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Are Fish Oil Supplements Good for the Skin?

by Institute for Vibrant Living

Don’t underestimate the benefits of omega-3 fish oil for skinWhoever said that “beauty is only skin deep” probably had beautiful skin! Skin is the body’s largest organ and millions of dollars a year are spent on creams, lotions and treatments to make it look glowing and wrinkle-free. However, it makes sense to treat the skin from the inside, as well as externally.  That’s where the benefits of omega-3 fish oil for skin come into play.

According to Laurie Tansman, a New York nutritionist at the Mount Sinai Medical Center, foods high in omega-3s such as oily fish, nuts and green vegetables, heal the skin and repair damaged cell membranes from the inside out.

Benefits of Omega-3 Fish Oil for Skin Irritation

So what can omega-3 fish oils do for the skin? Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties, which is why fish oil is so good for our overall health. The benefits of omega-3 fish oil for skin quickly become apparent when you start taking a daily fish oil supplement.

Omega-3 fish oil reduces redness and limits irritation, moisturizing each skin cell naturally from the inside. These natural omega-3 oils are particularly effective for those who suffer from eczema, dermatitis and psoriasis, producing a clearer skin as the fatty acids encourage the skin cells to produce chemicals to control the inflammation.

Omega-3 Fish Oil for Dry Skin

Rich in polyunsaturated fats, fish oils are a natural source of moisturizer for skin, particularly if it is naturally dry. Its restores lost oils and locks in moisture to reduce fine lines and wrinkles.

In addition, fish oil supplements were used in a clinical study at Maryland Medical Center to show that taking fish oil can help those with sun sensitive skin (called photo dermatitis). Although sunscreen is essential for protection against the sun’s harmful UV rays, fish oil strengthens and supports that defense.

Related:  Omega-7: There's a New Healthful Omega Fat in Town

EPAs Improve Skin

There are three main types of omega 3 fatty acids:

Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) sourced from plants, Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) which are both found in fish oils. EPA has been found to help reduce stress, a major cause of premature skin aging. By reducing the effects of stress on the whole body, EPAs indirectly provide further benefits of omega-3 fish oil for skin.

You don’t have to spend a fortune on expensive creams for healthy looking skin. Taking high quality fish oil supplements daily will soon provide you with beautiful, clear skin, and there’s a beauty bonus too. Omega-3 fish oils are also good for strong nails and a healthy head of hair. Beauty may seem to be only skin deep, but it definitely starts from the inside!

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6 Super Easy Ways to Get Rid of Indigestion Fast

by Cindy Gray

Indigestion affects most people at one time or another. It can range from mild discomfort below the ribs to severe pain that prevents you from sleeping. Understanding the cause of indigestion can be the first step in remedying this common health issue.

Indigestion is a common health issue

Causes of Indigestion

Indigestion is generally caused by what you eat. Spicy foods can be hard to digest, especially late in the evening. Fatty foods laden with oil and cholesterol may also be hard for the body to digest. Overeating and excess alcohol are further common causes of indigestion. These can all cause acid reflux or GERD, when the stomach contents and pancreatic juices flow back up the esophagus causing pain, irritation, inflammation or a burning sensation.

If none of these causes apply, there is a chance that your indigestion is caused by a medical condition such as a stomach ulcer, gastroparesis, irritable bowel syndrome or pancreatitis, so you should consult your doctor without delay.

Related:  Five Supplements that Help Heal Tissue Damage Caused by Acid Reflux

Treat Indigestion Naturally with:

  1. Fruit and Vegetables

Returning to a more wholesome diet based on fresh fruit, vegetables, legumes and whole wheat products can quickly remedy any ongoing problems of heartburn. In particular, bananas are high in potassium which alkalizes acid. They also prompt the stomach to produce more mucus which protects the stomach lining and esophagus. Apples also create an alkaline environment, reducing indigestion and acid reflux symptoms fast.

  1. Water

Sipping warm water can calm the stomach and aid digestion, particularly if the cause is overindulgence. However, you should not drink too much water or it may make you feel bloated.

  1. Peppermint Tea

Peppermint is a known digestive aid and is easily taken as peppermint tea to soothe indigestion. Immerse the peppermint tea bag in hot water for 3-5 minutes. Remove the tea bag and cool before slowly sipping this healthy remedy.

  1. Fennel Seeds

Fennel is particularly good for treating stomach upsets caused by spicy foods. Fennel neutralizes the acid and reduces nausea quickly and safely. Simply added ground roasted fennel seeds to a glass of water and drink twice a day until the indigestion has gone.

  1. Ginger

Ginger is another excellent treatment for indigestion, especially if it is caused by overeating. Ginger accelerates the digestive process by helping the digestive process juices break down the food, moving it into the intestine faster. Simply grate a little ginger root into a glass of warm water. Add a few drops of lemon juice and honey to taste, then drink it down.

  1. Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is a versatile home remedy for all types of ailments including indigestion. Add one tablespoon to a cup of water sweetened with a little honey. Drink 3-4 times a day to relieve persistent indigestion naturally.

Of course, prevention is always better than cure, so try to work out what caused your indigestion, and take steps to avoid it in the future. 

28 Superfood Recipes for Everyday

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5 Signs and Symptoms You May be Vitamin E Deficient

by Institute for Vibrant Living

Vitamin E is a group of eight essential fat-soluble molecules that support a strong immune system. These antioxidants are used by cells in the body to carry out essential functions. Like many essential nutrients, a vitamin E deficiency can quickly lead to serious health problems. According to the National Institutes of Health, the body cannot produce vitamin E and must be consumed in your daily diet. Any deficiency means the body is unable to absorb healthy fats which can lead to nerve degeneration, muscle weakness, anemia and other serious issues.

Age spots may be a symptom of Vitamin E deficiency

See if you have any of the following five symptoms, which could mean you may need to increase your vitamin E intake.

Vitamin E Deficiency and Age Spots

Age spots are, as their name suggests, a natural part of aging. However, these dark freckle-like spots can be reduced by taking a 400 IU vitamin E supplement daily, and rubbing vitamin E oil on the spots before bed. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant known to aid tissue repair and slow the aging process, including the development of age spots.

Cataracts

Vitamin E deficiency can be responsible for poor vision, cataracts and retinal degeneration. If you have blurred vision or have difficulty seeing at night, a supplement will ensure that you are getting enough daily vitamin E to support and preserve your all-important eye health.

