woman with hat outdoors

Skin Care Tips for Weekend Travel

No matter where you may be heading to over the weekend, you need to ensure that you do not neglect your skin. From on-the-go hydration to the secret behind fresh, de-puffed eyes, here are some skin care tips to keep in mind whenever you are spending the weekend away.

Prepare Your Skin the Night Before

While you may already have plenty of last-minute tasks to do the night before you travel, you need to make your skin a priority at this time.

Giving it some extra care and nourishment before you set off will help you to maintain a healthy complexion while you are away.

Wondering what you need to do?

Begin by exfoliating, following this up with a nourishing face mask.

woman relaxing in bath with a face mask

You should also pay attention to the food that you eat before travelling. Snacking on junk food right up until you leave the house will only mean that your skin will suffer on your journey.

Instead, make sure that your pre-travel meals contain plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as some nuts, seeds or oily fish so that you are consuming enough essential fatty acids, as these are key when it comes to skin health.

Don’t forget about hydration either…

If possible, try to drink as much extra water as you can the day before, especially if you know that you will likely forget to continuously hydrate while you are away.

On-the-Go Hydration

The stress of travelling can often take its toll on your skin, leaving it looking and feeling dull and flat.

Hydrating mists are a great way to perk your skin up, and there are a few different ways in which you can use them:

  • Spray it on top of your makeup to freshen up your look
  • Spray it on your skin before applying moisturizer, so that the moisturizer locks in the extra moisture
  • Spray it on your face as soon as you are done applying your makeup, as this will help your makeup to set

Generally, you will find two types of facial mists available…

The first type is usually made from mineral water, and while the simplicity of these is great, you do need to always follow this up with a layer of moisturizer.

Why?

Because if you don’t, the dry air around you will only end up sucking all of that extra moisture away from your skin, leaving it even drier than it was to begin with.

Alternatively, you could opt for one of the more advanced facial mist formulas. The difference here is that they contain additional hydrating ingredients, such as glycerin and botanicals.

Quickly De-Puff Your Eyes

Everybody wants bright, vibrant eyes when they are heading away for a weekend, but, whether due to the stress of planning or the chaos of travel, the eyes can often end up looking tired and puffy.

There are a few different ways in which you can soothe and de-puff your eyes, depending on where you are and what you have available to you:

  • A Cold Metal Spoon – place a spoon in the fridge for a 15 minutes before holding the rounded end against your eyes. The cold temperature will help to constrict your blood vessels and minimize any puffiness.
  • Ice Cubes Wrapped in Cloth when travelling, ice cubes are usually easier to find than a cold metal spoon, so this is another great alternative. Make sure that you wrap the cubes in cloth before holding them against your eyes, otherwise they will be too harsh against your bare skin.
  • Cucumber Slicescucumber slices on the eyes are a go-to method for de-puffing, with the antioxidants in cucumbers giving your skin an extra boost at the same time
  • Refrigerated Eye Cream if you have access to a fridge, then, in addition to placing a spoon in there, you should also use it to store your eye cream. The colder temperature of the cream when applied around your eyes will do wonders for any puffiness. 

Keep Those Lips Soft and Smooth

You will have enough on your mind when travelling that you really do not want to have to worry about your lips too.

While it may be tempting to swipe on some long-lasting lipstick for the journey, this is something that you should refrain from doing

Why?

These formulas tend to be quite drying on the lips, and will only leave them parched and chapped by the time you reach your destination.

Instead, opt for a couple of layers of a lip stain, topping this off with some medicated lip balm, as this will not disrupt your lipstick.

If you have quite a long journey, a lip treatment may be a good idea, especially if you are already planning on using a face mask while you travel.

Blot the Oil Away

If you have oily skin, then this is something that you will want to keep under control during your weekend away.

Oil blotting sheets are great for this, as these sheets can be dabbed against the skin for a few seconds, during which they will soak up any excess oil.

woman using oil blotting paper

Of course, for skin that is extremely oily, you may end up going through quite a few oil blotting sheets, so it is always worth having an extra weapon in your arsenal, such as an oil-absorbing primer.

Don’t forget…

You can also use oil blotting sheets to help set your makeup, as these will absorb any excess oil from the products that you have used, helping them to last for longer.

Shopping for Samples

Trying to pack as lightly as possible for your weekend away?

Then you will probably not want to bring all of your regular-sized skin care products.

To get around this, many people end up stocking up on sample-sized products, and using these while travelling instead. While there is no denying that this can be extremely convenient, you will need to ensure that you are not using any new products while you are away.

Instead, try to find sample-sized products of the items that you already use, as this will prevent your skin from reacting to anything new while you are travelling.

Can’t find any samples?

Another option is to purchase empty travel-sized containers, and then fill these with your creams and other skin care products.

Clean Hands, Clean Face

If you are someone that always seems to be touching their face without realizing it, then you need to make sure that your hands are always as clean as possible.

