Substitute Balsamic Vinegar with Apple Cider Vinegar

Balsamic vinegar is a traditional ingredient used in many dishes and is readily available at most restaurants and grocery stores. However, just because balsamic vinegar is more popular doesn’t mean it is the right choice. Apple cider vinegar tastes just as good as balsamic, if not better, and comes with a long list of health benefits unmatched by any other in its class. Most of you are familiar with the saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” right? Well, think of apple cider vinegar as an apple in its very best form.

From lowering the chance of developing diabetes to fighting fatigue, apple cider vinegar does it all. Research has shown that people who take 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar a day will show a considerable improvement in their average blood sugar levels, cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Also, it has been shown that apple cider vinegar can cause a significant decrease in both abdominal fat and waist circumference if consumed on a regular basis. Lower blood pressure is another favorable effect that has been seen with apple cider vinegar which, in combination with lowering cholesterol, can significantly decrease the chance of developing heart disease. Apple cider vinegar also aids in food digestion and regularity, minimizing the chance of gas or bloating after meals. It can also keep you full longer since it acts as a mild appetite suppressant, reducing cravings and the chance of eating poorly between meals. It has also been shown that apple cider vinegar can increase energy levels in times of fatigue so you won’t have to resort to harmful alternatives such as excessive caffeine consumption. Last but not least, apple cider vinegar is full of antioxidants to protect your cells and tissues from free radical damage, keeping your body youthful.

Apple cider vinegar can also be used topically as a treatment for a variety of skin conditions. Applying apple cider vinegar to a pimple can help reduce the redness and inflammation as well as kill the pore clogging bacteria so that it goes away faster. It can also help with fungal infections, including athletes foot and nail fungus. Applying apple cider vinegar to your scalp can help reduce dandruff by killing and discouraging the overgrowth of malassezia furfur, the yeast like fungus that causes it. For a sore throat, gargle with a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and it will help you recover faster.

So, the next time you are at the grocery store, instead of going for the balsamic, do yourselves a favor and reach for the apple cider vinegar instead. Remember, an apple a day keeps the doctor away! Thanks for reading, this has been you dose of Vitamin Jas.


Plain Yogurt Is Not As Plain As You Think

Are you trying to lose weight, lower your blood pressure, or even fight off a cold? Yogurt has been shown to do all those things and more. Yogurt is filled with essential nutrients that can make your body healthier and stronger. Here are some reasons why plain yogurt isn’t so plain.

Yogurt is packed with protein to help build lean muscle, which helps burn calories faster, even when you aren’t working out! People who had yogurt as a snack lost 81% more belly fat than those who skipped it. Yogurt also contains probiotics, also know as good bacteria that  help regulate your digestion and strengthen your immune system. It also boosts the amount of T-cells in your body, which help attack foreign viruses and bacteria to prevent infection. Yogurt is also high in potassium so it helps flush out the excess sodium that your body retains, and in turn lowers your blood pressure. Yogurt can also help build strong bones since it is naturally a great source of calcium. For people who suffer from acne, applying yogurt to your face can help get rid that. This is because yogurt also has many antibiotic properties that can kill the bacteria trapped in your pores. Since yogurt is naturally acidic, it also helps draw out the excess oil in your skin, leaving your complexion soft and smooth. Yogurt also helps deliver many vitamins and nutrients to your skin to give it a healthy, glowing appearance.

Try adding a cup of yogurt to your diet every day. It is low in calories and high in nutrients. If you are thinking I am advocating going to Yogurtland and stocking up on their yogurt, you are seriously mistaken. Stick to plain, old-fashioned yogurt because that will give you the most benefits. Thanks for reading, this has been your dose of Vitamin Jas.

Acid Reflux, Heartburn and GERD

For centuries people have thought of tea as an amazing digestive aid. However, tea, along with many other popular foods and drinks, may actually cause excessive acid production in the stomach and in turn cause acid reflux. Acid reflux is the regurgitation of acid from the stomach into the esophagus. This can cause a burning feeling behind the breastbone, which is also known as heartburn (even though it does not have anything to do with the heart), along with a bitter taste in one’s mouth. GERD stands for gastroesophageal reflux disease, which is when the lower part of the esophagus becomes weak and cannot block the passage of acid from the stomach into the esophagus. Acid reflux, heartburn and GERD can all be prevented and even treated through a few simple lifestyle and dietary modifications.

