benefits of argan oil
Natural Living, All posts, Beauty & Skin Care

How to Use Amazing Argan Oil for Healthy Hair & Skin

Medically review by Kim Langdon

Argan oil is a vitamin-rich beauty product and culinary product packed with healthy fatty acids for anti-aging, healing acne, and safe DIY beauty recipes. Learn more about its roots, how to use it at home, and how to buy the best argan oil.

What is argan oil?

benefits of argan oil

Argan oil, like all oils, is derived from a tree. 

Argania spinosa L or the argan tree yields kernels (pictured above) from which this oil is extracted. It is notoriously difficult!

In fact, the traditional method of extraction was removing the kernels from goat feces so that it was partially broken down prior to extraction.

Don't worry - commercial processes have made it so this isn't necessary although some traditional cultures still practice this method.

You can find wild argan oil tree fields in the southwestern region.

There are records of Phoenicians in 1550 BC using argan oil as a cosmetic product, for moisturization and beautification.

Upon arrival to Europe, argan oil became a hot commodity; it was a sign of wealth and class.

It is important to source beauty products ethically, so you'll be pleased to know that argan oil is sustainable.

The Argan tree has had a rough go of it though, and it struggles to survive.

Fortunately, it is now protected by UNESCO with its Man and Biosphere Program.

This program aims to reduce the harm done by man on the environment through minimizing exploitation and emphasizing the responsible use and conservation of natural resources.

In Morocco, these trees serve a purpose beyond their fruit.

They stave off the expansion of the desert and offer protection from the harsh winds of the Sahara.

They provide shade necessary for other crops to grow and help to replenish the region's aquifers.

The argan tree is not only abundant with a superfruit; they are necessary to the ecosystem of Morocco and the overall stability of the environment.

Traditionally, the extracted oil is used for culinary purposes such as dipping bread, while in western countries, it is more readily available as a beauty product.

The benefits of argan oil

The benefits of argan oil

Like other oils, we can break its constituents down most easily by looking at its fatty acid content.

Essential fatty acids can provide great health benefits both when ingested and used topically.

Argan oil is mainly comprised of oleic acid at around 43%, but it is also high in linoleic acid (LA) at around 37%.

Argan oil also contains a substantial amount of vitamin E - one of the most important nutrients for the skin.

Benefits of oleic acid (omega-9 fatty acids)

This acid is the same fatty acid that mainly comprises olive oil. Unlike omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids, oleic acid is an omega-9 fatty acid - a class of monounsaturated fatty acids.

This makes it a non-essential fatty acid meaning your body makes it on its own.

  • They can lower fasting blood glucose
  • They can enhance blood flow and circulation
  • They can reduce insulin levels
  • They reduce the risk of stroke
  • They can reduce inflammation
  • They are high in antioxidants
  • They are helpful for cellular regeneration

It's a particularly strong candidate for diabetes management because of its primary benefits when ingested.

However, the anti-inflammatory nature of oleic acid can also be very effective when products with high omega-9s are used topically.

Moreover, their antioxidant content makes them a powerful anti-aging component.

Finally, cellular regeneration can be great for the skin. 

We'll talk about that more in the next section.

Benefits of linoleic acid

Linoleic acid is an omega-6 fatty acid which makes it a polyunsaturated fatty acid.

It is most commonly found in vegetable oils which we don't always recommend eating due to their inflammatory nature.

Unlike oleic acid, these fatty acids are essential because the body cannot synthesize them independently.

  • They foster healthy cell membranes and cellular function
  • They reduce bodily inflammation (internally, externally)
  • They are moisturizing for the skin
  • They have the potential to minimize scarring
  • Their anti-inflammatory properties may reduce skin pain

Overall, we know that essential fatty acids are crucial for well-being and vitality. They are the key components of healthy cells that comprise everything that we are!

While omega-6 fatty acids are more abundant in the Standard American Diet (SAD) than omega-3s due to the prevalence of vegetable oils in processed foods, it's actually an incredibly important component of a healthy diet.

Moreover, it can be a powerful ingredient in your skincare routine.

Benefits of vitamin E

Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant which is one of the main reasons we see it appear so often in skincare products.

Antioxidants are going to reduce free radical damage to the cells, increasing their stamina so to speak.

Our skin cells need rejuvenation, but prevention is the best way to keep it looking youthful.

  • It can protect against toxins in air pollution
  • It can reduce the appearance of scars
  • It can minimize the appearance of stretch marks
  • It can reduce the appearance of wrinkles
  • It can help to ward off UV damage from the sun

Supplementing with vitamin E, eating foods rich with vitamin E, and using it as a topical treatment can be very effective, especially in reducing scarring from acne or otherwise.

Vitamin E oil can be mixed with argan oil and carrier oils to optimize results. You will find more recipes for skincare in the section below.

How to use argan oil

How to Use Argan Oil

Use it as an acne treatment

Argan oil can be effective in preventing acne as well as treating painful acne in the process of healing, or reducing the appearance of acne scars.

You can expect to see reduced redness and swelling pretty shortly after treatment. This is because of its anti-inflammatory properties mainly from the linoleic acid found in argan oil.

It can also help to repair skin cells giving them a healthier, more vibrant appearance. Finally, Argan oil is particularly effective as an acne remedy when paired with tea tree oil.

According to this research, the lips found in argan oil have a synergistic effect meaning it should be applied with a carrier oil or paired with another cosmetic product for the best results when applying topically.

Use it as a moisturizer

One of the most appealing aspects of using argan oil as a moisturizer is that it absorbs into the skin very quickly.

This makes it a great oil for otherwise oily skin because it won't leave you with a film or residue.

Don't worry - it won't clog pores either.

This study shows that using argan oil can reduce sebum production, or in other words, the appearance of oil on your skin.

A single drop or two is enough to provide your entire face with moisture, so a little goes a long way.

This makes it a very budget-friendly choice for natural moisture! Of course, you can pair it with other ingredients, but it's effective for this purpose on its own.

Make sure to warm up the oil in your hands first for the best results and absorption. Simply do this by rubbing it between the fingers or palms.

Use it as a toner

Argan Oil as a Toner

Many toners can be quite harsh on the face, especially if they contain alcohol.

If you add a drop or two of argan oil to your normal toner, it can help reduce some of the, particularly rough effects.

Switching over to a gentler toner like witch hazel may also be a good idea.

For a moisturizing toner, steep green tea and let it cool. Add a few drops of argan oil, and jar it for later use.

Green tea has antioxidants that are beneficial for the skin.

You can also add essential oils if you'd like a scented toner.

Finally, boost your toning by pouring the final product into an ice cube tray to freeze. Rub the cubes over your skin as your daily toner.

The cold contact on your skin will shrink your pores, making them appear smaller.

Use it as an eye serum

Argan oil can be very effective at targeting fine lines which are a major "problem area" for many folks as they age. They can become particularly prominent around the eyes.

Eye serums are a popular beauty product, and notoriously expensive!

However, the main ingredients are often the same across the boards. One of the key ingredients? Vitamin E.

As we know, argan oil provides a healthy dose of the stuff.

For the best results, mix argan oil with a carrier oil like jojoba oil.

Then, add in some additional vitamin E for an eye serum you can use daily.

On the fly, you can simply use a drop of argan oil around the eyes to brighten up and help to minimize the appearance of dark bags under your eyes.

Since this oil is so gentle, you can use it on the more sensitive areas of your skin without it being irritating.

Use it in your exfoliant

Mix just a few drops of argan oil into a natural exfoliant to clear the skin of dead cells and smooth things out.

This is great for the face or for other rough spots - the elbows, knees, ankles, or feet.

Exfoliation is a particularly good step to take prior to shaving as it will open up some of the hair follicles so you can get a smoother, longer-lasting shave.

One of the best ways to exfoliate is with a sugar scrub. Use a coarse sugar like coconut sugar or brown sugar, and simply blend a tablespoon or two with a drop of argan oil for exfoliating spot treatment.

Rub it into a rough patch of skin in a circular motion for 1-2 minutes (without irritation) and rinse.

Use it as a nail strengthening agent

Argan Oil for nail strengthening

Rough cuticles, damaged brittle nails, and inflamed skin surrounding the nails are fairly common ailments.

Not only can they be unsightly, but they can also be very painful.

Using a few drops of argan oil around the nails can reduce redness and pain due to its anti-inflammatory nature.

The oil will also provide moisture that is quickly absorbed, so you can soak up the benefits without having greasy hands.

Furthermore, you can use argan oil to soften cuticles to push them back with ease.

Use it to boost your lotion

Many commercial skincare products or hair products that you already own could be made better with argan oil. You know what they say; if it's not broke, don't fix it.

However, if you knew it could be better, why not? Argan oil is gentle, effective, and very safe to use. Add some to your favorite lotions, conditioners, serums, and creams for a little extra antioxidant action and moisture.

Use it to treat inflammatory skin issues

Psoriasis, eczema, rosacea, and dermatitis can be very tricky problems to solve, and often have internal roots.

However, at the root, they are all the result of inflammation.

Due to argan oil's natural anti-inflammatory properties, a drop or two can reduce redness and pain from these conditions while simultaneously offering all-day moisture.

Let vitamin A and vitamin E work their magic.

Use it as a conditioner

Argan Oil as a conditioner

Not only is argan oil great for the skin - but it's also good for the hair.

Considering how much moisture it can provide for the skin, it's no surprise it can do the same for hair.

It's especially potent for sun-damaged hair, heat-damaged hair, or colored hair.

Simply apply a drop or two to clean, dry hair after a shower and style as you normally would to reduce frizz and fly-aways.

Some may even argue that argan oil can promote hair growth and restore hair volume, making it appear thicker.

Make sure to apply some to the scalp to reap those benefits.

If you choose to use argan oil on dry hair, focus on the ends to minimize the appearance of greasy hair.

No matter the method you prefer, you'll be blown away by how soft and luxurious your locks feel!

You can also find argan oil as a key ingredient in many commercial hair products these days.

Use it as a dandruff treatment

Instead of using it as a quick fix for frizz or flyaways, you can use argan oil as a deep conditioning agent to treat dandruff or simply restore moisture to dry and damaged hair.

It works really well to treat inflammation on the scalp while simultaneously improving the appearance and texture of hair.

If you use argan oil as an overnight treatment, you want to use quite a bit more than normal.

You also want to consider heat circulation and how that will enhance the effects.

If your hair/scalp is dry, you can use 8-10 drops. If you have more oily hair, 4-6 drops should do the trick.

With either amount, start at the scalp and massage the oil toward the ends of the hair.

Use a shower cap overnight to seal in the moisture and heat. Wash out as normal in the morning. You can do this treatment 1-2 times per week.

Use it to treat razor burn

Razor burn isn't pretty and it's far from pleasant. These irritated, inflamed hair follicles can be made a bit easier to deal with using argan oil.

Simply warm some oil up in your hands and apply it to the affected area.

Use it as a lip treatment

Argan Oil as a lip treatment

Lips are one of the most vulnerable body parts -, especially on the face. Cold weather can be especially damaging, giving you dry and cracked lips.

Argan oil makes a great 'chapstick.'

You can use it with a carrier oil and DIY your own lip balm or simply rub a drop or a couple into your lips when they feel irritated.

How to buy & store argan oil

How to buy & store argan oil

Like with any lipid or fat, argan oil has the potential to go rancid.

This diminishes the healthful properties of its fatty acids and its antioxidant profile substantially.

Buying a quality argan oil first is key to making sure you have the longest shelf-life and best efficacy possibly.

Moreover, it's important to store your argan oil property.

  • Look for argan oil that is 100% cold-pressed. With growing popularity, there are bound to be cheaper, less effective products on the market. Go for a mid-range buy or a splurge. Even a good quality oil will last a long time and shouldn't break the budget.
  • Store in a cool, dry place. Keep the bottle your argan oil or argan oil product is in away from the path of direct sunlight or places that get very warm. Make sure it's in an air-tight container, too.
  • Try to replace products after six months. Buy smaller bottles of argan oil because it is best used during the first six months. After that, the quality diminishes. However, this is just a guideline.

This article was fact checked for accuracy by Dr. Kim Langdon, MD. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.

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Quinoa's nutritional profile
Nutrition, All posts

Super “Grain” Quinoa: Benefits, Recipes & More

Medically review by Kim Langdon

Quinoa - pronounced keen-wah - is a pseudo-grain and superfood that has been growing exponentially in popularity amongst plant-based eaters, gluten-free eaters, and adventurous eaters alike.

While it looks, feels, and cooks a lot like a grain, quinoa is actually a seed which is why it is described as a pseudo-grain or pseudocereal - sort of like buckwheat.

Quinoa is naturally gluten-free which makes it safe for most folks to eat.

Even people who follow a modified paleo diet include quinoa sometimes as a source of protein.

Quinoa benefits

Speaking of protein, quinoa is considered a complete plant protein.

Basically, our bodies use 20 different amino acids to form proteins in the body, and for a food to constitute a complete protein, it must contain the 9 amino acids that our bodies can't synthesis without a food source.

Many complete proteins happen to be animal foods, but there are a few miraculous and powerful plant sources out there too.

Quinoa comes from the same plant family as amaranth, another popular pseudo-cereal grain.

