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Olive Tapenade is a pantry staple everyone should keep stocked in a healing kitchen. It is a
delicious dip that can also be used as a spread on wraps or on toast, as a topping for protein, or
as a fantastic sauce. This powerhouse dip provides a great dose of healthy fats, and nutrient-
rich olives are celebrated for being a heart healthy food that can reduce inflammation.
This is an extremely simple recipe that uses tapenade as the sauce. You can make your own
tapenade or purchase a pre-made one from the store. I personally prefer a chunkier tapenade
with a variety of different olives in it, but a smoother tapenade works as well. I hope you enjoy!

Serves 3

Ingredients:

  • 1 spaghetti squash (roughly 2 lbs)
  • 2 cups arugula
  • 1 ½ cups whole cherry tomatoes
  • ¼ cup olive tapenade
  • ½ red onion, chopped
  • 1 minced garlic clove
  • 2 Tbsp chopped parsley
  • 3 Tbsp avocado oil
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • Sea salt to taste preference
  • Juice of ½ a lemon
  • Optional: ½ tsp red pepper flakes
  • Optional: ¼ cup crumbled feta

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Chop spaghetti squash in half, and discard the seeds.
  3. Place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet, and massage 1 tbsp avocado oil into
    both squash halves.
  4. Bake face down (with the skin up) for roughly 30-40 minutes. Remove and flip over, and
    let cool for 5-10 minutes.
  5. In a large pan, heat 2 tbsp avocado oil on medium heat.
  6. Saute red onion for 3-4 minutes, then add garlic, cherry tomatoes, pepper, and red
    pepper flakes if using, and cover for 5 minutes to steam, removing lid once to stir. NOTE:
    may need to add a dash of filtered water if ingredients are sticking to the pan.
  7. Remove lid, and add 2 cups arugula. Saute for 2 minutes, then turn the heat off.
  8. Add the tapenade, lemon juice, and parsley to the pan, and mix well.
  9. Using a fork, make spaghetti out of the spaghetti squash, and add it straight into the
    large pan. Mix all the ingredients well.
  10. If using feta, add it into the pan and mix well.
  11. Taste test and add sea salt if needed, and adjust other seasonings if needed.
  12. Serve and enjoy.

The post Olive Tapenade Spaghetti Squash Pasta appeared first on Be Well.

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Our current culture is accustomed to sitting for hours, daily. A “typical day”consists of long work hours primarily at a desk, followed by an inactive commute home, and then an evening on the couch. Why is this not ideal? A sedentary lifestyle can lead to a host of ailments that don’t support agility and longevity. Our bodies are meant to move and thrive at their best when given the opportunity to do so. You don’t need an intense workout regime to reap the benefits of movement. Instead, incorporate some of these simple tips into your daily life to help support your body long-term. Bonus, you will mentally feel the benefits as well!

Make your commutes/errands more movement friendly

Whether it’s on your way to work, a meeting, lunch, grocery store, or the gym, choose the longest and most scenic route there. Then, get creative and add movement whenever you can! Ideally if you can walk or bike the entire route to and from your destination, that would be a great way to incorporate more movement daily. But if not, get off the subway a stop early or park the car as far away as possible, and then walk the rest. You could even drive halfway to your destination and then walk/bike the rest. Get creative, but prioritize moving your body on all of your commutes.

Stop ordering in

Instead of ordering in your lunch at work, commit to getting up and getting out to go get your food. Take a brisk walk in fresh air and add in a little extra loop on your way whenever you can.

Make walking part of your date

Catching up with a friend or your partner doesn’t always have to mean sitting at a bar sipping wine! Try an active date such as bowling, rock climbing, a walk on the beach or park, hiking, or whatever your surroundings allows for. In addition to keeping you on your feet, you get to actually experience something fun and healthy together which is nurturing for the relationship in and of itself!

Always take the stairs

Ditch elevators and escalators and always go for the climb. This is a simple and effective way to get your heart rate up on the regular, which has numerous health benefits from improved cardiovascular function to mood-boosting.

Add a furry friend to your life

Not only does having a pet fill your heart with joy and uplift your spirits, they also force you to get outside and move! Puppies specifically need to release their energy often. So, if you are at a good place in your life to welcome a pet, this is another simple way to get more movement in daily.

For more tips, check out this blog: 20 Ways to move more every day

The post Simple Ways to Move More Daily appeared first on Be Well.

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One of the main reasons that the “Mediterranean diet” leads to better health and a longer lifespan is almost certainly thanks to all the olive oil it includes. But all olive oil is not created equal!

Yes, we should always buy organically grown, extra virgin olive oils, but there are further nuances between oils that make some types of olive oil far superior.

