The Importance of Avoiding Ultra-Processed Foods

People label all unhealthy food as processed food, but it is essential to remember there are degrees of processing. For example, minimal processing helps remove inedible food parts while cleaning and preserving the nutritional content. Whole grain pasta and flours are excellent examples of healthy options that are minimally processed. 

The foods people consider unhealthy and avoidable are ultra-processed; this does not include canned fruits and vegetables with added sugar and salt; however, these are not minimally processed either, and there are healthier alternatives. Ultra-processed foods require multiple steps and the inclusion of ingredients with unrecognizable names.

Ultra-processed foods often include preservatives, artificial flavoring and coloring, and emulsifiers to create a more appealing look and texture. Think of chips, soda, luncheon meats, frozen meals, and other packed snacks and baked goods. 

The Problem With Ultra-Processed Foods and Drinks

Ultra-processed foods destroy the structure of the whole food. As a result, manufacturers and producers introduce ingredients that do not naturally exist in food. Instead, the chemicals and products are introduced to preserve edibility and increase shelf-life, ultimately improving corporate profitability.

When people talk about a food matrix, they discuss the natural structure of a food, including its vitamins and other nutrients. A producer destroys the original matrix and recreates a new structure more suitable to corporate and consumer interest by altering the food. Unfortunately, you can never get back the original nutritional integrity of the whole food.

Therefore, whole food will always be more nutritious than overly-processed food. For example, a person will receive more significant benefits from consuming high-fiber real food than a fiber supplement.

The Dangers of Ultra-Processed Foods

Like those found at fast-food chains and in snack food aisles, processed foods present significant health risks. Several studies have linked the regular consumption of ultra-processed foods to an increased risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, vascular disease and stroke, and cancer. Other research suggests consuming a diet of primarily ultra-processed food results in shorter life expectancy.

Experts guess the reasoning is tied to the ingredients in these foods and the lack of nutritional value. In addition, chemical, artificial ingredients, and preservatives can affect the metabolism and the body's ability to digest and process foods.

The Solution for Positive Change

The body needs vitamins and minerals to survive and thrive. The best resource for these nutrients is through the consumption of whole and minimally processed foods. So while everyone likely has a favorite party snack or sugary indulgence, the objective should be to eliminate as many unhealthy foods as possible.

Elimination might be too strong a word because everyone needs flexibility. Restricting yourself too quickly from foods you love can be counterproductive. While a transition to a healthier diet is crucial, especially if you live on heavily processed foods, a gradual transition is more respondent to sustainable change.

Many foods require some level of processing. Your goal should be to consume more whole foods and foods that require minimal processing. The nutrition label is often the giveaway because ultra-processed foods will have multiple ingredients that sound more like chemicals than food. Changing your diet can help reduce the odds of future health complications.

How do you feel about processed foods, and have you recently cut any out of your life? Share your comment and story below.

What Are the Health Benefits of Adaptogenic Mushrooms?

Adaptogenic mushrooms have gotten a lot of attention for their ability to mitigate the impact of stress on the body. These fungus species are rich in compounds called adaptogens, which help the body shield itself from the physical, chemical and biological impact of stress. During stressful times, adaptogens allow us to maintain normal function. Explore the benefits of adaptogenic mushrooms and learn more about how to incorporate this ingredient into your diet. 

Improved Stamina

A 2003 rodent study published in the Japanese journal Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin found that the Cordyceps sinensis mushroom reduced fatigue during stressful activities. The researchers reported that rats given the mushroom showed fewer physical markers of stress during forced exercise than rats who did not eat the mushroom. Proponents of the Cordyceps species theorize that it facilitates and enhances the flow of oxygen throughout the body. 

A small study on adult men published in High Altitude Medicine & Biology in 2014 found that taking both Cordyceps sinensis and Rhodiola crenulata decreased signs of fatigue during brief high-altitude training exercises. Research that appeared in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that athletes had less overtraining-related stress after taking Ganoderma lucidum with Cordyceps sinesis. A study published in the Saudi Journal of Biological Sciences found that Ganoderma lucidum found that the mushroom reduced oxidative stress within rodent muscles after physical activity.

Reduced Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety

A 2018 study published in the International Journal of Molecular Science found that the lion's mane mushroom decreased nervous system levels of a chemical called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in mice. Inability to regulate BDNF can result in stress and depression. 

