Archive for December, 2011

Coffee is a commonly discussed and disputed topic. The views on it are mixed. Some say go ahead and enjoy your jolt of java because it is good for you while others say forgo it in favor of tea. Let us look upon coffee in a positive light here and explore its health benefits.

Many of the health benefits that surround coffee are connected with consuming approximately two to four (eight ounce) cups per day. This tends to be the amount that most Americans drink on a daily basis.

Good for the Brain:

Coffee drinking has been found to be good for the brain – in moderate quantities that is. Drinking between one and five cups of coffee on a daily basis may help to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and Parkinson’s disease, according to various studies that have been conducted.

This sounds like a tall order for a hot beverage. How can this be the case?

Coffee contains antioxidants that may prevent a certain amount of damage occurring to the cells of the brain. According to experts in this area it also boosts the effects of neurotransmitters that are required for cognitive function. There are some new studies that suggest that as the consumption of coffee or tea goes up, the incidence of a form of brain cancer called glioma goes down.

Scientists speculate that there are compounds found in the brews of both coffee and tea that activate a DNA-repairing protein in cells. This in turn prevents damage to the DNA that can turn healthy cells into cancerous cells.

Reduce Risk of Diabetes:

Research studies have found that the frequent consumption of coffee, which would be four to five cups or more on a daily basis, is associated with a reduced risk of acquiring type two diabetes.

It is hypothesized that the antioxidant compounds in the hot beverage, which are quinides and cholorogenic acid, may increase the sensitivity of cells to insulin which helps to regulate blood sugar. It is not clear whether caffeinated or decaffeinated makes a high difference in this case but some studies suggest that decaffeinated may be the superior choice in this regard because caffeine has a tendency to lessen the boost found between insulin and sensitivity.

Good for the Heart:

Coffee may be heart-healthy but once again, this only works for moderate consumption.

Some research studies have proven that moderate coffee drinkers- which is to say, those who drink one to three cups per day – have lower rates of stroke than those who do not drink coffee at all. It is theorized that the antioxidants in the brew may play a role in suppressing the damaging effects that inflammation can cause to the arteries. It has also been theorized that these compounds may support the work of nitric oxide, which is a substance that widens blood vessels. By so doing it lowers blood pressure.

This does not mean that the more coffee you drink the healthier your heart will be. You can go overboard and take things to the opposite extreme by over consuming coffee.

You may like java but you do not want to drink more than five cup per day. This habit has been linked to higher risks of developing heart disease.  Medical researchers also believe that excessive caffeine can sabotage the work that the antioxidants perform.

Good for the Liver:

There is evidence that points to the fact that coffee can be of help to the liver. The research on this is limited at the present time but it does appear from what is known so far that those who drink coffee are less likely to develop cirrhosis as well as other types of liver diseases.

The initial findings point to the belief that caffeine, the antioxidant chlorogenic and caffeic acids may help to inhibit cancer cells and prevent inflammation from building in the liver.


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Eating healthy when you are busy making merry over the holidays can be accomplished if you dig your heels in and just make it happen! There are many ways that you can eat nutritiously and also encourage others to do so as well.

Do not be afraid to experiment with healthy holiday alternatives. Do not worry about what family members will say. Just put on a happy face and encourage them to open their minds and give your new options a try! If you are the one in charge of making food for a meal then take control and become the health police – well, within reason, don’t want you to lose friends!

Maybe this year you want to do things completely different. You could make a selection of salads instead of preparing heavy foods that are common winter fare such as roasts, casseroles or stews. Or maybe you can find ways to take the emphasis off of food all together and come up with an activity you can enjoy with family or friends that is not all about munching on goodies.

When it comes to vegetables serve as many raw ones as you can. Make up vegetable plates and serve with a healthy low fat dip. This is sure to be a hit amongst your health conscious guests!

Salads are a better choice than are vegetables that are baked in fat. Salads offer another means of eating raw veggies. You might even want to offer both veggie plates as well as a variety of salads. Lemon or lime juice tastes good on salads as does a variety of types of vinegar and fresh herbs such as rosemary or cilantro. Yummy and oh so healthy!

