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.

This Is Why Is I Don’t Buy My Salad Dressing at the Store

The idea that most store-bought salad dressings aren’t healthy may sound strange. “What about low-fat, fat-free or organic?” you’re probably asking. The shocking truth is that they’re almost as bad as regular versions!

1. The Fat-Free Trap

Fat equals flavor. I’m not saying you should eat full-fat dressings, just that they tend to be more flavorful. Food manufacturers know this.

Do you know what they do to compete with other brands? Instead of adding high-quality herbs or healthy ingredients, they put extra sugar and sodium in dressings marketed as low-fat or fat-free. All of that sodium is bad for your blood pressure and your heart.

Some dressings slap the word “organic” on the label to make it seem healthier than it really is. Calling something organic only means it hasn’t been grown without pesticides, but it doesn’t mean the ingredients are good for you. Many contain tons of saturated fats, salt and sugar.

2. “Healthy” Vinaigrettes That Aren’t

What about vinaigrettes and Italian dressing? Aren’t they supposed to be healthy? Well, when you make them at home, they’re absolutely amazing for your health. Most of the time, store-bought varieties aren’t.

All you need to do is take a quick look at the ingredients list for some of these dressings to understand what I mean. You’ll find preservatives, food colorings and other weird ingredients that can mess with your body. Like, what in the world are “calcium disodium EDTA,” “potassium sorbate” and “xanthan gum”?

These processed ingredients can make inflammation worse and trigger digestive troubles. If you have gout, arthritis, inflammatory bowel syndrome (IBS) or other types of chronic pain, tossing out prepared salad dressings should be at the top of your to-do list.

3. Organic Salad Dressings With Cheap, Processed Oils

Another trick I’ve seen manufacturers use is mixing a really healthy oil with a really cheap one. Extra-virgin olive oil is a nutritious, high-quality oil with healthy fats that protect your heart. It’s also expensive.

To make more money, companies put a little EVOO in the dressing and a bunch of cheap soybean oil or vegetable oil. The label has “EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL” in huge letters, but the dressing actually contains mostly vegetable oil.

Soybean oil and other highly refined vegetable oils are completely lacking in nutrients. They’re bad for your heart instead of good, and they increase inflammation.

What Should You Do?

Don’t get me wrong. My tastebuds jump for joy with a tasty salad dressing. These four practical tips let you have your salad dressing and eat it too:

  • Make your own salad dressing: Tossing together a vinaigrette with EVOO, herbs, and balsamic vinegar only takes a few minutes. You can find good recipes online for a huge variety of healthy dressings.
  • Choose dressings with simple ingredients: If you only have time for store-bought dressing, the fewer ingredients, the better. Cold-pressed dressings made with EVOO, fresh-squeezed juices, veggies and natural ingredients can be healthy.
  • Know what a serving size looks like: Put your dressing in a measuring spoon to see what that low-cal serving size really is.
  • Serve dressing on the side: You can get some dressing on each bite without overdoing it by dipping your fork into dressing instead of pouring on top.

A crispy, veggie-packed salad is the perfect complement for everything from turkey sandwiches to spaghetti. It's too bad that most bottled dressings undo the benefits you get from eating salad in the first place.

Reduce These Six Foods To Fight Your Battle With the Bloat

Do you notice you feel gassy, bloated, or overly full, especially after a meal? That feeling stems from gas or air accumulation in the stomach and digestive system. While bloating can occur with the menstrual cycle or with certain medications, often the foods we eat create this uncomfortable sensation. Check out this list of foods to avoid when you need to keep the bloat at bay.

Beans

While beans are a staple of a healthy diet because of their rich fiber content, they can also cause unwanted abdominal gas. Sugars that naturally occur in beans ferment when they come in contact with digestive bacteria, resulting in that familiar gassy feeling.

Some people find that soaking dry beans rather than eating canned beans helps with this issue. You can also swap out your favorite beans for rice or quinoa as a side dish. If you can't live without beans, black and pinto varieties are the easiest to digest for most people.

Gum and Hard Candy

While not technically a food, chewing gum can cause bloating because we tend to swallow air. The same phenomenon occurs when sucking on hard candy. If you use mints or gum to keep your breath fresh, you might not realize this hygiene habit results in a gas increase that can cause flatulence, swelling and even pain.

