Big Fish Benefits-Omega-3s

We’ve all heard about the benefits of fish oil through the years: The oils present in the tissues of certain fish which contain beneficial omega-3 fatty acids (omega-3s), the “essential” fats that are said to contribute to the prevention of heart disease and stroke (1,2), lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels, and help in the treatment of kidney disease. This “brain food” is also thought to help in the treatment of depression, bipolar disease, Alzheimer’s, and ADHD. Furthermore, fish oil can be used to treat painful periods, breast pain, and studies have shown it to aid in preventing miscarriage. (3,4)

However, these benefits are still being tested. For example, in March 2017, the American Heart Association stated that fish oil may not prevent heart disease in all people as previously thought. Instead, they have modified their stance to say that fish oil may be useful in preventing heart disease-related death in people who recently suffered heart attack or in patients with heart failure. (5)

Our bodies can’t produce omega-3s themselves, so we need to obtain them from other sources. The best place to get omega-3s is straight from the foods we eat. Wild fish that are high in omega-3s include salmon, tuna, anchovies, sardines, and lake trout. Farm-raised fish can also be high in omega-3s, but can contain higher levels of contaminants, so these should be eaten less often. (3) Additionally, soybean, canola, and flaxseed oils, as well as walnuts, flaxseed, basil, dried oregano, and grape leaves all contain high levels of omega-3s. (3,6)

Fish oil supplements are a great option for people who are on vegan diets or who may not be able to afford fresh fish, which can be expensive.

For all the benefits fish oil is said to have, there can be several adverse effects at high doses, including but not limited to an increase in bleeding in patients with bleeding disorders or who are on drugs that increase the risk of bleeding. Fish oil may also affect blood sugar levels and those with hormone imbalance or who are going through hormone therapy should use with caution. Additionally, fish oil may cause bad breath, frequent urination, constipation, gas, and dizziness. (7)

The FDA generally regards omega-3s safe when we eat 1-2 servings of fish per week or supplements are taken at a recommended dosage over the course of 2-3.5 years. (7) In general, healthy adults can safely take between 250 and 3000 mg EPA and DHA (the primary beneficial omega-3s) combined per day. (8) However, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should opt for supplements rather than eating certain fish due to their high mercury levels. (3)

Here are some recipes to get your omega-3s naturally!

  1. http://www.onegreenplanet.org/vegan-recipe/basil-and-walnut-pesto-quiche/
  2. http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/oil-poached-tuna-salad
  3. http://skinnyms.com/walnut-crusted-chicken-breasts/

 

References

  1. http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-993-fish%20oil.aspx?activeingredientid=993
  2. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/omega-3-fats/
  3. http://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/omega-3-fatty-acids-fact-sheet#1
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8305926
  5. http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/early/2017/03/13/CIR.0000000000000482
  6. https://www.cardiosmart.org/News-and-Events/2017/04/Experts-Help-Clarify-Who-Should-Take-Fish-Oil-Supplements
  7. http://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/omega-3-fatty-acids-fish-oil-alpha-linolenic-acid/safety/hrb-20059372
  8. http://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-much-omega-3#section8

Fermented Foods

Fermented foods are creating a lot of positive buzz lately. It seems everyone is touting their benefits, but how can we tell if the fermented foods craze is more than just a fad?

Foods like dairy, fruit, and vegetables can be preserved by fermentation, which is the chemical process that breaks down glucose molecules when the foods are exposed to bacteria and yeasts. Beneficial microorganisms feed on the carbohydrates in the foods and reproduce and kill off harmful bacteria. The carbon dioxide gas given off during this process causes the frothing usually associated with fermentation, as in beer. (1, 2)

Some common fermented foods are:

  • Yogurt is essentially milk fermented with bacteria; the word means “tart, thick milk” in Turkish. (3) Cottage cheese, kefir, and sour cream are also fermented milk products.
  • Unpasteurized, “Raw” Sauerkraut is cabbage that has traditionally been fermented by salting and leaving in a de-oxygenated environment for several weeks. (4)
  • Kimchi is a Korean dish made primarily of fermented cabbage, but can also include radish, cucumber, lettuce, and mustard leaves. Most varieties are spicy. (5)
  • Some coffees can be fermented if processed through the “washed process”, wherein coffee beans are fermented in tanks of water. (6)
  • Chocolate and Vanilla are both fermented. To make chocolate, cocoa beans are stored together so that the pulp around the beans can be fermented. The beans can be wrapped in plantain or banana leaves, or stored in wooden boxes, for 5-7 days. (7)

Unpasteurized vinegar can be made from carbohydrate-rich foods such as grapes, apples, and rice. (9)

  • Sourdough bread is fermented with a “starter” (the base for sourdough bread created through a fermentation process in order to cultivate wild yeast from flour) for 12-15 hours, which breaks down gluten in the flour. (10, 15)
  • SOME “Pickles” are fermented, while others aren’t. As long as the foods are preserved through fermentation, rather than simply brined in vinegar. (11)

What health benefits can they provide?

