An Important Note
No supplement, diet, or lifestyle modification — aside from social distancing and practicing proper hygiene — can protect you from developing COVID-19.
The strategies outlined below may boost your immune health, but they don't protect specifically against COVID-19.
If you want to boost your immune health, you may wonder how to help your body fight off illnesses.
While bolstering your immunity is easier said than done, several dietary and lifestyle changes may strengthen your body's natural defenses and help you fight harmful pathogens, or disease-causing organisms.
Here are 9 tips to strengthen your immunity naturally.
1. Get Enough Sleep
Sleep and immunity are closely tied.
In fact, inadequate or poor quality sleep is linked to a higher susceptibility to sickness.
In a study in 164 healthy adults, those who slept fewer than 6 hours each night were more likely to catch a cold than those who slept 6 hours or more each night.
Getting adequate rest may strengthen your natural immunity. Also, you may sleep more when sick to allow your immune system to better fight the illness.
If you're having trouble sleeping, try limiting screen time for an hour before bed, as the blue light emitted from your phone, TV, and computer may disrupt your circadian rhythm, or your body's natural wake-sleep cycle.
Other sleep hygiene tips include sleeping in a completely dark room or using a sleep mask, going to bed at the same time every night, and exercising regularly.
Inadequate sleep may increase your risk of getting sick. Most adults should get at least 7 hours of sleep per night.
2. Eat More Whole Plant Foods
Whole plant foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes are rich in nutrients and antioxidants that may give you an upper hand against harmful pathogens.
The antioxidants in these foods help decrease inflammation by combatting unstable compounds called free radicals, which can cause inflammation when they build up in your body in high levels.
Chronic inflammation is linked to numerous health conditions, including heart disease, Alzheimer's, and certain cancers.
Meanwhile, the fiber in plant foods feeds your gut microbiome, or the community of healthy bacteria in your gut. A robust gut microbiome can improve your immunity and help keep harmful pathogens from entering your body via your digestive tract.
Furthermore, fruits and vegetables are rich in nutrients like vitamin C, which may reduce the duration of the common cold.
Several whole plant foods contain antioxidants, fiber, and vitamin C, all of which may lower your susceptibility to illness.
3. Eat More Healthy Fats
Healthy fats, like those found in olive oil and salmon, may boost your body's immune response to pathogens by decreasing inflammation.
Although low-level inflammation is a normal response to stress or injury, chronic inflammation can suppress your immune system.
Olive oil, which is highly anti-inflammatory, is linked to a decreased risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Plus, its anti-inflammatory properties may help your body fight off harmful disease-causing bacteria and viruses.
Omega-3 fatty acids, such as those in salmon and chia seeds, fight inflammation as well.
Healthy fats like olive oil and omega-3s are highly anti-inflammatory. Since chronic inflammation can suppress your immune system, these fats may naturally combat illnesses.
4. Eat More Fermented Foods or Take a Probiotic Supplement
Fermented foods are rich in beneficial bacteria called probiotics, which populate your digestive tract.
These foods include yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, and natto.
Research suggests that a flourishing network of gut bacteria can help your immune cells differentiate between normal, healthy cells and harmful invader organisms.
In a 3-month study in 126 children, those who drank just 2.4 ounces (70 mL) of fermented milk daily had about 20% fewer childhood infectious diseases, compared with a control group.
If you don't regularly eat fermented foods, probiotic supplements are another option.
In a 28-day study in 152 people infected with rhinovirus, those who supplemented with probiotic Bifidobacterium animalis had a stronger immune response and lower levels of the virus in their nasal mucus than a control group.
Gut health and immunity are deeply interconnected. Fermented foods and probiotics may bolster your immune system by helping it identify and target harmful pathogens.
5. Limit Added Sugars
Emerging research suggests that added sugars and refined carbs may contribute disproportionately to overweight and obesity.
Obesity may likewise increase your risk of getting sick.
According to an observational study in around 1,000 people, people with obesity who were administered the flu vaccine were twice as likely to still get the flu than individuals without obesity who received the vaccine.
Curbing your sugar intake can decrease inflammation and aid weight loss, thus reducing your risk of chronic health conditions like type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Given that obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease can all weaken your immune system, limiting added sugars is an important part of an immune-boosting diet.
You should strive to limit your sugar intake to less than 5% of your daily calories. This equals about 2 tablespoons (25 grams) of sugar for someone on a 2,000-calorie diet.
Added sugars contribute significantly to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease, all of which can suppress your immune system. Lowering your sugar intake may decrease inflammation and your risk of these conditions.
6. Engage in Moderate Exercise
Although prolonged intense exercise can suppress your immune system, moderate exercise can give it a boost.
Studies indicate that even a single session of moderate exercise can boost the effectiveness of vaccines in people with compromised immune systems.
What's more, regular, moderate exercise may reduce inflammation and help your immune cells regenerate regularly.
Examples of moderate exercise include brisk walking, steady bicycling, jogging, swimming, and light hiking. Most people should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week.
Moderate exercise can reduce inflammation and promote the healthy turnover of immune cells. Jogging, biking, walking, swimming, and hiking are great options.
7. Stay Hydrated
Hydration doesn't necessarily protect you from germs and viruses, but preventing dehydration is important to your overall health.
Dehydration can cause headaches and hinder your physical performance, focus, mood, digestion, and heart and kidney function. These complications can increase your susceptibility to illness.
To prevent dehydration, you should drink enough fluid daily to make your urine pale yellow. Water is recommended because it's free of calories, additives, and sugar.
While tea and juice are also hydrating, it's best to limit your intake of fruit juice and sweetened tea because of their high sugar contents.
As a general guideline, you should drink when you're thirsty and stop when you're no longer thirsty. You may need more fluids if you exercise intensely, work outside, or live in a hot climate.
It's important to note that older adults begin to lose the urge to drink, as their bodies do not signal thirst adequately. Older adults need to drink regularly even if they do not feel thirsty.
Given that dehydration can make you more susceptible to illness, be sure you're drinking plenty of water each day.
8. Manage Your Stress Levels
Relieving stress and anxiety is key to immune health.
Long-term stress promotes inflammation, as well as imbalances in immune cell function.
In particular, prolonged psychological stress can suppress the immune response in children.
Activities that may help you manage your stress include meditation, exercise, journaling, yoga, and other mindfulness practices. You may also benefit from seeing a licensed counselor or therapist, whether virtually or in person.
Lowering your stress levels through meditation, yoga, exercise, and other practices can help keep your immune system functioning properly.
9. Supplement Wisely
It's easy to turn to supplements if you hear claims about their ability to treat or prevent COVID-19.
However, these assertions are unfounded and untrue.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), there's no evidence to support the use of any supplement to prevent or treat COVID-19.
However, some studies indicate that the following supplements may strengthen your body's general immune response:
- Vitamin C. According to a review in over 11,000 people, taking 1,000–2,000 mg of vitamin C per day reduced the duration of colds by 8% in adults and 14% in children. Yet, supplementing did not prevent the cold to begin with.
- Vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency may increase your chances of getting sick, so supplementing may counteract this effect. Nonetheless, taking vitamin D when you already have adequate levels doesn't seem to provide extra benefits.
- Zinc. In a review in 575 people with the common cold, supplementing with more than 75 mg of zinc per day reduced the duration of the cold by 33%.
- Elderberry. One small review found that elderberry could reduce the symptoms of viral upper respiratory infections, but more research is needed.
- Echinacea. A study in over 700 people found that those who took echinacea recovered from colds slightly more quickly than those who received a placebo or no treatment, but the difference was insignificant.
- Garlic. A high quality, 12-week study in 146 people found that supplementing with garlic reduced the incidence of the common cold by about 30%. However, more research is needed.
While these supplements demonstrated potential in the studies mentioned above, that doesn't mean they're effective against COVID-19.
Furthermore, supplements are prone to mislabeling because they aren't regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Thus, you should only purchase supplements that have been independently tested by third-party organizations like United States Pharmacopeia (USP), NSF International, and ConsumerLab.
Though some supplements may fight viral infections, none have been proven to be effective against COVID-19. If you decide to supplement, make sure to purchase products that have been tested by a third party.
The Bottom Line
You can make several lifestyle and dietary changes today to strengthen your immune system.
These include reducing your sugar intake, staying hydrated, working out regularly, getting adequate sleep, and managing your stress levels.
Although none of these suggestions can prevent COVID-19, they may reinforce your body's defenses against harmful pathogens.
- 15 Supplements to Boost Your Immune System Right Now - EcoWatch ›
- 7 Impressive Ways Vitamin C Benefits Your Body - EcoWatch ›
- Blue Light and Sleep: What's the Connection? - EcoWatch ›
- Try These Six Underprescribed 'Medicines' for a Healthier Life ›
According to the National Eczema Foundation, roughly 31.6 million people have some form of eczema. The symptoms of this condition include itchiness, discoloration, and dry skin. In the past, harsh steroidal creams were the gold standard for eczema treatment. But there's got to be a more effective way to heal the skin, right?
Thankfully, we're out of the dark ages and into an all-natural era of skin care. Today, alternative therapies abound, including clinically-tested cannabis ointments and DIY home remedies like oatmeal baths.
What Is Eczema?
Eczema is a group of skin conditions that's characterized by itching, scaling, discoloration, dryness, and most of all, inflammation. Although it's possible to get eczema for the first time as an adult, it most commonly starts in childhood. Unfortunately, once eczema starts, it can be hard to control.
What Causes Eczema?
Eczema occurs when chronic skin inflammation prevents the corneal layer from shedding and renewing. A general "eczema" diagnosis can describe any type of dermatitis or unknown "itchy rash." However, researchers have identified the following distinct types:
- Atopic dermatitis (related to allergies and autoimmunity)
- Contact dermatitis (the skin's reaction to an irritant)
- Stasis dermatitis (eczema on the lower extremities)
- Seborrheic dermatitis (dry scalp)
- Neurodermatitis (thick, scaly skin from long-term itching/scratching)
- Nummular eczema (round lesions that leak fluid; usually caused by allergens)
- Dyshidrotic eczema (itchy blisters on the feet and hands; usually caused by allergens)
Eczema is most likely to develop in people with a compromised immune system or who have dry, sensitive skin. Extreme weather, genetics, stress, diet, poor gut health, and bacteria can also play a role.
In most cases, patients go through periods of intense flare-ups followed by periods of remission. During a flare, patients can experience the following symptoms of skin inflammation:
- Crusty patches
- Hypersensitivity to certain soaps and shampoos
- Deep cracks/cuts from extreme dryness (especially on the hands and feet)
Atopic eczema can be accompanied by other symptoms like asthma, fever, fatigue, difficulty sleeping, stress, and depression.
5 Best Natural Remedies for Eczema
In the war against eczema, inflammation is enemy #1. Here are the top five natural remedies to soothe inflammation and heal the skin barrier:
1. Anti-inflammatory Diet
Reducing inflammation and reversing eczema starts with the food you eat, especially when it comes to atopic dermatitis, which is rooted in an overactive immune system.
Eat more anti-inflammatory foods like:
- Omega-3 foods: the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA are powerful anti-inflammatory compounds that can reduce inflammation in the gut, joints, brain, and skin. The best natural sources of omega-3s are wild-caught salmon, sardines, and fish oil.
- High-fiber vegetables: produce like artichokes, raw garlic, broccoli, cauliflower, and dense leafy greens feed healthy gut bacteria and reduce intestinal inflammation.
- Probiotics: probiotics are living bacterial cultures that reinforce the gut lining and protect the bloodstream from inflammatory agents.
