Top 10 Natural Probiotics for a Healthy Gut and Strong Immunity

How often have you heard the expression “you are what you eat”?

This is partially true. However it goes deeper than this and I’d say that you are what you absorb. All the great food in the world doesn’t mean a lot if your body is not digesting and absorbing it properly. Today we’re looking at how important gut health is not only for digestion but your overall health and immunity, and what natural probiotics you can include in your diet to have a healthy gut.

Probiotics and your gut health

Your gut or microbiome, is a collection of bacteria that are critically important for how your body functions. The majority of the DNA in your body is actually taken up by these gut bugs and by definition, you are technically more bacteria than you are human. These gut bugs are keeping you alive along with protecting you against germs, breaking down food to release energy, making vitamins and even controlling your mood.

When the balance of good to bad bacteria gets out of whack, then you can be looking at issues like:

  • Constipation
  • Excess internal gas
  • Chronic diahrhhea
  • Bad breath
  • Bloating and cramping
  • Development of food intolerance

Your immune system will also be suppressed leading to easier sickness. Your gut balance can be thrown off by things like sugar, antibiotics, alcohol, lack of physical activity, smoking and not getting enough sleep among a bunch of other things.

So, how to improve your gut health? Probiotics can help.

Probiotics are live microorganisms that can improve your gut health when consumed in adequate amounts. There are a lot of different types and getting a wide range is very beneficial. They also promote a healthy digestive tract and immune system.

Top 10 Natural probiotics to include in your diet

Since you want as many good gut bacteria as possible, here are the best food sources to find them in:

1. Kombucha

Kombucha is a fermented beverage that is filled with probiotics. It’s made from sweetened black or green tea. Many brands now include other healthy ingredients in it such as ginger, chai, or a greens extract.

Kombucha is extremely popular right now and easy to find. It’s best to start with 4 oz a day and can be consumed on an empty stomach in the morning or at any other points in the day.

2. Kefir

Kefir is similar to kombucha in which it’s a fermented beverage but this time coming from milk. This does sound a bit weird but is very healthy. It’s made with ‘kefir grains’ which are strains of bacteria that give the milk its probiotic content and gives a light carbonation. It’s also full of a ton of nutrients, protein and looks to be a better probiotic source than yogurt.

You can use it as a marinade, salad dressing and even in baking.

3. Pickles

Yep, the Snooki favorite! You’re looking at cucumbers that get pickled in salt and water and left to ferment using their own lactic acid bacteria. Pickles made with vinegar don’t contain probiotics but traditional pickles do. They will also give you Vitamin K and are low in calories. Remember not to go with the deep fried variety though.

4. Miso

The Japanese sesasoning is made by fermenting soybeans with salt and a fungus called koji. It’s turned into a paste and is popular for use in soups. Besides probiotics, miso is a good source of protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients.

5. Yogurt

This is probably the main go-to food choice for probiotics but you want to be sure of a few things first.

Many commercial varieties of yogurt are more deserts than a health food especially the ‘fruit on the bottom’ types. Most of these colorfully packaged yogurts contain so much sugar that you’re probably taking a few steps backward.

Go for natural, unflavored and make sure that it says on the package what it contains. If the package doesn’t indicate clearly its nutrients and ingredients, there’s a good chance that a lot of the good bacteria was destroyed during processing.

6. Sauerkraut

Don’t wait for Oktoberfest and a beer stein the size of a Buick, sauerkraut is good all the time! Similar to pickles, sauerkraut is shredded cabbage that is fermented by lactic acid and bacteria. It’s easy to make and can last for months in the fridge.

Along with probiotics, it contains vitamin C, vitamin B and antioxidants. It’s easy to use on said sausages or hot dogs, can be a side dish, in sandwiches and even in stews. (And no a hot dog is NOT a sandwich.)

7. Kimchi

Kimchi is like the Korean sauerkraut. It’s made from cabbage but can also include other vegetables and is seasoned with things like garlic, red chili flakes, ginger and salt etc. The lactic acid bacteria in kimchi helps make it great for digestion and contains vitamins, minerals and iron.

8. Dark chocolate

Yes, this is actually a probiotic source. Dark chocolate contains fiber and your gut bacteria is able to break down and ferment this and other compounds and also creates anti-inflammatory effects that boost your health.

You want to make sure that you’re consuming dark chocolate that has at least 70% cacao in it and not a Toblerone that’s the size of your head. A square or two a day can provide you with some great health benefits.

9. Green olives

Salt water brined olives undergo a natural fermentation. Since olives contain lactic acid bacteria, this helps give them a good probiotic content. There are two different strains of live cultures associated with olives that are helpful to combat bloating and helpful for people with irritable bowel syndrome. (And no it’s doesn’t count if you get your olive content from happy hour martinis!)

10. Tempeh

Tempeh is a fermented soy product that is made with a yeast starter which gives it a bit more of a meaty, tender bite to it. It’s why you find vegan meat and bacon alternatives made from it. It’s a great probiotic source that is very versatile to use but also contains a lot of protein. In a 3-ounce serving, you’ll get around 16 grams of protein.

Wrapping it up

We are learning more and more about how important it is to keep our microbiome as healthy as possible. Luckily it’s not hard to include great sources of probiotics that can help boost your gut health and with that your overall health with it.

Try the above suggested natural probiotics, include them in your daily meals and you’ll gradually see improvement in your gut health!

Featured photo credit: Pixabay via pixabay.com

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How I Lose Weight, Get to 9% Body Fat and Build Muscles with Vegan Diet

Wouldn’t it be great if you could finally lose weight or build muscle in a sustainable way? If this sounds far reaching to you, hear me out.

As a manager of a fitness center with over thousand members, hundreds of coaching hours delivered and with a well-built physique myself – I feel qualified to write about such topic.

I’ve came up with a unique approach to build muscle and lose weight in a sustainable way — a vegan diet for weight loss.

How I lost weight fast with the 50-Fiber Formula

Losing fat never came easy to me. On my quest to get a sixpack, I’ve tried out countless of methods. But there are two diets that were the most remarkable on my journeys:

Before I used the 50-Fiber Formula

I remember doing a diet with no previous experience nor knowledge about weight loss. It was my first dieting attempt, a no-carb diet (carbohydrates were less than 10grams!).

During the first weeks of the diet, I had absolutely no energy. I remember training in the gym and feeling gassed-out after the warm-up. People asked me if I was being sick.

Although I was losing weight – which turned out to be mostly water – I felt horrible. Dieting was not fun, exercising was not fun and I had to search for a reason to wake up in the morning. I stopped the diet after 2 weeks.

Yet, what I liked about this diet, was the focus on one metric — keeping my carbohydrates under 10 grams a day and tracking that rigorously made it (next to the side effects talked previously) rewarding to follow a diet.

Some time later, I tried another diet and it turned out to be more successful.

My goal was to get to a one-digit body fat percentage. While working in the fitness industry for about a year at that time and training for more than 3 years, I got the necessary knowledge to at least do a successful diet.

This time I wanted to be completely sure and learn from my mistakes: I tracked my entire calorie intake, every single thing that I ate and I planned at least 2 months to fully do the diet.

I indeed reached a one-digit body fat percentage, yet the effort I put into this diet was not worth the results. I dealt with a lot of cravings and one time ate a huge cheat meal of nearly 2,000 calories where I nearly puked afterwards.

How I created the 50-Fiber Formula

I concluded: This worked but was not the best approach. Yet I liked that I was seeing results in the gym. People noticed and told me that I was a ‘shredded beast’.

The experience of those 2 diets, plus me working with hundreds of clients led me to conclude that there had to be a different way. I realized that the combination of those two diet attempts would be the most sustainable and effective approach to weight loss.

The rewarding and simple method of the first diet focusing on one metric and the tangible results of the second diet inspired me to create a system that would make weight loss as simple and as effective as possible. Born was the 50-Fiber Formula.

Perks of the 50-Fiber Formula

With the 50-Fiber Formula diet, you will experience plenty of benefits that no other diets can give:

A simpler focus

You simply focus on eating 50 grams of high-quality fiber every single day. I realized that it was much easier to lose weight when you focus on what you can eat instead of what you can’t. This creates a mindset of abundance instead of scarcity. This makes dieting sustainable.

A healthier diet

Not only that, but this diet can actually be healthy. The two components that mostly differentiate healthy foods and unhealthy ones, are: Micronutrients (especially antioxidants) and Fiber.

Micronutrients are harder to quantify (as they usually work synergistically) and are more often than not synthetically added to a product. This makes it especially hard to track.

Your fiber intake, on the other hand, is easier to track and nonetheless very important in weight loss and a healthy diet.[1] The average American eats about 15g of fiber a day.[2] This is only about the half of the recommended intake.[3]

Fiber is the component in a food that plays a key role in satiety and is thought to play a factor in weight regulation.[4]

Help you save money

Eating fiber is so important that we could save 12.7+ billion dollars a year by reducing the medical costs of treating constipation alone.[5] So following the 50-Fiber Formula daily can therefore also save you money.

Get you to eat more healthy foods

Fiber has been shown to change your microbiome.[6] Your microbiome heavily influences your cravings.

The microbiome, meaning the good or bad bacteria in your body, lives off fiber. For a long time, people thought fiber was a waste product of our nutrition but just recently we realized that it serves as the building block for our helpful gut bacteria.

The more fiber you eat, the more healthy foods you will crave. Eating more fiber will leave you in a positive spiral to a healthier and fitter you. Who thought that getting fit can be so easy as to eat 50 grams of fiber every single day?

3 Immutable rules to consider in the diet

To make your attempt to lose weight as effective and easy as possible, we also have to know what not to do. Or as Steve Jobs said:

Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do.  — Steve Jobs

#1 Your meals shall be solid

Don’t eat blended meals unless you have to. This means avoid smoothies or meal replacement shakes.

A key aspect of how fiber works its wonder is by increasing your chewing time. Chewing is correlated with your perceived satiety.

Fun fact: Enforced chewing can decrease the enjoyment of your meal![7]

#2 No soft drinks

This is similar to rule #1. Calories should always come in solid form.

You can drink 5 apple juices and feel little to no satiety. But you cannot eat 10 apples (same caloric intake) and feel absolutely full.

Focusing on wholesome foods will leave you satiated and makes your diet sustainable.

#3 Keep it unprocessed

Your dietary fiber intake should come from natural and unprocessed sources.

Eating fiber-fortified foods is cheating, swallowing fiber pills too. The beneficial effects of fiber are mainly shown in the intake of natural foods.[8] Do yourself and your diet success a favor and focus on unprocessed foods.

50-Fiber Formula — The step-by-step guide

You will learn in this phase how you can implement the 50-Fiber Formula in a step-by-step process. All the steps are as simple as possible. Remember: If you need help, hire a professional coach.

1. Search for foods that are high in fiber

The first step that you can do to a slimmer waistline and a healthier lifestyle is to simply 1. Open a new tab. 2. Go on Google and 3. Search for foods that are high in fiber.

These foods should follow the 5 to 1 fiber rule. For every 5 grams of carbohydrates they should contain 1 gram of fiber.

Add the ones to your diet that you like the most and buy them in bulk. If you don’t like any of these foods, try each of them out and see which resonates with you the most. But also know that your taste buds can change.

2. Analyze your current fiber intake

The RDA for fiber is 25 to 30 grams of fiber a day. Studies from the fossils of feces of our hunter and gatherer ancestors show that they have sometimes consumed more than 100 grams of fiber in a single day.[9]

In this step, which is still preparation, you write down what you eat in a single day and then search how much fiber you approximately eat during that period. This way you know how long your journey will be in the first place.

