13July2009

Acai Berry: Top 10 Reasons Why You Should Care

Posted by Butterfly under: Acai Berry.

It may be tempting to ignore the acai berry as just marketing hype and the latest fad. However, even though it isn’t a “miracle berry” or the cure to all that ails you, the acai berry is an extremely powerful source of antioxidants and one of the most nutritious fruits in the world.

Why should you care about all this talk about antioxidants and nutrition? I’m glad you asked. Here are 10 excellent reasons why you should care about the acai berry:

10. Helps Maintain Good Cholesterol & Fight Heart Disease

Essential fatty acids and antioxidants in the acai berry help fight bad cholesterol (LDL) while at the same time maintaining good cholesterol (HDL) and fighting heart disease. The essential fatty acids also aid in the absorbency of necessary vitamins like Vitamin A, D, E, and K.

9. Improved Vision

The acai berry contains a specific type of antioxidant called “anthocyanins” which are known to improve vision. During World War II, British pilots ate large amounts of bilberry (which also contains anthocyanins) as they said it improved their night vision.

8. Saves the Rainforest

The recent popularity of the acai berry actually helps save the Rainforest. You see, before the large demand for acai berries, local farmers harvested the entire acai tree for palm hearts. Palm hearts are used in expensive salads.

Fortunately, now that the acai berry is becoming more and more sought after, the natives are paid more to harvest acai berries. This means that they actually want to protect the trees instead of cutting them down.

7. Better Sleep

The acai berry contains amino acids that relax your muscles and allow for a more restful sleep. It also contains Vitamin B which helps to regulate the dopamine and serotonin (both neurotransmitters that impact sleep) production in the brain.

6. Fights Diseases and Boosts Immune System

The Amazon rain forest contains some of the richest soil in the world. As a result, the acai berry is packed with natural minerals and nutrients that fight disease and increase energy by boosting the immune system. In Brazil the acai berry is also commonly known as an effective anti-bacterial and anti-viral agent.

5. Increase in Energy & Stamina

Natives of Brazil are some of the most active people in the entire world. It’s understandable considering that they have access to one of the most perfect foods available. Aside from being a perfect source of nutrition and carbohydrates, the high levels of antioxidants in the acai berry lead to a huge boost in energy levels and stamina. Locals will often mix acai pulp and Guarana (another amazing fruit with natural stimulants) for a healthy burst of natural energy.

4. Helps Fight Weight Gain

The acai berry’s natural combination of antioxidants, essential fatty acids, amino acids, phytosterols, and amino acids work together to help your body function better, process food easier, and burn fat more efficiently.

3. Better Sex

When NBC’s Matt Laurer took a recent trip to the Amazon, he was amused to find that the acai drink he had just finished is commonly referred to as “Amazon Rainforest Viagra”. Locals swear it has libido enhancing qualities. Combine those qualities with the increase in energy, stamina, and better overall body function and you can see why the acai berry is compared to that famous little blue pill.

2. May Help Fight Cancer

The University of Florida published a study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry that found that acai berries triggered a self destruct response in up to 86% of human cancer cells. Yes, you read that right, it caused cancer cells to self destruct! This study was only on the cellular level and wasn’t in the human body, but it perfectly illustrates the antioxidant capability and healing qualities of the acai berry. The University is currently studying the effect of acai in the human body.

1. Fights the Aging Process

The most exciting benefit of regularly consuming the acai berry may just be its effect on the aging process. Free radicals are molecules that attack the cells in the body and damage our DNA. In simple terms, free radicals are the cause of aging ailments such as cancer, arthritis, inflammation, atherosclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease. The acai berry is recognized as one of the best foods for aging because it’s absolutely jam-packed with free radical fighting antioxidants.

By: Christopher Fisher

About the Author:

Christopher is a writer and researcher for http://www.AcaiBerryStudies.com , where you can learn about the acai berry, the number one superfood in the world.

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28June2009

A review of health seeking behavior: problems and prospects

Posted by Butterfly under: Health Education.

A review of health seeking behavior: problems and prospects

Author: Sara MacKian Article reviewed by: Dr Nihar Ranjan Ray

INTRODUCTION:

Health seeking behavior refers to all those things humans do to prevent diseases and to detect diseases in asymptomatic stages. In contrast illness behavior refers to all those activities designed to recognize and explain symptoms after one feels ill, and sick role behavior refers to all those activities designed to cure diseases and restore health after a diagnosis has been made.

