Monday, January 19, 2015
January is Thyroid Awareness Month. At least 30 million Americans have a thyroid disorder.
But get this: half of them, a whopping 15 million people, don't even know it, according to The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologist.
Women are ten times more likely to have thyroid problems than men. The No. 1 symptom is depression. Often people are diagnosed with depression when the real culprit is a thyroid problem.
Could you have a thyroid problem? It's a huge problem, but it is treatable so you should not suffer in silence. If you have been having difficulty getting pregnant, it could be your thyroid.
The thyroid gland is enormously important. It's responsible for our metabolism. It affects every organ in our bodies.
Thyroid problems are a result of the thyroid hormone released being too high (hyperthyroidism) or too low (hypothyroidism).
If you think you might have a problem, get your doctor to check your TSH levels, which stands for thyroid stimulating hormone. T3 and T4 thyroid hormones should be checked as well.
SYMPTOMS OF A TOO-LOW THYROID:
- Memory Problems
- Weight Gain
- Hair Loss
- Always Cold
SYMPTOMS OF A TOO-HIGH THYROID:
- Difficulty Concentrating
- Heart Palpitations
- Bulging Eyes
If you are diagnosed with a thyroid problem, and your doctor gives you medication for it, be prepared to go back and tweak the dosage. Don't be surprised if the medication makes your thyroid output go too far in the other direction.
Long-term use of thyroid medication can cause osteoporosis. Sometimes non-prescription cures help, alone or in combination with medications.
NATURAL REMEDIES TO TREAT THYROID PROBLEMS
- Reduce your intake of sugar and grains, particularly refined carbohydrates (white breads).
- Reduce the amount of caffeine you drink (or eat, as chocolate contains caffeine).
- Increase the amount of good fat you eat. This includes olive oil, avocados, walnuts, coconut oil, grass-fed beef, fish and pastured-raised chicken and eggs.
- Increase your intake of vitamins and minerals. This can be accomplished by eating more vegetables but also by taking nutritional supplements. Make sure you are getting enough iodine, which is found in most ordinary table salt. Consider vitamin D and omega-3 supplements as well as a complete multivitamin (I like Damage Control Master Control by Primal Blueprint).
- Increase your healthy bacteria. Make sure to take a probiotic or get enough probiotics in foods (fermented foods like kim-chi are best) because thyroid problems often originate in the gut.
- Exercise: Stress is often a trigger for thyroid problems. Exercise is one of the best stress relievers.
Tuesday, January 13, 2015
Winter weather got you down? Spice up your life with Cayenne pepper!
Forget those foot warmers you see in the "impulse aisle" while waiting to check-out at the mega discount store. Save money by simply sprinkling cayenne pepper into your socks. That'll warm those tootsies in no time! Just make sure you don't have any open cuts or blisters on your feet, or you'll get too much heat!
Cayenne pepper is extremely hot to the touch. Pepper Spray is made with cayenne pepper and is an effective method to fend-off attackers when sprayed in the assailant's eyes. The intense, burning sensation on the eyes is overwhelming, thus allowing the victim time to escape.
Cayenne peppers are ten times hotter than Jalapeno peppers. In fact, the Scoville heat measurement scale, which rates the heat emitted from a spice, rates Cayenne peppers at 40,000 units, compared to Jalapeno peppers, which rate a mere 4,000.
The ingredient that causes the fiery sensation is the wonderful capsaicin, which benefits us in a number of ways. Most of us use cayenne pepper dried, out of a bottle. But if you ever actually touch the pepper itself, wear gloves or you will burn your hands when you touch the inside of the pepper, particularly the seeds.
As it turns out, the heat in Cayenne peppers is very good for us for both the prevention and treatment of many things that cause us health problems.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF CAYENNE PEPPER
1. Lowers Inflammation.
Cayenne pepper inhibits "substance P," which is associated with inflammation, both the type that cannot be felt (such as the kind of inflammation that causes heart disease) and the kind that can be felt (such as the kind that causes arthritis).
