Finding yourself tossing and turning all night? Can't sleep because your mind won't shut off? One recent survey by The Better Sleep Council found that almost fifty percent of Americans admit they don't get enough sleep but don't take any action about it.
One thing to consider is that the source of your restlessness in bed may have less to do with your daily stressors and more to do with what foods you're consuming during the day. The antioxidants you ingest may be a big factor in determining how many hours of sleep you get every night. Here's a list of five foods packed with the antioxidants needed to have you counting sheep in no time:
Normally associated with breakfast, oatmeal isn't just a nutritional way to wake up in the morning. It's packed with nutrients such as calcium, magnesium and potassium, and can be just what the doctor ordered for a peaceful slumber. Be sure to avoid mixing with sweeteners and sugar before bed, however.
Cherries are one of the few natural sources of melatonin, a hormone in the body that produces sleepiness, monitors sleep regulation and stimulates dreams. Eating just a handful of these delicious fruits an hour before going to bed might help you achieve that solid eight hours you're looking for. While cherries are often out of season, drinking a glass of cherry juice can produce the same effects.
Peel yourself a fulfilling night's rest with a banana, an amazing source of potassium and magnesium. These two nutrients work as natural muscle relaxants. Bananas are also packed with tryptophan, which is a sleep-inducing amino acid that eventually is transformed by the body into serotonin, a neurotransmitter that boosts relaxation. Tryptophan typically takes an hour to reach your brain, so keep that in mind when considering a bedtime snack.
Protein is another source of tryptophan, and almonds are a great way to reach your protein requirement without overeating. Spreading almond butter on a slice of toast is a light protein snack that's filled with enough carbohydrates necessary to catch the sleep you need.
According to a study conducted by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, eating a bowl of Jasmine rice four hours before your normal bedtime will significantly reduce your chances of sleep disturbance. Foods such as Jasmine rice have a high glycemic-index that helps measure a food's impact on blood sugar levels, and also provide healthy doses of tryptophan and serotonin.
The philosophy behind the Paleo Diet sounds too good to be true. Often referred to as the "Stone Age" diet, the Paleo Diet is a high-protein meal plan that gets its name after the hunter-gatherer eating methods our extended Neanderthal family survived on during the Paleolithic Era over 10,000 years ago.
Essentially, the diet stresses the substitution of processed foods, wheat and dairy, in favor of fresh meats, eggs, fruits and vegetables. Those touting the Paleo Diet want you to eat the same way your ancestors ate: chowing down on a juicy home cooked steak or indulging in freshly prepared salmon. Cooking from scratch is emphasized, and the diet's main enemies include salt, refined sugar and boxed or canned goods.
Free range meats such as beef, pork and poultry are the suggested main entrees for the Paleo Diet. Avocados and macadamia nuts are good choices to pair with high protein meals and can be drizzled with healthy olive or coconut oils for added taste.
Though there is contention about whether the Paleo Diet is healthy, in a recent U.S. News article, Dr. David Perlmutter, the author of "Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth About Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar," advocated for the diet and insisted that this method is not only a great way to lose some pounds, but will also increase mental activity. Perlmutter alluded to a recent study by the Mayo Clinic that concluded people consuming the high-fat, low-carb diet reduced risks of dementia by up to 65 percent. He railed against gluten, referring to the substance as, "the main culprit of obesity and why people suffer from brain diseases." Perlmutter also suggested that even cutting out the usual morning orange juice can help sustain proper blood sugar needed throughout the day.
What makes the Paleo Diet a realistic weight loss opportunity is the overall low level of effort involved. There's no need to monitor your calories as long as you're eating the recommended foods provided. The Paleo plan also allows for a slight bending of the rules, suggesting that new users can consume "open meals" that may include grains or processed foods up to three times per week. Exercise is not required for participating in the diet, but is encouraged.
Our caveman predecessors stayed fit by physically hunting down their food, so keep that in mind if you choose to pursue this ancient diet! Also, it's best to consult your physician before starting a diet plan to ensure it's the right one for you.
New research shows that our bodies may benefit more from short, intense workouts rather than long, drawn-out ones. This might mean running at a fast speed for 15 to 20 minutes, or doing a short but very intense workout that targets one muscle group.
Thus, we present to you four intense leg-toning moves to work into your leg routine as you choose for an excellent 20-minute workout:
Squat and side lift
This move engages the glutes, quads, outer thighs and hamstrings. You'll need weights to do it.
Stand with your feet together, holding small hand weights. Step to the side with your right foot so feet are shoulder-width apart. Bend your knees and squat for a count of two. Straighten your legs and lift your right leg to the side for a count of two, making sure to tuck your abs in. Then lower your right leg again and bend into a squat. Repeat on the left side and do a set of 10. Remember – the heavier the weights, the better the workout!