I agree to the author that there is growing recognition, in both developed and developing countries, that providing education and knowledge at the individual level is not sufficient in itself to promote a change in behavior. We need do something extra or focus to a different dimension to bring effective changes in health indicators. One more important thing that the author has insisted that factors promoting ‘good’ health seeking behaviors are not rooted solely in the individual, they also have a more dynamic, collective, interactive element. Understanding of the social capital and proper understanding of health seeking behavior could reduce delay to diagnosis, improve treatment compliance and improve health promotion strategies in a variety of contexts. Author has given utmost importance to make studies of health seeking behavior more useful from a health systems development perspective. In initial part of the article the author suggested the two approaches namely

(a) Health care seeking behaviors: utilization of the system

(b) Health seeking behaviors: the process of illness response

According to author variety of studies were conducted on the basis of macro analysis. Taking age, sex, geographical region etc.. But author aptly suggested that these determinants can be further broken to smaller fragments like Status of women, Elements of patriarchy, Social Age and sex, Socioeconomic Household resources Education level, Maternal occupation, Marital status, Economic status, ‘Cultural propriety’, Economic Costs of care Treatment, Travel time, Type and severity of illness Geographical Distance and physical access, Physical, Organizational Perceived quality and so many to identify the reality of the back ground problems. Despite the ongoing evidence from different studies that people do choose traditional and folk medicine or providers in a variety of contexts which have potentially profound impacts on health, few studies recommend ways to build bridges to enable individual preferences to be incorporated into a more responsive health care system. I find it most interesting that has been quoted by (Needham et al, 2001).  As they suggested “the need to improve integration of private sector providers with public care to tackle this problem in a better way” And with the Indian perspective at least I can’t agree with Ahemad et al that the training to these non formal providers are wrong. At least we can use their community motivation in a modern way so that the health seeking behavior of these people will change gradually.

Now it is time to focus upon to understand the psycho logical process of these people as discussed in the section  Health seeking behaviors: the process of illness response. The understanding of the ‘healthy choices’, in either their lifestyle behaviors or their use of medical care and treatment. Among the different models discussed here namely (a) social cognition models (b) Health belief model (c) health locus of control

o(a) social cognition models:

Predicting health behavior with social cognition models as per the figure illustrates I am completely agree with the author as she criticizes the model as “The downfall of these models is that most view the individual as a rational decision maker, systematically reviewing available information and forming behavior intentions from this. They do not allow any understanding of how people make decisions, or a description of the way in which people make decisions.”

o(b) Health belief Model:

The health belief model is a largely accepted theory and like any other theory it has its limitation also like the author writes “The health belief model has been criticized for portraying individuals as asocial economic decision makers, and its application to major contemporary health issues, such as sexual behavior, have failed to offer any insights” Any how I personally feel this can be a model of reference for contemporary diseases. and also what I feel this model is still holds good in describing the STIs though stigma, shame ness and sexual conservativeness comes into play.

It may be right that the way Mc Phill et all thinks “developed country research has a better track record of exploring this broader contextual picture, whilst work in developing countries tends not to acknowledge the poor relationship between knowledge and health seeking behavior.” Apart from the KABP model I find the description of the Reflexive communities are interesting .Reflexive communities reflect the particular ways of behaving, thinking and reaching decisions of individuals or groups, that in turn reflect the social construction of their position in wider society at a particular place and time. Information regarding health seeking has many facets and determinants like ‘moral, affective, aesthetic, narrative and meaning dimensions’. So more scientific way of approach will be ‘aesthetic reflexivity’ which “means making choices about and/or innovating background assumptions and shared practices upon whose bases cognitive and normative reflection is founded” In order to understand how people reach the decision  we need to know also how  the underlying, unspoken, unconscious feelings and assumptions which support that cognitive process. These concepts that are been discussed here  are seems to be more theoretical to practice . But still these issues are need to be addressed aptly for events like HIV/AIDS . I and I am completely agreed with Harvey that “the way people perceive risks and experience risk should be a matter for public policy”

Health seeking behavior and the probes: a review

Health seeking behavior differs for the same individuals or communities

when faced with different persons, times& illnesses. The article has described some of the examples here. They have  given a very nice example here regarding the health seeking practices of women when faced with abnormal vaginal discharge, as opposed to malaria. I think this is more a big problem in countries like India & Bangladesh than the developed worlds. Again the shortage of the female Health care staffs worsens the problem. And the most important thing that I feel is most of the sensitive illnesses or diseases or public health problems are having this problem. Or thinking in the reverse way that due to this embedded problem it is very difficult to address these problems or not getting quick results. Among the examples I try to touch them in short. Only the key issues are given as described the author. I think she has identified it very nicely from different studies.

