Author Archives: Cindy

About Cindy

- Introvert attempting social-interaction while searching for inner balance - Working on completing my first Fantasy novel (working on two actually) - Fitness/Health lover continually drawn to the dark side that is Doritos and Chocolate Chip Cookies - I'm here to connect- talk to me in comments :)

Interpreting Information

Paying attention is huge. In everything we do, if we’re not paying attention we’re missing things, hurting others (unknowingly), forgetting where our keys are, over-eating, under-eating, driving too fast, too slow, cutting people off… on and on.

When I’m paying attention, I’m getting it done.

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Ask the Expert: What Are Probiotics and Why Do You Need Them?

The short answer:
Your gut is filled with bacteria, good and bad. Good bacteria aids digestion, boosts immunity, and combats a number of gut-related illnesses. Emerging research shows it may also impact weight loss and influence mood. Bad bacteria hampers good bacteria and can make you sick in an assortment of ways, oftentimes involving repeated trips to the bathroom.

The two fight constantly.

Probiotics contain good bacteria. You’ll find them either in supplement form or through real foods like yogurt, tempeh, kimchi, miso, and kombucha. By taking them, you’re fortifying the troops. While they’re generally an excellent idea, they’re particularly important after you’ve had an infection or you’ve taken a round of antibiotics, because these things tend to wipe out the populations in your gut.

The long answer:
The therapeutic use of probiotics is an excellent example of ancient wisdom existing long before Western science could pull its head out. There are references to curdled milk in the Bible (Genesis 18:8 and Isaiah 7:15 if you’re keeping score), but the party really got started around the start of the 20th century when Nobel Prize–winning scientist Dr. Elias Metchnikoff reported that Bulgarian shepherds tended to live almost twice as long as urban Parisians where he was living. He pinned this on the formers’ intake of fermented milk, which he felt contained “good” and “anti-putrefactive” microorganisms.

It’s unclear how Metchnikoff made the connection between these two rather disparate groups, but it gave birth to the modern investigation of probiotics, so let’s not complain. For the last hundred plus years, science continues to discover more and more good things about the bugs living in our intestines.

The 100 trillion (give or take a trillion) bacteria that live in your gut can be divided into over 500 types. Many of the important ones fall into one of two genera, Lactobacillusand Bifidobacterium. Under that, there are several species, many of which have specific benefits. For example, Lactobacillus acidophilus has been shown to be especially effective in combating lactose intolerance and Montezuma’s Revenge (or “traveler’s diarrhea” if you want to be boring about it). However, unless you have a specific issue that you’re trying to address, you probably don’t need to stress about all the species.

Fun fact one: the bad bacteria you’re working to keep in check include Helicobacter pylori, Escherichia coli (E. coli), and salmonella.

Fun fact two: we’re born without bacteria in our guts, but the populating begins when we pass through the birth canal. Our first gasps of air provide yet more bacteria, as does breast milk, which is especially rich in probiotics.

It’s well-established that probiotic consumption helps with almost any intestinal issue you can think of, including constipation, lactose intolerance, GI infections, gas, diarrhea, Crohn’s disease, IBS, and IBD. It’s been shown to be effective in treating vaginal and urinary tract infections and atopic eczema. There’s also research showing probiotics may reduce the risk of colon cancer.

There are a few theories as to how this all happens. One is that good bacteria simply take up the space in the gut that the bad bacteria would take over. There’s also the fact that some good bacteria stimulate the immune system by promoting the release of various white blood cells that kill pathogens. A third idea is that many bacteria use the same fuel sources. For example, Clostridium difficile, which causes diarrhea and inflames the colon, is dependent on sugar—but so are many good bacteria. It all comes down to balance. If you have plenty of good bacteria in your gut, they’re going to dominate the monosaccharide buffet.

Look beyond GI issues, and current science on gut bacteria and probiotics gets even more amazing. A Washington University study on identical twins—one overweight and one thin—showed that they had entirely different gut microbiota, suggesting certain bacteria in your system promotes weight gain. (A separate UC Berkeley study suggests the evolutionary reason for this is that people in northern climates need more body fat, so their gut bacteria actually shifts to promote weight gain.)

But if you think popping the right probiotics will soon be the key to dropping pounds, don’t get too excited. Yet another study on mice shows that “weight loss bacteria” doesn’t seem to thrive on a high in saturated fat, low-fiber diet. However, they tend to propagate when fed a diet filled with fruits and veggies.

Researchers are also looking seriously into the gut-brain axis. In other words, those little bugs in your belly might actually have a say in your decision-making process. For instance, gut bacteria produce 95% of your serotonin, a powerful “feel-good” neurotransmitter.

