Spring is in full swing, and it is time to take advantage of the sunshine and blue skies. While most people prefer the hammock or the pool as their outdoor recreational source, one of the more overlooked spring activities is gardening. It is easy to pass off gardening as tiring, tedious and trying, but it is actually a hobby that rewards intuitive and determined motivation with a number of various health benefits. Think of maintaining a garden as an artist would his canvas, by carefully planning each detail and utilizing the right tools, but instead of simply admiring the painting, you can actually eat your final product!
Here are a few reasons why taking a stab at gardening can not only replenish your body, but provide peace of mind as well.
Get pumped up
You don't have to lift dumbbells or grind out some bench presses to tone your arms and get defined muscles. Gardening can be a strenuous activity that doesn't equate to hours in the weight room, but it is no walk in the park either. The consistent digging, dragging the wheelbarrow and pulling weeds are great ways to stretch and build up your muscles, and since you are outdoors and enjoying the weather, this subtle form of exercise will hardly feel like a chore.
Peace of mind
Maintaining a garden is something that can help channel calm thoughts and distract you from your stressors, making you feel miles away from the challenges of work, school or relationships .
In fact, researchers from Texas A&M and Texas State University found that those who were active gardeners were prone to be more satisfied with their lives, motivated and frequently active than those who did not garden. Another study conducted by professors from Kansas State University suggested that gardening not only improved overall physical ability, but increased self-esteem as well.
Grow some green and save some too
If you are on a tight budget, gardening can help you cut out a lot of the costs that come with buying produce. After an initial investment in gardening supplies, you will be amazed by how cheap fruits and vegetable seeds can be. Consider a veggie like green beans, where according to the Wall Street Journal, for $1 worth of seeds, you can grow the equivalent of $75 worth of crops. Cucumber, radish and tomato seed packets are also generally priced for under a dollar, so you can stock up and have your own personal grocery store in your backyard.
You are what you eat
Forget all the notions of stress relieving, body building and all that jazz. The best part of having your own garden is chowing down! You are the head chef and master of your domain, ultimately dictating what's on the menu for the evening. And when you grow healthy fruits and vegetables, you will be able to reap all the vitamin and mineral rewards. Try growing some tomatoes, which are packed with healthy antioxidants that can help you look your best by strengthening bones, skin and hair. Carrots are another easy vegetable to garden, and are proven to lower cholesterol by 10 to 20 percent.
Every morning, many of us fear the dreaded sound of the alarm clock squawking, yanking us out of our heavenly slumber and forcing us to succumb to another day of productivity. After the stretching and yawning, we generally tend to stumble over to the coffee machine to fuel up for the day. While you might relish your morning caffeine boost, it could be putting you on track to a caffeine overload. In fact, more than 68 million Americans consume at least three cups of coffee per day, which might be enough to lead to irritability, restlessness and insomnia.
There are a number of healthier alternatives to waking up that can provide you with the motivation you need while leaving out all the physical ailments. Here are a few more efficient ways to start your morning off right and have your body feeling better the rest of the day.
Rise and shine
Instead of shielding yourself under the blankets when that alarm goes off, open the curtains or flip the blinds and let that sun into your life. Researchers have found that exposing yourself to sunlight in the morning can increase your alertness and activity throughout the day, as well as provide your body with a little vitamin D.
While caffeine may seem like a physical dependence, water is truly essential for our morning routine. Our bodies are usually a little dehydrated when we wake up, so downing a few gulps of cold H2O can rejuvenate you. If you don't think ingesting water will give you enough of a kick, consider turning your shower knob to "cold" for a few seconds to help shake off that early fatigue.
Avoid sugar and caffeine before bed
Most of the time, what we put into our bodies at night will greatly impact our next morning. Specifically drinking alcohol, coffee or eating chocolate before going to bed can upset your digestive system and interrupt your sleep. Avoid these three insomniac ingredients at all costs.
While the thought of being active first thing when you wake up might make some people shiver, the truth is getting your heart rate going right after leaving the bed will help get your endorphins flowing. Whether it is a mile jog or some simple jumping jacks, a little exercise can go a long way in the morning.
