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Spicing your way to health with Cinnamon

8 Mar

Welcome to the second post of my blog series, “Spicing your way to Health.”  In this series, we will focus on spices with documented health benefits and discuss easy and delicious ways you can add these spices to your everyday eating.  Last week, we talked about curcumin.  Today, we are going to talk about Cinnamon!

What is cinnamon?

Cinnamon is obtained from the bark of trees from the genus Cinnamomum.  These trees are native to South East Asia (source)

Actually, several species are sold as “cinnamon.”  From Wikipedia:

  • Cinnamomum verum (“True cinnamon”, Sri Lanka cinnamon or Ceylon cinnamon)
  • C. burmannii (Korintje or Indonesian cinnamon)
  • C. loureiroi (Saigon cinnamon or Vietnamese cinnamon)
  • C. aromaticum (Cassia or Chinese cinnamon) (source)

The flavor of cinnamon is due to is essential oil which makes up about 1% of its composition (source)

What health benefits does cinnamon have?

Several studies have been carried out in vitro and in vivo concerning cinnamon.  Cinnamon has shown to:

  • Have activity against HIV-1 and HIV-2 (source)
  • Have some cancer preventing activity in colon cancer cells (source)
  • Impair melanoma cell proliferation, invasiveness, and tumor growth (source)
  • Improve fasting blood glucose in people with type 2 diabetes or prediabetes(source)
  • Perhaps have some role in neuroprotection (source)
  • Have effects against obesity and insulin resistance (source)

How can you eat cinnamon?

I don’t think you need any suggestions on how to eat cinnamon.  Although you can buy it in pill form, why not just sprinkle some on your coffee:

put some in pumpkin pie:

make a satay sauce:

add some to oatmeal:

or try the cinnamon challenge:


What is your favorite way to eat cinnamon?  Did you know it had so many health benefits?


New Blog Series-Spicing Your Way to Health!

3 Mar

Spicing Your Way to Health with Curcumin

Here are Naturally Healthy and Gorgeous, we are going to start a new blog series called “Spicing your way to Health.”  In this series, we will focus on spices with documented health benefits and discuss easy and delicious ways you can add these spices to your everyday eating.  Today, we are going to talk about Curcumin.

What is curcumin?

Curcumin is the principal curcuminoid of the popular Indian spice turmeric.  Tumeric is part of the ginger family (Zingiberaceae) (source).

Curcumin has been used since 700 AD by Indian and Chinese traditional medicine doctors for numerous diseases such as bronchitis, colds, parasitic worms, leprosy, arthritis and inflammations of bladder, liver, kidney and skin, and to help fever and diarrhea (source)

What health benefits does curcumin have?

A surpurising number of health benefits ahve been linked to curcumin:

  • It has shown to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antiproliferative effects
  • It has shown in vitro and in vivo to potentlaly target pathways involved in creating Alzheimer disease thus having the potential to halt its progression or initiation (source)
  • It has shown to lower plasma and hepatic cholesterol and halt early atherosclerotic lesions similar to the drug lovastatin (source)
  • It has shown to prevent several cancers in cell lines (source)
  • It has suggested that it may help digestive diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome, colitis, Crohn’s disease and bacterial and parasitic diseases (source)
  • It has shown to help patients with Ulcerative Colitis maintain remission (source)
  • It has shown to inhibit HIV replication in vitro (source)

Safety issues

Studies using 2-12 grams of curcumin have shown limited side effects such as mild nausea or diarrhea.(source)

Curcumin has shown to potentially cause iron deficiency in susceptible patients(source)

How can I eat curcumin?

Spicy Chicken Marsala from Sunday   They actually talk about the health benefits too!

Tumeric Roasted Cauliflower from Huffington Post

Shrimp with Tumeric and Mustard Seeds from Jane Spice

Chili Red Lentil Soup from The Real Nutritionista


Do you like curcumin?  What is your favorite way to eat it?

Benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids and DHA

23 Feb

Last week we talked about how fish oils are a great source of Omega-3s and DHA.  In this post, we will explore the health benefits of Omega-3s and DHA as well as list additional food sources for this health promoting compounds!

What are Omega-3 fatty acids?

Omega−3 fatty acids can be found in marine and plant oils. They are polyunsaturated fatty acids and are called N-3 fatty acids due to the placement of their double bonds.

N-3 fatty acids are called “essential fatty acids” because our bodies need them for metabolism but cannot create them.  Our bodies do have the ability to form some long chain n-3 fatty acids such as EPA and DHA and ALA (3 of the most important ones for human health)

So when someone says Omega-3 fatty acids, they are actually referring to a large collection of different fatty acids that differ based on their length.


What are healthy sources of N-3 fatty acids?

  • Cold water fish such as mackerel, salmon and sardines (as mentioned before, be careful to choose fish with low mercury levels or a supplement made from fish with low mercury levels)
  • Plant seeds such as flax (18% of its weight is actually ALA!) (flax seeds must be ground to properly digest them so try flax meal or grinding them yourself) and hemp (read all about hemp here!)
  • Hemp seeds

  • Eggs (especially those fed special diets-usually labeled on the carton)
  • Grass-fed (not grain fed) beef

  • Mammal brain and eyes (if that’s your thing!)
  • Algae (great if you are a vegan/vegetarian)

Why are they good for us?

N-3 fatty acids have numerous health benefits due to their ability to modulate inflammation.  Below is just a small sampling of the studies that have been done.  N-3 fatty acids have shown to:

  • Lower plasma triglycerides, resting heart rate, and blood pressure and might also improve heart function and lower inflammation.  National and international guidelines recommend the general population to consume at least 250 mg/day of long-chain n-3 PUFA or at least 2 servings/week of oily fish (source)
  • Help  recovery following traumatic brain injury and they may be beneficial before injury, as well (source)(source)
  • Reduce triglycerides (source)
  • Have some indication for helping bipolar depression (source)
  • Be essential for neurodevelopment and cognitive maintenance in older adulthood (source)
  • Be effective in the treatment of ADHD (source)
  • Help babies have a faster immune maturation  (source)
  • Reduce pain, number of tender joints, duration of morning stiffness in Rheumatoid Arthritis patients (source)


The US FDA  Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, has said that known or suspected risks of EPA and DHA consumed in excess of 3 grams per day may include the possibility of:

  • Increased incidence of bleeding
  • Hemorrhagic stroke
  • Oxidation of omega-3 fatty acids, forming biologically active oxidation products
  • Increased levels of low-density lipoproteins (LDL) cholesterol or apoproteins associated with LDL cholesterol among diabetics and hyperlipidemics
  • Reduced glycemic control among diabetics (source)

What are Omega-6 fatty acids and what is the meaning of the ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6?  Tune in next week to find out!


How do you get healthy fats into your diet?  Do you try to eat foods with them or do you take a supplement?

What is hemp?

18 Feb

What is hemp?

Cannabis sativa L. subsp. sativa var. sativa is the variety grown for industrial use, while C. sativa subsp. indica  is primarily used for production of recreational and medicinal drugs.

The real difference between the two substrains is the amount of THC secreted by the plant.  The plant substrains grown for seeds and fiber only has THC below 0.3%, while cultivars of Cannabis grown for marijuana can contain anywhere from 2% to over 20% THC (source)

What is hemp used for?

Hemp is used for a variety of functions including:

  • to make cord and clothing
  • to make food (oil and seeds)
  • in mulch
  • in animal bedding and litter
  • as jewelry
  • to clean contaminants from water
  • to kill weeds by minimizing weed seeds in the soil-reduces necessary pesticides
  • as a fuel from its oils


How can you eat it?

Hemp seeds can be:

  • eaten raw
  • ground into a meal
  • sprouted
  • made into milk
  • made as tea
  • used in baking
  • made into protein powder

Health Benefits of Hemp

  • 44% of the seed by weight are healthy oils such as alpha-linolenic acid, omega-3 and omega-6
  • 33% of the seed by weight is protein
  • Hemp seeds are a source of complete protein (contain all essential amino acids)



Have you eaten anything with hemp in it?  If so, what?