And a Texas Tech University study on mice found that feeding mice the bad bacterium Campylobacter jejuni drove up their anxiety levels.

So, yes, you should consume probiotics. How many depends on your situation. Antibiotics wipe out the microbes in your gut, so a supplement is an excellent idea after a round of those. Beyond that, if you have a gut-related issue, it’s worth researching which probiotic might help and supplement thusly.

Quality probiotic supplements can be pricey though. For most people, a solid diet filled with probiotic foods should do the trick. (For the record, Shakeology contains Bacillus coagulans, an especially hearty probiotic that can survive at room temperature when many probiotics require refrigeration.)

Yogurt is also a great source. However, it’s important to read the label. The bacteria that make the flavor and texture that Western society considers yogurt can’t survive the voyage through our GI tract, so manufacturers enhance the stuff with other strains, including Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidum.

Kombucha, or fermented tea, is another great probiotic food that’s especially trendy right now. It may take a while to learn to appreciate its tangy taste, but it’s worth it. Another benefit of kombucha is that it’s incredibly simple to make.

Beyond that, there are tons of other foods out there that are technically probiotic, including tempeh, sauerkraut, pickles, miso, and various cheeses. Unfortunately, these foods are often heated or pasteurized in such a way that kills the bacteria, so check on the label to verify if the probiotics are still active. Another option is to seek out a boutique producer who deliberately maintains the bacteria in their foods. Or you might want to make them yourself. Sandor Ellix Katz’s The Art of Fermentation is an excellent resource for your bacterial DIY needs.

On a final note, remember that fruit and veggie thing a few paragraphs up? Well, it applies to all the benefits of probiotics. Gut bacteria thrives on certain foods called prebiotics, so it’s crucial to make them part of your diet. Foods especially high in prebiotics include asparagus, onion, leek, garlic, artichokes, oats, and bananas. Yacon root, which you’ll find in Shakeology, also contains prebiotics.

So make prebiotics and probiotics a cornerstone of your diet because if you’re good to all those little bugs in your gut, they’ll return the favor tenfold.

Do you have a question for our experts? Post it below and we’ll try and get to it in a future post. For fast answers to questions only our experts can answer, please post them in our Expert Advice forum here.

*Originally posted HERE, by Denis Faye, M.S.

12 Cheap Meals You Can Make on a Budget

Eating healthy does not have to be expensive.

If that’s the excuse you’ve been using to put off improving your diet, I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but it’s simply not true. Healthy food doesn’t mean $10 juices and $12 açaí bowls and so on. Healthy food doesn’t have to be elite. It also doesn’t have to be boring.

Sure, there won’t be much filet mignon on the menu, and you might opt for a 50-cent apple instead of a $5 basket of blackberries, but if you are willing to cook, there are a plethora of low-cost meals available at your fingertips. Also, meal planning can help reduce food costs. Before picking your recipes, look at store circulars before you shop and build your menu around what’s on sale that week. Shop the bulk bins for dry goods like whole grains, legumes, dried fruits, and nuts, and buy just what you need.

To test this “eating healthy doesn’t have to be expensive” theory, I compiled a list of my favorite recipes from the Beachbody Blog and calculated how much a serving of each costs using prices gathered at Ralph’s, a Southern California branch of Kroger supermarkets. Since sale items change every week, I relied instead on the normal retail price. Also, I did not include the cost of common pantry items such as olive oil, vinegar, spices, honey, and maple syrup.

What are some of your favorite inexpensive meals? Let us know in the comments or tag us on Instagram @BeachbodyLiving, and we may include them in a future blog post.
Savory Slow Cooker Beans with Rice
Cost per serving: 70¢
Beans and rice are staple foods in many cultures for a reason: they’re cheap and can easily be transformed into a variety of meals. This savory dish flavored with garlic, chiles, and tomatoes, cooks all day in a crock pot, and is ready for dinner when you get home from work. Get the recipe.

Savory Slow Cooker Beans with Rice

 

Baked Oatmeal Cups with Raisins and Walnuts
Cost per serving: 45¢
If your mornings are busy, you’ll love these baked oatmeal cups made with walnuts and sweet raisins. They freeze well, too. Get the recipe.

Baked Oatmeal Cups with Raisins and Walnuts

 

Turkey Chili
Cost per serving: $2.72
Ground turkey was the most expensive ingredient, but this chili still costs less than $3. To save even more dough, use dried beans instead of canned. Get the recipe.

Turkey Chili

 

Spinach Salad with Quinoa, Chickpeas, and Paprika Dressing
Cost per serving: $1.48
Unlike most salads which get soggy within hours after you add the dressing, this leafy green version stays fresh for days even after you add the paprika dressing. It makes for a filling lunch that’s great year-round. Get the recipe.

