Have you heard of monk fruit? This small green fruit, also known as Buddha fruit, the longevity fruit, luo han guo in Chinese and la han qua in Vietnamese, is traditionally grown on steep terraces in southern China and northern Thailand. Monk fruit is likely nicknamed as such because it was cultivated by monks.
The bitter rind has been used for tea and the extremely sweet flesh used as a sweetener for hundreds of years in China as a form of herbal medicine. While there's been some exposure to monk fruit in the Western world, it's becoming popular here as an alternative sweetener.
Benefits of monk fruit sweetener
Two of the major benefits of monk fruit sweeteners are that they are calorie-free and 100 percent natural. This is in contrast to aspartame and other artificial sweeteners, which have been theorized to contribute to cancer. One thing to know about the sweetener made from the extract of the lemon-sized monk melon is that it is 200 to 300 times sweeter than sugar. While you can substitute it for sugar in baking, you should adjust accordingly, as 1/4 teaspoon of monk fruit sweetener is often equal in sweetness to about 1 teaspoon of sugar - a little goes a long way.
Though they sound similar and there's only one letter of difference, probiotics and prebiotics are not the same thing, but they each are beneficial in different ways.
Probiotics are microorganisms that are beneficial to the body. Taking a probiotic supplement like Naturade Probiotics 30 B CFU or eating foods rich in probiotics – like yogurt, kefir, kombucha tea, kimchi, sauerkraut, soy milk, tempeh and even pickles – can help restore the digestive system's good bacteria. Things like poor or high-fat diets, smoking, alcohol consumption, antibiotic use and infections can upset the balance of bacteria in the gut. Probiotics can restore this balance, and have been shown to treat diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, yeast infections and other health issues, and they may even boost brain function and lower blood pressure and bad cholesterol.
Just like probiotics, prebiotics aren't a food but they're found in various foods. We can think of prebiotics as the fuel that feeds probiotics' successful restoration of good bacteria. Prebiotics are non-digestible carbohydrates found in fibrous foods. When combined with probiotics, the two become known as a synbiotic, which is a characteristic of foods that have both good bacteria and the fuel to keep them going. Kefir and some yogurts are considered synbiotic. Prebiotics are found in a limited number of foods, including raw onions and leeks, Jerusalem artichokes, whole grains like raw oatmeal, barley and wheat, and they can be found in other fruits and vegetables in very small amounts. Cooked onions, leeks and artichokes have lesser quantities of prebiotics but are often more palatable when cooked. If you think you need a prebiotics to maximize the benefits of probiotics but do not eat enough foods containing prebiotics, there are supplements available.
Very serious athletes and people looking to curb their cravings often consume high-fiber, high protein foods and supplements or meal replacements. While energy bars, protein powders and other supplements are often made from soy protein isolate, egg whites or the whey or casein from milk, people are becoming more interested in using pea protein. This is likely due to the rise of veganism and an increased demand in non-animal protein products. Also, many people have soy and dairy allergies, and pea protein generally has a low allergy profile so it's preferable to other protein sources.
The yellow split peas used in pea protein are sustainable, and many pea protein products do not use GMOs. Unlike fresh English peas, which are slightly sweet, yellow split peas are not eaten fresh but rather are dried and then split or ground.
One excellent option if you're considering adding a new protein source is Naturade Pea Protein. It is 100 percent gluten-, cholesterol-, soy- and dairy-free. Naturade's pea protein is made of yellow peas and is easily digestible. It is also made from non-GMO peas, is vegan and is suitable for both adults and children. It contains nine essential amino acids, which support the muscles, bones and connective tissues, and are important because the body is unable to make them on its own.
Aside from all of the above benefits, pea protein is also beneficial for athletes because the amino acids lysine, arginine, leucine, isoleucine, valine and glutamine can support sports performance recovery and promote a healthy digestive tract.
Mix two scoops of Naturade Pea Protein into cold water or any other beverage. You can also blend it into a post-workout or morning smoothie with fruit, yogurt, oatmeal and various other ingredients for a complete meal.
