Tag Archives: live well

The Many Benefits of Vitamin A

In history, there have been many noteworthy firsts: the first baseball player to hit 50 home runs in a season, the first man to walk on the moon, the first talking movie, the first female Supreme Court justice, and the first vitamin to be discovered.

The first suspicions of Vitamin A’s powers were recognized by the ancient Egyptians, who realized night blindness could be treated by eating liver. But it wasn’t until its formal discovery in 1913 that it officially claimed the first letter of the alphabet for its name.

Since then, Vitamin A has been delighting acne-prone teens, wrinkle prone ladies, and fighting to protect humans from all sorts of symptoms of malnourishment and cancer. So, as we do with all famous firsts, let’s take a moment to commemorate. Here are some of the many benefits of Vitamin A.

 Eye Health

Vine-Vera-Healthy-Eyes
Beta carotene, a form of Vitamin A in plants, plays a vital role in the prevention of macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness. An Age-Related Eye Disease Study sponsored by the National Eye Institute found that people at high risk for eye disease had a 25% reduced risk of macular degeneration when they took a daily multivitamin containing Vitamins A and C, zinc, and copper over a six-year period. Another showed that vitamin A drops were an effective treatment for dry eyes and that OTC eye drops containing vitamin A were as effective as expensive prescription formulas.

Immune Support
Vitamin A regulates genes involved in immune responses, which means it is a crucial component in fighting everything from the common cold to autoimmune diseases and cancer.

A London-based study showed that Vitamin A supplements reduced child mortality rates by 24% in low to middle-income families, while the deficiency in the vitamin made children more vulnerable to infections like the measles and diarrhea.

Fights Inflammation
The antioxidant properties in vitamin A can help fight free radicals in the body that causes cellular and tissue damage. Vitamin A prevents cells in the immune system from becoming overactive to food proteins, creating food alleges and inflammation.

Vine-Vera-Vitamin A-Fights

Intake of the vitamin can also reduce the risk of certain food allergies altogether. The decrease levels of inflammation have been linked to lower risk of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Supports Health and Growth of Skin cells
Vitamin A is needed for skin regrowth, wound healing and plays a powerful role in skin cancer prevention. It is also necessary for a good complexion, fight acne and improve the overall health of the skin. Vitamin A produces collagen, which can keep lines and wrinkles from appearing as well as contributing to healthy hair.

 Prevents Cancer
A study at the University of York showed the intake of vitamin A can treat several forms of cancer because it is able to control malignant cells in the body. Retinoic acid (a vitamin A derivative) plays a significant role in cell differentiation, development, and treatment of cancer.

It has been credited with suppressing breast, lung, prostate, bladder, ovarian, and cystic cancer and has been linked to the reduction of melanoma and hepatoma. Most recently, researchers have discovered evidence suggesting that the molecular mechanisms found in the acid may have an effect on the fates of cancer cells.

Where do you get your vitamin A from? Tell us what supplements, foods, or topical treatments provide you with nature’s first vitamin.

Your Weekend Spring Cleaning Guide

Ah! Spring is in the air! Time for spring break, spring fever, and spring cleaning? Ah, yes, along with turning the clocks forward and hay fever, spring cleaning is just another rite of spring that reminds us that nothing comes without a price. But before you totally decide that to throw your feather duster in the air, keep in mind that spring cleaning has its benefits. It increases productivity, it helps you to remove allergens from your home, it reduces stress, and it helps you focus. And, just think, it can also give you an excuse to ask that cute guy next door if he can help you change your light bulbs. Here’re some room-by-room tips to help guide you through your spring cleaning weekend.

Happy couple

Kitchen

  • Dust Refrigerator Coils
    Turn off your fuse box. Coils will be at the bottom of the fridge, under the grill. You can clean them by using the crevice attachment on the vacuum, or invest in a specialty refrigerator coil brush from your local hardware store.
  • Defrost the Freezer
    Turn off your fuse box. Empty your freezer and wipe it down with a solution of 2 tablespoons baking soda for each quart of hot water.

