Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Super 7: Foods with Benefits 

Frank Lipman

Lose weight! Boost immunity! Improve your love life! If there were a pharmaceutical drug that did all three, there’d be a stampede to the pharmacy, but for now, no such pill exists. My advice? Build your own – not a pill, but a plan – an eating strategy that packs power, nutritional value and a host of benefits into every bite. Where to start? Simply load up on the “Super 7” – the 7 most nutritionally valuable foods you can buy. What makes them super? Few calories, little sugar or salt plus lots of soluble fiber, nutrients and health-boosting phytochemicals, and not a drop of guilt should you over-indulge! So, if you want to weigh less, look and feel great, the magic pill you’ve been looking for is in the organic produce aisle and at the seafood counter. Here are the Super 7 – the building blocks of excellent nutrition and sustainable wellness:
1.) AVOCADOThe myriad of nutrients found in avocados – oleic acid, lutein, folate, vitamin E, monounsaturated fats and glutathione among them – can help protect your body from heart disease, cancer and degenerative eye disease. Avocados taste great and are easily integrated into any meal – or even a fruit smoothie. Add a half an avocado to smoothies to add creamy texture and a powerful nutritional boost.

Dense and delicious, beans help raise levels of the hormone leptin which curbs appetite, and they deliver a powerful combination of B vitamins, calcium, potassium and folate. All of this will help maintain healthy brain, cell and skin function and even helps to reduce blood pressure and stroke risk. Pretty amazing, eh? To increase your intake, trying eating them as a filling side-dish instead of bread or potatoes. Beans will help keep you feeling fuller longer and deliver an excellent source of sugar-free energy through much of your day.

Tasty, sweet and packed with disease-fighting phytochemicals, flavinoids and soluble fiber – all of which can help prevent serious diseases like cancer, diabetes, heart disease, stomach ulcers and high blood pressure. In sum, blueberries are nearly miraculous! They also help tame inflammation throughout the body and can reduce “bad” cholesterol – so dig in for better health. While most of us are used to enjoying blueberries at breakfast, they’re also perfect for dessert. Having a snack attack? Instead of ice cream, curl up with a small bowl of frozen blueberries and pop ‘em in your mouth, one by one.
4.) CRUCIFEROUS VEGGIESWant to lower your cancer risk? Put the cruciferous on your list, namely broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, kale and bok choy. Research suggests cruciferous veggies have the ability to inhibit the growth of some types of cancer cells and even stop others by reducing the production of free radicals. How to stuff more of cruciferous veggies into your diet? Don’t wait ‘til dinner, start your day with them – add cruciferous veggies at breakfast to bulk up your morning meal, add more color to your plate and pack more nutrients into your day.
5.) SPINACHIf you remember the old-time the cartoon character Popeye, you’ll recall that he practically lived on spinach. Now granted, he was eating the canned stuff and I’ll bet his spinach wasn’t organic, but the message was clear – spinach was a superfood even back then, long before we knew much about what it could actually do. So what makes spinach super? It’s a treasure trove of vitamins, antioxidants and phytonutrients, loaded with nutritional goodies like vitamin A, B2, B6, C, K and E. There’s also protein, fiber, omega-3 fatty acids and potassium. In other words, spinach is incredibly nutrient-dense and I’d suggest including it in just about every meal to help protect and support health from head-to-toe.
6.) WALNUTSWalnuts — you don’t need to eat a lot of them to tap into their power. Just a few a day will deliver a healthy dose of omega-3’s, alpha-linolenic acid, melatonin, copper, manganese and the hard-to-find gamma-tocopherol form of vitamin E which helps protect your heart. Walnuts on your plate may also protect your brain and help slow the onset of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Not a nut fan? Crush or chop walnuts to add to cereal or fruit, or blend in 2 tablespoons of organic walnut butter to your fruit smoothies to reap the benefits of the mighty walnut.

7.) WILD SALMONWild salmon is a rich source of protein, vitamin D, selenium, B2, B3, B6, B12 and B3 and those all-important omega-3 fatty acids. So exactly what can wild salmon do for you? Quite a bit, including protection from cancer, cardiovascular problems, macular degeneration, depression, and cognitive decline – that’s a lot of pluses in a pretty compact package. The best salmon to buy? Wild caught, Alaskan salmon, which routinely ranks low in contaminants and high in nutrients. Wild salmon’s benefits start to kick in at about 2 servings a week, so there’s no need to over-do it.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Destress your life in 10 easy steps

