Detox Your Liver for Vitality

Your liver is frequently under appreciated, yet is one of the most important organs in your body! The liver has hundreds of different functions, two of the primary being to store vital nutrients for your body and to filter and breakdown chemicals that would otherwise be harmful to our bodies. As our world has become more industrialized, we are now more commonly exposed to both natural and unnatural substances that our livers must filter. These substances can come from a variety of sources, be it chemicals (pesticides, industrial chemicals, solvents, toiletries etc.), drugs and medications, or poor diet (including alcohol, caffeine, and sugar). Exposure to these substances can lead to your liver being overburdened, and an overburdened liver can lead to chronic fatigue, allergies, improper digestion of food, body aches, headaches, brain fog, depression, and fatty liver disease. Some, including myself, argue that an overtaxed liver will result in a toxic body, promoting the ideal environment for almost all chronic diseases and disorders!

There are a number of options to consider when it comes to finding a protocol to help detoxify and cleanse your liver. Some protocols are more extreme than others, so always choose the option you feel most comfortable with. Small changes in your lifestyle can have a dramatic effect on how you feel and your quality of life. That being said, some of the more ‘extreme’ options can be more effective than other ‘less extreme’ options.

Diet and exercise are the foundation of a quality life and is one of the most important protocols for keeping your liver in tip-top shape. Processed foods lack essential nutrients your body requires to function optimally — this includes allowing your liver to work its magic and keep your body clean! Additionally, most processed foods contain preservatives in the form of chemicals, which put a great strain on your liver to eliminate. Usually, they also contain sugar, another substance your liver must eliminate. Keep your foods as simple and whole as possible to provide yourself with the most amount of nutrients, and test yourself for food intolerances and allergies — these foods can put an enormous strain on your entire body, not just your liver. Be sure to include high quality fats in your diet, such as olive oil, coconut oil, or even butter! Your liver works in conjunction with your gallbladder, the organ responsible for digesting fats. If you give your body the proper fats it needs, your gallbladder will release bile for digestion. The magic is that bile is actually created from the toxins your liver removes from your body! Limiting or eliminating alcohol, caffeine, and sugar consumption will also take tremendous strides in detoxifying your liver.

Milk Thistle

Herbs and cleansing foods are another facet to consider to detoxify your liver. Milk thistle is one of the most well known and well researched herbs when it comes to aiding and cleansing your liver. It contains numerous antioxidants and compounds that not only help your liver function more optimally, but also help prevent your liver from absorbing any dangerous compounds it filters while it works. Two other herbs include artichoke and dandelion, both which have been used for thousands of years to promote better digestion and aid the liver. These three herbs can be found at health food stores in whole, capsule, or tincture form, and are frequently placed together in various tonics. Adding specific foods known to help cleanse the liver can also be a great asset to liver detox. Such foods include dark leafy greens, including the three herbs above in their whole form, other green vegetables (such as cabbage and asparagus), garlic, turmeric, citrus fruit, carrots, beets, and apples in their various form. Apples contain two important substances for helping to detox the liver: pectin, a form of soluble fiber, and malic acid, which can help fat digestion and help break down gallstones in your gallbladder.

Dandelion

Liver cleanses and fasting are the more ‘extreme’ methods of detoxifying your liver, and different variations can also be more ‘extreme’ than others. Such variations can include the olive oil liver cleanse, coffee enemas, apple juice fasting, vegetable juice fasting, and water fasting. Each of these techniques deserves their own post, as each requires its own unique protocol while being conducted. Look for a series of upcoming articles beginning this week, starting with the olive oil liver cleanse!

The Health Benefits of Kale

Dark leafy greens are widely known to be the most nutritious of vegetables, but even among the greens, kale may stand alone as the single most nutritious vegetable! In recent years, kale has gained tremendous popularity as a go-to vegetable for its outstanding nutritional profile, versatility in dishes, and delicious flavor.

As with most vegetables, kale is grown in a number of varieties: leafy green, dinosaur, curly, and even ornamental for your garden. Kale belongs to the Brassica family of vegetables, which includes other cruciferous vegetables known to be nutrition all-stars, such as asparagus, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and broccoli. Among vegetables, cruciferous vegetables are widely touted for their anti-cancer properties. Numerous studies have been conducted and repeated showing a strong correlation between the consumption of eating cruciferous vegetables and a lower risk of all forms of cancer. This lowered risk is regularly attributed to the phytochemicals found in cruciferous vegetables, of which kale is especially abundant.

