Tag

health

Make Your Own Medicine

By How To, News No Comments

Staying healthy seems to get more expensive each day. We are constantly bombarded with a new Amazonian superfood, green tea metabolism booster, or immune system gold star power drink that promises to improve our lives twofold. And if marketing wasn’t enough, these dietary supplements, because not regulated by the FDA are able to make various weakly (or not at all!) supported claims, just to get them off the shelves.

 

 

Probiotics fall into this category. Amongst the cloud of consumerism and capitalism, the benefits of taking probiotics are through the roof, as the healthy bowel is home to 100 trillion microorganisms, all of which work together to keep your gut in check: controlling pathogens, aiding in nutrient absorption, and stabilizing immune function. So how can we fuel our bodies with these wonderful microflora, without having to sift through the shelves of expensive health food stores?

 

Photo Courtesy of HealthGaugeEven cats can get weighed down by the supplement market.

Photo Courtesy of HealthGauge
Even cats can get weighed down by the supplement market.

 

Grow your own!

 

Lactobacillus is easier grown than said. With a head of cabbage, a spoonful of salt, and some patience, you can easily make your own probiotics. Fresh cabbage is already full of the bacteria needed for lactofermentation to occur. Fermentation allows the cabbage to be preserved for months (the staple scurvy preventer for sailors and explorers!), making it easier to eat seasonally. In addition, the cabbage becomes more digestible than it was previously, eliminating the naturally occurring goitrogens, which tend to block the production of thyroid hormone and ultimately slow metabolism. Fermented cabbage is also higher in B12, making it ideal for those of us who stay away from animal products. Save money, increase nutrition, and give your taste buds a treat, in four easy steps.

1. Wash your cabbage and grab a knife. Slice the cabbage into small pieces, trimming out the core. Smaller pieces are ideal, as an increase in surface area will help make the process more efficient. Throw this all in a big mixing bowl.

2. For every liter of cabbage, add a teaspoon of salt. My cabbage worked out to be about two liters, but vegetables come in many different sizes! Mix in any variety of onions, carrots, greens, spices (fennel, dill, coriander, dill). Just try to keep it under 20 percent of the total.

3. Start massaging the vegetables. Really get into it, and knead it like dough. It should start getting soft, as the salt draws out the water through osmosis.

4. Wait about 30 minutes, and massage again. The juices should really be flowing now. Pack it into a mason jar, about ¾ of the way full. Make sure the shreds are completely submerged in the liquid, but don’t pack it to the brim, or the expanding gases will crack the jar.

5. Cover the jar tightly and let it sit, room temperature, for 3 days. You may have to push the cabbage back under the liquid to aid in preservation and prevent the growth of mold. After that, move it to the refrigerator or a cellar. In four more days, it should be ready to eat.

 

Keep in mind that due to variables in temperature, altitude, humidity, and ingredients, none of these instructions are set in stone. The best way to figure out times is to simply taste your fermenting cabbage. No worries, not much can go wrong. Bubbling, foam, and white scum are all part of the process, and it is still safe to eat, as the sauerkraut is preserved by lactic acid. Any mold can simply be scooped off. However, use your best judgment.

photo

Don’t skimp on quality! Fresh, organic cabbage is worth the extra few dollars. Head out to the farmer’s market, and get your cabbage seasonally, all the while supporting your local farmer and making connection with your food. Enjoy the process, and feel free to ask questions, and let me know how your sauerkraut turns out!

Vegetarian meat?

By Events, Featured, Uncategorized 2 Comments

While we know there is not one perfect way to eat, the paleolithic diet is becoming more prominent throughout the health and fitness world. While this type of eating is very plant based, we know that its basic outline includes good sources of animal protein. Those that follow this mindset may find the benefits in the B12, zinc, magnesium, iron, and vitamin D (among others) found in such high quantities in meat, but perhaps do not see the ethical or very political side of the meat industry.

 

Andras Forgacs has proposed a solution. Or, the answer, depending on how you see it.

Image Courtesy of James Duncan Davidson

 

In his TED talk found here, Forgacs explains the idea of biofabrication, where cells can be used to grow biological products, like tissue. This process started with the desire to 3D print human organs, and has since been successful in culturing and planting skin, ears, windpipes, blood vessels, and bone into the human body. He was then asked, why not meat?

