Take a break!

<32>We work long hours and rarely take enough breaks for our own well-being or for our productivity. Let’s explore the types of breaks we should be taking.

For a “leisure society” who has it all (let’s face it, we are spoiled in so many ways), we sure seem to be a bunch of workaholics.

I won’t delve into the psychology of this contradiction. But I will make a plea for taking breaks. [Read more…]

Skip to the loo

Evidence over the past two decades has weighed in heavily on the pivotal role that a modern, sedentary lifestyle plays in obesity. My solution is to skip to the loo.

One of the reasons people these days are so unfit compared to just a generation or two ago is that we have become quite sedentary.

We spend our work days in front of a screen. We spend our leisure time in front of another screen. And too many channels on TV means more butt time and less foot time. We simply don’t move enough. [Read more…]

Are warning labels on food a good idea?

Every now and then we hear people calling for warning labels on food with high salt, sugar or fat content. Is this a good idea?

We have all heard about the evils of salt, sugar and fat.  All of these are good in moderation, and are found in almost everything we eat. 

But our modern packaged-food society seems to get an overdose of all three. Most packaged foods have extra salt, sugar and fat added to provide artificial taste, texture and preservation. [Read more…]

The best healthy treat. Ever.

What if the healthiest treat imaginable was also the tastiest? Here is how to turn pure fruit – nothing but pure fruit – into scrumptious ice cream.

Close your eyes. Imagine sucking gently on your favorite flavor of gelato, slowly letting it melt and trickle down your throat.  Feel the cool sensation.  Taste the delicate flavors.
Gelato is how Europeans eat their ice cream, and is easily one of the most delicious treats.

Now close your eyes again.  Imagine you could have all this taste, all this sensation, all this smoothness without any fat and without extra sugar or any chemicals added.  That’s what Yonanas is.  The ultimate healthy frozen treat
[Read more…]

WHAT?! Synthetic Ears Give Accident Victims New Outlook

Can someone who has lost an ear in an accident ever look whole again? This article explains how we can now regrow and even “print” new ears.

Having ears is not something many of us think about; we just have them and that’s the end of it. But when accidents or disease happen, a missing ear can be unbelievably disfiguring as well as negatively impacting our hearing. The congenital condition of microtia, when a person is born without an outer ear, has spearheaded most research to date.

Ears can be printed using 3D printing

What is truly astounding is that ears can actually be regrown; regrown exactly like your original ear. But if this is not an option for you because of complicated medical reasons, it may be possible to just “print “you an ear with a 3D printer. How amazing is that?

How can an ear be regrown?

This is the result of the miracle of tissue engineering. Not only can ears be regrown, but soon cartilage, livers, kidneys and many “replacement parts” will be able to be generated in the lab for your use. There are at least two ways an ear can be regrown; on the back of a mouse, and on the patient’s own forearm. Deciding which way depends on the condition of the skin of the patient; whether it is healthy enough to grow a replacement ear.

The way it works is a “scaffold” is built out of a biodegradable material. Then cartilage cells are “planted” in the skin about 3 millimeters apart. What is great about the scaffold is that it can be shaped into any form needed, so ears can be customized. The scaffold can be “planted” on the back of a mouse (without harming the mouse) or on the forearm of a patient. If the ear is grown on a mouse, the mouse has to have no immune system so it does not reject the ear. If the ear is grown on a patient’s forearm, there is no worry of rejection since the cells come from the patient themselves. When the ear is ready, it is surgically removed and attached over the patient’s ear canal.

How are ears “printed” with a 3D printer?

First, a digitized 3D image of a human ear is taken and converted to a digitized solid ear by using a 3D printer. From this, a mould is made and filled with a gel of living cartilage cells. In about 3 months, the ear is completed, removed from the mould and is then surgically placed on the patient.

What about using rib cage cartilage to make a new ear?

