Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Top 15 Foods for Kidney Health

kidneybeans

Most of us know that eating a balanced diet is important for good health. Now scientists have pinpointed certain foods as super foods. In addition to promoting overall health, these are foods for kidney health as well.

To understand why they’re called super foods, we first have to understand oxidation and free radicals. Oxidation is a normal bodily process for producing energy and is part of many chemical changes in your body. However, it can sometimes lead to the production of molecules called free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that bounce wildly around inside your body, damaging proteins, genes and cell membranes. Free radicals are believed to contribute to aging and many chronic diseases, including cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

The good news is super foods contain antioxidants that help neutralize free radicals. Even in relatively low amounts, antioxidants can help slow or stop the rate of oxidation caused by free radicals. Examples of antioxidants include flavonoids, lycopene and vitamins C, E and beta-carotene.

Super foods for your kidneys

If you are on dialysis or have chronic kidney disease (CKD), you’ll be glad to know that there are lots of super foods, containing antioxidants and other health-supporting properties, included in the kidney diet. People with kidney disease experience more inflammation and have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease than those without kidney problems. If you have kidney disease, it’s important that you consult a renal dietitian and follow a kidney diet. Including super foods in your kidney diet eating plan can help you increase your intake of nutrients and antioxidants.

Here’s a list of the top 15 kidney-friendly super foods. These foods are good for everyone, not just people with kidney disease, so by using them in your family’s meals, you’ll be helping your loved ones enjoy good health too.

1. Red bell peppers

Red bell peppers are a good choice for those concerned about kidney health, because they’re low in potassium. In addition, they add color and taste to any dish, while packing a generous portion of vitamins A, C, B6, folic acid and fiber. They also contain the antioxidant lycopene, which protects against certain types of cancer.

If you’re following the kidney diet, it’s easy to add red bell peppers to your food plan. Mix them into tuna or chicken salad or eat raw with dip. Roasted, they’re great for topping sandwiches or green salads. Chop them up for use in egg dishes, such as omelets or scrambled eggs, add them to kabobs for grilling or stuff them with a ground beef or turkey mixture for a tasty baked entrée.

2. Cabbage

Crunchy cabbage is a cruciferous vegetable filled with phytochemicals, chemical compounds found in certain fruits and vegetables. Phytochemicals work to break apart free radicals. Many phytochemicals are believed to combat cancer and support cardiovascular health.

Inexpensive cabbage is a great addition to your eating plan, because it’s also high in vitamins K and C, high in fiber and a good source of vitamin B6 and folic acid, yet it’s low in potassium, so it’s especially kidney-friendly.

If you’re following the dialysis diet, add cabbage by turning it into coleslaw or use as a topping for fish tacos. Cabbage can be boiled, steamed or microwaved and then enjoyed with a touch of butter or cream cheese and a sprinkling of pepper or caraway seeds. Other nutritious meal options include cabbage rolls and stuffed cabbage.

3. Cauliflower

Another kidney-friendly super food is cauliflower. This cruciferous vegetable brings lots of vitamin C to your plate, along with folate and fiber. In addition it contains compounds that help your liver neutralize toxic substances.

Cauliflower can be eaten raw with dip or in salads. Steamed or boiled, it can be seasoned and turned into a great side dish. You can even mash cauliflower as a dialysis-friendly replacement for mashed potatoes.

4. Garlic

Garlic is good for reducing inflammation and lowering cholesterol. It also has antioxidant and anti-clotting properties. (Cooking garlic will not affect its antioxidant properties, but it will reduce its anti-clotting and anti-inflammatory effects.)

If you’re following the dialysis diet, use garlic powder instead of garlic salt to add extra flavor to your meals without adding extra sodium. Garlic can be used in cooking many dishes: meat, vegetables or tomato sauce, for instance. Once you start cooking with garlic, you’ll wonder how you ever got along without it.

5. Onion

Another popular food used for seasoning is the onion. Onion is full of flavonoids, particularly quercetin. Flavonoids are natural chemicals that prevent the deposit of fatty material in blood vessels and add pigmentation (color) to plants. Quercetin is a powerful antioxidant that is believed to help reduce heart disease and protect against many forms of cancer. It also has anti-inflammatory properties.

Low in potassium, onions are not only kidney-friendly; they also contain chromium, a mineral that assists your body with the metabolism of fats, proteins and carbohydrates.