3. Increase your fiber intake by 5g every second day

A key aspect in a successful diet is sustainability. The only way your diet can be sustainable is by focusing on slow, long-lasting change.

Instead of eating 50 grams of fiber starting from today, focus on making a habit of eating healthy. Starting slowly makes your body able to adapt to the changed, healthier nutrition.

4. Get to 50 grams of fiber a day

The ultimate goal of the 50-Fiber Formula is to eat 50 grams of fiber every single day.

This makes sure that 1. you’re on the right path and 2. you get a small win every single day. Often people get caught up trying to lose a huge amount of fat. They see the destination but can’t grasp the journey. This formula allows you to simply focus on the next step in front of you.

The sustainable choice — vegan diet for weight loss

The 50-Fiber Formula allows you to lose weight in a sustainable way.

In comparison to other diet trends, it emphasizes subjective well-being, consistency and health – all important pillars regarding your diet success.

Make sure you follow the 3 immutable rules to achieve your tangible success. Consume your meals in solid forms, avoid soft drinks and keep it unprocessed.

Don’t get caught up in the big picture. Focus on the next step ahead of you.

Featured photo credit: QualityGains.com via qualitygains.com

Reference

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Muscle Building Diet: How to Eat to Lose Fat and Build Lean Muscle

When I graduated college, the freshman 15 that happens to so many graduates skipped me. I could still fit into my high school clothes and I was proud I didn’t put on extra weight.

But there was one problem about my body that I was unhappy with, I looked dreadfully skinny in my pictures. My sister said my body looked really gangly, a very unflattering term I hated since I already thought my arms was excessively long and skinny like a monkey.

I longed to fill out my jeans and have more definition in the arms so I started lifting weights but didn’t pay attention to my diet or to what I ate because I ate healthy. I had three well balanced meals a day based on my Asian culture: a bowl of rice, little bit of protein and lots of vegetables.

After a few years of lifting, I compared my side by side pictures of before and after and I was shocked. I looked almost exactly the same as if I never lifted weights! It was a sad wake up moment that triggered me to hire a strength coach to help me out. He completely revamped my diet and helped me put on pounds of muscles in a short period of time.

In this article I will share with you what I learned about the muscle building diet to build lean muscle while shedding fat.

A muscle building diet and workout

What do you think is more important to building a body you want, your diet or your workouts?

Many say it’s 80% diet and 20% working out. As an experienced personal trainer, I say it’s 100% each. To get the results you want, your diet must align with your workouts.

You cannot expect to get great results if you train hard in the gym but eat like crap. A bad diet will translate into a sub-par workout which will not give you the energy and intensity you need to get results. By eating a healthy diet, you can train hard in the gym and recover properly to build muscles.

Likewise, you can eat 100% clean and healthy but if you’re not training in the gym multiple times a week with enough intensity, then you won’t be stressing your muscles enough to get them to grow.

So diet and training are equally important for optimal muscle growth and fat loss.

Your calorie intake

The holy grail of body transformation is to be able to lose fat and build muscle at the same time. We are inspired by those amazing transformations we see on the internet and we think everyone achieved their results by transforming a fat cell into a muscle cell.

Successful body transformations start with understanding a little bit about how your body works.

For fat loss to occur, you must burn more calories than you eat. When your fat cells start shrinking, your body will metabolize the excess fat leaving you reduced body fat.

Building muscle happens when you eat excess calories. The extra calories will help to increase the size of your muscle fibers so that you gradually get stronger and increase your overall metabolism.

You may be asking how are you supposed to lose fat and build lean muscles at the same time? The honest truth is you cannot. They are opposing metabolic processes.

If you want to lose fat and build lean muscles, pick out which one start out with. My recommendation is that if you’re a woman with more than 30% body fat or a man with more than 20% body fat, your first goal should be lose fat.

Having a layer of fat will often times mask the muscle gains you reap from the gym. It’ll look like as if you’re just getting bigger and softer rather than leaner and more defined as you add muscle to your frame.

In addition, as you eat in caloric surplus to build muscle, you will inevitably also put on some fat. It’s just the nature of building muscles unless you are extremely meticulous about your calories.

To lose fat, calculate how many calories your body is burning and cut out between 10-15% of the calories so you start the fat loss process.

To build muscles, add an additional 10-15% of the calories of your current caloric burn to your diet. Monitor your weight and body fat to ensure you’re not packing on too much fat during this period.

Protein – your muscle building macronutrient

This missing macronutrient in my diet was the reason for my lack of results.

At the time, I didn’t understand the importance of protein till my strength coach had me eating 175 grams of protein every day in the last phase of my transformation. It was a huge struggle eating that much protein primarily because I ate so little of it in my meals. I had to really focus on planning my meals to meet those requirements every day.

In the long run, increasing my protein consumption paid off because I dropped from 30% body fat to 22% in a matter of months without starving or being hungry.

Adding more protein in your diet can benefit you in multiple ways as listed below:

  • Increase satiety. A big reason why people fall off the diet wagon and quit their diets is because they’re hungry ALL THE TIME. With food restrictions and calorie restrictions, the mentality of feeling deprived every day leads to an increase in hunger. Adding a substantial amount of protein to every meal will leave you feeling satisfied and keep hunger at bay.
  • Boost your metabolism. Yes, you read that right! Out of all three macronutrients — protein, fat and carbs, protein has the highest thermogenic effect. Everything you eat takes energy to digest, store and absorb the nutrients, and discard whatever is left. The digestion of protein takes the most energy out of all three, so about 30% of the protein you eat gets burned off in the digestion process. How awesome is that?
  • Build and retain muscle mass. Muscle itself is metabolically expensive to maintain. It costs a lot of energy and calories not just to build muscle but also to maintain it because it’s active tissue. Protein is a macronutrient that your body cannot store. This is why it is vital that you eat protein around the clock to support muscle growth and repair. Without protein, your body will be unable to build new muscles that you are breaking down in the gym.

How much protein should you eat?

The recommended dietary requirements (RDA) for protein is at a modest 0.8 g/kg of bodyweight per day. This means if you weigh 130lbs, it would translate to eating a minimum of 47g of protein or about a 2 small chicken breasts a day.

This RDA requirement is the bare minimum of protein consumption and is based on the average sedentary individual. If you don’t exercise and sit for 8+ hours a day, then the RDA recommendation is perfect for you and there’s no reason why you need to eat more protein.

I have found from training clients that a higher protein intake translates to faster fat loss and a higher metabolism versus a lower protein intake even if you don’t strength train. Just by adding more protein to your diet causes you to eat less which results in weight loss.

For building muscle and fat loss, I would recommend about 40% of your total calories come from protein or about 1 gram of protein per bodyweight in pounds.

If you are new to eating that much protein, start by adding about 25 to 30 grams of protein per meal and work yourself up to including protein snacks or even proteins shakes to meet your daily requirements outside of your meals.

What are good sources of protein?

You can start making a dent in your protein intake by eating a big breakfast. Most people eat lots of carbs for breakfast like oatmeal, a bagel, a smoothie or a muffin of some sort and find themselves hungry well before lunch.

Instead, swap out your breakfast with high protein choices like whole eggs, Greek yogurt, smoked salmon or throw in a scoop of protein powder in your smoothie or oatmeal.

Animal protein sources are complete protein sources and will be the best quality protein for your diet because they contain high sources of lysine which is the essential amino acid to build muscles. Make sure to get your protein from different sources so you’re getting different micronutrients and minerals.

For someone who is vegan or lean towards the more vegetarian diet, there are still plenty of options but it will be more challenging because most plants are not complete sources of protein. Soy and its products like tofu, tempeh and edamame are examples of a complete plant protein. Other examples of vegetarian sources of protein are quinoa, beans and nuts. Again, you want to vary your sources of protein so you get different vitamins and minerals from your food.

To supplement or not to supplement?

The most popular question that comes up when people think of building muscles is what type of protein supplement to buy.

My recommendation is to try your best to get protein from food sources first because they are a natural source of amino acids, minerals and micronutrients. Eating the protein versus drinking the protein will help to keep you full longer because your body needs to break down the food versus a protein shake just passes through.

But there are times where you’re on the go and you simply do not have time to sit down and eat. In that case, a protein shake would be a good option.

Do your research on a protein supplement before you buy so you get the best one for your needs. Below are recommendations of what you should look for in a healthy and clean protein powder:

1. It is 3rd party inspected.

The first thing you should research is to check if the protein supplement you are considering has been inspected by an independent third party company. This will tell you if the protein per serving on the nutrition label is accurate.

At the same time the inspection will also check for contaminants and heavy metals that could be present and harmful to your health.

2. Amount of protein (g) per serving is close serving size (g).

You also want to make sure that you’re paying for a protein supplement and not a meal replacement that is full of carbs and minimal protein. You can check by looking at the nutrition label.

Often times the grams in a serving size are much bigger than the grams of protein in the serving size. This happens when there is excess filler in the form of coloring, flavors and sugar additives.

For example, one serving may be 30 grams but in it only has 23 grams of protein with the other 7 grams of miscellaneous filler. This means with each scoop of protein powder, 25% of your money is going towards paying for filler ingredients.

It’s also important that you want to make sure a serving size actually has a gram amount listed, otherwise you will have no idea how much protein you’re drinking in each serving which is deceptive marketing.

3. Very minimal to no fillers.

Extracting pure quality protein is an expensive process. To reduce costs, companies will add fillers such as natural and artificial flavors, artificial sweeteners and other components to make the powder mix nicely with whatever you blend it with.

If you’re consuming a protein shake or two everyday, it also means you’re drinking these artificial fillers which are unhealthy for you and do nothing to benefit your muscles. Do your best to look for a high quality protein and use your dollars to pay for protein versus fillers and flavoring.

Summing it up

Body transformation journeys are exciting life changing moments to really showcase your health and body potential. They are wonderful challenging moments that bring out the best in you.

Pairing the right workout with a healthy diet and macronutrient ratios will help you get results in a shorter time.

By following the recommendations in this article, you will be well on your way to building muscles and losing fat.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

The post Muscle Building Diet: How to Eat to Lose Fat and Build Lean Muscle appeared first on Lifehack.

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15 Benefits of Probiotics (And How to Find One That Actually Suits You)

We all know probiotics from yogurt commercials and packaging. We’ve heard it’s good for digestion. We might have complained to a friend about bloating and gotten her wide-eyed recommendation, “Oh, you should try taking probiotics!” Beyond that, what do probiotics really do for us? How much should we get? Is yogurt the only way to get them?

Let’s talk about what probiotics actually are, what benefits they might give us, and how to choose the right one for you and your family.

What are probiotics?

Probiotics are bacteria that live in your digestive tract that are good for your health.

Your digestive tract is home to a large population of various types of bacteria and yeasts, each with their own function. The community of various microbiota is sometimes called your gut flora. This community works well together when all of the strains of bacteria and yeasts are in balance.

If the population of good bacteria gets too low, the bad forms of bacteria and yeasts in your digestive tract can multiply unchecked, just like weeds taking over a yard.

There’s also something called prebiotics, which are types of non-digestible fibers and resistant starches that feed the good bacteria. Prebiotics are food for the probiotics and help them flourish. It happens that most prebiotic foods are ones that are super healthy for you in general – like garlic, asparagus, wheat bran and bananas – so they’re a win-win.

15 benefits of probiotics that you didn’t know

1. Balance digestive flora

The main benefit of probiotics is in keeping the population of good bacterias in balance so that the bad bacterias and yeasts don’t take over.

