6 Health Buddies for Life

W.O.W. (Wonders of Walking)

Everybody is aware of the benefits of walking, but the procrastination has to be conquered. Walking not only burns calories obviously leading to weight loss, but also helps to keep cortisol levels in check – a hormone responsible for stress eating.

A walk can also relax your mind, elevate your mood, and help you have a good night’s sleep. The next time you dilly-dally about going for a walk, remember that you can burn up to 150 calories in just a half-hour of walking.

Eat at Regular Intervals

The next time you think about drastically reducing your caloric intake in an effort to lose weight, think again. Starvation is the worst kind of weight loss.

Starvation mode targets muscles for the release of energy and leads to the body conserving more calories, thus increasing fat storage. In contrast to this, eating at regular intervals (e.g. every 2-3 hours) helps to increase the metabolic rate because the body is being fed regularly. It’s like keeping the body in gear mode which helps target fat, hence aiding in weight loss.

The key is to stick to small portion sizes. This will help boost the energy levels, increase satiety, and also help to curb levels of cortisol – the stress hormone.

Snooze to Loose

Sleeping might not help to lose weight, but deprived sleep will increase your weight and the size of your waistline.

Lack of sleep affects the hunger and satiety hormones, ghrelin and leptin. When you are wide awake at night, just tossing and turning, your mind is actively thinking about the foods you have stored in your kitchen as there is an increased production of ghrelin.

Ghrelin signals your brain that it’s time to eat and the next moment you find yourself indulging in the wrong foods and larger portions thus leading to weight gain. Leptin, on the other hand, signals your brain to stop eating. But in a state of sleep deprivation, leptin levels decrease, signalling your brain to eat more food and making you crave energy-dense, high-carbohydrate foods.

Set Smart Goals

Regularly eating small meals may help you get into the habit of doing so, and make it more likely that you will stop eating and be satisfied at the end of each meal. Also, you will be less likely to think of and crave foods in between meals, especially the wrong foods.

Plan in advance for your meals and try making a schedule for timely eating. This will become a habit and send signals in case you are planning to skip. Long gaps between meals might lead to eating larger amounts of food or calorie-dense foods.

Be determined and motivated. Keep a post-it on your desk or set food and water alarms reminding you to eat on time. On the larger front keep pushing yourself to achieve your goal. Stay Positive.

Water

Water is the only beverage that contains zero calories, it really has no equal. The body requires to be nourished with water at regular intervals. Dehydration may confuse your brain between thirst and hunger and may lead to overeating. Drinking water at regular intervals helps you feel full and will stop you from consuming high-calorie beverages and snacks that may lead to weight gain.

Drinking water before, during, and after meals help to aid in digestion and absorption of nutrients. In case you don’t enjoy drinking plain water, flavoured water is a good choice. Add some mint, coriander, lemon and some chopped fruits of your choice in a bottle of water but do not add any sugar or other sweeteners. It is best to store it in the fridge, but it can be stored at room temperature too and will last for a day.

Drink at least 8-10 glasses of water per day.

Mood Enhancers

Usually, high caloric foods (especially junk and sugary beverages) are considered choices for mood-enhancing. But there are many healthy foods that research has proved to elevate mood. Spinach, walnuts, almonds, banana, curd, eggs, oats, and coconut water are some of the effective stress-busting foods.

Scientifically, each food helps decrease cortisol levels in its own way – cortisol is the main culprit for feeling stressed. Once cortisol levels are diminished, you instantly feel a whiff of relaxation. Add these foods to your meals for a happy, relaxed body.

So, build a lasting friendship with these health buddies for a fitter and a happier life.

The Benefits of Eating Only When You’re Hungry

Committing to a habit of eating only when hungry can be a tricky one. Giving up snacking can be tough, and because virtually all our social activities revolve around food it can be challenging to resist mindless snacking, even when we’re full.

To assist you on your journey, today we’re going to share just a few of the many benefits of only eating when you’re hungry. These payoffs are more than worth the challenge of adopting a new habit!