Fermented foods are a great source of vitamins such as K2, which distributes calcium throughout your body, and B vitamins, which help to convert food into fuel. Additionally, the good bacteria in fermented foods help detoxify our bodies. (12, 16)

Fermented foods are also a great natural source of healthy bacteria and contain up to 100 times the probiotics as an over-the-counter probiotic supplement. Strains of good bacteria in fermented foods have been seen to destroy or inhibit the growth of bad bacteria: Lactic acid found in sourdough bread by German scientists was observed to kill microbes that are resistant to most antibiotics. (12, 13)

Too much of a good thing?

While there are many benefits to eating fermented foods, we should always look for the risks. In a 2011 study, researchers found that eating fermented soy products lead to a higher rate gastric cancer while unfermented soy contributed to a reduced rate of the same disease. (14)

People who do their own fermentation should also be aware of the threat of botulism from contaminated food. (14)

Here are a few ways to include fermented foods in your diet:

https://www.fermentedfoodlab.com/apple-cider-vinegar-and-honey-drink/

http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/kefir-oats-nuts-maple-breakfast-jar

http://www.culturesforhealth.com/learn/recipe/lacto-fermentation-recipes/lacto-fermented-kosher-dill-pickles/

Fermented Food
A set of fermented food great for gut health – cucumber pickles, coconut milk yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, red beets, apple cider vinegar

References

  1. https://www.chowhound.com/food-news/54958/that-coffees-rotten/
  2. https://www.britannica.com/science/fermentation
  3. http://www.culturesforhealth.com/learn/yogurt/what-is-yogurt-history/
  4. http://pickledplanet.com/faqs
  5. https://cultureglaze.com/what-is-kimchi-fadfa73fe5cd
  6. http://www.thekitchn.com/yes-coffee-is-a-fermented-food-208726
  7. https://www.icco.org/faq/59-fermentation-a-drying/132-how-does-the-fermentation-process-work-on-the-cocoa-bean-and-how-long-does-it-take.html
  8. https://paleoleap.com/what-about-vinegar/
  9. http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-your-own-sourdough-starter-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-47337
  10. http://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/the-crucial-difference-between-pickled-and-fermented/
  11. http://articles.mercola.com/fermented-foods.aspx
  12. https://www.drdavidwilliams.com/gut-health-and-the-benefits-of-traditional-fermented-foods
  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21070479
  14. http://www.dietnutritionadvisor.com/advantages-and-disadvantages-of-fermented-foods
  15. http://www.bonappetit.com/test-kitchen/cooking-tips/article/long-fermented-breads-for-the-gluten-sensitive-taste-great
  16. https://authoritynutrition.com/vitamin-k2/

 

Health Benefits of the Golden Spice: Turmeric

It sounds almost like something a witch in a fairy tale would instruct: Just eat this spice and it will cure all manner of ailments! Add it to your food or drink it as a tincture, rub the extract onto your skin, rinse your mouth with it, even use it in an enema — Turmeric, “the golden spice,” will cure what ails you.

Turmeric is a golden yellow spice in the ginger family and is well-known as the main flavor in curry (1). Native to southern Asia, turmeric has been used for thousands of years in cooking (2). In India, use of turmeric in Ayurvedic medicine goes back more than 4500 years, where it was thought to alleviate congestion, wounds, and even diseases like smallpox and chickenpox (3). Today, India produces nearly 90% of the world’s turmeric (4).

