Picture this…it’s 1985. Imagine a tween girl lazily laying in a park, on a sunny, bright day. She’s holding a glittery purple pen and a pink-princess journal, scrawling about unicorns and heartbreak high – “dear diary…”.
That is the cliché people visualise when thinking of “journaling”.
But it’s not 1985. It’s 2021.
Journaling is now a form of self-discovery through expressive writing, that aims to understand the complexity of human psychology, and adds clarity to emotions.
In a University of Texas study called “How do I love thee? Let me count the words: the social effects of expressive writing” researchers found that participants who wrote about their deepest thoughts and relationships were more likely to engage in intimate discussions…strengthening their relationships through the simple act of writing.
Further research found in Science magazine, and by Emmons and McCullough also supports positive outcomes from letting go of emotional hang-ups. Using journaling as a method of ‘downloading’ highs and lows from participants' minds, over a ten week period, showed that they were more happy about life.
Journalist, Michael Grothaus even writes that there are studies suggesting journaling can strengthen the immune system, reduce blood pressure, and aid in better sleep (Grothaus, 2015).
Journaling isn’t specific to happiness and health either.
It helps in business and success too. Scientific positive psychology research shows a positive mindset results in:
31% higher productivity,
37% higher sales,
3x more creativity.
Writing accesses the left hemisphere of the brain, which is analytical and rational (Psychology Notes HQ).
This frees up your right brain to create, wonder, and ‘feel’. This sense of harmony allows us to boost brainpower and become more creative thinkers…better understanding the world around us, making a big difference in our well-being (Grothaus, 2015).
However, simply writing a “brain dump” of words on a page may feel great…it might even make you feel happier, but there’s little evidence that it will increase your well-being.
For journaling to have a positive impact on health, there needs to be prompts or guidance.
Including daily notifications that will guide you through choosing the right prompt for the most positive experience. No matter what prompt you choose you will find yourself able to easily express emotions through writing.
Your will discover…
A boost in ‘feel good’ mood,
Enhanced sense of well-being,
Reduce symptoms of worry before an important event (like a work meeting);
Discover improved working memory (Baikie & Wilhelm, 2005).
You do not need to be an accomplished writer or a literary genius to get started. Each lesson will help you to break down barriers and make you more mindful of your actions.
That’s not all…
Each daily lesson is attached to a daily check-in, designed to keep you on track and focused. Plus, there is a mid-challenge review, designed to tap into your thoughts and improve program adherence.
By the end of the challenge, you will be equipped with the mental strength, freedom and building-blocks to help make journaling an automatic habit; for more happiness, success and authentic self-growth.
By journaling about the things you really enjoy, focusing on your responses, and making them a reality, you will feel better a happier.
This means that you don’t need to turn to food to experience joy anymore. As a result, it can help you lose weight seemingly effortlessly when your main focus is not on eating and food.
If you’re struggling with your weight and dieting, I want you to know that it’s usually not about the food...It’s often about the fact that you're not taking care of yourself and you're filling those voids with foods that give you pleasure.
To conquer that issue, try tackling the journaling prompts which will help you to figure out what your needs actually are.
Spoiler alert: it's probably not a bag of chips or a bar of chocolate.
When you write your responses, you should feel happiness or light up a bit at the thought of the things your soul craves.
When you feel that, you'll know that you’ve hit gold. That’s the real you speaking, and it’s time to listen.
Constipation isn’t something we often talk about, unless you hang around with me... But given it affects up to 25% of the population (and mostly women) it means a lot of us are suffering in silence. And while most people think of constipation as just an annoying symptom, it can also be the root cause of other symptoms and conditions, including fatigue, weight gain, low mood, and many more.
Unfortunately for most people, when this happens, they reach for a laxative pill, which can lead to what is known as lazy bowel syndrome. Your bowels become so addicted to laxatives that they cannot move without one. Laxatives should never be used on a long-term basis for constipation. They can actually lead to chronic constipation due to dehydration, complicating the problem and leading to a never-ending cycle.
It is really important to understand that constipation is a sign that things aren’t right in our digestive process and left unchecked for a long time, it will eventually lead to other complications which may well have been avoided had the initial discomfort of constipation been checked and addressed in the first place.
To understand the consequences of long-term constipation, it is important to understand the body’s excretion process. Your body must get rid of what it does not need along with toxins that may have tagged along with food you have eaten. There are toxins found in processed/pre-packaged foods and smaller amounts found in fresh foods that need to be excreted.
So, how do you know if you suffer from chronic constipation ?
There’s two different ways to tell if you have constipation. The first is the Rome III diagnostic criteria. It identifies people as having functional constipation when 25% of bowel movements are associated with at least two of the following symptoms: straining; hard or lumpy stools; a sense of incomplete evacuation; a sense of anorectal obstruction; the need for manual maneuvers; or fewer than three bowel movements per week in the previous three months, with an onset of symptoms longer than six months.
How Constipation Endangers Your Health
Most people think of constipation as a symptom rather than the cause of their health problems. For many functional gastrointestinal conditions like gut pathogens, leaky gut and food sensitivities, this is definitely the case - which is why you might want to get tested and uncover the root cause of your constipation.
But, constipation itself can also be the root cause of other symptoms and conditions. Constipation can wreak havoc with your insides, stemming from one of three main issues;
1. Toxin reabsorption in the colon, including excess hormones that would normally be excreted in the stool. Imagine what happens when all these toxins are jammed in your colon and going nowhere. The toxins are left to lie in your digestive tract, and the dangers can be many, the most common is colon cancer. The body can literally absorb toxins into its tissues when our colon’s movement is stuck.