The centerpiece of Thanksgiving dinner for most people is the turkey, though classic side dishes like mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, cranberry sauce, sweet yams, hot rolls and various casseroles are the combined elements that make Thanksgiving dinner what it is. But if you have vegans coming to dinner or are trying to lead a vegan lifestyle yourself, some adjustments will have to be made to the turkey, chicken broth- and cream-infused casseroles, and marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes. Here are some ideas to harness vegan-friendly ingredients for a stellar Thanksgiving dinner that will not leave you wanting:
Rather than creating a gravy from turkey giblets and other parts you’d rather not think about, use regular button mushrooms and vegetable broth to make a delicious sauce that’s both healthy and flavorful. For a savory meat-free gravy, you can also use red wine and shallots or roasted garlic.
Many times, stuffing is made with savory bread pieces, celery, onions and chicken broth. But you can find several recipes online that use ingredients like vegan cornbread, apples, chestnuts and vegetable shortening for a sweet and savory stuffing that everyone will love.
The main dish
You can still roast a turkey for your non-vegan guests, but when it comes to a main course for your vegetarian and vegan friends, consider using earthy, protein-packed lentils. Look for a hearty recipe online, such as a shepherd’s pie made with lentils and veggies, topped with mashed potatoes, or a variation on meatloaf made with lentils. For dishes you typically make with chicken, you can use vegan “chicken,” which can be found in the frozen section of most grocery stores, or purchase textured vegetable protein.
A side dish
Everyone loves butternut squash, so consider making a mouthwatering butternut squash macaroni and cheese. You can make it vegan by substituting regular milk for rich coconut milk, and using soy cheese. Look online for these recipes for a rave-worthy dish. For a lighter side dish, make a simple and bright salad using arugula, bulgur wheat, pomegranate seeds and chopped hazelnuts with a light vinaigrette dressing.
Dairy-free desserts are all the rage today because it’s really easy to do them right and end up with a product that is just as tasty as – if not tastier than - their dairy-including counterparts. Look online for a pumpkin cheesecake, pie or apple dumpling recipe to harness the flavors of the season in a vegan-friendly way.
People vary in their level of fitness, and opinions about what it means to be physically fit can diverge widely as well. A 60-year-old man who does moderate, low-intensity exercise four times a week might feel he's very physically fit compared to everyone else his age, but a 22-year-old woman engaging in the same fitness routine might not be considered superbly fit by anyone's standards.
Still, it is incredibly hard to pinpoint how well you are doing physically compared to other people your age because fitness can be hard to quantify. Sure, you can track your minutes per mile, your number of pushups or your length of time on the elliptical each day, but these numbers means little from person-to-person because we differ on metabolism, height, weight, health issues and needs.
But researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology have come up with an easy algorithm to measure one's "fitness age" – or, as a recent New York Times article puts it, "how well your body functions physically, relative to how well it should work, given your age." Previously, these numbers would be determined in an exercise-physiology lab. However, the Norwegian researchers found a way to come up with someone's VO2 max levels – the peak oxygen intake, which measures how well our bodies get oxygen to the cells. VO2 max can tell someone's fitness age.
The researchers took resting heart rate, HDL cholesterol and total cholesterol levels, body mass index, height and resting heart rate. Then, they had each person run on a treadmill until they were completely exhausted in order to determine VO2. If you're interested in learning your fitness age, try out the university's VO2 calculator for quick, accurate results.
The good thing about learning your fitness age is that if it is older than your actual age, you can make some easy adjustments – such as working out more frequently – to lower it.
Have you heard of intermittent fasting? Basically, it's a diet that involves a period of regular eating followed by one of fasting. The fast can last as long as 24 hours and involve only drinking water, black coffee or tea, or it can last for just eight hours. In other iterations, the fast period involves a restriction of calories – such as consuming only 600 calories on the fast day – which is much more feasible for many people. After all, who can get any work done on a hungry, empty stomach?
Fasting has been around for ages and is often part of religious practice. In general, fasting is healthy if not taken to extremes and dieters get sufficient nutrients and enough calories to function. So, moderate fasting is fine for most people, but is it effective for weight loss?
