The Power of Herbs and Spices

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HERBS_SPICES

Often overlooked, yet an important component of nutrition, herbs and spices pack a big punch from a small package. They’re generally used to flavor food, but herbs and spices have many health benefits in addition to being taste enhancers.

Herbs and spices have been used for centuries as medicine to treat or alleviate symptoms of disease, so don’t underestimate their potency. Many have either anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic, anti-microbial, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, or antioxidant effects when consumed. This makes them ideal for helping to fight the signs of aging, cell deformities, infections, and even the common cold.

The following 5 herbs/spices are fairly common and easy to incorporate into a healthy diet.

Turmeric. This orange colored root contains curcumin, a substance shown to have anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic effects. It has been used to help treat inflammatory diseases such as arthritis, allergies, and asthma. Studies have shown that it’s also a strong antioxidant in the fight against free radical damage and the destruction of healthy cells. Add a pinch of turmeric to your scrambled eggs or sprinkle it on a salad for a peppery kick.

Cinnamon. The benefits of cinnamon go far beyond its wonderful smell. Cinnamon has been shown to help regulate natural blood sugar levels and assist in the reduction of LDL cholesterol levels. Research has also shown that it can help reduce chronic inflammation of the nervous system which could help to alleviate symptoms of multiple schlerosis, altzheimers, and Parkinson’s disease. A dash of cinnamon tastes great in your morning coffee or added to a protein shake.

Ginger. This root is great in assisting proper digestion and boosting the immune system. Ginger can improve the absorption of nutrients by stimulating the pancreas to secrete key enzymes. It’s also effective in alleviating an upset stomach. Ginger has been used as a natural treatment for colds and flu and to break up mucous in the lungs. Slice a piece of ginger root and add it to your tea while it’s brewing for a tangy kick. Or add a piece of ginger root to your smoothie and blend well.

Rosemary. As a natural anti-inflammatory, rosemary may help with migraines, arthritis, and gout. It is also an immune booster and can aid in digestion. In addition, it contains the phytochemical carnosol, which studies show is a strong anti-carcinogenic compound that targets pathways associated with inflammation and cancer. Sprinkle some rosemary into your favorite potato dish or add fresh minced rosemary to a homemade marinade for chicken or salmon.

Sage. Sage is anti-fungal, anti-microbial, and anti-bacterial, so it can be used as an antiseptic to alleviate symptoms associated with sore throat, mouth sores, or cough. Sage has also been used to sharpen the mind and studies show it can even combat memory loss. Add a few fresh leaves to water and brew into a tea or sprinkle dried leaves into a stir fry dish.

So be sure to add more herbs and spices to your diet to support your health while making your food anything but boring.

Boost Your Immunity

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Immunity

Coming down with the flu or a cold is pretty common this time of year. Wouldn’t it be great to have the upper hand on seasonal illnesses? Although you might not be able to totally avoid getting sick, maintaining a resilient immune system may lessen the severity, duration, and frequency of illness.

The following tips are natural ways to boost your immune system and overall health:

Cut out offensive foods. Inflammation is a natural response to getting sick or injured. Your immune system sends inflammatory cells to the region they’re needed to attack and repair the compromised area. But, if you’re eating foods you’re intolerant to, your immune system may go on the attack every time you consume these foods. Besides causing added stress in the body, your immune system stays compromised for longer periods of time which decreases the effectiveness of daily maintenance.

Add more nutrients. Micronutrients such as magnesium, vitamin C, and vitamin D all have immunity boosting powers. Foods such as ginger, bee pollen, and many fruits and vegetables are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants which all aid in supporting a healthy immune system. Even adding lemon juice to your water can help alkalize the pH of your body and support healthy bacteria while making it difficult for acid-loving pathogens to thrive.

Improve your sleep. We all know how important sleep is to our mental health, but our body uses this time to repair and recover from daily wear and tear. A lack of sleep can lead to immune system suppression by increasing inflammation and decreasing the amount of disease fighting cells in our bodies.

