Wednesday, March 30, 2016

7 Stupid Things People Do to Prevent Germs

By Katie Waldeck
Nobody wants to get sick, and there are plenty of real, doctor-recommended ways to prevent catching a bug. But not every technique that you’ve heard of is a good one. Read on for some of the most ineffective at best and even unsafe ways to prevent germs.

1. Holding Your Breath After Someone Sneezes. Holding your breath when someone is sneezing or coughing? Don’t even bother. Unless your reflexes are verging on superhuman levels, by the time they let it out, you’re already exposed. 2. Kicking the Toilet Handle There’s pretty much no way to avoid coming into contact with SOME germs in the bathroom. And, if you’re going to wash your hands well after you flush, just go ahead and use your hands to flush the toilet. 3. Hovering Over the Toilet Seat. Don’t you love it when you enter a public bathroom stall and the seat is covered in other people’s seat covers and suspicious-looking wet spots? Not only is this totally, totally rude for other patrons and the people that have to clean it up, it’s also not really helping you avoid much in the way of germs. And, anyway, all that stuff about catching viruses and STIs from a toilet stall? It’s not nearly as likely as many people think. Hovering over a toilet seat doesn’t really help either because, though you don’t come in direct contact with the seat, as soon as you flush, whatever germs are in the toilet enters the air. The chances of getting sick in any way at all from a toilet seat are so ridiculously small that your best option is to just plop your butt on the seat. 4. Using the Back of Your Hand. It’s technically true that when you use the back of your hand to touch things, you typically expose less skin to germ-infested areas than you otherwise would. But that doesn’t necessarily make it much more effective at preventing germ contamination, because there is so little of a difference in germ exposure that it’s really not worth the effort. 5. Using Hand Sanitizer Hand sanitizers were invented for — and are still used by — nurses and doctors. And for them, it’s totally and completely necessary. If you’re not about to perform open-heart surgery, though, hand sanitizers can actually do more harm than good. That’s because your body does need some germs to maintain a healthy immune system, and hand sanitizer doesn’t discriminate. It also can’t kill all the germs on your hands. Another problem? Hand sanitizer doesn’t work as well as soap and water on visibly dirty hands. Use hand sanitizer only when you don’t have access to soap and water. Otherwise? Head to the sink. 6. Wearing Gloves. Here’s an all-too-obvious point: if you wear gloves, the gloves will have all that gross germy stuff on them, not you. Unless you know the exact protocol for removing them, you’re probably going to have skin contact with those germs anyway. Wearing gloves for too long can lead to contamination, and, odds are, a glove wearer will eventually touch their face no matter how much they resist. To be clear, gloves do provide some protection from germs, and proper removal will help you avoid contact, but the hassle doesn’t necessarily outweigh the benefit in this instance. Researchers have even suggested that wearing gloves provides little more than an excuse for poor hand washing hygiene and a false sense of security. Again, just wash your hands and avoid touching your face after coming into contact with someone or something that makes you squeamish. Gee, I’m starting to sound like a broken record! 7. Wearing Surgical Masks. The reason surgical masks aren’t nearly as effective as they seem can best be explained by understanding what they’re intended for in the first place. Surgeons wear these masks to prevent spreading germs to patients, not to prevent themselves from getting sick FROM the patients. And, wouldn’t you know, there’s some doubt as to whether surgical masks are even necessary in the operating room! What does that mean for the rest of us? Well, in the real world, there’s also little evidence that surgical masks can help prevent the spread of disease or the impact of air pollution. These masks unfortunately provide little more than a false sense of security.

