Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Natural Sources of Folic Acid

Folic acid, which is also known as folacin or folate, is a water-soluble form of Vitamin B9 and essential for cell metabolism and many other healthful factors.  Women planning a pregnancy or who are already pregnant need sufficient quantities of folic acid for the proper development of what is known as the neural tube in the growing fetus.  As the precursor of the spinal column and brain, the neural tube needs nourishment with folic acid so that the central nervous system can flourish healthfully.  Without the right amount of folic acid, infants could be prone to spinal bifida, a cleft palate, or other potential problems.  

Cell Metabolism
Folic acid is responsible for developing RNA and DNA along with the maintenance of new cells through cell metabolism. It is an important element during periods of rapid growth, such as during pregnancy and infancy.  Because of its role working with cells, folic acid helps to prevent alterations in DNA that can lead to cancer and other diseases. Additionally, it assists in the creation of normal red blood cells, which helps prevent anemia as well as helping the body maintain normal levels of the amino acid homocysteine, a factor in cognitive function.  In this regard, folic acid can reduce the potential of stroke. 

Avoiding Deficiencies
Deficiencies in folic acid can manifest in weight loss, diarrhea, headaches, fatigue, heart palpitations, and behavioral abnormalities.  It is easy to get our healthy daily ration of folic acid by eating the following foods:

·      Leafy vegetables such as spinach, collard greens, kale, turnip greens, and all lettuces
·      Other vegetables such a cabbage, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts
·      Kidney beans, black-eyed beans, lentils, peas
·      Fruits such as avocado, tomatoes, bananas, cantaloupes, and citrus
·      Brewers yeast
·      Turkey and chicken liver

Remember that the more you cook fresh foods, the greater the chance of losing nutrients as they cannot support heat.  It is best to eat your veggies raw in salads or to lightly steam them. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Best Way to Lose Belly Fat

By guest blogger, Alex Chris
Weight Loss Help and Tips

Are you tired of looking for the best way to lose belly fat and weight in general?  It seems that most weight accumulates in the belly area. Why is this so?

Belly fat is an accumulated amount of fat in the belly or abdominal region. There are many reasons why this occurs and one of them is due to an unhealthy diet and lifestyle.  Drinking too much alcohol and beer, or eating too many fast food products bloats the stomach without giving you a nutritional return. These high calorie beverages and foods help to increase your weight and are more likely to settle in the belly area.  Though you may have inherited your belly size from your parents, you still can make significant changes through a more conscious lifestyle.

Targeting your diet and lifestyle is fairly simple, but you will have to maintain a commitment and clear vision of what you want. By now you should have stopped thinking about fad diets, overnight weight loss, extreme workouts, and all those other false claims. There is no overnight weight loss resolution, nor is there anything permanently achievable in mere days or week. You will have to work at losing excess fat, and a holistic healthy approach will help you get there.

Now what about the diet?  There are many fat-reducing foods and they are generally those that are high in protein and fiber, which can easily be found in fresh vegetables and fruits, fish, lean meat, poultry, low-fat dairy products, beans and nuts, oatmeal and other whole grain products, along with olive oil for the best source of healthy fat.  An important factor in a weight loss diet is fiber, which helps burn  fat, sweep out toxins, and makes you feel full, thus decreasing hunger pangs. The nutrients found in all of these food items will help you reduce belly fat and weight.  

A good technique for losing belly fat is to eat small meals at frequent intervals. This can be in six small portions to help maintain a boost in your metabolism, and also prevent you from snacking during the small gap in between meals.

Another way to burn fat effectively is through cardio exercise, which helps you achieve healthful heart and respiratory function.  Jogging, taking a brisk walk or even dancing in your home are some of the ways to get your cardio workout. You don’t have to go to gym for this. Be creative and  consistent with a given activity and maintain it for about 40 minutes to an hour a day. You can divide and vary your workout into three sessions of 10 minutes in the morning, 10 in the afternoon and 20 before sleeping.  It is recommended on a daily basis, or no less than 4 times a week.

