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Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness

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These Everyday Foods Have a Powerful Connection With Mental Well-Being

Eating these foods is associated with greater optimism, happiness, higher self-esteem and better relationships.

Consuming fruit and vegetables could be just as good for your mental well-being as it is for your physical health, a new study finds.

The study of 14,000 people in the UK found that the more fruit and vegetables they consumed, the higher their mental well-being (Stranges et al., 2014).

Mental well-being is about more than just not being depressed: it means positively feeling good.

People with higher mental wellbeing are more optimistic, happier, have higher self-esteem and better relationships with others.

Dr Saverio Stranges, the study’s first author, said:

“Along with [not] smoking, fruit and vegetable consumption was the health-related behaviour most consistently associated with both low and high mental well-being.
These novel findings suggest that fruit and vegetable intake may play a potential role as a driver, not just of physical, but also of mental wellbeing in the general population.”

The results showed that amongst those who ate five or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day, 33.5% had high mental well-being.

fruits veggies

Amongst those who only ate one portion per day, this figure dropped to just 6.8%.

Other lifestyle factors were also important, but only not smoking was as consistently associated with higher well-being as fruit and vegetable consumption.

Although this study only tells us that fruit and vegetable consumption and higher mental well-being are associated, other studies have shown a stronger connection.

One asked participants to log how much fruit and vegetables they ate over a 21-day period, as well as their mood (White et al., 2013).

The researchers found that eating more fruit and vegetables one day predicted better mood the next day.

There is also much evidence linking fruit and vegetable consumption with better physical well-being, so increased mental well-being is not a stretch.

Professor Sarah Stewart-Brown, one of the study’s co-authors, concluded:

“Mental illness is hugely costly to both the individual and society, and mental well-being underpins many physical diseases, unhealthy lifestyles and social inequalities in health.
… [high] fruit and vegetable intake could [enable] people to enhance their mental wellbeing at the same time as preventing heart disease and cancer.”




11 Reasons You Should Be Having More Orgasms

The Huffington Post    By Renee Jacques    Posted: 11/05/2013 

Clearly, we don’t need to convince you to have sex. It’s hard-wired into our brains to propagate the species. And anyway, it feels pretty awesome. But here’s more good news: Having an orgasm could help improve your health.

One of the main reasons orgasm feels so good is because your brain releases the pleasure hormone oxytocin when you climax. Oxytocin is also called the “love hormone” because of its important role in facilitating social bonding between humans. Most of the following points revolve around the release of oxytocin. Read on to discover eleven ways achieving an orgasm can make your life so much better…

1. Orgasms relieve stress.

In sexologist Beverly Whipple’s book, “The Orgasms Answer Guide,” she cites a study done by Carol Rinkleib Ellison in 2000, in which Ellison interviewed 2,632 women between the ages of 23 and 90 and found that 39 percent of those who masturbate reported that they do it in order to relax. Whipple says this is all because of oxytocin. When someone orgasms, she explains in her book, “the hormone oxytocin is released from nerve cells in the hypothalamus (a region of the brain) into the bloodstream.”

“Orgasm relives tension as oxytocin stimulates feelings of warmth and relaxation,” Ellison herself wrote in an informational report compiled by Planned Parenthood.

Additionally, research gathered in a study by scientists at Groningen University in the Netherlands found that when women experience an orgasm, the amygdala, the part of the brain associated with fear and anxiety, shows little to no activity.

2. An orgasm could make your significant other less likely to cheat.

Researchers in Germany decided to conduct an experiment in 2012 testing the power of oxytocin. They believed that high doses of the “love hormone” would cause men to consider going outside of their relationships, so they gave oxycotin to a group of (heterosexual) men and introduced them to a very attractive woman. The subjects were asked to determine when the attractive woman was at an “ideal distance” or an “uncomfortable distance.”

Those who took oxycotin and were in monogamous relationships ended up distancing themselves about four to six inches farther than those who took oxytocin and were single. The researchers hypothesized that instead of oxytocin causing coupled men to cheat, it instead compelled them to hold on tighter to the bond they have already formed with their girlfriends.

3. The female orgasm could make men focus better.

There is so much power in the orgasm that an organization in San Francisco, called One Taste, is devoted to the practice of “orgasmic meditation,” in which two partners focus on achieving the female orgasm. Recently, actress and former Playmate, Karen Lorre, revealed to HuffPost Live that she has 11 orgasms a day due to One Taste’s new meditation practices. Even men have claimed that they receive health benefits by just pleasuring a woman. In a New York Times article on One Taste, a man confessed that “fixing his attention on a tiny spot of a woman’s body improves his concentration at work.”

4. Orgasms could help with insomnia.

Would you rather take a sleeping pill or have a mind-blowing orgasm to help you catch some Zzs? We think we know the answer. In her book, Whipple cites another study done by Ellison in which she reported that 32 percent of 1,866 U.S. women said they masturbate in order to facilitate falling asleep.

Why? No one knows for sure, though some researchers and sex therapists theorize that the release of other neurochemicals, like endorphins, can have a sedative effect, reported Self.


5. A man’s orgasm could (maybe) make a woman less depressed.

A controversial study of college students in relationships at the State University of New York in Albany showed that women who had sex without condoms had fewer signs of depression than women who used condoms or refrained from sex, even when researchers controlled for relationship status and other personal factors.

What does this mean? Semen, resulting from the male orgasm, could be an effective antidepressant for women. That said, unprotected sex is NOT something we’d recommend — after all, an STD or unplanned pregnancy can surely also contribute to depression, along with other medical and social risks.

The lead psychologist of the study, Gordon Gallup, told New Scientist that he believes the reason semen has the potential to lift a woman’s mood is because of the several mood-altering hormones found in it. Gallup said that most of these hormones were found in the women’s blood shortly after ejaculation.

6. Orgasms help alleviate pain.

“There is some evidence that orgasms can relieve all kinds of pain — including pain from arthritis, pain after surgery and even pain during childbirth,” Lisa Stern, a nurse practitioner who works with Planned Parenthood, told Woman’s Day. That’s thanks to pain-relieving oxytocin and endorphins, reported MSNBC contributor Brian Alexander. Alexander cited research from Beverly Whipple, who found that women’s pain tolerance and pain detection increased by 74.6 percent and 106.7 percent respectively, when those women masturbated to orgasm.

7. They could help men get over their colds faster.

A study at a German university studied 11 men who were asked to masturbate until completion. Blood was drawn continuously throughout the process, and it was discovered that sexual arousal and orgasm increased the number of “killer” cells called leukocytes. This means that when men are sick, an orgasm could initiate components of their immune system that could help them get over that bug sooner.

8. Steady orgasms could help you live longer.

In 1997, a group of researchers in Wales decided to look into the relationship between orgasms and mortality. They studied the sexual frequency of 918 men between the ages of 45 and 59. They evaluated those who died from coronary heart disease and discovered that those who had two or more orgasms a week died at a rate half of those who had orgasms less than once a month. The researchers concluded that “sexual activity seems to have a protective effect on men’s health.”

While women’s orgasms have not been studied as extensively, Howard S. Friedman, PhD, and author of “The Longevity Project: Surprising Discoveries for Health and Long Life,” decided to look into research conducted on couples. He cited a marital satisfaction study conducted by Stanford psychologist Lewis Terman in 1941, looking at the sex lives of 1,500 Californian couples. Terman recorded the frequency of orgasms these women had. Twenty years later, Friedman and his colleagues studied the death certificates of each of the women in Terman’s study. What they discovered was that the women who reported a frequency of orgasm during intercourse tended to live longer than those who reported being less sexually fulfilled.

9. Orgasms will also stimulate your brain.

Orgasms sure get your blood flowing, and that doesn’t exclude blood flow to your brain. In August, Rutgers researchers Barry Komisaruk and Nan Wise, asked female subjects to masturbate while lying in a MRI machine that measured blood flow to the brain. When the females orgasmed, it increased blood flow to all parts of the brain while allowing nutrients and oxygenation to travel to their noggins as well.

10. Orgasms could keep you looking young.

Forget Botox, just have an orgasm. Dr. David Weeks, a British consultant clinical psychologist and former head of old age psychology at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital, spent 10 years quizzing thousands of men and women of differing ages about their sex lives. He discovered that those between the ages of 40 and 50 who reported having sex 50 percent more than other respondents looked younger. While this study does not explicitly state the specifics as to why orgasms could make you look younger, Weeks says this could be because intercourse releases the human growth hormone, which makes skin look more elastic.

11. They just get better as you age.

There’s no reason to stop having sex when you get older. In fact, you are more likely to enjoy it even more as you enter old age. A study in The American Journal of Medicine found that sexual satisfaction in women increases with age. Researchers from the University of California studied 806 women living in a planned community home. The study measured the sexual activity of these women who had a median age of 67 and were all postmenopausal. The findings reported that sexually satisfaction actually increased with age, with approximately half of the women over 80 years old reporting sexual satisfaction almost always or always. So, never stop having orgasms!

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6 Ways to Become More Mindful

How aware are you of the thoughts, feelings and sensations inside your body? Do you every truly focus on every sensation you experience? If so then you are probably a believer in mindfulness. Mindfulness is a very important concept in Buddhism and it focuses on the concept that by being in the moment and being aware of every thought and feeling your body experiences you can enhance your physical and mental well being.

Here are six ways you can become more mindful:

Rise and Shine

Being mindful can start from the minute you wake up every morning. Before you jump out of bed to get on with your day take some time to focus on the environment you are waking up in and the sensations of the world around you. If you start your day in a mindful day then you will start it calm and relaxed, and you will find your days are calmer and happier.

Enjoy Your Food 

Many people are so time poor that they wolf down their food, and a vast percentage of the population even eat their lunch at their desk whilst continuing with their work at the same time. Instead to eat more mindfully, eating should be the only thing you focus on. Taste your food, savor every mouthful, and experience the flavors and textures you may never have experienced before.

Stop Multitasking

We live in a society where people value multitasking and the ability to do more than one thing at the same time is highly praised. However multitasking doesn’t make you more productive: if anything it can slow you down and cause unnecessary stress and pressure. Use mindfulness to focus wholly on just one task at a time and you’ll find yourself feeling calmer and happier, and less prone to rushing or making mistakes.

Take a Walk

In our rushed and modern society we are used to always being busy. However one of the best ways to be mindful and focus on yourself is to simply take time out. Take a walk and and think about how that meditative exercise makes you feel. Focus on your breathing and on how your body feels as you move it. Even a walk to the grocery store or round the block can become mindful walking if you focus your mind as you do it.

Let it Ring

When your phone rings don’t rush mindlessly to answer it. Instead take a second or two to focus on your breathing and gather your thoughts before you answer. Focus on the effect the ringing phone has on your body (it causes many people to become more tense, for example) and breath deeply before you mindfully take your call.

Capture The Sceneconsciousness-spiritual-creation

Finally, if you really want to be as mindful as possible in your everyday life then try your hand at mindful photography: no camera required! Take mental photographs of everything you find interesting and everything you’d like to remember as you do round your everyday life. Think about what details you’d like to capture and take the time to focus on them to commit them to memory.

Author: Juliette Foster

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The 11 healthiest foods in the world

Grown without chemicals and loaded with nutrition, these 11 foods will keep you (and the planet) healthy for life.

By Rodale News Thu, Mar 08 2012

WHOLE FOODS: Full of nutrition and easy on the planet. 

J.I. Rodale, the man who founded Rodale Publishing, launched the organic farming movement in America. A strong believer in the power of food to heal, he knew long before organic went mainstream that producing the healthiest food meant growing it in the healthiest soil — soil enriched naturally with organic matter, not synthetic, petroleum-based fertilizers that can rob it of vital nutrients and minerals. In a 1947 issue of Rodale’s first magazine, Organic Gardening, J.I. Rodale outlined “The Rodale Diet,” a simple recommendation of easily accessible healthy foods, grown without the use of toxic chemicals that, if followed 20 to 30 percent of the time would “give disease a smart punch in the solar plexus.” And 65 years of nutrition science have proved him right. All of the foods he recommended back in the ’40s, studies are finding, contain the highest amounts of disease-fighting antioxidants, essential fatty acids, and other vital nutrients that are deficient in the modern American diet. If you want to follow “The Rodale Diet,” here’s what you need to get started.


J.I.’s take: “Here is an animal that, unlike cattle, does not eat food raised with chemical fertilizers. It feeds in waters rich with minerals, prominent among which is the most valuable element, iodine.”

Why it’s healthy: Saltwater fish, to which Rodale was referring, are the most commonly consumed, and one of the healthiest, sources of protein consumed worldwide. Even today, saltwater fish still don’t eat food raised with chemical fertilizers, but the problem is, they’re becoming harder and harder to find. Overfishing has ballooned since J.I. Rodale’s day, and the list of saltwater fish that have managed to continue to exist in healthy amounts is getting shorter by the day.

How to get it: Go with the safest fish to eat, namely wild fish living in sustainably managed fisheries, such as wild Alaskan salmon and wild-caught Pacific sardines. There are a number of farmed fish that are raised without damage to their surrounding environment, but some, such as farmed tilapia and catfish, are fed corn that may be have been genetically modified and grown with pesticides.


J.I.’s take: “Kelp is rich in potassium. It is believed that the reason there is a complete absence of hay-fever cases in the Orient is the fact that the Japanese and Chinese eat liberally of this product.”

Why it’s healthy: An edible form of brown algae, kelp contains more than just potassium. It’s rich in iodine, protein, magnesium, and other minerals at levels higher than most land vegetables. It’s also rich in the omega-3 fatty acid EPA.

How to get it: “Overall, kelp harvesting is a sustainable practice that can have low impact on the marine environment if done right,” says Matthew Huelsenbeck, marine scientist with the conservation organization Oceana. However, he adds, some kelp farmers have started introducing genetically modified varieties, which can escape and contaminate the surrounding environment, and kelp grown in waters near polluting industries could be contaminated with heavy metals. “About 80 to 90 percent of kelp on the market comes from China — a species called Japanese kelp,” he adds. Because the name is confusing, it can be hard to know where your kelp is coming from. So stick with domestically raised kelp: Maine Coast Sea Vegetables sells kelp raised in the Gulf of Maine.


J.I.’s take: Grown in beds of rich organic matter, mushrooms were grown without the use of any pesticides, he said, “because it would kill out the very spores which are needed to develop into mushrooms.” Not only that, but they’re rich in iron and protein.

Why they’re healthy: Mushrooms are not just healthy, they’re vital in boosting your immune system and preventing infections, and they’re becoming increasingly valuable tools in medicine, where research is finding that mushroom compounds can fight diseases such as breast cancer. But nowadays, commercial mushroom producers do use heavy amounts of insecticides, says Thomas Wiandt, an organic mushroom farmer in Ohio and owner of Killbuck Valley Mushrooms. “Common practice is to grow them in caves, or cavelike structures,” he says. Those areas provide optimal breeding grounds for insects, so the crops are often misted with insecticides (which are different types of pesticides than fungicides, which aren’t used because they would kill of the spores mushroom need to grow). U.S. Department of Agriculture tests have detected 14 insecticide residues on mushroom crops. “Not only that, a mushroom has a highly absorbent surface,” Wiandt says.

How to get them: Get the health benefits without the toxic chemicals — go organic.


J.I.’s take: “A good source of fats and carbohydrates,” coconuts also “provide excellent exercise for the teeth.” Coconut palms also didn’t require heavy doses of synthetic, petroleum-based fertilizers.

Why it’s healthy: Though high in saturated fat, coconut products, particularly coconut oil, are proving to be exceptionally healthy. Studies on populations that consume high quantities of coconut oil have found lower rates of heart disease, and coconut oil is one of very few sources of lauric acid, which helps your immune system fight bacterial and viral infections.

How to get it: Every part of the coconut is valuable — even the shells are being used as water filters in some areas. In J.I. Rodale’s day, coconuts were probably harvested wild, but now, coconut palm plantations have taken over Southeast Asia, where most of the world’s coconuts are grown. Plantations deplete the soil of nutrients and increase pest problems — increasing the need for synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. But it might be hard to find certified-organic whole coconuts, so opt instead for organic coconut products, such as Dr. Bronner’s certified-organic and Fair Trade coconut oil or Body Ecology organic Coconut Water.



J.I.’s take: “Watercress is never grown with chemical fertilizers. It grows along brooks and other running waters and … it contains more iron than spinach.”

Why it’s healthy: It’s not just an iron powerhouse. Scientists have also found that the antioxidants in watercress can battle breast and lung cancers, and a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that eating just three ounces a day boosts your levels of certain antioxidants by 100 percent.

How to get it: You probably won’t find much wild watercress in grocery stores, but hydroponic watercress (grown directly in water) is the most commonly available type. The benefit: Few pesticides are needed in hydroponic operations, and the plants are still grown without synthetic fertilizers.

Wild berries

J.I.’s take: Wild fruit trees grow without chemical help, and even cultivated cranberries and other berries, in Rodale’s day, were rarely treated with pesticides.

Why they’re healthy: Wild berries, wild blueberries in particular, have higher levels of antioxidants than their cultivated counterparts. One Canadian study found that wild blueberries can counteract inflammation and insulin sensitivity, two factors that, when abnormal, can contribute to arthritis and diabetes. Rodale was particularly fond of mulberries, huckleberries and blackberries, all of which have a higher antioxidant content than cultivated berries.

How to get them: Wild blueberries can be found in the freezer section of your grocery store (the season for fresh wild blueberries is very short), but for other wild berries, you’ll have to go out foraging during spring and summer.

Wild rice

J.I.’s take: Rodale seemed fascinated by this wild grass that grew in swamps and wanted his readers to send in more information about its cultural significance.

Why it’s healthy: Native to the Great Lakes regions of Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota and parts of Canada, wild rice has been hand-harvested in canoes by Native American tribes that live in those areas for over a thousand years. Not technically a grain but a grass, wild rice is rich in protein, fiber and B vitamins. Since it grows wild, there is no need for toxic pesticides or water-polluting fertilizers, and it’s harvested in the least environmentally damaging way possible.

How to get it: Most “wild rice” on store shelves isn’t wild at all but a hybrid product cultivated in paddies. Keep an eye out for wild rice that’s actually wild, sold by companies like Eden Foods and Native Harvest.

Wild game

J.I.’s take: Rodale liked wild game because it was “free of the taint of chemical fertilizers” since the animals forage for food in the wild. But he was first turned on to it as a healthy superfood by a physician who was prescribing diets of wild game to patients with high blood pressure.

Why it’s healthy: Wild animals aren’t just free of the taint of chemical fertilizers; they’re also free of hormones, antibiotics and even the antibiotic-resistant bacteria so common in factory-farmed animals, according to a study published last year in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology. Meat from deer, elk, wild boar and other feral creatures also has fewer calories, less saturated and total fat, and even lower levels of cholesterol. The primary concern with wild game is lead contamination; hunters use leaded bullets, fragments of which can get introduced into the meat.

How to get it: J.I.’s advice? “Go to the hunting regions during the proper season. Many of the resorts serve venison and other game meats.” But you don’t really have to travel that far in this day and age. A number of online retailers sell wild game meats. Just be sure to ask about whether the retailer tests for lead.

Maple syrup

J.I.’s take: “I strongly recommend that white sugar be dispensed with entirely and that maple syrup be substituted,” Rodale wrote.

Why it’s healthy: Overrefined and nutritionally void, white sugar comes from chemically intensive sugar cane and sugar beets — Rodale’s reasoning for eliminating it from his diet. Now, sugar beets aren’t just pesticide-heavy, they’re also being genetically modified to grow faster so Americans can have access to more cheap sugar we don’t need. You need just a small amount of maple syrup to sweeten your coffee, baked goods, or oatmeal, and it’s actually good for you. Scientists recently discovered more than 50 compounds in maple syrup known to battle cancer and heart disease.

How to get it: Find organic maple syrup at any grocery store or visit your farmers market to get the good local stuff. Don’t fall for “pancake syrup” that’s mostly high-fructose corn syrup dyed brown with “maple flavoring” added.


J.I.’s take: “Natural honey is full of living hormone-like qualities, which makes it a valuable adjunct to the diet.”

Why it’s healthy: Honey is rich in antioxidants and is often used as an antiseptic treatment on wounds. As Rodale said, it also contains phytoestrogens, and studies on Greek honey have found that those phytoestrogens can blunt the growth of breast, prostate and endometrial cancers. Honey also has a low glycemic index, so using it to sweeten tea or coffee won’t lead to energy-busting blood sugar drops later in the day.

How to get it: The best honey is raw, local honey from a nearby farmer. A recent test by Food Safety News revealed that more than 75 percent of the honey sold in the U.S. is so heavily processed and filtered, a process that removes all of the pollen in honey, that it would flunk quality standards set by most of the world’s food agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration.


J.I.’s take: J.I. valued nuts — particularly walnuts, pecans, filberts and pine nuts — because the trees on which they grew lived in soils rich in organic matter that had built up for centuries. That soil enriched nuts with minerals and protein.

Why they’re healthy: Today, nuts are grown on trees raised in plantations that, unless certified organic, have resorted to heavy doses of chemical fertilizers. But find a certified-organic nut supplier, and you’ll get all the protein and minerals that J.I. valued without the extra dose of pesticides. In addition, walnuts and pine nuts are good sources for essential fatty acids that protect your brain, heart and bones.

How to get them: If you’re having a hard time finding organic nuts at the store, take a walk. Though pecan and pinyon (pine nut) trees grow wild only in certain areas, walnut trees exist pretty much everywhere. Just keep an eye out for trees bearing large green shells that resemble green apples. Crack one open and the nut is resting inside a soft casing that will dye your hands brown.

source: Rodale.com   www.rodalenews.com


Proven Ways to Get Happier Right Now

Long hours at the office, a lack of sleep, poor nutrition and other stressful events in life can chip away at your happiness, leaving you feeling less than savory at the end of the day. If you find yourself feeling stressed or flooded with this kind of negative energy, it’s important to remember that you are in control of  your thoughts, and ultimately, your life.

It is up to you to get happier, and to do that, positive changes must be made.

It’s a proven fact that more people in this world want happiness in their life over being rich or famous.  Unlike becoming rich and/or famous, reaching your own state of happification doesn’t have to be hard.  In fact, it can be FUN when you use proven methods that work best for you.    The great part about happiness is that ANYONE can find it.  Here are 5 of our favorites:

5 Scientifically Proven Ways to Get Happier Right Now

1. Drink Green Tea

The ancient secrets of green tea have always been revered for its soothing and relaxing qualities.

This sweet little leaf has also been shown to improve mood. A University study released scientific results showing that people who consumed green tea were more relaxed, attentive, and in a better mood overall. So sit down, have a cup, and cheer up!

2. Exercise more

Exercise releases proteins and endorphins in the brain that makes us happier, acting as a cure (and preventative agent) for depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and many other afflictions.

A study published by the National Institutes of Health can reduce anxiety, improve mood, increase brain power and provide many other  health benefits.  More research has also revealed that if you exercise within the first 20 minutes of being active, you’ll witness the benefits of having a better day overall.


3. Meditate

Numerous scientific studies (over 200 in 2013) concluded that there are many positive benefits to meditation, including statements from the American Medical Association that say meditation is a beneficial practice.

One study in particular involved Neuroscientists at Harvard University who conducted a study that shows the brain can be physically changed with meditative practice.

In the study, Anatomical magnetic resonance images (MRI) were taken of 16 healthy participants before and after they underwent an 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program. This program is one of the most widely-practiced by those seeking better mental functioning and emotional control.

After the program was complete, a second set of MRI scans were taken. The images showed increased gray matter concentration in 4 regions of the brain, including the hippocampus and cerebellum, responsible for learning and memory processes and emotional regulation! The participants reported improved mental processing, emotional balance, and other benefits.

With all of this scientific support, it’s easy to see why meditation should be instantly recognized as a go-to source to get happier!

4. Sleep more

Sleep helps the body recover and repair, and also helps us focus and be more productive. It turns out, it’s also important for our happiness.

In the book titled NurtureShock, authors Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman recall one specific study that revealed sleep-deprived people fail to recall positive memories as well as they do negative ones.  In one experiment, sleep-deprived college students tried to memorize a list of words and could remember 81% of negative terms, but could only remember 31% of neutral or positive words.

Another study using facial recognitions proved that naps can block, or even reverse negative emotional reactions, while simultaneously boosting happy ones.

How well (and long) you sleep has a powerful affect on how you feel and your overall attitude throughout the day. Even the simple act of going to bed earlier has been shown to improve your sense of humor!

5. Get happier with gratitude

When life gives you a losing hand, remember how wonderful it is to still be sitting at the card table.  There is always, always, always something to be grateful for, even if it’s the fact that you’re breathing and reading this.

Science has shown that just by writing down what you’re grateful for, your mood can improve drastically.  Another study shows that by expressing gratitude, depression can decrease, and happiness and overall satisfaction with life can increase.


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Healthy Reasons To Enjoy Chocolate Every Day


Is there such a thing as a guilt-free pleasure when it comes to food? Absolutely, and chocolate is one of them. This delectable, seemingly addictive food is produced from the beans of the cacao tree, whose official name is Theobroma cacao. Its scientific name reflects our long-standing love of chocolate that’s endured for millennia (theobroma is the Greek word for “food of the gods”).

Here are a few scientifically proven health benefits of consuming moderate amounts of heavenly, high-quality chocolate.

1. It improves your mood.

Chocolate has long been associated with love, and now scientists have discovered a possible chemical connection. Chocolate contains a compound known as phenylethylamine (PEA), a brain chemical that’s released during moments of emotional euphoria. In addition to PEA, controversial findings suggest that chocolate contains pharmacologically active substances with the same effect on the brain as marijuana. The active ingredient in marijuana, THC, isn’t found in chocolate, but another neurotransmitter called anandamide is. Like THC, anandamide is naturally produced in the brain and binds to the same receptors as THC, which may help explain why, while eating chocolate will not make you high, it’s likely to engender some pleasant feelings or at least make you feel more relaxed and less anxious.

2. It’s good for your heart.

One of the key areas of research into the benefits of chocolate consumption is its effect on cardiovascular disease.  A growing amount of recent research suggests that:

  • Chocolate is a rich source of flavonoid antioxidants that are especially important in protecting against damage to the lining of the arteries.
  • Chocolate flavonoids prevent the excessive clumping together of blood platelets that can cause blood clots.
  • Unlike the saturated fats found in meat and dairy products, the saturated fats found in chocolate do not elevate cholesterol levels.
  • Frequent chocolate consumption is associated with a nearly 40% reduced risk for heart disease and a 30% reduced risk for a stroke.
  • Chocolate can provide significant amounts of arginine, an amino acid that’s required in the production of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide helps regulate blood flow, inflammation and blood pressure.


A is for Antioxidants

3. It’s associated with weight loss.

A recent study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine showed that frequent chocolate consumption was associated with lower body mass index (BMI) — a ratio of height and weight that’s used to measure obesity. The authors used data from 972 patients who answered the question, “How many times a week do you consume chocolate?” Their data indicated that chocolate consumption frequency was associated with lower BMI, even after adjusting for total calorie intake, exercise activity, and saturated fat intake.

These results are extremely promising. The researchers believe the benefits are once again related to the antioxidant flavonoids in chocolate. They do caution that the benefits of chocolate are only apparent with moderate consumption, and that consuming large quantities of chocolate would obviously be counterproductive to losing weight.

How much and what kind?

Since dark chocolate is higher in flavonoids, it offers the greatest health benefits. Most experts agree that the recommended “dose” of dark chocolate is approximately 30g to 60g/day (roughly 1 to 2 ounces).

In order to provide the most healthful choices of chocolate products, here are some suggestions:

  • For the biggest flavonoid bang for your caloric buck, choose high-quality dark chocolate. Limit daily intake to 1-2 ounces. The darker, the better.
  • Unsweetened dark cocoa powder is great for you, because it has no fat or sugar, and it’s high in antioxidants.
  • Avoid chocolate candies and treats made with hydrogenated fats or refined flour, neither of which promotes health.
  • Also pass on products labeled “artificial chocolate” or “chocolate flavored.” These imitations are not even close to the real thing in flavor, texture or health benefits.

In the right form, chocolate is a true super food. Of all the foods available on planet Earth, chocolate is perhaps the most magical and maybe one of the best health foods around. Fortunately, it’s also one of the most delicious, so enjoy it in good health.

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Health Benefits of Organic Food

Organic Food, Organic Food Basics

The health benefits of organic food are more based on perception than real facts. However, the sweeping public opinion that organic food is healthier than conventional food is quite strong, and is the main reason for about 30% of growth in the organic food industry over the past 5-6 years. Much of this inflated support of organic food as a healthier alternative comes from environmental groups who don’t want pesticides and fertilizers to do any more damage to the environment, so promoting organic foods, which don’t use those types of chemicals, seems like a good way to get the results they want. The producers of organic food are also very strong contributors to the idea that organic food is superior to other types.

First of all, there is a small amount of scientific evidence to show that organic food is better in quality than conventional food. Scientific research conducted thus far on various organic food items has not been able to give strong evidence about the superiority of organic food over non-organic food. As a result, even the FDA and the USDA clearly mention that non-organic food is as healthy as organic food. However, there are some scientific studies that have proved organic milk and organic tomatoes to be better than the non-organic varieties. Studies are also ongoing about a variety of other types of organic food that may have additional health benefits compared to the non-organic varieties.

Organic Milk

Recent research conducted on organic milk has shown that it has more antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, CLA, and vitamins than non-organic milk. According to the researchers at the Danish Institute of Agricultural Research at the University of Aberdeen and the Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research, organic milk is healthier than non-organic milk, since organic cows are pasture grazed which results in the better quality of milk.

Organic Tomatoes

According to a 10-year study conducted by the University of California, Davis, organic tomatoes are produced in an environment that has a lower nutrient supply since nitrogen-rich chemical fertilizers are not added. This leads to an excessive formation of antioxidants, such as quercetin (79% higher) and kaempferol (97% higher) in organic tomatoes. As we all know, antioxidants are good for health and help in reducing heart disease and the chances of developing cancer.

