Lack of sleep

It’s really not as implausible as it seems when you consider the many benefits of sleep on the mind and body. Scientists have long known that when we don’t get enough sleep, certain body hormones are thrown off balance, such as ghrelin and leptin, which influence appetite. Ghrelin, known as the hunger hormone, stimulates appetite; the higher the level, the hungrier you feel. Leptin, on the other hand, lets the brain know when the body is full.

When levels are normal, leptin counter-regulates ghrelin, keeping hunger in check. Sleep deprivation causes a rise in ghrelin levels, signaling hunger, and lowers leptin levels, which dulls the signal of satiety.

The science on sleep and weight

Many studies, including the large scale Nurses’ Health Study, which followed 60,000 women for 16 years, have reported an association between short sleep duration and increased weight and risk for weight gain, and obesity.

A study published in 2010 in the Annals of Internal Medicine divided 12 healthy dieters into two groups for two weeks. One group had 5.5 hours of sleep, while the other had 8.5 hours. The sleep-deprived group had decreased leptin and increased ghrelin levels, and a 45 percent increase in hunger and cravings for high-carbohydrate, calorie-rich foods compared with the adequate-sleep group. While both groups lost weight, more than half of the weight lost in the adequate sleep group was from fat, compared to only one-fourth from fat in the sleep-deprived group.

The 2004 study of the Wisconsin Sleep Cohort also found that among 1,000 volunteers, those who slept the fewest hours had the highest levels of body fat.

Some research indicates that weight gain may be simply the result of spending more hours awake with more time to eat and fewer calories burned due to a general lack of energy. However, sleep quality turns out to be an important factor in the sleep-weight equation, too.

Because most calories burned during sleep take place in the REM state (rapid eye movement, when the brain is most active), those who have interrupted sleep or a sleep disorder such as sleep apnea don’t spend enough time in that phase. In fact, sleep apnea patients are more likely to be obese, despite normal leptin levels, which indicates that people may respond differently to leptin and that other individual factors may be at play, such as stress levels, exercise, diet, and genetics.

As research continues to emerge, it makes sense to make time for the recommended 7-9 hours sleep each night. It feels good, boosts energy for the day ahead, and if it helps stave off extra pounds, it’s time well spent.

Ferment food

While our ancestors would have made fermented foods without a second thought, today it seems weird to have living, bacteria-ridden food bubbling away in our kitchens. But with lots of new information and products available to make the process foolproof, we think everyone should be fermenting at home.

Boost your immune system 

Fermented foods are bursting with beneficial bacteria, which help support a healthy gut. Did you know that 70 to 80 percent of your immune system lives in the lining of your intestine? That’s right — it’s made up of friendly bacteria that help you maintain a strong constitution and avoid illness naturally. 

Eating fermented foods has even been known to help cure allergies and heal a multitude of other chronic illnesses that cannot be addressed by modern medicine.

Improve digestion and elimination

Regular consumption of probiotics in fermented foods is known to boost the digestive process and help ward off any elimination problems like constipation or diarrhea. If you have experienced painful gut disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), fermented foods would be a great thing to try. Start with a small spoonful and increase gradually over several weeks.

Increase nutrient absorption

When a food is fermented by friendly bacteria, it gets partially pre-digested, which means your own digestive system has less work to do. The nutrients are more readily available for you to benefit from, which boosts your health in general! 

In fact, many people who are lactose intolerant can comfortably eat dairy products such as kefir and yogurt when they are homemade and fermented longer than 24 hours. 

Natural beauty and weight loss 

If you have skin issues or have trouble with your weight, try incorporating fermented foods into your routine. Healing the gut with the friendly bacteria from fermented foods can help you shed pounds and get clearer skin from the inside out. 

Along with weight loss, consumption of probiotics has also been shown to reverse unhealthy cholesterol levels.

Improve mood

For those dealing with anxiety or depression, probiotics should be the first port of call before resorting to any type of prescription medication. The improved digestion and nutrient absorption made possible by probiotic-laced foods help many people find balance and overcome mood disorders. Who knew bacteria could make you happier?!

