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Archive for November, 2011

When you hear the words “alternative medicine” what do you think of?

If you are like some people then you probably think of meditation, herbal remedies, acupuncture, hypnosis or something along those lines. All of these practices are treatments that fall under the larger subheading of CAM or complementary and alternative medicine.

But what is alternative medicine all about and more specifically what does it mean to the individuals that seek it out when they are experiencing health and wellness issues? Let us look at this closer.

The Definition of Alternative Medicine:

Alternative medicine does not have a definition that is set in stone. It is often described and determined differently by various individuals. It may mean something different to you than it means to your mother or father, brother or sister, spouse or child. In most cases alternative medicine includes any “healing practices that are not part of mainstream medicine.” This means that it is practices that are not commonly taught to physicians in training when they are in medical school and it is not often used by doctors in their offices or in hospitals throughout the country.

Alternative care is always in flux and is constantly evolving and changing as it becomes more and more acceptable by physicians. It is also becoming more requested and understood by patients with any number of health problems. Many practices that were brushed aside as strange, silly, harmful or downright useless 20 to 30 years ago are now viewed as beneficial therapies that complement traditional medicine that is used in the Western world.

In the United States the agency that does the vast majority of scientific research into alternative therapies is The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) that is found at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

NIH breaks down alternative care into four general categories. These categories include mind-body medicine, biologically based practices, manipulative and body-based practices and finally, energy medicine. These areas often overlap. Once you understand more about each one of these alternative therapy categories then you can determine which one of them or which varieties of them are well suited to your life and your aches and pains.

In part II you can read about the breakdown of the categories of alternative treatments.

Samantha

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Have you heard about the gifts that the sea has to offer you? Sea vegetables are the newest superfoods. One of these is seaweed.

If you are not used to eating treasures from the sea and need to get into a seaside state of mind when it comes to food then there is no time like the present to start experimenting with this tasty treat!

Seaweed is an acquired taste and may not be a food that  will become your all-time favorite but it is one of the new healthy superfoods and it is worth giving your taste buds time to get acquainted with them.

If you look around the grocery store and your local markets you are likely to see plenty of seaweed products and seaweed snacks to sink your teeth into. Sea vegetables are getting more attention as of late because they are indeed a superfood that boosts benefits that range from helping you to lose weight to protecting your heart.

Current research studies are looking at how sea veggies may help to decrease the incidence of blood clots as well as hardening of the arteries. The protein found in some types of seaweed is believed to work in the same manner as prescription drug medication for lowering blood pressure. Other studies have concluded that an ingredient in brown seaweed can help to burn body fat at a more rapid pace.

Seaweed surely is a superfood that we can be happy that the sea has shared with us!

Seaweed offers many health benefits and it is also a rich source of the mineral iodine. It also happens to be one of the few sources of this mineral. Other sea vegetables that offer many of the same benefits as seaweed and fall into this same group include kelp, hijiki, nori and wakame. A quarter cup of seaweed will provide you with 276 percent of the daily value of iodine. When the body does not take in enough iodine it can lead to fatigue, weight gain, hypothyroidism (or hyperthyroidism in some cases) and depression.

Vegetables that come from the sea also contain a plentiful supply of the mineral magnesium which the body needs. Magnesium can help to reduce hot flashes in menopausal women. It can also help to improve sleep.

If you are not sure about adding seaweed to your diet then start small.

Try a dried seaweed snack or add a tiny portion of seaweed to a salad. If you like pizza then gives seaweed pizza a try! Start with a wholegrain flat bread crust, brush some extra virgin olive oil on it or sesame oil and then add garlic or onions to it, seaweed, nori and tomatoes.

A seaweed salad makes an excellent complement for sushi. You might be surprised at how tasty this superfood from the water can be!

Seaweed works well with any meal, including breakfast. Nori can be whipped up with green onions, grated carrots, sesame seeds, slices of mushroom and free range eggs to make a delicious tasting start to the day!

Becca

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You are probably use to cooking with oils and fats when you are preparing meals but you may wonder what is the differences between one and the other.

You also probably wonder what is the difference between olive oil (the regular kind), virgin olive oil and extra virgin. Let me explain that below.

Olive oil is created when olives are crushed up to make a paste that is then subject to a press. When the oil comes out if it has a low level of acidity as well as an appealing taste and a good smell then it is given the name extra virgin or virgin. Extra virgin olive oil is a slight grade and quality higher than that of virgin oil. There is very little difference between them however.