Ensure proper detox. If your body isn’t eliminating everyday toxins from the food you eat or the air you breathe, you’ll have a hard time fighting off a cold. Proper detox begins with a healthy digestive system and adequate hydration sets the stage for efficient elimination. If you eat non-organic meats or if you had a recent dose of antibiotics, it’s a good idea to supplement with a quality probiotic to restore gut flora. This will aid in efficient digestion and keep things moving along properly.

Take advantage of strength training. Exercise has numerous benefits, but one that is often overlooked is the ability of muscle contractions to help drain the lymphatic system. The lymph system is a channel for toxins to be excreted from the body and a pathway for immune cells to travel where they are needed. Consistent muscle contractions drive the healthy flow of the lymph system.

Laugh and enjoy life. Obviously laughter seems to reduce stress in our lives, but it may also boost immune function. Studies have shown that laughter boosts natural killer cells that attack anything from infectious cells to tumor cells. Laughter will boost your body’s ability to destroy toxic cells and therefore lesson your chance for disease.

So take a few simple steps each day to give your immune system a fighting chance.

Train Your Core Without Situps

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How strong is your core? If you’re looking to tighten and tone your mid-section, it’s going to take more than crunches and sit-ups. Read on to learn more about the core and how to properly train it.

The core musculature attaches to the spine and pelvis, including muscles of the abdominal area, mid and low back, and hips. Specifically it includes muscles such as the rectus abdominis, erector spinae, external and internal obliques, transversus abdominis, and glutes.

Your core protects your spine from excessive flexion, extension, rotation, and lateral bending and works to stabilize the spine and hips during specific movements. Your core plays a major role in balanced posture and everyday mobility. If you’ve ever injured a core muscle, you’ll quickly realize how often you use these muscles – you’ll feel the injury every time you move.

Since the core works constantly to keep us functioning at our best, it makes sense to keep it working properly. Is your core weak? Try the plank test to determine if you have adequate core strength. Assume a traditional pushup position. Now drop from your hands down onto your forearms and hold your body rigid. How long can you hold before your hips begin to sag or your low back starts to strain? If you planked less than 60 seconds, your core could use some work.

So what’s the best way to strengthen the core? We like to incorporate functional exercises, so multiple muscles are working together as a unit to stabilize or carry out a specific movement. We recommend the following exercises to build overall core strength.

The Plank. This exercise is great for beginners because its simplicity allows utilization of the core without much complication. Just get in the plank position and hold. Time your sets for the first workout and try to beat that time during the next workout. You can also progress by adding a weight to your hips or raising one leg off the floor.

Plank-Pat

Pushup to Dumbbell Row and Twist. This is a great intermediate core exercise because it involves both movement and stabilization. Assume a pushup position while holding a dumbbell in each hand. Perform a pushup and as your arms straighten at the top of the movement, row one of the dumbbells toward your chest, rotate, and then press the dumbbell towards the ceiling. Return to your starting point and repeat on the other side. Choose a weight that allows for 10-20 reps.

DB_Row_Twist

Walking Overhead Lunge. This is an advanced exercise and should only be attempted once the core is strong enough to perform efficiently. Grab a moderately weighted barbell and press it overhead. Lock your arms out and stabilize the weight in an overhead position. At this point, perform 10 walking lunges in a forward direction. Once complete, turn around and perform 10 more lunges as you return to your starting point. Be sure to keep your arms locked straight and the barbell directly above your head. This will work the core differently than the previous two exercises and requires overall body strength and stability to perform.

Walking_Ohead_Lunge

So find a new way to strengthen your core and teach your body to perform at its best.

Go Organic in 2017

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Box with fruits and vegetables

The New Year has arrived, and for many people, it brings with it a new attitude towards diet and exercise. If you’re wondering which approach to take in 2017, don’t forget one of the most natural ways to stay healthy – eating organic.

