Posts tagged: healthy habits

Detox Your Body

Detox Your Body ChartImage – © herbs-info.com. Photo – © Von Schonertagen – Fotolia.com (under license)

Although modern medicine tends to cast a cynical eye at detoxification practices such as fasting and colon washing, nobody can deny that the human body is exposed to a lot of toxins, and that bioaccumulation is real. Relief from such toxins can only bring benefits.

Unsurprisingly, the most common organs targeted by detox protocols are the ones directly responsible for dealing with the toxins that enter the body: the liver, the kidneys, and the intestines or colon.

Here are some science-supported ways you can clean up your body and feel better, stronger, and healthier through the consumption of detoxifying foods:

Liver: The liver is The Great Detoxifier. It is the part of the body that takes all those noxious chemicals and fats that we ingest, and then turns them into something that can be excreted by the body. [1] But that doesn’t mean the liver can’t use a little detoxifying itself.

Alcohol, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and diabetes are just some of the liver’s top enemies. These can all cause injury and inflammation to the liver, preventing this organ from doing its job properly.

One lesser-known natural food item that can detoxify the liver from the effects of alcohol, NSAIDs, and diabetes is bitter gourd. This fruit reduces liver oxidation and inflammation caused by alcohol consumption, [2] stimulates the scavenging of liver free radicals caused by diabetes, and increases glutathione levels, which alleviate liver inflammation caused by NSAIDs. [3][4]

Other natural food items that have been scientifically proven to detoxify or rejuvenate the liver include lemons, [5] avocados, [6] apples, [7] dandelion leaves, [8] and garlic. [9]

Kidneys: The kidneys are blood filters. It is their job to collect and eject toxins from our blood. But the kidneys themselves can be vulnerable to toxins such as drugs, microorganism infections, and even excessive calcium or blood sugar. [10]

For detoxifying the kidneys, few natural food items are as well known as cranberry juice. Research has proven that cranberries do help clear the kidneys of viral infections [11] and calcium deposits. [12]

You probably didn’t know that onions have been reported by scientific research to show effectiveness in counteracting kidney toxicity from cadmium intoxication. [13] They are also useful support for renal Toxoplasma gondii infections. [14] Red onions are considered healthier than white overall and this is a valuable health switch to make.

Intestines After our food has been mashed up into liquid form by the stomach, the small intestines absorb the food nutrients and send them out to the bloodstream to be delivered to the rest of the body. The unusable parts – the wastes – are then pushed into the large intestines / the colon.

In other words, the colon is like the body’s trash can. Imagine how disgusting it can get if it isn’t regularly emptied. A lot of bacteria-filled waste material can be left behind to wreak havoc in our body. Lentils have shown effectiveness in helping eliminate this material from the colon, and that makes them an excellent colon detoxifier. [15]

Now if you feel like washing out the colon for good measure, there’s no need to go for a colonic irrigation. (In any case, many doctors do not recommend colonics anyway, because it heightens our risk of bowel perforation, infection, and electrolyte imbalance.) [16]

Instead, try drinking pineapple juice! This vitamin and fiber-rich liquid is so good at clearing the bowels, it has been consumed to help clear the colons of patients who are about to undergo a colonoscopy procedure. [17]

Finally, don’t forget to encourage the healthy growth of beneficial microorganisms in your colon. One proven way of doing that is by eating globe artichokes. [18]

Indeed, though modern medicine may pooh-pooh the benefits of faddish “detoxification” methods, we find rich scientific evidence supporting common-sense ways of detoxification: eat healthy food and avoid unhealthy ones.

Some foods, though, have been proven healthier and more powerful detoxifiers than others, and since we can only eat so much, it is good to know which foods confer the greatest benefits.