Spinach Salad with Quinoa, Chickpeas, and Paprika Dressing

 

Lentil Soup
Cost per serving: 45¢
My frugal grandmother always made lentil soup for our family, and no wonder. It costs just pennies per bowl, and it’s good for you. This recipe has 13 grams of protein and 179 calories per serving. Get the recipe.

Lentil Soup

 

Chicken with Quinoa, Oranges, and Walnuts
Cost per serving: $2.20
Chicken is pricey when money is tight, but in this recipe, the bulk of the volume is comprised of quinoa, fresh herbs, oranges, and walnuts. To make each serving go further scoop half-portions onto fresh spinach or other greens. Get the recipe.

Chicken with Quinoa, Oranges, and Walnuts

 

Slow Cooked Steel-Cut Oats with Apples and Cinnamon
Cost per serving: 45¢
For this breakfast oatmeal, add the ingredients to a slow cooker before you go to sleep and it’ll be ready to enjoy when you wake up. Get the recipe.

Slow Cooked Steel-Cut Oats with Apples and Cinnamon

 

Roasted Chicken and Butternut Squash Soup
Cost per serving: $1.66
Another excellent way to turn a small amount of chicken into a lot of filling meals is by using it in soup. In this recipe, we combined butternut squash, red bell peppers, and corn to create a hearty winter soup. Get the recipe.

Roasted Chicken and Butternut Squash Soup

 

Sweet Potato Skins with Chicken and Spinach
Cost per serving: $2.57
These stuffed sweet potatoes look like appetizers, but they’re actually pretty filling since they’re packed with spinach and chicken. Get the recipe.

Sweet Potato Skins with Chicken and Spinach

 

Carrot and Spiced Chickpea Salad
Cost per serving: $1.05
If you’re trying to be budget conscious, definitely consider carrot recipes. Carrots, though starchy, are an excellent source of fiber and nutrients, and in most grocery stores a couple of dollars will buy a hefty bag of them. This recipe pairs them with another thrifty favorite: protein-packed chickpeas. Get the recipe.

Carrot and Spiced Chickpea Salad

 

Hearty Chicken, Sweet Potato, and Apples
Cost per serving: $1.85
It should go without saying that by using up leftovers from other recipes, you can stretch your food budget. This recipe calls for cooked chicken and sweet potatoes, so meal plan your week so you have leftovers of each. Get the recipe.

Hearty Chicken, Sweet Potato, and Apples

 

Lentil and Feta Salad
Cost per serving: $2.23
Once you’re done chopping the fresh vegetables and herbs to compose this lentil salad, you’re left with a large enough recipe to feed you all week. Plus, it’s a good vegetarian source of protein and fiber. Get the recipe.

Lentil and Feta Salad

*original post here, by BeachBody

Is Our Food Becoming Less Nutritious?

–Reposted From NYR Natural News

It’s a sad fact that the nutritional quality of our food is declining.

nutritional food

The main reason for this is the depletion of essential minerals in our soil. Modern intensive agricultural methods have left our soil mineral poor and this, in turn, impacts the food we grows and eat.

This is not new information and yet, it seems, every time we are confronted with it we treat it as if it were.

In 1940, British chemists Robert McCance and Elsie Widdowson published the first of what would be their periodical examinations of the nutrient content of food: The Composition of Food.

When the fifth edition of this impressive tome – which has over the years become a standard reference work on the subject – was published in 1991, a British geologist-turned-nutritionist David Thomas undertook the work of comparing the values as published in the first and last editions of the book.

Evaluating fruit and veg

He examined the data for 28 raw vegetables and 44 cooked vegetables, 17 fruits and 10 types of meat, poultry and game, and his findings make frightening reading. What he found was that, amongst today’s foods:

  • Potatoes have 30% less magnesium, 35% less calcium, 45% less iron and 47% less copper
  • Carrots have 75% less magnesium, 48% less calcium, 46% less iron and 75% less copper
  • Broccoli (boiled) has 75% less calcium
  • Spinach (boiled) has 60% less iron and 96% less copper
  • Swedes have 71% less iron
  • Spring onion has 74% less calcium
  • Watercress has 93% less copper
  • All fruits contained 27% less zinc
  • Apples and oranges had 67% less iron

Among the other worrying findings was that seeding the soil with only certain minerals (sodium, phosphorus and potassium) has greatly altered the natural mineral profile of our foods. Thus, swedes now contain 110% of the phosphorus they once did. Humans who eat this nutritionally altered food cannot help but experience an alteration in the natural mineral profiles of their body tissues and bones as well.