The reishi mushroom is rich in compounds called tripertenes, which research has associated with improved sleep quality and sharper focus as well as reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Protection From Memory Impairment

Research published in the journal Nature in 2020 touted the adaptogenic effect of the reishi mushroom in rodent students. The study authors reported that a dose of the mushroom protected rats from memory and nerve damage with limited oxygen levels. 

The lion's mane mushroom has similar benefits for memory and cognition. In fact, it encourages production of myelin and nerve growth factor, both of which play key roles in brain health. Not only can this mushroom increase concentration and improve mood, it also has potential in reducing symptoms of multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's disease and other neurocognitive issues.

Boosted Immunity

The reishi mushroom has long been used to stimulate the immune system. along with other adaptogenic mushroom species such as cordyceps, lion's mane, maitake, shiitake, turkey tail and chaga. These shrooms are bursting with cancer-fighting free radicals that help destroy disease cells and support other immune functions. 

The turkey tail mushroom is a vital source of polysaccharide-K, approved as a prescription medication in Japan for cancer patients. PSK can provide immune system support during chemotherapy, destroy leukemia cells and even reduce the mortality rates for certain kinds of cancer. 

Improved Cardiac Health

Reishi also contains compounds called beta-glucans and triterpenes, which help decrease LDL (bad) cholesterol and overall cholesterol in the blood. It's not the only adaptogenic mushroom that can boost heart health, however. Chaga, which is rich in antioxidants, can decrease blood pressure to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. 

Shiitakes are also heart health superheroes. These mushrooms contain phytonutrients that facilitate healthy blood flow, keep blood pressure within a healthy range and prevent plaque from building up within the arteries.

If you're a fan of fungi, try adding any of these adaptogenic mushrooms to your meal rotation to enhance your overall wellness. You can also mix the powdered version of these shrooms with soups, smoothies, juices and sauces for a savory nutritional boost. 

The Possibility of Improving Cellular Fitness Through Exercise and Cellular Stress Tests

Who doesn’t want to get healthier, slow the aging process, and possibly live longer? Life is such a beautiful experience with so many possibilities. Still, to take advantage of the most it has to offer, it is crucial to look after individual health and wellness.

Recently, researchers have recognized the growing need for mental health, allowing for a shift in stigmas surrounding counseling and therapy. While the focus on mindfulness and mental health is encouraging, the primary goal is to reduce stress to limit its overreaching and adverse effects on health and wellness overall.

There is a growing trend linked to cellular fitness, specifically how cellular stress can result in rapid aging and declining muscle function. The idea is based on customizing exercises and nutritional practices based on individual physiology rather than generalizations.

How Does Cellular Fitness Work?

According to practitioners, cellular fitness is a new way of looking at physical activity. For years, the focus of physical fitness has revolved around the ideas of high-intensity workouts or interval training. While each program has its advantages and works for most people, there are limitations and the potential for burnout and injury.

Researchers are beginning to understand how too much exercise or intensity during a workout can result in lasting damage. When your cells are placed under significant stress, they cannot perform optimally, meaning your body experiences greater wear and tear, weakened defenses, inflammation, possible health problems, and potential weight gain.

Cellular fitness programs use “cellular stress tests” to determine how your system reacts to the stress of specific workouts or routines. These tests measure the damaging by-products in your body to determine the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of a workout on any given day. With accurate measurements, there is hope that an individual could tell which days are best for pushing themselves to get the extra rep and which are better for taking it easy.

While the process seems out there, several organizations are taking the open-mind approach. In fact, the NBA has been using similar technology and physiological insights for years, providing individualized goals and routines to suit each player by analyzing information from a wearable device.

Is There Any Truth To the Claims?

According to recent research published in the journal Nature Communications, the idea that exercise can improve cellular health is possible. During the study, scientists notice a direct link between exercise and the production or renewal of mitochondria, the cellular powerhouse. 

In essence, when workouts are effective, the body produces new and healthy mitochondria, replacing and forcing the old out of the muscles and bones. Ultimately, exercise contributes to better health and longevity, which people have known for a long time, but now researchers see the improvement on a cellular level.

