sensitive and be able to tolerate occasional exposures.”
5 Unexpected Sources of Gluten
If you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, it’s best to read all labels diligently. Here are a few items to watch out for that might contain hidden sources of gluten:
Where is gluten lurking in sunscreen, you ask? Tocopherols, vitamin E, and sometimes even the fragrances are derived from wheat. Thankfully, you can find sun protection that says “gluten-free” right on the label. But while some natural brands do not put any gluten-containing ingredients in their products and do their best to clean off the machinery in the manufacturing process, cross-contamination can happen, as some facilities are shared with products that contain gluten.
Toothpastes, dental floss, and mouthwash mostly do not contain gluten these days, but that doesn’t mean you’re in the clear. Problematic ingredients to watch out for include vitamin E (from wheat germ), amino peptide complex, Hordeum vulgare (a fancy term for barley), phytosphingosine extract, Triticum vulgare (wheat) germ oil, or any derivatives of wheat, barley or even oats that might have been cross-contaminated. If you do find you are sensitive to a product, see if it contains any of these ingredients. While you’re at it, you might also want to avoid additives like caramel coloring, which has been linked to increased cancer risk (3), or sodium laurel sulfate, a potential irritant.
If you find your symptoms go away when you’ve switched soaps, does that mean there was gluten in the products you were using? Perhaps indirectly. From commercial laundry detergents to shampoos, many soaps are gluten free. However, gluten-free ingredients, such as Avena sativa (common oats), can easily get wheat particles mixed in with them. (Oats and corn are often processed on the same equipment as wheat.) Other soaps may contain barley, rye, or wheat germ. Just don’t confuse lye with rye. Lye is a metal hydroxide and not related to grains.
Medications and Supplements
Unlike foodstuffs, medications and supplements do not fall under the same scrutiny when it comes to ingredient listings and processing guidelines. While the active compounds in pills, tablets, and liquid caps are often naturally gluten-free, the fillers and binders may contain gluten. Common additives include starches sourced from wheat and gluten-contaminated corn.
Look at the ingredients on a common bottle of Ibuprofen, and you’ll often see corn starch, pregelantinized starch, and pharmaceutical glaze, all which could contain gluten. You might find dextrins or dextrates in other over-the-counter medications, vitamins or supplements, where gluten can also be lurking. Other ingredients to avoid include hydrolyzed vegetable protein and textured plant protein. Fillers and binders that do not contain gluten include lactose, titanium dioxide, gelatin, mannitol, magnesium stearate, and xylitol.
If the label does not explicitly state “certified gluten-free,” it’s best to err on the side of caution and call the manufacturer. Keep in mind that if you switch from a name-brand prescription to a generic drug, the ingredients are not always the same. Assessing the new formulation is important to ensure you avoid getting “glutened.”
We’ve already said that some people are just more sensitive, but makeup can easily be ingested from being on your lips, around your mouth, or on your hands. As mentioned above, vitamin E is often derived from wheat germ, as are ingredients like tocopherol, glusol, and even something called pentacure, which can be found in anti-aging preparations (4). Again, if you’re unsure whether a product you love is gluten-free, you can check the company’s website or contact them to confirm their practices. You should also choose products that are free of added fragrance, because that too can have gluten particles in it.
Luckily, there are more and more compassionate companies that don’t include wheat, gluten or gluten sources in their products. We all want to feel fabulous. Get wise to the red flags, then fill your life with reaction-free items that will help you look and feel your best.
This post was provided by our friends at About Time and written by Devenee Schumacher.
Some women wonder about consuming substantial amounts of protein and/or using protein powders and protein supplements. Two of the most common comments I hear are, “Am I going to get bulky?” or “I don’t want to look manly.”
So, to address that, let’s talk about where proteins and protein powders come from, what types are available, and how they can be incorporated into your daily diet.
Protein Food Sources
Protein sources in food can be both animal-based or plant-based. Food-based proteins come from:
- Nuts, seeds and nut butters
- Animal meats
Dairy protein powders are a byproduct of cow’s milk. Typically, cheese farmers separate the curds and whey when making cheese. The whey portion is then separated into two types of whey proteins: whey protein isolate and whey protein concentrate.
Whey protein isolate is the purest form of protein. It’s 90 percent or more protein with little or no fat, lactose or cholesterol.
Whey protein concentrate can range from 29 percent protein to 89 percent protein. Wondering what makes up the difference? Fat and lactose. So, when buying supplements, it’s important to know what you’re buying and how to choose what fits your personal macronutrients. (Macronutrient is a fancy word for your daily intake of proteins, carbohydrates and fat.)
Plant-based protein powders are byproducts of vegetables and grains. Whether you are completely vegan, looking to lower your carbon footprint or have issues digesting dairy, plant-based options can up your protein intake. Some of the best choices are pea isolate protein, hemp protein powder and quinoa protein powder.
Why We Need Protein
Our bodies are made of 18 percent to 20 percent protein in our skin, muscles and connective tissue. They need protein to heal, grow and carry out every function we do daily—from walking and bending over to pick something up off the floor to breathing, sweating, blinking your eyelids and, better yet, pumping blood throughout your body. Many people forget what it is that makes the human body work. You need to consume your macronutrients to have your body work at its fullest extent.
