6 Ways Bad Posture Impacts Your Body Long-Term

Your mother might have nagged you to stand up straight throughout your adolescence—but she was right to do so. Good posture and correct body alignment prevent excess strain on your joints, muscles, and spine, reducing pain and the chance of injury, according to the Mayo Clinic. Most people don’t sport ideal posture, says Mt. Sinai, NY-based Kristine McCarren, PT, DPT. And it can cause a world of hurt in the long-term

Here are six ways poor posture can affect your body—plus tips for how to improve your stance.

1. Headaches

Poor posture strains the muscles at the back of your head, neck, upper back and jaw.

“The human head weighs about 10 pounds,” McCarren says. “Your cervical spine is designed to support this weight with its structure, alignment and surrounding musculature and soft tissue.”

When your muscles are pulled in directions other than their normal tension, this puts pressure on nearby nerves, triggering tension-type headaches, explains Alex Cadwallader, DPT, who practices at Linwood, NJ-based Coron Physical Therapy.

2. Jaw pain

Have you ever noticed that when you’re sitting at your desk, you roll your shoulders forward and your head slouches? Now your rear neck and shoulder muscles are sitting in a constant lengthened position, while your anterior neck and shoulder muscles are chronically shortened, McCarren says.

“Then, the muscles attached to your jaw’s bony structures become misaligned at rest and with movement, such as chewing, causing pain,” McCarren says.

When you open or close your mouth, you might also experience popping in your jaw’s temporomandibular joint (TMJ). “In addition to a dental evaluation, patients with TMJ disease can benefit from postural education and regular exercise to optimize muscle and soft tissue function,” McCarren says.

3. Back and neck pain

Poor posture commonly contributes to chronic back and neck pain, tightness or stiffness—and can reduce your quality of life.

In addition, belly fat increases pressure on your spine’s intervertebral discs and other bony regions. “Any time there’s altered mechanics in one section of the spine, the other regions must compensate,” Cadwallader says.

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4. Knee, hip, and foot pain

Muscle weakness or tightness, limited flexibility, and poor alignment from your hips down might keep your kneecap from sliding neatly over your femur, according to the Mayo Clinic. What can result is a condition called patellofemoral pain, causing knee pain.

Poor foot and ankle alignment can also trigger plantar fasciitis, where the tissue connecting your heel to the ball of your foot gets inflamed and causes heel pain.

5. Shoulder pain and impingement

The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons connecting your upper arm to your shoulder. Muscle tightness or weakness from poor posture can irritate these tendons, causing discomfort, according to the Mayo Clinic.

“Your shoulder is made up of four joints, connected by 17 muscles,” McCarren says. “Many of these muscles become weak or tight with prolonged poor posture.” Ultimately, your rotator cuff tissue could tear. This can cause major pain and weakness, really impacting your daily activities.

6. Fatigue and breathing problems.

Poor posture can restrict your rib cage, compressing your diaphragm. This reduces your lung capacity, leading to shallow or labored breathing, exhaustion, and lack of energy, which affects your overall productivity.

“Bad posture affects the intercostal muscles between each rib,” Cadwallader says. “Plus, rolled shoulders cause your shortened muscle fibers, which keeps your rib cage from fully expanding and affects your breathing.”

How to Improve Your Posture—Today

You can introduce smart posture habits right now, but unlearning years of bad habits may take work. “Because posture is usually a lifelong development, it’s very difficult to completely eradicate deficits,” Cadwallader says. “Hard work and dedication are the only true ways to improve posture.”

Keep these five tips in mind each day:

1. Walk Tall.

Take a breath in, rolling your shoulders up and back. Then, exhale, rolling your shoulders down. 

2. Do posture checks throughout the day, especially at work.

At first, set a reminder on your phone for a quick check every 15 minutes, McCarren suggests. “Work from your head down: chin tucked back, shoulder blades down and back, abdominals drawn in, pelvis tilted into a neutral position, hips and knees at a 90 degree angle, and feet flat on the floor,” McCarren says.

3. Try seated pelic tilts.

Sit on the edge of a chair, your hands on your thighs and feet on the floor. As you inhale, rock your pelvis and ribs forward as you expand your chest and look up. Then, exhale as rock your pelvis and spine back and forth, looking at the floor.  

Related: Got Back Pain? Here’s What To Do About It

4. Try chin tucks.

These help with headaches, jaw pain, and upper back pain, says Cadwaller. “Give yourself a double chin by driving your cervical region toward your back and holding for the position for three to five seconds 20 to 25 times.

5. Do a wake-up or bEDTIME bridge pose.

Lie on your back in bed with your knees bent and your feet resting on the mattress. Inhale, then slowly exhale and curl your tailbone to lift your buttocks and spine, one vertebrae at a time, until your shoulder blades bear your weight. Pause and inhale, then slowly exhale as you roll your spine back down.

Assessing your posture

To really maintain good posture, according to the American Chiropractic Association, you need to have sufficient muscle flexibility and strength, postural muscles that are in balance on either side of your spine, and normal joint motion throughout your body.

The “wall test” is an easy way to assess your postural alignment at home, explains Pamela J. Bigelow, PT, MSPT, MTC, a physical therapist at New Jersey at Rehab Excellence Centers and Advanced Physical Therapy.

To do it, try this: Stand so that the back of your head, shoulder blades, and buttocks touch the wall. Your heels should be less than six inches from the wall. Put a flat hand behind the small of your back. “If your low-back curve posture is correct, the back of your head, shoulder blades, and buttocks should touch the wall,” Bigelow says. “There should be less than two inches of space between the back of your neck and small of your back, and the wall.”

 

Is Drinking Raw Water Really A Good Idea?

Twenty years ago the idea of eating raw food was brave and adventurous, but nowadays preteens are noshing on tuna sashimi at the mall and the ‘raw food movement’ has an ever-growing membership.

Just when we were getting really used to the idea of tossing our pots and pans, however, a new raw trend had emerged: drinking raw water.  In the wake of the Flint, Michigan crisis and with watchdog groups like the Environmental Working Group raising questions about harmful contaminants in tap water across the country, raw water companies like Live Spring Water and Tourmaline Spring claim to offer a bottled-at-the-source alternative that’s so pure it doesn’t need to be treated or filtered—basically the next best thing to dipping your cup into a bubbling mountain stream.

Any water that’s untouched, directly from its natural source—be it a spring or the rain—is technically raw water. Drinking water this way was normal practice throughout most of human history, but companies marketing it to the public in the age of widespread water treatment? That’s something different.

These new raw waters—sometimes also called ‘live’ or ‘living’—are said to taste better and contain beneficial compounds like minerals or probiotics that are often removed from treated water. They are also marketed as free of sewage remnants, antibiotic and medication residue, and other undesirable substances that can leach into the tap water.

These waters also don’t contain chlorine and fluoride, which are added to public drinking water to kill bacteria and prevent cavities, respectively. (Despite the CDC’s assurances that the amounts of chlorine and fluoride in drinking water are safe for human consumption—and data confirming the widespread benefits of fluoride—there are still skeptics out there, which makes raw water appealing to these groups). Raw water companies even promote the fact that their H20 doesn’t pass through lead pipes, which, despite being banned in 1986, have again become a major concern in recent years.

But is it all too good to be true? In a word: yes.

Sure, raw water, with all the claims of its beneficial nutrients and probiotics, sounds great in theory, but it can actually be pretty dangerous, says Christine Moe, Ph.D., the Eugene J. Gangarosa Professor of Safe Water and Sanitation at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University. Water treatment (which includes multiple steps to filter out any potentially-harmful components and disinfect the water that reaches our sinks), though not perfect, has a long history of preventing diseases like cholera and typhoid, and protecting people from pathogens like E.coli. These diseases are still significantly more common in parts of the world that lack this infrastructure, explains Moe.

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“Raw water is a huge question mark in terms of its contaminants and supposed benefits,” Moe says. It’s very possible that straight-from-the-source water contains substances like soil, microorganisms, and even remnants of animal feces (yes, poop) that can be dangerous—especially for people with compromised immune systems, she adds.

Related: 10 Products Health Experts Can’t Live Without

The bottom line: It’s much more important for your drinking water to be free of contaminants than it is for it to contain extra minerals and come from an exotically-named spring. If you see bottled water labeled ‘raw’ on your supermarket shelf, though, consider it a marketing ploy, since bottled water is regulated by the FDA and has to undergo testing and whatever treatment necessary to ensure the water is safe.

If you’re concerned about drinking your local tap water, Moe recommends using a reverse osmosis filter system—which pushes water through a semi-permeable membrane that filters out potential contaminant particles—instead of turning to raw water.

Are Lectins The New Gluten?

When it comes to nutrition, there’s always a new bad guy. First, we avoided fat. Then, carbs got the boot. It seems the more we dissect the foods we eat, the more likely we are to find something to worry about.

Take the gluten-free craze, for example: Life-changing for people with Celiac’s disease or gluten sensitivities—but pretty darn confusing for the rest of us. Ask two different experts about whether or not you should avoid gluten and you’ll get two different answers.

Adding to the confusion, lectins—a protein found in plants—are on the chopping block now, too.

You’ll find some type of lectin in all sorts of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and dairy—with grains, legumes, and nightshade vegetables often at the center of the controversy. Cut out chick peas? Say it ain’t so!

First, a little background: Lectins are basically a defense mechanism, protecting plants from harmful pathogens—like fungi, insects, molds, and diseases—in their environment by binding to the cell membranes of certain sugar and carb molecules. Lectins also help seeds travel through animals’ (humans included) digestive systems unscathed, so they can make it back to the soil and grow.

Since we don’t digest lectins, they may cause GI issues like gas and bloating (you know what they say about beans, after all) and even trigger our immune system’s inflammatory response as they pass through our systems, according to Precision Nutrition. And since lectins bind to sugars and carbs, they can interfere with our absorption of vitamins and minerals.

Related: 6 Possible Reasons Why You’re So Gassy

While some experts suggest issues are more pronounced in people who already have compromised guts or immune systems, others go as far as to label lectins as straight-up toxic. According to the best-selling book, The Plant Paradox, one of the leading works on the anti-lectin train, lectins “incite a kind of chemical warfare in our bodies, causing inflammatory reactions that can lead to weight gain and serious health conditions.” The author, Steven Gundry, M.D., suggests lectins are implicated in everything from autoimmune diseases, cancer, heart disease, mental health issues, and dementia.

But don’t freak out just yet. Some lectins can be toxic (which is why we don’t eat castor beans, for example), but others can have powerful beneficial effects, such as modulating inflammation and grabbing onto harmful molecules associated with disease. (After all, oxygen is technically a toxin, but that doesn’t mean you should stop breathing!)

You don’t need to stop eating foods that are otherwise healthy just because they contain lectins, confirms David L. Katz, M.D., M.P.H., director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center. Most of the research on lectins out there is done on small animals or cell cultures, not humans, and while some do suggest the potential toxic effects of certain lectins, the results are very preliminary and don’t necessarily translate to humans, Katz says.