Starting out with a holistic healthy approach to losing weight is just the beginning of a long and meaningful journey to rediscovering healthy living.  It takes 2 weeks or a month to achieve very reliable and consistent results, so be patient and do your best!

For more tips on weight loss:

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Aloe Vera: Wonder Plant for Health

I bought two aloe vera plants for my balcony a few years ago, one quite tiny and the other a bit bigger.  The tiny one is now a glorious spread of spiked leaves, basking in the sunlight and growing evermore glamorous with time.  The other has turned into the Godfather of Aloes as it is now a huge, hulking mass of heavy, juice and gel-filled leaves that threaten to overtake the rest of my plant population, much like that old 60s horror film “The Day of the Triffids”!  He’s the one I pluck my daily dose from, as there are many lush leaves to spare.

Succulent and Easy to Grow
Aloe plants are considered succulents with their spiky green leaves and tubular flowers that burst forth in summertime. They are perennials and are a part of the Lily family.  Inside their fleshy leaves resides a healing gel that has been used for centuries as an internal and external medicine. With over 400 species of aloe, the most curative is the Aloe Barbadensis Miller.  Easy to grow with little watering needed, aloe plants are low maintenance and allow you to have an essential part of your natural healing cabinet within close reach.  Keep your aloe vera plants in a warm, sunny location and water them only when they become really dry.
Aloe Vera’s Properties
Aloe vera is filled with over 20 essential amino acids as well as essential fatty acids, enzymes, and phyto-chemicals. The plant also contains calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, potassium, silicon, and sulfur. Aloe vera is extremely high in B-complex vitamins, especially vitamin B-12, which is a difficult vitamin to find in the diet if you are a vegetarian as it is mostly found in animal products.  

Boosting Immune Function
Aloe vera’s high phyto-chemical content means that it is able to combat free radicals, which in turn means that it helps boost the immune system.  With its strong anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties, the plant helps fight off illness and disease.

Boosting Gastro-Intestinal Function
Aloe vera helps to strengthen the digestive system by assisting in the breakdown of impacted food while soothing the lining of the digestive tract. Because aloe vera stimulates the release of pepsin, a key enzyme in the digestive process, it is an important factor in fortifying the intestinal tract to remove toxins that contribute to bloating, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers, and other gastro-intestinal complications. Other attributes of aloe vera include relieving constipation, peptic ulcers, heartburn, colitis, and stimulating the appetite.

Other Healing Attributes
Aloe vera continues to amaze, as it is a potent healing agent for many other problems.  Because of its anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial makeup it helps to relived symptoms of allergies, bladder and yeast infections, cramps, hemorrhoids, arthritis, and intestinal parasites.  It assists in stimulating the uterus, works in balancing blood sugar in diabetics, stimulates the production of healthy kidney cells, and slows down the formation of kidney stones.  Aloe vera also helps reduce blood flow to tumors while preventing carcinogens from entering the liver. Because it stimulates blood clotting, it is especially good for healing wounds.

When applied topically, aloe vera helps reduce skin irritation due to insect bites, burns, sunburn, acne, dermatitis, psoriasis, and eczema.  It stimulates the regeneration of cells, making it an excellent skin rejuvenator and softener.

How to Use Aloe Vera
Pure aloe vera gel is easily obtained by slicing off a leaf from your plant, opening it up and scraping off the pulp.  I do this by removing the pulp with my teeth after washing the outside of the leaf and downing it as is.  You can also use this inner pulp on sores, cuts, or dry skin areas.  Once a week I use it as a facemask to tighten the pores and activate my skin tone.

Aloe vera concentrate or extract is easily found in health food stores and is the result of removing water from the gel. Aloe vera juice is made with up to 50% of the pulped gel and can be ingested as it is, or in combination with other juice drinks. 

