Are You Eating the 4 Best Foods for a Healthy Immune System?

One of the most import factors in a healthy immune system is your diet. Eating plenty of vitamin-rich foods can strengthen your defenses against germs. Try these four natural-health superstars:

1. Citrus Fruits

Tangy oranges, grapefruits, tangerines, lemons and limes are a delicious way to make meals more exciting. They also give your immune system a lot of vitamin C, one of the most important vitamins for staying healthy. Vitamin C increases production of white blood cells, giving you a tiny army that searches for and destroys viruses.

Easy Cilantro-Lime Vinaigrette Recipe

The next time you make a salad, instead of pouring ranch dressing on it, make your own refreshing citrus vinaigrette:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice (lemon juice works also)

  • 1 or 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

  • 1 garlic clove, crushed or minced

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar

All you have to do is stir these ingredients together and pour them on your favorite salad.

2. Oysters

Low on zinc? Oysters and other shellfish are a great source of this immune-boosting mineral. Zinc helps the immune system function correctly.

3. Red and Green Bell Peppers

Did you know that bell peppers have even more vitamin C than oranges? They also give your immune system extra vitamin A, an antioxidant. Vitamin A helps build your immune system and makes it react more quickly to infections.

Tip: To get the most nutrients possible, keep these colorful veggies tender and crisp. Enjoy them fresh in salads, sauté them in stir fries or char them lightly on the grill.

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You do not need to shell out thousands of dollars, just to keep your teeth clean and healthy. In fact, you never need to set foot in a dentist office ever again. Instead, there’s a new home remedy that’s taken the world by storm, and… All you have to do is mix together these dirt-cheap ingredients!


4. Ginger and Garlic

Garlic and ginger are a dynamic duo for enhancing your immune response. Garlic has powerful medicinal properties. Adding fresh garlic to your meals won’t prevent you from getting sick, but it may speed up your recovery.

Ginger is an herb that can neutralize microbes. It increases some of the main lines of defense your body has against infections. This spicy root is packed with nutrients and antioxidants, so it’s not surprising that ginger is so good for you.

Zesty Garlic-Ginger Chicken Soup Recipe

Remember the chicken soup your mother used to make when you were sick with a cold? This is the same thing only even better for your immune system:

  • 2 tablespoons fresh garlic

  • 2 tablespoons fresh ginger

  • 1 large red onion, chopped

  • 2 pounds skinless chicken breasts (or thighs), cut into pieces

  • 1/2 cup chopped carrots

  • 1 cup mushrooms

  • 4 cups organic chicken broth

  • 6 cups water

Sauté fresh garlic, ginger and onion in a large pan with olive oil. Cook for 3 minutes.

Add the chicken, water, chicken broth, mushrooms and carrots. After bringing the liquid to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer for 30–60 minutes. Add salt to taste, along with extra garlic and ginger if you want additional zing.

Enjoy a bowl of soup while it’s pleasantly warm.

The Importance of Good Nutrition for a Healthy Immune System

According to Harvard Medical School, senior adults have a higher chance of getting sick than younger people. This may be because the body produces fewer immune cells. It may also be from vitamin deficiencies. Whatever the cause, as you age, you need to stay focused on eating nutritious superfoods. Healthy foods enhance your immune system and take care of the rest of your body, too.

5 Foods for a Longer Life

If you believe what you see on the silver screen, the key to extending your lifespan is finding a magical amulet or being a test subject in a shady government experiment against your will (or at least so says my grandson). In reality, a long and healthy life is much simpler to achieve. Eating well and staying active are two of your best defenses against creaky joints and chronic illness. More specifically, here are five foods that have the power to add years to your life.

Tomatoes

Whether they’re straight from your garden or crushed into a zesty pasta sauce, tomatoes are one of your body’s best weapons against inflammation. Tomatoes contain lycopene, which has anti-inflammatory properties as well as the power to lower your LDL (a.k.a. bad cholesterol) according to some studies. Research has also shown that eating tomatoes can decrease your risk of developing cancer and a variety of chronic diseases.