Antioxidant Tuesdays-Red Delicious Apples

10 Jan

Red Delicious Antioxidants!

For the next installment of antioxidant Tuesdays, I am going to talk about red delicious apples.    If you haven’t read an Antioxidant Tuesday post before, it is a series highlighting the 10 foods with the highest amount of antioxidants amongst 100 common foods examined in this study.  So far, we have talked about kidney beanspinto beansblueberriescranberriesartichokesblackberriesprunes and strawberries.

Health Benefits of Red Delicious Apples

An average sized apple has only 90 calories and has 5 of fiber!  Much of this fiber is in the apple’s skin so don’t peel your apples and miss out on this important source of fiber.

Studies on Red Delicious Apples

Does an apple a day keep the doctor away?

Although Red Delicious Apples have the highest antioxidant counts amongst apples, I will highlight studies that have been done on apples in general and the disease fighting nutrients that most apples contain.

  • Phloridzin, a compound in apple and in apple-derived products, has been investigated in mice.  These preliminary studies suggest is might be able to act as a antihyperglycemic and antihyperlipidemic agent in individuals with diabetes (source) (source)
  • Phloridzin has also been investigated in mice for its ability to protect against osteopenia (bone loss) by improving inflammation markers and decreasing bone resorption (source)
  • A high consumption of apple juice from concentrate and bananas has shown to protect against wheezing in children (source)
  • Apple juice has shown some preliminary data at being able to decrease the decline in mood that accompanies Alzheimer’s Disease  (source)
  • Polyphenols, disease fighting compounds in apples and other fruits, has shown to decreased total cholesterol and LDLcholesterol levels in moderately obese individuals (source)
  • Polysaccharides from apples have shown some potential for the prevention and treatment of colon cancer (source)
  • Apple polyphenols given to mice with a predisposition for developing colon cancer were able to reduce colon polyps (source)

How to eat them

Red Delicious Oatmeal from Fit City

Apple Chips from Eat Play Love

Chopped Apple Salad from Food Network

Warm Cabbage and Apple Salad from Eggs on Sunday

Naked Apple Butter from Oh She Glows

Reminder:  As apples are part of The Dirty Dozen, try to buy organic if possible.  Trader Joe’s sells them for a reasonable price.


Do you eat apples?  What is your favorite type?  Do you cook them or do you eat them plain?

Toxic Thursdays-Mercury in Fish

29 Dec

Poison in our Seafood?


If this is the first Toxic Thursday post you have read, check out the posts on shampoo, lotions. and body wash.  Each Thursday, I highlight a potential source of toxins in our everyday lives, explain what health risks the potential toxins have been linked to and suggest healthier, safer alternatives.  Today we are going to talk about mercury levels in fish.

What is Mercury?

Mercury is a naturally occurring chemical element.  Most of the mercury that ends up in the water is from coal-burning power plants and chlorine production plants (source).  The largest source of mercury contamination in the US is from coal-fueled power plants (source).

The dangerous form of mercury is methylmercury.

Methylmercury is formed when mercury is acted upon by anaerobic organisms that live in aquatic areas such as lakes, rivers and the ocean (source).

Why is Methylmercury in Our Fish?

Mercury and methylmercury are present in very small concentrations in water sources.  Methylmercury is absorbed by algae which is at the bottom of the food chain.   This algae is eaten by small fish which are then eaten by larger fish.  Fish absorb the methylmercury but do not excrete it well (source).  Thus, it accumulates in the organs and muscles of fish which are then eaten by larger fish and humans  (source).


What are Methylmercury’s Health Risks?

Mercury cannot be eliminated by cooking (source).  When we eat methylmercury in our food, more than 95% of it is absorbed by the gastrointestinal tract.  It is  transported to the blood and is distributed to all organs. It takes 30–40 hours for methylmercury  to be completely distributed throughout the body.  It then can cross the blood-brain barrier and builds up in the brain.  In the brain, it  can damage the central nervous system (source).  Methylmercury has a half-life in human blood of about 50 days which means it lasts for a very long time in our body (source).

