Top Nine Exercise Mistakes Made By People Who Want To Burn Fat

By Trevor Justice and Maria Stevens, Certified Personal Trainer

Mistake #1: Eating too few calories.

It’s safe to eat 500 calories less than you need to maintain your weight. However, if you eat any less, your body will think its starving.

Then you’ll become leptin-resistant, you’ll lose muscle tissue, and your metabolism will slow down. Chances are, you’ll wind up gaining back the weight you lost.

So if you want to create a deficit of 500+ calories per day, burn the additional calories through exercise, rather than starving yourself.

To learn more about leptin, click here to download our free book, "The Secret To Being Fit Forever":

http://www.veghealth.com/fit-forever-ebook-invite

Mistake #2: Measuring your progress by weight, not by inches.

When you exercise, you displace fat with lean muscle. So losing 10 pounds could mean that you’ve actually lost 16-17 pounds of fat, but gained 6-7 pounds of lean muscle.

Since muscle is denser (i.e. it takes up less space per pound), you’re likely to lose inches and pant sizes faster than pounds.

And here’s a bonus. Muscle tissue burns more calories per day than fat tissue. So increasing your muscle mass also raises your metabolism. That means you burn more calories while at rest!

Mistake #3: Doing the same exercise routine over and over.

When you flex the same muscles the same way every time you workout, your body recognizes it as a “routine”. It becomes more efficient and hits a plateau. So you see diminished returns.

By contrast, when you challenge your body with different exercises each week, you burn more calories and get more overall benefit. You can also get this benefit by changing the order of exercises.

When your body never knows what type of activity you’re doing next, it can’t get efficient.

That’s why – in “Fit Forever In 30 Minutes” – Maria shows you a new exercise circuit each week. After the first four weeks, you can rotate through those four circuits.

Mistake #4: Trying to stick with a boring routine.

When exercise is boring, you’re more likely to quit. This is another reason to change your routine each week, or mix up the order of exercises. It’s also the reason Maria gives you a new routine each week.

Mistake #5: Not working your legs enough

The best way to burn calories is to exercise your biggest muscle group: your legs and gluteal (butt) muscles. For example, lunges, squats, and jumping jacks.

So if your workout mostly consists of moving your arms, you’re not getting the maximum benefit. This is why Maria’s workouts include lots of leg movement.

Mistake #6: Overreliance on a gym

Some people have the discipline to visit the gym 3 times per week, regardless of circumstances. But what happens when there’s a thunderstorm or ice on the roads?

What happens when you’re traveling? What happens when you’re sick and contagious? Or for whatever reason you don’t feel like going out?

Exercising with minimal equipment gives you the greatest flexibility. That’s why Maria shows you how to get a full body workout with just a set of dumbbells. If you have a jump rope or stability ball, that’s even better… but they’re not required.

Mistake #7: Resting for too long between exercises

Breathing hard indicates that your heart rate is high. The faster your heart rate, the more calories you burn, and the higher your afterburn. What’s afterburn?

It’s the increase in calories you burn while at rest after your workout. The afterburn can last from 3 to 14 hours. That’s why physically active people stay leaner. Their metabolism runs higher after physical activity.

To increase your metabolism after exercise, do more demanding exercises, and take shorter rests between exercises.

Maria’s routines create a huge afterburn for a small investment of time. The Week 3 routine, in particular, consists of interval training where you go directly from one exercise to the next, with no rest in between until you’ve completed the set.

Mistake #8: Doing exercises with poor form. 

There are two downsides to poor form. First, the muscles you’re trying to work don’t get the full benefit. Second, you could be injuring yourself. What’s an example of poor form?

Many people fail to keep their backs straight when doing pushups.

This is why Maria shows you how to do pushups with your weight on your knees instead of your feet. She also gives you safety tips like these:

V-lunges: “If this hurts your knees, don’t go down as far.”
Leg Lifts: “If this is too hard, bend your knees.
Sumo dead lift high pulls: “If your back starts to round, then only go halfway down

Mistake #9: Waiting for your designated “exercise time”

Instead of waiting for your workout, seize opportunities to burn calories during your everyday routine. Here are some examples:

•    Carry heavy groceries a few blocks.
•    When unloading your car, carry two bags at a time instead of one.
•    Chase your dog.
•    Help friends move furniture.
•    Park on the far side of parking lots, so you have to walk further.
•    Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
•    Walk or bicycle instead of driving.

To see Maria teaching a fat-burning weight circuit, click here.

http://www.veghealth.com/fit-forever/

Then scroll about 70% down the page.. .until you see her standing on a big red carpet. Then click play. Did this blog post serve you? If so, let us know how. If not, how can we serve you better?

How Vegans & Vegetarians Can Eat Well While Traveling…

Contributing writers:

Lara Adler, www.laraadler.com

Jill Nussinow, www.theveggiequeen.com

Meredith McCarty, www.healingcuisine.com

Nomi Shannon, www.rawgourmet.com

Elaina Love, www.purejoyplanet.com

Sasha Luci

Favorite Grab-and-Go Foods.

Elaina is the “McGyver” of raw foods on the go. In the side pocket of her soft cooler, she stashes high mineral sea salt and onion powder, along with a traveling knife. At mealtime, she uses whole romaine leaves as a taco shell, and stuffs it with avocado slices and cherry tomatoes. Then she sprinkles it with sea salt and onion powder, and sometimes seasoned pumpkin or sunflower seeds.

She also packs apples and nut butter. And she’s found that carrot and celery sticks — great with hummus — stay fresh longer than other chopped veggies. Of course, she doesn’t have Nomi’s long skinny purse.

You see, Nomi has found that green beans and a head of romaine lettuce will keep for several days in her purse while traveling!

Along with some dates to make romaine-date rollups, this is her grab-and-go airplane food. (See recipe included with this lesson.) She still can’t figure out why the lettuce keeps well in her purse without refrigeration!

Jill’s travel food kit includes “Mary’s Gone Crackers” (or flax crackers), kale chips, dried sea palm fronds, dried fruit and trail mix. The kale chips recipes are in Lesson 24.2 and Lesson 24.3.)

Lara tells us that bagged nuts and dried and fresh fruits have saved her on long distance flights, especially when she didn’t get the vegan meal she asked for.

When it comes to lightweight snacks that don’t require refrigeration, our favorite is Veggielicious Spice. This is just one of many whole food energy snacks offered by its manufacturer. You can check out the product line at www.healthyenergysnacks.com.

How to Plan Ahead.

Before traveling, search online for health food stores near your destination. Then you can stop to buy refrigerated foods like fresh greens and hummus.

No matter where you’re traveling, visit www.happycow.com. You’ll find a GLOBAL directory of veg-friendly restaurants and health food stores. Lara does this every time she travels internationally — which is a lot — and she’s found some incredible restaurants this way.

In the U.S., visit www.localharvest.com to locate farmers markets near your destination, or on the way. You’re sure to find fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables. And at some markets, you’ll even find homemade baked goods and hot meals.

