Health and Wellness Fridays- The Bitter Sweet Side of Sugar

Welcome back to Health and Wellness Fridays!  I trust that you have conquered your week and that today was like the icing on the cake whereby things just got better. 🙂

Please accept my apologies for not posting last week.  Today,  we’re going to be looking at sugar.

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“Sugar” is that special ingredient added to many of our beverages and baked goods that just makes them taste better or rather should I say sweeter. 🙂  Unfortunately, sugar has attained a negative reputation over the years as more and more knowledge about the side effects of overindulging in its consumption come to the forefront.

However, not all sugar is bad for us and this is where the acquisition and understanding of information is so important.

Did you know?

There are two main classifications of sugars: added or refined sugars and natural sugars.

Added or refined sugars include: refined white sugar (sucrose), brown sugar, honey and syrups that are added to food. These added sugars are called simple carbohydrates and they provide little nutritional value and can cause spikes in blood glucose levels.  This is the sugar that most people advise that we reduce consumption of or abstain from.

Natural sugars on the other hand, are sugars that occur naturally in fruits and milk. These sugars are called complex carbohydrates and they provide nutrition and help regulate blood sugar.

So you see, not all sugars are bad for us but we need to know what to look out for.

Types of Sugars

Although sugar can be classified into two main groups, it can be further broken down into three categories: white sugars, brown sugars and liquid sugar.  Within each of these categories are even more sugars, some of which I only learned about during the course of my research to be honest.  Let’s take a closer look.

Some white sugars include:

  • Bakers Special Sugar
  • Castor/Caster Sugar
  • Confectioners or Powdered Sugar
  • Coarse Sugar
  • Granulated Sugar
  • Sanding Sugar
  • Superfine, Ultra Fine, or Bar Sugar

 

Some brown sugars include:

  • Brown sugar (light and dark)
  • Demerara Sugar
  • Muscovado or Barbados Sugar
  • Turbinado Sugar

Liquid sugar or (sucrose) is basically white granulated sugar that is dissolved in water before it is used.

Invert Sugar – is the sugar we get from splitting sucrose into its two component sugars (glucose and fructose).  Fructose is sweeter than either glucose or sucrose. Invert sugar is therefore sweeter than white sugar.

Some benefits or the ‘sweet side’ of sugar as it relates to the body include:

  • Energy booster – glucose is the body’s primary source of fuel, and it comes from the breakdown of sugar.
  • Help us store energy – After glucose is converted into energy for immediate use, the body will store some of the glucose as an energy reserve for later.
  • Instantly improve our mood – sugar activates the pleasure center of our brain and causes a rush of dopamine. This will produce an immediate, euphoric feeling.
  • Natural Sugar Sources Come With Added Nutrients – dairy products, fruits and veggies all provide natural sugars in addition to fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and hydration. You can indulge in all the natural sweets you want without creating unhealthy insulin spikes.
  • Skin health – Sugar’s glycolic acid can be very helpful in maintaining the health and look of your skin. Using it can help elimination blemishes and restoring the balance in the skin’s oils.

 

Some of the negatives or the ‘bitter side’ of indulging in too much refined sugars include:

  • Weight gain that could lead to obesity.
  • Spike of blood sugar that can lead to diabetes.
  • Leave you feeling overly energized or hyperactive
  • Increase cholesterol levels that can ultimately lead to heart disease.
  • Create insulin resistance
  • Addictive
  • Create a resistance to the hormone called Leptin
  • Cause dental cavities

 

After reading the above my hope is that you’ve gained a better understanding and appreciation for the bitter-sweet of sugar.  Refined sugars bring that quick fix we’re sometimes looking or craving for but too much of it can be harmful.  Natural sugars are healthier for us that’s a fact but they aren’t ideal for every situation or occasion. This is where using our moderation and discretion comes in.

So dear friends, weigh the pros and cons of what you’re eating and strive to improve the areas of your eating habits that can be harmful to your health.

In life there are a few things we just have no control over but we do have some control over how sweet we want our lives to be.

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Image Credit: Pixabay.com

Thank you for stopping by. Have a wonderful weekend.

