August 27th, 2014

15 Simple Ways To Eat More Fruits And Veggies

Take a look at your typical plate of food. Do you have a piece of meat and some potatoes? Or maybe pasta and a hamburger?

In other words, is your diet looking pretty…well…beige?

FruitVeggies

If you’re eating a lot of beige food, chances are you’re not getting enough fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet. Translation: You’re missing out on lots of healthy fiber, minerals, vitamins, and other nutrients that fight disease.

You don’t have to be a gourmet vegetarian cook to add variety, color, and nutrition to your diet. Here are some very easy tips to increase your intake of daily of fruits and veggies.

How To Make Your Diet Colorful

1. Buy variety.

Buy many kinds of fruits and vegetables when you shop, so you have plenty of choices at home. It’s easy to add slices of summer tomatoes, cucumbers, and avocadoes to your plate, or to grab a carrot or apple when you’re in a rush.

2. Use the freezer.

Stock up on frozen vegetables for easy cooking so that you always have a vegetable dish with your dinner.

3. Eat while fresh.

Use the fruits and veggies that go bad quickly (peaches, asparagus) first. Save hardier varieties (apples, acorn squash) or frozen goods for later in the week.

4. Keep them handy.

Keep a fruit bowl on your kitchen counter, table, or desk at work. Have washed cherries or red grapes in an open bowl in your fridge. The more often you see them, the more likely you are to eat them.

5. Fix easy grabbers.

Keep a bowl of cut-up vegetables on the top shelf of the refrigerator. You can also section oranges and keep them in a bowl covered with plastic wrap.

6. Have salad ready.

Make up a big tossed salad with several kinds of greens, cherry tomatoes, carrot, red pepper, broccoli, scallions, and sprouts–but don’t add dressing. Refrigerate in a large glass bowl with an airtight lid. You’ll have a delicious mixed salad to enjoy for several days.

7. Eat fruit-based desserts.

Treat yourself to a fruit sundae. Top a bowl of your favorite cut-up fruits with vanilla yogurt, shredded coconut, and a handful of nuts. For a special dessert, try a fruit parfait with low-fat yogurt or sherbet topped with lots of berries.

8. Make veggie sandwiches.

Try a vegetarian sandwich for your lunchbox. Spread hummus on one slice of bread, mash avocado on the other side, and layer tomatoes, sprouts, cucumber slices, and shredded carrots on top.

9. Steam or microwave veggies.

It’s easy to microwave or steam vegetables. Broccoli, spinach, cauliflower, asparagus, sweet potatoes, beets, and squash are all quick and easy. Drizzle them with olive oil and a little salt and pepper afterwards.

10. Put fruit in omelets.

Use thinly sliced pears or apples in your next omelet.

11. Choose salad bars.

When dining out or grocery shopping, take advantage of salad bars, which offer ready-to-eat raw fruits and veggies, as well as prepared salads made with fruits and vegetables.

12. Make vegetable soup.

Using a base of sauteed onions, carrot, and celery, add water or chicken broth and throw in your favorite vegetables. Ideas include: tomatoes, fresh or canned; potatoes; green beans; zucchini; fresh greens such as Swiss chard, collards, or beet greens; corn; lima beans; cauliflower–the combinations are endless.

13. Add vegetables to sauces.

Add extra varieties of vegetables when you prepare soups, sauces, and casseroles. For example, add spinach and grated carrots and zucchinis to spaghetti sauce.

14. Drink your vegetables.

Get a high-quality juicer and make delicious fruit and vegetables juices and smoothies.

15. Freeze fresh fruit.

Freeze blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries in season. You can also freeze grapes. Frozen fruits make a great summer replacement for ice cream, popsicles, and other sugary treats.

 Keep it colorful, and you’ll keep it healthy…and delicious!

August 26th, 2014

Create Lucid Dreams for a Better Life

Introduction:

If you ever been asleep and aware that you were dreaming you were likely experiencing what is referred to as a “lucid dream.” New research from researchers in the UK is showing that the ability to have lucid dreams equates to better mental health and problem solving abilities.

The concept of lucid dreaming was explored a bit in the 2010 film Inception. In the movie, the dreamers were able to spot incongruities within their dream, to make them aware that they were in fact dreaming. In real life, people who regularly experience lucid dreams have become aware that they are in fact, dreaming and are then able to relax and enjoy the show. Can that be taught or enhanced? Absolutely, but first it requires achieving a high sleep quality and avoiding factors that impair dream activity including many sleeping pills.

