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Archive for March, 2012

Some foods offer a rich source of antioxidants while others contain few if any antioxidants. But what are antioxidants and exactly how do they benefit our health?

Antioxidants have become one of the popular health buzzwords of our time. But you cannot know if you are eating the right foods that are rich in antioxidants if you do not know what antioxidants are! Help!

What are Antioxidants?

Antioxidants can be described as substances such as vitamins and minerals that can work to fight the damage caused by free radicals throughout the cells in the human body. Antioxidants are capable of neutralizing the oxidation process which can lead to premature aging and can lead to the onset of many diseases. Free radicals, it goes without saying, can be very harmful to the health of humans.

Eating foods rich in antioxidants on a regular basis is easier than you might think because they can be found in an abundance of foods that you can buy at grocery stores and local markets. The more you consume foods rich in antioxidant content the healthier will your body be, both on the inside and the outside.

What Should You Eat?

There are many foods that contain high levels of antioxidants. Here we look at two of the top picks. Both are green, but one is a food and another a beverage.

Broccoli: When it comes to going green for health, broccoli is a true nutrition winner! This is a veggie that is very high in antioxidant content. It is a vegetable that belongs to the cruciferous family and it is instrumental in fighting free radicals when it comes to disease prevention. Broccoli contains a phytonutrient called sulforaphane which reduces the risk of developing a variety of types of cancers.  This green disease fighting machine contains more of the mineral calcium than a glass of milk and more vitamin C than an orange.

Green Tea: All types of tea are healthy for you but green tea is rich in antioxidants. This is the case because it contains high concentrations of catechin polyphenols. This ingredient helps the body to burn fat and it also reduces the incidence of many diseases including numerous forms of cancer, cardiovascular disease and stroke. If you want to shed some pounds then increasing your intake of green tea is a good idea. It is also an excellent choice of warm beverage for those who have high cholesterol. Consume two to four cups a day for the optimum benefits for your health and to receive the high antioxidant content that your body needs!

Becca

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Have you ever heard of the word triclosan? It is a relatively new ingredient that is added to many different products to either prevent or reduce the development of bacteria. It can be found in antibacterial soaps, body washes, toothpaste and cosmetics.

It can be added to clothing, furniture, kitchenware and toys. Triclosan can show up in any products that are regulated by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The Safety of Triclosan:

Many people wonder about the safety of this modern ingredient. At the present time it has not been shown through studies to pose any threat to the lives of human beings. However since the FDA last reviewed triclosan a few years back several scientific studies have come out that point to the fact that this ingredient deserves further review.

Studies performed on animals have discovered that it alters the regulation of hormones. The data on these studies however is not proof that it affects humans in the same manner. The FDA is involved in an ongoing review of the effects of triclosan. At the present time there is not enough concrete evidence to limit or change its use in many common everyday products.

When it comes to some products there is evidence to show that triclosan does offer a benefit to consumers. For example in 1997 the FDA reviewed data on the ingredient as it pertained to Colgate Total toothpaste. The evidence did clearly show that triclosan was effective in preventing a disease of the gums known as gingivitis.

On the other hand when it comes to other types of consumer products the FDA has not yet found any evidence to prove that triclosan offers any benefits to health. There is also no evidence to suggest that when triclosan is included in antibacterial soaps and body washes that it offers any benefits over washing with regular soap and water.

It cannot be emphasized enough that tests are ongoing but at the present time triclosan has not been deemed an ingredient that threatens the health and safety of people.

What Consumers Should Know:

It is important that you read labels on the products that you buy and that you become familiar with the types of ingredients listed. There are some things all consumers should know before they purchase products that contain triclosan.

The first piece of information worth knowing is that triclosan is not known to be dangerous to people. You also must know that the FDA does not have enough safety evidence to alter the use of triclosan in many commercial products. Once all of the findings are in the FDA will communicate what it has discovered to the general public.

Body washes, as well as antibacterial soaps and toothpastes are considered to be over-the-counter drugs. If these products contain triclosan then by law it must be listed as an ingredient on the label in the area known as the drug facts box. If a cosmetic product contains this substance then it will be added to the ingredient list on the product label.

Samantha

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This is the second part of my series on stress, you can read Ways to Reduce Stress in Your Life – Part I here.

Eliminating all forms of stress from your life is not possible but what is possible is finding ways to relax and calm yourself. To fortify yourself against the stressors that come your way and to keep tension at a manageable level you need to find effective ways to cope. In part one we offered some help in this area and now in part two we offer more tips.

If you like to take walks for exercise then you are already doing a world of good for your mental health as well. Walking is an excellent stress buster because it quiets and calms the mind. If you are not a walker but yet you seem to have stress invading your life constantly then adding a 20 to 30 minute walk to your daily life can help you out tremendously when it comes to reducing anxiety and stress.

Walking in general is good even if it is done on an indoor or outdoor track but walking outdoors such as in a local park is even better. According to a recent study done in Japan walking outside, especially in a forest setting can be an excellent way to cope with chronic stress. There is something about nature, trees and streams that can benefit those who are consumed by stressful thoughts.

Having an animal for a companion or a few of them can help to relieve stress. In fact it is one of the many benefits of having a pet.

Whether you have a dog, cat, guinea pig, rabbit or bird he or she can help to reduce the stress you are feeling. Studies have connected owning a pet to having lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels. One study had subjects watch 10 to 15 minutes of cute films about animals. Following the viewing the volunteers were found to have lower heart rates and blood pressure and found to be much less anxious.