2. Cardiovascular Health.
When we eat cayenne pepper the amount of heat our body emits is increased. This increases circulation and blood flow to all major organs, which means oxygen and nutrients are delivered more efficiently.
3. Weight Loss.
Cayenne pepper boosts metabolism and supresses appetite.
4. Lowers Blood Pressure.
High blood pressure is the leading cause of stroke.
5. Improves Liver Function.
6. Helps Regulate the Digestive System.
7. Pain Reliever.
Used topically, cayenne can be used for back pain and cluster headaches.
Cayenne Pepper Tea (steeping 1/4 tsp. in 1 cup water) relieves ulcers.
9. Immune System Booster. Cayenne contains carotenoids, including beta carotene and high levels of vitamins A, B6, C, E, K and manganese.
10. Treats Upper Respiratory Infections.
Cayenne with lemon juice and honey is an effective syrup for sore throats.
There are many ways to add Cayenne pepper to your diet. For example, add it to hot chocolate for a bit of kick. When combined with lemon juice it is an exciting way to prepare vegetables. Obviously, cayenne can be added to Mexican dishes like tacos and enchiladas.
So spice up your life with cayenne pepper! Ingested or placed on the skin, it can improve your health in a variety of ways.
Wednesday, January 07, 2015
Is your New Year's Resolution to live healthier in 2015? Me too! Studies show health-related resolutions top the list.
However, it's important to know that research also shows that the more specific you can be, the more likely you will reach your goal.
Here are the Top 10 Healthy Habits for the new year:
Exercising has both short-term and long-term benefits. Right away, it can improve your mood, reduce stress, and even make your brain work better. Over time, exercise can prevent health problems ranging from obesity and diabetes to heart disease and even cancer.
This is a result of what exercise does inside your body, according to Dr. Harry Lodge, author of the bestseller, Younger Next Year.
"It turns out that your cells really don't age," he said. "They either grow or decay."
"And if you do things in your life that trigger growth in the cells, then your body gets stronger, younger, fitter, healthier, better able to resist disease," he continued. "And you live life as functionally a younger man or woman until very late in the game."
Even with all these benefits, some 60 percent of Americans stay on the couch.
If you'd like to be in the 40 percent of regular exercisers, psychologists say to focus on the first three weeks. Be encouraged that it will get easier! Studies have shown that any activity repeated daily becomes a habit after three weeks.
2. Eat a healthy breakfast.
Remember, a healthy breakfast contains protein. Eat within 90 minutes of waking-up. This starts your metabolism for the day and also prevents you from getting too hungry and overeating later in the day.
3. Eat five servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
Make sure you don't eat just fruit. Even though fruit contains natural sugar, too much of it can raise your blood sugar levels too high.
To avoid this, stick to eating berries, which are low in sugar and high in antioxidants. Instead of fruit, focus on trying to consume more vegetables, especially leafy green ones. A good plan is to eat a salad every day (with olive oil dressing!)
4. Avoid trans fats.
Trans fats are found mostly in processed foods, so if the list of ingredients includes the word, "hydrogenated," stay away.
Ironically, trans fats prolong a food's shelf life, but they have the opposite effect on our bodies, according to Dr. Michael Aziz, author of The Perfect 10 Diet.
"Trans fats are really like plastic," he said. "And when we eat them they incorporate in our cells and the cells cannot communicate or talk to one another."
"In turn, hormones are disturbed, weight gain follows. But more troubling, the risk for heart disease, cancer, stroke, infertility goes up," he added.
5. Eat good fats.
Omega-3s are found in foods like fish, especially salmon, sardines, and fish oil supplements. Other choices include walnuts, almonds, and flaxseed. These have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, improve your immunity, and reduce inflammation.
Coconut oil helps ward-off colds and flu because of its natural anti-microbial properties. Olive oil and avocados are also good-for-you fats.
6. Avoid sugar.
This is one of the toughest. Its negative laundry list runs from obesity to diabetes to heart disease and cancer. The average American consumes 135 pounds of sugar a year, compared with 109 pounds 20 years ago and only five pounds in the late 1800s!
