There's never been a time where health and wellness has been such an integral part of global conversations. People are now more interested in what they're eating and putting into their bodies. Food isn't just about eating, it's about creating a healthier, better life for yourself and your families.
We've previously written about '5 Immunity Boosting Recipes' that can help keep you and your loved ones safe during flu season and beyond. Today, we're going to be talking about an easy, accessible supplement that can give you the important nutrients and vitamins that you need to make your life better and brighter.
What is Wheatgrass?
Wheatgrass is one of the many superfoods that have taken the world by storm over the past few years. It's the young grass of the common wheat plant Triticum aestivum, and unlike other superfoods that are grown in tropical climates can be grown in nearly every climate. Wheatgrass is typically harvested at 5 to 8 inches tall. Cut too early and it's too sweet and lacks the essential nutrients, too late and it's too bitter.
Like many superfoods, wheatgrass is filled to the brim with a host of different vitamins and nutrients. Wheatgrass contains several amino acids, which SF Gate reports are able to perform several functions in the body. These functions include protein synthesis, enzyme synthesis, and the growth and maintenance of cells. Out of 3,500 milligrams of wheatgrass, there are a whopping 700 milligrams of amino acids.
Healthline has put together an exhaustive list of research on wheatgrass's many benefits. According to researchers, wheatgrass may reduce cholesterol, as well as reducing the risk of heart disease. It can also aid in regulating blood sugar levels and has anti-inflammatory properties, making it a great supplement for protecting the body against infections and injuries. Some also posit that wheatgrass can even help kill cancer cells in test tube studies, although further research is needed on anti-cancer effects in humans.
How to Get Wheatgrass
Because wheatgrass is so easy to grow, it's easy to set up your own crop at home. Once it's grown to the appropriate height, you can cut it a few inches above the root, wash, and then dry them. You can then air dry or oven-dry it and then process it into powder, which can then be added to supplement your food or mix into drinks.
For convenience, you can also purchase wheatgrass capsules or powder. Both options are easy, convenient, and use a cold-drying process that Brightcore states preserves the healthy enzymes and vitamins found in the plant. They're also fairly safer — wheatgrass is typically consumed raw in order to make the most of the health benefits, but in some cases might contain harmful mold or bacteria.
Because wheatgrass is consumed raw, it's always best to check in with your doctor or nutritionist before taking it as a supplement. It's not always recommended for pregnant women or people with immune deficiencies, and people with gluten sensitivities should also be cautious. On the whole, however, it's an easy, convenient, and all around great choice for boosting your health.
Everywhere you go these days, you see people carrying bottled water. And because of the emphasis that has been placed on drinking water, it is now the second most popular drink in the United States. This is really important because every cell in our bodies depends upon water to function. And with every hour that passes, our bodies lose water. Unless we replace that, we literally can shrivel up and die.
Water intake is important for so many reasons. Water helps maintain the balance of bodily fluids. Every time we breathe, eat, urinate, defecate or sweat, we are using water in some way. There are also ways that we use water that we don’t see, like the circulation of our blood and lymphatic fluids, the transportation of nutrients in our bodies and the regulation of our body temperature. For all these processes to occur, water is needed. This is the number one reason that drinking water is so important.
Drinking water also helps us control our caloric intake. For many people, weight loss is a big deal and not necessarily an easy battle. But drinking water with every meal instead of some other beverage that is full of calories is always the best option. Not only do you avoid ingesting unwanted calories that can possibly turn into unwanted pounds, but you can also feel fuller faster. This makes it less likely that you will eat as much and this can help keep the waistline slim.
As mentioned before, every cell in our bodies needs water to function and the muscles are no different. In fact, drinking water actually helps to energize the muscles. Muscle fatigue is frequently caused by a lack of water in the cells themselves. And while we’re discussing the muscles, the elephant in the room needs to be addressed. Many people believe that drinking water after a massage helps flush toxins out of the muscles. This is actually not true and science has proven it.
In fact, the process of massaging the muscles actually creates a slightly toxic effect within the muscles known as rhabdomyolysis. And no amount of water will change that because rhabdomyolysis is an unavoidable side effect of massage that occurs just like after an intense workout.