Hunger is Healthy
We often try to shy away from experiences that cause us discomfort, things like intense physical activities, extreme temperatures, or yes, hunger.

The Huffington Post explains, “[h]unger has a very negative connotation in our society. Our immediate reaction to the word is that it’s a bad thing, something to be eradicated and fixed. Of course, when we’re using the word ‘hunger’ to describe the issue of food insecurity, we are indeed describing a problem. However, when there’s plenty of food available to eat, hunger is actually a lovely part of the overall eating experience. To put it simply, food tastes better when you’re hungry.”

While it might not be a common feeling for most of us, allowing yourself to feel truly hungry before eating can serve to truly enhance your eating experience.

Hunger Can Help You Look (and Feel) Young
Nutrition consultant Mary Vance explains that the experience of being hungry may help to boost growth hormones and increase our youthful appearance.

“Human growth hormone is naturally produced in the pituitary gland and plays a vital role in cell regeneration, growth, and maintaining healthy human tissue, including that of the brain and various vital organs,” she says. “It also decreases body fat, and because it stimulates cellular regeneration, it keeps you from getting wrinkles! When you’re hungry and your stomach is empty, your body produces the hormone ghrelin to tell you it’s time to eat.”

Ghrelin can boost your growth hormones, and may also improve memory and learning function, so causing its production with a little hunger now and then can be a great thing.

Weight Loss
There’s a vast difference between only eating when you’re hungry and starving yourself so that you feel hungry all the time. The former is a healthy habit, the latter is an eating disorder.

Nonetheless, even while eating regularly, weight loss often occurs when you begin truly listening to your body and only eating when you’re actually hungry. By doing so, you’ll inevitably decrease your total calorie count and weight loss may occur as a result.

Please note, however, that this habit is about eating only when you’re hungry – not avoiding eating altogether. Temporary hunger in between meals is ok, starving yourself is not. Take care of yourself!

Get to Know Your Body Better
Psych Central explains that allowing yourself to feel hunger before eating something means that you can get to know the natural patterns of your body.

They ask, “[h]ave you had the experience of thinking you were hungry at noontime only to become absorbed in a project or in a book, and have several hours pass before you think about food again? True hunger cannot wait a few hours. It demands to be fed. You were not hungry at noon but were responding to a time of day stimulus, another reason you’ve given yourself to eat. If you distract yourself with some other activity, the urge usually passes within a few minutes. Try to differentiate between your hungers and your urges.”

Rather than mindlessly following your body’s urges and cravings, we invite you to really examine them. Sit briefly with your hunger, experience the feeling, and tune in to how your body feels.

Like all good things, this habit may take some effort initially as you adjust your eating habits and get used to running mental self-assessments of your hunger levels, but this sort of mindful eating will soon become second nature. With these benefits under your belt, the practice of only eating when you’re hungry will quickly become a healthy habit and a regular part of your life. You can do this!

How to Nourish Your Body with Mindful Eating

Eating only when you’re hungry sounds simple enough, but it can be deceptively powerful. By tuning in to your own body instead of adhering to a prescriptive set of rules set out by a diet or calorie count, not only can you lose weight and keep it off, but you can also develop a better relationship with food, and with your body.

What are the Benefits of Eating Only When Hungry?
The Washington Post explains “In the journal Current Obesity Reports, nutritionist Carolyn Dunn and colleagues from North Carolina State University performed the first review of research papers on mindful eating and weight loss. ‘All studies showed weight loss results’ with mindful eating, they reported. In addition, four of five studies over a follow-up period found continued weight loss. The expected regain occurred in only one of the five studies.

