Wednesday, November 25, 2015

5 Common Hair Problems + Foods That Help Reverse Them

If you feel like your hair is changing quickly and you're concerned, here are five common hair issues, what might be causing them and how to reverse them. 

1. Thinning hair  If your thyroid, autoimmune and hormonal testing comes back normal, thinning hair might be a sign of protein, zinc or selenium deficiency. Since zinc promotes cell reproduction, tissue growth and repair, not having enough in your system can definitely damage your strands' ability to grow. 

Similarly, selenium functions as antioxidant, enhancing your immune system and supporting the body's ability to continue functioning properly, including hair growth. 
What to eat: Foods high in zinc include anything of animal origin, like seafood, poultry, red meat and shellfish. Eggs and milk contain zinc, but in smaller amounts, and nuts, seeds and legumes are good sources for vegetarians. Brazil nuts, organ meats and tuna are high in selenium, and of course all are high in protein. 
While you can take supplements, I always caution against them since high levels of zinc have been linked to prostate cancer in men. 

2. Prematurely grey hair  Hair that's going grey prematurely is probably attached to a body that's deficient in vitamin B12. Since healthy, strong hair relies on a constant supply of blood and oxygen, it's crucial to maintain optimal levels of B vitamins since they're essential to the formation of hemoglobin, which brings around the body. If your B vitamins are low, it's likely that the blood and oxygen supply to your hair is suffering.  Luckily, prematurely grey hair can be reversed if you get those B12 levels up. 

What to eat: Foods rich in B12 include shellfish and crustaceans, liver, meat like beef and lamb, fish such as salmon, sardines and tuna, and dairy like yogurt and milk. Vegetarians are extra susceptible since the most common sources of the vitamin are in animal products, so they may want to take a daily supplement to make sure their levels are healthy.

3. Dull hair  It doesn't take a glossy magazine ad to let us know that shiny hair is a sign of health and vitality. But you don't need to spend money on hair dye or special products for shinier hair — just load up on protein- and iron-rich foods. 

Since hair is made primarily of protein, it makes sense that including it in your diet will help maintain healthy growth and shine. Without enough protein and iron coming into your body, it's hard to replace hair that falls out naturally. Just make sure the protein you're eating isn't high in fat: high-fat diets can result in increased testosterone, which has been linked to hair loss. 
What to eat: Iron-rich foods include beef liver, spinach, oyster and bison. Stick to lean proteins like fish, chicken, soy, low-fat daiys, eggs and almonds. (You can take an iron supplement but I don’t recommend it unless your doctor has checked your ferritin levels. Iron is a Goldilocks-level delicate mineral: a little too high or a little too low can cause serious issues.)

4. Dry hair  The most common causes of dry, brittle hair are external: heat styling, chemical dyes, chlorine. But if you're not guilty of any of these and your doctor has cleared you of medical reasons, you might want to incorporate more fatty foods into your diet. 

If your hair is dry and brittle to the touch, it may because your scalp isn't getting or producing enough natural oils to moisturize your locks as they grow out. Load up on essential fatty acids, something the body needs but can't produce on its own. Focus on Omega-3s, which help blood circulation and cell growth, and help hair follicles absorb nutrients better so they're moisturized and strong as the strands grow. 
What to eat: Try incorporating foods like salmon, walnuts, chia seeds and flaxseed into your diet. Another trick I like is to use coconut, almond or olive oil as hair masks. Massage the oil into your hair overnight and wake up with smoother, softer locks! You'll notice your dry hair get softer when the appropriate essential fatty acids are included in your diet.

5. Dandruff  Dandruff — also known as seborrheic dermatitis — is a condition that causes a scaly, dry, itchy, flaky scalp, and it's most common in people who are low in zinc and essential fatty acids. Remember: zinc promotes cell reproduction, tissue growth and repair, so having enough will guarantee the skin on your scalp is in good shape. 

What to eat: Quinoa, beans, nuts, lentils and oranges are high in zinc, while flax, almonds, leafy greens, whole grains and eggs are great sources or essential fatty acids.
~Thanks to Dr. Bindiya Gandhi 

Monday, November 23, 2015

7 Valuable Chia Seed Benefits & Recipes!

chia seeds benefits
Everyone knows I'm cuckoo for chia! Chia seeds may be ridiculously tiny, but they’re also quite mighty. Originating from the desert-growing Salvia plant in Central America and found to be a common food source among the Aztecs and Mayans who lived centuries ago, chia seed benefits are touted by nutrition experts and health conscious individuals all over the world today.
While there are lots of different types of seeds out there that offer great nutritional value, chia seeds offer more of what some other seeds don’t. Here’s why you may want to serious consider adding this powerful little seed to your diet.

