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9 Health Benefits of Sweet Potatoes

9 Health Benefits of Sweet Potatoes

1.  They are high in vitamin B6.  Vitamin B6 helps reduce the chemical homocysteine in our bodies. Homocysteine has been linked with degenerative diseases, including heart attacks.

2. They are a good source of vitamin C.  While most people know that vitamin C is important to help ward off cold and flu viruses, few people are aware that this crucial vitamin plays an important role in bone and tooth formation, digestion, and blood cell formation. It helps accelerate wound healing, produces collagen which helps maintain skin’s youthful elasticity, and is essen­tial to helping us cope with stress. It even appears to help protect our body against toxins that may be linked to cancer.

3.  They contain Vitamin D which is critical for immune system and overall health at this time of year.  Both a vitamin and a hormone, vitamin D is primarily made in our bodies as a result of getting adequate sunlight. You may have heard about seasonal affective disorder (or SAD, as it is also called), which is linked to inadequate sunlight and therefore a vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D plays an important role in our energy levels, moods, and helps to build healthy bones, heart, nerves, skin, and teeth, and it supports the thyroid gland.

4.  Sweet potatoes contain iron. Most people are aware that we need the mineral iron to have adequate energy, but iron plays other important roles in our body, including red and white blood cell production, resistance to stress, proper im­mune functioning, and the metabolizing of protein, among other things.

5.  Sweet potatoes are a good source of mag­nesium, which is the relaxation and anti-stress mineral. Magnesium is necessary for healthy artery, blood, bone, heart, muscle, and nerve function, yet experts estimate that approximately 80 percent of the popula­tion in North America may be deficient in this important mineral.

6.  They are a source of potassium, one of the important electrolytes that help regulate heartbeat and nerve signals. Like the other electrolytes, potassium performs many essential functions, some of which include relaxing muscle contractions, reducing swelling, and protecting and controlling the activity of the kidneys.

7. Sweet potatoes are naturally sweet-tasting but their natural sugars are slowly released into the bloodstream, helping to ensure a balanced and regular source of energy, without the blood sugar spikes linked to fatigue and weight gain.

8. Their rich orange color indicates that they are high in carotenoids like beta carotene and other carotenoids, which is the precursor to vitamin A in your body.  Carotenoids help strengthen our eyesight and boost our immunity to disease, they are powerful antioxidants that help ward off cancer and protect against the effects of aging. Studies at Harvard University of more than 124,000 people showed a 32 percent reduction in risk of lung cancer in people who consumed a variety of carotenoid-rich foods as part of their regular diet. Another study of women who had completed treatment for early stage breast cancer conducted by researchers at Women’s Healthy Eating and Living (WHEL) found that women with the highest blood concentrations of carotenoids had the least likelihood of cancer recurrence.

9.  There are versatile. Try them roasted, puréed, steamed, baked, or grilled. You can add them to soups and stews, or grill and place on top of leafy greens for a delicious salad. I enjoy grilling them with onions and red peppers for amazing sandwich or wrap ingredients.  Puree them and add to smoothies and baked goods.

Leesa recommends choosing only organic sweet potatoes!

Adapted with permission from The Life Force Diet by Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD.

Michelle Schoffro Cook, MSc, RNCP, ROHP, DNM, PhD is an international best-selling and 15-time book author and doctor of traditional natural medicine, whose works include: 60 Seconds to Slim, Weekend Wonder Detox, Healing Recipes, The Vitality Diet, Allergy-Proof, Arthritis-Proof, Total Body Detox, The Life Force Diet, The Ultimate pH Solution, The 4-Week Ultimate Body Detox Plan, and The Phytozyme Cure.

