My 5 Favorite Natural Food Sources of Omega-3

wp-image--299764600I mentioned in a previous post the top ways to reduce cholesterol naturally.  One of those ways was to consume a fish oil supplement containing Omega-3 oils.  I personally take Advocare’s OmegaPlex, which you can order here.  Life Extensions also makes a good supplement that contains a good balance of EPA and DHA.  A majority of omega-3 sources are fish based and many of the best forms are in supplements because the oils can be extracted and taken in a concentrated form.  I suggest doing some research on the ALA/EPA/DHA quantities though since all omega-3 supplements are not created equal.

However since I always prefer and believe it’s best to get what I need straight from the source, the following are great FOOD sources of omega-3 oils:

  • Mackerel
  • Salmon
  • Chia Seeds
  • Walnuts
  • Tuna

In addition to regulating cholesterol, omega-3 has been linked to improvements in the following conditions:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • ADHD
  • Cancer
  • Skin health
  • Diabetes
  • Inflammation
  • Arthritis
  • Infertility
  • Alzheimer’s disease

Five Health Reasons I Love Kombucha

Kom-buch-what?

I think the first time I had ever even seen the word kombucha was when I was watching Flaked on Netflix.  I won’t go into what the show was about or why this guy was always drinking wine out of a container labeled “kombucha”, but I had no idea what that word even was.  So I googled it.

kombuchaKombucha is a fermented beverage typically consisting of tea and sugar.  While it’s usually made with black tea, kombucha can also be made with green tea.  After the fermentation process, kombucha becomes carbonated and contains vinegar, B vitamins, enzymes, probiotics and a high concentration of acid.  While buying Kombucha from a store can get fairly pricey, making it at home can become a bit thorny.  So typically I’ll wait for a good sale and then stock up.  I’ve come to realize that the time and effort it takes to maintain Kombucha production is just not worth the thorn in my side.  But the experiment was fun while it lasted.

Since sugar is used in making kombucha many people are concerned about the sugar content in the finished tea.  However, because of the fermentation process the majority of the sugar is used as food for the bacteria and is not present in the final product.  Because the sugar is the food for the bacteria, it is not possible to make without any sugar at all and the reason that sugar substitutes will not work.

While the studies performed have not provided solid evidence of the many benefits that have been touted all over the internet, the anecdotal reports are overwhelming.  Here are are just some of the benefits that I have actually experienced:

1) Improved Digestion – Kombucha contains probiotics, enzymes and beneficial acids and these have been researched for their health benefits. Drinks like Kombucha, Water Kefir, Milk Kefir, and fermented foods like sauerkraut contain billions of these beneficial bacteria, enzymes and acids that help keep the gut in balance.  The digestive enzymes present in it enhance the effects of glucuronic acid and aids in the breakdown of proteins and sacchrides thereby, making the digestive system more efficient.

2) Reduced Pain and Inflammation –    Kombucha contains glucosamine , which means that it’s a great tonic for arthritis.  But even if you don’t have arthritis, you may still have inflammation in your body that isn’t even causing you pain.  Inflammation also happens when your digestive system is not working properly.  Because Kombucha aids in digestion, this could also lead to reduced levels of pain and inflammation.  This might be a big reason I’m not experiencing pain in the joint of my big toe anymore, which I SWEAR is arthritis, or “jumpers toe”, from all those years playing volleyball.

3) Helps to reduce Heart Disease – I’m always looking for natural ways to help lower and maintain cholesterol.  In animal models, kombucha helps to lower triglyceride levels, as well as regulate cholesterol naturally. Research studies have provided qualitative evidence regarding the anti-lipidemic properties of kombucha which helps in reducing the absorption of LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) and triglycerides and elevate the levels of good cholesterol (HDL cholesterol) in the body.  Given the claims of benefits tea is reported to have on cholesterol and heart disease, it’s not a far stretch that a product made with tea as the primary ingredient would also sustain these benefits.

4) Boosts Immunity – Kombucha is rich in antioxidants which strengthen immune defenses and boost the energy levels of the body. The anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties of kombucha help in fighting various bacterial and viral infections.

5) Healthier Substitute for Soda – One of the reasons I love it so much because I  find it a MUCH healthier substitute for soda that satisfies the occasional craving for a fizzy drink.  The high quality products typically have only a few ingredients which are mostly organic in nature.  When was the last time you read the ingredients on a can of soda?

Top 5 Ways to Reduce High Cholesterol Naturally

I’m getting old and my age is catching up to me.  The older you get the greater your chances of developing heart disease.  In my case, high cholesterol runs in my family.  Which makes my chances even greater.

Cholesterol is a type of fat (lipid) in your blood.  If you have too much cholesterol, it starts to build up in your arteries. This is called hardening of the arteries, or atherosclerosis.  The buildup can narrow the arteries and make it harder for blood to flow through them. The buildup can also lead to dangerous blood clots and inflammation that can cause heart attacks and strokes.

