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Monday, 16 July 2018

How to Slow Aging by Balancing These 6 Hormones

Many hormonal changes occur in our bodies when we hit middle age. Some of these changes cause wrinkles, low energy, fat gain, and other signs of aging.
Unfortunately, most people have accepted fast aging as normal, but that doesn’t have to be the case for you. You can regulate your hormones, and as a result, slow the aging process.
Below are some of the hormones you should regulate to slow aging, plus how to do it naturally.

1. HUMAN GROWTH HORMONE

The human growth hormone plays a vital role in keeping us young. Adequate amounts of this hormone enhance muscle growth and prevent fat gain. However, administering injections is not the best way to boost growth hormone. Injections can actually shorten your lifespan, according to research
Luckily, you can maintain optimal growth hormone levels through exercise, getting quality sleep, and maintaining a healthy diet. Research shows that sprinting for 30 seconds can boost your growth hormone levels by 450 percent for up to two hours.

2. ESTROGEN

Estrogen keeps women’s skin glowing and makes you feel feminine and vibrant. Excess estrogen can make your entire body tender, cause reproduction problems, and migraines. Low estrogen levels are problematic, too. They reduce skin elasticity and weaken your bones.
You can keep your estrogen levels balanced by eating lots of healthy fats like avocado, nuts and nut butter, and olive oil.

3. CORTISOL

Many of us know that the body produces excess cortisol when we are stressed. When cortisol levels are elevated for a long period, the body becomes inflamed. That inflammation speeds up the aging process and increases the risk of cancer, diabetes, and other chronic diseases.
Managing your stress will help lower your cortisol levels. You may also want to increase the intake of B vitamins by eating foods that are rich in B vitamins. Alternatively, you can take B vitamins supplements.

4. PROGESTERONE

It’s is important to keep your progesterone balanced, if you want to stay energetic as you age. Unbalanced progesterone increases fatigue and causes sleeplessness.
Nutrients such as vitamin C, zinc, magnesium, sulfur, and vitamin E can help boost progesterone production.

5. TESTOSTERONE

Both men and women produce testosterone. However, low testosterone levels have more side effects on men than women. Lack of testosterone can promote aging, since it causes fat gain, low sex drive, and muscle loss.
Increase your testosterone by doing strength training, eating plenty of protein, and getting enough vitamin D.

6. INSULIN

Our bodies accumulate fat quickly when insulin levels are unbalanced. This is something you don’t want, because fat gain increases signs of aging.
There is no better way to manage insulin than cutting back on sugar and processed foods. Also, exercise has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity.

11 Fascinating Facts You Never Knew About Your Brain

It only weighs 3 pounds. It runs on about 20 watts of electricity. It’s what sets us apart from other animals.
Figure it out yet? We’re talking about the human brain.
While it’s undoubtedly the most important organ, we tend to forget about it while it’s quietly keeping the body breathing, walking, and talking. The brain does so much, in fact, that scientists still don’t understand exactly why and how it carries out all its complex functions. What we do know about the brain, however, is seriously awe-inspiring. Case in point: these 11 facts.

1. THE HUMAN BRAIN IS SHRINKING

For the first 2 million years of human evolution, the brain grew. And grew and grew, until the time of the Cro-Magnons, a brawny incarnation of humans with huge jaws and enormous chests. That was 20,000 years ago—and since then, our brains have shrunk in size, losing a chunk about the size of a tennis ball.
Though scientists don’t believe this change is anything to be concerned about, they also don’t know exactly why it’s happening.

2. THE BRAIN IN YOUR SKULL ISN’T YOUR ONLY BRAIN

Guilty of blowing your budget at the grocery store when you shop hungry? There’s a reason for that: each of us has a so-called “second brain” in the intestines.
All kidding aside, recent research has shed more light on what experts call the gut-brain connection. Sure, the mass of 100 million neurons in the intestines deals mainly with digestion, but that’s not all. The enteric nervous system also produces serotonin (the neurotransmitter that balances our moods) and may have an impact on depression

3. YOUR BRAIN IS BETTER AT SOME THINGS AT 70 THAN IT WAS AT 22

As you age, you get better at some things and worse at others. Contrary to popular belief, cognitive function doesn’t just drop off after middle age.
Though your brain processes information most quickly at age 18 or 19, its ability to understand complex emotions improves until your 50s, and your grasp of vocabulary will likely be its best in your 70s.

