We mostly focus on fruits and vegetables to gain proper nutrition, but how about placing our focus on herbs and spices? Instead of looking for food options which are less in calories or for “organic food”, it could be a useful game changer if there is an addition of spice onto your dish. Not only does it contribute for additional flavoring, but it can also boost your health at the same time!
Here are some delicious herbs and spices that have powerful health benefits, supported by research:
Turmeric, also known as Curcuma longa, is a yellow-colored spice that is founded in most Asian foods such as curry. It contains a chemical called curcumin that has anti-inflammatory responses and can ease pain. This spice is a member of the ginger family and is a major ingredient for curry.
Positive health benefits for turmeric include:
- Reduces aggravation in arthritis patients
- Eases headaches and itching
- Reduces colds and fevers
- Relieves pain on skin and bruising
- Anti- Inflammatory properties
- Digestive healing agent
- Reduces high cholesterol
Other positive skin benefits include:
- Clears acne scars
- Reduces oil secretion
- Heals cuts and skin irritation
- Whitens teeth
- Fights aging and wrinkles
Turmeric currently has no known harmful side effects and is safe to consume by mouth or skin. One tablespoon is about 29 calories and is one of the most nutritionally rich herbs that contain protein, vitamin C, calcium, iron, sodium, and other nutrients. It is rich in antioxidants and accelerates metabolic rate.
It is highly versatile and there are several ways to eat and drink turmeric, such as tea, smoothies, or eggs. You can just add it for a touch of flavor and also for good health! There are special precautions for taking turmeric during pregnancy; in those specific cases, it is best to consult a doctor beforehand.
Cardamom, also known as Elettaria cardamomum, is both a herb and a spice used in foods and medicine. It is originally from India and is ranked third from being one of the most expensive spices. This is found as a small pod with black seeds inside and can be used in desserts, beverages, and spicy dishes.
Positive health benefits for cardamom include:
- Relief of cardiovascular tissue
- Protects gastrointestinal tract
- Controls cholesterol levels
- Improves blood circulation
- Alleviates throat problems
- Helps with teeth and gum infections
- Reduces high blood pressure
- Helps with congestion
Cardamom is rich in vitamins, thiamine, copper, iron, zinc, and other micronutrients. It protects heart health and is believed to possess anti-depressant properties. It could help to get rid of hiccups and is used also as a breath freshener!
Cinnamon has existed for thousands of years and is a highly delicious spice with lots of medicinal properties. It is made by cutting the stems off cinnamon trees and is then grounded into a powdery form. It is loaded with antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory properties too.
Positive health benefits for cardamom include:
- Lowers risk of heart disease
- Lowers blood sugar levels
- Improves sensitivity to the hormone insulin
- Has an anti-diabetic effect
- Inhibits the loss of neuronal cells
- Fights against bacterial and fungal infections
- Fights against HIV virus
An effective dose is usually 0.5-2 teaspoons per day. It is a very popular spice found in all sorts of recipes and baked goods. Cinnamon has a proven effect to help in lowering the blood sugar levels by 10-29% in diabetic patients, but make sure it is not taken in excess! Although it is healthy, there are possible side effects from consuming too much cinnamon and could be toxic.
Ginger is a flowering plant from China and is one of the healthiest spices loaded withnutrients and other bioactive compounds. It has an extensive history of aiding with digestion and reducing nausea, along with other medicinal properties.
Positive health benefits for ginger include:
- Prevents nausea and moving sickness
- Reduces muscle pain and soreness
- Lowers blood sugar levels
- Treats chronic indigestion
- Reduces menstrual pain
- Lowers cholesterol level
- Contains anti-cancer properties
- Protects against Alzheimer’s disease
- Fights against infections and growth of bacteria
It could be consumed in a dried, powdered, oil, processed foods and cosmetic form. In 100 grams of ginger, there are 79 calories and contains lots of iron, sodium potassium, and vitamin C. There are no known side effects from consuming too much ginger, but is recommended not to take more than 4 grams a day. It is possible to obtain acid reflux or diarrhea due to high intake, and people who are pregnant should refrain from excessive consumption as well.
Cumin, also known as Cuminum cyminum, is a flowering plant where the seeds are used as a condiment or spice in Indian and Asian countries. It has a highly strong aroma, so only a small amount of its essential oils are needed to keep you healthy.
Positive health benefits for cumin include:
- Regulates digestion
- Improves blood flow for a healthy menstrual cycle
- Boosts immunity
- Treats asthma and bronchitis
- Protects skin against fungal infection
- Treats insomnia
- Lowers cholesterol
It provides an excellent source of iron, manganese, vitamin B1, calcium, and phosphorous. One teaspoon would suffice for your daily nutrient requirements and has shown to be useful for weight maintenance. It’s mostly used in curries, stews, and soups, and even used as a scent!
Excess intake of cumin could have severe side effects such as blood clotting and heartburns. Nausea, stomach pain, and dizziness are also other possible side effects. Though cumin has powerful health improvements, just a teaspoon a day will suffice!
