Intermittent Fasting
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Intermittent Fasting: How to Know If It’s Right For You

Fact checked by Aimee McNew for Accuracy

Intermittent Fasting

There are many tricks to promote weight loss, but intermittent fasting (IF) isn’t a joke.

It’s become increasingly popular in recent years and for good reason. Research shows it has plenty of benefits, but that still doesn’t mean it’s good for everyone.

How do you know if it’s right for you? Read on.

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What is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting is a specific pattern of eating designed to promote fasting benefits without denying yourself food for more than 24 hours.

It is different from strict fasting, which might eliminate all or most foods for a certain number of days. Fasting can be dangerous and should not be attempted without medical approval.

Intermittent fasting, however, implies daily food intake. Instead of eating throughout the day, however, your total food intake is contained to a specific window.

For example, many intermittent fasters skip a traditionally-timed breakfast and don’t eat first until noon and then end their last meal of the day by 7pm.

Intermittent fasting is a protocol that does not tell you what to eat, but rather when.

Types of Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting can be done in many different ways. These are the most common methods for using IF.

The 5:2 Diet

This doesn’t involve long periods of no food but instead refers to extreme caloric restriction on two days of the week. For five days you eat normally, and for two non-consecutive days you eat fewer than 1,000 calories, which is typically two smaller meals.

You should get medical clearance before you fast this way.

24-Hour Method

Also known as eat-stop-eat fasting, this type involves not eating from dinner one day until dinnertime the next. So you don’t go an entire day with no food, but you do give your digestive system a 24-hour break.

This is typically done one or two times per week, with normal eating patterns the other days of the week. You should get medical clearance before you fast for 24-hours at a time.

The 16/8 Method

With this protocol, you skip breakfast and only consume food for about eight hours each day. Some people choose from 12 pm to 8 pm, or from 1 pm to 9 pm, but others will also restrict food consumption to six or seven hours.

This method reduces snacking in the evening and capitalizes on the already normal fasting time while you are asleep.

This method is also referred to as the lean-gains protocol, and even though it’s less extreme, you should still check with your doctor before trying it.

The 16/8 method or others close to it are the most popular ways to do intermittent fasting.

8 Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

8 Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

Research has examined many angles of intermittent fasting and discovered several key benefits. Not only can it promote weight loss, but it can promote cognitive wellness, and it might even lengthen your lifespan. (1, 2)

These are the top proven reasons why IF might be beneficial for health.

1. Weight Loss

Eating less will naturally lead to weight loss in most cases.

Intermittent fasting works for weight loss in several ways, but one of them is by restricting the time of eating, it results in less mindless snacking and excessively large meals. (3)

During the time that you’re not eating, such as a 16 hour fast from dinner until lunchtime the next day, your body dips into stored glucose and fat for energy, resulting in more energy expended than being stored.

This translates to fat loss. However, if your meals when you do eat are not high enough in protein, you could end up burning muscle for energy during times of fasting, so it’s important to eat a well-balanced diet for the best long-term results.

Intermittent fasting can also be helpful for shrinking the waist as research has found that it can reduce belly fat.

Belly fat is dangerous because it surrounds the organs in your trunk and can lead to several types of disease including diabetes and heart disease. (4)

2. Metabolism

Part of the reason we lose weight is because of metabolism.

Regulated by the thyroid and other hormones, metabolism sets the baseline for how much energy your body needs just to be awake and functioning.

When your basal (or baseline) metabolic rate is higher, you naturally burn more fat and calories just by being up and around. Intermittent fasting can help to boost your basal metabolic rate. (5)

Intermittent fasting can boost your basal metabolic rate by as much as 14 percent. (6)

This can lead to a greater loss of weight than simply counting calories. Research shows that by using IF, you can lose up to eight percent more body weight over six months. (7)

3. Epigenetic Improvements

You are born with one set of genes that don’t change. But what can change is how your genes work or express themselves. Epigenetics is the process by which your genes are influenced by the environment around you.

This includes your living space and the air you breathe, but also diet, exercise, and overall lifestyle, like whether you get enough sleep or are too stressed on a regular basis.

Intermittent fasting helps to promote cell repair and also boosts the function of genes that promote longevity. It can help to turn off epigenetic expression that is associated with inflammation and disease, too. (8, 9, 10, 11)

4. Insulin Sensitivity

Insulin is a hormone that helps take glucose into your cells to be used as fuel. When the body becomes resistant to insulin’s activity, insulin resistance develops and blood sugar levels get too high.

This is often the case with type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. The more optimized your insulin levels, the better your body can use fat for energy, and the closer your weight will be to optimal. (12)

Intermittent fasting has been shown to reduce blood sugar by as much as six percent and fasting insulin levels by as much as 31 percent. (13)

5. Human Growth Hormone

Intermittent fasting can increase levels of human growth hormone which can rev metabolism, promote weight loss, and boost muscle gain alongside fat loss. (14, 15)

6. Inflammation

Inflammation is typically a healing response in the body, but when it becomes chronic, it can lead to negative consequences. IF can help to regulate inflammation levels in the body and reduce problems related to systemic inflammation. (16)

This makes intermittent fasting a positive lifestyle intervention for people with autoimmunity and other chronic inflammatory disorders as long as it is medically approved by their doctors. (17, 18)

7. Cardiovascular Health

Heart health is benefitted by intermittent fasting. While all cholesterol isn’t bad, when LDL cholesterol becomes oxidized it can sit in the arteries and lead to inflammation, plaque build-up, and eventual blockage.

IF can help to reduce the chance that LDL might oxidize, and it can also improve blood sugar, insulin, triglycerides, and CRP-hs—all labs that are associated with heart disease risk factors. (19, 20)

8. Cognitive and Neurological Health

Intermittent fasting can support a healthy brain and cognitive function. It can even promote the growth of new nerve cells as well as increasing brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which is a protein that promotes healthy brain cells.