For a list of all co-ops, health food stores, and green businesses with a quick zip lookup, Sasha recommends www.greenpages.org.

Finally,  many cities have websites devoted to their vegan / vegetarian resources. For example:

  1. www.vegportland.com
  2. www.veganchicago.com
  3. www.veganboston.com

Custom Plates at Restaurants.

So many people today have dietary restrictions — ranging from gluten intolerance to lactose intolerance to veganism. Special diets are so common, in fact, that restaurants have gotten used to making custom meals on the fly.

So if a restaurant doesn’t have an entrée you’re willing to eat, don’t be shy about asking for a custom meal!

Here’s a time-tested approach. Look at the menu for the ingredients in other entrees. Then ask if the chef could create a plate with just those ingredients.

For example, at Mexican restaurants, we regularly ask for a plate of romaine lettuce, whole beans, and a “double side” of guacamole — with no rice or tortilla shell. We’ll also request grilled vegetables if available. Keep it simple so it’s not too difficult or time consuming for the chef.

Hotels.

When you book your hotel room, request a dorm fridge to store vegetables and other perishables. Some hotels will provide a fridge at no additional cost. But since they don’t have enough for every guest, it’s first come, first served. So reserve it in advance!

If a fridge isn’t available, ask if the wet bar in your room can be emptied out so you can store food in it.

As a last resort, bring your own cooler and fill it with fresh ice each day.

If bringing a cooler isn’t possible, use the bucket in your hotel room (the one normally used for a wine bottle).

When Meredith stays at hotels, she doesn’t like to rough it at all. So if she can’t get a room with a kitchenette, and there’s no vegetarian restaurant nearby, she’ll bring her own hot plate, or an immersion coil for making hot beverages. Then she treats herself to hot miso soup, oatmeal, quinoa, buckwheat or millet, mochi and tea.

Conferences.

If you’re vegan, meals at conferences can be challenging because they rarely have plant based protein. You might find macaroni and cheese or fettuccini alfredo. You might even find portabello mushrooms, but hotels rarely serve vegan proteins like tofu, hummus, or bean soups. The solution?

Even if you have no fridge in your hotel room, you can bring almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, or flax crackers and sprinkle them on your salad. All these are easy to pack in a suitcase. You can make your own flax crackers, as in Lesson 24.6. You can also buy flax crackers from either of these web sites:

  1. http://www.simplylovingraw.com/
  2. http://www.lydiasorganics.com/product_list.html

Road Trips.

The great thing about driving is that you don’t have to worry about the weight of your luggage. So you can bring a large cooler filled with ice packs and vegetables. You can also bring canned soups, an electric hotpot, cutting board, knife, bowl, silverware, and even a blender or Vitamix!

Best of all, you can bring all the fresh fruit, lemons, and avocados you want.

For easy “tailgate preparation”, Elaina brings travel knives, wooden utensils, a wooden bowl, and a mini cutting board.

Bringing a blender allows you to make smoothies in the mornings. Or, if you want a more filling breakfast, you can make Nomi’s “Oats with Almonds and Dates” as in Lesson 24.4.

If you travel a lot, consider buying a Thermoelectric Cooler. You can plug it into your car’s power socket. And some models offer a separate adapter that you can plug into any electrical outlet.

Fruit is great because it doesn’t require refrigeration. Avocados turn salads into filling meals and lemons can be squeezed over salads. That brings us to the next topic.

Salad Dressings.

Squeezing lemons over salads will save you from restaurant dressings made with fillers, preservatives, or animal ingredients. (Even dressings without anchovies or bacon may contain calcium stearate, a byproduct derived from cows or hogs.)

Elaina makes salad dressings by blending flax crackers with some water and a little lemon juice.

To create on-the-spot dressings without a blender, Meredith likes to bring Nama Shoyu and umeboshi paste. Since they have salty tastes, she likes to mix them with either apple cider vinegar, brown rice vinegar, or lemon juice.

You can ask the restaurant for olive oil to supplement the other seasonings.

Airport Tips.

If you try to bring a container of hummus or almond butter through security, it’ll be confiscated. (After all, garbanzo beans and almonds pose a very serious threat to airline safety.) But if you pack a hummus or almond butter sandwich in your carry-on, you can skate through with no hassles. Go figure.

Many airports have smoothie places. If you’re a vegan, ask for a custom non-dairy smoothie. And if you carry green powder with you, most places will blend that in for you.

Panda Express offers Chinese tofu and vegetables.

Panera now has a “Mediterranean Veggie” sandwich with hummus and feta cheese. If you’re vegan, you can ask them to hold the cheese and substitute whole wheat bread. Also, if you’re gluten intolerant, you can ask them to serve the hummus and vegetables on a plate of romaine lettuce instead of a wrap.

Some regular sandwich places offer “3 Bean Salad”, a high protein addition to any salad.

Even in cities where you wouldn’t expect it, you can improvise respectable meals. For example, the Kansas City, Missouri airport has a Mexican restaurant that happily prepared our favorite vegan plate.

And the Nashville, Tennessee airport has a sandwich place that — if you ask them to — will spread avocado and veggies on whole wheat bread.

Flying Tips.

On International flights, many airlines offer vegan and vegetarian meals if you reserve them in advance. However, Lara recommends confirming and re-confirming a few times, because she’s had a few no-show meals. Note that some airlines aren’t familiar with the word “vegan”, so you have to ask for a meal that’s “non-dairy vegetarian”.

Continental is the only one we know of that offers custom meals on coast-to-coast flights (i.e. from the east coast to the west coast and vice versa). If you know of others, please post a reply.

Beware that on airplanes, hot meals are microwaved. If you consider this unacceptable, then be sure to bring your own food.

When flying, pack a soft sided, collapsible cooler in your suitcase. Not only do they hold more because of flexible sides; they pack flat and are very light. Just tuck some covered containers or ziploc bags into your suitcase to hold and keep melting ice from leaking.

Nomi suggests packing a thin flexible cutting board. When traveling with two suitcases (or a companion), you can pack your blender’s carafe in one suitcase and its base in the other. Of course, fill the carafe with socks to avoid wasting precious suitcase space!

When flying in cold weather, think twice before filling your suitcase with anything that might freeze and expand. For example, we once packed a jar of almond butter and a plastic container of agave nectar in our suitcase. (The one we checked.)

Fortunately, neither one exploded during transit. But we spent the whole flight worrying that the cold air outside would freeze these foods and cause the containers to burst.

Getting Enough Vegetables.

Whether you’re at a fancy American hotel, or traveling in Costa Rica, it can be hard to get enough vegetables. (Ironically, during my trip to Costa Rica, the only restaurant I could find with a green salad was McDonalds!)

Here are some shrewd solutions to this problem:

  1. Sea vegetables

    Sea Vegetables such as dulse and sea palm, are lightweight and don’t require refrigeration. They can be rehydrated in a minute and added to any salad.

