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Decode Your Groceries: A-Z Guide to Healthier Food Choices

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Grocery shopping can sometimes feel like navigating a maze, especially when it comes to understanding the ingredients in the products we consume. With the rise of health buzzwords like “adaptogens” and a myriad of antioxidants and protein sources, it can be challenging to decipher what’s beneficial for our bodies. To make your grocery shopping experience less complicated, we’ve compiled an A-Z guide of ingredients to help you make informed, healthy food choices.

This guide is based on extensive research, consultations with our medical team, and feedback from our readers about the lesser-known ingredients they wish to understand better. We’ve also noted the evidence behind each ingredient’s health benefits, whether confirmed, mixed, emerging, or limited in scope. Additionally, we’ve highlighted when a specific additive is recognized as safe (GRAS) by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

For instance, some fruits have been used for centuries by Indigenous peoples to treat various ailments. They are rich in vitamin C, antioxidants, and fiber. However, larger-scale studies are required to support claims that these fruits can help treat colds and the flu.

Edible gold is primarily used for aesthetic purposes, lightly brushed over desserts to give them a golden look. However, it’s important to note that people with a gold allergy may have a reaction when consuming this ingredient.

Leafy greens like endive are packed with antioxidants that may lower the growth of cancer cells. However, more research on human subjects is needed. Similarly, certain types of mushrooms are rich in fiber and B vitamins. Some research suggests these mushrooms can reduce the growth and spread of cancer cells, improve heart and brain health, and bolster immunity. However, more research is needed, especially on human participants.

Fennel, an herb and medicinal plant, is nutritious and contains vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and manganese, some of which are known to support heart health. However, research about its ability to curb appetite is mixed, and purported anti-cancer benefits have not been observed in humans.

Ferrous gluconate is commonly prescribed in supplement form to aid in anemia treatment, but you may also see it on an ingredient list for cereals, infant food, and dairy products. Fish oil, made when fat or oil is extracted from fish tissue, may increase heart and eye health, reduce inflammation, and improve mental and cognitive health outcomes.

Freekeh, made from green durum wheat, is a whole grain. Some research indicates that it can assist digestion, heart health, and weight management. However, it contains gluten, which some individuals may need to avoid.

Chiles, like jalapenos, contain capsaicin, a bioactive plant that some research indicates might help relieve pain and help with weight loss. However, chili might make irritable bowel syndrome worse temporarily.

Fugu, a Japanese delicacy served as sashimi and nabemono, or Japanese hot pot, can be lethal if not prepared carefully to remove the tetrodotoxin, a venom found in eel and octopus that’s toxic to humans.

Gluten refers to a family of storage proteins with health benefits that naturally occur in certain grains like wheat, barley, and rye. Gluten-free diets have increased in popularity in recent years, and people with celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and other conditions are advised to avoid gluten entirely. Others should speak with a provider before cutting gluten.

These small, tart red berries are commonly sold powdered or dried and added to juices. More research is needed to confirm benefits, including better immune function and eye health.

Guar gum is an additive commonly found in processed foods like salad dressing and yogurt to thicken and bind them. It is low-calorie and high in soluble fiber, so it may help with blood sugar and cholesterol control. The FDA considers it safe in specific amounts, but too much can trigger digestive issues like bloat and gas.

Gram flour, also known as chickpea or besan flour, has been a popular ingredient in Indian recipes for hundreds of years. It’s made with chickpeas and has a mild and nutty taste. It contains antioxidants that can help combat free radical damage. When used in processed food, it may lower the amount of a potential carcinogen known as acrylamide. Chickpea flour has fewer calories and less of an impact on blood sugar than wheat flour, plus it may be more filling.

Hemp seeds are the small, whitish seeds of the hemp plant. They only have small traces of THC, the compound in cannabis that triggers a “high.” They’re loaded with healthy fats, protein, vitamin E, magnesium, calcium, iron, and zinc and can be pressed into hemp oil. They may help with heart disease risk, skin disorder treatment, and digestion and serve as a good source of plant-based protein.

High-fructose corn syrup is an artificial sweetener. It’s been linked to conditions including obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Scientists and healthcare providers typically recommend limiting or avoiding this sweetener.

Hops are female flowers from the hop plant Humulus lupulus and are most commonly found in beer. Research indicates hops may have a sedative effect. They may also help with menopause symptom relief and obesity, but more human-centered data is needed.

