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8 of the World’s Healthiest Spices & Herbs You Should Be Eating

By Kerri-Ann Jennings, M.S., R.D.,

As a registered dietitian and associate nutrition editor at EatingWell Magazine, I know that herbs and spices do more than simply add flavor to food. They let you cut down on some less-healthy ingredients, such as salt, added sugars and saturated fat, and some have inherent health benefits, many of which Joyce Hendley reported on for EatingWell Magazine.

Modern science is beginning to uncover the ultimate power of spices and herbs, as weapons against illnesses from cancer to Alzheimer’s disease. “We’re now starting to see a scientific basis for why people have been using spices medicinally for thousands of years,” says Bharat Aggarwal, Ph.D., professor at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and author of Healing Spices (Sterling, 2011).

Aggarwal notes that in his native India, where spices tend to be used by the handful, incidence of diet-related diseases like heart disease and cancer have long been low. But when Indians move away and adopt more Westernized eating patterns, their rates of those diseases rise. While researchers usually blame the meatier, fattier nature of Western diets, Aggarwal and other experts believe that herbs and spices-or more precisely, the lack of them-are also an important piece of the dietary puzzle. “When Indians eat more Westernized foods, they’re getting much fewer spices than their traditional diet contains,” he explains. “They lose the protection those spices are conveying.”

While science has yet to show that any spice cures disease, there’s compelling evidence that several may help manage some chronic conditions (though it’s always smart to talk with your doctor). What’s not to love? Here we’ve gathered eight of the healthiest spices and herbs enjoyed around the world.

Chile Peppers
May help: Boost metabolism.

Chile peppers add a much-appreciated heat to chilly-weather dishes, and they can also give a boost to your metabolism. Thank capsaicin, the compound that gives fresh chiles, and spices including cayenne and chipotle, their kick. Studies show that capsaicin can increase the body’s metabolic rate (causing one to burn more calories) and may stimulate brain chemicals that help us feel less hungry. In fact, one study found that people ate 16 percent fewer calories at a meal if they’d sipped a hot-pepper-spiked tomato juice (vs. plain tomato juice) half an hour earlier. Recent research found that capsinoids, similar but gentler chemicals found in milder chile hybrids, have the same effects-so even tamer sweet paprika packs a healthy punch. Capsaicin may also lower risk of ulcers by boosting the ability of stomach cells to resist infection by ulcer-causing bacteria and help the heart by keeping “bad” LDL cholesterol from turning into a more lethal, artery-clogging form.
Ginger
May help: Soothe an upset stomach, fight arthritis pain.

Ginger has a well-deserved reputation for relieving an unsettled stomach. Studies show ginger extracts can help reduce nausea caused by morning sickness or following surgery or chemotherapy, though it’s less effective for motion sickness. But ginger is also packed with inflammation-fighting compounds, such as gingerols, which some experts believe may hold promise in fighting some cancers and may reduce the aches of osteoarthritis and soothe sore muscles. In a recent study, people who took ginger capsules daily for 11 days reported 25 percent less muscle pain when they performed exercises designed to strain their muscles (compared with a similar group taking placebo capsules). Another study found that ginger-extract injections helped relieve osteoarthritis pain of the knee.
Cinnamon
May help: Stabilize blood sugar.

A few studies suggest that adding cinnamon to food-up to a teaspoon a day, usually given in capsule form-might help people with type 2 diabetes better control their blood sugar, by lowering post-meal blood-sugar spikes. Other studies suggest the effects are limited at best.

Turmeric
May help: Quell inflammation, inhibit tumors.

Turmeric, the goldenrod-colored spice, is used in India to help wounds heal (it’s applied as a paste); it’s also made into a tea to relieve colds and respiratory problems. Modern medicine confirms some solid-gold health benefits as well; most are associated with curcumin, a compound in turmeric that has potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Curcumin has been shown to help relieve pain of arthritis, injuries and dental procedures; it’s also being studied for its potential in managing heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. Researcher Bharat Aggarwal is bullish on curcumin’s potential as a cancer treatment, particularly in colon, prostate and breast cancers; preliminary studies have found that curcumin can inhibit tumor cell growth and suppress enzymes that activate carcinogens.

Saffron
May help: Lift your mood.

Saffron has long been used in traditional Persian medicine as a mood lifter, usually steeped into a medicinal tea or used to prepare rice. Research from Iran’s Roozbeh Psychiatric Hospital at Tehran University of Medical Sciences has found that saffron may help to relieve symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and depression. In one study, 75% of women with PMS who were given saffron capsules daily reported that their PMS symptoms (such as mood swings and depression) declined by at least half, compared with only 8 percent of women who didn’t take saffron.
Parsley
May help: Inhibit breast cancer-cell growth.