This 7,000-year-old plant originated in the Andes of South America, but humans have only been harvesting quinoa and using it as a source of nutrition for 3-4,000 years.

It's still a pretty long time - long enough for us to get curious about this health food, its history, and its benefits!

Quinoa's nutritional profile

Quinoa's nutritional profile

Before we get into some of the more intricate details of why quinoa is such a healthy choice, let's talk about its nutritional profile.

We'll check out the macronutrients and micronutrients which will help you to see why some of those benefits exist.

Per one cup of cooked quinoa, here is what you get.

  • Calories: 222 calories
  • Fat: 3.6 grams
  • Protein: 8.1 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 39.4 grams
  • Fiber: 5.2 grams
  • Calcium: 31.5 mg (3% DV)
  • Iron: 2.8 mg (15% DV)
  • Magnesium: 115 mg (30% DV)
  • Phosphorous: 281 mg (28% DV)
  • Potassium: 318 mg (9% DV)
  • Manganese: 1.2 mg (58% DV)
  • Selenium: 5.2 mcg (7% DV)
  • Thiamin: 0.2 mg (13% DV)
  • Riboflavin: 0.2 mg (12% DV)
  • Niacin: 0.8 mg (4% DV)
  • Folate: 77.7 mcg (19% DV)
  • Vitamin B6: 0.2 mg (11% DV)

While quinoa is mostly rich with fiber, protein, and B vitamins, it also contains some vitamin E and vitamin A.

Overall, it is an incredible source of minerals and energizing vitamins.

Finally, quinoa contains a really naturally balanced macronutrient ratio with a healthy dose of slow carbs paired with protein and fiber for long-lasting fuel.

The Benefits of Quinoa

The Benefits of Quinoa

It's a heart-healthy food.

First, quinoa contains a great profile of healthy fats in addition to its high protein content.

It doesn't get quite enough credit for its monounsaturated fat content or oleic acid.

Nor do we talk about the omega-3 fatty acids contained in quinoa or the alpha-linoleic acid. ALA is one of the strongest protectors against heart disease and is known to reduce the risk of cardiac arrest.

We know that ALA intake is much more potent when ingested from food sources in comparison to supplement sources, so adding an ALA-rich food like quinoa to the diet is a great preventative measure.

Moreover, research shows that potassium intake can reduce blood pressure in individuals with hypertension.

A serving of quinoa provides around 10% of the daily recommended value of potassium.

In conjunction with other heart-healthy minerals like magnesium and manganese, this heart-healthy food may prevent stroke and other instances of heart disease.

In fact, the same research concludes that increased potassium intake could reduce the risk of stroke by up to 24% - pretty significant!

It's great for digestion.

Considering quinoa has a pretty high fiber content, we know it's great for digestion.

Getting enough fiber can make a massive difference in digestion in terms of keeping you regular, avoiding constipation, and reducing gas/bloating.

Fibrous foods tend to make us feel more full. They add bulk to our food and slow down the digestion of carbohydrates, making that energy more long-lasting.

Fibre also absorbs moisture in the gut, adds bulk to the stool as well, and helps to move things along.

Adding fiber to the diet can be a simple cure to constipation.

A cup of cooked quinoa provides nearly a quarter of the daily recommended value.

While quinoa isn't easy for everyone to digest (which we will talk about later), it can make all the difference for some.

Another factor to consider is the high content of manganese found in quinoa.

Manganese plays a role in the production of digestive enzymes - compounds that break down difficult-to-digest proteins - and makes it easier for the body to digest food overall.

A cup of cooked quinoa provides more than half of the daily recommended value of manganese.

It can help you to lose weight.

We all want to know what we should eat to lose weight, right?

The best foods for weight loss are ones that give you the most bang for your buck, and that's one of the main reasons we adore quinoa.

It truly hits all the notes, and it's a must-have pantry staple while working towards fat loss goals.

First of all, fiber and protein together make for the most dynamic duo when tailoring your diet to your weight loss goals.

Calorie restriction is necessary, but sticking to those calorie goals can be really tough!

Eating the right foods makes all the difference.

A food that is both rich with protein and fiber is filling and will keep you fuller and energized for longer during the day.

Moreover, this will help you fight cravings and avoid overeating.

This study shows that alternative grains to wheat such as barley, oats, and quinoa ranked higher in overall satisfaction and satiety, proving this "grain" to be superior in weight loss diets.

It has anti-inflammatory properties.

Inflammation management can be crucial for people with autoimmune disease to see remission, and for preventing disease overall.

Inflammation is a normal response within the body to pain or a stressor, but sometimes, our bodies get a little haywire.

This is when inflammation becomes a problem - when it persists. Eating a diet chock full of anti-inflammatory foods and ingredients can help.

Most real food diets will meet those needs effortlessly, and quinoa is a part of that protocol.

The outer shell of quinoa contains phytochemicals called saponins which, according to this research, can inhibit inflammatory cytokines from releasing.

However, those same saponins can cause intestinal distress!

Fortunately, the antioxidant content of quinoa is also anti-inflammatory.

This study looks at the polyphenols found in quinoa and concludes that they can prevent inflammation in the intestines - particularly in obese subjects.

It's naturally gluten-free.

While the whole gluten-free thing might seem like a trend that appeared out of nowhere, it's not just coeliacs who suffer from eating gluten!

Gluten intolerance and gluten sensitivity are legitimate health concerns, and more and more people are recognizing that wheat just doesn't work for them.

Quinoa is naturally non-allergenic, wheat-free, and gluten-free.

Like we mentioned above, it's not even a grain. Technically and botanically, quinoa is a seed.

While individuals with compromised gut health should take more precaution when eating seeds and/or grains (which we'll discuss in the section below), most people won't react poorly to eating quinoa occasionally.

This makes it a great alternative to other grains or wheat products people may be avoiding.

Hey - we have to find some way to get our fix!

It can help manage cholesterol numbers.

Cholesterol is a fine balance between HDL and LDL numbers. Fibre, in particular, is known to manage cholesterol levels well.

Research shows that amaranth protein (the same family crop quinoa is derived from) has a positive effect on cholesterol metabolism, and animals in the study saw a reduction in total plasma cholesterol concentration.

It's an anti-cancer food.

Many foods are anti-cancer because they feed our cells and ward off oxidative damage with their high antioxidant content.

If we break it down, we can see that quinoa contains many compounds that are crucial for our bodies to fight disease as effectively and efficiently as possible.

Let's dissect this a little further.

This study - which looks closer at quinoa leaves - shows that they contain chemopreventive and anti-carcinogenic properties, with both high bioavailability and bioaccessibility meaning that this source is particularly usable by our bodies.

Ultimately, we can trace these properties back to antioxidant content.

However, there are a few Saponins - the "evil" sort of anti-nutrient - actually come in the clutch again here; this research shows that they have chemotherapeutic potential.

Moreover, we can see peptide lunasin has the potential to selectively kill cells, meaning there is potential for killing cancer cells without impacting healthy cells, according to this study.

Lastly, antioxidant quercetin is a powerful fighter of free radical damage, also addressing cancer potential at the cellular level.

This study shows that it is particularly effective in the prevention of lung cancer.

It's friendly for the gut (the second brain).

You might know about the gut-brain axis, and why we refer to the gut as the second brain.

It controls almost our entire immune system, and the more we learn, the more we uncover.

There are links between the gut and digestion, mental health, and just about everything you can imagine.

Feeding our gut the right foods is imperative if you're chasing after fabulous, sustainable health.

Since quinoa is an anti-inflammatory food and we know that its antioxidant content can address intestinal inflammation, it automatically gets two thumbs up from our guts!

One of the most convincing factors is that quinoa contains something called butyrate which is a fatty acid that our guts thrive on.

When we don't get enough from food sources, our gut health becomes compromised.

Furthermore, quinoa contains prebiotics which help to fuel and feed probiotics, maintaining healthy gut flora.

It may help prevent type 2 diabetes.

Preventing type 2 diabetes is a balance of managing and maintaining a healthy weight while also eating to manage your blood sugar.

Insulin resistance and metabolic disease often accompany obesity, but poor blood sugar control can affect anyone!

A diet of processed food drives the blood sugar spikes and drops for people at any weight, so eating foods that help keep that balance in check is a great way to ward off diabetes.

Quinoa is a great food for pre-diabetic individuals to add to their diet, especially those attempting to cut out refined grains and sugars.

This research done on mice shows promising results. The leaching of quinoa significantly reduced fasting blood glucose in obese, hyperglycemic subjects.

This is because the leaching process can utilize the concentrated bioactive phytochemicals found in quinoa.

Another study showed that more than half of the participants who consumed quinoa cereal bars for 30 days saw a reduction in blood glucose levels.

Additional research shows that high amounts of manganese - found in quinoa - may improve glucose tolerance by increasing the secretion of insulin.

It contains essential minerals for good bone health.

Manganese is a pretty powerful mineral. It's one of the main reasons why quinoa is so good for bone health and bone strength.

Many folks who avoid dairy want to know if that puts them at risk for osteoporosis.

Fortunately, there are other ways to fill in those nutritional gaps and keep the bones strong, in addition to regular strength training and/or yoga.

Magnesium and phosphorous found in quinoa also make it a great food for bone health.

In most cases, it is much more effective to see benefits from minerals and vitamins when you primarily consume them in food form versus a supplement.

How to prepare quinoa

How to prepare quinoa

Quinoa is very healthy food and it works for most folks, especially because it's naturally gluten-free.

However, all grains and seeds contain something called anti-nutrients.

For example, the saponins we mentioned above for all of their numerous benefits can actually bind to vitamins and minerals, making them less available for the body to use.

When consuming grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes, it's important to know how we can optimize the experience and ensure the nutrients in that food and the foods we pair it with are bioavailable.

First, it's important to rinse quinoa. Those saponins will come right off with a rinse, and you'll notice.

They have a slight tendency to almost lather like soap, and you'll know that your quinoa is "clean" when the bubbles stop forming.

This process will also help reduce the bitter taste that saponins produce, and help you to avoid any digestive distress quinoa might cause.

Simply run cold water over quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer, and rub between your hands while doing so.

Alternatively, you can soak quinoa.

An overnight soak followed up with a rinse will give you the best results and reduce the anti-nutrient content of this pseudo-cereal the most effectively.

This is the best course of action for someone with compromised gut health/permeability, autoimmune disease, or for reintroduction phases following up a strict reset phase (e.g paleo, autoimmune protocol, Wahl's, etc.).

10 Healthy Quinoa Recipes

If you're curious about quinoa and ready to introduce this little superfood into your diet more often, these recipes should inspire you.

All recipes featured are gluten-free and many are suitable for a vegan diet.

Many are also suitable for a modified paleo diet if you're working on introducing foods that were previously eliminated.

Quinoa is less irritable than most traditional grains and can be a really wonderful source of protein for those who want to rely less on meat.

Thai quinoa salad with grilled shrimp

Quinoa makes a really lovely addition to both cold and warm salads, adding some bulk both nutritionally and in texture.

This salad is packed with awesome, slightly spicy Thai flavor.

It's micronutrient-dense with plenty of colorful veggies and greens, plus you get double the protein when you add prawns.

This recipe would also work well with poultry, tofu, or tempeh depending on your preferences and dietary restrictions.

2. Buffalo chickpea quinoa burgers from Connoisseurs Veg

Buffalo chickpea quinoa burgers

If you want to get your junk food and fast food cravings out of the way with something a bit more wholesome than what you'll get in the drive-thru, these burgers are the jam.

Packed with buffalo flavor from classic Frank's Red Hot sauce, these real food burgers are vegan-friendly, packed with oats, quinoa, and chickpeas for protein, and perfect sandwiched between your favorite buns.

Top however you like your burgers and boom - dinner is served.

Mexican chicken quinoa casserole

Casserole is always a winner when it comes to whipping up a tasty dinner in a pinch.

It's a one-pan affair so you don't have to fuss with a bunch of dishes or clean-up.

With Mexican flavor and flair, this casserole is loaded with tender chicken, fluffy quinoa, and black beans for a filling and hearty slice.

These are leftovers you'll love. Make them new again by slicing fresh avocado and chopping fresh cilantro on top!

4. Quinoa dark chocolate breakfast cookies from Platings & Pairings

Quinoa dark chocolate breakfast cookies

These healthy cookies are totally acceptable to eat for breakfast. How many cookie recipes can you say that about?

These guys are healthy and satiating, making it convenient to pack in some nutrient-dense bites on the go.

Oh, and there will be big, gorgeous, decadent chunks of chocolate chips. Who can complain about that?

A sprinkle of flaky sea salt gives these all the spunk and zest they need. Bonus: the kids will adore these!

Spiced quinoa coconut porridge

While oatmeal is naturally gluten-free, sometimes it's exciting to switch things up.

Even if you are a diehard oatmeal enthusiast and seldom step outside of the box for breakfast, this lovely, rich, and flavorful porridge might change your mind.

You can make it in just five minutes by prepping the quinoa ahead of time.

It makes a lovely morning meal, packed with plant protein and fiber to keep you full and focused until lunch - guaranteed.

6. Garlic mushroom quinoa from Damn Delicious

Garlic mushroom quinoa

This casserole-like dish is rich with meaty mushrooms, infused with tasty garlic, and Italian spices.