Rosemary is an herb from the Mediterranean that is used for culinary and cosmetic purposes. This is a perennial plant that can live for 2 years and is mostly used to aid in digestion and prevents brain aging. It is packed with iron, calcium, and vitamin B-6 and is typically used as a powder or dried leaves.
Positive health benefits for rosemary include:
- Rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds
- Improves digestion
- Protects against brain damage
- Prevents brain aging
- Protects macular degeneration
Rosemary should be taken in low doses because higher intake may have some serious side effects. It is generally not advised for pregnant women and can affect the activity if taken with other medications.
The bottom line is that whichever herbs or spices you decide to use, they all come with excellent health benefits. Most of them are found to have anti-inflammatory responses while packed with antioxidants and nutrients but should be taken at a reasonable amount. They are completely versatile and could be used in most forms such as beverages, flavoring, and cosmetics!
My 26.21 Mile Accomplishment
I never expected to run a complete marathon. Running a marathon may sound like something only elite athletes or future Olympians would do. It just didn’t seem plausible for me to run for hours straight, especially since I grew up like anyone else. I was involved in cross country in high school, went to class, work, and lived my daily routine normally. But this year on March 18, 2018, I ran my first ever marathon. After I graduated college, I wanted to take on a new challenge and decided to get back into running. I thought to myself that I might as well “go-big or go-home.” Next thing I knew, I signed myself up for the LA Marathon.
While I did run cross-country in my senior year of high school in 2011, long-distance running was still new to me. Cross-country races are 5 kilometers, or about 3.1 miles, while a marathon is 26.2 miles long. Not only that, but I didn’t keep up with running after high school since I got into weightlifting. As some may know, weightlifting builds muscle, which contradicts the effects that long distance cardio has to break down muscle and build endurance.
Signing Up- May 12, 2017
The first thing I did to prepare for the marathon was to give myself ample time between when I signed up for the marathon and when it actually took place. I signed up for the LA Marathon on May 12, 2017. That gave me a little over 10 months to prepare. Yes, I could have just started my training early and signed up later on, but by signing up early, there was an added motivation because actually doing the marathon became “real”. It also helped that once you sign up and pay for the LA Marathon, there are no refunds, which means there was no backing out now!
When I signed up for the LA Marathon, I signed up for two other races as well: The Santa Monica Classic 10k (6.2 miles) on September 10th, 2017 and the Pasadena Half Marathon (13.1 miles) on January 21, 2018. This three-race series was known as the “Conqur La Challenge” that gave me a bundle deal and helped me pace my progress throughout my training cycle.
The First Milestone- September 10, 2017
Now, I was almost ready for a 6.1-mile race by September. As time passed, these smaller run checkpoints ensured that my mileage was going up. I felt stronger and better with each practice run I made and noticed my time was improving, a critical factor when training for a race this long.
Besides my mileage going up over time, my running frequency also went up over time. I was still going to the gym and lifting weights in addition to my running as part of an experiment I was doing. I wanted to see if I could maintain my strength and minimize muscle loss while still building running endurance. Most people focus on bodybuilding or stamina, but balancing both at the same time was a challenge I wanted to overcome.
The Second Milestone- January 21, 2018
Next came the half-marathon in January. I prepared for this by signing up with one of my closest friends. While we may not have trained together very often, we did go to all three races together. Knowing I was going through this marathon experience with a friend helped out a lot. I had someone to talk about training with and had support during the actual races. This was another great source of motivation and was very important to my training.
As the official marathon date approached closer and closer, I cut back the number of times I went to the gym to lift weights and increased the number of times I ran. Before beginning my marathon training, I was going to the gym 4-5 times a week and only running once a week. I slowly changed that to going to the gym 3-4 times a week and running two to three times a week.
Marathon Day- March 18, 2018
As the marathon approached, I, unfortunately, had a minor setback. I hurt my knee after running some very steep hills a few weeks before the marathon. I realized I had neglected incline training but overcorrected by running too steep of an incline. While it was a tough decision, I decided to take some time off before the marathon to let my knee heal. Looking back, this was the right decision because I had already prepared a substantial amount up to this point. One extra week of running was not going to make a difference, but if I had chosen not to take some time off, I could have hurt my knee worse.
When the big day finally approached my knee had gotten better, but I was still a bit nervous about the grueling run I was about to partake in. However, I just remembered to have fun with it and before I knew it, I crossed the finish line and conquered the 26.2 miles!
“I crossed the finish line and conquered the 26.2 miles!”
Training for the LA Marathon and then actually running it were such great experiences and I hope to run another marathon sometime again in the future. I will take what worked from training for this marathon as well as what I learned (such as preventing injuries) to have a better experience next time around. Finishing a marathon helped me feel like I can accomplish whatever I set my mind to and it is a challenge I would want to conquer again. I hope that by sharing my experience in how I prepared for my first marathon, others can take something away or be inspired to run their first marathon soon.
