Should You Get the Flu Shot? 7 Things to Seriously Consider

It’s that time of year– Pumpkin-everything season! But also flu shot season.

This yearly vaccine is a sore subject for a lot of people. Among many questions, the biggest one is whether it’s really necessary to get the flu shot. Don’t make your decision based on what you think you know about the vaccine, what you’ve heard from other people, or what you’ve seen in the media. Get the facts, first! Before even beginning to uncover any answers, let’s expose some common myths and misconceptions about the flu vaccine.

flu shot
“I never get the flu, so I don’t need the flu shot.”

So you’ve been lucky. That’s great! But did you know you could be carrying the influenza virus without symptoms and then pass it to someone with weaker immune system? …Someone like young children, newborns, elderly, anyone with chronic disease.

“Every time I get the flu shot, I get sick”

This one is really common and the truth is, that the flu shot is not without side effects. Side effects include: itchy eyes, headache, fever, fatigue and cough. These kinds of symptoms are not the actual flu, though, because it’s not possible to get the illness from an inactivated vaccine like this one. If you do get influenza shortly after receiving the vaccine, it could be because you were already infected with the virus. The vaccine takes up to 2 weeks to be effective.

The flu vaccine doesnt really work”

I partly agree with this one. It’s said to be a “good, but not perfect” vaccine, by experts. That’s because it’s really only about 60% effective. Every year, scientists try to match the vaccine strains to the actual flu strains the best they can but they don’t always get it exactly right. It’s up to each individual to decide whether to increase their chances of preventing the flu or not.

 

“Flu shot has many dangerous chemicals in it”  

I worry about these chemicals, too and wonder what the long term effects are.  Flu vaccines contain chemical ingredients like thimerosal, mercury, formaldehyde, and Triton X-100.

Thimerosal is used to prevent bacterial contamination of the vaccine vial. It is broken down into a mercury chemical form. There has been a lot of controversy over whether thimerosal & mercury are linked to certain effects on children, but no study has definitively, without a doubt been able to prove it’s dangers. It’s used in tiny amounts in the flu shot, but I prefer to steer clear of it if I can. Just ask for a preservative-free flu shot.

Formaldehyde is the stuff used to preserve cadavers. Sounds gross, I know. I’m about to blow your mind with this fun fact though… Many fruits and vegetables naturally produce more formaldehyde than the amount found in the flu vaccine.

Triton X-100 is often confused with propylene glycol (anti-freeze) which is incorrect. There is no anti-freeze in this vaccine. It’s a splitting agent to help break down the inactivated virus in the vaccine.

 

“If I get the flu I’ll just take antibiotics”

Influenza is a virus, meaning that antibiotics won’t even make a dent if you catch this. There are two antivirals designed to fight the flu but they must be taken within 48hrs of symptoms which is challenging considering you first have to see your doctor, then likely have to wait for the pharmacy to order this specialty medication, and finally, recover from the shock of how expensive it is. Often the antivirals don’t work that well anyway. Yikes!

 

Getting the flu isn’t that bad.

Some lucky souls will only be sick for a day or two, but the majority of people are down for the count as long as a week or two. Can you really afford to be sick that long? Even worse, is that flu can lead to many complications such as respiratory issues, asthma exacerbations, pneumonia, and more. Every year thousands of people (of all ages & even “healthy” people) are hospitalized due to influenza.

 

“I can protect myself from the flu with a good diet and hygiene (like regular hand washing).” 

While I think doing these things are always important for staying healthy and keeping your immune system strong, it’s not a guarantee. The flu virus is airborne, so it can be transmitted by someone sneezing or coughing nearby. I believe in the power of a healthy, balanced diet to help you fight off disease, even if it may not fully protect you from the illness. Living a healthy lifestyle and practicing good hygiene might lower your risk of flu-related complications or duration of the flu.

To learn more about the flu vaccine and which populations and age groups are at highest risk for contracting influenza, check out the CDC website.

It’s ultimately your call whether to get this vaccine, but realize it affects other people, too. Take time to think about the possible consequences of your choice. Now that you know the real deal on the flu shot you can make your own, informed decision about it.

 

>>> Comment below on what your opinion of the flu shot is.

 

Best, 

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Are Superfoods Necessary or Overrated?

Can you supercharge your diet without Superfoods? Are they really that important, or just overrated? I’m talking about all of that in today’s blog post and including a little goodie for you at the end. 

Sign Up here for a free guide of my 15+ favorite superfood staples, how to integrate them into your daily routine, and a few recipes too! 

