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By Amanda Gia Johnson

The key to staying as healthy as possible is lowered inflammation, healthy weight maintenance, and not being overrun by negative stress and depression. The following foods have the key elements to accomplish those goals and also improve the quality of life.

Anti-Inflammatory Foods

Inflammation in the body is defined as experiencing disturbed function. Disturbed function in the body leads to disease and diminishes quality of life. If the inflammation or improper function can be prevented, diseases can be cut off at the pass and avoided altogether.

1. Tart Cherry

Cherries are full of unique anthocyanins and other compounds that naturally mediate the inflammation in the body. These and some other deeply colored berries, fruits, and vegetables contain nutrients that combat inflammation. While all cherries pack an anti-inflammatory punch, tart cherries contain higher levels of the flavonoid anthocyanin.

2. Cruciferous Vegetables

Your mom was right to make you eat your Brussels sprouts! Cabbage, bok choy, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower reign supreme with cutting down inflammation. There is a clear cut difference between inflammation levels in individuals who consume cruciferous vegetables regularly as opposed to those who do not.

3. Legumes

Chronic inflammation is one of the leading causes of cancer. Legumes, most specifically lentils, are the superheroes of cancer prevention. They have an abundance of phytochemicals, vitamins, and minerals. One of the most important nutrients of all legumes is dietary fiber. The presence of fiber in all legumes is one of the essential nutrients to combat inflammation.

4. Green Tomatoes

Not to be eaten raw due to toxic compounds, cooked green tomatoes are vitamin and mineral dense. These nutrients ward off cell degeneration which occurs with time and sedentary lifestyles. They are great post workout foods because the active, valuable compound tomatidine is a muscle builder. Muscle atrophy occurs naturally with aging. Cooked green tomatoes’ tomatidine works against that process extending your life.

Healthy Weight Maintenance

One of the keys to maintaining a healthy weight is eating nutrient dense foods that will keep you fuller for longer periods of time. Protein and inflammation fighting fiber are the nutrients that have many health benefits and will keep hunger pangs at bay. Swapping out high saturated fats for healthy unsaturated fats will also help with maintaining a healthy weight.

5. Olive & Olive Oil

This antioxidant super food fights and prevents cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, and the list goes on. It combats obesity despite its high caloric content. Instead of butter and margarine which lack nutrients, use olive oil which is rich in phenolic antioxidants. These antioxidants are also found in honey, the majority of legumes, berries, cruciferous veggies, green tea, onions, chocolate, red wine, among others. These antioxidants combat inflammation as well. The monounsaturated fat content in olives and olive oil has been found to enhance the body’s breakdown of stored fat equaling weight loss!

6. Whole Grains like Quinoa, Freekah and Teff

With these exotic whole grains, your palette and your hunger will be satisfied. Along with being high in hunger fighting protein, these grains are known for controlling and preventing diseases such as diabetes, certain colorectal cancers, and macular degeneration. You’ll live longer and will be able to see which is a bonus! Replacing wheat with freekah and teff will give you immediate benefits. Substituting rice with quinoa is a smart move. These grains are clear examples that all carbs are not bad

7. Wild Caught Alaskan Salmon

This omega-3 fatty acid rich fish also is high in protein and other beneficial amino acids. Any protein that provides good fats and is low in bad fats is an ideal staple to any diet.

Mood Boosters

Depression is caused by imbalances in brain chemicals especially serotonin and dopamine. There are various triggers such as substance abuse, emotional trauma, vitamin deficiency, and physical diseases that can negatively impact this balance. Strategically including the following foods to your diet will increase key brain chemicals that boost your mood and thwarts the imbalances that cause the doldrums that shorten lifespan and make it unbearable to boot.

8. Shell Fish

Vitamin B12 and zinc are immediate mood boosters and are found in most shellfish such as clams and oysters. Vitamin B12 is used by the brain to make dopamine and serotonin which are the “happy” chemicals. Zinc is present in brain cells and helps create new brain cells.

9. Walnuts

Walnuts are a Super Food that provides alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) which is necessary for proper levels of dopamine and serotonin. Proper levels of ALA also prevent inflammation.

10. Coffee (in moderation)

Caffeine sometimes has a bad reputation, but that is when used in excess. Coffee has beneficial health effects, but as it pertains to mood, caffeine stimulates the production of dopamine and serotonin.

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Great Herbs To Grow For The Beginner

If you’ve ever felt the rush of fulfillment when you cook using your own vegetables, wait till you try garnishing your meals with home-grown herbs.

Herbs are a great way to add flavor and an appetizing aroma to your meals but the high price of them on the market makes them seem like they’re not really a necessity. Luckily, with a little effort, you can start growing herbs on your own.

Since herbs are fairly small, it’ll be better to start growing them out of pots so you can manage them easily. Fertilizer is important for when you’re growing them and it can help retain nutritional balance in your soil which can grow healthy herbs.

To know if your soil is lacking any essential minerals, you can collect samples and have it tested. The test will determine what nutrients it contains, and what it doesn’t so you can get the right fertilizer. Remember to use an organic fertilizer that won’t cause any damage to your plants’ or your health.

Once you’ve prepped your soil, you’re ready to put it into pots and begin growing, but you need to pick which herbs you want to grow.

Two factors will determine what herbs you should grow; how easy it is to grow a certain herb and what your personal preferences are. (Of course, you’ll want to grow herbs that you actually intend to use.) For convenience, I’ll be naming herbs that you can find in almost every kitchen.

Parsley

You can grow this versatile herb by sowing them in warm soil. The soil can be either in a pot on a window or in a bed when the soil feels warm. These seeds can take some time to finally germinate so you can speed it up a notch by putting them in water and leaving them overnight before you plant them. Grow them in damp soil and place the pot in a sunny place.

Rosemary

This is the ultimate beginner’s herb because of how simple it is to grow, not to mention how good it tastes. Since it grows with hard leaves, it doesn’t lose water too quickly, which means you shouldn’t keep the soil too moist either.

Other than that, the soil doesn’t need much prepping and you don’t need to make special arrangements with regards to sun or shade, because rosemary isn’t picky.

Oregano

If cooking Italian is your specialty, then you need an Oregano plant right away. This delicious herb prefers light and warm soil, as well as lots of sunshine.

Sow them in a pot with warm soil, and pinch out the parts which grow vertically when the shoot has a height of 10 centimeters because it helps in stimulating growth.

Coriander

This herb is fairly popular in Asian cuisine and now you can grow it at home in pots. The seeds will take a few weeks until they germinate while the plants don’t last very long, so you’ll need to add more seeds often so you have a consistent supply. If you want the best-tasting coriander, then keep your plants healthy and harvest it often.


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