Related:  Antioxidants and Vision Health: Three Factors that Could Affect Your Vision

Lack of Sex Drive

Vitamin E is responsible for maintaining reproductive health and any deficiency can lead to miscarriages, infertility, impotence and other fertility problems. This vitamin also boosts circulatory flow to the genitalia and is important in the production of sex hormones, giving your libido a positive boost.

Gastrointestinal Issues

Any digestive issues such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s disease or celiac problems can lead to a vitamin E deficiency as insufficient amounts are absorbed during the digestive process. If you suffer from any gastrointestinal problem, it is particularly important that you take a vitamin E supplement to boost intake. 

Dry or Thinning Hair

Vitamin E ensures good circulation which is essential for a healthy head of hair. Vitamin E deficiency may cause dry brittle hair or significant hair loss. Boost your intake by eating more beans (garbanzo beans make delicious hummus), nuts, seeds and olives in order to feed the scalp, nourish the hair follicles and boost blood circulation.

Even if you do not suffer from any of the above symptoms of vitamin E deficiency, you will benefit from a diet rich in vitamin E. It helps slow the aging process, reduces cardiovascular disease and maintains youthful-looking skin. That’s three good reasons to eat a healthy diet including eggs, broccoli, breakfast cereals, vegetable oils, fruit and vegetables. Alternatively, take a daily supplement that provides 100% of the recommended daily requirement of vitamin E.

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The Facts about Vitamin Deficiency Hair Loss

by Cindy Gray

Extra hair in the shower drain can cause some people undue stress and anxiety.  While there are a number of reasons for hair loss, sometimes vitamin deficiency is to blame.  Hair follicles need a steady supply of certain nutrients for optimal health, and a less-than-adequate diet can lead to excessive shedding.  Fortunately, vitamin deficiency hair loss is easily corrected with better nutrition and/or supplements.  

B vitamins, iron, omega 3 fatty acids, and vitamin D are all important for correcting vitamin deficiency hair loss.

The Growth Process

Hair on the head sprouts from specialized follicles, forming strands of condensed cells.  Normal hair growth follows a cycle which includes an active phase, a transitional phase, a resting phase, and a new growth phase.  During the last phase, follicles push out the old hair, and it sheds.  A vitamin deficiency or other condition that disrupts any part of the growth cycle can cause more shedding than is normal. 

Vitamins Important to Hair Health

Due to busy lifestyles, many people eat on the run or skip meals.  Nutrient-poor fast food and not eating at all can add up, resulting in a vitamin deficiency.  Low levels of any of the following nutrients can affect hair health

B Vitamins

A number of B vitamins help guard against vitamin deficiency hair loss.  B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B7 (biotin), and B12 (cobalamin) all help promote stronger hair follicles.  In addition, vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) makes hair more flexible and shiny, and B6 (pyridoxine) helps prevent dandruff.

Foods high in many B vitamins include dairy products, fortified whole grain cereals, leafy green vegetables, various meats, legumes, and nuts, but people can take a vitamin B-complex supplement to ensure adequate daily amounts of all of these nutrients and more.

Related:  The One Tactic that Can Stop Hair Thinning

Vitamin D

A study from Cairo University showed that women with Telogen effluvium (TE) and female pattern hair loss (FPHL) showed lower levels of vitamin D than women in a control group.  People can get most of the vitamin D they need through the sun, but inhabitants of northern regions or those who don't spend much time outdoors can benefit from foods rich in vitamin D and/or vitamin D supplements.  Wild-caught salmon, mushrooms, beef liver, and fortified grains are good sources of vitamin D.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Many people are deficient in omega 3 fatty acids, which help keep various parts of the body healthy, including the hair.  Good sources of these important fats include cold water fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines; and plant sources like walnuts and flaxseed. 

Iron

In addition to vitamin D deficiency, the study from Cairo University also showed low levels of iron for women with TE and FPHL.  Because too much stored iron can also cause health problems, people should get this mineral from foods in lieu of supplements, unless otherwise specified by a medical professional.  Good food sources include clams, oysters, red meat, fortified cereals, soybeans, pumpkin seeds, and spinach. 

Excessive hair loss can be distressing, but sometimes it's only a side effect of nutrient deficiency.  People can correct vitamin deficiency hair loss by simply changing their diet.  Because excessive shedding is a symptom of several conditions, people dealing with this problem should consult with a medical professional for proper diagnosis and treatment options.

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Little Known Ways to Lower Your Risk of Heart Disease

by Cindy Gray

Almost everyone knows that the eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, and not smoking are extremely important to lower your risk of heart disease. But, there are many other lesser known ways to protect your heart health. In this week's video you learned about the cardiovascular benefits of regular saunas, meditation and 3 nutritional supplements: nattokinase, vitamin K2 and CoQ10. Here are three more supplements that research shows can lower your cholesterol, as well as your risk of heart disease.

  1. Plant sterols: Found in legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds, plant sterols are structurally similar to cholesterol and compete with its absorption. Supplemental plant sterols reduce cholesterol so well that the American Heart Association recommends them.
  2. Red yeast rice:  Considered a delicacy in Japan for over 1,000 years, this bright, reddish-purple yeast that grows on rice acquires its color from a fermentation process with a mold called Monascus purpureus.  Studies show supplemental red yeast rice is very effective at lowering cholesterol and triglycerides. Unlike statin drugs, which can increase the risk of and/or worsen diabetes, red yeast rice extract seem to have the opposite effect—it may improve type 2 diabetes by lowering insulin and blood glucose.
  3. Guggal (Commiphora mukul). This gum from a tree resin has been used by Ayurveda for thousands of years for its heart health benefits. Studies show that guggul can reduce total cholesterol up to 30 percent, LDL by 35 percent and increase HDL by 20 percent within 12 weeks. Guggal also has strong anti-inflammatory properties.

Good heart health starts with a healthy diet and lifestyle. But, remember there are many other techniques and dietary supplements that can be of benefit too. If you have heart disease, be sure to check with your doctor first before beginning any program to improve your heart health.

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Do You Have a Vitamin A Deficiency?

by Health News

It takes an entire alphabet of nutrients to keep the body healthy, and the list begins with vitamin A.  This important vitamin helps ensure that photoreceptors, or light-sensitive nerve cells in the eye's retina, function properly.  Vitamin A is also important to the health of the skin, lungs, intestine, and urinary tract, and it helps prevent infection.  Most people around the world get plenty of vitamin A through foods or multivitamins, but vitamin A deficiency is common in developing countries or in areas where people do not eat enough eggs or vegetables. 

Vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, and orange bell peppers help prevent vitamin A deficiency.