2. Imbalance of intestinal flora, including a reduction in healthy species and overgrowths of unwanted bacteria or pathogens.
3. Structural and physical effects of large hard stools and the straining that commonly accompanies them.
Here are the top 10 symptoms and signs of constipation:
1. Effects of constipation on fatigue
Constipation and fatigue go hand-in-hand, with strong evidence for a connection between the two. The reason being is a dysbiosis caused by constipation can increase the fermentation of carbohydrates and the production of various gases, including super smelly hydrogen sulphide thought to cause dysfunction of the mitochondria - the energy producers within our cells. Impaired detoxification of toxic substances that can enter the bloodstream may also impact energy levels and cause fatigue.
2. Effects of constipation on weight gain
Yes, a build-up of poop can add a few extra kilos - anyone who has done colonic irrigation or an enema can attest to that... But what about ‘real’ weight, the fat storage kind? Yes, that too. Science is just starting to understand how a dysbiosis of intestinal flora can cause weight gain and obesity - but the link is definitely there. Hormone imbalances, particularly those relating to oestrogen have also been linked with obesity. So, not clearing those excess estrogens and having them reabsorbed back into your system might not be so good for your waistline.
3. Effects of constipation on the skin
Another side-effect of toxicity associated with constipation is acne and skin breakouts. This happens when toxins and waste are re-absorbed back into the bloodstream via the colon, rather than being eliminated. This study showed that 54% of acne patients have significantly altered gut flora while probiotics (beneficial bacteria) have also been shown to reduce symptoms. One thing is for sure, beauty begins in the bowel.
4. Effects of constipation on SIBO
Constipation is one of the highest risk-factors and most common causes of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). This recently discovered condition, where bacteria from the large intestine end up in the small intestine where they don’t belong, is thought to be responsible for up to 80% of IBS cases. While the most common symptoms associated with SIBO are constipation, diarrhoea and extreme bloating, it has also been connected with fatigue, weight gain and many of the other issues discussed in this blog post.
5. Effects of constipation on brittle nails and thinning hair
Nutritional deficiencies can affect the growth of both hair and nails. And as we know, a lack of healthy flora in the gut can also decrease the absorption of many nutrients essential for energy and growth. Excess toxins being reabsorbed into the bloodstream doesn’t help your beauty regime, leaving you at risk of brittle nails and thinning hair.
6. Effects of constipation on poor immunity
Our intestinal flora is responsible for much of the body’s immune response, including the removal of cell debris, viruses, bacteria, and cancerous cells. As constipation is often associated with missing or damaged bacteria (intestinal flora), the impact on your immune system can be significant. The toxic build-up and inflammation associated with constipation can also impair the immune system and leave you vulnerable to infections like urinary tract infections (UTIs).
7. Effects of constipation on estrogen dominance
Constipation can inhibit the excretion of unwanted estrogen from the body and promote its reabsorption. We are exposed to a lot of environmental sources of estrogens through toxins such as plastics, medications and hormones in animal proteins that we consume. This means that most people have excess oestrogen coming into the body that needs to be excreted each day. If we are constipated, these excess estrogens can be re-absorbed in the colon and cause elevated estrogen levels, a condition also associated with allergies, weight gain, fatigue and breast cancer. Women who pooped three or more times a day had a 46% decreased risk of getting breast cancer compared to women who had bowel movements once per day.
8. Effects of constipation on structural conditions
Beyond functional and chronic disease, constipation can also cause structural problems that may require surgical intervention. Straining during bowel movements and sitting on the toilet for extended periods can result in haemorrhoids, rectal prolapse, and anal fissures.
9. Effects of constipation on faecal impaction
Faecal impaction is basically a bowel obstruction caused by poop that has hardened in the colon to the point that it is causing a solid blockage. In severe cases, faecal impaction can cause ulcers or bowel perforation. This is definitely one of the more severe side effects of constipation.
10. Effects of constipation on anxiety and depression
Mood and anxiety disorders have long been scientific bedfellows with constipation and other gastrointestinal disorders. While constipation is often thought to be the symptom, recent neuroscientific research has begun to show the importance of intestinal flora in the development of brain symptoms. So, there’s even more reason you might be feeling low if you can’t go to the loo, and it's these kinds of side effects of constipation that people aren't often aware of that make a huge difference to our everyday lives.
WHAT STRATEGIES CAN I USE TO RELIEVE CONSTIPATION?
These are some healthier ways to get a handle on constipation:
Constipation can be either a symptom of dysfunction or the cause. In either case, it’s an important message about an imbalance in your body that needs to be addressed. By maintaining healthy digestion with ample hydration, good nutrition, probiotics, and stress coping, you’ll be on your way toward optimal intestinal health and keeping your thyroid and estrogen levels steady.
Tomatoes are nutrition powerhouses and are actually a fruit which are prepared in meals like a vegetable. They are a rich source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants including lycopene.
Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant providing numerous health benefits. It is shown to enhance athletic performance and improve overall health and fitness. Drinking tomato juice prior to workouts is said to reduce harmful chemical levels caused by oxidative stress.