A recent study from the University of Illinois at Chicago found that intermittent fasting in combination with calorie restriction and liquid meals helped obese women both lose weight and lower their risk of coronary heart disease. A 2007 clinical review found that intermittent fasting could likely protect against Type 2 diabetes, cancer and heart disease. A controlled trial in 2007 found that fasting for normal weight subjects was not effective without calorie restriction. However, more research is required to determine which patterns of fasting and calorie restriction are most effective, and in turn, if intermittent fasting is more effective than other weight loss strategies.
Other research has shown that fasting could be positive for brain aging and function. Still, until there's better research, for adults of regular weight who are trying to get in shape, it's probably better to stick to healthy eating and exercise for weight loss.
We all know sleep is very important for immune, physical and mental health because it's the body's period of restoration. But much research shows that the amount of rest we get each night has implications for weight loss and gain. A long-established study revealed to researchers that getting less than five or six hours of sleep per night put one at increased risk of being overweight.
However, more recent studies reveal the mechanisms of the effect of sleep loss on weight, and some of the results are almost frighteningly, especially for people who are sacrificing sleep to get in an extra workout or plan healthier meals.
According to one 2012 study by researchers at the University of Chicago, sleep loss changes the biology of fat cells, making them more insulin-resistant. The small study involved seven subjects who switched from sleeping 8.5 hours per night to 4.5 hours per night. After just four days of the new sleep schedule, researchers found profound effects: The lack of sleep aged the subjects' fat cells 20 years!
Aside from signaling our bodies to keep more fat, lack of sleep also increases the likelihood of gaining weight because less sleep lowers the body's leptin levels – a hormone that controls appetite. This causes someone to crave carbohydrates. A recent University of Colorado study found surprising results after participants had just one week of inadequate sleep. Turns out, sleep-deprived people burned 111 extra calories per day and had an increased metabolism. However, this is misleadingly positive. In fact, the people who got less sleep (the control group was allowed nine hours) consumed many more calories – about 6 percent more – than others throughout the day and gained an average of two pounds.
The good news
In contrast, a 2012 study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that for people enrolled in a weight loss program, both quality and length of sleep were important in predicting their weight loss. That is, adequate sleep can contribute to weight loss.
Tips for getting enough sleep
Even if you're not looking to lose weight, getting adequate sleep is incredibly important for body function in all areas. Here are some tips to help you get better sleep to stay healthy:
- Avoid caffeine five to eight hours before bedtime.
- Use your bed only for sleeping or sex. Doing other activities in bed, like watching videos or reading, can confuse your body.
- Unplug and disconnect at least one hour before bed. Research has shown that the blue light from screens – whether that is a TV, laptop, tablet or smartphone screen – can disrupt and delay the secretion of melatonin, a hormone that influences the circadian rhythm, or sleep cycle.
- Develop a bedtime routine that involves calming activities like reading a paperback or meditating.
- If you have a very difficult time falling asleep, try Naturade SlumberAid, which contains melatonin, magnesium and a full range of B vitamins for sleep promotion. Talk to your doctor first if you plan to try this product.
While breast feeding is one way that women can bond with their new babies, it can also be stressful. Some women cannot breast feed due to medical reasons, and for couples who have adopted a child, it is often impossible. In other situations, some women simply cannot produce enough milk.
However, many experts have praised the health benefits of breast feeding over infant formula. Unfortunately, these claims have added to the stress of couples for whom breast feeding is difficult or not possible. Thus, a number of parents have begun purchasing donor breast milk online or having it donated from well-intentioned strangers. However, an October 2013 study from the journal Pediatrics has revealed that this practice is potentially dangerous to infants' health.
According to the study, breast milk purchased over the Internet had alarming rates of bacteria. The researchers collected 101 samples from various milk-sharing websites and analyzed both the bacterial content of the milk and what the sellers said about their handling and storage methods. They found that 64 percent of milk samples were contaminated with the staph bacteria, while nearly 75 percent had other types of bacteria and 36 percent were contaminated with strep. Three of the samples even had salmonella. While staph and strep are common and relatively harmless at normal levels, nine percent of the milk samples had dangerously high levels of staph and a few had high strep levels. Regarding salmonella, which can be deadly, the study's author said this should never be found in milk.
Overall, researchers found that 74 percent of the samples would not have met the fairly strict screening standards of milk banks, which store and pasteurize donated milk for needy infants.
