The Blog

UNDERSTANDING ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS

image_pdfimage_print

What are Essential Fatty Acids (or EFA’s as they are commonly known), and why are they so darn essential?

Essential fatty acids play a very important role in the prevention of cancer and heart disease, help reduce and prevent inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, eczema, and psoriasis; they improve the softness and smoothness of your skin and provide many other health benefits.  Essential fatty acids are important components of the outer skin or membrane of every cell. The membrane determines which chemicals and nutrients will be allowed to enter and exit the cell; within the cell membrane essential fatty acids are continually activated and converted into prostaglandin hormones, a process that allows essential fatty acids to supply their disease prevention and anti-aging effects to a wide range of tissues within the body

Anti-aging and disease prevention?  Sounds amazing, right?

Well, if your terrified of eating fat, as many people on diets are, you aren’t getting enough because your body cannot make this stuff.  You NEED to get it through diet and/or supplements.  But hang on a second, before you think “I KNEW those high-fat, carb-free programs are the best!,” because not ALL prostaglandin hormones are good for you.

Some more boring scientific stuff:

There are three main types of prostaglandin hormones (PG): PG-1, PG-2, and PG-3. PG-1 and PG-3 have positive impacts on our health, while PG-2 can lead to highly negative effects. It encourages blood vessels to constrict and blood platelets to clot abnormally,  increasing the chance of heart attack, ischemic stroke, and high blood pressure. It also encourages inflammation, worsening arthritis and other joint, muscle and tendon conditions, including Crohn’s disease and colitis. PG-2 is associated with greater risk of cancer in that it prompts rapid cell division. Finally, it can make the skin dry, rough, and scaly, and aggravate a number of common skin disorders, such as eczema, psoriasis, and possibly roscacea.  surprise YIKES!

Reading that makes you want to stay away from that stuff like the plague…..but unfortunately….you love it too much.  You see, PG-2 is formed from a saturated fat known as arachidonic acid, found in high-fat meats and high-fat dairy products.  Yep, your steaks, burgers, milkshakes, cheese and other yummy foods.  You know what else makes PG-2? The over-consumption of linoleic acid, an unsaturated fat found in your typical grocery store corn oil, sunflower seed oil, safflower seed oil, and mixed vegetable oils, all of which promote the production of arachidonic acid by the body. Unfortunately, the typical North American diet is a rich source of arachidonic acid and linoleic acid, and most individuals produce too much PG-2.

You can lower your tissue concentrations of arachidoninc acid by choosing chicken, turkey or fish, instead of high-fat meat products, and non-fat or 1 percent milk and yogurt products.  Remove from your diet any cheese that is more than 3 percent milk fat, and use cold-pressed olive oil or organic canola or grapeseed oil in place of other vegetable oils in salad dressings.  These are good sources of monounsaturated fat, which does not participate in the formation of prostaglandin hormones and is known to help reduce cholesterol and contribute to cardiovascular health in other ways.

So now you know how to reduce the formation of PG-2, but what about the good prostaglandin hormones, PG-1 and PG-3, the ones with all those health benefits?

The key building block for PG-1 is an unsaturated fat known as gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), which is found in high concentrations in borage oil or evening primrose oil. GLA can also be formed in the body from linoleic acid (the oils we consume too much of), but individuals who suffer diabetes, eczema, or premenstrual syndrome have a defective enzyme that prevents the conversion of linoleic acid to GLA.  Drinking alcohol, eating refined sugars, and hydrogenated fats (margarine, shortening, pastries, chips and other snacks) tends to inhibit this conversion as well, as does the aging process itself.  For all these reasons, virtually everyone has suboptimal cell membrane concentrations of GLA, so it’s a good idea to supplement especially if you have one of the conditions mentioned.

PG-3, on the other hand,  is formed from an omega-3 unsaturated fat called eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), which is found in cold-water marine fish such as salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, and tuna.  This is the reason that fish oil supplements are so popular, and rightfully so.  The body can also convert the omega-3 fat alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) found in flaxseed oil, and chia seeds as well as walnuts, into EPA, increasing the production of PG-3, but as you can see from the chart below, it’s a much quicker process to go directly from fish oil to PG-3. Fish oil, by the way, also contains docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which enhances immune function and the development and function of the brain, and is essential to good vision.  (This is why a higher DHA to EPA ratio fish oil supplement is often recommended for kids with ADHD).