Your levels of good flora can be decreased because of antibiotics, stress, antibacterial soaps or hand washes, chlorinated drinking water, foods treated with pesticides and herbicides, colonoscopies or colonics (colon hydrotherapy), or having surgery, radiation or chemotherapy.

Those are times when it’s important to take a probiotic supplement to repopulate your digestive tract with the good bacteria that keep you healthy.

2. Help relieve infectious diarrhea

If you find yourself with a sudden onset of diarrhea (any time it’s brought on by a virus, bacteria or parasite), get yourself some probiotics. They’ve been shown to reduce the severity and duration of infectious diarrhea. For anyone who has experienced it, every minute you could reduce this experience by is worth its weight in gold.[1]

3. Prevent antibiotic-related diarrhea

After a course of antibiotics, a common reaction is diarrhea. Studies show that taking probiotics directly after can reduce the chances. This makes sense as the probiotics will help repopulate your digestive tract with the good bacteria that promote healthy digestion before the bad bacteria have a chance to flourish.[2]

4. Alleviate symptoms of ulcerative colitis

Since the benefits of probiotics are primarily in digestive health, there’s been research on how they can impact various types of inflammatory bowel disease. So far, they’ve seen a positive effect on symptoms of ulcerative colitis.[3]

5. Ease bloating and gas in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

There’s also been some research into the benefits of probiotics on irritable bowel syndrome. Again, some of the symptoms (bloating and gas in particular) seem to ease when taking probiotics. This seems promising and hopefully there will be more studies to find out which have the most effects to provide relief.[4]

6. Prevent urinary tract infections

A study on urinary tract infections found that women taking a supplement of Lactobacillus crispatus daily for 5 days, then weekly for 10 weeks, had a lower rate of getting a recurrent UTI in that time.[5]

7. Produce vitamins

The bacteria in your gut have a role in creating certain vitamins like vitamin K and some of the B vitamins.[6]

8. Reduce inflammation

Inflammation is the root cause of lots of different diseases, allergic reactions and immune response as well as linked to obesity and metabolic syndrome.

As probiotics are studied for their health benefits, researchers are also looking for the way in which they help us. One of those seems to be in reducing inflammation, by reducing the cause or reaction that triggers inflammation in several ways.[7]

9. Help with lactose tolerance

Lactose intolerance is very common because so many of us stop producing the enzyme lactase that we would need to break down the lactose in milk and dairy products. The probiotics in fermented diary products like yogurt break down lactose before it reaches our colon – and the bacteria used to make yogurt help us digest lactose better.[8]

Probiotics might also reduce the allergic reaction to dairy in adults but studies haven’t shown for sure yet.

10. Enhance the immune function

Getting the right community of microbes in our gut is an important part of early development for infants. It also affects the proper development of their immune system.[9]

For adults, probiotics can boost the function of your immune system by promoting the production of natural antibodies and stimulating activity of certain immune cells like dendritic cells and T-cells.[10]

11. Help regulate the blood pressure

Probiotics are being studied for their effect on heart health and might have some impact in lowering blood pressure. So far they’ve only found a slight effect though.[11]

12. Lower the blood cholesterol

Probiotics seem to have some beneficial effects on blood cholesterol as well, specifically lowering total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol.[12]

13. Promote skin health (get rid of acne, rosacea and eczema)

There’s been some research showing the benefits of probiotics for acne, rosacea and eczema. Study also shows that probiotic supplements (of Lactobacillus GG) by mothers prenatally, and then by infants for 6 months after birth, can reduce the child’s chances of developing eczema.[13]

14. Reduce anxiety and depression

The benefits of probiotics may extend to anxiety and depression by reducing those symptoms of stress.[14] Any mental health issues should of course be treated primarily by a qualified professional, but probiotics may add a risk-free addition to a whole life approach to stress management.

15. Prevent allergy development

Probiotics could be helpful in preventing the development of allergies in children, especially if the mother takes probiotics during pregnancy.[15]

Note:

The research into the benefits of probiotics is fairly new, so there isn’t a lot of conclusive evidence yet. But what has been done is promising so far. Many of the results seem to depend on which strain of probiotic is helpful for specific health issues, so there’s a lot of potential to find new results.

Hopefully the more they find, the more research will be done in future to help us understand all the ways in which probiotics keep us healthy.

How to find the probiotics that are suitable for you

Most people think of yogurt when they think of getting probiotics, and there are some excellent non-dairy yogurts that are made with properly cultured probiotics. You could also try kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi and other naturally-fermented foods.

One thing to watch out for is that many yogurts (especially the dairy ones) that are sold commercially need to be pasteurized, which involves heat that will often kill the probiotic bacteria. Look on the package to see whether the yogurt has been pasteurized or not.

There are also probiotic supplements that are wonderful for getting a more concentrated source of probiotics. You’ll want to take a dose of 1 billion or more per day, and the exact strains aren’t as important as having a variety of strains. There are even gummy versions for kids, or anyone who doesn’t like taking capsules.

Although probiotics are most often associated with dairy products, there are plenty of vegan probiotic supplements and non-dairy products. Probiotics are bacteria which feed and grow on sugars, and there’s no need for any animal products in their life cycle.

Most people don’t need to take probiotic supplements every day indefinitely, think of them as a boost every so often. If you notice that your digestion is off or if you had to take a course of antibiotics, take them for a few weeks until your digestion is normal, and then take a break.

Although most supplements are best taken with food for proper absorption, probiotic supplements are best taken on an empty stomach so that the probiotics can get in your digestive system quickly. The best time is first thing in the morning, before having breakfast.

Probiotics recommendations

Some high quality and effective probiotic supplements to try:

The bottom line

Probiotics have a lot of potential benefits, from improving digestion to heart health to immune function. While some of the benefits listed here may not be fully researched yet, what we do know is that probiotics are generally safe and have no side effects for most people. If they can’t hurt, why not give them a try?

Probiotics should always be thought of as a complementary supplement to your regular health care, and of course never go against professional medical advice. Before taking any supplement, you should always consult with your medical doctor.

Featured photo credit: Pixabay via pixabay.com

Reference

[1] NCBI: Probiotics for treating acute infectious diarrhoea.
[2] NCBI: Probiotics for the prevention of pediatric antibiotic-associated diarrhea.
[3] NCBI: The role of probiotic lactic acid bacteria and bifidobacteria in the prevention and treatment of inflammatory bowel disease and other related diseases: a systematic review of randomized human clinical trials.
[4] NCBI: The efficacy of probiotics in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome: a systematic review.
[5] NCBI: Randomized, placebo-controlled phase 2 trial of a Lactobacillus crispatus probiotic given intravaginally for prevention of recurrent urinary tract infection.
[6] NCBI: Randomized, placebo-controlled phase 2 trial of a Lactobacillus crispatus probiotic given intravaginally for prevention of recurrent urinary tract infection.
[7] NCBI: Gut Microbiota-Derived Short-Chain Fatty Acids, T Cells, and Inflammation
[8] NCBI: Probiotic bacteria down-regulate the milk-induced inflammatory response in milk-hypersensitive subjects but have an immunostimulatory effect in healthy subjects.
[9] NCBI: Importance of microbial colonization of the gut in early life to the development of immunity.
[10] NCBI: Gut Microbiota-Derived Short-Chain Fatty Acids, T Cells, and Inflammation
[11] NCBI: Effect of probiotics on blood pressure: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized, controlled trials.
[12] NCBI: Cholesterol-lowering probiotics as potential biotherapeutics for metabolic diseases.
[13] Science Direct: Probiotics and prebiotics in dermatology
[14] NCBI: The effects of probiotics on mental health and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in petrochemical workers.
[15] NCBI: Probiotics for Prevention of Atopy and Food Hypersensitivity in Early Childhood: A PRISMA-Compliant Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials.

The post 15 Benefits of Probiotics (And How to Find One That Actually Suits You) appeared first on Lifehack.

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25 Tasty and Healthy Kids’ Lunch Ideas for Home or School

If your kids are picky eaters, you know that every meal can be a battle. Their growing bodies are in need of vitamins and nutrients, yet all they crave are unhealthy foods with no nutritional content. What you need are creative meal ideas they can eat for lunch at home or at school, designed to appeal to their palate.

The recipes listed here contain lots of vegetables, minimal or no processed ingredients, and most importantly, flavors that even the pickiest kids will love! The ingredients for each meal are listed below. Click on the name of the dish to see the full recipe!

Finger Foods

1. Asian-Style Fish Cakes with Sweet Chili Dipping Sauce

Do you have a finicky eater that refuses to eat fish? This is a great way to make this omega-3 fatty acid rich protein appealing and fun to eat. And it’s much better for you than frozen fish sticks.

Just so you know, these fish cakes freeze amazingly well! To save time, make a big batch and freeze them for whenever you need a quick meal or snack.

View recipe here.

2. Chicken Zucchini Poppers

Some kids don’t like the texture of zucchini, but in this recipe, they add moisture and the zucchini is barely detectable. Make sure to squeeze out the excess water in the zucchini so that the poppers stay together and don’t fall apart. They can be pan-fried or baked! The poppers pair perfectly with the citrus avocado dressing.

View recipe here.

3. Baked Crispy Chicken Fingers with Apple Fries

If your kid asks for chicken fingers, you don’t have to say no. This version is made with white meat chicken and baked. Substituting fries with apple fries makes this an appetizing lunch that both you and your kids will approve of. Turkey breast can be used instead of chicken.

View recipe here.

4. Broccoli and Cheese Nuggets (Vegetarian)

Broccoli is notorious for being a hard sell. Who knows why kids don’t like eating these miniature trees? But when mixed with cheese and formed into a fun shape for easy dipping, kids may give these broccoli-filled nuggets another try. Another positive is that they are baked, not fried.

View recipe here.

The Salad Bar

5. Chicken Taco Salad

Kids love tacos, so why not make them a healthy taco salad? This one is packed full of leafy greens, tomatoes, corn, avocado and grilled chicken. Adding crushed chips on top gives it the perfect amount of texture and appeal for your young kids to enjoy without a single complaint.

View recipe here.

6. Chicken Salad with Grapes

A colorful chicken salad with crunchy roasted nuts, dried cherries, grapes and celery, it can be served alone, in a sandwich, or on a bed of lettuce. Apples can be used in place of the cherries or in addition. Greek yogurt can also be used in place of the mayonnaise to up the healthy factor even more!

View recipe here.

7. Salad Stuffed Pepper Bowls with Creamy Avocado Dressing (Vegan)

As many of you moms know, a huge part of the appeal of a meal is the presentation. These pepper bowls are such a clever idea for a kid-friendly lunch. The salad AND bowl are made from a plethora of colorful, nutritious veggies. How often do you get to tell your kids to eat their bowl? You can add a protein to the salad if you prefer, such as grilled chicken.

View recipe here.

Soup of the Day

8. Vegan Chili

This vegan chili recipe contains primarily of vegetables and beans, making it very healthy and filling. Making a flavorful and rich tasting chili doesn’t have to take all day. By blending a small portion and adding it back in, the chili will be thick and satisfying, and no one will be able to taste the difference! Make a big batch because the leftovers keep very well.

View recipe here.

9. Chicken Pot Pie Soup

Get all the flavors of chicken pot pie in half the time with this chicken pot pie soup recipe. This is such a comfort food, but also contains a lot of nutritionally dense ingredients, such as carrots, celery, peas, corn and green beans. The crust and filling are cooked separately, which is a major time saver for busy moms.

