The Story of Cuban Sugar Cane

“Lady Sugar was one of the main characters in Cuban history.” Dive into the story of cuban sugar cane and its myriad uses in the modern world, from rum to natural complementary medicine.

Cuba’s agricultural history is entwined with its rich abundance of sugar cane. So much so that renowned Cuban essayist, anthropologist, and scholar of Afro-Cuban culture, Fernando Ortiz once said that “Lady Sugar was one of the main characters in Cuban history.”

After an upswing in the cultivation of sugar cane in the early 19th century, by 1870 more than half of the world’s cane sugar came from two sources, Cuba and Java – a dominance that lasted well into the 20th century and beyond. Cuba in particular is synonymous with rich products made from its sugar cane, from rum to natural complementary medicine. Let’s take a look at the story of Cuban sugar cane and its role in the agricultural history of Cuba.

Sin Azucar no hay Pais

There is a famous saying in Cuba, “sin azucar no hay pais,” which literally translates to “without sugar there is no country.” And this is an excellent summation of the relationship between the two. However, sugar cane did not always flourish in the Caribbean. In fact, the crop’s origins in Cuba can be traced back to the Middle East and Christopher Columbus is often credited with bringing it from there to the Canary Islands, and then to the West Indies.

Going even further back, the domestication of the sugar cane crop is widely attributed to the New Guineans. From there, cultivation spread to Southeast Asia, India and into the Middle East. Medieval Arabs were skilled cultivators of sugar cane, and their techniques were adopted by Spanish conquistadors who brought the crop to Cuba.

The commercial production of sugar cane in Cuba expanded rapidly in the early 17th century, initially in parts neighbouring Havana, due to the capital’s large harbour port. Because of Cuba’s warm tropical climate, crop harvests had to take place in the dry season, between December and April.

Throughout the 17th century, the production and export of sugar cane in Cuba exceeded that of any other crop considerably, and through expansion of infrastructure in different parts of the island, the industry well and truly flourished into the 18th century. With good reason, the product cultivated in the country became known as one of the best in the West Indies, and even the world – a distinction that has carried on well into the present day.

Some of the Best Sugar Cane in the World

The importance of sugar cane in the global economy reached new heights in the 18th century, and Cuba was very much at the epicentre of this phenomenon. Factors such as the formation of the Royal Trade Company of Havana and the expansion of sugar cane farming in and around the capital saw production surge from the 1740s. By the 1850s, Cuban sugar cane was providing roughly 30% of the world’s sugar – an absolutely staggering amount!

In the latter half of the 19th century, the structure of the agricultural and manufacturing industries for sugar cane began to change, shifting from a fragmented model to one that was more cohesive and that offered larger production capacities. In 1894, Cuba produced more than 1 million tons of sugar for the first time. A large portion of this was bought by neighbouring America, who were fervently investing in Cuban sugar cane. By 1895, American investors had poured roughly $50 million into the industry – roughly $1.4 billion today.

Sugar Cane Wax

American Influence

The same year saw the start of the Ten Year War that resulted in Cuba’s independence from Spain in 1898. During this time, the cultivation of sugar cane dropped dramatically, however, the lull was taken as a chance for the industry to streamline and modernise itself, setting a new base for the crop to bloom in the 20th century.

In the three year American occupation of Cuba between 1899 and 1902, US corporations played a large role in establishing the foundations for the Cuban sugar cane industry to prosper in the years ahead, and a decade into the 20th century, production was on its feet once again. By the outbreak of WWI in 1914, 25 modern sugar cane manufacturing facilities has been established, and by 1926 this number had doubled. During the Great War, the majority of European sugar beet fields were destroyed and the world turned evermore to Cuba for its sugar. Between 1913 and 1919, production figures almost doubled from 2.7 million tonnes to 4.4 million.

These numbers increased steadily to around 5 million per year in 1950; Cuba had well and truly solidified its place as one of the monoliths of sugar cane production.

A New Outlook

The early 60s saw a drastic change in the direction of the Cuban sugar cane industry. Fidel Castro’s rise to power in 1959 saw much of the sugar imported by the US from Cuba shift to the USSR and China. In the mid-60s, the Soviet Union – one of the world’s largest consumers of sugar cane products – agreed to buy millions of tonnes of sugar from Cuba over the coming years. This ensured stability in the market and lead to some of the biggest harvests of sugar cane the country had ever seen, peaking at 8.5 million tonnes in 1970 and symbolising a triumphant outlook for the industry.

Throughout the 1980s, turmoil within the production industries that relied on products derived from the sugar cane, as well other political factors, saw production in Cuba waver slightly.