Unfortunately, most research into cellular fitness is still fairly new, with limited studies expressing its true and proven advantages. However, there is a decent amount of circumstantial evidence to suggests a possible correlation between individualized exercise regimens and cellular health. What do you think of the ballooning trend and its potential for the fitness community? Leave a comment below.

Sugar-Free Gum: Good for Your Child’s Teeth or Not?

As a parent, you want to take good care of your child’s teeth. At the same time, getting them to brush after every meal probably isn’t realistic. Can sugar-free gum help prevent cavities?

Is Chewing Gum Good for Your Kids’ Teeth?

Chewing is a great way to reduce cavities for kids and adults alike. When kids chew, their mouths produce more saliva. This helps prevent tooth decay by neutralizing the acid that causes cavities. Saliva also washes away leftover food particles. Sugar-free gum isn’t a replacement for some good old-fashioned brushing, but it’s a nice way provide dental hygiene after lunch or dinner.

That said, the type of gum you choose is very important. The kind of gum your kids want you to buy — bubble gum with fruit fillings — is definitely NOT good for teeth. Instead of preventing tooth decay, bubble gum encourages bacteria to grow. It also pushes the sugar right up against your child’s teeth, easily causing a bunch of cavities.

Is Sugar-Free Gum Safe for Kids?

This is a tricky question because it actually involves two things: if artificial sweeteners are safe for kids and if gum is dangerous as far as choking is concerned. The answers can vary depending on your child and your family.

The Oral Health Foundation recommends not giving gum to kids under the age of seven. At the same time, it acknowledges that parents are the best judges of when children are ready.

As far as the safety of artificial sweeteners goes, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says that there’s no evidence these ingredients can hurt children at all (unless you have a rare condition called phenylketonuria). Also, sugar-free gum has relatively tiny levels of artificial sweeteners compared to other products.

To give you an idea of the amount, a stick of chewing gum has around 6–8 milligrams while a can of diet soda has 180 milligrams. Your kids would need to eat the equivalent of 24 sweetener packets to meet the FDA’s max limit. If you’re still concerned, choose gum made with xylitol, erythritol or other natural sugar alcohols.

Is It Bad for Kids To Swallow Gum?

This is part myth and part rare-but-weird concern. First, nothing usually happens if school-age kids swallow gum. It will literally be out of their systems in a day or two. The only exception to this is if children are constipated and swallow a LOT of gum. So, take this urban legend with a grain of salt.

Are There Any Alternatives to Sugar-Free Gum That Kids Like?

Remember, it’s the act of chewing, not sugar-free gum itself, that helps prevent cavities. Depending on the age of your kids, you can offer them naturally crispy or chewy foods instead. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Carrot sticks
  • Apple slices
  • Celery sticks
  • Snap peas
  • Jicama
  • Cucumber sticks
  • Rice cakes
  • Whole grain bagels

My kids love foods with a crunchy texture, so these veggies are a big hit. I also keep a few packs of sugar-free gum around for when we need something quick to chew. I’ve noticed that as long as I have everything already cut in the fridge, they actually go for the fresh fruit and veggies more often than gum.

Is This Fish Oil Really Helping My Joints?

I never used to have problems with my joints, but that’s changed in a big way as I’ve grown older. In an effort to help my joints feel better, I’ve been taking fish oil supplements every day. It seems like I’ve always known that fish oil was good for joints in some way, but the other day I caught myself thinking, “Is this stuff really helping?”

I realized that I didn’t know much about fish oil at all, and my lack of knowledge started to make my confidence in the product wane. So I decided to do some research and find out exactly what it is about fish oil that can supposedly make my joints feel better. Here’s what I found out.

There’s Nothing “Fishy” About Fish Oil

Despite my worries that fish oil is just a great big fish tale, I discovered some impressive things about it during my research. I found out that the secret to fish oil’s ability to help aching joints lies within its content of omega-3 fatty acids. Though the name isn’t super appealing, omega-3 fatty acids are pretty powerful for joint health. Here’s how they work.

The omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil contain high levels of these two fatty acids in particular:

  • Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
  • Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)

According to research, both of these fatty acids are effective at lowering inflammation. It’s their inflammation-curbing properties that make these fatty acids so valuable for people with joint conditions. Many conditions that cause joint pain are due to excess inflammation within the joints.

