Is This “The Secret” to Optimal Health and Happiness?

You are only 10 percent human.

As crazy as it sounds, our bodies have only 10 percent human cells. The other 90 percent are bacterial.

Most of these bacterial organisms live in your gut, part of a stunningly complex network of 100 million neurons known as your “microbiome”.

Your gut—which includes the esophagus, stomach, and intestines—actually has its own nervous system that allows it to operate independently from the brain, which is why it’s often called the “second brain.”

Ever felt butterflies in your stomach before giving a speech? Or had a “gut feeling” about something that turned out to be right?

That’s the second brain at work.

The Health Benefits of Probiotics

probiotics health benefits

So how do you improve your gut health?

The best way to get more good bacteria in your body is to eat whole, fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles, and miso.

The second best way is to take a supplement or eat foods with added “probiotics,” a term used to describe health-promoting bacterial species.

However, 94% of probiotics added to food products are completely ineffective.

That’s because they either:

  1. Have a short shelf life
  2. Get killed by your stomach acid, or
  3. Don’t stay in your digestive tract long enough to provide any health benefit

It doesn’t matter how many “billion CFUs” your probiotic has if none of those good bacteria survive through your digestive system!

How do you find a good probiotic that actually works?

Start by finding out the answers to these questions:

  1. Does your probiotic survive stomach acid? As mentioned, most don’t. Certain strains fare better than others (like Bacillus coagulans). And some manufacturers (like Hyperbiotics) have developed proprietary processes that time-release the delivery of the bacteria until it reaches your intestine.
  2. Is your probiotic lab tested for safety? The FDA doesn’t require probiotic companies to test their bacteria strains. So naturally, they don’t do it. Probiotic contamination is a big deal though. If your probiotic manufacturer doesn’t have strict quality control measures in place, your probiotic may be doing more harm than good. Make sure the company you buy from tests its probiotics and can prove it to you.
  3. Is your probiotic backed by peer-reviewed clinical studies? Don’t trust marketing claims on product labels and websites. Even most clinical data probiotic companies cite is funded by the companies themselves. Your probiotic should be backed by peer-reviewed clinical studies (the gold standard in scientific research) if the company makes any claims about its benefits.
  4. Does your probiotic contain fillers, preservatives, and artificial ingredients? The answer is usually yes, but manufacturers are very good at hiding this information. The only way to know is to ask.
  5. Is your probiotic dairy-free? Many probiotics use a milk-based medium to help the bacteria grow. However, the people who probiotics tend to benefit most are those with digestive or immune problems … and dairy can trigger a whole host of issues.

The bottom line

Like most industries, the market for probiotics is ripe with crappy products. The only way to know if your probiotic is legit is to find out the answers to the five questions above. If a manufacturer is hesitant to provide any information you ask for, that’s a big red flag for an inferior product that could do more harm than good.

10 minutes of research makes a world of difference when it comes to choosing a healthy probiotic supplement.

Don’t roll the dice with your health.

If you want to try a probiotic that actually works, grab a sample bag of Pure Food Probiotic Protein Powder for just 5 bucks (you just pay shipping).

Is Tom Brady the “Food Babe” of Professional Athletes?

tom brady healthy eater
Source: ESPN SportsNation on Twitter

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady recently responded to a scathing article written about his personal trainer by lashing out at two notorious junk food conglomerates, Kellogg and Coca Cola.

In an interview with Boston radio station WEEI-FM, Brady was asked about a recent Boston Magazine article that portrayed his personal trainer as a fake doctor who sold unproven miracle cures.

He went on the offensive, calling out the “hypocrites” who belittled his trainer while putting junk food into their own bodies.

“I think that’s quackery,” he said, describing the billions of dollars Coca-Cola has spent on marketing. “And the fact that they can sell that to kids? I mean, that’s poison for kids.”

He also took a jab at Tony the Tiger, saying cereals like Kellogg’s sugar-laden Frosted Flakes are why the U.S. has a major childhood obesity problem.

Kellogg had the audacity to respond and say that cereal breakfasts are “tied to lower body mass index readings in both children and adults” (wonder who funded that study?)

Props to Tom Brady for forgoing the opportunity for a large sponsorship deal (Take Part has some astonishing facts about this) to speak his mind and put these companies on the hot seat.

Tom: even though I’m a Michigan State grad and you’re a former Wolverine, you’re all right in my book.

What Are Natural Flavors?

what are natural flavorsOne of the most common questions I get from readers is:

What are natural flavors, and are they bad for me?

Natural flavors are the fourth most common ingredient on food labels today. The only ingredients you’ll see more often: salt, water and sugar.

In this article, I’ll tell you:

  1. What natural flavors are, and
  2. Four science-backed reasons you should avoid foods that have them

Away we go …

What are natural flavors?

The FDA allows food companies to use the term “natural flavors” to describe any food additive that originated in nature.

If they originated in nature, what’s the problem? you may be asking.

According to David Andrews, Senior Scientist at the Environmental Working Group (EWG), this:

[Natural flavors] will often have some solvent and preservatives—and that makes up 80 to 90 percent of the volume. In the end product, it’s a small amount, but it still has artificial ingredients.