After all, with all the toxins around us in our modern world, our body can use all the help it can get…

References:

[1] http://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=anatomy-and-function-of-the-liver-90-P03069

[2] http://dx.doi.org/10.1039/c3fo60449g

[3] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19795081

[4] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15927932

[5] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24754177

[6] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/pmid/24860825/

[7] http://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0308-8146(12)01542-7

[8] http://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0278-6915(13)00256-1

[9] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24646302

[10] http://www.kidney.org/kidneydisease/howkidneyswrk.cfm

[11] http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/mnfr.200600276

[12] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14616463

[13] http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10534-008-9148-5

[14] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24312764

[15] http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/pmidlookup?view=long&pmid=7491890

[16] http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/consumer-health/expert-answers/colon-cleansing/faq-20058435

[17] http://www.karger.com/?DOI=10.1159/000354094

[18] http://journals.cambridge.org/abstract_S0007114510001571

9 Ways To Make Fast Food Healthier For Your Kids

9 Ways to Make Fast Food Healthier for Your Kids
Ways To Make Fast Food Healthier For Your Kids. Graphic © herbshealthhappiness.com. photo – Unsplash (PD)

If you raise children or are in charge of cooking your family’s meals, you will know how difficult it is to plan and cook healthy food 24/7. Especially for people who also work side by side with caring for a family, fast food or junk food is often their last resort. However, there are a few ways you can look into to help your kids eat healthier – ten ways to be exact!

1. Packs Snacks In Advance

One of the worst ways to introduce unhealthy eating habits to your kids is to feed them unhealthy snacks when you’re out and about. If you don’t plan ahead or prepare home-made snacks, chances are you will be forced to purchase fast food or junk food to give to your child if they get hungry. If you have an upcoming day out with your child, be sure to pack healthier snack options in advance. Cut up fruits and vegetables like apples, oranges, and carrots are a great alternative to sweets and chips. If you have more time, you can make finger sandwiches for your child to eat at lunch or snack time.

The importance of healthy snacking was seen in an evaluation of a program designed to fight childhood obesity. According to the CDC, 1 in 5 school-age children are affected by obesity in the United States. Cambridge Public Schools (CPS) in the United Kingdom found an increase from 37% to 39% in cases of obesity among school-age children. The program aimed to supply kids with system-wide healthier snacks which were lower in sugar and higher in fiber, such as whole grain cereals and bread and low-fat yogurt. The results of the program were positive after 3 years of follow up, with improvements in both weight and fitness among the children. [1][2]

2. Kid-Sized Meals

If you do decide to eat out, make sure to check the menu for kid-portions or kid-sized meals. Most restaurants will often have portions sized especially towards kids, and this is a better option that ordering regular-sized meals geared towards adults, which have more calories and bigger servings than what a child needs. Kids meals are typically smaller and designed for the dietary needs of a child. Even if your child can easily polish off a regular sized burger or pasta dish, opt for a kid’s meal instead. Regular portions for adults can increase your child’s risk for obesity, and in-turn hypertension and diabetes. [3]

3. Fruits Over Fries

Aside from packing cut up fruits and vegetables your child, try to select either fruits or vegetables as a side when ordering out. In some fast food and family restaurants, fruits, vegetable salad, and even low-fat yogurt are options for sides. Choose these over fries instead!

4. Sharing Meals With Your Kids

Sharing meals is a good way to cut on portion size for both yourself and your child. This is an option for parents and caregivers who wish to introduce fast food to their kids, as well as parents who have children who won’t eat anything from the kid’s menu. It is a fact that your child will be exposed to fast food no matter how healthy they eat at home, so one of the best options is to introduce them to fast food yourself but in moderation. The same goes for desserts like milkshakes and cake; share a portion with your child instead letting them finish an entire serving themselves.

5. No To Soda

In the United States, the CDC reports nearly 30 million people living with diabetes, both diagnosed or undiagnosed. Among these, more than 200,000 people under the age of 20 are diagnosed diabetics. The CDC also found that rates increased by 1.8 percent each year for type 1 diabetes and 4.8 percent each year for type 2 diabetes among American youth aged 0 to 19 years old. [4]

One of the contributing factors to diabetes is an unhealthy diet high in sugar, specifically the intake for SSBs or sugar-sweetened beverages such as soda. In 2010, a review of published studies found that higher consumption of SSBs contributed to the development of metabolic syndromes such as type 2 diabetes. But soda isn’t the only culprit, drinks such as fruit, energy, and vitamin water drinks are other examples of SSBs that can contribute to weight gain and diabetes. [5]

Instead of soda and processed fruit drinks, opt for freshly-squeezed juice without added sugar. Unflavored milk or plain water are other healthier options. However, since fresh juice is also a source of fructose, a type of sugar, it should also be taken in moderation. Juice guidelines published by the American Academy for Pediatrics limit 4 ounces juice for toddlers aged 1 to 3 years, 4 to 6 ounces of juice for children aged 4 to 6 years old, and 8 ounces for children aged 7 to 18 years old. [6]

6. Set Expectations Or Rules

Another tip for eating out with your kids is to set expectations or rules beforehand. If you are going to allow your children to order for themselves, be sure to tell them in advance if you don’t want them ordering fries or want them to include fruits or vegetables in their order. Children can get frustrated from hearing “no”, so be sure to set limits instead of not allowing them to order certain food items on the spot. This tip can used to avoid tantrums from your child.

