How To Properly Brush Your Gums and Tongue

Let’s talk about a subject that could seem kind of silly to some people, but it’s more important than you think. If you’re not currently brushing your gums and tongue every time you brush your teeth, you’re doing it wrong! Who knew?

If you stop to think about it for a minute, it makes perfect sense that the same bacteria wreaking havoc on your teeth can also do a number on your gums and tongue. These bacteria tend to cling to the taste buds on your tongue and cause bad breath. That’s the last thing you want, so start brushing that tongue (especially towards the back) every day to get rid of that funky smell you’re so embarrassed about. If you’ve never brushed your gums or tongue before, don’t worry! I’m going to tell you about the correct way to do it for the best results.

How To Brush Your Gums

Let’s first start with how to properly brush your gums. When you brush your teeth, your toothbrush probably automatically scrubs the portion of your gums that’s closest to your teeth. But you also need to give the upper and lower portions of your gums a little TLC. There’s a right way and a wrong way to do this, so pay close attention or you could potentially develop gum recession issues (yikes!)

Follow these steps to brush your gums the right way.

  1. Get your toothbrush wet (preferably with lukewarm water if you have any tooth sensitivity).
  2. Put a pea-sized amount of toothpaste in the middle of your toothbrush head.
  3. Use gentle, circular motions to brush the surface of your gums. Be careful here—brushing too hard could cause your gums to recede over time or could scratch your gum tissue.
  4. Once you brush the outer surface of your gums, move to the roof of your mouth and use circular motions to clean the entire surface of the roof of your mouth.
  5. Rinse your mouth out once you have gently brushed all your gum tissue.

Brushing your gums should be included as part of your teeth-brushing routine every day. Once you’re finished with your teeth, simply move on to your gums and finish up with your tongue.

How To Brush Your Tongue

Your tongue is like a petri dish for bacteria. You can see some of the bacteria if your tongue is coated with a thick, white film. This is usually an indication of illness as well. The easiest way to get rid of that cesspool of bacteria is to use a tongue scraper. Yes, that’s a real thing and it doesn’t cost much money.

Use the tongue scraper to gently scrape away the layer of bacteria and other debris coating your tongue. Then finish up by brushing your tongue with a soft-bristled toothbrush that has a small amount of toothpaste on it. Use gentle back-and-forth motions. To avoid gagging yourself, stick your tongue out to brush as far towards the back as you can. Once you’re finished, rinse with water and enjoy your minty-fresh breath. That’s all there is to it. Happy brushing!

These 5 Holiday Gifts Can Put You on a Healthy Track

Every year I go through the same cycle. I start the year out strong, with loads of determination and healthy eating goals that I follow religiously for a few months. By the time summer rolls around, I start to get a little lax because of vacations, family barbeques, and other fun events. When the holidays arrive, I’ve usually gone up a size in clothing, but I’m jolly because I’m enjoying great food and great company. But once the holidays are over, I’m ready to get back into my healthy habits once again.

Does this cycle sound familiar to anyone else? Well, here we are at the end of the year again, and it’s time to get serious about healthy living. Fortunately, you can hint to your family members that you’re ready for some healthy holiday gifts that can help you reach your fitness and wellness goals. Here are five holiday gift ideas that can put you on a healthy track for the new year.

1. Wireless Earbuds

I want to do more outdoor exercising this year. Studies show that working out in the sunshine can not only boost your physical health, but your mental health as well! You can thank your body’s increased production of vitamin D for that.

To make exercising in the great outdoors more enjoyable, I’ve decided I need a quality pair of wireless earbuds. Though they’re expensive, they have great durability and can last up to 20 hours on a single charge. If you don’t own a pair yet, add wireless earbuds to your Christmas list.

2. Fitness Tracker

I used to think fitness trackers were unnecessary, but after seeing how informative they can be, I’ve decided they’re essential for tracking my healthy living goals. If you want to know how many calories you burn in a day versus many calories you consume, a fitness tracker should definitely be underneath your tree or in your stocking this Christmas! Some models will even track your sleep quality so you can make changes as needed.

