What’s All This About Omega-3?

Last week, I talked about the one vitamin I take on a daily basis (that would be D, for those of you who missed last week’s post). Today, there’s another supplement that I’d like to clear the air about. That supplement is omega-3 (often found in fish oil supplements also). I don’t take omega-3 supplements, but I do take flax oil on occasion and I always use flaxseed on my salads. Why do I do this? Because flaxseed is one source of omega-3 fatty acids, and it happens to be among the best plant-based sources.

I don’t have a problem with anyone taking omega-3 capsules or getting their omega-3s directly from eating fish. Personally, I think the plant-based approach is a better way to go, but I realize that’s up for debate. Instead of touting the benefits of one over the other, I thought my time would be better spent explaining some things about omegas that you may not know.

You probably know that omega-3s can help reduce cholesterol and even make your brain function a little better. But, is that because this is some magic pill? Do you find it strange that omegas are all the rage these days? Seems kind of trendy, right?

I guess you could say it is a trend. But, as long as we continue to eat the way we do, it’s a trend that’s here to stay (if that makes any sense). You see, there’s more than one type of omega fatty acid. Another of note in this situation is omega-6.

Omega-6 is often painted as the bad guy, but that’s kind of unfair. Our bodies need this fatty acid too, but we don’t need nearly as much as we get from the standard American diet. And, that’s the reason we so desperately need to supplement with omega-3 fatty acids these days. Our diet has changed throughout the years to include more foods that are rich in 6s and poor in 3s. Foods that are rich in omega-6 include meat, dairy and vegetable oils. Foods that are rich in omega-3s are fish, walnuts and flaxseed.

Experts believe that an ideal diet would give us 1 omega-3 for every 4 omega-6s consumed. The standard American diet is closer to 1 omega-3 for every 25 omega-6. Yikes – that’s outta whack, isn’t it?

When the ratio becomes unbalanced, the omega-6 fatty acids begin to cause inflammation within our bodies. Although omega-6s aren’t the enemy, inflammation certainly is. At the root of all illness and disease, you’ll find inflammation. You’ll even find it at the root of heart disease.

Does it make a little more sense now why you need to supplement with omega-3 fatty acids? The more omega-6s you consume, the more omega3s you should be consuming. So, I encourage you to take a closer look at your diet. Is it heavily weighted with meat, dairy and processed foods? If so, you might need to take stock in a fish oil company.

Seriously, though; the best way to tackle this problem is to find a supplement that works for you – and – adjust your diet to contain fewer omega-6 fatty acids.

Advertisements

4 Things to do When You Feel a Cold Coming On

I don’t get sick very often, but boy when I do, I really get knocked out. This happened last week, much to my dismay. I had a little cough for a few days and I knew something was brewing, so I was taking lots of vitamins D, B (all kinds) and C, but it still hit me like a ton of bricks. Fortunately, it didn’t last long. I think it might be because I took the right precautions before it really took hold. Either way, it was a good reminder that I should start taking better care of myself. Here are a few things I like to do when I feel a cold coming on:

Drink lots of waterHydration is always important, but when you’re getting sick, your body needs a little extra. Eight 8-ounce glasses of water is a bare minimum when you’re well. Try to drink at least two more glasses when you’re sick.

Take your vitamins – When I’m getting a lot of vitamins from my food, I usually tend to skip a multi, but when a cold is brewing, I add it back to the daily routine. It certainly can’t hurt to get some more nutrients. I also wash an extra (2k IU) vitamin D pill down with a glass of emergen-C (which has loads of B12 and vitamin C).

Get your 7 to 8 hours of sleep – When I’m really busy, sometimes I forgo a few hours of sleep, but never when I’m sick. Your body recuperates while you’re sleeping, so don’t skimp out. Just lay back and let your body to its job.

Go for a little walk – It’s really important to get fresh air and sunshine when your body is fighting a cold, so a walk is the perfect thing. It’ll also get your blood flowing which will help deliver oxygen and nutrients to your vital organs.

Experiment with Natural Protein Sources

Protein is good for you, but only in moderation. I think that is a lesson that is lacking in our country today. Before adopting a vegan diet, I used to binge on protein; animal protein. I’d have two eggs for breakfast (scrambled), some sort of meat sandwich for lunch and chicken or beef for dinner. That’s too much protein and not enough veggies. But, I honestly didn’t know any better. I’m not saying everyone should avoid meat, but I do think it’s wise to cut back and experiment with different protein sources.