  2. Kale chips

    These salted, spiced dehydrated kale leaves are as addictive as Doritos — but far healthier. See the recipes included in Lessons 24.2 and 24.3. There's also a recipe in the free ebook Supercharge Your Health With Whole Foods.

  3. Wheat grass tablets

    You can buy these in a jar from any health food store. According to the label on Pines International wheat grass tablets, 7 tablets equals one serving of a deep green leafy vegetables.

  4. Veggielicious

    Veggielicious is a mix of dehydrated raw vegetables including Broccoli, Green Beans, Sweet Corn, Peas, Tomatoes, Green Peppers, Red Peppers, Green Onions, & Carrots. It’s lightweight and doesn’t require refrigeration. You can order it at http://www.healthyenergysnacks.com.

  5. Sprouts

    When traveling by car, Jill likes to pack mason jars with newly started sprouts (and sprout tops). That way she’s assured fresh “vegetables” for at least a few days. Of course, she rinses them with bottled or filtered water, not tap water.

    When traveling by plane, you can pack dry grains, seeds or quinoa, and start sprouting once you arrive at your destination. Since jars are heavy, you can sprout them in a Hemp sprout bag or one of Elaina’s nut milk bags. As you likely recall, we covered sprouting fully in Lesson 20.

Grocery Stores.

Grocery stores are a good option when you’re on a road trip. Hummus has reached mainstream status and can be found at most grocery stores. Buy a container of hummus along with a cucumber or a bag of pre-washed salad greens. Then slice up the cucumber and dip it in the hummus.

More and more conventional grocery stores have a small “Natural” section where you can find packaged foods without artificial ingredients. For example, you can buy natural peanut butter and eat it on whole wheat bread or apples.

Or buy a natural cereal and soy milk. SILK Soymilk is owned by Dean Foods, the largest dairy company in the US, and can be found in most grocery stores.

Bring Sweeteners.

When it comes to sweeteners, most restaurants and hotels only offer white sugar and artificial alternatives — like “Sweet & Low”. So it’s smart to bring your own sweetener.

Stevia and “Organic Zero” both come in single-serving packets, making them easy to travel with. On road trips, you also have the luxury of bringing Agave nectar, raw honey, or brown rice syrup.

Note: Later we’ll cover the pros and cons of these sweeteners in the lesson called “Healthy Sweeteners: How They Stack Up”.

Worried About Water Quality?

If you spend a lot of time in hotels, and you cringe at throwing away empty water bottles, consider buying a water distiller. Unlike a water filter, it doesn’t need to be attached to a faucet. You can plug it into any electrical outlet. It distills a gallon of water in four hours, and then shuts off.

If you’re traveling abroad and worried about water quality, don’t fret. You can get plenty of water by eating cucumbers, melons, and juicy fruits like oranges and mangoes. This is what we did while traveling in Costa Rica.

Camping Trips and Outdoor Gatherings.

Vegetables like onions, potatoes, carrots and beets can last for days without refrigeration, even in the summer. And amazingly, cabbage holds up quite well in warm climates.

If you have other tips or suggestions, please click “Post a comment” below, and add your input to the mix!

Are You Getting Enough Vitamin K?

When a new vitamin or supplement with vast health benefits becomes popular, instantly your local health food store is packed with a variety of ways to take it and every celeb is adding it into their diet.

Even though you have lived so many years without hearing about it, suddenly they are telling you that you can’t be healthy without it. Vitamin K2 is next on that list.

What is Vitamin K?

Vitamin K1 and K2 are two naturally occurring fat-soluble vitamins. Vitamin K3 is a synthetic version of vitamin K.

K1 and K2 are not just different forms of the same vitamin, they could be actually be viewed as two different vitamins.

K1 plays a key role in directing blood-clotting in the body. It regulates normal blood clotting by helping the body transport calcium.

Some of you might have taken a K1 shot at birth or a series of drops in the first few weeks of your life. This shot is said to prevent hemorrhage incidents in newborns.

Great sources of vitamin K are greens including kale, spinach, Swiss chard, mustard greens, parsley, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, asparagus and avocado.

K2 has most recently gained some fame and it’s key role is maintaining bone health. It is used by other tissues to place calcium where it belongs like in the bones and teeth and keeps it out of where it doesn't belong, in the soft tissues. K2 works synergistically with vitamins A & D. 

K2 plays a significant role in the health of your teeth. Vitamin K2 exists in the second highest concentration in the salivary glands, with its highest concentration in the pancreas.

Interestingly enough, your body makes K2 from K1, but it’s not a 1:1 conversion. It’s approximately a 10:1 conversion and the presence of fat enhances that conversion process.[i]

The best sources of K2 are meat and dairy products from pasture-raised animals. So where does that leave vegans? Well, the most noted source of K2 for vegans is a traditional fermented Japanese dish made of sticky soy beans called natto.

It's also good to note that K2 is produced by lactic acid bacteria. This is the kind of bacteria in sauerkraut.

How much vitamin K do you need?[ii]

Women ages 19+ (including those pregnant and breastfeeding) should get 90 micrograms of vitamin K per day

Men ages 19+ and up should get 120 micrograms of vitamin K per day

How can you get Vitamin K from food?[iii]

Food

Amount of Vitamin K (micrograms)

Kale, ½ cup

225

Spinach (raw), ½ cup

75

Turnip greens, ½ cup

70

Broccoli, ½ cup

45

Cabbage, ½ cup

30

 




 




 


What happens if we don’t get enough Vitamin K?

Luckily, vitamin K deficiency is rare in HEALTHY adults. But people with severe digestive disorders or on long antibiotic therapies can me susceptible. People with chronic malnutrition, alcohol dependency or anyone with health conditions that limit absorption of dietary vitamins should be cautious as well.

When you don’t get enough vitamin K, your blood takes a long time to clot which can cause excessive blood loss and increases your risk of death from injuries.

Should you be taking Vitamin K supplements?

The truth is most healthy people get enough of Vitamin K in their diet so supplementation is not necessarily needed.[iv] If you have problems with fat digestion and absorption then Vitamin K supplements may help you.

There are two forms of vitamin K2 supplements available in stores: MK-7 and MK-4. MK-7 is a natural extract of the fermented soy food mentioned earlier, natto. MK-4 is a synthetic supplement said to be chemically identical to the vitamin K2 found in animal fats. Even though it's synthetic, it is thought to be effective and was used in studies. At this time there are no studies comparing these two supplement types.

Some people with osteoporosis may want to consider taking vitamin K2 supplements to help with strengthening bones. According to a number of Japanese trials, vitamin K2 has shown to completely reverse bone loss and could possibly even increase bone mass in people with osteoporosis.[v] 

Are there side effects if you take too much vitamin K?

There is no known toxicity associated with vitamin K but vitamin K over supplementation during pregnancy could increase risk of jaundice in newborns.[vi]

Why is vitamin K different than other supplement fads?

