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Friday, October 17, 2014

Natural Remedies for Swollen Feet, Ankles and Legs

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Top 10 Natural Remedies 
for Swollen Ankles, Legs and Feet

Several years ago I was on a ferry between two Thai islands and got chatting to a girl sitting next to me. She complained of swollen legs and ankles, and when I looked at her more closely, I did notice her puffy feet. It always makes me worried to see someone’s leg swell. I think of all the serious conditions that could be connected with this symptom, including problems with the heart and kidneys, or a blood clot.
Indeed, if your lower limbs become swollen and you have other ominous signs to go with it – such as shortness of breath, fever, bluish skin (cyanosis) and chest pain – head for the emergency department immediately. Also, if one leg looks swollen, while the other one appears normal, see a doctor, as this unevenness could be a sign of deep venous thrombosis. Some prescription medication too can cause swelling, such as birth control pills, anti-depressants and medication for high blood pressure.
In the case of my fellow passenger, the condition was far from dangerous – it was just slightly uncomfortable for her. She happened to spend too much time sitting on trains and buses, and was also adapting to the humid tropical climate, so was feeling slightly dehydrated. She happily continued with her travels and was fine in a few days time.
Every case of swelling needs to be considered in its context to make sure you’re not missing a potentially serious condition. You need to be able to distinguish between harmless swelling and edema. In the case of edema, if you press on the puffy area, it stays pitted for a few seconds after. This could be a sign of heart, liver or kidney problems.
Very often leg swelling can be prevented by some simple measures and DIY techniques. Here are some examples you can follow to prevent the swelling, or to return to your previous swelling-free self:
1. Exercise! Exercising stimulates blood circulation and prevents the blood from pooling in your lower extremities. If you’re suffering from painful or inflamed legs, swimming can be the perfect solution. When you float, the impact is taken off your feet, which eases the discomfort. So find a pool, or take a dip in a nearby sea or lake. If you do yoga, go for the postures that make you lift your feet above the head. This is called an inversion and has many health benefits, including improved immunity and digestion. So start with your headstand as soon as you notice your feet swelling… and experience the thrill of it.
2. Elevate your legs. If you’re not quite ready for the headstand yet, try elevating your legs by putting them on a higher surface so that they are above the heart. Do that for 30 minutes, three times a day, and observe the difference. When you’re in bed, put a pillow under your ankles. This will help drain the excess fluid, so it can then get absorbed in the body, or is eliminated with urine.
3. If you sit for long periods of time, get up and walk around a bit. When your boss asks you what you are up to, explain that you are just trying to prevent your feet from swelling. Walking for 10 minutes, three times a day, should be enough to keep your tootsies healthy and happy.
4. When you travel, consider wearing compression socks. I know that they can be difficult to put on, but they do serve their purpose. They help the blood vessels with their elasticity, so that the blood doesn’t pool in your legs. Plus, they prevent varicose veins. Consider wearing them on long-haul flights and on long bus and train journeys. My travelling friend would certainly benefit from wearing them. Also, support/compression socks or stockings can be good for you if you’re already suffering from leg inflammation.
5. Eat healthy and avoid excess salt. A bit of salt is good for you, and is in fact needed for the body to function well. But too much salt can cause water retention and should be avoided. Caffeine too is a known culprit. So go easy on the salt and try to bring your coffee intake to a minimum. If you are overweight, consider losing some weight, so you reduce the pressure that is put on your muscles, joints and bones. Every little helps. To get some ideas that can help you reduce your weight, you can have a look at my previous articles 12 simple tweaks for weight loss and great health and 9 secrets of losing weight without diet.
6. Stop smoking! Smoking is one of the top 10 habits to stop right now if you want to be healthy. I know, easier said than done. But think of all the rewards that come when you stop smoking. Having your feet less swollen is just one of them. Also, smoking is related to many (more serious) underlying conditions that can cause lower limb swelling.
7. Drink plenty of water. We are all guilty of often not drinking enough fluids. By drinking water throughout the day, we hydrate our tissues and detox the body. Sodium and caffeine, which contribute to feet inflammation, get diluted if we water ourselves sufficiently. Eight to ten glasses a day should be the norm. Drink more if you had some alcohol. So make sure you carry that water bottle with you. For added antioxidant value, squeeze some lime or lemon in or prepare your own flavored water.
8. Massage the painful area. Or even better, make someone else do it for you. Massaging your feet is extremely relaxing and improves your blood circulation. Use gentle but firm motions, and always go in the direction of the heart.
9. Soak your feet in Epsom salt and feel the bliss. I’ve written in the past about the great uses for Epsom salt, and I’m sure your legs and feet will appreciate the attention. If you feel like indulging yourself completely, add a few cups of sea saltto your bathwater and soak your whole body. Essential oils can help alleviate pain and discomfort too. Some popular choices are peppermint, eucalyptus, lemon and lavender that are all known to have anti-inflammatory properties. If you are interested to learn more about essential oils you can find useful information in my e-book Magical Aromatherapy. This e-book will help you to discover the power of essential oils and the most effective ways to use them.
10. Take magnesium supplements. Often feet inflammation, which can result in painful swelling, is connected tomagnesium deficiency. A dose of 350 mg a day can make a difference, but always talk to your doctor before taking any supplement.
Keep your legs healthy and pain-free. Remember how well they’ve been serving you over the years, and return the favor!
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Health Benefits of Chives