Studies on Aloe Vera
According to Nutritional Health Information, there have been several clinical studies on aloe vera in regard to cancer therapy. In one study in particular, patients took aloe vera in combination with the neuro-hormone MLT where the benefits were clearly recognized.  In another clinical study on heart attacks and cholesterol, 5,000 patients with angina were looked at over a five-year period as they took a combination of psyllium husks and aloe vera. The conclusion was that there were obvious improvements in reduced attacks as well as greater cholesterol balance. Additionally, the need for pharmaceutical drugs was much less, especially for those who also had diabetes. The Mayo Clinic now claims that there is sufficient scientific evidence that aloe vera is a promising laxative that also improves skin conditions due to inflammation.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Candida and The Diet

Candida is a condition that is much more prevalent than we think.  I have several friends who suffer from it, and by changing their diets they have found immense if not total relief.  Candida occurs when there is too much yeast in the system. We naturally have some quantities of yeast in our bodies, but when there is an overload, the immune system rebels and unleashes a host of symptoms such as bladder and kidney infection, diarrhea, constipation, vaginitis, jock itch, athlete’s foot, conjunctivitis, sore throat, muscle and joint pain, and more. It is essential for those of you suffering from Candida to stay away from yeast in order to avoid these debilitating symptoms. As you fortify your body with healing foods, you allow your system to detoxify and eventually become restored to its natural healthy balance.

Fish, Fowl, and Red Meat
Of the three, the best protein here is from fish, but only those that are free range and non-farm raised.  Fowl is okay too, but here again, only if it is free-range and brought up on organic feed. Red meat can be difficult to digest, which is taxing for the body when it is already trying to deal with the exigencies of Candida. It is best when you are just beginning your Candida diet to avoid heavy protein such as meats and opt for a lighter food such as fish and legumes.

If you prefer to get your protein from vegetable sources, there are many delicious legumes that go well on a Candida diet. Lentils, garbanzos, split and black-eyed peas are great choices, as well as soybeans and the foods made from them, such as tofu.

As we all know, vegetables contain an abundance of essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Eaten either raw or steamed, it is important that you buy organic veggies to ensure that there are no pesticides or other toxins that can further irritate your internal system. Candida sufferers should eat plenty of asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, celery, chard, cucumbers, ginger, kale, radishes, spinach, turnips, and watercress, along with lots of garlic and onions, which contain anti-fungal properties. Wheatgrass is another excellent choice, along with freshly blended juice combinations like carrot, beat, celery and garlic.

A Candida diet does not support many fruits because of their fructose and high acidic content, however there are a few that are safe to eat.  Grapefruit, papaya, and pineapple are good, a well as any type of berry. You can also eat small amounts of fresh lemon, which can be added to juice drinks or as a salad dressing.

Seeds and Nuts
Sesame, sunflower, pumpkin, and poppy seeds are all completely acceptable if you suffer from Candida. Sprinkling any of these on a salad is a delicious way to get extra vitamin and mineral content. Almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazel nuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, and pine nuts make delicious snacks for nibbling on throughout the day and can help stave off a craving for sweets.

Grains are an excellent way to get those complex carbohydrates into your body, and taken in moderation can be fine for Candida sufferers. Some choices are amaranth, whole barley, buckwheat, air popped popcorn, millet, oat bran, quinoa, wild, brown, or basmati rice, cream of rye cereal, spelt, teff, wheat berries, bulgur, and soba, buckwheat, or udon noodles.

It is extremely important to maintain well-balanced intestinal flora to help with proper digestion, which means an addition of acidophilus, bifidobacteria, and lactobacilli. Plain yogurt without sweeteners, an acidophilus drink, or capsules containing the above are ways to ensure you get your daily probiotic dose. Spirulina and chlorella or other green algae also provide the necessary good bacteria that create the enzymes that combat Candida.  Any probiotic in pill form should be taken with meals.

There are several condiments that can be added to flavor foods without promoting the growth of yeast.  These include fresh herbs, sea salt, pepper, unfermented soy sauce (tamari), and raw organic apple cider vinegar. 

Pure Water
I cannot stress enough the importance of drinking water, water, and more water throughout the day to flush away toxins produced by Candida. One drink that is especially helpful in eliminating waste is a cup of hot water with the juice of half a lemon.

