Friday, January 10, 2014

What the Heck Are Bioflavonoids Anyway?

Bioflavonoids.  There it is: another one of those healthy-living buzzwords that we often hear but may not understand.  In this newest installment of our what-the-heck-is-this series (also check out our similar cheat sheets on Free Radicals, Superfoods, and Antioxidants), we will take a brief look at bioflavonoids to make sure you know what it is, why you should care, and what you can do to benefit from bioflavonoids.


What is a Bioflavonoid?


In a nutshell, bioflavonoids (also known as flavonoids) are a kind of plant-based phytochemical – and yes, that’s a good thing.  Bioflavonoids have many variations, each with its own name.  For example:
  • Resveratrol is the bioflavonoid in the skin of red grapes.
  • Sulforaphane is the bioflavonoid found in many cruciferous vegetables, such as such as cabbage, cauliflower, bok choy, and broccoli (think green leaf vegetables).
  • Anthocyanosides are the bioflavonoids you’ll find in blueberries.
  • Quercetin is the bioflavonoid found in citrus fruit, buckwheat, and onions.
Bioflavonoids do many good things to the fruits, vegetables, grains, seeds, and nuts that they inhabit.  Bioflavonoids are largely responsible for the taste and the color of the fruit or vegetable, for instance.  In some plants, bioflavonoids also filter UV rays.



But what do bioflavonoids do for me?


Even more important to those seeking to improve their health than its effect on flavor and color, the phytochemical bioflavonoid is also an antioxidant.  And as you know if you’ve read our What the Heck Are Antioxidants Anyway article, antioxidants prevent or heal damage from the ravages of living, such as toxins, diseases, and aging.

What makes bioflavonoids a particularly hot topic in the health community though is that scientific studies indicate that some types of bioflavonoids show the potential to be used to treat certain medical conditions and diseases.  This health benefit of bioflavonoids is worth looking at more closely. 

For example, the bioflavonoid quercetin is being widely studied for several reasons:
  • A 1989 study showed that the quercetin can block the replication process of retroviruses.
  • 2013 quercetin research from the University of Maryland showed this bioflavonoid to be effective as a bronchodilator – good news for asthmatics – and can have an antihistamine effect as well.
  • A 2006 study showed quercetin as an effective means of fighting conditions of fibromyalgia, likely due to its anti-inflammatory properties.
Other studies suggest that the flavonoid quercetin may be beneficial in fighting metabolic syndrome and certain types of cancer.  Studies on the bioflavonoid hesperidin indicate that it can aid in capillary permeability and blood flow.  And the bioflavonoid epicatechin also shows the ability to improve blood flow and may be beneficial for general cardiac health.


How can I get more bioflavonoids in my diet?


Given the above base definition of bioflavonoids, you may have properly surmised that you’ll find bioflavonoids in plant-based foods – actually in just about any plant-based food.  But if you really want to boost your bod with bioflavonoids, the best sources of bioflavonoids include:
  • Any citrus fruit or berry
  • Cacao
  • Ginkgo biloba
  • Red onion
  • Parsley
  • Red wine
  • Sea-buckthorn
  • White and green tea
While you may be pleased to find out that red wine has bioflavonoids, you should also know that the epicatechin bioflavonoid in cocoa is off the scales for antioxidant content compared to the levels found in red wine.  And given the potential negative consequences of too much alcohol, go for the dark chocolate first!


Bioflavonoid recipes


While you may have limited luck trying to locate bioflavonoid recipes online based on that as a search string, take a look at this site, which lists the various types of bioflavonoids and identifies which plant foods are good sources of each.  You can search the same site for recipes for that particular bioflavonoid’s plant-based foods. 

For example, let’s say you want to increase your intake of the bioflavonoid betanin.  The site lists as one example of food sources for betanin red and purple grapes.  Just follow the grapes link on the page, and you’re presented with several grape recipes. 


Any bioflavonoid health risks?


