The Gut-Mood Connection: Preventing and Treating Depression with Food

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Awareness and dialogue around mental health, and depression in particular, is growing all the time. It is heartbreaking that we have lost so many gifted, wonderful people to suicide, but the silver lining is that we’re actually talking about this out loud. Finally. We’re realizing that while people’s lives may appear idyllic on the outside, they are often suffering silently on the inside. Now imagine the impact that depression has on those who are not wealthy or famous and who may not have access to help.

As someone who struggled with depression for over a decade, I know what it’s like to think of death in terms of relief and escape. I am thankful that I had access to therapy coupled with a strong faith and a single mom who taught me and showed me that there is always a way out, even if it’s painful and difficult. I’m grateful that I witnessed people in my family who turned to alcohol and drugs as a means of escape and anesthesia and learned by watching them that substance abuse only made things worse. I am one of the lucky ones.

Many people don’t have access to therapy or treatment and don’t have a strong support system or a relationship with a higher power to lean on in the dark times. And even for those who do have these things, sometimes the pain is just too strong to break free of and they succumb to the overwhelming feeling that there is no way out. Sometimes drugs and/or alcohol are involved, and sometimes they’re not.

Depression is a complex problem and it’s causes can be both numerous and mysterious. To say it is simply due to diet or can easily be fixed with nutrition would be silly and short-sighted. However, more and more studies are showing that the impact of diet and gut health in preventing and treating depression are profound, and for some, dietary changes can mean the difference between life and death. Changing my diet made a huge difference for me and it helped give me the strength (both emotional and physically) to break free of depression.

Only recently has the medical community started to recognize and understand the connection between food and mood, and the data is really exciting! According to this study, our gut microbiota is linked to anxiety, depression, and even schizophrenia, and a poor diet is a risk factor for these conditions. Supporting a healthy gut microbiome with a healthy diet of unprocessed foods and probiotic foods and/or supplementation is not only beneficial in preventing and treating depression, but can be as effective as anti-depressant medications.

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter responsible for regulating our moods, sleep, and appetite and it also inhibits pain.  A lack of serotonin has long been blamed as the cause of depression, and this is often the case. However, we’re learning that the lack of serotonin can be a symptom of chronic inflammation and inadequate gut flora. We now know that 95% of serotonin is produced in the gut, and that the presence of enough beneficial bacteria is essential for proper serotonin production. So if we have a history of antibiotic use or were not exposed to enough bacteria in birth or childhood, we may not produce enough serotonin.

Another interesting factor is inflammation which is measure by testing C-reactive protein levels. In one studythat followed C-reactive protein levels in over 1000 women for several years, they discovered that the onset of depression was triggered by increased inflammation (higher C-reactive protein). A poor diet and inflammatory foods have been linked to increased C-reactive protein and mood disorders, so getting away from processed, high sugar foods is crucial.

The take home here is that by eating an anti-inflammatory diet and including probiotic foods or taking probiotic supplements, you can help prevent and/or decrease anxiety and depression. Do your best to eat whole foods including plenty of vegetables and moderate amounts of clean animal protein (pasture-raised, organic, wild caught, etc.) and limit or avoid processed foods and high glycemic/high sugar foods. Adding in some fermented veggies such as sauerkraut or kimchi that contain live cultures and possibly taking a probiotic supplement is also important. These foods can be expensive and aren’t always accessible, but local food banks and non-profits such as Got GreenFoodJustice.org, and othersare working to make fresh, real food more accessible to low-income and marginalized communities.

If you need support is this area or want to learn more about the food-mood connection and what you can do to feel happier and healthier, I’m here to help. Don’t suffer in silence! If you’re struggling with depression, I understand what you’re going through and I’m living proof that you can be free of it. Click here to book a free Coffee Talk session and we can talk confidentially about your concerns. I won’t try to sell you on working with me unless ongoing support is what you’re looking for. 

 

References:

Brain Boosting Healthy Fats and Herbs

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Protecting Brain Health with Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs)

The omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are classified as "essential" nutrients for the human because they cannot be made by the body. Hence the term, Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs). Since the body cannot make EFAs, we have to acquire what we need from food and nutritional supplements. While EFAs are important to overall health, I'm only going to highlight their importance to brain health here. Fatty acids nourish and protect brain cells and help reduce inflammation, and scientists are actively investigating the role EFAs play in preventing and managing age-related cognitive decline.

When we consume EFAs, the body will use what it needs and then stores the rest for future use. Brain tissue is especially rich in EFAs where it is important for protecting connections between nerve cells. So, a diet deficient in these fats deprives the brain and nervous system of a crucial nutritional substance. Scientists believe DHA protects against Alzheimer's Disease (AD) and dementia, and adults with insufficient intake of DHA show poor performance on cognitive tests as well as increased risk for age-related cognitive decline. In studies using an EFA supplement, there have been positive changes in memory related functions for individuals with very mild AD.

Because we must get EFAs from food or nutritional supplements, it's important to understand what our bodies need. Most Americans get a daily average of only 130 mg EPA + DHA - far below the 1000-2000 mg recommended for optimal health and cognitive function. We also need the proper ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acid. Too little omega-3 and too much omega-6 can result in increased inflammation. Eating a variety of EFA rich foods plus a supplement is a good option for many people.

People who have a high intake of fish consumption show a decreased risk for dementia and AD. Foods abundant in EFAs include salmon, sardines, and krill, as well as flaxseed, hemp seeds, chia seeds, and walnuts. Be mindful of the source of your fish, since some are high in mercury, so look for wild caught fish which are smaller and lower on the food chain. Your holistic physician or nutrition coach can help you with dietary options and EFA supplements that best meet your needs.

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Hemp Seeds Nourish Brain Health

Although hemp seed comes from the same species of plant as marijuana, it does not contain psychoactive chemicals and it stands on its own regarding health benefits. Hemp is considered "brain-friendly" because it's rich in nutrients, especially omega-6 and omega-3 essential fatty acids - a group of fats the body doesn't make on its own. A healthy ratio of these fatty acids (EFAs) is generally 2:1. Eating hemp seeds provides that balance, which is important for Westerners whose diets typically include more omega-6 fats. These EFAs, plus antioxidants found in hemp, help reduce inflammation, which plays a crucial role in overall health particularly for the heart and the brain.

The protein in hemp is another stand-out nutrient. Hemp seeds are one of the few plant sources that contain all the essential amino acids the body cannot manufacture on its own and yet are necessary for many bodily functions. Both fat and protein are critical for brain development from conception through birth and beyond. As we age, we need these nutrients to feed the protective layers around nerve tissue. Researchers are actively examining the benefits of hemp seed for brain health and in relation to conditions such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's Disease.

