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Skin Health for the Cooler Months

Skin Health for the Cooler Months

As the weather cools off, our skin has different needs. The combination of dry, over-heated indoor rooms and freezing temperatures outside can do a number on even the hardiest complexions! Read on for a few tips to get beautiful, balanced skin from the inside out.

  • Keep your skin (and your mood) at their best by making sure to get a colorful variety of fruit and veg in your diet. Cool-weather greens like kale and broccoli are at their prime right now. Pomegranate and citrus fruits are also at their freshest, and both pack an antioxidant punch that will help keep your skin looking clear and healthy. Chilly weather can also lead to carb cravings, which can cause breakouts and rashes if indulged. Fight the urge to stuff yourself on starch or sugar by taking care of your body with fruit, plenty of water and a healthy amount of exercise.

  • Take care with hot showers and baths. Although it feels great especially when it’s cold out, hot water can dry your skin and hair out, leading to dullness. If you can’t live without your steamy shower, at least try a final rinse with cool water. This is a great all-natural way to close up your pores and prevent winter dryness from getting worse. Don’t forget the cool water after indulging in hot tubs or saunas, either. Another simple way to protect hair from split ends and other winter damage is to avoid washing it every day - try alternating days instead. Finally, in the winter months it’s important to apply a moisturiser to skin and the ends of hair as soon as you’re dry. Coconut oil is a great all-natural choice to nourish your skin without causing breakouts or irritation.   

  • Chapped lips are a common skincare problem this time of year. Smooth and repair your lips with a quick, all-natural overnight treatment: start with a simple scrub made from mixing a half-teaspoon of sugar with a few drops of coconut oil. After scrubbing off damaged and dry skin, follow with a thick application of raw shea butter or another plant-based moisturiser before you go to bed. In the future, protect this sensitive skin from both wind and sun damage with an all-natural lip balm that provides both antioxidants and sun protection; look for ingredients like vitamin C as well as an SPF rating on the packaging.        

  • Don’t forget the sunscreen. Just because the day is cool or cloudy doesn’t mean that the sun’s harmful UVA/UVB rays aren’t reaching you. In fact, cloudy weather can actually make sun damage more likely! If your skin has a tendency to be dry, you can knock both birds with one stone: every major skincare brand offers at least one day-use moisturiser with built-in SPF protection. If you aren’t in the habit of wearing daily sun cream, it’s never too late to start - even during cold weather. Your skin will thank you later!

And whatever you do during winter, just think of the accumulative effects of what you put in and on your body. A little bit of TLC now will have you feeling like you’re walking on clouds come spring and summer.

Author: Natalie Millis

Author: Natalie Millis

 

Medical Miracles: Learn About the Superfood that is Reishi Mushrooms

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Medical Miracles: Learn About the Superfood that is Reishi Mushrooms

Reishi mushrooms have been a mainstay of Japanese and Chinese traditional medicine for thousands of years. Traditionally, Reishi (or Mannetake in Chinese) has been used to boost the immune system, fight cancer, cleanse the liver and even promote sleep. The name “Mannetake” even roughly translates to “mushroom of immortality”. Several decades ago, the possible healing capabilities of this powerful fungus finally caught the attention of Western doctors, who undertook studies to see what medicinal benefits could be proven. Meanwhile, Reishi mushrooms have started to be used by people interested in holistic medicine all over the world. So, how do Reishi mushrooms stack up against the hype?

 

The answer is that science has proven these amazing mushies to have some incredibly promising properties! Over 130 active compounds have been found to exist in Reishi’s spores. Some of the earliest research done explored this extract’s anti-cancer properties. It turns out the active compounds that occur naturally in the Reishi species have powerful anti-tumour and anti-cancer properties. Studies have proved especially promising for both breast cancer and prostate cancer, specifically. Later research built on this work validated what ancient healers already knew: Reishi is great for the immune system overall. In fact, the powerful immune-boosting power it has may be in part responsible for its anti-cancer, anti-bacterial and other healing benefits. Reishi also has strong anti-inflammatory effects; a recent study helped vindicate another traditional use of the mushroom as a liver-healing agent and it’s also being investigated as a supplement to protect the brain from age-related damage. If these uses weren’t enough, Reishi also interacts with the central nervous system to act as a gentle anti-anxiety agent, which can also help with sleep.