Background Data:

The importance of dreams to mental health was clearly shown in studies in the early 1960s by the pioneering dream researcher William C. Dement of the Stanford University School of Medicine. In one of these studies, subjects sleeping in a laboratory setting were awakened the moment dreaming started, as noted by rapid eye movement (REM). After awakening, the subject was allowed to go back to sleep. The experiment continued for one week. During this time the test group reported increased irritability, anxiety, and appetite. In other studies, people deprived of REM sleep exhibited profound personality changes – extreme irritability, depression, anxiety, etc. – that disappeared when they were allowed to dream again.

New Data:

Reseachers at the University of Lincoln in the UK hypothesized that a key feature of gaining lucidity in the dream state is personal insight. They felt that this ability may also occur in waking life and designed a study to investigate the relationship.

Sixty-eight participants (52 females, 16 males) were recruited into the study with the majority being psychology students at the university. Individuals had to meet the criteria of recalling at least one dream per week to participate. The subjects were assigned to one of three groups.

  • Frequent lucid dreamers, experienced lucid dreams more than once a month.
  • Occasional lucid dreamers, experienced lucid dreams at least once in their lifetime.
  • Non-lucid dreamers never experienced a lucid dream

The subjects completed a questionnaire about their dreaming habits and then took test on a computer that consisted of a series of questions to assess insight and problem solving ability. One of the key assessments of insight was the ability of participants to find a link between three apparently unconnected words.

The results showed that frequent lucid dreamers showed superior performance on solving these insight problems compared to non-lucid dreamers. The underlying trait is thought to be the ability to separate oneself from a situation, and in some sense, observe it. The results from the study showed that the lucid dreamers had this ability in both the dream and real world.

The researchers also noted that this ability to become an observer is also common for people engaged in intense interactive ‘gaming’ or meditation. This suggests that either it may help in improving the ability to experience a lucid dream with meditation, obviously producing perhaps a heightened state of personal insight.

The study also showed frequent lucid dreamers also show superior general problem solving ability, which also suggests that lucid dreaming is associated with higher cognitive abilities (mental function) as well.

Commentary:

First, if you don’t dream or experience lucid dreams – please try my Tranquil Sleep Formula from Natural Factors. It is available at health food stores throughout the US and Canada, as well as online retailers. It is an all-natural sleep aid that improves sleep quality and promotes REM sleep (i.e., dreams)

It has been said, “an uninterpreted dream is like an unopened letter from God.” Some dreams are definitely symbolic attempts to sort out the options we can choose in life. Obviously, there are times when dreams are not psychologically meaningful. For example, if you are suffering from indigestion or a peptic ulcer and experience a violent dream where you are getting stabbed in the stomach, I would not recommend trying to uncover some deep psychological issue. The problem with trying to interpret every dream is that not every dream will be meaningful. Nonetheless, I think it is important to try to examine every dream for possible clues for personal growth.

There are many theories on how to interpret dreams. My advice is to focus on how the dream relates to what is going on in your waking life. Often dreams speak to us in symbols, so it may not be clear at first. Examine each person or item in the dream from a simplistic view – what does it mean to you? Describe it as if you were describing it to someone from another planet who has no idea of what anything means here on Earth. To help you with interpreting dreams, here are 7 important questions to ask?

1. What are you doing in the dream?

2. What is the story line?

3. What were the feelings you experienced in this dream?

4. What was your mood upon waking?

5. How does this dream relate to what is going on in your waking life?

6. What are the issues, conflicts and unresolved situations in the dream and how might these relate to your waking life? Is there a parallel?

7. What are the insights have you gained from this dream?

It can be very frustrating trying to recall dreams. Not only do we almost never remember most of them, but the ones we do recall, can easily slip away and evaporate as well. But with a little guidance and effort, you can do it. To start, keep a pad of paper and pen or pencil by your bed. Date the paper the night before. When you awake in the night or in the morning, write something down. Even “I recall nothing this morning” is good to write down. If you are keeping a journal, read the last dream you had.

If you are interested in learning more about dreams, go to the website of The International Association for the Study of Dreams (asdreams.org). This organization is dedicated to the pure and applied investigation of dreams and dreaming.