Since our bodies can’t store protein, it’s needed often. Eating enough protein is essential to build and maintain healthy muscle mass while in conjunction supporting ligaments, tendons and other bodily tissue. Our bodies require nine essential amino acids, which we need to get from food because our bodies can’t make them. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. When we lack in amino acids, skeletal muscle atrophy can take place. This can simply be reversed with adding in exercise and proper nutrition.
Daily Protein Intake
Consuming protein in every meal is not only healthy but ideal to keep our bodies moving. Here are some examples that contain 25 grams of protein:
- 3 cups quinoa
- 6 tablespoons peanut butter
- 1 ¾ cups black beans
- 1 ½ cups edamame
- 3 ounces lean beef
- 1 scoop whey isolate protein
Knowing how much protein to eat each day really comes down to each individual. Industry standards state that average intake is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. For example, a 130-pound woman needs 48 grams of protein per day.
This basic standard doesn’t consider women’s activity level or if they are pregnant. Here’s a simple math problem to figure out your needs: Take your weight in pounds and divide it by 2.2 to figure out your weight in kilograms. Then multiply that number by 0.8 (not very active), 1.3 (active or pregnant), or 1.8 (extremely active), depending on how much exercise you get.
Here are some guidelines to determine your level of activity:
- Sedentary (little or no exercise)
- Lightly active (light exercise/sports 1-3 days per week)
- Moderately active (moderate activity/sports 3-5 days per week)
- Extremely active (hard exercise/sports 6-7 days per week)
Hopefully this protein breakdown helps you get on the right foot and understand that protein is your friend. Get started by enjoying a bowl of Greek yogurt mixed with a little nut butter and honey, or make a plant-based smoothie. Here’s all you need:
- 1 cup coconut water
- 1 scoop plant-based protein
- ½ cup mango
- ½ small avocado
- ½ tablespoon honey
- 3 mint leaves
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!
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.”
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.
Maca is a cruciferous root vegetable that looks a lot like a common turnip, if turnips came in yellow, red and black. It grows high up in the Andes Mountain region of Peru in rocky soil. It thrives in heat, wind or cold conditions that would make other plants curl up and quit living. Maybe that is partly why maca gives us so much energy and vitality when we eat it? It’s a strong plant with a pleasing flavor.
Maca is known as an adaptogen because it helps us to handle stress better, ward off disease and increase our stamina, among other positive effects. Mark Amet, owner of the Maca Team, says he got started with maca over 20 years ago when he tried a sample. He found it gave him energy and elevated his mood so much that he sought out a Peruvian source and started giving it to family and friends. Registered dietitian Kerri Schwartz says her clients use maca in the morning instead of coffee. They get that much energy from taking it.
Maca is full of minerals, even zinc, calcium and magnesium. More surprising is maca root has 19 essential amino acids, making this plant a nice source of protein. Let’s take a closer look at maca root benefits—and different ways to use it!
5 Maca Root Benefits
1). Alleviate Depression
One study began looking into maca root as an aphrodisiac, and found something else instead— it elevated people’s moods more than it gave them an instant boost in attraction (1). Other studies have also concluded that, along with other benefits, maca may reduce symptoms of depression (2).
2). Enhance Libido
Even though it’s technically not an aphrodisiac, some studies have shown that maca may enhance sexual function (3). Maca might not put you in the mood, but it can give you the energy and stamina to enjoy being with a partner. Studies also have shown that maca can even enhance sexual desire in those who are taking anti-depressant medications (4, 5).
Maca’s benefits are life enhancing. Studies have revealed that maca can help increase sperm count and sperm motility in men (6) and may enhance fertility (7). It makes sense that it could be easier to conceive, the more one has vitality and energy.
4). Improve Memory
In two animal studies, maca was shown to improve memory impairment in mice (8, 9). Much of this seems to be due to its high antioxidant content. While black maca has shown the most significant results, evidence suggests that all the colors—black, red and yellow—can benefit memory.
5). Alleviate Menopause and PMS
Research has revealed maca’s ability to balance female hormones. That’s great news for PMS sufferers and those who suffer from polycystic ovary syndrome (10, 11). Maca may also be effective in relieving menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes and mood swings (12). One animal study even suggested that maca extract could be effective in preventing postmenopausal osteoporosis (13).
Types of Maca Root
Red maca is the sweetest, yellow is the most common, and black just might have an edge when it comes to studied benefits. Men might find black maca to give them a bigger boost, while women might find similar results with red maca. Yellow is the easiest to find and isn’t lacking in benefits, but the other varieties can be a little more powerful.
You’ll find maca in both powder and pill forms. The powders are the most versatile and easiest to adjust the dosage and enjoy the flavor. Most health practitioners will tell you it’s always best to get as close to eating your supplements as you can, because the body is designed to start the digestive process in the mouth. You absorb certain aspects of foods better from mixing them with saliva.
There are two types of powders available. Gelatinized maca has had the starch removed for better digestion. The other type is raw maca. Both work equally well when it comes to maca root benefits.
Maca extracts are another option to consider. You might go with an extract if you want to take your maca on the go, since powders are simply too messy. Extracts often get into the system quickly as well.
For now, these are the main ways you’ll be able to consume maca easily without taking a trip to Peru.
How to Use Maca Powder
You can mix maca powder into a smoothie or milk for a malted milk effect, or try it in your golden milk, coffee drink, or cocoa. There is nothing saying you can’t eat maca off the spoon, or pour it over ice cream. You can also cook with maca—it is a root after all. With as little as one teaspoon, you can get all of the positive effects of maca. The recommended serving of maca is between one and three teaspoons per day. For those who want to determine whether a higher quantity yields greater benefits, there do not seem to be any reported overdoses or adverse reactions from consuming larger amounts of maca powder.
