Eating Junk Food Harder To Resist When Tired

More reason to get enough sleep at night. The first of a pair of studies presented at the Associated Professional Sleep Societies 2012 meeting suggests that eating junk food is more appealing to those who haven’t gotten the sleep they need. Isn’t that all of us these days? If you’re also trying to lose weight, understanding your cravings for the sweet stuff might help you avoid it more effectively.

This research included 25 normal weight adults who had undergone MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans on five nights of only four hours sleep per night, then again after five nights where they were allowed to sleep 9 hours. While in the scanner, they saw photos of healthy foods, unhealthy foods and non-food related images like office supplies.

When the team looked at the areas of the brain that are most active when you see healthy (or unhealthy) foods, they saw that the reward centers of the brain were activated when a sleep deprived subject saw photos of unhealthy, but tasty food choices.

When the same subject was well rested, the image didn’t trigger any such activation in the reward center. Regions associated with both reward and motivation (the ones involved with addiction and pleasure seeking) were strongly active in the subjects’ brains.

Think about it, you’re guard is down when you’re tired, in need of sleep. You know eating certain foods isn’t a good choice, but you’re in no shape to deny yourself anything. You decide to go for it, and worry about the consequences later.

The second study, smaller, was also presented at the Sleep 2012 annual meeting. Though this work didn’t find a large activation of the brain’s reward areas in those who were feeling tired, the team from the University of California, Berkeley found significantly impaired activity in a part of the frontal lobe of the brain, the part of the brain helps control behavior and aids in the making of complicated choices.

When subjects were deprived of sleep and then shown visuals of unhealthy food options, this part of the brain didn’t react well. This would make choosing healthy options (or resisting unhealthy ones), especially when those unhealthy ones are readily available, a difficult thing to manage, as most of us are all too aware.

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Study: Why Junk Food Appeals Even More When You’re Sleepy… Continued…

This work involved just 16 healthy volunteers who underwent functional MRI magnetic resonance imaging scans of the brain after a full night sleep, and again after a full 24 hours of sleep deprivation. The participants had to rate their desire for 80 different foods during each phase of the test.

According to dietician Samantha Heller, the clinical nutrition coordinator at the Center for Cancer Care at Griffin Hospital who was not involved in either study, it makes sense that when you’re tired, you body might want foods with lots of calories for that quick burst of energy. There may be some evolutionary benefit to doing this.

Rather than going for the energy boost by eating junk food, try something simple and healthy instead. Fruit is always a tasty, nutritious choice.

The Links Between Oral Health And Cancer

A really good reason to take care of not just your teeth, but your whole mouth. New research finds a link between oral health and cancer. It’s to do with the plaque on your teeth and gums increasing your risk of dying from cancer.

There are lots of studies that have shown oral health is associated with conditions like heart disease. This latest research suggests that those who naturally have more plaque on their teeth and gums are more likely to die early due to cancer than those who have less plaque.

Dental plaque is a type of bacteria that’s able to form on the surface of your teeth and gums. After you eat, the bacteria in the plaque release acids that attack the enamel of your teeth, and over time can cause the enamel to grow weaker and result in tooth decay.

Plaque that isn’t brushed away can harden into calculus or tartar. What’s more, many of our most common favorite foods cause the bacteria that are part of dental plaque to produce acids… so if you eat these foods often, you’re likely bathing your teeth and gums in acid all day long.

For the study on plaque and cancer death, around 1,400 Swedish men and women were followed for a period of 24 years. At the start of the study the participants were asked about their smoking status as well as if they had any other risk factors for cancer. The researchers also examined dental plaque buildup, tartar, gum disease and tooth loss for all the subjects. Over the period of the study, 58 of the study subjects died, 35 due to cancer.

The team saw that those who died had more dental plaque over larger surface areas of the mouth (teeth and gums) than those who did not die during the study. The specifics break out like this – those with lots of dental plaque were a whopping 79% more likely to die before their time.

On average, the women were 61 years old when they died; the men were 60. The women should have lived about 13 years longer, the men an added 8.5 years – clearly death came earlier than it should have. The findings held even after the team accounted for known risk factors in early cancer death.

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More Dental Plaque Signals Higher Risk Of Death By Cancer… Continued…

Just how this works still isn’t clear. Researchers speculate that bacteria in the gums might bring on local inflammation. This doesn’t just stay quietly in your mouth; it becomes systemic, and can be measureable in your blood.

