Look on any supermarket’s shelves these days and you’ll see a huge variety of fruit juices, far more than were ever seen in our parents’ day. Orange juice (or occasionally grapefruit, apple or tomato juice) was the juice that typically appeared on most American breakfast tables. Now, it is possible to get juices in all manner of combinations, including such exotic fruits as mango, guava, pomegranate, goji berry and more. And although many of these juices have a healthy serving of vitamins and minerals, they also may have their fair share of calories and sugar. So is fruit juice good for us or not? Following are some of the pros and cons of drinking fruit juice.
Easy way to get fruit – One 4-ounce glass of fruit juice counts for one full serving of fruit, so if you are too rushed to eat an apple you can down some juice. While fruit juice does not contain the fiber that makes eating the whole fruit so healthy, it is still better than getting no fruit at all.
Good source of vitamins and antioxidants – One glass of orange or grapefruit juice can supply more than your daily requirement of vitamin C, boosting your immune system and providing you with free-radical-fighting antioxidants. It is also an excellent source of folic acid (which prevents birth defects and is good for heart health) and potassium (which helps to regulate blood pressure).
High in calories – Pam Birkenfeld, as pediatric nutritionist at New York’s Nassau University Medical Center says, “Parents tend to think that because fruit juice is fat-free and comes from nature, it’s OK. But what they often don’t realize is that it is a very concentrated source of calories that generally does not fill you up, just out.” There is an average of 140 calories in an 8-ounce glass of fruit juice. If you consume a few glasses each day, those calories can add up. In contrast, an orange has only about 60 calories.
High in sugar – Our increased consumption of sugar has been implicated as being a major contributor to the skyrocketing rates of obesity observed in the Western world. Studies have shown that children who are overweight drink 65 percent more sugary juices than children of normal weight. Some juices contain more sugar that sweetened soft drinks. Grape juice, for example, has 50 percent more sugar than Coca Cola.
Bad for your teeth – One study found an 84% reduction in the hardness of tooth enamel after drinking orange juice for just five days. Researchers believe other juices may have a similar effect, as their acidity is similar. Tooth decay and cavities in children as young as two or three years old have become commonplace, and dentists point to the increased intake of fruit juice as the cause. The combination of acid and sugar is the perfect storm for tooth decay. Experts advise that children drink fruit juice no more than once a day, and instead drink milk or water. If fruit juice is taken, it can be watered down to dilute the acid concentration.
By weighing these pros and cons you can decide for yourself how much juice you and your family should drink to get the benefits of drinking fruit juice while minimizing the drawbacks.
Everyone has heard about the importance of a balanced diet for maintaining good health. Similarly, everyone knows that they should be getting exercise – or at the very least adding more activity into their days. Getting a good night’s sleep is essential – without it, you’ll find that your immune system starts to slack off a bit and you put yourself at a greater risk for catching a cold or coming down with the flu.
We all know what we should be doing, but let’s be honest: very few of us eat a balanced diet all of the time. Many of us make the choice to take the elevator rather than the stairs and we try to find a parking place that’s as close as possible to our destination rather than taking the opportunity to walk a little further. We also tend to let stress, work, social gatherings and more interfere with the amount of sleep that we’re able to get each night.
When we don’t go the extra mile to take care of ourselves, and when our immune systems start to falter because of it, we may not feel it right away. Soon, sluggishness starts creeping in. This sluggishness not only slows us down, it also ages us prematurely. Fortunately, there’s something that we can do to counteract some of these effects. We can maintain our vigor and reduce the risk of disease simply by adding antioxidants to our diet.
What are antioxidants? The simplest answer is that antioxidants are plant-derived compounds that help prevent and repair cellular damage. Vitamin C, Vitamin E, selenium, lycopene and resveratrol are all examples of antioxidants that are found in fruits and vegetables. By making an effort to add antioxidants to our diet, we can slow the cellular damage that leads to disease.
Antioxidants are, in effect, sponges that soak up the free radicals in our systems. Excess free radicals are generated by the less healthy foods that we eat, alcohol that we drink, smoke that we’re exposed, and stress that we endure.
Free radicals damage our DNA and other cellular structures at the molecular level. Antioxidants roam around the body inactivating the free radicals and also assisting in damage repair. Damage that isn’t repaired can cause a cell to die, malfunction or replicate uncontrollably (such as in a tumor).
You can fight back against free radicals by adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet.
Note that free radicals are a natural by-product of metabolism and cannot be eliminated completely. The key is to keep them in check with an adequate supply of dietary antioxidants. Look for brightly colored fruits and vegetables. Without getting too scientific about it, the different colors (blue, purple, red, orange) in fruits are vegetables often come from the different antioxidants they contain. To get a broad range of antioxidants, eat a rainbow of different plants.