While you’re loading your plate sky high with tomato slices, consider adding some red bell peppers too. Like tomatoes, they also have the power to reduce inflammation thanks to the presence of phytochemicals and carotenoids, two antioxidants that studies have connected to longevity in women over 60. Red bell peppers — like most red fruits and veggies, actually — are also high in vitamins A, B6 and C.

Beans

I don’t have to tell you why beans get a bad rap. Here’s the thing: they’re positively packed with fiber, protein and potassium. What’s more, they’re cholesterol-free and low in sodium and fat (including saturated fat). Given all this nutrition, it should come as little surprise that recent research suggests this magical food can reduce your risk of diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease and other chronic conditions.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Extra virgin olive oil is the workhorse of the Mediterranean diet. From sauté pans to salad dressing, it’s virtually everywhere on the menu — and with good reason. It contains two key ingredients for a long life. First, it’s rich in monounsaturated fats, which are wonderful for your heart. Second, it’s full of polyphenols, a type of antioxidant that’s demonstrated a variety of brain-boosting properties. More specifically, it’s been shown to combat cognitive decline and assorted memory impairments, including Alzheimer’s disease.

Yogurt

We’ve all seen those Jamie Lee Curtis commercials; you know the ones. Turns out the “Halloween” star is right: probiotics are a crucial component of a lengthy life.

The catch? Scientists aren’t quite sure why they can add years to your life. The leading theory is that they improve your body’s insulin usage and minimize the impact of stress. Whatever the cause, all research suggests that adding protein-packed yogurt to your diet is a smart move.

Red Wine

I know, I know: Wine isn’t a food. It is, however, part of a healthy, antioxidant-rich diet. That’s because it contains flavonoids, which are bioactive compounds that, in some trials, have shown increased longevity and decreased chronic illness in women over 60.

Don’t take this as a green light to drink a bottle of pinot noir every night parked in front of your home entertainment system. Instead, aim for 1-2 glasses per day to prevent health problems such as cancer, depression, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease and cognitive deterioration.

If you don’t drink alcohol, opt for tea instead. Green tea has been proven to suppress the appetite, kick-start the metabolism and decrease stress, as well as reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Black tea, meanwhile, has demonstrated a power to lower your risk of cancer.

Incorporating plenty of these nutrient-dense and antioxidant-rich foods (and drinks!) into your diet may take a little practice, but it’s well worth the effort. For a longer life, ditch the prepackaged items and eat colorful meals full of bold, bright and body-boosting natural foods.

What Causes “Old Person” Smell?

Getting older can be pretty weird, don't you agree? Grey hairs, wrinkles, and a little extra padding around the middle can leave you thinking "who is that person in the mirror?" every morning. While it's best to take these changes with a grain of salt and a good sense of humor, you also want to look and feel your best, no matter your age.

That brings us to a bit of an uncomfortable topic: body odor. Getting real for a minute, a lot of older folks are concerned about "old person smell", which is hard to define but you can definitely identify when you smell it.

What causes changes to body odor as you grow older? Is it all in your head? How can you stay smelling fresh well into your golden years? Here are a few insights into old person smell, as well as what you can do to combat it.

Changes to Body Chemistry

Senior smell is a natural occurrence, to some degree. It's a complicated scientific process, but the gist is an increase in fatty acid production and a decrease in antioxidant production causes a boost in a chemical that can smell somewhat pungent. While there isn't much you can do about science, you can increase your antioxidant intake by eating more tomatoes and taking vitamin C supplements.

Lax Hygiene

Mobility issues make it more difficult for older folks to get in and out of the shower. This can lead to a lax approach to personal grooming, which in turn increases unpleasant bodily smells. If you have concerns about mobility in the bathroom, install some grip bars and anti-slip flooring to keep you safe and secure. And you can prevent mobility problems later in life by building up muscles and joints via exercise. It's never too late to get started!