Sources:

Health and Wellness Fridays – Water

Hello and welcome back to Health and Wellness Fridays!  It has been a rainy day for most of the day here but I won’t let that keep me back.  We just have to make the most of each day regardless.

Today, we’re getting a mouthful of this week’s topic – water.   An individual’s water needs vary with age, sex, weather, activity level, and overall health.

What is water exactly?

Water is a colourless substance made of hydrogen and oxygen, in the ratio of two to one. It covers over 70% of the Earth’s surface and is essential to all known forms of life.  Did you know that the percentage of water in a man’s body is different to that of a woman?  Men have a higher water composition than women.  Interesting!

Here are some benefits of drinking water:

  • Hydration of the body
  • Maximize physical performance
  • Prevent and treat headaches
  • Helps in digestion and constipation
  • Reduce hangovers
  • Assist with weight loss
  • Relieve fatigue
  • Improve your mood
  • Flush out waste and toxins
  • Regulate body temperature
  • Promotes healthy skin
  • Lubricate the joints
  • Reduce the risk of kidney stones
  • Helps protect the spinal cord and other sensitive tissues
  • Combat bad breath

Water is doing more than just quenching our thirst. Although many of us worry that we may not be drinking enough water, in turns out we need to be just as mindful of drinking too much water. Is it even possible for water to have side effects?  Apparently, the answer to that is YES.  Take a look at what I found.

Possible side effects of drinking too much water include:

  • Overhydration (drinking too much water) which can result in water intoxication also known as hyponatremia. Some people experience swelling or discoloration in their hands, lips, and feet. In severe cases, water intoxication can lead to debilitating health problems such as seizures, coma, and even death.
  • Cause cells to swell which is dangerous for the body
  • Reduce potassium levels
  • May cause hypokalemia  symptoms of which may include: vomiting, low blood pressure, paralysis, nausea, and diarrhea.
  • Put strain on the heart
  • You might get headaches
  • Increased urination
  • Cause muscle spasms and cramping
  • Chlorine in water may increase cancer risks
  • Can affect proper functioning of the kidneys
  • Make you feel tired

Drinking water is a must because our bodies need it to stay healthy.  However, drinking too much water can hurt us.  According to Tamara Hew-Butler, DPM, PhD, an exercise science professor at Oakland University, “… Thirst is every body’s individual monitor that lets them know if they need more. The more water you need, the thirstier you get.”

If you’re drinking a healthy amount of water, the colour of your urine should be straw-coloured to transparent yellow.

I’ve heard people say they don’t like drinking plain water.  You can add a lemon slice to your water to give it a little flavour but not drinking water is a definite no, no.  I agree that some water can be obtained from the consumption of beverages however, when possible they should not substituted for the real deal all the time.

Healthy alternatives to sugary beverages include adding hydrating fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers, watermelons, zucchini, eggplant, cantaloupe, bell peppers and so much more.  Find a balance and your body will thank you for it. 🙂

Which type of water is safe to drink – tap water, bottled water or filtered / purified water?

I cannot answer that because there are so many variables and factors that affect the quality of the water we drink.  With tap water there is the possibility of contaminants such as bacteria, parasites, lead and mercury just to name a few.  With that said I don’t think there is anything wrong with adding a water filter/ water purifier to your home as an added precaution to reduce the risk.

Some of you may know that not all bottled water brands are created equal.  There are a number of variables that separate one from another, from electrolytes to acidity levels so do your research and consume the brand you are comfortable with.  I did come across a few sites that did their own bottled water tests. If you’re interested you can visit Review.com and Thrillist.com.

I hope that today’s segment on water was refreshing and that it quenched your thirst for knowledge.  🙂

Have a great weekend!  Thanks for stopping by.

 

Sources:

Health and Wellness Fridays – Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Welcome back to Health and Wellness Fridays!  Today, we are looking at extra virgin olive oil. Olive oil comes from the fruit of olive trees. Olive oil has been a popular part of the Mediterranean diet for many years. It is a   good source of vitamin E and K.  Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is the highest quality of olive oil and has been known for its wonderful flavour.