For those of you who have access to a sink, wash your hands as much as you can while you are away.

Alternatively, an antibacterial hand gel can be carried with you everywhere you go, and applied frequently throughout the day.

Whether you wash your hands or use a hand gel, it is important to follow this up with a layer of hand cream, as this will prevent your skin from drying out.

Don’t want to bring your hand cream with you?

There is nothing wrong with using your standard face moisturizer for this, especially if it is only going to be for a couple of days.

Shaving Cream Alternatives

You may want to keep your legs soft and smooth throughout the weekend, but shaving cream can be quite a bulky item to include in your luggage, especially since you will only be using it once or twice.

Fortunately, there are a few alternatives that you can use:

  • Hair Conditioner one of the cheapest and most effective shaving cream alternatives
  • Raw Honey while this may seem quite thick when you apply it to your legs, it rinses off easily with water, and will moisturize your skin at the same time
  • Body Lotion wait until your shower has turned steamy before applying body lotion to your legs, as this will enable your pores to open, meaning that the lotion will be able to penetrate through your skin much better
  • Coconut Oilthanks to its antifungal and antibacterial properties, coconut oil is great for preventing razor burn
  • Shea Butter softens the hair, making it easier to shave, while moisturizing the skin at the same time

Swipe On Some Red Lipstick

Although it is best to avoid lipstick while you are actually on the move, once you reach your weekend destination, a swipe of red across the lips is one of the best ways to brighten up your look.

woman applying red lipstick

This will instantly make your complexion appear more revitalized, while your teeth will look whiter and your smile will look bigger.

Don’t like lips that are too red during the day?

Simply swipe on a single coat and then blot this down with some tissue, as this will turn your bolder lipstick shade into a subtler lip stain.

Tailor Your Skin Care to Your Destination

Even though you may only be going away for a couple of days, you do need to think about how your destination is going to affect your skin.

For example, heading to somewhere hot and sunny means that you will need to pack hydrating, and sun protecting, products, whereas somewhere cold and windy would require an extra rich moisturizer to protect your skin from the environment.

Make the Most of Your Bronzer

Trying to decide in advance which makeup looks you want to go for over the weekend can be difficult, and you may end up packing a huge back full of cosmetics.

Instead of doing this, try to make use of multi-functional products, such as a bronzer. This one item is all you need to create a flawless evening look.

Wondering how?

To begin with, use a large brush to dust the bronzer along your nose, jawline, cheekbones and temple, giving your complexion a gorgeous glow. Then, sweep some of this along your eyelids, to act as an eyeshadow, before using your finger to dab some along your lower lash line. Finish the look with a brown eyeliner, as this will beautifully complement the shades of bronze around your face.

On-the-Go Face Masks

Applying a face mask while travelling on a plane, train, or even a car, has become all the rage recently, with many celebrities pushing this trend forward.

However, this is not just a silly fad…

Face masks are a great way to nourish your skin on a deeper level, and by using one while you are travelling, you will be able to ensure that your complexion is radiant and glowing upon arrival.

Can’t decide which type of mask to go for?

Here are a few options:

  • Sheet Masks Just about every brand has their own sheet mask now, because these masks deliver intense doses of active ingredients, while the actual sheet helps to ensure that they go nowhere else but into your skin. The downside to sheet masks is that they are quite noticeable, especially if you are in public.

woman applying sheet mask

  • Cream Masks These are incredibly nourishing, making them great for travelling. They come in a cream-like formula, and can be applied in a similar way to moisturizer, with the only difference being that they are left on for around 30 minutes.
  • Hydrogel Masks These are relatively new masks that are extremely popular in Korea. They are similar to sheet masks except that they are made from a thin gel, which gives them a greater ability to lock in moisture.

Don’t Stress

If you have extremely problematic skin, you may end up stressing quite a bit about how it is going to react to your weekend away.

This is something that you should really try to prevent, as the extra stress will not do your skin any good. Instead, the cortisol that will be running through your body will lead to blemishes, breakouts and more, which is not something that you want to deal with while travelling. 

Have a few stress-management tools on hand, such as a journal, some relaxing music, and maybe a game to take your mind off things.

If you do end up forgetting something important, chances are that you will be able to pick it up from a drug store at your destination. Even if you are heading to somewhere more remote, don’t forget that it is only going to be for a weekend, and you can always give your skin a bit of extra TLC once you return.  

woman doing crunches

20 Bodyweight Exercises You Can Try at Home

Unlike many other workout types, bodyweight exercises do not actually require any special equipment, and can easily be carried out at home. By using nothing else but the weight of your body and the power of gravity, these 20 bodyweight exercises will help you to build muscle and burn fat, while giving yourself such a satisfying workout.

1. Squats

squats

Squats are not only one of the most effective of bodyweight exercises, but are also the most natural, as this is the same way in which a baby would sit down.