This includes hidden sugars like corn syrup, sucrose, glucose, and lactose. Celebrity diet coach Joy Bauer, author of The 90/10 Weight Loss Plan, says start by going cold turkey.
"The first seven days I eliminate all sugars, both real and artificial," she said. "Because when you remove the taste of sweet from your mind and your taste buds, eventually it gets much easier and you stop craving it."
"And so many people, when you start week two and you're allowed to have sugar, they don't even want it because they feel great without it," she continued.
7. Cleanse your hands often.
Eating right and exercising aren't the only habits that keep you healthy. Did you know the best way to avoid getting sick is to keep your hands clean?
When using hand santitizer, make sure it's at least 60 percent alcohol, get in all those nooks and crannies, and rub your hands until they're dry.
When using soap and water, lather-up for a full 20 seconds.
8. Practice good dental health.
Believe it or not, periodontal infection contributes to heart disease, diabetes, and even premature, underweight births.
9. Get regular screening.
The type of screenings you need depend on your age and gender, so consult with your doctor about which ones you need.
Some of the most important ones include an annual physical, blood pressure, and cholesterol test, colonoscopy, mammogram, pap test, and prostate and skin cancer screening.
10. Get enough sleep.
According to Dr. James Maas, author of Sleep For Success, if you don't get your ZZZs, you're setting yourself up for a whole host of health problems.
"You're going to be irritable, anxious, depressed," he said. "You're going to gain weight, you have a greater risk for hypertension, that's heart attacks and strokes, type 2 diabetes, obesity, skin problems, and cancer."
"And your cognitive performance slows down," he continued. "You can't think, you can't remember, you're not creative, you can't think critically, it affects how long you're going to live. And if you're an athlete, it just ruins your motor coordination and your reaction time."
So at this time of year, when many of us vow to start afresh, take note of these habits to make 2015 your healthiest year yet.
Wednesday, December 31, 2014
This year's flu season could be severe, according to the Centers for Disease Control, so we should all do what we can to avoid getting it.
If, however, you fall victim to the flu, it's important to contact your doctor because there are things that can help.
The flu season lasts through April. Dr. Michael Jhung, a medical officer with the CDC's influenza division, said most people who should be vaccinated have not done so.
"We're not even halfway through the flu season," he said. "It's certainly not too late to get vaccinated."
Unfortunately, one of the most virulent strains of the flu, H3N2, is not in this year's flu vaccine. That's because it takes months to manufacture the vaccine, and the H3N2 became widespread after the flu vaccine was already in production and it was too late to include the H3N2 strain.
Nevertheless, there are still other flu strains circulating in America that are covered in the flu vaccine. Doctors estimate the vaccine is about 50 percent effective this flu season.
So the bottom line is, even if you have gotten your flu shot, you should not enjoy a false sense of security. We should all be extremely vigilant in our efforts to protect ourselves and our loved ones against the flu.
However, if we fail at protecting ourselves against getting the flu, with the advent of highly effective flu anti-viral medications, if you or a loved one gets the flu, call your doctor immediately. It's important to make that call as soon as possible because in order for the anti-viral medications to work, they must be administered within 48 hours of the development of symptoms.
These anti-virals can be life-saving for people at high-risk for developing fatal complications from the flu include the elderly, young children, and people with chronic medical conditions such as cancer, heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, arthritis, and HIV/AIDS.
Clean Your Hands
The best way to prevent getting the flu is to keep your hands clean. Washing hands is the best way to do that, but it's important to wash your hands thoroughly. Use warm water and lather for 20 seconds, or about the time it takes to sing the "Happy Birthday" song twice.
If you are not able to wash your hands, hand sanitizer is an adequate substitute. Just make sure it contains at least 60 percent alcohol. More is better.
Remember to clean your hands before touching anything that will enter your mouth. That includes all food. Not just meals, but snacks.
Avoid Touching Your Mouth, Nose, Eyes
Furthermore, refrain from putting your un-cleansed fingers on your lips or in your mouth, nose and eyes. This is a tough one for those of us who wear contacts and eye makeup. We have to remember to clean our hands before we rub our eyes or the germs on our hands can enter the body.