Intermittent fasting might even be able to protect against dementia and Alzheimer’s because of these benefits. (21, 22)

Who Should Not Practice Intermittent Fasting?

As with most things, not everyone gets the same benefits from certain diets or dietary protocols. Intermittent fasting can have dramatic improvements in health in some people but would not be a good idea for others.

Certain people should not try intermittent fasting because they need a more steady nutritional intake for proper growth or development or this pattern of eating would be detrimental in some other way. These include:

  • Anyone under age 18
  • Anyone who is underweight
  • Anyone who has ever experienced an eating disorder
  • Anyone who has a diagnosed medical condition of any kind
  • Anyone who has type 1 or type 2 diabetes
  • Pregnant women or women trying to get pregnant
  • Anyone with low blood pressure
  • Women with a history of menstrual problems
  • Women who are breastfeeding
  • Women with thyroid disorders

Even if you don’t fall under any of those categories it is a good idea to check with your doctor before starting a new dietary protocol. Nothing replaces the benefit of personalized medical care.

There is also some research that shows that IF may not be the best idea for women overall as directly compared to men. Most studies look at how IF affects men, and that cannot be universally applied to women.

In some other studies, intermittent fasting was shown to actually cause more problems for women, like worsening blood sugar levels or insulin sensitivity or leading to menstrual disorders or even problems getting pregnant. (23)

This doesn’t necessarily mean that women cannot practice IF, but they may need to ease into it more slowly or fast for shorter periods of time. Some tips for women to start intermittent fasting include:

  • Fasting for 10-12 hours, at most 14, instead of 16 to 24
  • Monitoring thyroid and reproductive hormones throughout the cycle to ensure they are not being suppressed in response to fasting
  • Working with a nutritionist to ensure that when they’re eating, they are meeting all nutritional requirements and not contributing to deficiencies or unhealthy relationships with food

What Counts As Breaking the Fast?

If you’re practicing intermittent fasting, you might want to know what you can do during fasting periods versus eating times.

You can (and should) drink plenty of fluids during non-eating times. These include water, black coffee, tea, and sparkling water. Basically liquid without calories. Caffeine does not count.

If you are looking to do a less intense version of IF, you can also include bone broth and soup stock during periods of fasting so that you’re getting a few calories, but your digestive system still isn’t having to work too hard.

You can also add collagen peptides to coffee or beverages during fasting time without breaking the fast.

Is Intermittent Fasting Right For You?

If you are interested in the idea of intermittent fasting and have no underlying medical conditions or reasons why it is not a good idea, it may be an interesting experience. You may feel better and be able to lose some weight.

However, intermittent fasting is not a magic bullet and should not be attempted to lose extreme amounts of weight quickly or to otherwise engage in unhealthy eating behaviors.

It’s most important that you eat a balanced diet and meet all of your body’s nutritional needs. This can be done with or without intermittent fasting and needs to be the primary focus.

If the idea of fasting in any form seems stressful or undesirable, then don’t do it. Unless your doctor has specifically recommended intermittent fasting, you don’t need to do something that will make you feel miserable about how or when you eat.

There are many ways to approach healthy eating.

Bottom Line

Intermittent fasting is one approach for eating in a way that may have some health benefits, like insulin sensitivity, weight loss, and cardiovascular health.

However, there are many ways to achieve these health benefits and intermittent fasting is not the only answer.

IF can be a great way to optimize a relationship with food and eating, but for others, it may have negative consequences.

Ultimately, a person’s relationship with food is highly individualized and should be considered. Nothing is one size fits all.

This article was fact checked for accuracy by Aimee McNew, MNT, a certified nutritionist. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.

Intermittent Fasting: How to Know If It’s Right For You | Happybodyformula.com

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Quinoa's nutritional profile
All posts, Nutrition

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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benefits-of-kombucha-1 (1)
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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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Foods High in Potassium
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8 Foods High in Potassium & 6 Essential Health Benefits

Fact checked by Aimee McNew for Accuracy

Foods High in Potassium

People think of potassium as coming from bananas and the thing you take if you have a muscle cramp. But it’s a mineral that does a lot more than that.

While it functions as an electrolyte in the body, it does so much more and is highly underrated.

[toc]

What is Potassium?

Potassium is found at high levels in the body and is the third most abundant. It controls how the body uses fluids and how cells take in and let out water.

It’s also important for nerve signaling, muscle contractions (which is why you get cramps when levels are too low!), and is needed for healthy bones, liver, and red blood cells. (source)

The body relies on electrolytes for maintaining homeostasis, or balance, throughout the tissues and cells. When there aren’t enough, complications can follow.

Potassium is needed in balance with other electrolytes, like magnesium and sodium, but is important in its own right.

6 Proven Health Benefits of Potassium

Potassium has many essential functions in the body. These are the top ways that it influences health.

1. Maintains Fluid Balance

Adult human bodies are about 60 to 70 percent water, so it is important that the water found within cells and tissues in the body goes (or stays) where it needs to be.

Forty percent of body fluids are inside of the cells and help them do their work. Without enough fluid, cellular energy and function can slow—which means the entire body’s energy production can be dramatically influenced by low or inadequate levels of fluid balance.

When the body gets dehydrated, it doesn’t just impact cells. It can also have a strong influence on entire organs, particularly the kidneys (which filter waste) and the heart. (source)

2. Promotes Heart Health & Normal Blood Pressure

While potassium supports the function of healthy nerve signaling, it’s also required for steady, regular heartbeats.

