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The Top 12 Herbs and Spices for Longevity, Part 2

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In her new book, Rewind Your Body Clock, natural health expert Jayney Goddard offers a blueprint for anti-aging the natural way. One thing she recommends: herbs and spices. In our two-part excerpt, she counts down the top 12 herbs and spices, based on scientific evidence, that are most effective in helping humans stay healthy.

Here are the top six.

6. Ginger: To Warm the Cockles of Your Heart

Delicious warming ginger has a whole range of amazing healing uses, so you’d best brace yourself for this one.

Its anti-inflammatory properties can help to keep your heart healthy and your arteries clear. It has also been shown to help improve immune system function, lower cholesterol levels, and help prevent the formation of oxidized LDL (bad) cholesterol.

Ginger has also been shown to boost metabolism, therefore potentially accelerating weight loss. Interestingly, it also increases exercise endurance capacity, so feel free to try consuming more ginger if you’d like to be able to work out harder and longer.

Organic compounds within ginger — gingerol in particular — have also been extensively studied for their cancer-prevention properties. For example, gingerol is thought by some to be helpful in the prevention of both breast cancer and skin cancer. Furthermore, recent studies have also linked gingerol to healthy cell death (apoptosis) in ovarian cancer cells, and this can help to reduce the incidence of tumors — and the growth of cancerous cells — without harming the healthy cells around them. Another powerful compound in ginger, zerumbone, has been linked to helping with the prevention of gastric, ovarian, and pancreatic cancer as it is an anti-angiogenic, which means it could prevent the growth of blood vessels in tumors. As such, it is being researched as a potential anti-tumor drug. Ginger can also help balance blood-sugar levels in people suffering from Type 2 diabetes. Plus, it is thought to help with the onset of age-related, neurodegenerative diseases, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s, as it is a potent antioxidant and helps to keep your memory intact.

Finally, I thought you’d also like to know that ginger has been used for years to enhance desire and sexual activity. The root helps increase blood circulation, particularly to the midsection of the body, which is, of course, an important area for sexual performance.

5. Oregano: To Protect Your Bones and Aid in Detox

Oregano is a nutrient-rich herb, containing high levels of calcium, iron, and manganese, and this makes it great for protecting your bones against osteoporosis later in life. The active constituent of oregano, called rosmarinic acid, helps to eliminate free radicals that age us and contribute to disease. The herb also contains organic compounds that make it very useful for supporting your body’s detoxification pathways. Plus it contains a form of omega-3 fatty acid that helps rebalance cholesterol levels and reduce cardiovascular inflammation, enhancing overall health.

4. Allspice: The Caribbean Anti-Aging Secret

Allspice is a potent spice from Jamaica that has a complex and intriguing mix of flavors. It can help keep blood-sugar levels under control by balancing circulating blood glucose, which helps to inhibit the formation of AGEs (advanced glycation end products, which cause oxidative stress and inflammation in the body). If incorporated into a healthy diet, it also helps improve circulation, enhance mood, protect the gastrointestinal system, enhance healthy immune function, lower blood pressure, and reduce chronic inflammation. Plus, it has pain-relieving qualities.

Allspice also has antibacterial and antifungal properties and is particularly potent in combatting unhealthy stomach bacteria (E. coli and Listeria monocytogenes, in particular). When added to foods, it can even deactivate harmful bacteria before they start to do damage. The presence of a variety of potent chemical compounds, including eugenol, tannins, and quercetin, make allspice a potent antioxidant, too. And the high levels of vitamins A and C in the spice add to this antioxidant activity.

Allspice is also an effective vasodilator, relaxing blood vessels, allowing increased blood to flow through them, therefore reducing the strain on the heart and arteries and lowering the risk of conditions such as atherosclerosis, strokes, and heart attacks.

3. Cloves: Superhero of the Spice World

Cloves beat the other spices mentioned so far hands down when it comes to anti-aging properties, as they have the highest antioxidant levels, so regular consumption of cloves is a good idea. Most of us are familiar with using clove oil, with caution, as an anesthetic for toothache, gum pain, and sore throat. However, cloves can also offer relief from respiratory problems, including bronchitis and asthma, and they help to fight intestinal parasites, bacterial overgrowth, and fungal infections. They have also been shown to aid digestion, protect the liver, improve immune system function, support improved blood-sugar metabolism, and preserve bone density, and they they are being researched as an anti-cancer agent. Last but not least, they have potent aphrodisiac properties, and can help to keep things vibrant on that front, too.