While this may seem like a simple exercise, a squat works out all of the muscles in the lower body, and gives your core a boost as well, since you will be using your abdominal muscles to keep yourself upright.

However, make sure that your technique is correct when doing this exercise, otherwise you may cause more damage than good…

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and then bend your knees until your thighs are parallel to the ground. Use your heels to help you to stand back up straight again, squeezing your buttocks in and keeping your core tight while you do so.

 

2. Burpees

While burpees are quite intense, many would argue that this is the single most effective exercise in the world, as it works out almost every muscle group, combining cardio and strength into one exercise. 

To do a burpee, these are the four steps that you must follow:

  • Stand with your feet together, and then drop into a deep squat position with your hands on the floor
  • Kick your feet backwards so that your body is in a plank position
  • Jump your feet back into a low squat position
  • Jump back up, with your arms reaching overhead

If you want to make this exercise a little easier to begin with, take out the last jump, and simply stand up at the end instead.

Or, if you want to make this exercise a little harder, add in a tuck jump just before the squat.

 

3. Push-Ups

push ups

Push-ups are great as they work out just about every muscle group in the upper body, from your back to your arms to your abs.

They are also easy to do, but you need to ensure that your position is correct…

Your shoulders should be lined up with your wrists, while your elbows should be tucked in towards your side. You should also be trying to get your hips and chest as close to the floor as possible while doing this exercise, without actually touching the floor.

 

4. Calf-Raise

The calf-raise is an extremely simple exercise, but can be adapted to suit your needs.

Here is what you need to do:

  • Stand up straight and slowly rise up on your toes, until your heels are off the floor, but make sure that you keep your knees straight
  • Hold the position briefly before coming back down and repeating

Wondering how to make this exercise a bit more challenging?

Try standing on a step while doing it, or bounce up and down quickly so that you get more reps in.

 

5. Step-Up

This is an exercise that requires a raised surface, such as a step, low chair or bench.

All you need to do is place one foot onto this surface and then step up on it, until your front leg is straight.

Hold this briefly before returning to your starting position, making sure that you step down rather than jump down.

 

6. Plank

plank

When it comes to defining the core, the plank has become one of the most popular exercises.

Here are the steps to follow to correctly carry out a plank:

  • Lie face down with your forearms touching the floor and your hands clasped
  • Extend your legs behind you and rise up on your toes
  • Tighten your core, and hold this position for as long as you can, making sure that your back is kept straight

 

7. Feet-Elevated Plank

Once you have mastered the standard plank, you can then move on to trying some of the many plank variations that are out there.

The feet-elevated plank is one of these, and is basically the same as a standard plank, but is carried out on a raised surface to make it more challenging.

Try it on something like a chair or low table first, as you do not want the surface to be too high.

 

8. Side Plank

side plank

Another plank variation, the side plank requires you to lie on your side, with just one foot, and one forearm, touching the floor.

Once you have done this, raise your body up slowly, making sure to keep it in a straight line.

Hold this for as long as you can before gently lowering yourself back down. Make sure that you do this exercise using both sides of your body.

 

9. Handstand Push-Up

Handstand push-ups will give your body a great workout, and are especially effective at building up the shoulders.

Haven’t yet mastered the handstand?

Use a wall to help you, placing your feet against this.

Once you can do this for 60 seconds, you can then begin incorporating push-ups into this.

 

10. Donkey Kicks

donkey kick

The donkey kick, also known as the back kick, works out a number of different muscle groups:

  • The core
  • All three muscles in the buttocks
  • The lower back
  • The legs

Here is what you need to do:

    • Begin on the floor on all fours
    • Bring your right knee in towards your chest, keeping your foot flexed
    • Kick your right leg up behind you, and then bring it back down, keeping your knee bent while doing so
    • Repeat this with the other leg

 

11. Crab Walk

The crab walk targets your triceps, glutes and your core, while also improving your coordination. While it may take a few days to master this move, it will not be long before you are speeding across the floor…crab-style, of course!

All you need to do is sit on the ground in a comfortable position, with your palms behind your hips. Then, pull your body up off the ground, so that your weight is resting on your hands and feet.

Use your left foot, and your right hand, to move yourself one step forward or backward, before repeating with the other hand and foot.

TOP TIP: Make sure that you keep your abdominal muscles engaged, and your hips lifted off the floor for the entire duration of the exercise.

 

12. Bicycle Crunches

bicycle crunches

Unlike regular crunches, bicycle crunches require deeper abdominal rotation and stabilization, which gives your core an intense workout.

They are also easy to do, with only a few steps to follow:

  • Lie on the ground with your knees bent and hands behind your head
  • Lift your legs off the ground and slowly make a pedalling motion, just like riding a bicycle
  • Keep your hands behind your head, and, as each leg comes towards you, bring the opposing elbow over to meet it

 

13. Dragon Flag

Looking for a serious challenge?

