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.
There are a lot of questions around whether or not children can or should take supplements. The answers often depend on a particular child's dietary needs and his or her current state of health.
According to Mayo Clinic consultant Dr. Jay Hoecker, most children who are growing normally don't need multivitamins. Even if your child is a picky eater, it does not necessarily mean that he or she is not getting sufficient nutrients. This is because many foods today are fortified with vitamins and nutrients. So, even if your child's palate hasn't yet evolved to enjoy a variety of fruits and vegetables, it's likely that his or her milk, orange juice and breakfast cereals – among other things – are fortified with nutrients like vitamin D, the B vitamins, iron and calcium.
In fact, multivitamins might offer more minerals and vitamins than your child needs or interact with his or her medications, so it's always best to talk to your child's pediatrician before you give him or her any supplements. In general, children who might need a multivitamin are those who:
- Have a restrictive diet such as veganism.
- Have food allergies or an illness that restricts what they can eat.
- Have failure to thrive – a condition where it is not always certain why an infant or child does not develop or gain weight in line with its peers.
Other supplements that your child might benefit from are immune boosters, which both regulate and balance the intestinal flora and give a lift to an immune system, especially in a time of stress such as around the holidays. One option is Symbiotics Colostrum Plus Chewables for children, which come in three flavors: orange creme, pineapple and cherry. Colostrum's dual action – in the bloodstream and in the GI tract – helps maintain a robust intestinal lining and promotes healthy intestinal flora in a normal GI tract.
If your pediatrician does recommend a supplement for your child for any reason, here are some tips:
- Supplements are not an excuse to forgo healthy eating.
- Give the supplement only in recommended doses.
- Remind your kids that supplements are not candy.
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.
Men's bodies are different from women's and, thus, each sex has different nutritional requirements and needs that vary based on one's body type and fitness goals.
Post-workout nutrition is very important for repairing muscle and replenishing the body in the right way. After an intense workout, most people don't feel like eating a heavy meal. Instead, here are some post-workout drinks that are most beneficial for women:
Protein is important for every person to recover from a workout. Women generally need less protein per serving than men. One good option is whey protein-based shakes, such as Naturade 100% Whey, because whey is derived from milk and is thus high in calcium, which is important for women's bone health. Naturade's VeganSmart All-In-One Nutritional Shake is also a good option for women because it is high in vitamins B6, folic acid, iron and zinc, all of which are especially important for women.
Tart cherry juice
This might seem strange, but recent research has shown that tart cherries might have the highest anti-inflammatory properties of any foods. Inflammation is common in joints after workouts, especially for women who are prone to arthritis. So, sipping on tart cherry juice – in addition to some protein, of course – might be a good idea.
Homemade veggie juice
It's important to get protein after a workout, but women can also try making a homemade vegetable juice high in the nutrients and vitamins their bodies need. Use leafy greens like kale, collards, spinach and dandelion greens. They are all high in iron and many are high in vitamin B6. Blend the greens with sweet fruits like pineapples and bananas to make the vegetable juice more appetizing.
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.
In order to understand colostrum peptides, it's first important to understand what proline-rich polypeptides (PRPs) are. First, proline is a non-essential amino acid, meaning it can be made by the body. Polypeptides are proteins linked together linearly with peptide bonds. The body needs all types of protein to function properly, and the importance of PRPs is that they contribute to immune health.
When a pathogen is introduced, our bodies react with a complex inflammatory immune response that sends leukocytes – white blood cells – to combat the infection or bacteria. PRPs are necessary for this process – they contribute to the stimulation of white blood cells and they make the blood vessels in the skin more permeable so the antibodies and white blood cells can respond to the infection.
So where does colostrum come in? PRPs are especially abundant in colostrum – the first milk from all mammals after giving birth that has immune properties for their young. Colostrum with PRPs can give a boost an under-active immune system and restore balance. Naturade's Proline-Rich Polypeptides with Colostrum PLUS is a good option to try.