According to one study (published in the British Journal of Nutrition), DHA and EPA from marine sources (such as fish oil) provide help with the following:

  • Joint pain and swelling
  • The use of joint-related pain medication
  • Morning joint stiffness

These are all benefits I can stand behind! So I’ll continue my daily habit of taking fish oil pills so they can go to work reducing inflammation in my joints.

How Fish Oil Reduces Inflammation

I’m a naturally curious soul, so it wasn’t enough for me to learn that DHA and EPA can reduce inflammation. I wanted to know how they do it. So I decided to dive into the topic a lot more. Here’s what I discovered.

EPA and DHA work in tandem to lower inflammatory molecules in the body (such as C-reactive protein and tumour necrosis factor alpha). They’re a little bit like The Wonder Twins when it comes to protecting our bodies from the negative effects of systemic inflammation.

DHA seems to be more effective at reducing multiple pro-inflammatory proteins, while EPA seems to target primarily one type. But EPA does have the added benefit of boosting immune function regulation. So when you’re looking for a fish oil supplement, look for one that contains both of these important components. Like the old song goes, “some things just go better together and probably always will.”

What To Look for in a Fish Oil Supplement

As with any nutritional or dietary supplement, fish oil supplements are not all created equal. Here are a few things to look for in a quality supplement:

  • Make sure the supplement you choose contains both EPA and DHA.
  • Look for good purity and authenticity standards.
  • Always check the date on the bottle and don’t use it after the printed date (fish oil goes rancid over time).
  • Look for free fatty acids (FFA), phospholipids (PLs) and triglycerides, and reformed triglycerides (TG and rTG) instead of ethyl esters (EE).

Keeping these things in mind when shopping will help you select a quality fish oil supplement that will give your joints (and your body in general) maximum anti-inflammatory benefits.

These Are My 4 Favorite Milk Alternatives

Cow’s milk is rich in nutrients such as calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12, magnesium and amino acids, or protein. If you're planning on switching to a milk alternative, you need to fill those nutritional needs. Which are the best milk substitutes?

1. Soy Milk: Super-Nutritious, Mild but Weird

Soy milk is a nutrient superfood, which makes it one of the best milk alternatives for your health. It has almost the same amount of protein that cow’s milk does, a filling 7 grams per cup. This protein contains all the essential amino acids that your body can’t make on its own, which is why vegetarians and vegans benefit a lot from drinking soy milk.

There’s only one tiny catch, at least for me: the taste. I’m not a huge fan of the flavor of soy milk or tofu (another high-protein food made from soy).

What I would recommend is to start yourself off eating soy yogurt. After you get used to the texture and flavor, mix soy milk with fresh fruit and enjoy a nutrient-packed morning smoothie.

2. Almond Milk: Thick, Creamy, and Delicious

Personally, I could drink almond milk all day long. It has a slightly sweet, nutty taste and an amazing texture. Imagine drinking a creamy glass of whole milk, but way better for your waistline.

This is my go-to option for recipes that call for milk, such as baked goods or creamy Italian dishes. I also love it with coffee because it’s like having a shot of amaretto and cream.

Any downsides? It's low in protein. So, while almond milk is an excellent replacement for cow’s milk flavor-wise and calorie-wise, it doesn’t fill your protein needs completely.

3. Coconut Milk: Sweet, Great for Weight Loss, But High in Fat?

If you haven’t tried coconut milk yet, trust me, go out and buy yourself a carton. This sweet treat will put a big smile on your face.

But is it healthy? Yes and no. This tropical drink gives you lots of vitamin D, vitamin B12 and other nutrients. But it also has the same amount of fat as whole milk.

The interesting thing is that some scientists think the type of fat in coconut milk and coconut oil can actually help you lose weight. These MCTs help your metabolism burn fat instead of storing it. They may also calm your appetite and improve your cholesterol levels.

4. Macadamia Milk: All-Around Amazing but Expensive

This rising superstar would be my favorite milk alternative … if it wasn’t so darned expensive in the stores near me. Macadamia milk has it all: great flavor, lots of protein, a smooth texture and few calories.

As long as you choose a fortified version, you’re getting magnesium, potassium, iron, calcium and vitamin B6. Plus, this creamy nut milk has omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids too, which are amazing for heart health. Macadamia milk is low in carbs, making it ideal for keto dieters.