Editor's note: Mark Williams and Danny Penman are the authors of "Mindfulness: An Eight Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World."
(CNN) -- The gloomy days of January can be the most miserable and stressful of the year, but it doesn't have to be this way. If you follow this ten step guide to destressing your life, then the next few weeks just might become the most serene and fulfilling ones of the year.
One step should be carried out on each of the next 10 days. They're based on the ideas found in the international best-seller "Mindfulness: An Eight Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World."
The book uses a program based on mindfulness meditation developed by us at Oxford University in the United Kingdom to relieve anxiety, stress, exhaustion and depression. Mindfulness has proved in some clinical trials to be at least as effective as drugs or counseling for dealing with these conditions.
So what is this mindfulness?
It is quite simply paying full, whole-hearted attention. A typical meditation involves paying full attention to the breath as it flows in and out of the body. Focusing on each breath in this way allows you to observe your thoughts as they arise in your mind and, little by little, to let go of struggling with them. You come to the profound understanding that thoughts and feelings (including negative ones) are transient. They come and they go, and ultimately, you have a choice about whether to act on them.
Mindfulness is about observation without criticism and being compassionate with yourself. When unhappiness or stress hovers overhead, rather than taking it all personally, you learn to treat it as if it was a black cloud in the sky, and to observe it with friendly curiosity as it drifts past.
Scientific studies have shown that mindfulness not only prevents depression, but it also positively affects the brain patterns underlying day-to-day anxiety, stress, depression and irritability. When these negative thoughts arise, they dissolve away again more easily. Other studies have shown that people who regularly meditate see their doctors less often and spend fewer days in hospital. Memory improves, creativity increases and reaction times become faster.
Here are 10 ways to decrease stress and increase mindful meditation in your life:
Day 1: Eat some chocolate
At this time of year, it's easy to eat too much chocolate and other high-carb "comfort foods." At first, all that lovely rich food is packed with flavor and totally irresistible. but after a while, you hardly notice it at all. And if you are in a rush, it tends to be wolfed down by the handful.
When you eat without thinking you miss out on so many wonderful flavors, textures and aromas. A single bar of chocolate, for example, has more than 300 flavors. How many of them do you normally taste?
Reconnecting with your senses is the heart of mindfulness, so why not try this chocolate meditation to help you enjoy your food again?
Day 2: Go for a short walk
Walking is one of the finest exercises and a brilliant stress reliever. A good walk can put the world in perspective and soothe your frayed nerves. It's the ideal way of taking a break from all of that work that built up during the holidays.
So today, why not go for a 15- to 30-minute walk? You don't have to go anywhere special. A walk around your neighborhood, taken in an open frame of mind, can be just as interesting as a hike through the mountains.
There's no need to feel that you have to rush anywhere; the aim is to walk as mindfully as you can, focusing your awareness on your feet as they land on the ground and feeling the fluid movements of all the muscles and tendons in your feet and legs.
Pay attention to all of the sights, sounds and smells. You might see the deep red color of the berries on the trees and bushes or perhaps the inky grayness of slushy ice and snow. See if it is possible to be open to all your senses: Smell the mustiness of the winter leaves; feel the rain on your head; the breeze on your face; watch how the patterns of light and shade shift unexpectedly.
Day 3: Take a three-minute breathing space
When you're becoming angry, exhausted, anxious or stressed, it's difficult to remember why you should remain calm. And at such times, it can feel as if the whole world was created just to bait you.
The three-minute breathing space was created to deal with such feelings. Its impact is twofold.
First, it's a meditation that's used to punctuate the day, so that it dissolves negative thought patterns before they gain control over your life. Secondly, it's an emergency meditation that helps ground you when your thoughts threaten to spiral out of control.
When you are carrying out the meditation, you may find that your mind repeatedly runs away with itself. This is entirely natural. It's what minds do. They leap around and offer up thoughts to your conscious self, much as a child hold's up his or her toys to an approving adult. When you find that your mind has wandered, gently escort it back to full awareness and continue following the instructions on the track as best you can.
Day 4: Do something pleasurable
At this time of year, exhaustion, stress and unhappiness can easily dominate. You can start to experience "anhedonia" -- that is, you can't find pleasure in life. The things you used to enjoy now leave you cold -- you feel as if a thick fog has put a barrier between you and simple pleasures, and few things seem rewarding any more.
You can counteract this by taking baby steps toward the things that you used to like doing but have since forgotten about. You can make a start by choosing one or two of the following things to do (or perhaps come up with your own ideas):
-- Be kind to your body. Have a hot bath; have a nap; treat yourself to your favorite food without feeling guilty; have your favorite hot drink.
-- Do something you enjoy. Visit or phone a friend (particularly if you've been out of contact for a while), get together what you need so you can do your favorite hobby, get some exercise, bake a cake, read something that gives you pleasure, listen to some music that you have not listened to in a long while.
Day 5: The intensely frustrating line meditation