According to the USDA, organic food is produced without: antibiotics, growth hormones, conventional pesticides, petroleum-based fertilizers or sewage sludge-based fertilizers, bioengineering, or ionizing radiation. Organic food does not contain antibiotics, hormones, chemical preservatives, pesticides, or any other added harsh chemicals. The controversial genetically modified organisms (GMO) are not present in 100% organic foods either. In other words, organic foods are foods in their natural state – which is the way nature intended food to be eaten.

Eating organic has many health benefits. Because much of our non-organic food is mass produced, chemicals and additives are used to increase production, including pesticides and growth hormones. These substances eventually end up in our bodies, and over time can disrupt our natural metabolic processes and cause toxicity. This could lead to weight gain, food allergies, digestive problems, headaches, and lack of energy. These chemicals were never intended for human consumption. Fortunately, organic foods do not contain any of these substances, so they fuel the body without the negative side effects.

Certain organic foods have actually been shown to be more nutritious than their non-organic counterparts. Most organic foods are in their natural state or minimally processed, so this

means less ‘filler’ ingredients and more of what your body needs. Organics contain more nutrients with fewer calories, which will leave you more satiated and aid in weight control.

Organic food production also benefits our environment. By eating organic, you are supporting natural farming methods, which minimize damage to our water, soil, and air, and to any animals involved.

So the benefits of eating organic may seem obvious, but the increased cost of organic foods can sometimes scare people away. This is where it comes down to the consumer to make the most sensible choice. Next to air and water, food is one of the most important substances we consume. Is it really worth cutting corners when it comes to the quality of the food that fuels your body? Many of our clients have realized that once they evaluate how they are spending their grocery money and cut out the unnecessary items, their grocery bill really isn’t much higher with organic foods.

So if you’re ready to make a positive change, give organic a try. Focusing more on the types of calories you’re eating is just as important as the number of calories. Take a look at the big picture and you’ll be on your way to a healthy year.

Habits For Keeping the Weight Off this Holiday Season

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healthy-turkey

With the holiday season approaching, it’s a great time to review the most successful habits that can help keep you on track when you’re surrounded by temptations from now through New Years. Regardless of what style of eating you consider healthy – food guide pyramid, low-carb, paleo – those who have mastered their dietary health share the following common practices. And you should too.

Visit the grocery store at least once a week. Healthy eating requires you to have nutritious food available. To do so, you may find yourself at the grocery store every few days restocking meats, fruits, and vegetables. Make a list of items you need before you go to the store and stick to the list. Buy most of your food from the perimeter of the store and stay out of the middle aisles as much as possible.

Use your kitchen. Do you spend more time in your kitchen or your living room? Start spending more time in the kitchen learning how to cook healthy meals. Now, there’s nothing wrong with a simple grilled chicken breast, but there are so many delicious options for healthy eating if you take the time to learn. Read a book, watch a video, take a class – whatever you do, make cooking a part of your day and you’ll be proud of your meals and have the peace of mind knowing exactly what’s in your food.

Prepare meals and snacks on a daily basis. Unless you work from home, you don’t have the convenience of stepping into your kitchen when it’s time to eat. Before you leave your house in the morning, make sure you have your food prepped for the day ahead. It could be something as simple as leftovers from last night’s dinner for your lunch and a yogurt and almonds for a snack. Use your kitchen as the hub from where your meals originate. This way you won’t be tempted to grab less desirable options such as fast food or skip a meal altogether.

Know your enemies. Healthy food for one person may be poison to another. Food allergies are very common and even if a food is healthy it may not agree with your body. If you have issues with gluten, dairy, or soy, those foods should not be a part of your diet, especially for the time being. This still leaves you with ample options, as long as you’re prepared ahead of time. If you notice unpleasant symptoms after eating certain foods, cut those foods out of your diet for a period of time and see if you feel better overall. If you want more definitive answers, your doctor can recommend a lab where a blood test can be performed to identify specific food allergens.