Beware of Surfaces
Beware of surfaces that are touched by a lot of people, such as door knobs, refrigerator handles and remotes. Germs can live on hard surfaces for up to 72 hours.
By all means, do not share cups, glasses and utensils with other people.
5 Ways to Strengthen Your Defenses
You can strengthen your immunity, your body's ability to fight-off infection, by taking some sensible precautions.
1. First, make sure to get plenty of rest. Eight hours or more per night will go a long way to protecting your and your family against sickness this flu season. While we sleep, our bodies repair themselves. Conversely, when we're sleep deprived, our resistance is low and we are more susceptible to illness.
2. Drink plenty of water. This flushes out any toxins that might wish to remain in our body, and keeps our organs functioning properly. Stay away from other types of liquids if possible such as sugary sodas and fruit juice, caffeine and alcohol, which all hinder good health.
3. Speaking of sweets, stay away from sugar, too. Time and again, too much sugar been proven to weaken the immune system.
4. Reduce stress. Stress also wreaks havoc on your immune system. So make sure to de-stress by exercising, praying and spending time reading God's Word, as well as practicing all the admonitions not to worry.
5. Finally, get all the vitamins required to stay healthy this winter. Load up on fruits high in anti-oxidants and vitamin C, such as berries.
Better yet, every day eat as many low-glycemic (not the starchy ones like potatoes and peas) as you can, such as green, leafy ones like kale and broccoli.
Supplements are a great idea because most of us don't get all the vitamins and minerals we need from our diet. Vitamin D, a good multi-vitamin (I take Damage Control Master Formula and LOVE IT because it's very comprehensive) fish oil, coconut oil and a probiotic.
It's worth the time and effort required to prevent getting sick. According to the CDC, last year there were 109 flu-related deaths in kids, and 171 in the 2012-13 season.
The CDC does not compile similar data for flu-related deaths in adults because it's too difficult to trace, as the flu is usually the precursor to a condition that kills.
For instance, many of the deaths from pneumonia actually started with the flu. That said, it's estimated that deaths stemming from the flu number into the tens of thousands each year, mostly among the elderly.
Monday, December 15, 2014
For years now, we've been told that in order to avoid high blood pressure we need to avoid salt. But now it appears it is sugar consumption, not salt, that is the greater concern.
According to a study published in the journal, Open Heart, scientists discovered high amounts of sugar, not salt, puts us at greater risk of developing high blood pressure. High blood pressure is also called hypertension.
This information is critically important because high blood pressure is the No. 1 risk factor for the leading killer of men and women in America: heart disease.
One easy way to stop eating sugar is to stop eating processed foods, including fast food. In other words, switch to whole foods, prepared at home.
Most people cringe at the idea of cooking the food they eat because of the time involved. However, when it comes to your health, it's well worth the effort. Furthermore, there are many items that don't take very long to prepare, such as eggs or salad.
Food manufacturers add astronomical amounts of sugar to their products. This is often in the form of high fructose corn syrup, which is arguably worse than table sugar because some experts say high fructose corn syrup disables the body's ability to feel fullness, even having the opposite effect as an addictive element. So the more we eat, the more we want.
Processed foods that contain obscene amounts of sugar aren't just found in the soda or cookie aisle. They are everywhere. Sugar, usually in the form of high fructose corn syrup, is added to yogurt, bread, pasta sauce, soup, salad dressings, and so on -- many foods that we don't even consider sweet and may even mistakenly consider healthy
As a general rule, if it's in a package, a staggering amount of sugar has probably been added to it. Therefore, avoid food in packages. However, if you are tempted to purchase processed food, at least check the list of ingredients. Look not only for high fructose corn syrup, but also any of its approximately 40 cousins.
Yes, there are dozens of types of sugars that food manufacturers don't want you to recognize on their labels. Most ingredients that end in "ose" such as dextrose and maltrose, are sugars.
Also when you see the word "syrup," it's usually a sugar. If you see sugar of any type, especially in the first three ingredients, put it back on the shelf. (Food manufacturers have to list their ingredients in the order of what the items contains the most of. For instance, if the first ingredient is high fructose corn syrup, that means the item contains more high fructose corn syrup than anything else.)
