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Sunday, June 28, 2015

5 things you should know about cooking oils

Is it time for an oil change in your kitchen? When it comes to cooking, not just any ol' oil will do. Oil has the potential of being healthy or harmful depending on how you use it. The best advice we can give you is to keep a variety of different oils in your pantry for different uses. Why? Read on to find out. Here are five important facts to remember about oils:

1. Know what "smoke point" is and know it well. Heat changes the chemical state of matter and oil is no exception. Different oils handle heat differently. The "smoke point" is, well, the point at which oil begins to smoke. At this temperature, the oil begins to a) break down and release toxic fumes, b) impart a bitter off-taste due to the formation of a toxicant known as acrolein and c) lose its antioxidants and nutrients. When your oil starts sending out smoke signals, it's time to discard it.

When cooking with heat (i.e. stir-frying), stick to plant-based oils that have high smoke points (above 400 degrees), such as sesame oil. The higher the smoke point, the less likely you are to reach the point where the oil starts to oxidize rapidly. If an oil has a low smoke point, stick to using it for dressings, dips, and the like. Oils with low smoke points include walnut or extra virgin olive oil.

Pay attention to your cooking technique and make sure to have all your ingredients ready before heating your oil on a pan. This way your oil is less likely to reach its smoke point.

High smoke-point oils: almond, avocado, hazelnut, palm

Medium smoke-point oils: grapeseed, macadamia nut, extra virgin olive, peanut, hemp, sesame, walnut, coconut

Low smoke-point oils (not to be used with heat): flaxseed, wheat germ oil

2. Avoid highly processed oils and consider the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio: Sesame and walnut oil are good oils to use. However, because of the high omega-6 to omega-3 ratio, use them moderately. Vegetable oils such as canola, corn, safflower, cottonseed or soybean oil may be cheaper but they come with a price. They are highly processed, too high in inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids (over 50% omega-6), and too low in omega-3. The high omega-6 content makes it difficult to achieve the ideal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats. This creates an imbalance of pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory fatty acids. Such an imbalance is linked to chronic inflammation, hypertension, digestion problems, poor immunity, and cancer.

3. Cook with coconut oil. Coconut oil is rich in stable, plant-based saturated fats, thus making it less likely to smoke at higher temperatures. It brings a subtle, tropical flavor to your dish. It also contains lauric acid, a fatty acid with antimicrobial and antifungal properties.

4. EVOO: Why pay extra for extra virgin? Technically, all oils are processed to some extent. However, virgin oil is less refined and processed. A less processed extra virgin olive oil will retain more nutrients and antioxidants, like squalene. Squalene is an antioxidant that helps inhibit cholesterol synthesis and can quench free radicals. Olive oil, which is high in oleic acid, is safe for moderate cooking temperatures because of its stable monounsaturated fat content.

5. Oil storage 101: To retain the nutrients and quality of your oil, store in a cool, dark place away from heat and light. High-temperature storage conditions cause gradual changes in oil composition, leading to rancidity. This process transforms aromas to odors. Light exposure will lead to antioxidant and nutrient loss.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Why Whey Protein Isolate?

Why Whey?

How do muscles grow? Exercise, of course. Are you reaping all the rewards you can from your exercise, though?

True, exercise (especially resistance exercise) has a great influence on muscle growth. The timing and quality of the protein you feed your body can make muscle growth more effective.

Exercise tears muscle fibers. As they rebuild, a high quality protein (with a high quality amino acid profile) can help increase size and strength. Whey protein is effective in repairing and rebuilding the injured muscle. It quickly delivers amino acids to muscle tissue after an intense bout of exercise.

The critical period of time when whey protein needs to be readily available is hours after an exercise session (known as the recovery period). One recent study in the Journal of Physiology found that whey protein is important not only immediately after a workout, but also every 3 hours during the muscle recovery period.This study shows that distributing your whey protein intake can help maintain peak muscle mass.

Exercise is the Whey to Go

We always praise exercise and for good reason. It burns calories, melts away fat, builds muscle, and the list goes on. However, for all these things to happen, our body needs to supply the energy we need to exercise. It is during those bouts of energetic exercise that our body produces oxidants. Surprising, right? Even something as healthy as exercise can produce those radical, unstable little oxidants we all try so hard to reduce.

