Summertime Safety: Sunburn Prevention

Summertime Safety: Sunburn Prevention

It is important for your health to engage in regular exercise, as well as, a nutritious diet. But there are other elements that can make or break your healthy lifestyle.  Natural elements that can act as an obstacle.  And in summer, one of the biggest obstacles is the sun. The heat of the summer season, combined with the ultraviolet rays of the sun can cause major skin damage in the form of a sunburn. At its least effective, it can cause painfully irritated skin, at its most, it can give you skin cancer. That is why today, we are going to focus on the importance of skin care during outdoor activities for a healthy and happy lifestyle during the summer season. Because if we can’t focus on other important aspects of health combined with nutrition, then you are only taking care of half of your health.

sunburn, healthWhat are the Symptoms of Sunburn?

The more common symptoms of sunburn include reddening of the skin and pain. However, that is the most basic of its effects. That rarely touches on the more severe symptoms, as well as what happens to the skin during recovery.

More extreme forms of sunburn symptoms include fever, chills, nausea, weakness, dehydration, and headaches. It is colloquially called “sun poisoning,” and the combined symptoms oftentimes can make the person feel like they are drunk.

If the burn is severe enough to get into its second degree, then blisters will often form on parts of the skin. They will swell with bodily fluids made up of water and some white blood cells.  Blisters will appear to provide a cool protective layer between the old skin and the new skin that is forming.  That is why it is important to avoid lancing smaller blisters, and if a larger one pops, you want to keep the old skin on there as much as possible to prevent infection, as well as any extra ultraviolet rays of the sun.

Speaking of…

How Do Sunburns Happen?

Well, sunburns are caused by the ultraviolet rays of the sun. There are three types of ultraviolet rays that come from the sun that are classified as UVA, UVB, and UVC.  UVA and UVB are the types sunburn, water blisters, severe, healthof ultraviolet rays that can seep into your skin. UVC, the most dangerous of the bunch, is naturally blocked by the Earth’s ozone layer.  The ultraviolet rays cause a radiation effect and damages skin cells that come into burn contact.

And how powerful is that burn? Powerful enough to take on literal strands of DNA. ”

Invisible ultraviolet light carries more energy than the light visible to humans, and this energy packs a tiny punch.

“When a UV photon strikes the skin, it can damage the DNA in the body’s cells. It does this by breaking the orderly bonds between the four nucleotides, adenosine, thymine, and guanine. So-called thymine dimers form, when two thymine nucleotides bind together, throwing the whole shape of the DNA molecule out of whack.”

It is produced by cells in our skin called melanocytes. Melanin absorbs ultraviolet light and dissipates it as heat.

Our skin can produce natural protection from the sun, in the form of melanin, a type of skin pigment. However, the amount of melanin we have varies from person to person. Darker skinned people, for instance, will have more melanin than someone with fair skin. Even if everyone has the same amount of melanocytes.

However, that does not mean that people with darker skin are completely immune to sunburn. They just need a little less assistance. That is why there is a range of sun care products for the prevention of sunburn.

So, what are some of the things to look for when trying to prevent sunburn?

Sunburn Prevention

Usually, the type of sunscreen that you want will depend on your age, how fair your skin is, and how long you stay in the sun exposure. If you are dark skinned and don’t stay out long, something like SPF30 will do the trick. If you are fair skinned, or you have a fair skinned child planning to stay out in a water park all day, then you want a higher SPF with regular application every couple of hours.  Broad spectrum sunscreen is great for blocking both UVA and UVB rays.

What is fascinating about this part is that these rays are not exclusive to summertime. It just happens more often because people are outside more during the summer season. But the weirdest yet most fascinating thing about sunburns is that it doesn’t have to be the middle of summer for you to get them.  “ 80% of UVB rays can reflect from surfaces such as ice, snow, and sand and increase UV exposure. UVA rays can penetrate through glass, such as your car window.” So, you want to stay covered just as a rule of thumb.

If you are willing to forego sunbathing and skin exposure, you can always use a cover, like a hat or a t-shirt to prevent ultraviolet rays from getting access to your skin. Also, you might want to just avoid going outside during the hottest part of the day, from 10AM-2PM.

Also, it is just important to stay hydrated, whatever outdoor activity you are planning to do.

Sunburn Aftercare

If you were just so wrapped up in your own activities that you forgot about sun care, chances are you are already burnt like a rotisserie chicken.  Thankfully, there are things that can be done for treatment. These treatments include:

  • Pain relief – over-the-counter (OTC) pain relief such as ibuprofen or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) can help relieve the pain and reduce swelling. It is best to take these as soon as possible. Some pain relief can be applied as a topical ointment.
  • Hydrocortisone cream – may also help reduce inflammation and itching.
  • Rehydrate – drink water to help rehydrate the skin.
  • Don’t break small blisters – allow them to run their course. If one breaks, clean it with mild soap and water.
  • Peeling skin – do not pick, and continue to apply moisturizer.
  • Cool the skin – apply a damp cloth or towel, or take a cool bath.
  • Do not use butter – this is a false remedy that can prevent healing and damage skin.
  • Apply moisturizer – for instance, aloe vera gel.
  • Stay out of the sun – avoid making the burn worse by exposing it to more UV.

