Tuesday, March 17, 2015

7 Natural and Healthy Foods To Boost Your Mood

We did a little research and compared recent studies in order to build the ultimate list of healthy foods, which can help in our constant fight against stress, anxiety and depression. Feel free to browse through the pages and see which healthy foods to eat in order to feel happier.

Dark Chocolate

It's no surprise that chocolate is first on our list, but it's good to know that there is a little science behind the theory that eating chocolate makes us happy. Consuming dark chocolate every day for two weeks (1.4 ounces of it) will reduce the stress hormones, cortisol included. According to the experts we have to thank the antioxidants in chocolate. Just stick to those 1.4 ounces or you may find yourself in a world of stress when you see some extra pounds in the mirror.


Many believe that carbs make you fat. Well they don't, in fact they can be a great mood buster. According to a recent study in the Archives of Internal Medicine, people who followed a very-low-carbohydrate diet – felt victims to depression, anger, bad mood and anxiety than those who followed a low-fat, high-carb diet, focused on low-fat dairy, whole grains, beans and fruits.

Carbs stimulate the production of serotonin – a feel-good brain chemical.

Fruits and Vegetables

In order to eat healthy we must turn our attention to foods that have been processed or refined as little as possible. We stumbled upon a recent study in the British Journal of Psychiatry, that evolved around 3.500 people eating a whole foods diet rich program. The results have show that they were less likely to feel depressed than those who ate fried foods, processed meats and other high fat refined dairy products.

Antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables as well as omega -3 fatty acids are always associated with good mood. Folate (a Vitamin B) found in dark green vegetables like spinach or in beans and citrus affects the neurotransmitters that are in charge of our mood.


Omega 3 is a key mood-boosting nutrient found in oily, fatty fish like salmon, tuna, sardines and rainbow trout. They alter the brain chemicals (dopamine and serotonin) which are directly linked with our mood. Dopamine is a rewarding chemical released by the brain as a reaction to pleasurable experiences, while the lack of serotonin is associated with aggression, depression and suicidal tendencies.


There are many evidences from earlier studies that support the claim that saffron helps decline mood swings and depression. In fact this plant has the same antidepressant effect as the antidepressants fluoxetine (Prozac) and imipramine (Tofranil). It works by the same principal as Prozac, transmitting more feel good serotonin to the brain.


Did you know that only the scent of coconut may blunt your natural response to “flight or fight” by slowing the heart rate? A small pilot research done by the Colombia University has shown that coconut fragrance recovers the blood pressure more quickly. Inhaling a pleasant scent may enhance awareness by relieving the reaction to stress.


According to The Journal of Nutrition, drinking green, caffeinated or oolong tea may evoke a more active state of mind. When we drink these types of tea – an amino acid called theanine is working synergistically with caffeine to improve awareness and focus. The same study suggest drinking at least 5 to 6 cups of tea daily.

Monday, March 2, 2015

10 Natural Tips To Beat Chronic Stress

"If you really knew what was happening to you when you are stressed, you would freak out. It's not pretty," I said during the 2013 Third Metric women's conference.

I wasn't exaggerating. Chronic stress has become epidemic in our society, where faster seems better and we pack more obligations into our ever-expanding schedules.

Research has confirmed the havoc stress can wreak, with one meta-analysis involving 300 studies finding that chronic stress could damage immunity. Another study found stressed-out women had significantly higher waist circumference compared to non-stressed women.

Experts have connected stress with blood sugar and belly fat. Chronic stress raises insulin, driving relentless metabolic dysfunction that becomes weight gain, insulin resistance and ultimately diabetes.

Insulin isn't the only hormone that becomes out of balance with stress. Your adrenal glands release hormones like adrenaline and cortisol that flood your system, raising your heart rate, increasing your blood pressure, making your blood more likely to clot, damaging your brain's memory center, increasing belly fat storage, and generally doing damage to your body.

Want to reduce stress? Start with your diet.

The right diet can do wonders to reduce stress's impact. When you eat whole, real foods, you restore balance to insulin, cortisol, and other hormones.

Eliminating mind-robbing molecules like caffeine, alcohol, and refined sugars and eating regularly can help you avoid the short-term stress of starvation on your body. You maintain an even-keeled mindset throughout the day, even when things get hectic.

