In our pursuit of health (the state of being free from illness or injury) we discovered the magic of meditation, the wonderful benefits of prayer, and the infusion of mind, body, and spirit through the consumption of tea. In this pursuit, we have come across various writings, videos, and artistic presentations which can further these efforts. To be of additional service to you, we have compiled an assortment of these works which you may find helpful. Please enjoy as we have.
11 Essential Vitamins and Minerals Your Body Needs
We all know vitamins and minerals are essential nutrients the body needs – but what does each vitamin do? And which foods are vitamin powerhouses? Here’s the low-down on which letter does what, from A (that is, Vitamin A) to Z (or – zinc).
Oct 30, 2013
Special Collections: WHAT’S ON YOUR PLATE
For those among us who aren’t nutritionists, dieticians or experts in natural health, the letters and numbers which explain the world of healthy food can seem pretty daunting. One thing’s for sure – experts recommend fueling your body with healthy food before you turn to supplements. The best bet is to make sure you eat a balanced diet with as many wholefoods as possible –if you need a boost, here’s the low-down on what letter does what, from A (that is, vitamin A) to Z (or – zinc).
1. VITAMIN A
GOOD FOR: Healthy eyes and general growth and development, including healthy teeth and skin.
NATURAL SOURCE: Carrots and other orange foods including sweet potato and cantaloupe melons – all of which get their hue from the carotene pigment.
2. B VITAMINS
GOOD FOR: Energy production, immune function and iron absorption.
NATURAL SOURCE: This crucial group of nutrients can be found in whole unprocessed foods, specifically whole grains, potatoes, bananas, lentils, chili peppers, beans, yeast and molasses.
3. VITAMIN C
GOOD FOR: Strengthening blood vessels and giving skin its elasticity, anti-oxidant function and iron absorption.
NATURAL SOURCE: Everyone knows this one – oranges! But they’re not the only source – other fruits and veggies packed with Vitamin C include guava, red and green peppers, kiwi, grapefruits, strawberries, Brussels sprouts and cantaloupe.
4. VITAMIN D
GOOD FOR: Strong healthy bones.
NATURAL SOURCE: Apart from spending a few minutes out in the sun, which stimulates Vitamin D production, you can get this nutritional must from eggs, fish and mushrooms.
5. VITAMIN E
GOOD FOR: Blood circulation, and protection from free radicals.
NATURAL SOURCE: Our favorite Vitamin E-rich food is the mighty almond. You can also fill up on other nuts, sunflower seeds and tomatoes to reap the benefits.
6. VITAMIN K
GOOD FOR: Blood coagulation – that is, the process by which your blood clots.
NATURAL SOURCE: Leafy greens are the best natural sources of Vitamin K – so make sure you’re eating lots of kale, spinach, Brussels sprouts and broccoli.
7. FOLIC ACID
GOOD FOR: Cell renewal and preventing birth defects in pregnancy.
NATURAL SOURCE: There are plenty of scrumptious natural sources of folic acid, including dark leafy greens, asparagus, broccoli, citrus fruits, beans, peas, lentils, seeds, nuts, cauliflower, beets and corn.
GOOD FOR: Healthy teeth and bones.
NATURAL SOURCE: This mineral is another one that most of us already know – the best sources are dairy products like yogurt, cheese and milk, along with tofu and black molasses.
Photo by Flickr user shutterbean
GOOD FOR: Building muscles naturally and maintaining healthy blood.
NATURAL SOURCE: You might be surprised to know that clams take the top spot for iron content, followed by oysters and organ meats like liver. For the vegetarians among us, soybeans, cereal, pumpkin seeds, beans, lentils and spinach are great sources of iron.
GOOD FOR: Immunity, growth and fertility.
NATURAL SOURCE: Seafoods like oysters are also zinc-rich, along with spinach, cashews, beans and – wait for it – dark chocolate.
GOOD FOR: Glucose function – making sure every cell in your body gets energy as and when needed.
NATURAL SOURCE: As long as your diet contains servings of whole grains, fresh vegetables and herbs, you should be getting enough chromium.
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Naturally fermented foods are getting a lot of attention from health experts these days because they may help strengthen your gut microbiome—the 100 trillion or so bacteria and microorganisms that live in your digestive tract. Researchers are beginning to link these tiny creatures to all sorts of health conditions from obesity to neurodegenerative diseases.