If you see a mole that you are unfamiliar with, then you want to go to a dermatologist as soon as you possibly can to determine whether it is cancerous or not.


Nutrition Facts : Translating Diet Marketing Terms

Ask a Nutritionist: Translating Diet Marketing Terms

I may have mentioned this before but a lot of the nutrition industry is kind of a scam. Marketers, junk food companies, and pseudo-experts peddle placebos at best to outright dangerous dietary advice at worst. It comes from the need for a quick fix combined with a poor body image. An image that is perpetuated by the media we consume. This problem is so prevalent, that we are as unhealthy as we have ever been as a nation. So, what can we do to live our healthiest lives? We educate ourselves with accurate information. And the best thing to do is to recognize the intent of companies that are marketing their products as healthy.

So, this nutritionist will translate and comment on the terms that often throw the public for a loop.


The “Frees”


nutrition, fat freeFat-Free

This is one of the things that has been common for packaging over the last 30 years is the term “fat-free”. You can find the term on top of things like pre-packaged snacks. While a lot of people have gotten wise to this particular term, some of them often forget the implications behind “fat-free”. This is succinctly put by, “Something that most people seem to forget is that fat-free does not mean calorie-free, carbohydrate-free, or preservative-free. What some fat-free products lack in fat, they make up for in sugars and other unhealthy additives”. Also, the application of the term could only apply to the serving. If one cookie has a negligible amount of fat, if you eat seven of them, then you are probably eating enough for there to be fat in it.



The term sugar-free oftentimes means that the natural sugar that would be in a recipe is replaced with an artificial sweetener. While people are making an effort to cut down on the sugar, we still don’t know the long term effects of how artificial sweeteners affect the body. You are better off decreasing sugar altogether and indulging very sparsely on the real thing.


Gluten Free

This is a more recent diet fad that has come in light of the discovery of gluten sensitivities and allergies. While celiac disease and other related gluten allergies are certainly problematic, it affects a whopping 1% of the American population. Out of 327 million Americans, only 3 million have are legitimately allergic to gluten. Statistically, this is not as large as the number of people who believe they have that sensitivity.  While it is important that some companies are mindful of them in general, it isn’t as widespread as people believe.


The Natural Movement



This movement is old enough to be prevalent since the 1960s when certain groups were worried about the implications of pesticides in gardening. The term these days is a catch-all buzzword for nutrition organicthings that are food without excess chemicals. But just because something is organic, that does not mean its always healthy. You can eat organic ice cream but its still ice cream. If you only focus on the term ‘organic’ without looking at nutrition implications, then you won’t live a healthier life by much.


All Natural

Just like organic, the idea of something being natural is assumed to be healthy. But that kind of assumption, when consumers are not careful, just leads to cognitive dissonance. After all, sumac is technically natural but it is deadly to us. Sugar is natural too, and if it is in food stuff, chances are it isn’t all that healthy. Too much sea salt will cause sodium problems. See, what I mean? While you may be more likely to choose something naturally made, you still should still be wary of nutrition in general.


Over Powered Nutrition



Doesn’t it sound like something that belongs to a comic book? Joking aside, the term itself is not something official. This is a product of pure marketing and is a huge issue when it comes to dietary supplements and specific ingredients. Our bodies are far too complicated to simply react to one type of food. It needs a balanced diet with multiple elements involved. There is no cure-all food that will suddenly change how your body works. It takes consistent effort and balanced nutrition to lose weight and live a healthy life.

Antioxidants/ Probiotics

Both terms are abused quite often to satisfy the demand of foods that contain both. While both of them are important for a healthy diet, I must reiterate that our bodies are complicated. We need a balanced diet with all of these things to live as our best selves. Eating enough vegetables and the occasional fermented food is more than enough to get what your body needs.



If you have any questions about nutrition, you can always ask a nutritionist. They are more educated on the subject and can look through all the garbage. Call Bekah if you are serious about coming up with a diet plan.

Grading Meat: What’s Healthy and What Isn’t

Grading Meat: What’s Healthy and What Isn’t

A little while ago, we talked about the grading of vegetables. How confusing the system was, and what was constituted as healthy. Well, this time, we are looking into the rules and regulations for grading meat. If the policy is completely voluntary or at least a little lax for vegetables, then surely it would be the same for the meat industry, right? Not exactly.

Thanks to a failed attempt at getting America to embrace socialism by Upton Sinclair, regulations in the meat industry was a must from the 1920’s onward. People were concerned if the handling of meat was considered safe and healthy. So, the meat grading system, compared to the vegetable grading system is far more complex and is taken more seriously by the government. There are different grading levels for each type of meat. Most of which are not interchangeable with meat because each type of meat has its own properties based on what is healthy for that animal. So, we are going to look into the grading system for two of the three types of meat that are predictably harvested and bred in the United States. Beef, and Chicken.

Grading Beefbeef, prime

Beef, meat from a cow, has officially 8 grades. Each grade takes into consideration both the marbling and the age of the meat from when it was initially killed and harvested.