Experts from the American Cancer Society believe that the study raises more questions than it answers. Do those with more plaque have a higher risk of cancer overall? Does more plaque make cancer patients more susceptible to complications (like infection) from their treatment?

Dentists agree that if you have a lot of dental plaque there are more microorganisms present in your mouth. Research has found that some cancers may be related to certain viruses or other microorganisms. Of course it’s far too early to say that dental plaque causes cancer, though good oral hygiene and regular dental exams (and cleanings) are certainly a smart step, both for your oral health and overall health.

The findings of this latest research on oral health and cancer appear in the journal BMJ Open.

Experts Debate The Cause Of Obesity

All of us are heavier now than in the past, and experts continue to wonder at the cause of obesity sweeping the western nations. It may well be that human beings haven’t gotten any greedier or lazier over the years, but that the foods we eat, along with the sugar that’s so much a part of them, is the root of the problem.

Think about it… our genetics haven’t changed, but our environment sure has, as has our access to cheap, sugar-laden foods, more plentiful today than at any time in human history.

According to Professor Jimmy Bell, an obesity specialist at Imperial College in London, the food industry is bombarding us each and every day with messages that encourage us to consume more. He suggests there’s a war between our bodies in their natural state and the accessibility that modern living gives us to food. Processed food. This access plays a major role in the obesity epidemic, and the outlook, for Bell anyway, is that we’re losing the war on obesity.

There may be something to this. In the 1970s, foods were able to be supplied in larger quantities, attractively displayed on the shelves of American supermarkets, at great prices, giving the general public access to processed, tasty goodies like never before. Portions started growing too, and foods fried in corn oil (French fries, onion rings) took off in popularity. Nutritionist Marion Nestle holds that this combination of factors was what paved the way for obesity to spiral out of control.

One of the biggest changes to our modern diet during the 1970s was the mass production of both corn and high fructose corn syrup – well known as a sweetener added to a majority of processed foods.

High fructose corn syrup is a very sweet by product of waste corn and being rather affordable, began to be used in every imaginable food. Not only did it give great taste, it offered that appealing just baked look to bread and cakes. By the mid 1980s, corn syrup had taken the place of sugar in carbonated soft drinks. As it was one third cheaper than actual sugar.

Consumption of these corn syrup based soft drinks nearly doubled for the average American over the 20 years that followed the change – to 600 cans a year from a starting point of 350.

Also in the mid 1970s there was an impassioned debate in academic circles over heart disease – to be specific, what caused this condition, sugar or fat.

The idea that fat was the root of the problem won out and was the start for our “low fat” food choices of today. This offered food makers an immense opportunity to help consumers avoid the potential scourge of heart disease. Today low fat products are everywhere, unfortunately, that fat has been replaced by sugar.

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Medical Doctor Reveals The Shocking Truth

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Experts Speculate On The Cause Of The Obesity Crisis… Continued…

By the time anyone thought to ask if replacing fat with sugar was a good option it was too late. Sugar had firmly taken hold, the more you ate, the more you wanted. Some experts, including David Kessler, an ex-head of the Food and Drug Administration believes that sugar, fat and salt appeal to our brain just like addictive substances do. Offering a momentary bliss that has a power all its own.

The American Beverage Association is quick to point out that the increased consumption of carbonated sodas isn’t to blame for the number of pounds everyone is carrying around these days. Spokesperson Susan Neely suggests that the evidence says obesity is the result of taking in too many calories without balancing this intake with enough exercise.

Other experts warn that the sheer amount of fructose (a part of high fructose corn syrup) being consumed by the average person is the danger. It’s the amount that makes it toxic. Fructose is readily changed to fat once inside the body, and experts have found that it also suppresses the action of a rather vital hormone, leptin. Leptin is the hormone that goes and tells your brain you’ve had enough. But when the liver is overwhelmed by sugars, leptin just stops working, and the body loses the natural mechanism for knowing when it’s full.

If fructose is found to be the cause of obesity the food industry stands ready to respond.

Food That Lowers Blood Pressure

Fascinating findings on food that lowers blood pressure. The compound isoflavones, found in foods like soy milk, green tea, tofu and peanuts, might just help bring down blood pressure in younger adults according to new research. They may offer particular benefit to black adults, a group where nearly 42% are believed to have high blood pressure. The research was presented at the American College of Cardiology 2012 annual meeting in Chicago.

