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“As a society, we are obsessed with eating properly, yet many of us are poorly nourished. We cannot rely on external “experts” to guide us. “Experts” differ widely, and by listening to them instead of ourselves, we relinquish our power to notice, choose, and decide what is right for us.” ― Marcey Shapiro #takeyourpowerback #thinkonthis

 

Sleep Deprivation and Obesity

130806145542-largeA sleepless night makes us more likely to reach for doughnuts or pizza than for whole grains and leafy green vegetables, suggests a new study from UC Berkeley that examines the brain regions that control food choices. The findings shed new light on the link between poor sleep and obesity. Previous studies have linked poor sleep to greater appetites, particularly for sweet and salty foods, but the latest findings provide a specific brain mechanism explaining why food choices change for the worse following a sleepless night. “These results shed light on how the brain becomes impaired by sleep deprivation, leading to the selection of more unhealthy foods and, ultimately, higher rates of obesity,” said Stephanie Greer, a doctoral student in Walker’s Sleep and Neuroimaging Laboratory and lead author of the paper.

In this newest study, researchers measured brain activity as participants viewed a series of 80 food images that ranged from high-to low-calorie and healthy and unhealthy, and rated their desire for each of the items. As an incentive, they were given the food they most craved after the MRI scan. Food choices presented in the experiment ranged from fruits and vegetables, such as strawberries, apples and carrots, to high-calorie burgers, pizza and doughnuts. The latter are examples of the more popular choices following a sleepless night.

“What we have discovered is that high-level brain regions required for complex judgments and decisions become blunted by a lack of sleep, while more primal brain structures that control motivation and desire are amplified,” said Matthew Walker, a UC Berkeley professor of psychology and neuroscience and senior author of the study published Aug. 6 in the journal Nature Communications. Moreover, he added, “high-calorie foods also became significantly more desirable when participants were sleep-deprived. This combination of altered brain activity and decision-making may help explain why people who sleep less also tend to be overweight or obese.”

SourceSleep Deprivation Linked to Junk Food Cravings (Science Daily)

(Photo Source: Science Daily)

Eating more eggs is not associated with higher serum cholesterol

130719083908-largeIn 1973, the American Heart Association recommended limiting egg intake to a maximum of three per week, an idea that was accepted by health experts for years. Now, a new study has found that eating more eggs is not associated with higher serum cholesterol, regardless of the physical activity levels. This  study was led by researchers at the University of Granada who analyzed the link between egg intake in adolescents and the main risk factors for developing cardiovascular diseases, such as lipid profile, excess body fat, insulin resistance and high blood pressure. As Alberto Soriano Maldonado, primary author of the study, explains: “The conclusions, published in the journal Nutrición Hospitalaria, confirm recent studies in healthy adults that suggest that an intake of up to seven eggs a week is not associated with an increased risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.”

The most recent research suggests that increased serum cholesterol is more affected by intake of saturated fats and trans fats — present in red meat, industrial baked goods, etc. — than by the amount of cholesterol in the diet. Although the majority of foods rich in cholesterol are usually also rich in saturated fats, a medium-size egg contains only 200 milligrams of cholesterol but has more unsaturated fats than saturated fats and only has 70 calories. Egg is a cheap food that is rich in very high-quality proteins, minerals, folates and B vitamins.

Here are some other health benefits of eating eggs:

  • Reduce your risk of cancer: Whole eggs are one of the best sources of the nutrient choline (one large egg has about 30 percent of your RDA). A study published this year found that women with a high intake of choline were 24 percent less likely to get breast cancer. Note: Choline is found mostly in the yolk, so feel free to ditch the egg-white omelets.
  • Great for your vision: Egg yolks are also high in lutein and zeaxanthin, two antioxidants that have been shown to ward off macular degeneration–so you’ll still be able to eyeball hotties from afar when you’re 80.
  • Helps you stay fullLouisiana State University system researchers found that obese people who ate a two-egg breakfast at least five times a week lost 65 percent more weight and had more energy than women who breakfasted on bagels. “Eggs are more satisfying than carbs, making you feel full longer,” says Kristine Clark, Ph.D., R.D., assistant professor of nutrition at Penn State.