Green salads are an ideal choice and you can mix and match whatever veggies you want. If you want to whip up  a potato salad then instead of mixing it with mayonnaise use spices to give it that zing that you are looking for. You will not know how delicious it can be until you try it for yourself.

Speaking of potatoes, if you wish to have baked potatoes instead of topping them with butter try plain yogurt. Or you can try low fat sour cream or low fat cream cheese. Just make sure you only add a tiny amount to the potato. Do not drown it with anything or you will drown out the taste of it entirely!

To flavor your vegetables stay away from fattening butter or creamy sauces. Instead opt for herbs and spices. Experiment with a number of them to find the ones that are most appealing to your taste buds and the taste buds of your loved ones.

If you do want to include some cooked vegetables in your holiday meals then steam them instead of boiling them. Not only is this the healthier option but it also makes for some great tasting vegetables!

More tips can be found in our Healthy Eating Tips for the Holiday Season – Part I here.

Here’s to a healthy eating holiday for you and yours!


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When one thinks of the holiday season images of food and drinks often come to mind. The holidays are a season of parties, get together’s and plenty of socializing and entertaining.

With this come lots of foods to indulge in and enjoy. There are family parties, work functions and holiday cheer enjoyed amongst close friends. With all of the food choices available it can be difficult to stay away from unhealthy choices. After all this is the season when fattening and sugar laden foods and beverages abound!

If you are watching your weight, trying to get down to your goal weight or have made a promise to yourself to pursue the path of healthy living then the holidays can throw you off track.  No one wants their efforts sabotaged just as the year is coming to an end. It does not have to be that way. Here we offer you some healthy eating tips for the season. Some may be ones that you already know and already use while others may be new to you all together!

Eating healthy during the holidays is not that difficult if you know what things you can do to make it happen.

One of the most important ways to not overeat is to follow the old adage, “Everything in moderation.” To do this, trick your mind – use a smaller plate to eat your meals. Your mind will think that you are eating out of a full plate and you will be satisfied with the amount that you have eaten.

During the festive season if you go to a party or some other type of social gathering and there are plenty of choices then to ensure you are eating a well-balanced and healthy meal choose a selection of many different foods as opposed to piling your plate with only one or two types of foods. You do not want to consume the bad type of carbs or a kind of food that is really fatty.

You need to use the moderation rule when it comes to what you drink as well.

For every alcoholic beverage you consume (or every soft drink) you should then have a glass of water. Water is good for you in many ways and has so many benefits. It has no calories and there are no adverse side effects. It does not cost very much and it cleans the toxins out of your system. It also makes you feel full.

If you are the one throwing a party then make your own mixed drinks for your guests with real fruit juice as opposed to using canned fruit drinks.  Do not put out an overabundance of food for your guests if you plan to have a buffet. You do not want your guest to over serve themselves or over eat. Let’s face it; you are not the only person who wants to maintain your commitment to healthy eating over the holidays and beyond!

Keep these things in mind as you meander through the food minefield of the holiday seas. We’ll have more healthy choice tips for you next post.


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The fall months are cooler, the days are shorter and our health is presented with its share of challenges. The immune system must cope with bacteria and viruses throughout all 12 months of the year. However the greatest challenges to staying in good health present themselves in the fall months when temperatures begin to dip.

What can we do to take care of ourselves with all that the fall months have to throw our way to waylay our efforts to stay healthy? Here are some suggestions for you:

Bacteria and viruses surround us and are a part of our environment and our lives no matter what we do. Some of them are good for us but those are the ones we hardly take notice of. It is the bad ones that worry us and threaten our immune systems with the potential for illness. Once autumn arrives we start to spend more time indoors and this can leave us susceptible to germs and the possibility of falling ill.

