The Coconut Oil Craze

Food trends come and go. I’ve seen just about everything go around at least once. First it’s good for you, then it isn’t, then it is again, but usually by another name. It’s like grocery store products that become, NEW, then New & Improved, then Advanced, and finally back to Original Formula. That’s when the marketing cycle starts over again. This can take anywhere from 3—5 years to a decade to play out. The latest craze is now coconut oil. I’ve know about the uses of coconut and coconut oil for years. Now it’s all the rage in the popular media. Let’s take a look at this product and I’ll let you decide if you want it to be part of your pantry.

The current media hype claims that coconut oil will protect you from cancer, Alzheimer’s, and kidney stones, while helping you lose excess body fat. Let’s take a closer look.

Advantages of Coconut Oil

I don’t know about you, but I love the flavor of coconut! My favorite candy bar is a PeterPaul Mounds Bar. What could be better than dark chocolate and coconut? Yeah, but are there any benefits of coconut?

I’m going to go all science geek on you for a minute. Stick with me though, it will all make sense quickly.

First of all, coconut oil is made up of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). By contrast, the milk fats of cows, sheep, and goats are mostly short-chain triglycerides.

Secondly, some studies have shown that MCTs can help burn excess calories by promoting fat oxidation and reducing appetite. This may be because MCTs are high in Omega-3 fatty acids, which improve cholesterol’s profile. They also lack cholesterol raising Lauric, Myristic, and Palmitic Acids. However, the weight loss benefits have so far been inconclusive.

Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) are generally considered easy to metabolize. They are rapidly absorbed by the body. MCTs are bland compared to other fats, meaning they don’t leave a bad taste. That’s why they are widely used as flavoring in foods, in oral medications, and vitamins. Coconut oil melts at 74OF, making it easy to use and incorporate in many foods. It doesn’t spoil quickly thanks to its super-high percentage of saturated fat.

Disadvantages of Coconut Oil

Coconut oil has no cholesterol. Some of its fatty acids are different than the saturated fat found in animal products. Now for some bad news…

  • It contains more saturated fat—which has been known to raise blood cholesterol and clog arteries—than butter.

  • Studies show it can raise LDL (the bad cholesterol)

  • According to university researchers, it can contribute to atherosclerosis (aka heart disease)

If this information breaks your heart, imagine how I feel! Here’s how we make it a little less severe…

According to the American Heart Association, saturated fat intake should be a maximum of 16 grams daily (based on a 2,000-calorie diet). That means you would have to stick to the 1 tablespoon serving (120 calories and 14 grams of saturated fat) per day and take in no other saturated fat. Forty percent of the saturated fat in coconut oil are not the good MCT’s. They are artery-clogging, long-chain triglycerides (LCTs). You’re still better off with olive oil (2 grams of saturated fat per 1 tablespoon serving).

Adding insult to injury, there is not enough research to support claims that coconut oil promotes weight loss. If you’re like me, and really like coconut, what do you do?

I can’t recommend replacing heart-healthy fats like olive oil with coconut oil. Fat is still fat. Coconut oil is high in calories (120 per tablespoon), which can quickly add to your waistline. Fortunately, a little bit goes a long way in adding flavor and creamy texture. Keep it small and consider coconut oil as a condiment instead of your primary oil. Use it very sparingly. You can add 1 tablespoon of coconut oil to a recipe. Diluted over an entire recipe, you can enjoy the great taste, texture, and minimal health benefits without all the harmful side-effects like heart disease and weight gain.  

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Fewer Calories For A Longer Life

By slightly reducing your daily calorie intake, you might do more than just help control your weight. There is a good chance that you may also slow the aging process. University scientists are finding that when they feed rats just 8% fewer calories a day, plus moderately increase their activity levels, the lifespan of the rodents is significantly extended, while at the same time the negative effects of cellular aging are reduced. 

