Friday, June 14, 2019

AcaĆ­ Berries vs Blueberries - Which One is the Winner?

Blueberries and Acai berries are both low in calories and incredibly good for you.

I love blueberries and eat them with yogurt and oatmeal almost everyday for breakfast.

I recently had an Acai Breakfast Bowl while visiting family.  Acai bowls look like ice cream, almost taste like ice cream, and make you feel good about your breakfast choice.  An Acai bowl is basically a really thick smoothie that's been topped with oatmeal, fruit or peanut butter, and then you wolf it down with a spoon.  

The Acai  (ah-sigh-EE) berry is a grapelike fruit harvested from Acai palm trees, which are mostly grown in Brazil’s Amazon rain forest.  Acai is thought to be the most powerful superfood in the Amazon.  Health benefits include increased energy, a boosted immune system, improved metabolic function, and better hair and skin. DrAxe

Not only are Acai berries really good for you they are also delicious. The flavor can be described as a mix between raspberry and blackberry, with a hint of dark chocolate.

Fresh Acai berries are not readily available in the US, but flash-frozen berries are available and can be found in the frozen food section of your grocery store (Target, Whole Foods and Costco).

I decided to investigate the nutritional value of Acai berries compared to blueberries.  The table below gives a summary.  Blueberries have more sugar and carbohydrates, while Acai berries have more fat.

Blueberries (100 grams) Acai Berries (100 grams puree)
Fat (g)
Total Carbohydrates (g)
Fiber (g)
Sugar (g)
Protein (g)
Potassium (mg)

Both Acai berries and blueberries are rich in antioxidants. Especially, anthocyanins, which give Acai berries their deep purple color and blueberries their blue color. HealthLineWebMd

Anthocyanins reduce inflammation and promote brain health.  Anthocyanins have also been shown to enhance and improve memory, balance cholesterol levels, and support circulation.   MedicineNewsTodayGlobalHealingCenter

Acai berries and blueberries both have fatty acids which can prevent high blood pressure and high cholesterol.  HealthfullyMedicalNewsToday

Both Acai berries and blueberries are incredibly good for you.  If you love fruit like I do, you don't have to choose one or the other, eat both!

Thursday, May 2, 2019

A Description of a Good Night's Sleep: Did You Sleep Well?

A good night's sleep is incredibly important for our health. In fact, it’s just as important as eating healthy and exercising. Getting enough quality sleep can help protect mental health, physical health, quality of life, and safety. NHBLI

But what does a good night's sleep mean?

It probably means something different to each person depending on your own definition and circumstances. I was surprised to find there are specific descriptions of a good night's sleep from the Sleep Foundation, Health Line and Thrive. They are summarized below.

Description Of A Good Night's Sleep
  • You fall asleep within 15-20 minutes of lying down to sleep.
  • You regularly sleep a total of seven to nine hours in a 24-hour period.
  • While in your bed, your sleep is continuous—you don’t have long periods of lying awake when you wish to be sleeping.
  • Your partner or family members do not notice any disturbing or out of the ordinary behavior from you while you sleep, such as snoring, pauses in breathing, restlessness, or otherwise nighttime behaviors.  SleepFoundation
  • You wake up feeling refreshed, alert and energized.  HealthLine
  • Your mood is generally good, and you feel no need for a nap. Thrive
You are probably aware of the most common ways to improve the quality of your sleep:  go to bed at the same time every night, relax before sleeping, and get plenty of activity during the day. HealthLine

However, there are some sneaky foods and drinks that can prevent a good night's sleep.  For example alcohol won’t help you sleep. Even small amounts make it harder to stay asleep. NIA  Also, for some people sugar and caffeine can increase heart rate and prevent relaxing sleep. EveryDayHealth, LiveStrong  Some medications, including those for high blood pressure and asthma, can keep you up all night.  SleepFoundation If your multivitamin pill has vitamin B12 in it, take it in the morning or early afternoon rather than before bed. The nutrient offers a quick energy boost, which can keep you up.  Shape

If you are lying in bed at night and can't fall asleep try focusing on relaxing your body.  Imagine your toes are completely relaxed, then your feet, and then your ankles.  Work your way up the rest of your body, section by section. By the time you get to your head you should be be completely relaxed.  

