Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables is a cornerstone of good health. It helps control blood pressure and cholesterol, keeps arteries flexible, protects bones, and is good for the eyes, brain, digestive system, and just about every other part of the body. But many of us have trouble putting that knowledge into practice and getting five or more servings a day.
One big barrier to tapping into the power of produce is the perception that fruits and vegetables are expensive. That’s not necessarily so. You can buy three servings of fruits and four servings of vegetables for under $3 a day, according to a survey by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Preparation time, unfamiliarity, and old habits are other barriers to eating more fruits and vegetables. Here are some suggestions for tipping aside these barriers.
Know your needs. For the mythical 2,000-calorie-a-day diet, the latest guidelines recommend a minimum of 2 cups of fruit and 2½ cups of vegetables a day. More is better.
Set a goal. If fruits and vegetables are minor items in your menu, start by eating one extra fruit or vegetable a day. When you’re used to that, add another and keep going.
Be sneaky. Adding finely grated carrots or zucchini to pasta sauce, meat loaf, chili, or a stew is one way to get an extra serving of vegetables.
Try something new. It’s easy to get tired of apples, bananas, and grapes. Try a kiwi, mango, fresh pineapple, or another of the more exotic choices available at your grocery store.
Blend in. A fruit smoothie is a delicious way to start the day or tide you over until dinner.
Be a big dipper. If the natural flavor of carrots, celery, broccoli, or other veggies isn’t enough, try dipping them into hummus or another bean spread, some spiced yogurt, or even a bit of ranch dressing. Or slather peanut butter on a banana or slices of apple.
Spread it on. Try mashed avocado as a dip with diced tomatoes and onions, or as a sandwich spread, topped with spinach leaves, tomatoes, and a slice of cheese.
Start off right. Ditch your morning donut for an omelet with onions, peppers, and mushrooms. Or boost your morning cereal or oatmeal with a handful of strawberries, blueberries, or dried fruit.
Drink up. Having a 6-ounce glass of low-sodium vegetable juice instead of a soda gives you a full serving of vegetables and spares you 10 teaspoons or more of sugar.
Give them the heat treatment. Roasting vegetables is easy and brings out new flavors. Cut up onions, carrots, zucchini, asparagus, turnips and coat with olive oil, add a dash of balsamic vinegar, and roast at 350° until done. Use roasted or grilled veggies as a side dish, put them on sandwiches, or add them to salads.
Let someone else do the work. If peeling, cutting, and chopping aren’t your thing, food companies and grocers offer an ever-expanding selection of prepared produce.
Improve on nature. Don’t hesitate to jazz up vegetables with spices, chopped nuts, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, or a specialty oil like walnut or sesame oil.
Get help from Willy Wonka. Try dipping your fruit in chocolate. In addition to a delectable dessert, you get plenty of heart-healthy antioxidants, some fiber, and a host of vitamins, minerals, and other phytonutrients.
It's a common problem that most people avoid talking about. I, on the other hand, love discussing constipation, particularly because it can be a big indicator of your current health. Constipation has many causes, from poor diet and fluid intake to the presence of a pathogen (bacteria, fungi) to emotional imbalance.
Here are my top 13 ways to help get the bowels moving right now:
1. Express yourself. Holding on to past memories or emotions can lead to anxiety and amplify stress. During stressful times it's common to hold on to our poo as well.
In Chinese medicine, when the large intestine (AKA our garbage collector) is out of balance, it's associated with an inability to grieve and let go. As a result, our bowel movements become sluggish and we store and recycle our waste, collecting toxins, bad breath, and all sorts of funky conditions along the way.
2. Eat fiber. Every meal should contain a portion of fibrous food such as Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, chia seeds, ground flax seeds, berries, and avocado.
Fiber helps move waste through our digestive system and is also food for your gut bacteria. A healthy, diverse gut flora is important for regular bowel movements.
3. Include foods with prebiotics and probiotics. These guys are food and fertilizer forgut bacteria, stimulating their growth and encouraging regular bowel movements. Good sources ofprebioticsare asparagus, artichokes, green (raw) banana, and brown rice (that has cooled down). Good sources ofprobioticsare kombucha, fermented vegetables, sauerkraut, kimchi, and apple cider vinegar.