As with any dietary change, especially those you may be undertaking because of a health condition, it is important to consult with your doctor first.  While the foods that are high in bioflavonoids are generally very good for you, the bioflavonoid quercetin is contraindicated with certain antibiotics.  Other bioflavonoid risks include avoiding bioflavonoid foods you are allergic to, such as chocolate, tea, wine, or brazil nuts.  It likely means you are allergic to flavonoid component and thus the benefits are not worth the risks.  Also, the bioflavonoid flavocoxid found in soybeans can cause gas, nausea, or even diarrhea in some people, so go easy there.

Use common sense to be safe in your addition of bioflavonoids to your diet; if you sense health issues arising after boosting your flavonoid intake with a certain plant food, then your body is likely telling you to discard that dietary change. 


Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Financial Health

In the face of all our concerns over physical and mental health, finances as a contributor to overall health are easy to overlook. However, with the significant changes in our economy over the last decade, many of us have taken a financial hit from which we’ve not completely recovered. Whether it’s been a toll on your retirement, your savings, or for some of us, our ability to earn a living, it affects your entire life, not just your bank account.

Debt is one of the contributors to mental illness. A study by Northwestern University found that it could also affect your physical health, from increased stress levels to higher blood pressure. And it can be brutal on our relationships, often leading to breakups and divorces. Debt can include a house loan, auto loan, personal loans, or credit card debt, to name a few.

So how do you combat this intense stressor and protect your overall well-being?

Calculating budget and expenses

  1. Get real about your finances. Many of us hide from the reality of our debt, rather than face it head on, and it can be scary. But you can’t tackle an unknown enemy effectively. The truth of what you owe and how you can start to pay it off is often less intimidating than you think. Create a spreadsheet in Google docs and list all of your creditors. Not sure if you even remember them all? No problem! Grab a free copy of your consumer credit report here. Next, contact all your creditors to get the total amount due or payoff amount. Now you will need to create a budget and a plan to funnel all extra funds to pay off each creditor, while still making all your monthly minimums to keep your credit in good standing. If you don’t think you can tackle it alone, contact a credit counseling agency for help. Be cautious, however, as you want to work with a credit counselor who has a good reputation, so do your research before agreeing to work with one.
  2. Know that you aren’t alone. Many people have been in your shoes before, and they’ve gotten out of debt and are living their lives with financial stability. So join a forum where you can talk to others who can share their stories, advice, and suggest reputable resources as you get your financial portfolio back into shape. It also doesn’t hurt to read up on others’ journeys out of the quagmire of debt. There are support groups for those focused on getting out of debt, such as this one. See if you can find one in your area, or start one yourself (talk about keeping you committed to getting out of debt!)
  3. Involve your loved ones cautiously. If you are married or in a relationship, you both need to be working on getting out of debt together in order for any plan to be successful. But not everyone in your family, friends, and extended network needs to know about your money issues. At times, loved ones can mean well, but can get a bit too involved in your personal business, which will make it difficult for you to feel comfortable around them. So share your trials – at least while you are working with them – with only those you trust to support and encourage you.  While your children can join you in finding creative ways to save money and live frugally, you may want to share only what they need to know, lest they become caught up in the intense stress that they may not completely understand, depending on their age and maturity level.
  4. Forgive yourself and move on. We all make mistakes and poor choices. But we can also move past them and come to a place of wisdom and knowledge. Just because you got into debt once (or even twice) doesn’t mean you are destined to make the same mistake again and again. Acknowledge the lessons you’ve learned, put them to work consistently in your financial life, and give yourself credit for making the change. And then lend a helping hand – and a listening ear – to others on the same journey.

Are you ready to get out of debt? In the next installment, we’ll discuss tips and tricks others have used to put their financial woes behind them.

If you’ve struggled with financial stress, share your story below – how did you get out of it? What have you learned?

Contributing Writer

Monday, January 6, 2014

Getting Started With Voice Recognition Software

Our introductory article on using speech to type, Give Your Fingers a Break! An Introduction to Voice-Recognition Software, included tips to help you decide if voice software is the right tool for you. This article assumes that the answer is "yes!" – and that you'd like to learn how to get started.