Nonetheless, the country continued to establish a network of scientific institutions and modern infrastructures dedicated to sugar cane cultivation and a solid portion of the nation’s most fertile soil was committed to growing crops.

Sugar Cane in Cuba Today

The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 saw an overall drop for international trade in Cuba. As one of the country’s key exports, sugar cane production was still at the top of the agenda, albeit with a refined approach to production. By 2002, the Cuban government had streamlined the industry and over the next 15 years, the industry remained stable amidst agricultural turmoil.

Fast-forward to 2017 and the industry is humming along nicely. Technological advancements and a season of heavy rain in 2016 has seen a healthy increase in production, with agriculturalists and economists alike optimistic about the outlook for Cuban sugar cane.

And it couldn’t come at a better time: it ranked among the top-performing commodities worldwide in 2016, and is used in a plethora of flourishing industries; everything from food to natural complementary medicine. The latter in particular is seeing a renewed interest in the Cuban sugar cane industry – in particular, a fascinating substance found in sugar cane wax called policosanol.

Cuban Policosanol is isolated and purified from a natural source, Cuban sugar cane wax, that studies have shown can reduce LDL cholesterol and increase HDL cholesterol within the normal cholesterol range. It was first discovered in the early 1990s and was tested and assessed for its health benefits throughout the decades, with clinical and experimental studies.

While policosanol is found in other plant products, the substance derived from Cuban sugar cane wax has been reported to help lower cholesterol. As if this magic little crop hasn’t given enough already! It’s safe to say the future is bright for Cuban sugar cane.v

6 Types of Exercise to Help Manage High Cholesterol

Exercise is one of the two most important factors when it comes to managing your cholesterol. Here are 6 different types of exercise that are perfect for any lifestyle.

When it comes to lowering your cholesterol, diet and exercise strategies are the two most powerful ways to get where you need to be. If you have high cholesterol, implementing a strict exercise regimen is great way to get your numbers down naturally. This will dramatically decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease and other chronic health conditions, aside from making you feel happier and healthier all around.

The aim of exercise is to lower low-density lipoproteins (bad cholesterol), lower triglycerides, and raise high-density lipoproteins (good cholesterol). Studies suggest that a combination of aerobic exercise (cardio) and resistance training is the best way to lower cholesterol.

But how much do you need to do for exercise to be effective? As a general rule, most healthcare organisations suggest a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise every day. This may be different if you present risk factors for cardiovascular disease or if you have very high cholesterol. What kind of exercise, you may ask? Let’s take a look.

Walking, Jogging or Running

Let’s start with the most simple: walking, jogging and running. These are all great ways to help manage high cholesterol, and are a fantastic option for anyone whose joints are in good shape. You can walk, run or jog anywhere, anytime, with almost unlimited freedom. The key is prolonged exertion. Studies have shown that prolonged, moderate jogging or brisk walking is more effective at lowering cholesterol than sprinting. It is also better for your blood pressure.

No matter what you do though, it’s all about the amount of calories you burn and the amount of energy you exert. Ensure that the exercise you are doing is getting your heart rate up and engaging large muscle groups. It is also important to incorporate this mentality into your day-to-day life: walk everywhere you can; go hiking on the weekends; use the stairs, not the elevator – make exercise part of your lifestyle.

Swimming

Walking, jogging or running isn’t for everyone. You may have bad joints, or you might live somewhere that makes it unfeasible (such as as CBD). Or you simply might not care for it. When it comes to doing exercise to help lower cholesterol, it is all about doing what you enjoy most. This is the best way to ensure consistency.

Swimming is an excellent option if walking, jogging or running isn’t up your alley. It is a great option if you have bad joints. Studies have even shown that it can be more effective for lowering cholesterol than walking or running, particularly in older women and men. If you live near a pool or the beach, try swimming a few times a few week to break up the monotony of walking, jogging or running.

swimming cholesterol

Push-ups, Sit-ups and Lifting Weights

The best way to help manage high cholesterol is to combine aerobic exercise, like jogging or swimming, with resistance training. Also known as strength training, resistance training uses weights or your own bodyweight to engage large muscle groups. The AHA recommends doing this at least twice a week to help lower cholesterol and for overall heart health.

When it comes to weight training, the key is more repetitions, not lifting heavy weights. Doing push-ups and sit-ups is an easy and effective way to engage your core and arms. Work towards being able to do three sets of 10 to 15 repetitions. And be sure to allow at least 24 hours rest between sessions to allow your muscles to recover.

Yoga

Yoga is a little different, as it isn’t an aerobic exercise, and while is does engage your muscles it isn’t classified as resistance training. That being said, it is an effective way to help manage cholesterol, and is another great option to break up the monotony of aerobic activities like jogging or swimming.

