This Valentine's Day, impress your vegan significant other with a number of home-cooked vegan friendly meals. Studies have shown that vegans have overall lower cholesterol levels than other dietary habits, normally due to the intake of fewer saturated fats and more fiber. Veganism is a type of diet that completely excludes meat, eggs, dairy products and any other animal-derived ingredients. If you're new to veganism, you should know that cutting meat from your diet doesn't translate to sacrificing taste. For those trying to be fit and flirty this February 14th, here's a list of vegan options perfect for a romantic full course dinner for two:
To set the mood properly, try sharing a creamy vegan mushroom fondue, perfect for dipping fresh bread or vegetables. Or spice things up with stuffed peppers and dairy-free feta cheese. No one will be able to resist snacking on oven-baked zucchini fries, coated with light breading and drizzled with ranch dressing. You could also try tempeh bacon-wrapped date palms. If you haven't heard of date palms, you probably should – they are widely recognized as a natural aphrodisiac.
How about getting in the Valentine's Day spirit with a heart-shaped ravioli and marinara pasta dish? You can also cut out heart-shaped tofu cubes and oven roast them with vegetables for a savory tofu skewer plate. There are plenty of vegan friendly pastas to choose from, including sun-dried tomato and pesto linguini and cauliflower Fettuccine Alfredo. Go for a "heartier" meal with Almost Beef Wellington using a prepared mushroom mixture, faux steak strips and Madeira sauce, another way to appeal to any vegan skeptics.
Satisfy your sweet tooth with a number of vegan friendly dessert options! Indulge your heart out with vegan pancake cookies, sprinkled with cinnamon and dripping with chocolate. Give into the temptation of raw vegan cherry cheesecake, substituting the cheese in favor of crushed cashews, which take on a creamy texture. Vegan peanut butter frosted cupcakes are a go-to classic, and you can even go Elvis style by topping with sliced banana and chopped up pretzels.
Cooking up a full course vegan meal at home is the perfect way to shake things up this Valentine's Day and try something new with that special someone. Check out PETA's other vegan friendly recipes you can easily serve for a unique and intimate vegan dining experience that is also heart healthy!
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.
Curling has long been a sport of obscurity for most of the world. For some reason, the sight of burly men buffing sheets of ice to slide 42 pound stones at rings never gained widespread appeal. But over the last few decades of Winter Olympic games, curling has climbed out from the ranks of anonymity and captured the curiosity of viewers worldwide. With more recognition came more responsibility for the curlers, and there eventually came a time for the pioneers of the sport to put down the pale ales and cut down on sausage in exchange for protein powders and vitamins.
Curling takes muscle
While curling has long been referred to as "chess on ice," the sport has transformed into more of a finesse game than just a mental exercise. For starters, it takes a lot of muscle to swiftly maneuver the brooms back and forth across the curling sheet to create a smooth path for the stone- or the rock, to glide towards the house – or the goal. Have you ever felt a little sore after shoveling the driveway or mopping the floor? Well those sweeping motions are constantly being used by curlers. Curlers attribute their sweeping stamina to plenty of push-ups and bench presses during training.
Another favorite exercise for curlers are lunges. It's hard to remember that at the end of the day, everything that curlers do depends on their ability to maintain balance on the ice. This means they need to have stability in their legs, which can easily be provided through lunging exercises. Lunges target your legs, quads and glutes. A simple exercise is to stand with one foot flat on the ground in front of you, while you stand on the ball of your other foot on the ground behind you. Slowly drop to one knee, bringing it as close to the ground as possible, then walk forward, rotating each leg until you've reached a wall. This exercise is the most essential for any curler.
Fitness isn't just a fad for these curlers. Veteran curler and Canadian Olympic medalist John Morris is the author of "Fit to Curl", a book that focuses on his intense workout plan to maintain his elite athletic status. In his book, Morris attributed the change in curlers' attitudes toward exercise to that of golfers:
"Tiger Woods credits his fitness levels for some of his extraordinary success, and most professional golfers are no longer strangers to the weight room," Morris said. "I believe that fit curlers can enjoy an even bigger edge over less fit players than golfers do."
You can get a good look at how these curlers' training impacts their 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics performance beginning Friday, February 7th.
Many people think that wearing high heels frequently is worth the discomfort due to the excellent workout it provides. In fact, some gyms and studios have jumped on this idea by offering exercise classes where participants wear heels to tone and shape up. It's true that stilettos can make people look leaner by lengthening the legs and accentuating the calves, but the benefits of wearing heels to get fit are only surface-deep.
In fact, high heels seem to be more detrimental than good to the body! Here are multitudinous alarming things to know about wearing high heels frequently:
- A 2011 Danish study found that people who wore heels frequently were at higher risk of osteoarthritis in the future. One likely site for arthritis is the knees: The strain of walking with knees slightly bent, which iswhat we do when we wear heels, wears away cartilage in the knees.
