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- Michael Greger M.D. FACLM
Why Should (or Shouldn’t) We Eat a Macrobiotic Diet?

What happens when you put diabetics on a diet composed largely of whole grains, vegetables, and beans?

The American Medical Association has described macrobiotic diets as “one of the most dangerous dietary regimens, posing not only serious hazards to the health of the individual but even to life itself.” Macrobiotic diets “are predominantly vegetarian with great emphasis being placed on the inclusion of whole-grain cereals.” What’s wrong with that? Well, they also used to tell people that “fluids are to be avoided as much as possible,” which isn’t good, and to avoid fruit so much so that it resulted in modern-day cases of scurvy.

Thankfully, as I discuss in my video Flashback Friday: Pros and Cons of a Macrobiotic Diet, “the macrobiotic diet has evolved over the past 30 years.” As you can see below and at 0:46 in my video, the more contemporary version emphasizes whole grains, vegetables, and beans, and minimizes most meat, eggs, and dairy. I don’t like that it restricts fruits and I don’t like all of the added salt, but compared with the standard American diet, it has a lot going for it, as you can see below and at 1:04 in my video: It has only a quarter of the saturated fat intake, less than half of the sugar intake, and a respectable fiber intake—two and a half times the national average. However, it includes more sodium. It also has a negative Dietary Inflammatory Index score, as opposed to the pro-inflammatory typical American diet. Some of the most anti-inflammatory foods are herbs and spices, so instead of adding sea salt and soy sauce, the macrobiotic diet, which is already anti-inflammatory, could be improved by using natural seasonings instead.

Has the macrobiotic diet ever been put to the test? Yes, it has been for diabetes. Higher plain water consumption is associated with lower risk of type 2 diabetes, yet the macrobiotic diet restricts drinking water. Part of the beneficial link may be because people on a macrobiotic diet drink less soda, though. What about the restriction on fruit intake? That probably isn’t helpful either because “higher fruit or green leafy vegetables intake is associated with a significantly reduced risk of type 2 diabetes.” But, green leafy vegetables is where the macrobiotic diet can really shine: It includes a lot of greens. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study of kale show that it suppresses the after-meal increase in blood sugars. As you can see in the graph below and at 2:19 in my video, eating a meal of white rice, chicken, and eggs produces a big spike in blood sugar, though it is significantly less when just a tablespoon of dried kale powder is added to the meal, as opposed to a placebo powder.

Macrobiotic diets also include whole grains, which can significantly improve insulin sensitivity compared with refined grains, possibly due in part to all of the wonderful things fiber can do to help our good gut bacteria thrive, potentially lowering inflammation and decreasing diabetes risk, as you can see below and at 2:43 in my video. You don’t know, of course, until you put it to the test.

After only three weeks on a strictly plant-based diet composed mostly of whole grains, vegetables, and beans, participants got about a 10 percent drop in blood pressure, a whopping 35 percent drop in bad LDL cholesterol, and a 38 percent drop in fasting blood sugars. Were these changes statistically significant? Yes, the changes were significant in every possible way.

Similarly, short-term interventional studies of people with diabetes on these so-called Ma-Pi 2 macrobiotic diets have been performed across four continents. “Ma-Pi,” named after the person who came up with the diet, Mario Pianesi, is a strictly plant-based diet of mostly whole grains and vegetables, with legumes, some seeds, and decaffeinated green tea as the preferred beverage. As you can see below and at 3:54 in my video, participants in one of these studies had a nearly 40 percent drop in fasting blood sugars and almost a 27 percent drop in LDL cholesterol in just 21 days. The study subjects did lose weight—a few pounds a week—but those kinds of results were much more than one would expect with weight loss. What’s more, that 40 percent drop in blood sugars was after cutting their insulin in half! So, those numbers greatly underestimate the effects. Better results, on fewer drugs—that’s the power of plants. All we need now is a randomized, controlled clinical trial to really seal the deal, which I cover in my next video, Flashback Friday: Benefits of a Macrobiotic Diet for Diabetes.

These pros and cons remind me of a video I did on Flashback Friday: Improving on the Mediterranean Diet & Do Flexitarians Live Longer?

I’ve got dozens of other videos on preventing and treating diabetes with diet. How Not to Die from Diabetes is a good place to start.

- Michael Greger M.D. FACLM
Our Black Friday Sale Is on Now!

Add some green to your Black Friday with 20 percent off all merchandise on DrGreger.org. The sale is site-wide, so it includes all clothing, video downloads, outreach materials, and more. If you’re heading into winter, cozy up with our sweatpants (back by popular demand!), hoodies, or a crewneck sweatshirt. Sale ends November 28. All proceeds go to keeping NutritionFacts.org running! 

 

Key Takeaways: Walnuts

The Global Burden of Disease Study calculated that not eating enough nuts and seeds was the third-leading dietary risk factor for death and disability in the world. That is why I recommend a daily serving of at least ¼ cup nuts or seeds or 2 tablespoons of nut or seed butter in my Daily Dozen checklist. So, which nut is healthiest? Walnuts really seem to take the lead due to their high antioxidant and omega-3 levels, and they beat out other nuts in vitro in suppressing cancer cell growth. And, of all the nuts studied in PREDIMED, the largest dietary intervention trial to assess the effects of a Mediterranean-type diet on cardiovascular disease prevention, the researchers found the greatest benefits associated with walnuts, particularly for potentially preventing cancer deaths. Check out all of my videos on walnuts on the topic page

 

Recipe: Baked Apples with Walnuts and Goji Berries

After reading about the benefits of walnuts, I bet you’re ready to snack on some! Here’s a delicious fall treat from The How Not to Diet Cookbook that tastes like apple pie, but without all of the sugar and butter. And as a bonus, it will make your house smell divine while it bakes! Check out the recipe, and watch a video on how it’s made on our Instagram.

 

 

Volume 60 Is Out Now

I’m excited to release my 60th volume of videos! Sixty! I’ve created more than 2,000 videos in the lifetime of NutritionFacts.org and have no plans of slowing down anytime soon! This new volume includes a series on tongue scraping, the controversy around cholesterol, whether vegans suffer more bone fractures, my popular webinar video on vitamin K2, and more. 

Each video in this new volume will be released online over the next few months, available for free, of course, but if you don’t want to wait, you can stream all of them right now

If you are a $15+ monthly supporter and opted in to our donor rewards, you’re likely an expert on these new topics by now, since you already received a complimentary link to the new download. If you’d like early access to new videos before they’re available to the public, please consider becoming a monthly supporter. Without your generosity, we wouldn’t be able to continue our work. Thank you!

And, remember, if you watch the videos on NutritionFacts.org or YouTube, you can access captions in several different languages. To find yours, click on the settings wheel in the lower-right corner of the video and then “Subtitles/CC.” (You can also watch our new video about changing your settings.) Happy viewing!

 

Volunteer Spotlight: Laura McClanathan

I love everything about volunteering for Dr. Greger! I’m a part of the wonderful Article Retrieval Team where I help track down articles he needs for his books and videos. It’s incredibly fun detective work that really appeals to me as a reference librarian. What is most satisfying about it is that I feel I am making a tangible contribution to the body of evidence-based information about the incredible—and positive—power of plant-based eating. And it’s an honor to give back to someone who has helped me learn so much.

My favorite recipe is Dr. Greger’s ranch dressing. It is so delicious and versatile—cashews, unsweetened soy milk, a tasty spice blend, lemon, vinegar, red onion, dates, white miso, parsley, and dill.

 

Top Three Videos

Lighting incense in a holderThe Side Effects of Burning Incense 

Burning incense has been found to generate about four times the particulate matter as burning cigarettes.

 

Spoon of fenugreek seeds on wooden tableThe Benefits of Fenugreek for Preventing and Treating Diabetes

The spice fenugreek contains 4-hydroxyisoleucine, a peculiar amino acid that may explain its benefits for controlling blood sugar.

 

Woman smelling basket of vegetablesFoods That Cause and Help Halitosis (Bad Breath)

Most bad breath is due to the decay of sulfur-containing proteins.

 

 

Thank you so much for the wonderful birthday messages and donations last month. My 50th felt truly special thanks to your kindness and your support. I enjoyed celebrating with the NutritionFacts.org team at our annual staff retreat this year! If you missed my live Q&A last week, you can watch the recording by going to our Live Q&A page. And I recently did a fun interview with Tami of Nutmeg Notebook. Check it out!

- Michael Greger M.D. FACLM
What Is the Best Food for Gingivitis and Periodontal Disease?

What would happen if you stopped brushing your teeth but ate more healthfully?

 Experimentally, when study participants stop brushing their teeth, plaque starts to build up and, within a few days, their gums start to get inflamed. Though nothing may be visible just yet, if you take a biopsy at the gum line, you can see the inflammation beginning to spread. Within a few weeks, overt gingivitis becomes apparent with gums that can get red and swollen and bleed easily. If you don’t do anything about it, you can develop periodontal disease, where the inflammation creeps down into the supporting structures of the tooth—the bone and ligaments—setting you up for tooth loss.

How did we get along for millions of years without brushing our teeth? “Dental disease is almost universal” these days, but skulls from thousands of years before the invention of the toothbrush have perfect teeth. Admittedly, that was also thousands of years before the invention of candy bars. Does food play a role? You don’t know…until you put it to the test, as I discuss in my video Best Food for Periodontal Disease and Gingivitis.

How do you get people to stop brushing their teeth and also stop eating processed junk? Researchers designed a study where participants were forced to live under Stone Age conditions without “toothbrushes, toothpaste, dental floss, toothpicks, or other oral hygiene products” for a month, and “security guards ensured that all subjects maintained the appropriate lifestyle for Stone Age humans.” They could use a twig or other natural material to try to clean their teeth, but were pretty much on their own. (The participants didn’t get any candy bars either.) The researchers were attempting to replicate the diet from about 4000 BCE, so the subjects got a lot of whole grains with supplemental “salt, herbs, honey, milk, and meat from domestic animals (goats and hens),” and were allowed to pick berries or see what they could catch. What happened?

With no oral hygiene, their plaque built up, as you can see in the graph below and at 1:53 in my video, but their gums got healthier, as measured by bleeding on probing. (Gums bleeding when poked with a dental tool is a measure of gingivitis.) In almost every case, the participants’ gum health improved. How is it possible that their gums were actually healthier despite buildup of plaque? Many of the more disease-causing bacteria seemed to have disappeared from their mouths. The researchers suggested this could be from the lack of refined sugars, but the participants were eating honey, so they weren’t on a sugar-free diet. They were, however, eating a lot of whole grains and berries rich in antioxidant phytonutrients with anti-inflammatory properties. So, maybe it was restricted sugar intake combined with the intake of really healthy foods. Thus, all of those experimental studies where people stop brushing their teeth and their gums inevitably get inflamed “may only be applicable if the subjects maintain a Western diet rich in sugar and low in anti-inflammatory foods,” such as whole plant foods.

What about the role of nutrition in periodontal health? Gingivitis can lead to periodontitis, an inflammatory disease of the supporting tissues of the teeth, which, if left untreated, can lead to the progressive loss of the bone that holds our teeth in place. Part of the development of periodontal disease may involve oxidative stress, so not only do we need to reduce our intake of pro-inflammatory foods, such as refined carbohydrates and saturated fats, but it may also help if we seek out foods that are antioxidant-rich.

Is there an association between periodontitis and dietary vitamin C intake? Apparently so, as you can see in the graph below and at 3:34 in my video. Increased risk of periodontitis has been associated with lower levels of vitamin C intake. What effect might vitamin C depletion and supplementation have on periodontal health? Researchers provided controlled amounts of vitamin C to study participants for three months and found that measures of gum inflammation were directly related to the subjects’ vitamin C status. On about one orange’s worth of vitamin C a day, their gums improved; down around only 5 mg a day, though, their gums got worse. On ten oranges’ worth of vitamin C a day, they got better and then worse once again when the vitamin C level dropped down to five oranges’ worth, as you can see  in the graph below and at 4:01 in my video. The study was pretty convincing, though 5 mg a day is down at scurvy level. We know our gums start bleeding and our teeth can fall out if we have scurvy, but that doesn’t mean taking extra vitamin C helps.

 

Indeed, 1,500 mg of vitamin C a day did not seem to help prevent gingivitis and even 2,000 mg a day failed to help periodontitis sufferers. Is it possible that vitamin C is just too weak an antioxidant? What about lycopene, the powerful antioxidant pigment that makes tomatoes red? Lycopene worked! But that was from injecting it directly into the gum pocket with a syringe. Does it still work if you simply eat it?

A randomized, placebo-controlled, clinical trial investigated the efficacy of lycopene in the treatment of gingivitis. After two weeks of standard dental treatment with either a single daily tomato’s worth of lycopene or placebo, the placebo group had a 10 to 20 percent reduction in gingivitis, but the lycopene group had a nearly 30 percent improvement within just one week. How much lycopene? The amount found in just one and a half teaspoons of tomato paste a day. So, tomatoes may help with gingivitis, but what about periodontitis?

Another randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial again treated subjects with a typical dental cleaning plus either one daily tomato’s worth of lycopene or a placebo for two months. Researchers found significant improvements in the lycopene group in plaque, gingivitis, and bleeding, though not probe pocket depth and clinical attachment. You can see the difference in how much better their gums looked as you can see below and at 5:59 in my video. The researchers concluded that “supplementation with lycopene seems to have augmented the healing sequence of inflamed gingival tissues,” but that was with a whole tomato’s worth a day. How about half a tomato’s worth or just three quarters of a teaspoon of tomato paste’s worth of lycopene a day? Neither worked. There was no difference. It looks like you have to go the whole tomato.

It should come as no surprise that healthy foods can benefit all parts of the body, but I still love to see the data!

I talk more about the red pigment in tomatoes in Lycopene Supplements vs. Prostate Cancer and Tomato Sauce vs. Prostate Cancer.

- Michael Greger M.D. FACLM
Is Cannabis a Cancer Cure?

Some studies on mice show that cannabis makes cancer better, while others show it makes cancer worse. What did the one and only human clinical trial to date find?

“Cannabis and cancer: reality or pipe dream quackery?” I tackle that question in my video Can Cannabis Cure Cancer?. “Among alternative cancer treatments, cannabis inhabits a peculiarly politicised position, hailed as a suppressed panacea by some, denounced as a psychosis-inducing and illegal drug by others….At the far end of the spectrum are those who insist cannabis…has helped cure their cancer.” “The promise, and even the hype, can reach hysterical proportions, with claims of cannabis cancer cures circulating in cyberspace at a furious pace.”

Sometimes, a patient will have a cancer that is curable with conventional therapies, such as surgically removing it before it spreads, but chooses to forgo that treatment in favor a purported cure that has a “large number of online testimonials.”

Yes, as you can see in the graph and at 0:54 in my video, cannabis compounds like THC can reduce brain tumor volume in mice or suppress cancer cell growth in a petri dish, but “mice and rats are not people, and what is observed in vitro does not necessarily translate into human clinical medicine.” Does it hurt to just give it a try, though? Well, there is other evidence that cannabis compounds “may encourage cancer cell growth.” Indeed, research indicates that THC may inhibit antitumor immunity or induce cancer cell proliferation, as well as enhance breast cancer growth and metastasis by suppression of the antitumor immune response—at least in mouse mammary tumors. You don’t know what happens in people…until you put it to the test. But, due to legal reasons, few human studies have been done. Thankfully, “after years of deep freeze on cannabis-related research, funding, and materials, a thaw is starting.” But, where do you even start?

Well, if cannabis compounds—cannabinoids—“are postulated to have a potential anticancer effect working through the CB1 [cannabinoid] receptors, it would follow that the brain—where the CB1 receptor is the most densely populated…receptor—would be a good place to start the investigation.”

“One of the most devastating forms of cancer is glioblastoma,” a fast-growing type of malignant brain tumor, and that’s the first cancer that was put to the test.

Cannabis compounds sometimes inhibit tumor growth in lab animals, but their anti-tumor effects hadn’t been tested in humans until recently. Finally, the first clinical study on cancer was conducted—a pilot study of nine patients with recurrent glioblastoma, meaning they had had their tumors cut out and then received radiation treatments, but their cancer returned and was growing. The researchers administered THC straight into their tumors. The study participants went back into surgery, had a scoop carved out of the center of their tumors. A catheter was inserted into the middle and the other end stuck out of their heads, and researchers dripped THC directly into the tumor with a syringe. THC had already been tested on biopsy specimens and showed it was able to kill off some of the cancer cells in a petri dish. What happened when it was tried on the patients themselves? The patients all died in a matter of months.

As you can see in the graph and at 3:39 in my video, in a few subjects, it seemed THC may have worked for a few weeks, but then their tumors began growing again despite repeated treatments. The patient with the most dramatic result was a 35-year-old man. At four weeks, his tumor had shrunk dramatically, but then it came back with a vengeance and, despite more infusions, his condition worsened and then he was gone. With no control group, the effect of the treatment on overall survival is unclear.

That was both the first clinical trial on cancer and the only clinical trial on cancer, and it was published more than a decade ago. There is some good news, though: There are more than 15 trials currently underway. The most exciting one may be a phase-two trial in Israel, once again looking at “advanced cancers that have progressed through all standard treatments.” In the meanwhile, if you are undergoing a standard treatment like chemotherapy, at least we know that cannabis may help with some of the side effects.

Doctor’s Note:

In case you missed it, check out my previous video, Does Marijuana Cause Lung Cancer?.

- Michael Greger M.D. FACLM
Does Smoking Cannabis Cause Lung Cancer?

On a puff-by-puff basis, cannabis smoke deposits four times more tar in the lungs than tobacco, but does that translate into increased cancer risk?

Does Marijuana Cause Lung Cancer? As I discuss in my video, “there are at least 33 carcinogens in marijuana smoke,” including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which are products of combustion. They are found in grilled meat and flow through the bodies of those who smoke marijuana, similar to what flows through the bodies of cigarette smokers, which is really remarkable, as you can see in the graph and at 0:17 in my video. Most tobacco users typically inhale much more smoke into their lungs over the course of a day than do cannabis users, so, on a puff-by-puff basis, is marijuana smoke really that much worse? 

Compared to unfiltered cigarette smoke, cannabis smoke does seem to contain more benzopyrene and benzanthracene, which are polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon procarcinogens. However, cannabis users may just inhale more deeply and then hold in the smoke longer, which can end up depositing four times more tar in the lungs, “amplifying exposure of the lung to the carcinogens within the smoke.” What about bubbling the smoke through water, like in a bong? That does not appear to reduce the risks of tar buildup.

As you can see in the graph and at 1:11 in my video, the tar in marijuana smoke may have similar tumor-promoting effects as cigarette smoke—in mice. But what about in people?

Long-time marijuana users do have more cancers—more lung cancer, oral cancer, and voicebox cancer—but it seems that’s only because they also tend to be more likely to smoke tobacco, too. After cigarettes were taken out of the equation, no increased cancer risk was found.

The same holds for head and neck cancer. One study found increased risk, but five studies reported no association and one study even found decreased risk. “Regular use of marijuana causes airway injury leading to symptoms of chronic bronchitis in some smokers but no…evidence of emphysema,” long-term lung damage. And, despite the carcinogenic components in marijuana smoke, there is no apparent increased risk of lung cancer either. However, “evidence is mixed regarding the risk of heavy, long-term use”—and that may be the crux.

In terms of smoke exposure, smoking a joint every single day for ten years may only translate to six months of pack-a-day cigarette smoking. In most studies on tobacco smoke and lung cancer, six months in a lifetime might even classify you as “a never smoker.” It may take a couple of years of cigarette smoking to significantly bump up lung cancer risk, so that would be like smoking a joint every day of your adult life. It’s no wonder we can’t find a lung cancer link with casual marijuana use. There is also an alternative explanation: Maybe the anti-tumor effects of the cannabis plant counteract the tumor-promoting effects of the carcinogens in the smoke. Anti-tumor effects?

Indeed, the original demonstration of an anticancer effect, dating back to 1975, showed that THC can suppress the growth of lung cancer cells in a petri dish, as you can see in the graph and at 3:10 in my video. These kinds of data have led to wild claims of cancer cures on the internet, “extrapolating the results of preclinical work” (such as in petri dishes and test tubes) “to humans without any basis in fact.” Reportedly, cannabis has not been studied clinically as a treatment for malignancy in people—but that isn’t entirely accurate. A pilot study was performed on terminal brain cancer patients. Find out what they found in Can Cannabis Cure Cancer?.

Doctor’s Note:

Check out Can Cannabis Cure Cancer?, as well as a whole treasure chest of videos on cannabis that I’ve put together. If you want to see them all now, I put them onto a digital DVD.

- Michael Greger M.D. FACLM
Coffee Benefits Blocked by Adding Milk?

I open my video Does Adding Milk Block the Benefits of Coffee? with a graph from a study of mortality versus coffee consumption that suggests coffee drinkers live longer than non-coffee drinkers. Why might that be? Coffee may have beneficial effects on “inflammation, lung function, insulin sensitivity, and depression,” perhaps due in part to a class of polyphenol phytonutrients found in coffee beans called chlorogenic acids, which have been proven to have favorable effects in studies where it was given alone in pill form. Indeed, they have shown beneficial effects, such as “acute blood pressure-lowering activity,” dropping the top and bottom blood pressure numbers within hours of consumption, as you can see in the graph below and at 0:40 in my video. So, which coffee has the most chlorogenic acids? We know how to choose the reddest tomato and the brightest orange sweet potato, indicating that plant pigments are antioxidants themselves. So, how do you choose the healthiest coffee?

More than a hundred coffees were tested. Different ones had different caffeine levels, but the chlorogenic acid levels varied by more than 30-fold. “As a consequence, coffee selection may have a large influence on the potential health potential of coffee intake.” Okay, but if coffee can vary so greatly, what does it mean when studies show that a single cup of coffee may do this or that? Interestingly, coffee purchased from Starbucks had an extremely low chlorogenic acid content, which contributed significantly to widening the range.

The Starbucks coffee averaged ten times lower than the others. Could it be that Starbucks roasts its beans more? Indeed, the more you roast, the less chlorogenic acid content there is; chlorogenic acid content appears to be partially destroyed by roasting. Caffeine is pretty stable, but a dark roast may wipe out nearly 90 percent of the chlorogenic acid content of the beans. The difference between a medium light roast and a medium roast was not enough to make a difference in total antioxidant status in people’s bloodstreams after drinking them, and they both gave about the same boost. Other factors, such as how you prepare it or decaffeination, don’t appear to have a major effect either. What about adding milk?

You may remember Nutrient-Blocking Effects of Dairy, a video I produced ages ago, that showed that adding milk prevented the protective effects of tea on artery function. Drink black tea, and, within hours, you get a significant improvement in vascular function, “whereas addition of milk completely blunted the effects of tea.” Indeed, as you can see in the graph below and at 2:37 in my video, the study found that we get a big boost in artery function after drinking tea, but, if we drink the same amount of tea with milk, it’s as if we never drank the tea at all. It’s thought that the milk protein casein is to blame, by binding up the tea phytonutrients. “The finding that the tea-induced improvement in vascular function in humans is completely attenuated after addition of milk may have broad implications on the mode of tea preparation and consumption.” In other words, maybe we should not add milk to tea. In fact, maybe we shouldn’t put cream on our berries either. Milk proteins appear to have the same effect on berry phytonutrients, as well as chocolate, as you can see in the graph below and at 3:15 in my video. If you eat milk chocolate, nothing much happens to the antioxidant power of your bloodstream, but within an hour of eating dark chocolate, you get a nice spike in antioxidant power.

 

Is this because the milk in milk chocolate crowds out some of the antioxidant-rich cocoa? Milk chocolate may only be 20 percent cocoa, whereas a good dark chocolate may be made of 70 percent or more cocoa solids. That’s not all, though. How much of this cocoa phytonutrient gets into your bloodstream when you eat dark chocolate compared to milk chocolate? If you eat the same amount of dark chocolate with a glass of milk, it blocks about half of the antioxidant power, as you can see in the graph below and at 3:43 in my video.

What about coffee beans? When milk was added to coffee in a test tube, the antioxidant activity decreased by more than half with just a splash of milk and reduced by 95 percent in a latte or another preparation with a lot of milk. But, what happens in a test tube doesn’t necessarily happen in a human. You don’t know until you put it to the test. And, indeed, as you can see at 4:22 in my video, over the course of a day, significantly fewer chlorogenic acids made it into people’s bloodstreams when they drank their coffee with milk as compared to black. The added milk cut their absorption of chlorogenic acids by more than half.

What about soymilk? In a test tube, coffee phytonutrients appear to bind to egg and soy proteins, as well as dairy proteins. Computer modeling shows how these coffee compounds can dock inside the nooks and crannies of dairy, egg white, and soy proteins, but what happens in a test tube or computer simulation doesn’t necessarily happen in a human. Eggs haven’t been put to the test, so we don’t know if having omelets with your black coffee would impair absorption. And soymilk?

Soymilk has some inherent benefits over cow’s milk, but does it have the same nutrient-blocking effects as dairy? The answer is no. There is no significant difference in the absorption of coffee phytonutrients when we drink our coffee black or with soymilk. Soy proteins appear to bind initially to the coffee compounds in the small intestine, but then our good bacteria can release them so they can be absorbed in the lower intestine. So, “considering the reversible nature of binding,” it doesn’t seem to be as relevant if you add soymilk, but skip the dairy milk.

I explore the effects of dairy on the health benefits of berries in my video Benefits of Blueberries for Blood Pressure May Be Blocked by Yogurt.

Wondering about other milks? Almond, rice, and coconut-based milks have so little protein that I doubt there would be a blocking effect, but they have never been tested directly to my knowledge.

- Michael Greger M.D. FACLM
Blueberries to Benefit Mood and Mobility

The consumption of berries can enhance “beneficial signaling in the brain.” Plant foods are our primary source of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds, but some plant foods may be better than others. As I’ve explored before, a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial showed us that one cup of blueberries a day can improve cognition among older adults, and the same happens in children after just a single meal with blueberries, though two cups of berries may work better than one.

As I discuss in my video Benefits of Blueberries for Mood and Mobility, that single hit of berries may also improve mood. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study, young subjects were asked a series of questions, such as Are you very slightly or not at all, a little, moderately, quite a bit, or extremely interested? Excited? Strong? Ashamed? And so on. As you can see in the graph below and at 0:55 in my video, before and after drinking the placebo, there was no significant change in young adult participants aged 18 through 21. But, two hours after consuming about two cups of blueberries, their positive mood scores improved significantly. They felt more enthusiastic, alert, inspired, and attentive. The same results were found in seven- to ten-year-old children. Benefits achieved not with some dangerous new mood-enhancing drug or Ritalin, but blueberries—and after just a single meal.

Now, blueberries can’t do everything. Although a cup of berries certainly appears to improve brain function, no improvements in walking (gait) or balance were observed. What if you tried two cups of blueberries a day?Might six weeks of two cups of frozen blueberries a day affect the functional mobility in adults over age 60? Study participants were randomized to prepackaged blueberries or prepackaged carrot juice as a control, and researchers measured tasks, including one where “two bright yellow ropes on the floor outlined the narrow path, and participants were instructed to walk within the roped path.” The blueberries beat out the carrot juice control, and significant improvements suggest “blueberry supplementation may provide an effective countermeasure to age-related declines in functional mobility…” In retrospect, the researchers thought perhaps the control should have been “a true placebo (e.g., cucumber powder) without antioxidant properties,” since the carrots themselves may have offered some benefit, too. Had they used a different control, the blueberry results may have been even more impressive. “Overall, this study demonstrates the need for greater exploration of blueberry supplementation as a nonpharmacologic countermeasure to the public health issue of age-related declines in functional mobility and independence.” Or, to use the punnier version, “dietary interventions with polyphenol-rich [phytonutrient-rich] foods, such as blueberries, present a potentially fruitful strategy for combating some of the deleterious effects of age-related neurodegeneration.” (Emphasis added.)

Isn’t science grand! I love that these studies were conducted.

The video I referred to is Flashback Friday: Benefits of Blueberries for the Brain.

- Michael Greger M.D. FACLM
The Link Between Chicken Consumption and Urinary Tract Infections

Only about one in four people have heard of Campylobacter, compared to 90 percent who are familiar with Salmonella. “Although the incidence of these two…gastrointestinal infections is amazingly high,” infecting more than a million Americans every year, “it is even outranked by the incidence of infection caused by extraintestinal pathogenic Escherichia coli (ExPEC)”—a bug even fewer people have likely heard of.

Extraintestinal? That means outside of the intestines, as in causing bladder infections, and pathogenic, meaning disease-causing. Indeed, E. coli results in millions of infections annually. As I discuss in my video Friday Favorites: Urinary Tract Infections from Eating Chicken, “multiple lines of evidence indicate poultry as a major food animal reservoir for urinary tract infections”—that is, a source for the bacteria that cause UTIs in people. (You may recall I explored this several years ago, as discussed in my video Avoiding Chicken to Avoid Bladder Infections.) This is based not only on studies showing that blood infections, brain infections, and urinary tract infections in mouse models can be caused by these kinds of E. coli from commercial chicken meat and eggs, but also on studies of women with multidrug-resistant urinary tract infections reporting significantly more frequent consumption of retail chicken. Similarly, elderly consumers of chicken were significantly more likely to have Cipro-resistant bladder infections compared to those eating no chicken at all. Pork, but not beef, was also associated with increased risk, as you can see below and at 1:14 in my video.

“There have been few observed associations between beef cattle or retail beef and human ExPEC, suggesting that beef cattle are not a reservoir for human ExPEC” (bladder infections), whereas, in chickens, of the up to 90 percent of chicken carcasses harboring E. coli, about one in five isolates tested had the potential to cause urinary tract infections.

What about eggs? We know retail chicken meat “is contaminated with ExPEC isolates that resemble the strains that cause human infections,” but what about retail chicken eggs? Instead of one in five being ExPEC in chicken meat, it was more like just 1 in 20 among eggs, which is closer to levels for pork or beef.

Researchers are so sure that chicken is the primary reservoir that when they find the same kind of strain in a vegetarian, they interpret that “as consistent with human-to-human transmission or errors in reporting of poultry consumption rather than human strains being derived from a source other than chicken.” Someone may claim to be vegetarian but actually eat some chicken, for instance, or perhaps there was human-to-human or even shopping-cart-to-human transmission. (See my How to Shop for, Handle, and Store Chicken video.) Most people fail to sanitize their hands after picking up a package of poultry in the grocery store, so the “bacteria potentially left on the cart could affect other shoppers….A shopper who is not purchasing poultry, or is purchasing poultry and is following safety precautions, could still be exposed to poultry contaminates via the cart.”

“It’s difficult to estimate how much ExPEC exchange can be attributed to person-to-person contact” after the rectum of a poultry consumer has been colonized. Researchers swabbed public restrooms to try to quantify the risk, collecting more than a thousand samples from 56 public restrooms in 33 establishments. As you can see in the graph below and at 3:07 in my video, they found a lot of evidence of E. coli in general, but particularly in restrooms at public parks and fast-food joints—even more so than gas stations, which surprised me. What was really unexpected for me, though, was that women’s restrooms were worse than men’s!

Only about 1 percent of the samples the researchers took were positive for ExPEC bacteria, however, but they were recovered from sites that were not associated with toilets and were not visibly contaminated. So, one might come into contact with ExPEC bacteria with their bare hands after turning off a faucet after washing their hands, for example. In this way, the risk “could not be fully eliminated by careful hand washing or avoidance of fecal-appearing debris”—though it’s probably a good idea to avoid that anyway. Using hand sanitizers after exiting the restroom, not to mention in the meat aisle after touching a package of poultry, may offer additional protection.

What proportion of the seven million bladder infections—a common form of urinary tract infection (UTI)—every year in the United States is caused by chicken meat? “If no more chicken were consumed, how many E. coli UTIs would be prevented and how much would the prevalence decline?” It’s hard to tell because of the “time lag between the acquisition and asymptomatic colonization of the intestine with an ExPEC organism and the development of an infection.” You can eat some contaminated chicken today, but the UTI-causing ExPEC bacteria may hang out in your colon for months before making their way into your bladder and triggering an infection. The reason we know it can take that long is by studying the intestinal population dynamics of UTI-causing E. coli between partners. Increased rectum-to-rectum transfers “might be explained by the high levels of E. coli present in the urine of an infected woman, increasing the probability of transmission via direct contact.” That is, the E. coli could then be transferred to their partners, depending on certain intimate practices, such as cunnilingus.

The bottom line? There is “compelling evidence that retail meat, particularly poultry, serves as an important reservoir for human exposure to antibiotic-resistant E. coli that is causing UTIs. Thus, the term foodborne UTIs or FUTIs has been adopted to describe these infections.”

Certainly, we could decrease the burden of these foodborne bladder infections by developing some sort of ExPEC vaccine, but why not just reduce our contact with fresh or frozen poultry? No harm, no fowl.

Hold on. Who eats undercooked chicken? Typically, it’s a problem of cross-contamination, as I discuss in Food Poisoning Bacteria Cross-Contamination.

These days, there is particular concern about antibiotic-resistant infections. See Past the Age of Miracles: Facing a Post-Antibiotic Age and Friday Favorites: What About Kosher and Organic Chicken? to learn more about bacterial contamination.

Would buying organic be better? See my video Superbugs in Conventional vs. Organic Chicken.

What about treating UTIs? Check out Can Cranberry Juice Treat Bladder Infections?.

- Michael Greger M.D. FACLM
Treating Psoriasis with Aloe Vera

Psoriasis is a chronic, inflammatory skin disease that affects about one in 40 people, making it “one of the most frequent chronic skin diseases worldwide.” There are a lot of different drugs for it, some of which cost more than $100,000 a year to get a response. There are cheaper ones, like cyclosporine, but they carry long-term risks of kidney damage, hypertension, and malignancies. In fact, cyclosporine can cause cancer and kidney toxicity in more than 50 percent of the patients treated long-term, and, in terms of risk of malignancies, it carries up to 42 times the rate of cancer. And it doesn’t even work that well: It only keeps the disease at bay in a little more than half of the patients over a four-month period. There’s got to be a better way.

What about plants? “Topical botanical agents for the treatment of psoriasis?” As I discuss in my video Aloe Vera for Psoriasis, aloe vera gel is said to possess “anti-inflammatory, anti-pruritic [anti-itching], and wound-healing properties.” You may recall that it actually made things worse when it was put to the test for healing wounds. (See my earlier video Is Aloe Effective for Blood Pressure, Inflammatory Bowel, Wound Healing, and Burns?.) “The exploitation of aloe preparations has been accompanied too often by misinformation and exaggerated claims in advertising literature and commercially-inspired articles in the press and popular periodicals.” There is some impressive evidence, though. For example, to test its anti-inflammatory properties, it was tested head-to-head against steroids for exposure to mustard gas.

Mustard gas is probably the most widely used chemical warfare agent. It was first used in World War I, and the last widespread military use was in the 1980s during the Iran-Iraq war, with more than 100,000 military veterans and civilians exposed, “and many of them are still suffering from long-term complications,” predominantly itching. Even decades after surviving a gas attack, 70 to 90 percent of victims are still suffering.

Topical steroids, the most frequently administered medications, do help, but long-term use is associated with a variety of side effects and is not recommended. How about safer agents, like aloe vera?

Sixty-seven veterans injured by chemical warfare were randomized to apply either steroids or an aloe vera and olive oil cream, and the aloe vera mixture appeared to work as well as the drug, as you can see in the graph below and at 2:27 in my video.

So, researchers decided to give it a try for the management of psoriasis. By the end of a month-long study, the aloe vera-based cream had cured 83 percent of the patients, compared to the placebo’s cure rate of less than 10 percent, and resulted in “significant clearing of the psoriatic plaques,” the skin lesions.

That’s compared to an inactive placebo, though. How about compared to steroids? Aloe was found to be “more effective…in reducing the clinical symptoms of psoriasis,” as you can see in before-and-after photos below and at 3:02 in my video.

In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study of a commercial aloe vera gel for the treatment of slight to moderate psoriasis, conditions improved in 70 percent of the sites treated with aloe, compared with 80 percent of the placebo-treated areas improving. The placebo beat out the aloe. Indeed, “the high response rate of placebo indicated a possible effect…in its own right, which would make the Aloe vera gel treatment appear less effective.” The placebo was essentially xanthan gum and water, and the researchers figured that, instead of aloe failing, maybe xanthan gum works, too!

All in all, for psoriasis, the “results on the effectiveness of Aloe vera are contradictory,” but applying it on the skin appears safe, so why not give it a try?

You may be interested in my video Is Aloe Effective for Blood Pressure, Inflammatory Bowel, Wound Healing, and Burns?. I have many others in my extended series on aloe, and the most amazing one is probably Can Aloe Cure Cancer?.

Also check out Aloe Vera Gel: Best Treatment for Lichen Planus? and Aloe for the Treatment of Advanced Metastatic Cancer.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live, year-in-review presentations—2015: Food as Medicine: Preventing and Treating the Most Dreaded Diseases with Diet, and my latest, 2016: How Not to Die: The Role of Diet in Preventing, Arresting, and Reversing Our Top 15 Killers.

- Michael Greger M.D. FACLM
How to Eat to Reduce Cancer Risk

What does the best available balance of evidence say right now about what to eat and what to avoid to reduce your risk of cancer? 

In 1982, a landmark report on diet, nutrition, and cancer was released by the National Academy of Sciences. It was “the first major, institutional, science-based report on this topic.” The report started out saying that “scientists must be especially careful in their choice of words whenever they are not totally confident about their conclusions.” For example, by that time, it had become “absolutely clear” that cigarettes were killing people. “If the population been persuaded to stop smoking when the association with lung cancer was first reported, these cancer deaths would not be occurring.” If you wait for absolute certainty, millions of people could die in the meantime, which is why, sometimes, you have to invoke the precautionary principle.

For example, “emphasizing fruits and vegetables to reduce the risk of several common forms of cancer.” We’re not completely sure, but there’s good evidence—and what’s the downside? “There are no disadvantages for healthy people eating more fruits and vegetables,” as I discuss in my video The Best Advice on Diet and Cancer.

The 1982 National Academy of Sciences report continued: “The public is now asking about the causes of cancers that are not associated with smoking. What are these causes, and how can these cancers be avoided? Unfortunately, it is not yet possible to make firm scientific pronouncements about the association between diet and cancer. We are in an interim stage of knowledge similar to that for cigarettes 20 years ago. Therefore, in the judgment of the committee, it is now the time to offer some interim guidelines on diet and cancer.”

The committee raised concern about processed meats, for example, and, 30 years later, that concern was confirmed. Processed meat was officially declared “carcinogenic to humans.” Maybe if we had listened back in the early 1980s when the red flag first started waving, then we would have been spared Lunchables, about which a CEO of Philip Morris said: “One article said something like, ‘If you take Lunchables apart, the most healthy item in it is the napkin.’”

The findings of this landmark 1982 diet and cancer report “generated a striking level of disbelief from the cancer community and outright hostility from people whose livelihood depended on foods in question and the food industry whose products were being questioned.” In fact, one of the authors of the report was “accused of ‘killing more people than those being saved,’” and there were formally organized petitions to expel the researchers from their professional societies. Indeed, “clearly a very sensitive nerve was touched.”

The American Meat Science Association and other members of the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology criticized the report and released “Diet, Nutrition, and Cancer: A Critique” in 1982. They agreed that perhaps lives would be saved, but argued that the recommended “reductions in meat consumption would sharply reduce incomes to the livestock and meat processing industries….The fruit and vegetable industries would clearly benefit from the expanded demand for their products if consumers were to implement the guidelines. However, fruits and vegetables account for less than 15 percent of cash receipts for U.S. agriculture.” Most of the money is in “cattle, hogs, poultry products, feed grains, and oil crops.” This reminds me of the tobacco industry memo where Philip Morris spoke of the tobacco industry going bankrupt.

Maybe it’s not the meat that’s causing cancer, the industry critique continued, but all the marijuana people are smoking these days. “How then can one argue that such an abundant diet causes cancer? Or is this only some jealous attack on the goodness of our diet, like that of the Reverend Jonathan Edwards in Puritan times who condemned bear baiting, not because of the pain for the bear but because of the pleasure of the spectators.” You can’t tell us to cut down on meat, they argued, “one of mankind’s few remaining pleasures is that of the table.”

The day the National Academy of Sciences’ landmark report was published was “The Day That Food Was Declared a Poison” according to Thomas Jukes, the guy who discovered you could speed up the growth of chickens by feeding them antibiotics. How dare the National Academy of Sciences recommend people eat fruits, vegetables, and whole grains daily, which were said to contain “as yet unidentified compounds that may protect us against certain cancers. How can one select foods that contain unidentified compounds?…This is not a scientific recommendation; it sounds like ‘health food store’ literature.”

My favorite critique, though, told us to think about the human breast. How can animal fat be bad for us if breast-feeding women create so much of it? Women are animals, and their mammary glands make fat for breast milk. Therefore, we shouldn’t have to cut down on burgers. Huh?

Enough of that. What does the latest science tell us about nutrition and cancer? I’ve just talked about eating more fruits and vegetables. What are the other five recommendations that invoke the precautionary principle? Consumption of soy products may not only reduce the risk of getting breast cancer, but also increase chances of surviving it. In terms of dietary guidance suggestions on foods to cut down on, where evidence is sufficiently compelling, recommendations included “limiting or avoiding dairy products to reduce the risk of prostate cancer; limiting or avoiding alcohol to reduce the risk of cancers of the mouth, pharynx [throat], larynx, esophagus, colon, rectum, and breast; avoiding red and processed meat to reduce the risk of cancers of the colon and rectum; [and] avoiding grilled, fried, and broiled meats to reduce the risk of cancers of the colon, rectum, breast, prostate, kidney, and pancreas.” In this context, the researchers are talking about all meat, including poultry and fish.

Look, we all have to make dietary decisions every day and “cannot wait for the evolution of scientific consensus.” Until we know more, all we can do to protect ourselves and our families is “act on the best available evidence” we have right now.

The level of evidence required to make decisions depends on the level of risk. If we’re talking about a new drug, for example, given the fact that medications kill more than a hundred thousand Americans a year—which is Why Prevention Is Worth a Ton of Cure—you want to be darn sure that the benefits outweigh the risks before you prescribe or take a drug. But what level of evidence do you need to eat broccoli? Do you need randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials? (How would you even design a placebo vegetable?) Even if all of the evidence suggesting how powerful broccoli is turned out to be some crazy cruciferous conspiracy, what’s the worst that could have happened? It’s healthy anyway! That’s the beauty of safe, simple, and side effect–free solutions provided by the lifestyle medicine approach. They can only help.

I have so many more videos on diet and cancer for you. How Not to Die from Cancer may be a good place to start before you check out some more in related videos.

- Michael Greger M.D. FACLM
How to Treat Canker Sores

Vitamin C, turmeric, beta-glucan fiber, and vitamin B12 are put to the test for recurring canker sores (aphthous ulcers).

Canker sores can be “a painful and often recurrent inflammatory process of the oral mucosa,” the lining of our mouths. Similar to other chronic inflammatory conditions, DNA damage due to oxidative stress caused by free radicals is thought to play a role.

Normally, free radical production is balanced with antioxidants, but if the concentration of free radicals gets too high and our antioxidant enzymes and the antioxidants we get in our diet “cannot compensate for these radicals, the balance changes in favor of the oxidants”—that is, in a pro-oxidant direction. This can lead to oxidative damage within our body. Does that mean that people who experience recurring canker sores—also known as recurrent aphthous stomatitis (RAS)—have fewer antioxidants, more oxidation, and more DNA damage? Yes, yes, and yes. As you can see in the graph below and at 0:51 in my video Best Supplement for Canker Sores, they exhibit more pro-oxidants and more oxidative stress in their bloodstream, lower antioxidant status, and more DNA damage. This suggests it might be possible for antioxidants to help improve the DNA damage caused by recurring canker sores, but you don’t know until you put it to the test.

Sixteen boys and girls around age 12 with recurring canker sores were given a whopping 2,000 mg (2 g) of vitamin C a day. That’s considered the tolerable upper daily limit for adults before you start getting diarrhea, and 1,200 mg may have that effect on a 12-year-old, but it’s all about risks versus benefits. How did they do? As you can see in the graph below and at 1:33 in my video, 15 out of the 16 kids cut the number of canker sores they were getting at least in half. In the three months before they started the vitamin C, they had averaged four canker sores each, but in the three months they were on it, they each had less than one on average. When they stopped the vitamin C for another three months, the ulcers started coming back. Then, when they once again added the vitamin C, the canker sore rate dropped again.

What about directly applying antioxidants, like a turmeric gel? Let’s find out. A turmeric gel containing 2 percent curcumin, the yellow pigment in the spice turmeric, was swabbed directly onto canker sores twice a day and “significantly reduced pain intensity and size of the aphthous ulcer [canker sore] compared to placebo,” which was a gel containing no active ingredient. Okay, but wouldn’t it be nice to see a comparison to an active treatment from an independent research group, rather than this study without an active treatment that was funded by the curcumin gel manufacturer?

Yes, and here we go. This randomized clinical trial compared a generic 2 percent curcumin gel to a prescription steroid gel and found that the curcumin worked just as well. This provides “strong evidence that [topical] curcumin gel can be used as an effective and safer alternative to steroids in treatment of RAS.” You may remember I’ve previously discussed that topical honey beat out the same steroid for both ulcer healing and pain reduction, as you can see in the graph and at 2:46 in my video. So, if you’re going to use something topically, honey seems better, but what if, instead of a topical application, you just want to swallow something like vitamin C but want something that doesn’t give you diarrhea?

Thirty-one patients with recurring canker sores were split into two groups and received either 20 mg a day of placebo or yeast beta-glucan fiber, which is the amount found in just an eighth of a teaspoon of brewer’s yeast or nutritional yeast. As you can see below and at 3:17 in my video, the placebo group experienced no significant change, whereas ulcer severity in the yeast group was cut nearly in half. So, now you have another useful alternative.

If it’s all about antioxidants, can’t you just treat recurring canker sores by eating a plant-based diet high in fruits and vegetables? That hasn’t been put to the test, but keep in mind a plant-based diet could also make things worse if one is not ensuring a regular reliable source of vitamin B12 through supplements or fortified foods. For example, a 30-year-old women had recurring canker sores for four years. She ate few animal products and didn’t supplement with vitamin B12, so she became B12-deficient and began experiencing weakness, tiredness, numbness, and tingling. She was immediately started on vitamin B12, and her deficiency symptoms got better. Her canker sores also improved and she experienced “a rapid and complete recovery” within weeks of starting vitamin B12 after years of suffering.

We’ve known since the 1970s that vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to canker sores—so much so that it’s recommended to consider B12 deficiency any time a patient has with recurring canker sores. In fact, a number of nutrient deficiencies may contribute. A study compared the lab tests of those with recurrent canker sores to those without and found that more than half of the canker sore group showed evidence of hematinic deficiencies—that is, blood-forming nutrient deficiencies. In contrast, less than one in ten in the non-canker sore group exhibited these deficiencies. In this case, we’re talking about iron and folate deficiency in addition to vitamin B12 deficiency. When the study participants were given supplements, their canker sores improved and this was more pronounced among those who had no family history of canker sore problems.

You can see how vitamin and mineral supplements might help people who are deficient, but might a supplement like vitamin B12 help people who are not vitamin B12 deficient? Apparently so. As the title of the study states, “cyanocobalamin”—the most common form of supplemental B12—“may be beneficial in the treatment of recurrent aphthous ulcers [canker sores] even when vitamin B12 levels are normal.” The researchers took a group of 72 patients with frequent canker sores and gave them vitamin B12, regardless of what their levels were. Ninety-six percent of the participants got better regardless of whether they started out vitamin B12–deficient or with normal vitamin B12 levels in their blood, as you can see below and at 5:37 in my video. In this case, there was no control group, though, so we don’t know how many would have gotten better without the vitamin B12 supplement. In addition, the researchers injected the vitamin B12, and injections can have an even greater placebo effect than pills—especially with something like a syringe of vitamin B12, which has a striking mad-scientist-looking ruby red color, as you can see below and at 5:57 in my video.

If only there were a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of oral vitamin B12 for canker sores. And, here we go. In this case, 1,000 micrograms of sublingual vitamin B12 were taken every day for six months. It took five months, but, eventually, the duration of canker outbreaks, the number of ulcers, and the level of pain were significantly reduced, “regardless of initial vitamin B12 levels in the blood.” So, whether you are vitamin B12–deficient or not, B12 supplements seem to help. By the end of the study, twice as many in the vitamin B12 group appeared to have been cured. The researchers concluded that “vitamin B12 treatment, which is simple, inexpensive, and low-risk, seems to be effective,” but don’t forget that it appeared to take months before it started working. In another randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of a vitamin B12 ointment applied directly to the canker sores, a significant reduction in pain was demonstrated within only two days compared to placebo, regardless of whether the participant was vitamin B12–deficient or not.

Here’s a link to the video on the remarkable honey results I mentioned: Flashback Friday: Topical Honey for Canker Sores.

- Michael Greger M.D. FACLM
The Benefits of Broccoli and a New Recipe

If there were such a thing as a “superfood,” cruciferous vegetables like broccoli would certainly be wearing the cape. Along with kale, collards, cabbage, bok choy, cauliflower, and many others in that vegetable family, crucifers contain a relatively unique class of phytonutrients that can potentially help prevent DNA damage, metastatic cancer spread, and lymphoma; activate defenses against pathogens and pollutants; boost your liver detox enzymes; target breast cancer stem cells; and reduce the risk of prostate cancer progression. That’s why I include cruciferous veggies in my Daily Dozen healthiest-of-healthy-foods checklist. For more information and all of my videos on broccoli, check out the topic page.

 

Recipe: Mexican-Inspired Bowl

If you’ve found yourself with a sudden hankering for broccoli, try this recipe from Ángela, our Spanish Social Media and Program Coordinator. With broccoli, beans, whole grains, and a homemade salsa, her recipe will check off several of your Daily Dozen boxes for the day. Get the free recipe here, and watch a video on how it’s made on our Instagram.

 

  Host a Screening

Share the latest in evidence-based nutrition with your community by hosting a free screening of my “How Not to Die” or “Evidence-Based Weight Loss” presentation. Each video runs for approximately one hour. Your free Digital Event Kit will include the video, an introduction to NutritionFacts, a fun trivia game for attendees, and tips for hosting. For more information and to sign up, go here.

 

 

Volunteer Spotlight: Midge Constantino

I’ve been a volunteer for NutritionFacts for a couple of years. I assist on a variety of projects, but my primary role is to compile lists of videos that are added as YouTube cards accompanying the recordings of Dr. Greger’s Live Q&As. His mission of sharing evidence-based nutrition information to the general public is incredibly important, since misinformation sadly abounds. It’s been such an honor to help support NutritionFacts in my own little way.

I believe that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and my favorite is Chocolate Oatmeal from The How Not to Die Cookbook. It’s yummy, very easy to prepare, and sustains me throughout the morning.

 

Top Three Videos

X-ray image of human standingDo Vegans Have Lower Bone Mineral Density and Higher Risk of Osteoporosis?

Those eating plant-based tend to be so much slimmer that their bone mass may suffer.

 

Assortment of vegetables, dried beans, and berriesThe Best Diet for Healthy Aging

Swapping just 1 percent of plant protein in place of animal protein was associated with significantly less age-related deficit accumulation.

 

Test dish in hand of scientistAntibiotic Resistance Genes in the Guts of Vegetarians vs. Meat-Eaters

Those eating plant-based have a reduced load of antibiotic resistance genes in their gut.

 

P.S. We hit 200 million lifetime YouTube views! As you know, I made it my life’s work to reach as many people as possible with health information that can change and save lives. I’m grateful to all of you for watching and sharing these videos, helping to spread the healthy-living message.

 

Live Q&A TODAY 

image of dr greger

Every month, I do a live Q&A right from my treadmill, and the next one is today, October 20!

At 3 pm ET, tune in on our Facebook page, YouTube channel, or (new!) directly on NutritionFacts.org.

You can find links to past live Q&As here on NutritionFacts.org. If that’s not enough, remember, I have an audio podcast to keep you company, too.

- Michael Greger M.D. FACLM
Tea Tree Oil and Hormonal Side Effects

Do the estrogenic effects of tea tree oil get absorbed through the skin?

Concern has been raised about a “possible link between gynecomastia, topical lavender, and tea tree oil.” As I discuss in my video Does Tea Tree Oil Have Hormonal Side Effects?, gynecomastia is the abnormal development of breast tissue. (You can see a photo at 0:14 in my video.) You may recall that I’ve talked about lavender before, but what about tea tree oil?

It all started with a case series published in The New England Journal of Medicine. The researchers described three young boys in whom breast growth “coincided with the topical application of products that contained lavender and tea tree oils.” How do we know the products were to blame? “Gynecomastia resolved in each patient shortly after the use of products containing these oils was discontinued. Furthermore, studies in human cell lines indicated that the two oils had estrogenic and antiandrogenic activities,” that is, pro-female and anti-male hormone activities. The researchers concluded that “repeated topical exposure to lavender and tea tree oils probably caused prepubertal gynecomastia in these boys.”

A tea tree oil company representative pointed out that “only one of three boys (Patient 2) was exposed to any amount of tea tree oil,” while all three subjects were exposed to lavender oil. So, lavender oil may have been to blame in all three cases. How did the researchers respond? “There may be a valid argument that it was the lavender oil that caused the gynecomastia. However, the tea tree oil had activity similar to that of lavender oil with respect to the in vitro estrogenic and antiandrogenic effects.”