Here, we tried using maca in pancakes. It may seem like a mysterious powder, but maca is a vegetable. Some people claim the effects of maca appear to be more pronounced when used in cooking, even though that hasn’t been studied yet.
Maca Oat Milk Pancakes Recipe
Yield: 12 medium pancakes
Prep time: 6 minutes
Cook time: 12 minutes
All-purpose flour doesn’t get in the way of the malty maca flavor. Oat milk adds to the fluffiness of these traditional pancakes with a superfood twist. The recipe is easy to double or triple, depending on how many pancakes you want to make!
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 teaspoons maca powder
- 1 pinch sea salt
- 1 large egg
- 1 cup oat milk
- 1 tablespoon expeller-pressed coconut oil (plus a little more for frying the pancakes).
- Mix the flour, baking powder, maca and sea salt in one bowl.
- Mix the egg, milk and oil in another bowl.
- Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and stir just until mixed in. There will be lumps.
- Place a frying pan over medium high heat or use a griddle.
- Pour 1/4 cup of batter for each pancake and cook until browned on each side.
- Serve with your favorite fruit and some pure maple syrup.
Maca Root Side Effects
For the most part, taking maca can be extremely beneficial. If you have a history of thyroid problems, however, you might want to check with your doctor first. Some patients have claimed that it increased their hyperthyroidism symptoms (14). Registered dietitian Schwartz says that in her practice, a couple of clients felt it sped up their metabolism and prompted weight loss.
You should also speak with your medical provider if you have a history of heart problems, are pregnant, or take medications that directly affect your hormones. Keep in mind that the adaptogen and hormone-balancing abilities of maca are different for each individual.
It’s estimated that nearly half of the U.S. population is consuming less than the recommended amount of magnesium in their diets. Why is magnesium so important you ask? Low levels of magnesium have been linked with migraine headaches, stroke, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes and even Alzheimer’s disease.
This essential mineral is found throughout the body and acts as a cofactor for more than 300 different enzymes, meaning it is necessary for enzyme activity. It is involved in energy production, protein synthesis, cell signaling, muscle and nerve function, the release of neurotransmitters and even plays a structural role in the body.
Roughly 60 percent of the magnesium in the body is found in our bones, 39 percent in our cells and 1 percent in our blood.
Learn more about some of the health benefits of magnesium, as well as tips on what to look for when choosing the best magnesium supplement.
In addition to supporting more than 300 functions in the body, there are many health benefits associated with magnesium to consider:
- May help alleviate fatigue
- Aids in the formation of healthy bones and teeth
- Sleep aid
- Aids in muscle relaxation
- May alleviate constipation
- Helps prevent kidney stones
- Potential bronchodilator
- Assists in oil pathways to produce essential fatty acids
- May help with detoxification, as it is needed for glutathione synthesis
- Helps insulin to enter cells and enhances insulin receptor sensitivity
- May help improve metabolic syndrome, a group of conditions which increases the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes
Choosing the Best Magnesium Supplement
Any supplement label generally declares the amount of elemental magnesium in the product. However, because magnesium cannot be absorbed by itself, it must be bound to another substance to help stabilize it. The biggest difference in magnesium supplements isn’t the magnesium, but rather the complex or complexes that it is bound to. Absorption of magnesium from different forms of supplements varies and some of the molecules or complexes that magnesium is bound to may have their own function in the body. To aid in your search for the best magnesium supplement, here are some of the most commonly used forms of magnesium:
- Magnesium Glycinate
This is one of the most absorbable forms of magnesium supplements available, with magnesium being bound to the amino acid glycine. Glycine is known as an “inhibitory amino acid,” in that it helps to counteract excessive excitation in the brain that could lead to things such as stress or hyperactivity. Magnesium glycinate is not as likely to induce diarrhea, promotes both mind and body relaxation, and supports nerve health (1).
- Magnesium Citrate
This refers to magnesium bound to citric acid, which has a fairly good absorption rate in the body, meaning that it can easily be utilized by our cells. When taken in moderate amounts, it can support balanced muscle movement, a healthy stress-response, proper bowel regularity, and has been studied for its beneficial effects on the kidneys (2). If taken in excess, it may have a laxative effect and so taking it at night, prior to bed, is often recommended.
- Magnesium Aspartate
Bound to the amino acid aspartic acid, this form of magnesium has been reported to enhance the uptake of magnesium into cells. Opposite of the inhibitory effects that the amino acid glycine promotes, aspartic acid actually has excitatory effects on the brain. What this means is it bolsters communication between brain cells (neurons), causing them to “fire.” This form is great for those looking to not only support cognitive functioning, but also its high absorption capacity makes it a good choice for raising low magnesium levels.
- Magnesium Malate
This form contains magnesium bound to malic acid. Malic acid is actually derived from fruits and vegetables, and most commonly sourced from apples. With research showing the benefits of malic acid on nerve and kidney health (3), malic acid also acts as a factor in the production of cellular energy. Magnesium malate has a fairly high bio-availability, and is another good choice for those not only looking to boost blood levels, but also support brain and muscle health.