View recipe here.

10. Slow Cooker Taco Soup

Another spin on the beloved taco, a fan favorite of young kids. This recipe is slow cooker friendly, so you can prep all of the ingredients in the morning, throw it in the slow cooker and come back to a house smelling of aromatic taco soup. Serve with tortilla chips or over a baked potato.

View recipe here.

Oodles of Noodles

11. Baked Eggplant Parmesan Penne

Swap out typical Chicken Parmesan with healthier but just as tasty eggplant, which is sauteed instead of deep fried. But you don’t have to sacrifice the crunch from the breading by adding panko on top. You can also use whole wheat pasta to cut calories and add fiber, minerals, and protein.

View recipe here.

12. Roasted Chicken and Tomato Pesto Spaghetti Florentine

This recipe incorporates roasted grape tomatoes, baby spinach leaves and rotisserie chicken breast for a light and easy lunchtime pasta. You can make your own homemade pesto if you have the ingredients on hand. Store-bought also works just as well.

View recipe here.

13. Thai Noodle Salad (Vegan)

Filling your meals with plants of different colors will ensure that you are getting all of the vitamins and minerals you need. This recipe alone covers four colors! You can use any type of noodle (wheat, rice, soba, etc.) to make this dish, and customize the veggies to your heart’s content.

View recipe here.

14. Southwest Pasta Salad (Vegetarian)

This pasta salad is bursting with flavor — with tons of spices, lime juice and chipotle peppers. Don’t worry about making too much because the leftovers will be even more flavorful, after marinating in all of the seasonings overnight. And there is no heating needed! Use a lentil and quinoa pasta to make this dish gluten free.

View recipe here.

15. Avocado Hummus Pasta (Vegan)

This recipe is one that I created when I had no clue what to do with the vegetables, ripe avocados and leftover hummus I had to use up in my fridge. The textures and flavors of each ingredient somehow just works magically together. The creaminess from the avocado and hummus ties it all together. This accidental discovery is a huge hit with my husband and son!

Prep Time: 20 mins

Cook Time: 10 mins

Total Time: 30 mins

A 30-minute creamy vegan pasta loaded with veggies and tossed in a creamy sauce made from ripe avocados and hummus.

Serves: 6

Ingredients

  • 1 lb rotini pasta (substitute as needed)
  • 3 tsp olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 16 oz white button or baby bella mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 bunch asparagus, chopped
  • 8 oz sugar snap peas
  • 1 cup frozen or fresh spinach, chopped
  • 1 large cucumber, chopped
  • 3 oz sun-dried tomatoes, julienned
  • 2-3 ripe avocados, chunks
  • 10 oz hummus, any flavor
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • salt, pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Cook noodles according to package instructions, drain, and set aside.
  2. Chop veggies and set aside.
  3. Add olive oil to a large saucepan. Saute minced garlic until aromatic. Add mushrooms, asparagus, cucumber, spinach, and sun-dried tomatoes. Saute until tender.
  4. Add pasta, avocado, and hummus to the pan and mix gently.
  5. Add garlic powder, salt, and pepper.
  6. Serve warm. Store leftovers in the fridge for a few days.

Some Assembly Required

16. French Bread Pizza

This is one of the most versatile recipes I’ve ever come across. Not only can you completely customize the toppings on the pizza, you don’t even have to use French bread. Deli rolls, Italian rolls or hoagie rolls work just as well! The possibilities of toppings that you can add are endless. Have your kids customize their own individual pizzas with their favorite toppings to ensure they will create a meal they love.

View recipe here.

17. Rainbow Pizza

Look at the colors on this pizza! Not only is this pizza visually appealing, it’s also extremely healthy and delicious. The combination of bell peppers, broccoli, red cabbage and beets add a variety of complementary textures and flavors to this creative pizza recipe.

View recipe here.

18. Asian Lettuce Wraps

Chicken lettuce wraps are a crowd-pleaser at P.F. Chang’s, but there’s no reason you can’t make a just as good if not better version at home. Requiring only 15 minutes, these lettuce wraps are scrumptious and fun to eat. Your kids will love assembling their own lettuce wraps and devouring this healthy lunch.

View recipe here.

19. Fish Tacos

Another way to get kids to eat fish is to serve them into tacos! These flaky pieces of fish are topped with a tangy, crunchy slaw loaded with veggies. The fish can be pan-fried or grilled and served in a flour or corn tortilla. Your kids will be requesting this dish over and over again.

View recipe here.

20. Skirt Steak Fajitas

This tortilla friendly recipe that incorporates skirt steak, onions and bell peppers has decided to go the fajita route. All of these ingredients can be combined on one baking sheet. That means fewer dishes and easier clean-up! You can serve with your favorite toppings such as avocado, sour cream, salsa and shredded cheese.

View recipe here.

No Utensils Needed

21. Avocado Egg Salad Wraps

Eggs are a great ingredient to include in a nutrient-dense lunch for growing kids. Egg salad is one of the best ways to serve it, but the large amounts of mayonnaise introduces a lot of unnecessary saturated fats. This recipe cuts out a lot of the mayo and uses nature’s mayo — avocados, for creaminess.

View recipe here.

22. Spicy Tuna Avocado Wrap

Canned tuna is such a convenient ingredient and is also a great source of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, iron and potassium. This wrap contains lots of hearty vegetables and uses avocado and Dijon mustard to flavor the tuna. Sriracha is used for added spice if your kids can handle spicy food! These wraps can be packed easily in a lunch box to take to school.

View recipe here.

23. Chicken and Avocado Roll-Ups

These easy roll-ups take only 10 minutes to make! And they’re packed with great veggies like avocados, tomatoes and onions. You can pack it with even more veggies like spinach, cucumber, or whatever you might have in your fridge.

View recipe here.

24. White Bean Veggie Burgers (Vegan)

Do you have kids that love eating burgers? These 100% vegan burgers with plant-based bacon and cheese will be so delicious that they won’t even realize they’re not eating meat. Beans contain lots of vitamins and fiber and are a great source of protein. You can bake or grill these delectable burger patties.

View recipe here.

25. Turkey Spinach Slider

One of the problems with turkey burgers is that they can be flavorless and unappetizing when prepared incorrectly. This recipe incorporates ingredients that pack a punch like cumin and garlic. There’s also spinach leaves blended right into the patty, but your kids will be too busy chowing down to even notice!

View recipe here.

Making healthy lunches for home or school doesn’t have to be daunting task. Armed with these recipes, you have all the tools you need to find meals that the pickiest of eaters will enjoy.

By incorporating nutritional but less appealing ingredients into forms your kids recognize and love, you can introduce them to new flavors and hopefully, open their minds to trying new things.

Featured photo credit: Pixabay via pixabay.com

The post 25 Tasty and Healthy Kids’ Lunch Ideas for Home or School appeared first on Lifehack.

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A Definitive Guide to Healthy Aging (For Older Adults)

There’s living longer, and there’s living better. Healthy aging is about living better for longer.

The biggest challenge we face is not adding years to our life, it’s making those years count by being able to be fully active, independent and happy. We want to travel, dance, date, learn, laugh and have fun as we age. We want to be energetic and vibrant.

By reading this guide, you’ll learn the latest habits for healthy aging and well-being. Research has shown that there are specific strategies for your diet, sleep, exercise, relationships and preventative care that can dramatically improve your quality of life well into your Golden years – helping you avoid chronic disease, while living longer and healthier.

Why healthy aging matters

Old age can be fraught with challenges to your health. According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, more than 1 in 4 Americans live with multiple chronic health conditions like arthritis, asthma, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and chronic respiratory conditions.[1]

Each of these chronic conditions can interfere with your ability to remain independent and perform activities of daily living on your own. Not only that, chronic health conditions can cause significant financial strain as you might face additional out of pocket expenses for medical treatments, caregiving and higher prescription drug costs.

The good news is, there are positive steps you can take to reduce the likelihood of injury and disease. These steps will make your body stronger, your mind sharper and your immune system a protective fortress.

Healthy aging basics

Nutrition and diet

Choosing healthy foods is critical to your health and well-being, especially as you age! Your body goes through significant changes in your 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. Your diet arms your body with the energy and nutrients it needs as you age. These tips are scientifically proven to help you choose the right foods to improve your health at each stage of life.

Drink lots of liquids

As we age, we tend to drink less than we need to because we lose our sense of thirst,[2] get urinary tract infections and tend to be a little more incontinent. However, medications can make it more important than ever to stay well hydrated.

To help yourself get in the habit of drinking more throughout the day, take a sip of your drink between bites during mealtime, drink a glass of water when you take your pills and have a glass of water before and after you exercise, especially on hot days.

Choose liquids low in sugar, sodium and fat. Good choices include water, skim milk, 100% juices (apple, cranberry, orange) and low-fat soups.

Know what to eat

Eat a variety of foods every day to get the nutrients you need. Eat a rainbow of bright colored foods[3] to get anti-inflamatory, cancer-fighting, immune-boosting nutrients into your system. Here’s what the nutrition rainbow of foods look like:

Healthy meals include:

  • Lean protein (chicken, pork, lean meat, seafood, eggs, legumes)
  • Fruits and vegetables (think red, green, orange, blue, purple)
  • Whole grains (oatmeal, wild rice, whole heat toast)
  • Low-fat dairy (skim milks, low-fat cheese)

Also try eating foods that are high in Vitamin D (essential as we age) and fiber and low in fat and sodium.

Know how much to eat

The Dietary Guidelines suggest people aged 50 and older choose from the following foods each day. This is a great starting point to help you get a sense for what and how much you ought to eat each day:[4]

  • Fruits—1½ to 2½ cups
  • Vegetables—2 to 3½ cups
  • Grains—5 to 10 ounces
  • Protein foods—5 to 7 ounces
  • Dairy foods—3 cups of fat-free or low-fat milk
  • Oils—5 to 8 teaspoons
  • Solid fats and added sugars (SoFAS) and sodium (salt)—keep the amount of SoFAS and sodium small.

Here are some very useful visual aids from the National Institute of Health to help you get a sense of how big a portion is:

Read labels

Eating fresh is best, but if you do buy packaged, canned or bottled foods, read the labels. Avoid foods with high sugar, sodium or saturated fat levels:

  • For sugar, try not to have more than 6-9 teaspoons of added sugar a day (25-36 grams).
  • For sodium, people over 50 should limit themselves to no more than 1,500 mg per day.
  • For fat, target somewhere between 18 and 25 grams of saturated fats per day – no more than 10% of your daily calories should come from saturated fats.

Sleep and age

According to the National Sleep Foundation, older adults, aged 50-65 need between 7-9 hours of sleep per night and those aged over 65 need between 7-8 hours of sleep per night.[5]

However, a full night’s sleep becomes increasingly challenging for many older adults. We tend to fall asleep less deeply and wake up more throughout the night resulting in chronic sleep deprivation.

Often times, medical conditions such as sleep apnea, arthirtis, acid reflux, congestive heart failure and depression are the cause. Other times, conditions like restless leg syndrome or periodic leg movements make staying asleep difficult. The good news is, treating the underlying medical condition often leads to significantly improved sleep.