Another reason to drink water is an obvious one. Water helps to keep your body regular. This includes urination and defecation. But on an even deeper level, when we are properly hydrated, our kidneys and intestines can function properly and help remove waste products from the body. A buildup of waste products can lead to illness and death.
Lastly, staying hydrated keeps your skin looking healthy and vibrant. Dehydration makes the skin look dry and wrinkled. But this doesn’t mean that overhydrating will reverse those wrinkles completely. Getting enough water can definitely help, but once the body is fully hydrated, the kidneys will get rid of the excess fluid.
Any of these are great reasons to drink water, but do you really need a reason? When people are properly hydrated, they look and feel better. So pick up that glass of water and take a big gulp. Your body will appreciate the attention and continue to support you in return.
Seaweed has been consumed as a health aid and food enhancer for years in Asia, but recently there has been a growing interest in seaweed as a health superfood and for sustainable farming.
Seaweed, otherwise known as Hai Zao in Chinese medicine, is known as a marine algae, or sea vegetable that grows primarily in salty waters. Three main classifications of seaweed are brown, red and green. Brown seaweed includes kombu, which is eaten widely in Japan, the red variety includes nori (which is seen in sushi wraps) and dulse. Green is the most common, and is known as wakame.
In Chinese medicine, seaweed is used to balance the yin and yang of the body. Your yin encourages fluid, lubrication, moistening, cooling and stillness. Yang is associated with more heat, dryness, warming and movement. As one gets older, it is common to get yin deficiency. When you have yin deficiency, heat rises due to yin depletion not balancing the yang energy. Many menopausal women experience this yin deficiency in the form of hot flashes, low back pain, night sweats, poor memory, fatigue, ear ringing, dry skin and loss of vaginal lubrication. One food that has been shown to help is seaweed. Seaweed is in the category of “cold and salty” of food quality and temperature in Chinese medicine. It is said to nourish the yin and is eaten along with other foods like yams and black sesame seeds that help balance yin and yang.
In addition to helping yin deficiency, seaweed “softens hardness” and loosens phlegm. What this means is seaweed helps dissipate nodules and soft swellings, as in lipomas, cysts, lumps and fat accumulation. Clinically, seaweed is used for swelling of the thyroid gland seen in goiter. See your acupuncture provider to get a diagnosis, formula and diet specific to your body’s needs.
Seaweed has been shown to have loads of essential vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C, vitamin K, magnesium, calcium, iron, B vitamins, potassium and folic acid. Most importantly, seaweed has a lot of iodine. Iodine helps the thyroid for growth, metabolism and the immune function. When your thyroid is functioning at a low level, you may experience fatigue, muscle weakness, palpitations, sensitivity to sun, weight gain and goiter. Iodine used to be abundant in rich soil but has been depleted nowadays.
Promising research indicates seaweed helping edema, fibroid tumors, limiting cancer growth due to phytochemicals called lignans and boosting immunity. In addition, it has been used as an anti-inflammatory aid for arthritis, to lower blood pressure and high cholesterol and to aid the respiratory system. Seaweed in Asia has been traditionally used for menopausal signs and symptoms, to reduce swollen lymph glands and to boost libido. But in general it is great for the skin, hair, teeth and bones. Seaweed is very alkaline and helps the pH balance of the body.
Despite the benefits, there is a strong contraindication if you are hyperthyroid. In addition, moderation is key in all aspects. Too much iodine can raise the thyroid-stimulating hormones, and individuals who are sensitive can get heart palpitations, nervousness, irritability and sweating. Check with your doctor to be sure an increase in iodine is right for you. Eat small portions about once a week.
You can buy seaweed dry, powdered or in supplements. Be mindful where it comes from and buy organic to reduce metals, arsenic and toxicity found in waters around the world.
An added benefit for seaweed is sustainability. Kelp is considered the perfect crop, as it requires little care and feeding to grow abundantly. With all the health benefits and easy farming, it just might be the superfood of the future.