The health benefits of kale are attributed to its large concentration of various vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Kale is incredibly rich in Vitamin K, an important fat-soluble vitamin that can dramatically reduce of your chances of developing cancer, but is also important for numerous bodily functions, including helping to regulate blood clotting and reduce blood pressure. A single cup of cooked kale can contain as much as 1300% of your recommended daily intake! Kale is also abound with beta-carotene, the precursor to Vitamin A, another important nutrient connected to reducing your risk for cancer, as well as nearly all other age-related and degenerative diseases. That single cup of cooked kale can contain as much as 350% of your recommended daily intake! Kale is also a nutritional powerhouse when it comes to Vitamin C, manganese, potassium, magnesium, calcium, and iron. Potassium and magnesium are crucial minerals for optimum bodily function, especially when it comes to regulating blood pressure and lowering your risk for heart disease. Recent studies suggest that the calcium contained within kale is easily absorbed by the human body, making it an ideal food for those looking to maintain bone health.

Dark leafy greens, including kale, have been revered throughout history for their medicinal properties. They are frequently considered to be ‘liver cleansing foods,’ perhaps in part to their large concentrations of folate, a vitamin known to strengthen your liver, which in turns helps to cleanse and detoxify your body as a whole. Dark leafy greens are also widely known for their anti-inflammatory properties, helping to reduce all degenerative diseases, but also help remedy conditions such as arthritis and pain, and reduce your chances of heart disease and high blood pressure.

Kale can be prepared in a variety of ways. One of the most common methods of preparation is the lightly steam it, perhaps alone or accompanied by other vegetables. Likewise, you can also saute it lightly in a vegetable medley. A method of preparation that is gaining popularity is to create ‘kale chips.’ These ‘chips’ are created by wetting your kale and coating it in various ingredients, such as other vegetable powders (onion, garlic, carrot, bell pepper, etc.), ground seeds or nuts (sunflower seeds and cashews being the most popular), and nutritional yeast. After coating, the kale is then either dehydrated or cooked at a low temperature as to not burn. This is a unique, delicious, and nutritious method for eating kale. While you can make your own kale chips, they are now more easily located at numerous health food stores. You may find you like them more than potato chips!

Top 7 Foods to Help Lower Blood Pressure

Estimates now show that 1 in 3 people living in the United States have high blood pressure, making it one of the most common ailments among us. High blood pressure medication is also the third most prescribed medications. Yet, lowering your blood pressure is one of the easiest conditions to treat yourself. Creating a new lifestyle for yourself that includes adequate amounts of exercise to keep you energized, reducing stress, as well as changing the foods you eat to include less processed products and more whole foods will work wonders in lowering your blood pressure. One of the many causes of high blood pressure is not maintaining a healthy electrolyte-to-sodium ratio within your body (primarily the essential minerals potassium, magnesium, and calcium), and is extremely easy to skew on a diet of processed foods. Incorporating more foods into your diet that help maintain this balance, and also foods that help to reduce inflammation, is a vital first step to take.

Try introducing the following 7 foods into your diet if they aren’t already apart. Try to incorporate more if you already include them.

1. Almonds

AlmondsAlmonds are an excellent option as a snack for anyone on the go, but especially for those looking to lower their blood pressure. An ounce of almonds contains respectable amounts of both potassium and calcium, but also a significant amount of magnesium. Almonds also contain a hefty amount of Vitamin E (around 35% of your recommended daily intake), a vital antioxidant that helps curb the inflammation in your body. Keep your almond intake in moderation, however, as they are heavy hitters when it comes to caloric density. Additionally, eating too many almonds can skew your Omega 6-to-Omega 3 fatty acid ratio in your body, which can increase inflammation if it is too drastic (consider adding an Omega 3 supplement).

2. Bananas

Like almonds, bananas are an excellent on the go food to use as a snack, or even include in some of your meals. Bananas are widely touted for their potassium – they do contain a significant amount. It is the potassium-sodium ratio in our blood that is believed most to contribute to Bananahigh blood pressure. But it is the combination of the banana’s easy digestibility, convenience, and their potassium content that makes the list. Most people should easily be able to include 1 banana a day, and their extremely wide availability makes them the perfect convenience food.