Problems with Vitamin A Absorption

While most cases of vitamin A deficiency come from inadequate nutrition, it can also be a side effect of certain health disorders.  Conditions like celiac disease, cystic fibrosis, blockage of the bile ducts, and some pancreatic disorders can diminish the body's ability to metabolize fats, which impairs vitamin A absorption.  

Related:  Five Myths about Vitamins

Vitamin A Deficiency Symptoms

The first symptom of vitamin A deficiency is a reduced ability to see in dimmer light, or night blindness.  If left untreated, foamy deposits called Bitot spots can form in the whites of the eyes, and people can develop xerophthalmia, a condition in which the whites and corneas of the eyes become thick and dry.  Softening and deterioration of dry corneas can result in blindness.  In fact, vitamin A deficiency is a common cause of blindness in developing countries.

Other vitamin A deficiency symptoms include:

  • Dry, scaly skin
  • Thickening of the lungs, intestine, and urinary tract
  • Frequent infection

Sources of Vitamin A

There are two types of vitamin A:  preformed vitamin A found in animal products and provitamin A found in fruits and vegetables.  Foods that contain vitamin A include dairy products, organ meats, fortified breakfast cereals, salmon, leafy green vegetables, and orange and yellow produce like cantaloupe, apricots, mangoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, and squash. 

Research

Studies show that people who consume high amounts of plant-based vitamin A (but not vitamin A supplements) may reduce risks for lung or prostate cancer.  On the flipside, smokers who consume high doses of vitamin A supplements actually can increase their risk of lung cancer.

Studies have found that vitamin A supplements can be valuable for deficient children in developing countries who contract the measles.  High doses of the vitamin reduce fever and diarrhea caused by measles and lower risks for death from the disease.

Dangers of Excessive Vitamin A

Just as vitamin A deficiency can have negative effects on the body, so too can having an excessive amount of vitamin A levels.  Side effects include cracked lips, dry skin, hair loss, headache, weak bones, and brain pressure.  Getting vitamin A from food rather than supplements helps because the conversion process is very slow.  However, if consumed in large quantities, carotenoids in orange and yellow fruits and vegetables can turn the skin yellow, particularly on the palms and soles of the feet.

Vitamin A is important to the human body in many ways.  To maintain good health, it is important to get enough vitamin A, but too much can cause problems.  People worried about vitamin A deficiency should see a medical professional for a blood test and treatment options.

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Are You Suffering from Vitamin C Deficiency?

by IVL Products

Vitamins and minerals play a significant role when it comes to obtaining adequate nutrition and staying healthy.  Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, contributes to cell growth and repair, circulation, and iron absorption.  It is also important for the production of collagen, a protein found in blood vessels, skin, cartilage, ligaments, and tendons.  In most parts of the world, serious vitamin C deficiency (or scurvy) is relatively uncommon because vitamin C is found naturally in many foods and is added to other food as well.  However, smoking, excessive alcohol use, a compromised diet, or certain medical conditions can result in lowered levels of vitamin C in the body.

Foods like citrus fruits, papaya, bell peppers, and broccoli help prevent vitamin C deficiency.

According to medical center experts at the University of Maryland, vitamin C deficiency has been linked to various medical problems like atherosclerosis, certain cancers, gallbladder disease, and high blood pressure.  Animal studies also indicate that low levels of vitamin C can lead to biochemical changes in the body which affect behavior. 

A study from Vanderbilt University found that mice deprived of vitamin C showed depressive-like behavior, reduced movement and strength, and greater preference for sugar.  Behaviors returned to normal with restoration of vitamin C, with the exception of depressive-like symptoms.  

Signs of Vitamin C Deficiency

People with scurvy often develop anemia and swollen, bleeding gums.  Additional signs and symptoms that may indicate a vitamin C deficiency include brittle hair, easily bruised skin, and nosebleeds.

Related:  Vitamin E Deficiency

Sources of Vitamin C

Because it is water soluble, vitamin C is not stored by the body.  This means people need to get it through food or supplements.  Some excellent food sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits, mangoes, papayas, bell peppers, strawberries, broccoli, and kale.  Vitamin C supplements come in tablets, capsules, effervescent powders, and liquids.  People who depend on supplements for vitamin C should strive for 250-500 mg, twice a day. 

Vitamin C deficiency can result in a number of uncomfortable symptoms.  Fortunately, they can be prevented with the consumption of certain foods or supplements.  People who are concerned about a vitamin C deficiency should first consult with a health care professional to rule out other possibilities. 

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5 Signs and Symptoms You May Have a Vitamin D Deficiency

by Health News

When it comes to good health, people depend on vitamins.  Dubbed the "sunshine vitamin" because it is made by the body when exposed to the sun, vitamin D is important to the health in many ways.  It aids in the absorption of calcium and phosphorus, it helps maintain healthy bones and teeth, and it offers protection against the development of certain types of cancer, multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, and high blood pressure.  Despite the many benefits of vitamin D, roughly 75 percent of American teens and adults have deficient levels.  Five signs and symptoms can help determine whether you may have a vitamin D deficiency.

1.  Darker Skin

According to research, vitamin D deficiency is more widespread among people with darker skin because pigmentation in the skin works like a natural sunscreen.  Therefore, people with darker skin need to spend more time in the sun than people with lighter skin to maintain healthy levels.

2.  Age of 50 Years or Greater

People age 50 and over tend to spend less time outdoors than younger people, which contributes to vitamin D deficiency in this age group.  In addition, aging skin makes less vitamin D when exposed to the sun, and the kidneys aren't as efficient in converting vitamin D into a usable form.

3.  Depressed Mood

A study in 2006 examined how vitamin D levels affected the mood of 80 elderly patients.  Those with the worst vitamin D deficiency were 11 times more likely to be depressed than patients with normal vitamin D levels.  Experts believe this effect may have to do with serotonin, a hormone in the brain associated with mood.  Research shows that serotonin levels rise with greater exposure to sunlight and fall when exposure lessens.

Related:  Three Hormonal Causes of Depression

4.  Excessive Body Weight

Studies have found that body fat collects vitamin D and keeps it from entering the bloodstream.  Research published in the International Journal of Obesity also showed that excessive body fat may inhibit the body's ability to use vitamin D effectively.

5.  Gastrointestinal Issues

Gastrointestinal conditions like Crohn's disease, inflammatory bowel disease, celiac disease, and gluten sensitivity can affect the body's absorption of fat.  Because vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin, people with these conditions often have lower vitamin D levels. 