Dental Issues

Lots of older people have dentures, which can be a good solution to missing teeth. While dentures won't decay like natural teeth, they can accumulate food debris and bacteria. If you have dentures, care for them correctly by brushing them once a day and soaking them overnight. You should also brush your gums, inside your cheeks, and the roof of your mouth on a daily basis using a soft-bristled tooth brush. Whether you have dentures or not, schedule a check-up with your dentist twice per year.

Medications

Medications are a common part of life for many older adults. Some medications impact your body odor, and not in a good way. Medicines used to balance hormones, treat depression, and regulate blood pressure can all affect body odor. Supplements, such as garlic pills, can also create a strong odor in those who take them. When it comes to prescription meds, talk with your doctor about side effects, including unpleasant smells. You may be able to adjust the dosage for better results.

Dehydration

Be honest: do you drink enough water? Water is an essential component of a healthy lifestyle, regardless of your age. Men should be drinking 3.7 liters, or 15.5 cups, per day, while women are encouraged to drink 2.7 liters, or 11.5 cups. When you don't drink enough water you become dehydrated, and when you're dehydrated your bodily excretions, including sweat and urine, become much stronger smelling. Increasing your water intake reduces strong odors, and can also provide an energy boost.

While aging is inevitable, you don't have to assume the role of an "old" person just because another year has passed. People these days can remain vital and healthy well into their golden years and beyond. The key often lies in diet, exercise, supplements, and stress-reduction, all of which can help you look great and lead a long, happy life.

3 of My Favorite Warm Drinks for Fall

Fall is my favorite season, hands down. The air turns crisp, school supplies line store shelves and the year’s best stretch of holidays looms on the horizon. Those cool autumn nights are also a great excuse to indulge in a warm, cozy beverage (or two). Here are three of my favorite fall drinks.

Peanut Butter Hot Chocolate

This tasty fall treat is essentially a liquid peanut butter cup. Indulgent? Yes. Absolutely delicious? Also yes. What’s more, the recipe is easy to modify if you’re trying to avoid dairy or refined sugar. Here’s what you need:

  • 1 ½ cups of the milk of your choice

  • ¼ cup almond milk

  • ¼ cup creamy peanut butter

  • 6 tablespoons semi-sweet chocolate chips

  • 4 tablespoons sugar

  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 1/8 teaspoon sea salt

Add both milks, the chocolate chips, the sugar and the peanut butter to a saucepan. Heat the mixture over medium heat. You can use any type of milk that you like, but I find that fuller-fat options, such as whole milk or full-fat coconut milk, yield the richest, creamiest drink.

Whisk the mixture until the chocolate chips are completely melted and its consistency is buttery smooth. Then add the vanilla, cocoa powder and sea salt. Whisk until combined and heated through.

Cover the saucepan and take it off the heat. Let it sit for five minutes so it thickens a bit before serving. If you’re feeling decadent, top each mug of peanut butter hot chocolate with whipped cream and/or a drizzle of additional peanut butter and some extra chocolate chips.

Bourbon Apple Cider

The bourbon in this quintessential fall drink is totally optional, but it adds an extra layer of autumn oomph to every mug.­ Whether you choose to indulge or not, the ingredient list looks like this:

  • 1 gallon apple cider

  • ¼ cup light brown sugar (dark will work, too)

  • 1 orange

  • 2 teaspoons whole cloves

  • 1 teaspoon allspice

  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

  • 2 cups bourbon

  • Cinnamon sticks

Heat the cider in a large Dutch oven. Stir in the nutmeg, allspice and sugar.

Stick the cloves in the orange, pointy end first. Make sure the buds are still sticking out, and try to space them evenly around the fruit. Add the orange to the cider, and simmer for 20 minutes, covered. If you’re adding the bourbon, stir it into the cider before serving in mugs garnished with cinnamon sticks.

Mulled Wine

I may have saved the best for last. This cozy beverage is a favorite of my family and friends when the weather turns chilly, and it couldn’t be easier to make. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 bottle of dry red wine

  • ¼ cup Grand Marnier

  • 1 orange, sliced into rounds

  • 2 star anise

  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup

  • 8 whole cloves

  • 2 cinnamon sticks

Add all of the ingredients to a large pot and stir. (If you can’t find the star anise, try swapping in some cardamom pods, or simply leave it out.)