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Healthy Highway is a Healthy Lifestyle Company offering Lifestyle Solutions for a Happy Healthy You!   We help people who are…

  • Wanting Work Life Balance.
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Are any of these an issue or problem for you?  Would it make sense for us to spend several minutes together to discuss your needs and how HealthyHighway can meet them? As a Healthy Lifestyle Coach with an emphasis on allergies and wellness, Leesa teaches her clients to make informed choices and enables them to make needed changes for a Happy Healthy Lifestyle. What you eat, what products you use ~ on your body and in your home and office, how you talk to yourself ~ it all matters!

Contact me today and Start today to live a healthier, happier life!  Don’t live in Atlanta?  Not a problem.  We do virtual coaching worldwide!

I look forward to helping YOU Live a Happy Healthy Life!  Remember, Excellent Health is found along your way, not just at your destination.

Live Well!

Leesa A. Wheeler

Leesa A. Wheeler

Healthy Lifestyle Coach, Artisan, Author of two books…
     Melodies from Within ~ Available Now! 
    Available on Amazon, Barnes&Noble, GooglePlay, iTunes! 

Member International Association for Health Coaches 

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9 Food Pairings that Fight Disease

 

Over the last few decades, there has been a mountain of research on  the healing powers of individual compounds in  foods, such as lycopene,  vitamin D and essential fatty acids. Yet, scientists  are now realizing  that while an antioxidant like sulforaphane in broccoli can  be a potent  cancer fighter on its own, combining it with another compound such  as  selenium found in chicken, fish and Brazil nuts,  will give you even more  impressive disease-fighting results.

“Food synergy ties into the prevention of so many of our chronic  illnesses,  including heart  disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes,” says  California-based  dietitian Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, author of Food  Synergy: Unleash Hundreds of Powerful  Healing Food Combinations to  Fight Disease and Live Well (Rodale,  2008).

You don’t have to eat in a fancy restaurant presided over by a  professional  nutritionist to enjoy the benefits of food synergy, either.  While researchers  haven’t even begun to untangle all the science behind  the synergy, these “power  couples” can easily come together in your own  kitchen — and prove that, when it  comes to our diets, one plus one can  easily equal three.

Tea & Lemon

Green  tea is at the top of the functional-drink heap, promoting  wellness  through antioxidants called catechins, which can aid in  reducing the  risk of both heart  disease and cancer. But if we want a  bigger health boost from our  tea, we should be adding a splash of  citrus, says Mario Ferruzzi, PhD,  associate professor of food science at  Purdue University.

“In test tube and animal studies, we discovered that ascorbic acid,  such as  that in citrus including lemon, orange and lime juice, helps  stabilize  catechins in the gut and increase absorption into the  bloodstream,” he says.  Looking for a warm-weather alternative? Brew up a  batch of iced tea and add  slices of lemon.

Other research suggests that pairing green  tea with capsaicin (the  compound that gives chili peppers their pow)  can increase satiety and  potentially aid in weight loss. The tag team of green  tea and lycopene,  present in watermelon,  tomatoes and pink grapefruit, works  synergistically to help men dodge prostate  cancer.

Bananas &  Yogurt

Yogurt and other fermented foods, such as kefir, tempeh and  sauerkraut, are  teeming with beneficial live bacteria called probiotics that keep our immune and  digestive systems strong. But, like all living  creatures, they need something  to munch on to thrive. Enter inulin.

Found in bananas, asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes (sunchokes), onion,  endive, garlic, leeks, wheat germ and artichokes, inulin is a  nondigestible  carbohydrate that acts as a food source for intestinal  bacteria. “It behaves as  a prebiotic to enhance probiotic growth,” says  Georgianna Donadio, PhD, program  director for the National Institute of  Whole Health in Massachusetts. In  addition to boosting the friendly  critter count in your gut, inulin increases  the intestinal absorption of  bone-strengthening calcium.

Calcium & Sun

If calcium could speak to vitamin D, it would say, “You complete me.”  That’s because the sunshine vitamin increases the amount of calcium  that gets  absorbed in the intestines, says Magee. Ergo, you can down all  the calcium-rich  foods you want, such as tofu, yogurt, sesame seeds,  broccoli and cheese, but  without a steady supply of calcium’s wingman,  your bones won’t reap the  rewards.