There are different types of cholesterol.  LDL is what is considered “bad” cholesterol. It’s the kind that can raise your risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.  If LDL is the bad cholesterol, then HDL is the “good” cholesterol that is linked to a lower risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.

A lipid profile blood test reports the levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood stream.  The chart below is what the medical community believes the ranges should be, but the most important thing to consider is the ratio of LDL to HDL cholesterol which should be around 2:1.  To help avoid a heart attack, research has found that a key strategy is getting LDL way down. Striving for LDL levels of 100 and below is good, but dropping to 80 and lower may be even better.

Here are my top 5 ways I’ve reduced my cholesterol WITHOUT going on medication prescription:

  1. Exercise and Weight Loss – Studies have shown that a loss as little as 10% of your total body weight can improve cholesterol and high blood pressure as well as lower the risk of a heart attack.   If you drop just 10 pounds you can cut your LDL by up to 8%.  The American Heart Association recommends including at least 40 minutes’ worth of moderate to vigorous exercise at least three to four times a week.
    • Studies have shown that moderate exercise can increase the size of your LDL particles, which can help to reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease. In one study, a 12-week endurance exercise program reduced small, dense LDL by up to 17 percent.
    • Studies in mice have suggested that exercise can enhance the transport of cholesterol from the bloodstream to the liver, where it will eventually be filtered out of the body.
    • Exercising regularly can increase your HDL cholesterol by between 3 and 6 percent.
  2. Avoiding Refined Sugar – Numerous large studies have shown that the more high-glycemic foods a person consumes, the higher his risk for becoming obese and for developing diabetes and heart disease.   High-glycemic foods are those that quickly affect blood sugar, which includes, but is not limited to, foods that are made with refined sugar.
  3. Taking Supplements – Below are some supplements and their ideal dosages:
    • Fish Oil (1,000mg – 2,000 mg daily) – EPA and DHA (omega-3 fats) found in fish oil have been found to help reduce overall cholesterol levels.  If you don’t care for fish Advocare offers a good Omega 3 supplement, discussed here, which I take routinely.
    • CoQ10 (200-300 mg daily) – CoQ10 given to 53 healthy young males at 150 mg per day for two weeks led to a significant 12.7 percent decrease in LDL.
    • Niacin (1,500 mg daily) – Niacin (vitamin B3) can reduce LDL by 25% and increase HDL by 35%
    • Red Yeast Rice (1200 mg 2x daily) – Reduces cholesterol by up to 32%. Take with CoQ10 to prevent deficiency.
    • Garlic (500 mg daily) – Increases HDL and lowers total cholesterol.
  4. Eating more soluble fiber – Foods naturally rich in soluble fiber are excellent at lowering cholesterol.  Making this diet change can reduce LDL levels by 3 to 5% in only six weeks.  Sources of soluble fiber include:
    • Grains and Potatoes – oats, oat bran, barley, yams, sweet potatoes and other potatoes.
    • Legumes – pinto beans, black beans, garbanzo beans, and peas.
    • Vegetables – carrots, brussel sprouts, beets, okra, and eggplant.
    • Fruits – berries, passion fruit, oranges, pears, apricots, nectarines, and apples.
  5. Drinking Green Tea – Research shows that drinking green tea can have an impact on your blood cholesterol levels. Green tea lowers your bad cholesterol while leaving your good cholesterol untouched.

While all of the above has worked for me in the past, they’re habits that must be diligently adhered to.  These habits should be a lifestyle change and not simply a temporary fix until your blood tests read favorable.  Still, there are those individuals that no matter what they do to improve their lifestyle and lose weight, it’s not enough and doesn’t have enough impact on the cholesterol levels.  It’s at that time when medication should be discussed with your physician.

Wine On…

WhiteBase4I need to get one of these…not only for myself but for a few of my friends. And hey, they say drinking wine in moderation will help with cholesterol, stress, cancer prevention and a myriad of other ailments…so I MUST do it…FOR MY HEALTH…right?

I Love to Cook

I’m still unsure of what defines a “foody” exactly…because don’t we all enjoy good food?! There are times though, when I think I might have an unhealthy obsession with it…and while I’ve never been terribly large, it keeps me from being my ideal healthy weight. But I don’t think this is unique to to me. I have to believe others struggle with the same problem.

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Cooking is something I do, and do well. It’s something I love to receive praises for. It’s something that draws me away from all of the insanity around me, even if for only an hour. Sometimes will go to a restaurant, find something I love, and then proceed to go home and attempt to recreate it. So let me tell you, NOTHING I cook resembles anything CLOSE to healthy. Because we all know the better it tastes, the worse it is for you. I use full fat EVERYthing. There are no “diet” ingredients in my kitchen. And the results do NOT disappoint!!!

BUT…and this is a BIG ‘but’…constantly worrying about my health because of the delicious food I make…and eat… is just one more thing that adds to the chaos in my life. All the yo-yoing my weight and cholesterol does takes a tremendous toll . High cholesterol runs in my family. My mom is tiny, but her cholesterol is through the roof.

So I guess it’s time I make a more permanent change…