Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Treating Low Blood Pressure the Natural Way

Blood pressure is determined by the force of blood pumped from the heart onto our artery walls.  Because arteries are thicker than veins, they can support most variations in pressure without damage.  Those of us with low blood pressure, also known as hypotension, experience less force as blood is pumped through the blood vessels, which results in a diminished blood supply to the body.  When the blood supply is low, nutrients have a more difficult time reaching the organs where they are needed.

Many people experience low blood pressure due to stress, dehydration, bleeding from injury or surgery, inflammation where blood concentrates around the area where its needed, use of medication over long periods of time (especially calcium channel blockers, beta blockers, meds for depression, and meds that treat high blood pressure), and heart weakness or failure.

Low blood pressure is also common among athletes and dancers, or anyone who engages in consistent physical activity.  As a dancer, I’ve been suffering from low blood pressure for most of my life, experiencing some of the symptoms when I’m not properly attending to the right diet and protocols.  Additionally, as we age, the organs often don’t function as efficiently no matter how healthy you may be, which can also contribute to fluctuations in blood pressure.

Varying Types of Low Blood Pressure
Not all types of low blood pressure are cause for alarm.  Some can be treated with conscious shifts in diet and protocols.  Here are the three main categories of hypotension:
·      Asymptomatic hypotension, which is when pressure is low, but there are no symptoms.
·      Orthostatic hypotension, which occurs when we stand up suddenly after lying down or sitting and experience a sensation of dizziness or lightheadedness.  This is easily resolved by resting for a few moments.
·      Neutrally mediated hypotension, when we feel dizzy or lightheaded after standing for a long period of time.  Here too, rest will help recover a more normal blood pressure level.
·      Hypotension leading to shock can occur when the blood supply to the organs such as the brain and kidneys is restricted, which is cause for medical attention. 

Some common symptoms of hypotension include:
·      Dizziness
·      Lightheadedness
·      Blurred vision
·      Confusion
·      Weariness and fatigue
·      Nausea
·      Sweating
·      Pale or bluish skin color
·      Rapid breathing or gasping

Generally the body corrects blood pressure levels on its own if there are no serious causes for great fluctuation as can occur in cases of prolonged stress, bad eating habits, reliance on medication, surgery, and the like.  But we can also apply a bit of intelligence when dealing with blood pressure levels by adjusting our diet and way of living to create a balance. 

Natural Remedies
There are many ways those of us suffering from low blood pressure can reverse our symptoms.  Here’s a list of easy-to-follow protocols that will help pressure become more regular when symptoms do not require medical attention:
·      Take 10 to 20 minute long hot Epsom salt baths before going to bed 
·      Keep your bowels regularly cleansed
·      Dry brush the body
·      Do Yoga breathing exercises to improve the flow of blood to the body’s tissues
·      Exercise regularly, such as walking, cycling, or swimming
·      Don’t smoke
·      Avoid stress!

An intelligent diet is also key for maintaining healthy blood pressure levels.  This includes the following:
·      Increase your intake of fluids by drinking at least two liters of water a day
·      Drink raw beet juice
·      Soak raisons in water overnight and eat in the morning on an empty stomach
·      Add the Aryuvedic/Indian spice, Asafetida, to your foods to increase blood pressure
·      Fresh fruit
·      Milk
·      Seeds, nuts, and grains
·      Protein
·      Vitamin C and the foods that contain it
·      Vitamin B Complex, especially Pantothenic Acid
·      Mineralized salt (you can add a half tsp in warm water and drink daily)

Eating dark chocolate with a minimum content of 65% cocoa is one of the most pleasurable ways to help regulate hypotension.   Dark chocolate contains essential flavenoids, which are antioxidants that help keep the blood vessels healthy.  I eat a handful of chocolate nibs every day, which are pure dark chocolate and contain the highest amount of flavenoid power. What a medicinal treat!

Words to the Wise
If you suspect you suffer from low blood pressure, regardless of the severity of your symptoms or lack thereof, it is important that you consult with your healthcare provider before embarking upon any type of new diet.

Please take a look at The Body In Form store to find hand-picked items for easy purchase online such as:  vitamins, herbs, beauty products, and self-help, health, and recipe books that encourage you to have a body - and life - in form!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Healing Chicken Pox Naturally

A good friend of mine just got Chicken Pox.  She’s an adult, poor baby, and it’s more than an unpleasant feeling as well as a bit shocking to endure those itchy spots that should have been vaccinated away as a child.