Let me walk you through that. As you can see below in the graph and at 1:24 in my video, if you drip a tiny amount of estrogen on human breast cancer cells in a petri dish, you can spike their growth more than twelve-fold. If you add an estrogen blocker along with the estrogen, though, it abolishes the effect. But, adding increasing amounts of tea tree oil to the breast cancer cells causes their growth to increase. The reason we know it’s an estrogenic effect is because the growth decreases when you add the estrogen blocker. This appears to be pretty convincing, but herbal proponents argue that “in vitro testing alone is not adequate grounds for indicting traditionally used products and may raise public fear.”

The Tea Tree Oil Industry Association specifically argued “that only 3 of more than 100 compounds” of pure tea tree actually make it through the skin, so the researchers should have just measured the hormonal effects of those three compounds—which they did later that year.

As you can see in the graph and at 2:25 in my video, dripping increasing concentrations of whole tea tree oil on breast cancer cells in a petri dish can increase their growth when compared to an oil with no estrogenic effect, like eucalyptus oil. However, if you only look at the three components of tea tree oil that actually make it into your bloodstream when you apply them on your skin, none appears to have any estrogenic effects. None of the components that penetrate the skin appears to act as an estrogen, “neither alone nor in combination,” so you can’t extrapolate the petri dish effects of the whole oil to what one might see when it’s applied on the skin. What you see in the petri dish may not be identical to what you see in a person.

This new data led European consumer safety officials to conclude that “the hypothesized correction…of gynecomastia to the topical use of Tea Tree Oil is considered implausible.” In fact, if the anti-male hormone components of tea tree oil remain on the skin, why not use it to treat women who feel they are affected by hirsutism, or excessive hairiness? A study was conducted on such women who were instructed to spray themselves with a dilute lavender/tea tree oil spray versus placebo twice a day, morning and evening, on “areas affected by hirsutism” for three months. Before and after the treatment, “hairs were taken from four different body areas: chin, chest, thigh and upper arms.” After three months, no change was detected in the hair diameter of the placebo group, as expected. But, in the lavender/tea tree oil group, all the hairs ended up thinner, as you can see in the graph and at 3:46 in my video.

This showed that the combination of lavender and tea tree oils applied locally on skin could be effective in reducing mild excessive hairiness, potentially representing “a safe, economic, and practical instrument in the cure of this disease.”

For additional information beyond potential hormonal effects, see my video Is Tea Tree Oil Safe?. I continue to add new tea tree videos, so keep an eye on the topic page.

To learn more about lavender specifically, see Lavender for the Treatment of Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

- Michael Greger M.D. FACLM
Safety Concerns with Tea Tree Oil?

What, if any, are the caveats for tea tree oil use and tips on safe storage?

Is tea tree oil toxic? That’s the topic of my video, Is Tea Tree Oil Safe?. “Anecdotal evidence…suggests that the topical use of the oil is relatively safe, and that adverse events are minor, self-limiting and occasional.” Published data, however, add some caveats: It can be “toxic if ingested in higher doses and can also cause skin irritation at higher concentrations.”

Normally, tea tree oil reduces skin inflammation. Researchers injected histamine into the skin of 27 volunteers, the equivalent of getting bitten by a fire ant. The application of tea tree oil significantly decreased the associated swelling and discoloration—the big, red, swollen mark. As you can see in the graph below and at 0:45 in my video, the swelling and discoloration continues to get worse after application of a placebo oil, before finally beginning to calm down at around 40 minutes. If you apply half of a single drop of pure tea tree oil at 20 minutes, though, it stops the inflammation in its tracks and it immediately starts to get better.

Some people are sensitive to tea tree oil, however, and it can trigger a rash, as you can see below and at 1:07 in my video. This is relatively rare, though, with only about 1 percent of older children or adults having such a reaction. None of the 40 younger children tested had a reaction, which is good, since tea tree oil may be found in about 5 percent of diaper wipes and lotions.

When they do occur, “most reactions are caused by the application of pure oil,” so there are recommendations to keep the concentration of tea tree oil products applied to the skin under 1 percent. “Moreover, manufacturers were advised to consider the use of antioxidants and/or specific packaging [such as dark bottles] to minimize exposure to light,” as aged oxidized oils are more likely to induce allergic reactions. Hundreds of different components have been identified in tea tree oil, but the composition changes when the oil is exposed to air, light, humidity, and higher temperatures. “With increasing age, the oil develops a green-brownish colour, the viscosity changes, and the smell becomes turpentine-like.” These are all bad signs.

Even “fresh” tea tree oil shouldn’t be ingested, though. Two hours before arriving at the pediatric critical care unit, a four-year-old’s “mother had given him approximately 2 teaspoons of 100% pure tea tree oil,” and, within 30 minutes, he had trouble walking and shortly thereafter fell into a coma. It was noted that the tea tree oil was in a bottle “without a childproof cap,” but it didn’t matter in this case because the cap wasn’t mother-proof either.

Similar cases have been reported at even less than two teaspoons, though the reported adult poisoning cases have tended to involve larger doses. Thankfully, no human deaths caused by tea tree oil have been reported, though it has been implicated in the deaths of pets when used inappropriately, such as trying to treat fleas. “Cats in particular are at risk because of their habit of licking their fur.”

In humans, though, it appears that tea tree oil can be used safely “by avoiding ingestion, applying only diluted oil topically and using oil that has been stored correctly.”

What about the reports of gynecomastia (abnormal breast development) among young boys exposed to tea tree oil? That’s the subject of my video Does Tea Tree Oil Have Hormonal Side Effects?.

- Michael Greger M.D. FACLM
Safety Concerns with Henna?

Is there risk of lead and PPD contamination of red and black henna?

The “average adult uses nine personal care products each day, with 126 unique chemical ingredients.” We used to think that anything applied to the skin would “always remain on the surface of the body,” and the only thing you had to worry about were problems like local skin irritation. But, over recent decades, “it was recognized that some topically applied substances can penetrate into or through human skin” and end up circulating throughout our bodies.

Take the toxic heavy metal lead (Pb), for example. As you can see in the graph below and at 0:38 in my video Is Henna Safe?, to see if lead could be absorbed through the skin into the body, researchers applied lead to a subject’s left arm and then measured the level of lead in the sweat coming off their right arm over the next few days. They observed a big spike, proving nearly 30 years ago that “lead can be absorbed through skin and rapidly distributed throughout the body.”

This led public health authorities “to recommend that parents avoid using cosmetics on their children that could be contaminated with Pb.” Which cosmetics might those be? Because it’s a natural constituent of many color pigments, lead has been found in a wide range of cosmetic products—from eye liner and lip gloss to hair cream and nail polish, as you can see below and at 1:07 in my video. The FDA has set an upper limit for lead at 20 parts per million. Though only some samples of henna exceeded this upper limit, because henna is “used for hair treatment, as a substitute for chemical hair dyes and also for temporary tattoos, these quantities of Pb that remain on the skin or hair for a long time cannot be safe.” Indeed, studies suggest that lead “may have no identifiable safe exposure level, with even the lowest levels shown to affect the fetus and the central nervous system in children.” “Thus, the use of henna especially among children may constitute a public health risk.” So, “increasing awareness of henna’s serious toxic implications seems to be the only reliable means of ending or at least reducing the use of such hazardous material especially when children are involved.”

Traditionally, henna was just the dried powdered leaves of a plant. More recently, though, other ingredients have been added to give it a stronger color, such as lead, said to be “one of the most common and egregious additives in henna.” But, lead is not as common as paraphenylenediamine (PPD), a coal tar derivative.

“The red paste traditionally used, known as ‘red henna,’ rarely produces adverse effects,” but to achieve a darker pigment, known as “black henna,” various additives may be used, including “animal urine.” Better pee than PPD, though, “a coal-tar hair dye” that can cause nasty skin reactions, such as blistering and scarring. Why add PPD at all? “In addition to achieving a darker and longer-lasting color, PPD helps shorten the duration of the tattooing process” from as long as 12 hours down to less than 2 hours. So, while the use of black henna may be “tempting,” it has the potential for both short- and long-term side effects.

How common are these reactions? The best estimate is about 2.5 percent, which means 1 in 40 kids who get a black henna tattoo may have an allergic reaction. Unfortunately, this practice “has become fashionable, ever since the Spice Girls decorated themselves with these body designs.” (Thanks a lot, Spice Girls!) There’s no such thing as natural black henna, so “perhaps it is best to respect the traditional practice of red henna, lest a temporary tattoo turn into a permanent scar.”

The problem is that “PPD can be found in products labeled as ‘red henna,’ too,” so just because it’s red doesn’t mean it isn’t risky. This is bad news for the $100 million industry.

Because henna of all colors is so often adulterated, under FDA guidelines, “henna should not be applied to the skin at all.”

- Michael Greger M.D. FACLM
Chlorella Put to the Test

Chlorella is put to the test for liver disease, cholesterol, and detoxifying carcinogens.

“Depression is a debilitating mental disorder with a severe impairment to quality of life,” but, as I’ve discussed before, the drugs don’t work particularly well and have a bunch of side effects. “For these reasons, searching for alternative antidepressant agents with proper efficacy and safety is necessary.” Well, there is a green algae called Chlorella that “has been used as a dietary supplement and alternative medicine in Far East countries for hundreds of years.” Why not put it to the test?

One of the studies I review in my video Friday Favorites: Detoxifying with Chlorella is a randomized controlled trial of Chlorella in patients with major depression. Subjects were randomized to either standard therapy or standard therapy plus 1,800 mg of Chlorella, which is about three-quarters of a teaspoon a day, and the researchers found that the subjects on Chlorella had significant improvements in “physical and cognitive symptoms of depression as well as anxiety…” Wow!

Okay, but what word is missing in the title of the study? “A randomized controlled trial of…Chlorella.” What we want is a randomized placebo-controlled trial. In the study, researchers compared Chlorella to nothing. Half of the subjects got a special treatment (the Chlorella) while the other half got nothing. That’s the perfect set-up for the placebo effect, particularly when the measured outcomes are primarily subjective feelings. Now, you could argue, “Look, that much Chlorella would only cost about 10 cents a day, it’s healthy for you anyway, and depression is such a serious disease. Why not just give it a try?” Excellent points, but I’d still like to know if it actually works or not.

You may recall another Chlorella study I’ve discussed before that suffered from a similar problem, but at least that one had an objective quantifiable outcome: a significant decrease in liver inflammation. Nevertheless, that study also didn’t have a control group, so it’s possible the subjects would have just gotten better on their own for some reason.

What we need is a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of Chlorella for liver disease…and we finally got just that. And, not just any liver disease, but non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, which, thanks to the obesity pandemic, now affects one in four people on Earth. Let’s see if 1,200 mg of Chlorella  will help. (That’s just about a daily half-teaspoon, costing about nickel a day.) As you can see below and at 2:21 in my video, the researchers saw significant drops in liver inflammation, perhaps because the subjects lost significantly more weight—about a pound a week over the eight weeks—and that would explain the significant improvement in fasting blood sugars that was also found. The researchers conclude that Chlorella has “significant weight-reducing effects” with “meaningful improvements” in liver function.

How about a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study of Chlorella for cholesterol? “Compared with the control group, the Chlorella group exhibited remarkable changes in total cholesterol…” How remarkable were the changes? Only 1.6 percent, which seems pretty unremarkable. And note that the study evaluated total cholesterol. If you look at what really matters—the so-called bad LDL cholesterol—there was no effect whatsoever, as you can see below and at 3:01 in my video. Thankfully, that’s not what other studies found. A meta-analysis of 19 randomized controlled trials of Chlorella for cholesterol, involving hundreds of subjects, found that those taking Chlorella did drop their LDL cholesterol by eight points on average and even dropped their blood pressure a few points. Four grams or more a day for at least eight weeks seems to be the magic formula, which would be about two daily teaspoons. That’s a lot of Chlorella, but if you can find a palatable way to take it, it might help.

In a more recent study, a double-blind, randomized, and placebo-controlled dietary cholesterol challenge, researchers had 34 study subjects eat three eggs a day (a total of 510 mg of dietary cholesterol) with either a few spoonful of Chlorella or a matched placebo for four weeks. As you can see below and at 3:57 in my video, the participants had a 14 percent rise in LDL cholesterol from just eating the eggs alone, but with the Chlorella, it was significantly less. Therefore, Chlorella can play “a useful role in maintaining healthy serum [blood] cholesterol levels,” though another way would be not to eat three eggs a day.

That reminds me of another study that was performed “to assess the ability of Chlorella vulgaris to detoxify carcinogenic HCAs,” which are heterocyclic amines, the cancer-causing chemicals created when you fry, bake, broil, or barbecue meat. The Chlorella did seem to lower the levels of one of the cooked meat carcinogens flowing through the subjects’ bodies but didn’t quite reach statistical significance, as you can see below and at 4:27 in my video.

What about polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), another class of cancer-causing compounds found particularly in smoked meats and cigarettes that “includes numerous genotoxic [DNA-damaging] carcinogens”? Again, Chlorella did seem to lower levels but not significantly so. Still, if you’re going to have eggs and ham for breakfast, might as well try to add lots of Chlorella to make them green eggs and ham. 

- Michael Greger M.D. FACLM
How Might Ginger Help with Obesity and Fatty Liver Disease?

Ground ginger powder is put to the test for weight loss and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

Ginger has been used in India and China for thousands of years to treat illnesses, but so has mercury, so that doesn’t really tell you much. That’s what we have science for. But, when you see article titles in the medical literature like “Beneficial Effects of Ginger…on Obesity and Metabolic Syndrome: A Review,” for example, you may not be aware the researchers are talking about the beneficial effects of ginger on fat rats. Why don’t they just conduct human clinical studies? That may be attributed to “ethical issues” and “limited commercial support,” for instance. Limited commercial support I can see: Ginger is dirt cheap, so who’s going to pay for the study? But ethical issues? We’re just talking about giving people some ginger.

Cross-sectional studies in which you take a snapshot in time of ginger consumption and body weight are relatively inexpensive and easy to do. Researchers have found that people who are obese tend to eat significantly less ginger, so they suggest this “demonstrated that the use of ginger could have relevance for weight management.” You can see a chart below illustrating this and at 0:59 in my video Benefits of Ginger for Obesity and Fatty Liver Disease. But, maybe ginger consumption is just a marker of more traditional, less Westernized junk-food diets. You don’t know…until you put it to the test.

A randomized controlled trial was conducted to assess the effects of a hot ginger beverage made with two grams of ginger powder in one cup of hot water, so about one teaspoon of ground ginger stirred into a teacup of hot water. That’s about five cents’ worth of ginger. The findings? After drinking the ginger beverage, the participants reported feeling significantly less hungry and, in response to the question “How much do you think you could eat?” described lower prospective food intake.

Since the control was just plain hot water, the participants knew when they were getting the ginger so there could have been a placebo effect. The researchers considered putting the ginger into capsules to do a double-blinded study, but they thought part of the ginger’s effect may actually be through taste receptors on the tongue, so they didn’t want to interfere with that with a capsule.

Not all of the effects were just subjective, though. Four hours after drinking the hot beverage, the metabolic rate in the ginger group was elevated compared to control, as you can see in the graph below and at 2:12 in my video. Though, in a previous study, when fresh ginger was added to a meal, there was no bump in metabolic rate. The researchers of the hot ginger beverage study suggest this discrepancy is “likely due to the different method of ginger administration,” giving participants fresh ginger instead of dried ginger powder, and there are dehydration products that form when ginger is dried that may have unique properties.

“Although satiety and fullness were greater with ginger compared to control, [the researchers] have no objective measure of food intake.” They didn’t then go on to follow the participants to see if they actually ate less for lunch. The problem is there’s never been a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of that much ginger and weight loss…until now.

After 12 weeks of that same teaspoon of ginger powder a day, but this time hidden in capsules, consumption of ginger “significantly reduced BMI,” that is, body mass index. As you can see in the graphs at 3:12 in my video, there was no change in the placebo group, but there was a drop in the ginger group. Body fat estimates didn’t really change, though, but that was kind of the whole point.

What about using ginger to pull fat out of specific organs, like the liver? Evidently, “treatment with ginger ameliorates fructose-induced fatty liver…in rats.” You know what else would have worked? Not feeding them so much sugar in the first place. We aren’t rats, though. We didn’t have this type of study on humans…until now: “Ginger Supplementation in Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Pilot Study” in which participants were given a teaspoon of ginger a day or placebo for 12 weeks.

All of the subjects were told to get more fiber and exercise, and to limit their dietary cholesterol intake. (My video How to Prevent Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease discusses why this is important.) So, even the placebo group should improve. And how did the ginger group do? Any better? Yes. Daily consumption of just one teaspoon of ground ginger a day “resulted in a significant decrease in inflammatory marker levels,” improvements in liver function tests, and a drop in liver fat. All for five cents’ worth of ginger powder a day. And what are the side effects? A few gingery burps?

I searched for downsides and didn’t find any other than ginger paralysis. What? Indeed, “in 1930, thousands of Americans were poisoned by an illicit extract.” Hold on. Who drinks ginger extract? The year 1930 was during the Prohibition, so some people bought ginger extract as a legal way to get their hands on alcohol. “It was the poor man’s way of getting a drink of liquor.” But, “bootleggers had taken advantage of the demand for this old household remedy as an alcoholic beverage” and swapped in a cheaper ginger substitute—a varnish compound—”in order to make greater money profits.” The moral of the story: Don’t drink varnish.

The video about the dietary cholesterol effect that I referred to is How to Prevent Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease. Oats might help, too, as you can see in Can Oatmeal Help Fatty Liver Disease?. And, for even more on fatty liver disease, check out The Best Diet for Fatty Liver Disease Treatment and How to Avoid Fatty Liver Disease.

- Michael Greger M.D. FACLM
Why I Don’t Recommend Melatonin Supplements

Over-the-counter melatonin (“anti-gonad hormone”) supplements tend not to contain what they say they do, and the contaminants could be dangerous.

If you’re crossing three or more time zones during a journey and plan to stay at your destination for a week or more, long enough to make it worthwhile, you can adjust your body clock to the new time by “using behavioural and, if desired, pharmacological methods.” The behavioral method is light exposure and light avoidance at specific times of the day based on which direction you’re going and how many time zones you cross. I feature a helpful table with “recommendations for the use of bright light to adjust body clock after time zone transitions” at 0:23 in my video Are Melatonin Supplements Safe?, which you can also see below. You may want to take a picture or screengrab it for future reference.

The pharmacological intervention is melatonin. “It is called the ‘darkness hormone’ sometimes because…it is secreted at the onset of darkness and is suppressed by light.” A little gland in the center of your head starts to secrete it as soon as it gets dark and shuts off when the sun comes up in the morning, thereby helping to set your circadian rhythm. A lot of research has been conducted on treating jet lag, but most of it has been on rats instead of people, as you can see below and at 0:53 in my video. But, of the handful of human trials that have been done, most have found that taking melatonin “close to the target bedtime at the destination” to try to sync your body to the new time can effectively decrease jet-lag symptoms after long flights “crossing five or more time zones.” It’s important to note that “melatonin differs from most or all other drugs in that the timing of the dose is critical and determines the effect; given at the wrong time it will delay circadian adaptation to local time,” making jet lag even worse. For example, if you were to take “melatonin at bedtime when traveling west,” it “actually could result in a phase advance” when a “phase delay is desired.”

Taking a daily dose of melatonin between 0.5 and 5 mg of melatonin seems to be “similarly effective” in terms of helping with jet-lag symptoms, but the higher dose does have more of a sleeping pill-type effect, allowing people to “fall asleep faster and sleep better after 5mg than 0.5mg,” but that appears to plateau at about 5 mg. Those are massive doses, though. Even taking only a 3 mg dose produces levels in the bloodstream 50 times higher than normal nightly levels. It works, but we don’t know how safe that is. After all, in the early days, melatonin “was known as an anti-gonadal hormone,” with human-equivalent doses of just 1 or 2 mgs reducing the size of sex organs and impairing fertility in laboratory animals. Now, obviously, rats aren’t people, but “considering the pronounced effects of…melatonin on reproductive physiology in these nonhuman mammals, to assume they would not have some sexual effects in humans would almost seem naive.” In fact, the researchers speculated that perhaps melatonin could one day play a role as some sort of a “contraceptive agent in both human males and females.”

Wouldn’t we know about these effects, though? Well, how? Melatonin is available over the counter (OTC) as a dietary supplement, so there isn’t any post-marketing surveillance like there is with prescription drugs. “Without a license, there is no obligation for undesirable side effects following melatonin use to be recorded.” And, let’s not forget about the purity problem. Supplements are so poorly regulated that that you never really know what’s actually in them. Indeed, the “purity of melatonin…cannot be guaranteed. For these reasons, melatonin cannot be recommended….”

Is the purity issue just theoretical though? You don’t know until you put it to the test.

Indeed, due to the “poor quality control of over-the-counter melatonin,” what the labels “say is often not what you get.” Melatonin is not only one of the most popular supplements among adults, but among children, too. An analysis of 31 different brands found that most had just a fraction of what was claimed. What makes that even more egregious is that actual melatonin content varied up to nearly 500 percent compared to what it said on the label. “The most variable sample was a chewable tablet (and most likely to be used by children). It contained almost 9 mg of melatonin when it was supposed to contain 1.5 mg,” which could result in a hundred times higher than natural levels. “In short, there was no guarantee of the strength or purity of OTC melatonin,” leading these researchers to suggest it should be regulated as a drug so that, by law, it would at least contain what it says on the bottle. Okay, but that’s regarding its strength. What about its purity?

“Four of six melatonin products from health food stores”—two-thirds—“contained impurities” that could not be characterized. But, with no exclusive patent, “no pharmaceutical company wants to pay for the toxicological studies and the data assembly required to obtain a product license because it cannot have exclusivity.” The stuff is just so dirt cheap to purchase. The researchers recommend “buying it from a large reputable pharmacy chain and hope for the best.” Is it worth the risk?

A study I discuss at 4:26 in my video suggests it’s not worth the risk at all. Contaminants present in tryptophan supplements were reported to be responsible for a 1980s outbreak of a disease that affected more than a thousand people and resulted in dozens of deaths. Given the structural similarities of tryptophan and melatonin, is it possible that those same toxic contaminants could be created when you’re trying to synthesize melatonin? Indeed, as you can see below and at 4:57 in my video, researchers found similarities between the contaminant blamed on the tryptophan epidemic and what they found in melatonin supplements. In fact, they are a little too close for comfort, suggesting melatonin supplements may just be “‘another accident [epidemic]… waiting to happen.’”

 

- Michael Greger M.D. FACLM
Jet Lag Treatment Cheat Sheet

Use cheat sheets to figure out exactly when and how to treat jet lag using light exposure and light avoidance at specific times of the day, based on which direction you’re going and how many time zones you cross.

“Jet lag is a blessing to circadian biologists because the disruption of mental and physical well-being immediately highlights the importance of our internal ‘body clock,’” the focus of their work. Much of the general malaise we may experience on long journeys may just be “so-called ‘travel fatigue,’” which can occur “regardless of the mode of transport and the number of time zones crossed,” leaving people feeling disorientated, generally weary, and headachy.

Dehydration has been blamed. The air circulated in the cabins of commercial airlines is pretty dry, but even though it can make your throat, skin, and eyes feel dry, the maximum loss of fluid through breath and sweat, for instance, wouldn’t be more than about an extra half cup if you actually did the math. So, it isn’t as though you’re in Death Valley or the Sahara when on a flight. “Further, the calculation assumes that the passenger would be nude,” and I’m sure the airline would charge you extra for that!

Of course, “airplane food—if any is served—tends to be starchy and sugary,” and giving passengers salty snacks like pretzels during a flight doesn’t help. “The vegetarian…special meals are sometimes an improvement, but you must order them in advance. BYOF—bring your own fruit—is a good rule to fly by. A small bag of unsalted almonds or walnuts is a healthy alternative to those skimpy bags of salted peanuts.”

The cabin air isn’t just dry, though; it’s also low in oxygen pressure, about what you’d get at 10,000 feet above sea level, which is about twice as high as Denver. That alone can make you feel lousy. Then, when you land, if you’ve crossed enough time zones, you can suffer from jet lag.

Jet lag is the temporary disconnect between the new time at your destination and that of your own internal body clock, which is still on home time. “This desynchrony is abnormal,” since our internal clock is normally synced to the outside world. Symptoms of jet lag do go away, though, as your body becomes hip to the new time. The “duration of jet lag in days can be calculated to be two-thirds the number of time zones crossed eastwards, compared with half the number of zones crossed westwards.”

Let’s look at an example. As you can see below and at 2:04 in my in my video How to Treat Jet Lag with Light, London is six time zones eastward from Chicago.

So, after flying there, it may take four days before you get back to normal—six eastward time zones multiplied by two-thirds. On the other hand, Londoners flying westward to Chicago should get over their jet lag in only three days—six westward time zones divided by two. The reason it’s easier to go westward, where the day is longer, than it is to go eastward, is because our internal clock is naturally set for longer than 24 hours—“closer to 25 h,” in fact—and has to be reset every day. “It is for this reason that the observed rhythms are called circadian (from the Latin: about a day.”

Interestingly, you can see this in Major League Baseball performance. Researchers churned through 40,000 games, mining 20 seasons, and found “surprisingly specific effects of circadian misalignment [jet lag] on athletic performance under natural conditions.” Indeed, the “jet-lag effects were largely evidence after eastward travel with very limited effects after westward travel, consistent with the >24-h period length of the human circadian clock.” Okay, so how do you treat it?

As you can see below and at 3:05 in my video, you first need to decide whether it needs to be treated at all. If you’re just traveling over one or two time zones, you don’t have to worry about it. If you’re crossing three or more time zones, for instance traveling coast to coast, jet lag “will be experienced,” so it then depends on how long you plan on staying. If only for a few days, it’s probably not worth treating, because you’ll then have to switch back as soon as you return home. “In these cases,” if you have control over your schedule, though, it’s better to “time appointments in the new time zone to coincide with daytime in the home zone that has been left, and to avoid times that coincide with night on ‘body time.’” So, it’s pretty much common sense: If you travel east, your body will still think it should be sleeping in the morning, so you should push your activities to later in the day, and vice versa. But, if you are going to be gone for a while, for a week or more, for example, you can adjust your body clock using behavioral methods and/or drugs, supplements, or foods.

“There is only one sure fire way to avoid jet lag altogether and that is to adapt to the new time zone before flight,” meaning before you leave on your trip. Changing your home sleep schedule more than two hours, however, can be “counter-productive,” because it will interfere with your pre-trip sleep and you don’t want to go into a long trip already sleep-deprived. In fact, before your trip, you want to maximize your sleep. In flight, as you can see below and at 4:12 in my video, the recommendation is for “immediate adjustment to destination meal and light schedule,” although this is easier said than done. Then, once you land, you want to “attempt to maintain destination sleep schedule.” Try not to nap for more than 15 to 30 minutes, and don’t drive around when your body thinks it’s the middle of the night.

The real key to treating jet lag, however, is light therapy. Traveling eastward, you expose yourself to the bright light in the morning and avoid bright light in the evening. The opposite is the case when traveling westward—“evening exposure to bright light; morning avoidance of bright light…” Seems simple, right? It’s actually a bit more complicated than that. “The advice changes…if you’ve traveling through more than six time zones—say from Boston to Athens. Your biological clock may adjust in the wrong direction, reacting to light in the morning as if it were afternoon.” Okay, but what if I tell you it’s even more complicated than that! “The effects of light acting upon the body clock” are actually only during a specific window around the time your body temperature bottoms out, which is usually around 4 AM. As part of our circadian rhythm, our body temperature typically drops from 98.6 degrees down to more like 97.6 degrees, even when we aren’t sleeping, as you can see below and at 5:02 in my video.

What’s the bottom line? I feature two cheat sheets at 5:12 in my video, which you can see below. Snap a picture or screengrab them for future reference. If you fly eastward across eight time zones from Los Angeles to London, for example, on day one, you should avoid light between 6 AM and noon local time and then expose yourself to light between noon and 6 PM. local time. The rest of that first day, your light exposure won’t matter and won’t affect you either way. “On subsequent days, the local times of light avoidance and exposure need to be advanced earlier by 1 – 2 h each day until light avoidance coincides with nocturnal sleep,” that is, when you’re sleeping at night.

But, on those first few days after traveling eastward, note that you’ll want to avoid morning light, which “can be difficult to achieve, particularly on the day of arrival, since many flights are overnight and land in the morning…” One thing you can do is wear really dark glasses until you get indoors. Of course, if they’re too dark, you can’t really drive, which is when those not-so-attractive orange lenses that block blue wavelengths can come in handy, as they prevent the dip in melatonin you can get with regular sunglasses, as you can see below and at 6:09 in my video. Regardless, the next day, you might have the urge to get “out and about,” but that could actually make your jet lag worse by taking you in the opposite direction.

What about if you’re flying eastward more than eight time zones? In that case, you subtract the number from 24 and treat it as travel westward. For instance, an eastward trip across ten time zones—New York to Delhi, say—should be treated as a westward flight, requiring a delay of the body clock across 14 time zones. In that case, it would be easy to get outside and get some sun, but what would you do if you just went four zones westward and needed to get light in the middle of the night?

One gadget company came up with light-emitting headphones, which you can see below and at 6:57 in my video. The theory is that you could bathe your brain in light directly through the ear canals. Researchers stuck them on the heads of cadavers and did seem to get some light penetration, but you don’t know…until you put it to the test. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial demonstrated that “transcranial bright light exposure via the ear canals alleviates jet lag symptoms.” Or…you could just turn on a lamp.

 

- Michael Greger M.D. FACLM
Upcoming Webinar on Vitamin K and Recipe for Veggie Mac & Cheese

My next webinar is on vitamin K. It’s been touted for bone, brain, and heart health, but have vitamin K supplements been shown to help? To complicate matters, there are multiple types of vitamin K: Vitamin K1 is concentrated in greens, and a type of vitamin K2 is found in animal products. Do we need both? Do we have to rely on a healthy microbiome for conversion from one to the other? Do we have to eat a slimy, fermented food called natto? 

Join me for a 60-minute live webinar on October 7 at 2pm ET to learn everything you ever wanted to know about vitamin K.

 

Key Takeaways: Saturated Fat 

Saturated fat—the kind of fat that is solid at room temperature—is found mostly in animal products like fatty meats and dairy. We’ve known for a long time that saturated fat raises cholesterol, contributing to our number one killer, heart disease. It also impacts insulin resistance and can lead to other diseases. Hold on. I said it’s mostly found in animal products, but what about that jar of coconut oil in your cabinet that’s also solid at room temperature? Saturated fat. See what I have to say on the matter of both animal- and plant-derived saturated fats on the topic page.

  Recipe: Veggie Mac & Cheese

Dairy is the number one source of saturated fat in the United States, but, fortunately, there are many ways to make plant-based versions of traditionally dairy-laden dishes. A cruciferous spin on macaroni and cheese, this recipe takes comfort food to a whole new level and is a tasty way to check off a few servings on the Daily Dozen checklist. This recipe comes from Kristina, our director of Nutrition & Social Media Strategy. Get the free recipe here, and watch a video on how it’s made on our Instagram

    Evidence-Based Eating Guide Now in Spanish

I’m thrilled to announce that our popular Evidence-Based Eating Guide is now available in two new languages. This resource includes information on my Traffic Light eating system, the Daily Dozen, sample menus, and more. Read about it and download a digital copy here. You can also order hard copies in English and Spanish for only the cost of printing and shipping. Help us continue creating these fun and useful resources by making a donation today!

    NutritionFacts.org Around the World

Did you know that every NutritionFacts video has subtitles in English and a variety of other languages, prepared by our volunteers? Learn how to access them and other playback settings. Also, see important information about our translated resources.

Consider helping make our free Daily Dozen app more accessible to people around the world by volunteering to contribute translations in your language.

 

Top Three Videos

homemade kimchi in jars in a bright white kitchenThe Role of Kimchi and H. pylori in Stomach Cancer 

What explains the Achilles’ heel in certain Asian diets?

 

 

doctor measuring blood pressure and pulse with clip boardWhy Don’t Health Insurers Encourage Healthier Eating?

Why don’t more big payors in health care embrace plant-based eating?

 

Blue illustration of circulatory systemThe Best Diet for Treating Atrial Fibrillation

What foods should we eat and avoid to reduce our risk of Afib?

 

 

Live Q&A October 6 

image of dr gregerEvery month, I do a live Q&A right from my treadmill, and the next one is October 6!

At 3 pm ET, tune in on our Facebook page, YouTube channel, or (new!) directly on NutritionFacts.org.

You can find links to past live Q&As here on NutritionFacts.org. If that’s not enough, remember, I have an audio podcast to keep you company, too.

- Chelsea Frank
10 Places You Can Buy Thanksgiving Dinner if You Don’t Have Time to Cook

Don’t feel like cooking this Thanksgiving? We get it.

Maybe you’re planning a scaled-down Thanksgiving celebration and you don’t want to turn your whole kitchen upside down for just a few guests.

Or maybe, after months of doing everything virtually, you’d rather spend some actual face-to-face time with your family instead of standing over the stove.

Luckily, you have plenty of options for ready-made Thanksgiving food that tastes homemade but is totally hassle-free.

Here’s where to buy Thanksgiving dinner so you can take a load off and enjoy the holiday.

1. Costco

Rastelli’s Roast Turkey Dinner from Costco serves eight to ten and includes 5 lbs of turkey breast along with mashed potatoes, gravy, a casserole, veggies, and dessert pies.

Everything is pre-chopped, and you can cook the meal from frozen — no thawing necessary.

To keep it healthy, load up on turkey and healthy sides like green beans, mashed potatoes, and brussels sprouts, and go easy on the gravy and desserts.

For extra veggie side dish options, you can always buy additional pre-cut veggies or a salad kit.

Get it here.

2. Boston Market

If variety is what you’re after, go for Boston Market’s Complete Turkey Meal for 12.

The hearty meal comes with a whole roasted turkey, spinach artichoke dip, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, dinner rolls, cranberry walnut relish, dinner rolls, apple pie, and pumpkin pie.

Smaller holiday meals are also available, and you can always order Thanksgiving-friendly foods from the a la carte menu too.

Consider ordering a side of fresh steamed veggies to help fill you up so you don’t overdo it on the heavier items like dinner rolls and gravy.

Get it here.

3. Whole Foods

Whole Foods offers a variety of creative Thanksgiving dinner options, including a vegan menu with yummy plant-based dishes like lentil loaf, vegan pumpkin pecan pie, and a butternut squash and macaroni casserole.

They also offer a classic menu with turkey, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, cornbread, sausage stuffing, butternut squash soup, orange cranberry sauce, and desserts.

Or, since this is already an out-of-the-ordinary Thanksgiving, try their “Unexpected Thanksgiving Menu” which includes spicy Cornish hens, sweet potato salad, and braised pineapple.

You can easily pre-order and pick up in store, and all you have to do is reheat it and enjoy.

Get it here.

4. Buca Di Beppo

This popular Italian chain restaurant offers Thanksgiving catering to make your holiday stress-free and delizioso!

Whether you’re serving three guests or 20, their Thanksgiving Feast includes sliced white meat turkey, gravy, roasted garlic mashed potatoes, spicy Italian sausage stuffing, green beans, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie.

If you’re trying to stick to your healthy eating plan on Thanksgiving, enjoy the turkey and green beans and take lighter portions of the stuffing and desserts.

Get it here.

5. Veggie Grill

If you have this vegan chain in your area, it’s a great option for where to buy Thanksgiving dinner.

Their Thanksgiving Holiday Feast feeds four and includes turkey wellington, mac and cheese, roasted garlic mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, cranberry sauce, and a dessert of your choosing.

Depending on the size of your crowd, you can add on extras of any menu item.

Get it here.

6. Trader Joe’s

Trader Joe’s doesn’t offer a catered Thanksgiving dinner, but if you’re in a pinch, it’s the perfect place to stock up on everything you’ll need to throw together a DIY feast.

Pick up a Brined Bone-In Half Turkey Breast, along with tasty premade sides like cornbread stuffing and four cheese scalloped potatoes.

Stroll the aisles and you’ll find plenty of additional options for cobbling together a last-minute dinner.

7. Bob Evans

The Premium Farmhouse Feast from Bob Evans is a complete, ready-to-heat Thanksgiving meal for 8 to 10 guests.

It includes all the holiday staples: slow-roasted turkey, hickory-smoked ham, mashed potatoes with gravy, buttered corn, cranberry relish, freshly baked rolls, pumpkin bread, pies, and more.

Get it here.

8. Chart House

Planning a cozy dinner? This nationwide seafood restaurant offers a Thanksgiving To-Go menu that serves 3 to 4 family members.

Choose from prime rib with a side of creamed spinach, mashed potatoes, and pecan or pumpkin pie; or turkey dinner with gravy, stuffing, creamed spinach, mashed potatoes, cranberry dressing, and pecan or pumpkin pie.

(Don’t miss the pre-order deadline!)

Get it here.

9. Maggiano’s Little Italy

This Italian chain offers catering and carry-out options for an Italian-inspired Thanksgiving dinner.

Their carry-out package — which serves four to five people — includes roasted turkey, giblet gravy, focaccia sausage stuffing, country-style smoked ham, whipped sweet potatoes, spaghetti and meatballs, four-cheese ravioli, Caesar salad, garlic mashed potatoes, bread, cranberry relish, and pumpkin praline cheesecake.

You can also tack on sides like creamed corn or creamed spinach.

Get it here.

10. Your Local Supermarket

Many grocery stores offer Thanksgiving catering. A few standouts:

In Southern California, Gelson’s offers a variety of ready-to-heat options, ranging from a traditional turkey dinner to a plant-based hazelnut cranberry roast. In the southeastern U.S., Publix offers a fully-cooked turkey dinner that serves up to 10 guests and includes staples like turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, and more. Sprouts offers several fully-prepared holiday meals including boneless turkey, spiral-sliced ham, or a vegan holiday roast — along with all the fixings.

So before you start stocking up on ingredients, ask your local grocer what they have available!

The post 10 Places You Can Buy Thanksgiving Dinner if You Don’t Have Time to Cook appeared first on The Beachbody Blog.

- Cemile Kavountzis
The Best Foods to Donate to a Thanksgiving Food Drive

Whether it’s grocery shopping for an older friend, mobilizing moms to make lasagnas, or donating to a food bank or food drive, food is a powerful way to support our communities.

With the holidays approaching, more people are starting to think about how to donate to a Thanksgiving food drive or even host one.

In 2020, food banks across the nation saw a huge surge in demand coupled with challenges, such as shortages and limited volunteers.

Feeding America estimated that one in six Americans dealt with hunger issues as a result of the pandemic.

“The COVID-19 crisis has brought food insecurity into the spotlight, and many families will be experiencing food insecurity,” says Adriene Worthington, RDN, LDN, director of nutrition programs for The Greater Boston Food Bank. “The holidays will look much different for everyone this year, but it will be even more difficult for those struggling with hunger.”

Now more than ever, how we think about Thanksgiving and our own concerns surrounding the holiday might be a little different.

How to Donate to a Thanksgiving Food Drive

volunteers accepting donated foods | how to donate to a thanksgiving food drive

“Since COVID-19 has limited the availability of volunteering opportunities, there are two main ways you can help,” says Worthington. “The first is to support your local food bank with a monetary donation.” The second is to donate items you purchase yourself.

And before you head to the store or grab your credit card, let’s talk about the difference between a food bank, a food pantry, and a food drive.

A food bank is a large warehouse that distributes millions of pounds of food to local organizations, such as food pantries, soup kitchens, and housing programs, explains Worthington.

Food pantries are organizations that distribute groceries or cooked meals directly to those in need — and might also run food drives, or requests from the public for foods.

With purchasing power supported by donations, food banks can help reduce overall costs by buying in bulk.

“For example, The Greater Boston Food Bank can provide a full Thanksgiving dinner for a family of five for only $25,” says Worthington.

The big difference is purchasing items you personally select or letting an organization decide.

How to Find a Thanksgiving Food Drive

man dropping off food at food drive | How to Donate to a Thanksgiving Food Drive

Around the holidays, many grocery stores and local organizations run Thanksgiving food drives.

Another option is to check the website of a local food pantry or food bank to find out where food drives are happening.

“It’s important to ask how they accept donations from the community,” says Worthington. “They’ll tell you details like days and times they’re open and any COVID-related regulations.”

“You can also donate to virtual food drives,” says Caroline Pullen, MS, RD, LDN, nutrition manager at Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee. “While donating to a traditional food drive limits you to shelf-stable foods, donating to a virtual food drive allows us to source the foods we need the most, including healthy, fresh produce.”

What Items Should I Donate to Thanksgiving Food Drives?

canned and dried foods | how to donate to a thanksgiving food drive

“Food drives only take shelf-stable items like boxes, cans, and containers you find in the middle of the grocery store that don’t need refrigeration,” says Worthington.

Healthy, filling foods are always in demand. “Our most requested items are peanut butter, canned fruits and vegetables, canned meat, beans, soup and stew, pasta and cereal,” says Pullen.

Here are some good items to start with:

1. Oatmeal

On chilly days, oatmeal is a comforting breakfast food that is easy to stretch and personalize based on what you have.

“Think about the days before and after Thanksgiving and donate breakfast cereals like farina and oats,” says Worthington.

2. Nut butters

“When donating to a food drive, it is important to think about what foods people want and need,” says Pullen.

Nut butters are always a popular choice, especially for kids. Think beyond peanut butter and consider some allergen-free options like sunflower seed butter, tooo.

3. Reduced-sodium canned veggies

“Reduced-sodium items like canned vegetables or vegetable broth will help families create meals,” says Worthington. “If you want to keep it Thanksgiving-focused, think about the kinds of sides you can provide.”

4. Canned proteins

Canned tuna and beans are shortcuts to healthy meals. “Proteins such as low-sodium canned beans, chicken, and tuna are good options,” says Worthington.

With canned beans, you can also make plant-based options for Thanksgiving dishes, then find creative ways to use leftovers.

5. Canned pumpkin puree

It’s Thanksgiving after all, and nothing says fall like some yummy pumpkin spice. “Pie filling and cake mixes are great, too, because who doesn’t like dessert?” says Worthington.

The post The Best Foods to Donate to a Thanksgiving Food Drive appeared first on The Beachbody Blog.

- William Kang
Here’s How Much Exercise You Need to Burn Off Thanksgiving Foods

It’s the most dietarily-fraught time of the year.

Thanksgiving brings all of the delicious meats, cheeses, sauces, gravies, and fat-blanched vegetables you can eat… and all of the accompanying pounds of additional Thanksgiving weight gain and shame along with them.

It’s no wonder so many New Year’s resolutions involve losing weight and eating better. And that is why we’re here (and why you’re here).

How Much Weight Does the Average Person Gain During the Holidays?

The good news: You know that familiar warning about how the average American gains 5 to 10 pounds over the holidays? Totally bogus.

“There’s no scientific data supporting that number,” says Jamie Cooper, Ph.D., an exercise physiologist and associate professor in the Department of Foods and Nutrition at the University of Georgia.

She co-authored a study, published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, in which participants averaged just 1.7 lbs. gained.

(Another study it references showed an average weight gain of 0.9 lbs.)

OK, now the bad news: Those who exercised (at least 150 minutes a week on average) gained the same amount of weight as the people who didn’t. Gulp.

“That doesn’t mean you should skip exercise,” cautions Cooper, “but it really does come down to your food choices.”

Still, is it even worth worrying about such a small number? It’s not that hard to drop a couple pounds come January when you lay in your supplies of broccoli and chicken breast.

Except for many people, it is. Cooper says that many people won’t drop their holiday weight in the new year.

“There’s something called creeping obesity,” she explains. “If you put on a small amount of weight each year, year after year, it really adds up over time.”

The average American gains 1 to 2 pounds a year, and if that gain is gonna come primarily during the holidays, it makes sense to try to avoid it.

How to Avoid Gaining Weight on Thanksgiving

So back to that exercise issue.

Cooper’s easiest tip for surviving the season without having to loosen your belt is to stick to your normal routine as far as trying to eat healthy and work out (it also can’t hurt to kick up your exercise intensity a bit).

In her study, initial body weight was a bigger predictor of holiday weight gain than exercise, meaning heavier people tended to put on more pounds.

So if you’re already lean and trim, you’re on the right path.

Cooper also suggests weighing yourself regularly during the holidays so you can catch the number creeping up — and then minimize excessive liquid calories, such as alcohol, punch, and eggnog.

Finally, be aware of how many calories your food contains. “That single holiday cookie has 150 calories, and you’d have to walk a mile-and-a-half to burn it off,” she says.

How Much Exercise Does It Take to Erase Thanksgiving Calories?

Read on to visualize what it takes to work off a typical Thanksgiving plate.* Then decide if that extra glass of wine is worth it.

(All calorie counts are based on a 150-pound person, so if you weigh more, you’ll also torch more calories.)

1. Butter

Before your guests arrive, jumpstart the big day with some yoga sun salutations (3.3 METS) to center your mind and adopt an “attitude of gratitude.” Ten minutes of flowing yoga will zap each pat of real butter (36 calories).

2. Turkey leg

You called dibs — via mass e-mail — on one of the drumsticks last week. Earn it by putting in some time in the kitchen because it’ll take about two and a half hours of stove time (3.3 METS) to burn off the 542 (pre-basted) calories in the drumstick.

3. Pumpkin pie

Sign up for a T-Day morning turkey trot, and you won’t have to feel too bad about pounding that 323-calorie slice of pumpkin pie.

Maintain a 10-minute-mile pace (9.8 METS) for a half hour, and you’ll burn enough calories to top it with a tablespoon of whipped cream.

Get a healthier recipe: Pumpkin pie with whole wheat crust.

4. Gravy

We don’t need no stinkin’ gravy packets.

Your mom is making animal sauce the old-fashioned way — with the drippings and giblets.

Help clean up the house (3.3 METS) for 12 minutes before everyone arrives to cancel out each quarter-cup serving of turkey gravy (46 calories).

5. Sweet potato casserole

If you have visions of this Southern classic dancing in your head, make room for a serving (249 calories) with just under an hour of moderate-intensity calisthenics (3.8 METS) — push-upscruncheslungessquats, and planks — while watching the Thanksgiving Day parade.

6. Wine

She only arrived five minutes ago and already your nosy Aunt Esther asks why you aren’t married/don’t have kids/wear your hair so short/have that tattoo.

Lace up your sneakers and head out for a 35-minute-long power walk (6 METS) to make room for the two glasses of cabernet (244 calories) it’ll take to get you through dinner.

Seated next to Aunt Esther, of course.

7. Stuffing

Can’t stop thinking about that dressing, huh? Rake leaves (3.8 METS) for 38 minutes and negate the 162 calories in a 1/3-cup serving of scrumptious-ness.

(Who are you kidding? You better double up on that raking time.)

Get a healthier recipe: Bulgur apple and sage stuffing

8. Green bean casserole

If you prefer your vegetables unrecognizable, get a rope. Just nine minutes of jump rope (11 METS) will torch a serving of those beans (111 calories).

Get an even healthier recipe: Healthy green bean casserole

9. Kugel

You heard Cousin Miriam is bringing her traditional Hannukah kugel. Organize a game of flag football (4 METS), and you’ll melt a one-cup serving (257 calories) in about an hour.

10. Cranberry sauce

Wanna make up for your exile to the kids’ table by bogarting the cranberry sauce?

Brave the pre-Black Friday sales (2.3 METS) for an hour and 20 minutes to erase half a cup of that bittersweet, red muck (210 calories).

11. Pumpkin spice latte

You “treated” yourself (for the 24th time this month) to Starbucks’ autumnal pumpkin potion for a mid-Turkey-Day jolt.

Better do some max-effort calisthenics (8 METS). You’ll need about 40 minutes to incinerate the calories lurking in a grande with 2 percent milk and whipping cream (380 kcal).

* Calories calculated from The Compendium of Physical Activities using Cornell University’s METS to calories calculator.

The post Here’s How Much Exercise You Need to Burn Off Thanksgiving Foods appeared first on The Beachbody Blog.

- William Kang
7 Tips for Setting Up a Healthy Thanksgiving Buffet

Rather than serving a formal Thanksgiving dinner this year, you may want to consider setting up a Thanksgiving buffet instead.

Having everything set out buffet-style allows your guests to assess all of the offerings before they start serving themselves.

So rather than piling more and more food on your plate as each course is passed around the table — and mindlessly reaching for second and third helpings as the night wears on — everyone can eat mindfully and choose the foods and portions they really want.

With that in mind, here are expert tips on how to set up a healthy Thanksgiving buffet.

1. Make Sure There’s Enough for Everyone

You never want to have too little food, but you also don’t want to end up with pounds of leftover mashed potatoes and stuffing in your fridge.

So how much food do you need in your Thanksgiving buffet?

“There is no magic number for how much food to make for gatherings, as some people will go back for second or thirds or maybe even bring an extra guest,” says Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Mascha Davis, MPH, RDN, founder of Mini Fish and author of Eat Your Vitamins.

As a general guideline, Davis suggests you allot the following for each guest:

A quarter pound of turkey (or other lean protein) One half to one cup of each side Two rolls A slice of pie

Be sure to aim for variety in your entrees and side dishes — not everyone loves green bean casserole.

2. Set Up the Buffet Properly

For the main Thanksgiving buffet table, Davis suggests laying out everything in this order:

Lighter, healthier sides (salads, veggies) Lean proteins (turkey, ham, tofurkey) Feel-good starchy sides (mashed potatoes, stuffing, cornbread) Toppings (gravy, cranberry sauce)

This way, guests have plenty of plate space for the most nutritious dishes.

By the time they get to the starches and sauces, they won’t have as much room on their plate, and they’ll naturally take smaller portions of those foods.

Put the butter dish on the dining table, and put tableware, drinks, and desserts each on their own table.

3. Label Dishes

When you’re planning the menu for your Thanksgiving buffet, ask your guests if they have any food allergies or dietary restrictions.

If they do, be sure to let them know beforehand which foods to avoid to prevent any accidents from happening.

When you’re setting up your Thanksgiving buffet, label every dish and note if anything has common allergens — like nuts, wheat, or eggs — or is appropriate for vegans or vegetarians.

If any guests are bringing food, ask them to do the same.

It’s also a good idea to have more than one serving spoon for each item, so guests will be less likely to use the same spoon for different dishes (which can be dangerous for guests with food allergies).

4. Downsize Your Plates

At Thanksgiving, it’s tempting to use satellite-sized dinnerware. But “larger plate sizes can trick our minds into eating more,” Davis says, which can leave you feeling uncomfortably overstuffed.

(We’ve all been there.)

Davis recommends opting for smaller plates and bowls for Thanksgiving dinner. Guests can always head back for seconds if they’re still hungry.

5. Consider Pre-Portioning Dishes

“It might be a good idea to have pre-portioned items to keep all guests safe and eliminate congestion at the Thanksgiving buffet line,” Davis says.

You could pre-cut casseroles, ladle soup into ramekins, or even use small mason jars for cold dishes.

6. Enjoy a Taste of Everything

Don’t skip breakfast! Eat as you normally would on any day, so when it’s time for Thanksgiving dinner, you won’t be ravenously hungry. This will help you avoid overeating.

When it’s time for the main event, go ahead and savor your favorite Thanksgiving foods.

“This holiday is meant to be a time of celebration with family, friends, and good food, so do just that,” Davis says. “One day will not undo your healthy lifestyle. Just keep in mind a balanced plate by filling half with veggies, one quarter starchy items, and one quarter protein. If you’re hungry after 20 minutes, then go grab seconds.”

7. Try These Healthy Recipes

Looking for inspiration for your Thanksgiving buffet? Opt for healthier versions of your favorite Thanksgiving foods, and mix in some creative side dishes and plant-based menu options.

Here are a few crowd-pleasing recipes for the best Thanksgiving dinner:

Healthier green bean casserole

Just as creamy as the classic, this version calls for a bit more cooking — and it’s totally worth it. Get the recipe here.

Vegan stuffing

Check the label of the bread you buy for this recipe to ensure it’s vegan. (Some brands add milk products or eggs.) Get the recipe here.

Healthier cranberry sauce

Use orange juice to add sweetness plus depth of flavor. Get the recipe here.

Whole-wheat crust pumpkin pie

This healthier pumpkin pie recipe includes pumpkin puree, evaporated nonfat milk, maple syrup (or raw honey) for sweetness, and a whole-wheat crust! Get the recipe here.

The post 7 Tips for Setting Up a Healthy Thanksgiving Buffet appeared first on The Beachbody Blog.

- Cemile Kavountzis
7 Simple Ways to Have a Fun and Festive Thanksgiving at Home

Doing Thanksgiving virtually is a little different than what we might be used to for the holiday, but it’s not impossible.

After practicing gratitude as a way to cope, we’re ready to put that into action over a seriously delicious meal.

Staying home for a virtual Thanksgiving means you can start your day with yoga instead of on a cramped train or in crowded airport, and make all of your favorite recipes while skipping the dishes you don’t like.

Studies have even found cooking and baking can boost your mood.

Since we’re all about modifying and doing whatever it takes to get the best results from our workouts, we wanted to apply that same can-do ‘tude to Turkey Day.

Here’s our guide to having a fun and festive Thanksgiving at home.

1. Get in Some Friends and Family Time

Prepping a Thanksgiving feast can take a few days. All that time in the kitchen is a good way to reconnect with friends and family — give them a call or Zoom for all their juicy secrets on making the perfect pumpkin pie or roasting a turkey.

“It’s a great way for generations to share,” says Wesley McWhorter, DrPH, MS, RDN, LD, CSCS, a national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “You can help your parents or grandparents get better at using Zoom, and they can teach you their recipes.”

2. Tidy Up (or at Least Hide the Clutter)

Sure it’s virtual, but you’re still having guests. Put on something that makes you feel good, and clear your laptop off the dining room table.