In addition to outright sugars, we must remember that refined carbohydrates are also considered sugars because they turn into sugar as soon as we eat them. Refined carbohydrates are processed starches, the most common being white flour, which is usually called "enriched" flour.
Refined carbohydrates are considered sugars because they have the exact same effect on your body as sugars do, the moment you eat them.
Now that we know sugar is the main risk factor for high blood pressure, that does not give us license to pile on the salt. Doctors say we should avoid both salt and sugar in large doses.
Interestingly, it's not the salt shaker and the sugar bowl at home that we need to steer clear of. When we prepare food at home we generally use a small fraction of salt and sugar compared to the insane amounts we find in processed foods.
So again, the rule of thumb is: avoid processed foods and you'll drastically reduce your intake of salt and sugar.
One more thing about high blood pressure: denouncing processed foods is the major battle. But exercise is also crucial to achieving healthy blood pressure numbers. Start by simply walking 30 minutes a day and go from there. That little bit of discipline will pay dividends when it comes to your heart health.
Tuesday, December 09, 2014
Marijuana legalization is slowly seeping its way into our culture. It is a trend that will not be reversed, but rather one that will grow. Therefore it is only a matter of time until the use of marijuana for recreational purposes in all 50 states.
Of course proponents view marijuana legalization as something benign, paying particular attention to the way it is currently regulated. However, the marijuana industry will certainly increase, as most other industries do, to a point where it is so harmful to the public that not even today's most stringent marijuana legalization proponents would consider beneficial to any faction of our society, except, of course, the people who make money from it.
Dr. Samuel Wilkinson, with the Yale School of Medicine, recently opined in The Washington Post, that it is likely the marijuana industry leaders will follow the direction of the leaders of another legalized drug: tobacco.
Just like the fledgling days of the tobacco industry, the marijuana industry today is rather weak. Back in the 1800s, tobacco use was rare indeed, but by the mid-1900s about half of American adults smoked, causing enormous physical damage, including heart disease, stroke, and cancer.
Although marijuana proponents would have you think otherwise, there is considerable evidence that the drug causes psychosis, impaired cognitive abilities, and addiction.
The tobacco industry carefully formulated their plan for success and it's a plan that the marijuana industry can and likely will, imitate.
1. Identifing a product with addictive potential.
2. Aggressively marketing it to as large an audience as possible.
3. Developing technical innovations to allow for and promote increased consumption.
4. Denying or minimizing potential costs to human health.
NEW METHODS OF CONSUMING
Tobacco use skyrocketed when consumers were no longer saddled with the burden of rolling their own cigarettes, which drastically hampered production. However, the invention of machine-manufactured cigarettes, already rolled and ready-to-smoke cigarettes, not to mention uniform in size and shape, delighted consumers and catapulted sales to whole to stratosphere.
Similarly, new methods of consuming marijuana, such as vaporization, make it easier and arguably more enjoyable to consume more marijuana in one sitting.
INTENSIFYING THE PRODUCT
Tobacco changed over the years after industry leaders figured out the advantage to them by changing the chemical composition and curing process of cigarettes made them more flavorful as well as more addictive.
Likewise, in marijuana the percentage of THC, the nickname for the key ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol, is much higher today than it was in the 1980s. THC is what gives marijuana users that euphoric feeling, but is also associated with many adverse health effects.
Cigarette advertisements often featured doctors in an effort to diminish public fear over health dangers associated with smoking cigarettes.
Similarly, people in favor of marijuana legalization often feature healthcare workers touting the safety of marijuana, especially as a treatment for medical conditions such as glaucoma, making it appear safe, even good for you, when in reality, there is very little scientific supporting the health benefits of using it.
TARGET YOUNG PEOPLE
The tobacco industry is notorious for aiming its marketing at young people, even children because that's the most profitable strategy. Once these consumers are hooked, they'll likely be customers for life.
We haven't seen marijuana advertisements yet. However it is foolish to think they are not on the horizon. It's safe to predict that they, too, will be aimed at young people.