Then the dragon flag is the exercise for you.

If you have not heard of this one before, here is what you need to do:

  • Lie on your back and hold on to something behind your head
  • Keeping your upper back on the floor, raise the rest of your body off of the floor
  • Brace every muscle that you can in order to keep your body in a straight line

 

14. Side Lunges

side lunge

When it comes to the majority of bodyweight exercises out there, these tend to move your body in one of two ways; up and down, or forward and back.

This is exactly why the side lunge is such a good exercise to incorporate into your workout, as it gets your body moving in a different way. This means that it will challenge your muscle fibers, ligaments, and tendons in a way that the rest of your workout does not.

To do this exercise, begin by standing with your feet apart, and then take a large step out towards your right. Bend your knee and push your buttocks back, while keeping your core tight and your chest lifted.

Return back to your starting position and then repeat on the other side.

Want to give your core even more of a challenge?

Try adding in a side leg lift with each lunge.

 

15. Sit-Up

Sit-ups are quite a popular exercise, and this is because they are also one of the most challenging of bodyweight exercises.

Why?

Since you are not able to use your arms or legs to help you to sit up, you end up using a far greater amount of abdominal strength.

Simply lie on the ground with your knees bent, and then contract your abs to lift your body up off the ground. Make sure that you limit the amount of movement that your lower back does.

Finding standard sit-ups too challenging?

Try doing a crunch variation instead, until you build up some abdominal strength.

 

16. Twisting Sit-Up

twisting sit up

If you are bored of regular sit-ups, try giving the twisting sit-up a try instead, which is an advanced form of the standard version.

For those of you who are already familiar with sit-ups, this exercise will be easy to do. The only difference with this one is that at the top of each movement, you need to bring the opposite elbow towards your knee.

Make sure that you do not over-rotate your body, as this can cause quite a bit of damage over time.

 

17. Jumping Jacks

When it comes to the different types of exercise out there, jumping often gets a bad reputation. However, there is nothing quite like it when it comes to increasing bone density, so, if this is one of your aims, you may want to give this exercise a try. 

Here are a few of the other benefits that jumping jacks can bring:

  • One of the best plyometric exercises there is
  • Provides a great cardio workout
  • Will improve your speed and quickness

Ready to give it a go?

Simply jump up, spreading your legs to the side while lifting your arms at the same time. Once you land, jump back up and do it again.

Jumping jacks are also a great one to warm up with, so consider adding this to the start of your workout.

 

18. Squat Jacks

jumping jack before squat

Squat jacks take jumping jacks to the next level, by throwing a squat in there too.

Here are the steps to follow:

    • Stand with your feet together and your hands at your chest
    • Jump so that your feet go outwards, but sit into a small squat at the same time
    • Jump your feet back together to bring yourself back into your standing position
    • Repeat

 

19. Tuck Jumps

Everyone has their own individual goals when it comes to working out, and if yours include improving your agility and power, while working on jumping higher, then tuck jumps are the way to go.

This is a powerful, yet fun, exercise that has been proven to strengthen just about every single part of the body, and is especially beneficial when it comes to heart health.

To begin with…

Stand up straight with your knees slightly bent, and then jump as high as possible.

Now for the tricky part…

While you are in the air, bring your knees in towards your chest, while extending the arms straight out, almost as though you are tucking your knees in.

Bend your knees slightly as you land, and then repeat the exercise.

 

20. Wall Sit

wall sit

The wall sit works out a number of different muscle groups, including your hamstrings, glutes, quadriceps, and your core. 

To do this exercise, follow these steps:

  • Slide your back down a wall until your thighs are parallel to the ground, and your knees are directly over your ankles
  • Keep your back straight, and hold this position for 60 seconds, before returning to standing position.
  • Try to repeat this five times, although you may need to build up to this gradually.

If you want to give yourself an extra challenge, try adding in some bicep curls while you are “sitting”.

 

When it comes to working out, it is important to make sure that you do not push yourself too hard to begin with, as this may only end up deterring you. Instead, set yourself some realistic goals, and take the steps necessary to ensure that you stick to them. 

The Benefits and Harms of Your Regular Espresso

For years now, there has been so much debate on whether or not coffee is actually good for us. If you are someone that drinks coffee each and every day, here are some of the health benefits that you will likely experience, as well as a few dangers that you need to watch out for.

 

What Exactly is Coffee?

Coffee is the most widely consumed beverage in the world, with 83% of the population of the United States being avid coffee drinkers. Consisting of a powerful collection of biologically active compounds, many people associate only caffeine with coffee, but this drink actually contains so much more than that, and is packed with thousands of complex substances.

Let’s look at the benefits and harms of drinking your daily espresso.

 

Benefits of Your Daily Espresso

 

1. Coffee Can Boost Physical Performance

Coffee has been proven to be able to increase energy and boost physical performance, making this a great beverage to sip on before a workout.