European scientists recently reported that adequate daily consumption  of  both calcium and vitamin D was linked to a 20 percent drop in the  rates of hip  fracture in individuals 47 or older. Harvard scientists  found that subjects  with the highest calcium intake and blood vitamin-D  levels had reduced insulin  secretion, which may offer protection from  type 2 diabetes. And another Harvard  study determined that premenopausal  women with the highest intakes of both  vitamin D and calcium had a 30  percent lower risk of  developing breast cancer.

Your best bet for getting enough vitamin D is to spend a minimum of  10  minutes a day in the sunshine (with a decent amount of skin exposed),  but you  can also benefit from good food sources, like cod liver oil,  salmon and  sardines. The latest recommendations from respected experts  like Andrew Weil,  MD — 2,000 IU of daily vitamin D — suggest that you  may also need a daily  vitamin-D supplement.

 

Salads & Avocado (or Nuts)

Find naked salads unbearably boring? Then, by all means, top them  with  vinaigrette or a sprinkle of toasted pine nuts.  Similar studies  from Ohio State University and Iowa State University showed  that adding  healthy fats like nuts, extra-virgin olive oil or avocado to your salad  bowl  can increase the amount of beneficial antioxidants — such as lutein  in leafy  greens, lycopene in tomatoes and red peppers, and  beta-carotene in carrots— your body absorbs.

Fat slows down the digestion process, which gives the plant  compounds in the same meal a better chance of being absorbed,” says  Magee. Fat  also helps fat-soluble antioxidants, such a vitamin E,  dissolve in the  intestine so they can be passed into the bloodstream  more efficiently. After  absorption, says Magee, these antioxidants may  help vanquish some of the free  radicals in our bodies, which can damage  DNA and trigger diseases and hasten  aging.

In fact, a 2008 Journal of Nutrition study reported that those who  ate more  alpha- and beta-carotenes — compounds in fruits and  vegetables  that help bring out their stunning yellow, orange or red hues — had   roughly a 20 percent lower risk of dying from heart  disease over a  15-year period than those who took in less.

 

Beans & Raw Peppers (Iron +  Vitamin C)

Long before food synergy became part of our lexicon, scientists knew  that  iron and vitamin C form a unique relationship. Iron  comes in two  guises: heme iron, the type found in animal products such as beef,  fish  and poultry, and a form called non-heme, found in plant foods like  beans,  whole grains and spinach.

On its own, the body absorbs up to 33 percent less non-heme iron than  heme  iron, says Donadio, “but you can increase its absorption two- to  threefold by  consuming it with the vitamin C in whole fruits and  vegetables.”

So how does vitamin C pull off this nifty trick? Donadio says it  likely  participates in the production of an enzyme responsible for  changing non-heme  iron to a more easily absorbed form called ferrous  iron, so you get more  mileage, for example, out of the iron in your bean  salad. Iron is necessary for  producing hemoglobin, which transports  oxygen to muscles and the brain. Low  levels can lead to fatigue,  weakness and poor concentration. Vegans and  vegetarians should take  particular heed of this food pairing to help keep iron stores replete.   Premenopausal women are also particularly vulnerable to iron deficiency  due to  losses through menstruation.

 

Burgers & Bananas (Salty Foods +  Potassium)

By all accounts,  the American diet is tantamount to a salt lick.  According to Centers for  Disease Control data, the average person in the  United States consumes an  elephantine 3,436 milligrams of sodium daily,  double the amount most people  should ingest. For some, this is a recipe  for cardiovascular woes because of a  salt-induced rise in blood  pressure, which raises stroke and heart-attack risk.  But potassium,  which encourages the kidneys to  excrete sodium, can counter the harmful  effects of sodium overload. So, when  noshing on salty dishes or  sodium-packed canned soups, frozen meals and  fast-food fare, make sure  to load up on potassium-plump fruits, vegetables and  legumes at the same  time.