Onions can be enjoyed raw or cooked in a variety dishes.

6. Apples

An apple a day really does help keep the doctor away! High in fiber and anti-inflammatory properties, apples help reduce cholesterol, prevent constipation, protect against heart disease and decrease your risk of cancer.

Renal-friendly apples can be eaten raw or cooked. Or get their health benefits by drinking apple juice or cider.

7. Cranberries

Cranberries are great for preventing urinary tract infections, because they make urine more acidic and help keep bacteria from attaching to the inside of the bladder. They’ve also been shown to protect against cancer and heart disease.

Although we think of cranberries as a holiday side dish, cranberry juice can be enjoyed daily for added nutrition. Or toss a handful of dried cranberries into your cereal or salad.

8. Blueberries

These tasty berries get their blue color from antioxidant compounds called anthocyanidins. Blueberries get high marks for nutrition, thanks to natural compounds that reduce inflammation and lots of vitamin C and fiber. They also contain manganese, which contributes to healthy bones.

Use blueberries to top off your morning cereal, whip them up in a fruit smoothie or enjoy them in a baked treat, such as muffins or crisp.

9. Raspberries

Raspberries contain a compound called ellagic acid, which helps neutralize free radicals. The berry’s red color comes from antioxidants called anthocyanins. Raspberries are packed with fiber, vitamin C and manganese. They also have plenty of folate, a B vitamin. Raspberries have properties that help stop cancer cell growth and the formation of tumors.

Sprinkle fresh raspberries on cereal, or whip them up in a kidney-friendly fruit smoothie.
10. Strawberries

Strawberries are rich in two types of antioxidants, plus they contain lots of vitamin C, manganese and fiber. They have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties and also help keep your heart healthy.

Like most berries, they’re wonderful on cereal or in smoothies. Add whipped topping for a quick dessert, or puree them for a fresh addition to pound or angel food cake.

11. Cherries

Cherries are filled with antioxidants and phytochemicals that protect your heart. When eaten daily, they have been shown to reduce inflammation.

Fresh cherries make a delicious snack. Of course, cherry pie is a popular dessert, but there’s also cherry crisp, cherry cheesecake and even cherry coffee cake. Cherry sauce makes a nice accompaniment to lamb or pork.

12. Red grapes

The color in red grapes comes from several flavonoids. These are good for your heart, because they prevent oxidation and reduce the chance of blood clots. One flavonoid in grapes, resveratrol, may boost production of nitric oxide, which increases muscle relaxation in blood vessels for better blood flow. Flavonoids also help protect you from cancer and prevent inflammation.

Choose those with red or purple skin grapes for the highest flavonoid content. Eat grapes as a snack. When frozen, they make a good thirst-quencher for those on a fluid-restricted diet. Add grapes to fruit or chicken salad. Or drink grape juice.

13. Egg whites

Did you know that egg whites are pure protein? They provide the highest quality protein there is, along with all of the essential amino acids. If you’re on the kidney diet, it’s good to note that egg whites have less phosphorus than other protein sources, such as egg yolks or meats.

Use egg whites for omelets or egg white sandwiches. You can also add them to smoothies or shakes. Hard boil eggs and use the whites to use in tuna or green salads.

14. Fish

Another high-quality source of protein is fish. Both the American Diabetes Association and the American Heart Association recommend that you include fish in your meal plan two or three times a week. Besides being a great source of protein, fish contains anti-inflammatory fats called omega-3s. These healthy fats help prevent diseases, such as cancer and heart disease. They also help lower LDL (the bad cholesterol) and raise HDL (the good cholesterol).

The types of fish that have the most omega-3s are salmon, albacore tuna, mackerel, herring and rainbow trout.

15. Olive oil

Research has shown that people in countries where olive oil is used instead of other types of oils tend to have lower rates of cancer and heart disease. This is believed to be due to olive oil’s many good components: oleic acid, an anti-inflammatory fatty acid which protects against oxidation and polyphenols and antioxidant compounds that prevent inflammation and oxidation.

Use virgin or extra virgin olive oil – they’re higher in antioxidants. Olive oil can be used in cooking or to make salad dressing, as a dip for bread and as a marinade for vegetables.

