Monday, March 30, 2015

The Real Scoop on Alli, FDA-approved Weight Loss Supplement

Remember Alli? It’s the only FDA-approved weight loss supplement, and was  voluntarily recalled from the shelves last year due to tampering (there were mysteriously all sorts of different pills in their bottles). Now, Alli is back on the market, so they’ll be popping up again at your local pharmacy—and maybe even in the women’s locker room.
What should you know about this product—besides that it can’t compete with kale salads and regular exercise for a healthy lifestyle? 
alli weight loss 2What is it—and how does it work? The active ingredient in the supplement is orlistat, which is designed to keep your body from absorbing the fats you eat.
The theory is that without consuming the fat, you’re not consuming the calories or gaining the weight. One of the hitches, though, is that Alli doesn’t discriminate between the good and bad fats, so even if you eat healthfully and take it to speed up weight loss, as recommended, you’re not getting all of the benefits of a balanced diet. Alli stops the absorption of all fats, from French fries to wild salmon.
Healthy fats are crucial to a balanced diet (doctors have been trying to explain that for years!) The good ones actually help your immune system, nerves, heart, bones, hormones, and skin.
It’s not the best long-term solution. While clinical trials involving orlistat show it can help people lose weight, the old-fashioned method might even work just as well. While Alli might help someone who has 100 pounds to lose - in order to achieve sustainable weight loss, you need to change your behavior, and a supplement can’t help you with that.
Getting healthier should be via things you can stick with—like whipping up veggie smoothies, or meeting a friend for a spin class a few times a week. A supplement doesn’t address the emotional or behavioral aspects of eating; it’s a short term approach. 
~Thanks to Molly Gallagher 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Words of the Buddha

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A Healthy Mediterranean Diet: What it Looks Like

*Note that all oils should be Olive or Coconut, never canola or fake butters

5 Yoga Moves, For the Curious

Did you know that there are well over 300 yoga poses in the physical yoga practice? Visiting the following five yoga postures is a great way for you to get acquainted with the practice as a beginner. Once you have a good understanding of these postures, you can start to feel more comfortable in a class or practicing on your own at home. If you do each one of these for 5 to 8 breaths, it also creates a great starter yoga program to do every day.  

1. Mountain  
Mountain Pose is the base for all standing poses. It provides a sense of how to ground into your feet and feel the earth below you. Mountain pose may not look like much, but there is a lot going on! Start standing with your feet together. Press down through all ten toes as you spread them open. Engage your quadriceps to lift your kneecaps and lift up through the inner thighs. Draw your abdominals in and up as you lift your chest and press the tops of the shoulders down. Feel your shoulder blades coming toward each other and open your chest, but keep your palms facing inward toward the body. Imagine a string drawing the crown of the head up to the ceiling, and breathe deeply into the torso. Hold for 5-8 breaths. 

2. Downward Facing Dog
Downward dog pose is used in most yoga practices, and it stretches and strengthens the entire body. If this is the only pose you learn, it’s one of the best! (''a down dog a day keeps the doctor away''.) Come onto all fours with your wrists under your shoulders, and knees under your hips. Tuck under your toes, and lift your hips up off the floor as you draw them up at back toward your heels. Keep your knees slightly bent if your hamstrings are tight; otherwise, try and straighten out your legs while keeping your hips back in space. You can walk your hands forward to give yourself more length if you need to. The goal in downward dog is to distribute the weight evenly in the arms and legs and use the core muscles to lift up through the center. Press firmly through your palms and rotate the inner elbows toward each other. Hollow out the abdominals and keep engaging your legs to keep the torso moving back toward the thighs. Hold for 5-8 breaths before dropping back to hands and knees to rest.

3. Plank
Plank teaches us how to balance on our hands while using the entire body to support us. It is a great way to strengthen the abdominals and to learn to use the breath to stay in a challenging pose. From all fours, tuck under your toes and lift your legs up off the mat. Slide your heels back enough until you feel you are one straight line of energy from your head to your feet. Engage the lower abdominals, draw the shoulders down away from the ears, pull your ribs together and breathe deeply for 8-10 breaths. Be sure your butt is in line with your back and legs, and not sagging. This is great for building the core!