Think about lycopene as the inflammation clean-up crew when we exercise. Demanding workouts increases levels of oxygen (oxidative stress) and other chemicals potentially damaging to muscle tissue, cells, and even DNA. Antioxidants—especially lycopene—have been shown to significantly reduce these inflammatory chemical reactions.
There are research studies done which show that consuming tomato juice can be better than energy drinks at helping the body recover from exercise.
Experts say that tomatoes provide vital chemicals to help muscles recover and return to normal after being stretched and strained.
A number of health institutions in Greece conducted tests on 15 athletes over a period of two months, looking at vital signs before, during and after exercise.
Nine of the athletes drank tomato juice after exercise and six consumed their regular fizzy energy drink.
Those drinking tomato juice had quicker levels of muscle recovery and their glucose levels returned to normal faster after strenuous exercise.
Tomatoes contain a compound called lycopene, which principally give them their deep-red colour.
In the study, led by researchers at the General Chemical State Laboratory of Greece, harmful levels of enzymes and proteins which contribute to muscle and brain damage returned to normal quicker in those athletes who drank tomato juice after exercise.
The researchers said tomato juice was so effective that people with higher levels of harmful proteins could benefit in just two months. This study was published in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology.
Other Health Benefits of Tomato Juice…Lycopene-rich tomato juice does more than improving athletic performance. Its superior antioxidant effect provides numerous health benefits.
You can add some more anti-inflammatory sprinkles such as ½ a tsp of turmeric, a pinch of black pepper, or tabasco sauce, Worcestershire sauce and if you’re feeling naughty you could add a splash of tequila or vodka ! Stir with a cucumber or celery stick and enjoy !
Undeniably in the modern health movement, sugar has become the super villain.
But, the truth is... not all sweeteners are bad. Believe it or not, there are some sweeteners that can offer health benefits to the body like essential vitamins, minerals, energy, and more.
The flavour and experience of sweet foods creates a pleasurable experience that’s ingrained in our human brains. Sweet tastes team up their abilities to alleviate stress and even reduce feelings of pain, which makes it very difficult for some people to control their sugar intake.
Despite the psychological benefits, the key to having a healthy relationship with sugary foods is mindfulness and moderation.
Overeating the wrong kinds of sugar can be linked to a whole host of health problems related to weight management, heart health, skin issues, and diabetes.
Sugar comes in a few forms, namely sucrose, fructose, and glucose. Sucrose is the scientific name for table sugar, which is made up of fructose and glucose. Glucose and fructose are the sugars found in foods ranging from fruits and vegetables to dairy, grains, and processed foods.
Sugars like fructose, glucose, and sucrose are found naturally in foods that humans have always eaten, modern foods often contain refined, processed sugars that are anything but natural.
All three of these compounds are considered ‘sugar,’ however, their chemical structures vary, and the way that your body digests and metabolizes them dictates how they affect your well-being.
Understanding the different types of sugars and their impact on the body is crucial to knowing how to add some sugary goodness into your life without harming your health.
Is All Sugar Bad?
In terms of the health benefits, sugar can be ‘good’ or ‘bad’ depending on where it’s derived from, how it’s processed, and how much is consumed.
When sugar from unhealthy sources is eaten in excess, it can definitely lead to negative health impacts such as metabolic issues and weight gain.
On the other hand, healthier forms of sugar, when consumed mindfully, moderately and at the right times, can contribute to a balanced diet, and can even be used to support athletic performance and recovery.
There are a few factors which makes a sweetener unhealthy. Glucose and fructose are both monosaccharides, the building blocks of carbohydrates, and they are usually found in natural whole foods like fruit, honey, and starchy vegetables. Although they can have varying levels of fructose and glucose, all whole foods naturally contain a combination of the two sugars.
Glucose and fructose are also found in processed foods, but often in their refined, isolated forms (like high-fructose corn syrup, which is a highly concentrated fructose from corn).
These highly-processed, isolated versions of sugar don’t naturally exist in whole foods and are typically associated with certain health issues. For example, too much pure fructose consumption can impact cholesterol levels, liver health, blood sugar management, and cause diabetes.
Also, when these sugars are highly-processed, they lose much of their nutrition, which means you’re left with all the calories and few (to none) of the health benefits.
When white sugar and coconut sugar are compared, both of which are processed sugars, but the degree of processing creates products that have very different impacts on the body.
For example, coconut sugar has a glycemic index nearly half of that of white sugar (35 vs. 65) and is loaded with minerals and vitamins that are lost in the processing of white sugar.
Coconut sugar also has a fiber called inulin which makes blood sugar spikes less likely after meals.
Unfortunately, white sugar is stripped of much of its fiber, so it doesn't offer the protective benefits of inulin like coconut sugar. In other words, your best bet is to put down the heavily processed sugars and pick up the ones that still contain vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
In general, healthier sweeteners are very close to (or are still in) their natural form. They’re minimally processed, whole food sugar sources that keep many, if not all, of the natural minerals and phytonutrients intact. This also has a big impact on the glycemic index, as we see in the example comparing coconut sugar to white sugar.
By preserving the nutrients, these sugars become more than just a sweet buzz. Vitamins and minerals are considered essential nutrients and help the body perform hundreds of healthy functions.
By supporting the immune system, converting food into energy, and helping cells remain healthy, opting for nutrient-dense sugars offers a much wider range of positive effects on the body, with far fewer negative consequences.
Some of The Healthiest Sweeteners
Fruit has been demonized in low-carb and Paleo communities with the “sugar is sugar” rhetoric—when actually, refined sweeteners and fruit have completely different metabolic impacts on the body.
