Friday, October 21, 2016

Fast Food Health Food

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Ever wonder why there hasn’t been a fast food restaurant that serves healthy and nutritious meals? I guess the closest thing we have to that would be Chipotle. But if you’re like most Americans, you can’t afford to spend upwards of $8 on lunch everyday. That’s why I’ve come up with a list of what I call, “fast food health food.”

All of the items that I list can be found at your local grocery store. They’re cheap, healthy, and require little to no effort to prepare.

Salad Kits

It’s not your fault that between work and your personal life, you don’t have a whole lot of time to spend on prepping salads. You have to buy all the veggies, wash them, slice them up, mix them together, and then put it all in a container to keep it fresh. This process dirties up a lot of dishes. Fortunately, the pre-packaged salad kits in your local supermarket do all the work for you. It’s cheaper than going out to eat and all you have to do is grab and go.

Frozen Organic Meals

People can talk about how unhealthy frozen food is all day. But you know what? Frozen organic meals are still a whole lot healthier than pizza, burgers, and fries (which is what people normally resort to when they’re feeling too lazy to cook). If you’re looking for some low-calorie, organic, non-GMO frozen meals, check out Amy’s.


Smoothies are a breakfast favorite of mine because of how fast they are to make. Additionally, they’re incredibly easy to consume and don’t dirty up a bunch of dishes. I use fresh bananas, frozen strawberries, and almond milk to make my smoothies. If I had to estimate how long it takes me to make, I’d say five minutes max.

Pre-Made Sandwich Wraps

Most grocery stores have a deli section that sells pre-made sandwiches and wraps. I can tell you right now that they’re a whole heck of a lot cheaper than going to Subway or Jimmy John’s. It’s nice too because you don’t have to buy all the ingredients individually. Much like the salad kits, all you have to do is grab and go.
What do you think of my idea of “fast food health food”? Do you think it’s helpful? Feel free to share any tips or tricks you have on convenient healthy eating.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Lack of Sleep May Be Responsible for Weight Gain

A close-up photo of a preschool girl eating at a table alongside her fellow classmates.
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Have you been getting your recommended 7-9 hours of sleep per night? If not, here’s a new reason to catch up on those z’s: a study published by the University of Colorado at Boulder shows that sleep deprivation can lead to weight gain.

In all fairness, the study was conducted on preschoolers (ages 3 and 4). But that doesn’t mean the results aren’t relevant to older age groups. The study revealed that sleep-deprived preschoolers ingested about 20% more calories than normal. The preschoolers also consumed 25% more sugar and 26% more carbohydrates.

The next day, the children were granted as much sleep as they wanted. Researchers found that on this “recovery day” the preschoolers’ sugar and carbohydrate consumption returned to normal. However, they still ingested 14% more calories and 23% more fat than usual.

Assistant Professor Monique LeBourgeois, lead author of the study, hopes that her latest research will provide answers to the obesity epidemic plaguing the United States.

"We found that sleep loss increased the dietary intake of preschoolers on both the day of and the day after restricted sleep," said LeBourgeois. “We think one of the beauties of this study is that parents were given no instructions regarding the kind or amount of food or beverages to provide their children."

The latest study comes at a time when the CDC estimates that more than a third of U.S. children and adults are either overweight or obese. While similar studies have been conducted in the past, this will be the first study to examine the effect that sleep has on eating habits in preschool children.

That’s not to say there aren’t issues with the study. For example, only five boys and five girls were studiedan incredibly small number to draw conclusions from. Additionally, since parents were in charge of tracking their children’s eating habits while they were at home, there’s no real way to verify the accuracy of those recordings.

With that being said, the study still reinforces the importance of sleep. Whether it’s for weight loss purposes or not, getting enough sleep is a cornerstone to good health.

Friday, October 7, 2016

New Study Illustrates the Health Effects of Hookah

A photo of a man smoking hookah.
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Researchers from New York University’s College of Global Public Health and The Departments of Pediatrics and Population Health of the New York University School of Medicine have published a study on the health effects of hookah use. The study, let by Dr. Michael Weitzman, specifically focuses on youth and young adults.  

"We believe that our research adds to the understanding of the geographic and socio-demographic factors underlying hookah use," said Dr. Weitzman.

Statistics show that nearly 20% of young adults (ages 18-24 years) currently use hookah, which is nearly equivalent to statistics on cigarette use. Dr. Weitzman and his team tracked hookah smoking across the U.S. and examined the effects of long-term usage.