Potassium levels that are too high can result in an irregular heartbeat and low levels also alter the normal rhythm of this critical organ. (source)

The entire reason that the heart beats is to supply the body’s organs, tissues, and cells with a healthy blood supply. When the heart cannot beat rhythmically and effectively to do this, the entire body can suffer.

High blood pressure is another complication that interferes with heart health, and more than 30 percent of Americans deal with it one way or another. (source)

When blood pressure is consistently elevated, it can increase the risk for heart disease, heart attack, congestive heart failure, and death.

Potassium helps to reduce blood pressure by counterbalancing the effects of excessive sodium intake.

Research shows that when potassium intake increases, systolic and diastolic blood pressure both go down and that a potassium-rich diet is protective against heart disease. (source, source)

3. Protects Against Strokes

Strokes are the fifth-highest cause of death in the U.S. They are also a major cause of disability. Strokes happen when the brain has an interruption in blood flow to the brain.

Research shows that a diet high in potassium decreases the risk of experiencing a stroke by as much as 40 percent. (source)

When adults eat more than five servings daily of fruits and vegetables, they can lower their odds of having a stroke by more than 25 percent, compared to those who eat only three or fewer servings daily. (source)

4. Supports Nervous System Function

The entire job of the nervous system is communication. Between sending and receiving signals, and interpreting them via the brain, without a healthy communication network the entire body is compromised.

Nerve impulses happen when sodium ions move into cells and when potassium ions move out of cells. When the body’s potassium levels are too low or unstable, nerve impulse signaling can be strongly affected. (source)

Optimizing potassium levels helps the body to function as it should, which explains why dehydration—and low potassium levels—can result in symptoms of confusion, fatigue, and even poor coordination.

5. Supports Bone Health & Decreases Osteoporosis Risk

Osteoporosis occurs when bones become too brittle and lack the proper mineral balance to be dense enough. They can fracture easily and lead to numerous health complications.

While calcium and vitamin D are often cited as the main nutrients needed for bone health, and to prevent osteoporosis, potassium is also a critical element. This is because potassium plays a role in how the body maintains calcium levels.

When potassium levels are too low, more calcium is lost through urine and increases the chance of having too little in the body. (source)

Research shows that people who eat a diet high in potassium have greater levels of bone mass and a reduced risk of developing osteoporosis at any point. (source)

6. Supports Kidney Health & Decreases Risk of Kidney Stones

Potassium supports kidney health in a few key ways.

A diet that is higher in potassium, especially from fruits and vegetables, is associated with a decreased risk of chronic kidney disease because potassium directly decreases inflammation in this critical detox organ. (source)

Potassium can also help to reduce the risk of developing kidney stones, which are clumps of crystals that form when urine becomes excessively concentrated from dehydration. (source)

People who eat higher amounts of dietary potassium have a more than 50 percent reduced chance of developing kidney stones. (source)

For those who are prone to kidney stones for other reasons, increasing the amount of potassium in the diet can lead to a dramatic reduction in the size of kidney stones that form.

What Happens When Your Potassium Levels Are Too Low?

With potassium being such a crucial nutrient for many aspects of health like the heart, nervous system, muscles, and kidneys, it’s shocking that less than two percent of people in the U.S. get their daily potassium needs met. (source)

While the average healthy person in the population won’t have severe consequences from not getting enough, people in risk factor groups for heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease are especially at risk if their potassium intake is consistently inadequate.

The recommended daily intake for various age groups is as follows:

  • 400 milligrams for infants ages 0 to 6 months
  • 860 milligrams for babies ages 7 to 12 months
  • 2,000 milligrams for children ages 1 to 3
  • 2,300 milligrams for children ages 4 to 8, and females ages 9 to 18
  • 2,500 milligrams for males ages 9 to 13
  • 2,600 milligrams for females ages 19 and older
  • 2,800 milligrams for adult breastfeeding women
  • 2,900 milligrams for adult pregnant women
  • 3,000 milligrams for males ages 14 to 18
  • 3,400 milligrams for males ages 19 and older

Potassium Rich Foods You Can Enjoy

Potassium Rich Foods

Many foods provide all of the potassium needed to meet daily requirements. These are the top ways to boost your dietary intake of this important mineral.

1. Dried Fruits

While dried fruits aren’t the best way to get your daily produce intake in, when eaten occasionally they do provide a nice amount of dietary potassium.

Dried apricots contain 31 percent of the daily potassium requirements in just a half-cup, while a half-cup of dried prunes provide 20 percent daily value.

One half-cup of raisins contains 18 percent daily value. When choosing dried fruits, avoid types that have added sugars or other artificial ingredients, and stick to something that is organic.

2. Lentils and Beans

Lentils and beans are both rich sources of potassium and they’re easy to add to a diet in a variety of ways. They also contain fiber and a little protein, which can contribute to other aspects of a balanced macronutrient intake.

One cup of cooked lentils contains 21 percent daily value and one cup of cooked kidney beans contains 17 percent of the body’s daily potassium needs. Soybeans and soybean products contain about 13 percent daily value per half-cup serving.

3. Squash

Acorn squash in particular is a great source of potassium. It’s also rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Squash is versatile and can be cooked in many ways: baking, roasting, boiling, mashing, and even steaming.

It can be prepared sweet (with coconut sugar) or savory (with salt and pepper) and is delicious both ways. Adding some oil while cooking or roasting can also elevate the flavors. One cup of acorn squash contains 18 percent of the body’s daily potassium needs.

4. White Potatoes

While white potatoes get a bad reputation as being an unhealthy starchy food, they actually contain a surprising amount of nutrients. Comparing them to eating white rice or white bread is unfair and they certainly have a place at the table for many people.

Avoiding large amounts of white potatoes for those who are diabetic or have blood sugar issues might be a good idea, but for the general population, they can be quite healthy.