Inulin is found naturally in foods like asparagus, leeks, bananas, onions, and wheat. It’s a type of prebiotic fiber that may help reduce blood pressure, and can aid in blood sugar management. It’s generally considered safe. People, particularly those who are pregnant, should discuss taking supplements with their providers.

Quinoa, a gluten-free seed often mistaken for a grain, was hailed as a sacred food by the Inca people hundreds of years ago. Today, it’s lauded for its nutrient contents like fiber, protein, folate, and magnesium, making it useful for weight management and gut health. It boasts flavonoids, including quercetin and kaempferol, which can have anti-inflammatory properties.

Turmeric is a spice used in curry that gives it its yellow color. It’s also become a popular dietary supplement. It contains curcumin, a substance with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Most studies used turmeric extracts with large amounts of curcumin, and more research is needed.

This guide is by no means exhaustive. For a more comprehensive list of food additives, we recommend visiting the FDA’s website. Armed with this knowledge, you can confidently navigate the grocery store aisles and make informed decisions about the food you consume.

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Nutrition

Unlock the Secret Perks of Echinacea From Immune Support to Skin Care

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Introducing the multifaceted supplement that’s been revered for centuries for its potential health benefits: Echinacea. Once employed as a versatile medicinal herb to fight off diseases like scarlet fever and diphtheria, echinacea is now classified as a dietary supplement meant to enhance your overall well-being, not cure ailments. Many tout echinacea as a formidable immune booster, but the benefits don’t stop there. So, let’s delve into six surprising health benefits that echinacea supplements can provide.

Potential Anti-Inflammatory Properties

“Echinacea’s potential to reduce inflammation in the body is intriguing. It could help with minor skin irritation or sore throats by calming the body’s inflammatory response,” shares Raj Dasgupta, MD, a medical reviewer for NCOA. While research is underway to confirm the extent of these benefits, the initial anecdotal evidence is promising.

Speeding Up Wound Recovery

Echinacea isn’t just potentially beneficial internally, but externally as well. A 2023 study in the Molecules journal revealed echinacea’s antimicrobial and aseptic effects, which can aid in faster wound healing by warding off infections.

“It works by stimulating the immune system to send healing cells to the injured area,” explains Dasgupta. Nonetheless, he emphasizes that further research is needed and that echinacea should not substitute proper medical treatment for wounds.

Dermatological Effects

Your skin might love echinacea, too! A 2010 study identified echinacea purpurea as beneficial for protecting skin from oxidative stress and improving its hydration.

“Studies suggest it may be helpful for chronic conditions like eczema,” Dasgupta adds. Still, a call for more research to confirm this has been echoed.

Immune System Booster

Perhaps the most well-known potential benefit of echinacea is an immune system boost. Despite traditional use, Dasgupta urges caution, saying, “While traditionally used for colds, the evidence for its effectiveness is mixed. Some studies show a slight reduction in cold duration.”

Anxiety Alleviation

Could echinacea play a role in managing anxiety? A 2021 study found anti-anxiety and anti-depressant effects in subjects who took echinacea supplements for six weeks. Chris Mohr, PhD, RD, a fitness and nutrition advisor, explains, “It has potential anti-inflammatory properties, and chronic inflammation is linked to anxiety.” He does stress that it shouldn’t be used as a first-line anxiety treatment, however.

Regulating Blood Sugar Levels

There’s preliminary research suggesting that echinacea might assist blood sugar regulation, although this data is based on animal studies and has not been replicated in humans yet.

“If data do emerge to support the animal studies, this could be beneficial for those with prediabetes or those who need to manage blood sugar as part of a larger health plan,” proposes Mohr.

Echoing what might be the golden rule of dietary supplementation, our health journey is as unique as we are. What works for one may not work for all. So always be sure to consult with a healthcare provider, especially if you have chronic diseases or autoimmune conditions, before incorporating echinacea or any new supplement into your diet. From potentially reducing inflammation to possibly boosting your immune system, the old yet new echinacea might just be the versatile dietary supplement your health routine needs.

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Nutrition

Savoring Dolly Parton’s Famous Stampede Soup: A Hearty, Healthful Dish for Cozy Autumn Evenings

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Immerse yourself in the culinary world of iconic songstress Dolly Parton, specifically her renowned Stampede Soup from Parton’s Dinner Show in Branson, Missouri. This creamy, vegetable-based soup has been making waves with its comforting and satisfying flavors, perfect for a cozy, healthful autumn meal. The tantalizing aroma and delightful taste have captured the hearts of many who attend the show, but it’s not just the experience that has fans talking; the array of ingredients used in this soup offers a medley of health benefits that are especially advantageous for seniors.