When a patient’s best option is to use cartilage from their own body, this is a possibility. The procedure takes a bit longer, but the results are cosmetically better overall. Cartilage is taken from the ribcage of a patient, shaped in the basic form of an ear and implanted under the skin of the forearm. It is left there for about 4 months so the skin can grow over it. Then, it is surgically removed and placed over the ear canal. Gradually, over many months and surgeries, The ear is matched to the other ear.

What other ways to replace ears are being researched?

Bioengineers in Massachusetts are experimenting with living tissue from other animals besides human. They have built an artificial human ear by putting together tissues from cows and sheep, and then placing the tissues around a wire frame that allows the tissues to grow into the correct shape of an ear. The wire used is titanium and can be shaped with much detail. The ear is then placed on a mouse to grow until it can be attached to a patient’s head.

Bioengineering may be only in its infancy, but already look at the amazing things it can do. Imagine what will be able to be accomplished in 10 or 20 years!

Review: Yummy Young rice tea

Yummy Young rice tea by Karma Kisses got three thumbs up from our review panel, but they were unable to agree on what that intoxicating aroma was.

It came via courier, a plain brown paper wrapped around with packing slip paperwork. Inside was a box, and inside was a fancier box. Not garish, but nice and classy. You can see the presentation in the photos below.  When the review panel opened the inner box, they pulled out an envelope of Yummy Young rice tea from Karma Kisses Tea house.

Yummy Young Rice Tea as shipped

It would be fair at this juncture to disclose that A) Karma Kisses is a writing client of mine, and if this product sucked I would not be publishing a review, and B) the sample was provided free by Karma Kisses, but no other compensation was extended to me to do this review.

The review panel consisted of:

  • Mrs. Happy Guy
  • My mother-in-law
  • Barb, a family friend

I was not part of the review panel; my job was to turn on and off the video recorder. The reason there is no video in this post is because of how well I did my job.  Sigh.

The Yummy Young review

The review panel cut open an envelope of Yummy Young and immediately the room filled with a rich, exotic aroma. Thus begun a  discussion that would prove to be inconclusive, as to whether we were smelling Indian, Vietnamese or some other oriental scents.

Yummu Young package

The review panel was impressed by the ingredients (listed below). Barb is well-versed in organic and non-GMO products and gave her stamp of approval.

The water having come to a boil, it was ceremoniously poured over the tea; each panelist drew in the aroma, then tasted.

If I had done my video recording job properly, this is where you would be hearing a lot of “Ooh” and “Ah” and “That’s really nice” and “It’s sweet”. In fact, there was a lot of discussion over how pleasantly sweet the beverage is. Barb explained that several of the ingredients  probably lend sweetness, in particular the brown rice (compared to green tea or British style tea, for instance).

The only negative comment at all was on the presence of Stevia – a healthy, natural sweetener – because Barb was able to taste the Stevia, a flavour of which she is not particularly fond. Nevertheless, it did not impede her enjoyment of the tea and plenty of positive comments and compliments.

Overall, the ladies of the review panel gave three thumbs up and still could not agree on what country’s aroma they were enjoying.

Yummy Young Rice Tea

Yummy Young rice tea ingredients

  • organic whole grain brown rice
  • organic rice germ extract
  • organic red wine grape extract
  • organic apple extract
  • organic bilberry extract
  • organic aronia berry (chokeberry) extract
  • organic blueberry extract, organic sour cherry (tart cherry) extract
  • red seaweed astaxanthin extract
  • sugar-free sweet leaf extract (stevia herb extract, natural erythritol)
  • tree gum
  • natural fruit extracts
  • spices and flavors

Six Sneaky Juicing Diet Tips

Are you considering a juicing diet? Juicing makes a very powerful supplement to a normal, healthy diet.  Here are some handy tips to help you juice your way to a better you.

Juicing is certainly not new, but recently it has taken off as new nutritional fads like the Paleo diet include juicing and CrossFit enthusiasts have taken to juicing, too. Fruits and vegetables are essential to any well balanced diet, and unfortunately, the majority of us are not meeting the recommended quantity. Even if we get enough fruits and vegetables, they often contain much fewer nutrients than promised.