Image Credit: Pixabay.com

Thanks to growing scientific research we are learning more and more about some of the potential health benefits we can get from using it.

Some of the benefits include:

  • Anti-Inflammatory
  • Anti-microbial
  • Anti-oxidants
  • Cardiovascular benefits
  • Digestive Health benefits
  • Bone Health benefits
  • Cognitive benefits
  • Anti-Cancer benefits
  • Prevention of gall stones
  • Slows the aging process
  • Aids in Weight Loss
  • Moisturizer and skin soften
  • Add moisture and sheen to hair
  • Reduce wrinkles
  • Improve skin texture
  • Boost immunity

What makes (EVOO) the preferred choice over some of the other olive oil options available on the market?

It all comes down to how they are processed.  All olive oils are not created equal.  Some manufactures use chemicals and heat to remove impurities.  This process helps to prolong the shelf life.  However, this process also makes the oil seem lighter and affects the flavour and reduces its nutritional content. Some manufactures even blend with it other oils such as canola.

EVOO are cold pressed (meaning very little heat was used) , unfiltered and that no additives were used.  EVOO are rich in flavour and therefore taste better.  They are also richer in antioxidants and nutrients allowing you to get the full benefits.

So don’t take it for granted always read the full label to make sure you are buying exactly what you want.  Click on this link to learn more about olive oil fraud and what you should know when looking for your next bottle.

Proper Storage

Heat, air, and light are the enemies of olive oil.  These elements help create free radicals, which eventually lead to excessive oxidation and rancidity in the oil.  The key is to store your olive oil somewhere cool, dry, and dark.

How I use it?

I use a tablespoon or two of EVOO in my fresh salads sometimes. I sometimes drizzle a little on pasta and certain rice dishes.  I use it on my skin from time to time.  I also use it with coconut oil as a hair treatment for my hair.   I even use it on my toddler’s skin which is super sensitive and it agrees with his skin.

Thanks for stopping by. Hope this was helpful.

Sources:

Organic Facts

Natural News

World Healthiest Foods

Authority Nutrition

Health and Wellness Fridays – Aloe Vera

Hello and welcome back to Health and Wellness Fridays!  Today we’re going to be looking at some of the possible benefits of using aloe vera.

Image Credit: Pixabay.com

Some common names for aloe include: Chinese Aloe, Indian Aloe, True Aloe, Barbados Aloe, Burn Aloe, First Aid Plant, Elephant’s Gall, Wand of Heaven and Miracle Plant.  Did you know that there are over 450 different species of aloe ?    Aloe has been around for thousands of years and was even presented as a funeral gift to pharaohs as it was referred to as the “plant of immortality“.

Aloe vera is just one of the many species of aloe that can be found in tropical climates around the world.  Each leaf has spiky thorns that run along the sides.  On the inside of the leaf there is a thick, clear, slimy gel that is bitter in taste.   The leaf is filled with at least 75 nutrients, 20 minerals, 12 vitamins, 18 amino acids, and 200 active enzymes.  Some people even call it a superfood.

It is used topically and orally and can be found in many consumer products such as: beverages, skin lotions, cosmetics and some skin ointments.

Here is a list of some of the suggested benefits of using the gel.

  1. Anti-bacterial
  2. Anti-viral
  3. Anti-fungal 
  4. Antioxidant
  5. Good moisturizer
  6. Detoxifying the body
  7. Relieves indigestion and upset stomach
  8. Strengthen the digestive tract
  9. Alleviates joint inflammation
  10. Reduces dental plaque
  11. Helps treat mouth ulcers
  12. Treatment of acne
  13. Treatment of minor burns
  14. Treatment of itchy skin and mouth
  15. Supports cardiovascular health
  16. Reduces constipation
  17. Air purification
  18. Increases your ability to cope with stress
  19. May improve appearance of skin
  20. Alkalizes the body
  21. Lower cholesterol

Some possible side effects:

The aloe latex (the yellow juice near the rind) is where most of the danger lies. However, substances in the gel itself can also be harmful to some people. Let’s take a look.