Vitamin D is an essential nutrient for good health.  While sunlight offers the best source, people can also obtain this valuable nutrient through certain foods or vitamin D supplements.  Good food sources include wild-caught salmon, mackerel, sardines, or vitamin D-fortified milk, yogurt, cereal, or juice.  When it comes to daily supplements, many experts suggest 600 to 800 IU for children and adults, but others recommend 1000 IU.

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5 Signs and Symptoms You May Have a Vitamin B12 Deficiency

by Cindy Gray

Vitamin B12 is one of the B-complex vitamins that are essential for good health.  The body uses it to manufacture red blood cells, nerve cells, and DNA, and vitamin B12 is important to metabolism and cardiovascular health.  Like many other vitamins, B12 is not manufactured by the body, which means people must get it from food or supplements.  Consuming inadequate amounts of this important vitamin, or problems with its absorption, can lead to a vitamin B12 deficiency, a condition that is somewhat common, especially among older people.  Read on to learn about five signs and symptoms of deficiency

Clams are just one of the many food sources that help prevent vitamin B12 deficiency.

1.  Weakness

One of the first signs of vitamin B12 deficiency is body weakness, a natural consequence of reduced levels of red blood cells.  Because weakness is a symptom of a variety of physical conditions, people should consult with a medical professional to rule out possibilities.

2.  Gastrointestinal Disorders

Certain gastrointestinal disorders like colitis, celiac disease, Crohn's disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and leaky gut syndrome can affect absorption of vitamin B-12.  Supplements and B-12 shots can help prevent vitamin B12 deficiency in people with these conditions.

Related:  Five Simple Tips for Healthy Vision

3.  Vision Loss  

Low levels of vitamin B12 can have a negative effect on the optic nerve, but supplements can help.  A study from Japan examining 28 patients with glaucoma showed improvements with a daily dose of 1500 mcg of vitamin B12 over five years.  The participants receiving B12 experienced reduced peripheral vision loss, more stable visual acuity, and better control over eye fluid pressure than participants that did not receive vitamin B12.

4.  Shortness of Breath

Failure to absorb vitamin B12 can result in a reduction of red blood cells that can lead to a condition called pernicious anemia.  Symptoms of this condition include shortness of breath and fatigue.

5.  Memory Loss

Vitamin B12 deficiency can impact brain function, causing symptoms like disorientation, difficulty thinking, and memory loss.  Research shows supplements can help. 

A study from Australian National University found that older adults who received supplements containing vitamin B12 and folic acid over two years experienced better results on tests for short-term and long-term memory than participants who did not receive the supplements. Researchers speculated that results might be due to lower levels of homocysteine, an amino acid linked to poor cognitive function.

Sources of Vitamin B12

Natural food sources of B12 all come from animal products and good options include clams, beef, turkey, oysters, chicken, trout, and salmon.  People who are vegan, vegetarian, or those with absorption issues can benefit from foods fortified with synthetic B12 or B12 supplements. 

People need vitamin B12 to stay healthy, but according to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, about 23 percent of adults above the age of 49 have some level of deficiency.  People who are concerned about vitamin B12 deficiency should visit a medical professional for a blood test and treatment options.

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Prevent Heart Disease: Best Foods for Heart Health

by Cindy Gray

Heart disease continues to be a top killer of both men and women in the United States. However, just a few changes in your diet and lifestyle can dramatically lower your risk.

In this week’s video you learned about the heart health benefits of dark leafy greens, berries, and whole grains. Foods containing healthy fats are particularly protective such as avocados, wild caught salmon, nuts and olive oil. Certain spices contain strong anti-inflammatories and antioxidants that can lower your risk. Ginger and turmeric are two great examples. Garlic is also great for your heart. Many studies show that it lowers blood cholesterol and triglycerides, and has strong antioxidants that protect your blood vessels against damage. Just a few cloves a week can significantly lower your risk of heart attacks and strokes. If you prefer, you can take an aged-garlic supplement.

Related What are the Top 5 Anti-Aging Foods?

Certain drinks are great for your heart health too. For example, green tea decreases several cardiovascular risk factors including high cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as blockages in arteries. Studies show that drinking 5 or more cups a day can reduce your risk of death from heart attaches and strokes by 26%. If you prefer drinking coffee, you’ll be glad to know it can lower your risk too. Researchers found women who drink at least 2 cups of coffee per day have a 25% lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. Five cups or more a day can reduce stroke deaths by 36%.

Even certain guilty pleasure foods can lower your risk of heart disease. For instance, dark chocolate (60-70% cacao) contains strong antioxidants, which can lower blood pressure, raise your “good” HDL cholesterol, and prevent blockages in your arteries. Because chocolate usually contains sugar and is high in calories, limit the amount you eat to just an ounce or two a day.

Remember that heart disease is mostly preventable. By simply making some wiser food choices, you can profoundly lower your risk. 

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Heart-Healthy Foods to Add To Your Diet

by IVL Products

Even though the number of American deaths attributed to heart disease has dropped, it is still the number one cause of death for adults in this country. Good dietary choices play a key role in preserving healthy cardiac function, but instead of focusing on what you should not eat, here’s a list of heart-healthy foods that are delicious, nutritious and good for your heart and your waistline. 

There is a direct correlation between the circumference of your waistline and your risk of heart disease. Belly fat is the most dangerous to your health and the hardest to remove.

Fishing for a Healthy Heart

The catch of the day keeps the cardiologist away. Fish should be a staple in your diet; and become a replacement for processed fatty meats like hamburger, sausage and bacon.  Not only are fish a great source of protein, vitamins and minerals, they have the most abundant and most easily absorbed omega-3 fatty acids. The body does not produce this essential nutrient naturally, but it does a body good.  Eating fish two to three times a week will give you plenty of it. Salmon, trout, mackerel and herring are especially high in omega-3s, so be sure to put them on the menu.

Related:  Include Fish in Your Arthritis Prevention Diet

Go Nuts

Enjoying nuts regularly is a heart-healthy idea. Almonds and walnuts are heart-healthy foods to enjoy in moderation since they are high in calories.  Adding a handful to your cereal, salad or dipping your banana in some almond butter will give you a healthy dose of omega-3s, and the unsaturated fat and fiber will keep you satisfied longer. The healthiest nuts to eat are almonds, pistachios, cashews, walnuts and macadamias.

Flaxseed belongs in your diet along with a variety of nuts. They are loaded with alpha-linolenic acid, which is a fancy name for omega-3. These small but mighty seeds can be ground to replace some of the fat in baked items and sprinkled on top of salads or cereal to add a little crunch with significant benefits.