Juicing - better supplements than packed-powder pillsSneaking extra fruits and vegetables into meals can be tricky at any age, but juicing has proven to be a popular and effective method to getting around that. While juice alone is not a fully-balanced diet, it is a superb way to top up one’s diet to ensure that yo get the nutrients you need.

Here are six sneaky tips you should know about juicing should be considered before you start your juicing journey.

Fun For All Ages

Juicing is not solely for fitness devotees – but for all ages. Children are reluctant to eat their fruits and vegetables, but yummy juices can turn them into fans of vegetables without them knowing.In fact, it is a time-honoured practice for parents to sneak fruits and vegetables into sweet drinks and gravy so that kids get nutrients they won’t take any other way.

This also applies to seniors. As you age, you especially need to keep nutrition in mind. Fluid intake is especially important in latter years.  Juicing provides both the vitamins and minerals you need and the fluids that elderly people often miss.

Juicing is a Supplement or a Dessert Replacement

Juicing should never be your only means of getting nutrients, unless a juice-specific cleansing is recommended by your doctor.  Consider juicing for the following:

  • A tasty snack between meals.
  • A supplement at meals – better than just popping a packed-powder pill.
  • Better than chips and cola when watching TV.
  • Breakfast when you don’t have time to sit down to eat.
  • A great mix with alcohol instead of a less-healthy mix.
  • Freeze them as popsicles as a dessert replacement.

Relying solely on juices can be actually detrimental to your health because you won’t receive the protein, fiber, fat or other micro-nutrients that your body needs from a larger variety of foods.

Learn To Conserve

Juicing can be expensive because it can take a lot of fruits and vegetables to make the amount you would most likely want.  The juices are also unpasteurized, so it is suggested to drink the juice on the day of. To sneak in the most bang for your buck:

  • Buy fruits that are in season.
  • Buy fruits when they are on special.
  • Freeze fruits for later. Tip: chop them up before freezing and place in a freezer bag.
  • Freeze juice in ice trays for later.
  • Freeze juice in popsicle forms for later.

Juicing Diet ≠ Whole Produce

The disadvantage of juicing is the nutrition you lose in the process, especially for fruits you might eat whole. The peel and seeds hold lots of nutrients – not necessarily the same nutrients as the flesh of the fruit – and eliminating them leaves you with only part of the fruit’s value.

Although there are many benefits to juicing as a supplement to a regular diet and as a replacement to less healthy foods, it does not replace the real thing.  A juicing diet is not a complete diet. You should still snack on fruits and follow your mother’s advice to “eat your vegetables” – both raw and cooked.

Whole fruit - Often the peel and seeds are stockpiles of hidden nutrients.

Potential to Fill Various Needs

The juice extracted has a lot of antioxidants and disease fighting elements. There are a lot of great juicing recipes out there to help you find what you are specifically trying to target and conquer.  Remember that juicing should be considered a supplement to an already “normal” and healthy diet.  So you can use juicing to target specific nutritional needs, knowing that a basic diet is more or less covered before even factoring in the juice.

Bonus nutrients

Want to sneak in even more nutrition?  And add some exotic taste at the same time?  Try adding spices.  I often add cinnamon to my juice.  Sometime nutmeg.  And coriander.  Maybe you have some favourite spices you can add, too.  Did you know that many spices are chock full of nutrients that you might not get any other way in your diet?

On days when I am lacking protein, I also add some whey powder.  But then if you’ve read my post on protein powder in soups and shakes, you would already know this, right?  Once again, this is NOT a replacement for getting protein from a wide variety of sources – meat, fish, eggs, dairy, quinoa, beans and nuts – but it is an excellent way to supplement on days when you are too rushed to fire up the barbecue.

These are six things that that first-time juicers should be aware of.  Do you have any other tips?  Please feel free to share them in the comments below.

 

Guilt-Free Eating over Christmas

Christmas dinner and Christmas snacking and…oh, how we put on the pounds. Here are some tips to have a lighter Christmas, without missing out on all the fun.

