Monday, April 2, 2012

9 Spices With Super Healing Powers

Cinnamon is a nutritional powerhouse, with antioxidant properties that keep cells safe from oxidative stress and dangerous free radicals. Antioxidants help fight such diseases as cancer, Alzheimer's, diabetes, and Parkinson's.

What's more, cinnamon is a powerful weapon against cardiovascular problems. Cinnamon helps the hormone insulin work better, which reduces blood sugar levels. That's great news for the one in ten North Americans with type 2 diabetes and the millions more with prediabetes. Keeping blood sugar low can help treat diabetes or even stop it before it starts.

Cinnamon may also help prevent Alzheimer's. A study in 2011 found that an extract from cinnamon bark inhibited the formation of amyloid plaques in mice with Alzheimer's. It even helped restore cognitive levels and correct movement problems in the animals.

How much: Cinnamon's health benefits make it worth adding to your daily diet -- and cinnamon's sweet, warming flavor makes it easy. Aim for a quarter to half a teaspoon most days of the week.

Serving suggestions: Sprinkle a little on fresh fruit, a steaming bowl of oatmeal, or a scoop of peanut butter, or add to fish, chicken, or lamb dishes -- especially with cumin and chili powder -- for a Middle Eastern slant on your normal fare. No time to cook? Sprinkle some cinnamon on your morning coffee or tea for a nice antioxidant boost.

Tip: You know that stuff in your cinnamon jar? It's probably cassia, not cinnamon. True cinnamon, often labeled "Ceylon cinnamon," has higher levels of antioxidants, so seek it out if you can.

If you associate "sage" with wisdom, you're not far off -- the spice has been shown to help with memory and mood. A study in 2005 gave essential sage oil to healthy young volunteers and found that participants tended to remember things better and feel both more alert and calmer after taking sage.

Sage might also help those with Alzheimer's or other dementias. Like prescribed Alzheimer's drugs, sage inhibits an enzyme called acetylcholinesterase, which in turn may improve cognitive function.

In an open-label study, six weeks of treatment with sage resulted in improved attention and decreased neuropsychiatric symptoms in participants with Alzheimer's. A separate study in 2006 found that rosmarinic acid, an active ingredient in sage, protected mouse cells from the amyloid peptides that are thought to contribute to Alzheimer's.

Sage is also great for digestion, and it has estrogen-like effects, which might help curb hot flashes and other symptoms in women going through menopause.

How much: Beth Reardon, director of nutrition for Duke Integrative Medicine, part of the Duke University Health System, recommends using a quarter to half a teaspoon of sage a few times a week.

Serving suggestions: Sage's earthy flavor epitomizes comfort food, like casseroles and stuffing. Try it sprinkled onto roasted sweet potatoes, snipped into butternut squash soup, or rubbed on a simple roast chicken. You can also make a simple sage tea -- add boiling water to a teaspoon of chopped fresh sage and let steep for 5 to 10 minutes before straining and drinking.

Tip: Want to keep sage fresher longer? Snip off the ends of the long stems and put them in a glass of cool water, just as you would with flowers. Then cover the herbs -- glass and all -- with a clean, dry plastic bag and put them in the fridge. This method should keep herbs fresh for at least a week, and it works with parsley, cilantro, and other long-stemmed herbs as well.

"Turmeric's health benefits are through the roof," says Reardon. "If I could only have one spice for the rest of my life, it'd be turmeric."

Turmeric has been used in Indian Ayurvedic medicine for millennia, and Western science is starting to catch on. Its active ingredient, curcumin, is a strong antioxidant that's been shown in test tube and animal studies to fend off cancer growth, amyloid plaque development, and more.

Turmeric might also boost heart health -- a 2012 study showed that adding turmeric and other high-antioxidant spices to high-fat meals could help regulate triglyceride and insulin levels and protect the cardiovascular system.

Turmeric is also a powerful COX-2 inhibitor -- like a nonsteroidal anti-inflammitory but without the nasty side effects. A human study in 2009 found a daily dose of curcumin just as effective as ibuprofen for osteoarthritis in the knee.

Turmeric may also help regulate the immune system -- a series of studies in 2010 and 2011 showed that curcumin might have positive effects on people with autoimmune disorders, such as multiple sclerosis.

Like all herbs and spices, however, too much turmeric might not be a good thing -- it can inhibit blood clotting in large doses and may exacerbate gallbladder issues, so check with your doctor before using more than a typical culinary amount.

How much: Aim for a teaspoon of turmeric at least three times a week.