Because there are definite health benefits to breast feeding, many people unable to give their infants breast milk aren't content just using formula. However, there are other animals that breast feed to provide important nutrients to their offspring. The "first milk" of lactating cows – called colostrum – may be a safe alternative to donor breast milk due to its ability to support the immune system. One such product is Naturade's Proline-Rich Polypeptides with Colostrum in powder form, which can be mixed into formula. This product is considered safe for all ages, but as with all supplements, it's recommended that you talk to your child's pediatrician before using.
For most of us, the holiday season, while wonderful, can be pretty tiring as we scramble to purchase gifts, plan holiday parties, and keep our sanity. If you're anticipating a busy holiday season, here are three natural ways to keep your energy high so you can enjoy the season to its fullest:
Maybe your morning coffee just isn't doing it anymore, but you're hesitant to up your caffeine intake too much more. Aside from the usual exhortations to eat well, here are a few more tips that might boost your energy reserves during shopping marathons and baking sessions:
- Don't eat high-fat foods right before bed. Though you might get a craving for ice cream or French fries, find something 150 calories or less to satisfy your cravings. You'll feel bloated the next morning, which can make you drag throughout the day.
- Eat a hearty breakfast high in protein, like low-fat Greek yogurt, an omelet or a meal replacement shake made with Naturade Total Soy. Protein will give your brain a boost, and a big – but healthy – breakfast will keep you full without weighing you down.
- As you're running holiday errands, keep a reusable bottle of water with you at all times. Being dehydrated can make you tired.
- For a little pick-me-up after lunch, have some peppermint candy. Research has shown that it might enhance both your mood and concentration.
Get pumped up
Sometimes you just need to change gears a little. If you've been wrapping presents, cooking or doing other holiday chores, re-motivate yourself with these tips:
- Turn on some upbeat music to avoid monotony and have some background beats.
- Watch a YouTube video that is so funny it makes you almost fall out of your chair.
- Do some energizing morning yoga or pilates for a burst of energy to start your day.
Aside for getting as much sleep as you can, there are some other things you can do to feel energized when you wake up:
- Do your best to hop out of bed right away. If you hit the snooze button frequently, put your alarm clock or phone in a place that you can't reach from the bed and turn the alarm on high so you'll be forced to actually get out of bed.
- Open the shades or turn the light on immediately in the morning. Light tells our internal clocks that it's time to wake up, so do yourself a favor and don't walk around in a dark room.
Humans have had pet canines for thousands of years, and there's a reason why this perennial "world's best pet" is human's best friend around the world. In fact, 47 percent of households in the U.S. own at least one dog. Everyone that has a pet dog knows that they're loyal, loving creatures that are always happy to see you when you get home. And recent research furthers the cause of having a pet dog – as it turns out, whether you're a child, adult or senior, there are some major benefits of having a pooch by your side. Aside from an abundance of love and loyalty, here are some of the reasons that dog ownership is good for your health:
- Get more exercise. As a dog-owner, you'll get a great workout every day by taking your little Fido out on his walks.
- Live longer. Research has shown that people with dogs tend to live longer than others, which is likely due to the fact that they get more exercise than others and gain the emotional benefits of having a pet.
- Stave off loneliness. Dogs as companions can help us feel less lonely. This is especially important for people who live alone, such as seniors, according to recent research. Aside from being good company, pets can also help you meet new people. Dogs serve as an easy topic of conversation: when you are out walking your dog, people are more likely to come up and talk to you, and if you go to parks you can meet other dog owners. The reduction of loneliness is a very important benefit because loneliness has been shown to decrease overall health and longevity.
- Keep your heart healthy. Though surprising, research has shown that simply petting and talking to a dog or cat can lower one's blood pressure noticeably. Petting an animal can induce relaxation and calm people, which is why dogs are often used in hospitals as therapy animals.
- Learn empathy. Having a pet dog can teach children empathy. It allows them to learn to care for something and recognize others' needs if they are involved in the feeding, brushing and other care of the animal.
If you're considering adopting a pet, make sure you will have ample time and energy to care for that animal first, but know that, aside from being loved on by a furry friend, you'll benefit in so many other ways.