- Magnesium Taurate
Another amino-acid and magnesium combo, taurine is an amino acid found in large supplies throughout the entire body, especially in the energy-hogging cells of the heart, brain and eyes. Taurine itself acts to maintain proper body pH (acid vs. alkalinity), regulates the absorption of minerals in and out of cells, supports the digestion of dietary fats by assisting the production of bile, and helps maintain healthy blood glucose levels through its interactions with insulin (4). Magnesium taurate is good for those looking to support brain, cardiovascular and vision health, while benefiting from an easily absorbable form of magnesium.
- Magnesium Orotate
In this form, magnesium is bound to orotic acid, which has one of the highest absorption rates in the body compared to other forms. Orotic acid plays a variety of roles in both the production and maintenance/recycling of cellular energy, and may be beneficial for improving athletic performance and overall exercise endurance. When bound with magnesium, the two molecules can work in a synergistic way, with studies showing great efficacy in supporting both muscular function and heart health (5).
- Magnesium Oxide
This form is widely available, and often the most economical choice when it comes to magnesium supplements. That being said, its low bioavailability (approximately 4 percent) makes this form less beneficial for those looking to bolster magnesium stores in the body. Magnesium oxide does have beneficial effects on bowel health, and due to its poor solubility, is often used for its laxative effects.
- Magnesium Threonate
This is one of the newest forms of magnesium emerging into the health and wellness field, and for good reason! Studies have shown that despite sufficient magnesium supplementation, low levels of brain magnesium often exist (6). Magnesium threonate has a specific ratio of elemental magnesium and threonic acid (a derivative of vitamin C) that has been shown to bolster brain levels of magnesium compared to other forms, supporting proper brain communication and nerve functioning. This is an excellent choice for those looking for a highly absorbable and highly beneficial form of magnesium without many of the side effects that others have.
- Magnesium Hydroxide
Also known as “Milk of Magnesia,” this form is commonly used for those with digestive issues. Its low bioavailability and tendency to draw water into the colon make this a less preferred form, as it can have a laxative effect.
Recommended Dietary Allowances for Magnesium
Magnesium Forms and Functionality
Just as there are a multitude of oral magnesium complexes on the market, topical magnesium products also come in a variety of formats. From creams and ointments to oils and bath crystals, knowing which form is best absorbed is another common question.
- Oral Magnesium: As we noted above, oral magnesium supplements come in a variety of complex-based forms. Once you decide which one is best for your needs, the next step is choosing whether you want a tablet, capsule or mixable powder. Due to the variances of absorption rates among each form, the efficacy of oral supplementation greatly depends on the individual taking it. Generally speaking, oral supplementation is a great way to obtain a standardized amount of magnesium, per the products ingredient standards. For those who do not like to take, or cannot swallow pills, magnesium powder is a great product to add to both hot and cold drinks for its soothing effects.
- Topical Magnesium: Being that the skin is the largest organ of the body, much of what you put onto your skin is directed into your bloodstream, bypassing the normal digestion routes that oral supplements must undergo in order to reap their rewards. Topical magnesium products often contain magnesium chloride, a form that is sourced by high salinity bodies of water, including the Great Lakes and even the Dead Sea. Its structural makeup allow magnesium chloride to be absorbed across a range of pH levels, making it a versatile “star” when it comes to being utilized in the body. Due to this characteristic, magnesium chloride may be beneficial for those looking to restore low magnesium levels fast, or those who have difficulty with absorption.
- Magnesium Oil: Magnesium oil offers the longest staying power, meaning that its fat-based composition allows it to stick around for enhanced absorption. Topical magnesiums also require a certain ratio of lipids (fats) to be present in/on the skin during application. Since this form is already in a base of oil, this does not present as an issue like some other topical methods. Common uses for magnesium oil include rubbing onto sore or achy joints, mixing into coconut or sesame oil for dental-health boosting benefits, and applying to inflamed tissues (including pimples) to help support a healthy inflammatory response.
- Magnesium Creams/Ointments: With a less-oily residue but thicker consistency compared to lotions, creams and ointments have a similar lasting power to magnesium oil, but can be used without as much worry pertaining to oil-stains left on clothing or footwear. Magnesium creams have similar benefits to other forms of topical magnesium, and are easily transportable for when you need a little stress-relieving, cognition boosting “pick me up.”
- Magnesium Salts/Crystals: These dry flakes often come in large tubs and are a great addition to both regular and foot baths when you are looking to relax after a long day’s work.
- Magnesium Gels/Lotions: These formulations are the thinnest in consistency, and therefore easily applied to exposed areas of the body. With the least amount of staying power, these forms require multiple applications throughout the day to reap the most benefit. They are great for using in massages or for topical skin hydration.
Before Taking a Magnesium Supplement
Magnesium is closely aligned with calcium and can be taken in a combined calcium/magnesium supplement. Before taking a magnesium supplement, it’s important to consider how much magnesium is contained in all your supplements. Diarrhea is a common dose-related side effect of magnesium supplementation. You may prevent this by either reducing the dose or spacing the dose throughout the day. Forms of magnesium most commonly reported to cause diarrhea include magnesium chloride, carbonate, gluconate and oxide.
You may already be familiar with castor oil, hemp seed oil, coconut oil, red palm oil and many other oils currently on the market. However, one of the most widely-used oils with great medicinal properties is Nigella Sativa, more commonly known as black cumin. The shrub of this plant produces a fruit with tiny black seeds that can be pressed to extract the oil. Black cumin has become one of the top-ranked, evidence-based herbal medicines to date, and there have been over 600 scientific, peer-reviewed articles published about black seed oil benefits.
