Blast That Stomach Fat With These 5 Powerful Exercises!

Before we start blasting it, let’s get one thing straight – every healthy person has stomach fat. Anyone who doesn’t have it would not be considered medically healthy at all. Problems arise when you have too much of it, and can occur depending on the type of fat you have in that mid-section. The bad news is, stomach fat is one of the most difficult areas to shed those unwanted centimeters… but not impossible. Check out these exercises for stomach fat that will help you tone and flatten your core!

Blast that stomach fat with these 5 exercises anyone can do at home!

 

Why Is Stomach Fat So Hard To Shed?

It’s important to get your head around the ins and outs of stomach fat in order to shed it. The belly is one of those problem areas that can be extremely difficult to tone and trim, and sit-ups alone won’t cure that! The reality is, sit-ups on their own or ‘miracle diets’ just don’t work – especially not in the long-term.

If you’ve read many of my articles, I’ll be sounding like a broken record by now, but it’s important to drill in again that a holistic approach to health, and an overall lifestyle change, is essential when trying to achieve a healthy physique and maintain it. It involves a number of essential changes, but it’s not as scary as it sounds. In fact, most of it comes down to good old-fashioned commonsense, with a little bit of knowledge around nutrition and muscles thrown in there. Don’t worry though – I’m going to guide you through all that. But first, let’s look at why the belly is one of those areas prone to stubborn fat storage…

Fat

There are two layers of fat in the body – some is right under your skin, called ‘subcutaneous’ fat, and some is around the heart, lungs, liver and other organs. That deeper fat is called ‘visceral’ fat, and can become the bigger problem. While you do need visceral fat to cushion your organs, too much of it can cause high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers. When too much fat builds up in the body, it starts getting stored in unusual places, and the stomach is one of those go-to areas. Too much visceral fat is more harmful than subcutaneous fat, but  the good news is, it is also easier to lose than subcutaneous fat. The Doctors explain it pretty well…

The Importance Of Nutrition

Exercise is not everything… In fact, it’s not even most things. Nutrition has to be a major player in toning the body and trimming fat. While no one exercise, type of food or ‘trick’ diet is going to magically blast away that stubborn stomach fat, it is still a much simpler concept and process than you probably realize. It comes down to reducing your overall body fat percentage, because the belly is generally the last, or one of the last, places that stored energy (fat) will be used by the body when you’re losing weight. And again, this is where that overall healthy approach, or lifestyle change, comes into play. The good news there is that you can do that naturally, without starving yourself, working out to the point of physical exhaustion, or buying expensive ‘fat blasting’ exercise equipment.

Nutrition

Nutrition plays a key role because the amount of calories you consume, and, more importantly, the types of calories you consume, relate directly to fat storage in the body. We’ve written a number of in-depth articles around this topic that can help you understand the bigger picture and how to eat sensibly. This one takes you through what not to do (and you will find some things in here that you probably have done!), and here you will find how to reduce your calorie intake without feeling hungry or becoming obsessed with food.

Abdomen

The Importance Of Exercise

Sit-ups are back in fashion! The vintage core exercise of crunching is definitely beneficial, and if you do them every day or every second day, then some of those ab muscles will be hard as a rock! However, they are certainly not the only exercise for toning the belly, and unfortunately they don’t target those important lower abdominal muscles (where all the belly fat tends to hang!), so you need to add some other exercises to your stomach fat blasting routine as well. Even so, none of it involves over-priced equipment and all of it can be done at home. The only thing we’d suggest you get is an exercise ball. However, again, that’s not essential – all of these exercises can be achieved without one!

Fitness

The key to any weight loss, including the stomach area, is variety. It’s important to cover all the essentials in health and fitness – cardio, strength, stretching and relaxation (as well as nutrition, which we’ve already covered). Without an overall level of fitness and movement, those abdominal exercises will make your core stronger, but they won’t get rid of all the fat! You need to be exercising every day.

Fitball plank

But, Don’t Overdo It…

That doesn’t mean a strenuous high intensity workout and these core exercises every day. What it does mean is humans should be active every day. That could be achieved by a brisk 30-minute walk on days you’re not working out at the gym. It could mean walking to and from work every day. As long as your heart rate is increased every day, then that is your base for your fitness routine. You can then add to that three or four days of strength training in some form or another, which can include our abdominal exercises.

Yoga or Pilates are also fantastic for strengthening and flattening the stomach, but go for a vinyasa flow or power yoga class if that is your aim. Anything else you enjoy – whether it be swimming, team sport, cycling, surfing or running – can also be added to the mix. Just make sure you are getting a mix!


The Top 6 Mighty Health Benefits Of Peanut Butter (+ Recipes)

A popular kitchen staple in cabinets and pantries around the US, and the world, peanut butter is an old-time favorite. In fact, about 90 per cent of American homes stock the tasty spread. But, did you ever ask yourself whether it could actually be healthy, not just a guilty pleasure? Or how best to buy it and use it? We take a look at the health benefits of peanut butter and uncover some nutritious recipes to try it in…

It doesn't have to be all unhealthy additives and peanut butter jelly sandwiches - check out these health benefits of peanut butter...

Nutritional Information (1 Tablespoon of 100% ground peanuts)

Calories – 100

Total Fats – 8 grams

Cholesterol – 0mg

Sodium – 3 mg

Total Carbohydrate – 3 grams

Dietary Fiber – 1 gram

Sugars – 1 gram

Protein – 4 grams

Peanut butter

Choosing The Right Peanut Butter

You might have noticed in the above nutritional section, we wrote ‘100% ground peanuts’. The problem with most peanut butter brands is the additives – namely cheap processed vegetable oils, salt, and sometimes, sugar. So, the simple way to make sure you’re not incidentally consuming nasty additives is to buy 100% peanut butter. That simply means, check the ingredients section of the label, and it should just say, ‘peanuts’. Thankfully, it’s not very difficult to find 100% natural peanut butter these days. In some supermarkets and health food stores, you can even grind your own peanuts into a container and pay per gram. Or, if you feel like grinding your own at home, simply put your peanuts into a food processor and blend until smooth! Peanut butter is actually quite quick and easy to make, compared to some other nut butters like almond, which takes much longer to grind into a paste.

Health Benefits of Peanut Butter

Peanut butter is so much more than a delicious spread for toast. It is made from peanuts, a natural source of a number of important nutrients. As a result, it has a number of health benefits. And here they are…

Peanut Butter Has A Good Dose Of Fiber

Peanut butter is a decent source of both soluble and insoluble fiber. It’s a nutrient that many Americans and other Westerners don’t get enough of. One tablespoon of peanut butter contains about 1 gram of fiber, 0.3 grams of which is soluble. The remaining 0.7 grams, therefore, is insoluble fiber. That moves through the digestive system almost completely unchanged, which reduces the risk of hemorrhoids and constipation.

Peanut

Both soluble and insoluble fibers are good for you. They help regulate blood sugar levels, minimizing the likelihood of sugar crashes and cravings. However, before you rely on that little bit of peanut butter you might pop in your breakfast smoothie each morning to give you your daily dose of fiber, it’s important to make yourself aware of how much you actually need each day. A tablespoon of peanut butter gives you about 1 gram of fiber, but you actually need 21 to 38 grams per day. Your main dose of fiber will come from the fruits and vegetables you consume throughout the day, and it come in significant doses in foods like beans. But, every little ounce of fiber you consume is beneficial, and getting fiber in each meal so that your body digests that meal in a healthy way is important. So, don’t turn your nose up at the bit of fiber you do get from peanut butter either… It all adds up!

Eating peanut butter

Peanut Butter Is Good For Your Heart

Peanuts contain heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, which are often called ‘good fats’. They can help reduce bad cholesterol levels in the blood, and lower your risk of heart disease or stroke. Healthy fats provide nutrients that help develop and maintain the body’s cells. They also help your body absorb certain vitamins.

Peanut Butter Is A Good Source Of Protein

Peanut butter gives you a good dose of protein, providing four grams of the essential nutrient in one tablespoon. Protein is an extremely important nutrient that the body needs every day. It is then used by the body for strength and muscle building, and can aid with weight loss, especially when eaten with fiber. Because peanut butter provides fiber, as mentioned above, this is a great combo food! Protein and fiber fill you up and keep you fuller for longer, reducing the risk of sugar crashes and cravings.

Healthy peanut butter

Peanut Butter Can Aid Weight Loss

We’ve touched on this above – the combination of healthy fats, protein and fiber can keep you fuller for longer, reduce cravings and sugar crashes, therefore aiding weight loss. That’s because you can reduce your calorie intake by eating smart, filling foods, like peanut butter, reducing your overall refined carbohydrate and sugar intake throughout the day. Because peanuts contain more protein than most other nuts and are high in healthy fats, they are one of the best nuts to snack on to keep you full. But, in order to reap the weight loss benefits of peanuts or peanut butter in your diet, you need to use it to reduce your overall calorie intake, otherwise you’re just adding more fat and protein into your diet!

Natural peanut butter

Peanut Butter Provides Vitamin E

Some other nut butters, like almond, provide much more vitamin E than peanut butter. But, having said that, peanut butter still gives you a decent dose! The fat-soluble vitamin occurs naturally in foods, including nuts, seeds and leafy greens. It is best known for its powerful antioxidant properties, which are great for overall health, but is particularly well-known for its benefits to the skin. That’s because it helps protect cells from free radical molecules. It is also important for immune health, and, because of its protection at a cellular level, it may also reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer development in the body.

Peanut paste

Peanut Butter Provides Essential Minerals

Essential minerals are nutrients the body needs to function properly. However, the body cannot produce these nutrients itself, meaning you have to consume them through food or supplements. Essential minerals include calcium, iron, potassium, zinc, copper, phosphorus, selenium, manganese, sodium and fluoride. A tablespoon of peanut butter provides 0.5% of your daily recommended calcium intake, 1.5% of your iron and selenium intake, 6% of the magnesium you need, nearly 5% phosphorus, 3% potassium and zinc, 4% copper and 11% manganese. Calcium, magnesium and potassium are extremely important for bone health, development and strength.


So Much More Than Vitamin C: The Top 9 Health Benefits Of Oranges

These tasty citrus fruits that share their name with their color are thirst quenching, sweet and very popular. But all that aside, there are actually some very powerful health benefits from oranges as well. The summer favorite is packed full of vitamin C, yes, but there is actually far more to the humble orange. Let’s check it out…

Oranges are so much more than vitamin C - check out these benefits and recipes!

 

A Brief History

Oranges are a sweet citrus fruit, and share their name with the word describing their color. Their ancestors are believed to date back tens of thousands of years, and their exact origin is unknown. It is believed, however, that they evolved from citron fruits in Australia and New Guinea. The first cultivated crops are understood to date back to 2500 BC in China. Oranges are not found in the wild, and are the result of cultivation and hybrids. There are many different varieties of oranges, from the common navel and Valencia to acid-less oranges (which have little taste) and the rather striking blood oranges. As the name suggests, blood oranges have red juice running through their flesh. There are also other fruits that belong to the orange family, and are similar, including tangerines and mandarins.

Chopped oranges

Nutritional Information (100 grams)

Calories – 49

Total Fat – 0.02 grams

Cholesterol – 0mg

Sodium – 1mg

Potassium – 166mg

Total Carbohydrate – 13 grams

Dietary Fiber – 2.2 grams

Sugars – 9 grams

Protein – 0.9 grams

Vitamin A – 4% of RDI

Vitamin C – 98% of RDI

Calcium – 4% of RDI

Vitamin B6 – 5% of RDI

Magnesium – 2% of RDI

Oranges

Health Benefits Of Oranges

There are a number of health benefits associated with oranges. Many of them are the result of their abundance of natural vitamin C, but there are other nutrients found in these sweet, tangy fruits as well. Let’s take a look at 9 of the health benefits that can come with eating oranges…

1. Oranges Are Packed Full Of Vitamin C

This is the one that we all know, but do you know why vitamin C is so good for you? This zesty nutrient is fundamental to the body’s connective tissue development. That includes the healing of wounds and blood vessel wall support. Vitamin C is believed to minimize the risk of a number of health problems and ailments, including obesity, diabetes and heart disease, as well as improve the immune system and promote healthy hair and skin.

Vitamin C

2. Oranges May Reduce The Risk Of Cardiovascular Disease

Staying on the vitamin C train – the wholesome nutrient is linked to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. Low levels of vitamin C in the blood is also linked to an increased risk of stroke, strengthening the belief that it helps reduce the risk of heart problems.

3. Oranges Boost Immunity

There’s a reason vitamin supplements come in orange flavor! Vitamin C is one of the most important nutrients for immunity. Like most citrus fruits, oranges are packed full of the powerful vitamin, and actually have more than many other citrons. It protects your immunity by neutralizing free raticals and fight everyday viruses, like the common cold and flu. It works best as a preventative measure. In other words, if you’re hit with a bad dose of the flu, eating an orange won’t cure you. It’s certainly good to keep your fruit and liquid intake up, but it’s just as important when you’re healthy to maintain a strong immune system and try to avoid catching a virus in the first place!

Citrus

4. Oranges Can Help Prevent Asthma And Allergies

The vitamin C in oranges can help reduce symptoms of asthma and allergies by boosting your immune function, as mentioned above! A number of studies have found consuming the vitamin has positive effects on pulmonary function tests, decreased respiratory infection, improved white blood cell function and motility, and bronchoprovacation challenges with ethacholine, histamine and allergens.

5. Oranges Are Good For Digestion

All fruits and vegetables are good for keeping your digestive system moving and working. Oranges are packed full of fiber, which is vital to digestive function, keeping you regular. Dietary fiber works in this sense by stimulating digestive juices, therefore relieving constipation.

Blood oranges

6. Oranges May Help Lower Cholesterol

Like any whole foods packed full of soluble fiber, oranges can be helpful in lowering cholesterol levels. A very new piece of research, published in May 2017, looked at the nutraceutical value in citrus fruits, including oranges. Researchers found hesperidin, an antioxidant found in oranges, may be beneficial in lowering cholesterol and high blood pressure.

Cholesterol

7. Oranges Help To Promote Heart Health

Oranges have important nutrients that support and promote heart health. They include fiber, potassium, vitamin C (surprise!), and choline. Potassium for example, is a mineral that can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Increasing your potassium intake, while decreasing your sodium intake, can help protect your heart from health problems. One study found participants with the highest sodium diet had a 20 per cent higher risk of death than participants with the lowest sodium intakes. On the other hand, the people who consumed the highest amount of potassium had a 20 per cent lower risk of dying than those who consumed the lowest amounts. More interestingly though was the relationship between potassium and sodium. People who had the highest ration of sodium to potassium doubled their risk of dying from a heart attack than those with the lowest ratio difference.

Heart health

8. Oranges Have Nutrients That Promote Healthy Skin

All fruit and vegetables are beneficial to skin health and promote clear, glowing skin. There are a few reasons these natural whole foods do that. It is partly because they are packed full of water, which rehydrates the body, including the skin. They also have important vitamins and minerals that feed the skin and keep it healthy. Oranges have the important antioxidant vitamin C and beta-carotene, which can help protect against sun damage and pollution. However, having said that, it is still important to use sun safety, like hats and sunscreen. Vitamin C can also reduce wrinkles and improve the skin’s texture, as well as promoting the growth and formation of collagen.


The Top 4 Exercises For Weight Loss (But Wait, We Have Some Important Advice First!)

It’s that age-old question, ‘what are the best exercises for weight loss?’. We have the answer, to an extent, but there are some VERY important notes we need to highlight to begin with…

Try these exercises for weight loss, but take notice of our important tips in order to get the most out of them!

Exercise Is Not A Magic Cure

Many people say weight loss involves 80% nutrition and 20% exercise. Whether that measurement is exactly right doesn’t really matter because the idea is correct. Nutrition is definitely the more important part of weight loss, and portion sizes are even more important. However, it’s best not to get caught up in logistics like that and approach weight loss and weight management as a lifestyle. That means not going near fad diets, and also avoiding food restriction.

Some simple changes you can make to day-to-day diet choices include switching from milky coffee to black coffee, stop taking sugar in your coffee or tea, and opting for fresh seasonal foods. If you eat a lot of refined carbs, cut back a bit on them and increase your fiber intake. That means more vegetables and a couple of fruits a day. And, on that note, remember to think about quality rather than quantity when choosing food. In season vegetables will have more nutrients than imported or less fresh vegetables, for example. In order to reduce your portion sizes, eat mindfully and slowly. That way you will know when you are full. If you eat too fast while distracted by conversation or television, you can often overeat without even realizing it.

healthy diet

Most Beneficial Exercises For Weight Loss

Before we move onto some of the best exercises for weight loss, it’s important to make something very clear. And that is, no one exercise is the best option for you to help you lose weight. The best and most successful way to lose weight and keep it off is by combining exercises. That will ensure you don’t get stuck repeating the same workout that just keeps getting easier. It also means you will challenge and trick your body into working harder by mixing things up, as well as ensuring you target all of your muscles and limbs with different exercises that focus on different areas.

Here are some of the best weight loss exercises, that work well in combination during the course of the week…

weight loss

Walking

Weight loss doesn’t actually have to be complicated, and something as simple as walking can aid weight loss. It is also a sustainable form of exercise to maintain a healthy weight and a good fitness level. However, we do have some tips on how to make walking benefit you and actually help you shed some excess fat.

The first thing is, walk at a good pace. If you already walk a fair bit, or have a relatively good level of fitness, then you need to up your walking game in order for it to have any effect! Power walking is a very beneficial workout, and if you love walking or being outdoors, then it’s perfect for you!

hiking

Try to find hills. Power walking up hills can actually be a high-intensity form of exercise. And if you can either walk for 10 or 15 minutes uphill and then another 15 minutes on the flat or back down, while your heart rate is already up, then that’s a very decent workout! The other option, depending on the terrain you have access to, is to use hills as intermittent training. Even if the hills are short, if you can walk up and down hills in your area, that’s another great form of weight loss exercise.

It’s simple, free, and if you love walking, it will be something you can look forward to, instead of forcing yourself to do it! The other great thing about it is you can fit it into your busy lifestyle. Walk to work instead of driving, for example, or walk your dog in the mornings before work, or in the evenings after work.

walking

Running

This next one is loved by some and hated by others! One thing is for sure though – those that get addicted to running believe there is nothing more enjoyable in the world. If running is for you, it’s one of the most basic, classic ways to keep your body in tip-top shape. It’s a 100% natural form of exercise that can’t be faked, and it takes the whole body working hard to achieve it.

Some tips for running – maintain good posture. If you are holding good posture, you’re allowing your body optimal breathing opportunity. If you are breathing properly, you can run for longer, achieving better results. If you are new to running, start with interval training – run for one minute, walk for 30 seconds, and increase the running as you improve and get fitter.

running

Cycling

This can be an extremely high-intensity form of exercise that sheds fat and builds muscle. Again, it’s important to find hobbies you enjoy, so if you hate cycling, forget about it. If you love it, on the other hand, make time to hop on your bike more often. It’s also a handy form of exercise if you are a high-intensity exerciser but you’ve injured your foot or leg running, for example, cycling can be a great replacement exercise.

The best option for weight loss when cycling is to find hills. Practice your hill climbing and increase the pace, lengths and heights you climb. To avoid boredom, go exploring on your bike some weekends. Pack it in the car and head to a different area, or even join a cycling club to help keep yourself motivated.

cycling

RPM or spin classes at the gym are also great weight loss options if you’re more of an indoor person, or if you can’t get out in the cold, dark winter, or if live somewhere flat and want those hills!

Weight Training

People often believe weight training will pack on the body weight, bulk up the muscles and make you look like a body builder. This couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, weight training is one of the most beneficial (if not the most beneficial) form of exercise for fat loss and waistline reduction. Of course, weight training also tones the body and builds arm strength, but it does so much more than that. Lifting weights is a powerful fat burning workout that makes the body work overtime to repair and build muscles, which takes a lot of calories and energy. In other words, it uses fat as energy, and therefore gets rid of it!


Yoga For Scoliosis (With Video Sequences!)

While most cases of scoliosis are relatively mild, the condition can become debilitating, especially if spine deformities develop during childhood, getting worse as a person grows. It’s important if you do have, or are developing, scoliosis to seek medical advice and to practice exercises to attempt to correct it. Yoga for scoliosis can be very beneficial, however, always seek advice from your doctor or physiotherapist before taking up any new exercise.

Yoga can help correct spine curvatures caused by scoliosis - check out these poses and videos!

What Is Scoliosis?

Scoliosis is the name given to spinal curvature. It is not a technical name or diagnosis, but rather a descriptive term, like headache. It describes a sideways bend in the spine, rotating along the vertical axis. The curve often develops in the shape of a ‘C’ or an ‘S’. It comes from the Greek word meaning ‘curved’ or ‘bent’.

Scoliosis

What Causes Scoliosis?

There is no known cause for most cases of scoliosis. However, research indicates there are hereditary factors involved. The only conditions known to cause some cases of the curvature are cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy. Symptoms of scoliosis can include uneven shoulders, an uneven waistline, or one hip higher than the other. It the curve worsens, the spine will then also twist or rotate. This can cause the ribs on one side of the body to stick out.

If scoliosis forms during childhood, it can become more severe as a person grows. This can lead to disabling scoliosis, causing lung functionality problems, due to compression, or limited space within the chest.

Spine curves

Yoga Poses For Scoliosis

Being a therapeutic form of exercise, yoga is beneficial to a number of ailments – scoliosis being one of them. Try these yoga poses and/or the video sequences below. But remember; always seek medical advice before trying new exercises. If you practice these poses and you feel any pain – even a little bit, stop immediately and consult your doctor. And if you already have a physiotherapist, they can create a Pilates or yoga sequence to best suit your needs.

Posture

Cat-Cow Sequence

These two poses used together dynamically work really well to relax the back and release tension along the spine. Cow pose also strengthens the back a little. It is also a good mini sequence to slowly and gently warm up the back and core before moving into more challenging poses.

Start in tabletop position on your mat. If your knees feel sensitive or sore, place a blanket or extra mat underneath them. Make sure your knees are directly under your hips, and hip-distance apart, and your hands are directly under your shoulders, in line with your knees.

Cow pose

On an inhale, drop your belly down towards the floor gently (without jarring the back). Arch your back at the same time and lifting your tailbone towards the ceiling. If that feels good, you can gently lift your chin upwards. On an exhale, round your back, tilting your tailbone and head towards the floor. Repeat in sync with your own breath at least 10 more times.

Cat pose

Child’s Pose

This posture releases tightness in the back and relaxes the muscles, decompressing the spine. It is a very restorative pose that relieves back and neck tension. Begin in tabletop position again with your wrists under your shoulders and knees under hips. On an exhale, sit your buttocks onto your heels. Your torso should rest on your thighs, or in between them for wide-angle child’s pose. Stretch your arms out in front to create more space along your back and sides. Rest your forehead on the mat if it can comfortably reach. However, if that forces your hips up away from your feet, place a folded blanket or cushion under your forehead. Because this is a restorative pose, you should stay in it for a couple of minutes.

Child's pose

Triangle Pose

This pose is great for decreasing stress, stimulating the organs and improving metabolism and digestion. However, it also stretches the spine, chest, shoulders, groin and hips, which is very beneficial to relieve and potentially help correct, scoliosis. However, while people who don’t suffer from scoliosis would practice this pose the same on both sides, scoliosis patients need to use different emphasis on each side to get the most out of it. When stretching towards the concaved side, the emphasis should be on lengthening the spine. This will help decompress the ribs and decrease the protrusion of the ribs on the other side. When stretching the other way, the emphasis should be on twisting to work on evening out the back.

Triangle pose

To practice triangle pose, stand with your legs wide, in a triangle shape. Point your toes on your front foot forward, with your back foot on a slight angle towards the outside of the mat. Line your front heel up with the middle of your back foot. Make sure your hips and shoulders are directly above your legs, not twisting towards the front. Keep your legs straight and inhale. As you exhale, gently hinge your torso and upper body towards the front of the mat, over the front foot. Bend your front arm towards your foot and you back arm towards the ceiling. Keep your body in a straight line, as if you are stationed in a narrow gap between two walls. That means keeping your chest open and avoiding tipping forward or downwards with your top shoulder, hip or chest. Only move your front hand down as far as it can comfortably go without bending your knee or tipping your body downwards. Stay in the pose for a few breaths and when you are ready to move out of it, tighten your core and lift up on an inhale. Repeat on the other side. However, remember those emphasis tips above when practicing each side!

You can also do a lunged in between, which is also great for the spine, but very beneficial to your back, postural and leg muscles.

High lunge

Side Plank

One of the best yoga poses for scoliosis is the side plank. It may not be a favorite posture for many, being a strength-reliant one. It may even feel more challenging if you suffer from scoliosis. Nevertheless, it is an extremely beneficial remedial pose for the condition. In order to reap its benefits, you need to concentrate on the side your spine curves. A 2014 study looked at 25 scoliosis patients with primary curves measuring 6 to 120 degrees. They were asked to perform side plank on the side of their curve for 10 to 20 seconds a day for the first week, and then for as long as possible each day (average of 90 seconds) during the next 6 or so months. Researchers found a “significant improvement” of around 32% in the curvature as a result.

Side plank is a variation of plank pose, which is pretty much known the ideal all-body strengthening and toning pose. It works on core strength – abdomen, oblique and back, as well as arms, shoulders, thighs, and neck and lower legs to an extent. But what we want to look at in relation to scoliosis is side plank. That still targets the core, but can also be used as a tool to help aid in the correction of a scoliosis bend, depending on where the curve is along your spine. Side plank also targets the oblique muscles more than in regular plank. The video below shows you how to move into side plank. You can either move into low side plank, with your lower arm on the floor, or high side plank, on your hand. Focus on the side that needs correcting.

Bridge Pose

This pose is both restorative and strengthening at the same time. It stretches the core while increasing strength in the spine and back muscles. That’s because it encourages good posture and core control, strengthening the muscles that support the spine. There are a few variations of bridge pose, and to get the best out of it for scoliosis, it’s best to work more on the strength side of it, more so than stretching the front of the body.

Start by lying on your back with your knees bent, feet plated on the ground – hip-distance apart. Check that you can brush your heels with your fingertips. On an inhale, slowly lift your pelvis and lower back up towards the ceiling, pressing your hands into the mat. Take a couple of breaths and make sure the pose feels ok for you and that you haven’t got pain on one side or the other. If you do feel comfortable, you can lift yourself a little higher, lifting your middle back up off the mat and your pelvis further upwards. Take at least 5 long breaths, watching your belly rise and fall as you inhale and exhale.

Bridge pose

Universal Spinal Twist

This restorative pose relaxes the body, stretches the hips, glutes and outer thighs, and releases the back and spine, which is great for relieving scoliosis discomfort. Start lying on your back with your arms stretched out to either side so that you’re making a ‘T’ shape. Bend your right knee on an inhale and as you exhale, drop your knee to the left, twisting from the hips and spine. Keep both shoulders on the map and turn your gaze towards the right. You should feel a relatively deep stretch around your right hip and glut and along your spine. Stay in this pose for at least 10 long breaths and then move out of the pose. Repeat on the other side. If the pose felt more relieving on one side that the other, repeat on that side, or hold the pose on that side for a little longer.

Spinal twist

Video Sequences

Stretching and strengthening is extremely important to increase your comfort if you live with scoliosis, and also to help correct it. This 20-minute sequence takes you through some very therapeutic poses, but also some powerful poses for strength. Just do what you can the first few times and work up to some of the more difficult poses and movements as your fitness and ability increases.

This next sequence uses yoga poses that lengthen the spine and strengthen the body’s postural muscles, which, as we mentioned earlier, is very beneficial to correcting and managing scoliosis. All the poses are also beginner’s poses, so even if you’ve never done yoga before, it’s a great one to start with!

This next video is a more Pilates-based routine. It focuses mainly on creating movement through the spine, which is very beneficial for scoliosis. The sequence is about 17-minutes long, with the first five minutes and the last five minutes in a seated position. This is a great sequence, because the instructor is a Physical Therapist and a Pilates instructor. It’s also beneficial because you repeat the first five minutes of exercises at the end to see if your body, and particularly, your back and spine, feels any better repeating the sequence at the end.

This ‘all levels yoga’ sequence to target scoliosis is another fantastic one I stumbled upon, because the instructor actually has scoliosis, so she knows what works best! It’s also a longer sequence, at 35 minutes, which is great if you want to have a decent workout and really target that curve.

This last sequence is a one-on-one session with a yoga therapist and scoliosis patient. Yoga therapists are trained to specifically target conditions like scoliosis, and  this teacher says she has worked with a number of people who suffer severe scoliosis. Breathing is an extremely important part in managing and improving scoliosis, and quality of life when living with scoliosis. This sequence includes breathing techniques, which are hugely beneficial and highly recommended!


The Powers Of Miso (Nutrition, Benefits & Recipes That Aren’t All Soup!)

Ever wonder about the nutritional value attached to the miso soup you are served before your sushi course at Japanese restaurants? Or what the actual miso part of the soup is? Here’s your ultimate guide to what miso is, it’s nutritional value, health benefits and some creative recipes!

What is miso, is it healthy and how do you use it?

 

What Is Miso?

Most people would know of miso as that soup you get before your sushi at a Japanese restaurant. The actual miso part of the soup is, in fact, a paste, which is made from fermenting soy beans with barley or rice malt. The fermentation is caused by a mixture of salt, water and a fungus. Traditionally, the paste is used to thicken the Japanese soup you might be familiar with, and often comes with tofu chunks and/or vegetables. However, miso is not just for soup! Being a strong flavor, it is quite versatile and can be used in a number of dishes. For example, as a meat or vegetable glaze, or a thickener in sauces or stir fries.

There are three types of miso – shiromiso, akamiso and awasemiso, which translate to white, red and mixed. White is not fermented as long as the other two, which creates a milder tasting flavor. Red has a longer fermentation period and is saltier than white, giving it a much stronger flavor. And mixed is, unsurprisingly, a combination of the two! It has a relatively strong taste and is dark in color.

Miso paste

Nutritional Information (100 grams)

Calories – 199

Carbohydrates – 26.5 grams

Dietary Fiber – 5.4 grams

Sugars – 6 grams

Total Fat – 6 grams

Protein – 12 grams

Calcium – 6% of RDI

Magnesium – 12% of RDI

Iron – 14% of RDI

Phosphorus – 16% of RDI

Potassium – 6% of RDI

Sodium – 155% of RDI

Zinc – 17% of RDI

Copper – 21% of RDI

Manganese – 43% of RDI

Selenium – 10% of RDI

Vitamin A – 2% of RDI

Vitamin K – 37% of RDI

Thiamin – 7% of RDI

Riboflavin – 14% of RDI

Niacin – 5% of RDI

Vitamin B6 – 10% of RDI

Folate – 5% of RDI

Vitamin B12 – 1% of RDI

Miso soup

A Brief History Of Miso

Miso dates as far back as the 4th Century BC in China. It originated as a seasoning called Hisio, which was made by fermenting soy beans, wheat, alcohol and salt. Miso was introduced to Japan by Buddhist monks in the 7th century. From there, it became a vital part of the samurai diet and eventually became a widespread staple in Japanese dining.

Health Benefits Of Miso

Miso is a powerful ingredient that only needs to be used in small amounts to reap the health benefits of its concentrated nutrients. Here are some of the main benefits of miso…

Miso

Miso Is A Good Source Of Protein

Miso is a rich source of protein, with 12 grams in every 100. The protein comes from the soy in the miso, which is the main ingredient in the paste. Soy is also a vegan source of protein, which is great for vegans and vegetarians, who can’t get their daily dose from meat products. Protein is an essential nutrient that builds muscles and fills you up. It is, in fact, the major structural component of cells, responsible for building and repairing tissues in the body. It is therefore essential to repair muscles following exercise, for example. When consumed as food, protein is broken down into amino acids, which are then used as building blocks for the protein in your body.

Miso paste soy

Miso Is A Good Source Of Vitamins And Minerals

As well as protein, miso is high in some vitamins and minerals, including copper, manganese, phosphorus, vitamin K, magnesium, iron and zinc. Each of these nutrients play an important role in everyday health. Copper, for example, is an essential trace mineral found in the liver, brain, heart, kidneys and muscles. It increases the absorption of iron and is an ingredient in the production of skin. Manganese is important for healthy bone structure and metabolism. Phosphorus also maintains strong bones. It is a necessary mineral for body detoxification through waste and aids effective metabolism. Phosphorus helps balance the body’s pH and improves digestion.

Metabolism

Vitamin K helps control blood clotting and is important for bone health. It assists in preventing heart disease and reducing neural damage. Magnesium has a number of powerful health benefits. It helps increase energy, eases anxiety and nervousness, aids digestion, eases muscle aches and spasms and regulates calcium, sodium and potassium levels. Magnesium also reduces symptoms of headaches, may help prevent osteoporosis, and is important for a healthy heart. Iron plays an extremely important role in the production of red blood cells and hemoglobin. It helps metabolize proteins and reduces the risk of anemia and fatigue. And finally, zinc supports healthy immune and digestive systems. It helps control diabetes, reduces stress levels and improves metabolism. Zinc also aids with wound healing and weight loss, and improves night vision and hair health.

Tofu miso soup

Miso Is Good For The Gut

Miso is a fermented food, and its health benefits are largely thanks to that process. During fermentation, the natural bacteria and yeasts begin feeding on the food’s sugar and starch, turning the microorganisms in the sugar and starch into lactic acid. That process creates powerful enzymes, including the beneficial bacteria, probiotics. This helps to heal a range of health issues, including problems with digestion. It also aids the body in absorbing and using nutrients. Probiotics keep your intestinal flora healthy and are particularly beneficial to gut health. They work by protecting your stomach and intestinal lining while reducing inflammation.

Gut health

The Main Concerns

Like many foods, there are pros, cons and varying views about whether the benefits outweigh the potential hazards. For example, miso is high in salt. It is also a soy product, which is a topic of controversy.  Once touted as the ideal protein source for vegetarians (as mentioned above), more and more researchers are finding soy is not quite the miracle food we once thought. Unfermented soy has been linked to digestive problems, weak immune systems, PMS and allergies, to name just a few of the potential risks of consuming the vegan protein food. Fermented soy products, on the other hand, have been scientifically proven to have health benefits.


Foods To Eat & Foods To Avoid When You’re Pregnant

It’s always better to err on the side of caution when it comes to your diet when pregnant. There are some foods you need to take completely off your menu for the whole nine months. Some other foods are best to avoid, especially when eating out, just in case you get a bad batch of something. What you put into your body needs to be carefully considered. Here are our recommendations for foods to eat, foods to avoid, and foods to think about before consuming them…

Find out what foods you should put on your shopping list as well as the ones you need to avoid while pregnant...

 

Your Changing Body

“Life is always a rich and steady time when you are waiting for something to happen or to hatch.” That E.B. White quote from Charlotte’s Web acts as a friendly reminder that you do need to slow down, ensure you minimize stress and keep yourself fairly steady and healthy when you’re waiting for a new arrival.

All pregnancies vary, with some mothers-to-be breezing through the first trimester while others struggle to keep anything down. The first three months of pregnancy are the most difficult on your body in many ways. That’s because your body has to suddenly develop a life-support system for the baby. Hormones are released, blood volume increases, blood pressure decreases, and joints and muscles loosen to accommodate your stretching uterus. Because the body is working overtime to create this support system, women tend to feel tired and often nauseous. That can make it difficult to care about what you’re eating and convince yourself to prepare natural, nutritious meals. The first three months are the most vulnerable to miscarriage, and nausea tends to be at its worst.

Pregnant

Moving on to the second and third trimester, and that’s when you need to start upping your calorie intake. The myth that women need to ‘eat for two’ is just that – a myth. During your first trimester, you don’t need to increase your calorie intake, and if you do, it’s only by a little. The second trimester demands about 340 more calories a day, and in the third trimester, that increases to about 450 extra calories a day. However, the good news is, your body becomes more efficient at absorbing nutrients during pregnancy. That’s why you probably won’t need to increase your calorie intake during the first three months of pregnancy.

Foods To Avoid During Pregnancy

It almost seems like the list of forbidden foods is longer than the list of recommended foods when you’re pregnant. Don’t drink alcohol. Overcook eggs. Don’t eat cold meat. Don’t eat soft cheese. The list goes on and we’ll get to that. But, while the list of ‘nos’ does look long and overwhelming, there actually are more foods that you still can eat than can’t eat. There are also some grey areas, which involve personal choices and weighing up the risks. We’ll get to those as well. Firstly, though, let’s cross these foods off the list…

First trimester

Soft Cheeses

It’s best to steer clear of soft and semi-soft cheeses like brie, camembert, blue cheese, feta and ricotta. That’s because they may contain the bacteria listeria, which can cause an infection called listeriosis. Listeria increases the risk of miscarriage and can harm the fetus. However, there is an exception if they are thoroughly cooked to at least 170° Fahrenheit (75° Celsius) and eaten pretty much immediately.

Soft cheese

Alcohol

This is the one everybody seems to know about. There has been talk around whether a glass of champagne at a wedding is harmless or a pint of Guinness can ease pregnancy nausea, but the science says don’t risk it.

Drinking alcohol increases the risk of miscarriage and stillbirth. It can also affect your baby’s brain development or result in fetal alcohol syndrome. This can cause facial deformities, heart defects and intellectual disabilities. Even a small amount of alcohol consumption during pregnancy can affect a baby’s development. It is therefore recommended women avoid it completely for the duration of pregnancy.

Alcohol

Raw Or Runny Eggs

Salmonella is the biggest risk when it comes to the consumption of raw or runny eggs. It is an infection that causes fever, severe nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps. While these symptoms are usually experienced by the pregnant woman only, cramps may occur in the uterus, potentially causing stillbirth or premature birth.

Some foods you may not be aware contain raw or nearly-raw eggs include traditional Italian carbonara, some cake frostings, tiramisu and hollandaise sauce (to name just a few). There are new reports coming out all the time in different countries to say whether they are safe or not for pregnant women to eat. However, we would say, err on the side of caution, and thoroughly cook your eggs. If you prefer them runny or raw, you can enjoy them again once your term is over!

Runny eggs

Processed, Raw Or Cold Meats & Pates

Raw or processed meats and pates can contain harmful bacteria, viruses and parasites. Some processed meats, such as hotdogs, can contain the bacteria listeria, which we mentioned earlier in relation to soft cheese. It can be harmful to your baby and increases the risk of miscarriage. Cold meats, like sandwich and deli meats (turkey, ham, pastrami etc) and pates can also contain the harmful bacteria. It is therefore safer to avoid all processed, raw or cold meats and pates during pregnancy when you are out and about. However, as always, there are exceptions. For example, some experts say frankfurters, for examples, are acceptable on occasions if they are completely reheated until they are steaming hot. As there are no health benefits from such foods, though, we suggest avoiding them altogether during pregnancy.

Platter

Bean Sprouts

This one might come as a surprise if you thought (logically) that all vegetables would be safe to eat. Raw sprouts, however, are not safe to consume during pregnancy. In the past 20 years or so, there have been at least 30 outbreaks of foodborne illnesses in the US associated with raw or lightly cooked sprouts. They were traced back to different types of sprouts, and most were related to salmonella and E. coli. It is therefore recommended that pregnant women avoid eating sprouts, including alfalfa, clover and mung bean sprouts.


A Guide To The Paleo Diet (+ Who Should Follow It & Recipes To Get You Started!)

The paleo diet has gotten a bit of a bad rap in some circles over the years, with people perhaps misinterpreting the ‘caveman’ description. Some initially thought it involved eating just berries, meat and literally only the foods a caveman had access to. However, there is a bit more to it than that. The diet is based on eating whole, unprocessed foods that resemble their natural form. While some think it’s over the top, it is a good idea in theory. But is it all it’s cracked up to be?

We take a look at the concepts of the paleo diet, explore ways to follow it and find out who it might suit…

Find out what you can and can't eat on the paleo diet and whether it would suit you!

 

Is A Paleo Diet Suitable For Everyone?

There has been some confusion about the evolution of humans and whether the same foods cavemen and women ate are what humans today need. Genetically, we modern humans are the same as our ancestors. They did not suffer from some of our common food-related chronic illnesses, like obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

One of the reasons a lot of people are against the paleo diet is because it is perceived as being extremely restrictive. However, if you think about it as eating natural foods, it’s not necessarily all that restrictive. The other problem some people within the world of nutrition pick out with the paleo diet is its ‘one size fits all’ mentality. This can be problematic, because everyone’s nutritional needs are different. Men and women are different, and individuals are all different. Some people lack in certain nutrients, and things like blood pressure, lifestyle and natural metabolism impact how much and what you should eat.

Paleo cooking

Having said all that, it is still a healthy diet option in general. For example, if an overweight diabetic man was looking to make a lifestyle change to benefit his health, it would not be harmful for him to choose a paleo diet. It would result in him being healthier. Of course, it’s not the only option to him, and it’s not even necessarily the best option. (If he went to a dietitian who created a meal plan specifically designed to his needs, for example, that would be ideal). However, if he decided to follow the paleo diet on his own, it would still be an improvement on his health.

What Foods Can I Eat On A Paleo Diet?

To put it very simply, paleo diet followers can eat meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, healthy natural fats, herbs and spices. To delve a bit more into the basic foods paleo followers should base their diets on, let’s take a look at each group.

Food

Protein

In relation to protein, the usual meat, fish and eggs are allowed. That includes beef, lamb, pork, turkey and chicken, salmon, trout, cod and other white fish, shrimp and shellfish, as well as eggs. If you can find free-range, or even better, organic eggs and meat, that’s the best option. In relation to fish, try to go for wild-caught options. If you can’t find, or can’t afford organic meats, make sure you are not buying processed options. And when talking about meat, or animals, the paleo approach involves basically eating the whole animal. That means organs, bone marrow and cartilage, just like our hunter-gatherer ancestors.

Fruit & Vegetables

You can eat any natural vegetables you like on a paleo diet. Examples include broccoli, spinach, kale, bell peppers, carrots, onions, beans, cauliflower, cabbage, sprouts, potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnips – the list goes on! Same with fruit – go nuts on anything that’s in season. The usual apples, bananas, pears, oranges, avocados, strawberries, tomatoes, blueberries, grapefruit, grapes, pineapple and cantaloupe are all good – plus any we’ve forgotten!

Healthy Fats

Nuts and seeds are all in the ‘yes’ category. Almonds, macadamias, walnuts, hazelnuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, flaxseed etc is all good. When it comes to healthy fats and oils, you can use olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, natural animal fats and, in some cases, butter.

Herbs & Spices

All natural herbs and spices are fine. Choose sea or Himalayan salt, cracked pepper, garlic, ginger, turmeric, thyme, rosemary, coriander and everything in between.

So, as you can see, there are a lot of foods included in those categories, and we weren’t even able to list half of them in some cases (like herbs and spices). However, it still may be looking a little restrictive. Don’t worry though – you are not necessarily limited to these foods. We’ll take a look at what is definitely out of bounds, and then take a look at the questionable options…

Paleo salad

The No Go Zone

There are some foods and ingredients that you need to steer clear of if you want to follow a paleo diet. They include processed foods, refined sugar, grains, most dairy products, legumes, artificial additives, vegetables oils, margarine and soda. Let’s take a more in depth look at what you cannot eat on a paleo diet…

Sweeteners

In relation to sweeteners, avoid refined sugar, high fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners. That includes fizzy drinks, fruit juice, table sugar, generic chocolate brands, candy and sweets, pastries, ice cream, diet sodas, cakes and buns, and sugar free chocolate bars that use artificial sweeteners. That is a broad overview but there are many, many other packaged and bakery foods that are in the no go zone. Avoid anything that has sugar, sucrose, corn syrup or sweeteners like saccharin, acesulfame, aspartame, sucralose and neotame as a general rule.

Donuts

Grains, Legumes & Wheat

In relation to grains and legumes, avoid bread, pasta, wheat, spelt, rye, barley, beans and lentils. This is one of the questionable out of bounds food groups, because beans and lentils are extremely healthy. The reason paleo followers avoid this food group is because of the antinutrients in legumes and beans, such as lectins and phylates. Some believe the antinutrients cancel out the nutrients. However, that is not true. A number of studies prove the health benefits of legumes outweigh their antinutrient content. It gets more and more complicated, but to put it simply, washing and cooking them significantly reduces the impacts of the antinutrients. It also ensures your body soaks in the beneficial nutrients.


Yoga For Pregnancy (The Latest Research, Instructions & Videos)

Many doctors recommend prenatal yoga to their patients, and with good reason. Research has shown the benefits of yoga for overall health, with some studies also specifically looking at its benefits for pregnancy. Here’s a guide to first, second and third trimester yoga, with some basic poses to try at home, and video classes…

What you need to know about prenatal yoga in your first, second and third trimesters...

 

What Is Yoga?

Yoga is not just a physical exercise – it is a spiritual and mental practice as well, and can even extend to a way of life, with diet and meditation playing a major role in this ancient system as well. However, during pregnancy, you can make it whatever you want it to be. You can simply reap the physical benefits, including flexibility and opening the hips, or you can reap the relaxation and deep breathing benefits, which will help during labor.

Yoga has been around for thousands of years in India, but was not recognized in the West for its many benefits. However, the last few decades have changed that with scientists, medical doctors and fitness experts embracing yoga as a healing, beneficial practice. It has been proven in Western researchers for its many benefits, including:

Pregnancy yoga

  • Increased flexibility
  • More strength
  • Better balance
  • Improved posture
  • Toned muscles
  • Healthier joints
  • Less stress and anxiety
  • Better sleep
  • Calmer mind
  • Improved lymphatic system
  • Improved respiratory function
  • Better circulation
  • More energy
  • Lower blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Stronger immune system
  • Improved memory
  • Better mood
  • Better digestion
  • Increased bone strength
  • Better sex

Prenatal yoga

What Not To Do When You’re Pregnant

It is important to err on the side of caution when doing any physical exercise during pregnancy. However, there were a number of yoga poses and techniques that were considered dangerous to practice when pregnant, that have since been okayed by the experts. A US study published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology looked at 25 healthy pregnant women in their third trimesters. They practiced 26 yoga poses, including stretches, twists and standing poses, during guided one-on-one sessions. Researchers found that downward facing dog, happy baby and corpse pose were all safe to practice, as long as women had healthy pregnancies and no high blood pressure or gestational diabetes. Those poses had previously been considered dangerous to practice during pregnancy. The study avoided inversions, however, because those poses risk falling.

Downward dog

Therefore, prenatal yoga still does not include inversions, as well as poses that require you to lay flat on your belly, including locust and bow pose. Having said all that, in the first and second trimester, it’s important to be even more cautious and would generally be advised to avoid strong twists and bends.

First Trimester

While all pregnancies vary, and some mothers-to-be breeze through this trimester, while others struggle to keep anything down. To understand what’s happening, and why this time can see the biggest adjustment, let’s look at what’s actually happening. For the first three months, the body has to suddenly develop a life-support system for the baby. Hormones are released, blood volume increases, blood pressure decreases, and joints and muscles loosen to accommodate a stretching uterus. This is a delicate time when pregnant women are at their highest risk of miscarriage, so precautions need to be taken when doing any form of exercise. During the first trimester, women tend to be tired because of the physical exhaustion from the body internally working over time. That means a gentle hatha or restorative class (with prenatal precautions) are some of the more appropriate yoga options.

Second Trimester

It’s important during this stage of your pregnancy not to over stretch your abdomen. One of the particularly beneficial during this stage to work on strength, so focusing less on flexibility in poses, and more on engaging muscles. That means using every opportunity to delve further into the strength of a pose. In standing poses, for example, when your instructor says, ‘lift your knee caps’, use your upper thigh muscles to do that. Or if you are instructed to subtly draw your ankles towards each other in a warrior pose, use your inner thighs to get that extra engagement.

Prenatal yoga class

If you are in a regular yoga class rather than a specific prenatal class, make sure you firstly tell the teacher you’re pregnant, and how far along you are. But secondly, you can make your own little adjustments. For example, in forward folding poses, don’t compress your belly – make sure you create space. In uttanasana, you could use a yoga block for your hands in order the create that space, and in child’s pose, open your thighs apart to create space for your belly in between them.

In balancing poses, the most important thing is not to fall or over strain your core to save yourself from falling. If you are comfortable trying balancing postures, like tree pose, do so near the wall so that you always have the option of steadying yourself or stopping yourself from falling or straining. You will notice during these poses that your balance is different, because your center of gravity will be shifting, so be prepared to feel less balanced than you did before in yoga and work through it slowly and carefully.

Third Trimester

By this stage, you will be very aware of the little person living and moving inside. Every kick and movement can be felt, and, let’s be honest, the body is under a large amount of pressure. This is the time when lower back pain can crop up, as well as sore feet and over-curving the back. Yoga is one of the most beneficial things you can do at this stage for your comfort. What you want to try and focus on if you are suffering from some of those issues is relieving them through specific poses and sequences. Not only that, but I yoga class or session can be a much-needed escape from the mental pressures of the third trimester as labor approaches. You can use this time to look inward and prepare yourself mentally for giving birth, practicing focus and breath. During your third trimester, exercise is safer than it was, particularly in the first trimester. The biggest obstacle to get over is the big bump that can get in the way, and the extra weight you have to carry and hold in poses. However, you should still avoid inversions, strong twists, backbends, intense abdominal work and any poses that involve lying on the belly.


Understanding Vitamins & Their Health Benefits (+ How They Work)

We hear a lot about vitamins and how important they are to things like immunity. Vitamins A, B, C, D, E and K are essential nutrients that need to be consumed every day to maintain body function through healthy cells, nerves, skin and tissues. This guide explains why you need each of these vitamins, what foods to get them from, and what to eat with them in order for your body to absorb and utilize them.

 

 

What Are Vitamins

Vitamins are both organic compounds and essential nutrients. Organisms require vitamins daily to function, but in limited amounts. They are essential for normal metabolism and deficiencies of certain vitamins can cause medical conditions. There are currently 13 recognized vitamins. Let’s take a look at the function of each of them and what food sources to get them from…

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is important to maintain healthy skin, protect against infections, improve night vision and boost the immune system. It also helps protect against some cancers. Vitamin A is a fat soluble vitamin and its chemical names include retinol, retinal and certain carotenoids, including beta carotene. There are a number of health issues that may suggest a vitamin A deficiency. They include mouth ulcers, poor night vision, acne, dry skin, dandruff, diarrhea and a poor immune system, or, frequent colds or infections.

Vitamins

Best Food Sources

Foods high in vitamin A include carrots, sweet potato, cabbage, pumpkin and squash, beef liver, melons, mangoes, tomatoes, broccoli and apricots.

B Vitamins

There are a number of important B vitamins. Let’s look at each of them.

B vitamins

B1 (Thiamine)

B1 is not a Banana in Pyjamas character, and neither is B2 for that matter. Not in this context, anyway! (That’s an Australian reference, for those who are feeling confused right now). Thiamine helps the body use protein in an effective way, and is essential for brain function, digestion and energy. If your muscles feel particularly tender, or if you have pain in your eyes or stomach, constipation, irritability or poor concentration, you may have a B1 deficiency.

Best Food Sources

Foods high in vitamin B1 include watercress, kale, squash, zucchini, yeast, sunflower seeds, oranges, lamb, asparagus, mushrooms, peas, capsicum, cauliflower, cabbage, tomatoes, Brussels sprouts, beans and lettuce.

B2 (Riboflavin)

This water soluble vitamin helps the body use fats, sugars and proteins for energy, and is needed to repair and maintain healthy skin, nails and eyes. Gritty eyes, sensitivity to bright lights and cataracts may be signs of a deficiency. Other signs may include a sore tongue, dull or oily hair, eczema, split nails and dry, cracked lips.

Best Food Sources

Get your daily dose of vitamin B2 from mushrooms, tomatoes, watercress, cabbage, broccoli, pumpkin, cabbage, asparagus, bananas, chard, yogurt, eggs or fish.

Riboflavin

B3 (Niacin)

Niacin is essential for energy production and brain function. It is a water soluble vitamin and is also vital to maintaining healthy skin. It helps balance blood sugar, lower cholesterol levels, and it plays a role in digestion and controlling inflammation. A vitamin B3 deficiency may cause diarrhea, insomnia, headaches, poor memory, anxiety, depression, bleeding gums and dermatitis.

Best Food Sources

Foods rich in niacin include mushrooms, tuna, salmon, chicken, turkey, lamb, cabbage, tomatoes, zucchini, squashp, cauliflower, avocado, nuts and legumes.

B3

B5 (Pantothenic Acid)

B5 is another water soluble vitamin that is involved in energy production and in controlling fat metabolism. Your brain and nerves need this vitamin to function and it helps make natural steroids in the body, as well as maintaining healthy hair and skin. If you suffer from muscle tremors or cramps, poor concentration, tender heels, nausea, exhaustion from light exercise, lack of energy or anxiety, or ‘pins and needles’ in your extremities, you may have a pantothenic acid deficiency.

Best Food Sources

Good food sources include broccoli, avocado, mushrooms, alfalfa, peas, lentils, cabbage, celery, tomatoes, strawberries, eggs, squash and whole wheat.

Strawberry

B6 (Pyridoxine)

This water soluble vitamin is essential for the body to digest and utilize protein. It is also important for brain function and hormone production. It is often associated with easing PMS and menopause symptoms because of its anti-depressant properties and its role in helping to balance sex hormones. Water retention, tingling hands, anxiety, depression, muscle tremors and cramps, anemia and low energy levels could be signs of a pyridoxine deficiency.

Best Food Sources

Get your vitamin B6 supply from nuts, bananas, watercress, cauliflower, cabbage, red kidney beans, eggsbe, squash, broccoli, turkey, lentils, tuna, onions and asparagus.

Red kidney beans

B7 (Biotin)

Another water soluble vitamin, B7 helps the body metabolize proteins and process fatty acids and glucose. Like all essential nutrients, biotin cannot be synthesized by the human body, and therefore has to be consumed. This B vitamin is made by bacteria, yeast, algae, mold and certain plants. Biotin deficiency is rare, but symptoms may include dermatitis, hair loss, lack of appetite, depression, fatigue, insomnia and intestinal inflammation.

Best Food Sources

Foods with biotin include liver, yeast, cheddar cheese, salmon, sardines, peanuts, avocado, raspberries, banana, cauliflower, eggs and mushrooms.

Biotin

B9 (Folic Acid Or Folate)

Folate is a water soluble B vitamin and a vital nutrient. It is particularly beneficial to women trying to get pregnant. It is critical for the development of the brain and nerves of a fetus during pregnancy. A folate deficiency can potentially cause serious problems, including birth defects and blood diseases. Folate is also essential for brain and nerve function, and is needed for protein utilization and the formation of red blood cells. Anemia, eczema, cracked lips, anxiety, low energy levels, stomach pains and severe headaches may be signs of a folic acid deficiency.

Best Food Sources

Beans, broccoli, spinach, asparagus, baker’s years, liver, legumes, leafy vegetables, nuts, sprouts and avocado are some of the best folate foods. In some cases, a doctor might also recommend people take a folate supplement, especially women trying to get pregnant.

Folic acid

B12 (Cyanocobalamin)

The body needs B12 in order to make use of protein. It is also essential for energy because it helps the blood carry oxygen around the body. The brain and nerves need it to maintain proper functionality, and the body needs it for DNA synthesis. There are a number of deficiency symptoms, including dull hair, eczema, sensitivity in the mouth, irritability, anxiety, low energy levels, pale skin, constipation and anemia.


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