1.  U.S. Prime – Highest in quality and intramuscular fat, limited supply. Currently, about 2.9% of carcasses grade as Prime. This would be the creme de la creme where beef is concerned and has the most fat attached to it.

2.  U.S. Choice – High quality, widely available in the foodservice industry and retail markets. Choice carcasses are 53.7% of the fed cattle total. The difference between Choice and Prime is largely due to the fat content in the beef. Prime typically has a higher fat content (more and well distributed intramuscular “marbling”) than Choice.

3.  U.S. Select (formerly Good) – This is lowest grade commonly sold at supermarkets, acceptable quality, but is less juicy and tender due to leanness.  The cutoff for this grade of meat, as well as the other two grades above,  is when the cattle is 30 months old or younger.

4.  U.S. Standard – Lower quality, yet economical, it lacks marbling so you would need to add some fat for cooking.

5.  U.S. Commercial – Low quality, lacking tenderness, produced from older animals. If you are using this type of meat at all, then you would want to utilize a cooking method meant to tenderize the beef, like boiling. The age of this cattle is in between 30 to 40 months old.
The three grades below are the kind of beef that can’t cut it as a steak.  Instead, the meat from older cattle is utilized for things like ground beef, sausages, hotdogs, and canned meats. This cutoff in age is past 40 months.

6.  U.S. Utility

7.  U.S. Cutter

8. U.S. Canner


grading chicken, health standardsGrading Chicken

The quality of chicken, like beef, does have a grading system. However, there are only three grades. This is because the grading system does not rely on the age of the chicken, so much as it relies on the condition of the meat and bones. The meat and muscular definition of the animals vary according to species, so they rely on checking the fat content, the condition of the flesh, and the condition of the bone. All to make sure which is more healthy.

1.  Class A –  This type of class is at the top. This is with no deformities, bruises, broken bones, or discoloration. This bird better be in perfect condition to make this grade. There should be no exposed flesh or at least as little as possible. This is the type of chicken that is good for roasting.

2.  Class B –  This type of class allows for moderate deformities. It should still have flesh, at least enough so that the wings or the drums don’t look too thin. The amount of exposed flesh can be no more than one-third of the carcass.  This type of chicken is great for frying.

3. Class  C – This is the lowest grade for poultry. It is allowed more room for error with the occasional feathers still unplucked, little fat attached to the flesh, and mostly exposed skin. The meat is going to be tougher, so this grade of chicken is best for stuff like stew meat or used in the making of stock.

Which Grades are Healthy?

The way that we grade meat is far more meticulous than vegetables, and it is outright fascinating how meat is graded on their own merits. However, what do we know is the healthiest? The trick is, you don’t want the fattest cut, but you don’t want the leanest cut either. Fat is still good for adding flavor and tenderizing the meat, but too much of it can go to your waistline. Stick with midgrade unless you want to go lean for things like stews.

Healthy Activities for the Summer Season

Choose  A Healthy Workout for the Summer Season

Though it is only the beginning of May, outside temperatures are steadily rising in Huntsville, AL. That means that the summer season is just around the corner. Kids get out of school, swimming pools are getting ready to open up, and many critters are running around the outdoors.  Interestingly enough, this is also the time of year where a lot of physical activities take place. And while not everyone has a “bikini body” they are proud of, there are still plenty of ways to get fit and enjoy the summer season. Here are a few ways you can get fit with some healthy workout in the summer season.

workout cycling



Do you want to feel the rush of wind against your face? Do you want to develop leg strength while performing cardio? Then cycling is the way to go. While most kids have hopped on a bike once in a while, most people don’t really take that with them into adulthood. However, you should reconsider if you haven’t done it in a while since it is tremendous for your heart health and muscle activity. It is also low impact, so your joints will less likely suffer from permanent damage. So hop on that bike and ride like you never forgot to learn how!


Maybe you want to keep the weight of the world off your shoulders. Gravity, after all, can be a hefty burden especially to your joints, including your knees and hips. The weightless sensation makes you less likely to feel like your body has expended too much effort. It is great for people who suffer from physical disabilities. And, it also counts as a cardio activity, as well as an important life skill to learn in case of emergencies. So, grab that suit and dive right in!


This is a form of exercise that anyone can know how to do instinctually from the time they were a toddler. All you have to do is put one foot in front of the other for a long enough time, and eventually, you will get in shape. This activity is a little more high impact compared to something like swimming, so if you have joint pains, you might want to take it a little easy on this one. Nevertheless, if you want something that does not cost money in accessories, grab a pair of your old tennis shoes and get to walking.


This form of workout can give you a “two for one” kind of benefit. For starters, the act of gardening itself can be considered a somewhat strenuous activity. Gardening involves things bending, lifting, pulling, and several other forms of physical movement. So, the first physical benefit is exercise. The second benefit would be fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as pretty flowers in your yard for yourself and others to enjoy. If you have the tools, the plot of land, and a floppy hat, then you can get out there and garden. If you don’t have the land or supplies, there are plenty of co-op and volunteer gardens that could benefit from your help. This can add a third benefit to this kind of exercise, helping your community.

workout, dancing


What if you have a sudden urge to move. Or maybe you want to indulge your artistic side or understand your heritage? Then you might want to consider picking up dancing. The rapid yet graceful movements of the human body are enough to get in a hardcore workout. Especially if the beat of the music runs at a faster tempo. This is a great activity for socializing since most dances require a partner, and it can certainly help in boosting confidence after a difficult yet rewarding performance.