Boost flavor 

Beyond all of these incredible health benefits, you can’t go wrong adding tangy, spicy fermented vegetables or creamy kefir to your usual recipes. Experiment with recipes from different cultures and enjoy a wide range of delicious fermented foods! 

Save money

This is a great reason to make your own cultured creations: The store-bought ones are much more expensive! While a jar of sauerkraut from the health food store might run you anywhere from six to 12 dollars, you can make a big jar at home for less than two!

Connect with your food and have fun

Finally, and perhaps the most important reason to make fermented foods at home with your family, is reconnecting with the source of your food. Making your own nutritious creations is a great way to teach kids the importance of healthy choices. Get messy in the kitchen and have fun while learning about the simple science of fermentation! 

Bananas

Heartburn: The texture and mildness of bananas can help to neutralize stomach acid.

Constipation: A traditional Hawaiian remedy for constipation combines mashed bananas, kukui nuts, kalo and spring water, according to the National Library of Medicine.

Diarrhea: In Saudi Arabia, bananas are eaten to combat diarrhea. Green bananas are best because they help slow down elimination. The potassium is also useful for electrolyte replacement.

Hemorrhoids: To soothe the inflammation of hemorrhoids, the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine suggests eating one banana per day on an empty stomach, or three bananas per day if the hemorrhoids are bleeding. Others say that applying the inside of a banana peel directly to the hemorrhoid is effective.

Warts: A relatively well-known folk remedy for warts is taping a banana skin, flesh-side down, over a wart overnight, repeating each night until the wart is gone. Alternately, others suggest simply applying some of the inside peel flesh directly to the wart.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): The tryptophan found in bananas works to elevate the mood, therefore helping to beat the winter blues.

Smoking cessation: The B-vitamins and minerals found in bananas may help to ease the discomfort of nicotine withdrawal.

Diabetes: In India, bananas are used in traditional diabetes remedies, due to their blood sugar-balancing effects.

 

 

Banana cutWhile not all of the above-listed folk remedies have been scientifically tested, people have been using them for generations, and would not have done so if they didn’t get results at least some of the time; different remedies work for different individuals depending on the case.

Whether you choose to use bananas medicinally, or simply eat them for their amazing flavor and nutritional density, these tropical superfoods can definitely play a major role in boosting health.

“Carbon footprint”

earth

“Carbon footprint” is a term that’s used for the amount of carbon that is emitted through certain activities or by an organization. The total amount of greenhouse gases that are produced to directly and indirectly support human activities are generally expressed in equivalent tons of carbon dioxide, or CO2. For example, when driving a car the engine burns fuel which creates a certain amount of CO2, depending on the distance of the drive and fuel consumption.

Heating a home generates CO2 as does buying foods and other items as their production emitted some quantities of carbon dioxide. Your carbon footprint is the total of all emissions of CO2 that were induced by your activities in a particular time period, usually over one year.

Since 1961, humanity’s carbon footprint has increased eleven-fold. It takes the earth a year and a half to absorb the waste produced in just one year – i.e., we are going in the wrong direction.

UN scenarios have suggested that if the current population and consumption trends continue as is, in two decades we would need the equivalent of two earths to support us. Individuals as well as institutions across the globe must recognize ecological limits and find new options to live within the means of the one planet we have.

There are simple steps that you can take to reduce your carbon footprint.

Stop using plastic grocery bags

In some towns, the use of plastic grocery bags has been completely banned, but if that hasn’t happened where you live, consider purchasing cloth bags to use anyway. It takes awhile to get into the habit of remembering to bring them to the grocery store, but it can have a big impact on your carbon footprint. Keep a few in your vehicle for unexpected shopping trips.

Plastic bags and other plastic garbage that enters the ocean kills as many as one million creatures that live in the sea every year. Currently, the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” is twice the size of the state of Texas; it weighs 3.5 million tons and is floating somewhere between San Francisco and the Hawaiian Islands. If every resident in the U.S. tied their annual consumption of plastic bags together into a chain, it would reach around the earth’s equator nearly 800 times.