The light, nutty flavor of hemp seeds makes them an easy addition to anyone's diet. Enjoy them raw; blend to make hemp milk; mix into cereal, yogurt, salads, smoothies, and desserts; or add to soups and other recipes.

Hemp seeds are best bought shelled/hulled and are usually labeled as "hemp seed hearts." Store in the fridge or freezer for the longest preservation of flavor and nutrient content. You can also store hemp in a dry, cool area away from heat sources for up to one year.

Boosting Brain Resilience with Ginkgo & Bacopa

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One of the oldest living species of tree, Ginkgo Biloba's leaves and seeds have been used in botanical medicine for thousands of years. Touted as the "brain herb," Ginkgo has received extensive research attention for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and the role they likely play in supporting healthy cognitive function and treating dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

Two components in Ginkgo help support brain health: Flavonoids, the source of the plant's antioxidant qualities, and Terpenoids, which help improve circulation by dilating blood vessels. Ginkgo may work by increasing blood flow, flushing out free radicals that can damage cells, and reducing inflammation. It may even protect nerve cells from further damage caused by Alzheimer's Disease or vascular dementia.

Numerous studies show Ginkgo has a positive effect on memory, learning, and thinking in people with Alzheimer disease or vascular dementia. For some people, it may work as well as prescription medication for Alzheimer's, but Ginkgo hasn't been tested against all drugs used to treat the disease. Also, testing Ginkgo supplements with healthy young and older adults has not conclusively shown a significant change in cognitive function. It's likely the herb works differently in healthy people compared to people who have an impairment or illness.

Another herb worth noting is Bacopa monnieri, an Ayurvedic botanical medicine used for centuries to enhance learning, memory and attention span. Scientists have been investigating Bacopa for potential therapeutic intervention for Alzheimer's and age-related memory loss. Research suggests it may have a protective effect on brain cells by supporting optimal nerve conduction or helping them resist damage that can occur from infection, toxins, and the aging process.

Botanical medicines can interact with other drugs and medical conditions. Consult your wellness practitioner to determine if either of these herbs are appropriate for you.

How to Avoid the Scary Flu

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You may have heard that this year’s flu is exceptionally serious. Time magazine reports that for the first time since the CDC began monitoring the flu, every area across the U.S. is affected all at the same time. And for those who get the flu vaccine, the CDC estimates that it is just 30 percent effective this year. In addition, many people are suffering from post-flu illnesses; according to health practitioners, if your immune system is weakened by the flu, you can be more susceptible to pneumonia and other infections that can be even more serious.

So what can you do to reduce your risk of getting the flu? First and foremost, keep your immune system in top shape by following the suggestions below. Also, consider incorporating more immune-boosting foods like the ones below in your everyday meals.

Your immune system is your body’s first line of defense against infections and disease so I'll show you some easy ways to help your immune system function at its peak performance and stay healthy this season.

Top Tips for a Healthy Immune System

Lots of things can affect your immune system– the type of foods we eat (or don’t eat); how much water we drink, sleep we get, stress we’re under – these are just a few of the areas that we can address to boost immune function. If you pick just three of the suggestions from the immune-boosting tips below and stick with them, you can strengthen your immune system and increase your ability to stay healthy through the dreaded cold and flu season.

1. SLEEP 
If you are overly fatigued or constantly sleep-deprived, it will be harder for your immune system to fight off disease. On the other hand, regular rest and restorative sleep will support your immune system, so your body has the strength to fight off any potential invaders. (By the way, did you know my programs include helping people who have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep? Contact me if you’re tired of being tired!)

2. SUGAR 
If you do just ONE thing to boost your immune system, reduce the amount of sugar you consume – especially if you are already feeling under the weather. Sugar (which comes in many forms and has many different names) contributes to inflammation and runs down the immune system. Leaders in the health, wellness and nutrition fields, such as Dr. Andrew Weil, Dr. Mark Hyman and Dr. Joel Furhman, also suggest eating organic whenever possible and reducing processed foods (food that comes in a package with a lot of ingredients that you can’t pronounce etc.).

3. ALKALINE VS. ACIDIC 
Did you know that many diseases cannot exist in an alkaline state? And yet, they can thrive an acidic state. So, the key is to help your body maintain an alkaline state and keep your immune system in peak performance! This is a simple matter of choosing to “eat that not this.”

Eating alkaline foods can: 
• Detoxify the body
• Boost your Immune function
• Prevent disease by making it hard for germs and disease to survive
• Reduce inflammation
• Increase energy
• Increase your longevity

What foods are the most alkaline in the body? You guessed it, veggies, especially leafy greens and fruit. (Citrus fruits that are generally considered acidic are actually alkaline producing in the body.) Start your day with hot lemon water and be sure to include a big leafy green salad or big pile of veggies for lunch or dinner.

What “foods” are acidic in the body? 
• Sugar
• Refined and processed foods
• Meat
• Dairy
• Alcohol
• Coffee
• Soda

5. DAIRY 
Nutritional studies show that avoiding dairy can be helpful to avoiding disease, particularly during cold and flu season. Dairy can create inflammation and “mucous glue,” where bacteria and viruses can grow. It can also contribute to allergy symptoms, sinus and ear infections. And as mentioned above, dairy is one of the acid-forming foods.

6. HYDRATE 
Water is essential for ensuring that your body eliminates waste and toxins – and that can help shorten the length of your illness. A good rule of thumb is to drink half of your weight in ounces of water every day.

So, a person who weighs 130 pounds needs approximately 65 ounces of water – more if you exercise regularly. Start as soon as you wake up, by drinking 8 ounces of water before you do anything else! And here’s a proven tip: Hot water actually penetrates your cells faster than cold or room temperature water!

I’ve listed six actions for boosting your immune system. Try choosing just three to incorporate into your daily living, and give yourself the best chance of staying healthy this season.

Top Immune-Boosting Foods and Herbs

1. Vitamin C 
If you want to help support your immune system, include plenty of natural Vitamin C, and choose organic whenever possible. This powerful antioxidant helps in the repair and regeneration of tissues, and protects cells throughout the body. Good food sources of vitamin C include: 

• Broccoli
• Brussels sprouts
• Cantaloupe
• Kiwi
• Oranges
• Lemons
• Peppers
• Pineapple
• Pink grapefruit
• Strawberries
• Mango

2. Garlic 
Used for centuries as powerful “food medicine.” It has antiviral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-inflammatory benefits. See soup recipe below.