To conduct the research, the team analyzed data from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study on over 5,000 subjects. The study found that those who consumed the highest amounts (over 2.5 milligrams) of isoflavones a day had an average 5.5 mmHg lower systolic (top number) blood pressure than those who took in the least (under 0.33 milligrams) isoflavones a day.

To put the numbers to a practical application, an 8-ounce glass of soy milk brings 22 milligrams of isoflavones; 100 grams of roasted soybeans has 130 milligrams of isoflavones. The blood pressure benefit appears to come from even moderate amounts of intake of isoflavones for the young, both black and white adults. This is the first research to show a particular benefit for African Americans who are known to get high blood pressure more often, at an earlier age and end with more severe organ damage as a result.

It may be that eating some soy protein, along with a DASH diet, could bring as much as a 10 mmHg drop in the systolic (top) blood pressure for those who have yet to be diagnosed with high blood pressure. This dramatically improves their chances of not only getting high blood pressure but also suffering the other damaging effects.

Today almost one in three adults in the U.S. has high blood pressure, a condition known as the “silent” killer because it typically has no outward signs or symptoms. It can exist for years without you knowing, but all the while doing damage not only to your heart, but to blood vessels, your kidneys and other areas of the body as well.

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Eating These Foods Might Bring Down Blood Pressure… Continued…

Even more startling are the figures that suggest that only one third of American who know they have high blood pressure have it under control. Many more do not.

Another expert, Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, director of women and heart disease at Lenox Hill Hospital, who wasn’t involved in the current research, supports the idea that isoflavones are good for our hearts. They dilate the blood vessels by producing enzymes that then create nitric oxide. This helps to widen blood vessels and that brings down blood pressure.

Your best bet if the risk of high blood pressure is a concern for you is to try adding a moderate amount of soy foods into your already well balanced diet. Be sure you know your blood pressure numbers – not having them checked is no protection.

For those diagnosed with high blood pressure, talk to your doctor about adding soy foods to your diet as they may well help (along with your low salt DASH eating plan) in reducing your need for blood pressure lowering drugs.

In the meantime, watch for more trials on food that lowers blood pressure to help clarify the association between isoflavones and blood pressure readings.

How To Eat More And Lose Weight

Can it be true that you can eat more and lose weight? We draw your attention to Volumetrics, an eating plan that is, at the heart, rather sensible. You eat more of some truly delicious foods and yet are also able to lose weight. Sounds like one of those gimmicks we’re always warning about, but this way of eating offers a common sense approach backed by science.

The thinking goes that by choosing a food that has less calories per bite, your portions can be far, far bigger, while the overall number of calories you take in each day ends up smaller.

The creator of Volumetrics, who’s authored 2 books on the plan, Barbara Rolls, PhD is no stranger to the subject. As a professor of nutritional sciences at Pennsylvania State University, Rolls has spent the last 20 years researching the science of satiety (that satisfied full feeling at the end of a meal) and how it impacts both hunger and obesity. She’s published over 200 research articles on the topic.

Consider the common sense of the Volumetrics approach. People like to eat… a lot. In fact if forced to choose between eating more or eating less, most of us choose eating more every time – it’s a natural impulse. Volumetrics doesn’t fight this – it works with it, allowing you to eat ample portions of the right foods so you feel full. If you’re satisfied after you eat, you’re far more likely to stick with a healthy eating plan.

What’s more, studies have shown that the amount of food eaten has a bigger impact on feelings of fullness than the number of calories in a food.

The main components of the Volumetrics eating plan are rich in water, things like brothy soups, fruits and veggies, as well as whole grains, low fat dairy, lean cuts of meat and fish. These foods control hunger by making you feel full, but they do it in less calories than what you’re probably eating now. Interesting that foods that are loaded with fat and sugar are less filing and have more calories per bite.

Here’s how you can adapt the Volumetrics style of eating into your life…

- Add fruits and veggies to everything you eat.

- Fill up on a low calorie soup before your meal.

- Make sure you satisfy your eyes – your plate must look full.

- Don’t forget protein, key to satiety; just choose small portions of low fat proteins.

- Be sure to clean you plate, half empty means half full.