4. YOUR SUBCONSCIOUS REALLY RUNS THE SHOW

Think you’re in control of your life? Think again. Researchers believe that 95 percent of decision-making occurs in the subconscious mind. You’re not consciously deciding whether or not to stop at a red light or continue breathing in or out—the subconscious is taking over.
Don’t worry, this isn’t a bad thing—experts say the subconscious mind is much more rational than the conscious mind.

5. A BAD ATTITUDE COULD PERMANENTLY ALTER YOUR BRAIN

Every time you have a thought, the brain shoots neurotransmitters across its synapses to pass the message from cell to cell. The more you think a certain way, the easier it becomes for those synapses to connect—and the more likely you are to have those thoughts in the future.
Yes, that means negativity actually rewires the brain. Complaining more often actually makes you more unhappy—so keep that in mind the next time the barista gives you whole milk instead of skim.

6. THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS A “PHOTOGRAPHIC” MEMORY

Just imagine it: During a test, you could conjure up an image of your notes to give you the answers. There’s no need to add phone numbers to your address book—you’d know them all by heart. Having a photographic memory sure would be nice.
Convenient as seems, scientists say there’s no such thing. The closest thing? Eidetic imagery. People with this rare ability can vividly remember an image with near-perfect accuracy after having seen it for only a few seconds. It’s most common in children, but often fades as their brains grow and learn to process information more efficiently.

7. YOUR BRAIN CAN PREDICT THE FUTURE—SORT OF

A 2012 study revealed that the frontopolar cortex draws on past experiences to predict future events. In the experiment, researchers gave their subjects four slot machines to play. What the patients didn’t know is that the probability of winning on one of the machines changed unexpectedly throughout the experiment. Researchers were surprised to see that their subjects were able to devise a strategy to win the most money by observing the trends in winning—using the frontopolar cortex. Pretty impressive. (No word on why you always lose money in Vegas, though.)

8. NO, YOU’RE NOT PSYCHIC—BUT SCIENTISTS DON’T REALLY KNOW WHAT CAUSES DÉJÀ VU

Hate to break it to you, but that feeling of already having been here you sometimes get when walking into a room doesn’t make you clairvoyant. At least 30 percent of us will experience déjà vu—French for “already seen”—in our lifetime, and it’s most common in people under 25. Some even experience this unsettling feeling for the first time by age 6!
Scientists still don’t know exactly what causes this condition, since it’s extremely difficult to research, and no one really knows how to trigger it in a lab. Methods to induce déjà vu in clinical settings (like squirting warm water in a patient’s ear) have rarely worked. The operating theory is that misfiring neurons produce this feeling of having “already seen” something. And, since we do know that people with epilepsy or dementia experience the condition more often, the theory makes sense.

9. SOME PEOPLE REALLY DO EXPERIENCE STIMULI MORE VIVIDLY

Ever watched a Kanye West interview? He speaks so ardently about his music. This is the guy who said, “I am Warhol. I am the No. 1 most impactful artist of our generation. I am Shakespeare in the flesh.”
Maybe there’s a reason for that. Like Duke Ellington, Pharrell Williams, and Stevie Wonder, Yeezy has synesthesia, a condition in which one sense is perceived as another. Specifically, West sees music as brilliant colors. Only one in 2,000 people experience this condition, and it takes many forms—you might feel voices brush against your skin, or taste food as explosions of colors and texture.

10. UNDER THE RIGHT CONDITIONS, YOU CAN CONTROL YOUR DREAMS

It sounds like something right out of “Inception,” but lucid dreaming—or the ability to interact with and control your dreams—is real.
Though scientists used to be pretty skeptical, they now believe lucid dreaming happens during REM sleep, when you realize you’re dreaming and consciously decide to enter the dream. Never had one? It’s not too late—the average person has three to five dreams every night, and you might be able to hack into one of them by following these tips.

11. WHILE YOU SLEEP, THE BRAIN PARALYZES THE BODY

When your dreams feel real, it’s a wonder you aren’t sleepwalking, running, and jumping all over the place in the middle of the night. Guess what—the brain’s responsible for keeping you safe from harm while your mental self is off in dreamland, too.
During REM sleep, specialized neurotransmitters switch off the cells that allow your muscles to move. (We shudder to imagine what would happen if this wasn’t the case!)
And not just during sleep—when you think about it, your noggin protects you from harm all day long. That’s reason enough to treat it to some brain food, if you ask us.