All in all, with half the fat of cow’s milk, one-third the calories and the same amount of protein, this nutty milk is a homerun for parents and kids. Just maybe not for your wallet.

The Best Alternative Milk for Your Family

Honestly, no one said you had to choose just one. Try a few kinds and settle on the ones that fit your lifestyle. It’s OK to use some for coffee, some for cooking, some for smoothies and some for drinking happily.

Are You Eating Enough Calories?

Culture seems to be diet-centric anymore. A new dietary claim is made almost every month or so, and countless people jump aboard the rumor train toward unknown health benefits or problems. 

For decades, the idea of counting calories appeared to be rational — calories in, calories out, right? While calorie-restricted diets can be safe when monitored, ensuring participants are getting appropriate nutrients through food choices, people can often get carried away with the level of restriction.

1,200 calories are the bare minimum for calorie intake, which is for female resting metabolic requirements. Dipping below this number is rarely advised, and when it is, it is with the strict supervision of a medical or dietary professional.

More often than not, diets of 1,200 calories are referred to as unsustainable. The benefits of such restrictive dieting often result in less than optimal results for those trying to lose weight, especially as it can motivate a vicious cycle of yo-yo dieting.

When beginning a diet, especially a calorie-focused diet, it is crucial to understand the warning signs of under-eating. You should correct course and reevaluate your calorie intake to avoid any recurring issues.

Irritability and Lethargy are Only the Beginning

You have likely heard the term “hangry” before, meaning hungry and angry. There is a legitimate psychological component to eating and food. People often associate food with joy, relationships, and other pleasurable events and feelings. By taking those foods away, your brain can react negatively, causing a rise in cortisol and other hormones contributing to irritability or testiness.

Beyond feeling on edge all the time, you need to remember that calories are the body’s primary source of energy for tissues and functions. If you are eating the bare minimum, your body will need to prioritize what systems access energy and how much. The restrictions result in feeling tired, with many tasks seeming more challenging and less appealing, even those tasks you enjoy.

Unfortunately, irritability and lethargy are only the beginning of your troubles if you continue to eat too few calories. Eating less can also lead to sleep and digestive problems.

Restful Nights Might Become a Thing of the Past

Blood sugar levels depend on a balanced diet. Eating fewer calories than necessary can prevent the liver from producing enough glycogen during sleep to stabilize blood sugar levels. 

When the liver doesn’t produce enough glycogen, the body must use gluconeogenesis to produce glucose. The process is possible only by releasing cortisol and adrenaline, and with enough of these hormones in your body, you might find it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep during the night.

Digestive Problems Can Become a Permanent Diet Companion

A common symptom of consuming too few calories is persistent constipation. The problem often results from not consuming enough fiber. Fiber is essential to keep the digestive system moving along.

Dehydration is also a possibility of constipation. If the body does not have enough water in its system, it can not perform digestive tasks effectively, regardless of fiber levels. Unfortunately, many people struggle to differentiate between hunger and thirst, often confusing one for the other.

Consume Enough Calories Without Starving Yourself

Do not assume 1,200 calories is suitable for you. Talk to your doctor about calorie intake; they can offer a professional opinion based on gender, age, weight, and current health. Additionally, most fitness and nutrition experts agree that cutting your present daily calories by 200 to 300 calories per day combined with 30 minutes of exercise is enough to start a weight loss journey.

How many calories are healthy for you? Leave a comment, and join the conversation.

Ranking Salad Dressings From Most Healthy to Least Healthy

There's nothing wrong with wanting to enjoy a variety of salad dressings. These days, you have a lot of options for giving salads a kick of flavor. What are the best healthy salad dressings?