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The fiber content helps clean the colon and shorten the time foods spend there (and therefore lowers your colon cancer risk. Other advantages of eating chives include having anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, and antimicrobial properties.

Chives Healthy Recipes

As far as daily recommended values, a generous serving of two tablespoons of chopped chives gives you 16 percent of what's needed in vitamin K, Known primarily for forming and strengthening bones and limiting neuronal damage in the brain, vitamin K is used in the treatment of Alzheimer's. Chives are an excellent source of vitamin A –145 percent of the daily recommended value per 100 grams – more than any other allium, and with it, carotenes, which are flavonoid antioxidants like zeaxanthin and lutein that protect you from lung and mouth cancers.
While some have trouble telling the difference between chives (related to the lily family), scallions, and even green onions, a few characteristics help chives stand apart. A member of the allium family with garlic, shallots, and leeks, chive "stalks" are extremely slender and hollow with the appearance of lush, one-foot-high grass, the largest being less than the circumference of a pencil. Perennials that stand a foot tall on average, chives are hardy and draught tolerant, growing in tight bunches. In mid-summer, they form beautiful lavender blossoms with the appearance of spiky spheres.
Chives are high in fiber, which acts as a laxative, and folate, which is essential for DNA synthesis, cell division, and helping to prevent neural tube defects in the newborns. They're an excellent source of calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, copper, and manganese and also provide healthy amounts of thiamin, niacin, pyridoxine, pantothenic acid, phosphorus, riboflavin, and zinc. This combination of phytochemicals, among other things, is known to promote ease in digestion, soothe upset stomachs, prevent bad breath, and have a diuretic effect that can lower high blood pressure.
Chives are an attractive garnish for green salads, taste great when sprinkled on grilled fish or baked potatoes, and add dimension to creamy potato soup. They're delicious stirred up in mashed potatoes fines herbes (the classic French combination of chervil, parsley, chives, and tarragon) with a dollop of sour cream. Deviled or scrambled eggs, butters, vinegars, sauces, and nearly any vegetable can be enhanced with a sprinkling of chopped chives. If needing a substitute for this herb, slicing the length of a leek leaf thinly before chopping is a close second. If cooking with chives, it's best to add them at the last moment to retain their nutritive benefits.
Like other allium members, chives contain antioxidants that kill free radicals. Thiosulfinites like allyl propyl disulfide and diallyl disulfide (known to inhibit breast cancer cells1) contain enzymes that convert to allicin when its leaves are cut or crushed. Studies show allicin can cut cholesterol production by inhibiting HMG-CoA reductase, an enzyme responsible for producing cholesterol in liver cells, decreasing blood pressure, blocking platelet clot formation, and lowering the risk of heart disease and stroke.