 

Reishi fits into an increasingly well-documented understanding of the powerful healing power contained in many kinds of mushrooms. Like Reishi, other medically-useful mushrooms contain a large number of bio-active compounds. As with other natural medicines, part of the healing power of mushies may come from the combination and interaction of all of these compounds at once. So whichever reason you’re interested in harnessing the healing powers of Reishi or other mushrooms, it’s important to find a quality wholefood supplement that harnesses their full potential! Look for a product made from a powder or oil from the whole spores, as this part contains the full complement of Reishi’s large number of beneficial bio-active compounds. Finally, a quick disclaimer: if you’re being treated for any medical condition, don’t forget to let your G.P. know that you’re taking Reishi-containing supplements.

 

Author: Natalie Millis

Author: Natalie Millis

 

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Trying to Make Healthy Choices? How to Survive Easter!

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Trying to Make Healthy Choices? How to Survive Easter!

Just when you were starting to see results from your New Year’s resolutions, along comes Easter to tempt you with chocolate bunnies and hot cross buns. Fortunately with a few tricks, it’s easy to have an enjoyable Easter without wrecking your blood sugar and dietary goals.

 

First of all, focus on non-chocolate related activities and gifts. Easter-egg bath bombs and birdseed eggs are both great choices for older kids or adults. Kid’s baskets can also be packed with small toys or accessories - think a mini-watercolor kit for your niece who loves to draw. Finally, dying hard-boiled eggs is one of the oldest Easter traditions and one you should keep up! Hard-boiled eggs make a fantastic (and portable) high-protein snack. When decorating, use natural or fruit-based dyes and plain wax so that you can have fun making patterns while keeping the eggs edible for later. For maximum safety, don’t forget to refrigerate cooked eggs (in their shells) within a few hours of making them! Hard-cooked eggs will keep for up to a week in the refrigerator.

 

Of course, every successful diet or lifestyle change needs to leave a little room for indulgence - it’s just important to keep it limited and to not go on an all-out binge. In fact, research has shown that diets with a little wiggle-room are actually more likely to succeed in the long term. So, if you’re going to eat a few Easter treats, do it right. The key is to plan your Easter around some simple high-quality chocolate instead of other Egg or Bunny-themed chocolates. Most store-bought chocolate contains sugar and fat, but high-cacao (dark) chocolate also offers some nutritional benefits, so choose dark chocolate for an antioxidant boost without going overboard on empty calories from sugar.

 

Why is the sugar found in Easter treats a bigger concern than fat? Between fat and sugar, research is emerging that sugar is by far more damaging to our bodies. Even non-diabetic people should keep sugar and simple carbs (that get converted to sugar in the body) in check to prevent taxing the body’s blood-sugar balancing capabilities. Keeping your blood sugar stable is a great way to protect your heart health, prevent extra fat from being deposited, keep mood swings at bay and even help reduce acne! Ditch white chocolate and high-sugar milk chocolate in favor of the dark stuff (try to aim for at least 70% cacao). These days, many health stores sell Easter-themed dark chocolate. If you’re looking for a way to jazz up your healthier choc choices into Easter-worthy treats, there are plenty of home-made recipes to help you out. Finally, choose dark chocolate over sugar-free chocolate. Although the ‘sugar free’ label may make it seem healthier, these products are highly processed and contain ingredients that may wreck your blood sugar anyway.

With these simple changes, it’s perfectly possible to have a healthy, enjoyable Easter. Remember, a bit of (dark) chocolate won’t wreck weeks’ worth of clean eating! So eat your high-cacao treats, make sure Easter Dinner has plenty of roast veg and focus on the non-chocolate related parts of the holiday.

Author: Natalie Millis

Author: Natalie Millis

 

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New Year, New You? Think Again! Learn the Right Way to Set Goals for the New Year

New Year, New You? Think Again! Learn the Right Way to Set Goals for the New Year

The new year is a great time to reassess your life and set new goals, right? Well, sort of. Studies have shown that more than half of people who made a resolution have given up only one month into the New Year! The problem is, it’s really tough to give up bad habits and overly-ambitious goals can quickly lead to a searing sense of failure. If you’re having trouble staying motivated, or don’t even know where to begin, it’s not too late to try again. To make your goals actually stick this year, try some of these tips and tricks from psychologists and successful business owners.

 

The S.M.A.R.T. method is a great way to structure your resolution(s). It was originally developed for businesses and organisations, but can easily be applied to personal goals, too. Remember that it’s also preferable to focus on one goal (or related goals like diet and exercise) instead of trying to change every area of your life at once!  

 

S: Specific. Is your goal clearly defined? Psychologists have found that without a specific target, it’s much easier to lose your way and give up. So get specific: replace “get fit” with “be able to complete a 5k run 3 months from now.”  