3. Omega 3 
Found in flax, hempseed, chia seed, salmon, mackerel, krill, cod liver oil, avocado, and almonds, just to name a few. Omega 3s boost the immune system by increasing the activity of white blood cells that eliminate bacteria and protect the body against damage from over-reactions to infection. Omega 3s also lessen the severity of infection.

4. Zinc 
Found in broccoli, kale, mushrooms, sesame seeds (Tahini), pumpkin seeds, beans, cashews, eggs, wheat germ, and oysters, to name a few. Zinc helps prevent illness and can lessen the severity and length of colds and flu symptoms

5. Selenium 
Found in Brazil nuts, what germ, whole grains, eggs, sunflower seeds, garlic.

6. Elderberry 
Found in cherries, red grapes, black rice, and also in natural extract, juice and pill form (at health food stores)

I've had several clients ask me what they can take if they feel like they're coming down with something. Two of my favorite immune support products are Wellness Formula Herbal Defense Complex and Super Bio-Vegetarian. Both products are formulated with a powerful combination of herbs, medicinal mushrooms, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals to support the immune system and boost your well-being. Locally you can find these at Pharmaca or for existing clients, you can them at 20% off from my online dispensary.

Here’s to your best health, and kicking the cold and flu season this year!

Beating Seasonal Affective Disorder

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Fall begins the onset of shorter days and longer nights – which means our bodies receive less light. We also wake up and go to sleep to cooler temperatures. Because of these seasonal changes, many people experience changes in energy, mood swings and sleep patterns, especially here in the Northwest.

These changes can be positive or negative, or a combination. Negative changes in the way we feel due to the change of seasons is called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), and about 10 to 20 percent of people are affected – ranging from mild to severe cases. But did you know that the foods you eat (or don’t eat) as well as maintaining other healthy lifestyle factors can help you overcome symptoms of SAD?

If you’d like to learn more about how the change of seasons may affect you, take the assessment below, designed to increase your self-awareness and understanding. While none of us can control Mother Nature, we can learn more about how we are affected by seasonal changes and what to do to overcome symptoms of SAD.

Take the Seasonal Changes Assessment 
The steps below will help you begin to assess how the change of seasons may be affecting three areas of your life: your sleep, energy and mood. Important: If your answers show a downward trend, please talk to your doctor, health coach or trusted friend about how Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) may be affecting you.

Sleep Assessment: This month, check in with yourself each morning: How do you feel when you wake up?

  1. On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being “Exhausted” and 5 being “Excellent,” how would you rate how well-rested you are? 
  2. On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being “Takes a Very Long Time” and 5 being “Very Easily” how would you rate how easily you fall asleep? 
  3. On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being “I Wake Up Very Frequently” and 5 being “I Don’t Wake Until Morning,” how would you rate how well you stayasleep? 
  4. As October marches on (and the days get shorter), is it harder for you to get out of bed? (Yes or No?)
  5. Are you hitting the snooze button more often? (Yes or No?)
  6. Or do you feel about the same, or even better, upon waking up? (Same or better?)

Physical Energy Assessment:

  1. On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being “Excellent,” and 1 being “Very Low,” how would you rate your energy level mid-morning? 
  2. On the same scale, how would you rate your energy level in the late afternoon? 
  3. As the month goes on, do you find it easier or more difficult to exercise or be physically active? (Easier/More Difficult?) 
  4. As the month goes on, do you find yourself being more or less productive at work or home? (More or Less?)

Mood Assessment: Once in the morning and once in the evening, answer these questions with a simple “more” or “less:”

  1. Do you find yourself more or less interested in your work, social happenings and/or family activities? 
  2. Do you find yourself more or less patient with others and yourself? 
  3. Do you find yourself feeling more or less happiness in your relationships?

Now that you know more about seasonal affects, what can you do? 
Do your answers show a “down” trend? This may be an indication that you are sensitive to or negatively affected by seasonal changes. Following are some simple actions that can help minimize these effects.

• Get outside! Less daylight in the fall and winter months causes some people to become more lethargic, irritable, and/or depressed. This month, focus on getting more daylight by shifting your exercise or recreational activities to the outdoors, at least 15 minutes a day. Go for a walk; ride a bike; chase after your pets or kids – it doesn’t have to be strenuous exercise. A consistent combination of daylight and physical activity can significantly improve your energy and mood.

• Prep for sleep. Because nighttime comes earlier during fall and winter, it can disrupt your circadian cycle and the summer sleep rhythm you've been used to. It’s more important than ever to turn off all electronics one to two hours before you turn in. Fall is also a great time to practice sleep-specific meditation. My new favorite is Meditainment. It’s free and lasts 21 minutes. (I always fall asleep before it finishes!)

• Eat More Omega-3s. What we eat can also affect how susceptible we are to “fall blahs” and “winter blues.” Certain foods can zap our energy, our motivation to exercise, and our good mood. Omega 3 fatty acids can help combat these symptoms. Excellent food sources of Omega 3 fatty acids include salmon, chia seeds, walnuts, and more.

Supplement with High Quality Vitamin D. According to this article from Harvard Medical School, this is especially crucial if you live in a rainy climate like Seattle or if you live at a latitude above 37 degrees North. For you here on the West coast, that's anywhere from San Francisco North. My personal favorite is Vitamin D3 Complete by Allergy Research Group since it includes the important co-factors Vitamin A and K. If you have darker skin you need more Vitamin D that someone with a pale complexion since your natural pigment makes it harder for the sun to penetrate the dermis.

• Keep a Food Diary. A recent study found that gluten and dairy may contribute to feelings of depression or mood swings in people who are allergic or sensitive to these foods. If you have increased feelings of sadness during the fall season, try reducing or eliminating dairy and gluten from your diet and see if your outlook or mood improves. This is, of course, easier said than done, but it just takes a little getting used to and I can help you with this.

• Focus on the Food Culprits. It’s certainly not NEW news that overindulging in alcohol and sugar-laden foods can make you feel sluggish the next day. But did you know they can also increase feelings of depression? If you are negatively affected by the seasonal changes, consider eliminating sugar and alcohol consumption and test how you feel. To test if alcohol and/or sugar are contributing to your seasonal symptoms, experts suggest eliminating them for 21 to 23 days. Why three weeks? Because our bodies release antibodies to fight sensitivities and allergies, and it takes 21 to 23 days for the antibody reaction to dissipate and renew.

Need some extra support this season? I can support you with a results-oriented Wellness program. Schedule a free Coffee Talk session and let's talk!

7 Top Tips for a Sound Sleep

Do you sometimes have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep? Are you waking up in the middle of the night or before your alarm goes off? It’s important for you to understand what’s causing your sleep struggles, and use tips like the ones below to prepare for a restful night.