- The height of this footwear puts strain on the shin muscles, potentially causing painful shin splints.
- Wearing high heels frequently causes tighter quads. Typically when people wear heels, their bodies are tipped forward due to arching their backs and bending their knees. This makes the quads work harder and puts a lot of stress on the stabilizing tendons in the knees.
- Calve muscles are one of the biggest casualties of high heel-wearing. When donning heels, our calf muscles are forced into a shortened position. Very frequent wearers sometimes have permanently shortened calves, which can cause a great deal of pain.
- The forward-leaning of wearing these shoes causes the Achilles tendon to shorten as well, leading to foot pain and putting stress on the biggest toe and the ball of the foot.
- Some health experts also suggest that, as high heels make people walk more slowly (and potentially less), they might actually burn fewer calories and gain weight in the long run.
Exercises and stretches for high heel wearing
So, it seems like there are plenty of reasons to ditch the heels in favor of something more comfortable and, frankly, healthier. But if you want to or need to wear stilettos, remember that moderation is key. Here are some stretches and exercises to do to relieve the pain caused by this footwear and prepare for heel-wearing:
- Stretch your Achilles tendons, which attach your calf muscles to your heels. You can get Achilles tendonitis by switching abruptly from regular high heel-wearing to wearing flats. But you can do some strengthening stretches to make this less likely. One good option is standing on a curb or step with your heels hanging over the edge. Rise up and down on your toes, holding for a count of two when rising up, to get a good stretch.
- If you're walking on especially small stiletto heels, you might be prone to a fall. But you can strengthen your ankles by doing lateral hops and using a resistance band to flex your feet.
- You already know how tired, strained and tight your calves can feel after wearing towering shoes. Make sure to stretch before and after to prep your calves and give them relief. Downward dog is a good stretch because it lengthens the calves.
- Work on building your core muscles, including those in your lower back. Wearing heels requires many muscles to engage to help you maintain balance. If your core muscles are weak, this puts a lot of strain on others as well as your lower back, which can exacerbate current back problems. Do some yoga moves to gain a better sense of balance and strong core muscles, like the one-legged tree pose. Another is to trace the letters of the alphabet with one foot, toe-pointed, while balancing on the other leg. This challenging and fun exercise strengthens the abs and the muscles around the ankles.
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.
Colostrum is the first milk a mammal produces for her newborn, and it has several important immune properties. Many people take a colostrum supplement to boost their immune health and promote a healthy and balanced digestive tract.
Naturade makes various types of colostrum so you have options based upon your differing needs. Here are a few different types that are currently available:
- Symbiotics Colostrum Plus Candida Formula: This is good for people who have imbalanced digestive flora due to a diet with overly processed foods and high fat. Candida albicans can cause a yeast infection when too much is present. This supplement has Candida Balance™, a formula with lactoferrin, probiotics and colostrum to reduce candida and restore the balance of flora in the gut.
- Symbiotics Colostrum Plus Arthro Formula: Aside from boosting the immune system and balancing the digestive tract, this formula has MSM, glucosamine sulfate, lipase and cetyl myristoleate to promote joint and bone health.
- Symbiotics Colostrum 40% High-IG: These capsules contain high levels of immunoglobulin content and give an extra boost to the immune system for athletes and others whose bodies are under physical duress.
If you've just started using protein or are looking into your options, you might have some questions about which one to choose. After all, there are many types of protein powders and supplements. Two of the most popular types are whey powder and pea protein. Here are the benefits of using protein supplements as well as the differences between these two types to help you choose the best one for you:
Why protein supplements?
There are many benefits to supplementing your diet with protein shakes. For starters, bodybuilders, very active people and athletes need extra protein to keep their bodies going. Protein also helps build muscle. During strength training and other endurance workouts, muscle tissue is broken down, but ingesting protein no more than 30 minutes after working out is important in helping muscles to repair and recover. Many times, the easiest way to do that is to whip up a quick protein shake in the blender or just mix up a scoop or two of protein powder with any liquid of your choice.
For people who don't eat enough protein in their daily diets – such as vegans – protein supplements are a great way to ensure they get enough to keep their body energized and functioning properly. This is especially great on busy days when there isn't much time to cook.
There is also some evidence that certain protein supplements are good for overall immune health, and even weight loss by reducing hunger.
People who don't have milk allergies often choose whey protein powder like Naturade 100% Whey. These are good because they contain high levels of branched-chain amino acids, which, when combined with intense exercise, are exceptionally good at helping to prevent muscle breakdown and facilitate post-workout recovery. Whey powders often contain the milk-product casein – a slow-digesting form of protein – which provides your cells with a steady supply of energy, a boon during extended workouts.
With the development of pea protein, vegans, vegetarians and those with restricted diets due to allergies can experience the full benefits of a protein powder. Choose a supplement like Naturade Pea Protein, which is excellent because it offers nine essential amino acids. It's also dairy- and soy-free, easily digestible and highly soluble. It's also good for weight loss and muscle-building.