Be Fruitful and Thrive

Fruits high in vitamin C and fiber are also loaded with phytonutrients to help reduce inflammation. Chronic inflammation due to obesity, environmental pollution and poor diet are a leading contributor to heart muscle damage.  Berries are particularly heart-healthy foods because they are not only sweet, delicious and plentiful, but contain copious amount of antioxidants, fiber, vitamins and minerals. Orange-hued fruits like oranges, tangerines, peaches and cantaloupe offer plentiful amounts of potassium and magnesium.

Veg Out

Mom was right when she said, “eat your vegetables, they’re good for you.” They come in so many varieties and you can eat as much as you want.  Be sure to avoid heavy cream or butter-based sauces or oily condiments.  Add these all-stars to your grocery list:

  • Asparagus – beta-carotene, folate and fiber
  • Broccoli- vitamins C and E, calcium and fiber
  • Spinach – iron, vitamins A, B2, C and K along with folate calcium, magnesium and potassium, just to name a few.

So, grill up some asparagus to pair with a salmon fillet, steam some broccoli or add a handful of spinach to your salads and you will be helping your heart and your waistline.

Carbs Count

The body cannot run on protein and fats alone. Carbohydrates are the key for high, sustaining levels of energy.  Starting your day with a bowl of oatmeal (toss a handful of nuts, seed and berries on top) is a great way to give your body the fuel it needs. The fiber in oatmeal will keep you feeling satisfied longer and keep cholesterol levels in check.  Steel cut is best and avoid instant varieties loaded with sugar.  

Enjoy Dessert

Yes, a heart-healthy diet includes dessert! It’s been called the fourth food group for good reason. Dark chocolate made from 70% cocoa is one of the healthiest treats you can eat. A one-ounce square daily offers soluble fiber, antioxidants, iron, magnesium and potassium, zinc and selenium. These are all nutrients that contribute to a healthy heart.  Like nuts, chocolate has a lot of calories, so a little goes a long way.

Here’s To Your Heart

Hopefully reading this has encouraged you to add these foods to your grocery list.  There are many other heart-healthy foods you can work into the mix, and consider supplements as an additional way to pump up your daily vitamin and mineral consumption.  

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Lack of Appetite: Four Typical Causes

by Institute for Vibrant Living

Eating delicious foods can be one of the greatest pleasures in life, and a healthy appetite is a sign of positive wellbeing.  People who develop a lack of appetite lose their desire to eat.  They either experience complete disinterest, or the idea of eating makes them feel nauseous.  While a number of factors may cause appetite loss, four in particular are worth noting.

People who develop a lack of appetite either experience complete disinterest, or the idea of eating makes them feel nauseous

1.  Chronic Disease

Lack of appetite is a common symptom of a number of chronic diseases.  These include liver disease, celiac disease, Crohn's disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), dementia, HIV, hypothyroidism, gastroparesis, and kidney or heart failure.  People with cancer of the ovaries, pancreas, colon, or stomach may also find their appetite lacking. 

Nutritious snacks high in protein and calories help people with chronic illness or cancer maintain body weight while trying to recover.  Eating small amounts several times throughout the day and supplementing with liquid protein drinks can be helpful.  Supportive family members can keep favorite foods handy and record meals in a food diary for reference.

2.  Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism is most common in women from 35 to 65 years of age.  It is a condition in which the thyroid produces too little thyroid hormone.  It causes a range of symptoms, including lack of appetite, fatigue, constipation, dry skin, and brittle nails.

A simple blood test can determine whether people suffer from an inactive thyroid.  Doctors usually prescribe synthetic T4 (levothyroxine sodium), in the form of a daily pill, to bring the thyroid hormone into the normal range.

Related:  Three Hormonal Causes of Depression

3.  Medications

Use of certain medications can affect the appetite.  These include:

  • Anabolic steroids
  • Antibiotics
  • Blood pressure medications
  • Codeine
  • Diuretics
  • Morphine
  • Sleeping pills
  • Tranquilizers

Regardless if it is listed above, people who experience a lack of appetite in conjunction with starting a new medication should consult with their doctor for solutions, which may include changing the drug or dosage.  People should not stop taking their medication without their doctor's approval.

4.  Depression

A change in appetite is one of the most common signs of depression.  For some people, depression increases appetite, and for others it leads to a lack of appetite.  When people experience appetite loss along with symptoms like sadness, guilt, disinterest in activities, digestive issues, sleep problems, or nausea, they should consult with a medical doctor or mental health care professional.

A healthy diet may help ward off depression.  According to research, a Mediterranean-style eating plan high in fruits vegetables, nuts, legumes, whole grains, and fatty fish can help lower risks for depression.  Studies also show that deficiencies in vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and tryptophan can have a negative influence on mood.

While periods of appetite loss are normal, a persistent lack of appetite is not.  It can be a symptom of chronic disease, cancer, hypothyroidism, depression or a reaction to a new medication.  People should contact their health care provider if appetite loss is chronic or if they are shedding weight without trying. 

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Women’s Top Five Health Concerns

by Institute for Vibrant Living

Advancing years, the sudden onset of illness, or the death of someone close can all make us think about our own health. According to Saralyn Mark, M.D. there are five main medical conditions that top the list of women’s health issues. We look at the risk factors for each and see how experts suggest we can be proactive in reducing or preventing such health problems.

Breast cancer is one of the top five women’s health issues

#1 Heart Disease

As the leading cause of death, heart disease is responsible for around 29% of all deaths in women, according to the CDC.  Although we eventually all have to die, it is the premature death or limitations caused by heart disease that is the greatest health concern.

Regular health checks to monitor blood pressure and cholesterol can help reduce the risk along with a healthy diet, regular exercise, non-smoking and maintaining a normal body weight. Any new symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest, and shoulder or jaw pain should be reported to your doctor and investigated.

Related:  Yoga Lowers Fatigue and Inflammation in Breast Cancer Survivors

#2 Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is understandably one of the main women’s health issues as it is the most common cancer for women. Risk factors include family history, age, alcoholism, lack of children, genetics and race, with Caucasian women having a higher risk of developing the disease than African-American women.

Regular self-examination can detect lumps at the earliest stage, along with mammograms. Fear and denial can stop women going to see their doctor when a lump is discovered, and this can be crucial for the best chance of survival. 

#3 Osteoporosis

Another disease that affects women is osteoporosis, due to lower estrogen levels after menopause. This “brittle bone disease” affects 44 million Americans, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF).