It's just a few humble ingredients which makes this side SO simple to serve!

You can add to it if you'd like too. Fresh greens and cherry tomatoes would work fabulously in this dish.

Keep it vegan or not by sprinkling some Parmesan on top. So worth it.

7. Honey-lime quinoa fruit salad from The Recipe Critic

Honey-lime quinoa fruit salad

This light and healthy fruit salad is perfect for any season or any occasion.

It makes an easy, nourishing, and colorful snack or a fabulous recipe to whip up when you're going to a potluck.

Quinoa adds some lovely texture and benefits to your favorite fruit salad recipe. Use whatever is in season, and impress your guests with this unique fruit salad recipe.

A squeeze of honey and lime will add plenty of sweetness and zest, too.

8. Sweet potato & black bean quinoa bowls from Spoonful of Flavor

Sweet potato & black bean quinoa bowls

This power bowl makes a fantastic lunch to take to the office or make ahead of time.

With three superfood ingredients to make up the bulk of this, you'll find unbeatable texture, flavor, and satiation in this bowl.

It'll keep you energized through long workdays and your post-work gym session with solid plant protein, slow carbs, and pure energy.

You can easily make these ahead of time and boost them with healthy fats by adding avocado slices to serve.

9. Quinoa mac & cheese from Simply Quinoa

Quinoa mac & cheese

Okay, so there's no denying this is NOT mac and cheese.

There's no noodle, so yeah - it's missing out on that major ingredient.

However, creamy butternut squash, fluffy and light quinoa, and low-lactose goat's cheddar come together for a healthy trio that makes for a rich and lighter version of this comfort food classic.

It's worth a shot if you're looking to cut back on calories, dairy, or gluten!

10. Quinoa pizza bowls from Gimme Some Oven

Quinoa pizza bowls

Craving pizza but can't fit it into your healthy diet?

Meet your cravings in the middle with this ultra-satisfying single-serving pizza bowl.

These are so easy to make and really capture the essence of a good slice of 'za. It's less greasy, more cost-efficient, and higher in protein.

Indulge wisely with this super fun and kid-friendly recipe.

This article was fact checked for accuracy by Dr. Kim Langdon, MD. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.

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We’re Crazy About Kombucha (And You Should Be Too)

Medically review by Kim Langdon

Benefits of kombucha

Today, we're talking about delicious, bubbly, and gut-friendly kombucha. This trendy drink has taken the world by storm lately.

Does it live up to the hype?

It's actually been around for quite a while, so really, we're just catching up. Aren't we always?

Kombucha is easily found in stores, and it's even easier to make at home with a few inexpensive, simple ingredients.

In fact, the DIY option will save you tons of money down the line.

Don't worry - we'll talk all about how you can get your brew on at home after we discuss the benefits of kombucha and exactly what it is in the first place.

What is Kombucha?

What is Kombucha

Kombucha is a fermented, carbonated tea drink made with cane sugar and black tea.

Basically, you let a vat of sweet tea sit on the counter for a while with a culture made of a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast a.k.a. a SCOBY.

It sounds a little weird, right? Don't let it turn you off.

It does have a slightly vinegary taste, but the different fruits and spices used to flavor each batch - in addition to sugar - will help make it more palatable.

After the process of fermentation which can take weeks, the liquid is a blend of tea, vinegar, enzymes, B vitamins, probiotics, acetic acid, gluconic acid, and lactic acid.

It also contains a slight amount of alcohol which is clearly stated on most commercial products' labels.

These beneficial compounds join forces to create a superfood, or rather, a super drink.

In the end, a batch of kombucha will contain four primary probiotics or types of healthy bacteria: gluconacetobacter, acetobacter, lactobacillus, and zygosaccharomyces.

It is thought to have originated in Northeastern China but its exact roots aren't well known.

In China, kombucha is referred to as the Immortal Health Elixir, so we can assume they're quite fond of the beverage.

It has been home-brewed for many years across the world now, but only recently - within the past decade or so - has there been such a surge in commercial kombucha products.

You can likely find a dozen brands at a large health food market.

Whether you love your daily dose of 'booch' already or you are brand new to the trend that's sweeping grocery store drink coolers with dozens of flavors and varieties, kombucha is worth getting up close and personal with. Perhaps you'll even make your own.

The benefits of kombucha & probiotics

benefits of kombucha & probiotics

Kombucha has long been considered a "functional" beverage, basically meaning it has a purpose beyond hydration or taste.

Most notably, it contains a concentrated dose of probiotic power, and we know probiotics are fantastic for gut health.

After all, gut health is the foundation of all health and well-being (at least we think so!).

While there is, unfortunately, a severe lack of scientific evidence that discusses drinking kombucha, many experimental studies have been done.

Moreover, many anecdotal claims have been notes, and people report feeling loads better with their daily dose of kombucha.

A long list of beneficial properties has been linked to regular consumption. Should you be taking some as your daily medicine?

Here is what you can expect.

1. It promotes gut health and gut permeability

One of the most - if not the most - telling signs of gut health is the diversity of bacteria that resides within the intestinal lining.

When the kombucha is left to ferment with the SCOBY, it takes on a new life.

All of those probiotics, amino acids, and enzymes are fantastic for our bellies.

Tons of bacteria colonize in your jar, ready to immigrate to your gut and deliver their bounty.

Introducing healthy bacteria to the gut is crucial to keeping the gut strong and intact. Basically, the more good bacteria you have, the better defense you have.

This means less bad bacteria entering the realm and messing with the order of things.

The good bacteria  - or pathogens - are here to fight, and they're fighting the good fight!

This "overpopulating" tendency of the bacteria that occurs when we regularly supplement with probiotics or a probiotic-rich food like kombucha is also good to crowd out other unwanted "visitors" like candida.

Candida is essentially an overgrowth of yeast, so the good bacteria sort of moves it out naturally.

2. It's a natural "detox" juice

Forget whoever is marketing you a "detox" or a "cleanse." If your vital organs are in working order, your body is doing its job to detox itself just fine.

However, a daily dose of kombucha can aid the process and keep you in the best shape possible. It's an enhancement agent if you will.

An all-natural one.

Because kombucha has a relatively high antioxidant content, it can help to reduce oxidative stress and damage in the body.

The liver takes the brunt of that damage.

Considering the body's natural detox mechanisms are highly compromised when the liver isn't working right, consuming antioxidant-rich kombucha can aid in liver health.

Kombucha is also rich in Glucaric acid which also helps the liver to detox.

3. It has disease-fighting properties

When we look at disease in a holistic way, we can see where it stems from: our cells.

When we look at cellular health and mitochondrial function, we understand that inflammation plays a crucial role.

Like I mentioned above, the antioxidant properties of kombucha already reduce inflammation at a cellular level by reducing oxidative damage done to the cells.

Considering we already know both black tea and green tea to be antioxidant powerhouses that have disease-fighting properties on their own, adding in the additional properties of a fermented food increases its potential substantially.

Tea polyphenols and antioxidants are anti-cancer and can reduce liver toxicity disease.

The four main disease-fighting properties that have been attributed to kombucha are detoxification, anti-oxidation, energizing potencies, and promotion of depressed immunity, according to this research.

4. It may help with blood sugar management

Blood sugar management is an especially important part of daily health and diet choices for those with type 2 diabetes, but it's also imperative for folks who want to avoid diabetes, people with metabolic disease, or pre-diabetic diagnoses.

In this animal study, kombucha consumption suppressed increased blood glucose levels while also improving the absorption of good cholesterol and decreasing the bad.

Finally, it protected the liver and kidney function(s) of diabetic rats.

Essentially, this promising research indicates that kombucha has the potential to be both a protective agent for preventing diabetes and also an effective treatment for those who already have type 2 diabetes.

5. It may improve digestion

Because of the potential the bacteria in kombucha has to improve gut health and the variety of bacteria that thrive within us, we can also expect digestion to improve.

Unsurprisingly, digestion is rooted in the gut.

Digestion is truly an assembly line and starts the second we begin to chew (or drink, in this case), but the most prominent piece of the puzzle is undoubtedly the processing that takes place in the gut.

The bacteria ingested with kombucha like to line the digestive tract, offering up their services as a 'protective' layer of sorts.

With improved inflammatory markers and less inflammation in the gut, a healthy colony of varied bacteria, and better gut permeability, we can no doubt expect improvements in our digestion.

It should be noted that people with autoimmune disease(s) that impact digestion such as IBS or Crohn's should use caution when using fermented foods to improve symptoms as they can help, but can also backfire.

6. It can boost your mood

Many healthy foods can ease anxiety, reduce mild symptoms of depression, and lift your mood slightly. Kombucha is one of those foods.

You can feel justified in stopping by the store to grab one as an afternoon pick-me-up! Why is that? Well in this case, it really comes down to the nervous system.

See, the nervous system is the control center where hormones are regulated and released as needed.

Cortisol - the stress hormone - sometimes gets released in excess which elicits a "fight or flight" reaction in us, and leaves us feeling wired, anxious, and on-edge.

The multitude of B vitamins including mood and energy-boosting B12, vitamin C, and amino acids found in kombucha help to feed the nervous system, keeping it in tip-top shape.

Moreover, it's worth noting that our gut is often described as the 'second brain.'

It controls a lot of what goes on with our bodies, and not just our bellies!

There is a MAJOR gut-brain connection, and treating gut health can also improve mental health.

This can be done by supplementing with probiotics and/or eating probiotic-rich foods like kombucha.

7. It's antibacterial & antimicrobial

Antibacterial and antimicrobial foods can make a big difference for us, fighting off unwanted bacteria and microbes.

For example, research shows that kombucha's antimicrobial properties can ward off pathogenic bacteria as well as species of Candida or yeast overgrowth in the gut.

Furthermore, acetic acid - which is naturally found in kombucha - can potentially kill harmful microorganisms found in the body.

Oh, and it might even kill off bacteria that make us sick like staph, E. coli, salmonella and Campylobacter jejuni (or what causes many cases of food poisoning).

8. It can improve the immune system

Immunity begins in the gut. By improving gut health, we improve everything from digestion to mental health to our immune systems.

Plus, vitamin C content and antimicrobial/antibacterial properties naturally help us ward off yucky infections and viruses.

Make sure to stay sippin' through cold and flu season to improve your defenses!

In order to receive all of these amazing benefits, it's important to purchase or produce unpasteurized kombucha.

This process will significantly reduce if not entirely diminish the bacteria content and healthy cultures that call kombucha home.

Look for products labeled raw, and when making kombucha at home, bottle and drink it in a timely manner to reap the benefits.

What is the difference between kombucha & jun?

kombucha and jun

If you dig around in the grocery store coolers or online for fermented food recipes, you're going to see plenty of kombucha.

You'll likely see your fair share of jun tea as well.

To get straight to the point, the primary difference is the sweetener used. Both drinks are fermented teas.

When making kombucha, cane sugar is necessary because it feeds the bacteria.

However, all bacteria needs to thrive is a bit of sweetness. Kombucha is also mostly brewed with plain black tea.

In jun tea, honey is the source of food for those healthy bacteria. Moreover, jun tea is brewed with green tea.

It is often referred to as "the champagne of kombucha." Rightfully so!

It's a bit lighter than kombucha which is known to pack a punch. There's no denying its flavor is strong!

Jun tea provides a milder, softer refreshment with plenty of bubbles to go around - hence the comparison to champagne.

If we try to trace jun tea back to its origins, we get lost. It's actually a rather mysterious drink which adds to its allure.

It is generally thought to have been a spiritual elixir drank by the people of China and Tibet, but it may be something we just made up once we caught wind of kombucha and how awesome it is.

We don't really know if it was a primary or secondary invention, but we do know fermentation has been around a long while.

Jun tea makes a good alternative to kombucha because it uses honey which some people prefer to ingest over white sugar.

While this is generally what we recommend, the fermentation process eats away at most of the refined sugar you use to make kombucha leaving you with a naturally sweet sip.

Either way you swing, all you need is a SCOBY and your preferred choice of sweetener to get started.

Oh, and some glass containers. More on that now...

How to make kombucha

How to make kombucha

Making kombucha at home is quite simple, cheap, and easy to do.

You don't need very many materials to get started or maintain your brew, nor is there a steep start-up fee.

Moreover, it's a very hands-off recipe considering most of the "prep time" is passive a.k.a. the fermentation process.

Basically, you toss a few things in a jar (with love and care), then let it sit.

Soon enough, it'll be ready to drink. It's appealing to even the laziest kitchen connoisseurs.

Important note: Do not use metal containers under any circumstances for brewing kombucha (the tea is fine in a metal pot) or storing kombucha.

Even stirring the mixture into the jar with a metal spoon can be damaging both to the overall taste of your batch and the quality/health of your SCOBY which you will use over and over again.

Pay close attention to the specifications for the material needed to make your own kombucha.

Materials:

  • A 1-gallon glass jar or crock. You can also use two 2-quart glass jars
  • A stock pot for brewing the tea
  • Tight-weave cloth like cheesecloth, or coffee filters for straining
  • Jar lids or rubber bands to securer cloth
  • A wooden spoon for stirring
  • 16-oz. glass bottles for bottling the product - preferably with swing tops/a tight-sealing lid to maintain carbonation
  • Small funnel

Ingredients:

  • 8-10 black or green tea bags, or 2-3 tbsp. of loose-leaf tea (unflavoured)
  • 1 cup of granulated white sugar - do not use coconut sugar
  • 3.5 quarts of water
  • 2 cups of kombucha from last batch or from the store OR distilled white vinegar
  • 1 SCOBY per jar - you cannot ferment without one!