PG-3 is considered very important for total body wellness, as it reduces risk of heart attacks by dilating blood vessels and discouraging abnormal blood clotting. It slows the rate of cell division and so reduces the risk, especially of breast, prostate, and colon cancer. PG-3 is also known to reduce inflammation, including skin inflammatory responses, a role it shares with PG-1.

If you are looking to build muscle, you’ll like this one:

For exercisers, particular relevance is the anti-oxidant and acute, exercise-related anti-inflammatory nature of EPA and DHA. Since high-intensity exercise and weight training cause increases in inflammation and oxidation, reducing this response may be beneficial in improving exercise recovery. Even more interesting for people looking to build muscle, EPA and DHA supplementation has been suggested to support muscle protein synthesis and limit muscle protein degradation. This can mean less muscle breakdown and more muscle growth.

Why supplement?

Most individuals suffer unknowingly from an essential fatty acid deficiency or imbalance, thanks to modern agricultural and food processing methods and the typical North American diet.  To ensure optimal essential fatty acid nutritional status, it is highly recommended to take a quality EFA supplement, preferably in the form of professional-quality fish oil.  This simple practice can result in significant benefits for your health, your appearance, the rate at which your body will age, and your risk of future illness.

The bottom line?

Taking fish oil daily may seem disgusting, but high quality brands like those found in our Online Dispensary make great-tasting fish oils, free from mercury and other impurities.  I also highly recommend Organic Atlantic Salmon Oil from Vital Choice.  Give either of those a try, you’ll be glad you did! On a personal note, I used to have high cholesterol as a teenager (if you’re thinking that’s insane, you’d be right!) and even after changing my dietary habits it still stayed on the border.  Taking a fish oil supplement daily has helped bring the levels down to normal, with no other meds required.

 A handy chart, which may or may not clarify things:  tongue

weight, Rebecca Lazar - UNDERSTANDING ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS

Read More

THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF COCONUT OIL

image_pdfimage_print

weight, Rebecca Lazar - THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF COCONUT OILCoconut oil has gotten a bad rep over the years because it has a high amount of saturated fat, and, if you know anything about fats, you know that saturated fats are not good for you, especially if you have high cholesterol or heart disease.  Unfortunately, this reputation is completely unfair since REAL coconut oil (unprocessed and organic) is extremely healthy, can actually lower cholesterol, and even helps you lose weight.

What makes coconut oil so great? Get ready for a little science, and try not to fall asleep, this is actually interesting! sleepy Whether unsaturated (think olive oil) or saturated (butter, animal fats), the majority of fats and oils in our diet are composed of long chain fatty acids.  Coconut oil is a different type of saturated fatty acid – it has mainly medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA) and the effects of MCFA are different from the long chain fatty acids (LCFA) found in other foods. In fact, the saturated and unsaturated fat in milk, eggs, meat and even in plants and most vegetable oils are made of LCFA. This is important because our bodies respond and metabolize each fatty acid differently.  When it comes to MCFA, the liver and gall bladder do not need to digest and emulsify it; this results in instant energy, increased metabolic rate and subsequently more heat production as well as increased circulation. By the way, anyone with an impaired fat digestion or a removed gallbladder will benefit from coconut oil since it’s easily digested.  There are only few dietary sources of MCFA, and one of the best sources by far is coconut oil.

Coconut oil has many health benefits which are attributed to the presence of lauric acid. When it is present in the body, lauric acid is converted into monolaurin, a compound that is highly toxic to viruses, bacteria, funguses and other microorganisms because of its ability to disrupt their lipid membranes and virtually destroy them.  Without lauric acid, monolaurin cannot be produced by the body. Interestingly enough, breast milk is the only other source of lauric acid, which must explain the lesser incidents of infections with breast-fed infants. Regular consumption of coconut oil actually boosts immunity and reduces incidences of sickness.

Medium-chain fatty acids found in coconut oil can also be helpful for weight loss by its ability to speed up metabolism faster than long-chain fatty acids because they are easily digested and converted into energy. In fact, a study reported medium-chain fatty acids to be three times more effective in raising metabolism than long-chain fatty acids.  If that isn’t enough to make you eat spoonfuls of coconut oil right out of the container sick , I don’t know what is.