4 Ways Going Vegetarian Can Help You Live Longer

By Caroline Wilbert
A new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine last week has found, yet again, that vegetarians may live longer than their carnivorous counterparts. In this study, the largest of its kind to date, researchers from Loma Linda University in California surveyed 70,000 participants and found that vegetarians had a 12% lower risk of death than meat-eaters. This association between lower risk of death and vegetarianism was far greater in men than in women. Men showed lower risk of heart disease and heart-related conditions while women did not show that same association. Some are questioning this study and calling it inconclusive, though. With 70,000 participants, this was an extremely large survey, but the participants were surveyed only once as opposed to studied over time. Since humans’ dietary choices and needs change over time, this only shows us how vegetarians fared at that time. Furthermore, the study was done only on Seventh-day Adventists, a religious group that promotes vegetarianism and frowns upon alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco as part of their godly lifestyle. These other restrictions could have played a part in a reduced risk of death, as well. However, it’s been proven time and time again that plant-based diets help people live longer, healthier lives. Here are a few ways going vegetarian can help your health. 1. Reduces Risk of Heart Disease Heart disease is America’s leading cause of death. Animal foods are our only source of dietary cholesterol, and high cholesterol is a main cause of heart disease, so it makes sense that cutting animal products out of your diet will help reduce your risk of heart disease. In this way, going vegan — not eating any animal foods at all — is the best way to reduce your risk of heart disease. 2. Reduces Risk of Cancer and Stroke Cancer and strokes are the number two and three killers in America, respectively, and cutting out meat products can reduce your risk of both. According to a study on cancer and vegetarianism, incidences of all cancers are lower in vegetarians. In fact, a vegetarian diet can reduce or eliminate your risk factors for cancer. As for strokes, it has been found that one of the best ways of preventing strokes is to eat potassium-rich foods. These foods are mostly plant-based; the best sources of dietary potassium are leafy green vegetables, dates, and beans. Most Americans don’t even come close to eating enough potassium, but vegetarians who consume these plant-based foods are well on their way to preventing strokes. 3. Makes You More Aware of Food Choices Being a vegetarian can be difficult at first. When you go out to restaurants, there aren’t as many options, and you might find yourself putting some of your favorite meat-filled recipes on the shelf. However, one of the best things about being vegetarian is having an excuse to explore some great new cuisines. Knowing what foods contain which nutrients and how much of them you need during the day is crucial to living a healthy lifestyle, vegetarian or not. Since they have to think about food without meat, though, vegetarians are often more aware of those food choices. 4. Can Help You Lose Weight and Feel Your Best On average, vegans are 30 pounds lighter than meat-eaters. Vegetarians in general are also less insulin resistant than omnivores and therefore, have less need for medication and are at a lower risk for type 2 diabetes. Furthermore, as stated above, vegetarians have a wider variety of foods they generally eat. This almost always increases their intake of dietary fiber, phytochemicals, antioxidants, magnesium and folic acid. All of these help your organs function properly to keep you healthy. It’s important to note that just cutting out meat will not automatically give you these health benefits, and you don’t have to be a strict vegetarian to enjoy a healthier lifestyle. Vegetarians who cut out meat but who continue to eat greasy and sugary foods without increasing their plant-based food intake will likely not see a health benefit. Meat-eaters who choose salads, fresh fruit and veggies, or who add other plant-based sources of nutrients to their diet, can see a reduction in their risk of death and disease, as well. Vegan Diet Good for Type 2 Diabetes Vegan Diet Beats ADA-Recommended Diet in Lowering Heart Disease Risk A vegan diet may do a better job of reducing cardiovascular disease in diabetic patients than a diet recommended by the American Diabetes Association (ADA), according to a new study. Two out of three people with diabetes die of a heart attack or stroke, so reducing cardiovascular disease is a priority. The study was in part funded by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, which promotes a vegan diet. For 22 weeks, participants followed either a low-fat, low-glycemic vegan diet or guidelines prescribed by the ADA. All 99 participants had type 2 diabetes. Both men and women participated and were recruited through a newspaper ad in the Washington, D.C., area. Participants reported what they ate at the start of the trial and throughout the trial. Researchers took the data and calculated scores based on the Alternate Healthy Eating Index (AHEI). Scores were calculated at the beginning of the 22 weeks and again at the end. There was no difference in the scores between the two groups at the start of the study. Past research has shown a correlation between AHEI and cardiovascular disease. The AHEI is a nine-component dietary index used to rate foods and macronutrients related to chronic disease risk. The higher the AHEI score, the lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. The vegan dieters saw significant improvements in their AHEI scores; the ADA group did not.