What if you are more concerned with your spiritual practices? Maybe you are suffering from extreme anxiety and are worried about the judgment from others when working out? Then, maybe you ought to consider yoga as part of your workout regimen. The exercises are great for stretching out your limbs, clearing your mind, and decreasing blood pressure all around. Also, most of the time, when you are working out in a class, everyone else is too preoccupied with their own stretching to even notice what is going on with you. There is even a period in which you can close your eyes and come down from the intensity of the workout.  Pick this up if you feel like this is the right one for you.

Grading Produce

Grading Produce

I might have mentioned in a previous article about organic food that the term “organic” wasn’t always what people thought it was. They were not that much healthier compared to their pesticide grown counterparts. However, there is the occasional nagging feeling of ” What if what I am doing is not enough? ” Maybe,  you are still worried about the quality of groceries you are getting. Or maybe you don’t know what it is you are looking for because you haven’t cooked in a while. So, what do you do?

Well, thankfully, we can get some sort of idea on what qualifies as good food based on a rating system set up by the USDA. Right?

The Grading System for Food

Surprisingly, not all fruit, vegetables, or cuts of meat are created equal in the grand scheme of our production obsessed economy. Unfortunately, much like every other part in our lives, like housing and luxuries, it all boils down to money. The grades of meat and vegetables are reflected as a statement of quality and are distributed among what buyers can afford. So, chances are you will not see super grade vegetables in a gas station any time soon. However, if we look at the system, we can get some insight into just how produce and meat are sorted and what farmers are looking at in terms of sorting out quality.

How does it Work?

Produce is sorted into multiple categories against their own version of an “ideal” standard. So, a mushroom wouldn’t be compared to the standards of a grape, because they both have different categorical needs. Within each class of product, whether it be a fruit or vegetable, there are several sub-categories that are checked. These sub-categories include but are not limited to; color, size, presence of disease, thickness, etc. There are several examples that can be found on the USDA website. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t try to at least didn’t illustrate what such criteria even looks like.

Grade Standards for Bunched Carrots

There are only two classes of carrot in this scenario. US No 1 and US Commercial. Both are required by law to be disease free before they make it to market. However, things like size, coloration, etc are varied in allowance according to the USDA regulations.


  • The higher grade, US No1, has a more stringent allowance for which carrots make it to market and which don’t. US No1 has a 10% tolerance for things like a defect in the tops or roots and a 25% allowance for “off length tops”.


  • The lower grade, US Commercial, has a more lenient allowance for aesthetic deviation. Instead of a 10% tolerance for a defegrading system

    ct in the tops, there is a 20% margin of error.


Then, you have a product that is technically unclassified. They exist, are sold locally and aren’t checked for things outside of the usual signs of disease. They do not have to fit an aesthetic ideal, nor do they have to appear flawless for the market. There is a much wider margin of error, but only on an aesthetic level.

The Not So Standardized Grading System

This is just the classification system for carrots. There are different labels for different types of produce, let alone types of food. All of which range from letters to numbers, to a combination of both. This makes it a little confusing for people who want to at least make sure they are eating the right type of produce. It is almost like there is a hands-off approach to the produce grading system. If that is what you suspect, then you are correct.  In fact, the grading of vegetables is considered voluntary by the USDA.

Why is a Produce Grading System Voluntary?

Naturally, the first reaction that everyone probably gets after hearing that is alarm. After all, if it is a voluntary system, does it mean that farmers could potentially harm the US population by a bad batch of produce?

Thankfully, there are a few checks and balances that are in place to both prevent and react properly to something like that happening.

For starters, a farmer would want to lose their livelihood by trying to pass off diseased vegetables in a marketplace. Unless they were motivated by something else entirely, they still have their income at stake with what they sell. Also, when it comes to mass production and selling their produce both domestically and internationally, getting graded is most likely a requirement from the store that is willing to sell their goods, because their sales and reputation of a business is also at stake. There is also the recall system from both the FDA and USDA, which addresses and pulls the defective product.

As to the reason why a standard rating system is not a requirement, I am guessing it has to do with the age of the agriculture industry in America and the interest of the protection of smaller farms that may not be able to afford the processing fees for grading. Whether that will change or not would depend entirely on how the American public feels about it.

Nutrition for Children: Overcoming Picky Eating

Nutrition for Children: Overcoming Picky Eating

Parenting is not for the weak. It takes bravery, compassion, toughness, and several other traits combined to raise a child into a productive member of society. And parents , for the most part, naturally worry about the health and welfare of their own offspring. The more healthy a child winds up in adulthood, the more successful a parent feels. However, there are the occasional roadblocks that stands between your baby and the well-functioning adult. And that roadblock that often stands in between you and good nutrition for your child is picky eating.  Almost every child goes through a phase in which they can’t stand the idea of eating vegetables.  What causes the behavior? And what can parents do to mitigate that behavior?

