Author: Jessica Pikowski

Your Guide to the Health Benefits of Nuts and Seeds

While traditionally consumers have avoided nuts and seeds due to their high caloric and fat content, a recent growth in awareness of their health benefits has raised consumer demand for these products. According to a recent report, the global nuts and seeds market is expected to grow annually by 1.7% for nuts and 10% for seeds for at least the next five years.

However, with so many different nuts and seeds to choose from, making the decision to incorporate these heart-healthy products into your diet can be overwhelming. To help you better navigate the grocery aisle next time you go shopping, here’s a breakdown of the health benefits of some of the most popular nuts and seeds:

Almonds- Almonds are calcium-rich, making them a good choice to ensure you’re getting enough of this bone-building mineral (good news almond-milk drinkers!). 

Cashews- With a high level of protein, these nuts are a great choice for those following a vegetarian diet. Additionally, they are a great source of minerals like iron and zinc.

Walnuts- Rich in omega-3, these nuts provide a heart-healthy addition to your diet and can help to to lower the bad cholesterol in your body.

Chia Seeds- Also high in omega-3s, research has found that that chia seeds may lower blood pressure and reduce an individual’s risk of heart problems.

Sunflower Seeds- Sunflower seeds contain the antioxidant vitamins E, and C, protein, and fiber.

Flax Seeds- High in protein and fiber (two tablespoons contain nearly five grams of fiber), flax seeds can help to reduce cholesterol and regulate bowels.

Remember, while nuts and seeds provide a variety of health benefits, it’s important to practice portion control when choosing them as a snack. Still high in fats and calories, more than a handful can ruin an appetite. Additionally, it’s important to eat nuts and seeds in their raw form and avoid eating them in trail mixes filled with extra salt, sugar-packed fruits, and chocolate.





More Education Needed to Support New GMO Law

Just last week, President Obama passed a bill that requires food companies to put a text label, a symbol, or an electronic code on product packages to indicate that they contain genetically modified ingredients, commonly referred to as GMOs. GMOs are simply defined as organisms in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally. With more and more consumers demanding more transparency about the food products they buy, and an overwhelming 90% of Americans reporting a desire for mandatory labeling on foods with GMOs, this bill appears to be a win from the consumer side.

However, even though a large portion of consumers believe GMOs are unsafe, recent research has found that a majority of these people don’t really understand what GMOs are. Additionally, there’s conflicting evidence over the risk of consuming GMOs. Many health organizations refer to foods with these ingredients as generally safe, yet other organizations make the case that these ingredients pose a high risk to the consumer.

So, while these labels will provide consumers with information they deserve to know, without an actual understanding of what GMOs are, or a general consensus on their safety, how will they be able to make an informed purchase decision? With the majority of consumers believing GMOs are unsafe, it seems likely that these labels will cause them to abstain from purchasing these products. However, with 75 to 85 percent of foods containing genetically modified ingredients, these products can be pretty hard to avoid.

So overall, while a label can help aid the consumer in making better food choices, it’s clear in this situation that more education and understanding is needed to make this label a truly effective tool.





Swipe Right, Save a Life

Currently, there are more than 120,000 people on the waiting list for an organ, with a new individual being added every 10 minutes. Additionally, 8,000 deaths occur every year in the U.S. because organs are not donated in time. But while an overwhelming 95 percent of Americans support organ donation, only half are actually registered as donors.

And if things weren’t bad enough, the current donor registry is a complete mess. When the system was setup in the 1960s, it made sense to have people register at the DMV because it was the only government building people passed through often. However, this has lead to each state having it’s own registry, all of which don’t communicate well with each another.

In an effort to solve these problems, a nonprofit group called Organize has teamed up with Tinder to develop an app that entices more people to register as donors. Just like users of popular dating app Tinder swipe right in an effort to find their perfect match – they can now can use this same concept to register to be organ donors- and potentially save someone’s life.

The organization is also leveraging social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to start conversations about the topic and create the first central organ donation registry. Organize believes that it’s not only important to legally register as a donor, but to publicly express your intent so your next of kin has piece of mind knowing they made the right decision. Social media platforms can provide just that, which is why Organize is capturing data from those who tweet or post about wanting to be a donor.

While we don’t know the implications of their efforts quite yet, we do know that what Organize is doing is definitely innovative, and has great potential to save many lives.

To learn more about the organization or how to register to be an organ donor, visit


How Gamification for Health and Fitness is Changing

Gamification, defined as the process of turning an activity or task into a game or something resembling a game, is increasingly being used to promote health and fitness by simply making working out more fun.