Reference:
Bourke P, Shaw H. Spontaneous lucid dreaming frequency and waking insight. Dreaming 2014;24(2):152 DOI: 10.1037/a0036908

August 19th, 2014

Unbelievable! FDA Approves New Sleep Drug Despite Lots of Questions Unanswered

Introduction:

The FDA recently announced the approval of a new type of sleeping pill from Merck known as Belsomna® (suvorexant) despite significant safety concerns. This approval calls into question whether the FDA is more concerned about protecting the health of Americans or aiding drug companies in achieving higher profits.

Previously, the FDA had declined to approve Belsomna®. So what changed? It is quite an interesting story.

Background Data:

Over the course of a year, over one-half of the U.S. population will have difficulty falling asleep. About 33% of the population experiences insomnia on a regular basis with 17% of the population claiming that insomnia is a major problem in their lives. Many use over-the-counter sedative medications to combat insomnia, while others seek stronger prescription medications from their physicians. Each year up to 12.5% of adults in the U.S. receive prescriptions for drugs to help them sleep. These drugs are the sedative-hypnotic drugs such as

  • alprazolam (Alprazolam, Xanax)
  • chlordiazepoxide (Librium)
  • diazepam (Valium)
  • eszopiclone (Lunesta)
  • flurazepam (Dalmane)
  • quazepam (Doral)
  • ramelteon (Rozerem)
  • temazepam (Restoril)
  • triazolam (Halcion)
  • zaleplon (Sonata)
  • zolpidem tartrate (Ambien)

All of these drugs are associated with significant risks. Problems with these drugs include the fact that most are highly addictive and very poor candidates for long-term use. Common side effects include dizziness, drowsiness, and impaired coordination. It is important not to drive or engage in any potentially dangerous activities while on these drugs. Alcohol should never be consumed with these drugs and could be fatal.

The most serious side effects of the conventional sleeping pills and anti-anxiety drugs relate to their effects on memory and behavior. Because these drugs act in a powerful manner on brain chemistry, significant changes in brain function and behavior can occur including an increased risk for dementia. Severe memory impairment and amnesia of events can also occur, as well as nervousness, confusion, hallucinations, bizarre behavior, extreme irritability and aggressiveness. They have also been shown to increase feelings of depression, including suicidal thinking.

Numerous population-based studies have also found that regular use of sleeping pills increases early mortality risk. Some of these studies have found that the use of sleeping pills predicted an increased risk of death from cancer. But, the strongest explanation for the increased risk of mortality with sleeping pill use is that it is associated with an increased frequency of depression. Considerable evidence shows that depression is also associated with an increased risk for an early death.

Because of the increased awareness of the problems with sedative-hypnotic drugs, pharmaceutical companies are focusing on developing new types of sleeping pills. In particular, Merck has been focusing on getting approval for Belsomra®. It is a new type of drug that alters the signaling of orexins, neurotransmitters responsible for regulating the sleep-wake cycle.

New Data:

In July 2013, the FDA rejected Merck’s application to approve Belsomra® because of side effect issues. So, what changed in one year? Merck simply lowered the dosage recommendation. By doing so, they reduced the frequency and severity of side effects – with next day hangover and impaired mental function being the most significant. But, there are still side effect risks at the lower dosage and the new lower dosage is not consistent with the dosage levels used by most patients in the 3 published double-blind, placebo-controlled trials.

Nonetheless, the FDA approved Belsomra® at 4 different strengths — 5 mg, 10 mg, 15 mg, and 20 mg. There is a warning that the total recommended dosage in one day should not exceed 20 mg. In contrast, the largest and longest published clinical trial to date used dosages of 30 or 40 mg per day.

The news report from the FDA stated it was determined that Belsomra® was effective based on 3 clinical trials involving more than 500 participants, but of these participants with insomnia, only 124 actually took the drug at the newly approved levels, the others took 30 mg, 40 mg, or even higher dosages. Hard to imagine that a drug was approved at a lower dosage based primarily on research using much higher dosage levels and with such a very small sample size of participants.

Evidently, one of the big concerns that the FDA had back in July 2013 was the effect of the drug on next day driving. So, the FDA asked Merck to perform next day driving tests in both male and female participants after taking 20 mg the night before. Results still showed those who took the 20 mg dose proved to be impaired drivers. The FDA’s response is for Merck to advise physicians to tell patients taking this dosage level that they should not drive or engage in other activities requiring full alertness. The agency also stated that patients taking lower doses also should know about the risk for impaired driving the day after because sensitivity to the drug varies from person to person.