The Healthiest Salad Dressings

These are my favorite dressings, and they won't add to your waistline:

  1. Vinaigrette: These dressings are full of flavor and focus on a few simple ingredients. What I love is the endless variety. You can go for balsamic vinegar, orange juice, apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar — even strawberries! And with basil, cilantro and other herbs, all I can say is “yum.”
  2. Green Goddess: It’s easy to find green goddess dressing made with a base of Greek yogurt. This gives you the creaminess you crave without the fat. Along with probiotics from the yogurt, you’re getting lots of vitamins from olive oil, garlic, lemon juice and green onions.
  3. Greek or Mediterranean Dressings: Think creamy Italian dressing, minus the cream. Many Greek dressings use avocado oil and extra-virgin olive oil for thickness. Both of these oils give you lots of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidant vitamins.
  4. Sesame Ginger: My kids love Asian-style dressings, and I think they spice up meals at home. Look for real garlic, ginger and rice wine vinegar in the ingredients, and try to keep sugar down with nut butter.
  5. Honey Dijon: Both Dijon mustard and honey make dressings thicker and smoother naturally. If you’re adding a salad to a meat-and-potatoes meal, try this dressing. The reason it's near the bottom is that you have to keep an eye on sugar and calories with store-bought versions.

The Least Healthy Salad Dressings

Basically, anything with the word “creamy” in its name is going to shock you into falling backwards when you look at the fat content and calories. This includes blue cheese, Caesar dressing, thousand island, French and (sigh) everyone’s favorite ranch dressing.

Now the good news. You can find reasonably healthy alternatives to each. Some replace mayo with avocado oil, coconut milk or Greek yogurt. Others go big on flavor from high-quality ingredients (like more blue cheese) to reduce the amount of other ingredients. Herbs and spices such as chipotle, jalapenos, basil, dill, parsley and chives add a boost of flavor all by themselves.

The Benefits of Homemade Salad Dressings

Homemade dressings offer a lot of benefits:

  • You control salt and sugar levels
  • Non-refined, natural oils give you more heart benefits than many store-bought dressings
  • Fresh ingredients provide more vitamins and minerals
  • Homemade dressings offer more flavor with less fat
  • Dressing you make at home doesn’t have any preservatives

That said, as a mom, it’s not always easy to find the time. Don't feel guilty if organic from the store is the best you can do.

A Sensible View of Dressings

I like to take a balanced view of mom-hood and weight loss. Focusing too strictly on every calorie can make healthy eating a chore. Isn’t encouraging your family to eat more salad a good thing?

It keeps you and your kids munching on fresh ingredients: romaine lettuce, arugula, alfalfa sprouts, carrots, tomatoes, yellow peppers and avocados. That's WAY better kids begging for pizza every night because they're tired of plain vinaigrette with every salad.

More salad + healthy dressing options = more omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, folate and more! That’s a win in my book. So, don't punish yourself if you buy (gasp!) the tiniest bottle of (double gasp!) Ranch dressing sometimes.

Inspecting the Claims and Reality of Cleanse and Detox Diets

A cleanse diet, designed around the notion of your body needing help eliminating excess toxins, has grown in popularity exponentially over the last decade, despite having little scientific backing or merit. Celebrities, manufacturers, and self-proclaimed nutritionists have hopped aboard the cleansing and detoxifying train to riches. Unfortunately, those unsubstantiated claims of detoxing and cleansing needs can result in health issues.

In any other context, the idea of depriving your body of food or essential nutrients would appear illogical. While the severe caloric restrictions of these “fad” diets do contribute to rapid weight loss, the loss is not a symptom of eliminated toxins; it is merely a consequence of severe calorie deprivation. Yet, it is no longer fair to consider these diets fads because popularity continues to grow. Cleanses are now a trend. The question becomes, is there any relevance to cleanse diets, or are any results purely speculative hokum?

Toxins and Your Body

In reality, your body has several organs and systems dedicated to removing toxins and bacteria — the liver, kidneys, intestines, etc. The human body, in general, effectively eliminates problematic toxins and harmful chemicals without any necessary interference or aid.

Most cleanse and detox diets claim the body needs help because of increased contaminants in the atmosphere and food, especially through environmental crises like global warming. However, despite the claims, there is little, if any, rational or well-researched evidence or logic to support such claims.

On top of misleading marketing, you will find it challenging, if not impossible, to find any cleanse or detox explaining what toxins the diet eliminates. The producers of these products and services cannot make such claims because it is considered fraud without proof. Instead, most cleanse services state generalities about health and wellness. Manufacturers might even discuss the potential benefits of specific ingredients in juices or supplements. However, in nearly every case, the company falls short of making any direct or conclusive statements about toxins. 