Curcumin (not to be confused with cumin) is the active chemical in turmeric that may decrease swelling, making it a useful treatment for conditions related to inflammation (1). Reports suggest that turmeric may aid in the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, assist in balancing blood sugar and boosting kidney function, soothe indigestion, help people with ulcerative colitis stay in remission, and lessen the severity of certain forms of arthritis (2,5). Turmeric may also be a natural liver detoxifier, reduce the effects of some forms of heart disease, help wounds to heal, lessen aches and discomfort, and kill bacteria and viruses (5,6,7). Interestingly, studies have shown that turmeric may boost some chemo medicines and may also make cancer cells more vulnerable to chemo and radiotherapy (7). Furthermore, turmeric has been shown to slow the growth and spread of cancers such as melanoma (7) and to help prevent prostate, breast, colon, stomach, and skin cancers in rats exposed to carcinogens (5,8).

Turmeric is natural and has no toxic effects on the body, so it is generally considered to be safe. However, turmeric may interfere with drugs that reduce stomach acid and may cause stomach upset and GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease) (1,5).  Turmeric may also strengthen diabetes medication, which increases the risk of low blood sugar (5). Gallbladder problems could be exacerbated by the use of turmeric, large amounts of turmeric may reduce iron absorption, and blood clotting may be slowed, so doctors recommend that patients stop use of turmeric two weeks before surgery(1). Men who take turmeric may have lowered testosterone levels and sperm count, which reduces fertility (1).

Take advantage of the health benefits of turmeric! Try some delicious and healthy recipes featuring “the golden spice” and see how it works for you.

Salmon with Cucumber-Yogurt Sauce and Carrot Salad 
Turmeric Masala Curry
Turmeric Tea

 

 

References

  1. http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-662-turmeric.aspx?activeingred ientid=662
  2. http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=78
  3. http://www.pbs.org/food/the-history-kitchen/turmeric-history/
  4. http://www.turmeric.co.in/turmeric_spice.htm
  5. http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/turmeric
  6. http://www.globalhealingcom/natural-health/8-impressive-health-benefits-turmeric/
  7. http://www.mindbodygcom/0-6873/25-Reasons-Why-Turmeric-Can-Heal-You.html
  8. https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/integrative-medicine/herbs/turmeric

Foods That Support Naturally Gorgeous, Glowing Skin

As the cycle of the seasons change, so does our skincare routine. Autumn’s dryer air, cooler temperatures, and whirling gusts of wind calls for seriously upping our moisturizing and exfoliation game. And just as what we put on our bodies affects skin health, what we put in our bodies can make a difference in our complexions as well.

That’s right: instead of getting a chemical peel or collagen injection, you may just need to stop by the farmer’s market. As you read on and find out the science-backed ways we can use food to transform our skin from the inside and out, you might want to grab a notebook and start making your grocery list now.

Skincare Culprits

In many ways, the question of if or how diet affects skin is one that has left dermatologists a little stumped. Some studies are inconclusive, calling for more research to fully understand the surprisingly complex relationship before making conclusions. However, the good news is that we aren’t left completely empty-handed, because recent studies are finding more reason to support the link than oppose it.

You may suspect that it’s chocolate that’s the offender identified in these latest studies, but don’t fear – your daily dark indulgence (for heart health of course!) is safe. Lately, it’s dairy and carbs that are drawing the negative dermatological press. [i] More specifically, researchers suspect that the hormones in dairy, especially non-fat milk, may contribute to skincare woes. (Scientists believe the lowered fat content leads to higher relative hormonal content, which is why skim milk is especially exacerbating.)

And as for carbohydrates: the high glycemic impact of certain carbs (think: white bread, instant oatmeal, pretzels, etc.) is being increasingly associated with acne flare-ups. Glycemic impact may sound familiar because of the “low GI” diet plan that has garnered some weight-loss buzz as of late. Nutritionists are quick to point out the complexity of GI ratings and the uncertainty of their role in losing weight,[ii] but the evidence linking them to acne is much more compelling.

Healthy Skin Helpers

Okay, so we can skip the skim and eschew the oats. But using nutrition to promote healthy skin is as much about what we do eat as what we don’t. For example, vitamin A plays an essential role in skin health; particularly it’s moisture balance and integrity.[iii] Additionally, nutrients such as omega- 3 and -6 fatty acids, as well as vitamins D and E are known to be integral to the activities of skin cells, including hydration, inflammation, and metabolism.

Direct evidence linking supplements to improved skin is a bit lacking, so it’s best to get these nutrients straight from the source (i.e. via the foods you eat). To get more omega-3 and -6 you can sprinkle a handful of flax, chia, and sunflower seeds on salads or sandwiches. The sunflower seeds pack a double-skincare-punch because they’re also high in vitamin E. And if you want to eat something that is basically a skincare powerhouse, salmon provides not only omega-3 and -6, but also vitamin D.