Natural flavor is now the fourth most common ingredient listed on food labels! Click To Tweet

This is a major issue for anyone who considers themself a clean, healthy eater.

Here are my top four reasons to avoid natural flavors

Reason #1: natural flavors are 90 percent chemical junk

As you learned above, 80 to 90 percent of the ingredients that make up natural flavors contain chemical solvents and preservatives. These include the cancer-causing chemical BHA, propylene glycol (found in antifreeze), and genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Reason #2: natural flavors are basically perfumes for your mouth

Cleaning products, perfumes, and cosmetics contain a combination of chemicals called “fragrances.” In processed food, this chemical mixture is called a “flavor.” Because smell comprises 80 to 90 percent of the sense of taste, fragrances and flavors are often alarmingly similar in chemical composition.

Reason #3: natural flavors are designed by Big Food to be addictive

There are four huge corporations that control the $24 billion market for both flavors and fragrances: Givaudan, Firmenich, IFF and Symrise.

In a fascinating 2011 interview that aired on 60 Minutes, scientists from Givaudan, one of the aforementioned power players in the food flavoring world, admitted their number one goal when creating flavors was to make them addictive!

Scientists have admitted that natural flavors are designed to be addictive. Click To Tweet

Reason #4: The FDA lets flavor companies call the shots

Incredibly, the FDA frequently allows food companies to develop their own food additives without providing oversight or safety reviews of their chemical concentrations. These companies are smart: they hire expensive lawyers to ensure they’ve followed the archaic FDA processes when developing their flavors … and generally the FDA leaves them alone.

Scientist David Andrews sums it up once again:

The truth is that when you see the word “flavor” on a food label, you have almost no clue what chemicals may have been added to the food under the umbrella of this vague term. For people who have uncommon food allergies or are on restricted diets, this can be a serious concern.

What you can do about it

Natural flavors are not natural, no matter how much food companies try to convince you otherwise.

But they’re so prevalent in so many foods it’s really hard to avoid them.

The simple solution is to stop buying foods that contain natural flavors. You can also contact the FDA expressing your concern. Or reach out to your elected officials and tell them you think this is unacceptable and you’d like more oversight of these types of ingredients in the foods you eat.

At the end of the day, eating more fresh foods that come from nature and packaged foods with only ingredients you recognize as real food is the easiest way to avoid natural flavors.

Like what you read here?

CLICK HERE to get our FREE Google Sheet comparing 25+ plant protein brands by nutrition, ingredients, and cost (and discover which brands use natural flavors).

Why Fruit Juice Ain’t That Much Different Than Fruit Loops

A recent article published on Today talked about a class action suit that claims the food corporation that owns Welch’s Fruit Snacks, Promotion in Motion, has been deceiving consumers into thinking their fruit snack products are healthy (shocker, right? J)

This lawsuit may have larger implications here though. Think about how many processed junk food snacks show bright, colorful fruits on their package and say things like “made with real fruit!”—even though that “real fruit” only makes up a fraction of what’s in it.

sugar in orange juiceSo while we’re on the topic of fruit, I’ll go out on a limb and say there’s really not a whole lot of difference between fruit snacks, Fruit Loops, and fruit juice.

Yes, I said fruit juice—the same stuff the USDA claims counts for a serving of your daily fruit and vegetable intake.

Here’s my beef: fruit juice just isn’t the same as eating a whole piece of fruit.

A study published in the British Medical Journal found drinking fruit juice was associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.

Susan Jebb, a government advisor and head of the diet and obesity research group at the Medical Research Council’s Human Nutrition Research unit at Cambridge University, said, “Fruit juice isn’t the same as intact fruit and it has as much sugar as many classical sugar drinks.”

While I have no problem with people who make their own fruit and vegetable juices at home with their juicers, the bottom line is the small amounts of vitamins and antioxidants in most juices don’t make up for the large amount of sugar in them.

Your best bet if you’re craving something fruity is to eat a whole piece of fruit or toss a whole piece of fruit in your blender with a smoothie. But as the old saying goes, common sense ain’t always so common.

The Best Ways to Exercise Without Going to the Gym

If you’ve ever used Quora, you know it’s a pretty awesome resource for getting quality answers to almost any question imaginable.

If you haven’t used it, definitely check it out.

The other day a Quora question showed up in my inbox and I was so impressed with the answer I had to share it with you.

The question was What are the best ways to exercise without having to go to the gym or lift weights at home?

First off, not lifting weights is perfectly okay … BUT I ENCOURAGE EVERYONE TO DO SOME TYPE OF STRENGTH TRAINING … ESPECIALLY IF YOU’RE A WOMAN! Contrary to popular belief, strength training isn’t just for bodybuilders. It should be included in every single person’s fitness regimen and you’ll see why below.

So back to the Quora question …

The best answer, which is fittingly at the top of the page, is from Fitness Coach Darren Beattie.

Here are a few highlights from Darren’s answer (I’ve paraphrased him in places) that can help any of you who have hit a plateau with your workouts (or are looking to start working out at home):

You can’t just pick a method and stick with it indefinitely. You need to constantly cycle your body outside of its comfort zone to create adaptation.

