When talking about a vegan or plant-based diet, usually the main concern tends to be Vitamin B12 which is practically non-existent in plant foods and with good reason because B12 is extremely important for the optimal functioning of our bodies. Inadequate intake of B12 can be responsible for just about anything that goes wrong in our body, from abdominal distension, chronic diarrhea, Parkinson’s like symptoms, darkening of the skin, swollen hands and feet, numbness and tingling of hands and feet, muscle cramping and so on.
B12 levels start to drop within months of cutting meat from our diets, so it’s not something that happens immediately which is the reason some people may lower their guard and not think its that necessary but it is imperative to find a reliable source of B12 and consume the right dosage to avoid all the issues mentioned above.
Thankfully, supplementing vitamin B12 is very easy and inexpensive. For about $20 you can buy enough B12 supply for 4 years, although I do not recommend keeping it for longer than 3. Another recommendation when it comes to buying a B12 supplement would be, go for sublingual or chewable. The reason for that is, our saliva contains a protein that specifically binds to B12 helping carry it safely to where it needs to go in your body. Also, try to stay away from multivitamins that contain B12. Usually, the high concentration of vitamin C, Thiamine, and Copper in multivitamins will form something called Analogs. These Analogs can destroy most of the active B12 and block the absorption of what little is left.
Lastly, there are two types of Vitamin B12. Cyanocobalamin and Methylcobalamin. When buying your supplement, I recommend choosing Cyanocobalamin because it is the most stable form which makes it easier to absorb and more efficient. Methylcobalamin is very unstable which means the amount you absorb is actually much less than what you take. It is also susceptible to photodecomposition which means it gets destroyed by light making it even more inefficient.
So, although B12 is not present in plants, it is very easy and cheap to supplement and should not be a reason to deter you from making a switch to a healthier diet.
When we hear fiber, we automatically think of constipation and, yes, while assisting with constipation is one of the great benefits of fiver, it certainly is not the only one. Fiber helps to get rid of excess bile, feeds our good bacteria, helps control cholesterol, body weight, blood sugar and blood pressure... IT IS AMAZING!
Unfortunately, the more food is processed, the more stripped off its fiber it is, which is why eating a lot of fiber means eating a lot of "whole" foods. Luckily, Mother Nature is wise and has packed all fruits and vegetables with yummy and healthy fiber. But I know what you are thinking, "I CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT BREAD" or Pasta for some, and thankfully you don't have to. Here is a good rule to live by: "the 5 to 1 or less" rule. Here is what that means. When purchasing bread, for example, look at the label and pay close attention to the ratio of carbohydrates to dietary fiber. The idea is that for every gram of fiber, there is no more than 5 grams of carbohydrates. Here is an example: Wonder bread contains 29 grams of carbohydrates and only 2 grams of dietary fiber. Divide 29 by 2 and you get 14.5 grams of carbohydrates per gram of fiber. It should go back to the shelf. Find a bread that will provide you with 5 grams or less of cards per gram of fiber. This rule can apply to anything you buy at the grocery store. No need to fear carbs or eating bread or pasta.
If you are older than 5 years old, chances are you can't digest lactose. Lactose, a type of sugar found in dairy products, it's generally not digestible by adults, causing belly discomfort, gas, bloating, etc.
See, our bodies need an enzyme called "Lactase" in order to be able to digest and break down lactose. This enzyme is naturally produced by our bodies between the ages of 1 and 5 but after that, our bodies stop the production of this enzyme so when we eat any type of dairy, undigested sugars end up in our colon, start fermenting and cause the intolerance.
The majority of people don't realize this but, being able to digest lactose as an adult is actually a weird generic adaptation, in fact, less than 40% of people on the planet maintain the ability to digest lactose after childhood.
Lactose and our ability to digest it (or lack thereof) is not the only issue with milk or dairy products in general. Bet most of you have heard at some point or another that milk will make your bones stronger due to its high content of calcium. While this statement is true, it only applies to children in the midst of their development.