In humans, an 8% reduction in calories amounts to a few hundred calories. A “moderate increase in activity levels” translates into the equivalent of taking a short walk. The bottom line is even slight decrease of calories combined with a moderate exercise program can benefit us in the long term. This is accomplished by improving liver function (an organ that shows significant dysfunction as we age).

More Information
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about calories. Google it and check it out.

Anti-Aging Secrets

What do we have in common with ancient Chinese royalty? We want to avoid wrinkles! In her book, Anti-Aging Therapy: How to Clear Away the Wrinkles and Rejuvenate Your Face (©2006) author Ping Zhang, Ph.D., LAc., shares scientifically-based remedies that blend the best of the East and West. The result? Time-tested tricks to rejuvenate your skin—naturally.

Most traditional anti-aging products focus on superficial wrinkles—in other words, they treat only the surface of your skin. By contrast, Traditional Chinese Medicine targets the entire body and the factors that cause wrinkles. Age is the most obvious one, but lifestyle, attitude, and what you eat all play a role, too.

Traditional Chinese Medicine strengthens your internal organs, freeing blood to move smoothly to your face and distributing energy and fluid evenly through your body. This nourishes your complexion, resulting in “youthful, supple, wrinkle-free skin—naturally,” says Zhang.

Follow these steps—which include homemade masks, exotic herbs, and delicious meals—to get beautiful, glowing skin.

Choose Your “Roots” Carefully

Zhang draws on centuries of Asian health and beauty secrets in her comprehensive herbal guide to solving skin problems. Her solutions work for anything from a lined forehead to dark, puffy bags under the eyes.

For a one-size-fits-all remedy, try Ren Shen, or Chinese Ginseng Root. “Because Ginseng is beneficial in so many ways, it makes sense for anybody to include it in any anti-wrinkle strategy,” says Zhang. In fact, its genus name Panax means “universal remedy.”

Ginseng, deemed one of the most precious herbs in China, contains triterpenoid saponins, powerful molecules that reduce stress and fatigue. It’s also loaded with antioxidants, which neutralize wrinkle-causing free radicals, and panaxtriol, a natural steroid that aids in tissue formation. 

From a Traditional Chinese Medicine point of view, Ginseng nourishes the entire five-organ system—the heart, lungs, spleen, kidneys, and liver. It also boosts the skin’s metabolism and replenishes nutrients. “All this leads to a slowdown in the aging process and decrease in wrinkle formation,” says Zhang. Purchase the whole root, available at herb stores and Chinese markets. Look for the scientific name of Panax ginseng or Panax schinseng (not to be confused with Siberian Ginseng, which functions differently). Soak two grams in 4 ounces of fresh water for a 1⁄2-hour, then steam in a double boiler for an hour. Drink half the resulting liquid before breakfast, and finish the rest the next day. Repeat daily for 10 days to 1 month, and then reevaluate your skin’s condition.

If you have a medical condition or are taking medication, consult your health care provider before beginning any type of herbal regimen.

Royal Pearls and Jade

Zhang’s book includes a variety of masks you can make at home. (A good reason to have a Spa party!) Try this one for starters:

Legend has it that a Chinese empress renowned for her youthful skin crushed a pearl and used a stick of jade to rub it on her wrinkles—literally smoothing them away. Asian royalty or not, you can benefit from a similarly luxurious routine.

“Pearl powder contains amino acids and trace elements that rejuvenate your skin,” explains Zhang. You can find it at Chinese herb stores. Look for the Chinese name Zhen Zhu Mo, or the pharmaceutical name Margarita.

Next, try one of Zhang’s favorite masks: Mix a teaspoon of pearl powder with an egg white and half a teaspoon of honey. Add water if necessary. Apply to your face and let set for 20 minutes. Rinse withwarm water. “It never fails to brighten your complexion,” Zhang says.

To pamper yourself Chinese-style, massage your face and apply a warm, wet facecloth before and after the treatment. Moist skin absorbs the mask’s nutrients more readily than dry skin, and the warm water is relaxing.