Instructions:

  1. First, brew the tea. Bring the water to boil in a stockpot and dissolve the sugar in it. Shortly thereafter, remove the pot from the heat to halt the boil and add your teabags. Let them brew for the appropriate amount of time and cool the brew completely. You can use the ice bath method for this, but do not put the pot in the refrigerator or add ice cubes to the water to speed up the process. Patience is key throughout your brewing journey!
  2. Second, add the starter tea or vinegar. Once your tea has cooled, remove the bags or infuser and add in your kombucha or vinegar. This establishes an acidic base that deters unwanted and unhealthy bacteria from taking up residence in your brew which can cause some nasty side effects like mold, while also driving out good bacteria.
  3. Now, it's time to transfer your batch. The tea will ferment in its designated glass jar. Before adding the SCOBY, transfer the cooled tea mixture to a clean glass jar (or multiple glass jars). When you've finished, add in the SCOBY with clean hands, gently.
  4. Next, cover the jars. Many jars will have an air-tight lid sized to fit the top, but fermentation requires air so avoid using these. Instead, place cheesecloth, a breathable towel, tight-weave cloth, or a coffee filter over the top and secure it with the outer ring of a metal lid or a rubber band. Paper towels or tightly woven cloth options will prevent fruit flies if you're prone to them or brewing in the summertime.
  5. Finally, it's time to wait. Leave the jar for 7-10 days. Check the kombucha for mold. You can generally scoop it off it it's only on the top, but you'll otherwise want to throw away any moldy brew. However, you should be able to avoid this by checking up on your jar daily.
  6. After 7 days, you can taste the kombucha. Now, the fermentation process is done. The bacteria has formed, the sugar has mostly been eaten away, and it's mostly about personal preference in terms of whether or not it's ready to serve.
  7. Remove the SCOBY and begin the next batch. The SCOBY won't survive on its own. In order to keep it alive, you have to continuously brew kombucha.
  8. Bottle your kombucha. With a funnel, transfer the fermented tea to an air-tight bottle to carbonate. At this point, you will also want to add flavors you like. Herbs, spices, fruits, and fruit juice are good choices for customization.
  9. Carbonate your kombucha. Leave the bottles on the counter out of direct sunlight for 1-4 days to form bubbles. Once you refrigerate your kombucha, it will stop fermenting and carbonating. Now, you can drink up!

We hope you learned everything you ever wanted to know about the benefits of kombucha, how to make your own kombucha and more about this fantastic elixir today in our post.

It makes a healthy alternative to soda if you are trying to cut back on sugar or lose weight, plus improves gut health and fights disease. If you enjoyed this article, make sure to share it!

This article was fact checked for accuracy by Dr. Kim Langdon, MD. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.

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The Benefits of Fabulous Fenugreek & How to Use It

Medically review by Kim Langdon

In this ingredient highlight article, we're talking about a lesser known - and quite frankly, underrated - seed!

We all know about chia seeds and see them all over the place.

Hemp seeds are gaining popularity and flaxseed is a staple super food. Fenugreek is a bit different though, and we're going to talk more about why later.

benefits of fenugreek

This spice can be used in your cooking as well as a raw supplement making it powerful, versatile, and easy to add to your diet which we love.

It's a powerful anti-inflammatory food, libido booster, and digestion enhancer - its benefits are all over the place, and truly for everyone regardless of what you're struggling with.

If you're curious, stick around to learn about the origin of this spice, how you can use it, and what you can expect!

What is fenugreek?

What is Fenugeek

Fenugreek comes from the Fabaceae plant family which is known as a legume, pea, or bean. Fenugreek means Greek hay. 

?While it may look like a seed at first, it's technically considered a legume.

It's thought to have first been cultivated in the Near East, and it's been in use for centuries now.

In the first century A.D., the Romans were using the stuff to add flavor to their wine. It was a relatively common food staple in Galilee.

If you're familiar with fenugreek now, you might know it from South Asian or Indian cuisine.

You may have some hiding out in your spice cabinet too, either in dried form or its seed form (pictured above).

It's actually used in a variety of different ways across the world, but most commonly used to flavor pickles, spice up vegetable-based dishes, flavor dal (an Indian lentil dish), or as a tasty and healthy addition to unique spice blends.

In India, you're most likely to find fenugreek in your curry while in Turkey, it's often incorporated into a spicy paste with black pepper and cumin which is then used in many traditional recipes.

Fenugreek nutrition

Fenugreek nutrition

Per tablespoon of fenugreek, here is the nutritional breakdown:

  • Calories: 36
  • Fat: 0.7 grams
  • Protein: 2.6 gram
  • Carbohydrates: 6 grams
  • Dietary fiber: 2.7 grams
  • Potassium: 85 milligrams (2% DV)
  • Iron: 20% DV
  • Vitamin B6: 5% DV
  • Calcium: 2% DV
  • Magnesium: 5% DV

Yes - these numbers are rather small across the boards, but that's the point here: fenugreek packs some power in a very small package, backing up its superfood reputation.

It's fibrous, full of iron which can be pretty tough to get and provides a few other essential vitamins and minerals at the same time.

They taste a bit sweet like maple syrup with bitter and burnt notes that disappear when cooked which produces a much more desirable flavor.

8 benefits of fenugreek

benefits of fenugreek

Fenugreek is an awesome ingredient to add to your repertoire for a little (or big) health boost.

Like many plants, it's chock full of awesome benefits containing antioxidants and other healthful constituents, plus a variety of different culinary uses.

In addition to adding fenugreek to food, it's rather easy to find in supplement form so you can simply add it to your morning vitamin routine if you're not too keen on the flavor.

It may reduce biomarkers in diabetic people.

While the research is still debatable, there is evidence to show that fenugreek consumption can reduce biomarkers (or indicators) in diabetic individuals and pre-diabetic individuals.

Perhaps it's due to this food's ability to reduce blood sugar - one of the most prominent biomarkers for people who deal with type 2 diabetes.

In this study, it significantly reduced both fasting and post-meal blood sugar.

This is because fenugreek is thought to slow down the pace at which sugars are absorbed by the bod, leading to a steady and stable rise and fall in blood sugar.

This could make fenugreek a great spice to pair with starchy foods like rice and potatoes (hello, curry!).

It can lower cholesterol.

High cholesterol is a problem for many people.

While a real food diet in addition to weight loss can address the issue for many, it's important to include new foods and natural remedies that help to naturally manage cholesterol levels.

Fenugreek is definitely one of those foods! Fenugreek is shown to reduce LDL cholesterol levels while keeping HDL cholesterol levels the same which is the ideal situation and balance.

Fenugreek is a fantastic addition to any heart-healthy diet designed for optimal cardiovascular health.

It's anti-inflammatory.

Fenugreek can help to manage both internal and external inflammation.

You may even notice fenugreek as an ingredient in topical ointments and applications.

It can be used in pastes and salves to treat skin irritation(s) such as gout, dandruff, eczema breakouts, general dry/flaking skin, swollen muscles, and even swollen lymph nodes. Its anti-inflammatory properties are also potent when orally ingested.

Most notably, it addresses inflammation in the intestines and bowels for reduced cramping, bloating, and overall irritation.

This makes it a good supplement for people with ulcerative colitis or IBS.

It can stimulate the appetite.

While this may not be ideal for folks who want to lose weight, it can be incredibly effective in keeping chronically ill people fed as well as helping individuals recover from anorexia or other restrictive eating disorders.

Don't let this put you off from supplementing with fenugreek, though!

It works in this way because it enhances flavor and makes food more appealing, so it could be the key to your culinary prowess just as well.

This animal study shows that fenugreek administration increases appetite and motivation to eat.

While it cannot be used as a preventative measure for anorexia, it is a simple and non-invasive addition to treatment that could prove to be very effective.

It has the potential to boost athletic performance.

Combined with creatine, fenugreek can help you get after those gains in the gym!

There isn't a lot of research, but there is one study that looked at the combination of creatine and fenugreek extract with individuals who were doing regular resistance training.

In the end, there was a significant impact on upper body strength in addition to positive changes in body composition.

The overall conclusion is that fenugreek extract can enhance the effects of creatine.

It can increase testosterone production.

Not everyone needs a testosterone boost, but it can be beneficial for a few reasons.

First, it increases libido. Men who suffer from low libido or erectile dysfunction may find that supplementing regularly with fenugreek is a non-invasive way to get the blood flowing in the right direction again.

Moreover, extra testosterone could help treat some forms of hair loss and other commonly burdensome ailments.

Considering how few/rare side effects are, fenugreek may be the way to go with these things!

It can be used to improve digestion.

Digestion is a great marker of overall health, so improving it and keeping things regular should be a priority for anyone who would like to achieve optimal health.

Fenugreek can help to treat constipation and get things moving, decrease bloating, and address inflammation as I mentioned above.

These properties are likely linked to the water-soluble fiber content of fenugreek which acts as a mild laxative.

It may help to increase the supply of breast milk.

Many new mothers have high hopes for breastfeeding but end up not producing enough to nourish their newborns.

Diet can play a significant role in breast milk production, and fenugreek - which acts as a galactagogue - could be the missing link in producing enough breast milk.

Some people may actually see benefits within 1-2 days, but should supplement for around 2-3 weeks to see noticeable changes.

The recommended dosage for increasing breast milk supply is around 3,500 milligrams per day.

It is important to talk with your doctor about plans to use a galactagogue like fenugreek or milk thistle first, as there isn't much research on the efficacy or safety surrounding this natural remedy.

You should experiment with a dose that suits you and your needs first and consider any safety precautions or warnings.

It is also important to be knowledgeable about the side effects (which we will discuss later).

How to use fenugreek

How to use fenugreek

Use it as a spice.

Fenugreek can be found dried for use in dishes like curry and dal.

You can also use it to spice roasted vegetables or blend it with other spices to create unique spice blends to cook with.

Fenugreek - like most other spices - contains lots of antioxidants!

It has a strong flavor, so be sure to check out some suggestions and use modest amounts.

Sprouted fenugreek.

Sprouting foods often reduces or rids it of negative and unwanted properties like anti-nutrients and phytic acid.

Because fenugreek is technically a legume, sprouting it can really increase its nutritive properties.

In fact, sprouting before consumption can boost nutrition by 30-40%, making it much more bioavailable for your body to use.

Supplement with fenugreek.

There are a few supplemental ways in which you can use fenugreek.

For example, you can consume a spoonful of soaked fenugreek seeds on an empty stomach as a natural antacid (due to its anti-inflammatory properties).

Consume roughly a teaspoon for digestion first thing in the morning.

Make a paste with it.

After soaking seeds, you can make a paste with it by blending it with other ingredients.

Pastes are great for adding lots of flavor to curries, stir-fries, and any other recipes with a sauce.

They tend to really concentrate the flavors of different spices which can help you add loads of umami (and health benefits) to your cooking.

Side effects & warnings for fenugreek

Side effects for fenugreek

One of the most notable and non-invasive side effects of fenugreek consumption is that you might begin to smell like maple syrup.

While it may put you off a little bit, it's a generally pleasant scent.

You might notice this in urine or sweat, or even with your baby if you're using fenugreek to increase your milk supply!

Don't worry too much. Otherwise, there are a few things to watch out for.

Like with any natural herbal remedy, there isn't a lot of regulation from agencies like the FDA, so it's our duty to share with you common issues to watch out for.

Just because it's natural doesn't mean it's 100% safe. Everything has its caveats!

  • It is not necessarily safe for children. Children can eat foods containing normal amounts of fenugreek, but it should not be used as a supplement, nor should children drink fenugreek tea. While there is not much conclusive research, this is one instance where you're better off safe than sorry.
  • You may be allergic to fenugreek. Like with many foods, you should be aware of an allergic reaction with fenugreek. Allergy is more common amongst individuals who are also allergic to peanuts and/or chickpeas.
  • There may be digestive side effects. Most notably, diarrhea, bloating, and gas. While fenugreek can improve digestion, too much of it can cause an upset stomach.
  • It may cause hypoglycemia. In people with diabetes, it can cause a hypoglycaemic response.
  • Fenugreek has negative drug interactions. Before beginning any supplement, it is important to check for drug interactions. Fenugreek may interfere with diabetes medication. Due to its constituent coumarin, it can also interfere with anticoagulants and antiplatelet drugs.
  • It is not recommended for pregnant women. In small amounts (i.e. in food), fenugreek isn't generally an issue for pregnant women. It can, however, cause uterine contractions in excess, and is even thought to induce labor sometimes. Because of its interactions with hormones, it is best to avoid any potentially dangerous interactions when it comes to you and your baby.

And that's all for our ingredient highlight on fabulous fenugreek! This spice has been used in folk medicine for diabetes and constipation for many years, and it's tasty to eat in curries and spicy pastes.

We hope you learned a few new things today and are excited to include more fenugreek in your diet to reap its benefits.

This article was fact checked for accuracy by Dr. Kim Langdon, MD. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.