Why Children are Picky

nutrition, childAfter a series of studies that dated back to the 1990s there has yet to be a specifically determined  conclusion behind why children are picky. Sometimes, it is a behavioral issue. Other times, they are emulating their own parents food choices, or just fall sway to social influence. There is also a possibility they are testing the limits of what to obey and disobey. Or, they could have no reason and they are just being a kid. Whatever the reason, the last thing a parent or guardian needs to do is panic. Panicking leads to the possibility of not addressing the issue with your child  or possibly screw up the way they see food. I will explain what I mean.

The Danger of the Authoritarian Approach at Dinner

Authoritarian parenting, as a rule of thumb, is often a style that is deemed controlling. The authority of the parent is absolute, and there is level of strictness that can be seen as overreaching. In households like this, the approach to solving finickiness ranges to the demand of ‘cleaning off the entire plate’ to reheating a neglected dinner from the night before for breakfast. There is also a restriction on things like sweets or unhealthy food items usually.

While it sounds good on paper, in the sense of encouraging obedience, it doesn’t exactly translate well into the child’s adult life. For example, when it comes to the ‘clean  your plate’ rule, it has nothing to do with listening to your body. “When a child’s appetite is ignored, he or she may lose the ability to regulate his or her own internal hunger and fullness cues, and this can cause weight problems.” Also, the consistent ban on things like sweets and sugary cereals tend to make children focus on the things they can’t have which can lead to sneaking around and outright binging behavior when they come into contact with the banned items.

In fact, a restrictive setting at mealtime is five times more likely to contribute to eating patterns leading to obesity.

However, that does not mean that it is okay for a parent to let the child call the shots 100% of the time either.

The Danger of a Permissive/ Neglectful Approach to Dinner

If a child is given permission to eat what they want, when they want, or when they are left to fend for themselves, it will end just as badly as the children who were too strictly regulated. Children who are given everything they want are not only less likely to regulate what they are eating, they are also more likely to not adhere to a scheduled mealtime. Both the combination of fast food and lack of structure can cause excess weight gain and health problems.

Children who are left to fend for themselves are even worse off, because food insecurity can cause not only a preference for junk food that can last longer, but binging behavior when there is food present, since they do not know when they are going to get it next.

So, if Authoritarian is too rough, and Permissive is too soft, what would be the ideal style of parenting that can help children develop good dietary habits and nutrition?4

Authoritative- Tough yet Fair

The best way to introduce the concept of balanced nutrition is letting  your child get involved in the mealtime process but not letting them have complete control. This can look like giving them a choice between two vegetables for dinner. Or letting them help with the kitchen prep work.  After all, children are more likely to eat what they made themselves. Heck, you could even make dinner time a teachable moment for your child by trying a vegetable that you don’t like together.

What makes authoritative parenting a great asset to combat picky eating is that it acknowledges the feelings of the child, but still sets boundaries. All that you need is a little bit of patience and open communication.

 Need a Nutritionist? Feel free to contact Bekah by clicking the pop up!

Bek’s Bites: The Benefits of Alfalfa Sprouts

Bek’s Bites: The Benefits of Alfalfa Sprouts

Spring has sprung, and so have all sorts of plants. Including nutritious vegetables that are starting to come into season. Lettuce, Broccoli, Peas, Asparagus, you name it, it’s sprouting. Speaking of sprouting, one of the best things to eat at this stage of plant growth is alfalfa. Alfalfa sprouts are one of the healthiest things that you can put in your body, and it is one of the easiest things to add in a dish for extra texture. There are also quite popular. In early 2006, it was the most cultivated legume worldwide being cultivated at  436 million tons.  What is their appeal? What makes people go gaga over alfalfa? Let’s talk about them and find out.

The Many Uses of Alfalfaalfalfa sprouts, nutrition

While the mature shoots are far too bitter, and the seeds themselves are too toxic for consumption, the sprouts themselves have many nutritional benefits. These benefits include:

Nutritional Benefits

Vitamin K:  This vitamin is essential to both the regulation of calcium in the bloodstream, bone metabolism, and blood clotting. When our bodies do not have enough Vitamin K, there is a good chance that any injury can lead to hemorrhaging, and possibly even bleeding out. There is also a correlation between low levels of vitamin K and osteoporosis.

Vitamin C: This vitamin is a strong antioxidant that can reduce the chances of chronic disease,  can help regulate blood pressure, can reduce the chances of gout attacks, and can help white blood cells function better. Our bodies can’t make this ourselves, and we need it in our diet in order to function.  A deficiency of this vitamin often results in scurvy, a disease that leads to bleeding in the gum, lethargy, bone pain, and in worse cases, jaundice fever, and neuropathy until death.

Protein: Protein is responsible for things like cell growth, hair and nail growth, and hormones. While it is true that protein is found in meats like fish, and nuts, they can also be found in plants, legumes, and even whole grains.  Without it, our bodies would not be likely to repair themselves if there was some sort of damage involved.