3. Weight Set

Weights are cumbersome and can take up a lot of room, but they’re so helpful for building muscle strength and boosting bone density. I don’t have much room in my home for a big weight set, so I put one of those nifty compact weight sets on my Christmas list. They’re almost like nesting dolls, but in weight form so they take up minimal room and can easily be adjusted to get the perfect weight for each workout.

4. Yoga Mat

If you’re anything like me, floor work tends to put too much pressure on your knees, wrists, and back. That’s why I’m hoping someone in my family gifts me a nice, thick yoga mat this year. A yoga mat adds just enough padding to keep aching joints well-cushioned during floor workouts. Some mats come with their own holders so you can easily roll them up and take them to a designated storage location once you’re finished with them.

5. Foam Roller

After all your workouts, you’ll need a way to help your muscles recover. A quality foam roller is a great investment because it can minimize your post-workout recovery time and help you avoid excessive soreness. Foam rollers help break up knots in your muscles and facilitate better blood flow so you’re less prone to exercise-related injuries.

Not a bad wish list, if I say so myself! Feel free to steal some or all of these items for your own gift list this year. Most of the items on this list are much more affordable than a treadmill or other expensive piece of workout equipment. But they’re perfect for encouraging a healthier lifestyle and can help you meet your fitness goals.

3 Holiday Favorites Reimagined

The holidays are an especially difficult time when following a diet. It is a challenge to see everyone around you indulging in sweets and feel like you are missing out. Fortunately, there are ways to indulge in sweets without blowing your diet, and the following three recipes are only the tip of the iceberg in terms of healthy options.

1. Paleo Gingerbread Cookies

Nothing says the holiday season like gingerbread cookies. Unfortunately, too many recipes call for loads of sugar. This recipe, however, is paleo-friendly and doesn't sacrifice flavor.

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium sweet potato
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 1/4 cup tahini paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/3 cup coconut flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Instructions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350°.
  2. Before cooking, wash the sweet potato and dry it. Spear with a knife a few times. Microwave until soft, typically five to six minutes.
  3. In a medium-sized bowl, scoop out the insides of the potato. Add the molasses, ginger, cloves, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, coconut flour, and tahini. Start stirring to combine the ingredients; as the dough thickens, use your hands to continue mixing.
  4. Placing the dough on a baking sheet, shape individual cookies, approximately 1/4-inch thick and 2 1/2-inch diameter.
  5. Place in the oven and bake for a minimum of 10-minutes.

2. Apple Crisp

Apples are a healthy option, but they typically lose a lot of benefits when thrown into pies and desserts. This dessert maintains the nutrition and avoids a lot of the pitfalls of other sweets.

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups apples peeled, sliced in 1/4 inch thick pieces
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted

Crisp Topping:

  • 1 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1/3 cup pecans, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup

Instructions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350°, and grease an 8x8 baking dish.
  2. Prepare the apples by peeling and cutting them into slices. Toss the apples in a bowl with cinnamon, melted coconut oil, and ginger and set aside.
  3. Mix all the ingredients for the crisp topping together in a separate dish.
  4. Layer the baking dish first with the apple mixture, followed by the crisp topping layer.
  5. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes at 350°. Remove the cover and bake until apples are fork-tender with a golden brown topping, about another 10 to 20-minutes.

3. Pumpkin Spice Latte

Want to add a little oomph to your espresso? This recipe is healthy and flavorful, and it doesn't take too long to make.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoon pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1/4 cup espresso
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Instructions:

  1. Warm the almond milk in a suitable saucepan and whisk in the maple syrup, pumpkin puree, and spice. Combine thoroughly. There is no need to bring the mix to a boil.
  2. Make the espresso while waiting for the milk mixture to heat.
  3. To froth the mixture, you can use a frother or whisk vigorously in the pan.
  4. Finally, pour the milk mixture into a mug, top with the espresso, and enjoy.

There is no reason you can't enjoy the holidays with a sweet treat. There are plenty of healthy recipes out there, but these three represent some of the best.

What are your favorite holiday treats? Comment below.

When Should You Drink Water, and Are You Drinking Enough?

