Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Feeling Stressed? Why exercise will help.

It’s common knowledge that exercise is a critical component to a healthy lifestyle. We know that exercise beneficial for our bodies, as it increases lung capacity and endurance, fights disease, and builds muscle mass. Did you also know that it also has a positive physiological effect on the growth and development of our brains? Exercise can help contribute to our emotional wellbeing.
Last year, the New York Times published the article, “How Exercise can Calm the Brain.” In this article, New York Times reviewed the findings of two studies published in  The Journal of Neuroscience and made free to the public on National Center for Biotechnology Information website. The purpose of this blog is to share what was discussed in the New York Times about the study.
Multiple studies have revealed that exercise is able to create highly energized and active brain cells and turn them off in order to become calm. Exercise prompts the creation of new young brain cells that are highly excitable. Easily excitable brain cells are great for memorization and quick thinking, but can also lead to an increase in anxiety and stress through a brain that cannot turn off. How then does exercise prompt the growth of excitable young brain cells that could easily induce anxiety, while also reducing stress and creating calm?
Researches who have studied exercise were unsure how exercise could stimulate the brain while also calming it down. Scientists at Princeton conducted a study on mice to see if they could shed any light on this mystery. Here is what they discovered in a nutshell:
  • For six weeks the mice were divided into two groups. Both were given cages that has places that were well lit and had shadowy corners. One group had a wheel they could run on as they pleased. The other did not have a wheel. The scientists measured each groups baseline nervousness.
  • The mice with the wheel (runners) were more willing to explore and spend time in the open. An indication that there were more confident and less anxious than the mice without exercise.
  • The brains of the runners had lots of new neurons. The sedentary mice also had new neurons but not as many.
  • The runner’s’ brains had developed more neurons that are created to calm the brain’s activity by releasing the calming neurotransmitter GABA.  GABA is “an inhibitory neurotransmitter that is often referred to as “nature’s VALIUM-like substance”.  When GABA is out of range (high or low excretion values), it is likely that an excitatory neurotransmitter is firing too often in the brain.  GABA will be sent out to attempt to balance this stimulating over-firing” (
  • Runners had many new cells in the ventral region of the hippocampus, these are believed to help process emotions.
  • The scientists tested the mice’s behavior and neurological reactions to anxiety by placing them in ice-cold water for five minutes. Mice dislike water and find immersion high stressful, although it is not life-threatening. The brain’s of both groups became highly emotional. However the runners brains calmed quicker than the sedentary mice. It appeared that having more cells to release the neurotransmitter GABA was able to better calm the excitable new brain cells. This lead to the runners being stressed for less time than the sedentary mice.
The New York times article quoted, Elizabeth Gould, the director of the Gould Lab at Princeton and author of the studies paper. She said, “ the hippocampus of runners is vastly different from that of sedentary animals. Not only are there more excitatory neurons and more excitatory synapses, but the inhibitory neurons are more likely to become activated, presumably to dampen the excitatory neurons, in response to stress.” Dr. Gould also said “I think it’s not a huge stretch to suggest that the hippocampi of active people might be less susceptible to certain undesirable aspects of stress than those of sedentary people.”
Who doesn’t want more neurons to help processes emotions and thoughts quickly? Additionally, who wouldn’t want to have the mental ability to calm our minds after a stressful and emotionally distressing event has passed? We don’t simply exercise to have a more shapely and strong body. We exercise for a intelligent and emotionally calm minds.
Kay’s Naturals is committed to creating healthy communities. We do that in part through this health blog. We also help individuals achieve health and wellness by providing healthy and delicious snacks. Everything we make is low GI, low sugar, gluten-free, high-protein and high-fiber!  To see our entire product line and what we have to offer, visit our website.

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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Make Your Heart Happy: How to promote great cardiovascular health

The food we eat can have a tremendous effect on how our bodies function. This is especially true for our cardiovascular health. The foods we consume play a direct role in cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Eating healthy foods can also prevent future health problems from occurring. Making some simple changes to your diet can have you feeling better and healthier in no time. This article will identify some food to avoid or enjoy due to the way they affect cardiovascular health. The information relayed here was obtained from an article published by the University of California, San Francisco.

For heart-healthy diet follow these guidelines:

Low in sugar
Sugar can harm our cardiovascular health. Sugar is problematic for people with pre-diabetes, diabetes, or metabolic syndrome because it stimulates insulin production. Additionally, sugary foods are generally high calorie and can cause overeating and weight gain. Finally, overeating simple sugars can also raise blood levels of triglycerides.
Carbohydrates, and a bit of sugar, can be apart of your diet. According to UCSF, “a heart-healthy diet includes fruit, vegetables, grains and yogurt and milk for some — all of which contain naturally occurring sugars. Because these foods provide important vitamins, minerals and carbohydrates, the body's main fuel source, they should be a regular part of the diet.”
Low in sodium
The average American eats twice the recommended amount of salt each day. Reducing sodium intake is one of best things we can do to make our hearts happy. Although sodium sensitivity varies person to person, sodium reduction can help decrease blood pressure significantly for many. A low sodium diet can also delay or prevent high blood pressure as we age. A good goal is consumption less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day (about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of table salt).
Low in trans and saturated fats
Avoid saturated fats because they raise blood levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the "bad" cholesterol. Only 7 percent of our calories should come from saturated fats each day. (A daily diet of 2,000 calories can have 16 grams of saturated fat, or less than 3 ounces of cheese.) To eat less saturated fat minimize consumption of meat (especially high processed meats such as bologna and sausage), cheese, butter and cream.
Additionally, trans fats  damage the heart by decreases the amount of "good cholesterol,” high-density lipoprotein (HDL). There is no recommended level of trans fat because any amount can be harmful. Trans fats are most often found in food made with partially hydrogenated oils or has been deep fried. Fat altogether is not bad. Up to 35% of a heart-healthy diet can come from fat, it the fat is mostly mono- and polyunsaturated.  (For a 2,000 calorie diet, that is a maximum of 78 grams of fat.)