The fiber and water content in fruit increases feelings of fullness and can slow down the insulin response. Studies of ancestral cultures like the Kuna⁵ demonstrate how high amounts of fruit consumption can lead to better health markers and leaner body compositions.
The natural fructose in whole fruit is often picked apart by anti-fruit advocates but has not been found to have a detrimental effect on health compared to its more refined counterpart.
Stevia has gotten a full endorsement from some people in the health industry and has gotten heat from others. Factoring in both sides of the debate, it seems that stevia may not only be virtually harmless in small doses but possibly even beneficial.
The key, again, is moderation. Preliminary studies suggest that having a sweet taste with almost no intake of calories (stevia contains almost zero calories) may actually cause an insulin response.
However, in moderation, the sweetness of stevia without the caloric intake may actually improve blood sugar control⁷ and promote a healthier relationship with sweet foods.
Honey has a unique metabolic effect on the body in that it’s far different from refined sugars, despite its high fructose content. Raw honey contains enzymes, proteins, trace minerals, B vitamins, antioxidants, prebiotics, probiotics, flavonoids, and other polyphenols.
Studies show that the consumption of honey is not associated with the same metabolic effects as table sugar, and may actually have ‘obesity protective’ effects.
One human study showed that supplementing with three to five tablespoons of honey per day increases antioxidant levels⁹ in the body which include a greater presence of vitamin C.
The key with honey is to only use real honey. Studies have demonstrated that artificial ‘honey’ has the complete opposite effect on the body, including raising triglycerides and LDL cholesterol levels. Artificial honey is a cheap, honey-tasting substitute made from various ingredients including corn syrup, white table sugar, and artificial flavours.
This honey impostor is commonly found on grocery store shelves and in restaurants, so it’s important to read the label. The healthiest source of honey that contains most of the beneficial enzymes and nutrients is organic, raw, and unpasteurized.
Since honey is sweeter than sugar, you can also use less in recipes to get the same sweetness.
For these reasons, I believe that real honey is one of the best natural sweeteners you can find.
Here are some ways to incorporate sugar into your life that will not only benefit your taste buds but also your health and performance.
Sparingly And In Moderation
The hardcore anti-sugar dogma that’s sweeping the health community is extreme, and these forms of strict dieting can be problematic for some people.
No-carb extremes can often result in yo-yo dieting, where depriving oneself of sugar can quickly slip into a sugar binge. Instead of an all-or-nothing approach, there are reasons to incorporate moderate amounts of healthy sweeteners into your life.
A responsible amount of sweetener would depend on your level of activity and lifestyle, as well as your goals.
Someone who is more active can typically take in more sugar, as they’re depleting glycogen stores from frequent physical activity.
As a general guideline, the American Heart Association¹¹ recommends staying under 100 calories per day of sugar for women (six teaspoons, 20 grams) and 150 calories per day for men (nine teaspoons, 36 grams).
To find your ‘sweet’ spot, consistently check in with your energy levels and cravings.
Intense sugar cravings, energy spikes and crashes, weight gain, and acne can mean too much sugar is being consumed.
If you’re concerned, you can test your own blood sugar with a blood glucose monitor, or work with a doctor to check metabolic markers such as fasting glucose and HbA1c.
Replenishing Glycogen After Exercise
Glycogen is a form of glucose that is stored in your liver and muscles. This stored energy is depleted throughout the day simply by living, but it can get depleted even faster when you exercise vigorously. When glycogen stores are depleted, exercise becomes more difficult as fatigue sets in.
Sugar is one of the quickest ways to replenish glycogen stores. Consuming a high GI food like watermelon when glycogen is low can actually speed up glycogen restoration in the muscle after exercise.
This means you can get up and running again faster with a little bit of healthy sugar, than you would with a low-GI food like beans after exercise.
Incorporating sweeteners into your diet post-workout is one way to harness the power of sugar to enhance performance.
Supporting Carb Refeeds and Diet Variation
Although low-carb diets are all the rage, newer evidence suggests that long-term, strict low-carb diets tend to lose efficacy and can even be harmful.
For the same reason that you want to cross-train, incorporating diet variation can prevent a plateau in keto or low-carb dieting. Incorporating more carbohydrates (i.e. natural sugar from whole food sources) into your diet in a mindful way can prevent “keto stalling” and ensure progression towards body composition and health goals.
Diet variation can be done in a number of ways:
The following sweeteners can offer a substantial amount of healthy benefits:
When used mindfully, sugar can actually be a tool for healthy individuals to improve their athletic performance, sustain the benefits of a long-term low-carb diet, and most importantly, live an enjoyable, well-balanced life.
The use of medicinal mushrooms dates back thousands of years because of the varied and uniquely adaptive benefits for health. Now, in recent times with functional medicine and holistic nutrition going mainstream, we’re seeing a resurgence of interest in these marvellous superfoods.
Most medicinal mushrooms are never meant to be eaten whole, they are to be taken as powders, tinctures, supplements or drunk as teas.
Medicinal Mushrooms’ Health Benefits:
Mushrooms are nutritional powerhouses with a myriad of health benefits including the following:
Keep in mind that each mushroom is unique and provides its own distinct health advantages.
But before we jump in, let me help you to demystify the most common medicinal mushrooms which exist in the marketplace, so you can ultimately make well-informed decisions when choosing the best products for your health.