 

Phenols Make Olive Oil Medicine

Perhaps the most important characteristic of olive oil is the health-producing high-phenolic compounds that some possess. Two of the very best phenols are oleocanthal, a natural anti-inflammatory agent, and oleacein, a potent antioxidant.

Some of the benefits of phenols (also known as polyphenols) include:

High-phenolic olive oils are much more than food—they are truly medicinal. Unfortunately, polyphenols degrade over time, so ideally you’ll choose an olive oil that is less than one year old and that had very high phenol levels at the time of its bottling.

You should also select oils that come in dark glass and store them in a cool place (but not the refrigerator!) to preserve the phenol count.

 

How to Identify High-Phenol Olive Oil

The best way to tell if your favorite olive oil has a high phenol level is by simply tasting it.

Phenols give the oil a peppery after-taste. If your olive oil has absolutely zero pleasant burn to it, it probably has very low phenol levels. The best olive oils will actually make you cough a little—that’s how peppery their flavor is!

Some olive oil manufacturers publish their phenol levels (in parts per million, or ppm) on their bottles, and these are often the healthiest olive oils.

Although taste is subjective, I find the healthiest oils with the highest phenol counts to be the most delicious.

 

Filtered vs. Unfiltered Olive Oil

Unfiltered olive oil retains minute particles of the fruit in the oil, which may contain some beneficial nutrients.

Unfortunately, these particles of fruit also rot, causing the oil to lose polyphenols much more rapidly than filtered oil might.

If you can get extremely fresh unfiltered olive oil, go for it. But if you don’t have access to these oils (most of us don’t), it’s probably better to stick with filtered oils.

The Healthiest Olive Oil Brands

 

My favorite olive oil of all is organic Olea True. With 800 to 1,300 ppm of polyphenols, Olea True blows away the competition.

Apollo olive oil is another good bet, with an average of 500 to 800 ppm phenol count.

Other brands that list above average phenol levels include Sister Julie’s, OlioCru, and Living Tree.

Olive Oils for Cooking

Cooking olive oil will cause immediate degradation of phenols, so if you decide to invest in the olive oils I recommended above, always use them raw.

When cooking with olive oil the following brands are suitable, and will be healthful but with inconsistent phenol levels:

  • Corto
  • Kirkland
  • Trader Joe’s
  • Zoe

Olive Oils to Avoid

Many olive oils aren’t extra virgin, despite the claims on the bottle, and some brands even mix olive oil with cheaper vegetable oils, such as sunflower.

A 2011 study by U.C. Davis found that the following “100% extra virgin olive oil” brands were not, in fact, 100% extra virgin olive oil: e Sneaky Stuff

  • Bertolli
  • Carapelli
  • Colavita
  • Filippo Berio
  • Mazzola
  • Mezzetta
  • Newman’s Own
  • Safeway
  • Star
  • Whole Foods

For a more tips on choosing the healthiest olive oil, you can check out our Healthy Olive Oil Shopping Guide.

 

The post How to Pick the Healthiest Olive Oil appeared first on Be Well.

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Harissa is a North-African spice blend that is smoky and adds a nice peppery kick without being overly spicy. It is starting to become more popular in the US, and I highly recommend adding it to your spice cabinet! It is a great addition to most meat and egg dishes, as well as a fun flavor to explore adding to sauces as well. Spices contain wonderful health benefits, so adding them to any dish you cook is an easy way to up the medicinal value of the meal.

Lamb has a nice gamey flavor that pairs wonderfully with Harissa, and the fresh herb sauce on top makes this a balanced dish with tons of flavor. I love eating these meatballs with riced cauliflower underneath and a big salad on the side. Enjoy!

Serves 2-3

Ingredients:

1 lb ground grass-fed lamb

1 pasture raised egg

½ red onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

3 Tbsp chopped kalamata olives

2 Tbsp raw pine nuts

2 Tbsp chopped sundried tomatoes

1 Tbsp dijon mustard

½ Tbsp avocado oil (to coat baking sheet)

2 Tsp ground harissa

1 Tsp ground black pepper

1 Tsp sea salt

½ Tsp ground cumin

¼ Tsp smoked paprika

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients.
  3. Place parchment paper on a large baking sheet, and lightly coat with avocado oil.
  4. Form golfball size meatballs (roughly 2 inches), and place on baking sheet. Will likely make around 8-10 meatballs.
  5. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until meat thermometer reads 140 degrees.
  6. Remove and let slightly cool, then serve and enjoy.