Potassium: This is another vital nutrient that we cannot make ourselves. It is responsible for making our muscles work, including the muscles that are responsible for our heartbeat and breathing. Without it, our muscles will get too weak to function, our heart rates can become abnormal. In the worst case scenario, it can even cause paralysis.

To think that one little sprout can have so many nutritional benefits! It is almost downright insane. But the presence of this plant does more than help us with our own nutrition.

It Helps the Wild Bee Population

alfalfa flower, bee

Contrary to popular belief, not all bees make honey. In fact, only one specific bee makes honey, the English Honeybee. This cultivated species of bee is well-protected and is growing larger than ever, thanks to human effort. But, the same cannot be said for native bees.  “Of the nearly 4,000 native bee species in the United States alone, four native bumblebee species have declined 96 percent in the last 20 years, and three others are believed to have gone extinct.”

However, alfalfa plants are not exactly friendly to the honeybee population. “; the pollen-carrying keel of the alfalfa flower trips and strikes pollinating bees on the head, which helps transfer the pollen to the foraging bee. Western honey bees, however, do not like being struck in the head repeatedly .”

So, farmers have had to look for other species of native bees to solve this pollination problem. Which means that there had to be some wild bee conservation efforts on the part of the agricultural community to make it happen.

It is Good for Livestock

The primary use of alfalfa for livestock is feed. It is considered high quality for dairy cows since it has highly digestible fiber and protein, both of which are important for milk production. It is also given to beef cattle, horses, sheep, goats, and even meat rabbit. There are several ways in which it is used for feed, but for the most part, it is fermented to retain high nutrient levels similar to those of fresh forage and is also more palatable to dairy cattle than dry hay.


Alfalfa sprouts play a huge role in not just our own nutrition, but in livestock production and local ecosystems. So much is contained in such a small sprout. It is no wonder that this is considered the most popular legume on the planet!

Let’s Talk about the Nutrition Bar

Let’s Talk about the Nutrition Bar

Proclaimed as the perfect snack by some health nuts, and denied as a sugary placebo by others, the health bar is a very interesting part of the fitness and nutrition world. Made up of cereals, grains, nuts, and other ingredients to bind them, nutrition (or cereal) bars have taken up their fair share of shelf space in supermarkets. In fact, the number of nutrition bars in grocery stores jumped from 226 in 2014 to a whopping 1,012 in 2015. What has made it a popular product in just a short amount of time? Is it the portability? Is it the nutrition levels? Or are they just scams wrapped in nutritious labeling? The only way to find out is to look at it a little critically and pay attention to the growing trends.

How did Nutrition Bars Get Their Start?

nutrition bar, food sticksThis is an interesting bit of trivia. In the 1960s, there was a lot of fascination with new technology and space travel. This fascination carried over to products developed for astronauts. Tang, for instance, was a powdered orange drink that simulates orange juice. So was memory foam, a device intended for comfortable sleep in space.  This was also the case for nutrition bars. The first nutrition bars ever produced was from Pillsbury’s Space Food Sticks. They were created with the intent of making a type of food that would have a long shelf life and would not need refrigeration in space.

In 1970, Pillsbury filed a trademark for Space Food Sticks, then repackaged and advertised them to consumers as a “nutritionally balanced between-meal snack.” From there, a craze began. The bars were repackaged and rebranded several times over. First, it was seen as a quick, substitute meal for working families as well as a fascinating type of food created in a lab. Then, when the ’90s rolled around, different kinds of bars went through marketing segmentation. Rebranded “health” bars were geared towards men who wanted to gain bulk, and women who wanted to lose weight.

In the early 2000s, there was further segmentation between various markets. From vegan to health-conscious, to energizing, various nutrition bars claim to have done it all. These days it is an outright necessity for some people who don’t have any lunch break provided for them. Even nutritionists in an interview have pointed out that some of them can work as a protein supplement.  However, not all nutrition bars are created equal.

Good Nutrition Bars vs. Bad Nutrition Bars

What makes a good nutrition bar? The rules of nutrition are often complex. Also, there has been an argument about the merits or the dangers of things like fat, wheat, etc. It can be confusing to navigate sometimes, and if you are not careful, you might just wind up eating an unnecessary amount of sugar that is disguised as a health food product.  So, what are a few things that you can look out for while shopping for nutrition bars?

Sugar Content

It is no secret. At least half of the nutrition bars on the market are oversaturated with sugar and vitamins. This is where being vigilant should nutrition barcome in. The recommended daily value of sugar for an average adult should be no more than 25 grams. So, if you are keeping track of your daily diet, the last thing you need to do is to eat a bar that remotely even close to that level of sugar.

 Fat Content

There are different types of fat that exist in our diet. We have bad sources of fat that are common in things like fast food, crackers, frozen food, desserts, fried foods, etc. This type of fat is bad because it increases bad cholesterol in our bodies and decreases good cholesterol. The good fats that exist, are often found in the natural world. Fat from things like eggs, fish, nuts, avacado, and olive oil does the exact opposite. It raises our good cholesterol and decreases our bad cholesterol.