When Omega 3 and probiotics became trendy, they were quickly added to almost every kind of food product on the market, but not vitamin K. This is because a large percentage of our society is currently taking anti-coagulants (such as Coumadin/Warfarin) which are vitamin K’s antagonist.

People take anti-coagulants to prevent blood clots, which occur commonly in conditions such as heart disease. If they eat foods with a high vitamin k content, it can reduce the impact of anti-coagulants and increase the risk of a stroke or a pulmonary embolus.

The concern is not so much about the intake of vitamin K but the sudden rise of it. As long as people taking anti-coagulants maintain a consistent measure of vitamin K, it will allow for stable dosing of the anti-coagulants. This can be a tricky balance so many people on this medication avoid vitamin K all together, which can cause deficiency.

People on anticoagulants should keep their daily vitamin K intakes between 90-120 micrograms per day (like recommended for everyone else), according to Linus Pauling Institute. Again, it's more important for them to keep their vitamin K intake consistent rather than to worry about keeping it low. 

Future of vitamin K:

Researchers are optimistic about vitamin K2’s potential for those with or susceptible to osteoporosis.[vii]

Researchers are also looking at vitamin K2 as a therapy for rheumatoid arthritis and examining the potential of vitamin K2 for the prevention of colon cancer.

For now ensure that you are getting enough vitamin K from your leafy greens (it shouldn’t be too hard) and only if you have proven to be deficient, then resort to vitamin K2 supplements in order to get enough of this very needed and beneficial vitamin.


Is the Acai Berry a Superfood?

By Revital Aranbaev

The acai berry has gained massive popularity in recent years and is most commonly known for its weight loss and anti-aging properties. This magical berry is also said to be helpful for a variety of serious health concerns including cancer, arthritis, high cholesterol and erectile dysfunction. It has been also referred to as the “Amazon’s Viagra” and the “Beauty Berry.”

The acai berry is grape-like, red to purple in color and usually described as tasting like a combination between red wine and chocolate. Acai berries come from the acai palm tree, which is native to Central and South America. 

Some say that the acai berry has been cherished by the native people of the Amazon for hundreds of years as a healing fruit. Currently Brazilians eat it because of its taste and nutritional value.

Since Acai became so widely talked about in such a short amount of time, and it claims such a large array of health benefits, it can make you a little skeptical.

Prior to 2001, this little berry was basically unheard of in the U.S. In 2005 sales of acai products were approximately $435,000 and two years later rose to 13.5 million! Today large companies like Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Haagen-Dazs have all added acai into their products.

 

What makes the acai berry stand out? Why has it created such a craze in a short period of time?

The most widespread notion is that it's filled with powerful antioxidants that accompany it in healing ailments.

As a general rule, antioxidants strengthen your cells. They defend your body against free radicals, which can be caused by anything from pesticides to cigarette smoke. Free radicals are associated with a long list of diseases including cancer and arthritis.

Acai berries contain specific antioxidants that help defend your body against life's stressors. They play an active role in your body's cell protection system.

There is no debate over whether or not you need to eat a diet full of antioxidants. Everyone agrees that antioxidants are something that your body benefits from. The real question is whether acai berry is the best source of antioxidants in comparison to other foods.

According to well known physician, Dr. Perricone, the acai berry is the #1 superfood, specifically because of its anti-aging properties.  [i]   He says that acai has 10 times more antioxidants than red grapes and 10-30 times the anthocyanins (antioxidant flavonoids) of red wine.

 

A study in 2006 discovered that acai berries caused human cancer cells to self destruct 86% of the time in a culture.[ii] Assistant professor, Stephen Talcott adds that other fruits including grapes, guavas and mangoes contain antioxidants and have shown to kill cancer cells in similar studies.

In a study two years later, the acai berry proved its ability to be absorbed in the human body when consumed both as juice and pulp.[iii] Because of its numerous antioxidants, the berry’s absorption in humans was an important find.

 

Acai’s ORAC level (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) is over 3,500, which is hundreds of times higher than common fruits like apples and bananas.[iv]

Some refer to the acai berry as the “Beauty Berry”. That's due to its combination of antioxidants, amino acids and omega fatty acids, all of which boost your immune system, remove free radicals from your body, and thereby slow the aging process. That's why acai oil is added to some cosmetics and beauty products.

 

Unfortunately the current market for acai has negatively affected the harvesting process.

Harvesting using naturally growing palms in the jungle can no longer meet the current needs of the market. This is resulting in widespread use of pesticides and fertilizers.[v] In addition the native people of Brazil are now losing out on a food source they have depended on for numerous years.

Kombucha: Healthy or Harmful?

 

By Revital Aranbaev

Kombucha is a fermented tea that has gained lots of popularity and a substantial following in recent years. Many people drink for its assumed medicinal benefits; it is most commonly known for boosting the body’s immune system. Some say the drink can work miracles with benefits including curing baldness, detoxifying the body, repairing joints, curing cancer, reducing blood pressure and prolonging life.

It is said that kombucha originated in ancient China and was used as a health tonic for thousands of years, but various forms of fermented tea exist in other countries as well. Since the 19th century, fermented tea was used in Russia; they referred to it as "tea kvass."

Kombucha is a SCOBY – symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts. It is a fermented drink made with tea (usually green or black), sugar, bacteria and yeast. Even though it's often referred to as kombucha mushroom tea, kombucha is not a mushroom; it's a colony of bacteria and yeast. The natural, vegan beverage contains organic acids, B vitamins, amino acids, polyphenols, enzymes, probiotics and traces of ethyl alcohol, depending on brewing time and conditions.[i] 

In order to make kombucha, brewers rely on what’s called a starter – a bit of already fermented tea- referred to as “the mother.” Once the mother is added to sweetened tea and allowed to sit in a glass jar unrefrigerated for 7-14 days, a colony of bacteria and yeast grows above the surface. This “mother” will expand and split into smaller pieces termed “babies,” which brewers can give to friends or sell. [ii]

Though Kombucha has had a rise in the last few years it is the second wave of its popularity. The first wave was in the early 1990s when it was thought to boost immunity in people with HIV/AIDS. At that time it wasn’t as readily available.

In 1995, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a report linking kombucha to the death of a woman and the illness of another woman. Both women experienced excessive acid buildup in the body that health professionals correlated to their daily dose of kombucha. The center did not definitively cite the tea as the culprit but the incident made people hesitant to make kombucha a part of their daily lives.

In 2003-2004 the slightly fizzy, sour & sweet drink- Kombucha made its return. At that time Whole Foods began distributing the tea nationally. In 2009, kombucha and other “functional” juices in the United States topped $295 million that year, according to SPINS Inc., a market researcher.

Kombucha’s popularity was growing as a part of a larger trend in “probiotic” foods containing bacteria, which some studies suggest benefit digestion and boost the immune system.

Studies assessing the benefits of kombucha involving humans are lacking; all studies available have been done with animals. It is good to note though that there have been numerous individual accounts that Kombucha has helped people with digestion, arthritis and even cancer.