Low in cholesterol
Cholesterol intake should be limited. Meats, egg yolks, organ meats, shrimp and squid are high in cholesterol. Minimize cholesterol-rich foods to once a week if you have the the risk of a heart attack or stroke.

High in omega-3 fats
According to UCSF , “Omega-3 fat, in the form of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), is being studied to find out exactly how it benefits health. So far, evidence is strongest for omega-3’s ability to lower blood pressure and decrease blood levels of triglycerides. The UCSF Cardiovascular Care and Prevention Center says, “we recommend eating fish frequently — at least two times per week.”

High in fiber
Currently, the average American eats about about half the recommended amount of fiber. We should be consuming at least 25-30 grams everyday, as fiber is an essential part of a heart-healthy diet. Soluble fiber is especially important because it decreases blood cholesterol. Fruits, legumes, and vegetables are fiber rich.
Eating to nurture a healthy heart does not have to be at the expense of convenience and taste. Kay’s Naturals can be apart of your heart-healthy diet because all of our products are low sodium, low sugar, low fat, and high in fiber. All our products are diabetes friends, certified gluten free, and have great taste. To learn more, visit our website!
Additional helpful information on how to eat your way to a happy heart can found at the website heart healthy.

This article is only for educational purposes and should not replace the advice of a doctor or healthcare provider.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

What is Adrenal Fatigue? Is it a Legitimate Condition?

In today’s world of juggling life, finances, work, relationships, and health, its not uncommon to live a life of chronic stress.  Mentally, we may feel ‘out of control’ but we still continue to take on new commitments because it’s expected. What happens to our bodies when stress becomes overwhelming? It is well documented that stress has a negative impact on our health. One consequence of consistent stress could lead to a controversial condition called adrenal fatigue.

The adrenal gland is a small, triangular organ that sits above the kidneys. It produces hormones, such as cortisol that is essential for life. Cortisol manages other hormones, balances metabolism and regulates immune function. According to an article by Discovery Fit & Health, “doctors are now seeing that the adrenal gland is neither on nor completely off, but that there is a spectrum of how well it functions.” There is debate about the credibility of adrenal fatigue. The Mayo Clinic says adrenal fatigue, “isn't an accepted medical diagnosis.” Others agree with Discovery and believe that it is possible for the adrenal glands to become fatigued due to prolonged exposure to emotional or physical stress. The theory is that chronic stress will overwork the adrenal gland to the point of exhaustion and eventually it becomes too fatigued to meet the needs of the body. According to Discovery, the adrenal gland “is not a gland that deals well with the modern-day lifestyle. A few thousand years ago, our stress responses were not asked to last days and months. If we encountered a lion, we would need to fight the lion, flee from it or be eaten. This type of stress would be decided in a matter of seconds or minutes. [....] While our mind knows that a bad boss at work does not threaten our lives, from the neck down the adrenal glands and the other organs respond by hearing the same instinctive alarms.”

Many have said that treatment for adrenal fatigue has helped them, though the credibility of these claims is disputed. In an interview with Chicago Times, Dr. Paul Rosch, president of the American Institute of Stress said, "adrenal fatigue is a worthless diagnosis, and lavish testimonials and anecdotal claims of marked improvement following some intervention are most likely fraudulent or transient placebo effects." A universally recognized adrenal disorder is Addison’s disease. It is similar to adrenal fatigue in that your adrenal glands do not make enough hormones but the it is caused by an aggressive immune system and not stress ( James Wilson is a naturopath and chiropractor who coined the term adrenal fatigue in 1998. He said,  "the adrenals aren't failing, as in Addison's...They simply can't keep up with the demands placed on them. We know all organs do that," Wilson continued. "But for some reason, medicine has resisted the same concept with adrenals." (Chicago Tribune)