Living Room
Replace heavy throws, curtains and rugs with lighter weight ones

Take down heavy winter decor and store by rolling the material around an acid free tube. Then, wrap in a sheet of muslin or cotton and secure with a piece twill tape. Make sure to label each bundle so you will be able to identify everything when you take them out next year.

Woman cleaning window

Bedroom

  • Change Blankets and Flip Mattresses Over
    Flip your mattress over to make sure the wear gets distributed evenly. Swap heavy winter bedding for warm weather, lighter materials.
  • Clean Pillows
    Most pillows can be machine-washed to rid them of bacteria, mold, and odors.

Bathroom

  • Throw Out Expired Cosmetic Products
    Weed out your expired makeup products and discard in a plastic trash bag, kept out of reach of animals and children.
  • Update First Aid Kit
    A complete first aid kit should consist not only of ointments and bandages, but should also include emergency phone numbers, such as the one for the local poison control center.

Home Office

  • Organize files
    Time to go through those old insurance policies and contracts and put them in the right place.
  • Clean Computers
    Clean computer casings with a solution of one drop of dishwashing detergent for every one quart of water. Use cotton swabs to clean crevices in keyboards and wipe screens free of dust and dirt with a soft cloth or dry screen cleaning sponge.

Man cleaning

Closets
Trade out winter clothes for your new spring fashions. Wash garments before storing and put them in a zippered sweater or blanket bag.

  • Donate Clothes
    Some charities provide pickup service and you may also get some tax relieving receipts!

Outdoor Spaces

  • Clean Porch Ceilings and Walls
    Sweep up debris with a broom, wash walls with an all purpose cleaner and polyester sponge
  • Scrub Patios, Decks, Driveways, and Walkways
    Mildew spots can be treated using a deck brush dipped in a solution of one part oxygen bleach to 3 parts water.
  • Wash Outdoor Furniture
    Plastic wood and aluminum can be cleaned with a solutions of dishwashing liquid and water using a soft bristle brush.
  • Check Light Fixtures
    Wash covers and check for frayed wires and poor connections.

Feel better? We thought so! And how’s your new friend? Let us know how your exploits in spring cleaning turned out! We love to know!

Understanding The Difference Between Natural and Organic Products

We’ve all heard the expressions about talking the talk and not walking the walk, but sometimes you can’t do one without the other. Take health food, for example. You may be totally sincere and earnest about your desire to eat well, but with all the confusing health food lingo, you may not be sure about what that means. Should you be looking for a prebiotic, a probiotic, a macrobiotic, or an antibiotic? Sometimes, it may seem easier to just eat junk food.

Well, before you abandon your good intentions, you may be surprised to know how easy it can be to master the basics. Here is a simple lesson on the difference between natural and organic products to help you navigate your way through health food lingo 101.

Woman purchasing produce

The Basics
When a food is labeled organic, it means that it has been produced, manufactured and handled in accordance with the USDA Organics Products Act. Natural food refers to food that is derived from animals and plants and has not been chemically altered or synthesized in any form. Hence, natural foods are not necessarily organic and organic foods are not necessarily classified as natural.

The preference for one over the other the other comes down to personal standards. Fans of natural foods believe that synthesis of food leads to a loss in nutritional property. Those who prefer organics want food free of pesticides, fertilizers, and preservatives.

The demand for organic food is greater than that for natural food because organic food is guaranteed by the government. While an act similar to the Organic Food Product Act has been proposed for natural foods, it has yet to be realized.

Certification Agencies
Most countries have certification bodies for organic foods, the most prominent of which is the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Although The International Association of Natural Products (IANPP) champions certifications for naturals foods, it is not a certification body.

Woman reading label

Food Labels
Manufacturers of organic foods must follow specified legal rules and regulations before labeling a food “organic.”
Natural food labels can be used freely by manufacturers.

Health Benefits
There is no evidence to back the belief that organic food is healthier than non-organic food. Preference for organic food is usually based on the idea that it is safer than conventional foods because it has not been exposed to chemicals. However, research suggests that organic food choices can lead to increased antioxidant intake and lower levels of exposure to toxic heavy metals.

People who choose natural foods, on the other hand, do so because they believe that the processing of food decreases its health benefits.