11 Ways to Naturally Increase Your Testosterone Levels

If you’re suffering from low energy, low libido, little motivation, poor memory, depression or infertility, you may want to consider giving your testosterone levels a boost. There are many natural ways to do so. Some of my preferred methods include:

EXERCISE ON A DAILY BASIS

One of the best ways to boost your testosterone levels involves becoming active. Regular daily exercise, including weight training, can have a significant effect on hormone levels. In a study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology, researchers found that those who exercised regularly had higher testosterone production than those who were sedentary. Research published in the Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutritionfound that exercise was even more effective than dieting at boosting testosterone levels among obese men. Considering that losing excess weight is also an effective method to boost testosterone levels, this study demonstrates just how effective exercise can be.

DIET

Both dieting and overeating can interfere with testosterone production. Eating heavy, fried foods or hormone-laden non-organic dairy and meat can seriously interfere with your hormone levels. Your body needs adequate amounts of good quality complex carbohydrates, essential fatty acids and protein to manufacture testosterone. These foods are best found in a whole foods diet with nuts, whole grains, legumes, seeds, fruits and vegetables.

VITAMINS A AND C

Chronic stress can result in a reduction in testosterone levels. According to research in the Journal of Ayub Medical College, scientists found that supplementation with ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and alpha tocopherol (vitamin E) prevented the testosterone-reduction effects of stress, thereby enabling the body to keep its testosterone levels higher. Typical doses for these nutrients include: vitamin C 500 milligrams and 400 IU vitamin E in mixed tocopherol form. 

SLEEP 

Research shows that even one week of sleep deprivation can cause a reduction of testosterone levels. Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), research showed that men who had 5 hours of sleep or less per night for one week had 15 percent lower testosterone levels. By restoring sleep levels to 7 or 8 hours nightly you can offset this drop.

STRESS MANAGEMENT

Whether you’re into yoga, meditation, tai chi, journaling, walking, running, cycling or some other form of stress reduction, finding ways to lower stress can help maintain or increase testosterone levels.

VITAMIN D

In a year-long study published in the journal Hormone and Metabolic Research, researchers found that supplementing with 3332 of vitamin D boosted testosterone levels by 25 percent compared with no change in the placebo group. While moderate sun exposure helps boost vitamin D, it isn’t usually enough to reach these levels. To boost your vitamin D levels you can supplement with vitamin D3, which is the natural version of this nutrient, unless you’re vegan then choose vitamin D2. The study dose is fairly high so be sure to consult your holistically-minded physician first.

ZINC

Zinc is a critical mineral to hormone production so it’s no surprise that research shows it boosts testosterone levels in those who are deficient in the nutrient. In a study published in Renal Failure, researchers found low levels of both zinc and testosterone among dialysis patients. When peoples’ diets were supplemented with zinc, testosterone levels increased. A typical dose of zinc is 10 milligrams.

B COMPLEX VITAMINS TO BOOST FERTILITY

Infertility can be one of the problems linked to low testosterone levels. In a study published in Fertility and Sterility, researchers found that combining zinc and B vitamins boosted fertility, presumably by raising testosterone levels. Add a 50 or 100 milligram vitamin B-complex supplement to your daily diet. Note that some of these nutrients will be measured in micrograms instead.

GINGER

Research shows that regular ingestion or supplementation with gingerroot can boost testosterone levels. You can add fresh ginger to your soups, stews, curries and many other dishes. Of course, you can also supplement with ginger herbal capsules to increase the amount of ginger you get. Follow package directions for the product you select.

ASHWAGANDHA

Also known as Withania somniferaresearch shows that this Indian herb can naturally increase testosterone. Published in the International Journal of Fertility and Sterility found that daily doses of the herb boosted testosterone levels. Follow package directions for the product you select.

OTHER HERBS

Other herbs like horny goat weed (Mucuna puriens) and Tribulus terrestris have been found in some people to help boost testosterone levels. Follow package directions for the product you select.

Is Dark Chocolate Actually Good for Us?

Dark chocolate is hailed as a health elixir. Is this more hype than reality?
At Experience Life, our team enjoys its fair share of dark chocolate. It’s not uncommon, for instance, to find us passing a bar around during meetings, each of us nibbling on a couple of squares as we pitch story ideas or review new articles. So, when it came time to report on the latest findings regarding the superfood’s highly touted health perks, we were keen to learn more — about the feel-good hormones the treat triggers, as well as the myriad nutritional, cardiovascular, and neurological benefits dark chocolate brings.
Or does it?
As we dug into the research, we discovered a troubling pattern: The fine print in study after study revealed that they’d been conducted or funded by subsidiaries of the world’s largest candy makers: Hershey Center for Health and Nutrition, Mars Science Advisory Council, Mars Symbioscience, and Nestlé Research Center, for example.
While this doesn’t necessarily rule out their findings as bad science, it does raise questions about bias, if simply in what was studied. And why.
“Candy and chocolate makers consciously invested in scientific research as part of a marketing campaign to instill chocolate as a healthy ‘superfood’ in consumers’ minds,” explains New York University nutrition and public-health professor Marion Nestle, PhD, MPH, author of Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health. (Note: Nestle is not affiliated with Nestlé.)
“They want to sell more candy,” she says, “and health claims are a great way to do that.”
With Wonka-like exuberance, Big Candy has elevated dark chocolate to the status of a health elixir in the past 20 years, establishing it atop the superfood pantheon alongside green tea, red wine, and avocados. The halo effect has also enhanced the reputations of dark-chocolate-covered snacks, such as the superfood marriage of dark chocolate and blueberries.
But is dark chocolate truly as healthy as promised? When cacao (the raw, unprocessed seeds from which chocolate is produced) is processed into cocoa and blended with sugar and fats into dark chocolate, do the benefits really outweigh the potential harm to our health?