Fermented foods are preserved using an age-old process that not only boosts the food’s shelf life and nutritional value, but can give your body a dose of healthy probiotics, which are live microorganisms crucial to healthy digestion, says Dr. David S. Ludwig, a professor of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health.
Not all fermented foods are created equal
The foods that give your body beneficial probiotics are those fermented using natural processes and containing probiotics. Live cultures are found in not only yogurt and a yogurt-like drink called kefir, but also in Korean pickled vegetables called kimchi, sauerkraut, and in some pickles. The jars of pickles you can buy off the shelf at the supermarket are sometimes pickled using vinegar and not the natural fermentation process using live organisms, which means they don’t contain probiotics. To ensure the fermented foods you choose do contain probiotics, look for the words “naturally fermented” on the label, and when you open the jar look for telltale bubbles in the liquid, which signal that live organisms are inside the jar, says Dr. Ludwig.
Try making your own naturally fermented foods
Below is a recipe from the book Always Delicious by Dr. Ludwig and Dawn Ludwig that can help get you started.
Spicy pickled vegetables (escabeche)
These spicy pickles are reminiscent of the Mediterranean and Latin American culinary technique known as escabeche. This recipe leaves out the sugar. Traditionally, the larger vegetables would be lightly cooked before pickling, but we prefer to use a quick fermentation method and leave the vegetables a bit crisp instead.
- 2 cups filtered water
- 1 to 1-1/4 tablespoons sea salt
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 jalapeño or a few small hot chiles (or to taste), sliced
- 1 large carrot cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds or diagonal slices
- 1 to 2 cups chopped cauliflower or small cauliflower florets
- 3 small stalks celery (use only small inner stalks from the heart), cut into 1-inch-long sticks
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 cabbage leaf, rinsed
Warm the water (no need to boil). Stir in the sea salt until it dissolves completely. Set aside to cool (use this time to cut the vegetables). Add the vinegar just before using. The brine can be made ahead of time and stored in a sealed glass jar on the counter to use when ready to pickle.
Set a quart-size canning jar in the sink and fill it with boiling water to sterilize. Empty the jar and tightly pack the vegetables and bay leaf inside to within 1 to 2 inches from the top of the jar. Pour the brine over the vegetables to fill the jar to within 1 inch from the top. Wedge the cabbage leaf over the top of the vegetables and tuck it around the edges to hold the vegetables beneath the liquid.
Set jar on the counter and cover with a fermentation lid. (Alternatively, use a standard lid and loosen it a bit each day for the first few days, then every other day, to allow gasses to escape.) Let pickle for three to five days, depending on the indoor temperature. Check the taste after a couple of days, using clean utensils. Vegetables will pickle faster in warmer climates. Make sure the vegetables stay packed beneath the level of the liquid and add salted water (2 teaspoons sea salt dissolved in 1 cup warm filtered water) as needed.
When the vegetables are pickled to your liking, seal the jar with a regular lid and refrigerate. Vegetables will continue to slowly pickle in the refrigerator. They will keep for about one month. Taste for saltiness before serving and, if desired, rinse gently to remove excess salt.
Calories: 1 (per 1 tablespoon)
Carbohydrate: 0 g
Protein: 0 g
Fat: 0 g
Excerpted from the book Always Delicious by David S. Ludwig, MD, PhD, and Dawn Ludwig. Copyright © 2018 by David S. Ludwig, MD, PhD, and Dawn Ludwig. Recipe reprinted with permission of Grand Central Life & Style. All rights reserved.
Related Information: The Sensitive Gut
THE IMPORTANCE OF EARLY MORNING SUNLIGHT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Love sunbathing? Like stretching out on that beach or porch to catch some warm summer rays?
Beyond just getting that tan, there might be something more to sunbathing—namely, invaluable health benefits.
And while a little sun-basking in the middle of the day—or even on a sunny late afternoon or evening— gives the solar health perks each of us seeks, there is some fascinating science indicating that the light of the morning sun may be the best sun to seek of all.
THE BASIC HEALTH BENEFITS OF SUNBATHING
It’s true that there are some hazards to sun exposure.