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Banana Nutrition: Bountiful Benefits, Calories + 10 Healthy Recipes

Medically review by Kim Langdon

Banana Nutrition

It likely comes as no surprise that bananas are healthy food. Who doesn't love bananas?

They're practically nature's candy. A good ripe banana is naturally sweet, the texture is fantastic, and they're cheap to boot.

They come in a naturally protective shell making them portable food whether you're on the road or on the trail.

Kids love them and adults do, too. They're a wonderful source of complex carbohydrates for quick energy when you need it the most.

Again... what's not to love?

Today, we're going to let you in on all the beauty that bountiful bananas hold.

Yes, we know they're a great source of potassium, but their benefits stretch far beyond that.

Bananas are a convenient and delicious food for so many reasons, and we want to share that knowledge with you.

Better yet, we're sharing some of our favorite, most mouthwatering healthy banana recipes ever!

Bananas contain a ton of potassium.

This is perhaps what banana is most notorious for. Everyone knows that behind the peel is a pot full of potassium, right?

Well, as I mentioned above, potassium and magnesium work together to maintain an important balance, particularly in blood pressure and cardiovascular health.

In fact, according to this research, a diet rich with potassium can decrease risk of stroke substantially.

Additional research links potassium intake to lower risk of all cardiovascular disease.

It also works to relax the muscles, relieve minor anxiety, and keep the brain healthy.

It can relieve cramping as well, making bananas a good snack choice for PMS symptoms.

Oh, and potassium promotes great kidney health. It's clear why we LOVE bananas as an awesome source of the stuff.

Bananas are a great source of magnesium.

Magnesium is an essential mineral, and many people are actually deficient in it.

Food sources are the best way to ensure you're getting enough magnesium.

It's a powerful mineral for a few reasons. It's a natural muscle relaxer which makes bananas a solid choice to avoid delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) after a tough strength training workout.

It's also a healthy way to relax before bed and get better rest because it soothes anxiety.

Finally, it helps to balance out potassium, sodium, and calcium levels, a.k.a. your electrolyte balance.

This further develops the banana's case as food for stable energy when you need it the most!

Bananas contain a unique fibre complex.

Particularly, green bananas contain something called resistant starch.

Resistant starch is linked to promising health finds because of its unique properties.

This fermented fiber doesn't get digested, instead of converting to food (prebiotics) for our gut.

Prebiotics essentially feed probiotics, and green banana or green banana flour is one of the most potent sources of resistant starch out there.

Bananas are great for keeping things regular.

Bananas are one of the best foods for healthy digestion.

Pectin - a type of fiber found in bananas - aids digestion while that prebiotic fiber produces digestive enzymes which help to absorb the rest of the nutrients in your gut.

The fiber alone can work as a gentle laxative, while the electrolytes can help keep fluids in check, even if you're losing fluids a little too fast.

Overall, your gut just LOVES banana.

Bananas are great for regulating blood sugar.

How many sweet foods can say that?

If you're craving sugar, grabbing a ripe banana is the way to go if you're worried about the dreadful blood sugar spike and drop you get with candy.

While ripeness can change the glycemic index of bananas and we recommend a partially ripe or "just ripe" banana for the best blood sugar regulation, an unripe banana will only jump about 30 points on the scale to ripe, ranging from 30 (unripe) to 60 (ripe).

No - it's not a great choice for a diabetic, but it is a good choice for an otherwise healthy individual.

The fiber helps slow down the sugar release into the bloodstream, offering up more sustainable energy than other sources of refined carbs.

Bananas are a great choice for weight loss.

This fruit has a few things going for it in terms of being a "diet-friendly" food.

First, it's helpful to curb your sweet tooth the all-natural way.

It's a relatively low-calorie food with plenty of sweetness to fulfill your cravings without reaching for processed, calorie-dense foods that are sure to break the bank.

Second, it's got fiber that will help fill you up.

Finally, if bananas help to keep blood sugar regular, you can expect less cravings for sugary foods overall.

Bananas are antioxidant-rich food.

Antioxidants are compounds found in many fruits, veggies, and superfoods that manage and prevent oxidative stress in the body and reduce free radical damage.

This is why antioxidants are technically anti-cancer as that free radical damage can encourage cancer cell growth amongst other disease-causing factors and negative side effects.

After all, disease begins in the cell!

Antioxidant-rich foods like banana are great for mood management, mitochondrial health, and longevity.

Bananas are the ultimate pre-workout and post-workout food.

They're lightweight, portable, tasty, and easy to eat on their own.

They also provide sustainable energy while giving you a nice boost via carbs that your body will love as a pre-workout snack - cardio, resistance, yoga, or a hike.

Moreover, because they have some anti-cramping properties and the ability to relax the muscles, you can munch on the other half after your workout to chill out, prevent pain, and replenish those now depleted glycogen stores with healthy carbs.

Bananas are an incredibly convenient food.

They're cheap to buy, often the most inexpensive produce at the store - even the organic variety!

They're easy to take on the go because they're already "packaged" for you in their sturdy peel.

They are great to use in recipes (as demonstrated below), but they're tasty on their own.

Basically, they're the most convenient food out there, and nearly everyone can reap the bountiful benefits of banana.

Banana recipes we love

Banana recipes

Bananas are most commonly used as a snack, but they're a quite versatile ingredient with so much satisfying potential!

We all occasionally come down with an unrelenting sweet tooth.

Bananas make a beautiful beginning for a healthy, low-glycemic, healthful indulgence whether you like smoothies or a good old-fashioned slice of banana bread... and don't forget the butter.

1. Paleo banana bread from Well Plated

Paleo banana bread

We're practically obligated to kick things off with a gorgeous slice of banana bread.

This is the perfect recipe for using that bunch that's getting ripe faster than you expected.

With natural sweetness from the fruit, you don't need any other sweetener making this a low-sugar choice.

It's grain-free, cooked to perfection with the moist and fluffy texture you're used to.

Spread some almond butter on each slice or a spoon of melted butter for the best results.

2. Grain-free banana waffles from Savory Lotus

Grain-free banana waffles

The best part of waking up is a fluffy, maple-syrup soaked, crispy-edged waffle on your plate.

These grain-free waffles are protein-rich, low-sugar, naturally sweetened with mashed banana, and foolproof meaning you can trick your kids into eating the "healthy" waffles.

Shh... they'll never know it's gluten-free!

Top with fresh berries and a dollop of coconut cream.

3. Chocolate & banana muffins from Evolving Table

Chocolate & banana muffins

Anyone who knows anything knows that chocolate and banana are the best combination (besides maybe either/or with peanut butter, but I digress).

These muffins combine the two without refined sugars, grains, or any other nasties - just real food!

Look at how fluffy and rich these look. If decadent is the name of your game, break out the muffin tin and whip up a batch of these.

4. Healthy banana soft serve (10 flavors!) from Chocolate Covered Katie

Healthy banana soft serve

Banana ice cream - sometimes called "nice cream" - is an easy one-ingredient recipe for healthy, paleo-friendly soft-serve at home.

Yes - it's true!!

Simply freeze bananas and give them a run for their money in your Vitamix for a creamy, ice cream-like treat when you're craving something cool.

This recipe features ten flavor variations so you can soothe any of your cravings from fruity sorbet to peanut butter chocolate swirl.

5. Banana bread mug cake from The Roasted Root

Banana bread mug cake

Some of us just don't have the time to be baking.

Some of us just don't have the self-control to be keeping tempting, full loaves of banana bread hanging around the house (guilty!).

This mug cake recipe makes it easy to create a single-serving banana bread in your microwave.

Does it get any more convenient? There are two variations here, but both are totally healthy and totally Happy Body-approved.

Chocolate, peanut butter & banana cups

This recipe is obsession-worthy.

If you like Reese's chocolate cups but have an affinity for bananas and chocolate with peanut butter or your nut butter of choice (because there's no such thing as too much here), this recipe is for you.

It hits the candy craving by combining favorite flavors and textures for a few bites of heavenly bliss in every piece.

These will be a hit with the kids, too.

Strawberry banana smoothie bowl

8. Peanut butter banana protein muffins from Wholesomelicious

Peanut butter banana protein muffins

Sometimes, it's not just all about dessert. How about post-workout?

A little protein is necessary. Sometimes, gnawing on a chicken breast or some sort of processed protein bar doesn't seem appealing though, and we can't blame you.

These banana-infused muffins contain a healthy dose of Vital Proteins Whey formula for a healthy, grass-fed protein source to fuel you and keep you satiated.

9. Matcha banana pancakes from Stupid Easy Paleo

Matcha banana pancakes

We featured banana waffles, but what about banana pancakes?

This classic dish takes on new life with the addition of matcha and collagen.

A boost of green caffeine plus gut-friendly, hair and skin-loving collagen will have you feeling vibrant and healthy all day.

This stack of flapjacks is brunch-worthy, so make sure to bookmark the recipe for the weekend!

10. Acai bowls from Hurry the Food Up

Acai bowls

This recipe features eight different variations of the acai bowl.

These tropical bowls begin with a base of frozen acai packets - a potent superfood berry with loads of nutrition and a beautiful purple color - plus a frozen banana for a creamy, thick, and sweet base.

Then, you add in whatever else you like and lay the toppings on thick. I love shredded coconut, sprouted seeds and grains for some crunch, and fresh berries.

Let us know in the comments what your favorite way to enjoy bananas is! We hope you learned something new today and feel inspired to use this amazing fruit in new and exciting recipes.

This article was fact checked for accuracy by Dr. Kim Langdon, MD. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.

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benefits of apple cider vinegar
Beauty & Skin Care, All posts, Natural Living

Why You Should Have TWO Bottles of Apple Cider Vinegar

Medically review by Kim Langdon

apple cider vinegar benefits

Apple cider vinegar or ACV is nothing new.

It's something you've likely seen before, and even if you're not familiar with its amazing versatility in your home, you may even have some handy - just in case.

Well, let's get you up close and personal with ACV otherwise known as the elixir of the gods.

Okay, maybe not, but you might reconsider such a bold statement once I let you in on a few secrets!

Apple cider vinegar is basically exactly what it sounds like - a vinegar derived from cider or apple must, giving it a slightly sweet flavor and it's distinct amber-gold color.

This fermented food often contains the 'mother,' which looks kind of like a SCOBY if you're familiar with kombucha.

Don't be put off by the weird, webby thing in your bottle. That just means you've got the good stuff!

ACV has quite a lot going for it with an influx of recent praise and health claims.

Today, I wanted to share with you some of the key benefits of ACV, how you can use it at home, and why you should always have at least two bottles of it.

The benefits of apple cider vinegar

benefits of apple cider vinegar

Because of its unique properties, apple cider vinegar has a few noteworthy benefits for both overall health and well-being and beauty.

It's nutritious. Apple cider vinegar contains vitamins B1, B2, and B6, in addition to a nice dose of immune-boosting vitamin C, folic acid, biotin which is great for hair growth, and niacin.

Furthermore, you can find important trace minerals including iron, calcium, sodium, magnesium, potassium and phosphorous.

It helps to regulate your blood sugar levels. Blood sugar can be a finicky thing for some folks and balance takes work. It comes down to what you put into your body.

For example, it gets thrown off when you take in a lot of quick carbs or sugar.

Your body runs right through it and it drops just as quickly as it spikes, leaving you seeking even more energy.

This is why blood sugar regulation is such an important component of weight loss.

This research shows that consuming vinegar after a meal can decrease the body's glycemic response. Glycemic load is used to describe how much food will impact blood sugar.

It contains acetic acid. Acetic acid is what gives apple cider vinegar its taste and its main constituent. It's commonly used in folk medicine, and it's known to have a few key benefits.

Some theories include it's potential to swiftly move carbohydrates from the bloodstream to the muscles for glycogen replenishment after a workout in addition to slowing down digestion, helping you feel fuller for longer and reducing blood sugar impact.

It might also help manage blood pressure and reduce fat accumulation, once again making ACV a great choice for individuals with weight loss goals.

Finally, acetic acid may be particularly useful for people with type 2 diabetes due to its ability to reduce hyperglycemia, hyperinsulinemia, and hypertriglyceridemia according to this study.

It's antibacterial. Many people are familiar with using vinegar for natural cleaning products around the house because of its effectiveness.

This is because vinegar and the acetic acid found in it is naturally antibacterial, giving your countertops the love and care they deserve.

These properties also make vinegar a useful food preservative as they will ward off harmful bacteria growth.

Lastly, it can be antibacterial for skin which is why it makes a great acne-fighting toner.

It's great for weight loss. I already mentioned a few components of apple cider vinegar that can aid in weight loss, but there are a few other important considerations.

Because of its role in blood glucose levels and insulin levels, it can also help increase satiety - particularly after a carb-heavy meal - according to this study.

Naturally, these interactions with acetic acid and our body's subsequent interpretation of the glycemic load of our meals lead to overall lower calorie intake. 

This research shows that subjects who supplemented with ACV ate 200-275 fewer calories per day.

That deficit is equivalent to a rate of loss at a pound per two weeks!

It can reduce "bad" cholesterol. Many people struggle with high cholesterol levels, often attributed to poor diet.

While cleaning up your daily intake, increasing vegetables, and avoiding refined oils/carbohydrates is key to maintaining healthy levels, ACV can also work wonders.