Thankfully, our body has an exquisite antioxidant defense mechanism to quickly rid of those damaging oxidants after a bout of exercise. Intense exercise, though, can deplete our levels of one of the most important antioxidants we've got: glutathione. Where does whey come in?

It turns out whey protein has antioxidant and anti-fatigue properties. The journal Alternative Medicine Review touts whey for its numerous properties, including its ability to convert the amino acid cysteine to the potent glutathione. One study found that, compared to subjects who didn't supply their resistance exercise with whey protein isolate, subjects who did showed higher levels of glutathione. A study published in the Journal of Dairy Science found that whey protein can act as an alternative source of antioxidants for prevention of athletic injuries caused by oxidants.

When our cells are armed with a good supply of antioxidants, especially the important glutathione, science shows our risk of cellular injury from oxidants drops. Phew! As a plus, it can improve performance and delay muscle fatigue.

Many studies on whey protein isolate involve healthy subjects. What about those who are obese and overweight? A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition demonstrated that whey protein supplementation improved insulin levels and decreased levels of triglycerides in the blood. Whey protein also has been proven to decrease blood pressure and improve cardiovascular health, especially by increasing levels of the good ol' HDL cholesterol.

ProEnergy: How does it Whey In?

Why is ProEnergy ideal for a post-workout meal (or for breakfast, a snack, or anytime of day for that matter)? Let's start with taste. Many powders may boast of their great taste. In reality, most of these products get their "taste" from artificial sweeteners. ProEnergy vanilla, strawberry, and chocolate powders have zero taste coming from artificial sweeteners. They are made with a natural sweetener, stevia leaf extract.

Easy and effective? Yes, it's easy on you and your muscles. Just mix the powder with liquid and you're all set. The whey protein isolate content is pharmaceutical-grade. It has even been used by physicians to improve immunity and muscle mass for patients with cancer.

Where does the protein come from? That is a crucial question. ProEnergy whey protein isolate gets its protein from grass pasture fed cows that have not been treated with any hormones or antibiotics. It doesn't get better than "no pesticides". The nutrient content and amino acid profile of whey from grass-fed cows are far superior to that of grain-fed cows.

As opposed to many heat-processed whey products that are acidic and low in nutrients, ProEnergy whey is cold processed, thus retaining its delicate nutrient profile.

Br J Nutr. 2010 Sep;104(5):716-23
J Physiol. Jun 15, 2013; 591(Pt 12): 2969–2970.
J Physiol. May 1, 2013; 591(Pt 9): 2319–2331.
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J Nutr. 2011 Apr 1;141(4):582-7
J Am Coll Nutr. 2014;33(2):163-75
J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2010 Sep 22;7:30
J Dairy Sci. 2011 Aug;94(8):3739-46.
J Sci Food Agric. 2014 Jan 15;94(1):126-30

Friday, March 13, 2015

Benefits of Sleep

Are Your Zzzzzzz's Missing?

When was the last time you had a good night's sleep? You know, the one where you wake up the next morning feeling fresh and energized without the need of a shot of espresso. We all need it. Without a good night's sleep, we battle with daytime sleepiness that gets in the way of our productivity! We know all too well those sluggish days filled with random acts of clumsiness, crankiness, or mindless mistakes. You can't concentrate, remember, or work on things the way you'd like.

Let's face it, most adults are sleeping less and less. A survey by the Better Sleep Council shows that 48% of Americans report being sleep-deprived. Aside from the emotional and mental strain sleep deprivation has on people, what can be said of its affect on our physical health?

Better Sleep, Better Health

Sleep Loss: A Heartbreaker

Poor sleep increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. Researchers are beginning to observe a link between hypertension and poor sleep quality. In fact, shift work has become a risk factor for hypertension due to its disruption of normal sleep patterns.

Don't Stress, Sleep!

Poor sleep also triggers the release of stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol, which increases cardiovascular disease risk. High levels of cortisol can break down collagen and age skin quicker.