Summary

If you’re concerned about the health of your own kidneys — or somebody else’s — these 15 super foods for kidney health should be on your grocery-shopping list. Ask a renal dietitian for help including them in your kidney-friendly meal plan if you have chronic kidney disease. When buying fruits and vegetables, get the freshest ones you can find and be sure to include a variety, since some are rich in one nutrient and others are rich in another. If you can only find fruits that are not at their peak, the flavor may be lessened, but you’ll still get good nutritional value from them for your kidney health.

10 Surprising New Uses For Common Home Remedies You Already Own

aloevera

Rethink your medicine cabinet

When minor medical issues crop up (nosebleeds, insect stings, dandruff!), chances are your medicine cabinet already contains some effective—and surprising—fixes for what ails you. Here are 10 common household items that do double duty, saving you a trip to the pharmacy—and cash in the process!

These go-to health items have some unexpected benefits

1. Antacid tablet

It’s for: Heartburn

The effervescent type with sodium bicarbonate helps neutralize the acid that causes painful heartburn symptoms.

But try: Soothing insect bites 

“Antacid formulations such as Alka-Seltzer contain aspirin, an anesthetic that can help ease the sting and itch of insect bites,” says Howard Sobel, MD, a clinical attending physician in dermatology and dermatologic surgery at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City.

He recommends making a paste with a crushed antacid tablet, a pinch of oatmeal (also a skin soother), and water and applying it to the skin. Results are immediate—and this DIY formula has a healing bonus that other anti-itch salves lack. “Calamine lotion contains zinc oxide, which can be drying to the skin,” Dr. Sobel explains. “Effervescent antacid tablets provide quicker relief from pain and itching—without the dehydrating side effects.” (Here’s how to prevent bug bites in the first place.)

2. Mouthwash

It’s for: Freshening breath

“Both types of mouthwash—with and without alcohol—contain antimicrobial properties that reduce the number of bacteria in the mouth,” explains Edgard El Chaar, DDS, a clinical associate professor of periodontology and implant dentistry at NYU College of Dentistry.

But try: Preventing athlete’s foot 

If you’ve switched to an alcohol-free version (such as Tom’s of Maine or ACT Fluoride), don’t throw away the old bottle: Use the alcohol mouthwash to keep your feet and toenails pristine. To prevent athlete’s foot, soak a cotton ball with the liquid and swab the bottoms of your feet and between toes after every shower. According to Dr. Sobel, the high alcohol content of traditional mouthwash helps ward off fungal infections.

3. Baking soda

It’s for: Tooth whitening

Many dentists recommend baking soda to help remove superficial stains from enamel, making teeth appear whiter. It also prevents bad breath and gets rid of plaque embedded in the area between the teeth and gums.

But try: Calming irritated skin 

Used topically, baking soda takes the sting out of sunburn and minimizes the itch and discomfort caused by a variety of skin conditions (including eczema, prickly heat, and poison ivy). “Sodium bicarbonate is a mild alkaline compound that can help neutralize the pH balance of your skin,” says Linda K. Franks, MD, a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at New York University. “This ‘buffering effect’ may help quell the inflammation that occurs at the skin’s surface, easing your soreness.”

To get relief, place a cup of baking soda under a running bath tap so it dissolves completely, and then soak in the water for about 30 minutes.

4. Nasal spray

It’s for: Easing congestion

The decongestants in it shrink blood vessels and swollen mucous membranes in your nose, making it easier for you to breathe.

But try: Stopping nosebleeds 

Most nosebleeds can be stopped by simply pinching the nose for 10 to 20 minutes, but if yours persists, nasal spray may do the trick. According to Amy Sutton Peak, PharmD, director of Drug Information Services at Butler University, about two-thirds of people who visit an emergency room for a persistent nosebleed are successfully treated with oxymetazoline, the decongestant found in common drugstore nasal sprays such as Afrin and Mucinex.

To stop the bleeding, she recommends tilting your head forward and clearing your nose by blowing out any clots (this may increase bleeding for a few seconds). Next, inhale through your nose while spraying oxymetazoline into the affected nostril(s), and then pinch the soft part of your nose closed. Maintain pressure for 10 full minutes. If the bleeding hasn’t stopped, continue pinching for another 10 minutes. If none of these measures works, see a health care provider for further treatment.

5. Witch hazel

It’s for: Treating acne

This plant extract helps fight acne by drying out excess oil in the skin. Because it contains alcohol, witch hazel can help kill the bacteria that cause infection and lead to breakouts.