Acid reflux is generally due to the overproduction of acid in the stomach. The acidity of the stomach can rise from such things as anxiety, smoking, drinking alcohol and/or caffeinated beverages and eating acidic foods such as tomatoes, oranges, lemons, onions, garlic and mint. Foods that are very spicy or high in fat are also to blame. I once had a customer who came up to the counter eating a bag of jalapeno chips and drinking orange juice with a prescription for Nexium in his hand. It really makes me wonder if some doctors are purposely trying to sabotage their patients by not informing them of the causes of their illnesses in order to keep them returning for more prescriptions. Believe it or not, most patients feel like their doctor visit was not worth it if they did not receive a prescription. So, some doctors give out unnecessary prescriptions just to make their patients happy. Just something to be aware of next time you visit the doctor.

Being overweight can increase the chances of acid reflux as well; however, so can exercise. Obesity increases the chances of acid reflux 6 fold. This is because of the increase in stomach compression and intragastric pressure that excess abdominal fat can cause. Tightly fitted clothes, especially around the waste, can also contribute to this. On the other hand, exercise (especially leg lifts and crunches) can also worsen acid reflux but at least there are precautions one can take before and during a workout to prevent this from happening. Eating at least 2 hours before working out and drinking plenty of water while exercising can drastically reduce the chances of acid reflux.

If you experience acid reflux at night, it is because the acid from your stomach can enter into the esophagus more easily when you are laying down. Try not to eat anything at least 3 hours before going to bed. Also, try elevating your head by adding more pillows so that your head is slightly above stomach level. This way the acid cannot enter the esophagus as easily.

Some natural remedies you can try to alleviate heartburn include licorice, baking soda, aloe vera, and non-fat milk. Licorice helps aid digestion and soothe the tissues of the stomach and esophagus that have been irritated by refluxed stomach acid. It may also act as an anti-inflammatory. Aloe vera juice also works by reducing inflammation in the stomach. Adding a little bit of baking soda to your water can help act as a buffer to neutralize excess stomach acid. If you do not like baking soda, non-fat milk works as a buffer as well.

Many antacids have recently gone over the counter, however, these are not meant to be used for more than 2 weeks at a time. Avoiding the causes of acid reflux could help you live a heartburn free life without having to resort to any medications at all. Remember, if you start with prevention, you will never need any treatment. Thanks for reading, this has been your daily dose of Vitamin Jas.

The Health Benefits of Quinoa

Quinoa seeds may be tiny, but they pack a big punch. Quinoa is filled with nutrients that will help boost energy, metabolism and even mental clarity. Let me elaborate…

Quinoa is considered one of the best sources of protein, containing all nine essential amino acids (the building blocks of protein). It also contains iron, which is crucial for proper oxygen transport throughout our body, aiding in the contraction of our muscles, increasing brain function and speeding up our metabolism and energy production. Quinoa also has a substantial amount of fiber, which helps control blood sugar levels, lower cholesterol, relieve constipation, lower blood pressure, and keeps us feeling full for a long period of time. Quinoa is also rich in magnesium, assisting in proper nerve functioning and the maintenance of healthy bones and teeth. You will also find manganese in quinoa, which is a potent antioxidant that protects our cells from damage by free radicals in our body. Quinoa also contains lysine, an amino acid known to aid in tissue growth and repair, shortening recovery time after an injury or illness. Lastly, quinoa is a great source of riboflavin, a B vitamin that helps increase energy production in the brain and muscle cells.

Quinoa is not a grain, but when it is cooked, it has a light, fluffy texture similar to white rice, and is subtly flavored. It actually cooks and tastes like a grain, which is why it is a great replacement for grains that are difficult to digest or pack a higher number of calories and carbohydrates. So, the next time you are preparing a dish that calls for white rice, try using quinoa. You will be pleasantly surprised and your body will thank you in the long run. Thanks for reading. This has been your dose of Vitamin Jas.


Why Be Gluten-Free?

Like many others who are trying to stay healthy, I always take the whole wheat alternative as opposed to more processed options. However, what a lot of people do not know is that whole wheat contains gluten. Gluten is a protein that about 15% of the US population is intolerant of. It is found in wheat, barley and rye. How do you know you are intolerant? Here are some signs/symptoms that you should look for:

  1. Severe headaches after eating
  2. Digestive problems such as gas, bloating, loose stools or constipation (and in more sever cases, Celiac disease)
  3. Feeling unusually tired even after a good night’s rest
  4. Feeling dizzy or light headed
  5. Inflammation or pain in your joints
  6. Experiencing mood disorders such as anxiety and depression
  7. Unable to concentrate, focus, or remember things
  8. Hormone imbalances such as PMS, PCOS or infertility

If you really want to discover whether you are gluten intolerant or not, try removing gluten from your diet for 2-3 weeks. If you feel substantially better during that time period, and then begin to feel bad again once you reintroduce gluten, then maybe you should remove gluten from your diet forever. Thanks for reading. This has been your dose of Vitamin Jas.

