The Effect of Sugar on Your Brain

While your body does need some sugar or glucose to create energy, it only needs a little to carry out its required functions. Consuming too much sugar is harmful to your overall health. The overconsumption of sugar is becoming more and more linked to health issues related to the brain such as depression, memory problems, learning disorders, and overeating.

Your Body Sees Sugar as a Drug

Sugar has become the substance that is moving the U.S. into a situation of medical collapse. While many think of illicit drugs as being the only substance that can do this, sugar has actually been proven to trigger a reward state in the brain that is similar to addictive drugs.

Not only can sugar substitute for illegal drugs such as cocaine, it can even be more rewarding.

The effects of sugar on your brain may help explain why people have difficulty limiting their consumption of sugar when they are continuously exposed to it. Studies suggest that there is a high degree of overlap between the parts of the brain that are involved in processing natural sugar and illicit drugs.

Non-drug addictions have become increasingly studied and have shown themselves to manifest in symptoms such as craving, lack of behavior control, increase in tolerance, withdrawal symptoms and relapse.

How Sugar Addiction Begins

The brain’s nucleus accumbens and prefrontal cortex drive a person’s intentional actions, such as continuing to consume sugar.

The prefrontal cortex also activates dopamine, which helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers. The long-term stimulation of this area of the brain begins the process of addiction.

When you consume sugar, you experience pleasure from the dopamine signal that is sent to your nucleus accumbens, which makes you want to consume more. With prolonged exposure, the pleasure signal weakens, causing you to consume more sugar to get the same effect. If you discontinue taking the substance, you experience withdrawal symptoms, which means you have an addiction.

Each time you consume sugar, a pattern in the brain is activated and becomes more defined, making it easier to activate the pattern in the future. Soon, the neuronal pathway that is led by the addiction becomes your brain’s unconscious default. Because your brain wants to be efficient, it takes the most familiar route, which requires your substance of choice.

Food Addiction Is Real

Research has used MRIs to examine the effects of foods that are high in sugar on brain activity. The researchers found that after eating a high glycemic index meal, blood sugar spikes and then later has a sharp crash. This crash in blood sugar stimulates more brain activity in the brain’s pleasure center, causing the brain to crave more sugar.

Sugar and Alzheimer’s Disease

Insulin is often associated with keeping your blood sugar stable, but it also works with the signals in your brain. Studies have shown that when the signals of insulin in the brain are disrupted, researchers are able to induce confusion, the inability to remember, and disorientation, which are all common signs of Alzheimer’s.

Studies have linked type 2 diabetes with an increased risk of dementia, and even a mild elevation of blood sugar can lead to an elevated risk for dementia.

How Glucose and Fructose Affect Your Brain

Increases in fructose consumption are parallel to the increases that are seen in obesity rates. Because of this, diets that are high in fructose are believed to promote weight gain and insulin resistance. Studies have been done using MRIs to identify the neurophysiological factors that are related to fructose consumption versus those of glucose consumption.

The research shows that fructose, which is extracted from corn, may increase the brain’s interest in food, while glucose triggers the brain’s satiation signal, telling you that you’re full.

This research, as well as others, have shown the importance of paying attention to the kind of sugar you are consuming. Because fructose does not stimulate insulin and therefore doesn’t let your brain know when you are full, you are likely to continue to eat past the point of being satisfied and develop insulin resistance.

Research also shows that consuming fructose may influence you to eat impulsively, continuing to consume food even after your body should have known that you have had enough. Continuing to consume fructose in large amounts will become problematic if you are already in the habit of overeating.

Fructose Leads to Weight Gain

Fructose is often consumed in beverages such as soda and juice, making its negative metabolic effects even worse. The high fructose corn syrup in beverages is metabolized as body fat much quicker than any other sugar.

The liver is solely responsible for metabolizing fructose. This harms and overloads your liver, opening it up to the possibility of damage. Fructose also promotes adipose fat, which is a body fat that collects in your midsection and is associated with a higher risk of heart disease.

Unlike liquid high fructose corn syrup, the fructose that is found in fruits and cane sugar is bonded with other sugars, which decreases its metabolic toxicity. Eating large amounts of fructose is the quickest way you can harm your health. It invites health problems such as:

  • arthritis
  • cancer
  • gout
  • heart disease
  • insulin resistance
  • metabolic syndrome
  • obesity
  • type 2 diabetets
  • high blood pressure
  • high LDL cholesterol
  • liver disease

How to Limit Your Sugar Consumption

Natural sugar is not bad when it is consumed in small amounts that let you burn fat as your main fuel. However, processed fructose can have significant effects on your health.

It is important to limit your consumption of processed foods, refined carbohydrates such as cereal, pasta, bread, and other grain foods, because these foods break down into sugar, increasing your insulin levels and leading to insulin resistance. It is best to keep your fructose consumption below a total of 25 grams per day. It is important to remember that fruits naturally contain fructose.

If you consume a high amount of fructose from fruit, you can decrease your insulin sensitivity and raise your uric acid levels. Artificial sweeteners also cause health problems that are worse than the problems associated with high fructose corn syrup and sugar. To limit your sugar consumption:
eat more healthy fats in foods like avocado, almonds, salmon, and coconut oil
drink plenty of water
add fermented foods to your diet such as kefir and kimchi

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The Dangers of Pain Relievers

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are commonly used for pain relief in the U.S., both by prescription and over-the-counter. NSAIDs are often used to treat inflammation and pain and most people take these drugs believing they are safe. However, the side effects of NSAIDs can not only send someone to the hospital, but they can also be fatal.

Long-term use of these drugs or NSAID poisoning can lead to severe side effects such as hearing loss and gastrointestinal bleeding. Recent research shows that even short-term use of NSAIDs can result in harmful side effects, such as an increased risk of a heart attack.

As an increasing number of NSAIDs that are on the market are causing serious health problems, further studies are being conducted on the side effects of these common pain relievers and if the risks of the drug outweigh the benefits.

Myocardial Infarction

A myocardial infarction, more commonly referred to as a heart attack, occurs when damage is done to the heart muscle after its blood supply is blocked. The signs of a heart attack are not always clear or even related to the heart. While chest pain is the most common symptom, people can experience other symptoms such as nausea and shortness of breath. These symptoms may seem subtle, but they can have enormous consequences.

NSAIDs and Heart Attack Risk

Studies have recently been done to evaluate the risk of a heart attack associated with the use of NSAIDs. Researchers gathered information from European and Canadian studies and healthcare databases in order to evaluate the probability of having a heart attack during the first week of taking specific NSAIDs.

The studies found an increasing probability of a person suffering a heart attack in the first week for several types of NSAIDs, including the popular drug ibuprofen. The risk of having a heart attack increased 24% with celecoxib, 48% with ibuprofen, 50% with diclofenac, 53% with naproxen, and 58% with rofecoxib, which has since been removed from the market.

Further, the studies showed that there was an increased risk of having a heart attack with higher doses of NSAIDs, which is more likely to happen with prescription doses than over-the-counter doses.

Warnings also noted that taking NSAIDs can increase the risk of having a heart attack in people regardless of their history or risk of heart disease. However, patients who are treated with NSAIDs during their first year following a heart attack are more likely to pass away than those who refrain from taking NSAIDs.

The Differences Between NSAIDs

In studies, celecoxib and diclofenac showed one wave of increased risk during the first week of use, while ibuprofen, rofecoxib, and naproxen showed an additional elevated risk during throughout the second through fourth weeks of consuming the drug. It is possible that the differences between the various NSAIDs are related to the individual drugs’ effect on the renal system.

Due to the findings of MI risk associated with the use of rofecoxib and results from earlier studies, rofecoxib was removed from the market.

Further Risks of NSAIDs

NSAIDs can have other negative impacts on one’s health, including an increased risk for miscarriage during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. Studies have shown that women who took NSAIDs early on in their pregnancy more than doubled their risk of miscarriage.

The researchers believe that the drug’s effect on the lipid compounds that support a pregnancy may be the issue. Additionally, NSAID use is associated with atrial fibrillation in those who have had a heart attack in the past. You may not think this applies to you, however, research shows that up to 45% of heart attacks are asymptomatic and clinically silent. These heart attacks are often not discovered until the patient has a routine physical exam or electrocardiogram where a doctor can see that there has been damage done to the heart muscle.

In addition to an increased risk of a heart attack, using NSAIDs also increases one’s risk of bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract. While upper GI bleeding is reported more often than lower GI bleeding, there is also a risk for inflammation and increased mucosal permeability in the lower GI tract. Lower GI bleeding can result in anemia, protein loss, occult blood loss, and malabsorption.

Painkillers Can Be Dangerous

Use of over-the-counter NSAIDs have also been associated with hearing loss and renal function abnormalities, such as fluid retention, reduced renal function, and electrolyte complications. High doses or long-term use of NSAIDs are associated with kidney damage that may become permanent and lead to kidney failure.

Opioid prescriptions rose 100% between 2000 and 2010, which is likely linked to the global epidemic of opioid addiction. Patients who have been on opioids for just one month show significant changes in their brain volume. The number of opioid-related deaths rose from just over 10,000 each year in 2002 to almost 35,000 in 2015. Due to this addiction epidemic, some states are trying to hold manufacturers accountable for deceptive marketing practices that led to the current addiction problem.

Drug-Free Pain Management

Trying to manage pain without addressing the causative issue is likely to increase your risk of having harmful side effects from the medication. It is best to explore other options before using painkillers, even if it is only for a short period of time. Many pain-relieving drugs may increase your risk of having heart attack, alter your behavior, and even change your brain chemistry.

One great option for drug-free pain management is getting sufficient sleep. Getting a full eight hours of sleep every night can help you manage any discomfort that you are having.

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Calculating Net Carbs for Your Health

When you plan out your meal for the day, do you know what vitamins, minerals, and other nutritional values your food contains? Do you know how to read a nutrition label to help you with your weight loss goals?

Diets that are designed to limit carbohydrates suggest figuring out the net carbs in a meal by starting with the grams of carbs listed on the label, then subtracting the dietary fiber and any sugar alcohol that the food contains. This net carb calculation leaves you with the sugars that are in a food after the fiber and sugar alcohol contents have been factored in. Because some kinds of carbs have less of an effect on blood sugar than others, net carbs refer to only the carbs that affect your blood sugar.

Why are people concerned about net carbs?

“Net carbs” became a household term when people started to eat low carb diets in the early 2000s. When people were worried about carbohydrates causing weight gain, they felt like they could eat more carbs if they also ate the nutrients that counteracted them, making their net carb intake significantly lower.

Additionally, eating a low-carb diet allows dieters to eat more. The idea here is that you can eat as much fiber and sugar alcohol as you want because it helps to burn the fat-causing carbs.

Makes sense, right?

Not quite.

Net carbs are not regulated on food labels by the FDA, and the calculations for net carbs can vary by each manufacturer. Only carbohydrate information that can be broken down into sugar alcohols and dietary fiber is actually regulated by the FDA. These are the carbs that significantly impact one’s blood sugar level.

Also, if you go on a low-carb diet, you are cutting out important food groups such as grains, certain vegetables, and fruit, which can cause you to miss out on some vital nutrients. Some nutrient-dense produce does not have a large impact on blood sugar and are not likely to decrease the amount of weight that one is able to lose.

Net Carbs vs. Total Carbs

Net carbs equal the total carbs in a food minus the fiber. When you want to limit your intake of net carbs, this is not equal to eating a low total carb diet because limiting carbs from fiber would not be productive because your body requires a lot of fiber carbs to stay healthy.

The problem with carbs is that they do not burn as well as fat does and they produce 30 to 40% more free radicals that damage important cellular structures like your cell membranes and mitochondrial DNA.

Limiting your net carbs can, in turn, help you replace them with healthy fats that will change your body into burning fat for fuel rather than carbs.

How to Track Your Nutrition and Health

You need to know a lot of information in order to learn what foods are best to eat for weight loss while still giving your body the nutrition that it needs for optimal results. If you want to burn fat for fuel, you can use an online nutrient tracker. This will take out all of the math involved in calculating your nutrition needs and take the mystery out of being healthy.

These can tell you how much fat, carbohydrates, and protein you have eaten, the statistics of your total calories, and ratios for omega-6 to omega-3, potassium-to-sodium, and zinc-to-copper.

Benefits of the Cronometer

The Cronometer is a web app that helps you count calories and track your diet. It allows you to preplan your meals and add in the information about the food before you eat it. This allows you to analyze your carb, protein, fiber and healthy fat intake. This app also has discussion forums that address a wide range of topics about your health journey.

Net Carbs, Fiber and Your Blood Sugar

The number of net carbs that are listed on a food label do not necessarily reflect the true number of carbs that your body absorbs. Also, everyone processes carbs differently.

Simple net carbs have just one or two sugar units and are in foods such as fruits, vegetables, sugar, milk, syrup, and honey. Alternatively, complex carbs have many sugar units that are linked together in foods such as grains and starchy vegetables. When you eat carbs, the enzymes in your small intestine break them down into individual sugar units, which is what your body absorbs.

There are two types of fiber, soluble or insoluble. Insoluble fiber helps to prevent constipation and has no impact on blood sugar, caloric intake, or insulin levels. However, soluble fiber dissolves in the gastrointestinal system and creates a gel-like substance that makes you feel full and helps food move through your system.

Sugar Alcohol

Sugar alcohols are sugar alternatives that include ethanol. They are a mix of sugar and alcohol molecules and can be found not only in chemically-concocted foods, but also in fruits and vegetables.

Some sugar alcohols, such as xylitol, erythritol, maltitol, and sorbitol are very controversial in the sense that they are known to cause significant digestive distress.

Eating a lot of sugar alcohols in a short period of time can lead to bloating, gas, and diarrhea. People who suffer from IBS or are sensitive to FODMAPs may want to avoid sugar alcohols altogether. The worst sugar alcohol for causing these symptoms are sorbitol and maltitol, while erythritol seems to be less offensive.

FODMAPs are short-chain carbohydrates that are difficult for some to digest. This is common for people who have IBS. Rather than using these sweeteners, it is best to use natural substances, such as stevia.

Increasing Healthy Fats and Limit Net Carbs

Not only is it important to limit your net carb intake to help improve your metabolic health, but it is also important to increase the number of healthy fats that you consume. The type of fuel that you give your body to burn makes a huge difference in your weight loss success.

While a typical diet reduces calories, it is still high in sugar and carbohydrates. This results in cycles between blood sugar spikes and drops. This makes it difficult to lose weight.

It is important to keep an accurate journal of your net carbs and determine and maintain your body’s balance to help it function at its best. Using a tracker such as Cronometer can help you to optimize your nutrition so you are able to feel good and look good without having the mystery about what you should be eating.

Good Health and Net Carbs

Almost all diseases, including obesity, begin with metabolic mitochondrial dysfunction. Improving your metabolic mitochondrial function with your diet means you have to radically reduce your net carb intake and replace it with high-quality fats.

It is important to limit your net carbs because foods that are high in sugar cause your blood sugar to rise. Glucose is a harmful fuel that creates free radicals in the body that fat does not. The core of the problem is that your cells have to be healthy to be able to use fat for fuel.

For example, cancer cells do not have as much metabolic flexibility. These cells primarily burn glucose. This means that eating a healthy high-fat diet is an effective cancer prevention strategy.

When your body starts to burn fat instead of glucose as its primary fuel, your healthy cells can be more easily be nourished while your cancer cells are starved. Your body then becomes increasingly efficient in burning fat. This helps prevent and treat diseases, which is the key to good health.

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How Fat Can Benefit Your Metabolism

Believe it or not, dietary fats are the best fuel for our metabolism. There are several health benefits of a high-fat diet.

Fat vs Carbs

Studies have tested traditional weight loss advice by decreasing sugar consumption and increasing exercise. While this does result in weight loss, that weight is also often brought right back on and oftentimes even more weight is gained. This has resulted in people having weight problems all around the world.

People’s food choices are preventing them from losing weight, and traditional weight loss advice can actually steer people in the wrong direction in the long-term. Sticking to a low-fat and low-calorie diet and increasing your exercise is not necessarily the answer to weight loss. If it was that easy, we would not be in this health crisis.

Flawed Dietary Guidelines

Our current dietary guidelines that promote a low-fat and high-carb diet have been influenced by the food and beverage industries for financial gain. As more research has been done on health and diet, we have learned that this is an antiquated way of thinking.

Instead, reports suggest that a low-carbohydrate and high-fat diet, along with reducing snacking between meals, may be the answer to this obesity problem. Studies show that eating fat does not make a person fat, and actually can have the opposite effect on one’s health. Additionally, there has been no proof that avoiding saturated fat reduces one’s risk of heart disease.

The consumption of vegetable oils have been shown to lower total cholesterol levels by 14% after one year, however, the overall risk of death actually increases. In fact, for every 30 point drop in cholesterol, there is a 22% increase in one’s chance of death.

In order to lose weight, it is important to stop counting calories and eat less frequently. Calories from different sources have different metabolic effects on our bodies, so counting them will not help when it comes to weight loss.

However, eating too much between meals is a large contributing factor to weight gain. To effectively lose weight, you must reduce your meal frequency. One option is to limit your meals to two per day with a six- or eight-hour break in between them. It is also best to avoid eating for three hours before going to bed to preserve your mitochondrial function.

Remember, you can not out-exercise a poor diet. Obesity stems from metabolic dysfunction that cannot be overcome by increasing exercise.

High-Fat Diets Improve Metabolic Health

The human body prefers fat over carbs for fuel.

When the body burns fat for fuel, the liver creates ketones, which are water-soluble fats, that burn more efficiently than carbohydrates. This creates fewer free radicals that can damage your cells, proteins, and DNA.

Ketones also make your body think it is fasting, which reduces inflammation and results in improved glucose metabolism. One problem with a diet that is high in carbohydrates is that when your body uses glucose as its primary fuel, it stops your body from accessing and burning body fat.

Skipping a meal or intermittently fasting can cause your body to down-regulate enzymes that use and burn stored fat. When this happens, your liver runs out of glycogen, which forces it to use the glycogen that is stored in your fat cells instead.

This all helps explain why it is not so easy to lose weight while you’re eating a lot of carbohydrates, especially all throughout the day, regardless of how much exercise you are getting. However, to get your body out of this unhealthy habit and boost your ability to burn fat, you must eat more healthy fats, reduce the amount of carbohydrates in your diet and do some intermittent fasting.

Healthy Fats

To burn body fat, you may up to 85% of your daily calories to come from healthy monosaturated and saturated fats, such as:

  • olive oil
  • raw nuts
  • raw cacao butter
  • grass fed meat
  • coconut oil
  • pumpkin seeds
  • black sesame seeds
  • egg yolks
  • avocados
  • butter
  • sardines

Any fat that is found naturally in food is a healthy fat. Unlike unnatural fats that can harm your health, these fats increase your healthy cholesterol levels, decrease LDL cholesterol levels, do not cause heart disease, produce fewer free radicals, serve as clean-burning fuel for your body.

Harmful Fats

Harmful fats are all manmade. These trans fats and highly refined polyunsaturated vegetable oils contribute to heart disease.

Trans fats act as a pro-oxidant and polyunsaturated fats are high in damaging omega-6 and can become toxic when heated. Additionally, when taken in large amounts, these fats cannot be burned for fuel and are therefore absorbed into cellular and mitochondrial membranes where they become susceptible to oxidative damage, which damages your metabolic system.

Unnatural fats also promote gut inflammation, damage the blood flow through the arteries in the brain, kill antioxidants in the body, attack the nervous system, and hinder brain development.

Effects of an LCHF Diet

Aside from just losing weight, people are able to reverse diabetes, improve their energy levels and sharpen their mental clarity on an LCHF diet.

Evidence suggests this type of diet can help prevent chronic diseases, such as cancer and cardiovascular disease.

These results may be surprising to some, but this low-carb, high-fat diet is really able to benefit some people when it comes to losing weight. Most importantly, it is critical to eat the right things in order to have a diet high in healthy fats, low in carbs, and moderate amounts of protein. This will help shed body fat, improve metabolism, boost energy, reduce inflammation, promote optimal health, and increase longevity.

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Plank Variation for Optimal Core Strength

You know it is important to keep your core strong, but do you give some variation to your core exercises to make sure that it is getting the strength conditioning it needs?

Core exercises are a critical part of a diversified fitness program that will help keep your body in tip-top shape. However, aside from just doing the occasional situps and pushups, core exercises can easily be neglected.

Keeping your core in its best shape has a lot of long-term benefits on your health. These exercises help to improve your balance and stability by training the muscles in your pelvis, abdomen, lower back, and hips so they all work together. Most sports and even just daily activities require this balance and stability and depend on your stable core muscles.

Having strong core muscles makes it easier to do everyday activities from grabbibg a glass off of the top shelf to swinging a golf club or leaning over to tie your shoes. Weak core muscles can result in poor posture, muscle injuries, and lower back pain.

One of the best core exercises you can do is holding a plank. This can help to keep your abs strong and the muscles around them all working in unison. However, planks are not exactly exciting.

Here are some different plank variations that will keep your body guessing. Begin by mastering your favorite variation, making sure that your form is correct and your entire body is engaged.

Once you feel comfortable with one variation, try to hold it for 30 seconds or do a set of five reps. Then, work your way up to holding the position longer and doing more reps. Here are some variations for you to try.

Side Plank

A simple side plank is one of the most common plank variations and is a great place to begin if you want to take a step up from your basic plank. Side planks are great for increasing shoulder stability and awareness, creating core and back strength, and challenging the stability of the body. When doing a side plank, make sure to keep your wrist or forearm directly below your shoulder to ensure proper stability.

Oppositional-Reach Plank

This is a great variation to do to test your balance and increase your core engagement. Start in a kneeling plank with your hips level with the ground and extend one hand forward with the opposite leg extended straight back. Hold this pose for a moment and then use controlled movements to return to your starting position. Repeat on the other side.

Hip-Drop Plank

Get in a standard plank position. Keep your core muscles engaged as you slowly tilt your right hip to aim towards the ground. Return your body to center and repeat on the other side. Incorporating movement into your plank helps you strengthen your body’s ability to balance and stay stable while bracing the spine.

Light Knee Taps

Adding in some knee taps and moving your limbs while doing planks adds some additional elements of balance, stamina, and finer muscle targeting. While you are in your plank position, lower your right knee and lightly tap it on the ground before returning to plank position. Do the same on the other side. This will help engage your obliques and quadriceps as well.


A shoulder-mobility plank is another mobility and strength combination. To do this, get in a standard plank position and slowly lift up one hand and elongate your arm, then move it up to the ceiling and bring it down behind you, creating a full circle back to your starting position. Repeat this on the other side as well. It is important to keep your hips steady while you are doing this because staying balanced and keeping your muscles engaged will help you benefit the most from this exercise.

Apple-Picking Twisting Side Plank

It is healthy to include controlled twisting motions in your exercise routine. Start in a side plank position with your forearm resting at your side and your feet stacked. Take your opposite hand and reach towards the sky.

While doing this exercise, keep your hips perpendicular to the floor and do not let them sag. Maintain a straight line throughout your entire body. Using your overhead hand, pretend to reach up high as if you are picking an apple off a tree. Do this with control and keep a neutral spine as you rotate your upper body toward the ground and you put the imaginary apple into a basket that is under your chest. Repeat this move on the other side.


This is a great variation to do if you want to lighten up your obliques.

Start by getting into a standard plank position and slowly lift one foot up off the ground and pull the knee toward the opposite elbow. Keep your body stable and your core strong to get the most benefit from this exercise.

Return to your original plank and repeat this move on the other side. This move not only targets your abs from another angle, but it also adds variety to your workout which can fight off mental fatigue.

Gliding Plank

After you have tried all of the many variations of bodyweight planks, add in some equipment, such as moving gliders. Start out in a regular plank position and put the gliders under your feet. Slowly slide your feet out to the sides, one at a time and then together.

Dragging Plank

You can use your gliders here as well. Start in a straight-arm plank and put the sliders under your feet. Keep your abs engaged and do not let your hips sag while you walk one hand at a time forward, allowing your feet to drag behind. You can even try to do this move backwards.

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Warming Up Your Upper Body Before Lifting

Are you sure that you are giving your upper body the warm up that it needs before doing a workout? Often, people stick to basic arm swings and stretches before working out their upper body. However, doing an upper body warm-up before lifting weights is a critical part of the process. If you do not properly warm up, you are putting yourself at a greater risk for injury and increasing your chances of becoming sore after a workout.

In order to keep your workouts safe and effective, try doing an upper body warm-up that will improve your wrist and shoulder mobility. This warm-up can also strengthen your shoulder, core, and upper back.

Improving your shoulder strength and mobility can also help you to overcome a plateau in upper body exercises such as pull ups and incline push-ups. This specific warm-up also focuses on your abdominal and oblique muscles to help increase your core strength.

In order to do an upper body warm-up, complete two rounds of these exercises in order.

Wrist stretch on floor

There are a few ways that you can do this. A simple way is to get on your hands and knees with your elbows straight and your palms facing up. Bear down on the backs of your hands until your wrists feel a stretch.

In this same position, move your fingers up towards the sky and back down again to create a deeper stretch into your wrists.

Hollow-body plank

This is a well-known stretch for gymnasts that helps strengthen the core and stretch the shoulders and wrists. To do this, get in a plank position up on your hands and toes. Twist your arms so that your fingers are pointing back towards your body. Keep your heels and legs together. Hold this pose.

Scapular pushup

Start in the pushup position with your hands directly under your shoulders and your core held in tight. Simply retract and protract your shoulder blades to create a very slight up and down movement. You should only be moving up and down one or two inches.

Single-arm hollow plank, right

Get into a push-up position on the floor with your arms straight. Place your arms slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and put your hands just below your shoulders.

Keeping your legs straight, form a straight line with your body. Keep your pelvis, spine, and neck neutral and keep your head in a line with your spine.

Raise your right arm in front of you and hold this position while tightening your core.

Floor angel

Lay down flat on your back with your knees up and your feet on the ground. Lift your arms up over your head with your palms facing up. Slowly bring your arms back down so your hands are even with your ears. Repeat this movement.

Single-arm hollow plank, left

Repeat this exercise, raising your left arm instead of your right.

Y-Press out

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and push your arms up and out so your body makes a “Y” position. Pull your arms back towards your body before pushing them back out into the “Y” position.

Hollow-body pushup

Get in a pushup position but lift up your body with your toes. Slowly lower your upper body by bending your elbows, bringing your nose towards to ground. Hold this position with your arms supporting your body with your elbows bent before lifting yourself back up.

Do each of these moves for 30 seconds with a 10-second break in between. After your first round, do another to complete your warm-up.

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Health Benefits of Magnesium

New research shows that magnesium may be a key component to reducing the risk of certain diseases such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Over one million subjects were involved in a study at Zhejiang University and Zhengzhou University in China, making it the largest study on the benefits of magnesium to date. The study found that consuming an additional 100 mg of magnesium through your food each day can help protect against these diseases.

The results of the study showed that people who consumed the most magnesium had a 10% lower risk of coronary heart disease, a 12% lower risk of having a stroke, and a 26% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared to people who took the least amount of magnesium each day. Their findings showed that an extra 100 mg of magnesium per day may reduce the risk of stroke by 7% and diabetes by 19%.

A review of heart disease research studies over the span of almost a century found that low magnesium levels may be the greatest predictor of heart disease, not cholesterol or saturated fat intake like people may assume.

Why is magnesium so important?

Magnesium is essential for regulating metabolism and helping lower blood pressure and dilate the arteries. Most people in the U.S. are deficient in magnesium, meaning that they are not getting the health benefits from it that they could.

It is best to have a 1-to-1 ratio of magnesium to calcium in your diet, in addition to vitamin D and vitamin K2. Together, these vitamins help protect your bones and your heart.

Research from 40 epidemiological studies dating back to 1999 that measured associations between magnesium and various diseases reinforces the conclusion that an increase in dietary magnesium can be beneficial to one’s overall health. All of the studies used self-reporting food questionnaires and took biological factors, lifestyle, location, and gender into account.

Magnesium is critical for human health and for the body’s ability to carry out everyday biological functions such as glucose metabolism, DNA synthesis, and protein production. Diet is the primary source of magnesium and can be found in spices, beans, leafy green vegetables, nuts, and cocoa.

Eat food rich in magnesium to combat heart disease.

Magnesium is among the top five abundant minerals in the human body and over 300 enzymes rely on magnesium to carry out their functions. Some of these functions include producing energy, relaxing blood vessels, maintaining oral health and regulating insulin. Magnesium also helps your body get rid of toxins and synthesize glutathione.

When your body gets the amount of magnesium it needs, it flushes the rest away, making it a mineral that cannot become toxic.

While some professionals recommend taking 200 mg of magnesium per day, others recommend taking up to twice that amount. However, age and sex are both factors to take into consideration. Foods other foods that are high in magnesium include:

  • Kale
  • Bok choy
  • Raw cacao
  • Spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Avocados
  • Collard Greens
  • Fruits and berries
  • Turnip greens
  • Beet greens
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Squash
  • Swiss chard

There are many common foods that contain significant amounts of magnesium, so it is not too difficult to get it into your diet.

As you can see, magnesium is very beneficial to one’s overall wellbeing. Try to eat any many magnesium-rich foods as possible and if necessary, take a high-quality supplement to make sure that you are getting enough of this mineral.

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Negative Effects of Sleep Deprivation

Many people do not get sufficient sleep that their bodies need in order to function at an optimal level. So, what happens when you try to keep your body running without giving it the proper rest and fuel? Your health suffers both physically and emotionally, and the effects of this can pour over into your personal and professional life.

Exhaustion May Lead to Short Tempers

If you find that some of your co-workers are quick to anger, it may be due to a lack of sleep, even if just for one night. Studies on employees have revealed that employees admit to acting rudely towards others and bending company rules when they have not gotten enough sleep. This is especially true in employees who already do not put enough value on moral traits.

A poor night’s sleep may make it easier for those who already do not have high moral standards to display unacceptable behaviors. This may be because people lose a bit of self-control when they are tired, which makes them act selfishly.

Children’s Behavior and Lack of Sleep

Of course, children tend to act out if they are tired, but research has suggested that not getting enough sleep in early childhood can have an effect on one’s behavior as they get older.

Researchers have found that the sleep children get between the ages of 3 and 4 years old affects them later on in life. Without enough sleep during these formative years, by age 7, these children have lower scores on their overall function and general behavior.

For children to get high-quality sleep, it is important to provide them with a solid bedtime routine that does not involve TVs or smartphones. It is also important to help them wind down with a bedtime story or another relaxing activity.

Skipping Sleep to Get More Accomplished is Likely Counterproductive

Sleep deprivation takes a heavy toll on one’s health, raising the risk of obesity, chronic disease, and premature death, which costs the U.S. economy over $400 billion each year in lost productivity. If you choose to work late into the night instead of getting sleep, you will probably be unproductive the next day, which will counteract your efforts of staying awake.

Some professions, such as being a law enforcement agent, require long shifts with hours that extend late into the night, disrupting the circadian rhythms and causing sleep deficiency. This can also have a strong effect on one’s safety and their ability to do their job functions.

Studies have even shown that those who experience insomnia symptoms are twice as likely to leave a career due to health-related disorders than those who get sufficient sleep. People with insomnia may experience the following symptoms when trying to have a successful career:

  • Elevated risk of accident
  • Excessive absenteeism
  • Reduced productivity
  • Lack of progression or promotion
  • Lower job satisfaction

Sleep Deprivation Increases Risk-Taking and Affects Decision-Making

The pre-frontal cortex, which influences risk-taking and social behaviors, is impacted by sleep deprivation. Sleep loss also affects one’s ability to make sound decisions. Research has shown that people who lose sleep two nights in a row and then have two full nights of sleep still performed relatively poorly on a decision-making test, suggesting that you can not “catch up” on lost sleep.

The studies show that sleep deprivation is especially problematic for people who are trying to make a decision that involves uncertainty or an unexpected change. This is important for understanding and managing cognitive impairment due to insomnia in careers involving emergency response, military operations, disaster management, and other dynamic settings that have uncertain outcomes or unexpected last minute changes.

Is it Worth it to Lose Sleep?

Losing quality sleep has a significant impact on not only your mental health, but also your overall wellness. There are many health benefits to developing proper sleep habits and staying consistent with it every night. So, how should you improve your sleep? There are several steps you can take if you are not getting the sleep that you want or need.

If you’re having trouble sleeping, start to track your sleeping patterns to see what outside factors really have an impact on you. Also, avoid exposure to screens several hours before bedtime. The blue light that is emitted by screens reduces the melatonin that your body is able to create.

Make sure to get sun exposure that is in line with your circadian rhythm. This means exposing your skin to bright sunlight during the day and then shielding yourself from light at night. If you are in the dark all day, your body will not be able to tell the difference between day and night, and it will not regulate your melatonin production.

Keep your bedroom temperature below 70 degrees F. Studies show that many people keep their homes too warm for optimal sleep and the best room temperature for quality sleep is between 60 and 68 degrees F.

Do something calming before bed such as taking a hot bath. This will send a signal to your brain that it is time to wind down.

Finally, avoid using jolting alarm clocks. Being woken up in an abrasive way each morning starts your day off with stress. Once you begin to get enough quality sleep, you will likely not need an alarm and wake up naturally.

Getting quality sleep should be a priority in people’s health. The body needs that time to restore and heal itself to prepare you for the challenges that come along with the following day.

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Steps to Making the Perfect Salad

While salads used to be an afterthought or a side dish, they are often now the main course of a meal. With the inclusion of fresh vegetables, nuts, and grains, you can fit all of the food groups into one dish and make a hearty salad that will suit your appetite until the next meal. Here are some salad suggestions and inspirations to help you create delicious and healthy salads throughout the week.

Make a Theme

Just like many restaurants do, think of a theme for your salad to help narrow down its ingredients. For example, if you want to do a southwestern-style salad, grab some black beans and corn to go on top of a bed of fresh greens. You can also put some avocado or guacamole on top with a little bit of salsa. A few crispy tortilla strips would add a bit of crunch.

You could even choose to highlight some in-season ingredients that are full of flavor such as watermelon and berries during the summer and root vegetables in the winter like sweet potatoes.

Is there a salad at a restaurant that you find yourself craving? Try recreating it for a less expensive version. This will give you more control over its ingredients and dressing as well. Maybe add extra slivered almonds if you prefer or go a bit lighter on the dressing than they would do at a restaurant.

If you just want to make a side salad, consider your main dish to get some inspiration. For example, do you have leftover avocado from your dinner ingredients? Maybe some grilled onions if you are making burgers? Chop them up and add them to your salad to tie the whole meal together.

Consider Your Greens Wisely

Use fresh, organic greens if they are available, and thoroughly dry them before adding any dressing. Any water that is left on your greens will repel oil, so your dressing will not go on evenly and your salad will feel heavy and damp.

Kale is a great option because it is sturdy and will not be disintegrated by dressing in the refrigerator for a few days. It can hold up well over time because it is so thick. Arugula is also great, however, it is best to eat it within two days of dressing it. Arugula does have a bitter taste that some people do not like, so if you are using arugula, consider mixing it in with other leafy greens as well. To be safe, keep your dressing and your salad separate until you are ready to eat it.

Romaine, spinach, butter lettuce, red leaf, etc. are all great options as well, however, it is important to store these greens away from any dressing and toss the dressing into the salad immediately before serving it.

Create Some Hearty Additions

Consider the theme of your salad to help you choose complementary flavors and textures. Use leftover grains such as quinoa and farro to add some depth and substance to your salad. Chickpeas and black beans also help make your salad a more hearty meal and add a lot of healthy protein.

To create some texture, add cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli. This will add a crunchy substance as well as additional vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. You can also turn to thinly sliced cabbage or Brussels sprouts.

Complement Your Ingredients

Start with your fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs to complement the theme of your salad. Then, consider contrasting the textures in your salad to make them more interesting. One great idea is to incorporate cooked vegetables with raw lettuce. For example, caramelized roasted vegetables like broccoli, onions, and peppers, can add a sweet flavor to some bitter lettuces, and apple cubes can add some additional texture to some salads.

Add in some healthy fats with avocados or olive oil. Also, toast some nuts to not only add flavor, but also a ton of protein and nutrition. You can also turn to dried fruit for some crunch that also adds some sweetness.

Some other distinctive add-ins include homemade croutons, torn pita bread, crispy tortilla strips, toasted coconut, and granola.

Properly Dress Your Salad

If you are going to go through all of the trouble to make a beautiful and delicious homemade salad, store-bought dressing may just ruin it. Instead, find a homemade salad dressing recipe that you love and make it in a large batch so you can always have some in the refrigerator.

Making salads is so versatile and there really is a mixture of ingredients out there for everyone’s needs. Highlight your meal with a salad on the side that complements the entree or make your salad the main course and serve with a side of hearty bread for a complete meal.

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Do Plums Lose Health Benefits When They Turn To Prunes?

It is widely known that eating prunes helps digestion, but prunes have a lot of other health benefits that should not be overlooked. All prunes are plums, which indicates that plums are also a great source of nutrition. But which is better for you?

History of Plums

Plums are an ancient fruit that are closely related to peaches and apricots. They are believed to have originated in China and moved over to the Mediterranean regions by Alexander the Great.

Plums are a drupe, meaning that they are a fleshy fruit with a thin layer of skin and a central pit that contains the seed. As plums are dehydrated and become a dried fruit, they are referred to as prunes.

Plums have a high sugar content, which allows them to dry without being fermented. So once they are dried, do the health benefits increase or decrease?

Prunes retain both the soluble and insoluble fiber from plums and are also full of antioxidants that help prevent cell damage from oxidation and free radicals.

Plum Nutrients

Fresh plums are a rich source of vitamins that the body needs to properly function. A cup of sliced plums delivers 26% of the recommended daily intake of vitamins C, 13% percent of the RDI for vitamin K, and 11% of the RDI for vitamin A. Vitamin C is essential for the body to form, grow, repair, and maintain bodily tissues such as the skin, bones, blood vessels, and teeth. Plums also contain significant amounts of thiamine and riboflavin as well as several other nutrients like calcium, potassium, and iron.

Prune Nutrients

Although the majority of vitamin C in plums is lost during the drying process, prunes actually contain significantly higher concentrations other nutrients that are found in plums. One cup of pitted prunes contains 129% of the RDI of vitamin K, 36% of the RDI of potassium, 27% of the RDI of vitamin A, and 9% of the RDI of iron.

Vitamin K is an important nutrient for protein function in the body that help blood coagulation, and vitamin A is beneficial for eye health. Prunes also contain calcium, B vitamins, and magnesium.

Fiber Content

One cup of plums has 2.3 grams of fiber, which is not a very significant amount. Prunes, however, are an excellent source of fiber, containing 12.4 grams per cup. Most of the fiber in prunes is soluble, which helps lower the body’s level of fatty acids and unhealthy cholesterol. Soluble fiber can also help maintain blood glucose levels because it slows down the body’s absorption of sugars. Plums and prunes also have insoluble fiber, which draws water into the bowels, increasing the size and softness of stools. Because of this, prunes are commonly used for the treatment and prevention of constipation.

Antioxidant Capacity

Plums are among the top 10 fruits with the most antioxidants. They are also rich in betacarotene, anthocyanins, chlorogenic acid, and other important phytonutrients. The vitamin C content of plums also boosts their antioxidant capacity.

Due to the fact that prunes are a concentrated source of the vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that are found in plums, they actually have six times the amount of antioxidants than plums. Prunes are significantly higher in antioxidants than any other form of produce, either dried or fresh.

In conclusion, both plums and prunes are great sources of glucose and fructose, which provide the body with readily available energy. One cup of sliced plum contains 76 calories and almost 19 grams of carbs, of which most are sugars. However, one cup of pitted prunes has 418 calories and 111 grams of carbs, of which about half are sugars.

It is important to limit your intake of prunes due to the high sugar content. A single serving of prunes should not exceed 1/4 cup.

To get the most out of plums for the benefits of their vitamin C content, be sure to eat them raw. To add fiber to your diet, add some chopped prunes to your yogurt or whole-grain dishes. This will also increase your intake of nutrients and antioxidants.

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