Poor sleep can have profound negative effects on your physical and mental well-being. There is a significant amount of research that has conclusively linked lack of sleep to poorer memory, disease and shortened life spans.[6] Here’s a list of just a few of the consequences:

  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Heart Disease & Hypertension
  • Mood Disorders
  • Immune Disfunction
  • Shortened Life Expectancy

Although a good sleep may seem difficult, if not impossible to find, there are actually many things we can do to drastically increase the odds of a good night’s sleep:

  1. Avoid caffeine, nicotine, alcohol and other stimulants that get in the way of sleep.
  2. Have a light supper or snack before bedtime – avoid heavy meals late in the day.
  3. Don’t drink too much before bed. Drink just enough to avoid waking up to go pee in the middle of the night.
  4. Don’t nap too late in the day. If you miss your day time nap, don’t nap at all. Take your naps earlier in the day, maybe before 3PM. Napping too late will keep you up later, causing a vicious cycle of a poor nights sleep, resulting in a need for a nap.
  5. Exercise early in the day as opposed to after dinner. Exercising early will actually help you sleep. However, doing so late will stimulate your body and keep you up.
  6. Keep a consistent sleep schedule. Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day will make it easier for your body to establish a sleep rythm. It’s even more important that you wake up at the same time each morning – it will force your body to sleep at night.
  7. Don’t check your watch, clock or phone if you wake-up at night. If you can’t resist, remove them from your night table.
  8. Create a sleep friendly environment in your bedroom. Keep it dark, quiet and cool. Get a comfortable mattress, pillow, sheets, blanket, black out blinds, eye mask, ear plugs or white noise if necessary.
  9. Create a consistent and conducive pre-sleep routine: Take a bath, have an herbal tea and consider getting into bed with a book 30-60 minutes before you want to fall asleep; avoid screens, especially phones and iPads 30 minutes before bed.

Exercise

It’s no secret that daily exercise, combined with a healthy diet, is like a tonic for the body. It is the Holy Grail.

Exercise helps seniors stay active, independent and mobile longer, while helping stave off disease. But even more importantly, seniors with good fitness levels show better decision making, critical thinking and planning skills than their peers, while keeping cognitive decline, memory loss and dementia at bay.[7]

You don’t have to turn yourself into an Olympian to get the benefits of exercise either. As we covered in our previous article on exercise for seniors, a recent study from Harvard University suggested seniors get the following amount of exercise:

  • At least 150 minutes of walking or other aerobic exercise per week
  • Strength training 2-3 times per week, but never 2 days in a row
  • Stretch and balance exercises every day

Check out what exercises are best for seniors here: Exercise for Seniors: How to Improve Strength and Balance (And Stay Fit)

Daily habits

There’s a lot of advice out there regarding what’s good and bad for you, and it changes every year. One day wine is good for you, the next it’s bad. One day eggs are bad for you, the next day they’re a superfood.

So I’ve put together a list of 5 habits that have a wide consensus when it comes to their benefit for you. These habits will make a big difference in your life. Here you go:

  • Move daily: The more you move the better. Walk, swim, play tennis, it doesn’t matter as long as you get moving and do it daily. Research shows that sustained physical activity improves your odds of healthy aging by seven times![8]
  • Do something to make yourself smile – a lot: People who smile live longer and are typically happier and healthier than those who smile less.[9] Forcing a smile won’t magically add years to your life, but doing things that make you smile will.
  • Turn off the TV: Every hour of TV watching reduces life expectancy by 22 minutes! So if you sit in front of the TV for six hours a day, you’ll live 5 years less according to a study by the University of Queensland.[10] Fill your time getting together with friends, cooking, gardening, walking, painting, writing and reading etc.
  • Spend time with friends and family: Having a strong social network with family, friends and colleagues makes you healthier and extends your life according to studies from Brigham Young University.[11] In fact, according to a study from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, a wide social network is as important as exercise and diet in maintaining our health.
  • Be mindful and meditate: It may sound like hocus pocus to you, but mindfulness and meditation are going mainstream. Even researchers at Harvard are touting the benefits of meditation for seniors.[12] Only 15 minutes a day can improve your mind, health and mood while reducing stress, pain and depression.

Preventive care

It’s always better to stay one step ahead, especially when it comes to your health. If you’re willing to take your car into the shop for a tune up every year, there’s no excuse not to do the same for yourself.

As a senior, the frequency with which you should visit your doctors, get vaccinations and screen for any issues to ensure you prevent and nip any problems in the bud can make a significant difference to your health.

Here’s a list of preventive care measures recommended by the U.S. Health Department (please discuss with your doctor):[13]

  • Abdominal aortic aneurysm one-time screening for men of specified ages who have ever smoked
  • Aspirin use to prevent cardiovascular disease for men and women of certain ages (Talk with your doctor about taking aspirin every day)
  • Blood pressure screening for all adults
  • Breast cancer screening every 2 years between ages 55-74
  • Cholesterol screening for adults of certain ages or at higher risk
  • Colorectal cancer screening annually to at least age 65
  • Diabetes (type 2) screening for adults with high blood pressure
  • Diet counseling for adults at higher risk for chronic disease
  • Hepatitis C screening for adults at increased risk and one-time screening for everyone born between 1945 and 1965
  • HIV screening for everyone ages 15 to 65, and other ages at increased risk
  • Immunization vaccines for adults (doses, recommended ages, and recommended populations vary):
    – Hepatitis A
    – Hepatitis B
    – Herpes Zoster (Shingles)
    – Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
    – Influenza (Flu)
    – Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR)
    – Meningococcal
    – Pneumococcal
    – Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis
    – Varicella (Chickenpox)
  • Lung cancer screening for adults ages 55 to 80 who are at high risk because they are heavy smokers or have quit in the past 15 years
  • Obesity screening and counseling for all adults
  • Get tested for Chlamydia and Gonorrhea
  • Syphilis screening for all adults at higher risk
  • Tobacco use screening for all adults and cessation interventions for tobacco users

I also recommend you get an annual wellness check-up, an eye exam every year for adults over 60 years of age and a teeth cleaning once a year if your teeth are in good condition.

Visiting your doctor once a year is not only essential to spot check your health and take the appropriate tests, it’s also a good opportunity to discuss and review medications with your doctor – a key determinant of your health.

Social relationships (And sex)

Staying socially engaged helps seniors in everything from staying in shape to staying mentally fit and extending your lifespan.

According to the National Institute on Aging, research indicates that:[14]

  • Deep social relationships are associated with positive health bio-markers;
  • Social well-being is associated with lower inflammation that causes Alzheimers, osteoporosis, arthritis and cardiovadcular disease;
  • Social isolation is a strong risk factor for morbidity and mortality, especially among older adults;
  • Loneliness is correlated to high blood pressure;
  • Loneliness is a risk factor for depression.

So create and maintain positive relationships with family, friends and colleagues. If you feel isolated, try volunteering, joining a gym with fitness classes, playing cards, going for coffees with friends and doing dinners with family.

But if you really want to add some spice to your life and improve your health, you should have more sex! Yes, it’s doctors’ orders and here’s why:

  • Sex improves your sleep. Orgasms increase the hormone oxytocin and decrease cortisol, reducing stress and anxiety.[15]
  • Sex keeps you looking younger. According to a study by Scotland’s Royal Edinburgh Hospital, older couples who have sex at least 3 times a week look up to 7 years younger than their peers.[16]
  • Sex makes you happy. We know happy is important to our overall health. According to one study , couples having sex once a week were 44 percent happier than those who had no sex in the past year.[17]

Long-term care

As seniors lose the ability to perform activities of daily living on their own (bathing, cooking, dressing, toileting, cleaning, driving, etc.), it becomes essential to find long-term care solutions while helping them live as independently and safely as possible.

It’s important you start planning, saving and sharing your preferences with your family members before you need the care. These decisions are often expensive, complex and will have a significant impact on you and your loved ones as you age.

Long-term care comes in many forms. The National Institute of Aging describes them as follows:[18]

  • Home health careHome health care is usually related to medical services provided in a home setting. These services might include physical, occupational or speech therapy.
  • Homemaker servicesHomemaker services usually describe care involving assistance with activities of daily living like bathing, toileting and food preparation.
  • Friendly visitor / Companion services: Companion services are offered by private agencies or volunteers who pay visits to seniors who are frail or living alone.
  • Transportation services: Transportation services help seniors get to and from medical appointments, senior centers, the shopping mall and more. With reduced mobility, transportation is essential to help seniors manage their lives and stay involved and connected within their communities.
  • Emergency response systems: This is especially useful for seniors living alone or at risk of falling, medical alert systems allow users to press a help button on their wrist or around their neck in the event of an emergency.
  • Adult day care: Adult day care is a daytime center that offers activities for seniors throughout the day, offering a social environment, meals and activities without the expense of boarding.
  • Residential facilities: Residential care facilities or boarding homes offer residents private or shared rooms, personal care, medication dispensing and meals. Staff are available at all times. However, there is limited help with activities of daily living and no medical care provided.
  • Assisted living communities: Assisted living communities are for seniors who also need assistance with activities of daily living like bathing, dressing, toileting and cooking. There are typically organized activities and common areas to encourage sociability as well.
  • Nursing homes: Nursing homes offer patients skilled nursing assistance, medical treatment, 24 hour care and physical therapy in addition to meals and assistance with activities of daily living.

Healthy aging begins with you

Aging healthily doesn’t happen by chance. Sure there’s the luck of the genetic draw but barring luck, there’s a lot we can do to improve our chances of living well into our golden years with health, happiness, vigor and purpose.

Following the approach set out in this guide will help you establish the diet, sleep, exercise, social and preventative care habits that will not only help you live longer, but better!

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] United States Department of Health and Human Services: Multiple Chronic Conditions: A Strategic Framework
[2] National Institute on Aging: Getting Enough Fluids
[3] The Cancer Project.org: The Nutrition Rainbow
[4] USDA: Dietary Guidelines
[5] National sleep foundation: Recommended new sleep times
[6] Healthy Sleep: Sleep and Disease Risk
[7] TIME: How Exercise May Help Protect Your Brain From Cognitive Decline and Dementia
[8] Psychology Today: What Daily Habit Can Boost “Healthy Aging” Odds Sevenfold?
[9] Ron Gutman: The hidden power of smiling
[10] The Telegraph: Every hour of TV watching shortens life by 22 minutes
[11] BYU News: Stayin’ alive: That’s what friends are for
[12] Harvard Medical School: Now and Zen: How mindfulness can change your brain and improve your health
[13] USA Health Care Department: Preventive care benefits for adults
[14] National Institute on Aging: Research Suggests a Positive Correlation between Social Interaction and Health
[15] NCBI: Influence of sex on sleep regulatory mechanisms.
[16] Scotland’s Royal Edinburgh Hospital: Sex is the secret to looking younger, claims researcher
[17] University of Colorado Boulder: In sex, happiness hinges on keeping up with the Joneses
[18] National Institute of Aging: What Is Long-Term Care?

The post A Definitive Guide to Healthy Aging (For Older Adults) appeared first on Lifehack.

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Is Building Muscle Possible in Your 40s? (Build Muscle the Batman Way)

Ben Affleck just recently got in bodybuilding-shape for the movie Batman vs. Superman. What few people know is that Ben Affleck is 45 years old at the moment. Yet Ben Affleck looks like a monster in his role as Batman. On top of that he’s 6’3” – being tall makes it even harder to look muscular. Yet Batman completely nailed it.

While a lot of the look as Batman may be due to his costume and the lighting, Ben Affleck nonetheless is a key example for building muscle if you’re over the age of 40. Mainly because he follows these 3 rules:

Rule #1: Stick to the basics

Ben Affleck doesn’t like working out, that’s where most people begin. Even me as a trainer, I don’t wake up in the morning and think: “Hell yeah, time to do a workout session”.

