Thursday, February 17, 2011

Intelligence Nutrients: 5 Nutrients to Boost Your Brain

Every one of the 50 known essential nutrients (with possibly the exception of vitamin D), plays some role in promoting mental health.  Your brain uses about 20% of all your energy comsumption....where does your braind get it's nourishment?  From your diet.  When you eat unhealthy, you think poorly period. 

Here are some of the most potent brain nutrients:

1.  B-vitamins:  There are 8 B vitmins and they affect how we think and feel.  Because they are water soluble, they easily pass through our bodies so we need regular, frequent intake throughout the day.  Deficiency can effect concentration (thiamine), anxiety and depression (folic acid) or memory (B-12).  The best sources are whole grains, nuts, seeds and green leafy veggies.

2.  Omega-3:  Omega-3 fatty acids are an essential part of the brain. Fats mae-up a large portion of our brain and they ensure the proper (fluid) signaling communication between cells and nerves.  The best sources of omega-3 comes from fish, walnuts, flax seeds and chia seeds.

3. Zinc:  Zinc is the most commonly deficient mineral and some would say is the most crucial for mental health.  Zinc deficiency is implicated in a wide range of mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, anorexia, hyperactivity.   Low zinc levels effect motivation and concentration too. Zinc is found in oysters, nuts and seeds.

4.   Magnesium and Calcium:  Calcium and magnesium help relax nerve and muscle cells.    While a lack of magnesium can cause muscle cramps, it can also make you more irritable, nervous and aggressive.   It also has been shown to help you sleep.  Magnesium is found in green leafy veggies and nuts. 

5.  Vitamin C:  Vitamin C helps to balance neurotransmitters in the brain.  A number of studies have shown that people diagnosed with mental illness have a greater need for vitamin C.  In one study, some participants only started excreting vitamin C when they consumed almost 10 times the RDA.   It shows how unique we all are - some people demand 10 times more vitamin C than others.  Vitamin C is found in citrus fruits. 

Monday, February 14, 2011

Energy Drink Health Information

Red Bull Energy Drink Original 835-hour Energy® - Pomegranate - LIVING ESSENTIALS - GNCRockstar® Energy Drink - ROCKSTAR - GNC
There is a lot of chatter about energy drinks ink the news recently, largely due to a new study funded by the National Institute of Health mentioning negative health impacts of energy drinks on children. By all means,  energy drinks deserve some news, as they are the fastest growing beverage market in the US with expected sales of $9 billion for the US in 2011. It seems that money and time have always been tight, but now more than anything, we lack the energy to do what we need to do. Anyway, if we are drinking so many energy drinks, we should know something about them.

Top energy drink facts:
  1. Energy drinks are sold to provide increased energy levels to help keep you active and alert
  2. The main active ingredient in energy drinks is caffeine
  3. Energy drinks contain high or even unregulated amounts of caffeine
  4. Some ingredients, like Guarana contain caffeine that is not claimed on the label
  5. Guarana can provide a slow release of caffeine over time due to other plant botanicals
  6. Many energy drinks also contain large amounts of sugar
  7. Energy drinks also contain other herbal stimulants
  8. It is not just the US, energy drinks are sold in over 140 countries

Caffeine amount (mg) in select beverages

  • 35 mg - 12 oz Coca Cola
  • 54 mg - 8 oz brewed tea
  • 55 mg - 12 oz Mountain Dew
  • 69 mg  - 12 oz Diet Pepsi Max
  • 80 mg - Can of Red Bull
  • 100 mg - 8 oz cup of brewed coffee
  • 140 mg - Can or Rock Star Juiced
  • 160 mg - 5 Hour Energy
Watch outs for kids.
  • About 50% of energy drinks are consumed by adolescents or young adults
  • 46% of the over 5,000+ caffeine overdoses in the US in 2007 occurred in those 19 years of age or younger. 
  • There is no need for children to consume energy drinks
  • Any children with medical or taking medications should never consumer energy drinks

Top healthy ways to boost your energy naturally
  1. Get enough sleep
  2. Control stress in your life to healthy levels
  3. Don't spike your blood sugar (eat low glycemic index foods), rather than foods with processed sugars
  4. Eat small meals frequently (don't get starved, don't get stuffed)
  5. Take a power nap (not a good idea while you are on the job)
  6. Exercise regularly
  7. Take a quick walk outside to get some fresh air and get the blood circulating
  8. Yawning and laughing are great ways to increase oxygen levels
  9. Stay hydrated (drink plenty of water, drink a glass of water between sodas)
  10. Live a purposeful life

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Irritable Bowel Syndrome - Foods that Help and Hurt

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is an elusive disease that affects 25-45 million people in the US and maybe even more dogs. IBS consists of waves of intestinal distress - intermittent constipation, diarrhea, cramping and gas. Doctors aren't exactly sure what causes it, but a healthy, well-controlled diet can help control flare-ups.