White potatoes contain 17 percent of the body’s daily potassium needs in just one medium russet potato, along with other important nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin B6, iron, and fiber.

5. Orange Juice

Most orange juice is fortified with extra nutrients, like calcium and potassium. Opting for an organic version that is free from added sugars, and is not made from concentrate, can be a great way to boost vitamin C intake as well as potassium.

A one-cup serving of orange juice contains 14 percent of the body’s daily potassium needs.

6. Bananas

Most fresh fruits contain some level of potassium, but bananas have long had a reputation for being the ultimate source of potassium. While sixth on this list, they do still contain a respectable amount.

One medium banana contains 12 percent of the body’s daily potassium needs. They’re also rich in fiber, prebiotics that nourish the healthy bacteria in the microbiome, and vitamins B6 and C.

7. Dairy Products

Most people think that dairy products only contain calcium and protein, and not much else, but a one-cup serving of milk contains 10 percent of the body’s daily potassium needs and most one-half cup servings of yogurt do the same.

You can’t drink or eat enough dairy products to replace the need for several daily servings of fruits and vegetables, but for those who can tolerate it, dairy definitely adds to the body’s potassium requirements.

When choosing dairy products, it’s important to pick organic and hormone-free options, and make sure that yogurt is not loaded with sugar and other additives.

8. Leafy Greens

Eating leafy greens every day is important for many reasons, and adding to the body’s potassium needs is a big one. Two cups of raw spinach contains 10 percent of potassium daily needs, but when cooked, a single cup contains close to 25 percent.

One cup of cooked bok choy contains 20 percent, and one cup of cooked Swiss chard contains 40 percent of the body’s daily potassium needs. All the more reason to eat these vital nutrients every single day!

How to Supplement with Potassium

It’s best for health to get your potassium needs met through diet. However, in some circumstances, a healthcare provider may recommend potassium supplements regularly or occasionally.

This must be done carefully, however, because research shows that taking too much potassium in supplement form can actually cause heart or kidney problems. (source)

Small amounts of potassium may be found in multivitamin or electrolyte supplements, and these are generally at safe amounts when paired with other nutrients.

Taking a stand alone potassium supplement is almost never recommended unless explicitly prescribed by a doctor.

This article was fact checked for accuracy by Aimee McNew, MNT, a certified nutritionist. 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
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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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Calcium supplements
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7 Reasons Why Calcium Is Essential for More Than Just Bone Health

Fact checked by Aimee McNew for Accuracy

Calcium Supplements

Calcium is well-known for its role in bone health—it’s shouted from commercials, advertisements, and most doctor offices. Everyone needs calcium for healthy bones.

Yet calcium supplements are essential for many other health reasons, much like other nutrients are also critical for bone wellness (like magnesium and vitamin D, to name a few).

[toc]

What is Calcium?

Calcium is an essential mineral and the most abundant mineral in the human body. It is required for many aspects of health, including:

  • Bone strength and skeletal structure
  • Normal heart rhythm
  • Muscular function
  • Healthy blood pressure
  • Normal cholesterol levels
  • Nerve communication and signaling
  • Balance of minerals magnesium, phosphorous, and potassium in the blood
  • And more

A deficiency in calcium isn’t only harmful for bones, but it’s detrimental for heart heart, the nervous system, the muscular system, and beyond.

While it’s true that most of the body’s calcium stores are held in the bones and teeth (approximately 99 percent of it), it’s still needed for other reasons. The other one percent of calcium lives in various tissues throughout the body. (source)

Calcium is needed on a daily basis from dietary sources. The recommended daily amount for adult men and women under age 50 is 1,000 milligrams, and over age 50 increases to 1,200 milligrams.

Children need between 200 and 700 milligrams daily, depending on age, and teenagers need 1,300 milligrams daily to support the rapid growth and expansion of the skeletal frame in the teen years.

Low levels of calcium at any age can lead to serious problems. Signs of low calcium can include:

  • Bones that fracture easily
  • Osteoporosis diagnosis
  • Osteopenia diagnosis
  • Blood clotting abnormalities
  • Muscle spasms or cramps
  • Poor growth and development in children and teens
  • Blood pressure problems or heart arrhythmias
  • Poor energy levels and fatigue

The body works hard to keep calcium levels stable at all times, so when it’s low in tissues, it can pull calcium from bone stores. The problem is that, over time, this results in the bones being deficient in this crucial nutrient.

At some point in the aging process, it can be difficult to recoup these losses. Bone density begins to naturally decline in the 30s and rapidly progresses after menopause sets in for women, and after age 50 for men.

Certain people have a higher risk for calcium deficiency than others. Risk factors can include:

  • Children and adolescents who are experiencing rapid times of growth and development
  • Pregnant women
  • Postmenopausal women
  • Diets high in grains, beans, and legumes
  • Diets excessively high in protein or sodium
  • Long-term use of steroids
  • People who don’t eat any dairy products
  • People with insufficient or deficient vitamin D levels
  • People who have digestive problems that make it hard to absorb nutrients from food

Even though calcium is found in many food sources, many adults in the United States and across the world do not get enough each day to maintain healthy bone and tissue levels.

While this affects both men and women, women are at greater risk from long-term lower levels.

7 Health Benefits of Calcium

While bone health is a crucial aspect of calcium, it is far from the only reason that we need it. These are the top reasons why the body needs calcium.

1. Healthy Bones and Teeth

Calcium is needed for the growth and health of the entire skeletal structure. The same is true for teeth.

Calcium works with other nutrients, like magnesium, vitamin K, vitamin D, and phosphorous, to provide strong bones that support the weight of the body. Without enough calcium, bones will be weak and brittle and prone to easy breaks.

Calcium also helps to prevent tooth decay and promotes healthy teeth and gums.