In an interview by the Pittsburgh Post Gazette in 2007, commercial kombucha brewer G.T. Dave, credited kombucha for possibly slowing the spread of an aggressive form of breast cancer that his mother dealt with and for keeping up her strength and spirit during chemotherapy.[iii] The experience sparked her teenage son's interest and later his business. 

Research has shown that kombucha may have anti-microbial effects against harmful bacteria like E. coli. A Serbian study published in 2007 looked into combining Kombucha with other herbs. The study demonstrated that lemon balm kombucha showed strong antimicrobial effects against E. coli and Salmonella bacteria and it inhibited the growth of Staphylococcus aureus. It was shown that kombucha made from lemon balm tea had higher antioxidant activity than lemon balm tea alone, probably due to vitamins added by the fermentation process.[iv]

Promoters of kombucha also claim it protects the liver from damage. An Indian study done on animals in 2009, gave carbon tetrachloride to induce liver damage and then assessed the impact of kombucha tea along with black tea and enzyme-processed tea. Researchers found that kombucha tea had more protective effects than the other two teas.[v]

Kombucha “has prophylactic and therapeutic properties” including antimicrobial, antibacterial, and antifungal effects, according to a study destined for the June 2012 issue of Swiss Society of Food Science and Technology. Its authors state that kombucha “may be very healthful” in combating yeast infections, thrush, and other forms of candidiasis.[vi]

Unfortunately there aren’t too many studies that help asses all of the benefits that people connect to drinking Kombucha. Scientific evidence on kombucha’s benefits is just in the preliminary stages but there are numerous individual testimonials from people who drink kombucha reporting benefits like enhanced wellbeing, increased energy and weight loss and many other benefits. 

Some medical professionals, however, think the drink is dangerous. According to Dr. Michael Gregor, a physician, author, and internationally recognized  speaker, Kombucha may be harmful to your health. Published last year, the journal of Intensive Care Medicine states that, “kombucha may cause serious health risks and consumption of this tea should be discouraged.”

Renowned doctor, Andrew Weil is concerned with the same health risk that Dr. Gregor mentions, lactic acidosis (the build-up of lactic acid). According to Dr. Weil’s article, physicians at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles reported a life-threatening case of lactic acidosis and acute kidney failure in a 22-year-old man newly diagnosed with HIV within a few hours of his consuming kombucha tea. This happened in 2009. Dr. Weil specifically warns pregnant women, nursing mothers, the elderly, children and anyone with a compromised immune system against consuming it.

Dr. Weil is concerned with the possibility of contamination in home-brewed kombucha. “Some batches contain aspergillus, a toxin-producing fungus. This would be a significant risk for individuals with compromised immune systems, such as those with AIDS or in chemotherapy for cancer. There have been reports in the medical literature of adverse reactions, including nausea, vomiting and headaches, in people drinking more than four ounces of kombucha tea daily.”[vii]

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration also noted that the potential for contamination of kombucha tea is high because the teas are often brewed in homes in non-sterile environments. Plus if kombucha tea is brewed in ceramic pots, the acids in the tea may pull lead from the ceramic material which would lead to lead poisoning.[viii] 

Dr. Weil says that he knows of no health benefits from Kombucha. He also adds that kombucha has become extremely popular, in part due to photos of celebrities such as Lindsay Lohan and Halle Berry carrying bottles of the beverage and in part by promotion of the idea that it's a healthy drink.

Lastly, the American Cancer Society states that available scientific evidence does not support any claims that Kombucha tea can promote good health or prevent the development of certain ailments. The scientific studies that involve Kombucha tea are based on lab reports and animal findings, and reported benefits are based on personal reports.[ix]

It seems as if the arguments both ways could benefit from more substantial evidence and studies. Do you drink Kombucha tea? Please post your comments.

The Truth about Hemp Seeds (And The Myths)

By Revital Aranbaev

Hemp is one of the oldest and most misunderstood plants in the world.

8,500 years ago, hemp was harvested and used to produce durable cloth. Around 3,000 years ago, people began using hemp as a food and medicinal source. At that time, hemp seeds were used to heal the central areas of the chi and revitalize blood flow, veins and arteries.(1)

Since hemp is a cousin of THC-rich marijuana, it has gotten a bad rap for many years. It's even banned in countries like Brazil. But unlike marijuana, hemp seeds don't contain psychoactive compounds. The trace amounts of THC found in hemp are not mind-altering.

In many ways, hemp is one of the most useful plants known to mankind. It is used to make over 25,000 different products, including paper and clothing. But does that mean hemp can be properly absorbed as food? Does it have more nutritional benefits than other foods?

Why Hemp Is Called a Super Food

Essential and non-essential amino acids are the building blocks of protein. However, essential amino acids cannot be produced by your body. You must get them from food or supplements. Hemp seeds contain all of these essential amino acids, the ones your body can't produce on its own.

Hemp has less overall protein than soy. But hemp protein is easier to digest and it's absorbed quickly. And it doesn’t cause bloating or gas.

Hemp seeds have a 3:1 ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acids, which is important in preventing heart disease and promoting heart health. Their Omega 6:3 ratio is second only to flax seeds.

Though not scientifically proven, hemp has been linked to helping people with varying issues including ADHD, eczema and atherosclerosis according to the University of Michigan Health System. In addition hemp seed oil can help alleviate dermatitis (an inflammation of the skin) according to a study conducted in Finland in 2005.(2)

Hemp seed oil is used in various cosmetics, such as skin creams, shampoos, shaving creams, lip balms etc. One reason is that hemp seed oil has properties that make it a natural sun block. These properties make it a great functional ingredient in natural skincare products. In addition since hemp is rich in vitamin D, which is necessary for calcium absorption, it helps skin stay hydrated and smooth.

There are so many ways to add hemp into your diet… hemp seeds can be eaten raw, ground into a meal, made into hemp milk, or prepared as a tea.

Side Effects

Allergies to hemp are rare. So are side effects, except sometimes loosening of the stool. If your digestive system is sensitive to change, start with small amounts of hemp seeds and slowly work your way up.

People who are extremely sensitive to THC may experience hallucinations or feelings of euphoria.(3) But as mentioned earlier, hemp seeds only have trace amounts of THC.

Please share your experiences and experiments with hemp and leave us a comment!

 

 

[1] http://www.livestrong.com/article/217904-hemp-seeds-health-benefits-or-hype/

[2] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16019622

[3] http://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/hn-4393002

Is the MMR Vaccine Connected to Autism?

The MMR vaccine is a 3-in-1 vaccine that protects against measles, mumps, and rubella – all of which are potentially serious diseases.

The MMR is one of the recommended childhood immunizations and is given in a series of shots. The first shot is given when the child is 12-15 months old. The booster shots are given before a child enters school at 4-6 years old.

The MMR should not be given to anyone with an allergy to eggs, gelatin or the antibiotic neomycin. Nor should it be give to anyone with a weakened immune system.