Sometimes life can seem like one big long line. You have to line up to buy gas, to pay for the food in the supermarket and all of the bars and restaurants are crammed with people waiting to order.
Next time you feel like screaming "why don't they just get on with it!", try carrying out our Intensely Frustrating Line Meditation instead.
When you are in a line, see if you can become aware of your reactions when something holds up your progress. Perhaps you joined the "wrong" line, and are obsessing about whether to make a dash for another one that seems shorter? At such times, it is helpful to check in with what's going on in your mind. Taking a moment to ask yourself:
-- What is going through my mind?
-- What sensations are there in my body?
-- What emotions and impulses am I aware of?
Mindfulness accepts that some experiences are unpleasant. Mindfulness will, however, help by allowing you to tease apart the two major flavors of suffering -- primary and secondary.
Primary suffering is the initial stressor, such as the frustration of being in a long line. You can acknowledge that it is not pleasant; it's OK not to like it. Secondary suffering is all of the emotional turbulence that follows in its wake, such as anger and frustration, as well as any ensuing thoughts and feelings that often arise in tandem. See if you can see these clearly as well. See if it's possible to allow the frustration to be here without trying to make it go away.
Day 6: Set up a mindfulness bell
Pick a few ordinary activities from daily life that you can turn into "mindfulness bells," that is, reminders to stop and pay attention to things in great detail. There's a list below of things you might like to turn into bells. You don't have to turn them all into mindfulness bells -- they are just suggestions.
-- Preparing food: Food offers a host of opportunities to become more mindful. If you're preparing food, particularly if they are rich in flavors, smells and textures, then try and pay full mindful attention to all that you are doing.
-- Washing the dishes: This is a great opportunity for exploring physical sensations. If you normally use a dishwasher, do them by hand for a change. When your mind wanders, shepherd it back to the present moment. Pay attention to the texture of the dishes, the temperature of the water, the smell of the detergent, etc.
-- Listening to friends: If you are planning to meet a friend, or bump into one unexpectedly, it's easy to lapse into the same tired-old conversations. So why not turn a friend's voice into a "bell" that's a signal to pay full attention to what they are saying? Notice when you are not listening -- when you start to think of something else, what you are going to say in response etc. Come back to actually listening.
Day 7: The ten-finger gratitude exercise
To come to a positive appreciation for the small things in your life, you can try the gratitude exercise. It simply means that once a day you should bring to mind 10 things that you are grateful for, counting them on your fingers. It is important to get to 10 things, even when it becomes increasingly harder after three or four. This is exactly what the exercise is for -- intentionally bringing into awareness the tiny, previously unnoticed elements of the day.
Day 8: Do the sounds and thoughts meditation
Sounds are as compelling as thoughts and just as immaterial and open to interpretation. Certain songs might cheer you up -- or send you into an emotional tailspin. Sensing the power of sound -- and its relationship to thoughts and emotion -- is central to mindfulness and to becoming a happier, more relaxed and centered person.
Today, why not try our sounds and thoughts meditation? This elegantly reveals how the mind conjures up thoughts that can so easily lead us astray. Once you realize this -- deep in your heart -- then a great many of your stresses and troubles will simply evaporate before your eyes.
This meditation gradually reveals the similarities between sound and thought. Both appear as if from nowhere, and we have no control over their arising. They can easily trigger powerful emotions that run away with us leaving us feeling fragile and broken.
Day 9: Reclaim your life
Think back to a time in your life when things seemed less frantic, before the time when some tragedy or increase in workload took over your daily existence. Or it might be more recent than that, before the run-up to Christmas say, or perhaps a relaxing break in the summer.
Recall in as much detail as you can some of the activities that you used to do at that time. These may be things you did by yourself (reading your favorite magazines or taking time to listen to a track from a favorite piece of music, going out for walks or bike rides) or together with friends or family (from playing board games to going to the theater).
Choose one of these activities and plan to do it today or over this weekend. It may take five minutes or five hours, it might be important or trivial, it might involve others or it could be by yourself.
It is only important that it should be something that puts you back in touch with a part of your life that you had forgotten -- a part of you that you may have been telling yourself was lost somehow, that you could not get back to. Don't wait until you feel like doing it; do it anyway and see what happens. It's time to reclaim your life!
Day 10: Go to the movies
Ask a friend or family member to go with you to the movies -- but this time, with a difference. Go at a set time (say 7 p.m.) and choose whatever film takes your fancy only when you get there. Often, what makes us happiest in life is the unexpected -- the chance encounter or the unpredicted event. Movies are great for all these.
Before you go, notice any thoughts that may arise such as, 'I haven't got time for pleasure', or, 'What if there is nothing on that I'll enjoy?'
They undermine your enthusiasm for taking action and discourage your intention to do something that might nourish your life in important ways. Once you're inside the cinema, just forget about all this and be consumed by the film.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Less Belly Fat and Healthier Telomeres by Reducing Stress and Eating Mindfully