Having a room with a view can help to turn stress upside down. Studies have shown that students who have seats near windows recover quicker from performing stressful tasks than do those who sit facing blank walls or even those looking at a  screen or picture of a nature scene. Next time you feel overcome with stress step away from your computer or take yourself away from the problem at hand and spend a little time glancing out the window.

This can also help to clear your mind, relax your body and bring your heart rate down to where it should be. If you do not have a window view from wherever you do most of your work then try to do something to change that. If you cannot then at least do some window gazing during your breaks.

Music is good for the soul. It can also lift your spirits and make your troubles seem thousands of miles away. When stress seems to be winning in your life listen to some relaxing music of your choosing. Everyone has different tastes in music. Listening to tunes that are mellow in nature can slow down your breathing and your heart rate and make you feel so much better. Find what suits your musical style and then listen to it to your heart’s content when stress is building in your life.

Let the music soothe your senses.

Samantha

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Stress. It is one small word but oh what a loaded word! Too much of it is bad for your health and your overall well-being. It can affect your heart, your relationships, your ability to focus and make decisions and even your cholesterol level. Here we look at some simple ways that you can relieve tension and minimize stress in your busy life.

You know that expression, “Stop and smell the roses”? Well when it comes to stress there is some logic in that. It is aromatherapy and stopping to smell the roses that can help to ease stress. Roses contain a chemical called linalool which has been proven through scientific studies to reduce stress.

This is also true of fruits such as oranges, mangoes and grapes, and herbs such as basil, rosemary and lavender. Keep a vase of flowers nearby or some dried lavender or a bowl of fruit and take a whiff of it whenever you are feeling blue.

Here is one you may never have thought of – chew gum. Chewing gum offers a means of busting stress and it is a pleasant treat that will not cause a spike in your cholesterol level. A recent study showed that workers who chew gum reported a lesser amount of stress than did workers who did not chew gum. Putting a piece of gum in your mouth and chomping on it stimulates a nerve known as the vagus nerve. This nerve helps to calm and relax you. Just make sure that you think of the health of your teeth as well.

Naturally, opt for sugar-free gum.

Sipping a relaxing cup of tea is well… relaxing and soothing when you are feeling like a bundle of nerves. Take a hint from the British. The Brits brew a pot of tea when stress threatens to boil over and it helps them to feel calmer and more in control of their circumstances. Black tea has been found to be high in antioxidants that blast stress.

These antioxidants include flavonoids, polyphenols and amino acids. There is also evidence to suggest that green tea can help to lower the bad type of cholesterol in the body, otherwise known as LDL cholesterol. Next time you feel overwhelmed with stress brew yourself a cup and sit down and enjoy it!

Do you laugh a lot? Do you even laugh enough? If you cannot remember when you last cut loose with a hearty laugh then it is no surprise that your health is paying the price when it comes to stress. As far as stress is concerned, laughter really is one of the best types of medicine. When you let go with a hearty belly laugh this brings about the production of endorphins which are the feel-good brain transmitters. It also relaxes blood vessels and thereby increases blood flow. As an antidote for tension laughter is very good indeed!

More ways continue in Part II to stop stress in its tracks.

Samantha

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During winter and as you go about your daily lives you need to take extra special care of your health. The cold season brings with it plenty of chills, and dialing up the heat on your health and well-being is important for every member of the family.

When the cold and flu season strikes good nutrition is important for everyone in your household. Serve your children the most nutritious snacks you can and make sure that their daily diets are well balanced. Eating right makes it easier for the immune system to do its job properly. Some smart winter snack options for yourself and your kids include raw vegetables such as carrot sticks, celery and cut up pieces of broccoli and  cauliflower, dried and fresh fruits such as apples, oranges and pears, yogurt with flax-seed or wheat germ and some berries mixed in and whole-wheat crackers with cheese.

Make sure that your children do not become dehydrated. While we sweat less in winter than we do in the summer months it is still important to keep the body well hydrated.

Encourage your children to drink water, as well as juices that are low in sugar but high in their vitamin C content. Studies have shown that being properly hydrated can lessen the severity as well as the duration of colds during the winter months. Decaffeinated tea and hot cocoa are also excellent winter beverages as they are good sources of nutrients and antioxidants which in turn can help to strengthen the immune system.

Make sure you dress your children properly when they leave for school and when they go out to play. You want them to feel comfortable but not so bulky in their outdoor clothing that they cannot move about freely.

Dress them in layers and make sure when they go out to play that you have dry mittens, hats and scarves waiting by the door. On days when the temperature drops limit their outdoor playtime or suggest an enjoyable indoor activity instead.

Keep your kids prepared for the time of year it is. Tuck an extra pair of gloves or mittens in their school bags, as well as an extra pair of socks. Buy small packs of tissues and put them into one of the pockets of their school bags as well. Make sure you let them know that they are there if they need them! The tissues will help your children blow their noses and will prevent the spread of germs.

If they get snow in their boots when they are playing in the school yard then an extra pair of socks will come in handy. Gloves get wet and sometimes one will go missing so  having an extra pair can help out your child if that happens to him or her during the school day.

Being outside in the winter is not only fun but healthy and keeps everybody sane – just make sure your kids are well-protected from the cold and change wet or damp clothes when they come indoors.

Becca

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