Extra virgin and virgin olive oil are ideal for dipping bread into and for using for dressings on salads and for drizzling on top of vegetables and other types of foods. These types have a delicate flavor and aroma that is best when it is not heated. However some people do like to cook with these types of olive oils. In general the rule is that the deeper the color of the olive oil is the more intense its flavor will be. Only you can decide if you wish to cook with extra virgin or virgin olive oil.

If on the other hand the oil is not of the best quality and is high in acid then it is refined and combined with either extra virgin or virgin oil and turned into regular olive oil. Then it becomes a type of all-purpose oil that can be used for cooking purposes. However this kind can also be dribbled onto food but should be used sparingly.

All three kinds of olive oil boost benefits for the heart. However it is worth noting that the virgin and extra virgin olive oils contain additional antioxidants that make them a tad bit healthier for the heart than that of regular olive oil.

Fattening and Healthy – Huh?

You have most likely heard that oils are high in their fat content. If that is the case then how can they also be healthy?

Most oils are fattening because they contain a large amount of calories. For instance a tablespoon of oil can contain approximately 120 calories. Due to its water content even butter has fewer calories than fat. A tablespoon of butter contains 100 calories. Whipped butter that you purchase in a tub has only 60 to 70 tablespoons because of the air that has been added to it. When you consider the calories found in oils you realize that you should consume them in very small quantities.

But before we badmouth oils any further regarding the calories they contain it is worth noting that it is healthier to consume those 120 calories from oil than from any form of butter.

It is also worth knowing that our bodies require fat to be healthy. Cutting out fat all together from your diet is very unhealthy. Eating healthy fats such as those you receive from olive oil is a must.

The human body requires fat to absorb the fat-soluble vitamins including A, D, E and K. Practically every part of the body needs fat to thrive. This includes the brain, heart, skin, hair and all of the vital organs.

You miss out on the fatty acids when you deprive yourself of fats such as olive oil.

Samantha

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Cooking oils are very misunderstood. Some people say that there are certain ones that are good for your health while others say that they are all bad for you and you should stay away from them.

Today let’s take a closer look at cooking oils and fats in order to break things down and to figure out whether you should include them on your ingredients list when you are making meals.

The worst kind of oil that you can consume is trans fat or partially hydrogenated oils. These types of oils can be found in packaged and processed foods such as baked goods, candy, chips, crackers and many types of margarines. Partially hydrogenated oils can be described as being vegetable oil that has been put through a chemical process that alters the composition of it. The purpose of putting oils through this process is to extend the shelf life of the food it is an ingredient of.

Unfortunately this is very unhealthy for the human body. Read food labels carefully and stay away from packaged and prepared foods that contain trans fat or partially hydrogenated oils.

Even when it is consumed in small quantities trans fat can harm your heart. It can reduce the amount of good (HDL) cholesterol in your bloodstream and increase the level of bad (LDL) cholesterol. It can also increase the potential of developing diabetes. According to the American Heart Association it is strongly recommended that no more than one percent of your total daily caloric intake should come from partially hydrogenated oils. This works out to be less than two grams per day for females.

Trans fat is also sometimes labelled as saturated fat on food labels.

Do you ever debate with other people which is better for health – butter or olive oil? When it comes to your health olive oil comes out ahead but butter plays an important role as well. All the oils on the market are a combination of fats. They are made up of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA), polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) and saturated fatty acids (SFA). However when it comes to olive oil as well as butter there is one kind of fat that is most prevalent. It helps to know as well that butter can be thought of as a solidified oil.

Olive oil is high in monounsaturated fat which is good for the heart. It decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease because it increases HDL cholesterol and reduces LDL cholesterol. Butter though is mainly made up of saturated fat. This kind of fat is unhealthy. It causes inflammation to develop throughout the human body and it increases the bad cholesterol in the blood. Knowing this you are better off choosing olive oil over butter.

Butter does tend to work better if you are baking. The consistency of it as well as the flavor and smell are more conducive to making delicious cookies, cakes, squares, loaves and other forms of pastries.

Butter is solid at room temperature and you can easily maintain control over how much you use. When you use olive oil it is a little more difficult to know how much you have used. The lesson to be learned here is that olive oil is the better choice but butter can be enjoyed on occasion but always use a light touch.

Watch out for part II of this series where we explore more about healthy and unhealthy cooking oils.

Samantha

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