4. Triangle
Triangle is a wonderful standing posture to stretch the sides of the waist, open up the lungs, strengthen the legs and tone the entire body. Start standing with your feet one leg-length apart. Stretch your arms open to the sides at shoulder height. Turn your right foot out 90 degrees and your left toes in about 45 degrees. Engage your quadriceps and abdominals as you hinge to the side over your right leg. Place your right hand down on your ankle, shin or knee (or a block if you have one) and lift your left arm up to the ceiling. Turn your gaze up to the top hand and hold for 5-8 breaths. Lift up to stand and repeat on the opposite side. I like to imagine I’m stuck between two narrow walls when I’m in triangle pose.

5. Tree
Tree is a standing balance to help gain focus and clarity, and it teaches you how to breathe while standing on one foot. Start with your feet together and place your right foot on your inner left upper thigh, or calf (NOT at the knee). Press your hands in prayer and gaze at a spot in front of you. Hold and breathe for 8-10 breaths, then switch sides. Make sure you don’t lean into the standing leg, and keep your abdominals engaged and shoulders relaxed. When you're feeling balanced, you may reach your arms upward, shoulders relaxed - like a tree - and balance there for 5-10 more breaths.

These poses will leave you feeling energized, and will build primal strength: you'll love it and be hungry for more!

~Thanks to Kristin McGee

Monday, March 16, 2015

Time to Swap out the Cola

Consider the hard facts about soft drinks: soda consumption could lead to various health problems, and scientists are adding to the list seemingly every day.Here are 10 reasons to put down the cola and quit adding to the billions gallons of soda consumed in the United States annually:
1) Dehydration. 
Because caffeine is a diuretic, it leads to an increase in urine volume. So, when you drink a caffeinated soda to quench your thirst, you will actually become thirstier.
2) High calories. 
A can of regular cola contains over 150 calories. Not only are these calories devoid of any nutritional value, but they also deplete your body of vital nutrients.
3) Caffeine addiction
Researchers at Johns Hopkins University say when people don’t get their usual dose of caffeine from soda, they can suffer a range of withdrawal symptoms including headache, fatigue, muscle pain and inability to concentrate.
4) Acid. 
The amount of acid in soda is enough to wear away at the enamel of your teeth, making them more susceptible to decay. In tests done on the acidity levels of soda, certain ones were found to have PH levels as low as 2.5. To put that into perspective, consider that battery acid has a pH of 1 and pure water has a pH of 7.
5) Money. 
A person who drinks just 2 cans of soda a day will pay $206 over the course of a year to keep the habit going. If there is more than one soda drinker in the household, that yearly total could quickly double or even triple.
6) Weight gain. Researchers at the University of Texas say artificial sweeteners can interfere with the body’s natural ability to regulate calorie intake. This could mean that people who consume artificially sweetened items are more likely to overindulge.
7) Artificial sweeteners. 
Many people opt for diet sodas to cut out the calories, but some research shows the sweeteners may cause additional harm, such as cancer.
8) Mineral depletion.
Colas contain phosphoric acid and caffeine, which drain calcium from the bones. Also, because caffeine increases urine volume, more minerals end up leaving the body before having a chance to be properly absorbed.
9) Diabetes. Some scientists believe that the unceasing demands a soda habit places on the pancreas may ultimately leave it unable to keep up with the body’s need for insulin — which could eventually lead to diabetes. The daily consumption of soda does contribute to other problems, such as obesity — a leading cause of diabetes.
10) A replacement for healthier drinks. In the 1950’s, children drank healthier beverages and more water. Today that statistic has flipped and children are drinking more unhealthy beverages and less water.
~Thanks to Samantha Hemmingway

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Protein Claims on Packaged Foods: Be Aware!?