Interesting Facts About Sleep
  • People can take cat naps with their eyes open without even knowing it. SleepEducation
  • If it takes you less than five minutes to fall asleep, it’s likely that you’re sleep deprived. TheGoodBody
  • Creative people sleep more but less well.  TheGoodBody
  • Those who fly regularly for work could be more at risk of sleep deprivation. Flying at high altitudes leads to disturbed sleep due to the lack of oxygen.  TheGoodBody
  • People who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to have bigger appetites due to the fact that their leptin levels (leptin is an appetite-regulating hormone) fall, promoting appetite increase.  SleepFoundation
  • Our dreams don’t create faces – we dream about what we’ve already seen (if only for a second). Restonic
  • The reason drinking milk before bed helps you sleep is because milk contains the sleep-inducing chemical tryptophan.  WebMD

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Nutritional Yeast For Protein Boost

I found the perfect solution to easily add protein, vitamins and minerals to my diet by sprinkling Nutritional Yeast onto my food.   Nutritional Yeast is also a great seasoning.  It adds a savory, cheesy and nutty flavor.  

Two tablespoons of nutritional yeast provides nine grams of protein! You would have to consume one ounce of beef, one large egg, or a cup of whole milk to get that same amount elsewhere. Dr.Oz 

Nutritional yeast is also a source of B vitamins, including thiamine, riboflavin, folate, B-6 and niacin. Just a half tablespoon of some brands will provide a day's worth of B vitamins, while other brands offer between 30 - 100% of B vitamins.  LiveStrong  Runningonrealfood

It also contains minerals such as zinc, selenium, manganese and molybdenum. Minerals are important for metabolism, growth and immunity. HealthLine

Nutritional yeast is dairy-free and usually gluten-free.  It is also low in fat and sodium and contains no sugar or soy.  Nutritional yeast has 4 grams of fiber per serving. Runningonrealfood

Nutritional yeast is deactivated yeast from a species of yeast known as Saccharomyces cerevisiae.

It is produced by growing the cultures on blackstrap molasses, whey or sugar beets for several days. When the yeast is ready, it is deactivated with heat and then harvested, washed, dried and packaged.   Wikipedia

Nutritional Yeast is similar to the yeast used in baking but the heating and drying process makes it inactive.  MedicalNewsToday

It is sold in the form of flakes or as a yellow powder and can be found in the bulk aisle of most natural food stores. Some larger grocery stores also carry it.  It can also be purchased on-line.

Nutritional yeast can be sprinkled on:
  • Baked or mashed potatoes 
  • Rice or pasta
  • Veggies (Zoodles)
  • Pizza
  • Spaghetti sauce
  • Soups
  • Scrambled eggs
  • Popcorn
  • Cheesy Sauce

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Hidden Salt: It Is Not Just On Your Chips

Potato chips and and other salty snacks have always gotten a bad rap for their high salt content.  However, potato chips are not the bad actors anymore.  There are many other foods that have significantly more sodium than potato chips.

Surprisingly, some foods that don’t taste salty can still be high in sodium, which is why using taste alone is not an accurate way to judge a food’s sodium content.  For example, while some foods that are high in sodium like pickles and soy sauce taste salty, there are also many foods (like cereals and breads) that contain sodium but don’t taste salty.  FDA

One cup of Kellogg's Raisin Bran cereal has 350 milligrams (mg) sodium.  One Lender's Plain Whole Grain Bagel has 490 mg sodium.  And one slice of Duncan Hines Moist Deluxe Devils Food Cake has 380 mg sodium.

The average American eats 3,400 mg sodium a day.  The American Heart Association recommends no more than 2,300 mg a day and moving toward an ideal limit of no more than 1,500 mg per day for most adults. Heart

2,300 mg of sodium is equivalent to 1 teaspoon of salt.  Cardiosmart

The human body cannot live without some sodium.  Sodium is essential for nerve and muscle function and is involved in the regulation of fluids in the body.  Sodium also plays a role in the body's control of blood pressure and volume.  Manoa

While some sodium is good, too much sodium is bad for you.  According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, diets higher in sodium are associated with an increased risk of developing high blood pressure.  FDA

Sodium attracts water which can increase the volume of blood which increases your blood pressure. High blood pressure (also known as hypertension) is a condition in which blood pressure remains elevated over time.  Hypertension makes the heart work too hard, and the high force of the blood flow can harm arteries and organs (such as the heart, kidneys, brain, and eyes). Uncontrolled high blood pressure can raise the risk of heart attacks, heart failure, stroke, kidney disease, and blindness. In addition, blood pressure generally rises as you get older, so limiting your sodium intake becomes even more important each year.  FDA

1 in 3 Americans will develop high blood pressure in their lifetime.  LiveScience

Many processed foods have a lot more sodium than potato chips.  For example frozen meals, canned soup, pasta sauce, and seasoned rice have significant amounts of sodium.  Cottage cheese and condiments such as soy sauce also have a lot of sodium.

