Saturday, February 11, 2017

Healthful Herbs and Spices

Many of us have eaten a variety of herbs and spices throughout our life without much thought about it.  What you may not know is that in addition to adding flavor and making our food more interesting, some herbs and spices have a number of health benefits.  In fact, some of your favorite spices that you enjoy on a daily basis may be helping to fight illness, boost energy, and add years to your life!


Ginger has been used for centuries for its perceived medical benefits.  It has shown to have a powerful anti-inflammatory impact on the body, largely due compounds called gingerols.  Individuals that struggle with rheumatoid arthritis have experienced a reduction in related pain when including ginger into their routine.  In addition, ginger may have a positive impact on gastrointestinal distress and can help relieve symptoms associated with nausea.  A simple and delicious way to enjoy fresh ginger is to make tea with it.  Just place a small amount in a cup, pour boiling water over, and let steep for 4-5 minutes. 


Garlic is used in numerous cuisines around the world and is something that almost everyone has tried at some point in their life.  In fact, there is evidence that Ancient Egyptians cultivated garlic as far back as 5,000 years ago.  When eaten regularly, it can have a dramatic impact on the cardiovascular system.  The “stinking rose” as it is sometimes referred to helps to protect blood vessels and blood cells from oxidative and inflammatory stress.  This can assist in reducing chances of atherosclerosis and heart attack.  Fresh garlic can be enjoyed in a countless number of ways to add depth of flavor.  It is the perfect addition to marinades, salad dressings, soups, and stews.


Cinnamon has a host of health benefits when eaten regularly, in large part due to a compound called cinnamaldehyde.  This compound is also responsible for giving cinnamon its distinct flavor and aroma.  Some research has shown cinnamon to have a positive impact on insulin resistance and may have an anti-diabetic effect when enjoyed consistently.  It is able to help decrease the amount of glucose that enters the bloodstream after a meal by interfering with several digestive enzymes that break down carbohydrates.  Cinnamon is easy to include in your routine and makes a delicious tea when combined with ginger.  Sprinkle some on sweet potatoes and roast in the oven for an incredible treat!


Turmeric has a distinct flavor and color and is used by a variety of different cultures in a number of different recipes.  It contains a compound called curcumin that has been proven to contain powerful anti-cancer properties.  In particular, it has been studied for its impact on cancers of the digestive tract.  In addition, it is useful in the fight against Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and inflammatory bowel disease.  Turmeric can be enjoyed in a variety of ways including salad dressings, tea, and other ethnic dishes.

Going Forward

Herbs and spices not only provide delicious flavor to our meals and snacks, but also a host of health benefits.  The inclusion of spices in cooking can also help to reduce the need for added salt or sugar.  Find your favorite herbs and spices and include them regularly!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Health Benefits of Berries

When it comes to fruit, berries may just pack the largest nutritional punch.  Not only do they come in a wide variety of delicious flavors, but they also have a enormous assortment of health benefits.  So the question is, just how many different berries are you including in your diet regularly?


Quite often, people associate oranges with vitamin C.  While oranges are a wonderful source of this vitamin, did you know that strawberries contain a higher amount per weight?  Vitamin C is critical to many of our body’s functions, including producing serotonin.  This neurotransmitter plays an important role in the health of our nervous system, digestive system, and immune system. 

Vitamin C is an antioxidant and helps to block some of the damage that is caused by free radicals in the body.  The buildup of these substances over time contributes to accelerated aging and conditions such as heart disease and cancer.  It is one of the water soluble vitamins, which means the body does not keep it stored.  Without a large amount in storage, it is important to continually supply the body with this important vitamin.


Behind strawberries, blueberries are the second most popular berry in the United States.  In terms of their nutritional benefits, they are certainly close to the top.  These tasty berries are high in vitamin K, which is best known for its important role in blood clotting. 

In addition to blood clotting, this important vitamin is also vital for bone health.  In fact, individuals that are vitamin K deficient have been shown to have a higher risk of bone fracture.  People that have higher levels of vitamin K in their bodies have greater bone density, and some studies have shown that osteoarthritis is associated with low vitamin K levels in the body.

Blueberries are easy to enjoy in a variety of ways.  They are a perfect topping for yogurt and kefir or are the perfect addition to any smoothie.  Throw some on top of a salad with balsamic vinegar and you have a real treat!


Raspberries are delicious and packed with a large amount of healthful compounds called phytonutrients.  These naturally occurring chemicals are found in plants and perform a variety of functions including protecting them from harmful UV radiation and insect attack.  In short, the same compounds that help to keep plants alive help to keep you alive and healthy as well!
Some of the phytonutrients and antioxidants in raspberries may have anti-cancer benefits.  In animal research, the compounds found in these berries have been shown to have a positive impact on cervical, breast, and prostate cancers.  In an almost science fiction-like finding, it is thought that raspberry nutrients may decrease cancer cell numbers by sending signals that tell these types of cells to begin the process of apoptosis, or programmed death.  This is exciting news in the fight against cancer.

What Are You Waiting For?

The truth is, you should be eating more berries than you probably are.  The health benefits seem almost endless, and with almost no down side, they should be a staple of your diet.  When it comes to these powerful foods, there is quite a wide variety of taste and texture to choose from.  Try as many different kinds as you can and find a favorite.  Your body and mind will thank you!