2. Cinnamon: Queen of Anti-Aging Spices

Cinnamon contains anti-inflammatory compounds that have been shown to help relieve pain. However, one of the most exciting benefits it gives us is the ability to help our bodies deal with sugar better. In fact, just a quarter of a teaspoon of cinnamon a day has been proven to reduce blood-sugar levels. Cinnamon also has the ability to mimic the effects of a low-calorie diet and therefore slow signs of biological aging.

Research into cinnamon’s effects on cancer has been ongoing for many years, and two substances in particular — cinnamaldehyde and eugenol — have been shown to actively prevent cancer cells from spreading and growing, which is an exciting development for cancer research, particularly in the case of colon cancer, lymphoma, and leukemia.

These antioxidant constituents are also markedly beneficial for skin health and appearance, and they enhance your body’s ability to heal and repair itself. There is also an intriguing chemical connection between your brain and the scent and taste of cinnamon. So much so that, in research, when people chewed cinnamon-flavored gum, or simply smelled cinnamon, their cognitive ability was enhanced.

1. Turmeric: Pure Anti-Aging Gold

Turmeric is the spice that gives many curries that beautiful yellow color. A potent anti-aging agent, it is loaded with antioxidants, which help fight the signs of aging, including wrinkles and hyperpigmentation from sun damage, by curbing the growth of free radicals. In India, where turmeric is extensively used, the incidence of the four most common cancers found in developed nations is 10 times lower. It is thought that this phenomenon is at least in small part due to the regular consumption of turmeric, which contains many active compounds, the most potent of which is curcumin.

Curcumin is one of the most widely researched spice extracts, and studies strongly suggest that it can help protect against cancer and can even instigate cell death that is helpful in diminishing tumors while allowing normal cells to function properly (a process called apoptosis). Curcumin has also been shown to help protect against Alzheimer’s, coronary artery disease, and any condition in which chronic inflammation is the underlying cause.

Turmeric’s active compounds have also been shown to enhance liver function, which helps to reduce levels of toxicity in the body. And the antioxidant properties of turmeric can be helpful for liver ailments such as cirrhosis and fatty liver disease.

To see the rest of the list of 12 best herbs and spices, read part one of this story.

Excerpted with permission from Rewind Your Body Clock. Copyright Jayney Goddard, Watkins Media 2019. Order the book at amazon.com

Photo: Marilyna

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Wellness

6 Ways to Fight a Potbelly

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It is not uncommon for women to lament that as they approach menopause, they are gaining weight, especially in their midsections. This potbelly, unaffectionately called a menopot, can make women feel insecure about their appearance and can also be a health issue. 

A potbelly is more a product of aging in general than menopause, says Dr. Stephanie Faubion, medical director of The North American Menopause Society, and it’s not just a problem for women. “Both genders gain weight as they age due to a decrease in metabolic rate caused by the loss of muscle mass,” she says. “As people age, they don’t burn as many calories when they exercise or sit still, so it is harder  to maintain or lose weight.”

For women, the problem is compounded by the loss of estrogen, causing a redistribution of weight to the stomach and waist. Faubion says, “This hormonal change can cause women to go from a pear shape to more of an apple shape in midlife.” On average, women gain 1.5 pounds per year in midlife. 

Is It Dangerous?

Weight gain, especially in the midsection, can adversely affect a woman’s health. Faubion says, “Heart disease risk goes up as we age, especially in women that gain weight in their abdomen. Even women of normal weight have a higher cardiovascular risk if they hold excess pounds in their midsection.” Excess belly fat has also been associated with a higher risk of many cancers (including breast and colon) as well as an increased risk of diabetes. 

Faubion says the biggest complaint she hears from patients is that they haven’t changed their diet or exercise intensity and yet somehow, they are gaining weight. “What always worked in the past as far as maintaining or losing weight, won’t work anymore,” she says. “It’s like someone changed the rules of your body without telling you.”