Doing something seemingly simple like 100 pushups, sit-ups, chin-ups and squats at home won’t cut it long term. It might work for 4 or so weeks though. It will however need to be changed to make it progressively more difficult at that point. We call this the point of diminishing returns. Doing the same thing for too long to yield less and less desirable adaptation relative to the work put in.

Now, Darren’s answer centered around muscle growth, but it’s still fantastic advice for ALL exercisers and important to understand as a basic “Exercise 101” concept.

Here are some of my other favorites (again, I’m paraphrasing):

Strength training burns calories while you are at rest because your muscles are always burning fuel to repair and grow. Pick 1 to 6 movements that target the entire body, with 10 variations from very easy to super hard, working towards feats like one-armed push ups, one-armed pull ups, pistol squats, and one armed hand stand pushups. (from Adam Macallister)

There is no excuse for not being fit when you can work out for just 25 minutes a day, 5 days a week, in your living room. (from Tom Sullivan)

Begin with easier exercises for the six major moves: Push-Ups, Pull-Ups, Handstand Push-ups, Squats, Leg raises, Bridges. (from Devendran Mudaliar)

Do something you like! Dancing, walking your dog, golfing, swimming- try to find something that you ENJOY so it does not feel like a chore. (from Steven DeCillis)

Focus more on your diet. Aim for a healthy balanced diet with the right calorie and macros. (from Mindy Zhou)

If you work out hard, but eat too much, you’ll still get fat and you won’t see losses. (from Bart Loews)

Regardless of your preferred workout method, try pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and trying out some of the strength training advice above. This is the stuff that help me get into fantastic shape and see my abs for the first time in years. I love doing yoga for mental and physical balance and flexibility and hitting the trail for my cardio workouts … but nothing has gotten me results better and faster than following the types of advice you see above. Give it a whirl, and you’ll start to see a new you when you look in the mirror.

 

Watch What Happens When Dutch Dude Gives Up Sugar and Alcohol, and Artificial Ingredients

It’s no secret overindulging in sugar, booze, and processed food can make you fat, sick, and eventually dead much quicker.

Cutting out this stuff is hard, no doubt … but doing so will lead to drastic changes in your health.

Sacha Harland, a Dutch dude who makes web videos for a living, decided to cut out sugar, alcohol, junk food, and all foods with artificial ingredients.

He captured his journey in this six-minute video clip.

Much of his story is predictable: guy goes to doctor, has high cholesterol, makes healthy changes, realizes the error of his ways, turns life around, etc.

But what stands out to me about Sacha’s journey is something I think we all can learn from. Sacha realizes his taste buds have been trained to crave junk food. After 30 days though, his cravings for salty and sweet crap are gone.

Plus he’s dropped a few pounds, lowered his cholesterol, and has more energy.

So here’s my advice for anyone who struggles to cut cravings for certain foods: make a commitment to eat zero foods with artificial ingredients for 7 days.

This likely means you will have to prepare and/or cook your own meals and pick out packaged foods that don’t have any ingredients you don’t recognize as real food. It’s hard. 100 Days of Real Food has this helpful grocery and meal plan list.

Give your body a week and see what happens.

Once you experience how much better you feel, you’ll want to do it for another week. This is how I cut out sweets, refined grains, and soda. It works, and the look better/feel better part is pretty sweet, too.

How One Woman and Her “Army” Convinced Subway to Stop Serving Meat With Antibiotics

subway antibiotics food babe
source: http://foodbabe.com/subwaymeat/

Subway just announced its commitment to stop using antibiotics in its meat.

This is a huge win for the Consumers vs. Big Food movement. It started, as many recent wins have, with one person and her “army” of followers. You may have heard of Food Babe, aka Vani Hari, the anti-processed food blogger who, along with her loyal tribe, has managed to convince several big-time food companies to make major changes to the foods they serve.

Here are just a few examples:

  • Chick-fil-A agreed to remove artificial dyes, artificial corn syrup, and TBHQ from their products—and use only antibiotic-free chickens within the next 5 years.
  • Chipotle agreed to disclose all their ingredients and commit to stop serving GMO food.
  • Kraft removed artificial food dyes from their Mac and Cheese after the Food Babe gathered 380,000 signatures.

The list goes on.

Food Babe’s push to convince Subway to get rid of antibiotics started in April, 2015 with a simple letter. From there, she got backing from several public interest groups and launched a series of petitions, the most recent of which netted over a quarter million signatures.

The fat cats at Subway finally caved, and announced their timeline for removing antibiotics from all their meats by October 20, 2015.

Here’s why this news is big—even if you’re a vegan or vegetarian

Antibiotic resistant bacteria is a growing problem. It now kills about 23,000 Americans every year. Getting food companies to stop serving antibiotic-laden meat means farmers who supply those meats will stop using antibiotics.

This is a crucial step in preventing thousands of illnesses and deaths every year caused by superbugs … and it begins to spark conversations about how to make our food system safer, healthier, and more sustainable in the future.

You still won’t catch me eating Subway very often (if ever), but I’m all for that.