It was torture. […] I hate to exercise. — Ben Affleck

Training is nothing fancy, it should simply be part of your routine. Yet a lot of the people that start training after the age of 40 think they need a specific, fancy workout schedule. This is not true.

While your recovery periods may truly be longer, you don’t need to train any different than a 20 year old unless you have major physical limitations such as a herniated disc.

The most important thing in every workout schedule should be to get into a routine. This can be harder because as an adult, you have more responsibilities such as a demanding job or a family.

In the beginning, you need to juggle multiple aspects of your life. That’s why you need support from your environment. Also, try to make friends at the gym or join groups on Facebook and Whatsapp. This will also help you with number #2.

Rule #2: Keep going

Most people that sign up for a gym membership quit after 3 months. I’m a huge supporter in making your workout and diet sustainable, yet this is much harder if you are 40+ years old.

That’s also a reason why most of the actors are not able to keep their bodies in the long-term. For example, Ben Affleck only has a great body until he has to be on the scene. The movie holds him accountable.

If Ben would step on set, looking like a Spongebob instead of a Superhero, no one would take him seriously and he would risk his career. You have to hold yourself accountable to your workout schedule.

Realize that most worthwile things in life are hard first before they get easier.

Write down your realistic goals for yourself or even publish it on your facebook wall and post your training pictures. This will create social pressure to help you keep going.

Plan your workout sessions ahead of the week and treat them as a priority. What works with most of my clients is setting a specific workout time in the morning. as the kids are often still asleep at that time. Make those early morning hours the ‘You-time’. Training early in the morning can also help with rule #3.

Building muscles will take longer if you’re 40 due to the wear and tear over the years. Be persistent.

For extra accountability: Train with a friend or hire a coach. A coach holds you accountable and gives you the necessary guidance.

Rule #3 Enjoy the process

Ben Affleck told an interviewer that he noticed that once he went for a workout, other things started to improve in his life. He increased his discipline and had more energy at the movie shoot.

This is a phenomena I can see on a daily basis. While we’ve seen in rule #1 that training is usually not that enjoyable, the other effects in your life are absolutely great.

Your workout schedule can be a Trojan Horse. You start the schedule wanting to improve your physique but you end up improving every aspect of your life.

Getting a workout can be a huge win for your day. Even if your whole day was awfully bad, at least you got a workout in.

Admiral William McRaven, the retired United States Navy Admiral talks about making your bed to start your day right. Going for a workout is making your bed on steroids. It takes discipline and willpower to do it, but training has many positive side effects.

Instead of always focusing on your goal you have to enjoy and trust the process.

You can build muscles after 40

Ben Affleck is a monster. He’s a great example for a person that build a great amount of muscles even while being older and fairly tall.

He managed to build such an impressive physique by following three basic rules:

  1. Sticking to the basics.
  2. Finding reasons to keep going.
  3. Enjoying the process. Realize that exercising is a Trojan Horse.

Here’s a video about how Ben Affleck transformed his body:

The post Is Building Muscle Possible in Your 40s? (Build Muscle the Batman Way) appeared first on Lifehack.

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The Biggest Myth About Losing Belly Fat: Can You Lose Belly Fat Only?

There’s a guy in the fitness center I manage that is struggling with losing belly fat. To battle that issue, he chooses to wear a ‘fat-losing belt’ and he rubs his belly with a special ‘fat-burning ointment’. He tries to lose his belly fat for over a year now, with little to no success.

Most people think that they can spot-reduce their body fat. They want to lose weight on the belly or on the thighs only. This is called spot-reducing fat, but this is mostly a stubborn myth. Although there could still be some truth behind it. I will look into the reason why and how you can actually lose your belly fat in this article.

  • How fat reduction works

    In biochemistry class, you learn that fat is energy dense, but a pain in the rear for your body to metabolize. Fat is stored as triglycerides in fat cells.

    Fat is so hard to break down because it’s stored as triglycerides. To use the fatty acids, your body first has to cut the glycerol molecule from the fatty acids. Then put the fatty acids in the blood stream to the muscle cell, where it gets turned into energy inside the mitochondria.

    You don’t have to explain every single step of this process. The key takeaway here is that using your fat as energy is what your body doesn’t necessarily want to do.

    The truth behind the myth

    Scientists established long ago that targeting specific areas of fat was impossible. The myth has persisted largely because of dubious infomercials that play non-stop at 3am in the morning.

    But this myth actually has some truth behind it. If you touch your body part with the most fat stored, you will notice that this part is cooler than the other parts of your body. That’s because in this area there’s minimized blood flow.

    Most spot-reducing gimmicks try to increase the blood flow to a certain area of your body, such as your belly or your thighs. In theory, this works; but practically, the effect is so minuscule that you won’t see any real difference.

    Don’t believe the hype. If it sounds too good to be true, it most likely is.

    How to lose body fat instead

    All living organisms must obey the first law of thermodynamics. The balance between energy intake and energy expenditure determines energy storage. Your body stores energy in the form of fat cells.

    To lose body fat, you have to burn more energy than that you consume. It’s simple actually. Here are three ways how you can do this:

    1. Pump up your muscles

    While you may not be able to decrease the fat size on a certain body part by training in the gym, you will better your proportions. If you struggle with belly fat, training your back muscles will get you a better look in the long-term. Your body will look more proportional.

    A great exercise if you want to spot reduce belly fat on your thighs is to do the squats or the leg press. These exercises train your whole body and help strengthen the muscles underneath. This creates a toned look in the long-term. Ask a competent friend or hire a coach for professional workout advice.

    2. Hit that treadmill

    Due to your genetics, you can’t decide where you will lose fat in the first place, but your actions will decide if you lose fat in the first place.

    A great way to lose fat is cardiovascular training. While most people hate doing cardio (I’ve been there too), it nonetheless is important for your heart health. If you simply can’t manage to step on a treadmill, you can sign up for martial arts classes or do a team sport, where you exert yourself on a regular basis. A friend of mine has lost over 20 lbs by doing martial arts 2 times a week.

    3. Eat like an adult

    We all know which foods are good for us. Yet our actions don’t matches our understanding most of the time. Sometimes we eat like we are 5 years old.

    The best advice I can give you in the case of nutrition is to eat like a freaking adult. Eating cereals for dinner or twinkies as a snack? To be blunt here: Take a look in the mirror. This is not how you are supposed to eat.

    Start with simply eating more of the good stuff on a daily basis. Eat a little bit more vegetables than you are usually eating and you’re already making a great decision.

    For more weight loss guidance regarding nutrition, you can watch this video:

    Don’t believe the hype

    Spot reducing doesn’t work. Don’t believe the media hype and scrupulous advertisers.

    Ointments and specific belts may help you but it’s in a very minuscule way. Stick to the basics: Train your muscles, do cardio regularly and eat like an adult. The results will come, be patient and enjoy the process.

    The post The Biggest Myth About Losing Belly Fat: Can You Lose Belly Fat Only? appeared first on Lifehack.

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    5 Benefits of BCAAs for Strength and Recovery

    Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are now one of the most popular supplements around, earning a place in millions of homes and gyms, worldwide. Numerous studies show a direct link between BCAA intake and improved strength and recovery, fuelling sales growth which shows no sign of slowing.

    Whether you are a keen runner, professional tennis player, amateur weightlifter or an Olympic gold medallist, you could certainly benefit from adding more BCAAs to your diet.

    Evidence supports the use of BCAA supplementation for strength and recovery during exercise but also recognizes their role in some diseases, such as cancer. Other studies have also linked bloodstream levels of BCAAs to insulin resistance and type-2 diabetes.

    In this article, we’ll go over the main benefits of BCAAs for strength and recovery and why you should consider adding them to your diet.

  • What are BCAAs?

    When we talk about protein, we are referring to amino acid residue – which is what protein is made from. BCAAs are essential amino acids because the body is unable to synthesize them on its own, therefore, they must be consumed in our diet. Of the nine essential amino acids, three of them fall into the BCAA category. They are:

    • Leucine – boosts protein synthesis, helping build and repair muscle. It also assists with insulin to regulate blood sugars and is one of only two amino acids which cannot be converted into sugar.
    • Isoleucine – enables energy to be stored in muscle cells rather than fat cells by regulating glucose uptake.
    • Valine – improves mental functioning, reduces fatigue and prevents muscle breakdown.

    Other essential amino acids are oxidized (broken down to release energy) in the liver, however, BCAAs are unique in that they can be metabolized in muscle. Why is this important? Well, the body needs BCAAs in the bloodstream to maintain normal bodily functions. If none are available, the body will break down muscle cells to release them. [1] [1]

    Food Sources

    The supplement industry does a great job convincing us to invest in BCAA supplements to get optimal results. However, for the most part, you will get all you need from everyday foods.

    The recommended intake of BCAAs is around 15-20 grams per day, so getting enough from your diet is not all that difficult. You should aim for around five grams per meal (assuming three square meals per day).

    Here are some common foods with examples of their BCAA content, per 3oz serving, cooked.

    • Cheddar Cheese – 4.7g
    • Ground turkey – 4.2g
    • Ground Beef (95% lean) – 4.0g
    • Peanuts – 3.1g
    • Cashew Nuts – 2.8g
    • Whole eggs – 2.2g
    • Chicken breast – 2.1g
    • Lentils – 1.3g
    • Black Beans – 1.3g

    Lentils, black beans and kidney beans contain all three branched-chain amino acids; however, some plant-based foods are not “complete” proteins. For a food to be a complete protein source, it must contain all nine essential amino acids. While kidney beans and black beans are complete, lentils lack enough methionine.

    You can overcome this problem by combining lentils with other foods high in methionine (such as rice) to form complete proteins. Peanuts suffer a similar problem because they lack the essential amino acid, lysine. To make it complete, simply spread it on bread or toast.

    If you’re unsure what foods contain complete proteins, head over to nutritiondata.self.com. This fantastic site lists the protein and nutritional profiles of thousands of foods. If a protein is not complete, simply click the “find foods with complementary profile” link to find sources containing the missing essential amino acids.

    The 2:1:1 Ratio

    When you look at BCAA supplement packaging, you will nearly always find reference to the BCAA ratio. The most common is 2:1:1, made up of two-parts leucine, one-part isoleucine, and one-part valine. While 2:1:1 is the most common, you will sometimes see products with ratios of 4:1:1, 8:1:1 and even 10:1:1.

    These higher ratio BCAA supplements all contain more leucine. If you take time to read the packaging or the manufacturer’s marketing materials, they usually reference the muscle-building power of leucine. In reality, they are just cheaper to produce, so you will rarely find them citing existing research to back up their claims.

    Scientists have used the 2:1:1 ratio in studies based on the levels found in natural food sources. Historically, there has been little need to investigate other ratios. Nevertheless, the role of leucine in protein synthesis has caught some interest. While current evidence is limited, a ratio of 4:1:1 has shown promise in one study, where results found it to increase protein synthesis by over 30%.

    Benefits of BCAAs

    1. You’ll Build Major Muscle Mass

    When looking to improve strength, or to build muscle (hypertrophy), you need to activate protein synthesis. For this to happen, leucine is the single most important dietary requirement. Chemical signals tell your body to build and repair muscle, and leucine effectively amplifies that signal – especially following resistance exercise. [2]

    As leucine is the main amino associated with muscle growth, you might be wondering why this is not recommended as a standalone supplement for muscle growth. As it happens, studies have been conducted to investigate. One such study compared three groups: one took a placebo, the other a leucine supplement, while the third group consumed a regular BCAA drink with a ratio of 2:1:1. While leucine performed better than the placebo, it did not do as well as BCAA group.