Studies have shown that doing an hour of yoga once a day can help reduce LDL cholesterol, and improve HDL cholesterol levels in diabetics. It can also help lower blood pressure.

yoga for cholesterol

Cycling

Do you live far enough from work that you need to get public transport, but not so far that cycling is out of the question?

Riding a bike to work is a great way to burn calories when you might otherwise be sedentary. It uses about the same amount of energy as jogging does, and it is very easy to incorporate into your daily routine, particularly if you have a busy schedule. Studies have shown that those who ride a bike to work are less likely to have high cholesterol than those who do not. Even riding to work just two or three times a week, as a part of your exercise routine, can have fantastic benefits for your cholesterol levels.

Hobbies As Exercise

All of above are excellent options for incorporating exercise into your weekly schedule. They are simple and easy to achieve. But when it comes to lowering your cholesterol, the key is to make it enjoyable.

The point is to get 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise every day, every week. If you have any hobbies that fall under this category, then by all means include them into your weekly exercise routine. Tennis, golf, dancing, self defence training, rowing, surfing, touch football; all of these are great ways to burn calories while having fun. Many are even likely to be more effective at lowering cholesterol than brisk walking or jogging. It’s all about consistency. Keep up the hard work, and exercise towards lower cholesterol and better cardiovascular health.

If you have high cholesterol, you may choose to take complementary medicine in combination with a healthy diet and exercise. They can help increase HDL and lower LDL, as well as reduce the oxidation of LDL-c. For more information on complementary medicine for lowering cholesterol, click here.

Do You Know Your Recommended Cholesterol Level? The Recommended Levels by Age

Do you know your what your recommended cholesterol level are? Here we take a look at the different components of a lipid test, and the recommended levels for adults and children.

As you get older, it is important to have your cholesterol checked on a regular basis to help monitor your levels, and to assess your risk of developing cardiovascular disease. This involves having a lipid (or lipoprotein) profile to examine the cholesterol-related components in the blood.

What Are The Components of My Cholesterol Level?

A lipid profile test assesses the following:

High Density Lipoproteins – HDL is what is known as “good” cholesterol. It is what collects excess cholesterol and transports to the liver to be broken down and removed. The higher this count, the better.

Low Density Lipoproteins – LDL is referred to as “bad” cholesterol. Our body needs it to transport cholesterol from the liver to parts of the body that need it, but an excess of LDL in the bloodstream can lead to a buildup of plaque the arteries. Low LDL levels are what you should be striving for.

Triglycerides – Triglycerides are what make up the fat content of lipoproteins, and high triglyceride levels in your body can contribute to the buildup of plaque and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. These levels should be lower.

Total Cholesterol – Your total cholesterol level is the overall amount of cholesterol found in your blood. It consists of a composite reading of your LDL, HDL, and 20 percent of triglycerides.

Read more about the difference between HDL and LDL here.

Recommended Cholesterol Levels For Adults

Heart foundations around the world recommend that all adults have their cholesterol levels read every four to six years from the age of 20; this is when cholesterol levels tend to begin rising.

As we age, cholesterol levels tend to rise, so as you get older, it is recommended that you get checked more frequently, especially if you present risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or obesity.

High cholesterol is more prevalent in men. However, the risk tends to increase in women after menopause. Let’s take a look at the recommended cholesterol levels for adults.

In a 2013 health survey on cholesterol, the Australian Bureau of Statistics defined high cholesterol in adults as:

Total cholesterol – Greater than or equal to 5.5 mmol/L.

HDL – Generally speaking, the higher this number the better. Less than 1.0 mmol/L for men and less than 1.3 mmol/L for women is considered abnormal. People looking to keep their cholesterol low should aim for HDL levels of 1.0 mmol/L or more.

LDL – Generally speaking, the lower this number the better. LDL cholesterol greater than or equal to 3.5 mmol/L is considered abnormal. People looking to keep their cholesterol low should aim for LDL levels to be lower than 2.0 mmol/L.

Triglycerides – Your triglyceride levels should be below 2.0 mmol/L.

Recommended Cholesterol Levels For Children and Adolescents

Children and adolescents are at a lower risk of having high cholesterol than adults. Especially kids that are physically active, aren’t overweight, consume a healthy, balanced diet, and don’t have a family history of high cholesterol.

Some guidelines recommend that children have their cholesterol checked once between the age of 9 and 12, and once again between 17 and 21. Children who have a family history of high cholesterol should be checked more regularly.

According to the American NIH, these are the recommended cholesterol levels for children and adolescents.

Total cholesterol – Greater than or equal to 5.2 mmol/L is considered high. 4.4 mmol/L or lower is considered good.