Crank up the heat to medium-high and when the mixture starts simmering, turn the heat to low and cover it. Let it continue to simmer for three hours. (You can simmer it for less time, as low as about 15 minutes, but the longer you let this spicy concoction simmer, the better!)

Strain the mixture and discard the fruit, cloves and cinnamon sticks. Serve in mugs and garnish with strips of oranges and/or lemons.

There’s no law that says you can’t drink a rustic tankard of mulled wine in the middle of June, but let’s face it — it’s just not as fun. When the temperature starts to drop in your neck of the woods, bundle up in your favorite slouchy sweater and sip one of these soothing fall libations.

Healthy Changes To Make Today

If you’re like me, it seems like it was only yesterday that you were a 20-something who could eat whatever she wanted, stay up until the wee hours of the morning and take a flight of stairs like it was nothing. Today, it's considerably harder to feel energetic, fresh and ready to scale heights. As you age, staying healthy seems like it’s always just outside your grasp. The thing is, it’s actually right in front of you: You just have to take it!

Whether you want to lose 30 pounds, have more energy for your grandkids or not have to take a breather after hiking to balcony-level seats, there are plenty of small changes you can start making today to feel better. Here are two of the most important.

Get Your Beauty Rest

I can’t overstate the importance of a good night’s sleep. When you’re tucked in tight and dreaming, your body is repairing, rebuilding and rejuvenating itself from head to toe.

As an adult, you need at least seven hours of beauty sleep each night. That's beauty not just for your complexion but also for your brain. When you fall short of those 7 hours, your body and mind rebel. In addition to feeling groggy and slow, inadequate sleep can lead to a variety of health issues, no matter how fit you are. For example, the risk of both heart attack and stroke increase for adults who don’t get enough sleep.

If, despite your best intentions, falling asleep is an issue for you, there are several ways to make trundling off to dreamland easier:

  • Get into the routine of going to bed at roughly the same time every night. Set an alarm on your phone if you have to.

  • Keep screens out of your bedroom. The light given off by many electronic devices is a one-way ticket to Insomnia Town, Population: You.

  • Try a sleep app. It seems like every day there’s a new app designed to help you fall asleep. I’m partial to the Sleep Stories on the Calm app.

Make Eliminating Stress a Priority

As women, we’re often expected to take care of everybody else. We’re mothers, daughters, best friends and CEOs. We run companies and households. We cook. We clean. We — well, you get the drift. The majority of women are subjected to an incredible number of stressors. Meanwhile, as caretakers, we may feel guilty if we take a moment to look after ourselves.

That line of thinking needs to stop. Over time, constant stress can lead to an array of health problems, including depression, ulcers, stroke, high blood pressure, heart disease, IBS and migraines. It also increases your likelihood of obesity.

If reading the above paragraph stressed you out, don’t worry. Small changes can yield big, healthy results. Making as little as 10-15 minutes per day to relax and have fun can put a huge dent in your stress levels. Those 10 minutes don’t have to be spent in silent meditation, either. For me, taking a break often entails one or more of the following:

  • Reading a magazine (the more celebrity gossip, the better)

  • Going for a walk

  • Watching an episode of “comfort food” TV

  • Listening to music

  • A hot bath, heavy on the rosemary oil

  • A glass of wine, preferably red

  • Playing a quick game or two on my iPad

If nothing else, check in with yourself often and take a few deep breaths. Self-care should be a priority in your life, not an indulgence.

Getting plenty of sleep and taking time each day to de-stress are just two of many small modifications you can make to improve your overall health. Even better, they’re two changes you can make today.

6 Reasons Why I Limit My Diet Soda Intake

There used to be a time where I started every day with a cold, refreshing diet soda.

Or two.

OK, fine. Sometimes three.

I thought nothing of it. The caffeine helped me get going in the morning, and I figured it wouldn’t stain my teeth like I feared coffee would. Most of all, it wasn’t regular soda. How bad could it be?