Serving suggestions: Turmeric is best known for the bright yellow color -- and flavor -- it adds to Indian dishes. Add a big pinch to a pot of lentil soup, or use with curry powder, raisins, and Greek yogurt to dress a curried chicken salad. Like sage, turmeric works well as tea. You can buy teas commercially from companies like the Republic of Tea or Yogi, or make your own by chopping up an inch of fresh turmeric root and infusing in hot water for 15 minutes.

Tip: The antioxidants in turmeric are a little fragile, so make an effort to find fresh turmeric root. It looks a little like fresh ginger but with a brighter orange interior.

It's hard to imagine continental cuisine without the aromatic addition of thyme. But its antimicrobial properties are what get researchers excited.

If you've used Listerine or a similar mouthwash -- or even some green household cleaners -- chances are it contained thymol, a volatile oil component of thyme. A 2004 study showed that thyme oil was able to decontaminate lettuce with Shigella, a particularly nasty type of food poisoning, and other studies suggest it's also effective against staph and E. coli.

Thyme is also a good digestion aid, helping to reduce gas and other discomfort, says Duke's Beth Reardon, and it's good for the scalp and hair.

How much: Use a teaspoon of fresh thyme or quarter to half a teaspoon of dried thyme about three times a week.

Serving suggestions: Thyme is sort of the savory version of cinnamon -- you can pretty much put it on anything. It's great with chicken, fish, and root vegetables. It also goes well with lemon, including in summery cocktails.

Tip: Fresh thyme should keep about a week in your refrigerator's vegetable drawer, especially if wrapped in a damp paper towel inside an open plastic bag.

Ginger has been used in both ancient and modern medicine for its stomach-settling properties. In a series of human and animal studies, ginger has been shown to help quiet nausea, speed food through the digestive tract, and protect against gastric ulcers.

Small studies have also shown that ginger can help with pain, including menstrual cramps, muscle pain, and migraines. Ginger is also a powerful COX inhibitor, Reardon says, so it's a great choice for anyone with osteoarthritis or other chronic inflammatory conditions.

It's best to check with your doctor before ingesting large quantities of ginger, though, since it can cause heartburn and gas, worsening of gallstone issues -- and it may interact with some medications, including warfarin.

How much: If your doctor approves it, it's best to use ginger daily.

Serving suggestions: Ginger's strong, bright taste is an essential component of most Asian and Indian cooking. Try a pinch of ginger in milky black tea, along with cinnamon and cardamom, for a heady chai-like beverage, or dice it and add to a zesty Thai soup. It's also great in baked goods, from gingerbread to gingersnaps. Try adding chunks of candied ginger to pear or apple muffins for an extra zing.

Tip: Like turmeric, it's best if you can use fresh ginger instead of powdered. If the big-name supermarket near you doesn't stock fresh ginger, try an Asian market.

Rosemary has been associated with memory since ancient Greece, when students would wear it in their hair when studying for big exams. Modern science agrees: Carnosic acid, a component of rosemary, is thought to protect the brain from free-radical damage and therefore to lower the risks of stroke and Alzheimer's.

Rosemary is also full of antioxidants; a recent study from the American Association of Cancer Research linked carnosol, another component of rosemary, with inhibiting cancer growth.

Like any herb, feel free to use rosemary in moderation. But check with your doctor before rushing out to buy rosemary supplements. In large quantities, it's been linked to seizures and inefficient iron absorption. And avoid serving a rosemary-heavy dish to a pregnant woman, since it's traditionally been used to induce abortion.

How much: "A little bit of rosemary goes a long way," says Reardon. Aim for a teaspoon of rosemary a few times a week.

Serving suggestions: Rosemary is another spice that easily bridges the sweet-savory gap. Sprinkle some on roasting chicken or vegetables, or add some to summer fruit crisps and crumbles.

Tip: "When herbs and spices are used together, they actually have even more benefits," says Reardon. Try using rosemary in combination with thyme and sage for increased health benefits and added flavor.

Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world. Grown mostly in the Middle East, saffron threads are actually the stigmas of a particular kind of crocus, each of which needs to be carefully gathered by hand.

Still, its high price might be worth it for some of its health benefits. According to a 2007 animal study, saffron had antidepressant properties similar to Prozac. And a small human study in 2006 showed antidepressant effects higher than a placebo.

Another study showed that saffron increased blood flow to the brain, which might help increase cognitive performance, and a 2009 study in Italy showed that saffron had beneficial effects on the genes regulating vision cells, potentially slowing or reversing degenerative eye diseases.

How much: Saffron is pricy, but you don't need much to make a big impact. "As little as a tenth of a teaspoon has been shown to have benefits," says nutritionist Beth Reardon.

Serving suggestions: Crumble a few threads into water or stock for paella, risotto, or other rice dishes -- including a subtly spiced Indian dessert called kheer.