The review concluded, ‘Increased mindful eating has been shown to help participants gain awareness of their bodies, be more in tune to hunger and satiety, recognize external cues to eat, gain self-compassion, decrease food cravings, decrease problematic eating, and decrease reward-driven eating.’“

How to Eat Mindfully
Many of us have become so disconnected from our natural cues that it’s incredibly challenging to simply listen to our bodies. Runtastic suggests a few simple guidelines to make it simple to only eat when you’re hungry:

  1. Don’t wait until you’re starving to eat something. Crashing blood sugar can cause you to make poor food choices – usually grabbing foods high in fat, salt, or sugar. Pay attention to your body and eat when you’re hungry, not starving.
  2. Ignore scheduled meal times. If you’re used to eating dinner at noon and dinner at six, you may not even question whether you’re truly hungry at those times. Instead, make mealtimes flexible and eat when you feel hungry, not when the clock strikes a certain hour.
  3. Stop when you’re full. Just like eating at set times during the day, we become accustomed to finishing our portions or cleaning our plates – regardless of whether we really want to Try to pause every few minutes, take a deep breath and examine whether you are still hungry.
  4. Outsmart Emotional Eating

Food is far more than just fuel to keep us going. For many of us, it has a lot of emotional associations – we eat when we’re tired, sad, celebrating, or bored.

Geneen Roth, author of Women, Food, and God, and mindful-eating devotee says “When you no longer believe that eating will save your life when you feel exhausted or overwhelmed or lonely, you will stop. When you believe in yourself more than you believe in food, you will stop using food as if it were your only chance at not falling apart”.

In other words, when you can separate the emotional nature of eating from the physical need to nourish your body, you will have mastered mindful eating and be well on your way to physical and mental wellbeing. That’s exactly what only eating when you’re hungry can help you do.

Next up, we’ll discuss how to identify true hunger, and explain how to master the habit of eating only when you’re hungry.

Until next time!

How to Identify True Hunger

When was the last time you were hungry? I mean really hungry, not just peckish, craving a favourite meal, or mindlessly searching for something to put in your mouth. Chances are that it’s been months – or even years – since you’ve felt truly hungry.

Being able to identify what real hunger feels like, however, is an essential skill in learning to trust your body and give it what it needs. Today we’ll talk about the signs of true hunger, as well as how to gauge whether you need to eat.

To start with, SF Gate helps break down the difference between true hunger and emotional hunger:

“Emotional Hunger: Emotional hunger is in response to a feeling, either good or bad, and usually involves craving a specific food or type of food. These foods are often high in fat and sugar, and even if you are full you will sometimes keep eating until the food is gone. This type of hunger occurs suddenly, and you feel a need to eat right away. However, once you finish eating you often feel guilty or ashamed.

Real Hunger: Real hunger is brought on by a true need for food and develops gradually over time. You can wait to eat if you need to, and once you have eaten until your stomach is full you can stop eating. With real hunger, you feel a need to eat, but not necessarily any one particular food. Any food that you like that is available will satisfy your hunger, and you won’t feel guilty after you finish eating.”

The Hunger Scale
If you’ve identified that you truly are hungry and not just wanting to eat your emotions, your job isn’t quite done yet!

Next, assess how hungry you are using a hunger scale. Registered dietician Alissa Rumsey breaks hunger down into the following categories:

1 – Famished, faint, and irritable
2 – Very hungry and need food fast
3 – Hungry and ready to eat
4 – Beginning to feel signs of hunger (e.g. growling stomach)
5 – Physically full
6 – Satisfied, no longer hungry
7 – Slightly uncomfortable feeling of fullness
8 – Feeling too full, have to loosen belt
9 – Too full, have to unbutton pants
10 – Overstuffed and feeling sick

Rumsey suggests using this scale to assess hunger level and choose to eat only when you’re truly hungry. She recommends pausing before eating and asking where you currently stand on the hunger scale – “ideally, you’ll be between a 3 and a 4”.

Next, she recommends pausing about halfway through the meal and assessing again. When you get to feeling around a 6 or 7 on the scale, it’s time to stop eating. Don’t wait until you’re a 9 or a 10, feeling stuffed and uncomfortable! That’s a sure sign you’ve over-indulged.