Here, we will cover a few basic tips to help make sure you have a positive experience in getting your computer to understand your spoken words and successfully translate them into written words.

Woman using microphone on beach


General guidance


First, I highly recommend that you look online for a popular, active voice-recognition software discussion forum, such as this one, and "listen in" to the advice these groups give regarding their experience with various soundcards, microphones, voice-recognition software programs, and techniques. If you are having difficulty, these discussion groups are also a great place to ask questions and get help, often much better than you will get from the software's manufacturer.

Second, to make sure you don't get frustrated, set realistic expectations. If you envision yourself stretching back in your computer chair with your eyes closed as you dictate, you may be disappointed.  Yes, voice recognition software is amazing technology but it is far from that idealistic (and still futuristic) vision of enabling you to talk to your computer and having it fully and accurately comprehend as well as a person can.  So, while it may generally do a good job, it's best if you watch the screen to see what it's typing after you speak each phrase.

It’s worth noting that I am dictating this article with my voice software, and more noteworthy that it’s translating my words so far with 100 percent accuracy.   Yet, while it's possible to generate an entire article such as this one without a voice recognition software error, the software makes enough mistakes in its day-to-day interpreting of my words that I've got a steady stream of new blog entries for my voice recognition errors blog to share some of the entertainingly incorrect translations it has made.  For example,
What I actually said to my computer: mountain bikers and trails  
How my voice software translated it:  mountain biker’s entrails

So you see, it's best to watch your computer screen as the software interprets your spoken words so that you can catch any mistakes and correct them before hitting "send" on an important message to your boss or a prospective customer.


The fundamentals – getting set up


In order to be able to talk to your computer and have it understand, translate, and type out your words, you'll need a few basics. We cover these in detail in the previous article, but here's the highlights.
  • A fast computer.  Just about any modern-day computer will do, but the faster it is, the better the results.
  • A good quality microphone.  No matter how good the software is, it is no better than the quality of the microphone.
  • A sound card. Your computer probably already has one, but you can get better, more consistent results with soundcards recommended specifically for voice software.
  • Voice recognition software.  This is a program that is capable of listening to incoming sounds, compare them to its built-in dictionary of language, and then type out your spoken words as text into a document on your computer.  (See brand recommendations in previous article.)
  • A quiet environment. I don't recommend trying this in a place with lots of loud talking, like a coffee house. The microphone does not know which voice to listen to, and will pick up lots of extraneous stuff and try to type it into your document.
Once you've installed your voice software, it may require you to go through a setup process and a brief training. The training helps it to understand your speech patterns, accent, etc.


Laptop with microphone

Getting started tips


To help you have a good experience, here are two basic tips to improve the voice recognition process.
  • Speak clearly and consistently. The voice recognition software is listening and learning constantly. If you speak loud one time and very soft the next, it won't translate as well. Also, the more clearly you enunciate, the better your results will be.  Since, in general speech, we tend to slur and blur words together, the software is likely to make mistakes in understanding your words, unless you can learn to speak very clearly. The more you speak in the manner of a TV newscaster, the better. To demonstrate this need to speak clearly, I've made a short demonstration video, which you can watch here.
  • Position the microphone properly and consistently. The dynamics of sound reproduction change dramatically depending on whether your voice is an inch from the microphone vs. four inches. For this reason, you get best results with a headset rather than a handheld microphone or one that is built into a notebook computer. With a headset, no matter which way you turn your head, the microphone will be consistently positioned relative to your mouth's position.


Open quote/close quote


One of the trickiest parts in learning voice software is adjusting to speak punctuation aloud, which you must do if you want punctuation in your document. The software does not intuitively know where, or whether, to put a comma or question mark, for instance. It only knows if you tell it to put one in. For example, let's say you wanted to type the following:

I asked her, "Which movie do you want to see?"
To have the computer type it exactly as you intend, with punctuation, you need to literally speak aloud the punctuation. So, what you would say to the computer in order to type that line is:

“I asked her comma open quote cap which movie do you want to see question mark close quote.”