Only 44 percent of Americans reportedly eat breakfast every day, which means they are missing out on essential vitamins and antioxidants necessary for providing a little lift in the morning. Whether it's adding protein from some Greek yogurt or consuming some potassium from a banana, anything is better than nothing when it comes to breakfast.
If you are looking for a healthy alternative for breakfast that is high in fiber and serves as a loaded protein meal, it is time to start considering oat bran. Oat bran is derived from the hard layers of whole grains. Most of the refined grains that you would find at the grocery store remove the bran during production, which results in losing a generous portion of essential nutrients. Oat bran typically comes in cereal, capsule or powder form, and when added to your meal can provide your body with exceptional amounts of soluble fiber, a happy digestive system as well as help lower cholesterol. Here are some other benefits of adding oat bran to your diet:
For those wanting to shed a few pounds, kicking your day off with a little oat bran might assist you in the weight loss department. The fiber found in oat bran can help your body control hunger by helping your stomach feel full without having to eat too much. Fiber absorbs water and other liquids in your body, which will produce an extended sensation of fullness while decreasing the inclination to snack or overeat.
Another incredible property of fiber is its ability to aid and heal your digestive system. Soluble fiber works to move consumed foods through your stomach and intestines smoothly, so you decrease your likelihood of upset stomach or indigestion. Another little secret to fiber is that it helps out with constipation, which is always a good thing to keep in mind.
For those who are gluten intolerant, finding efficient ways to receive the proper nutrients that are abundant in grains can get a little tricky. One of the other bonuses of oat bran is that it is widely produced 100 percent gluten free. Because of the absence of sugar in oat bran cereals, glucose is also absent, meaning those who are sensitive to gluten can dig in and reap all the nutritional benefits.
Oat bran can also significantly assist your body by lowering your total cholesterol as well as decreasing low-density lipoprotein, also known as "bad" cholesterol. A lower percentage of "bad" cholesterol will do wonders for your heart and arteries, as well as increase your metabolism and energy. Eating oat bran can also reduce cholesterol that is absorbed from other foods you consume, acting as a true cholesterol watchdog.
Look and feel young
There are also plenty of healthy antioxidants in oat bran that will boost your vitamin and mineral intake, helping you stay active and looking fresh. Avenanthramides are an antioxidant specifically found in oats that along with lowering cholesterol can also keep your skin moisturized and void of irritation or itchiness.
Just because you like to indulge in a cheeseburger now and then or wake up to a griddle crackling with bacon doesn't mean you can't venture outside the box once in a while. Those who are unfamiliar with what it means to be a vegan can sometimes get put off upon hearing the term, mainly due to an unawareness of why most people choose this animal-product free diet. While going entirely vegan does mean sacrificing many highly marketable foods, it also involves consuming healthier and more nutritional cuisine on a regular basis. So if you are looking to maintain a carnivore status but want to reap the nourishing benefits of going vegan, a VeganSmart All-In-One Nutritional Shake is the perfect bridge to help cross over.
Everything you need …
The daily vitamin requirements you will meet by adding two scoops of VeganSmart to your favorite beverage are unparalleled to practically anything else on the market. Each gulp of this nutritional shake pumps your body with 22 essential vitamins and minerals, and you will be getting 50 percent of your recommended vitamin A, B6, C, Riboflavin and Zinc, plus so much more, in just one glass.
Many people reason their meat consumption through all the protein they get from a cooked steak or grilled chicken. Well you don't have to subject yourself to 12 ounces of filet mignon to get more than half the daily protein you need from a VeganSmart Nutritional Shake. Each scoop contains 5 different non-GMO plant based proteins that are loaded with amino acids proven to strengthen and repair your muscles. Plus, the dietary fiber and more than 200 milligrams of Omega-3 can help stimulate your brain, heart and circulatory system.
… And nothing you don't
Another advantage to drinking a VeganSmart shake everyday is what you are not putting into your body. One serving contains only 160 calories and is also completely gluten-free, with zero cholesterol or trans fat. Even if you absolutely despise fruits and vegetables, VeganSmart offers the same amount of certain vitamins and minerals (and sometimes even higher levels) as you would find in your standard apple or piece of broccoli – for example, while an average apple provides 14 percent of your daily vitamin C needs, A VeganSmart shake provides 50 percent of your dietary need for this nutrient.