Turns out pretty bad. While drinking a diet soda is still better for you than drinking a calorie-dense regular soda, it’s still not great for your body. While I haven’t totally given up diet soda, here are six reasons why I only pop the top on one every now and then.

1. Diet Soda Can Disrupt Your Metabolism

Diet sodas are powered by artificial sweeteners. On the one hand, they’re great because they don’t contain calories. On the other hand, they’re chemicals. As such, they can be a catalyst for inflammation and put stress on your GI system, which may lead to metabolic syndrome, diabetes and other metabolism-related health problems.

2. It May Be Bad for Your Gut Bacteria, Too

We’ve all seen the commercials with Jamie Lee Curtis. You know your tummy needs good bacteria to reduce bloating and keep things moving. The thing is, maintaining a robust microbiome is essential to many more of your body’s networks, including your immune system and your brain. Recent studies have shown that the artificial sweeteners found in diet soda can change, or even kill, that good gut bacteria.

3. It’s Downright Addictive

From the caffeine content to the teeny-tiny bubbles, there are several reasons why diet soda can be habit-forming. The biggest factor, however, is the use of artificial sweeteners. In addition to tasting sweet, which is something most people enjoy (obviously!), they can cause your body to grow physically addicted to them.

Fake sugar is actually considerably sweeter than real sugar, so when you down a diet soda, your body gets a massive hit of sweetness — and it wants more. That may mean another diet soda, or it may mean that ice cream in the freezer.

The more sweetness you soak up, the more you need to satiate your sweet tooth. Eventually, an orange won’t cut it anymore; you need orange sherbet instead, and you’re back in the freezer again.

Artificial sweeteners may cause you to crave carbs, too. The fact that a diet soda tastes extremely sweet but doesn’t provide any calories throws your brain for a loop and may cause it to seek out calorie-dense foods to compensate.

If you’re sensing a heavy trend here, you’re not alone. Researchers have found that diet soda drinkers tend to weigh more than people who opt for another calorie-free beverage.

4. It’s Bad for Your Bone Density

As we age, fear of breaking a hip seems clichéd. If you regularly consume diet soda, however, it may actually cause a decrease in your hip bone density thanks to its phosphoric acid.

5. It’s Bad for Your Teeth

Remember how I thought diet soda was better for my teeth than coffee? I was wrong. Whether it’s regular or diet, consistent soda drinking will erode your enamel.

6. It Offers No Wellness Benefits

Sure, you could make the argument that you’re cutting calories because you’re imbibing diet soda instead of regular soda. Then again, you could also switch to water or tea, both of which will hydrate you better without chucking sodium, phosphoric acid, artificial coloring and artificial sweeteners into your system on a regular basis.

If you’re not ready to give up diet soda cold turkey, consider drinking fewer ounces each day. Since I began limiting my diet soda intake, I’ve felt like a leaner and cleaner version of myself. My water intake has skyrocketed, and both my digestive system and my skin have reaped the rewards of being well-hydrated. Now the only drink I crave is the tea I haven’t tried yet.

Get Creative With These Delicious Vegetarian BBQ Ideas

The words "vegetarian" and "BBQ" don't naturally flow together for most people, but they don't have to be mutually exclusive. For many people, their first thought when they hear "vegetarian BBQ" is fake meat, which often doesn't grill very well, anyway. The thing is, the best vegetarian BBQ items are fruits and veggies, and they're not only for people who don't eat meat! Add a few of these items to your next grilling session and

Grilled Corn

Grilled corn is a classic summer food. It also happens to be vegetarian because, well, it's corn. The secret to beautiful, perfectly roasted corn that isn't burnt to a crisp is brining. That's right. Soak the ears (husks and all) in a tall stockpot filled with salty water for a few hours before grilling time. When it's time to cook them, shake off the excess water, and carefully lay them on the grates. The soaked husks will help the corn steam and roast to perfection without scorching too much. When the ears are done, peel back the husks and slather the corn in butter and seasoning salt or chili powder. If you're serving grilled corn to vegans, try olive oil instead of butter.