Tuberculosis

(a) Late presentation and delayed diagnosis are  problems for TB, reflecting both

individual and social factor. Delay can be related to social stigma, gender, fear or multiple health seeking.

(b) Culturally sensitive and situated understanding of health seeking behavior may

Provide better  treatment compliance and shorten delay of diagnosis.

©Health education should be started  at family and community level to improve

awareness and to avoid stigma.

(d)The doctor-patient relationship may need particular attention in relation to TB due to the lengthy treatment period.

Maternal and child health

(a) The way in which women reach the decisions they can have a great influence

on child morbidity and mortality and is therefore worthy of continued study.

(b) There may be a better ways of exploring women’s involvement in health

system and social structures .

Diabetes Type 1

(a)Perhaps the lack of material suggests there is more work needed in this area?

(b)The doctor-patient dynamic can potentially be used to promote ‘good’ health

seeking behavior and compliance with treatment, and is an issue reflected across

the probes.

Social capital and Health & Development

Social resources norms and networks or processes and conditions within society that allow for the development of human and material capital. So  social capital is created and used through individual participation. Bonding social capital which links members of a particular group, and bridging  social capital which links across groups. So the first one when addresses the Horizontal Equity the later addresses the Vertical Equity. Social capital provides a means of shifting the focus from individuals to social groups, and the social involvement of the actions of individuals. Though it varies from community to community but social capital also has implications for the operation of health systems description of that in detail is beyond the scope of this literature.

Health seeking behavior in the context of health systems

Non formal practitioners  and birth attendants so embedded in the existing social

fabric and reflexive communities so that mostly the women deny delivery in favour of trained public service doctors. And in the Indian sub-continent  public doctors running private clinics alongside their public role, where they can charge patients they have referred from the public system, may have the effect of undermining trust in the wider system.

Conclusion

“To begin to picture the resources and constraints…the way the actor experiences them, is to take a crucial step towards understanding why and how people do what they do”

This statement by  Wallman and Baker I think we always need to remember be coz Health care is a system that is so much embedded into the society and individuality of the people that if you search for the influencing the factors than finally you will get all the branches of science on your table. So to be practical is more important than criticizing any issue theoretically and parallely we can’t ignore any issue how ever that may seem impractical. That is the beauty and problem of designing the policy for the Health care. What I feel like head of the family neglects himself in due course of taking care of other family members we should not land in a troubled water by focusing more on the peripheral issues of Health care delivery system than the center stage. We should not forget to address the problems of the internal clients to provide a better motivated care to the external clients. Which in my view very poorly addressed in international, national & regional level. And last but not the least is the financing system and its proper management is the key issue.

Dr Nihar Ranjan Ray

Indian Institute Of Public Health, Gandhinagar

By: Dr Nihar Ranjan Ray

About the Author:

Dr Nihar Ranjan Ray
research Associate in The Impact of The Link ART Center in Gujrat
Education MBBS,DPHM

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25June2009

Acai Berry Products

Posted by Butterfly under: Acai Berry.

The acai berry is popularly known as a superfood or superfruit. Tests revealed that it is the most nutritious and powerful food worldwide. Not known to many, natives of Brazil have been eating these berries for many generations already. It was somewhat an open secret especially to Brazilians. The only time it was really taken seriously was when Oprah featured the acai berry as one of the Ten Foods for Age-Defying Beauty. Of course, Oprah is like the perpetual messenger of good news and her credibility made it easy for these berries to get its necessary media mileage.

Acai berries are known for their potency and efficacy.Obviously, athletes in Brazil are capitalizing on its energy boosting qualities. This is also being used in maintaining their well sculpted figures. There are just so many positive medical wonders that these berries can give to a person’s body. Since the berries have the highest antioxidant contents, they are very reliable in strengthening the body’s immune system. This in return, results to an effective way of fighting diseases and cancer cells. They are even incorporated in diets since it can increase the body’s metabolism rate. More than its medicinal advantages, acai berries are famous for their effective weight loss properties. This is actually the major reason for the proliferation of acai berry foods.