Fresh Herb Sauce Ingredients:

½ cup fresh Dill

¼ cup fresh Parsley

3 Tbsp fresh Mint

3 Tbsp organic, cold-pressed Olive oil

1 Tbsp Tahini

½ Tsp black pepper

½ Tsp ground harissa

Sea salt to taste preference

Juice of 1 Lemon

**May need a splash of filtered water

Instructions:

  1. Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor, and combine until smooth.
  2. Add water if needed to loosen up.
  3. Adjust seasoning if needed, and serve on top of meatballs.

The post Harissa Spiced Lamb Meatballs with Fresh Herb Sauce appeared first on Be Well.

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It’s 2:00 p.m. and you’re sitting at your work desk. That mid-day crash is hitting you HARD. You’re looking at your computer screen, trying to read the same sentence for the 15th time.

Why can’t you focus? If only there were a solution.

Sure, there are caffeinated drinks and those crazy little Vitamin B shots at the check-out counter, but are those really effective?

Usually, they just make you feel jittery after and your focus is not better. Well, good news for you! People are now using all sorts of different methods to ‘biohack’ their brains and bodies for optimal performance – now, you can do it too!

What is Biohacking?

So what is this “magical” thing I speak of? Biohacking is using pretty much anything at your disposal (medications, knowledge, science, therapies, etc.) to make your body and brain work at its full potential.

I promise you don’t have to do anything too crazy – biohacking can be as simple as meditation. Though some biohackers are making science experiments out of themselves, so they can solve their problems and perform better.

Some people get into biohacking to improve energy, some are interested in better focus, and some want inflammation relief. There is a biohack for every one of these problems and more. Too good to be true? I assure you, it’s not.

Biohacking & The Brain

The brain is essential to every function in our body, and brain biohacking is one of the more popular areas. As I’m sure you can imagine, brain biohacking can get a little iffy and should be done safely. This purpose of this article is to dive into some popular brain biohacks – it’s purely informational and not meant to imply you should try these.

DISCLAIMER:  I cannot talk about biohacking brain without discussing the latest research on psychedelics but that does not mean that I am endorsing their use. This article is meant to be informative only – to give you basic information. These are controlled substances and should be only used as a prescription and under the guidance of an experienced doctor.

Before we begin, let’s cover a few brain basics. Brain cells are called neurons. Neurons are what communicate with each other to get different things going on in the body. From neuron to neuron jump little ‘mailmen’ that carry your brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. These guys carry all of the information needed to tell every cell in the body what to do. Two of the most commonly known neurotransmitters are dopamine and serotonin. Much of biohacking the brain has to do with influencing these neurotransmitters.

5 Reasons to Consider Biohacking Your Brain

While this may sound scary or like something out of a science fiction movie, it really isn’t scary. When done safely, there are a lot of different issues that biohacking can help improve. 5 primary brain biohacking goals include:

  1. Intelligence
  2. Attention/Focus
  3. Memory
  4. Mood
  5. Ability to learn

Believe it or not, you really can improve these things! For example, many of us have been led to believe our intelligence is fixed but it can be improved upon. Each of the 5 reasons listed above can be upgraded.

How to Safely Biohack Your Brain

People have been trying to hack the brain for centuries. Everything from meditation to electrical brain stimulation could be considered a brain biohack. You can come across some questionable and downright sketchy methods. However, the main goal here is for you to learn different options to biohacking and how to apply all of them safely. The internet is a wild world and you need the highest quality information to stay safe.

Nootropics are one of the first things that comes up when discussing brain biohacks. If you have never heard of nootropics, they are more commonly called ‘smart drugs’ and for good reason. Most of these substances are targeted at making your brain be more efficient.

Then there are psychedelic drugs. Before you think I’ve gone off the deep end, hear me out. These substances really have a bad rap from the 60’s and 70’s, but like most things, when used in moderation positive effects have been reported (when I say moderation I mean WAY smaller doses than would be used recreationally – otherwise known as microdosing). Microdosing has gained popularity in the biohacking community and has even earned a place in discussion panels at various health conferences. Mircodosing can have surprisingly great results on hacking your brain.

**ALWAYS consult with your physician before starting any supplements or drugs.**

Smart Drugs – Nootropics

Modafinil:

Modafinil was originally used to treat narcolepsy and other sleep disorders. It was then found that Modafinil even helped people without sleep disorders to focus better, have more mental clarity, better memory, an easier time learning, and to be in a consistent better mood.

After its discovery, the French army actually used modafinil during the Gulf War to keep their soldiers more alert. An added bonus for all workaholics was Modafinil even worked when sleep deprived, which earned itself a place in Silicon Valley and other high-stress environments.

Since Modafinil affects the brain in a very similar way to amphetamines, it’s feared that you may be able to become addicted to Modafinil. Surprisingly enough, this isn’t the case. Modafinil doesn’t cause withdrawal symptoms like other drugs, so it’s much less likely to cause addiction. Both modafinil and amphetamines attach to dopamine to provide their effects, but they bond to it differently, which causes amphetamines to have higher addictive properties.