Foods That Work Beyond the Plate

Some food is so skin-friendly that in addition to eating it, you can slather it right on your skin to reap the benefits. For example, in Ayurveda (the healthcare system often called the “sister science of yoga”) using plant oils to nourish and moisturize skin is part of a regular skincare routine.[iv] Coconut oil, with its seemingly endless list of health miracles it can perform, is a popular choice for many modern adopters of this practice. So are other natural oils like hemp seed or sunflower oil – which contain skin-loving vitamins and fatty acids to help keep skin youthful and hydrated.

Honey, too, is often touted to have topical benefits for your complexion, due to its antioxidants and natural antibacterial properties.[v] Honey is also classified as a humectant – meaning it traps and locks in moisture – making it a wonderful moisturizer. And did you know that avocado isn’t just healthy and delicious on toast, but also makes a great moisturizing mask? Because of its antioxidant and skin-penetrating oil content,[vi] it promotes smooth, soft skin that may cause you to spread it on your face as much as a slice of whole grain.

The skin is the largest organ we have, protecting the whole rest of our body and weathering the elements for us. It deserves some extra TLC, so why not thank it with a little honey mask or salmon dinner every once in a while?

 

[i]https://www.aad.org/media/news-releases/growing-evidence-suggests-possible-link-between-diet-and-acne
[ii]http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/glycemic-index-diet/art-20048478
[iii] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2836431/
[iv] http://www.wellandgood.com/good-looks/ayurvedic-beauty-tips-for-great-skin/
[v] http://www.livestrong.com/article/112833-benefits-honey-skin-care/
[vi] http://www.livestrong.com/article/407893-are-avocados-good-for-your-skin/

Simple Ways to Get More Fruits & Veggies In Your Diet

Eating a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables can help prevent heart disease, type 2 diabetes, some types of cancer, and obesity – all of which top the list of leading causes of death in the US.[i] But we all know this, right? Most of us could probably have a full-length conversation about kale without batting an eye.

Yet for the most part, we don’t seem to be letting this knowledge impact our dietary habits. We may like to talk about it, but when it comes to consuming plants, we fall embarrassingly short: fewer than 1 in 10 adults eat the daily-recommended amount of vegetables and fewer than 1 in 7 adults eat the daily-recommended amount of fruit.[ii] (The new recommendations can be found in the recently published and somewhat contested[iii] Dietary Guidelines for Americans.[iv])

Look, we’re not cows: we can’t spend 8 hours a day grazing on raw greens. So let’s talk about realistic solutions to upping our produce intake. Let’s talk about ways to bridge the gap between knowing we should hypothetically eat Brussels sprouts and actually having garlicky roasted Brussels sprouts instead of French fries with dinner.

Make It Taste Good

The huge discrepancy between recommendations and reality when it comes to eating produce suggests that we aren’t going to eat anything we don’t want to, no matter what our doctors tell us. So then if we’re going to eat more plants, it has to become something we’re not forcing ourselves to do. If everything we ate tasted delicious – if we enjoyed and savored every bite we took, including fruits and vegetables – I’m venturing we’d be much more inclined to eat them.

I’m not advocating ubiquitous deep-frying, but you can roast, grill, sauté, or smother it in sriracha. Herbs and spices are truly gifts from nature that can work miracles with a plant’s natural flavors. Or add olive oil, nuts, and seeds: it’ll really liven up that salad and research shows[v] it’s time to let go of our indiscriminate fear of fats. You can play around in the kitchen, learning how to remove fruits and vegetables from the category of dreaded food, and into the realm of cravings-worthy food you want to eat.

Trick Yourself

Another way to up your own produce intake is to use a similar idea popular with parents who want their kids to eat more vegetables because ironically enough, we’re just as guilty as the kids in avoiding them. Sneak them in. This is, in a way, the opposite approach from above: instead of working with a plant’s taste and texture, you disguise it. There are all sorts of ways to do this, from making cauliflower pizza crust to zucchini pasta noodles.

There are literally countless blog, Instagram, and Pinterest posts with creative ideas on this topic. One of the easiest ways to do it, especially when you don’t feel like cooking, is to make smoothies. You don’t need a fancy blender, just fresh ingredients. Blend up a bunch of spinach with frozen banana and peanut butter, and it tastes more like ice cream than salad.