Protein is hot, hot, hot! It’s one of the latest marketing buzzwords. From shakes to cereals and granola bars, companies are scrambling to market foods that have—or pretend to have—more protein. Don’t let “protein” claims trip you up. Here are a few pointers.
Special K Protein
Special K Protein 110-calorie bars have just 4 grams of protein, less than the 5 grams required to make a “good source of protein” claim. You get more in protein bars from Fiber One (6 grams), Cascadian Farm (9 grams), and Nature Valley (10 grams), but the calorie cost is higher with Nature Valley (190) and Cascadian (250) than with Fiber One (140).
TIP: Always check protein and SUGAR. Avoiding sugar is the #1 way to maintain steady energy and to lose weight/keep it off. 
Special K Protein
V8 Protein Shake
“V8 Protein blends milk, soy, quinoa, brown rice and pea proteins with rich cocoa and real honey to give you satisfyingly delicious energy,” promises V8’s 200-calorie Chocolate Protein Shake. It’s got more sugar than honey (or anything except water and sweet potato and carrot juice), more artificial flavor than pea protein or brown rice, and more salt than quinoa flour.
TIP: Solid foods delay hunger longer than liquids.
V8 Protein
Cheerios Protein
Without milk, a serving (1¼ cups) of Cheerios Protein has 7 grams of protein, 220 calories, and 4 teaspoons of added sugar. But 220 calories (2¼ cups) of Original Cheerios has the same 7 grams of protein…and less than 1 teaspoon of sugar.
TIP: Don’t be fooled by protein claims that include the protein in the milk you add.
Cheerios Protein
So Delicious Almond Plus
“5X Protein!” boasts the So Delicious Almond Plus almond milk carton. That’s because a cup of most almond milks have just 1 gram of protein. (So Delicious adds 4 grams of pea and rice protein.)
TIP: Cow’s milk and most regular non-flavored soy milks have 8 grams of protein per cup.
So Delicious Almond Plus
Bolthouse Farms Chocolate Protein Plus
“30g protein,” crows Bolthouse Farms Chocolate Protein Plus. That’s for an entire 400-calorie bottle, not the 210-calorie serving (1 cup) on the Nutrition Facts label. Protein Plus is mostly milk, water, agave nectar (which is 82% fructose), sugar, and whey and soy protein.
TIP: You’d get 16 grams of protein (the amount in a cup of Bolthouse) from just 100 calories of nonfat plain greek yogurt…without the sugar.
Bolthouse Farms Chocolate Protein Plus
Oscar Mayer P3 Portable Protein Pack 
Each 170-calorie Oscar Mayer P3 Portable Protein Pack—small portions of cheese, almonds or peanuts, and chicken, ham, or turkey—has about 14 grams of protein (good), but each also has nitrites (from celery juice) and about 450 milligrams of sodium (not good).
TIP: Why not pack your own cheese, nuts, and last night’s turkey or chicken in a reusablecontainer?

Oscar Meyer P3 Portable Protein Pack
~Thanks to David Schardt

Why Are Grain Bowls Suddenly Everywhere?

The one-dish meal is having a moment. Formerly just a standby of health-food joints and hippie co-ops, the grain bowl is branching into the world of big-time chefs, fast-casual chains and trendy restaurants. The simple dish owes its recent popularity to a flurry of recent trends, including the gluten-free craze, the love all things whole grain and a push toward vegetable-forward dishes that is influencing all kinds of restaurants, from low- to high-end. 
Though its contents may vary, most grain bowls follow a simple blueprint. A grain base, like rice, quinoa or farro, is layered with ingredients that can encompass all food groups — from greens like kale and spinach to raw, pickled or cooked veggies. Nuts and seeds, be they almonds or chia, might be sprinkled throughout, and so might cheese, like chunks of feta or grated cheddar. Nonvegan protein is a heavy hitter in grain bowls too, like sliced chicken or a poached egg.
Grain bowls are a natural reflection of the current health consciousness in today’s food culture. People want to have vegan options beyond raw veggies, hence the multitude of grain options and the reintroduction of fermented veggies. With the increase in wheat allergies over the past several years, folks wanted to have a grain other than wheat that’s healthy and tastes good.
Grains — be they gluten-free like quinoa and black rice or whole wheat grains like bulghur and farro — give chefs a license for creativity and diners a variety of diet-friendly options. You can enjoy a grain bowl whether or not you eat gluten. The versatility of grains lets people broaden their palates while staying healthy.
Another reason for grain bowls’ popularity? They’re very customizable. Many fast-casual restaurants that serve grain bowls have a create-your-own option, while others, like Superba, easily allow customers to leave out or add in ingredients based on their individual likings. Sometimes the grain bowl is served cold, but offers a warm chicken or fish add-on that’s great for people who a) want protein, b) crave the warm-meets-cold textual differences. Though some grain bowls aren’t gluten-free, they can easily be adapted for people with wheat allergies by using a base of just red quinoa and black rice.
In the end, however, a big reason for the dish's popularity is very simple: they are filling. It’s the perfect meal to sustain you throughout the day — and you feel great after eating one. And, they appeal to all sorts of eaters — those who usually go for a salad, or those who like something more carb-heavy. Ultimately it's a simple way to give more substance to a salad, and they appeal to a hearty appetite.
~Thanks to Elaheh Nozari