Chicken Pox is a contagious viral infection that mostly affects young children, but once they get it, their bodies create appropriate antibodies so that they never get it again.  Chicken Pox finds its way into the blood stream via the respiratory system as the virus is transmitted through the air by the mere act of a sneeze, cough, or touch of someone already infected.

Besides the fluid-filled eruptions that emerge all over the body, symptoms of Chicken Pox include fever, fatigue, and loss of appetite.  These symptoms can last up to two weeks, depending on the strength of your immune system. 

Here are a few things you can do to speed up the healing process if you or a child is suffering from Chicken Pox.

Number one is don’t scratch the itch!  Scratching can burst the pimple, whereby the infectious liquid inside can cause more infection and the opened skin can lead to a scar.  Some of the ways you can lessen the discomfort of Chicken Pox are:

  • Tie up oat meal flakes in a sock or a cloth, run under tepid water and daub on skin
  • Make a strong tea of nettle, burdock, and peppermint – add to cool bath water and submerge yourself for 15 to 20 minutes
  • Apply Aloe Vera gel to the skin to cool down the burning sensation
  • Apply tinctures such as chickweed, calendula, or lavender to soothe, heal, and prevent further infection

Drink plenty of water and fresh organic juices.  There are a number of herbs that are anti-viral in nature.  Taken in tea or capsule form, these herbs can help with the healing process:

  • St. John’s Wort
  • Pau D’arco
  • Ginger – boil 10 slices in water for 10 minutes and place in a teapot.  Sip throughout the day.
  • Burdock root – helps to breaks fever
  • Cats claw – helps to alkalize the body, taking away the acidic properties of the rash
  • Nettle – a strengthening tonic that heals skin

Echinacea and goldenseal are two essential anti-viral herbs that can be taken separately or in combination.  They help boost the immune system and should be a part of your health regimen for preventing and healing any type of viral invasion. 

Some good homeopathic remedies for Chicken Pox are:

  • Sulphur
  • Rhus tox
  • Animonium crudum
  • Antimonium tartaricum
  • Pulsatilla

With all the above, healing from Chicken Pox has to take its course.  Easy to say and difficult to do… but have patience!  This too will pass and once it does, you’ll never get it again!

Please take a look at The Body In Form store to find hand-picked items for easy purchase online such as:  vitamins, herbs, beauty products, and self-help, health, and recipe books that encourage you to have a body - and life - in form! 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Forget the Coffee: Stimulate Your Mind and Get Healthier with Yerba Maté!

Delicious as it is, the coffee addiction doesn’t provide any nutrition for the body and definitely has the ability to blow out your adrenal glands, make you jittery if you’ve had more than your normal quota, and cause a whopping headache the minute you decide to go cold turkey!

Yerba maté, otherwise known as the “Drink of the Gods” is, on the other hand, able to keep you awake and alert while simultaneously nourishing your body with no known side effects! 

Let’s explore!

What exactly is Yerba Maté?
Ilex Paraguariensis is its scientific name and it is found throughout the subtropical climes of Argentina Uruguay, Paraguay, and Brazil.  A member of the holly family, yerba maté was introduced to South American settlers by the Guarani Indians who made a tea of the leaves and stems to keep up their endurance during long treks through the mountains.  

Yerba maté rapidly became the national drink of Uruguay and Argentina where it is consumed daily by aficionados who recognize its potent qualities. 

What are the components of Yerba Maté?

Yerba maté contains similar health factors as green tea, but has many more nutrients.  Maté in fact contains 196 active chemical compounds, including:

  • ·      11 polyphenols (anti-oxidant chemicals that strengthen the immune system to fight the destruction of cells)
  • ·      Saponins (phytochemicals that stimulate the immune system to fight against disease)
  • ·      15 essential amino acids
  • ·      Vitamins: A, C, E, B1, B2, Niacin, B5, B-complex, pantothenic acid, and inositol
  • ·      Minerals: calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron selenium, manganese, zinc, and trace minerals
  • ·      Other healthful components: carotene, fatty acids, chlorophyll, flavonols, polyphenols, tannins

What are the Powers of Yerba Maté?
One of the primary abilities of yerba maté is to awaken the mind without causing a sensation of nervousness.  Maté contains a substance known as matéine, which helps to stimulate the nervous system, relax the smooth muscles to reduce blood pressure, increase urination through its mild diuretic properties, and keep the mind alert.  Though matéine is related to caffeine, it has a different chemical structure, which causes it to be absorbed into the body differently, allowing maté drinkers to enjoy alertness and clarity without creating a depressive state once the feeling wears off.
Because of its nutritious properties, maté energizes, invigorates, and stimulates the body in its function as a whole-body tonic.  This has been documented at both the Pasteur Institute and the Paris Scientific Society where scientists have claimed that yerba maté contains almost all the vitamins necessary to sustain life.