3. Potatoes

The potato is has become a villain among food, but it’s actually one of the most nutritious foods around. The little (or big) spud is typically deep fried and covered with salt, and is frequently discouraged because of its relatively high Glycemic Index. But when was the last timPotatoese you had a good baked potato as part of a whole meal? As with all foods, most people don’t eat mono-meals composed of a single food, and this will help mitigate the influx of blood sugar in your body. Potatoes are a very good source of both potassium and magnesium, and a good source of vitamin C (another crucial antioxidant), especially if you eat them with the skins. Potatoes are also revered for their ability to be easily digested by most people, making them an ideal starch to add to your repertoire. In fact, if we compared potatoes in nutrient content to other foods, we’d find they similarly resemble bananas in their nutrient composition.

4. Spinach

SpinachSpinach makes the list for its ease of access and mild flavor. But really, all dark leafy greens are included in this category. Like all dark leafy greens, spinach is a good source of potassium, magnesium, calcium, as well as trace amounts of Omega 3 fats (covered at the end of this article). Additionally, all leafy greens are an excellent source of Vitamin K, and antioxidant utilized by our bodies for helping to thing blood. When it comes to lowering blood pressure, a combination of vital minerals, Omega 3 fats, and Vitamin K are a potent mix. Whether your steam it, throw it in a salad, or mix it into just about any dish, spinach is one of the best food sources to add to your repertoire.

5. Oats

OatsThis common breakfast food has two major nutrients benefits that help it make this list. Oats are a very good source of magnesium, one of those crucial minerals to maintaining homeostasis in our bodies. But perhaps the more beneficial aspect of oats is that it contains a unique fiber profile among almost all grains. Oats contain a very high ratio of soluble fiber to insoluble fiber. Insoluble fiber is what you might imagine when you thing of twigs, or even the stalks of vegetables. The majority of grains contain a large portion of their fiber as this type. Oats, on the other hand, contain over 50% of soluble fiber. Soluble fiber differs from insoluble fiber in that it absorbs water, creating a ‘gel.’ This gel can help to create more consistent bowel movements, important healthy blood pressure and overall health. Some even argue this gel helps to remove excess bile as it passes near the gallbladder in your intestine, helping to maintain consistent bile production and aid the health of the liver, in turn also helping to maintain the health of your body as a whole.

6. Zucchini

Zucchini!Along with many other vine fruits from the Americas, zucchini is a very unique fruit in its nutrient profile. This squash contains ample amounts of all the aforementioned mineral electrolytes that are so important in helping your body maintain healthy blood pressure; it is especially high in potassium, but also contains a good amount of magnesium and calcium. Zucchini is also a good source of Vitamin C, and a decent source Vitamin K and Beta-Carotene.

7. Omega 3

It may be impossible now to not have heard the benefits of increasing omega 3 fatty acids in your diet. Omega 3 and omega 6 fats are responsible for maintaining the balance of inflammation in our bodies. However, the typical diet has a large skew towards omega 6 over omega 3, which can lead to increased inflammation, increasing you chance of all diseases and disorders, including high blood pressure. While there are numerous arguments as to what and where to source your omega 3 from, whether from plant or animal sources, the benefits can be reaped from both. Sources of animal omega 3 fatty acids include fish, fish oil, krill oil, grass fed and free range meats and dairy, and especially the organ meaFlax Seedts of large animals. Plant sources of omega 3 fatty acids include flax and flax oil, hemp seeds and hemp oil, macadamia nuts, chia seeds, and all leafy greens. Walnuts are largely touted for their omega 3 content, and while they do contain some omega 3, they also contain a decent amount of omega 6. For those looking to increase their omega 3 intake, walnuts are best kept in great moderation.

Remember, utilizing these foods will help you on your both towards lower your blood pressure, but they will not do it alone. Couple these excellent foods with a greater whole foods diet (limiting processed foods), along with a lifestyle that includes a healthy amount of physical activity for you, limit stress, and be sure you’re getting adequate amounts of rest/sleep, and you’ll be on the path to lowering your blood pressure!