If a nutrition bar has fat in it, make sure that it is unsaturated fat. If the fats come from something like nuts, egg whites, or coconut oil, chances are it is better for you on the whole. However, if most of the fat comes from things

Whole Ingredients

Even if you aren’t into counting things like calories, there is a common sense factor that you can use to determine if a bar is good for you. Look at what the nutrition bar is made of. If the nutrition bar has something with whole ingredients like nuts and quinoa and there is not an artificial thing in sight, you are eating real food. However, if there is an absence of real ingredients or things in there that are vague like “natural flavoring” or dyes, chances are you want to avoid having it in stock.

The Connection Between Exercise and Brain Health

The Connection Between Exercise and Brain Health

We know it is important to exercise in order to keep our bodies healthy and fit. Along with a proper diet, and decent sleep, it seems like one of those ‘no brainer’ things to do. However, it is not the only thing that we can do to live happy long lives. However, did you know that exercise has its benefits in small ways alongside just regulating your body weight? Exercise, even just in light amounts, can be a benefit to the most important organ in your body, your brain.  According to the latest neurology studies, that is very much the case. But how do they know that? And, how can it be measured or quantified?

Let’s find out.


This is Your Brain

Your brain serves as the powerhouse of your body. Aside from its value as a delicious treat to zombies, your brain practically dictates everything about your conscious and subconscious. It is madebrain, anatomy, exercise up of three major parts: the brain stem, the cerebellum, and cerebrum.

The cerebrum is the largest part of the brain. The cerebrum is composed of the left and right hemispheres. Two halves that make a whole. It performs higher functions like interpreting touch, vision, hearing, speech, emotions, reason, and fine motor skills.

The cerebellum is that small part that sits below the cerebrum. It coordinates things like balance, posture, and muscle movement.

Those two are connected to the brainstem, which connects the brain to the spinal cord. This connection transmits data to the rest of the body for both conscious and unconscious movement.  It is also mostly responsible for automatic functions such as breathing, temperature, sleep, digestion, sneezing, coughing, swallowing, and blood flow.


This is Your Brain on Memory

The cerebrum is made up of distinct parts, such as lobes and strips. While there are countless parts both in the inner and outer parts of the brain, we are going to cover the parts that have to do with the study, the parts that are concerned with the formation of memory.

  • Prefrontal Cortex
  • Cingulate Gyrus
  • Amygdala
  • Hippocampus
  • Cerebellum

What is interesting about some of these, is that they control other processes too. For instance, the amygdala also responsible for the detection of fear and preparing for emergency events.  The prefrontal cortex is responsible for learning complex thoughts, personality expression, decision making and moderating social behavior. These are the parts of the brain that make and relay memories.

What does this anatomy lesson have to do with brain health? And specifically, why does exercise do anything to help? Well, those are the areas of the brain that are stimulated by exercise.

Exercise and the Prevention of Cognitive Dementia

A recent study was published in January of 2019, to a peer-reviewed journal for neurologists. Their goal of the study was to determine if regular aerobic exercise made any positive impact on olderolder adult, exercise, senior adults with cognitive impairments.  This was the thought process, according to the publishers of the experiment, “It is widely believed that known risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD) are also risk factors for dementia and late-life cognitive decline. Because there is considerable overlap in risk factors for CVD and dementia, strategies designed to reduce CVD risk also may be effective in improving neurocognition and reducing the risk of developing dementia.”

There were other studies like this before, but their predecessors noticed the lacking in their representation of their patients, people who were suffering from cognitive difficulties, without the severity of full-blown dementia.

They gathered a data pool of 160 older adult patients who voluntarily applied from Alzheimer and Aging research institutes.

The scientists split the participants into a couple of groups, one with dietary changes, one with an exercise regimen with no dietary changes, and one with just an exercise regimen. From there, they subjected the patients to a series of cognitive tests.

The scientists running the experiment discovered that” participants who engaged in walking three times a week for six months “demonstrated improved performance on a standard battery of neurocognitive tests of executive function.”


Further Evidence

This falls in line with what Dr. Scott McGinnis, an instructor in neurology at Harvard Medical School had to say on the matter a few years ago.  “Even more exciting is the finding that engaging in a program of regular exercise of moderate intensity over six months or a year is associated with an increase in the volume of selected brain regions.” In plain English, this means that when someone exercises on a regular basis, their brain is more likely to grow and function.  Specifically, the parts of your brain that focus on memory.  How does that happen?

This is further explained by Harvard professional, Heidi Godman. “Exercise helps memory and thinking through both direct and indirect means. The benefits of exercise come directly from its ability to reduce insulin resistance, reduce inflammation, and stimulate the release of growth factors—chemicals in the brain that affect the health of brain cells, the growth of new blood vessels in the brain, and even the abundance and survival of new brain cells.”


Walk With Me

So, what can you do to jump-start your brain health? How much exercise do you need? 120 minutes of moderate exercise or, half an hour at least 4 days of the week. And it doesn’t have to be walking either. If you want, you can ride a bike, swim, jog with a partner, or learn to do any other type of sport. The world is your oyster and you and your brain deserve to be part of it. Even if the idea seems kind of silly at first, the right amount of exercise can make anybody look and feel better.