Processed Foods

Most snacks and meals that come in packages are packed with sodium, one of the leading causes of belly bloat. Some of the saltiest options include canned soup, baked goods, deli meats, fast food, sauces and salad dressings.

Processed foods also tend to be high in fat, which causes bloating because it moves slowly through the digestive system. Pizza, fast food, meats, cheeses and baked goods are the biggest culprits in this category. Saturated fat should represent no more than about 10% of your daily caloric intake. In other words, if you eat about 2,200 calories a day, limit fatty foods to less than 220 calories. 

If you tend to grab convenience foods on the go, look for healthy options such as dried fruits, nuts and rice crackers. I like to package them in small sandwich bags and throw them in my purse so I can snack during the workday or on an outing. Not only will you notice less bloating, but your overall health also will likely improve if you cut out processed foods. 

Onions and Garlic

While these savory veggies add flavor to all types of dishes, they can also make you feel bloated. Garlic and onions contain fibers called fructans that contribute to the development of gas in the GI tract. For a similar taste without the risk of bloating, try trading your garlic and onions for chives, basil, fennel, leaks, collard greens or celery.

Carbonated Beverages

You already know that sugary sodas are bad for your health, but even diet versions of carbonated beverages can lead to bloating. Reduce your consumption of beverages with bubbles if you tend to experience gas. Better choices include fruit juice, tea, coffee and, of course, good old-fashioned water.

Whole Grains

If you boost your intake of whole grains because of their health benefits, you may notice increased bloating. While brown rice, barley, oats and other whole grains are full of fiber, as well as nutritious ingredients, the fiber content also causes gas during the digestive process. Dietary experts recommend slowly increasing the number of whole grains you eat rather than switching from white bread and rice overnight. 

If eliminating these items from your diet doesn't solve your bloating issue, see your health care provider. He or she can determine whether underlying health problems may be causing excessive gas. 

6 Foods That Are Toxic to Pets (Cats, Too)

Toxic Foods for Pets

I have a couple of cats at home, but I love dogs, too. Sometimes I like to show my love by sharing a treat, such as hard-boiled eggs, turkey or bananas. However, there are many human foods that you should never give a cat or dog. Avoid these six dangerous foods when cuddling with your cat or dog:

1. Caffeine

The reason chocolate is bad for pets is that it contains caffeine. Pets are extremely sensitive to caffeine. It can overload their hearts, kidneys and nervous system, causing high fever, coma or organ failure. Never give dogs, cats, ferrets or other pets any foods with caffeine:

  • Chocolate
  • Coffee
  • Green tea
  • Caffeinated beverages
  • Energy drinks

If you catch your pet lapping up a little bit of coffee, don’t panic. The small amount of caffeine will probably just make them sick, not seriously ill. On the other hand, chocolate and dark chocolate have a huge amount of caffeine, so you’ll want to call a veterinarian immediately.

2. Grapes and Raisins

Grapes and raisins may seem perfect for dog treats, but don’t let the small size fool you. Something in grapes causes rapid kidney failure in dogs. Just one or two raisins can be enough to trigger a severe reaction.

Scientists still don’t know what chemical compound is responsible, but it’s very dangerous for all canines. The jury is out on felines, but most vets recommend not giving grapes and raisins to cats just to play it safe.

3. Alcohol

No pet should ever drink any kind of alcohol. Just like with caffeine, animals react much more strongly to alcohol than humans do. This includes beer and wine, too. The small organs in most pets aren’t equipped to deal with intoxication, so their heart rate may slow dangerously or they may lose consciousness. With enough alcohol, even large dogs will stop breathing.

4. Garlic and Onions

Cats are more sensitive to garlic than dogs, but dogs can still have problems if they eat enough of it. Any part of the onion family (green onions, too) can hurt your pet’s red blood cells, causing anemia and muscle weakness. Garlic powder is especially toxic since it’s a concentrated form.

5. Nuts

Most nuts are high in specific fats that lead to pancreas inflammation in dogs. Macadamia nuts are the worst for canines, causing shaking, fever and vomiting. You don’t have to panic if your dog just eats a few peanuts or almonds. But if you find them raiding a whole jar of nuts, call the vet immediately.

6. Artificial Sweetener

Be careful if you want to give your pet cookies, gum or other packaged sweets. Many of these products contain artificial sweeteners. Even small doses of a sweetener called Xylitol can trigger liver failure in virtually all pets.