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Cod Liver Oil.

I know. Cod liver oil. Yuck. Half of you just made a face as you read the title of this post. Bear with me, okay?
In the midst of a month exploring traditional foods, I couldn’t hardly not cover this most important elixir, considered both a food and a supplement. If I could recommend only one supplement to every family, it would be this one. If my family were to be stranded on a desert island and allowed to bring one superfood to consume, in addition to whatever we found on the island, I would pick this one (unless by some miraculous chance I could fly me in a big ol’ Jersey cow for raw milk… that would make it a toss up).

Cod Liver Oil as a Traditional Food

The use of cod liver oil goes back farther than you might think. Used primarily for nobility and soliders in the ancient Roman Empire, cod liver oil was thought to maintain strength. The ancient Vikings always kept a barrel of fermenting cod liver oil outside the doors of their homes. Even my grandparents from the East coast of Canada grew up taking diligent spoonfuls out of barrels of fermenting cod livers along the wharf in the fishing community where they lived.

What Makes Cod Liver Oil So Good for Us?

3 things that cod liver oil has going for it:
1. It contains high amounts of EPA and DHA, both crucial Omega-3 fatty acids. DHA is particularly needed for proper brain and nervous system function.
2. High levels of a natural form of vitamin A, a fat-soluble vitamin. In Weston Price’s studies, he discovered that primitive or traditional societies consumed at least 10 times the amount of both vitamin A and D that our modernized society consumes.
Weston Price considered the fat-soluble vitamins, especially vitamin A, to be the catalysts on which all other biological processes depend. Efficient mineral uptake and utilization of water-soluble vitamins require sufficient vitamin A in the diet. His research demonstrated that generous amounts of vitamin A insure healthy reproduction and offspring with attractive wide faces, straight teeth and strong sturdy bodies.
He discovered that healthy primitives especially value vitamin-A-rich foods for growing children and pregnant mothers. The tenfold disparity that Price discovered between primitive diets and the American diet in the 1940s is almost certainly greater today as Americans have forsworn butter and cod liver oil for empty, processed polyunsaturates. (source)
3. Plentiful vitamin D, a nutrient that most North Americans are deficient in, particularly those who live in cloudier climates with less sunshine (I say as I stare out my window, 6 months into the West Coast grey and rainy season). Recent research has been strongly connecting vitamin D with the immune system and autoimmune diseases. It is also important for bone strength (it ensures correct levels of calcium in the blood), for blood sugar balance, for fertility, for cancer prevention and more.
Can I heap some more praise onto the humble oil of the cod liver?
This marvelous golden oil contains large amounts of elongated omega-3 fatty acids, preformed vitamin A and the sunlight vitamin D, essential nutrients that are hard to obtain in sufficient amounts in the modern diet. Samples may also naturally contain small amounts of the important bone- and blood-maintainer vitamin K.
There is hardly a disease in the books that does not respond well to treatment that includes cod liver oil, and not just infectious diseases but also chronic modern diseases like heart disease and cancer. Cod liver oil provides vitamin D that helps build strong bones in children and helps prevent osteoporosis in adults. The fatty acids in cod liver oil are also very important for the development of the brain and nervous system. “If you want to prevent learning disabilities in your children,” said David Horrobin, distinguished medical and biochemical researcher, “feed them cod liver oil.”
Cod liver oil contains more vitamin A and more vitamin D per unit weight than any other common food. One hundred grams of regular cod liver oil provides 100,000 IU of vitamin A, almost three times more than beef liver, the next richest source; and 10,000 IU vitamin D, almost four times more than lard, the next richest source. Of course, cod liver oil is only consumed in small amounts, but even a tablespoon (about 15 grams) provides well over the recommended daily allowance for both nutrients. (source)
Caden showing you how strong his cod liver oil makes him!