But try: Shrinking hemorrhoids 

“Witch hazel is a natural astringent,” says Dr. Sobel. “It works to contract the skin and surrounding blood vessels back to normal size.” That’s why it is a primary ingredient in many OTC hemorrhoid wipes and medicated pads, such as Tucks and Preparation H. “Alone, witch hazel may dry out delicate tissue, so also apply a cream, such as Vaseline or A+D original ointment, to moisturize the area,” says Dr. Sobel.

6. Aloe vera

It’s for: Soothing burns

Topical application of aloe gel can speed the healing of first- and second-degree burns.

But try: Eliminating canker sores 

“Aloe vera contains vitamins as well as amino acids that help repair damaged tissues,” says Irwin Smigel, DDS, president of the American Society for Dental Aesthetics. “Several compounds found in aloe vera work together to decrease or prevent inflammation and control pain.” A research review found that canker sore sufferers who applied aloe vera gel healed about 50% faster than those who didn’t.

7. Tea tree oil

It’s for: Treating skin infections

Well-known for its antibacterial and antifungal properties, tea tree oil is often applied topically for acne and athlete’s foot.

But try: Getting rid of dandruff 

People who used a shampoo with 5% tea tree oil reduced their dandruff 41% and significantly improved the itchiness and greasiness of their scalp, according to a study from the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. “You can safely add a small amount of tea tree oil to your own shampoo to get a similar effect,” says Dr. Sobel. “Just use sparingly, no more than a few teaspoons per bottle, to prevent overdrying of your scalp.”

8. Yogurt

You eat it for: Digestive health

The probiotic bacteria it contains help foster healthy digestion and keep you regular.

But try: Preventing gum disease 

Adults who consume 55 g of yogurt per day have significantly fewer markers of periodontal disease than those who don’t include this food in their diets, according to scientists at Kyushu University in Japan. That’s because the lactic acid in yogurt helps protect their gums from the harmful bacteria that cause this chronic condition.

9. Extra virgin olive oil

You eat it for: Lower cholesterol

Subbing it for butter keeps your cholesterol (and belly fat) in check.

But try: Boosting your vision 

Studies show that the omega-3 fatty acids in olive oil help prevent age-related macular degeneration. People who ate the most olive oil (at least 100 ml, or nearly 7 tablespoons, per week) were about half as likely to develop late AMD as those who consumed less than 1 ml per week, according to researchers at the University of Melbourne in Australia.

10. Dark chocolate

You eat it for: Heart health

A few ounces weekly reduces risk of cardiovascular disease (and satisfies a sweet tooth).

But try: Protecting skin from sun damage 

Dark chocolate may help protect the skin from the harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation, finds a study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. Researchers say minimally processed versions of the sweet treat are rich in flavonoids, antioxidants that could prevent wrinkles and cut the risk of skin cancer caused by exposure to sunlight.

Top 10 Common Nutrition Myths and Misconceptions

myths-and-facts

The most common misconception about nutrition is that we actually know a lot about nutrition.

Fact: no-one studies healthy nutrition and diet in a serious, scientific fashion. We have lots of theories, lots of errors, lots of contradictions, but little true scientific testing in search of truth.

Virtually all of the scientific research into nutrition is ‘illness based’, not healthiness based. This bias creates a lot of knowledge about specific diseases but little understanding of health. When we research ‘illness’, we search for specific causes and specific cures.

Did you ever wonder why everything seems to be bad for you, and almost everything seems to be good for you as well? This is a result of researching illness and ignoring healthiness. Illnesses are ‘specific’. Healthiness is general. Lessons learned by studying illness are poor teachers when trying to attain healthiness.

As a result, we have many theories about nutrition that are repeated over and over, but are simply, clearly wrong. Others are simply myths.

[I distinguish between myths and wrong ideas in this article – although I suspect I have not done so in previous articles. Although many people use the word myth to describe ‘wrong ideas’, I will use the word Myth for ideas that are widely believed, but not proven, and Error for ideas that have been proven wrong].

Some of these theories include:

1. Error: ”Calories in = calories out“.

The truth – poo burns. Normally, it contains about 20 percent fats, but we don’t have much research into how eating more, or less fat changes that ratio. Poo contains calories. So does sebum. So does urine if you are diabetic. Both contain more if you have specific illnesses or if you consume specific diets. Calories in = calories out math simply doesn’t work. If we use it to estimate the weight based on averages in calorie consumption increases in the past two decades, the average weight would be about 900 pounds.