- Collagen: collagen supplements and bone broth can strengthen the skin matrix and rejuvenate damaged skin cells. It's also a powerful nutrient for healing the gut lining.
- Vitamin A-rich foods: yellow and orange vegetables like carrots are high in vitamin A and are great for skin health.
Avoid inflammatory foods like:
- Fried foods: canola and safflower oil from deep-fried foods promotes inflammation.
- Sugar: processed sugar feeds unhealthy gut bacteria and promotes inflammation throughout the body.
- Additives: additives in processed foods are known to exacerbate eczema.
- Dairy: products like cheese and milk are difficult to process and tend to promote inflammation, especially in people with autoimmune conditions.
- Gluten: removing gluten can improve autoimmune conditions like eczema.
2. Sun Exposure (Phototherapy)
Sun exposure and phototherapy are proven to calm inflammation and reduce itching. UVB spectrum light helps the skin fight bacteria, boosts vitamin D production, and may help prevent eczema flares.
Just 10-15 minutes of sunlight a day may be all it takes to mitigate symptoms and speed healing. One recent study found that 74.4% of patients had complete resolution of eczema symptoms during the sunny summer months.
3. Vitamin D
During winter in the Northern hemisphere, you might not have access to sunlight or phototherapy. That's unfortunate, because vitamin D3 deficiency can compromise the immune system and increase the risk of eczema. (5)
Luckily, you can still reduce the risk of eczema by supplementing with vitamin D.
Taking 2,000-5,000 IU of vitamin D3 daily can support the skin's natural ability to fight inflammation. Another option is to eat foods that contain vitamin D, like sardines, salmon, and cod liver oil, all of which are high in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids.
4. CBD Ointments and Creams
As cannabis and cannabinoid use becomes more common, the broad medicinal benefits of non-psychoactive CBD (cannabidiol) have been gaining widespread attention. New research also shows that it may deliver eczema relief to some patients.
For example, a 2019 publication in the medical journal Molecules confirms that "… cutaneous cannabinoid signaling is deeply involved in the maintenance of skin homeostasis, barrier formation and regeneration, and its dysregulation was implicated to contribute to several highly prevalent diseases and disorders, e.g., atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, scleroderma, acne…"
In other words, the skin contains natural receptor sites for phytocannabinoids like CBD, which at least partially explains its therapeutic potential.
Another 2019 study found that topical CBD ointment, without THC, had therapeutic effects in inflammatory skin conditions and cutaneous scars.
5. Therapeutic Oils
Moisturizing oils like coconut oil and essential oils like lavender and primrose are proven to reduce symptoms associated with eczema and protect the skin.
Primrose in particular contains high levels of gamma linolenic acid (GLA), which may account for its benefits in treating atopic dermatitis.
At the same time, lavender essential oil may help reduce the mental health conditions associated with eczema. For example, Harvard Medical School found that people with eczema have higher rates of anxiety and insomnia. They also exercise less and drink more alcohol.
Final Thought on Natural Anti-Itch Treatments
It's always important to exercise caution with natural remedies for eczema, especially when blisters leak and ooze. Although many of the above treatments have antibacterial properties, the risk of infection is always present. Be wary of excessive bathing and cool compresses because too much moisture can promote bacterial growth. Always consult with your dermatologist before trying new natural treatments.
CBD oil is one dietary supplement where "organic" labels are very important to consumers. Learn about the importance of organic hemp oil, why it's better for the environment, and which CBD companies actually make trustworthy products with sustainable farming processes. Use our curated list to find the best organic CBD oil that's better for you and the environment.
What is Organic CBD Oil?
CBD stands for cannabidiol, and it's one of the hundreds of cannabinoids found within cannabis sativa plants. This plant compound is believed to have many potential health and wellness benefits, including support for anxiety, stress, sleep, and chronic pain.
Since CBD is extracted from industrial hemp, it contains only trace amounts of THC (the psychoactive component in cannabis plants). Instead, the effects of CBD are much more subtle and promote a general sense of calm and relaxation in most users.
The most important (and prominent) certification for organic products comes from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). What exactly does this certification entail? Essentially, a label indicating that a product is "USDA Organic" or "Certified Organic" means that at least 95% of the ingredients are obtained from organic sources.
For hemp to be considered organic by the USDA, it must be grown without the use of industrial solvents, irradiation, genetic engineering (GMOs), synthetic pesticides, or chemical fertilizer. Instead, farmers rely on natural substances and mechanical, physical, or biologically based farming techniques to cultivate healthy and organic crops.
Choosing an organic CBD oil without additives is important because it indicates that a product is both safe to use and better for the environment. CBD extracted from an organic hemp plant is more likely to be free from pesticides, heavy metals, and other harmful toxins. This allows you to enjoy the benefits of the plant extract without worrying about any additional and unwanted compounds. Organic CBD is also a better choice for the environment, as it is grown using more sustainable farming practices that help preserve and protect land and water resources.
Our Top Organic CBD Oils
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. You can learn more about our review methodology here. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
- Best Overall Organic - Spruce Lab Grade CBD Oil
- Best Organic Full Spectrum - Charlotte's Web Original Formula
- Best USDA Organic - Cornbread Hemp Whole Flower CBD Oil
- Best Organic Flavor - R+R Medicinals Fresh Mint CBD Tincture
- Best Organic Broad Spectrum - Joy Organics CBD Oil
- Best Organic CBD for Stress - Plant People Drops+ Mind + Body
- Best Organic CBD for Sleep - NuLeaf Naturals CBD Oil
- Best Organic Satisfaction Guarantee - CBDistillery Relief + Relax
How We Chose the Best Organic CBD Oils
To create our list of the best organic CBD oil, we compared brands and products on a number of different criteria. These included:
- Hemp Source - We chose brands that use organic hemp grown in the U.S. and that follow natural and organic farming practices.
- Natural Ingredients - Each of the products on our list were examined to see if they used organic and natural ingredients for things like flavoring and carrier oils.
- Strengths - We looked for organic CBD oils that provide different concentrations of CBD to choose from, depending on your needs.
- Lab Testing - All of the CBD products we recommend must undergo independent third-party lab testing and provide access to those results.
- Certifications - In addition to USDA organic certification, we also looked for seals from the U.S. Hemp Authority, U.S. Hemp Roundtable, B-Corp, and other industry standards.
A note about USDA organic certification: before the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, no hemp-derived products could be dubbed as "certified organic" as the hemp plant and its extracts were still categorized as a Schedule I Controlled Substance.
Due to the fact that industrial hemp has only recently become an agricultural crop, very few CBD oils are USDA certified organic. Many CBD products contain hemp extracts from plants that were grown organically, but may not be federally certified yet. Where necessary, we researched each brand's growing and harvesting practices to determine if they follow organic and natural cultivation methods, even if they are not fully certified by the USDA.
8 Best Organic CBD Oils of 2021
Best Overall: Spruce Lab Grade CBD Oil
Spruce CBD is well-known for its potent full spectrum CBD oils that provide many of the additional beneficial phytocannabinoids found in hemp. This brand works with two family-owned, sustainably focused farms in the USA (one located in Kentucky and one in North Carolina) to create its organic, small product batches. This tincture contains 750mg of CBD, but they also offer a max potency Spruce CBD oil that contains 2400mg of full-spectrum CBD extract.
- CBD - Full Spectrum
- Strength - 25 mg CBD per serving
- Source - North Carolina and Kentucky
Best Full Spectrum: Charlotte's Web Original Formula
One of the most well-known brands in the CBD landscape, Charlotte's Web has been growing sustainable hemp plants for years. The company is currently in the process of achieving USDA Organic Certification, but it already practices organic and sustainable cultivation techniques to enhance the overall health of the soil and the hemp plants themselves, which creates some of the highest quality CBD extracts.
- CBD - Full Spectrum
- Strength - 50 mg CBD per serving
- Source - Colorado
Why buy: Charlotte's Web offers CBD oils in a range of different concentration options, and some even come in a few flavors like chocolate mint, orange blossom, and lemon twist. We love Charlotte's Web Original Original Formula because it is made with U.S. Hemp Authority Certified CBD and organic extra virgin olive oil.
Best USDA Organic: Cornbread Hemp Whole Flower CBD Oil
Cornbread Hemp Whole Flower CBD Oil uses USDA organic hemp grown on Kentucky farms and USDA organic MCT coconut oil. What makes Cornbread Hemp unique is that they only use hemp flower to create their CBD extract, resulting in a cleaner, purer product. Vegan and non-GMO, this organic CBD oil provides all of the secondary cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids of hemp without any preservatives, flavorings, seeds, or stems.
- CBD - Full Spectrum
- Strength - 50 mg CBD per serving
- Source - Kentucky
Why buy: We love Cornbread Hemp Whole Flower CBD oil because it is made using USDA certified organic hemp flowers to create a top-notch CBD oil packed with beneficial plant compounds. Use this oil in the evening to relax and to help you fall asleep.
Best Organic Flavor: R+R Medicinals Fresh Mint CBD Tincture
R+R Medicinals Organic Full Spectrum Hemp Extract comes in a great introductory strength for new CBD users and a delicious fresh mint flavor. Made with organic full spectrum hemp extract, organic MCT coconut oil, and organic mint flavoring, this CBD oil is USDA certified organic for a product you can trust. It also contains over 2 mg of the secondary cannabinoids, like CBC, CBG, THC, CBN, and CBDv, that can help provide the fullest effect.
- CBD - Full Spectrum
- Strength - 16.67 mg CBD per serving
- Source - Colorado
Best Organic Broad Spectrum: Joy Organics CBD Oil
For those concerned about THC, Joy Organics CBD oil makes a great option. This formula is USDA certified organic and is made with organic broad spectrum hemp extract and organic olive oil for a natural, THC-free product. It's also certified by the U.S. Hemp Roundtable and third-party lab tested for purity. If you prefer, you can also find Joy Organics CBD Oil in several additional flavors, including Tranquil Mint, Summer Lemon, and Orange Bliss.
- CBD - Broad Spectrum
- Strength - 30 mg CBD per serving
- Source - Colorado
Best Organic CBD for Stress: Plant People Drops+ Mind + Body
Plant People Drops+ Mind + Body CBD oil offers an organic, natural supplement that could help support your body's response to stress and inflammation. USDA certified organic, non-GMO, vegan, and gluten-free, this CBD oil is also doctor-formulated using 100% organic hemp grown in Colorado. It can provide 21 mg of cannabinoids like CBD, CBL, and CBG per serving. Plus, Plant People is a certified B-corp and certified Climate Neutral as they plant a tree for every sale.
- CBD - Full Spectrum
- Strength - 21 mg CBD per serving
- Source - Colorado
Why buy: We love Plant People Drops+ Mind + Body formula because it provides a doctor-formulated and USDA organic way to help you manage stress and inflammation while promoting overall wellness. We especially like that the brand is Climate Neutral certified, making this organic CBD oil good for you and the earth.
Best Organic CBD for Sleep: NuLeaf Naturals CBD Oil
NuLeaf Naturals sources its CBD extract from organic hemp plants grown on licensed farms in Colorado. Their CBD oils contain only two ingredients: USDA certified organic hemp seed oil and full spectrum hemp extract. NuLeaf Naturals uses the same proprietary CBD oil formula for all of its products, so you get the same CBD potency in every tincture (30 mg per mL), but can purchase different bottle sizes depending on your needs.
- CBD - Full Spectrum
- Strength - 30 mg CBD per serving
- Source - Colorado
Why buy: We love NuLeaf Naturals CBD oil because of its simplicity. With only two ingredients and one consistent strength, this oil makes it easy to know exactly what is in it and how much CBD you will get with each serving. Take NuLeaf Naturals CBD oil in the evenings to relax and enjoy a full night's sleep.