Who Should Take Cod Liver Oil?

Everyone! Cod liver oil is highly recommended as a general supplement for all adults and children by the Weston A. Price FoundationThe Maker’s Diet author Dr. Jordan Rubin, and Gut and Psychology Syndrome author Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, all of whom I greatly respect for their nutritional research and guidance.
I personally follow the WAPF recommendations for cod liver oil dosages. They suggest the following (source):
Based on these values, the dosage for the high-vitamin fermented cod liver oil is provided as follows:
Children age 3 months to 12 years: 1/2 teaspoon or 2.5 mL, providing 4650 IU vitamin A and 975 IU vitamin D.
Children over 12 years and adults: 1 teaspoon or 10 capsules, providing 9500 IU vitamin A and 1950 IU vitamin D.
Pregnant and nursing women: 2 teaspoon or 20 capsules, providing 19,000 IU vitamin A and 3900 IU vitamin D.
It should be noted that if you are taking a fermented cod liver oil, like Green Pasture, the suggested servings are actually 1/2 of these amounts, and many people find those dosages to be sufficient. If you are taking another brand, compare the vitaminA and D levels to see how they match up to the suggested dosages above.

Which Cod Liver Oil Should I Use?

The one that our family personally uses (most of the time) and that I would recommend is Green Pasture. This is the only brand I know of for sure that uses a traditional method of fermenting the oil (lacto-fermentation), rather than subjecting it to high temperature processing. This retains far more nutrients and possibly even increases nutrient content, as the lacto-fermentation method tends to do to most foods. It also contains the ideal vitamin A to D ratio, which is 5:1.
Additionally, many brands of cod liver oil have been highly processed, deodorized, bleached and as a result of dwindling vitamin content at this point, they have synthetic vitamins added back in. So much for being a traditional food supplement!
Are there other decent brands out there? Yes. They do not have the benefits of the old-fashioned fermentation method, but there are some that are still worthwhile, although none that I know of that fall into the correct A to D ratio.
Garden of Life Icelandic Cod Liver Oil is one that we’ve used somewhat, as it is not deodorized and contains natural vitamins, not synthetic ones (but, it may have a ratio of anywhere from 8:1 up to 25:1, depending on what you read). Carlson Norwegian Cod Liver Oil is another respectable brand, though its ratio is only about 2:1 or 3:1 (WAPF lists it as a “Good”, though not “Best”, choice). They also list TwinLabs Cod Liver Oil, which our family took for years before learning about Green Pasture. I would imagine that it is more processed than some brands, as the taste wasn’t as hard to take, but it was still incredibly useful for helping my eczema because of its fatty acid content. I can’t really speak to whether the A and D are synthetic or not, but their ratio is 10:1.
Interestingly, one reason to pay attention to the A to D ratio is that vitamin D is actually protective retinol (vitamin A) toxicity, a concern to some. So cod liver oil, eaten as a the whole, natural food that it is particularly safe in that regard. If you’re concerned about vitamin A toxicity, this is a good read. Long, but helpful.

What If I Truly Can’t Afford the Really Good Stuff?

Take something anyways. At least, that’s what I think. Some real foodies will adamantly tell you onlyGreen Pasture and nothing else. Not me. I would rather see someone at least getting in those fatty acids, and hopefully some of the natural vitamin D and A, than nothing at all. I admit, the thought of the synthetic vitamins makes me cringe, so if you’re looking at several cheaper brands, I would try calling their customer hotlines or doing some internet research to see whether they include synthetic vitamins or not.
I do have to say, though, that the good stuff isn’t as expensive as it seems. When I first saw that a bottle of Green Pasture was a whopping $44, I just about had a heart attack. But, when I got it and saw just how small a dose is (particularly a child’s, but even an adult’s) I realized that it would definitely go further than I had thought. And, there are so many places in our budgets where we have no qualms about spending $11 (about the cost of a one-month supply for an adult), like those 2-3 lattes a month (or more)… isn’t this worth the cost?
My dutiful Abbie, taking her cod liver oil straight.