This Error is often stated differently: “Cutting calories will cause weight loss”. Experiments have clearly shown that cutting calories, but consuming the wrong foods (eg. high in carbs) will continue to increase obesity. Cutting back on the wrong foods does not make a difference to a poor diet. Unfortunately, figuring out what are ‘the right foods for you’ can be a huge challenge.

2. Myth: “Vegetarianism is a healthy diet”.

Vegetarianism is an ethical diet, marketed as a healthy diet. It has been studied (a bit) to determine what illnesses might result, and what illnesses might benefit, but it has not been studied from a healthiness perspective. It is very easy for someone who is not a vegetarian to switch to vegetarianism and choose a very unhealthy diet without realizing it.

At the same time, there has been little study of an all meat diet, because it is not seen as an ethical diet. There have been some studies which found an all meat diet can also decrease illness and may improve healthiness in specific cases. But the studies are so few and so limited that, as most studies conclude, “more study is required”.

3. Myth: “Breakfast is the most important meal”.

There is no significant evidence to support this, nor any other eating pattern for optimal healthiness. Of course it can always be said that breakfast is the most important meal – when we recognize that every meal ‘breaks the previous fast’, even if our lunch or dinner is actually our ‘breakfast’. For some people, breakfast is essential to get started, for others, breakfast can easily be left aside until lunchtime or later. Nobody has attempted to measure which of those ‘types’ are healthiest, nor if their healthiness is caused by their eating patterns.

We don’t scientifically test eating times and their effects on healthiness. Hospitals provide food ‘when it is convenient’, not on a schedule to improve or maximize healing or healthiness. When we truly know which eating patterns were healthiest, hospitals will want to know, and senior’s homes might need to change their schedules. It may well turn out that simple eating plans are not as healthy as more complex, diverse eating plans.

4. Myth: “Drink eight glasses of water a day for health”.

Where did this myth come from? You might find the answer here “The mysterious origins of the “8 glasses of water a day” rule“, where the author reports:

“The origins of the “8 glasses of water a day” rule was explored by Dr. Heinz Valtin in a 2002 article and Dr. Tsindos in a 2012 article. After extensive searches of the published literature, they found absolutely no scientific evidence for the idea that most people need to drink at least 8 glasses of water a day.”

How much water should you drink? At the very least, you should listen to your body and let it decide. If you are suffering a headache – the morning after – you are probably suffering from dehydration as your body tried to remove toxins by urinating. Drink some water.

5. Myth: “Vitamins are dangerous”.

More people die from drinking too much water than from taking too many vitamins. Vitamins are called vitamins because they are essential to health. But then it gets complicated – really complicated. All vitamins are studied in isolation – studies of combinations are much more difficult. Scientific studies of vitamins are tested against illness – to determine if they cause, or cure illness. Many nutritional studies were designed to ensure that prisoners don’t get sick.

There are no vitamin studies that test changes in ‘healthiness’. Because of the focus on illness, much vitamin research is ignored. For example, a deficiency of Vitamin C results in scurvy (in theory) – but this research ignores that fact that a diet of meats alone does not result in scurvy, even though the Vitamin C consumed is much less than required to prevent scurvy on a carb diet.

Many so called ‘vitamins’ are actually chemicals created to ‘act like’ natural vitamins – and these are poorly studied with regards to healthiness and illness. It is certainly possible that some of these vitamins are dangerous.

When we are truly interested in learning about healthiness of vitamins and minerals, we will study which vitamin combinations improve healthiness the most – and study their relationships to different dietary regimens.

6. Myth: “Lean meats are good for your heart”.

There is no scientific evidence that lean meats are healthier than fatty meats. The same goes for other low fat foods (milk and cheese). If anything, the science demonstrates the opposite. The ‘avoid fat’ concept is simply a misunderstanding on how fat is created in our bodies – fat is created from sugars.

The lean meat myth was created by the American Heart Association, and is actively maintained by them in full view of much scientific evidence to the contrary. It has become fundamental to their fundraising operations – and it is unlikely they can change without losing a lot of face – and possibly a lot of money.

Most people who restrict themselves to ‘lean meats’ compensate with high glycemic foods like bread, pasta, and sugar. These foods are far worse for your heart and circulatory system than fatty foods.