REINVENTING CHOCOLATE

Chocolate is big business: U.S. retail sales grew 25 percent in the past decade, from $14.2 billion in 2007 to $18.9 billion in 2017. This growth occurred in an era when the broadening epidemics of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease have dampened overall U.S. candy sales.
Despite consumers’ health anxiety, Big Candy has been successful in boosting dark-chocolate sales by leveraging research to offset these concerns. It’s the same marketing strategy the tobacco industry, soda makers, fast-food franchises, and other beleaguered economic sectors have employed to rehabilitate unhealthy products, says Nestle.
“Coca-Cola spent a fortune on research aimed at demonstrating that sugars are not harmful and that any evidence to the contrary is junk science,” she explains. And Mars, Inc. — the world’s largest candy maker with its top-selling M&M’s and Snickers — has “invested millions of dollars in promoting cocoa as healthy.”
Big Candy made its intentions clear at the 2006 launch of the Hershey Center for Health and Nutrition, when the firm’s then chief global growth officer, Tom Hernquist, announced: “Our goal is to redefine the future of snacking by offering consumers products that provide proven health benefits and the superior taste they expect from Hershey. Our research is validating the significant health benefits of cocoa.”
The proliferation of studies has eased feelings of guilty pleasure for many dark-chocolate lovers. And the media eats up this research, splashing it across the front page or headlining it on the evening news. Who doesn’t love hearing that dark chocolate — and maybe all chocolate — is healthy?
To further appeal to so-called clean snackers, Hershey, in 2016, created “snackfections,” marketing-speak for hybrids of snack food and candy. These include some of the industry’s most successful product launches in years, including such chocolate-covered delicacies as goji berries, pretzels, snack mixes, nuts, and even potato chips. 
The strategy is working. As the International Franchise Association’s 2018 Chocolate Industry Analysissummarized: “Growth of the chocolate industry over the last decade has been driven in large part by an increasing awareness of the health benefits.”

EAT CHOCOLATE, LIVE LONGER?