Hungry for Change
Taking the time to stop and tune into your body like this may feel quite strange at first, but after a week or so it’ll become second nature – and it should be! We should all check in with our bodies before eating or drinking and consciously set aside time to pause, check in, and assess our needs.

We can do this type of self-assessment with everything from our emotional states to indulging in alcohol but starting the process by being able to accurately gauge your appetite level and eat only when you’re hungry is a great way to begin.

Become familiar with your true motivations for eating, get comfortable with the hunger scale, and see how this type of mindful eating could change your relationship with food  – and your body – for the better.

How to Choose a Probiotic Supplement

If incorporating probiotic-rich foods and drinks isn’t feasible for you, or you prefer the certainty that comes with a controlled dose, taking a good-quality probiotic supplement is a fantastic way to ensure you meet your goal of eating a serving of probiotics each day.

Standing in front of a shelfful of options, however, can feel a bit daunting. What strains should you be looking for? What’s the difference between 10 billion cultures and 50 billion? And how much do you really need?

Today we walk you through Probiotic Supplements 101, and help you choose one that’s best for you.

Number of Live Cultures
The number of live bacterial cultures in a supplement can vary wildly and is also one of the most important factors determining a pill’s price.

Most probiotics will list the amount of live bacterial cultures right on the supplement label, and while it may seem like overkill, Dr Vincent Pedre, bestselling author of Happy Gut, recommends that those just starting to take probiotic supplements choose one with a live bacterial culture numbering in the low billions.

“Millions sounds like a lot, but not with probiotic supplements,” he explains. “You want one that contains billions of organisms. A probiotic dose will range from 5 to 100 billion colony-forming units (CFUs), the measure used to express its potency. Start low and increase as tolerated.”

It’s not only how many cultures are present in a probiotic that determines its efficacy, however. The kinds of cultures in a supplement also matter.

Types of Live Cultures
There are a few different types of probiotic strains, and choosing a supplement which contains just one can result in a gut biome lacking diversity. Ideally, you’d want a combination several different strains.

There are many different strains of beneficial bacteria, but the most popular can be grouped into in three main types of probiotic: Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Saccharomyces boulardii.

Dr Pedre explains the characteristics of each group:

“Lactobacillus: Lactobacillus predominantly live in your small bowel (the portion of your gut that follows the stomach). Probiotics containing Lactobacillus sp. help to repopulate the small intestine with friendly organisms that aid in supporting digestion and immune function. The most beneficial are L. acidophilus, L. plantarum, and L. paracasei.

Bifidobacteria: The Bifidobacteria (Bifidus) predominantly live in your colon or large intestine. They produce the very important short-chain fatty acid butyrate, which supplies energy to your colon cells to keep them functioning optimally. But butyrate also gets absorbed by the body, regulating a variety of metabolic processes, including your sensitivity to the hormone insulin (which regulates blood sugar) and even memory formation in the brain. The most beneficial of these are B. lactis and B. longum.

Saccharomyces: Saccharomyces is a friendly yeast that can be given concomitantly with antibiotics, in order to protect the gut lining from the effects of antibiotic-induced dysbiosis leading to leaky gut syndrome. S. boulardii can also outcompete other unfriendly yeast that may be cohabitating in the gut.”

An ideal probiotic would combine strains from each of these groups and would list the number of unique strains on the label. Choose a probiotic with several different strains to ensure proper diversity.

Proper Handling
Different manufacturers recommend following different protocols when handling and storing their probiotics. Read the bottle and/or instructions carefully to make sure you’re treating your probiotics properly. Remember they’re living creatures and improper handling could result in culture die-off, meaning that the supplement could be full of lifeless bacteria which wouldn’t be able to benefit you in any way.

Some probiotics require refrigeration and most have an expiration date, so pay attention to both when choosing a probiotic.