Milk contains about 300 mg of calcium per cup so it is a wonderful source of it for children who are growing every day but when that progress stops, calcium actually becomes counterproductive. Hundreds of scientific studies show that not only do we barely absorb the calcium from a glass of milk but consuming it actually increases the loss of calcium on our bones leading us to a series of detrimental health conditions.
This is what happens when we consume milk: Any animal protein, including milk, acidifies the pH in our bodies so, in turn, our body's response is to try to autocorrect by pulling out calcium from our bones to neutralize the acidity caused by the milk. Calcium is an excellent acid neutralizer and our biggest calcium storage is our bones so naturally, this calcium is used to balance our PH and every time we consume milk, our bones get a bit more decalcified as it all gets disposed of through urine.
The milk industry has spent millions and millions of dollars trying to cover all of these studies and facts and trying to promote the consumption of milk and all dairy products but your body will not lie to you so listen to it.
Fortunately, nowadays we enjoy a wide verity of lactose-free products and non-dairy products that really make our lives easier. Personally, my transition from cow's milk to almond milk was a hard and bumpy one but I now enjoy my morning cup of coffee on almond milk and a yummy almond milk-based creme cheese alternative, having ran a full marathon my bones are strong and I am healthier than ever!
Haven't we all, at some point in our lives, said "OK, I will start working out on Monday!". Especially around December when we start thinking about our New Year's resolution but maybe if you new how working out affects your body it would give you that extra push you need to make it a real life-changing habit.
We all might have different motivations for wanting to work out. Some people might want to look better, others want to lose weight, others might just want to be healthier but the truth of the matter is, whatever your motivation, exercise will turn your life around all for the better and your body (and mind) will thank you!
1. Boost Immune System. When exercising your heart pumps more oxygenated blood to all your body. Oxygenated blood carrying white blood cells (which are responsible for keeping you healthy) helps regenerate your cells, tissues, organs, and muscles and makes your cardiovascular system work more efficiently.
2. Regulate Body Weight. Depending on the type of activity you choose, your physical results may vary. For example, someone who runs will lose more body fat than someone who lifts weights. So think about what your goal is and chose your workouts accordingly.
3. Sleep Better. Physical activity reduces stress and gets you tired so sleeping will become an easier task. Of course, other factors help make exercise more effective like timing. Exercise might have an immediate draining reaction which will put you to sleep faster or it might energize you making you too hyped to sleeps it might be better to workout in the morning. Find what works for you.
4. Energy Boost. When we perform tasks that require a larger amount of effort, our body produces and releases endorphins. Endorphins are hormones that are released from our pituitary gland and they reduce pain, increase the feeling of pleasure and euphoria.
You don't need to spend 3 hours at the gym or run a marathon to enjoy these benefits, in fact, only 40 minutes of moderate physical exercise per day, such as brisk walking can work wonders like inproving overall morlaity rate by as much as 14%. Find what type of exercise works for you.
There are many different types of workouts out there, from kickboxing to swimming and pilates to dancing. Finding the right fit for you will help you make it a lifestyle.
And always keep in mind, Workout because you LOVE your body, not because you HATE it.
It is easy to get wrapped up in life, work, the kids and everything else and forget to drink water. Sometimes we don't even know we are thirsty until we see someone else drinking water and then we start feeling the thirst. Guess what? you are most likely dehydrated at that point. You can still function and are most likely still healthy but your kidneys and rest of the organs are working 10 times harder to do their jobs. Now, we all know what happens when we get overworked for too long: stress, weakness, susceptible to sickness, etc. Our organs are no different.
Water is so essential to our bodies that it accounts for 50% to 70% of our body weight and not drinking enough of it can affect our metabolism, make us feel fatigued, can cause problems with digestion, and it can even affect our appearance. Our skin loses elasticity, we get dark circles under our eyes and because it messes up with our metabolism, we feel hungrier more often than we should which will have an end result of weight gain.
OK, so if we don't drink enough water eventually bad things happen... you get the picture. So, how much is enough?
There is no magic number. WHAT?... Yeah, that "8 glasses a day" is not really a number that can apply to everyone and I'll tell you why:
- How much water you drink depends on where you live. If its a hot weather like Miami you will sweat more and need more hydration that if you like in say, Alaska.