You'll replace those foods with clean protein, healthy fats, leafy and cruciferous vegetables, berries and non-gluten grains. Food is information that controls your gene expression, hormones and metabolism. When you eat the right foods, you balance blood sugar, restore hormonal balance and reduce stress's damaging impact.

Reconsidering Stress

Stress is a thought, a perception of a threat, even if it isn't real. That's it. No more, no less. If that's true, then we have complete control over stress, because it's not something that happens to us but something that happens in us.

Here's where it become interesting. Stressors can be real or perceived. You might imagine your spouse is angry with you. Whether or not they are, you raise stress levels. Real or imagined, when you perceive something as stressful, it creates the same response in the body.

Fortunately, a wide variety of techniques and tools can help effectively manage stress. Among them, these 10 are most beneficial:

1. Address the underlying biological causes of stress.

Find the biological causes of problems with the mind including mercury toxicity, magnesium and vitamin B12 deficiencies, and gluten allergies. Changing your body can change your mind.

2. Begin actively relaxing.

Humans remain primed to always do something. Even when we're not working, our mind is on work. To engage the powerful forces of the mind on the body, you must do something relaxing. You can't just sit there watching television or drinking beer. Whether that means deep breathing or a simple leisurely walk, find active relaxation that works for you and do it.

3. Learn new skills.

Try learning new skills such as yoga, biofeedback, and progressive muscle relaxation or take a hot bath, make love, get a massage, watch a sunset, or walk in the woods or on the beach.

4. Make movement your drug.

Exercise is a powerful, well-studied way to burn off stress chemicals and heal the mind. Studies show exercise works better than or equal to pharmaceutical drugs for treating depression. Try interval training if you're short on time but want a powerful, intense workout.

5. Supplement.

Take a multivitamin and nutrients to help balance the stress response, such as vitamin C; the B-complex vitamins, including B6 and B5 or pantothenic acid; zinc; and most important, magnesium, the relaxation mineral.

6. Reframe your point of view.

Challenge your beliefs, attitudes, and responses to common situations and reframe your point of view to reduce stress.

7. Find a community.

Consciously build your network of friends, family and community. They're your most powerful allies in achieving long-term health.

8. Take care of your vagus nerve by using deep breaths.

Most of us hold our breath often or breathe swallow, anxious breaths. Deep, slow, full breaths have a profound affect on resetting the stress response, because the relaxation nerve (or vagus nerve) goes through your diaphragm and is activated with every deep breath. Take five deep breaths now. See how differently you feel?

9. Meditate.

No matter how much or little time you have to commit, find a practice that works for you.

10. Sleep.

Lack of sleep increases stress hormones. Get your eight hours no matter what. Take a nap if you missed sleep. Prioritize it, and if you feel like you're not getting high-quality shut-eye, find strategies to improve it.

Fake Olive Oil: What You Need To Know

You’d have to live in a cave to not have heard about the health benefits of olive oil. It’s a monounsaturated fat that is a major component of the Mediterranean diet and is believed to be a factor why people in that area of the world are some of the healthiest and long-lived.

Olive oil has been used medicinally for over 5,000 years. Its health benefits are legendary. It has been found to boost the immune system, increase bone density, prevent cancer, strokes, and heart disease, lower blood pressure, and reduce your risk of diabetes.

And if that isn’t enough, it seems that olive oil can improve memory and increase overall cognitive function. A large study on 6,000 women over the age of 65 found that women who consumed the highest amount of monounsaturated fats, which can be found in olive oil, had better patterns of cognitive scores over time.1

But now it looks like the olive oil you trusted to provide you with health benefits might be a fake! Is nothing sacred anymore?

My first thoughts were how do you make fake olive oil? Who is doing this? Why are they doing it?

Olive Oil Is Big Business

Working backwards, it’s pretty easy to guess the “why”. There is money to be made in olive oil forgery.

The US alone spends 1.5 billion dollars a year on olive oil. It might not seem worth the effort to make fake oil, but in one Italian bust alone, authorities broke up a criminal gang sitting on $8 million worth of fake oil.

The “who” might be surprising. Throughout Europe there are large scale facilities that pump this stuff out.