Gradually increase the probiotics like fermented veggies, sauerkraut, and kimchi in your diet to let the gut adjust to a new bacterial environment. Start with 1 teaspoon with meals, increasing to 1 tablespoon. If needed, use a probiotic supplement; I swear by Dr Sinatra's: http://www.drsinatra.com/product/probiotic-solutions/
4. Drink lots of purified water. Water has the power to nudge waste out of your colon. The amount will depend on your activity levels, but as a general rule aim for 1½ liters daily.
Add ¼ teaspoon of Himalayan salt to your water to enhance absorption. Fluids should be warm or room temperature. Warmth loosens, unblocks, and welcomes muscle relaxation. Cold seizes and constricts.
5. Follow a routine. Routine can dramatically improve constipation. To promote a healthy evacuation, your morning may include 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in warm water upon rising, followed by a smoothie rich in fats and fiber.
Relax for 15 minutes post-breakfast, calmly plan your day ahead, read a blog post, or engage in calm conversation. Following breakfast, I stand and read a blog post.
6. Use a standing desk. Sitting, particularly after eating, can slow digestion down because it compresses the abdominal organs. Sluggish digestion can lead to constipation and an imbalance in your gut microbiome (gut flora). Try standing orusing a standing deskafter meals instead.
7. Add herbs and spices to your dishes. Certain herbs and spicesnourish the organsof digestion and elimination, such as the liver, kidneys, stomach, and spleen.
They improve overall breakdown of food and can dislodge the waste that clings to your intestinal walls. Add them to your meals, smoothies, teas, slow-cooked dishes, and salads daily.
My favorites are:
8. Try Yin Yoga. Yin Yoga works on improving the health of organs, bones, joints, connective tissue, fascia, and the mind and incorporates breathwork.
A class that works on the lungs and large intestine can help unlock constipated colon doors. If you've been holding on to grief and are unable to let go and move forward in life, supporting these organs can dramatically change this current reality.
9. Do some breathwork. When the flow of breath is labored or short, the mind becomes agitated, stress and anxiety are amplified, and not enough nutrients get to areas in your body like your digestive system.
Without breath, there is tension, blockage, and resistance. Ten minutes of breathwork daily can help regulate bowel movements. I find deep belly breathing to be most helpful.
10. Don't forget the apple cider vinegar. ACV improves theproduction of stomach acid, which means a more effective breakdown and absorption of foods and better elimination of waste.Aim for 1 tablespoon of ACV in warm water upon rising or 10 minutes before meals.
11. Get your intake of healthy fats. Our intestinal cell walls are made up of fat; therefore they need fats to function well.Healthy fats such as coconut, olive, and macadamia oil; avocado; oily fish; butter; nuts; and seeds lubricate the bowels and help move waste through the colon.
12. Try a little ileocecal valve massage. Sometimes the ileocecal valve, located between the small intestine and large intestine, doesn't work well. This can lead to a backlog of poop in the small intestine and constipation.
13. Take your magnesium. Magnesium is a muscle (intestinal wall muscles included) and nervous system relaxant, making itperfect for alleviating constipation, stress, and anxiety. I use magnesium bisglycinate as it's easily absorbed and gets to the areas I want to target before performing its magic.
What more info on alleviating constipation? Start here:
Americans are scooping up bottles of essential oils, lured by their amazing scents, household and health benefits. These are natural medicines that are highly concentrated, which means they last forever (depending on how often you use them, of course) because – as the saying goes – “a little dab’ll do ya.”
Preppers love essential oils because they know that if society were to crumble and picking up Tylenol at the drugstore wasn’t an option, essential oils would be there to save the day.
Tea tree oil is a favorite among consumers who know their essential oils because of its seemingly endless uses. Also known as melaleuca oil, this natural cleaner/remedy is made from the leaves of the tea tree plant, native to Australia.
People used to crush the leaves and apply them directly to any number of skin conditions. Sometimes they inhaled the oils from the crushed leaves to relieve colds and coughs. These days, tea tree oil is distilled to a clear or very pale golden or yellow color and sold in dark-colored bottles.
There are dozens and dozens of uses for tea tree oil; here are 5 medicinal uses, and 5 household uses that should convince you to pick up a bottle, if you’re not stocked up already.
Around the House
1. Toothbrush Cleaner
There’s really no such thing as a “clean” toothbrush. Every time you flush the toilet, bacteria gets spewed through the air in all directions. Even if you make an effort to keep your toothbrush as far away from your toilet as possible, it still isn’t 100% protected. Those pathogens travel! And even if you didn’t have the toilet to worry about it, you’re still using your toothbrush to scrape crud off your teeth, making it a bacterial breeding ground.