Fruit and Veggie Kabobs

These are pretty self-explanatory. You skewer some fruits and some veggies, and you grill them. The key is figuring out which flavors go well together. You can't go wrong with red bell peppers, onion, and pineapple. Or try strawberries and peach or mango chunks with blackberries or kiwi pieces. If you're using wooden or bamboo skewers, soak them first so they'll be less likely to burn on the grill.

Grilled Peaches

Try grilling peaches at your next BBQ, and summer will never be the same. This craveable delicacy is extremely simple to put together. All you need is halved peaches and a little bit of olive oil. You just brush the peaches with the oil and lay them on a medium-hot grill. Cook them for about five minutes on each side, then take them off and serve them plain, with ice cream, or however else you see fit.

Portobello Mushrooms

This is the closest thing to fake meat you'll find in this list. Grilled portobellos are delicious on their own, but they also make for decent sandwich filling. Before you cook them, whisk up a basting liquid of olive oil, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, garlic, salt, and pepper. You'll sometimes see this referred to as a marinade, but you don't want to soak your mushrooms the way you would with a true marinade. Simply brush the mixture on both sides before tossing the portobellos on the hot grill. Cook four or five minutes per side, and then serve them on hamburger buns with all the fixings.

Whether you're entertaining vegetarians at your next backyard BBQ or just trying to add fruits and vegetables to your typical cookout menu, these recipes should get you started. Once you discover how easy it is to grill delicious appetizers, desserts, and side dishes, you'll likely come up with even more ideas for incorporating your favorite fruits and vegetables during grilling season. Pro tip: You can grill just about any vegetable, but keep in mind that tiny pieces can easily fall between the grates and into the fire, so steer clear of very small veggies and when you cut veggies for grilling, keep the pieces relatively large.

Get the Facts on 5 Plant-Based Meat Substitutes

If you've been thinking about going vegetarian for health, environmental or animal rights reasons, you may wonder how you'll live without your carnivorous faves. With so many innovative plant-based meat substitutes on the market now, it's easier than ever to eat less or even no meat while still enjoying your go-to dishes. Consider this your guide to the bevy of faux meat options you'll find at your local grocery or health food store.

Tofu

Depending on how you prepare it, tofu is an incredibly versatile plant-based meat option that can sub in for seafood, chicken, pork or even beef. This soybean product, which has long been used liberally in Asian cuisine, can soak up the savory flavors of your chosen marinades and spices. When you incorporate tofu in your diet, you'll also enjoy the benefit of calcium, protein, fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, selenium and iron. In fact, tofu is a complete protein, which means it contains all the essential amino acids the body needs for optimal function.

Even if you've tried tofu before and found it too tasteless or mushy, try purchasing an extra-firm variety and using lots of seasoning. You might be pleasantly surprised about how satisfying soy-based meat can be when you spice it up and throw it on the grill. Tofu also provides an excellent alternative to cheese and eggs if you plan to go completely vegan.

Tempeh

Although tempeh is also made from soy, the use of the whole soybean and the fermenting process create a product with a stronger flavor and an even greater nutritional value. Tempeh, which comes in small cakes or patties, is rich in vitamins, fiber and protein and offers benefits for your digestive health. You may also find tempeh products mixed with grains such as barley and quinoa.

The firm texture of this meat substitute works well in sandwiches, salads and stir-fries, or try a traditional pairing with Thai peanut sauce. Crumble it to use in place of ground beef in your favorite taco and chili recipes.

Seiten

If you avoid soy, try seitan. This pure wheat gluten product is high in protein and low in carbohydrates. You can buy seitan in premade vegan versions of burgers, bacon and sausage, or purchase straight seitan and make your own meat alternatives. Seitan is easy to prepare and can be baked, stir-fried, grilled, sauteed and marinated to your heart's content. However, keep in mind that seitan is not an option for individuals with celiac disease or other forms of gluten sensitivity.