There is no rule that you have to be a vegan to cherish the healthy benefits that come from a VeganSmart All-In-One Nutritional Shake. The flavors come in chocolate, vanilla and chai, so there are some options to guzzle down a cup of nutritional goodness. Don't hesitate to see what you have been missing out on today.
It is one thing to tell yourself you are going to change your dietary habits and start eating healthier everyday, but it's another to act on it. In fact, according to some estimates, 95 percent of people who start diets eventually fail, and will regain any weight they lost in 1 to 5 years.
The dynamics of changing your eating routine is an extremely challenging barrier to conquer, but it's not what you are eating that's the hard part. Instead, it's discovering and maintaining the proper mentality that is the tricky part. If you have been looking to start dieting or have tried and failed in the past, here are some tips to help get you in the right disposition to become a healthy eater and stay that way:
Ease your way into it
One of the biggest reasons why people end up ditching their diets is because it is too much change too fast. If you go from eating hamburgers and doughnuts one day to salads and apples the next, the odds are that in a week, you will be back in the drive-thru lane. Take baby steps by substituting a salad instead of a starch for your next meal, or skip the dessert if that is a main staple with your dinner. Even little alterations such as low-fat salad dressing and skim or soy milk can make a big difference and help you lose weight or lower cholesterol. Every week, keep making more changes, until a few months go by and you won't even notice the major adjustments you have made to your plate.
Understand your eating psychology
There are so many mental and environmental factors that go into the eating habits you have developed over time. They can range from before you were born to the emotional state of mind you are currently in. Here are five components to dietary psychology that can help you understand your eating routine:
Cultural, evolutionary and familial all stem from a wide area of variables including the genetic makeup of your parents, the foods your family has grown accustomed to and the size or quantity of each meal you consumed growing up. Social can stem from how often you go out to dine with friends, and if their eating habits have any influence on you. Individual factors mainly come from whether your own emotions control your food intake.
It's important to recognize when outside forces are starting to affect the way you eat. If stress has you reaching for some candy or potato chips, switch it up with a granola bar or healthy yogurt. If your friends always go out to eat, get a light meal in before you meet up with them and stick to a side salad or appetizer while still being a part of the gang. Identifying and attempting to correct certain habits is a big step toward becoming a full-time healthy eater.
Hold yourself accountable
In the end, you are the only one who has the control over what you put into your body. This also means that no one else can distract or discipline you with poor eating decisions. When going to the grocery store, make a list of fruits, vegetables and other healthy choices, and stick to it. If you keep buying ice cream or cookies, you are only making it harder on yourself when you know they are waiting for you in the pantry.
Keeping a food diary is an extremely effective way to monitor your dietary intake, and sometimes you'll look back and be amazed at all the unnecessary products you were packing into your stomach. Don't be afraid to seek a little help as well, such as by seeing a nutritionist. A Naturade Total Soy Meal Replacement shake to get all the essential vitamins and minerals you need without overeating. Remember, being a healthy eater in the end depends on how bad you want to be, so stay determined and focused and you will eventually get the results you have been looking for.
If you are looking to serve up some exercise this spring, head down to the nearest courts and reap the health rewards of a proper tennis match. Tennis is a game that stimulates all your joints, muscles and heart, while also keeping your mind active. It is also a way to go at your own pace and doesn't require a competitive nature to conquer a good workout. If you are looking for a new and exciting source of recreation this spring, here are some reasons why you should consider picking up a racket and rallying up a sweat:
A social workout
Unlike other sports and exercises, tennis is the perfect opportunity to get together with friends, catch up and chat, all while keeping a good heart rate going. Tennis is played with either singles or doubles, so two to four people can occupy the court at one time. In just one hour of playing tennis, you can burn up to 600 calories, which is more than burned during swimming, golf or other aerobic exercises according to Harvard Medical School. Tennis is also an efficient way to lower cholesterol, reduce stress and easily meet the recommended 30 minutes of daily moderate intensity physical activity, according to the British Journal of Sports Medicine. Plus, it is always a bonus to have a friend around to motivate you to play hard and stay active.