4 Reasons to Eat More Mushrooms

By Dr. Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, DNM is a registered nutritionist and international best-selling and 19-time published book author whose works include: 60 Seconds to Slim: Balance Your Body Chemistry to Burn Fat Fast!
There’s a fungus among us! With respect to your health, that’s a good thing if the fungus is an edible mushroom. Much maligned and often shunned simply for looking weird and growing in unusual places, edible mushrooms are potent medicines and a delicious addition to a healthy diet. Here are four reasons to eat more mushrooms. 1. Mushrooms can help in the fight against cancer. A study in the International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms found that chaga mushrooms inhibited cancer tumor growth. Chaga has long been used in Asian and northern European traditional medicine for a number of ailments. The fungus grows on trees—most notably birch trees in northerly forests in the United States, Canada, Europe and Asia. It typically resembles a black mass on the tree trunk due to the high levels of melanin, a naturally occurring pigment that in humans protects against ultraviolet B shortwave (UVB) radiation damage. Chinese researchers investigated the inhibitory roles of a polysaccharide extract from chaga on U251 human brain tumor cells. The extract successfully inhibited the proliferation of the tumor cells and that success increased both over time and with increased concentrations of the extract. Love This? Never Miss Another Story. 2. Mushrooms can also boost immune function, according to research published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition. Scientists wanted to determine whether consumption of whole, dried shiitake mushrooms could improve human immune function. Shiitake mushrooms are native to eastern Asia but they are one of the most common mushrooms found in the produce section due to their increasing popularity. They have a rich smoky flavor that complements many types of cuisines. The four week study involved men and women in good health between the ages of 21 and 41 years. The authors concluded that regular shiitake consumption resulted in improved immunity, as seen by improved cell proliferation and activation and increased immunoglobulin A (also referred to as IgA) production, which is an antibody that plays a critical role in mucosal immunity. The authors also concluded that changes observed in other immunity markers suggested that these improvements occurred under conditions that were less inflammatory than those that existed before consumption of the mushrooms. 3. Reishi mushrooms, another popular choice, have been found to protect the brain and nervous system. Mexican researchers tested compounds in reishi to determine the possible anticonvulsant and neuroprotective effects of this mushroom. The study, published in the International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms, found that the mushroom inhibited seizures and reduced degeneration patterns in parts of brain, leading them to conclude that reishi offered credible anticonvulsant and neuroprotective effects. 4. Mushrooms are delicious and versatile. They can easily take the place of meat in any meal (think portabello instead of steak) and are excellent additions to soups, stews and curries. They also lend a rich flavor to gravies and obviously support a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle. A wide variety of edible mushrooms can be found in grocery stores, health food stores and many farmers’ markets. Purchasing from these retailers takes the risk out of eating mushrooms because they have been harvested by knowledgeable “shroomers” who understand the difference between edible and inedible or poisonous varieties. It also gives you an opportunity to try health-enhancing mushrooms that may not be indigenous to where you live. While wildcrafting (wandering the woods and harvesting mushrooms straight from Mother Nature) is enjoyable and fulfilling, it is best left to mushroom experts who can identify species accurately and who will practice sustainable harvesting methods that won’t damage the long-term viability of the mushroom ecosystem. If you decide you want to wildcraft mushrooms, enroll yourself in a credible, hands-on workshop with an experienced mycologist that brings you into direct contact with the mushroom varieties in your area. Relying on an illustrated book is not enough to fully understand the complex and strangely beautiful world of these fantastic fungi.

4 Foods That Age You Faster

By camlinknews
Can what you eat determine how soon you succumb to wrinkles? Certain foods can do more that widen your waistline; they actually accelerate aging in your body. If you eat highly inflammatory foods on a regular basis, they can do real damage to your body’s regulatory functions, leading to disease, cellular degeneration and yes, wrinkles. Here are 4 foods to avoid that speed up aging on a cellular level. Partially hydrogenated oils. Partially hydrogenated oils, often found in highly processed foods, spread inflammation throughout your body, which creates free radicals. Free radicals eventually begin to damage your DNA, causing affected cells to malfunction in a state of disease or die. The Environmental Working Group estimates that although “trans fat” appears on only 2 percent of nutrition labels, this inflammatory fat is potentially used in as much as 37 percent of processed foods, since trans fat doesn’t have to be labeled if a serving contains less than half a gram. Besides partially hydrogenated oils, trans fat is also found in refined oils, emulsifiers, fully hydrogenated oils, and certain added flavors and colors. So how can you avoid prematurely aging your cells with trans fats? The safest bet is to spend the majority of your diet eating nutrient-dense, whole foods that don’t come in a package. Love This? Never Miss Another Story. Excess sugar. We have an instinctual draw towards sugary foods. It’s ingrained within us. They are rich in easily accessible energy, which would be great if we were still hunter gatherers. But we aren’t. In fact, most of us are highly sedentary and eat way too much sugar. So, when we get that regular sweet fix, the sugar just cruises around our bodies doing damage. Excess sugar in the bloodstream leads to loss of collagen in the skin and encourages wrinkles, while also damaging mitochondria in our cells. The harm to the energy powerhouse of our cells leads to degeneration of memory, vision and reduced energy, among other things. Besides premature aging, too much dietary sugar encourages the progression of diseases like Type II diabetes, heart disease and Alzheimer’s. The issue is, sugar is highly addictive and so easy to get. Again, your best bet is to avoid processed foods and use only small amounts of natural sugars — raw honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar, dates — in strict moderation. Refined carbohydrates. Carbohydrates that are stripped of their nutritional value, like white flour, act very similarly to refined sugar in the body. With little fiber to slow down its absorption in the bloodstream, these carbs wreak havoc on insulin levels and encourage the development of insulin resistance over time. By consuming wholesome carbohydrates, like whole fruits, legumes and whole grains like quinoa and brown rice, you’ll receive a much more prolonged energy release, and the fermentable fibers and starches will feed your gut bacteria, who can exercise significant control over your insulin response. Deep fried/grilled foods. Cooking foods at high temperatures increases inflammatory compounds known as ‘advanced glycation end products,’ or AGEs. And yes, ironically, AGEs do indeed age you. They encourage oxidative stress and inflammation in the body. High levels of AGEs in the body are linked to osteoporosis, neurodegeneration, heart disease, stroke and other age-related diseases. While some AGEs occur naturally in the body, increasing the load with heavily cooked foods can accelerate their damage. To avoid them, try to cook the majority of your foods at low temperatures, although indulging in something deliciously fried or charred on the grill is certainly alright for a healthy person in moderation. Essentially, if you eat wholesome, unprocessed foods that aren’t deep fried, you’ll allow your body to undergo its natural aging process rather than throwing it into overdrive. As a bonus, if you follow the above tips, you’ll feel a lot healthier, too!