According to the book Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil, illicit manufacturers slap an Italian flag and the name of an imaginary producer on the label and dump this stuff on the US market, where consumers are easy pickings.

But consumers in the US aren’t the only victims. Studies done in Australia and New Zealand found that half of their Mediterranean imports were fake, too. Anywhere olive oil is in demand is a possible target.

How do you fake olive oil? Olive oil can be diluted with poor quality oils or sometimes there is no real olive oil at all. Cheap and unhealthy soy or canola oils are colored with industrial chlorophyll and flavored with artificial flavorings. Yum.

Extra Virgin Oil Frauds

The term “virgin” when applied to olive oil doesn’t mean quality. There are four levels of virgin olive oil. The lowest grade of virgin olive oil is not fit for human consumption and designated for “other” uses, like making soap.

The top of the line olive oil is extra virgin. This means it’s cold-pressed so the temperature during processing hasn’t exceed 86 degrees Fahrenheit.2 It’s also supposed to meet high standards of acidity and taste.

Independent tests at the University of California found that 69% of all store-bought extra virgin olive oils in the US are probably fake.3 This study reported that the following brands failed to meet extra virgin olive oil standards:
  • Bertolli
  • Carapelli
  • Colavita
  • Filippo Berio
  • Mazzola
  • Mezzetta
  • Newman’s Own
  • Safeway
  • Star
  • Whole Foods
Seeing brands that pride themselves on being healthy and natural like Newman’s Own and Whole Foods is very disappointing. However, it’s very likely that the fault goes back to the supplier.

Apparently, the olive oil mafia has become so adept at their forgeries that even many olive oil “experts” can’t tell real from fake based on taste alone. But in my book, that is still no excuse. Companies are responsible for doing their own due diligence!

Finding the Real Thing...

You naturally want to get what you pay for. If you are paying more for extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) and you care about your health, you don’t want to be buying diluted, adulterated junk.

Not only will fake oil lack health benefits, it could actually do you harm. Six hundred people died and 25,000 more were hospitalized by bad oil in Spain.4 While that was highly unusual, I think you get the point.

A test you can try on any olive oil you currently have is to stick it in the fridge and see if it solidifies. If it doesn’t, you definitely don’t have olive oil. If it does this means you may have olive oil. Turning solid will tell you that you have a mostly a monounsaturated oil, but it won’t rule out whether it’s sunflower, safflower, or canola oils have been added. It won’t reveal if your olive oil has been tainted with chemicals, flavorings, or colorings either.

The same University of California study listed the following brands as having met their standards for being true extra virgin olive oil.
  • Corto Olive
  • California Olive Ranch
  • Kirkland Organic
  • Lucero (Ascolano)
  • McEvoy Ranch Organic
  • Pompeian
In their September 2012 issue, Consumer Reports published results of their taste test of 138 bottles of extra virgin olive oil from 23 manufacturers. The olive oil was sourced from a variety of countries including the US, Argentina, Greece, Chile, and Italy.

Their general finding was that those produced in California surpassed those from Italy. The two highest scoring olive oils, McEvoy Ranch and Trader Joe’s California Estate, were both from California.5

It’s a sad testament to the quality of our food supply when a natural product with a 5,000 year history has been tainted for profit. We can all do our part to stamp out food fraud by voting with our wallets. By buying locally and supporting boutique producers we can send the message that we care about the quality of our food and help to make food fraud less profitable

Editor’s Note: Eat Local Grown recently contacted by the maker’s of Pompeian Olive Oil who informed us that their brand “ is not only the first branded olive oils to carry the North American Olive Oil Association (NAOOA) seal, but since 2012, Pompeian Extra Virgin Olive Oil is the first extra virgin olive oil to attain the USDA Quality Monitored Seal.” Please consider this when making purchase decisions.

Friday, February 20, 2015

8 Healthy And Delicious Take-To-Work Snacks

These nutritious treats on crackers are going to annihilate your midday junk food cravings and show NO REMORSE.

Most healthy snacks offer very little textural contrast — they’re either all smushy, like smoothies and oatmeal, or all crunchy, like pretzels and granola bars. Having a little crunch with a little something creamy is more satisfying. I like crispbread crackers (like this) for the task because there is just the right amount of surface area to make things interesting without overdoing it. Their size also gives you a nutritional assist in the moderation department.

