Archive for the ‘General Health’ Category

Boosting energy with high energy foods

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

Summer is here, the days are longer and the nights are shorter and you want to feel as energetic as possible to make the best of them. In the last few issues of Natural News we’ve looked at a number of ways to boost your energy naturally. Last month we looked at herbal energy boosting helpers. This month and next we’ll take a look at natural ways to boost your energy through simple dietary changes.

Discover the zest

There’s a reason nutritionists tend to recommend lemon juice as the first drink of the morning. If you’ve ever been to a health farm or to India for that matter, you’ll know that lemon juice is typically drunk immediately on waking. The reason is that lemon juice is a wonderful digestive aid. If your digestive system isn’t functioning optimally it doesn’t matter how many so-called ‘super foods’ you eat, you won’t be getting the ‘good-for-you’ nutrients your body needs to produce energy.


Lemon juice, being a digestion-boosting power-house with an energising tangy flavour, is therefore exactly the right drink to kick start both your metabolism and your energy levels first thing. So as soon as you wake up – before getting dressed or having breakfast – drink a glass of lemon juice.

To make energy-boosting lemonade you will need:


           2 tbs fresh squeezed lemon juice (approx. ½ to 1 organic or unwaxed lemon)

           300-500ml water

           1 tsp organic Grade B maple syrup (optional)

           pinch cayenne pepper


Use fresh lemons only, and mix your lemonade fresh just before drinking. Adding a pinch of cayenne pepper adds extra zing to the flavour as well as a stimulatory heating effect that speeds cleansing and elimination. Grade B maple syrup (Grade A is over-processed and refined) adds a sweet taste for those who find the drink too bitter.


Dynamic breakfasts

A mobile phone needs recharging regularly so that its battery doesn’t run down, and it’s the same with your body. When you wake up in the morning your body has been without food for many hours and it needs refuelling.


The old cliché about breakfast being the most important meal is true. Brains need a regular supply of glucose to function, and in the morning there isn’t much glucose up there, so never skip breakfast. If you do you’re likely to hit an energy wall at around 10am. Eating breakfast will boost your energy first thing and help stop your blood sugar from dipping during the morning. In other words, it will give your body and mind the energy they need to function optimally, setting you up for the day ahead.


Eating breakfast also kick starts your metabolism (fat-burning), so if you have weight to lose, skipping breakfast is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. You need to get your metabolism up and running as soon as possible so that it isn’t on hold during the day and clinging onto the fat reserves you don’t need.


You may not feel like eating 2 minutes after you jump out of bed, so give yourself a little time to wake up before eating. And don’t just grab any food for breakfast; you need to make sure that what you are eating is optimum fuel for your body and brain. Avoid coffee/tea, white bread and muffins and sugary cereals made from refined grains because these will only give you a short lift and then your blood sugar can come crashing down. Make long lasting energy-boosting choices instead.


Dynamic breakfast choices include:

• A bowl of organic cereal that is low in fat, sugar and salt with milk (organic cow’s, organic soya or rick milk) with a herb tea.

            • A boiled egg and wholemeal or rye toast with fruit smoothie.

• Porridge topped with berries and ground nuts or seeds and a herb tea.

• For rushed mornings, a fruit or protein smoothie can be made the night before. In the morning just shake it up and drink as you get ready to start your day.


Freedom from trans fats

Banned in Denmark, and linked to cardiovascular disease and weight gain – trans fatty acids must go. If you ditch the transfats you will eat less of the junk that clogs your system and leaves you feeling sluggish, tired and bloated. In the long term you can also stave off high cholesterol. One study showed that by increasing consumption of trans fats by just 2% it can increase the risk of heart disease by a massive 30%.


Many manufactured foods have trans fats in them, including margarine, cakes, pies, biscuits, some vegetable oils and ready meals, as well as cheap chocolate, confectionary and ice cream. Instead of margarine it is better to go for a small amount of organic butter. Look on the label in the ingredient list for the words ‘hydrogenated fats’ as this is how the trans fats will appear. 


Avoid the rush

The typical way many of us find ourselves eating is a small or non-existent breakfast followed by a light snack during the day and a big meal at night. Sometimes people don’t eat anything at all until their evening meal which can be as late as 8.30pm. Stacking your calories like this isn’t a good idea and will almost certainly lead to fatigue and energy-draining weight gain.