Why You Need Protein

Protein helps to build strength and to keep muscles, hair and skin looking healthy. Most people get their protein from meats, eggs and nuts but Americans have become well-known for eating way too much meat. While protein is good for the brain, there are some ways to make sure that you are eating the right kinds of protein.

Experimenting with Animal Proteins

First, make sure that the meat you are eating is high-quality. Organic meat that has been humanely-treated is best for your body and the environment (fewer hormones and no antibiotics). It’s also important to experiment with quantity. Smaller amounts of protein are easier to digest, so the portion should be no bigger than the palm of your hand. You can also change the type of meat you eat. Instead of beef try chicken, fish or lamb.

Experimenting with Plant-Based Proteins

Did you know that your body makes protein from various amino acids? It’s true. So, if you eat a variety of vegetables, you’ll likely get all the amino acids your body needs to make protein. You can also get protein from beans, nuts and a grain called quinoa (pronounced: keenwah). Plant-based proteins are generally easier on the digestive system, which can free up energy that you can use for other things (exercise, anyone?). It’s also completely devoid of cholesterol; compare that to a cheeseburger.

As strange as it may seem, food can really change your mood by increasing the way your brain produces “good mood” chemicals. Regardless of the source, it is important to maintain a balanced diet that includes a moderate amount of protein. But, I wanted to point out that it really isn’t necessary (in fact, it can even be harmful) to eat large portions of meat at each meal. Eating right is pretty simple because it’s not an exact science. You don’t need to measure your food or to learn how to become a nutritionist. You just have to get a variety of real food in your diet every day.

3 Simple Exercises to Improve Focus

Although I tend to focus much of my energy on exercise and nutrition, I know that those aren’t the only two things I can do to make sure I’m well. Last post, I talked about meditation, which is a great way to keep your mind and body in sync and ready to handle anything. When you’re feeling disconnected, but don’t have time to meditate, there are a few exercises you can try to bring your focus back.

Why is focus important? Focus and concentration are essential to succeeding in just about everything life throws your way. Everyone has tasks that require more concentration than others, and when these arise, it’s crucial to be able to think sharply.

Here are a few exercises you can do to help increase and improve your powers of concentration:

Thought exercise: Choose one thought and focus on it. Hold the thought in your mind for as long as you can without getting distracted or allowing your mind to wander. At first, you may not be able to do this for very long, but practice every day and soon you should be able to stay focused for some time.

Focus within: Sit or lie down and focus all of your energy inward. Think about your heart and the amazing capacity it has to pump blood to all the corners of your body. Focus on one beat at a time and allow yourself to visualize the blood pumping in and out, all the way out to your fingers and toes and back again.

Journal: Each morning, write down your dreams, and each evening, write down the events of your day in reverse. Doing this will help your concentration and your memory. Writing your dreams and daily events each day will help with your memory and understanding as you connect your daily life to your dreams.

If you practice every day, these three exercises can help you improve your focus, concentration and memory, which in turn will help you lead a more fulfilled life. Who doesn’t want that?

Coping with Stress

We know that it’s important to exercise and eat nutritious foods in order to stay fit, but did you also know that you should avoid stress in order to be healthy? Studies have shown that people who don’t deal well with stress are more susceptible to illness. I don’t want that to be me, and I’ll bet you don’t either. Let’s look at the ways we can keep stress at bay and stay fit and healthy.

Everyone has stress in their daily lives. The reality is that we live in a fast-paced world, and stress is inevitable. Whenever you feel stressed, your body is to reacting to danger. In the past (prehistoric days), this reaction helped keep us alive. But today, that’s not the case. We might feel stress when we get a bad grade in school, can’t find scholarships to help pay for our education, or miss a deadline at work.

Although stress is everywhere, it’s really important to find ways to deal with it. High stress levels are associated with chronic health conditions such as heart disease, digestive ailments and even obesity. So, having a battle plan for dealing with and relieving stress can help you live a longer, happier and healthier life.