A reference list of the benefits of Yerba Maté:

  • ·      Enhances mental clarity
  • ·      Enhances focus
  • ·      Elevates mood
  • ·      Sustains energy levels
  • ·      Reduces fatigue
  • ·      Helps in weight loss by depressing the appetite
  • ·      Helps the body maintain a greater state of balance

  • ·      Boosts the immune system
  • ·      Helps to detoxify the blood
  • ·      Helps to relieve allergies by opening respiratory passages
  • ·      Stimulates the adrenal glands to produce corticosteroids that reduce inflammation and heighten immune response
  • ·      Improves digestion by lessening gastrointestinal disorders
  • ·      Helps excrete wastes
  • ·      Increases the supply of oxygen to the heart
  • ·      Helps the body use carbohydrates as fuel when exercising
  • ·      Helps reduce symptoms of irritability when withdrawing from caffeine
  • ·      Fights bad breath due to the abundance of polyphenols

Additionally, yerba maté may be helpful in cases of depression, attention deficit disorder, diabetes, and in reducing excess sugar in the bloodstream.

Studies of Yerba Maté
In a study published in 1996 by “Biochemical and Molecular Biology International,” it was stated that water extracts of yerba maté “were more potent antioxidants than either ascorbic acid or butylated hydroxytoluene.” Another study conducted in March 2000 and published in “Biochemical and Biophysical Research   Communications” states that the “ingestion of extracts of Ilex paraguariensis could contribute to increase the antioxidant defense of an organism against free radical attack.” The 2001 issue of “Fitoterapia” claims that yerba maté contains a “higher content of flavonoids and caffeoyl derivatives than any other assayed species.” 

Tips for Yerba Maté enjoyment!
Maté is an acquired taste and many people unaccustomed to its rather bitter flavor reject it before experimenting with sweeteners.  Though sugar is the common antidote, I prefer using natural stevia, which does the trick without creating acidity.  You can also always use a bit of organic honey.  There are also many distinct varieties of loose maté that vary in flavor, including some that are mixed with orange, lemon, peppermint, and other fruits or herbs.

It is becoming easier to find the tea in bags, or already prepared and bottled yerba maté in many health food, specialty, and gourmet stores.  

If you want to drink it the way the natives do, its best to have a native maté drinker show you how to prepare the tea, as it is not something traditionally common in North America or Europe.  There are many Argentine or Uruguayan grocery stores in almost all cities where you can buy loose yerba maté, as well as the gourd used to hold the herb and the “bombilla,” which is the silver or wooden straw that is used to sip the tea once it is placed in the gourd.  Note: When adding water to the tea, make sure it is at drinking temperature, as if it is too hot, it will burn your mouth and throat when sipped through the straw.

Drinking yerba maté prepared from the loose tea is beautiful social ritual where the gourd is passed from one person to another, sharing the tea as it stimulates conversation and conviviality. Developing a taste for the tea may take time, but it is well worth it in view of all the incredible benefits it brings. 

So away with the coffee and on with the yerba maté!  Be alert, be healthy, and enjoy!

Food for thought:  Albert Einstein was known to enjoy yerba maté.  Could that be the secret of his genius?

Note:  As with coffee, don't overdo it!
Please take a look at The Body In Form store to find hand-picked items for easy purchase online such as:  vitamins, herbs, beauty products, and self-help, health, and recipe books that encourage you to have a body - and life - in form!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Our Nails: A Sign of Health and Beauty

One of the most obvious signs of health is the condition of our nails.  A smooth, pink nail without grooves or ridges that lies in a natural cuticle bed speaks of a balanced diet and intelligent care of the body in general.  Our nails are a great example of how we feel about ourselves, and with conscious care and some change in habits, there is no reason why they can’t reflect the beauty that we all deserve to radiate.