In Chinese medical theory, food is considered medicine. Food has qualities and functions biochemically and energetically that target specific organs. Not only that, but the action a particular food takes to benefit that organ in terms of taste, color and temperature is what is included in Five Element theory. Food has a relationship to both the natural elements as well as the organs in the body and balances the elements of fire, earth, metal, water and wood to healthy, generating cycles.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) everything is thought of in terms of yin and yang theory. Yin is often dark, cooling, moist, still, and internal where are Yang is bright, hot, moving, dry, and outward; Our bodies are constantly trying to achieve a balance between these two forces. There are even some foods that are considered a force of yin and some food is considered more yang. Depending on one’s constitution, some foods might exacerbate a hotter constitution while others would promote a cooling effect. Each person realistically needs a unique approach to food intake, as not all foods deemed “healthy” are good for everyone across the board. It is not recommended to self-diagnose, so see your Chinese medical provider to get a proper diagnosis of your particular constitution and advice on foods that may be right for you according to this theory.
Color is one way to determine which organ a food will target. Ideally, one eats what is in season and includes a wide variety of flavors and colors. Colors in vegetables have beneficial antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents as well as phytonutrients:
Green: Green goes to the liver channel, a wood element. Foods that are green are spinach, lettuce, green beans, broccoli and avocado. Generally, these foods are more cooling and contain sulforaphane, an anti-cancer compound, as well as important vitamins like beta-carotene, iron, magnesium, potassium, vitamin B complex, vitamins C, A and K.
Red: Red food tends to benefit the heart, a fire element. Red foods include tomatoes, carrots, strawberries, peppers and apples. Hawthorne berries and goji berries have been shown to benefit the heart and prevent heart disease, and vegetables with red color often have lycopene, a substance shown to help prevent cancer. Orange vegetables like carrots have carotenoids and lutein, powerful phytonutrients.
Yellow: Yellow benefits the spleen/stomach, the earth element, involved with digestion. Yellow foods include soy, barley, egg yolks, yellow peppers, lemons, summer squash and cantaloupe. Yellow foods boost your mood and contain bioflavonoids, carotenoids and vitamin C.
White: White benefits the lungs, a metal element. These foods moisten the lung and include white beans, radish, wild rice, garlic, cauliflower, potatoes, mushrooms and jicama. These are packed with potassium, magnesium, fiber, and antioxidants. Garlic contains allicin, which when crushed or chopped is anti-fungal and an antibiotic.
Black: Black benefits the kidneys, the water element. Examples of these beneficial foods are seaweed, black beans, black sesame seeds, kelp and black rice. These foods are loaded with vitamins and minerals that strengthen bones, benefit the thyroid, and promote longevity.
The next time you create your meal, include a combination of colors and flavors to not only delight your palate but also to keep your organs happy and balanced. Eat what’s in season, cook your vegetables, as cold, raw vegetables are harder to digest, eat slowly and include some kind of exercise during the day.
Do you ever wonder why the supposedly healthy and widely recommended food you’ve been eating is not helping you feel your best? The key could involve what Chinese medicine refers to as the energetic quality of a particular food. In TCM, those qualities are based on different properties of the food, including color, taste and preparation.
During winter, it’s important to be aware of these different energetic qualities to help yourself stay healthy and in balance with the natural world. These tips can apply to any season, but since so many of us tend to get sick in wintertime, it’s especially important this time of year.
According to Chinese medicine, the body has two components: yin and yang, which are like water and fire. These two elements are constantly trying to achieve balance so you can feel your best, and while most of us are a mixture of the two, at times one quality can dominate. Yin refers to a colder nature: more pale, feeling cold, having lower energy, loose stools, feeling more introverted and having clear and white fluids. Yang, on the other hand, is hotter in nature and includes a more outgoing personality, dry mouth, thirst, craving cold drinks, perhaps being prone to constipation, producing darker urine, having yellow sputum and feeling easily angered. Many people are a mixture of the two, so a proper diagnosis from a licensed acupuncturist is a first step toward a proper diet fit for your constitution.