Many dieticians and nutritionists believe people often require more water than they get, even following federal guidelines — eight glasses per day. According to Sarah Krieger, a registered dietician nutritionist, a more accurate or adequate model is to take half of your body weight and drink that in ounces, meaning a 140-pound individual would drink 70 oz. 

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine makes the process even easier, recommending men drink a minimum of 13 cups of fluids per day and women drink nine or more. In other words, men should aim for 104 oz. and women for 72 oz. 

How do you fit all that liquid into your day? First, pay attention to the wording. The suggestion is for fluids, not just water. However, it is crucial to up your water intake, and that is a straightforward process when you know the most optimum times to drink.

Wake-Up 

Many people do not realize they wake up in the morning already dehydrated. You do not drink for the eight hours you are asleep. Therefore, help your body replenish itself by drinking one to two cups of water when you wake, eight to 16 ounces. 

Once you have one or two cups, feel free to make yourself a cup of coffee. Coffee also counts toward your fluid intake for the day.

Pre-Meal, Mealtime, and Post-Meal

Many studies suggest that drinking water can help regulate and mitigate hunger. Therefore, many experts recommend having a cup of water before, during, and after a meal. 

By drinking a glass of water before your meal, you effectively lubricate your insides, which will ultimately help with digestion. However, you also prefill your stomach, meaning you are less likely to overindulge during the meal. 

Drinking water during your meal will also help with digestion. It also provides lubrication for your throat, making it easier to swallow food. 

Finally, drinking a cup of water after a meal ensures optimal digestion and helps reduce the risk of sudden hunger pangs. Therefore, drinking water in this way ensures you stick to a meal plan and avoid consuming empty calories between meals.

Midafternoon Slump

It is natural to feel a bit of a slump around 3:00 pm. While this slump often results in the afternoon consumption of coffee, it is best to stay away from caffeinated beverages. Consuming caffeine late in the afternoon can affect sleep later. 

What most people do not realize is that slumps can stem from dehydration. Dehydration can also result in irritability, hostility, confusion, etc. Therefore, it is best to help your body stay steady and alert by consuming more water.

Pre-Workout, Workout, and Post-Workout 

Do you workout before or after work? Regardless of when you exercise, drinking water is a crucial component of your routine. 

While you will want to drink water before your routine, make sure you allow your body enough time to process the fluid. Drinking a cup of water immediately before hopping on a treadmill will likely result in bloating and discomfort. Instead, drink a cup of water 30 minutes before you begin. 

You will also want to hydrate during your workout. However, do not gulp water. Take sips. Drink slowly during your routine to prevent getting sick or feeling uncomfortable.

Bedtime

You should also bring a glass of water to bed, only taking a couple of sips before lying down. Too much water before bed will lead to sleep disruptions. 

Are you an avid water drinker? Share your tips for staying hydrated throughout the day.

The Unique Advantages of a Humidifier

Humidifiers work by vaporizing liquid to add to the moisture level in your home. While these devices might not be paramount in the warmer, more humid months of the year, they play a critical role in your house and even health during the winter. 

People often undervalue the significance of moisture levels in their homes, often equating moisture with problems, such as mold. Still, despite moisture causing some complications, at adequate levels — no higher than 50% — moisture content can help maintain the house's structure and the people, pets, and plants inside. 

The idea of bringing a tool into your home to add moisture to specific areas can seem a bit strange, but it is beneficial. Before you decide to forego purchasing a humidifier, consider the advantages of using one.

Prevent Dry Skin 

Did you know that it is normal for moisture levels in your home to dip below 30% when using forced air heating? Your skin begins to lose its moisture at such levels, resulting in dry, tight, itchy, and flaky skin. 

Your hands and lips are especially vulnerable to losing moisture and becoming dehydrated. The hands have fewer oil glands than other parts of the body, so they have less protection against dry air. The lips are more sensitive with more tender skin, making it easier for them to become chapped and cracked. 

A humidifier helps return some of the lost moisture in the air, providing relief for your skin. Applying hand lotion and chapstick can also help mitigate damage in the colder, drier months.