    The reason for this is simple: all amino acids are required for muscle growth. So, while leucine stimulates the process, other forms of protein are needed to build muscle. Without the other amino acids, leucine is like a motivational building site manager with no workers to do the job. [3]

    2. You’ll Be Far Less Exhausted

    Getting tired during a workout can be a real drag. You will be glad to hear that branched-chain amino acids – particularly valine – can help with this.

    When you exercise, the level of tryptophan (another essential amino acid) rises. When tryptophan reaches the brain, it is used to make serotonin – a hormone been linked to our feeling of fatigue. All amino acids are transported to the brain on the same bus, yet not all are allowed entry to the brain. With limited accommodation available, valine competes with tryptophan and overpowers it. Less tryptophan in the brain means less serotonin, and less serotonin means lower fatigue. [4]

    3. You’ll Recover Way Quicker

    The body can take a real beating during intensive exercise. Recovering after such a session can take a few days or more.

    One study, looking into the effects of BCAA supplementation in experienced resistance-trained athletes, showed positive results. The rate of recovery improved for strength, countermovement jump height and muscle soreness.[5] BCAAs can also speed up recovery time following endurance sports and intensive cardio sessions.4. No More Muscle Catabolism

    Our priority, when exercising – whether it’s to lose weight, tone up, or get healthier in general – is usually to improve our body composition; after all, better body composition makes you look more toned, and the health benefits are well documented.

    While exercising, we need more BCAAs to function properly. [11] [6]

    When bloodstream levels are too low, the body looks for somewhere to get them. At this stage, it begins breaking down (catabolizing) muscle tissue to access the branched-chain amino acids it needs.

    Consuming BCAAs ensures an adequate level is available in the bloodstream, reducing the chances of muscle breakdown. During and following intensive exercise sessions, it is important to consume slightly higher levels. This is the reason why some athletes will sip on a BCAA supplement drink during a workout.

    Intermittent fasting has risen in popularity in recent years, with millions of people finding success with this form of dieting. As you can imagine, while in the fasted state, the bloodstream is low on BCAAs. Knocking back a very low-calorie BCAA drink during the fasted helps combat this.

    Following a workout, a meal or meal replacement high in protein is typically consumed to further replenish BCAA levels. If the aim of the workout was to build muscle, this is the best time to give protein synthesis a boost with some muscle-building leucine. Fast acting carbs are also a good idea at this time, as the energy can be stored in the muscles as glycogen.

    5. Massive Muscle Energy Storage

    When you eat, the energy you consume is either used or stored. You could be forgiven for thinking that excess energy is stored in fat cells, but it’s not.

    Once digested, carbohydrates are converted to glucose, which supplies your cells with energy. The hormone, insulin, helps regulate blood sugar. One of the ways it does this is by helping glucose move through cell walls to be stored.

    Unused glucose is converted to glycogen and stored in the liver and muscle tissue. Any excess glucose which cannot be deposited as glycogen is finally stored in fat cells.

    The fantastic thing about glycogen stored in muscle cells is this: once stored in the muscle, it cannot return to the bloodstream to be used anywhere else. It can be used only by the muscle. For this reason, encouraging glucose to be stored in muscle cells is preferable to it being stored as fat.

    Glycogen stored in muscles is a readily available energy source. So, when blood sugars are too low, contracting muscles will use the fuel stored within them to get the job done. This is where the branched-chain amino acid, isoleucine, shines by promoting glucose uptake by muscles. Greater uptake means less energy is stored as fat resulting in quicker energy access for the muscle. [7]

    Dangers, Side Effects & Toxicity

    Is There a Risk of Toxicity

    It is safe to say that consuming high levels of BCAAs is not toxic. Studies looked at toxicity in mice and rats, concluding there to be no observed-adverse-effect level. [8]

    However, if you’re looking to maximize your training efforts, research shows that excessive levels of BCAAs can actually hinder performance.[14] [9]

    Inclusive Ties to Type-2 Diabetes

    Maybe the largest concern for some people is that there is a direct link between high levels of BCAAs in the blood and type-2 diabetes. [15] On initial inspection, this looks to be bad news for branched-chain amino acids. However, further research suggests it is poor insulin sensitivity which drives higher circulating BCAA levels.[10] [11]

    Negative Effects on Insulin Sensitivity in Vegans

    During a 2017 study, when supplementing with BCAAs, vegans became more resistant to insulin. [12]

    During this study, they consumed an extra 20 grams of branched-chain amino acids per day for three months. Considering the lack of research on the subject, it is difficult to ascertain why this happened. Evidence shows that switching to a plant-based diet lowers the BCAA plasma levels associated with insulin resistance. [13]

    The vegan subjects also had much better insulin sensitivity at the start of the study.

    Increased Spread of Cancer & Disease

    Inside our cells, a series of chemical reactions are constantly taking place. This series of events, known as a biological pathway, is what we refer to as our metabolism. These interactions produce new molecules such as fat or protein and can trigger changes in our cells.

    The mTOR pathway forms part of this process. In simple terms, the mTOR pathway regulates cell growth. The branched-chain amino acid, leucine, stimulates the mTOR pathway, which is great for muscle growth, but not so great for some forms of cancer. Many cancers rely on mTOR activity for the growth and spread of cancerous cells. For this reason, much research is taking place regarding BCAAs and their link with diseases. [14]

    Take Home Advice: Take BCAAs

    It’s easy to see, given the evidence, why BCAAs are such a popular supplement for people engaging in exercise. Faster recovery, increased muscle growth, and reduced fatigue benefit all kinds of athletes, from beginners through to seasoned Olympians.

    For those lifting weights, BCAAs will help you get bigger and stronger; marathon runners might delay hitting the wall, and if you’re playing competitive football week in week out, you can recover faster. In contrast, if you are not exercising regularly, there really is no need: just ensure you’re eating enough complete, plant-based proteins such as lentils, black beans, nuts and grains, some fish and meat a few times per week and you’ll be fine.

    However, if you are vegan, your family has a history of diabetes, or have been recently diagnosed with a disease such as cancer, you should certainly consult with your doctor before adding BCAA supplements to your diet.

    Featured photo credit: Brad Neathery via unsplash.com

    Reference

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    Fermented Foods for Better Digestive Health and Mental Wellness

    Have you noticed the bottles of Kombucha that line the shelves at your natural food grocery stores, or the recent offerings of a drinkable fermented milk product called Kefir?

    They fall into a category of fermented foods which are making a huge breakthrough in American grocery stores.

    If you are not familiar with fermented foods, or the powerful health benefits that come from adding them to your diet, then this article is for you.

    Read on to learn about the 5 simple foods you can incorporate into your diet for both better digestive health and mental wellness.

  • Fermented Foods: A Hot [Ancient] Trend

    If you are just now noticing fermented foods in your grocery store, it’s good to keep in mind that fermented foods are not a new trend.

    They have been around for about eight thousand years and have recently begun to steadily gain popularity in the American diet.

    In fact, due to the explosive research done on gut health and the importance of microbiomes, fermented foods are making huge strides in Western societies.

    Before electricity and refrigerators existed, controlled fermenting was done as a way to preserve foods to make it safe to eat.

    Different cultures celebrated fermented foods, and each culture developed their own spin on them through the introduction of unique flavors and traditions that were part of their culinary heritage.

    For example:

    • European cultures enjoy sauerkraut and cultured dairy products such as sour cream and cheeses

    • Koreans are famous for their kimchi, Japanese people love natto and miso, while the Chinese enjoy blackened preserved eggs

    • In India, people drink Lassi before every meal to aid digestion

    • Garri, a root vegetable, is prepared and fermented before eating in West Africa

    • In Russia and Turkey, people drink a yogurt called Kefir

    Bacteria Makes Food Taste Better

    Although there are many different ways to preserve and ferment foods, they all contain a specific component that are important to the fermenting preservation process, a bacterial starter culture.

    The most common method of fermentation uses a bacteria strain called Lactobacillius.

    During the fermentation process, these good bacteria fight off dangerous strains of bacteria like E. coli that make our food dangerous to eat.

    Lactobacillus converts the salts and sugars that were added during the fermentation setup into lactic acid, a natural preservative that inhibits the growth of dangerous bacteria. This production of lactic acid is what gives food that sour, tangy flavor that we associate with fermented vegetables such as pickles and sauerkraut.

    You can use the liquid from a previous ferment as a source for your starter bacteria, such as the whey for yogurt, a SCOBY from kombucha, or the brine from pickled vegetables.

    If you are just starting out, you can also find healthy strains of bacteria in powder form. Health food stores or shops online will sell starter culture kits that are full of beneficial bacteria to help you kick start the fermentation process.

    Ferments are Great for Your Gut

    Eating a variety of fermented foods is a great introduction to enriching your gut microbiome to a diverse collection of healthy bacteria.

    Not only are you introducing beneficial bacteria to your gut but these bacteria are helping you to increase absorption and digestion of foods.

    Fermented foods are similar to probiotics, but there are a few key differences.

    Probiotics Versus Ferments: What’s The Difference?

    Fermented foods are not equivalent to probiotics.

    Based on their classifications there are differences between a probiotic versus a fermented food, even though both have incredible health benefits.

    The World Health Organization defines probiotics as “live microorganisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host”. [1]

    All fermented products are created using healthy bacteria, but when they are cooked, they won’t contain live bacteria.

    For example, foods such as sour dough bread are fermented because they rely on bacteria like yeast to create them. But by the time you eat the bread the yeast already has already been deactivated by baking.

    On the other hand, there are foods such as yogurt, cheeses, non-heated kimchi and sauerkraut that are fermented with bacteria and still contain live beneficial bacteria when you eat it.

    These types of fermented foods are also probiotics because they have live microorganisms in them.

    A Healthy Gut Is a Diverse Gut

    There are ten times more bacteria in your body than you have cells that make up your body; or as scientists estimate, there are about 100 trillion bacteria in your body.

    Millions reside right in the middle of your gut; and, they help you digest your food and absorb nutrients from your food.

    Bacteria in your gut help you break down larger food particles (that go undigested in your stomach) into useable forms of fuel that your body can use.

    This symbiotic relationship we have with bacteria means that both parties benefit: you get the vitamins and nutrients necessary for your survival and in return the bacteria have food to eat and a place to live.

    This population of bacteria is called the human microbiota, and studies have shown that the composition of the bacteria population plays an important role in how well you extract, store, and use the energy from the foods you eat. This relationship is important in helping our digestive development of our intestines, helping us produce vitamins that we cannot obtain from food, and it impacts how we metabolize medications.

    Because bacteria plays a role in digestion and absorption of nutrition, early research studies are speculating that different strains of bacteria also play a role in our body compositions. This may determine whether we are predisposed to have a lean body type or an obese body type.

    A healthy gut is important to the health and well-being of our bodies.

    By eating a variety of healthy foods including fermented ones we can ensure that we are populating our guts with good bacteria.

    Nature’s Miracle Cure

    The diversity of your gut bacteria also helps to develop your immune system.

    Since birth, your immune system has developed by relying on gut bacteria to balance the responses to harmful pathogens while tolerating the harmless bacteria that reside within you.

    Research within this area is quite new and we are still learning what a healthy gut microbiome looks like; but, evidence suggests that having a more diversified microbiome leads to better overall health.

    An unhealthy diversity of gut bacteria has been linked to many diseases, such as irritable bowel syndrome, autoimmune diseases, and a leaky gut which causes unwanted inflammation.

