Whole garlic and garlic cloves on a wooden chopping board

8 Foods for a Stronger Immune System

You have probably heard the term “immune system” so many times throughout your life, but do you know what your immune system actually is? 

Your immune system consists of a network made up of organs, tissues and cells, and these protect the body from foreign invaders and infectious compounds. 

Do you suffer from recurrent infections, digestive problems, inflammation or an autoimmune disease? 

If your answer is yes…

Then this means that your immune system is weak, and would really benefit from a boost.

Around 70% to 80% of your immune system is located in your gut, which is why the food you eat will have a direct impact on how your immune system functions. To really strengthen and support your immune system, here are eight foods that you should try to incorporate into your diet. 

Garlic

Just about every type of cuisine in the world makes use of garlic, and it has long since been used as a method of fighting off infections.

How exactly is it able to do this?

Well, garlic contains a compound known as alliin. When a garlic clove is crushed, or even chewed, the alliin within it turns to allicin.

The allicin within garlic contains sulfur, and this is what gives garlic its distinctive smell. It is also the reason as to why garlic smells its strongest after it has been crushed, compared to when it is a whole clove.

However, allicin is quite an unstable compound, meaning that it doesn’t stick around for too long.

What happens to it?

It turns into other compounds that contain sulphur, and these are what give garlic its medicinal properties.

There is plenty of research out there that shows how garlic is not only able to prevent you from falling sick in the first place, but also affects how quickly you recover when you do fall sick.

Those who consume more garlic will not only have a lower risk of catching a cold or developing an infection, but they will also feel better so much faster.

Of course, in order for the allicin in the garlic to work properly, you need to make sure that you always crush garlic and leave it to stand for ten minutes before you use it. This will enable the allicin to convert into medicinal compounds.

Wondering how much garlic you need to eat in order to experience its immune benefits?

As much as possible! But at least one clove per meal would be ideal.

Blueberries

Blueberries may be small, but they are actually packed with a number of important nutrients, all of which really support the immune system. 

There is one compound in particular that blueberries contain that set them apart from the other superfoods out there…

This compound is known as pterostilbene. When consumed, it boosts the way in which the CAMP gene functions. The CAMP gene, which stands for cathelicidin antimicrobial peptide, is responsible for creating specific proteins that protect the body from bacterial infections.

In addition to pterostilbene, blueberries also contain high levels of: 

  • Vitamin A 
  • Vitamin C
  • Manganese
  • Potassium
  • Antioxidants 

Infographic on the benefits of blueberries

Can’t stand the taste of blueberries? 

Other dark berries, such as red grapes, cranberries and mulberries, also contain pterostilbene, although in smaller quantities. 

Cinnamon

Now that the festive season is approaching, cinnamon is a spice that you will likely encounter more frequently, and, in addition to adding a distinct flavor and scent to foods, this spice is also a powerful immune booster.

When consumed, cinnamon is able to increase the amount of T regulatory immune cells, also called Tregs, within the body.

What do Tregs do?

They basically control the way in which the immune system responds to foreign invaders, as well as those that are coming from the body itself. This not only helps to prevent autoimmune diseases, but also strengthens the immune system, enabling it to better protect itself against infections.

Of course, there is one downside to cinnamon…

The majority of popular recipes and dishes featuring this spice tend to be laden with calories and other unhealthy ingredients, all of which will only put a damper on your immune system.

Looking for a healthy way to cook with cinnamon?

Give some of these ideas a try:

  • Cinnamon French toast
  • Cinnamon chicken curry
  • Honey-cinnamon roasted chickpeas
  • Baked cinnamon apple chips
  • Cinnamon muffins
  • Cinnamon almond butter

You may need to get creative when it comes to using more of this spice, but the benefits that cinnamon brings really makes this worthwhile.

Turmeric

You have probably already heard of turmeric being called a superfood lately, with this ingredient becoming increasingly popular in recent years.

Why?

Because a number of studies have now been carried out that prove its many benefits, one of which is the way in which it boosts the immune system. 

How does it do this?

It all comes down to a compound called curcumin, which is what gives turmeric its vibrant yellow color.

While curcumin is mostly known for its anti-inflammatory properties, research shows that curcumin is also able to enhance antibody responses within the body, strengthening the immune system.

However, there is one thing to keep in mind when it comes to consuming turmeric…

Turmeric in its raw form is not easily absorbed by the body. In order to maximize its impact, turmeric should be gently cooked, and mixed with an oil, as well as black pepper.

Why?

The oil helps to carry the curcumin while the black pepper significantly increases its bioavailability.

Turmeric golden paste is a great way to consume the herb, as the recipe takes into account all of the above, and can be cooked up in less than ten minutes. This can then be taken on its own a few times a day, or mixed into your meals.

Turmeric paste in small clay bowls surrounded by turmeric powder

Wondering if you can just take a curcumin supplement instead?

Yes, but you likely won’t experience the same impacts when it comes to the benefits of this. Eating whole foods always tends to be more beneficial for the body, as not only will you be consuming the curcumin, but also the many other medicinal properties that the turmeric contains.

Kefir

Just like some of the other immune-boosting foods on this list, kefir has become quite popular lately. 

What is it? 

It’s a fermented drink made from milk, almost like a thinner and lighter version of yogurt. However, while yogurt contains just a couple of strains of beneficial bacteria, kefir can contain ten times this amount. 

Kefir brings with it a number of different health benefits, and, when it comes to the immune system, these include:

So, where can you get kefir from? 

One option is to purchase it, and you will usually find it at health food stores, with more grocery stores now stocking it too. 

However, there is a downside to this…

In order to be sold commercially, kefir needs to be processed. Even if this is minimal, the heat used ends up destroying a significant amount of the beneficial bacteria within the drink. 

For the very best results, you would be best off making kefir at home. There are several how-to guides out there that will walk you through this easy process.

Green Tea

Just about every type of tea is extremely beneficial for the body, but green tea is especially powerful when it comes to strengthening the immune system. 

Why? 

Because it contains high levels of epigallocatechin gallate, also known as EGCG. This is an extremely powerful antioxidant that has been proven to significantly enhance immune function. 

Wondering why black tea doesn’t contain this antioxidant, since both teas come from the same plant? 

Well, tea leaves for black tea are fermented, whereas tea leaves for green tea are steamed. The fermentation process for black tea destroys a large amount of the EGCG within the leaves, whereas the steaming process preserves this antioxidant. 

Not only that, but green tea also contains L-theanine. This is an amino acid that boosts the way in which your body’s T-cells are able to fight germs. 

Don’t like the taste of green tea? 

Many people find green tea to be too bitter. 

Here are a few tips to counter that: 

  • Use hot, rather than boiling, water, since boiling water brings out the bitter flavors of the tea
  • Add in a small amount of honey to sweeten the tea
  • Add in a few drops of fresh lemon juice to enhance the perfume and reduce the bitterness of the tea 
  • Mix a couple of sprigs of mint in with your leaves before topping with water, which is a common practice in Morocco 
  • Drink it iced, rather than hot, as this reduces its bitterness
  • Purchase a high quality green tea  

Dark Chocolate

Love chocolate? 

Then you will be happy to know that dark chocolate is fantastic for strengthening the immune system. 

Of course, this means that the chocolate needs to contain at least 70% cacao, as this ensures that there are high levels of flavonoids within the chocolate.

What are flavonoids? 

They’re antioxidants that do a number of different things within the body, including increasing the amount of antibodies that the body produces. This then gives the immune system a huge boost. 

Thinking you can eat copious amounts of dark chocolate now that it’s been proven that this is a beneficial food? 

Unfortunately not. You still need to moderate how much dark chocolate you eat, since this food is still high in saturated fat and calories. 

If you know that you shouldn’t be consuming any extra calories on any given day, you could always give some dark chocolate a sniff instead, so long as you can resist the temptation to eat it! 

This may seem cruel, but it’s actually beneficial. 

Wondering how?  

Research shows that even the smell of dark chocolate can trigger the body to produce double the amount of antibodies in just 20 minutes. In the study carried out, this boost in immunity lasted for over three hours, although it did decrease as time went on.

Citrus Fruits

Whenever you’ve had a cold, people have likely advised you to eat oranges, or drink warm lemon water. 

Ever wondered why? 

It’s all down to the vitamin C content in citrus fruits, which amp up the body’s production of white blood cells. 

What do white blood cells do? 