Clinical trials by the NOF show that taking 1,000 mg calcium and 400 IU vitamin D daily reduces the risk of hip fracture and osteoporosis. Those most at risk are small, thin women with a diet low in calcium and vitamin D, particularly Caucasian and Asian women or those with as family history of osteoporosis.

#4 Depression

Depression commonly affects women more than men, and according to the National Institute of Mental Health, around 12 million women are affected each year. It may be triggered after giving birth or due to hormonal changes. Those with a family history of depression, marital problems, a stressful life or taking medications known to cause depression are most at risk. Having a purpose in life such as a job, a pet, volunteering and community work can all help. Regular exercise also releases endorphins that lift mood.

#5 Autoimmune Diseases

Disorders such as type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis and lupus are among this group of chronic diseases. Autoimmune diseases are not widely understood and you may need to consult a specialist to diagnose and address these women’s health issues that affect three times more women than men. Worrying about your health can only make things worse. Instead, take every precaution to eat and exercise sensibly, top up with daily supplements and if anything is amiss, share it immediately with your doctor. 

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What is Heart Disease?

by Health News

“What is heart disease?” may seem an obvious question to some, but understanding the connection between diet, heart disease, stroke, and heart attack can help us to adopt a heart-healthy lifestyle.

Avoid this by learning about what is heart disease

Heart disease is often called cardiovascular disease. It is a condition covering a range of common yet serious conditions such as heart attack, stroke, heart failure and arrhythmia. It also includes atherosclerosis (plaque build-up in the arterial lining).

You may already have elevated risk factors for heart disease, such as atherosclerosis and aging. Men over the age of 45 and women over 55 are automatically at increased risk of heart disease. It’s important to know what heart disease is, what causes it, and how it can be reduced.

Atherosclerosis and Heart Attack

Plaque is made up of cholesterol, fatty substances, calcium and fibrin (a clotting material in the blood) which eventually cause a hardening of the walls of the main arteries. The problems begin when the plaque begins to block blood flow, decreasing the oxygen supply and causing elevated blood pressure as the heart works harder to force the blood through the narrower arteries.

Blood clots may form on the plaque surface, or the plaque deposits may break off. If plaque or a blood clot travel toward the heart and stop the blood flow completely, it causes a heart attack which can be fatal. In a similar way, if a blood clot or plaque deposit stops the flow of blood to the brain, it causes a stroke, which is similarly life-threatening.

Related:  Heart Health Supplements

Life Changes after Heart Attack or Stroke

Often people do not understand what heart disease is until after they have experienced a heart attack or stroke. To avoid a repeat incident, life changes are necessary to boost heart health, such as:

Tests can be performed to determine what damage has been caused by a stroke or heart attack. Your doctor may recommend blood-thinning medication to reduce the risk of clotting, installing a pacemaker, heart valve surgery, coronary angioplasty or even a surgical arterial bypass graft to help improve blood flow.

Better still, adopting a healthy lifestyle can prevent heart disease, plaque and all the associated problems. Natural supplements such as coenzyme Q10 to lower blood pressure, fish oil supplements to reduce triglycerides and green tea to lower cholesterol can all boost heart health naturally.

So if you’re asking, “What is heart disease?” make sure you put into practice what you learn to significantly lower your risk of heart disease before it’s too late.

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Weakness: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

by IVL Products

We can all experience physical weakness at times, perhaps after a serious illness, or when we’re tired, overworked or exhausted. Short-term weakness usually passes when the cause is rectified, whether it is lack of sleep, stress or fighting sickness. 

Weakness can affect the whole body

If you are experiencing ongoing weakness that does not seem to improve, you need to take steps to discover the cause and treat it. There are many possible causes of weakness including:

  • Poor diet
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Depression
  • Anemia
  • Colds and flu
  • Viral infection
  • Bacterial infection
  • Low blood sugar
  • Stress

It could also be caused by more serious medical conditions such as cancer, stroke or heart attack.   

Related:  Heart Health Benefits of Meditation

Let’s first eliminate some simple possible causes of weakness:

Poor Diet causes Weakness

If weakness is due to poor diet or intense weight-watching, analyze what you are eating. You should be enjoying a balanced diet with adequate protein, carbohydrates and fat. According to the Institute of Medicine, 45-65% of our daily calorie intake (2,000 calories total for men and 1800 for women) should come from carbohydrates, preferably multigrain bread, brown rice, beans and lentils. Ten to 25% should be derived from protein such as meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products, and around 30% of our daily calories should be from healthy fats which the body uses for energy or stores as glucose.

Colds and Sickness

In winter, colds and flu can weaken the body’s immune system. The after effects of any virus, sickness or surgical procedure can leave the body feeling drained and weak. Try eating well and include plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables to boost vitamin intake and antioxidants. Consider taking a multivitamin or supplement to ensure your body is getting all the help it needs to restore itself to full health again. Another easy way to boost energy is with a green drink or smoothie to help boost immunity, provide antioxidant support and improve digestion.

Other Causes of Weakness

Try to analyze whether you are suffering from full body weakness or isolated weakness. Think back to when the weakness first began and to what it may be related. If you cannot find an obvious cause for general weakness and it does not improve, you may need to consult a doctor.

If at any time your weakness is accompanied by difficulty breathing, then you should call 911 immediately, as it could indicate a more serious medical condition. Your doctor will determine the underlying cause and treat accordingly.

In the meantime, make sure you enjoy a healthy balanced diet, maintain a healthy weight, enjoy daily exercise and any weakness should soon be a thing of the past. 

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Simple Guide to Optimal Health and Fitness

by IVL Products

While we may know a lot about optimal health in theory, in reality, does our lifestyle measure up?  A truly healthy life consists of many different aspects, including diet, supplements and exercise. 

Optimal health includes eating plenty of fresh fruit

Health and fitness go hand-in-hand, but it’s important to choose regular exercise activities that you actually enjoy as part of your simple healthy lifestyle, to avoid it becoming a dreaded chore. 

Optimal Health and Fitness

Exercise should not be all about burning calories or how much time you spend at the gym. In order for fitness to be a part of your life naturally, exercise in a way that is intuitive and natural.

As humans, our bodies were never intended for life as a couch potato or sat at a desk all day; they were designed for daily activity. It helps to understand by thinking about the exercise our ancestors did: walking, sprinting, climbing, swimming, crawling and lifting heavy things. By replicating those activities on a daily basis, we will be giving our body a natural all-round workout as nature intended.

Related:  Exercise Your Right to Brain Health

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) published an excellent Complete Guide to Fitness and Health which gives plenty of tips, instructions and illustrations on how to achieve optimal health through nutrition and exercise.