Tip: The flavor and health benefits of most spices decline over time, and saffron is a particularly delicate spice. Make sure to keep your saffron bottle in a cool, dark place, and buy only the amount you think you can use in three to six months.

Basil, while often associated with Italian food, actually comes from India, where it's traditionally used to treat asthma, stress, and diabetes.

Like thyme, basil has strong antimicrobial and antiviral properties, even against nasty bugs like Listeria and E. coli. Basil is a natural COX inhibitor, which means it's especially great for anyone with arthritis or other inflammatory health problems. Basil is also a great source of beta-carotene, which turns into vitamin A, as well as magnesium, iron, and calcium.

How much: Aim for a tablespoon of fresh basil or quarter to half a teaspoon of dried basil three times a week.

Serving suggestion: Basil epitomizes summer foods, such as cold tomato or pasta salads. But don't stop there. Add it to pizza, pasta, or anything with tomatoes any time of year.

Tip: Having trouble finding good basil when it's not summer? Check your freezer section. Several companies freeze fresh basil in single-serving pop-out containers -- and since its frozen while fresh, it retains most of its nutrients. You can also freeze herbs yourself when they're in season -- just lay them flat on a baking sheet and then transfer them to a plastic bag or Tupperware container when they're frozen.

People have been cooking with chili peppers for a long time -- almost 10,000 years, according to archaeologists. Since then, they've been used for everything from spicing up food to deterring would-be attackers. Japanese karate athletes eat chili to strengthen their willpower, and African farmers use it to keep elephants away from their crops.
Luckily, you don't need elephant-size quantities to get the health benefits of these potent peppers. Studies have shown that capsaicin, the active ingredient in peppers, works as a great topical pain reliever for headaches, arthritis, and other chronic pain problems. Capsaicin inhibits the release of P-protein, which in turn interrupts the transmission of constant pain signals to the brain.

If you don't feel like smearing it on yourself, oral capsaicin has been linked to the release of endorphins and the regulation of blood sugar. And scientists have demonstrated anticancer properties in test tube studies.

How much: Don't like spicy foods? Don't worry -- as little as an eighth of a teaspoon can have positive health benefits.

Serving suggestions: There's a whole world of chili peppers out there, from the mild poblano to the fiery habanero. It's worth experimenting to find your favorite. Chipotle and ancho chili powders have been popular in recent years for their smoky zing, and they work particularly well in salsas, soups, chicken dishes -- and even in caramel or chocolate desserts.

Tip: If you overdo the chili pepper, don't reach for a glass of water -- pour a glass of milk instead. Capsaicin isn't water-soluble, but the caseins in milk block chili pepper heat effectively.

8 Grossest Spa Treatments

Snails, slugs and vats of leeches: the recipe for a relaxing day at the spa

Snail anti-aging masque
In the Siberian city of Krasnoyars, snail slime is the fountain of youth. At a spa in the Russian metropolis, African mollusks of varying sizes are placed on the face and body. Their excretions, rich in glycolic acid and elastin, are believed to reduce wrinkles, scars and signs of aging. Unfortunately, the procedure also increases the signs of snails on your face.

Carp predicure
In China, fish have been doing the job of spa professionals for years. Recently, a Virginia salon took a cue from the country and installed foot baths swarming with dead-skin-chewing carp. A 30-minute fish pedi will run you $50. That's about a dollar per fish.

Fish bath
Back in China, they don't stop at the feet. At Dr. Fish, a hot spring resort in the Chongqing Municipality, spa-goers soak their entire bodies in freshwater fish baths. Their exfoliating effects (gnawing off dead skin with abandon) leave patrons with what's been described as a "healthy glow."

Bird poop facial
Only in New York, home to eight million pigeons, would bird feces be commodified. For $50, Shizuka New York Day Spa offers a Geisha Facial, made from the excrement of a nightingale. Victoria Beckham swears by the droppings, which contain a natural acne-fighting enzyme.

Snake full body massage
This is either your worst fear or Lady Gaga's next VMA outfit. But a $90 relaxing spa treatment? It's hard to believe. At a spa in Israel, three different kinds of non-venomous snakes are unleashed on the face and back a customer. Their slithering, muscular movements are said to smooth out cramped muscles and stiff joints.

Sheep embryo injections
Debbie Harry recently revealed her secret to supple, young skin: injections of embryonic black sheep cells. "They would take from different organs, from the liver, from the glands, from the bone," she says, "and they would make up these injections. There were 11 injections, and I thought it was marvelous." Clinique La Prairie in Switzerland, began performing the anti-aging, cell rejuvenation treatments back in 1931. Despite the popularity of Botox and fillers, its positive results have made the treatment an uber-wealthy status symbol.