They are cells within the immune system that protect the body from foreign invaders and infectious diseases. These cells flow through the blood all over your body, fighting against bacteria, viruses and other unwanted compounds. 

Vitamin C is extremely important when it comes to creating these. 

Since the body doesn’t produce vitamin C itself, it can be easy to become deficient in the vitamin, meaning that your white blood cell count declines. This weakens your immune system, meaning that you will fall sick faster, and take longer to recover. 

So, in addition to oranges and lemons, what other citrus fruits are there? 

Here are some of the most popular: 

  • Lime
  • Grapefruit
  • Mandarins
  • Pomelo
  • Yuzu

Need another reason to eat more citrus fruits? 

Well, in addition to boosting the immune system, citrus fruits also: 

  • Improve heart health 
  • Protect against, and fight against, cancer 
  • Protect the brain 
  • Reduce the risk of kidney stones 

Wondering if you can just drink the juice instead of eating the whole fruits? 

While citrus fruit juices do contain plenty of nutrients, they are also extremely high in sugar. This can end up causing more harm than good when it comes to your overall health. 

When it comes to keeping your body healthy, your focus should always be on your immune system. In order to keep it strong and working optimally, your diet is so important, so make sure that you are incorporating immune-boosting foods into each meal. 

Tired woman at her work desk

What’s Causing Your Daytime Fatigue?

Do you often find it difficult to stay awake and concentrate during the day?

If so, you could be suffering from daytime fatigue, which is often linked to another medical problem.

Here are nine different causes of daytime fatigue, as well as tips on what you can do about them.

Hypersomnia

Hypersomnia is a condition that refers to either:

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • An excessive amount of time spent sleeping

If you have hypersomnia, you will likely find yourself falling asleep at random points during the day, even while you are talking or driving.

Hypersomnia is extremely common, affecting around 40% of people at some point in their lives. 

What causes hypersomnia?

Here are a few of the most common causes of the condition: 

  • Sleep disorders, which will be explained in more detail below
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • A head injury
  • Being overweight
  • Genetics
  • Depression and anxiety

So, if you have hypersomnia, what can you do about it?

You should first have this confirmed by your doctor, who will also be able to prescribe different drugs to help treat the condition.

You can also try to identify the cause of your hypersomnia, and then work to reverse this. For example, if it is caused by being overweight, losing weight can help, while changing your sleeping habits so that you get more sleep will prevent sleep deprivation from causing your hypersomnia.

Sleep Deprivation

Sleep deprivation is extremely common, and simply refers to a person not getting enough sleep

How much sleep is enough?

Experts recommend between seven to nine hours of sleep each night, although this does vary between individuals, and also changes with age.

While missing out on a couple of hours once in a while will not cause any harm, experiencing frequent bouts of sleep deprivation can definitely lead to daytime fatigue.

How can you overcome this?

The obvious answer would be…

Get more sleep!

Here are a few tips to help you to get more quality sleep:

  • Set a regular schedule – a regular sleep schedule will help to train your body clock into feeling tired at the same time each evening, while waking itself up at the same time each morning. Make sure that you stick to this schedule, even on the weekends
  • Stay away from caffeine or alcohol from late afternoon onwardsboth of these can hugely impact your sleep, as well as its quality
  • Don’t keep blue light-emitting electronics in your bedroomthe blue light that comes from the screens of these devices keeps your body awake for longer
  • Avoid daytime nappingeven if you feel tired during the day, avoid the temptation to nap, as this will only prevent you from falling asleep at the optimum time that night
  • Work out in the morningsyou may think that exercising would help you to fall asleep, but this actually raises the heart rate and triggers the release of adrenaline into your body, both of which will keep you awake. However, exercise done in the mornings, or even the afternoons, can actually help you to sleep better at night
  • Avoid eating two hours before bedthis sets your digestive system in motion, which can keep you awake

Infographic on how to get better sleep

Sleep Disorders

Sleep disorders cause you to frequently wake up during the night, which then interferes with the quality of your sleep, leading to you feeling chronically fatigued each day.

These are some of the most common sleep disorders:

  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea – the most common sleep disorder, affecting more than 20 million adults in the USA alone. This disorder consists of a blockage in the airways, meaning that the brain wakes itself up to send a signal to the respiratory system to continue functioning normally. This usually causes a person to stop breathing for about 10 to 20 seconds, and can occur hundreds of times throughout the night, without a person even realizing it
  • Narcolepsythis is an autoimmune disorder in which the brain is not able to properly control its sleep and wake cycles. This means that you experience the REM stage of sleep, which is when you are sleeping the deepest, at random points during the day
  • Restless Leg Syndromethis neurological disorder causes a person to feel an uncomfortable sensation in their legs, which leads to them moving their legs around to relieve this. Since this makes it difficult for a person to fall asleep, as well as stay asleep, the result is daytime fatigue

Treatments vary for each sleep disorder, and in some cases, especially for restless leg syndrome, these disorders can be a sign of a more serious medical condition. This makes it important to see a doctor if you think that you may be suffering from a sleep disorder. 

Depression

Depression is much more common than you would think…

Around 300 million people around the world, including 16.2 million adults in the USA, have depression. It is also believed that around 15% of the adult population will experience depression at some point in their lives. 

What does this have to do with daytime fatigue?

Research shows that people with depression are much more likely to experience daytime fatigue. Not only that, but people who already have daytime fatigue are much more likely to end up depressed.

As you can see, this results in a vicious circle that can be difficult to break out of.

When it comes to treating depression…

There are many treatment options out there, depending on the severity of your depression. This is something that only a professional can advise you on, so make sure that you speak to a doctor if you think that you may be depressed.

Too Much Caffeine

Coffee is commonly drunk to help people stay awake and alert, but, sometimes, it can have the opposite effect.

While a cup or two won’t do any harm, drinking too much caffeine can lead to:

  • Increased heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • A jittery feeling
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia

What happens once the caffeine wears off?

You end up “crashing”, resulting in you feeling completely fatigued.

What can you do about this?

Well, let’s begin by what you shouldn’t do…

Drinking even more coffee in order to overcome this would be the worst way to deal with the problem.  

Instead, try to cut back on the amount of caffeine you drink.

Don’t worry, you don’t need to completely cut caffeine out of your life, because this will only leave you with withdrawal symptoms.

Try slowly weaning yourself off the coffee, as well as any other caffeinated drinks. Replace these with water or other drinks, so that you are consuming less caffeine each day.

A Poor Diet

The food that you eat fuels your body, so it only makes sense that your body will feel weak and tired if it is not being fed with the right nutrients.

Let’s begin with the most important meal of the day…

Breakfast!

So many people out there skip breakfast, not realizing just how crucial this meal is.

Why is it so important?

Because the food that you eat for breakfast helps to wake your body up, giving your metabolism a kick start for the day. Without breakfast, your energy levels will be lacking from the start of the day.

If you don’t have time for breakfast, or are simply too tired early in the mornings…

Try putting a small grab-and-go morning snack together the night before, and then slowly build up your new breakfast habit to encompass larger and more filling meals.

Now on to the rest of the food you eat…

Try to avoid large and heavy meals during the day, as these can often leave you feeling bloated and lethargic.

Make sure that your diet is a balanced one, featuring plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, along with whole grains, nuts and seeds. 

Why is this important?

Because if you eat processed, high-sugar foods instead, this causes a spike in your blood sugar levels. Once this drops back down, it leaves you feeling fatigued and low.

Premenstrual Syndrome

PMS manifests differently in every single woman out there.

For many, daytime fatigue is one of the symptoms, and this is actually extremely common.

Your body produces a hormone called melatonin, which helps it to regulate its sleep cycles. During your premenstrual phase, as well as your menstrual phase, melatonin levels fluctuate, often decreasing. This then keeps you up at night, making you feel fatigued during the day.

Not only that, but the hormonal changes during your premenstrual phase can lead to an increase in the amount of deep sleep that you experience. However, this occurs during the day as well as the night, causing you to feel tired and sluggish.

Dehydration

Did you know that 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated?

This is a condition that affects millions of people, even though it is so easily prevented.

How does this relate to daytime fatigue?

Because research shows that dehydration is the number one cause of midday fatigue.

How does dehydration cause this?

Due to the way in which a lack of water causes your blood pressure to drop. This then leads to headaches, fatigue and a loss of concentration. 

How much water should you be drinking each day?