And Just How Do I Get This “Magical Elixir” Down?

Why, you plug your nose, of course!
I’m (somewhat) joking, but if that doesn’t work for you, here are some ideas that might:
  • Add liquid cod liver oil to some orange juice, and chug it down.
  • Find the best flavor you can find. Personally, Cinnamon Tingle is so far our favorite Green Pasture flavor, and I think my kids liked TwinLabs Mint quite a bit, and the Carlson lemon flavored oil is decent. I find Garden of Life a bit hard to swallow.
  • Try an emulsified oil. My favorite TwinLabs flavor was the Emulsified Mint (unfortunately, it also ended up a lot more expensive, but hey, if it helps you get it down…). Green Pasture just came out with a new line of emulsified oils as well.
  • Follow whatever you choose to take with a swig of water and something with a stronger flavor. We like a piece of cheese, raisins, and have even been known to use chocolate chips (healthier ones, of course!) as bribery.
  • If all else fails, just take the capsules like my hubby does. He uses the Green Pasture orange flavored ones, and never complains about fishy burps or the like.
The Benefits of Taking Your Cod Liver Oil

Do you take cod liver oil? Do you notice a difference in your health when you take it? And how do you get it down?

Disclaimer: I am not a certified medical professional of any kind and am not qualified to give you medical advice, to diagnose any illness or prescribe treatment. My goal is to help to educate and inspire you to take responsibility for your own family’s health and make informed choices of your own, not to consult you on medical treatment.
And no, this post was not sponsored by Green Pasture (or any other brand). They are generously sponsoring a giveaway this Thursday (yay!), but that has nothing to do with this post, it just happens to be the brand our family uses most often.

Stephanie Langford    

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Pros & Cons of 'Eating Raw'

Eating raw food used to be something you did without a second thought, like munching a stalk of celery or snacking on a banana. But now “eating raw” gets quotation marks, describing a movement that proponents claim holds the key to weight loss and optimal health. If the proliferation of raw-food products at the health-food store is any indication, it’s a trend that has gotten a serious foothold. For someone who can hardly imagine getting through the winter without a steaming hot bowl of soup just about every day, going totally raw sounds like a chilling proposition. But there are some benefits to eating foods in their uncooked state that are worth exploring.
What is ‘raw food’?
You might think the answer is obvious, but there are nuances, and it depends on whom you ask. Most raw-food advocates define it as an edible that has not been heated above a certain point; the maximum is about 116 degrees, the temperature at which a large portion of a food’s naturally occurring enzymes are destroyed. These enzymes, they contend, are critical to the food’s nourishing power. (More on that in a minute.) But food could be dehydrated at a low temperature or be slightly warm to the touch and still be considered raw.
The enzyme equation
Cooking does destroy enzymes in foods, and that can make a difference in nutritional potency. The cruciferous vegetables Brussels sprouts and broccoli, for example, contain enzymes that activate certain antioxidants in the vegetables. Cooking destroys these catalysts and thus reduces the power of the protective nutrients we ingest.
But far from rendering the food “dead,” as many raw advocates claim, cooking also increases our absorption of other valuable nutrients, such as the lycopene in tomatoes. Plus, many food enzymes are the opposite of helpful; some make nutrients harder for our bodies to absorb, so we actually reap more from them when the enzymes are destroyed. Regardless, it’s important to note that humans do not rely on plant enzymes to process our nutrients; we make our own for that important job. Once we consume plant enzymes, they are not used by our bodies for chemical reactions; rather, they are simply broken down by the acids in our digestive tract. 
Raw benefits
Raw foods retain more vitamin C and many B vitamins, as well as the good bacteria in foods like sauerkraut that are all destroyed with heat. Also, eating raw eliminates the possibility of the harmful compounds produced when food is cooked at high temperatures, such as the advanced gylycation end products (AGEs) that form when food is browned. AGEs can accumulate in our bodies if eaten in excess. They increase inflammation and are linked with signs of aging, heart disease and diabetes.
Perhaps most important, eating produce raw means you are consuming it in its most unprocessed form, which is usually a good thing from a health standpoint. Take an apple, for example. Eaten fresh, it is full of phytonutrients, minerals and fiber. Peeled and cooked down to applesauce, it loses much of its nutritional value but still has some benefits. Take it a step further by smothering it in pastry and sugar for a pie and you have another ballgame entirely — good, yes, but not nearly as good for you. My guess is that’s a big reason many raw foodists find they lose weight and feel better: They eat more unprocessed, whole produce and less pie and the like. 
The upside of cooking
But cooking has its pluses, too. Heating foods actually concentrates and activates some antioxidants, making them more potent and more easily absorbed. That’s why tomato sauce has considerably more antioxidant oomph than fresh tomatoes and why cooked carrots are richer in beta-carotene than raw. Also, cooking breaks down plant cell walls which releases many nutrients, making them more available to our bodies for digestion. Heating produce also makes the fiber more soluble, which helps regulate blood sugar and digestion. And, importantly, cooking destroys many harmful bacteria.
The bottom line
Raw and cooked foods each offer distinct benefits -- don’t think of it as an either-or proposition. Especially in colder weather it's a pleasure to eat warm meals, our bodies are immediately comforted, revitalized and nourished. Recommendation: mix it up, sticking to minimally processed options, and eat more produce in general. 
~Thanks to Ellie Krieger

