This summer, don’t be surprised if dietitians point you to one of Mother Nature’s sweetest treats to remedy a variety of ailments: sweet cherries. These bright, glossy orbs are in season for only a short time, so don’t pass them up while they’re at their freshest and, arguably, most flavorful. Not only do they make a refreshing snack that beats the heat when eaten chilled, but they pack a mighty nutritional punch for their compact size.
Containing high concentrations of nutrients and bioactive components — such as fiber, polyphenols, carotenoids, vitamin C and potassium — sweet cherries have long been touted for certain health benefits. A new review of nearly 30 published studies confirms that this small stone fruit can help tackle some big wellness issues. Read on to learn how sweet cherries can play a part in improving five common concerns.
1. Oxidative stress
Oxidative stress occurs when free radicals and antioxidants are out of balance in your body. Under normal conditions, free radicals help the body by fighting off pathogens that can lead to infection or disease. But when antioxidants are far outnumbered, free radicals can go rogue and attack the body’s fatty tissue, protein or even DNA. Once compromised, the body becomes more susceptible to various diseases over time, such as heart disease, diabetes and hypertension, to name a few.
Sweet cherries are rich in polyphenols and vitamin C, which have powerful antioxidant properties. Studies have shown that eating sweet cherries can increase antioxidant capacity and reduce oxidative stress, bringing the body back into a healthy balance.
If you’re among the 54 million Americans who suffer from arthritis or another rheumatic disease, sweet cherries may be able to provide some relief. Research shows that the anti-inflammatory properties of cherries can have the same effect as ibuprofen. “While fresh sweet cherries are hard to beat, frozen or dried cherries are a great alternative for incorporating the health benefits of sweet cherries year-round. They retain the sweet cherry nutrients and are a beautiful addition to everything from salads to cocktails!” said Mia Syn, registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN).
Gout is a form of arthritis, and sufferers tend to experience severe pain, redness and tenderness in their joints. The condition is associated with elevated levels of uric acid in the blood, levels that have been reduced with a diet incorporating sweet cherries. A recent study with gout patients found a 35 percent lower risk of gout attacks among those who consumed sweet cherry products over two days. When eating sweet cherries was combined with their prescribed medicine, specifically allopurinol, the risk of a gout attack was 75 percent lower.
A good night’s sleep is essential to functioning at top form during the day. With sweet cherries, you have a reliable source of tryptophan, serotonin and melatonin. Tryptophan is necessary to the development of serotonin, which, in turn, plays an important role in regulating sleep as well as mood and appetite. Adequate levels of serotonin can contribute to feelings of well-being, while depression has been linked to low measures. Additionally, melatonin helps maintain your body’s internal clock, regulating your sleep and wakefulness patterns.
Studies have shown that the consumption of sweet cherries enhances sleep quality and quantity, and mood and anxiety also show improvement. What’s the best time to eat sweet cherries to get this boost? Researchers say enjoying the fruit about an hour before bedtime can help stabilize your sleep cycle.
5. Blood pressure
Finally, studies point to a link between the consumption of sweet cherries and a lowering of blood pressure, both systolic and diastolic measures. Prolonged consumption of cherries is connected with a decrease in a potent vasoconstrictor, a compound that narrows blood vessels and restricts blood flow. Sweet cherries have also been shown to increase the effectiveness of vasodilators, which help widen blood vessels and bring blood pressure down.
Small steps toward big pay-offs
Making small dietary and lifestyle changes can result in big health pay-offs. Adding sweet cherries to your diet can make a near-term impact on common complaints, and it can reduce risks for other illnesses — such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes — down the road. Best of all, sweet cherries add color, flavor and nutrition to your life without adding guilt.
Meditation on a Full Moon
Every month, the striking impression of a moon in its illuminated fullness has held a profound space in marking the passage of time as well as in matters of spiritual and religious importance. Many Eastern religions follow ceremonies to coincide with the moon’s phases. The spiritual development of the Buddha, for example, is believed to track with full moon days. From the fullness of the tides to the deeply held religious beliefs across cultures, the full moon continues to inspire as a time to reflect and receive clarity on internal conditions.
Located among all the exciting happenings in Central, and facing the stunning Victoria Harbour, the Spa at Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong offers an authentic and relaxing Full Moon Meditation experience. A natural sanctuary of peace, guests can feel an extra release of tension when entering its soothing environs on full moon days.
Director of Spa Shoshana Weinberg has crafted a unique full moon ritual ideal for newcomers or seasoned practitioners. Weinberg leads the full moon meditations, channeling a universal energy that is both soothing and powerfully healing. The meditation is broken in two parts: one is a guided deep meditation, or savasana, while the other is a seated meditation in silence. Using aromatherapy oils, authentic Tibetan singing bowls, crystals and organic copal, a sacred resin from Mexico, guests can get in touch with a higher sense of focus and consciousness.
Weinberg says, “We call our authentic self to join in ceremony with others in our community to illuminate the deep meanings and messages that life has to offer. The Full Moon Meditation is a safe place to find a quiet moment to discover the silent world that lives in all of us.”