In the fasted state your body will reduce your metabolism (fat-burning) and then – when you do eat before you go to bed – your body has little opportunity to produce energy and burn any of the calories that have been consumed. The result: poor digestion, weight gain and fatigue.


For sustained energy release you should start the day with a healthy breakfast, have a mid-morning snack, then lunch, a mid-afternoon snack and then supper. Eating every few hours will avoid a rush of blood sugar followed by a low, keeping your blood sugar levels and your energy levels as stable as possible. A snack doesn’t have to be anything more than a piece of fruit and a handful of nuts and seeds. The important thing is to avoid going for long hours on nothing more than a cup of coffee and a chocolate bar.

For steady energy release, try to make the basis of your daily meal pattern a healthy proportion of unrefined carbohydrates (fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes) and protein (fish, eggs, nuts, beans, quinoa and seeds) to keep your blood sugars balanced. It’s an excellent idea to avoid sources of saturated fat from red meat, fried and fatty fast foods, cakes, pastries and crisps, and to concentrate on obtaining omega-3 and omega-6 essential fats from oily fish, nuts, seeds, extra-virgin olive oil and sunflower oil.


Raw potential

Eat something raw at the start of every meal. By eating foods in their natural state you can access their valuable energy-boosting nutrients more easily. So, without going overboard, begin each meal with something raw – for example an apple at breakfast, a stick of celery or some chopped cucumber with lemon juice and olive oil at lunch or supper.


Always remember that fresh food becomes unhealthy if it’s cooked unhealthily, for example if it’s deep fried or boiled for too long. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t cook at all. Certain foods, such as eggs, meat and fish, can be dangerous to eat raw and need to be cooked thoroughly. Try to balance cooked food with more raw food, perhaps 50:50, and cook gently at a lower heat and for longer if necessary. Steaming is the best way to cook veggies, stir-frying is good for fish, and poaching is useful for eggs and fish. Interestingly, some nutrients like lycopene in tomatoes are found at higher concentrations when the food is cooked rather than when the tomatoes are raw. So variety is the key. 


The big chew

Most people think that digestion begins in the stomach, but it actually begins in the mouth. The process of chewing is a vital part of good digestion, and therefore of good health and steady energy levels.


Avoid eating on the run. You need to chew your food thoroughly if you are to digest it properly and get the maximum benefit from what you eat. So don’t eat at your desk while working and try to avoid grabbing a bite to eat as you run from one appointment to another. Make time to ensure that you eat a proper meal rather than just the fuel you need as quickly as possible.


The next time you have a meal or snack, concentrate on noticing every morsel: what it looks, smells and tastes like. Count to five between each bite, or put your knife and fork down between mouthfuls. It doesn’t really take much time or effort to chew your food, and what you get in return is better digestion, better health, more energy and a greater enjoyment and appreciation of food.


(Next month: Boosting energy with more high energy foods)

The importance of good hygiene for good health

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

There is no doubt that a crucial but often over looked natural way to prevent illness is good hygiene. It is important to wash your hands regularly and keep your living and working environment as clean as possible and the feature below will give you all the good hygiene rules you need to protect your health and the health of your family.

Hand washing

Hand washing is a simple habit — one that requires minimal training and no special equipment. Yet it’s without doubt one of the best ways to avoid getting sick. This is because throughout the day you accumulate germs on your hands from a variety of sources, such as direct contact with people, contaminated surfaces, foods, even animals and animal waste. If you don’t wash your hands frequently enough, you can infect yourself with these germs by touching your eyes, nose or mouth. And you can spread these germs to others by touching them or by touching surfaces that they also touch, such as doorknobs, towels and taps.


Infectious diseases that commonly spread through hand-to-hand contact include the common cold, flu and several gastrointestinal disorders, such as infectious diarrhoea. Inadequate hand hygiene also contributes to food-related illnesses, such as salmonella and E. coli infection. According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in the US, as many as 76 million Americans contract a food-borne illness each year. Of these, about 5,000 die as a result of their illness. Others experience the annoying symptoms of nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.