So how much do you need to consume for all these awesome health benefits? Well, that depends who you ask.  The common theory is 1 tablespoon, 3 times a day, but I usually just suggest to incorporate it into your cooking – did I mention you can stir-fry and bake with coconut oil with fantastic results and without destroying its health benefits like some other oils? – well, now I just did.

Hmmm, all of this talk about coconut has given me a craving for coconut ice cream by So Delicious, so I’m gonna head to my freezer for this high-fiber, MCFA-rich dessert! winking

Read More

HOW MANY CALORIES ARE YOU REALLY BURNING?

image_pdfimage_print

weight, Rebecca Lazar - HOW MANY CALORIES ARE YOU REALLY BURNING?Do you ever use one of the machines at the gym and wonder if the calorie indicators are accurate? Like many of you, I like to know exactly how many calories I’m burning when I workout (is it a salad’s worth? A chicken leg? Ooooh, maybe a nice big piece of chocolate! big grin ) ……so I decided to do something about it.

Enter my [easyazon_link asin=”B001F0PVN0″ locale=”CA” new_window=”default” tag=”reaheafit0c-20″ add_to_cart=”no” cloaking=”default” localization=”default” nofollow=”default” popups=”no”]Polar FT60 Women’s Heart Rate Monitor[/easyazon_link], pictured at right, a super high-quality heart rate monitor that (allegedly) accurately indicates calories burned. I would like to beleive it’s pretty darn accurate because it takes into account your individual VO2 max — how well your body uses oxygen — as well as your height, gender, weight, and age, unlike most machines which only factor in weight and age.

So, while people looked at me a little strangely (seriously…..you never saw anyone wear a heart rate monitor and hop on 5 different machines during a workout while constantly checking their wrist?), I tried several machines at the gym and here is what I found, starting with the least accurate to the most accurate machine:

  • PRECOR EFX ELLIPTICAL – I always loved this machine: non-impact, not hard on the joints and you feel like you’re getting a great workout.  What’s not to love? Well, the calorie indicator for one thing…..my Polar FT60 indicated I burned 192 calories in a half hour; The Precor EFX wants me to beleive I burned a whopping 274 calories.  MACHINE OVERESTIMED CALORIES BURNED BY 164 CAL/HOUR.
  • LIFEFITNESS 9500 HR ELLIPTICAL (WITH ARMS) – Let me just say that I hate this machine…..I know lots of people use it at the gym and love it, but for me the biomechanics just seem all wrong; plus it hurts my knees…..hmmm, maybe it wasn’t designed for tall people?  In any case, my Polar FT60 indicated 270 calories burned in a half hour; the Life fitness showed 321 calories.  One more reason this peice of equipment bugs me: MACHINE OVERESTIMATED CALORIES BURNED BY 102 CAL/HOUR
  • STAIRMASTER STEPMILL 7000 PT – This giant staircase is one tough workout, any way you look at it, so you will burn lots of calories regardless of how inaccurate the calorie indicator is.  That being said, my Polar FT60 indicated 288 calories burned in a half hour; the Stepmill showed 327 calories.  Once again, the MACHINE OVERESTIMATED CALORIES BURNED BY 78 CAL/HOUR
  • STAIRMASTER FREECLIMBER – Well, this classic stairmaster may not be totally accurate, but at least you don’t have to worry about going home and eating an extra 100 calories thinking you already burned it off at the gym because in all likelihood you will have burned MORE.  My Polar FT60 indicated 282 calories burned in a half hour;  the stepper indicated 258 calories.  In this case, the MACHINE UNDERESTIMATED CALORIES BURNED BY 48 CAL/HOUR.
  • PRECOR TREADMILL – If you know anything about me, you know that I will do almost any form of exercise – I step, cycle, hike, cross country ski, hell I’ll freakin’ hoola hoop and zumba dance and generally make a spectacle out of myself in the name of exercise, but I don’t run.  I just hate running with a passion, although before anyone gets offended, I do respect runners immensely! So why am I telling you this? First of all, because I fast-paced walked on this thing on a moderate incline; and second, I wanted to hate the calorie indicator on the treadmill….but I couldn’t.  It was definitely the most accurate – my Polar FT60 indicated 237 calories burned in a half hour; the  Treadmill showed 219 calories.  MACHINE UNDERESTIMATED CALORIES BURNED BY 36 CAL/HOUR.