With just a little bit of discipline it is easy to convert to a balanced Candida diet that will make you feel refreshed and help you become yeast-free. Love your body and treat yourself like the precious being you are.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Dreaded Migraine Headache

There was a time when I suffered from occasional migraine headaches, putting me out of commission until the next day.  Vibrating with pain, I’d have to take myself to bed, suffering in darkness, willing the pressure to subside as I tried as best I could to breathe it away.  So many of us suffer from migraines, recognizing the warning signals that herald them and then either taking strong measures to assuage them through pills or herbs, or just simply trying to sleep the pain away.

Migraine headache occurs when blood vessels enlarge due to a chemical imbalance in the system. This triggers pressure throughout the nervous system, leaving us with symptoms such sensitivity to light and noise, nausea, diarrhea, tingling in the hands and feet, flashes of light, and blind spots. Because migraines prevent the stomach from emptying into the small intestine, we also can experience discomfort in the entire digestive system.

It’s In the Details
Migraine headaches are the result of the enlargement of the temporal artery, which is a major artery located outside the skull under the skin. As it swells, it releases chemicals that are drawn to the inflamed blood vessels. Simultaneously, the trigeminal nerve, the major sensory nerve in the face that affects muscles for biting, chewing, and swallowing, is affected. Serotonin, the chemical that regulates pain, also become imbalanced. When serotonin levels are out of sync, neuropeptides are released that then travel to the outer covering of the brain, or the meninges, causing the blinding pain we associate with migraine headaches. 

Causes of Migraines
Hormonal Changes
Migraines can be triggered by many factors, depending on your individual biochemical makeup. Affecting over 28 million Americans, women are generally more susceptible to them than men, as often they are generated by menstruation, PMS, and menopause. When there are extreme hormonal fluctuations in the body, levels of estrogen and testosterone are affected.  It is also possible that certain hormonal medications can trigger or deepen the pain of a migraine headache.  This can include certain hormone replacement formulae as well as oral contraceptives.

One of the most common triggers for migraine headaches are certain foods, especially those containing tyramine. A partial list of these foods includes red wine, aged cheeses, beans, figs, smoked fish, and chicken livers. Nitrates are major culprits, so if you are migraine-prone, cut down or better yet, eliminate foods like bacon, salami, hot dogs, or any type of smoked food. Eating processed and fast foods can lead to migraines as they also contain nitrates along with a host of other unfriendly additives. Monosodium Glutamate or MSG, is especially dangerous. This is often used in Chinese food, so make sure when ordering from your favorite Chinese restaurant that you specifically request no MSG. Too much salt, aspartame, and caffeine can trigger symptoms, as can nuts, peanut butter, chocolate, citrus fruit, onions, dairy, and pickled or fermented foods.

The Environment
Each one of us has her or his particular sensitivity to various factors in the environment.  Some people suffer from migraine headaches due to their genetic makeup. Other factors can include sensitivity to bright lights, loud noises, the sun’s glare, potent and toxic smells such as those found in cleaning solutions, paint thinners, and the like.

Other Factors
Migraine headaches can occur when we don’t get a decent night’s sleep or when we get too much sleep.  Jet lag, fluctuations in barometric pressure, and certain medications can also bring on symptoms of a migraine. Exposure to smoke, emotional or physical stress, overexertion, or too much sensory stimulation can also be culprits. Skipping meals and fasting can also bring on migraine headaches as the body begins to release toxins.
Some Solutions
If you do get migraine headaches, try to identify the triggers so you can steer clear of them in the future. Drink plenty of water to wash the toxins out of your system.  Drinking ginger tea is helpful for migraines that occur in the front of the head.  Other herbal teas that are helpful are feverfew, peppermint, passionflower, ginkgo biloba and white willow bark. Lie down in a comfortable, quiet, dark place and breathe deeply and consistently until sleep comes or the symptoms abate.  Remember, “this too shall pass.”