Keeping your living and working environment as clean as possible

If you don’t keep your living and working environment as clean as possible you can also infect yourself with germs. This does not mean creating a sterile environment, as exposure to germs is part of life, but the risk can be minimised by following the suggestions below:


Kitchen hygiene

Although the kitchen sink harbours 100,000 times more germs than a bathroom or toilet, most people consider the later to be the most contaminated part of the house. To keep your kitchen as hygienic as possible:


– Wash hands thoroughly before touching food. This is even more important after having touched a pet or used the toilet. Use waterproof plasters to cover cuts.

– Make sure that the sink and surrounding areas are cleaned regularly.

– Keep the fridge at a constant temperature of between 0 and 4°C and clean it, as well as cupboards, as often as possible. Put raw meat in a dish or on a plate.

– Always check that cleaned surfaces such as worktops and fridges are thoroughly dry before putting food down.

– Wash and disinfect the bin and the area around it (in case of spatters). Bins contain high concentrations of bacteria so it is important to empty them every day and to wash them regularly.

– Towels and cloths and sponges used in the kitchen should be changed frequently and always washed carefully. The survey mentioned previously showed that, while one in three people changes them every day and 57% at least one a week, 21 million Europeans (7%) only change kitchen linen if it is really dirty or when they think of it.


Bathroom hygiene

The warm and damp atmosphere of a bathroom encourages bacteria growth. Soapy water loaded with bodily bacteria collects in thin layers on the surfaces of the shower, the bath and the shower curtain. If the curtain is made of fabric then it may be machine-washable at a low temperature.

Face flannels are popular, but their almost constant humidity makes them an ideal breeding ground for germs. As a result, they should be changed regularly and be preferably made from thin material that dries quickly.


Handy tips

– Clean and disinfect baths, sinks and toilets regularly

– Don’t forget doors, handles, toilet rims and taps

– Hang towels up to dry after use

– Give each family member their own towel

– Air the room regularly to help disperse steam


Dust mites

House dust is a significant source of allergens (substances responsible for causing allergic reactions in some people) of which dust mites are the most important. Dust mites are tiny animals, invisible to the naked eye, which live in fabric, wool and feathers. Dust mites love heat and humidity. They eat the tiny bits of skin that humans shed every day (desquamation). They are often found in pillows, woollen blankets, cuddly toys, etc. Dust mites are found everywhere, even in really clean houses. By reducing their numbers, or containing their presence, allergic reactions become less severe or non-existent. There are several ways of dealing with dust mites, which are often best combined:

          washing at high temperature, i.e. above 55°C 

          controlling their development by reducing the humidity and heat in a room so that dust mites find it hard to survive and multiply

          reducing the areas of fitted carpets in a home.


Clean work surfaces

Good hygiene is just as important at work as it is at home and the same rules apply. Clean work surfaces regularly paying particular attention to objects, such as telephones, water coolers and so on, that are used by large numbers of people. In fact, a growing body of research suggests that computer mice and keyboards are prime breeding grounds for germs. In January, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that a norovirus outbreak, at a Washington D.C. elementary school that sickened more than 100 children, may have been spread through contaminated computer equipment.


Other research has detected a host of different, potentially disease-causing germs on everything from doorknobs to light switches to lift buttons to petrol pumps.


E coli infection

Taking the above precautions in your living and working environment, in particular the kitchen, can have a dramatic impact on your health. Food poisoning hits the headlines when people come down with salmonella poisoning from eating at the local fast-food outlet. But still, about 20 per cent of the yearly millions of cases of food-borne illness start in the home, where you have complete control over the cooking and cleaning.


Food-borne infections – illnesses spread through food or beverages – occur when micro-organisms (such as bacteria, viruses or parasites) enter your gastrointestinal tract, causing nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and diarrhoea. In 1982 the bacteria E. coli became a household name after dozens of people became sick from eating E. coli O157contaminated hamburgers at a restaurant. Since then, most E. coli O157 infections have been traced to eating undercooked ground beef.


Knowing how E. coli is spread, what foods may carry the bacteria, and how to handle your food safely can help you avoid getting sick. Undercooked, contaminated ground beef isn’t the only source of E. coli O157 infections. You can also get sick from consuming contaminated dry-cured sausage, salami, undercooked roast beef, chicken, fish, poultry, unpasteurized milk, apple juice and apple cider.