The Truth About These Supposedly “Healthy” Foods
When we go to a supermarket or a food junction, it is almost impossible to resist grabbing a snack. On a surface level, some common snacks and drinks seem to boast a multitude of health benefits or do not seem inherently unhealthy. However, upon closer analysis, there is more to these foods than meets the eye.
Here is a reference for different dietetic intakes assuming your diet is the standard 2,000 calories per day:
|Max Sugar Intake (g)||Max Fat Intake (g)|
“It has fruit so that means it’s healthy, right?”
For a long time, acai has been proclaimed as a superfood and was deemed to be the secret to weight loss. However, researchers from the NIH have stated that “no independent studies have been published in peer-reviewed journals that substantiate claims that acai supplements alone promote rapid weight loss.”
While acai berries do have anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties, the ingredients in the acai bowl itself have an extremely high sugar content, ranging from 21-62 grams of sugar. The acai fruit itself is healthy; however, the toppings that contribute to this sugar spike include granola, chocolate chip, and honey.
Most of the acai at health food shops put added sugar into the acai mixture. Despite these drawbacks, it is still possible to enjoy the bowl but a few changes are necessary.
Health Tip: Try to omit those sugary toppings, and as a substitute, add grapes, apples or pears to make the bowl sweeter. Also, if you can find unsweetened acai, you can blend it with a banana to retain that sweet taste. If you are craving a more savory taste, you can mix the acai with greek yogurt or peanut butter, which contain healthy fats.
Boba Milk Tea
Boba is a common drink that is loved amongst millennials, and at first glance, the drink may not be perceived as unhealthy. However, boba is “boiled and saturated with sugar” and each ball has about 5-14 calories, meaning that “100 extra calories are added to an already calorically dense drink.”
Nutrition wise, boba does not contain any minerals or vitamins, so it is essentially empty calories. The sugar levels are extremely high, as one cup of boba can amount to 50 grams of sugar. Toppings such as jelly and pudding also contribute to high fat and sugar content.
Health Tip: Everyday boba consumption is not recommended; however, you can adjust the sweetness by adding less syrup, dilute the drink with more ice, and ask for less boba.
The act of digging into a chocolate, gooey protein can seem quite scrumptious. Don’t be fooled though; these protein bars are packed with additives such as high fructose corn syrup and saturated fats. The bar Nutrimo contains 9.99 grams of saturated fat, which is equivalent to the amount of saturated fats in a big mac. Power Bar has around 27 grams of sugar as does two snack packs of Oreos.
Health Tip: A better alternative to these bars are oatmeal or flax seed bars that have natural sugars such as fruit sugar or honey.
Overall, the key is to consume these drinks and snacks in moderation and make adjustments that make the food just as delectable as before, while keeping it healthy.
Why Can’t I Achieve My Fitness Goals?
How many times have you heard someone, or yourself, make a certain fitness goal during New Years? We have all been guilty in one way or another claiming we will lose 10 pounds within the next week or that we will quit eating fast food. There’s nothing wrong with declaring these goals, except that if you do indeed lose 10 pounds in a week, you should probably see a physician. Most people can stay consistent for the first month or so, but by February they end up suddenly unmotivated from the lack of results and stop attempting all at once.
The problem here is lack of consistency. I am sure we can all agree that if people did go to the gym for the entire year instead of the first month they would be closer to their fitness goals. The question is how?
The first part of this milestone is to set your personal fitness goal that is feasible. The hard part is sticking through your promises because 73% of people who set resolutions end up giving up on them. It is easy to get motivated initially, however, motivation is usually temporary. The key trick to accomplishing any task in life is consistency.
One of the best ways to stay consistent with your fitness goals is to do something you actually enjoy. If your goal is to be more active or start going to the gym, then begin by experimenting with different training styles that can help you find what it is you enjoy doing. For example, if you take pleasure in doing weight lifting over cardio activity, you are way more likely to remain consistent with it. You won’t see the activity as tedious and instead it will be something you look forward to.
There are so many options out there for you to try. To stay active, you can try a new sport, go to the gym, or even walk for 30 minutes a day. Even within the gym, there are a variety of different options. You can lift like a bodybuilder, Olympic weightlifter, powerlifter, etc. It can be overwhelming at first with so many options, but the best thing to do is pick something you think you may be interested in, and then try it out. Stick with whatever you choose for a while and then you’ll have a better idea of how much you like to do this activity. Overall, it is about having fun while trying to reach your fitness goals. If you can do that, you’ll find yourself being consistent with this lifestyle without even realizing it.
Another great way to stay consistent with your fitness goals is to have a training partner. A training partner can help keep you accountable and even make training more enjoyable. Training partners can also push you during workouts, and together you can even have some friendly competition. The key is to pick the right training partner. Choose someone with similar goals and someone you believe will be as consistent as you want to be. Finding the right training partner may not always be easy to do, but it can be a great way to help you stay consistent with your fitness goals.
What are some other ways to stay consistent with your fitness or lifestyle goals? Comment below!
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