One little drop of tea tree oil can disinfect your entire toothbrush. You can soak it in vinegar, too, but tea tree oil is faster, you use less of it and it’s more potent.
2. Chemical-Free Household Disinfectant
Your house doesn’t have to smell like Pine-Sol to smell clean. You can clean up moldy areas of the house by mixing one drop of tea tree oil with a cup of water, spraying it on the mold and then wiping it clean. To disinfect your kitchen or bathroom, simply sprinkle a few drops along with baking soda on the surface you wish to clean, and give it a gentle scrub.
3. Sanitize Your Hands
Most over-the-counter hand sanitizers contain alcohol or harsh, drying chemicals such as triclosan. Triclosan has been under fire by health experts in recent years over fears that they may contribute to the rise of antibiotic-resistant “superbugs.” Plus, hand sanitizers are loaded with parabens that have been linked to cancer, endocrine disruption, reproductive toxicity, immunotoxicity, neurotoxicity, and skin irritation. In fact, health regulators have found no health benefits associated with triclosan – only dangers.
All you really need is one to two drops of tea tree oil mixed into a bit of hand lotion to get your hands clean and feeling soft, since tea tree oil contains both antimicrobial and antiviral properties.
4. Keep Laundry Smelling Fresh and Kill off Germs in the Washer
Like any other warm, moist place, washers can get moldy and harbor bacteria. Wet towels can get pretty nasty, too. Pour in ½ teaspoon of tea tree oil to get rid of the mold on your laundry, as well as in your machine.
5. Air Freshener
Apply some tea tree oil to a cotton ball or two. When confronted with musty smells or other unwanted odors, take out the cotton balls and allow the tea tree oil to act as a natural air freshener.
For the Body
6. Heal Laryngitis
Be careful about this one! Tea tree oil can soothe an inflamed throat, but swallowing tea tree oil can be hazardous to your health. Add 5-10 drops and a pinch of sea salt to 1 cup of warm water, and gargle 2-3 times a day. Repeat: DO NOT SWALLOW.
7. Fight Yeast Infections
Over-the-counter vaginal yeast treatments can be pricey, and they often make symptoms worse before they get better. Prescription drugs like fluconazole (brand name: Diflucan) work, but if you get yeast infections frequently, taking too much of the drug can harm your liver and kidneys. It’s always good to have alternatives.
Some ladies try applying coconut oil, olive oil, or a natural lubricant to a tampon, and then add a few drops of tea tree oil to the tampon and insert. The oil/lubricant prevents the tampon from absorbing the oil. They leave it in for about an hour, and repeat 3 to 5 days in a row, if needed.
8. Repel Insects
Don’t spray chemical bug repellents that can be inhaled or absorbed through the skin. Just ad 15 drops of tea tree oil to a quart of water and spray it on your body where bugs seem to always attack you.
9. Treat Gum Disease
A strong-tasting-but-effective mouthwash can be made to fight gum disease by adding 1 drop of peppermint oil and 1 drop of tea tree oil to purified water.
10. Soothe Ear Aches and Infections
Mix 2-3 drops of tea tree oil with 2 tablespoons of warm olive oil. Drop a small drop of the mixture into the aching ear, and then tilt your head to the side for a moment. Soak up the oil using a cotton swab. Repeat 2-3 times a day, as needed.
Sleep aids such as earplugs, eye masks, sleeping pills, and white noise are all used to help you fall asleep soundly. However, these sleep aids can be costly and oftentimes provide short-term solutions as sleep disorders and sleep deprivation continue to interfere with a good night’s rest. Dr. Andrew Weil, a Harvard trained medical doctor with a focus on holistic health, believes getting the best sleep ever is as simple as breathing in and breathing out.
America’s Sleep Problem
In the U.S., 40 million people suffer from chronic long-term sleep disorders each year, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while an additional 20 million people experience occasional sleep problems. Stimulants such as coffee and energy drinks, alarm clocks, and external lights, interfere with our “circadian rhythm,” also known as our natural sleep/wake cycle, which is why sleep deprivation is becoming more common. Although research cannot pinpoint the exact amount of sleep needed by people at different ages, eight or so hours for a healthy adult is a good “rule of thumb,” according to the National Sleep Foundation.