So here goes …
Reishi: Take the edge off with reishi, which is also known as the mushroom of Immortality
Think of reishi as nature’s Xanax. Reishi can help with sleep, anxiety, depression and focus, thanks to a compound called triterpene. It may even help with weight loss and has been shown to fiercely fight cancer cells. Much of the polysaccharides in reishi mushroom are associated with immune functions, and if taken over time can significantly support the immune system.
It is also known to improve sleep, reduce stress and fatigue.
Try it: Use a spoonful of reishi powder to make a hot, healing cup of tea, or add it to your favourite chocolate desserts (Some gourmet superfoodists really, swear by this combo.)
Lion’s Mane Mushroom: The Mushroom for the Mind
Bad case of brain fog ? Lion’s mane can help with cognition, memory and concentration. It is packed with antioxidants and strengthens the immune system like most medicinal mushrooms.
Lion’s mane is rare, in the fact that it fosters the production of the bioprotein nerve growth factor (NFG) and myelin (an insulation around nerve fibers).
Both NFG and myelin are absolutely crucial to brain health. An imbalance in them can contribute to neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis.
That makes lion’s mane incredible brain food! This miraculous mushroom has also been shown to improve cognition, increase concentration, and alleviate anxiety and irritability.
Chaga: Get your antioxidant dose with free radical-fighting chaga
Chaga can help with aging, inflammation and lowering LDL. Chaga is rich in antioxidants, and supports immune function, liver health, brain health and increases longevity.
First medicinal uses seem to have come out of Russia around the 16th century when used as a tea to treat stomach ailments.
After 1966, Chaga gained more exposure after its healing powers were written about it in the great classic book written by Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s, Cancer Ward.
Chaga mushrooms are an antioxidant powerhouse, making them excellent contenders for fighting free radicals and inflammation.
This dark black mushroom combats oxidative stress (which is linked to skin aging), may prevent or slow the growth of cancer, and has been found to lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the “bad” cholesterol.
Shiitake Mushroom: Good for the Heart.
If you’re already cooking with shiitake in your kitchen, keep it up. These mushrooms are particularly good for the heart. Shiitakes have been shown to lower LDL in mice, and they contain compounds that inhibit the absorption and production of cholesterol in the liver, prevent plaque build-up, maintain healthy blood pressure and circulation.
Turkey Tail: Help fight cancer with turkey tail
Most medicinal mushrooms have anticancer properties due to their high amounts of antioxidants. But turkey tail takes it one step further.
Turkey tail contains a compound called polysaccharide-K (PSK) that stimulates the immune system. PSK is so effective that it’s an approved anticancer prescription drug in Japan.
Turkey tail has been shown to improve the survival rate of people with certain cancers, fights leukemia cells, and improves the immune system of people receiving chemotherapy.
Cordyceps: Need a pick-me-up?
In a nutshell, cordyceps improves lung capacity and increases energy.
Cordyceps increases your energy because of its ability to increase ATP production through pre-cursor compounds like adenosine and cordycepin. ATP is the compound that gives our cells energy. This is why Cordyceps is recommended when it comes to physical performance. In transitional care management , cordyceps is also used for lung-related issues like asthma or even seasonal allergies.
This mushroom can be especially helpful for athletes or those who regularly work out as it has been shown to not only improve exercise and athletic performance, but also speed up post-workout muscle recovery.
If you are feeling low on energy or need a pre-workout boost, then this mushroom is for you. I shall also add that it comes with an added advantage of boosting your libido.
Warning: Always talk to your doctor beforehand to confirm if adding medicinal mushrooms to your diet is safe, especially if you’re using certain medications or are pregnant.
A lot of recreationists like myself will testify to the benefits of being outdoors, especially in natural settings. I always feel better after a weekend camping away from the urban sprawl of the city – physically and mentally.
But it’s not just anecdotal. There’s plenty of research to back up the claim that spending time in the great outdoors is good for your health and well-being.
And whilst this is good news, there’s a flip side to this story. Americans spend 93% of their lives indoors. Rapid urbanization is seeing people move away from rural, green spaces and into built-up, high-traffic cities.
Enjoying the great outdoors is an important part of a healthy lifestyle.
There are many potential benefits to going outside:
This article is compliments from James Black. Wilderness Redefined
Inflammation is part of the body’s defense mechanism and plays a role in the healing process.
When the body detects an intruder, it launches a biological response to try to remove it.
The attacker could be a foreign body, such as a thorn, an irritant, or a pathogen. Pathogens include bacteria, viruses, and other organisms, which cause infections. Exercise also causes low grade inflammation.
Sometimes, the body mistakenly perceives its own cells or tissues as harmful. This reaction can lead to autoimmune diseases, such as type 1 diabetes.
Experts believe inflammation may contribute to a wide range of chronic diseases. Examples of these are metabolic syndrome, which includes type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer and obesity.
People with these conditions often have higher levels of inflammatory markers in their bodies.
Diet and lifestyle changes are key to reducing chronic inflammation.
Some healthy steps you can take to decrease inflammation are getting daily exercise, reducing stress, and getting quality sleep, regularly.
One of the most powerful tools to protect against chronic inflammation is to eat a diet rich in plant-based whole foods rich in anti-oxidants.
Dr. Varinthrej Pitis, MD, an internal medicine physician at Scripps Clinic in Carmel Valley in a Scripps article stated that “Making good choices in our diet to include fresh vegetables and fruits as well as reducing refined sugar intake can make a big difference."