“Work on your lighting so that people can see you and make sure your kitchen is clean,” says McWhorter. “A big mess looks sloppy and you still want a nice presentation.”

He also recommends wearing wireless earphones so people can still hear you if you walk away. “It also cuts down on kitchen noise like chopping so you can focus on talking to each other.” (But do remember to mute yourself when you turn on the blender or mixer.)

3. Work With What You’ve Got

“A lot of us have small kitchens, but you can use your microwave and range to make side dishes,” says McWhorter.

If you’re going to multitask with a turkey in the oven, he makes a sweet potato hash on the stovetop as a healthy alternative to candied yams.

“I chop sweet potatoes with the skin on and sauté them with some pecans, a touch of butter, and some maple syrup,” he says.

4. To Make a Whole Turkey — or Not?

If you’re up to the challenge, roasting a whole turkey means tasty lean protein and leftovers you can get creative with for days.

Alternatively, roasting turkey breast for one or two servings is much easier.

“You can also get a roast turkey from a supermarket or a restaurant, which is a good way to support local businesses,” says McWhorter.

It also means more time to focus on making side dishes you like.

5. Control the Ingredients

“One of the best things about having your own home-cooked meal is you can decide what’s going into each dish,” says McWhorter. “You can avoid processed foods, add in more veggies, use whole grains, and reduce the amounts of unhealthy fats and added sugar.”

Don’t overlook frozen veggies, either. They’re picked and frozen during their peak, so they’re a delicious and cheaper alternative to fresh produce.

Just look for ones without added salt and/or sugar.

Traditional Thanksgiving feasts start out pretty healthy, until you drown vegetables in cans of processed soup or gravies.

You can modify the classics like healthier green bean casseroles without losing the flavor.

6. Veggies, Veggies, and More Veggies

Whether you’re hosting a virtual Friendsgiving with plant-based recipes or cooking traditional dishes with your family, focus on the veggies.

Thanksgiving started with a feast to celebrate a successful harvest and working together. From pumpkins to sweet potatoes, it’s all about reveling in those seasonal veggies.

“Roasted vegetables are so easy to make and they add texture and flavor to your plate,” says McWhorter. “Fingerling potatoes or brussel sprouts roasted with thyme, rosemary, garlic, some olive oil, and then tossed with a drizzle of truffle oil when you take them out of the oven really elevates any meal.”

Need inspiration? We’ve also got a great maple-glazed brussels sprouts recipe.

7. Indulge Mindfully

However, all that said, sometimes you want to make your favorite holiday recipes exactly how they’ve always been done — butter, sugar, all that.

“It’s OK if you want to use some butter for flavoring,” says McWhorter. “Thanksgiving is one day of the year and it’s important to feel like you’re celebrating.

Eating mindfully and enjoyment are good things.”

For those rich, indulgent dishes and desserts, he recommends having a realistic portion. And consider cooking only enough for one or two.

To celebrate mindfully, have one serving of your indulgent treat. Remember, it’ll always be there next year, so you don’t have to overindulge and feel sick from it.

The post 7 Simple Ways to Have a Fun and Festive Thanksgiving at Home appeared first on The Beachbody Blog.

- Cemile Kavountzis
The 8 Best Frozen Veggies to Buy

If you usually rely on frozen and canned foods, you might be wondering which are the best frozen veggies (and are they really as good as the fresh)?

Will they be mushy and water-logged or taste as good as when they are harvested from the field?

Unlike fresh produce, which is often harvested before reaching its peak flavor and then shipped long distances before ever hitting your local supermarket, frozen vegetables tend to be harvested and usually preserved at the top of their game.

If you want to stock your freezer smartly, frozen vegetables are often as healthy — and sometimes healthier — than fresh vegetables and can cost significantly less.

There’s really no difference in quality between store brands or the name brands, but keep an eye on the front of the packages to find different cuts or preparations of veggies.

For example, broccoli florets are only the top part of the broccoli, while broccoli “cuts” include the stems. (That’s a matter of preference and texture.)

Here are some easy-to-find options for packing your freezer with ready-to-go nutrients.

1. Cauliflower

cauliflower on white background | best frozen veggies

Cauliflower has a ton of uses, but when you buy it frozen, be sure to drain the florets to avoid sogginess. This will ensure perfectly creamy (and not watery) cauliflower mash every time.

(You’ll want to use only fresh cauliflower for things like buffalo wings and roasted cauliflower. The frozen won’t hold up.)

Note that cauliflower rice often holds its texture and shape even better than florets do.

Whether you’re looking to add more veggies to any meal or want a lower-carb rice swap, look for frozen cauli rice at your supermarket.

2. Corn

corn on white background | best frozen veggies

A staple of classic frozen vegetable medleys, corn is one of those veggies that is actually better for you frozen than fresh.

Fresh corn has 6.26 grams of sugar per 100 grams versus 3.36 grams in frozen corn. When cooked, it delivers 5 grams of protein per cup.

Thaw and drain your corn, then toss onto salads and into soups and salsas for sweetness and crunch.

3. Butternut Squash

squash on white background | best frozen veggies

Stashing butternut squash spirals (or other premade vegetable noodles) in your freezer is like having a box of pasta in your pantry. They’re perfect for quick and healthy meals.

The key with veggie noodles (and frozen vegetables in general) is choosing types that don’t have any added butter, cheese, or sauces.

Butternut squash puree is another frozen staple to keep on hand for soups, side dishes, and even oatmeal.

4. Spinach

spinach on white background | best frozen veggies

Many leafy salad greens aren’t freezer-friendly. (Ew, frozen lettuce!) But, spinach, kale, and other hearty dark greens like collards freeze well.

Use them in omelets, smoothies, and other dishes. (Frozen spinach can actually retain higher levels of folate than fresh, too.)

Be sure to drain your frozen spinach really, really well after thawing it. Place in a clean dish towel and test your grip strength by wringing it out completely.

5. Broccoli

broccoli on white background | best frozen veggies

Broccoli is a tasty low-carb vegetable that is also a good veggie for weight loss. It contains many important minerals and vitamins, along with fiber.

Broccoli freezes well and retains its nutrients.

Thaw and drain your broccoli, then roast it until crispy with plenty of lemon zest and black pepper. Or keep it simple and steam or microwave until tender yet crisp.

6. Green Peas

peas on white background | best frozen veggies

Frozen green peas are the perfect kitchen shortcut because they’re as nutritious as their fresh counterparts and take no time to toss into soups, sauces, or even salads.

They’re an easy way to sneak in more vegetables and provide 9 grams of protein per cup.

Pair frozen peas with some cauliflower rice and a baked chicken breast, plus your sauce of choice, for an easy-peasy (pun intended) healthy dinner in no time.

7. Green Beans

green beans on white background | best frozen veggies

With about only two calories per bean (or 31 calories per cup), green beans are a tasty, low-cal side dish loaded with fiber.

They’re delicious when steamed and served plain or when roasted until crispy.

Keep a bag on hand for nights when you want a little more green on your plate for very little effort.

8. Mushrooms

chopped mushrooms on white background | best frozen veggies

Mushrooms offer dietary fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals but are low in calories. However, frozen mushrooms are a little slimy straight out of the bag.

Boost their flavor and texture by sauteing them in a dry skillet over medium-high heat until most of the moisture evaporates.

Then add the rest of your ingredients once your mushrooms have started to brown.

They’ll add tons of rich flavor and umami to omelets, soups, tacos, and more for relatively few calories.

The post The 8 Best Frozen Veggies to Buy appeared first on The Beachbody Blog.

- Jordan Burchette
15 of the Healthiest Frozen Foods from Trader Joe’s

Cooking meals that are healthy and delicious can be time-consuming, especially if you’re trying to make everything from scratch. And let’s not even talk about how frustrating it is when you don’t get around to using all your fresh produce and you’re left with wilted veggies and moldy fruits! Fortunately, Trader Joe’s can help save you time, sanity, and wasted food with their selection of delicious, healthy frozen foods.

And we’re not just talking about boring old bags of broccoli — TJ’s has full frozen meals ready to defrost and devour! Better yet, some of them are actually pretty darn good for you. PSA: frozen fruits and veggies are just as good for you as fresh, and they last a whole lot longer!

Ready to whip up a satisfying, nutritious meal in mere minutes? Here’s our guide to the healthiest foods in the frozen aisle at Trader Joe’s.

 

Breakfast 1. Roasted Potatoes With Peppers and Onions

trader joe's frozen food roasted potatoes with peppers and onions

Round out your breakfast with a side of roasted potatoes. This potato, pepper, and onion blend is perfectly spiced with rosemary, garlic, and sage, and has just 110 calories per serving. It clocks in at just 14 grams of carbohydrate, and is low in saturated fat at just 1 gram.

Pair these spuds with a hearty omelet, veggie scramble, or side of turkey bacon for a hearty start to your day.

2. Unsweetened Açai Purée Packets

trader joe's frozen food | Unsweetened Açai Purée Packets

It’s easy to rack up calories and sugar when buying smoothies and smoothie bowls, but these frozen açai purée packets let you make satisfying, healthy breakfasts at home. One pack of unsweetened organic açai has just 80 calories, 4 grams of carbs, 3 grams of fiber, and 0 — yes, zero! — grams of sugar.

Eat your açai plain or blend it with fruit, spinach, chia seeds, Greek yogurt (plain, 2%), or nut butter for a deliciously healthy morning meal.

 

Lunch and Dinner 3. Chicken Burrito Bowl

chicken burrito bowl | trader joe's frozen food

Trader Joe’s Chicken Burrito Bowl is a great option for eating healthy when you’re on the go. The spicy, Southwest-style dish features chicken breast seasoned with garlic and chili powder, brown rice, quinoa, black beans, corn, bell pepper, and a sprinkle of cheddar cheese. One bowl has 370 calories, 9 grams of fiber, and a whopping 22 grams of protein.

To make your life as easy as possible, you can enjoy this by just heating it up and eating it as is. Or, if you want to shake things up a bit, use it as the filling for tacos — bonus points if you use lettuce leaves as the wraps!

4. Turkey Meatballs

turkey meatball | trader joe's frozen food

Seasoned with garlic, parsley, and onion, these frozen turkey meatballs are a simple, tasty way to add protein to any dish. A standard serving (two meatballs) has 12 grams of protein with just 2 grams of saturated fat.

Cook up a couple meatballs to top a roasted veggie salad, rice bowl, or cup of chickpea pasta. It couldn’t be easier!

5. Channa Masala

channa masala | trader joe's frozen food

Trader Joe’s Channa Masala gives frozen vegetarian meals a whole new meaning. This popular Indian dish features garbanzo beans, onions, tomato, pepper, and spices like cumin, turmeric, garlic, and fenugreek for a spicy, rich flavor. Half the package of channa masala contains 180 calories and 6 grams of fiber and protein each.

Complete your plate by adding some some greens, like a side of roasted veggies or handful of sautéed spinach.

6. Cauliflower Gnocchi

cauliflower gnocchi | trader joe's frozen food

Trader Joe’s genius Cauliflower Gnocchi has half the carbs you’ll find in the traditional potato pasta — but just as much flavor. Made from a blend of cauliflower, cassava flour, and potato starch with sea salt and olive oil, this gnocchi is grain-free and contains just 140 calories and 22 grams of carbs per cup.

To really bring out the best of the frozen dish, toss these sautéed dumplings with fresh basil, tomato sauce, pesto, or a little bit of olive oil.

7. Jerk Chicken Thigh Skewers With Mango Chutney​​

Jerk Chicken Thigh Skewers With Mango Chutney​​ | trader joe's frozen food

When you don’t want to cook but still need a satisfying protein to add to weeknight dinners, look no further than Trader Joe’s Jerk Chicken Thigh Skewers With Mango Chutney. These grilled chicken skewers are seasoned with garlic, ginger, lemon, paprika, and chili. Two skewers provide 19 grams of protein and contain just 100 calories (without sauce).

Looking to complete the meal? Pair your grilled chicken with a fresh spinach salad or side of cilantro-lime brown rice to round out the protein.

 

Meal Additions 8. Riced Cauliflower Stir Fry

Riced Cauliflower Stir Fry | trader joe's frozen food

Trader Joe’s cauliflower stir fry is a delicious, low-calorie spin on fried rice. The hearty cauliflower base is topped with peas, red pepper, grilled corn, and spring onions, then seasoned with tamari, sesame oil, and ginger for a savory kick. One cup runs you just 50 calories and 7 grams of carbs, with 2 grams of fiber and protein each.

Eat the stir fry on its own, add a fried egg on top, or serve it alongside a few slices of grilled chicken.

9. Organic Superfood Pilaf

Organic Superfood Pilaf | trader joe's frozen food

This superfood pilaf is loaded with vegetables and whole grains, like tri-colored quinoa, sweet potato, carrots, kale, and red bell pepper. One cup contains 160 calories, 25 grams of carbs, and 3 grams of dietary fiber.

And there’s no one way to enjoy it! You can use it to bulk up your salad, pair it with a bowl of soup, or toss some grilled chicken breast in for a protein-packed superfood mashup.

10. Stir Fry Vegetables

Stir Fry Vegetables | trader joe's frozen food

Take the easy way to adding nutrients, color, and flavor to a meal with this frozen veggie medley. The mix of pea pods, bean sprouts, bamboo shoots, soybeans, water chestnuts, carrots, and mushrooms has 45 calories a cup, plus 2 grams of fiber and 3 grams of protein.

Sautée these veggies with a splash of coconut aminos, and serve them alongside a scoop of brown rice and handful of grilled shrimp for a perfectly portioned and balanced meal.

 

Produce 11. Organic Mixed Berry Blend

Organic Mixed Berry Blend | trader joe's frozen food

This bag of mixed raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries is great to have on hand for healthy breakfasts, snacks, and desserts. A standard serving (¾ cup) has just 80 calories and contains 5 grams of fiber.

Blend a handful of berries into a spinach Shakeology smoothie, toss them into a cup of Greek yogurt for an easy breakfast, or snack on them plain after dinner.

12. Carrot Spirals

Carrot Spirals | trader joe's frozen food

Trader Joe’s frozen carrot spirals are simple, versatile, and super good for you. The coveted trifecta! And these aren’t just regular carrots — they’re cool carrots that are shaved into noodles and topped with a sprinkle of sea salt to bring out their natural sweetness.

They contain 2 grams of fiber and are just 35 calories per serving. Add them into stir fry, a salad for extra color and texture, or even a smoothie!

13. Grilled Cauliflower

Grilled Cauliflower | trader joe's frozen food

If you don’t feel like slicing up a head of cauliflower and then tossing it on the grill to bring out its sweet flavor, you’re in luck! This frozen option has all of that done for you already. Defrost these florets to use them cold or heat them up, and use them whole or mashed — the options are nearly limitless!

 

Dessert 14. Gone Bananas

gone bananas | trader joe's frozen food

These frozen chocolate-covered banana coins make the perfect sweet treat when you’re craving something sweet and chocolaty. Four banana slices dipped in milk chocolate contain 100 calories. Don’t mind if we do!

15. Gone Berry Crazy

gone berry crazy | trader joe's frozen food

If bananas aren’t your thing, you have another option for a fruity chocolaty dessert with this strawberry treat! TJ’s took sliced Thai strawberries, covered them in dark chocolate, and froze them so you can enjoy them whenever you please. You can pop six of these li’l guys into your mouth for just 100 calories and 5 grams of added sugar.

The post 15 of the Healthiest Frozen Foods from Trader Joe’s appeared first on The Beachbody Blog.

- Jordan Burchette
What to Order at Chipotle: 7 Tips for Finding the Healthiest Options

With fresh, responsibly-sourced ingredients, Chipotle makes it easy to eat healthy on the go. But the yummy chips, toppings, and tortillas also make it easy to turn your order into an unintended cheat meal. So what should you order at Chipotle? We asked two nutrition experts to break down tips for finding the healthiest options.

(Nutritional data is provided by the Chipotle Nutrition Calculator.)

 

1. Start with the Basics

When you’re deciding what to order at Chipotle, skip the burrito — the large flour tortilla contains 320 calories, and that’s before you add any toppings. “Go for the tacos, salad, or bowls instead,” says Kristian Morey, RD, LDN and Clinical dietitian at The Center for Endocrinology at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore.

Here’s how those options stack up:

Salad is your best bet, with just 15 calories in the bed of supergreens. If you order a burrito bowl, choose brown rice over white. A normal serving of rice (in a burrito bowl, burrito, or a three-taco meal) contains 210 calories, so request a “light” portion in person or in the app when ordering — or skip it altogether. If you order tacos, opt for the crispy corn shells — an order of three contains 200 calories and zero sodium, compared to 250 calories and 480 mg of sodium for three soft flour tortillas.

 

2. Add Lean Protein

Next, add some healthy protein to your order. Black beans and pinto beans both contain 130 calories and 8 grams of protein in an average scoop, so choose whichever bean you like best.

For the main protein event, opt for chicken or sofritas (shredded tofu braised in spices). “Both are lower in saturated fat than red meat,” says Sofia Norton, RD at Kiss My Keto. Sofritas clock in at 150 calories, 8 grams of protein, and 1.5 grams of saturated fat per serving. The chicken option has 180 calories and 3 grams of saturated fat, but a whopping 32 grams of protein per serving.

 

3. Go Heavy on the Veggies

Norton suggests including plenty of veggies, so add some fajita vegetables, tomatillo salsa, pico de gallo, roasted chili corn, or extra supergreens to your dish. (Go easiest on the corn, which contains 80 calories per serving.)

 

4. Watch Out for Saturated Fat

what to order at chipotle interior

Don’t overdo it when it comes to shredded cheese, queso blanco sauce, and sour cream — these can add a lot of saturated fat and calories to your meal. (Chipotle’s shredded cheese has 5 grams of saturated fat per serving, queso blanco has 6 grams, and sour cream has 7 grams.)

Chipotle’s salsa options — both the fresh tomato salsa and the tomatillo green-chili salsa — are great, low-cal, flavorful options. But if you’re craving a creamy topping or dip, pick just one, and request a light portion. Even better, order it on the side so you can control how much you add to your food, Morey says.

 

5. Spring for the Guac

Avocados contain “valuable nutrients like fiber, B vitamins, and potassium,” Norton says, along with healthy fats that are believed to benefit heart health. And Chipotle’s guacamole includes only real stuff — avocados, cilantro, jalapeño, lemon juice, lime juice, red onion, and salt — no funny business like preservatives or artificial flavors. Just keep in mind that a helping of guac adds 230 calories to your meal, so you may want to order it on the side so you can eat half now and save the rest for later.

 

6. Skip the Chips

Chips are tempting, but leave them off your order. “The smallest option clocks in at over 500 calories,” Morey says. “That’s practically a meal’s worth for some people.” And a large order of chips with a side of queso blanco will run you 1,290 calories and contains 28 grams of saturated fat.

 

7. Take Advantage of the Nutrition Calculator

Before you order, Morey recommends running your order through the handy Nutrition Calculator on the Chipotle website — it calculates the full nutritional information of your meal. You can also see the difference in nutritional stats if you choose to go “extra,” “normal,” or “light” on any of your selections. For instance, you can quickly see that choosing a light serving of cilantro-lime brown rice instead of a normal serving will shave off 105 calories.

 

Easy Options to Order at Chipotle

what to order at chipotle to go bag

Still not sure what to order at Chipotle? Here are a few options that offer plenty of nutrients. (Keep in mind the sodium content can be significant, even in the healthiest options at Chipotle — so try to limit your sodium intake the rest of the day.)

Salad with chicken

Add black beans, fajita vegetables, and fresh tomato salsa.

Calories: 360 Fat: 9 grams Protein: 41 grams Carbohydrates: 32 grams Burrito bowl with sofritas

Add cilantro-lime brown rice (light), pinto beans, fajita vegetables, tomatillo green-chili salsa, and romaine lettuce

Calories: 425 Fat: 15 grams Protein: 19 grams Carbohydrates: 58 grams Veggie tacos

Choose two crispy corn tortillas instead of three, and add black beans, fajita vegetables, fresh tomato salsa, guacamole, and romaine lettuce

Calories: 406 Fat: 22 grams Protein: 10 grams Carbohydrates: 46 grams Lifestyle Bowls

If you’re following a specific diet plan, you can also choose one of Chipotle’s pre-designed Lifestyle Bowls — they’re available in Whole30, paleo, and vegan-friendly versions.

The post What to Order at Chipotle: 7 Tips for Finding the Healthiest Options appeared first on The Beachbody Blog.

- Jordan Burchette
What Is Hard Kombucha — and Is It Healthier Than Other Alcoholic Beverages?

Can you get a buzz and boost your gut health at the same time? That’s the idea behind hard kombucha, which has a higher alcohol content than the fizzy drink that lines the shelves at health food stores.

Kombucha naturally has some alcohol in it, thanks to the SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts) that works with sugar and tea to create the popular fermented beverage. However, the amount of alcohol in regular kombucha is usually about 0.5% ABV — not enough to get you tipsy.

Hard kombucha, on the other hand, uses a different SCOBY that dramatically increases the alcohol content. “Rather than the traditional strain of bacteria and yeasts, hard kombucha uses wine yeast to ferment, which creates quite a potent alcoholic beverage,” says Cameron Fiorenza, BS-NDTR.

As a result, most hard kombuchas range from about 5% to 10% ABV, meaning you have to be at least 21 to enjoy. But is there any benefit to drinking hard kombucha over any other cocktail? Here’s what you need to know.

 

Is Hard Kombucha Considered Healthy?

hard kombucha overhead

Regular kombucha contains gut-friendly probiotics — the helpful bacteria that can help digestion — but there’s not a ton of research to back up all of its healthy benefits.

Alcohol, on the other hand, may disrupt the balance of bacteria in the gut. So does that mean the alcohol in hard kombucha will negate any potential benefits of drinking kombucha in the first place?

Not necessarily. The beneficial bacteria in hard kombucha should be able to withstand the higher alcohol content. “Kombucha fermented with a wine SCOBY will naturally include those probiotics that function in higher alcohol solutions — and therefore, in theory, won’t die off when ingested,” Fiorenza says.

 

Is Hard Kombucha Better Than Other Types of Alcohol?

It depends.

The calorie count and sugar content in hard kombucha can vary between brands. Kyla Kombucha, for example, contains 90 calories and zero sugar per in their original 12 oz. cans, while Boochcraft contains up to 190 calories and 6 grams of sugar in certain 12 oz. flavors. Whichever brand you choose, it’s important to keep tabs on your nutritional facts and serving sizes — and to drink in moderation, of course.

Hard kombucha typically contains fewer calories than you’ll find in sugary mixed drinks like a rum and Coke (271 calories) or a daiquiri (252 calories). But compared to other carbonated drinks, it’s pretty similar — White Claw spiked seltzer, for example, contains around 100 calories and 2g of sugar. Beer can range from around 100 calories for a light beer to around 200 calories for a robust porter.

“You don’t have to choose a better option here — these are all similar in calories and alcohol content,” says Fiorenza. “It depends on how you want to enjoy your beverage, with or without probiotics.”

 

3 Hard Kombucha Brands to Try

Want to try hard kombucha? Here are a few companies with tempting flavors.

KYLA Kombucha

kyla hard kombucha

KYLA Kombucha‘s line of hard kombucha “with a kick” comes in three formulations of escalating potency: Original (90 calories, zero sugar per 12 oz. can) at 4.5% ABV, Sunbreak (170 calories, 1g sugar per 16 oz. can) at 6.5% ABV, and Riviera, a collection of craft brewed cocktails (140 calories, 1g sugar per 12 oz. can) at 7% ABV.

Boochcraft

boochcraft hard kombucha

Unafraid to cuss in their mission statement, “high-alcohol” Boochcraft comes in five core flavors, with a myriad of seasonal and limited-release varieties. They all generally clock in at 7% ABV but vary wildly nutritionally, with between 1 and 13 grams of sugar and 160 to 230 calories per 12 oz. serving.

Wild Tonic

wild tonic hard kombucha

Placing a similar emphasis on potency, Wild Tonic Hard Jun Kombucha comes in refreshing flavors like blackberry mint and blueberry basil. Depending on the flavor, ABVs register from 5.6% to 7.6% ABV and calorie counts hover around 100 calories per serving. Just watch the sugar content — some flavors pack up to 25 grams per serving, and none contain fewer than 11.

The post What Is Hard Kombucha — and Is It Healthier Than Other Alcoholic Beverages? appeared first on The Beachbody Blog.

- Jordan Burchette
PB&J Sandwiches Can Be Healthy If You Follow These 3 Tips

Nothing says comfort food like a good ‘ol peanut butter and jelly sandwich. But is this lunchbox favorite healthy for you? You bet it is! That is… if you make it the right way.

A well-made PB&J not only tastes good, but it also boasts some plant-powered protein, healthy monounsaturated fats, and whole-grain fiber.

Follow these healthy peanut butter and jelly sandwich hacks to help you get the nutrients you need and help maintain a healthy diet.

 

Are Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches Healthy?

“From a nutritional standpoint, a PB&J sandwich is pretty good,” says Ryan D. Andrews, MS, MA, RD, RYT, CSCS, and author of “A Guide to Plant-Based Eating.” You’ve got protein, fat, and fiber, all of which can support a healthy diet, he says.

Peanut butter is a good low carb source of protein, packing 7 g in a 2 tbsp. serving, and it’s brimming with vitamin E and minerals, like magnesium, calcium, and potassium.

Peanut butter is also cholesterol free and boasts about 8 g of “good” monounsaturated fat in a 2 tbsp. serving, which “can have a beneficial effect on your heart when eaten in moderation,” according to the American Heart Association. All in all, unless you have a peanut allergy, peanut butter is a safe, nutrient dense, ecologically friendly crop, says Andrews.

And when you choose the right bread — like whole grain, instead of white — you’ll also get a solid dose of fiber that can help keep your digestion regular, make you feel more full, and help you maintain a healthy weight.

are peanut butter and jelly sandwiches healthy comparison

 

Hacks for Healthier Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches

Not all PB&J’s are created equal. The quality of your ingredient choices will determine just how healthy your sandwich is. The hacks below offer easy alternatives to the traditional highly processed peanut butter with sugared fruit spread on white bread while keeping your nutritional needs and personal taste preferences in mind.

loaf of sliced whole bread | are peanut butter and jelly sandwiches healthy

1. Pick the right bread

PB&J may have entered your life on fluffy white bread, but those slices have a long list of ingredients that don’t offer much nutritionally. Instead, hack your PB&J with high fiber whole-grain bread. Andrews suggests either whole-grain sprouted bread or whole-grain slow-rise sourdough — both of which are higher in nutrients like amino acids and B vitamins, and lower in antinutrients like phytates than their refined grain counterparts.

Additionally, sprouted and slow-rise sourdough breads tend to be well-digested, says Andrews. If you have FODMAP sensitivities, sourdough can be a particularly good choice because sourdough may increase mineral uptake, decrease glycemic response, and help the bioavailability of fiber. If either of those are too hard to find, says Andrews, “a simple whole-grain bread will do.”

Gone gluten-free? There are still good whole-grain options for those who can’t enjoy traditional bread, but Andrews says that’s only worth it if you have a sensitivity.

 

peanut butter jar | are peanut butter and jelly sandwiches healthy

2. Select a healthy peanut butter

Andrews says that in addition to peanuts, three ingredients are usually added to peanut butter: oil, sugar, and salt. “Old school formulas [like your traditional supermarket finds] often include hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil,” he says. For the healthiest PB, you want to avoid peanut butters with those types of added oils, or opt for one without added oil.

Andrews notes that some salt in peanut butter isn’t a big concern unless there is a specific health reason. But otherwise, choose a brand that doesn’t add anything extra to its peanut butter mixture. Meaning… the healthiest option for PB should just be peanuts.

When it comes to choosing organic versus conventional peanut butter, Andrews says there’s not much difference in terms of nutrients like iron or protein. “But there’s a case to be made for organic peanut butter because the farming has fewer chemicals and in general is more sustainable,” he notes.

Prefer an alternative nut or seed butter? Enjoy them at your leisure, says Andrews. Schmear your favorite bread with almond or sunflower seed butter for a new twist on an old favorite. “From a dietary standpoint,” says Andrews, “it’s always a good idea to step up the variety in your diet,” so let your taste buds guide the way.

Just keep in mind that the healthiest option should focus on the main ingredient, be that peanuts, cashews, or sunflower seeds, and not sugar, oils, or preservatives. And always be sure to check that there are ZERO trans fats — as they are our enemy and until a few years ago, they were sadly found in many nut butters.

 

jelly jar | are peanut butter and jelly sandwiches healthy

3. Choose a 100% fruit spread

When it comes to topping your peanut butter and jelly sandwich, “the simpler the better,” says Andrews. A 100% fruit spread can help keep your added sugar intake low and give you a sweet treat on your PB&J.

Jams (made from crushed fruit) and jellies (made from fruit juice) already have naturally occurring fructose, so Andrews recommends avoiding brands that add other sweeteners, especially high fructose corn syrup. Andrews acknowledges that a little bit of sugar adds sweetness and helps preserve the fruit, but “try to stay below 4 to 5 grams per serving.”

Even if you’re considering purchasing a light fruit spread that sweetens with sugar substitute, Andrews notes that many artificial sweeteners like sucralose can cause bloating. “If you can avoid them, do so.” Focus on choosing the most natural fruit spread, with the least amount of ingredients. And, use it sparingly, as the sugar and calories add up quickly.

But for your best bet? Just mash up some fresh berries! It can be just as easy to mash up strawberries and spread them on your sandwich as it is to spread on something from a jar.

 

Other tips

“Listen to your body,” says Andrews. Body size, hunger levels, and physical cues will all contribute to including PB&Js into your healthy diet. Check in with yourself after eating. Are you full? Do you feel like you ate enough? Was your PB&J a snack? A meal? What role does it play in your nutrition that day? With a mix of good, common sense nutrition and your individual needs, you can find a way to enjoy better, healthier peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

 

Can you lose weight eating PB&Js?

Good news, sandwich lovers — PB&J can definitely be part of a well-balanced diet, and could help with weight loss! Especially if you follow the healthy hacks mentioned above.

The nutritional value of a PB&J does allow this sandwich to be a part of a well-balanced diet, and it may help with weight loss. Research from Purdue University found that people better managed their weight loss regimens when nuts were included. Andrews also agrees that peanut butter and jelly can support weight loss. But it’s also important to consider what a PB&J would be replacing in your diet. What would you be eating instead?

Whether you choose PB&J over a salad or over fast food matters. There are many food options — both healthier and unhealthier — so Andrews suggest considering how your sandwich habits factor into your nutrition as a whole.

And keep portions in mind, too: “A peanut butter and jelly sandwich can have a reasonable amount of calories, so you’ll want to use common sense to decide whether your sandwich is enough (or too much) for your particular nutrition needs,” notes Andrews.

The post PB&J Sandwiches Can Be Healthy If You Follow These 3 Tips appeared first on The Beachbody Blog.

- Chelsey Amer
5 Reasons Your Skin Needs More Ceramides (In Your Food, Supplements, and Skincare)

Want to step up your skincare game? Try adding ceramides to the mix. Below, experts break down everything to know about ceramides in skin care—from how they work to the benefits they offer.

If you’re skincare-obsessed, you’ve likely heard about how ceramides are like magic for your complexion. But if you’re not a skincare guru or don’t spend your free time perusing skincare products and supplements at the drugstore, you may not be familiar with ceramides. The world of skincare can be a bit overwhelming—especially when it comes to all of the buzzy ingredients trending on the internet. To help, we put together a guide on everything you need to know about ceramides, which are the fats in our skin cells. After this quick read, you’ll learn what ceramides are, how they can help aging skin, and why you should get to know this superstar ingredient for happier, healthier skin.

What are Ceramides? what are ceramides

Ceramides are a prevalent type of fat in the uppermost layers of your skin that form a natural skin barrier. You can think of them as the glue that holds your skin cells together to keep your barrier intact. They play a role in your skin’s:

StructureProtectionPermeability

Ceramides help create a barrier to prevent water loss in your skin and provide protection from external (and potentially harmful) elements. A properly-functioning skin barrier keeps moisture locked in, which helps decrease the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and increases plumpness and firmness of the skin. 

Ceramides are quite important for the overall health of your skin. However, the number of ceramides in your skin declines with age, which is why ceramides are a popular ingredient in anti-aging products. Harsh climates and sun exposure can also reduce the ceramide content in your skin.

Benefits of Ceramides for Skin ceramide benefits for skin

We know that ceramides support a healthy skin barrier, but what else do they do, exactly? Below are five key benefits of ceramides for your skin.

1. Ceramides Maintain the Skin Barrier

Your skin is the largest organ in your body and the first layer of defense against harsh weather (think: intense sun or super cold winds), harmful toxins, bacteria, viruses, and more. As the number of ceramides in your upper layers of skin diminishes, your skin barrier is compromised. You can become more susceptible to these irritants, leading to inflammation and infection. A compromised skin barrier could result in dryness, redness, flaking, and even acne.

2. Ceramides Boost Hydration Levels of the Skin

One of the protective roles of ceramides is to maintain water permeability of your skin. This helps lock in moisture to keep your skin adequately hydrated. Dry skin can be rough and have small cracks, which increases your susceptibility to inflammation. As mentioned earlier, lower ceramide levels are associated with dry skin conditions, including eczema. One study found that enzymes involved in ceramide deficiencies are increased in diseased states, like atopic dermatitis. TL;DR: Ceramides help to maintain smooth, glowing skin.

3. Ceramides Reduce the Appearance of Fine Lines and Wrinkles

Because ceramides help control your skin’s hydration levels, a lack of ceramides can lead to the more visible appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Think about it: Dried fruit, which is fruit with the water removed, often appears wrinkled and shriveled. The same can happen to your skin since ceramides naturally decline as we age. Plump skin (and fruit) is well-hydrated. 

Ceramides help boost your skin’s hydration, decreasing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. In addition to boosting collagen production, maintaining adequate ceramide concentration in your skin to boost hydration can help give your skin a youthful glow.

4. Ceramides Protect Your Skin Against UV Damage

You already know sun exposure can damage your skin, increasing the appearance of wrinkles, age spots, and fine lines. And even if you’re putting on SPF, there’s always a chance you might get too much sun. Good news: Ceramides can help protect against damage from the sun. 

Skincare products with ceramides can help reduce inflammation and help repair the skin barrier. Even more, moisturizers with ceramides can help reduce pigmentation from the sun (bye, bye pesky sun spots). This is especially important if you have chronic sun exposure.

5. Ceramides Improve Overall Skin Health 

Many skin conditions are associated with a reduction in ceramides or altered ceramides. Experts found that many inflammatory conditions, like acne, psoriasis, dermatitis, and eczema, are associated with changes in the number of proteins expressed in affected skin versus healthy skin. These changes are correlated with lower ceramide levels in the skin.

To help combat ceramide deficiencies in the skin, experts suggest using topical skincare products that contain ceramides and ingesting a supplement with ceramides.

Where to Find Ceramides foods high in ceramides

Ceramides are most commonly found in skincare products (think: ceramide moisturizers or ceramide serums). However, you can also find them in supplements, like HUM’s Mighty Night. One study found that oral intake of a ceramide supplement significantly increased moisture content of the skin in individuals who previously complained of dry skin. Regularly taking a ceramide supplement can yield impressive benefits (especially if paired with ceramide skincare products).

Another study found that ceramide intake can help decrease hyperpigmentation, redness, and itchiness of the skin. Luckily, none of these studies reported adverse effects or negative side effects.

Food Rich in Ceramides

One way to ingest more ceramides is to add ceramide-rich foods to your diet. To help replace vanishing ceramides in your skin you can consume ceramide-rich foods, including:

Dairy products, like milk, yogurt, kefir, and cheeseEggsSweet potatoesSoybeansWheat germCornBrown rice

Dairy and eggs contain the highest quantities of ceramides. Many plants contain phyto-ceramides (or ceramides from plants), including soybeans, wheat germ, rice, and white peach. Fun fact: White peach is found to have twice the amount of ceramides compared to other fruits.

While you’d have to eat a lot of these foods to consume clinical amounts of ceramides, these are healthful foods that can support your ceramide levels and will promote overall good health, too.

Who Should Consume More Ceramides?

As we’re all aging, we can all benefit from more ceramides in our supplement and beauty routines. However, if you tend to have dry skin, use harsh irritants on your skin, or have excessive sun exposure, ceramides can be particularly beneficial.

If you’re looking to supplement with ceramides, most research has been done with 11 to 70 mg of ceramides daily. Some research also looked at the ingestion of collagen, hyaluronan, and procyanidin for effective skin moisturization. 

HUM’s Mighty Night contains 70 mg of ceramides, derived from (certified gluten-free) wheat lipids to help you get your beauty sleep. It works by renewing skin overnight, improving the texture and tone of your skin. Mighty Night also contains a blend of plant botanicals that supports deeper sleep, as well as antioxidants that help reduce free radical damage. After about a month of consistent use, you can expect to see better-hydrated skin.

The Takeaway

Ceramides are naturally found in your body, but you may need a little extra help as you age or if you suffer from dry skin to maintain the ceramide content in your skin. As a result, you’ll support your skin’s protective barrier and hydration, helping to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

The post 5 Reasons Your Skin Needs More Ceramides (In Your Food, Supplements, and Skincare) appeared first on HUM Nutrition Blog.

- Sara Angle
The Ultimate Self-Care Gift Guide for 2022

‘Tis the season for self-care. We rounded up our 17 favorite wellness essentials to help everyone on your list relax and reset in time for the new year. From muscle-soothing massage guns to calming gummy vitamins to chic kitchen essentials, here are our picks for the holiday season.

With stress and burnout at an all-time high, everyone could use a little self-care. And what better time to encourage your loved ones to give themselves some TLC than the holiday season? Self-care looks different for everyone: For some, it’s spending extra time baking delicious treats. For others, it could be as simple as remembering to take your daily vitamins to support a happier, healthier lifestyle.

We know it can be hard to narrow down all of the options out there, which is why we rounded up the 17 best self-care gifts. We included options for everyone on your list—from your partner to your brother to the little ones in your life. (And maybe add an extra one for yourself!) 

Keep reading to see our favorite self-care gifts, below. 

Self-Care Gifts for Everyone on Your List HUM Nutrition Gummy Vault, $38 self care gifts gummy vault

We’re suckers for good packaging, so gifting this Gummy Vault—a Sephora exclusive—of our much-loved vegan gummies is a must this year! The Vault includes a full-size Hair Sweet Hair, our hair growth gummy, and mini sizes of our Boost Sweet Boost immune gummy, Glow Sweet Glow hyaluronic acid gummy, and Calm Sweet Calm, our ashwagandha gummy for stress management. Added plus: The mini sizes are perfect for holiday travel.

Laneige Midnight Minis Lip Sleeping Mask Set, $19 self care gifts lip mask

The one body part everyone seems to forget about giving some TLC? Your lips! That’s why these lip sleeping masks in five different flavors feel so luxe! The super hydrating masks are perfect for combatting chapped winter lips using ingredients like Murumuru seed and Shea butter.

HUM Nutrition Calm Sweet Calm Gummies, $30 self care gifts calm sweet calm

Everyone on your list could use some calm during the holiday season (and beyond). Calm Sweet Calm features ashwagandha and l-theanine to reduce symptoms of stress and promote relaxation. Bundle this with any of the other items from this list for the perfect self-care gift!

Hugimals Weighted Stuffed Animal, $64 self care gifts weighted stuffed animals

The biggest act of self care might possibly be sleep. A good night’s sleep is directly linked to physical and mental well-being. Help encourage more restful nights (and better, more productive days) by gifting this weighted stuffed animal. It provides the sensation of “hugging” you back, lowering stress levels, increasing feelings of calmness, and promoting better sleep. They’re perfect for anyone—from kids to adults.

Kate McLeod Sleep Pebble Bath & Shower Oil, $48 self care gifts stones

Set yourself up for a restful night’s sleep with these bath and shower pebbles. They’re made with nourishing cocoa butter, plant-based oils, and natural exfoliants to help rejuvenate and relax the body. But the secret, sleep-supporting ingredient? Lavender, which research has shown improves sleep quality. Plus, these pebbles come in a refillable container, making them a sustainable self-care gift.

Cadence Days of the Week Capsules, $88 self care gifts organizers

Taking your supplements daily is the best way to see and feel the results you’re looking for, but everyone can forget from time to time. Those who struggle to keep a routine will never miss a day with these days-of-the-week capsules that are perfectly sized for your daily supplements. The magnetized capsules stick together for easy travel and can be configured any way you want. Choose from 14 different colors.

Collage Activity Book, $20 self care gifts collage book

Coloring can be meditative and reduce stress, research shows, but for those that like to live life outside the lines, this collage activity book can be an exercise in mindfulness. It features over 1500 images to cut out and use to create quirky collages. Appropriate for adults and kids alike, the only thing miss is a glue stick.

Papier Meal Planning Notebook, $20 self care gifts meal planner

Eating delicious, home-cooked meals is the ultimate act of self-care, but meal planning can be time-consuming and take some extra effort. Make things easier (and aesthetically pleasing) with this meal planner that includes space to write out three meals a day and create a grocery list to match. Your recipient will never miss an ingredient again! 

Olive & June The Mani System, $55 self care gifts manicure set

Sometimes self care is all about slowing down. If your friend or family member is beauty-obsessed, they’ll love this manicure kit. It comes with everything they need to achieve a salon-worthy mani from the comfort of their own home: non-toxic nail polish, nail clippers, a nail buffer, cuticle serum, nail polish remover, a clean-up brush, and a shiny top coat.

Looking for a self-care gift for a little one in your life? Try the Super Smalls Kids Self-Care Nail Kit ($36). It’s fully stocked with everything they need to paint their dream manicure—all in miniature size (we can’t handle how cute it is!).

The Sill Best Sellers Duo, $120 self care gifts plants

Seasoned plant parents and newbies alike will love this stunning plant duo. It comes with two medium-sized plants in chic, minimalist planters (you can choose the colors you think your loved one would like best). The first plant is a monstera, which will thrive in sunny spots and transform any space into a tropical jungle. The second, a snake plant, is one of the best house plants for air quality and can thrive in any kind of environment.

Dame Aer, $95 self care gifts sex toy

Who says self-care can’t be sexy? In fact, there are tons of health benefits of masturbating—from improved mood and sleep to increased self-worth to a more regulated nervous system. We know gifting a sex toy might only work for a *specific* person, but this best-selling suction toy will help any of your loved ones love themselves fully. 

Theragun Mini, $179  self care gifts massage gun

Can confirm: Self-massage is good for your body, mind, and soul. This mini massage gun is perfect for fitness folk who are always complaining about knots and post-workout soreness. Just having it on hand is the perfect reminder to give your muscles the workout recovery and rest they deserve. The mini-size is also ideal for packing in a gym bag or carry-on.

Our Place Bakeware Set, $195 self care gifts bakeware

There’s a reason stress-baking is so popular. Psychologically, baking engages all of your senses (touch, smell, taste, sight, and sound), forcing you into the present. Read: There’s no time for any anxiety-ridden thoughts or worries to overtake your focus. Plus, the reward of delicious baked goods releases feel-good chemicals in the brain. This chic bakeware set has five multitasking items (goodbye, cabinet clutter) to help your friend or family member bake away the stress of the day.

Vitruvi Essential Oil Diffuser, $182 self care gifts oil diffuser

Aromatherapy has been proven to help with anxiety and improve sleep. Give your loved one the gift of a good-smelling space with this essential oil diffuser. It gently disperses essential oil throughout the day (with options of a four-hour or eight-hour run times) and sets a calming mood with warm LED light. The best part? It’s cordless, so you can move it throughout your home to make sure the scent reaches every corner.

Silk Pillowcase Duo, $125 self care gifts silk pillowcases

Help your loved one practice self care in their sleep with this luxe silk pillowcase duo. Cotton pillowcases typically draw out moisture from hair and skin—leaving your complexion and your tresses feeling dry and dehydrated in the morning. This gentle fabric reduces friction on the face (bye, bye fine lines) and helps to retain moisture so your friend or family member will wake up with shining hair and glowing skin.

Beast Health Blender, $132 self care gifts blender

Anyone on social media right now will have already eyed this visually-appealing and minimalist personal blender. Believe the hype. The Beast blends smoothies quickly and efficiently and includes a storage lid, drinking lid, and carry cap so you can blend and go. We’re gifting it with a pouch of HUM’s Core Strength, our plant-based vanilla protein powder. It makes the perfect present for the college students, apartment dwellers, and commuters on your list.

Calpak Luka Duffel, $120 self care gifts duffel bag

If your friend is always on-the-go, this duffel bag can help keep them organized (read: reduce worries about forgetting necessary items). It comes with compartments for just about everything: a spare pair of shoes, phone, wallet, food—whatever your loved one needs to get through their busy schedule. Plus, it slides right onto any suitcase, which means it’s perfect for any last-minute, self-care vacations.

The post The Ultimate Self-Care Gift Guide for 2022 appeared first on HUM Nutrition Blog.

- Maddy Sims
Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Panic if Your Weight is Up After The Holidays

Holiday weight gain can leave you feeling down after the festive season, but experts say you shouldn’t stress about a few extra pounds. Hint: The scale isn’t really painting the full picture. Here’s what they had to say.

The holidays bring so many fun things: time with friends and family, cozy nights by the fire, and, of course, delicious food and drinks (hello, Starbucks seasonal menu!). All that celebrating—while fun—can lead to some seasonal weight gain. While the number on the scale or the snugness of your pants may freak you out, experts we spoke to said there’s no cause for concern.

There’s no reason to be stressed about holiday weight gain, but if you are, we put together a guide on everything you need to know. We’ll never tell you that you need to lose weight. And while the number on the scale is one way to monitor your health, it’s not a comprehensive or accurate measure (more on that below).

The most important takeaway? You might gain some weight over the holidays (most people do!), but not nearly as much as you think. All kinds of factors influence the number on the scale, but gaining a large amount of weight in two weeks simply isn’t physiologically possible—you’d have to be eating a huge excess of calories.

We spoke to experts to find out how much weight people gain over the holidays on average, why this weight gain happens, and what to do in order to have a healthy holiday season. Read on to see what they said.

Is It Normal to Gain Weight Over the Holidays? average holiday weight gain

In short, yes. Weight gain during the holiday season—from late November to early January—is extremely common due to celebrations and social gatherings, which are known to have high-calorie foods like desserts, sugary drinks, and alcohol. There’s also evidence of a decrease in physical activity during this time of year.

“Studies show that on average, people do gain weight, but it is less weight gain than commonly thought,” says Jennifer Martin-Biggers, PhD, MS, RDN, vice president of scientific affairs and education at HUM Nutrition. “Note this is an average, so some gain more and some don’t gain weight or even lose weight.”

Average Holiday Weight Gain

So, how much weight do people usually gain in a week? “In general, people gain less than one pound over the several-week season in totality,” Dr. Martin-Biggers says. Of course, it’s definitely possible to gain more if you’re consuming excess calories.

A review published in 2017 examined 15 publications that have been conducted to research the effect of holiday season weight gain. In all but one of the studies they evaluated, there was an increase of weight gain ranging from 0.37 kilograms to 0.9 kilograms (or .8 pounds to 2 pounds). “In general, people who are overweight or obese gain more weight than people at a normal BMI, but even people who identify as motivated and self-monitor their intake gain some weight,” Dr. Martin-Biggers explains.

Why the Number on the Scale Isn’t Totally Accurate holiday weight gain 2

While the scale can be used as a tool to track weight gain or loss, the number might not always be the most accurate (especially during the holidays). Here are some factors that can affect your weight on the scale:

Eating Salty Foods

“Eating salty foods can contribute to water retention or ‘water weight,’ which may affect the number on the scale and make you feel bloated, but is not an accurate representation of long-term body composition,” explains Danielle Gray, NASM-certified personal trainer and founder of Train Like A Gymnast. While it may seem counterintuitive, hydration can help with this.

Drinking Alcohol

Another thing that leads to water weight? Drinking alcohol. Alcohol dehydrates our bodies, which can cause our bodies to hold onto water. This can cause the number on the scale to spike unexpectedly. If you’re celebrating over the holidays, drinking alcohol will likely happen. Rather than trying to cut it out entirely, Gray recommends spacing out your drinks (or trying mindful drinking). “Try to drink one glass of still or bubbly water between each alcoholic beverage,” she says. “Alcohol has lots of calories and not many nutrients, so you’re better off consuming calories with nutritional benefit and limiting your consumption since it can lead to hunger and prevent your body from burning fat in a vicious cycle.”

Efficiency of Excretory System

Believe it or not, going to the bathroom can affect the number on the scale. If you’re backed up (due to stress, travel, or something you ate), you might see an increase in weight. So, make sure you’re weighing yourself at the same time every day (in the morning right after you use the bathroom, for example).

Menstrual Cycle

If you’re currently menstruating, you may notice an unwelcome change on the scale. The hormonal fluctuations you experience during your period can actually cause water retention, which will impact the number on the scale. Keep in mind that this is temporary, and your weight will likely return back to what it was beforehand.

How to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain stay healthy over holidays

It is possible to stay on track over the holidays. In fact, it’s also possible to lose weight just by being mindful over the festive season. A study in the UK provided a behavioral intervention to a group of adults over the holiday season to prevent weight gain. They found that the group that received the intervention (which consisted of regular self-weight, weight management, and nutrition advice in the form of the amount of activity needed to offset food intake) actually lost weight (0.13 kilograms lost) compared to a control group that gained 0.37 kilograms.

Below are some expert tips on how to avoid holiday weight gain.

Plan Ahead

“If you are attending a party later where you really want to try something delicious like someone’s famous eggnog or pie, go ahead and indulge,” Dr. Martin-Biggers says. “But earlier in the day, don’t also have a really calorie-dense meal.” Simply look for a high-protein, lower-calorie meal ahead of time and drink plenty of water.

Be Conscious of Portion Size

You may be tempted to load up on every delicious food in sight, but that only lends itself to accidental overeating. Instead, be mindful of your portion sizes. Take a small amount of everything. If you’re still hungry for more, you can go back. And, if you’re full, you can always take a little food to go (or save the recipe to make another time). Another trick? Fill your plate up with mostly veggies. This will prevent you from consuming too many salty, sugary, or fatty foods. If you know you’re going to be feasting, you can also take a digestive enzyme like HUM’s Flatter Me to help your body digest all that food.

Don’t Skip Meals

When it comes to the holidays, many save their appetite for the big meal. But this can lead to overeating. “What I recommend is eating a normal breakfast and lunch or a normal breakfast and dinner so that you aren’t so hungry going into the main meal,” Gray says. “We all know there will be plenty of leftovers for days, so most of us don’t need to eat like this is the last time we’ll see food for the foreseeable future.” 

Stay Active

The key to staying healthy over the holidays? Keep moving. “Go on walks with family, play active indoor games like charades, try a VR headset game, make silly TikToks, show someone your way of working out, or try someone else’s,” Gray says. “Never stop moving—the more active you are, the more energy you will burn and you won’t need to concern yourself with overeating or weight gain.” Pro tip: Research has found that going on a walk right after you eat can help with weight loss.

Stick to Your Pivotal Practices

“Pivotal practices” is a term coined by Gray herself, and they’re something she recommends to her own clients for the holiday season. “These are things that you do to stay at peak performance as your best self, but for this, it will be wellness-focused,” she explains. “Maybe it’s eating three nutritious meals a day, maybe it’s drinking three bottles of water a day, maybe it’s exercising at least three times per week for 30 minutes at a moderate intensity.” (Hint: Try the 12-3-30 workout for a fast, effective form of exercise.)

All of these routines can get thrown off while traveling, so it’s important to define these individual practices beforehand so you can best prepare and plan ahead. “The more specific you can be about the absolute minimums, the more objectively you can look at the next few weeks to make sure you find a way to stay consistent,” Gray says.

What to Do If You Gain Weight Over the Holidays

If you gained weight over the holidays, remain calm. Now is not the time to do anything drastic. “You should absolutely not exercise to ‘undo’ any decisions you have made or restrict yourself post-holidays,” Gray says. “This not only creates a negative mindset around food and exercise as ‘punishment,’ but it also is not healthy to yo-yo back and forth and up and down around any holiday.”

Focus on getting back into your normal workout routine, drinking enough water, and eating whole, unprocessed foods. If your digestive system needs a little help, you can also load up on detox foods. They’ll support your body’s natural detoxification process and supply your body with some much-needed nutrients.

Ultimately, it’s important to keep things in perspective. Remember that any weight gained can be lost over time (in a healthy way, of course). “Weight gain is not something that will 100 percent happen over the holidays,” Dr. Martin-Biggers says. “It is important to have healthy habits and relationships with food all year—not just at the holidays.”

The Takeaway

In short, there’s no need to stress about seeing a change on the scale during the holiday season. “It’s important to know it’s a time of year that weight gain can happen, but you should not stress about it and be prepared,” Dr. Martin-Biggers says. “One of the joys of food, aside from nourishing us, is the social and cultural connections it brings. Enjoy that time and the connections that food brings you.”

The post Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Panic if Your Weight is Up After The Holidays appeared first on HUM Nutrition Blog.

- Sara Angle
The Gut Healthy, Skin-Friendly Root Vegetable That’s Totally Underrated

Konjac is a lesser-known root vegetable (think: beets, ginger) that’s grown in parts of Asia and is particularly popular in Japanese and Korean cooking. You may have even tried it: It’s the main ingredient in Shirataki noodles. In the U.S. it’s more frequently found in the form of a pill or powdered supplement, making it super easy to add to your routine.