The tobacco lobby is one of the most powerful in Washington, D.C. They spend inordinate amounts of money making sure no laws or regulations are enacted that will curb their sales and profits.
So far, there are restrictions on marijuana sales and advertising. But the marijuana industry is still in its infancy. We can already see the burgeoning marijuana lobbyists.
For example, while Colorado has placed restrictions on marijuana advertising, the marijuana industry quickly mounted a powerful legal challenge in court.
In conclusion, while the inevitability of legalized marijuana throughout America is dishearteneing, we must look at it as we do cigarettes by educating the public about the dangers of the drug and encouraging them to avoid it, regardless of how easy it is to purchase.
Monday, November 24, 2014
We desperately need to bring back the family dinner. Most families just don't have the time, or the desire, to sit togther around a table and eat at the same time with no electronics in the way.
That sad trend has led to a number of troubling consequences that we need to reverse.
Dr. Anne Fishel is a family therapist at the prestigious Massachusetts General Hospital and a professor at Harvard Medical School. She's also a wife and mother.
In her new book, Home For Dinner: Mixing Food, Fun, and Conversation for a Happier Family and Healtheir Kids, she uses scientific studies to build a solid case for making the effort to eat together as a family....whatever your family happens to look like at the moment.
Regardless of whether you have have babies and toddlers who are difficult to get sitting still, school-age kids loaded-down with homework and extra-curricular activities, sullen teenagers who don't want to participate in anything, or perhaps an empty nesters, the scenario is the same: eating together around a table will improve your health in a variety of ways.
Researchers considered a family that "eats together" as one that gathers around the table, with food, without electronics, a minimum of five meals per week. That can be breakfast, lunch or dinner. More is better than less. Here's what they found:
Family Dinners Are Good for the Brain, The Spirit and The Body
Over the past 30 years, researchers at the Harvard School of Education have found consistently that as a way to boost children's vocabulary, talking to them during dinner is even better than reading to them. Children with well-developed vocabularies will have an easier time learning to read.
Studies of school-aged children found children who have regular family dinners perform better academically in school. This is true for children of all socioeconomic levels.
Furthermore, teenagers who regularly ate family dinners were twice as likely to get As than those who didn't.
Family Dinners Are Good for Mental Health
A number of studies have found a correlation between regular family dinners and a reduction of high-risk behaviors, especially among teenagers. This includes smoking, binge drinking, marijuana use, violence and sexual activity.
Family Dinners Are Good for Physical Health
The research shows profound evidence that people who regularly eat family dinners have better weight control, better nutritional intake and better eating habits that those who don't.
The reasons family dinners are so important are numerous. Topping the list is the fact that sitting around the table talking is one of the few ways family members can connect meaningfully with each other. It's a ritual that conveys meaning and stability that are vital for the emotional well-being of every family member.
Another key point is the fact that when you and your kids are sitting together enjoying a meal you...and more importantly they...are NOT doing other things that can be troublesome, such as spending time in front of some type of screen.
Don't worry if the idea of eating a family dinner makes you feel intimidated. In her book, Dr. Fishel explains how to manage dinner conversations in a way that makes them the most productive and conflict-free.
For example, she suggests avoiding asking a family member an open-ended question such as, "How was your day?" which is bound to illicit a single word response such as, "Fine."
Instead she suggests asking a question that requires explanation, such as "What was the funniest thing that happened to you today?"
If you're a busy person who also happens to be clumsy in the kitchen, don't fret. Dr. Fishel explains how to ditch those unhealthy drive-throughs and make your own nutritious dinners in a flash.
As an added bonus, she suggests ways to get the whole family involved in meal preparation (and clean-up!) no matter what ages you're dealing with. She includes a number of delicious, affordable recipes such as this vegetable soup, which sounds delightful this time of year:
Pre-cut vegetables such as squash, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, cut into 1-2 inch chunks
Potatoes chunked (optional)
Apple or Pear, peeled and chunked
One onion, chopped
16 ounces chicken or vegetable stock
salt and pepper to taste
1 Tablespoon curry powder, or seasoning of your choice
Mix raw, chopped vegetables with enough olive oil to coat, then pour onto a large baking pan and bake at 400 degrees for 30-50 minutes until the veggies have reached your desired tenderness.