How can you tell if your pet has been affected? Dogs and cats experience a strange loss of balance, like they were drunk. They may seem unusually tired or lethargic. Actually, any time a pet acts really strange (except for catnip) I think it’s a good idea to call the vet.

It’s hard to resist giving an affectionate pet treats. Just make sure not to choose any of the items on this list. This can literally save your pet’s life. Go with crunchy carrots and tasty bananas instead.

5 Time-Saving Kitchen Tools for Cooking From Scratch (Like a Pro!)

Who has time to peel and cook fresh ingredients? Actually, modern technology has made it easier than ever to make breakfast, lunch and dinner quickly. Here are my favorite tools for cooking like a pro. Who has time to peel and cook fresh ingredients?

1. Food Processor

If we’re talking about kitchen tools that save time on food prep, a food processor tops the charts. This little beauty makes short work of every task imaginable. Plus, the list of things you can make is endless. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Fresh basil pesto
  • Homemade broccoli cheddar soup
  • Roasted tomato soup
  • Nut and coconut lemon bars
  • Low-fat pizza dough
  • Garlic mashed potatoes
  • Secret spaghetti sauce (it has green olives)
  • Real almond butter

Slicing, dicing, grinding, blending, mixing, shredding — you name it — food processors do it all in literally seconds. This is especially great if you have any kind of pain in your hands or wrists since you don’t need to worry about wielding a heavy knife.

2. Immersion Blender

Not feeling in the mood to find and assemble your countertop blender for one smoothie and then have to wash the whole contraption? No problem. Get an immersion blender instead. This lightweight, portable and simple hand-held device takes care of blending easily. Even better, it completely replaces whisking, whipping, mixing and mashing by hand.

To make a great smoothie, put the ingredients in a jar and blend away. An immersion blender can handle bananas, kale, mangoes, blueberries, ginger, yogurt, granola and other tasty mixes for a perfect morning start. Cleaning up is a breeze afterwards compared to a conventional (and heavy) upright blender.

3. Pressure Cooker

Cook beans from scratch in under an hour, wild rice in 20 minutes and a pork roast in 45 minutes? Yes, please. A pressure cooker speeds up cooking times amazingly. Also, when you cook ingredients under pressure, they become moist, super tender and incredibly flavorful.

Does the idea of owning a pressure cooker make you nervous? Modern versions are made with tons of safety features (automatic pressure control, temperature sensors, etc.) so there’s nothing to worry about.

4. Dutch Oven

The beauty of Dutch ovens is preparing a meal and letting it cook by itself for hours. These large enameled multi-cookers are amazing for one-pot recipes:

  • Chicken and rice
  • Casserole
  • Chili
  • Lasagna
  • Au gratin potatoes
  • Spanish paella
  • Chicken curry

My favorite way to use them is for beef roasts. There’s nothing as delicious as melt-in-your-mouth meat with a little oven char. All I do is sear the roast, toss in veggies and red wine, and let everything cook low and slow. Then I go to read a book or do some exercises while the heavenly smells fill up the kitchen. Perfect for Sunday dinners with the kids.

5. Cast Iron Skillet

If you can look past the increased weight, a trusty cast iron skillet may soon become your new best friend in the kitchen. It’s so versatile and simple. One minute you’re browning food on the stove top (using practically no oil) and the next your meal is cooking happily in the oven. I don’t care what anyone says, nothing is as good as homemade corn bread or deep-dish pizza baked in a cast iron skillet.

With these must-have kitchen tools, you can cook any meal in a flash. At the same time, you get tons of healthy nutrients and flavor while cutting salt and fat.

Try These 3 Amazing Foods That Lower Your BP

lower blood pressure

1. Salmon

Salmon is a true heart health superstar. This tasty fish is packed with omega-3 fatty acids, special compounds with incredible benefits for your entire circulatory system. Many studies show that omega-3s can reduce triglyceride levels, keep your arteries healthy, prevent blood clots and fight inflammation. Even better, they can cause a significant drop in blood pressure!

To give your diet a delicious boost of BP-fighting omega-3s, bake or grill salmon fillets with your favorite herbs:

  1. Season the salmon fillets with thyme, oregano or garlic (or all three).
  2. Place each portion in parchment paper or foil.
  3. Sprinkle a dash of lemon juice and drizzle some olive oil on top.
  4. Fold parchment or foil and place in a preheated oven.
  5. Bake salmon for 12-15 minutes at 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

Salmon isn’t the only fish that has omega-3s, but it’s one of the best sources. You can also try mackerel, arctic char, black cod, rainbow trout and albacore tuna. Anchovies and sardines are spectacular for omega-3s, but you need to get them fresh, not canned. Omega-3 oils made from fresh fish are also an option.