Best Organic Satisfaction Guarantee: CBDistillery Relief + Relax
All CBDistillery products use non-GMO and pesticide-free industrial hemp that's grown using natural farming practices on Colorado farms. Their hemp oils are some of the most affordable CBD products on the market, yet they still maintain a high standard of quality. CBDistillery has a wide variety of CBD potencies across its product line. We also love that they offer a 60 day money back guarantee so that you can try their CBD oil risk free.
- CBD - Full Spectrum
- Strength - 33 mg CBD per serving
- Source - Colorado
Why buy: We recommend CBDistillery Relief + Relax CBD oil as a great way to start your day and promote a sense of calm and wellness throughout. The brand is certified by the U.S. Hemp Authority, the U.S. Hemp Roundtable, and the National Hemp Association for their natural, reliable CBD extracts.
The Research on Organic Hemp Oil
What does the science say about organic CBD oil? There is evidence that CBD can help for certain conditions, specifically things like anxiety, sleeplessness, and pain. In fact, CBD taken for anxiety may have fewer side effects than certain prescription anxiety medications. However, as hemp and CBD remain unregulated by the Food and Drug Administration, it is vitally important to do your research and choose high-quality and safe products.
Using organic CBD oil is an easy way to help ensure that you can enjoy the health and wellness benefits of CBD while avoiding any potential toxins or synthetic chemicals.
Hemp is a unique plant, not only for its rich cannabinoid content, but because it is a bioaccumulator, and has the ability to absorb a wide variety of components in the soil. This trait means that hemp can help the environment through the remediation of green spaces, but it poses great risks when it comes to the creation of CBD products derived from hemp.
Because hemp has a high capacity for compound uptake, this means that the plants can retain harmful chemicals like pesticides, heavy metals, and other residual solvents. This is especially true when it comes to synthetic chemicals that are more toxic to humans, and difficult to remove once they have been absorbed by the hemp plant.
Organic farming practices help reduce the risk of hemp crops absorbing harsh chemicals that may later end up in CBD oil after extraction. When you're taking CBD as a wellness supplement to help alleviate your symptoms or improve your overall well-being, the last thing you want is to ingest compounds that might negatively outweigh the benefits of CBD. This is an important reason to look for third party lab test results when shopping for CBD products since these certificates of analysis can show the full cannabinoid and terpene profile of a hemp extract, as well as test results that search for the presence of any residual solvents. If you choose a non-organic CBD oil, you will need to rely even more on the independent lab test results to make sure the product is safe.
In addition to creating a better end product, organic farming practices are also better for the environment. Sustainable and organic farming methods may reduce pollution, conserve water, reduce soil erosion, increase soil fertility, and use less energy. The use of natural pest deterrents as opposed to chemical pesticides is also better for nearby animal populations and ecosystems.
How to Choose CBD Oil for You
When shopping for an organic CBD oil, you can look for certain key ingredients and certifications to find the best options. Here are some tips on how to compare and choose the right organic CBD oil.
What to Look For
Start by looking for the following pieces of information when considering any CBD product:
Make sure you know if the product uses full spectrum, broad spectrum, or CBD isolate hemp extract. Full spectrum CBD contains all of the natural phytocannabinoids, terpenes, and fatty acids found in the hemp plant, including THC. This may produce a fuller result through the entourage effect. However, if you are concerned about THC, or are subject to a drug test, broad spectrum and CBD isolate products offer a great alternative.
Always check to see how much CBD the product contains. This is measured in milligrams per container and milligrams per serving. A single serving for CBD oil is typically 1 mL, and most brands offer recommendations for measuring and dosages.
The source of the hemp used to extract CBD is vitally important. We recommend choosing brands that use organic and naturally-grown hemp raised in the U.S.A. for safety standards. This is the quickest way to ensure that the CBD itself is pure and free from pesticides or other harmful compounds.
We only recommend CBD oils and products that are subject to independent third-party lab testing. This is a crucial step that verifies both the safety and purity of the oil as well as the potency of the CBD per serving. Look for brands that give you easy access to the lab test results for every product they sell.
How to Read Labels
Here are the primary things to look for when reading the label on a CBD oil or product:
- Type of CBD - The label should clearly state whether the product contains full spectrum, broad spectrum, or CBD isolate hemp extract. If it is broad spectrum or isolate, look for a mark that tells you it is "THC-free."
- Certifications - Certain brands will include seals of approval to show that their product is USDA-certified organic, non-GMO, made in the U.S.A., or U.S. Hemp Authority certified.
- Other Ingredients - Check the ingredients list for anything in the product besides the CBD extract. This typically includes a carrier oil, like MCT or hemp seed oil, but can also include flavorings or botanicals. Make sure they are all-natural and that you are not allergic to any of them.
- Test Results - Most brands include a QR code on the packaging or the label of their CBD product that you can scan to view the third-party test results. This is a key way to know if a brand is trustworthy and whether their CBD is safe to use.
How to Use
Organic CBD oil is used just like any other CBD oil tincture, and is primarily ingested using a dropper to measure out the correct dose. Many brands recommend that you take the CBD oil sublingually by placing the CBD tincture under your tongue for 30 seconds or so before swallowing to aid in absorption. You can also add CBD to food and beverages, though some argue that this lessens the effect.
Some of the most common wellness advantages that people seek from organic CBD include:
- Chronic pain relief
- Anti-anxiety effects
- Better sleep
- Improvements in mood
- Internal balance and regulation
If you take organic CBD for help with sleep, take the recommended amount about an hour before bed. If you are taking it for anxiety, you can take one dose in the morning and another in the evening to help promote a sense of calm throughout the day. As with all CBD products, we recommend that you start with a lower dose and gradually increase it to achieve the desired effects rather than starting with a high dose.
Safety and Side Effects
CBD, while generally well-tolerated and safe for adults, can produce side effects in certain people. These are generally very mild, but can include things like nausea, diarrhea, fatigue, and irritability. CBD may also interact with certain prescription drugs, especially blood thinners and statins. If you take a prescription medication, be sure to consult with your doctor before starting CBD.
CBD has the potential to help with a number of health and wellness concerns, especially anxiety, insomnia, and chronic pain. To make sure that you choose the right option, go with the best organic CBD oil without additives from a brand you trust. Use our list to help you get started and find the natural relief you need.
Melena Gurganus is the Reviews Editor at EcoWatch. She is passionate health and wellness and her writing aims to help others find products they can trust. Her work has been featured in publications such as Health, Shape, Huffington Post, Cannabis Business Times, and Bustle.
By Sharon O'Brien
Dietary fiber is the carbohydrate in plants that your body cannot digest.
Though it's essential to your gut and overall health, most people don't reach the recommended daily amounts (RDA) of 25 and 38 grams for women and men, respectively.
Both soluble and insoluble fiber help bulk up your stools and can be used as a food source for good bacteria in your large intestine.
Soluble fiber draws water into your gut, which softens your stools and supports regular bowel movements.
It not only helps you feel fuller and reduces constipation but may also lower your cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
Here are 20 healthy foods that are high in soluble fiber.
1. Black Beans
Black beans are not only a great way to give your dishes a meaty texture but also an amazing source of fiber.
One cup (172 grams) packs 15 grams, which is about what an average person consumes per day, or 40–60% of the RDA for adults.
Black beans contain pectin, a form of soluble fiber that becomes gummy-like in water. This can delay stomach emptying and make you feel fuller longer, giving your body more time to absorb nutrients.
Soluble fiber content: 5.4 grams per three-quarter cup (129 grams) of cooked black beans.
2. Lima Beans
Lima beans, also known as butter beans, are large, flat, greenish-white beans.
They mainly contain carbs and protein, as well as a little fat.
They're lower in total dietary fiber than black beans, but their soluble fiber content is almost identical. Lima beans also contain the soluble fiber pectin, which is associated with reduced blood sugar spikes after meals.
Soluble fiber content: 5.3 grams per three-quarter cup (128 grams) of lima beans.
3. Brussels Sprouts
The world may be divided into Brussels sprout lovers and haters, but whatever side you're on, it's undeniable that this vegetable is packed with vitamins and minerals, along with various cancer-fighting agents.
What's more, Brussels sprouts are a great source of fiber, with 4 grams per cup (156 grams).
The soluble fiber in Brussels sprouts can be used to feed beneficial gut bacteria. These produce vitamin K and B vitamins, along with short-chain fatty acids that support your gut lining.
Soluble fiber content: 2 grams per one-half cup (78 grams) of Brussels sprouts.
Avocados originate from Mexico but have gained popularity worldwide.
Haas avocados are the most common type. They're an excellent source of monounsaturated fats, potassium, vitamin E, and dietary fiber.
One avocado packs 13.5 grams of dietary fiber. However, one serving — or one-third of the fruit — provides about 4.5 grams, 1.4 of which are soluble.
Rich in both soluble and insoluble fiber, avocados really stand out in this regard.
5. Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are high in potassium, beta carotene, B vitamins, and fiber. Just one medium-sized sweet potato packs over 400% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) of vitamin A.
Therefore, sweet potatoes can contribute significantly to your total soluble fiber intake.
Soluble fiber content: 1.8 grams per one-half cup (150 grams) of cooked sweet potato.
Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable that grows well in cool seasons. It's usually dark green, but you can also find purple varieties.
The high amount of soluble fiber in broccoli can support your gut health by feeding the good bacteria in your large intestine. These bacteria produce beneficial short-chain fatty acids, such as butyrate and acetate.
Turnips are root vegetables. Larger varieties are usually fed to livestock, but the smaller types are a great addition to your diet.
Soluble fiber content: 1.7 grams per one-half cup (82 grams) of cooked turnips.
Pears are crisp and refreshing and serve as a decent source of vitamin C, potassium, and various antioxidants.
Due to their high fructose and sorbitol contents, pears can sometimes have a laxative effect. If you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), you may need to moderate your intake.
Soluble fiber content: 1.5 grams per medium-sized pear.
9. Kidney Beans
Their characteristic shape gave kidney beans their name.
Kidney beans are a good source of soluble fiber, particularly pectin.
However, some people find beans hard to digest. If that's the case for you, start increasing your kidney bean intake slowly to avoid bloating.
Figs were one of the first cultivated plants in human history.
They're highly nutritious, containing calcium, magnesium, potassium, B vitamins, and other nutrients.
Both dried and fresh figs are great sources of soluble fiber, which slows the movement of food through your intestines, allowing more time for nutrient absorption.
Based on anecdotal evidence, dried figs have been used as a home remedy to relieve constipation for years. While one study found that fig paste improved bowel movements in constipated dogs, human-based research is lacking.
Soluble fiber content: 1.9 grams per one-fourth cup (37 grams) of dried figs.
Nectarines are stone fruits that grow in warm, temperate regions. They're similar to peaches, but don't have the same characteristic fuzzy skin.
Apricots are small, sweet fruits that range in color from yellow to orange, with the occasional red tinge.
Carrots are one of the most popular and tasty vegetables on Earth.
Boiled or steamed, carrots are a key ingredient in many recipes, but they can also be grated into salads or used to make desserts like carrot cake.
With good reason, you may have been told as a child to eat carrots to help you see in the dark.
Carrots are packed with beta carotene, some of which is converted into vitamin A. This vitamin supports your eyes and is particularly important for night vision.
One cup (128 grams) of chopped carrots contains 4.6 grams of dietary fiber, 2.4 of which are soluble.
Since many people enjoy this vegetable daily, it can be a key source of soluble fiber.
Apples are one of the most commonly eaten fruits in the world. Most varieties are quite sweet, but others like Granny Smith can be very sour.
