Thursday, June 22, 2017

What I’m Loving Lately 88

Hi, guys! Happy, happy, HAPPY almost Friday to you! (I’m publishing this baby a little early this week.) We have quite the fun-filled weekend planned, and I can’t wait for it to get started! Smile

On Saturday, we’re planning to get our sweat on at CrossFit followed by some playtime at Hanover Day. We had such a fun time last year, and Designed to Fit Nutrition is actually one of the event’s gold sponsors, so I don’t want to miss it! On Sunday, we’re headed up to Stowe Mountain Lodge for a couple of nights. The resort invited us for a media trip – and you guys know how much we love Vermont, so it was an easy decision to take them up on their offer. We can’t wait!

Since it’s (almost) Friday and all, here’s the next addition of What I’m Loving Lately, which is quite the mix of my current favorites. Enjoy! And I hope you have an awesome weekend! Smile

Corkcicle Tumbler – Mal bought me one of these tumblers for my birthday, and I was so excited when I opened it! Awhile back, one of his students gifted one to him (I think as a thank you for writing a college letter of recommendation), and he uses it every single day for his iced coffee. He’ll often drink an iced coffee with breakfast and then bring one with him in the car to school. He’ll leave the tumbler in his car all day, and it will STILL have ice in it when it comes home – even in the warmer months. These Corkcicle tumblers work so well – and they’ll keep cold drinks cold for up to 9 hours and hot ones warm for 3 hours. They are awesome, and I am so excited to have my very own!

The surprising truth about sugar – Really interesting article from Precision Nutrition!

Greek Yogurt Pancakes – An oldie, but goodie recipe! I had these babies a few times this week for breakfasts and snacks! Smile

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The new Glycerin 15 – My favorite running sneakers just got an upgrade! They’re still supportive and cushion-y, but now they’re even more accommodating to your needs, including adaptable cushioning, a plush upper that surrounds your foot with the ability to move and expand with your stride, pressure zones to evenly disperse impact away from your body for an effortless ride, and Air Mesh with four-way stretch that expands with your foot and provides ventilation. They’re truly the best shoes, and I love running in them!

Running miles to lose weight? You’re wasting your time – Interesting article!

Polar summer seltzer flavors – Anyone else (weirdly) excited about the summer flavors?! Say hello to mango berry, pineapple grapefruit, raspberry rosé, watermelon margarita, and strawberry sunrise! I love all of them so far with mango berry and raspberry rosé being my top picks right now. I ordered them from Boxed, but they’re sold in grocery stores too!

POPCORNERS – Ok, I’m probably late to the party with regard to this snack, but they are so frickin’ good and you can eat like a million of them for not many calories. They were the perfect snack for a long ride home from White Plains, New York a couple of weeks ago. I’m a big fan!

Liz Wolfe on the Paleomg Uncensored Podcast – So much awesome insight into motherhood, skincare, the internet, and more!

Trello – Trello has been LIFE-CHANGING for my work life. Holy cow, I can’t believe I managed to get anything done before discovering Trello. It’s a free web-based project management application that utilizes boards, lists, and cards as well as checklists, due dates, and more to keep you organized. I love that it helps layout your To Do list nice and neat, so you can visually understand what and when things need to get done. I am obsessed!

trello_obsession_

Dew Skin Tinted Moisturizer – I know that I mentioned this product in a previous post, but I am truly in love with it. It’s so perfect for summer, and I love how quickly and easily it goes onto my skin. Most days, it’s the only product I use on my skin in the morning. If I’m feeling a little dry, I’ll use moisturizer and then the Dew Skin, but, seriously, it makes getting ready so fast! Related: I recently tried the Tint Skin Foundation for some added coverage (I have a bit of pigmentation on my forehead) and it runs quite a bit lighter than I expected. I ordered Linen, and, unfortunately, it’s too light for my summer skin. I probably should have opted for Sand – not that I’m super tan or anything like that – I just think the Linen will be a better match come fall or winter. Just wanted to pass along that info just in case you’re thinking about trying it yourself. When it comes to the Dew Skin, I’m a shade 2 right now, and it’s perfect!