Since the berries are fruits that grow mostly in the rainforest of the amazon, its major challenge is spoilage. To resolve this, once harvested they are immediately freeze dried or frozen. In this way, the acai berries’ nutrients and antioxidants are preserved. Acai berry products come in different forms. The berry’s flexibility becomes its advantage especially in catering to a wider market with varying preferences.

Here are the popular acai berry foods in the market. Some of these can be ordered online. Raw berry products are those not mixed with other berries or juices except for water. They are usually mixed into a smoothie to taste good. Frozen acai pulp are included as well in this category. Acai berry juice and pulp manufactured products contain fruit juices and can be in frozen or liquid form. They are never in powder nor capsule form. Acai tea is similar to green tea. Acai berry candy contains the berries usually mixed with chocolate. There are also acai berries mixed in whole foods or wild oats. There are acai berry ice cream or sorbet and even toaster pastries which are very similar to berry pop tarts.

Click Here to get FREE Acai Berry product trials and samples!

By: Marty Rubenski

About the Author:

Read Marty’s other articles: Acai Berry Diet and Acai Berry Benefits

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21August2012

Zinc: More than just an immune boost

Posted by Wellness under: Supplements And Vitamins.

Most of us know that zinc is a mineral supplement, but few are aware of its importance. Nutritionists have even gone so far as to call it the most important mineral in the body, thanks to its role in maintaining immunity and fighting disease. Studies have repeatedly proven that a high-zinc diet prevents a long list of health problems, from the common cold to heart disease. Besides that, however, zinc plays a handful of minor roles. Here are four of the lesser-known ones.

Reproduction: Zinc has been shown to aid in the creation and maintenance of reproductive cells, especially sperm. What it does is strengthen the structure of the cells to protect the DNA they contain. In males, it keeps sperm in top form by optimizing their energy use. This allows the sperm to preserve the energy to penetrate and fertilize the egg.

Sensory health: The cells that control our sense of smell and taste need a regular dose of zinc. More specifically, the proteins we use to generate these cells require a certain level of zinc to function. Over the years, research has shown that consuming more zinc can make a person more sensitive to smells and tastes, which are closely connected. Likewise, a person with a zinc deficiency often has trouble distinguishing tastes, which can affect appetite.

Preventing infection: One of zinc’s most important functions is to help white blood cells function at their best. This allows them, among other things, to heal skin wounds, sores, burns, and surgical cuts. It also speeds up physical healing by aiding in the production of collagen, the tissue that holds the skin together. This is why many topical treatments contain zinc, and why doctors often recommend them for people who are prone to scarring and blemishes.

Memory and cognition: Zinc has been shown to work with vitamin B6 to improve brain function. The brain itself naturally contains zinc, where it is concentrated in the hippocampus. This is the part that controls a person’s thoughts and memories. Supplementing this from dietary sources can improve memory, especially in injury patients who need to use their natural supply for healing.

Zinc is found in many common foods, so it’s not hard to get your daily dose. Calf liver and lamb are among the best sources; you can also get it from scallops, shrimp, mushrooms, spinach, asparagus, and turkey. Supplements can be an option if you have limited access to zinc-rich foods, but it’s always best to consult your doctor to see what best fits your needs.

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1February2012

Choosing a Multivitamin

Posted by Wellness under: Health Supplements.

One look at the dietary supplement section will give you a good idea of what’s out there–everything from the tried-and-tested to the new and downright suspicious. For parents and diet-conscious adults alike, choosing the right multivitamins can be a challenge with the sheer number of options on offer, the good mixed with the bad. What makes one multivitamin better than the other? What should you look for?

The quick and dirty trick is to keep it simple. The more elaborate the ingredients are, the less likely the product is to be effective. That’s because a good multivitamin contains only the things you need, the ones that tend to be lacking in common food sources. For most people, these are Vitamin B1, B2, B3, B6 and B12, Vitamins C, D, and E, and folic acid. If you’re looking for a general multivitamin, look for one that provides 100% of the recommended daily value of these nutrients.

Other vitamins and minerals may be added, but they’re not essentials; that is, either you get enough of them a typical diet or your body can make enough on its own. One example is Vitamin A: since you get a good dose from fruits and vegetables, taking supplements in addition can result in an overdose. If you do need supplements but are eating enough on the side, make sure there’s no more than 15,000 IUs of beta-carotene, the kind you get from food, and at least 4,000 IUs from retinol (non-dietary Vitamin A).