Better Skin Through Food

“Over the centuries, the Chinese identified foods with components that delay aging, improve the elasticity of the skin and reduce wrinkling,” Zhang explains. Her list of delicious anti-aging foods includes dates, honey, and cherries. There are also some unexpected items, including tremella, a type of mushroom. Tremella’s skin-softening properties not only rejuvenate your complexion, but also provide a hefty dose of vitamin B, iron, calcium, and potassium. From a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective, the mushroom benefits the blood, brain, heart, and lungs, and increases energy. Buy the whole mushroom
at a Chinese market and use it in your next stir-fry.

Zhang also says, “…pH balance—the right combination of acidic and alkaline foods in your diet—is essential for beautiful and healthy skin.” Acidic foods include meat and other animal products, rice, white sugar, wheat flour, and citrus foods. Alkaline foods include green vegetables, beans, lentils, sweet potatoes, yams, plus fruits like peaches, papayas and mangos.

Most people eat too many acidic foods and skimp on the alkaline ones. This leads to “rough, lusterless skin that tends to loosen and wrinkle,” Zhang warns. Get back on track with vegetable-packed soups, (Zhang includes recipes for them in her book). You can also supplement occasionally with vegetable and fruit smoothies. Working on a healthier, more lustrous complexion never tasted so good.

Pressure

Zhang’s acupuncture sessions, which have been featured on TV, can help with sagging skin. She even has an acupuncture face-lift treatment. For at-home benefits, sans the needles, you can try acupressure. Like acupuncture, acupressure targets specific body points to activate and regulate energy (known as Qi), which is believed to travel through the body along pathways called meridians. As energy and blood flow to the face increases, facial muscles relax and skin becomes more elastic. The next thing you know, your skin is healthier and younger-looking.

Zhang’s book includes diagrams of energy points as well as a description of the energy channel associated with each. For starters, try this 5-minute massage: 
There are 5 points on your eyebrow line—one between your eyebrows (it’s sometimes called the third eye), one at the outer edge of each eyebrow and one at the inner edge of each eyebrow. Using your index and middle fingers of both hands, start at one point and massage in a vertical line, moving upward toward your hairline. Then lift your fingers and begin again at the next point. Give yourself
this mini-massage whenever you have a spare moment or right before bed to relax.

Expand Your Knowledge: Can You Eat Too Much Protein?

Myth: When it comes to your weight, you can’t eat too much protein. Anything beyond what your body needs will get excreted in urine. 

Many people believe that because the body has a little capacity to store protein, it seems logical that excess protein will just get removed through the urine, similar to water-soluble vitamins.

The Science & Reality: It is true that your body has a limited capacity to store excess proteins beyond its immediate needs. It is true that part of those excess proteins get excreted in urine (actually the nitrogen group known as urea in urine). The carbon group of protein is readily converted to glucose or fat, depending on what your body’s current needs are. Bottom line: excess protein is processed in the body the same as excess carbohydrate or excess fatit is converted into stored body fat.

Natural Antibiotic

I’m not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV, so I suggest that before you try this recipe, you check with your health care provider. That said, this drink should not harm, unless you are allergic to one or more of the ingredients.

Ingredients
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 tbsp organic honey*
2 tbsp ginger, freshly grated
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup lemon juice

Directions
Blend these ingredients thoroughly and drink 3-4 times a day. Keep the extra in the fridge.

ENOUGH FOR ONE PERSON FOR ONE DAY

* Some people think the honey to be more effective should have a MGO of 400+ and a UMF of 10+. I’ve not read anywhere whether or not this really makes a difference, so use your best judgement.

Can New Urban Designs Fight Obesity?