Methylmercury has been linked to:

  • Increased risk of heart attacks (source) (source) (source) and increased risk of death from heart disease.  This is likely due to the promotion of lipid peroxidation by mercury which encourages atherosclerosis(source)
  • Increasing systemic inflammation (source)
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure (source)
  • Negatively impacting the immune system (source)

It is still undecided if the high mercury content in fish diminishes the cardioprotective effect of fish (source) (source)

Who is Especially at Risk?

Although we should all avoid mercury exposure, pregnant women and children need to be most careful.  Methylmercuy can easily cross the placenta and levels in umbilical cord blood can be 1.7 times higher than the mother’s blood levels (source).

Babies who were exposed to mercury in the womb have shown to experience a loss of IQ and demonstrate decreased performance on tests examining memory, attention, language, and spatial cognition. (source)

How Can We Limit Exposure to Mercury?

The best way to limit your exposure to mercury is to choose fish that are low on the food chain.


Here is a great link listing the mercury levels in different fish and shellfish.


Did you know all the different health risks of mercury?  How do you limit your mercury exposure?

Toxic Thursdays-Body Wash

22 Dec

Toxins in Body Wash???


Welcome to the next installment of Toxic Thursdays!

If this is the first Toxic Thursday post you have read, check out the posts on shampoo and lotions.  Each Thursday, I am highlighting a potential source of toxins in our everyday lives, explain what health risks the potential toxins have been linked to and suggest healthier, safer alternatives.  Today we are going to talk about body wash.

What toxins are in body wash?

Some of the most common toxins in body wash are:

1. EXT DC VIOLET 2 Banned for use in cosmetics.
2. FDC YELLOW 6 Possible human carcinogen.
Possible human carcinogen.
4. FDC YELLOW 6 Possible human carcinogen.
Reproductive system toxicity.
6. SODIUM LAURYL SULFATE Gastrointestinal toxicity.
Immune toxicant.
8. TOCOPHERYL ACETATE Immune toxicant.
Immune toxicant.
10. DISODIUM EDTA Penetration enhancer.


What are these toxins and what have they been linked to?

1.  Violet 2-a synthetic dye produced from petroleum or coal-tar sources. There is very little evidence it causes any immune toxicity.

2.  Yellow 6- a synthetic dye made from petroleum.  There is very little evidence it causes any immune toxicity.

3.  Triethanolamine-strongly alkaline substance used as  pH adjusting chemical. It can cause irritation in some individuals (source)

4.  Parabens-see this post

5.  Sodium Lauryl Sulfate-see this post

6.  Propylene Glycol-see this post

8.  Tocopheryl acetate-see this post

9.  Fragrance-has shown to induce acute toxicity in mice (source).  It has also be linked to asthma, allergies and migraine headaches. Fragrance can accumulate in adipose (fat) tissue such as the breast and fragrance can actually be present in breast milk (source).

10.  Disodium EDTA-see this post

What alternatives are there?

As I mentioned in my shampoo post, I use Dr. Bronner’s castile soap for my body wash.  You can buy this at stores such as Target or on Amazon.

You can also make your own body wash.  Some recipes are found here.

If you are interested in more of body scrub and exfoliator, this is very simple to make with ingredients you likely have at your home.

This website has some great recipes for bath scrubs.

Depending on how rough you want your scrub to be, you can use either salt or sugar.

Use salt as the base if you want a rough, exfoliating scrub.  This which would be great for removing dead, flaky skin.

Use sugar as the base of the scrub for a smoother formula.  You can add oatmeal to the sugar scrub to make it even gentler on your skin.

You can also add your favorite essential oils to scent the scrub and add additional health benefits.

Healthful Pursuit, one of my favorite blogs, made a pumpkin spice foot scrub.  How great does that sound?


Do you use body wash?  Have you ever looked at the ingredients in your body wash?