When children are sick, many parents are reluctant to give them cough syrup – and rightly so. In fact, the best research to date shows that cough and cold medicines aren't effective for children. Researchers aren't exactly sure why, but they think it might be related to children's more narrow airways.
Also, according to the Mayo Clinic, aside from being ineffective, these medications can potentially be harmful to children, causing rapid heart rate and convulsions, though it's not clear who this might happen to. Also, some children receive medications from both a caregiver and parents at home – the lack of communication could cause serious problems, especially in very little ones.
Most experts recommend an over-the-counter pain medication like ibuprofen or acetaminophen to ease sore throats or headache pain and to reduce fevers. Otherwise a warm bath can help loosen mucus in small children.
Check with your doctor, but one good, natural and alcohol-free option to ease your child's cough is Naturade Children's Expectorant Alcohol-Free. It comes in cherry flavor and may help increase cough productivity and clear bronchial passages. The medication is meant for children who are 4 years of age or older. It has a cherry flavor and includes all-natural ingredients like peppermint leaf extract, rose hips and cocillana bark extract. This product is a good natural alternative to regular cough medications. Still, it should not be given to children under 4 years old and, as with any medication, you should check with your doctor to make sure it is safe for your child.
There are also versions for adults, including Naturade Alcohol-Free Expectorant and Naturade Herbal Expectorant with Guafenesin, both of which are all-natural and can reduce cough intensity and enhance productivity of coughing.
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.
One of the biggest struggles for many parents is getting their kids to try and enjoy healthy foods. Kids are notoriously picky – though not all of them are – but there are some things you can do to promote healthy eating and to get them to try new things. Here are some tips as well as a few child-friendly healthy dinner ideas:
Tips to get kids to like healthy foods
- Start young. Good food habits should start as soon as your children are on solid foods. Limit sugary foods, processed meats like hot dogs and fried items like chicken nuggets and fries. You don't have to eliminate these foods altogether, but introduce healthier foods right away and save these for special occasions.
- Role model healthy eating. If your kids see you enjoying fruits, vegetables and whole grains, they'll want to follow. Younger children especially want to mimic their parents' every moves.
- Let it be their choice. It's important to let it be your child's choice whether or not she or he eats the carrots you've put on the plate. Forcing a child to eat vegetables or bribing him or her will only create a negative association with that food now and in the future.
- Stay positive and patient. Don't get frustrated if your kids eat around the salad on their plates. New foods are scary to kids, so it's important to encourage them to try new things. Eat your salad with relish – never say things like "Mommy doesn't like it either but I eat it anyway" – and try again next time. Often, it takes children a few times of exposure to new foods to even try them. Your job is to at least make sure healthy foods are available.
- Don't limit healthy foods. Let your kids have fruits and vegetables for a snack whenever they're hungry for them, emphasizing that these are "anytime" snacks because they are healthy, as opposed to "sometimes" snacks like cookies and chips.
- Get your children involved! When grocery shopping, give your child a few tasks like picking out the apples that look the best or choosing the veggie for dinner that night. When you get home from the store, play a game where you sort foods by colors and texture. Get creative! You might also want to consider growing fruits and vegetables in a small garden at home, taking kids to a working farm to see where foods come from and introducing them to foods with funny names like papaya and bok choy, which you can laugh about with them.
- When introducing a new food, sometimes it's a good idea to pair it with something you know your child already likes. For example, add spinach and parmesan cheese to his or her mashed potatoes and serve them as "green potatoes."
- Don't hide healthy foods from kids but be honest with them about what they're eating so they can learn to like it.
Healthy dinner ideas that are kid-friendly
Expand your children's palates by introducing them to new foods prepared in a way that is unavoidably tasty but also familiar. Here are some healthy meal ideas that kids will enjoy:
- Baked fish sticks made with fresh salmon and coated in parmesan and bread crumbs
- Turkey and bulgar meatballs with whole-wheat pasta
- Homemade kale chips – kids love salty things
- A colorful fruit salad dressed with vanilla yogurt
- Make homemade miniature pizzas and provide a wide variety of healthy toppings for your child to choose from, including mushrooms, bell peppers and various low-fat cheeses.