What Is Black Seed Oil?
The black cumin plant is native to southern Europe, northern Africa and southwest Asia, and its use can be traced back to King Tut. There is some evidence that the oil and seeds of the plant have been used internally for centuries, in addition to evidence that it was used topically by Egyptians to enhance their skin (the herb was even found in Cleopatra’s tomb!).
The seeds of the plant have also been used as a spice and condiment in both Indian and Middle Eastern cuisines. Black cumin seeds can be dry-roasted to flavor curries and can also be used to flavor bread products or mixed into many other recipes.
Black seed oil’s most active ingredients include the antioxidants thymoquinone, nigellone and beta-sitosterol. The oil also contains iron, selenium, arginine, carotene, calcium, potassium and several other amino acids. In addition, black seed oil contains fatty acids, including omega-9 and omega-6 acids.
Black Seed Oil Benefits
Black seed oil’s medicinal properties stem from the presence of thymoquinone—one of the major active chemical components of the essential oil. Thymoquinone is believed to have a wide range of medical applications and benefits.
Black seed oil can be applied topically to promote skin, nail and hair health, acting as a moisturizer and helping to protect the skin from free radical damage. The antioxidants and omega fatty acids in black seed oil also promote healthy aging of the skin and cell regeneration. Black seed oil can also be applied on the chest to inhale as a vapor or mixed into hot water and inhaled.
As an internal treatment, studies suggest that black seed oil may help promote healthy blood pressure (1) and blood sugar (that is already within normal range) and promote cardiovascular health (2).
Additional black seed oil benefits include:
- Anti-inflammatory properties
- Supports liver health and helps protect the liver
- May have anti-cancer properties
- May help treat a variety of common health conditions including diabetes, bronchitis and asthma
- May be helpful in treating against Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA)
- May help increase milk production in nursing mothers
- May act as an appetite stimulant
- May help to boost the immune system
It’s important to speak with your doctor before taking any new supplements like black seed oil, particularly if you have a medical condition.
Black Seed Oil Side Effects and Precautions
If you have allergies to black cumin or black caraway seeds, black seed oil may cause a rash if applied topically and cause upset stomach, vomiting or constipation if ingested. Black seed oil may thin the blood, so those on blood thinning medications or who have a bleeding disorder should speak with a doctor before taking it. In addition, women who are on birth control, pregnant or nursing should also speak with a doctor before incorporating black seed oil into their routines, as should people with a history of seizures or epilepsy. Additional side effects of black seed oil include hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and low blood pressure.
How to Choose a Black Seed Oil
Black seed oil can come in a liquid, capsule or softgel and the raw seeds can also be purchased. Supplements made from black seeds are usually made up of the basic seed extract in either a crushed powder or oil form.
The best way to consume black seed is via the liquid oil because it contains the most thymoquinone and fatty acids. Check the label of the oil for the amount of thymoquinone per serving. Here are some additional purchasing tips:
- Extraction: The method by which the oil is expressed or extracted from the seeds matters! Slow, cold-pressed means that no heat is used during the extraction process. High temperatures may cause rancidity or cause some of the more volatile oils to evaporate. Avoid any oils that use chemical extraction.
- Purity: The product should be 100 percent pure Nigella Sativa oil and not filled with additives.
- Storage: Look for oil that is stored in a dark, glass bottle that will protect it from both air and light.
- Quality: Look for unrefined vs. refined oil and make sure it’s organic.
In general, adults can take one teaspoon of black seed oil twice daily. If using it for the first time, consider taking a half-teaspoon serving with a small amount of food and gradually increase the dose over a few days or as directed by your medical care professional. You should also check the dosing instructions on the label of whatever black seed oil you purchase. In pill form, the suggested dose is generally two pills twice daily for adults, but it may vary based on brand and your doctor’s recommendations.
Black Seed Oil Storage and Cooking Tips
Black cumin seeds can be eaten raw, boiled, heated, ground as a seasoning or sprinkled on bread and pastries. As an oil, it can be mixed with yogurt, put in salads and added to soups or curries. It can also be used as both a spice or preservative. Be sure to store your black seed oil in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight, and don’t confuse it with other spices like black cohosh, cumin, curcumin or nutmeg.
Black Cumin Seed Salad Dressing
Ready to try cooking with black seed oil? Here’s an easy salad dressing recipe.
- ½ cup black seed oil
- ½ cup apple cider vinegar
- 2 tbsp raw honey
- 2 fresh chopped garlic cloves
- ½ tsp. Ginger root
- Salt and pepper to taste
Combine all the ingredients in a mason jar with a lid and mix/shake until blended together.
This post was provided by our friends at ParaGuard.
Is it really important to wash your hands if they seem clean? Is hygiene truly so important, or is some of it simply hype?
Tiny organisms, invisible to the naked eye, are present everywhere. Belying their tiny size, those microorganisms can cause big problems. Germs and other organisms that live on our hands can be there even though our hands do not seem dirty. Using soap and warm water provides strong protection against many unwanted microorganisms, including pinworms.
What Are Pinworms?