Eat for the right reasons. The main reason for eating in the first place is to nourish the body. This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your food, but eating purely for pleasure gets a lot of people into trouble with their weight and overall health. Build your meal around the benefit it will provide for your body and then you can get creative with combinations of foods, flavor, and preparation methods. Make a habit of including all three macronutrients in your meals – protein, fat, and carbohydrates.

Master these tips and you’ll be on your way to establishing healthy habits and building long-term success.

Exercises for the Seated Lifestyle

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How do you choose the exercises that make up your workouts? Maybe you base it on exercises you like or exercises you’re familiar with. Or maybe you have certain areas of the body you’d like to see change, so you focus on those muscle groups.

Obviously everyone has different goals, body types, and lifestyles, but one common issue we see with many of our clients is a weakness pattern through the core and posterior chain. If you find yourself sitting most of the day, it makes sense to choose exercises that counter this shortened posture. The following exercises will help strengthen many of the muscles that become weak through a seated lifestyle.

The Deadlift. Step up to a weighted barbell with shins nearly touching the bar and feet hip to shoulder width apart. Squat down toward the bar as you keep your heels firmly planted while maintaining a natural curve through your back. Grasp the bar slightly wider than shoulder width and tense your body. As you lift the weight, push your feet into the floor while exhaling. Be sure to keep the bar close to the body as you lift. Maintain your posture throughout the lift, keeping tension through your shoulder blades as you rise to the top position. Control the weight back down to the floor and repeat.

deadlift

 

Bent-Over Row. Grab a set of dumbbells and hold them at your sides with palms facing inward. With feet hip width apart, bend the knees slightly as you lean forward to about a 45 degree angle. Be sure to keep your posture while maintaining a tight core. Your body will stay in this position for the duration of the exercise. As you exhale, pull the dumbbells up and back while you bring your shoulder blades together. Your elbows should slide right past the sides of your body as you pull. Inhale as you extend your arms back to the starting position.

db-row

Reverse Cable Woodchop. Slide the handle on a cable resistance machine down to a setting just a few inches off the floor. Position your body perpendicular to the machine and set feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Drop down into a deadlift position, and with abs engaged, rotate your upper body away from the machine while you rise up to a standing position. Keep your arms fully extended and allow your hips and shoulders to rotate with the movement. Once you’re fully rotated and extended, control back down to your starting position.

r-cable-woodchop

So add these exercises to your routine to help strengthen the muscles that most likely need it.

Is Your Food Causing You Stress?

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Tired young businessman in office

When you hear the word stress, what comes to mind? Your commute to work, paying all the bills this month, or trying to function on four hours of sleep. We all have a good understanding of what stress feels like and where it comes from, and many of us even practice techniques to manage that stress.

Other types of stress may not be as apparent or we just don’t recognize the signs.

For example, food can act as either an ideal fuel for the body or a poison that should be avoided. When you eat certain foods, they may be causing stress within your body – also known as inflammation. Inflammation is our body’s response to illness, injury, or stress. Inflammation can actually be beneficial when it’s short term. Sprain an ankle and it will become inflamed to begin the healing process. But, if inflammation is long-term and systemic, it could lead to many diseases and health problems.

Diseases associated with long-term systemic inflammation include cancer, heart disease, arthritis, and many auto-immune diseases. So it would seem logical to try to minimize or at least control inflammation.

Taking control of systemic inflammation begins with the digestive system. Changing the types of foods you eat will have a dramatic effect on the health of your digestive tract. Cutting out processed foods, sugary foods, chemical laden foods, and trans fats is a good place to start. Adding healthy fats such as fish oil while limiting certain plant oils such as soybean oil may help balance out your Omega 3 to Omega 6 fat ratio. Omega 3 fatty acids have a natural anti-inflammatory effect while too much Omega 6 fatty acids can have an inflammatory effect when consumed.