Through the use of features like badges, challenges and competition, popular apps and devices such as FitBit, Nike Running and Wii Fit are using gamification to give people the motivation and rewards they need to get off the couch.

But while this use of gamification began with the release of fitness trackers and apps that allow consumers to monitor different aspects of their health, the industry is now taking a slightly different approach. Rather than release fitness focused apps and games,  companies are starting to implement fitness into games people already have the motivation to play.

The success of this change can be best illustrated by the recent release of Pokémon Go, an augmented reality mobile phone game that is getting millions of people to walk way more than they normally do. The game requires users to walk around outside in order to collect Pokemon and various other rewards, and sets specific walking distance goals (5 kilometers, 10 kilometers) in order to hatch Pokemon “eggs”.

What mainly makes this game different from other fitness apps is that the exercise isn’t the main goal. Instead the game serves as a distraction to the actual exercise, with people walking up to ten miles a day without even realizing it.

While walking isn’t exactly high intensity exercise, it’s definitely a step in the right direction, especially for users who previously weren’t active at all. Overall, there’s no doubt that this is going to change the future of gamification in the health and fitness world, and it will be exciting to see what comes next.






Health Symptoms Men Shouldn’t Ignore

Although life expectancy is at it’s all time high of  78 years old, women are still expected to live at least five years longer than men. Why? The answer is simple: men just aren’t addressing their health problems. 

Studies show that men are half as likely to consult doctors than women, and were three times as likely to admit going more than five years without a visit! While this may not seem like a big deal to many, ignoring symptoms can often lead to worsening of health. Sometimes even the smallest symptoms can be signs of much more serious problems.

Here are just a few symptoms you should never ignore:

Problems in the Bedroom- Aside from causing obvious problems with performance, erectile dysfunction can be a sign of a much more serious problem that affects blood flow, like heart disease.

Chronic Snoring- While most people brush snoring off as a normal (and annoying) habit, it can actually be a sign of sleep apnea, a disorder where breathing is interrupted during sleep. Sleep apnea not only disrupts quality of sleep but can lead to an increased risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke.

Trouble urinating- If you find yourself getting up several times in the night to pee, or feel pain or a burning sensation while going, it could be a sign of an enlarged or enflamed prostate, which can also be a sign of prostate cancer.

So if you find yourself with any of these symptoms, or anything else that seems out of the ordinary, make sure to contact your healthcare provider immediately. The sooner you address these problems, the sooner you find a solution and live a longer, healthier life.

What You Need to Know About Superfoods

As the health craze continues among Americans, you’ve probably seen the term “superfood” more and more over the last few years.

So what exactly are superfoods and what benefits do they provide?

While there is no real definition or inclusion criteria for “superfoods,” they are often described as nutrient powerhouses that pack large doses of antioxidants, polyphenols, vitamins, and minerals.

Some of the more popular “superfoods” include:

  • Blueberries: rich in vitamins, fiber and phytochemicals, high intake of this superfood has been found to reduce the risk of certain heart conditions in young women.
  • Kale: packed with antioxidants, kale helps to fight cardiovascular disease, prevent several types of cancer, prevent pre-mature aging of the skin, and promote urinary health.
  • Sweet Potatoes: full of antioxidants and fiber, just one of these gives your body more than the recommended daily dose of Vitamin A.

However, like most other good-for-you foods, while superfoods can provide a lot of benefits, they aren’t a magic bullet. Because the term is most often used as a marketing tool, consumers often wrongly believe that eating these foods on top of a poor diet can provide the same benefits. Instead, superfoods should be incorporated into a heart-healthy diet full of other fruits, vegetables, and healthy grains.

Tips for a Healthy Fourth of July Weekend

Fourth of July weekend is officially here, which means sunshine, fireworks, barbecues, and time spent with family and friends. However, with lots of food, drinks and sun, the Fourth of July and “healthy” aren’t exactly synonymous.

But before you just throw all your healthy habits out the door this weekend- here’s a few tips on how to have a healthy {and happy} Fourth of July weekend:

  • Wear sunscreen, even if you’re not laying out at the pool or beach. Even if you’re not laying out in your bathing suit, if you’re sitting outside all day at your neighbor’s barbecue it’s important to remember to apply (and reapply) sunscreen to any parts of your body that are exposed to the sun for a long period of time.
  • Get moving. Just because it’s a holiday weekend doesn’t mean you can’t be active. Sign up for your local 5K or take an early morning run on the beach. Stay active throughout the day by playing games like frisbee or volleyball with family and friends.
  • Eat healthy. While indulging in that piece of cake or a cheeseburger is fine, be careful not to go overboard. Making small changes like using whole wheat buns, or putting an extra scoop of grilled veggies on your plate can make all the difference. If it’s a potluck- make sure there’s a healthy option by bringing something like this red, white, and blue fruit salad.