 

superfoods

When I started my health journey about 4 years ago, the superfood label was very attractive. I was under the impression that these so called “superfoods” were the magic answer to improved health and weight loss. As I learned more and more about plant-based nutrition and functional medicine, I realized that this wasn’t so true.

But first let’s break it down for a minute and define a superfood. According to the dictionary, there is no definition for it. It doesn’t exist. That’s because we made it up as a health buzzword.

Now let’s check a less reliable source– urban dictionary.  Here the definition of a superfood is  “A common marketing buzzword that refers to any foodstuff that isn’t an artificial amalgamation of corn syrup and hydrogenated oil.”

In conclusion, the non-official and non-scientific definition is that they’re foods with some of the highest levels of vitamins and minerals. I don’t know about you, but going by this definition all fruits and vegetables are essentially superfoods!

 

Are Superfoods worth it?

Popular superfood items like goji berries, acai, reishi powder, and others, are pricey and you may be wondering if they’re worth your hard earned dollars. The short answer is probably not.

While these “super” foods have the highest concentration of certain nutrients…. Eating the right foods, the kind that are nutritionally dense, provides a balanced intake of all vitamins and nutrients needed. Therefore, you won’t have to worry about supplementing with overpriced, often overrated superfoods.

There are some affordable swaps you can make instead. Here are just a few…

  1. Goji berries:  Raspberries and blueberries have just as much antioxidants and fiber as goji berries. They actually have a lot less sugar, too.
  2. Cacao powder: While this is one of my favorite superfoods, it can be expensive so I often opt to just grab chocolate with 80% cacao content.
  3. Maca powder: This adaptogen root is great for hormone balance, energy and stress management but you can try chia seeds instead! They contain omega 3 fats, fiber and are a complete protein which will provide similar benefits to maca.

Superfoods will never counteract an unbalanced lifestyle lacking in fruits, vegetables and regular exercise. They’re a fantastic supplement to a healthy lifestyle but cannot make up for consistently unhealthy habits.  

Before you invest in superfoods, be sure to invest in mastering good eating habits and a healthy lifestyle.

superfoods

 

You can’t add one great thing into your diet ( i.e., a specific superfoods) while continuing to have lifestyle habits that are harming your health long term.

To a person who eats a balanced plant based diet abundant in fruits and vegetables, there actually aren’t any specific superfoods; And for the person who does not eat this way, no superfood can heal them.

 

I would love to hear your thoughts about superfoods.. 

What are your favorite superfoods and how do you incorporate them into your diet? 

 

Don’t forget to download the free guide of my 15+ favorite superfood staples, how to integrate them into your daily routine, and a few recipes too!

Best,

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Is Fiber Good for Weight Loss?

Always feeling hungry? Can’t control your appetite some days? Increasing fiber in your diet might be just the solution you need.

With so many recommendations on what to do, how to eat and when, it quickly becomes difficult to make the right food choices when trying to manage your weight or chronic illnesses.

 

fiber

 

Did you know boosting your fiber intake provides these benefits and more: 

  • Keeps you fuller longer
  • Helps with weight loss/maintenance
  • Reduces cravings
  • Improves cholesterol
  • Better blood sugar control
  • Regular bowel movements
  • Improves heart health

 

Closing the Fiber Gap

How much fiber should you be eating?

Ladies, aim for a minimum of 25 grams a day.

Gentlemen, aim for a minimum of 38 grams a day.

However, studies have found that Americans only average about 15 grams of fiber a day, about half of the recommended total dietary fiber intake.

Increase your dietary fiber by eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds. Filling your plate with these whole, unprocessed foods is the first step to take toward increasing your fiber consumption. Consistently eating well-balanced meals that include these foods will ensure that your getting the right amount of this nutrient.

 

Carbohydrate:Fiber Ratio

Overconsumption of carbohydrates is a common concern for many of us, mainly because this macronutrient turns to sugar in the blood stream which then gets stored as fat, making it easy to gain weight.

It is the quality of carbohydrates that should be of greater concern, rather than the quantity. Consuming carbohydrates with high fiber content can reduce the glucose levels after a meal.  

Because fiber is not broken down by the body, it has no effect on blood glucose. Therefore, the grams of fiber can actually be subtracted from the total grams of carbs you are eating.

When making food choices seek out food options with a good fiber to carbohydrate ratio to reduce the foods impact on blood glucose levels.

 

Make it a habit to include fruits and vegetables with each meal.  