Pizza has a lot of sodium.  For example one slice of Veggie Lover's Pizza from Pizza Hut has 760 mg sodium.

Campbell's Slow Kettle Roasted Chicken Noodle Soup has 1,420 mg sodium in one serving!  This amount is almost equal to the target daily amount.

The original Campbell's Chicken Noodle Soup has a lower amount of sodium but it is still very high at 890 mg per serving.  

Don't let "healthy" versions of processed foods fool you.  Lean Cuisine Fiesta Grilled Chicken frozen meal has 590 mg sodium in 1 serving.

Lays Potato Chips have 340 mg of sodium in 30 chips (2 servings).  See the table below for sodium comparisons to other popular foods.

Sodium (mg)
American Heart Association Limit
American Heart Association Target
Kettle Roasted Chicken Noodle Soup ( 1 serv.)
Rage Traditional Spaghetti Sauce (1 cup)
Stouffer’s Manicotti Cheese (1 serv.)
Soy Sauce (1 tablespoon)
Pizza Hut Veggie Lover’s Pizza Slice (1 slice)
Daisy Low Fat Cottage Cheese (1 cup)
Far East Garlic and Herb Rice (1 serv.)
Lean Cuisine Grilled Chicken (1 serv.)
Lays Potato Chips (30 chips)

With our current food production we have to be diligent in monitoring our sodium intake.  Look for products with less than 140 mg per serving, which is considered to be low in sodium.

If we consume fresh, whole and natural foods, sodium intake can be reduced quite easily. Avoiding added salt, soy sauce or other salty condiments will also help reduce total sodium intake.  LiveScience

Friday, March 29, 2019

Five Surprising Benefits of Deep Breathing

Breathing is something we all know how to do. It is a necessity of life that occurs without much thought.

Most of us are not using our whole respiratory system to breathe. In fact, many of us use just 33% of our total capacity. ConsciousLifeStyle Chest breathing or shallow breathing is when minimal breath is drawn into the lungs using the intercostal muscles. Wikipedia

Proper breathing goes by many names. It is called deep breathing, diaphragmatic breathing, abdominal breathing, or belly breathing. When you breathe deeply, the air coming in through your nose fully fills your lungs, and you will notice that your lower belly rises. HealthHarvard
We are all born with the ability for deep breathing. Newborn babies naturally breathe this way. When a newborn baby sleeps, he/she uses the whole body for breathing. The back, tummy and chest move together with no blockages.

We are conditioned from an early age to control our feelings and emotions, and as a result our muscles tighten and our breathing patterns become restricted. ConsciousLifeStyle

This can be fixed with practice. Focus on deep breathing once or twice a day.  Every time you breathe in, your belly should fill up like a balloon, And every time you breathe out, that balloon should deflate. RunnersWorld

Deep breathing is one of the best ways to lower stress in the body. This is because when you breathe deeply, it sends a message to your brain to calm down and relax. The brain then sends this message to your body. Increased heart rate, fast breathing, and high blood pressure, all decrease as you breathe deeply to relax. UofMHealth

Deep breathing also helps to control anxiety. When people are anxious they tend to take rapid, shallow breaths that come directly from the chest. VeryWellMind

In addition to stress relief and anxiety control there are five more surprising benefits of deep breathing. Deep breathing can provide mental clarity, better sleep, more energy, improved aerobic performance, and digestive health.