While stress hormones are on the rise, sleep loss leads to a drop in human growth hormone. This hormone is involved in building muscle mass, strengthening bones, and keeping skin healthy.

Sleep Loss: Another Epidemic

Diabetes and obesity are on the rise. So is sleep loss, though. It turns out better sleep means less weight struggles. Research shows that sleep is strongly linked to weight control and a lower risk of metabolic disorders. Sleep is regulated by circadian rhythms that, when disrupted, can lead to unwanted metabolic and hormonal changes (especially glucose metabolism and insulin levels) that increase risk of diabetes. It also makes it difficult to keep your blood sugar stable throughout the day.

Why is it that sleep loss makes people more prone to obesity? It increases hunger and appetite. Normally, two hormones - ghrelin and leptin - keep our hunger and satiety signals in check. When we don't sleep like we should, ghrelin and leptin levels are out of whack. This means more of the hunger hormone (ghrelin) and less of the "full" hormone (leptin).

Unfortunately, it's not veggies you'll be craving. Research patterns show cravings are mainly for high-fat, high-carb, and high-calorie foods.

One study compared eating habits and sleep habits of normal-weight and obese women. In general, obese women were awake more than normal-weight women, their sleep quality was poorer, they spent more time eating during the day, and displayed higher blood pressure than normal-weight women

Sleep Wisdom From EnergyFirst

Make an oath of honesty and ask yourself the following questions: What's interfering with my sleep? Are my meals before bedtime too large? Is there too much city noise or light bothering me? Are my electronics distracting me? Am I allowing nicotine or alcohol to disrupt my sleeping patterns? Am I exercising too close to bedtime? (The National Sleep Foundation encourages a window of three hours between exercise and bedtime.) Do I have the habit of consuming too much caffeine too close to bedtime?

The Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine urges clients to have at least 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night as part of a healthy lifestyle.

EnergyFirst's natural Sleep Aid is a natural cure for sleep deprivation. This blend of herbal sleep remedies can help you fall and stay asleep to meet your recommended sleep needs.

Also, fight daytime sleepiness easily with an energizing shake that takes into consideration the mind-body connection. EnergyFirst ProEnergy whey protein shakes help stabilize blood sugar levels that may, otherwise, be disrupted. Stable blood sugar means better concentration, a better mood, and better focus all day long.

Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2012 Feb 5;349(1):91-104. doi: 10.1016/j.mce.2011.09.003. Epub 2011 Sep 10.
Curr Hypertens Rep. 2014 Oct;16(10):483.
Appetite. 2012 Aug;59(1):9-16. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2012.03.015. Epub 2012 Mar 23.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Friendship and Health

Stay Active for Better Health

No, not physically active (although that's extremely important, too). We're talking about staying socially active to stay healthy. That's right, your ties with friends, parents, siblings, co-workers, former schoolmates, or even neighbors are just as important as, well, your choice in breakfast and your exercise routine.

A recent review of 148 studies done at Brigham Young University found that people with stronger social relationships had a 50% lower risk of dying than those with weaker relationships.

Researchers labeled "social relationships" a new health risk factor. In fact, according to the study, the harm of weak relationships is comparable to smoking 15 cigarettes per day or being an alcoholic. Social ties can be more harmful than being obese or not exercising.

Health - "That's What Friends Are For"

We humans are naturally social. Unfortunately, the quality and quantity of authentic relationships are dying down. The study, published in Plos Medicine, found that the number of Americans who report being lonely has increased three-fold in just two decades.

That statistic is alarming considering the exponential growth in online communities and social networks. However, it begs the questions: how healthy are our relationships? Are our friends a relief or a source of stress? Within the online community, our friends may be our "followers". However, are all our "followers" our friends?

We take smoking, exercise, diet, alcohol consumption, family history, and similar risk factors seriously. This study offers compelling evidence that it's time to take social relationships seriously, too. Cultivating meaningful relationships can exert a positive and protective effect on our psychological and physical health.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

How to Like Exercise

It's hard to like exercise, let alone love it. Let's face it: gulping down a supplement is far simpler. As important and effective as supplements may be when it comes to helping prevent chronic disease, exercise wins by a landslide. You may be fully aware of all the health benefits. What's stopping you, though?