One good way to deal with stress is to exercise regularly. People who exercise regularly have lower levels of stress hormones and are just all around happier. Not only will you like the way you look, but you’ll also be relieving stress hormones that can build up and lead to chronic disease. Pound out your stress by hitting the pavement for a run or lifting weights. Yoga is also great for beating stress because it combines the benefits of physical exercise with the practices of meditation, relaxation and proper breathing.

Even if you exercise, stress still can get to you. When you feel your body’s stress reaction coming on, here’s what to do: Breathe deeply and slowly. Take a few breaths in and out to help ward off that “fight or flight” reaction and calm yourself down.

Later on, after you’ve removed yourself from the stressor, you might still feel a little affected. If so, find a quiet place to sit and clear your mind. Stressing over problems, small or large, is not the way to solve them. It’s a way to find yourself sick and less capable of handling things – so, be sure to deal with stress the right way and you’ll keep yourself in tip-top shape, ready to handle anything!

How Exercise Makes You Energized, Focused and Optimistic

I often write about motivation, not because I think you need the push, but because I know I do. The one thing I’ve noticed about myself (and exercise) throughout the years is that I go through ebbs and flows. Once I actually get into a routine, I’m good. But as soon as I fall off that wagon, I’m in trouble. It’s so much easier to do nothing; isn’t it? So, when I’m lacking in motivation, I like to remind myself how great I feel when I’m exercising regularly. I’m energized, focused and optimistic. When I don’t exercise regularly, I’m the exact opposite of those three things.

Exercise helps you focus by increasing the blood flow within the body, which helps deliver more oxygen to the muscles, tissues and organs – including the brain. Not only does the blood deliver oxygen, but it also delivers vital nutrients that it needs in order to function.

If you look at the most successful people in life, you’ll start to notice a pattern. It doesn’t matter what field they’ve chosen to study. For the most part, they all understand the value of a good workout. Maybe they do it for vain reasons, or maybe for their health, but I do think that the increased flow of oxygen to their brains probably has contributed in some way to their success. How could it not? They’re more focused, energized and optimistic than the rest of us.

When I look at people like this, I think “Why can’t that be me?” But, then I remember: it can. I just need to stay motivated and exercise more often. The energy, focus and optimism that follows will help me start taking the steps I know I need to take in order to be more successful in life. It isn’t all attributed to exercise, of course. But when you exercise, you’re giving yourself a good springboard to use to hoist your ideas into action.

Secret Exposed: Exercise Doesn’t Have to be Torture

In the past, I’ve posted about how to find motivation to exercise. It’s an important topic, especially for those of us who tend to fall into ruts of laziness (my hand is raised right now). But with that in mind, I wanted to point something out that most people don’t think about: Exercise isn’t just what you do at the gym; it’s everything you do to move your body and work your muscles. If you’re not a gym-rat (and I’m definitely not), or even if you are, it can be fun to find creative ways to get exercise without feeling like you’re “working out.”

Here are a few ideas:

  1. Dance! If you like to dance, make this your exercise. You don’t need a routine; you just need to move your body. Whether you’re a good dancer or you have two left feet, you’re getting exercise while your body is moving. You can turn on the music and dance the night away at home, or you can plan a night out with your friends. Just don’t include alcohol in your workout, or you’re kind of defeating the purpose.
  2. Act like a kid again. Whenever I think of this advice, I think of Phoebe from Friends running in Central Park. You’ve heard the expression “Dance like no one’s watching.” In this episode, she runs like no one’s watching. It’s pretty hysterical, but the point is, she’s having fun. You don’t have run like Phoebe, but you can play games that make you feel like a kid again, like H.O.R.S.E and kickball.
  3. Join a team. Just because you’re not in school anymore, doesn’t mean you can’t play on an organized team. Check with your town’s recreation center to see if there are any softball, volleyball or basketball teams you can join.

One of the reasons we stay fit when we’re young is because we do things we enjoy. For some reason, most of us stop that once we reach adulthood. I’m not really sure why. Maybe we’re made to feel guilty for spending time on fun stuff, so exercise must become torture. It’s kind of silly when you think about it.

Another reason we become a little more sloppy when we get older is that our metabolism naturally slows. But the truth is, it doesn’t slow down that much. We’re the ones who really stop ourselves from being fit. Just get out there and have some fun already – your body will thank you for it!