Getting enough sleep has a positive domino effect on our health; our bodies are in restore and rejuvenation mode while we’re sleeping; this can help us heal from illnesses and reduce aches and pains in our joints or muscles, for example. Deep sleep also helps reduce stress and anxiety, so we have more energy the next day.

And speaking of the next day, have you ever noticed that you’re hungrier when you’re tired? Research shows our appetite can increase up to 25% when we’re feeling exhausted, and many of us often turn to caffeine or sugar (or both) to give us a boost of energy. And that begins a roller-coaster of bursts of energy followed by energy crashes. That’s right – not getting enough sleep can actually cause us to gain weight or make it harder for us to lose weight!

Tonight, why not start some of these healthy sleep rituals?

1. Give yourself a bedtime. What’s your bedtime? Just like kids, we benefit when we have a consistent sleep time, because our bodies anticipate and respond to routine.

2. Close the kitchen. Make your last meal two to three hours before bedtime, so your body has a chance to digest the food. Digestion is a lot of physical activity – not what you want to be doing while you sleep! Ideally you should give your body a 12-hour break between dinner and breakfast.

3. Shut down electronics 30 minutes before bedtime. Turn off the TV, the laptop, the tablet, the Xbox, your smartphone… did I miss anything? According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), all of these devices can hinder your ability to sleep. One reason, explains the NSF, is that these devices emit blue light, “which our brains interpret as daylight. Blue light actually suppresses melatonin, a hormone that supports circadian rhythm and that should begin to increase when you are preparing for sleep.” So when you’re on your tablet or phone at night, your brain thinks it’s daytime, making it harder to fall asleep.

4. Set your smartphone to the “do not disturb” setting. In addition to the blue light, sending nighttime emails, scrolling through Facebook or posting on Instagram right before bedtime might be stressing you out or making your mind race. You’re not alone – NSF research shows that 71 percent of people sleep either holding their smartphone (!), having it in bed with them, or having it on their nightstand. Instead, place your smartphone where it is not within arm’s reach, and set it on airplane mode or “do not disturb” for the seven to eight hours of sleep you should be getting. Note: if you don’t want to miss a call from certain people – say you have elderly parents or kids at college -- you can set your smartphone to allow calls and texts from select contacts. Everything else can wait until morning!

5. Create a relaxing ritual. Very few people fall asleep the minute their head hits the pillow. Instead, you may want to create some rituals that tell your body you’re shutting down for the night. Try soaking in a warm bath with organic lavender essential oil. You can also listen to some relaxing music or do some deep breathing, restorative yoga, and/or meditation. My favorite meditation app is Headspace, and it’s free. Try the 10-minute meditations to help you relax before bedtime.

6. Dark = Deep. How many little electronic lights are glowing in your bedroom once the lamps and overhead lights are off? The darker you can make your room, the more restorative your sleep can be, because the darkness releases the sleep hormone, melatonin. Cover up those little lights with black electric tape or turn them face down or toward the wall. You might also try light-blocking curtains if light streams in from outside.

7. Help your hormones with a sleep mask. If your room is still bright, try wearing a sleep mask. It creates the total darkness our bodies need to release melatonin and get a healthier night’s sleep. I always recommend the softest sleep mask you can find, with natural fibers. It may not be attractive, but if it helps you sleep, you will feel and look your best with more energy. And that’s a beautiful thing! 

I’d love to hear how your sleep improves with these tips, and which ones are most helpful to you. Feel free to share on my Facebook page – just not right before bedtime ;-). Sending you sweet dreams!

Carve a Pumpkin and Avoid Looking Like One

While sugar is a powerful “drug” (see the latest report here), it’s not just the cute and colorful treats that tempt us. Halloween may hold happy memories for many of us of our own childhood costumes and candy collecting, as well as those of our children dressing up for trick-or-treating and their squeals of delight as they came home with pillowcases filled with candy.

But it’s not all fun and games. Sugar can weaken our immune system, increase symptoms of ADD/ADHD, and contribute to weight gain, moodiness and lack of energy. And the more we eat, the more we want. So what can you do now to avoid “over-treating?” Here are few healthy tips:

1. Focus on the Festivities. There is a lot to get excited about besides candy: Make creative costumes, plan a neighborhood party; build a haunted house; have a pumpkin-carving contest; spend the day decorating your yard and house.

2. Speaking of healthy treats … What if you (and/or your kids) try making some cute, nutritious Halloween treats like the recipe below or my Coco Loco Amazeballs? Now we’re talking fun and nutritious!

3. Don’t trick-or-treat on an empty stomach. I know the kids are excited, but it’s a great idea to have a nutritious meal ready when they get home from school. If you’re in a hurry, kids can have a “snack-ful dinner” – almond butter on whole grain toast with apples; carrots with hummus; black beans and quinoa, or a whole-grain pita with avocado and chopped chicken.

4. What is your favorite Halloween candy? Whatever it is – leave it at the store! If you must buy candy to give out to the trick-or-treaters, consider buying candy that you’d never eat if it was the last sweet on earth! Perhaps buy it that morning, and get just enough to give out that night.

5. You can’t eat it if it’s not there. Don’t let one night of sweet treats turn into a month of candy snacking. Toss out leftover candy the next day, and give your kids just a few days to indulge. Better to be a little wasteful by throwing out the sweets than to derail your health and weight goals (not to mention adding to tooth decay and all the other sugar symptoms).

Just because it is the 31st of October doesn’t mean we have to indulge in daily sweet treating that we wouldn’t normally do. It’s really about making better choices that keep YOU feeling better. Have cut-up fruits and vegetables in your fridge; fill snack bowls with almonds and walnuts (and take some to work, too!) Drink plenty of water throughout the day, and give yourself permission to break with old Halloween traditions to start your own.

Banana Ghosts and Tiny Pumpkins

Serves 12

Perfect for a party, these treats are a great way to provide your kids with some healthier choices.

Ingredients: 
• 6 bananas, peeled and cut in half horizontally
• 24 carob chips
• 12 tangerines or clementines, peeled
• 2 stalks celery, peeled and cut into 12 ½ inch pieces, and sliced thin (see picture)

Directions: 
For the Banana Ghouls, place carob chips as “eyes” on the bananas, turning them into ghostly goodies! For the Tiny Pumpkins, insert one cut celery piece into the center of each clementine to make a party “pumpkin” treat. Serve on a large platter at room temperature!

Fat Was Never the Bad Guy

The Secret’s Out on the Sugar Industry

Having grown up int he 80's and 90's I was one of those who fell prey to the high carb low fat diet craze and it took me years to reverse the damage it did to my health and my waistline. Luckily we now know better and the truth is finally coming out.