Once the harmful types of E. coli enter your body, they attach to the cells lining your intestine and begin to multiply. As the bacteria grow in numbers, they release toxins that damage the lining of your intestine, causing cramping and diarrhoea. Protect yourself by taking proper food safety precautions. For example, never eat undercooked or uncooked meat or poultry. Always wash any kitchen surfaces that have had uncooked meat on them, not just to protect against flu but also to protect against other things that can make you sick, such as salmonella bacteria. Separate raw meat from cooked or ready-to-eat foods. And don’t use the same cutting boards, knives, or utensils that are used on uncooked meats on other foods.


Proper hand-washing techniques

Good hand-washing techniques include washing your hands with soap and water and apparently singing two verses of ‘Happy Birthday to You’ to time yourself that you have washed them for long enough. 


Antibacterial soaps have become increasingly popular in recent years. However, these soaps are no more effective at killing germs than are regular soap and water. Using these soaps may even lead to the development of bacteria that are resistant to the products’ antimicrobial agents — making it even harder to kill these germs in the future. In general, regular soap is fine. The combination of scrubbing your hands with soap and rinsing them with water loosens and removes bacteria from your hands.


Follow these instructions for washing with soap and water:


          Wet your hands with warm, running water and apply liquid or clean bar soap. Lather well.

          Rub your hands vigorously together.  

          Scrub all surfaces, including the backs of your hands, wrists, between your fingers and under your fingernails.

          Rinse well.

          Dry your hands with a clean or disposable towel.

          Use a towel to turn off the tap.  


When should you wash your hands?


Although it’s impossible to keep your bare hands germ-free, times exist when it’s critical to wash your hands to limit the transfer of bacteria, viruses and other microbes. So, always wash your hands:


  • After using the bathroom
  • After changing a nappy — wash the nappy-wearer’s hands too
  • After touching animals or animal waste
  • Before and after preparing food, especially before and immediately after handling raw meat, poultry or fish
  • Before eating
  • After blowing your nose
  • After coughing or sneezing into your hands
  • Before and after treating wounds or cuts
  • Before and after touching a sick or injured person
  • After handling rubbish
  • Before inserting or removing contact lenses
  • When using public toilets, such as those in airports, train stations, bus stations and restaurants.


Children need clean hands, too. You can help your children avoid getting sick by insisting that they wash their hands properly and frequently. To get children into the habit, teach by example. Wash your hands with your children and supervise their hand washing. Place hand-washing reminders at children’s eye level, such as a chart by the bathroom sink for children to mark every time they wash their hands. Tell your children to wash their hands for as long as it takes them to sing their alphabet or Happy birthday twice. This works especially well with younger children, who may rush when washing their hands.


Hand washing is especially important for children who attend day care. Children in day care are at greater risk of gastrointestinal diseases, which can easily spread to family members and others in the community. To protect your child’s health, be sure your day care provider promotes sound hygiene, including frequent hand washing. Ask whether the children are required to wash their hands several times a day — not just before meals. And make sure the sink is low enough for children to use, or that it has a stool underneath so that children can reach it. Note, too, whether nappy changing areas are cleaned after each use and whether eating and nappy areas are well separated.


To sum up hand washing doesn’t take much time or effort, but it offers great rewards for you and your family in terms of preventing illness. Adopting this simple habit today and encouraging those you care about to do the same is a powerful way to help protect your health.

In the News: Risk of blood sugar problems increases with lack of sleep

Monday, June 1st, 2009

People who sleep less than six hours a night are at greater risk of blood sugar problems that can lead to diabetes, according to research presented by scientists at the University of Buffalo in New York. They found that those who lose sleep during the working week are five times more likely to develop blood sugar problems.

It’s thought that hormonal changes caused by too much or too little sleep can affect the body’s metabolism and appetite control. The study found that those sleeping fewer than six hours a night from Sunday to Thursday over six years were 4.5 times more likely to develop the blood sugar abnormality known as impaired fasting glucose compared to those sleeping between six and eight hours. The condition – which is often called pre-diabetes – is caused by the body not producing enough insulin causing blood sugar levels to rise above normal in the morning. The findings could not be explained by genes and scientists believe they are most likely due to lack of sleep.


Around a third of British adults regularly sleep for five hours or less a night. The healthiest amount of sleep, according to researchers, is seven hours a night.