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Volumetrics Lets You Eat More, Weigh Less… Continued…

You can pack your recipes with healthful ingredients as well. You’ll be amazed at the impact it can have. In a bit of researcher co-authored by Rolls and appearing in a 2011 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, subjects who ate a dish that was made with 25% pureed veggies (in case you’re interested, squash and cauliflower were blended into macaroni and cheese) ate 360 fewer calories. The brain was tricked into thinking the subjects were eating more, but in fact they were eating less. Plus, they took in more veggies to boot.

When it comes to snacks, air works to increase volume and make you feel full after eating. Instead of a handful of potato chips, air lets you have three handfuls of air popped popcorn for the exact same number of calories. Smart.

Another of Rolls studies, this time published in 2007 in the journal Appetite involved serving Cheetos to two groups of female subjects. One group got the original Crunch Cheetos; the other got the Cheetos Puffs. The Puffs group ended up consuming 73% more, but 21% less calories.

The take home message isn’t all that surprising for being able to eat more and lose weight. Eat more healthy options… less of the unhealthy ones, and you’ll be losing weight. But it won’t be effortless and it won’t be quick.

Increasing Life Expectancy Through Diet

Examples of people successfully increasing life expectancy in the world today are easy enough to find. In Okinawa, the Pacific Islanders have an average life expectancy of over 81 years, it’s only 78 in the United States with the worldwide average at just 67. Why such a difference?

And there’s more. Here in the U.S., members of the Seventh Day Adventist who are known to eat vegetarian diets outlive their meat-eating neighbors by 4 to 7 years.

And there’s even more… natives of the San Blas islands (off the coast of Panama) rarely suffer from either high blood pressure or heart disease. How can that be?

What makes these groups so lucky you might wonder. The answer is surprisingly simple – what they eat.

A growing body of research suggests that diet is one of the biggest contributors to living a long and healthy life. Here are some of the foods web resource WebMD complied for your consideration…

- Fruits and veggies as these plant based options have lots of fiber as well as vitamins and minerals. They’re low in calories too, so you can eat a lot. Research has consistently shown that diets with lots of these foods help you keep your weight in the healthy range and protect against heart disease.

- Whole grains give you lots of nutrients in low calorie package, things like oats and barley are also loaded with a long list of compounds thought to fight disease.

- Nuts though long banished from a consideration of healthy foods, have made it back onto the list. They do have lots of fat, but it’s the good kind, unsaturated, which is known to protect against heart disease.

- Dark chocolate may be the secret behind the lack of high blood pressure and heart disease in the San Blas islands. These people eat lots of dark chocolate, exposing them to compounds known as polyphenols that lower blood pressure and help the flexibility of the blood vessels themselves. A 2008 project from the University of Aquila supplied subjects with high blood pressure 100 grams of dark chocolate a day. After just 15 days, their blood pressure numbers were far lower, and their insulin sensitivity had also been improved.

Some other foods that might offer some extra protection…

Blueberries – ongoing research at the Jean Mayer Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging suggests that foods that are very high in antioxidants appear to protect against age related changes in the brain that bring on things like memory loss or dementia.

Fish - is loaded with omega-3 fats and has been shown to protect against irregular heart rhythms that can bring on heart failure. New work suggests that fatty acids DHA and EPA in fish oil, and ALA in flaxseed might help guard against depression and age related loss of memory.

Low salt options – you’ve heard for years that less salt in the diet is better for blood pressure. Some new findings suggest that keeping the blood pressure down might also help to protect brain cells and cut the risk of age related memory loss, perhaps even dementia. Having high blood pressure can damage the vasculature that give the brain oxygen and nutrients – this might explain why those with chronic high blood pressure appear to beat a greater risk of age related cognitive impairment.

Continues below…


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Medical Doctor Reveals The Shocking Truth

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Eating For Longevity: How To Keep Heart, Bones, Brain Healthy As Years Pass… Continued…

Coffee – is an unexpected addition, yet a growing number of studies have found that coffee has some surprising health benefits. Along with possibly cutting the risk of type 2 diabetes, drinking coffee may cut the risk of age related mental decline. A Finnish study of 1,409 subjects that appears in the Journal of Alzheimers Disease from 2009 found that those who regularly drank coffee during their midlife were far less likely to suffer dementia and Alzheimer’s later on. If you drank 3 to 5 cups a day had a 65% drop in their risk of disease.

Low fat dairy – eating foods that have lots of calcium and vitamin D can slow the bone loss that comes to all of us as we age. Milk and yogurt are especially good sources.