7. Error: “Fiber is an essential nutrient for health”.

Fiber is not an essential nutrient – in fact, it is not even a nutrient. It is likely that fiber is important for specific dietary regimes, or specific purposes, but is completely useless in other diets. We simply don’t know and there is little scientific research that tests the fiber theories across different diets. Fiber is typically suggested to resolve illnesses that cannot be clearly diagnosed, not to improve healthiness.

8. Error: “You need to consume sugar for your brain to function”.

This is a misconception that is proved wrong by the simple act of fasting. Your blood supply runs out of dietary sugar in less than a day. Your brain has no problem functioning for weeks.

9. Error: “Fasting is unhealthy”.

Short term fasts are prescribed for blood tests etc., but many doctors claim that fasting is unhealthy or simply does not enhance healthiness. The simple truth is that we don’t test overall healthiness, we don’t measure overall healthiness, and we don’t know the facts about fasting either. Sleeping, frankly is fasting. And it’s healthy.

You might wonder how long someone can fast ‘safely’? The answer is simply, ‘it depends’. There are different types of fasts, and different people. If you ask Google, you might think that the longest fast is just over 40 days. But no. Here is a scientific report of a therapeutic fast that lasted 382 days. The patient started at over 400 pounds and emerged a healthy weight of 180 pounds. Fasting can be unhealthy – so can crossing the street.

10. Myth: “Toxins in foods are not at levels dangerous to your health”.

Many foods contain toxins. We know this. Many foods contain ‘natural toxins’ that the plants develop to fight insects. What the toxins do to our bodies, whether they build up or are excreted is poorly studied.

Toxins come in many forms and might be natural, coming from nature, or unnatural, created by man. Many GMO ‘foods‘ contain designer toxins. So do most patented medicines. Every day, more chemicals are created and used on foods and in our environment.

Studies of toxins are extremely weak. We don’t even have scientific agreement on simple questions like ‘Is fluoridated water healthy or unhealthy?’ We have many studies on the toxicity of fluoride and very few studies that suggest it may prevent dental caries. But no studies on healthiness of fluoride. However, in many communities fluoride is routinely added to drinking water.

Conclusions:

a) Simple rules are not so simple, and often not accurate. Take all advice with a grain of salt – I recommend natural salt. But I also recommend that you make your own decisions.
b) Studying illness to create healthiness is a poor choice, resulting in many simple errors.
c) If we want to learn about health, we need to study healthiness.

Top 10 Probiotic Foods You Can Add to Your Diet

Probiotics1

Probiotics are beneficial forms of gut bacteria that help stimulate the natural digestive juices and enzymes that keep our digestive organs functioning properly. In addition to taking a probiotic supplement, you can also support your probiotic intake through eating foods that are hosts to these live bacterium.

We all know of the great health benefits of probiotics, however, not all of us know how to take advantage of these health benefits. Below is a list I put together to outline the best probiotic foods for you to add to your diet. I would also recommend buying the organic version of all these probiotic foods.

1. Yogurt

One of the best probiotic foods is live-cultured yogurt, especially handmade. Look for brands made from goat milk that has been infused with extra forms of probiotics like lactobacillus or acidophilus. Goat’s milk and cheese are particularly high in probiotics like thermophillus, bifudus, bulgaricus and acidophilus. Be sure to read the ingredients list, as not all yogurts are made equally. Many popular brands are filled with High Fructose Corn Syrup, artificial sweeteners and artifical flavors.

2. Kefir

Similar to yogurt, this fermented dairy product is a unique combination of goat milk and fermented kefir grains. High in lactobacilli and bifidus bacteria, kefir is also rich in antioxidants. Look for a good, organic version at your local health food shop.

3. Sauerkraut

Made from fermented cabbage (as well as other vegetables), sauerkraut is not only extremely rich in healthy live cultures, but also aids in reducing allergy symptoms. Sauerkraut is also rich in vitamins B, A, E and C.

4. Dark Chocolate

Probiotics can be added to high-quality dark chocolate, up to four times the amount of probiotics as many forms of dairy. This is only one of the health benefits of chocolate.

5. Microalgae

This refers to super-food ocean-based plants such as spirulina, chorella, and blue-green algae. These probiotic foods have been shown to increase the amount of both Lactobacillus and bifidobacteria in the digestive tract. They also offer the most amount of energetic return, per ounce, for the human system.