And even then, “the research suggests this tends to be the case only if lectin foods are consumed raw—and when’s the last time you ate a raw chickpea?” says Abbey Sharp, R.D. When you cook your food, lectins often bind to compounds in whatever you’re eating instead of molecules in your body, so cooked beans are completely safe and healthy.

It’s also possible that the culprit behind the stomach issues often associated with legumes is actually a type of carbs called ‘oligosaccharides,’ which humans also don’t digest well, Sharp adds.

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Ultimately, most people have more to gain by eating lectin-containing foods than they have to lose. Research overwhelmingly supports that people who eat more fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains have a lower risk of obesity and chronic disease, and one study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology estimates that up to 7.8 million deaths could have been prevented in 2013 if everyone ate 10-plus servings of fruits and vegetables a day. How? Higher consumption of these whole foods is associated with lower risks of heart disease, stroke, and cancer.

What’s more, eating just one serving of fiber– and protein-loaded beans, peas, chickpeas, or lentils a day can help keep your weight in check, according a review published in The American Journal of Clincal Nutrition.

The bottom line: There’s really no reason to lose sleep over lectins just yet. Until larger, human studies show that lectin-rich foods offer more risk than reward, eating a diverse diet loaded with whole plant foods—whether they contain lectins or not—should be your number-one nutritional priority. If you have any immune or gastrointestinal issues (like an autoimmune condition or Crohn’s disease), talk to a dietitian about trying an elimination diet to identify any food sensitivities that might be involved.

5 Nutrients That Are Good For Your Heart—Other Than Fish Oil

As inconvenient as fish burps may be, they’re well worth the heart health benefits that omega-3s offer. After all, these fatty acids bolster our immune system, support artery function, and play a crucial role in our cell membranes and receptors.

Loading up on salmon, taking your fish oil, and penciling in those cardio workouts aren’t the only things you can do to take care of your heart, though. “The food you eat is the most important factor that directly impacts your heart health,” says Rebecca Lee, R.N., creator of natural health and wellness site Remedies For Me. In addition to a balanced diet of lean proteins, unsaturated fats, vegetables, and fruits, there are a number of specific nutrients (like omegas) out there that help keep your ticker ticking on strong. Make sure they make it onto your plate regularly, or consider adding a supplement to your daily routine.

 

1. Magnesium

Magnesium is crucial to many processes in the body, including muscle and nerve function, and blood sugar and blood pressure regulation. “Higher magnesium intake has been associated with lower blood pressure, and helps stabilize the cardiac membrane,” says Amnon Beniaminovitz, M.D., cardiologist at Manhattan Cardiology.

We need 310 (women) to 400 (men) milligrams of magnesium daily, which is found in leafy greens, like spinach (78 milligrams per half cup) and Swiss chard, cashews (74 milligrams per ounce), black beans (60 milligrams per half cup), avocados (44 milligrams per cup), edamame (50 milligrams per half cup) and dark chocolate (41 milligrams per ounce).

To supplement with magnesium, you can stir powdered magnesium citrate into water and sip throughout the day or pop a magnesium tablet or capsule.

 

 2. Turmeric (Curcumin)

Turmeric, the yellow spice used in Indian curries, has been a star in traditional Ayurvedic medicine and your Instagram feed because it contains an antioxidant compound called curcumin, which supports our cardiovascular health by bolstering our body’s immune response. The antioxidant helps promote blood flow and blood vessel wall function.

Related: 12 Tasty Ways To Eat Turmeric (Other Than Golden Milk)

Experts recommend pairing turmeric with black pepper, since piperine, the active compound in black pepper, increases our absorption of turmeric’s curcumin. Look for a turmeric supplement that contains both curcumin and black pepper, or brew yourself some golden milk with coconut milk, two and a half teaspoons of turmeric, and a quarter teaspoon of black pepper.

 

3. Vitamin D

Not only does vitamin D regulate how much calcium makes its way to our bones, but it’s also crucial for our immune and cardiovascular systems. While we can get some vitamin D from egg yolks, fatty fish, and fortified dairy, between 50 and 90 percent of our vitamin D should ideally come from the sun, says Lee. Given the limited time many of us spend outside—especially in the wintertime—most of us fall short.

Lower concentrations of vitamin D are associated with a number of cardiovascular issues, while higher concentrations appear to support overall cardiovascular health.

Our vitamin D needs increase as we age and there’s a lot of back and forth about just how much D we need to reduce disease risk. Doctors now recommend as much as 1,000 to 2,000 IUs—but too much of this vitamin can damage our kidneys, so the National Institutes of Health recommends adults get 600 IUs of vitamin D a day. If you’re concerned about your D levels, talk to your doctor about testing your levels to find the right dose for you.

 

4. Red Yeast Rice

Made from a strain of yeast that’s grown on rice, red yeast rice is a staple of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Chinese cuisine. Its heart health benefits come from a compound called monacolin K, which helps support healthy cholesterol—particularly that LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol, says Beniaminovitz.

Since red yeast rice isn’t a staple in the American diet, Dr. Beniaminovitz suggests supplementing with 600 milligrams daily after checking with your doctor. (It can interfere with certain medications.)

 

5. CoQ10

Coenzyme Q10 (a.k.a ‘CoQ10’) is a naturally-occurring compound found in organ meats, chicken, sardines, cauliflower, and broccoli, that acts as an antioxidant and helps cells produce energy. Research suggests CoQ10 has a number of cardiovascular benefits, including supporting healthy blood pressure.

There are two types of CoQ10 supplements out there: an active form called ubiquinol and an oxidized form called ubiquinone. Most of the CoQ10 found in our bodies is in ubiquinol form, and some studies have found it to be more bioavailable, though you’ll find supplements containing both forms. Most CoQ10 supplements offer about 100 milligrams a pop, but check with your doctor before supplementing if you’re on blood thinners.

Pin this handy infographic for heart health reference!

6 Possible Reasons Why Your Teeth Are Yellowing

If recent toothpaste commercials prompted you to try the ‘tissue test’ and hold a bright white tissue up against your smile, chances are your suddenly lackluster-looking chompers made you feel self-conscious. After all, most of us aim for pearly whites—especially since research shows someone’s teeth influence our first impressions of them. But before you spend your paycheck on laser or at-home treatments, you should probably figure out what’s yellowing your teeth in the first place—because prevention is much cheaper!

It’s most likely one of these six culprits.

1. Medication Mayhem

That’s right, the very medicine you trust to support your health could actually be standing in between you and whiter teeth.

“Medications such as anti-histamines and anti-hypertensives can leave people with a dry mouth, which leads to staining,” says Mazen Chehab, D.M.D., of Town Center Family Dentistry. (Being on multiple medications at once can also have this effect.) You see, your saliva actually helps protect your teeth from stain-causing bacteria, acids, and leftover food—and without enough, your teeth are left unprotected.

Since giving up medicine isn’t always an option, the Mayo Clinic recommends drinking plenty of water—but not coffee or soft drinks, which also dry out your mouth—and chewing sugar-free gum to stimulate saliva production.

2. You Are What You Eat (And Drink)

If you’re a connoisseur of tea, coffee, soda, wine, curry, or literally any food or drink that has some color to it (processed foods included), chances are you’re staining your teeth. Even those innocent-looking blueberries in your morning oatmeal can contribute to discoloration!

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No one expects you to give up your nightly glass of Pinot Noir, but you should rinse your mouth out with water after eating or drinking anything particularly pigmented, says Gene A. Sambataro, D.D.S., F.A.G.D., of Julian Center Dentistry. You can also try a whitening activated charcoal toothpaste like My Magic Mud to ward off some inevitable food and drink staining, he says.

Related: I Brushed My Teeth With Charcoal For 2 Weeks—Here’s What Happened

3. Reflux Redux

As if the discomfort of acid reflux isn’t crummy enough, that gurgly acid can also discolor your teeth.

“Acid reflux, bulemia, and even vomiting during pregnancy, lead to acid erosion of the outer white enamel layer of our teeth, exposing the naturally-yellow inner dentin layer,” says Chehab. (Drinking a lot of soda can also have this unfortunate effect.)

Unlike food-, drink-, or dry mouth-related stains, a yellow smile caused by acid erosion is difficult to correct because you can’t bleach the inner layer of your teeth. “Some companies have developed pastes and gels using ingredients like tri-calcium phosphate to try to re-mineralize the white enamel layer, but that’s as close as we can get to ‘reversing’ the process,” Chehab says.

4. Wear and Tear

If you brush with a firm toothbrush, handle with care; all that extra elbow grease in the name of clean, shiny teeth can do more harm than good. In fact, many of our seemingly harmless day-to-day behaviors can contribute to unwanted stains over time. Grinding or clenching your teeth, using abrasive teeth-whitening remedies too often, and brushing too vigorously with a hard-bristled brush can wear down your enamel, revealing more and more of that yellowy inner tooth layer, says Chehab.

Treasure your chompers by brushing gently with a soft toothbrush, seeing your dentist if you clench or grind, and avoiding DIY teeth-whitening treatments that use abrasive ingredients, like baking soda, he recommends.

5. Age Effects

Like it or not, we all get older—and each passing birthday affects the state of our chompers. “As we age, the nerves in our teeth shrink and the teeth become darker,” says Scott Asnis, D.D.S., CEO and founder of dentistry franchise Dental365.

Since we can’t stop the clock, Asnis strongly recommends consistent dental cleanings to help your teeth stand the test of time. “Regular dental visits and professional-strength whitening products can help with yellowing, and your dentist can help you find the care options specifically catered to your needs,” he says.

6. Smoke

Any dentist will tell you that if you smoke, you’re going to end up with stained teeth. In fact, one study found that 81 percent of daily smokers reported having oral health issues within the last six months, with discoloration being their greatest concern (followed by dry mouth).

Do your smile—and overall health—a favor, and avoid nicotine and tobacco. But if the damage is already done, professional teeth whitening can help restore your smile.

4 Possible Reasons Why You Smell Funny

Ever get caught sniffing your armpits in public? Yeah, you’re not alone. No matter how wonderfully-scented our deodorant, lotion, perfume, or cologne may be, we’ve all worried about B.O. at some point or another.

We have millions of sweat glands all over our bodies, but nose-crinkling body odor comes specifically from mischievous sweat glands called apocrine glands. These glands are concentrated in the hair follicles around our underarms and below the belt, and release a thick fluid (some experts believe it contains the chemical pheromones animals secrete when they want to mate), which mixes with the bacteria on our skin and hair, and creates an unpleasant stink, explains Kachiu Lee, M.D., assistant professor of dermatology at Brown University.

While we can’t change our sweat glands, there are a number of factors that can take us from feeling fresh to reapplying antiperspirant every 10 minutes.