 

Brown Rice & Tofu (Carbs +  Protein)

If you emerge  from the gym with a rapacious appetite, make sure to  quell it with a healthy  dose of both protein and carbohydrates. “Carbohydrates and protein together after a workout work jointly to  speed up  muscle recovery by enhancing the blood insulin response,” says  Molly Kimball, a  sports dietitian at the Elmwood Fitness Center in New  Orleans. “Higher insulin  levels will supply muscles with a faster and  larger dose of repair nutrients  such as glucose and amino acids.”

The outcome of this perfect pairing is less muscle soreness and  better  fitness results. Postworkout, Kimball recommends carbohydrate and  protein  combinations such as a turkey sandwich, yogurt and fruit; brown  rice and  grilled chicken or tofu; and pasta with meat sauce.

 

Wine & Fish

Merlot and  salmon may indeed be a perfect pairing. A 2008 study  published in the American  Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that  European men and women who consumed  as little as 4 ounces of wine a day  had higher blood levels of the omega-3 fats found in fish such as trout,   salmon and sardines. The same results were not found for beer or  spirits.

Scientists believe that heart-chummy polyphenol antioxidants in wine  such as  resveratrol might be responsible for the improved absorption of  omega-3 fats,  which have been shown to protect against myriad maladies,  including depression,  diabetes, mental decline and stroke.

Prefer chardonnay over merlot? According to a 2008 Journal of  Agricultural  and Food Chemistry study, white wine contains its own  distinct polyphenol  compounds that give it the same heart-protective  qualities as red. You can  enjoy wine with your fish or even use it to  marinate your catch  of the day.

Both on food labels, and in nutritional reporting, the tendency has  been to  trumpet one nutrient at a time. But food scientists have  uncovered thousands of  bioactive phytochemicals in fruits, vegetables  and whole grains, says Magee, “and now they are discovering that these  often work better in pairs or  groups.”

What we’re learning, she says, is that extracting and isolating  nutrients  doesn’t work very well: “The power is in the packaging, and  pills with single  nutrients just can’t match the healing power of whole  foods.”

The lessons of food synergy, it seems, are the same commonsense  lessons  we’ve been hearing for a long time now: For good health, eat a  variety of whole  foods — and eat them together.

 

Herbs & Olive Oil + Meat

Good news for grilled-meat lovers: Scientists at Kansas State  University  discovered that adding rosemary and other herbs to meat  cooked at  high temperatures reduces the formation of suspected  carcinogenic compounds  called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) by as much as  70 percent. Antioxidants in  extra-virgin olive oil have also been found  to help fend off cancer-promoting  HCAs. Similarly, marinating meat such  as steak and chicken in an  antioxidant-rich spice or wine blend has been  shown to be a very effective  method of reducing HCAs.

 

 

Not-So-Good  Pairings:

Alas, some couples were never meant to be. Here are  three common food  pairings that fail to bring out the best in either party.

Milk and Tea

A recent study in the European Heart Journal suggests you  shouldn’t follow  the lead of the Brits and spike your tea with milk. The  scientists discovered  that adding moo juice to black tea blunted its   cardiovascular benefits. Casein protein in milk may bind up antioxidants  in  tea, rendering them less available for absorption.

Milk and Chocolate

A few studies have also found that milk can reduce absorption  of flavonoids  in cocoa. These flavonoid antioxidants are believed to be  behind the numerous  health perks, such as reduced blood pressure,  attributed to dark chocolate. So choose dark chocolate  over milk  chocolate when possible.

Coffee and Oatmeal

“Tannins present in coffee, tea and wine are known to interfere  with iron absorption, particularly the iron found in plant-based foods  like  oatmeal, beans and leafy greens,” says Jarod Hanson, ND. The upshot  is this: If  you’re prone to iron deficiency, you might want to avoid  the cup of joe with  your morning oats.