HDL – Again the higher the better. Anything below 1 mmol/L is considered low, and anything above 1.2 mmol/L is considered good.

LDL – Again, the lower this number the better. Levels greater than 3.6 mmol/L are considered high. Levels below 2.8 mmol/L are considered good.

Triglycerides – Triglyceride levels should be below 1.1 mmol/L in children younger than nine, and below 1.4 mmol/L in children between the ages of 10 and 19.

Keeping on top of your cholesterol levels is very important as you get older in order to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. It is also important to make sure your cholesterol levels aren’t too low. We hope this guide helps you on your way to a low reading!

References avaliable on request.

Can Salmon Help Fight High Cholesterol?

Eating salmon is widely considered quite healthy, but can it help fight high cholesterol? Let’s take a look.

When it comes to keeping your cholesterol low, diet plays a very important role. Cholesterol is a naturally occurring substance in our bodies, and our liver produces all that we require for normal bodily function. That means that most of the cholesterol that is consumed in our diet is ‘extra’ that we actually do not need.

Studies have shown a direct correlation between a diet high in saturated fat and trans fats, and high levels of LDL – what is known as “bad” cholesterol. Foods that contain saturated fat include red meat, poultry and dairy products; foods that contain trans fat include fried food and takeaway, processed foods, cakes and biscuits. These should be limited in your diet as much as possible.

Salmon: A Healthy Alternative

Red meat and poultry are high in protein, which is a key component of any balanced diet. So what do you eat instead to get these nutrients? Fatty, cold-water fish such as salmon is a fantastic healthy alternative.

An average size fillet of cooked Atlantic salmon contains roughly 23 grams of protein and 6 grams of fat, most of which is healthy unsaturated fat, and only around 60 milligrams of cholesterol, which is a relatively small percentage of the recommended maximum daily intake of 300 milligrams. However, it should be noted that this cholesterol does not have a significant impact on LDL levels.

On top of this, salmon is packed with other important nutrients. It is high in vitamins D, B-12, and B-6, and is a good source of minerals like magnesium, niacin, and selenium, as well as choline, pantothenic acid, biotin and potassium.

The Benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are considered essential fatty acids that are an important part of a balanced diet because the body cannot produce them. They play a crucial role in brain development, cell membrane function (for growth and development), and reducing inflammation.

Several studies have also linked omega-3 intake with lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease through a number of functions, one of which is its ability to reduce the impact of risk factors associated cholesterol.

Clinical evidence suggests that omega-3 can significantly reduce triacylglycerol levels, which is a key component of high cholesterol. Studies have also shown that omega-3 intake can elevate high-density lipoprotein (HDL) – “good” cholesterol – and lower very low-density lipoproteins (VLDL) – which are considered “bad” cholesterol.

Omega-3 fatty acids from fish have also shown to reduce inflammation in the body through a number of mechanisms, which may contribute to protective actions towards atherosclerosis (the buildup of plaque on artery walls, which is a key risk factor for high cholesterol and cardiovascular disease).

Remember, when preparing salmon to eat, grilling, baking or steaming are the best options. Frying fish in butter will negate the benefits of the fish due to its saturated fat content. If you are going to use oil, a drizzle of olive oil is a healthier option!

Are There Any Drawbacks of Eating Salmon?

While salmon is a healthy alternative to eating red meat or poultry, some clinical evidence suggests that omega-3 fatty acid supplements may increase LDL-C levels. However, many advise that eating a modest amount of salmon – say one or two servings a week – is a great way to reduce triglycerides without affecting LDL or HDL cholesterol levels.

Also, remember that while the fat content in salmon is healthy, it is still fat that contains calories. So limit yourself to no more than 250 grams of salmon per week.

References available on request.

5 Ways To Help Relieve Stress and Help Your Heart

Keeping your heart healthy is incredibly important for your whole wellbeing! Here are 5 ways to help relieve stress and help your heart.

Stress can have a profound impact on your wellbeing, yet each day we are bombarded with a range of situations that trigger our body’s natural “fight or flight” response. Chronic stress has been linked to a full spectrum of health issues, from problems with sleep to heart disease – the latter being particularly prevalent.

When you find yourself in a stressful situation – be it financial troubles or traffic in the morning – your immune system floods your body with the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline, and inflammatory proteins called cytokines.

While a constant influx of cortisol and adrenaline most definitely has an impact on mental and physical health, it is chronic inflammation associated with cytokine release that is believed to lead to a hardening of the arteries and heart disease.

Learning how to manage and relieve stress can be difficult, but it is possible if you take a moment to consider the impact your lifestyle is having on your health. Here are 5 ways to help relieve stress and help your heart.