1. Your Genes Aren’t Working In Your Favor

Go ahead and blame it on Mom and Dad—our individual ‘odor profiles’ depend in part on our genes, says George Preti, Ph.D., organic chemist at the Monell Chemical Senses Center, a non-profit institute for research on the science of taste and smell. In fact, according to Monell’s research, people of African and Caucasian descent have higher levels of a gene called ABCC11, which is associated with underarm odor, than people of Chinese, Japanese or Korean descent.

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About 10 percent of people are particularly prone to B.O. because of a genetic defect that leaves them unable to produce an enzyme called FMO3, which breaks down a foul-smelling compound called TMA found in foods like eggs, conventional milk, beans, seafood, and cruciferous veggies. People with this condition—known as ‘trimethylaminuria’—are often followed by a fishy odor.

Health conditions like hyperthyroidism, diabetes, and hyperhidrosis (in which overactive nerves constantly trigger sweating) can also contribute to body odor when not managed, so talk to your doctor if you’re concerned about how much you sweat (and smell).

2. You Hang Out In Sweaty Gym Clothes

The skin bacteria that makes apocrine sweat so smelly thrives in moist environments, and when you exercise, your workout gear—especially anything tight—traps your sweat in your skin and allows B.O. to flourish. If you sweat a lot during a workout, don’t spend a second longer in your gym clothes (socks included!) than you have to, says Lee.

Related: We Put 5 Natural Deodorants To The Test—Here’s How They Held Up

And when you hit the showers, make sure you really scrub off your deodorant or antiperspirant. While they form a barrier that blocks sweat and stank in the short term, these products can clog your pores and react with the bacteria on your skin, possibly making stank worse if left on for a few days, Lee says.

3. You’re Stressed

As if pre-presentation jitters aren’t bad enough, stress can also make you smell. Anxiety often causes your apocrine glands to kick into high gear and produce more sweat, leaving you victim to body odor, explains Preti. Scientists aren’t entirely sure what causes this ‘stress sweat’ phenomenon, but the only way to nip it in the bud is to squash the stress itself. Preti recommends meditating or using breathing exercises to keep your mind, nervous system, and sweat glands as calm as possible when stress strikes.

4. You Ate A Stink-Inducing Food

Sad but true: Some of the foods that leave you with dragon breath can also stink up your entire bod. The perpetrator? Hydrogen sulfide, a chemical produced when you eat foods that contain sulfur-like compounds, like garlic and broccoli. Hydrogen sulfide smells like rotten eggs and can leave you with nasty breath and smellier-than-usual body odor when you eat a lot of these foods, says Preti.

Research also suggests your overall diet can impact your natural scent and even influence your ‘attractiveness.’ One study published in Chemical Senses, for example, found that women rated the scent of men who didn’t eat red meat as more attractive than that of those who did—so apparently you really are what you eat!

What Happened When I Started Drinking Bulletproof Coffee Every Morning

I take my coffee black. Aside from the fact that I genuinely enjoy the taste, I prefer the no-fuss approach: coffee, mug, done. Plus, I’ve seen a lack of creamer in the office kitchen ruin a co-worker’s entire morning, and I just don’t need that kind of stress in my life.

But when I heard that a coffee concoction called Bulletproof coffee promised boundless energy and all-day satiety, I was intrigued. The supposedly life-transforming latte is the birth-child of ‘biohacker’ David Asprey and consists of just three surprising ingredients: coffee, MCT oil, and clarified butter (a.k.a. ghee).

 
As a writer who works full-time and freelances on the side, the idea of steady energy from early morning interviews to late-night writing definitely appealed to me. Curious to see if this fatty brew could ‘hack’ my biology and help me become a master of using and storing energy, I armed myself with the ultimate Bulletproof coffee ingredients—Bulletproof brand coffee grinds, Asprey’s MCT Brain Octane Oil, and ghee—and decided to give it a go for two weeks straight.

Day One

According to Asprey, a proper Bulletproof coffee is made by blending a cup of black coffee, up to two tablespoons of Brain Octane Oil, and one or two tablespoons of grass-fed ghee until frothy. But on that first morning I was running late for a call with a cardiologist for a heart health article I was working on, so I just threw all of the ingredients into a mug as I dialed the phone.

Big mistake; the concoction was gross.

I choked down my oily cup of Joe as I asked the cardiologist to walk me through what he eats on a typical day—and that’s when fate intervened. The first thing Rohan Bhansali, M.D., Chief of Cardiology at LIJ Medical Center told me? “I start my morning with a cup of something called ‘Bulletproof coffee.’”

I couldn’t believe it. “Wait, I’m literally drinking that right now!” I told him, eager to pick his brain about how this stuff actually works.

Related: Why Is Everyone Talking About MCTs?

He explained it all: “Bulletproof coffee calls for medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil. This specific type of fat is more easily used by the body and brain for energy, and Bulletproof’s Brain Octane Oil is a refined form of MCT oil that eliminates some of the less effective medium-chain triglyceride,” he said. While our body turns all fats into compounds called ketones that can be used for energy, MCTs are processed in the liver and can churn out those ketones more effectively.

From there, the butter adds calories to help keep you feeling satisfied and energized all morning.

After hanging up the phone and finishing my coffee, I realized that skipping the blender hadn’t been my only mistake that morning: I’d used two full tablespoons of Brain Octane Oil. Asprey recommends starting with just a teaspoon and working your way up—and the sudden lurch in my stomach explained why. The contents of my extra-fatty first Bulletproof coffee had shot straight through my system. I’ve never been so grateful for the short sprint to the bathroom in my studio apartment.

The Next Few Days

The next morning, I used just half a tablespoon of the Brain Octane Oil and blended my Bulletproof coffee until it was nice and frothy. Much to my delight, it tasted like a fancy, creamy cappuccino from an overpriced coffee shop—and my stomach kept quiet.

 
Throughout the next few days, I definitely felt more awake during the first half of the day. I continued eating breakfast as I had been before, and felt hungry for lunch around 11 o’clock—earlier than usual. As always, I ran out for coffee around three o’clock when my energy tapered off, but more and more noticed I didn’t need to finish it.

On day three I signed up for a boot camp class, wondering if my new Bulletproof beverage would help me power through, and was bummed when it still felt like Struggle City. So far, my life did not feel biohacked.

One Week In

By the end of the first week I had successfully worked up to the full tablespoon of Brain Octane Oil, and that’s when the magic started happening.

Suddenly my go-to breakfast of two eggs, a lean protein (usually homemade turkey sausage), and a handful of strawberries felt like way too much food, so I cut it down to just an egg and a few berries. I also stopped going for that second cup of coffee around mid-afternoon—my three o’clock slump had faded away!

I didn’t exactly feel a turbo boost of energy (it was more like a slow burn), but I found it easier to make it through the day and head home to work some more without dragging my feet. I happened to glance over at the clock while working on a freelance project one night about a week in and was shocked to see it was 10:30—much later than I’d ever been productive!

My newfound steady energy also started to make a difference in my workouts. I was unusually ready to jump into the two morning workouts I’d scheduled that week, and didn’t feel like a sloth as I boxed or got my HIIT on.

After 2 Weeks

By my fourteenth Bulletproof morning, I’d stopped eating breakfast altogether. I’d always sworn by my morning meal, but I just wasn’t hungry. I felt energized and ready to take on whatever chaos was thrown at me all morning long. Around noon I was ready for lunch, but even then I wasn’t ravenous. I let half of my go-to bowl of veggie soup go cold most days and noticed my dinner portions shrink a bit, too.

At that two-week mark, I also made it through my boot camp class without feeling wiped after the warm-up. I didn’t even skimp on that last round of burpees like I usually would!

Yes, making Bulletproof coffee definitely takes more effort than dumping black coffee into my mug and calling it a day, but I’ve continued to drink it even after completing my experiment. My 1980s-era relic of a blender is now a permanent fixture on my counter-top and I’ll take my coffee with plenty of fat in it, thank you!

6 Supps That Enhance Your Memory And Help You Focus

In the age of endless push notifications and news updates, some days it feels like the only time we really slow down is when we take a bathroom break. This go-go-go lifestyle can be exhausting, so it’s no wonder 85 percent of Americans turn to caffeine to get them through the day—and many end up feeling even more strung out.

That’s where a newly-hot category of supplements—sometimes referred to as ‘nootropics’—comes in. “Nootropics are broadly defined as anything that enhances your cognitive capacity, from memory to mental agility to concentration,” explains Maggie Moon, M.S., R.D.N., author of The MIND Diet. Biohackers, workaholics, and wellness junkies alike turn to these natural substances to give their brains a boost.

If the following six natural brain and memory supplements aren’t on your radar yet, they should be.

 

1. Ginseng

The herb ginseng has been used in Eastern medicine for thousands of years for everything from stomach upset to brain fog, explains Sumeet Sharma, Emory University M.D./Ph.D. candidate and head of Medicine and Science for Nootrobox—but it’s been used primarily for its cognitive benefits in recent decades.

Ginseng is an ‘adaptogen,’ a type of herb that helps protect our body from the negative effects of stress. Studies suggest these herbs can help modulate fatigue and low mood, and enhance attention and stamina.

Related: Adaptogens 101: These Herbs Are Trending For A Reason

Ginseng, in particular, seems to work its magic by boosting blood circulation and neurotransmitter activity in our brain, with one study finding that it helped people feel calmer and improved their performance on a math test.

You can find ginseng extract in capsule or tablet supplements (200 to 400 milligrams) and herbal teas. Just talk to your doc first if you take blood-thinners or diabetes medications, which may interact with the herb, says Jonathan Valdez, R.D.N., owner of Genki Nutrition and spokesperson for the New York State Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

 

2. MCTs

MCTs, or ‘medium-chain triglycerides,’ a type of fatty acid found in fats like coconut oil, are not only known for their weight management benefits, but also for their ability to support cognitive function.

Much of the research on MCTs and cognitive function looks at people with cognitive decline. Why? The brain’s ability to use glucose (sugar) for energy can decline over time, which contributes to cognitive decline by essentially starving brain cells to death. Meanwhile, the brain’s ability to use ketones (the energy source made from MCTs) remains intact, leading researchers to believe that using MCTs for fuel may help to promote brain health.

Research on healthy adults also suggests MCTs to be a viable and sustainable energy source for the brain, with one study finding that taking 20 to 30 grams of MCTs per day increased ketone levels enough to contribute to almost 10 percent of the brain’s total energy use.

Coconut oil is rich in MCTs, but you can also find pure MCT oils and supplements, says Valdez, who recommends shooting for about 20 grams a day.

 

3. L-Theanine

The amino acid l-theanine, a major component of black and green tea, increases levels of two hormones that help us feel less stressed and more balanced: GABA and dopamine. It’s no wonder a big mug of tea has such a soothing effect!

Interestingly, a study published in the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that 50 milligrams of l-theanine (about two cups of black tea-worth) stimulated something called ‘alpha activity’ in the brain, which is associated with mental calm (but not drowsiness), alertness, and focus. Other research suggests l-theanine is especially helpful when taken alongside caffeine.