2. Healthy Blood Pressure Levels

Calcium is a mineral that is crucial for helping to regulate heart functions. This is because it helps to dilate blood vessels, allowing blood to pass more freely through them, and reducing the likelihood that arterial plaque will build up.

Calcium also helps to send chemical nerve signals from the brain to the heart, which promotes normal heart rhythms, blood pressure, and healthy systemic circulation.

Ensuring that calcium levels are adequate has been shown by research to help lower blood pressure in people who were diagnosed with hypertension. (source)

Boosting calcium levels by using supplements as needed has further supported the role that calcium has in reducing blood pressure levels.

3. Healthy Glucose Levels

Calcium isn’t only important for bone health, it also supports glucose metabolism and how the body handles the digestion of carbohydrates. It can even be helpful in preventing diabetes, according to research. (source)

This is because calcium, along with vitamin D, acts on cells in the pancreas that regulate how much insulin is made and released. The amount of insulin released determines how much blood sugar is taken into cells versus how much remains in circulation.

Regular intake of calcium at the RDA or higher (1,200 milligrams) was associated with a more than 30 percent reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes. (source)

While there are other factors in preventing diabetes, this research shows that calcium is critical for other aspects of health that go beyond bone strength alone.

It’s also possible to assume that those who eat nutrient-rich diets, including those with adequate calcium, are also doing other things to reduce the risk of diabetes. Either way, optimal levels of calcium are required in both scenarios.

4. Reduced Risk for Certain Types of Cancer

Cancer prevention is a popular topic and for good reason—it’s often easier to prevent something than to cure it.

Research shows a strong association between healthy calcium levels, paired with good vitamin D intake, and a reduced risk of developing 15 different types of cancer, including: (source)

  • Colon cancer
  • Rectal cancer
  • Gastric cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Endometrial cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Renal (kidney) cancer

Research shows a strong association between optimal levels of calcium and a reduced chance of developing these types.

Calcium could have anti-cancer properties due to the way that it induces cell death in cancerous cells and the checks and balances it introduces for cell reproduction. (source)

However, simply supplementing with high levels of calcium don’t provide anti-cancer benefits. Calcium needs to be obtained naturally through dietary sources to primarily have the overall health benefits.

5. Healthy Muscles and Nerves

Calcium is necessary for the release of certain neurotransmitters in the brain that help to regulate muscle movements and contractions, as well as nerve signaling.

It helps cells communicate better, relay nerve impulses, and activate proteins in the body that control voluntary and involuntary movement. (source)

Calcium is also essential for helping to maintain healthy glucose levels. This is important because the muscles draw from glucose stores to get fuel for the energy needed to move.

Without adequate calcium levels, this process can be compromised, and the results could be muscle spasms and cramps, fatigue, and poor nerve function.

6. Supports Healthy Body Weight

Everyone seems to be looking for the magic bullet to fight obesity and promote healthy, natural weight loss.

While nothing is a quick or magic fix, healthy calcium levels are associated with maintaining healthy body weight in both men and women.

Low calcium levels contribute to weight problems by triggering excess parathyroid hormone to be released. This causes the body to withdraw more calcium from bone stores.

However, excess parathyroid also triggers the production and storage of fat, preventing its breakdown, and contributing to excess body weight.

7. Supports Kidney Health

Kidneys filter fluids in the body and get rid of waste. Because of this, they can be at risk for developing stones of oxalate deposits as waste passes through.

In the past, it was assumed that high levels of mineral intake was what caused these to occur, but more modern research shows that optimal intake levels of calcium actually decrease the risk of developing kidney stones, along with drinking plenty of fluids and maintaining healthy hydration levels.

Bottom Line

Calcium is a vital nutrient that supports skeletal health. While 99 percent of calcium stores live in the body’s bones and teeth, the other one percent that is found in tissues is vital for health and wellness.

While calcium is essential for health, how you get it matters equally as much. Those who have low dietary calcium intake might be tempted to simply get all of their calcium from supplements alone, but the absorption rate and other nutrient balance does not make this an equal choice.

In fact, research finds that excessive supplementation from calcium without a high level from foods can result in an increased risk for heart attack. (source)

The Best Dairy-Free Foods That Are Rich In Calcium

We all know that dairy products are high in calcium, but many adults and children can’t digest dairy. You can still get plenty of dietary calcium from non-dairy food sources.

Dairy-free foods that are naturally high in calcium include:

  • Bone-in sardines (1 cup = 57 percent RDA)
  • Almonds (¼ cup = 14 percent RDA)
  • Raw kale (1 cup = 9 percent RDA)
  • Raw okra (1 cup = 8 percent RDA)
  • Bok choy (1 cup = 7 percent RDA)
  • Broccoli (1 cup = 5 percent RDA)
  • Watercress (1 cup = 4 percent RDA)

While calcium foods contain some of the highest amounts of calcium per serving, sardines are actually higher than milk or cheese. Research shows that calcium from dairy sources is not superior, as many in the past have claimed.

It is especially not effective for people who struggle to digest lactose or who are allergic to milk protein to assume that they need dairy products to have healthy calcium levels.

Whether you eat dairy products or not, getting calcium from food sources is optimal. If it is not possible to get enough calcium from food alone, supplements may be used, but it is not healthy to rely only on supplements, and can, in fact, be risky or disruptive to overall mineral balances.

How to Supplement with Calcium

If you do need to up the amount of calcium in your diet and plan to use a supplement, be sure that you approach it as a supplement and that you are not aiming to get all 1,000 milligrams or more from a capsule alone.

Additionally, the calcium-filled antacids are not the optimal form of calcium and can also reduce stomach acid too much, compromising digestion and making it harder for the body to absorb nutrients in general.

If you plan to supplement with calcium, be sure to check with your doctor first and ask if it’s recommended. Second, ask the maximum number of milligrams you should take each day from supplements.