The findings were astonishing. Researchers found that hookah smoking has almost doubled among American adults within a very short time period. Researchers believe the recent increase is due to the societal belief that hookah is a healthier alternative to smoking. But Dr. Weitzman and his co-authors warn that hookah is just as addictive, poses similar risks as cigarettes, and actually results in larger quantities of smoke inhaled.

Interestingly enough, researchers also found that hookah smoking is more popular among single men with a higher education and income status. On the contrary, cigarette smoking is more common among poorer people with a lower level of education.

The team hopes that the new findings will result in stricter regulations when it comes to hookah smoking. They’re also hoping that new anti-hookah campaigns will be launched, much like anti-cigarette campaigns. But more than anything, the researchers want to protect the health of children and young adults who may not know any better when it comes to the risks they’re taking.

One thing the study doesn’t cover is the second-hand smoke effect of hookah. However, Dr. Weitzman and his team stated that this is a factor they would like to look into in the future.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Latest in Cancer Treatment

A photo of a cancer pating laying in bed. She is listening to her doctor.
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Part of what makes cancer so dangerous is that many cancers (especially those that attack organs) metastasize. Metastasis is when malignant cells or diseased organisms spread to other parts of the body by traveling through the blood, lymphatic system, or membranous surfaces. Metastasis makes it difficult for the immune system to even recognize that anything is wrong. That is why it sometimes takes so long before cancer is diagnosed.
Recent research has shown that a possible reason that tumors become “invisible” to the immune system is because they develop a deficiency in a certain protein called interleukein-33, or IL-33 for short. IL-33 seems to act as a marker for the immune system, allowing it to communicate that something is wrong and then attack the problem. Losing IL-33 and becoming invisible is obviously in the cancer’s best interest, but researchers are looking for ways to combat that.
Researchers think that by reintroducing IL-33 to tumors which have begun to metastasize, they might be able to keep them on the immune system’s radar. It’s important to realize that when tumors are noticed and removed, cancer patients often suffer relapses because once a cancer has metastasized, it won’t ever produce IL-33 again. In other words, if you don’t get rid of all of the cancer within a single procedure, it could come back. But reintroducing IL-33 gives the body a chance to fight cancer on its own terms.
Finding ways to use the immune system to fight against cancer is one of the major goals of cancer research, as the body provides a wonderful resource for healing itself. Unfortunately, things like cancer can adapt a lot faster than our bodies can, but with a little help from science now and then, the immune system has a much better chance of winning these biological wars.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

9 Fraudulent Foods That May Be Ripping You Off

A photo of a business man holding a burger stuffed with money.
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The Congressional Research Service has just released a list of nine food categories with the highest reported instances of food fraud. Food fraud is when food manufacturers purposefully mislead consumers by mislabeling their products.

The most common form of this takes place when cheap ingredients are substituted for their more expensive counterparts. The consequences are horrific, and in some cases, even deadly. But consumers can protect themselves from falling victim to this scam by educating themselves about the most common food archetypes. Read on to learn more about why each one of these food categories is a target for con artists.


Certain varieties of fish can be quite expensive, leaving a huge loophole in which shady seafood companies can take advantage of unsuspecting consumers. Oceana, an ocean conservation group, conducted a study on more than 25,000 seafood samples. The group found that one in five samples were incorrectly labeled.

Olive Oil

Like fish, olive oil can be expensive. Companies looking to make a quick buck are mixing cheaper oil varieties (such as canola, seed, and peanut oils) in with actual olive oil and passing it off as premium extra virgin olive oil.

Dairy Products

Milk is one of the most tampered with products on the market, probably because it’s so easy to get away with. Milk powders, urea, and rennet are among the most popular additives found in cheeses, yogurt, and infant formulas. They are used to recreate the creamy consistency of milk, but in actuality are just cheap, unhealthy knockoffs.

Natural Sweeteners

Maple syrup falls victim to this fraudulent activity all the time. In fact, most of the syrups sold in super markets are merely high fructose corn syrup, which is just a euphemism for overly processed sugar. Honey often falls victim to this practice as well. Real raw honey should be minimally processed, and is usually a bit pricey.

Fruit Juice

That “100% juice” sitting in your fridge? Yeah, it’s more than likely watered down or infused with food dye.

Coffee and Tea

Low-end coffee is often low-end because there are leaves, twigs, and other debris mixed into it. The same goes for tea, where mysterious shrubs, weeds, and herbs are mixed in with color dyes to impersonate the real deal.  


Take special care when purchasing pepper, saffron, turmeric, star anise, paprika, and chili powder. These are among the most common spices that are filled with counterfeit ingredients and artificial flavorings.