"An apple a day keeps the doctor away" is an old proverb that may have some truth, as eating this fruit is associated with a lower risk of many chronic diseases.
Apples pack various vitamins and minerals and are a good source of the soluble fiber pectin. Apple pectin may have many health benefits, such as a reduced risk of heart disease and improved gut function.
Guavas are a tropical fruit native to Mexico and Central and South America. Their skin is typically green, while the pulp can range from off-white to deep-pink.
This fruit has been shown to reduce blood sugar, as well as total cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels in healthy people. In part, this may be due to the soluble fiber pectin, which can delay the absorption of sugar.
16. Flax Seeds
Flax seeds, also known as linseeds, are tiny brown, yellow, or golden seeds.
They pack a nutritious punch and can be a great way to improve the nutrient content of your smoothies, breads, or cereals.
Sprinkling 1 tablespoon of ground flax seeds over your porridge can add an extra 3.5 grams of fiber and 2 grams of protein to your breakfast. They're also one of the best plant-based sources of omega-3 fats.
If possible, soak ground flax seeds overnight, as this allows their soluble fiber to combine with water to form a gel, which may aid digestion.
Soluble fiber content: 0.6–1.2 grams per tablespoon (14 grams) of whole flax seeds.
17. Sunflower Seeds
Sunflower seeds are a great nutritious snack and often purchased already shelled to reveal the tasty sunflower heart.
They contain about 3 grams of dietary fiber per one-fourth cup, 1 gram of which is soluble. What's more, they're rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, protein, magnesium, selenium, and iron.
Hazelnuts are a delicious type of nut that can be eaten raw or roasted for a stronger flavor. They're also often used as an ingredient in chocolate bars and spreads.
Partly due to their soluble fiber content, hazelnuts may help reduce your risk of heart disease by lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol.
Oats are one of the most versatile and healthy grains around. You can use them to make breakfast cereals, breads, scones, flapjacks, or fruit crumbles.
They contain beta glucan, a form of soluble fiber that's associated with reduced LDL (bad) cholesterol and improved blood sugar control. It's estimated that 3 grams of oat beta glucan per day can reduce your risk of heart disease.
About 1.25 cups (100 grams) of dry oats contain 10 grams of total dietary fiber. This is divided into 5.8 grams of insoluble and 4.2 grams of soluble fiber, 3.6 of which are beta glucan.
Beta glucan is also what gives porridge its characteristic creamy texture.
Some people may associate barley with the brewing industry, but this nutritious ancient grain is also often used to thicken soups, stews, or risottos.
Like oats, it contains about 3.5–5.9% of the soluble fiber beta glucan, which has been shown to reduce your risk of heart disease.
Other forms of soluble fiber in barley are psyllium, pectin, and guar gum.
The Bottom Line
Soluble fiber is great for your gut and overall health, reducing your risk of heart disease by lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol and helping you balance your blood sugar levels.
If you want to increase your soluble fiber intake, it's often best to start slowly and build it up gradually.
It's also a good idea to drink plenty of water. This will help the soluble fiber form a gel, which aids digestion and prevents constipation.
All fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes contain some soluble fiber, but certain foods like Brussels sprouts, avocados, flax seeds, and black beans are the cream of the crop.
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By Zulfikar Abbany
How do you whittle down the 200 billion in our Milky Way galaxy to a mere 21? Focus on the ones that have changed human understanding of the universe, as astronomer Giles Sparrow told DW.
DW: Let's start with the basics: We often talk about stars in the night sky as though we could reach up and touch them. But even the nearest star to Earth is beyond our solar system — within our galaxy, the Milky Way, but almost too far to comprehend. When in writing your book A History of the Universe in 21 Stars (and 3 imposters), have you found a tangible way for non-astronomers to understand what we're talking about?
Giles Sparrow: The most intuitive way of approaching it is first to understand that light is the fastest thing in the universe, and it travels at 300,000 kilometers a second. And so light from the moon takes about a second-and-a-half to reach Earth. When we sent astronauts to the moon, radio signals took about that time to reach the Earth as well.
If you compare that to objects at the edge of the solar system, you know, light may take a few hours to reach the Earth. Then the very nearest star, Proxima Centauri: Light from that star takes four years and three months to reach us.
So, I think, that gives you some idea of the scale. As for the rest of the universe, within the Milky Way, you're talking about many thousands of years for light to reach us on Earth, and from distant galaxies it takes millions of years.
It certainly does put things into perspective, if we think that sending humans to the next planet from the sun, Mars, is hard enough. Yet these stars have contributed to our life on Earth. Is that what fascinates you about them, that distance?
Illustration: Betelgeuse in "A History of the Universe in 21 Stars" by Giles Sparrow — a star big enough to turn supernova and explode.
It is fascinating. Unlike other forms of science, where you can chop things up or do experiments in a lab, with astronomy the only thing that we really have, apart from the occasional asteroid or meteorite that falls to Earth, is light and other radiations that have crossed all of this space.
Then, we pick them up with our telescopes on Earth and reconstruct the information. It often ends up being this amazing exercise in lateral thinking, because these things are physically so far beyond our reach.
Illustration: Polaris and its constellation from "A History of the Universe in 21 Stars" by Giles Sparrow.
But that does raise the question: how reliable is our science on stars? We're talking about 21 stars in your book out of how many billions…
About 200 billion stars in the Milky Way, and about as many galaxies in the observable universe as there are stars in the Milky Way. And that's only the observable universe, which is the area that light has had time to reach us since the Big Bang. The entire universe probably stretches far, far beyond that. And it's expanding.
Illustration: Our sun is just one of 200 billion (and counting) stars.
The scientific method is a matter of making increasingly good approximations to whatever reality is. And sometimes you get big things that come along and upset all the previous thinking, like Einstein's theories of relativity a century ago. So, yes, there are unanswered questions. But it feels like we understand the general principles pretty well and we've demonstrated them in nuclear fusion and experiments on Earth.
Now, you've narrowed down these billions upon billions of stars to just 21. What's the thinking there?
Well, the 21 stars form an overview of all the different aspects of the science, the stars that have been critical to our understanding of astronomy and its history. So, for instance, there's 61 Cygni, which is this obscure star in the constellation of a swan. It was the first star for which we worked out its distance. That was one of those lateral thinking tricks.
Illustration: 61 Cygni and its constellation from "A History of the Universe in 21 Stars" by Giles Sparrow.
You know how things appear to be in a slightly different position or direction when you look at them with one eye and then the other — the idea of parallax. Well, people had pointed out that if the Earth was going around the sun, why weren't we seeing the stars shifting their positions?
And the reason for that was that the stars were vastly farther away than anyone had thought. It took a couple of hundred years before telescopes and measuring technology had advanced to the point where they could finally measure that distance. But that was the first step towards our working out the distances for other objects.
Illustration: Helvetios from "A History of the Universe in 21 Stars" by Giles Sparrow.
Then, a much more recent thing, we've got a star called Helvetios. That was the first star, where we found planets, eight of them, orbiting around it.
And the 3 imposters, what's up with them?
To tell the entire story, you need to go beyond the stars. And the imposters were first mistaken for the stars.
Illustration: Omega Centauri from "A History of the Universe in 21 Stars" by Giles Sparrow.
For instance, Omega Centauri, which is this enormous globular cluster, a huge spherical ball of stars, orbiting around the Milky Way. That was classed as a star when they first catalogued it and the Andromeda Galaxy was seen as a star.
Then there's the first quasar, which means quasi-stellar object. They found this obscure star, giving off strange radio signals, relatively nearby. They realized it was this distant galaxy, billions of light years away, shining with such intense light that we could see it.
Long story, short: Supernova 1994D has helped scientists realize that the expansion of the universe is accelerating, not slowing.
And how do you feel about the idea of travelling to these distant locations? Is it worth it?
From a purely scientific point of view, you'd say: "Yes". If it was just about looking at the stars, then you're always going to come up against this problem that we have within our own solar system — when we send probes to investigate our own sun — they're staying quite a safe distance from it. You can't get within a few million kilometers without burning up your spacecraft.
On the other hand, we know, for instance, that Proxima Centauri, that first star close to Earth, has at least one planet orbiting it. And opinions differ, but it's in the right area for it to be potentially habitable. But we think that Proxima might be too unstable for that because it's giving off these very harsh stellar flares.
The prospect of investigating other solar systems is very enticing, though. Whether we do that using robot space probes and an awful lot of patience, or whether we find some way, whether it be suspended animation or warp drives, or any of these science fiction-ish ideas, which do have some scientific merit, that would be quite an adventure.
Reposted with permission from Deutsche Welle.
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Also known as nutraceuticals, functional foods are highly nutritious and associated with a number of powerful health benefits. For example, they may protect against disease, prevent nutrient deficiencies, and promote proper growth and development.
This article looks at the definition, benefits, and potential uses of functional foods.
What are Functional Foods?
Functional foods are ingredients that offer health benefits that extend beyond their nutritional value. Some types contain supplements or other additional ingredients designed to improve health.
The concept originated in Japan in the 1980s when government agencies started approving foods with proven benefits in an effort to better the health of the general population.
Some examples include foods fortified with vitamins, minerals, probiotics, or fiber. Nutrient-rich ingredients like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and grains are often considered functional foods as well.
Oats, for instance, contain a type of fiber called beta glucan, which has been shown to reduce inflammation, enhance immune function, and improve heart health.
Similarly, fruits and vegetables are packed with antioxidants, which are beneficial compounds that help protect against disease.
Functional foods are foods that offer health benefits beyond their nutritional value. In addition to nutrient-rich ingredients like fruits and veggies, the category also includes foods fortified with vitamins, minerals, probiotics, and fiber.
Examples of Functional Foods
Conventional foods are natural, whole-food ingredients that are rich in important nutrients like vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and heart-healthy fats.
Meanwhile, modified foods have been fortified with additional ingredients, such as vitamins, minerals, probiotics, or fiber, to increase a food's health benefits.
Here are some examples of conventional functional foods:
- Fruits: berries, kiwi, pears, peaches, apples, oranges, bananas
- Vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, kale, spinach, zucchini
- Nuts: almonds, cashews, pistachios, macadamia nuts, Brazil nuts
- Seeds: chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds
- Legumes: black beans, chickpeas, navy beans, lentils
- Whole grains: oats, barley, buckwheat, brown rice, couscous
- Seafood: salmon, sardines, anchovies, mackerel, cod
- Fermented foods: tempeh, kombucha, kimchi, kefir, sauerkraut
- Herbs and spices: turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, cayenne pepper
- Beverages: coffee, green tea, black tea
Here are some examples of modified functional foods:
- fortified juices
- fortified dairy products, such as milk and yogurt
- fortified milk alternatives, such as almond, rice, coconut, and cashew milk
- fortified grains, such as bread and pasta
- fortified cereal and granola
- fortified eggs
Nutrient-rich foods like fruits, veggies, and legumes are often considered functional foods, along with fortified foods like juice, eggs, and cereal.
Functional foods are associated with several potential health benefits.
May Prevent Nutrient Deficiencies
Functional foods are typically high in important nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, and fiber.
Filling your diet with a variety of functional foods — including both conventional and fortified foods — can help ensure you get the nutrients you need and protect against nutrient deficiencies.
In fact, since the introduction of fortified foods, the prevalence of nutrient deficiencies has significantly decreased around the globe.
For instance, after iron-fortified wheat flour was introduced in Jordan, rates of iron deficiency anemia among children were nearly cut in half.
Fortification has also been used to prevent other conditions caused by nutrient deficiencies, including rickets, goiter, and birth defects.
May Protect Against Disease
Functional foods provide important nutrients that can help protect against disease.