One of your first lines of defense in the fall is to build up your immune system in a natural manner. You want to keep it as strong as possible throughout the fall and winter months. To do this you need to maintain a healthy lifestyle which is to say eating healthy and keeping physically active. It also helps to make immune strengthening herbs such as Black Elderberry and Astralagus a part of your daily routine.

You have probably heard this many times before and it may sound very cliché but you must pay close attention to what you eat. Your body requires five servings of fruits and vegetables per day.

Eating five servings will support your immune system in doing its best work. The primary sources of naturally occurring vitamins and minerals for the body are fruits and veggies. They contain nutrients that are the building blocks for the immune system. They also build strong cells and encourage cellular integrity throughout every cell of the body.

Antioxidants such as beta carotene, anthocyanidans and other types of carotenoids are what veggies and fruits are all about. Antioxidants have been proven through research studies to improve immune system function and health and also to protect the cells from free radical damage. Antioxidants are particularly prevalent in fruits and veggies with bright colors such as those that are blue, red, orange, purple and yellow.

It is best to consume these foods raw or steamed. Boiling them will destroy many of the nutrients so this method of eating them is not recommended.

Another simple way to keep your immune health where it should be is to make sure that you drink a plentiful supply of water. Keeping hydrated washes away toxins and it helps your red and white blood cells to function at their highest levels.

You also need to get your sleep and deal with the stress that comes your way. This is important all year long but is very critical during the fall months when your immune system is most likely to be assaulted with bad bacteria and viruses. Too much stress can trigger high levels of the hormone cortisol to skyrocket. This can affect your immune system and can render it not as fast to respond to issues as it would be otherwise.

To improve your immune system’s response time when it comes to stress you must find ways to cope with stress that are suitable for you.


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In part one of Exploring the Basics of Alternative Medicine we took a general look at alternative medicine and care. Here in part two we look more specifically at the categories that NIH has established. There are four in total and they are worth becoming more knowledgeable about because they can enrich and enhance your health and your overall life.

Mind-Body Medicine:

Meditation would fit into this category, as would prayer, music therapy and Tai Chi. These therapies are geared towards developing the mind’s ability to have an effect on physical symptoms that occur in relation to health issues. The goal of these therapies is to use the mind to focus in on the conditions that affect the functioning of the human body.

Biologically-Based Practices:

These therapies have to do with the substances that can be used to heal the body, such as vitamins, herbs and herbal remedies, dietary supplements and healthy foods. Herbal remedies would include plants that are used either for medicinal purposes or for improved nutrition. They can be obtained through a variety of means such as health food stores, grocery stores, pharmacies or through herbalists. You can purchase them in capsule form, as extracts, teas or tinctures.

The FDA does not regulate any of these items at the present time.

Manipulative and Body-Based Practices:

Massage and chiropractic treatments fit into this category of alternative health treatments. These natural therapies are based upon the manipulation and movement of parts of the body. Therapeutic touch would fit in here as well. If an alternative practitioner manually puts pressure on the body and realigns its parts to help it to heal and to alleviate symptoms of pain and discomfort then it is a manipulative and body-based practice.

Chiropractors are a perfect example of this. These doctors use manual manipulation to adjust the spinal column and to have a positive effect on the nervous system.

Energy Medicine:

This category of alternative medicine is based upon a theory that at present does not have any scientific basis in fact. Nevertheless it has many believers. The theory that underlies it is that there are energy fields that penetrate and surround the human body. Examples of these include therapeutic touch (which is also, as previously mentioned, a manipulative and body-based practice), qi gong and Reiki.

Included in this area are also treatments that are based upon bioelectromagnetics. This is the theory that electrical currents found in all living beings are capable of producing magnetic fields that  surround the body and from there extend beyond it into the natural environment.

Some alternative therapies do not fit neatly into any of these four categories and as previously mentioned, there is often overlap between the categories. For instance acupuncture comes from the practice of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and deals with stimulating points along the meridian of the body with thin needles in order to bring balance and harmony to the body by unlocking the pathways of energy. Homeopathic medicine and such practices as Ayurveda incorporate elements from a number of these categories.


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