Get Creative With Your Toppings

Nine servings of fruits and vegetables every day may sound like a ton, but getting to that number can become pretty easy once you get in the habit of incorporating them into meals. It can be as easy as sprinkling berries onto your yogurt, seaweed onto your soup, or sprouts onto your sandwich.

Putting stuff on toast is an enduring and inescapable food trend, so use it as a chance to make delicious plant-powered options. Have you eaten avocado toast yet? If not, you should make this delicious concoction immediately, preferably topped with as many fresh veggies as you can balance on the bread slice.

Have Them Around

Last but perhaps most importantly – and at the risk of sounding painfully evident – you have to have fruits and vegetables in the house if you want to eat fruits and vegetables. Simply by having them around, we are more likely to eat them. Research shows[vi] that apparently we are pretty lazy when it comes to food choices, tending to eat whatever is closest and most convenient to our outstretched hand. So do yourself a favor and have that closest thing be an orange.

All of the fresh fruits and vegetables available this time of year makes it especially easy and fun to eat more produce. Let us know your favorite way to eat your nine servings a day!

 

[i] http://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/overview/
[ii] https://healthfinder.gov/nho/SeptemberToolkit2.aspx
[iii] http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/09/19/441494432/the-u-s-doesnt-have-enough-of-the-vegetables-were-supposed-to-eat
[iv] http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/resources/2015-2020_Dietary_Guidelines.pdf
[v] http://time.com/4411754/fat-mediterranean-diet/
[vi] http://www.cnn.com/2007/HEALTH/diet.fitness/09/21/kd.mindless.eating/index.html?eref=yahoo

Intuitive Eating: Why Ditching Your Diet May Be the Key to a Healthier, Happier You

By around age six, American girls start expressing dissatisfaction with their bodies.[i] By age ten, 80% of them will have already been on a diet. Yet more than two-thirds of US adults are overweight or obese, about one-third of US children are overweight or obese, and about 20 million women suffer from clinically significant eating disorders at some point in their lives.[ii]

As these numbers suggest, dieting doesn’t work, despite what the multibillion-dollar weight loss industry may profess. This is not a matter of faltering willpower; it’s a principle of our physiology. Neuroscientist Sandra Aamodt[iii] studied dieters and found that five years after their dieting began, they were heavier than before they ever started. When you look at the facts, you could argue that the result of dieting is actually weight gain and disease, not weight loss or health. What then, are we to do?

There’s No Such Thing As “Bad” Food

First of all, the way we speak about food is problematic. I was good today; I didn’t cheat on my diet. I was so bad last night; I went wild and ate too much of whatever. This vernacular sounds more like we’re speaking about a rocky relationship than a plate of nachos. The problem with labeling food “good” and “bad” (or ourselves as such for abiding by or deviated from our food rules) is that it sets up an ethical hierarchy where none exists. Sure, some food is healthier and better supports your body’s functions, but this has nothing to do with morality. This false connection between virtue and eating gives food a powerful emotional charge that leads to disordered eating and negative body image.[iv]

We shouldn’t feel guilt, shame, or even pride in our food choices. In fact, doing so may sabotage our best intentions: studies find that people eat more calories when they categorize the food they’re eating as “healthy.” Eating should – and can – be pleasurable: an experience of delicious tastes, appetizing aromas, delectable textures, and (if you’re occasionally so inclined) ingenious wine pairings. And when it is enjoyable, research shows that people feel more satisfied with less food.iii

The conclusion? Eat real food. If you want chocolate, don’t buy some low fat, chocolate-like packaged product that’s been processed to the point of becoming a food-like edible object. Have a piece of the best, richest chocolate you can find and enjoy every bite.

How to Bring Mindfulness to the Dining Table

So when you do go for that chocolate, how do you keep from eating the whole bar? (Hint: it’s not a matter of willpower.) How do you make the switch from shameful indulgence to pleasant experience? The answer is mindfulness.

Dieting disconnects us from our body by telling us to ignore signs of hunger or desires for certain foods. But this divorce is indiscriminate: it also tunes out signs of fullness or nutritional deficits, leading us to not know what and when to eat, and often, therefore, overeat.