2. Garlic

Including more garlic in your meals has two big benefits for blood pressure. First, garlic can make your arteries open wider, improving blood flow and getting rid of hypertension. The easier it is for your heart to pump blood, the less it has to work.

Second, garlic is a natural flavor enhancer. If you’re trying to reduce your salt intake, garlic makes a great replacement. That way you can eat healthy and still enjoy meals that taste amazing.

The next time you feel like something sweet and zesty, make honey-garlic chicken. Use skinless chicken breast, honey, fresh ginger, scallions, low-sodium soy sauce and plenty of garlic. With these tangy and tasty ingredients, you’ll be surprised how flavorful everything is without adding salt!

3. Spinach

Say goodbye to high blood pressure for good with the power of spinach. Leafy greens are a phenomenal source of potassium. In fact, fresh spinach gives you more potassium than bananas. Why is that important for BP?

Potassium is the enemy of sodium. By increasing the amount of potassium you get every day, it flushes excess salt from your system. This can drastically reduce blood pressure.

In addition to these BP benefits, spinach contains a ton of nutrients. It’s rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin K, calcium and magnesium. Spinach can give you stronger bones, better eyesight and a healthier immune system.

Not a fan of spinach? That’s OK. There are other leafy greens you can try instead. Sauteed or steamed broccoli makes the perfect complement to any meal. For a delicious salad, toss together romaine lettuce, arugula, Swiss chard and beet greens with a vinaigrette made of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

The Key To Lowering BP With Nutritious Foods

Lowering your blood pressure is all about eating less salt and unhealthy fats. There are lots of delicious foods that can help, such as fresh blueberries, low-fat Greek yogurt, whole-grain oatmeal and unsalted pistachios. Once you've got a healthy meal plan, you’re good to go!

6 Best Foods To Support Healthy Aging

We may not be able to stop aging, but what we can control is how we age. Eating a variety of delicious foods with essential vitamins, powerful antioxidants and good fats can support better health whether you’re 25 or 65. What are the best foods for feeling great at any age?

1. Carrots, Sweet Potatoes & Tomatoes: Smooth Skin

Carrots, sweet potatoes and tomatoes may all look different, but they have something important in common: antioxidant vitamins called carotenoids. These nutrients are essential for youthful skin.

Cooked or fresh, these colorful veggies help protect your skin against harmful UV rays and premature signs of aging skin. That way you don’t have as many wrinkles or “crow’s feet” around the eyes.

2. Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO): Overall Health

When you think of Italy and other places in the Mediterranean, images of extra virgin olive oil drizzled over salads and pasta probably come to mind. It’s no surprise that the average life expectancy for many places in Europe is over 80 years.

Why is EVOO so good for aging in style? This delicious oil can lower your risk of countless health problems:

  • Heart disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Some cancers

Even doctors encourage people to eat lots of EVOO. It's rich in healthy fats that protect your heart.

3. Fatty Fish: A Happy Mind and Body

The people of Iceland also live a long time. The island's entire population has an average life span of about 82 years. Their diet probably plays a big part. Icelandic dishes feature a lot of fresh fish, veggies and wild berries.

Salmon, tuna, trout, sardines, herring and mackerel are more than tasty. They’re full of omega-3 fatty acids — healthy fats that help your heart, nervous system and other organs.

Omega-3s are phenomenal for fighting inflammation and stiffness. Including more fatty fish on the menu can even help your mood, chasing away depression and giving you feelings of calm.

4. Blueberries: Wrinkle Defense

Raspberries, blueberries, cranberries and other red berries have a high level of antioxidants for protecting your cells. These tangy berries support aging in a big way by slowing down the amount of collagen you lose over time. You can enjoy healthier, more elastic skin and stronger joints.

5. Papaya: A Healthy Gut

When your gut is happy, you’re happy. You feel more comfortable and get more benefits from the foods you eat. Take good care of your digestive system with fresh papaya.

This tropical fruit helps with gut troubles such as bloating, heartburn and constipation naturally. Just half a papaya has a whopping 30% of the total fiber you need in a day.