There are many brands of crispbread crackers, but one Swedish brand in particular (Wasa) is easy to find and has lots of variety, like sourdough, multi or whole grain, and sesame. All are attractive options as they are low in calories and fat but high in fiber, and they are often recommended by nutritionists as a satisfying, moderate snack. Really, it’s a crunchy, hearty alternative to sandwich bread.


1. Keep an arsenal of snack enhancers at work so you are not schlepping stuff back and forth.
  • small bottle of good olive oil
  • kosher salt
  • nice pepper grinder
  • honey
  • small jar of cinnamon
2. Keep a few tools at work too.
  • cutting board
  • cheap paring knife
3. Pack smart.
  • Pack your crispbread in Tupperware to keep it from cracking. You may even want to wrap it in plastic wrap so other ingredients in your snack pack don’t get moisture on your cracker. Wet crackers are the worst.

1. Apples and Honey with Nut Butter

Pack a whole apple in your bag. Smear peanut, almond, cashew — whatever butter you are into — onto your crispbread. Drape a small sheet of plastic wrap over the nut butter so it doesn’t smear all over, then pack it up. At snack time, thinly slice your apple, and drizzle with honey and cinnamon, which you hopefully have at work. You can substitute the apple for a banana to mix things up.

2. Avocado and Mozzarella

At home, slice your fresh mozzarella and wrap in plastic wrap. Pack your crispbread and a whole avocado to go. When you are ready to eat, slice your avocado. Top the crispbread with the mozzarella, add your sliced avocado, drizzle with olive oil, and season with kosher salt and pepper.

3. Hummus, Carrot, and Cucumber

Before work, use a vegetable peeler to make long strands with your carrot and cucumber and pack in a plastic baggie or container. Pack your crispbread and a container of hummus. When ready, spread your hummus on the crispbread and lay down those carrots and cukes.

4. Egg White Salad

This is a good one to plan the night before. Hard-boil 2 eggs (place in a small pan, cover with cold water, and bring to a boil. Turn off heat, cover with a lid, and let stand for 12 minutes. Drain the water, then place eggs in a bowl of ice water to cool.) Peel the eggs and then, using the whites only, chop them up and put into a small bowl. Add 1 tablespoon Greek yogurt, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill, and a pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper. Stir to combine.

Load the egg white salad into a container and pack your crispbread separately. Spoon over crispbread at lunchtime.

5. Dates and Goat Cheese

Cut up some goat cheese and place into a container. Throw in some chopped dates and sliced almonds, separated from the cheese by a plastic baggy. Pack your crispbread to go. Ready to eat? Smear the goat cheese on to your crispbread, top with dates and almonds, and drizzle with honey from your stash.

6. Tomato and Feta

Slice some tomatoes and place them in your container, then cover with plastic wrap. Crumble some feta into a pile in your container and sprinkle with dried oregano or Italian herbs. Pack your crispbread separately. When you get hungry, top your crispbread with tomato, feta and herbs, and drizzle with your stashed olive oil and freshly ground pepper.

7. Pineapple and Chipotle

At home, slice your pineapple (or you can use canned slices in juice), and scoop out ¼ cup cottage cheese. Place both in a container and sprinkle with a pinch of chipotle powder. Pack up your crispbread separately. Don’t assemble this one until you are ready to eat or you’ll have a sad, wet cracker. :(

8. Strawberries and Spice

At home, slice up some fresh strawberries and place in a plastic container. Spread a tablespoon of cream cheese on your crispbread and sprinkle with nutmeg, cinnamon, or vanilla salt. Wrap it in plastic wrap and pack in the container. When the time is right, layer the strawberries over the crispbread.
[via Buzzfeed]

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Top 5 Popular GMO Foods to Avoid

As you’ve already known, GMO foods are extremely unsafe because of the countless health risks and life-threatening diseases that they can cause in the long run. Even if consumers are now more aware about the negative effects of GMOs, greedy manufacturers still continue to produce and sell them to this day. They certainly won’t be stopping anytime soon, therefore it’s up to us to be more meticulous when it comes to buying safer foods.

Several studies have found that sugar beets, soy, canola, cotton, and corn are the top 5 crops that are often genetically-modified. These popular crops are severely altered and contain traces of pesticide that can cause major health problems like blood cancer, liver toxicity, kidney failure, gut inflammation, or even death.