Strategy is not a factor commonly associated with most forms of recreational activity, but for tennis, having a game plan is a natural instinct, whether you are aware of it or not. Everything from your serve to your positioning on the court impacts the game of tennis in some way, making it seem like a physically challenging chess match. When you see your opponent shifting to one side, you decide – consciously or not – to hit the ball to the other side of the court to make it more difficult for your adversary to volley it back. The hand-eye coordination that goes into a match of tennis is either greater or on par to just about any other exercise.
Live long and prosper
As long as you have a court, net, balls and a racket, there is nothing stopping you from a game of tennis, including age. Physician and renowned authority on exercise Ralph Paffenbarger studied more than 10,000 people over a duration of 20 years, finding that those who played tennis a minimum of three hours per week increased their likelihood to live longer and healthier by 50 percent. People who play tennis well into their elderly years are also proven to have lower body fat percentages, better lipid profiles and improved aerobic fitness capabilities than those who don't.
Whether you have played your whole life or have never picked up a racket before, tennis is a game that clearly has a tremendous amount of health benefits. So tie up the laces and rush the net this spring to see what tennis can offer your body.
With spring already here, it is time to start getting in shape, cut calories and find new ways to help obtain that summer beach body we all strive for. A well balanced diet is the first step toward being healthy and staying trim, so avoiding foods that are loaded with fat is essential for losing weight and helping lower cholesterol. Here is a list of 10 foods and beverages that actually burn fat and boost your metabolism so you can have the energy and motivation to look lean and stay fit this year.
Researchers have found that regularly drinking green tea every day is an effective way to decrease body fat and help lose a few pounds in the process. Scientists from the Biological Sciences Laboratories of Kao Corp., in Tochigi, Japan tested athletes ingesting green tea extract, or GTE, and discovered that the drink can help improve overall endurance while increasing the rates of fat oxidation. "GTE is beneficial for improving endurance capacity and supporting the hypothesis that the stimulation of fatty acid utilization is a promising strategy for improving endurance capacity," the researchers said.
While eggs normally get a bad reputation for raising cholesterol levels, moderate intake can actually help you lose weight and get rid of unwanted fats in the body. Eggs are packed with vitamin B-12, which breaks down fat, and one egg usually contains only 90 calories. Try eating eggs without the yolk to avoid increased cholesterol while still consuming the essential vitamins.
Add some kick and cut some fat to your meal by adding hot peppers such as jalapenos and chilis. Peppers are loaded with capsaicin, which is a compound that provides the spiciness that also stimulates your metabolism while reducing "bad" fat levels. The spice might burn your tongue, but it is guaranteed to burn some fat.
Another option that has generally received health scrutiny, coconut oil is bursting with medium-chained-triglycerides, or MCTs, that are proven to generate a higher rate of weight loss and fat burned than using olive oil. The body uses MCTs for energy, which means it doesn't store the fat found in the component. Try cooking with a little coconut oil to help get rid of excess fat.
A common health misconception is that all fat is bad for you and will increase your weight. Avocados help debunk this myth with their abundance of monounsaturated fats, which enhance metabolism and are used by the body as a slow burning energy source. Avocados also contain healthy antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E, which also help boost your immune system.
This fish is renowned for its health benefits, including being an excellent source of protein and vitamin B, but salmon is also a productive food to break down fat. Rich with omega-3s, salmon helps build extra muscle, which in turn burns fat in the body. It's also low in saturated fat and activates the thyroid hormone which increases speeds of metabolism. Eating salmon twice a week can ward off unnecessary fat storage.
As if you needed another reason to eat your vegetables, broccoli is high in fiber which helps our digestive system move fat out of the body faster so it can't be fully absorbed. Broccoli is also extremely low in calories and contains zero fat, and It helps trigger enzymes that inform fat cells to burn fat. There is no excuse not to add a little green to your diet, and broccoli is a top of the line vegetable.
Almonds and other nuts such as pecans, walnuts and peanuts, are full of protein, fiber and healthy polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Eating a few handfuls of almonds can also help suppress your appetite, eliminating excess snacking and overeating. Make sure to eat almonds sparingly, as a full serving does contain approximately 160 calories.
While many things can taste like it, few other meats can provide healthier amounts of protein than a grilled piece of chicken. When you are eating grilled chicken, your body has a thermogenic reaction, which helps you burn off more calories than other foods. Grilled chicken is ideal for those looking to build some muscle while cutting down on fat storage.