IBS flare-ups are commonly caused by your bowels working overtime to digest fat. When we eat high fat foods, our bowels contract which can cause a lot of pain for people with IBS. Additionally, high fat foods tend to have little fiber and fiber is a key to controlling IBS. Soluble fiber forms a sticky gel that acts like a protective coating inside your digestive tract - preventing irritants and toxins from causing gas and cramping. Insoluble fiber soaks up water as it passes through the large intestines, heloing to soften your stool. Both kinds of fiber help to sweep things along and on out from your stomach to your intesines and to your stool.

Foods that Can Calm/Soothe IBS Symptoms - Constipation
  • Apples-loaded with fiber
  • Berries-rich in fiber too (elderberries are raspberries are the highest)
  • Dark leafy greens - many like dandelion greens are an effective natural laxative because they help increase bile flow to the intestines
  • Flaxseed - rich in fiber and omega-3's. You'll need to either crack the seeds youraself or purchase flaxseed meal, because our bodies cannot crack open the hard shell that surrounds the seed. It tastes nutty and sweet - try some on your cerewal or smoothie.
  • Ginger-contains certain chemicals that stimulate your digestive system
Foods to Watch
  • Beans-excessive gas producers
  • Coffee-have been found to increase your bowels' sensitivity
  • Corn- 1 in 5 people are irritated by corn
  • Milk/Dairy-some with IBS are lactose intolerant
  • Sweets - can be hard to digest or move into intestines undigested.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Coffee - is it good for you?

There's nothing like a fresh brewed pot of coffee in the morning. And by 8am if I haven't had a cup, caffeine withdraw headaches set in...this worries me. Is this pick-me-up bad for me?

"Overall, the research shows that coffee is far more healthful than it is harmful," says Tomas DePaulis, PhD, research scientist at Vanderbilt University's Institute for Coffee Studies, which conducts its own medical research and tracks coffee studies from around the world. "For most people, very little bad comes from drinking it, but a lot of good."

Reduce your risk of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's
  • At least six studies indicate that people who drink coffee on a regular basis are up to 80% less likely to develop Parkinson's, with three showing the more they drink, the lower the risk. Several studies comparing moderate coffee drinkers (defined as 3-5 cups per day) with light coffee drinkers (defined as 0-2 cups per day) found that those who drank more coffee were significantly less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease later in life. A longitudinal study in 2009 found that moderate coffee drinkers had reduced risk of developing dementia in addition to Alzheimer's disease.
Reduce your risk of Diabetes
  • After analyzing data on 126,000 people for as long as 18 years, Harvard researchers calculate that compared with not partaking in America's favorite morning drink, downing one to three cups of caffeinated coffee daily can reduce diabetes risk by single digits.
Improves Cognitive Performance
  • In tests of simple reaction time, verbal memory and reasoning, participants who regularly drank coffee were found to perform better on all tests, with a positive relationship between test scores and the amount of coffee regularly drunk. Elderly participants were found to have the largest effect associated with regular coffee drinking.
  • Recent research has uncovered additional stimulating effects of coffee which are not related to its caffeine content. Coffee contains an as yet unknown chemical agent which stimulates the production of cortisone and adrenaline, two stimulating hormones.

Other research shows that compared to not drinking coffee, at least two cups daily can translate to a 25% reduced risk of colon cancer, an 80% drop in liver cirrhosis risk, and nearly half the risk of gallstones.

What's the down side?

Increased Risk of Osteoporosis

  • Because excess coffee consumption may prevent the full absorption of necessary minerals, it increases the risk of developing osteoporosis. A study of nearly 1000 postmenopausal women found that long-term consumption of 2 or more cups of caffeinated coffee per day was associated with decreased bone density, regardless of age, alcohol and tobacco consumption, hormone use, and other factors. However, there are indications that these negative effects can be mitigated by adding milk.

Weight Gain

  • Caffeine increases the risk of long-term weight gain by increasing stress hormones and creating a greater risk for hypoglycemia, which stimulates appetite. Although caffeine can assist with short-term weight loss, in the longer term, heavy consumption is more likely to lead to weight gain. I've definitely experienced stronger appetite after drinking lots of coffee. Also, studies have indicated that green tea may be better for maintaining healthy weight.
All in all, I'd say that my one cup a day isn't a big enough health risk, but I'll probably stick with just one cup...

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Can spices make hamburgers healthier?

There's a really interesting study at UCLA that I want to reveal. Researchers added polyphenol-rich spices to burgers during grilling to see if their antioxidant content may reduce the content of compounds linked to heart disease and possible cancer. The study taps into the promotion of the antioxidant-activity of spices. Herbs and spices often come out on top when scientists measure the antioxidant activity of common foods. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (Vol. 84, pp. 95-135) published in 2006 stated that the top 5 highest antioxidant content foods were indeed spices - cloves, oregano leaf, ginger, turmeric and cinnamon.