Konjac root has been said to improve gut health, clear skin, help suppress appetite, and aid in weight loss. Below, we’ll explore the science behind the health claims of this interesting root. We’ll go more in-depth on the pros and cons, who should take it and who shouldn’t, and how it may help you meet some of your health goals.

What is Konjac Root?

Konjac root is the root from the konjac plant. Due to its fiber content, it is often used to add fiber to supplements in the form of konjac fiber or glucomannan, which is made by processing the root until only the fibrous material remains. 

The konjac plant and root differ from glucomannan, which is the specific fiber found in high amounts within the root itself. While the two terms are often used interchangeably and likely serve the same purpose when listed on supplement ingredient labels, they are two different things. 

Konjac root is generally recognized as safe by the FDA. While not many studies exist investigating the benefits of konjac specifically, there is plenty of data surrounding the many benefits of fiber. 

Konjac Root Benefits

Here are some of the ways fiber from konjac root can benefit your health.

Konjac Root Aids in Weight Loss konjac for weight loss

Konjac root is a soluble fiber. Soluble fibers absorb water as they go through the digestion process, turning into a gel-like consistency.

Because this type of fiber increases in volume during digestion, it can also help promote feelings of fullness and satisfaction following a meal. As a result, your appetite lessens and you are less likely to consume more calories than needed, which studies show can aid in weight loss.

Promotes a Healthy Gut Microbiome

The soluble fiber in konjac root also gets fermented by the bacteria in your gut, making it a prebiotic fiber. This nourishes your good gut bacteria, helping to keep it at optimal levels and maintain a healthy gut lining. That in turn helps prevent pathogens from entering the body.

There are other reasons you may want to protect the health of your gut. Our microbiome plays a role in stabilizing our mood and maintaining a strong immune system. It may also play a role in weight management–although there is still some debate on this among experts. 

What goes on in our stomachs has a lot to do with our overall well-being, so getting enough fiber or supplementing with good sources of fiber like konjac root can be beneficial for multiple areas of health and wellness. 

Aids in Bowel Regularity

Constipation can happen for a variety of reasons, from stress to travel to illness. Eating more fiber and drinking plenty of fluids can help move things along and make for a much more comfortable trip to the bathroom. 

A study on 64 pregnant women struggling with constipation found that there was a significant increase in the number of bowel movements when supplementing with glucomannan after just one month.

While this may not be one of the main reasons someone reaches for a konjac supplement, if you are struggling with regularity it is certainly a great benefit. After all, regular bowel movements are important for eliminating waste and toxins from the body, and no one needs those sticking around.

Promotes Clear Skin konjac root for skin

As a fiber, glucomannan provides food that feeds your gut bacteria and helps it flourish, so it’s no surprise that it can help keep your skin clear. 

One review looked at the role of the gut-skin axis in different skin conditions and found that many skin conditions, including acne, can be improved by proper fiber intake. The main way this can happen is by fiber keeping your gut bacteria in check, protecting the lining of your intestine, and preventing inflammation in the gut.

Those struggling with acne may want to up their fiber to improve their gut health and clear up their complexion. HUM’s Skin Squad Pre+Probiotic contains konjac root plus 9 different strains of probiotics to support a clear, even complexion.

May Support Heart Health

Many studies document the ability of soluble fibers like glucomannan to help lower cholesterol, which is often linked to heart health. One of the few high-quality studies out there done on women and the risk of heart disease found that there was a significant link between triglyceride levels and an increased risk of heart failure over time.

Glucomannan can help the body collect and discard certain amounts of cholesterol by preventing its absorption, allowing it to leave the body via stool. A report from the FDA in 2020 updated the definition of dietary fiber to include glucomannan and noted that part of the reason it meets this qualification is its demonstrated ability to reduce cholesterol levels favorably. This suggests that eating foods or taking supplements with fibers like glucomannan could help prevent heart disease if taken consistently.

In fact, a study in Japanese men found that consuming glucomannan with food (rice gruel in this case) resulted in reduced cholesterol and triglycerides shortly after the meal. However, this study didn’t account for what else the participants were consuming during the time they were involved and noted that these results should not be considered prescriptive.

In short, more research is needed to determine how glucomannan may benefit triglyceride levels and heart health, but the data we have so far is promising. 

Who Should Try Konjac Root? 

If you are interested in improving your gut health and digestion or the appearance of your skin, konjac root may help by feeding the good bacteria in your gut. 

It may also benefit those trying to lose weight because it can aid feelings of fullness. When combined with a healthy balanced diet and regular exercise, this may help with weight loss. 

Lastly, if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, discuss taking supplements with konjac root with your healthcare provider first, as there is conflicting data on its use during these times. 

What to Look for in a Konjac Root Supplement konjac root supplement

HUM’s Skin Squad Pre+Probiotic contains konjac root plus nine different strains of probiotics that help nourish your gut microbiome. These probiotics feed on the prebiotic fiber in konjac root, which helps them grow. 

There is no standardized dosing recommendation for konjac root, but one study reported no adverse reactions from 1,000mg given to participants with a full glass of water. Supplement available range in their dosages, so start small and see how it affects you. If you experience stomach cramping, excessive bloating, diarrhea, or constipation, consider a lower dose.

HUM’s Skin Squad Pre+Probiotic includes 200 mg of konjac root extract in addition to nine probiotic strains to help nourish your gut microbiome. These probiotics feed on the prebiotic fiber in konjac root, which helps them grow. 

Side Effects of Konjac Root

Some people experience bloating and gas from soluble fibers like konjac root. Constipation is also a possible side effect, but this can be reduced by drinking more water or reducing your dose.

If you are taking any prescription medications, consult with your healthcare provider before taking supplements with konjac root in them to make sure it won’t interfere. 

If you have symptoms of an allergic reaction such as difficulty breathing or hives, stop taking konjac root immediately and seek medical help. 

The Takeaway

Konjac root has many health benefits, from heart health to gut health to weight loss. Like most sources of fiber, it helps primarily by enhancing the health of your gut and suppressing your appetite.

It’s generally considered safe to take konjac root, but be sure to talk to your doctor before starting a new supplement, especially if you take prescription medications. 

Lastly, while supplements with fiber are a convenient way to increase your fiber intake, it’s always ideal to consider what changes you can make to your diet to get more fiber. Even if you decide to take a supplement, eating more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can provide many of the same benefits (and more) that you get from supplements.

The post The Gut Healthy, Skin-Friendly Root Vegetable That’s Totally Underrated appeared first on HUM Nutrition Blog.

- Lauren Tannenbaum
This Ancient Herb Is Your Ally Against Cramps

Looking to balance hormones and ease PMS cramps? An ancient herb called dong quai could be the key. Learn more about dong quai benefits and why it’s sure to become a staple in your routine.

Dong quai is an herb that’s root has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for over one thousand years. It is celebrated for its ability to regulate hormones and aid in menstrual-related issues. In addition to its use for reproductive health, it is also used for respiratory, digestive, and immune support. Less common, but still notable, you may be familiar with it as a culinary herb, sometimes making its way onto the dining table via salads or roasts. It is also a common ingredient in various liqueurs and liquor and is popular in artisanal bitters.

As an herbalist, I’ve worked a lot with this plant. I’ve seen first-hand the benefits of dong quai related to the reproductive system. Below, I’ll explore how it acts as an ally from the literal start to finish of the menstrual cycle.

What is Dong Quai?

The scientific name for Dong Quai is Angelica sinensis. It is native to Japan, Korea, and the mountains of China, particularly the Shanxi and Gansu provinces. Its white blooms open in the summer, and roots, seeds, and leaves are all used for medicinal purposes. Herbalists often use it alongside other herbs in formulations to aid in symptoms associated with menopause and menstruation. Dong quai root is particularly popular.

Dong Quai Benefits

From menstrual regulation to menopause, dong quai is a go-to for myriad women’s health concerns. One of its most well-known mechanisms is hormone regulation. This makes it a natural choice for symptoms of PMS, menopause, and beyond. These are some of the top dong quai benefits:

Reduces Hot Flashes

During menopause, there is a steep decrease in both estrogen and progesterone. The change in hormones can lead to many symptoms, including hot flashes. Estrogen and progesterone also directly affect the hormone serotonin, which can play a role in decreasing hot flashes. That’s where dong quai comes in. Dong quai can help alleviate hot flashes by regulating hormones due to its potential serotonergic (a.k.a. it affects serotonin) activity. In a binding assay (an analytic procedure measuring the interaction between two molecules) involving the 5-HT7 serotonin receptor, dong quai exhibited serotonin-like activity. Because dong quai is capable of increasing serotonergic activity, it may help to improve symptoms of hot flashes, even when the body isn’t producing enough estrogen or progesterone to regulate serotonin on its own. (Psst: Siberian rhubarb root is another powerful herb for relieving hot flashes. That’s why we put it in our perimenopause and menopause supplement, Fan Club.)

Alleviates PMS Symptoms dong quai pms cramps

Dong quai also may help relieve a number of symptoms associated with PMS, including painful cramping. It contains a bioactive constituent called Z-ligustilide, which may help reduce cramping by minimizing uterine contractions and helping with circulation. It is at least partially responsible for dong quai’s antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory attributes. Ferulic acid is another key active compound found in dong quai. It can act as an analgesic, or pain reliever, and may contribute to dong quai’s cramp-fighting abilities. Another bonus? The same hormone-regulating effect dong quai has on menopause symptoms can also help diminish unwanted symptoms associated with PMS, such as mood swings and bloating, since hormone fluctuations can be responsible for both of these.

Stimulates Blood Flow

There’s been a traditional association between dong quai and blood itself. It’s not surprising then, that it has been used to stimulate the arrival of a delayed period. It can act as an anticoagulant and, as discussed earlier, promotes blood circulation. It is thought that the polysaccharides in dong quai are a major contributing factor to replenishing blood and moving it out of a stagnant state. In this way, dong quai may help regulate the menstrual cycle and keep things flowing, so to speak.

Who Should Take Dong Quai?

Dong quai can be a wonderful choice for folks who struggle with irregular or painful periods, or those going through menopause. As with any new supplement, it’s important to discuss with your doctor before adding dog quai to your routine. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, should avoid the plant given it’s effect on the reproductive system. It is also a good idea to skip this one if you are on anticoagulants or antiplatelets, as it can potentially heighten their effect. If you are prone to particularly heavy periods, dong quai may not be the best choice for you.

Dong Quai Side Effects

Minor side effects to be aware of include photosensitivity and gastrointestinal issues. As always, listen to your body and consult a healthcare professional if anything seems amiss. Furthermore, if foraging is your thing, don’t try and collect this plant yourself. Not only is it easy to mistake dong quai with poisonous plants, but its roots are toxic until you’ve dried them. It’s best to take dong quai in the form of a high-quality supplement.

What Should I Look for in a Supplement? HUM Moody Bird for PMS

Now that you’re on the road to relief from menstrual mayhem, it’s important to make sure you’re getting the most out of your dong quai supplement that you can. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, dong quai is almost always taken in conjunction with other herbs for a synergistic effect. Capsules are one of the more convenient and reliable ways to ensure that the dosage and quality is consistent. HUM’s Moody Bird contains the recommended 150 milligrams of dong quai powder and 300 milligrams of chasteberry in a vegan capsule. Moody Bird not only helps with the physical symptoms of PMS, but also works on the emotional side, bringing some freedom from mood swings and irritability that so many experience in the early days of our cycle.

The Takeaway

It’s clear to see why dong quai has been a mainstay in herbal medicine for the past millennium. Its action on the reproductive system and rich healing history are equally compelling facets of this ancient plant. Like so many other plants with complex chemistry, we will most likely continue to uncover the mysteries of its various healing mechanisms. In the meantime, enjoy the relief, regulation, and relaxation that this tried and true herbal ally can bring to your life and cycle.

The post This Ancient Herb Is Your Ally Against Cramps appeared first on HUM Nutrition Blog.

- Maddy Sims
How to Build a Healthy Charcuterie Board That Everyone Will Love

Prepping for a party? Experts share how to build a healthy charcuterie board (plus five drool-worthy recipes).

Let’s be real: A party isn’t really a party without a charcuterie board. Nothing brings guests together like a delicious spread that everyone can enjoy. And while charcuterie boards are having a major moment (seriously, have you seen all of the board ideas on social media?), there isn’t much conversation about their nutritional value.

Of course, charcuterie boards are typically served at parties, which is a time to indulge and enjoy your food—so there’s no need to stress too much about it. “Charcuterie boards are not an everyday meal for most,” says Gaby Vaca-Flores, RDN, CLE, education specialist at HUM Nutrition. “With that said, it’s perfectly fine to indulge in your favorite meats and cheeses in moderation without guilt.”

Still, if you’d like to know how to build a healthy charcuterie board, we’re here to help. With just a few small swaps, you can turn your favorite party food into a nutritious (but still delicious) snack or meal. We tapped experts to get their best tips for how to build a healthy charcuterie board (and rounded up our favorite healthy charcuterie board ideas).

What Is a Charcuterie Board? healthy charctuerie board

Technically speaking, charcuterie refers to a branch of cooking dedicated to prepared meats. While the method of using salt to cure meats has been around since ancient times, it was the French who modernized the practice into preparing charcuterie boards.

Of course, we know that charcuterie boards typically don’t solely include meats. “A charcuterie board serves as an appetizer or snack board of cheeses, cured meats, and other finger foods like crackers or dried fruits,” explains Vaca-Flores. 

Despite these widely-accepted guidelines, you can put anything you want on your charcuterie board. “When making a board, there are no rules for perfection, except to use what you have, and enjoy it with your family and friends,” says Sandy Coughlin, a charcuterie expert, creator of Reluctant Entertainer, and author of Big Boards and More.

Charcuterie boards have skyrocketed in popularity over recent years, with celebrities claiming them as a favorite food (Florence Pugh says it’s one of her go-to meals) and social media users getting creative with the trend (the hashtag #charcuterieboard has over 1.2 billion views on TikTok). 

“I think that charcuterie boards are popular because they are fairly easy to assemble, customizable and they taste good too,” Vaca-Flores says. “Not to mention, they are very aesthetic.” (For real, check out some of the boards on TikTok. We’re mesmerized.)

Are Charcuterie Boards Healthy?

Charcuterie board stans might not love this answer. Despite the mix of protein, fats, and carbs, charcuterie boards aren’t always the healthiest choice. That’s mainly due to the highly-processed, high-sodium meats that usually go on the board (think: salami or prosciutto). Still, charcuterie boards are totally customizable, which means you can make them healthy with a few tweaks to the traditional formula.

How to Build a Healthy Charcuterie Board are charcuterie boards healthy

So, how exactly do you make a charcuterie board healthy? Experts share their best tips, below.

Use Whole Grains

What’s a charcuterie board without crackers? Swap out your typical choices for whole grains for a healthier board. Use whole-grain crackers, pretzels, or sliced white bread. “Whole grains are usually higher in fiber than their refined counterparts which can help you feel fuller faster—hence, better portion control while enjoying your charcuterie board,” Vaca-Flores says. Plus, research shows that consuming whole grains is associated with reduced risks of cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality. 

Look for Lean, Low-Sodium Meats

All those cured meats—while delicious—can be high in sodium. Too much sodium can lead to detrimental health issues like heart issues, kidney disease, high blood pressure, and more, per the American Heart Association. In the short term, excess sodium consumption can cause water retention, which can lead to puffiness and bloating (not ideal if you’re at a party!). To help with this, swap out the majority of the cured meats for lean, low-sodium proteins instead.“I suggest looking for low-sodium turkey whenever possible and keeping your favorite cured meats at a minimum.” (Pro tip: If you’re heading to a party, try taking a digestive enzyme like HUM’s Flatter Me to get ahead of any bloating.)

Health-ify Your Dips

When it comes to charcuterie, nothing pulls a board together more than a delicious dip (or two or three). Still, there are ways to make them healthy while maintaining a delicious flavor. For example, try swapping cream- or cheese-based drips for a Greek yogurt dip instead. Not only will it significantly reduce the fat and sodium content, but it will also pack a punch of protein (which will help you feel fuller longer). Homemade or store-bought hummus is also packed with protein and fiber.

Roast Your Veggies

One way to get your guests to eat more veggies? Roast them. Roasted tomatoes, cauliflower, sweet potato, or butternut squash are all delicious options that will bring extra flavor (and nutrients) to your charcuterie board.

Substitute Cheese With Nuts

Stay with us here: Swapping *some* of the cheese for nuts is a simple way to make a healthy charcuterie board. “There’s no doubt that cheese is the star of the charcuterie board,” Vaca-Flores says. “But replacing some cheese options with nuts and fruits can help reduce the amount of saturated fats on your board with healthier fat options.”

Opt for Fresh Fruit

Dried fruits are a classic charcuterie board ingredient. While they’re delicious, they’re also extremely high in sugar. Swap your dried fruits for fresh ones instead (think: grapes, blueberries, blackberries, or apples). They’ll still offer a yummy sweet-savory flavor profile without too much sugar.

Select Low-Fat Vegan Alternatives

Yes, vegans can still enjoy a full-on charcuterie board. Thanks to innovative meat and cheese substitutes, there are more options than ever. Just be sure to check the nutrition facts on the back of the packages: Some of these options are high in saturated fat and sodium. Opt for items that have a moderate amount of fat and have protein as well. Look for low-fat meat substitutes, like Hungry Planet. Or, look for a cleaner ingredient list (read: free of additives), like Myoko vegan cheese.

Healthy Charcuterie Board Ideas

Feeling inspired to build a healthy charcuterie board? Here are a few of our favorite ideas, straight from the pros.

Reluctant Entertainer’s Healthy Cheese Board healthy charcuterie board recipesPhoto: Reluctant Entertainer

Need some help putting together a healthy charcuterie board? Look no further than Coughlin’s Healthy Cheese Board recipe. This has healthy, crunchy veggie ideas (peep the cheese-and nut-filled endive boats), plus dip suggestions. Follow along and prepare to blow your loved ones away at your next party.

Fruit & Spicy Cheese Board healthy charcuterie board spicy cheese

“My go-to charcuterie board always includes grapes (because they’re one of my favorite fruits), candied almonds, prosciutto (in moderation), Ritz crackers (the whole wheat kind), Trader Joe’s Blueberry Fields hard cheese, a spicier cheese like Pepper Jack, and a spreadable cheese for variety,” Vaca-Flores says. “Depending on the event, I’ll serve this on a proper cheese board or make charcuterie kabobs for better portion control (minus the spreadable cheese, of course).”

Reluctant Entertainer’s Fall Cobb Salad Board healthy charcuterie board recipesPhoto: Reluctant Entertainer

A charcuterie board doesn’t just have to be the standard meat, cheese, and veggie combo you’ve seen everywhere. Case in point: This fall cobb salad board. Filled with flavors like tomatoes, beets, bacon, hazelnuts apples, and balsamic dressing, it’ll make everyone’s mouth water. Plus, the chicken and egg add some protein to keep everyone satisfied.

Reluctant Entertainer’s Epic Vegan Charcuterie Board healthy vegan charcuterie boardPhoto: Reluctant Entertainer

Serve up your favorite crunchy veggies alongside some delicious vegan meatballs, crackers, and dip (of course) for an absolutely epic vegan-friendly charcuterie board. Want to kick it up a notch? Look for yummy vegan cheeses at the grocery store to round this recipe out.

Reluctant Entertainer’s Vegetarian Burrito Bowl Board healthy charcuterie board burrito bowlPhoto: Reluctant Entertainer

Spice up your spread with this burrito bowl board. It’s filled with saucy beans, rice, pico de gallo, pickled red onion, crunchy cabbage, and creamy avocado. We’re not drooling. If you want to add some meat, try using baked lean chicken pieces.

The post How to Build a Healthy Charcuterie Board That Everyone Will Love appeared first on HUM Nutrition Blog.

- Sara Angle
The 4-7-8 Breathing Method Can Help You Ease Travel Stress, Stat

Dealing with travel stress? Butterflies before a big event? Panicked over a presentation? Your breath can help. The 4-7-8 breathing method is a technique that can reduce stress quickly and bring you back to a state of calm.

The terms breathwork and meditation can feel daunting. While they’re worthy, science-backed practices that are great additions to your stress reduction toolkit, learning something new can feel hard. But I’m going to let you in on a little secret: You don’t need an app, class, or teacher to get started right now. Seriously.

Years ago, a certified health coach taught me an easy breathing exercise that I’ve been using ever since for situational anxiety. I’ve found it particularly helpful for calming my nervous system when I’m sitting in traffic on the way to the airport, before a performance, or before trying something new and scary. If you add one mindfulness exercise to your routine, make it 4-7-8 breathing.

What is The 4-7-8 Breathing Method?

The 4-7-8 breathing method is a breathwork technique popularized by integrative medicine practitioner Andrew Weil, MD and inspired by yogic pranayama breathing. It involves changing your natural breathing pattern to consciously inhale and exhale at a specific ratio. According to Dr. Weil, this technique, when practiced regularly, can lower heart rate and blood pressure, improve digestion, and help with anxiety.

As with other breathwork, the idea is to activate your parasympathetic nervous system and calm down the fight-or-flight response you feel when you’re stressed, anxious, or overstimulated. When the parasympathetic nervous system, or rest-and-digest system, is activated you’ll feel your heart rate and breathing slow down and any butterflies you feel in your stomach will ease.

How to Do 4-7-8 Breathing breathwork benefits

You can do 4-7-8 breathing method whenever and wherever you are, in any position that works for you by following these easy steps:

Inhale through your nose for a nice and slow count of four.With your lungs expanded, hold for a count of seven.Exhale through your mouth for an even count of eight.

That’s it! Repeat this exercise for 3-4 more cycles. You can use it as frequently as you need throughout your day.

Dr. Weil recommends placing the tip of your tongue right where your teeth and pallet meet as you inhale and making a “whoosh” sound while you exhale. If that’s not comfortable for you, you can modify it.

You can also make the practice your own by closing your eyes, sitting in a comfortable position, or lying down. While I like using this exercise as stressful situations arise, you can also incorporate it into your everyday routine, such as before you go to bed. (In fact, it may even calm your body down so you can fall asleep faster.)

Benefits of 4-7-8 Breathing 4 7 8 breathing method

While there haven’t been studies conducted on the effectiveness of this breathing pattern specifically, there is research to back up the benefits of breathwork.

A 2018 literature review of 15 studies on the effects of slow breathing techniques (defined as less than 10 breaths per minute) found the practice increased heart rate variability, which can be an indicator of a balanced nervous system. Other measures indicated increased comfort, relaxation, pleasantness, vigor and alertness, and reduced symptoms of arousal, anxiety, depression, anger, and confusion.

While you can still experience an immediate benefit without a long-term practice, when people were randomly assigned to either 20 sessions of breathwork over eight weeks or a control group, those that practiced deep breathing at a respiratory rate of 4 breaths/min (which equate to roughly three cycles of 4-7-8 breathing) improved their sustained attention and reduced levels of cortisol, the stress hormone.

A July 2020 study out of Yale even found that breathing exercises may be more effective at reducing stress than mindfulness-based stress reduction or emotional intelligence training. So, if you’re not big on meditation anyway, the 4-7-8 breathing technique could be a great tool for you.

More Breathwork Techniques to Try

Of course, 4-7-8 breathing isn’t the only way to practice breathwork. There are tons of other breathing exercises you can try if you like to switch things up or find that this one isn’t the right one for you.

Shanila Sattar, founder of Flow Breathwork Facilitator Training and author of Breathe, actually recommends a variation called 6-7-8 breathing, which involves a longer inhale. The trick here is that Sattar uses seconds rather than “counts,” so if you prefer a more precise method, you may like her hack. 

“The body needs a full inhalation (which 6 seconds of breath gives) in order to be able to release CO2 in an effective way, by exhaling for 8 seconds,” she explains. “Equalizing the length of inhales and exhales reduces excess CO2 build up in the cells and prevents rushing through the 8-second exhale,” she says. 

If you rush your exhale, you could unwittingly activate the sympathetic nervous system, which and can lead to hyperarousal. Whether you’re trying the 4-7-8 breath or 6-7-8 breath, the trick is not to rush.

“This breathwork technique helps relax the body into a parasympathetic state, relieve stress, calm thoughts, improve concentration and focus, and slow down anxious responses,” explains Sattar.

Looking for more? Check out another easy breathing technique we love, call square breathing, or box breathing.

The post The 4-7-8 Breathing Method Can Help You Ease Travel Stress, Stat appeared first on HUM Nutrition Blog.

- Maddy Sims
The Best Starbucks Holidays Drinks to Celebrate the Season, Ranked by Dietitians

Starbucks’ holiday drinks are here! We asked nutrition experts to highlight the Starbucks holiday drinks that are tastiest and totally worthy of the buzz—and won’t lead to a big blood sugar crash.

Just like the pumpkin spice latte’s launch is a harbinger of fall, red, to-go coffee cups have been ubiquitous between Halloween and the new year. It’s not just the Starbucks cups that have a cult following, though. Each year ushers in a new limited-edition menu featuring seasonal sips that are sure to make the season even sweeter.

While no December will ever feel complete without a glass of my friend’s homemade eggnog or my mom’s mulled wine, the Starbucks holiday drink menu is something I look forward to every year to help energize me through the party-filled, shopping spree-packed season.

I’m not alone: These festive beverages are a crowd favorite. “The holidays are filled with traditions and for many people enjoying a seasonal beverage from their favorite coffee shop like Starbucks is part of getting into the holiday spirit,” says Mary Stewart, RD, LD, a registered dietitian and the founder of Cultivate Nutrition in Dallas.

If you’re among the crowd who looks forward to tasting your way through the minty, cookie-inspired, or other cozy coffee drinks, big news: the 2022 Starbucks holiday line-up of drinks has been revealed. It’s no secret that the bevvies may not be the most nutritious picks. So we tapped Stewart, Lauren Manaker, MS, RD, LD, a registered dietitian and owner of Nutrition Now Counseling in Charleston, South Carolina, and Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, a New Jersey-based registered dietitian, founder of NutritionStarringYOU.com, and author of The Everything Easy Pre-Diabetes Cookbook to help guide us through the most (and least) recommended Starbucks sips. Plus, get their tips for hacking a healthier Starbucks holiday drink.

The Best Starbucks Holidays Drinks, Ranked by Dietitians

These drinks can be a fantastic addition to commemorating the holiday season, true. “But some of these choices can be loaded with sugar and unhealthy fats,” Manaker explains. “They can certainly be enjoyed as a once-in-a-while treat, but drinking them every day may not be your best option.” 

That doesn’t mean you need to skip them altogether, though.“All foods can fit into an overall healthy diet, unless there is a specific medical need or allergy that would cause someone to cut out a food or beverage entirely,” Harris-Pincus explains. “Most specialty Starbucks beverages, though delicious, are high in added sugars without much nutritional benefit except some protein, calcium, and vitamin D in the milk-based options.” 

If you prefer to enjoy these seasonal beverages without modifications (we’re spilling dietitian tricks to give them a feel-good glow-up below), Stewart says her best advice is to order a small size like a Short (eight ounces) or a Tall (12 ounces). 

That said, all of the nutrition information below is based on a grande (16 ounces) order, since that is often the default “medium.”

On the days you score your Starbucks holiday drink—regardless of the size or if you make any of the modifications below—it doesn’t mean you need to focus on restricting calories before or “working off” calories after.

“Focus on eating balanced meals throughout the day, and try to avoid the mindset of ‘saving calories’ in order to have a treat,” Stewart says. “This approach will help balance your blood sugar, give you steady energy and put yourself in a position to make healthier choices throughout the day.” 

Ranked from least- to most- healthy by dietitians, we’re counting down and dishing up the facts about the latest crop of Starbucks holiday drinks. (Psst: If you’re planning to pair your drink with a snack, don’t miss our guide for how to eat like a dietitian at Starbucks.)

#6: Toasted White Chocolate Mocha starbucks holiday drinks peppermint white chocolate mocha Calories: 420 caloriesFat: 15 grams (10 grams saturated)Protein: 15 gramsCarbs: 56 gramsSodium: 380 milligrams Sugar: 55 grams

“This drink has a whopping 55 grams of sugar—far more than the maximum daily range set by the American Heart Association,” Manaker says, explaining why it ranks last in the line-up. 

Excess sugar intake can spike risk for everything from heart disease and diabetes to dementia and premature signs of aging, which is why the American Heart Association (AHA) suggests that adults limit added sugars to 25 grams/6 teaspoons/100 calories for women and 36 grams/9 teaspoons/150 calories for men.

The Toasted White Chocolate Mocha also has nearly twice as much sodium as most of the other Starbucks holiday drinks, along with 10 grams (50 percent of an adult’s daily value) of saturated fat from the cocoa butter, cream, and palm kernel fat.

Over time, a diet with this combo of high sugar, high sodium, and high saturated fat “can contribute to obesity, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and more,” Stewart says.

#5: Caramel Brulée Latte starbucks holiday drinks caramel latte Calories: 410 caloriesFat: 14 grams (9 grams saturated)Protein: 12 gramsCarbs: 61 gramsSodium: 340 milligrams Sugar: 48 grams

With four pumps of caramel sauce and a topping of whipped cream, the Caramel Brulée Latte clocks in just below the Toasted White Chocolate Mocha’s high calorie, fat, saturated fat, and sugar content. That means this Starbucks holiday drink delivers stats that look more like dessert than a drink. (Which, tbh, is fine if that’s what you’re going for!)

“If you are sensitive to salt or need to limit your sodium intake due to blood pressure or cardiovascular health, this is a beverage to be cautious of,” Stewart says, since it has more than twice as much sodium as the next selection.

#4: Peppermint Mocha starbucks holiday drinks peppermint mocha Calories: 440 caloriesFat: 16 grams (10 grams saturated)Protein: 13 gramsCarbs: 63 gramsSodium: 140 milligrams Sugar: 54 grams

With eight (!) pumps of sugary peppermint and mocha syrup in the mocha and whipped cream and chocolate curls on top, this drink recipe has 50 percent of your daily value of saturated fat.

The 4 grams of fiber and 13 grams of protein redeem it a bit in Stewart’s eyes, since both those nutrition facts “help balance the high level of sugar added to this beverage,” she says. “The good news is, there are many ways to make modifications to this beverage to fit your dietary needs and health goals.” (See our guidelines on how to make any Starbucks holiday drink healthier, below.)

#3: Chestnut Praline Latte starbucks holiday drinks praline latte full Calories: 330 caloriesFat: 14 grams (9 grams saturated)Protein: 12 gramsCarbs: 42 gramsSodium: 160 milligrams Sugar: 38 grams

“While still hefty in the sugar and saturated fat categories, the Chestnut Praline Latte is lower than many of the other holiday-themed drinks,” Harris-Pincus says. “This has more than a full day’s worth of added sugars for women and kids but less than many of the other designer holiday drinks.”

The redeeming factor? The 12 grams of protein, about the equivalent of two eggs, which aids in balancing out all that sugar. (As a reminder, 38 grams is more than the recommended daily level for women and men.)

#2: Irish Cream Cold Brew starbucks holiday drinks irish cream cold brew Calories: 200 caloriesFat: 11 grams (7 grams saturated)Protein: 2 gramsCarbs: 24 gramsSodium: 25 milligrams Sugar: 24 grams

Given the salt content in the other beverages, Harris-Pincus finds the Irish Cream Cold Brew to be surprisingly low in sodium. “That said, the protein is lower than most, at 2 grams of protein, since the drink is made with cream rather than milk,” she explains.

This cold brew creation has the lowest sugar content of all of this year’s Starbucks holiday drinks, and after trying it herself, Stewart says this one is super satisfying.

“Although the Irish cream cold foam on top is a thin layer and contributes 11 grams of fat, it offers a lot of flavor and makes every sip creamy and delicious,” she says.

#1: Iced Sugar Cookie Almondmilk Latte starbucks holiday drinks sugar cookie latte Calories: 180 caloriesFat: 6 grams (0 grams saturated)Protein: 3 gramsCarbs: 32 gramsSodium: 160 milligrams Sugar: 27 grams

Looking for a low-calorie Starbucks holiday drink? Look no further than this cookie-inspired latte. Although it’s lower in protein than the previous five options (due to the low protein content of almond milk compared to dairy milk), Harris-Pincus deems it the lightest choice. The plant-based milk makes it the only vegan Starbucks holiday drink on the menu, but also means it has no saturated fat.

“This latte is a great non-dairy option because not only is it the lowest in calories, it also contains 27 grams of sugar which is nearly half of the sugar in some of the other seasonal Starbucks drinks,” Stewart says. “Bonus points for the sprinkles being free from artificial food dyes.”

How to Make Any Starbucks Holiday Drink Healthier

Now that you know the best choices nutritionally for the Starbucks holiday drinks ordered off the menu, here are a few tips to keep most of the flavor but significantly trim down on added sugars, calories, and fat in most of the drinks above.

Pump less. Most of the Starbucks holiday drinks include about 3 or 4 “pumps,” or squirts, of syrup. “Each pump eliminated will save approximately 20 calories and 5 grams of sugar,” Harris-Pincus says. Often, one or two “will provide just enough sweetness without going overboard,” Stewart adds.Skip the whip. Doing so will trim 70 calories and 7 grams of fat from your total beverage tally. Or ask for “light whip” to save about half of that.Ditch the drizzle. Some drinks feature an extra drizzle of caramel or chocolate syrup on top. While it’s a pretty addition, it doesn’t add much by way of flavor but does in terms of sugar content.Modify your milk. “Switching to skim milk from 2%, whole, or cream will save a significant amount of calories and saturated fat,” Harris-Pincus confirms. “You can even ask for half skim and half 2% milk to bring some fat to the party for a better mouthfeel without consuming 50% of your daily saturated fat in one drink,” she suggests. Or request a plant-based milk like almond milk or oat milk, Stewart says.DIY. Another way to enjoy a healthy Starbucks holiday drink? Make it at home. Manaker likes to make her own Peppermint Mocha-esque creation by asking for a Grande black coffee with steamed skim milk, one pump of peppermint, and a sprinkle of cocoa. The Bottom Line About Starbucks Holiday Drinks

The new Starbucks holiday drink menu features a wide range of flavors—and a vast difference in sugar, fat, and calorie content. 

The dietitians we spoke to advise clients to mainly stick to traditional coffee and tea, “which is low in calories, sugar, and offers a cozy and satisfying taste,” Manaker says. That doesn’t mean these Starbucks holiday drinks need to be completely off-limits, though. 

“One of the best questions you can ask yourself before indulging in a sweet treat is, ‘How will I feel after I consume this?’ Take time to visualize how you will feel after you consume the drink,” Stewart says “This process can help guide you as you decide if you want to enjoy a conscious indulgence now, or maybe wait for another time. Once your decision is made, move forward free from regret or guilt!”

The post The Best Starbucks Holidays Drinks to Celebrate the Season, Ranked by Dietitians appeared first on HUM Nutrition Blog.

- Jenn Sinrich
This Is What Might Be Causing Your Constipation

Does stress cause constipation? Experts explain how your mental state can influence your bowel movements—and what to do about it.

You’re overwhelmed with work, your calendar is swamped, you haven’t had a proper Netflix-and-chill night in ages, and now, to top it all off, you’re, uh, backed up. Why does it always seem to happen that your digestive system goes on strike when life gets crazy? It may have you wondering: Does stress cause constipation?

You’ve likely heard about the gut-brain connection, or the concept that your mind (i.e. your mental health) and your gut (i.e. your gastrointestinal, or GI, system) impact one another. The most common example of the mind-gut connection is the feeling of butterflies or nausea just before a big exam or ahead of a work presentation, but that’s not the only way your state of mind impacts your digestion. For example, your mental state can affect your bodily functions (including your bowel movements). We talked to experts about the link between anxiety and stress and constipation.

Does Stress Cause Constipation?  how does stress cause constipation

Although not a standalone cause of constipation, stress can be a contributing factor, according to Emily Tills, RDN, a New York-based dietitian. When we find ourselves in a stressful scenario, our mind and body reaction is to have a fight-or-flight response, which comes from our sympathetic nervous system. Part of this stress response starts in the adrenal glands, which are located atop each kidney and produce the body’s stress hormones, cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. 

“When the stress hormones are released, the body suppresses digestion and appetite while increasing heart rate and blood pressure, along with circulating glucose in the bloodstream to help keep blood sugar levels stable,” she says. In many people, the suppressed digestion that occurs during times of stress can lead to bouts of diarrhea followed by constipation, explains Tills. 

Here’s why it happens: Blood is directed away from our gastrointestinal tract to other more vital organs, such as the heart and lungs, and this can lead to a slowing of your gut, explains Chicago-based gastroenterologist, Andrew Moore, MD. “Chronic stress can also lead to higher levels of corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) as well as cortisol, which, over time, can cause changes in gut motility.”

What Else Can Lead to Stress-Induced Constipation?

Of course, stress is hardly the only contributing factor to GI issues such as constipation. There are other compounding factors that can make you more likely to experience constipation when you’re stressed. Why? When you’re in a state of stress, you’re less likely to take care of yourself (think: properly hydrating, eating a nutrient-rich diet, and getting movement into your day.) Without these basic elements to help us function at our peak, we may be more prone to constipation, explains Emily Guarnotta, PsyD, psychologist, and blogger at The Mindful Mommy. “A healthy diet filled with fiber, healthy fats, and dense nutrients as well as exercise and water, help encourage movement in your digestive system,” she says. “Eating an unhealthy diet, not drinking enough water, and not moving your body while stressed can lead to constipation, which may contribute to even more stress.” 

How to Reduce Constipation When You’re Stressed does stress make you poop

Unfortunately, you can’t totally eliminate the various stressors you might be experiencing in life. But if you’re prone to constipation stress, there are tried-and-true ways you can reduce or head off constipation if you’re going through a stressful period. Here’s how.

Stay Hydrated

The best—and easiest—thing you can do to prevent and relieve constipation is to ensure you’re drinking adequate amounts of water, according to Tills. “Water is absorbed in the colon, which is the last stop in the digestive tract, meaning water is moving everything along,” she says. Just how much water should you be drinking? About 15.5 cups per day for men and 11.5 cups per day for women, per The US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. It’s worth pointing out that this recommendation can vary depending on your weight, age, any medications you take, and how much you exercise. 

Increase the Color in Your Diet

You’ve heard “eat the rainbow” before, but it’s particularly helpful for fending off constipation. The more colorful your diet is when it comes to produce, the more nutrients you’ll be gleaning. Aim for a bevy of hues, including blue and purple (plums, blackberries, dates, eggplants), green (spinach, cucumbers, cabbage, kale), and orange and yellow (oranges, butternut squash, sweet potatoes). “Fruits and vegetables are high in insoluble fiber, which is the fiber that can be a sweep for your digestive system,” adds Tills. “Having them every couple hours will be most helpful with preventing the issue of constipation.”

Make Time for Movement

If a crazy schedule is feeding into your stress, it may not be realistic to get in hour-long workout sessions, but quick sessions (like a 30-minute treadmill walk or a few booty-shaping exercises) can make all the difference. Moving your body is important for a healthy digestive tract. If you are feeling constipated, Dr. Guarnotta recommends trying some cardio, whether it’s walking, running, or cycling, to get your blood pumping. “Even some yoga postures put pressure on your digestive tract and can help support movement—plus it offers stress-relieving benefits as well,” she adds.

Take a Probiotic

Research published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has shown that supplementing with probiotics, or bacteria that is good for your gut, may help improve symptoms of constipation. “Specifically, supplementing with Bifidobacterium lactis, helped to improve gut transit time, stool consistency, and stool frequency among people with constipation,” says Jenna Volpe, RDN, LD, CLT, digestive health dietitian. While more research needs to be done to show a clear connection, a probiotic supplement such as Gut Instinct, certainly can’t hurt. 

Consider a Fiber Supplement

Fiber is one of the most important nutrients necessary for proper digestion, so you should be making sure you’re getting at least 25-35g daily, notes Dr. Moore. If you’re not keen on fiber-rich foods, like beans, broccoli, avocado, and berries, he recommends supplementing with an over-the-counter fiber supplement.

Meditate

There’s plenty of research to support the stress-relieving benefits of meditation, the practice of centering your mind around a singular focus while trying to shut out all of the other noise in your life. 

As a mental health professional, Dr. Guarnotta strongly recommends that her clients practice some form of mindfulness or meditation each day as a preventative measure for stress. “Not only is meditation a useful tool when you are under stress, but practicing it in this preventative way can increase the likelihood that you remain calm and in control when faced with a stressor,” she says. “You can practice on your own by focusing on your breathing, or try a video or meditation app, like Calm.”  

Focus on What You Can Control

From a mental health perspective, it’s always a good idea to try to let go of the things that you can’t control, as they’ll only continue to cause unnecessary stress in your life. If you’re feeling stressed, Dr. Guarnotta recommends identifying what you can control in the situation by asking yourself “What can I do about this?” 

“If something comes to mind, take action or create a plan to do that thing that will increase your sense of control and reduce stress,” she says. “If there is nothing that you can do in a situation, then you need to practice acceptance and letting go.”

Don’t Multitask During Your Meals

If you frequently eat your lunch while you’re in the middle of something else, whether it’s work or scrolling through your Instagram feed, you might not be digesting your food properly, warns Volpe. “Eating while multitasking makes it more likely that we will not chew our food as well, which increases the digestive burden on the gut,” she says. “Chewing each bite at least 30 times is said to be a helpful way to increase the efficiency of digestion in my field of functional nutrition.” 

The Takeaway

While stress can contribute to constipation, adjusting your diet, movement, self-care, and hydration can help you regulate your digestion. Dr. Moore emphasizes the importance of taking the onset of any new uncomfortable symptoms, including constipation, seriously. “Any change in bowel habits should be evaluated by a physician, as this can sometimes be an early sign of colon cancer,” he warns. If you find out that your constipation is stress-related, he recommends meeting with a mental health professional who can help provide you with tools and solutions to help limit the stress in your life.

The post This Is What Might Be Causing Your Constipation appeared first on HUM Nutrition Blog.

- Maddy Sims
The Best Shiny Hair Hacks, According to Stylists

Wondering how to get shiny hair? Hairstylists share their best hacks for achieving glossy, liquid hair without a visit to the salon.

Who doesn’t want their hair to glisten and gleam? There’s something about glossy hair that just looks amazing—regardless of length, color, or texture. Shiny hair has always been one of our favorite #hairgoals and the “liquid hair” trend is everywhere (with the hashtag #liquidhair earning over 620k views on TikTok). Celebrities like Megan Fox, Dakota Johnson, and more have been praised for their unbelievably shiny hair. So what are their secrets?

Turns out, there are things you can easily do at home to help promote shiny hair. We spoke to professional hairstylists to find out their favorite liquid hair hacks (plus their favorite glossy-hair products). Read on to learn how to get shiny hair, according to experts.

8 Shiny Hair Hacks shiny hair hacks

Wondering how to get glossy, liquid hair? Stylists share their best shiny hair hacks, below.

1. Perform a Directional Blowout

“The key to adding shine to sleek hairstyles is a directional blowout,” says Emma Fitzgerald, owner and hairstylist at The Salon in Joliet. What is a directional blowout, you ask? It’s when you blowdry your strands from the scalp to ends in small sections, smoothing and sealing the hair. “Imagine a pine cone: If you hold the pine cone with its spikes up and try to blow dry it, it’s going to be a frayed mess. If you hold the pinecone upside down with its spike facing the ground and do a directional blowout, you’re going to smooth those spikes back into place.” To achieve a directional blowout follow these steps:

Section off a small piece of hair and place your brush underneath the top (right next to your roots)Glide the brush down the length of the hair to the ends, following with the blowdryerRepeat on the hair strand until it’s completely dryFollow the instructions around your head until your hair is totally dry and smooth 2. Use the Cool Shot on the Blow Dryer

If you’re trying to figure out how to get shiny hair, using the cool button on your hairdryer might be the answer. Heat allows the hair cuticle to open (which allows it to be styled a certain way), but cool air closes and seals the cuticle (which leads to a glossy finish). “To properly use the cool shot function, perform a directional blowout,” Fitzgerald explains. “Once hair is dry, use the cool shot to lower the temperature of the hair, seal the cuticle, and bring out the shine.”

The same goes for curly hair. If you’re using a diffuser, flip on the cool shot at the end to seal the cuticles and lock in your liquid hair.

3. Use a Hair Oil

“Many of us are afraid to use oil on our hair, but the reality is most of us need to use oil on our hair from mid-shaft to ends,” says Fitzgerald. “The oils the body naturally produces typically do not travel down far enough to truly hydrate and replenish our ends.” Because of this, it’s best to apply hair oil on the lower part of your strands (not your scalp) to help increase hydration. You can apply it on damp hair as a final step (to lock in any other hydrating products you’ve applied) or on dry hair as a finishing touch for extra shine. You can do this as much as you’d like—once a week or once a day. This goes for all hair textures, from fine and straight to thick and textured. If you want to give your hair a super shiny appearance, try hair slugging with an oil. Apply a generous amount of products to your mid-lengths and ends and leave in overnight. Then, wash it out the next morning for your glossiest hair ever.

4. Look for a Leave-In Conditioner

If you’re chasing shiny hair, hydration is the name of the game—regardless of hair texture. Dry hair looks dull and lackluster, which is why adding a nourishing leave-in product can change your hair game. “Leave-in conditioners are everyone’s best friend,” Fitzgerald says. “Not only do they help to condition and detangle, but they also add shine to the hair by adding moisture.” Use one every time you wash your hair to replenish moisture and add shine.

5. Rinse Your Hair With Cool Water

You’ve heard about the benefits of cold showers for productivity and mental health, but have you heard about it for hair health? Turns out, splashing your locks with cold water can help with shine. That’s because the cold water helps to close and seal the cuticle (similar to the cool shot on the blow dryer). This is especially helpful if you’re letting your hair air dry. “Rinse the hair with cool water after cleansing and conditioning with a product that promotes a smooth surface,” says Janelle Sands, CURLS hairstylist.

6. Regularly Clean and Condition

There’s no one right answer to how often you should wash your hair. However, product buildup, dirt, sweat, oil, and more can all affect your hair’s overall appearance—causing it to look dull and lifeless. “Taking care of your hair by regularly cleansing and conditioning with high-performing products will get you there,” Sands says. Talk to your hairstylist to find out the schedule that works best for your strands, and stick to it. Pro tip: If you’re going multiple days without washing your hair, try to incorporate a scalp detox into your routine at least once a week to break down all of that build-up.

7. Take Hair Supplements

Another way to get shiny hair? Stock up on supplements that encourage healthy hair. Deficiencies in vitamins like biotin (a B vitamin), folate, and vitamin B12 have all been linked to changes in hair appearance and thickness. Research also shows that, due to their role in supporting cellular health, B12 and folate might help support healthy hair follicles. “Fundamentally, healthy hair will shine,” Sands says. Try HUM Nutrition’s Hair Sweet Hair, which contains biotin, folate, and vitamin B12 to help promote healthy hair follicles.

8. Stay Hydrated

Hydrated hair is happy hair, which is why drinking enough water is so important. Of course, drinking water won’t magically give you the hair of your dreams (sorry!), but it can definitely help you move towards your hair goals. If your body is dehydrated, your skin (read: your scalp) and your hair will also become dry. Aim to get at least eight to twelve glasses of water a day to keep your hair healthy and shiny.

The Best Products to Use for Shiny Hair

Fitzgerald and Sands share their top picks to get glossy hair.

AWAPUHI Wild Ginger Shine Spray ($26): “This is a dry mist that’s applied as a final step to dry hair,” Fitzgerald says. “It’s light enough to use on top of a finishing spray without breaking down the bonds that lock the style in place.”Morrocanoil Treatment ($48): “Argan oil is a topical styling oil that leaves hair glistening,” Fitzgerald says. Added bonus: It’s easily absorbed, leaving your hair weightless and shiny.Paul Mitchell MarulaOil Rare Oil Treatment Rare ($43): “In its purest form after a cold press, marula oil gives the most medicinal qualities to the hair,” Fitzgerald says. “Marula oil has the power to replenish the hair’s natural shine and restore its healthy state.”CURLS Sea Slip Mineral Infused Curl Slime ($15): “An innovative, high-performance product that transforms and delivers a shiny finish,” Sands says.CURLS Nourish and Shine Sea Moss Foam ($15): “Goes on lightly, yet delivers curl definition and the most notable sheen,” Sands says.PATTERN by Tracee Ellis Ros Styling Cream for Curly & Coily Hair: “Shea butter is extremely moisturizing for the hair and scalp,” Fitzgerald says. “It provides the most benefits for naturally curly hair.” Products to Avoid for Shiny Hair

Now that you know which products to stock up on, here are which ones to avoid for shiny hair. “Stay away from products that have a high level of alcohol and sulfates as well as dry shampoos,” Fitzgerald says. “These products have a tendency to absorb or neutralize shine-producing oils in the hair.”

The post The Best Shiny Hair Hacks, According to Stylists appeared first on HUM Nutrition Blog.

- John Davis

A post workout supplement is geared towards accelerating your body’s recovery after training, especially following your toughest workouts.

These supplements use a combination of compounds like branched chain amino acids (BCAAs), creatine, anaerobic buffering agents, and electrolytes to maximize your recovery capabilities and lift your fitness to new heights.

Here are the key benefits of a post-workout supplement, plus tips on how to optimize dosage and minimize side effects when incorporating a post-workout into your supplement stack.

Post-workout benefits

1. It’s not just your workout that counts. It’s how you recover from it.

Boosting your workout recovery capabilities can help you adapt to your workouts better, and it can also allow you to push yourself harder with longer, more difficult training sessions, because your recovery capabilities are augmented.

With the right post workout supplement, you’ll be able to leverage both of these abilities to improve your fitness.

2. There are a few key ingredients to be on the lookout for in a post workout supplement

Whether you are training strength, power, speed, or endurance is going to influence which is most important to you.

One ingredient that should be in pretty much any post workout supplement is branched chain amino acids.

Branched chain amino acids are known to prevent muscle damage during exercise as well as enhance muscle recovery following exercise. The mechanism by which this happens was detailed in a 2006 scientific paper in the Journal of Nutrition by researchers in Japan (1).

In it, the researchers demonstrated that post-workout muscle soreness was lower in a group of people who performed squat exercises when they were given a branched chain amino acid supplement.

3. Branched chain amino acids prevent muscle breakdown

Branched chain amino acids, according to the authors, prevent the breakdown of skeletal muscle during exercise, because the body is able to use the supplemental branched chain amino acids instead of the branched chain amino acids that make up your muscles.

Leucine, one specific branched chain amino acid, also seems to boost rates of muscle protein synthesis following exercise. This suggests that branched chain amino acid supplements which deliver leucine will increase your body’s ability to adapt to your training.

This is good for two reasons: first, it means that you will gain more benefits from the same workout, and second, it means you can actually push yourself harder in training without fear of overtraining or exceeding your body’s recovery capabilities.

For these reasons, it should be obvious why you want branched chain amino acids in your post workout supplement.

4. Creatine is key for power athletes

If you are a power athlete engaging in sports or training that lasts for very short bursts of time (less than ten seconds or so), getting some creatine in your post-workout supplement is likely to be helpful.

Creatine is one of the best supplements for increasing your raw strength, and there’s plenty of evidence for its efficacy. A 2003 paper in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research demonstrated the effectiveness of creatine supplementation (2).

In it, the authors reviewed several different papers on the use of creatine for strength increases. They found a difference in strength increase of 8% in subjects who received a creatine supplement compared to those who received a placebo.

Both groups tend to improve, of course, after strength training, but people given a creatine supplement tend to improve more.

5. Beta alanine can help anaerobic power athletes

Athletes who do longer bouts of high-intensity exercise which lasts for at least 60 seconds may seek out post-workout supplements that include compounds that can boost your anaerobic power, like beta-alanine.

Beta-alanine works to increase the ability of your muscles to continue working when there is a lot of acidity being generated from tough, anaerobic workouts.

Beta-alanine functions as a precursor to a compound called L-carnitine, which buffers acidity during high intensity exercise. If you can buffer more acidity during exercise, you can maintain higher levels of workout intensity for a longer time.

A review article published in 2014 reviewed the efficacy of beta-alanine supplementation and found moderately strong evidence that it had a direct performance-enhancing effect in high-power physical exercise tasks (3).

The advantage is largest for “power sports” that require bursts of intense energy expenditure for at least 60 seconds, though not long, low-intensity efforts like marathon running or hiking.

6. Glutamine could reduce soreness and prevent strength loss following a difficult workout

Glutamine is a non-essential amino acid, meaning that your body is capable of synthesizing it in most circumstances.

However, some research has found that it can be a useful addition to a post-workout supplement for improving recovery following very tough training sessions.

A 2011 study published in the Journal of Exercise Science & Fitness makes the case that glutamine could reduce muscle soreness and strength decreases in the wake of a particularly tough workout (4).

The results showed that the subjects who took the glutamine supplement lost less of their muscular strength after performing a fatiguing box jump protocol, and experienced lower levels of soreness, compared to those who took the placebo.

Thanks to these results, a post-workout supplement that includes glutamine is a good idea, particularly if you do very fatiguing eccentric exercises at the gym, like squats or deadlifts. 

Post-workout side effects

The key components of a standard post workout supplement are pretty safe. Branched chain amino acids are found in countless foods, so even if you overdo it on the dosage, it’s hard to encounter real problems.

Likewise for creatine. One of the reasons why it has become such a popular supplement in its own right is its excellent safety profile.

Even long-term use of creatine is safe. Studies on creatine use over periods of several years have found no adverse effects, according to a 2002 study on long-term use of creatine in college football players (5).

Post-workout supplements with beta-alanine can cause tingling and flushing. When you start pushing the boundaries with muscular power boosting supplements like beta-alanine, you may start to see some adverse effects associated with higher doses in the short term.