What’s really scary is that these GMO crops are listed as innocent ingredients on many commercial products. They’re disguised in the form of brown sugar, fructose, glucose, modified starch, vegetable oil, and the like. So you really need to read the labels carefully to evade these creepy GMO products.

Get more facts about GMOs and how you can successfully avoid them in this special infographic below. Remember to share this online so you can help spread the word about GMO foods!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Vegan Valentine’s Day Recipes

Nothing says romance like a cruelty-free Valentine’s Day. If vegan Valentine’s Day recipes seem like they’re out of your wheelhouse a little bit, don’t’ worry! We’ve got lots of ideas for you to choose from! There are even some ideas for entire menus, so this list really has way more than 10 recipes.

10+ Vegan Valentine’s Day Recipes

1. Chocolate Truffles – These vegan truffles use homemade cashew cream in place of dairy-based cream in conventional truffle recipes. The results are decadently delicious!

2. Almost Raw Truffles – This is an even simpler Valentine’s Day truffle recipe that requires no stove at all. And they’re free from refined sugar, too!

3. Mango-Banana Smoothie – Start the day off with a healthy breakfast packed with natural aphrodisiacs.

4. A Whole Vegan Menu – If you’re doing Valentine’s Day at home, we’ve got you covered. This menu has everything from a signature cocktail to a romantic vegan main dish and dessert.

5. Raw Chocolate-Peppermint Brownies – This is another super simple vegan dessert. All that you need to make it is a blender.

6. Grapefruit-Cranberry White Wine Spritzer – This is a festive cocktail that’s refreshing, tart, and not overly boozy. Because getting sloppy drunk isn’t super romantic.

7. Another Whole Menu – This menu had me at Tipsy Vodka Cream Sauce. YUM!

8. Romantic Dinner a Deux – Vegetarian Times has a nice selection of recipes complete with nutritional information.

9. Lemon-Ginger Vegetable Pie – This roasted veggie pie has plenty of ginger, a natural aphrodisiac. It’s a perfect Valentine’s Day main dish.

10. Easy Vegan Quiche – You can make this quiche with any veggies that you like. And your date doesn’t have to know how easy it was to make!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

10 Powerhouse Plant Proteins

Easier on the planet’s water and land resources—and often easier on your digestive tract than animal proteins—plant foods offer ample essential amino acids to build muscle and maintain optimal health. From quinoa to lentils to chia, you’ll find these protein-rich plant foods ground into powders, added to breads and bars, and bringing substance to soups and other packaged vegan and vegetarian foods. Eating them fresh and whole is even better, of course, because you’ll also benefit from these foods’ abundant phytonutrients and antioxidants, in addition to essential amino acids, our bodies’ building blocks.

  1. Tempeh (7 ounces = 20 grams)
  2. Lentils (1 cup cooked = 18 grams)
  3. Chickpeas (1 cup cooked = 14.5 grams)
  4. Tofu (3 ounces = 9 grams)
  5. Quinoa (1 cup cooked = 9 grams)
  1. Hemp seeds (3 tablespoons = 10 grams)
  2. Peanuts (¼ cup = 9.5 grams)
  3. Almonds (¼ cup = 8 grams)
  4. Sunflower seeds (¼ cup raw = 7 grams)
  5. Chia seeds (2 tablespoons = 6 grams)
Do you need to combine them?
These proteins are not all “complete” (except soy and quinoa)—most plants lack one or more of the essential amino acids; but plant-based nutrition has come a long way since its early days of combining bland, brown foods in the same meal. Now we know that vegetables like spinach pack a protein punch too; and as long as you have a variety of protein-rich foods in your diet, you don’t need to carefully plan proteins at every meal.

Can plant proteins meet your needs?
For kids, total protein (in grams) should be about 0.4 times bodyweight in pounds. For adults, it should be about 0.36 times bodyweight in pounds. So, if you’re a 130-pound 40-something, you’d want to aim for about 47 grams of protein. Thus if you add 2 tablespoons of chia (6 grams) and ¼ cup of almonds (8 grams) to one cup of cooked oatmeal (which also has 6 grams), at 20 total grams you’re nearly halfway there.