This varies, not only depending on your weight but also your activity levels through the day. A good amount to aim for would be around two liters a day, but don’t forget that you will also be getting a small chunk of this from the food that you eat, especially if your diet is high in fresh fruits and vegetables. 

Can’t seem to drink enough water during the day?

Here are a few tips to help you out:

  • Mix up a pitcher of fruit-infused water to give your water some extra flavor
  • Try to drink a full cup of water before every meal
  • Download an app to help you to track how much water you are drinking, as well as setting alarms to remind you to drink some water
  • If you are drinking a sugar-filled drink, try diluting this down with some water
  • Install a water filter, as this can help your water to taste better
  • Mae sure that you drink one glass of water for every alcoholic drink you consume

Remember…

If you are feeling thirsty, then this means that you are already dehydrated.

A Sedentary Lifestyle

More and more people are experiencing a sedentary lifestyle these days, and this is actually a common cause behind daytime fatigue.

How are the two connected?

Well, the lack of physical activity leads to your musculoskeletal and cardiovascular systems de-conditioning, while also depressing your mood. Both of these can then result in daytime fatigue.

There is so much research out there that backs up the way in which exercise is able to help reverse daytime fatigue, making this something well worth trying.

Hate the idea of exercise?

Physical activity doesn’t mean that you have to spend hours in the gym.

If you really think about it, you are guaranteed to be able to find some form of physical activity that appeals to you. Whether this may be a dance class, a group dog walk, a visit to the beach, a gardening session, or even blasting some music at home and dancing around the house, any activity that gets you up and moving regularly can help you to feel less fatigued during the day.

Daytime fatigue is extremely common, but so frustrating to deal with due to the way in which it impacts everyday life. In order to overcome your daytime fatigue, spend some time working out the cause of it, as treating the root issue will be the most effective way to deal with the problem.

Goji berries in a wooden bowl

The Vitamin Truth About Berries

If you’ve been paying any attention to the world of health and wellness, maybe you noticed how there isn’t a single health enthusiast out there who isn’t raving about the all-healing power of berries. From hearty oatmeal to colorful fruit bowls to body-charging smoothies, it seems berries have been finding their way into every health-conscious meal plan.

So, how are berries supposed to help our health and beauty, exactly?

Well, these bite-sized nutrients are nature’s very own stockpile of vitamins, which hold a number of immunity-boosting properties that can contribute to your overall well-being. By regularly supplying your body with vitamins, you can help ensure all your vital organs are functioning properly.

Moreover, having more vitamins in your diet doesn’t hurt on the beauty front, either. You heard that right – munching on berries can help you achieve healthy-looking skin, hair and even nails! Read on to find out exactly how.

Strawberries Are a Treasure Trove of Vitamin C

Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, is the undisputable star among body-boosting nutrients.

Even if you aren’t well-versed in health and wellness trends, you probably already know that Vitamin C can do wonders for improving your immune system.

However, the benefits of upping your Vitamin C intake go way beyond that.

For example, did you know that a regular consumption of this Vitamin can also improve your eyesight, fade your age spots and relieve stress?

And that’s only the beginning.

First of all, Vitamin C can be your best friend when you want to fight off those pesky symptoms of common cold, such as sore throat, coughing and fatigue.

Upping your Vitamin C intake will boost your immunity and help your body in the fight against damaging infections.

Consuming foods with high Vitamin C concentration can also be beneficial for keeping more serious illnesses at bay.

Increased stress levels can also deplete Vitamin C levels in your body, so redressing the balance may help with reducing stress-related symptoms such as over-irritability, fatigue and lack of sleep.

When it comes to beauty benefits, Vitamin C is crucial for the production of collagen, that special little substance that keeps your complexion plump and glowing.

By upping your daily Vitamin C intake, you can help smooth out fine lines, wrinkles, but also minimize dark spots and other symptoms of hyperpigmentation on your skin.

Moreover, Vitamin C can reverse the negative effects caused by free radicals and protect it from additional damage causes by UV rays, pollution and other kinds of harmful environmental factors.

So, how do you make sure you are getting enough of this magic Vitamin C in your day-to-day meals?

We have some good news for you: berries are packed with this immunity-pepping antioxidant.

b, everyone’s favorite springtime treat, make for a great source of this body-healing vitamin.

One serving (a cup) of this palate-pleasing treat contains 80 milligrams of Vitamin C, which is around the exact amount of prescribed daily intake.

Raspberries and blueberries are also rich in Vitamin C. To create a trifecta of this illness-fighting vitamin, combine a handful od strawberries, raspberries and blueberries into a delicious fruit bowl.

Vitamin K Found in Blueberries is a Powerful Antioxidant

Vitamin K might have been flying under the radar in the past, but these days, all the health freaks are raving about it.

Why is this the case?

Well, this essential vitamin helps keep your body strong on several fronts.

For example, this nutrient can improve the functioning of your cardiovascular system. Since it can promote blood clotting, it is crucial for your body to be replenished with this vitamin in order to be able to heal from bleeding or bruising.

One of the most well-known benefits of Vitamin K is that it can strengthen your bones, and it does so by boosting the amount of protein needed to preserve bone calcium.

Optimal Vitamin K intake can help prevent occurrence of medical conditions such as osteoporosis and bone fracture.

Furthermore, increasing the presence of Vitamin K in your diet can help relieve PMS symptoms such as cramps and other types of discomfort. It can also help with excessive bleeding during periods.

In combination with other vitamins (such as A, C and D), Vitamin K can also help fight off the bacteria that accumulates on your teeth and gum. As a result, it can be effective in warding off tooth decay, cavities and various gum diseases.

One fruit that is especially loaded with vitamin K is blueberry.

A cup of these tiny nutritional powerhouses can contain up to 28.6 micrograms of Vitamin K, which is more than a third or prescribed daily intake.

And when it comes to introducing blueberries into your day-to-day meals – it’s as easy as it sounds.

You can carry a pack of this delicious fruit with you and snack on the go whenever you feel like a pick-me-up at work or after gym.

Blueberries can also be a great way to infuse your breakfast with the precious Vitamin K – simply throw them in your favorite oat meal and cereal and your dish will instantly become charged with antioxidants.

They can also add a kick of vitamins into your smoothies. They work well for sweetening more bitter ingredients like spinach or kale.

And in you need further inspiration, here’s an idea for a healthy smoothie where blueberry is the star ingredient.

In a blender, combine the following:

  • 1 cup kale
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1 cup almond milk

Mix until you achieve a smooth consistency. Voila, you’ve just made an ideal snack to kick-start your body and up your Vitamin K intake.

Vitamin A is Abundant in Acai Berries

It is a well-known fact Vitamin A can be incredibly beneficial for eye health and good vision.

However, not many people know this component is directly or indirectly tied to regular functioning of all the vital organs in the body.

This is because Vitamin A has powerful antioxidant properties, which can assist your body in the purging of free radicals, those harmful agents that cause genetic damage to your cells and trigger a host of medical conditions.

Furthermore, optimal Vitamin A intake can fortify your immunity, which means your body will be better equipped to ward off various illnesses.

Vitamin A can be found in certain animal products, as well as plant-based food, in which case it’s known as beta carotene. 

And one ingredient that is especially rich in this organ-pepping vitamin is the acai berry, a dark-hued fruit that hails from the Amazon region.

Because of its notable medicinal powers, this tropical berry has been consumed by the native people of Brazil for centuries.

Recently, it has become increasingly popular in health and wellness-conscious circles, which hail it as the new superfood du jour.

And for good reason, too: not only does the acai berry have numerous benefits for your body, it can also improve the appearance of your skin.

Due to high concentration of Vitamin A and other antioxidants, frequent consumption of acai berry can stave off various ailments, improve your digestion and cardiovascular activity and boost your energy levels.

When it comes to skin, the active ingredients found in acai berry can help reverse symptoms of aging such as fine lines and wrinkles.

The vitamins concentrated in this Amazonian treat can also reinforce skin’s protective barrier, which will help protect it from harmful environmental factors, such as the sun, pollution, harsh weather, etc. 

Due to its rich, slightly bitter flavor, acai berry work well in combination with slightly sweeter ingredients.

It can be added to healthy dessert alternatives when you’re looking to add a punch of antioxidants to your after-meal treats.

The easiest way to consume the Brazilian berry is simply to throw it in a smoothie or breakfast bowl.

For added sweetness, chop up a banana or an apple, so your concoction isn’t too bitter.