Fifteen minutes before baking is finished, add the apple or pear, also coated in olive oil. While the vegetables are roasting, sautee the onion in a soup pot. When the onion becomes translucent, throw in the vegetables and fruit. Stir in the stock and bring to a boil for ten minutes. Season with salt, pepper and curry.
Monday, November 17, 2014
We all know that the U.S. government is operating in an outrageous budget deficit situation. But most people are unaware that we have a chocolate deficit situation on our hands, too.
Where is the outrage there? Chocolate comes from cocoa. It seems the demand for cocoa far outpaces the amount of cocoa being produced. What's worse is the problem continues to worsen every year with no repreive in sight.
I suppose I'm partially to blame. Well, me and others like me who have been touting the health benefits of dark chocolate. In order to receive the wonderful, healthy, antioxidant benefits of chocolate, we need to eat the kind that has at least 70 percent cocoa, more is even better.
That uses up a lot of cocoa compared to the traditional milk chocolate bar, which only contains 10 percent cocoa.
Apparently the message is sinking in, because demand for dark chocolate has skyrocketed. But the demand doesn't stop there.
China, a country of 1.3 BILLION people, is now discovering what we in the West have known all along, which is CHOCOLATE IS WONDERFUL.
Chinese consumers are gobbling up the stuff more and more each year. They still have a long way to go before they reach our levels, though, or the French. The average Chinese person consumes only 5 percent of the chocolate that the average Western European eats.
Who will satisfy the demand for chocolate? That's the other side of this dismal coin.
The cocoa supply is drastically reduced. Cocoa producers are having a very rough time of it, indeed. In fact, it's so bad that the amount of cocoa produced worldwide has DECREASED BY 40 percent! Almost half!
That's largely because dry weather has ravaged the cocoa crops in West Africa, specifically in the Ivory Coast and Ghana, where nearly two-thirds of all the world's cocoa is produced.
As if that's not bad enough, cocoa crops are also being infested with a fungal disease. Because of this, many cocoa producers have decided to give up farming cocoa altogether and switch to growing something that is heartier and more profitable, such as corn.
The end result is quite predictable. When demand increases and supply decreases, prices go up. Have you noticed how chocolate prices have risen?
If you're like me, you haven't noticed it specifically, but have definitely noticed that EVERYTHING is a lot more expensive at the grocey store these days. Cocoa prices have jumped more th 60 percent in just the last two years.
This chocolate deficit, where farmers produce less cocoa than the world eats, is nothing new. It's been going on for 50 years. Last year world ate 70,000 TONS more chocolate than it produced.
By 2020 it could reach one million tons and by 2030 two million tons!
There is one ray of hope. Well, that depends on whether it turns out well, and I'm very skeptical.
An agriculural research group in Central Africa is trying to develop a new kind of cocoa tree that can produce seven times the amount of beans that traditional cocoa beans produce.
Sounds too good to be true. One has to wonder if the taste will be compromised or the health benefits of cocoa will be diminished with these franken-beans.
Wednesday, November 12, 2014
Weather forecasters are predicting an unusually cold winter. Therefore we need to take precautions against the dry skin that accompanies frigid temperatures.
Low humidity is a hallmark of cold, winter weather in the air outside. Couple that with the dry air on the inside of our homes, schools and work places because of radiant heat.
Dry skin is not only uncomfortable, sometimes even painful, but it can make us more prone to getting sick.
Our skin is the largest organ in the body. Its primary purpose is to serve as a barrier. It keeps the germs, bacteria, and viruses in our environment out of our bodies so we don't succomb to illness and disease.
But dry skin compromises the ability of our skin to protect us. For one thing, dry skin creates cracks and fissures in the skin. These tiny but numerous "openings" allow dangerous elements from our environment to enter our bodies and make us sick.