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!
If you like to exercise but aren't exactly a fanatic about it, you might need a little extra motivation to get to the gym or get outside, especially when the weather is not ideal. For many people, a workout buddy does the trick to inspire mutual motivation. Sometimes, it's best to choose an acquaintance rather than very close friend – someone you wouldn't want to be a slacker in front of, especially since friends are more likely to let things slide.
But, just as a fitness friend can be a boon to your workout routine, some friends can also bring you down when it comes to exercise and weight loss. In fact, several studies have revealed a type of waterfall effect that comes with surrounding yourself with people who don't practice healthy habits.
For example, according to an October 2013 article in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, which was an analysis of previous studies, researchers from the University of Liverpool found that both the amount of food others eat and the type of food they eat influence people's food decisions, provided they are in our social circle. This relates to perceived social norms of the group. Surprisingly, the researchers found that this was true even when people ate alone. What this indicates is that the influence of others' food choices on us – which leads to weight loss, gain or maintenance – is very subtle, so much that we might not even recognize it is happening.
Previously, a May 2011 study in the American Journal of Public Health by researchers at Arizona State University looked into three different pathways for friends influencing weight gain. Researchers found that if one has heavier family members, friends and colleagues, it's more likely that he or she will be heavier too. And, interestingly, the closer the relationships are, the bigger the influence on weight there is.
What lead researcher Alexandra Brewis Slade found was that – rather than feeling peer pressure or slowly taking on friends' viewpoints over time – the mechanism for this social influence is more subtle. It's often not discussed or even really thought about, but can be as simple as ordering dessert at a restaurant, even when you're full, because everyone else in your group is doing it.
"The key message is that behavior and what people do together is important," Brewis Slade said. "So parents might want to go bicycling with their kids, go to a salad bar with kids, focus on what they do together."
The bottom line?
While this research might be interesting and convincing, it shouldn't be taken as a reason to ditch friends because they are on the heavier side or enjoy junk food more than most. In fact, awareness is important, and knowledge can help you resist what you probably never thought about before. Plus, influences can be positive as well. Perhaps you can be the catalyst for change to healthier habits in your friend group.
In this day and age of technology, it's almost surprising that our phones can't do even more for us. But that's OK – they'll get there. One thing that our smart phones can do is track calories and weight loss goals. If you're searching for something to give your weight loss and fitness routine a boost, here are some apps that we think definitely make the cut:
Diet Tracker & Calorie Counter by MyFitnessPal
The Diet Tracker & Calorie Counter by MyFitnessPal is one of the most highly raved about on the web. It's free for both iOS and Android. This all-in-one app uses your stats – height, weight, exercise levels, age and target weight – to calculate a daily caloric intake. By entering the nutritional and calorie values of everything you eat, you can target your eating goals. But it's easier than that! MyFitnessPal is equipped with a barcode scanner that you can use to pull the data from the food's packaging when possible, making it less time-consuming. The app has over 3 million food items, and counting, so it's unlikely that you'll need to input data about what you eat, but if you do, it stores the information for next time.
MyFitnessPal's calorie counter also tracks your exercise regime, can tell you the healthfulness of the food you've eaten and submits progress reports.
Lose It! is a free app for both Android and iOS that is similar to MyFitnessPal. It helps you set weight loss goals by using your vital stats and how many pounds you'd like to lose per week – with a maximum of two. Lose It! tells you your target calories per day to meet your weight loss goals, and it keeps track of both the calories you consume each day and those you burn during exercise. It's cited for being especially user-friendly. The premium version allows you to see stats on hydration, body fat, sleep cycles and other statistics that might help. You can also add friends to help you stay motivated!
Noom Weight Loss Coach
Noom Weight Loss Coach does more than just log your foods to track your daily and weekly calorie intake and weight loss progress. It also has a pedometer to track how many steps you walk or run per day, the data of which is incorporated into your exercise and weight loss progress. Noom focuses a lot on motivation, providing users with daily health and wellness articles to help them work toward various goals and to encourage them to stick to their fitness plans. In this way, it's a virtual coach, not just an app! The goal is to help you form healthy habits in your daily life, no matter what your goals are.
Though there are only currently around 1 million foods in its calorie logging database, Noom Weight Loss Coach teaches you which foods are healthiest by using color-coding after foods are logged, which is great for people who have just started paying attention to what they eat. The design is appealing and easy to use, and Noom is available for Android users.
Calorie Counter PRO by My Net Diary
This app – available for both Android and iOS – is not free, but it has more impressive advanced features than many of the free apps, making it well-worth the costs. Calorie Counter PRO allows you to track foods using a barcode scanner and set weight loss goals, just as other apps do. But it also allows you to easily compare foods side-by-side so you can make a healthier choice more easily. Calorie Counter PRO also gives you real-time tips based on how you've been eating during that day. You can also track exercise and workout data, making it a comprehensive fitness and weight loss app!