1. Mental Clarity
The brain requires a lot of oxygen to function, and increased intake of oxygen helps us to achieve clarity and feel grounded and productive. ConsciousLifeStyle

When our mental chatter is distracting us, or when we are fixated on events that have happened either in the past or are yet to come, taking a deep breath helps us re-center and brings us back to the present moment. MindBodyGreen

2. Sleep Better
Deep breathing promotes better sleep by alleviating stress and triggering relaxation response.  When stress is lowered, sleep is improved. An adult needs at least six to seven hours of sleep every night for optimum health and productivity. Skiin

3. Feel Energized
When we take deep breaths, more air is drawn into our lungs. Since the lungs help generate maximum blood flow, proper air supply to the lungs is critical. Improved oxygenation of the blood also results in an enhanced metabolism and greater energy.  With the proper oxygen supply, all your organs are revitalized, filling you with more energy and vigor each day. Skiin

4. Improved Aerobic Performance
Better breathing equals more oxygen for your muscles, and that equals more endurance. The key to preventing lung and leg 
fatigue is breathing more fully.  When you take deeper breaths, you use more air sacs in your lungs, which allows you to take in more oxygen to feed your muscles. RunnersWorld

5. Improved Digestion
Deep breathing increases blood flow in the digestive tract, which encourages intestinal action and improves overall digestion, alleviating irritable bowel syndrome and constipation. In addition, deeper breathing results in a calmer nervous system which in turn enhances optimum digestion. ConsciousLifeStyleMagazine

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Healthy Tips for Cell Phone Use

Cell phones are attached to our person and go with us everywhere.  Many of us even bring them to bed each night.

85 percent of American adults own cell phones and many are using them for much more than just calling people.  Cell phone users now treat their phone as a body appendage.   DigitalJournal

Cell phones emit low levels of radiofrequency energy (RF). Over the past 15 years, scientists have conducted hundreds of studies looking at the biological effects of the radiofrequency energy emitted by cell phones. The majority of studies published have failed to show an association between exposure to radiofrequency from a cell phone and health problems. FDA

Research so far shows that it is unlikely mobile phones could increase the risk of brain tumours or other types of cancer.  But we still need to know more about any potential long-term effects. CancerResearch

Long term effects aside, we need to make sure that our cell phones are not causing us health issues today.  Given below are five tips for healthy cell phone use.
  • No Cell Phones in the Bathroom
One of the worst places to use your phone is in the bathroom.  When toilets flush, they spread germs everywhere, which is how phones end up with fecal bacteria like E. coli.

Scientists at the University of Arizona have found that cell phones carry10 times more bacteria than most toilet seats. Time
  • Routinely Disinfect phone
Each square inch of your cell phone contains roughly 25,000 germs, making it one of the filthiest things you come in contact with on a daily basis.  That's something to think about the next time you press your face to your phone. DebGroup

Viruses that cause influenza can survive in the air as droplets for hours and live on hard surfaces like phones and keyboards for up to 24 hours. SafeSpaceCo

One of the easiest ways to clean your phone is to wipe it down with a microfiber cloth which will remove many of the germs. Time

For a deeper clean, use a mixture of 60% water and 40% rubbing alcohol.  Mix the ingredients together, and then dip a cloth in the solution before wiping it gently across your phone.  Stay away from liquid or spray cleaners, which can damage your phone. Time
  • Switch Hands While Talking on the Phone
Don't spend the whole call with your phone held to one ear.  Swap your ear at least every 10 minutes.

Bending the elbow in one position for long periods of time stretches the ulnar nerve that runs from the elbow to the ring and little finger which can cause weakness in the hands that makes it difficult to type, write or open jars. CoachNine  Cell Phone Elbow commonly occurs after prolonged cell phone use and manifests as "pins and needles" tingling, aching, burning or numbness in the ulnar forearm and hand.  MedicalNewsToday
  • Protect your eyes
Small text and bright screens can strain mobile phone users’ eyes.  Prevent digital eyestrain by taking breaks from looking at your cell phone screen.  Take a 20 second break every 20 minutes and look at something 20 feet away.

Other ways to protect your eyes is to reduce the glare by cleaning the screen, dimming the surrounding light and keeping adequate distance between eyes and screen.

As digital use increases, so do potential vision problems, including eye strain.  Symptoms of digital eye strain include eye redness or irritation, dry eyes, blurred vision, back pain, neck pain, and headaches.  SouthUniversity
  • No texting while walking
Researchers have found that over the last 10 years texting and walking has caused more than 11,100 injuries.  ReadersDigest  In 2008, more than 1,000 people were injured seriously enough to seek medical attention at the emergency room as a result of texting and walking.  Safety

The risks of texting and walking have become such a problem that some towns, such as Fort Lee, New Jersey, have banned texting while walking.  If caught texting while jaywalking in that town, violators face an $85 fine.