Honey is not just a gooey, sticky, golden syrup that tastes good on pancakes and your morning oatmeal. Honey has been used for centuries by healers from many different cultures across the world for everything from treating coughs to healing wounds. But is honey really good for you? Recent medical research has found that those ancient physicians may just have been right all along.
In its raw form, honey is a powerful source of antioxidants, along with having antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties. Its antioxidants keep free radicals from causing oxidative damage to the body’s cells. In a study done at the University of California, Davis, researchers gave four tablespoons of buckwheat honey daily to 25 study subjects over a period of 29 days, and their results found a positive link between honey consumption and increased levels of antioxidant polyphenols in their blood.
Honey promotes faster healing of wounds and burns. Its hygroscopic (water-attracting) properties help heal wounds by drawing out excess fluid. As bacteria thrive in wet environments, the application of honey helps keep wounds drier, and thus freer from bacteria. An Indian study found honey to be more effective for treatment of burns than the standard medical treatment (with silver sulfadiazine). The study’s researchers found that 91 percent of 104 patients with first-degree burns were free of infection after a week of treatment with honey, whereas only 7 percent of the conventionally treated patients were infection-free. Burns also healed more quickly with the honey than with conventional treatment.
In 2008, the International Symposium on Honey and Human Health presented some of the most recent research findings. Among them were:
A study of 105 children with upper respiratory tract infection demonstrated that a single dose of buckwheat honey before bed is more effective in treating their night-time coughs and accompanying sleep difficulty than a single dose of dextromethorphan.
Honey boosts the immune system. A study done in several Israeli hospitals found that it stimulates the production of white blood cells, and a study of cancer patients found those who ate honey had fewer infections. Studies found six different forms of lactobacilli and four different types of bifidobacteria in various types of honey, which strengthens both the immune and digestive systems.
The body processes honey more easily than it does sugar. Honey’s ratio of fructose to glucose is ideal for the way in which the liver metabolizes glucose, leading to more even blood sugar levels, and reducing insulin sensitivity. A year-long study done on rats, comparing the effects of honey, sucrose and a low-glycemic diet found that the rats on the honey diet had a lower percentage of body fat, reduced weight gain, better memory, less anxiety, higher levels of “good” cholesterol, better blood sugar levels and reduced damage from oxidation than rats fed the other two diets.
Raw honey offers the most benefits, as processing removes many of the healthful phytonutrients honey provides. You can usually find raw honey at your local health food store or at a farmers’ market. And remember that children under one year of age should not be given honey due to the risk of infantile botulism. Never has good health tasted so sweet!
Like the other B-vitamins, riboflavin (also known as vitamin B2), plays a key role in the production of energy and the maintenance of metabolism. Its distinctive characteristic is its bright yellow fluorescent color, which can often be seen in the urine of those taking supplements of the vitamin, the excess of which is excreted through the kidneys. And because only small amounts of it are stored in the liver and kidneys, regular intake must be received through the diet.
Working together with an enzyme, riboflavin helps to break down homocysteine. Elevated levels of homocysteine in the blood are related to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and bone fractures. Vitamin B2 works with different enzymes to help in the creation of some of the other B-vitamins such as B3 (niacin), B6 (pyridoxine) and B1 (thiamine), and also aids the optimal utilization of iron and folic acid.
Riboflavin also works as an antioxidant by helping in the recycling of glutathione, a molecule that neutralizes the effects of dangerous free radicals that damage the body’s cells and DNA, accelerating the aging process and increasing your risk of cancer. It is also useful to our cells by helping them in the most efficient use of oxygen and in encouraging healthy cell growth.
Recent studies have found that supplementing with vitamin B2 may help those who suffer from migraines. According to a study published in the European Journal of Neurology, 23 migraine sufferers were given 400 mg. of riboflavin every day for three months and recorded the frequency, duration and intensity of their migraines during this period. The results showed the number of migraines to be reduced by half, from an average of four per month to two, and were shorter in duration, though their intensity was unchanged.
Deficiency in riboflavin is not common, but is more apt to be found in alcoholics, women taking birth control pills, the chronically ill and the elderly. Some signs of riboflavin deficiency are swollen tongue, skin cracks, particularly around the corners of the mouth, weakness, sore throat, hair loss, blurred vision, cataracts, and light sensitivity.
The best dietary sources of riboflavin are meat, dark green leafy vegetables, whole or fortified grains, mushrooms and dairy products. The recommended daily allowance is 1.3 mg per day for adults. Though not sensitive to heat, acid or oxidation, riboflavin is easily destroyed by exposure to light, so be sure to buy dairy products such as milk or yogurt in opaque containers.