Dark leafy greens - you knew they’d be on this list, but did you also realize they’re great sources of calcium? Tofu is another calcium rich food, especially if you choose brands made with calcium sulfate as this has the highest levels of calcium.

Understand that increasing life expectancy through diet is not just about the foods on the table, but the experience of eating. Enjoying the food, and finding joy in sitting down to a meal with people you care for is also part of the mix. Studies of those who’ve lived past 100 years old all over the world suggest that having social connections and finding meaning in life are also important parts of living longer.

Increase Heart Health By Making Over Your Kitchen

Want to increase heart health? Start in the kitchen. Just think about it, what’s in your cabinets, your pantry and fridge/freezer is the basis for what we eat. If you keep nutritious whole foods on hand, you and your family are more apt to eat healthier and thus cut your risk of heart disease.

Here are the components of a heart healthy diet

- Lots of fruits and veggies

- Whole grains and high fiber foods

- Fish, especially fatty fish like mackerel, trout, salmon and herring, two times each week

- Lean meats that are prepared to limit how much saturated and trans fats you get

- Choose fat free, 1% fat or low-fat options for dairy

- Limit cholesterol to under 300 milligrams a day

- Limit sugar sweetened drinks and foods with added sugars

- Limit sodium in your food choices and in how you cook, aim for taking in under 1,500 milligrams of sodium each day

- If you drink alcohol, limit yourself to no more than 2 drinks a day for men, one drink a day for women

What this all comes down to is eating a diet that’s made up mostly of natural whole foods. Fruits, veggies, fish, whole grains… those items not packaged or carrying a nutrition label. When you buy packaged foods, look at the label and choose foods that are low in saturated fat, trans fat and sodium. You want them to be high in fiber as well.

Here are some things you can do in your kitchen to help keep your diet heart healthy.

1. Choose cooking fats that have the lowest amount of saturated and trans fat, as well as the most beneficial ones (omega-3s and monounsaturated fats) which leaves you with oils like canola oil, which is low in saturated fat and high in the good monounsaturated fat and omega-3 fatty acids. Olive oil is another great choice if it works in the recipe, bringing delicious flavor while also having the most monounsaturated fats and very little of the saturated variety along with some of the helpful phytochemicals that come from olives.

2. Be smart about margarine for table use and for cooking. When a recipe calls for melted margarine or butter, replace it with canola oil. For the times when you need a margarine, look for one that has a little less fat (around 8 grams of fat per tablespoon), the smallest amount of saturated fat (2 grams or less per tablespoon) and no trans fat. These margarines will likely have mostly monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats.

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Make Over Your Kitchen To Ensure A Healthier Heart… Continued…

3. Clear out the junk food in the pantry. Junk food is anything that has no nutritional value and an abundance of fat, salt or sugar. That’s probably many of your own favorite foods; mine too. If you want to change your diet, you need to get rid of the unhealthy options lurking within reach. Instead fill the pantry with healthier options that you like to eat.

4. Clean out the fridge and freezer and stock the space with healthier options that you truly enjoy eating. Replace soda with flavored, sugar free mineral water, no calorie iced tea, decaf coffee, nonfat or low fat milk or ice water. Choose the light varieties of frozen favorites and keep frozen fruits on hand as well. It’s never been easier to stock your fridge with healthy substitutes to the items you know – egg substitute, fat free half and half, low fat cheese, fat free sour cream, nonfat plain yogurt, light cream cheese and more.

5. Watch out for some of the following ingredients when it comes to eating a nutritious diet that cuts fat, calories and cholesterol. They are: mayonnaise (regular), bacon and bacon grease, heavy/light whipping cream, half and half cream, puff pastry, full fat cheese, sausage, coconut oil, butter, and pie crust dough.

6. Fill the fridge with the fresh and frozen fruits and veggies you like best, then add whole grain items that you can make into quick meals. Things like whole-wheat pita, tortillas and whole grain pasta. Be sure to also shop for fresh or frozen fish, as well as lean cuts of meat or vegetarian meat choices like veggie burgers or soy meatballs. When it comes to dairy, go low fat for yogurt, cheese and cottage cheese, 1% skim milk and a good egg substitute. Choose sugar free drinks you enjoy.