Drinking just one cup of coffee, around an hour before you intend to work out, can improve your performance by up to 12%.

Why?

Well, coffee increases the adrenaline in your blood, which is the hormone that your body produces to help it to deal with physical exertion. An increase in adrenaline levels then increases your energy, as well as the amount of exercise you are able to do.

 

2. Coffee Helps to Burn Fat and Lose Weight

While you should not depend solely on coffee if you are trying to lose weight, this beverage can definitely help you on your weight loss quest.

Coffee is packed with potassium and magnesium, both of which help the body to use insulin and regulate blood sugar levels. By keeping your blood sugar levels steady, you will not experience as many cravings for unhealthy foods and snacks, making it much easier for you to stick to a healthy diet.

But, don’t forget…

Although coffee can help you lose weight, you need to ensure that you are not filling your coffee with calorie-laden creams and sugars, as this will only counter the weight loss benefits that coffee can have.

 

3. Coffee Contains a Wide Range of Antioxidants

Here is a fact that will no doubt surprise you…

Coffee is the biggest source of antioxidants in the Western diet, and outranks both fruits and vegetables combined. 

Coffee is absolutely packed with a wide range of antioxidants, including:

  • Polyphenols – key when it comes to disease prevention
  • Hydrocinnamic Acids neutralizes free radicals and prevents oxidative stress
  • Cafestol an anti-inflammatory that protects the brain
  • Melanoidins an anti-bacterial and an anti-inflammatory that also gives coffee its distinct aroma

So, why exactly are antioxidants so important?

Well, the body is constantly being attacked by free radicals, and these cause so much damage to your cells, affecting them as deeply as DNA level. Antioxidants are able to neutralize these free radicals, keeping your body healthier, as well as more youthful, for longer.

free radicals

But, here’s the deal…

The way in which you prepare your coffee will have a significant impact on its antioxidant content. For example, roasted coffee has many more antioxidants than non-roasted coffee, so always opt for coffee that is as high quality as possible.

 

4. Coffee Reduces Your Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

Affecting over 300 million people, type 2 diabetes is one of the most common diseases out there, and refers to blood sugar levels being elevated due to a resistance to insulin.

There have been multiple studies carried out over the years that look at the relationship between coffee and type 2 diabetes, and the results have been surprising…

By drinking coffee on a daily basis, you will be able to reduce your risk of developing diabetes by an impressive 23-67%.

 

5. Coffee Offers Protection for the Brain

As the body ages, neurodegenerative diseases become so much more common.

What is a neurodegenerative disease?

These are brain diseases that occur due to the death of neurons in the brain. These diseases are always progressive, meaning that neurons will continue to die and the disease will only worsen over time.

The two most common neurodegenerative diseases out there are Alzheimer’s, which is also the leading cause of dementia, and Parkinson’s.

brain

Fortunately, coffee can help to protect your brain from both of these…

  • Alzheimer’s – Research shows that coffee drinkers have a 65% lowered risk of developing Alzheimer’s
  • Parkinson’s Studies show that coffee drinkers have a 32-60% lowered risk of developing Parkinson’s, with this number increasing with the more coffee that you drink

By protecting the neurons in your brain, coffee will also reduce your risk of developing dementia as you get older.

 

6. Coffee Improves Mood and Acts as an Anti-Depressant

The caffeine that coffee contains is a known stimulant, and, each time you drink a cup of coffee, the caffeine blocks the function of one of your brain hormones, known as adenosine.

Wondering what this actually means?

Well, by blocking adenosine, your brain is then able to enjoy an increase in activity, and releases several other neurotransmitters, including dopamine and norepinephrine.

Here is what this can do for you:

  • Improves your mood
  • A short-term boost to brain function
  • Reduces tiredness and increases alertness

All of these effects then work together to fight depression, with one Harvard study showing that coffee drinkers experience a 20% lowered risk of becoming depressed.

This also relates to suicide rates, with coffee drinkers being 53% less likely to take their own lives.

 

7. Coffee Can Lower Your Risk of Premature Death

Premature deaths can be caused by so many different factors, including all of the health issues mentioned in this article.

By experiencing so many health benefits, it only makes sense that coffee drinkers have a much lowered risk of dying prematurely.

How much coffee do you need to drink for this?

Studies have shown that when drinking four to five cups of coffee a day, men have a 12% reduced risk of premature death, while women have 16%.

However, even just one cup of coffee a day can still reduce your risk of premature death by 5-6%, showing you just how little is needed to make a difference. 

 

8. Coffee Can Reduce the Risk of Cancer

Thanks to its phenolic compounds, coffee can have a significant impact on different types of cancer.