A report published in the JAMA Internal Medicine on Sep. 12, 2016 revealed that the sugar industry paid scientists in the ’60s to shift the focus from sugar as a link to heart disease and blame saturated fat instead.

The New York Times reported the discovery of internal sugar documents. The documents suggest that many of today’s dietary recommendations were influenced by the sugar industry.

According to the NYT, “A trade group called the Sugar Research Foundation paid three Harvard scientists … to publish a 1967 review of research on sugar, fat and heart disease. The studies … minimized the link between sugar and heart health and cast aspersions on the role of saturated fat.”

Sounds similar to the decades-long cover-up of the health hazards of nicotine, doesn’t it? The NYT article also cites the previous revelation of soft-drink companies covering up the link between sugary drinks and obesity. 

Why do wellness coaches and health practitioners care so much about the recent report? As the NYT cites, “For many decades, health officials encouraged Americans to reduce their fat intake, which led many people to consume low-fat, high-sugar foods that some experts now blame for fueling the obesity crisis.” 

Just one more reason to recognize that sugar is addicting and harmful to our health; the better choices we can make, the better we can influence our health and longevity, and the health of our kids. Read the entire article, with links to the research, here.

The Daily Writing Exercise that Can Help You Lose Weight

If you'd like to understand, once and for all, the relationship between what you're eating and how you feel, try keeping a mind-body food journal. It's a powerful way to gain insight into your eating habits and how your food choices impact your mental and physical wellbeing. A mind-body food journal is different from a "diet diary" because the intention is different: it's not just about the fit of your jeans, it's about how food makes you feel physiologically and emotionally and how it fits (or doesn't fit) your lifestyle.

Too often we eat mindlessly - on the run, watching television, behind the computer. A mind-body food journal helps create clarity between what we choose and how we feel. It leads the way to improved choices and - because food is medicine - supports total mind-body health and healing.

What to Track in a Mind-Body Food Journal

Food Factors:

  • When did you eat?
  • What did you eat?
  • How much did you eat?
  • Why did you eat?
  • How did you feel after eating?

Mind Factors:

  • What was your overall mood before and after eating?
  • Did you have headaches, mental/emotional fatigue or any other symptoms?

Body Factors:

  • What did you notice about your body before and after eating?
  • Did your energy level change or did you experience sympotoms like gas or bloating?

Social & Environmental Factors:

  • Who were you with for the meal?
  • Did you eat hurriedly or calmly?
  • Were you feeling stressed?
  • Were you doing another activity while eating?

Review your journal at the end of each day and summarize your habits. Note the key factors for why you chose to eat the way you did, what was going on, how you felt and if there were any physical symptoms.

By keeping a mind-body food journal you will be able to connect the dots between your food, your emotions, and your physical body. I also find that it helps me make better choices because I'm less likely to go for that sweet treat if I know I have to write it down.

Start keeping your journal today. Track your eating habits for a few weekdays and at least one weekend day. Do this for at least two weeks and see what happens. You can keep a small notebook or journal on hand or use your notes app in your phone, whatever works best for you. I recommend avoiding most food tracking apps since they require you to enter macronutrients and/or calories which defeats the purpose of this exercise.

I'd love to hear how this worked for you and what you learned, so please comment below and share your experience. Happy journaling!

The Mind-Body Connection: Food for a Healthy Brain and Happy Mood

There's no doubt about it: what we eat, and how much we eat, has a direct impact on our physical health. But did you know that those same choices also influence mood, mental alertness, memory, and emotional wellbeing? Food can act as medicine, have a neutral effect, or it can be a poison to the body and mind.

When food acts as poison, it creates inflammation, which alters the body's balance of nutrients, hormones, and neurotransmitters. This directly affects your body's ability to manage and heal from stress or illness.

Below are four common culprits that can be detrimental to brain and emotional health and a list of foods that help support your brain and nervous system.

Foods that Impact Body-Mind Wellbeing

Gluten: Gluten stimulates secretion of a protein called zonulin which causes permeability in both the gut lining and the blood-brain barrier. This permeability allows undigested food molecules and pathogens to access the bloodstream which triggers an inflammatory immune response. This elevated inflammation in the gut and/or brain can cause short-term reactions like lethargy, "brain fog", and fatigue, and contribute to long-term issues like depression and dementia.

Caffeine: The most socially accepted psychoactive substance in the world, caffeine is used to boost alertness, enhance performance, and even treat apnea in premature infants. Caffeine is frequently added to other foods, so be mindful of total consumption. Too much caffeine (500-600 mg daily) interferes with sleep quality, which affects energy, brain detoxification, concentration, and memory. Caffeine can also aggravate other health conditions, cause digestive disturbances, and worsen menstrual symptoms and anxiety.

Food Dyes: Listed on ingredient labels as "Blue 2," or "Citrus Red," food dye has been documented to contain cancer-causing agents (e.g., benzidine). They're also associated with allergic reactions and hyperactivity in children. Dyes are sometimes used to enhance skin color of fruits and veggies. A number of dyes have been banned from use in foods and cosmetics around the world and eating organic will help you avoid these chemical compounds.

Sugars: Increased sugar consumption (as much as 30% over the last three decades for American adults), is linked to decreased intake of essential nutrients and associated with obesity, diabetes, inflammatory disease, joint pain and even schizophrenia. Too much sugar results in blood sugar fluctuations, causing mood swings, anxiety, irritability, headaches, and increased depression. There are even sugars that can act as poison including High Fructose Corn Syrup, table sugar, and artificial sweeteners such as aspartame .

MSG: Monosodium glutamate is a flavor enhancer common in packaged and prepared foods. Although the FDA considers MSG "generally safe," some individuals experience a complex of physical and mental symptoms after eating MSG-containing foods. Symptoms vary but can include headache, sweating, nausea, chest pain, heart palpitations, and overstimulation of the central nervous system which can lead to alterations in sleep, mood, and immunity.

Becoming aware of your food choices, why you make them, and how you feel mentally and physically is an important first step in understanding your personal body-mind food connection. Keeping a mind-body food journal can be very helpful in providing a clear picture of how your food choices affect your health.

The Gut-Brain Connection and Foods that Support Body-Mind Wellbeing

Healthy Fats: These include fats such as organic avocado, virgin coconut oil, ghee and other animal fats from organic, grass-fed animals, fish oils, olive oil, flax seeds and oil, chia seeds, hemp seeds and oil, and organic nuts and seeds. Fat is your best friend when it comes to brain health, and contrary to old beliefs, it does not make you fat. In fact, healthy fats support healthy hormones and a healthy metabolism which means they can actually help you lose body fat.

