Monday, March 19, 2012

Superfood Sunday: The 10 Best Common Superfoods

Over the last couple of months, I've talked a lot about superfoods that are not as easy to find in a market or grocery store.  However, there are some common foods that we all eat that have superfood qualities.  Remember, superfoods are any type of food that contains either an abundance of macro- and micro-nutrients or has some sort of powerful healing or therapeutic properties.  So, what (in my opinion) are the ten most powerful superfoods that everyone is likely familiar with?  Here they are:

1.  Avocados.  For most people, avocados bring up thoughts like "fattening" or "high in calories."  But, don't dismay.  Ounce per ounce, avocados have far less fat and calories than nuts or animal products.  The fat in avocados is mostly monounsaturated, which is great for the heart.  They are low in saturated fat and are easily digested.  In fact, the fat is easily used by the body, making them a great metabolism booster.  They are also rich in fiber, one of the best sources of potassium and have B and C vitamins.  Additionally, one avocado gives you more than half of your daily dose of vitamin K.  So, don't be afraid of this rich, tasty fruit.

2.  Blueberries.  You've probably seen this fruit on just about every superfood list out there, and there's a good reason for it.  Blueberries are low in calories, high in fiber and contain an impressive list of minerals and vitamins.  It makes this list though because of the deep purple pigment that gives it its color.  The pigment is actually an antioxidant that helps build the immune system, protect the eyes and fight free radicals.  They also contain other antioxidants like beta-carotene and zeaxanthin. Sure carrots might be good for eyesight, but blueberries are far better.

3.  Cabbage.  The first on this list of two from the Brassica family, cabbage packs a lot of nutrition into its thin leaves.  There are many varieties of cabbage, all of which are highly nutritious.  One of the most studied aspects of cabbage is its ability to fight cancer and heart disease.  There are also compounds that protect the blood sugar levels in the body.  Rich in vitamin C, cabbage helps fight inflammation caused by free radical damage.  If that weren't enough, cabbage is rich in minerals like potassium, magnesium and iron.  Be sure to buy organic, as the nutrition is compromised by poor soil and chemical treatment.

4.  Cacao/Chocolate.  If eaten in the right form, cacao (or cocoa) is one of the densest superfoods on the planet.  Rich in flavonoids that protect the immune system and the eyes, cacao one of the most antioxidant-rich foods you can eat.  It's also one of the best sources of magnesium, which is why many regular consumers report better bone density.  Pure cacao also has healthy fats, iron and many other phytonutrients that are just being explored.  If you have to have a chocolate bar, make sure it's organically grown and is high in cacao (70% or more).  Better yet, buy the raw cacao powder and learn to make your own healthy cacao treats.

5.  Figs.  Some fruits are high in sugar and calories and can cause overeaters to gain weight. Figs contain only about 75 calories per 100 grams and are low on the glycemic index. They are rich in fiber, minerals, several vitamins and contain antioxidants.  Like cabbage, they also help to fight diabetes by regulating the blood sugar.  Figs have a short growing season, so when the fresh ones are gone, try dried, organic figs for a wonderful treat.

6.  Garlic.  What superfood list could be complete without this amazing bulb?  While some of the claims about garlic range from modest to outrageous, even modern science is starting to accept many of the health claims made about garlic.  It's widely accepted that garlic can help lower blood pressure and stabilize cholesterol levels.  It acts as a powerful, natural antibiotic, without the terrible side effects of the drugs.  In case of a cold or flu, garlic can be a wonderful line of defense.  There are also antioxidants to keep the immune system strong.  If the order bothers you or a loved one, try aged garlic, which has all the benefits without the odor.

7.  Kale.  The second food from the Brassica family, this green leafy vegetable contains more nutrition than anything your mother tried to force you to eat off your plate.  Being low in calories and high in minerals, fiber and vitamins, this plant is another welcome addition to any healthy diet.  The protein in kale is easy to digest and higher than most vegetables.  Its antioxidants are great for the eyes, as well as the immune system.  It's also one of the best sources of vitamin K, which promotes healthy blood and bones.  If you're not a fan of the taste, blend it in green smoothie with other greens and fruit.

8.  Lemons.  One of the citrus foods just had to be on this list, and lemons are a great choice.  I don't have to tell you that lemons have a large amount of vitamin C, because it's well known.  What may not be as well known is that lemons actually help to alkalize the blood.  Even though they have a lot of citric acid, they become alkaline during digestion and help immensely with digestion.  Lemons are rich in other antioxidants that protect the skin from free radical damage and may help with severe skin challenges.

9.  Mushrooms.  This is the only superfood on this list that is not from the Plant Kingdom.  Mushrooms are a type of fungus that have just recently been studied extensively for their health benefits.  However, the benefits of these tasty additions to your diet have been known by cultures around the world for hundreds, maybe thousands of years.  The secret to the mushroom is in the carbohydrates.  Beta-glutens and polysaccharides are the long-chained sugars that science is just now discovering the potential of.  It's believed that these components have numerous benefits, including heart benefits, lowering of cholesterol, digestive health, cancer-fighting properties, and much more.  Unlike plants though, fungi have a cellular wall that is very difficult for the human digestive tract to penetrate.  It's best to steam or lightly saute mushrooms to break their cell wall.  Otherwise, they will just pass through the gut without any benefit.