Vegetables high in fiber include leafy greens, squashes, sweet potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts. They can be enjoyed in stir-fries, casseroles, soups, and salads and steamed as a side dish.

 

Many fruits are also high in fiber, like apples, pears, oranges, peaches and more. Berries are an especially great choice because while they are high in fiber, they are also low in calorie.  Incorporate fruits into your diet as a convenient snack or as toppings for breakfast cereal, yogurt, salads, and desserts.  

 

fiber up

 

Whole grains are a popular and simple way to increase dietary fiber. The downfall with this is that many whole grain foods are overly processed and the labeling can be misleading.  

Beware of processed cereals and bars as they often have high sugar content and less fiber compared to other dietary fiber options. Swap the usual white bread for whole wheat bread and exchange white rice for brown rice, quinoa, bulgur wheat, barley or other ancient grains. Consider different types of pasta options like whole wheat pasta, edamame pasta, or  lentil pasta.

 

Nuts and seeds also provide a great source of fiber. A handful of these packs a powerful fiber punch. They make for a nutritious snack, or extra addition to yogurts, salads and desserts.

 

Don’t forget about beans and legumes. These are one of the most naturally rich sources of fiber. If you experience gas and discomfort with high bean intake, consider starting off slowly when introducing these into your diet.

fiber beans

 

Try incorporating more of the recommended foods discussed here and notice the impact this powerful nutrient has on curbing your appetite and controlling blood sugar control.  This, in turn, helps with weight loss/maintenance and prevents/ manages diseases. 

 

Tips to Consider When Increasing Your Fiber:  

  • Increase consumption gradually (add 5g of fiber per day, spread throughout the day, until you reach your goal)
  • Keep edible skin on fruits and veggies
  • Limit starchy foods
  • Choose whole wheat over white
  • Reduce foods high in sugar (especially added sugars)
  • Drink 6 to 8 glasses of water per day to avoid constipation

 

I Challenge You…

to take a look at how much fiber is in your diet today. Does it measure up to the recommended minimum of 25g/day for women or 38g/day for men? 

How do you plan to increase your dietary fiber this week? –>  Here’s a great resource that might help you with that! 

 

Best,

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*** You might also enjoy my past posts on: Eating more Veggies and Fruits  AND Balsamic Roasted Carrots Recipe ***

 


 

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Stress and Your Heart: Is there a link?

Welcome to part II of our Matters of the Heart Series. Last week was all about heart healthy living for disease prevention and today we’re talking stress. Can stress really cause high blood pressure or give you a heart attack? Read on to find out..

stress

We all have a lot on our plates, constantly balancing our day to day responsibilities with jam packed social calendars, extracurriculars, and personal hobbies. People are really busy! When we get a little too busy though, stress sets in with a death grip. Now I know sometimes a little stress can be a good thing, in that it lights that fire under you to check things off your long to-do list, but there is another side to that coin.

The consistent presence of stress in your life, can contribute to physical health issues.

Managing your stress appropriately can help reduce your risk of heart disease and chronic illness. When we embrace a positive mindset, we are more likely to eliminate destructive habits and find better alternatives to deal with our worry. This is why a healthy lifestyle is more than just eating clean and working out. It’s about the holistic approach– understanding the importance of health in all areas of life, including mentally and emotionally. If these areas are not taken care of, they can translate into physical illness.  

When in a state of stress, a chemical and hormonal chain reaction takes place within the body triggering inflammation.  While research has not yet proven that this directly affects risk of heart disease, there is evidence that stress influences your heart (and your health) in other ways. Stress can cause some people to behave in ways that increase their risk of heart disease. Think about it..  We don’t always handle stress in the best ways. Some folks eat to calm down (I could argue peanut butter cures all your problems…just kidding!). Other people throw themselves into their work.  What unhealthy choices do you fall back on when you’re under stress? When experience stress, we tend to make less than favorable lifestyle choices especially surrounding diet, exercise, and habits like smoking or drinking.

6 ways to manage stress and help your heart

Want to turn your stress around and help your heart in the process? Try these six simple tips.