Sharma recommends taking l-theanine with your coffee or tea at a two-to-one ratio of l-theanine-to-caffeine—so if you’re drinking a mug of tea that packs around 50 milligrams, take 100 milligrams of l-theanine. Up to 200 milligrams of l-theanine a day appears to be a-okay, but talk to your doctor before taking it if you’re on blood pressure medication, says Valdez.

 

4. Ashwagandha

The name of this plant may be difficult to say five times fast, but its many syllables come with many benefits. The root of the ashwagandha herb has long been used in Indian Ayurvedic medicine for cognitive function and overall well-being, and is now a popular supplement among biohackers and wellness influencers alike.

Like ginseng, ashwagandha is also considered an adaptogen, and is specifically known for its ability to modulate cortisol production and ease feelings of anxiety, says Sharma. Studies also support its mental performance benefits, with one finding that people with mild cognitive impairments performed better on attention and information processing tests (and reported improved overall memory) after supplementing with 600 milligrams daily for eight weeks.

You can find ashwagandha supplements in capsule or powder form in dosages between 300 and 500 milligrams.

 

5. Maca

Maca root is another adaptogen that’s been getting a lot of buzz lately. Not only has this root herb been shown to help us adapt to stress and support overall vitality, but it’s also been shown support reproductive health and libido.

There isn’t a ton of research on Maca out there yet, but early studies suggest its potential for boosting energy. Maca is popular in both capsule supplements and powders—typically in doses between 1.5 and three grams.

 

6. Fish Oil

Sure, you’ve heard about fish oil’s cardiovascular benefits, but omega-3s also support memory and brain function through their involvement in communication between brain cells.

In fact, one study found that older adults with age-related cognitive decline performed better on memory tests after supplementing with 900 milligrams of omega-3s every day for 24 weeks. A second study also suggests that omega-3s support overall mood stability and feelings of wellness.

Experts recommend eating eight ounces of fish per week to stock the body on ample omega-3s, but if you’re not regularly consuming fish, you likely need a supplement (they often provide about a gram of omega-3s), says Valdez.

If You’ve Hit A Health Wall, Functional Medicine Could Be For You

Whether you’re dealing with inexplicable weight gain, mood imbalance, irregular periods, breakouts, or other chronic health challenges, you might feel like you’ve hit a wall with your treatment plan, and that the options you’ve been given are more like bandages than solutions. That frustration can lead some patients to explore alternative therapies and modes of care, such as functional medicine, a discipline that has been touted by practitioners like Deepak Chopra, an avid alternative medicine advocate, author, and speaker.

According to the Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM), the discipline “is an approach to health care that conceptualizes health and illness as part of a continuum in which all components of the human biological system interact dynamically with the environment, producing patterns and effects that change over time.” Functional health practitioners have advanced professional degrees in licensed health care fields, which means post-graduate training is necessary for a doctor or other healthcare professional (in certain fields) to practice it, according to Functional Medicine University.

“At its core, functional medicine is designed to find the root causes of imbalances and dysfunction within the body that lead to chronic symptoms or disease,” explains Linda Matteoli, DO, owner of Origins Functional Medicine and a board-certified family physician in Longwood, Florida.

Related: Shop our range of immune support products. 

There’s more to it than that, though—here are four things you should know about this form of medical treatment.

1. Functional medicine practitioners aim to zoom out and get a bird’s eye view of your health concerns—and their causes.

Dr. Matteoli explains that diagnostic testing, like blood work and lab, is certainly utilized in functional medicine practices, but providers “look for imbalances in all areas of a person’s life—such as sleep, nutrition, exercise, relationships, and stress management.” In other words, their goal is to go “beyond laboratory or imaging studies.”

Another way of looking at this concept: “In general, the body will never harm itself. Everything the body does, even cancer, is done as a protection mechanism to repair damage and maintain life,” explains Raul Serrano, DC, doctor of functional medicine and owner of Ignite Chiropractic & Wellness in Palm Harbor, Florida. “The problem happens when there is outside interference of some sort that either prevents the body from functioning properly or causes the body to take defensive measures.” He goes on to say that this could be related to nutrition, toxins, physical impairments, or other factors.

“In functional medicine, we work to eliminate the interference and create the environment for the body to function at its maximum potential,” says Serrano.

2. Functional medicine is also preventative medicine.

Even patients who aren’t struggling with a frustrating chronic health concern could benefit from seeing a functional medicine doctor. Dawn DeSylvia, MD, owner of Whole Life Health in Los Angeles, California, says that in her practice, she looks to “identify early risks for disease, many of which may go undetected for years. With early identification of risk factors, along with treatment interventions, we can greatly reduce the risk of disease developing in the first place.”

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For instance, one major precursor to disease that functional medicine doctors will investigate is inflammation, Dr. DeSylvia notes. “From there, we work to remove the risk factors contributing to this inflammation,” she says. Doctors may also work with their patients to come up with an anti-inflammatory protocol in which they incorporate certain foods and nutrients into the diet.

3. Functional medicine aims for long-term healing

“Functional medicine is truly for everyone,” Dr. Matteoli shares. “Often these individuals have had many previous doctor appointments without clarity and answers or have been told that prescription drugs or surgery are their only options for managing their symptoms.”

For patients who have been in this position, Dr. Matteoli notes that functional medicine may be appealing, as providers are focused on investigating the origin of a health concern and identifying subtle imbalances.

Dr. DeSylvia concurs that functional medicine is often an attractive avenue for “people who either have been diagnosed with a disease, and are suffering side effects from their current treatment, or ‘falling into the statistics’ that treatment fails.” She adds, “Also, I see people who have been to specialist after specialist and told, ‘Nothing can be done.’”

The focus, then, would be to address the issue—but to also come up with a long-term plan. Though functional medicine can address an acute issue, providers aim to hone in on the underlying cause of a chronic imbalance and then come up with a treatment game plan that will promote wellness now and in the future. “The combination of this expanded workup with holistic treatment helps to balance the entire person, which in turn leads to true long-term healing,” explains Dr. Matteoli.

4. Providers work with patients to come up with an individualized treatment plan.

Patients who see a functional medicine doctor will be able to have a true back-and-forth conversation with their provider, as opposed to being given directives around their treatment.

The IFM notes that, “Patients and providers work together to determine the diagnostic process, set achievable health goals, and design an appropriate therapeutic approach.”

That said, no treatment plan—functional or otherwise—should be seen as a magic bullet, Dr. Matteoli points out. “One pill or one surgery is not going to correct chronic disease,” she says. “Rather, it takes the approach of a widespread treatment—identifying and rebalancing multiple systems simultaneously to achieve wellness.”

5 Natural Ways To Soothe A Sore Throat

If you feel like you spend half of winter with a sore throat, you’ll try anything to be able to swallow without cringing. No matter how torturous your sore throat may be, though, there’s only so much cherry-red syrup you can chug.

Luckily, there are a number of natural foods and drinks that can soothe your soreness. The next time your throat is a fiery tube of anger, keep these five throat-savers in mind.

 

1. Licorice

A Twizzler has never (ever) cured a sore throat, but actual licorice root might be able to help. The sweet root has been traditionally used for its soothing, coating properties and can benefit your everyday sore throat, says Kelly Jones, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D., L.D.N.

You can find licorice in supplements, candies, and teas—just be careful to only use regular licorice when needed, since over-consumption can increase sodium levels and affect blood pressure, Jones says. If choosing a supplement, look for ‘deglycyrhizinated licorice’ (DGL), which doesn’t affect sodium levels.

 

2. Ginger

Need a break from your same old throat drops? Try ginger candies instead. Not only are they deliciously warm and spicy, but ginger is packed with antioxidant compounds called ‘gingerols’ and ‘shogaols’ that can help your immune system pull through.

Research suggests that through its interaction with our immune systems, ginger has a calming, soothing effect throughout the body. In addition to candies, it’s also popular in teas and capsule supplements.

 

3. Sage

This delicious herb—a staple of Mediterranean diets and Eastern schools of medicine alike—is revered for its potent antioxidant activity, making it a helpful immune system-booster when you’re feeling under the weather. In fact, one study found that throat spray made from sage and Echinacea (another herb known for its immune benefits) can soothe a sore throat.

Related: 5 Supplements Nutritionists Take During Cold Season

Incorporate more sage into your routine by sprinkling it into warm soups or sipping on sage tea.

 

 4. Tea & Honey

Speaking of tea… “The warmth of tea alone can work wonders on a sore throat, but certain ingredients, like honey, ginger, and slippery elm bark can add extra benefit to your mug,” says Jones. Raw local honey has long been thought to support the immune system, thanks to its polyphenol and antioxidant content, but honey’s thick consistency also provides some relief by coating the throat. You can add it to your tea or eat it straight out of the spoon.

Like honey, slippery elm bark also coats the throat, Jones says. Its moistening effect makes it able to relieve dryness and itchiness.

 

 5. Applesauce

If your sore throat has left you with a hot or burning sensation, integrative medicine expert Elizabeth Trattner, A.P., recommends eating cool, smooth foods like applesauce for relief.

In addition to its slightly throat-numbing chill, applesauce also contains pectin, a type of fiber found in fruits, that becomes gel-like and can coat and soothe the throat, Trattner says.

8 Healthy Things You Can Flavor Your Coffee With

For many of us, coffee is a non-negotiable part of any morning. Not only does the caffeine help us snap out of zombie-mode, but it also contains a number of antioxidants that can support healthy blood sugar and cognitive function.

What we add to that coffee has the power to either make it even healthier—or undermine its benefits by way of excess sugar and empty calories. Make your morning java work double-duty by adding one of these science- and nutritionist-backed ingredients..

 

1. Collagen

Whether you want to promote healthy aging or simply make your morning brew more satiating, collagen is just the add-in you need. This protein makes up the supportive structure of many of our tissues and research has shown supplementing with it can help reduce the appearance of wrinkles. “Collagen is rich in nutrients and amino acids that can support healthy joints, muscle growth, and recovery,” explains Theresa Kroog, B.S., N.Y.T., nutritionist for The Vitamin Shoppe.

Collagen powder supplements are often unflavored and mix easily, so you can enjoy your coffee without even realizing they’re there. A serving of Vital Proteins’ Collagen Peptides offers 18 total grams of protein for just 72 calories, helping you feel nourished and satiated as you sip.

 

2. Coconut Or MCT Oil

As the keto diet and buzz around eating more fat continue to explode, more and more people are adding coconut oil—yes, oil—to their coffee. It’s subtlety sweet and high in MCTs (medium-chain triglycerides), a type of saturated fat that our body breaks down differently than other fats. Because of this, MCTs are a good, quick energy source and less likely to be stored as fat and contribute to weight gain, says Kroog. For a satiating brew than keeps you energized all morning long, blend about a tablespoon of coconut oil into your coffee.

Related: What You Need To Know About The Ketogenic Diet Trend

If you want to really maximize the benefits of those MCTs, you can also find pure MCT oil to blend in instead.