Nails are made of keratin, a protein that forms in layers underneath the nail bed.  As new keratin cells grow old they harden and push out towards the fingertips.  Nourishing the nail bed is fundamental in assuring a strong, healthy, shiny nail. 

A Healthy Diet for Nail Health
It is not difficult to obtain and maintain good nail health.  A balanced diet is the key.  Here are a few essential nutrients that are important to include in our daily regime:

Biotin is one of the B-complex vitamins. Biotin if fundamental in assisting the growth of cells and is found in egg yolks, goat and cow milk, liver, peanuts, almonds, strawberries and raspberries, Swiss chard, carrots, cauliflower, and cucumbers.

Vitamin C
Vitamin C is filled with antioxidants and helps with the formation of collagen, which is essential for keeping nails at their best and hangnails at bay.  Eating foods containing vitamin C, such as fruits and brightly colored veggies, is key to having gorgeous nails.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Nail health increases dramatically when Omega 3 fatty acids are added to the diet.  Eating walnuts, flaxseeds, kidney beans, soybeans, sardines, herring, mackerel, sockeye salmon and other coldwater fish are a great way to get your dose.  You can also take on Omega 3 supplement in the form of fish oil, flaxseed oil, or evening primrose oil to keep your nails supple and in top form.

Good Nail Habits
Taking care of our nails often has to do with changing our habits. Here are some key suggestions to ensuring that your nails show off their natural beauty:
·      Keep you cuticles moisturized
·      Use hand cream several times a day
·      Use sunscreen on hands and cuticles during the summer months
·      Always wear gloves when doing dishes, housework, and gardening
·      Make sure all of your nail implements are clean and disinfected
·      Change your nail files often to avoid a build-up of bacteria
·      If you have cuts or tears in your cuticles, disinfect them with hydrogen peroxide
·      Avoid products containing formaldehyde or toluene
·      Never soak your nails as they expand and weaken with prolonged exposure to water
·      Don’t overuse nail polish remover and avoid getting it on cuticles and skin
·      Never push your cuticles back, just leave them alone
·      Don’t pull out your hangnails, instead cut them away gently
·      Don’t type with the tips of your nails use your finger pads instead
·      Use a letter opener instead of your fingers when opening mail

Please take a look at The Body In Form store to find hand-picked items for easy purchase online such as:  vitamins, herbs, beauty products, and self-help, health, and recipe books that encourage you to have a body - and life - in form!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Echinacea: The Natural Antibiotic that Works!

A Bit of History
Before the introduction of allopathic antibiotics, the herb Echinacea was used exclusively to boost the immune system, without ever producing a single side effect! This is a lot more than we can say for many of the synthetic alternatives that conventional doctors proscribe today.  Native Americans used the plant for its powerful medicinal properties that help avert and cure a myriad of problems, followed by the early Americans and then the Europeans who learned even more about Echinacea’s ability to strengthen the immune system.  In bygone days when syphilis, scarlet fever, diphtheria, malaria, and blood poisoning were prevalent, Echinacea was the medicine of choice as it helped prevent infection while strengthening and arming the body’s army of disease-fighting white blood cells.

The Plant
Echinacea is a member of the daisy family and known as Asteraceae, or purple coneflower for its brilliant petals that stand out when in bloom.  There are two types of Echinacea:  E. Angustifolia, which grows best in colder climates and at a high elevation, and E. Purpurea, which can be grown at a lower elevation in milder climes.  Both types can be grown from seeds and then kept in partial shade rather than full sunlight.  If you grow Echinacea in your outdoor garden, you will marvel at the proliferation of butterflies it attracts!

Echinacea’s Many Attributes
Most of the scientific research done on Echinacea has been in Germany where research shows how it helps to stimulate cells that fight infection.  Where allopathic vaccinations generally target a specific problem and conventional antibiotics often weaken the body’s natural ability to heal itself, Echinacea strengthens the immune system.  In this regard, the body is better able to fight viruses, bacteria, and abnormal cells on its own.  Echinaea does this by activating white blood cells and lymphocytes so that they can do their job of attacking and overcoming invading organisms that cause illness and disease.