The Kale Craze

Kale is one of the most nutritious vegetables known to man. Its health benefits have slowly surfaced over the years, giving it its well deserved title as the “queen of greens.” It is an exceptional source of vitamins, antioxidants and fiber making it a nutritional powerhouse and an essential addition to anyone’s daily diet.

Kale, also known as borecole, belongs to the Brassica family that includes cruciferous vegetables such as collards, cabbage, and broccoli. It is packed with numerous vitamins and minerals including:

  1. Vitamin A- for healthy skin and vision
  2. Vitamin C- to build a strong immune system
  3. Vitamin K- to help prevent cancer and improve blood clotting functions
  4. Calicum- to prevent osteoarthrits and maintain bone health
  5. Magnesium- for energy production and a healthy cardiovascular system
  6. Sulfur- to detoxify the body by supporting healthy liver function
  7. Iron- for energy production and proper oxygenation throughout the body

Kale is also packed with fiber, providing 5 grams of fiber in just one cup. Fiber is very beneficial because it helps lower cholesterol, improve digestion and increase regularity. Kale is also a wonderful source of antioxidants, known as carotenoids and flavonoids, that help protect your cells from damage and lower your chances of developing cancer. Last but not least, kale has a high percentage of omega-3, which is a wonderful anti-inflammatory agent that  promotes heart health, mental stability, proper vision, joint function, and healthy hair, skin and nails.

One of my favorite ways to prepare kale is by slicing it into bite size pieces, drizzling a little bit of olive oil on top with a pinch of salt, and baking them for 10-15 minutes. You will come out with healthy and nutritious kale chips that will far surpass the calorie filled, ordinary potato chips out on the market today. I also like to chop kale up into fine pieces with other vegetables such as carrots, zucchini, celery and cucumber to make a delicious and filling salad. Now, go be creative and find out how to incorporate kale into your daily diet. Thanks for reading. This has been your dose of Vitamin Jas.


Fiber is Your Friend!

How many people associate fiber with cardboard? How many people think that fiber is something that only their grandparents have because people only need fiber when they’re old? Well, fiber can actually benefit us at any age and doesn’t always necessarily have to taste bad. Fiber can be found in many tasty foods such as fruits, beans, nuts and even popcorn! So, stop thinking about fiber so negatively and learn why fiber is one of the most essential additions you can make to your diet.

Fiber is most commonly known for increasing regularity, but the list of benefits goes way beyond that. Aside from relieving occasional constipation, fiber can also lower blood cholesterol levels. Fiber binds to LDL, which is known as “bad cholesterol,” and carries it out of our bodies through our feces. For people with diabetes, or at risk for diabetes, fiber helps decrease blood sugar levels by slowing down the absorption of sugar and preventing large spikes in insulin secretion. Fiber also aids in weight loss because it gives our meals bulk, making us full faster and keeping us full for a longer period of time. Also, foods high in fiber tend to have less calories, so there is less potential to gain weight. Fiber has also been linked to lowering blood pressure because it absorbs excess water in the colon. Most importantly, fiber binds to toxins and harmful bacteria that may have entered the body through our food and eliminates them through our feces so that they cannot be reabsorbed into our bloodstream. This also helps decrease inflammation in our bowels, which decreases the chances of developing such illnesses as irritable bowel syndrome.

As mentioned earlier, foods high in fiber include fruits, vegetables, oatmeal, whole grain bread, nuts, and beans. If none of these foods stimulate your appetite, you could also take fiber supplements. There are fiber caps or even fiber chews out there, such as Fiber Choice, that would deliver the full daily dose of fiber you would need. Women need about 25 grams of fiber a day and men need around 38 grams. Do not confuse fiber with laxatives. Laxatives are often stimulants that can make your body dependent if used for longer than 2 weeks. They also deplete your body of essential electrolytes, which can be very dangerous, especially for your heart.

So, now when you think of fiber, I hope you don’t just think of old people eating prunes or Metamucil. Instead, think of all the benefits fiber can bring and how it can help regardless of what age you happen to be. One last thing, make sure to drink plenty of water with a high fiber diet to get optimal results. Thanks for reading. This has been your dose of Vitamin Jas.