Ease Sinus Symptoms 

The winter and drier climates are notorious for drying out sinuses and nasal passages. The excess dryness can lead to sinus pressure, headaches, bloody noses, and discomfort. 

While many people believe that humidity will only worsen stuffiness and sinus issues, the contrary is true. Maintaining optimal humidity levels throughout your home contribute to healthy sinus and mucus function, reducing the risks of sinus-related problems. 

A humidifier permits the ease of breathing because it encourages the free movement of mucus. Additionally, it reduces the risks of a bloody nose and sinus headaches.

Reduce Spread of Germs and Bacteria

The National Academy of Sciences found that dry conditions promote the survival and transmission of the influenza virus. Therefore, using a humidifier to maintain optimal moisture levels can reduce the risk of spreading viruses, germs, and bacteria. 

Humidity does not permit the spread of bacteria through the air as much as dry conditions. Moisture in the air makes it heavier and harder to navigate at a molecular level. With appropriate moisture levels, viruses cannot spread as far and wide, meaning humidifiers can reduce the risk of infection. 

However, do not count on humidifiers to eliminate all risks. You will still need to focus on hygiene — regularly bathing and washing your hands and taking necessary precautions like receiving vaccinations. 

Provide Additional Warmth 

Aside from the health benefits of using a humidifier, the device also provides environmental advantages, such as providing greater warmth. Research suggests that dry air typically feels chillier than moist air. 

HVAC professionals recommend using humidifiers in combination with forced air heat to combat feeling overly cold. Additionally, using a humidifier can help reduce the strain on your HVAC system. 

While the general principle of homeownership is to avoid moisture in the house, it should be changed to the avoidance of excess moisture. Humidifiers add a beneficial amount of moisture to an otherwise dry space, helping to relieve wintertime ailments. 

Do you use a humidifier? Why or why not? Comment below. 

7 Advantages of a Workout Buddy

If you're looking for a way to reach your fitness goals and have a lot of fun along the way, you should find a fitness buddy. This can be a friend, family member or partner. You won't believe how many benefits it can have on your workouts.

1. Stay Motivated

When you have a fitness buddy, both you and your buddy can encourage each other to reach your goals. This keeps you motivated long term.

We all need someone to tell us that they’re proud of us from time to time. It feels really good when your friend tells you they can start to see those sculped abs peeking out.

2. Push Yourself Harder

You may notice your exercise buddy's legs, glutes or abs and think “I wish I looked like that.” They’re going to gaze upon your toned arms and think the same. Far from being a bad thing, a little friendly competition pushes you to reach your goals more quickly.

One study from Kansas State University found that people who worked out with a partner who was fitter than them exercised up to 200% longer and harder than someone working out alone. That’s almost triple the calories burned!

3. Have More Fun

The main reason I love having a workout buddy is that it’s more fun. Going to the gym with a friend is like spending time together at a coffee shop, except with tank tops and fitness watches. You can laugh, joke around, talk about the weather or gossip (gasp!) — all while lifting weights or cycling.

4. Stick To Your Exercise Commitment

You know your buddy is counting on you. This gives you another reason to push yourself. It’s a lot harder to hit the snooze button in the morning when you know a friend is waiting for you at the park.

5. Get Better Results

A workout buddy can improve your exercise performance and results. The other person can see things you can’t. They can correct positioning errors and help you avoid hurting yourself.

A classic example is pushups. From your point of view, you’re acing them! That’s when your workout buddy tells you your butt is jutting out and you’re not actually doing a pushup. With some good-natured nudging, you’re going to burn way more calories.

6. Watch Time Fly

When you exercise alone, your mind is completely focused on the burn. You feel all the aches, you count every sit-up and you have way too much free time to think. It’s so boring!

Things are different when you hang out with your workout buddy. Those 30–45 minutes zip by and you have a blast.

7. Mix Business and Pleasure

Couples can enjoy an added benefit when working out together. Some studies suggest that all the sweating and adrenaline and closeness can lead to more romance. Whether it’s just a quick smooch or something a little more playful, this relaxing time together is good for your heart on many levels.

Choose a Workout Buddy You Like Spending Time With

The best workout buddy is someone positive that makes you feel comfortable and happy. You can tell you made the right choice if you look forward to your sessions together.