Price
Organic food has a higher price than non-organic food; natural food has a higher price than processed food.

Shelf Life
Organic food has a longer shelf life than natural food. Because natural food is subject to minimal processing, it tends to have a high water content which shortens shelf life.

organic food

Availability
Organic foods are sold in most major supermarkets and can be purchased at specialty stores and through online sources.

Natural foods are available at most stores that sell organic foods. Some stores specialize in natural foods. Many health food stores sell natural food items.

Has this cleared things up at all? Let us know where you stand. Are you Team Natural or Team Organic, or do you not have a pony in this race?

Signs That You’re Getting Too Much Protein

Protein. What could be wrong with protein? The word itself comes from the Greek “proteos” meaning the “first one” or “most important one.” Our life takes place in proteins! We store information in proteins! When we learn something, it involves changes in our proteins! We pass along our genes to the next generation by way of proteins. In fact, it seems that whenever we ask the question, “What makes this miraculous life changing event possible?” the answer invariably comes back, “Proteins” So we should get as much protein as we can. Right? Wrong.

Protein Facts
According to the Institutes of Medicine, the average adult should be getting about 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight daily. This translates to about 46 grams per day for women and 56 for men. However, the latest report from the Department of Agriculture reveals that we are getting much more than that. Most recent statistics show that American women ages 20 and above get 68 grams of protein per day, while males of the same age get a whopping 98.9 grams.

Cooking eggs

What’s Wrong With Too Much Protein?
Of course protein is an essential part of our diet. It helps us to repair and build cells. We’ve always been taught the value of a high protein breakfast to keep us from unhealthy snacking throughout the day, and a new analysis reveals that high protein diets can lead to lower risk of stroke. However, it seems there can be too much of a good thing.

Marion Nestle, Ph.D, MPH and professor of Nutrition at NYU says, “Because Americans consume so much protein, and there is plenty in foods from both plant and animal sources, and there is no evidence of protein deficiency in the U.S. population, protein is a non-issue. Why make it into one? The only reason for doing so is marketing. Protein used as a marketing tool is about marketing, not health. The advantage for marketing purposes of protein over fat and carbohydrates is that it’s a positive message, not negative. Marketers don’t have to do anything other than mention protein to make people think it’s a health food.” However, although as Nestle points out, much of the research is “uncertain,” there are a few proven ill effects of two much protein.

Kidney Problems
Because kidneys are responsible fro filtering out waste products of digested protein, it is not surprising that high protein diets may put a strain on these organs. According to a 2003 study, this damage was noticeable only among people in the early kidney disease stages. The lack of significant symptom make it particularly dangerous, as noted by WebMD.

Weight gain

Weight Gain
If you’re upping the protein without cutting back on other things in your diet, you may notice the pounds packing on. A 2012 study showed that the weight gained by individuals assigned a high protein diet was no different than those assigned to a low protein one when the groups overate. However, as Time reported the gain in the high protein consumers was mostly due to lean body mass rather than fat.

Dehydration
Blood urea nitrogen is one of the waste products manufactured by the kidneys during the filtering process. Levels of blood urea nitrogen are used by physicians to evaluate function of the kidneys and are also a measure of a person’s hydration levels. A 2002 study reported an indirect relationship between hydration and protein intake. Monica Reinagel, MS, LDN, CNS says this is because the body needs more water in order to rid itself of the extra nitrogen. However, she allows that dehydration is not a reason to avoid increased protein intake, as long as it is accompanied by an increase in water intake.

Are you getting too much protein? Noticing the symptoms? Let us know what you think.

Avoid These Barriers To Healthy Living

Woman running

Does anyone out there really believe that supermodels eat fast food burgers? Although we are probably living in one of the most health-conscious time periods to date, we are still receiving mixed messages about what it means to be healthy. While it might be tempting to believe that the typical beer drinker has bright eyes and glowing skin, or that ice cream is a common nightly indulgence for the physically fit, quite often these examples would be more aptly place in the “too good to be true” files.

False advertising can encourage bad habits, and bad habits can become barriers to healthy living. If you are struggling to live healthily, here are some tips for avoiding some of the most common barriers.

