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anti oxidants

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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Post-Christmas Liver Recovery

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Post-Christmas Liver Recovery

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Your liver, roughly the size of a football (!!!) is our largest internal organ and is responsible for detoxifying your blood; producing the bile needed to digest fat; breaking down hormones and storing essential vitamins, minerals and iron. It has a number of other functions but in essence, one’s health, wellbeing and longevity are intricately entwined with a healthy-functioning liver.

 

For most people, constant exposure to environmental pollutants, pesticides, herbicides, preservatives, heavy metals and cancer-causing chemicals put our liver under undue strain. Our day-to-day lives put us in constant exposure to toxins either orally, topically or via inhalation and once inside our body, these toxins get stored in tissues and cells. The consequences of toxic overload are far-reaching and there has been study after study on the accumulative effects of toxicity from chemicals, including cancerous, reproductive, metabolic, respiratory and mental health effects to name but a few.

Some of the signs you are in need of a liver cleanse include:

  • Constipation

  • Bloating

  • Gas

  • Nausea

  • Reflux / heartburn

  • Trouble digesting fatty foods

  • Halitosis (bad breath)

  • Food cravings

  • Headaches

  • Low energy and hypoglycaemia

  • Fatigue

  • Overheating and/or excessive perspiration

  • Aches and pains

  • Abdominal fat, unexplained weight gain or inability to lose weight

  • Allergies, skin rashes and acne

  • Mood swings, depression, poor concentration and a foggy brain

  • Hormonal imbalances, PMS and pronounced menopausal symptoms

In addition to these signs of liver malfunction, some of the risk factors related to impaired liver function include:

  • Heavy alcohol abuse

  • Intravenous drug use

  • Recurrent viral infections and autoimmune disease

  • Overuse of prescription medication

  • Blood transfusions prior to 1992

  • Exposure to certain industrial chemicals and environmental toxins (dyes, cleaning agents, nailpolish, petrol, smoke, etc)

  • Obesity and a heavily processed diet or one high in saturated fats

  • Tattoos and/or body piercings

  • High blood triglycerides

 So if you haven’t been giving your liver the TLC it needs or the festive season has taken its toll, consider a liver cleanse and notice changes in your body within a matter of weeks.   

 STEP 1: Tidy up your Diet and Lifestyle

Remove from your diet the following: packaged and processed foods, including foods with trans-fats; foods with colourings, additives or preservatives; gluten (incl. wheat), dairy and red meats; alcohol, soft drinks, packaged juices and caffeine; refined sugars and deli meats. Preferably you even cut out non-organic produce or if this is not an option, at least consider reducing foods from the “Dirty Dozen” list of fruits and vegetables (a quick Google search will help you out here).

Substitute with fresh, preferably organic vegetables and some fruits; raw juices (to reduce overall acidity in your body) and depending on your physical activity levels, some organic proteins (the liver still needs protein in order to be able to detoxify).
Look carefully at your lifestyle and replace any known toxins with natural alternatives - think bathroom products, makeup and hair care products, laundry products, cleaning agents and so on. Consider exercising at times of the day when pollution levels are at their lowest (early morning) and reduce electrical exposure around the house.

 

STEP 2: Boost your Diet with Nutrient-rich Foods

Increase your intake of the following:

  • Raw vegetable juices: As mentioned, these reduce the overall acidity in your body.

  • Liver detox drinks (lemon, apple cider vinegar, ginger, cinnamon, grapefruit and aloe vera): A combination of any of the listed ingredients in purified water, sipped throughout the day, in order to promote increased digestive enzyme secretion and enhanced digestion.

  • Foods rich in potassium (sweet potatoes, organic tomato puree, spinach, beet greens, white/kidney/lima beans, molasses, avocados and bananas): This vital nutrient helps with liver cleansing, lowering blood pressure and cholesterol and helps support a healthy heart.

  • Foods rich in sulphur compounds (organic eggs, garlic, onions, leeks, shallots) and cruciferous vegetables (including broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts): Sulphur aids in phase II liver detoxification, whilst cruciferous vegetables assist both phase I and II detoxification.    
     

STEP 3: Supplementation  

The critical supplements to take during a liver cleanse include:

  • St Mary’s Thistle, or Milk Thistle: A beautiful herb for its liver regeneration properties

  • Globe artichoke or Dandelion root: Alternative herbs for liver detoxification

  • An antioxidant such as L-Glutathione, Alpha-lipoic acid, resveratrol or green tea or other polyphenol-rich compound: Assists in minimising free radical damage.

  • Activated charcoal: This substance has a drawing effect upon toxins in the body, though take it away from other foods or supplements as it will diminish the effect of other substances concurrently in the gut.


STEP 4: Other Ideas

Though there is a great deal more you could do in your cleanse, here are some final pointers:

  • Break a sweat every day to stimulate your circulation and lymphatic system, both important systems in detoxification.

  • Partake in dry skin brushing, again boosting your lymphatic and circulatory systems.

  • Take an epsom salt bath to assist detoxification.

  • Practise yoga as certain poses are known for their detoxification, digestive or circulatory effects.

  • Breathe deeply to encourage toxin elimination, boost circulation and drain the lymphatic system.

 

Even simply instigating just a few of these changes will have a marked effect on your health and biological markers, though if this Christmas was one of complete overindulgence, do your body a favour, plan well and start your cleanse without delay. And make sure you let us know about your new and improved self!

 

*Always seek the advice of a qualified healthcare professional when conducting a liver cleanse, especially if you have pre-existing health conditions or are on medication/s.

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Author: Samantha Kirton

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