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Truth About High Fructose Corn Syrup

High fructose corn syrup or HFCS is a clear liquid made from cornstarch.  Ever since it was introduced to the North American marketplace, the statistics on obesity have skyrocketed.  As a food product that is found in processed foods all over the world, HFCS has a direct relationship to other health issues as well, such as heart disease and diabetes. 

Where It Lurks
HFCS is used not only to sweeten, but also to keep foods moist and seemingly fresh.  For this reason it is prevalent in a variety of foods that you may not even suspect, such as bread and muffins. Once you start reading packaging labels carefully you will see that HFCS is in almost every commercial food product out there.  Condiments such as ketchup, relish, BBQ sauce, and mayonnaise contain HFCS, even many that claim to be low in fat.  Cookies, candy bars, breakfast cereals, fruit flavored and frozen yogurt, and canned soups are some other culprits.  And then of course, there are the soft drinks.  One 12-ounce can of cola contains 13 tablespoons (not teaspoons!) of sugar, most of which is fructose derived from corn syrup.

The Dangers
High fructose corn syrup is a very insidious ingredient.  Unlike table sugar it does not cause the pancreas to create insulin, which controls a substance called leptin.  Leptin is responsible for sending messages to the brain letting it know when the body feels full, which helps us stop eating.  Without this control, we never feel satisfied. And because we are tricked into thinking we are still hungry, we fall into a cycle of eating more of the seductive HFCS-filled foods, avoiding those that contain the nutrients we need to support our immune system. 

Whereas the simple sugar, or monosaccharide glucose, is used by the body to create energy, fructose does not.  Though it is also a monosaccharide, by not stimulating insulin secretion or requiring its transport as other carbohydrates do, fructose is not metabolized like normal carbohydrates are, making it a substance that generally leads to weight gain. Thus with an excess of these HFCS-containing processed foods in our system, we get fatter. People with diabetes as well as those who tend towards high blood sugar can be adversely affected if too much HFCS is consumed as too high a concentration makes it challenging to control blood glucose and insulin levels.
Studies on HFCS
In a research study on high fructose corn syrup done at Princeton University, rats were used to test its effects. The rats consuming HFCS gained much more weight than those eating generic table sugar, even when the overall caloric intake was the same.  Triglyceride levels in the rats eating foods with HFCS rose alarmingly over a period of 6 months, as opposed to those eating regular rat chow. As abnormal weight gain increased in the HFCS rats, fat deposits were located most specifically around the stomach area, with male rats gaining more weight than females. All of these rats gained 48% more weight than those on conventional rat food.

In a study reported in the October 2002 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, humans ingesting over 28% of their total calorie intake from sucrose, which is made up of 50% fructose, had more added fat and higher blood pressure after 10 weeks as compared to those using other types of sweeteners.

Why is HFCS so prevalent?
High fructose corn syrup has become ever popular with manufacturers of processed foods because it is the cheapest sweetener on the market.  And because it takes a very small amount to sweeten any product, a tiny bit goes a long way. Additionally, there is now an over-abundance of corn due to government subsidies and market pressure.  HFCS is also very easy to transport.

How to Avoid HFCS
The best way to avoid consuming high fructose corn syrup is to do as much shopping in health food stores. There you can find cane or non-high fructose corn syrup if you want or need it in any of your recipes.  When in regular grocery stores, look carefully at the labels.  If HFCS or modified cornstarch is within the first five ingredients, don’t buy the product.  Avoid all cola drinks, period.  Cook your own meals rather than eating out in restaurants as most commercial restaurants reheat pre-packaged foods that contain HFCS to increase their shelf life. When you do eat out, support the small owners who create cuisine with care and pride, using the best ingredients they can find.

Once you reduce your HFCS levels, you will see a marked difference in your energy as well as your weight.  As you get farther away from foods containing high fructose corn syrup, your body will crave nutritious foods that fill you up in the right way and cater to optimum health.