Can't find a suitable human just yet? An energetic dog can also be an exercise buddy!

The Effectiveness of Reiki

Based on an early 20th-century Japanese practice, Reiki is best described as spiritual healing. The term is typically not associated with hospitals or medicine, especially in America; however, more reputable facilities have been adopting and offering reiki programs in recent years.

As the skepticism wains, it is natural for patient questions to arise. Is Reiki effective? Is it real? While questions are abundant, the answers are few. Few, if any, peer-reviewed journals have offered studies of the practice, and any studies that do exist elsewhere focus on a patient's feelings rather than science-backed data.

If the science of Reiki cannot be proven, then why are hospitals permitting and suggesting reiki treatments to patients? In a nutshell, pain management is challenging and comes with its fair share of risks, primarily when narcotics are involved. Reiki offers an alternative to prescriptions that some might find compelling. Additionally, many patients find the combination of medications, therapy, and Reiki effective.

Lack of Evidence

There is no concrete proof that reiki works. However, when meditation and yoga became mainstream, there were few studies to prove their effectiveness.

While people might be concerned that a hospital is offering alternative medicine to patients, there is no mandate that they have to use it. The growing popularity and recognition of such programs suggest popularity and usefulness.

Unfortunately, popularity does not equate to tangible and measurable change. Many opponents to the acceptance of Reiki argue that any results are placebo, that patients are not experiencing any real benefit. However, proponents of the practice and its adoption into hospitals say that a positive response is effective enough.

Power of Positivity

While there is no significant evidence to support Reiki as a legitimate medical therapy, research and evidence support the claim that a positive attitude improves patient outcomes. Studies have proven that people who maintain a positive outlook about treatments, surgeries, or conditions typically experience fewer adverse side effects and pain, suggesting that psychology plays a role in treatment and outcome.

While Reiki might not have a swath of supportive evidence, patients express feeling better after a session. Don't patient feelings matter. As some medical experts expressed, there is no definitive way to measure pain, but doctors still believe patients when they say it, so why can't professionals accept that Reiki works for some people.

Is Reiki Right for You?

Unfortunately, because Reiki does not have much supportive evidence, it is up to you to decide if it is right for you or not. The best way to tell is to schedule a reiki appointment with a professional and certified practitioner. See how the visit goes. If you experience something positive, then it might be worth it for you.

Reiki is not for everyone, and there is little evidence to suggest it works. However, despite the lack of credible evidence, Reiki can still be an effective practice, especially when combined with other treatments.

What do you think about Reiki? Do you have experience with the practice? Please, leave a comment below.

5 Winter Soups To Get you Through the Cold

Get rid of those winter chills with five hearty soups. Each recipe can feed an entire family.

1. Bacon Potato Corn Chowder

Are you looking for a hearty soup to warm you up? Look no further than Taste of Home's Bacon Potato Corn Chowder. 

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/2 pounds potatoes, Yukon Gold, cubed and peeled
  • 1/2 pound bacon, chopped
  • 1 can cream corn
  • 1 can milk, evaporated
  • 1/4 cup onion, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions:

  1. Bacon should be cooked over medium heat in a large skillet until crisp. Once crisp, remove the bacon and place it on a paper towel. Except for 1-1/2 teaspoon, the drippings can be discarded. Add onion to the remaining drippings and cook until tender.
  2. Boil potatoes in a large pot, allow water to cover them. Bring the ingredients to a boil using high heat, and then reduce to medium heat and cook uncovered for 15 minutes or until tender. Reserve one cup of potato water, draining the rest.
  3. Combine corn, potatoes, milk, salt, pepper, and reserved water to a saucepan, heating thoroughly. Add the onion and bacon.