A Chives Healthy Recipe


  • 3 eggs
  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 - 1½ Tbsp. fresh fines herbes
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Beat the eggs together with the salt, pepper, and fines herbes.
  2. Heat the butter in a pan until almost bubbly. Pour in the eggs.
  3. Gently stir the eggs with the flat back of a fork until cooked to your desired doneness.
  4. Fold the omelette into thirds and slide onto a plate. Place a small pat of butter in the center of the omelette for a fresh, glossy appearance. Serve immediately.
Not just a tasty garnish or baked potato topping, chives are considered both a healing herb and an allium vegetable related to onions and garlic. Flavor-wise, these tall, graceful garden additions can be compared to a mild cross between garlic and leeks (although chives are Lilliputian next to leeks).
High in vitamins A, C, and K and known for having antioxidant power to take the bite out of free radicals, chives contain flavonoid antioxidants like carotenes, zeaxanthin, lutein, and many other healthful phytonutrients. They've been shown in clinical studies to have anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, and antimicrobial properties, even inhibiting salmonella in certain foods, lowering high blood pressure, and reducing the risk of gastric, lung, esophageal, stomach, and mouth cancers. Try snipping a small handful of chopped chives in your next quiche for a hint of pleasantly subtle flavor.
Novice gardeners find chives easy to grow. Chives thrive in full sun and rich, moist soil, although they'll tolerate partial sun and other soil types and still produce generously. Depending on your culinary needs, harvest by snipping a small handful an inch above the ground when they're around six inches tall. Chives grow so rapidly that before long the area you cut first will be ready for harvest again. Each spring's crop is generally double the last, so thinning keeps the chive section of your herb garden tidy.
To even out a section of your chives, a sharp chop with a shovel several inches into the dirt can remove root clumps and all. Give a clump to a friend! This is a great way to share this lovely, versatile garden herb.   

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Thursday, October 16, 2014



FREE Teleconferences on Personal Health & Healing

Would you like to have the ear of a seasoned herbalist, Naturopath and herbal educator to help resolve you health concerns?
I have been a Certified Herbalist for nearly 30 years. I earned my degree from the renown acupuncturist and herbalist Michael & Leslie Tierra in 1986. I've studied at the Mt. Madonna Ashram in California under him, at the Center of the Light in The Berkshires under Mary Kate Jordan, and in Montego Bay, Jamaica under Dr. Bob Vernon of the Poinsetta Herb Gardens. I've studied under a few others, the most recent of which is my completed study of Advanced Naturopathic Certification in 2009 under the famed Dr. Llaila Afrika.

Could you benefit from being able to get a direct answer to a direct question regarding what herbs, foods and/or crystals to use for your ailments?
For many years I've taught people how to access their own power to heal their chakras, emotional issues and those which have flooded over into poor health, poor diet and relationship choices (personal and job). 

Take a deep breath and engage in an informal conversation with me around health issues that we all share.  A conversation in which you can find simple answers and natural remedies.
I have counseled and assisted thousands in my 30 years as an herbal healer and educator, from issues surrounding physical disease and imbalance, emotional and relationship issues (with family, job, partners, etc.) where emotional focus and intent were out of balance or out of control and causing poor health choices; helping people regain control of their own power to make better choices.   

When the door to better health opens, how do you walk through it?

Start by joining us on the Teleconferences, which will be scheduled twice a month on a (1st and 3rd) Sunday afternoon, currently scheduled from 5 - 6pm.  

The content will be an open forum, though I will have a structured agenda. The current format will go for one hour with the last 15 minutes for Q&A. If we decide we'd like two hours with half hour for Q&A, I am open to do that. Once you register/sign up for the Teleconferences, you will receive an email with the dial in number, PIN, brief instructions and the established date/time of the first conference (and subsequent) call(s).  You will also be emailed any charts, handouts or other materials relevant to the subject matter.

All the calls will be recorded, so that once you register for the teleconferences and miss any of them (in whole or in part) for any reason, a copy of the call can still be emailed to you.

Private Healing Circles
The Healing Circles are for men and women who want to make a conscious commitment to take action to improve their health and emotional well being. The Private Healing Circles will be made up of members from the Teleconference Community. Each Circle will consist of 7 members (including myself) who are committed to making conscious choices to "Get, Stay and Live Well." It is a "safe healing forum" of members who want to address their personal challenges with health issues, relationships (job, home, social), weight, stress, and other concerns. I will provide specific herbal formulas and teas for each member's personal needs, counseling on how to heal our emotional wounds via meditation, crystal and chakra healing, how to rejuvenate our organs and improve circulation, and how to improve one's regularity, eliminate fatigue and raise our personal energy by "living in rhythm with the Universe" (actually the name of my 3rd book). 

For the agenda and more detailed information on the New Initiatives, click here to READ MORE .

Many of the participants will probably generate from the Newsletter membership ~ don't lose out on a seat at the Teleconference table . . . . register early and also register for the Newsletter for the other specials and discounts it offers . . . 