 

3. Ghee

Another fat finding its way into coffee mugs everywhere: ghee, or clarified butter. Made by boiling butter into a golden liquid, ghee may be lower in lactose than regular butter. Kroog recommends opting for grass-fed ghee, which is more nutrient-dense. Research has shown that butter made from grass-fed cows contains up to 500 percent more conjugated linoleic acid (CLA)—a fatty acid that prevents a step in our body’s fat storage process and can reduce how much of the fat we consume gets stored—than butter made from grain-fed cows.

Blend about a tablespoon of ghee into your coffee on its own or in addition to up to a tablespoon of coconut or MCT oil for sustained energy, says Kroog.

 

4. Cinnamon

If you’re looking to sweeten up your mug of coffee without an actual sweetener, Kroog recommends using cinnamon. Not only does it add flavor, but the spice is high in antioxidants called ‘cinnamaldehydes’ and “supports healthy joints and blood sugar levels,” she says. Research has also shown it to support healthy blood pressure. Kroog recommends about half a tablespoon of cinnamon per 12 ounces of coffee.

 

5. Powdered Creamer

Whether you’re following a keto diet or just want your coffee creamer to actually add nutrition, a powdered creamer supplement can level up your coffee. Option number one: MAN Sports’ French Vanilla Iso-Amino Coffee Creamer Bliss, which adds five grams of muscle-supporting branched-chain amino acids and flavor without any dairy, sugar, or calories. Option number two: BPI Sports’ French Vanilla Keto Bomb, which contains powdered MCTs and essential fats so you can flavor your coffee with a boost of healthy fats instead of the usual carbs.

 

6. Maca

Maca, an antioxidant-rich root vegetable native to Peru, has been used in traditional medicine for its fertility and vitality benefits and is now revered as an ‘adaptogen,’ meaning it supports the body’s response to stress. Research has shown that supplementing with maca is particularly helpful in mediating low mood and feelings of anxiety.

Maca has a nutty flavor that hazelnut or toasted almond coffee lovers will enjoy, and just a tablespoon stirred or blended into your java will do the trick.

 

7. Protein Powder

If you leave the house with your shaker cup in one hand and your travel mug in the other, The Vitamin Shoppe nutritionist Jaclyn Jacobsen, M.S., recommends subbing protein powder in for coffee creamer. Not only does the protein powder provide your muscles with the nutrients they need to stay strong and grow, but it also turns your coffee into more of a meal and helps keep your blood sugar stable, Jacobsen says.

Whisk up to a scoop of your go-to protein powder (we like BodyTech French Vanilla WheyTech Pro 24 or Optimum Nutrition Double Rich Chocolate Gold Standard 100% Whey) into your brew until evenly mixed.

 

8. Mushroom Powder

After a long history of use in Traditional Chinese Medicine, mushrooms are everywhere right now—and varieties like reishi and cordyceps are getting extra-special attention for their ‘adaptogenic’ benefits. While reishi mushrooms support overall health and longevity because of their role in cell and immune function and their high antioxidant content, cordyceps are best known for improving energy and stamina.

You’ll find these mushrooms in all sorts of supplements these days (including pre-workouts), and Jacobsen likes to add Matrix FIT Organic Mushroom Powder to coffee to reap the immunity-boosting benefits of reishi, cordyceps, and other medicinal mushrooms. You can even satisfy your sweet tooth with mushroom hot cocoa mixes like Four Sigma Foods’ Cordyceps and Reishi Mushroom How Cacao Drink Mix.

Vitamin C Is As Important As Ever—And Not Just For Immune Support

You’ve probably popped a vitamin C-loaded tablet before flying or downed an extra glass of orange juice when you felt the sniffles coming on, but vitamin C does so much more than support your immune system, affecting everything from how well you absorb other nutrients and respond to injury to what your skin looks like.

Vitamin C may not be brand new or as trendy as reishi mushrooms, but it’s just as important as ever. Here’s everything you need to know about vitamin C, including the many ways it benefits your body, how much you need a day, and how to get your fill.

Key Health Benefits

Also known as ‘ascorbic acid,’ vitamin C is revered for its role in keeping our immune system healthy—which is why we talk about it so often during cold and flu season. Vitamin C is one of the most potent antioxidants out there, fighting off damaging particles called free radicals that can put our body in a state of oxidative stress, which has been implicated in illness and diseases like diabetes, Parkinson’s, and cancer. Plus, vitamin C can also help other antioxidants (like vitamin E) regenerate and keep fighting the good fight.

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Vitamin C also plays a role in the formation of collagen, a protein that’s crucial for connective tissues like skin, tendons, ligaments, and blood vessels, making it essential for our body to heal injuries or wounds, says dietitian Amy Goodson, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D., L.D. In this same way, vitamin C is involved in maintaining healthy bones and teeth. (It’s no wonder that scurvy, the condition that occurs because of a severe lack of vitamin C, involves gum disease, bruising, and skin issues.)

Related: I Drank Collagen For 30 Days—Here’s How It Turned Out

Another key function of vitamin C is that it boosts our absorption of plant-based, or ‘non-heme,’ iron, which is about 10 percent less bioavailable than animal-based (‘heme’) iron. Iron helps carry oxygen to our muscles, cells and organs, and without an ample supply, our various body systems have less oxygen to work with, often leading to fatigue or lightheadedness. (This makes eating vitamin C—and pairing it with iron-containing foods—especially important for vegetarians and vegans.)

Long-term research suggests that those who eat higher amounts of antioxidant-packed foods have a reduced risk of high blood pressure, while low intakes have been linked with increased risk of peripheral artery disease, heart attack, and stroke.

Beauty Benefits

Not only does vitamin C bolster the function and health of body systems we can’t see, but it can also have a huge impact on one we can: our skin. You see, the free radicals that wreak havoc on our cells also affect our appearance, with ultraviolet light and pollution damaging the collagen in our skin and leading to premature wrinkles and dark spots, according to Joshua Zeichner, M.D., Director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research in Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. One of our greatest weapons against these negative skin effects? You guessed it: vitamin C.

“Topically, vitamin C can help attain more youthful-looking skin with a brighter, more even skin tone,” adds Michelle Henry, M.D., clinical instructor of dermatology at Weill Cornell Medical College. The antioxidant targets two key factors in the aging process: It promotes healthy collagen production and inhibits enzyme action that spurs the formation of melanin (the pigment that adds color to skin and causes ‘dark spots’).

A study published in the American Journal for Clinical Nutrition also found that middle-aged women who consumed more vitamin C were more likely to have more youthful-looking skin (marked by less dryness and appearance of wrinkles).

How To Load Up

The National Institute of Health recommends 90 milligrams of vitamin C per day for men and 75 milligrams per day for women—but those who smoke may need an additional 35 milligrams per day. Plus, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding need 85 milligrams and 120 milligrams a day, respectively, according to Goodson.

Our body can’t produce this vitamin on its own, which means we have to get it through our diet or supplementation to reap its widespread benefits. And since vitamin C is water-soluble, it can’t be stored in the body, so we need to consume it regularly.

Luckily, many fruits and veggies are loaded with vitamin C, with red bell peppers (95 milligrams per half cup), oranges (70 milligrams per medium fruit), and broccoli (51 milligrams per cooked half cup) ranking as some of the top sources. There’s also a wide range of C supplements for people who aren’t always able to eat well-balanced meals.

To maximize your iron absorption, Goodson recommends adding a vitamin C-containing food (like citrus fruit, tomatoes, or strawberries) to meals that feature plant-based sources of iron (like spinach, nuts, and beans). For example, if you’re having a spinach salad topped with nuts and seeds, top it with mandarin orange or strawberry slices. You can also find supplements containing this important combo, like The Vitamin Shoppe’s Iron Complex.

If you want to slather vitamin C’s goodness straight onto your skin, Zeichner recommends reaching for serums, which contain high concentrations of the vitamin and are designed to enhance its delivery into the skin. (We recommend Derma E’s Vitamin C Concentrated Serum.)

One warning: “Vitamin C does not always play nicely with other ingredients,” says Zeichner, who doesn’t recommend combining vitamin C products with topical retinoids or alpha hydroxy acids. He also urges caution if you have very sensitive skin, since vitamin C may cause some irritation.

Keep vitamin C’s benefits top-of-mind with this quick infographic:

What I Learned About My Mind When I Stopped Working On My Body

A couple of weeks ago, I lay on a white medical table as a doctor stitched up my lower abdomen. I had a small benign lipoma, which is basically a fatty lump under the skin. It had grown twice its size in six months, and it jutted out right above my pubic bone, making me feel pretty self-conscious.

As the doctor finished up, she warned, “Make sure you’re not wearing anything that can press on the area. No bending. No jeans. And no working out.” And then, she added: “For a whole two weeks.”

I normally try to do some form of cardio or strength training a few times a week—it helps me feel my best and gives me a sense of calm and confidence—so this 14-day no-workout rule was not ideal. However, the last thing I wanted was to pop a stitch or get an infection, so I committed to going gym-free. Off to 14 days of nothingness I went.

Related: Why I Never Hide My Plus-Size Body At The Gym

The first no-workout day was straight aces from start to finish. Instead of picking through my dresser to find a clean sports bra for my morning workout, I lounged in bed much later than I’m accustomed to, and read the news on my phone (something I never have enough time to do). I felt great—still sore, but surprisingly energized by knowing I didn’t have to go to the gym.

Off to 14 days of nothingness I went.

Day two was similar in that I got a little extra sleep, strolled serenely off to work, and kept all my promises to not wear jeans. My joints, however, grew stiff from the lack of mobility. Since every move I made had to be somewhat calculated (as to not bump into anything or stretch in the wrong way), my body was starting to tighten and get tense.

By day three I realized that the extra sleep and downtime weren’t actually good for me. The motivation, the endorphin rush, and the sense of accomplishment I had when I stuck to a regular workout was missing—and this gave way to sadness and insecurity.

A self-conscious voice in the back of my head criticized how the pattern of my dress looked across my belly. The voice commented on my choice to use whole milk instead of soy for my morning coffee. It told me that I would probably embarrass myself if I spoke up in a meeting. And, while yes, my-own-worst-enemy syndrome is a thing I struggle with constantly, it’s never as powerful when I’ve taken the time to do some cardio or lift weights.

The motivation, the endorphin rush, and the sense of accomplishment I had when I stuck to a regular workout was missing—and this gave way to sadness and insecurity.

The voice was there when I ate lunch and boomeranged back again when I was doing my nightly skin-care routine. It exhausted me the way it plucked at my self-esteem when as I a teen. By the weekend, my entire demeanor had changed; I was a sad amoeba that sulked from place to place.

On Monday morning, my colleagues asked if there was anything wrong as I quietly made my way around the office, since lacking expression is not exactly what I’m known for.

The depression hit hard as I recoiled into my bedroom, refusing to see friends or do anything that didn’t include applying Aquaphor to my stitches or feeling a general sense of sadness. (Cue the soundtrack to my teenage self.)