Here are some practical tips to prevent dry skin this winter:
1. SHORT, COOL SHOWERS: This is very difficult, to be sure, because on those cold winter days it feels so good to linger in a hot shower. The problem is, water is very drying, especially hot water. So try to minimize the amount of water you put on your skin, and make it as tepid as you can.
2. MOISTURIZE: As soon as you get out of the shower or bath or finish washing your face or hands, put moistuizer on your skin while there is still a little bit of hydration on your skin to "lock in" the wetness. My favorite moisturizer is coconut oil because it absorbs into the skin so well.
3. USE A HUMIDIFIER OR VAPORIZER: These can be purchased at a pharmacy or discount store for very low cost. You simply add water and plug it in and the steam fills and hydrates the air in your home.
4. LOWER THERMOSTAT: In the winter months, the higher the temperature inside your home, the drier the air will be. So lower it to as cool as you can stand it and save money, too!
5. EXERCISE: It promotes healthy circulation which translates into healthy skin. Exercise increases blood flow, which nourishes skin cells.
6. DRINK WATER: hydrate your skin from the inside. If cold water lowers your body temperature, drink lukewarm or hot water, or try herbal tea. There are some wonderful varieties, including my favorite, peppermint (but don't put any sweetener in it!)
Friday, November 07, 2014
The future of Obamacare is more uncertain than ever. First came Tuesday night's midterm wave election of Republicans vowing to repeal Obamacare, also known as the Affordable Care Act, then today another hit.
In a stunning move, the United States Supreme Court justices announced they will consider a brand new challenge to the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare. If they rule in favor of the challenge, Obamacare will be obliterated. That means until the justices render their decision in June, 2015, our nation is in a holding pattern when it comes to health care.
The high court will decide whether the law allows the federal government to issue subsidies to most of the low to moderate income people who signed up for Obamacare. It appears the law only allows for the subsidies to be given to people who signed up on state exchanges, not the federal exchange. Most people used the federal exchange, also known as HealthCare.gov.
As you may know, most states "opted out" of Obamacare, meaning they declined to set-up their own exchanges. "Exchanges" are insurance marketplaces. Only fourteen states and the District of Columbia set-up their own exchanges. Everyone else who signed-up for Obamacare in the other states, nearly five million people, were handed-off to the federal government's exchange. Therein lies the problem. It appears the ACA allows only people who sign up on state exchanges to get the subsidies. The exact key phrase at issue is, "exchange established by the State." The law doesn't say anything about people on the federal exchange getting a subsidy.
The people who drafted Obamacare say their INTENT was to give assistance to people who use the federal exchange. But that's not what the law says. Congress could change the wording of the law to say people on the federal exchange get the assistance, but congress will not do that. Furthermore, the states that have refused to set-up their own exchanges could change their minds and set them up, but those states have no intention of doing so.
If the Supreme Court rules that the people who signed up on the federal exchange are not eligible to receive government subsidies, that means 4.7 million people, more than half of Obamacare enrollees, stand to lose their financial assistance. That would destroy Obamacare.
The way it stands now is the people on the federal exchange, the one at issue, are getting three-fourths of their healthcare costs paid by the federal government. Their premiums average 346 dollars a month, but the federal government pays for 264 dollars, so the consumers only pays 82 dollars.
If those consumers lose their government assistance, it will trigger a so-called "death spiral." Without financial assistance, many people getting it would drop it. Then, because of the high price, fewer people would sign-up for it. That includes healthy people who are less expensive to insure will not buy the policies, so only the really sick people who have a greater need for insurance will be in the program. They require lots of services, obviously, so that would force the rates even higher, which naturally means even fewer people will sign-up.
People who dislike Obamacare must be feeling pretty good right about now. First there was Tuesday's midterm election wave of Republican candidates vowing to repeal Obamacare and now this Supreme Court challenge to its very existence. Either one could put the law on the ropes. On the other hand, even if congress passes legislation to repeal Obamacare, the president will certainly veto it. Then of course, the Supreme Court may decide the people on the federal exchange can be subsided after all. One thing we know for sure: individuals and businesses are on hold until decisions are made, one way or the other.