Health and Diet

Exercise is just one part of optimal health and it has to be done in conjunction with a healthy diet.

Once again, it pays to think simply and eat like our ancestors did. Their diet as hunter-gatherers would have included meat, fish, fowl, fruit, nuts, raw vegetables and plants. They would have drunk plenty of water rather than sugary, soda and drinks heavy in caffeine and artificial sweeteners.

Genetically engineered foods such as soy, corn, canola oil and varieties of vegetables and fruits would not have been part of our diet historically, and neither would pesticides and fertilizers. It’s a good reason to go organic and try to get back to the optimally healthy lifestyle nature intended.

Sleep and Stress

In the days before electricity brought TV entertainment, our ancestors would have risen and slept according to the hours of daylight and nightfall. They would have enjoyed plenty of sleep. Stress would have been limited to key moments during a hunt, when the “fight or flight” hormones of adrenalin and cortisol would have kicked in momentarily, not all the time as in our modern-day lives.

Although we may pride ourselves on our civilized and developed society, when it comes to optimal health and fitness, it can be good to look back and try to emulate the simple, natural lifestyle that our bodies are designed for. 

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Your Tell-Tale Poor Diet Side Effects

by Cindy Gray

We all look at ourselves in the mirror at least once a day; so what do you see? Are you glowing with health or does your skin, hair and body show the effects of poor diet? 

Counter the effects of poor diet with a diet high in vitamins and antioxidants

So how does your skin, hair and body appear?  Check out these five tell-tale beauty signs:

Acne

Acne and spots is usually a sign of too much sugar and fat. The effects of poor diet, excessive processed and fried foods encourage pimples and spots to form underneath the oil glands in the skin and hair follicles. Treating pimply skin with external face washes, lotions and creams can treat the bacteria, but for long-term effectiveness and clear skin you need to eat a healthy diet with whole foods, fruits and vegetables.

Wrinkles

We can all expect wrinkles as we age, but the extent of those lines and wrinkles is entirely in your hands. Smoking is known to cause dry wrinkled skin, so it’s a good reason to quit. The sun's UV rays also cause premature wrinkles, so always use a sunscreen.

When it comes to the effects of poor diet, too much sugar causes inflammation and this can accelerate the natural aging process. On the other hand, antioxidant-rich foods such as fresh fruit and vegetables contain protective vitamin E. Oranges are full of collagen-producing vitamin C and avocadoes are loaded with hydrating monounsaturated fats to counter wrinkles.

Related:  The Effects of Poor Diet on Mental Health

Dry, brittle hair

Dry, damaged hair may be telling you that you need more protein, essential fatty acids (EFAs), zinc and vitamin C. Hair and nails are made from protein, so make sure you eat plenty of pork, broccoli, wheat germ and red peppers to provide keratin-producing cysteine for glossy locks and strong nails.

Dull ruddy complexion

Lifeless, dull skin says "too much caffeine; not enough water." Caffeine dehydrates while water, even with light fruit flavors, restores hydration. Remember that "eight glasses of water a day help keep the wrinkles away!"

Weak nails

A balanced diet is usually reflected in strong healthy nails so check that you are eating enough protein and vitamins (or taking a multivitamin supplement). Incidentally, white spots on nails are a sign that your diet is lacking zinc, so boost your intake of seafood and red meats to stimulate keratin formation. In the meantime, rubbing natural oils into the cuticle can help stimulate stronger nail growth.

Next time you look at yourself in the mirror, remember that "you are what you eat." Look for those tell-tale signs of deficiencies and the effects of poor diet and address them by changing to a natural healthy diet, before it’s too late.

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Five Diseases Caused by Poor Diet

by Health News

Our bodies are finely tuned and need a balance of protein, fats, carbohydrates and a range of 13 vitamins and 15 minerals to function. A lack of any one of these essential nutrients can result in serious diseases that can lead to incapacity and even death. 

Historic diseases caused by poor diet are once again in evidence in modern-day America

Here are five examples of diseases caused by poor diet, malnutrition and an imbalanced diet. Are you getting enough of these essential vitamins?

Anemia

Lacks of iron means the red blood cells are unable to transport oxygen around the body. This leads to tiredness, heachache, irregular heartbeat and sensitivity to cold. Iron deficiency may affect 1-2% of Americans today due to a poor diet. Iron is found in fortified cereals, liver, chicken, oysters, seafood, sardines, lean meat, peas, beans, broccoli, eggs and nuts.

Rickets

Rickets is a serious bone-softening condition historically found in children who lacked vitamin D. The body can make its own vitamin D from exposure to sunlight, or it can be provided through meat and fish oils in the diet. Calcium needs to interact with vitamin D to produce strong bones.

Rickets causes muscle weakness, stunted growth, a curved spine, projected breastbone and bow legs although the availability of milk, fish and meat has led to a decline. However those on a vegetarian or vegan diet should be aware of the importance of vitamin D for bone health.  

Related:  Vitamin Deficiency Symptoms

Scurvy

A lack of vitamin C causes scurvy, one of the common skin diseases caused by poor diet among sailors in the past when their diet lacked fresh fruit and vegetables. Known as the "grey death", scurvy causes tooth loss, painful joints and weakness, halitosis (bad breath) and blood spots beneath the skin. The body is unable to make vitamin C, so make sure your diet includes citrus fruits, vegetables or vitamin C supplements to avoid even the slightest suggestion of this painful disease.

Pellagra

A lack of niacin (vitamin B3) can cause blistering skin, bleeding from the mouth, aggressive behavior and insanity. Prevalent in Northern Europe and the Middle East when fresh meat was not available, it was also common in the Southern U.S. in the 1940s in those who lived on a corn-based diet. It can be simply prevented by eating fortified cornmeal.  

Beriberi

The word "beriberi" means "I cannot" in Sinhalese, graphically epitomizing the inability of sufferers to perform a physical task. Caused by a lack of thiamin (vitamin B1) in the Asian diet of boiled rice, the disease was common in the past when "polished" white rice was introduced in the 20th century in place of brown rice.

Today beriberi is one of the diseases caused by poor diet that can still be found, particularly in alcoholics. Their poor diet and inability to absorb thiamine can lead to weakness, difficulty walking and even death. Sources of vitamin B1 include fortified cereals, marmite and wheat germ in bread.

This history lesson of diseases caused by poor diet superbly illustrates the importance of a healthy balanced diet including those all-important vitamins and minerals found in multivitamin supplements. 