Matthew Kadey MSc, RD, is a Canada-based dietitian and food and nutrition writer. His favorite food pairing is dark chocolate and almond butter. (Leesa recommends all your choices be organic!)  

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Excellent Health is found along your journey and not just at your destination. Would it make sense for us to spend several minutes together to discuss your Health Issues or Problems and how HealthyHighway can help YOU Live YOUR Optimum Life? Please complete the information on our Contact Us page to schedule your consultation today!   I look forward to helping YOU Live YOUR Optimum Life!

Live Well!

Leesa A. Wheeler

Healthy Lifestyle Coach, Artisan, Author

ring ~ 770-393-1284

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4 Food Strategies to Boost Brain Function

4 Food Strategies to Boost Brain Function

While there are many positive aspects to aging, we’re more familiar  with the  things that can go wrong. For all the wisdom we gain from  experience, we’re  more apt to worry about memory loss. We fret over  rusty neurotransmitters and  cloudy thinking.

So we diligently do crossword puzzles, wrestle with brainteasers and  learn  to play musical instruments — for the intrinsic joy, of course,  but also to  help inoculate our brains against negative age-related  changes. These are  helpful pursuits, but they’re not the only ones that  matter. In fact, if we  want to build a better brain, what we choose to  eat and drink might make the  biggest difference of all.

The following food-based strategies can help any brain function better — whether that brain is 9 years old or 90.

Hydrate

Proper hydration is a critical factor in maintaining and improving  your mind  as you age. “Your brain is 80 percent water,” says Daniel  Amen, MD, a clinical  neuroscientist and author of Use Your Brain to Change Your Age: Secrets to Look, Feel,  and Think Younger Every Day (Crown,  2012). “Even slight dehydration  increases the body’s stress hormones,  which can decrease your ability to think  clearly. Over time, increased  levels of stress hormones are associated with  memory problems.”

While the amount of hydration you need day-to-day depends on several   factors, including activity level, relative humidity and eating habits  (to name  only a few), the oft-repeated advice to drink 64 ounces — or  eight 8-ounce  glasses — of water a day isn’t a bad general rule to  follow. Keep in mind,  however, that you can account for those ounces in  several different ways. If  you’re eating a lot of vegetables and fruits,  for example, you may need to  drink less water. Most fresh plant foods  have a high water content and will  help keep you hydrated.

While the feeling of thirst is a good indicator you need to hydrate, if the only time you grab a glass of water is when you’re noticeably thirsty,  you  may not be drinking enough for optimal health. That’s because that  “thirsty feeling” kicks in only when your body is already a bit  dehydrated. The  best approach to hydration is a conscious, proactive  one. So, drink up! (For  more on proper hydration, see Drink to Your Health.)

Fight Free  Radicals

If you leave a bottle of wine open too long, it will oxidize and  become  stale. If your car is exposed to the elements for too long, its  exterior may  rust. Just as wine degrades and metal rusts, the cells in  our brains and  bodies degrade over time when they are exposed to free  radicals.

Free radicals are unstable molecules that are generated in the body  as a  byproduct of other natural internal processes, such as the  metabolizing of food  or the triggering of an immune response by a  bacteria or virus.

Free-radical molecules are unstable because they have an uneven  number of  electrons, which prefer to be in pairs. So in an effort to  restabilize  themselves, free radicals roam the body stealing electrons  from healthy cells.  When that happens, the formerly healthy cells, now  short an electron, head out  on their own searching for a replacement  electron, thus inciting an unhealthy  chain reaction of stolen electrons  throughout the body. It is that cascade of “electron theft” that causes  the cellular damage or “rust” in our brains and  bodies.

Antioxidants are free-radical scavengers. They fight the corrosive  effects  of free radicals by quieting their search for additional  electrons. You can  build up your antioxidant power by eating more  vegetables: Broccoli, cabbage,  cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, spinach,  kale and chard all pack a powerful  punch in the fight against  free-radical damage.

