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Studies Show Many Health Benefits from Eating Fermented Foods

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Although the human body is made up of 10 times as many bacteria as human cells, mainstream medicine and an unsuspecting public continue to kill off the bacteria that make up their body indiscriminately through the use of antibiotics and antibacterial products. Meanwhile, studies show that many of the health issues being faced by our modern society are being created by damage caused to our internal flora. At the same time other studies along with human experience are showing the health benefits that come from undoing that damage through the consumption of fermented foods.

The human body is made up of an estimated 10 trillion human cells and 100 trillion bacteria which means we are actually more a collection of bacteria than we are human. However many products commonly used today for cleaning and personal hygiene (antibacterial hand sanitizers for example), as well as antibiotics and chemical laden junk foods are damaging the bacteria that keep us healthy and make us what we are.

Prior to the paranoia over bacteria and the implementation of pasteurization, all traditional cultures not only survived despite bacteria, they actually thrived by making use of bacteria (albeit unknowingly) to create healthy, fermented foods. These fermented foods not only allowed traditional cultures without refrigeration to store foods for the times when food was not plentiful, but they helped keep them strong and healthy by keeping their internal flora balanced and therefore their immune systems strong.

Fermented foods are key to good gut flora

Today there is a resurgence of interest in fermented foods. It is a craze that is growing among those looking for healthier diet options and recent studies back up what those fermented food fans know through experience: fermented food is healthy food! Studies have shown that regular consumption of fermented foods can not only correct digestive problems, but also have positive effects on heart disease, arthritis, obesity, gum disease, mood and more.

Although many associate fermented foods simply with dairy products such as yogurt, kefir and cheese, there is much to learn because the variety of foods that can be fermented is endless. From the more traditional German sauerkraut, Vietnamese kimchi and sourdough breads, to more unusual mixtures such as fermented beetroot with garlic and cheeses made from nuts, there are unlimited ways to add these simple, healthy foods to our diets.

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Prickly Pear: Discover the Healing Power of an Ancient Aztec Superfood

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If you live in Latin America, or a semi-arid region of the United States, a wild superfood may be ripe for the picking in your own backyard. Known as prickly pear cactus (Opuntia spp), the leaves and fruit of this desert plant can be harvested and consumed to treat a variety of conditions — including diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease and inflammation.

Native to the mountainous areas of Mexico, prickly pear cactus has been used since ancient times as a potent medicine, as well as a daily food source. Many of the nutritional advantages of the plant are attributed to its growing habitat – namely, volcanic soil and high altitude. The Aztecs so valued prickly pear that it was considered food fit for warriors and royalty. Jump to the present day and you’ll find health enthusiasts have also embraced the food for boosting stamina, improving health and slimming down.

Health perks

A common sight in Hispanic communities and Latin America, cactus as a food may seem exotic to those unfamiliar with its use. And yet, science is beginning to recognize prickly pear as a beneficial food and therapeutic medicinal for many of the health disorders plaguing us today. One of the more intriguing uses for the cactus paddle (known as nopales) is in the treatment of diabetes. As a low-glycemic, high-fiber food, nopales lowers blood sugar levels, helping to keep obesity and diabetes at bay. Moreover, research published in Chemistry Central Journal found that consuming either tortillas or bars made with nopales increased vitamin C plasma levels, and reduced both cholesterol as well as triglycerides – which is good news for those concerned about cardiovascular disease.

As an added benefit, the plant sterols found in prickly pear act as antioxidants in the system, reducing inflammation and deterring the formation of plaque on blood vessel walls. What’s more, the flavonoids present in the cactus minimize free radical load, which lessens the strain on the liver and boosts overall immunity. Since the fruit and leaves of the plant are loaded with non-carbohydrate polysaccharides in the form of pectin, hemicellulose and mucilage, prickly pear soothes and coats the digestive tract, relieving constipation as well as ulcers.

How to use

Fresh prickly pear nopales and fruit can often be found in your local supermarket – just be cautious about the source as some varieties from Mexico are contaminated with a potent neurotoxic pesticide. Tortillas and fruit bars made from prickly pear are also available. Additionally, organic nopales powder is an easy way to spruce-up your favorite smoothie. If you are lucky enough to have prickly pear cactus growing wild in your neighborhood, have a look at this informative tutorial on how to harvest and juice the fruit.

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Top Ways to Keep Stress at Bay

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A high level of stress is not good for anyone. When a person is constantly exposed to stress, the individual can develop anxiety disorders. People suffering from high levels of stress can exhibit uncontrollable behaviors related to acute stress such as anger and frustration. This should be avoided as much as possible. Fortunately, coping with stress is not that difficult anymore. There are foolproof ideas to keeping high levels of stress at bay.

Relax

The main combatant against stress is relaxation. While stressful events will guarantee that you cannot be relaxed voluntarily, there are several ways to make sure you get the relaxation you need. Stress-reduction techniques and an exercise regimen such as yoga, meditation, and tai chi are all great methods to introduce some relaxation that your body craves for. These activities can literally take your mind and body away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life without you physically traveling somewhere far away.

These activities are said to have the capacity to lower stress hormones and improve one’s immunity. A study has shown that people who do yoga constantly can enjoy a significant decrease of their body’s inflammatory responses. Therefore, not only will you decrease your stress level, you can also stay away from chronic diseases such as heart diseases caused by inflammation. No matter how draining your day is, dedicating a certain amount of time a day to focus on relaxation and not caring about what is happening around us is very beneficial.