6. Miso Soup

Miso is one the main-stays of Japanese traditional medicine, and is commonly used in macrobiotic cooking as a digestive regulator. Made from fermented rye, beans, rice or barley, adding a tablespoon of miso to some hot water makes an excellent, quick, probiotic-rich soup, full of lactobacilli and bifidus bacteria.

Beyond its important live cultures, miso is extremely nutrient-dense and is believed to help neutralize the effects of environmental pollution, alkalinize the body and stop the effects of carcinogens in the system.

7. Pickles

Believe it or not, the common green pickle is an excellent food source of probiotics. Try making your own home-made pickles in the sun. Here’s a great set of instructions for making your own probiotic-rich dill pickles.

8. Tempeh

A great substitute for meat or tofu, tempeh is a fermented, probiotic-rich grain made from soy beans. A great source of vitamin B12, this vegetarian food can be sautéed, baked or eaten crumbled on salads. If prepared correctly, tempeh is also very low in salt, which makes it an ideal choice for those on a low-sodium diet.

9. Kimchi

An Asian form of pickled sauerkraut, kimchi is an extremely spicy and sour fermented cabbage, typically served alongside most meals in Korea. Besides from beneficial bacteria, Kimchi is also a great source of beta-carotene, calcium, iron and vitamins A, C, B1 & B2. Kimchi is one of the best probiotic foods you can add to your diet, assuming you can handle the spice, of course.

10. Kombucha Tea

This is a form of fermented tea high in healthy gut bacteria. This probiotic drink has been used for centuries and is believed to help increase your energy, enhance your wellbeing and maybe even help you lose weight. However, kombucha tea may not be the best fit for everyone, especially those that already have a problem with candida.

Do you have any favorite foods with probiotics that I may have missed? Let me know in the comments below!

Other Sources of Probiotics

Besides from the list of probiotic foods above, you can also get plenty of beneficial bacteria by taking a probiotic supplement. I personally would recommend taking Latero-Flora, but Garden of Lifes Primal Defense Ultra is also a great option.

10 Surprising New Uses For Common Home Remedies You Already Own

aloevera

Rethink your medicine cabinet

When minor medical issues crop up (nosebleeds, insect stings, dandruff!), chances are your medicine cabinet already contains some effective—and surprising—fixes for what ails you. Here are 10 common household items that do double duty, saving you a trip to the pharmacy—and cash in the process!

These go-to health items have some unexpected benefits

1. Antacid tablet

It’s for: Heartburn

The effervescent type with sodium bicarbonate helps neutralize the acid that causes painful heartburn symptoms.

But try: Soothing insect bites 

“Antacid formulations such as Alka-Seltzer contain aspirin, an anesthetic that can help ease the sting and itch of insect bites,” says Howard Sobel, MD, a clinical attending physician in dermatology and dermatologic surgery at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City.

He recommends making a paste with a crushed antacid tablet, a pinch of oatmeal (also a skin soother), and water and applying it to the skin. Results are immediate—and this DIY formula has a healing bonus that other anti-itch salves lack. “Calamine lotion contains zinc oxide, which can be drying to the skin,” Dr. Sobel explains. “Effervescent antacid tablets provide quicker relief from pain and itching—without the dehydrating side effects.” (Here’s how to prevent bug bites in the first place.)

2. Mouthwash

It’s for: Freshening breath

“Both types of mouthwash—with and without alcohol—contain antimicrobial properties that reduce the number of bacteria in the mouth,” explains Edgard El Chaar, DDS, a clinical associate professor of periodontology and implant dentistry at NYU College of Dentistry.

But try: Preventing athlete’s foot 

If you’ve switched to an alcohol-free version (such as Tom’s of Maine or ACT Fluoride), don’t throw away the old bottle: Use the alcohol mouthwash to keep your feet and toenails pristine. To prevent athlete’s foot, soak a cotton ball with the liquid and swab the bottoms of your feet and between toes after every shower. According to Dr. Sobel, the high alcohol content of traditional mouthwash helps ward off fungal infections.

3. Baking soda

It’s for: Tooth whitening

Many dentists recommend baking soda to help remove superficial stains from enamel, making teeth appear whiter. It also prevents bad breath and gets rid of plaque embedded in the area between the teeth and gums.

But try: Calming irritated skin 

Used topically, baking soda takes the sting out of sunburn and minimizes the itch and discomfort caused by a variety of skin conditions (including eczema, prickly heat, and poison ivy). “Sodium bicarbonate is a mild alkaline compound that can help neutralize the pH balance of your skin,” says Linda K. Franks, MD, a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at New York University. “This ‘buffering effect’ may help quell the inflammation that occurs at the skin’s surface, easing your soreness.”