 

M: Measurable. Make sure there are clear milestones, or you won’t see your progress. Measuring progress is a crucial way to stay motivated. Think “drop 5kg by March” instead of “lose weight.” This will allow you to break up a bigger goal into smaller, do-able pieces. Mentally, this makes goals much easier to achieve.  

 

A: Attainable. This may seem obvious, but make sure that your goal is reachable. There is a difference between challenging yourself and setting yourself up for failure with an impossible objective. Even with the best training, you realistically can’t expect to be able to run a marathon two months from now if you’ve been sitting on a couch for the last year. If you’re set on an ambitious goal, it may be worthwhile to check in with a relevant professional (dietician, personal trainer, financial planner, etc).  

 

R: Relevant. Is the goal you’ve set something you’re doing for yourself, or for others? If you’re more worried about getting a magazine-worthy beach bod than improving your general physical health, you may find yourself discouraged. Take an inventory of why you’ve chosen this particular goal. Shallow reasons tend to be poor motivators in the long term.

 

T: Timely. Make sure your goal(s) has a specific timeframe. Without dates, it’s hard to keep track of progress, which means it’s hard to hold yourself accountable. Having deadlines is a huge benefit that will help you stick to your goals. It may help to tie your goal to natural deadlines: if you’re trying to get your finances organised, make sure it’s done a month before taxes are due. If you’re trying to change your diet, activity level, or other behavior for the long-term, schedule a time every day to briefly journal about your progress.

 

It may seem silly or excessive to follow such an extensive set of “rules” for your resolution, but this method has been backed up by behavioral scientists. The more specific structure you have, the more likely you are to stay on track. Finally, instead of quantity of goals, remember to focus on quality. Then get SMART and enjoy the results you desire!

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Author: Natalie Millis

Açai Berries: What’s all the Hype About?

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Açai Berries: What’s all the Hype About?

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The popularity of Açai berry products has been growing for the last few years. If you’re considering making Açai part of your diet, learn what science has to say about this superfood—and how to get the best benefits for yourself!

Açai (pronounced “Ah-Say-Ee”) is a purple, olive-sized fruit that grows on a type of palm tree in the Amazon rainforest.  Açai has been traditionally used by indigenous people for a variety of health concerns and celebrated for its energy-giving, healing properties. Besides being packed with colorful phytonutrients that provide its record-setting antioxidant properties, Açai fruit is a source of healthy omega-3 fats and dietary fibre, too.

 

As knowledge of Açai fruit has gone mainstream, its benefits have been explored both as a health-boosting supplement and a skin-care ingredient. Research has focused especially on Açai’s possible usefulness in aiding weight loss, but other benefits of the fruit may include improvement of: immune system function, heart disease and high cholesterol, arthritis and other inflammation-related disorders. A promising study published in the Journal of Nutrition in 2011[1] showed that subjects who took Açai pulp daily showed improvement in fasting levels of glucose, insulin and cholesterol - all important parts of healthy weight loss. Preliminary studies have also shown that Açai may help prevent tumors from being formed[2] and could even help kill cancer cells[3]. The same powerful antioxidant properties that make Açai such a superfood can also have brightening, wrinkle-reducing benefits when applied to the skin.

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Like many natural supplements, the benefits of Açai depend greatly on the quality of the product and packaging. When antioxidant properties of Açai were compared to other berries, fresh Açai had some of the highest scores recorded. This means Açai out-performed other nutritional powerhouses like blackberries, blueberries and strawberries! Unfortunately, the antioxidant power of Açai is seriously reduced if it is not processed and stored correctly. Improper storage and packaging can lead to a huge drop in the free radical “scavenging” capabilities, which translates into a reduction in health benefits[4]. This is why anyone who wants to experience the benefits of Açai should take the time to find a high-quality product. Flash-freezing the berry has found to be the best way to retain its nutrition; when Açai is transported fresh or in powdered form, its antioxidant properties actually drop below other berries! Therefore, to get the maximum benefit from this wonder food, a flash-frozen product is the best choice—unless you’re able to travel to the Amazon rainforest yourself.

 

Speaking of the Amazon rainforest, the recent popularity of Açai berries has been a mixed blessing for communities that have traditionally relied on the fruit as a staple food. In many areas, demand has raised prices significantly, making Açai more difficult for local people to buy. Therefore, investing in a fair-trade Açai product is an excellent way to get maximum health benefits for yourself while not harming the original discoverers of this miraculous superfood.


[1] https://doi.org/10.1186/1475-2891-10-45

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25329001

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24886139

[4] http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf0609779

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Author: Natalie Millis

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