Vitamin E in Blackberries Has Immense Reparative Properties

When it comes to reversing aging processes, one antioxidant in particular can be incredibly helpful: Vitamin E.

To begin with, this component can be notably beneficial for your cardiovascular system.

Vitamin E can help balance cholesterol levels and reduce chances of it oxidizing, as well as preventing thickening of the arteries.

Because of its powerful antioxidant properties, Vitamin E can effectively help in the fight against free radicals. This will in turn reduce chances of your body developing all kinds of medical issues, from common ailments to more serious conditions.

Having more Vitamin E in your diet can also transform your skin, hair and nails – making them healthier and more resistant to outside harms.

Due to its reparative powers, Vitamin E can help rejuvenate and heal damaged and irritated skin. Since Vitamin E is potent at accelerating cell regeneration, it can be used to treat sunburnt skin, scars and eczema.

Frequent consumption of this antioxidant will also boost hair growth, but also make your strands thicker and better equipped to fight off environmental damage. It can also do wonders for an itchy, flaky scalp.

And if you’re looking for ways to increase your daily intake of this powerful nutrient, you can always go down the easy road and take supplements.

However, to get the real deal, you should know that this vitamin can only be found in plant-based foods.

Luckily, berries represent one of the richest sources of Vitamin E. 

Blackberries in particular pack a punch when it comes to Vitamin E concentration: one cup contains about 1.68 milligrams of this powerful antioxidant.

When it comes to meal ideas, blackberries can be consumed on their own and make for a great snack when you’re on the run.

However, if your mind the slightly sour flavor, you can always combine them with sweeter fruit (like mango or papaya, which also contain high concentration of Vitamin E) to make a delicious, antioxidant-packed smoothie.

You can also add blackberries to your favorite oatmeal or throw them in a fruit salad.

Other berries that contain high concentration of Vitamin E include:

  • Cherries
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Raspberries

These mini bombs of antioxidants are bountiful during warm, sunny seasons and will make for a refreshing meal during scorching summer days.

Goji Berries are Rich in B Complex Vitamins

By B complex vitamins, people usually refer to the following compounds:

  • B1 (thiamine)
  • B2 (riboflavin)
  • B3 (niacin)
  • B5 (pantothenic acid)
  • B6 (pyridoxine)
  • B7 (biotin)
  • B9 (folic acid)
  • B12 (cobalamin)

And you’ll be delighted to hear that goji berries, a nutritious fruit that originates form Asia, contain even four of these super-charging agents, including vitamins B1, B2, B3 and B12.

And each of these has its own set of benefits for your health and your body.

For example, Vitamin B1 contributes to healthy digestive tract, but can also improve your nervous system, as well as skin, eyes and hair.

On the other hand, riboflavin or Vitamin B2 helps prevent cognitive decline, and it can also minimize symptoms of depression.

Vitamin B12 found in goji berries is one of the most important components for the healthy functioning of your organs. Regular Vitamin B12 consumption will keep energy levels high, but also regulate your mood.

This particular vitamin also reduces the risk of neurodegenerative diseases.

Since goji berries are still somewhat mysterious to the casual health food enthusiast, you might be wondering how you can include them in your day-to-day meals.

Luckily, this task is a lot easier than you think!

Just like any other berry, goji can be a welcome addition into various health-oriented meals, including smoothies, breakfast bowls or oat meals.

It can also be consumed on its own; however, if you’re looking to pack a punch of antioxidants, combine your goji berries with a handful of nuts like almonds, cashews or walnuts.

Have you been convinced of berries’ immense vitamin powers yet? Next time you find yourself at the fresh produce section, make sure to stock up on these super-charging nuggets. Your body will soon be thanking you!

Woman enjoying blueberries in a bowl

6 Ways to Spring Clean Your Diet

Other than sunny weather and longer days, spring also brings about all kinds of fresh produce that is either hard to find or simply non-existent during rest of the year.

With the abundance of body-boosting, delicious dietary options, there’s no more excuse to revert to old, damaging food habits.

And to give you some ideas on how to overhaul your diet, we have prepared this guide with essential tips on how to use the sunny season to your advantage and, over time, build healthy habits that you can adhere to during the rest of the year, as well.

Introduce High-fiber Meals

In the springtime, we tend to be more active and spend more time outdoors.

This, is turn, causes us to reach for food items that will please our palates and fuel our body.

And if you’re the type of person who isn’t exactly health-conscious, you may end up gravitating towards instantly filling foods laden with processed carbs and sugars.

Sure, these might feel gratifying short-term, but if you want to build a satisfying, health-oriented diet, then you might want to ditch these processed baddies and go for energizing, fiber-rich options.

What are fibers and why should you include more of them in your meals, you ask?

Fibers are the kind of carbohydrates your body doesn’t digest. Since fiber itself has zero calories and helps boost digestive system, it should be an essential component in every though-out diet plan.

Luckily, foods that are high in fiber are plentiful come spring, which is why this is the perfect moment to load up your plate with these energizing nutrients.

Among the foods that contain high level of fiber are oatmeal, barley, as well as various kinds of legumes.

Fresh green peas are one of most delicious spring foods which are not only super-easy to prepare, but also chock-full of body-fueling fibers.

You can mix your peas with other springtime veggies and cook over garlic and olive oil. Alternatively, you can add them to your favorite pasta or blend them into a delicious puree as a side.

Lentil is another legume rich in fiber, which is also incredibly satisfying and belly-filling. To make your lentils extra-tasty, turn them into a basil-infused soup or mash them with some lemon juice and a couple of garlic cloves for a delicious spread.

If you are looking for a more breakfast-friendly option, you can always equip your kitchen with a box of bran flakes, which are one of the most readily-available sources of fiber. And if the taste of this fiber-rich cereal doesn’t fill you up with excitement, you can always combine it with your favorite leafy greens or fruit and blend it into a mouthwatering smoothie.

Learn to Love Leafy Greens

If you’re looking for the easiest and quickest way to increase your daily dosage of various health-charging nutrients, then leafy greens should be at the very top of your list.

These dietary superheroes are packed with a plethora of vitamins, minerals and other goodies that will not only improve your immunity and overall wellbeing, but also contribute to a healthier appearance of skin, nails and hair. Win-win!

Plus, you’ll be pleased to hear that springtime is when leafy greens reign supreme. 

Leafy green rookies might want to ease their way into their new routine by going for a veggie with a more milder, versatile taste.

Baby spinach is the perfect starter-level leafy green. It can go into any food combo, from omelets to stir-fries to smoothies. Moreover, it has a subtle, refreshing taste, so you won’t have to worry about it overpowering the rest of your meal.

More advanced leafy greens aficionados can enrich their day-to-day meals with a bona fide celebrity among superfoods – kale. This leafy green has become wildly popular in the health and wellness sphere – for good reason, too: it contains high concentration of Vitamin K, which can shield your body from all kinds of illness.

Stir-fried kale in a pan

Even though kale is slightly more bitter in taste than baby spinach, you should have no problems including it into your daily meal prep – it can be blanched, sautéed, baked or blended!

Finally, seasoned leafy green lovers might want to go for something more challenging this spring. If you haven’t done so already, why not try stepping up your veggie game by introducing collard greens into your diet?

These nutritional powerhouses are often overlooked in favor of more accessible leafy greens, possibly because of their somewhat earthy tang and chewy texture.

However, if you know how to prepare them, collard greens can be just as delicious and health-boosting as any other leaf vegetable.

One of the easiest way to soften them up and bring out the flavor is to cook them in a broth with other veggies of your choice. Alternatively, you can drizzle a bit of olive oil over a hot pan and sauté your greens with a couple of crushed and chopped garlic cloves.

Try Out Energy-boosting Snacks

Once gloomy winter days come to an end, you will inevitably feel inspired to spend more time outdoors and on your feet.

And planning meals while you’re busy running errands and catching up with friends might prove to be a little bit challenging.

What’s more, if you don’t have a clear of idea what you’re going to eat and when, you might end up reaching for the least healthy options when you’re running low on fuel.

That’s why it’s very important to always keep body-energizing snacks at hand, which you can nibble on wherever you go.

And if you want to go down the healthy road, spring is the ideal time to start introducing healthy, straight-from-nature snacks that your body will be thanking you for.

One of the most convenient and energizing snacks are nuts and seeds.

They are easy to carry around and whip out whenever you’re feeling peckish.

What’s more, they are packed with a host of healthy nutrients that will replenish your body without adding extra pounds (when consumed in moderation).