Guests wishing to extend the sense of community are invited to linger over a delicious spread from Executive Chef Andrea Accordi. Chef Accordi tailors dishes to the theme of the full moon and the rhythms of the seasons sourcing the highest quality ingredients from the most trusted, sustainably suppliers.
Don’t have time to walk and meditate? Try them together
The mental and physical merits of walking are well established, from helping ward off depression to preventing heart disease. Meditation, likewise, can help reduce anxiety symptoms and improve sleep quality. Have you considered combining these seemingly very different activities?
Walking meditation, which doesn’t take much of an investment in time or money, can be a good way to reap multiple benefits.
Walking meditation isn’t a stroll in the park or an hour in the lotus position, rather something in between. The goal is to be self-focused and mindful of your body in motion. To get started, consider these steps from UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center:
* Find a place that’s relatively free of distractions and where other people won’t make you self-conscious. Your path — whether it’s a hiking trail or a little-used hallway — doesn’t have to be long; the whole point is to go nowhere, slowly — and safely.
* Relax your hands and arms, stand up straight and take a few deep breaths. Take 10 to 15 small, deliberate steps, counting them in your head. Be mindful of the way your feet feel as they rise and land on the ground, weight shifting from heel to toes.
* If your mind wanders, try to push out extraneous thoughts and focus on your breathing or the sights and sounds of your surroundings.
* Pause for a breath, turn around and start again.
Why meditate in the first place? Meditation may help cancer patients by relieving their stress and fatigue. It may reduce blood pressure and alleviate some symptoms of menopause and IBS. There is also evidence that it improves the quality of life for female patients struggling with fibromyalgia by helping them deal with depression and conflict, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Meditation can be good for people of all ages. A Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease study found that meditation may help slow the cognitive decline that leads to Alzheimer’s and dementia. When college students added meditation to walking, they had lower levels of anxiety than when they merely walked for exercise, according to a study in the American Journal of Health Promotion.
As you take a moment to slow down and practice walking meditation, keep in mind that the results can also be slow. Studies have shown benefits after as little as 10 minutes per session, but most were based on practicing four to six days per week for several weeks.
Beyond Calcium: 5 Proven Supplements for Women over 40
Aging is one of life’s inevitabilities. We don’t have a choice in the matter; it happens to everyone. But how we age is a choice people make every day. While it’s true that there is no fountain of youth, the choices we make in diet, exercise, and lifestyle can and do affect the quality of our health and ultimately, the quality of our lives.
Women over a certain age know they should be eating right, exercising, getting enough sleep, and doing all they can to reduce stress. Calcium and vitamin D supplements? Those are a given. But there are a whole host of other supplements women should think about taking after age 40.
Here are five supplements that can enhance and improve women’s health at age 40 and beyond.
* Optimized Resveratrol: Resveratrol is a plant compound that is associated with slowing down aspects of the aging process. You’ve heard about it in red wine, but to get the full benefits of the compound, you’d have to drink a lot of wine. Enter the Optimized Resveratrol supplement from Life Extension®, which also contains quercetin, fisetin, and a grape and wild blueberry fruit blend. This nutrient combination promotes youthful gene expression, similar to calorie-restricted diets, helps with healthy insulin sensitivity and mitochondrial function, and provides powerful antioxidant benefits. Other side benefits include greater endurance while exercising and enhanced mental sharpness and vision.
* Menopause 731: This new supplement by Life Extension, fresh off four clinical trials, is made from a Siberian rhubarb root and has been shown to provide significant relief for 11 menopausal discomforts, including hot flashes, depression, night sweats, mood swings, sleep disturbances, and vaginal dryness. This unique extract selectively activates ER-β, a specific estrogen receptor, which is why scientists believe it provides such comprehensive relief. Menopause 731 is designed for perimenopausal and postmenopausal women who are experiencing discomfort and who want relief, but do not want to take hormones. It’s the first plant supplement proven to help with the many menopausal discomforts that can plague women throughout the rest of their lives.
* Curcumin: Found in turmeric root, a culinary spice, curcumin gives curry its unique flavor and yellow color. A member of the ginger family, turmeric’s Ayurvedic medicinal use dates back over 6,000 years in the Middle and Far East. It is a powerful inhibitor of inflammatory factors and a strong antioxidant that supports heart, brain, joint, immune, and digestive health. Most of us don’t eat much turmeric, however, so supplementation is a great way to experience curcumin’s numerous health benefits.
* Pomegranate: The pomegranate tree is native throughout the Mediterranean, Asia, Africa, and Europe and has been cultivated since ancient times. Pomegranates are a powerful antioxidant and support whole body health, including breast, heart, kidney, and liver health. It also helps promote already-healthy blood pressure by regulating LDL oxidation. Until now, the vast majority of research has focused on extracts from the fruit juice alone. But scientists have recently identified the synergistic action of compounds specific to other parts of the pomegranate — notably its seeds and flowers.
* Milk Thistle: Used medicinally for more than 2,000 years, milk thistle is a plant native to the Mediterranean region and is related to sunflowers and daisies. It powerfully supports liver health and the body’s detoxification pathways. Milk thistle also fights free radical damage.
For more information about these supplements, including new Menopause 731, visit lifeextension.com/meno731.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
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