Take Stock
One of the first steps to healthy living is to assess your current state of health. Make an appointment with the doctor and dentist to gauge your health. Have your BMI checked and make sure your waistline is not putting your health at risk.

Think about your physical activity. The CDC recommends at least two and a half hours of aerobic activity and two sessions of muscle-strengthening exercises per week. How do you stack up?

Consider your social network and keep an eating journal. “The idea, says Kathianne Sellers Williams, MEd, RD, LD, and nutritionist, “is to write it down without judgment. You can’t change what you’re not aware of.”

Eating healthy

Eating Healthy
Healthy eating requires the ability to take power over what you eat. The key, according to Williams, is saying, “I choose,” rather than, “I should.” So it’s, “I choose to eat more fruits and vegetables,” instead of, “I should be eating more fruits and vegetables.” Williams says. “it shows that you’re in control and making the right choice.

Another thing Williams recommends: leave guilt out of the equation. The doctor points out, “Usually, whenever someone feels guilty about something, it feeds right back to the behavior that they’re trying to get rid of. So if someone is an emotional eater and they say, ‘I know I shouldn’t be doing this,’ it implies more guilt and judgment on themselves; they feel worse, and they end up eating more.

Exercise More
Pick something you like to do. if you’re dreading cardio in the gym, go for a hike or take a dance class. Set weekly goals for physical activities and keep track of how much you do. Williams says, “Make the first goal so easy that you say, ‘I know I can do that.’ She recommends weekly checkpoints because they give more flexibility. If you miss one day, you can redeem yourself on the next. Williams often encourages you to reward yourself after being good all week with a visual reminder that you can look at often to celebrate your accomplishments.

Sleep better

Sleep Better
Common barriers to a good night’s sleep are computers and TVs before bedtime. Not only does the light from electronic devices trick your body into thinking its time to be up and about, computer activity and t.v viewing can be very stimulating, and not conducive to a peaceful rest.

Heavy exercise close to bedtime is another contributor to poor-quality sleep. Sleep medicine specialist Lisa Shives, MD says vigorous activity can heat the core temperature of the body and make sleep difficult. As a guideline, she says, “If you’re working up a sweat, you’re working too hard before bed.”

Improve Relationships
Although diet and exercise are big contributors for healthy living, social connections also play a major role. C. Nathan De Wall. assistant professor of psychology at the University of Kentucky suggests looking for a person like you. “What really is important in terms of promoting relationship webbing is that you share a similar level of comfort in getting close to people. Feel people out in terms of, ‘Does this person seem like me in terms of wanting to be close to other people?”

DeWall also emphasizes the importance of having in-person relationships in these days of virtual online connections. He does not discourage social media relationships, but advises, “I think long term, having all your relationships online or virtual would probably be something that wouldn’t be as beneficial as having a mix.

Woman meditating

Cut Down on Stress
Stress is another big barrier to healthy living. Positive coping skills, like yoga and visualization can be very helpful in keeping stress levels to a minimum. Williams recommends handling stressful situations by burning off anger through exercise or allowing anger to dissipate in a quiet place.

Have you broken through barriers that were keeping you from living a healthy life? Tell us all about how you did it! We love to hear good stories!

Kale

10 Ways To Include Kale and Swiss Chard In Your Diet

You may be wondering why, if veggies like Swiss chard and kale have been around forever, why haven’t you heard much about them until recently? Well, the sad truth is that there was a time in history when these greens were considered the “ugly ducklings” of the vegetable family. While their better tasting relatives, like spinach and broccoli, were enjoying the limelight, kale and chard were consigned to a lesser position, largely ignored, until one day, their superfood powers were revealed.

Suddenly, they became all the rage. No one could consume these darlings quickly or often enough, and more and more new and innovative ways were found to incorporate them into meals and snacks. If you are among those who are see in kale and Swiss chard in a new light, here are ten ways you can give these veggies their proper due.

Veggie Soups
Healthy comfort food? Why not? Chop or puree some kale and Swiss chard into your next soup recipe.

kale chips

Kale Chips
Just remove the stem and center ribs and tear leaves into chip size pieces. Toss them with a little olive oil and sprinkle with herbs, salt or cumin. Bake at 300 until crisp.