Extras aren’t uncommon in multivitamins, but it’s your job to read the labels and consult your doctor to make sure you’re getting the right amount of everything. Some things to look for include copper, selenium, and zinc, which appear only in small amounts in food. Calcium is also occasionally added to the mix, but you usually can’t fit the daily dose of 1 to 2 grams into a single pill with all the other vitamins. That’s why people with calcium deficiencies are given separate supplements instead.

And then there are extras you probably can’t do without, usually because you don’t need more than what you already get from food. Some of the most common “unwanted” extras are iodine, biotin, potassium, and pantothenic acid. Phosphorus is also fairly unnecessary, especially since it’s been shown to interfere with calcium absorption.

All that being said, multivitamins are just what the labels say they are–dietary supplements. Ideally, you should be getting your nutrients from food sources, or at least most of them. If you think you need some help getting your daily dose, talk to your doctor for an idea of what kind to get.

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1February2012

Four Stress-Relieving Foods

Posted by Wellness under: Nutrition.

We tend to think of stress as a mental thing, thinking that if we manage to stop thinking about what stresses us out, the stress itself will go away. But for many people, it’s not as clear-cut as that. Stress tends to spill over from mental to physical, manifesting in a variety of tangible ways from weight gain and wrinkles to clinical depression and an increased risk of cancer and heart disease.

The good news is that stress is more easily solved than we think, sometimes even literally as easy as peanuts. Here are some simple but surprisingly potent foods that can help put an end to the stress cycle.

Nuts: Peanuts, walnuts, cashews–these are all great for lowering stress levels, and not just because chomping on them is rhythmically relaxing. Many nuts are high in zinc, magnesium, and B-vitamins, all of which help regulate mood and stimulate the production of serotonin (a brain chemical known to relieve stress). They’re also said to improve memory and concentration, although this has yet to be proven. Almonds are especially effective–pop a few just before a meeting and you’ll be good to go.

Fish: Most seafood is high in B-vitamins, but fish is the most reliable source. It’s particularly high in B6 and B12, the most important factors in serotonin production. As a welcome perk, some fish are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which lower cholesterol and prevent heart disease. Get your daily dose by packing a tuna sandwich for lunch or whipping up some grilled salmon for dinner, with some fresh vegetables on the side to balance things out.

Whole grains: If you’ve cut down on carbs for weight loss, you might be paying for it in other ways. Low-carb diets are shown to contribute to depression, as carbohydrates are one of the most effective serotonin boosters. Choose whole-grain over white varieties; they’re more filling and have undergone less processing, which means they’ve kept most of their nutritional value. Make sure to watch your portions as too much carbs in a short period can make you drowsy for the rest of the day.

Dark green vegetables: You might have heard about dark greens in talks about vegetarian health–they’re an important source of nutrition for those who have given up read meat. Vegetarian or not, you can benefit from the occasional side of broccoli or kale: they’re high in folic acid, which has been proven effective against depression, panic, anxiety, and other things that can arise from stress.

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1February2012

What’s In A Cup? Comparing Coffee Types

Posted by Wellness under: Nutrition.

The verdict on coffee has swung all over the place recently. Some research shows a cup a day can help lower heart disease risk, while others say it’s swimming in carcinogens. One reason the results are so varied is that there are now so many types of coffee–different origins, different roasts, different ways of brewing. And studies are showing that their nutritional values vary as vastly as the regions they come from. One thing’s for sure: some brews are healthier than others. Here’s a quick list of what’s what.

French press vs. filter

Filter coffee machines may be more effective at reducing fat content in coffee than a traditional cafetière. The difference is in the mechanism: with a traditional plunger, all the fat makes it to your cup, while the paper filter catches a lot of it. Studies have shown that drinking unfiltered coffee regularly increases homocysteine, a chemical that increases heart attack risk. However, filter coffee has much higher levels of caffeine, so it may not be a good idea if you have palpitations or other heart conditions.

Instant coffee

Unusually for something instant, this actually matches or even outperforms brewed coffee in terms of health. Instant coffee comes from brewed coffee beans that have been freeze-dried to remove the water. This process also removes the fatty chemicals found in most beans, so it’s virtually fat-free. The caffeine content is also much lower. The only thing you have to watch out for is the sodium, which tends to go up when preservatives are added. Check the labels to make sure you’re getting an unprocessed mix.