Turn that switch off

When you aren’t using your television, stereo, computer, lights and anything else that uses up electricity, turn it off. All of these items can use 10 to 40 percent of the power while sitting on standby. Unplug any chargers as soon as they’ve finished charging. Keep your toaster, blender and other appliances unplugged until you’re ready to use them.

Buy locally

Support your local farmers and reduce your carbon footprint by decreasing “food miles.” Local food doesn’t have to travel far which reduces CO2 emissions and packing materials. Choosing food produced closer to you also helps to stimulate the local economy.

Drive less, and when you do, drive a more fuel-efficient car

Consider carpooling to work, take public transportation, walk or ride your bike to work. Do errands in a single trip or pay bills online. When you have to drive, a hybrid or other type of fuel-efficient vehicle is the best choice as less carbon dioxide is emitted.


Recycle more and buy less

Pay more attention to what you purchase. Do you really need that item, or do you just want it? This can help you to save money as well as reduce the need to throw out all of that packaging. With the products that you do buy, remember to recycle as much as you

By consuming less and re-using old products, you can significantly reduce your carbon footprint.

Lemongrass

Fresh Lemongrass

Lemongrass stalks infuse meals and teas with a warm

flavor of – you guessed it – lemon. This flavor comes from citral, a compound that is also found in lemon zest, hence the similarity in taste. In Ayurvedic and Chinese medicines, lemongrass is used in cure-all medicinal tonics, as it offers aid to so many of the body’s systems.

It is full of antioxidants and beneficial essential oils, as well as vitamins A and C, B-vitamins, and minerals including calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium and zinc. These nutrients and antioxidants combine to combat oxidative stress and free radical damage in the body, helping to prevent a wide range of chronic ailments.

The citral found in lemongrass has been found to have potent antibacterial and antifungal properties. Some research has found that citral has been effective at killing E. coli bacteria, and it may also have potential in fighting cancer cells.

Traditional medicinal uses of lemongrass are vast. In Ayurvedic medicine, it was used to treat coughs and colds. It has also been used to benefit the digestive system, liver, pancreas, bladder and kidneys, and as a tonic for upset stomachs, headaches, fevers and muscle cramps. Lemongrass has also traditionally been used as a treatment for anxiety, due to its natural sedative characteristics.

How to Save Water

We tend to wait until drought conditions before we start conserving water. The reality is, climate change is affecting our weather patterns now. 

There’s a saying: “If it’s yellow, then it’s mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down!” But if letting the toilet sit without flushing just isn’t for you, here are seven other ways to conserve water at home now.

 

Think before you put water down the drain

Can that water be used to wash a dish or water a plant? Simply thinking about the way you dispose of water will cause you to be more mindful about your water use. Your little windowsill plant may benefit from it too.

Change your showering habits

Are you showering every day? You really don’t have to, you know. As we’ve reported before, skipping a shower or two during the week may be healthier for you. Keep more healthy bacteria on your body to defend against bad bacteria, and enjoy silkier skin and softer hair by giving the shower a break. When you do shower, be sure to limit the time you spend under the water. About 30 percent of our indoor water is used in showers and baths. If you want to take conservation up a level, install a super low-flow showerhead.

Don’t use a water source when there’s an alternative

Instead of defrosting meats under running water, defrost them in the refrigerator by moving them from the freezer the night before you plan to use them. Sure, it takes a little planning, but it saves water and is safer for you in the long run. Think about how you use other water sources at home. Many of us are tempted to flush tissues or captured bugs down the toilet. Toss them in the trash can instead and save a flush.

Pay attention to your toilet

On the subject of saving a flush, be aware of the handle on your toilet. Does it get stuck or does the water run for too long after you flush? Replacing a toilet handle is simple. It doesn’t require any specialized tools, it only takes a few minutes, and it can save gallons. Increase your conservation efforts by replacing your toilet with a low-flow version.