“Healthy” foods could also be causing inflammation if your body can’t tolerate them. Common food allergies include gluten, dairy, eggs, corn, soy, and nuts. These allergens could be causing un-needed stress on the body every time they’re consumed by causing your immune system to react. It’s almost as if your body thinks you’re sick every time you eat an intolerable food. If you think you may have a food allergy or intolerance, talk to your doctor. By taking a sample of your blood, a lab can determine if you have reactions to certain foods.

Imagine living life in a constant state of inflammation fundamentally caused by the foods you’re eating. Your body would be constantly stressed out. To put that in perspective, just think if you were mentally stressed all the time. Life wouldn’t be much fun would it?

So give your body a break from this stress by choosing foods that produce benefit rather than harm. You’ll have less stress, more energy, and live a longer and healthier life.

A quote by Dr. Ann Wigmore sums it up best – “The food you eat can either be the safest and most powerful form of medicine, or the slowest form of poison.”

Still the Most Important Meal of the Day

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Corn Flakes

We’ve all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It seems like such a logical concept – wake up, feed your body, and get on with your day. But, many people ‘don’t have time’ or ‘just aren’t hungry’ and either skip breakfast altogether or grab less than desirable options.

Here are 5 great reasons to eat breakfast every day.

Control blood sugar levels. By the time morning rolls around, your body has been without food for several hours. Depending on the time of your last meal, your blood sugar levels are on the lower end of the optimal range and need replenished before you become too active. If you skip breakfast your blood sugar will drop below the desirable range and negatively affect your health. Eat something high in sugar and you may temporarily feel energized but crash later. Avoid both scenarios by eating a complete meal that contains lean protein, healthy fats, and a natural carbohydrate.

Support metabolism. If you’re running on fumes until lunchtime, your body will slow down its own metabolism to conserve energy. When you do finally eat, your body is more likely to store calories in an attempt to make it to the next meal. This will slow down your metabolism, negatively affect your body composition, and eventually lead to weight gain.

Stay healthy. A daily dose of breakfast increases the amount of nutrients available to your body. Remember, our bodies don’t thrive on calories alone, but on the nutrients that make up those calories. Studies have shown that non-breakfast eaters are more likely to be malnourished than regular breakfast eaters. A malnourished body is more prone to injury and disease.

Feel better. No one likes feeling hungry for extended periods of time. This is what your cells feel like when you skip breakfast. They’re hungry, tired, and not very happy. But, by eating a balanced breakfast, you’ll recharge your cells and improve your energy, mood, mental clarity, and productivity.

Take a break. Breakfast is a perfect opportunity to relax for a few minutes before starting your busy day. So many times breakfast gets neglected because it doesn’t seem important at the time, or you scarf something down on your morning commute. Use breakfast as a chance to slow down and take a moment to do something good for yourself.

So what should you eat for breakfast? First, get out of the mindset that you have to eat ‘breakfast foods.’ A bowl of cereal or a breakfast bar everyday might be convenient, but it’s just not an ideal food. A cup of coffee might give you a boost, but by itself, it’s only a false sense of energy. Think in terms of pairing up a protein, fat, and carbohydrate from natural foods. How about leftover chicken and vegetables from last night’s dinner or a 2 egg omelet with spinach, tomatoes, and mushrooms, or a smoothie consisting of a banana, kale, blueberries, protein powder, and a scoop of almond butter. Put together a list of different options that work for you.

So take advantage of the most important meal of the day and feel the benefits.

Does Fat Make You Fat?

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Health Nutrition: Longevity Food

Most everyone would agree that the word fat does not conjure up good thoughts. Dietary fat seems to be the bad macronutrient that many people try to avoid. But, is fat such a bad thing?

The food we eat can be classified into three macronutrients – protein, carbohydrates, and fat. Furthermore, fat can be classified as saturated, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and trans fats. The different classifications come down to the molecular makeup of the fats, but for this article we’ll address the most practical differences between these four types of fats.