10.  Walnuts.  Deciding which of the nuts to put on this list was not too difficult.  While all nuts have great benefits, walnuts are truly at the top.  The fat in walnuts is rich in monounsaturated fat and essential fatty acids like omega-3.  These oils have been proven to reduce the risk of heart disease and other coronary issues.  Beyond the great fats, walnuts have an impressive list of minerals, vitamins and antioxidants.  They are also used in alternative therapies to kill bacteria and fungus, due to its astringent properties. If you're looking to have better skin, walnuts are a great addition to your diet.

Stay tuned next week for another list of superfoods.  Stay healthy!

Mystic Merman

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Sexy Saturday: The Top Ten Ways to Stay Sexy

Everyone enjoys feeling good about themselves.  We all dress up for special occasions, groom our hair, try to stay fit and even wear makeup.  But, staying sexy comes from the inside out.  It's about having health and a positive attitude. Sure, some people are born with great genes and have to do very little to look good.  However, we can all change the way we look by how we treat ourselves.  Wanting to look great doesn't have to be superficial; it can come from a place of self love and respect.

So, here are the top ten ways to keep your skin looking young and your waistline trim:

1.  Eat a mostly raw, plant-based diet.  This will likely show up on a couple of lists this week, because it's one of the best things you can do for yourself.  Eating 80% or more raw, plant-based foods tremendously affects every aspect of your health.  Whole, raw plants are full of antioxidants that keep your skin young, life-giving water that cleans out your body, and fiber that keeps your waist smaller.  The plant kingdom has a variety of macro- and phytonutrients that have everything to keep you alive and well.  Make sure that any cooked food your eat does not clog you up.  Make smart choices like quinoa, brown rice or miso soup.

2.  Do some form of exercise or activity daily.  A sedentary life wages war on the waistline, the skin and mood.  Nobody really enjoys hanging out with a couch potato.  If you have a desk job, motivate yourself to get outside or to the gym.  Even moderate exercise comes with a range of benefits.  Your skin will look better from sweating; the flab around your middle or backside will start to melt away; and you'll notice a difference in your attitude toward life.  Now that's sexy!

3.  Drink plenty of fresh, clean water.  Water is the catalyst to nearly every function in the body.  Dehydration equals bad skin, poor organ functioning and toxic overload.  Staying hydrated will help push accumulated toxins out of your body and boost your metabolism.  As a result, your skin will glow and you'll move toward your ideal body weight.

4.  Get plenty of rest.  We all know people who don't get enough sleep at night.  Either they have high stress lives, are very unhealthy or they are not disciplined enough to get into bed early.  You may even be one of these people.  But, spending another hour surfing the internet robs you of one of your best allies: beauty sleep.  Yes, that's right, sleep does make you more beautiful.  Getting enough sleep at night helps the body function better and keeps your hormones in balance.  So, say goodbye to the bags under your eyes and hit the sack early!

5.  Keep positive.  Negativity earns a double whammy on our sex appeal.  First, it creates ill health.  Constantly focusing on the negative weighs heavy on the mind and creates stress for the body.  In turn, worriers look worn out and tired, because they are.  Second, negativity repels others.  Most people don't want to hang around complainers and worriers, unless they are guilty of it themselves.  Surround yourself with positive people and keep your thoughts, words and actions in check.  You'll attract positive people and positive things into your life.

6.  Take care of your skin.  Because of all the toxins we are exposed to every day and the poor diets we typically eat, our skin becomes wrinkled, blemished, or poorly colored over time.  An overabundance of free radicals can really damage the skin.  Eating right is key, but there are things we can do from the outside.  Look for skin products that are made with amazing ingredients or find oils that help the skin.  Coconut oil and Shea butter are two of my favorites, as both are therapeutic and moisturizing.  They also protect the skin from sun damage.  Aloe Vera gel is very healing with anti-fungal properties and anti-aging components.  Aloe can be a bit drying, so make sure to moisturize later.

7.  Eat food or take supplements that have a lot of antioxidants.  As previously mentioned, an army of free radicals in the body is your skin's worst enemy.  Free radicals are necessary (they are one of your body's first lines of defense against disease), but modern life creates a surplus that causes all kinds of issues.  Eating food rich in antioxidants is your best bet.  If you read through many of my blogs, I mention a lot of foods that have antioxidants in them.  Go for the deep colors like purple (dark berries), red (cherries and beets), orange (carrots, goldenberries, etc.) and yellow.  If you don't think you are getting enough antioxidants, try a whole-food supplement that has a good spectrum of them.