- Your daily activity. If you have a sedentary lifestyle in which you are sitting down behind a desk at work and then go home and read a book and then go to bed, you won't need as much water intake as someone who works in retail and then gets out of work and goes for a 3-mile run (and then we factor in the weather: running in a hot weather versus a cold weather).
- Your age and Weight. At a certain age, your body starts needing a little extra help to stay healthy, water will make a huge difference. Also, if you have a heavier body frame, the effort your body will do to perform all its functions will be greater and water will help with the process.
The "8-glasses a day" rule is a good guide to follow but keep in mind you may need to consult a professional to get an individualized number that applies to you.
We have all been told at some point of our lives that we should take a multivitamin because they are good for you and because food now a day does not contain the nutritional value that it used to back in the days. While all that is true (in most cases), there are a few things we should also know before going out there and choosing the biggest bottle or the cheapest one.
Unless you specifically look for a natural or organic brand, most likely the ones you will find will be synthetic. Synthetic vitamins are created in a lab and they are designed to mimic the real ones, the only difference is, they don't mimic the benefits.
Our bodies process and assimilate real vitamins from nature completely while synthetic vitamins will not be recognized by our bodies and therefore not processed and the rest of the ingredients in it will actually be potentially toxic and harmful on the long run.
When picking up your next bottle of vitamins, turn it around and read the ingredients label. Some of the ingredients you will most likely see are added to create the desired form, give it certain smell or color, avoid melting or caking, etc.
Some of the ingredients most commonly used are magnesium stearate, stearic acid, silicone dioxide and methylcellulose. These are all toxic and potential carcinogens additives that, in the case of fat soluble vitamins such as A, D, E and K, when consumed, will get stored and build up on your body's fat tissues and liver and cause health issues.
While there are a lot more to talk about when it comes to vitamins, I like to provide my readers with short, straight to the point versions of the truth and with that, some good news, all is not lost.
If you are looking for new vitamins or all of the sudden feel like you should not keep taking the ones at home, look for natural and organic brands. The vitamins you want to but will be derived from fruits and veggies and will have a very clear label so you know exactly what you are taking. They might cost you a buck or two more but believe me, it will be worth it!
Remember, Always read the label and choose wisely!
Organic vs. conventional battle is now a days more fierce than ever but lets be realistic, we can't all effort to buy everything organic. Sometimes we have to choose between buying organic apples or pay the electricity bill and, well, lets just say that living in the dark is not as fun as it sounds...
Well, I found something that made my life easier and I would like to share it with you. here is a cheat-sheet of what you absolutely need to buy organic and what is not really a big deal not to eat organic. Here I present to you the Dirty 12 list:
These are the most contaminated item you will find in the grocery store. If you are not able to buy these organic, I would recommend you not buying them at all. But its not all doom. There is also a "not-so-bad" list that will tell you which items you can buy conventional. These are the least contaminated ones. Knowing this can save you some bucks! Here we go:
Eating clean can be attainable if we learn what to buy where. Prices vary and without the right research and help, we are bound to spend more money than we need to.
Look for options and alternatives and always read the labels.
It wasn't until recently that we started to learn about the additives on food and how they are aggressively harmful to human health and over the years we have become more knowledgeable.
So what is the problem with antibiotics, hormones and other chemicals? We have been consuming them for years and we are doing just fine, right? ... Well, not so much.
We are not doing just fine. Cancer cases have exponentially grown and are predicted to rise even more. Research by American Cancer Society shows that in 2013, there were 8 million deaths due to cancer worldwide. This number is due to increase to 13 million in the next two decades.
So, back to Antibiotics and Hormones. These chemicals are fed to the animals and remain in them after they are slaughtered with the purpose of fattening them up and keeping away infections and diseases caused by the poor living conditions. These chemicals get absorbed into their bloodstream and into every muscle and tissue of the animal’s body and stay there, so the next stop would be the supermarket and then our home's dinner table.