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Foods for Weight Loss: The Science Behind the Grapefruit Diet

by Health News

It’s time to give the grapefruit diet another look. It may be more effective than you might think.  Grapefruit to help you lose weight is not a new idea, but more research is giving real weight to the anecdotal evidence that it is one of the best foods for weight loss.  Research shows that you can consume grapefruit regularly with few side effects, and lots of health benefits beyond weight control.

The infamous grapefruit diet has actually been around since the 1930s. Since anecdotal evidence has persisted for decades about the effectiveness of grapefruit as a food for weigh loss more research has been conducted to see if it really can have a positive effect on the body.

Effective foods for weight loss include the grapefruit.

The Bad News First

Grapefruit, grapefruit juice, nor grapefruit supplements are going to magically melt fat off your body without changing your eating habits or exercising.  No food or pill will do that. If there was such a thing out there we would all be lean and long-lived.

The reality that there is no one miracle food for weight loss is not a reason for dismay.  Certain foods can have a positive impact on your efforts to shed a few pounds and grapefruit is one of them.

The Good News

Besides weight loss there are many other good reasons to eat grapefruit.  It is a rich source of:

  • Vitamins C and A - both are powerful antioxidants
  • Potassium – a mineral that helps nerves and muscles communicate
  • Biotin – a B complex vitamin that helps the body synthesize fatty acids and glucose
  • Vitamin B1 –aka, thiamine, it helps the body convert food to fuel
  • Copper – necessary to aid the body in metabolizing iron and to form red blood cells
  • Pantothenic acid - aka vitamin B5, to help break down fats, proteins and carbohydrates and convert them energy

Grapefruit (not juice or supplements) also has lots of water and fiber to keep the body hydrated and the GI tract humming along normally.  Even if you don’t need to lose weight, you should be eating grapefruit.

Related:  Five Foods that Support Your Weight Loss Efforts

The Grapefruit Weight Loss Connection

The original grapefruit diet was pretty restrictive and thus doomed to fail.  In the various early versions of it the diet called for drinking the juice and eating grapefruit for every meal. Most of the diets also called for cutting out all sweets, most carbohydrates like vegetables, grains and cereals, which is not a healthy or sustainable eating plan.

The diet has evolved over the decades with different names like the Hollywood Diet and the 10 Days, 10 Pounds Off Diet. As with any temporary diet fad, it was ineffective over the long-term. 

Why the notion that grapefruit can aid in weight loss persists is studies like the one published in 2006 by the Journal of Medicinal Food.  The study was conducted with 91 obese participants divided into four groups.  Group one got a grapefruit capsule before every meal. Group two drank grapefruit juice daily. Group four ate a half of a grapefruit daily and the last group was given a placebo.

The results at the end of the study led researchers to conclude that grapefruit, the juice and the capsule did indeed aid in weight loss with the group that ate the actual fruit losing the most, an average of 1.5 pounds. Coming in at a close second and third was the grapefruit juice group who lost an average of 1.3 pounds and, finally, the capsule group who lost about 1.1 pounds.  The study participants who received the placebo lost a negligent 1/3-pound on average.

Also significant is the fact that all participants who received grapefruit in some fashion also had lower glucose insulin levels making it a potentially great choice for diabetics and anyone at risk for developing Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes.

Based on the results of this study several more were conducted.  One study showed grapefruit to be highly beneficial in slowing weight gain when consumed with fatty foods.

More research is needed but the current studies support grapefruit as a one of the best foods for weight loss when consumed regularly.  With lots of nutrients, filling fiber and water, adding a half or whole grapefruit to your daily diet makes good sense whether you are trying to lose weight or not.

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Three Herbs that Reduce Stress

by Health News

Stress is a normal part of life, and the body automatically reacts to it with a "flight-or-fight" response.  The adrenal glands release stress hormones that boost strength and energy in reaction to physical stressors and enhance focus and mental clarity during times of emotional upset.  Occasional stress is normal and healthy, but chronic stress can take a toll on mental and physical health.  While some people rely on prescribed medications for treatment, others prefer more natural ways to reduce stress.  Three herbs show promise for fighting stress.

Herbs that reduce stress include holy basil, kava, and chamomile.

1.  Holy Basil

An herb and a member of the mint family, holy basil is found in most tropical regions around the world.  Research shows that compounds in holy basil improve the body's response to stress.  One animal study examined the effects of holy basil on stress created by continual exposure to noise.  Albino rats were pretreated with holy basil extract for seven days and then exposed to noise containing a frequency of 10 kHz and a sound level of 100 dB.  While exposure to noise typically generates changes in acetylcholine and acetylcholinesterase activity in several areas of the brain, the treatment with holy basil prevented these changes.

2.  Kava

Kava is a root that comes from the islands of the South Pacific. Traditional use involves crushing the root and making it into a tea.  The drink offers relaxing or sedating effects but is non-addictive.  Kava is also available as a dietary supplement in powder, capsule, or tincture form.  When it comes to herbs that reduce stress and anxiety, kava has shown positive results in many studies. 

In 2013, an Australian study assessed the effects of kava in 75 people with generalized anxiety disorder.  Subjects were given kava or placebo each day for six weeks.  Levels of anxiety were measured using the Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale (HAMA).  For people with mild to moderate anxiety, kava significantly reduced symptoms as compared to the placebo group.  Results were even more significant in the group with moderate to severe anxiety.

Kava should not be combined with alcohol or psychotropic medicines.  It has been shown that long-term use of kava can harm the liver, so people should use it for three months or less, and consult with a qualified herbalist or your health care provider for guidance.

Related:  Natural Remedies for Mild Depression

3.  Chamomile

Originating in Europe, chamomile is a plant that belongs to the daisy family.  While its dried flowers are used for a variety of physical ailments, chamomile also offers relief from anxiety according to several studies. 

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania examined 35 people diagnosed with anxiety and depression or with a history of anxiety and depression, along with a control group of 22 people without either disorder.  For eight weeks, subjects received daily doses of chamomile extract or placebo.  Dosages were increased for people who showed less benefit on anxiety scores by one extra tablet daily each week, capping at week five. 

Based on the results of several rating scales, 57 percent of the people in the chamomile group experienced significant reductions in anxiety.  To date, chamomile has been shown to have no adverse side effects, which makes it one of the best and safest ways to reduce stress.

Chronic stress takes a toll on the body both physically and mentally.  Herbs that reduce stress help take the edge off when people are exposed to physical, mental, or emotional stimuli on a regular basis.  Before starting a supplementary regimen with any herb, people should always consult with their health care provider.