8.  Avoid the things you know you should avoid.  You know what they are.  Stay away from junk food.  Keep alcohol out of your house and your life (okay, an occasional glass of wine or beer might be okay).  Stop smoking.  Don't overeat.  Throw your television out with the garbage.  Etc. Etc.

9.  Manage your stress.  I've blogged about this many times.  There are so many ways to reduce the stress in your life.  See my article here.  So, learn how to react to situations.  Take a yoga or meditation class.  Breathe into stressful situations.  Eat better.  And Exercise.

10.  Smile.  Nothing is sexier than a smile.  No matter what you think about your personal appearance, smiling can only enhance it.  Research also shows that smiling and laughing sends certain signals to your body that keep your healthier.  Whenever you're feeling depressed or stressed out, stop.  Take a deep breath and think of something that will make you smile.  You'll start to feel sexier immediately.

There you have it.  Ten ways to feel and look great.  Be healthy!

Mystic Merman

Top Ten Series

Follow by blog over the next week, as I plan on presenting a list of top tens for every day of the week.  You'll find the Top Ten Ways to Stay Sexy (coming later today), the Top Ten Superfoods (possible divided up into two separate lists for the next two Superfood Sundays), the Top Ten Stress Melters,  the Top Ten Tasty Treats, the Top Ten Workouts, the Top Ten Therapies, and a special Top Ten for Free Friday.  Stay Healthy.

Mystic Merman

Friday, March 16, 2012

Free Friday: Keeping the body alkaline for health

Many health experts have asserted that most (if not all) diseases are caused by a state of acidity.  Human blood must remain slightly alkaline or the body will go into shock and die.  In order to sustain this pH of between 7.3 and 7.45, the body must gather alkaline minerals (calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, etc.) to maintain homeostasis.  If there is not enough reserves or if the body accumulates too much acid from poor diet, overexertion, stress or toxins, the body will draw on minerals from the bones and organs for these life-giving minerals.  This can lead to osteoporosis, cancer, heart disease and a plethora of other diseases.

In order to keep this from happening and remain in a state of good health, it is important to keep the body oxygenated and mineralized.  There are several steps you can take to ensure this happens.

1.  Eat a mostly alkaline, plant-based diet.  Your mother probably told you to eat your vegetables and she was right.  Vegetables, fruits, sprouts, nuts, seeds and other plant-based foods contain alkaline minerals like calcium and magnesium.  They also supply the body with life-giving water and oxygen, especially when consumed in their natural, raw state.  In addition, they help clear out acidic, toxic waste that accumulates from years of eating improperly.  By changing the way you eat, the body has enough minerals to draw on which keeps your bones and organs healthy.

2.  Do some form of exercise daily.  Even just walking helps move the lymph, provides the body with more oxygen, clears out acidic waste and relieves stress.  Cardio workouts burn fat where toxins are stored and provide extra oxygen to the blood which can help to alkalize it.  The pH has to do with oxygen molecules attached to hydrogen molecules.  The higher the pH, the more oxygen there is.

3.  Avoid acid-forming food and food stuff.  Food that depletes the body of minerals and contributes to an acidic condition in the body includes highly-processed food (sugar, white flour, processed oils, fried food, etc.), animal products, boxed and canned food, soda, and many more.  Artificial sweeteners, alcohol, stimulants like coffee, prescription and over-the-counter drugs, party drugs and other poisons heavily contribute to an acid condition and disease.  Moving toward a whole-food, plant-based diet can make a huge difference in one's health.

4.  Drink more pure, clean water.  Drinking good water every day is essential to health.  Water is important for nearly every function in the body, including removal of waste and carrying important minerals to the organs, bones and cells.  If you are dehydrated, you are contributing to an acid condition.  Put down your coffee, soda or glass of beer and drink more water.

5.  Eat mineral-rich superfoods.  Algae, sea vegetables, super berries, dark green powders and other superfoods contain alkaline minerals that support healthy blood, bones and organs.  Some of them also help to remove heavy metals and other toxins.  Find a few that you really like and eat them every day.  Your body will thank you.

6.  Take high-quality, plant-based supplements.  Most of us need a little help in getting to a state of health and alkalinity.  There are some great mineral supplements and concentrated powders that can help with this.  As there is a lot of crap out there, research the company you are using.  I recommend products by SunfoodThe Synergy Company, the raw vitamins line by Vitamin Code, and Health Force.  Also, consider taking an oxygen supplement to add more oxygen to your internal environment.

7.  Reduce the amount of stress in your life.  As I talked about in a previous blog (here), stress is a huge killer.  Read the article and apply some of the ways to reduce stress in your life.  When we are stressed, the body has to respond with chemicals that create more acid in the body.  Beware of this silent killer.

As you can see, there are a number of things we can do to alkalize the body.  For more information on the subject, refer to the book Alkalize or Die by Theodore A. Baroody.  Everything you do here contributes to your health, so do the best you can and keep moving toward a healthy state of being.  Be healthy.

Mystic Merman