Christmas is a time for celebrating.  For most of us, celebrating means eating with family and friends – usually eating way too much. It is a special time of year, and restricting yourself while everyone else is eating only makes you feel as if you are missing out and means that you are more likely to break later on and binge on foods that are much worse.

Too Many Christmas Dinners

It is fine to eat, so treat yourself with that extra slice of Christmas cake. However, be aware that just because it is Christmas, that does not give you the green flag to gluttony.  I did say “slice”, not “slices”.

The Christmas meal itself can weigh in easily at 1,000 calories or even up to a shocking 3,500 calories, just for the one meal. That is not taking into consideration breakfast, snacks throughout the day and any chocolate or cakes that get raided towards the evening.  Most people have themselves in the mind-set that during Christmas it is acceptable to over-eat, but this is not the best attitude to have.

It takes a long time to burn off that many calories and that should be considered before you embark on tackling that epic Christmas Dinner.

Whilst some people take Christmas eating to the extreme, the average person eats half a pack of lard in saturated fat and thirty two tea spoons of sugar. Consuming that amount is not good for your body, even if it is only once a year, and you could end up suffering for it in 2014.

READ ALSO: Easy, fun Christmas treats.

Everyone loves Christmas. It is an excuse to get everyone around to the house to have some drinks and good food. However, there are other ways to enjoy the holiday season, too. If you really want to get into the Christmassy mood, put in your headphones in and workout to a Christmas playlist from Spotify, or this one from iTunes.

You might ask for a fitness gadget for Christmas. These little tools are perfect for giving you motivation when it comes to getting out there and burning off some calories. Alternatively you could ask for a gym membership to help keep you physically active all year round. And even if the gadget or gym membership get lost in the back of a drawer over time, they are most likely to be used in the weeks when you most need them after overindulging at Christmas.

Enjoy Christmas treats in moderationFoods to Eat for Under 50 Calories

  • 50g of cooked prawns – 40 calories
  • 2 florets of broccoli – 26 calories
  • A slice of ham – 46 calories
  • ½ a cup of sprouts – 33 calories
  • 10 strawberries – 40 calories
  • A carrot – 30 calories
  • Two crab sticks – 44 calories
  • 5 green olives – 20 calories
  • 28g smoked salmon – 48 calories
  • A slice of chicken breast – 27 calories
  • A pot of sugar-free jelly – 15 calories
  • A slice of pineapple – 28 calories
  • 75g Christmas pudding – 200 calories

Exercises to Try

  • A 90 minute hatha yoga class – 200 calories
  • 30 minutes of power walking – 100 calories
  • 15 minutes of breast stroke – 100 calories
  • 1 minute of sit-ups – 5 calories
  • 15 minutes of skipping – 130 calories
  • 3 minutes of bicep curls – 10 calories
  • 15 minute run – 275 calories
  • 5 minutes of lunges and counter push-ups – 160 calories

Make sure that you fit in even a half hour’s exercise daily during the busy Christmas season and you will have achieved something that many (most?) people do not do. Adapting your Christmas Day to include some exercise (Snowball fight, anyone?) is a great way to counterbalance your calories intake – and means you can have those little extras without feeling like you have ruined your diet altogether.

Alcohol caloriesRemember, alcohol is full of calories even if there is no nutrition label to inform you, and that is a big part of Christmas for most people. Using smaller glasses can help you feel like you are not missing out, whilst cutting down on up to half your liquid calorie intake. Here is a great guide to calories in alcohol.

In a similar way, smaller food portions for people trying to lose weight is a fantastic way to accommodate the emotional attachments to certain dishes without putting on too many pounds. That way you are eating and drinking what you usually would, just a smaller portion. This works especially well for deserts. Also consider switching to low-fat dairy products and wholemeal, even if only for the Holidays.  Both of these are lower in calories then their mainstream counterparts.

People typically gain from one to five pounds (two kilograms) at Christmas time, and most never lose it.  Consider this from the New York Times:

Most people don’t ever lose the pound of weight they put on during the holidays, according to a report in The New England Journal of Medicine. Since the average weight gain during adulthood is about one to two pounds a year, that means much of midlife weight gain can be explained by holiday eating.