There can be a major difference in the nutrition of the vegetables you eat, depending on what form you eat them in. The vegetables supplying the most nutrients are generally the ones that are the freshest and least processed. Now what does that mean?
The nutrients in any vegetable begin to deteriorate as soon as it’s harvested, including those all-important cancer-fighting antioxidants. The sooner a vegetable is eaten after it’s picked, the more nutrients it has. Having a home garden is ideal, as you can simply walk out your door, pick what you need and plop it straight into the cooking pot or salad bowl. Of course, not everyone has the space or time for a garden, so what’s the next best thing?
If you have a nearby farmers’ market, the veggies from there are usually grown locally and are generally fresher than what you can get at the supermarket. Barring that, the next best choice is, surprisingly, frozen vegetables.
What most people don’t know is that frozen food can often be more nutritious for you than fresh, especially if the fresh variety has been transported over a long distance. If you’re living in New York and are eating fresh peas grown in California, those peas have endured a number of days in a truck before arriving at your market.
Also, any sugars in the vegetable begin to convert to starch from the moment it’s picked, which is why freshly picked corn straight from the farm is so much sweeter than the kind that’s been sitting in the supermarket for a few days. However, frozen peas and many other vegetables are generally flash frozen on the spot where they are harvested, preserving those nutrients.
Cooked vegetables are generally not as nutritious as raw, though if you do cook them be sure to do it only long enough make them tender. The longer they cook, the greater the nutrient loss. There are, however, some exceptions. Tomatoes, for example, provide greater amounts of lycopene when they are cooked than when eaten raw. Cooking breaks down the plant’s cell walls, releasing greater amounts of nutrients. Zucchini, carrots and broccoli are best eaten cooked for this reason.
Canned vegetables are generally lowest in nutrients, as so many vitamins are lost in processing under high heat. The water-soluble vitamins B and C and polyphenols are easily lost when canned or boiled. Researchers at the University of California found that between 85 and 95 percent of the vitamin C in canned peas and carrots were lost in processing. The vegetables containing fat-soluble vitamins such as A, D E and K can be steamed or boiled, however, without losing a great amount of nutrients.
Raw vegetables are generally best, but if you find eating raw veggies unappealing to the point where you avoid them, it’s fine to eat them lightly cooked. Better to get some healthy nutrients than none at all!
We all want to look young and beautiful, no matter what our age, and keeping your skin in good condition goes a long way toward that goal. There are a number of things you can do to keep your skin looking supple and glowing that don’t involve expensive treatments or surgery!
Drink more water- This may be the number one tip in achieving healthy-looking skin. Controlled climates such as homes and offices with heat and air conditioning tend to be very drying to the skin. Most people are actually chronically dehydrated, and this leads to an increased in lines and wrinkles, much as a grape becomes a raisin! Optimally, you should drink between 2 and 3 liters of water every day, which will make your tissues more plump and resilient, reducing fine lines and wrinkles. If you can’t stomach that much water, other beverages are fine, but beware of any that contain lots of sugar or caffeine, as an excess of these substances is not good for your health.
Cleanse and exfoliate – At the end of the day, after being subjected to the elements, including sun, wind, climate, etc. (not to mention makeup), you need to give your skin a good cleanse. Dead cells can accumulate on the skin’s surface, making it look dull and lifeless. Start by removing all makeup with a gentle cleanser, such as a little plain yogurt on a cotton ball, which removes makeup without the use of harsh chemicals. Then treat it to a light apricot kernel scrub, which can remove those dead cells and expose the fresh ones underneath.
Eat healthy – A diet high in fruits and vegetables, particularly the ones with high amounts of antioxidants such as Vitamin C, and low in sugar, unhealthy fats and processed foods, has been shown to promote younger looking skin. Red peppers, strawberries and avocados are among the foods highest in antioxidants and healthy fats.
Wear protective clothing – We all know that too much sun exposure is bad, exposing our skin to damage from free radicals. Chemicals in some commercial sunscreens can be almost as bad for you as too much sun and keep you from getting an adequate amount of vitamin D to boot! The best option is to wear protective clothing as much as possible. This includes long-sleeved shirts and hats with wide brims.
Moisturize – One way to keep your skin from drying out is to apply a good moisturizer once in the morning and again before bed, after your cleansing routine. Look for a moisturizer that does not contain any SLS (sodium lauryl/lauryth sulfate) or parabens, neither of which are good for you. The best are those containing olive oil, aloe or vitamin E.
Quit Smoking – The increased number of wrinkles that appear on the faces of smokers is yet another reason to quit. Smoking constricts the tiny blood vessels that supply oxygen and important nutrients that nourish the skin. It also damages the collagen and elastin that keep skin strong and elastic.