Big Candy’s research focuses on the benefits of cocoa flavanols, a term that was largely unknown to the average consumer before candy makers began promoting it.
Flavanols are a class of flavonoids — phytonutrients available in many plant-based foods and drinks, including tea and wine; fruits such as berries, cherries, apples, apricots, and grapes; and cocoa. But cocoa is special, Mars’s website states: “No other food on Earth can match cocoa’s unique blend of flavanols. That’s why experts refer to the cocoa bean as nature’s most surprising ‘superfruit.’”
In search of these experts, we sought out additional studies — only to discover that it’s tough to find any research on cocoa’s health benefits not connected to the industry. Of the dozens of studies we reviewed, every one of them was gushing in its findings.
Mars, Hershey, Nestlé, Cadbury, Spanish candy maker Nutrexpa, and Swiss giant Barry Callebaut (the leading producer of industrial chocolate for confectioneries) have sponsored hundreds of studies, as well as conferences, symposiums, YouTube videos, and documentary films — plus a constant social-media blitz. The American Cocoa Research Institute, whose members include the major industry players, often provides study supplies (cocoa).
Among the most prolific cocoa researchers is University of California, Davis, nutritionist Carl Keen, PhD. He’s helmed some 28 studies on the beneficial properties of cocoa flavanols since 2006 — the year he was appointed the first holder of the Mars Family Endowed Chair in Developmental Nutrition, part of a $40 million food-institute grant from Mars and Nestlé.
Keen believes the most impressive findings relate to cocoa flavanols’ potential to enhance vascular function  to reduce blood pressure and prevent cardiovascular disease.
“The last thing we want to do is tell people, ‘Oh, just eat chocolate and that’s your solution to good vascular health,’” he says. “But the data are pretty exciting.”
Yet marketing claims venture much further than the data. “Based on a significant body of published research, consumption of cocoa flavanols has been shown to improve blood-vessel function, thereby helping to support the health and function of the cardiovascular system,” promises the Mars Center for Cocoa Health Science website. The site links to more than 140 Mars-funded studies stretching back to 1999.
Among them is a Columbia University Medical Center report (funded by an “unrestricted grant” from Mars) with the headline “Taking Cocoa Flavanols Can Reverse Memory Decline as We Age.” While the randomized controlled trial found some impressive gains in cognitive function, it included only 33 participants.
Then there’s another Mars-funded paper on cocoa — from UC Davis — entitled “Food of the Gods: Cure for Humanity?”
As Keen summarizes a further study: “The benefits of chocolate can be enjoyed without guilt as part of a healthful balanced diet.”
Big Candy’s goal is not simply selling chocolate, however. Candy makers are launching cocoa-based health supplements and more. In 2015 Mars unveiled CocoaVia in capsule, smoothie-powder, and snack-stick forms; numerous candy makers and supplement producers now offer cocoa-flavanol pills and potions. Meanwhile, a new spectrum of beauty products includes cocoa-based skin creams, shampoos, bath oils, and other health-promising ointments.
And that’s only the beginning. Since 1999, Mars has successfully patented dozens of cocoa-flavanol “inventions,” including anti-inflammatory painkillers, cardiovascular medicines, and cancer fighters. The company has even obtained a patent for a cocoa-flavanol toothpaste or other application to combat periodontal disease.
If Mars has its way, someday we could be eating a chocolate bar a day to keep the doctor away.

BITTERSWEET SUPERFOOD

All of this brings us back to this question: Is dark chocolate truly good for you? Despite the preponderance of glowing industry-funded studies, the answer is yes — and no.
First, it’s important to realize that the industry is spinning the research: Although Big Candy marketers hail the study findings on chocolate, most research is actually done on cacao and cocoa.
Cacao indeed appears to contain a wealth of health-giving properties, including vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B5, C, D, and E; minerals such as calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc; and antioxidants like flavanols and polyphenols. Cacao also boosts feel-good hormones, such as serotonin.
But cacao is heavily processed to make cocoa, often including fermentation (inspiring some scientists to deem chocolate a probiotic), alkalization (a.k.a. Dutching, which extracts bitterness), and high-heat roasting. This processing can destroy flavanols and their healthy properties.
Second, because flavanols inherently have a bitter taste, manufacturers add sugar, cocoa butter (a fat found in cacao), and other fats to transform cocoa into chocolate.
“Pure cocoa offers nutrients and has health benefits, but pure cocoa is not the same as a candy bar, and marketing is clouding facts for the purpose of sales,” explains Andy Bellatti, MS, RD, strategic director of the food-industry watchdog group Dietitians for Professional Integrity.
“It would be like touting the health benefits of apples when you’re selling apple pie. An apple is 100 percent apple, whereas an apple pie also includes flour, sugar, added fats, etc. If a tablespoon of sugar is added to cocoa, then the health benefits of cocoa are mitigated.”

THE SEARCH FOR HEALTHY CHOCOLATE

One researcher without ties to Big Candy is nutritionist Mary Engler, PhD, who began studying chocolate in 2000 at the University of California, San Francisco.
“Ethical issues are definitely a concern for research funded by companies that have a vested interest in the product, as the validity of the results may be in question,” she warns.
Still, Engler is a strong advocate of dark chocolate — depending on which chocolate you choose.
“It is important that the extra calories and fat be considered with chocolate,” she advises. “By choosing dark chocolate with almost twice or more of the amount of flavonoids in milk chocolate, you are making a healthier choice — with less sugar as well.”
Not all dark chocolate is created equal, however. In fact, “dark chocolate” is itself a marketing term; the U.S. Department of Agriculture does not regulate how much cocoa must be included in a bar to label it “dark,” as it does with milk chocolate.
And currently, there’s no easy way to determine the flavanol level of a bar. “Percent cacao is standardized on a food label, and a higher cacao content should yield a higher level of cocoa flavanols, but unfortunately it’s not a reliable indicator of flavanol content,” says Catherine Kwik-Uribe, PhD, global director of applied scientific research for Mars Symbioscience.
Mars is striving to standardize the complex and expensive tests used to gauge flavanol amounts. For now, though, researchers agree that consumers can only go by the broad maxim that flavanol levels are roughly in proportion to the cocoa percentage.
If a bar has 60 percent cocoa, that means the remaining 40 percent is filler. This is typically sugar, vegetable oil or other fats, vanilla, and milk (dairy can block absorption of flavanols).
To reap the benefits of dark chocolate, a number of experts advise, eat 1.5 ounces daily. That’s about half of a typical bar.
Still, even half of a fair-trade, ethically sourced, organic dark-chocolate bar with 70 percent cocoa contains 12 to 18 grams — about 3 to 4 teaspoons — of added sugar. That’s equivalent to a glazed Dunkin’ Donuts doughnut or a Hostess Chocolate CupCake (both of which also include processed flours that your body converts to sugars).
Your best option is to choose chocolate bars with 85 percent or higher cocoa; sugar content typically drops to 5 grams or less per serving. You can also snack on unprocessed cacao nibs, grind cacao with your coffee beans, or add 100 percent unsweetened, nonalkalized cocoa powder to a smoothie.
And you can reframe your love of dark chocolate as an occasional treat with potential health benefits. As Marion Nestle says, “Chocolate is candy, best consumed in moderation.”