Question of the Day

Are you a seltzer lover? What’s your favorite brand/flavor? 

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Adaptogen Effects: American and Asian Ginseng

Inline_GinsengI’ve been using adaptogens for quite some time, but in the last year I’ve been experimenting a little more with them. You may have caught my mention of a few adaptogenic varieties in one version of my daily big ass salad (not for a flavor hit). I’ve also briefly highlighted ashwagandha and holy basil, and I’ve always been a big believer (and user) of Rhodiola rosea for normalizing stress response.

All well and good. But what’s the backstory on adaptogens? What is there to gain? And what about the other options? 

What Are Adaptogens?

The essence of adaptogens, natural substances that help the body adapt to various stress inputs, is this: they don’t make a name for themselves for the specific ailments that they might resolve, but for their ability to restore balance and banish stress from the body and mind. They’re the golden boys of holistic medicine, purely because they are themselves holistic.

Let’s dive into some real-world scenarios. Your average functional herb—let’s say ginger—has a finite number of beneficial functions when ingested. Those functions might include boosting digestion, relieving nausea, aiding immunity, and fighting infection. All very commendable outcomes.

But then let’s look at an adaptogenic herb. When ingested, the pathways on which it acts within the body are virtually infinite—by its very nature, it works to alleviate stress of all kinds, the chronic version of which we know is often the root cause of most diseases and common ailments. 

It’s an exclusive club. In their comprehensive volume on adaptogens, David Winston and Steven Maimes set out three key requirements for a herb to attain that all-important adaptogen badge:

1. An adaptogen is nontoxic to its recipient.

2. An adaptogen produces a nonspecific response in the body—an increase in the power of resistance against multiple stressors including physical, chemical, or biological agents.

3. An adaptogen has a normalizing influence on physiology, irrespective of the direction of change from physiological norms caused by the stressor.

What’s in It for You?

Stress is all around us, but chronic stress does us no favors

Taking our cue from Grok, most of what we do is all about alleviating that stress by both traditional and modern means. We clean up our diet to reduce inflammatory stress and avoid toxic stress, we simplify and streamline our lifestyle to minimize emotional stress.

That’s all very well, but there’s only so much you can sidestep stressful circumstances. Even the most avid Primal enthusiast is still going to come up against any number of difficulties and demands over the course of a day, and it’s for this reason that we might turn to adaptogens.

Back in 1958, the idea of adaptogens was first introduced to the scientific world (having been present in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years) as substances that increase the “state of nonspecific resistance” to stress. By their very nature, adaptogens are generalists—their role is to protect against stressors of all kind and to maintain a state of homeostasis within the body. This makes them very powerful indeed and very different from other natural medicinal compounds, which only target certain conditions or areas of the body. 

How are Adaptogens Grown and Harvested?

As scientists delve deeper into the world of natural medicine, the list of official adaptogens continues to grow. It’s a very Western way of doing things, this need to class substances into certain categories. People have known for millennia about the healing properties of ashwagandha or sea buckthorn but probably didn’t see the need to create a VIP club.

I’ll take up other adaptogens in future posts, but for today I’m going to focus on American ginseng and Asian ginseng (divided up into white and red). Here goes.

American Ginseng

As the name suggests, this variety is native to the hardwood forests of the United States and Canada. It’s a gnarled root that prefers to grow on the shade-dappled forest floor of the Eastern seaboard. Increasing worldwide demand for American ginseng has taken its toll, with entrepreneurial ginseng hunters pushing it to endangered species status in many locales.

The root itself is light tan in color, with leaves that grow in a circle around a straight stem. Off-yellow, umbrella-shaped flowers sprout from the centre and produce red berries. As lovely as I’m sure they are, it’s only the root that we’re after here. This contains the lion’s share of it’s therapeutic active ingredients, namely ginsenosides and polysaccharide glycans.

American ginseng roots typically take around six years to reach maturity, meaning ginseng farms aren’t too common but are on the rise due to its increasingly uncertain status in the wild. Avid foragers can, however, still wild-harvest the stuff, but they must abide by a strict set of rules set down by the government.

