January 27, 2015

Watercress: It’s the New Kale


 

Leafy green vegetables like kale are undoubtedly good for you: they’re loaded with vitamins, minerals and amino acids, fiber, protein and even healthy fats. But, it turns out there may be a green vegetable that’s healthier than kale. Yes, something healthier than kale. Say hello to watercress.
 
Touted as the hot vegetable topping the food trends predicted for 2015, it turns out that the delicate, peppery watercress is a seriously healthy food too, way healthier than kale.
 
That’s the finding of a study published in the Centers for Disease Control’s Chronic Disease Prevention journal. Researchers out of William Paterson University in New Jersey ranked more than 40 fruits and vegetables based on the presence of 17 critical nutrients, including fiber, protein, calcium, potassium, B12, folate, vitamin A and more. (Not only did watercress rank at the very top, kale wasn’t even in the top ten.)

More closely related to its wild food roots than modern kale varieties, watercress typically grows near water—streambeds, mostly. But now, thanks to hydroponics and greenhouses, watercress has become widely available in most health food stores and supermarkets. Resembling its wild ancestors more than kale (or most supermarket vegetables for that matter) is why it’s so superior. Cultivated foods have been bred to reduce bitter flavors, which humans don’t like so much. But those bitter flavors, like in watercress, are where many of the nutrients are. Which is why it’s no surprise that the nutritious benefits of watercress are through the roof.

Similar to arugula, it has a spicy, peppery flavor that makes it an excellent addition to salads and sandwiches. But it can also be cooked—add it at the last minute to a soup or stew recipe, toss in with pasta, pilaf or risotto. You can also add fresh watercress to your pre- or post-workout smoothies for a spicy nutritious kick.

Image via French Tart

January 23, 2015

Why a Pre-Breakfast Workout Might Be the Best for Weight Loss Goals

One of the biggest challenges in keeping our fitness goals is time. We don’t have the time to workout, is a common excuse. Between kids, work and you know, breathing, sleeping and eating, there’s often little time for anything else.

Of course, we also know by now that committing to regular exercise is significantly important for our health. It adds years to our lives, prevents diseases, makes us look and feel better.

That all sounds terrific, but when are we supposed to do this? According to the New York Times, see if you can make a bit of time in the morning, before you eat to get some exercise in, especially if weight loss is a goal for working out.

“There is some evidence that working out on a completely empty stomach — or, as scientists call this woozy, wee-hours condition, ‘in a fasted state’ — prompts the body to burn more fat and potentially stave off weight gain, compared to exercising at other times,” Gretchen Reynolds wrote in the Times.

Reynolds points to a 2010 study where subjects consumed 30 percent more calories and 50 percent more fat while either exercising after breakfast, no exercise at all, or exercising before breakfast. Of the three groups, only the men who exercised before eating saw no weight gain despite the additional calories. The sedentary group gained about six pounds each and the post-breakfast workout group gained about three pounds.

“Of course, the early-morning exercise prevented weight gain, which is not the same thing as inducing weight loss,” Reynolds writes. “But the results are encouraging for those who hope to shave off a few pounds.”

It’s at least a good way to keep yourself from adding on weight from not doing any exercise. Committing to a fitness program can be more difficult in the midst of a busy day. And for many people, working out later in the day or early evening can make it more difficult to fall asleep. Which makes a pre-breakfast workout sound even more appealing to achieving your fitness and weight loss goals.

 Image: adifanset

January 20, 2015

Women Under 30 Best Hope for Embracing Sustainability Initiatives, Global Opportunity Report Finds

The Global Opportunity Report, which was released yesterday in Zurich, revealed how businesses are embracing sustainability, despite five major challenges.

The report, launched by DNV GL, UN Global Compact and Monday Morning Global Institute, looks at the challenges: extreme weather, fresh water scarcity, urbanization, non-communicable diseases and extractive fossil fuel activity. The findings are based on more than 6,000 consultations in both the private and public sectors in more than 21 countries. The report aims to make the challenges more approachable and turn them into sustainability opportunities, offering more than 120 solutions for businesses around the world in various sectors.

The report found that younger generations, specifically those under age 30, as well as female leaders, are significantly more optimistic about overcoming the challenges, and have faith in sustainable “green” choices to offer solutions to many of the challenges the planet is currently facing.

“I believe that one of the most interesting findings in the report is how young leaders under 30 years of age, people in emerging economies and also women embrace regulation as a strong tool for sustainable change,” Henrik O. Madsen, Group CEO and President of DNV GL said in a statement. “It is very likely that the decision makers of tomorrow will be found in these groups, and it gives us hope that we can see a stronger collaboration between the private and the public sector in the future.”