This exercise engages the hamstrings, glutes, quads and inner thighs.
Stand with your feet together and arms overhead with palms facing forward. With your right foot, take a wide step to the corner of the room – a 45-degree angle – bend your right knee, and reach your arms and body over your right thigh, making sure to keep your back straight. Touch the floor with your fingertips if possible before pushing off the right foot and returning to standing. Do this move 15 times in a row on the right leg before switching to the left.
Scissor jump switch
This powerful move works the fast-twitch muscle fibers to trim the thighs.
Stand with your right foot forward and left leg behind you, lowered into a slight lunge. Reach your left arm toward your right foot, and extend your right arm straight behind you for balance. Push off the floor with your feet and jump straight up. Scissor your legs in the air to land switching positions, with your left leg forward, right back, and right arm reaching across to your left foot. Do 20 of these intense jumps, making sure to focus on balance and keep your knees behind your toes in lunge position to avoid injury.
Hip extension and cross
This exercise tones the back of your thighs and your glutes through targeted isolation of muscles, as well as the abs.
Kneel on the mat and place your elbows on the floor, directly below your shoulders, with your hands clasped in a praying position in front of you. Extend your left leg up and behind, pointing your toes. Then, bend your left knee and pull your leg in, tapping the back of your right knee with your left knee. Slowly extend your left leg back again. Repeat this move 15 times before switching legs, making sure to focus on keeping your abs tucked in. Do two sets to really feel it!
Tea has been enjoyed around the world for thousands of years, and its origins are said to be in China, where it was enjoyed for its medicinal purposes. With such a long history as a popular drink around the world, it shouldn't be surprising that tea's effects on health have been well studied. Here are some of the research-driven health benefits of green tea:
Research by Harvard and other institutions revealed that people who drink green tea frequently are more likely to have better heart health than others. It's uncertain why this is true, but it might be due to the evidence that green tea lowers total cholesterol and ups good cholesterol levels.
Other studies indicate that green tea might play a part in improving bone health and reducing one's risk of having fragile bones. This could be for various reasons, including that the antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties of tea stop or reduce the breakdown of bone that often happens when people age. Additionally, some researchers think that green tea can stimulate bone-building activities in cells.
It's not certain, but some evidence suggests that tea – especially green tea, due to its high rates of catechins – can stimulate weight loss by raising the metabolic weight through thermogenesis. Of course, if proven true, green tea wouldn't be a magic bullet for weight loss but just a potential tool to use.
Why green tea?
The reason green tea is so good for overall health is its high concentration of flavonoids - antioxidants from plants. One main group are catechins, which prevent cell damage from various environmental sources. In fact, green tea contains six different catechins. Other things in green tea are alkaloids, which includes caffeine, theophylline and theobromine, all of which give it stimulant effects. Finally, a component called L-Theanine calms the nervous system.
Fast food restaurants have been stepping it up lately by offering healthier fare like salads and fruit, reducing the fat in their meals and providing nutritional information so consumers can make informed decisions. However, is fast food really a healthy option? Since many of us talk about it guiltily each time we consume fast food, anybody's guess is that the majority of people would say no – there's always a healthier alternative. Though it can be convenient, there's even more evidence that fast food is both bad for our health and, increasingly, our pocketbooks.
Fast food follies
So, what's wrong with fast food? For starters, it is often laden with trans fats and very high levels of sodium – two things that are detrimental to heart health. Additionally, many of the foods are made with chemicals and more ingredients than should be in a single food item. For example, fries at most fast food chains typically contain more than just potatoes and oil; rather, they include preservatives, chemicals to maintain color and unhealthy hydrogenated oils. Meats are often mixed with other materials you wouldn't expect to find in your burger or chicken sandwich, not to mention that healthy whole grains are seldom used in fast food.
In fact, you'd be hard-pressed to find any "real" foods - those that were produced, raised and grown in sustainable, organic and humane ways - at a fast food restaurant.
Eating fast food on the regular is definitely detrimental to your health. It's always better to know what you're consuming and exactly where it comes from. If you're craving fast food, find ways to make similar items at home in a healthier way. For example, if you're longing for fries, consider slicing and roasting your own potatoes. You can season them with olive oil, rosemary and a light dusting of sea salt for a healthier option.
Healthier fast food choices
If you do eat fast food, you can do your best to make the healthiest choices possible. Eating fast food as a special treat once a month – or even better: once every two months – isn't all that bad if you just can't break your cravings entirely.
Here are some tips for choosing a meal, whether you're in a fast food joint or any other restaurant:
- Avoid any foods labeled battered, deep-fried, pan-fried, breaded, crispy, creamy Alfredo, au gratin or batter-dipped, since this typically means the foods and their sauces are full of sodium, unhealthy fats and calories.
- Don't get anything that is super-sized. It's always much more food than a single person should eat in one sitting.