  1. Contact dermatitis has been known to affect some individuals so please exercise caution.  Test a small area of the skin, such as the inner forearm, for any reaction.
  2. Women who are pregnant or breast-feeding should avoid taking it orally.
  3. Some people might experience stomach pain, cramps, and diarrhea.
  4. Some research suggests that aloe vera might lower blood sugar.  Any diabetics using it orally should check their blood sugar levels closely.
  5. Persons suffering from any of these intestinal conditions such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis or obstruction should avoid taking aloe orally.
  6. Anyone suffering from hemorrhoids is advised not to consume aloe as it could make the condition worse.
  7. Kidney failure and other serious conditions have been linked to consuming high doses of aloe.

How I use my aloe

There are a variety of aloe products on the market.  I am fortunate to have a plant so I use fresh aloe when possible.  I have the Aloe vera species which I use on my skin as a cleanser and sometimes as part of a facial scrub mixed with a little sugar from time to time.

I also use it as a detox by adding a small amount of aloe gel into a large jug of water.  I drink the water daily for about 1 week then stop.  The taste of aloe will take some getting used to but I think the possible benefits outweigh the taste.  Thus far, I have no complaints.

Please note, that not all aloe species are edible and are just really good low maintenance plants that you could use to decorate your living space.  Aloe vera or Barbadensis-miller is well established as the best Aloe species, for both topical and internal consumption.  So be sure to identify what you have or research what you’re buying before attempting to use it.

Click on this link to learn about 13 other species of aloe and their benefits.

Always do your research.  Always consult your health care providers about any complementary or integrative health approaches you use or wish to use.

Thanks for stopping by. 🙂  Have a great weekend!

Sources:

  • http://happyandraw.com/top-12-benefits-of-aloe-vera/
  • http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-607-aloe.aspx?activeingredientid=607
  • http://www.collective-evolution.com/2016/03/09/what-aloe-vera-does-in-your-body-why-egyptians-called-it-the-plant-of-immortality/
  • http://succulent-plant.com/families/aloaceae.html
  • https://aloe1.com/what-is-the-best-aloe/

 

Health and Wellness Fridays – Tomatoes

Welcome back to Health and Wellness Fridays! Today we’re going to be looking at tomatoes scientifically known as Solanum lycopersicum. Tomatoes originated in South America and can now be found all over the world.  It is the berry of a plant that comes from the Nightshade family that belong to a scientific family of plants called Solanaceae .

As a member of the nightshade family, tomatoes contain glycoalkaloids, toxic substances that act like a natural pesticides or fungicides in the plant. While glycoalkaloids are poisonous to humans, their levels are quite low in tomatoes making them safe to consume according to Food Safety Watch .

The tomato is technically a fruit but it is also categorised as a vegetable.  Tomatoes are juicy, soft and have many seeds. They vary in shape, size , colour, texture and flavour. The most common colour is red but it can also be yellow, orange or green.

Image Credit: Pixabay.com

According to The World’s Healthiest Foods, tomatoes are rich in vitamin C, vitamin K, biotin and molybdenum. They are also a good source of iron, zinc, potassium, copper, manganese, fibre, vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin E, niacin, folate and phosphorus just to name a few.

Tomatoes have large amounts of the antioxidant known as lycopene which  some studies revealed was good at fighting and preventing cancer associated with the prostate, breast, lung, bladder, ovaries, colon and pancreas.

According to some of the studies done here are some of the health benefits of including tomatoes in your diet:

  • Protects the skin against sun damage
  • Prevent kidney stones and gallstones
  • Counters the effect of cigarette smoke
  • Prevents urinary tract infections
  • Support a healthy pregnancy
  • Regulate blood pressure
  • Cancer prevention
  • Reduces cholesterol
  • Protects the heart
  • Strong and shiny hair
  • Stronger bones
  • Regulate blood sugar
  • Help with constipation
  • Support vision health
  • Reduce chronic pain
  • Aid in depression

Some Possible Risks:

  • Chemical-based tomato farming involves spraying tomatoes with large quantities of pesticides and insecticides. Hence, organically grown tomatoes are recommended to reduce pesticide exposure.
  • Tomatoes are high in potassium and should be consumed in moderation especially when taking beta-blockers.  Consuming too much potassium can be harmful for those whose kidneys are not fully functional.
  • Persons who suffer from gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD) may experience an increase in symptoms such as heartburn and regurgitation. However, reactions vary from person to person.
  • Although tomato allergy is rare, they can cause allergic reactions in people allergic to grass pollen causing itching in the mouth, scratchy throat or swelling of the mouth or throat.  This condition is called pollen-food allergy syndrome or oral-allergy syndrome .