Intuitive Eating (also called Mindful Eating or The Non-Diet Approach) is the process of bringing back awareness to what, when, and why we eat. It calls for nonjudgmental observation of our hunger, fullness, cravings, and emotions surrounding food, as well as focused attention on the experience of eating itself. It encourages you to eat whatever you like, as long as it’s to satiate physical hunger. And the results are pretty profound: multiple studies found that this way of eating is related to positive signs of health, including lower body mass and higher feelings of wellbeing.[v]

You Don’t Need to Fear Your Own Hunger

The notion of giving yourself permission to eat whatever you’d like when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full seems simple enough, but for many of us it is anything but. Especially for those who’ve spent years – maybe even decades – shaming their body and food choices, covering pangs of hunger with thoughts of bikini season, and guiltily stuffing down unpleasant emotions with snack food; the thought of releasing this control is terrifying.

You may think that all your white knuckling around food is the only reason you’re not a million pounds, and loosening up would lead to never-ending junk-food binge fest. And at first, it may be a struggle: it takes time to re-learn how to listen to your body’s eating cues and dispel the emotional charge of certain foods. But eventually, balance can be restored and healthy choices naturally crop up (it turns out un-foreboding the forbidden fruit causes it to lose a lot of its appeal). As you become reintegrated to your innate biological rhythms, research shows that this intuitive way of eating leads to healthier weights than dieters and long term weight maintenance.[vi]

In short, hunger isn’t something to fear and ignore: it’s a sign it’s time to nourish yourself. Similarly, fullness isn’t a sign of failure: it’s a signal your body has all the sustenance it needs for now. The more attuned we can become to hearing these signs, the better off our health – and waistlines – will be.

 

[i] https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/get-facts-eating-disorders
[ii] http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-statistics/Pages/overweight-obesity-statistics.aspx
[iii] https://www.ted.com/talks/sandra_aamodt_why_dieting_doesn_t_usually_work?language=en
[iv] http://blog.myfitnesspal.com/the-problem-with-cheat-days/
[v] http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/cou/53/2/226/
[vi] http://www.andjrnl.org/article/S0002-8223(05)00322-6/abstract

Eye Health 101: Eat Lobster, Wear Cucumber, and Throw Away Your Gross Mascara Already

We’ve all heard that eyes are the windows to the soul, but can they also provide a peek into our health? This week, we’re talking all about eyes and what to do to keep them sparking.

Your Eyes Reveal A Lot About Your Health

 Just by looking at your eyes, ophthalmologists can tell quite a bit about your overall health, from identifying risk factors for heart disease and diabetes to diagnosing certain mental health disorders.[i] And for those who have diabetes, experiencing blurry vision can be a warning sign that your blood sugar has spiked.[ii] Blurred vision can also be a sign of Lyme disease – something to watch out for in these summer months filled with outdoor activities.[iii]

 Another eye symptom to beware of is clouded vision. This can be a red flag for cataracts, the leading cause of blindness worldwide. As we age, the proteins that make up the lens of our eyes can begin to clump together, forming cloudy areas that subsequently block our sight. Despite their prevalence, cataracts are very easily treatable via an outpatient procedure that’s considered one of the safest and quickest surgeries around. (It has a 95% success rate and a procedure time of only about 15 minutes.)[iv]

How to Take Care of Your Precious Peepers

With so many important roles to play, it’s no wonder many of us enjoy giving our eyes a little extra attention in our self-care and beauty routines. Here are some of our favorite healthy tips to keep your eyes bright and beautiful.

Diet:

Studies[v] have shown that foods rich in nutrients like Vitamin A and C, Beta-carotene, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids are good for eye function. Incorporating foods like kale, salmon, oysters, lobster, citrus fruit, carrots, sweet potatoes, and cantaloupe into your diet regularly can help you get these nutrients and keep your eyes healthy.

Beauty:

Puffiness under the eyes is often due to a buildup of lymphatic fluid. You can naturally encourage lymphatic drainage and reduce puffiness by drinking plenty of water, sleeping on your back, and eating less salt. But for those times when you wake up belly-down, post-wine-and-pizza-night-out-with-the-ladies, placing cool cucumber slices over each eye really can help.[vi] A combination of the cool temperature and the veggie’s antioxidants help reduce irritation and swelling.