Many are especially rich in antioxidants. These molecules help neutralize harmful compounds known as free radicals, helping prevent cell damage and certain chronic conditions, including heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.
Some functional foods are also high in omega-3 fatty acids, a healthy type of fat shown to reduce inflammation, boost brain function, and promote heart health.
Other types are rich in fiber, which can promote better blood sugar control and protect against conditions like diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and stroke. Fiber may also help prevent digestive disorders, including diverticulitis, stomach ulcers, hemorrhoids, and acid reflux.
May Promote Proper Growth and Development
Certain nutrients are essential to proper growth and development in infants and children.
Enjoying a wide range of nutrient-rich functional foods as part of a healthy diet can help ensure that nutritional needs are met. In addition, it can be beneficial to include foods that are fortified with specific nutrients that are important for growth and development.
For example, cereals, grains, and flours are often fortified with B vitamins like folic acid, which is essential for fetal health.
Low levels of folic acid can increase the risk of neural tube defects, which can affect the brain, spinal cord, or spine. It's estimated that increasing the consumption of folic acid could decrease the prevalence of neural tube defects by 50–70%.
Other nutrients commonly found in functional foods also play key roles in growth and development, including omega-3 fatty acids, iron, zinc, calcium, and vitamin B12.
Functional foods may help prevent nutrient deficiencies, protect against disease, and promote proper growth and development.
A well-rounded, healthy diet should be rich in a variety of functional foods, including nutrient-rich whole foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.
These foods not only supply your body with the vitamins and minerals it needs but also support overall health.
Modified, fortified functional foods can also fit into a balanced diet. In fact, they can help fill any gaps in your diet to prevent nutrient deficiencies, as well as enhance health by boosting your intake of important nutrients like vitamins, minerals, fiber, heart-healthy fats, or probiotics.
Functional foods can be used to boost your intake of important nutrients, fill any gaps in your diet, and support overall health.
The Bottom Line
Functional foods are a category of food associated with several powerful health benefits.
They can not only prevent nutrient deficiencies but also protect against disease and promote proper growth and development.
In addition to enjoying a variety of healthy whole foods, you can include more fortified foods in your diet to fill any nutritional gaps and support better health.
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Surprisingly, the way you cook your food has a major effect on the amount of nutrients it contains.
This article explores how various cooking methods affect the nutrient content of foods.
Nutrient Content is Often Altered During Cooking
Cooking food improves digestion and increases the absorption of many nutrients.
For example, the protein in cooked eggs is 180% more digestible than that of raw eggs.
However, some cooking methods reduce several key nutrients.
The following nutrients are often reduced during cooking:
- water-soluble vitamins: vitamin C and the B vitamins — thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxine (B6), folic acid (B9), and cobalamin (B12)
- fat-soluble vitamins: vitamins A, D, E, and K
- minerals: primarily potassium, magnesium, sodium, and calcium
Although cooking improves digestion and the absorption of many nutrients, it may reduce levels of some vitamins and minerals.
Boiling, Simmering, and Poaching
Boiling, simmering, and poaching are similar methods of water-based cooking.
These techniques differ by water temperature:
- poaching: less than 180°F (82°C)
- simmering: 185–200°F (85–93°C)
- boiling: 212°F (100°C)
Vegetables are generally a great source of vitamin C, but a large amount of it is lost when they're cooked in water.
In fact, boiling reduces vitamin C content more than any other cooking method. Broccoli, spinach, and lettuce may lose up to 50% or more of their vitamin C when boiled.
Because vitamin C is water-soluble and sensitive to heat, it can leach out of vegetables when they're immersed in hot water.
B vitamins are similarly heat sensitive. Up to 60% of thiamine, niacin, and other B vitamins may be lost when meat is simmered and its juices run off.
On the other hand, boiling fish was shown to preserve omega-3 fatty acid content significantly more than frying or microwaving.
While water-based cooking methods cause the greatest losses of water-soluble vitamins, they have very little effect on omega-3 fats.
Grilling and Broiling
Grilling and broiling are similar methods of cooking with dry heat.
When grilling, the heat source comes from below, but when broiling, it comes from above.
Grilling is one of the most popular cooking methods because of the great flavor it gives food.
There are also concerns about polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are potentially cancer-causing substances that form when meat is grilled and fat drips onto a hot surface.
However, researchers have found that PAHs can be decreased by 41–89% if drippings are removed and smoke is minimized.
Grilling and broiling provide great flavor but also reduce levels of B vitamins. Also, grilling generates potentially cancer-causing substances.
Microwaving is an easy, convenient, and safe method of cooking.
Short cooking times and reduced exposure to heat preserve the nutrients in microwaved food.
In fact, studies have found that microwaving is the best method for retaining the antioxidant activity of garlic and mushrooms.
Microwaving is a safe cooking method that preserves most nutrients due to short cooking times.
Roasting and Baking
Roasting and baking refer to cooking food in an oven with dry heat.
Although these terms are somewhat interchangeable, roasting is typically used for meat while baking is used for bread, muffins, cake, and similar foods.
Most vitamin losses are minimal with this cooking method, including vitamin C.
Roasting or baking does not have a significant effect on most vitamins and minerals, except for B vitamins.
Sautéing and Stir-Frying
With sautéing and stir-frying, food is cooked in a saucepan over medium to high heat in a small amount of oil or butter.
These techniques are very similar, but with stir-frying, the food is stirred often, the temperature is higher, and the cooking time is shorter.
In general, this is a healthy way to prepare food.
Cooking for a short time without water prevents the loss of B vitamins, and the addition of fat improves the absorption of plant compounds and antioxidants.
One study found that the absorption of beta carotene was 6.5 times greater in stir-fried carrots than in raw ones.
In another study, blood lycopene levels increased 80% more when people consumed tomatoes sautéed in olive oil rather than without it.
On the other hand, stir-frying has been shown to significantly reduce the amount of vitamin C in broccoli and red cabbage.
Sautéing and stir-frying improve the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and some plant compounds, but they decrease the amount of vitamin C in vegetables.
Frying involves cooking food in a large amount of fat — usually oil — at a high temperature. The food is often coated with batter or bread crumbs.
It's a popular way of preparing food because the skin or coating maintains a seal, which ensures that the inside remains moist and cooks evenly.
The fat used for frying also makes the food taste very good.
However, not all foods are appropriate for frying.
Fatty fish are the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which have many health benefits. However, these fats are very delicate and prone to damage at high temperatures.
For example, frying tuna has been shown to degrade its omega-3 content by up to 70–85%, while baking causes only minimal losses.
In contrast, frying preserves vitamin C and B vitamins, and it may also increase the amount of fiber in potatoes by converting their starch into resistant starch.
When oil is heated to a high temperature for a long period of time, toxic substances called aldehydes are formed. Aldehydes have been linked to an increased risk of cancer and other diseases.
The type of oil, temperature, and length of cooking time affect the amount of aldehydes produced. Reheating oil also increases aldehyde formation.
If you're going to fry food, don't overcook it, and use one of the healthiest oils for frying.
Frying makes food taste delicious, and it can provide some benefits when healthy oils are used. It's best to avoid frying fatty fish and minimize the frying time of other foods.
Steaming is one of the best cooking methods for preserving nutrients, including water-soluble vitamins, which are sensitive to heat and water.
Researchers have found that steaming broccoli, spinach, and lettuce reduces their vitamin C content by only 9–15%.
The downside is that steamed vegetables may taste bland. However, this is easy to remedy by adding some seasoning and oil or butter after cooking.
Steaming is one of the best cooking methods for preserving nutrients, including water-soluble vitamins.
Tips to Maximize Nutrient Retention During Cooking
Here are 10 tips to reduce nutrient loss while cooking:
- Use as little water as possible when poaching or boiling.
- Consume the liquid left in the pan after cooking vegetables.
- Add back juices from meat that drip into the pan.
- Don't peel vegetables until after cooking them. Better yet, don't peel at all to maximize their fiber and nutrient density.
- Cook vegetables in smaller amounts of water to reduce the loss of vitamin C and B vitamins.
- Try to eat any cooked vegetables within a day or two, as their vitamin C content may continue to decline when the cooked food is exposed to air.
- Cut food after — rather than before — cooking, if possible. When food is cooked whole, less of it is exposed to heat and water.
- Cook vegetables for only a few minutes whenever possible.
- When cooking meat, poultry, and fish, use the shortest cooking time needed for safe consumption.
- Don't use baking soda when cooking vegetables. Although it helps maintain color, vitamin C will be lost in the alkaline environment produced by baking soda.
There are many ways to preserve the nutrient content of foods without sacrificing taste or other qualities.
The Bottom Line
It's important to select the right cooking method to maximize the nutritional quality of your meal.
However, there is no perfect cooking method that retains all nutrients.
In general, cooking for shorter periods at lower temperatures with minimal water will produce the best results.
Don't let the nutrients in your food go down the drain.
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The highest grades of olive oil — extra virgin and virgin — are always cold pressed.
Here are 13 benefits and uses of cold pressed olive oil.
1. High in Nutrients
As it's virtually all fat, cold pressed olive oil is high in calories.
Compared with diets high in saturated fat, those high in unsaturated fat are associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and other chronic illnesses.
Olive oil also boasts vitamins E and K. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant involved in immune function, while vitamin K plays a key role in blood clotting and bone health.
Just 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of cold pressed olive oil supplies:
- Calories: 119
- Total fat: 13.5 grams
- Saturated fat: 2 grams
- Monounsaturated fat: 10 grams
- Polyunsaturated fat: 1.5 grams
- Vitamin E: 12.9% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Vitamin K: 6.8% of the DV
Cold pressed olive oil also contains at least 30 beneficial plant compounds, many of which are potent antioxidants with anti-inflammatory effects.
Cold pressed olive oil is rich in healthy fats, dozens of powerful plant compounds, and vitamins E and K.
2. Packed With Healthy Fats
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends that you consume 20–35% of your calories from fat, mainly the unsaturated type.
Cold pressed olive oil comprises nearly all fat, with 71% coming from an unsaturated fat called oleic acid.
Studies suggest that oleic acid and other unsaturated fats may help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol when used in place of saturated fats.
An additional 11% of the fat in cold pressed olive oil comes from omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. These two unsaturated fats are involved in major bodily processes, such as blood pressure regulation, blood clotting, and immune system response.
Although olive oil contains 2 grams of saturated fat per tablespoon (15 ml), this is well within the 13–22-gram daily limit recommended by most health authorities for a standard 2,000-calorie diet.
Cold pressed olive oil mainly comprises oleic acid, a fat that may help lower cholesterol. It also provides omega-6 and omega-3 fats, which are essential for your health.
3. Contains Potent Antioxidants
Cold pressed olive oil may retain more antioxidants than lower-grade olive oils since it isn't treated with heat.
Per tablespoon (15 ml), olive oil contains 12.9% of the DV for vitamin E — an essential nutrient and potent antioxidant.
It's also rich in plant compounds like oleuropein and hydroxytyrosol, which have demonstrated powerful antioxidant properties in animal and test-tube studies.
Researchers believe that these compounds may be partly responsible for the benefits of the Mediterranean diet, including stronger bones and a reduced risk of heart disease, brain conditions, and certain cancers.
Cold pressed olive oil contains powerful antioxidants that may safeguard your body against numerous diseases.
4. May Fight Inflammation
Prolonged, low-grade inflammation is believed to factor into many conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, and Alzheimer's disease.
Studies suggest that olive oil may help reduce inflammation due to its high concentration of healthy fats, antioxidants, and compounds like oleocanthal.
Oleocanthal is a natural anti-inflammatory agent. Test-tube studies indicate that it acts similarly to ibuprofen, an anti-inflammatory drug — although human studies are needed.