“The report findings are encouraging and concerning at the same time,” says Erik Rasmussen, founder of Monday Morning Global Institute. “The strong interest in pursuing sustainable business opportunities in the private sector is very positive. Yet, the governmental sector seems to be more reluctant and not seeing the same opportunities. This is a pity. Governments can play an important role by issuing regulations that support both sustainability and business ventures. Business and governments must share visions and initiatives.” 

According to the report’s findings, respondents in China, India and South America have the most confidence in sustainable opportunities, while respondents in Europe were most cautious. “Respondents from China see the greatest potential when assessing whether they can benefit from pursuing the 15 opportunities. China is closely followed by India and South America.”

“Businesses across the planet are not shying away from global risks such as climate change, and increasingly recognize the positive benefits of seizing the related opportunities,” Georg Kell, executive director of UN Global Compact said. “The report confirms that there has been a turning point, where private sectors are now a critical driver of sustainable development with emerging economies in the front seat.”

You can read the full report here.

Image via citirecruitment

January 16, 2015

A 20-Minute Walk a Day Could Save Your Life, Study on Inactivity and Mortality Finds

A bad diet isn’t the only way to an early grave. A recent study finds inactivity may be even more damaging than being overweight or obese.

The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, was conducted by University of Cambridge researchers, who found that as many as 676,000 deaths per year in Europe come from inactivity, versus solely weight-related deaths that are about half that number.

The researchers looked at 334,161 Europeans over the course of 12 years, monitoring activity levels and the subjects’ waistlines, noting an increased risk of cardiovascular disease among the most inactive. Diabetes was also rampant, particularly among those who were both obese and inactive.

"The greatest risk [of an early death] was in those classed inactive, and that was consistent in normal weight, overweight and obese people," one of the researchers, Prof Ulf Ekelund told BBC News.

According to Ekelund, decreasing the number of inactive people in Europe by just 7.5 percent would prevent the 676,000 deaths noted earlier.

He recommends simple steps anyone can take to increase their activity levels. "Twenty minutes of physical activity, equivalent to a brisk walk, should be possible for most people to include on their way to or from work, or on lunch breaks, or in the evening instead of watching TV," he told the BBC.

Prof Ekelund noted that reducing obesity is also a very important step in decreasing these mortality rates, but, he said “I do think physical activity needs to be recognised as a very important public health strategy."

Sitting at your desk reading this article? Stand up and stretch a bit, run in place, do some jumping jacks, or pop this article open on a mobile device and read it while walking (just make sure to watch where you’re going). It could save your life. At the very least, it will make it healthier.

Image: H o l l y

January 13, 2015

Blueberry Health Benefits Now Include Reduced Risk of Cardiovascular Disease

It may not feel much like smoothie season across the country, but here’s an excellent reason to blend up a smoothie bursting with blueberry health benefits: one cup of blueberries per day could reduce blood pressure and the risk of developing arterial stiffness and that means a big reduction in your risk of cardiovascular disease. Yep, a simple smoothie.

"Our findings suggest that regular consumption of blueberries could potentially delay the progression of prehypertension to hypertension, therefore reducing cardiovascular disease risk," Sarah A. Johnson, lead author of the study and assistant director of the Center for Advancing Exercise and Nutrition Research on Aging (CAENRA) and postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Nutrition, Food and Exercise Sciences at Florida State University told Science Daily.

The new study was published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. It looked at 48 postmenopausal women with pre- and stage-1 hypertension who were randomly assigned to receive “either 22 grams of freeze-dried blueberry powder -- the equivalent to one cup of fresh blueberries -- or 22 grams of a placebo powder,” Science Daily reports. “At the end of the eight weeks, participants receiving the blueberry powder on average had a 7 mmHg (5.1 percent) decrease in systolic blood pressure, which is the top number in the blood pressure reading that measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats. They also saw a 5 mmHg (6.3 percent) reduction in diastolic blood pressure, or the bottom number measuring the pressure in the arteries between heartbeats.

“Additionally, participants in the blueberry-treated group had an average reduction of 97 cm/second (6.5 percent) in arterial stiffness." 

The researchers also noted significant increases in nitric oxide—more than 68 percent. The blood biomarker plays a role in widening blood vessels, which can help to prevent hypertension.

Blueberries are no stranger to people who eat healthy foods. They’re low-sugar fruits rich in fiber and antioxidants. Of course, you don’t have to pulverize blueberries into smoothies to get their benefits (although, that is a most delicious delivery method). You can consume them fresh by the handful as well or add them into your morning cereal. They’re even scrumptious in salads.

 Image via geishaboy

January 09, 2015

Acupuncture May Be More Effective than Insomnia Drugs at Treating Sleep Disorders

Could acupuncture be the best treatment for sleep issues including insomnia?

Insomnia will affect most people at one point or another in their lifetime. While it can be an occasional occurrence for most—a new baby at home, nervousness over a big test, getting married in the morning jitters, etc—some people suffer from chronic, even debilitating bouts of insomnia and sleep disorders that can take a huge toll. 