Garlic, too, is a powerful antioxidant, and it also has antibacterial  and  antifungal qualities. Fruit is another ally. Blueberries brim with   antioxidants, as do raspberries, blackberries and strawberries. Red  grapes  contain high levels of the potent antioxidants resveratrol and  quercetin. (So,  too, by extension, does red wine; in moderation, it may  offer some antioxidant  protection.)

Spices and herbs are also powerful weapons in the fight  against free radicals.  Cumin, cloves, cinnamon, turmeric, mustard, ginger,  oregano, basil,  sage, thyme and tarragon are rife with antioxidants. Look for  recipes  that call for these, or add a dash of cinnamon, turmeric or ginger to a  cup of tea. Green, white and black teas contain antioxidants, too, so by   pairing tea with spices, you’ll get a double dose of antioxidant power.

Ditch Processed  Foods

The vast majority of unhealthy, age-amplifying foods are processed  foods.  One of the main dangers of processed foods? Added sugar.

Each year, Americans consume an average of 150 pounds of sugar per  person — much of it in processed foods, says Nancy Appleton, PhD,  coauthor of Suicide by Sugar (Square One, 2009). And that is  not good news for brain health.

Overconsumption of sugar has been linked to depression and dementia disorders  such as  Alzheimer’s. It also increases inflammation and raises insulin levels  in  a way that can suppress the immune system, increasing your  vulnerability to  a host of additional diseases of brain and body.

Remember, too, that high-glycemic carbohydrates (also called “simple   carbs”), which proliferate in processed foods, act like sugar in the   bloodstream.

Processed foods also contain more than their fair share of unhealthy  fats.  While the human brain needs healthy fats to function — such as  those found in  nuts, avocados, and coconut and olive oil — bad fats like  trans fats and highly  processed commercial vegetable oils have been  linked to depression and other  mood disorders. These fats interfere with  the metabolism of essential fatty  acids in brain-cell membranes, which  can harm some of the neurotransmitters  responsible for mood, focus and  memory.

Boost Key  Nutrients

Dietary supplements can play a key role in healthy brain functioning. Here  are some of the top brain-boosting supplements:

Vitamin D. Studies have shown that vitamin D can protect against dementia, a range of  autoimmune disorders, cancer,  high blood pressure and many other illnesses. Our  bodies produce vitamin  D in response to sunshine, but most people don’t get  adequate daily sun  exposure — especially if you live in a northern climate.

Omega-3s. Daily supplementation with fish oil, one  of the  best sources of omega-3 fatty acids, can give your brain a big  boost.  High-quality fish oil, free from mercury and other toxins,  provides the omega-3  fatty acids that sheath brain cells and facilitate  healthy brain functioning.  Omega-3s also help fight inflammation, which  tends to occur in our brains as we  age. Studies have shown that some of  the other nutrients in fish oil, such as  DHA and EPA, help provide  protection against depression, stabilize mood and  promote alertness.

CoQ10. Short for coenzyme Q10, CoQ10 is a molecule  that  works in concert with other nutrients to improve the functioning of  all the  cells of the body. Many recent studies have linked CoQ10 with  boosting overall  energy and sharpening cognition. (For more on CoQ10,  see CoQ10:  The Miracle Molecule.)

One of the most common myths about aging is that memory inevitably  declines.  But I know from the growing body of scientific evidence that  age-related  decline in brain function isn’t a foregone conclusion. If  you nurture your  brain with the right nutrients, you will help it remain  flexible, resilient and  strong. So, next time you sit down for a meal  or reach for a snack, think of  your future brain, and choose wisely!

By Michael J. Gelb, Experience Life

Experience Life magazine is an award-winning health and fitness  publication that aims to empower people to live their best, most authentic  lives, and challenges the conventions of hype, gimmicks and superficiality in  favor of a discerning, whole-person perspective. Visit experiencelife.com   to learn more and to sign  up for the Experience Life newsletter, or to subscribe  to the print or digital version.

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