This animal study performed on diabetic rats showed that supplementation increased HDL cholesterol (or good cholesterol) and decreased LDL cholesterol (or bad cholesterol).

It's great for skin health. Like I mentioned above, ACV can kill bacteria so it works as a natural cleansing toner to remove any gunk hanging out in your pores.

It can also help to lighten scars and reduce dark spots, evening out the color and pigmentation of your skin.

It can increase stomach acid. Many people think symptoms of acid reflux are due to too much stomach acid, but this is a pretty common misconception.

While that may be true in some cases, many people suffer from reflux due to having too little stomach acid.

It only makes sense that consuming an acidic substance can help replenish stomach acid stores in the gut and treat symptoms.

It can improve gut health. Fermented foods contain probiotics, which help balance gut flora.

Essentially, this good bacteria is introduced to the gut which keeps the community living inside of you healthy.

Moreover, probiotic foods improve gut permeability which basically means that the good bacteria stays in while the bad bacteria is closed off.

How to use apple cider vinegar

How to use apple cider vinegar

Now that we have a general idea of how apple cider vinegar works in the body, an understanding of its main constituent acetic acid, and some of its most powerful properties, let's put it all into play!

  • Just drink it! Personally, one of my most beloved morning rituals is an ACV shot. If you're feeling up to the challenge or you're already accustomed to the taste, you can simply down 1-2 tablespoons on its own. Otherwise, you can dilute it in a glass of water or juice to sip on. This is most effective on an empty stomach.
  • Use it after a carb-heavy meal. Following the same guidelines as I mentioned above, you can mitigate the negative effects of carbohydrates on the body's blood glucose levels after a particularly decadent meal including bread or starch for steadier blood sugar and reduced cravings.
  • Use it in a salad dressing. A standard vinaigrette is just oil, vinegar, and seasoning. Swap out white wine vinegar for ACV to make a tangy and delicious dressing to top off your leafy greens with or use as a marinade.
  • Use it on a sunburn. If you forgot your SPF or fell asleep on the beach for a little too long, ACV can help reduce the pain of a sunburn. Add some to a bath with your favorite essential oils and coconut oil for a soothing skin treatment.
  • Use it as an effective skin toner. Toner gently cleanses the face and balances out the color while simultaneously hydrating. It's a must-have in your skincare routine, and you can easily make some at home with a little ACV and your magic touch. Mix about 1/4 cup with 1/4 cup of witch hazel, and some essential oils for scent if you like. Use a soft cloth or cotton ball to dab on to the skin after washing and before using lotion.
  • Use it to clean your house. Make an all-purpose cleaner by mixing ACV and water at a 1:1 ratio. You can add 3-4 drops of essential oils for scent if you'd like.
  • Use it as an insect deterrent. Pour a bit of ACV into a glass with a drop of dish soap. This will attract pesky bugs in your kitchen without the use of harsh chemicals. This is especially useful if you have pets!
  • Use it to cure DOMS. DOMS or delayed onset muscle soreness can be a huge pain after a tough workout. ACV acts as an antidote and can help you get back into the gym quicker while reducing pain by breaking down the lactic acid buildup that happens in the muscles.
  • Use it to naturally whiten teeth. Most commercial teeth whiteners are pretty heavy on unnatural ingredients. Gargle with ACV to help rid your mouth of bacteria and naturally whiten your teeth.
  • Use it as a fabric softener. Fabric softener is also pretty ridden with chemicals. The smell alone can be overwhelming to sensitive noses, and the ingredients can irritate skin. Add a cup of ACV to your laundry to keep your clothes soft and long-lasting.
  • Use it as a hair rinse. If you don't wash everyday, ACV can help stabilize and normalize the oil content of your hair and scalp, giving your hair the boost it needs in between washes.

The dangers of apple cider vinegar

The dangers of apple cider vinegar

While ACV is a kitchen and beauty routine staple for many, there are a few things to watch out for.

It's important to start small when ingesting ACV.

If you're just starting out with supplementation, begin with 1-2 teaspoons as you work your way up to 1-2 tablespoons.

Otherwise, it could potentially cause some digestive distress.

It can also contribute to or cause gastroparesis which is delayed emptying of the stomach. This means that your food is just kinda sitting around for awhile in the gut which we want to avoid.

For some people, slowing down the digestive process can be great because it has positive effects for blood sugar management.

On the other hand, some people should be careful - namely, those with type 1 diabetes.

Limit your consumption to 1-2 tablespoons per day.

A significantly larger amount can contribute to low potassium levels and leaching of minerals from the bones, ultimately leading to osteoporosis.

Like with soda and even seltzer water and juice, it's important to remember an acid is an acid.

Acid can wear down enamel and cause tooth damage if consumed in excess.

If you stick to the recommended daily dosage of ACV, you shouldn't run into any problems.

This is a fair warning to folks who already have compromised tooth health or have severely worn enamel as supplementation can worsen the damage.

Check with your dentist if you have the go-ahead first in case you're concerned.

Last but not least, there are rare cases in which an individual might discover they have an allergic reaction to apple cider vinegar.

This reaction may be a standalone reaction, or it may be caused by an undesirable interaction with medication.

Check with your doctor before beginning an ACV regimen, and note the potential conflict with any medications you take before using.

What to look for when purchasing ACV

buying apple cider vinegar

If you're looking for the condensed version, here's the main takeaway: buy your ACV with the mother!

One of the most wonderful benefits of apple cider vinegar is the fact that it's a fermented food.

That fermentation process affords us the ability to take advantage of all that great bacteria for our guts.

The mother is the cobwebby thing that lay on the bottom of the bottle. You'll generally find the mother in unpasteurized apple cider vinegar.

It's easy to tell if the product has been pasteurized because the color will generally be much lighter and more opaque.

The unpasteurized ACV is superior in terms of both nutrition and beneficial properties.

How to make apple cider vinegar

How to make apple cider vinegar

Looking to DIY it? That's the spirit!

That's how you can always ensure you're getting the freshest product and the most bang for your buck in terms of health benefits.

Here is a simple recipe to get you started.

Ingredients:

  • A glass jar the size of your choice
  • Enough cored/peeled apples to fill the jar (you can also use apple scraps)
  • 1-2 tbsp. organic cane sugar OR raw honey
  • Enough filtered water to fill the jar of your choice

Instructions:

  1. Fill your clean jar 3/4 of the way full with apples or apple scraps.
  2. Pour in water to submerge the apples entirely. Apples exposed to air will be vulnerable and mold during the fermentation process.
  3. Mix in your sweetener of choice - the sweetener is essential as the bacteria "feeds" on it during fermentation.
  4. Cover your jar with a cheesecloth and secure with an open jar lid or a rubber band. Fermentation requires air, but you also don't want to attract flies.
  5. Let it sit for 3 weeks. Mix the ACV blend once or twice per day to make sure the apples are staying submerged.
  6. After 3 weeks, strain the apples and cover with the cheesecloth. Let it sit for an additional 3-4 weeks to complete the process. Stir occasionally.

Let us know in the comments how you use ACV and what benefits you've seen. We'd love to hear from you. If you liked this article, make sure to hit share too!

This article was fact checked for accuracy by Dr. Kim Langdon, MD. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.

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benefits of chia seeds
All posts, Nutrition

Chia Seeds: The Tiny Super Food That Packs A Punch

Medically review by Kim Langdon

Chia Seeds Benefits

We've discussed countless "superfoods" on the blog, but perhaps the type of superfood we love the most are the tiny ones that pack a big punch.

Essentially, that's what a super food is - a concentrated source of nutrition.

This often means that big things come in small packages. The chia seed is no exception.

This versatile pantry staple is incredibly easy to fit into your diet, and there's no reason not to.

With growing demand and popularity, you can often find them for a small price at budget food stores and in the bulk section, making it affordable to stay stocked up and healthy.

What are chia seeds?

Chia comes from the Salvia hispanica plant. Chia seeds are sometimes also used medicinally.

They mostly grow in warm climates and are grown for use primarily in Mexico and Guatemala, and have been used in Mayan and Aztec culture for centuries.

What are chia seeds?

The seeds are a small oval or circle shape, often ranging in color from a dark brown to black-grey. You might also come across golden chia seeds or white chia seeds with a lighter shade.

Chia seeds are nearly tasteless. If anything, they have a mildly nutty flavor that pairs well with both sweet and savory foods.

They were once more popular in Chia Pets, a novelty at-home "garden" which sprouted the chia seeds and resembled hair on a head. Remember those?

Nowadays, these seeds are common additions to smoothies, yogurt bowls, toast, salads, and baked goods. But hey... if you're still rocking the Chia Pet, good on you!

Fun fact: Chia also means "strength."

The benefits of chia seeds

benefits of chia seeds

What's so good about this little seed anyway? Well, let's break it down. First, let's look at the nutritional properties of chia seeds, ounce for ounce.

Calories: 137

Carbohydrates: 12.3 g

Fibre: 10.6 g

Fat: 8.6 g

Protein: 4.4 g

Calcium: 177 mg

 Phosphorus: 265 mg

Potassium: 44.8 mg

Zinc: 1.0 mg

Copper: 0.1

Manganese: 0.6 mg

... plus 4,915 mg of omega-3 fatty acids! Just from this, we know chia seeds are an incredible source of fiber.

It's net carbs come in around 2 grams per servings, making them an awesome addition to any diet from plant-based to keto.

It's jam-packed with healthy fats, plant protein, and important minerals.

What's not to love?

1. They're great for digestion

A single serving of chia seeds can give you all the fiber you need in a day.

Fiber aids digestion in big ways, and without it, it's easy to get backed up. In fact, chia seeds can act as a gentle, all-natural laxative if you need it.

Getting in your daily dose of chia can help keep you regular which is a great indication of being healthy overall.

2. They can help you lose weight

Two of the most essential components for weight loss are fiber and protein.

A balance of the two helps you stay full and stave off hunger in between meals, helping you stick to a sustainable calorie deficit without feeling hungry, or worse - hangry.

Chia seeds are an incredible source of both. The fibrous seeds gel up after eating, naturally taking up a bit more space in the gut while digesting slowly and steadily.

This powerful seed is also a complete plant protein which means it contains all of the essential amino acids.

That way, you can get those gains with a little less meat.

They can also help to stabilize blood sugar which means you won't experience the spikes and drops that lead to cravings and hunger before your next meal.

3. They aid in good bone health

Have you heard the myth that people who don't eat dairy don't get enough calcium?

Clearly, whoever is spreading these rumors isn't familiar with chia seeds! Per ounce, chia seeds contain 179 mg of calcium which equates to 13% of the recommended daily value.

Calcium is important not only for developing bodies but for maintaining strong and stable bones, reducing the risk of osteoporosis.

4. They're loaded with antioxidants

Antioxidants are one of the main reasons a healthy diet should include plenty of fruits and veggies loaded with micronutrients.

Most colorful foods have high antioxidant content, but so do chia seeds!

These antioxidants act as a natural preservative for chia seeds' fatty acids so they don't go rancid. You don't get those good benefits from rancid fats.

Not only do chia seeds have a long shelf life and built-in nutrient preservation; these antioxidants also help fight free radicals in the body which keeps your body in natural detox mode while warding off disease like cancer.

5. They help balance essential fatty acids

Everyone needs a balance of both omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids. The unfortunate reality with the Standard American Diet is that our ratio is way out of whack!

Ideally, we have a 1:1 ratio, but processed foods, refined oils, conventional meat, and dairy have many people with far more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3s.

One ounce of chia seeds provides approximately as many essential fatty acids as two servings of salmon.

Considering the daily recommendation for omega-3s is about four grams, you can easily get your fill with less than an ounce of chia.

6. They're great for the gut

If you put chia seeds in water, you'll notice that after an hour or two, they begin to gel up. This is why chia pudding and chia eggs (more on that, next) are a thing!

Unsurprisingly, they act roughly the same way in the stomach. When you eat chia seeds, they end up expanding in the gut. It might sound uncomfortable, but it's actually quite beneficial.

This is due to their soluble fiber content which makes chia seeds a fantastic source of prebiotics.

In short, you need prebiotics for probiotics to be effective. Thus, chia seeds are great for managing healthy gut flora.

7. They can reduce systemic inflammation

One of the driving factors of systemic inflammation - which can exacerbate or cause autoimmune flares and increase gut permeability or "leaky gut" - is the imbalance of omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids.

A healthy diet overall (and one that includes chia seeds) can reduce inflammation, chronic pain, and uncomfortable bloating by addressing the core issues.

8. They're a natural energy booster

Chia seeds are a nearly perfect food. With a strong and mighty blend of slow carbs, healthy fats, plant protein, and fiber, these seeds offer up an amazing boost.

Not only will they give you a quick jolt - this energy is sustainable.

Have a scoop before a workout for stronger lifts and faster runs, or use them as an afternoon pick-me-up when the office starts to get you down.

How to use chia seeds

How to use chia seeds

Chia seeds are wildly versatile. They're good on their own in many ways, but there are so many fun recipes to use them in.

Sometimes, they're just a nice add-in while other times, it's really the shining star of the dish. If you're looking to get more chia seeds in your diet for the fantastic benefits, here are a few recommendations.