The payoff for taking probiotics can be huge – including better heart health, improved digestion, and clearer skin. So, while it may feel overwhelming when you’re trying to figure out how to get a serving of probiotics each day, the benefits are well worth it!

Whether it’s a bowl full of kimchi or a probiotic supplement, adding friendly gut-bacteria to your daily diet goes a long way to improving your physical and mental wellbeing. Who knew that bacteria could be so good for you?

5 Great Natural Sources of Probiotics

Probiotics are credited with a host of health benefits, including improved heart health, better digestion, and even clearer skin.  And while you can get probiotics from popping a pill, there are also a handful of healthy, natural sources that can deliver a probiotic punch while also providing other vitamins and minerals to nourish your body.

Today we’ll go through five great sources of probiotics and explore how to incorporate these foods into your daily diet.

  1. Kimchi
    You’ll notice that many of the foods on this list are fermented in some way, and kimchi is no exception. This spicy dish originated in Korea and is made by fermenting chopped cabbage, radish, scallions, garlic, and ginger. Non-vegetarians can also add fish sauce or shrimp paste. All the ingredients are mixed together and left to ferment for a few days, allowing beneficial probiotic bacteria to multiply.

    This is the most labour-intensive food on this list, but the health benefits are more than worth the wait. If patience isn’t your strong suit, however, pre-made kimchi is readily available at most grocery stores and Asian markets. You can either eat kimchi on its own or mix it together with rice.

  2. Yogurt
    If strong flavours and spicy tastes aren’t your thing, yogurt might be a better bet for you. Yogurt is made by fermenting milk with lactic acid bacteria and is widely available in many different styles and flavours.

    Although yogurt is one of the best sources of beneficial probiotic bacteria, you may need to read a few labels before finding one with the benefits you’re looking for. The way some yogurts are processed and prepared can kill probiotic bacteria, so look for a tub that specifies Live Culture or Probiotic content. It’s also worthwhile to check the sugar content of flavoured yogurt. Strawberry or coconut flavours may taste better, but their sugar content can sometimes rival that of ice cream – hardly a health food.

    Adding plain yogurt to cereals, smoothies, or fresh cut fruit is one way to take advantage of the probiotic content without overdosing on added sugars.

  3. Sauerkraut
    This dish is kind of like the European take on kimchi. Sauerkraut is also made from fermented cabbage but has more of a sour/salty taste instead of the spicy flavour of kimchi. Sauerkraut is rich in probiotics but also contains fibre, and vitamins C, B, and K.

    Sauerkraut is simple to make at home but is also available in stores and can keep for a few months if stored properly. Just like yogurt, however, the benefits of sauerkraut can disappear if not processed properly, so make sure to read the label of any store-bought sauerkraut. If it has been pasteurized, all those helpful gut bacteria have been killed off. Make sure the label specifies raw or unpasteurized sauerkraut before you buy it to ensure you’re really getting a serving of probiotics.

    Many people enjoy eating sauerkraut on its own, but its salty flavour also makes it a popular topping for hot dogs and sausages.

  4. Kombucha
    This bubbly, flavourful drink is a convenient way to get a serving of probiotics while also quenching your thirst. Kombucha is brewed by steeping black or green tea with a syntrophic culture of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY). The fermentation process produces carbonation, and by using different flavours of tea and adding different fruits to the fermentation process, kombucha makers can produce a dizzying array of flavours.

    This probiotic drink does have a slightly bitter, vinegar taste, so try a few to find one you like. Choosing strong flavours like grape or mango can be good choices for those new to kombucha.

    Kombucha is packed with probiotics and antioxidants, but those who abstain from alcohol may want to skip this one. Kombucha does contain a small amount of alcohol – typically 0.5% or less.

  5. Pickles
    If you like to play it safe and avoid trying new foods, the humble pickle is a great choice to get a serving of probiotics. These sour, crunchy sandwich toppers are made by pickling cucumbers in a solution of salt and water, which creates probiotic bacteria.