Find the Time to Exercise

Along with diet, exercise is the single most important factor contributing to our physical health. Finding the time to exercise every day can have a huge impact on stress levels in more ways than one. Research has shown that it is very effective at improving alertness, cognitive function, sleep, and concentration, and reducing fatigue overall. Doing exercise also produces endorphins, which are our body’s natural painkillers.

It is recommended that adults do at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise at least 5 times a week to promote good health. Not only does this help melt away stress, but it also helps lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and strengthen the heart muscles, which are all great for overall heart health.

Of course, if you lead a busy lifestyle, doing half an hour of exercise a day can be difficult. Try integrating it into your daily exercise routine: ride a bike to work, swim in the morning, or do boxing at lunch.

Find Out What Is Causing The Stress and Root It Out

Everyone will have their own personal triggers that are the source of their stress. It is important to take a moment and identify what these are and devise a way to manage them.

Take a look at your work life, your home life, your social life, and your relationships, assess what the root of your stress is, and work towards managing or removing it. Stress will always be present in our lives, but those who learn to cope with it are often much better off than those who don’t.

Stress

Get Plenty of Sleep

Getting enough sleep in one of the most crucial elements of a healthy lifestyle, almost as important as a balanced diet and getting plenty of exercise.

Sleep is vital for many aspects of brain function, from cognition and concentration to productivity and performance, and lack of sleep is closely linked with a range of mental health issues, including chronic stress. Adults are required to get 7- 9 hours of sleep every night, but factors ranging from age to health and lifestyle will determine how much sleep you need. If you are feeling stressed, make sure you are getting at least 7 hours, or more if you feel like you need it.

Schedule Time to Unplug and Unwind

Sleep is a basic necessity of life. But when it comes to stress, you also need to find the time to unplug, unwind and have some “you” time. There are a million reasons you might be stressed, but none of these are as important as making time to do the things you love.

This may be something you do with friends or family or something you do alone. What is important is that you remove yourself from the triggers that are causing you to become stressed.

Make it a priority to do this every day for at least 15 minutes. Turn off your phone, computer or TV and immerse yourself in something you find soothing (Tip: try making exercise your way to unplug – you’ll be killing two birds with one stone this way!).

Consider Breathing Techniques and Meditation

Breathing exercises and meditation can help relieve stress in a number of ways, and are an excellent way to unplug and unwind in the evening or prepare yourself for the day ahead in the morning. Both meditation and deep breathing exercises have shown to reduce heart disease risk factors, such as high blood pressure. Take a look at some simple yet effective breathing techniques here.

Yoga or tai chi are excellent meditative activities. A paper published in Frontiers in Immunology, British researchers analysed the findings from more than a dozen existing studies on the biological effects of meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, Qi gong and Tai Chi, and found to suppress the expression of genes and genetic pathways that promote inflammation. Great news for stress and for your heart!

References available on request.

The Truth About Coffee and Cholesterol

Coffee has been under much scrutiny in the past when it comes to our health. Here’s a look at the link between coffee and cholesterol, how different types affect high cholesterol, and how much you should be drinking.

We all know that diet and cholesterol are inextricably linked. Cholesterol is produced by the liver, and we naturally produce all that our body needs. High cholesterol is closely attributed to what we consume, so it’s no wonder there has been much debate and study into the effects of food and beverages on cholesterol levels.

Coffee has been under much scrutiny in the past. And research into its effect on cholesterol levels has been mixed. Many assume that because coffee is a plant-based product it cannot impact blood cholesterol levels (animals products like red meat and dairy are some of the biggest contributors to high cholesterol in our diet). But there is much more to it than this.

Let’s take a look at the truth about coffee and cholesterol.

What Is Cholesterol?

It’s always helpful to start with what cholesterol actually is because many misunderstand it. You can read more in-depth about the subject here, but here’s a rundown.

Cholesterol is an insoluble waxy substance found in the human body. It is involved in many vital metabolic processes, and is crucial to our survival. It travels through bloodstream in ‘packages’ called lipoproteins along with other types of fat and proteins.

There are two main kinds of lipoproteins that carry cholesterol through your body: low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and high-density lipoproteins (HDL).

LDL is what is known as ‘bad’ cholesterol. Its function is to transport cholesterol from the liver to other parts of the body, and excess levels can lead to a buildup of cholesterol in the arteries called plaque, which can result in a number of health problems, including heart disease and stroke.

HDL is known as ‘good’ cholesterol. It collects excess cholesterol and transports to the liver to be broken down and eliminated. This means the higher the HDL in your body, the better.

What Is The Link Between Coffee and Cholesterol?