1. Add them to your smoothie. You can mix them in after you're done blending, or you can toss in 1-3 tablespoons prior to blending. The latter option can improve the thickness of your smoothie as the seeds will gel upon being exposed to liquid.

2. Make chia pudding. Because chia seeds naturally gel, they make a great pudding. To make chia pudding, simple soak 3-5 tablespoons of chia seeds overnight in your milk or dairy-free milk alternative of choice. You can add in your favorite powders and other seeds like flax or hemp here.

In the morning, it will be a thick and decadent breakfast treat. Best of all, you can customize it to your taste. Use ground chia seeds for the same effect if you don't like the texture of them whole. Top the final product off with nut butter, fruit, and whatever else you like.

3. Use them as an alternative to eggs. This is a great tip for those who don't eat eggs! Mixing one tablespoon of chia seeds with two tablespoons of water and letting it gel makes an egg substitute suitable for baking. It acts as a binder, and it actually does a great job of it (while adding some extra nutrition!).

4. Add them to your oatmeal. Chia seeds give a hot bowl of oats an awesome crunch and some added benefit. Like with chia pudding, you can also add a scoop to your overnight oats for a thicker result as the mixture sets overnight - it's a tasty porridge and pudding fusion.

5. Top your yogurt with chia seeds. Both sweet yogurt creations and savory yogurt bowls are made better with the addition of chia seeds. It's a great way to boost your breakfast or your snack time.

6. Add it to water or juice. If you want a digestion boost and natural energy drink, just add 1-2 tablespoons to juice or water. Let it sit for about an hour until the chia seeds are gelled and enjoy your drink. This only works if you enjoy the texture of the seeds!

7. Sprinkle them on your fruit or veggies. Chia seeds give apples and bananas a great crunch, especially paired with nut butter. They're also a fantastic replacement for nuts or seeds on a fresh green salad... and doubly fibrous!

8. Make a super seed blend. Combine your chia seeds with flaxseeds, hemp seeds, buckwheat, popped amaranth, or your favorite crunchy superfoods for a "super seed" blend. I love having this handy for an easy topping in my oatmeal and yogurt bowls.

How to store chia seeds

How to store chia seeds

Considering chia seeds have such a high antioxidant complex, they have a very long shelf life. In fact, you can keep them for years without replacing them or even needing to refrigerate them.

While you can keep them in the refrigerator without impacting nutrition, you can easily store them in a cool, dry place. Just make sure to pack them in an airtight container.

I like to store mine in a mason jar in the pantry, away from light and temperature fluctuations.

We hope you learned a ton about this wonderful little seed today, and you're inspired to add a bit more chia to your diet. Enjoy its versatility, benefits, and endless possibilities!

This article was fact checked for accuracy by Dr. Kim Langdon, MD. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.

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The Benefits of Chia Seeds & How to Use Them

References

1. Ayerza R, Coates W. Chia seeds: new source of omega-3 fatty acids, natural antioxidants, and dietetic fiber. Southwest Center for Natural Products Research & Commercialization. Tucson: Office of Arid Lands Studies; 2001.

2. Bresson JL, Flynn A, Heinonen M, et al. Opinion on the safety of Chia seeds (Salvia hispanica L.) and ground whole Chia seeds, as a food ingredient. J Eur Food Safety Authority. 2009;996:1–26.

3. Ixtaina VY, Nolasco SM, Tomas MC. Physical properties of chia (Salvia hispanica L.) seeds. Ind Crop Prod. 2008;28(3):286–293. doi: 10.1016/j.indcrop.2008.03.009.

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Health & Wellness, All posts

5 Proven Ways to Stop Sugar Cravings in Their Tracks

Medically review by Kim Langdon

Stop Sugar Cravings

For some folks, sugar cravings are the major hurdle standing between them and living a consistently healthy lifestyle.

There are a few sneaky ways those cravings crop up.

We're tempted at breakfast when we stop at the cafe and we're not quite awake yet, or cravings rear their ugly head in the afternoon when the need for a jolt is strong.

Some people have no problem sticking to healthy foods all day until around 8 p.m.

You know - when the work is done, dinner has been served, the chores have been finished, and we're on the couch ready to unwind... with some snacks.

In any of these scenarios, sugar stands in to give us a little hug. It reminds us that everything is okay, and it simultaneously provides us with energy.

Our bodies know this, and that's why it communicates to the brain to ask for it in the first place. You're not crazy. In fact, you're totally normal.

That doesn't mean you like the sugar cravings or actually need that additional energy, though.

Sometimes, it's okay to give in to a stray craving and use food for something besides actual hunger.

Most of the time, though, we really want to work hard at staying on track and save those indulgences for a time when we really want our favorite holiday cake or a treat from the best bakery all the way across town - special occasions!

When it comes to the day-to-day, we need to be armed with smart strategies to stop sugar cravings in their tracks.

Anyone who has a tricky relationship with sugar knows that the compulsion to eat sweets can be surprisingly strong and unrelenting, but there are a few simple ways to curb that craving and address its root cause.

1. Exercise

Exercise to stop sugar cravings

Boosting serotonin can really bust sugar cravings.

This neurotransmitter is a natural mood stabilizer, so getting that quick release will definitely help you to fight the cravings when they're emotionally driven.

Boosting serotonin will help to combat both depression and anxiety, helping you ward off those down feelings and rapid-cycling thoughts that often lead us straight to the cookie jar for a little self-soothing.

Exercise is an easy way to give the brain a little something to work with. Research shows that exercise is linked to higher serotonin levels.

It doesn't have to be a tough or long workout.

Simply going for a walk or jogging enough to get your heart rate up should do the trick. Try to give yourself 15-20 minutes for the best results.

Plus, this will give you enough time to maybe even forget about your sugar cravings altogether.

This method combines both chemical release and distraction techniques for good results, tackling the issue from the root.

2. Take a nap

Sleep to stop sugar cravings

Fatigue is a very powerful force in our cravings because it messes with our hormones.

Appetite regulation is controlled by digestive hormones like ghrelin, leptin, and cholecystokinin.

Ghrelin signals hunger, while leptin tells us when we're full. When we're not getting enough sleep, studies show that leptin levels can drop by up to 18% and ghrelin can spike up to 30% - those numbers are huge!

Many people who experience regular cravings can link them back to strong feelings of fatigue.

These hormone imbalances are linked to increased hunger - particularly for carbohydrate-rich foods.

A simple nap won't fix the fluctuation hormones if you're chronically sleep-deprived. In that case, it's good to reset your sleeping habits and make getting those 7-8 hours a priority.

This could be the key to saying goodbye to cravings for good. For a quick fix and easy distraction, 15-20 minutes will do your brain and body good.

If you have the freedom to do so, this can be the key to getting through the afternoon slump.

If your cravings tend to hit hard as soon as you make your way home from work, take a snooze before you tend to the house, cooking, and all your other responsibilities.

3. Meditate

Meditate to stop sugar cravings

Is there anything meditation can't address?

If you keep your practice consistent, not really. It provides some space in the day - space to just be, and not to think about anything at all.

Just 10-15 minutes spent sorting your thoughts, letting them pass by, and tending to your brain can be just as rejuvenating as a nap, and just as effective for stress relief as a serotonin boost from exercise.

It can be really simple, and if you can fit scrolling on Facebook into your day, you can definitely squeeze in a meditation session.

I recommend using the app Headspace.

In one study done with subjects who suffer from binge eating disorder, meditation decreased binge frequency from around 4 times per week to 1.5 instances which is a massive drop!

It also showed an increase in the perceived sense of control, which we know is a major component of cravings and giving into them.

This indicates that meditation can be therapeutic on a larger scale, so using it as an intervention for sugar cravings - and developing a consistent schedule to treat the root of comfort eating or emotional eating - can be incredibly helpful.

Read more about the amazing benefits of meditation.

4. Log your food

Log your food

Individuals who keep a food journal stick to good eating habits more often and lose more weight. A little accountability goes a long way.

There are two reasons why this intervention technique works for random cravings. First, you can log what you are about to eat now.

It's on paper or entered into your phone, so you can check out how it stacks up to the rest of your day.

Chances are, it will at least make you think twice. If not, now you've at least come to terms with whatever your craving might be, and you have something to look back on when it hits again.

Think about tracking your mood, fatigue levels, and anything else that might be driving the craving in your journal.

Alternatively, try logging the snack you are allowing yourself to have, and using it as a tool to set a limit for yourself.

Some people have no trouble stopping at a specified amount of a sugary snack and can fit it into their day seamlessly, but others face big triggers with food without brakes.

If you use a food journal to practice portion control instead of abstinence, this tactic could still help you implement some damage control.

5. Drink something

Drink something

You've likely heard some statistics about how often we confuse our thirst with hunger, but hey - it's true.

Think about how much water you've consumed throughout the day already and take into account any diuretics that could be furthering dehydration.

If you've already had balanced meals and know your body isn't actually hungry, a tall glass of water or a warm mug of tea could help you move past those cravings swiftly and painlessly.

Fluids will help fill up the stomach and make you feel fuller, addressing any physical hunger that might be present temporarily.

If your body was truly only thirsty, you might see an immediate drop in those craving levels.

Otherwise, the need for something sweet can be soothed by a hot cup of tea.

Try herbal blends with your favorite fruits and herbs, and add some honey, stevia, or almond milk for a relaxing beverage that you can savor.

By the time you're finished with your tea, you can reassess whether or not you still want that snack.

As always, good luck to you on your journey! We hope you found a new strategy here today that works for you when you need it the most.

Kick those sugar cravings to the curb, and indulge wisely when you do.

This article was fact checked for accuracy by Dr. Kim Langdon, MD. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.

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5 Proven Ways to Stop Sugar Cravings In Their Tracks & Prevent Overeating

References

chulte E, Avena N, Gearhardt A. Which foods may be addictive? The roles of processing, fat content, and glycemic load. PLoS One. 2015;10:e0117959. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0117959.

Gearhardt A, Roberts M, Ashe M. If sugar is addictive…what does it mean for the law? J Law Med Ethics. 2013;41(Suppl 1):46–49. doi: 10.1111/jlme.12038.

Avena NM, Rada P, Hoebel BG. Evidence for sugar addiction: behavioral and neurochemical effects of intermittent, excessive sugar intake.

Fuchs RA, Tran-Nguyen LTL, Specio SE, et al. Predictive validity of the extinction/reinstatement model of drug craving. Psychopharmacology. 1998;135:151–160. doi: 10.1007/s002130050496. 

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Health & Wellness, All posts

Best 8 Natural Brain Boosters for Brain Power

Medically review by Kim Langdon

Natural Brain Boosters

I think we can all agree that when we're not on top of our game, the most obvious side effects are felt in the brain.

You know what I'm talking about - mind fog, fuzzy thoughts, a lack of focus and clarity, not being able to easily recall information, and struggling with memory.

That fog can be really tough to lift.

It makes it difficult enough to get through the day-to-day stuff, let alone put your mind to something challenging, tough, and rewarding.

Even with good sleep and diet, we can face unexpected bouts where we struggle with these things, and our minds need a little TLC.

It doesn't take much. A good supplementation routine can improve cognitive abilities, make focusing easier, and prevent brain problems in the future.

From nootropics to some ingredients you may very well have handy in your kitchen, here are some of our favorite natural brain boosters.

1. L-theanine

L-theanine

L-theanine is found in green tea. It's an amino acid that really sets green tea's energizing effects apart from coffee.

This is because it's actually calming and relaxing, leaving you feeling alert and focused without the jitters that come with coffee (although it is on our list today!).

It essentially works by inhibiting overactivity in the brain, and by stimulating GABA - another inhibitory and calming neurotransmitter.

This makes it a natural remedy for stress and anxiety, and if you've felt either of the two (especially both at once!), you know just how much they can fog up your head, and make your thinking less clear.

L-theanine may also be a neuroprotective agent.

There is promising evidence that it could be effective in the prevention of brain cell damage due to biochemical and structural damage that may lead to neurodegenerative disease.

Consider swapping your coffee for green tea or picking up an L-theanine supplement. It can also be good for winding down before bed.

2. American ginseng

American ginseng

Siberian ginseng is often considered an adaptogen, which is simply a compound that increases the body's ability to tolerate stress, increasing our threshold and reducing our negative reaction to it - physically and emotionally.

We understand stress as a threat to optimal cognitive functioning, so it's no surprise that a relative with a different chemical makeup - American ginseng - makes the list today.

Research has shown that consumption improves working memory, visuospatial short-term memory, choice reaction time accuracy, and calmness.

Ginseng root can easily be brewed into tea.

Always make sure to seek out quality ginseng. It can be a rather expensive ingredient to purchase, but it's not always worth it to seek bargains in this case.

3. Fish oil

Fish oil

Fish oil is often recommended for a wide range of reasons for improving health, and there's a lot of convincing evidence as to why that is.

It's easy to obtain, and it certainly won't hurt getting more omega-3 fatty acids into your diet.

Deficiency of omega-3s is linked to mental health issues and even increased risk of depression, and with that, we can assume that having enough of the good stuff can potentially help the brain.

It's worth a try - right?

Evidence is most promising in regards to managing symptoms of depression and potentially preventing psychotic disorders.

While there generally is no "cure" for mental illness, it's certainly worth experimenting with a harmless and side-effect-free method of clearing up the brain.