4 Beginner Tips for Going Vegan

By Katie Medlock
If you are reading this, it must mean that you are somewhere on the spectrum of interest in a more vegan-oriented lifestyle. Maybe this means you would like to incorporate more plant foods and reduce animal products in your daily diet. Perhaps you feel ready to completely overhaul your meals from the Standard American Diet and go cold turkey, er, cold Tofurky? Either way, this post is meant to give guidance so that whatever transition you choose is easy and enjoyable. 1. Become a student of your new lifestyle One of the great things about venturing into veganism in 2016 is there is an endless amount of knowledge to absorb about every facet of the lifestyle, from the food to the activism, from the fashion to the philosophy. This means you can always find resources or communities that resonate with you and keep you jazzed about being veg. The downside is there also tends to be a lot of misinformation and criticism out there on the World Wide Web. It’s important when researching anything to be able to separate the cold, hard facts from the sensationalism (yes, it’s true: veganism is not a panacea for all health ailments). It is equally important to rely upon or build some tough skin to face the critics of the world—or, our own families and friends. Love This? Never Miss Another Story. By keeping your curiosity alive and researching what piques your interest along the way, you will solidify your place in the community at large and the personal meaning behind your transition. Branch out to different blogs, forums and websites to find new and exciting recipes, stay learned on what environmental, health or animal rights information empowers you the most. But also remember that being a student of your lifestyle does not mean being an expert; it is okay to not have the answers to others’ questions (and yes, you will receive a lot of questions), but to instead speak from your heart and say why your choice is important to you. 2. Figure out what is practical for your budget and routine Before you considered a veg transition, what were your eating habits? Mealtime routines? Kitchen skill set? Budgetary expertise? All of the things you already know about yourself will inform you on how to take care of implementing the change in the foods you eat. If meal planning, meal prepping and a closely-watched budget describe your flow, then start looking up some recipes, make some charts and check out the prices of produce. If you are more go-with-the-flow, ask yourself what types of foods you typically enjoy and consider veganizing some of your favorite meals and how to make the switch simple. Many people may think that going vegan means buying expensive, exotic-sounding ingredients and relearning how to cook. If that’s your cup of tea, go for it, but for most of us all we need to do is make some adjustments to what we already know. Does your family enjoy Taco Tuesdays and pack most of their lunches? Then it’s time for lentil, jackfruit or veggie fajita tacos and simple sandwiches, soups and stir fries that can be packaged to-go! Are you more of a takeout type who only enters the kitchen to make Sunday brunch? Well, start examining local restaurant menus and fast food options and make a plan for a fulfilling, delicious vegan brunch spread! 3. Find a supportive community of vegans and vegetarians This advice I cannot stress enough: find at least one other vegan with whom you can connect for support and questions. Being vegan can be hard sometimes, largely because most the world is critical and still catching up. Veg folks can feel surrounded by eye-rolling and meaty menus and, therefore, isolated and alone—especially where there aren’t a lot of other vegheads around for support. Find an online community, local meet-up group or social media connection to feel at home. 4. Stay connected to what you really enjoy Most of our daily life can begin to feel like a rat race from time to time. If you start to feel unenthusiastic about dealing with grocery shopping, meal prep or dealing with the same old questions from co-workers (“Where do you get your protein?”), remember what you have to fall back on that brings you joy. Perhaps getting creative in the kitchen is your jam and gets you out of a funk. Maybe you went vegan for the animals and taking time out of your day to connect with your companion animals or plan a trip to a farmed animal sanctuary brings you peace. Or, if your moment of zen is kicking back with a good book or film, there are so many informative and entertaining reads and documentaries on the power of veganism that will invigorate your soul. Whatever it is that connects you to the reason you chose to become vegan, keep it close to your heart and take action to connect with it on a daily basis.