If you're harboring negative feelings toward exercise, it's time to give exercise a second chance. Everyone has their personal experiences, struggles, and achievements when it comes to physical activity. Considering the widespread lack of exercise in our nation, there may be more struggles than achievements. Read on to find out 4 ways you can transform your struggles into victories and learn to love exercise:

1. “The secret of getting ahead is getting started." (Agatha Christie)

You need a reasonable amount of exercise for good health. Choose a few days during your week and work your way up to 5 or 6 days of exercise. Don't expect your routine to look the same next year or even next month. You may need to make a few changes until you find what works right for you. Exercise for at least 30 minutes. On certain days, work your way up to 45 minutes to an hour to burn more fat. View the time slots you've selected for exercise as an appointment with your body and health. Honor the appointments!

2. If certain exercises feel like torture, it may not be your fault. After all, the first treadmill was engineered to reform and punish prisoners. Remember, though, as boring and as unpopular as it may be, exercise is not the enemy. Once you're familiar enough with the movements for certain exercises, try to multi-task. Find something entertaining to listen to or learn. A book, an audiobook, an audio course, an album, a recorded concert, or a comedy skit.

3. Timing, timing, timing!

It's a great advantage if you can exercise first thing in the morning, especially if you're a "let's get this over with" kind of person. There are less distractions to stumble you from exercising. You'll see and feel the results much faster, including higher energy levels and better sleep. A research study published in the journal Sleep found that morning-exercisers slept better than evening exercisers.

The link between hormones involved in appetite, sleep, and exercise is much more balanced and harmonious. In fact, mornings are when insulin levels are the lowest, allowing for more fat burning. If morning exercise doesn't work with your life, remember any time is better than no time.

4. Find a buddy to exercise with or report to. They can prove to be a major source of help, acting as a human conscience that will bother you when you choose to neglect your exercise routine.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Do You Have a Happy Brain?

If you happen to be hanging out with nine of your closest friends one evening, there's a strong chance one of you is relying on an antidepressant to be there. A recent federal study found that one in ten Americans over the age of 12 are on antidepressants. This doesn't even take into account the many people who suffer from depression or depressive symptoms without treatment.

There are so many uncontrollable factors involved in depression, negative feelings, anxiety, or just a grouchy mood. The question, however, is can diet help?

A growing body of evidence says yes. Changes in diet bring about changes in our brain structure and chemistry. We wouldn't want to underestimate the power of food. It can bring about relaxing, calming, positive changes in our mood. The problem, however, is that most people turn to the wrong "comfort" food when feeling stress, unrest, or depressed.

Positively Protein

The essential nutrients found in your basic healthy foods (whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean meats, etc) are used by the brain, too.

Protein is a source of tryptophan, an amino acid that affects levels of the "happy hormone", serotonin. What do you need to make sure you're getting enough protein for your body and brain? That's a no-brainer! Make sure you inlude a source of protein with all your meals and workouts (from lean meats, nuts, legumes, or a high quality protein powder such as EnergyFirst ProEnergy Whey Protein). In fact, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found alpha-lactalbumin, a component of whey protein, to increase tryptophan and serotonin levels in the brain.

Building meals around your basic healthy foods also ensures an adequate supply of other nutrients that have been shown to improve mild to moderate forms of depression, such as selenium, magnesium, B-complex vitamins, and iron. Deficiencies in these nutrients can cause anxiety, irritability, and fatigue, the perfect conditions for a bad mood. Snack on selenium-rich brazil nuts, throw folate-rich spinach into your salads, or add the earthy flavor of pureed black beans into your classic winter soup for an excellent source of iron and magnesium.

Is your Brain on Fire?

Have you ever been in a fussy mood and had no explanation for it? While the source of your irritability could be the bill you just spotted in the mail, the argument you had with a coworker, or the traffic you dealt with on your morning commute, it also may be due to something else. It may be your brain responding to inflammation. Two breakthrough studies, published in JAMA Psychiatry and the Journal of Neuroinflammation, demonstrate a surprisingly strong link between inflammation (or its byproducts) and mood disorders or depression.