How to use tomatoes:

  • Tomatoes should always be washed before eating.
  • Tomatoes can be eaten raw or cooked.

There are simple and easy ways to add more tomatoes to your diet.  Add a few slices to your sandwiches, add them to your salad, make a tomato soup, make guacamole, drink it in a vegetable juice, chop them up and add them to your egg omelet.  Be creative.

Remember, not because something is reported as good for you means you should abuse it – so use in moderation.   Always consult your doctor.

Being healthy is a lifestyle and it requires discipline and some research from time to time.  I am working on improving my health one day at a time.

It is your health, your body and your life so take care of it.  I believe in the saying, “prevention is better than the cure” and this is why I started Health and Wellness Fridays to bring to your attention foods that we sometimes overlook and take for granted.

  Thanks for stopping by.  See you next week.  🙂

Sources:

  • https://authoritynutrition.com/foods/tomatoes/
  • http://www.beliefnet.com/wellness/health/9-surprising-health-benefits-of-tomatoes.aspx?p=12
  • https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/vegetable/tomatoes.html
  • http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=44
  • http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=george&dbid=62
  • http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/273031.php?page=2

Health and Wellness Fridays – Cinnamon

Welcome back to Health and Wellness Fridays! Forgive me for this obviously late post but it could not be helped.  Today we are going to be talking about some of the possible health benefits of cinnamon.  Cinnamon is a spice that comes from the inner brown bark of the Cinnamomum trees and is brown in colour.  It has a distinct smell and flavour that comes from cinnamaldehyde.

Image Credit : Pexels.com

Did you know that there are hundreds of types of Cinnamon? However, only four types of Cinnamon are used for commercial purposes: Ceylon Cinnamon, Cassia or Chinese Cinnamon, Saigon Cinnamon and Korintje Cinnamon.

Cassia, Saigon and Korintje Cinnamon are all classified under the Cassia Cinnamon category because they are very similar to each other with only slight variations in  shape, colour, taste, and Coumarin content.

Characteristics:

  • Ceylon Cinnamon is soft, brittle, lighter in colour, has a mild smell and is slightly sweeter with low Coumarin levels.
  • Cassia type Cinnamon however is hard, darker in colour, spicy,  has a stronger smell and has high levels of Coumarin. 

Origins:

  • Ceylon cinnamon  is produced in Sri Lanka, Madagascar, Brazil, India, and the Caribbean.
  • Cassia cinnamon is produced largely in Indonesia, China and Vietnam.

Some of the nutrients found in cinnamon include:  manganese, calcium and fibre.  Cinnamon can be acquired in its stick form, in a powder form, capsule form or as an oil.  Regardless of the form you choose it does not take away from its effectiveness.  It is popular in both sweet and savory dishes.  It’s usefulness are not just limited to the kitchen but outside of it as well. Let’s take a look.

Some studies done on cinnamon suggests the following benefits:

  • High source of antioxidants
  • Anti-inflammatory properties
  • Anti-clotting agent
  • Anti-diabetic
  • Anti-fungal
  • Anti-bacteria
  • Anti-viral properties
  • Lower bad cholesterol
  • Boost immunity
  • Protects against heart disease
  • Protects brain function
  • Lower cancer risks
  • Protects and support good dental health
  • Improve colon health

The potential benefits to be gained from using cinnamon are not only limited to its consumption but can also be gained through just smelling it in the form of cinnamon scented candles, homemade toothpaste and even in the form of an acne mask.

Possible side effects:

The high levels of Coumarin found in Cassia cinnamon can be potentially toxic to the liver so if you must use it please use very small amounts. For this reason some researchers recommend Ceylon cinnamon because it has lower levels of Coumarin. Like I always say, everything needs to be used in moderation so do not exceed the recommended dosage.