Friday, December 16, 2016

Health Benefits of Seeds

If you are looking to add some quick and easy items to your diet that pack a supercharged nutritional punch, head to the seed aisle at your local grocery store.  There are a number of healthful seeds readily available, and there are a variety of ways to enjoy them.  So which types should you be looking for and how should you include them in your diet?  Let’s find out!


In terms of nutrition, flaxseeds are one of the best types of seeds that you can include in your diet.  They are extremely high in omega-3 essential fatty acids.  These healthful fats have been shown to reduce inflammation in the body and can help to lower the risk of cancer, arthritis, and even heart disease.  Omega-3 fats are also associated with brain health, and may even help to fight against anxiety and depression.

You can purchase flaxseeds in several different forms including whole, ground, or as oil.  One important note when adding these to your diet, is that our bodies cannot digest whole flaxseeds completely.  While no harm will come to you if you are to consume them whole, your body will not be able to extract all of the nutrients.  This makes them an excellent choice to use in smoothies.  Flaxseed oil is also a great choice, and is perfect for salad dressings.

Chia Seeds 

Chia seeds have been growing in popularity over the last several years, and for good reason.  These power packed seeds are loaded with a variety of minerals including calcium, manganese, and phosphorus, which are extremely important for strong bones and teeth.  One serving of chia has close to 20% of the recommended daily intake for magnesium, which is necessary for preventing osteoporosis.

Chia seeds are also a wonderful source of protein, and like other plant foods, do not contain any cholesterol.  The combination of a high percentage of protein and fiber make these an excellent snack to help you feel full.  This can help to reduce food cravings and the desire to snack on less healthful items throughout the day.

Sesame Seeds

When most people think of calcium, sesame seeds may not be the first thing that comes to mind, but maybe they should be!  These tiny seeds are a great source of this vital nutrient, as well as many others.  For the largest calcium kick, make sure to enjoy unhulled sesame seeds.  When the hull is removed, it may also remove a large portion of the calcium.

Are you one of the many people that enjoy hummus?  If you are, you may not have even known that you have been eating sesame seeds.  Tahini, a crucial ingredient used in making hummus is actually just ground sesame.  These tasty seeds are also delicious as part or a stir-fry or anywhere you want a little extra crunch!

Pomegranate Seeds

Pomegranates may be intimidating, but they are so worth it!  The seeds that are waiting inside are not only delicious, but also packed with nutrients.  They are an excellent source of vitamin B6, vitamin C, and potassium.  Pomegranate seeds are a perfect snack by themselves or great sprinkled on top of a salad.    If you haven’t tried these before, treat yourself!

There are a variety of seeds available with a wide range of flavors and uses.  Find a way to fit more of these into your diet and start reaping the health benefits!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Foods For Brain Health

The human brain is the central command center for our nervous system.  It contains close to 90 billion nerve cells and communicates with all of the organs and muscles in the body.  Our brains are the most complicated part of our bodies and are responsible for language, learning, memory, emotions and social interactions.  It is easy for us all to agree that brain health is incredibly important, and without it we don’t have much else!

With that being said, the health of this critical organ is closely related to our lifestyle choices, environment, and the foods that we choose to eat or avoid.  This is exciting news, because it means that we can all be proactive in improving our brain health.  So just what should you include in your diet to boost your brainpower?

Omega-3 Foods

Whether you are interested in biochemistry or not, chances are that you have heard the term omega-3 used in relation to food.  This type of dietary fat has received an enormous amount of attention in recent years, and rightfully so.  Omega-3 fats have a host of benefits including lower blood pressure, lower triglycerides, and improved blood vessel function, but can also have a healthful impact on the brain.

In a recent study, researchers found that omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids may improve the function of the glymphatic system.  This system is responsible for clearing waste from the brain and this could help to reduce the chances of Alzheimer’s disease.

There are a variety of plant and animal sources of omega-3 fats.  Flaxseeds, walnuts, soybeans, and chia seeds are all great plant sources of this healthful fat.  If you are looking for animals that are high in omega-3, seafood such as salmon, sardines, and tuna are all wonderful choices.


Blueberries have been known to be hugely beneficial to our health for years, but recent research is also pointing to their ability to positively impact brain health.  These delicious berries are high in antioxidant nutrients and may help to protect nerve cells that have a high risk of oxidative damage. 

A recent study of blueberries showed individuals improve their memory as well as cognitive function and access to concepts and words.  Using an fMRI, researchers were able to see an increase in brain activity in a group that included blueberries in their diet.  Blueberries may also help memory in the short term, and can assist in a person’s ability to concentrate.  Just a small amount of these or other flavonoid containing berries can make all the difference!

Leafy Greens

Leafy green vegetables have a wide range of health benefits, but new evidence shows that these types of plants may help with brain function as well.  The vitamin K found in spinach and other greens can help you to be more mentally sharp and may help slow the process of age-associated cognitive decline.  This is great news, because it offers us a way to potentially protect our brains from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.  If you don’t like spinach, don’t worry!  Kale, collard greens, and mustard greens are high in this beneficial vitamin.

Boost Your Brain Power

There are no foods that are a cure all for brain conditions or that can singlehandedly protect the brain from damage.  The best thing that you can do to be proactive about your health is to eat a wide range of foods that contain the vitamins and minerals our bodies need to function properly.  Including foods that are high in omega-3 fats, are antioxidant rich, unprocessed, and closest to their natural state is an excellent place to start!