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7 Food Label Lies That Keep You Sick

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TransfatConsumers rely on food labeling to provide vital information about ingredients and nutritional content. We accept the information provided as accurate, assume it is scientifically validated and expect it to be provided in our best interests. However, the confusing and down right misleading information found on food labels can negatively impact our health in many different ways.
What’s on a label?
Food labels contain a wide variety of information, supposedly to help us make informed decisions about the food we purchase. Some information is considered vital to our safety, such as refrigeration requirements and identifying specific ingredients known to cause allergic reactions, like peanuts. Other facts are presented more for our information, including preparation guidelines and in some countries the labeling of genetically modified food is also required.
There are regulations concerning the data that must be included, such as shelf life, but controls on what else is required are insufficient to truly protect and advise the consumer.  Regulators such as the FDA merely require the nutrition panel to be present; they do not validate its accuracy.  In addition to stipulated requirements manufacturers also use the label to promote the food. False advertising is typically not allowed, but there is much room for linguistic trickery that many would find purposefully misleading.
Chemical nomenclature
A significant issue is the use of scientific language, in particular when describing additives. As consumers we either need a degree in chemistry or simply trust that it is safe. Sadly this is not always the case as many food additives have known issues with excitotoxicity, bioaccumulation, chronic inflammation and other severe unwanted side effects. Despite their known issues regulators are disgustingly slow at removing these items from our food supply. Worse still, when consumers become savvy as to the unwanted effects of these chemicals the manufacturers simply hide them with different names.
Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) is a prime example of using alternative naming to disguise dangerous ingredients. After negative press in the 1990’s MSG was simply renamed, not removed.  Now known as a neurotoxin,repeatedly proven to kill brain cells,MSG is present on food labels using over 40 different names. Additionally, since some manufacturing process induce the formation of MSG, consumers need to recognize procedural names such as ‘hydrolyzed’ and ‘protein fortified’ in order to avoid this potent and addictive toxin.
What are food labels for anyway?
If food labels are supposed to help us make informed decisions then surely some standardization of naming should be used? It would be useful if some reference was included as to the safety of the ingredients listed rather than just reading like a chemistry experiment. Food labels seem to be purposefully misleading and designed to confuse.  The sheer information overload makes us accept the data presented without question, putting our trust in the ethics of this extremely profitable industry. We examine below 7 types of deceptive information included on foods labels which is surely designed to confuse us and increase profits.

1: Low Fat or Whole Grain

The food industry is always on the look-out for new profitable markets. If there is a new fad diet or eating trend becoming popular it won’t be long before there is some pre-packaged food available to conveniently meet consumer demand. “How kind of them,” we naively assume.  In reality they are simply focusing on new revenue streams and little thought, or care, is given to the consumer.
Low fat food, supposed to help us lose weight, actually makes us put on weight for three reasons: firstly it often contains sugar; secondly it usually contains additives which either directly or indirectly lead to weight gain and increase toxic load; thirdly low fat diets increase appetite.  The government guidelines recommending reducing fat intake to less than 30% of total calories were introduced in the US in 1977, which was approximately when the obesity epidemic started. Due to the huge government, and industry, funding of studies to support this assertion it is only recently that sufficient funds have been gathered to fund studies examining this claim with less bias.
The national institute of health studied nearly 50,000 women on low-fat diets and found after 8 years on a low-fat diet the average weight loss was less than 1lb (0.4kg). Studies by the American Heart Association even found that low fat diets increased risk of cardiovascular problems due to increasing ‘bad’ cholesterol and reducing ‘good’ cholesterol. At the same time artery clogging dense LDL is also increased on a low-fat diet further increasing the risks associated with this supposedly more healthy way of eating.
In addition to the low-fat weight loss misnomer manufacturers make up for the lack of fat, and taste, in other ways. Sugar and salt, both of which have established health risks, are often added to increase foods appeal. Many people choose low fat, reduced fat or ‘light’ foods believing they are consuming foods which are better for their health, when in fact quite the opposite is true. It is rapidly becoming apparent that it is sugar which leads to weight gain, due to its elevation of the fat-storage promoting hormone insulin. Sugar makes us fat, not fat.
Additionally eating fat, including saturated fat, is proving to be nowhere near as dangerous as we have been lead to believe.  However, it has been a nice earner for the food industry, keeping us afraid of natural fats has allowed them ample opportunity to steer us towards their profitable manufactured alternatives. If your desire is to lose weight, or reduce cardiovascular risk, steer well clear of foods labelled as low fat and instead choose more natural foods.  Nuts and avocados are both considered very high in fat; they are also known to be excellent for your health.
Whole grain is another label being over enthusiastically applied to food by manufacturers.  This suggestive labeling is frequently applied to cereals and breakfast bars,even when one of the major ingredients is also sugar. Adding some nutrient-dense unprocessed ingredients does not counteract the toxic and addictive presence of sugar. Other less healthy ingredients such as bleached flour and additives are also present in these foods trying to persuade us that they are health foods.
Often whole grain foods are also accompanied by special logos proclaiming their ‘whole grain’ goodness. While the grains are indeed good for you they are dwarfed by the other unhealthy ingredients present. The typically green, healthy and hearty, looking logos are intended to deceive and they increase the power of the labeling. The industry gets away with this because of the naive trust consumers place in the labeling they provide. The whole grain label is a marketing tactic, and proving to be a successful one, targeting uninformed consumers and especially parents of young children.