Remember that including more plant-based options in your diet may reduce inflammation more effectively than relying on a single compound, nutrient, or food.
Still, replacing foods high in saturated fat — such as butter, shortening, and lard — with cold pressed olive oil is an excellent place to start.
Due to its high concentration of healthy fats, antioxidants, and beneficial plant compounds, cold pressed olive oil may help reduce inflammation.
5. May Protect Against Heart Disease
Heart disease is the leading cause of death among both men and women worldwide, responsible for over 17 million deaths each year.
Numerous studies reveal that replacing foods high in saturated fat with olive oil may help reduce high LDL (bad) cholesterol and blood pressure levels — two major risk factors for heart disease.
One study in over 84,000 women found that substituting 5% of saturated fats for foods high in monounsaturated fats, including olive oil, reduced heart disease risk by 15%.
The Mediterranean diet, which relies on olive oil as its main source of fat, has been shown to reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke by up to 28%.
Replacing sources of saturated fat with cold pressed olive oil may reduce your risk of heart disease.
6. May Promote Brain Health
One example is the MIND (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) diet, which recommends primarily cooking with olive oil. It combines the traditional Mediterranean diet with the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet.
In population studies, individuals following the MIND diet demonstrate slower declines in mental sharpness and memory with age, as well as after stroke.
A 4.5-year study in 923 people found a 53% reduction in the rate of Alzheimer's disease in those who most strictly adhered to the diet.
The diet's combination of brain-boosting foods may likewise be responsible for its benefits. Besides olive oil, the MIND diet is high in vegetables, berries, nuts, whole grains, and fish. It's also low in sodium.
Furthermore, animal and test-tube research suggests that oleocanthal, a compound in olive oil, may help reduce brain plaques associated with Alzheimer's disease. All the same, human research is needed.
Diets high in olive oil may help prevent mental decline associated with aging, as well as reduce your risk of Alzheimer's disease.
7–10. Other Potential Health Benefits
Though research is limited, cold pressed olive oil may offer other potential health benefits. These include:
- Reduced risk of type 2 diabetes. Human studies link diets highest in olive oil — up to 1.5 tablespoons (20 ml) per day — with a 16% lower risk of type 2 diabetes.
- Improved blood sugar levels. In a small study, people taking 20 mg of concentrated oleuropein, a compound in olive oil, experienced a 14% lower blood sugar spike following a meal than those taking a placebo.
- Constipation relief. According to some small studies, taking as little as 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of olive oil daily may treat constipation.
- Delayed progression of osteoarthritis. Animal research notes that olive oil and its compounds may fight osteoarthritis by preventing damage to cartilage, the protective cushioning in joints.
Keep in mind that more research is needed.
Early research suggests that olive oil and its compounds may help reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes, improve blood sugar levels, relieve constipation, and fight osteoarthritis.
11. May Benefit Hair, Skin, and Nails
Though there is limited scientific evidence to support the topical application of olive oil, it's a common ingredient in many soaps, body washes, and lotions.
Some popular cosmetic uses for olive oil are:
- Hair treatment. Use 1–2 tablespoons (15–30 ml) of olive oil to treat split ends or gently massage it into your scalp to relieve dryness. Afterward, shampoo and rinse thoroughly.
- Moisturizer. To hydrate your skin, apply a thin layer after showering or mix a dime-sized amount into your regular lotion before use. You may need to blot excess oil with a towel.
- Cuticle conditioner. Massage a drop of olive oil into each fingertip to treat chapped, cracked, or dry cuticles.
Since lower-grade olive oils may harbor potential skin irritants, it's best to stick to extra virgin and virgin olive oils, which are both cold pressed.
Though olive oil may be an effective moisturizer for hair, skin, and nails, there's little scientific evidence to back these uses. What's more, it may be inappropriate for people with sensitive skin.
12. Easy to Add to Your Diet
Cold pressed olive oil is not only a great cooking oil for sautéing, roasting, and baking but also an ideal ingredient in salad dressings, sauces, and marinades.
Replacing saturated fat with this oil may be particularly beneficial for your health. Consider these easy food swaps:
- When cooking, replace butter, shortening, lard, or bacon grease with cold pressed olive oil.
- Instead of buying creamy salad dressings, try ones made with olive oil — or make your own.
- Opt for olive-oil-based sauces like pesto over cream- or cheese-based ones.
- For a vegetable dip, try hummus made with olive oil instead of blue cheese or ranch dressing.
- Instead of buttering your bread, dip it in cold pressed olive oil and seasonings.
Cold pressed olive oil also works for deep frying, but you should limit your use of this cooking method because of the excess calories it provides.
Furthermore, olive oil is still calorie-dense. If you monitor your calorie intake, be sure to use this fat within your daily allotment to avoid unwanted weight gain.
Cold pressed olive oil is a heart-healthy fat for daily cooking and works especially well in dressings, sauces, and dips.
The Bottom Line
Cold pressed olive oil may retain more nutrients than olive oils treated with heat.
It's loaded with healthy fats, vitamins E and K, and several antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. These nutrients may promote brain and heart health, in addition to other benefits.
You may stand to gain the most if you use cold pressed olive oil in place of other fats, such as lard, butter, or margarine.
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By Kris Gunnars
Dietary fats are highly controversial, with debates about animal fats, seed oils, and everything in between in full force.
That said, most people agree that extra virgin olive oil is incredibly healthy.
Part of the Mediterranean diet, this traditional oil has been a dietary staple for some of the world's healthiest populations.
Studies show that the fatty acids and antioxidants in olive oil can offer some powerful health benefits, including a reduced risk of heart disease.
This article reviews why extra virgin olive oil is one of the healthiest fats.
What Is Olive Oil and How Is It Made?
Olive oil is oil that has been extracted from olives, the fruits of the olive tree.
The production process is incredibly simple. Olives can be pressed to extract their oil, but modern methods involve crushing the olives, mixing them together, and then separating the oil from the pulp in a centrifuge.
After centrifugation, small amounts of oil remain in the pomace. The leftover oil can be extracted using chemical solvents and is known as olive pomace oil.
Olive pomace oil is generally cheaper than regular olive oil and has a bad reputation.
Buying the right type of olive oil is crucial. There are three main grades of olive oil — refined, virgin, and extra virgin. Extra virgin olive oil is the least processed or refined type.
Extra virgin olive oil is considered to be the healthiest type of olive oil. It's extracted using natural methods and standardized for purity and certain sensory qualities like taste and smell.
Olive oil that is truly extra virgin has a distinct taste and is high in phenolic antioxidants, which is the main reason why it's so beneficial.
Legally, vegetable oils that are labeled as olive oil cannot be diluted with other types of oils. Nevertheless, it's essential to inspect the label carefully and buy from a reputable seller.
Nutrient Composition of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Extra virgin olive oil is fairly nutritious.
It contains modest amounts of vitamins E and K and plenty of beneficial fatty acids.
One tablespoon (13.5 grams) of olive oil contains the following:
- Saturated fat: 14%
- Monounsaturated fat: 73% (mostly oleic acid)
- Vitamin E: 13% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Vitamin K: 7% of the DV
Notably, extra virgin olive oil shines in its antioxidant content.
Antioxidants are biologically active, and some of them can help fight serious diseases.
The oil's main antioxidants include the anti-inflammatory oleocanthal, as well as oleuropein, a substance that protects LDL (bad) cholesterol from oxidation.
Some people have criticized olive oil for having a high omega-6 to omega-3 ratio (over 10:1). However, its total amount of polyunsaturated fats is still relatively low, so this shouldn't be a cause for concern.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil Contains Anti-Inflammatory Substances
Some speculate that olive oil's ability to fight inflammation is behind its many health benefits.
Oleic acid, the most prominent fatty acid in olive oil, has been found to reduce inflammatory markers like C-reactive protein.
However, the oil's main anti-inflammatory effects seem to be due to its antioxidants, primarily oleocanthal, which has been shown to work like ibuprofen, a popular anti-inflammatory drug.
Researchers estimate that the amount of oleocanthal in 50 ml (about 3.4 tablespoons) of extra virgin olive oil exerts effects similar to those of 10 percent of the adult ibuprofen dosage for pain relief.
Also, one study showed that substances in olive oil can reduce the expression of genes and proteins that mediate inflammation.
Keep in mind that chronic, low-level inflammation is usually fairly mild, and it takes years or decades for it to do damage.
Using extra virgin olive oil may help prevent this from happening, leading to a reduced risk of various inflammatory diseases, especially heart disease.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Cardiovascular Disease
Cardiovascular diseases, such as heart disease and stroke, are among the most common causes of death in the world.
Many observational studies show that death from these diseases is low in certain areas of the world, especially in countries around the Mediterranean Sea.
This observation originally spurred interest in the Mediterranean diet, which is supposed to mimic the way the people in those countries eat.
Studies on the Mediterranean diet show that it can help prevent heart disease. In one major study, it reduced heart attacks, strokes, and death by 30 percent.
Extra virgin olive oil protects against heart disease via numerous mechanisms:
- Reducing inflammation. Olive oil protects against inflammation, a key driver of heart disease.
- Reduces oxidation of LDL (bad) cholesterol. The oil protects LDL particles from oxidative damage, a key factor in the development of heart disease.
- Improves blood vessel health. Olive oil improves the function of the endothelium, which is the lining of the blood vessels.
- Helps manage blood clotting. Some studies suggest that olive oil can help prevent unwanted blood clotting, a key feature of heart attacks and strokes.
- Lowers blood pressure. One study in patients with elevated blood pressure found that olive oil reduced blood pressure significantly and lowered the need for blood pressure medication by 48 percent.
Given the biological effects of olive oil, it's not surprising that people who consume the greatest amounts of it are significantly less likely to die from heart attacks and strokes.
Dozens — if not hundreds — of animal and human studies have shown that olive oil has major benefits for the heart.
In fact, the evidence is strong enough to recommend that people who have or are at a high risk of developing heart disease include plenty of extra virgin olive oil in their diets.
Other Health Benefits of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Although olive oil has mostly been studied for its effects on heart health, its consumption has also been associated with a number of other health benefits.
Olive Oil and Cancer
Cancer is a common cause of death and characterized by the uncontrolled growth of cells.
Studies have shown that people living in the Mediterranean countries have a fairly low risk of cancer, and some have speculated that olive oil has something to do with this.
One potential contributor to cancer is oxidative damage due to harmful molecules called free radicals. However, extra virgin olive oil is high in antioxidants that reduce oxidative damage.
The oleic acid in olive oil is also highly resistant to oxidation and has been shown to have beneficial effects on genes linked to cancer.
Many test-tube studies have observed that compounds in olive oil can help fight cancer at the molecular level.
That said, controlled trials in humans have yet to study whether olive oil helps prevent cancer.
Olive Oil and Alzheimer's Disease
Alzheimer's disease is the world's most common neurodegenerative disease and a leading cause of dementia.
One feature of Alzheimer's is a buildup of protein tangles called beta-amyloid plaques in certain neurons in the brain.
A study in mice observed that a substance in olive oil can help clear these plaques.
Additionally, a controlled study in humans showed that a Mediterranean diet enriched with olive oil improved brain function and reduced the risk of cognitive impairment.
Can You Cook With It?
During cooking, fatty acids can oxidize, meaning they react with oxygen and become damaged.
The double bonds in fatty acid molecules are mostly responsible for this.
For this reason, saturated fats, which have no double bonds, are resistant to high heat. Meanwhile, polyunsaturated fats, which have many double bonds, are sensitive and become damaged.
Olive oil contains mostly monounsaturated fatty acids, which have only one double bond, and is fairly resistant to high heat.