SourceEating Eggs Is Not Linked to High Cholesterol in Adolescents, Study Suggests (Science Daily)

(Photo Source: Science Daily)

Vegetarian Athletes Can Stay Competitive With Plant-Based Diets

78633519It’s still a common question: can vegetarians perform as well as their carnivorous counterparts in physical competition? A recent study suggests that it is very possible. A balanced plant-based diet provides the same quality of fuel for athletes as a meat-based diet, provided vegetarians seek out other sources of certain nutrients that are more commonly found in animal products, according to a presentation at the 2013 Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) Annual Meeting & Expo®. The research was compiled by Dilip Ghosh, Ph.D., director of Nutriconnect in Sydney, Australia. The key to success, Ghosh found, is that vegetarian athletes must find ways within their diet to reach the acceptable macronutrient distribution for all athletes, which he breaks down as carbohydrates (45-65 percent), fat (20-35 percent) and protein (10-35 percent). “Vegetarian athletes can meet their dietary needs from predominantly or exclusively plant-based sources when a variety of these foods are consumed daily and energy intake is adequate,” Ghosh wrote in his presentation.

Vegetarians should find non-meat sources of iron, creatine, zinc, vitamin B12, vitamin D and calcium because the main sources of these typically are animal products and could be lacking in their diets. Vegetarian women, in particular, are at increased risk for non-anemic iron deficiency, which may limit endurance performance. In addition, vegetarians as a group have lower mean muscle creatine concentrations, which may affect high-level exercise performance. These deficiencies can be avoided or remedied through several food sources acceptable to the vegetarian diet, such as orange/yellow and green leafy vegetables, fruits, fortified breakfast cereals, soy drinks, nuts and milk products (for vegetarians who consume dairy).

Just for the fun of it, check out this list of Five Fit Female Vegetarian and Vegan Athletes. These five vegetarian athletes rose to the top of the sports world — without any help from meat:

  1. Debbie Lawrence: Racewalker Debbie Lawrence has been a vegetarian for many years, including when she competed in three Olympics and various world championships. She’s also held the world record for the racewalker 5K and is a Pan American Games silver medalist.
  2. Fiona Oakes: Cyclist Fiona Oakes has been a vegan for over 20 years, in which time she’s competed as a track cyclist in the 1992 Olympics. She’s won several titles for the UK as a cyclist, and when she’s not on her bike, she’s running. With 24 marathons under her belt, Fiona’s currently taking part in the six-day, 151-mile Marathon des Sables endurance race.
  3. Ruth Heidrich: Ruth Heidrich knows about running. The author, athlete, and raw food advocate, who’s been a vegan for over 30 years, holds gold medals in races ranging from 5Ks to ultramarathons and has competed in several Ironman triathlons.
  4. Martina Navratilova: Before Martina Navratilova competed on “Dancing With the Stars”, she was winning titles in the tennis world. The tennis champ credits a plant-based diet for allowing her to compete — and win — well into her 40s. “It made me mentally sharper and made it possible for me to endure the physical conditioning that is required to compete at that level,” Martina has said.
  5. Venus Williams: After a diagnosis of the rare autoimmune disease Sjögren’s Syndrome (which caused her to drop out of last year’s Australian Open), Venus drastically changed her diet. Now the tennis star, who competed in a match last month, is sticking to a raw vegan diet in the hopes that it will help reduce the symptoms of her disease.

SourceMonitoring Nutrient Intake Can Help Vegetarian Athletes Stay Competitive (Science Daily)

(Photo Source: The Nest)

Boost your moods naturally with foods

foods-for-spring-season-400x400When it comes to our mental health, the pharmaceutical industry spent billions of dollar in advertisement trying to convince us that the “chemical imbalance” in our brain can only be fixed with the latest blockbuster drugs. For the majority of us, drugs are only temporary quick fixes and they do not address the problems in the long run. The drug industry are after new customers and new markets, not cures.   “Food, if it’s chosen well, can reshape our medical destinies for the better,” says David Katz, MD, director of the Yale Prevention Research Center. It can improve our mood and focus,  increase energy and vitality, and brighten up your skin. Here are some ways to graze your way to a healthy and happy you:

  • Snack on walnuts: Walnuts are packed with tryptophan, an amino acid your body needs to create the feel-great chemical serotonin. (In fact, Spanish researchers found that walnut eaters have higher levels of this natural mood-regulator.) Another perk: “They’re digested slowly,” Dr. Katz says. “This contributes to mood stability and can help you tolerate stress.”
  • Add asparagus to your salad: A cup of cooked asparagus has 268 micrograms (mcg)—two-thirds of the 400 mcg RDA for women. Add a cup of enriched pasta—which is fortified with folic acid, the synthetic form of folate—and you’ll have a feel-good meal indeed. Asparagus are also one of the best veggie sources of folate, a B vitamin that could help keep you out of a slump. “Folate is important for the synthesis of the neurotransmitters dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine,” says David Mischoulon, MD, a psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School. All of these are crucial for mood.
  • Eat fish and nuts rich in omega-3 fatty acids: Omega-3 fatty acids have been proven to vital for moods and memory. Bonus: Omega-3s also regulate oil production in the skin and boost hydration, which helps keep your complexion dewy and healthy. “Salmon is rich in a fatty acid called eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), a type of omega-3 that naturally helps block the release of UV-induced enzymes that diminish collagen, causing lines and sagging skin,” says Ariel Ostad, MD, a dermatologist in New York City.

Source: Top 10 Superfoods for Spring (from Health)

(Image Source: Health)

More reasons to love kale

massaged-kale-saladKale is one of the healthiest vegetables around and you can ensure maximum nutrition and flavor by cooking it properly, or not cooking it at all; kale makes a crunchy, enticing addition to all manner of raw dishes. Kale is super nutritious with powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. The Isothiocyanates made from glucosinolates in kale play a primary role in kale’s ability to lower the risk of many cancers, as well as indole-3-carbinol, which boosts DNA repair in cells and may block the growth of cancer cells. Kale is also a good source of carotenoids and flavonoids, beta carotene, vitamin K, vitamin C, lutein, zeaxanthin, and a fairly rich in calcium too. Kale is far more nutritious than other leafy greens, and here are some reasons why you try to eat them more often:

1. Anti-inflammatory: Inflammation is the number one cause of arthritis, heart disease and a number of autoimmune diseases, and is triggered by the consumption of animal products. Kale is an incredibly effective anti-inflammatory food, potentially preventing and even reversing these illnesses.

2. Iron: Despite the myth that vegetarians are anemic, the number of non-vegetarians with iron-deficiencies is on the rise. Per calorie, kale has more iron than beef.

3. Calcium: Dairy and beef both contain calcium, but the U.S. still has some of the highest rates of bone loss and osteoporosis in the world. Kale contains more calcium per calorie than milk (90 grams per serving) and is also better absorbed by the body than dairy.

4. Fiber: Like protein, fiber is a macronutrient, which means we need it every day. But many Americans don’t eat nearly enough and the deficiency is linked to heart disease, digestive disorders and cancer. Protein-rich foods, like meat, contain little to no fiber. One serving of kale not only contains 5 percent of the recommended daily intake of fiber, but it also provides 2 grams of protein.

5. Omega fatty acids: Essential Omega fats play an important role in our health, unlike the saturated fats in meat. A serving of kale contains 121 mg of omega-3 fatty acids and 92.4 mg of omega-6 fatty acids.

6. Immunity: Superbugs and bacteria are a serious risk to our health. Many of these come as a result of factory farm meat, eggs and dairy products. Kale is an incredibly rich source of immune-boosting carotenoid and flavanoid antioxidants including vitamins A and C.

Sources:

  1. Kale (from Organic Authority)
  2. 7 Reasons Kale Is the New Beef (from Organic Authority)

(Photo Credit: HomeGrown Organics: Gainesville)

Natural ways to reduce your blood sugar

cinnamonThere is a strong link between high blood sugar levels and various types of cancers in women. The researchers found that women with elevated glucose levels were more likely to develop cancer, and that those in the highest third of glucose levels were nearly twice as likely to develop cancer than those in the lowest third. Studies have also shown that  it is possible that elevated glucose levels are linked to increased blood levels of growth factors and inflammatory factors that spur the growth of cancerous cells. Obesity — which is usually accompanied by elevated blood levels of glucose and insulin — is a another risk factor for women of all ages. Defend yourself against diabetes, obesity, and other health problems by sticking to these simple lifestyle choices:

  1. Get enough sleep: Long-term sleep deprivation may amp up the body’s insulin resistance, especially in people genetically predisposed to diabetes. A preliminary University of Chicago study found that those who regularly snoozed fewer than six hours a night were at the highest risk. Try to get at least seven hours of shut-eye each evening.
  2. Choose whole foods: Whole foods are usually higher in fiber and nutrients. The rough stuff isn’t just good for digestion—it also curbs post-meal sugar spikes by slowing down the flow of glucose into the bloodstream. So when you crave something sweet, opt for fiber-rich fruit such as raspberries or pears. And consider adding brown rice to your diet: Eating two or more servings a week lowers diabetes risk by 11 percent, says an Archives of Internal Medicine study.
  3. Eat your spices: Cinnamon may be an ace at lowering blood sugar levels, says research in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine. Rich in nutrients called polyphenols, the sweet spice may help insulin do its job more effectively. Sprinkle some into your morning joe or mix it into an oatmeal snack.
  4. Lastly, don’t take everything so seriously: Chronic stress is a risk factor for many major diseases, including diabetes. “When your body senses stress, it releases hormones that increase blood sugar,” says Colberg-Ochs. That rush is beneficial in a pinch but dangerous long-term. Regularly practicing deep breathing or meditation, listening to calming music, or getting massages can quell stress hormones and help lower overall blood sugar, she says.

Source: Cut your diabetes risk (from Women’s Health Magazine)

(Photo Credit: Women’s Health Magazine)

Delicious Ways to Add Fiber to Your Diet

Papaya-Fruit-food-wallpaper-fruit-wallpapers-1024x768Dietary fiber fills you up, keeps blood sugar levels in check, and helps prevent chronic diseases, including cancer and cardiovascular disease. But even though fiber is widely available in fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole unprocessed grains, most of us get very little of the stuff — a paltry 14 grams a day, compared with the recommended 25 to 35 grams. The good news: Not only is boosting your fiber intake easy but it’s tasty too! Here are some delicious ways to add fiber to your everyday meals: Start the day with oatmeal or a whole-grain cereal that contains at least 5 grams of fiber per serving. Want to boost the fiber content of your breakfast even higher? Top it with wheat germ, raisins, bananas, or berries, all of which are good sources of fiber. Grain is not the only way to add fiber to your diet. Here are some foods that are naturally high in fiber are how to add them to your meals:

  • Papaya: A cup of cubed papaya has only 55 calories and 2.5 grams of fiber, and it’s chock-full of important nutrients, including potassium, calcium, and vitamins C and A. What’s more, since papaya is loaded with digestive enzymes, it helps break down protein. Fish tacos with papaya salsa, anyone?
  • Berries (Especially Raspberries): All berries are disease-fighting superstars — and most are low in calories and high in fiber. Raspberries, for example, have a measly 64 calories per cup but 8 grams of fiber. Berries also contain polyphenols and anthocyanins, powerful plant chemicals that help fight cancer, reduce inflammation, and ease the symptoms of arthritis.
  • Pumpkin: Don’t restrict this nutritional powerhouse to fall holiday fare. With only 49 calories per cup and 2.5 grams of fiber, it’s a great vegetable to enjoy all year long. What’s more, pumpkins are loaded with potassium (565 mg per cup), a mineral that has been shown to build strong bones and dramatically reduce the risk of stroke. Need another reason to scoop out the orange stuff? Per cup, pumpkin has more than 2,400 mcg of the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, which help keep your eyes healthy and your vision sharp.
  • Avocado: Eat avocados whole right out of the skin. With a couple of hundred calories, tons of heart-healthy fat, and half a day’s fiber, you’ll be full for at least a few hours.
  • Apple: Apples and their skin pack twice as much fiber as other common fruits, like peaches, grapes, and grapefruit. “Plus, for someone who has high cholesterol, the soluble fiber in an apple helps regulate cholesterol,” says Sari Greaves, R.D. a national spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.

SourceBoost Your Diet With Fiber (from Everyday Health)

(Photo Credit: Everyday Health)