2. Trans Fat Free

Often cheap fats undergo processing, to increase stability and shelf-life, to further escalate profit. During this processing some of the fats take on unnatural configurations, called ‘trans’, which have been linked to: diabetes; immune problems, cancer and heart disease.  Even the FDA publicly declared that these fats are not safe and are making moves to ban some of the processes which cause their creation.
Current regulations allow food to contain as much as 0.5g of ‘trans’ fat and still be labeled as ‘trans fat free’ or ‘zero trans fat’. Over a few meals this can, and does, quickly add up to a substantial amount of the fats which consumers were actively choosing to abstain from.  Also since the fats are produced as a byproduct of manufacturing processes the amounts can easily vary with minor modifications in manufacturing conditions and raw ingredients. This potential for variation combined with unfair labeling is taking away consumers ability to decide what they put into their bodies. The only option is to completely abstain from processed fats, also avoiding many of the other toxic ingredients that go with them.

3. Natural

The word ‘natural’ is often used to suggest food has not been polluted, processed or interfered with. However, this is our assumption; it is not an agreed definition. Some countries have ambiguous guidance for when the term natural can be used, but the majority do not. All food has at some point come from a natural origin, even plastic was once a ‘natural’ plant but processing has major impacts.
The language used on food labels is very carefully selected and often conveys the opposite of the truth. Fresh apples do not need labels like ‘natural’ and ‘healthy’, we instinctively know they are. Processed food trying to convince us of its nutrient value has to use vague terminology, such as natural, to keep the deception going. Avoid food which is trying to sell itself to you, if marketers have had to slap on health promoting terms to persuade you to buy it, there’s a good chance you shouldn’t.

4. Full of Omega 3

Consumers have been made aware of the benefits of eating foods which are rich in Omega-3 fats.  These fats are good for your heart and brain and can even reduce depression. The FDA allows food labeling to specifically promote beneficial effects on the heart even if it contains only one Omega-3 fatty acid as long as it is low in saturated fats. However, some food producers simply label food as containing Omega-3 fats regardless of the other ingredients. They know consumers are looking for the buzz word ‘Omega-3’ and try to get on the healthy bandwagon by specifically pointing it out.

5. Sugar free

Many people are moving away from sugar as a source of sweetness. This is due to the overwhelming data suggesting it is sugar that is responsible for many lifestyle diseases we have become accustomed to. Sugar is addictive, causes mood fluctuations, makes us gain weight, makes our blood more acidic and impacts the cardiovascular system. Highly refined and processed sugars are even worse, causing a state of inflammation and a pro-cancer environment.
When choosing to avoid sugar consumers rely on the labeling to know what is in the product. Unfortunately many sugar alternatives are just as bad as sugar.  Artificial sweeteners are simply chemicals which trick the brain, and body, into perceiving sweetness. These chemicals have other effects, such as excitotoxicity, like MSG, and negatively impact the good bacteria in our gut. In addition to the toxicity of these artificial sugars they don’t actually resolve one of the main problems they were designed to alleviate. Artificial sweeteners cause weight gain, the body responds as if it were eating sugar but actually gets hungry again, quicker.
‘Natural fruit sugars’ is another labeling trick which is used to tempt you into thinking the sugar contained in the food is good for you. It isn’t. It is highly refined and processed and more than likely toxic to your body. The easiest solution is to reduce your sweet addiction, letting your taste buds gradually adjust. Some genuinely natural products like the herb stevia, local raw honey, raw maple syrup, coconut nectar/crystals are much more healthy alternatives. Trust your own judgment about the sugary contents, not the label.