University of Missouri scientists found that this herb can actually inhibit breast cancer-cell growth, reported Holly Pevzner in the September/October 2011 issue of EatingWell Magazine. In the study, animals that were given apigenin, a compound abundant in parsley (and in celery), boosted their resistance to developing cancerous tumors. Experts recommend adding a couple pinches of minced fresh parsley to your dishes daily.

Sage
May help: Preserve memory, soothe sore throats.

Herbalists recommend sipping sage tea for upset stomachs and sore throats, a remedy supported by one study that found spraying sore throats with a sage solution gave effective pain relief. And preliminary research suggests the herb may improve some symptoms of early Alzheimer’s disease by preventing a key enzyme from destroying acetylcholine, a brain chemical involved in memory and learning. In another study, college students who took sage extracts in capsule form performed significantly better on memory tests, and their moods improved.
Rosemary
May help: Enhance mental focus, fight foodborne bacteria.

One recent study found that people performed better on memory and alertness tests when mists of aromatic rosemary oil were piped into their study cubicles. Rosemary is often used in marinades for meats and poultry, and there’s scientific wisdom behind that tradition: rosmarinic acid and other antioxidant compounds in the herb fight bacteria and prevent meat from spoiling, and may even make cooked meats healthier. In March 2010, Kansas State University researchers reported that adding rosemary extracts to ground beef helped prevent the formation of heterocyclic amines (HCAs)-cancer-causing compounds produced when meats are grilled, broiled or fried.

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The Health Benefits of Laughter

Laughing is good for the body and soul

Research has shown that the health benefits of laughter are far-ranging. While more studies need to be done, studies so far have shown that laughter can help relieve pain, bring greater happiness, and even increase immunity. Positive psychology names the propensity for laughter and sense of humor as one of the 24 main signature strengths one can possess, and laughter yoga clubs are springing up across the country. Read on for more findings about the health benefits of laughter, and see how to incorporate more humor and fun into your life.

Health Benefits of Laughter:

  • Hormones: Laughter reduces the level of stress hormones like cortisol, epinephrine (adrenaline), dopamine and growth hormone. It also increases the level of health-enhancing hormones like endorphins, and neurotransmitters. Laughter increases the number of antibody-producing cells and enhances the effectiveness of T cells. All this means a stronger immune system, as well as fewer physical effects of stress.
  • Physical Release: Have you ever felt like you “have to laugh or I’ll cry”? Have you experienced the cleansed feeling after a good laugh? Laughter provides a physical and emotional release.
  • Internal Workout: A good belly laugh exercises the diaphragm, contracts the abs and even works out the shoulders, leaving muscles more relaxed afterward. It even provides a good workout for the heart.
  • Distraction: Laughter brings the focus away from anger, guilt, stress and negative emotions in a more beneficial way than other mere distractions.
  • Perspective: Studies show that our response to stressful events can be altered by whether we view something as a ‘threat’ or a ‘challenge’. Humor can give us a more lighthearted perspective and help us view events as ‘challenges’, thereby making them less threatening and more positive.
  • Social Benefits of Laughter: Laughter connects us with others. Just as with smiling and kindness, most people find that laughter is contagious, so if you bring more laughter into your life, you can most likely help others around you to laugh more, and realize these benefits as well. By elevating the mood of those around you, you can reduce their stress levels, and perhaps improve the quality of social interaction you experience with them, reducing your stress level even more!

How To Use Laughter:

Laughter is one of my all-time favorite stress management strategies because it’s free, convenient, and beneficial in so many ways. You can get more laughter in your life with the following strategies:

  • T.V. and Movies: There’s no shortage of laughter opportunities from the entertainment, both at the theater and in the aisles of the video stores, as well as at home with T.V. comedies. While wasting your time watching something marginally funny may actually frustrate you, watching truly hilarious movies and shows is an easy way to get laughter into your life whenever you need it.
  • Laugh With Friends: Going to a movie or comedy club with friends is a great way to get more laughter in your life. The contagious effects of laughter may mean you’ll laugh more than you otherwise would have during the show, plus you’ll have jokes to reference at later times. Having friends over for a party or game night is also a great setup for laughter and other good feelings.
  • Find Humor In Your Life: Instead of complaining about life’s frustrations, try to laugh about them. If something is so frustrating or depressing it’s ridiculous, realize that you could ‘look back on it and laugh.’ Think of how it will sound as a story you could tell to your friends, and then see if you can laugh about it now. With this attitude, you may also find yourself being more lighthearted and silly, giving yourself and those around you more to laugh about. Approach life in a more mirthful way and you’ll find you’re less stressed about negative events, and you’ll achieve the health benefits of laughter.  
  • ‘Fake It Until You Make It’: Just as studies show the positive effects of smiling occur whether the smile is fake or real, faked laughter also provides the benefits mentioned above. The body can’t distinguish between ‘fake’ laughter that you just start doing on purpose, and ‘real’ laughter that comes from true humor–the physical benefits are exactly the same, and the former usually leads to the latter anyway. So smile more and fake laughter; you’ll still achieve positive effects, and the fake merriment may lead to real smiles and laughter.

Akilah M. El, N.D. is a Naturopathic Doctor and certified Master Herbalist with a private practice in Atlanta Georgia and Berlin Germany. Join Dr Akilah El on Facebook and Twitter

For More Health Tips Like This Check Out Our Health Tips Page

The Health Benefits of Eating Fruit

Fruits are such a delight to the senses. Of all the foods available to us, fruits are the most attractive, delicious and enjoyable. Of all natural foods, that is, the foods we can eat in their natural state, fruit is the food we are most attracted to and that first entices our senses. Humans are born with a natural instinct for sweet foods and in nature, that instinct naturally draws us to fruit.

When we are hungry – and I mean really hungry – fruit is often the most satisfying food we can eat. Is there anything better than to devour a delicious ripe mango on a hot summer day? Or to bite into a luscious, freshly-picked apple? Or to enjoy a sweet, juicy ripe orange? Is there any man-made dish that can beat the perfection of a fully ripe cherry?

Fruits have been consumed by human beings going as far back in time as we know, where as grains, legumes and dairy products have only been cultivated for 10,000 years or less, which is just a breath in the life of humanity. Anthropological studies have shown that fruit has been an important part of the human diet for hundreds of thousands of years.

Fruit has always been recognized as one of the healthiest foods there is. In the minds of most people, fruit is seen as a healthy food we should eat more of due to its vitamin content. But even when realizing the exceptional nutritional qualities of fruit, very few people actually give it the place it deserves in the diet. Fruit is still eaten as a “snack” or a “dessert,” but is rarely seen as a staple food. In the mind of the masses, fruit is a “healthy snack” but not something that can really sustain a hard-working man, like meat or bread. They don’t realize that fruit should be a staple in the diet, and has been for thousands upon thousands of years, long before bread and rice were cultivated, and long before cheese, sandwiches and twinkies were invented.

Fruit eating offers many benefits:

* Fruit is the best source of the natural sugar needed for energy.
* Fruit is packed with vitamins, and still represents the best source of vitamins in any food.
* Fruit is packed with anti-oxidants.
* Fruit is easier to digest than grains. Fruit is basically pre-digested. Digesting ripe fruit hardly requires any digestive enzymes, and is thus less taxing to the body.
* Fruit is alkaline forming (whereas meat, fish, grains and legumes are acid-forming).
* Fruit contains an abundance of pure water.
* Fruit is easy to eat. It doesn’t require much preparation.
* Fruit is beautiful. All of our senses are nourished by fruit, not just our taste buds.
* People who eat lots of fruit live longer. A study published in the British Medical Journal (September 2001), showed that fresh fruit offers the best bet for a long life. The results of a study showed that frequent fruit eaters had a 32 percent lower risk of dying from cerebrovascular disease such as stroke, and a 24 percent lower risk of dying from ischemic heart disease, than those who ate fruit less than once a day.
* Fruit contains lots of fiber, which is necessary for optimum digestion.

How To Eat Fruit

Natural Hygienists have known for a long time that fruit doesn’t combine well with other foods. The reason is that fruit contains simple sugars that require no digestion. Thus, they will not stay for a long time in the stomach. Other foods, such as foods rich in fat, protein and starch, will stay in the stomach for a longer period of time because they require more digestion. So if you eat fruit after a meal, the fruit sugar will stay for too long in the stomach and ferment. This is why people experience digestive trouble when eating fruit that way. They then blame that particular fruit for their trouble and claim that they are “allergic” to it.

Natural Hygienists have been recommending for a long time that fruit be eaten alone with no other foods. They have also recommended eating melons alone and avoiding mixing acid fruits with sweet fruits such as bananas. These are great recommendations, but can be definitely be simplified.