Depression can make it impossible to focus - especially on anything positive.

Of course, eating your fish 3-4 times per week is the best natural source of fish oil, and it will be even more highly beneficial to the body.

Otherwise, look for a quality fish oil product or fermented cod liver oil.

4. Acetyl-L-Carnitine

Acetyl-L-Carnitine

Acetyl-L-Carnitine or ALCAR is an acetylated version of Carnitine. Carnitine is often used for athletic performance, but ALCAR definitely has more mental components than its relative.

Acetylcholine is a primary neurotransmitter associated with learning, computation, memory, analysis, and perception. Basically, it's key to unlocking our best brains.

Studies have shown it to be effective in increasing acquisition and retention rates, reduction in Alzheimer's-related cognitive decline, and beneficial for enhancing spatial and temporal memory.

Finally, it may reduce oxidative damage in the hippocampus - our brain's memory center. It has also been used as a treatment for alcoholism-related cognitive issues.

5. Ginkgo biloba

Ginkgo biloba

Also called maidenhair, Ginkgo Biloba has been used in China for thousands of years. It may be one of the oldest tree species on Earth!

The Chinese tend to know what they're talking about with old medicine; ginkgo is anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and may have some seriously impressive brain-boosting effects too.

For one, two of its main constituents - flavonoids and terpenoid - are powerful antioxidants that are thought to slow down the aging process including development of age-related disease.

This is because antioxidants help reduce the impact of oxidative stress.

Gingko biloba supplementation has also been shown to improve self-perceived mental health and wellness, motor skills, boost overall brain capacity, reduce the risk of neurodegenerative diseases, help fight anxiety and depression, and more.

There are no known negative side effects, and this little plant is a true powerhouse of brainy benefits.

6. Curcumin

Curcumin

You might be more familiar with curcumin as the active constituent in one of our all-time favorite spices - turmeric!

We know that turmeric is antiviral, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and provides therapeutic treatment for depression.

It also improves the nervous system and has the ability to slow down inflammation-related aging processes and diseases.

It’s been shown to reverse and protect hippocampal neuron damage in response to stress and act as an enzyme that modulates the release of serotonin and dopamine – those “good mood” chemicals that are underproduced in the depressed brain, helping to boost cognition.

Turmeric’s antioxidant activity protects against vascular dementia, which is brain damage caused by multiple strokes.

Oh, and due to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant abilities, curcumin has promise as an outstanding neuroprotective agent.

7. Caffeine

Caffeine

Now, I didn't mean to knock on caffeine earlier. In fact, it is good for boosting the brain, and you're probably no stranger to its positive effects.

A lot of people truly rely on their morning cuppa to get them going, and their brains suffer without it.

For some, this may simply be due to the fact that caffeine is addictive, and many of us have a dependence on it. For others, it's a treat on a day when the brain can use it. Either way, it's all about striking a balance.

High caffeine can work adversely, causing anxiety, a lack of focus, dehydration, headache, and scatter-brained thoughts.

Research shows that low to moderate caffeine consumption improves in endurance, cognitive function, alertness, vigilance, mood, and perception of fatigue.

The sweet spot? 38 to 400 mg per day, which is approximately 1 to 8 cups of tea, or 0.3 to 4 cups of brewed coffee.

8. Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is another powerful adaptogen. Considering its long list of benefits, it's not surprising that it's a great supplement for longevity.

Not only is it good for preventing diabetes, treating chronic pain, and killing cancer cells, but it’s potentially useful in warding off degenerative diseases Alzheimer’s, and preventing trauma after head injury - pretty powerful stuff.

Taking ashwagandha has also proven to be effective in improving memory, sustaining attention, executive functioning, and speeding up information-processing.

Lastly, since it naturally improves stress tolerance, we can expect to see less of a negative impact of stress on our thinking, hopefully helping to clear up judgment, positive thinking, and mental health.

These are just some of the natural boosters that can improve your cognitive function. It goes without saying that good sleep, diet and regular exercise  will have a huge impact on your brain, so make sure to dial those in before you start getting into supplementation and natural remedies.

This article was fact checked for accuracy by Dr. Kim Langdon, MD. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.

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8 Natural & Effective Brain Boosters for Better Cognition

References

1. Kumar V., Khanna V. K., Seth P. K., Singh P. N., Bhattacharya S. K. Brain neurotransmitter receptor binding and nootropic studies on Indian Hypericum perforatum Linn. Phytotherapy Research.

2. Melkonyan K. P.1.c.002 influence of nootropil on neuroplasticity of the brain cortex in conditions of hypokinesia. European Neuropsychopharmacology. 2006;16:S224–S225. doi: 10.1016/s0924-977x(06)70170-5.

3. U?as J., Brunner L. C., Geddes J. W., Choe W., Cotman C. W. N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor complex in the hippocampus of elderly, normal individuals and those with Alzheimer's disease. Neuroscience.

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Addressing B12 deficiency
All posts, Health & Wellness

B12 Deficiency: Symptoms & How To Fix It

Medically review by Kim Langdon

B12 Deficiency

Let's talk about B12! You likely associate this vitamin with energy as it's often added to caffeinated beverages and energy drinks for a boost.

For vegetarians and vegans, the emphasis is even higher on B12, and you've likely heard non-meat eaters are at higher risk of deficiency.

There's more to it than just that, though, and it's not only the herbivores who are at risk.

In fact, it's probably much more common than it is diagnosed.

Like with all vitamins, each one has a unique and important role in the body. Vitamin B12 is needed to form new red blood cells, nerves, and DNA - it's a creator of sorts.

It's other main function is prevention of anemia which you'll learn more about in the signs and symptoms of deficiency.

vitamin b12 deficiency

First, it's important to differentiate B12 from other vitamins. The body doesn’t make B12 which means we need to consume it.

The best source of B12 we can take in often comes from animal foods, but bread and cereals are often fortified with it which can be another good source - particularly for elderly people.

Another important thing to consider is that the body doesn’t store vitamin B12 for long, so consumption should be consistent and often to keep levels healthy.

Deficiency does not simply come down to how much of that nutrient you take in via diet; it comes down to how well you absorb it (directly related to gut health), demand of the nutrient due to physiological factors, genetics that impact utilization, and more which we will discuss further in the next section.

Deficiency is much more common in the elderly population, so individuals over the age of 65 should regularly getting serum levels tested.

Finally, B12 deficiency is closely linked to two other important factors: folate and homocysteine. B12 functions a lot like like folate (vitamin B9).

If a folic acid supplement is taken, it can mask - but not address - vitamin B12 deficiency.

It's also worth noting that people with low folate levels also tend to have low B12 levels, and higher homocysteine levels (3). B12 is required to convert homocysteine back into thiamine (vitamin B1).

Signs & symptoms of B12 deficiency

symptoms of B12 deficiency

In this section, we want to cover both symptoms of deficiency and some key factors that make individuals more susceptible to developing B12 deficiency.

It's important to address both ends of the spectrum for treatment and preventative measures, especially because deficiency tends to be asymptomatic; for example, B12 deficiency won’t cause anemia until Stage 4.

Earlier signs include weakness, tingling in the hands and feet, balance problems, irregular/rapid heartbeat, confusion, weakness, or sudden loss of appetite.

  • Deficiency is a common cause of macrocytic and pernicious anemia - the latter being an autoimmune disorder - and has been linked to neuropsychiatric disorders (1).
  • Patients with depression tend to have low folate levels (associated with B12/homocysteine) (3).
  • People with immune system disorders are more likely to have B12 deficiency.
  • Thinning of the stomach lining or atrophic gastritis makes individuals more prone to B12 deficiency due to reduction in absorption.
  • Low blood levels of folate and vitamin B12, and elevated homocysteine levels are associated with Alzheimer’s (2).

Homocysteine is an amino acid that results during the breakdown of protein in the body. When found in high concentrations, it's been linked to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.

Elevated homocysteine levels are thought to contribute to plaque formation by damaging arterial walls.

Like we mentioned above, it's not just vitamin B12 we need, and many of these symptoms are thought to be linked to a host of deficiency or in homocysteine's case - overload.

B12 deficiency is also strongly linked to neurological disorders and brain/nerve damage (personality changes, dementia, MS, Parkinson’s, general, cognitive decline).

It's also associated with learning disabilities in children and infertility. B12 virtually affects every tissue in the body, so there's a reason we stress its importance. 

Addressing B12 deficiency

Addressing B12 deficiency

If you believe you might be deficient or you are someone whose physiological conditions make it more likely that you'll develop a deficiency, what's your next step?

Good question! Sometimes, supplementation just isn't enough. Besides, finding out if you're actually in need of a boost can be tough enough.

The serum B12 test doctors most often use doesn’t pick up everyone with deficiency because it only measures the B12 in the blood. We need to pick up more sensitive markers to detect it earlier.

Even so, getting a test is very simple and can give you an idea of where your blood levels of vitamin B12 stand.

If you feel as though you are truly at risk of deficiency and subject to serious health issues because of it, we recommend more sensitive testing such as a methylmalonic acid or MMA test.

Over 50% of vegans are deficient, and 7% of vegetarians (based on serum B12 testing). Sensitive markers detect deficiency at earlier stages with 83% of vegans being deficient and 63% of vegetarians being deficient.

This indicates the need for accurate testing, and also how high-risk non-meat eaters are for deficiency. All plant-based eaters should be supplementing with B12.

Now, let's discuss preexisting conditions that impact B12 levels. Treating or fixing H. pylori infection - a bacterium found in the stomach and duodenum- can increase B12 absorption, fix deficiency and treat anemia (5). 

People with digestive issues, leaky gut and conditions that affect the small intestine such as Crohn’s, celiac disease, bacterial growth, and parasites are more likely to be deficient in vitamin B12.

This leads us to believe that treating leaky gut will significantly increase our body's ability to absorb B12 and prevent deficiency.

Intestinal permeability is a good marker of how well we absorb all nutrients, so if you're struggling with gut issues or autoimmunity, getting enough B12 is crucial.

Studies show that supplementation with oral vitamin B12 is a safe and effective treatment for addressing deficiency states (1).

If you're not taking in a lot of animal foods or fortified grains, vitamin B12 has good bioavailability. Like with any vitamin or mineral, whole food sources are the best and easiest for our bodies to use.

B12 is found in meat and dairy products; the best animal sources are liver and kidney, but you can also get it in any animal foods such as fish (especially sardines), meat, poultry, eggs, milk, and milk products.

A great plant food source of B12 is nutritional yeast. No matter the source, it's good to remember that only tiny amounts of vitamin B12 can be absorbed at once (4).

This reinforces the notion that B12 intake should be consistent.

How much vitamin B12 do you need?

How much vitamin B12 do you need?

Like with many deficiencies and illnesses, there must be an emphasis on infants and the elderly - especially since B12 deficiency can cause long-term damage.

This means that infants might suffer the effects later, and the elderly may be suffering the effects on top of dealing with other conditions either caused by or exacerbated by B12 deficiency.

Infants who suffered from deficiency were more at-risk for anorexia, irritability, and overall failure to thrive later in life (6). Infants up to age 6 months should receive 0.4 mcg per day. 

Babies age 7-12 months should get around 0.5 mcg, and children age 1-3 years: 0.9 mcg.

Daily dose recommendations:

  • Kids age 4-8 years: 1.2 mcg
  • Children age 9-13 years: 1.8 mcg
  • Teens age 14-18: 2.4 mcg 
  • Adults: 2.4 mcg (2.6-2.8 mcg if pregnant or breastfeeding)

The major takeaway is this: B12 deficiency is very common, even if your serum levels look normal! The long-term effects of B12 deficiency are absolutely detrimental, so eat those superfoods like sardines and liver on a regular basis.

We hope you learned something new today here, and if you liked it, make sure to share it!

This article was fact checked for accuracy by Dr. Kim Langdon, MD. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.

References

1. R, Oh, and Brown DL. “Vitamin B12 Deficiency.” American Family Physician, 1 Mar. 2003, europepmc.org/abstract/med/12643357.

2. Clarke, MD Robert. “Folate, Vitamin B12, and Serum Total Homocysteine Levels in Confirmed Alzheimer Disease.” Archives of Neurology, American Medical Association, 1 Nov. 1998, jamanetwork.com/journals/jamaneurology/fullarticle/774437.

3. Fava, Maurizio. “Folate, Vitamin B12, and Homocysteine in Major Depressive Disorder.” The American Journal of Psychiatry, Mar. 1997, pp. 426–428., search.proquest.com/openview/787d67703afd0957e3b33cb70e644efe/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=40661.

4. Schjønsby, H. “Vitamin B12 Absorption and Malabsorption.” Gut., Dec. 1989, pp. 1686–1691., www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1434458/?page=1.

5. Kaptan, MD Kür?ad. “Helicobacter Pylori-Is It a Novel Causative Agent in Vitamin B12 Deficiency?” Archives of Internal Medicine, American Medical Association, 8 May 2000, jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/485312.

6. Graham, Stephen M. “Long-Term Neurologic Consequences of Nutritional Vitamin B12 Deficiency in Infants.” The Journal of Pediatrics, vol. 121, no. 5, Nov. 1992, pp. 710–714., doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/S0022-3476(05)81897-9.

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