Leech rejuvenation
If you want to make it palatable, you can call it hirudotherapy. But what we're talking about are leeches on your face. The outdated medical procedure of applying blood-sucking slugs to the skin has made a comeback in beauty spas in Russia. For up to $1000 you can improve blood flow and channel the anti-inflammatory properties of leech saliva.

Urine facial
Urine isn't just for jellyfish burns. Hyper-naturalists believe it has antiseptic properties that fight acne and provide a deep facial cleanse. Vanessa Williams has tried it. So has one of 'The Doctors' on CBS. Not that he recommends it.
Via Yahoo!Shine

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Foods To Eat When You're Depressed

An omelet -- just don't skip the yolk

Eat it for: The B vitamins and protein. Egg yolks are the vitamin-B-rich part of the egg.

Other examples: Lean beef, wheat germ, fish, poultry

Why they help: A diet rich in B vitamins can help lessen the severity of depression symptoms. B vitamins, especially B-6 and B-12, can help improve neural function -- the way the neurotransmitters of the brain send signals, which helps govern mood. There's also a growing link between vitamin B deficiency and depression. A 2010 study of 3,000 older adults followed over 12 years found that those with lower intake of these vitamins had a higher risk of depression, according to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The protein in eggs (as with lean meats) helps you feel satisfied longer, stabilizing blood sugar. And eggs can be consumed in a variety of ways, from scrambled to used as a French toast batter to boiled and chopped up as a salad topper -- so long as you go easy on the accompanying animal products that are high in saturated fats, like bacon or butter.

Nuts and seeds

Eat it for: The magnesium

Examples: Pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, cashews, almonds, peanuts. (Green leafy vegetables and whole grains are also high in magnesium.)

Why they help: Magnesium, a mineral found naturally in nuts and seeds, influences production of serotonin, a "feel-good" brain chemical. Magnesium also affects overall energy production.

Bonus: Nuts are also a good source of protein and healthy fats. And as a whole food, they make a healthy alternative to processed snacks, provided you choose unsalted and unsweetened varieties. Salt and sugared coatings don't add any health benefits and may make you overeat because they set up cravings in the brain for more and more salt or sugar.

Cold-Water Fish

Eat it for: The omega-3 fatty acids

Examples: Wild salmon, herring, sardines, anchovies, tuna (not more than once per week), rainbow trout, mackerel. Fish-oil supplements are a practical alternative for those who don't eat these cold-water fish at least three times a week, Reardon says.

Why they help: There's a reason fish is known as "brain food." Fatty fish such as wild salmon contain the omega-3 fatty acid DHA, which has been shown to increase the membrane quality and nerve function of gray matter in the brain. Twenty percent of the gray matter in the brain is composed of DHA. Some studies have found that DHA consumption especially increases gray matter in the amygdala, the hippocampus, and the cingulate, three areas of the brain associated with mood. People with severe depression have less gray matter in these areas.

Fish is also a great source of lean protein, which stabilizes blood sugar. Eating small amounts of protein with meals can help keep your mood on a more even keel.

Ancient Grains

Eat it for: The complex carbohydrates

Examples: Quinoa, millet, teff, amaranth, spelt, barley

Why they help: Complex carbohydrates take longer to digest, which means they don't cause spikes in blood sugar that can create roller-coaster moods. Complex carbs also increase levels of serotonin in the brain.

While any whole grain is good, so-called "ancient grains" are even better, according to Reardon, because they're less likely to be man-modified and processed. Packaged, processed, and refined foods made with wheat flour and sugar, in contrast, tend to be digested quickly, causing cause blood sugar to spike. When this happens, the body responds with an oversecretion of insulin, which winds up moving too much sugar into cells -- and blood sugars plummet. The end result: poorer concentration, fatigue, mood swings, intense cravings, and overeating.

Ancient grains are increasingly available at mainstream grocery stores and big-box stores such as Costco and Sam's Club. Look where rice products are shelved. Many ancient grains can be cooked like pasta or rice and served in their place as side dishes, in casseroles, or as a base for fish or chicken.

Bonus: Some ancient grains are a whole-grain alternative for those who are allergic to wheat or have gluten intolerance. (Barley, though, contains gluten.)

Green Tea

Drink it for: The amino acid L-theanine

Examples: Hot green tea, brewed iced green tea -- including flavored varieties like jasmine green tea or berry green tea

Why it helps: L-theanine is an amino acid found mainly in tea leaves; it's been shown by EEG tests to stimulate alpha brain waves. This can improve focus while also having a calming effect on the body.

"Despite the caffeine, the L-theanine in green tea seems to be profoundly relaxing, with effects that last up to eight hours," Reardon says. L-theanine is easily absorbed and can cross the blood-brain barrier, adding to its effectiveness.

Via Yahoo! Health
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...