Espresso

Espresso is made by shooting pressurized hot water through the coffee beans. Like the filter process, it weeds out the fatty substances, leaving you with a fairly light but caffeine-rich mix. The nutritional value depends a lot on what you do with it–whether you get a single shot or mix it with water, milk, whipped cream, chocolate, or a variety of sweet syrups. Two to three cups of plain coffee probably won’t hurt, but most people have more than that.

Boiled and percolated

These types are less common, and for good reason: they’re among the least healthy coffee types out there. In both processes, most of the fat content makes it from the beans to the water because there is little to no filtering involved. It’s high in caffeine, though, so if you need an energy boost, this is a good way to get it, as long as you only have it on occasion.

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1February2012

Red Meat Can Be Healthy

Posted by Wellness under: Nutrition.

Red meat has suffered from a lot of bad press in the last couple of decades. Few health “experts” can talk about weight loss or cardiac health without harping on the dangers of red meat: the fat, the calories, the cholesterol. But is the occasional pot roast really that lethal? New research suggests it isn’t–it’s just about choosing the right kind and proper preparation.

What’s in a steak?

All meats, whether red or white, contain a number of important nutrients. These include Vitamin B, protein, and iron. In fact, the Canadian Cancer Society recommends about three servings of red meat per week to get the recommended dose of these nutrients. The catch is that red meat contains a high amount of less desirable stuff, such as saturated fat. The problem isn’t so much the meat itself but how it’s made; many commercial meats come from grain-fed animals, which have higher amounts of body fat because of their diets. That extra fat, of course, makes it to the groceries and onto our plates.

When is it too much?

There’s no consensus on how much red meat is too much, mostly because people have different dietary needs. Some of us need more protein and others could do with a little less fat. The recommended serving mentioned above is just a guideline; if you’re in good health and have no special dietary needs, it’s a good figure to stick to. The problem is that serving sizes seldom conform to these figures. The ideal 2.5-oz serving of steak is the size of a deck of cards, which is less than half the slab of beef you get at a restaurant. So the trick is not to count how many times you eat red meat, but how much you have in a sitting.

Does it make the cut?

Another thing to look out for is the cut of meat. Some cuts naturally have more fat than others, but the difference is not always visible. The leanest cuts are usually the inside round roast, strip loin, and sirloin steak. Tenderloin is also good as long as the visible fat is trimmed off. These cuts can be more expensive, but remember, ideal serving sizes are smaller, so if you stick to those, you can stretch $20 of meat over several healthy meals.

One last trick is to serve your red meat with vegetables. This doesn’t just balance out your meal, but also fills you up faster. Once you’re used to better cuts and smaller helpings, you’ll find that it’s easier to satisfy those meat cravings, not to mention it’s more guilt-free.

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1February2012

The Ultimate Diet? Make Peace With Food

Posted by Wellness under: Weight Loss.

Many of us have a love-hate relationship with food. We want to stay healthy and keep our waistlines down, but it’s hard to resist food when it’s all around us–temptation exists in shops, streets, schools, even public restrooms. The key to a successful diet is not to make weight loss your goal, but to aim for healthier living. This trains you to make the right choices not because it’ll make you skinnier, but simply because it’s the healthier choice. Here are some tips and tricks to help you get started.

Forget the switch

The words “I’m on a diet” imply that you’re consciously choosing healthy foods for the moment­–and that once you’re off the diet you’ll fall back into your pizza and hamburger regimen. That’s how most people are with their weight loss plans, which explains why so many of them gain the weight back (and then some) as soon as they stop dieting. Instead of going on diets, opt for a lifestyle change, where there’s no on-off switch for making responsible choices.

Don’t do it for the numbers

If you live on salads for a couple of weeks, you’d finally drop those last three inches. Sure, but what happens when you finally step into those skinny jeans? Weight loss isn’t so much about the numbers as it is about your overall health. Don’t measure your success by how many pounds or inches you lose–go by how good you feel about yourself. If you eat well in order to feel lighter, more energized, and generally be in better health, you’ll reach your goal much sooner–and probably stay there longer.