The organs of the body are also considered yin or yang. The heart, spleen, lungs, liver and kidneys are yin, solid, with substance, while the small intestines, gall bladder, stomach and urinary bladder are yang and involved with movement and transport. Eating the wrong foods for your particular nature might interfere with the body’s balance and exacerbate problems even if the food is nutritious biochemically. Just as some foods might disrupt you internally, each of these properties is also connected to the external, natural world, and balancing that out with each season is an important part of healthy eating in TCM. Here are three examples of food qualities.
Cold: Cold foods would include fruits and vegetables that grow in the summertime. It also would include cold foods that are refrigerated, iced or frozen. If you want to include more fruits and vegetables, it is advisable to eat them at room temperature or cook vegetables lightly to make them easier to digest. Examples of cold foods are watermelon, apples, bananas, fruit juices, kelp, cabbage, tofu, eggs, yogurt and cucumber. Eating these foods will reduce heat signs in those with excess yang energy. If you are already cold, or it is wintertime, these foods might interfere with the digestive fire of the stomach, and you would not absorb the nutrients well. In addition, if you have a cold condition, such as chronic arthritis of a cold nature, or premenstrual cramping due to cold, it might make you feel worse and more achy.
Warm: Foods that are considered warming speed up the metabolism and include ginger, cinnamon, cherries, garlic, onion, lamb, chicken, hot peppers, and quinoa. If you’re running hot, you might want to eat these sparingly and include cooler foods. For example, if you have a hot condition and are in pain due to inflammation, you would not want to eat hot and spicy foods. On the other hand, if you’re not already inflamed, these are great foods to reach for during the colder winter months.
Damp: When the digestive system is not transforming and transporting food and fluids well, you get what is termed in Chinese medicine as “dampness” or phlegm build up, which is an increase of mucus. This can leave you feeling sluggish, foggy, congested, bloated and heavy. In such a case, a combination such as a banana and yogurt, which is highly nutritious, might not be right for you, as those foods promote dampness. Foods that increase dampness include dairy, greasy, fatty, fried foods, some antibiotics and alcohol. Examples of foods that help this condition are barley, basmati rice, alfalfa sprouts, lemons, green tea, walnuts, and mushrooms.
In addition to those mentioned above, there are food tastes such as sour, sweet, pungent, salty and bland, which affect different organs of the body as well as the absorption and distribution of food. Food is medicine. Ask me today if you want to know more about your own personal constitution.
The kidneys are vital organs that allow our bodies to process waste and turn it into urine and filter our blood of toxins before it gets back to the heart. The kidneys also maintain our overall fluid balance and create hormones that regulate blood pressure, support bone health and produce red blood cells. To support your kidneys, it’s beneficial to stay plenty hydrated and avoid extra salt in your food.
Jam-packed with vitamins and healthy fats and low in sodium from all the fresh fruits and veggies, this smoothie is a kidney-boosting wonder!
Cranberries are often praised for their bladder-healthy benefits. They are also full of Vitamin C and fiber and have anti-inflammatory effects. Walnuts are a great source of healthy fat and also benefit the kidneys, according to traditional Chinese medicine. You can make this smoothie with water or almond milk for an extra calcium boost. Making sure you have enough calcium in your diet can help to prevent kidney stones. Lastly, ginger is always a great smoothie addition, making the flavor more dynamic and contributing to the smoothie’s anti-inflammatory effects.
To make, combine the ingredients in a blender and enjoy!
If you are looking to spice up your family meal this spring, why not try a healthy chicken stir fry. A meal that is colorful, warm, seasonal and easy to make.
In Traditional Chinese medicine and Five Element theory, food is medicine. Not only is food healthy and nutritious biochemically, but it also has properties in temperature, taste, color and shape that benefit specific organs. Colors and taste benefit certain organs, for example, sour and the color green go to the liver. Pungent flavors such as garlic, ginger and onions benefit the lungs. Dark and salty foods like seaweed benefit the kidneys. The best thing to remember is to eat fruits and vegetables that are in season and try to add color to your food to encourage the healthy actions the organs have in the body. Warm and cooked vegetables are easier on the digestion than cold and raw food. A terrific item to add to the cooking schedule is a colorful and tasty stir-fry.