In one study, researchers heated extra virgin olive oil to 356°F (180°C) for 36 hours. The oil was highly resistant to damage.
Another study used olive oil for deep-frying, and it took 24–27 hours for it to reach damage levels that were deemed harmful.
Overall, olive oil seems to be very safe — even for cooking at fairly high heat.
The Bottom Line
Olive oil is super healthy.
For those who have heart disease or are at a high risk of developing it, olive oil is most definitely a superfood.
The benefits of this wonderful fat are among the few things that most people in nutrition agree upon.
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However, up to 50% of the world's population may not get enough sun, and 40% of U.S. residents are deficient in vitamin D.
This is partly because people spend more time indoors, wear sunblock outside, and eat a Western diet low in good sources of this vitamin.
If you don't get enough sunlight, your intake should likely be closer to 1,000 IU (25 mcg) per day.
Here are 7 healthy foods that are high in vitamin D.
Salmon is a popular fatty fish and great source of vitamin D.
Whether the salmon is wild or farmed can make a big difference.
On average, wild-caught salmon packs 988 IU of vitamin D per 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving, or 124% of the DV. Some studies have found even higher levels in wild salmon — up to 1,300 IU per serving.
However, farmed salmon contains only 25% of that amount. Still, one serving of farmed salmon provides about 250 IU of vitamin D, or 32% of the DV.
Wild salmon contains about 988 IU of vitamin D per serving, while farmed salmon contains 250 IU, on average. That's 124% and 32% of the DV, respectively.
2. Herring and Sardines
Herring is a fish eaten around the world. It can be served raw, canned, smoked, or pickled.
This small fish is also one of the best sources of vitamin D.
If fresh fish isn't your thing, pickled herring is also a good source of vitamin D, providing 112 IU per 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving, or 14% of the DV.
However, pickled herring also contains a high amount of sodium, which some people consume too much of.
Canned sardines are a good source of vitamin D as well — one can (3.8 ounces) contains 177 IU, or 22% of the DV.
Other types of fatty fish are also good vitamin D sources. Halibut and mackerel provide 384 IU and 360 IU per half a fillet, respectively.
Herring contains 216 IU of vitamin D per 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving. Pickled herring, sardines, and other fatty fish, such as halibut and mackerel, are also good sources.
3. Cod Liver Oil
Cod liver oil is a popular supplement. If you don't like fish, taking cod liver oil can be key to obtaining certain nutrients that are unavailable in other sources.
It's an excellent source of vitamin D — at about 448 IU per teaspoon (4.9 ml), it clocks in at a massive 56% of the DV. It has been used for many years to prevent and treat deficiency in children.
Cod liver oil is likewise a fantastic source of vitamin A, with 150% of the DV in just one teaspoon (4.9 ml). However, vitamin A can be toxic in high amounts.
Therefore, be cautious with cod liver oil, making sure to not take too much.
In addition, cod liver oil is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which many people are deficient in.
Cod liver oil contains 448 IU of vitamin D per teaspoon (4.9 ml), or 56% of the DV. It is also high in other nutrients, such as vitamin A and omega-3 fatty acids.
4. Canned Tuna
Many people enjoy canned tuna because of its flavor and easy storage methods.
It's also usually cheaper than buying fresh fish.
Canned light tuna packs up to 268 IU of vitamin D in a 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving, which is 34% of the DV.
It's also a good source of niacin and vitamin K.
Unfortunately, canned tuna contains methylmercury, a toxin found in many types of fish. If it builds up in your body, it can cause serious health problems.
However, some types of fish pose less risk than others. For instance, light tuna is typically a better choice than white tuna — it's considered safe to eat up to 6 ounces (170 grams) per week.
Canned tuna contains 268 IU of vitamin D per serving. Choose light tuna and eat 6 ounces (170 grams) or less per week to prevent methylmercury buildup.
5. Egg Yolks
People who don't eat fish should know that seafood is not the only source of vitamin D. Whole eggs are another good source, as well as a wonderfully nutritious food.
While most of the protein in an egg is found in the white, the fat, vitamins, and minerals are found mostly in the yolk.
One typical egg yolk contains 37 IU of vitamin D, or 5% of the DV.
Vitamin D levels in egg yolk depend on sun exposure and the vitamin D content of chicken feed. When given the same feed, pasture-raised chickens that roam outside in the sunlight produce eggs with levels 3–4 times higher.
Additionally, eggs from chickens given vitamin-D-enriched feed may have up to 6,000 IU of vitamin D per yolk. That's a whopping 7 times the DV.
Choosing eggs either from chickens raised outside or marketed as high in vitamin D can be a great way to meet your daily requirements.
Eggs from commercially raised hens contain only about 37 IU of vitamin D per yolk. However, eggs from hens raised outside or fed vitamin-D-enriched feed contain much higher levels.
Excluding fortified foods, mushrooms are the only good plant source of vitamin D.
Like humans, mushrooms can synthesize this vitamin when exposed to UV light.
However, mushrooms produce vitamin D2, whereas animals produce vitamin D3.
Though vitamin D2 helps raise blood levels of vitamin D, it may not be as effective as vitamin D3.
Nonetheless, wild mushrooms are excellent sources of vitamin D2. In fact, some varieties pack up to 2,300 IU per 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving — nearly three times the DV.
On the other hand, commercially grown mushrooms are often grown in the dark and contain very little D2.
Mushrooms can synthesize vitamin D2 when exposed to UV light. Only wild mushrooms or mushrooms treated with UV light are good sources of vitamin D.
7. Fortified Foods
Natural sources of vitamin D are limited, especially if you're vegetarian or don't like fish.
Fortunately, some food products that don't naturally contain vitamin D are fortified with this nutrient.
Cow's milk, the most commonly consumed type of milk, is naturally a good source of many nutrients, including calcium, phosphorous, and riboflavin.
In several countries, cow's milk is fortified with vitamin D. It usually contains about 115–130 IU per cup (237 ml), or about 15–22% of the DV.
Because vitamin D is found almost exclusively in animal products, vegetarians and vegans are at a particularly high risk of not getting enough.
For this reason, plant-based milk substitutes like soy milk are often fortified with this nutrient and other vitamins and minerals usually found in cow's milk.
One cup (237 ml) typically contains 107–117 IU of vitamin D, or 13–15% of the DV.
Around 75% of people worldwide are lactose intolerant, and another 2–3% have a milk allergy.
For this reason, some countries fortify orange juice with vitamin D and other nutrients, such as calcium.
Cereal and Oatmeal
Certain cereals and instant oatmeal are also fortified with vitamin D.
Though fortified cereals and oatmeal provide less vitamin D than many natural sources, they can still be a good way to boost your intake.
Foods such as cow's milk, soy milk, orange juice, cereals, and oatmeal are sometimes fortified with vitamin D. These contain 54–136 IU per serving.
Vitamin D and Calcium
Getting enough of both vitamin D and calcium is crucial to maintaining bone health and protecting against disorders like osteoporosis, a condition that is characterized by weak, brittle bones.
Children and adults aged 1–70 need approximately 600 IU of vitamin D per day, and it can come from a combination of food sources and sunlight. Meanwhile, adults over 70 should aim for at least 800 IU (20 mcg) of vitamin D per day.
The daily value (DV), a rating system used on the labels of packaged food, is 800 IU per day.
Calcium needs also vary by age. Children aged 1–8 require about 2,500 mg of calcium daily, and those ages 9–18 need approximately 3,000 mg daily.
Your body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium. This makes getting enough of both vitamin D and calcium crucial to maintaining bone health and preventing osteoporosis.
The Bottom Line
Spending time in the sun is a good way to get your daily dose of vitamin D. However, sufficient sun exposure is difficult for many people to achieve.
Getting enough from your diet alone may be difficult, but not impossible.
The foods listed in this article are some of the top sources of vitamin D available.
Eating plenty of these vitamin-D-rich foods is a great way to make sure you get enough of this important nutrient.
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Inflammation can be good or bad depending on the situation.
On one hand, it's your body's natural way of protecting itself when you're injured or sick.
It can help your body defend itself from illness and stimulate healing.
On the other hand, chronic, sustained inflammation is linked to an increased risk of diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.
Interestingly, the foods you eat can significantly affect inflammation in your body.
Here are 6 foods that can cause inflammation.
1. Sugar and High-Fructose Corn Syrup
Table sugar (sucrose) and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) are the two main types of added sugar in the Western diet.
Sugar is 50% glucose and 50% fructose, while high fructose corn syrup is about 45% glucose and 55% fructose.
One of the reasons that added sugars are harmful is that they can increase inflammation, which can lead to disease.
In another study, the anti-inflammatory effects of omega-3 fatty acids were impaired in mice fed a high sugar diet.
What's more, in a randomized clinical trial in which people drank regular soda, diet soda, milk, or water, only those in the regular soda group had increased levels of uric acid, which drives inflammation and insulin resistance.
Sugar can also be harmful because it supplies excess amounts of fructose.
While the small amounts of fructose in fruits and vegetables are fine, consuming large amounts from added sugars is a bad idea.
Eating a lot of fructose has been linked to obesity, insulin resistance, diabetes, fatty liver disease, cancer, and chronic kidney disease.
Also, researchers have noted that fructose causes inflammation within the endothelial cells that line your blood vessels, which is a risk factor for heart disease.
High fructose intake has likewise been shown to increase several inflammatory markers in mice and humans.
Foods high in added sugar include candy, chocolate, soft drinks, cakes, cookies, doughnuts, sweet pastries, and certain cereals.
Consuming a diet high in sugar and high fructose corn syrup drives inflammation that can lead to disease. It may also counteract the anti-inflammatory effects of omega-3 fatty acids.
2. Artificial Trans Fats
Artificial trans fats are likely the unhealthiest fats you can eat.
They're created by adding hydrogen to unsaturated fats, which are liquid, to give them the stability of a more solid fat.
On ingredient labels, trans fats are often listed as partially hydrogenated oils.
Most margarines contain trans fats, and they are often added to processed foods to extend shelf life.
Unlike the naturally occurring trans fats found in dairy and meat, artificial trans fats have been shown to cause inflammation and increase disease risk.
In addition to lowering HDL (good) cholesterol, trans fats may impair the function of the endothelial cells lining your arteries, which is a risk factor for heart disease.
Consuming artificial trans fats is linked to high levels of inflammatory markers, such as C-reactive protein (CRP).
In fact, in one study, CRP levels were 78% higher among women who reported the highest trans fat intake.
In a randomized controlled trial including older women with excess weight, hydrogenated soybean oil increased inflammation significantly more than palm and sunflower oils.
Foods high in trans fats include French fries and other fried fast food, some varieties of microwave popcorn, certain margarines and vegetable shortenings, packaged cakes and cookies, some pastries, and all processed foods that list partially hydrogenated vegetable oil on the label.
Consuming artificial trans fats may increase inflammation and your risk of several diseases, including heart disease.
3. Vegetable and Seed Oils
During the 20th century, the consumption of vegetable oils increased by 130% in the United States.
Some scientists believe that certain vegetable oils, such as soybean oil, promote inflammation due to their very high omega-6 fatty acid content.
Although some dietary omega-6 fats are necessary, the typical Western diet provides far more than people need.
In fact, health professionals recommend eating more omega-3-rich foods, such as fatty fish, to improve your omega-6 to omega-3 ratio and reap the anti-inflammatory benefits of omega-3s.
In one study, rats fed a diet with an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 20:1 had much higher levels of inflammatory markers than those fed diets with ratios of 1:1 or 5:1.
However, evidence that a high intake of omega-6 fatty acids increases inflammation in humans is currently limited.