Studies have shown that there is a link between the role of a whole-foods, plant-based diet in reducing chronic inflammation: A 2019 study published in Nutrients found a relationship between the Mediterranean diet and cancer incidence, demonstrating that the key nutrients in the diet can help fight chronic inflammatory cells.
Another 2019 study published in Nutrition and Aging found that an anti-inflammatory diet can reduce the force of neuroinflammation, resulting in a lower likelihood of Alzheimer’s disease.
Below are the top 11 plant-based foods that will reduce inflammation and nourish your body.
1. Avocados: are loaded with potassium, magnesium, fiber, and healthy fats. A 2020 study found that avocado is beneficial in reducing obesity, which activates low-grade inflammation and oxidative stress. The study found that avocados “induce antioxidant and anti‐inflammatory effects by improving enzymatic activity and modulating obesity‐related impairments in the anti‐inflammatory system in different tissues, without side effects.”
2. Berries: are abundant in antioxidants that can reduce your risk of disease. A 2017 study published in Molecules examined the healthy properties of berries, finding that they are neuroprotective, meaning that they protect nerve cells from further damage. This effect may be linked to lower toxicity and inflammation, which are associated with chronic diseases.
3. Cocoa: is a powder of ground cacao beans, heavily concentrated in dark chocolate. It is rich in flavanols that reduce your body’s oxidative stress, according to a 2019 study published in Nutrients. Oxidative stress is when there is an imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants in the body. High levels of oxidative stress can cause chronic inflammation, leading to damaged cells, proteins, and DNA in the body.
4. Extra virgin olive oil: a Mediterranean diet staple is a healthy fat-filled with nutritious benefits. A 2019 study published in Nutrients found that extra virgin olive oil contains polyphenols that decrease the amount of inflammatory markers in the body. The study also suggests that it is an important dietary tool in preventing chronic diseases like obesity.
5. Grapes: have important nutrients like vitamin K, copper, and manganese. It is also a great source of resveratrol, a key compound that has been found to prevent and mitigate intestinal inflammation, according to a 2017 study published in Nutrition Research Reviews. This could alleviate symptoms with chronic gastrointestinal diseases like IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) and perianal infections.
6. Green tea: is made from the camellia Sinensis plant filled with a large number of antioxidants. A 2017 study published in Nutrients found that this tea contains polyphenols such as epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which reduces the surge of inflammatory markers like cytokines.
7. Mushrooms: This fungus is low in calories and is a great source of selenium, copper, and B vitamins. A 2018 study found that reishi mushrooms protected against gut inflammation due to a reduction in the inflammatory cytokines. This vegetable could be incredibly helpful for people with sepsis, a condition caused by the body’s response to infection.
8. Peppers: have high amounts of vitamin C, similar to what is found in citrus fruits. They are filled with capsaicin, which has anti-inflammatory properties, according to a 2017 study published in Pharmacognosy Magazine. The study found that the consumption of capsaicin-rich foods, such as chili peppers, can reduce the inflammatory effects in muscle-related diseases such as myotube atrophy.
9. Tomatoes: are also a great source of vitamin C, potassium, and folate. They supply the antioxidant called lycopene, which has been shown to reduce pro-inflammatory compounds causing heart disease, according to a 2017 study. This has been linked to many health benefits, such as a low risk of contracting cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. It has also been shown to reduce the risk of prostate cancer.
10. Turmeric: is a spice-filled with curcumin, a nutrient known for its many health benefits. A 2018 study published in The Journal of Immunology found that curcumin in turmeric inhibits inflammation through suppressing the pathways that active it in the body. This points to the potential use of turmeric as a herbal supplement in helping alleviate symptoms with inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.
11. Moringa: has powerful anti-inflammatory properties owing to its high concentration of isocyanates, biophenols and essential amino acids that reduce inflammation and assist in muscle recovery.
Barbara is a qualified Holistic Nutritionist, and author of the 'The Med Life Diet , 12 Essential Steps to Creating Healthy Eating and Healthy Lifestyle Habits and Attitudes for Life !' who promotes an authentic Mediterranean diet, teaches healthy eating and healthy lifestyle habits and attitudes for life !
Connect with me on LinkedIn and Twitter or take my course.
Seven lunch break foods that could supercharge your productivity at the office or home with the kids
Food… it can consume every aspect of a person’s life! It is a powerful mood enhancer, can support a better night’s sleep and can work to supercharge the mind and keep the body healthy. That being said, an active business environment can often create poor choices when it comes to choosing a suitable lunch break meal.
Keep in mind that the meals you consume can make everyday tasks a little easier, so why wouldn’t you want to pay more attention to the lunch-break foods you consume? There are certain ingredients and products that can strengthen the way our brain functions, give energy and enhance focus.
Here are 7 lunch-break foods that could supercharge your productivity in the office or running around with the kids.
Omega-3 fatty acids play a key role in the health of your brain. Eating salmon and similar fish helps improve communication between cell membranes (increasing brain function), and can improve your mood. As an antidote against depression, a salmon salad or a salmon and rice dish for lunch can boost productivity.
If you are a vegetarian or a vegan, you should consider omega-3 rich alternatives like flaxseed, seaweed, chia, walnuts, kidney beans and edamame.