If you take a multivitamin, check the number of milligrams in that first. Next, choose a high-quality supplement that contains no additional ingredients.

It’s also a good idea to pair calcium with vitamin D supplementation if needed.

This article was fact checked for accuracy by Aimee McNew, MNT, a certified nutritionist. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.

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What is diabetes
All posts, Nutrition

Everything You Need to Know About Diabetes

Fact checked by Aimee McNew for Accuracy

what is diabetes

Almost 10 percent of the U.S. population has type 2 diabetes. (1)

This condition happens when the body stops responding to insulin and blood sugar levels become too high. But it’s actually more complicated than that.

This is a complete guide to type 2 diabetes, as well as symptoms of insulin resistance—the issue that occurs before diabetes.

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What is Insulin Resistance?

Insulin is a hormone in the body that helps to regulate how glucose, or blood sugar, is used. The hormone is made in the pancreas.

When carbs are eaten, they are broken down into simple sugars that get released into the bloodstream. In response, the pancreas releases insulin to guide the cells to take sugar into them for later stored energy.

This keeps blood sugar levels stable and keeps them from being too high, which can be problematic.

Insulin is a hormone, which means that it sends messages. But the cells can stop listening to the message to take in blood sugar, which is known as insulin resistance.

When this happens, the amount of glucose that circulates in the bloodstream stays high. This can result in levels that are mildly high or that are high enough to be diagnosed with diabetes.

Insulin resistance is very common in the U.S., with more than 30 percent of the population meeting the criteria. (2)

About the same number of children, as well as adults, have insulin resistance. (3)

When blood sugar gets too high, it can harm cells and especially the brain. As the body gets resistant to insulin, the pancreas makes more and more—sort of like shouting louder and louder to tell the cells to do their job.

As blood sugar levels stay high, insulin levels get higher, too. The more this cycle continues, the worse the hormonal communication gets.

Beyond diabetes, the pancreas can become overworked and damaged from this process, leading to an overall reduced output of insulin, which worsens the problem even more.

Insulin resistance can be triggered in the body for many reasons, including: (4, 5, 6, 7, 8)

  • High levels of fatty acids in the blood
  • High intake of fructose and high-sugar processed foods
  • Inflammation
  • Low levels of physical activity or exercise
  • Imbalances in gut bacteria
  • Genetics and ethnicity

It is possible to have more than one of these triggers at a time.

5 Signs of Insulin Resistance

Your doctor has several ways of testing to see if you have insulin resistance. Signs that this may be a problem include: (9)

  • High fasting insulin levels from a blood test
  • High glucose levels from a blood test
  • Being obese, overweight, or having a high amount of belly fat
  • High levels of triglycerides
  • Low levels of HDL cholesterol

Insulin resistance is problematic because it can lead to metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. Both of these also independently increase the risk of developing problems like heart disease or cancer. (10)

If you have a family history of diabetes, are overweight, or sometimes have episodes of feeling extremely hungry or lightheaded, see your doctor to have your insulin and glucose tested.

What is Diabetes?

When people refer to diabetes, most often they’re talking about type 2 diabetes, which is a chronic disease. Type 1 diabetes, sometimes referred to as childhood diabetes, is an autoimmune condition.

It is distinctly different from type 2 diabetes and cannot be caused by lifestyle factors.

Type 2 diabetes typically occurs after insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome. It is a condition where blood sugar levels become excessively high due to insulin resistance and dietary intake.

It typically occurs in adults, but can happen in children who are overweight and eat a diet that is high in processed foods, carbs, and fast food.

Type 2 diabetes is typically caused by diet, obesity, and lifestyle choices (like lack of exercise), but there is also a genetic component to it.

Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes

Sometimes diabetes can exist for a long time before it is diagnosed. Other times it is diagnosed before any symptoms really exist.

But common signs and symptoms of type 2 diabetes include:

  • Increased urination
  • Increased thirst
  • Higher appetite
  • Weight changes
  • More frequent infections and reduced immunity
  • Yeast infections or fungal infections
  • High blood sugar levels

A person may or may not have these symptoms when they develop diabetes. Sometimes it can be discovered from routine blood work or a yearly physical. This is why it’s important to keep regular appointments with your healthcare provider.

How Is Diabetes Treated?

How Is Diabetes Treated

When someone is diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, there are common ways it is addressed.

Losing Weight

Obesity and being overweight can worsen blood sugar and insulin problems, so when type 2 diabetes is diagnosed, weight loss is often recommended.

This can happen from dietary interventions and an appropriate exercise program. Stress management can also be a key factor in being able to lose weight.

Exercise

Exercise is important for treating diabetes beyond just the purpose of weight loss. Exercise helps the body’s cells become more sensitive to insulin, helping to lower blood glucose levels. It can also help to lower stress levels and promote overall wellbeing.

If you don’t exercise at all, starting with a walk for 15 to 20 minutes five days per week, or even just three days per week, can be a good place to start. Never start an exercise program without first clearing it with your healthcare provider.

Dietary Changes

The food that you eat can go a long way in helping to regulate blood sugar levels and to address type 2 diabetes. Eating fewer refined and high-starch carbs and increasing fiber intake can help to reduce blood sugar spikes.

Protein and fat should be paired with carbs to prevent fast digestion that leads to high blood sugar levels.

You don’t have to eat a super strict diet forever, but it is important to get control of your blood sugar by making some serious changes.

Don’t replace all sweeteners with artificial ones, either, as these can still lead to blood sugar and insulin problems and have other unaddressed concerns—like potentially leading to the development of cancer. (11, 12)

Medication

In some cases, type 2 diabetes needs medication to bring it into balance. This can include medication to help the pancreas make more insulin, reduce the amount of sugar in the bloodstream, or could even be insulin injections directly.