Through week two, the blues continued. I still felt sluggish. My workout-less life was fueling a laissez-faire attitude toward food, and I was more or less eating whatever I wanted to. This was also adding to that self-doubt voice (and draining me of my weekly food budget).

My colleagues asked if there was anything wrong as I quietly made my way around the office.

Despite my snacking and interrupted workouts, my body hadn’t changed in any way during these 14 days. Everything fit as normal. It was my mental health that was affected. I just wasn’t as happy being sedentary. As the great Elle Woods from Legally Blonde once said, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy.” She was absolutely right.

When I was younger, working out equaled weight loss and social acceptance. My entire perspective of exercise was wrapped up in a warped understanding of what my body should be—and I very much abused myself in an effort to drastically become that idea. But these days, I’ve gotten much smarter about my body’s limits, and I’ve adopted healthier ways of staying fit. A big part of that, for me, is realizing how using my body can benefit my mind.

When the 14 days were up, I sadly—but not unexpectedly—had to seriously motivate myself to get to the gym. In fact, it took me a few weeks to get back on track. The time off reminded me that the gym is a sanctuary of wellness—not just a body-transforming warehouse—and crucial to my happiness.

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How To ‘Biohack’ Your Brain And Body

In a perfect world, we could design our bodies to be whatever we wanted them to be: smarter, faster, stronger (Kanye knows what we’re talking about). But as ‘sci-fi novel’ as that may sound, there’s a community of health fanatics out there right now that believes we can do just that. This crew calls themselves ‘biohackers,’ and they’re taking DIY biology to a new level.

One of the thought-leaders behind the biohacking revolution is Dave Asprey, founder and CEO of Bulletproof, the ultimate resource for all things biohacking. He defines the term as “changing your environment from the inside-out, so you have full control of your biology.” Simply put: “the art and science of becoming superhuman.” Asprey and his fellow biohackers believe that by experimenting with your daily routine, your sleep habits, your diet, what supplements you take, and your stress levels, you can take control of your mind, body, and life.

Perhaps you’ve heard about Silicon Valley execs fasting for days and fitness junkies sitting inside infrared saunas to ease sore muscles? Both examples of ‘biohacking.’

That probably sounds intimidating and extreme (uh, it is!)—but biohacking doesn’t have to be complicated or hardcore. In fact, at its root, the term is just a fancy way of saying you’re going to make proactive lifestyle changes to boost your health, says Natalie Rizzo, M.S., R.D.

Some of biohackers’ main goals are to perform better (body and mind), shed body fat, feel more energized, and ward off lifestyle diseases so many Americans face. “When you’re younger, you want to run faster, jump higher, lift more weight, and think smarter,” says Jim Goetz, C.S.C.S., co-founder of BioHackers and author of Biohacking the Brain for Success. Then, as you get older, you want to turn the hands of time so you can continue to function at your best.

You don’t need fancy equipment, an endless budget, or the grit to fast for hours and hours in order to hack your biology. All you need is the willingness to switch things up and get out of your comfort zone—and you can get started right now.

Biohack Your Diet: Ditch The Bad

If you eat foods that don’t jive with your body, you can’t function at your peak. Think about it: Lots of not-so-great body issues like skin problems, stomach pain, and fatigue circle back to your diet—and there are more than 160 foods out there that can cause reactions.

That’s why Rizzo recommends newbie biohackers try an elimination diet to identify any food-related issues. “Essentially, you eliminate certain foods from your diet and reintroduce them to see if they are triggers for your symptoms,” she says.

Ideally, you’d work with a doctor or dietitian to remove common-culprit food groups—like dairy or wheat—for anywhere between two and six weeks. Then, you’d carefully bring them back onto your plate one at a time and monitor how your body reacts, she says. Keeping a food journal throughout the process can help you identify unpleasant patterns—like fatigue, heartburn, bloating, or constipation—more easily.

Biohack Your Fitness: Hone In On Your Goals

To biohack your fitness and physique, first you need to understand your specific goals, says Goetz.

For instance, biohackers looking to burn fat fast often take low-carb approach to their nutrition, such as the trendy keto diet (in which more than 70 percent of your calories come from fat). “Fat is the only macronutrient that does not trigger an insulin release, which is why ketogenic lifestyles allow individuals to lose large amounts of fat while preserving muscle,” says Goetz. Keto can also be an effective option if you’re looking to drop pounds, because healthy fat is so satiating that it may help reduce your appetite, says a review in the Journal of European Nutrition.

Related: 5 Mistakes People Make When They Go Keto

Really want to bulk up? Hack your strength training routine with techniques like blood flow restriction training, in which you wrap a strap or band around the upper portion of the muscle you’re working to restrict the blood flow to that area, says Goetz. This helps increase protein synthesis and develop a greater amount of fast-twitch muscle fibers, both of which are key for measurable muscle growth.

Biohack Your Mind: Give Your Brain a Boost

Another of biohackers’ top priorities: their brain. After all, it is responsible for literally every function in our body. Not only are biohackers interested in clearer, faster thinking for more productive days, but in warding off stress, frustration, and depression.

Their go-to for mental clarity is simple (and free): the outdoors. Research shows that nature can help combat the rising levels of mental illness associated with our increasingly urban world, with one study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggesting that time spent in green spaces may reduce activity in your brain associated with bad mood states. Asprey echoes this sentiment, encouraging biohackers to soak up more sun, take in more fresh air, and trade their Wi-Fi for wilderness to rejuvenate their minds, and subsequently, their lives.

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Brain-boosting supplements—sometimes referred to as ‘nootropics’—are often another part of biohackers’ strategy, says Goetz. These natural substances support various aspects of cognitive performance, like memory, attention, and motivation—often by increasing blood circulation and oxygen flow in your brain, says a review published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Some of the most popular cognitive supplements out there include adaptogenic herbs like ginseng, Ginkgo biloba, and Rhodiola rosea.

What Does A Health Coach Actually Do?

Whatever your wellness goals—be it to lose weight, get ahead of developing a disease you may be genetically predisposed to, or figure out a game plan for clean eating, you may be interested in taking a more holistic and proactive approach to your health. If this is the case, it’s possible you’ve heard about or even considered hiring a health coach to help you along the way. But how do these health care providers differ from doctors, and what can you expect from working with one?

Health coaches aim to counsel you holistically.

If you’re looking for a practitioner who is focused on getting a bird’s eye view of your overall health, a health coach may be a wise choice. They aim to help their clients find resolution in health issues by sustainable and realistic means.

“Primarily, the intention of a health coach is to be holistic, or to focus on the whole person,” notes Jess Krauss, integrative health coach and owner of The Little Clementine in New York City. “Health coaches view a client’s goals as related to many aspects of one’s life and there is no one-size fits all solution.” In fact, Krauss says, they may focus on not just the client’s physical exercise, but their spirituality, relationships, environment, and nutrition, as well as how each aspect plays into each other.

Health coaches can help you get to the core issue.

“A health coach helps clients discover the root of their discomfort, without the use of Western medicine and with more of a focus on lifestyle improvements,” says Krauss.

For instance, Krauss explains that if she’s approached by a client who wants to lose weight, she works to get a full history of when or how the weight gain began. For instance: “If my client comes home from work late each night, to a dark and empty apartment, that may lead him/her to overeat due to stress from work, being too tired to cook, and feeling lonely. Immediately, I see a need for change in environment and relationships. I would ask, ‘What is losing weight going to help you with?’ The real goal may be to boost confidence or overcome a chronic illness.”

Sam Kelley, national board-certified health and wellness coach and owner of SunKissed Health in Minneapolis, Minnesota, explains, “We also learn behavioral change models and methods, such as motivational interviewing, which is used by counselors and psychologists.”

This motivating factor can be easily missed in the traditional healthcare model, so “if a person is not clear on why they personally want to change, they will be less inclined to implement and sustain these changes,” he says.

Health coaches establish a concrete game plan with their clients.

“A health coach will establish a plan to consistently meet with a client and set up small, realistic goals, with actionable steps,” Krauss explains. They will work with the advice you’ve been given by your medical practitioner. They also aim to work with clients in a supportive, consistent way, enabling them to stay accountable.

“A physician may make lifestyle recommendations and even write up a medication prescription to a patient, but the patient may not follow through with their care plan,” says Kelley. “Perhaps they are confused about their next steps, feel overwhelmed, or don’t understand the long-term benefits.” This is where consistent meetings and checks-in come in handy.

Health coaches may be able to help in areas where other practitioners might fall short.

“If you are a person who has visited many doctors, received many conflicting answers, and still see no resolution, you are someone who should be motivated to meet with a health coach,” Krauss notes.

One of the underlying rules a health coach will follow is this: “What works for one person may not work for another,” Krauss explains. In other words, working with a health coach is a way to get a tailor-made, individualized strategy that is focused on getting to the core of the issue.

The health coach-client relationship also tends to veer towards the collaborative. “There is also an emphasis on learning strategies to empower the client and cultivate a co-creative partnership,” says Kelley. “This philosophy style further enables those beautiful ‘a-ha!’ moments during coaching sessions, which may be quite transformational for the client and help steer their path towards self-efficacy, success, and optimal wellness.”

Health coaches aren’t substitutes for doctors.

“Health coaches are not a replacement for your primary care doctor, your therapist, or your nutritionist, Krauss says. “All of these professions are in place to improve the quality of patients’ lives. Health coaches simply provide a new and alternative perspective to health and wellness, when other methods have not been successful.”

It’s worth noting that there are no standardized requirements to become a health coach. Many health coaches may be certified in related areas, like personal training or nutrition.

4 Need-To-Know Facts About This Year’s Flu

Whether you never miss a flu vaccine or haven’t had one in years, the seasonal virus is probably all over your news feed—and on your mind—right now. In the past few weeks, a particularly nasty flu has become widespread across the U.S., affecting every corner of the country, save for Hawaii.

The quick uptick in the virus’ spread has alarmed everyone—including the CDC, who released a statement about it on Friday. Take a deep breath (unless you’re surrounded by sick people); here’s what you need to know about the current influenza insanity.

1. The flu is more widespread this year than it has been in the past 13 years. There have been only two flu seasons categorized as ‘high-severity’ (based on higher-than average flu cases, doctor and hospitalization stats, and mortalities) in those 13 years, but this year is shaping up to be a potential third.

2. Flu season is likely peaking right now. But experts expect the flu frenzy will last a few more weeks before slowing, and may stick around in some capacity for up to three more months.

 3. The vast majority of flu cases this year (almost 80 percent) are a type of Influenza A called “H3N2.”According to the CDC, the H3N2 virus is associated with a worse flu season, more hospitalizations, and more flu-related deaths.

4. The flu shot hasn’t been remarkably effective (but is still worth getting). So far, this year’s vaccine has only been about 30 percent effective in warding off the H3N2 strain. But the vaccine does offer some protection against all four types of flu out there, including H1N1 and influenza B, which don’t usually become a problem until later in the flu season. Plus, even if you still end up with the flu, research suggests you’ll have milder symptoms—and even spend less time under the weather—if you’ve been vaccinated. So if you haven’t gotten your vaccine yet, get after it; just keep in mind that it takes about two weeks to become effective.