Many people have a difficult time eating a meal of fruit alone. They’ll eat a meal of melon and not so long after they’ll be hungry again, for the simple and obvious reason that melons are not calorie dense. Eating a small cantaloupe (200 calories) is not going to sustain you for very long. But because they have read somewhere that mixing melons with other fruits is not allowed, they’ll try to wait until the next meal to eat something else and then will often in the meantime overeat on dried fruits and nuts to compensate.

The solution to this is very simple: since fruit digests so fast, it is possible to eat fruit before any other food. You can, when you are hungry, eat as much fruit as you care for. One type of fruit only would be ideal. Then wait a little bit, 20 – 30 minutes, and have any other food you desire. This can be a salad, a little avocado with tomatoes, some nuts, or anything. It can be cooked food too. If you’ve been trying to follow food-combining rules without success, this new information could be very valuable to you.

The same goes with mixing other fruits together. You can eat all the melon you want, and then, if you are still hungry, eat another type of fruit to satisfy your appetite. It is not necessary to eat melons alone if they are eaten before another foods. You can even have melon and then have an avocado after. The only thing that is important to remember is to have the fruit first – not after, and ideally only have one variety at a time.

In Conclusion

A great way to eat more fruit is to make fresh fruit smoothies. Smoothies need not to be complicated to be tasty. For example, I like to blend bananas with water and have that as a smoothie. When I make that smoothie, I will blend a few bananas with about 1 cup of water and drink it after my exercise session. I also like blending mangoes with other fruits. For example, mango blended with papaya or peaches is amazingly delicious.

Frozen bananas go pretty well in all sorts of fruit smoothies. Try, for example, blending a few frozen bananas with a little water and some fresh berries. You’ll be amazed by the taste.

I hope that this article will encourage you to incorporate more fresh fruit into your diet. In conclusion, remember the following formulas:

Fresh fruit + more exercise + less grains and refined foods = better health and energy

Less fat + more fruit + more green vegetables = even better health and energy

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Akilah M. El, N.D. is a Naturopathic Doctor and board-certified Master Herbalist with a private practice in Atlanta Georgia and Berlin Germany. Join Dr Akilah El on Facebook and Twitter 

For More Health Tips Like This Check Out Our Health Tips Page

Almond Milk vs. Soy Milk – Which Is Better?

Almond Milk vs Soy Milk: Both almond milk and soy milk are loaded with health benefits. Each are extremely different from cow’s milk and have a lot more health benefits. Soy milk is made by soaking soybeans and grinding them into water. Most will agree that soy milk has somewhat of a “beany” taste. Almond milk on the other hand has been said to contain a “light, nutty, and crisp” taste. Fortunately, each type of milk provides roughly the same health benefits.

Almond Milk vs Soy Milk. Which is better?Soy Milk

Soy milk contains an abundance of protein and a small amount of fiber. The protein and fiber come from the soybeans it is made with. Protein is necessary for muscle mass and can also help provide a “full” feeling to prevent hunger. Fiber can also help to prevent excess hunger. It is necessary for a healthy digestive system and can also help to lower the risk for heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

One of the most notable benefits of soy milk is that it contains isoflavones, which are natural chemicals similar to the female hormone estrogen. It has been suggested that isoflavones may help to decrease the risk of osteoporosis, cancer, heart disease and high blood pressure.

Soy milk also contains no lactose. Approximately 75 percent of the human population has a lactose intolerance at some point in their lives. It also contains prebiotic sugars stachyose and raffinose, which can boost immunity and decrease the amount of toxins inside the body.

Another benefit is the lack of allergies to soy milk experienced among children. In comparison, approximately 0.5 of all children have been found to be allergic to soy milk, whereas 2.5 were found to have an allergy to cow’s milk.

Almond Milk

Almond Milk is better than Soy.Almond milk is considered to be a healthy, flavorful, nutritious beverage. A lot of people drink almond milk plain or unsweetened almond milk, while others choose to use it as an extra ingredient to enhance the flavor of certain foods. One of the first benefits of almond milk is that it contains less calories than most other types of milk. It’s an effective replacement beverage, especially if you’re trying to lose weight. What’s better is that you don’t have to sacrifice flavor.