 

As he explains in his talk, the biofabrication of meat would be a humane and sustainable way of feeding the world.  Currently, livestock uses 33 percent of our ice free land, 8 percent of our global water, and 18 percent of our greenhouse gases, not to mention the mindless slaughter of
“complex and sentient animals” that are so much more than just raw materials, Andres continues. Growing the meat would be similar to that of brewing beer. The cells would be sourced from the animals, and grown in meat breweries, in which he presents the idea of “touring this facility, learning about how the leather or meat is cultured, seeing the process from beginning to end, and even trying some”. With studies measuring the net lifecycle impact of the cultured meat show that it requires 99 percent less land, 96 percent less water, and 96 percent less greenhouse gas emissions. Along with a clean conscience, the biofabrication of meat is nothing from perfect.

What if this was grown in a lab?
Image Courtesy of www.freeimages.co.uk

 

Not so fast.

 

Ever since World War II, we have moved into the industrial side of agriculture. War making industries needed somewhere to sell their products, so they made tanks into tractors and poison gases into pesticides. We began to turn to monocultures and genetic engineering, making wheat, rice, and corn that were resistant to disease and caused the death of any pest that dared a taste. Knowledge of farming, like knowing crop rotation and cover cropping was irrelevant, as the fertilizer NPK became popular, because all our produce needs to be beautiful and lush are the elements nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.

 

But we now see the effect of efficiency; we see that plants need over 21 elements to thrive, providing us with the proper nutrition. Honeybees are disappearing, unable to find pollen from the weeds that no longer grow. As crops are scarcely grown seasonally, mother birds struggle getting past the thick stalks of corn to the soil and finding earthworms for their hungry chicks in the spring. Allergies and food sensitivities are on the rise, and studies have been pointing to the way that the DNA of many common crops today has been manipulated and crossed with countless species that were never supposed to mate. Animals are being injected with antibiotics before they are even sick, given growth hormones to produce more meat. Small towns that used to center around their family farms have turned been abandoned, run out by huge businesses like Monsanto.

 

With all the efficiency of industry, we have gained quantity, but lost so much quality. While not much is known yet about the culturing of meat, the history that humans have with attempting to manipulate and improve nature is not outstanding. We seem to overestimate the simplicity of the abundance that the earth has to offer. We don’t just need the protein of meat, or the carbs of wheat. Food is so much more than micro and macronutrients, offering vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, polyphenols, antioxidants, and so much more that we cannot even begin to understand. The production of meat (and food in general) does not, and should not, be linear. Look back to your 3rd grade food chain: the sun feeds the grass which feed the cow which feeds the human, the waste of all of these are decomposed and made into nutritious humus that plants are able to absorb and start the cycle all over again. Livestock do not have to be this ticking time bomb of disease, but of course if they are injected with toxins, then they will be toxic.

 

Image Courtesy of www.freeimages.co.uk

Image Courtesy of www.freeimages.co.uk

While this does not directly correlate with the biofabrication of meat, it is proof that our disconnection from nature is incredibly damaging. Instead of further stressing this relationship, we should move towards engaging with our food and supporting the local farms that can provide us with high quality meat and produce that have based their energy in the sun and soil, and are able to bring eating back full circle.

 

However, culturing meat could be the future. What do you think?

The Health Benefits of Bacon and Butter

By News, Students, Teachers, Uncategorized No Comments

It’s most highly concentrated in coconut oil, and its health benefits are through the roof. However, its reputation is terribly negative, second only to that of trans fats. Can you guess what it is?

 

The answer: Saturated fat

 

Moving past the dogma of low fat, high carbohydrate fad, many of us now realize that low-fat just means high sugar, and high sugar equals more insulin, and more insulin leads to stored fat. You are likely familiar with the health benefits and necessity of unsaturated fatty acids like EPA and DHA found in cold water fish, but saturated fat also proves just as essential. But in what ways can butter, coconut oil, lard, and rib-eye steaks improve your health?

Image Courtesy of Witthaya Phonsawat / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image Courtesy of Witthaya Phonsawat / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

1. Lower cardiovascular risk

Saturated fat reduces the levels of lipoprotein (a), a substance found to be strongly correlated with the risk of heart disease. It also increases your level of HDL (good cholesterol).