Asian Ginseng

From a botanical perspective, Asian ginseng, otherwise known as Korean ginseng, is relatively similar in looks to its American cousin. As with its Western counterpart, only the root is harvested, and that root also takes around six years to mature.

Because Asian ginseng has been an integral part of traditional and Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years, its production is more established. The vast majority of Asian ginseng is sourced from farms in Korea, China and Japan, after which it is either sun-dried to produce “white” ginseng, or repeatedly steamed and then dried to produce “red” ginseng. As we’ll see later in the post, red ginseng appears to be the more potent of the two.

Comparing American and Asian Ginseng

Both Asian and American ginseng can claim their impact from substances called ginsenosides. These natural chemicals are found in high concentrations in both species of ginseng, along with varying degrees of beneficial polysaccharides. However, the subtle variations in these two active ingredients, along with a healthy dose of volatile oils in Asian ginseng, create markedly different reactions within the body.

In holistic medicine, American ginseng is the more calming of the two and is often used by practitioners to promote physical and mental peace and balance. Research shows that American ginseng acts upon more pathways within the body than its Asian counterpart.

Asian ginseng, on the other hand, is employed more as a stimulant than a calming tonic. While American ginseng contains a wider range of ginsenocides (29 vs. 20), Asian ginseng is said to be more effective medicinally.

Adaptogenic Research

Ginseng root is surprisingly humanoid in shape, with the root forming a fat body, little spindly arms and legs and a knobby head. That same appearance didn’t escape the notice of the ancient Chinese, with “ginseng” deriving from the Chinese word “rénsh?n”, which roughly translates to “man root”. It was this humanoid shape that purportedly tipped ancient healers off to ginseng’s legendary therapeutic powers. “Panama,” the genus which encompasses both American and Asian ginseng, equates to “all-heal” in Greek.

So, the literary origins of our ginsengs are certainly intriguing, but what about their status within the scientific literature?

Immunity

There’s actually been a vast amount of research into the immune-supporting effects of both American and Asian ginseng. COLD-fX, a popular anti-cold and flu medication, is in fact largely composed of American ginseng extracts. In one study, 43 older folks who took COLD-fX experienced a 48% reduction in risk of acute respiratory illness, and a 55% reduction in severity.

Another study found that American ginseng extracts “reduced the mean number of colds per person, the proportion of subjects who experienced 2 or more colds, the severity of symptoms and the number of days cold symptoms were reported.” In the case of American ginseng at least, it appears to be the polysaccharides, which comprise around 10% of the root, that are responsible for these immune-stimulating effects. They’ve also been shown to suppress pro-inflammatory responses, which may further assist the immune system in doing its work.

Asian ginseng has also had its fair share of pro-immunity research. An article from last year showed that a combination of red ginseng and vitamin C enhanced activation of immune T and NK cells, thereby suppressing viral infection and reducing lung inflammation. Another used red ginseng extract to great effect, helping to protect a bunch of rodents against respiratory syncytial virus infection. According to the researchers, it did this by “improving cell survival, partial inhibition of viral replication and modulation of cytokine production and types of immune cells migrating into the lung.”

Muscle Damage and Physical Endurance

Historically, this is where ginseng has received a lot of research funding. After hearing about the supposed endurance-promoting effects of Asian and American ginseng, rumor has it that the Soviets began promoting their own version—Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus). While it has attained status within the realm of adaptogens, Siberian ginseng isn’t actually a ginseng at all (note the different genus), and doesn’t appear to have the same gusto that its American and Asian namesakes have.

Rumors aside, the official status of ginseng as an athletic herb is hotly contested. On the one hand, American ginseng studies on rats have indicated that ginseng supplementation reduced exercise-induced muscle damage and inflammation, while a similar study in a small group of human males found that American ginseng was “unable to attenuate post-exercise reductions in muscle strength.” It’s fair to say that more research is called for in this department.