Numerous studies have been carried out over the years. Here are some of the results:

  • A 2012 study found that each cup of coffee a day would lessen your chances of developing endometrial cancer by 8%
  • A 2011 study showed that each cup of coffee a day would reduce the risk of pancreatic cancer by 4%
  • A 2011 study found that each cup of coffee a day would reduce the risk of bladder, breast, prostate and colorectal cancers by 3%

Here is the best bit…

When it comes to liver cancer, a 2007 study found that drinking two extra cups of coffee a day would lower an individual’s risk by 43%.

 

8. Coffee Can Help with Oral Health

You are probably thinking…

“Coffee is known to stain teeth. How can it help with oral health?”

While it is true about coffee staining the teeth, this is a cosmetic problem, and does not actually signify anything about a person’s health.

In fact, when drank straight black, the antioxidants found within coffee make your teeth less adhesive. This means that bacteria is not able to hold on to your teeth with much strength, not only keeping them cleaner, but also making them easier to clean.

 

Harms of Your Daily Espresso

 

1. Coffee Can Elevate Cholesterol Levels

While coffee does not contain cholesterol itself, it does interfere with the way in which your body produces and regulates cholesterol.

How?

As mentioned above, coffee contains an antioxidant called cafestol. While this compound does have its benefits, it affects the way in which your body metabolizes cholesterol, leading to raised cholesterol levels.

Fortunately, there is a way around this…

There are multiple ways to brew a coffee, but, if you do it in an American-style coffee pot, with a filter, then the resulting coffee will actually have quite low cafestol levels.

Why is this?

Since the coffee only passes through the grounds once, most of the cafestol is left behind in the filter. On the other hand, a French press brews coffee by constantly passing water through the coffee grounds, meaning that the resulting beverage contains quite a bit of cafestol.

However, even if you do like a French press, you may not need to worry too much about raised cholesterol levels…

Research has indicated that you would need to drink around five cups of French press coffee a day to see an increase in your cholesterol levels, so as long as you ensure that your coffee consumption does not become excessive, then you should not have a problem.

 

2. Coffee Can Increase Your Risk of Heart Disease

While coffee does not increase the risk of heart disease for everybody, it does if you have a genetic mutation that slows down the rate at which caffeine is broken down by the body.

Since your body will not be able to metabolize the caffeine quickly enough, this can significantly increase your chances of developing heart disease.

Fortunately, this does not mean that you have to completely avoid coffee…

Try to stick to just one cup a day, as the risks will only come from drinking two cups or more.

 

3. Coffee Can Be Addictive

If you are quite dependent on your daily coffee, then you will already be aware of the fact that coffee is quite addictive. This is due to the caffeine in coffee, with the term caffeine dependence being coined a few years ago.

What does too much caffeine do to your body?

A number of things:

    • Increases anxiety
    • Disrupts sleep patterns
    • Leads to insomnia
    • Increases blood sugar levels
    • Can lead to spinal bone loss if an individual is not consuming enough calcium

 

A Lowered Tolerance

While all of these health benefits that coffee can bring to the body may sound great, keep in mind that many of these effects are likely to only be short term. If you are someone that drinks coffee multiple times a day, then you are likely to soon build up a tolerance to its benefits, meaning that the results will not be as noticeable, and you will be more likely to experience some of the negatives that come with coffee.

So, how much is too much?

Drinking more than eight cups of coffee a day would be considered excessive, and would bring about the negative effects mentioned above.

So, as long as you stay below this guideline, and do not fill your coffee with sugars, flavors and creams, you will be able to enjoy nothing but the many benefits that coffee can bring to the body.

 

How to Make Your Daily Espresso Healthier

As mentioned above, you need to ensure that you do not add sugars and other harmful ingredients to your coffee, as this negates its benefits.

Here are a few other tips to help you to ensure that your daily brews are as health-boosting as possible:

  • Coffee is often sprayed heavily with pesticides, making it worth springing for organic versions
  • For maximum health benefits, drink your coffee straight black
  • Adding a square of 70% cacao dark chocolate to your cup of coffee will give it a chocolatey edge, while bringing you all of the health benefits of the cacao too 

So, how should you brew your coffee?

Well, that all depends on what you are trying to gain from it…

  • If you want a coffee that is as “pure” as possible, opt for a French press
  • If you have acid reflux or a sensitive stomach, go for cold-brewed coffees, as these are much less acidic
  • If you have cholesterol concerns, an American-style coffee pot or an instant coffee may be your best bet

Do not be afraid to experiment with all of the different coffees, as well as brewing methods, that are out there. While you do want your coffee to be as beneficial to your health as possible, you still need to be able to find a brew that truly satisfies your taste buds.

A Beginner’s Guide to Probiotics

Probiotics have been all the rage recently, and there is good reason for this too. For those of you who are new to the world of probiotics, this beginner’s guide will tell you all that you need to know.

 

 

What Are Probiotics?

Probiotics are often referred to as good bacteria, and they live within your digestive tract, regulating digestion, supporting the immune system and doing so much more.