Confusing?  It's probably easier to follow if you watch a demonstration of this, so I've created another video where you can watch how voice recognition software types when I'm speaking to the computer. The demo also shows how to get it to type punctuation, perform computer commands, and more.


Bon voyage into the seas of hands-free typing!


With these basics, you are ready to set sail. Speaking your words aloud to your computer will take some adjustment but, as you get more comfortable with it, you will be amazed at how fast and accurately you can type without ever touching your keyboard, just by using your voice.

As you begin working with voice recognition software, feel free to post your voice software questions or share your voice software experiences with others using the comment field below.


Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer



Friday, January 3, 2014

Weight Loss & Strengthening in Just 5 Minutes a Day?

New data shows how the right kind of workout can do more for your body in five minutes than a traditional 60-minute workout would accomplish. The trick is to use the Tabata method

No, Tabata is not a product or brand name.  Tabata (pronounced tuh-BOTT-uh) is the name of Japanese researcher Professor Izumi Tabata whose original 1996 study on exercise captured some startling statistics from a high-intensity workout format being employed to train Japanese Olympic speed skaters. 

What has since been discovered is that the Tabata workout doesn’t only benefit speed skaters; just about anyone whose health allows them to engage in this intense, short-interval training style can achieve significant fat loss and other health benefits.  The Tabata-style workout has been featured in Shape, Men's Health, and Men's Fitness magazines, and has been hailed by many exercise coaches for its extraordinary effectiveness at fat burning and strengthening within a short workout routine.
Timer for Tabata workout

What is the Tabata exercise format?


A Tabata workout is a cardio workout in which you move through a circuit of high intensity exercises bursts—usually 20 seconds each—interspersed with low intensity rest/recovery breaks—usually 10 seconds each.  Because of this pattern, the exercise is also known as 20-10-Tabatas.

The start of the workout is usually a 5-minute warm-up session of less strenuous exercises, and the finish is a 5-minute cool-down period of less intense exercise and stretching.  During the warm-up/cool-down parts of the workout, you aim to push yourself to less than half of your full-out capabilities, saving your maximum output effort for the core portion of the workout.  The warm-up phase often uses jogging, jumping, or cycling to get the heart ready.

The ultra-high intensity core portion of the workout is called High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). The HIIT portion of the workout usually runs for a minimum of four minutes, which adds up to eight burst-rest cycles (20 seconds high intensity, 10 seconds low intensity). 

Even with the warm-up and cool-down phases, the total workout time commitment is just 14 minutes minimum, with only the four-minute middle portion encompassing any intense effort. Although 14 minutes is sufficient to achieve results, many choose to add more HIIT cycles as their ability develops in order to increase the results. 


How effective is the Tabata workout?


The famed Dr. Life, whose best-selling book The Life Plan focuses on achieving healthy longevity, calls high-intensity interval training "the best of the best" in terms of its ability to burn body fat and increase endurance with so little time investment. Life's one concern is that Prof. Tabata's proposed minimum HIIT workout duration (four minutes), though effective at dropping body fat and increasing muscular endurance, may not "result in the production of cardio-protective stress proteins" that you can get from longer workouts, or workouts that focus purely on aerobic training.

In Prof. Tabata's study, he employed the same pattern noted above – 20 seconds of ultra-intense exercise interspersed with 10 seconds of rest, repeated for eight cycles (four minutes total). The participating athletes in the study followed this method four times weekly, adding one day of “steady-state” training (working at about 70 percent of their maximum capability with a sustained effort).

The results: The group using the HIIT training measurably increased their anaerobic capacity levels and slightly improved their VO2max output (the maximum level of their sustainable physical effort) compared to the control group of athletes who were using a more traditional steady-state training five times weekly.