One special enzyme in papaya, called papain, is so good at alleviating stomach upset that it’s included in many over-the-counter products. You won’t believe how fast tummy inflammation goes away.

6. Red and Yellow Peppers: Sharp Eyesight

You probably already know that vitamin C is a super-vitamin for aging, but what you may not know are the best places to get it. Juicy citrus fruits are good sources of vitamin C, but red and yellow bell peppers have even more — over 150% of your daily needs!

When you get lots of vitamin C, it lowers your risk of cataracts and other age-related eye problems. You can take great care of those lovely peepers and enjoy tastier meals at the same time!

The Best Ways To Wake Up (Besides Coffee)

Are you missing your morning coffee? It’s one of the hardest things to give up when the doctor says so. The good news is that you don’t need caffeine to enjoy a spring in your step. Try these tips instead.

1. Drink a Cool Glass of Water

I honestly didn’t believe this would work until I tried it myself. It’s amazing!

Before you get dressed for work or eat breakfast, drink a glass of cold water. It makes you feel alert and energized in no time.

Most people wake up dehydrated, which is why we feel sluggish and tired in the morning. Staying hydrated gets your brain in gear when you start to feel sleepy at work.

2. Get Moving

You know that your body requires a constant supply of oxygen, but do you know why? Oxygen helps your cells produce energy. The more oxygen floating around, the more energized you feel. It’s like connecting a charger to your phone’s battery.

To give oxygen levels a boost, do cardio exercises:

  • Turn on some swing music or salsa and dance around in your socks
  • Take your dog for a 10-minute walk
  • Walk up and down the stairs at work a few times.

Any exercise that increases your heart rate can wake you up and increase your energy levels. It doesn't need to take a ton of time.

3. Eat Something Crunchy or Chewy

The next time you feel like you’re going to doze off during an important meeting, head to your desk for just a second and munch on a quick snack. The crunchier or chewier the better.

Just chewing makes you feel more alert. Plus, it boosts the blood flow to your brain, giving you supercharged mental focus. Personally, baby carrots, apple wedges, celery sticks or almonds do the trick. Some people like chewing gum more.

4. Skip the Sugar and Grab Some Protein

Many people reach for a candy bar when they’re feeling drained. This is one of the worst things you can do. Sugary foods give you a sudden rush of energy, but it doesn’t last long. After that short spike of blood sugar comes a depressing, exhausting crash that makes you want to sleep all afternoon.

Protein has the opposite effect. Instead of making you crash, it keeps you going strong for hours. Here are my favorite sources of quick and easy protein:

  • Jerky
  • Peanut butter and celery
  • Almonds, cashews, pistachios and peanuts
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Greek yogurt
  • Portions of favorite cheese
  • Hummus with veggies

If sugar is a matchstick, then protein is a candle. A little protein snack keeps you satisfied all morning or all afternoon. You can concentrate better on your work and get project after project checked off your to-do list.

Fatigue Isn’t “Normal”

Some people feel tired so often that they start to think it’s normal. “Everybody is exhausted right now,” they say. I’m here to tell you that it’s a bunch of baloney.

If you’re tired all the time, it means your body is running low on nutrients, your muscles are begging for more physical activity or you’re having trouble sleeping.

Find out what’s tiring you out and do something about it! These tips can get your blood pumping again, and that feels amazing.

Sleep Gummies: Everything You Need To Know

Many Americans struggle with sleep. Stress is often a factor in restlessness, but there can be more serious underlying issues you need to address. 

Those struggling with shut-eye might find some relief with melatonin supplements or gummies. Melatonin is the hormone that helps the body regulate the natural circadian rhythm, that biological process that tells you when you're tired and ready to sleep.  

Melatonin supplements can help those suffering from poor sleep. However, before you head to the local pharmacy, there are several things you should know and consider.

1. Consult With Your Doctor Before Using

Before starting any supplement, you should talk to your primary care physician first. While sleeping problems can occur because of increased stress, sometimes, there are legitimate health concerns that need to be addressed. For instance, sleep disturbances can result from sleep apnea, which is a condition where a person literally stops breathing during sleep. 

Talking to your doctor before starting a melatonin supplement can help ensure your safety. Your doctor can run tests and ask questions to determine if a supplement is the best option for you.