What to Do About a Potbelly

1. Keep your weight down. Since it’s harder to lose weight as we age, it’s better not to gain it in the first place. Ideally, women should begin to adjust their diet and exercise routine before they are in full menopause to maintain their weight. Faubion says, “Use common sense. Older women need to focus on eating vegetables, fruit, and lean proteins. Limit simple carbs such as white rice and white pasta.”

2. Go easy on the alcohol. A big sabotage for many women is alcohol. “The kids are gone and there are more parties and dinners out, so older women tend to drink more. The body reads a glass of wine as a glass of sugar, so try to limit alcohol consumption for weight maintenance,” Faubion says.

3. Watch belly bloat. In addition to actual fat, a menopot can be exasperated by bloating, which can occur more frequently in older women. Erin Parekh, holistic health coach and culinary nutrition expert, says, “As women age, their stomachs can get more sensitive. They may need to play with their diet to see if dairy or gluten is contributing to their belly bloat. Fiber, while important, can cause stomach discomfort, so don’t go crazy adding too much fiber too quickly. To keep a healthy balance of gut bacteria, I recommend my clients take a probiotic supplement daily.”

4. Exercise daily. While weight maintenance is 90 percent food related, regular exercise is vital to good health. Aim for one hour of cardio/movement per day plus strength training. While sit-ups or other spot-toning exercises alone will not eliminate a meno-pot, strength training can increase a slowing metabolism and help combat lost muscle tone. 

6. Keep stress levels in check. Parekh explains, “Higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol contribute to belly fat, even in women that are not overweight. So, it’s important for women to find ways to reduce their stress, especially as they age. Practicing mindfulness techniques and getting more sleep can help.”

Photo: Wave Break Media

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Wellness

How to Get Excited About Cooking for One

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Last week I made chicken wings for dinner using a new rub and marinade. My husband, daughter, and son raved. When I saw that my son had come down in the middle of the night to eat more (a bowl of bones in the kitchen sink gave him away), I was thrilled that my culinary skills were so appreciated. 

But I have a lot less enthusiasm when it comes to cooking for just myself. On an evening when my husband and kids aren’t home, I usually order in or just eat a bowl of cereal on the couch. 

My feelings about cooking for one are not unusual. Liz Josefsberg celebrity health, wellness, and weight loss expert says, “People feel that it is fun to prepare something with someone else in mind. Cooking for a crowd is festive. It’s a communal and loving act. After all, food is love, right? ”

Conversely, when you cook just for yourself, you may feel less inspired. Cooking for one may feel more like a chore than a gift. 

Why You Should Cook for Yourself

Healthy, mindful eating is an essential part of looking and feeling good, especially for women in midlife. Typical take-out food or restaurant meals tend not to be as nutritional as meals made at home. The food is usually higher in fat and sodium, and the portions tend to be too large. 

Erin Parekh, holistic health coach and culinary nutrition expert, says, “When you cook for yourself, you control the quality of ingredients, the quality of the oils, the amount of sodium, etc. You know exactly what you are putting into your body.”

“Research proves that our metabolism actually gets started in a healthier way when we cook our food,” Josefsberg says. “The smelling of the food sets our mouth watering. The belly prepares for the incoming meal, unlike just eating prepared foods and fast food.”

Cooking at home is also more cost efficient. In 2018 Forbes reported that, on average, restaurant food delivery costs almost five times as much as cooking for yourself. 

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

Cooking for one can be less stressful than cooking for a crowd. If you are the one eating, you don’t have to consider anyone else’s palate or dietary needs. This freedom can translate to a lot more creativity in the kitchen. 

When you cook for one, you can ditch your typical repertoire of meals. If you never cook spicy foods or avoid making shellfish because your family doesn’t care for it, now is your chance. Parekh suggests, “Experiment with new recipes, spices, and cuisines. You don’t need to be intimidated because you aren’t cooking to satisfy anyone but yourself.”

Browse cookbooks or food blogs for inspiration.”Imagine you are cooking for a famous table of your favorite people. What would you prepare?” Josefsberg asks.