Man running on treadmill


Tabata workout benefits


Where the Tabata-style workout excels:
  • Burning fat. As studies have shown, an HIIT-style workout generates metabolic adaptations that result in exceptional fat burning.
  • Burning calories. The high-intensity anaerobic nature of the Tabata workout not only burns plenty of calories during the training, but causes your body to continue burning calories for hours afterward.
  • Improves athleticism. The focused requirements of an HIIT workout with its interspersed high-intensity intervals and low intensity intervals develops both your aerobic and anaerobic systems, increasing your maximum output levels in other activities.
  • No equipment/gym membership required. If you look at online video examples of Tabata workouts, you will note that many of them use no equipment whatsoever, since the focus is more on the high-intensity/low-intensity rhythm rather than specifically which piece of equipment you use.
  • Works with your favorite exercises.  The Tabata workout is also popular because you can incorporate your favorite types of exercise, instead of following someone else's prescribed workout routine. As long as you follow the 20-10 pattern and use genuinely high intensity, it works, whether using rope skipping, calisthenics, weightlifting, swimming, jumping, or whatever. 
Unquestionably, one of the top benefits of the Tabata style workout is how effective it is with such a short daily time commitment.  In today's hectic world, one of the main excuses we use for not exercising regularly is lack of time. But when you can get exceptional fat-burning and muscular endurance-building results in less than 15 minutes per day, the Tabata workout may be worth considering.


Tabata risks/Tabata downsides


The most noteworthy concern of undertaking a Tabata-style workout is that, because it involves bursts of super-high-intensity effort in which you are intentionally pushing yourself beyond any sustainable maximum level of physical output, Tabata is not for everyone. Keep in mind it was originally designed for Olympic athletes—individuals who were already in excellent physical shape. If you are already exercising regularly, with some intensity, and if you have no cardiovascular, pulmonary, obesity, or diabetic conditions, then a Tabata workout may be right for you, and an excellent way to improve the results you are already working toward.

But because of the ultra-high-intensity nature of the workout, do not brush aside what may appear to be a typical health warning to see your physician before taking on a Tabata workout. The Tabata workout will likely be the most intense form of exercise you have ever undertaken, so do see your physician for a physical checkup and for guidance before getting started. Your doctor is likely to encourage you only if you already exercise regularly.

Also, be advised that the Tabata-style workout is not right for you if your goal is building muscle bulk. While it strengthens and firms muscles like nobody's business, the routine is entirely wrong for those who are trying to build muscle size.


Tabata workout success "cheats"


One of the hardest things about the Tabata workout is the simple mental math of keeping the 20-second workouts and 10-second breaks properly timed. Fortunately, there are several websites that offer a free online or downloadable Tabata timer. Two of my favorites: The Beach Fitness interval training timer and the one at TabataTimer.com

To get the scoop on the original Tabata study, check out the article at Pubmed.gov.   And for general information on applying the Tabata style workout, visit the Tabata article at PracticalHacks.com.


Learn by watching


There are some excellent online videos by practitioners of the Tabata workout style designed to either show you how to do a specific kind of Tabata workout or to take you through one in real time:
Work hard, work fast, get results.
If the Tabata workout is working for you, or you have a link to your favorite online Tabata video routine, tell us about it using the comments below.


Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer


Thursday, January 2, 2014

Water–Your Best Health Food?

For your health, combine two parts of hydrogen with one part oxygen and consume frequently throughout the day.  Or make it much simpler – drink H2O, also known as water, which should be known as the super-health beverage.

Water is so plentiful that it is often overlooked as being not simply essential to survival but actually very good for you. In fact, there are a number of health benefits you may not be aware of. Here, we will reveal:
  • Some surprising health benefits of water, including weight loss, healthier skin, and colon purification
  • Surprising new research suggesting that you significantly influence the health benefits of water by modifying how much you drink, how cold it is, and when you drink it
Ready to be surprised? Then read on…

Child drinking water

Drink water or die


Before we go into the health benefits of water, let's talk about the risks of not drinking enough water. As a human being, you are more water than you are anything else, with between 50 and 75 percent of your body comprised of water.