Food intolerances, gluten sensitivities, unstable blood sugar levels, lack of sleep, and untreated stress can all lead to brain inflammation.

How can you treat inflammation naturally? Reduce it with regular, effective, properly-fueled exercise. This isn't enough, though. A nutritionally unbalanced diet can also increase brain-aggravating inflammation. Therefore, your diet is crucial.

Processed foods, high amounts of saturated fats, refined carbs, caffeine, alcohol, artificial colors, preservatives, and additives fuel inflammation. These are moody foods! They disrupt the production of your "happy hormone" serotonin. The stage is set for emotional instability.

Go fishing! Fight inflammation with foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids. These are foods you won't find in a vending machine. Try to eat at least two or three oily seafood meals each week (such as salmon) and leave those angry or cranky days behind. Also, choose grass-fed meat instead of corn-fed for an extra boost of omega-3 in your diet. Unfortunately, most people do not get the required amount of omega-3 from their diet. A rich supplement, for instance OmegaEnergy Fish Oil, can cover your bases and prevent a deficiency.

It's time to fill your plates with good mood food!

Journal of Neuroinflammation 2011, 8:94
Psychother Psychosom. 2013;82(3):161-9
Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2014 Aug 4;53:23-34.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Grass-Fed and Grain-Fed - Does it Matter?

You may find it of interest that up until the 1940's, most cattle was "grass-finished" or grassfed. The 1950's brought a revolution in the way beef was being produced. Because of an emphasis on production efficiency, cattle started to be fed a diet of grains. Why? Was it an effort to improve health or nutrition quality? Not at all. The purpose was production efficiency. Grain feeding introduced MORE fat in LESS time.

Numerous studies have compared the nutritional quality of beef from grass-fed versus grain-fed cattle. What does the research have to say? The Journal of Animal Science found that beef from grass-fed cattle has higher concentrations of antioxidants. For example,

• concentrations of alpha-tocopherol, one of the eight forms of vitamin E, nearly triples. This high natural vitamin E content not only extends the shelf life of grassfed beef, but it also imparts numerous health benefits. Vitamin E is strengthens the immune system and can help prevent heart disease.

• concentrations of beta-carotene, a potent form of vitamin A, increases 10 times. (Beta-carotene is a strong red-orange pigment, which explains why the visible fat in grassfed beef tends to be more yellow than grainfed beef.) This form of vitamin A is crucial for protecting the surface of eyes and the lining of the respiratory, urinary, and intestinal tract. Beta-carotene also boosts the immune system by helping produce white blood cells.

• The journal Meat Science also reported a high glutathione content in grassfed beef. This DNA-protecting and cancer-fighting antioxidant is abundant in lush green grass. Thus, grassfed beef is significantly higher in glutathione.

What other goodies can we find in grassfed beef? Conjugated linolenic acid, a form of linoleic acid that accumulates in the fat and muscle tissue of animals. CLA can be produced by the activity of bacteria normally found in the digestive system of cattle. Grains, however, decrease the pH of the digestive system and this lowers bacterial activity.

On the other hand, grass maintains a favorable environment that encourages the activity of the bacteria (a process known as microbial biohydrogenation). As a result, grassfed beef produces 2-3 times more CLA than cattle confined to a grain-filled diet.

What does this mean for your health? CLA reduces atherosclerosis risk and several published studies show that it can inhibit tumor growth, thus playing a powerful role in preventing cancer. A growing body of research in both animal and human studies shows that CLA reduces body fat accumulation.

Let's Talk About Fat

It's a fact that grass feeding cattle generates a leaner product than grain feeding. The difference is usually a 2-4 gram difference in total fat per 100 grams of meat. Why the difference? When cattle are fed high-energy grains, they have a higher fat content because they build less muscle (due to restricted movement in confined feedlots), are fed more glucose, and thus synthesize more fat. This makes grainfed beef higher in calorie content per gram of meat.

How does this translate in terms of saturated fat? Since grassfed beef has less total fat, it also contains up to 1.4 grams less total saturated fat per 100 grams of meat. Of this fat, most of it is "neutral". Most of the saturated fat in grassfed beef is stearic acid, a type of saturated fat considered "neutral" because it has a "neutral" effect on blood cholesterol levels, neither raising nor lowering "bad" LDL cholesterol.