Keep It Simple

Many of the best meals require very few ingredients. “You don’t need to overwhelm yourself. You can make delicious, nutritious meals with just 10 ingredients or less,” Parekh says.” Just be sure to use good-quality ingredients.” Or think about subscribing to a delivery service like Blue Apron or Plated, which brings you creative recipes and the ingredients to make them. 

If you are too busy to cook during the week, meal prep on Sunday. “Roast vegetables, broil a chicken, make quinoa,” Parekh says. “During the week, you can put the components together and have a healthy meal ready in less time than it takes to order a pizza.” If you can’t pre-prep, take some short cuts by buying a rotisserie chicken or cut-up vegetables from the salad bar on your way home from work. You can also keep cleanup simple by choosing one-pot recipes.

And don’t shy away from recipes written for serving several people. “Invest in good glassware that freezes well so that you can parcel large meals into individual portions and freeze for later,” Josefsberg says.

Let It Be About You

If you are the only one eating, you may not feel that it’s worth the effort of prepping a meal from scratch, but it’s time to change that mindset. Look at it as an opportunity for self-care. Set the mood: Put on some music you love and maybe pour a glass of wine. Get creative. And show yourself some love.

Looking for inspiration? Try these recipes.

Photo: Humanmade

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Wellness

Is It Normal… To Be So Anxious

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From butterflies in your stomach to a full-blown panic attack, anxiety can take many different forms. At its core, anxiety is nothing more than a physiological response to a situation that creates internal conflict.

“It’s a feeling designed to give you caution and get your attention, so that you make adjustments in your environment or boundaries,” explains Theresa Moore, LCSW, LPC. “These are actually healthy feelings.”

Even if you’ve never been one to suffer from anxiety, you might find that changes the older you get — and, yes, it’s perfectly normal. In fact, getting older can be one of the major causes of anxiety for many people.

Why Does It Happen?

There are many things that can contribute to stress as we age, but in a country where we are expected to look, feel, and act younger than we are, watching our bodies go through the natural aging process can be one of the biggest — and it’s more than just the physical.

“We fear that it means that we will cease to be useful, engaging, or exciting,” Moore says, adding that a core fear from the moment we are born is a fear of being irrelevant or not belonging. “In our country we neither honor nor respect elderhood,” she says. “ We fear being thrown out or being seen as having no value to society.”

Add to that the fear of our own mortality and you can see where anxiety can get into your system and set up shop.

What Can You Do About It?

One of the first things you can do to manage increased anxiety is to realize that although you may not be able to control the aging process, you can control how you handle it. “There is a lot that is still within our control,” says Moore. “We can accept that this is a time of wisdom and life experience, and acknowledge that things are shifting and that this is the next step in life.”

No, we can’t expect to remain at our 40-year-old peak for the rest of our lives, but we can remain fit and active as it relates to our environment, nutrition, and mental health. And by accepting the aging process for what it is, we can enjoy the relationships around us and become more aware and present rather than disheartened or anxious.

“Our relevance has to do with relationships, not accomplishments and tasks,” Moore says. “That’s an important thing to remember.”

Do I Need Help?

Again, an increase in anxiety as we age is perfectly normal. The degree in which it manifests, however, can be problematic. And some women find that even “normal” requires a little extra help in the form of medication or therapy. How do you know the difference? “Anything that is ongoing or exhibits a significant pattern might indicate the need for a life coach or therapist to help you get some new tools for dealing with stress,” Moore says.

If you are anxious to the point that it is affecting your sleep, moods, ability to focus, memory, etc., then you should see your doctor or therapist and ask if short-term medication could provide some relief. “If you are so easily distracted that it is hard for you to complete a task and other people or co-workers are noticing, then that’s a problem that could possibly benefit from medication coupled with counseling,” suggests Moore. “Trying to do it on your own only increases the anxiety.”

If you are still unsure if you are just going through a phase or if it’s something more serious, check in with your squad.

“Having a good support system of people in your life who are objective and supportive is important regardless of stage of life, and this is the first place you should go to check things out,” Moore says. “These are the people who will tell you if you seem over the top.”

A stress-free life is pretty unrealistic, regardless of age. But accepting each stage of your life for the beautiful and wonderful gift that it is can go a long way in helping you manage, if not alleviate, some of the anxiety along the way.

Photo: Rido Franz

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