There are other medications, too, but ultimately the approach taken to treat diabetes is determined by how severe the case is and other health factors.

Natural Ways to Address Insulin Resistance and Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes doesn’t always have to be treated with medication. In fact, it responds well to natural lifestyle changes. Insulin resistance too, before type 2 diabetes happens, can be addressed with some healthy changes. These are the most proven ways to promote healthy blood sugar and insulin levels.

Regular Physical Activity

Research proves that exercise on a regular basis is the most effective way to optimize insulin sensitivity. It can start working literally the same day you start it. (13)

Losing Belly Fat

While there’s no way to target weight loss to one specific area of the body, overall working in regular physical activity to your lifestyle can help to reduce belly fat.

Decrease Sugar and Sweetener Intake

Real sugar can lead to glucose spikes and can worsen insulin resistance, but so can artificial sweeteners. If you have a mega sweet tooth, it’s important to find ways to promote satiety so that you aren’t driven to endless snacking.

Fat and fiber are both great at helping promote feelings of fullness and reducing sugar cravings in the process.

Eat Anti-Inflammatory Foods

While focusing on a diet rich in whole foods is a good way to naturally address diabetes, it’s specifically important to increase anti-inflammatory foods like omega-3 fats (salmon, mackerel, tuna, walnuts, chia seeds) and those that are rich in antioxidants, like fresh fruits and vegetables.

Optimize Your Sleep Routine

Sleep is important for nearly every aspect of good health, but research shows that when you consistently get poor sleep, you’re more stressed and the body is less sensitive to insulin’s effect. (14)

While not everyone needs eight hours of sleep every night, you consistently need at least six or seven consecutive hours. If you have insomnia or struggle to sleep straight through, speaking with your doctor to address your sleep problems is important.

8 Foods That Are Good for Diabetes

Foods That Are Good for Diabetes

Eating a whole food diet is important for diabetes and insulin resistance. Certain foods have stronger impacts on blood sugar levels and insulin and can be therapeutic when eaten more frequently.

The following foods are especially helpful for people who have diabetes, metabolic syndrome, or insulin resistance.

1. Leafy Greens

Arguably good for everyone, leafy greens are especially good for diabetes. Rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals, leafy greens help support good blood sugar levels. They’re also low in calories and carbs.

Try spinach, kale, watercress, chard, and romaine.

2. Eggs

Rich in folate, protein, and antioxidants, eggs are a superfood for blood sugar balance. They can help decrease inflammation levels, promote satiety, and help promote normal blood sugar levels. (15, 16)

But keep in mind that most of the nutritional benefits are in the yolk, so eating egg whites alone won’t offer the same health support.

3. Coldvwater Fish

Some fish is extremely high in omega-3 fatty acids and promotes good blood sugar health, heart health, and leads to overall reduced levels of inflammation in the body.

Cold water fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, and anchovies have the highest levels of omega-3s. If you’re not used to regularly eating seafood, try working in a serving three to five times per week.

4. Nuts and Seeds

Nuts are rich in fiber and also contain fat and protein, making them an excellent snack option for good blood sugar levels.

Different types of nuts contain differing levels of nutrients, but generally speaking, they’re all good snack options in moderation.

Keep in mind that peanuts are not nuts and are actually pro-inflammatory.

Great nut options include:

  • Walnuts
  • Almonds
  • Cashews
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Brazil nuts
  • Hazelnuts
  • Pistachios
  • Pecans

Seeds can be a good snacking choice, too, as they’re also rich in fiber. Try pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds, but be sure to choose options that aren’t roasted in oil or coated in salt.

5. Cinnamon

A popular spice, cinnamon doesn’t just taste good but has a high level of antioxidant benefits. Research shows that it’s helpful in lowering blood glucose levels and helping increase insulin sensitivity. (17, 18)

The important distinction is that there are two types of cinnamon: cassia and Ceylon. Ceylon has significantly more health benefits than cassia, yet cassia is the kind you’re most likely to see in grocery stores.

If you’re going to increase cinnamon for blood sugar benefits, finding Ceylon is worth it. To get some benefits, you really only need a teaspoon per day. You can even add it to black coffee, tea, or oatmeal to effortlessly get it in.

6. Chia Seeds

Rich in fiber but very low in carbs, chia seeds have a ton of health benefits. Available in black and white varieties, chia seeds can be made into pudding, used as egg replacers in baking, or added to salads and smoothies.

7. Cruciferous Vegetables

Cruciferous vegetables are healthy because they’re high in fiber and they contain lots of other important nutrients for diabetes and blood sugar, like vitamin C, magnesium, and folate.

While all vegetables have health benefits, cruciferous veggies are lower in carbs than some others and can be better for people with insulin resistance.

Try working in broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and asparagus regularly into your diet.

8. Berries

While all fruits have vitamins and antioxidant benefits, many of them are also fairly high in carbs. Berries have the benefit of being very high in fiber along with vitamins and antioxidants, making them the perfect blood-sugar-friendly food.

Pair them with chia pudding or oats for a high-fiber breakfast.

Blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries are all excellent, low-carb and high-fiber choices.

This article was fact checked for accuracy by Aimee McNew, MNT, a certified nutritionist. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.

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All posts, Nutrition

10 Benefits of Super Berry Schisandra You Never Knew

Medically review by Kim Langdon

Benefits of Schisandra

One of the most exciting things is learning about new and powerful foods or supplements we can use to optimize health.

When we look to nature, it doesn't disappoint.

Schisandra is a super berry and a lesser-known adaptogen like ashwagandha. Both just so happen to be red berries!

Adaptogens are basically a set of herbs that increase the body's resilience and tolerance for stress, thus reducing its harmful impacts on our health - namely with disruption to our hormones and neurological processes.