Surround yourself with friends

A top stress buster is laughter. No sane person can genuinely laugh by themselves for any apparent reason. Therefore, if you want your stress levels to go down, go out and laugh with friends. Surrounding yourself with your friends who care about you is one great way to keep stress away.

Spending time alone may at times be good, but being cooped up on your own most of the time can be detrimental to your mental and heart health. At the very least, being alone all the time will make it harder for your to keep negative thoughts at bay and stress will drown you. Women are more particularly prone to this.

Stop striving for perfection

Striving for something that cannot happen immediately can be stressful. One thing that no one can be is perfect, no matter how hard you try. The more you strive to be perfect, the more you will become hostile and isolated against others. After all, it is quite difficult to strive to be the best and at the same time think nicely of everyone.

This behavior not only makes you feel sad, but it is also unhealthy for your heart. If you want to keep stress at bay, be nice to people and be optimistic. Forget being perfect, focus on being at peace.

Let go and lighten up

Nothing is more stressful than holding a grudge. Letting your anger stew for such a long time can eat you up. In fact, this can lead to a high level of psychological stress. Forgiveness is the best way to go. In relation to this, lighten up.

Stress might be a constant in your life, but you should not let this drown you. Fight back by relaxing more and worrying less. Let go of negative vibes and surround yourself with good friends. Learn to forgive and forget, and just laugh and live more.

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Berry Intake May Reduce Type 2 Diabetes Risk

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We’ve all heard about the big benefits of the common berry. Despite their small size, berries are typically rich in a number of antioxidants. These antioxidants are believed to counteract disease promoting free radicals, produced when cells are damaged during oxidation. They are also packed full of many other micro nutrients that have been linked to disease prevention. And disease prevention is needed now more than ever…

Already accounting for well over half of the worlds deaths each year; chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, stroke and diabetes are on the rise. They currently impact more people across the world than ever before.

Type 2 diabetes is of a particular concern. More and more young people are now suffering from this disease, which was considered for a long time something only the older generation ever developed. Having Type 2 diabetes can not only severely impact a persons quality of life if not managed properly; it significantly increases the risk of developing many of the other chronic diseases mentioned above.

The role of diet and nutrition is increasingly being recognized as a key player in causing and preventing many of these major illnesses, including diabetes. Correlations have certainly been shown between the consumption of plant foods and lower incidences of chronic disease, and we are always on the lookout for more scientific evidence to really back these claims up.

A study was published recently in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, examining the link between the intake of fruit and vegetables and a reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes in men.

During the study, scientists examined a cross-section of 2332 Finnish men between the ages of 42-60 years old from the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study. The average food intake was measured over a period of 4 days, and Type 2 diabetes risk was subsequently determined using a series of questionnaires, fasting blood glucose measurements, a 2 hour oral-glucose-tolerance test, and records of diabetes medication expenses.

The study showed that although no significant associations could be determined from fruit, fruit juices, and vegetables alone; berry intake showed a possible link, with a corresponding HR of 65%.

The results are certainly not ground breaking to say the least, and we shouldn’t take them as gospel. But they do offer a little more supporting evidence to show that certain plant foods, and in particular berries, can play their part in disease prevention.

References

Mursu, J., Virtanen, J. K., Tuomainen, T. P., Nurmi, T., & Voutilainen, S. (2014). Intake of fruit, berries, and vegetables and risk of type 2 diabetes in Finnish men: the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 99(2), 328-333.

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Benefits of Vitamin D That We Should Be Talking About

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Last week we looked at a few of the supplements that might be necessary to take if you consume a plant-based diet. One such supplement that I mentioned was vitamin D; the sunshine vitamin. This fat soluble hormone is typically known for promoting healthy bones, which it does well. But there is increasing evidence to suggest that it plays many other important roles in the body, regardless of dietary preferences.

A recent podcast interview with biomedical scientist Dr.Rhonda Patrick brought to light some of these benefits, many of which are rarely talked about. Dr. Patrick’s latest study showed that vitamin D plays a key role in the synthesis of serotonin [1], the hormone responsible for mood regulation. Low levels of serotonin are also linked to Autism, and the study concludes that vitamin D supplementation may be a practical solution to help prevent the disease and reduce the severity of symptoms.

Having optimum vitamin D levels has also been linked to a slowing down of the ageing process, and an overall lower risk of mortality [2]. A 2007 study compared the serum vitamin D levels in a large population based cohort of twins, and found that those with higher vitamin D levels also had a longer Leukocyte telomere lengths (LTL) [3]. Longer LTL is associated with slower ageing, and lower rates of inflammation. This is supported by the fact that the subjects in the study with the lowest amounts of serum vitamin D also had higher levels of C-reactive protein, a marker for inflammation.

A slowing down of the ageing process brings with it a reduced risk of developing age related disease. A 2008 study showed that a vitamin D deficiency is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease [4]. A pooled analysis study in 2007 also showed that vitamin D could play a role in preventing breast cancer [5], and a paper published in 2001 showed a potential for vitamin D to reduce the risk of developing type-1 diabetes [6].

It is clear that vitamin D plays an important role in the in maintaining lasting wellness, and it will be interesting to see what future research will unveil. Vitamin D is thought to be involved in expressing over a thousand different genes throughout the body, so having the right levels in your blood is crucial. A 2009 review study concluded that blood levels of vitamin D between 35 to 40 ng/ml may be optimum for preventive health [7].

As I mentioned last week, I take a vitamin D-3 supplement as it is more bio available than vitamin D-2. The amount you need to take for optimum levels in the blood will vary however, as many factors can affect the amount of the vitamin you can absorb (such as body fat percentage). I recommend getting your blood levels checked before using any supplements, to verify what is personally right for you.

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