The 21st century’s digital revolution has made it increasingly difficult to get a sufficient amount of sleep, especially with the constant need to be connected 24/7. However, Weil, a huge advocate of holistic breathing practices to combat stress, anxiety, and insomnia, believes this can all be remedied with a simple breathing exercise. On his website, he writes: “Breathing strongly influences physiology and thought processes, including moods. By simply focusing your attention on your breathing and without doing anything to change it, you can move in the direction of relaxation.”
This same philosophy is used in his well-known “The 4-7-8 Breathing Exercise,” also called “The Relaxing Breath,” which promotes better sleep. This is based on pranayama, an ancient Indian practice that means “regulation of breath.” The exercise is described by Weil as “a natural tranquilizer for the nervous system” that eases the body into a state of calmness and relaxation.
Kevin Meehan, a holistic practitioner and founder of Meehan Formulations in Jackson, Wyo., believes this breathing technique could be effective because it encourages the fast removal of carbon dioxide. Appropriate respiration is effective in removing carbon dioxide from our systems. “Doing so equates into a better preservation of the bicarbonate pool; our reservoirs for helping maintain an appropriate pH balance,” Meehan told Medical Daily in an email.
How To Do The “4-7-8” Exercise
Weil’s technique is shockingly simple, takes hardly any time, and can be done anywhere in five steps. Although you can do the exercise in any position, it’s recommended to sit with your back straight while learning the exercise. Weil explains to “place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth and keep it there through the entire exercise. You will be exhaling through your mouth around your tongue; try pursing your lips slightly if this seems awkward.” This is followed by the five-step procedure listed below:
Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
Hold your breath for a count of seven.
Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.
Weil emphasizes the most important part of this process is holding your breath for eight seconds. This is because keeping the breath in will allow oxygen to fill your lungs and then circulate throughout the body. It is this that produces a relaxing effect in the body.
Does The Sleep Hack Really Work?
A life hack, especially a 60-second sleep hack, leads several experts to be skeptical about such a bold claim. Dr. Michelle E. Gordon, founder of Northern Westchester Surgical Associates General, acute and emergency surgery specialist, has tried Weil’s breathing technique and attests falling asleep in a minute did not work for her. However, she told Medical Daily in an email: “The breath does elicit a sense of relaxation and calm. I teach it to my patients as a means of keeping calm when having anxiety over surgery or post-operative anxiety. It works.”
Gordon believes the breathing exercise works because it works in the same way as meditation: It helps people quiet the mind and let go of preoccupying thoughts.
The truth behind Weil’s 4-7-8 exercise is it takes practicing this twice a day over two months to perfect the technique until you can truly fall asleep in a minute. Once you’ve mastered it, it will become more and more effective and even help you deal with anxiety and stress in your life. Soon, going to bed will be as simple as taking a deep breath.
But if you're planning a splashy outdoor get-together for the holiday weekend (as you should be), keep your drinks as refreshing as a dip in the deep end: Make infused ice cubes that slowly melt even more refreshing flavor into your favorite poolside cocktails.
It's a trick we've seen at bars (hello there, tea-infused cubes at Edmund's Oast in Charleston), and freezing them is easier than shaking a balanced cocktail. We took three classic summertime beverages and made an ice cube that pairs perfectly with each one (for each combination, use a silicon ice cube tray with 12 molds).
Make infused ice cubes with lemon, mint, raspberry and cucumber.
① For shandies: Make simple syrup by boiling 1¾ cups of water with ½ cup of sugar until the sugar dissolves; let cool. Peel a lemon and cut the peel into 2-inch pieces. Place a strip of lemon peel into each ice cube mold, then top with the simple syrup. Freeze, drop a cube into your beer beverage, then toast your buddies.
② For Pimm's Cups: Make simple syrup by boiling 1¾ cups of water with ½ cup of sugar until the sugar dissolves; let cool. Peel and grate half a medium cucumber, then squeeze out the excess water. Place some of the grated cucumber, a fresh mint leaf and a raspberry into each ice cube mold. Top with simple syrup. Freeze, drop into the Pimm's No. 1 cocktail and pretend you're at Wimbledon.
③ For mojitos: Make simple syrup by boiling 1¾ cups of water with ½ cup of sugar until the sugar dissolves; let cool. Squeeze 2 tablespoons of fresh lime juice into the simple syrup. Place fresh mint leaves into each ice cube mold, then top with the lime simple syrup. Freeze and drop into the rum drink. Even if you're already poolside, imagine yourself in Cuba!