One of the most readily available and healthy nuts are almonds, which have many body-boosting properties. A handful of almonds a day can help reduce bad cholesterol and help with high blood pressure.

On the other hand, if you’re more of a pistachio fan, you’ll be pleased to hear that these nuts contain high levels of antioxidants, especially potassium, which are incredibly beneficial for the nervous system.

Cashews can also be a great option for midday snacking, as they can help strengthen your bones and improve your overall immune system.

Fruit and Berries Over Processed Sugar

Most of us know that processed sugars are a definite no-go when it comes to building a healthy diet routine.

And while it’s pretty obvious that your standard candy and soda is loaded with added sugar, sometimes these high-calorie baddies are not that easy to spot.

For example, added sugars could be hiding in your favorite granola bar or that salad dressing you always use in your meals.

Luckily, thanks to the appropriate food labeling, it’s easier to identify those extra sugars found in our everyday groceries.

However, if you want to take the healthy route, spring is the right time to start satisfying your sugar cravings with deserts that have come straight from nature.

In the spring, nature becomes abundant with juicy, delicious fruit which can be a great replacement for your standard go-to treats.

One of the healthiest choices to satisfy your sweet tooth are berries. These bite-sized, vitamin-laden goodies are not only good for you body, they are also super-easy to get a hold of during sun-filled spring days.

Variety of berries in a measuring spoon

For example, strawberries – everyone’s favorite fruit of the season – are not only rich in various health-boosting nutrients, they also contain very few calories, making them a great choice for people looking to shed a few pounds.

Blueberries are also plentiful in spring, and make for a great addition to any smoothie or fruit salad. What’s more, blueberries are packed with phytochemicals, flavonoids and antioxidants which are essential for improving the immune system.

Put More Veggies on Your Plate

If your meals aren’t usually packed with vegetables, spring is the ideal time to change that for the better.

This season brings all kinds of tasty, health-boosting produce which will not only contribute to your overall well-being, it will also make you want to try out more creative, exciting meal options.

All you need to go to the green market and pack your grocery bags with all those delicious spring veggies.

And if you’re not really sure where to start, here are some of the most satisfying, palate-enticing spring superstars that you can incorporate into your spring meals with little to no effort.

One of the most popular springtime veggies is asparagus, a green stalk rich in iron, calcium, as well as vitamins A, C, E, K, and B6.

There are many different ways you can introduce asparagus into your daily recipes; for example, sautéed with eggs for breakfast, thrown into a salad with other veggies and a few slices of of fresh mozzarella for lunch or post-workout snack, or grilled with a slice of salmon for an evening meal.

Brussel sprouts are also great for filling up your belly and supplying you with energy during sunny spring days. These bite-sized veggies are packed with Vitamin C, K and plenty of antioxidants. Fry them for a couple of minutes with a chili or two to give the sprouts a kick; alternatively, roast them with the rest of your favorite veggies for a more rich and smoky flavor.

Don’t Be Afraid of (Healthy) Fats

If you are new to the world of wellness, then seeing the words “healthy” and “fat” in the same sentence might feel odd to you.

But fats don’t have to be necessarily bad for you.

On the contrary – healthy, nature-derived fats are essential for achieving balanced eating habits.

Since fats are higher in calories than proteins and carbohydrates, they will keep you feeling full and sated for long periods of time.

The only trick is to stick to unsaturated, straight-out-of-nature fats and stay away from the nasty, processed stuff.

Fortunately, spring offers plenty of healthy fat options you can incorporate into your everyday meals.

As mentioned before, nuts are a great source of unsaturated fats and proteins; moreover, they make for a great snack in-between bigger meals.

Healthy nuts in two bowls

Another food that is not only supremely delicious, but also high in natural fats is avocado. This nutritious, versatile fruit that originates from Central America can be prepared in countless way. For a quick and easy option, simply scoop out your avocado and spread it on a slice of toasted bread. Alternatively, you can chop it up in your salad or add it to your smoothie for a richer, creamier texture and extra nourishment.

And for something a little more substantial, go for fatty fish. Mackerel, salmon, trout, sardines and other creatures of the sea are loaded with unsaturated fats, as well as hearth-healthy Omega-3 acids, which can help with a host of health issues, including blood fat, arthritis, asthma, depression and ADHD. On a more skin-deep level, these acids can contribute to a plump, wrinkle-free complexion.

Spring is also the ideal time to switch to extra virgin olive oil, which is another ingredient that’s chock-full of healthy acids. This staple of Mediterranean diet contains high doses of Vitamin E and K, as well as a number of antioxidants. You can use olive oil in cooking or simply drizzle it over your favorite breads, salads and veggies.

And with this, we are wrapping up out list of essential tips and tricks on how to make your diet healthier and more spring-friendly. Now you can go out and stock up on all these delicious, sun-soaked foods that will ensure your belly is full and your health is in check.

Man running in the city against the sunset

9 Reasons to Give Running A Try

Running is one of the oldest and most effective forms of exercise, and many people today use it as their primary workout source or as a cardio-boosting addition to a more elaborate routine.

There are many reasons why running as exercise can be great: it increases stamina, tones the body and blasts calories. 

Furthermore, its benefits for mental health are not negligible either – running can help balance stressful schedules and help you center your thoughts.

Moreover, it’s practically free and can be done pretty much anywhere!

If this intro hasn’t made the case for running yet, let’s dive into all the reasons why this type of exercise might just be the ideal fit for you.

It Lowers Stress Levels

If you tend to exercise on the regular, you might already be aware of the fact that workouts can do wonders for your mood.

When we’re breaking sweat, our body releases endorphins, neurotransmitters which are incredibly beneficial in reducing stress and pain levels.

Even as little as 20 or 30 minutes of uninterrupted exercise can trigger the release of endorphins and contribute to an overall improved mood.

And running is a great way to squeeze in that precious endorphin-boosting session into your day-to-day routine.

Not only will running activate your muscles and get the blood flowing through your veins, it will also give you an opportunity to be focused on nothing but yourself and your thoughts.

This will help you clear your mind and re-balance yourself.

Moreover, if your daily schedule tends to be hectic and your sleeping pattern is all over the place, running can contribute to a more regulated sleep-wake cycle, due to release of serotonin and other sleep-facilitating hormones.

Finally, the more you exercise, the physically fitter you’ll get. Watching your body transform for the better will increase your confidence and make you feel more comfortable in your skin.

It Increases Your Productivity

Our day-to-day lives are riddled with all kinds of stressful situations.

Whether you are worrying about your job, studies or other obligations, sometimes it’s hard to focus and keep your priorities straight.

When your mind is frazzled, it’s easier to slip up and fall behind on your schedule.

With running, you will not only feel more energized and physically fit, you will also improve your concentration and sharpen your mental abilities.

You will feel revitalized and ready to take on whatever challenge is presented before you.

Moreover, if you turn running into a regular habit, you will feel motivated to arrange the rest of your schedule around it and stick to your routine.

It’s no wonder that so many great minds of our time were also enthusiastic runners.

It Will Make You Go Outside

Very few modern-day jobs require being on your feet or spending prolonged periods of time outdoors – the majority of people go about their day sitting behind screens in stuffy offices and cubicles.

This can greatly affect your mood and make you feel sluggish and devoid of energy.

And if you don’t often come up with an excuse to venture outdoors, running can be a great tool for readdressing this issue.

By exercising out in the open, you will find a way to reconnect with nature, which will instantly make you feel more happy and fulfilled.

woman running outside with dog

How is this the case?

Well, being out in nature is closely linked to feelings of accomplishment and happiness.

Moreover, running outside will also replenish your body with Vitamin D, which tends to decrease during dark winter months.

Vitamin D can also contribute to strengthening your bones, soothing your nerves and improving your overall immune system.

And when you mix the benefits of being out in nature with a body-boosting workout, it becomes clear why this combination can be so beneficial for your overall wellness.

It Doesn’t Cost a Thing

One of the main reasons why people are hesitant to take up exercising is the potential cost.

These days, even the most basic gym membership can put a strain on your wallet, not to mention the dizzying prices of tailored workout routines and personal trainers.

Furthermore, once you fall down the rabbit hole called the fitness sphere, you might start feeling that you’re not doing exercise right unless you’re shelling out big bucks for all the right equipment, workout gear, and state-of-the-art accessories.

It’s no wonder that the financial aspect of exercising turns people off physical activity.