Can the same be said of grainfed cattle? Unfortunately, a review published in the Nutrition Journal found that most of the saturated fats found in grainfed beef are myristic and palmitic acid. These saturated fatty acids are considered to be more detrimental to cholesterol levels.

The bottom line? Grassfed beef has a healthier saturated fatty acid profile.

The Essentials

We all know how important getting our omega-3's are. Omega 6 fatty acids are essential, too. What slips through the cracks, however, is how important it is that we get the right ratio of omega-6 to omega-3's. An excess from one family interferes with the metabolism of the other. Without the proper metabolism of both families, we can't absorb and benefit from either.

Several studies, including one published in the International Journal of Neuroscience and another published in the Journal of Animal Science, found that both the omega-3 content and the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 in grassfed beef is favorable.

What happens in grainfed cattle? Researchers found an interesting pattern: as grain is introduced and increased in grassfed cattle, the concentration of omega-3 fatty acids decreases.

From Farm to Table

If the nutritional characteristics are so different, it's no surprise that the aroma, flavor, and look of the meat will, too. Does taste get compromised? Hardly! Most studies testing sensory qualities of the two sources found the juiciness to be same (just less greasy!). As a plus, grassfed beef has lower cooking times because of its lower fat content.

Meat is meat? Not quite!

Research is in! Not all meat is created (or fed) equal. Cattle diet can make a drastic difference. Grassfed beef is loaded with more nutrients and antioxidants. So, ask: Where does my food come from?

Nutrition Journal 2010, 9:10

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Health Benefits of Laughter

Is laughter really the best medicine?. The simple act of laughing can be refreshing as you stretch numerous face and body muscles and oxygenate more tissues by breathing faster. Even more fascinating is the fact that a strong immune system, a healthy heart, and a stress-free body all lie in the power of a good joke. Researchers are finding more and more evidence of the health benefits of laughter, including better memory.

More Laughing, Less Stressing

It may be worth the effort to remember the punchline of your favorite jokes. Stress can damage the brain's neurons, leaving it more vulnerable to mental illnesses and memory loss. A research team at Loma Linda University found that laughter caused by a simple, funny video reduced the amount of brain damage caused by cortisol, a stress hormone. The research subjects who viewed the funny video did better on a memory test than the subjects who did not. In addition to reducing cortisol, laughter can increase the amount of antibodies that fight common infections, including the common cold, thereby boosting the immune system in numerous ways.

A Happy Heart is a Healthy Heart

Researchers at the University of Maryland showed comedies to their subjects and found that the laughter they provoked helped increase blood flow. When the same group of study subjects viewed a disturbing scene from a movie, blood vessels narrowed and blood flow was reduced. Researchers concluded that laughter can help protect the blood vessels from cardiovascular disease.

Sense Humor, Not Pain

A Swiss research study found that laughter can increase pain tolerance. The reason is because every giggle and chuckle can trigger the release of endorphins that help relieve pain and promote a sense of well-being.

Laughter proves to be a great way to reduce one of the common causes of health problems--stress--both physically and mentally. In turn, controlling stress can help you keep your blood sugar levels stable, thus preventing spikes and drops that can reap you of your energy. In the end, laughter proves to be worth the wrinkles.

McClelland D, Cheriff AD. Psychol and Health. 1997; 12:329-44.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Cook More!

Don Your Aprons!

Tell us how much time you spend in the kitchen and we'll tell you how healthy you are. No, there's no mistake there. We didn't mean the gym. We mean the kitchen!

A recent study, published in Public Health Nutrition, compared the diets of those who cook meals home frequently with those who do so infrequently. Researchers found that people who cook most meals at home consume healthier meals and fewer calories. That holds true whether they eat meals at home or at restaurants.

Why? First of all, home cooks have more control! Most foods prepared away from home typically contain more fat, salt, and sugar. The opposite also holds true. Home cooked meals are generally lower in these three ingredients. That is why the most frequent home cooks were found to consume about 200 fewer calories per day.