Smoothies
Smoothies and green protein juices can be great sources for packing in nutrients. Add one or two handfuls of kale, Swiss chard, or spinach to your morning or afternoon concoction. However, you may want to keep in mind that juices do not provide the same fiber benefits as eating greens and drinking smoothies do, as juices tend to have high sugar content due to other added vegetables.

Green Veggies With Eggs
Not to be confused with green eggs and ham, green veggies can make a great addition to an egg scramble or frittata.

Green powder

Green Powders
Green powders contain a large variety of concentrated green veggies, and usually include plant algae like chlorella and spirulina. Look for organic green powders at health food stores and make sure to take into account what type of sweetener and how much sugar the powder contains. Try to keep sugar levels under five grams per serving.

Baked Goods
Fool your family, fool yourself. Puree some Swiss chard or kale into your muffins or brownies. According to Heather Bauer, RD, CDN, “You won’t even feel like you’re eating vegetables.”

Pasta
Cheryl Forbero, RD suggests foregoing the basil or pesto on your pasta for some heartier greens. You can even work them into your lasagna or pesto recipe, says Julie Upton, MS, RD, CSSD.

kale pizza

Pizza
Kale pizza anyone? Why not? After you finish heaping on the mozzarella, how about heaping on the greens? Drizzle with oil and vinegar and mangia!

Beans
Add texture and color to your bean dish with a few cups of chopped Swiss chard or kale. Just add it along with the garlic, onions and seasoning.

Stir-Fry
If your sautéing some beef, chicken or tofu, stir in some carrot, red pepper and Swiss chard stems. Then, remove from heat and stir in the leaves for a healthy and delicious stir fry.

How are you adding kale and Swiss chard to your diet? Let us know how your keeping healthy!

Spinach for Healthy Skin

It’s not easy being green. So how is it that spinach carries it off with such aplomb? Sure, spinach has had its defenders over the years, Popeye topping the list, not to mention culinary greats who used the green leafy vegetable to create such dishes as spinach soufflé, spinach lasagna, and countless versions of spinach salad. But, considering its unappetizing appearance, you could say spinach has done very well for itself. Besides being hailed for its high antioxidant and nutrient content, spinach is also receiving props for its ability to help maintain healthy skin. Here’s how you can use spinach to keep your skin smooth and radiant.

Bowl of green spinach

Nutritional Value
Spinach contains the antioxidant beta-carotene, which aids skin repair and slows cancer cells.

  • Vitamin A: One cup of cooked spinach contains 943 mcg of this vitamin, which is 105% of the daily recommended allowance, RDA, for men and 135% of the RDA for adult females.
  • Vitamin C: This antioxidant is crucial for skin cell repair and growth. Because vitamin C is not stored in the body, it must be provided by your daily diet. A cup of cooled spinach will give adult men 17.6 mg or 20% of the RDA of vitamin C, while it will give women 23%.
  • Iron: Iron is a component of hemoglobin, which is a protein found in red blood cells responsible for supplying oxygen to the tissues. You can find 6.5 mg of iron in a cup of cooked spinach which is equivalent to 81% of the RDA for men, and 36% of the RDA for women.
  • Magnesium: One cup of cooked spinach will provide you with 157mg magnesium, approximately 49% of the RDA for adult females and 37% for adult males. Magnesium is known for its ability to heal wounds and infections on the skin.

For Acne
Spinach can be used as a face mask or in juice from to help acne-prone skin. To make the mask, blend spinach and mix with water. Apply it to your face and let sit for about twenty minutes before rinsing. While making the juice requires a bit more effort, it is often the preferred method of obtaining the full benefits of the vegetable. Mix a half tomato with one carrot, one celery, a quarter of a cucumber, held a cup of cabbage, one green onion, half a red pepper, and a handful of spinach. Blend a drink daily.

Spinach juice

Anti-Aging
Spinach is a goldmine of antioxidants. Antioxidants are crucial for destroying damaging free radicals which cause premature aging. The regular consumption of this leafy green will help to slow down skin degeneration and make skin radiant.