7. You can use your freezer to keep your favorite fruits and veggies on hand no matter what the season. Add frozen blueberries/raspberries to muffin mixes or pancakes, or as a topping for oatmeal or waffles. Use frozen spinach in your next omelet, pasta recipe, pizza or casserole. You want to choose a frozen dinner that has low amounts of sodium and saturated fat but lots of fiber.

8. Change existing recipe fat content by making them a bit differently. Instead of the butter/stick margarine used to make macaroni and cheese, add a tablespoon or two of heart smart margarine and the same amount of fat free sour cream. Instead of adding three eggs to a desert mix, beat in ¼ cup egg substitute or two egg whites for every whole egg needed in the recipe. These small changes all help to increase heart health.

Can You Prevent Skin Cancer By Taking Painkillers?

Could the painkilling drugs we all commonly use be doing double duty – easing pain and helping to prevent skin cancer? Taking NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen appears to significantly lower the risk for several types of skin cancer according to a new Danish study.

What’s even better, the protective effect of both the prescription and nonprescription forms of these medications on skin cancer risk grows stronger the longer you take them. The research appears online in the journal Cancer.

While earlier research has found NSAIDs to offer some protection against cancer (colorectal cancers), past examinations of how these medicines affect skin cancer had some major design problems that made findings questionable.

We do know that these drugs work to fight inflammation, a body process that’s known to be a part of the development of cancer in the body or on the skin surface. So for the latest work, the team analyzed prescription databases and health data registries that included the Danish Civil Registration System and the Danish Cancer Registry for the use of NSAIDs and the rates of specific skin cancers.

The team looked at diagnostic and death records that involved almost 2,000 cases of squamous cell cancers, about 13,300 basal cell cancers and almost 3,250 malignant melanomas diagnosed between the years 1991 and 2009. Prescriptions histories were obtained for the cancer patients and almost 179,000 healthy Danish control subjects.

NSAID users were shown to have a reduced risk of three types of skin cancer – malignant melanoma, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma explains study lead, Sigrun Alba Johannesdottir, from the department of clinical epidemiology at Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark. The greatest impact came for squamous cell carcinomas and malignant melanomas, especially if these medications had been taken often and over a long time period.

Of course taking NSAIDs over the long term does come with some risks – stomach bleeding or damage to the kidneys. Doctors typically recommend that patients take these medications at the lowest possible doses and for the shortest period of time. In the research however, participants had been taking high does of prescriptions NSAIDs, often for longer periods.

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Prevent Skin Cancer By Taking These Common OTC Drugs… Continued…

Keep in mind that the study only shows an association between NSAID use and skin cancer, it does not prove that taking these medications protects against this form of cancer. The researchers readily admit that the NSAID-skin cancer connection could be impacted by many lifestyle factors that were not accounted for in the study – things like skin type or sun exposure pattern. But they do hope that these findings will spur more research on skin cancer prevention. The potential benefit should also be made clear to patients when doctors are talking to them about the potential benefits and dangers of NSAID use.

The exciting thing about the research is that it gives people a chance to impact skin cancer risk by doing something that most of us are doing now to manage another condition. You should still talk with your own doctor before starting to take NSAIDs on a regular basis – this is not the right approach for everyone. Your own doctor will be best placed to advise you.

Remember, the most effective way to prevent skin cancer is to avoid prolonged unprotected exposure to the sun.

How To Improve Your Lifestyle

Money makes the world go around, and might just help you improve your lifestyle according to some new research in the Archives of Internal Medicine. Adults were more apt to eat better and spend less time lounging on the couch when they kept a digital record of both what they ate and how active they were, and were eligible to be awarded $175 for meeting their health goals during the study period.

The work included 204 adult subjects who were from 21 to 60 years old. All ate a diet with lots of saturated fat and not many fruits or veggies at the start of the research. They also didn’t get a lot of exercise during the day and had a good deal of inactive leisure time. The study participants were broken into four groups…

- Asked to eat more fruits and veggies and be more active.

- Asked to decrease the amount of unhealthy fat in their diet and spend less time sitting on the couch.

- Asked to eat less fat and exercise more.

- Asked to eat more fruits and veggies and cut the time on the couch.

The participants uploaded data on their progress into a hand held device and this was then sent on to a coach. The participants who met their goals after three weeks were given the $175. When the study was over, the subjects got $30 to $80 for sending information to their coaches for another 5 months. They weren’t asked to do anything different in terms of health or fitness, just to report what they did to the coaches.

But the changes from the study stayed in place.