However, your gut also contains bad bacteria, and when these outnumber the good bacteria, you may experience some of these problems:

  • Digestive disturbances, such as gas, diarrhea and IBD
  • Skin conditions, such as acne, psoriasis and eczema
  • Mood swings, excess stress and depression
  • A weak immune system, meaning that you easily fall ill
  • Allergies and asthma

Your gut flora should ideally contain 85% good bacteria and 15% bad bacteria, and, even if you do not suffer from any of the above-mentioned issues, probiotics could still benefit you in a number of ways:

  • Improving digestion, allowing your body to absorb more nutrients
  • Improving immune function, protecting you from illnesses and infections
  • Giving an overall boost to your complexion and skin
  • Aiding in weight loss
  • Increasing energy
  • Reducing lactose intolerance

 

Types of Probiotics 

There are thousands of strains of probiotics out there, and each one will support a different aspect of your health. If you are seeking a general overall boost to your health, try to consume a wide variety of strains, as this will help to cover just about everything.

If you have a specific health problem you are trying to treat, there are particular probiotic strains that would be especially beneficial to you.

  • Immunity and Infections – Lactobacillus casei
  • Gas, bloating and lactose intolerance – Lactobacillus acidophilus
  • Liver function and inflammation – Bifidobacterium longum
  • Neutralize toxins – Lactobacillus bulgaricus
  • Arthritis and Inflammation – Bacillus coagulans

You’re likely thinking…

“Those words don’t make much sense!”

Fortunately, unless you are looking to treat a specific condition, you do not need to worry too much about the various probiotic strains out there. By consuming a wide range of probiotics, you will more than likely be covered.

woman eating probiotics

 

Why Have Probiotics Become So Trendy? 

Historically, people used to have plenty of probiotics in their diet, as they would eat fresh foods, that had been grown on quality soil. Fermenting foods, in order to preserve them, was also commonplace, with the fermentation process itself creating a wide range of good bacteria.

Today, life is quite different…

The food that you eat has likely been soaked in chlorine and then processed and refrigerated, removing any probiotics. Lower quality soil also has a huge impact on this, as do the antibiotics that many foods contain, as these actually kill off any good bacteria that is already in your gut.

 

Who Should Avoid Probiotics? 

Probiotics will generally benefit just about everyone, but there are a couple of conditions that can actually be worsened by probiotics.

If you suffer from short bowel syndrome or immunodeficiency, it would be wise to speak to your doctor before beginning your probiotic journey.

 

How to Increase Your Intake of Probiotics

Now that you understand the importance of probiotics, you can begin to take a look at the many ways in which you can increase your intake of probiotics. Consuming more probiotic-rich foods is the best way to do this, and there are many options out there.

 

Milk Kefir 

Milk kefir is similar to yoghurt, although with a thinner texture, and has been consumed for over 3000 years. Just like yoghurt, kefir is slightly tart tasting, but, when it comes down to the probiotics within the two, kefir wins hands down.

Yoghurt contains between 2 to 7 types of probiotics, while kefir contains an impressive 10 to 35, as well as a number of beneficial yeast strains.

Never tried it before?

Kefir can be purchased in supermarkets and speciality shops, but store-bought versions will never quite compare to flavor that comes from making it yourself at home. Store-bought kefir will also be lightly processed, removing some of its probiotics.

If you want to try making it yourself at home, this is what you will need:

  • Fermented kefir grains
  • Milk
  • A non-metal strainer
  • A glass jar

The fermented kefir grains are mixed with the milk in a jar before being strained out the next day, with the resulting liquid being the kefir. The grains will grow and multiply with each batch that you make, meaning that it will not be long before you will be able to share them with friends and family, so that they can also make their own.

Wondering where to get the fermented kefir grains from?

Getting your hands on some grains can be tricky, unless you know someone that already makes kefir at home. If not, try ordering them online, or join a few kefir groups on social media, as there will always be people happy to post their extra grains to you.

milk kefir

 

Sauerkraut 

Sauerkraut is most commonly made from fermented cabbage, but can also contain a number of other vegetables. While sauerkraut itself does not contain a huge number of probiotics, its organic acids support the growth of good bacteria within the gut.

Just like with kefir, sauerkraut can be purchased from shops, but is far more beneficial when made yourself at home.

All you need to do is:

  1. Thinly slice or shred the cabbage, as well as any other vegetables you want to include. Beets and carrots work particularly well, and also add a beautiful pop of color.
  2. Layer the cabbage into a glass jar, alternating each layer with a sprinkling of salt, with the top layer being just salt.
  3. Cover the jar with a boiled cloth and leave it to sit for a couple of days, until a white scum appears on the top. Skim this off, replace the cloth, and then repeat this process for about two weeks. You will know that your sauerkraut is ready when no more bubbles form within it.

sauerkraut preparation

 

Kimchi 

If you have tried sauerkraut, and would prefer it to have more of a kick, then kimchi may be just the food for you.