The most salient of these is flushing, a rush of blood and a feeling of warmth in your face or extremities (5). This occurs when some people take high doses of beta alanine, but does not appear to cause any long-term problems.

Post-workout dosage

Branched chain amino acids are widely studied, but there is a lot of variation in the dosage that athletes are given.

BCAAs: Aim for 3-18 grams per day. Typical research protocols call for anywhere from three to 18 grams of branched chain amino acids per day.

The most common dosage range is between six and nine grams per day, though larger athletes with more muscle mass may want to veer towards the high end of the dosage range.

Creatine: Aim for 20-25 grams per day initially, then cut to 5 grams per day. When it comes to creatine, the optimal dosage for the first few weeks of a new supplementation routine should be high: 20-25 grams per day, to boost your muscular creatine content (6).After this, you can move to a maintenance phase with a lower dose of 5 grams per day.

Beta-alanine: aim for 2-6 grams per day. Beta-alanine should be dosed between 2 and 6 grams per day (7). Ideally, you’d use a progressive strategy, taking more after the first few weeks to further increase your muscular carnosine content.

The dose should be split up into smaller pieces to be taken throughout the day if you want to avoid flushing.

Post-workout supplement benefits FAQ

Q: How does a post-workout compare to pre-workout?

A: Pre-workout supplements are designed primarily to increase your exercise performance on the day you take the supplement.

In other words, they help you work out harder and perform better today. These supplements achieve this by using compounds like caffeine, green tea extract, and other potential ergogenic aids.

Sometimes, they also include some ingredients to get you primed for post-workout recovery as well, but the focus is still primarily on immediate performance.

In contrast, a post-workout supplement is 100% focused on recovery. You won’t find stimulants in these supplements; instead, you’ll see much higher levels of protein, amino acids, and creatine, to name just a few ingredients.

Q: What is the difference between an intra-workout supplement and a post-workout supplement?

A: Intra-workout supplements are designed to help sustain workout performance when taking mid-workout (e.g. between sets). A post-workout supplement, on the other hand, is designed to enhance your recovery after you’ve finished.

It can be a little confusing because there is occasionally crossover between ingredients in pre and intra-workout supplements and post-workout supplements.

Beta alanine and carnitine are good examples; these compounds could help workout performance in the short term, but are better studied as medium to long-term supplementation strategies to increase your body’s anaerobic power output.

Q: How do you reduce post-workout soreness?

A: The soreness that you feel following a tough workout is a good indicator of muscle damage, and several nutritional strategies exist to combat it. Post-workout muscle soreness comes along with a measurable decrease in muscle strength over the following several days: it’s not just a feeling of fatigue in your arms or legs.

Soreness after workouts is particularly bad if your workout included eccentric exercises like squats or deadlifts, as eccentric exercise is known to cause more muscular damage.

The effect is so pronounced that researchers will even use eccentric protocols, like drop jumps or single leg squats, to experimentally induce soreness.

Even something as simple as a protein shake will help combat post-workout soreness, but some research has shown that a post-workout supplement that includes glutamine could help reduce both your feelings of soreness and the decrease in muscular strength that accompanies it.

Several of our top-rated picks for the best post-workout supplements on the market right now include glutamine alongside other primary ingredients, making them good picks for combating soreness after a hard workout that includes a lot of eccentric exercise.

Q: What’s the most important macronutrient for after a workout? 

A: After you’ve finished a workout, a good source of protein is definitely the most important macronutrient. Protein provides critical amino acids for rebuilding and repairing your muscle fibers, which get damaged during a workout.

Since these amino acids are the building blocks for new muscle tissue, getting protein in after a workout is also critically important for muscle gains. Even given the importance of protein, it’s important not to overlook another important macro, which is carbohydrates.

After a long workout, especially if it included cardio, your muscle glycogen stores will be depleted. Some research indicates that the best way to restore your muscle glycogen levels is by a mixture of carbs and protein, in approximately a 4:1 ratio.

So, while protein is still king when it comes to post workout macros, it seems to work best in combination with carbs if you need to restore muscle glycogen. 

Related: Our best post-workout picks

Summary

Need a supplement that can enhance your recovery after your toughest training sessions? A post-workout supplement is exactly what you need.

These supplements help you capitalize on the stimulus to your body given by your longest, toughest workout days, and are used by top athletes to achieve peak fitness levels.

The post 6 benefits of a post-workout supplement for hardcore athletes appeared first on Body Nutrition.

- John Davis

Vitamin C is one of the best-known essential micronutrients thanks to its role in promoting immune function in the body. But that’s not vitamin C is useful for: it’s also great for boosting muscle recovery and limiting soreness after tough training sessions, and is potentially useful for protecting cognitive function as you age.

Here’s what our research team uncovered about the wide-ranging benefits of vitamin C supplementation.

Vitamin C benefits 1. Our attraction to Vitamin C as a cure for the common cold started in the 1970s.

That’s when a man named Linus Pauling told the world to start taking heavy doses of Vitamin C. In his book How to Live Longer and Feel Better, he recommended megadoses (an actual scientific term) of the vitamin to ward off the common cold, among other things.

Why did the world listen to this man?

Because he was (and still is) considered one of the top scientific minds of all time (1).  He pretty much single-handedly founded the fields of quantum chemistry AND molecular biology. He was awarded two different Nobel prizes, in two different categories (chemistry and peace).

The man was brilliant so the world listened when he told us to take way more Vitamin C than anyone thought was possible. So what if it brought on a “laxative” effect. Kidney stones? No sweat if it means no more colds. The word spread and soon Vitamin C and “cure for the common cold” were linked forever.

Even though Linus Pauling’s advice may not have produced results out the way he hoped, people still line up to buy Vitamin C to this day.

2. More scientific data has poured in since Pauling’s book came out

To try and help people sort out the facts, The U.S. National Library of Medicine has an official government statement on Vitamin C and colds: the research is “conflicting” (2).

This doesn’t seem very clear, and that’s because the efficacy of Vitamin C depends on who you are, where you live, and precisely what result you’re seeking when you take the supplement.

No studies have yet been able to establish a link between taking a Vitamin C supplement and preventing a cold.

3. Vitamin C may do something for colds, but not what you may think

Perhaps if you’re a long-distance runner living in Iceland, you will see a benefit from Vitamin C supplementation. The only shred of evidence supporting any positive effect of Vitamin C on the common cold was seen on people who were exerting themselves very heavily in winter environments. Details are as follows:

In 2007 a review study was conducted, and then updated in 2013 (3). What that means is researchers looked at all the controlled trials ever performed involving Vitamin C, dating way back to 1966.

That’s 40 years of Vitamin C research rolled into one totally succinct report.

The review study involved thirty trials comparisons and over 11,000 participants. It was found that taking Vitamin C supplements to prevent a cold was no more effective than taking the placebo.

In other words, mega-dosing yourself with C might not keep you from getting a cold.

But the part about the cold-weather endurance athletes holds true: the same review study found an 8% chance that the cold would end sooner if they took Vitamin C. They were skiers, marathon runners, and soldiers operating in sub-arctic environments.

Doctors speculate that the reason for the benefit is because these super athletic cold-weather types have a Vitamin C deficiency. By dosing themselves with C, they’re simply bringing their levels back up to normal.

So in no way should we deduce from that the need to mega-dose ourselves with Vitamin C in order to prevent, shorten, or treat the common cold.

4. Vitamin C may be outclassed by zinc for treating the common cold

Turns out we’ve been looking down the wrong supplement path the whole time.  Researchers in the UK have revealed that Zinc, not Vitamin C, is the magic cold-fighter (4).

In another look-back study involving 67 different studies, remedies for the common cold, including Vitamin C supplements, were examined.  There were no clear benefits to be found in any of the research for any of the traditional remedies except for zinc and washing your hands a lot.

Vitamin C side effects

It’s hard to take too much vitamin C. Vitamin C is a water-soluble supplement, which means that it is very hard to take too much. When your body gets excessive vitamin C, it can usually just excrete the extra vitamin C in your urine.

In fact, several clinical trials have used very high doses of vitamin C (10,000 mg of vitamin C per day) for up to three years without recording any significant adverse effects (5).

Very high doses of vitamin C can cause gastrointestinal problems, headaches, and insomnia. Still, according to the Mayo Clinic, too much vitamin C can cause mild to moderate diarrhea, nausea, cramping, headaches, and insomnia (6).

Most of these side effects are attributable to high concentrations of unabsorbed vitamin C pulling water into the digestive tract. These side effects are very unlikely to appear in anyone at doses of 2000 mg per day or less.

Vitamin C dosage

Most studies use 100 to 1000 mg of vitamin C. Vitamin C is typically studied in clinical trials at doses ranging from 100 to 1000 mg per day or more. On the other hand, the recommended minimum daily intake is only 90 mg for men and 75 mg for women (7).

Keep your vitamin C intake below 2000 mg per day. As noted above, the tolerable upper limit of vitamin C is 2000 mg per day for adults, which means that doses below this amount are well-tolerated and not expected to result in any side effects. As such, as long as you’re below this amount, the right dosage is going to depend on the explicit purpose of vitamin C supplementation that you are aiming at.

For athletic recovery, aim for 600-1000 mg. For example, if you are looking to prevent illness after a marathon, triathlon, or another long and difficult athletic event, 600 mg seems to be the right dosage.

Preventing muscle soreness may require much higher doses (1000 mg per day or more). On the other hand, lower doses have been studied for treating chronic inflammation among people with metabolic disease, and as little as 100 mg per day has been beneficial in observational research on reducing the risk of chronic diseases.

Vitamin C benefits FAQ

Q: How much vitamin C is too much?

A: In practice, it’s very hard to overload on vitamin C since it is a water soluble vitamin. The tolerable upper limit for vitamin C intake, established by the National Institute of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements, suggests that up to 2000 mg of vitamin C per day is not likely to result in any adverse effects.

Clinical research has used doses beyond this level, up to 10,000 mg per day for up to three years, with no serious adverse effects, though at high doses it’s possible to get gastrointestinal issues merely from the volume of vitamin C dissolved in your stomach.

Keeping your supplemental vitamin C intake below 2000 mg per day is an easy way to make sure that none of these issues happen, while still getting any possible benefits from the supplement.

Q: What are the biggest benefits of vitamin C?

A: Vitamin C is a heavily studied vitamin, and the balance of the evidence suggests that, while vitamin C might not bring about the major changes in long-term health that many people hope for, it can be useful at several specific applications.

Its role in boosting your immune system seems to help prevent infections after tough athletic events like ultra marathons or triathlons, and some evidence suggests that it may help stave off cognitive decline.

Vitamin C is also very helpful if you are trying to boost your iron levels, because iron absorption is substantially enhanced in the presence of vitamin C. For these and other niche applications, vitamin C supplementation can make a lot of sense.

Q: What foods are highest in vitamin C?

A: Not surprisingly, the foods with the highest concentration of vitamin C per serving are pretty much all fruits and vegetables. Oranges, strawberries, kiwi fruit, bell peppers, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts are some of the foods that have the most vitamin C.

Each of these fruits and vegetables has at least 60% of your recommended daily intake of vitamin C per 100 grams of food, and bell peppers and kiwi fruit have over 100%. 

These are some of the most efficient ways to get vitamin C in your diet from natural sources, though supplementation is also an option, especially if you are looking for high-dose vitamin C.

Related: Our best vitamin C picks

Summary

Vitamin C is best known for boosting your immune function, but might be more useful as a tool for muscle recovery after tough workouts and for protecting the brain as you get older.

Regardless, it’s one of the simplest and most powerful antioxidants out there, and is extremely safe from a side-effects perspective.

The post 4 surprising benefits of vitamin C appeared first on Body Nutrition.

- John Davis
10 best post-workout supplements (2023 update)

Many athletes and people who train take a post-workout shake immediately after a workout.

Getting optimal benefits from your exercise or training routine isn’t just a matter of putting the work in.

Between protein, carbohydrates, amino acids, and all sorts of other nutrients, it can be hard to tell what’s important when it comes to a post-workout supplement.

Fortunately for you, we’ve analyzed the best post-workout supplements on the market and ranked them right here. Why You Should Trust Us

Our advisory panel and our research team rank the best health products and supplements based on performance, label accuracy, and the efficacy of the ingredients in the products.

At A Glance our top picks for post-workout supplements Best Overall: Performance Lab SPORT Post-Workout Best for women: Transparent Labs BCAA Glutamine Best for bodybuilders: Vintage Build BSN Amino X Evlution Recover Mode

Rankings

Last updated: November 8, 2022
Post workout supplements considered: 29
Hours of research: 51
Experts reviewed: 13
Scientific papers referenced: 19

IMAGE PRODUCT Best Overall1. Performance Lab SPORT Post-WorkoutFocuses on energy, electrolytes, and strength recovery, but without the BCAAsIt’s an all-natural product and helps to improve muscle recoveryIt strives to keep you at your best for your next workoutView Latest Price → Best for women2. Transparent Labs BCAA GlutamineBest for gaining strength and powerA fantastic product that’s perfectly suited for fighting post-workout sorenessHas no artificial coloring, no artificial sweeteners, gluten-free and non-GMOView Latest Price → Best for bodybuilders3. Vintage BuildHas a clean, focused design that is a nice contrast against other post-workout supplementsIncludes amino acids, creatine, and L-glutamine for muscle recovery and immune functionIt is flavored and colored naturally with stevia and cherry coloringView on Amazon → 4. BSN Amino XFormulated more towards speed, power, and endurance for athletesCan be used in your bloodstream to fight off anaerobic fatigue in the short termKeto-friendly, and Caffeine freeView on Amazon → 5. Evlution Recover ModeIt has everything you know you need in a post-workout supplementAids for better muscle recovery and immune functionIncludes a robust mix of electrolytes to replace what’s lost in sweatView on Amazon → 6. JYM Supplement Science POSTHas some cutting-edge ingredients like beta-alanine and taurineCan boost your muscular carnosine content, and taurine for extra energyIt's a complete post-workout supplement that’s optimized for both strength and powerView on Amazon → 7. Legion RechargeA surprisingly simplistic post-workout supplementAids in muscle soreness and helps in recoveryIt delivers creatine, L-carnitine, and banaba leaf extract in its formulationView on Amazon → 8. PowerbuildFormulated with beta-alanine for muscular power, and creatine for muscular strengthHelps boost your absorption of the amino acids in the supplementAids in post-workout recovery and muscle growthView on Amazon → 9. Growth SurgeA supplement is designed pretty much exclusively for strength athletesHelps in increasing endurance in the gymAids in muscle building and post-workout recoveryView on Amazon → 10. Progenex RecoveryHas a great taste for a post-workout shakeHelps to recover your muscles fast and rebuild itAids in overcoming fatigue post-workoutView on Amazon → 1. Transparent Labs BCAA Glutamine

Click here for the lowest price

Transparent Labs BCAA Glutamine focuses on recovery and increased performance using a potent recovery matrix. Along with fermented BCAAs and glutamine, this product also contains coconut water extract.

This product has no artificial coloring, no artificial sweeteners, is artificial preservative free, gluten-free and non-GMO. It comes in powder form and it comes in four flavors that taste amazing making this a great way to finish off your workout routine.

The clean formulation and excellent ingredient quality make Transparent Labs our top overall pick.

2. Vintage Build

Check price at Amazon

The clean, focused design of Vintage Build is a nice contrast against other post-workout supplements that throw just about everything short of the kitchen sink into their supplement.

The key ingredients here are branched-chain amino acids, creatine, and L-glutamine for muscle recovery and immune function. Beyond this, the supplement is flavored and colored naturally with stevia and cherry coloring.

3. BSN Amino X

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BSN Amino X is unique in that it’s formulated more towards speed, power, and endurance athletes than for pure strength athletes.

As the name suggests, you’ve got your usual branched chain and regular amino acids, but what makes BSN Amino X special is its inclusion of the buffering agents citrate and sodium bicarbonate.

These can be used by your bloodstream to fight off anaerobic fatigue in the short term, and restoring your body’s stores of these after an intense workout like HIIT training can help improve your performance the next time around.

4. Evlution Recover Mode

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When it comes to post-workout supplements that take a comprehensive approach as opposed to a minimalist approach, nobody does it better than Evlution Recovery Mode.

It has everything you know you need in a post-workout supplement: branched-chain amino acids, regular amino acids, and creatine.

In addition, it has all of the extras you like to see: beta-alanine to boost muscular carnosine content, a robust mix of electrolytes to replace what’s lost in sweat, L-glutamate for better muscle recovery and immune function, and BioPerine to boost absorption.

5. JYM Supplement Science POST

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POST is JYM Supplement Science’s answer to the post workout supplement question. It’s a more comprehensive approach than many of its competitors; it has the basics, like branched chain and regular amino acids.

It also has some cutting edge ingredients like beta-alanine, which can boost your muscular carnosine content, and taurine for extra energy.

To boost absorption, it also includes the proprietary black pepper extract, BioPerine. If you want a complete post-workout supplement that’s optimized for both strength and power, this is an excellent choice.

6. RSP AminoLean Recovery

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RSP’s post-workout supplement provides a solid range of amino acids, plus trace electrolytes lost in sweat, like calcium and magnesium.

It gives you an added recovery and immunity boost thanks to zinc, vitamin C, and vitamin D, which makes this a nice pick for athletes training hard in the winter, when infections are common.

The formulation is pretty clean, too, without much in the way of binders or synthetic flavors.

7. Do Vitamins PostPump

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Do Vitamins PostPump is an incredibly clean and focused supplement that provides only the most important building blocks for recovery.

Here’s what’s inside: L-carnitine plus BCAAs for muscle recovery (in a 2:1:1 leucine, isoleucine, valine ratio), creatine for strength and power gains, and betaine for more anaerobic power output.

Beyond that, there are no additional ingredients. While that makes the taste pretty bland, for hardcore purists, this supplement is tough to beat.

8. Legion Recharge

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Legion Recharge is a surprisingly simplistic post workout supplement. Among the active ingredients, all it delivers creatine, L-carnitine, and banaba leaf extract.

A super-simple supplement like this can be nice, but the disappointing thing about Legion Recharge is that there are a lot of unwanted extras like artificial flavoring and several different non-caloric sweeteners.

Despite this downside, it’s still pretty good for those in the minimalist supplement camp.

9. Powerbuild

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Powerbuild delivers a few branched-chain amino acids, beta-alanine for muscular power, and creatine for muscular strength.

It’s also got BioPerine, a.k.a. Black pepper extract, to boost your absorption of the amino acids in the supplement. It’s a little bloated with extras, which knocks it down a few spots in the rankings.

10. Jacked Factory Growth Surge

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Jacked Factory Growth Surge is designed pretty much exclusively for strength athletes. It’s really more of a creatine supplement than anything else; it doesn’t even have a full complement of branched chain amino acids.

While it has BioPerine, there aren’t really enough ingredients for it to boost absorption and bioavailability, so it seems like an afterthought ingredient. On top of this, it’s a bit bloated with artificial ingredients, making it hard to recommend unless taste matters most to you.

Category winners

Best post-workout supplement overall: Transparent Labs BCAA + Glutamine

Transparent Labs makes a great all-around post-workout supplement thanks to the killer combo of branched-chain amino acids plus glutamine, another potent muscle recovery enhancer. Whether you’re doing a tough HIIT session or lifting heavy, Transparent Labs is hard to beat.

Best post-workout supplement for men: Vintage Build

Men get extra benefits out of the creatine and electrolytes in Vintage Build for extra muscle gains and better rehydration. It’s an obvious choice for men looking for a post-workout supplement.

Best post-workout supplement for women: Transparent Labs BCAA + Glutamine

For women who are serious about gaining strength and power, Transparent Labs BCAA + Glutamine is the way to go. It’s an ultra-simple combination of some of the most important components for post-workout recovery: branched chain amino acids and glutamine, both of which promote strength gains and prevent soreness. 

Best post-workout supplement for bodybuilders: Vintage Build

Vintage Build has a few key ingredients for adding muscle mass that you won’t find in run-of-the-mill post-workout supplements, like creatine and glutamine. Plus, thanks to the electrolytes, it’s even a good option for cardio days. 

Best post-workout supplement for athletes: BSN Amino X

If you’re an athlete, you want a post-workout supplement that’s specifically targeted towards enhancing speed, power, and endurance. Enter BSN Amino X, with amino acids, anaerobic power enhancers, and buffering agents. It’s definitely the best option for competitive athletes looking to maximize their recovery.

Best post-workout supplement for sore muscles: Transparent Labs BCAA + Glutamine

If your primary goal is treating or preventing muscle soreness, you want as high of a dose of BCAAs and glutamine as you can manage. Transparent Labs makes a fantastic combo product that’s perfectly suited for fighting post-workout soreness.

Who should buy a post-workout supplement?

If all you do is go to the gym to keep in decent shape, a post-workout supplement probably isn’t necessary, but if you are reading this, chances are you are a serious athlete. Here’s who should consider taking post-workout:

People who work out to improve their peak performance. Since the real key to improving strength, speed, power, endurance, and muscle mass is to do hard training, then recover well afterwards, taking care of your post-workout nutrition is a no-brainer if you are looking for improvement. 

After finishing a workout session, you have damage to your muscle fibers, you’ve sweated out a lot of electrolytes, your body is fatigued from putting out a high amount of power, and your muscle and liver glycogen stores are depleted.

All of these things need should be addressed for getting your recovery optimized after a tough workout session.

Athletes who periodically do very tough training sessions. When going for a one-rep max, getting after it in a HIIT session, or pushing your overall training load to new highs, you should be extra focused on recovery.

A post-workout supplement makes it easy to cover all of your bases after a workout: these supplements feature essential amino acids, branched chain amino acids (aka BCAAs), and other supplements to maximize gains, like creatine or beta alanine.

The right post-workout supplement can boost your recovery, and thus your improvement. Don’t forget, though, that you need to do the hard training first: a post-workout supplement without a solid workout prior is not going to do you much good. 

How we ranked

Separating high-quality post-workout supplements from mediocre and mid-tier offerings is tricky. Here’s how we did it:

Primary focus on compounds proven to boost recovery. Based on a review of the sports science literature, we generated a list of all essential nutrients that are beneficial for workout recovery.

These included essential amino acids, and in particular the branched chain amino acids, for muscle fiber repair; creatine or beta alanine for restoring your body’s anaerobic energy production abilities, and electrolytes to replace those lost in sweat.

If a post-workout supplement didn’t contain at least some of these critical ingredients, we eliminated it from consideration.

Correct dosage was critical. We evaluated the remaining products on their dosage levels, rating highly those that delivered these critical ingredients at efficacious doses, and dropping those that had insufficient doses.

Bonus points for high bioavailability and added extras. From the remaining products, we analyzed the benefits of any additional ingredients beyond the basics. Products that used black pepper extract (a.k.a. piperine) to boost the absorption of key ingredients gained extra points, for example, as did products that had L-glutamine to boost muscle protein synthesis.

Transparent and clean ingredients list. We had a strong preference for products whose ingredients were plain to see, instead of being mixed together in a “proprietary blend.”

Great taste from all-natural flavors. Next up, we looked at the other ingredients. You want a post-workout shake that tastes good, but a product with too much sugar is bad news for your body.

Likewise, we were also looking for products that did not have a lot of artificial colors and flavors. Post-workout supplements that didn’t measure up on either of these fronts got eliminated from the field. Products that used natural sweeteners like stevia scored better and remained in consideration. 

Finally, we looked at the overall purity and quality of the products: anything that was bloated with fillers, binders, and stabilizers got eliminated, leaving us with our final list of the best post workout supplements of the year. 

FAQ

Q: What is a post-workout supplement? 

A: Post-workout supplements are formulations that are specifically designed to boost your body’s recovery following a tough session at the gym.

They include protein as a basic macronutrient to kick-start muscle repair and synthesis, and include specialized ingredients like branched chain amino acids and creatine to make sure your body recovers to a state that’s stronger than before.

Unlike a pre-workout or intra-workout supplement, a post-workout supplement isn’t going to include caffeine or other stimulants to boost your workout performance today. Rather, the intent is to recover well after your training session so you will ultimately be stronger, faster, and more powerful in the future. 

Q: What is the best supplement for muscle recovery? 

A: For boosting muscle recovery, it’s hard to beat a combination of protein, BCAAs, and creatine. The amino acids in protein (plus BCAAs, all of which are essential amino acids) are critical building blocks for repairing muscle fibers and synthesizing new muscle tissue.

On top of that, creatine is one of the most heavily-studied and rigorously proven supplements for boosting muscle growth. Deliver these two in combination, as many top post-workout supplements do, and you have a winning formulation for muscle recovery after challenging workouts. 

Q: What’s the best post-workout supplement for weight loss? 

A: If you are trying to lose weight and maintain workout gains, you have to navigate a narrow path: you obviously need to be in a calorie deficit, but you also want to maintain muscle mass and muscular strength to the greatest degree possible.

Choosing a post-workout supplement that focuses mostly on amino acids and not so much on creatine or total protein content is a good choice, because amino acids will help maintain and repair muscle tissue, but not add too much to your total caloric intake.

You’ll definitely want to avoid post-workout supplements that use sugar for flavoring, since these will add unnecessary carbs to your diet and will make it harder to drop fat mass. You might consider a dedicated weight loss supplement if your goal is to burn off as much fat as possible.

Q: What should you look for in a post-workout recovery shake? 

A: We recommend using a similar process to what our research team did to formulate our rankings. The key ingredients you should be on the lookout for are a source of protein (either a high-quality protein like whey protein or a large amount of individual amino acids), sufficient amounts of all three branched chain amino acids, and possibly beneficial extras like creatine and beta alanine.

Creatine is particularly important if you are looking to maximize strength and muscle mass gains, while beta alanine is most useful for boosting your anaerobic power.

Make sure the post-workout recovery shake that you choose avoids excessive amounts of sugar (opt instead for a natural sweetener like stevia), unless you are explicitly looking for a recovery shake that uses carbs to restore your muscle glycogen. 

Q: What’s the best supplement for muscle building? 

A: For building muscle, you want pretty much the same ingredients as muscle recovery: protein and especially creatine. While creatine helps with muscle recovery, it’s even more important for maximizing muscle building.

Even when your dietary intake of protein is quite high, supplementing with creatine is an effective way to increase your muscle gains even more.

Of course, if you have insufficient protein intake, that should be addressed as well, so don’t forget about protein and amino acid content in a post-workout supplement if you are aiming to build muscle. Without this basic building block, you won’t be able to max out your muscular strength and muscular size gains.

Related articles Pre-workout supplement Intra-workout supplement BCAAs BCAAs for women Protein shake Testosterone booster Glutamine Bulking stack Cutting stack Recap

When you choose the right post workout supplement, you stand a good chance of boosting your body’s ability to recover.

This means that you’ll get a greater benefit from a given workout, and it also means you can push a little harder in your toughest and most challenging workouts because you know that your body’s ability to recover is elevated.

Pretty much all athletes should be on the lookout for branched chain amino acids in their post workout supplement. Athletes focused on raw strength and short-term power (less than ten seconds of effort) should look for creatine as well.

Athletes who need to be able to produce power for anywhere from 60 seconds to several minutes should try to find a post workout supplement that also includes a muscular power booster like beta alanine if they want to fuel up their muscles for optimal performance.

For BodyNutrition‘s #1 post-workout supplement recommendation, click here.

The post 10 best post-workout supplements (2023 update) appeared first on Body Nutrition.

- John Davis

If you are getting older and you want to preserve your vision, an eye vitamin is an easy and effective way to sustain healthy vision.

Several large clinical studies have confirmed that eye vitamins can slow or prevent macular degeneration, which is a significant cause of vision loss in older adults.

In modern supplement research, eye vitamins have been one of the biggest success stories—careful selection of multiple ingredients often goes awry because of unanticipated interactions among the ingredients in a supplement, but in the case of eye vitamins, the clinical trials have been a resounding success. 

Read on to find out how eye vitamins work to protect your vision.

Eye vitamin benefits 1. Taking an eye vitamin is one of the best things you can do to ensure that your vision stays strong as you get older

Vision loss, especially through macular degeneration, is one of the biggest causes of a loss of quality of life in people as they age.

The right combination of vitamins and minerals can nourish and protect your eyesight, ensuring that you can live life to the fullest even as you get older.

2. An eye vitamin can protect your vision from degrading as you age

Based on a wealth of scientific literature, the National Institutes of Health launched a major clinical trial in the mid-1990s that tested a new vitamin and mineral supplement on the rate of advanced macular degeneration, which is one of the leading causes of vision loss in adults over 50 (1).

This study used a combination of several vitamins and minerals that were known to be critical for proper functioning of the eyes: beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, and copper.

This supplement was prepared and tested against a placebo at eleven different clinics, enrolling over 3000 participants (2). These decisions were based on earlier research which showed promising results with each of these nutrients individually.

The participants in this double-blind clinical trial were followed for over six years and the incidence of macular degeneration was recorded.

The results showed that the supplement conferred a 28% decreased risk of macular degeneration, and moreover, this occurred without any statistically significant increase in reported side effects compared to placebo.

3. Eye vitamins are particularly useful if you are at risk for macular degeneration

If you know you’re at risk (for example, if you’ve had family members with macular degeneration), an eye vitamin should definitely be a part of your supplementation routine as you get older.

Other risk factors for macular degeneration include obesity, smoking, and cardiovascular disease.

4. Eye vitamins may also benefit other indicators of ocular health, but there is less evidence

One downside of the intense focus on using eye vitamins for macular degeneration is that we know less about whether eye vitamins also help slow or prevent some of the other age-related changes in vision, like the loss of close-up vision.

Nevertheless, because the ingredients in eye vitamins are known to have a powerful biological effect on the eyes (thanks to their anti-macular degeneration effect), there is good reason to believe that they may be effective for other eye conditions and overall eye function as well.

5. Eye vitamins should contain lutein and zeaxanthin for optimal results.

While the results of this first trial, termed the AREDS study (Age-Related Eye Disease Study), were impressive, scientists saw room for improvement.

First, research had come out in the interim time between when the study was launched and when the results were known that indicated that high beta-carotene intake was associated with an increased risk of lung cancer among people who smoke, so the researchers wanted to rework the formula to make it safe for smokers to take.

This was especially important considering that cigarette smoking is a risk factor for macular degeneration in its own right.

Researchers replaced beta-carotene with lutein and zeaxanthin, two related compounds that appeared capable of providing the same benefits as beta-carotene without the risks to smokers.

6. Zinc is important for eye health, but the dosage does not need to be very high

Some experts also suggested lowering the dose of zinc, and emerging research suggested that omega 3 fatty acids could provide additional benefits for preserving eyesight.

Because of this, a second trial, termed AREDS 2, was launched (3). This study used over 4000 participants and tested variants of the original AREDS eye vitamin formula.

After testing four different variants of the eye vitamin supplement, the researchers concluded that replacing beta-carotene with lutein and zeaxanthin was just as beneficial as the original beta carotene version.

The reduction in zinc content did not alter the effectiveness of the supplement, and the addition of omega 3 fatty acids did not further improve the risk reduction for vision degeneration in old age.

7. The AREDS2 formula is the current gold standard for eye health

This formula includes zinc, copper, lutein, zeaxanthin, vitamin C, and vitamin E is the gold standard for eye health

While it’s likely that further research will uncover new ingredients or a better-optimized formulation, the AREDS2 supplement recipe is the best we’ve got right now.

As such, all the best eye vitamins will contain at least the key ingredients used in this clinical trial. You’ll want to make sure your eye vitamin follows the dosage guidelines established in the scientific research for optimal results.

Eye vitamin side effects

Incredibly, even though supplements based on the AREDS formulation are very effective at protecting your vision as you get older, they don’t seem to cause any significant side effects when used at the recommended dosage.

Eye vitamins have no higher rate of side effects than a placebo. There were mild side effects reported in the clinical trials, but the rate of these side effects was no different than the rate of people reporting “side effects” from the placebo!

If you use tobacco, you should not take an eye vitamin with vitamin A. One important note concerns eye vitamin formulations that contain vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene. These are fine for most people, but anyone who uses tobacco should not take a supplement that contains beta carotene or vitamin A.

This is because this supplement has been associated with an increased risk of lung cancer (4). A major clinical trial on using beta-carotene in people at high risk for lung cancer was actually halted almost two years early after the researchers observed that those in the treatment group were being diagnosed with lung cancer at an increased rate compared to the placebo group.

Eye vitamin dosage

Though rare in supplement research, the massive clinical trials on eye vitamins provide crystal-clear instructions on the optimal daily dosage of each of the most effective eye vitamins (5).

Check closely for the following vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, copper, and zeaxanthin doses. Vitamin C and vitamin E should be taken at 500 mg and 400 mg each, while the zinc content can be between 25 and 80 mg.

Copper, at a dose of 2 mg, should not be skipped, and the formulation is rounded out with 10 mg of lutein and 2 mg of zeaxanthin.

These vitamins and minerals, at these dosages, should be split into two equal doses, taken in the morning and in the evening, like eye drops.

Eye vitamin benefits FAQ

Q: Do eye vitamins really work? 

A: Yes, we can say with a strong degree of confidence that eye vitamins do what they are designed to do—slow or prevent the progression of age-related vision loss.

In particular, gold-standard clinical trials have demonstrated a significant reduction in macular degeneration in older adults that can be attributed directly to the effects of eye vitamins. All of that being said, it’s important to point out that some people have a distorted impression of what eye vitamins are really supposed to do.

They’re not going to completely reverse vision loss, and they also aren’t going to eliminate the need for you to wear your glasses—these are just a supplement, not LASIK surgery.

However, the results in favor of eye vitamins are some of the strongest findings when it comes to major studies on using simple, over the counter supplements to prevent serious health problems. 

Q: Can you get vitamins for eye floaters? 

A: While eye vitamins have been studied for a variety of eye conditions, including cataracts and macular degeneration, floaters have not been studied as one of the conditions that can be helped by an eye vitamin.

You might find anecdotal reports that certain eye vitamins help with floaters, but there are no clinical trials that support this claim just yet. Floaters are caused by slight imperfections in a transparent portion of the eye. In most cases, they do not require treatment, though it is possible to treat severe cases with laser therapy or surgery.

Q: Can you get vitamins for your eyes in fruits and vegetables? 

A: Many of the important ingredients in eye vitamins can be found in fruits and vegetables. Vitamin C is, of course, found widely in citrus fruits, and green leafy vegetables are great sources of vitamin E.

Zinc and copper can likewise be found legumes, and beta carotene is best-known for its high concentration in carrots. However, getting the right ratios of all of these vitamins and minerals is tricky if you are relying fully on fruits and vegetables to maintain your eye health.

While a poor diet with few fruits and vegetables is known to be a risk factor for age related vision loss, the best solution from scientific research is still to take an eye vitamin that provides the right ratios of vitamins and minerals to stave off vision loss. 

Related: Our best eye vitamin picks

Summary

Eye vitamins are an absolute must-have for adults over 50. They’re a proven method of preventing macular degeneration as you get older, and their ingredients have been fine-tuned through a series of massive clinical studies.

The robust benefits of eye vitamins make them a great option for older adults who value preserving their vision as they age.

The post 7 benefits of eye vitamins for preserving vision into old age appeared first on Body Nutrition.

- John Davis

Prostate supplements use herbal extracts and trace minerals to improve your prostate health. Many men over 50 take a prostate supplement to help with symptoms of an enlarged prostate, which can include trouble urinating or frequent urination at night.

Some research indicates that prostate supplements containing herbal extracts from beta sitosterol and saw palmetto could help shrink your prostate and relieve these symptoms.

Want to know more about what the scientific evidence says about the benefits of prostate supplements? Read on for our research team’s findings.

Prostate supplement benefits 1. Prostate supplements can help with an enlarged prostate, which affects many older men

An enlarged prostate, which causes problems with urination, is the most common cause of urinary problems in older men.

Men with an enlarged prostate find themselves urinating often, unable to empty their bladder, and waking up often at night to go to the bathroom.

While there are prescription drugs that can help with an enlarged prostate, there’s a large body of emerging scientific research that suggests that prostate supplements can help too. Here’s what we know about the science of prostate supplements.

2. Saw palmetto can help shrink your prostate

Saw palmetto is an herbal extract that’s been consistently found useful in clinical trials investigating its effect on prostate function.

One such study was published in 2000 in the Journal of Urology by researchers at the University of California Los Angeles School of Medicine (1).

In this study, 44 men with an enlarged prostate received either a saw palmetto supplement (318 mg per day) or a placebo pill.

The researchers tracked the prostate symptoms and function of the men over the course of six months. The results showed that the supplement was associated with a decrease in the size of the epithelium in the prostate, an area of the gland that is associated with the urinary symptoms caused by prostate enlargement.

The group that received the prostate supplement had slightly better improvements in urinary function, though these results did not reach statistical significance, perhaps due to the small sample size.

3. Many studies have found that saw palmetto directly improves urinary symptoms

Though the UCLA study did not find a direct benefit to saw palmetto in terms of symptom improvement, many other studies have.

A scientific paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Association pooled the results of 18 different studies, with a total number of participants exceeding 2,000 men with an enlarged prostate—termed benign prostatic hyperplasia in the medical literature (2).

After analyzing the pooled results, the researchers found that saw palmetto resulted in better urinary relief compared to placebo, and similar results to finasteride, the standard pharmaceutical treatment.

4. Prostate supplements may have fewer side effects than prescription medication

The same meta-analysis found that prostate supplements containing saw palmetto compared favorably to finasteride, the standard pharmaceutical treatment.

While the symptomatic relief was similar in both the prostate supplements and the prescription medication, side effects were less common with a supplement.

The effect was particularly notable for erectile dysfunction: prostate supplements were about five times less likely to be associated with this side effect compared to finasteride.

5. Beta sitosterol has powerful prostate-shrinking effects

Beta sitosterol is a steroid-like compound that is synthesized by plants, and it appears to have powerful effects on enlarged prostates.

A clinical trial conducted by researchers in Germany followed a group of men randomly selected to receive either a beta sitosterol supplement or a placebo for six months (3).

After six months of follow-up, the researchers reviewed the results and determined that the beta sitosterol supplement was effective at reducing symptoms compared to a placebo. The researchers then followed a subset of these subjects for another twelve months.

They then “unblinded” the study participants, giving those on the placebo the opportunity to switch to the beta sitosterol group.

Those who did experienced the same improvement in urinary symptoms as those in the first phase of the study, and those who ceased taking the supplement experienced a slight worsening in symptoms.

6. Trace minerals like zinc and selenium can also help prostate symptoms

While you may not pay much attention to the amount of minerals like zinc or selenium in your diet, they may play a role in benign prostatic hyperplasia.

Research published in the Indian Journal of Urology suggests that levels of zinc in prostate tissue go down when the prostate is enlarged (4).

This suggest that zinc deficiency, which is rather common among older men, might be related to prostate problems. The same may be true of selenium, another trace element. Research out of Brazil found that a prostate supplement that provided saw palmetto alongside selenium decreased prostate symptoms compared to a placebo (5).

The researchers proposed that the supplement had anti-inflammatory effects, which reduced the size of the prostate and improved urinary symptoms.

7. Over half of all men will have an enlarged prostate by age 55

The prevalence of benign prostate hyperplasia, the technical medical term for an enlarged prostate, is known to increase over time.

A study published in the journal The Prostate details exactly how likely you are to have an enlarged prostate at any given time in your life.

Using data from a longitudinal study of men, a group of scientists at the National Institute of Aging looked at the emergence of prostate enlargement in two ways: first, on autopsy, and second, based on clinical symptoms indicative of prostate enlargement (6).

The authors showed that both methods resulted in very similar estimates of the prevalence of prostate enlargement over time, and they both told the same story: at age 40, fewer than 10% of men had an enlarged prostate. By 50, this number had climbed to 35%, and by age 60, it was over 50%.

Rates of prostate enlargement flattened somewhat in older age, but still climbed: by age 75, over 80% of men have an enlarged prostate.

The findings from this study underscore the importance of men in their 40s and 50s paying attention to any difficulties with urination that they encounter, so they can identify prostate enlargement when it happens.

8. Lycopene may help slow the progress of prostate enlargement

Some new research suggests that lycopene, a powerful antioxidant found in tomatoes, watermelon, grapefruit, papaya, and other orange or red fruits, may help slow the progress of prostate enlargement.

A study published in 2008 in the Journal of Nutrition demonstrated the efficacy of lycopene supplementation among people with BPH (7).

In the study, 40 people with benign prostate hyperplasia were randomly assigned to take either a lycopene supplement or a placebo supplement for six months.

Prostate size was assessed at the conclusion of the study using both ultrasonic imaging and a manual exam.

The results showed that, while the placebo group’s prostates continued to enlarge, progress was halted in the lycopene group. While the direct mechanism of action is unclear, it may be related to the anti-inflammatory properties of lycopene.

Alternatively, there might be other direct biochemical effects of lycopene on prostate tissue—other research has found that greater lycopene intake may reduce the risk of prostate cancer, which suggests that lycopene may directly prevent tissue abnormalities in prostate cells.

Prostate supplement side effects

One of the most attractive aspects of prostate supplements is that they offer a less intimidating side effect profile than the standard prescription medications used to treat an enlarged prostate.

Saw palmetto can cause mild gastrointestinal side effects. According to a meta-analysis of saw palmetto studies, supplements in this category are associated with a lower rate of erectile dysfunction, but a slightly higher rate of gastrointestinal symptoms, when compared to finasteride (8).

Still, side effects were described as “mild and infrequent.”

Most side effects for prostate supplements are rare. Adverse effects can include gastrointestinal symptoms like bloating or gas, but these are rare—less than one percent of men in clinical trials for prostate supplements experienced these effects, and these rates are only a fraction of a percentage point higher than what men on traditional pharmaceutical therapy experienced.

Prostate supplement dosage

Since saw palmetto and beta sitosterol are the two best-researched prostate supplement ingredients, it’s important to make sure the dosage of these ingredients is in line with the clinical trials that have been successful.

Aim for at least 300 mg of saw palmetto. Saw palmetto seems to be effective when taken in doses of at least 300 mg daily, typically split up into three separate doses.

For beta sitosterol, shoot for at least 20 mg. Beta sitosterol seems to work best when taken in doses of at least 20 mg daily.

With other ingredients, like trace elements (zinc, copper, selenium, etc.), a good prostate supplement will have at least 100% of your recommended daily intake for these key ingredients.

Prostate supplement benefits FAQ

Q: What is an enlarged prostate?

A: Prostate enlargement (termed benign prostate hyperplasia or BPH) is the root cause of many prostate-related complaints, like problems urinating.

The condition is termed “benign” only to distinguish it from prostate cancer, which is malignant—despite the name, BPH can be anything but harmless.

Q: What is the best thing to drink for your prostate? 

A: If you are looking for a beverage to improve the health of your prostate, try a green drink: there’s not a whole lot your diet can do for your prostate, but increasing your intake of vitamin C and zinc may help, according to the Mayo Clinic (9).

Since you can find both vitamin C and zinc in green leafy vegetables like kale, broccoli, and cauliflower, a green drink is a great way to get the benefits of these nutrients. Many green drinks also contain lycopene, which can help with prostate health as well. 

Q: What foods are good at shrinking the prostate? 

A: According to Harvard Medical School, you should strive to eat more fruits and vegetables, less sugar and refined carbohydrates, and less red meat (10).

These are all basic dietary guidelines, but they track pretty well with prostate health. Researchers at Harvard also emphasize the importance of physical activity, pointing to three separate studies that show that more exercise helps with prostate health, even if you don’t lose weight. 

Q: Can you naturally shrink your prostate? 

A: Supplements like saw palmetto and lycopene are natural compounds that are thought to help shrink the prostate, or at least prevent it from getting larger (often men who have benign prostate hyperplasia experience increased prostate growth over time).

People often elect to take natural prostate supplements to shrink their prostate with fewer side effects, though prostate supplementation is not the right call for everyone. 

Q: Can vitamin supplements cause prostate cancer? 

A: The evidence connecting any vitamin supplement to prostate cancer is scarce; there is some weak evidence that high intake of zinc (supplementing in excess of 100 mg per day) may be linked to the development of prostate cancer (11), and there is also some weak evidence that consuming lycopene could be protective against prostate cancer (12).

However, it’s very hard to draw firm conclusions from these observational studies, because it is hard to control for the fact that people who take certain kinds of supplements tend to be very different from those who do not.

For example, prostate cancer shares many symptoms with benign prostate hyperplasia, and both zinc and lycopene may be taken as prostate supplements.

It’s not hard to see how this could cause some spurious associations in the data. Other research, for example, has found that zinc is protective against prostate cancer (13).

Related: Our best prostate supplement picks

Summary

Prostate supplements are designed to improve prostate health by using natural herbal and mineral compounds to shrink the size of your prostate.

They’re best-suited for men over 50 who have problems with urination, like poor urine flow or frequent urination at night.

The best prostate supplements contain potent herbal compounds like saw palmetto and beta sitosterol, both of which have been researched for their prostate health benefits. Side effects are rare, but might include gastrointestinal complaints and erectile dysfunction, though at lower rates than some prescription prostate medications.

The post 8 benefits of prostate supplements for men appeared first on Body Nutrition.

- John Davis

Natural weight loss supplements are useful for boosting the effectiveness of your weight loss program. Compounds found in natural weight loss supplements can improve your chances at losing weight by increasing your metabolic rate, decreasing your appetite, or both.

Want to leverage the benefits of the best natural compounds for losing weight? Read on to find out how.

Natural weight loss supplement benefits 1. A natural weight loss supplement can amplify the efficacy of a weight loss program

Pretty much everyone can recite the basics of losing weight—eat healthier, exercise more, etc.—but nevertheless, many people find weight loss programs very difficult to adhere to.

Some of the most innovative studies on natural weight loss supplements are those that combine them with the kinds of weight loss programs that are already popular, like one study published in 2014 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (1).

This study showed that a supplement high in protein and BCAAs was able to help obese adults maintain more muscle mass while adhering to a low-calorie diet more effectively than a placebo supplement that provided the same amount of calories.

Other natural weight loss supplements can help in other ways, making it easier to burn more calories or eat fewer. 

2. Appetite suppressants can help boost the efficacy of exercise for weight loss

One of the biggest reasons exercise is not as effective as you might think at generating weight loss is its tendency to increase your appetite.

While you do burn a lot of calories if you work out at the gym for an hour, you’ll find that you tend to eat a lot more after you’re done than you otherwise would have.

New research published in 2019 conclusively showed that increased exercise generates an increase in appetite (and thus food intake), which is not related to increased post-exercise physical activity or changes in baseline metabolic rate (2).

This finding makes sense when interpreted in light of your body’s internal regulatory mechanisms: even after exercise, your body is striving to maintain the same “set point” of energy balance.

3. Natural weight loss supplements can help limit your caloric intake

Appetite suppressants can help tip the scales in your favor by blunting this post-exercise appetite increase. One study, for example, showed that guar (a type of fiber) led to a 20% decrease in energy intake via snacking (3).

Leveraging appetite suppressing effects of substances like forskolin or caffeine is another effective way to keep your exercise routine working in your favor. 

4. Thermogenic supplements can boost your overall energy expenditure

If you are trying to shift the balance between caloric intake and caloric expenditure, natural compounds that stimulate thermogenesis (the burning of additional calories beyond your normal metabolic rate) can be incredibly helpful.

There are a wide variety of compounds that exert a thermogenic or fat-burning effect, but some include green coffee bean extract, green tea extract, and caffeine.

Some weight loss supplements have synergistic interactions.

Compounds like green tea extract and green coffee bean extract generate more fat oxidation than would be expected from their caffeine content alone, as demonstrated by an elegant 1999 study (4).

The study used a three-way crossover design, where subjects randomly took a placebo, a caffeine-only supplement, or a green tea extract supplement with an equal dose of caffeine as the caffeine-only supplement.

The researchers conclusively showed that the effects of green tea extract increased thermogenesis beyond what caffeine can achieve, indicating that this and other fat burning natural supplements can be harnessed to exert powerful weight loss effects. 

Natural weight loss supplement side effects

Each different natural weight loss compound will have a slightly different side effect profile.

Watch out for caffeine jitters. Caffeine-containing supplements like green coffee bean extract or multi-ingredient weight loss pills can cause jitters, anxiety, and sleeplessness, especially in high doses.

Some weight loss supplements can cause GI issues. Other weight loss supplements like orlistat and psyllium husk can cause gastrointestinal side effects like bloating and gas.

Make sure you read up on the specific side effects of the natural weight loss compound you’ve chosen; some have a more well-studied side effect profile than others. 

Natural weight loss supplement dosage

Natural weight loss supplements take several weeks to have an effect. Research into their benefits almost always involves studies that are at least six weeks long, and some are as long as six months.

It may take at least a few months to start seeing real benefits, especially when you’re already on a diet and exercise program.

As such, don’t expect a miracle the first week you start taking a weight loss supplement. However, if you follow the doses used in the scientific literature, and be patient, you’re far more likely to see success. 

In most cases, a natural weight loss supplement works best when taken in the morning. Appetite suppressants are only effective if they are taken fairly early in the day, because the entire point of taking an appetite suppressant is to reduce snacking and calorie consumption at meals later in the day.

As a result, taking one before bed won’t do much good. Also, since many thermogenics involve caffeine or caffeine-containing compounds, you’ll get the most out of these supplements if you take them early in the day.

That way, your energy levels will be higher and you’ll burn more energy during the day. While you could take them at night, you’re likely to wind up sleepless and irritated rather than energized and ready to burn calories. 

Natural weight loss supplement benefits FAQ

Q: How do natural weight loss supplements help burn fat?

A: Most natural weight loss supplements burn fat via a thermogenic effect.

They upregulate the rate of fat oxidation in your body, which results in a higher metabolic rate and more fat being burned off from your stored fat cells.

Green tea extract, green coffee bean extract, and caffeine all generate this type of thermogenic response.

Q: What are natural weight loss supplements? 

A: Natural weight loss supplements can be distinguished from the broader category of weight loss pills by virtue of being derived directly from natural sources.

The majority of natural weight loss supplements come from plants, like forskolin, green coffee bean extract, and psyllium husk, but a few, like BCAAs, can come from animal products.

All natural weight loss supplements offer some type of assistance in losing weight, whether it is an increase in your baseline metabolic rate, a decrease in your appetite, or both.

Q: Are natural weight loss supplements safe?

A: Safety varies a lot from one compound to another. Some, like green tea extract, have an excellent safety profile, while others, like synephrine, are much more iffy when it comes to their safety.

Other compounds, like caffeine, are safe when used at judicious dosages, but can be risky when taken at too high a dosage.

In our reviews, we focus specifically on safe and effective weight loss supplements, like green tea extract, CLA, and glucomannan, with great safety records.

Q: Should you be on a weight loss program while you take a weight loss supplement? 

A: While the scientific research that tests weight loss supplements usually examines them in a vacuum, comparing the effect of the supplement alone to a placebo alone, you’re bound to get far better results when you combine a natural weight loss supplement with a broader weight loss program to take advantage of its full benefits.

An appetite suppressant, for example, combines well with an exercise program: as one of the natural responses of exercise is to increase your appetite as a result of your increased caloric expenditure, and thermogenics combine well with a healthier diet. 

Related: Our best natural weight loss supplement picks

Summary

Looking to give your weight loss program a jump-start? A natural weight loss supplement is a great way to do it.

Compounds in these supplements can increase your fat oxidation, tamp down on your appetite, and help you increase the amount of weight you lose. They’re an excellent addition to any diet and exercise program.

The post The 4 biggest benefits of natural weight loss supplements appeared first on Body Nutrition.

- John Davis
Ranking the best eye vitamins of 2023

Eye vitamins are supplements that support and improve your ability to see. Getting the right level of vitamins and minerals for your eyes can help maintain your vision as you get older.  

Large, multi-site clinical trials have demonstrated that the right eye vitamin can prevent macular degeneration in adults over 50 and retain the same quality of eyesight that you had when you were young.

Our research team has evaluated the best eye supplements out there according to the latest clinical research recommendations and found your best options for protecting and preserving your eyesight as you get older. Why You Should Trust Us

Our advisory panel and our research team rank the best health products and supplements based on performance, label accuracy, and the efficacy of the ingredients in the products.

At A Glance our top picks for eye vitamins Best Overall: VitaBalance Lutenol Best for eye fatigue: Performance Lab Vision Best with zinc: Vision Support + by Nuzena Best for smokers: Bausch+Lomb PreserVision AREDS 2 Focus Select

Rankings

Last updated: November 8, 2022
Eye vitamins considered: 25
Hours of research: 48
Experts reviewed: 12
Scientific papers referenced: 23

IMAGE PRODUCT Best Overall1. VitaBalance LutenolContains all of the essential compounds for eye healthIncludes all of the ingredients recommended by the latest science on eye healthIt includes both antioxidants to protect the eye for ocular functionView Latest Price → Best for eye fatigue2. Performance Lab VisionAims to improve macular healthIncludes several compounds to reduce eye fatigue caused by blue and ultraviolet lightBoosting night vision and aiding hand-eye coordinationView Latest Price → Best with zinc3. Vision Support + by NuzenaThe formula also contains a solid base of Vitamins A, C, D, and the B complexAlso has a trace of minerals such as Magnesium, Zinc, and SeleniumHelp users support macular health and help provide support for AMD View Latest Price → Best for smokers4. Bausch+Lomb PreserVision AREDS 2Proven to substantially reduce the risk of macular degeneration in adults over 50A good choice if you want to protect your eyesight as you get olderThe formulation includes lutein and zeaxanthin which is original to the AREDS formulationView on Amazon → 5. Focus SelectFormulated to support macular and ocular health Is intended to be taken twice per dayIs a nearly direct reproduction of the AREDS 2 formulaView on Amazon → 6. Lipotriad VisionaryWell-suited for people who don’t want any artificial coloring agents or fillers in their vitaminsIt follows the AREDS2 trial recommendationsThe zeaxanthin content is excellent compared to many other supplements on the marketView on Amazon → 7. Systane ICapsAn evidence-based eye vitamin that goes beyond the basic clinical trial recommendationsUsed beta-carotene instead of lutein and zeaxanthinIncludes additional trace elements like manganese and seleniumView on Amazon → 8. EyePromise Zeaxanthin + LuteinA supplement that consists solely of zeaxanthin and lutein in 10 mg per servingIt’s a solid choice if you really want the highest zeaxanthin contentVegetarian and Gluten-freeView on Amazon → 9. Carlyle Visi-Gold ZenwiseA lutein supplement that is sourced from natural materialsThe lutein and zeaxanthin content is solid, at 20 mg and 1 mg per servingNon-GMO, gluten-free and soy-freeView on Amazon → 10. Made in Utah Eye Health FormulaIncludes zinc and copper content that makes the formulation solidThis supplement does include beta-caroteneHas an “extended” eye health formulaView on Amazon → 11. Healths Harmony Lutein Eye VitaminsHas a blend of scientifically validated vitamins and minerals alongside herbal treatmentsCan assist with improving visionThis supplement also contains a very high dose of beta caroteneView on Amazon → 1. VitaBalance Lutenol

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Don’t let impaired vision slow you down. Whether you’re dealing with age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, or poor cataracts, use VitaBalance Lutenol to give your eyes the nutrients they need to stay healthy.