As we mentioned, many animal products, such as red meat, cheese and milk, contain cholesterol and saturated fat (which contributes to high cholesterol), and doctors recommend limiting these in your diet as much as possible. Plant foods, however, do not. And coffee beans, of course, comes from plants.

So what’s the link between coffee and cholesterol?

Studies have shown that they are, in fact, related. And while coffee itself doesn’t actually contain cholesterol, it does affect how our body processes it. A paper published in the American Journal of Epidemiology analysed a number of past trials on the subject and found that coffee drinking was associated with increased serum cholesterol levels in some, but not all, studies.

Some found that the oils found in coffee, such as cafestol and kahweol, are associated with increases in the levels of both total cholesterol and bad cholesterol (LDL) in the bloodstream. They observed that the more coffee consumed, the higher the increases in cholesterol.

One study, observed that the cafestol “present in unfiltered coffee…is the most potent cholesterol-elevating compound known in the human diet.”

In you’re a coffee drinker, you might be second-thinking your next cup right about now. But there’s more to it than that.

coffee and cholesterol

How Do Different Types of Coffee Affect Cholesterol?

This conclusion was very specific in noting that it is unfiltered coffee brews that are associated with increased levels of cholesterol. These include Turkish coffees, Scandinavian drip brews, and French press coffee. Decaffeinated coffees were also shown to increase cholesterol levels.

The brewing techniques use to make these coffees, which rely on prolonged contact between the water and the grain, yield a higher concentration of coffee oils. On the other hand, filtered coffee, such as those made with an American style-pot (where the coffee passes through a paper filter) were found to have little effect on cholesterol levels, as the water has minimal contact with the grains.

So Should You Be Drinking Coffee?

If you are concerned about your cholesterol levels, or if you have high cholesterol, you may want to discuss drinking coffee with your doctor. Studies indicate that consuming five cups of French press coffee a day for four weeks raises cholesterol in the blood 6 to 8 percent.

However, that is a lot of coffee! If you are healthy, consume a low-cholesterol diet, get plenty of exercise, and have good cholesterol readings, it is likely that drinking a cup of coffee a day will not be a cause for concern. However, you should consider switching to filtered coffee, as this is a much better option when it comes to your cholesterol.

7 Simple Cooking Tips To Make Healthy Eating A Breeze

Eating well doesn’t have to be chore! Here are 7 simple cooking tips that will make healthy eating a breeze.

Eating well can be tricky, especially if you lead a busy lifestyle. We all know how important good food is, yet many of us choose unhealthy options for sake of convenience. The thought of preparing three healthy meals everyday may seem like more hassle than it’s worth to some, but it doesn’t have to be a chore. Eating well is all about developing good habits. These don’t have to be drastic either – small changes can make a big impact on the way you eat. Here are 7 simple cooking tips to make healthy eating a breeze.

Stick With Lean Meats and Fish

Red meats such as beef and lamb are high in saturated fat, and if consumed regularly are a significant risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Stick to cooking with lean meats like poultry or fish. These have the same important nutrients as red meat (such as iron and protein), but far less saturated fat.

Some oily varieties of fish (such as cold water salmon, trout and herring) are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids and are very good for you. Try incorporating these into your diet at least twice a week.

Cook With Good, Healthy Fats

Fats are an essential ingredient for cooking, and while many are associated with unhealthy food, not all fats are created equal. Opt for using oils that contain unsaturated fats over butter or margarine, which are high in saturated fats.

Olive oil, flaxseed oil, and canola oil are all go-to healthy options that also contain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which are actually very healthy. They do, however, still contain their fair share of calories. Always use oil sparingly!

Large Olive Oil

Steam, Bake or Grill Instead of Frying Your Foods

There are a number of ways you can cook your food. Frying techniques, such as deep-frying, pan-frying and stir-frying involve the use of added fat (oils or butter), which are absorbed into your food. Steaming, baking, or grilling are all techniques that use little or no added fat, and are a great way to reduce fat intake in your diet with minimal extra effort. Try baking your poultry or steaming your fish.

Make Meals For Your Whole Week

Time is probably the biggest factor when it comes to not eating well. Many people opt for takeaway or frozen foods because they simply don’t have the time to cook. A simple solution? Prepare your meals in advance!

This is particularly useful for lunchtime meals. Taking the time on a Sunday evening to prepare enough food for a whole week’s worth of lunches can save you loads of hassle during the week, and save you from the temptation of choosing takeaway food. It is also a great way to ensure your getting plenty of nutrients to keep you going during the day – we all know it’s hard enough getting out the door in the morning without the added stress of having to make a healthy lunch.