Use a different water source for the garden

Did you know around 40 to 50 percent of the water used by households is used outside? Rain collection barrels are a great way to collect rainwater for later use in the garden instead. If you have the money and can find an installer who specializes in gray water systems, it’s worth it to divert water from your showers, sinks, toilets and clothes washer to the yard. We’d love to see homes built with the feature as a standard since water conservation is a growing concern. For now, we’ll have to be satisfied with activists and green installers to help us out.

Pay attention to sprinklers

Water in the early morning or evening hours for the highest absorption and lowest evaporation rates. Also pay careful attention to where the water is going. Make sure you’re watering the grass and your plants, not the street, sidewalk or driveway. Put sprinklers on a timer, too, to ensure you’re not over-watering the lawn.

Inspire conservation for the future

If you have kids or work with them, you have the incredible opportunity to inspire conservation awareness in the next generation. Teaching kids how to time their showers and getting them involved in home water conservation efforts will not only help them, but they will also help you. Kids are great at reinforcing “rules” when they involve all members of the family.

However you choose to conserve water, whether you change your habits, or you go to the full extent of installing new systems and appliances, a little change goes a long way.

How are you conserving water at home?

Curcumin

Historical records note that ancient Polynesians took turmeric with them when they sailed across the Pacific Ocean to Hawaii, where the spice is still used today and is known as ’olena.

In India, this golden spice has long been called “holy powder,” and is used extensively to treat infections, wounds and a myriad of other health problems. Its healing power was once thought of as only folklore; however, modern research is now confirming what the people of India and many parts of Asia have known for thousands of years — turmeric is a spice you don’t want to pass up.

Scientists are finding an astonishing array of antioxidant, anticancer, antiviral, antibiotic, antifungal and antibacterial properties. As an immune system booster, turmeric is five to eight times stronger than vitamin C and E.

Studies show that curcumin, the principal curcuminoid of turmeric, inserts itself into cell membranes where it does a little housecleaning and reorganizing, adding vibrancy to the cell itself. Suddenly a disorganized cell becomes organized, allowing information to flow through it so it can function more effectively. The result of this action increases the cell’s resistance to infection, malignancy and more!

The ultimate inflammation buster 

Although acute inflammation is important as it fights foreign invaders and repairs damage, chronic inflammation is nothing short of disastrous because it begins to destroy the body’s own tissues. Research links chronic, low-level inflammation to almost all Western diseases, including cancer, metabolic syndrome, heart disease and Alzheimer’s.

FACT: Curcumin actually has a bioactive substance that tackles inflammation at the molecular level.

Most researched plant on the planet

By far, turmeric is one of the most extensively researched plants ever discovered by mankind. Most of its potent therapeutic value is found in its main component, curcumin. In fact, this humble little spice has been the star of well over 5600 peer-reviewed and published biomedical studies. These studies reveal over 600 potential preventive and therapeutic applications and an additional 175 or more beneficial physiological effects.

Here are just some of the researched areas where turmeric has proven to be effective: 

  • Natural antiseptic
  • Natural painkiller
  • Fat metabolism and weight loss
  • Remedy for psoriasis and skin conditions
  • Natural antidepressant
  • Blood purifier
  • Liver detoxifier
  • Slows and reverses heart disease
  • Slows the progression of multiple sclerosis
  • Slows the progression of Alzheimer’s
  • Supports eye health
  • Supports female reproductive health
  • Cleanses the skin
  • Helps with sugar digestion
  • Reduces the ill effects of chemotherapy
  • Protects against radiation
  • Eliminates parasites
  • Promotes healthy digestion
  • Thins gut mucus
  • Protects against heavy metal toxicity
  • Aids in wound healing
  • Fights yeast
  • Reduces the spread of cancer
  • Promotes healthy circulation
  • Restores damaged skin
  • Relieves pain from leech bites
  • Fights infection
  • Protects from free radicals
  • Supports healthy bones, ligaments, joints and skeletal system
  • Boosts the immune system
  • Provides protection from food poisoning
  • Fights aging

What if I told you that curcumin was as effective as many popular pharmaceutical drugs?