This formula contains the powerful antioxidant, Lutein, to protect your eyes from light exposure, and Zeaxanthin to protect the retina from light damages, as well as zinc and vitamins A, C, and E to protect, strengthen, and repair your eyes.

Together, it’s the most potent formula we’ve seen for your eyes—supporting healthy eye function and improving retina, lens and macula health.

That’s probably because Lutenol was developed in response to scientific research into the natural ingredients that improve eye health and function.

All natural. Made in an FDA-registered facility that follows GMP guidelines.

The all-around eye vitamin winner of 2023.

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2. Performance Lab Vision

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Performance Lab Vision aims to improve macular health, improving the resolution of your eyesight, boosting night vision and aiding hand-eye coordination.

It contains scientifically backed ingredients such as Lutein and Zeaxanthin; when combined together, these two ingredients have been found to increase macular pigment levels and protect the eyes from harmful blue light (from digital devices such as telephones, tablets, laptops) and oxidation

The manufacturers also claim that it may also help to reduce eye fatigue and screen-related eye strain, a big problem for a lot of us in this 24/7 switched-on world.

3. Vision Support + by Nuzena

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Nuzena is a new, premium supplement line famous for its potent concentrations.

Taking a closer look into the Vision Support + formula we were pleased to find that it included all of the key antioxidant ingredients that you’d expect to see in an eye health supplement — a healthy dose of Lutein, Zeaxanthin, and Quercetin.

Where Nuzena starts to separate itself from some of the other supplements we’ve reviewed is in the supporting ingredients. The formula also contains a solid base of Vitamins A, C, D, and the B complex, as well as trace minerals such as Magnesium, Zinc, and Selenium — really great to see.

Nuzena claims that Vision Support + will help users support macular health and help provide support for AMD (Age related Macula Degeneration). Looking at the ingredients and some of the scientific studies supporting them we think those claims seem reasonable.

Solid choice.

4. Bausch+Lomb PreserVision AREDS 2

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Bausch+Lomb PreserVision is an eye vitamin that carries the precise formulation tested in the AREDS 2 clinical trial that was proven to substantially reduce the risk of macular degeneration in adults over 50.

This advanced formula follows the scientific prescription to a T, with lutein and zeaxanthin replacing the beta-carotene in the original AREDS formulation. It’s a good choice if you want to protect your eyesight as you get older.

5. Focus Select

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Focus Select is a nearly direct reproduction of the AREDS 2 formula and is intended to be taken twice per day.

While its copper content is just a touch lower than it ought to be, this is about the only flaw you can find with this eye vitamin. It’s got all the right ingredients and doesn’t go beyond what’s necessary for optimal eye health in old age.

6. Lipotriad Visionary

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Lipotriad Visionary is an eye vitamin that’s well-suited for people who don’t want any artificial coloring agents or fillers in their eye vitamin. It’s got just the ingredients that work, and nothing extra.

It follows the AREDS2 trial recommendations, though its vitamin C content is far below the clinically effective dose, even if you take two servings per day.

If your dietary vitamin C content is high, this might not be an issue. The zeaxanthin content, however, is excellent compared to many other supplements on the market, which lands it high in the rankings.

7. Systane ICaps

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Systane ICaps is an evidence-based eye vitamin that goes beyond the basic clinical trial recommendations and includes additional trace elements like manganese and selenium.

It’s a modified version of the original AREDS formula, which used beta-carotene instead of lutein and zeaxanthin.

Because of the beta-carotene content, cigarette smokers should opt for a different supplement, but if you want additional vitamins and minerals that could support proper eye function, it’s a good choice.

8. EyePromise Zeaxanthin + Lutein

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EyePromise Zeaxanthin + Lutein is a supplement that consists solely of zeaxanthin and lutein in equal doses of 10 mg per serving.

It’s a solid choice if you really want the highest zeaxanthin content that you can get, as it has up to five times the dosage of many other eye vitamins on the market.

9. Carlyle Visi-Gold Zenwise

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Carlyle makes a lutein supplement that is sourced from natural materials. The lutein and zeaxanthin content is solid, at 20 mg and 1 mg per serving, respectively.

With one capsule in the morning and one in the evening, you’d easily hit the optimal intake of these vitamins for eye health.

10. Physician’s Choice Eye Health

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Physician’s Choice employs key compounds from the vaunted AREDS2 study, plus some added herbal extracts from black pepper, bilberry, and grape seed extract.

The dosage of the core ingredients is solid, and the black pepper extract should help with bioavailability, but the utility of some of the other herbal ingredients isn’t quite as clear.

It’s a decent pick, but gets outclassed by some of its competitors.

Category winners

Best eye vitamins overall: VitaBalance Lutenol

VitaBalance Lutenol contains all of the essential compounds for eye health, including both lutein and zeaxanthin. These compounds, alongside a potent B-complex vitamin blend, make it a great overall pick for eye health. 

Best eye vitamins with zinc: Vision Support + by Nuzena

Nuzena’s eye vitamin features zinc oxide alongside other critical trace minerals for vision, including copper, chromium, and selenium. The inclusion of copper alongside zinc is especially helpful, because too much zinc can impair your body’s ability to absorb copper if your intake is low. 

Best eye vitamins for smokers: Bausch+Lomb PreserVision AREDS 2

Smokers and former smokers should opt for an eye vitamin based on the AREDS2 formulation, which swaps out beta-carotene (a form of vitamin A) to reduce cancer risk. Bausch+Lomb follows this formulation closest, making it the optimal pick. 

Best eye vitamins for older adults: VitaBalance Lutenol

VitaBalance Lutenon includes all of the ingredients recommended by the latest science on eye health. It includes both antioxidants to protect the eye as well as trace minerals used in enzymes critical for ocular function.

Best eye vitamins for eye fatigue: Performance Lab Vision

Performance Lab Vision includes several compounds to reduce eye fatigue caused by blue and ultraviolet light, including lutein, zeaxanthin, and astaxanthin. These could help prevent oxidative damage and ocular fatigue, especially in people exposed to a lot of screen time or time outdoors. 

Best eye vitamins for macular degeneration: Bausch+Lomb PreserVision AREDS 2

If you already have macular degeneration, you’re a prime candidate for an eye vitamin based on the AREDS2 formula. It’s most effective at slowing down the progress of macular degeneration, and Bausch+Lomb’s eye vitamin is the highest-fidelity replication of what the original research used.

Who should buy eye vitamins?

Eye vitamins are in a relatively small group of supplements that have been studied exhaustively in large, multi-site clinical studies and been proven effective. They’re great for the following groups:

Older adults who want to preserve their vision as they age. Eye function is a major victim of aging, but eye vitamins can preserve ocular health. They provide specific nutrients needed by enzymes in your eyes to function properly, and they work best when taken before serious ocular health degeneration has occurred, so eye vitamins are a great addition to your supplementation regimen if you’re getting older.

People at risk for macular degeneration. If you have a history of macular degeneration in your family, or have any of the other risk factors for macular degeneration (which include smoking, high blood pressure, obesity, and heart disease), you should definitely take an eye vitamin. They’ve been clinically proven to slow the progress of macular degeneration, so they’re a must-have.

People over 50. While younger people don’t need to worry about taking an eye vitamin just yet, once you are age 50, taking an eye vitamins is a very good idea if you are looking to preserve your visual acuity, since the risk of age-related vision degeneration increases dramatically after age 50. 

How we ranked

For our eye vitamin rankings,we had a plethora of scientific research to refer to when evaluating the quality of specific formulations. We used clinical research findings to develop the following ranking criteria:

Proven ingredients from the AREDS and AREDS2 studies. These two studies proved the efficacy of several key ingredients in an eye vitamin: specifically, beta carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, copper, lutein, or zeaxanthin.

There are other vitamins, minerals, and supplements that more preliminary research has suggested might help protect your eyes and your visual acuity as well, but the AREDS ingredients are the gold standard. As such, we only included eye vitamins in our list if they included at least some of the AREDS ingredients. 

Compounds delivered at appropriate dosage. We also evaluated the dosage of the active ingredients, comparing them to the gold standard formulations used in clinical trials.  The closer the match, the better the product in question scored.

Preference for lutein and zeaxanthin instead of beta-carotene. We also looked specifically to see whether an eye vitamin chose to employ beta-carotene or lutein plus zeaxanthin.

Earlier versions of research-grade eye vitamins used beta-carotene, which was quite effective.

However, public health researchers found that beta-carotene increased the risk of cancer in smokers—the antioxidant effect interacts with the carcinogens in cigarette smoke.

As such, later versions use lutein and zeaxanthin instead, which is still effective but is safe for smokers.

Eye vitamins that are safe, even for smokers. While this beta-carotene / lutein+zeaxanthin distinction doesn’t matter if you aren’t a smoker, we wanted our top-rated supplement to be something that anyone could take to sustain good vision in old age, even if they do smoke.

As such, beta-carotene based formulations scored lower than ones that used the more modern lutein and zeaxanthin combination. 

No binders, fillers, or added junk. Finally, we evaluated supplements on their overall purity and ingredient design. Products that had excessive binders, fillers, and excipients saw a decrease in their score, while products with a clean, minimal, and effective formulation were ranked highly.

After sorting the remaining products by overall score, we had our final rankings of the top eye vitamins on the market. These are your best bet if your are looking for a supplement to preserve your vision as you get older. 

FAQ

Q: What are the most important eye vitamins? 

A: When it comes to ingredients, there is no denying that the critical ingredients in an eye vitamins are vitamins C and E, the minerals copper and zinc, and beta carotene or its derivatives.

The antioxidant ability of vitamins C, E, and beta carotene-related compounds appear to play a role in preventing macular degeneration, which may indicate that an inflammatory process is at the heart of macular degeneration related vision loss.

Beta carotene and the related compounds lutein and zeaxanthin may be linked to slowing or preventing cataracts through different mechanisms (1).

The mineral ingredient zinc also exerts a clear benefit, because variants of eye vitamins that do not have zinc in them do not perform as well as those that do have zinc.

You’ll find many formulations of eye vitamins on the market that have other ingredients in them, such as omega 3 fatty acids from fish oil, or herbal extracts that are thought to improve vision. However, these ingredients are of secondary importance.

Q: What is an AREDS vitamins? 

A: AREDS is an acronym for ‘Age-related eye disease study,’ which was a major initiative funded by the National Institutes of Health to investigate the progression of some of the biggest sources of vision loss later in life, including cataracts and macular degeneration.

As part of this study, researchers incorporated a large clinical trial that tested the effects of an eye vitamin formulation on the progression of macular degeneration.

The researchers hypothesized that a specific vitamin formulation would help slow or prevent macular degeneration, and the results proved them right.

After the researchers compared eye health in the people who took the eye vitamin for five years to the group of people who took a placebo pill for five years, the eye vitamin group had a significantly smaller chance of progression of macular degeneration.

An eye vitamin that follows this original formulation is called an ‘AREDS’ vitamin, because it uses the same ingredients used in the original study.

Q: What is AREDS2?

A: AREDS2 was a follow-up study to AREDS (see above) which tested the effect of several changes to the eye vitamin formulation.

The biggest change was substituting beta carotene with lutein and zeaxanthin, because beta carotene might increase the risk of cancer in smokers. Again, an eye vitamin that uses this new, improved formula (which was also successful at slowing or preventing macular degeneration) is called an ‘AREDS2 eye vitamin’. 

Q: What do eye vitamins do? 

A: Eye vitamins help to preserve your vision as you get older. They are thought to work by providing your body with antioxidants to prevent damage to your ocular tissue, and by providing your body with essential minerals that play a role in creating enzymes that help with ocular function.

Though the exact mechanisms responsible for the effects of eye vitamins are not fully understood, the strength of their benefits are—if you want to prevent vision loss as you get older, eye vitamins are a great way to do it. 

Q: What are the best eye vitamins for macular degeneration? 

A: If you have macular degeneration and want to slow its progression, or if you know you are at risk for macular degeneration and want to decrease the chance that you get it, you should get an eye vitamin that follows the AREDS or AREDS2 formulation.

These were major clinical trials that demonstrated the efficacy of a specific eye vitamin formulation on slowing and preventing macular degeneration. If you are a current or former smoker, you should definitely opt for the AREDS2 formulation; if you’ve never smoked before, the original AREDS formulation is fine, but AREDS2 is generally preferable.

Q: What vitamins help with dark under eye circles?

A: If you have dark circles under your eyes, an eye vitamin isn’t going to help much—under eye bags and darkness is a skin problem, while eye vitamins are designed for ocular health.

Instead, try an under eye cream, especially one with retinol in it. Retinol-based eye creams can help reverse the damage caused by aging and sun exposure, which is at the root of dark circles and baggy skin under your eyes.

Related articles Vitamin E Vitamin C Zinc Multivitamins for men Multivitamins for women Recap

Eye vitamins should be a central part of your supplementation routine if you are over 50.

The high rate of vision loss in older adults, combined with the huge detrimental impact on quality of life that comes along with losing your vision, means you should be doing everything you can to preserve your eyesight as you get older.

Look for an eye vitamin that follows the ingredients most effective in clinical research: vitamins C & E, zinc, copper, lutein, and zeaxanthin.  These are the most important vitamins for protecting your vision.

If you use tobacco, you should be particularly careful not to take an eye vitamin that contains beta-carotene. Plenty of better alternatives out there use lutein and zeaxanthin.

Fortunately, the reduction in risk for vision loss is substantial when you take the right eye vitamin at the right dosage, so you can look ahead to clear vision in old age.

For BodyNutrition‘s #1 eye vitamin recommendation, click here.

The post Ranking the best eye vitamins of 2023 appeared first on Body Nutrition.

- John Davis
10 best vitamin C supplements of 2023

Vitamin C plays an important role in keeping your immune system healthy, but it does far more than that. This essential vitamin also acts as a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, leading to a number of other impactful applications beyond keeping your immune system healthy.

Here are the best vitamin C supplements on the market, ranked. Afterwards, we’ll break down what vitamin C does and how a supplement can benefit your body. Why You Should Trust Us

Our advisory panel and our research team rank the best health products and supplements based on performance, label accuracy, and the efficacy of the ingredients in the products.

At A Glance our top picks for vitamin C supplements Best Overall: DACHA Liposomal Vitamin C Doctor’s Best Vitamin C Best naturally-sourced supplement: Garden of Life Vitamin Code Raw C Best bulk: Bulk Supplements Vitamin C Best for workout recovery: Nature’s Bounty Vitamin C

Rankings

Last updated: November 8, 2022
Vitamin C supplements considered: 33
Hours of research: 47
Experts reviewed: 11
Scientific papers referenced: 20

IMAGE PRODUCT Best Overall1. DACHA Liposomal Vitamin CUses a unique approach to boosting bioavailability and absorptionProvides over 1000 mg of vitamin C in an easily-absorbed formatA high-dose supplement that’s super simpleView on Amazon → 2. Doctor’s Best Vitamin CProvides 1000 mg of vitamin C in a proprietary form known as Quali-CA simple vitamin C that guarantees its purityHas good quality control in the manufacturing process View on Amazon → Best naturally-sourced supplement3. Garden of Life Vitamin Code Raw CUses naturally-produced ascorbic acid as the source of vitamin CIncludes a huge range of extracts from fruits and vegetables in their formulaGives you phytonutrients that you won't get in your regular vitaminsView on Amazon → Best bulk 4. Bulk Supplements Vitamin CComes in loose powder formIt is water soluble that you can mix in water, a protein shake, or a smoothieA number one choice if you are looking for bulk vitamin CView on Amazon → Best for workout recovery5. Nature’s Bounty Vitamin CHas a super-simple formulation that delivers 500 mg of vitamin C per doseScores very well on purity testingIs gluten-free and has no preservatives addedView on Amazon → 6. Solaray Vitamin CIt provides 1000 mg of vitamin C in three formsThe tablets actually contain 1060 mg of vitamin C per servingA good choice if you want a slow-release formulaView on Amazon → 7. Now Foods Vitamin CIt helps supports the immune system and also the production of collagenContains 1000 mg of vitamin CManufactured in a soy-free, milk-free, and gluten-free View on Amazon → Best gummy supplement8. New Age Vitamin C GummiesA great gummy vitamin C supplement if you're tired of tablets and capsulesNew Age keeps flavor and texture to a minimum without compromising on the doseVegan-friendly, non-GMO, gluten-freeView on Amazon → 9. Emergen-C Super OrangeComes in a flavored powder in individual packetsHas notable vitamins and minerals in its formula: vitamin B6 and vitamin B12Aimed at boosting your immune systemView on Amazon → 10. Airborne Vitamin CIt’s marketed as a countermeasure against mild illnessHelps to support the immune system with powerful antioxidantsTasty, refreshing, and gluten-freeView on Amazon → 11. Ester-C Vitamin CDelivers 500 mg of vitamin C, along with a 200 mg mixture of citrus fruit extractsInstead of ascorbic acid, it uses a salt form, calcium ascorbateVegetarian and is gentle on the stomachView on Amazon → 1. DACHA Liposomal Vitamin C

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DACHA makes a tremendous vitamin C supplement that uses a unique approach to boosting bioavailability and absorption.

By binding the ascorbic acid (vitamin C’s chemical name) to fat-soluble molecules, DACHA aims to make their vitamin C absorbed more readily by your body, helping it cross through membranes and into your body’s cells.

With over 1000 mg of vitamin C per serving, the dosage is fantastic, too, making it our number one pick of the year.

2. Doctor’s Best Vitamin C

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Doctor’s Best Vitamin C is a pretty standard vitamin C supplement. Sometimes, however, standard is just what you need.

Each capsule provides 1000 mg of vitamin C, in a proprietary form known as Quali-C. There’s nothing fancy about this form; it’s really just ascorbic acid, but the company that supplies it guarantees its purity.

This is reflected in independent lab testing of Doctor’s Best Vitamin C. In analytical assays, its actual vitamin C content comes in at 1070 mg, just seven percent over the label listed amount. This means there is good quality control in the manufacturing process and you’re getting exactly what you pay for.

3. Garden of Life Vitamin Code Raw C

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Garden of Life uses naturally-produced ascorbic acid as the source for their vitamin C, but they go above and beyond other brands by including a huge range of extracts from fruits and vegetables like broccoli, apple, carrot, bell pepper, and kale.

These ingredients give you phytonutrients you wouldn’t be getting if you just took pure vitamin C. And, at 500 mg of vitamin C per serving, you’re not skimping on dosage, either.

4. Bulk Supplements Vitamin C

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Bulk Supplements is a company that is widely known for their low cost, high quality philosophy. Bulk supplements sells its products in a loose powder form in a simple resealable foil bag, always in a highly purified form without any flavoring agents or adulterants.

That’s the case with their vitamin C supplement too. It’s 100% ascorbic acid—in independent lab testing, it easily lives up to its claim.

The advantage of this is that you can determine exactly how much you need, at what time, and in what format. Since ascorbic acid (the chemical name for vitamin C) is water soluble, you can dissolve the exact amount of vitamin C that you need in water, a protein shake, a smoothie, or pretty much any other liquid you want.

If you don’t mind taking the time to measure out the supplement with a scoop or a scale, Bulk Supplements should be your number one choice if you are looking for bulk vitamin C.

5. Nature’s Bounty Vitamin C

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Nature’s Bounty is super-simple formulation that delivers 500 mg of vitamin C per dose.

In terms of other ingredients, the tablet form demands some binders, anti-caking agents, and excipients, so the ingredient list is a bit longer than usual.

However, Nature’s Bounty Vitamin C scores very well on purity testing, with independent analytical testing determining that its actual vitamin C content was within four percent of its label-stated amount.

6. Solaray Vitamin C

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Though it’s not a common brand, Solaray Vitamin C sells surprisingly well online. It provides its 1000 mg of vitamin C in three forms: traditional ascorbic acid, rose hips (an herbal extract rich in vitamin C), and acerola cherry, another fruit rich in vitamin C.

According to independent analytical testing, the tablets actually contain 1060 mg of vitamin C per serving, which is quite good. That’s an error of only six percent.

There’s also no funny business with strange or unnecessary inactive ingredients either, making Solaray Vitamin C a good call if you want a slow release formula.

7. Ester-C Vitamin C

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This vitamin C supplement is unusual because it does not deliver its vitamin C in the standard format of ascorbic acid. Instead, it uses a salt form, calcium ascorbate, which is this company’s patented formulation.

The main benefit of this formulation is that it’s not acidic, which makes it a good niche pick for people with a sensitive stomach.

8. Now Foods C-1000

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Another among the big brands, Now Foods offers supplements starting with just about every letter of the alphabet. Vitamin C is no exception—Now Foods makes a 1000 mg vitamin C tablet that’s standard in most regards.

The purity of the ingredients is average; independent lab testing pegged its true vitamin C content at 928 mg per tablet. Though it’s disappointing to see a number lower than the advertised amount, this is still less than a ten percent difference between label-claimed and actual vitamin C content.

9. New Age Vitamin C Gummies

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Tablets and capsules not your thing? New Age makes a great gummy vitamin C supplement that has a solid dosage and relatively few extraneous ingredients.

Of course, any gummy vitamin requires more ingredients for flavoring and texture, but New Age keeps them to a minimum without compromising much on the dose. As far as gummy-based vitamin C supplements go, it’s easily the best.

10. Emergen-C Super Orange

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Practically a household name by now, Emergen-C comes in a flavored powder in individual packets that you can add to water or another drink to deliver 1000 mg of vitamin C per packet, along with several other vitamins and minerals aimed at boosting your immune system.

The other two notable vitamins and minerals delivered in major quantities in Emergen-C are vitamin B6 and vitamin B12. These are included in amounts of 10 mg (500% of your recommended daily intake) and 25 mcg (417% of recommended daily intake).

Because of this sugar, Emergen-C is not a good choice for a daily vitamin C supplement. As an occasional supplement to use if you get a cold, though, it should do its job.

Category winners

Best vitamin C supplement overall: DACHA Liposomal Vitamin C

DACHA makes a unique vitamin C supplement that’s designed to make the vitamin C fat-soluble. This means potentially quicker absorption and better bioavailability, garnering our top overall spot. 

Best vitamin C supplement for immune function: DACHA Liposomal Vitamin C

To boost immune function with vitamin C, your best shot is a high-dose supplement that’s super simple. That’s why we chose DACHA, which provides over 1000 mg of vitamin C in an easily-absorbed format.

Best vitamin C supplement for workout recovery: Nature’s Bounty Vitamin C

For optimal workout recovery, you don’t want the dose to be too high—otherwise you might override your body’s natural inflammation-based adaptation. Nature’s Bounty Vitamin C, with 500 mg of vitamin C per capsule, is a nice compromise. 

Best naturally-sourced vitamin C supplement: Garden of Life Vitamin Code Raw C

Garden of Life has made a name for itself as the best source for micronutrients in their natural form, and that’s exactly what you get with Vitamin Code Raw C. With yeast-produced vitamin C and extracts from a dizzying array of fruits and vegetables, you get a host of phytonutrients alongside the vitamin C. 

Best bulk vitamin C: Bulk Supplements Vitamin C

If you’re mixing up your own protein shakes, smoothies, or meal replacements, and need a good source of vitamin C, the ultra-pure bulk powder from Bulk Supplements is a clear winner. 

Best gummy vitamin C supplement: New Age Vitamin C Gummies

Gummy supplements usually mean low dosage and lots of artificial flavors and colors, but New Age does a good job of keeping the dosage high (250 mg per serving) and using only natural flavors and color from paprika.

Who should buy vitamin C?

You should buy vitamin C if you are looking for a simple, straightforward, and effective anti-inflammatory supplement that is very well-researched and has a broad range of applications. The best applications for vitamin C include:

Boosting the function of your immune system. Vitamin C is used used in a wide range of biological processes, but its most well-known application is still boosting the function of your immune system. Vitamin C is a common remedy for colds and other upper respiratory infections, and many of our top-rated supplements are engineered specifically for this purpose. 

Reducing muscle damage and soreness. Because vitamin C fights inflammation, it can be useful for soothing sore, painful muscles after tough workouts. Though there’s some concern this use could dampen the training adaptation you get, it’s a good tool to have at your disposal for when recovery matters more than adaptation, like during a multi-day competition or event.

People who want to protect their cognitive function as they get older. Like many other antioxidants, one highly researched potential application of vitamin C is protecting the brain from aging-related decline. Compared to other applications of vitamin C, this one is less well-understood.

How we ranked

With a straightforward supplement like vitamin C, simplicity, purity, and proper dosage are the name of the game. When formulating our rankings, we aggregated all of the supplements on the market that prominently feature vitamin C and used the following criteria.

Focus on vitamin C’s antioxidant capabilities. We dropped supplements that only incidentally included vitamin C alongside other biologically active supplemental ingredients (say, vitamin E for example).

Our reasoning here was to give you as much control as possible over the dosage and balance of all of the supplements you are taking.

Naturally-sourced vitamin C, potentially alongside phytonutrients. To make sure our vitamin C supplements were the most versatile and flexible options out there, we checked the sourcing of the vitamin C, and gave extra points to supplements like Garden of Life that included vitamin C alongside phytonutrients that naturally accompany vitamin C in citrus fruits.

High purity and high dosage. We aimed for highly pure products that delivered 500-1000 mg of vitamin C per capsule, and rewarded brands that used independent lab testing to verify their purity.

We also included powder-based vitamin C supplements for people who want precise control over their vitamin C intake, or who want to mix vitamin C into a protein shake or smoothie.

Here, BulkSupplements was the clear winner on all fronts, so it was the only powder-based product we included in the rankings.

Versatile delivery options. Finally, we accounted for the fact that some people (particularly children) don’t like or aren’t able to swallow standard vitamin C tablets. For these people, we made sure to include dissolvable or chewable gummy-based vitamin C.

While these products required some sacrifices on the purity front, it’s nevertheless a niche that needs to be filled. The lower purity of these supplements explains why they ended up closer to the bottom of our rankings.

FAQ

Q: What is vitamin C?

A: Vitamin C is a simple molecule that is one of the oldest known vitamins. It functions as an antioxidant in your body, which means that it takes advantage of its molecular structure to absorb free radicals, which cause chemical chain reactions and damage the cells of your body.

Vitamin C can capture these free radicals, halting these damaging chain reactions and preventing cellular damage. Maintaining high levels of vitamin C is important for everything from your immune system to your eyesight, highlighting the broad importance of this simple nutrient.

Q: How does vitamin C help your body?

A: Vitamin C is an essential vitamin for everything from immune function to maintaining eyesight. It’s also a powerful antioxidant, and helps capture free radicals and prevent them from causing damage to your body’s cells.

It’s also beneficial for high level athletes in certain circumstances, as research shows it may be able to help reduce or prevent muscle soreness, and prevent infection and illness after extremely demanding workouts.

Q: What does vitamin C do for your skin?

A: Vitamin C, as you know by now, is a powerful antioxidant, which means that it can prevent damage incurred by free radicals and oxidizing agents in your body.

One area of your body that suffers to a significant degree from oxidative damage is your skin: the ultraviolet light in sunlight creates free radicals, which damage skin cells, destroy the collagen matrix that holds skin cells together, and cause aging of your skin.

One potential solution to this is to prevent or perhaps even reverse this oxidative damage with a strong antioxidant like vitamin C. It turns out that this is indeed a good solution for keeping your skin young, radiant, and healthy, but the most effective way to deliver vitamin C to your skin isn’t through a tablet—it’s through a vitamin C serum.

These supplements are topical solutions that deliver vitamin C directly to the areas of skin that you care about, such as your face, neck, shoulders, and chest. Though the supplement that delivers it is different, the mechanism of action is exactly the same.

Q: How long does vitamin C stay in your system?

A: Vitamin C has an extraordinary ability to stay in your body for a long time—unlike other supplements, which may only last for a few hours, small to medium doses of vitamin C can last inside your body for eight to 40 days, depending on the person.

This is likely because your body is adapted to storing and using vitamin C for long periods of time without fruit or vegetable consumption, from hardships earlier in human history.

Given how important vitamin C is for maintaining health, it makes sense that your body would have a mechanism for maintaining high levels of vitamin C even with sparse or intermittent intake.

The very long elimination half life of vitamin C suggests that you don’t need to be perfect with your vitamin C intake to maintain high levels of vitamin C in your body.

Related articles Vitamin E Vitamin D Eye vitamins Iron Calcium Recap

Vitamin C may not have the massive and long-lasting health benefits that some early researchers had hoped for, but it does have some specific niche applications in supplementation.

For high-level athletes, vitamin C could help prevent muscle soreness after particularly tough workouts, and could help prevent illness after arduous competitions as well.

Some evidence suggests that vitamin C supplementation could be associated with a decreased risk for Alzheimer’s disease, though research to date is not conclusive.

Vitamin C is quite safe, with no side effects up to doses of 2000 mg per day. Most research uses a daily dose of 500 to 1000 mg per day, though some research has found benefits with doses as low as 100 mg per day.

Though many people get sufficient vitamin C in their diet, some might benefit from supplementation for specific, additional benefits and niche uses.

For BodyNutrition‘s #1 vitamin C recommendation, click here.

The post 10 best vitamin C supplements of 2023 appeared first on Body Nutrition.

- John Davis

Protein bars are a quick and easy way to deliver protein to your body when you’re too busy for a healthy meal.

Though there are a ton of low-quality protein bars out there that aren’t much more than candy bars with a bit of protein powder added in, there are still some great protein bars that can be incredibly handy for losing weight or gaining muscle.

We’ve reviewed the science of protein supplementation in-depth and distilled that knowledge into these tips for making the most out of a high-quality protein bar.

Protein bar benefits 1. You need protein to put on muscle mass

It’d be great if you always had fresh-cooked lean protein meals ready to go, but most of us don’t.

That’s where protein bars come in. Pioneered by sports-focused companies like PowerBar and Clif Bar, the category has a giant market size today.

Protein bars are useful primarily for three things: gaining muscle, losing weight as a meal replacement, and as a versatile, all-around snack when you are on the go.

The ingredients of a protein bar dictate, more or less, to what extent it’s useful for each of these categories.

2. The main benefit of a protein bar is the quality and dosage of its protein content

What does protein do for you? It’s no secret it helps you build muscle.

That’s been so universally accepted as doctrine now that it hardly needs proof. But in case you had any doubt, plenty of science has demonstrated that supplementing with protein works definitively. Here’s something you might not know–it works for everyone, not just young, fit-looking lifters.

A 2012 study published by scientific researchers in The Netherlands demonstrated that protein supplementation helps frail elderly people add muscle during a weightlifting program (1).

This study used a twice-daily supplement of 15 grams of protein, which is right in the ballpark of what you’d find in a decent protein bar. So, if adding muscle mass with protein works for 80-year-old elderly people, it’s definitely going to work for you.

If you want to add muscle mass, your number one priority is its protein content. So check that nutrition label and get a bar that packs in as much protein as possible.

3. Protein is useful for weight loss too

For weight loss, it’s a little different. Oddly, you still want a good amount of protein. This was demonstrated in a 2008 study in the journal Nutrition and Metabolism (2).

In the study, one group of subjects was given a protein supplement drink to take daily, while the other group was given a similar carbohydrate-only drink.

During the course of the study, the subjects who took the protein supplement were able to lose more body fat while maintain their lean muscle mass. If you want to progress more quickly to your desired body shape, this is definitely the way to do it.

At first, it seems a little off: how could eating more protein help you lose weight? We know protein helps build muscle, so the muscle mass maintenance makes sense. But what about losing fat?

4. Protein induces a feeling of satiety

The best explanation has to do with satiety, or the feeling of fullness you get after a meal. It’s a well-known phenomenon that protein increases fullness to a much greater extent than an equal amount of calories from carbohydrates.

Some possible mechanisms for this were laid out in a 2008 scientific article by European researchers (3). The details of this aren’t important; the bottom line is that protein fills you up, so keep the protein content high.

5. A protein bar with fiber is great for weight loss

The other part of the weight loss equation is fiber content. Dietary fiber is also known to increase satiety, and one repeated observation that obesity researchers have made is that people who eat more fiber tend to weigh significantly less.

As far back as 2000, nutrition researchers were outlining the function of dietary fiber in increasing fullness and fighting weight gain (4).

What’s this mean? If you want to use a protein bar as a meal replacement, look for something that combines high protein and high dietary fiber content.

6. Protein bars for weight loss should be low in sugar

Lastly, if you want to lose weight, you should also keep the sugar content low. From the looks of the epidemiological research, sugar is public enemy number one in the fight against obesity.

Multiple large-scale long-term studies have found an association between sugar intake and weight gain, as well as the negative health effects associated with it, like metabolic syndrome and type two diabetes.

An influential paper published in 2001 in the Lancet by Dr. David Ludwig and other researchers at Harvard University and Boston Children’s Hospital found that each additional serving of sugar-sweetened drink per day, body mass index increases by 0.24 kg/m2 –and remember, it only takes a few points of BMI to tip you from healthy to overweight, or from overweight to obese (5).

The American Heart Association recommends a maximum of 37 grams of added sugar per day for men, and only 25 per day for women (6).

Considering that some protein bars have over 20 grams of sugar per serving, it’s pretty hard to stay below this limit if you are eating a sugar-laden protein bar.

So, the upshot of all this is that, for optimal muscle-mass benefits, focus on protein. For weight loss, keep the protein and fiber high, and the sugar low.

7. Taking a protein bar instead of a sugary breakfast can help control type two diabetes

Breakfast has long been suspected to play a role in weight loss and the maintenance of metabolic health, but recent research has provided experimental evidence that consuming a high-protein breakfast that includes whey protein (a key source of protein in most protein bars) can lead to improvements in the symptoms of type two diabetes (7).

By designing a breakfast intervention that used whey protein to deliver 28 grams of protein, the researchers were able to examine the effects of this type of intervention compared to a similar breakfast that was not high in whey protein.

They found that the intervention created more favorable changes in indicators of metabolic function and inflammation, concluding that a high protein breakfast aided by whey protein could be a useful addition to a treatment strategy for type two diabetes.

In the context of protein bars, a high-protein and low sugar protein bar could be a great way to achieve these beneficial metabolic changes, especially if it replaces an unhealthy breakfast that’s high in sugar or refined carbohydrates.

Protein bar side effects

Protein bars are just food. One of the nice things about protein bars is that they are, for the most part, just food. So they don’t really have any distinct side effects outside of their nutritional constituents.

Low-quality protein bars can have negative long-term health consequences. Of course, eating too much of the wrong kind of protein bar isn’t going to be the best thing for your long-term health.

Too much sugar, or not enough fiber, could have an impact on your metabolic health, so watch your proportions and watch your nutrition labels. This applies to everything else in your diet, too, not just protein bars.

A protein bar with too much sugar alcohol can cause stomach pain and bloating. One notable exception to this rule are protein bars with a lot of sugar alcohol in them. In high doses, these can cause stomach pain, bloating, and other gastrointestinal side effects.

A scientific article in the International Journal of Dentistry by Kauko K. Mäkinen describes in detail the uncomfortable side effects that some people experience when consuming sugar alcohols (8). If you know you get gastrointestinal troubles from artificial sweeteners, steer clear of protein bars that use them.

Protein bar usage

How often you want to take a protein bar is going to be contingent on what you’re trying to accomplish. For muscle building purposes, you’ll want to calculate your goal for your additional daily protein intake, then divide it by the amount of protein in your protein bar of choice.

In any case, you probably don’t want to eat more than three a day; otherwise that probably means you are getting lazy with your actual meals.

For weight loss, one or two protein bars per day is best. As a meal replacement for weight loss, you are looking at one or maybe two a day, either replacing lunch or functioning as a late brunch and mid-afternoon snack (without any lunch in the middle).

Even while on a diet, you still want a real breakfast and dinner, since that’s the best way to get your fruits, vegetables, and fiber in your diet. Those are important for losing weight, too.

Target 1.6 to 2 grams of protein per kg of body weight to build muscle. If you are taking a protein bar for adding muscle, you know that adding muscle mass requires at least 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body mass per day, and perhaps as much as 2.0 grams per kilo per day or more.

Of course, you don’t want to rely on protein bars for your only dietary source of protein, as other sources like chicken and salmon are high in protein and have additional benefits.

Aim for 50 grams of protein per day for weight loss. For weight loss, most research indicates that supplementing with around 50 grams of additional protein per day can help you capitalize on the thermogenic and appetite-suppressant effects of protein. That might be two protein bars per day, or a protein bar plus a protein shake.

For best results, you’ll want to consume protein early in the day if you are shooting for weight loss. Protein at night won’t be as helpful, because the appetite suppressant effects won’t be as useful.

Protein bar benefits FAQ

Q: Are protein bars actually good for you?

A: A lot depends on the specifics of the protein bar. If we are talking about a protein bar that supplies 15 or 20 grams of protein, some dietary fiber, and barely any sugar, then yes, a protein bar is a great way to add protein to your diet and swap out for a potentially less healthy meal if you are on the go.

On the other hand, a protein bar that provides a mediocre amount of protein, no fiber, and a lot of sugar is not much better than a candy bar in terms of health.

Q: Do protein bars make you put on weight?

A: Protein bars can seem a bit paradoxical because they are touted as a way both to lose weight and to put on muscle mass. Which of these effects they will have depends entirely on the context of your diet and lifestyle when you are taking protein bars.

If you are taking a protein bar as part of a high calorie, high protein diet and are doing a lot of weight training or other resistance training, you’ll find that you’ll put on muscle mass fairly easily.

On the other hand, if you are using protein bars as a part of a diet that is generating a caloric deficit, and you are focusing more on aerobic exercise, a protein bar is more likely to help you lose weight.

Q: Are protein bars good for weight loss?

A: When used correctly, a protein bar is a great way to assist with a weight loss program. For maximum success, use a protein bar in lieu of a less healthy meal, like a sugary cereal for breakfast or a mediocre cafeteria lunch.

Protein has two primary advantages for weight loss: first, it induces a thermogenic effect compared to an equal amount of calories from carbohydrates or fat. Second, it induces the feeling of satiety, or fullness, to a much greater extent than other macronutrients.

This second effect means that high protein meals and snacks are particularly well-suited for consumption earlier in the day, since the satiety effect will make you eat less at future meals (i.e. lunch and dinner). So, protein bars are good for weight loss, but only when used intelligently.

Q: Can protein bars help you feel full?

A: A good protein bar has two ways to induce satiety (the opposite of hunger): it can rely on the appetite-suppressing effects of its protein content, and it can rely on the fullness-inducing effects of its fiber content.

The best protein bars do both. Animal sources of protein (think whey or bone broth protein) do a better job of inducing satiety thanks to their high BCAA content, and a good protein bar will also use a solid source of dietary fiber to add some bulk, which also helps tamp down on hunger cravings.

Related: Our best protein bar picks

Summary

Protein bars are a great substitute for carb and sugar-packed snack foods, and are the perfect way to keep your protein intake high when you’re on the go.

Whether you’re a serious athlete or a regular person just trying to lose weight, keeping some protein bars handy can be incredibly useful for healthy nutrition when you’re on the go.

The post 7 biggest benefits of protein bars for building muscle and losing fat appeared first on Body Nutrition.

- John Davis
Ranking the best prostate supplements of 2023

Prostate supplements work to shrink the size of the prostate, a part of the male reproductive system that has a tendency to increase in size as men get older.

This increase in prostate size can cause embarrassing problems like frequent urination, leaking of urine, and a weak urinary stream.

A range of medical treatments exist to shrink the prostate, but could supplements help too? Our research team dug into the science to come up with the best supplements on the market for older men with prostate problems. Why You Should Trust Us

Our advisory panel and our research team rank the best health products and supplements based on performance, label accuracy, and the efficacy of the ingredients in the products.

At A Glance our top picks for prostate supplements Best Overall: VitaBalance Prostate Plus Best with saw palmetto: Prostate Support + By Nuzena New Vitality Super Beta Prostate Alpha Rise Ultimate Prostate Support UltaLife UltaMan Advanced Prostate

Rankings

Last updated: November 8, 2022
Prostate supplements considered: 22
Hours of research: 40
Experts reviewed: 7
Scientific papers referenced: 16

IMAGE PRODUCT Best Overall1. VitaBalance Prostate PlusGreat for dealing with urination issues and weight gain in menHas wide-ranging ingredients that target different aspects of prostate health60 CapsulesView Latest Price → Best with saw palmetto2. Prostate Support + By NuzenaPacked with ingredients that help the increasing urinary flowSupports to relieve bladder discomfortIncludes the likes of Vitamin B6 and Zinc which are good for older menView Latest Price → 3. New Vitality Super Beta ProstateAids in shrinking of prostate and improving urinary functionHas a high dosage of phytosterols and beta-sitosterol, a proven supplement for prostate healthIncludes high-quality ingredients and has strong reviewsView on Amazon → 4. Alpha Rise Ultimate Prostate SupportPacks a powerful herbal punch with prostate-shrinking ingredientsIt has supplements to support sexual health, like zinc and pygeum africanumSupported by less-common supplements like gravel root powder and juniper berryView on Amazon → 5. UltaLife UltaMan Advanced ProstateHave ingredients that have a very good chance of improving your prostate healthGot a wider base of herbal supplements, from antioxidants and superfoods Greatly helps with urinary health View on Amazon → Best with zinc6. LES Labs Prostate HealthLaser-focused on only the most effective prostate supplement ingredientsPacked with all proven prostate supplements Promotes better urinary tract function and even better sleepView on Amazon → 7. Eternal Zen Prostate CompleteHas a very high dose of the most proven ingredientsAids in frequent urination to control the bladderSupports in improving prostate healthView on Amazon → 8. Now Clinical Strength Prostate HealthProvides the mineral benefits of zinc and seleniumIt’s a reliable way to get an array of potentially helpful aids for urinary issuesGluten-free and dairy-freeView on Amazon → 9. Teraputics Pure Life Prostate ProA good option if you’ve tried more mainstream prostate supplements without successTakes a shotgun approach to prostate health with its herbal supplementsIncludes cat’s claw bark, reishi mushroom, and green tea extract that can only be found in this formulaView on Amazon → 10. New Chapter Prostate 5LXProvides a more focused dosage of a small number of proven ingredientsSupports prostate healthGluten-free and Non-GMOView on Amazon → 11. Arazo Nutrition Prostate SupportHeavy on antioxidant ingredients to cut down on systemic inflammationIt uses a blend reminiscent of a superfood supplementIt’s a decent choice for prostate inflammation and issuesView on Amazon → 12. Teraherbs Prostate 3XIt is very different from other prostate supplementsProvides both natural testosterone and DHEAAlso helps in sexual functionsView on Amazon → 1. VitaBalance Prostate Plus

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Why live with uncomfortable symptoms of aging if you don’t have to?

Men, if you’re dealing with urination issues and weight gain, VitaBalance Prostate Plus could be the simple solution you’ve been looking for. And wives, if your husband won’t admit he’s having problems, Prostate Plus is your best bet for helping him feel great again.

The herbal extracts in this powerful supplement are designed to get the prostate in peak health, so you won’t suffer the embarrassing side effects of an aging prostate.

Saw palmetto has been recognized for its support of the prostate for centuries. Add to it a wide range of supplements — including Vitamins B6 and E, green tea, cat’s claw, nettle, and more—and you should be able to stop those nighttime trips to the bathroom and start urinating with ease.

It’s the simple things, right?

The all-around top prostate supplement winner of 2023.

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2. Prostate Support + By Nuzena

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Nuzena is a new, premium supplement line famous for its potent concentrations.

Nuzena’s Prostate Support + formula is packed with ingredients associated with increasing urinary flow and support to relieve bladder discomfort — issues that are all too common with an inflamed prostate.

It’s great to see researched backed ingredients included such as Saw Palmetto, which has been widely studied for its benefits in relation to prostate health. 

You’ll also find a solid dose of vitamins and minerals included too with the likes of Vitamin B6 and Zinc making up a good portion of the formula.

Easily a top 3 option for the best prostate supplement.

3. New Vitality Super Beta Prostate

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Super Beta Prostate uses a two-pronged approach to shrinking your prostate and improving urinary function. The first is making sure you don’t have any deficiencies in trace minerals like molybdenum, copper, or manganese.

The second is using a high dosage of phytosterols, including their active ingredient, beta sitosterol, a proven supplement for prostate health.

It doesn’t have the wide range of herbal extracts you’ll find in VitaBalance Prostate Plus (above), but for many men, trace minerals and beta sitosterol are enough to improve their prostate function and health.

Thanks to its high-quality ingredients and strong reviews, it’s a smart choice.

4. Alpha Rise Ultimate Prostate Support

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Alpha Rise packs a powerful herbal punch with the flagship prostate-shrinking ingredients, saw palmetto and pumpkin seed.

These are supported by less-common supplements like gravel root powder and juniper berry. It’s also got supplements to support sexual health, like zinc and pygeum africanum—for many men, prostate problems and sexual dysfunction go hand-in-hand as they get older.

5. UltaLife UltaMan Advanced Prostate

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Ultalife UltaMan has a solid dose of saw palmetto, beta sitosterol, and the trace elements zinc, copper, and selenium, which gives it a very good chance at improving your prostate health.

It’s also got a wider base of herbal supplements, from antioxidants and superfoods to emerging supplements for prostate health, like stinging nettle.

If you want to go with the most proven supplements, but hedge your bets a bit with other potentially useful herbal extracts, UltaLife is the way to go.

6. LES Labs Prostate Health

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LES Labs is laser-focused on only the most effective prostate supplement ingredients, but they are all delivered at fairly solid dosages.

You’ll get zinc and copper for trace elements (no selenium, unfortunately), and saw palmetto, stinging nettle, beta sitosterol, and pumpkin seed for the herbal ingredients—all proven prostate supplements.

7. Eternal Zen Prostate Complete

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Eternal Zen is unique in that it has a very high dose of the most proven ingredients, but also includes a lengthy list of additional herbal extracts that may or may not contribute to prostate health.

Whether or not this is an advantage to you depends on the kind of supplementation strategy you prefer: if you just want proven ingredients and want to avoid any potential adverse effects from extra ingredients, look elsewhere.

However, if you want any ingredient or herbal extract that could possibly help, Eternal Zen is a good place to start.

8. Now Clinical Strength Prostate Health

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Now offers a pretty boilerplate prostate health supplement that provides the mineral benefits of zinc and selenium alongside the herbal extracts saw palmetto, beta-sitosterol, stinging nettle, and pumpkin seed oil.

Several of these have solid evidence behind their use for prostate health, and while the dosage isn’t anything special, it’s a reliable way to get an array of potentially helpful aids for urinary issues.

9. Teraputics Pure Life Prostate Pro

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Prostate Pro takes a shotgun approach to prostate health: if there’s any indication that an herbal supplement or extract might be useful for prostate health, it’s in this supplement.

You’ve got the mainstays like saw palmetto and beta sitosterol, but there are also things you won’t find in pretty much anything else on the market, like cat’s claw bark, reishi mushroom, and green tea extract.

The inclusion of these other herbal extracts brings down the dosage of some of the better-studied ingredients, but Prostate Pro might be a good option if you’ve tried more mainstream prostate supplements without success.

10. New Chapter Prostate 5LX

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New Chapter has a prostate supplement that provides a more focused dosage of a small number of proven ingredients

The only trace element present is selenium, but there’s a bit more variety with the herbal supplements. It’s an okay choice, but it would be nice to see a broader variety of trace elements included to shore up any potential deficits, which are common among older men.

Category winners

Best prostate supplement overall: VitaBalance Prostate Plus

Prostate Plus is our overall winner thanks to its incredibly advanced formulation, which incorporates everything from shiitake and reishi mushrooms to sterols and saw palmetto. For a comprehensive prostate supplement, it can’t be beat.

Best prostate supplement with saw palmetto: Prostate Support + By Nuzena

Saw palmetto is a key ingredient in many prostate supplements, but Prostate Support + is our pick for a prostate supplement that delivers an effective dose of saw palmetto, thanks to its independent lab testing and transparent dosing information. 

Best prostate supplement you can get without a prescription: VitaBalance Prostate Plus

It should be no surprise that the best over the counter prostate supplement is also our top-ranked supplement. The wide-ranging ingredients target different aspects of prostate health, making it a great overall pick. 

Best prostate supplement for men with urinary problems: VitaBalance Prostate Plus

Enlarged prostate causing problems with urination? VitaBalance formulates their Prostate Plus supplement to improve prostate health using both herbal ingredients and biomolecules like quercetin and lycopene. 

Best prostate supplement with zinc: LES Labs Prostate Health

Zinc, which fosters healthy levels of testosterone, can be a big help for prostate health, and LES Labs delivers on that front with 15 mg of chelated zinc per capsule. The high dose and ease of absorption are both great for bioavailability.  

Best prostate supplement for men over 50: Prostate Support + By Nuzena

Older men are often deficient in trace minerals, and Nuzena addresses this head-on by including selenium, copper, and zinc in its prostate supplement. Thanks to its careful design, it’s our recommendation for men over 50.

Who should buy a prostate supplement?

Prostate supplements are specially formulated for older men. They’re designed for men with the following two complaints:

Men with poor urinary flow and frequent nighttime urination. These problems become far more common among men who are over age 50, though they aren’t unheard of in younger men too. Still, older men are affected by far the most. Prostate supplements aim to use herbal extracts like saw palmetto to improve urinary flow.

Men with an enlarged prostate. Benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH, affects many men over 50. This condition is characterized by an enlarged prostate.

Medication like Flomax and other so-called alpha blockers are commonly prescribed for benign prostate hyperplasia, but research on prostate supplements suggests that, in some cases, supplements like saw palmetto or beta sitosterol can be effective too.

How we ranked

Prostate issues are a pretty heavily studied area in medical research, and as a result, there are quite a bit of studies into the potential prostate health benefits of a wide range of supplemental ingredients. We used this research to formulate our criteria.

Only the most potent ingredients for prostate health. We compared the ingredients in a wide range of prostate supplements on the market to a master list of compounds that have demonstrated utility in treating prostate issues in older men.

This master list included plant extracts like saw palmetto and beta sitosterol, as well as trace minerals like zinc and selenium. We immediately excluded from consideration any supplement that did not have any of these potentially active ingredients. 

Effective dosage of all key ingredients. Of those remaining supplements that did have at least one active ingredient that’s been proven to have prostate activity, we checked to see how well the doses of these ingredients corresponded to the doses that have been used in clinical research (if available).

Supplements that more closely matched the protocols used in successful scientific research were rated more highly than those that had doses that didn’t quite line up.

High levels of trace minerals like zinc and selenium. Although there was less rigorous evidence for ingredients like zinc or selenium, we looked for supplements that provided around 100% of your recommended daily intake for these minerals—too much less than that and it’s unlikely that the supplement would make much of a difference. 

Independently-verified purity. We also applied our usual criteria for purity and clean supplement design. Companies that used independent third-party purity testing or followed good manufacturing practices scored better than those that did not, and supplements that had too many unnecessary binders, fillers, and stabilizers got cut.

The remaining products, ranked according to quality, made up our final list of the best prostate supplements on the market. 

FAQ

Q: What do prostate supplements do? 

A: A prostate supplement is designed to help improve the health of your prostate, a gland in men that secretes the fluid component in semen. Many men over age 50 develop a condition called benign prostate hyperplasia, where the prostate becomes enlarged.

This increase in size can constrict the flow of urine, which makes it difficult for men with benign prostate hyperplasia to urinate, and causes them to wake up at night several times to use the bathroom.

Often, benign prostate hyperplasia worsens over time as the prostate increases in size. A prostate supplement is designed to stop or reverse the increase in prostate size, hopefully improving your ability to use the bathroom. 

Q: What are the best prostate supplement ingredients? 

A: In terms of efficacy, the best ingredients to look for in a prostate supplement are saw palmetto, beta sitosterol, zinc, and selenium.

Other ingredients, like lycopene, may be useful as well, but these first four are the ones with the most scientific evidence behind them so far.

Supplements containing these ingredients ranked the highest in our rankings, and they’re definitely what you should look for if you want a prostate supplement that works.

Q: Can supplements help your prostate? 

A: There’s pretty good evidence that, at least over relatively short time periods (circa six months), supplements like saw palmetto or beta sitosterol can outperform a placebo when it comes to relieving symptoms of benign prostate hyperplasia, or prostate enlargement.