Luckily, this is not the case with running.

To start running, all you need to do is get out of the apartment and get your two legs going.

OK, perhaps a pair of good running shoes might make your life easier.

Of course, if you want to enhance your running experience at a later date, you can always do so with various workout-facilitating accessories.

However, none of this is absolutely essential if you’re just looking to set your body into gear – which is what makes running one of the cheapest forms of exercise.

You Can Do It Anywhere

Sometimes, the hardest part about exercising is actually dragging yourself to the gym.

This is especially the case if you don’t live close to it.

And if you exercise at home, sometimes you’ll find this isn’t the ideal setting either, especially if your living space is cramped or if you share your apartment with other people.

If you decide to go running, you won’t have to worry about any of this.

And yes, while running on treadmills is very convenient and requires the least amount of effort (especially during cold winter months), going outside to run is even better and more beneficial for your mind and your body.

Is there really that big of a difference, you ask?

The answer is yes! Whether it’s in nature or an urban environment, trail running activates more muscles than running on a treadmill, since your legs and feet move at different angles, depending on the surface and incline.

Consequently, you burn more calories and become firmer in a shorter amount of time.

Moreover, you’ll be more mentally stimulated due to constant changes in your surroundings – as opposed to the faceless interiors of gyms and exercise studios.

It’s Great For Losing Weight

If weight loss is the primary reason why you have decided to take up running, then you’ll be pleased to hear that this type of exercise is extremely effective at burning those extra layers of fat.

Even a simple, slow-paced jog can speed up your metabolism and help you shed the pounds faster.

But if you take it up a notch and start doing high-intensity runs, your body will be able to melt those calories away even faster.

Another great thing about running is that your muscles have to keep on working even after your workout is over in order to recover. This is called “the afterburn effect”.

Even better, combine your running routine with a couple of weekly strength training sessions, and your muscles will turn into bona fide fat-blasting machines.

And if you want to fully maximize on the weight loss potential of running, try to maintain a balanced diet. Processed sugars and fats may slow down your calorie-burning journey, so it might be best to switch to a diet packed with whole grains, veggies and nuts.

It Tones the Body

So, we learned how running can be extremely helpful in shedding excess weight.

But this type of exercise can also be efficient in sculpting your body and firming your muscles.

When you run, your legs tend to do most of the work. With time, you will notice how your calves, your thighs and your hamstrings are becoming more defined.

If your workouts involve running on diverse terrain with plenty of inclines, you can also rest assured your glutes will become toned as well.

However, firming your body through running doesn’t end with legs.

If you work out continuously, you will develop a strong and resilient core, which will result in more sculpted abdominal muscles.

A stronger core will improve your posture and prevent the occurrence of injuries during future workouts.

If your main fitness goal is to tone your body, you should make the most of your running sessions.

The best way to do this is to keep them varied and interesting. Combing long-distance runs with high-intensity sprints; try to run on all kinds of surfaces with different inclines.

This type of exercise will activate a good chunk of your muscles and enhance your performance. Plus, you can rest assured your workouts will never be boring!

It Clears Up the Skin

Some benefits of running are skin deep.

But hey, who’s complaining? If you can achieve a glowing complexion in addition to a healthy, toned body, then all the better.

There are many ways in which running helps improve your complexion.

For one, running boosts your circulation, which increases the delivery of oxygen and other nutrients into your cells. This increases collagen production, which then results in plumper, firmer skin.

Moreover, when your skin cells are feeling energized, they are then motivated to shed your body of all the toxins and pollutants that can cause a host of different skin woes.

Moreover, when we exercise, the levels of stress hormone cortisol become gradually lower. And with lack of tension and stress, you lower the chances of developing stress-caused skin conditions, such as acne, eczema and psoriasis.

However, in order to maximize on all the perks running has for your skin, you need to take a couple of precautionary measures.

For one, when possible, try to avoid wearing makeup when running.

A combination of thick product and sweat may cause breakouts. A lightweight, salicylic acid-enriched cleanser should give you a clean canvas and reduce the chances of spots and blackheads.

If your skin is prone to breakouts, be that on your face or your body, you might want to invest in quality workout gear. Avoid anything that’s too tight and opt for nature-derived fabrics like cotton or hemp. This way, your skin will be able to breathe and you won’t have to worry about pimples caused by sweat-drenched clothes.

It’s Social

Exercising can often feel solitary.

Between the unfriendly hours and drab gyms, it’s hard to look forward to a good workout when you know you’ll be alone with your thoughts for the entirety of the time.

This doesn’t have to be the case with running, though!

If you find yourself an exercise buddy, you’ll never have to worry about your runs feeling dull or lonely.

Moreover, when you set plans to run with another person, it makes it harder to bail out on workouts. Plus, having someone to talk to and catch up with will definitely make you excited for every running session.

social running group

Also, running with friends might awaken your competitive streak – by comparing yourself to another runner, you might feel extra motivated to do better with each running session.

And if you don’t have any friends who are willing to jog with you, you can always join a local running club. Not only will you have company during your sessions, you might make some new friends!

Finally, a great way to boost your performance is to join a race in your area. Half-marathons, marathons and charity races will inspire you to achieve better results and become a more accomplished runner.

Has this list convinced you to finally go for a run? With all the benefits running will provide for your body, you’d be foolish not to. Now it’s time to put on your best pair of trainers and hit the ground running!

Young woman laughing

Daily Habits for a Happier Life

Many people believe that happiness is something that happens by chance, but this is not necessarily true…

Instead, think of happiness as a life skill, something that you can work on and develop to ensure that you are feeling consistently happy each day.

Wondering how to do this?

It’s easy. All you need to do is adopt each of these habits into your daily life…

Meditate Daily 

For someone who has not bought into the idea of meditation, the thought of doing this on a daily basis can seem pointless.

However, meditation has been proven to have so many different health benefits, from increasing focus and concentration to improving memory. In addition to all of this, meditation on a regular basis can permanently rewire the brain to increase happiness levels. 

benefits of meditation infographic

Meditation is not something that has to take much time either…

When just starting out, all you need to commit to is a couple of minutes of meditation a day. Even if you are extremely eager to get started, it is always best to begin small, so that you can turn this into a habit that you will stick to.

Pick a time of the day to set aside for meditation, and find a quiet spot somewhere. Sit down comfortably, and then do the following:

  • Focus on your breath as you breathe in, following this through your nostrils, throat, lungs and stomach
  • Do the same as you breathe out, counting your breaths if this helps
  • If you find that your mind starts to wander, gently bring it back to your breath
  • Repeat this process for a couple of minutes

It does not matter if your eyes are open or closed, so long as you do this process each and every day. After a week, you can increase your two minutes of meditation to five minutes, and keep doing this in five minute intervals each week.

It will take about a month for this to become a habit, after which time you will likely also notice the benefits that this brief daily meditation is bringing to your mind and body. 

Keep Busy, But Don’t Rush Yourself

There is an incredibly fine line between staying busy and feeling rushed, but it is this balance that can really make a huge difference to how happy you feel.

Research has shown that feeling rushed will inevitably lead to stress, and therefore unhappiness, while having too much free time results in boredom and dissatisfaction

On the other hand, being productive can really boost your happiness, but you need to do this at a pace that feels comfortable for you.

Are you someone that often takes on more than you can handle?

The best way to handle this is to stop and think each time an opportunity or project comes your way. Unless you are really and truly excited and passionate about it, you need to learn how to say no.

Exercise

Do you do some form of physical activity each day?

If your answer is no, this is a habit that can really help with your happiness.

How?

Because exercise triggers the release of certain proteins and endorphins in the brain, all of which will make you feel happier. 

Exercise also helps to boost productivity, which will help with the point mentioned above about keeping busy.

Think you do not have the time to exercise each day?

Here are a few ways in which you can easily incorporate more exercise into your everyday life:

  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator
  • Do some window shopping, but at a fast stroll
  • Stand more, whether this may be on public transport or while watching television
  • Do a ten minute long squat each day, or start with a shorter time and build this up each day
  • Install a pull-up bar onto a door frame in your house, and then do one or two reps each time you pass underneath it 

Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

In order to really be happy, you need to be able to challenge yourself, and succeed at those challenges. Taking risks and embracing change is so important, even though it may seem frightening at the time.

Don’t like the idea of having to step out of your comfort zone each day?