For over ten years there have been numerous claims that the MMR vaccine has a correlation with autism. In both the United States and the United Kingdom, parents are pushing for research into a possible link between autism and childhood vaccination.

Autism – a serious developmental disorder that causes problems in communication, social interaction, and behavior – has been on the rise since the 1970s. The cause of autism remains a mystery, with most scientists believing that it may be due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

Though it is common to hear about MMR possibly leading to autism, finding published studies to back that assertion is difficult.

The original study that drew concern about a link between the MMR vaccine and autism was published in 1998 in the British medical journal, The Lancet by Andrew Wakefield and his colleagues. The study was very small – only 12 children participated – and it has since been reversed by some of the original researchers and retracted by The Lancet. 

A few years later, Paul Shattock, a pharmacist and director of the Autism Research Unit at Sunderland University performed some research in this field. He also had a personal connection to this work being a father of an autistic child. 

One of his popular studies, that had not been published, surveyed 4,000 parents of children with autism and found that 10% of parents attribute their child's autism to the combined MMR vaccine. In addition, Shattock states that these children shared distinctive symptoms that made them stand out in comparison to other children with autism- they suffered from bowel problems, had differences in the chemicals found in their urine, had an abnormal gait and were friendlier than other autistic children. 

Both Andrew Wakefield and Paul Shattock hypothesize that the combination of all three live viruses in the MMR vaccine could overload the immature immune systems of some toddlers who have a genetic or immunological predisposition to this.

Shattock stresses the need for further studies on the topic, "the numbers here are quiet small so any connection does not show up in epidemiological studies," he said. Shattock is not anti the MMR vaccine. "Nobody has suggested that MMR is the only factor in the rise in autism cases. We are pro vaccine, but it needs to be done sensibly."

Since Wakefield’s study has been retracted and Shattock’s research has never been published, it’s hard to make a claim. More studies need to be done and published immediately.

More than anything throughout the years there has been an overwhelming amount of individual accounts arising that connect MMR and autism.

Barbara Loe Fisher is a parent of an autistic child and president of the National Vaccine Information Center – a nonprofit educational organization founded by parents whose children were injured or died from vaccination.

She states that some cases of regressive autism could be linked to the MMR vaccine. Regressive autism is a sudden developmental downturn in children who had been previously developing normally. Her belief is based on Paul Shattock’s research.

Celebrity Jenny McCarthy has been one of the most vocal advocates for parents of children with autism. She has been labeled as anti vaccine because she believes there could be a correlation with MMR and autism. But rather than eliminating vaccines all together, she has some valid points on precautions to ensure that your child is safe from negative side effects.

Clearly not every child will get autism from the MMR vaccine but there are some with weaker immune systems, she says. She believes that kids need to be tested to make sure their immune systems are strong enough to handle the vaccines. She also says rather than having six shots per visit, why not have one shot per visit. These are simple tips that can go a long way.

It’s a very tough decision for parents on whether or not to give the MMR vaccination to their kids. Some people are anti vaccination as a whole because of side effects, some vaccinate fully to protect their kids from potentially harmful diseases and the others fall somewhere in between. Wherever you fall, just make sure to do the research on both sides and follow your intuition as much as possible.

[1] http://www.drugs.com/mtm/measles-mumps-and-rubella-mmr-vaccine.html

[1] http://www.babycenter.com/404_does-the-mmr-vaccine-put-my-child-at-greater-risk-for-autism_11518.bc

[1] http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=51546

 

 

 

Flu Vaccine Marketing Tactics and Shocking Side Effects

By Revital Aranbaev

Some possible side effects from the flu vaccine: runny nose, congestion, and fatigue (aka symptoms of the flu). So why are people getting the flu vaccine if a possible side effect is flu symptoms?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend the flu vaccine for nearly all individuals because “the effects of the illness are greater than the most common side effects of the vaccine.”

There are two types of flu vaccines available for children and adults. The first kind is the traditional flu shot administered with a needle, which is made from killed flu viruses. The second kind is a nasal vaccine administered as a nasal spray, made from weakened live viruses. There is no current evidence on which vaccine is more effective but lots of parents prefer the nasal vaccine for their kids in order to avoid needles.

Flu vaccines are not 100% effective; according to the CDC receiving an annual flu shot can reduce one’s risk of getting influenza by 70 to 90 percent. [i]

The CDC states that 5%- 20% of Americans get the flu each year. More than 200,000 people in the U.S. are hospitalized for it annually and about 3,000 to 49,000 deaths are flu-related. That’s a pretty big gap! We couldn’t get more specific than that?

It’s not widely publicized, but about 90% of flu-related deaths occur in people aged 65 or above.[ii] So why is there so much fear created around getting the flu at any age?

Why not specify who is more at risk and why, instead of pushing it on everyone?

Marketing -

Let’s look at who’s administering the flu vaccine and why. Since 2010, marketing for the flu vaccine has become more rigorous than ever. According to the Wall Street Journal, drug stores struggling with the economy are pushing flu vaccines earlier and harder than ever.[iii]

They are promoting this service through TV commercials, in-store displays, Facebook and Twitter. The drugstore CVS is letting people book an appointment online, on the phone or in person. Walgreens is offering flu-shot gift cards, targeting kids heading off to college, and using slogans like "Arm yourself for the ones you love."

Until a few years ago, retail pharmacists couldn't even get state certification to provide flu shots. By 2010 all 50 states allowed pharmacists to provide vaccinations. According to the Wall Street Journal “The hope is that customers will stop in for a flu shot and pick up shampoo or a gallon of milk.” Since pharmacies can’t return leftover vaccines, they’re motivated to sell ALL of the flu shots they bought to customers like you and I!

In the past, flu vaccination season started in October. But in 2009, the CDC recommended the timing be moved up by a month. So since 2010, the shots have been available prior to Labor Day.

In the past year, more than 110 million doses of vaccine had been delivered in the United States by the end of September, with manufacturers projecting total production of 166-173 million doses. This is the most flu vaccine ever produced for the U.S. market![iv]

Side Effects

The most common immediate side effect from the flu shot is injection site reaction, which can cause tenderness, redness of the skin, or inflammation.[v]

Possible side effects of the nasal flu spray can include fever, headache, runny nose, vomiting and some wheezing.[vi]

People who are allergic to eggs are at the highest risk of developing an allergic reaction from the flu vaccination, since the vaccination contains egg products.[vii] Symptoms from an allergic reaction can include itchy skin or hives, throat or facial swelling, dizziness, or breathing difficulties.

On a much grander scale of side effects, Dr. Hugh Fudenberg, a well known immunogeneticist states that if you receive five or more flu shots you have a ten-fold increased chance of getting Alzheimer's. That's ten times more likely than no flu shots or one.[viii]

He and other researchers state that the connection is a result from the combination of mercury (thimerosal) and aluminum that builds up over time in the brain. According to the CDC, "The following substances are found in vaccines: aluminum, (brain toxin) antibiotics, egg protein, formaldehyde (now listed as carcinogenic), MSG or monosodium glutamate (a known neurotoxin), and thimerosal (neurotoxic mercury)."[ix] Note that not all of these additives are used all the time.