- Don't add salt to your food. A study by the NYC Health Department found that, of 6,580 fast food meals, around 57 percent exceeded the recommended daily intake of 1,500 milligrams of sodium – and that was for just one meal!
- Drink water rather than soda. Sodas have hidden calories – not to mention too much sugar – that our bodies just don't need.
- Order salad dressing on the side. That way, you can use only as much as you need and avoid the unnecessary fat and calories.
- Forego high-calorie, high-fat cheeses, spreads, mayonnaise and dressings in favor of bare items or lower calories options like mustard.
- Eat slowly and savor your food – you'll eat less this way.
But if you think you can do it, consider eliminating fast food entirely. Educate yourself on what exactly you're putting into your body each time you eat fast food, and chances are you'll never look back!
Aspartame and similar sweeteners were developed to provide people with a low-calorie substitute for sugar to improve chances for weight loss. There has been a lot of talk for many years concerning whether or not aspartame is bad for the health. However, according to the FDA and more than 100 clinical and toxicological trials of aspartame's effects, it is decidedly safe for human consumption at – and in fact, far above – suggested servings.
However, anything in excess can be bad for your health. In general, Americans eat far too much sugar – some research shows that we eat our body weight in sugar each year! Too much of the sweet stuff can cause various health problems, including:
- Weight gain – sugar means calories. However, some research shows that the prolonged eating of too much sugar can lessen the body's ability to know when it is full, causing people to eat more.
- Elevated blood sugar levels.
- Decreased brain function. Too much sugar consumption can impair memory and learning.
However, our bodies do need sugar to function, but we typically get enough sugar for energy from natural sources in our diets, including:
- whole grain products
Many people crave sugary drinks like soda or juice, as well as candy. But you can do a lot to reduce your sugar intake by ditching these products. Rather than reaching for soda or juice, add some lemon and mint to your water for a refreshing taste. Also, instead of candy, eat unsweetened dried fruit or fresh fruit to satisfy your craving.
Also, beware of hidden sugars. Many products like pasta sauces, yogurt and bread have added sugar that really isn't necessary. Be vigilant about your food choices to protect your health.
Not only does what we put into our bodies have physical effects like weight gain or building muscle mass, but it also has emotional effects that can either elevate or sink our moods. Basically, all foods are broken down into their chemical properties by our digestive systems to feed our cells, and can either raise or lower blood pressure. Here are the top mood-boosting foods to make you feel good every day:
Dark, leafy greens
Spinach, Swiss chard, arugula, kale and other leafy greens contain folate, which is needed by the brain to make serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine – the so-called "mood chemicals." Research has shown that a boost of folate can improve the mood. Also, leafy greens are bountiful with magnesium, a nutrient that can increase our energy levels and possibly stave off or reduce depression.
These shellfish have the highest naturally occurring levels of vitamin B12 of any food on earth. Many people are B12-deficient because this essential vitamin for brain health is only found in a small number of foods. But vitamin B12 is important for producing myelin, which protects the brain's neurons. Mussels also have iodine, zinc and selenium, which might be good for balancing your mood. Aside from eating these healthy mollusks, do an extra dose of good by choosing farmed mussels raised in the U.S. to ensure they're a good environmental decision too.
Salmon is an abundant source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are critical in both heart and brain health and can reduce the chance of depression. You can also find omega-3s in flaxseed, walnuts, sardines and olive oil, and milk, eggs and other foods are sometimes fortified with these important fatty acids.
Sure, you've heard that turkey has tryptophan, which can make you sleepy. But asparagus is one of the vegetables with the highest dose of tryptophan, which is very important for its role in serotonin creation. Serotonin is one of the main mood-regulators in the brain. Asparagus also has high levels of folate, which can improve the mood. An extra bonus: The enzymes in asparagus are good at breaking down alcohol in your system and preventing a hangover.
Sugar can be very damaging to the body because of its harmful free radicals, which are linked to various diseases. But honey makes an excellent substitute to flavor your tea or oatmeal with. It has quercetin and kaempferol – compounds that can banish free radicals and reduce inflammation. Much research has shown that inflammation is likely detrimental to brain health and may lead to depression in some instances. Honey could be a good food to potentially have an impact on brain health.
Other diet tips
Aside from enjoying these foods to boost your mood, there are foods you should avoid and eating rules you should follow to improve your emotional health:
- Eat regularly. Don't skip a meal or you'll risk feeling cranky. Eat a filling breakfast with complex carbs like oatmeal, which will help you stay full longer.
- Do your best to avoid processed foods. They usually have plenty of sugar and bleached white flour, which can give you an energy boost quickly but make you crash sooner too. If you're in the mood for cookies, it's healthier to make your own using whole grain flour, for example.
- When eating meat, opt for grass-fed if you can. Grass-fed meats contain a higher amount of omega-3s than grain-fed animals.