Corticosteroids: These man-made hormones mimic those produced by the adrenal glands and are often prescribed for a wide range of conditions caused by inflammation. Long-term use of corticosteroids has been linked to a number of side effects.

A study published in the Journal of Phytotherapy Research found that curcumin worked in a similar fashion to steroids in the management of chronic anterior uveitis (an inflammatory condition of the eye). Another study published in Critical Care Medicine found that in animal tests, curcumin worked as well as the corticosteroid drug dexamethasone for protecting against lung transplantation injury.

 

 

Antidepressants: Depression is a serious mental illness — one that affects more than 15 million adults in the U.S. For some women, pregnancy can bring about new depression symptoms, or worsen existing ones. However, before going to your doctor for an antidepressant prescription, you should know the very real risks that these drugs carry. A better alternative would be to work with your physician to find natural remedies, such as curcumin. A studypublished in the journal Acta Poloniae Pharmaceutica found that curcuumin compared closely to Prozac/Fluoxetine and Imipramine in reducing depressive behavior in animals.

Metformin (diabetes drug): Almost 30 million Americans have diabetes, and the American Diabetes Association tells us that 1.4 million more are diagnosed each year. Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States, and disturbingly, prediabetes rates continue to escalate.

A study published in the journal Biochemistry and Biophysical Research Community found that curcuumin may be a viable option in the treatment of diabetes when compared to the commonly used drug metformin.

Lipitor/atorvastatin (cholesterol medication): More than 29 million people take Lipitor. Although this drug does lower cholesterol levels in the blood, new research indicates that it is associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. In fact, in 2012, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) put new safety warning labels on the drug indicating that it might be linked to diabetes. The label revisions included a warning that Lipitor and other statins could cause issues with the liver and muscles, and could also impair cognitive function.

Good news, a study published in the journal Drugs in R&D found that a preparation of curcuminoids from turmeric worked as well as atorvastatin (Lipitor) when used for endothelial dysfunction. The same preparation was found to be effective at reducing oxidative stress and inflammation in persons with diabetes.

Anti-inflammatory drugs: This class of drugs includes such things as aspirin, ibuprofen, phenylbutazone, naproxen, diclofenac, indomethacin, dexamethasone, tamoxifen and celecoxib. All of these are taken regularly by millions of Americans for pain and inflammation, but are not without side effects. The most common side effects of long-term use of these drugs include things like headaches, dizziness, drowsiness, constipation, diarrhea, rashes and vomiting. More serious side effects may include fluid retention, ulcers, liver and kidney failure.

In a study published in the journal Oncogene, curcumin was found to be as effective as the drugs listed above in reducing inflammation.

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Humble Cucumber

Cucumber, or Cucumis sativus, is in the same family as melon and squash. Commercially, cucumbers are divided into two groups, slicing and pickling. Slicing cucumbers generally have thick skin and are larger than the thin-skinned pickling cucumbers.

Cucumber has even escaped the eyes of researchers, being upstaged by the cruciferous crew (broccoli, cabbage, etc.) until it was found that it contains three beneficial lignans (lariciresinol, pinoresinol and secoisolariciresinol), which have been associated with a reduced risk ofcardiovascular disease as well as several different types of cancer, including ovarian, prostate, breast and uterine.

Here is what my long-overdue research on this unappreciated veggie revealed. I hope you, like me, have a new respect for cucumber when you are done reading.

Cucumber is a nutritional powerhouse

Cucumber is a superfood containing almost all the vitamins you need each day, including B vitamins, vitamin C, fiber, vitamin K1, copper, potassium and manganese. Eat just one cucumber daily in place of a multivitamin.

Need an energy boost?

Rather than reach for that third cup of coffee, chomp on a cucumber instead. The carbs and B vitamins in cucumber provide sustaining energy that can last for hours.