I read an article that shows how our environment, if properly designed, can aid us in better health and help us avoid becoming obese. I think it’ll take more than public service campaigns to solve the nation’s obesity problem. Some fitness experts—including myself—have been talking about how our neighborhoods must be designed so people can get around without their cars. Does that sound scary to you? Hear me out…

According to James Sallis, a UCSD psychology professor, “Virtually everything our society has done for the past 100 years has made it easier for us to be fatter.” He spoke about this at the 2006 American College of Sports Medicine’s (ACSM) annual meeting. He told the members of the ACSM who attended the conference, “We’ve built an unhealthy world in a lot of different ways.” Sallis contends change will come only when the public demands walkable development, more federal money for parks and bike paths, and even a tax on industries that promote sedentary lifestyles (he pointed to video game makers, movie theater chains, and even electric Segway scooters).

Image

James Sallis

Sallis and others say that proof people will accept an active lifestyle and walk to parks and shopping if they can is found in the “new urbanism” style of planned communities. One case in point is Denver’s Stapleton neighborhood, an enclave of new homes built where the city’s old airport used to be.

The neighborhood is a mix of shops, offices, parks, apartments, and houses linked by wide sidewalks and meandering bike paths. Architecture varies from single-family homes to rows of brownstones. A spokesman for developer Forest City, Tom Gleason, said the design has been a hit. “People will walk if you give them that opportunity,” he said.

Jack Berryman, a professor of medical history at the University of Washington, says that active lifestyles date back at least a century. It was President Teddy Roosevelt who famously worried about Americans’ “slothful life.” Before both world wars, military leaders complained about “soft” recruits. President Eisenhower launched the President’s Council on Physical Fitness in 1956.

Given all that, which I am suggesting got the word out, it’s just failure, failure, failure. Fatter, not fitter,” Berryman said.

In 2004, the National Institute of Environmental Health Science (NIEHS) hosted a conference on how society has engineered activity out of American life. NIEHS spokeswoman Christine Bruske said at a similar conference in 2007 focused on how children are affected, that new ideas take time.

Without a coordinated effort among federal, state, and local governments, communities can’t compete,” Professor Sallis said. “Transportation money goes to highways, not bike paths or even sidewalks in newer developments. Everything is engineered against us.”

Let me ask you… What would you do? If given the opportunity, would you rather use a bike, walk, use public transport for long distances, or stick with your car with its associated high fuel prices and pollution, plus pay for gym memberships for your exercise? Loaded question I know, but it is something we all need to think and talk about.

Getting Older is Inevitable. Aging is Not. Secrets to Growing Younger.

It’s all downhill after 30, right? No! Mental and physical health determine your real age, not what your birth certificate says. Getting older is inevitable, aging is not. Here’s 8 tips for feeling young no matter what your age.

1. Forget your calendar age. It’s your biologic/physical age that counts. The more life energy you have, the younger you appear. I’m just one example, being more active than people 10—15 years younger than my 55 years. I take no medications. I eat plenty of vegetables high in antioxidants plus supplement key nutrients. Healthcare providers calculate my biologic age far younger than my calendar age. Proper nutrients, exercise, and rest ensures my cells are getting younger instead of older.

The opposite can also be true. A 35-year-old can act like someone far older, hanging out with people who walk and talk at the same slow pace. When I meet such people, I’m seeing the aging process happening right before my eyes. Their words, thoughts, and actions are all about dying instead of living.

One of my favorite websites, where you can easily calculate your biologic age, is RealAge.com. After taking their RealAge test, if you don’t like the number you get, remember it’s easy to change it. That’s right—you can actually grow younger!

2. Getting older is inevitable. Aging is not. You can’t turn back the clock—but you can wind it up again. The process actually begins at conception! We might not be able to stop it, but we can influence it. No one really understands what aging is. Here’s some theories that have stood the test of time…

When we’re young, our energy is strong. That makes our youthful bodies very forgiving. The average 18-year-old can maintain a healthy weight and have lots of energy, even if he/she eats mostly junk food, doesn’t exercise or supplement, smokes, drinks alcohol, and even always pessimistic. Unfortunately, this natural forgiveness of youth won’t last forever.