Too much ultraviolet (UV) rays can be harmful. We may get melanomas or skin cancer if we’re not too careful.
Still, this very same sunlight is a necessity for good health. As the famous health adage goes: everything in moderation. And sunlight is NO exception.
In moderate amounts, exposing our skin to sunlight on a regular basis—especially a daily basis—can have numerous and immense benefits on some surprising facets to our health.
And yes: these are only possible if the skin is exposed WITHOUT sunscreen for a limited period of time.
But what are these benefits? And how do they work?
What more: why is getting that sun in the morning better than any other time of day? Let’s take a look.
HOW IT WORKS
When bare skin gets exposed to sunlight (without sunscreen), amazing things happen. Pigments in our skin, called melanin, absorb the UV rays from sunlight. These are stored, processed into new hormone-like compounds by the liver, and then used for important bodily functions later.
Some of these functions are:
VITAMIN D PRODUCTION
Vitamin D is one of the most important functions of sunlight exposure. In fact, it’s vitamin D production in the skin in and of itself that may be responsible for the bulk of sunlight exposure’s overall health benefits.
While we can get this vital vitamin from food (sources like meat, some mushrooms, or fortified milk, grains, and supplements), what we get is incredibly small compared to what we get from sunlight.
Our skin when exposed to sunlight also produces a much more effective analogue of vitamin D: vitamin D₃. This vitamin D version has much more far-reaching effects on the body, including:
- Promoting calcium absorption
- Strengthening bones
- Modulating chronic inflammation
- Empowering immunity
…and so much more.
That’s not to say that vitamin D₂— the other form of vitamin D only found in foods—doesn’t have the same benefits. It does, but people won’t get nearly enough of the benefits just through food consumption alone.
All the more reason to get a morning sunbath into that routine! Basking in the sun will create an enormous amount of the body’s overall needs, while also making the more effective version of vitamin D much more available.
And doing it in the morning is key—though we’ll get to that later.
REDUCES CHANCES OF CANCER
Sunlight exposure is often associated with an increase in cancer risk. On the other hand, studies have shown that too little exposure can also be a problem.
A 2008 review of sunlight’s benefits to human health noted two studies showing that adequate vitamin D₃ exposure helped reduce cancer risk. While avoiding too much sunlight and sunburns, in particular, is wise to keep skin cancer away, realize that getting a little bit—such as in a morning sunbathing session—is also important to cancer prevention, too, on the other hand.
REDUCES CHANCES OF MAJOR CHRONIC DISEASES
In the same 2008 review, a collection of studies also drew a connection between sun exposure, vitamin D, and many common major illnesses.
- Type 2 diabetes
- Multiple sclerosis (MS)
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Heart disease
- Infections (viral or bacterial)
- Rheumatoid arthritis (and other autoimmune issues)
- Lyme’s disease (symptoms)
Studies are especially plentiful and supportive of vitamin D (and thus sunlight exposure’s) role in preventing asthma, autoimmunity, diabetes, MS, and cardiovascular-related diseases.
When getting ample vitamin D via sunlight exposure (especially in the morning), it’s more than just “taking a vitamin:” it could be, in effect, strengthening health and wellness overall.
And it could be one of the easiest and most simple ways of taking a vitamin out there—and at no cost, with zero side effects.
MELATONIN AND THE CIRCADIAN RHYTHM
Beyond vitamin D, sunlight exposure is responsible for another hugely valuable aspect of health: the circadian rhythm. More specifically, it most certainly holds sway over our waking and sleeping cycles.
A 2013 report drew many connections between sun exposure and the circadian sleep cycle—namely, the body’s natural ability to procure feelings of sleepiness and wakefulness at the right times (night and day).
It was found that when subjects were exposed to more natural light (sun) compared to artificial light, they had an easier time feeling sleepiness and going to sleep at night, thus helping regulate sleep, while also feeling more energized and wakeful in the morning.
Clearly, some sun exposure has benefits to telling the body when to correctly produce melatonin for proper, restful sleep. Grabbing a bit of that morning sun for a vitamin D boost can also apparently help with sleeping habits, which also cash in amazing turns for health overall.