- Try to eat more veggies, fruits and whole grains.
- Limit the amount of caffeine you ingest – it gives you a quick boost but can leave you feeling anxious and irritable.
An expectorant causes your cough to be more productive. What does this mean exactly? At the risk of sounding crude, an expectoran causes you to cough up phlegm. Why in the world would anyone want to do that?
Well, for one expectorants help loosen chest and lung congestion. It helps people clear mucus more quickly than they otherwise would be able to, potentially reducing the length of their cough and alleviating discomfort by clearing away the mucus.
Many cold medications have both a decongestant and an expectorant, and basically, the expectorant is cleaning up the decongestant's dirty work. This is because decongestants reduce swelling in the nose – aside from relieving someone of a sinus headache, it also relieves a stuffy nose and improves hearing caused by excess phlegm in the sinus cavities. In turn, decongestants cause the mucus in the throat and nose to become runnier.
Expectorants can ease the symptoms of upper-respiratory issues by loosening phlegm further down in the lungs. Interestingly, an expectorant can also be used in combination with a cough suppressant. While a suppressant stops those annoying little coughs in the back of the throat, expectorants allow you to still cough productively.
It's important to know that though an expectorant can relieve some symptoms, it's not a treatment for an underlying illness.
One all-natural expectorant on the market to consider is Naturade Herbal Expectorant with Guafenesin. It includes naturally soothing herbs like red clover, rose hips and cocillana bark to calm the throat. It contains guaifenesin – a compound derived from the guaiac tree that is used in all expectorants sold over the counter. However, Naturade's product is made with all-natural ingredients, including honey and black cherry syrup for flavor.
Don't spend money on expensive face products that make dubious claims. Instead, do your best to improve your skin naturally through healthful eating! Here are some of the best foods for healthy, moisturized, clear and soft skin:
Who knew these sweet berries could have an impact on your face? Since blueberries are packed with antioxidants, they fight free radicals in the body. Aside from potentially causing diseases like cancer, free radicals also reduce collagen in the skin, making it more prone to wrinkles. You can slow down your skin's aging with just 1/2 cup of blueberries per day, which pack more antioxidants than most people eat in one day!
Though they often get a bad rap as the "butter of the vegetable world" due to their fat content, the omega-3 fats in avocados are actually very good for the body. Among a host of important functions, the alpha-linolenic acid in omega-3s also keeps skin soft and smooth, and it might reduce inflammation and prevent things like psoriasis. Plus, avocados have plenty of vitamin E, which can reduce dry skin, potentially reduce free radical damage and also protect against UV rays.
When you need a boost of protein, have a healthy handful of almonds, which are also good for the skin because they contain vitamin E. One study showed that people who ate about 20 almonds per day – which contain about 14 milligrams of vitamin C in total – experienced less sunburns than those who had not.
Chocoholics, rejoice! There's another good reason to enjoy your favorite treat. Research shows that cocoa is hydrating and firming. Dark chocolate is especially good for the skin because it contains high levels of flavonols, an antioxidant that can protect the skin from damage. For the highest dose of flavanols, choose a dark chocolate that is 70 percent cacao or higher.
Snack on bell peppers – especially the red ones – for a super high dose of vitamin C. The yellow and orange veggies also have carotenoids – antioxidants that protect your skin against the sun.
These tart, gourmet fruits have lots of vitamin C and even more antioxidants than both green tea and red wine. Pomegranates are good for skin health and can keep your face looking bright – but not shiny! If picking all of the seeds out of the bitter rind is just too tedious for you, splurge on a slightly expensive bottle of pomegranate juice to get the benefits without all of the work.
Kidney beans – the large red ones that are perfect for a hearty chili – are also a good face food. Kidney beans contain high levels of zinc, which has been shown to be particularly low in people who have more blemishes on their faces. 'Tis the season for a warm, spicy chili, and you'll also be doing your skin a world of good.
If you're not in your swimsuit soaking up the rays on the beach, it can't be necessary to wear sunscreen, right? Wrong. Even when you're covered head-to-toe in winter gear with only your face uncovered, it's a good idea to slather some sunscreen on before you head out the door, and this is especially true when it's snowing. For one, snow on the ground reflects the sun's rays, making it possible to get a sunburn.
Also, many times on really sunny days in the summer, we know we need to reapply the sunscreen because our skin starts to feel warm. However, in the winter, you're less likely to feel, well, warm. So you could get a sunburn without even noticing it after spending just a few hours outside. The sun's rays are especially dangerous during winter sports like skiing or snowboarding because the high altitude puts you that much closer to the sun.
During the winter, purchase a face moisturizer that contains SPF for every day wear, or if you're heading up into the mountains, slather on a more robust sunscreen, like SPF 50. Lip balm with sun protection is also recommended.