Servings for fruits and veggies went from 1.2 per day at the start of the study to 5.5 at the end of the three weeks, returning to 2.9 at the 5-month mark

Time on the couch went from 219.2 minutes a day before the study to 89.3 minutes at the end of the three-week period, settling at 125.7 at the end of the 5 months.

The average number of calories that came from saturated fat dropped from 12% of daily calories at the start of the study to 9.4% at the three-week mark, rising only slightly to 9.9% at 5 months.

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Making Healthy Lifestyle Changes Is Easier With Incentives… Continued…

What’s more, almost 86% of the study participants said they tried to stick with the healthy diet and lifestyle habits after the study had ended. Researcher Bonnie Spring, PhD, who is a professor of preventive medicine at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, believes the financial incentive was a key factor. But the money was only part of the reward; the participants surprised themselves by their ability to change, and tried to keep it up when the research was over.

The habits that stuck most were eating more fruits and veggies and decreasing inactive time. The good news, according to Spring, is that you can improve your lifestyle on your own, and give yourself a reward for reaching a healthy goal. Self monitoring, with the many diet and exercise apps for smartphones, goes a long way toward keeping you on track.

Dark Chocolate Health Benefits

Good news for dark chocolate lovers! A new study from Australia appearing in the journal BMJ finds that some dark chocolate health benefits may include lower risks for both heart disease and stroke.

It may be sometime soon that those at high risk of these conditions are urged to eat this type of chocolate each day as a natural way to get the dietary components that offer health benefits to those at risk of cardiovascular disease.

Researcher Christopher M. Reid, PhD, who is a professor of cardiovascular epidemiology and preventive medicine out of Monash University and his team constructed a mathematical model to predict the long term health impact of eating dark chocolate every day in high risk patients. They didn’t study real people eating actual dark chocolate, the work was all theoretical, but the time period used in the research, 10 years, was longer than most.

There have been several past studies that have shown dark chocolate, a natural source of heart healthy flavonols, can bring down blood pressure and improve cholesterol numbers. Reid believes his team’s work is the first to model the long-term impact of consuming dark chocolate for cutting cardiovascular disease risk.

Reid’s team started by examining the treatment effects linked with dark chocolate in studies that are already documented. They computed the number of heart attacks or strokes that might happen with, and without, the dark chocolate.

Using the best-case scenario – all people eating 100 grams (about 2 bars, 3.5 ounces) of dark chocolate per day would prevent 70 nonfatal and 15 fatal heart attacks and strokes per 10,000 patients over a decade according to the model used in the research.

With an 80% adherence rate, 55 fewer nonfatal, 10 fewer fatal heart attacks and strokes would take place in 10,000 people over a ten year period. These estimates could be on the low side according to Reid.

The team also computed if it would be cost effective to spend money on a public education campaign about dark chocolate’s benefits. They saw this would be a good investment, budgeting $42 per person per year to spread the word on dark chocolate’s benefits with ads, educational campaigns or subsidies to buy dark chocolate.

Researchers also studied 2,013 live subjects who were taking part in the Australian Diabetes, Obesity and Lifestyle study who had metabolic syndrome (a condition that ups the risk of both stroke and heart disease), but were free of both diabetes and heart disease. They saw that for these patients, eating just 3.5 ounces of dark chocolate (with a 70% cocoa content) every day was an effective way to reduce heart disease risk.

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Will Dark Chocolate Every Day Keep The Doctor Away..? Continued…

The results have drawn mixed reactions from experts not involved the study who feel it may be over assuming some benefits of dark chocolate intake. The researchers looked at intermediate risk factors like blood pressure and cholesterol numbers and not at actual events. The team also ignored the downsides of dark chocolate – the potential intake of too many calories as well as the fat and sugar that are also naturally part of the chocolate.

Anyone at risk for either heart attack or stroke should start by focusing all their efforts on lifestyle changes. You need to lose weight, be exercising on a regular basis and not smoke. Talk with your own doctor about eating a small amount of dark chocolate each day, less than the 100 grams used in the study. Well known dark chocolate researcher Joe Vinson, PhD, a professor of chemistry at the University of Scranton who was not part of the study, suggests intake closer to 40 grams, about one chocolate bar, per day is a healthy amount for most people.

Also of note, to gain dark chocolate health benefits the chocolate should be dark with at least 60% to 70% cocoa content.