The 14 Healthiest Leafy Green Vegetables

Leafy green vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet. They’re packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber but low in calories, but which ones are the most healthy?
Eating a diet rich in leafy greens can offer numerous health benefits including reduced risk of obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure and mental decline (1).

1. KALE

Kale is considered one of the most nutrient-dense vegetables on the planet due to its many vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
For example, one cup (67 grams) of raw kale packs 684 percent of the Daily Value (DV) for vitamin K, 206 percent of the DV for vitamin A and 134 percent of the DV for vitamin C (2).
It also contains antioxidants such as lutein, carotenoids and beta-carotene, which prevent diseases caused by oxidative stress (3).
To benefit most from all that kale has to offer, it’s best consumed raw since cooking can reduce its nutrient profile (4).

2. MICROGREENS

Microgreens are immature greens produced from the seeds of vegetables and herbs. They typically measure 1–3 inches (2.5–7.5 cm).
Since the 1980s, they have often been used as a garnish or decoration, but they have many more uses.
Despite their small size, they’re full of color, flavor and nutrients. In fact, one study found that microgreens contain up to 40 times more nutrients compared to their mature counterparts. Some of these nutrients include vitamins C, E and K (5).
Microgreens can be grown in the comfort of your own home all year round, making them easily available.

3. BROCCOLI

Broccoli is part of the cabbage family.
It has a large flower head as well as a stem, making it similar in structure to cauliflower.
This vegetable is rich in nutrients, with a single cup (91 grams) of raw broccoli packing 135 percent and 116 percent of the DVs for vitamins C and K respectively. It’s also a great source of fiber, calcium, folate and phosphorus (6).
Of all vegetables in the cabbage family, broccoli is richest in the plant compound sulforaphane, which may improve your bacterial gut flora and decrease your risk of cancer and heart disease (7).
What’s more, sulforaphane may even reduce symptoms of autism.
One randomized double-blind study in 26 young people with autism observed a positive effect on behavioral symptoms after consuming sulforaphane supplements from broccoli sprouts (8).

4. COLLARD GREENS

Collard greens are loose leaf greens, related to kale and spring greens. They have thick leaves that taste slightly bitter.
They’re similar in texture to kale and cabbage. In fact, their name comes from the word “colewort,” meaning “the wild cabbage plant.”
Collard greens are a good source of calcium and the vitamins A, B9 (folate) and C. They’re also one of the best sources of vitamin K when it comes to leafy greens. In fact, one cup (190 grams) of cooked collard greens packs 1,045 percent of the DV for vitamin K (9).
Vitamin K is known for its role in blood clotting. In addition, more research is being done regarding its ability to improve bone health (10).
One study in 72,327 women aged 38–63 found that those with vitamin K intakes below 109 mcg per day had a significantly increased risk of hip fractures, suggesting a link between this vitamin and bone health (11).

5. SPINACH

Spinach is a popular leafy green vegetable and is easily incorporated into a variety of dishes, including soups, sauces, smoothies and salads. 
Its nutrient profile is impressive with one cup (30 grams) of raw spinach providing 181 percent of the DV for vitamin K, 56 percent of the DV for vitamin A and 13 percent of the DV for manganese (12).
It’s also packed with folate, which plays a key role in red blood cell production and the prevention of neural tube defects in pregnancy (13).
One study on the neural tube defect spina bifida found that one of the most preventable risk factors for this condition was a low intake of folate during the first trimester of pregnancy (14).
Along with taking a prenatal vitamin, eating spinach is a great way to increase your folate intake during pregnancy.