Jackfruit

This new kid on the block is a tropical fruit with a mild taste and meat-like texture that make it an ideal substitute for pulled pork. The sweet taste pairs well with barbecue sauce and other spicy flavors. Just roast the jackfruit in the oven with your seasonings of choice for about 15 minutes for a chewy texture that will make your tacos, sandwiches and stews sing. Best of all, this fruit is rich in fiber, potassium and vitamin C. According to Medical News Today, studies show that jackfruit consumption in animals boosts "good" (HDL) cholesterol levels and decreases the levels of "bad" (LDL) cholesterol.

Mushrooms

Fungi are another outstanding meat substitute if you prefer to eat whole foods rather than processed products. The naturally meaty flavor and texture of mushrooms make these veggies a natural for tacos, stir-fries and sandwiches. You'll also get a healthy dose of fiber and very few calories, which makes mushrooms a filling no-brainer if you're trying to achieve a healthy weight.

When you're experimenting with these meat substitutes, keep an open mind and an open spice cabinet. Refer to recipes that provide step-by-step instructions on how to prepare these unfamiliar ingredients to become an expert in no time.

3 Delicious Dessert Recipes That Don’t Use Sugar

I love dessert. I don’t love what it does for my waistline or blood sugar. Fortunately, there are a variety of clever ways to enjoy a sweet treat without packing on the pounds or otherwise negatively impacting your health. Here are three of my favorite dessert recipes that don’t use an ounce of processed sugar.

Double Chocolate Banana Cookies

Ingredients:

  • ¾ cup whole-wheat flour

  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda

  • ¼ teaspoon salt

  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

  • ½ medium banana, mashed

  • ¼ cup honey

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted

  • ½ medium banana, chopped

  • 1/3 cup no sugar-added chocolate chips (I use Enjoy Life vegan semi-sweet chips)

Directions:

  1. Add flour, baking soda, salt and cocoa powder to a large bowl. Mix well until no clumps remain. Set aside.

  2. Whisk banana, honey, vanilla and coconut oil together in a medium bowl.

  3. Add the banana mixture to the flour mixture and gently combine.

  4. Fold in banana chunks and chocolate chips. Chill mixture in fridge for 30 minutes.

  5. Preheat oven to 325 degrees and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

  6. After the dough has sufficiently chilled, drop dough onto prepared sheet by the tablespoon. Shape them into cookies; these don’t spread out much.

  7. Bake for 10-14 minutes, depending on how soft you like your cookies.

  8. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool further.

Devil’s Food Doughnuts

Ingredients – Doughnuts:

  • 5 Medjool dates, pitted

  • 1 tablespoon water, divided

  • ½ cup coconut flour

  • ¼ cup, plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened almond milk

  • ¼ cup good maple syrup

  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted

  • 2 tablespoons sunflower seed butter

  • 2 tablespoons coconut crystals

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

  • ½ teaspoon baking soda

  • pinch sea salt

  • 2 eggs

  • ½ cup vegan chocolate chips

Ingredients – Glaze:

  • ½ tablespoon sunflower seed butter

  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup

  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil, softened

Directions:

  1. Grease a donut pan with coconut oil. Any size pan will work; with a large pan, this recipe yields eight delicious donuts that, yes, I know, are technically a breakfast food.

  2. Microwave dates with ½ tablespoon of water for 30 seconds to soften.

  3. Add ½ tablespoon of water to the softened dates and mash well. You should end up with about ¼ cup of date paste.

  4. Combine date paste with remaining donut ingredients in a food processor. Blend until you have a smooth batter.

  5. Fill each hole in donut pan roughly 75% of the way up with batter.

  6. Bake for 12 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove and let cool for 5 minutes before relocating to a cooling rack to cool completely.

  7. While the donuts bake, make the glaze by whisking the sunflower seed butter, maple syrup and coconut oil together in a medium bowl.

  8. Dip top of fully cooled donuts in glaze, and you’re done!

No-Bake Peanut Butter Cookies

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup coconut oil

  • ¼ cup honey

  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt

  • ½ cup creamy peanut butter

  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

  • 1 cup quick-cooking oats

  • ¼ cup unsweetened coconut (shredded or flakes)

Directions:

  1. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

  2. In a medium saucepan, combine coconut oil, honey, salt and peanut butter. Melt over medium heat, stirring continuously until well-combined.