Some experts also warn against incorporating too much cinnamon into your diet if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Do your research and be sure to consult your doctor to avoid any potential complication.

Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

Sources:

  • https://www.cinnamonvogue.com/Types_of_Cinnamon_1.html
  • http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/266069.php?page=2
  • http://foodfacts.mercola.com/cinnamon.html
  • http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?dbid=68&tname=foodspice
  • http://www.organicauthority.com/health/11-health-benefits-of-cinnamon.html

 

Health and Wellness Fridays – Cucumbers

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Image Credit: Pixabay.com

Today we’re going to be taking a closer look at the cucumber or cucumis sativus.  A cucumber is actually a fruit  which until recently I always considered a vegetable.

It can be light to dark green in colour.  The skin of the cucumber is mostly smooth  sometimes however, they have tiny bumps on the surface of the skin but they are still good to eat. The flesh inside is pale green with tiny edible seeds. It is generally watery in taste.  Cucumbers are low in calories and contain roughly 95% water.  I understand they can be cooked but I usually eat it raw.

Cucumbers are filled with many nutrients. They are rich in vitamin K and vitamin B5. They are also a good source of copper, potassium, manganese, vitamin C, phosphorus, magnesium, biotin and vitamin B1 just to name a few. 

Below are some of the benefits of adding cucumbers to your diet and lifestyle.

Some beauty benefits of cucumbers:

  • Revitalize and Rejuvenate the skin – (use the juice from the cucumber mixed with a few drops of lemon juice and apply to the skin  and leave for a few minutes then rinse and pat dry)
  • Reduce dark circles, puffiness and under eye bags – (use cold slices of cucumber on the eyes)
  • Helps soothe sunburn 
  • Reduce hair loss – ( consume cucumber juice or eat the cucumber)
  • Promotes silky and shiny hair – (use the juice from the cucumber as a rinse) 

Some health benefits of cucumbers

  • Destroys intestinal worms – tapeworms
  • Promotes bone and joint health
  • Anti-Inflammatory properties
  • Anti-Cancer properties
  • Supports heart health
  • Regulates blood pressure
  • Relieves Constipation
  • Fights bad breath – (put a slice of cucumber on the roof of your mouth and hold it there for about 90 seconds and then throw it away) 
  • Antioxidant
  • Aids in weight loss
  • Aids in digestion
  • Supports brain health – ( improving memory and protecting nerve cells from age-related decline)
  • Detoxification
  • Hydration

Possible Side Effects:

Although cucumbers can add great benefits when added to your diet you must be very cautious and not over indulge. Here are some possible side effects of eating too many cucumbers.

  • Toxins – cucumbers get their bitter taste from the cucurbitacins and tetracyclic triterpenoids toxins that can be potentially life threatening to mammals if eaten excessively according to a study published on Pharmacognosy Review.   The researchers also stressed that we not let these findings overshadow the anti-inflammatory and anti-tumour properties present.
  • Hyperkalemia is a medical condition that is caused by the over consumption of potassium which may cause fatigue, numbness, nausea, breathing problems, or heart palpitations.
  • Allergic Reactions – some people who are allergic to ragweed might suffer from allergic reactions such as swelling or hives if they eat bananas, melon, cucumbers and zucchini warn the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology.This phenomenon is known as cross-reactivity.

All in all dear friends, like any good thing I suggest you use moderation.   I personally eat my cucumbers raw with and without the skin, seeds included but I am sure to wash them thoroughly. Organically grown cucumbers are recommended but if you can’t easily source them I would suggest peeling the skin before consuming.

Additionally, not all cucumbers are bitter so if and when I do encounter a cucumber that is extremely bitter (which is few and far in between) I personally don’t continue eating it.

There are so many natural foods out there that we sometimes underestimate in value that can provide us with so many health and beauty benefits – so do your research.  Be sure to consult your doctor on your findings before starting anything.

I will continue doing my research as well and would continue to bring what I find to your attention.

Thanks for dropping by. 🙂