6. No Nitrates

Nitrates are often added to food to prevent spoilage from bacteria and fungi. Most of these are artificial  chemicals which you do not want to consume: they have a tendency to become carcinogenic nitrosamines. Instead food manufacturers are adding other substances, such as celery powder, which has a high level of nitrates. So in effect the foods are not nitrate free but they do contain celery powder, or other ingredients which contain nitrates. Cleverly they have shifted the emphasis away from unnatural chemicals towards more natural alternatives but the effect is the same. The food does contain nitrates and the manufacturers would prefer you not to know.

7. “Serving Size”

The final whammy on the label is suggested serving size. Often calories and nutritional content is reported based on a suggested serving size. In reality nobody ever measures out the right amount, and we eat what we feel we need to fill us up – increased by any addictive additives and sugar in the food. What might seem like a small bowl of cereal could in fact be much more than the ‘suggested’ serving size, meaning you are consuming many more calories than you intend.
While calories are a poor way of measuring food nutrition anyway, since we are not furnaces, it is still the measure most people use. Instead of relying on labels to help you limit calories eating fresh fruit and vegetables and genuinely healthy food means your body won’t need calorie control to find an optimal weight. When we cut out processed and addictive food the body quickly returns to a state of metabolic, hormonal and immune calmness and you will gradually, with very minimal effort transition to a healthy weight.  Cut out the addictive processed foods and you can eat as much healthy food as you like!
Who should we trust?
With an industry as gargantuan as food and beverages it should be no surprise they are driven by money and not health.  Health is a mere gimmick to sell more food and adding specific words and labels drives these sales. The overwhelming labels are known for their lack of clarity and the time taken to simply read them is enough to put most people off. The depth of understanding required to comprehend them is another way of making them completely ineffective. The only real way to protect yourself from their destructive products is to make the food at home, from ingredients you know and trust. That way you do not need preservatives or additives, you control the salt, fat and sweetness and don’t need a label to tell you what is healthy.

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Natural Foods That Help You Lose Weight

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5 Natural Umami Foods That Help You Lose Weight

umamiIf you haven’t heard of umami, then you’re probably unaware that humans actually have five different types of taste receptors. Umami is the fifth, and was only discovered in the early 1900s. On the tongue, there are receptors for sweet, salty, bitter, sour, and umami tastes. Each receptor type only interacts with certain kinds of molecules in the food that we eat, which is why every food has a different taste.
The umami receptors are triggered by L-Glutamate, which is a natural molecule that is found in many foods, such as mushrooms and cheese. Glutamate is one of the many “building block” components of proteins, and it is very common in the human body. Umami is a unique type of taste that is mostly noticeable when combined with other flavors, especially savory. It is a very positive taste that is hard to describe with words, but it makes food taste very good, and it also makes you feel satisfied and full.
If you know what umami is, then you may know that the common food additive and preservative MSG triggers the umami receptor. The receptor is naturally meant to react with L-Glutamate, but it also reacts with MSG, which is an artificially produced molecule. MSG is Monosodium Glutamate, which is not the same as natural L-Glutamate; it actually has negative side effects, especially if you consume a large amount. The two are similar and both contain glutamate, which is the part that triggers the umami taste. MSG is cheap to make, tastes great, and allows pre-packaged foods to have a longer shelf life, and so manufacturers have a lot of incentive to include it in foods. However, one should focus on naturally occurring L-Glutamate when seeking umami foods, as MSG is not beneficial to the body like natural umami can be.

Umami And Weight Loss

Eating natural umami foods can even help with weight loss. The main reason behind this is that L-Glutamate consumption leads to the feeling of fullness. There are receptors in the digestive tract that sense the presence of glutamate, and then send a chemical response to the brain that tells you to stop eating because you’re full. Umami also tastes fantastic, which means that you don’t have to go on a bland food diet to lose weight. In addition, many of the foods that contain L-Glutamate/umami are natural, and so are healthy for the body overall. Examples include truffles, mushrooms, Miso, seaweed, green tea, tomatoes, carrots, spinach, potatoes, cabbage, celery, chicken, and seafood. We’ll go into a bit more detail with the first five of these foods later on.

How Umami Was Discovered

There were people who utilized umami and recognized that there was something unique about certain foods before umami was actually discovered, such as French chef Auguste Escoffier. But the person who actually figured it out was Kikunai Ikeda, a Japanese chemist. Starting with a bowl of dashi soup, he was able to use chemistry to isolate the molecule L-Glutamate. He linked the extremely unique taste that he was experiencing with the presence of L-Glutamate, and thus umami was born. In the dashi soup, the umami taste came from the seaweed, but Ikeda tasted the umami in a variety of foods like cheese, meat, and other vegetables. Umami is very common in Japanese cooking.

Why MSG Is Unhealthy

We’ve covered how umami is different from MSG, so now let’s briefly go over why it’s important to consume natural L-Glutamate rather than artificial MSG. Here are some of the side effects of MSG consumption:
  • Heart palpitations
  • Chest pain
  • Nausea
  • Weakness
  • Headaches
MSG has been linked to obesity and diabetes, among other things. MSG is addictive, so it is very easy for people to consume far too much. MSG leads to overeating, whereas natural umami is satiating. In addition, MSG triggers the production of insulin in the body, which means that the body will take in more sugar from the food that you’re eating. In other words, eating MSG leads to blood sugar spikes, and over time this can cause diabetes. Most things in small amounts are okay, but MSG is frequently overeaten, which is why so many side effects are associated with it.

Five Natural Umami Examples

  1. Truffles are a fungus that is considered a delicacy food item. It contains lots of umami, and it also contains both of the major molecules that enhance umami: guanylate and inosinate. These two naturally occurring molecules work with umami to produce a unique, powerful taste. Because truffles are not commonly found, they tend to be quite expensive. However, they are a great addition to quite a few dishes, especially pasta. Truffles are frequently used in Italy to compliment the flavors in pasta dishes and to provide a strong umami taste.
  1. Mushrooms are a more easily found source of umami. It works whether they or raw or cooked, though dried mushrooms actually have an enhanced umami flavor because of the higher levels of guanylate. Shiitake mushrooms are so popular in Japanese food because of this; for example, they are used in dashi, which is the dish that led to the initial discovery of umami. It seems that Shiitake mushrooms have a particularly prominent umami taste over other kinds. Mushrooms can be used in just about anything, such as salads, casseroles, pasta dishes, and soups.
  1. Miso is a source of umami that can be used for quite a few dishes, but is most commonly used for soup. Soybeans, which are what miso paste is made of, contain umami as well. Miso soup often contains kelp, which is another umami-rich food. Combining umami with salty and savory flavors is one of the most effective flavor boosters. Doing do will help ensure that the meal is tasty and satisfying.
  1. Seaweed is one of the major umami foods used in Japanese cooking. Dried seaweed is perfect for adding to foods to create the umami taste. Combinations of healthy umami foods can be fantastic tasting, healthy, and super filling. Soup is one of the easier meals that you can try if you’d like to take advantage of natural umami, but aren’t experienced in cooking. How about a miso soup with truffles, mushrooms, and seaweed in it? Other umami foods you could add are tomato, soy sauce, and Parmesan cheese.
  1. Green tea is one of the best beverages with the umami taste, and it is also one of the healthiest drinks overall. Green tea contains a huge number of antioxidants, which are very beneficial and can help prevent disease. If you’re looking to lose weight, sipping an umami rich green tea between meals can help curb the urge to munch on not so healthy snacks. Drinking it with a delicious meal can help you stick to an appropriate serving size rather than overeat, too.
Incorporating umami into your daily diet can actually quite easy. Eating natural umami foods regularly is a positive diet decision because many of these foods are very good for you to begin with. A lot of vegetables contain umami, meaning that there are lower calorie options available. Protein sources like chicken and seafood contain umami, and as long as you buy meats that do not contain added hormones or antibiotics, this can be a healthy choice as well.
The fact that L-Glutamate causes you to feel full means that eating umami foods can help you control your appetite while eating healthy, which is exactly what is needed if you’re trying to lose weight. It’s easy to find a diet where you eat bland foods or cut out an entire food group or eat very few calories, but none of these diets are sustainable in the long-term. The absolute best way to live is to eat what is good for your body, and if great foods can taste amazing and help you lose weight at the same time, then why not try it out?
If you’re someone who is very busy, you can take a few hours one day and make a large batch of soup or stew containing a few umami ingredients, then freeze it. This way, you have umami foods easily available when you’re low on time. Another great way to save time is to take a few umami foods that you can eat as snacks and put them in small bags for every day of the week.
This way you can grab a bag of healthy snacks on your way out the door each day. Having a large pitcher of green tea in the fridge at all times is useful as well, since you can make enough for a few days at a time and have it waiting for you anytime you want it. Clearly, an umami diet is easy, healthy, and satisfying.
Staying aware of exactly what you put into your body is an important part of being healthy, and of losing weight. Portion control can be difficult, especially if you are used to eating foods high in MSG; switching to umami foods can be an awesome lifestyle change and an effective way to lose weight.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014