Natural Digestive Aids for the Upset Stomach

Are you afraid of eating certain foods because you know they will upset your stomach? Do you tend to feel bloated, gassy, or just uncomfortable after eating certain foods? I used to feel as though I had the most sensitive stomach in the world and would always be cautious with what I ate in order to avoid aggravating my stomach. However, I found that there are many natural products on the market that can help alleviate these symptoms so that I could eat what I wanted, not just what I could tolerate.

Before getting into the actual products that one can take for indigestion, I want to first emphasize how important it is to eat slowly and to chew your food as much as possible. I know this is hard because most of us are always on the go and do not have the time to sit and eat our meals in peace. However, when you eat in a hurry and do not chew your food enough, you are leaving it up to your body to do most of the work. What I mean is, mastication (chewing) is the first part of digestion. Your saliva has enzymes that help break down the food along with your teeth when you chew. Also, chewing sends a signal to your stomach to release more digestive enzymes and acid to prepare itself for the incoming food. Our stomachs work best at digesting our food when we are relaxed. This is because when we are relaxed, we have more energy to expend to our stomach and intestines to digest our food properly and thoroughly. So, try to sit and relax when eating your next meal and see if you notice a difference.

If you still find yourself becoming bloated and gassy after relaxing and chewing your food slowly, try taking one of these natural digestive aids. One of my favorites is acidophilus, also known as “good bacteria.” Good bacteria naturally lines our intestinal tract to help digest our food and absorb the nutrients. However, these good bacteria may become depleted over the years and need to be replenished. Taking papaya enzymes is also a great remedy for indigestion because our stomachs may not always produce enough digestive enzymes to break down the amount of food we consume. Licorice helps soothe the mucosal lining in our stomachs and kills harmful bacteria that inhibit normal acid production needed to digest our food. Ginger helps quell inflammation in our digestive tract and increases gastric motility to keep food moving along so that it does not just sit in our stomach and intestines. Also, putting lemon in some hot water and drinking it after a large meal can help break down your food since it acts like the acid your stomach naturally produces. Last but not least, peppermint is a great digestive aid that helps calm the stomach and alleviate bloating, however, people with GERD or acid reflux should be cautious when using this because it can worsen their condition.

Nobody wants to feel uncomfortable after eating, especially when they are among friends and family. It can be very bothersome and even frustrating when you cannot eat the foods you desire due to the fear of indigestion. However, I hope the above mentioned remedies will take away your fears so that you can actually enjoy your meals once again. Thanks for reading. This has been your dose of Vitamin Jas.


Put Down that Coffee and Grab Some Kombucha!

If you’re a coffee lover, like myself, I’m sure you’ve been warned by someone, at one point or another, about how harmful it is for you. Even though it’s been said that one cup of coffee a day is good for you, how many people just drink one cup a day? You may think that venti triple shot latte you get at Starbucks is considered “one cup” because it comes in just one cup, but you’re wrong. Excessive caffeine consumption can lead to many long term problems such as anxiety, high blood pressure, insomnia, thyroid dysfunction, electrolyte imbalance, stomach ulcers, “caffeine headaches”, kidney stones, gallblader stones…I could go on but I think you get the point. Same goes for those energy drinks filled with caffeine and B vitamins. There’s only so much vitamin B12 your body can absorb in one day. The rest comes out in your urine. So you are just left with some expensive, bright yellow urine and no energy. So what should you do? I have the answer…

Kombucha is an effervescent tea-based beverage that gives you sustained energy without the crash. It has some caffeine in it, but not nearly as much as coffee or other energy drinks, and it has a multitude of health benefits that come along with it as well. Kombucha contains a vast amount of probiotics. I know you have heard of antibiotics which kill bacteria, but probiotics are the “good bacteria” that are in your body that help regulate your normal bodily functions such as digestion. That is why having kombucha after a large meal is so great becuase not only does it get rid of your food coma, it helps digest your meal as well. Kombucha also helps detoxify your liver, boost your immune system, works as a potent antioxidant, increases your metabolism, lowers your blood pressure, hydrates the body, balances the body’s internal pH, aids in healthy cell regeneration, and helps normalize blood sugar levels. Kombucha will give you as much energy as one of those triple shot lattes, but will not cause you to crash 2 hours later. It will give you energy that lasts for hours and will not harm your body or cause any long term problems.

Kombucha can be found in most health food stores, however, I like GT’s Organic Raw Kombucha found at Whole Foods. My favorite one is the original, but if you’re looking for more healthy goodness, it also comes mixed with ginger, citrus fruits or green leafy vegetables that they have labeled as “multi-greens.” Thanks for reading! This has been your dose of Vitamin Jas.

Got Milk…Which One?