Additionally, spinach has a high water content. One cup of cooked spinach provides 5 ounces of water to keep skin cells hydrated and is crucial to cell function. Spinach also contains iron and vitamin C to boost collagen synthesis. Collagen is a protein required for muscle and skin elasticity.

Skin Repair
The vitamin A in spinach helps to keep skin toned and smooth, while the vitamin C helps to rejuvenate skin cells. These vitamins, along with iron, also support collagen levels essential for skin repair.

Improves Complexion
Folate and vitamin K are both found in spinach and can reduce the prevalence of dry skin, acne, and stretch marks, minimizing bruising and dark circles. The high vitamin content in the leafy green can also relieve itchy, dry skin, leaving you a radiant complexion.

Mixed spinach

Experts recommend eating cooked spinach as opposed to raw for better nutrition digestion. Cooking spinach also eliminates the effects of oxalic acid, which interferes with the body’s absorption of calcium. Liquid forms of spinach are especially effective when combined with other vegetables.

Spinach Face Mask
To get the benefits of spinach for your skin, try this natural recipe:

Mix five or six fresh spinach leaves with 1 tablespoon of raw honey ( manuka honey is recommended.) Add two tablespoons of lemon juice. Dilute with water is your skin is sensitive to lemon. The mixture will be sticky. Apply mask to clean face. Let it sit for 20 minutes. Rinse and pat dry. Repeat for smooth skin tone.

Do you eat your spinach right down to the finish? If so, let us know how your skin is doing! We love to hear from you!

Work Out To Relieve Anxiety

Anxiety and excess weight have a lot in common. They are both dreaded first world problems, they are both unhealthy, and they are both difficult to avoid. While it sometimes appears that there is no escape from either, there is one more thing that the two have in common: an enemy. Although it is true that stress and obesity are formidable contenders, there is one thing that has been proven capable of taking down both of them in one fell swoop. What is this thing of which we speak? The Workout. Find out why working out may be your best ally in the constant battle to remain stress and fat-free.

Woman running

How does exercise help relieve anxiety?
Exercise releases feel-good brain chemicals, reduces immune system chemicals, and increases body temperature, all of which may have calming effects and have been shown to improve mood and boost confidence. Meeting exercise goals can make you feel better about yourself and looking better increases confidence in your appearance.

Exercise can also distract you from your worries and give you the chance to socialize with others. You may find friends at a gym, in an exercise class, or simply strolling the neighborhood. Physical activity is also a healthy coping activity, and a healthier alternative to dwelling on problems.

Physical Activity Vs. Structured Exercise
While the phrases physical activity and exercise are often used interchangeably, there is a slight difference between the two. Physical activity is defined as any activity that expends energy and contracts muscles, and can be applied to household work and leisurely activities. Exercise refers to a more structured repetitive plan done with the sole aim of improving fitness.

Although we generally think of lifting weights and running as ways to get in shape, less intense physical activities, such as walking or gardening are equally capable of improving your mood and helping to maintain physical health.

Family cycling

How to Get Started

Pinpoint What You Enjoy Doing
Pick out something you can envision yourself sticking with and try to make a plan that you’ll be likely to follow through with.

Set A Reasonable Goal
Find a plan that meets your abilities and schedule. While 30 minutes a day three to five days a week is the recommended amount, as little as 10 to 15 minutes of physical activity can be enough to make a difference. Also, keep in mind, more vigorous activities can improve your mood and meet your workout requirements in less time.

Avoid Thinking of It As A Chore
If you think of exercise as something in your life that you need to live up to, you’re likely to associate it with failure. Try instead to think of it as a therapy session to help you feel better.

Find Out What’s Stopping You
Try and think of what may be preventing you from working out. Do you feel self-conscious? If so, you may want to exercise at home. Maybe you would prefer to work with a partner. Find out what it is that’s causing you to hesitate and try to find an alternative.

Know Your Limits
Remember to pat yourself on the back every once in a while and forgive yourself for small slip-ups. Just because you miss a day, doesn’t mean you can’t get right back on the horse.

Does working out relieve your anxiety? Let us know you’re best workouts for helping to get through your day!