Colorful Vegetables & Antioxidant Fruits: Vegetables and certain fruits like dark berries are loaded with antioxidants. Antioxidants are compounds that prevent or delay cell damage and they help reduce our overall inflammation and prevent disease. By "eating the rainbow" and getting as many different colors of veggies as possible (mostly those that grow above ground), you will be giving your body a healthy dose of antioxidants to help support a healthy brain and nervous system.

Naturally Fermented Probiotic Foods: Foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha and homemade goat or sheep's milk kefir and yogurt are great sources of probiotics. We know that these friendly bacteria are crucial for a healthy gut but they also have a major influence on our mental and emotional health. You've heard the expression "gut feeling" or "gut instinct"; Well, doctors often refer to the gut as the enteric nervous system, or the second brain. The enteric nervous system or ENS is made up of over 100 million nerve cells lining your gastrointestinal tract from esophagus to rectum. 

The ENS can also play a major role in emotional distress experienced by people coping with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and gut problems such as constipation, diarrhea, bloating, pain and stomach upset. “For decades, researchers and doctors thought that anxiety and depression contributed to these problems. But our studies and others show that it may also be the other way around,” says According to  Jay Pasricha, M.D., director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Neurogastroenterology. “These new findings may explain why a higher-than-normal percentage of people with IBS and functional bowel problems develop depression and anxiety,” 

In short, if you have a healthy gut, you probably have a healthy brain so eat the foods that benefit both and you can't lose. If you're experiencing symptoms that interfere with your quality of living, reach out and let's talk about the role these or other foods may play in your emotional and physical health.

References:

Powerful Foods & Herbs for Hormone Health

Flaxseed (Linum usitatissimum)

While research results are mixed around flaxseed and its ability to reduce menopausal symptoms, there are enough positive findings to support use of this nutrient-rich, high fiber seed. For many women it has made the difference between comfort and discomfort when it comes to reduction of hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings). Here are three nutrients unique to flaxseed, all of which play a role in supporting good health.

1. Omega-3 Fatty Acids: beneficial for preventing or treating certain health conditions, including heart disease and depression.

2. Mucilage: refers to water-soluble, gel-forming fiber that can provide special support to the intestinal tract. This flaxseed an excellent support to digestion and relief of constipation. 

3. Lignans: provides fiber-related polyphenols that have two important health benefits. They provide antioxidants, which help prevent damage to other cells in the body and are associated with preventing disease. Additionally, polyphenols in lignans influence hormone metabolism.

Purchasing and Storing Flax

Raw flaxseed ranges in color from amber/gold to tan/brown. White or green flaxseed has been harvested before full maturity; black flaxseeds were likely harvested after full maturity. To reap the full health benefits, select the amber or brown variety. If possible, purchase the whole seed in bulk, store in the freezer and grind only the amount needed for immediate use. Flaxseed can be ground, sprinkled on salads, added to smoothies and baking mixes and used as a thickening agent in many recipes.

References

Cruciferous Vegetables

Diindolylmethane (DIM) is a compound found in "cruciferous" vegetables such as cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and broccoli. Scientists think these crunchy vegetables may help protect the body against cancer because they contain diindolylmethane and a related chemical called indole-3-carbinol (I3C).

Dim helps balance the sex hormone estrogen and testosterone. When the body breaks down estrogen, for example, it can form either a harmful or beneficial metabolite. DIM, in some clinical and animal studies, has been shown to help the body form the more beneficial estrogen metabolite and reduce formation of the harmful metabolite. The beneficial estrogen metabolites can have many positive effects, including reducing the risk for some types of cancer. DIM may benefit patients with certain types of prostate cancer and may help reverse abnormal changes in cells on the surface of the cervix. Some scientists think DIM will be useful for preventing breast, uterine and colorectal cancer. However, because of the variability in types of cancer and the sensitivity of the estrogen system in the body, DIM and I3C supplements may not be appropriate for everyone. Instead, just enjoy plenty of delicious cruciferous veggies!

Note: If you have thyroid disease, I recommend eating cruciferous veggies (from the brassica family) cooked instead of raw to avoid and thyroid suppressive effects.

References

Black Cohosh (Actaea racemosa)

There's a long history to the medical uses of Black Cohosh. Native Americans have used it as a diuretic and to treat fatigue. European settlers used preparations of the roots to treat fever, menstrual problems, and pain following childbirth. Into the 19th century, black cohosh became a staple ingredient in medicines for "women's complaints." Over time, it faded from use in the U.S. while still being used in Europe. New studies in the U.S., however, are investigating the safety and long-term effectiveness of black cohosh and there's a resurgence of its use for treatment of women's health concerns.

Black cohosh is considered a menopause tonic for a number of reasons. It can improve mood and soothe anxiety. Also, herbal practitioners recommend it for taming hot flashes, night sweats, and vaginal dryness. It's commonly prescribed for women who - for medical reasons - don't take conventional hormone replacement therapy.

Tinctures, capsules and standardized extract are available for medicinal use and the specific dose of this herb will depend on your individual needs and health concerns. Black Cohosh should not be used during pregnancy or nursing and it is not recommended for persons who have a heart condition or liver disease. Always check with your holistic health practitioner before using an herbal remedy.

References

Just Breathe! Lower Blood Pressure, Reduce Stress

February is American Heart Month and when most of us think about taking care of our heart health, the first things that come to mind are diet and exercise. But did you know that stress has a major impact on your heart health as well?

When you don't manage stress effectively you place an unnecessary burden on the one muscle that keeps you alive: your heart. When you're stressed, your body goes into "fight or flight" mode. The brain then releases hormones that cause your heart to pump faster, thicken your blood, and raise blood pressure. If you constantly experience this stress response, it eventually changes the way your heart and blood system function--putting you at risk for heart disease.

But the good news is that there's a "cure" you can use anytime, anywhere to change the way you respond to stress and actually lower blood pressure and protect your heart from the deadly grip of stress. Cardiologist, Dr. John Kennedy, developed 'The 15 Minute Heart Cure'--a set of simple breathing techniques that creates a connection between the heart and brain. This method helps you calm down, reenergize, and protects your heart all at the same time.

To get the most out of using this technique, try to do it at the same time each day. I like to do it before bed to shake off a stressful day.

B in B-R-E-A-T-H-E = Beginning. Begin in a quiet space where you won't be interrupted for about 15 minutes. Begin with a positive attitude. View this time as a gift to your health. Seated in a comfortable position, try to clear all thoughts and bring focus to the your breath, slowly inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth.