Aside: Also, if you want to further improve your cognition, think of doing a couple of other brain-friendly activities. Put your brain to work by solving a crossword puzzle. Or maybe stimulate it by reading a book or try some sudoku if you prefer numbers. Or, play a trivia game once in a while. Trust me, it will do you favors down the line.

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How Did the Nutrition Label Get Started?

How did the Nutrition Label Get Started?

Nutrition. As a country, we have learned about the concept of nutrition over the years. While there are certainly a few roadblocks that try to keep us from applying it on a mass scale, such as expense, lobbying, politics, etc, we still learned quite a lot. Even within the last hundred years. However, the contradictory information about nutrition combined with changing standards begs the question: Why do we have them in the first place? What made nutritional labels a mandatory thing, and does it really help the community in the long run?

So, today, we are going to examine the history and the purpose of the nutrition label.

Since When Did Ingredients for Anything Needed Listing?

To see the first instance of Americans wanting to know what they were actually eating, we need to go back to the early 1900s. It was a time in which the government did not regulate medicines, foods, alcohol, products. A dream come true for any aspiring entrepreneur who wanted to make money for a product they invented.

Unfortunately, the lack of regulation also made it all too easy for con artists and desperate peddlers to sell a product with anything they wanted in it. If these salesmen were running low on any ingredient, they could add anything they wanted like sawdust to stretch it out. Or if they wanted to nutrition label, snake oil, before 1906make it more powerful to make sure people felt their mystical cure ‘worked’ they would add some cocaine into the mix.

These unsavory practices at best lead to ineffective products and at worst could cause a high mortality rate.  The average cough syrup for babies would contain a cocktail of drugs and alcohol that could kill a horse, let alone a two-year-old infant.

This, combined with journalists exposing the process of the meat packing industry and the temperance movement made it possible for the Pure Food and Drug Act, and the Meat Inspection Act to pass in 1906.

The point of the act was for the government to regulate the production and distribution of foods, medicine, and any other substance for the safety of the public.  The act also demanded proper and accurate labeling of products meant for human consumption. This included listing every ingredient that was in it.

However, this was only the beginning. It wouldn’t be until the late 1960s- early 1970s that this would be expanded further.

An Expansion of Nutrition Labeling

Since America had a depression, a war, and communists to worry about, there was little worry about specialized diets. Ther goverment still gave out some base information as part of a nutrition guideline. However, it was more generalized than today. This was because most foods at this time had been prepared at home, and unless it revolved around the dietary issues of the military or any other government jurisdiction, Nutrition label before 1970'sthey didn’t bother with regulations. The exception to this was the occasional label specifically talking about sodium for special dietary reasons.

However, when processed food started to become more commonplace, the public started to worry again. This time, about what could possibly be involved in the creation of their instant meals. This outcry lead to a solution headed by the FDA and the 1969 White House Conference on Food, Nutrition, and Health.  ” Every manufacturer should be encouraged to provide truthful nutritional information about his products to enable consumers to follow recommended dietary regimens.”

So, the FDA immediately got to work on drafting the first version of the Nutrition Guideline Label.


1970s nutrition label

“When finalized in 1973, these regulations specified that when nutrition labeling was present on labels of FDA-regulated foods, it was to include the number of calories; the grams of protein, carbohydrate, and fat; and the percent of the U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance (U.S. RDA) of protein, vitamins A and C, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, calcium, and iron. Sodium, saturated fatty acids, and polyunsaturated fatty acids could also be included at the manufacturer’s discretion. All of these nutrients were to be reported on the basis of an average or usual serving size.”

But that still wasn’t quite enough.

The Addition of Dietary Values

There was growing concern from the scientific and medical communities. With the rise of fast food, and the presence of dietary information the United States Department of Health and Services had some concerns. According to the head of the department at the time, ” As consumers shop for healthier food, they encounter confusion and frustration… . The grocery store has become a Tower of Babel and consumers need to be linguists, scientists and mind readers to understand the many labels they see.”

He was concerned about the lack of clarity regarding the nutrition labels. While there was a statement of what was in the food on each label, it was up to the consumer to find out how much the daily value of something was. So, unless the people shopping had an explicit understanding of what these nutrients were, and how much was expected every day, they were more or less going in blind.

So, in the 1990’s the initiative of adding things like caloric content, the percentage of daily nutritional values,  and the standard amount of calories that is supposed to be in the daily diet. This was called the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (NLEA).

This is the most modern interpretation of nutritional labeling, at least from a government regulation standpoint.  A few food-based companies have tried their hand at their own nutritional labeling standards. They failed at varying degrees thanks to their own corporate bias.

Progress Marches On


However, there are still some worries from various communities and interest groups about the clarity of the current nutrition label.  These groups proposed a series of changes about the specificity of the nutritional label. Mainly about which information should be more prominent.

However, this still doesn’t address the elephant in the room about nutrition as a whole. Not all calories are equal. You wouldn’t expect to get the same results from a cookie and a banana after all. So, there is still some room for improvement.

All we can do is keep learning, and keep making changes with the best interest of our community in mind.

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