Not only are berries low in calories and excellent in maintaining a healthy weight, they’re also packed with antioxidants and provide energy when working from home or in the office. As well as this, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and cranberries improve memory! Why not try adding them to your afternoon snack with a handful of walnuts or almonds.
Coconut Oil and MCT
MCT stands for medium-chain triglycerides oil. This is a form of saturated fatty acid that’s most commonly extracted from coconuts and also found in coconut oil. Other sources include butter, cheese and most kinds of dairy products. Recently, MCT oil has been labelled as a brain superfood!
Spinach and green leafy vegetables
Spinach and other green leafy low-carb vegetables rank among the staples of a healthy diet. They are a potent source of many micronutrients and vitamins that you can’t obtain from other food.
In addition, they are an excellent source of antioxidants that protect the cells against the harmful activity of free radicals. Regardless of your age, you should have a spinach salad at least a few times per week at work.
Nuts and seeds
Graze on nuts and seeds throughout the day. Eating a bunch of almonds and cashews as a snack can support feeling satiated, replenish energy and repower your brain after lunch. Fun fact: almonds and sunflower seeds are filled with types of fats that make your brain function at a healthy level!
Fresh fruit is an absolute must within the workplace, and for all the obvious reasons. The likes of apples, bananas and satsumas are fundamental to a healthy diet and help to soar productivity levels. You could also make a smoothie using frozen fruits or ready smoothie packets which are super convenient to use.
A daily cup of moringa tea can benefit your health in multiple ways. As a caffeine free beverage, moringa is extremely nutritious loaded with iron, magnesium, selenium, calcium and many other nutrients to help keep you supercharged, nourished and healthy. If you want an added kick – add a pinch of matcha or green tea leaves– the caffeine will increase your alertness when feeling sleepy.
Those living with hypothyroidism may experience fatigue, depression, and constipation along with other symptoms that are more serious health concerns. That little gland in your neck plays important roles in how well, or not, your body works, luckily consuming certain foods may help to boost the effectiveness of your thyroid.
The butterfly shaped gland produces hormones that help to regulate your mood, metabolism, energy levels, heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and energy levels. When the thyroid is not producing enough hormones hypothyroidism can occur when the body’s needs are not being adequately met. Hypothyroidism if left untreated can increase the risks for heart disease as a result of higher levels of LDL bad cholesterol.
Medications can help to restore hormone levels and manage symptoms. But in addition to thyroid hormone replacement therapy you can boost thyroid function by consuming a well balanced diet that includes a lot of produce and protein according to Gregory B. Dodell, MD, who is an assistant clinical professor of medicine, endocrinology, diabetes, and bone disease at Mount Sinai in New York City.
Omega-3s that are found in fish can help with combating inflammation and boosting immunity. Fatty fish like wild caught salmon, tuna, trout and sardines are good sources for omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s are known to decrease inflammation, help with immunity, and lower the risk for heart disease. Fish is also a good source of the nutrient selenium, which is most concentrated in the thyroid and helps decrease inflammation.
Nuts are an excellent source of selenium which can help to boost thyroid function. These handy little snacks can be taken just about anywhere, but make sure to control portion size as nuts are high in fat.
Hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, and macadamia nuts are particularly high in selenium according to a study published in the International Journal of Endocrinology. Also, keep in mind that walnuts can interfere with thyroid hormone absorption, meaning it is best to avoid consuming them at the same time you take any medications.
Whole grains can help to ease the constipation which is a common symptom of hypothyroidism. Whole grains in cereal, bread, pasta, rice, quinoa and oatmeal are great sources of nutrients and the ever important fiber that can help with bowel regularity. But fiber can also interfere with synthetic hormones, meaning that some people may be best to avoid whole grains completely.
Those that do eat whole grains make sure to take any thyroid medication a minimum of several hours before consuming or after eating foods that are rich sources of dietary fiber.
Fresh produce can help to manage weight gain; low calorie and high density fruits and vegetables are the mainstay of every successful weight loss program. Weight gain can be an early symptom of hypothyroidism, including fresh fruits or veggies at every meal is typically recommended. Blueberries, cherries, green peppers, and sweet potatoes are loaded with antioxidants and other nutrients that have been shown to help lower the risks for heart disease.
Those with hypothyroidism may do well to limit the intake of cruciferous veggies to 142g per day, as they can block the thyroid’s ability to absorb iodine which is essential to normal thyroid function.
Iodine, which can be found in high concentrations within seaweed, is essential for normal thyroid function. "Iodine is the precursor for the production of thyroid hormone," Dr. Dodell explains.
Seaweed, packaged as nori, wakame, and dulse, can be used in sushi, soups, and salads to offer the nutritional benefits of fiber, calcium, and vitamins A, B, C, E, and K.
According to the American Thyroid Association it is possible to have too much iodine which can worsen the condition, but the likelihood of this is greater when taking iodine supplements, as such consult with your physician before increasing intake.
Vitamin D, the gift of sunshine, is essential to a thyroid friendly diet. According to a study published in the Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism vitamin D supplements helped to improve TSH levels in those with hypothyroidism as well as thyroid antibodies in those with autoimmune thyroiditis.
Certain foods can be found that have been fortified with vitamin D such as milk that also carry significant amounts of calcium, protein, and iodine.
Hashimoto’s can lead to changes that contribute to gut problems including heartburn, consuming foods like yogurt that contain beneficial bacteria may help to regulate other bacteria to help with gut problems.