Stress reduction techniques and mindful
l eating reduce belly fat, accoring to new study

If getting in shape and losing that belly are New Year’s resolutions—as they should be—then why not addreducing stress to the list? Unfortunately, eating sweet and fatty foods appears to be one of the preferred choices of Americans for managing chronic stress.
Aside from the mental strain caused by chronic stress, it results in higher concentrations of stress hormones such as cortisol and poor eating habits that are associated with increases in belly (visceral) fat. Belly fat is not just unsightly, but is also linked to oxidative stress, inflammation, shorter telomeres, and greater risk of chronic disease.
Take heed: new findings published in the Journal of Obesity (1) suggest that combining an easy technique called mindful eating with stress management can help reduce cortisol levels and the resulting belly fat. Interestingly, a substudy (2) also found that the reduction in cortisol was associated with increased activity of the enzyme telomerase needed to restore telomere length.
In the parent study, researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, randomized 47 women categorized as chronically stressed, overweight, and obese to either a mindful eating training group or a control group. They found that the women who received the training had greater body awareness and reduced cortisol secretion, chronic stress, and abdominal fat. The researchers also found that the women with the greatest reductions in cortisol or stress had the greatest decreases in abdominal fat.
The mindful eating training group also showed significant drops in cortisol after wakening, generally when the hormone reaches peak levels in people suffering from chronic stress. The group’s subjects maintained their body weight while those in the control group did not have a drop in cortisol and continued gaining weight.
Mindful Eating
Instead of prescribing any diet, all of the women attended one session on the basics of a healthy diet and exercise. The training group consisted of teaching the women mindful eating practices such as paying attention to the physical feelings of hunger, cravings, fullness, and taste satisfaction as well as stress-reduction techniques.
The women in the training group attended classes once a week for nine weeks and a seven-hour intensive silent meditation retreat during the sixth week. Throughout the trial, the women were asked to do daily meditation exercises for 30 minutes and to apply mindful eating at meals.
The researchers gauged psychological stress before and after the study by using established survey methods combined with cortisol and fat measurements. What the researchers were looking for was a change in the amount of overall weight and deep abdominal fat as well as a change in cortisol secretion shortly after wakening.
Cortisol Causes Belly Fat, Shortens Telomeres
For the substudy, published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology, some of the same researchers took the same women and trial, but just measured their telomerase activity before and after the mindfulness training treatment. Women who received the training and who decreased their stress and belly fat also showed a greater increase in telomerase activity. A link between improved telomere function and reduced fasting blood glucose was also found.
“Improvements in stress, eating, and metabolic regulation may increase telomerase activity over time,” the study authors concluded.
The culprit in the deleterious effects that chronic stress has on the body looks to be the hormone cortisol, which increases as levels of stress increase. Though shorter bouts of cortisol secretion are normal and can have a stimulating effect on the body—as when the ability to run from danger is needed—the opposite is true of having continuously elevated levels of cortisol. This results in a chain reaction where fatty acids from outlying areas move into the abdominal regions and build up belly fat. Chronically elevated levels of cortisol also suppress telomerase, which can lead to shortened telomeres and accelerated cellular aging.
Isagenix and Stress
An Isagenix system is demonstrated as an effective way of reducing harmful belly fat through its application of Cleanse Days and Shake Days. The few calories eaten on Cleanse Days along with Cleanse for Life helps to stimulate fat burning and detoxification while Shake Days combine high-protein meal replacement shakes with healthy eating to maximize nutrition and muscle maintenance.
Additionally, Ionix Supreme, a unique tonic with adaptogens, increases the body’s ability to deal with stress and come out on top. Adaptogens are botanicals that mitigate the stress response, lessening the harmful effects of stress hormones like cortisol on several body systems like the nervous and immune systems.
Lastly, Isagenix products including SlimCakes and FiberSnacks! assist people with healthy snacking—helping them avoid high-calorie junk foods when stressed—and obtaining soluble fiber, which is strongly associated with reduced belly fat.  
This year, don’t let stress take over and unleash its havoc on the body. Instead, learn about mindful eating techniques and other stress-beaters—exercise, plenty of sleep, and a diet rich in nutrient-dense foods such as fruits and vegetables, as well as Isagenix products—to help stay calm and cool.
1) Daubenmier J, Kristeller J, Hecht FM et al. Mindfulness Intervention for Stress Eating to Reduce Cortisol and Abdominal Fat among Overweight and Obese Women: An Exploratory Randomized Controlled Study. J Obes 2011;2011:651936. doi:10.1155/2011/651936
2) Daubenmier J, Lin J, Blackburn E et al. Changes in stress, eating, and metabolic factors are related to changes in telomerase activity in a randomized mindfulness intervention pilot study. Psychoneuroendocrinology 2011. doi:10.1016/j.psyneuen.2011.10.008