2. Turkey Sausage, Butternut Squash, and Kale Soup

For those looking to make a meal out of a soup dish, the Taste of Home TBK soup delivers. Once again, you can have a fulfilling meal ready in under 30 minutes.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cartons chicken broth, reduce sodium, 32 oz each
  • 1 butternut squash, about 3 lbs, cubed and peeled.
  • 1 pack turkey sausage links, Italian, casings removed
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, shaved
  • 1 bunch of kale, coarsely chopped and trimmed

Directions:

  1. Over medium heat, cook the sausage, about eight to 10 minutes or until no longer pink. Once cooked, break into pieces.
  2. Add broth and squash to the pot and bring it to a boil. Stir in the kale. Reduce the heat, allowing the soup to simmer until veggies are tender, approximately 20 minutes. Top with cheese.

3. Tomato Hamburger Soup

This recipe makes about 12 servings. The best part is it uses a slow cooker, meaning it is a set it and forget it type of meal.

Ingredients:

  • 2 packages of mixed vegetables, frozen, about 16 oz each
  • 1 pound ground beef, drained and cooked
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup, condensed, undiluted
  • 1 can V8 juice (46 oz)
  • 2 teaspoons minced onion, dried
  • Pepper and salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Combine the first five ingredients in a five-quart slow cooker. Cook covered on high for a minimum of four hours. Season with pepper and salt.

4. Simple Chicken Soup

Chicken soup and winter seem to go hand-in-hand. This recipe only takes a total of 20 minutes, and make six servings.

Ingredients:

  • 1 package mixed vegetables, frozen
  • 2 cans cream of chicken soup, reduced-sodium, reduced-fat, undiluted
  • 2 cups chicken breast, cooked, cubed
  • 1 tablespoon minced onion, dried

Directions:

  1. Combine broth and onion in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and add the vegetables, covering and cooking for an additional 8 minutes. Stir in soup and chicken, heating through.

5. Easy Chili

While there are plenty of chili recipes out there, this is by far the easiest. In 30 minutes, you will have enough chili for four.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound ground beef, lean
  • 10 ounces Rotel tomatoes with diced chiles
  • 15 ounces chili beans, undrained
  • Optional toppings of your choosing

Directions:

  1. Cook ground beef until no longer pink in a three-quart pot and drain the grease.
  2. Combine with other ingredients in a crockpot and cook on low for four to six hours.

What are your favorite winter soups? Comment below.

Using Light Therapy To Treat Wintertime Blues

While there are many reasons to love the fall and winter, primarily holidays and presents, the seasonal shift can lead to emotional problems. The lack of sunlight in the winter months is tied to seasonal depression or seasonal affective disorder.

The symptoms of SAD tend to follow the changes of the seasons. Most people who experience the conditions begin experiencing mood swings and fatigue that start in the fall, continue through the winter, and end in early spring.

The treatments for SAD range from psychotherapy to medications to light therapy or phototherapy. Phototherapy is the first line of defense against SAD, and it involves special light boxes that mimic the sun.

The problem is not all sun lamps are effective for phototherapy, so you should speak to your doctor before purchasing one. However, if you would like to narrow down your search before talking to your doctor, there are several things you should consider.

1. Specifications

Sun lamps should be comfortable to sit in front of for a minimum of 20 minutes per day. Therefore, you might want to opt for a glare-free light or one that can be placed on a downward angle to reduce or eliminate eye strain. 

Additionally, you will want a lamp that generates a minimum of 10,000 lux, approximately 20 times greater than most indoor lights and lamps. It would be best if you also looked for a sun lamp that produces a cool-white fluorescent light.

2. Safety

While a sun lamp can help combat SAD, you want a light that filters out UV light. Do not go by website descriptions alone. Make sure the box specifies the lamp is UV-free. UV light can damage the skin and the eyes.

Lamps used to treat skin conditions are not the same as those meant to treat SAD. Lamps for mood disorders are much brighter, so make sure the light is intended for seasonal affective disorder.

3. Size

On average, you want to find a sun lamp with a light surface between 12 and 15 inches. Typically, the larger the surface, the higher the output. Larger lamps can also provide users with more versatility, allowing them to move further away from the light while maintaining the benefits.

Smaller lights are still effective, but you often need to use them more often. Small lamps are also easier to travel with, making them ideal for people who travel and experience jet lag.

4. Preference

When selecting a lamp for light therapy, you will want to consider your personal needs. For instance, will you be using the lamp while working or after getting off a long flight? Knowing how you will use the light will help you identify specific models.