Beans may help to maintain energy levels for those that are feeling drained because they contain protein, antioxidants, and complex carbohydrates, along with an assortment of vitamins and minerals. As an added plus beans are a rich source of fiber that can help with constipation.
Beans are available in an assortment of types which can be used as the base for entrees, side dishes, soup, salads, or stews. It may be best to limit how much you eat as excess fiber can interfere with hypothyroidism treatments, guidelines recommend 20-35 grams of fiber a day.
As always it is best to consult with your physician or certified medical professional before beginning any new regime to avoid any possibility of unwanted complications, and to work out a plan that is best suited for your individual needs and requirements.
There’s the common and well know saying “you are what you eat”… this saying applies to many aspects of health. Choosing the right foods can also help support mood, sleep, and even the ability to focus and concentrate.
As a Holistic Nutritionist and a mother, I know that there are many factors that play into a child’s ability to focus. I also know that there are no magic foods that will get any child to laser-focus on their maths or reading when they want to zombie out in front of the TV or play electronic games.. so chill out time is also an important part of their daily routine.
What I do know is that there are certain brain-boosting foods that could potentially support proper brain development, cognitive skills and concentration. Foods which will help kids to concentrate on their schoolwork, project or other task in conjunction with quality sleep, daily activity and exercise and minimal electronic distractions.
These seven foods can help kids stay sharp. Hopefully, these suggestions give some lunchtime inspiration too!
The U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee recommends eggs as a first food for babies and toddlers as eggs are a rich source of choline and because early and sustained exposure to eggs may help reduce the risk of developing an egg allergy. But the benefits of eggs continue well beyond the first two years of life. Eggs are a nutritional powerhouse that contribute to health and well-being at every age and life stage.
Egg yolks are one of the richest sources of dietary choline, a nutrient that helps brain cells produce acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that plays a key role in cognition. Plus, eggs have the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, which support eye health and may help protect the eyes from harmful blue light from computers and phones. New research shows lutein may also play an important role in brain health, too.
Eggs are easy to prepare and easy to love at any age, and at any meal. Enjoy an egg as part of breakfast, make an egg salad sandwich for a quick at-home meal or pack in a lunch box for a portable meal, or pre-make hard-boiled eggs for simple grab-and-go snacks to satisfy hungry tummies after a long day of learning. Another favourite are pancakes made with oats, bananas or wholemeal flour.
Thank goodness beef is a favourite in many households, because eating it may help keep your kiddo's head in the game. Beef is a source of two important nutrients, iron and zinc. Both have been shown to play a role in cognition and restlessness in children.
Fish and seafood are rich in a slew of brain-boosting nutrients that can help your little one in many ways. Having your kids enjoy those fruits of the sea can result in some seriously amazing outcomes. In one study, for example, children who ate fish at least once a week slept better and had higher IQs by an average of 4 points versus kids who were not fish eaters. Good quality oven cooked fish sticks or homemade fish cakes, anyone? Try these simple salmon cakes or a more gourmet version.
Avocados can easily be added to sandwiches for a healthy fat boost. Why is fat important? Eating fat with carbs helps slow the digestion and helps kids feel fuller longer – AKA no tummy rumbles to distract them from their studies. Shoot for healthy fats found in avocados and nuts instead of trans or saturated fats when feeding your precious little ones.
Avocados also fuel your child's belly with tyrosine, an amino acid that is the precursor to dopamine. Dopamine is a brain chemical that plays a role in memory function.
Strawberries offer a slew of benefits to kids, one being that it contains natural vitamin C. This vitamin plays a role in producing norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter that plays a role in increasing attention. Your little one doesn't care for strawberries? No sweat! Kiwi, citrus, and red peppers can be swapped out for a vitamin C boost. Strawberries can be added to a smoothie with bananas and some calcium rich yogurt.
Although conducted on adults, data from a study published in the Journal of Nutrition, Health, and Ageing suggests that eating a handful of walnuts every day may help support memory and concentration. While the same study was not conducted on children, eating walnuts certainly won't hurt anything, assuming your child is developmentally ready to eat this nut.
Try some walnut butter on a piece of fruit for an afternoon snack or, for a decadent treat, dip shelled walnuts in dark chocolate. Tell your kids they are chocolate covered brains for a creative story. (Errrm.. walnuts do look like little brains !)
I know … breakfast is not a specific food – yet it is the most important meal of the day and needs to be a focus if parents are trying to support their child's ability to focus in school or otherwise. According to researchers who reviewed from 45 articles focusing on the effects of skipping breakfast, tasks requiring attention, executive function, and memory were made more effective by eating breakfast.
While it may be an overly ambitious goal to get your kids to eat a well-balanced breakfast every morning before school – let’s be realistic that eating breakfast that early in the morning is not for everyone – myself included !
It would be good if you could get them to eat a boiled egg with some toast or yogurt topped with granola or fruit and then they could take with them a nutritious sandwich and some healthy snacks to tuck into at school.
Avoid giving them a packaged juice to take to school every day as they are high in sugar and will interfere with their concentration.
It’s better to get them to eat something rather than nothing – even if that means grabbing a healthy granola bar on the way out the door.
As the saying goes - any breakfast is better than no breakfast when trying to support concentration.
Barbara is a qualified nutritionist offering Health, Nutrition & Lifestyle Counseling. She gives Healthy weight loss advice and promotes the Mediterranean diet. She is the author of the Med Life Diet - creating healthy lifestyle habits and attitudes for life !