Turn off the TV…

…and the radio, the internet, and anywhere else you see models with 21-inch waists. Thousands of diets have been started on the notion that a stick-thin figure is the only way to be beautiful or healthy. Some flab on your arms, a layer of fat on your belly–these are all normal and shouldn’t be taken to mean you eat like a pig. Again, go by how you feel; as long as you’re feeling fine and don’t order too many Big Macs, there’s probably nothing wrong.

Have a sundae

Not every day, but not never either. A healthy diet doesn’t mean giving up the good stuff for life. In fact, knowing you can have the occasional (well-earned) treat can help you stay on track. So once in a while, remember that you can say yes to a few beers or a bag of chips on movie night.

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1February2012

Understanding Antioxidants

Posted by Wellness under: Nutrition.

You’ve seen it plastered on food labels–tea, coffee, fruit juices, even some desserts. Antioxidants have been a buzzword in the health industry for years. But few of us really know what they do, why we need them, and how we can manage our intake. Read on to learn some of the basics.

As their name suggests, antioxidants prevent oxidation, a natural result of our cells using oxygen. When this happens, the cells create a by-product called free radicals, which causes cell damage and leads to such problems as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Antioxidants fight these free radicals and help nurse the cells back to health, as well as strengthen your body’s defenses against disease.

The most common antioxidants include Vitamin A and a similar class of nutrients called carotenoids, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and selenium. Most fruits and vegetables contain these to some extent, but the most abundant sources are carrots, broccoli, kale, tomatoes, peaches, citrus fruits, and leafy vegetables. Color is often a good indicator of nutritional content; if possible, try to get a lot of light and dark greens, yellow, orange, and bright red.

Red meat is an exception to this rule. Although it does contain selenium, another antioxidant, it’s high in many other chemicals that contribute to free radical production. Other animal products, such as chicken, poultry, and seafood, are a much safer source of antioxidants. You don’t have to cut it out altogether, but you do need to watch your portions and try to have it no more than twice a week.

Tea is probably the most popular source of antioxidants. Green tea is particularly good for this purpose; because the leaves aren’t left to dry up, as in black tea or oolong tea, they retain most of their nutritional content. Studies show that drinking three cups of green tea a day can lower your risk of disease by about a third. To make the most of each cup, get high-quality leaves and let it steep for at least three minutes.

Antioxidant supplements are another alternative, but they’re only recommended for people who cannot consume food sources because of allergies or some other condition. It’s still best to get your dose from natural sources, especially since they contain other important nutrients as well. If possible, make sure to have them with as few add-ons as possible, and eat them raw whenever you can so you don’t lose any of the content in the process.

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1February2012

Vitamin E: Not Just Nature’s Time Machine

Posted by Wellness under: Supplements And Vitamins.

Most of us probably know Vitamin E from skin care commercials, thanks to companies that have taken to plugging it as the key to youthful skin. Vitamin E does help prevent some of the signs of aging on your skin, such as age spots and wrinkles. But it does a lot more than make you look young. Vitamin E is well known for helping prevent a wide range of diseases and strengthening the body’s immune system, as well as protecting against sun exposure and other environmental factors.

Vitamin E is an antioxidant, which means it helps undo the wear and tear of natural body processes and exposure to the elements. It protects against certain types of cancer and reduces the risk of heart disease, mostly by helping eliminate the free radicals that cells produce when they oxidize. Studies have shown positive effects against atherosclerosis, a buildup of plaque in the arteries, in people who were given regular Vitamin E supplements.

One of its more popular effects is preventing eye damage linked to age and environmental factors. In a separate study, people who had regular doses of Vitamin E were shown to have much lower risk of developing macular degeneration, a condition common in older adults. People over 40 who have a high risk of eye disease are often advised to take Vitamin E supplements.

Besides a higher risk of disease, a lack of Vitamin E can cause muscle weakness and damage, which in turn can lead to poor walking posture. Severe deficiency can interfere with liver and kidney function, and increase the likelihood of premature delivery and miscarriage in pregnant women. Low Vitamin E has also been linked to worsening of Alzheimer’s symptoms, cataracts, high blood pressure, and blood sugar problems.

Doctors initially thought there was no such thing as a Vitamin E overdose, but it’s been shown that it simply has a much higher threshold. Taking too much can cause diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and heart palpitations. Although you don’t need a prescription for most Vitamin E supplements, make sure to bring it up with your doctor beforehand to make sure it won’t interfere with other medications or regimes you’re on. This is especially the case for people taking anti-psychotic drugs and blood thinners. Better yet, try to get it from food sources–some of the most common are wheat germ, sunflower seeds, nuts, mangoes, and kiwi fruit.