A stir-fry has a healthy variety of colors, vegetables, meat, spices and seasoning. Typically what goes into a stir-fry includes chicken, soy sauce, oyster sauce, rice vinegar, honey, garlic, ginger, onion and rice.
Preparation is simple and you can find countless recipes by conducting an Internet search. Typically, a recipe will look like this:
Marinating the chicken overnight adds richer flavor, if you so choose. Combine cornstarch, soy and oyster sauce, rice vinegar, honey and garlic. Stir fry in chicken until brown, set aside. Add vegetables and cook until crisp. Stir in chicken, add onion, peanuts or other things to taste. Serve over rice.
For vegetarians, replacing tofu for chicken works as a delicious alternative. Play with some variety throughout the seasons. In the spring, opt for green foods to benefit the liver and gallbladder. In the summer, cool celery and basil might be soothing on a hot day. Autumn flavors might include leeks and white mushrooms to benefit the lungs. For winter, beef could be an alternative to chicken, as beef is warmer.
As you can see, a nice stir-fry with a variety of seasonal vegetables just might be a great and healthy way to exercise the notion that “food is medicine” to your diet.
A recent article published by Sepalika.com provides information from multiple research studies that confirm the best way to manage diabetes is through proper diet. More specifically through the use of “superfoods.” The multiple studies showed various superfoods such as oily fish, broccoli, blueberries, beets and chia seeds can all help in the fight against diabetes. These foods have been shown to lower blood sugar levels, improve insulin sensitivity and improve blood sugar control. This is very promising for those suffering from diabetes because it may ultimately help them reverse this disease.
With diabetes being the seventh leading cause of death in the United States, the research never seems to end. Over 29 million Americans suffer from this disease and the numbers aren’t getting any better. Diabetes is caused by a dysfunction of the pancreas. There are two forms of diabetes, Type 1 and Type 2. Type 2 can be reversed through the use of proper diet and exercise. This is where superfoods come into play.
Superfoods are defined as foods thought to be nutritionally dense and thus good for one’s health. There is no set criteria for determining what is truly a superfood though. Superfoods don’t have their own food group, as they can be either plant-based or animal-based. Popular superfoods have very large doses of vitamins and minerals that can help us fight off diseases and live longer lives. Some of the nutrients found in certain superfoods include antioxidants, healthy fats, fiber and phytochemicals. However, just because a food is considered a superfood, that doesn’t mean that one should eat unlimited quantities. For example, many superfood juices are still high in sugar and should be used in moderation.
For those suffering from diabetes, superfoods can provide a plethora of nutrients that can help balance blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity, which may ultimately provide for disease reversal.
Here are some examples of superfoods that are very beneficial for diabetics to consume. Beans are a great source of protein and they are high in soluble fiber, which lowers blood glucose levels. Berries have been shown to decrease insulin resistance due to the content of compounds known as anthocyanins, which are members of the phytochemical family. Flaxseed has been shown to decrease fasting blood glucose levels.
Non-starchy vegetables are low in carbohydrates, which means a little goes a long way when it comes to filling up the gut and fighting hunger. Polyphagia or the urge to excessively eat, is a common symptom in diabetics. Non-starchy vegetables may be the answer to this problem. These veggies are also high in vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytochemicals. Non-starchy vegetables include artichokes, asparagus, broccoli and beets. The American Diabetes Association also endorses most non-starchy vegetables as low glycemic index foods, which means diabetics can eat them with abandon and still avoid excessively high blood glucose levels.
As with anything, moderation is the key. But the use of these superfoods may be very helpful for those suffering from diabetes. In most cases, Type 2 diabetes is reversible. The question becomes what does the patient desire more. This will ultimately determine the outcome.
As summer moves on and the warmer days continue, you will find yourself seeking ways to beat the heat. Herbal teas are a great way to cool both the body and mind. Cooling herbal teas can alleviate symptoms of excess heat and have you feeling your absolute best during these heat-intensive summer days.
Check out these three herbal teas that will ensure you stay cool.