A short list of Echinacea’s attributes:
·      Increases the number of immune system cells necessary for health
·      Works as a mild antibiotic, anti-fungal, and anti-viral
·      Prevents bacteria from entering healthy cells
·      Stimulates new tissue growth for wound healing
·      Helps with skin regeneration
·      Reduces inflammation in skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema
·      Reduces inflammation in cases of arthritis
·      Increases resistance to infections
·      Helps heal candida, herpes, urinary tract, and other similar infections
·      Helps reduce inflamed lymph glands
·      Helps reduce symptoms of sore throat
·      Helps reduce upper respiratory problems in general
·      Helpful in averting and shortening the duration of the common cold

In Europe Echinacea is so respected that it is sometimes used as IV supplement for some forms of cancer and is often injected for the treatment of urinary tract infections.  In the United States, where pharmaceutical drugs are the mainstream, it takes good personal research to understand the importance and power of Echinacea as an alternative or supplement. 

The University of Maryland Medical Center confirms that many laboratory studies show that Echinacea contains active substances that enhance the immune system.  In this regard the plant has received positive feedback in a more conservative setting for relieving pain, reducing inflammation, and helping to boost anti-oxidant and hormonal strength.

In terms of the common cold, 14 clinical trials throughout the United States show that the use of Echinacea reduces the odds of developing a cold by 58% and reduces the duration of a cold by 1 to 4 days .

Using Echinacea
I have used Echinacea throughout the years whenever I feel a cold coming on.  As soon as the first symptom rears its head, I place approximately 30 drops in a glass of room temperature water and drink this twice a day to completely avert any problem. It is best to use Echinacea on a short-term basis, as this way you get the most from its power.  I use it until my symptoms go away, or as a preventative, for two to three weeks with a break of a few weeks.  

You can find Echinacea in many forms: as a tincture (alcohol or glycerine based), liquid extract, tea, capsule, as well as in creams and gels for topical use.  Make sure you follow directions in terms of dosage. 

Words to the Wise
Echinacea is not a substitute for critical medical cases.  Make sure you consult your healthcare provider before embarking on a protocol.  Though there is no known toxicity, it is advised not to use the herb in cases of progressive systemic and autoimmune diseases such as TB, lupus, and connective tissue disorders.

Please take a look at The Body In Form store to find hand-picked items for easy purchase online such as:  vitamins, herbs, beauty products, and self-help, health, and recipe books that encourage you to have a body - and life - in form!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Four Serious “Healthy Food” Myths

The food industry is big business.  Just witness all the marketing hype, especially these days when everyone is jumping on the “health” bandwagon.  Now that mainstream companies are aware of the consumer trend leaning towards more conscious habits, marketers are using labeling ploys to lead the non-researching public by the nose.

If you want to be healthy there is no other way but to read labels and to do your own research.  What might be time-consuming in the beginning will become a sure fire way to insure that you are informed and getting what you pay for, rather than falling for outrageous health claims that are antithetical to smart eating practices. 

Here is a very short list of some foods on what I call the “hype” list:

Canola Oil
Canola oil was initially one of the biggest exports from Canada, hence the “Can” in Canola.  This oil is pressed from the rapeseed plant, which is a member of the mustard family.  In order to get the oil out of this plant, on a commercial level it requires processing at extremely high temperatures using mechanical pressing procedures.  At about 300 degrees F, a whole lot of trans-fats (hydrogenated, artificial fats that raise cholesterol levels) are created.  Additionally, the high heat factor tends to make the oil rancid and foul smelling, requiring a deodorizing process using chemicals to do so. On top of this, the oil gets refined, bleached, and de-gummed ~ with the results obviously going into our bodies when we consume the oil.  Canola’s high sulfur content also makes the oil become rancid quickly, and if any of you out there have used it to create baked goods, you’ve already noticed how fast they develop mold.

Canola oil contains 5% saturated fat, 57% oleic acid, 23% omega 6, and 10 – 15% omega 3.  But studies at the University of Florida at Gainesville have shown that 4.6% of all the fatty acids in canola oil are highly hydrogenated (and known as trans-isomer fats) because of the harsh refining process.  Other studies were published in a 1997 article in Nutrition Research showing that piglets fed canola oil became seriously depleted of vitamin E, which is essential to health.  Yet another laboratory study showed that a strict canola diet actually caused the death of the animals that were a part of the experiment.

Cold pressed, organic canola oil is a safer bet, but of course if you really want to go for a healthy oil, especially for cooking, buy coconut oil.  Coconut oil does not contain any trans-isomers and boasts no nutritional depletion when heated.  There are many, many benefits of using coconut oil both internally and externally, and I will cover these in another article coming up soon!