The jury is out on Asian ginseng with regards to exercise recovery as well. A meta-analysis published last year found that, across the board, there was a definite reduction in post-exercise fatigue from ginseng supplementation, but no discernible physical performance enhancement. Another study also found that Asian ginseng actually prevented an increase in muscle mass following resistance training, which might suit some but deter those who have aspirations to bulk up.

Cancer

Unsurprisingly, with so many antioxidants packed into one tiny root, both species of ginseng have been shown to exhibit strong anti-cancer properties. Within the literature, American ginseng has shown its ability to inhibit tumor growth, particularly with regards to colon cancer. It’s thought that American ginseng’s mysterious “compound K” is to thank for this anti-carcinogenic effect, reducing inflammation around the site of the tumor and instigating direct tumor cell die-off.

Asian ginseng also has its fair share of cancer-culling properties, including the ginsenoside Rh2. In one study, Rh2 was found to play a role in supporting positive genetic responses to tumor development, which in turn promoted enhanced immune function and prevented the spread of breast cancer cells. Another study showed that Asian ginseng supplementation of 800 mg daily resulted in an 87% improvement in cancer-related fatigue. Patients who supplemented with Asian ginseng also reported improved quality of life, appetite, and sleep. I’ll take those side effects any day.

Attention and Cognitive Function

There’s preliminary evidence to suggest that both American and Asian ginseng can effect positive short-term improvements in cognitive function. A 2015 study gave 52 volunteers between the ages of 40 and 60 200 mg of American ginseng and measured the changes in cognitive performance over the course of six hours. They found that the ginseng supplementation improved working memory cognitive performance at the three-hour mark. Other research has found similar properties in Asian ginseng, particularly with regards to cognitive reaction time.

Diabetes

Once again, it’s both species of ginseng to the rescue. North American ginseng has demonstrated changes that enhanced insulin secretion, improved blood sugar control, and reduced diabetes-induced arterial stiffness.

Asian ginseng, especially the red variety, may be effective in treating patients with impaired glucose tolerance, impaired fasting glucose, and type 2 diabetes mellitus. 

Adaptogenic Cautions

Of the two, Asian ginseng appears to be the more potent and the more potentially problematic in terms of dosages. Overuse can cause serious burnout and lead to the development of undesirable side effects.

While most trials reported no adverse effects from either Asian or American ginseng, side effects from both can include:

  • insomnia
  • high blood pressure
  • anxiety
  • vomiting
  • nosebleeds

You get the gist. Just your stock-standard list of undesirables, attributable to most medicinal overdoses. Just quietly, there’s another, slightly more enjoyable side effect of ginseng—euphoria. Which isn’t to say go whole-hog on the stuff, but we could all do with a bit of euphoria every now and then.

Based on the side effects, most of the contraindications relate to cardiovascular, diabetic, and psychological complications. Those on diabetic medications should probably run their ginseng aspirations past the doctor, as both species have been known to lower blood sugar. Both can also interfere with blood thinning medications like aspirin and warfarin, increase risk of side effects from antidepressants, or amplify the potency of certain medications for ADHD. If you’re on meds, play it safe and always talk to your physician first.

Finding the Best Adaptogenic Supplement

With increasing popularity, however, comes an increasing risk of encountering ginseng-based products that are questionable in their integrity. As with all natural supplements, quality definitely matters, so here’s a few quick tips to help you get your hands on the good stuff:

  • Know your latin names! Only buy products that guarantee pure extract of Panax quinquefolius or Panax ginseng.
  • When buying Asian ginseng, look for products that use primarily the red variety. As explained earlier, studies indicate that this may be the more potent of the two.
  • Consider supplementing with fermented ginseng. It’s probable that this is more bioavailable and faster-acting.
  • Try to determine whether the ginseng is unpeeled, as much of the therapeutic active compounds in the root are concentrated in the skin.
  • Traditional herbalists rarely use ginseng on its own in their decoctions, so if considering the purchase of a multi-herb ginseng supplement, do your background research on all the ingredients first.

Another thing to keep in mind is that ginseng works best when taken cyclically. It’s best if you use it for short bouts, then take a break to allow your body a bit of a breather from its impact.