Pinworms, a kind of parasite, are tiny worms that infect the intestines, often in children. Most children will have pinworms at least once in their lifetime. The worms are very small, less than a half-inch long. They come into the body when a child touches something that has a pinworm egg on it and then puts his hand into his mouth. The eggs go through the digestive tract and develop into worms in the small intestine. When the worm matures, it moves into the large intestine. After several weeks, they move lower down in the intestine where they come out of the body through the anus, usually at night, and lay more eggs. This process takes 4-6 weeks.
The eggs and worms are so small that they can be everywhere. Pinworm eggs and pinworms can be present in the kitchen, in beds, on clothes, towels and even tableware. The eggs can survive like this for two weeks. When an egg gets onto a hand, which then enters the mouth, the entire development process for the worm begins. Having worms is not always an indication of poor hygiene. Once present in the digestive tract, pinworms will affect children who bathe every night equally to children who roll in the mud.
Pinworms spread easily from one child to another. It is therefore common for children to pick it up in school. Although it is very rare, pinworms can be ingested from the air. Many times, a child will infect themselves over and again through lack of hygiene.
Pinworms are thin and white. They can be visible on paper or clothes. The eggs, however, are only visible with a microscope.
Not all people with pinworms have symptoms. The chief symptom is itchiness—an itch so bothersome that it may wake up the patient in the middle of the night. When a child wakes up at night and nothing seems to be wrong, it may be an indication of pinworms. Itching the anal area, in which pinworms are present, may cause a secondary infection when the skin around the anus becomes irritated.
Remedies for Pinworms
Because parasites have become such a major issue, Advanced Nutrition by Zahler went on to create a solution: ParaGuard. This formula contains many herbs that fight all sorts of parasites and is especially effective against pinworms. Its active ingredients include oregano oil, peppermint oil, garlic bulb, wormwood herb, pumpkin seed and fennel seed, and others long known to be effective in treating parasites. ParaGuard should be mixed into a drink and taken three times a day at mealtimes.
ParaGuard is also available in the form of a softgel, making it easy to take even for the picky eaters. The softgels contain many potent herbs, such as Green Black Walnut Juglans Nigra Hull, Quassia Amara Wood and Wormwood Artemisia Absinthium Herb. This powerful blend of herbs is a fierce enemy and brave warrior against parasites.
There are other types of parasites that can enter the body that one should be aware of. These parasites may cause unexplained headaches or fatigue. ParaGuard has been a potent healer for people experiencing fatigue and headaches with no apparent reason for these symptoms. It can also be used as a cleanser and detoxifier.
The best way to prevent worms is through hand washing with warm water and soap after using the bathroom, before eating, and after playing outside. It is important to keep the nails short, avoid biting the nails, and not to scratch oneself. Pinworm eggs can live on clothes, and it is therefore imperative to change clothes every day, and to wash nightclothes and bedding every few days.
To check your child for pinworms, you can try using the flashlight test. Make sure your child is calm and the room is completely dark. Shine a flashlight on the child’s anus. The light will cause pinworms, if present, to move around. If you see any tiny white worms, call your doctor.
To help treat a pinworm infection, eat more fruits and vegetables and increase fiber intake to promote better defecation and more possibility of worm elimination. Garlic may also help fight pinworms. Try eating more garlic, or rub over the area where the itching occurs. Probiotics, which are “good” bacteria that live in the intestines, will retard the proliferation of pinworms in the intestines, and therefore taking probiotics orally can be very helpful as well.
This post was provided by our friends at Puori.
- Common food myths can fool people into believing unhealthy foods are good for them.
- These myths can actually cause the opposite outcome you desire.
- Do your homework before eating certain foods, and remember we can all have different responses to them.
Let’s face it: we often choose what to buy based on the product’s packaging and advertising. When it comes to food, labels like “organic” and “fat-free” usually give people the impression it is healthier and better for the body. Thus, we readily consume these products only to find out later on that they are not as healthy as they claim.
The tendency to quickly accept manufacturers’ marketing campaigns without proper research results in a number of food misconceptions. Here are five food myths you should stop believing.
5 Food Myths We Need to Squash
1) Diet Food Is Always Healthy
Any food packaged with the word “diet” doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a great option for safely losing (and keeping off) body fat. Diet soda, for example, contains fewer calories compared to regular soda. However, it’s packed with artificial sweeteners, which could be harmful to your body. This is the same case with other labels like “sugar-free.”
When you remove sugar, fat or other ingredients from “normal” products, they need to be substituted with artificial ingredients. This is to make up for the loss of taste, flavor and texture. For instance, fat gives both flavor, mouthfeel and texture to a product. These functional properties are lost when the fat is removed. Therefore, the diet product needs to be stabilized, emulsified and flavored in some other way: by additives.
2) Carbs Make You Fat
Our bodies need carbohydrates for energy. How much you need largely depends on your level of physical activity.
However, there is truth to the idea that not all carbs are created equal. Good carbs are often found in vegetables, regular and sweet potatoes and whole grains. These things have a lower glycemic index and more fiber (1). They’re called intrinsic carbohydrates. Bad carbs, with high glycemic index, are those found in processed food like white bread, white rice, pastries and candy.
If you’re a more sedentary person, you should enjoy these carbs sporadically. However, if you’re exercising a lot, white rice, pasta and bread are a suitable carbohydrate source to incorporate into your diet. A well-balanced diet and not the elimination of carbohydrates is the key to maintaining a healthy weight.
3) Gluten Is Dangerous
While there is data to support both sides of this argument, there are a few important things to note.