7. Shared Meal Time

One of the most important tips on this list is to have set meal times with your kids. This allows children to develop healthy eating habits like eating on time, which helps curb unnecessary snacking and reduce the risk for weight gain. Stanford Children’s Health encourages families to have meal times together in order to help manage their weight more effectively as well as improve communication and overall mental and emotional health within the family. You can also allow children to help with the preparation of meals, which can improve their interest in eating healthy in the long run. [7]

8. Healthy Habits For Teens

Children are one thing and teenagers are another. Teaching teenagers healthy eating habits can be difficult, since they are more independent than children and can easily eat fast food and junk food without parental supervision. A tip is to offer various options to your teenagers when ordering or buying food, instead of forcing them to choose one specific food item. Giving your teenager the freedom to choose from a pool of healthy options can improve their own eating habits instead of fostering discontent and rebellion.

9. Role Modeling

The most important tip on this list is to be a good role model to your kids. If you force your child to eat healthy but make unhealthy food choices yourself, it sends the wrong message to your child, especially if your child sees you eating food that you don’t allow them too – this can also foster resentment. When a parent has a healthy diet, it can influence your child to eat healthier themselves, since they view you as their role model or inspiration.

The US Department of Agriculture’s Choose My Plate program stresses the importance of being a good role model for healthy eating habits in children. Trying various healthy food options encourage your children to make healthy options as well; this makes planning meals easier with the help of your kids. You can allow your child to help with grocery shopping and meal preparation. Children are also more likely to eat food that they helped plan and make. [8]

References:

[1] Chomitz, V., et. al. (2012). Healthy Living Cambridge Kids: A Community‐based Participatory Effort to Promote Healthy Weight and Fitness. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1038/oby.2009.431

[2] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Childhood obesity facts. https://www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/obesity/facts.htm

[3] American Academy of Pediatrics. Portions and Serving Sizes. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/nutrition/Pages/Portions-and-Serving-Sizes.aspx

[4] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Rates of new diagnosed cases of type 1 and type 2 diabetes on the rise among children, teens. https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/rates-new-diagnosed-cases-type-1-type-2-diabetes-rise-among-children-teens

[5] Malik, V., et. al. (2010). Sugar-Sweetened Beverages and Risk of Metabolic Syndrome and Type 2 Diabetes. https://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/33/11/2477

[6] Heyman, M., et. al. (2017). Fruit Juice in Infants, Children, and Adolescents: Current Recommendations. https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/139/6/e20170967

[7] Stanford Children’s Health. Why the Family Meal Is Important. https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=why-the-family-meal-is-important-1-701

[8] US Department of Agriculture. 10 Tips: Be A Healthy Role Model for Children. https://www.choosemyplate.gov/ten-tips-be-a-healthy-role-model

Working On Puzzles Can Help Your Brain Feel 10 Years Younger

Working On Puzzles Can Help Your Brain Feel 10 Years Younger
Image © shutterstock.com (under license)

As we grow older, we find that forgetting things becomes more commonplace. It starts off pretty small, like forgetting where you put your keys or the television remote control. However, these bouts of forgetfulness can become serious, turning into dementia or Alzheimer’s. The Alzheimer’s Association promotes improving your lifestyle in order to improve brain health: meaning regular exercise or physical activity, healthy diet (which improves cardiovascular health), and staying mentally and socially engaged. The first two are quite easy, but how do you keep your brain mentally active? [1]

In the University of Exeter Medical School and King’s College London, researchers conducted an online survey and used the collated data in their study on brain function in later life. The study included data from more than 17,000 healthy adults 50 years old and older. The survey was simple, asking the participants how often they played word puzzles like crosswords, and compared this data with attention, reasoning, and memory tasks.