Not just veggies – animal products too

In 2002 when the 6th edition of the Composition of foods was published it incorporated new information on meat and milk which, according to Thomas showed that:

  • Beef contained 38% less iron and 84% less copper
  • Chicken contained 15% less potassium 26% less phosphorous and 69% less iron
  • Turkey 71% less calcium and 79% less iron
  • Cheddar cheese 38% less magnesium 35% less potassium and 47% less iron and Parmesan cheese 70% less calcium and iron
  • Whole milk had 21% les magnesium and 63% less iron

A similar exercise was carried out in the US in 1999 when nutritionist Alex Jack compared nutrient values in the current US Department of Agriculture (USDA) handbook with those published in 1975. He discovered a number of mineral deficits as well as the fact that cauliflower had 40% less vitamin C than it did in 1975.

Other analyses have found the same declines in the nutrient quality of fresh fruits and vegetables. For instance, a similar study of British nutrient data from 1930 to 1980, published in the British Food Journal found that in 20 vegetables the average calcium content had declined 19%; iron 22%; and potassium 14%.

Breeding nutrients out

A major study on the topic by Donald Davis and his team of researchers from the University of Texas (UT) at Austin’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry was published in December 2004 in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition.

They studied USDA nutritional data from both 1950 and 1999 for 43 different vegetables and fruits, finding “reliable declines” in the amount of protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, riboflavin (vitamin B2) and vitamin C over the past half century.

Davis and his colleagues chalk up this declining nutritional content to the preponderance of agricultural practices designed to improve traits (size, growth rate, pest resistance) other than nutrition.

“Efforts to breed new varieties of crops that provide greater yield, pest resistance and climate adaptability have allowed crops to grow bigger and more rapidly,” they reported, “but their ability to manufacture or uptake nutrients has not kept pace with their rapid growth.”

There have likely been declines in other nutrients such as magnesium, zinc and vitamins B-6 and E, but they were not studied in 1950 and more research is needed to find out how much less we are getting of these key vitamins and minerals.

In 2011, Davis and his team again compared the nutrients in US crops from 1950 and 2009, and found notable declines in five nutrients in various fruits, including tomatoes, eggplants and squash.

Most recently the magazine New Scientist published a special report also suggesting that food is getting less nutritious, and highlighting reasons why this might be.

It points out that intensive farming methods, which were introduced in order to solve malnutrition, may have affected the vitamins and mineral contents of foods: a 43% decrease in iron and a 12% decrease in calcium in US foods in 2009, compared with 1950; and a 15% decrease in vitamin C and 38% decrease in vitamin B2 between 1950 and 1999.

Data for fruits and vegetables grown in the UK were found to have 19% less calcium and 22% less iron in the 1980s, compared with the 1930s.

So what can we do?

The New Scientist article suggests that today there is a wider range of foods available today, which could make up for deficiencies in individual foods. The way we store and process foods can also make them more or less nutritious. For instance, during processing, some foods can lose nutrients, whereas peas retain their vitamin C if frozen soon after harvesting, and tomatoes increase their lycopene (an antioxidant with potential anticancer properties) during processing.

While true it is very much tinkering at the edges of the nutrient question.

The key to healthier produce is healthier soil. Alternating fields between growing seasons to give land time to restore would be one important step. Another key is to reduce our use of pesticides.

Many classes of herbicide can alter plant metabolism and, thus, nutrient composition. For example, herbicides that inhibit photosynthesis (such as triazine or phenoyacetics) produce effects similar to growing a plant in low-light conditions. Under such conditions, the carbohydrate, alpha-tocopherol (vitamin E) and beta-carotene (a precursor of vitamin A) content of a plant is reduced, and protein, free amino acid and nitrate levels are increased.

Equally, bleaching herbicides can reduce beta-carotene levels, and sulphonylurea herbicides are known to reduce levels of branched-chain amino acids (which humans need to maintain muscle tissue).

Not a quick fix

Fruits and vegetables are still great sources of nutrients and beneficial phytochemicals which you can’t get in other foods and we certainly should not be avoiding them or simply trying to replace them with supplements.

As consumers we can choose to buy foods from producers who take care of their soils and pay attention to producing nutrient dense foods. We can, for example, buy regularly from organic farmers and/pr from local producers who shorten the food supply chain and thereby help to deliver fresh foods with more nutrients.

But we do need to recognise that nutrient declines are symptomatic of other problems within our farming and food systems. And these will only get bigger if we don’t demand that they are urgently addressed in a much broader way at government, policy and farm level.

  • 2015 was declared the International Year of Soils by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. You can read more about the importance of soil here.