Please comment and let us know your experience with the flu vaccine.

[i] http://www.livestrong.com/article/83023-truth-flu-shots-risks-/

[ii] http://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/influenza/fact_sheet.htm

[iii] http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703908704575433470792980944.html

[iv] http://www.doh.state.fl.us/Disease_ctrl/immune/files/Influenza_Key_Points_Oct_2011.pdf

[v] http://www.livestrong.com/article/207741-what-are-the-dangers-of-the-flu-shot/#ixzz1opLe6I9V

[vi] http://www.livestrong.com/article/77700-common-side-effects-flu-shot/

[vii] http://www.livestrong.com/article/207741-what-are-the-dangers-of-the-flu-shot/#ixzz1opLe6I9V

[viii] http://www.naturalnews.com/033891_vaccines_delayed_injury.html

[ix] http://www.naturalnews.com/033891_vaccines_delayed_injury.html
 

Adventures of a California Vegan in Brazil

I spent February in Brazil — mostly Rio Di Jienero. In the second half of this blog, I will talk about my big takeaway…  realizing how much I take for granted in the U.S!

However, I'll start out telling you about my adventures, and my herculean efforts to find healthy vegan food in a country that loves meat and white flour products!

(Note: I typed this up from a Brazilian computer, and some of the keys were different. So please forgive any typos!

FINDING HEALTHY VEGAN FOOD IS TOUGH!

You may already know that I eat organic, free range eggs and goat yogurt. However, when I eat out, I always say I am vegan.

That´s because restaurants almost never use organic, free range eggs or dairy products. So I remained vegan while traveling in  Brazil.

After arriving, I took a bus from Rio de Jienero to the World Rainbow Gathering, which was near Santa Marta .

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rainbow_Gathering

On the way, most of the food was very bad — tons of meat and sugary white flour products. Luckily, I was able to get a bowl of black beans at one pit stop. The counter lady was in disbelief… ¨What? You want ONLY beans?¨

Yes I did. I paid 5 reals (about $3 US). I thought this was an OK price. But since a full plate of rice, beans, and pork was 10 reals, my friend Clara told me I paid too much. So in Portugese, I went to the counter lady and very humbly asked ¨For 5 reals, can I have a little more?¨

At first she said no, but with some coaxing from my Clara, she gave me another bowl without charge!

At another pit stop, there was a decent salad bar. I also bought a bag of apples.

Once we arrived at the Gathering, all of the meals were vegan. There was even a circle of raw fooders eating mostly fruits and veggies each day.

Getting back to Rio was a bigger ordeal. Instead of taking a direct bus, I took a bus to a small town called Ibiterama, then waited 8 hours for the bus back to Rio. Luckily, there was a little fruit shop so I stocked up on apples, pears, and bananas. I also bought a bag of peanuts, just in case.

Despite the language barrier, I befriended the owner of a bar/restaurant. At dinner time, II explained that I wanted beans with no meat. He showed me what they had — there were about six choices at his buffet.

Among them, black beans, white rice, and some kind of pasta. There were also some colorful root veggies, but unfortunately they were mixed with meat!

Since I shun white flour and white rice, I just took a bowl of beans. He told me there was no need to pay, and even encouraged me to have a second bowl. I had also bought a jar of corn kernels at a nearby store. So together with the beans, that was my dinner.

Luckily, once I arrived in Rio I discovered two vegan restaurants with all-you-can-eat lunch buffets for 20 reals ($12 US).
http://www.vegetarianosocialclube.com.br/
http://www.wikirio.com.br/Refeitório_Orgânico

The first one is good. The second is amazing (and all organic!)

On Friday I went out with friends to a place that serves traditional beans, rice, and pork. I explained that I only wanted beans and lettuce. Again, the server was so concerned that my dinner was insufficient, he gave me a second plate of beans and lettuce at no extra charge!

THE WORLD RAINBOW GATHERING

OK, so what did I like about Brazil? The music at the Rainbow Gathering was fantastic. A few hundred counter-culture people gathered in a forest, made meals together, co-created music and drum circles, and sang call-and-response kirtan songs.

I led three men's circles, teaching men tools to create deeper honesty and trust. Two men had huge breakthroughs.

I was also inspired to write songs but had no piano or keyboard with me. So for the first time in my life, I began writing (or channeling?) 4-line chants. For example, here are the words to one:

THANK YOU EARTH

You nourish me with your farms and orchards

You quench my thirst with your water spring

You shelter me with your bricks and mortar

Thank you earth for everything

BRAZILIAN PEOPLE ARE VERY TRUSTING AND TRUSTWORTHY

For example, at the Gathering I didn't have a clock or watch, and my cell phone battery was dead. Yet I needed a way to wake up on time, on the day of my departure.

So Renata, a woman I met there, loaned me her cell phone the night before. Since she didn't know me that well, she could have worried that I would forget to return it, or not find her tent the next morning. But she wasn't worried.

Likewise, over Facebook before leaving, I was introduced to Dani, a friend of a friend of a friend. She laid out 100 reals (about $60) to reserve my seat on the bus to the Gathering, even though we had never met. She had complete trust that I would repay her when I arrived.

And when she learned that I was going to pay 330 reals to stay in a hotel the first two nights, she insisted that I cancel the reservation, and found a friend for me to stay with… Thiago. He is a raw food chef who lives with his girlfriend Camila.

One week, Thiago was out of town so he loaned me his key. Not just a spare key, but HIS key.

When I took a bus from the small town of Santa Marta to Ibitirama, I didn´t know how much the fare would be and couldn’t speak Portugese. So I handed the man 30 reals — a ten and a twenty. He could have taken advantage, but instead give me back 23 reals.

While in Ibitirama, the pharmacy owner — who sold me the bus ticket back to Rio — came out of his pharmacy at 9:20pm to let me know I was standing on the wrong side of the street. Then he loaded my stuff into the bottom of the bus, once it arrived.

A week before leaving Brazil, I relocated from Thiago’s apartment to Sophia’s house, which was about an hour away. Sophia told me to take a taxi to a college near Thiago’s, and then catch a bus to her neighborhood.

When the taxi driver dropped me off, I asked a couple of security guards if they spoke English, but they did not. Despite the language barrier, I tried explaining that I needed the bus to “Rio das Pedras”.

Meanwhile, the taxi driver stuck around to make sure I wasn’t abandoned. He came out to speak with the guards, and then pulled out his cell phone to call Sophia for me.

Once he got on the phone with her, he realized that the correct bus stop was a few blocks away. He told me to get back in the taxi, and drove me there for no additional fee.