    There has been preliminary research that has found that the effectiveness of vaccines is also determined by the diversity of your gut bacteria.

    When you have gut inflammation and other gut issues your immune system is busy dealing with that issue instead of responding to vaccines effectively. [2]

    You can help ensure you have a healthy gut and a diverse microbiome through eating a healthy, varied diet that includes fermented foods. It’s a quick way to introduce millions of beneficial bacteria in a single bite.

    How Your Microbiome Affects Your Mood

    In the past 10 years research has been done investigating the link between your microbiome and how it regulates your thinking and your moods.

    Researchers have found evidence that these billions of bacteria residing in your gut could play a role by influencing the brain to determine your mood.

    Gut bacteria have been found to produce a variety of neurotransmitters that play a key role in affecting how you feel.

    How we metabolize these neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and GABA can be affected depending on what type of organism resides in our gut. This can regulate the amount of neurotransmitters that circulate in our blood and brain. [3]

    A healthy mind and body consists of having a wide variety of different species of bacteria residing in your gut. Wanting to feel good is another reason to eat a variety of fermented foods, as each food will have different types of bacteria that will contribute to the health of your gut.

    Eat These Five Ferments for Fabulous Health

    1. Kombucha

    This is probably one of the easiest way to diversify your gut because Kombucha is accessible to almost everyone and it comes in a large variety of flavors.

    Kombucha is a non-alcoholic fermented tea drink that is lightly sweetened. It originated in China around 220 BC.

    It has become a trendy drink because it contains vitamins, amino acids, and other nutrients that are associated with health benefits. Although there have been exaggerated claims on its health benefits by the media, it’s a great way to introduce beneficial bacteria to help aid digestion.

    2. Miso

    Originated in Japan, miso is a fermented paste that is made from a combination of soybeans and salt with other ingredients such as rice or barley to create different flavors.

    Miso comes in a variety of colors based on how long it’s allowed to ferment. By itself, it tastes very salty and tangy but has a great umami flavor. Because of the huge varieties of miso, different types can be used interchangeably in recipes and result in different flavor combinations.

    Although it is commonly used in miso soup, miso can also be used as a base to create salad dressings, sauces, and marinades.

    Miso can be found near the tofu section or the vegetarian meat section of your health food store. It will come in a plastic tub or a sealed plastic bag. When refrigerated properly, miso can be kept fresh for up to a year.

    3. Kimchi

    Another fermented staple is Kimchi, which originates from Korea; it consists of a variety of pickled vegetables that are eaten at every meal.

    The most well-known one is of spicy kimchi cabbage, but there are over 100 kimchi varieties, and not all of them are spicy.

    Kimchi is fermented with an assortment of spices including chili powder, garlic, ginger, scallions, and type of salted seafood called jeotgal. In addition to the probiotic benefits of kimchi, it is also high in fiber, loaded with antioxidants, rich in amino acids and packed with a range of vitamins.

    4. Sauerkraut

    Sauerkraut is another version of a fermented cabbage that is created by a variety of lactic acid producing bacteria. It gets its distinct sour flavor from bacteria fermenting the sugar in the cabbage.

    Although we associate sauerkraut with a Eastern European and German origin, it was consumed by the Chinese over 2,000 years ago and likely brought over to Europe 1,000 years later.

    Today sauerkraut is made by combining finely chopped cabbage with salt and spices. It is an excellent source of Vitamin B and Vitamin C and contains lots of enzymes to help you break down your food during digestion.

    5. Kefir

    Keifr is a fermented milk drink that can come from a variety sources of milk, such cow, goat, sheep or even rice and soy milk.

    What makes this drink fermented is the introduction of starter grains that are composed of yeast and bacteria.

    Originating from the Caucasus Mountains, a mountainous region that divides Asia and Europe, it is now being introduced into American supermarkets.

    Many consider Kefir to be a super power version of yogurt because it’s full of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and probiotics. Containing about 30 different strains of bacteria, Kefir is a potent probiotic source of diverse microorganisms–even more so than the typical yogurt.

    If you’re experiencing digestion issues, drinking kefir can help you restore the friendly gut bacteria to balance out your system for a happier digestive tract.

    Fermented Foods For All!

    Fermented foods have been around for thousands of years and offer a multitude of health benefits. Whether you are a small child or an older adult, fermented foods are an excellent choice to establish better overall health. Plus, they taste amazing.

    When it comes to overall health and general wellbeing don’t forget the importance of having a healthy gut.

    Eating a variety of fermented foods, such as the ones listed above, will put you on the fast track to having a healthier digestion.

    Featured photo credit: Pixabay via pixabay.com

    Reference

    [1] ESNM: Diet & Gut Microbiota
    [2] Science Direct: Trends in Immunology
    [3] The Atlantic: When Gut Bacteria Change Brain Function

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    The Ultimate 5-Day Workout Routine for Women to Get Strong and Toned

    Men, it seems, are not the only ones who enjoy lifting weights. Nowadays, you’re just as likely to see women in the gym, squatting, benching, and deadlifting, as men. The ‘Girls that lift’ movement is now very much established, and we think that’s awesome.

    Years ago, if you walked into a gym, more often than not, the sight you would be greeted with would be a weight room full of men, and a cardio room full of women. Women were generally advised to stay away from weights as it was wrongly believed that lifting weights would turn them into hulking she-beasts.

    As research was conducted, and as common sense began to prevail, people found that lifting weights as a woman would not cause you to add 50 pounds of muscle to your frame overnight. In fact, it was found that resistance training provided a shapelier, curvier, leaner, more defined physique than one which could be attained through cardio alone.

    That’s why today, we are going to be looking at a 5 day workout routine for women to get strong and toned.

    If you’re a female looking to get bigger, stronger, and more toned, the following routine is perfect.

    Warming up

    Before you commit to any form of workout routine, it is absolutely vital that you take the time to properly warm up before training.

    Warming up before training is important because it helps improve your flexibility and mobility, and helps reduce the risk of injury. By stretching the muscles before training, you help to increase muscle fibre elasticity. This is important because it means that the muscle fibres are far less-likely to rip and tear.

    A good warm up will also increase your core body temperature and will potentially improve your athletic performance. Warming up boosts circulation, which in turn means more blood flows around the body. This ensures that more oxygen and nutrients can be carried around the body and be fed to the awaiting muscle cells. The more energy they have, the harder the muscles can work when you’re training.

    Before you say anything, doing a few reps with just the bar, or a very light set of dumbbells, does not constitute as an effective warmup.

    Sample warm up routine

    Now we need to look at how you can warm up to get the most from your training.

    A sample warmup routine could consist of the following exercises and movements:

    1. 1 minute of knee lifts
    2. 1 minute of heel digs
    3. 2 sets of 10 shoulder rolls per arm
    4. 10 knee bends
    5. 20 head rotations
    6. 10 hip rotations

    5 day workout routine for women to get strong and toned

    Now let’s take a look at the ultimate 5-day workout routine for women to get strong and toned. If followed correctly, you should start seeing and feeling noticeable improvements on a weekly basis.

    The idea here is to build lean muscle while keeping calorie expenditure high to melt away stubborn body fat in the process

    Monday – Chest and arms

    1. Flat bench barbell press – 4 sets of 8 reps
    2. Push ups – 4 sets of 10 reps
    3. Cable crossovers – 3 sets of 15 reps
    4. Incline dumbbell flyes – 4 sets of 12 reps
    5. Barbell biceps curls – 3 sets of 15 reps
    6. Alternate arm hammer curls – 4 sets of 12 reps per arm
    7. Triceps rope overhead extensions – 3 sets of 20 reps
    8. Triceps dips – 3 sets of 15 reps
    9. 10 minutes on the elliptical machine

    Tuesday – Shoulders and back

    1. Standing barbell military press – 4 sets of 10 reps
    2. Dumbbell lateral raises – 4 sets of 15 reps
    3. EZ bar upright rows – 3 sets of 15 reps
    4. Seated dumbbell shoulder press – 4 sets of 10 reps
    5. Dumbbell shrugs – 4 sets of 10 reps
    6. Close-grip lat pulldowns – 4 sets of 12 reps
    7. Dumbbell bent over rows – 4 sets of 12 reps per arm
    8. T-Bar rows – 4 sets of 10 reps
    9. 10 minutes on the stationary bike

    Wednesday – Cardio circuit

    1. 10 burpees
    2. 10 push ups
    3. 15 crunches
    4. 20 squat thrusts
    5. 3 sets of 10 hanging leg raises
    6. 3 x 1-minute rounds of plank
    7. 20 minutes low intensity cardio on the treadmill

    Thursday – Strength day

    1. Incline dumbbell press – 5 sets of 5 reps
    2. Flat bench barbell press – 5 sets of 5 reps
    3. Deadlifts – 5 sets of 5 reps
    4. Barbell clean and press – 5 sets of 5 reps
    5. Barbell bent-over rows – 5 sets of 5 reps
    6. Barbell snatch – 5 sets of 5 reps
    7. 10 minutes on the stationary bike

    Friday – Legs

    1. Barbell squats – 4 sets of 8 reps
    2. Leg press machine – 3 sets of 12 reps
    3. Leg extensions – 3 sets of 15 reps
    4. Hamstring curls – 3 sets of 15 reps
    5. Walking lunges – 4 sets of 10 reps per leg
    6. Seated or standing calf raises – 4 sets of 20 reps per leg
    7. 10 minutes on the elliptical machine

    Diet and nutrition

    It doesn’t matter how hard you are training in the gym, if you aren’t eating the right foods at the right time, all of your efforts will have been in vain. You can’t out-train a bad diet, which is why we’re going to share a few diet and nutritional secrets with you before leaving.

    Remember, we’re looking at the ultimate 5-day workout routine for women to get strong and toned, and if you’re not eating right, you will become neither strong, nor toned.

    Here are some tried and tested methods proven to give great results.

    1. Drink enough water

    When it comes to exercise and health in general, adequate hydration is crucial.

    Water makes up close to 80% of our bodies, and we need it to perform even the most basic of physiological processes. Without adequate amounts of water in our bodies, we run the risk of dehydrating, which can affect athletic performance, and our health in general.

    When we exercise, we perspire and can lose important electrolytes via our sweat. This is why it’s important to stay well hydrated during exercise, to help replenish the fluids, minerals, and electrolytes we lost through training.

    Aim for 2.5 litres of mineral water per day. Failing that, filtered water is still very good for you.

    2. Get plenty of healthy protein

    Protein is vital for muscle growth and repair. If you want to become strong and/or toned, you need to make sure you are taking enough protein in each day.

    Aim for around 0.6 – 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight, and be sure to spread it out evenly throughout the day. Look for lean and healthy sources like fish, chicken, turkey, eggs, nuts, seeds, dairy, and grass-fed red meat.

    3. Invest in a good quality whey protein

    Providing you can consume whey, whey protein is a supplement you will need to invest in if you wish to build muscle and burn fat.

    Whey protein shakes are perfect because one shake provides around 30 or more grams of protein per serving. They’re easy to make, convenient, they taste great, and they’re full of other nutrients that the muscles thrive upon.

    4. Don’t forget your veggies

    As well as protein, healthy fats, and complex carbs, you will also need to make sure you are eating plenty of vegetables.

    Vegetables are full of digestive-friendly dietary fiber, they’re rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, and they help to give your meals extra texture and flavour.

    Don’t rely on vitamin supplements alone when it comes to nutrient intakes, instead, make sure you eat plenty of fresh vegetables each day.

    Featured photo credit: pixabay via pixabay.com

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