1. Mint, Elderflower and Rosehips Tea
The combination of mint, elderflower and rosehips makes for a soothing herbal tea. Rose hips provide a much-needed boost of vitamin C, the elderflower lends its immune-cleansing benefits and the mint finishes off the tea with the cooling touch of menthol.
2. Lemon Hibiscus Tea
This is an herbal blend just as good cold as it is hot. Regardless of the way this tea is poured, it provides specific cooling benefits to the body. Hibiscus is high in vitamin C and combats against high blood pressure, liver disease and other ailments. Lemon has a kick of vitamin C too, but more importantly it is cleansing and a natural diuretic. This tea combination is both cleansing and cooling.
3. Iced Green Tea with Lemon and Mint
The perfect summer refresher. The combination of these three ingredients work together in perfect harmony in order to cool the body down. Packed with vitamin C, menthol and antioxidants this tea will get your constitution headed in the right direction.
The modern world is changing every single day. Because of this constant state of change, our bodies are frequently having to adjust. We have a food supply being degraded and depleted of nutritional content, which in turn, causes our bodies to become depleted. Our soil and water is contaminated with antibiotics and deadly fertilizers. All of which become part of the food chain we rely upon. Because of this, antibiotics are failing and superbugs like MRSA are on the rise. Lack of nutrition and the overuse of antibiotics are just a couple of the things wreaking havoc on our intestinal health. But there are ways to combat this and keep the gut healthy.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has been around for thousands of years and the approach of this medical system is to treat the patient holistically. TCM has been shown to be effective at treating a wide variety of ailments, including digestive issues. Part of this is because TCM focuses heavily on diet and nutrition.
Qi is equated with energy and every organ, pathway and cell in the human body is composed of energy. For the body to function properly, Qi needs to be sufficient at all times. One of the best ways to maintain sufficient Qi is through our daily diet. Science is proving what TCM practitioners have known for centuries, our digestive health is vital for the cells of the body to function optimally.
The gastrointestinal tract acts as a “second brain.” It has the ability to constantly transform us. The Human Microbiome Project is an ongoing study confirming microscopic bacterial colonies in our digestive tract have very important jobs to do. The bacterial colonies help keep us healthy both physically and mentally. But because of human intervention, these bacterial colonies in our guts are becoming sick, depleted and are dying.
To rejuvenate these gastrointestinal bacterial colonies, many people are turning to TCM for help. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal formulas are great methods that focus on reviving our gastrointestinal Qi. Reviving this Qi in turn can improve digestion, decrease gas and bloating and improve bowel movements. The stomach and spleen are the two main pathways TCM practitioners focus on when treating somebody who exhibits digestive Qi deficiencies because these are the organs responsible for digestion in the TCM system. TCM nutritional advice is part of this program for optimizing digestive health.
This is where fermented foods come into play. Fermented foods have been around for centuries as well. Fermentation is one of the oldest attempts to preserve food. But in today’s world, fermented foods, like sauerkraut, kimchi and yogurt are being utilized to help restore the healthy bacterial colonies found within the gastrointestinal tract.
In fermentation, bacteria or yeast feed on natural sugars found in foods. This makes certain foods easier for the gut to digest and allows for the nutrients to be absorbed during digestion. People who do not ingest fermented foods can actually develop immune deficiencies which can lead to serious illness and disease. For instance, sauerkraut, which is fermented cabbage, actually has anti-carcinogenic components that can help prevent cancer. Yogurt can help prevent colorectal cancer, breast cancer and yeast infections. Kimchi has been shown to help improve symptoms of asthma and other allergic reactions, while also lowering LDL or “bad” cholesterol levels.
Incorporating fermented foods into the daily diet and getting regular acupuncture treatments that help balance out the body’s Qi, can lead to a very healthy gastrointestinal tract. And when the gut is happy, the body is happy, the brain is happy and the mood is improved. Sound awesome? It is! Try increasing your fermented food intake and adding Acupuncture to the mix today and see how great it feels!
Rebecca M H Kitzerow is a Licensed Acupuncturist practicing in La Center, Washington. With over a decade of experience she has won 10 Nattie consumer choice awards from Natural Awakenings Magazine since 2014.