Farm Raised Salmon
Here’s a frightening statistic given what you are going to read in a second:  over 60% of fish eaten in the United States is farm raised and 80% of the salmon in the marketplace today comes from farms.  Ok… now brace yourself…

Farm raised fish are placed in pens that can contain upwards of a million!  These fish cannot move and thus develop all sorts of diseases due to crowding and lack of space.  Farm raised fish are fed things they never eat such as grain, chicken feces, genetically modified canola oil, and fishmeal.  Because they are fattened with these highly foreign elements, farm raised fish are lower in protein than their luckier bretheren who are still in the open waters.  A wild salmon’s diet is krill, which is toxin-free and contains astaxanthin, a potent anti-oxidant that gives salmon its pink color.  Because nothing in a farmed salmon’s diet contributes to a hue we associate with salmon, they are fed artificial color. 

Farm raised salmon has 39 times more sea lice than wild salmon, especially due to the crowded conditions in their pens.  Strong pesticides are used to kill the sea lice.  Copper sulfate is also used as a way to remove algae that forms on the nets that capture farmed salmon for killing and packaging ~ another toxic chemical that we ingest when we eat these fish. 

Farm raised salmon contain up to eight times the level of carcinogenic PCBs as wild salmon.  They are lower in omega 3 fats than their free-swimming brothers and sisters who generally have a very high omega 3 concentration.

Farm raised salmon means great profit for producers, and the demand that comes from ignorance keeps putting money in their coffers.  Wild salmon remain more or less the way nature intended them to be, and for this they are more expensive for consumers, which is true with organically grown foods of all kinds.  As with everything in life, you get what you pay for and in this case if you buy farmed salmon, you may be paying dearly with the health of your body.

Popular Cereals and Energy Bars
Flashy boxes make big statements when you’re walking down a grocery store aisle.  Most commercial cereals are highly processed to make them sweeter, tastier, and easy to prepare.  Most commercial cereals are loaded with sugar and low on fiber content, often contrary to what they advertise on the box.  Because we’re often in a rush when we shop, we don’t stop to read the list of ingredients carefully and when Raison Bran uses the words “raison” and “bran”, we think, ah, two healthy foods, right?  Take a closer look and you’ll find loads of sugar and processed filler. 

The best cereals you can eat are whole grains that require cooking time, like steel cut, organic oats and the like.  Take the time to cook them and you will feel the difference in the way your body responds in terms of energy, cleansing, and reducing the propensity for heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

Energy bars, protein bars, breakfast bars, or granola bars… whatever they are called, they generally contain a very small amount of fiber and a whole lot of sugar and processed carbohydrates.  Why risk raising your blood sugar levels to experience the subsequent energy drop and mood swings when you can make your own?  Homemade bars using unprocessed whole grains will help control your weight, balance your moods, up the ante on your endurance, as well as keep your system regular.  Unprocessed whole grains help to stabilize the system and are recommended as part of an anti-cancer, anti-heart disease, and anti-diabetes diet.  Simply mix a handful of organic raw oats with coconut flakes, chopped raw almonds, organic raisons or currents, and raw honey.  Shape your mix into logs and freeze and you have the perfect healthful pick me up that won’t wreak havoc on your body.

Frozen Yogurt
Yogurt is healthy because of the live culture of beneficial bacteria it contains.  When yogurt is heated more than 112 degrees F, this culture is killed.  When commercial frozen yogurt is made, the milk it takes to make it is heated upwards of this index.  Additionally, artificial sweeteners are added to the mix, as well as chemicals that allow it to last longer.  Unlike fresh yogurt that benefits digestive health, frozen yogurt is just another desert that beckons because it contains less calories than ice cream. 

If you are a yogurt lover and want the benefit of live bacteria that assists in digestion, buy plain fat-free yogurt such as the Greek or Bulgarian kind.  Add a sliced banana, a pinch of cinnamon, and a bit of honey if you don’t like eating it plain and you’ll have a delicious, healthy dessert.

The moral of this article is: read labels, do your research, shop carefully, cook slowly, and don’t believe the hype!

Please take a look at The Body In Form store to find hand-picked items for easy purchase online such as:  vitamins, herbs, beauty products, and self-help, health, and recipe books that encourage you to have a body - and life - in form! 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Stevia: Sweetest of the Sweetest Sweeteners, and Healthy Too!