Chia Seeds Benefits

1) Omega Fatty Acids – Chia seeds are one of the richest sources of omega-3 fatty acids — providing about 9 grams of total fat. You get 5 grams of omega-3s for every two tablespoons of chia seeds, which is even more than what flax seeds have to offer. That healthy dose of omega-3s brings along a range of proven health benefits, including protection from heart disease, reduced inflammation, and cognitive enhancements.
2) Weight Loss – Chia seeds are promoted as a weight loss aid and are believed to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, probably because of the fiber and omega-3 fatty acid content. At 138 calories per ounce (about two tablespoons), chia seeds have nearly 10 grams of fiber, which may help you feel fuller and satisfied for longer by slowing down the absorption process of sugars in the intestine. But in another study conducted in 2009, researchers found that chia seeds didn’t provide any weight loss benefits or reduction in disease risk in overweight adult participants. 
3) Hydration – If you’ve ever mixed water with chia seeds, then you know just how powerful they are at soaking up liquid. Because they’re so high in soluble fiber, chia seeds can actually soak up about 10 times their weight in water, even in your stomach and when eaten raw. Mixing the seeds with water to create a gel-like substance can be used as a nutritious and hydrating drink for athletes.
4) Protein – In addition to that healthy helping of fiber, a 1-oz serving of chia seeds offers 4 grams of protein, making it an excellent source of plant-based protein.
5) Blood Sugar Levels – Despite the dense nutritional content chia seeds have, science hasn’t exactly proven much of what it can help treat. According to a 2007 study involving chia seeds, researchers looked at how its consumption might benefit diabetics. They found some positive impacts on cardiovascular disease risk and blood sugar levels, but the addition of the chia seeds to the diabetics’ diets led them to eat less carbohydrates and more fat, presenting the question of whether the health benefits were caused by the chia seeds or the reduction in carb consumption.
6) Antioxidants – The little chia seed is also a source of lots of incredible antioxidants that may help your body fight off certain illnesses. Some antioxidants have shown promise in the ability to help fight off certain types of cancer.
7) Calcium – Chia seeds have 3 to 6 time more calcium per serving than milk does, and also contain an array of other beneficial nutrients like magnesium, niacin, iron, and zinc.

How to Use Chia Seeds in Your Diet

Do You Need to Grind Chia Seeds?

One question you might have about chia seeds is whether you should consume them in whole form or finely ground up to get the full nutritional benefits. For those who’d rather skip the extra manual labor, it’s worth knowing that grinding chia seeds first isn’t completely necessary. Unlike flax seed, you don’t have to grind chia seeds in order for your body to use them, and chia seed does not spoil quickly, making it much more convenient than flax seed.

Easily Add Chia Seeds to These Dishes You are Already Making

While other seeds taste slightly nuttier, chia seeds are quite neutral in taste, making them extremely versatile when adding them to other foods. An easy way to use them is by adding them to your oatmeal or porridge in the mornings. You could also mix them into your morning smoothies, add them to omelets or crepes, and layer them over yogurt with fruit as a parfait.

Baking with Chia Seeds

When it comes to baking with chia seeds, you can actually soak them in water and use the gel as a substitute for as much as half of the fat or oil in many recipes. Simply place 2 to 3 tablespoons of chia seeds in 1 cup of water and let soak until it turns into a gel to begin using it.

How To Make Your Own Chia Seed Pudding

You can also take advantage of the chia seed’s gel-like properties by experimenting with different pudding recipes. You can start with this yummy peanut butter banana pudding.
2 ripe bananas
1 1/2 cup of unsweetened almond or rice milk
1/2 cup of natural peanut butter
3 tablespoons of chia seeds
Using a blender, blend the bananas, milk, and peanut butter until pureed. Add the chia seeds and stir them in before covering the mixture with plastic wrap and refrigerating for about four hours. When you’re ready to serve it, give it a quick stir first and then enjoy!
If you think this recipe sounds delicious, then you’ll love our recipes for nondairy chia pudding and vegan mango chia pudding too. These will be great for satisfying that sweet tooth of yours when you can’t afford to cheat on your healthy diet!
~Thanks to Elise Moreau