Results From Cognitive Function Studies

The researchers found that older adults who engaged more in brain-stimulating activities like word puzzles had better brain function, comparable to the brain function equivalent to those age ten years younger than they were. The tests this group of adults did well on were grammatical reasoning speed and short-term memory accuracy. Professor Keith Wesnes who specializes in Cognitive Neuroscience from the University of Exeter Medical School reports that there was “a direct relationship between word puzzle use and the speed and accuracy of performance on nine cognitive tasks”, these nine tasks involved in the study covered a range of functions such as attention, reasoning, and memory. Performing these tasks were consistently better among those who played word puzzles, and that their performance was better with increased frequency of playing. [2]

The results from this study are only preliminary results, because the online platform used (“PROTECT”) actually collects data for 10 years, with participants followed up each year to assess their cognitive health and abilities. By mid-2017, there were already 22,000 participants registered on the PROTECT platform, which funded by both the Alzheimer’s Society and National Institute for Health Research Bioresource.

Researchers from Exeter Medical School and King’s College London have only solidified in hard data what Alzheimer’s societies and mental health groups have been preaching all this time: the brain is a muscle, if you don’t use it, it will atrophy, leading to a decline in brain health, which affects not only cognition, but also a person’s emotional wellbeing. The next step of this study is now to assess if continued playing of word games could improve brain function in the long run (instead of just maintaining their brain health or slowing cognitive decline), as the participants are annually followed up.

Similar Studies

A clinical trial called Advanced Cognitive Training for Independent and Vital Elderly (“ACTIVE”) was first registered in 2006 first posted its results in 2014. Sponsored by the New England Research Institutes, the study involved cognitive training interventions and how they could potentially improve functional independence among elderly adults. Primarily, the study’s purpose was to assess basic mental abilities and follow-ups within the next five years after the start of the study. [3]

ACTIVE focused on three distinct cognitive interventions and how they affected the participants ADLs or activities of daily living (e.g. food preparation, driving, medication use, financial management). These three main interventions were training in (1) reasoning, (2) memory, and (3) speed. A fourth group, or control group, was also involved in this clinical trial. Furthermore, a refresher course or booster training was provided to half of the total number of participants at 11 and 35 to 36 months after the first batch of training. Assessment were done accordingly post-intervention at 12, 24, 36, and 60 months. ACTIVE‘s results were very similar, that regular cognitive activity improved brain health and overall cognitive abilities.

What You Can Do To Reduce Alzheimer’s Risk

Alzheimer’s disease is estimated to affect 44 million people all over the world. According to Alzheimer’s Disease International, one person every three seconds develops dementia. If you want to avoid being affected by either, make sure to keep your body, as well as your brain, in tip top shape.

1. Engage in regular physical activity.

This means exercise! The American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise, five days a week, or 25 minutes of vigorous exercise for three days, to maintain good cardiovascular health.

2. Keep your diet healthy.

That means avoid diabetes and hypertension-inducing foods that are high in fat, cholesterol, salt, and sugar. Eat a lot of vegetables and fruits, and include an adequate amount of protein and carbohydrates in your diet. The American Diabetes Association recommends half your plate be filled with non-starchy vegetables. A quarter of your plate should have grain and starchy foods. The last quarter should have your protein. You can add a serving of fruit, dairy, or both to each meal.

3. Keep mentally fit!

The phrase “use it or lose it”, while typically applied to physical workouts, in fact applies quite well to the mind. Cognitive puzzles, word games, mental arithmetic and other activities which keep the mind active have been shown to improve cognitive scores.

Further Reading:

Researchers Find Brain Training Exercise That Lowers Dementia Risk By Up To 48%

List Of 10 Foods Considered Helpful To Fight Alzheimer’s Disease

Expert Panel – Three Things May Save Your Brain

Top 10 Best Foods For The Brain

References:

[1] Alzheimer’s Association. Brain Health. https://www.alz.org/help-support/brain_health

[2] University of Exeter. Daily crosswords linked to sharper brain in later life. http://www.exeter.ac.uk/news/featurednews/title_595009_en.html

[3] US National Library of Medicine. ACTIVE: Advanced Cognitive Training for Independent and Vital Elderly. https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/study/NCT00298558?show_desc=Y#desc