As I mentioned, these chemicals are fed to the animals to stimulate growth and to decrease the chances of infections or illnesses in the animals which are at risk due to the poor living conditions in which they are kept. Animals who are skinny do not yield a lot of meat and don’t produce a lot of money. Likewise, animals that get sick cost money to treat so they would not get treated and left to die and the meat cannot be sold.
In addition to these chemicals, these animals have poor nutrition. The quality of the meals they receive (As opposed to being grass-fed as nature intended it) is detrimental. These meals not only contain animal byproduct (remains of other, already slaughtered animals), but they also contain plastic pellets which are meant to aid with digestion.
Remember how twenty years ago 10-year-olds actually looked like 10-year-olds? Nowadays children are victims of the deterioration in nutrition. They consume these hormones which accelerate their growth (Just like it does on the cow it was fed to) and end up developing early.
What is the alternative? Organic meats and dairy products.
Meats and dairy products that are produced organically are not fed hormones. Sure your chicken breast will be a bit smaller but trust me, it will also be way more nutritious, healthier and even yummier that the huge conventional ones.
Also, organic meats are not grown with antibiotics, they are grass-fed and for the most part, they are cage-free, which means they are allowed to roam free in a field and have a normal, healthy lifestyle, feeding themselves grass and being able to exercise, receive sunlight and develop naturally.
We have all heard how carbs are bad for you and if you really want to lose weight you should avoid them and blah, blah, blah... Well, the truth is not all carbs are bad, in fact, only one type should be avoided. There are two types of carbohydrates, simple and complex. Avoiding carbs altogether can bring serious health problems which defeats the purpose of doing a diet in the first place.
Carbs are converted into blood sugar and blood sugar is the go-to source of fuel for every cell in our body. Even our brain uses this blood glucose to function and it can account for about ¼ of our resting metabolic rate.
In the short term, deprivation of carbs can cause dizziness, lack of energy, headaches, constipation and so on. In the long term it can cause more headaches, muscle cramps, diarrhea, constipation and bad breath. Aside from these, somewhat mild consequences, a sustained low-carb diet can cause health complications such as heart arrhythmias, osteoporosis, kidney damage, increased cancer risk, impairment of physical activity and cholesterol abnormalities.
The brain needs carbs to produce serotonin, which is a mood elevator, without it, we tend to be restless, irritable or depressed.
Also, low-carb diets tend to encourage the consumption of fatty foods , normally high in cholesterol and saturated fats, and are overall, very nutrient deficient. Sustaining such a diet in the long run could result in malnutrition.
Depriving our body of carbohydrates, the main fuel source for every cell in our body, forces our body to switch to burning fat instead, this is called ketosis. This sounds like a great deal but the truth is, most of the weight lost in the first few weeks, before hitting a plateau, is water weight, not fat. Studies have shown that by putting our body in ketosis mode, it is actually forced to burn more of our own protein than fat. Our body at this point needs to get its glucose from somewhere so it breaks down our protein which is mostly found in muscles. Just to feed our brain, our body would need to breakdown about half a pound of protein a day. So we are losing a small amount of fat, but in the process, we are also slowly shrinking our muscles, losing water, and putting ourselves at risk of all the health issues I mentioned before.
So, staying away from carbs is a good idea but it does not apply to all carbs. Simple carbs are the ones we should try to stay away from. These raise blood sugar quickly and provide almost immediate energy but it promptly runs out and you are left with a drop of sugar levels which makes you hungry sooner, which creates a cycle.
Simple carbs can be found in table sugar, corn syrup, fruit juices, sodas, candy, white flour, sweetened cereals, white rice, white pasta, and all processed wheat.
Complex Carbohydrates are the good kind, the ones you get from nature and have not been processed and stripped off their nutrients in an attempt to change the color, texture or shape to make them more appealing. These good carbs provide fiber, and a wide variety of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. Some sources of these good carbs are whole grains like quinoa, brown rice and oats, whole vegetables, whole fruits, and legumes.
Always try to avoid products with added simple carbs on the ingredients list such as glucose, fructose, dextrin, maltodextrin, galactose, maltose or just anything that ends with “ose”. Good luck! and remember, always read your labels and choose wisely!