Home cookers also have a better sense of portion control and an awareness of what a healthy, nutrient-dense meal looks like. They also tend to eat more fruits and vegetables.

Diet Plan? Cook!

Bookstores are crawling with cookbooks. Television has plenty of food channels. Markets are around every corner. Unfortunately, home cooks are rare. Many families have given up on home-cooked meals and replaced them with takeout and other sources of meals outside the home.

Why not make it a goal to cook at least 3-4 times a week (heating up a frozen meal doesn't count as cooking). This will likely improve the quality of your diet.

One barrier to cooking is the cost. Many believe it's more expensive. Buying basics in bulk, produce in season, and fresher ingredients rather than ready-prepared convenience foods is actually economical.

Can't cook? You don't have to be a master chef! There are plenty of recipes and food guides to get you started. Start with the basics. Learn how to make a tasty vegetable soup, a healthy salad and dressing, or a simple rice or grain dish. Experiment with different herbs and spices to add extra flavor to your dishes. Take a cooking class every so often. Learn how to work with the vegetables currently in season. Parents, include your children in the cooking process. You'll teach them important skills for a healthier future.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Ear Nutrition and Hearing

Ear Nutrition: Hear All About It

In the world of nutrition, it seems some body parts are more popular than others. The first organs or body parts that come to mind when we discuss the effects healthy food (or lack thereof) include the heart, brain, bones, blood vessels, intestines, or eyes. A healthy, balanced diet does have a direct and major effect on all of these body parts. Thankfully, a growing body of evidence shows the protective effect of a healthy diet on another precious organ--the ear. It turns out hearing and nutrition go hand in hand.

Information Worth Hearing About

You may already be familiar with free radicals and the danger associated with them. These are unpaired molecules that go on a rampage throughout the body in search of another molecule to pair with. In the process of robbing molecules, they injure cells, damage their DNA, and create an environment favorable for disease to occur

Free radicals know no boundaries. They can wreak havoc even in the inner ear, the site where most hearing loss is thought to occur. Free radical damage in this portion of the ear can start the process of hearing loss known as presbycusis. The quality of our diet impacts how vulnerable our ears are to hearing loss.

Eat Well, Hear Well

The American Journal of Clincal Nutrition reports that beta-carotene, magnesium, and vitamin C protect ears from age-related hearing loss. Participants who had greater intake of these vitamins and minerals had better hearing at speaking level and higher frequencies.

The journal Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery published findings that deficiencies in vitamin B12 and folic acid impair hearing because of the harmful effect these deficiencies have on the nervous system as well as the coating over the cochlear nerve.

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition studied the effects regular, weekly consumption of fish and high intakes of omega-3 fatty acids have on hearing. A regular intake of omega-3 fatty acids can also slow down the development of hearing loss. When blood supply to the cochlea decreases because of some degree of cardiovascular disease, the structure starts to degenerate and lose its function. Researchers suggest that omega-3 fatty acids protect the ear by maintaining adequate blood supply to the cochlea.

Many diets are not only low in the nutrients that prevent hearing loss but they are also high in nutrients that can promote hearing loss. In contrast to antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, diets high in sugar can promote hearing loss. The December 2010 issue of the Journal of Nutrition reports that both a high-glycemic load diet as well as a diet high in carbohydrates overall increases the risk of hearing loss by 76%. Although the exact mechanism is not firmly established, most research studies point to the damaging effects of high blood sugar and surges of insulin. These can lead to cardiovascular disease which, in turn, disrupts normal blood flow through the fragile structures in the ear.

Certainly, protecting the ears from noise pollution and loud music has its role. However, research confirms that quality nutrition can prevent or delay the burden of age-related hearing loss. EnergyFirst supplies all these ear-protective nutrients, including our high potency Vitamin C supplement, OmegaEnergy Fish Oil supplement, and our EnergyOne Multivitamin and mineral plus ACE supplement.

J Nutr. 2010 Dec; 140(12):2207-12.
Laryngoscope. 2000 Oct;110(10 Pt 1):1736-8.
Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 Aug;92(2):416-21. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2010.29370. Epub 2010 Jun 9.

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