Now, obviously, it’s not the exact numbers that matter, as each person is different and will burn a different number of calories based on all the factors mentioned above.  That being said, this gives you a good indication that you can’t rely on most machines’ calorie indicators if you are keeping track of calories in vs. out.  Hope you enjoyed this little “experiment” as much as I did!

Read More

GMO’S: WHAT TO LOOK FOR, WHAT TO AVOID

image_pdfimage_print

Yesterday, I posted a notice on FB that was found in a  grocery store regarding the Kashi food brand.  This particular store had removed the Kashi brand of products due to inaccurate labelling, claiming their products were “natural” and “healthy” when in fact they contain GMO’s.  This is what the notice looked like:

weight, Rebecca Lazar - GMO'S: WHAT TO LOOK FOR, WHAT TO AVOID

GMO’s, or Genetically Modified Organisms, are in many of the foods we eat on a daily basis.  Health conscious consumers understand the dangers of GMO’s and want food manufacturing companies to be legally obligated to label their foods as GMO or non-GMO.  However, as of now, this is not a requirement by law.

So what exactly are GMO foods, how are they made and why should they concern you? Click here for the answer to these and other important questions.

If you decide you want to stay clear of GMO’s, you can download this handy guide that lists all the companies dedicated to bringing you non-GMO products:                                        Non-GMO-Shopping-Guide

What is your opinion? Are you as opposed to GM foods as I am or do you beleive it will not be a major negative impact on health?  Would love to hear your comments.

Read More

GET A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP

image_pdfimage_print

Regular, adequate sleep is ESSENTIAL to good health.  Of course, sometimes it’s simply impossible to get a good night’s sleep (new Mom, anyone? yawn )Here are some tricks to improve the quality and quantity of your sleep:sleep

Purchase a good quality mattress. I cannot stress this enough. Unless you invest into a good quality mattress you are always going to find flaws in your bed. You need to find a company such as leesa.com who offers a wide variety of good quality mattresses. Take your time finding the perfect one, don’t rush your decision.

Sleep in complete darkness. Darkness triggers the production of the natural sleep hormone melatonin.  When we are exposed to light at night, the production of this hormone decreases and our sleep is interrupted.  As well, this, combined with going to bed before 11 pm (see “go to bed earlier”, below),  is a really great way to “reset” the endocrine system, for example if you have stressed adrenals….in layman’s terms, if you feel like this: at wits end

Avoid television right before bed.  Yeah, that includes watching stuff on your iPad (sorry).  It is too stimulating to the brain it will take longer to fall asleep.  It’s also disruptive of pineal gland function for the amount of light hitting the eye.

Wear socks to bed.  This may sound strange, but a study has shown that, due to the fact that they have the poorest circulation, the feet often feel cold before the rest of the body and this coldness can increase night waking.

Avoid using loud alarm clocks. It is very stressful on the body to be awoken suddenly.  Those buzzing alarms are awful, once again really not good for the endocrine system.

Go to bed earlier.  Our systems, particularly the adrenals, do a majority of their recharging or recovering during the hours of 11PM and 1AM.  In addition, your gallbladder dumps toxins in the same period of time.  If you are awake, the toxins back up into the liver, which then secondarily backs up into your entire system and cause further disruption of your health.  Yikes!

Take a magnesium supplement like Natural Calm before bed.  Magnesium is relaxing to the muscles and to the nervous system and can help you fall asleep and stay asleep.

Take a hot bath, shower or sauna before bed. When body temperature is raised in the late evening, it will fall at bedtime, facilitating sleep.  Better yet, add some 100% pure essential oils like Lavender or Wild Chamomile and/or Epsom Salts, to your bath to relax you even further.

Avoid foods that you may be sensitive to.  This is particularly true for dairy and wheat products, as they may have effect on sleep, such as excess congestion, gastrointestinal upset and apnea.

Avoid caffeine.  This would seem obvious, but many people think if they have it early enough, it won’t effect their sleep.  But a recent study showed that caffeine is not metabolized properly in some people and they can feel the effects long after consuming it, preventing them from falling asleep.

Last, but not least……

Avoid alcohol.  Although alcohol will make you drowsy, the effect is short lived and most people will wake up several hours later, unable to fall back asleep.  Alcohol also keeps you from falling into the deeper stages of sleep, where the body does most of i’s healing.

If you are still having problems falling asleep or staying asleep, there could be an underlying health issue that needs to be addressed.

Read More