6. CABBAGE

Cabbage is formed of clusters of thick leaves that come in green, white and purple colors.
It belongs to the Brassica family, along with Brussels sprouts, kale and broccoli (15).
Vegetables in this plant family contain glucosinolate, which gives them a bitter flavor.
Animal studies have found that foods that contain this substance may have cancer-protective properties, especially against lung and esophageal cancer (1617).
Another benefit of cabbage is that it can be fermented and turned into sauerkraut, which provides numerous health benefits, such as improving your digestion and supporting your immune system. It may even aid weight loss (18192021).

7. BEET GREENS

Since the Middle Ages, beets have been claimed to be beneficial for health.
Indeed, they have an impressive nutrient profile, but while beets are commonly used in dishes, the leaves are often ignored.
This is unfortunate, considering that they’re edible and rich in potassium, calcium, riboflavin, fiber and vitamins A and K. Just one cup (144 grams) of cooked beet greens contains 220 percent of the DV for vitamin A, 37 percent of the DV for potassium and 17 percent of the DV for fiber (22).
They also contain the antioxidants beta-carotene and lutein, which have shown to prevent eye disorders such as muscular degeneration and cataracts (2324).
Beet greens can be added to salads, soups or sauteed and eaten as a side dish.

8. WATERCRESS

Watercress is an aquatic plant from the Brassicaceae family and thus similar to arugula and other mustard greens.
It’s known for its healing properties and has been used in medicine for centuries.
Studies have found watercress extract to be beneficial in targeting cancer stem cells and impairing cancer cell reproduction and invasion (2526).
Due to its bitter and slightly spicy flavor, watercress makes a great addition to neutrally flavored foods.

9. ROMAINE LETTUCE

Romaine lettuce is a common leafy vegetable with sturdy, dark leaves with a firm center rib.
It has a crunchy texture and is a popular lettuce, particularly in Caesar salads.
It’s a good source of vitamins A and K, with one cup (47 grams) providing 82 percent and 60 percent of the DVs for these vitamins respectively (27).
What’s more, research has found that water intake from fluids, vegetables and fruits plays an important role in weight loss (28).
Therefore, with only 8 calories and 45 grams of water in a single cup, romaine lettuce may be a great addition to a healthy diet if you’re trying to lose weight (27).

10. SWISS CHARD

Swiss chard has dark-green leaves with a thick stalk that is red, white, yellow or green. It’s often used in Mediterranean cooking and belongs to the same family as beets and spinach.
It has an earthy taste and is rich in minerals and vitamins, such as potassium, manganese and the vitamins A, C and K (29).
Swiss chard also contains a unique flavonoid called syringic acid — a compound that may be beneficial for lowering blood sugar levels (30).
In two small studies in rats with diabetes, oral administration of syringic acid for 30 days improved blood sugar levels (3132).
However, it’s important to note that these were minor animal studies and that human research supporting the claim that syringic acid may aid blood sugar control is lacking.
While many people typically throw away the stems of the Swiss chard plant, they’re crunchy and highly nutritious.
Next time, try adding all parts of the Swiss chard plant to dishes such as soups, tacos or casseroles.

11. ARUGULA

Arugula is a leafy green from the Brassicaceae family that goes by many different names, such as rocket, colewort, roquette, rucola and rucoli.
It has a slightly peppery taste and small leaves that can easily be incorporated into salads or used as a garnish. It can also be used cosmetically and medicinally (33).
Like other leafy greens, it’s packed with nutrients such as vitamins A, B9 and K (34).
It’s also one of the best sources of dietary nitrates, a compound that turns into <nitric oxide in your body.
Though the benefits of nitrates are debated, some studies have found that they may help increase blood flow and reduce blood pressure by widening your blood vessels (35).

12. ENDIVE

Endive (pronounced “N-dive”) belongs to the Cichorium family. It’s less well known than other leafy greens, possibly because it’s difficult to grow.
It’s curly, crisp in texture and has a nutty and mildly bitter flavor. It can be eaten raw or cooked.
Just one-half cup (25 grams) of raw endive leaves packs 72 percent of the DV for vitamin K, 11 percent of the DV for vitamin A and 9 percent of the DV for folate (36).
It’s also a source of kaempferol, an antioxidant that has been shown to reduce inflammation and inhibit the growth of cancer cells in test-tube studies (3738).