What's more, the process of living creates a continual loss of water that must be replenished daily. While it is possible to live for weeks without food, most of us will be dead within three days without water. We lose fluids through skin evaporation, going to the bathroom, and even breathing.


Do I drink enough water? Do I drink too much water?


First, pay little attention to the mythical "eight glasses a day" rule. (Read more about where that eight-glasses-of-water-a-day myth came from.) The truth is, water requirements vary from person to person, depending on many factors, including heredity, health, lifestyle, where you live (you'll need more water at high altitude or in the desert, for instance), weight, and diet.

Consider for example the drinking requirements of the typical ultra-marathon trail running person, covering 50 to 100 miles in a 24-hour period, and often at high altitude. That runner would die from dehydration sticking to eight glasses a day. Compare that to a relatively sedentary office worker who happens to also be a fruitarian – someone who consumes nothing but fruit. They can do just fine with one glass of water or less, as the water content of their fruit diet is so high.

While there is no hard and fast rule on how much water to drink daily, research suggests that you will meet minimum requirements by listening to your body. If you feel thirsty, have a drink. Meanwhile, consider that, apparently…
More is better (increase water consumption for weight loss)
Meeting minimum daily requirements of water is one thing, but is it possible that drinking more water than the minimum has health benefits? Yes, according to some health and medical experts. Doctor Jeffrey Life, a longevity expert and author of The Life Plan, recommends drinking half your body weight in ounces daily. For example, if you are 100 pounds, drink 50 ounces daily, and if you are 200 pounds, drink 100 ounces daily. Considering that eight 8-ounce glasses of water adds up to 64 ounces, drinking half your body weight in ounces daily is a lot of water!

Why so much? He cites a German study showing that increased water intake increases metabolic rates by as much as 30 percent. In the study, the increased metabolic rate resulted in increased fat burn for men and increased calorie burning for women. So, if you are trying to lose weight or reduce body fat, consuming more water is a good thing.

As well, a 2002 study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology reported that drinking at least five glasses of water daily cuts your risk of a fatal heart attack in half.  And Doctor Kinsey, author of The Blood Thinner Cure, states that inadequate water intake is likely the main cause of heart attacks, strokes, and hardening of the arteries.

The short story: drink more for heart health and for the quality of your blood. 

Bottle of water
Cold is better (ice water increases weight loss)
In that same German study, from the Franz-Volhard Clinical Research Center in Berlin, researchers found that increased metabolism from water consumption went into overdrive when study participants drank very cold water. They discovered that, in our body's effort to maintain its proper temperature, we burn up to 40 percent more calories with ice water because of the body’s efforts to heat it up. 
Drinking in the morning is beneficial
Many health experts agree that there are particular advantages to drinking water in the morning. By consuming lots of water first thing, before your first meal, you improve your colon's ability to absorb nutrients, kick start your metabolism (especially with ice water), supercharge your lymphatic system (useful in fighting infection and balancing body fluids), and even rev up your body's ability to make new blood cells and muscle cells.
So, sure, the very first thing you should do when you awaken is to kiss your spouse and tell them you love them. But, clearly, the very next thing you should do is drink a good 16 ounces of cold water. Read more on the benefits of drinking water in the morning.
Drinking water is good for your muscles
Pay attention, athletes; according to Web MD, inadequate water fatigues the muscles, causing your cells to lose fluids and electrolytes. Without enough fluids, your muscles become fatigued, harming your performance.


Water is good for your life


There are health risks to drinking too much water, but it’s a much smaller likelihood than not consuming enough water for optimal health.  Meanwhile, there are countless more benefits to drinking the right amount of water (usually, this means drinking more) that we haven’t room here to go into, such as:
  • Water helps your breath by reducing dry mouth conditions, which increase bacteria, which increase bad breath.
  • Water makes you look younger, because the opposite – dehydration –makes your skin appear dryer and more wrinkled.
  • Water helps your kidneys function better.
  • Water improves bowel function and prevents constipation.
It's worth adding that there is likely no cheaper health product on the market than good, clean water. Considering its many health advantages, water is certainly the right place to start improving your health.


Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer


Monday, December 30, 2013

Tired of Feeling Exhausted

Why am I always tired?

How can I sleep all night, and wake up feeling even more sleepy than when I went to bed?

I feel like I could fall asleep standing up, and I’m short tempered – I never used to be this way. What happened?

Man tired at his desk


If you’ve asked yourself these questions, you don’t need a diagram for the symptoms of exhaustion – you are living it. Heck, as a society, we’re so fatigued, there is even an art display dedicated to it. That sluggish feeling first thing in the morning that never quite fades away by midday. That mid-afternoon slump that keeps you chained to your office chair until the last few minutes of the workday. Then you trudge home, between fighting rush hour traffic, running to the gym, ferrying kids to after-school activities, and fitting dinner somewhere in the mix. Finally, finally, you squeeze in a few minutes sitting down, maybe to watch television, read a book, help someone with his or her homework. You feel like you’ve been permanently attached to the chair, and even the effort of falling into bed seems a bit too much to ask.

If you’ve felt/feel that way, you can probably remember back to a time when you weren’t always this tired. When the time you went to bed and the time you got up were mutually exclusive, and they never affected how much you got done in a day. When having an activity-packed weekend meant only more fun, less stress, and plenty of energy.

What the heck happened? How did you get to this place of chronic exhaustion? And how do you get out of it?

The first place to start is to examine your sleep patterns and how many hours of actual sleep you are getting each night. Mind you, this doesn’t include the minutes (or hours, in my case) you spend in bed reading, watching television, or otherwise occupied doing things other than sleep.  Sleep hours should be measured by when you actually fall asleep to when you wake up to face your day.

How much sleep is critical for you? The average adult needs 7-9 hours, but since we are all a little bit different, you should find your own sleep requirements. How? This can best be determined over a time period when you can go to sleep when you want to, and get up in the morning without the worry of an alarm. Often, it is easiest to do this over a vacation. Allow yourself the first three to four days to regulate, then look at days five through seven to see how long you slept. You want to evaluate this without the overconsumption of alcohol, and during a time when you can stay in bed until you are ready to get up for the day.  Your sleeping average over those last three days should give you a ballpark for how much sleep you typically need. (If you prefer a bit more precise monitor for your sleep, check out an app like MotionX or the relatively inexpensive tool Fitbit, which monitors your sleep.)

Woman sleeping

Keep in mind, your need for sleep can alter based on your health (do you feel a cold coming on? Are your allergies at an all-time high? Are you pregnant or healing from an injury?), your stress levels (divorce, new job, intense course load at school), and your overall well-being. Depression can lend itself to causing people to sleep more, but so can family distress, financial irritations, and even good things like unexpected surprises. They use additional energy, which means the body needs to recuperate a bit more when you sleep.

If you are finding it hard to get more sleep given an already hectic schedule, here’s some tips to help:
  • Go to bed at the same time every night, if at all possible. The human body craves patterns, and a consistent sleep schedule helps.
  • If you have small children, go to bed around the same time that they do, so you are ready to arise around the same time.
  • If you are a shift-worker, keep your sleep schedule as consistent as possible; if necessary, add in naps, but again, keep it regular and around the same time.
  • Remove distractions before bed: turn off the television, stick with soft, yellow light, avoid in-depth reading and conversation. This helps the mind wind down, along with the body.
  • Create a dark room for sleeping. Remove or completely cover electronic devices that emit light, cover your windows with light-blocking curtains, and apply a removable strip around the door if light seeps through. The blacker the room, the deeper and more rejuvenating the sleep. 

Lastly, but perhaps most important: sleep is primary to self-care. It ranks higher than even healthy eating (though that matters, too!) So make it a priority in your life, and you’ll see results within a few weeks that will amaze you.  You’ll feel more energized, your outlook on life will be more positive, and your temperament will improve. It won’t happen in one night, but with several focused weeks on obtaining the proper amount of sleep, you’ll feel like a new person, and ready to face whatever challenges you are faced with.