There are actually studies going on with some promising outcomes which can help in the recovery of certain drug addictions. In addition to the treatment of drug addictions, research is finding positive effects Modafinil has on depression, ADHD, and schizophrenia.

Note: If you have sensitivities to NSAIDs you should NOT take modafinil.

Forskolin:

Forskolin is an amino acid extracted from the root of the Coleus forskohlli plant. It’s mainly used for improved memory, learning capabilities, motivation, and focus. Forskolin can have a positive effect on your brain because it increases cAMP (cyclic adenosine monophosphate), which is what increases your ability to learn and remember things better.

To get the most out of using Forskolin it can be paired with artichoke extract or ginger extract. By pairing with either of these, they inhibit Phosphodiesterase (PDE) which breaks down cAMP. If you have more cAMP you are able to retain more information! Although this sounds great, sometimes too much cAMP activity can cause headaches. This varies person to person and you can only find this out by testing it on yourself.

L-theanine:

L-theanine is a compound that is found in tea. This is what causes you to have that relaxed but not sleepy feeling. This is what makes L-theanine a great nootropic. It causes a relaxed mental alertness. Another positive of L-theanine is that it has an anti-stress effect on your body and mind alike. This is definitely helpful for getting work done!

Caffeine works alongside L-theanine in tea. One study examined tea to see what each compound brought to the table. Rather than adding to the jittery feeling of caffeine, the L-theanine helps to balance that feeling out so you can be calmer and more focused. On the other hand, caffeine can help reduce the ‘headache’ L-theanine often induces.

Bacopa monnieri (water hyssop):

Bacopa monnieri is a fantastic natural option for a nootropic. It has been shown to improve stress, memory, and learning capabilities in the elderly. It also has properties that can potentially reverse amnesia and alzheimers related cognitive issues, and can reverse damage due to certain neurotoxins!

This herb takes a few months to start affecting your brain but once it starts, the results are superb. One study showed that even after participants stopped taking bacopa monnieri the effects had stayed when retested 4 weeks later.

One concern of bacopa monnieri is potential infertility, which has been observed in animal studies. There is some good news though, this seemed to be a reversible problem. After cessation of bacopa monnieri, the animals were again fertile after 56 days.

Other Nootropics Worth Looking Into

Other supplements that will enhance your brain function include:

If you’ve done your research on nootropics (or what the college kids use during exam times for focus and memory retention), you’re probably wondering why I didn’t include Adderall. Not only do some studies that say that the effects of Adderall on people without ADHD are merely a placebo, additionally, Adderall can be very addictive and I don’t really recommend it.

Psychedelics For Biohacking

Now let’s talk about psychedelics… Just hear me out, because there is research backing this information. Remember, this is MICROdosing meaning you take just about the most minimal amount of this possible.

Also, this is worth repeating…

DISCLAIMER:  I cannot talk about biohacking brain without discussing the latest research on psychedelics but that does not mean that I am endorsing their use. This article is meant to be informative only – to give you basic information. These are controlled substances and should be only used as a prescription and under the guidance of an experienced medical doctor or in conjunction with a research protocol. And just to be clear I do not prescribe these substances to my patients.

LSD:

Microdosing with LSD is when someone takes 10-20 micrograms of the drug – this is approximately 1/10 of the amount that is used recreationally. People don’t typically take this every day, just when they need to focus better or get the benefits they want.

The goal with microdosing is not to get high, but to receive the other benefits of the drug. These include better mood, motivation and determination, and feeling more alert. With some people, LSD can cause you to focus better, but sometimes on the wrong subject.

There have been a few reported cases where people have overdosed on LSD but most times they thought they had mistaken it for something else OR they had an underlying condition that was exasperated by LSD. These cases are very rare.

Psilocybin:

There are products called psychedelic truffles, which are made from psilocybin (commonly known as magic mushrooms). Psilocybin in small doses (truffles) have been reported to increase cognitive flexibility.

Psilocybin can also help you learn easier and increase neurogenesis (creating new neurons) in animals. They are great for helping you feel better emotionally and can improve your mood.

Typically, people report feeling more optimistic and open after using psilocybin. There are other psychedelics that people use, but these are the two most popular with microdosing.

Remember, these drugs are illegal! I am not promoting them or telling you to use them. This article would not be complete if I didn’t mention that that the latest nootropic research includes the use of microdosing psychedelic drugs.

 

More blogs from Jill can be found at https://www.jillcarnahan.com

What to learn more?! You may want to consider reading Michael Pollan’s book called, How To Change Your Mind. Leave your feedback, comments and questions below!