Wholegrains

Switch to Whole Grains

This couldn’t be easier! When choosing what kind of carbs to buy in the supermarket, make the switch to whole grains. Whole grains foods are those that have been made using all parts of the grain – the fibrous bran, the nutritious germ and the carb-rich endosperm. These are the healthiest parts of the grain, packed with fibre, vitamins and minerals which you won’t find in white rice, regular pasta, white bread or white flour. Whole grain foods taste very similar, and you’ll be doing yourself a huge favour by making the switch.

Switch to Low Fat Dairy

Dairy products such as milk, yogurt and cream are a good source of calcium and other nutrients and are an important component of many meals. By simply replacing full-cream dairy products with low-fat or nonfat in your cooking you can cut out all that unhealthy saturated fat.

Get Smart with Seasoning

Salt is the most common ingredient in savoury cooking, and an essential part of our diet, but too much of it is linked with a range of heath issues, such as high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. Health authorities around the world recommend consuming no more than 1 teaspoon a day. This can be tricky, even if you do make your own food at home. Get smart with your seasoning, and look past the salt shaker for other options such as herbs, spices and citrus. (Tip: many canned foods have salt added too, so keep an eye on these, and if you can, choose salt-free options).

5 Things You Can Do Every Day to Keep Your Heart In Great Shape

Keeping your heart in great shape is one of the most important things you can do for your overall wellbeing. Here are 5 tips for a healthy heart.

Your heart is one of the most important organs in your body, responsible for pumping blood and providing nutrients to all of your body parts. So keeping your heart healthy should be one of the primary concerns when it comes to your overall welling. And, as many of the common heart conditions are lifestyle-related, there are some simple steps you can take in your day-to-day life towards a healthy heart.

First, some basic anatomy. The heart has two sides, left and right, separated by a muscular wall. Each side has a upper and lower section; totaling four main chambers. Your blood vessels (arteries, capillaries and veins) are like elastic tubes, arranged in a complex network, that carry blood to every part of the body.

Your arteries are responsible for the transportation of oxygenated blood away from the heart (with the exception of the pulmonary artery). Capillaries are the smaller blood vessels in your body’s tissue, which provide oxygen and nutrients to the cells. They are also responsible for transporting waste from the cells via your veins. Your veins are one-way thoroughfares that carry deoxygenated blood from the body to the heart, where it can be sent to the lungs for replenishment.

Now, with the particulars out of the way, let’s take a look at some things you can do everyday to keep your heart healthy.

Be Wary Of Smoking, Even If You’re Not a Smoker

Smoking is extremely detrimental to your heart health. It is one of the leading causes of heart disease, and a major contributor to a plethora of other chronic conditions. But is it also one of the leading controllable risk factors associated with these diseases. And it is in your hands to quit. After a year of giving it up, your risk of a heart attack falls to roughly half that of a smoker.

If you’re a non-smoker, brilliant! However, it is still important to be diligent when it comes to secondhand smoke. Studies have found that those who are exposed to secondhand smoke either at home or in the workplace at a greater risk of developing heart disease – as much as 25 to 30 percent. If you are already at risk of developing heart disease, due to say high blood pressure or high cholesterol, then be extra wary of cigarette smoke!

why sleep is important

Get Plenty of Sleep

Sleep is a major contributor to your overall wellbeing, and a lack of sleep is closely linked with everything from poor mental health to heart disease.

As the National Sleep Foundation note, “one study that examined data from 3,000 adults over the age of 45 found that those who slept fewer than six hours per night were about twice as likely to have a stroke or heart attack as people who slept six to eight hours per night.”

Although it isn’t fully understood how sleep affects heart health it thought to be linked with such biological processes as metabolism, blood pressure, and inflammation.

Keep Moving

Studies have suggested that prolonged sedentary lifestyles are closely linked with cardiovascular disease in adults, regardless of how much physical activity you do. This means that even if you get enough exercise every day, sitting for prolonged periods while at work can be detrimental to your heart health.

If you work a sedentary job, implement a regime that keeps you moving throughout the day: walk or ride to work, park further away so that you have to walk to get to the office, set designated break periods where you take a short stroll, and go for a walk at lunch.

Of course it is very important to get into the habit of doing at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise at least 5 times a week to promote good heart health. Try integrating this into your daily exercise routine. Cycle to work, play touch football at lunch, or go for a swim in the morning. Your heart will thank you for it.

Avocado

Watch What Kind of Fats You Are Eating

Despite negative connotations, fat is an essential part of our diet. But some fats are better for you than others. Polyunsaturated and unsaturated fats are good, and saturated fat is tolerable in small amounts. But trans fats are very detrimental to your heart health. This is because they contribute significantly to high cholesterol, by raising your bad cholesterol levels (LDL) and lowering your good cholesterol levels (HDL).