Explaining the Positive Effects of Cleanses

Many people participate in cleanses, and some even do more than one cleanse per year. The drive or motivation is often based on the belief the diet makes them more focused or energetic. While an individual might feel healthier during a cleanse diet, the improvement is likely based on eliminating unhealthy foods and the increase of healthy options, like fruits and vegetables, not the cleanse.

Anyone who alters their diet to include more fruits and vegetables while eliminating refined sugars and processed meats are sure to feel some change. However, the difference is the result of healthier choices, not a specific cleanse or detox.

Risks of Cleanses

Despite the focus on health and longevity, several cleanses can result in vitamin and mineral deficiencies or dehydration. Still, several others can increase the potential risks of overdosing on diuretics, supplements, or laxatives. Because of the loopholes and lack of regulation in the supplement market, some labels might be inaccurate. While many might not see the risk of overdose on supplements or dietary products as a threat, it is potentially fatal, depending on the supplement.

There is a continued obsession with dieting, so much so that people now feel like health is reliant on the next new and improved fad. It is a constant and unwinnable game of whack-a-mole. In truth, all anyone needs to do is focus on consuming a healthy and balanced diet. If you do not know how or where to start, speak to a licensed nutritionist or primary care physician.

5 Reasons Why Fiber Is So Important

I like to think I know the basics of good health. But periodically, I learn some new health fact that catches me by surprise. The importance of fiber is one of those health facts I didn’t really grasp until recently. Sure, I’ve always known fiber is an important part of a healthy diet, but I didn’t realize just how necessary it is for optimal health and digestive function. Here are five reasons why fiber is so important for all of us to consume regularly.

1. Helps Control Blood Sugar

If you struggle to keep your blood sugar under control, eating fiber may help. It’s especially helpful for people with diabetes to consume sufficient soluble fiber to slow down their body’s absorption of sugar. For those of us who don’t have diabetes, eating insoluble fiber may help us avoid developing it.

2. Promotes Normal Bowel Movements

Nobody likes to talk about their bowel movements (unless you’re my over-sharing Aunt Kathy), but how often you go is really important. The consistency of your poop is also really important. If it’s consistently runny, adding some fiber to your diet can give it a little bulk so you’re more regular and can pass your stools more easily.

Whew. Now that we got that topic over with, let’s move on to the next reason why fiber’s so important!

3. May Decrease the Likelihood of Hemorrhoids

OK, so going from bowel movements to hemorrhoids isn’t exactly a step up. But it’s important to talk about how fiber can potentially help us avoid developing hemorrhoids. That reason alone is good enough for me to increase my daily intake of fiber!

In addition to decreasing your likelihood of getting hemorrhoids, studies show that a high-fiber diet may also lower your risk of developing colorectal cancer. Research is still being done to understand exactly how fiber helps prevent colorectal cancer, but it’s thought that it has something to do with how fiber ferments in the colon.

4. Assists With Healthy Weight Maintenance

It’s generally easy to put weight on, but difficult to take it off (unless you’re someone who can’t seem to gain weight no matter how hard you try). When you’re trying to let go of a few extra pounds, you probably think about exercising, cutting out sugary foods and drinks, and eating healthier. But if you’re neglecting to eat sufficient fiber, you could be making your weight-loss journey more difficult than it needs to be.

High-fiber foods are typically more filling than foods with little to no fiber. That means the more high-fiber foods you eat, the easier it will be for you to manage your appetite and keep your weight in check. Additionally, foods high in fiber typically require more chewing, which means you’re expending more calories to eat them.

5. Reduces the Risk of Some Diseases

One of the most surprising things I have learned about fiber is that it may reduce your risk of developing some diseases. According to studies, there is a link between increased dietary fiber intake and reduced risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease. So if you have a family history of cancer, make sure you add fiber to your daily healthy eating plan!

Though fiber has a lot of great benefits, it’s possible to eat too much of it. If you feel like your fiber intake is clogging you up and messing with your regularity, it may be time to cut back a little bit. The Institute of Medicine recommends that men aged 50 or younger consume 38 grams of fiber daily. Women aged 50 0r younger should aim to consume 25 grams of fiber per day.

Some good sources of fiber include vegetables, seeds, nuts, fruits, whole-grain products and legumes. Figure out how to incorporate these foods into your daily meals and you’ll start reaping the benefits of a high-fiber diet.