Certainly not its smallest feat (though important nonetheless), sunlight exposure appears to have minor impacts on the endocrine system.
Some evidence shows that sunlight directly stimulates the production of endorphins in the body which help improve mood while alleviating stress and anxiety. On an even deeper level, it also releases hormones that reduce free radical damage, which in turn further reduce the chances of inflammation, autoimmunity, and even cancer.
While more studies are needed to explore these capabilities caused by sunlight, it does shine a little ray of hope on those of us looking for simple, straightforward ways to boost health and wellness.
WHY MORNING SUNLIGHT?
The scientific votes are in: sunlight, in the correct doses, is very good for health.
What more, science is starting to realize, however, that MORNING sunlight may be the best of all, especially when it comes to improving mood and feelings of well-being.
But breaking that news can be a real head-scratcher: how is morning sunlight any different from that in the afternoon or any other time? Take it from Dr. Jack Kruse, famous neurosurgeon and CEO, and a longtime proponent of morning sunlight versus other times of day in his recent 2017 article.
Kruse says: “Sunlight releases a[n] opiate (ß-endorphin) when we are exposed to the sun. Guess why nature did that? Could it be that she wanted us going in the sunlight often for its healing powers?”
“…It turns out that the combination of [ultraviolet] and [infrared] solar light humans are designed to get in the AM also pre-treats the skin to lower inflammation. The fact that [UV] light induces a small opiate response tell us nature is trying to get us to come out into the solar light in the morning.”
Kruse also observes that both UV and infrared light are the most plentiful together in the AM (between 8 and 10 AM). Also, infrared helps enhance the absorption of UV rays in a healthy way—as opposed to one being overloaded and sunburnt when sunbathing in the middle of the day.
He adds later: “The fact that [UV] and [infrared] light in AM sunlight work in unison to create this circumstance says something very deep about sunlight importance…. mood will be altered by a chronic lack of AM life.”
An earlier 2011 article on LiveScience.com also referenced a study on mice showing that tumors and melanoma were less likely to develop when UV exposure happened in the morning.
What more, a 2008 study that was referenced in 2014 says that people who were exposed to more blue light (closer to UV rays) in the morning had an easier time getting to sleep (and having more restful sleep) compared to those who were exposed to periods of UV rays later in the day.
Again: it all attests to the benefits of a little morning sunshine!
BUT HOW MUCH SUNLIGHT IS NEEDED?
The best time of day—morning—is established scientifically as the optimal window for getting some sun for health benefits, and without the increased risk of skin cancer.
But the next question looms: how much is adequate? How much isn’t enough? Too much? What is the sweet spot of sun exposure that doesn’t increase cancer risk in turn?
This question is particularly posed when pondering how much sunlight produces adequate vitamin D in the skin. According to the Vitamin D Council, there isn’t an exact science or way to know how much each person will produce, though it can be roughly estimated according to skin color.
The fairer a person is, the quicker they meet their vitamin D needs when exposed to the sun and will typically only need about 10-15 minutes of exposure. For someone of darker complexion, they’ll need to spend a little more time to get the amounts they need—sometimes as long as 2 hours.
Every person is different. But for the average person of median skin complexion, 30 minutes to an hour in the sun without sunscreen will create adequate amounts of vitamin D. Morning exposure might have to be a little longer than this due to less sunlight intensity than midday sun (10 AM to 3 PM, as recommended by the National Institutes of Health.
What about the other benefits of sun exposure, such as increased endorphin production, circadian rhythm benefits, optimal melatonin levels, and general chronic disease prevention?
Unfortunately, there aren’t any studies that narrow down these numbers exactly yet. But, generally speaking, if a person pursues their daily morning vitamin D sun exposure, they’re likely to get all those other same benefits in that exact same sunny window of time.
BASK IN THE GLORIOUS HEALTH BENEFITS
Next time there’s an urge to get that tan, don’t wait until midday or afternoon to nab that golden (and sunny) opportunity!
If we become early risers and save it for the morning time instead, our bodies will thank us. Science clearly shows that health benefits could be part of the deal and that it will also reduce cancer risks.
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Nathaniel Mead (2008). Benefits of Sunlight: A Bright Spot for Human Health. Environmental Health Perspectives 116(4) A160-A167. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2290997/