    Pickles are rich in potassium and vitamin K, but they have a high sodium content, too, so if you’re on a low-salt diet they may not be the best choice for you. And take care when choosing your pickles, those in a vinegar-based brine don’t have the same probiotic advantage as those in a saltwater mixture.

Any of these five natural foods is a great choice for boosting your probiotic bacteria. Getting to try a delicious snack (or drink!) plus benefitting from a powerful dose of probiotics sounds like a win-win to us!

If none of these options appeals to you, however, or your lifestyle makes meal-planning challenging, choosing a good-quality probiotic supplement can be a great backup plan. In our next article, we’ll discuss what to look for in a probiotic supplement and explore a few options to make sure you’re consistently getting a full serving of beneficial probiotics each and every day.

Health Benefits of Green Tea

It’s easy to make drinking a few cups of green tea a comforting daily ritual, in which each step is relaxing, from steeping the tea to taking that fresh first sip. The benefits of drinking green tea, however, are far greater than a warm drink and a pleasing routine.

Green tea is one of the oldest drinks in the world, and studies show that it may also be one of the healthiest drinks in the world, too. Today we’ll explore some of the most well-established benefits of drinking green tea.

What is Green Tea?
Green tea is one of the world’s oldest drinks, originating centuries ago in China. It’s made by steeping fresh leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. Green tea has a fresh, mild flavour and its incredible healing properties have earned it a loyal following around the world.

In addition to boosting your hydration levels, green tea has been linked by rigorous scientific studies to the following benefits:

  • Contains substances that reduce free radicals, including “polyphenols that have effects like reducing inflammation and helping to fight cancer…Green tea is about 30 percent polyphenols by weight, including large amounts of a catechin called EGCG. Catechins are natural antioxidants that help prevent cell damage and provide other benefits.”
  • Has similar fat-burning and mental performance boosting properties of coffee, with less chance of jitters and sleep disturbance due to excess caffeine load.
  • Reduces cancer risk. Studies show that regularly drinking green tea reduces the risk of breast cancer in women (by about 20-30%), prostate cancer in men (by about 48%), and colorectal cancer (by 42%).
  • Improves brain health. Healthline says “…green tea contains more than just caffeine. It also has the amino acid L-theanine, which is able to cross the blood-brain barrier. L-theanine increases the activity of the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA, which has anti-anxiety effects. It also increases dopamine and the production of alpha waves in the brain. Studies show that caffeine and L-theanine can have synergistic effects. The combination of the two is particularly potent at improving brain function”
  • Improves dental health by killing harmful mouth bacteria and reduces bad breath.
  • May help you lose weight, especially around the abdominal area.
  • Lengthens your life. A study of Japanese green tea drinkers showed that those that drank the most green tea were less likely to die in the next eleven years.
  • Improves heart health. Reader’s Digest explains “Green tea contains significant amounts of flavonoids, antioxidants that protect against heart disease by slowing the breakdown of LDL cholesterol, preventing blood clots, and improving blood vessel function. The benefits of green tea also include associations with lower cholesterol and lower rates of artery blockages. People who drink a cup or two a day have a 46 percent lower risk of developing narrowed arteries. Upping that to three cups a day lowers the risk of having a heart attack by 43 percent and of dying from a heart attack by 70 percent.”

Healthy Sips
As these health benefits show, drinking two cups of green tea each day provides far more than just a different alternative to coffee or water. Drinking green tea can help boost your health, lengthen your lifespan, and strengthen your body.

 

To get the most out of this new habit, invest in a good-quality green tea, steep it for 1-3 minutes (depending on your preferred strength and taste), and drink at least two cups each day. Next, we’ll be discussing specifics about how to brew the perfect cup, and whether the time of day you drink green tea makes a difference.

 

Until then, happy sipping!

What Are Probiotics?

Most of the time, our interactions with bacteria are focused on killing or eliminating them – sanitizing our hands, scrubbing our counters, boiling baby bottles, and bleaching clothes. These practices are so commonplace that the idea of bacteria as harmful invaders to be fought and triumphed against can be hard to let go of.