13. BOK CHOY

Bok choy is a type of Chinese cabbage.
It has thick, dark-green leaves that make a great addition to soups and stir-fries.
Bok choy is one of the few leafy green vegetables that contain the mineral selenium, which plays an important role in cognitive function, immunity and cancer prevention (39).
In addition, selenium is important for proper thyroid gland function. This gland is located in your neck and releases hormones that play a key role in metabolism (40).
An observational study associated low levels of selenium with thyroid conditions such as hypothyroidism, autoimmune thyroiditis and enlarged thyroid (41).

14. TURNIP GREENS

Turnip greens are the greens of the turnip plant, which is a root vegetable similar to potatoes.
These greens pack more nutrients than the turnip itself, including <calcium, manganese, folate and the vitamins A, C and K (42).
They have a strong and spicy flavor and are often enjoyed cooked rather than raw.
Turnip greens are considered a cruciferous vegetable, which have been shown to decrease your risk of health conditions such as heart disease, cancer, inflammation and atherosclerosis (434445).
Turnip greens also contain several antioxidants including gluconasturtiin, glucotropaeolin, quercetin, myricetin and beta-carotene — which all play a role in reducing stress in your body (46).
Turnip greens can be used as a replacement for kale or spinach in most recipes.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Leafy green vegetables are packed with important and powerful nutrients that are critical for good health.
Fortunately, many leafy greens can be found year round, and they can easily be incorporated into your meals — in surprising and diverse ways.
To reap the many impressive health benefits of leafy greens, make sure to include a variety of these vegetables in your diet.

Monday, 9 July 2018

7 Old-School Hacks to Help You Stay Cool all Summer

Whether it’s Chinese medicine or your great grandmother, those who came before us (and before A/C) had some powerful techniques to help them stay cool when the temps started to rise.
‘So what, we all have air conditioning now?!’ you may be saying.
Well, hold on. Not everyone has regular access to A/C or even loves using it. For some, it can worsen dryness and allergies, plus most units are incredibly noisy. And it’s not so great for the environment.
Sometimes, it’s preferable to cool off the old-school ways. So whether you have an air conditioner or not, here are some tried-and-true traditional techniques to help you make it through the hottest, stickiest part of the summer.

1. EAT WATERMELON AND ALOE VERA.

In Ayurvedic tradition, watermelon and aloe are cooling foods, which means they help to release heat from the body. Munch on watermelon and mint salads when you’re looking for a refreshing, hydrating snack or try this refreshing Aloe Vera Detox Drink recipe.

2. CLOSE AND OPEN WINDOWS STRATEGICALLY.

Whatever you do, do not open your windows in hot weather. In fact, you should even close your blinds during really hot days to keep your house cool and shaded. 
If the outdoor temperature cools down at night, open up all the windows to allow for some refreshing airflow. Batten the hatches again in the morning.
Repeat daily.

3. TRY THIS ANALOG FAN HACK.    

Long before air conditioning, people used to place bowls filled with ice in front of fans. As the fan blows, it picks up the cool air surrounding the ice and circulates it around the room.
Not only is this an environmentally friendly way to mimic A/C, but it is really effective. Enjoy this blissfully cool breeze on the most muggy, sticky, stagnant summer days.

4. SLEEP WITH DAMP COTTON SHEETS.

This may sound weird and pretty uncomfortable, but in a sweltering evening, it can be a sleep-saver.
Use a spray bottle to spritz your cotton sheet with water so that it is slightly damp. The idea is, as you sleep, the damp sheet actively draws heat away from your body, keeping you cool and snoozing soundly.
If you’re not into damp bedding, you could try popping your dry cotton sheets and pajamas into the freezer to give them a deep chill before you snuggle in at bedtime.

5. TAKE A COLD SHOWER.

Sometimes the issue isn’t your room. Sometimes the issue is you. Releasing the excess heat in your body can make your time spent in a room sans air conditioning much more tolerable.
Spend five minutes under some cool water, and you’ll come out the other side feeling enlightened and relaxed!

6. STOP USING YOUR STOVE DURING THE DAY.

If you can use a grill, go for it. Otherwise, either do all your cooking in the morning, well before the heat of the day, or opt for a slow cooker or Instant Pot, which don’t put off much heat.
And whatever you do, don’t even think about turning on your oven!

7. PUT A COLD PACK ON YOUR PULSE POINTS.  

Your wrists, ankles, groin, and neck are all prime areas for temperature biohacking. These are locations where the skin is thin, and large blood vessels are relatively close to the skin.
By putting an ice pack on these points, you’re effectively cooling down your blood and letting that coolness flow through your entire body. It’s like internal air conditioning!
Air conditioning isn’t the be-all end-all of summer. People have survived for millennia in the heat without A/C. With a few tried and true techniques, you can, too.