In my next post, we’ll talk about ways to alleviate exhaustion by de-stressing and creating peace, even in a hectic life.

What sleep challenges are you dealing with? What difficulties have you overcome? What has been your best tool for getting more sleep?

Contributing Writer

Friday, December 27, 2013

Hop on Over to Healthy Hemp Seeds

Hemp seeds are considered a nutritionally dense food, surprisingly rich in macronutrients and micronutrients. It’s also highly digestible, which makes it a popular way to help those with malnourishment to recover quickly.  Its mineral content helps vegetarians get what they may not be getting from other sources. Even if you’re not malnourished or a vegetarian, hemp seeds are worth a second look, not only for their super-healthy benefits but also because it is a tasty addition to many recipes.


What hempseed’s not


Hempseed is not marijuana.  Yes, hemp seeds grow on the Cannabis sativa plant, and hemp plants to look similar to pot plants, but you can consume hemp seeds until the cows come home and you won’t get a buzz from the seeds no matter how hard you try, as the seeds contain very little of the psychoactive THC – the element in marijuana that makes you high.

Hemp seeds


What hempseed's got


Hemp’s nutrient-packed seeds contain no sodium, no cholesterol, and a scant 170 calories. But hemp seeds have plenty of good things. Three tablespoons of raw, shelled hemp seeds contain:
  • Ten grams of omega-3 and omega-6 fats – more essential fatty acids than even fish, flaxseed, or nut oils – and it’s in the ideal 3:1 ratio
  • More than 20 percent of the adult daily recommended allowance for iron, thiamin, and zinc
  • More than 40 percent of the daily requirement of phosphorus and magnesium
  • A whopping 110 percent of the daily requirements of manganese
  • Ten grams of complete protein – including all eight essential amino acids
If you are on a low-carb diet, no problem: hemp has only 3 grams of carbohydrates per serving (with net carbs being closer to zero, since you are also getting 3 grams of fiber).


Health benefits of hemp seeds


Because of hemp’s mega-dose of fatty acids, they are a value resource in preventing depression, reducing the risk of heart disease, and keeping osteoporosis at bay. Athletes appreciate hemp seeds for its ability to relax muscles and reduce joint pain and post-workout inflammation.  Others value hemp seeds for hormone balancing, for skin and hair health, and its potential to prevent memory loss.


How to buy hemp seeds


The three most common ways of adding hemp seeds to your diet is in the form of hempseed oil, hemp milk, or shelled hemp seeds. The latter is the least processed and will have the most vital nutrients intact. Things to look for when selecting hemp seeds:
  • Raw – Raw hempseeds contain more phytonutrients
  • Non-GMO – i.e. not genetically modified
  • Shelled – By shelling the hempseed, what you are left with is it center, which is where most of its nutrients are
You can find raw hempseed in your local health food store.  Even some of the big-box stores now sell hemp seeds. And if you have access to neither of those locally, no problem: many reliable web sites sell raw organic hemp seeds.


How to add hemp to your diet


You can find full recipes for hemp seeds below, but adding them to your diet is remarkably easy, thanks to their pleasant, mild flavor and texture:
  • Sprinkle a couple tablespoons of hemp seeds on your salad. You will find the texture and taste somewhat similar to pine nuts.
  • Add some to your morning granola. It blends in nicely, enhancing the texture.
  • Mix hemp seeds into your yogurt. Its mild flavor and slightly crunchy texture are a perfect addition.
  • Mix a tablespoon or two of hemp seeds into your fruit smoothie.  After blending, the seeds act as a thickener, while adding almost no discernible flavor difference.
  • Add a few tablespoons to any bowl of soup to make it slightly thicker and much more healthy.
After you have opened your package of hemp seeds, make sure to refrigerate the remainder to keep it fresh.


Hemp seed recipes


Food preparation with hemp seeds is fun and flexible, worthy of use in any meal:
If you’ve experimented with hemp seeds in your diet, tell us about it using the comment field below. 
 

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer