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The 11 Most Nutrient Dense Foods on The Planet

By Kris Gunnars 

There is only a limited amount of food you can eat in a single day.

In order to maximize the amount of nutrients you take in, it makes sense to spend your “calorie budget” wisely.

The best way to do that is to simply eat the foods that carry the greatest amount and variety of nutrients.

These are the 11 most nutrient dense foods on the planet.

1. Salmon

Not all fish is created equal.

Salmon, and other fatty types of fish, contain the greatest amount of Omega-3s.

Omega-3 fatty acids are extremely important for the optimal function of your body. They’re linked to improved wellbeing and a lower risk of many serious diseases.

Although salmon is mainly prized for its beneficial composition of fatty acids, it also packs a massive amount of other nutrients.

A 100 gram piece of wild salmon contains 2.8 grams of Omega-3s, along with lots of high quality animal protein and a ton of vitamins and minerals… including large amounts of Magnesium, Potassium, Selenium and all the B-vitamins.

It is a good idea to eat fatty fish at least once or twice a week, to get all the Omega-3s that your body (and brain) desperately need.

Studies show that the people who eat fatty fish regularly have a lower risk of heart disease, dementia, depression and a plethora of common diseases.

Also, let’s not forget the fact that salmon tastes awesome and is fairly simple to prepare. It also tends to make you feel full with relatively few calories.

If you can, choose wild salmon instead of farmed. It is more nutritious, has a better Omega-6:Omega-3 ratio and is less likely to contain harmful compounds.

Bottom Line: Fatty fish like salmon is loaded with beneficial fatty acids, protein, vitamins and minerals. It is a good idea to eat fatty fish every week.

2. Kale

Of all the super healthy leafy greens, kale is the king.

It is loaded with vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants and various bioactive compounds.

A 100 gram portion of kale contains:

  • 200% of the RDA for Vitamin C.
  • 300% of the RDA for Vitamin A (from beta-carotene).
  • 1000% of the RDA for Vitamin K1.
  • Large amounts of Vitamin B6, Potassium, Calcium, Magnesium, Copper and Manganese.
  • This is coming with 2 grams of fiber, 3 grams of protein and only 50 calories.

Kale may be even healthier than spinach. Both are super nutritious, but kale is lower in oxalates, which are substances that can bind minerals like calcium in the intestine, preventing them from being absorbed.

Kale (and other greens) are also loaded with various bioactive compounds, including Isothiocyanates and Indole-3-Carbinol, which have been shown to fight cancer in test tubes and animal studies.

Bottom Line: Kale is one of the most nutrient dense vegetables you can eat, with large amounts of vitamins, minerals and cancer-fighting compounds.

3. Seaweed

The sea has more than just fish… it also contains massive amounts of vegetation.

Usually referred to as “seaweed,” there are thousands of different plant species in the ocean, some of which are incredibly nutritious.

In many cases, seaweed is even more nutritious than vegetables from the land. It is particularly high in minerals like Calcium, Iron, Magnesium and Manganese.

It is also loaded with various bioactive compounds, including phycocyanins and carotenoids. Some of these substances are antioxidants with powerful anti-inflammatory activity.

But where seaweed really shines is in its high content of iodine, a mineral that is used to make thyroid hormones.

Just eating a high-iodine seaweed like kelp a few times per month can give your body all the iodine that it needs.

If you don’t like the thought of eating seaweed, then you can also get it as a supplement. Dried kelp tablets are very cheap and loaded with iodine.

Many sushi dishes also include seaweed in them, along with other goodies.

Bottom Line: The vegetables from the sea are highly nutritious, but very rarely consumed in Western parts of the world. They are particularly high in iodine, which is essential for optimal thyroid function.

4. Garlic

Garlic really is an amazing ingredient.

Not only can it turn all sorts of bland dishes into delicious treats, it is also incredibly nutritious.

It is high in vitamins C, B1 and B6, Calcium, Potassium, Copper, Manganese and Selenium.

But garlic is also loaded with another incredibly important nutrient called Allicin, which is the active ingredient in garlic.

There are many studies on the health benefits of allicin and garlic. It has been shown to lower blood pressure and total and LDL cholesterol, while raising HDL… which should lead to a reduced risk of heart disease down the line .

It also has various cancer-fighting properties. Studies show that the people who eat a lot of garlic have a much lower risk of several common cancers, especially cancers of the colon and stomach.

Garlic is also very potent at killing pathogens like bacteria and fungi.

Bottom Line: Garlic is both tasty and extremely healthy. It is highly nutritious and the bioactive compounds in it have known disease fighting properties.

5. Shellfish

Out of all the wonderfully nutritious organisms found in the sea, shellfish may be the most nutritious of all.

Commonly consumed types of shellfish include clams, oysters and various others.

Clams are among the best sources of vitamin B12 in existence, with a 100 grams of clams supplying over 16 times the RDA! It is also loaded with other nutrients, including Vitamin C, B-Vitamins, Potassium, Selenium and Iron.

Oysters are also incredibly nutritious… with a 100 grams supplying 6 times the RDA for Zinc, 2 times the RDA for Copper, along with large amounts of B12 and Vitamin D – along with a plethora of other nutrients.

Really, shellfish are among the most nutritious foods in existence. Unfortunately, people rarely consume them.

They may also be considered a great food for people who want to be as close to vegetarian/vegan as possible, while also getting most of the benefits of consuming animal foods. Shellfish is non-sentient.

Bottom Line: Shellfish are among the most nutritious organisms found in the sea. They are very high in important nutrients like Vitamin B12 and Zinc.

Potatoes

6. Potatoes

If there’s one high-carb food that I miss on my low-carb diet, it’s potatoes.

A single large potato contains lots of Potassium, Magnesium, Iron, Copper and Manganese… with plenty of vitamin C and most of the B vitamins.

Potatoes really are one of the world’s most perfect foods.

They contain a little bit of almost every nutrient we need and there have been accounts of people living on nothing but potatoes for a long time.

They are also one of the most fulfilling foods in existence. When researchers compared the “satiety value” of different foods, boiled potatoes scored higher than any other food they measured.

If you cook the potatoes and then allow them to cool afterwards, they also form large amounts of resistant starch, a fiber-like substance with many powerful health benefits.

Bottom Line: Potatoes contain a little bit of almost every nutrient we need. They are incredibly fulfilling and can contain large amounts of resistant starch.

7. Liver

Humans and pre-humans have been eating animals for millions of years.

However… back in the day, we didn’t just eat the muscles like we do today. Compared to the organs, muscle meat is nutritionally poor.

There are even accounts of modern hunter-gatherers selectively eating the organs, then feeding lean muscle meat to the dogs.

Out of all the organs, liver is by far the most nutritious.

The liver is a remarkable organ with hundreds of functions related to metabolism. One of its functions is to store important nutrients for the rest of the body.

A 100 gram portion of beef liver contains:

  • 1176% of the RDA for Vitamin B12.
  • Over 50% of the RDA for Vitamins B6, B5, Niacin and Folate.
  • 201% of the RDA for Vitamin B2.
  • 634% of the RDA for Vitamin A.
  • 714% of the RDA for Copper.
  • Over 30% of the RDA for Iron, Phosphorus, Zinc and Selenium.
  • 29 grams of high quality animal protein.

Eating liver once per week is a good way to ensure that you get optimal amounts of these very important nutrients.

Bottom Line: Hunter-gatherers who eat meat usually prize organs like liver, because they are the most nutritious parts of the animal.

8. Sardines

Sardines are small, oily fish that can be eaten whole.

This includes bones, skin, organs, brains and everything.

Given that the organs are usually the most nutritious parts of an animal, it is not surprising to see that whole sardines are incredibly nutritious.

They contain a little bit of almost every nutrient that the body needs and are pretty close to being perfect from a nutritional standpoint.

Like other fatty fish, they’re also very high in heart-healthy Omega-3s.

Bottom Line: Small, oily fish like sardines are usually eaten whole, which includes the organs, bones, brains and other nutritious parts. They contain a little bit of almost every nutrient we need.

9. Blueberries

When it comes to the nutritional value of fruits, blueberries are in a league of their own.

Although they’re not as high in vitamins and minerals as vegetables (calorie for calorie), the antioxidant content is where they really shine.

They are loaded with powerful antioxidant substances, including anthocyanins and various phytochemicals, some of which can cross the blood-brain barrier and exert protective effects on the brain.

Several studies have examined the health effects of blueberries in humans.

One study found that blueberries improved memory in older adults.

Another study found that obese men and women with metabolic syndrome had a lowered blood pressure and reduced markers of oxidized LDL cholesterol, when they added blueberries to their diet.

This finding makes sense, given that eating blueberries has been shown to increase the antioxidant value of the blood.

Then multiple studies in test tubes and experimental animals suggest that blueberries can help fight cancer.

Bottom Line: Blueberries are very nutritious compared to most fruits and are loaded with powerful antioxidants, some of which can increase the antioxidant value of the blood and have protective effects on the brain.

10. Egg Yolks

Egg yolks have been unfairly demonized because of their cholesterol content.

But the studies actually show that dietary cholesterol isn’t something you need to worry about, because cholesterol in the diet doesn’t raise the “bad” cholesterol in the blood.

What we’re left with is one of the most nutritious foods on the planet. Whole eggs are so nutritious that they’re often referred to as “nature’s multivitamin.”

Egg yolks are loaded with vitamins, minerals and various powerful nutrients.

They’re high in Lutein and Zeaxanthine, antioxidants that can protect the eyes and reduce your risk of eye diseases like cataracts and macular degeneration.

Eggs are also loaded with choline, a brain nutrient that about 90% of people aren’t getting enough of .

Eggs also contain high quality protein and healthy fats. Several studies suggest that they can help you lose weight.

Really… whole eggs are an amazing food. The yolk is where almost all the nutrients are found, throwing it away is the absolute worst thing you can do.

Also let’s not forget that eggs are cheap, taste amazing and are super easy to prepare.

If you can, get pastured and/or Omega-3 enriched eggs. They’re healthier and more nutritious than most “conventional” supermarket eggs.

Bottom Line: Whole eggs are so nutritious that they’re often called “nature’s multivitamin.” The yolk is where almost all of the nutrients are found, just eating the whites is a terrible idea.

11. Dark Chocolate (Cocoa)

Dark chocolate with a high cocoa content is one of the most nutritious foods you can eat.

It is loaded with fiber, iron, magnesium, copper and manganese.

But the biggest factor is its amazing range of antioxidants.

In fact, a study showed that cocoa and dark chocolate scored higher than any other food they tested, which included blueberries and acai berries.

There are multiple studies in humans showing that dark chocolate has powerful health benefits… including improved blood flow, a lower blood pressure, reduced oxidized LDL and improved brain function.

One study found that people who consumed chocolate 5+ times per week had a 57% lower risk of heart disease .

Given that heart disease is the most common cause of death in the world, this finding could have implications for millions of people.

Make sure to get dark chocolate with a 70% cocoa content, at least. The best ones contain 85% cocoa or higher.

Eating a small square of quality dark chocolate every day may be one of the best ways to “supplement” your diet with additional antioxidants.


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The Breakfast Nutrient That Keeps You Alert and Calm

Shubhra Krishan  November 27, 2014

What do the following breakfast menus have in common?

  • Coffee and doughnut.
  • Pancakes with syrup.
  • Milk with sweet cereal.

Yes, they are quick to put together and taste good. But if you start feeling irritable and jittery a few hours later, these very foods could be responsible, thanks to the quick blood sugar rise and crash they cause.

That’s because they have one other factor in common: they lack protein.

Protein takes longer for the stomach to digest, so it keeps you feeling satisfied for longer. This in turn helps keep blood sugar levels stable, easing feelings of anxiety and nervousness.

But this nerve-easing benefit goes even further when you eat proteins at breakfast. Researchers at the Franklin Institute explain that a morning meal high in protein raises your brain’s tyrosine levels. This helps your brain produce neurotransmitters called norepinephrine and dopamine, which give you energy and make you feel awake and alert.

vegan protein

As a bonus, protein-rich foods eaten in the morning help control cravings for fatty foods later in the day. Scientists at the University of Missouri found that those who ate a high-protein breakfast ate 26% fewer calories at lunch than those who ate the same number of calories but lower amounts of protein for breakfast. “Breakfasts that are high in protein also reduce cravings for savory – or high-fat – foods. On the other hand, if breakfast is skipped, these cravings continue to rise throughout the day,” observes Heather Leidy, a nutritionist who was part of the research team.

The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of protein is 46 grams for women between 19 and 70 years of age, and 56 grams for men in the same age bracket.

Here are some easy ways to add a little more protein—and thus a little more energy and calm—to your all-important morning meal:

  • An ounce of dry-roasted sunflower seeds gives you 5 grams of protein. They also contain magnesium, known to be a stress-reducing mineral that nurtures the health of your nerves. Add them to hot or cold cereal, or try them on scrambled egg.
  • Just 2 tablespoons of delicious peanut butter or almond butter, and you have about 8 grams of protein. Spread this on whole wheat toast, and enjoy a glass of skim milk for an additional 8 mood-boosting grams of protein.
  • 8 ounces of Greek yogurt gives you 11 grams of protein per serving. Studies have shown that the naturally occuring probiotics in this yogurt relieve stress and anxiety.
  • A whole wheat sandwich with hummus, almonds, and goat cheese can provide up to 22 grams of protein.
  • A single-serving cup of cottage cheese adds a whopping 28 grams of protein


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Artificial sweeteners linked to obesity epidemic, scientists say

Drinking diet soda could cause weight gain, research suggests

CBC News  Sep 17, 2014 

Artificial sweeteners may set the stage for diabetes in some people by hampering how their bodies handle sugar, scientists say.

Artificial sweeteners may exacerbate, rather than prevent, metabolic disorders such as Type 2 diabetes, a study suggests.

Calorie-free artificial sweeteners are often chosen by dieters in part because they are thought not to raise blood sugar levels.

In Wednesday’s issue of the journal Nature, researchers report that artificial sweeteners increase the blood sugar levels in both mice and humans by interfering with microbes in the gut. Increased blood sugar levels are an early indicator of Type 2 diabetes and metabolic disease.

The increase in consumption of artificial sweeteners coincides with the obesity and diabetes epidemics, Eran Segal of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, and his co-authors said.

“Our findings suggest that non-caloric artificial sweeteners may have directly contributed to enhancing the exact epidemic that they themselves were intended to fight.”

Artificial Sweeteners

Link to gut bacteria

The study included a series of experiments.

Mice whose drinking water was supplemented with artificial sweetener developed glucose intolerance compared with mice drinking water alone, or water with just sugar in it. The effect occurred both in mice fed normal chow and those on a high-fat diet.

When antibiotics were used to kill off gut bacteria, the artificial sweetener effect on glucose intolerance in mice fed either diet was restored to normal.

Taken together, the data indicate that artificial sweeteners “may contribute to, rather than alleviate, obesity-related metabolic conditions, by altering the composition and function of bacterial populations in the gut,” Cathryn Nagler and Taylor Feehley of the pathology department at the University of Chicago said in a journal commentary.

In the human part of the research, gut bacteria were analyzed from 381 non-diabetics averaging age 43 who were participating in an ongoing nutrition study.  They found differences in the gut bacteria among those who consumed artificial sweeteners compared with those who did not.

Artificial sweetener consumers showed “markers” for diabetes, such as raised blood sugar levels and glucose intolerance.

More research needed

In the final portion of the study, seven human volunteers who didn’t normally consume artificial sweeteners added it to their diets for seven days. After four days, blood glucose levels rose and the makeup of their gut bacteria changed in half of the participants, just as in the mice experiment.

To confirm the findings, the researchers also transferred feces from people who consume artificial sweeteners into mice that were bred to have sterile intestines and never consumed it before. The mice who had saccharin became glucose intolerant, which suggests that the artificial sweetener caused the unhealthy effect.

It could be that artificial sweeteners lead to an expansion of bacterial species that extract energy from food that often gets stored as fat, contributing to obesity, Nagler said. It’s also possible the sweeteners could suppress the growth of other bacteria that seem to stave off insulin resistance, she said.

The commentators suggested studies to identify specific bacterial populations that promote resistance to weight gain or improve glucose tolerance could be useful as treatments.

Other experts who were not involved in the research called the findings intriguing, but noted that the human findings in particular were very preliminary in terms of considering changes to nutrition recommendations.

“This research raises caution that [non-caloric artificial sweeteners] may not represent the ‘innocent magic bullet’ they were intended to be to help with the obesity and diabetes epidemics, but it does not yet provide sufficient evidence to alter public health and clinical practice,” said Nita Forouhi, program leader at the Medical Research Council’s epidemiology unit at Cambridge University.

With files from Reuters
source: www.cbc.ca


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Here’s Why You Struggle To Stay Present

BY ERIN OLIVIO    NOVEMBER 13, 2014 

So many of us humans tend to go through our days on autopilot, which is essentially the opposite of mindfulness. We act unconsciously or habitually, even forming thoughts and judgments without conscious awareness of what we are doing (or why or how well). We just react.

We spend most of our energy rehashing the past or rehearsing the future: wishing, hoping, planning, ruminating, missing, regretting.

We are disconnected from what is happening in our lives — right now, in the present moment — and even within our own bodies and minds. In this mode, emotions seem to just sort of happen to us, and we might not acknowledge them, understand them, or realize we can control them.

Or we might try to dodge emotions or shut them out. Either way, this is a recipe for emotion to overwhelm us. When we are not in the moment, we don’t actually feel our feelings, and that creates more of the very emotions we may wish to avoid. It also doesn’t (and can’t!) solve the problems we are trying to escape.

We can make another choice, however. We can switch off the autopilot and take the wheel ourselves. This starts with mindfulness. Anyone can do it, even those whose usual M.O. is a far cry from being mindful. Mindfulness is a skill like any other, so it can be learned. Also like any other skill, the more you practice it, the better you will get at it.

So here’s the two-word guide on how to practice mindfulness: pay attention. And I mean really pay attention. To things as they are. In the present moment.

And that’s it.

Well, of course there’s more (see the multitude of books and blogs already devoted to this subject). But in a nutshell, that’s really all you need to know. Being mindful means summoning awareness and attention and deploying them inwardly and outwardly, with intention and compassion and without analysis or judgment. Notice all that is happening within your mind and body and in the world around you right now. Attend to one thing at a time — acknowledge, observe and accept each sensation, experience, thought and feeling as it arises —from moment to moment.

Modern life is chock-full of habits of the mind that get in the way of mindfulness. Be on the lookout for them in your own life. Steering clear of these is key to practicing mindfulness.

Here are eight of the most common barriers that keep you from being mindful:

  • Thinking about the past and the future takes you out of the moment
  • Multitasking
  • Being in denial
  • Attaching to thoughts or observations
  • Pushing away thoughts or observations
  • Having a lack of intention
  • Having a lack of compassion
  • Judging, analyzing, criticizing or evaluating

Judgment is one of the most common ways that keeps you from being mindful. Whether you are judging your experience as good, bad or ugly, it’s an obstacle to being fully present in the moment. And you do it all the time. Everyone does. The way to do it less — the way to not let judging interfere with your ability to be mindful — is to increase your awareness of when you are judging.

Try spending a few days noticing all the judgments you make throughout the day. About anything and everything: “What the hell is that lady wearing?” “Yuck, this food is gross!” “I should not be the one handling this!” Any time you catch yourself playing Judge Judy, notice it, label it as a judgment, and resist the temptation to judge yourself for being judgmental.

Then try to tell yourself the same story but with neutral (nonjudgmental) language: “Her shirt is bright.” “Oh, that is bitter.” “I have a task that I do not like.” With enough practice, you’ll begin to make that kind of switch automatically — in mindfulness practice as well as in life.

Adapted from Wise Mind Living: Master Your Emotions, Transform Your Life by Erin Olivo, PhD. 


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Focus on play in kindergarten may improve grades

By Kathryn Doyle       Thu Nov 20, 2014 

(This version of the Nov.14th story changes ‘Tools for the Mind’ to ‘Tools of the Mind’ in paras 2, 5, 7, and 14.)

(Reuters Health) – Training teachers to promote structured play among kindergarteners yields improved reading, vocabulary and math scores that persist into first grade, according to a new study.

The technique, called ‘Tools of the Mind,’ seemed to be particularly effective in high-poverty schools, the authors write.

“The active ingredient is children are taking responsibility for their own learning,” said Clancy Blair of the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development at New York University, who led the study.

“The key aspect is children planning what they’re going to do and making a plan for it and executing that plan,” Blair said. “They’re practicing all the cognitive skills that are important for learning.”

For the two-year study, researchers divided 79 kindergarten classrooms with a total of 759 children into two groups. Forty-two classrooms were directed to incorporate the Tools of the Mind program, and 37 continued with their standard teaching practices.

Researchers assessed students’ attention, speed of processing and other measures of academic ability twice a year, as well as testing their saliva samples for levels of stress hormones.

In the Tools of the Mind program, teachers attended several professional development workshops each year and had a Tools coach who periodically visited classrooms with the Tools trainer.

The program is meant to improve kids’ control over their ability to avoid distractions, focus their attention, remember important details and regulate impulsive behavior.

Teachers organize “shared cooperative activities” designed to promote social-emotional development and improve thinking skills. They combine reading, mathematics and science activities with child-directed activities and structured sociodramatic play.

kindergarten play

Kids in the Tools group showed improvements in reading, vocabulary and mathematics at the end of kindergarten that actually increased into the first grade, the researchers reported in the journal PLOS ONE.

“The thing that is most important for our results is we found the biggest effects in the highest poverty schools,” Blair said. Kids from poorer families often enter kindergarten less prepared because they have been exposed to less language and fewer learning activities, he said.

Tools kids also had slightly higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol in their saliva samples when researchers tested them at 10:30 AM during a school day. Although too much cortisol at all times is a bad thing, a slight increase during the day indicates that kids are more stimulated, the authors write.

“You want it when you need it and you want it to go away when you don’t,” Blair said.

Previous studies evaluating the effect of a prekindergarten version of the Tools of the Mind Program have been inconclusive, the authors write, and this is the first study of the technique in kindergarten.

The Tools program wouldn’t be difficult to implement in kindergarten classrooms in the U.S., although it’s not currently happening because of a “misguided emphasis” on academics and the belief that children need to sit at a desk and learn to read, Blair said.

“There’s a lot of debate about moving away from play,” said Allyson P. Mackey, a postdoctoral fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who was not part of the new study.

“We know that this is a good way for kids to learn, but there’s a lot of pressure to teach kids pre-reading and pre-math skills,” Mackey told Reuters Health.

Free play for children might have very important academic implications, she said.

Parents could try to implement some of these play techniques at home, too, but peer interaction is an important aspect so it makes sense to focus on the classroom, Blair said.

“It’s well within the budgets and the capabilities of every kindergarten classroom in the U.S.,” he said. “Closing the achievement gap is right there, we know how to do it, and there’s no excuse not to do it.”

SOURCE: bit.ly/1v8ol8A PLOS ONE, online November 12, 2014       .   Reauters


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Why happiness is healthy

By Elizabeth Landau, CNN      Thu November 20, 2014  

(CNN) – Happiness – you know it when you see it, but it’s hard to define.

You might call it a sense of well-being, of optimism or of meaningfulness in life, although those could also be treated as separate entities. But whatever happiness is, we know that we want it, and that is just somehow good.

We also know that we don’t always have control over our happiness. Research suggests that genetics may play a big role in our normal level of subjective well-being, so some of us may start out at a disadvantage. On top of that, between unexpected tragedies and daily habitual stress, environmental factors can bring down mood and dry up our thirst for living.

Being able to manage the emotional ups and downs is important for both body and mind, said Laura Kubzansky, professor of social and behavioral sciences at Harvard School of Public Health.

“For physical health, it’s not so much happiness per se, but this ability to regulate and have a sense of purpose and meaning,” Kubzansky said.

Why be happy?

Many scientific studies, including some by Kubzansky, have found a connection between psychological and physical well-being.

A 2012 review of more than 200 studies found a connection between positive psychological attributes, such as happiness, optimism and life satisfaction, and a lowered risk of cardiovascular disease. Kubzansky and other Harvard School of Public Health researchers published these findings in the journal Psychological Bulletin.

It’s not as simple as “you must be happy to prevent heart attacks,” of course. If you have a good sense of well-being, it’s easier to maintain good habits: Exercising, eating a balanced diet and getting enough sleep, researchers said. People who have an optimistic mindset may be more likely to engage in healthy behaviors because they perceive them as helpful in achieving their goals, Kubzansky said.

Lower blood pressure, normal body weight and healthier blood fat profiles were also associated with a better sense of well-being in this study.

Your happiness type matters

For now these studies can only show associations; they do not provide hard evidence of cause and effect. But some researchers speculate that positive mental states do have a direct effect on the body, perhaps by reducing damaging physical processes. For instance, another of Kubzansky’s studies found that optimism is associated with lower levels of inflammation.

If what you mean by happiness is specifically “enjoyment of life,” there’s newer evidence to support that, too. A study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that people ages 60 and older who said they enjoyed life less were more likely to develop disability over an eight-year period. Mobility was also related to enjoyment of life. This study does not prove that physical problems are caused by less enjoyment of life, but suggests a relationship.

Where happiness comes from: genes + environment

There is substantial evidence that genetics play a big role in happiness, according to Nancy Segal, psychologist at California State University, Fullerton, and author of “Born Together — Reared Apart.”

Research has shown that identical twins tend to have a similar level of happiness, more so than fraternal twins. And in identical twins, one twin’s happiness is a better predictor of the other twin’s current or future happiness than educational achievement or income, Segal said.

“If you have happy parents and happy children, I think that people usually assume it’s because the children are modeling the parents,” she said. “But that’s not really so. You need to make the point that parents pass on both genes and environments.”

What’s more, there seems to be a certain level of happiness that individuals have generally, to which they usually gravitate, Segal said. That level depends on the person, and the situations he or she is in.

Even if genetics has a big influence, though, that doesn’t mean anyone is biologically stuck being unhappy, she said. It might take more work if your baseline mood is low, but certain therapies have proven useful for elevating psychological well-being.

The environment is still quite important for psychological well-being, too, Kubzansky said.

“To say to someone, ‘Don’t worry, be happy,’ is kind of not looking at the whole picture of, what are the environmental constraints on things they can do?” Kubzansky said.

happiness

Money and time

You might be thinking: “Maybe I would be happier if I had more money.” There’s that old cliché “money doesn’t buy happiness” – but is it true? A 2010 study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that emotional well-being rises with income up to a point, which seems to be a household income of $75,000. Day-to-day happiness did not increase with higher incomes.

But when participants were asked about overall satisfaction with their lives, that did continue to rise in conjunction with income, even after $75,000, Princeton University researchers Daniel Kahneman and Angus Deaton found. Their results show a sharp distinction between how people see themselves in terms of happiness “today” vs. life satisfaction.

“More money does not necessarily buy more happiness, but less money is associated with emotional pain,” Kahneman and Deaton wrote. “Perhaps $75,000 is a threshold beyond which further increases in income no longer improve individuals’ ability to do what matters most to their emotional well-being, such as spending time with people they like, avoiding pain and disease, and enjoying leisure.”

Would you be happier if you bought the car you always wanted? Several studies suggest experiences make us happier than possessions. That’s partly because once you have purchased something, such as a new car, you get used to seeing it every day and the initial joy fades, experts say. But you can continue to derive happiness from memories of experiences over time.

Experiences form “powerful and important memories that I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world,” Thomas Gilovich, professor of psychology at Cornell University, told CNN in 2009.

But if you’re in the market for a birthday present for your sweetheart, a material object can still be meaningful, becoming a keepsake with sentimental value that increases over time, Gilovich said.

Or maybe you’ll be happier once you’ve lived longer. Research has also found that some sense of happiness may come with age.

Older adults may be able to better regulate their emotions than younger people, expose themselves to less stress and experience less negative emotion, Susan Turk Charles, a psychologist at the University of California, Irvine, told CNN in 2009. More science needs to be done on whether the diminished negative response is also associated with a feeling of happiness.

Happiness: Living in the moment

But what about right now — what can we do to make ourselves feel more positive?

If you’re seeking to increase your own sense of happiness, try mindfulness techniques. Mindfulness means being present and in the moment, and observing in a nonjudgmental way, Susan Albers, psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic, told CNN in 2010.

Can mindfulness help manage pain and mental illness?

Mindfulness comes from Buddhism and is key to meditation in that tradition. Therapies for a wide variety of conditions, including eating disorders, depression and PTSD, incorporate mindfulness. Focusing on the here and now is a counterbalance to findings that mind-wandering is associated with unhappiness.

Activities such as keeping a gratitude diary and helping other people are also associated with feelings of well-being, Kubzansky said.

A variety of smartphone apps are also available that claim to help you monitor and enhance your moods. But don’t feel you have to face emotional challenges alone; a professional therapist can help you get to where you want to be.

If a sense of well-being makes a healthier person, then policy-makers should also promote large-scale initiatives to encourage that, Kubzansky said. Creating parks to encourage exercise and insituting flexible work-family initiatives are just some of the ways that communities can become healthier as a whole.

So remember: A glass half full might be healthier than a glass half empty.

Source: CNN


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7 Ways to Speed Up Your Metabolism

SpryLiving.com    November 21, 2014

You hit the gym five days a week. You eat all the veggies you can get your hands on. You religiously avoid all white carbs. But in spite of your good intentions, the number on the scale refuses to budge. WTF?!! If this scenario sounds familiar, your metabolism might be to blame. Before you start thinking you’ve been screwed in the genetic lottery, take a deep breath. It’s okay. You can fix this.

First thing’s first. What is metabolism, exactly? After all, it’s a word we hear tossed around a lot in the health world. Your skinny friend who lives solely off junk food credits her thin frame to “a fast metabolism,” but what does that even mean? Is the concept of a fast metabolism scientifically legit, or is it a load of B.S.?

From a purely technical standpoint, metabolism refers to the “chemical processes that occur within a living organism in order to maintain life.” Metabolism is often expressed in terms of “basal metabolic rate” (BMR), the amount of calories expended per day in order to sustain basic life functions—you know, breathing, pooping, heartbeat, all that fun stuff. The faster your BMR, the more calories you burn at rest and the less fat you store.

Metabolism is primarily influenced by three factors: Your age (metabolism slows about 5% per decade after age 40); your sex (men generally burn more calories at rest than women); and lean muscle mass (the more muscle you have, the higher your metabolic rate tends to be). The bad news is that some of these things—like our age and gender—are simply out of our control. The good news? By making a few lifestyle tweaks, it is possible to boost a sluggish metabolism. Here are some ways to help bring your metabolism up to speed.

The best way to rev up your metabolism, hands down, is to put on slabs of lean muscle mass. Here’s why: Muscle has a faster metabolic rate than fat, so the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn at rest—meaning you’ll scorch more calories even while bumming around on the couch. Every pound of muscle uses about 6 calories a day just to sustain itself, while each pound of fat burns only 2 calories daily. That’s just another reason to listen to your instructor when they tell you to grab heavier weights!

Eat more protein.

If you haven’t already, it’s time to get on board with lean grilled chicken breast. Protein has a high thermic effect, which means your body burns more calories to digest it. In fact, one study found that high protein diets boosted metabolism by as much as 40%; by contrast, fats and carbs have a much lower thermic effect. Try to eat a lean protein at every meal.

diet

Get more sleep.

We know, we know—you can sleep when you’re dead, right? But skimping on sleep can mess with your circadian rhythm, predisposing you to metabolic disturbances like weight gain and even diabetes. Additionally, inadequate sleep is associated with higher levels of ghrelin, a hunger-inducing hormone, which means that sleep-deprived individuals may be more likely to overeat. As a general rule, aim to get seven to eight hours of sleep a night.

Metabolism is primarily influenced by three factors: Your age (metabolism slows about 5% per decade after age 40); your sex (men generally burn more calories at rest than women); and lean muscle mass (the more muscle you have, the higher your metabolic rate tends to be). The bad news is that some of these things—like our age and gender—are simply out of our control. The good news? By making a few lifestyle tweaks, it is possible to boost a sluggish metabolism. Here are some ways to help bring your metabolism up to speed.

Sip green tea.

Touted for its waist-whittling effects, this miracle brew contains a compound called EGCG that is thought to fire up metabolism and encourage the body to burn fat. Studies have linked green tea with raising metabolic rates and speeding up fat oxidation in overweight individuals. If green tea isn’t your cup of tea (literally), supplements will do the trick.

Don’t skip meals.

Fasting or skipping meals may seem like a quick fix for dropping unwanted pounds, but this tactic will only backfire. When you eat, your metabolism goes into overdrive to break down the food into smaller, digestible parts. On the flipside, when you don’t eat for extended periods of time, your metabolism begins to slow down. When you finally do eat something, your metabolism responds sluggishly and doesn’t process the food as efficiently as before, resulting in greater fat storage. To keep metabolism fully charged, try to eat a balanced meal or healthy snack every 3-4 hours.

Eat breakfast.

Skipping breakfast is the ultimate nutritional no-no, a bad habit that squashes your metabolism and sets you up for weight gain. The American Journal of Epidemiology found that people who cut out breakfast were 4.5 times almost more likely to be obese. Too busy for a bite to eat? Try one of these 5-Minute Breakfast ideas.

Drink more H20.

A study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found that drinking water—about 17 ounces—increases metabolic rate by 30 percent in healthy men and women. The body needs water in order to process calories, so even if you’re mildly dehydrated, your metabolism may wind down. Even on non-training days, you should aim to drink a minimum of 2 or 3 liters of water a day; on days you do workout, amp up that amount depending on the intensity of your activity.

Turn up the heat.

With spice, that is. Capsaicin, the substance that gives red chili peppers their trademark oomph, may increase metabolism temporarily by up to 23 percent, and in other studies the hot pepper was found to regulate appetite. To reap the fat-burning effects of capsaicin, try spicing foods with cayenne pepper or chili flakes.

by Anna Dickens, from SpryLiving