Nonetheless, good bacteria do exist! In fact, our lives depend on them.

Today we’ll be talking about one kind of good bacteria in particular: probiotics. We’ll examine why we need them and explore the essential role they play in our wellbeing.
What Are Probiotics?
Mind Body Green has a very simple way to explain the concept of probiotics, “Probiotics are living organisms that protect the gut, or GI tract, and contribute to overall well-being. In fact, you have trillions of these friendly microscopic ‘bugs’ in your gut and throughout your body right now. It has been estimated that our bodies host just as many microbes as human cells.

Yup, you read that right—you are made up of at least half bacteria. Each person has a unique ecosystem of microbiota, and the diversity of strains can change over the course of a lifetime or even just a few days.”

Why Do We Need Probiotics?
Harvard Health explains that probiotics play a key role in maintaining a healthy digestive system and can wreak havoc when they become imbalanced.  “Microbes in the lower intestinal tract help us digest food, fight harmful bacteria, and regulate the immune system. But sometimes an imbalance of microbes occurs, leading to diarrhea and other health problems. When the gut becomes unbalanced with unhealthy levels of certain bacteria, probiotics can help restore the balance. They’ve been shown to secrete protective substances, which may turn on the immune system and prevent pathogens from taking hold and creating major disease.“

We often think of our gut as a sort of processing factory that works to turn food into fuel. And while this is certainly a helpful analogy, we forget that the factory isn’t automated – it’s staffed with millions of tiny workers busily breaking down food and extracting essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. Probiotic bacteria are those workers. Without enough of them, your digestion can get out of whack, causing a host of stomach problems that may just spread to the rest of the body and throw your entire system out of balance.

Given that probiotics are so vital to our health and wellbeing, it’s no surprise that many people are trying to increase the number of probiotics in their diet to give their good gut bacteria a boost. But before you reach for a pill to provide your daily serving of probiotics, consider getting these powerhouses bacteria through food, instead!

Our next article in the series will explain how to do just that. We’ll discuss what natural foods and drinks are rich in probiotics, and how to make sure you’re well on your way to balancing your gut health while also enjoying some delicious new eats.

Until next time!

Why Fibre is an Essential (and Often Overlooked) Health Hero

Let’s be real – fibre isn’t the sexiest subject. Although it’s a complex carbohydrate with many benefits to the human body, fibre is still most often associated with maintaining regular bowel movements. It’s hardly a surprise, then, that it isn’t typically a hot topic of conversation in the same way that the latest superfoods often are.

This article, however, just may change all of that. Today we’ll explain why fibre is far more important to our health and wellbeing than we’ve ever realized.

What Is Fibre?
Fibre is a unique, complex carbohydrate found in plant-based foods. It plays a special role in our digestive system because it is unable to be broken down in the small intestine, which means that it remains intact all the way through to the large intestine where it delivers most of its benefits.

This unique property means that fibre has earned its reputation for easing digestion and preventing constipation – The British Nutrition Foundation (BNF) explains “fibre bulks up stools, makes stools softer and easier to pass and makes waste move through the digestive tract more quickly” – but it also has some incredible properties that are just being discovered.

Probiotic Power
Fibre’s ability to bypass the small intestine and head straight for the colon also imbues it with beneficial probiotic properties, which are extremely helpful in boosting beneficial gut bacteria. Some studies even indicate that fibre may be more crucial to supporting healthy gut flora than probiotics themselves.

The BNF explains, “Research has increasingly shown how important the bacteria in our gut may be to our health, and it has been suggested that a fibre rich diet can help increase the good bacteria in the gut.  Some fibre types provide a food source for ‘friendly’ gut bacteria helping them to increase and produce substances which are thought to be protective such as short-chain fatty acids.”