Is there anything worse than an inability to fall or stay asleep? Most people who’ve experienced insomnia will say “no.” It can lead to anxiety, depression and serious concentration issues. It can even be damaging to your health—a lack of sleep has been linked to metabolic disorders.

Even the healthiest people who eschew conventional medicines will resort to insomnia drugs in order to get a decent night’s sleep. But those insomnia drugs can make you feel groggy the next day, even more tired, and they also have side effects like dizziness, dry mouth, constipation, difficulty urinating, seizures, confusion and rapid heart rates.

Now, new research looked at acupuncture plus traditional Chinese herbs versus benzodiazepine-based insomnia drugs. And the researchers found that the acupuncture herb groups experienced “significantly better overall effective rate” at treating insomnia than the benzodiazepine drug group.

“Patients in the acupuncture plus herbs group enjoyed a 96.8% total effective rate compared with the estazolam group receiving a 74.2% total effective rate,” reports the Healthcare Medical Institute.

By targeting specific acupuncture points, the researchers noted the subjects not only had significantly better results, but they also avoided the adverse effects common with the benzodiazepine drugs. As an added benefit, the acupuncture and herbal remedies also improved the overall quality of sleep of the subjects.

Image via mikefats

January 06, 2015

A New Benefit of Exercise: Prevention Against Parkinson's Disease

If you’re looking for more motivation to get to the gym, there’s a new benefit of exercise: it may help in the prevention of Parkinson’s disease.

That’s the finding of a recent study, published in the journal Brain: A Journal of Neurology.

Researchers out of the the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm followed more than 43,000 adults over a 13-year period. The researchers used questionnaires to deduce as much information as possible about physical activity, which included housework, commute, work-related physical activity, exercise and leisure physical activity. The combined physical activity was converted into “metabolic equivalent” (MET) hours per day, assessing the estimated oxygen consumption for each activity.

“Participants were all healthy at the start of the study in 1997. By 2010, 286 individuals had developed Parkinson’s disease,” reports PsychCentral. “Those who spent more than six hours per week on housework and commuting had a 43 percent lower risk than those who spent fewer than two hours per week on these activities.”

Men who engaged in a “medium amount of physical activity—about 39 MET hours per day—had the lowest risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.

Parkinson’s is a disease of the motor system where the brain loses dopamine-producing cells. Symptoms include trembling in extremities, jaw and face, stiffness, slow movement and issues with balance and coordination leading to immobility. It currently affects more than 1 percent of people over age 60 and is the 14th leading cause of death in the U.S.

Dr. Karin Wirdefeldt, the study’s lead author cites the study’s wide sampling of men and women and looking at subjects for an extended period of time. “The protective effect of physical activity was further supported when we summarized all available evidence from published prospective cohort studies. These findings are important for both the general population and for the health care of patients with Parkinson’s disease,” she said.

 While not a guarantee against developing Parkinson’s disease, the benefits of exercise extend far beyond burning calories and developing muscles. And making the time to get active seems more important now than ever.

Image: cpboingo

January 02, 2015

7 Workout Hacks to Help You Keep Your Fitness Goals

 

Living in the modern world has its perks—from donuts to iPhones—we all find ourselves easily tempted and distracted from the goals that will make us happier in the long run than a sugar rush or scrolling through Instagram ever will. Still, our fitness goals suffer and too often wind up totally neglected. Never fear. These workout hacks can help.

1. Schedule it. You schedule time to watch television, have dinner, run errands, etc. So, schedule your workouts if you want to keep your fitness goals. This eliminates the excuses and makes it easier to fall into a healthy routine.

2. Workout with friends. Just like abandoning your fitness goals is a lot easier when your excuse is that you were caught up having a good time with your friends, you can easily stick to your goals by working out with them too. Help each other keep these important dates with your health!

3. Get inspired. Use that distracting iPhone to help you get motivated for your workout. Follow fitness accounts on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Create a Pinterest board with fitness gear, routines and results you’re seeking. Hang pictures at your desk, in your kitchen—anywhere that will get you thinking about exercise and remind you not to skip your workout.

4. Keep it fresh. One of the biggest hindrances in a workout is knowing what’s coming next. That can often lead to dread, even anxiety over a routine or particular set of exercises. So to avoid that anxiety and to keep yourself inspired and engaged, make sure to mix up your workouts. Take a spin class on Monday, a barre class on Tuesday, go for a run on Wednesday, etc—whatever you need to keep your excitement and engagement levels up!

5. Small workouts. Doing 20 minutes of exercise is better than zero minutes. No question about it! So if your schedule is prohibitive one week or it’s too darn cold to leave the house for the gym, do what you can at home (or when traveling) to get your blood pumping and heart racing.