In London, England, some lamp posts have been padded in order to protect the large numbers of people using their mobile devices while walking. Safety  In Honolulu a Distracted Walking Law bans texting while crossing streets.  NPR

Friday, March 15, 2019

Food For Mood

We all know that exercise and healthy eating is good for your body.  However, did you know that what we eat affects how we feel? 

Researchers like Fernando Gomez-Pinilla, PhD (professor of neurosurgery and physiological science at the UCLA School of Medicine) have found convincing evidence that certain foods and nutrients may actually help pull us out of the doldrums. ClevelandClinicWellness

Examples of a good mood include positive feelings such as:  Amused, Blissful, Calm, Cheerful, Content, Dreamy, Ecstatic, Energetic, Excited, Flirty, Giddy, Good, Happy, Joyful, Loving, Mellow, Optimistic, Peaceful, and Silly. YourDictionary

Foods For Mood
  • Serotonin - Serotonin is a chemical messenger that is believed to act as a mood stabilizer.  Studies show that serotonin levels can have an effect on mood and behavior, and the chemical is commonly linked to feeling good and living longer.  Eggs, cheese, tofu, pineapple, nuts and seeds, turkey and salmon can help increase your serotonin levels.  HealthLine
  • Breakfast - Studies have shown that eating breakfast leads to improved mood, better memory, more energy throughout the day, and feelings of calmness. WebMd   If you skip your breakfast, there’s nothing you can do to boost your mental state and mood later in the day.  No food will make up for that mistake.  Your energy reserves are at their lowest when you wake up; unless you refuel, your blood sugar levels will drop, causing fatigue and irritability.  Good breakfast choices include: whole-grain cereal with low-fat milk and berries, whole-wheat toast with peanut butter and apple slices, and yogurt with fresh fruit and whole-grain granola. ClevelandClinicWellness
  • Fish - Fish doesn’t just improve mood, it helps your entire mind work better.  The omega-3 fatty acids found in fish are essential building blocks of the brain and nervous system.  They help cells communicate.  If you don’t like the taste of fish, studies have shown that supplements can work just as well. ClevelandClinicWellness
  • Fruits and Vegetables - Happiness and mental health are highest among people who eat seven portions of fruit and vegetables a day, according to research.  Scientists from the University of Warwick studied the eating habits of 80,000 people in Britain. They found mental well being appeared to rise with the number of daily portions of fruit and vegetables people consumed. The researchers reported that life satisfaction and happiness peaked at 7 to 8 servings. BrainMDHealth
  • Complex Carbs - When you’re under the gun and need a quick lift, try snacking on complex carbs, advises nutrition expert Elizabeth Somer, MA, RD, author of Food & Mood.  Carbohydrates supply the brain with quick energy, and research shows they may boost  mood and performance when you’re under stress.  Complex carbs include whole wheat bread, bananas, brown rice, white potatoes and chickpeas.  Women'sHealthMag  To maintain a balanced mood, avoid refined carbohydrates and sugar, which can cause your blood sugar levels to spike and drop, leaving you irritable and lethargic.  ClevelandClinicWellness
  • Selenium  - Selenium can decrease anxiety and improve mood.  A study which was conducted in 1991, showed that the subjects consuming the highest amounts of selenium had the highest elevation of mood and the lowest anxiety. The best source of selenium is brazil nuts. One brazil nut contains over 100% of your daily requirement of selenium!  Other foods with high levels of selenium include: tuna, cod, turkey, chicken, beef, sunflower seeds, eggs and cottage cheese. MentalHealthFood
  • Probiotics - There is a lot attention these days about probiotics, fermented foods like yogurt, kimchi and sauerkraut that help keep your gut bacteria in check.  Recent studies in both animals and humans suggest links between balanced gut bacteria and better mood, less stress and anxiety, and lower risk of depression. EatingWell
  • Avoid Eating Processed Foods - Processed foods high in saturated fats and sugar completely disrupt our mental and emotional functions, leaving you feeling depressed, exhausted, anxious, tired, unmotivated and uninspired. MedicalNews, EatThis