Hygiene:

A common cause of eye irritation and infections is expired makeup and dirty brushes, which become breeding grounds for bacteria. Experts suggest keeping mascara and eyeliner no longer than three months.[vii] Makeup brushes need to be washed regularly, depending upon how frequently you use them; and if you currently have an eye infection, it’s best to skip the makeup altogether until it clears up. Even though studies reveal[viii] we women are known offenders when it comes to makeup hoarding, it’s time to let go of that half-empty tube in the bottom of your purse and invest in some fresh, clean cosmetics.

Lifestyle:

Many of us spend hours upon hours a day looking at screens, which can lead to eyestrain – where eyes feel sore, tired, dry, and irritated. You can find lots of helpful hints to reduce eyestrain here. Our favorite advice is to reduce screen time when possible; and when you are plugged in, abide by the 20/20/20 rule: for every 20 minutes of screen time, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds to rest your eyes.

Protection:

Wearing sunglasses protects your eyes from the sun’s damaging UVA and UVB rays. The Skin Cancer Foundation[ix] recommends wearing large frames, even on cloudy or overcast days, so go ahead and embrace your inner diva and rock those paparazzi-proof shades everyday!

What are your favorite eye health and beauty tips? Let us know in the comments below!

[i] http://www.shape.com/lifestyle/mind-and-body/10-surprising-things-your-eyes-reveal-about-your-health
[ii] http://www.webmd.com/eye-health/eye-problems
[iii] http://www.lymeresearchalliance.org/signs-symptom-list.html
[iv] http://yoursightmatters.com/june-cataract-awareness-month/
[v] http://yoursightmatters.com/food-for-your-eyescid20130215ysmtz1/
[vi] http://new.www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/16/puffy-eyes-undereyes-cucumbers-cures-remedies_n_1964329.html
[vii] http://www.popsugar.com/beauty/When-Throw-Makeup-Away-Guidelines-Cosmetic-Life-Span-1124422
[viii] https://www.stowawaycosmetics.com/right-sized?source=affiliate-cj#slide-1
[ix] http://www.skincancer.org/prevention/sun-protection/for-your-eyes/protect-your-eyes

Going Gluten-Free: Is It Right for You?

Gluten FreeCeliac Disease affects a little under 1% of the US population, but research estimates that about 6x that number of Americans has non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS). On top of that, many others without Celiac Disease or NCGS have chosen to eschew gluten for various health reasons – from clear skin to weight loss – despite little evidence to support this choice. Check out the topics below and let us know in the comments if you’re a gluten-free devotee or proud bread head!

Disease vs. Sensitivity       

 Celiac Disease is a serious genetic autoimmune disease. It is characterized by a specific physiological response by body’s immune system, triggered by the ingestion of gluten. Left undiagnosed, it can lead to further health consequences such as osteoporosis and infertility.

NCGS, conversely, has a non-specific immune response and is considered clinically less serious than Celiac Disease. Yet the two conditions have some similar symptoms, including abdominal pain, fatigue, headache, and brain fog.

Gluten vs. FODMAPs

 Adopting a 100% gluten-free diet is currently the only known treatment for Celiac Disease. Those with NCGS also often find relief from eliminating gluten; however, emerging research suggests that gluten itself may not be the culprit. Instead, symptoms may be due to a group of poorly digested carbohydrates called FODMAPs.

 A Gluten-Free Diet Can Be Challenging & Unhealthy

Going gluten-free is easier said than done: many people report trouble sticking to the diet, for reasons ranging from social circumstances to accidental exposure, and feelings of anxiety and isolation can accompany this lifestyle. Luckily, awareness is growing and there are many helpful resources available to you! (Find some here.)

Eliminating gluten means removing many sources of dietary fiber, heart-healthy whole grains, B vitamins, and folic acid. Additionally, many gluten-free packaged foods sold at grocery stores make up for the removal of gluten ingredients by adding excess sugar, salt, and calories. A recent study even found a link between gluten-free diets and Metabolic Syndrome (a combination of diseases that includes diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity).

If you chose to or have to go gluten-free, it is important to take extra care to eat a well-balanced diet that provides you with the nutrients your body needs. We found a delicious gluten-free recipe to support you in this process. We especially love this recipe because it’s made with whey protein, which has numerous health benefits: it helps satisfy appetite, supports a healthy immune system, aids in weight loss, and helps build lean muscle mass. (You can order FemmePharma Whey Protein Powder here.) Even if you aren’t gluten-free, we think this one’s a winner! Give it a try, and let us know what you think.