6. Take selfies. This can be the hardest part for some people, but it’s sure as heck a motivation. Take before photos and then take those sweaty post-workout pics to keep your spirits up and your intentions charged towards meeting your goals.

7. Stop counting calories. Eating the right foods is so much more important than eating less food. If your fitness goals include weight loss, calorie restriction can help, but you can also achieve results by replacing bad carbs like refined flours and sugars with healthier foods. Eliminating the anxiety over calories is a weight off your mind and your health goals.

Image via Lynda Sanchez

December 30, 2014

California's New Egg Law: Worth the Price Increase

California’s new law on eggs sold in the states—cages will be nearly twice the size of the industry standard—may also mean more expensive eggs.

“Proposition 2, as it's called, required eggs in California to come from chickens that have enough room to fully extend their limbs and turn around freely,” NPR explains. “It was a direct challenge to the egg industry, because most egg-laying chickens can't do that in standard henhouses, where they live in small cages, five or 10 birds to a cage.”

And the ruling, which goes into effect on January 1st, 2015, has been “a shock to the egg industry, and to grocery stores,” reports NPR. “Eggs are one of those staples that self-respecting grocery retailers absolutely, positively have to keep in stock,” but the egg industry is worried that the higher prices could mean a loss of sales.

Still, the move is a big victory for animal welfare advocates and the chickens. After working with experts, the state decided “each chicken is legally entitled to at least 116 square inches of floor space,” NPR explains.

The new rule means that most of the egg producers in the country can’t sell their eggs in the state of California. As expected, most aren’t too happy about the decision and have attempted to get the ruling overturned in court. All efforts to get the bill overturned have failed so far, and “other egg producers have built new henhouses — either free-range houses, where chickens can walk around on the floor, or houses with larger ‘enriched cages,’ featuring perches and enclosed hutches where chickens can lay their eggs,” reports NPR. But most producers are just decreasing their flock sizes, rather than upgrading the conditions for the animals.

The downside of decreased flock sizes means fewer eggs, which means higher prices.

“According to government statistics, the number of egg-laying chickens in California has fallen by 23 percent over the past two years,” NPR explains. “In the rest of the country, though, egg production is expanding, and egg brokers who supply the California market have been ringing up egg producers all across the country, offering high prices for eggs that meet California's new rules.”

But Californians don’t seem to mind paying more for eggs, at least not for the time being. And while the new rule is a boon to the majority of the chickens producing eggs, many small-scale organic farmers are already working with much more humane conditions for chickens that produce higher quality eggs as well as more ethical ones. Like with anything, good food is worthy of an investment, even with something as simple as an egg.

Image via John Loo

 

December 26, 2014

Study Finds Thinking About Working Out Almost as Effective as the Real Thing

Now that the year is practically over, fitness goals start taking center stage in our resolutions and New Year’s goals. For most of us, that’s a desire lose weight and get healthier. But many of us struggle with working out regularly or effectively. Brace yourselves for this news: can you think yourself healthy?

That’s the findings of a new study published in the Journal of Neurophysiology. According to the research, muscle tissue responds to the thoughts of working out and specific exercises, “simply imagining exercise can trick the muscles into delaying atrophy and even getting stronger,” reports UPI. “It's further proof that brain and body, which evolved together, are more intwined than separate.” 

It’s a huge revelation, especially for those of us who don’t get to exercise as often or as intensely as we like. Here’s how it happened. According to UPI, the researchers at Ohio University“wrapped a single wrist of two sets of study participants in a cast -- immobilizing their muscles for four weeks. One set was instructed to sit still and intensely imagine exercising for 11 minutes, five days a week. More than just casually daydream about going to the gym, participants were instructed to devote all of their mental energy towards imagining flexing their arm muscles,” UPI explained.“The other set of study participants weren't given any specific instructions. At the end of the four weeks, the mental-exercisers were two times stronger than the others.”

The researchers also took MRI scans of the brain and the group that imagined exercising also had stronger brain activity with the mental exercises creating stronger neuromuscular pathways.

"What our study suggests is that imagery exercises could be a valuable tool to prevent or slow muscles from becoming weaker when a health problem limits or restricts a person's mobility," study author Brian Clark, a professor of physiology and neuroscience at Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine, said in a press release.

"The most impactful finding, however, is not the direct clinical application but the support that this work provides for us to better understand the critical importance of the brain in regulating muscle strength," Clark added. "This information may fundamentally change how we think about muscle weakness in the elderly."

While mentally working out is no replacement for a physical one, studies besides this one have found that imagining the muscles being engaged can activate the same parts of the brain that real exercise does and that’s incredibly important for those unable to workout due to injury or illness. And while it may help to enhance your workout by thinking about your spin class once you’re home, don’t let it be an excuse to skip out on the real thing.

Image: plantronicsgermany

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