Friday, November 20, 2015

5 Delicious Ways to Slash Sodium

No matter how hard you try to prevent them, some diseases just seem to happen. A recent study even highlighted a gloomy statistic that showed two-thirds of the risk of getting many types of cancer are random... random. That means that they didn’t happen because of our diets, our parents, our Styrofoam cups, or our choice of deodorants.They just manifest in some people over others.
There are, however, certain health conditions that we may be able to keep at bay. In other words, some conditions may be born out of environmental circumstances that we can take control of, like smoking, exposure to pollutants, infection and the foods we eat. Countless reports have shown that lifestyle behaviors help prevent the development of heart disease. Moving more, eating more fruits and vegetables, and lowering our intake of highly processed foods are three steps to help prevent high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol levels.  One factor in particular, namely an excessive intake of sodium, plays a key role in the development of cardiovascular illnesses by increasing blood volume and pressure within the arteries and by forcing your heart to work harder.
Eating food from restaurants and highly processed foods are two main sources of sodium in the Americans diet, contributing almost three-quarters of total sodium intake. Although we can’t go into the kitchen when dining out to help control how much salt is added to our food, we mustn’t be shy about requesting they go lightly on salt or not add any at all. Salt is one of the least expensive yet most flavorful ingredients so you can be sure that, unless you instruct them otherwise, they will use plenty.
The good news is that you don’t have to compromise flavor for a healthier plate. Here are some tips to help you kick the salt habit:
  • Add citrus to your meal for a puckering punch of flavor! Swapping in lemon, lime or orange instead of salt will brighten your meal without contributing to heart disease risk. Orange or grapefruit sections in salad or fresh lemon or lime squeezed onto fish will add a tart, yet healthy spunk to your meals. I’m salivating just thinking about the salad recipe I’m making tonight (pictured above.)
  • Swap salt for spices. Oregano, black pepper, chili powder, cumin, cinnamon, and cloves add tons of flavor to your meal without any salt, along with a hefty side of health benefits!
  • Add fresh herbs to your meals. Aromatic herbs such as rosemary, thyme, chives, tarragon and basil are calorie-free and flavorful enough to help pass on the salt shaker! You can enjoy fresh herbs all year by planting a countertop herb garden. Growing an indoor garden is also a great way to show your kids where food flavors come from, and expand their palettes!
  • Zest your plate to life! Cutting back on sodium and adding lemon zest to your meal can reduce your sodium intake by 50 percent! Try adding lemon zest to a marinade or rub for meats and chicken, salad dressings or fish.
  • Fill your salt shaker with a no-salt spice blend. Instead of leaving a salt shaker on your kitchen or dining room table, ditch the salt and create your own array of seasonings and spices or try one of the no-salt blends on supermarket shelves. Your family can have fun creating their personal favorite hot mixes.
These simple tips will provide a deliciously satisfying way to help reduce sodium without feeling deprived. 
~Thanks to Bonnie Taub-Dix

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

How much calcium do you really need?

Harvard Women’s Health Watch

Only two servings of dairy products a day can provide all the calcium you need.

Recent evidence indicates that taking high-dose calcium supplements doesn’t prevent fractures and may even be risky. 
Like many women, you may have memorized the minimum daily calcium requirement—1,000 milligrams (mg) a day for women ages 50 and younger and 1,200 mg for women over 50—and followed it faithfully in an effort to preserve your bones. You’ll probably be surprised to learn that many health authorities don’t agree with that recommendation. Dr. Walter Willett, chair of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard T.H.Chan School of Public Health, thinks you’re likely to do just as well on half as much calcium.
Essentially, I think that adults do not need 1,200 mg of calcium a day. The World Health Organization’s recommendation of 500 mg is probably about right. The United Kingdom sets the goal at 700 mg, which is fine, too. It allows for a little leeway,” he says.

Why the 1,200-mg recommendation?

Adequate calcium is necessary for good health, and not just because it’s a major component of our bones. It also plays a vital role in keeping our organs and skeletal muscles working properly. The body gets the calcium it needs for basic functions by releasing the calcium stored in our bones into the blood through bone remodeling—the process by which bone is constantly broken down and rebuilt.
Because bone density drops when bone breakdown outpaces bone formation, scientists reasoned that maintaining an adequate level of calcium in the blood could keep the body from drawing it out of the bones. In the late 1970s, a couple of brief studies indicated that consuming 1,200 mg of calcium a day could preserve a postmenopausal woman’s calcium balance.
Based on those studies, in 1997 an Institute of Medicine panel raised the recommendation for calcium intake from 800 mg to 1,200 mg a day for women over 50. That wasn’t a sound decision, Dr. Willett says: “The recommendation was based on calcium balance studies that lasted just a few weeks. In fact, calcium balance is determined over the course of years.” Moreover, there wasn’t any evidence that consuming that much calcium actually prevented fractures. Nonetheless, the recommendation has been carried forward since then.