Organic Foods

Unless a product is specifically labeled “USDA Certified Organic,” it should be approached with caution. Any company can label their product “organic” or “all-natural” without oversight from the federal government. That’s why the only way to protect against non-organic products being sold as organic products is to make sure it is USDA certified.

Clouding Agents

Clouding agents are used to visually deceive consumers. They make products like jams, juices, and soups look more visually appealing by creating a murky effect. Of particular concern is a recent trend by some manufacturers who are replacing the typical solution with the plasticizer Di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP). Studies have linked DEHP with cancer and reproductive complications.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Eat Your Way Out of a Depression

The silhouette of a man hunched over in a chair. He looks down and out.
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Many people turn to food when they’re depressed. The usual culprits include pizza, ice cream, and cookies. Unfortunately, junk food items like these can actually worsen the symptoms of depression. That’s because foods high in fat, sugar, and salt create a “crash” effect. Much like drugs, these foods provide an instant high immediately after being consumed. The salt, sugar, and fat releases dopamine in the brain, the compound responsible for human pleasure. But by the time the high wears off, these high-caloric foods cause the consumer to feel bloated, lethargic, and mentally foggy. That’s the last thing that someone who is depressed needs.

The good news is that there are plenty of healthy, mood-lifting alternatives to these junk-food cravings. The following comprises a list of nutritious substitutes that can help ease the symptoms of depression:

Sweet tooth?
Say hello to dark chocolate. Eaten in moderation (about 1.5 ounces per day), dark chocolate can provide numerous health benefits. Cocoa has a ton of antioxidants that ward off infections, fight the signs of aging, and boost energy levels. The tricky thing to watch out for is sugar content. Generally speaking, a higher cocoa percentage equates to less sugar. Consumers should aim for at least 72% cocoa in order to feel the uplifting effects of dark chocolate. 

Craving carbs?
Despite weight-loss experts touting the benefits of zero-carb diets, whole grains actually provide the body with much needed fiber, protein, vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals. These nutrients are essential in providing the energy the body needs to combat stress. However, bad carbs (such as white bread) cause insulin levels to spike. Spiked insulin levels can result in mood swings, fatigue, and irritability. If depression is taking its toll, ditch the overly processed bleached flours and instead opt for whole grains.

Can’t live without salt?
People who love salt are merely people who love flavor. There’s nothing wrong with that. But why not simultaneously enjoy flavor and health? For a sweet flavor, try some cinnamon, nutmeg, or saffron. For a spicy flavor, try cayenne, curry, cumin, or turmeric. Rosemary, basil, and thyme are also great options and taste delicious when used in soups.

In conclusion, it’s important not to feel guilty about having junk food cravings. The human body has evolved over time to crave foods high in fat, sugar, and salt because the extra calories could be stored as fat in times of starvation. However, in times of depression, just think of those extra calories being stored as extra hours of distress.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

What’s So Great About Essential Oils?

A photo of three small bottles filled with oil. The bottles are surrounded by plants and flowers.
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Essential oils? What are they? They must be important, right? 

Essential oils are not the same as vegetable oils, which are commonly used for cooking. Essential oils are incredibly concentrated non-water soluble compounds distilled from the various leaves and roots of flowers and plants. They are extremely potent due to their high concentration levels. Because of this high concentration, improper use can lead to irritation and discomfort. However, when used correctly, essential oils provide a variety of benefits depending on the plant that they are derived from.

The best way to use essential oils is through aromatherapy and topical use. The small molecules of the oil are either absorbed through the skin or more gently through the air and into the respiratory system. If applied topically, they should be diluted with a carrier oil like jojoba or almond oil. Essential oils should never be ingested.

While most people use essential oils in place of candles or air fresheners, certain essential oils have can be used for health purposes. For example, mixing peppermint oil into steamed water is a great way to clear up congestion. Peppermint oil can also be used to increase mental alertness. Meanwhile, lavender acts as a natural disinfectant. Lavender is also known for relieving migraines and aiding in relaxation. Citrus oils, on the other hand, provide an uplifting feeling when used in aromatherapy. As a topical treatment, citrus oils are astringent and antiseptic. Tea tree oil is also known for its antibacterial properties and works great when mixed with lavender or citrus as a natural cleaning product. Tea tree oil is also commonly used as a treatment for acne.

Incorporating essential oils into your lifestyle can help you cut down on the amount of chemicals you are using. This is important for two reasons: for one, it reduces your carbon footprint. For two, it limits the amount of toxic chemicals your body absorbs. However, make sure you use essential oils with caution. Improper use can result in allergic reactions. And remember: essential oils are not meant for consumption.