Controlled studies show that linoleic acid, the most common dietary omega-6 acid, does not affect inflammatory markers.
More research is needed before any conclusions can be made.
Vegetable and seed oils are used as cooking oils and are a major ingredient in many processed foods.
Some studies suggest that vegetable oil's high omega-6 fatty acid content may promote inflammation when consumed in high amounts. However, the evidence is inconsistent, and more research is needed.
4. Refined Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates have gotten a bad rap.
However, the truth is that not all carbs are problematic.
Ancient humans consumed high fiber, unprocessed carbs for millennia in the form of grasses, roots, and fruits.
However, eating refined carbs may drive inflammation.
Refined carbs have had most of their fiber removed. Fiber promotes fullness, improves blood sugar control, and feeds the beneficial bacteria in your gut.
Researchers suggest that the refined carbs in the modern diet may encourage the growth of inflammatory gut bacteria that can increase your risk of obesity and inflammatory bowel disease.
Refined carbs have a higher glycemic index (GI) than unprocessed ones. High GI foods raise blood sugar more rapidly than low GI foods.
In one study, older adults who reported the highest intake of high GI foods were 2.9 times more likely to die of an inflammatory disease like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
In a controlled study, young, healthy men who ate 50 grams of refined carbs in the form of white bread experienced higher blood sugar levels and increases in levels of a particular inflammatory marker.
Refined carbohydrates are found in candy, bread, pasta, pastries, some cereals, cookies, cakes, sugary soft drinks, and all processed foods that contain added sugar or flour.
High fiber, unprocessed carbs are healthy, but refined carbs raise blood sugar levels and promote inflammation that may lead to disease.
5. Excessive Alcohol
Moderate alcohol consumption has been shown to provide some health benefits.
However, higher amounts can lead to severe problems.
In one study, levels of the inflammatory marker CRP increased in people who consumed alcohol. The more alcohol they consumed, the more their CRP levels increased.
People who drink heavily may develop problems with bacterial toxins moving out of the colon and into the body. This condition — often called "leaky gut" — can drive widespread inflammation that leads to organ damage.
To avoid alcohol-related health problems, intake should be limited to two standard drinks per day for men and one for women.
Heavy alcohol consumption may increase inflammation and lead to a "leaky gut" that drives inflammation throughout your body.
6. Processed Meat
Consuming processed meat is associated with an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stomach and colon cancer.
Common types of processed meat include sausage, bacon, ham, smoked meat, and beef jerky.
Processed meat contains more advanced glycation end products (AGEs) than most other meats.
AGEs are formed by cooking meats and some other foods at high temperatures. They are known to cause inflammation.
Of all the diseases linked to processed meat consumption, its association with colon cancer is the strongest.
Processed meat is high in inflammatory compounds like AGEs, and its strong association with colon cancer may partly be due to an inflammatory response.
The Bottom Line
Inflammation can occur in response to many triggers, some of which are hard to prevent, including pollution, injury, or sickness.
However, you have much more control over factors like your diet.
To stay as healthy as possible, keep inflammation down by minimizing your consumption of foods that trigger it and eating anti-inflammatory foods.
Reposted with permission from Healthline.
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Omega-3 fats found in common fish oil supplements may have little or no effect on depression and anxiety, according to a new study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry.
Fish oil is among the most popular natural products used by American adults with nearly 19 million turning to fish oil, omega-3 or fatty acid supplements to combat heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, dry eye symptoms and mental health effects, reports the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. However, the evidence of its effectiveness is largely inconclusive. Consuming omega-3 fats has long been touted as protection against — and in some cases reversal of — a number of conditions, including anxiety and depression, according to Medical Express.
But a systematic review of dozens of trial experiments found suggests the opposite. To come to their conclusions, researchers at the University of East Anglia in England analyzed 31 trials of adults both with and without depression and anxiety. More than 41,000 study participants were randomized to either consume more fish oils or maintain their usual intake for at least six months.
"Our previous research has shown that long-chain omega-3 supplements, including fish oils, do not protect against conditions such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes or death," said lead study author Lee Hooper. "This large systematic review included information from many thousands of people over long periods. Despite all this information, we don't see protective effects.
Hopper added that the most trustworthy "studies consistently showed little or no effect of long-chain omega-3 fats on depression or anxiety" and that such supplements should not be encouraged as treatment.
That's not to say that there are no health benefits to consuming fish oils. Study co-author Katherine Dean says that oily fish can be a "very nutritious" food when consumed as part of a balanced diet. Omega-3 is a type of fat and small amounts are necessary for health, notes Technology Networks. A recent report investigated by The New York Times found that fish oil supplements may have benefits in at-risk and subset populations, but may be moot in otherwise healthy groups.
"We found that there is no demonstrable value in people taking omega-3 oil supplements for the prevention or treatment of depression and anxiety," said Dean. "Considering the environmental concerns about industrial fishing and the impact it is having on fish stocks and plastic pollution in the oceans, it seems unhelpful to continue to swallow fish oil tablets that give no benefit."
In June, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced that it did "not intend to object to the use of certain qualified health claims stating that consuming ... omega-3 fatty acids in food or dietary supplements may reduce the risk of hypertension and coronary heart disease," leaving the supplements largely unregulated at a federal level.
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Research has shown that they're particularly effective at reducing hunger and aiding weight loss.
They've also been associated with decreased blood pressure and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, as well as increased HDL (good) cholesterol.
What's more, low carb diets have been found to improve blood sugar control in those with type 2 diabetes.
Low carb diets typically provide less than 130 grams of carbs per day, while very low carb diets typically provide 20–50 grams of carbs per day.
However, some very low carb diets can be low in fiber, a nutrient that's important for digestive, heart, and gut health.
In fact, studies estimate that only 5% of American adults — independent of whether they eat low carb or not — meet the recommended 25–38 grams of fiber per day.
Fortunately, if you follow a low carb diet and are worried about your fiber intake, several tasty foods are both low in carbs and high in fiber.
Here are 14 healthy high fiber, low carb foods.
1. Flax Seeds
Flax seeds are small oil seeds that are packed with nutrients.
In particular, they're good sources of omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and antioxidants. They're also low in digestible net carbs — the total grams of carbs minus the grams of fiber.
Notably, flax seeds have a lower ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 than most other oil seeds. This is important, as a lower omega-6 to omega-3 ratio has been associated with a reduced risk of several chronic diseases.
Two tablespoons (14 grams) of ground flax seeds provide 4 grams of fiber and 0 grams of net carbs.
2. Chia Seeds
hough small in size, chia seeds are rich in several nutrients.
In addition to being high in fiber, protein, and several vitamins and minerals, chia seeds are one of the best-known plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
Chia seeds can be sprinkled atop salads and yogurt or added to smoothies.
They also absorb liquids well, turning into a gel that can be used as a vegan egg replacement or thickener for sauces and jellies.
Two tablespoons (30 grams) of chia seeds provide 11 grams of fiber and 2 grams of net carbs.
High in healthy fats, avocados have a unique buttery texture.
Technically a fruit, avocados are typically consumed as a vegetable and can be added to a variety of dishes.
One small (136 grams) avocado provides 9 grams of fiber and 3 grams of net carbs.
Almonds are among the world's most popular tree nuts.
As they're also a good source of fiber and protein, almonds may help increase feelings of fullness and aid weight loss.
One ounce (28 grams) of raw almonds provides 4 grams of fiber and 3 grams of net carbs.
5. Unsweetened Coconut Meat
Coconut meat is the white flesh inside a coconut.
It's often sold shredded and can be added to desserts, granola bars, and breakfast foods for added texture.
Coconut meat is high in healthy fats and fiber, while being moderate in carbs and protein.
One ounce (28 grams) of shredded, unsweetened coconut meat provides 5 grams of fiber and 2 grams of net carbs.
Sweet and tart, blackberries are a delicious summer fruit.
They're also incredibly nutritious, with just 1 cup (140 grams) boasting more than 30% of the Daily Value (DV) for vitamin C.
Berries are among the most antioxidant-rich fruits. Regular intake has been associated with a reduced risk of chronic inflammation, heart disease, and certain forms of cancer.
Additionally, a 1-week study in 27 men with excess weight or obesity on a high fat diet found that eating blackberries daily increased fat burning and insulin sensitivity.
One cup (140 grams) of blackberries provides 7 grams of fiber and 6 grams of net carbs.
Another sweet yet tart summer fruit, raspberries are best enjoyed shortly after purchasing.
Low in calories, they're also surprisingly high in several essential vitamins and minerals. In fact, just 1 cup (140 grams) provides more than 50% of the DV for vitamin C and 41% of the DV for manganese.
One cup (140 grams) of raspberries provides 9 grams of fiber and 8 grams of net carbs.
Humans have been eating pistachios since 6000 BC.
While technically a fruit, pistachios are culinarily used as a nut.
With their vibrant green color and distinctive flavor, pistachios are popular in many dishes, including desserts, such as ice creams and cakes.
Nutritionally, they're high in healthy fats and vitamin B6, an essential vitamin that aids blood sugar regulation and the formation of hemoglobin.
One ounce (28 grams) of shelled pistachios provides 3 grams of fiber and 5 grams of net carbs.
9. Wheat Bran
Wheat bran is the hard outer coating of the wheat kernel.
While it's found naturally in whole grains, it can also be purchased on its own to add texture and a nutty flavor to foods like baked goods, smoothies, yogurt, soups, and casseroles.
Although, perhaps what it's best known for is its impressive amount of insoluble fiber, a nutrient that can help treat constipation and promote regular bowel movements.
A 1/4-cup (15-gram) serving of wheat bran provides 6 grams of fiber and 4 grams of net carbs.
Cauliflower is a popular item on low carb diets, as it can be riced for a grain substitute or even made into a low carb pizza crust.
It's also a good source of choline, which is important for brain and liver health, as well as metabolism and DNA synthesis.
One cup (85 grams) of chopped cauliflower provides 2 grams of fiber and 2 grams of net carbs.
Broccoli is a popular cruciferous vegetable that's high in several important nutrients.
It also boasts more protein than many other vegetables.
While it can be enjoyed cooked or raw, research shows that steaming it provides the greatest health benefits.
One cup (71 grams) of raw broccoli florets provides 2 grams of fiber and 3 grams of net carbs.
A popular springtime vegetable, asparagus comes in several colors, including green, purple, and white.
It's low in calories yet high in vitamin K, providing 46% of the DV in 1 cup (134 grams). The same serving also packs 17% of the DV for folate, which is vital during pregnancy and helps with cell growth and DNA formation.
While it's usually cooked, raw asparagus can add a pleasant crunch to salads and veggie platters.
One cup (134 grams) of raw asparagus provides 3 grams of fiber and 2 grams of net carbs.
Also known as aubergines, eggplants are used in many dishes around the world.
They add a unique texture to dishes and contain very few calories.
One cup (82 grams) of raw, cubed eggplant provides 3 grams of fiber and 2 grams of net carbs.
14. Purple Cabbage
Also referred to as red cabbage, purple cabbage is a nutritious way to add a pop of color to your dishes.
While it tastes similar to green cabbage, the purple variety is higher in plant compounds that have been linked to health benefits, such as improved heart and bone health, reduced inflammation, and protection against certain forms of cancer.
One cup (89 grams) of chopped red cabbage provides 2 grams of fiber and 5 grams of net carbs.
The Bottom Line
Whether you're interested in weight loss or lowering your blood sugar levels, eating fewer carbs can have numerous health benefits.
And despite what you might think, you can reduce your carb intake while getting enough fiber.
In fact, many low carb, high fiber foods are healthy and incredibly delicious.
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