Most fats are a combination of saturated, monounsaturated, and or polyunsaturated, but we’ll classify them based on their most abundant component. Saturated fats are typically solid at room temperature and include dairy products, animal fats, coconut products, and palm oil. Monounsaturated fats include olive oil, nuts, and avocado. Polyunsaturated fats come from vegetable oils such as soy, sunflower, and corn, as well as fish and fish oils. And finally, trans fats are not derived from natural foods but are instead man-made and found in many processed foods.

So, which fats are the best? This is where things can get complicated, but our recommendations are always based on eating as natural as possible. With that being said, let’s get rid of trans fats before we go any further. They are not a natural part of the human diet so we recommend avoiding them altogether. Polyunsaturated fats are also found in many processed foods, and we recommend limiting these types of fats, such as soy and corn oils. However, we do recommend adding fish to your diet on a weekly basis as a great source of polyunsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fats such as olive oil and avocados are recommended daily, as well as a moderate consumption of natural saturated fats such as coconut oil and organic pasture-raised meats that contain some animal fat.

It’s worth noting that fats have a higher calorie content than protein or carbohydrates, 9 calories per gram vs. 4 calories per gram, so it’s important to limit your fats to still fall within your daily caloric needs. We recommend getting up to 35% of your daily calories from healthy fat sources.

Why are fats so important? First off, fats are an essential nutrient for the metabolic processes of our bodies, such as our ability to absorb nutrients and metabolize energy. Healthy fats support brain, skin, and joint health as well. Including fat with your meals will help you stay satiated longer by helping to control abrupt changes in blood sugar levels which is key for long-term health and weight loss. A recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that eating medium chain triglycerides, such as coconut oil, before your workout will increase fat oxidation during the workout. This means that consuming healthy fats will actually help you burn more body fat as a fuel source, therefore improving your overall body composition.

So learn to see healthy fats as an integral part of your diet and you’ll be one step closer to overall wellness.

Do you Deadlift?

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Deadlift_1

When it comes to getting the most value from a particular exercise, there aren’t too many movements that can beat the deadlift. This total body exercise demands strength, power, cardiovascular efficiency, and postural control. When performed correctly, the deadlift works the entire posterior chain – including the hamstrings, glutes, low, mid and upper back, as well as muscles of the quads, core, shoulders, and arms.

The deadlift is great for total body strength and conditioning as well as improving your muscular and cardiovascular endurance. A set of deadlifts may leave you more winded than a 100 yard sprint and the muscle overload and fatigue will elicit gains in strength and muscle density.

To Perform

Step up to a weighted barbell with shins nearly touching the bar and feet hip-width apart. Squat down and lean toward the bar as you keep your heels firmly planted while maintaining a natural posture through the back. Grasp the bar slightly wider than shoulder width and tense your body. As you lift the weight, push your feet into the floor while exhaling. Be sure to keep the bar close to the body as you lift. Maintain your posture throughout the lift, keeping tension through your shoulder blades as you rise to the top position. Control the weight back down to the floor and repeat.

Mistakes to Avoid

The most common mistake with the dead lift is not getting the hips fully involved. If you are rounding forward over the top of the bar rather than squatting down to the bar, you are compromising your low back as well as missing out on all the benefits of efficient biomechanics. A forward rounded posture further accentuates common muscle imbalances, but proper form will help to improve these imbalances and minimize your chance for injury.

How to Incorporate

Include the deadlift in your weekly workouts by treating it as a total body exercise. If you’re doing a split routine, include it as either a leg or a back exercise. By sticking with light to moderate weights and high reps you will greatly improve your muscular endurance and cardiovascular efficiency, while heavier weights will help build muscle density and overall strength. Try light to moderate weights one week and perform higher reps (10-20), then follow it up the next week with a heavier load and less reps (3-8).

Once you realize all the benefits of the deadlift, you’ll be ready to include it in your weekly workouts.

 

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