  1. Listen to your body. Your body’s response to stress may be a headache, back strain, or stomach pains. Stress can also zap your energy, wreak havoc on your sleep and make you feel cranky, forgetful and out of control. If you find yourself with strange symptoms like these, your body may be telling you to slow it down. So pay attention.
  2. Stay positive. Laughter really is the best medicine. Laughter has been found to lower levels of stress hormones, reduce inflammation in the arteries, and increase “good” HDL cholesterol. Overall, embracing a positive mindset and practicing gratitude can help you handle stress appropriately. 
  3. Meditate. Traditional meditation focusing on inward thoughts and deep breathing has been shown to reduce heart disease risk factors (like high blood pressure). You can also sit quietly, close your eyes and listen to relaxing music. Yoga, prayer and even journaling can also prove to be relaxing for the mind and body.
  4. Exercise. Every time you are physically active, whether you take a walk or play tennis, your body releases mood-boosting chemicals called endorphins. Exercising not only melts away stress, but it also protects against heart disease by lowering your blood pressure, strengthening your heart muscle, and helping you maintain a healthy weight.
  5. Unplug. Avoid emails, TV news, and sometimes even social media.  It’s impossible to escape stress when it follows you everywhere. Take time each day—even if it’s for just 10 or 15 minutes—to escape from the world by doing something else with your time. Find an activity that is restorative and allows you to forget your burdens for a moment, such as reading, sports, adult coloring books, or any other activity you enjoy.
  6. Create a Self Care ritual. Take a bubble bath, listen to music, or get a massage. Any technique is effective if it works for you.

There will always be stress in your life but it’s your choice how you let it affect you. You may not be able to control the stress that comes into your life, but you can control your reaction to it and that makes a world of a difference.

Is your stress leading to destructive, unhealthy habits? How are you planning to take control of it and help improve your health? 

 

 

Thanks for reading,

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Health is where the Heart is

This month I’m sharing a series called “Matters of the Heart,” where you will find weekly posts about all things related to heart health, on both physical and emotional topics. I am doing this not in honor of Valentine’s day, but really because it’s American Heart Month. Bringing awareness to heart disease should be important to all of us because aside from being the leading cause of serious illness and disability in the U.S., it is also the number 1 killer of Americans. Even more tragic, is that many of the deaths related to heart disease are preventable and treatable.

heart health

 

Imagine if disease could be prevented, reversed, or even eliminated… What if you could avoid “inheriting” the high cholesterol that runs in your family, the uncontrolled blood pressure, or obesity gene? Can you actually have a say in how long and how strong  your heart will beat on? Envision yourself having a hand in living a longer, energized life that allows you to partake in celebrations and enjoy family & friends…. I’m not here to tell you I’ve found the secret to  longevity or immortality, sorry! But I AM here to share with you that prevention is key to fighting disease and embracing life. You CAN make huge impacts to your quality of life with small, consistent changes.

So how can we fight the battle against disease, especially heart disease?

Focus on health rather than weight. The number on the scale may fool you into a false sense of satisfaction, like thinking you’re “skinny” but it does not give you immunity to illness. Let’s not fall victim to crash diets and endless cardio.  Instead, change your mindset around health and wellness. Strive to eat and exercise with the intent of strengthening your heart and protecting your body from disease.  It’s important to take care of our health, get regular check ups, and listen to our bodies.  Make disease prevention your main focus and motivation for being healthy. You absolutely can prevent/heal/fight disease by living a healthier lifestyle.

You may already know what changes you must make to maintain optimal heart health and live your best life, now it comes down to remembering WHY these changes matter.

You may feel amazing right now, but think about those bad habits you can’t seem to shake and the consequences they could be causing you in 5 to 10 years from now. Is it worth it? Having worked closely with patients suffering from heart disease for a little over two years, I have seen first hand how disabling and fatal this disease is. On the other hand, I’ve been given the privilege of seeing many reverse their disease or preventing it from worsening by embracing a heart healthy lifestyle; in doing so, these folks have changed the entire trajectory of their lives.  That’s what I want for you, too! Take control of your life by committing to healthy changes.

Ditch the excuses and bad habits. It’s time to make some real changes.

This is your season to adopt simple, healthy practices that can positively affect the course of your life. Know that I am here to help you along the way.  This American Heart Month, please consider what you and your loved ones can do to promote a heart healthy lifestyle.

Here are just a few things you can do to set yourself up for success in health.

  • Eating whole, balanced, nutrition-dense foods
  • Exercising daily
  • Obtaining regular physicals and blood work
  • Avoiding smoking
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Managing/ preventing any chronic diseases

Start by committing to doing just 2 to 3 of these at a time and pay attention to the huge impacts you’ll experience from such small, but consistent changes. What greater benefit could there be than living healthfully and actively into old age with no dependence on medications and almost no risk of heart disease or other chronic conditions.

 

How will you protect your heart?

 

What habits are you implementing into your lifestyle to maintain top-notch heart health?

 

 

Until next time,

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** Learn more about American Heart Month here **


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