Milk…it does a body good, but which one is right for you? Before, our only options were  nonfat, low fat or whole. Now, we have the option of getting almond milk, soy milk, or rice milk as well. Some are enhanced with vitamins, made lactose-free, or even flavored for those of us who do not particularly like the taste of regular milk. However, how many of you really know the difference between all these options?

Before getting into which milk is best for you, let’s talk about why milk is an important part of a healthy diet. Milk is an excellent source of protein and calcium, both of which are major factors in maintaining a strong and healthy body. The average sized adult needs about 1,000mg of calcium and at least 45gm of protein a day, which can be met with about 3 to 4 glasses of milk. Some people worry about milk increasing their cholesterol, however, skim (or nonfat) milk doesn’t have the potential to clog your arteries and still delivers the essential nutrients as other types of milk do. According to the National Dairy Council, milk is actually filled with nine essential nutrients that benefit our health:

  • Calcium:Builds healthy bones and teeth; maintains bone mass
  • Protein:Serves as a source of energy; builds/repairs muscle tissue
  • Potassium:Helps maintain a healthy blood pressure
  • Phosphorus:Helps strengthen bones and generate energy
  • Vitamin D:Helps maintain bones
  • Vitamin B12:Maintains healthy red blood cells and nerve tissue
  • Vitamin A:Maintains the immune system; helps maintain normal vision  and skin
  • Riboflavin (B2):Converts food into energy
  • Niacin: Metabolizes sugars and fatty acids

Even though milk is an essential part of a healthy diet, there are some issues people have with it other than the possibility of increasing their cholesterol. People who are lactose intolerant lack the enzyme needed to digest lactose, a sugar found in all dairy products including milk. However, there are lactose free alternatives. Milk that is labeled “lactose free” has the enzyme lactase added to it by the manufacturers to predigest the sugar in order to be suitable for those who are intolerant. Almond, soy, and rice milk are also well tolerated since they do not contain any lactose to begin with. There are also supplements found over the counter, such as Lactaid, that contain lactase to help digest dairy products as well.

Hormones are also an issue for milk drinkers. Hormones are often injected into young livestock to make them grow larger in order to provide more meat and milk. These hormones can come out in their milk and enter our bodies when we drink it. It is said that the amount of hormones that enter our body is very minimal compared to the amount our bodies produce, however the issue is debatable. Organic milk that has the claim “rBST-free” is your safest bet when it comes to trying to avoid this issue as a whole because the milk is collected from cows who are organically fed and not injected with any growth hormones.

Almond milk is one of the most nutritious, dairy free, milk substitutes available today. Unlike soy or rice milk, almond milk doesn’t need to be fortified with additional vitamins since it already provides omega-3, vitamin E, manganese, potassium, zinc, iron, phosphorus, calcium, protein and plant flavanoids. Also, almond milk is naturally low in fat and calories making it safe for people with high cholesterol. Lastly, as mentioned before, almond milk doesn’t contain lactose so it is compatible with those who are lactose intolerant.

Soy milk is another great substitute for cow’s milk that is very high in protein. Although soy milk doesn’t naturally provide as many vitamins as almond milk, it does provide about 3 to 4 more grams of protein per serving. Soy milk also provides more fiber, which is very beneficial to the heart and can help lower cholesterol. For premenopausal women who suffer from lower levels of estrogen, soy milk helps replace lost estrogen and alleviate symptoms associated with menopause. However, for those who do not need extra estrogen, like women below the age of 40 or men of all ages, drinking soy milk on a regular basis may not be the best option since it could elevate the body’s estrogen levels above the norm.

Rice milk is also a popular dairy free alternative for cow’s milk, but may not provide as much nutrition as the other options. It is a good option for those who are allergic to soy and who are lactose intolerant, but contains more carbohydrates and less protein than both soy and almond milk. This is because rice milk is made from boiled rice, brown rice syrup and brown rice starch. People usually prefer rice milk because it is sweet on its own and doesn’t need to be enhanced with additional sweeteners or flavors. However, it does usually have to be fortified with niacin, vitamin B12, vitamin A, vitamin D, and iron along with other nutrients to give it more of a nutritional value since it doesn’t have much to offer on its own.

Who knew there would be so much to think about when choosing milk? Times have definitely changed since going out and filling up a bucket with milk from the local cow before breakfast. Personally, I am an almond milk drinker even though it isn’t the tastiest choice because I am lactose intolerant and like the natural nutritional value it brings. However, now that you know more about your options, pick one that is right for you and make it part of your daily diet. Thanks for reading, this has been your dose of Vitamin Jas.