Her Family Stopped Eating Sugar for A Year, and This is What Happened
Sure, I lacked enough energy to get me through the day, but with all the commercials on TV touting energy drinks for America’s tired masses, I always assumed I wasn’t the only one suffering. And sure, everyone in my family dreaded the coming cold and flu season, but again, I thought come January everyone develops some degree of germophobia.
At least, that’s what I thought until I heard some disturbing new information about the effects of sugar. According to several experts, sugar is the thing that is making so many Americans fat and sick. The more I thought about it the more this made sense to me — a lot of sense. One in seven Americans has metabolic syndrome. One in three Americans is obese. The rate of diabetes is skyrocketing and cardiovascular disease is America’s number one killer.
According to this theory, all of these maladies and more can be traced back to one large toxic presence in our diet… sugar.


I took all of this newfound knowledge and formulated an idea. I wanted to see how hard it would be to have our family — me, my husband, and our two children (ages 6 and 11) — spend an entire year eating foods that contained no added sugar. We’d cut out anything with an added sweetener, be it table sugar, honey, molasses, maple syrup, agave or fruit juice. We also excluded anything made with fake sugar or sugar alcohols. Unless the sweetness was attached to its original source (e.g., a piece of fruit), we didn’t eat it.
Once we started looking we found sugar in the most amazing places: tortillas, sausages, chicken broth, salad dressing, cold cuts, crackers, mayonnaise, bacon, bread, and even baby food. Why add all of this sugar? To make these items more palatable, add shelf life, and make packaged food production ever cheaper.
Call me crazy, but avoiding added sugar for a year struck me as a grand adventure. I was curious as to what would happen. I wanted to know how hard it would be, what interesting things could happen, how my cooking and shopping would change. After continuing my research, I was convinced removing sugar would make us all healthier. What I didn’t expect was how not eating sugar would make me feel better in a very real and tangible way.


It was subtle, but noticeable; the longer I went on eating without added sugar, the better and more energetic I felt. If I doubted the connection, something happened next which would prove it to me: my husband’s birthday.
During our year of no sugar, one of the rules was that, as a family, we could have one actual sugar-containing dessert per month; if it was your birthday, you got to choose the dessert. By the time September rolled around we noticed our palates starting to change, and slowly, we began enjoying our monthly “treat” less and less.
But when we ate the decadent multi-layered banana cream pie my husband had requested for his birthday celebration, I knew something new was happening. Not only did I not enjoy my slice of pie, I couldn’t even finish it. It tasted sickly sweet to my now sensitive palate. It actually made my teeth hurt. My head began to pound and my heart began to race; I felt awful.
It took a good hour lying on the couch holding my head before I began to recover. “Geez,” I thought,“has sugar always made me feel bad, but because it was everywhere, I just never noticed it before?”
After our year of no sugar ended, I went back and counted the absences my kids had in school and compared them to those of previous years. The difference was dramatic. My older daughter, Greta, went from missing 15 days the year before to missing only two.
Now that our year of no sugar is over, we’ll occasionally indulge, but the way we eat it is very different. We appreciate sugar in drastically smaller amounts, avoid it in everyday foods (that it shouldn’t be in in the first place), and save dessert for truly special occasions. My body seems to be thanking me for it. I don’t worry about running out of energy. And when flu season comes around I somehow no longer feel the urge to go and hide with my children under the bed. But if we do come down with something, our bodies are better equipped to fight it. We get sick less and get well faster. Much to my surprise, after our no-sugar life, we all feel healthier and stronger. And that is nothing to sneeze at.


Eve O. Schaub is the author of Year of No Sugar: A Memoir. She holds a BA and a BFA from Cornell University, and a MFA from the Rochester Institute of Technology. Her personal essays have been featured many times on the Albany, New York, NPR station WAMC. You can join Schaub’s family and take your own Day of No Sugar Challenge on April 9, 2014.
Credits: Everyday Health, where this article was originally featured.