Topping off a dish with a little fresh ginger can help stimulate metabolism and also make you feel more full so you can eat less. Ginger also provides relief to sore or strained muscles, which can allow you to feel more active and motivated to exercise. Try applying ginger to your coffee or tea, or drizzle a little with your salad dressing.
Including any combination of these 10 amazing food options to your daily diet is proven to help you boost metabolism, build muscle and most importantly, burn fat.
In 2011, the United States Department of Agriculture replaced the trademark food guide pyramid in favor of a new and improved method of recommended serving sizes, titled MyPlate. The pyramid, which had been implemented in schools' health education syllabi for nearly two decades, was often criticized for not changing its nutritional proposals to reflect new advances and information regarding dietary health, as well as being generally vague in how much of each food group should be consumed in an average day.
Now closing in on the third anniversary since its inception, the biggest changes brought about by the MyPlate model included the overall layout of the graphic design, which features a plate divided into four separate groups, emphasizing the breakdown of every individual meal we should eat rather than a broad suggestion of what to eat in an entire day. The four sectors of MyPlate include fruits, vegetables, grains and protein, while leaving a smaller circle to the side labeled dairy. Noticeably absent from the new food guide is the fats, oils and sweets section, which famously used to state, "use sparingly" when determining recommended quantity of consumption.
Problems with the new food guide
While most nutritionists agree that the new MyPlate is an upgrade over the dated food pyramid, there is still criticism and confusion over what the exact serving sizes should be for each food section. While the MyPlate model pieces are divided proportionally to help visualize how much each sector should get with each meal, the lack of serving amount suggestions may make this improved food guide even more confusing than the last one.
The food markers themselves appear extremely vague on MyPlate. For example, the "grain" and "protein" sections can be confusing because people might not know whether to eat whole grains rather than refined grains, which is a big difference in nutritional value. The inclusion of a dairy marker that is set aside from the rest of the plate conveys the idea that dairy should be included with every meal. However, recent research suggests that over consuming dairy products, such as milk, can lead to multiple health risks.
The total elimination of fats, oils and sugars not only fails to weigh in on why we should try to avoid these so-called junk foods, but also sends the message that all fats are bad for you, which is quite the contrary. Ingesting monounsaturated fat can actually help lower cholesterol levels in the blood, while omega-3 fatty acids are proven to decrease blood pressure and prevent irregular heartbeats.
Suggestions for the MyPlate format
The grains section should be switched to a more appropriate "whole grains" marker that emphasizes eating fiber-rich choices such as whole wheat bread, brown rice and oatmeal. Dairy should be defined as one to two servings per day to avoid consuming too much saturated fat and calories. Proper types of protein should be more specific as well, with nuts, beans and tofu being the primary sources of a conventional protein meal.
While no model will probably ever be entirely perfect, it's clear that some improvements can be made to show children what should qualify as a healthy, balanced meal.
Going with your gut can either be a positive example of successful intuition or an impulsive, and ultimately regrettable, fast-food decision. But what if the inside of your gut was the secret to increasing metabolism and losing weight, regardless of an intake of greasy burgers and salty French fries? Recent studies are showing that it is not necessarily what you put in your stomach that can pack on the pounds, but what you are not ingesting that could be the key to staying trim.
It's obvious that consuming a hearty meal of drive-thru junk food isn't necessarily the greatest thing for our bodies. However, the Florida Department of Citrus has produced a study that determined that all you need to offset the odds of an extended gut after fast food is a little orange juice. Volunteers were brought on board to consume a 910 calorie breakfast of two sandwiches and hash browns, and two-thirds washed their meal down with either sugared or regular water and the rest with orange juice. Those who didn't drink the orange juice were found to have increased stomach inflammation and high blood pressure, while those who did showed no signs of either symptom, all while eating the exact same meal.