I was really taken with the fact that he didn’t just drop me off and leave. He spent an extra 5-10 minutes to make sure I got on the right bus, time he could’ve used to pick up another customer.

When I arrived in Rio das Pedras, I asked someone to point me to Florenta Condominium. I started walking with my large hiking backpack, two bags and a tent. I knew it wasn’t that far, but I wanted to grab a taxi anyway.

None came for about ten minutes. Finally a taxi showed up. I showed him the address. He gave me directions, indicating it was only a few blocks away, but I asked him to drive me there anyway.

When we got there, it looked wrong. It was a dirty dead end street. So I pulled out Sophia’s number and asked him to call her from his cell phone.

Once he spoke to her, he realized we were still a few blocks away. So he drove me to the right place. Incredibly, there was no charge for any of this. He never turned the meter on! But I was so thankful, I gave him 5 reals anyway.

THINGS I TAKE FOR GRANTED IN THE U.S.

Here are some things that are uncommon in Brazil –

Respect for women.

1) Together with four young women, I attended a very crowded street fair called "Carnival". Almost everyone was drinking, and many were smoking too.

More than once, I saw a drunk man grab a young woman by the arm, and not let go even when asked. At one point, I had to get in someone's face and tell him "NOT COOL!".

My friends tell me this is fairly common, even outside of "Carnival". When a woman tries pulling away, some guys get mad and curse at them or call them ugly.

One friend explained it this way… if you go out when it’s raining you know you are going to get wet. Likewise, if you go out to a street festival, you know men are going to do this.

2) I was shocked at a couple of markets, when I saw magazines like Playboy and Hustler at the point of purchase, even though there were children on line. I asked a female friend how she felt about this. She said ¨it´s always been like that, so I never gave it a second thought.¨

Respect for the legal drinking age. Although technically, there’s a legal drinking age in Brazil, kids of any age can buy alcohol at grocery stores. ID is not checked.

Respect for traffic lights. Brazilian taxi drivers (and maybe others too, I don’t know) run red lights all the time. And even when they know there’s a stop sign at the end of a block, they gun the engine up to 40mph, only to slam on the brakes just before the stop sign.

Whole Foods Market and other health food stores. It is hard to find health food and organic produce here… and when you do, it is very expensive.

Ethnic Restaurants. According to my Brazil friends, there are no Indian restaurants. Thai and Japanese restaurants are rare and expensive.

Netflix, Hulu.com, and streaming TV shows over the Internet. At home I watch TV shows online all the time. But due to licensing restrictions, these websites would not let me watch any streaming video in Brazil.

Dishwashers and dryers. In Brazil, most middle class folks have washing machines, but only rich people have dryers and dishwashers. This is the first time in my life I had to hang my wet clothes from a clothing rack with clothespins!

Reasonable prices on imported products. From dark chocolate bars to ipods to cars, imported products are very expensive in Brazil. Apparently, this is because of several taxes that are built into the prices. A dark chocolate bar here is 20 reals ($12 U.S.). And a Toyota Corolla is about 50,000 reals ($30,000 U.S.).

Reasonable prices on natural and health products like coconut soap, natural sunblock, maca powder etc. These things tend to cost more in Brazil. I paid 30 reals (about $18) for a very small container of sunblock and 10 reals (about $6) for one bar of coconut soap.

Hemp seeds, hemp protein powder, hemp shoes. These are not sold at all in Brazil.

Food dehydrators. These are not sold at all in Brazil.

OTHER OBSERVATIONS

These aren’t necessarily better or worse than the U.S., but still worth noting.

Brazil has free health care (paid for by tax dollars). But if you want to drop in, you have to wait on line for hours. And if you want an appointment, you might have to wait a few months.

Racism and white privilege. When I first arrived, I was excited to see that Brazil is a melting pot of people with many skin colors.

My friends explain it this way: the native people had medium brown skin. The original Portugese people had white skin. And their slaves had dark brown skin. So now, wherever you go, you see people of many colors.

However, people with dark brown people still work the lowest paying jobs in disproportionate numbers. And billboards and magazine covers portray almost exclusively white people.

Even more surprising, most of the women on magazine covers have blonde hair, even though very few Brazilian people have blonde hair!

The Truth about Maca Powder: Benefits and Side Effects

By Revital Aranbaev

Maca is most commonly known for improving energy and stamina, increasing libido and treating infertility. It is used as a performance enhancer and aphrodisiac. Maca is known as the “Peruvian ginseng” because the two herbs have similar traditional uses in herbal medicine. It is also hailed as “nature’s viagra” for both men and women.

Maca has been used as a food and medicine in the Peruvian Andes for over 2,000 years but has only recently grown popularity in the United States. Legend has it that during the height of the Incan empire, warriors would consume maca before entering into battle to increase strength and stamina. However, after battle they were prohibited from eating it — to protect the conquered women from their powerful sexual impulses.

Maca is a root vegetable that is part of the mustard family and is similar to radishes and turnips. It is the world’s highest growing food crop. There are different types of maca, including yellow, black, and red maca. Maca can be used in powder form- added into shakes or smoothies, or as a nutritional supplement in liquid extract or pill form.

Let’s look for proof of the claims that maca is in fact a superfood:

There have been some studies done on maca and its effect on fertility. One small study done on nine men concluded that treatment with maca resulted in increased semen volume, sperm count, and sperm motility.[i] In another study, black maca increased sperm count in one day![ii]

Though there is no study that necessarily proves this, it is said that maca may help women become more fertile as well. According to "Good Medicine Magazine" from Australia, Peruvian women who eat maca by the age of 3 are much more fertile later in life and have more egg follicle development.[iii]

In addition to fertility, maca is known for helping women with postmenopausal symptoms. A study done on postmenopausal women in 2008 showed that maca helped them reduce anxiety and depression, as well as improve sexual function.[iv]

Maca is especially revered for increasing sex drive for both men and women, hence terming it “nature’s viagra.” There is no study based evidence for this, but there have been individual accounts for this. Comment on this blog and let us know your experience with it.

Side Effects-

No safety studies have been done with maca, so be careful. If you are deficient in iodine and take too much of the herb, you could develop goiter.[v]

In addition, while many people take maca for thyroid issues, maca can actually worsen thyroid conditions. Some herbalists recommend maca if you have hypothyroid, which has been shown to be effective. But if you have hyperthyroid, which is an overactive thyroid, you would want to avoid maca because maca can actually stimulate that gland.[vi]

[i] http://altmedicine.about.com/od/herbsupplementguide/a/maca.htm

[ii] http://www.livestrong.com/article/350433-benefits-of-maca-root-on-fertility/

[iii] http://www.livestrong.com/article/350433-benefits-of-maca-root-on-fertility/#ixzz1nWewWZ86

[iv] http://altmedicine.about.com/od/herbsupplementguide/a/maca.htm

[v] http://www.livestrong.com/article/164516-maca-herb-and-fertility/

[vi] http://www.livestrong.com/article/520012-maca-root-and-hyperthyroid/




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