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1February2012

Survive Flu Season With These Power Foods

Posted by Wellness under: Flu.

You’ve had your flu shot, you wash your hands regularly, and you’ve been chugging orange juice whenever you can. So why do you still get the occasional off-day? Sometimes it takes not just a few big steps, but also little tweaks that help strengthen your defenses. Here are some common foods that can help you ward off the sniffles.

Spicy food: If you’ve ever had to grab a box of tissues after an ethnic meal, you’ll know how effective spices are at clearing the airways. Many spices also contain a variety of nutrients that help boost your immune system. These include onion, garlic, ginger, horseradish, and chilies. If you like spicy sauces, make sure to choose all-natural varieties–many companies now make preservative-free sauces that go with pretty much anything.

Chicken soup: There’s a reason there’s a whole series of feel-good books named after it. Chicken soup owes its healing power to its warmth, which helps to clear up clogged airways, and its mix of protein and vitamins, which helps you regain your energy. One caveat, though: store-bought soups don’t have the same nutritional value and tend to be high in sodium, which can do you more harm than good. Make your own at home and throw in your favourite vegetables and spices (see above) to maximize the benefits.

Fluids

Keeping hydrated is essential to cleaning up your system. Some drinks, however, bring in more bad stuff than they’re flushing out. Soda, coffee, and sweetened drinks are some of the worst. Instead, drink water or herbal tea whenever you need refreshments. Use honey instead of sugar if you like it sweet. Or for something simpler, take some hot water and add a slice of lime or lemon to change up the taste a bit. To satisfy your sweet tooth, opt for pure fruit juices (make your own if possible) instead of the kind made from concentrate.

Fruits and vegetables

On a regular day, a person needs about five servings of fruits and vegetables per day. During flu season, you’ll need a bit more than that, especially if your current diet has left your immune system weak. Citrus fruits are the obvious first choice, but they’re not the only ones. Guava, grapes, strawberries, and even potatoes and peppers pack a good dose of vitamin C. Sneak them into your meals whenever you can, and you’ll be surprised at how it all adds up.

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1February2012

Tea Types Explained

Posted by Wellness under: Nutrition; Weight Loss.

Tea has been touted as a wonder food for as long as we can remember. Its benefits range from weight loss and better digestion to the prevention of a wide range of diseases, from diabetes to heart disease to cancer. And with all the hype, unfortunately, comes a lot of confusion. Over the years, a plethora of tea types have come up: black, white, green, red, oolong, chai, herbal, jasmine. While they’re all essentially good for you, it’s become hard to choose both in terms of health targets and sheer preference.

For tea purists, tea should only be produced from a plant called Camellia sinensis, which is grown in China and India. In this sense, only green, white, black, and pu-erh (a post-fermented variety originating in southwest China) fit the definition. Again, any tea is good for you, but there’s good reason to stick to these type: Camellia sinensis is rich in flavonoids, a strong antioxidant that helps prevent cancer and cardiovascular disease. They also have more caffeine (although coffee has more) and theanine, which contribute to sharper focus and alertness.

In green tea, the leaves are steamed instead of dried, so little chemical change happens. This is why green tea has the highest antioxidant content and has been shown to inhibit several types of cancer, as well as a host of mental and cognitive disorders.

In black tea, leaves are allowed to oxidize completely. Black tea has fewer flavonoids, but a lot more caffeine. Most flavoured teas, including the Indian variety chai, are made from black tea because it has a sweeter, fruitier flavour. Its most well-known benefit is protecting the lungs from secondary smoke, which is known to be even more destructive than smoking itself.  Pu-erh tea is considered a variety of black tea where the leaves are aged and fermented. It has been linked to weight loss and cholesterol reduction, although definitive studies have yet to be made.

Oolong is a green-black tea hybrid in which the Camellia sinensis leaves are allowed to partially oxidize. It’s best known for its weight-loss benefits; combined with regular exercise and proper diet, it boosts metabolism and increases energy levels.

White tea is made from almost completely untouched leaves, neither cured, dried, nor fermented. Not as many studies have been done on it, but data shows that its anti-cancer properties may be even stronger than that of green tea.

The bottom line: what we know about tea is constantly evolving, but what we do know is that it’s good for you. No matter what kind you pick, a cup a day can’t hurt.

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