5. Recommendation

One of the best sun lamps on the market is the Carex Day-Light Classic Plus light therapy lamp. The surface area is large, 15.5 by 13.5 inches, and it is a 10,000 lux light. Additionally, the stand is adjustable, and the light can be placed in a downward position to prevent glare. At just over $100, the lamp sits in the middle of the pack.

SAD is a legitimate condition that occurs because of seasonal changes. A sun lamp can help prevent some of the many symptoms of the winter blues, including boosting your energy. Talk to your doctor about your symptoms and ask if a sun lamp would be a worthwhile purchase.

Do you experience the winter blues? If so, how do you cope? Comment below.

Functional Foods: What Are They, and Why Should You Be Eating Them?

The concept of “functional foods” is growing in popularity and as society becomes increasingly focused on health, wellness and self-care. Though all foods are functional to an extent in that they satiate appetite, provide taste and offer some nutritional value, there are certain foods that are so high in vitamins and nutrients that they have powerful health benefits. Evidence suggest that these foods — known as functional foods — may safeguard against disease, promote healthy growth and development, and prevent nutrient deficits. So, which foods are considered functional and what kind of value do they really provide? Find out below.

Defining “Functional”

Though a buzzword in recent years, functional foods are not a new concept. The term originated in Japan in the 1980s when, in response to rising health care costs, the country’s government began approving certain foods for their health benefits. Once the concept caught on in the United States, where the FDA regulates what manufacturers can and cannot say regarding the health benefits of certain foods, health organizations began attempting to come up with a definition. Below are two definitions of functional foods, as provided by the Mayo Clinic:

  • Functional foods are those that provide benefits that go beyond its basic nutritional value because of what it contains. For instance, soy is considered functional because it is a protein that is proven to reduce cholesterol levels — a benefit that goes beyond its nutritional value.
  • Functional foods are also foods that have been fortified to add health benefits. A common example of a fortified “food” is orange juice, which is often calcium-fortified to improve bone health.

Though the latter types of foods are healthy, most people can agree that foods that are naturally rich in vitamins and minerals are better for the body.

Examples of Functional Foods

There are two types of functional foods: conventional and modified. Conventional foods are simply those that naturally contain vitamins, minerals, heart-healthy fats and antioxidants. Modified foods are those that are fortified with additional ingredients to boost their health benefits. Examples of conventional foods are as follows:

  • Fruits and vegetables, particularly cauliflower, broccoli, spinach, kale, apples, oranges, bananas and berries
  • Nuts, such as cashews, macadamia nuts, almonds and pistachios
  • Whole grains, such as oats, brown rice and couscous
  • Seeds, such as flax seeds, pumpkin seeds and chia seeds
  • Seafood, such as salmon, mackerel, cod and sardines
  • Legumes, such as black beans, navy beans, chickpeas and lentils
  • Herbs and spices, particularly cinnamon, turmeric, cayenne, ginger and pepper
  • Certain beverages, such as green tea, black tea and coffee
  • Fermented foods, such as kombucha, tempeh, kimchi, sauerkraut and kefir

Examples of modified foods include several dairy products, fortified grains, fortified juices, fortified eggs and fortified cereals.

The Benefits of Functional Foods

There is ample evidence proving that those foods deemed as “functional” do, in fact, have several health benefits beyond their nutritional value. Though some foods have more and more powerful benefits than others, many conventional and fortified functional foods help to correct nutrient deficiencies, promote healthy growth and development and prevent disease. A few examples of functional foods at work include those that contain omega-3 fatty acids, which help to reduce inflammation, promote heart health and boost brain function; iron-fortified foods, which reduced rates of childhood anemia in Jordan by nearly 50%; and foods that are rich in folic acid, which can help to reduce the prevalence of neural tube defects by as much as 70%.

Incorporating Functional Foods Into Your Diet

Incorporating functional foods doesn’t have to be — and shouldn’t be — difficult. So long as you maintain a well-balanced diet rich in whole foods, your body should get the vitamins and minerals it needs to function optimally. To fill nutrient gaps, add fortified foods to your diet where necessary.