There are fewer studies that have compared prostate supplements head-to-head against prescription prostate medication, but the few that have do suggest that, for some people, prostate supplements may have a lower rate of side effects, especially erectile dysfunction. Still, supplementation is not right for everyone.

Talk to your doctor before you decide whether supplementation instead of, or in addition to, prescription medication is the right call for you. 

Q: How do you know if your prostate supplement is working? 

A: The easiest way to gauge whether your prostate supplement is working or not is to track your symptoms over time.

You can record in a daily journal how many times you had to get up during the night to use the restroom, or whether you had difficulty urinating during the day.

Do keep in mind that even a successful supplementation routine can take weeks or months to take effect; most scientific studies on prostate supplements last for around six months or so.

Your doctor may want to record the size of your prostate using an ultrasound, or by feeling it during a manual examination. 

Q: Can a prostate supplement work for increasing your sex drive?

A: Benign prostate hyperplasia is most often associated with difficulties in urination, but emerging evidence suggests that an enlarged prostate may also cause sexual side effects. One study notes that men who have enlarged prostates are more likely to report problems with erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, and a low sex drive (1).

So, if you have problems with your sex drive that are being caused by prostate enlargement, a prostate supplement might be able to help.

A more direct way to increase your sex drive might be using a male enhancement pill, though it’s important to check to make sure it won’t interact with any prescription medication that you are taking.

Male enhancement pills (and related compounds like testosterone boosters) are specifically designed to help with problems like erectile dysfunction and low sex drives, so they might be worth a shot. 

Related articles Zinc Selenium Male enhancement pills Lycopene Saw palmetto Vitamin B6 Recap

A prostate supplement can offer many of the advantages of pharmaceutical treatment for men with an enlarged prostate that’s causing problems with urination, but with fewer side effects.

A good prostate supplement should definitely include saw palmetto, and likely beta sitosterol as well. Trace elements, like zinc and selenium, might play a role in prostate function as well.

A good prostate supplement will have a balance of herbal and mineral ingredients. While some men in clinical trials experience erectile dysfunction on prostate supplements, the rates are far lower than the rates of erectile dysfunction in men taking finasteride for an enlarged prostate.

A high-quality prostate supplement might be just what you need to fend off the frustrating symptoms of an enlarged prostate.

For BodyNutrition‘s #1 prostate supplement recommendation, click here.

The post Ranking the best prostate supplements of 2023 appeared first on Body Nutrition.

- Toby Amidor
5 Ways to Boost Brain Health

This post was sponsored by CocoaViaTM. All opinions are my own.

Many folks are concerned more than ever about brain health. According to Consumer Reports, 34% of Americans say they’ve noticed signs of forgetfulness significant enough to worry about them. In addition, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in nine adults report experiencing subjective cognitive decline (e.g., confusion, memory loss).  With Brain Health Month upon us, below you’ll find 5 recommendations to help build a brain health routine.

 #1: Plan breakfast daily: A healthy brain starts with a healthy body and to do so, you need to start your day with a healthy breakfast. The first meal you have during the day (AKA breakfast) is certainly an important one, especially with the hustle and bustle that goes on every day. Pre-planning your breakfast and having the ingredients ready help keep you on track with a nutritious start to your day. Below are 3 healthy breakfast options to try:

Egg Muffins with Spinach and Feta: These egg muffins are perfect to meal prep over the weekend. You can heat and eat them in 30 seconds. I love topping mine with salsa! Strawberry Mint Overnight Oats: Oats provide beta-glucans, a type of soluble fiber, that helps maintain steady glucose levels, which are important for the brain to function at its best. Strawberry-Kiwi Yogurt Parfaits: Another easy recipe you can meal prep over the weekend. They’re perfect to grab and go during your busy morning.

Photo courtesy of Gail Watson Photography

#2: Incorporate fatty fish into your diet: Fatty fish including salmon, trout, albacore tuna, herring, and sardines are high in omega-3 fatty acids, a major building block of the brain. Omega-3 fats can help sharpen memory, improve mood, and keep cognitive performance at its best. Some of my favorite omega-3 fish recipes include Sheet Pan Chili-Lime Salmon and Tuna Nicoise Salad.

Photo courtesy of Ashely Lima

#3: Include turmeric in your healthy diet: Research has shown that curcumin, a polyphenol found in turmeric, is associated with better cognitive performance. One published cross-sectional study of older individuals found that participants who ‘occasionally’ and ‘often or very often’ consumed curry (which contains turmeric) had high scores on a mental exam compared to individuals who ‘never or rarely’ consumed curry. Turmeric is a beautiful yellow spice that I love adding to this Pineapple Turmeric Smoothie and using in my Cauliflower-Turmeric Soup.

#4: Make cocoa flavanols part of your healthy diet: Backed by over 20 years of research, dietary supplement CocoaVia™ Memory+ contains 750mg of cocoa flavanols and is proven to improve memory and brain function in as little as 8 weeks. It can help improve 3 types of memory including word recall (+31%), spatial memory (+24%) and long-term memory (+14%). As flavanol levels can vary greatly and are not labelled in cocoa-based foods, a daily cocoa flavanol supplement, like CocoaVia™ Memory+ is an easy way to incorporate cocoa flavanols into your diet.

And now, I’m also excited to announce a new addition to the CocoaVia™ brain health portfolio – introducing, CocoaVia™ Memory and Focus capsules. This unique proprietary plant-based formula is designed with Cocoapro+™ proprietary botanical blend, which includes clinically-proven lutein and 50mg of naturally-sourced caffeine, all in one powerful capsule to help keep you focused, boost memory, and promote brain function.

#5: Get your exercise: A 2021 published study found that aerobic exercise can help improve cerebrovascular function and cognition. Aerobic exercise is defined as exercise done “with oxygen,” which means that breathing controls the amount of oxygen that makes it to the muscles to help them burn fuel and get you moving. Examples of aerobic exercise include swimming, biking, walking, rowing, tennis, running, and jumping rope. The American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise 5 to 7 days a week.

Give CocoaVia™ a try today! Use code TOBY20 code to take 20% off.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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- Toby Amidor
The Link Between Dairy’s Nutrients and Immunity

This post is in collaboration with National Dairy Council. All opinions are my own.

Due to the pandemic, there has been increased concern on keeping your immune system healthy. Many folks have turned to supplements or other methods to try to boost their immune system, but many often forget that your first line of defense is a healthy diet. In my book The Family Immunity Cookbook: 101 Easy Recipes to Boost Health, I discuss the importance of eating a well-balanced meal and the role that milk and dairy foods play in keeping your immune system healthy.

About Your Immune System

A healthy immune system is vital to good health. The immune system helps fight off any foreign invaders to the body. If your immune system is healthy, it’s easier to fight bacteria, viruses, or anything else trying to make you sick. When you say you want to increase or boost immunity, what you likely mean is how can I keep my immune system as healthy as possible to lower my risk of getting a cold, the flu, or even COVID-19?

The immune system is rather complex. Your body has a network of tissues, cells, and organs that try to keep out foreign invaders such as bacteria and viruses. This is your immune system. Some of the main players include white blood cells, antibodies, and the lymphatic system. All of these parts, and others, actively fight foreign bodies that enter your body.

What Can You Do to Help Your Immune System?

In my cookbook, I list six habits to help your immune system be the best it can be. These six habits include staying hydrated, getting plenty of sleep, exercising regularly, consuming alcohol in moderation, reducing stress, and lastly, eating a healthy well-balanced diet. Part of having a well-balanced diet is getting your daily recommended servings of all your food groups, including milk and dairy foods, and fruits and vegetables.

Nutrients That Support Immunity

Vitamins A, D, B6 and B12, protein, selenium, zinc, and antioxidants like vitamins C and E are all important to keep your immune system healthy. You can get these nutrients from consuming milk and dairy foods, and by eating plenty of fruits and vegetables. However, only 2 in 10 Americans take in the recommended amounts of these.

Here are specific nutrients you get from foods that can help keep your immune system healthy:

Milk: Vitamins A, B12 and D, protein, zinc and selenium Fruits and vegetables: Vitamins C, A and B6 Nuts and seeds: Vitamin E Cheese: Protein, selenium and vitamin B12 Yogurt: Protein, selenium, zinc and vitamin B12

 

Enjoying Nutrients Together

Nutrition is not just about eating single nutrients or single foods. It’s about how the variety of nutrients in the various foods you eat work together to keep your body healthy. A favorite snack recipe that I share below is my Strawberry Kiwi Almond Yogurt Bark made with Greek yogurt, strawberries, kiwi, and almonds – where you’ll get vitamins A, C, and E, protein, selenium, and zinc to help keep your immune system healthy.

Photo courtesy of Ashley Lima

Strawberry Kiwi Almond Yogurt Bark
Serves: 6
Serving size: 4 pieces

Rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper
2 cups (500 g) nonfat vanilla-flavored Greek yogurt
Zest of 1 orange
8 strawberries, stems removed and diced
2 kiwifruit, peeled and diced
1⁄2 cup (125 g) unsalted dry roasted almonds, coarsely chopped

In a medium bowl, add the yogurt and stir in half of the zest. Spoon the yogurt mixture onto the prepared baking sheet and use a spatula to spread it evenly to the edges. It should be about 1⁄2 inch (1 cm) thick. Evenly sprinkle the yogurt with the strawberries, kiwis and almonds, and then dust the remaining zest over the yogurt. Place the baking sheet in the freezer for at least 4 hours or until the yogurt sets. Gently break the yogurt bark into twenty-four pieces. Store in a sealable container in the freezer for up to 2 weeks.

Recipe from The Family Immunity Cookbook by Toby Amidor. Published by Robert Rose Books. Photo courtesy of Ashley Lima. All Rights Reserved.

See You at Today’s Dietitian Symposium!

I will be attending the Today’s Dietitian Symposium in Bonito Springs, Florida where I will be at National Dairy Council’s booth (#46) with some surprises waiting for you on Monday May 23 between 3:00 and 3:45 pm and on Tuesday May 24 between 11 and 11:45 at booth 46. I hope to see you there!

 

 

 

 

 

The post The Link Between Dairy’s Nutrients and Immunity first appeared on Toby Amidor Nutrition.

- Toby Amidor
My New Cookbook: Diabetes Create Your Plate Meal Prep Cookbook

I am thrilled to announce the release of my ninth cookbook, Diabetes Create Your Plate Meal Prep Cookbook: 100 Delicious Plate Method Recipes on April 30, 2022.

This cookbook presents and explains the popular Diabetes Plate Method with 100 delicious recipes, and 5 different meal plans that range in complexity for beginners to experienced meal preppers. Specific food safety concerns are outlined for people with diabetes along with helpful shopping, cooking or ingredient substitution tips, and all recipes contain nutritional information and step-by-step guidance for creating multiple dishes at one time.

You’ll also find that I have created recipes for every meal of the day, including snacks. Meal plans include grocery lists and nutritional information for each individual-serving meal prep container. At-a-glance icons show which recipes are freezer-friendly, one-pot, 30 minutes or less, vegetarian, vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free or a complete plate in one dish.

Photo courtesy of Ashely Lima

Recipes include:

–Fruit and Nut Breakfast Cookies
–Eggs with Spinach and Beans
–Sheet Pan Chili-Lime Salmon (pictured above)
–Beef and Butternut Squash Stew
–Eggplant with Tomatoes and Cumin

 

You can pre-order the cookbook on  Amazon. If you would like an interview please contact me here.
Stay tuned for a sneak peek into the recipes of my latest cookbook…coming soon on my website!

 

 

The post My New Cookbook: Diabetes Create Your Plate Meal Prep Cookbook first appeared on Toby Amidor Nutrition.

- Toby Amidor
31 Days of Global Flavors: Day 31
On the last day of National Nutrition Month and the last day of my “31 Days of Global Flavors” series, my colleague and friend Dr. Keith Ayoob is sharing why he loves thyme — which is the flavor we are celebrating today. Thyme There is regular thyme which is sort of a dry “shrub” but broad-leaf thyme is a more succulent, crunchy leaf that dices up well and adds a lighter, but still “herby” flavor that wakes up the usual salad ingredients. I think the flavor is more like oregano.  It’s sometimes called “Spanish thyme.”  It’s best fresh, and in addition to salads, I’ve added it to bean dishes and stir-fries.  It’s also very compatible with fish dishes. I love broad-leaf thyme chopped into salads, and it’s excellent added to savory bean dishes. This salad below can incorporate everything, including protein, tons of fiber, some fruit, and of course a lot of veggies. It’s also great for using up leftovers.

Courtesy of Keith Ayoob

Keith’s Chopped Salad  Fill a large mixing bowl with the following: Romaine leaves Arugula Grape tomatoes Cucumber Celery Carrots Fennel (I slice this thinly sliced, rather than chopped) 2 or 3 leaves of broadleaf thyme, minced Optional, but nice: pitted, chopped olives, pickled peppers, or fresh sweet peppers, radishes, cooked vegetables, any leftover canned beans (garbanzos, black beans, whatever you have), diced pears (red pears are great if you have them) Protein options, if it’s a main course: crumbled feta, goat, bleu cheese or diced mozzarella, hard-cooked eggs, quartered, poached or broiled fish (salmon is fabulous with this) Grated parmesan Directions: Chop all the ingredients but slice the fennel and mince the broadleaf thyme as noted, and add everything to the bowl. Toss it all together until nicely combined.  Dressing: In our house, it’s EVOO and Balsamic, at a ratio of about 2 parts EVOO to 1 part Balsamic. If I have some Balsamic syrup, I’ll drizzle it all over after I’ve dressed the salad. A fat-free Italian is fine too and makes the salad or meal even leaner.  Pass the grated parmesan for sprinkling on top to everyone’s taste.  You may want to save the proteins to add on top, when serving. Keith-Thomas Ayoob, EdD, RD, FAND Associate Clinical Professor Emeritus, Department of Pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine

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- Toby Amidor
31 Days of Global Flavors: Day 30

Today is day 30 of National Nutrition Month and my series of “31 Days of Global Flavors.” Throughout the month I have been highlighting dietitians and the global foods and flavors they love. Today is the day to celebrate pineapple.

Pineapple

For centuries, the pineapple was used to symbolize hospitality. Christopher Columbus introduced the fruit, which is native to Central and South America, to Europe after he discovered them in the Caribbean. Today, Hawaii is the leading producer of pineapple.

Photo courtesy of Ashley Lima

I love using pineapple in a variety of dishes to add a sweet-tart flavor.  You can enjoy it slices or cubed, or you can add it to sweet or savory dishes. Here are several of my favorite ways to use pineapple in the kitchen:

Pineapple Guacamole Pineapple Turmeric Smoothie Green Tea Smoothie Bowl with Raspberries Hawaiian Chicken Pizza Jerk Chicken with Pineapple Salsa (pictured above) Strawberry Pineapple Ice Pops

 

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, FAND of Toby Amidor Nutrition, PC

The post 31 Days of Global Flavors: Day 30 first appeared on Toby Amidor Nutrition.

- Toby Amidor
31 Days of Global Flavors for National Nutrition Month: Day 29

We are at the tail end of this series in honor of National Nutrition Month. Today we are celebrating teriyaki which comes from registered dietitian Amy Gorin.

Teriyaki

My number one favorite global flavor is teriyaki which I love using in my cooking. Teriyaki is so savory and adds a burst of flavor to dishes such as homemade “fried” rice.

Here is my recipe for Green Bean Fried Rice. I make this dish when I’m craving takeout but want something healthier. It’s an easy complete meal—the brown rice and veggies provides fiber, the eggs provide protein, and the almond butter provides healthy fat.

Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, an inclusive plant-based dietitian and owner of Master the Media in Stamford, CT.

 

The post 31 Days of Global Flavors for National Nutrition Month: Day 29 first appeared on Toby Amidor Nutrition.

- Toby Amidor
31 Days of Global Flavors for National Nutrition Month: Day 28

For day 28 of my “31 of Global Flavors” series, dietitian and friend Christy Wilson talks about her love for mangos!

Mangos

Christy’s number one global flavor is mango. It has a tropical, citrus flavor that is so juicy and refreshing. Mangos are a little sour, a little sweet, and a lot delicious! There are always a few varieties of mangos in season all year long so I can always find it at my local grocery store. Mangos contain fiber, which is excellent for gut health and helps us feel full and satisfied, and they contain over 20 different vitamins and minerals including vitamins A and C.

Mangos are quite versatile and can be eaten by themselves, combined with other fruits, vegetables, grains and herbs, or muddled or blended into drinks and desserts. I love eating magos as a dessert or snack with a little added lime juice and my favorite chili lime seasoning, Tajin. As a treat, I puree fresh mango and make it into paletas (frozen pops)! I found that, especially when my kids were younger, this was a fun way to offer my kids fruit and they loved it! I also like mixing diced fresh mango with cucumber, jicama and a little cilantro for a sweet, fresh and crunchy combo. Here’s my recipe for Mango Chile Limon Paletas (frozen pops)– enjoy!

Photo courtesy of Christy WIlson

–Christy Wilson, RDN owner of Christy Wilson Nutrition, LLC, a nutrition communications business, and a nutrition counselor at El Rio Health

The post 31 Days of Global Flavors for National Nutrition Month: Day 28 first appeared on Toby Amidor Nutrition.

- Toby Amidor
31 Days of Global Flavors for National Nutrition Month: Day 27

We at the tail end of National Nutrition Month and for day 27 my friend and colleague Frances Largeman-Roth is talking about one of her favorite global flavors, matcha.

Matcha

Matcha is made by grinding up dried green tea leaves to a powdery consistency. It has a distinct earthy, sweet flavor and adds the most gorgeous green color to anything you add it to. Since you’re actually eating the tea leaf instead of brewing it, you’re getting even more antioxidants than when you drink green tea. In addition to lattes and desserts, you can also add matcha to smoothies or just stir it into vanilla yogurt. I make matcha and oat milk lattes when I want something delicious and have a few extra minutes to savor it. I also use it in desserts, like my Matcha Chia Pudding Parfaits, which is perfect for spring. Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN, nutrition expert, and author

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- Toby Amidor
31 Days of Global Flavors for National Nutrition Month: Day 26
It’s day 26 of my “31 Days of Global Flavors” series in honor of National Nutrition Month. Today dietitian Melissa Altman-Traub discusses her love of cinnamon. Cinnamon Cinnamon provides a warm and comforting flavor and aroma to baked goods, desserts, warm beverages, and savory dishes. Ceylon cinnamon has a lighter, more delicate flavor than the more common cassia cinnamon, with less heat. It is used in this recipe for Healthier Blueberry Coffee Cake (without dairy)

Photo courtesy of Melissa Altman-Traub

–Melissa Altman-Traub MS, RDN, LDN, food blogger at www.melissatraub.com

The post 31 Days of Global Flavors for National Nutrition Month: Day 26 first appeared on Toby Amidor Nutrition.

- Toby Amidor
31 Days of Global Flavors for National Nutrition Month: Day 25
There’s one week left of National Nutrition Month and we are celebrating day 25 with my friend and fellow RD, Bonnie Taub-Dix and her love of avocados. Avocadoes Avocado is the chameleon of meals — it’s a perfect ingredient in a breakfast burrito, it’s healthier than mayo when spread onto a lunchtime sandwich, it’s perfect for dunking veggies into as a guac for an afternoon snack and I love using avocado in sauces or toppings for poultry or fish at dinner. Besides being delicious, avocado provides almost 20 vitamins and minerals and it’s a good source of fiber, a nutrient most of us are not getting enough of. –Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, creator of BetterThanDieting.com, author of Read It Before You Eat It – Taking You from Label to Table, and @bonnietaubdix on Instagram

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Study Finds Serious Mental Illnesses Improve on Ketogenic Diet

Categories: Mental Health, Ketogenic Diet, Depression, Bipolar Disorder, Diets & Diseases, Brain Health

In this pioneering study of the ketogenic diet, all patients improved and most were discharged on less medication.

New Study Claims Red Meat Increases Risk for Heart Attacks and Strokes

Categories: Foods, Meats, Other Health Conditions

Does carnitine, a nutrient in red meat, endanger your cardiovascular health? This quick read tells you what you need to know.

Revolutionizing Anorexia Care Starts with Nutrition

Categories: Mental Health, Diets & Diseases, Brain Health, Other Health Conditions

Treatment and recovery from anorexia is possible using surprisingly logical nutrient-based strategies.

Nutrition Can Strengthen the Immune System to Fight COVID-19

Categories: Diets & Diseases, Insulin Resistance, Other Health Conditions

If you catch COVID-19, it is largely the health of your immune system that ultimately determines your fate. So, is there a diet that strengthens your immune system?

The Problem with Epidemiological Studies

Categories: Diets & Diseases

Understand how nutritional epidemiological studies are performed and why they perpetuate confusion about the relationship between food and health.

Ketogenic Diets 101

Categories: Ketogenic Diet

Your go-to guide to ketogenic diets includes how to get started, how to determine macronutrient requirements, info about keto adaptation, tips for success, recommended resources and more!

Six Reasons to Go Paleo for Mental Health

Categories: Paleo / Whole Foods Diet

If you are living with a mental health problem of any kind, adopting a paleo diet is an excellent place to start for just about everyone.

Can Red Wine Reduce Your Risk for Alzheimer's?

Categories: Mental Health, Fruits, Alzheimer’s Disease

We often hear that drinking red wine could ward off dementia and heart disease. But what is the scientific foundation beneath these recommendations?

Ketogenic Diets for Mental Health: A Guide to Resources

Categories: Mental Health, ADHD, Ketogenic Diet, Depression, Bipolar Disorder, Diets & Diseases, Alzheimer’s Disease, Insulin Resistance, Anxiety, Brain Health

Ketogenic diets can have profound effects on mental health. Learn how with these videos, podcasts, and professional services resources.

8 Reasons to Try Low-Carb for Mental Health

Categories: Mental Health, ADHD, Ketogenic Diet, Depression, Bipolar Disorder, Alzheimer’s Disease, Anxiety, Brain Health, Carbohydrates

Low-carb diets have tremendous potential in the prevention and management of psychiatric disorders. Discover how low-carb and keto diets can benefit your mental health.

Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, and the New Science of Hope

Categories: Mental Health, Ketogenic Diet, Alzheimer’s Disease, Insulin Resistance, Brain Health

The metabolic similarities underlying Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease offer hope for lifestyle interventions as potential treatment and prevention.

Low Carb Indonesia—Celebrating Health and Changing the World

Categories: Mental Health, Ketogenic Diet, Insulin Resistance

Low Carb Indonesia, the first low-carb conference in Asia, was a groundbreaking event that provided education and celebration of a low-carbohydrate lifestyle.

The Carnivore Diet for Mental Health?

Categories: Carnivore Diet

Watch my presentation from the Boulder Carnivore conference exploring the nutritional differences between plant and animal foods and the scientific arguments that support all-meat diets for optimal brain health.

The Brain Needs Animal Fat

Categories: Mental Health, Meats, Ketogenic Diet, Carnivore Diet, Plant-based Diet, Fat, Brain Health

DHA—an essential omega-3 fatty acid—is critically important for brain development and function... but is only found in animal foods.

Do You Have Arachiphobia?

Categories: Mental Health, Foods, Plant-based Diet, Fat, Brain Health

A candid conversation with the tragically misunderstood and oft-feared omega-6 fatty acid arachidonic acid. Learn the needs this nutrient fills and how to ensure you get enough of it.

EAT-Lancet's Plant-Based Planet: 10 Things You Need to Know

Categories: Meats, Grains, Beans, Nuts, Seeds, Vegetables, Plant-based Diet, Fat, Cancer, Protein, Diabetes, Carbohydrates

My critique of the EAT-Lancet report reveals that their arguments for the planetary shift to a plant-based diet are inconsistent, unscientific, and downplay the serious risks to life and health posed by vegan diets.

The Number One Tool for Improving Your Health this Year

Categories: Insulin Resistance, Diabetes, Carbohydrates, Other Health Conditions

Is your New Year’s resolution to get healthier? The good news is that no matter what approach you choose, you can use this simple, magical, in-home tool to stay motivated and track your progress in real time.

New Blood Test Helps Predict (and Prevent?) Bipolar Disorder

Categories: Mental Health, Depression, Bipolar Disorder, Insulin Resistance

Is it depression or bipolar disorder? Researchers may have found a test that could help detect who will develop bipolar disorder later in life.

The Truth about Low-Protein, High-Carb Diets and Brain Aging

Categories: Mental Health, Dairy, Alzheimer’s Disease, Protein, Brain Health, Carbohydrates

A new study claims a low-protein, high-carb diet may help ward off dementia, despite a growing body of clinical evidence suggesting that low-carb diets can be helpful for brain problems.

Changing How Doctors View Obesity

Categories: Mental Health, Insulin Resistance, Other Health Conditions

In this post, I offer ten strategies that medical practitioners should consider in order to better meet the emotional and health needs of their obese patients.

- McKel (Hill) Kooienga
Our Favorite Nourishing Holiday Recipes

Looking for some nourishing holiday recipes to include on your menu this year?

We’ve rounded up a few of our favorite options that are made from nutrient-dense whole foods. All of our recipes are also free of dairy and gluten for those with sensitivities who need variations of some traditional recipes!

It’s great to enjoy the original versions of these recipes — no matter what the ingredients are. But sometimes, you need a nourishing option for one reason or another. It’s about being intentional and having a balanced mindset!

Find that area right in the middle — where you’re nourishing yourself and also having space to experience joy around your food experience.

Here you’ll find a few holiday recipes that are great nourishing choices. These are all easy to make and store well for leftovers!

How to Make Balanced Meals Throughout the Holidays

One way to bring more balance to the holidays is to build a balanced plate at each meal.

The way we do that here at Nutrition Stripped is using our Foundational Five system. This

The Foundational Five are the five elements of a balanced meal: non-starchy carbohydrates, starchy carbohydrates, healthy fat, protein, and what we call the flavor factor.

By making a Foundational Five Nourish Meal, which aims to include all five of these on your plate, helps to support your digestion, stabilize your blood sugar, and provide you with the steady energy you need to feel your best.

Our Foundational Five Nourish Meals can be found as smoothies, yogurts, oatmeal bowls or breakfast bowls, nourish bowls, salads, soups, stews, and many more. Not every meal needs to be a Foundational Five, but if you are mindful to get most of these five elements on your plate at most meals, you’ll feel the difference.

If you need more support with creating balanced meals, sign up for the Healthy Eating Made Easy with The Foundational Five course.

Brunch

The holidays are often a time to slow down and often when we have more days off and slow mornings. Starting the morning off with a nourishing holiday recipe that you can look forward to either sharing with your loved ones or simply appreciating the slowness and peacefulness of a morning where you don’t have much on your to-do list is one of those little daily moments that we often overlook or take for granted.

Baked Raspberry Porridge

This Baked Raspberry Porridge has just the right balance of sweet and savory!  An added bonus of this recipe is it uses pantry-friendly foods and frozen fruit, making it affordable and easy to make. You can also store the leftovers in the fridge and reheat them all week!

Baked Healthy Raspberry Porridge | Nutrition Stripped

Caramelized Onion and Pear Frittata

Frittatas, in general, are one of the easiest nourishing holiday recipes you can make with incredible amounts of flexibility. This Caramelized Onion and Pear Frittata combines the sweet and savory flavors of sweet caramelized onion, pear, and protein-rich eggs. It makes for a great breakfast, quick lunch or dinner reheated, and even a meal on the go!

Caramelized Onion and Pear Frittata | Nutrition Stripped

Cinnamon Sweet Potato Smoothie

If there’s one thing we know about the Nutrition Stripped community, it’s that you all love smoothies — year-round! This smoothie tastes like fall in a glass!

Smoothies may not be the first thing you think of when you think of fall and winter recipes, but they’re so convenient and you can make use of seasonal flavors to change it up from what you were drinking all summer.

Healthy Warming Spice Smoothie | Nutrition Stripped

Main Course

During the holidays, the main course tends to feature an animal protein like turkey or ham. But if you either don’t enjoy those types of protein, or you’re eating more plant-based, these protein-packed plant-based holiday recipes will be a great addition to the menu. These recipes make a smaller portion, so they’d be easier to manage for 1-4 people if you’re having an intimate celebration this year.

Vegetarian Nut Loaf 

One of the common questions, we get around this time of year is how to make a substantial, hearty, delicious, and non-laborious vegetarian entree for the holiday. I listened, and we served it up today.

Best Vegetarian Thanksgiving Nut Loaf, Nutrition Stripped

Holiday Black Rice Stuffed Acorn Squash Bowls

This healthy entree for two makes it simple to celebrate several seasonal flavors with a satisfying blend of wild rice and nuts, along with a medley of warming herbs. Not to mention, the delivery of this recipe is basically chef-worthy status.

Acorn Squash Wild Rice Pilaf recipe | Nutrition Stripped

White Bean Soup With The Best Broth Ever

This easy recipe puts beans at the front and center for plenty of plant-based protein and energizing carbohydrates. It quickly became a favorite of the Nutrition Stripped community and it’s one of those recipes that anyone would love, especially since it takes minimal effort! Serve this alongside greens and you’re good to go!

Side Dishes

Sides are one of the most fun parts of the holidays! You can load up your plate with one or more of these sides that incorporate super nourishing and filling ingredients into these traditional recipes.

Plant-Based Green Bean Casserole

No matter what time of year, this healthy and easy-to-make Plant-Based Green Bean Casserole is sure to please any crowd.

Fresh green beans and herbs, and creamy plant-based mushroom soup come together to create the perfect side dish. Pureeing steamed cauliflower creates a creamy and rich texture without the need for dairy.

Plant-Based Green Bean Casserole | Nutrition Stripped

Mashed Roasted Sweet Potatoes

These Mashed Roasted Sweet Potatoes are the perfect nourishing holiday recipe that is packed with nutrients and easy to make!

By roasting the sweet potatoes in the oven, you get smooth and tender potatoes and a caramelized flavor profile you can’t get from boiling. Adding fresh thyme to this dish gives a savory festive fresh taste. Using gluten-free miso adds a rich earthy flavor pairs perfectly with the sweetness of the potatoes.

Gluten-Free Jalapeno Corn Bread

Cornbread is one of those comfort foods you can eat all year long to feel nostalgic. It’s warm and delicious and if you have an oven and a skillet it really couldn’t be easier to make. If jalapeño peppers are too spicy for your taste, try something else like bell peppers or sundried tomatoes.

Jalapeno Cornbread | Nutrition Stripped

Dessert

There are so many dessert options available, and you may already have a favorite in mind. If you’re up for trying a few new recipes, you can’t go wrong with one (or more) of these!

Stewed Apples

A warm fruit dessert brings those cozy vibes to any celebration! You can serve these stewed apples alone or with a scoop of your favorite ice cream! Top with pecans for a little extra crunch and healthy fat too!

  Homemade Raw Chocolate, Multiple Ways

Adding things like strawberry puree, a shot of espresso, key lime juice, cocoa powder, and vanilla to the base recipe will make a variety of raw chocolates within minutes that are all completely indulgent and delicious. You can also experiment with fillings like nut butter or fruit preserves. All in all, you can have multiple different assorted raw chocolates to find your favorite!

Homemade Raw Chocolate, Six Ways | Nutrition Stripped

Cashew Butter and Raspberry Thumbprint Cookies

These cashew butter cookies are so easy to make, requiring just a few ingredients that you likely have in your pantry and fridge already! The fun thing about this cookie recipe is you can easily swap out the cashew butter and raspberry jam for your preferred nut butter and jam flavor, making it your own!

More Holiday Favorite Recipes! 16 Baking Blogs to Follow for Delicious Dessert Ideas  20 Recipe Blogs to Bookmark for Nourishing Meal Ideas 12 Food Blogs to Find Traditional and Modern Jewish Recipes

 

Do You Want to Experience More Balance with your Food Choices?

Then find your balanced eating type!

Take this 45-second free quiz to find out which balanced eating archetype you are, and what your unique type needs to maintain balance with the way you nourish yourself. That way, you can finally be free from food and diet obsession, maintain a balanced weight, and cultivate a positive relationship with food and your body. 

Take The Free Quiz Now

The post Our Favorite Nourishing Holiday Recipes appeared first on Nutrition Stripped®.

- Erica Carneglia
How To Gain Self-Control Around Food

Do you often lose control when you’re around food? Keep reading to learn how you can gain self-control around food today. 

Maybe it’s a specific type of chips, or a brand of crackers, where no matter how much you tell yourself no, you feel like you completely lose control around them. Does this sound like you? If so, you’re certainly not alone. Losing control when you’re around food is one of the most common ailments we see clients with today. People often struggle to control how much they eat or what they eat when certain food items are placed in front of them. 

In order to take back control, we actually have to relinquish a bit of control. Confusing, I know. But I promise it will make sense in a moment. Let’s get into it. 

Is Food Controlling Your Life?

So how do you know if you’re really losing control around food? There are a few tell-tale signs we can use. 

You often find yourself mindlessly eating without intention You’re overcome with guilt, stress, and overwhelm after eating “bad” foods  Certain foods aren’t allowed to be kept in your house  When you eat certain foods you eat much more than you had intended You sometimes feel sick because you’ve eaten so much of something without intention

If you see yourself in some of these signs, then chances are your relationship with food is causing you to feel out of control around food. Now let’s chat through how you can take control back. 

5 Steps To Gain Self-Control Around food 

In order to gain self-control around food, we need to create a sustainable, positive relationship with food. That even includes the food items you’ve told yourself you shouldn’t have! The loss of control you’re experiencing is a direct result of the restrictions, rules, and morality that you’ve put into place. 

Take the following 5 steps to take back control and create a sustainable relationship with food that puts you back in the driver’s seat. 

Stop Thinking About Food as Good or Bad

Thinking about food as good or bad creates those feelings of, “I should eat this.”, or, “I’m not supposed to eat that.”. Which doesn’t seem very harmful, right?

Unfortunately, it can be. 

When we try and force ourselves to eat something we really don’t want to eat, we’re inherently unhappy about it. The same goes for restrictions. When we don’t allow ourselves to eat something that we truly want and enjoy, we’re undoubtedly going to rebel. This is where the loss of control comes in. 

Eventually, you break the rules. You don’t do what you, “should” do and instead do what you want to do. The result? You’re completely out of control around food and left feeling guilty and ashamed. The root cause of the scenario is the assigning of morality to food. If we can simply look at food as food, we’re then able to make decisions based on our wants, needs, likes, and dislikes. You have self-control around food. 

Ditch The Eating Schedule 

Your body doesn’t function on a strict schedule. Instead, it has hunger and satiety cues that tell you when you’re hungry and when you’re full. When you ignore these cues and try to abide by a schedule instead, chances are you’ll eventually hit your breaking point. 

Before you know it, it’ll be 6:00 pm and you can’t help but eat everything in sight in the kitchen while you’re preparing dinner. It feels like you’ve completely lost control! When in reality, your body simply hasn’t had enough to eat all day, so your hunger cues are shooting through the roof.

Ditch the eating schedules to gain back self-control around food. 

Stop Following Diet Trends 

Whenever you try to follow the newest diet or trend, you’re often completely ignoring your personal preferences and needs in order to do so. As a result, you’ll probably have to cut out some of your favorite foods or heavily restrict them. 

In reality, does that mean you’re never going to eat those foods again? No, of course, it doesn’t. Eventually, the diet ends. Then what? You decide to have the food item again, and you feel like you’ve completely lost control. At this moment, it’s so easy to blame the food item. As if it’s the food item’s fault or it’s the food item causing the reaction. Yet instead, this extreme loss of control is a result of restriction. 

By no longer following diets, detoxes, or food trends, you can stick to your inherent wants and needs and gain self-control around food. 

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies | Nutrition Stripped

Build Balanced Meals

Balanced meals allow you to feel satiated, energized, and satisfied. They don’t leave you feeling lethargic, hungry, and ridden with cravings. 

In order to gain back self-control around food, start paying attention to the components you’re including in your meals. Aim to get a source of protein, fat, a starchy and/or sugary carbohydrate, a non-starchy carbohydrate, and a flavor factor. This is what we call the Foundational Five! 

Remove The Food Rules 

Lastly, after ditching the diets and removing morality, we need to also leave the food rules behind. Food rules are just as wrapped up in restrictions as the previous topics we’ve discussed.

They’re often implemented with great intentions! Maybe you’d like to eat more nourishing meals to increase energy or lower your weight for health purposes, so you create a few food rules. Unfortunately, they almost always come back to bite us. Instead of abiding by food rules, utilize the Foundational Five and a mindset of balance to sustain healthy habits for life. 

The Takeaway

The more control we try to exert over food, the less control we feel like we have. Take your time to mend your relationship with food and make peace with it. This will allow you to feel in control around food and stress about it so much less. 

Do You Want to Experience More Balance with your Food Choices?

Then find your balanced eating type!

Take this 45-second free quiz to find out which balanced eating archetype you are, and what your unique type needs to maintain balance with the way you nourish yourself. That way, you can finally be free from food and diet obsession, maintain a balanced weight, and cultivate a positive relationship with food and your body. 

Take The Free Quiz Now

The post How To Gain Self-Control Around Food appeared first on Nutrition Stripped®.

- McKel (Hill) Kooienga
5 Balanced Bowls to Add to Your Next Meal Prep

Looking for a little meal prep inspiration? Need something easy to take with you to work? These 5 balanced bowls are exactly what you need!

Meal prepping can get really old really fast, especially when you’re sick of your usual go-to recipes. That’s where these balanced bowls come in! Bowls are a great way to add variety and versatility to your meal prep without having to spend hours in the kitchen. 

Using the Foundational Five to Create Balanced Bowls

In case you’re new to the NS Community and the Mindful Nutrition Method, the Foundational Five system is part of how we teach you to build balanced meals. It makes it easy for you to give your body the nourishment you need while having the flexibility to enjoy the foods you love without stressing about food.

The Foundational Five is made up of five elements of nutrition including Protein, Fat, Non-starchy Carbohydrates, Starchy & Sugary Carbohydrates, and the Flavor Factor (which brings vibrancy, deliciousness, and enjoyment to your meals). 

You can download our free guide that walks you through our Foundational Five system for creating balanced meals that you can use to meal prep or cook fresh this week!

5 Balanced Bowls 

Test out some of these Nutrition Stripped favorites the next time you’re in need of a balanced bowl for lunch or dinner. 

1. Fall Grain Nourish Bowl

This is a great bowl to add to your meal prep this fall. It’s a delicious savory bowl packed with nutrients through ingredients like quinoa, tempeh, and brussel sprouts. It’s the perfect combination of comfort and nourishment! 

Maple Tahini Lemon Drizzle | Nutrition Stripped balanced flavor factor dressing

2. Grilled Portobello Mushroom Steak Bowl

How could you not love a delicious bowl that’s filled with flavor and nutrients? It’s so easy to toss together mid-work-week or prepare in advance for ease. We’re all about prioritizing the combination of enjoyment and nourishment here at Nutrition Stripped. And this recipe is a beautiful example of just that! 

This Grilled Portobello Mushroom Steak Bowl is the dish you need for both nutrition and comfort! Packed with all the vitamins and minerals, it’s a wonderful way to eat a balanced meal. 

Grilled Portobello Mushroom Steak Bowl | Nutrition Stripped

3. Sweet Potato and Greens Bowl

This Sweet Potato and Greens Bowl is a delicious way to enjoy a combination of fall flavors and textures. Sweet potatoes and greens are a staple in many households for their versatility, and because they’re readily found in most grocery stores and farmers’ markets.

This bowl features a delicious fall ingredient that you may not think to purchase as often — figs. Not only do figs add a nice sweet flavor to balance out the salty and savory ingredients, but they’re also incredibly fiber-rich, both with soluble and insoluble fiber. Give this balanced bowl a try next! 

Simple Sweet Potato and Greens Bowl | Nutrition Stripped

4. Vegetable Rice Noodle Nourish Bowl with Peanut Sauce

This Vegetable Rice Noodle With Peanut Sauce is a great example of how to make a fully delicious and equally nutritious meal that will leave you satisfied and well-nourished. The fresh ingredients and delicious flavor combinations make it perfect for any time of year! 

5. Foundational Five Eggs, Beans, And Greens Nourish Bowl

This is a super versatile balanced bowl. You can use any greens you have readily available in your refrigerator! Just toss together your favorite greens, some avocado, beans, eggs, broccoli, and sprouts. Then top with a delicious green dressing!

You can make this for any meal of the day, and you can even prep it in advance for busy days. 

How to Eat Seasonally | Nutrition Stripped

Tips For Making Balanced Bowls

There are a couple of tips you should keep in mind that will help you out a bit when prepping these 5 balanced bowls. 

Invest in good-quality storage containers 

Having quality storage containers can make all the difference when you’re frequently making balanced bowls, especially if you’re taking them on the go. It can ensure your prepped meals stay fresh longer, and prevent any leaking or spills while traveling. 

Don’t be afraid to experiment on your own

You can mix and match so many great ingredients to create a balanced bowl of your own. You can even use our Foundational Five formula to do so! 

FAQ About These Balanced Bowl Recipes

Have a few questions? Check out these FAQs! 

What if I don’t like some of these ingredients?

The great part about all of these recipes is that they’re so versatile and flexible. Not a fan of sprouts? Totally fine! Swap them out for some basil or arugula. Can’t stand sweet potatoes? Feel free to leave them out! Don’t let a few ingredients stop you from enjoying the ease and convenience these balanced bowl recipes can give you. 

Do You Want to Experience More Balance with your Food Choices?

Then find your balanced eating type!

Take this 45-second free quiz to find out which balanced eating archetype you are, and what your unique type needs to maintain balance with the way you nourish yourself. That way, you can finally be free from food and diet obsession, maintain a balanced weight, and cultivate a positive relationship with food and your body. 

Take The Free Quiz Now

The post 5 Balanced Bowls to Add to Your Next Meal Prep appeared first on Nutrition Stripped®.

- Erica Carneglia
What to Eat to Stop Undereating

Are you frequently undereating and looking to kick the habit? Keep reading to learn what to eat so you can stop.

Not eating enough food can be the result of a multitude of different factors. Commonly, we see it happen when individuals are feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or more emotional than usual. These are often the causes of unintentional undereating. On the other hand, we also see cases of somewhat intentional undereating as a result of restrictions from diets, detoxes, and cleanses. 

Whatever the cause for you, it’s important to identify it and turn it around early on. That way, you can either prevent the habit from developing further or break the habit if it already exists. 

Are you Undereating?

So how do you even know if you’re undereating? Your body will most likely be communicating with you to let you know that it needs more energy than you’re providing. 

You may feel tired or lethargic, experience dizziness or poor cognition, or notice hair loss and brittle nails. You may also find yourself to be very irritable and feel cold all the time. In the case of females specifically, you may even experience the loss of your period, or amenorrhea. 

If you’re experiencing three or more of these symptoms, chances are you’re undereating. 

5 Steps To Stop Undereating

Try out implementing the following 5 steps to start eating in accordance with your body’s nutritional needs. 

Add a Source of Fat to your Meals and Snacks 

For some reason, fat is often easily forgotten. When listening to client recalls during our first few appointments, I often hear meals that sound so incredible, but they simply have no fat in them. 

Try adding a source of fat to each of your meals and snacks whenever you can. Fat is the body’s most nutrient-dense food source. That means, a tiny bit of it packs a big nutritional punch! By simply adding one fat-containing food item to your snack or meal, you’ll significantly increase the amount of energy you’re getting. That means you’re one step closer to no longer undereating! 

Think of food sources like fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel, and sardines), nuts, seeds, nut butter, seed butter, avocados, avocado oil, olives, and olive oil for this step. 

Don’t be Afraid of Carbohydrates

There’s nothing to fear when it comes to carbohydrates, or starchy carbohydrates to be more specific. Starchy carbohydrates are the body’s primary source of energy. We thrive on them! They provide the brain and red blood cells with the glucose they need to survive and thrive.

When it comes to starchy carbohydrates, people often believe they should avoid them entirely or significantly restrict them because of all the negative health connotations associated with them. Do we want to be cognizant of balance when it comes to processed starchy carbohydrates? Absolutely. But does that mean we want to restrict starchy carbohydrates? Absolutely not. This will lead to undereating over time. 

Try and incorporate natural, complex sources of starchy carbohydrates on a regular basis. Think of ancient grains (such as quinoa, farro, and amaranth), whole grains, fruits, and starchy vegetables (such as sweet potatoes, peas, and squash) for this step. 

Pay Attention to your Hunger Cues 

Your body uses hunger cues to communicate with you when it needs more energy and when it has enough. When we listen to these cues and abide by them regularly, it’s much easier to avoid undereating. On the flip side, when we ignore these cues and attempt to follow an eating schedule or a diet, undereating is much more prevalent. 

Start by getting to know your hunger and satiety cues. On a regular basis throughout the day, pause and reflect. How are you feeling in regard to hunger? Are you very hungry, slightly hungry, or content? What about fullness? Are you very full, slightly full, or content? 

Once you have an idea of what your cues feel like, you can start to abide by them. This is one of the best ways to prevent undereating in the long term. 

Food First, Caffeine Next 

Beverages, particularly caffeinated ones, can mess with those hunger cues we just spoke of. Sometimes they can suppress your hunger, even when it’s unintentional. 

Instead of starting your day off with a coffee first-thing, try having your breakfast first. This can help prevent the coffee from curbing your hunger. In reality, it’s a good idea to abide by this guideline with most beverages that aren’t water. That way, you know you’re satisfying your hunger with food as often as possible! 

Manage Stress and Overwhelm

When we’re feeling stressed, anxious or emotional in general, it’s much easier to ignore those hunger cues. The body becomes preoccupied with coping, which can push off hunger. 

If you know this is the case for you, try to get into the habit of practicing regular stress management. Whether that’s a form of journaling, meditation, or movement, it can help to minimize those stress levels and in turn, let your hunger and satiety cues thrive. 

Planning for meals | Nutrition Stripped

The Takeaway

When it comes to undereating, the key is to first figure out what’s not working well. Are you restricting intake intentionally? Do you feel more stressed than usual? Or maybe you’re forgetting to add fat to your meals? 

Once you know what you may be missing, you can then use these 5 steps to build a balanced, sustainable diet and prevent undereating for good. 

Do You Want to Experience More Balance with your Food Choices?

Then find your balanced eating type!

Take this 45-second free quiz to find out which balanced eating archetype you are, and what your unique type needs to maintain balance with the way you nourish yourself. That way, you can finally be free from food and diet obsession, maintain a balanced weight, and cultivate a positive relationship with food and your body. 

Take The Free Quiz Now

The post What to Eat to Stop Undereating appeared first on Nutrition Stripped®.

- Erica Carneglia
The Disadvantages of Dieting

What are the disadvantages of dieting and why should you ditch dieting for good? Keep reading to learn more.  

There’s always a new diet, detox, or food trend that everyone seems to be trying. But is it always a good idea to join in? Whether rooted in nutrition or geared towards quick weight loss, these trends always involve two things – restrictions, and rules. 

As soon as restrictions and rules come into play, a slew of disadvantages come along with them. Such as feeling out of control around food and experiencing heightened food guilt or stress, just to name a couple. In the end, dieting is the root cause of it all. If you’re wondering whether or not it’s finally time to stop dieting for good, this article is for you. Understanding the disadvantages and consequences of dieting can help you to say no to the next detox or trend that comes your way.

What Do We Mean When We Say Dieting?

It’s important to note what exactly we mean when we say dieting. What we are not referring to here is a medically recommended diet. Such as a low sodium diet for hypertension, a low FODMAP diet for IBS, or a plant-focussed diet for high cholesterol. 

What we are referring to are strict, extreme diets that tell you to avoid, remove, or restrict anything from your diet outside of the context of a medical recommendation. They often do so while promising extreme, life-changing effects as a result. Such as fast weight loss or extreme boosts in energy. Additionally, they’ll often have a time stamp associated with them. You only have to follow their recommendations or protocol for 10 days, 30 days, or 3 months. Afterward, you’re promised incredible results with minimal commitment. 

If you find yourself continually following these types of diets, keep reading to learn about the disadvantages of diets before you decide to get started.

6 Disadvantages of Dieting 

The following six outcomes are what we see most often as registered dietitians in the nutrition coaching realm. Individuals come to us having dieted for years and are frequently experiencing all six of these symptoms listed below. 

Causes an “All-in” and “All-out” relationship with Food

Another way of saying “all-in” and “all-out”, is “on the bandwagon” and, “off the bandwagon”. Diets function in a cyclical way. You’re either on a diet or off of one. Unfortunately, they don’t prepare you for what normal life looks like after the diet is over. As a result, you go right back to your prior habits (i.e. “all-out”). Until undoubtedly, you decide you’d like to make a change and try another diet. Cue the pendulum swing from one end of the spectrum to the other.

This creates an imbalance with food and is arguably the biggest disadvantage of dieting. It makes it impossible to do both, to enjoy food and nourish yourself with food. It makes you feel like you’re either “being good”, or “being bad”, with no in-between. 

Leads to Extreme Cravings

What happens when you really want your favorite ice cream that’s in the freezer, but you tell yourself you can’t have any? You want it even more. And not only that, you crave it. It almost seems to take over your thoughts and all of a sudden becomes the most important thing on your mind, right? 

This brings us to the second disadvantage of dieting, extreme cravings. When you inherently want something or enjoy something, it isn’t beneficial to abruptly restrict or remove it from your life. When you do so, your mindset immediately shifts to lack. You can’t help but think about what you’re missing out on, or how good it would feel to have what you no longer can have. Over time, this manifests as a craving. 

That ice cream in the freezer sounds so incredible, so you absolutely must have it. As a result, you physically have to have a mental argument with yourself to prevent yourself from, “giving in”, or “losing willpower”. If this sounds familiar, you’ve certainly experienced this disadvantage of dieting before. 

Results in a Loss of Control Around Food 

After those cravings kick in, the loss of control comes next. 

You’re on a diet and you’re out with friends on a Friday night. You know you’re, “not supposed” to have pizza, yet, there’s some pizza at the party. Next thing you know, you’ve had three slices. At the end of the night, you’re home and thinking to yourself, “What’s wrong with me? I have absolutely no control when I’m around pizza.”. Is it true that you have no control? Absolutely not. It’s simply the diet causing this sensation.

Another disadvantage of dieting is that it not only causes a lack mindset, it also causes a scarcity mindset. Because dieting has told you time and time again that pizza is, “bad”, “not allowed”, and, “off-limits”, whenever you have access to it, it seems like it’s your only opportunity. It’s the one chance you have to eat pizza and, “get away with it”. 

So, in turn, you eat more than you really want, eat past your satiety cues, and appear to lose control. The following day, you feel guilty, stressed, and overwhelmed, so you tell yourself you’re, “getting back into it”, or “doing better” today. It brings you right back to that cycle we started with.

Only Allows for Short-term Success 

So what’s the draw? If we know diets cause a loss of control around food, give us extreme cravings and make us swing back and forth between extreme habits, why are people still following them? 

Short-term, quick results. Diets temporarily work because of how extreme they are. As long as you follow their rules, you’ll see some results. And what happens when you do? You’re hooked. You have proof that it works, right? But very soon after, you find yourself at the “all-out” and of the spectrum, yearning to get back to the “all-in” end in order to get those results back. And the cycle continues. 

This disadvantage of dieting is that the success you achieve is never maintainable or sustainable. It’s short-lived and somewhat addicting. It leaves you wanting more so you’ll always come back for more and try again. 

Diminishes Natural Body Cues 

When we’re constantly following someone else’s rules, it gets pretty difficult to discern what our own body truly wants or needs. Our bodies are built to communicate with us, to tell us what we like or dislike, and tell us when we’re hungry or when we’re full. But diets tell us otherwise. They tell us we’re supposed to eat a certain number of meals per day that contain a specific number of calories that can only be eaten at certain times. Cue the confusion! 

New clients almost never know what true hunger or satiety feels like. They’re almost always struggling to simply understand what they enjoy versus what they believe they, “should” be eating. This is another example of a disadvantage to dieting. When we have a balanced, sustainable relationship with food, we work with the body and its cues, not against it. Diets, on the other hand, will tell you to fight those cues and ignore them.  

Makes Food Difficult and Time Consuming

When you’re on a diet, or simply used to being on a diet often, food starts to be complicated. It takes up so much of your time and your thoughts. You’re constantly trying to recall the rules, remember what you ate that day or how much you had last night. You might even try and write it all down to make it easier on yourself. 

Food becomes a controlling part of your life. It starts to dictate your actions and maybe even your social choices. This is what the “all-in” of the spectrum looks like. 

Food is meant to be enjoyed, and it’s meant to be a source of nourishment. It’s not meant to be a daunting, overwhelming part of your life. If you’ve experienced this disadvantage of dieting before, you know it’s a viable reason to never go back. 

The Takeaway

When you have a balanced, sustainable relationship with food that does not include dieting, you don’t have to experience any of these disadvantages. You’re able to eat food because you want to eat it, while also feeling in control of your choices and your actions. You’re able to experience social situations with ease. You even feel confident listening to your body’s cues and enjoying food for the sake of enjoying it! 

If you’re looking for a sign to stop dieting and start building lasting habits, this is most certainly it.  

Do You Want to Experience More Balance with your Food Choices?

Then start by finding your balanced eating type!

Take this 45-second free quiz to find out which balanced eating archetype you are, and what your unique type needs to maintain balance with the way you nourish yourself. That way, you can finally be free from food and diet obsession, maintain a balanced weight, and cultivate a positive relationship with food and your body. 

Take The Free Quiz Now

The post The Disadvantages of Dieting appeared first on Nutrition Stripped®.

- Erica Carneglia
5 On-The-Go Breakfast Recipes

Always skipping breakfast? Looking for a way to streamline your morning? These 5 on-the-go breakfast recipes are exactly what you need!