Schisandra chinensis is most commonly known as a Chinese traditional medicine or TCM, but Russian scientists also had a lot to do with its rise in the 1960s.

They studied it and discovered loads of benefits over 40 years before deeming it a genuine medicine! You can read more about the benefits in this study which outlines the Russians' findings.

While schisandra is relatively new to the scene and we aren't hearing too much about it in western society, we love its unique compounds and promise for being a functional medicine or part of your holistic health mission.

It actually impacts almost every organ in the body (and positively so), which means schisandra's benefits are just about endless.

Besides, one of the most convincing factors of any adaptogen is its lack of side effects, so we think this stuff is pretty safe to use!

Schisandra for adrenal health

Schisandra for adrenal health

Most adaptogens promote hormone balance and the schisandra berry is no different.

It does this by giving our cortisol levels a bit of regulation, which generally implies that even when our bodies are under stress, they are reacting differently at the core which is why regular supplementation with schisandra can be highly beneficial.

Lowered cortisol levels not only benefit us in the short-term by eliminating our fight or flight response to stressful situations, but they benefit us in the long-term by improving brain function, immune function, physical endurance, and even metabolic health.

In fact, one of the most common reasons for the body's resistance to weight loss is chronically elevated cortisol.

Oh, and one of the most common outcomes of chronically elevated cortisol is adrenal fatigue.

Schisandra for liver function

Schisandra for liver function

I already mentioned that schisandra hasn't been studied very much in relation to human health, but one of the key focuses of the research that has been done is liver health and functioning.

Basically, it comes down to the increase of enzyme production we'll see with schisandra supplementation - specifically liver detoxifying enzymes.

Liver health is a vague term, though. What does it even mean? 

When we break it down, we see that these liver-loving benefits from schisandra can mostly be traced back to its ability to increase the body's antioxidant capacity.

This also includes increased protection against infections, indigestion and GI disorders plus improved circulation, digestion and more efficient waste removal in the body.

Finally, its liver cleansing properties can be helpful in patients with chronic hepatitis, fatty liver disease and even benefit patients after a liver transplant.

Schisandra for a healthy sex life

Schisandra for a healthy sex life

Hormone balance has a lot do to with our overall sexual health, unsurprisingly.

Whether fertility is your goal, or you just want to maintain a healthy and happy sex life, schisandra can keep your sex drive UP and your sex hormones happy so it's a win-win.

It helps to produce estrogen which can be especially effective in keeping a healthy sex drive up for women, and it also lends itself well to preventing sexual dysfunction like impotence.

Read more about some of our favorite foods for better sexual function and libido.

Schisandra for inflammation management

Schisandra for inflammation management

Inflammation is a natural process, and we generally only hear about its negative side effects.

Truly, though, it's something we have to pay some mind to!

It's part of the link to our adrenal health, our liver health, our immune function and so much more.

It's a big part of disease and autoimmunity, and chronic inflammation leaves the body in a vulnerable state.

Schisandra has been studied to show reduced inflammation as it helps to inhibit the production of things like nitric oxide and prostaglandin E2.

Schisandra's anti-inflammatory benefits give way to a trickle down effect of other benefits; it can help protect our arteries from hardening, regulate blood sugar handling, prevent diabetes and keep the body at proper pH levels - just because our inflammation is under control!

Pretty neat, huh?

Finally, it's worth noting that schisandra has also been studied in cancer patients, and its anti-inflammatory properties are chemo-protective, help to repair tissue and more.

Additional benefits of schisandra

Additional benefits of schisandra

We mentioned that schisandra positively impacts nearly every organ in the body, right?

These main benefits of use tend to have big impacts down the line, like how estrogen production not only helps sexual function, but it also helps prevent bone loss!

Here are a few other interesting "side effects" of schisandra.

  • Bone healing and prevention of osteoporosis
  • Mental clarity and working capacity
  • Effective and natural depression treatment
  • Better immune function and a stronger immune system
  • Fantastic antioxidant effects that fight free radicals and cleanse the body of heavy metals

How to use schisandra

How to use schisandra

While the berry might look a bit like any other, don't be fooled! It's not as "sweet" as it sounds. 

The berries contain a variety of flavors - five of them, specifically - much like the wide range of the 'six tastes' we see portrayed in Ayurvedic medicine: bitter, sweet, sour, salty and hot.

You can use this super berry in a variety of different ways, but if you choose to make a "brew" of it, you should know what to expect!

Powder or extract

You can take up to 3 grams of schisandra in powder or extract form daily. 

Pre-made capsule supplements

You can take these 1-3 times per day with meals. 

Make or purchase a tincture

Mixing pure schisandra extract with water at around a 1:6 ratio is a great way to make a tincture at home. 

Make a tonic

Sip on around 3 grams steeped in hot water about an hour before drinking, and add other favorite herbs like turmeric and cinnamon - both with lots of health benefits!

Get a good recipe for schisandra tonic from Mommypotamus.

If you enjoyed this article, make sure to hit the share button! We hope you learnt something new about super berry schisandra today.

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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References

Alexander JS, Wang Y. ?Therapeutic potential of Schisandra chinensis extracts for treatment of hypertension. Hypertens Res. 2012;35:892–893. doi: 10.1038/hr.2012.101.

Panossian A, Wikman G. ?Pharmacology of Schisandra chinensis Bail.: an overview of Russian research and uses in medicine. J Ethnopharm. 2008;118:183–212. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2008.04.020.

Shi YM, Zhong WM, Chen H, et al. ?New lignans from the leaves and stems of Schisandra chinensisand their anti-HIV-1 activities. Chin J Chem. 2014;32:734–740. doi: 10.1002/cjoc.201400001.

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