In this study, 11 healthy volunteers consumed either burgers seasoned with a spice blend, or a plain burger in a randomised manner. Malondialdehyde (MDA) in the burger, and in the urine and blood of the participants was used to measure the degree of lipid oxidation. Levels of MDA were reduced by 71 per cent in the spiced burger, compared with the plain burger, and this was associated with a 49 per cent reduction in urine levels of MDA following consumption of the spiced burger, compared with the plain burger. “This study showed that spices that are rich in antioxidants may be useful when cooking meat products to reduce the formation of lipid-peroxidation products,” wrote researchers at UCLA's Center for Human Nutrition.

Adding spices to foods is not only a great way to increase your enjoyment of foods, but it's a secret defense to protect your body as well. Here are some secrets to leverage the superpower of spices:

  1. Add some cinnamon to your oatmeal or even brownies.
  2. Consider baking ginger snaps (loaded with ginger, cinnamon and even a dash of turmeric) instead of chocolate chip cookies
  3. Spice up your fish with seseame and ginger; paprika and curry on your chicken and cinnamon to your pork.
  4. Try making up your own salad dressing with ginger, sesame, soy, turmeric and olive oil.
  5. Spice up your veggies with some chili powder.
  6. Sprinkle a little cinnamon on your apples

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Loneliness and Laughter Affects Your Health

While the emphasis of our blog is about nutrition, we are all about giving people the information they need to thrive in life. I'm deviating from nutrition tonight to discuss some really interesting findings that have important implications for us and those we love.

Emotions affect your health...period! Emotions drive biochemical responses in our body and these biochemical responses can either benefit or detriment our health. I want to discuss 2 emotional states that we don't often hear much about - loneliness and laughter.

Researchers at the University of Chicago found that loneliness can raise your blood pressure. University of Chicago researchers recently studied 229 people between the ages of 50 to 68 and discovered blood pressure appears to rise after four years of loneliness. The study shows, for the first time, a direct relation between loneliness and increases in blood pressure — a link that is independent of age and other factors that could cause blood pressure to rise, including body-mass index, smoking, alcohol use and demographic differences such as race and income. Even people with modest levels of loneliness were impacted. The researchers also looked at the possibility thatdepression and stress might account for the increase but found that those factors did not fully explain the increase in blood pressure. High blood pressure, often called a silent threat as it has few symptoms, undermines health in many ways. It increases the risk for heart attack and stroke and impairs kidney function. Like blood pressure, loneliness is sometimes not easy to detect. People who have many friends and a social network can feel lonely if they find their relationships unsatisfying.

One suggestion: Reconnect with the people from your past that you experienced unconditional friendship, acceptance and love. True friends can kindle smiles fand joy rom past memories. These are often the people who know you best and bring out the best in you...they help you thrive.

Laughter is good for your health in 3 ways.
1. Laughter reduces stress hormones. Laughter reduces the level of stress hormones like costisol, epinephrine (adenaline), dopamine and growth hormone. It also increases the level of health-enhancing hormones like endorphins, and neurotransmitters.

2. Laughter boost your immunity. Laughter increases the number of antibody-producing cells and enhances the effectiveness of T cells. All this means a stronger immune system, as well as fewer physical effects of stress. Laughter relaxes the whole body. A good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after.

3. Laughter protects the heart. Laughter improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect you against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems. One study of 19 people with diabetes looked at the effects of laughter on blood sugar levels. After eating, the group attended a tedious lecture. On the next day, the group ate the same meal and then watched a comedy. After the comedy, the group had lower blood sugar levels than they did after the lecture.

Find laughter and joy in your everyday life. Watch a funny movie. Do something silly with your kids or someone you love. Even at work - professional life can get so serious - bring some levity to the office. Not only will your coworkers appreciate it, they also might be little bit healthier for it.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Honey - Better than most Antimicrobials and Cough Medicines!

Honey has been known for its therapeutic uses for thousands of years. It has antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and wound healing properties. Honey contains some hydrogen peroxide, and its content of small amounts of micronutrients, polyphenolics and flavonoids contributes to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.

In a South African study, honey was just as effective in healing wounds as a conventional wound healing gel, but cost 25X less. In a Malaysian study, honey was found to be just as effective as more conventional iodine dressings in treating type 2 diabetic foot ulcers.

A new German study found honey to have a much lower glycemic index than a sugar equivalent. In fact, honey has been used to reduce body weight, glucose handling, blood lipids and other metabolic outcomes.

What's really interesting is honey as an effective cough medicine. A recent US trial found honey to be better than conventional cough suppressant (dextramethorphan) in every measure - cough frequency, cough severity, sleep quality and overall symptoms. My four-year old daughter had a nasty cough for over two weeks and the nurse surprisingly recommended honey instead of conventional suppressants because of her age. It worked like a charm for up to 4 hours.

Look for honey as a healthier sugar substitute on packaged foods labels. Most manufacturers don't use honey because it's very expensive compared to sugar. All of our products (human and dog) use honey as a sweetener ( because it's considered a superfood by nutritionists.