Breakfast is by far the most commonly skipped meal. Sometimes you just need to hit snooze a few more times than usual! On mornings like this, it can be so helpful to have an on-the-go breakfast recipe that you’ve either already prepped ahead of time, or can quickly make and run out the door with. 

Using the Foundational Five to Create On-The-Go Breakfast Recipes

In case you’re new to the NS Community and the Mindful Nutrition Method, the Foundational Five system is part of how we teach you to build balanced meals. It makes it easy for you to give your body the nourishment you need while having the flexibility to enjoy the foods you love without stressing about food.

The Foundational Five is made up of five elements of nutrition including Protein, Fat, Non-starchy Carbohydrates, Starchy & Sugary Carbohydrates, and the Flavor Factor (which brings vibrancy, deliciousness, and enjoyment to your meals). 

You can download our free guide that walks you through our Foundational Five system for creating balanced meals that you can use to meal prep or cook fresh this week!

5 On-The-Go Breakfast Recipes

Test out some of these Nutrition Stripped on-the-go favorites the next time you’re in need of a quick breakfast recipe.

1. Cinnamon Tahini Smoothie Packed with Protein

Smoothies are an awesome way to get all the nourishment you need first thing in the morning, in a compact, speedy way. You have the option to prep these ahead of time and quickly blend the morning of, or you can simply assemble and blend all at once. 

This particular smoothie is such a delicious way to combine the cool, refreshing feel of summer with the savory, comforting flavors of fall. The tahini adds a deliciously creamy mouthfeel while the cinnamon adds a surprisingly satisfying taste. 

2. Peach and Blackberry Yogurt Bowl

A lot of people are surprised when I recommend yogurt bowls as an on-the-go option, but hear me out. It may not be something you’re eating in the car during your morning commute, but you can certainly assemble it in less than 10-minutes and take it with you as you run out the door. 

The night prior, quickly grab your favorite food storage container and toss your yogurt of choice inside. Then the next morning as you’re heading out the door, grab the container, toss in your toppings, close the container and give it a shake. As soon as you get to your destination, you have a delicious, nourishing breakfast waiting for you!

I love this peach and blackberry yogurt bowl because the only work you have to do is chop a peach. Everything else just gets added with ease.

3. Veggie Egg Bake

Grab-and-go options need to be prepared quickly and easy to travel with. This veggie egg bake is just that! You can make it up to a month in advance and store it in the freezer, or two weeks in advance and keep it in the refrigerator. 

It’s a great way to get a protein-packed breakfast without having to scramble up some eggs when you’re rushing around in the morning!

4. Simple Mango Chia Pudding

Just like the egg bake above, this Simple Mango Chia Pudding is a great breakfast option to prep in advance for a busy week ahead. It’s great because you can prepare single servings, that way if you’re only busy on one or two mornings, you can prep the exact amount that you need. 

This chia pudding is so satiating due to the chia seeds! You can prep these in mason jars to make them super travel-friendly. 

Go To Chia Pudding Recipe | Nutrition Stripped

5. Cherry Cardamom Bircher Muesli

If you’re not a fan of chia seed pudding or simply don’t enjoy the taste, muesli is a great alternative. It too can be prepped the night before in single-serving amounts, it just has a slightly different taste and texture. 

It’s made with all raw ingredients, which means less prep time in the kitchen. Plus, it’s packed with energizing starchy carbohydrates, and antioxidant-filled cherries. 

Tips For Making On-The-Go Breakfast Recipes

There are a few tips you should keep in mind that will help you out a bit when prepping these 5 on-the-go breakfast recipes. 

Invest in good quality storage containers 

Having quality storage containers can make all the difference when you’re frequently taking your breakfast on the go. It can ensure your prepped meals stay fresh longer, and prevent any leaking or spills while traveling. 

Get into a good planning groove 

Planning is such a key part of making busy mornings stress-free. Pick a day (as well as ideally one backup day) where you’ll take a look at your week ahead and plan out what you’ll need for meals. That way, you can determine how many on-the-go meals you’ll need, and can therefore prep and shop accordingly. 

FAQs About These On-The-Go Breakfast Recipes

Have a few questions? Check out these FAQs! 

What if I don’t like some of these ingredients?

The great part about all of these recipes is that they’re so versatile and flexible. Not a fan of mango? Totally fine! Swap it out for some raspberries or strawberries. Can’t stand asparagus? Feel free to leave it out! Don’t let a few ingredients stop you from enjoying the ease and convenience these recipes can give you. 

Do You Want to Experience More Balance with your Food Choices?

Then find your balanced eating type!

Take this 45-second free quiz to find out which balanced eating archetype you are, and what your unique type needs to maintain balance with the way you nourish yourself. That way, you can finally be free from food and diet obsession, maintain a balanced weight, and cultivate a positive relationship with food and your body. 

Take The Free Quiz Now

The post 5 On-The-Go Breakfast Recipes appeared first on Nutrition Stripped®.

- McKel (Hill) Kooienga
How to Use the Mindful Eating Hunger Scale

Have trouble determining what hunger and fullness feel like? Keep reading to learn how to use the Mindful Eating Hunger Scale to determine your hunger cues.

It sounds so simple, right? Eat when you’re hungry and stop eating when you’re full. But in reality, this oftentimes can be a lot easier said than done. There are so many day-to-day factors that can complicate these cues. From stress levels to work schedules and emotions, it’s so easy to confuse hunger cues with other cues. 

Getting to know your own hunger and satiety cues can help clear up this confusion. It gives you the power to identify and address other cues accordingly. 

Lemony Chickpea Salad | Nutrition Stripped

Mindful Eating Hunger Cues

When eating mindfully, hunger cues are utilized to designate not only when to eat, but also how much. Our cues essentially let us know what we’re in need of as well as when.

Food is the body’s primary energy source. It’s what allows us to think clearly, build muscle, pump blood, breathe air, and do so much more. While we’re all performing these human functions on a daily basis, we’re doing so in a slightly different way, we’re all a bit unique. 

This is why hunger cues are so important. If the body is undergoing stress, fighting an infection or disease, performing physical labor, or engaging in more or less movement than normal, your body’s energy needs will differ. Your hunger cues reflect these needs. 

Now that we know what they are, how do we gauge and measure them? This is where the Mindful Eating Hunger Scale comes in. 

How To Use the Mindful Eating Hunger Scale 

This scale helps clarify some of the ambiguity that comes along with measuring hunger cues because it gives you numerical values to refer to. The hunger cues operate on a scale from 1 (so full you may feel unwell) to 10 (starving, weak, dizzy). The middle of the scale, 5, is where you feel content. You’re slightly full so you’re comfortable, you’re not in need of anything. 

 

Check-in With Your Hunger Cues 

The first step to using the scale is to get to know your own body. How does it communicate hunger? What about slight hunger? What does it feel like? And on the flip side, what does fullness feel like? 

In order to understand these cues, we have to really introduce mindfulness. To get started with this, throughout the day (before meals, during meals, and after meals), take note of where you are on the scale. Choose a numerical value that you feel accurately describes the degree to which you’re feeling hunger or satiety. 

The key here is to do this without judgment and with compassion. Will this be super easy the first time you try it? Probably not! But most things we learn to do are not. Remember that you’re quite literally teaching your body a new skill, and a subjective one at that. 

The more you check-in, and the more you pause and reflect, the easier it will be for you to notice your cues without even having to intentionally check in. 

Abide By Your Hunger Cues

After you go through the process of defining your cues, it’s time to start abiding by them. When you hear your body asking for food through hunger, do your best to grab something to eat. If you’re very hungry, make a full meal. If you’re slightly hungry, a snack will do just fine. 

Simply getting into the habit of abiding by your cues will take time as well. You may possibly have to shift some of your preexisting routines, eat a bit more or less than you previously were, but that’s quite alright. This is exactly what mindful eating entails.

The Antioxidant Salad | Nutrition Stripped

When is it Okay to Eat When I’m Not Hungry?

But what happens when you end up wanting to eat something when you’re not feeling physical hunger? Does that mean you’re doing something wrong?

Nope, not in the slightest. You may be surprised to hear this, but there are plenty of reasons to eat even when you aren’t. This may be enjoying dessert after dinner or eating to give your body nourishment even if something like stress is suppressing your hunger.

With mindful eating, it’s all about being mindful and having heightened awareness of why you’re eating. That way, you can choose the best option for you at any given moment. You may say to yourself, “I’m not that hungry, but I would actually enjoy that dessert right now.”

On the other hand, you may say, “I notice that I’m not actually hungry, but I really want a snack.” In this case, we want to pull that mindfulness in to determine why. Is it because you’re mindfully, and intentionally excited to eat said item? Or on the other hand, are you experiencing another emotion that you may previously have used food to cope with?

When our eating choices aren’t mindful or intentional, where they’re used to cope or conceal, we want to try to find alternative, more productive coping mechanisms that directly address the emotion at hand. 

Whatever it may look like for you, this awareness can help you make intentional, mindful choices.

The Takeaway

The mindful eating hunger scale is a great tool that you can use to build your mindful eating skills. If you’re struggling to decipher where satiety starts and hunger stops, give the exercises we discussed a try. And remember! Take it slowly. 

Do You Want to Experience More Balance with your Food Choices?

Then find your balanced eating type!

Take this 45-second free quiz to find out which balanced eating archetype you are, and what your unique type needs to maintain balance with the way you nourish yourself. That way, you can finally be free from food and diet obsession, maintain a balanced weight, and cultivate a positive relationship with food and your body. 

Take The Free Quiz Now

The post How to Use the Mindful Eating Hunger Scale appeared first on Nutrition Stripped®.

- McKel (Hill) Kooienga
How To Build a Balanced Plate

Learn the basic formula you need to build a balanced plate with ease in a sustainable, consistent way to optimize your health and wellness.

We start hearing at a very young age that a balanced diet is key for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. We even hear this from doctors and other health practitioners alike. But oftentimes, the details and logistics of exactly how to do this are left out.

Knowing how to build a balanced plate can make food and nutrition so much less stressful. It allows you to feel confident in your food choices and gives you the freedom to be flexible and malleable with your eating habits. It doesn’t involve restrictions, food rules, or regulations.  

Why is a Balanced Plate Important?

Eating in this balanced way significantly impacts not only your physical health but also your mental health and relationship with food. 

But before we’re able to reap all of these phenomenal benefits, we need to know how to do it. So let’s dive into it!

Ultimate Satisfying Salad | Nutrition Stripped How to Build a Balanced Plate 

We’re bringing it right back to basics. A balanced plate incorporates all of the vital components we need in order to not only survive but also thrive. It allows us to feel energized, satiated, and satisfied after every meal, without having to follow a diet plan, detox, or protocol. 

In order to do this, we need to reference the macronutrients. A macronutrient is simply the scientific term that is used to define and categorize all food that humans eat. Regardless of where you are in the world, your food is comprised of macronutrients!

By using the macronutrients to build our meals, we can ensure that we’re consuming balanced, nourishing meals on a regular basis. This is where the Foundational Five comes in.  

The Foundational Five

Here at Nutrition Stripped, we’ve “stripped” eating well down to a simple template — which we call the Foundational Five — that you can follow at each meal.

The Foundational Five elements include the three major macronutrients. These include protein, fat, and carbohydrates broken down into two subcategories based on their function, as well as the flavor factor.

If you reference this formula when making your meals, you’ll be building balanced plates every time! Now let’s walk through the details of each of these components so you feel confident enough to get started. 

Protein

Protein is an important macronutrient to have in each of our meals for quite a few reasons. It helps to ensure that you feel full after your meals, and it plays a role in digestion, muscle and tissue synthesis as well as immune health.  It’s safe to say protein is vital!

Protein also makes up every cell in our bodies. This includes the cells that make up your skin, hair, nails, muscle, digestive tract, and so much more. Depending upon your particular preferences, your protein choices may include plant-based proteinanimal-based protein, or both!

Some examples include beans, legumes, tempeh, tofu, seitan, quinoa, nuts, seeds, nut butter, grass-fed lean beef, eggs, seafood, poultry, and more.

Starchy and Sugary Carbohydrates

Starchy and sugary carbohydrates are exactly what you picture when you think of carbohydrates. This is the category of carbohydrates that provide you with energy, which is why they’re so important to include in each and every meal.

Starchy carbohydrates are the body’s primary source of energy. Our brains, muscle tissue, and cells all utilize carbohydrates for energy. Just in different amounts and ratios! They’re also a great source of fiber to help promote optimal gut, heart, and hormonal health. 

Things like potatoes, quinoa, rice, bread, peas, pasta, beans, corn, and fruit are all great sources of starchy or sugary carbohydrates.

Non-starchy Carbohydrates

Non-starchy carbohydrates, on the other hand, don’t necessarily provide a substantial amount of energy. These carbohydrates are better known for their fiber, prebiotics, vitamins, and minerals.

When you hear non-starchy carbohydrates, think of greens and vegetables! These are your leafy greens like arugula, kale, and romaine as well as your veggies like Brussels sprouts, bok choy, tomatoes, cucumbers and so many more.

These plants should make up the bulk of your plate. The more, the better! Their fiber and water content help to keep you full and provide your body with the nutrients you need to support healthy digestion.

Fat

Next up we have fat. For the most part, we’re referring to unsaturated fat here. Of course, there are some exceptions to this overarching statement.

Unsaturated fats primarily consist of plant-based and seafood-based fat sources. Think of extra virgin olive oil, olives, avocado oil, avocados, nuts, seeds, nut butter, salmon, tuna, mackerel, and sardines. We also recommend coconut and coconut oil, which is technically an unsaturated fat but an exception to the overarching guideline, and you can read more about why here.

In a meal, fat is essential for satiety (or fullness). Yes, protein plays a part in this as well, but fat certainly plays the lead role. Plus, omega-3 fats, found in fatty fish and some plant-based sources, have been shown to improve cardiovascular health and support brain health.

It’s also key for proper nutrient absorption. Certain vitamins (A, D, E, and K) are all fat-soluble. That just means they need a fat source in order to be properly absorbed. These are the vitamins that keep our brains, cells, hormones, tissues, hair, skin, and nails healthy. 

Flavor Factor

This is the fun part! Your flavor factor may be a sauce or mustard, herbs, spices, or seasonings. Really, whatever you enjoy cooking or preparing food with to boost the flavor and sometimes even the nutrients.

Yes, herbs and spices make food taste great, but they’re also packed with antioxidants that help you to glow from the inside out. If you’re a new cook and just starting to familiarize yourself with seasonings and spices, head here to learn about some of the basics!

The Takeaway

If you’re just getting started with eating in a balanced way, be sure to take this slowly and be compassionate with yourself! Start to familiarize yourself with each of these categories we’ve gone through, then slowly start building meals.

Have some fun with it! You’ll soon start to realize just how easy it is to build a balanced plate, as well as how beneficial it can be over time. 

Do You Want to Experience More Balance with your Food Choices?

Then find your balanced eating type!

Take this 45-second free quiz to find out which balanced eating archetype you are, and what your unique type needs to maintain balance with the way you nourish yourself. That way, you can finally be free from food and diet obsession, maintain a balanced weight, and cultivate a positive relationship with food and your body. 

Take The Free Quiz Now

The post How To Build a Balanced Plate appeared first on Nutrition Stripped®.

- McKel (Hill) Kooienga
Gooey Toasted-Coconut Chocolate Brownies

Gooey Toasted-Coconut Chocolate Brownies are gluten-free, delicious, and simple to make with calcium-rich tahini.

This is the chocolate brownie recipe you need for those times when you want something super sweet yet a little savory. Tahini, which is made from ground sesame seeds, is rich in calcium, healthy fats, and plant-based protein. Along with being a nutrient-dense option to add to a brownie recipe, it’s a bit earthy creating a savory-sweet combination.

Using the Foundational Five to Create These Gooey Toasted-Coconut Chocolate Brownies

In case you’re new to the NS Community and the Mindful Nutrition Method, the Foundational Five system is part of how we teach you to build balanced meals. It makes it easy for you to give your body the nourishment you need while having the flexibility to enjoy the foods you love without stressing about food.

The Foundational Five is made up of five elements of nutrition including Protein, Fat, Non-starchy Carbohydrates, Starchy & Sugary Carbohydrates, and the Flavor Factor (which brings vibrancy, deliciousness, and enjoyment to your meals). 

You can download our free guide that walks you through our Foundational Five system for creating balanced meals that you can use to meal prep or cook fresh this week!

Chocolate Toasted Coconut Tahini Brownies | Nutrition Stripped

Tahini Nutrition Benefits  Packed with Unsaturated Fats 

Unsaturated fats help contribute to satiety, satisfaction, and fullness in your meals. Plus, they’re heart-healthy in that they help promote balanced cholesterol and blood sugar levels as well!

Powerful Antioxidant

Tahini is filled with antioxidants that help fight free radicals that can cause disease over time. Plus, they’re anti-inflammatory, making them an even stronger disease fighter as well. 

Ingredients Needed To Make These Gooey Toasted-Coconut Chocolate Brownies coconut flakes bittersweet chocolate morsels unsweetened cocoa powder cornstarch tahini coconut oil coconut sugar eggs maple syrup kosher salt vanilla extract How To Make These Gooey Toasted-Coconut Chocolate Brownies

After preheating your oven, you’ll whisk together cornstarch and cocoa powder in a medium-sized bowl. Then in a separate bowl, whisk together chocolate morsels, tahini, and coconut oil over low heat. Next, in a blender, you’ll beat the eggs, coconut sugar, maple syrup, kosher salt, and vanilla extract.

You’ll then slowly add in the chocolate tahini mixture, followed by the cocoa powder and cornstarch mixture. Finally, pour the mixture into a greased baking dish and sprinkle with coconut flakes before baking!

Tips For Making These Gooey Toasted-Coconut Chocolate Brownies

There are a couple of tips you should keep in mind that will help you out a bit when baking these brownies. 

Don’t forget to grease your pan

Albeit simple, this is most definitely an important step. Coconut oil or butter will work great! 

Allow the brownies to completely cool before cutting and serving

In order for the brownies to be served at their best and fully intact, it’s important to let them fully cool prior to cutting. Cutting them too early will mean crumbly, less-than-ideal brownies. 

FAQ About These Gooey Toasted-Coconut Chocolate Brownies What if I don’t like tahini?

Don’t sweat it! You can always use any nut butter of your choice. Try out peanut butter or cashew butter instead! 

Chocolate Toasted Coconut Tahini Brownies | Nutrition Stripped

The post Gooey Toasted-Coconut Chocolate Brownies appeared first on Nutrition Stripped®.

- McKel (Hill) Kooienga
8 Signs Your Body Says You’re Not Eating Enough

Learn to recognize the signs and symptoms your body uses to communicate to you that you aren’t eating enough. 

Stress, busy schedules, illnesses, grief, and the hustle and bustle of everyday life can take a toll on us. More specifically, our appetites and the way our bodies regulate hunger. This can often lead to us not eating enough. Additionally, many people in the pursuit of weight loss often end up unintentionally undereating or restricting to achieve that goal.

Whatever the cause, not eating enough food and depriving your body of important nutrients can manifest in ways that wreak havoc on your metabolism and hormones. Both of which may take longer to notice if you’ve been consistently undereating.

8 Symptoms You May Experience if You’re Not Eating Enough

Let’s dive in and take a look at the not-so-subtle signs that your body may not be getting enough vital protein, carbohydrates, and fat, and what you can do to increase your food intake with a balanced diet.

1. Low Energy

If you’ve been feeling straight-up exhausted for several weeks regardless of how much you snooze or the quality of your sleep, it might be time to re-evaluate your diet. When we’re perpetually undereating, the body isn’t able to fuel itself properly. That may cause you to feel lethargic and sluggish. 

We often see this in the case of low carbohydrate diets specifically. Seeing as though starchy carbohydrates are the body’s primary source of fast energy, it makes sense why restricting them can lead to less-than-ideal energy levels. 

Take a look at your usual intake in regards to both volumes as well as variety. Are you consuming balanced meals that incorporate all of the Foundational Five components? Including starchy carbohydrates? Are you eating when you’re hungry and listening to your body’s cues? Take a moment to reflect here and see if you can make some adjustments. 

2. Dizziness

Dizziness can be one of the first physical signs of not eating enough. When you’re not eating enough food, your blood sugar levels can plummet and make you feel dizzy or faint. If you’re continually feeling lightheaded and can’t quite figure out why, take a look at your food intake. 

For a quick snack boost, eat something with carbohydrates and protein, like a banana with some almond butter, a handful of berries and nuts, or veggie sticks with some hummus. This combination of carbohydrates and protein will help increase and stabilize your blood sugar levels to help boost your energy.

However, if the dizziness persists after making these changes to your nutrition and your lifestyle, chat with your doctor to rule out possible issues.

3. Poor Cognition and Productivity (i.e. Brain Fog)

Ever have moments of forgetfulness where you say things like, “Where did I put my keys?”? That happens to us all, but frequent brain fog could be your body’s way of telling you to check in with how you’re nourishing yourself (i.e. eat more food)! Brain fog can be a sign of several health challenges, but it’s also one of the key symptoms of not eating enough throughout the day.

Postponing lunches or interrupting your normal meal times to attend meetings or take calls delays the energy your body needs to keep going. So if that 3 p.m. lull hits hard and you realize you haven’t had lunch, that’s your cue to head to the kitchen or grab a snack.

It’s best to fill up on whole foods as best as you can. Go for a hearty salad with plenty of fresh veggies, maybe some sweet potatoes, avocado, grilled chicken, or protein of your choice, and a tasty dressing. Foods rich in B-vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, folate, and antioxidants can help boost brain function and prevent cognitive decline (1). Bye-bye brain fog.

4. Hair Loss and Brittle Nails

This may come as a surprise to you, but if you’re not eating enough food or getting enough nutrients, the highest priority organs will take the lead in getting those nutrients. This includes your brain, heart, and lungs, rather than your hair, skin, and nails. Hair, skin, and nail health are closely tied to what you eat along with how many vitamins and minerals your body is absorbing.

It’s normal to lose between 50-100 strands of hair every day. If you’re losing more locks than usual and your nails seem to break easier, you may want to focus on nourishing your hair and nails from the inside out.

Start by eating foods that help produce more keratin, the protein that strengthens your hair and nails. Spinach, beans, oatmeal, salmon, eggs, and berries are all excellent sources of hair- and nail-loving nutrients. Protein, biotin, iron, vitamin B12, and omega-3 fatty acids, in particular, are the best nutrients for helping you maintain the thickness, luster, and growth of your crop.

5. Irritable Mood

Hanger is a real emotion! If you’re battling a busy day and rush out the door without breakfast, your blood sugar and your mood can take a real dip. Studies show that low glucose levels can actually cause aggression and violent behavior (2). So when you haven’t had anything to eat, irritability may be one of the first noticeable side effects of not eating enough food. 

The best way to prevent hanger is to eat regular meals and nourishing snacks. Enjoying consistent meal times will help keep your blood sugar stable, so you can stay on track with your positive mood and good energy. When you feel that first sign of hunger coming, don’t push it off! Listen to it and grab either a meal or a snack, depending on the degree of hunger you’re experiencing to keep you feeling like your best self versus the moody, irritable version.

Bright Balanced Spring Salad | Nutrition Stripped

6. Feeling Chilly

Got the chills, all the time? You need to consume a substantial amount of food to keep your body warm while performing other bodily functions.

If you’re not eating enough, you’re probably not able to efficiently carry out thermogenesis, which is a process that helps your body generate heat. Some research suggests that people who follow a restrictive diet have lower body temperatures than those who don’t (3).

Women who are also underweight or have low body fat might develop “downy” hair (also known as lanugo), as a way for their bodies to cope with heat loss. When your body doesn’t have enough body fat to heat itself up, it can grow lanugo to help trap heat. It’s common in people with anorexia nervosa or people who are extremely thin.

7. Constant Thirst

Making sure you eat enough is actually one way you can manage your hydration levels. Many of the electrolytes you get from food affect thirst. These include sodium, potassium, and magnesium. If you still feel thirsty after chugging down a glass of water, it’s a red flag that you may not be consuming enough calories.

Sometimes, your body can also mistake thirst for hunger and misguide you away from the water bottle. Just remember to aim for hydrating beverages such as caffeine-free teas, carbonated unsweetened seltzers, and good ‘ole water. 

8. Amenorrhea

Amenorrhea is the scientific term for missing your period. Women may miss their periods for a variety of reasons, including pregnancy, changes in diet, and stress. Sometimes certain medications you take, including contraception, can affect your cycle, too. Specific health conditions like hypothyroidism and polycystic ovarian syndrome can also affect your hormone levels and therefore your period as well.

Amenorrhea can also happen if you don’t eat enough and have low body fat or are underweight (about 10 percent under “normal” weight), which is different for each of us. Being underweight can stop ovulation and cause abnormal changes in your hormones, which is why some women with disordered eating habits or women who are high-performing athletes may often miss their periods. In some cases, their bodies also aren’t getting enough nutrients to carry out normal bodily functions.

The female athlete triad is basically an interrelated cycle that includes low energy intake, amenorrhea, and low bone density. This is most often seen in athletes who are trying to maintain a certain level of “leanness” for a particular sport like figure skating, ballet, gymnastics, or others. 

The Takeaway

The biggest takehome from this article is to be aware and in tune with yourself and your body’s ability to show you signs that something may not feel right. Use these 8 signs and symptoms to check in with yourself and determine whether or not you may need to consume a bit more energy. 

Do You Want to Experience More Balance with your Food Choices?

Then find your balanced eating type!

Take this 45-second free quiz to find out which balanced eating archetype you are, and what your unique type needs to maintain balance with the way you nourish yourself. That way, you can finally be free from food and diet obsession, maintain a balanced weight, and cultivate a positive relationship with food and your body. 

Take The Free Quiz Now

The post 8 Signs Your Body Says You’re Not Eating Enough appeared first on Nutrition Stripped®.

- Sharon Palmer
Eco Friendly Gift Guide for the Kitchen

Get Sharon’s expert, eco-friendly gift guide for the kitchen, which includes a kitchen gear shopping guide for 20 kitchen items that will lighten one’s environmental footprint on the planet. Perfect for gift giving for your friends, family, and yourself!

Protecting our planet is on everybody’s mind, yet it can seem overwhelming when we look at the big picture issues of climate change, pollution, and sustainability. We all want to help, but how can just one person make an impact? You might be surprised to know that each one of us can make positive change without even leaving our homes—especially in the kitchen. In my blog, Green Up Your Kitchen Practices for a Healthier Planet, I call out the big impact we all have with every meal we prepare, from the foods we purchase and how we store and prepare it, to the way we clean up after each meal and package it up for lunch the next day. Simple switches like ditching disposables for reusable bags, storage containers, and even straws may seem small, but each one helps reduce your environmental footprint. You can give the gift of sustainability too with eco-friendly kitchen gifts. Check out 20 of my favorite eco-friendly kitchen tool essentials, perfect for gift giving. You’re just a click away from a greener kitchen and a healthier planet!

Eco Friendly Gift Guide for the Kitchen

1. Reusable Cloth Sandwich/Snack Bags

Reusable sandwich bags are perfect when you’re on the go—travel, school, work, anywhere! This snack bag is specially designed to safely keep your goods fresh. Unlike paper or disposable plastic, this bag can be washed and reused over and over again, which is great for the environment and your wallet. No sending pounds of plastic to the landfill! Eco-friendly, reusable, certified food safe, easy to clean, and multi-purpose—these bags check all the boxes.

Price: 5-Pack for $19.99*

2. Sharon’s I AM Plant-Powered Organic Farmers Market Bag

Designed by Sharon herself, this bag is perfect to take to the farmers market, grocery store, work, school, even a picnic. This adorable tote was designed with the Earth in mind—made of 100% organic cotton in natural colors with “I AM Plant-Powered” lettered in green. It folds small enough to tuck into a purse or pocket and is washable so you’ll use it over and over, keeping plastic bags out of landfills.

Price: 1 bag for $15

3. Bamboo Reusable Cutlery Set with Portable Case

This cutlery set is perfect for picnics, travel, hiking, camping, backyard fun, or in the breakroom at work. The set includes a fork, knife, spoon, chopsticks, bamboo straw, charcoal toothbrush, and a water bottle holder—all in a portable case. I love that this set is made from natural, sustainable bamboo, and it helps prevent the use of throw-away, plastic cutlery. Fun Fact: Did you know that bamboo has a higher tensile strength than steel?!

Price: 7-Piece Set for $9.89*

4. Reusable Stainless Steel Straws with Case

Imagine enjoying your favorite drink with the sleek, sophisticated style of a metal straw with its respectful nod to the environment. These stainless steel straws deliver by eliminating the use of plastic straws, which reduces plastic pollution and helps protect our beloved planet. This set comes with 12 straws and 2 brush cleaners in a case. Smooth and easy to clean, these straws are ideal for travel.

Price: 12-Piece Set with Case for $8.99*

5. Farmhouse Kitchen Compost Bin

If you’re composting (which you should be!), the convenience of a kitchen compost bin can come in handy. And when it’s this cute, you’ll love to see it on your countertop! Ideal for meal prep and clean-up, toss food scraps into bin, replace the cover, and forget about it until it’s full. Then take it outside to your compost pile or bin, give it a quick clean, and start again. Doing your part to reduce landfill waste and reduce the need for chemical fertilizers just got easier.

Price: 1.3-Gallon Container for $39.99*

6. Reusable Vegan Food Wrap

Plastic food wrap is one of the most common types of plastic waste found in the environment and landfills, so cutting back on plastic wrap in your kitchen is a great way to reduce it. These non-plastic reusable food wraps are 100% garden compostable, cruelty-free, and washable so they can be used again and again. All you need is the warmth of your hands to enable these wraps to cover foods.

Price: Assorted 3-Pack for $18.99*

7. Pour Over Coffee Dripper Stainless Steel Reusable Drip Cone Coffee Filter

Say goodbye to paper coffee filters! Make the switch to an eco-friendly go-anywhere, zero-waste, reusable drip cone coffee filter and you’ll not only continue to enjoy your favorite handcrafted brew, you’ll also reduce your environmental footprint. This stainless steel coffee filter holder has a universal fit for most coffee makers too.

Price: 1 Filter for $19.89*

8. Hydro Flask Water Bottle 

What I love about Hydro Flask water bottles is that they are not only sustainable metal water bottles, they also come in lots of fun colors and different sizes, and they’re lightweight and insulated, so you can tote them anywhere to enjoy your favorite hot or cold drink. Plus, they are durable and can be accompanied on hiking trips, camping, travel and more. Why would anyone want to rely on disposable plastic bottles knowing that Americans are doing so at a rate of 70 million bottles each day! Be planet wise by choosing reusable.

Price: 20-Ounce Flask for $27.97*

9. Instant Pot Ultra 10-in-1

Get energy efficient and make use of the Instant Pot. An instant pot can save up to 70 percent of the electricity used by ovens, steamers, and stoves, which means fewer harmful greenhouse gas emissions released into the environment. This one product can replace up to 10 common kitchen appliances, including a sterilizer, warmer, and rice cooker to name just a few. Convenient, versatile, and quick, there’s everything to love about this very cool way to cook.

Price: 6-Quart Instant Pot for $139.99*

10. Programmable Slow Cooker with Black Ceramic Insert and Glass Lid

No kitchen should be without a slow cooker. It’s energy efficient, easy to use, and produces meals that taste like you’ve slaved over them all day. The ceramic insert is a ready to serve or travel vessel for meals at home or to enjoy at a potluck or picnic, so there’s no need for single-use plastic or aluminum containers bound for the landfill—a zero-waste win! This is my favorite, heavy duty slow cooker, which I turn to regularly to produce energy-efficient meals.

Price: 6.5-Quart Slow Cooker for $279.95*

11. Reusable Produce Bags

Did you know Americans use 100 billion plastic bags a year? Plus, only 1% of plastic bags are returned for recycling, meaning the rest end up in landfills or as litter. Using reusable produce bags, such as these 100% organic cotton mesh bags, for fresh fruits and vegetables, we can help reduce these high numbers. I always tote these along with me to my farmers market and say “no” to plastic bags. Then I just toss them in my laundry with my other linens for my weekly wash.

Price: 9 Bags for $21.99*

12. Insulated Cups with Lid

Just like Hydro Flasks (#8), these Yeti insulated stainless steel cups come in many different colors and sizes and are ideal for at-home or on-the-go sipping, keeping your cold drinks cold and hot drinks hot. Say no to coffee shop throw-away cups and have them pour your brew in your Yeti! These cups even have a lid, so they’re great for the car. There’s no need to keep wasting time and energy reheating your hot tea or adding ice to your cold brew—this cup delivers. You can even use it for toting along hot soups and chili for portable meals.

Price: 10-Ounce Cup for $34.99*

13. Eco Lunch Box

Stainless steel is the way of lunch boxes these days. This eco-friendly alternative to unrecyclable plastic lunch boxes and bags, which ultimately get tossed into the trash, is made from longer-lasting, high-quality stainless steel to keep food fresh and last for generations. Perfect for work, school, or travel, it’s also leak-proof and dishwasher safe.

Price: 50-Ounce for $31.95*

14. Reusable Bamboo Kitchen Towels

The average household paper towel consumption of 80 rolls per person per year = a lot of waste and dead trees. Put an end to your contribution by swapping paper towels out for these reusable and durable organic kitchen towels. They’re versatile and perfect for cleaning up spills, wiping, drying, cleaning kitchen appliances, and can even be used as napkins. Plus, they’re pretty cute too!

Price: 10-Pack for $18.95

15. Bamboo Cleaning Dish Cloths

Go green with these reusable and cost-effective natural bamboo dish cleaning cloths, which can reduce the use of paper towels in your kitchen. Made with sustainable, natural bamboo, this product supports crops that are good for the planet. These dishcloths are soft to the touch yet strong and durable when they need to be. The natural bamboo properties of these dishcloths enhance absorption to wash dishes efficiently and dry them fast.

Price: 12-Pack for $14.24*

16. Glass Food Storage Containers
A recipe for the perfect eco-friendly food storage containers: absolutely no plastic, turns leftovers into lunch, and nearly unbreakable, reusable, and long-lasting. I love this set because it is made with eco-friendly bamboo lids. These are great for meal prepping also!
 
Price: 4-Piece Set for $38.97*

17. SodaStream
This is a great way to help reduce plastic and waste in your home. While I don’t recommend using a SodaStream to create sugary beverages, I do recommend it for making sparling waters that replace the transportation of sparkling water bottles around the world! One reusable SodaStream bottle can save a household up to 3,000 disposable bottles every year. It’s also energy-efficient—a win-win for the planet.

Price: Bundle with 2 60-Liter Bottles for $279.99*

18. Natural Bamboo Dish Scrub Brush Set

Sponges take hundreds of years to decompose. It’s time to say goodbye to yours! Biodegradable and eco-friendly (this won’t clog up a landfill!), this dish scrub brush set is plastic-free, and made with sustainably harvested and renewable bamboo. The set also comes with two stainless steel straws and a cleaning brush for them. This set is great for cleaning pans, pots, bottles, fruits, and vegetables.

Price: 4-Piece Set for $24.98*

19. Mason Jars with Lids and Bands

These 16-ounce mason jars are one of the original earth-friendly products. Generations have used these all-purpose glass gems over and over to preserve salsas, sauces, syrups, fruits, vegetables, or anything you can think of. Freezer-safe, BPA-free, and recyclable, they also make clever beverage glasses, flower vases, dried beans holders—there’s no limit to what they can do. Use them to replace plastic and disposables in food storage, food transportation, and beyond.

Price: 18 16-Ounce Jars for $34.99*

20. Misto Brushed Aluminum Oil Sprayer

Misto is a reusable oil sprayer and mister bottle that gives you the health benefits and convenience of a typical aerosol sprayer, but in a more economical and environmental way—it’s refillable, so no more throwing away cans that end up in landfills. You just fill Misto with your favorite oils, vinegars, wine, or lime/lemon juice and dress salads, bread, or use while cooking.

Price: 1 Sprayer for $11.00*

 

*Prices subject to change and availability, based upon vendor changes.

Learn more about sustainable living at sharonpalmer.com/live/.

This post may contain affiliate links. For more information click here.

- Sharon Palmer
Vegetable Tagine with Chickpeas

Ahh, vegetables simmered slowly in a rich spicy tomato broth. What’s not to love about tagine cooking? If you’ve ever been fortunate enough to visit the lovely country of Morocco (check out  my plant-based travel experience in Morocco here), you probably fell head over heels in love with the classic tagine dishes of this beautiful food culture. While many tagine recipes include meats, you can always find vegetable tagines, too. They typically include sliced eggplant, zucchini, carrots, eggplant, tomatoes, and onions cooked in a Morrocan-spiced tomato broth. The tagine is cooked slowly over an open flame, and the flavors develop along with the cooking time. That tagine broth is prized to serve by the ladleful over couscous or with the delicious wheat breads baked in Morocco. When I visited North Africa, I had vegetable tagine almost every day! And this Moroccan tagine recipe I created in my own kitchen pays homage to those beautiful dishes I savored during my trip. 

What is a tagine?

Well, a tagine is both a cooking vessel, which has been commonly used in North Africa for centuries, as well as a traditional slow-simmered, stew-like recipe. The tagine is made out of clay or ceramics. It features a shallow round dish, with a cone-shaped lid. When in Morocco you realize that this dish is the main cookware; it is used to cook many recipes and you’ll find it regularly bubbling away in restaurants, homes, shops, and beyond. You can buy tagine cookware in many online markets or cooking shops. Keep in mind that tagines can cook food right over the stovetop flame, however you can use a heat diffuser to help protect your cookware. Read the manufacturer’s directions to prepare your new tagine for cooking, as well as learning how to cook with it on the flame. 

While I thoroughly enjoy global foods, such as Moroccan dishes, and have spent some time studying this food culture, I am in no way a true expert. Check out the work of Nargisse Benkabbou, a food blogger who shares her passion for making Moroccan dishes by developing recipes that are simple and balanced. She is also an expert in Moroccan cuisine, given she was born in Morocco. You can check out Nargisse’s work here, and follow her here.

I hope you enjoy this recipe, which gives you a touch of North African spirit in your own home. Make sure to serve it right out of the tagine (open the lid right before serving for an aroma explosion) with couscous and good wheat bread. This recipe is gluten-free and vegan, however, if you serve it with couscous or wheat bread, keep in mind those both contain gluten.  

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1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (2 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)
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5 from 2 reviews

Author: The Plant-Powered Dietitian Total Time: 1 hour 45 minutes Yield: 8 servings Diet: Vegan Print Recipe Description

If you’re looking for a delicious, healthy vegetable tagine recipe, this vegan Vegetable Tagine with Chickpeas recipe is an easy classic to get you started! 

Ingredients 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil 3 cloves garlic, minced 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger 2 teaspoons cumin  ½ teaspoon cardamom 1 teaspoon coriander 1 teaspoon turmeric ½ teaspoon black pepper ½ teaspoon salt (optional)  ½ cup vegetable broth 1 (14.5-ounce) can tomato sauce 2 tablespoons tomato paste 2 tablespoons harissa paste  ½ onion, sliced  1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed, drained 2 small carrots, sliced in thin vertical strips  1 small bell pepper, sliced 2 small zucchini, sliced in thin vertical strips 1 small eggplant, sliced in thin vertical strips (Japanese eggplants are the perfect size)  Instructions Place a tagine on low heat (or on a heat diffuser, depending on the manufacturer’s instructions).  Place olive oil in the bottom of the tagine and heat.  Add garlic and ginger and cook for 4 minutes, while stirring. Add cumin, cardamom, coriander, turmeric, black pepper, and salt (if using) and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.  Add vegetable broth, tomato sauce, tomato paste, and harissa paste and stir well, cooking until it comes to a simmer (about 3 minutes). Place onion slices in the center of the tagine, laying them flat and leaving plenty of room around the perimeter of the tagine.  Pile the chickpeas on top of the onions. Assemble the carrots, bell pepper, zucchini, and eggplant (they should be sliced into thin vertical strips) and stack them in a cone shape along the edge of the onions, leaving at least 1-inch perimeter around the edge of the tagine. Start with the smallest slices of vegetables, finishing with the longest slices of vegetables, creating a stacked cone-shape arrangement of vegetables in the tagine.  Take a spoon and drizzle the tomato sauce mixture over the top of the vegetables, without disturbing the stack.  Place the tagine lid on top of the vegetable mixture and let cook (do not disturb while it is cooking) over low for 1 hour 15 minutes. Open the lid and check if the vegetables are tender. If they need additional cooking, place the lid back on and cook for an additional 10 minutes.  Remove lid and serve the tagine out of the dish with cooked couscous and/or wheat bread on the side.  Makes 8 servings (about 1 cup each). Prep Time: 20 minutesCook Time: 1 hour 30 minutesCategory: EntreeCuisine: Moroccan, American

Keywords: tagine, tagine recipes, vegetable tagine, moroccan tagine, what is tagine

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For more globally inspired plant-based entrees, try the following:

Classic Swedish Pea Soup
Gado-Gado, Indonesian Tempeh Salad
Thai Tempeh Noodle Skillet
Creamy Chickpea Curry
Greek Fava
Puglian Fava Beans with Greens

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- Sharon Palmer
Italian Chopped Salad

Packed with crunchy, colorful vegetables and a fresh vinaigrette, Italian chopped salads are just so good! They tend to include simple ingredients, such as Romaine lettuce, cabbage, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and olives. While many classic chopped salad recipes include meat and cheese, this vegan Italian Chopped Salad recipe adds chickpeas to those veggies for a protein-rich hearty addition.

The light Italian vinaigrette, with a simple touch of olive oil, red wine vinegar, and oregano, provides just the right balance to this super simple salad recipe, which is rustic and easy enough for a weeknight meal, but special enough for your holiday table. You can also swap out ingredients as desired—trade out the jicama for radishes or bell pepper, for example. And try following the seasons for this salad recipe, switching out seasonal ingredients as they become available. Such as snow peas or asparagus in the spring and carrots or radishes in the winter. This easy recipe will soon be your go-to salad of the year.  

 

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1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (2 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)
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5 from 2 reviews

Author: The Plant-Powered Dietitian Total Time: 20 minutes Yield: 8 servings Diet: Vegan Print Recipe Description

This easy vegan Italian Chopped Salad is bright, crunchy, and packed with good taste and nutrition.

Ingredients Salad: ½ head Romaine lettuce, chopped (about 4 cups) 2 cups red cabbage, chopped 1 cup peeled, diced jicama 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved 1 small cucumber, with peel, diced ¼ red onion, diced ½ cup sliced green olives  1 (15-ounce) chickpeas, rinsed and drained Italian Vinaigrette 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar 1 tablespoon fresh oregano, diced (or 1 teaspoon dried) Pinch salt and black pepper Instructions Add lettuce, cabbage, jicama, tomatoes, cucumber, onion, green olives, and chickpeas to a large salad bowl and gently toss. Whisk together olive oil, vinegar, oregano, salt, and black pepper in a small bowl. Drizzle over the salad and gently toss. Serve immediately. Makes 8 servings (1 ½ cups each). Prep Time: 20 minutesCategory: SaladCuisine: American, Mediterranean

Keywords: italian chopped salad, chopped salad

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For other vegan salad recipes, check out:

Spicy Sorghum Salad with Avocado
Arugula Salad with Tomatoes
Tabbouleh Salad
Grilled Tofu and Corn Salad

This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, click here.

 
- Sharon Palmer
Holiday Gift Guide for a Sustainable Lifestyle

Looking for sustainable gifts for the holidays? These gift ideas in my Holiday Gift Guide for a Sustainable Lifestyle are perfect solutions for offering eco-friendly ideas for healthy living, from the kitchen to the garden to the road.

Just in time for the holidays, I’m bringing you my curated list of favorite sustainable gift ideas for your home, kitchen and garden. These are all my favorite products that I use every day in my own life. I’m all about living a healthy, disease-protective, plant-based, sustainable lifestyle, and so much of this is about voting with your dollars to make great selections. It’s all about spending your hard-earned cash on products that support a healthy lifestyle, while reducing negative impacts on the planet. This also goes for purchasing sustainable goods as gifts for your friends and family, as well as to drop little hints about your own holiday wish list (that’s what I do!). Check out my Holiday Gift Guide for a Sustainable Lifestyle to discover a plethora of holiday gift ideas for a healthy lifestyle.

Consumable gifts are some of the best, such as home-baked cookies wrapped in a reusable kitchen cloth. Check out my recipe for Swedish Ginger Cookies for holiday baking inspiration.

Remember, less is more in a healthy, sustainable lifestyle. I’ve been minimizing my kitchen and my entire life by thinking long and hard about whether I really need to buy certain products. And when it comes to gift giving, I recommend consumable items as much as possible—items that will be consumed, such as healthy natural food, home, or body care products, rather than gifts that may end up in a dusty cabinet. You can show your love by making hand-made food gifts, such as my Dark Chocolate Cherry Energy Mix, Golden Turmeric Hemp Granola, Vegan Pumpkin Bread with Pumpkin Seeds, or Peter’s Vegan Pepparkakor (Swedish Ginger Cookies). Package them up in reusable mason jars or a pretty kitchen towel for truly sustainable packaging.

Beyond consumable gifts, I do have a few favorite, curated products that improve the quality of my life. So, without further ado, here is my holiday shopping guide! I’m partnering up with some of my favorite healthful, sustainable products and brands, and many are offering discounts right now, so check out the links to grab those discount codes. Please let me know what you think about these products by dropping a comment below.

I wish for all of you the healthiest and happiest holidays spent with those that you love. Remember to treasure the small moments in life. Take time to nibble a holiday cookie with a cup of warm cinnamon tea and recall special memories with your friends and family. Give them an extra hug and tell them how much they mean to you. Be good to yourself.

Eat and Live Goodness,

Sharon

Holiday Gift Guide for a Sustainable Lifestyle 

1. Infused sparkling water.

I don’t know about you, but I love sparkling water. The kind that comes in pretty green glass bottles all the way from Europe. But when I consider the carbon footprint of all of those bottles traveling across the ocean, it stresses me out! So, my SodaStream has become my new best friend. Just fill up the glass bottles with water, chill, then plop them in the machine, push the button, and you have sparkling water. You can then infuse herbs, citrus, fruit, and more, if you prefer—or just sip the sparkling water plain and simple. I really think this is a lovely gift idea for the shopping list this year.

                                                                                                                                       

2. Nutribullet

My simple, affordable Nutribullet is my best friend in the kitchen. I use it daily for my antioxidant smoothies, cashew “Parmesan”, bean dips, and more. It takes up hardly any space on the counter, and it’s just so versatile. When I make a smoothie, I don’t even bother transferring it to a glass, I just pop off the lid, and I’m good to go. There are also so many different types of Nutribullet products, such as blender combos, baby food makers, grain cookers, and immersion blenders! All fabulous for a plant-powered kitchen and lifestyle. Perfect gift for someone starting out their kitchen. I gave them to my kids for Christmas last year.       

                                                               

3. Garden Art

I’m a huge lover of garden art, including statues, wind spinners, stakes, and fountains. These small artistic additions amplify the beauty of the outdoors and encourage me to spend more time relaxing in the open air, or simply stop to peer through my window more often. Essentially, they help me de-stress and take in nature a bit more. I have collected many pieces of garden art over the years, and they are treasures to me. One site where I’ve purchased many of my pieces is VivaTerra, which is a wonderful company that specializes in sustainable home products, from garden to bath to kitchen. I also really like Plow & Hearth assortment of gardening art, as well as garden equipment. Check out my free Home Gardening Toolkit as an addition to your gardening gift.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

4. Ooni Pizza Oven

I bought this for my husband for Christmas last year, and it’s been a family favorite ever since! I love to make plant-based pizza in our own little wood pellet-burning Ooni pizza oven in the outdoors. It is so good, and you can make your pizza just the way you like! In fact, all year long I was entertaining with pizza. I created the dough and rolled it out onto individual wood pizza peels, put out a variety of toppings (including, tomato sauce, peppers, mushrooms, vegan sausage, onions, herbs, artichokes, zucchini, cashews), and let people build their own pizza as part of the fun. Then I would pop the pizzas in my Ooni and cook them up. It let everyone gather together as part of a pre-meal activity, everybody just loved their custom pizza, and it was easy cooking for me. Try some of my favorite plant-based pizza recipes here.                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

5. Supergoop

This is my go-to sunscreen—it’s natural, free of chemicals like benzene, and makes my skin look so great! Supergoop has a range of products for all skin types, even kiddos! This is a great practical gift, from stocking stuffer to gift basket of assorted products.     

               

6. Instant Pot

What would I do without my Instant Pot? This all-purpose cooking tool is essential in a plant-powered kitchen, in my mind. I use it for cooking beans, grains, soups, stews, casseroles, and so much more. You can skip soaking the beans, and just push the button to get your meal on the table in no time. Only one pot to clean up too! Check out my Instagram Live Cooking Show on how I use an Instant Pot here. I gave one of these to my son for Christmas (upon his request) two years ago. Even if you have a small kitchen, it is worthwhile as an Instant Pot can take the place of so many pieces of equipment—rice cooker, slow cooker, pressure cooker—in one swoop. Perfect for your holiday list!               

7. Hello Fresh

Many meal delivery services offer plant-based options. What a wonderful gift to send someone a week’s worth of delicious plant-based meals to lighten their busy schedule!

8. Wine

Another consumable gift, wine is such a thoughtful present for someone who enjoys sipping a glass now and then. Whether you’re sending a bottle in a gift basket, toting it along as a hostess gift to a party, or putting together an assortment of wines, you can never go wrong with this gift for wine lovers. Check out some of my top wine ideas.

California Wine Club. Here’s another wine site that specializes in my favorite wines—California varieties. As you know, I’ve been studying wines in California for decades. With so many amazing AVAs there is just so much to offer, from Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc to Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon.

9. Plant-Based Gourmet Food Gift Basket

As I mentioned, I’m a huge fan of consumable gifts—items that people can enjoy at the table. From condiments and sauces to tea and coffee to chocolate and spices, it’s just a great way to celebrate the season and share a gift of love. You never have to wonder if people will like your gift, right? You can combine a few products in a basket, canvas bag, large mason jar, or pretty kitchen towel from Linen N Things for sustainable packaging! Here are a few sources for my favorite food gifts:

Spiceology. Give the gift of spices for vibrant, healthful cooking all year. Matcha Source. Put together an assortment of green teas along with a beautiful mug for a zen gift of love. Thrive Market. From plant-based snacks to chocolates, Thrive Market offers a world of inspiration for your edible gift baskets. You can even gift someone a subscription!                                                                                                                                                                                 

10. Farm Box Delivery

The perfect consumable gift in my mind is a farm box delivery subscription. Talk about the gift that keeps on giving…a monthly box of delicious, healthy, seasonal produce! Sign me up (literally)! You can check out your local CSA (read more about them here) to arrange for a gift subscription, or check out this farm box company.                                                                                                                                                                                        

11. Eco Kitchen Gifts

I’m all about eco-friendly gifts for the kitchen—items that reduce the environmental footprint of everyday activities. These small gifts make great stocking stuffers, or you can throw them into a basket with a variety of green kitchen items. Check out some of my favorites:

Simply Straws. These handy reusable straw sets reduce plastic and are the perfect stocking stuffer. Food Huggers. I have several of these handy food covers, which fit over cans, containers, and even avocados and citrus, to prevent food waste and avoid plastic wrapping. ECOlunchbox. I’m in love with these cool stainless steel food containers, which are perfect for toting food to work or school, and for storing leftovers too. Ecoroots. This company has a variety of eco kitchen gear, from bamboo cutlery to natural dish scrubbers. Super Sparrow. These gorgeous, insulated, reusable water bottles are perfect for everyone on your shopping list.                              

12. Sharon’s Plant-Powered Book Series

If you’re looking to inspire healthy, plant-based eating for a loved one, why not send them the whole collection of my books at a discount, including The Plant-Powered Diet, Plant-Powered for Life, and California Vegan—all wrapped up in my organic, personally designed organic farmers market bag. Place the order here for a personally autographed set, and let me know who you’d like it to be signed for!

Several items in Sharon’s gift guide are linked to companies she has especially partnered with in affiliate programs. Read more here.

For other ideas on how to live a more sustainable lifestyle, check out these:

Top 11 Tips for Sustainable Eating
7 Steps to Go Plant-Based
4 Ways to Eat for the Environment
What is a Sustainable Eating Style?

- Sharon Palmer
Golden Beet Veggie Balls with Almond Sage Cranberry Crema

Comfort food cooking doesn’t have to focus on decadent casseroles, pounds of meat, and indulgent desserts. You can boost the delicious, health potential of these special meals with more plant foods, such as whole grains, beans, and seasonal vegetables. This also goes for holiday meals. After all, some of the most delicious items on the celebration table—green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, and stuffing—area all about plants. If you’re trying to shine the light on plant foods this season, try making a plant-based entrée alternative. One of my favorite options is veggie “meatballs”—savory little balls filled with the goodness of beans, grains, vegetables, and herbs. These crispy Golden Beet Veggie Balls are filled with the earthy, winter flavors of golden beets, cannelini beans, sage, and hazelnuts. Serve them with this easy, plant-based almond crema dip flavored with cranberries and sage. These veggie balls make the perfect party appetizer, holiday entrée, or comfort food meal. Just watch meat-eaters and plant-eaters alike gobble them up in no time.

Crispy, savory veggie balls star golden beets, mushrooms, and hazelnuts. This recipe is filled with fresh golden beets—a heirloom variety of beets with a sunny yellow shade—which can be shredded quickly in a food processor. Chill the veggie-ball mixture to thicken it before shaping it into balls. Bake veggie-balls until crisp and golden. This plant-based Almond Sage Cranberry Crema can be whipped up easily with soaked almonds, lemon juice, and seasonings.

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