Almond milk contains an abundance of magnesium, potassium and Vitamin E, all of which are a necessary part of everyone’s diet. Magnesium is necessary for the body’s absorption of calcium, leading to healthier bones and teeth. Potassium is necessary for keeping the heart, brain and kidney tissues strong and healthy. Vitamin E is essential for helping to fight off free radicals, resulting in a lesser chance of developing deadly diseases such as cancer, as well as slowing down the process of aging.

Quite like soy milk, almond milk is also a great alternative for people who experience lactose intolerance. When people who are lactose intolerant attempt to drink regular cow’s milk, they tend to suffer from bloating, indigestion, gas and also become sick in general. Most will agree that almond milk is also tastier than regular cow’s milk, making it an even better, healthier alternative altogether. In addition, it also contains an abundance of protein, making it great for building muscle. Another benefit is that it is considered the healthiest of all other dairy alternatives, especially since it’s the lowest in sugar (lower than soy milk). Almond milk is much lower in sugar in contrast to other dairy alternatives, as it contains only 8 carbs and a total of 7 grams of sugar per serving. It helps to boost energy levels and can keep blood sugar levels from spiking, making it a delightful drink for diabetics and those who suffer from lack of energy in general. It contains 50 percent of the daily recommended amount of Vitamin E. It contains 30 percent of the daily recommended amount of calcium, as well as 25 percent Vitamin D, making it an excellent source for keeping the bones strong and the immune system healthy.

So which is better? Well in my opinin if you buy almond mik, you’ll be making a wise health decision.

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Akilah M. El, N.D. is a Naturopathic Doctor and board-certified Master Herbalist with a private practice in Atlanta Georgia and Berlin Germany. Join Dr Akilah El on Facebook and Twitter 

For More Health Tips Like This Check Out Our Health Tips Page

10 Foods that Lower Cholesterol

LDL and HDL The bad and The Good Cholesterol

1. Whole grains and oats – a five-year Insulin Resistance Athersclerosis Study showed that people whose diets contain the most whole grains “had the thinnest carotid artery walls and showed the slowest progression in artery wall thickness.”

2. Blueberries – a compound in blueberries (pterostilbene) may help lower cholesterol as effectively as commercial drugs with fewer side effects.

Walnuts lower HDL Levels 3. Nuts – I recommend Pistachios, Walnuts, and Almonds – a Penn State study showed that eating pistachios significantly lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. Research published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology showed eating walnuts or almonds after a high-fat meal might protect your heart. Omega-3 fats and antioxidants in nuts work to reverse the arterial damage caused by saturated fats.

4. Avocados, 5. Olives, and Olive oil – 26 of the 30 grams of fat in an avocado are heart-healthy, unsaturated fats that can increase your levels of HDL cholesterol. The good fats in avocados, olives, and olive oil protect against heart disease and diabetes. Check out the Mediterranean Diet.

6. Flaxseed oil – flaxseed oil can lower blood pressure in men with high cholesterol. In a three-month study of 59 middle-aged men, those who took daily flaxseed oil supplements (with eight grams of the omega-3 fats, alpha-linoleic acid) experienced significantly lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

7. 100% cranberry-grape juice – antioxidants in grape juice slow down LDL cholesterol oxidation, and cranberry juice raises HDL or “good” cholesterol.

8. Fish and Fish oil – a study from the Norwegian University of ScienceSalmon Oil to Lower Cholesterol and Technology found that people with type 2 diabetes who consumed high doses of fish oil over nine weeks lowered the size and concentration of several lipoprotein subclasses (cholesterol) in their bodies.

9. Pomegranate juice – a National Academy of Sciences study showed that pomegranate juice reduces cholesterol plaque buildup and increases nitric oxide production (nitric oxide helps reduce arterial plaque).

10. Yogurt with live active cultures (probiotics) – Vicki Koenig, MS, RD, CDN said “several studies have shown that the probiotics Lactobacillus Acidophilus and Lactobacillus Reuteri actually help lower cholesterol. They work by preventing the reabsorption of cholesterol back in to the blood stream.”

You might be a person who is predisposed to high cholesterol, or maybe your diet could use a shape-up. Here are a few key points on cholesterol that I try to focus on:

LDL or “bad” cholesterol deposits itself on the walls of your arteries, forming plaques that make them hard and narrow. HDL or “good” cholesterol removes excess LDL in your blood and brings it to your liver for disposal. The more HDL you consume, the less LDL you’ll have in your blood.

You may need natural herbs to help reduce your cholesterol, but eating a heart-healthy diet and getting exercise are very important. To find out what type of herbs you need to help reduce your cholesterol please check our website By Clicking Here or contact Dr Akilah for a private consultation.