To get relief, place a cup of baking soda under a running bath tap so it dissolves completely, and then soak in the water for about 30 minutes.

4. Nasal spray

It’s for: Easing congestion

The decongestants in it shrink blood vessels and swollen mucous membranes in your nose, making it easier for you to breathe.

But try: Stopping nosebleeds 

Most nosebleeds can be stopped by simply pinching the nose for 10 to 20 minutes, but if yours persists, nasal spray may do the trick. According to Amy Sutton Peak, PharmD, director of Drug Information Services at Butler University, about two-thirds of people who visit an emergency room for a persistent nosebleed are successfully treated with oxymetazoline, the decongestant found in common drugstore nasal sprays such as Afrin and Mucinex.

To stop the bleeding, she recommends tilting your head forward and clearing your nose by blowing out any clots (this may increase bleeding for a few seconds). Next, inhale through your nose while spraying oxymetazoline into the affected nostril(s), and then pinch the soft part of your nose closed. Maintain pressure for 10 full minutes. If the bleeding hasn’t stopped, continue pinching for another 10 minutes. If none of these measures works, see a health care provider for further treatment.

5. Witch hazel

It’s for: Treating acne

This plant extract helps fight acne by drying out excess oil in the skin. Because it contains alcohol, witch hazel can help kill the bacteria that cause infection and lead to breakouts.

But try: Shrinking hemorrhoids 

“Witch hazel is a natural astringent,” says Dr. Sobel. “It works to contract the skin and surrounding blood vessels back to normal size.” That’s why it is a primary ingredient in many OTC hemorrhoid wipes and medicated pads, such as Tucks and Preparation H. “Alone, witch hazel may dry out delicate tissue, so also apply a cream, such as Vaseline or A+D original ointment, to moisturize the area,” says Dr. Sobel.

6. Aloe vera

It’s for: Soothing burns

Topical application of aloe gel can speed the healing of first- and second-degree burns.

But try: Eliminating canker sores 

“Aloe vera contains vitamins as well as amino acids that help repair damaged tissues,” says Irwin Smigel, DDS, president of the American Society for Dental Aesthetics. “Several compounds found in aloe vera work together to decrease or prevent inflammation and control pain.” A research review found that canker sore sufferers who applied aloe vera gel healed about 50% faster than those who didn’t.

7. Tea tree oil

It’s for: Treating skin infections

Well-known for its antibacterial and antifungal properties, tea tree oil is often applied topically for acne and athlete’s foot.

But try: Getting rid of dandruff 

People who used a shampoo with 5% tea tree oil reduced their dandruff 41% and significantly improved the itchiness and greasiness of their scalp, according to a study from the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. “You can safely add a small amount of tea tree oil to your own shampoo to get a similar effect,” says Dr. Sobel. “Just use sparingly, no more than a few teaspoons per bottle, to prevent overdrying of your scalp.”

8. Yogurt

You eat it for: Digestive health

The probiotic bacteria it contains help foster healthy digestion and keep you regular.

But try: Preventing gum disease 

Adults who consume 55 g of yogurt per day have significantly fewer markers of periodontal disease than those who don’t include this food in their diets, according to scientists at Kyushu University in Japan. That’s because the lactic acid in yogurt helps protect their gums from the harmful bacteria that cause this chronic condition.

9. Extra virgin olive oil

You eat it for: Lower cholesterol

Subbing it for butter keeps your cholesterol (and belly fat) in check.

But try: Boosting your vision 

Studies show that the omega-3 fatty acids in olive oil help prevent age-related macular degeneration. People who ate the most olive oil (at least 100 ml, or nearly 7 tablespoons, per week) were about half as likely to develop late AMD as those who consumed less than 1 ml per week, according to researchers at the University of Melbourne in Australia.

10. Dark chocolate

You eat it for: Heart health

A few ounces weekly reduces risk of cardiovascular disease (and satisfies a sweet tooth).

But try: Protecting skin from sun damage 

Dark chocolate may help protect the skin from the harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation, finds a study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. Researchers say minimally processed versions of the sweet treat are rich in flavonoids, antioxidants that could prevent wrinkles and cut the risk of skin cancer caused by exposure to sunlight.