Saturday, March 5, 2011


When talking about money, love, and life in general, abundance is a word that gets tossed around a lot these days.  It is true that we all have the ability to share in abundance once we get out of our own way, but the concept is broad and lacks detail. When then need is to hone in on specific personal changes necessary for moving forward in life, its all in the specifics.
Playing with Energy
There is also a lot of talk about the law of attraction: like attracting like.  This is a powerful concept.  If I exist in lack, its lack I magnetize to me.  As everything is comprised of energy, how I use or play with energy determines what will come back to me. So, the question is, what kind of attraction are we putting out there?  What is the inner story?  What is the running theme inside that prevents us from attaining what we want?  Why for some is it seemingly easier to attract an abundance of money, love, and health, where for others only stumbling blocks appear?

The Inner Story
I have been asking myself these questions, going deeper to find the answers that are beginning to surface almost effortlessly.  What is my inner story? What have I absorbed through my parents and their imprint on my psyche?  How comfortable am I with the concept of getting what I feel I need for a more complete life – even knowing that my life is complete as it is?  What are the illusions around what I perceive as abundance and what really is abundance?  What are the old paradigms that are breaking down and what are the new paradigms coming in?  How am I defining my own personal paradigms by realizing that life is infinitely richer as I turn away from what society/business determines as the ideal? What is truly ideal for me?

Concept and Metaphor
One of the most powerful things that I am now beginning to understand is the concept of (and metaphor associated with) investment.  For example, if we’re talking about money: if more money is going out than going in, what does this have to do with investment or the lack therof?  Are we investing our time efficiently if we are not getting a commensurate return?  What if we apply this concept to love?  Many of our relationships are based on giving more than we receive, which eventually drains our investment in the time we’ve spent giving ourselves to them. The law of balance says we should at least receive that which is equal to what we give and spend.

When looking at Investment, I can clearly see in my own life where I am not fully invested.  Am I involved 100% in what I am doing?  Am I wishing for something else while I’m doing what I’m doing?  Am I completely invested in where I live, the work I do, the people surrounding me?  By fully committing to my choices, I become invested and am much more likely to get a fulfilling return.  Its the law of attraction: committed energy attracts energy of like kind.

Commitment/investment requires another essential element, which is discernment. Discernment requires that we become clear about who we are, what we are not, what makes us tick and why, and where our weaknesses lie. With the ability to discern, we can then be clear that our choices are healthy ones, which then empowers our investment. When we feel instinctively that what we’re doing is not the correct path, regardless of what is expected of us, our inner protective mechanism will subconsciously prevent a full investment.  We ultimately invest where we find our joy, our passion, our calling. When we’re in this place, the commitment we invest becomes a pleasure. 

Feeling Where You Are
I have recently made a commitment to invest in a more healthful way to think about money and relationships. This means that where money is concerned, I am analyzing or perhaps a better way to say it is feeling where my stumbling blocks are around it, such as:  seeing lack rather than prospects, not wanting to see or deal with elements around money that are uncomfortable (debts and the like), and judging myself for past unformed or un-informed choices.  As these feelings come up, just by noticing them they begin to resolve.  I begin to feel more mature, responsible, and more invested in making my money issues work for me.  Regarding relationships, it is a similar process.  Noticing where I am blinded by externals, what energies I have allowed next to me that drain me, and how my concepts around loyalty have sometimes kept me in unhealthy situations all help me to properly invest in my present and future personal life.

The Oxygen Mask
The most fundamental aspect of investment is the investment in ourselves.  I always think of how we are instructed on airplanes in case of emergency to put the oxygen mask on ourselves before putting it on a child.  How can I help another if I myself cannot breathe? 

The Law
Everything I write about in The Body In Form is to remind us to work on ourselves first.  In the context of the oxygen mask metaphor, this is the opposite of selfishness. When we feel better and do better we are better able to help others feel and do the same.  When we feed ourselves with beautiful, organic foods along with nurturing thoughts and behavior, when we are discerning enough to recognize that this is the basis and meaning of success, we are in then rooted in the process of making our most important investment.  It’s the law.