Kimchi is often referred to as the Korean take on sauerkraut, as it is also made from fermented Chinese cabbage. However, the difference comes from the addition of other ingredients, including:

  • Radish
  • Carrots
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Red pepper flakes

The method of making kimchi is not too different from that of sauerkraut, and, just like with sauerkraut, kimchi is a fantastic accompaniment to so many meals.

kimchi preparation

 

Raw Cheese 

For those of you who love dairy products, you will be happy to know that raw cheese is a great source of probiotics, but you do need to ensure that the cheese has not been pasteurized. In particular, goat’s milk and sheep’s milk cheeses are especially high in probiotics, so try to opt for these if possible.

 

Miso 

If you are a fan of Japanese food, then you are likely already familiar with miso, which has been a staple in Japanese cuisine for more than 2500 years. Miso is a paste that is made from fermented soybeans, barley or rice, and is most commonly eaten in the form of a soup.

However, if you do not tend to enjoy the taste of miso soup, here are a few other ways in which you can use the ingredient:

  • Mixed with sesame oil and spread on fish fillets for a beautiful shiny glaze
  • Whisked into a salad dressing
  • Mashed into potatoes
  • Turned into a mayonnaise or a mustard
  • A marinade for meat
  • Caramelized into a butter

probiotic-rich foods

 

Probiotic Supplements

In addition to consuming more probiotic-rich foods, you could also look into taking a probiotic supplement. If you have already had a look at the supplements out there, you are likely thinking…

“There are far too many to choose from! How do I know which one is best?”

Here are a few tips to help you to make your decision:

  • CFU count – this is something that often confuses people, but is simply a measurement of the amount of live bacteria that a supplement contains. Try to choose one that contains between 5 to 10 billion CFU.
  • Strains – There are 10,000 different strains of bacteria within our gut, so make sure that your supplement also contains a good variety of these.
  • Packaging – Probiotic bacteria can easily be killed by everything from light to air to heat, so look for a supplement that is housed in a thick, opaque bottle if possible, or a blister pack.
  • Expiration date – the supplement industry is not required to put expiration dates on their products, but, without one, it is impossible to know how long the probiotic bacteria in your supplement will stay alive for. If a supplement does not state an expiration date, you can assume that this is because it is of a lower quality, and is best avoided.

 

Combining Probiotic-Rich Foods with Probiotic Supplements 

As mentioned above, the gut contains over 10,000 different strains of bacteria, and it is impossible for a single supplement to match this. While supplements may be convenient to take, these should ideally be supported with probiotic-rich foods in order to experience the best results.

You may be thinking…

“I don’t like sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, raw cheese and miso!”

Luckily, there are so many other probiotic-rich foods out there, and there are bound to be at least a couple that you will enjoy. Here are some more ideas for other probiotic-rich foods you could try:

  • Kombucha – a fermented black or green tea
  • Tempeh – a fermented soybean patty with a nutty, mushroom-like texture
  • Pickles – make sure that these are fermented in water and salt, rather than vinegar
  • Green olives – brined in salt water, green olives undergo a natural fermentation process
  • Sourdough bread 

 

What About Prebiotics? 

Put simply, prebiotics are the food source for probiotics, and help to keep probiotics alive.

Prebiotics can be found in such a wide range of foods, such as:

  • Vegetables – garlic, onion, beetroot, green peas, Jerusalem artichoke, asparagus
  • Fruits – white peach, grapefruit, pomegranate, nectarine, dried fruit
  • Legumes – baked beans, red kidney beans, soybeans, chickpeas, lentils
  • Nuts – pistachio nuts, cashew nuts

So, do you need prebiotics?

Well, it is likely that, if you have a balanced diet, you are already consuming a fair amount of prebiotics. Nevertheless, it never hurts to add in a few more, so do try to increase your consumption of the foods mentioned above.

Some probiotics, such as sauerkraut and kimchi, also contain prebiotics, making them twice as powerful. Some probiotic supplements also contain prebiotics, and this is commonly labelled as inulin, so keep an eye out for this.

probiotic foods

 

Other Ways to Boost Your Gut Health 

The health of your gut is so important, and while probiotics, as well as prebiotics, can really help with this, these on their own are not enough to guarantee a healthy gut. You should also:

  • Decrease your consumption of fast food and sugar
  • Limit your alcohol consumption
  • Cut back on your consumption of meat
  • Regular exercise
  • Stress management

Both of these are extremely detrimental to your gut’s microbial balance, so you need to take control of this if you really want to balance out the good and bad bacteria in your gut.

healthy green smoothie

 

Take the First Step 

If you are still feeling a little confused about the world of probiotics, the best way to begin your journey is by picking a couple of probiotic foods and incorporating them into your diet as much as you can. If you make them yourself at home, you will gain a much deeper understanding of the fermentation process, but there is nothing wrong with purchasing probiotic-rich foods from a store, especially if you only want a little taster to begin with.