Scientific American also shares some proven research about how fibre affects the gut – and says that while probiotics get more attention, fibre may be the unsung hero when it comes to gut health. “Fiber has long been linked to better health, but new research shows how the gut microbiota might play a role in this pattern. One investigation discovered that adding more fiber to the diet can trigger a shift from a microbial profile linked to obesity to one correlated with a leaner physique. Another recent study shows that when microbes are starved of fiber, they can start to feed on the protective mucus lining of the gut, possibly triggering inflammation and disease.”

Healthy gut bacteria is crucial to maintaining a healthy mind and healthy body, so when you eat enough good-quality fibre you’re not only making your trips to the bathroom a little more pleasant, you’re also doing your gut health a huge favour, too.

Fabulous Fibre
To take advantage of these health benefits, nutritional recommendations suggest that the average adult make sure to eat 30g of fibre each day. In our next article, we’ll explore sources of fibre-rich foods, and how to tell if you’re getting enough.

How Does Calcium Deficiency Impact You?

Balance is absolutely essential to wellbeing. Too much or too little of anything – whether it’s body fat or stress levels – can throw your wellbeing off-kilter and wreak havoc with your system. Luckily, your body constantly strives to maintain this balance, so all you have to do is help out by supplying the necessary ingredients – your body does the rest!

In order to properly support your physical and mental wellbeing, you must be diligent about getting proper levels of macronutrients (such as protein, fat, and carbohydrates) and macro-nutrients (such as calcium) from your diet. If you don’t, your body suffers, and the effects can be life-threatening.

Today we’re going to examine how calcium deficiency affects your mind and your body.

Short Term
There aren’t any immediate effects of short-term calcium deficiency, but that’s not quite the good news it sounds like. Short-term effects can be damaging but they’re also tough to spot because your body makes up for the missing calcium in your diet by leeching it directly from your bones, weakening your skeletal system and putting you at greater risk of fractures, breaks, and osteoporosis.

If your diet is consistently running a calcium deficit, you can coast along in the short-term without noticing much of a difference but eventually, you’ll experience the effects of long-term calcium deficiency, which are severe and far-ranging.

Long Term
Healthline shares some of the severe long-term effects of low calcium, including:

  • Confusion or memory loss
  • Muscle spasms
  • Numbness and tingling in the hands, feet, and face
  • Hallucinations
  • Muscle cramps
  • Weak and brittle nails
  • Easy fracturing of the bones

University Health News adds that those with chronically low calcium levels may also experience the following symptoms:

  • Fainting
  • Heart failure
  • Chest pains
  • Wheezing
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Voice changes due to spasm of the larynx
  • Irritability, impaired intellectual capacity, depression, anxiety, and personality changes
  • Fatigue
  • Seizures
  • Coarse hair
  • Psoriasis
  • Dry skin
  • Chronic itching
  • Tooth decay
  • Cataracts
  • Osteoporosis symptoms (backache; a gradual loss of height and an accompanying stooped posture; fractures of the spine, wrist, or hip)

Diagnosis and Prevention
Given the fact that it’s the most abundant mineral in the body, it’s no surprise that not getting enough calcium can cause such intense and varied effects in the mind and the body. The invisible nature of calcium deficiency, however, means it’s extra important to stay on top of your intake. If you aren’t getting enough calcium you won’t notice the effects for months – sometimes years- making symptoms easy to ignore and tough to track down to their root cause.

The best way to support your body is to do exactly what you’re doing right now: Educating yourself about this essential mineral and familiarizing yourself with the recommended daily intake, and making a habit of incorporating calcium-rich foods into your diet.

If you’ve chosen this habit because your diet is quite light on calcium-rich foods, consider asking your doctor for a blood test to check your calcium levels. He or she can let you know whether you’re already low in calcium and whether you may need to take a calcium supplement either short-term or long-term, to boost your levels.

Above all else, eating a diet rich in whole foods, fresh fruits and vegetables and varied protein sources will ensure you can meet the daily requirements for calcium, ensuring a strong, healthy body for years to come.