These studies have increased the hopes of numerous people who strongly believe that mankind should stop using chemical fertilizers and pesticides and shift to more sustainable organic farming practices. There are many studies that prove that there is some pesticide and fertilizer contamination in non-organic food, and there are others which claim that organic food is not healthy because they contain harmful bacteria and viruses because of not using strong chemicals to protect against these toxic substances. However, none of these studies that show chemical contamination or the presence of bacteria/viruses show any direct impact on the overall health of individuals.

Health Benefits of Organic Food

In general, organic food consumers, manufacturers, and farmers strongly believe that organic food has the following benefits compared to non-organic food. While there are plenty of arguments against the multitude of organic food being overpriced on the market, there is no denying that there are some benefits that can be enjoyed.

Antioxidant Capacity

A number of studies have been completed regarding the effects of antioxidants derived from organic foods on your overall health, and the predominant results have shown that antioxidants tend to have more of an impact when they come from organic foods. This may be due to the fact that foreign chemicals are not negatively interacting with the different vitamins, minerals, and organic compounds that are so essential for the positive impact of fruits and vegetables in the prevention of things like cancer, heart disease, premature aging, vision problems, and cognitive malfunction. Recent research suggests that choosing organic food can lead to increased intake of nutritionally desirable antioxidants and reduced exposure to toxic heavy metals.


Pesticide Reduction

One of the major complaints that organic food consumers cite when choosing organic over non-organic is the presence of pesticides. In order to keep crops from being attacked by the natural world, including bugs, pesticides are required. Although they do a good job keeping certain pests away from the crops, they also are composed of powerful chemicals like organophosphorus. This is an unnatural mineral compound that is not required by humans, but more than 80% of this material in our bodies comes from eating pesticide-coated foods. Organophosphorus has been connected to a number of developmental problems, including autism and ADHD, so those organic food lovers do have a pretty strong argument in this case. To be fair, many people do choose to go organic to make sure that their children grow up healthy and unaffected by the toxins of the world during their developmental years.

Heart Health

Increased amount of time grazing on grass also increases the amounts of CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) that can be found in the animal products. CLA is a heart-healthy fatty acid that can boost cardiovascular protection, and it is found in higher quantities in breast milk and in meat for animals that have been raised free range or cage-free.

Immune System

In recent decades, one of the biggest projects for farmers and food growers has been genetic modification. Making tomatoes six times larger might sound like a possible option for solving some world hunger issues, but there is another side to it. Genetic modification is still in its early stages, so the long-term effects of it on human health aren’t understood as well as we would like. In animal testing genetically modified food showed a major reduction in immune system strength, an increase in birth mortality, as well as in certain sexual dysfunctions, cancers, and sensitivity to allergens. Although there are some good things about genetically modified food, organic food advocates point to the lack of concrete details about the long-term effects.

Antibiotic Resistance

People are very sensitive to issues of their health, and they often take precautions to make sure they remain healthy, like getting various vaccines and taking antibiotics as soon as a new strain of bacteria makes them ill. However, non-organic food sources, particularly livestock and feed houses, also use antibiotics to feed their animals. This extra dose of antibiotics may actually be weakening our immune system by basically overdosing on antibiotics, thereby reshaping our immune system so many times that it will eventually be unable to defend itself. Organic food growers and dairy farmers do not use antibiotics in their processes.

Overall Health

Since organic food is not prepared using chemical fertilizers, it does not contain any traces of these strong chemicals and might not affect the human body in negative ways. Natural fertilizers, like manure, work perfectly fine, and organic farmers are happy to use this smellier, yet safer, form of fertilizer.

Better Taste

Some people strongly believe that organic food tastes better than non-organic food. The prominent reason for this belief is that it is produced using organic means of production. Furthermore, organic food is often sold locally, resulting in availability of fresh produce in the market, which usually does taste better than produce that has been frozen, shipped, and transported across long distances.

Environmental Safety

As harmful chemicals are not used in organic farming, there is minimal soil, air and water pollution; thus ensuring a safer and healthier world for future generations to live in.

Animal Welfare

Animal welfare is an important aspect of producing organic milk, organic meat, organic poultry, and organic fish. People feel happy that the animals are not confined to a miserable caged life when they eat organic animal products.