Health and wellness author Mary Shamon, gave the following list  of adrenal fatigue symptoms:
  • excessive fatigue and exhaustion
  • non-refreshing sleep
  • overwhelmed by or unable to cope with stressors
  • feeling run down or overwhelmed
  • craving salty and sweet foods
  • you feel most energetic in the evening
  • a feeling of not being restored after a full night's sleep or having sleep disturbances
  • low stamina, slow to recover from exercise
  • slow to recover from injury, illness or stress
  • difficulty concentrating, brain fog
  • poor digestion
  • low immune function
  • food or environmental allergies
  • premenstrual syndrome or difficulties that develop during menopause
  • consistent low blood pressure
  • extreme sensitivity to cold
Until further research can solve the debate, the decision is in your hands. A saliva cortisol test conducted by a holistic or complementary practitioner can be done to evaluate your adrenal function. If you decide to investigate a possible diagnosis of adrenal fatigue keep the following tips from the Chicago Tribune in mind:
  • “Get multiple blood or saliva tests.
  • Don't take extracts of bovine adrenal cortex. "These are absolutely ineffective because the hormones are present in extremely low concentration and, as they occur in nature, cannot be absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract," said Dr. Seymour Reichlin of Tufts University School of Medicine.
  • Consider supplements from a class called adaptogens. "Adaptogens (ashwagandha, rhodiola, licorice root, ginseng, schizandra and maca) help support adrenal function, but use them under the guidance of a trained integrative provider," said Dr. Melinda Ring of Northwestern Memorial Hospital.”
An imbalance in blood sugar is also believed to adversely affect the health of your adrenal glands. Curb your cravings for sweet or savory with Kay’s Naturals. We are very low in both, are all natural, and still have the taste and crunch to satisfy your desires! Shop online at Kay’s Naturals.

Friday, December 12, 2014

How to Make a Resolution and Keep it!

How many New Year resolutions have you made and kept? There is a lot of contempt for resolutions because not achieving one leads to feelings of failure. Of the 45% of Americans who usually make New Years Resolutions, only 8% achieve them (Journal of Clinical Psychology). This year, are you brave enough to set a realistic goal and then harness your mental and emotional power to achieve it? Cognitive Therapy can help people lose weight, or change unhealthy habits by changing how they think. This article syntheses two articles published by National Public Radio to give you the skills and information to make your diet goals a reality.  

Step #1: Set realistic, informed goals and make them explicit.

Scale back on your dreams if you think you can do a full triathlon by December but you can’t run a mile. Make it your goal to be able to run a 5K and then keep running throughout the year. Check out this training guide, to get an idea of how quickly you can reach your running goals. Take a look at your calendar to see how many times you can go to the gym each week and be sure to write down when you plan on working out. The first step to going to the gym regularly is by making your health a priority and slotting time to go to the gym.  Take a look at this article to see how to make an exercise schedule that will cater to your goals.  Finally, you are 10 times more likely to achieve your goals if you make your resolution explicit (Journal of Clinical Psychology).

Want to lose 50 pounds by April? Nearly every nutritionist would say that’s dangerous, and nearly every cognitive therapist would advise you to set physically and emotionally healthy goals. Nutritionist Rovenia Brock advises losing 1-2 pounds a week. That’s 16-32 pounds shed by April. Wouldn’t that still be an incredible achievement? Maintaining consistent and daily baby-steps to achieve sustained weight loss is critical. Think realistically and pragmatically.

Step #2: Sustain your willpower

According to the article, ‘Thinking Thin: A Cognitive-Therapy Approach,’ “many people find that when they stick with a diet — any diet — it works. But studies show that most of us can't make ourselves stick to a diet long-term.” The trick for reaching our goals then is to maintain the willpower.  Dr. Aaron Beck founded cognitive therapy in the 1960’s. His revolutionary approach changed the way individuals think and approach their problems, instead of investigating emotional problems derived from childhood. Since then, there has been increasing interest in ways to help people transform their thinking about health, food and eating. According to Judith Beck, Dr. Beck’s daughter, we need to “learn some specific skills", like planning meals and tolerating hunger pangs. Just as important is accepting and overcoming the difficulties of dieting, is our thoughts about ourselves and our goals. “For dieters, this means catching themselves whenever they have a sabotaging thought, such as, "oh, I'll never be thin, so why not just tear into this bag of chips?" When these sorts of thoughts take hold, dieters cave, and then convince themselves they have no willpower at all — which, Beck says, usually isn't true. "Dieters do have willpower," she says. "Most dieters have lost weight before. They've just gained it all back, so their willpower is a little inconsistent."
There are lots of motivators that can be of assistance to help you foster positive thinking. Find support from a group, friends, or family. Have a “no choice” mantra about going to the gym and eating healthy foods. You can make a dream board and hold yourself accountable through meal planning, a food and exercise journal, or weigh-ins with your doctor. Some techniques work for some, but not others. Investigate motivation techniques and then personalize them to make them work for you.
Sometimes a deal breaker for New Year Resolutions is not having the right food available. For those who exercise regularly, eating protein post workout is important for muscle regeneration. For those striving to lose weight on a busy schedule, having satisfying and accesible snacks that cut cravings and keeps them feeling full for hours is essential. Kay’s satisfies both of these. Each of our 1.2 oz servings of Apple Cinnamon Cereal gives you 12g of protein, 4g of fiber, and only 3g of sugar. It will not cause an imbalance of your blood sugar, is gluten free and low in carbohydrates. Thought you couldn't have cereal each morning and still lose weight? With Kay’s Naturals you can! Visit our website to see what we can offer to help you realize your goals.