R in B-R-E-A-T-H-E = Relaxation. Relaxation brought about by this technique creates changes in brain waves and the rhythm of your heart. Visualize yourself walking on a 'path to relaxation', perhaps a beautiful hiking path. With each step, you become more and more relaxed.

E in B-R-E-A-T-H-E = Envision. Walt Disney, Steve Jobs and Deepak Chopra are called visionaries for good reason. Research shows envisioning is an important part of achieving a goal - be it a story, a revolutionary digital device, or a new paradigm in medicine. Imagine your heart as powerful and strong. Research also shows that imagery can lower your heart rate, lower blood pressure, and strengthen your immune system.

A in B-R-E-A-T-H-E = Apply. In Dr. Kennedy's book, there are heart-healing images and metaphors for you to apply during your 15-minute practice and during stressful moments. Tapping into the imagery, even from memory, can help break the cycle of stress in the moment it is happening.

T in B-R-E-A-T-H-E = Treatment. Your time spent with this technique is no different than taking time for a spa-treatment. See this time as a 15-minute oasis that you create.

H in B-R-E-A-T-H-E = Heal. This technique will strengthen neural networks that connect your heart and brain so that your body easily shifts from stress response to relaxation response. Healing is more likely to occur in a relaxed state, bringing more oxygen into muscles, lowering pulse rate and blood pressure, and enhancing immune response.

E in B-R-E-A-T-H-E = End. After 15-minutes of mindful focus on the breath and heart-healing imagery, you will feel deeply relaxed and energized and revitalized. As you end your session, quietly notice your surroundings and visualize how you can use the technique throughout your day.

References:

High Cholesterols Foods - Friend or Foe?

Originally published on the Sophia Health Institute blog on June 20, 2015.

For decades we have been conditioned to believe that saturated fats and cholesterol were the enemy responsible for heart disease, obesity and a host of other health problems. In the 80’s we all began ditching the bacon, nuts, and full fat dairy in favor of low-fat, high carbohydrate foods that were supposed to contribute to a healthy heart and a leaner body. But here we are, a little over 20 years later, finding ourselves hungrier, fatter, and sicker. So what went wrong?

It all began with a study published by Dr. Ancel Keys in 1970 who postulated that heart disease was directly related to high serum cholesterol, caused by high dietary fat intake. The model of his study was highly suspicious and recent studies have found that there is in fact no link between saturated fats in the diet and heart disease. However, Dr. Keys’ ideology was – and still is – widely accepted in the mainstream medical community. Many doctors continue to recommend low-fat, high carbohydrate diets in spite of the new, more accurate science proving that this approach is detrimental to our health.

Produced by the liver, cholesterol would still be present in your body even if you consumed no dietary cholesterol whatsoever. It is the most common steroid in the body and it is a crucial component of our cell membranes. In addition, cholesterol is required in the formation of Vitamin D, bile acids and hormones. Evidence suggests that without adequate cholesterol, our risk for heart disease and other inflammatory diseases increases; according to Dr. Joseph Mercola “Your body needs adequate cholesterol to perform a number of critical functions, and there is strong evidence that people have a higher risk for heart attacks by having their cholesterol levels driven too low, as is being done by drugs like statins.”

Cholesterol is also necessary for a healthy brain as it acts as a protective antioxidant, promotes neurogenesis (creation of new brain cells) and facilitates communication between neurons. According to Dr. David Perlmutter, author of Grain Brain, there is a correlation between higher serum cholesterol and increased cognitive function and a Mayo Clinic study found individuals consuming a higher saturated fat diet reduced their risk for developing dementia by a whopping 36%.

Not all saturated fats are created equal, especially when it comes to trans fats and animal fats. In a ruling on this Tuesday the 16th of June, the FDA declared that trans fat are not “generally recognized as safe” for use in human food. Trans fats or hydrogenated fats/oils are highly inflammatory and should be avoided at all costs.

Fats from animals raised by grazing on a natural diet (grass-fed beef, pasture-raised chickens and eggs, etc.) contain higher levels of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, whereas animals fed grains or other foods foreign to their natural diet are higher in omega-6 fatty acids which are pro-inflammatory if we get too much of them. Ideally our diet would consists of a ratio of 1:1 omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids, but in the standard American diet, people consume over 25 times as much omega-6 as they do omega-3.

There are three types of omega-3 fats – ALA, EPA and DHA, and while there are good plant-based sources of ALA (hemp, flax, chia), our bodies need all three types. To get the necessary doses requires eating a variety of both plant and animal foods.

Refined vegetable oils can be equally problematic; these so-called  “heart healthy”, “cholesterol free” oils such as canola, soybean, peanut,  sunflower and corn are high in omega-6 fatty acids which can contribute to intestinal permeability (leaky gut syndrome), increase the risk of inflammatory diseases and negatively alter gene expression. These oils are also commonly made from genetically modified crops which destroy our beneficial gut bacteria, further compromising our digestion, immune system, and neurological functions. If you are already struggling with digestive issues or chronic illness you may already have too much inflammation in your body. By eliminating refined vegetable oils you can reduce your overall inflammation.

A diet high in healthy fats is also beneficial for digestive health. Ghee and butter from pastured animals are excellent sources of butyric acid. This fatty acid is an excellent anti-inflammatory source of energy for the cells lining our intestines and it helps to “seal” the gut and reverse intestinal permeability. In addition, bacteria, parasites and fungus do not eat fat which means that we can reap the nutritional benefits of healthy fats while starving any unwelcome bacteria or pathogens in the gut.

Great sources of cholesterol and healthy fats:

  • Nuts
  • Wild fish
  • Wild and grass-fed meats
  • Ghee and butter from pastured animals
  • Seeds (hemp, chia, flax)
  • Avocados
  • Whole organic pastured eggs (the yolk is the best part!)
  • Organic extra virgin olive oil
  • Coconut oil

People often ask me if eating more fat and high cholesterol foods will make them fat, and the answer is absolutely not! In fact, proper fat intake can help us lose weight and maintain healthy body composition by training our bodies to tap into our fat as a fuel source instead of burning sugar. Fat also keeps us feeling full and satisfied, enhances absorption of fat-soluble nutrients, helps reduce blood sugar and provides a steady flow of energy throughout the day.

Heart disease is less likely a product of high fat foods and more likely the result of chronic stress, a diet high in processed foods and poor lifestyle choices. When we are under constant stress our bodies produce more cortisol which then breaks down vitamin C. If we have a long-term vitamin C deficiency, it weakens our arterial walls which the body then attempts to “patch up” with available cholesterol from the bloodstream. This creates atherosclerotic plaque to protect the arterial walls which is often treated with statins. Sadly this approach does nothing to address the root cause of the problem which could most likely be resolved with proper diet, lifestyle changes, and natural interventions.