Taking your mother’s age-old advice about washing your hands, keeping your distance from those who are under the weather, and taking sick days when you need them can all help you ward off the flu this season. If you’ve already come down with symptoms, many experts recommend getting a prescription antiviral drug (like Tamiflu®) from your doctor to combat symptoms and keep the flu from becoming more serious.

Homeopathic medicines like oscillococcinum (a.k.a. ‘oscillo’) can also offer relief from the flu. In fact, research has found oscillo effective in reducing flu symptoms (like cough, sore throat, and achiness) and shortening the total amount of time spent feeling ill.

There are also a number of other nutrients and supplements that can help support your immune system through these sniffly, sneezy months, such as probiotics (which support gut and immune function), vitamin C (a powerful antioxidant), vitamin D (which is involved in our immune function), and echinacea (an herb that may boost white blood cells).

How To Stay Fit And Flexible When You Work An Office 9-To-5

When you have one of those 9-to-5 (or 9-to-6, 9-to-7…) jobs that has you chained to a desk all day, it’s easy to fall into a stiff pose that leaves you feeling mangled and sore. It’s also pretty easy to fall out of shape—after all, no one ever broke a sweat at the copy machine.

The pitfalls of a sedentary lifestyle and the havoc sitting for long periods of time can wreak on your health have been the subject of many scientific studies, with each conclusion seemingly scarier than the next. For instance, a study published in the Journal of Lifestyle Medicine looked at the adverse effects of prolonged sitting on the general health of 447 office workers who spent an average of 6.29 hours sitting out of an eight-hour workday. The findings? “Our results indicated that long sitting times were associated with exhaustion during the working day, decreased job satisfaction, hypertension, and musculoskeletal disorder symptoms in the shoulders, lower back, thighs, and knees of office workers,” concluded the study’s authors.

Considering that precisely nothing about that conclusion sounds appealing, we asked experts how best to combat the adverse effects of a desk job—particularly if a standing desk isn’t an option in your workspace environment.

Flex in Five

When a lunchtime yoga session isn’t in the cards (and, really, is it for most of us?), Sherrell Moore-Tucker, a natural health and wellness professional who specializes in yoga and meditation, has a quick fix. She recommends incorporating the following few movements into your day, five times a day:

“Enjoy a nice mid-day inversion by bending forward holding onto your chair for support, or place your hands on your shins or touch your toes while releasing the head and neck (hold for 30 seconds),” she instructs. “Reversing gravity, begin to shake the head side to side and up and down as if you’re gesturing yes and no (for another 30 seconds).”

Related: Shop for joint health supporting supplements.

Moore-Tucker then suggests standing while rolling your shoulders slowly forward and back a few times, adding your arms by circling forward and back for one minute. Next, while holding onto your desk for support, step one leg back into a lunge to stretch your legs (for 30 seconds on each side).

“Bring the legs back together and stand tall with the arms overhead,” she says. “Lean the body to the right and then to the left a few times (for 1 minute).  Place the hands on the low back and stretch and lift the chest up and slightly back for a gentle back bend like the ones that we do early in the morning.”

For your final move, Moore-Tucker advises to finish with a seated twist by twisting your chest, shoulders, neck and head to the right and then the left (for 30 seconds on each side).

Energize Early

If you aren’t a morning person, the idea of setting your alarm even earlier than usual might seem like a punishment, but Tiffany Cruikshank, L.A.C., MAOM, RYT, founder of Yoga Medicine, recommends giving yourself a burst of exercise before you head to the office.

“So many of my patients and students are usually a bit burnt out and stressed out,” she says. “I prefer to try to get them to do something quick in the morning—when you want your cortisol higher. This helps support the natural circadian rhythm, which is helpful for so many things from fatigue to insomnia, and really helpful for supporting the adrenals, which tend to take the brunt of long-term stress.”

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There are a plethora of apps that provide short, simple morning-jumpstart workouts you can do from home. Cruikshankl recommends the meditation and yoga app and site YogaGlo.com, which is “a great resource since you can choose from a variety of classes to suit your needs.” She also likes 8fit for people who want to build a habit of doing simple, exercise-based movements in the morning or during a break.

Skip the Shortcuts

Yes, that meeting is starting in a few minutes and, sure, it might seem more practical to take the elevator—but don’t. Embrace those moments when you’re moving through your office to the bathroom, to a meeting, or on the way to a lunch.

“Don’t take shortcuts or use labor-saving devices such as elevators (unless you need to!),” says Marshall Weber, fitness coach at Jack City Fitness. “Walk a few blocks for an errand rather than starting the car.”

Weber also recommends extending this into your life outside of work to combat the sitting you’re doing all day Monday through Friday.

“If you’re parking in a mall or grocery lot, park further from the door rather than circling the lot for a closer spot,” he says. “You’ll get more exercise and save gas. When you’re cleaning the house, put some music on and do some dance moves while doing your cleaning routine. It’s a small amount of expended calories, but every little bit helps. Do a yard project with the children such as plant a garden or a tree.”

Of course, when you’re working all week, it may be hard to hit the gym—but everyone should aim to do some form of cardio about four times per week, along with strength training about two times per week. HIIT workouts are helpful for people who want to make the most out of their time, since they’re short but explosive.

Posture Plus

As Michelle Golla, a personal trainer at Boost 180 Fitness in Denver, CO points out, the body was not designed to sit still.

“A good rule of thumb is for every 50 minutes you sit, walk for the next 10,” she says. “Not only does this help get your blood flowing to your muscles, but also to your brain, increasing productivity.”

Golla also notes that if you have to sit, it’s important to make sure the way you’re sitting is good for you: “A focus on good posture will also help combat the effects of sitting at a desk all day,” she says. “If you have the option not to use a standard desk chair, exercise balls are a great alternative for keeping your core engaged throughout the day. Furthermore, if you have the option for a flexible desk option that converts to a standing desk, that’s another great way to change the dynamics of your physicality during the work day.”

Related: Bad Posture Can Lead To Big Problems—Here’s How To Fix It

Everything You’ve Ever Wondered About Cholesterol, Finally Explained

We’ve all heard of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ cholesterol, and know that having high cholesterol can impact our health. But let’s face it: Many of us don’t know the full story on how cholesterol impacts our health.

Whether your doctor’s concerned about your cholesterol levels or you just want to understand the difference between ‘HDL’ and ‘LDL,’ we’ve gathered all the facts together.

Cholesterol Basics

Cholesterol is a waxy fat substance found in all of our cells that’s used to make hormones, vitamin D, and other compounds. Our liver produces most (about 80 percent) of the cholesterol we need, but we can make up the rest by eating foods that contain cholesterol, such as eggs, red meat, salmon, and shellfish.

Cholesterol is transported through our body by substances called lipoproteins. There are two types of lipoproteins: HDL (high-density lipoproteins), which are small and dense, and LDL (low-density lipoproteins), which are larger and less dense.

LDL is known as ‘bad cholesterol’ because it tends to stick to the walls of our blood vessels, explains Brittany Stucklen, R.D., dietitian at Medifast California. When LDL combines with other substances, like fat and calcium, it forms a substance called plaque and can contribute to a number of heart-related health issues.

There are actually two types of LDL: smaller LDLs (called ‘type B’), which get into arteries more easily, and bigger LDLs (called ‘type A’), which may be less harmful. Research published in Circulation suggests that people with more type B LDLs have greater risk of developing coronary heart disease compared to people with more type A LDLs. (Research suggests a diet high in refined carbs may be partially responsible for type B LDLs.)

Meanwhile, HDL, or ‘good’ cholesterol, helps scavenge LDL from the blood and transports it back to the liver, where it can be broken down and removed from the body. In this way, HDL helps support cardiovascular health—but it can only transport between a quarter to a third of LDL cholesterol.

Cholesterol And Your Health

Unhealthy body weight, poor nutrition, and lack of exercise are all key lifestyle contributors to high cholesterol, but the issue can also be genetic.

When you have too much LDL and/or not enough HDL in your blood, plaque builds up in your arteries and hardens over time, limiting blood flow to your heart. This forces your heart to work extra hard, and can cause chest pain or pressure called ‘angina,’ says Stucklen. At this point, your condition is considered ‘coronary artery disease.’ Then, when pieces of hardened plaque break off, blood clots can form and eventually grow large enough to completely block blood flow, putting you at risk for heart attack and stroke.

How To Keep Your Cholesterol In Check

Since high cholesterol typically doesn’t present warning signs or symptoms before a major health event like a heart attack or stroke occurs, get tested regularly after the age of 20—especially if you have a family history, recommends Paul Salter, R.D., M.S., founder of Fit In Your Dress.

Docs often first measure total cholesterol, which accounts for both the HDL and LDL in your blood, and should ideally be 200 or below. They then measure HDL, which should be above 60 to protect against heart disease, and LDL, which should be below 100 in low-risk people and 70 in higher-risk people. They’ll also test your triglycerides—a type of fat in your blood—since high levels can throw off cholesterol counts.

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From there, maintaining (or achieving) healthy cholesterol levels largely comes down to living a healthy lifestyle.

For years the USDA believed that the cholesterol in animal-based foods like eggs and shellfish significantly impacted our cholesterol levels, and recommended capping our dietary intake at 300 milligrams a day. (For reference, one large egg contains 182 milligrams.) Recently, though, the USDA removed this limit based on a lack of conclusive evidence that eating cholesterol raises our levels.

While eating eggs and shrimp is a-okay, there is another potential cholesterol-saboteur in your grub: saturated fat, which can contribute to elevated levels when consumed in excess, says Stucklen. To promote healthy cholesterol, the AHA recommends swapping processed and saturated fats for whole foods that contain unsaturated fats, such as nuts, chia seeds, olive oil, and avocados. Salter also recommends filling you diet with foods that contain soluble fiber—like nuts, seeds, lentils, and peas—which can help block cholesterol absorption and reduce LDL levels.

Upping your intake of omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in fish like salmon and may help thin the blood and reduce triglycerides which help protect your heart, according to the National Institute of Health.

Related: All The Things You Didn’t Know Omega-3s Could Do For Your Health

In addition to dietary tweaks, regular exercise also promotes healthy cholesterol levels, so Salter recommends an hour of cardio or resistance training at least three to five times per week.

If lifestyle changes aren’t enough to maintain or lower your levels, though, talk to your physician about medications—especially if you have a family history.

Keep your facts straight with this infographic:

5 Scary Ways Eating Too Much Sugar Can Mess With Your Health

Headlines from every corner of the internet have told us: We eat too much sugar. After all, this addicting sweet substance is added to just about everything we see on supermarket shelves.

If you’ve scrolled through dozens and dozens of tips about cutting down on sugar with glazed eyes—and then proceeded to order that glazed donut with your coffee the next morning—allow us to (gently) shake you out of the caramel macchiato-induced daydream. There’s no doubt about it: A diet loaded with sugar can lead to some serious health issues.