 

2. Bone strength

The fat within these foods also contribute to bone strength, as your body cannot effectively incorporate calcium into your bones without it. For this reason, Mary Enig, Ph.D, recommends that 50 percent of your fats should be saturated.

 

3. Liver cleanliness

A fatty liver is damaging to your health and can eventually lead to cirrhosis.  However, the saturated fat that you eat does not directly convert to fat in your liver. On the contrary, adding saturated fat into your diet encourages the liver cells to dump their fat content, additionally protecting the liver from the toxicity of alcohol. The liver’s key role in a healthy metabolism connects the consumption of saturated fat to fat loss.

 

4. Strong lungs

Saturated fatty acids make up 100 percent of your lung’s airspace coating, essential for the function of the lungs. The absence of these fats will lead to the collapse of these airspaces and breathing will become difficult. In fact, some researchers theorize that the rise in asthma is linked to the fact that children have replaced saturated fats with hydrogenated fats, which do not correctly support the structure of the lungs.

 

5. Brain building

Did you know that your brain is made largely of fat and cholesterol? EPA and DHA are still important, but the fat found in butter, coconut oil, lard, and meat is more so, as a majority of the fatty acids in your brain are saturated. Without the proper materials, it is impossible for your body to put together the best functioning brain.

 

Image Courtesy of cooldesign / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image Courtesy of cooldesign / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

6. Fat loss

To get your metabolism cranking, eat more saturated fat! This type of fat directly signals the nerve signals that influence metabolism, leveling out the release of insulin and keeping fat storage to a minimum.

 

7. Strong immune system

The myristic and lauric acid in butter and coconut oil keep the immune system healthy, helping your white blood cells identify and destroy viruses, bacteria, and fungi. To prove the wholesomeness of saturated fat, it may be important to note that human breast milk is rich in both myristic and lauric acid, killing germs and protecting the immune system of an infant, and is needed throughout the lifetime in order to keep an immune system alert and attentive against cancer development and infections.

 

Give saturated fat a chance. Your body (and taste buds) will thank you.

 

 

Brogi of the Month – July, 2013

By Featured, Interviews, Motivation, Students, Teachers One Comment

The Brogi of the Month Award goes out monthly (obviously) in recognition of a person who, through action or word, makes things better for themselves and the people around them. In most instances, recipients will be acknowledged for great achievements in the health/fitness/nutrition – aka Broga – realm, but not always. The common denominator will almost always be an achievement that inspires. All those who receive the award will get a 10-class pass (or something of equivalent value). We love inspiring stories, so please feel free to email us nominations and a story any time.

Our first Brogi of the Month is a guy that has inspired us …a lot. It has been a pleasure getting to know him and having him in our Somerville classes. He was very nervous for his first class, having never done anything “like this” before, but he kept coming back. His name is Mo Jarava and he’s lost nearly 70 lbs as a committed Broga student.

This past week was his 100th Broga class. Congratulations, Mo. We’re proud and honored to have you in this community.

Here’s a brief interview with Mo from a couple weeks back – i.e. just before his 100th class.

 

 

Broga: What do you do?
Mo: I’m a law enforcement officer with the federal government.  High pressure, and high demands.  I’ve been an officer for the past 18 years.  It’s something I’m used to but it doesn’t make it easier.

Broga: Is your job stressful?
Mo: Extremely.

Broga: Tell us a bit about how you found Broga and your expectations when you started.Mo
Mo: After a recent promotion, I began suffering from migraines.  I’ve always had a Type A personality, and migraines were a common occurrence for me but this was something different and much more intense.   After a battery of tests, one of which landed me in the ER, I was told “You need to relax”.   The last thing someone who is stressed needs to hear is “just relax”.   I ended up in therapy having electrical current run through my muscles to get me to unwind.  That’s when I knew I had to do something.   I saw an ad for Broga and started reading up on it.

I went on to the site and read about the course, the instructors, and the basic Broga mission statement.   I had my hesitations but decided to give it a try.