Make sure you enjoy your Christmas meal, just don’t spend the rest of the year fighting to lose the weight you put on for that one day. If you need some extra support during the festive season, log on to Curves at any time. They are scientifically proven to help people lose weight, no matter the time of year.  I have known many ladies to use their services and the ones that stick with it (ah, yes, there is that catch) have always been successful.

So don’t give up and don’t give in.  Enjoy the Holidays in moderation, and keep up – indeed, step up – the fitness program.  Otherwise it looks like you could be carrying an extra pound or two for the rest of your life.

READ ALSO: Why you should take fat seriously.

Why Use Protein Shakes?

Protein comes in many forms, but sometimes it is the most accessible form that’s best.  Let’s look at protein shakes, which are the quick-and-easy form of protein.

There are many great reasons why protein shakes, as part of a balanced and healthy diet, can be very beneficial to the body, especially when it comes to gaining muscle mass. It’s all about drinking the right type of shake at the right time. However there’s a lot of unhelpful advice floating around the Internet these days.

Protein shakes add muscle and lose weightIt’s only fair to warn you that some people have even become ill from taking in too much protein, or simply living off it in order to lose weight. No, no, no. Protein shakes are not there to do all the work for you; they are there to improve on the work you’ve already done.  So without the foundations of muscle and cardio training,overdoing protein can sometimes do more harm than good. Let’s take a look at how to safely incorporate protein shakes into a balanced and fitness-orientated diet.

READ ALSO: Protein Powder – not just for shakes!

The Benefits of Protein Shakes

Not only do protein shakes help to repair muscles, but the body also uses the protein to create enzymes, hormones and nucleic acids, which in turn help to increase weight loss. From organs to cells, tissues to skin, protein is used to create and replenish a variety of elements in our body, so without sufficient levels of protein as children, growth can even be stunted. In later life, injuries can become more frequent due to a lack of protein too.

So don’t skimp on the protein.

Pre Workout Shakes

These type of protein shakes should be combined with fruit, as they’ll provide you with energy to get the most out of your workout. Consuming the shake around half an hour before you begin exercising will ensure your muscles get to use the protein straight away, but make sure that you’re pre workout shake contains carbs as well a protein, otherwise you’ll find yourself running out of energy very quickly. Carbs also contribute to muscle repair, so don’t expect the protein to do all the work!

Post Workout Shakes

Although carbs are important for rebuilding muscle, you should limit carbs and fat after your workout. If your workout has been intense enough, then your body will continue to burn fat and carbs up to two hours after you’ve left the gym, so the last thing you’ll want to do is pile more on!

Whey protein shakes for bodybuilders are the fastest type of digesting protein there is, and it will get straight to work on repairing your muscles. If you’re exercising every day, and combining your workouts with a balanced and healthy diet, then you should be looking to take in around 2 grams per kilogram of bodyweight every day, to ensure your muscles are sufficiently repairing.

Before Bed Protein Shakes

To help your body with overnight repairs, you’ll need a protein shake that works through your body slowly. Milk and bananas are great alternatives, however if you want to stick to protein shakes, then consuming one around an hour before bed should do the trick. In most cases, you’ll usually wake up full, so you won’t be temped to eat a lot for breakfast.

Between workouts

As I said earlier, protein shakes are not there to do all the work for you; they are there to improve on the work you’ve already done. That means that you need to be getting adequate protein from a variety of sources in between workouts and on off-days.  Meat, seafood, nuts, grains and legumes, eggs and dairy products are all healthy sources of protein.  Even some vegetables, such as mushrooms provide protein.

READ ALSO: The frugal shopper’s guide to protein

Of course, no article on protein is complete without a reminder that protein alone does not make a person healthy.  Make sure you are getting all the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients you need by consuming a large quantity and variety of fruits and vegetables, and you might also consider taking other nutritional supplements.

If you prefer your protein in a bar for easier transport when on the road, then you should read my shopping guide: In Praise of Power Bars. Both are great ways to supplement the protein you eat at meal time.