Over time, lifestyles, including our thoughts and beliefs, catch up with us. The human body becomes less forgiving than it used to be. This translates into not being able to party all night, then the next morning drink several cups of coffee and arrive at work feeling alert. A once radiant complexion will start to dull from too much sugar, caffeine, cigarettes, alcohol, etc. Working at an fulfilling job with no plans for the future also takes its toll on the body.

When health-robbing habits catch up with people at about the age of 30 or so, they say, “You see? It’s my age. That’s why this stuff is happening to me. It’s natural.” Nothing could be further from the truth. When we don’t take care of our bodies (including our minds, emotions, and spirits) our bodies are forced to send us louder and louder signals to get our attention.

Headaches, low energy, dull skin, joint aches, and pains are just a few of the many different messages our body sends us when it needs better care. Our symptoms are not signs that our bodies are somehow “turning on us.” Our bodies are actually created from our consciousness and the behavior that flows from this. That’s why it’s possible to remain vital and healthy, and keep improving in many areas throughout our lives!

3. Get conscious about ageism. We live in a society that filled with ageism. People automatically assume that we all fall apart as we get older. Recently, my massage therapist told me about a woman who described herself as “old and fat.” She was only 55! This is insane and dangerous to our health and well-being.

It’s important to avoid falling into the trap of ageism. Ever said you’ve just had a “senior” moment just because you forget a name or a face? Well, STOP IT! Everyone forgets occasional names. Yes, everyone. I have, you have, kids have, too. We all forget things. This isn’t something that necessarily increases as you age.

Some people complain about being “fuzzy headed.” They can’t seem to balance bank account for instance, convinced they are experiencing the first stages of Alzheimer’s. It’s just not true. Most of the time, this has nothing to do with aging. Instead, this is your body’s way of telling you it’s time for you to tune in to yourself more consistently.

What does “I think I’m doing pretty well, for my age.” mean? It’s true that most 65-year-olds don’t engage in as much risk-taking or thrill-seeking behavior as they did when they were younger (like driving too fast with a high blood alcohol level), it has nothing to do with being too old. It’s because you’ve learned from past mistakes and have taken on a wonderful quality called: wisdom.

4. Eat cleaner. It’s tough to build healthy new cells by eating processed foods that have a shelf half-life of decades. Everyone needs plenty of fresh vegetables, fruit, protein, water, sunshine, and fresh air.

5. Supplement responsibly. We all could use a decent daily vitamin/mineral supplement. Just know that national brands aren’t worth your money. Get pharmaceutical-grade products with good antioxidant coverage. Most symptoms of aging are actually a result of free radical damage to your tissues. Antioxidants destroy free radicals, helping tissues and your skin stay pliable, flexible, healthy, and younger longer.

6. Get up and move! Why do people lose muscle or range of motion as they get older? They just stop using their bodies fully. Physical deterioration is not about your age. It’s because you are sedentary. Think about a car. If a car sat in a field for five years, would you expect it to start on the first try or run well? No! The same is true of our bodies. By exercising regularly, you can expect to add at least 6-7 quality years to your life. Walking isn’t usually enough to build the kind of muscle mass you need to keep your weight normal, but it’s a start. You will also need weight training to build and maintain bone mass.

7. Be creative and have things to look forward to. You can keep your mind sharp and enjoy life without being an exercise or diet fanatic. I meet creative people all the time. Their minds are so engaged in what they’re creating that they’re filled with life force. This is one of the reasons why composers such as 82-year-old John Williams seem so timeless. The creative process of these people is because they stay connected with the world, are inspired, and always looking forward to something new. All that affect the physical body in positive ways.

You don’t have to be a world-class composer to have plenty of energy and life force. You can use meditation, dance, painting, volunteering, or any other pursuit of creativity. The key is staying open to being a channel for something new.

8. Have regular spa days. Visiting a spa can help jump-start a new, younger life. A good spa should be set up with all the food, exercise, great company, and creativity built in.

Mark Twain said, “Age is just a matter of mind; if you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” Remember, you can be young at 90 or old at 15. It’s not inevitable, it’s your personal choice.