Resources:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30174215

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23934211

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3800148/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=artichoke+extract+cAMP

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18296328

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16930802

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18006208

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18006208

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3153866/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19041444

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28686989

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00213-018-5049-7

The post 5 Reasons To Consider Biohacking Your Brain appeared first on Be Well.

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It’s no secret that plastic is causing significant harm to our earth and to our health, but thankfully, more and more people are growing aware of plastic use and choosing to do something about it. Here are the most common single use plastics I see, along with some simple alternatives.

Shopping bags

Did you know that a single plastic bag can take up to 1,000 years to degrade!? Fortunately, there are many great reusable options to choose from. I aim to keep reusable bags in a few places so they are available whenever I need them – including a small, lightweight one my purse, a few at work and a few in my car. Forget your reusable bag? Simply ask for paper!

Produce bags

When grocery shopping, instead of using a plastic bag for each piece of produce, bundle a few items in one bag, and consider skipping a bag for the bigger, studier fruits and veggies. You can also ditch the plastic bags all together and use reusable produce bags, which make your kitchen (and your instagram photos) much prettier :)

For bonus points, avoid purchasing produce and other foods that are pre-packaged in plastic.

At-home Storage

Plastic storage containers and storage bags are not only bad for the planet, but can also cause harm to your health. Swap plastic storage containers with glass jars, pyrex or stainless steel containers (they even have lunch boxes for kids!). Swap plastic bags (including garbage bags) with a compostable bag and plastic wrap with beeswax wrap.

Plastic Cutlery

Rather than discarding plastic forks, spoons, knives and straws on a regular basis, treat yourself to a bamboo set (or one with a straw). Have a party to plan? Inspire your guests with compostable or wooden cutlery instead of plastic.

Coffee and Tea

I’ve got 4 letters for you … BYOM (Bring Your Own Mug). It’s really that simple! As an added bonus, most coffee shops offer a discount when you bring your own.

Everything Else

Unfortunately, plastic is everywhere, but by raising your awareness and paying attention to all the ways plastic sneaks into your life, you can start choosing other options and steadily decrease your use of plastic over time.

Did I forget anything? Do you have any favorite plastic alternatives that you want to share? I would love to hear from you in the comments!

Amanda Carney

Be Well Health Coach

* Although I have included some links to products, I always suggest supporting your community and visiting local stores or farmers market to see what is available in your area.

The post Say Goodbye To Plastic appeared first on Be Well.

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Good, restorative, restful sleep. It’s the cornerstone of wellness, and if you are chronically shorting yourself on this health-enhancing stuff, it’s just a matter of time before your system will breakdown in any number of subtle, or not so subtle, ways. Sleep is more than something to fill in the nighttime hours – it’s an utterly essential activity which, when done well, promotes focused mental performance, a stable mood, a strong immune system, a healthy stress response, proper cellular repair and a healthy metabolism. It’s also the very important time your body makes use of to do much of its disease-fighting maintenance work – when it ‘takes out the cellular trash,’ makes repairs and restores you for the day ahead. So, when you’re chronically short on restorative sleep, it’s a lot bigger deal than just feeling lousy and cranky in the morning – you’re inviting increased risk for serious health problems.

Another major reason to raise your sleep game? Weight control. Turns out, the lack of good, quality sleep also disrupts your metabolism and hormonal balance, which in turn play a big role in weight gain. Something to keep in mind next time you’re contemplating a late-night Netflix binge!

Here’s a snapshot of how seven of the key hormones that regulate metabolism and help keep weight on an even keel are impacted by cheating on your sleep:

1) Not enough quality sleep = more fat-triggering cortisol.

Lack of sleep is a stressor. Stress stimulates cortisol production which signals your body to retain fat by disrupting your insulin response, promoting insulin resistance.

2) Not enough quality sleep = carb cravings

Excess cortisol can trigger excess hunger, usually for starches and sweet stuff, in other words, a junkie-level addiction to sweets.

3) Not enough quality sleep = not enough fat-burning glucagon.

Just as too much-insulin cues your body to store fat, glucagon tells your body to burn it. When you don’t get enough good quality sleep, glucagon levels drop, leaving you without enough glucagon on hand to keep burning fat.

4) Not enough quality sleep = less heart-helping adiponectin.

Adiponectin is a hormone that promotes insulin sensitivity and helps your body break down fat. It also decreases inflammation and supports cardiovascular function. Less sleep means you lose those benefits—and gain weight.

5) Not enough quality sleep = less satiety-taming leptin. 

Leptin is the hormone that causes you to feel full. When leptin levels are low, that feeling of fullness is slow in coming and that delay results in eating more than your body really needs.

6) Not enough quality sleep = too much ghrelin. 