Monday, March 2, 2015

What's Up with the Mushroom Tea?

There’s a new type of tea showing up at your health food store, and it’s not exactly plucked from leafy fields or served with crumpets: it’s mushroom.
Sipping fungi for health reasons has been done for thousands of years in the East, and recently Western wellness insiders have been brewing the earthy little, grow-in-the-dark spores for things like stress-reduction, immunity, and a long list of health benefits.
In part, this trend is due to increased availability of mushrooms that lend themselves to beverages. Four Sigma Foods, a Finnish brand that specializes in mushroom tea, recently relocated its headquarters to Los Angeles and is in the process of making its products available all over California and New York (and in 21 other countries).
Indie brands are hopping on the mushroom tea train, too, like Moon JuiceBuddha Teas,Terrasoul Superfoods, and Cap Beauty, which stocks Four Sigma Foods in addition to Sun Potion reishi mushrooms.
Mushrooms like reishi are adaptogens, meaning they help your body manage stress. (Turmeric is another adaptogen.) They respond to what our systems need through the miracle of plant intelligence, supporting you from the inside out.
Four Sigma Foods Instant Reishi tea packets
Why all the health hype?
You’d be surprised by how much existing research there is on mushrooms’ health-boosting properties, explains Four Sigma Foods president Tero Isokauppila, who hired a biochemist to collect scientific information on their benefits.
One surprising element of proof is the pretty abundant use of mushrooms in pharmaceuticalsAccording to the University of Sydney Mycology Department, at the beginning of the 21st century, fungi were involved in the industrial processing of more than 10 of the 20 most profitable products used in human medicine, including drugs for high cholesterol, antibiotics, and immunosuppressants. Cordyceps, for example, were used to create the drug Gileyna, used to fight autoimmune disease multiple sclerosis.
Cordyceps are one of the three main types of mushrooms the teas tend to focus on, along with reishi and chaga. Reishi is the most studied and the queen of mushrooms; it can help regulate hormones, lower stress, and break down [stress-related] cortisol. Chaga has the highest source of antioxidants…while cordyceps are really good for oxygen intake, so a lot of athletes drink that. Maybe your new pre-workout hydration ritual? Which brings us to a very important question…
Is mushroom tea even drinkable?
Since mushrooms don’t come in pretty leaf form, their active components are made into powder, which comes in tea bags or in a pouch like a sugar packet, which you can pour into hot water (or smoothies or coffee) and stir to dissolve.
In your cup, it resembles coffee—that is, it’s a brown, nearly opaque liquid. As for the taste, you can certainly tell that it’s healthy. A few of us tried Four Sigma Food’s Instant Reishi, a powder blended with star anise, mint leaf, licorice root, and stevia, in hot water. It smells like a diluted cup of miso soup and is surprisingly sweet (from the stevia) but isn’t all that different from a weak black tea.
And if you want to sip it during a work meeting (to balance out the stress said meeting might create), there’s no real funky fungi scent that would give you away. 
~Thanks to Jamie McKillop

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