While orange juice is rich in antioxidants that could have countered signs of inflammation, it was the increased blood levels of the molecule endotoxin, which is produced by outer walls of various types of bacteria, found in the non-orange juice drinkers that had the researchers the most intrigued. When the body experiences elevated levels of endotoxin, the immune system responds with inflammation to help flush out the excess molecules. Since the fast food didn't contain any bacteria, the meal must have conjured it out of pre-existing endotoxin stored in the stomach's microbes, single-cell organisms that work as together an ecosystem in bodies. The orange juice appeared to have the opposite effect by not provoking the bacteria.
Bargaining with bacteria
The subtle difference of adding orange juice to a high calorie and carbohydrate meal can make or break those few pounds tacked on to your gut. It's important to understand that what you put into your body depends more on how it reacts to bacteria in your stomach, rather than the meal's nutritional value, that curves weight gain. By adding a little vitamin C or flavonoids to whatever it is you are about to eat could be all you need to avoid indigestion problems and steer clear of a beer belly formation. Other benefits of consuming daily regimens of antioxidants include:
- Decreased inflammation
- Strengthened immune system
- Clearer memory
- Improved vision
Along with weekly exercise, managing how your gut bacteria breaks down foods can ensure a healthier lifestyle, even if you are giving in to the occasional junk food temptation. Daily trips to the drive-thru or the ice cream parlor are not going to do you any favors, but snacking in moderation with the right dietary habits is not a big deal. So respect the gut, or it might choose to turn on you.
Since 2002, the World Health Organization has recommended that daily sugar intake be no more than 10 percent of a person's daily diet, which equates to about 50 grams. After much scrutiny, the WHO recently cut that number in half, suggesting that sugar make up no more than 5 percent of our daily caloric intake, or 25 grams. This guideline includes sugars that are added to food as well as sugars that are naturally present.
While the guidelines are strictly a suggestion, consuming too much sugar on a daily basis can lead to a number of health issues, including weight gain, tooth decay and problems with attention and memory. The average American ingests more than 152 pounds of sugar each year, which means more than 1,300 grams of sugar per week. That means we are on average consuming eight times more sugar every day than the WHO proposes.
The tricky part about regulating your sugar intake is knowing what foods contain hidden sugars. Many "healthy" foods are advertised as good for your heart or able to lower cholesterol; while often true, foods you might never expect to have sugar often have high amounts of the sweet stuff. Here are some foods, beverages and condiments that are surprisingly high in sugar and should be consumed moderately to abide by the WHO guidelines.
Oatmeal is quick, easy to make and healthy. However, the pre-packaged, flavored oatmeal packets are loaded with sugar - sometimes up to 15 grams. Stick to plain oatmeal and add some blueberries or strawberries for a boost in antioxidants and a sweet, tart flavor.
While it's an excellent source of calcium and vitamin D, all milk contains sugar. In fact, just one cup of skim milk contains as many as 12 grams of sugar, about half of your suggested daily intake! Add that to a bowl of cereal or oatmeal and you could already be over the limit. Switch out the skim and two percent for some unsweetened almond milk which has zero grams of sugar in one cup.
Another product that's usually labeled as "healthy," flavored yogurts can sometimes carry up to 22 grams of sugar in one eight ounce serving. Avoid the sweetened yogurts and cross over to plain Greek yogurt - just make sure to check the label first.
With such a wide variety of dressings to choose from, it can be hard to keep track of which flavor contains what. But before you smother that salad, consider this: just one tablespoon of a low-fat French dressing equals six grams of sugar. More oil based dressings, such as Italian and raspberry vinaigrette, hold up to 10 grams per tablespoon. Switching to olive oil or lemon juice dressing can cut out more than 70 percent of sugar per serving.
Ketchup is a practically mandatory condiment for burgers and French fries. But did you know dipping your salty fries into just one little packet adds another three grams of sugar to that greasy goodness? If you are using three packets for one meal, that's nearly one-third of your recommended intake, just counting ketchup. Try using sugarfree, all natural organic ketchup for your next French fry session.
Sure, they can fill you up with electrolytes and carbohydrates for extra energy, but just 12 ounces of your average sports drink holds up to 42 grams of sugar! Keep in mind that the normal bottle contains 20 ounces, so you've more than doubled the WHO sugar recommendation in only a few gulps. Instead, switch to a Vegansmart Vanilla All-In-One Nutritional Shake, with just five grams of sugar in two scoops, and it's also packed with vitamins, minerals and protein.