A gluten-free diet is recommended for people with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease, since the consumption of gluten can damage their intestinal cells and result in health complications. These people tend to feel best when avoiding gluten.
If you don’t have a gluten sensitivity or celiac disease, you don’t have to go gluten-free. In fact, it could be detrimental to your health. One study looked at people who don’t have celiac disease and still avoid gluten. It found they have a higher risk of inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, lupus and thyroid disease (2). This suggests switching to a gluten-free diet merely to improve your health might not be the safest route to take.
4) All Fat Is Bad
Your body needs fat. Fat is a source of energy and helps you absorb necessary vitamins and minerals. Whether it’s good or bad for you depends on the source. Good fats, for instance, include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (3). We can get monounsaturated fats from food like olive oil, avocado and nuts. Some sources of polyunsaturated fats are fatty fish like salmon, walnuts and flaxseeds.
Trans fats, on the other hand, give us no health benefits. Trans fat has harmful cholesterol, which increases the risk of heart disease and stroke.
5) Only Meat Will Give You Protein
While meat is heavy in protein, it’s certainly not the only source. You can also find significant protein in soy, quinoa, peas, Greek yogurt, lentils and cottage cheese. If you prefer to eat little or no meat, simply make sure you are adequately covering your protein needs elsewhere. You do this with nutritious foods and even supplementation.
Spend time doing your homework before deciding to follow popular food trends. Also bear in mind that we’re all different. What works for one person might not work for another. You’ll probably need to try different diets to see what feels best. Remember, maintaining a balanced diet with sufficient rest and exercise is still a promising course of action.
Banana Protein Pancakes Recipe
Puori PW1 Vanilla recently ranked #1 in Clean Label Project’s test of 133 protein powder products from 52 brands, and works incredibly well not just as a shake, but also in numerous recipes. Download Puori’s PW1 recipe book here, and start cooking. Here’s a taste:
- 3 eggs
- 3 bananas, mashed
- ½ cup (90g) of blueberries (fresh or frozen)
- 1 tsp cardamom
- 1 serving of PW1 Chocolate, Vanilla or Blackcurrant
- Butter for frying
- Mix eggs, bananas, protein powder, cardamom and blueberries.
- Top the pancakes with fresh blueberries in a bowl. Whisk until it becomes an airy batter.
- Add ¼ cup of batter for each pancake.
- Cook 1-2 minutes on each side until finished.
As you age, it’s common to become a little more forgetful. “Changes in memory are thought to be caused by various factors including changes in brain function, physiological changes in both brain tissue and neurons, and decreased blood flow to the brain,” says Guru Ramanathan, chief innovation officer and SVP for GNC.
In addition, hormones can influence parts of the brain that support memory, so as we age and hormone levels change, “brain fog” can result, says Jenn LaVardera, a registered dietitian for Hamptons RD in Southampton, New York. Changes typically include forgetfulness and taking slightly longer than usual to complete various cognitive tasks, such as balancing your checkbook.
While these types of changes have very little impact on quality of life, “more serious ones can result in memory lapses, cause confusion, and can significantly impact quality of life,” Ramanathan says. Serious changes are scary, so he suggests consulting a physician if you are concerned.
But if “Where are my keys?” or “Has anyone seen my wallet?” have become a common refrain, take heart in the fact that certain supplements have been shown to help with supporting cognitive health and memory function in adults. But before you buy, read on for information on the best memory supplements as well as what to look for on the label.
5 of the Best Memory Supplements
A host of nutrients—from magnesium to choline—and vitamins, including A, C, D and B12, are essential for brain function. “Vitamin C plays an important role in neurotransmitter production and function,” says Ramanathan, who also cites gamma-aminobutryic acid (GABA), choline, and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) as nutrients that play a major role in memory function. In addition, some studies suggest that botanicals including ginkgo biloba and huperzine A also help keep the brain in top form (though others contradict these findings).
While you can get some of these vitamins and nutrients from eating a healthy diet, certain supplements and vitamins available at your local pharmacy or health food store may specifically help support memory function associated with aging. While a lot of the research that’s out there in regard to the effectiveness of supplements is inconclusive or insufficient, here are a handful of supplements that have shown promise for curtailing memory loss:
Particular brain receptors important for learning and memory depend on this mineral for their regulation, which is why Dr. Carolyn Dean, a medical doctor, naturopath, and medical advisory board member for the Nutritional Magnesium Association, says magnesium is “the first supplement to consider for memory problems as well as enhanced brain function.”
Dean cites a 2004 MIT study that describes magnesium as a critical component of the cerebrospinal fluid that keeps learning and memory receptors active (1). Dean warns that not all forms of magnesium are easily absorbed by the body, and that it’s difficult to get enough from diet alone due to mineral-depleted soils. She recommends 600 milligrams of magnesium citrate powder daily. When mixed with water, the powder dissolves and can be sipped throughout the day.
A small 2018 study conducted at the University of California – Los Angeles found that supplements of the substance found in turmeric, the spice that gives Indian curry its bright color, improved both memory and mood in people with mild, age-related memory loss (2). In memory tests, the people taking 90 milligrams of curcumin twice daily improved by 28 percent over an 18-month period. The researchers plan to conduct a follow-up study with a larger number of people.