By choosing real, unprocessed, properly raised and cultivated high fat foods from both plant and animal sources we can greatly improve the state of our health and overall well-being. So enjoy that organic, grass-fed steak and full fat organic yogurt and don’t skimp on the avocado in your salad. You will enjoy your food so much more and your heart, brain, gut and waistline will thank you.

If you have trouble digesting fats or have had your gallbladder removed, talk to your practitioner about supplementing with digestive support such as digestive enzymes, ox bile and/or betaine HCl. Fatty or greasy stools that float or are pale and very stinky are good indicators that you’re not digesting fat properly.

References:

Dietary intake of saturated fatty acids and mortality from cardiovascular disease in Japanese: the Japan Collaborative Cohort Study for Evaluation of Cancer Risk (JACC) Study. - American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Yamagishi K., et al. 2010

Aglaée Jacob, M.S., R.D., Digestive Health with Real Food (Paleo Media Group, LLC, 2013)

Effect of Dietary Fatty Acids on Inflammatory Gene Expression in Healthy Humans*  - Kelly L. Weaver, et al.

The Diet-Heart Myth: Cholesterol and Saturated Fat Are Not the Enemy - by Chris Kresser 2013

Your “Healthy” Diet Could Be Quietly Killing Your Brain - A new book challenges convention with the latest science on brain health. by Max Lugavere for PsychologyToday.com 2013

Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease. -  American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Siri-Tarino PW, et al. 2010

The Great Cholesterol Myth, - Dr. Stephen Sinatra 2014

New Science Destroys the Saturated Fat Myth – Mercola.com 2014

The 6 Greatest Cholesterol Myths Debunked - James Colquhoun,2014

The diet–heart hypothesis: a critique - Sylvan Lee Weinberg, MD, MACC* 2004

Why Grassfed Animal Products Are Better For You – Dr. Joseph Mercola

FDA orders food manufacturers to stop using trans fat within three years, By Jen Christensen, CNN Updated 3:47 PM ET, Tue June 16, 2015

The Science is Practically Screaming... Don't Make This Trendy Fat Mistake – Mercola.com 2011

How too much omega-6 and not enough omega-3 is making us sick - 2010 by CHRIS KRESSER 

Dietary Fats and Health: Dietary Recommendations in the Context of Scientific Evidence - Glen D. Lawrence* 2013

Hey Man! Top Tips for Men's Health

Most of you guys know the basics of a healthy lifestyle: eat more fresh organic foods, don't smoke, exercise, and get an annual health exam. But there's more to being a healthy, desirable dude than choosing organic beef and hitting the gym a few days a week. Below are some great tips for boosting your vitality, longevity and sex appeal.

Chill Out and breathe. Breathing deeply reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, increases energy, and improves memory and immunity. A relaxed man also has better sex. Slow down for just 10-20 minutes a few days a week: try deep, belly breathing, get outside for a walk, take a yoga class, or try out a meditation app.

Laugh it up! Need an excuse for a guys night out? Hit a comedy club with the boys! Laughing eases stress, creates closer friendships, and lowers blood pressure. It may even boost your immune system. So bring some humor into your life, whether it's with friends, a funny book, or a movie.

Fuel for success. Skipping breakfast will make you feel lethargic and give you cravings later in the day for sugar and other foods that don't serve you. A nutritious breakfast that contains plenty of protein, fiber, and some healthy fats - think veggie omelet or a protein and greens smoothie with hemp seeds or almond butter - will boost your metabolism and give you sustained energy throughout the day. Protein and fat will help keep you full and satisfied, while fiber will regulate digestion, reduce inflammation, cut your risk for diabetes, and promote healthy cholesterol levels.

Go green. Drinking a few cups of organic green tea daily can improve memory and cognition in men. Rich in cancer-fighting polyphenols, green tea is also credited with boosting immunity, firing up your metabolism, and lowering blood pressure. Low in caffeine, green tea is great for giving you a little energy boost without the harsh effects of coffee.

Eat the rainbow. Every meal should include a variety of colorful vegetables to give you the widest variety of nutrients. Vibrantly colored produce is packed with antioxidants and phytonutrients which reduce inflammation and prevent cancer and other diseases. They also help with weight management and healthy digestion.

Protect your peepers. You probably know the importance of protecting your skin with daily use of a non-toxic zinc or titanium sunscreen, but don't forget about protecting those eyes. Look cool and protect your eyes against cataracts, cancer, and even sunburn by choosing shades that provide 99-100% UV absorption or UV 400.

Go to bed. Staying up to watch your favorite show may be tempting, but being a night owl won't do much for your health. Research shows that less than 7 hours of sleep is detrimental to your health and well-being and even effects your ability to build muscle and burn fat. Quantity of sleep is important but what's most important is the quality of sleep you get. If you feel refreshed and ready for the day when you wake up, then you're getting good sleep. If you don't, it's time to change your bedtime habits: Turn off wi-fi and digital devices at least an hour or two before bedtime; eat your last meal 2-3 hours before going to sleep; stick to a regular sleep-wake schedule and ... use that DVR to watch your shows the next day.

Get busy. A relaxed, well-rested man has better sex. Healthy, safe sex can make you look and feel younger, reduce stress, boost immunity, enhance sleep, protect against prostate cancer, and improve cardiovascular health. Some studies even suggest a link between the frequency and enjoyment of sex with longevity. Yes sir, sex just might help you live longer.

Many men neglect their health and avoid regular check-ups, but not you! You're a modern, intelligent, enlightened guy who understands the importance of health and wellness, so be sure to check in with your doc once a year for blood work and blood pressure screenings, and get a colonoscopy and prostate exam (the easiest cancers to detect early and treat). Your nutritionist, trainer or doctor can help guide you toward good health, but ultimately it's up to you. Your everyday habits are what have the greatest impact on your long-term health and the more you practice these habits, the sooner they will become second nature.

Resources:
•    Authority Nutrition "10 Proven Benefits of Green Tea." Accessed April 2015.
•    Chang, A., et al."Evening Use of Light-emitting eReaders Negatively Affects Sleep, Circadian Timing, and Next-morning Alertness." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 112, no. 4 (January 27, 2015): 1232-1237
•    Glaucoma Research Foundation."A Guide to Sunglasses." Reviewed April 16, 2013.
•    Monash University "The Health Benefits of Meditation and Being Mindful." Accessed April 2015.
•    Talking About Men's Health "Secret to Better Sex? Get Better Sleep!" March 25, 2015.