Ghrelin is the hormone that triggers hunger. When your ghrelin levels are high, you feel hungrier than you should, and again, you eat more.

7) Not enough quality sleep = insufficient human growth hormone (HGH).

HGH improves your body’s ability to metabolize fat, so when HGH levels drop, weight tends to rise. This “fountain of youth” hormone is made during the deepest stage of sleep, so it’s not enough just to get sleep—you have to get deep, uninterrupted sleep.

 

BE WELL TIPS: Raise your sleep game – starting tonight!

OK, so once you understand the impact poor sleep has on your body’s ability to keep weight in check, the next question is, what can you do, tonight, to get back on track? There are a number of ways to do it, but here are five quick-start tips to try tonight:

1) Don’t fight the feeling.

Babies get over-tired and impossible to soothe, and adults do, too. Instead of pushing through your natural sleepy signals to stay up later, go with the flow, and when you get that first wave of sleepiness, ride it to bed.

2) Eat dinner earlier.

To stay in sync with your body’s natural sleep rhythms, eat dinner at least two to three hours before bedtime and avoid sugar at night. When an after-dinner craving or hunger pang strikes, have a spoonful of quality almond butter to help stabilize your blood sugar, without overloading digestion too close to bedtime.

3) Banish the too-close-to bedtime booze.

Granted, a shot of booze may make you drowsy (unless it’s tequila, which does the opposite) but because it can actually delay the onset of REM sleep, it also reduces your ability to get the restorative sleep you’re after. Limit alcohol to one drink and have it at least three hours before bedtime to give your body enough time to process it.

4) Get the technology out of the bedroom

It’s an oldie but a goodie: Keep your bedroom simple – keep sleep-disrupting, blue-light beaming TVs, laptops, tablets and smart phones out of it, and reserve the bedroom for sleep and sex.

5) Put the wi-fi on a timer.

This limits the temptation to go online before bed and protects you from disruptive electromagnetic frequencies (EMFs) which, among other things, can undermine the quality of your sleep. Ideally, you should completely shut your phone down at night. If, however, you must keep a phone nearby for emergencies, keep it as far away from you as possible – at least 3 -6 feet or more – to curtail exposure because when the phone is “asleep,” (versus fully off) it’s still emitting EMFs.

6) Keep your bedroom very dark.

Blackout curtains, shades or heavy curtains that block out all external light are a great investment in your better-sleep mission. A good eye mask is also a good-sleep must-have, particularly if you travel frequently across multiple time zones.

7) Keep your bedroom cool.

A room that is around 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit is considered optimal for good sleep. If your extremities get chilly, wear socks in bed to keep feet cozy without raising your core temperature, which can interfere with your ability to stay asleep.

8) Rethink your alarm clock.

Instead of using your phone or a glowing digital alarm clock, switch to a battery-operated travel alarm or a soothing “light” alarm that gradually illuminates, mimicking the dawn, or chime alarms that increase in volume from subtle to loud, such as the one made by Now & Zen. Both are stress-free ways to greet the dawn.

The post The Many Ways Bad Sleep Makes You Fat! appeared first on Be Well.

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As a mom to a 5-year-old and 2-year-old twins, who also works full time, it’s definitely hard to find time to work out. Most people — moms like myself, busy office workers, you name it — just can’t spend hours at the gym. Well, good news: it’s not necessary to log tons of hours working out. Studies have shown it’s the intensity that’s more important than the duration, which means when you have a moment to move, make sure it counts. Now, when the twins are napping or entertaining themselves, I squeeze in an effective, short workout. Here are five ways you can tune up your body in just five minutes.

Workout 1: Tabata drills are a great way to burn maximum calories in minimal time. This high-intensity interval style of training is all the rage since it only takes four minutes to perform. For 20 seconds you go all out, then rest for 10 seconds. Repeat this eight times for a total of four minutes. I like to add a 30-second warmup and a 30-second cool down on either end.

Start with some marching in place. After 30 seconds, start a 20-second round of high knees going as fast as you can. Stop and rest for 10 seconds then start a round of skaters (jumping side to side as you stay low and tap the opposite foot behind the front leg and opposite hand towards the front foot). Rest again for 10 seconds, then repeat three more times. Finish with a cool down, marching in place again for 30 seconds. Total workout time is only five minutes and you’ll feel your heart rate is elevated, your legs and arms are fatigued, and you’ve built up a good sweat.

Workout 2: Therabands are an excellent way to tone up your body because there is constant tension on the band throughout the exercises. Therabands are also easy to store and tote. There’s no excuse not to grab a band and do five minutes of quick toning. Store one under your couch and perform a five-minute tune-up as you watch your favorite television program.