2. Verify Products Through Third-Party Groups

As a supplement, sleep gummies are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. Without FDA approval, producers can include ingredients that are not obvious on the labels. Consuming products without accurate labeling can be dangerous. 

Therefore, if you want to start taking a melatonin supplement, it is best to purchase from a reputable source. Finding legitimate products is about verification, and the best way to verify supplements is through third-party groups, such as the U.S. Pharmacopeia or the National Sanitation Foundation International. 

3. Know the Side Effects

Most products, even ones sold over-the-counter, have side effects. Before taking any supplement, you need to read the label closely to determine if the potential side effects are worth the risks. 

When it comes to melatonin gummies, there are a few things you should be aware of. According to some medical professionals, melatonin supplements can result in headaches, dizziness, and morning drowsiness. If given to children, the supplements can cause bed-wetting and agitation.

4. Understand Gummies Aren't for Everyone

When used conservatively, sleep gummies are typically safe. However, not all people should take them. Those individuals who are pregnant or nursing should not take the supplements.

 Additionally, anyone on blood pressure medication or blood thinners or those with type one diabetes, autoimmune diseases, or epilepsy should talk to their doctor before taking the supplements. Taking these supplements with any of these conditions can be hazardous.

5. Gummies Offer a Temporary Fix

Sleep gummies are effective for people with jet lag and some sleep-wake disorders, but they do not offer a long-term fix. The supplements can help some shift workers get some rest, too. 

The problem with self-prescribing sleep supplements is when you do not understand the underlying cause of the sleep disruption. If you fail to diagnose the underlying condition, you might find that melatonin supplements become ineffective because the condition worsens. 

Sleep gummies, or melatonin supplements, can help with some sleep struggles. In the short term, the supplements seem effective, but long-term use might not have the same effect. Before trying sleep gummies, it is best to talk to your doctor about your sleep problems and determine if a supplement is right for you.

Red Meat: Should You Include It in Your Diet?

Red meat is constantly portrayed as poison to a healthy diet. People are continually being advised to avoid red meat, to eat lean proteins instead. Sometimes, the advice is warranted and comes from medical professionals; other times, the nitpicking voice comes from the community “expert” with no medical training or nutritional knowledge. 

Regardless of the loudest voice in the room, as a society, people understand that too much red meat is not good. Still, should you eliminate it from your diet? While there might be many relevant and valid reasons to limit your red meat intake, there are also reasons to enjoy it in your regular diet.

Understanding the Dilemma

Much of the red meat dilemma stems from its legitimate connection to increased cancer risks. According to several studies, people who average 76 grams of red and processed meat per day develop a 20% increased risk of bowel cancer compared to those consuming 21 grams. The research suggests every 50 grams of red meat per day increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%.  

While the threat of cancer is scary enough, other studies also found a link between red meat consumption and other diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease. The research suggested that replacing one serving of red meat with a healthier protein could reduce mortality risks by seven to 19%.

Advantages of Red Meat

Despite the overwhelmingly negative research and study conclusions, red meat does present some benefits or advantages. For instance, vitamins D and B12 are essential to proper bodily function, and red meat is an excellent source of both. Additionally, red meat is a tremendous source of protein, which is also crucial to a healthy diet. 

However, while red meat is an excellent source of some essential nutrients, it is not the only source of such nutrients. You can find the same nutritional benefits in lean proteins like chicken and fish. Therefore, while red meat can provide some health benefits, you need to weigh the advantages against the known risks.

Disadvantages of Red Meat

There is a long list when it comes to what is wrong with red meat. Red meat is often high in saturated fat and cholesterol. While the body needs certain fats, saturated fats can lead to health complications, like clogged arteries. New research into cholesterol suggests it may not be as bad as initially thought, but that doesn’t mean you need to actively pursue it. 

Red meat and processed meats can also include chemicals that are not good for the body. Sometimes, harmful compounds are created when cooking certain meats at high temperatures. Aside from potentially harmful compounds, it is necessary to consider the known correlation between health problems and red meat. 

Even knowing the increased risks of consuming red meat, you must put the research in context. All studies point to the overconsumption of red meat. No study seems to say that you must eliminate red meat from your diet. Instead, most research suggests limiting your intake. Therefore, if you enjoy your burgers and steak, it is Ok to enjoy them occasionally. Still, it is best to avoid daily consumption of red meat and other processed meats. Moderation is the key to health and happiness.