I wrote Adam and Robert an email and explained a little of my situation.   I was overweight, inflexible, and hadn’t done any fitness regime since years.  What I did have was the desire to improve, to find a balance in my life and find a way to calm my mind.  I wanted to participate but didn’t know if I could keep up and I didn’t want to hold the class back.   Adam wrote me back and told me Broga was the class for me.

Broga: How would you describe your level of fitness now compared to when you started Broga?
Mo: I’ve been practicing for over a year now.  I can totally see an improvement in my fitness level.  I think back to the third Broga class I took.  I almost gave up after that night.  My first two classes were tough but I was able to keep up.  That third class was intense.  I remember the thought “what fresh sadistic hell is this?!” going through my mind throughout the class.   I decided right then and there to give up.  I wasn’t ready for this level of intensity and this was just a beginner course.  After class, I was gearing up to go home; feeling defeated and like a failure.  Some of the other students in the class were milling about we began talking.  These were guys that were very fit and they were commenting on how the class had kicked their ass.   Ok.. so if the class was tough even for them, maybe it wasn’t just me.  I decided to come back the following week.   I remember Robert telling us we had already taken the first step, we showed up, we were there.  That meant a lot to me because I came so close to not going back.   The classes were still tough, and I still had my days where I dreaded hearing the words “forearm plank”.  But I kept with it.

Throughout the past year I’ve experienced a series of mini achievements.  I slowly starting to do some of the stuff I previously felt was impossible and improbable.  Poses that I once thought I’d never get into unless there was an intricate systems of pulleys and levers involved, now became a routine part of my practice.

Broga: Looking ahead over the next few years, what are your health and fitness goals?
Mo: Now that I know I have it in me to dedicate time to my health and fitness, I’ve taken more of a proactive approach to my well-being.  I’ve changed my diet, eating habits and behavior.   I’ve lost a considerable amount of weight and am on the way to getting to a healthy weight and fitness level.  Once there, I hope to be able to maintain and keep improving.  I’m looking at expanding my exercise routine to include some gym time.  I’m attending Broga three times a week and am looking for something in between the class days.  I’m keeping tabs on the number of classes I attend, when I get to class 100, I am going to try my hand at the Broga 2 class.

Broga: How awesome was it when you were able to do Crow pose for the first time?
Mo: The first time Robert had us do Crow pose in class I actually laughed out loud and shook my head.  There was no way I was going to get my body to do that.  Robert looked at me and said “No?  Not happening?  It’s ok, you’ll get there.”  He taught me a modified version that would help me to eventually get there.  As the classes went on, that pose became a goal.  I would eventually do it.  Around class number 50 I was finally able to do Crow.  It wasn’t perfect, I only stayed up for a few breaths, but I did it.  It was amazing.  Something that had been so far off had finally come within reach.

Broga: What’s your favorite yoga pose?
Mo: I can’t say I have one favorite.  I like the balance poses like tree, warrior three, and side plank.  Humble warrior is awesome!  Every once in a while a new leg stretch or back stretch gets thrown into the mix and I just want to scream out thaaaaaaaaaaaaank you!!

Broga: What’s your least favorite yoga pose?
Mo: Still not a fan of forearm plank but I am able to do it now and stay up.  We just added a mountain climber exercise that is a bit vicious but I can definitely feel the impact and benefit.

Broga: What do you like most about Broga class?
Mo: In no particular order…

  1. You can go at your pace.  There is no race or competition.
  2. The instructors tailor the poses to your current level.  Be it adding a strap, changing the pose or other modifications, they teach you how to get the most out of each pose and flow at your own level.
  3. The music.  I’ve added a few of the songs to my playlists and have found I start subconsciously breathing deep and calming down when I hear them.
  4. It has become the highlight of my week where I can turn off everything else going on and just focus on my breath and the poses.
  5. Effort and Ease.   It’s become a mantra not only throughout class but in my daily world as well.

Broga: What do you like least about Broga class?
Mo: There isn’t anything I don’t like.  As the word is getting out and more people are discovering Broga, the classes are starting to fill up.   I have to make sure to get there early to get my spot in the back corner.  I’m very much a creature of habit and can be a little OCD.  I have my focal points for my drishti.