It is important for your heart health to cut trans fats out of your diet (and limit the amount of saturated fat you consume). Check the label of foods you buy, and be wary of fast food, processed foods, and frozen snacks. Trans fats are often listed as partially hydrogenated oils, so keep an eye out for these!

On the other hand, monounsaturated fats such as omega-3 and omega-6 are good for you in moderate amounts. These kinds of fats can be found in cold water fish like salmon and mackerel, avocados, olive oil and nuts.

Eat Plenty of Fruits and Vegetables

Eating a varied diet of fruit and vegetables everyday is one of the most important things you can do for your heart health. Fruit and vegetables are great for reducing weight, blood pressure and cholesterol, and they contain a wide variety of vitamins, minerals, fibre, and other nutrients that are crucial for a healthy heart.

As the Heart Foundation note, “choose a variety of types and colours of fruit and vegetables. The different colours offer different healthy nutrients.”

As a rule of thumb, aim to eat at least 5 serves of vegetables and 2 serves of fruit every day. Examples of a serving include half a cup of fruit juice, a medium-sized apple or banana, or 1 cup of leafy green vegetables.

References avaliable on request.

Can Your Cholesterol Be Too Low?

When it comes to managing cholesterol levels, the biggest concern for most is keeping your numbers down. But can your cholesterol be too low? Let’s take a look.

We’ve all heard about high cholesterol, and most of us know that having it is a major health concern. Too much cholesterol in the bloodstream is closely linked with cardiovascular disease, as high levels contribute to the buildup of fatty deposits in the arteries.

This can interrupt the flow of blood to vital organs, and can result in a heart attack or stroke. All doctors will tell you to aim for low cholesterol to reduce the risk of this happening. But can your cholesterol be too low? Let’s take a look.

What Is Cholesterol and What Does It Do?

First it is important to understand what cholesterol is and how it functions in the body. If you’d like to read a more in-depth explanation, you can read our guide on what is cholesterol. But here’s a quick rundown.

Cholesterol is an insoluble waxy substance that is carried around the body in the blood. Our liver naturally produces most of the cholesterol we need, but it also comes from what what we consume.

Despite common conceptions, cholesterol is vital to bodily function, and we could not live without it. It is found every cell of our body, and is a crucial building block in cell membranes. It’s also used to make vitamin D, a range of important hormones, including testosterone and estrogen, and stomach acids, which are vital for breaking down the food we eat.

The Difference Between Good and Bad Cholesterol

Cholesterol travels around the body in packages of fats and proteins known as a lipoproteins. There are two main types of these, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL).

LDL is what is known as bad cholesterol. Yes, our body requires LDL to transport cholesterol from the liver to parts of the body that need it. However, an excess of LDL in the bloodstream can lead to a buildup of cholesterol in the arteries (called plaque).

HDL, on the other hand, is known as good cholesterol. It is what collects excess cholesterol and transports it to the liver to be broken down and removed. It can be considered as a protective mechanism in your bloodstream.

Veggies Cholesterol

Can Your Cholesterol Be Too Low?

Your total cholesterol is the overall amount of cholesterol found in your blood. It consists of a composite reading of your LDL, HDL, and 20 percent of triglycerides (a type of fat found in the bloodstream).

In a 2013 health survey on cholesterol, the Australian Bureau of Statistics defined abnormal levels of each component as the following:

HDL – Generally speaking, the higher this number the better. Less than 1.0 mmol/L for men and less than 1.3 mmol/L for women is considered abnormal.

LDL – Generally speaking, the lower this number the better. LDL cholesterol greater than or equal to 3.5 mmol/L is considered abnormal.

Triglycerides – Your triglyceride levels should be below 2.0 mmol/L.

But what if your reading is low? Is this an issue?

Understandably, there hasn’t been anywhere near as much research into the effects of having low cholesterol as there has been on high cholesterol, so there is still much yet to discover. However, there have been some studies on the subject.

One particularly study found that, even in cases of very low LDL cholesterol, “critical capacities of steroid hormone and bile acid production are preserved”, which is good.

However, it also found that very low levels of LDL cholesterol may be associated with an increased risk of depression and anxiety (possibly linked with decreased vitamin A production), cancer, and premature birth or low birth weight if cholesterol is low while pregnant. However, these connections require further research.

Although having low cholesterol is unlikely, and the evidence to suggest it is linked with chronic illness is inadequate, it is still important to be aware of your cholesterol levels by having them checked every 4-6 years.

Having high cholesterol should be the primary concern, and the possibility of having low cholesterol should not be a deterrent from doing everything you can to keep your numbers down. However, if you’re feeling the symptoms of depression, anxiety, or instability, low cholesterol might be a factor you want to consider.

References avaliable on request.