  3. Stir in cocoa powder and vanilla.

  4. Stir in oats, then coconut until the dough is thoroughly mixed.

  5. Using a tablespoon, drop dough onto prepared cookie sheet. There should be enough for 18 cookies or so.

  6. Put the cookie sheet in the fridge or the freezer, and let the dough harden for at least an hour.

  7. Serve cold. (When coconut oil hits room temperature, it becomes soft.)

Eating healthy doesn’t mean depriving yourself of delicious doughnuts or sumptuous cakes, cookies or pies. Make smart choices, get a little creative in the kitchen, and indulge in moderation, and you’ll never have to go without.

3 Fat Loss Myths ­– Busted

Some say weight loss is a journey. Some say you should eat for the body you want, not the body you have. Some say that you can burn calories by eating a grapefruit. Remember that early ‘80s craze? For every grapefruit diet fad that’s debunked, two more weight-loss fables seem to pop up in its place. Here are three of the biggest fat loss myths busted.

Myth No 1: Avoid All Carbs at All Costs

First things first, some carbs really are terrible for you. Processed carbs powered by white flour and refined sugar (think pasta, pastries, fruit juice and beer) offer little or no nutritional value. Instead, they wreak havoc on your blood sugar levels and drive a host of health problems including obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

Complex carbohydrates, however, are a necessary component of a healthy diet. Research shows that because of their fiber content they can prevent an array of health issues, such as irritable bowel syndrome, heart disease, diabetes and colon cancer.

Which carbs are complex? Here’s a helpful, albeit incomplete, list:

  • Whole wheat flour, pasta and bread

  • Barley

  • Lentils

  • Brown rice

  • Quinoa

  • Beans

  • Chickpeas

Other fiber-rich foods to consider making staples of your fat-loss diet include nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables. Each soaks up water as it moves through your body, so you don’t only feel full, you feel full for longer than you would with other foods.

Myth No. 2: Exercise Is the Key to Fat Loss

If you hate the gym, good news! Research shows that diet, not exercise, is the main factor in fat loss. Pounding the pavement or hitting the pool five days a week won’t help you lose fat and keep it off if you’re not eating well.

That said, exercise is key to maintaining your overall health — not to mention keeping up with your grandkids — so don’t donate your walking shoes to Goodwill just yet. Instead of overdoing it on the treadmill, however, focus on losing fat by building muscle.

Strengthening your body boosts your metabolism. The more muscle you have, the more calories you’ll burn each day simply by existing. Your basal metabolic rate determines how many calories melt off when you’re at rest, and the higher your body’s percentage of muscle, the higher your BMR.

Myth No. 3: If You Want To Lose Fat, Kiss Snacking Goodbye

If your mother was like mine, she likely warned you about the nutritional dangers of eating between meals. And by “warned you” I mean “ordered you not to spoil the dinner she spent the last 90 minutes making over a hot stove." You may have even issued such a warning to your own kids.

With apologies to mothers everywhere, snacking can be good for you in certain instances. In fact, most experts agree that eating five small meals each day instead of three can help you avoid overeating at those meals. Having a snack when mid-afternoon hunger pangs strike can stop you from bingeing from dinner until bedtime, too.

What you eat matters even more then when you eat it, though. If you’re chowing down on sugary sweets and salty treats between meals, you’re doing your waistline no favors. Opt for a healthy snack that’s high in nutrients, such as vegetables or non-fat yogurt, and you can aid fat loss.

Skip the alcohol, too. It's loaded with empty calories. If the thought of a wine-free book club makes you shudder, start with small changes. Trade one glass of Chardonnay for a clean, cool bottle of sparkling water with lemon that you can feel good about.

When it comes to fat loss, it’s important to separate the wheat from the chaff. And, as this myth-busting session shows, it’s just as vital to separate the whole wheat bread from its processed counterparts and trade your afternoon cookie break for some carrots and hummus. Over time, small changes yield huge results.