Commentary:

So, the drug will put you to sleep at night, but it will impair your mental function so severely that you should not drive the next day? That does not seem like a good trade off. Bottom line is that I think it extremely unwise for physicians to prescribe or patients to take Belsomra®. There may be rare exceptions, for example, the drug may be suitable for people who need to be completely sedated and there is no concern of mental function the next day. But, for people living in the world in need of good sleep, I strongly recommend natural alternatives.

As a reader of my Natural Facts Newsletter, you are likely familiar with natural strategies that I recommend for improving sleep quality detailed in my free book to new subscribers: Stress, Anxiety, and Insomnia: What the Drug Companies Won’t Tell You and Your Doctor Doesn’t Know. There are safe and effective strategies to get a good night’s sleep. You are welcome to pass this link on to your family and friends, as too many people are getting hurt or dying from these prescription drugs.

Reference:
FDA News Release. FDA approves new type of sleep drug, Belsomra. http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm409950.htm

August 14th, 2014

Understanding the Telomere Theory of Aging and What You Can Do About It

happy-couple-23

Are telomeres the key to aging?

The latest, and most likely, program theory of aging is the telomere shortening theory. Telomeres are the end-cap segments of DNA (our genetic material). Each time a cell replicates, a small piece of DNA is taken off the end of each chromosome. The shorter the telomere gets, the more it affects gene expression. The result is cellular aging and an increased risk for immune dysfunction, heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and other degenerative diseases.

Join Dr. Michael Murray for his complimentary webinar: Understanding the Telomere Theory of Aging and What You Can Do About It

During this webinar you will learn the key dietary and supplement strategies that impact telomeres.  After his presentation you will be able to ask your questions through the live forum.

Here’s the link to reserve your spot on Wednesday, August 20th at 6:00pm PT / 9:00pm ET: Understanding the Telomere Theory of Aging and What You Can Do About It

This webinar will be highly informative and will help you understand the impact your diet can have on your telomeres.

August 13th, 2014

Real Strategies to Boost the Immune System

Young woman having flu blowing her nose

Do you find yourself or your loved ones always getting sick during the cold and flu season?

Join Dr. Murray on his upcoming live webinar: Real Strategies to Boost the Immune System.
September 16th, 2014 – 9:00pm EST

The natural product industry has some fantastic products for colds and the flu, but improving immune health goes well beyond taking a magic herbal bullet to help fight off a cold.

During this complimentary webinar, Dr. Murray will show you what really works in preventing getting sick during the “cold and flu season”. You will also have a chance to personally ask him your questions at the end so that you can create the best strategy for your own wellness.

Just click on this link to sign up for the complimentary webinar now: Real Strategies to Boost the Immune System.

August 13th, 2014

Endive – Healing Food Facts

Endive - Healing Food Facts

Endive – Healing Food Facts

Endive is a chicory green that is today, much more popular in Europe than in the United States. Although its recognition is growing, it is still largely under valued. Endive is a member of the Compositae family, along with artichokes, dandelions, and lettuce. Chicory is a native of the Mediterranean region where it grew along roadsides, and has been consumed since ancient Greek and Roman times. In 1616, chicory began being cultivated in Germany, from where it soon spread throughout Europe. Chicory greens were brought to the United States by immigrants and planted in vegetable gardens across the country. In the 1800s, in Flanders, a technique for growing chicons in a dark space was discovered, creating what is today referred to as Belgian endive. A mild-flavored blanched vegetable, Belgian endive instantly became a hit in Paris’ haute cuisine circles. Cultivation of endive increased when it was discovered it could be used as a coffee extender. Today mixing chicory with coffee is still popular in French and Creole cuisine.

Nutritional Highlights:

  • Each leaf of endive only contains 1 calorie.
  • Belgian endive is an excellent source of vitamins A and C, as well as fiber.

Health Benefits:

  • Belgian endive consists of 95% water, and has a low calorie content of 7.5 calories per cup.
  • Endive is an excellent source of carotenes, which can aid in insomnia and help ‘purify the blood’.

Try endive out in your daily diet. For a great hors d’oeuvre, serve endive petals with dip or filled with smoked salmon, goat cheese, spiced walnuts, baby shrimp, or even pâté. Adding endive to a salad, adds a refreshing and slightly bitter element. Toss Belgian endive with pears, Gorgonzola, and walnuts with a raspberry vinaigrette for a crowd-pleasing dish. Another quick side dish is to sauté endive and sprinkle it with parmesan cheese, lemon juice, honey and salt. Are you already an endive fan? If not, consider trying it this week!