This does not need to be anything crazy, like jumping out of a plane…

Instead, just try to do something small that you have never done before, whether this may be eating a new ingredient, styling your hair in a different way, or taking a new route to work.

Improve Your Diet

Your diet has a direct impact on your mood, and, even if you already eat quite healthily, the majority of people out there could likely easily make a few changes to improve their diet.

On a daily basis, you should be eating at regular intervals, as this helps to keep your mood stable, and make sure that you do not skip meals.

There are certain foods out there that have been proven to boost the mood, such as:

  • Protein – including eggs, seafood, poultry and tofu
  • Vitamin D obtained through sun exposure, but also comes from egg yolks and soy milk
  • Vitamin B-12 and Folate comes from broccoli, lentils, oatmeal, cottage cheese, lean beef and salmon
  • Fiber comes from fruits, vegetables and oats

On the other hand, there are certain foods that can really throw your mood off, making it much more of a challenge for you to feel happy. The main culprit here is sugar, as well as refined white starches. While sugar may give you a short burst of energy, this will soon drop back down, leaving you feeling even crankier than before. 

So, how do you implement all of this on a daily basis?

It’s easy…

Small changes are the key here, as you do not need to completely overhaul your entire diet overnight.

Instead, aim to improve a small part of your diet each day in a way that you would not have normally done. This could be anything from adding one less spoonful of sugar to your morning coffee to incorporating some extra leafy greens in your dinner to swapping your white bread for a wholegrain version. 

Be Appreciative

Whether showing appreciation for someone else, or for yourself or what you have, being appreciative has been proven to significantly increase happiness levels, with some studies even showing that it can boost this by up to 25%

The idea of being more appreciative may seem easy in theory, but how do you actually go about doing this on a daily basis?

Simply verbally expressing appreciation for someone, whether this may be for something that they have done or just an aspect of their personality, is a great way to start. Alternatively, try writing a handwritten thank you note to somebody each day, but make sure that you are only sending this with sincere appreciation in mind.

Wake Up Earlier

When you first start working on implementing this habit, the earlier starts to your day will likely not immediately make you feel happy, but this is something that will develop quite quickly.

Waking up earlier will help to keep you feeling invigorated and energized throughout the day. It also gives you extra time in your day, which can help with productivity, which also then results in happiness. 

To top it all off…

Early starts mean that you are likely to start going to bed earlier, and will be able to maintain a much healthier sleep routine.

Just like with changing your diet, this is not something that you need to get drastic about.

Instead, set your alarm for 15 minutes earlier than you usually would, and give yourself a few days to a week to get used to this change. Once your body has adapted, set your alarm for 15 minutes earlier again, and keep repeating this process until you have begun to naturally rise at a time that suits you.

Learn Something New

Human beings have a core need for psychological well-being, and a natural desire to learn new things and progress in life.

There are numerous studies out there that suggest that education can directly increase happiness, thanks to the way in which the mind is being challenged. 

Don’t want to go back to school?

Fortunately, you do not need to, as there are so many other ways in which you can learn new things. Here are a few ideas:

  • Arrange a skills swap with friends
  • Ask a keen gardener to teach you how to develop your green thumb
  • Take up a new hobby
  • Sign up for a free online course
  • Think of a skill or activity you would like to do, and use the power of the internet to teach it to yourself

Of course, there is no denying that learning new skills can often cause stress…

However, research suggests that while the actual learning process can sometimes feel stressful, your overall levels of happiness and satisfaction will be higher when you look back on your day and all that you have learned.

Give Yourself a Treat

Research shows that in order to be truly happy overall, you need to have plenty of small positive experiences along the way. The frequency of these experiences is actually more important than the intensity, which is why treating yourself on a daily basis can really help to boost your happiness levels.

Wondering what to treat yourself with?

Everything from breakfast in bed to purchasing gourmet coffee beans rather than instant to setting aside some time each day where you can curl up with a good book. 

Spend Money on Experiences, Rather than Material Goods

There are quite a few studies out there that show that experiential purchases, meaning spending money on experiences, makes people far happier than buying material goods.

Why?

For a few different reasons:

  • Material goods get old quickly, while experiences can be shared throughout a lifetime
  • Experiences get recalled and revisited frequently, boosting happiness
  • Experiences are much more unique in nature
  • Experiences tend to be social, and humans are social animals

Don’t Compare Yourself to Others

Do you remember constantly comparing yourself to other people when you were in your teenage years?

Hopefully, this is not something that you do quite as much now, since comparing yourself to others can really minimize happiness.

If you catch yourself making comparisons to others…

Turn this around and instead compare yourself to an earlier version of yourself. Think about your qualities that have improved over the years, as these are much healthier comparisons to be making.

Keep a Journal

If you have never kept a journal before, the thought of starting one can seem a little daunting…

However, a journal is a great way to help your mind to process the events that are happening in your life, building up your awareness and increasing your clarity.

Even if you only manage to jot down a few lines a day, this can really help in the long run.

The easiest way to get started with this is by grabbing a pen and a piece of paper, but there are also journaling apps that you can download. These will send you notifications each day to remind you to write, which is always helpful when you are first trying to build a habit.

Not sure what to write about?

Just about anything will do! Start by writing down the events of the day, or even what you have eaten. You can also jot down your goals and dreams, as well as any worries or fears that you may have, as just the act of writing these down will help you to work your way through them.

Taking proactive steps to be happy means that you are much more likely to experience consistent happiness in your life, and it makes happiness more of a sure thing, rather than you just waiting and hoping for it to appear. Each of these daily habits are so easy to incorporate into your life, so have another read through the list and then pick a few that you can begin to implement right now.

Contemplative woman on a park bench

Afraid of Aging? Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Be

The idea of aging is something that many do not react well to, but why is this?

Well, it could have something to do with the physical changes that take place, or even the mental ones.

But while this may be the case, aging is really not something that you need to be afraid of. Here are just a few of the reasons why…

Aging Doesn’t Mean You Must Have Poor Health

Many people think that pain, illness and disease are all things that go hand-in-hand with old age.

But this is not true…

Yes, there are certain diseases that become more common as you get older, but, for many of them, there are actually quite a few preventative steps that you can take.

One of these is by paying attention to nutrition

colorful food nutritional benefits infographic

Malnutrition is becoming an increasing problem, especially amongst the elderly, and this can have a number of severe consequences:

  • Weakened muscles and bones
  • Higher susceptibility to diseases and infections
  • Risk of becoming underweight
  • Slower healing time

By ensuring that you are receiving all the nutrition that you need, you will be having a huge impact on your health in the future. A healthy diet now means that, as you age, you will not need to deal with the diseases and health issues that others face. 

Aging Means You’ll Have More Time

Imagine having an extra hour or two in your day…

How would you spend it?

The idea of having this extra time may seem ludicrous to some, but this is exactly what you will have as you get older.

How?

Because older adults need less sleep.

In fact, this is a sign of healthy aging.

So, how much sleep will you need?

Well, up until the age of 30, you need between seven and eight hours. After this, you need between six and seven. 

Of course, a lack of sleep can be damaging too.

How do you know if you are getting enough sleep?

Pay attention to how sleepy you feel during the day. If you are wide awake and alert, then this means that you have likely had enough sleep the night before. However, if you start to feel drowsy at some point during the day, then you may need an hour or two more each night.

Aging Makes You Happier

The concept of happiness has been at the center of so much research in recent years. 

One interesting result is the fact that seniors, out of all of the different age groups out there, are among the happiest of them all. This is especially the case when compared to those who are middle-aged. 

Wondering why this is?

Researchers believe that this could be down to better coping abilities. Since seniors have likely already been through quite a bit of hardship in their lives, they are much better able to deal with negative situations, and are also quite optimistic.

Aging Increases Marital Satisfaction

For those who are married, this may really interest you..

Many parents think that once the last of their children have moved out, a marriage will feel so much emptier.

But this is actually the opposite from the truth.

Research has shown that once all children have left home, there tends to be an increase in marital satisfaction.

senior couple

Why?

Because often, couples find themselves drifting apart, or feeling disconnected, while going through all that it takes to raise children. However, once the children have left, couples are able to get back into touch with each other, rediscovering why they fell in love with each other in the first place.

Aging Allows You to Pursue Your Dreams

When you are in your teenage years, the passion to pursue your dreams is a strong one. However, as you continue on through life, this can often be dulled down. Many find themselves in jobs that they do not enjoy, spending years doing something that does not really satisfy them.

However, once retirement rolls around, this all changes…

How?