Drank a little too much?

To avoid having your night out turn into a morning nightmare, try eating some cucumber. Eat a cucumber right before bed and your hangover pains will be lessened. Cucumber contains a mix of B vitamins, sugar and electrolytes that keep you hydrated and feeling great after a night out on the town.

Eating too much sugar?

Reduce cravings by snacking on cucumber slices rather than reaching for sugary snacks. I have started keeping a little dish of sliced cucumber by my desk. With a sprinkle of sea salt and a little pepper, this snack keeps me full all day long!

Feeling stressed?

If you are having a crazy day, boil a few slices of cucumber on the stove and breathe in the steam. The aroma of cucumber can promote feelings of calm and relieve anxiety. Want an extra boost? Add a few drops of anxiety-busting lavender essential oil into the mixture.

Does your breath stink?

If you suffer from halitosis, aka bad breath, you may want to consider eating cucumber instead of reaching for sugary breath mints. Phytochemicals in cucumbers kill bacteria that cause bad breath and cavities. Eat a slice after each cup of coffee or meal for breath that stays fresh all day long.

Are you stopped up?

There are any number of reasons why you may experience constipation. Sometimes it is the result of stress, medication or eating a highly processed diet. Cucumbers are high in fiber, which can keep you regular and keep your digestive system working at full speed.

Do you need a detox?

Cucumber not only contains a lot of water, which helps keep the body hydrated, but it also has detoxifying properties. A study from 2013 published in the journal Fitoterapia found that cucumber has “a cleansing action within the body by removing accumulated pockets of old waste materials and chemical toxins.” Want to detox? Eat a cucumber… or three! Better yet, eat cucumber daily to keep toxins from building up.

Do you need an immune boost?

The blend of nutrients in cucumber make it ideal for boosting the immune system and treating common ailments like the common cold and flu viruses. The anti-inflammatory properties of cucumber fight inflammation of the nose and throat when you are suffering from a cold.

Is your blood pressure high?

High levels of potassium in cucumber help regulate blood pressure by boosting electrolyte levels and mitigating the damaging effects of sodium overconsumption.

Do you want to fend off free radicals?

Cucumber, like melon, is high in antioxidants. This prevents the spread of free radical damage that can lead to premature aging and cancer.

Do you have puffy eyes?

Nutrients in cucumber make it effective at relieving inflammation both internally and externally. Place fresh cucumber directly onto swollen areas to reduce puffiness within just a few minutes.

Are you feeling bloated?

Every once in a while, I just feel bloated. The good news is, now I know that all I have to do for relief is eat a cucumber! The high water content and potassium in cucumber make it a mild diuretic that can fight bloating.

Do you want to build your bones?

Cucumber is high in magnesium, calcium, and vitamin K1 — all essential for bone health. Eat cucumber regularly if you are eating a low-meat or low-dairy diet.

Are you starting to forget things?

Cucumber is naturally high in copper, which is essential for brain function. A study from 2014 published in the journal Aging Cell found that the chemical known as festin, commonly found in cucumber, is effective at fighting the damage of Alzheimer’s disease.

Is your skin looking tired?

Perhaps you’ve seen cucumber used at the spa, and for good reason. Cucumber contains compounds that refresh and rejuvenate the skin from both the inside out and outside in. Create a pulpy mixture of cucumber and a few drops of lemon juice and apply directly to the face for a mask that is both healthy and refreshing.

Do you want strong, shiny hair?

Cucumber contains silicone, sulphur, phosphorous and calcium, all necessary for healthy hair growth. Eating cucumber regularly can reduce hair loss and strengthen hair shafts.

The compounds in cucumber also help hair look shiny and healthy. Massage cucumber juice into your hair after bathing and allow it to sit for about five minutes before rinsing away with lukewarm water.

Try adding a few of these uses for cucumber to your weekly routine and soon you will feel energized, refreshed and stress-free. Who knew the humble cucumber was such a superfood?