Broga: What would you tell someone who is unsure about trying Broga?
Mo: They need to give it a shot.  If they are looking for a way to better their health and improve their life, try it out.  They should talk to others in the class, I know I’m not the only one who has benefited from Broga.  They can come talk to me about it too,  I’m the one in the back corner.

Broga: If someone gave you $1 million dollars to help people get/stay in better health, what would you do with the money?
Mo: I think it comes down to education.  Educating people on how to make proper choices, and take care of themselves.  Helping them find whatever works for them.

Thanks for the inspiration, Mo! With your success, the words “Mo-tivation” and “Mo-bility” are taking on new meaning in the Broga world.

If you have any thoughts or questions about what it takes to make big, sustained changes in your life, please share them in the comments section below.

Claims About Supplements Starting to Sound Fishy

By Featured, News, Uncategorized No Comments

If you’re currently taking Broga classes, or even contemplating signing up for your first one, you are already making progress toward improving your overall health.  The next step may be to give some thought to your diet if total body wellness is a goal of yours.  As you begin to contemplate your personal nutrition goals, you may at some point also begin to contemplate taking supplements.  Buyer beware, be sure to stay current on your research.  Shelling out big bucks on pills may be a waste of resources better spent on real food.Fish Pills

In spite of previous studies linking the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil pills to heart health, new research featured in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that taking fish oil supplements may in fact provide no significant cardio vascular benefits. 

So are fish oil supplements still worth buying? Doesn’t it always seem like the news about nutrition is changing?  One day something is good for you, and the next, not so much right? 

Nutritional research is still fairly young, as medical research goes.  We are still learning so much about how the body processes nutrients and which ones (and how much of them) it needs most. 

Any medical research is complicated to decipher, but I think I got this one. It’s generally accepted in medical communities that omega-3 fatty acids play a role in heart health.  We know that certain fish are known sources of omega-3s.  If you connect the dots then, fish=heart health.  Pretty simple stuff so far. 

Fish oil supplementation has risen in popularity in the past few years because it was thought that we could isolate the good omega-3s from real fish, and put them in a pill.  If people took these pills, it seemed logical that the increase in their diet in omega-3s would lead to healthier hearts.  This logic wasn’t exactly wrong, but there is likely more to the story than we thought. 

What this new information really means is that there may be more to fish that is good for your heart than just its omega-3s.  The same fish that are rich in omega-3s are also rich in selenium and Vitamin D (among other things.)  It is possible that omega-3s are most helpful to our cardiovascular health when consumed with other nutrients.  Just like we know that calcium needs Vitamin D to be fully functional in our bodies, omega-3 fatty acids may be most beneficial when accompanied by other nutrients.  Further research will need to be done to see if this is in fact the case.

SalmonSo what’s your action item?  If your doctor has suggested taking a fish oil supplement, I wouldn’t toss them in the trash because of one study’s findings.  If you are concerned about heart health (and aren’t we all) try to increase your intake of omega-3 rich fish to at least 2-3 meals per week.  Approachable fish rich in omega-3s are salmon, anchovies, and bluefish. 

Your fish oil pills are not likely doing you any harm, and may still be doing some good, but it’s almost always best to get your nutrients from real foods when you can instead of supplements.  

Consider your likes and dislikes and your current dietary sources of omega-3 fatty acids, and try to add more.  Don’t write off supplements in general, some do great things, but my advice is to look at them with healthy skepticism and always ask yourself if you can get what you are looking for from real food first.

 

 

What do you think? Do you have a post-workout favorite food? Maybe a smoothie recipe you’d be willing to share? Share your input in the comment section below!

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Jen JasminJennifer Jasmin is a nutritionist and freelance writer living in Watertown, Massachusetts.  She holds a B.S. in Communications from Emerson College, and a Graduate Certificate in Dietetics from Simmons College.  In her work, Jen strives to help people find balance between real nutrition facts, and realistic health and fitness goals.   Her background also includes over 15 years working in the food service industry, which adds to her unique perspective on eating well.  She shares her insights, personal cooking lessons, and recipe ideas on her blog at: www.skeletonsinmykitchen.com.  In addition to writing, Jen shares her passion about healthy eating in casual, approachable nutrition seminars and workshops in both corporate and community settings.  To Jen, the journey to wellness is incredibly personal, and should be approached in a way that is individual, actionable and unpretentious.