Health Tip #36

health-tip-36

The subject of herbs is a big topic!

There are culinary herbs, herbal teas, super food herbs, tonic herbs, fresh herbs, dried herbs, powders, tinctures, oils… just to name a few.  Each area on it’s own is a vast area study.  For the purpose of this tip, we’re going to keep it simple.  We are going to speak in very general terms about the benefit of culinary herbs.

Herbs offer health benefits

Herbs have been used for their medicinal properties for thousands of years prior to man made pharmaceuticals.

Just adding culinary herbs into our diets provides antioxidants, flavonoids, vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber.  Culinary herbs alone offer a nutritive boost to our meals as they offer health benefits such as protecting against disease and clearing toxins from the body.  Some of the most antioxidant-rich culinary spices include cloves, cinnamon, oregano, rosemary, ginger, black pepper, paprika and garlic.

Herbs like ginger treat nausea, and have antiviral compounds.  Licorice, turmeric, black pepper and oregano boost the immune system.  Turmeric, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, peppermint and cinnamon are anti-inflammatory.  Curcumin (the yellow/orange color) in turmeric has been highly studied for it’s anti-cancer effects.  Adding cinnamon to our diets has shown to lower blood sugar and improve insulin sensitivity.

Herbs can be added to all of our meals, as well as to smoothies and hot and cold beverages.  Which ever way we choose to add herbs to our lives, they are a great addition to our whole foods diet.  A great local source of high quality herbs is Harmonic Arts Botanical Dispensary.

Health Tip #34

health-tip-34

Soft drinks are addictive

If you are a regular soft drink consumer, one of the best things you can do for your health is to stop drinking soft drinks.  Soft drinks contain sugar, in the form of fructose, caffeine and a number of unsavory chemical flavors, coloring and preservatives.  Sugar and caffeine are very addictive substances.  In fact, sugar consumption increases dopamine and stimulates pleasure centers in our brains exactly the same way heroin does.

Soft drinks cause blood sugar dis-regulation

Consuming caffeine and sugar in this way can set you off on a roller-coaster ride of highs and lows as your body struggles to return to homeostasis after  their consumption.  Blood sugar rises rapidly.  The pancreas creates insulin to deal with the sugar.  As the blood sugar spikes, the liver deals with the sugar by storing it as fat.  The caffeine creates a stress response which raises blood pressure and the liver dumps more sugar into the bloodstream.  An hour later our blood sugar crashes leaving us looking for another sugar high.  The sustained level of sugar intake of a regular soft drink consumer, makes it impossible to lose weight and can lead to diabetes, cancer and heart disease.

Fructose makes us fat

Most soft drinks are sweetened with fructose which is far worse for our health than regular sugar because fructose must be processed by the liver which then stores it as fat.  For this reason, fructose consumption has been associated with obesity.  Fructose has also been linked to increased levels of triglycerides which increases risk of heart disease.  The blood sugar roller coaster effect after fructose consumption also puts us a risk for insulin resistance and decreased leptin signaling.  Leptin controls appetite and fat storage.

Artificial sweeteners are no better

Finally, if we think we can avoid soft drinks negative effects by choosing the diet version, think again.  Diet sodas are often sweetened with Aspartame.  Aspartame has been associated with neurological disorders, brain tumors, liver problems, birth defects, diabetes, and other ailments.  Artificial sweeteners also disrupt appetite regulation and sends messages to keep eating more.

Healthier alternatives

The best thing we can do for our health when it comes to soft drinks is to just avoid them all together.  Try switching to spring or sparkling water, adding cucumber, lemon or lime for flavor.  Chilled herbal teas are flavorful and refreshing. Lacto-fermented drinks like kefir or kombucha can also be a healthier alternative.