What recent research has found

In the past two decades, several clinical trials involving thousands of postmenopausal women have sought to determine how calcium intake affects the risk of hip fractures. In each study, women were randomly assigned to one of two groups—one to receive calcium and supplements of vitamin D (to aid calcium absorption) and the other to get placebo pills. After several years, the researchers looked at the number of hip fractures in each group. Here’s what they found:
Calcium and vitamin D supplements don’t prevent fractures. That finding came from two British studies reported in 2005. It was substantiated by a 2006 report from the Women’s Health Initiative, which showed that 18,000 postmenopausal women who took a supplement containing 1,000 mg of calcium and 400 international units (IU) of vitamin D were no less likely to break their hips than an equal number who took a placebo pill, although the density of their hip bones increased slightly. Even that small change might have been due to the vitamin D rather than the calcium.
High calcium intake—from either food or pills—doesn’t reduce hip fracture risk. This was the conclusion of a 2007 report by Swiss and American scientists who conducted an analysis of more than a dozen studies of calcium.

25 sources of dietary calcium

Serving size
Estimated calcium in milligrams
Collard greens, frozen
8 oz
Broccoli rabe
8 oz
Kale, frozen
8 oz
Soy Beans, green, boiled
8 oz
Bok Choy, cooked, boiled
8 oz
Figs, dried
2 figs
Broccoli, fresh, cooked
8 oz
1 whole
Serving size
Estimated calcium
Sardines, canned with bones
3 oz
Salmon, canned with bones
3 oz
Shrimp, canned
3 oz
Serving size
Estimated calcium
Ricotta, part-skim
4 oz
Yogurt, plain, low-fat
6 oz
Milk, skim, low-fat, whole
8 oz
Yogurt with fruit, low-fat
6 oz
Mozzarella, part-skim
1 oz
1 oz
Greek yogurt
6 oz
American cheese
1 oz
Feta cheese
4 oz
Cottage cheese
4 oz
Fortified food
Serving Size
Estimated calcium
Almond milk, rice milk or soy milk, fortified
8 oz
Tofu, prepared with calcium
4 oz
Orange juice fortified with calcium
4 oz
Cereal, fortified
8 oz
Source: International Osteoporosis Foundation

The downside of calcium supplements

The studies also revealed a couple of downsides to high levels of calcium supplementation, but not to calcium obtained through a regular diet:
An increased risk of kidney stones. In the Woman’s Health Initiative, women taking the calcium–vitamin D combination had a higher risk of developing kidney stones than those who got the placebo. Although high levels of dietary calcium are thought to offer some protection against kidney stones, high doses of calcium from supplements may promote stone formation by increasing the amount of calcium that is eliminated in the urine.
An increased risk of heart attack. In a randomized study of 1,471 postmenopausal women conducted in New Zealand, 21 of 732 women who took 1,000 mg of calcium a day had heart attacks, compared with 10 of 736 who received a placebo. A 2010 analysis of 15 randomized controlled trials also linked calcium supplementation with an increased risk of heart attack. Some researchers have speculated that calcium supplements may contribute to heart disease by increasing blood levels of calcium, which can cause arteries to stiffen and blood pressure to rise.

Vitamin D is important, too

Vitamin D is also essential for healthy bones. In fact, the daily vitamin D requirement was first introduced to help prevent rickets—a condition in which developing bones are soft and can become bowed—in children.
Vitamin D is made in the skin through exposure to ultraviolet radiation in sunlight. However, the amount produced varies widely from person to person. People with darker skin produce less vitamin D than lighter-skinned people, and in all populations, the skin’s ability to convert sunlight to vitamin D declines with age. Plus, if you follow the advice to reduce your risk of skin cancer by keeping covered and wearing sunscreen, you’re also cutting your vitamin D production. Such variability has made it difficult for researchers to tell how much vitamin D people make in addition to the amount they consume in supplements. Evidence from studies that have measured blood levels of vitamin D indicates that levels in the high-normal range are optimal for building bone. To reach those levels may require taking 800 to 1,000 IU of vitamin D a day.

What’s the bottom line?

One thing the studies have taught us is that both calcium and vitamin D are essential in building bone. The question is how much of each. Dr. Willett recommends going lower on calcium and higher on vitamin D than the guidelines suggest—500 to 700 mg a day of calcium and 800 to 1,000 IU of vitamin D. At that rate, you can probably get all or most of your calcium from food, especially if you have a serving or two of dairy products daily. If you can’t tolerate dairy, you should still be able to get 300 mg a day in your diet and can take a low-dose calcium supplement to make up the rest. By keeping your supplement consumption to 500 mg or less a day, you should avoid the possible risk of heart disease and kidney stones suggested by the studies.
Although vitamin D is added to milk and some other foods, you’ll probably need a supplement to be sure you’re getting enough. A capsule containing 800 to 1,000 IU should do the trick.
~Thanks to Harvard Health Publications, Harvard Medical School

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