Let us glean some inspiration from Parton’s role in our lives as a beloved singer and actress, by exploring the potential health benefits of this heartwarming soup. The vegetable base offers a rich source of vitamins and minerals that are essential for maintaining good health. Not to mention, the high fiber content in vegetables can contribute to improving digestive health. The creamy texture is not only satisfying but also a good source of calcium and vitamin D, essential for bone health.

Now let’s delve into the specifics of re-creating this culinary masterpiece at home. Here are the ingredients and steps you need to follow:

Ingredients:
– Butter (for a tastier roux)
– Flour
– Onion powder
– Garlic powder
– White pepper
– Stock (choose low-sodium chicken broth for better flavor control)
– Cooked vegetables
– Heavy cream (decrease to 1 cup for a lighter option)
– Salt (to your liking)
– Parsley (for garnish)
– Lemon wedge

Preparation Method:
1. In a large pot set over medium heat, melt the butter.
2. Whisk in the flour, creating a smooth combination and cook it for at least 4 or 5 minutes to fully cook the flour, thereby building flavor.
3. Add onion powder, garlic powder, and white pepper, whisking until combined.
4. Pour your chosen stock into the mixture and bring it to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking slowly and constantly.
5. Reduce the heat to medium to maintain a simmer; cook, while occasionally whisking, until slightly thickened. This should be about 10 minutes.
6. Stir in the cooked vegetables and heavy cream.
7. Season to taste with salt.
8. Portion the completed soup into bowls, garnish with parsley, and serve with a lemon wedge to squeeze over the top. This will add a touch of zesty brightness to the creamy soup.

For an even more flavorful twist, consider replacing the onion and garlic powders with finely chopped onion and minced garlic, cooking them in the butter before making the roux.

In conclusion, Dolly Parton’s Stampede Soup not only provides a delicious meal but also offers a number of health benefits that are conducive to senior wellness. It’s indeed a testament to how Parton, on and off the stage, continues to serve up comforting experiences that resonate with people all over the world. It’s a recipe that not only warms the stomach but the heart as well.

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Nutrition

Steer Clear of These Foods to Prevent Food Poisoning, Recommends CDC

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This listicle is your handy guide to ensuring that you live your golden years in the best health possible, by avoiding certain foods that pose a risk of food poisoning. As per the CDC, here are eight foods that are most likely to cause food-borne illnesses. Let’s dive in and see which foods made the list.

1. Raw or Rare Meat

According to the CDC, “Raw or undercooked meat can contain harmful bacteria.” So, it’s recommended to avoid rare steaks or undercooked burgers.

“Harmful bacteria like Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria can live in uncooked meat and poultry.”

2. Raw Shellfish

Seafood enthusiasts, particularly those fond of raw dishes, need to remain cautious.

“Raw shellfish, including oysters, clams and mussels, can carry a risk of food poisoning,” the CDC warns.

3. Raw or Unwashed Produce

Even fruits and veggies can pose a risk if not properly cleaned or cooked.

“Raw or unwashed produce can contain E. coli or other harmful bacteria,” states the CDC.

4. Unpasteurized Milk and Cheese

When it comes to dairy, the CDC recommends opting for pasteurized products.

“Raw milk and cheese can contain E. coli or other bacteria.”

5. Raw or Lightly Cooked Eggs

Similar to meat, eggs can also harbor dangerous bacteria if not cooked thoroughly.

“Raw eggs can contain Salmonella, especially if they’re not pasteurized.”

6. Sprouts

Even healthy foods like sprouts are not without their risks.

“Sprouts can carry E. coli or Salmonella,” according to the CDC.

7. Deli Meats

Deli meats might seem safe, but the CDC says otherwise.

“Deli meats, including hot dogs, can become contaminated after processing with Listeria.”

8. Uncooked Flour

Even flour isn’t safe from potential contamination.

“Flour is typically a raw product and can contain bacteria that cause disease,” the CDC warns.

Embracing your golden years means making conscious choices about what you eat. By avoiding these eight foods that have been identified by the CDC as the most likely to cause food poisoning, you’re taking an important step towards safeguarding your health. Remember, when it comes to food, it is always better to be safe than sorry. Don’t let a potential risk of food poisoning disrupt your lively, healthy, and happy lifestyle.

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