Well, retirement gives you so much more time, and this time can be spent pursuing some of those long lost dreams that you may have put on hold years ago.

Whether you wanted to travel to a foreign country to learn a new language, write your very first novel, or grow your own food, you will have so much time once you are retired to try all of these exciting things.

Ever wanted to start your own business?

Retirement is the time to do so. In fact, over the past ten years or so, the average age for an entrepreneur is between 55 and 64.

Aging Gives You More Family Time

grandfather and grandson playing in the grass

In addition to spending your retirement time pursuing your dreams, you will also have so much more time to spend with your family and loved ones.

Being able to see your children and grandchildren grow up is something that so many look forward to, and this time of your life may even be one of the highlights of all of your years.

Aging Teaches You Emotional Management Skills

In your younger years, you may often experience moments where your emotions seem to simply overwhelm you, leaving you feeling confused and unsure of what to do.

Fortunately, these moments decrease as you age…

Managing your emotions is actually considered to be a life skill that takes decades to master. The result of this is emotional stability, as well as the ability pay more attention to the good, and less attention to the bad. This could be another reason as to why seniors have a happier outlook on life than younger generations. 

Aging Can Boost Cognitive Function

There is no denying that aging commonly brings with it cognitive decline, but researchers are finding that, in some ways, cognitive function may actually improve with age.

There is still plenty more research to be done on the topic, but a study carried out by the University of Illinois examined the way in which older air traffic controllers carried out their job in comparison to younger generations of air traffic controllers.

Wondering what the results were?

Even though the older group was experiencing some short term memory loss, as well as a reduction in visual spatial processing, they still excelled at their jobs. When it came to navigating multiple aircrafts at the same time, and avoiding a collision, the older group was far superior

Aging Teaches You Not to Judge Others

In your younger years, you may have often cast judgement upon others. Whether due to material goods they did or did not have, or something superficial, such as the way in which they looked, judgement is something that just about everybody is guilty of.

Judgement may not be a huge evil in the big scheme of things, but it does often lead to negative emotions within the person doing the judging, which is no good for your mental health.

However, this changes with age…

As you grow older, you will learn not to judge other people, and will instead naturally begin to accept them for who they are.

Aging Doesn’t Mean Isolation

One worry that many have about aging is that they may find themselves isolated from all that is out there.

However, the world is becoming increasingly age-friendly.

happy senior people

In fact, the World Health Organization has started an initiative, in conjunction with a number of cities around the world, to make the world more age-friendly. 

What exactly does this mean?

Here are just a few of the ways in which cities are adapting to their elderly population:

  • Age-friendly transportation
  • New forms of education
  • New care and housing concepts
  • Age-friendly business workplaces and campuses

From Mumbai to New York, cities all over the world are embracing this initiative, determined to make the world a better place for those who are aging.

Aging Reveals Your True Identity

Many people spend their youth trying to discover who they really are, but very few find the answers…

Why is this?

Because discovering who you are is something that takes decades, and cannot be rushed in just a few years.

Each year, you will learn so many new things about yourself, whether this be related to your character, your beliefs or your abilities. You will learn both positive and negative things about yourself, and these discoveries will accumulate over the years, meaning that you will finally understand your inner nature in depth.

Aging Means You Have More Life Experience

The older you get, the more life experiences you accumulate.

Everybody goes through different things in their life, and these experiences make you who you are. 

While you may sometimes face negative experiences, these are just as important as the positive, as you will come out of them having learned something, even if it may not feel like it at the time.

All of these life experiences also means that you become much more interesting to others. You can use your experiences to guide and advise others, changing peoples’ lives for the better.

Aging Doesn’t Mean Giving Up Driving

A few decades ago, growing older meant that you would soon have to stop driving, but this is no longer the case.

Technology has advanced in huge leaps and bounds, and all of these innovations mean that people will be able to continue to drive, in a safe manner, as they grow in age.

senior woman driving

What are some of these innovations?

Everything from adaptive headlights, which pivot the light beam so that drivers can see better on curved roads, to assisted parking systems to rear cameras make driving so much easier.

Aging Doesn’t Mean Losing Your Independence

One of the aspects of aging that many fear is having to become completely dependent on others.

However, the chances of this happening are actually quite slim…

Let’s begin by taking a look at those between the ages of 65 and 74.

When it comes to everyday tasks, this age group barely differs from those who are middle-aged. This is especially true for those living in an age-friendly location, such as within easy walking distance of shops.

But yes, things do change slightly once you pass this age range…

However, unless you are suffering from a physical health problem, or a cognitive issue, you will still not need to be completely dependent on others. You may need some extra help from support services, but you will still be able to live in your own home and continue doing what you love.

Aging Gives You More Confidence

Along with age comes confidence.

Why?

Well, the answer has already been mentioned above, and this is down to all of the life experiences you will have acquired.

Each of these experiences will add to your sense of confidence, meaning that, as you reach the later stages of old age, you will have confidence in buckets! This confidence is something that really only does come with experience, but it can really change the lives of those who have suffered from a lack of confidence in their earlier years. 

Aging is a Privilege

You may not think it now, but aging is actually quite a privilege.

Wondering how?

Think about everything that people face on a daily basis…

From crime to pollution to politics to stress, there are so many people that do not even get to see the age of 60.

No matter how old you may currently be, think about all that you have seen and experienced in your lifetime. Every day really is a gift, so put your fear of aging behind you and make the most of all that life has to offer.

Closeup of a small cup of espresso

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.

Header of Beginner's Guide to Probiotics

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.

Nuclear family enjoying dinner together

The Profile Of A Healthy TV Dinner

The original frozen dinners were literal recipes for disaster. Take the fact that they were first introduced  in the 1950’s when a nutritious dinner was defined by meatloaf and mashed potatoes with pie for desert. Add to that the fact that they catered to bachelors, whose main goals of eating were to fill their stomachs. Then, consider that the food had to be preserved, which adds a boatload of sodium to the equation. Put it all together, and you get a 1,040 calorie chicken pot pie, with 62 grams of fat, 26 grams of saturated fat, 1,480 mgs of sodium, and 14 grams of sugar.

As you may have guessed, there has been an appropriate amount of backlash. With the increased knowledge of nutrition, it comes as no surprise that sooner or later someone was likely to come up with a slightly more balanced way of preparing dinner instantly. Here are some of the kindler, more gentler versions of the original enemy of the artery.

Chicken and Harissa Chickpeas

The ingredient list in this meal is so healthy, you might start feeling stronger just thinking about it.  This North African option blends chicken, broccoli, butternut squash, chickpeas, brown jasmine rice and kale, topped with harissa, a spicy paste consisting of garlic, hot chili peppers, coriander, and caraway seeds, known to blast away fat. Capsaicin, the ingredient that gives the sauce its kick, is a proven appetite suppressant and metabolism booster, and the regular consumption of the caraway seed is associated with weight loss as well.

Quinoa Bowls

You may not know how to pronounce it, but you have probably seen quinoa popping up on restaurant menus and in health food stores quite a lot recently. Why are the bowls popular? They provide an easy way to combine flavors and spices with protein, healthy grains, and produce. The South American inspired quinoa bowl mixes meat free proteins, such as black beans, and red quinoa, for a meat free answer to high protein.

The Profile Of A Healthy TV Dinner

Thai Stir Fry

With all the new super foods on the market, tofu almost seems to get taken for granted. However, its still a very healthy option and can be the basis of a smart frozen dinner choice. Try an organic heat and eat, mixing tofu with a rainbow of veggies, including carrots, cabbage, broccoli, jalapeños, zucchini, and hot pepper for a low fat, high protein boost.

Butternut Squash Ravioli

Ravioli in the microwave! How revolutionary! These protein and vitamin A filled ravs are stuffed with ricotta and butternut squash, and topped with kale, roasted tomatoes, and a sage garlic and lemon sauce. Wait til you tell your coworkers what was on the menu at your house last night!

Black Bean and Mango Bowl

This is an exotic combo for a frozen dinner. The entree is served on a bed of whole grain and sesame pilaf, comprised of brown rice oats rye, red wheat, barley, and sesame seeds. Top that with black beans, peppers, carrots and roasted onions, and you’ve got a bowl loaded with fiber and protein. Add some mango, ginger, and other seasonings, and you have preservatives that keeps the sodium content down for better heart health.

What is your best frozen dinner recipe? Let us know how you do health in front of the TV!

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