Vitamin E, an antioxidant, has been linked to improved cognitive performance. In large clinical trials, high doses of vitamin E have been shown to help people with moderate dementia, albeit modestly. Studies analyzed in a 2014 review published in the journal Nutrition confirmed that vitamin E supplementation (at a dose of 2000 IU/day for an average of two years) is safe and free of side effects in the elderly (3). Researchers confirmed vitamin E’s validity as a nutritional compound to promote healthy brain aging and delay functional decline.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Research suggests that eating foods rich in omega-3’s, such as fish, plant and nut oils, and English walnuts, may lower your Alzheimer’s risk. “They help with communication between neurons,” explains LaVardera. But there’s insufficient research about the effectiveness of fish oil supplements, which come in two varieties, EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA. One 2014 study suggests that omega-3 fatty acid supplements have the potential to improve cognitive performance and functional brain activation, but more research is needed to better understand if supplements over a longer period of time might be helpful in terms of preventing thinking skills decline in people without memory loss (4). Taking 1 gram per day of combined DHA and EPA is generally recommended to maintain brain health.
This antioxidant found in the skin of purple and red fruits like grapes and blueberries has shown some promise in preventing the deterioration of the hippocampus, a part of the brain associated with memory, according to a 2015 study (5). How much resveratrol do you need to boost brain function? One study on healthy older adults found that taking 200 milligrams per day for 26 weeks improved memory (6). (An occasional glass of red wine, which contains resveratrol, can’t hurt either!)
All of these supplements have demonstrated potential, but it bears repeating that more research is required as to their brain benefits.
How to Choose Supplements for Memory
When it comes to considering memory supplements, it’s important not to buy into the hype. Due to a legal loophole, dietary supplements do not have to pass the rigorous FDA process to ensure they are safe and effective. In other words, many products that claim to “support” or “help” memory may not. Also, look out for the word “natural” on the label. While the word sounds harmless, it’s one of those marketing buzzwords that raise red flags.
The lack of FDA oversight makes assessing their strength, purity and safety difficult. “In general, steer clear from questionable small-name brands, since larger brands tend to have strict safety protocols,” says LaVardera. “Also, look for the GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) seal on the label.” In addition, a third-party certification from the USP (United States Pharmacopeia), NSF International or Consumer Lab shows that these products have undergone rigorous third-party certification to make sure their ingredients meet quality standards.
When it comes to magnesium, Dean suggests steering clear of two forms in particular: magnesium aspartate and glutamate. Both are components of aspartame, which should be avoided. “Aspartame is a neurotoxin,” she explains. Other harmful ingredients include trans fats, artificial colors and flavors, and fillers, which inhibit or slow absorption.
Another rule of thumb when it comes to choosing vitamins: Always opt for natural over synthetics. “If the brackets after a vitamin have a food listed, it’s natural,” says Dean. “If it has a chemical listed, it’s synthetic.” Some products contain both.
Precautions When Talking Brain Health Supplements
The side effects of the unregulated memory supplements market are not well documented. However, from what information is available, they range from mild (e.g., nausea from gingko biloba) to severe. In regard to vitamin E, for instance, a 2005 study (7) raised concerns about an increased risk of death in people who take high doses (> 400 IU/d).
In addition, many supplements interact with medications, often with dangerous results. Ginkgo biloba, for one, should never be paired with blood thinners, blood pressure medications or SSRI antidepressants. If you have an ongoing health condition, always consult a physician before beginning a supplement regimen. Similarly, if you’re pregnant, you’ll want to check with your health care provider because you have different nutrient needs when you’re expecting.
Once your doctor green lights supplementation, it’s important to stick with the dosages on the label because, as LaVardera points out, “it is possible to overdose on any supplement or vitamin.” What’s more, she cautions that supplementation is not a substitute for a poor diet. “Nutrients in isolation don’t always have the same effect as nutrients in food,” she says. “Eat a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fish and other healthful foods to get the majority of your nutrients, and use supplements to help you meet the recommended amounts.
This post was provided by our friends at Terra Origin.
The summer heat is here, and this year it seems stronger than ever! It can be really tempting to grab sugary beverages to quench your thirst, but before you know it, the calories quickly add up and you haven’t had lunch yet! Lucky for us, Terra Origin offers two great summer drink recipes to cool you down and keep you healthy!
Cool Red Lemonade
This lemonade is a winner for any hot day spent soaking up the sun in your backyard. You can even blend it up and save it in the fridge for later. Surprise your guests with this low-sugar, high-nutrient alternative to a summer classic!
- Combine water, lemon juice, Reds Superfood Kiwi Strawberry in a blender and stir.
- Add strawberries and kiwis and mix in or add to garnish the drink.
- Chill until ready to serve.
This is a morning treat that will cool you down and leave you full and energized for you day. The sugar content is extremely low compared to iced coffee beverages bought at coffee shops, so you won’t experience that glucose crash after.
- 1 medium-sized frozen banana
- ½ tablespoon raw cacao powder
- 2 scoops Terra Origin Chocolate Bone Broth Protein
- 1 cup cold coffee
- ¼ cup vanilla soy or almond milk
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- Ice to the consistency you prefer
- Add all the ingredients to your blender and mix until it is smooth and frothy!
- For an extra protein and flavor kick, you can add a tablespoon of almond butter, or the nut butter of your choice. If you want a touch of healthy fats, bullet proof it with two tablespoons of coconut oil!
- Top your frappuccino with cocoa nibs, shredded coconut or a dusting of cinnamon.
Enjoy a chill summer!