For me stevia is the saving grace for all of us sweet-cravers as it contains zero calories, is totally alkaline, and has a plethora of healthful properties way beyond its ability to dulcify our foods and beverages!  

Coming from the chrysanthemum family, stevia grows wild in Paraguay and Brazil and is also cultivated in Japan, China, Mexico, California, and Southern England.  Used since pre-Columbian times to sweeten the native tea called mate, the Italian traveler Antonio Bertoni wrote about it much later in 1887 as the sweetener used by many native South American tribes.

Thirty times sweeter than sugar, stevia contains sweet glycosides that are not metabolized by the body, which means they won’t add extra calories.  Despite its highly sweet taste, in its unadulterated form stevia doesn’t adversely affect blood glucose levels and can even be used by diabetics and hypoglycemics!  Additionally, stevia actually helps to normalize blood sugar levels.  It will also lower blood pressure if you have this condition while not affecting normal levels if you don’t.   Here are some other health attributes of stevia:

·      Functions as a tonic to the entire body
·      Increases energy
·      Increases mental acuity
·      Inhibits the growth and reproduction of specific types of bacteria and other infections organisms
·      Helps prevent tooth decay, gum disease, and oral health in general (add to toothpaste or dilute with water for mouthwash)
·      Helps prevent the onset of colds and flu
·      Helps with weight management and loss
·      Reduces cravings for sweets and fatty foods (can be taken before meals to reduce hunger)
·      Helps restore lost hunger if obstructions in the hypothalamus and stomach exist
·      Improves digestion
·      Improves gastrointestinal function
·      Helps reduce cigarette and alcohol cravings

Stevia, Skin, and Hair
Stevia is also effective in maintaining healthy skin and hair.  It can be used as a facial mask by smoothing a paste made of the powder or crushed leaves and water over the skin and letting it dry for a half an hour or so.  Rinse it off and you will feel how it has tightened and softened the skin, smoothing out wrinkles and healing blemishes.  You can also place a few drops of stevia concentrate directly on a blemish, sore, cut, or scratch and impressive healing will occur.  Stevia is sometimes added to organic soaps and shampoos as it helps to eliminate dandruff and sooth scalp problems, making hair more lustrous.  You can add it yourself to your favorite shampoo.

An Abundance of Nutrients
The stevia leaf contains an abundance of nutrients such as proteins, fiber, carbohydrates, iron, phosphorus, calcium, potassium, sodium, magnesium, zinc, rutin, vitamin A, vitamin C and an oil that contains a host of other healthful elements. 

Buying Stevia
Stevia, like most things, can be of poor or high quality.  The poorer the quality of the leaves, the more bitter it will taste.  A high quality manufacturer will make sure that stevia’s processing is minimal and done with consciousness.  In this regard it will taste slightly licorice-y.  I buy my stevia from a top-notch health food store in powder form.  It is a beautiful green and tastes divine and you only need a very tiny amount as a little goes a very long way! 

Stevia comes in tea bags, as a loose tea, in ground form, in tablets, or as a liquid concentrate.  Quality will depend on soil conditions, the amount of irrigation and sunlight, purity of the environment, farming and harvesting practices, processing, and storage.  Make sure you buy the most reputable brand to get the most out of the product.

Stevia and Cooking
Stevia doesn’t break down in heat like honey or artificial sweeteners do.  This means you can cook and bake with it and be sure that you are getting all the nutritional components you need.

The FDA vs. Scientific Research
Though the FDA has listed stevia as an unapproved food additive, it is allowed as a food supplement, but not as a sweetener.  That being said, researcher and physician Dr. Daniel Mowrey has said vis a vis his extensive research on the pros and possible cons of stevia:

"More elaborate safety tests were performed by the Japanese during their evaluation of stevia as a possible sweetening agent. Few substances have ever yielded such consistently negative results in toxicity trials as have stevia. Almost every toxicity test imaginable has been performed on stevia extract [concentrate] or stevioside at one time or another. The results are always negative. No abnormalities in weight change, food intake, cell or membrane characteristics, enzyme and substrate utilization, or chromosome characteristics. No cancer, no birth defects, no acute and no chronic untoward effects. Nothing."

So there you have it!

I say, let’s break the sugar addiction by turning to Stevia, the sweetest of the sweet, getting healthier in the process!