For a quick, effective toning workout with a theraband, sit upright with your legs out in front of you. Wrap the band around your feet and hold an end in each hand. Pull your arms straight back by your sides then release; repeat 15 times. Turn your palms down then pull your elbows up and back for 15 repetitions. Next, flip your palms upright and perform 15 biceps curls. Turn your palms back and pulse the band behind you with your arms straight and by your sides. Repeat this circuit through two more times.

Workout 3: Yoga is one of my personal favorites. In yoga you are holding yourself in positions and engaging your muscles and core throughout the entire practice. Yoga is portable and easy to do anywhere and anytime.

Start standing at the front of a yoga mat or towel. Inhale, lift your arms up overhead and press your palms, exhale, swan dive forward over your feet into a forward bend. Inhale, extend your legs back into a plank position, then exhale and lower into a narrow arm triceps push-up. On your next inhalation, lift your chest and straighten your arms, coming into an upward-facing dog before exhaling back into a downward-facing dog. After five breaths in downward-facing dog, step or hop forward to the front of the mat and reverse the swan dive up to stand. Repeat this sun salutation five times.

Workout 4: Studies show that adding high-intensity intervals to your cardio routine enables you to keep your heart rate up longer after your workout. Cardio intervals are great for boosting your metabolism and building endurance. You can log fewer hours doing cardio when you add high-intensity intervals to your workout.

On a treadmill or outdoors, walk or jog at a moderate pace for 30 seconds then break into a fast walk or run for 30 seconds. Repeat four more times. When you go fast, try and push yourself as much as you can, then use your 30 seconds for recovery.

Workout 5: Core strength is important for everything you do in life, and having a strong center helps you work out better. Pilates is an excellent way to strengthen your core and burn major calories in little time.

Start lying on your back with your knees in a tabletop position. Lift your head and neck up and lengthen your arms forward. Start pumping your arms vigorously up and down five times on an inhalation and five times on an exhalation for 100 pumps. Next, extend your arms and legs long on the floor and roll up slowly, then extend forward over your legs. Roll back down using your abs to control the descent. Repeat five more times. Hug your knees to your chest and rock forward and back on your spine in a little ball-shaped position. When you roll like a ball, make sure your head and feet don’t touch the floor. Come up to hands and knees then extend your legs straight back behind you to come in to a plank pose. Work up to a one-minute hold in plank. You will love this five-minute core-building workout.

The post 5 Ways To Tune Up Your Body In Just 5 Minutes appeared first on Be Well.

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As concern about toxic chemicals grows among consumers and doctors alike, major retailers are making slow but meaningful progress in improving the safety of the products and packaging they sell but nearly half of those scored have failed to make the grade. In this third annual Who’s Minding the Store? Retailer Report Card, Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families graded the chemical policies and practices of forty major retailers that sell products in North America, as part of its Mind the Store campaign.

Four retailers received the highest grades for their work to protect customers from toxic products and packaging: Apple (A+), Target (A), Walmart (A-) and IKEA (A-). Top-ranked performers continually work with suppliers to disclose and replace dangerous chemicals with safer alternatives.

Average grades show steady improvement over time. Eleven retailers improved their average grade from a D+ to a C+ since the first report card was published in 2016. Another eighteen retailers bumped up their grade from D to a D+ over the past year, on average. Twenty-one out of the twenty-nine retailers (72%) that were evaluated in both 2017 and 2018 improved their score over the last year.

Many retailers are taking action to reduce or eliminate chemicals of high concern in consumer products. For example, Lowe’s led a recent wave of commitments by ten major retailers to end the sale of paint stripping products containing the deadly chemicals methylene chloride and NMP.

Walgreens, Rite Aid and Amazon are the most improved retailers of 2018, each adopting sweeping chemicals policies. Walgreens (B-) and Rite Aid (B+) pledged to eliminate a long list of chemicals of concern in beauty, personal care and household cleaning products. Amazon (C) will encourage suppliers of some private-brand products to restrict dangerous chemicals, the first safer chemical policy of a dedicated e-commerce retailer.

In other documented trends, retailers are working to replace entire classes of toxic chemicals with safer alternatives, rather than chasing one chemical at a time. For example, several are phasing out phthalates, parabens, formaldehyde-donors, and nonylphenol ethoxylates as chemical classes. Increasingly, retailers are screening products against long lists of dangerous chemicals, such as the “stewardship list” chemicals in the new BPC Product Sustainability Rating System.

However, nearly half the retailers scored were slapped with an F grade for failure to adopt even the most basic policies and practices to ensure the chemical safety of their products and packaging. Restaurants (average grade of F) are by far the worst performing sector, although Panera Bread scored some points for restricting chemicals in its packaging. Other retail sectors with poor performance include dollar stores (F), department stores (F), beauty shops (D-) and office supplies (D-).

Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families urges all retailers to adopt comprehensive safer chemicals policies, fully disclose the ingredients of their products and packaging, and substitute hazardous chemicals with safer solutions. Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families calls on consumers to join its Mind the Store campaign and press retailers where they shop to clean up their act. It’s time for all retailers to put our families’ health above the special interests of chemical corporations.

The report card is published by the Mind the Store campaign of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families.

To see more blogs by Robyn O’Brien go to RobynOBrien.com

 

The post The Current State of Chemicals in Our Food appeared first on Be Well.

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What do you think of when you hear “heart healthy” food? Oatmeal? Cheerios? These may slightly lower your LDL cholesterol so have been awarded the “heart healthy” seal from the American Heart Association.

But what about a big spinach salad with avocado, hard boiled eggs, grass-fed beef and doused in olive oil? That sounds delicious to me, but is it “heart healthy? I encounter this question on a daily basis with my patients, and the answer surprises many of them!

Is Heart Health Defined by LDL Cholesterol?

Unfortunately, most of our current definitions of heart health center around LDL cholesterol concentration. While LDL cholesterol plays a role in heart health, it by no means defines heart health in totality.

It is true that observational data show an association between increasing LDL concentration and increasing risk of heart disease and death. What is frequently not discussed, however, is that other markers have a better predictive value. For instance, the PURE study investigated over 135,000 subjects from across the world and found that the ApoB/Apo A1 (essentially an LDL/HDL ratio) was a much better predictor of risk. Other studies have shown the triglyceride: HDL ratio has greater predictive value than LDL alone.

Why does this matter? Our healthcare system has simplified things too much, so as a result we focus on one bad guy, one demon to fight. In reality heart disease is caused, and made more likely to occur, by a constellation of contributing issues.

Can we then define something as heart healthy if it improves one risk factor but worsens others? For some, a low fat, high carbohydrate diet can do just that. It can lower the LDL but also lower HDL, increase triglycerides, and worsen insulin resistance and obesity. To me, that doesn’t fit a heart healthy definition.

Elevated blood sugar, elevated insulin levels, inflammation, high blood pressure, poor nutrition, and yes, lipids all contribute to heart health and all need to improve to truly call something heart healthy. It does us all an injustice to over simplify it to one single cause.

Are Whole Grains and PUFAs heart healthy?

Two of most common heart healthy food categories are whole grains and industrial seed oils containing polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs).

Studies show that PUFAs can lower LDL. Amazingly, however, there are also studies showing they have no clinical benefit or even increase risk of dying. According to our simplified definitions, that doesn’t stop them from being defined as “heart healthy,” but I think we would all agree that deserves a closer look.

Same for blood sugar. If you have a diagnosis of Type 2 Diabetes (DM2) that is a risk for cardiovascular disease. If you don’t have the diagnosis, you are fine. That ignores the disease of insulin resistance that can predate diabetes for decades and increases the risk of heart disease and possibly even cancer and dementia.

Cereal can also be called “heart healthy” as they may minimally lower LDL. But is that a good thing if they contain grains that also worsen your insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome? I say definitely not. In fact, the Cochrane Reviews analyzed all of the randomized trials on whole grains and concluded there is insufficient evidence to support a beneficial heart health claim.

I urge all my patients to look beyond the basic, simplified evaluation and start looking at the whole picture.

A Heart Healthy, High Fat Diet Is NOT an Oxymoron

Consumption of fat has been wrongly vilified for decades based on poor quality science. Observational studies with small outcome differences that are complicated by numerous confounding variables were never designed to inform national guidelines! Yet that is exactly what happened with the research on fat consumption dating back to the 1960s.

The other part of wrongly demonizing fat is the company it keeps. A standard American high fat and high carb diet full of processed foods is clearly harmful. But we can’t blame it just on the fat. It is also the company it keeps.

On the other hand, real foods, low carb, high fat diets appear to improve the vast majority of cardiovascular risk markers. They can raise LDL in a minority of people, but the truth is that they can improve everything else! These diets reduce blood pressure, reduce inflammation, improve HDL and triglycerides, and they reverse diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Shouldn’t that be the definition of “heart healthy” we seek? Instead of focusing on one isolated marker, shouldn’t we define heart health by looking at the whole patient?

So, when you weigh your options for a heart healthy diet, remember to look beyond the simplistic definition. Remember to consider the effect different foods have on ALL of your risk markers. And focus on a real-foods based pattern that you can enjoy and sustain for the long run.

Thanks for reading,

Bret Scher, MD FACC

The post A Heart Healthy Low Carb High Fat Diet- Oxymoron or The New Truth? appeared first on Be Well.

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