Most importantly, have fun and be safe!

Protein 101

Over the last ten years, high-protein diets have become a prominent trend in the health and fitness world. People are eating less carbs and more protein to aid with both weight loss and body building. But before you throw the bread out the door, it’s important to understand what protein is and how much you actually need.

What is protein?

Proteins are nutrients made up of small building blocks called amino acids. These amino acids are broken down and then made into new proteins your body needs to grow, repair, and function.

Our bodies are able to produce some of these amino acids, but there are nine, called essential amino acids, that we must obtain from the food we eat.

While protein comes from a variety of sources, it’s important to understand that not all proteins are the same. In general, there are two kinds:

  • Compete proteins- Found in animal sources like meat, fish, dairy, and eggs, these proteins provide your body with all the essential amino acids
  • Incomplete proteins- Found in plant sources like nuts, seeds, legumes, and grains, these proteins lack one or more essential amino acids.

If you’re a vegetarian, or eat a more plant-based diet, don’t fret! Combining complementary plant-based proteins, like rice and beans, can provide your body with the same benefits as a complete protein.

How much protein do I need?

Because our body does not store protein for future use like it does with carbohydrates and fat, constant protein intake is important. But how much is enough?

In the United States, the recommended daily allowance of protein is .36 grams per pound of body weight. On average, this is:

  • 46 grams per day on average for women
  • 56 grams per day on average for men

However, while this is a recommendation for an average adult, exactly how much protein you need depends on a variety of factors, including age, sex, health and physical activity. To calculate a more precise amount, use this calculator from the USDA.

Overall, it’s important to remember that while consuming protein is important to keep your body functioning, too much protein can be detrimental to your health. For a healthy diet and lifestyle, make sure to eat a balanced combination of proteins, carbs, and fats.



Smoking Rates Down, E-Cigarette Rates Up

Earlier last month, the FDA announced a new rule that would extend the authority given to them in the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act to include all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, cigars, hookah tobacco and pipe tobacco.

If you’re not familiar with the original act, you may be wondering, what does this mean? 

Well, prior to this new rule taking place, there were no federal regulations on e-cigarettes, which meant e-cigarette companies had the ability to sell to minors under the age of 18 without restriction. Given the rising rate of e-cigarettes over the last few years, especially among youth, this lack of regulation caused reason for public health concern.

The CDC’s most recent Youth Risk Youth Behavior Survey revealed that among high schoolers, while cigarette use decreased significantly from 28 percent in 1991 to 11 percent in 2015, 24 percent of students reported using e-cigarettes during the past 30 days. Even though cigarette use is at an all time low for this population, many health experts fear that e-cigarettes may serve as a gateway to smoking. More importantly, most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which has been shown to have a negative impact on adolescent brain development.

The new rule is a foundational step for the FDA in protecting people from the dangers of tobacco use. Not only does it allow the FDA to restrict sale of e-cigarettes to minors, but also allows them to regulate the marketing and distribution of these products. This means the FDA will help to prevent misleading claims made by manufacturers, evaluate ingredients, and communicate risks of these new tobacco products.


Quench Your Thirst in a Healthier Way This Summer

Summer is officially here! While that may mean more hours at the pool or beach, more family picnics, and more time outside in general, it’s important to remember that excessive heat exposure can lead to dehydration, which can lead to more serious health complications like heat exhaustion, heat cramps, and heat stroke.

In order to stay healthy all summer long, it’s important to not only stay hydrated, but to know how to hydrate yourself the right way. While it may be tempting to crack open that soda at your friend’s barbecue or enjoy that iced cold cocktail by the pool, these beverages will only dehydrate you more.

Here are some sugary beverage alternatives that will keep you healthy and hydrated this summer:

  1. Water. Water is the best way to give your body back the fluids lost from sweating in the heat. While experts recommend drinking 6-8 cups of water a day, this number should increase if you’re spending more time outside.
  2. Infused Water. If drinking plain water is hard for you, try infusing your water with fresh fruit to give it that extra flavor. Try this Blueberry Orange Water, this Strawberry Lime Cucumber Mint Water or create your own!
  3. Watermelon. This popular summer snack is 92% water, and its salt, calcium, and magnesium content make it ideal for rehydration.
  4. Smoothies. Smoothies can offer rehydration benefits IF you include the right ingredients. Try to fill yours will water filled fruits like strawberries, watermelon, or cucumbers, and fill with liquids like coconut water instead of milk. Try this Refreshing Strawberry Watermelon Smoothie.

Stay hydrated!