Thanks for reading, everyone. Stay tuned for more forays into the wonderful world of adaptogens! And don’t be shy: share your thoughts in the comments section below!

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3 Ways to Be Confident in Your Food Choices

According to the 12th Annual Food and Health Survey released by the International Food Information Council Foundation (IFIC), 78-percent of Americans encounter a lot of conflicting info about what to eat and what foods to avoid. More than 50-percent of those polled say that this conflicting info makes them doubt their food choices. Here are 5 ways you can be confident in the food decisions you make.

Stop Making Assumptions

The survey also found that many consumers are making incorrect assumptions about certain foods, including fresh verses frozen and canned. Consumers are almost five times as likely to believe a fresh product is healthier than canned and four times as likely to believe a fresh product is healthier than frozen.

Take fresh fruits and vegetables, for example. They’re a healthy part of a well-balanced diet, but canned and frozen are just as healthy. Some studies say that they may even be healthier because canned and frozen produce are packed at their peak of ripeness.

You can feel confident when you buy fresh produce, but also be aware that canned and frozen are just as good for you. The only thing you want to pay attention to is that no butter or cream sauce was added to frozen veggies or sugar to frozen fruit, and that the sodium is low is canned food (or rinse it off before eating).

Feel Good About Your Choices

The survey found that 56-percent of women care about food being produced in a sustainable way, verses 42-percent of men. I myself am “pro-choice,” meaning you should be proud of whatever food choices you make, whether that means local,  organic or conventional. Nobody can dictate if you should choose organic, or grass-fed, or GMO-free. Everyone has their own reasons for purchasing certain foods. What you do what to make sure is that you’re choosing healthy foods including fruits, vegetables, dairy, whole grains, lean protein and healthy fats.

Look for Credentials

Most folks rely heavily on information from their friends and family, including nutrition information. About 77-percent of survey participants said they rely on friends and family at least a little for this type of information. The survey also found that 59-percent of participants rated friends and family as their top influencers for what they choose to eat or the diet they choose to follow.

To get reputable information, seek the recommendations of a credentialed individual. Registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs) have been specially trained in food and nutrition. You may also find someone who has a master’s degree in nutrition and dietetics, or a diet technician (DTR)- all who can provide science-based information and recommendations.

 

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. She is the author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen: More Than 130 Delicious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Day.

*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.



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What Are You Really Hungry For?

When I was growing up, nearly everyday at 4 o’clock you could count on The Oprah Show being on in our house. My mom was a huge fan, and we were all so sad when the show aired its final episode. I remember one show in particular that was about weight loss where Oprah shared a lightbulb moment regarding emotional eating. She asked: “What are you really hungry for?”*

Reflecting on my own hunger, there are times that I reach for food that have nothing to do with real hunger.

If you are really hungry, you don’t have to ask yourself if you are. You just know. After a hard soccer game, I know that I am hungry. When my stomach growls five hours after my last meal, I know that I am ready for my next one. Real hunger is associated with physical signs like a grumbling stomach or a general weak feeling.

Fake hunger resides mostly in my mouth. Maybe it’s getting kind of stale in there, and I decide a sweet bite of something will make it taste better. Maybe I’ve been working for two hours and crunching on a snack sounds like a nice change of scenery. Maybe I’ve just seen something delicious that has me salivating for a bite.

For years I’ve been using a green beans test to see if I am really hungry. I actually like canned green beans, but they aren’t exactly gourmet. But if canned green beans sound delicious, then I am ready for a meal. If I mentally turn down the green beans but a cookie or cereal or other ‘snackier’ foods sound good, then I’m not really hungry yet – I’m just looking for something sweet to change my mood.

When Oprah asks “What are you really hungry for?”, she’s inviting us to reflect on our emotions and see if we are really craving company, a break, intellectual stimulation, a friend, a celebration, peace or other feelings. There are ways to satisfy our emotions that don’t involve food. If we can figure out an alternative route to satisfy our emotions (or stale palates!) then we are on the right track to having a healthier relationship with food.

How does hunger manifest for you?

*I noticed there is a book with this same title. Perhaps this book is related to Oprah’s episode I remember?

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