Here’s everything you need to know about how too much sugar affects your body long-term—along with expert advice for making sure your sweet tooth doesn’t derail your diet and health.

1. Obesity

Weight gain is rampant in the U.S., with over a third (yes, a third) of Americans suffering from obesity. One of the epidemic’s major contributors? Too much sugar.

When you eat sugar, it enters your blood stream and signals your pancreas to produce the hormone insulin, which transports it to be used as energy or stored in your liver, muscles, or fat cells. However, when you consistently eat too much of the sweet stuff, it can’t all be utilized and begins to overwhelm your system—and ends up being stored as fat.

Simply put, this type of energy imbalance (along with other factors, like genetics, lack of sleep, and lack of exercise) leads to obesity. In fact, one 2013 BMJ review found that people with the highest intake of sweetened drinks were almost twice as likely to be obese than those with the lowest intake.

2. Type 2 Diabetes

Perhaps the most well-known of the conditions related to a sugar-laden diet is type 2 diabetes, a chronic illness marked by excess sugar in the blood.

Type 2 diabetes occurs when either the pancreas can no longer produce enough insulin (the hormone that transports sugar) to send sugar from the blood to the cells, or when so much insulin has been churned out over time that the cells themselves become resistant to its effects (called ‘insulin resistance’).

While consuming excess sugar alone doesn’t directly cause diabetes—activity level, family history, race, age, and other health conditions all contribute—it does seem to be a big part of the problem. For example, one study published in Diabetes Care found that people who drank one or two sweetened beverages (think soda, ice tea, energy drinks) per day were 26 percent more likely to develop diabetes than those who did not.

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People with type 2 diabetes often experience weight gain, fatigue, and excessive hunger and cravings. Type 2 diabetics are also at greater risk for kidney damage, nerve damage, bladder problems, heart disease, and stroke—which leads us to…

3. Heart Disease + Heart Attacks

Coronary heart disease (CHD), a condition in which plaque builds up in your coronary arteries (which supply your heart with blood), potentially leading to blood clots, heart attacks, and heart failure, is responsible for one in every six deaths in the United States. Though saturated fat was long thought to drive CHD, a paper recently published in Open Heart suggests that eating too much added sugar is in fact a primary nutritional factor.

High blood sugar and insulin resistance both increase risk of CHD, as excess sugar that’s stored as fat can enter the blood stream and begin to clog arteries, says Vanessa Rissetto, R.D.

Related: 8 Foods That Pack A Surprising Amount Of Sugar

According to that Open Heart paper, sugar’s impact is significant. In fact, those who get more than 25 percent of their total calories from added sugar are three times more likely to die from a cardiovascular disease-related issue than people who eat fewer than 10 percent of their calories from added sugar.

4. Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

Like its name suggests, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) occurs when excess fat builds up in liver cells for reasons other than heavy alcohol use. In its severe form, it can involve inflammation and permanent damage to the liver, and even lead to liver failure. According to the University of California San Francisco, over 31 percent of American adults suffer from the disease.

Though NAFLD isn’t fully understood, it has been linked to being overweight or obese and having high blood sugar or type 2 diabetes, according to The Mayo Clinic. Fructose, a type of sugar that occurs naturally in fruit and is added to many processed foods, seems to be particularly problematic. Unlike other sugars, fructose is processed in the liver, and when consumed in large amounts, appears to be toxic to the liver, just like alcohol.

People with NAFLD may feel fatigued and experience pain in the upper right abdomen—but often don’t have symptoms at all. Experts recommend a plant-based diet, plenty of exercise, and weight control for preventing this condition.

 5. Cognitive Decline And Alzheimer’s

In recent years, a growing amount of evidence has linked blood sugar issues to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Studies have identified that those following high-sugar diets performed worse on cognitive tests, with one Neuroscience study finding that a diet high in refined sugar can reduce levels of a protein called BDNF in the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain associated with memory.

What’s more, type 2 diabetes has been linked with greater risk of Alzheimer’s, a progressive disease that affects memory, thinking, and behavior, in which people eventually lose the ability to converse or respond to their environment.

Though the origins of Alzheimer’s are not completely understood, one 2017 Scientific Reports study found that sugar can damage an enzyme called MIF, which plays a key role in the immune response necessary for us to ward off the disease.

Cut Sugar, Cut Your Risk

This is scary stuff—but it doesn’t mean you can never enjoy something sweet again. Like everything else, just enjoy the sweetness in moderation, eat as many whole foods as possible, and try to avoid pre-packaged processed foods and snacks, which are often loaded with refined sugars, says Rissetto.

The American Heart Association, recommends a max of 100 calories (or 25 grams) of added sugar per day for women and 150 calories (or about 37 grams) per day for men. (For reference, your average glazed donut from Dunkin’ contains 12 grams.)

Of course, the occasional treat is okay, but when sugar cravings strike, try reaching for fruit or dark chocolate, and swapping table sugar out for maple syrup or honey, which contain antioxidant compounds called polyphenols, suggests Jackie Ballou, R.D., owner of Balancing Act Nutrition.

10 Products Health Experts Can’t Live Without

We look to our favorite health and fitness icons for everything from motivational quotes to breakfast recipes to workout tips—and often their Instagrams, Snapchats, and Facebook posts inspire us to live healthier lives.

Our go-to gurus have taught us that clean eating can be fun, a good sweat can be joyous, and self-care is non-negotiable. They’ve also gotten us hooked on the trends and products they love—like yoga, RXBARs, turmeric, countless books, and, of course, kombucha.

To get a closer look at their routines, we asked popular personalities in wellness to share the supplements they use to support their healthy lifestyles. Below are the 10 most mentioned.

1. Probiotics

“I always have a probiotic supplement in my cabinet,” says food blogger Lindsay Freedman of The Toasted Pine Nut. These healthy bacteria have held a front-and-center place in the spotlight for their ability to support our digestive and immune health and help us absorb nutrients from food. “I try to eat probiotic-rich foods like certain yogurts or fermented veggies, but I always have my probiotic supplement as a backup,” she adds.

Keri Gans, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.N., author of The Small Change Diet, is also a huge fan of these good gut bugs. “I take a probiotic daily because they have been associated with maintaining a healthy gut,” she says.

Want to add some good bacteria to your routine? Try The Vitamin Shoppe brand’s Ultimate 10 Probiotic, which contains 13 billion bacteria.

2. Vitamin D

“As much as I love the warm weather, I prefer to stay out of the sun, so I supplement with vitamin D3,” says Gans. Vitamin D helps our bodies absorb calcium, which is important for bone health.

Ellie Burrows, CEO of MNDFL, takes vitamin D3 to help maintain healthy D levels and avoid adrenal fatigue. (The function of our adrenal glands, which produce hormones like cortisol, has been linked to vitamin D and other calcium-related hormones.)

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If you’re interested in taking a D supplement, your doc can help you determine the best dose and formula for you.

3. Calcium

Another bone-boosting staple in wellness influencers’ cabinets: calcium. “Being thin, I am at a higher risk for osteoporosis, so I supplement with calcium daily,” says Gans. In addition to contributing to our bone structure, this essential mineral also plays a role in muscle and nerve function as well as blood clotting. Gans loves Adora chocolate calcium discs, which pack 500 milligrams of calcium, as a treat after lunch or dinner.

4. Magnesium

This mineral, which is involved in over 300 biological processes, is crucial for energy production and helps various parts of our body (like our heart, blood vessels, and muscles) ‘relax’—so we’re not surprised it’s lauded by health and fitness influencers.

“My go-to is magnesium lotion,” says Julia Stern, trainer at Body By Simone in New York City. She likes to slather her overworked muscles in the stuff post-workout to relax.

In addition to foods like leafy greens, nuts, and legumes, you can also find magnesium in a variety of supplements, including tablets, capsules, and flavored drink mixes—which is a good thing considering more than half of adults in the U.S. don’t get enough of the stuff.

5. Collagen Powder

Collagen, a type of protein that’s crucial for our hair, skin, nails, and joints—especially as we age—is arguably one of the buzziest supplements out there right now.

“My go-to supplement is collagen powder,” says blogger Maya Krampf of Wholesome Yum. “It makes my morning bulletproof coffee creamier, makes the drink more satisfying, and most importantly, does wonders for my hair, skin, nails, and joints,” she says.

Related: I Drank Collagen For 30 Days—Here’s How It Turned Out

“I cannot go a day without my Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides,” agrees food blogger Krysten Dornik of Krystenskitchen. “I add it to my smoothies or coffee every single day.”

6. Bone Broth Protein Powder

Yep, the bone broth craze is still going strong. “There have been a ton of studies on bone broth as an immune supporter, so being able to reap those benefits from a pre-made protein powder without spending 24 to 48 hours making it myself is a huge time-saver,” says Dr. Josh Axe, D.N.M., C.N.S., D.C., founder of DrAxe.com, best-selling author of Eat Dirt, and co-founder of Ancient Nutrition.

Bone broth contains a number of beneficial components, like collagen, gelatin, and glucosamine, which promote hair, skin, nail, and joint health.

Want to finally give this trend a shot? Try Ancient Nutrition’s bone broth protein, which comes in a variety of flavors like chocolate, vanilla, coffee, banana crème, and cinnamon apple.

7. BioSil

“I love BioSil, which is a supplement for hair, skin, and nails,” says integrative nutrition health coach Maria Marlowe, C.H.C., author of number-one Amazon new release The Real Food Grocery Guide. The healthy beauty and aging supplement contains three proteins (collagen, keratin, and elastin), which contribute to the condition of our hair, skin, and nails, along with choline, an essential nutrient for our cells.

8. Fish Oil

Omega-3 fatty acids, which support heart, brain, and eye health, are another staple of the health-minded. They’re also largely missing from the standard American diet.

“I have a family history of heart disease, so another supplement I take is omega-3 fish oil,” says Gans. “I prefer Nordic Naturals since they come in a mini size and are easy to swallow.”

9. Green Coffee Bean

“I chew green coffee bean extract to support my sugar metabolism,” says Alonzo Wilson, founder of Tone House in New York City. Studies suggest green coffee bean modulates blood sugar and lipid (fat) levels, which both play a role in maintaining a healthy body weight.

Green coffee bean extract also contains a number of antioxidants, including chlorogenic acid, which may support healthy blood sugar levels. You’ll often find supplements in capsule form.

10. Ginger

“I travel with ginger candy and keep ginger extract at home to cook with or make ginger turmeric lemon water or digestive tonics,” says natural health, wellness, beauty, and integrative medicine expert Elizabeth Trattner, A.P. You can also add a few ginger candies to hot water to make ginger tea, she suggests.

Ginger is prized in traditional Chinese medicine for its warming nature, digestion benefits, and soothing properties, Trattner says. You can add it to your routine however strikes your fancy; it’s available in capsules, candies, teas, and more.