The Benefits of Elderberries Throughout the Year

Benefits of ElderberriesDuring the flu/cold season, I posted “What are Elderberries and What Can They Do for Me” . The focus was on how they help during the winter. For many people, elderberry is their go-to to ward off or shorten flu and colds. But there are many other benefits of elderberries. The benefits of this unique fruit can be gained all year-round.

Before I get into that, I must tell you why elderberries have come to mind now. Late summer and early fall was when elderberries were ripe and ready to pick along the rural roads when I was growing up in southern Wisconsin. It was always such a treat to find them and bring them home to be carefully taken off the stems, washed and readied for pie or jelly.

Elderberries

Elderberries then were a treat which we looked forward to. Until recent years, when I found and began purchasing the jelly and learning more about it, I had no idea of all the health value of these tiny berries. They have become one of the superfoods sold in various forms: fresh or dried berries, syrups, extracts, supplements and tablets, and jellies. There are even gummies now for those who prefer that type of supplement!

Benefits of Elderberries 

Elderberries help lower blood sugar levels by stimulating glucose metabolism (study in the Journal of Nutrition). This can be both a preventive and assist if you are struggling with your blood sugar levels.

Elderberry is often used as a diuretic, whether as the fruit (fresh or dried), a supplement or syrup. Using it in your food – a smoothie, in tea, in baked goods, or as jelly on bread – or taking it in other forms are all helpful. It also improves digestion and general gut health.

Many berries are high in antioxidants, and elderberries are no exception. They have lots of vitamin C, flavonoids as well as additional immune-strengthening compounds. All of these help us stay healthy and fight off infections by protecting our cells.

Allergy season is actually multiple allergy seasons, depending on what you are specifically allergic to. Allergens tend to increase inflammation in your body, which leads to symptoms like swelling, redness, itching, coughing and congestion. Elderberry boosts your immune system as described above and also helps reduce the inflammation.

And there’s more! Elderberry can improve bone and joint health, thanks to the various natural properties of the plant, including the anti-inflammatory properties and the antioxidants. It can be of value to those with arthritis and osteoporosis.

In addition to the internal health benefits, elderberry promotes healthy skin by improving skin rejuvenation. There are commercial products like scrubs, tinctures, and masks available through shops that sell natural beauty products. These can provide softer, more supple, glowing skin and also help with acne and blemishes.

 

As the benefits of elderberry have become more widely known, more and more products like syrups, supplements, gummies, etc. have been developed. A variety of them can be found here: https://amzn.to/2KRWZkd
Dried elderberries and powder can also be purchased: https://amzn.to/2Hkc4sz , as well as teas: https://amzn.to/31U5cK8

These tiny berries pack a wallop! Give them a try and see how they benefit you.

Are Seasonal Allergies Plaguing You?

sneezingSpring brings a lot of beauty into your life – you are able to enjoy the outdoors thanks to the warmer weather and get to enjoy all the new fresh flowers and produce. Unfortunately, with more time outdoors and new flower growth comes the unfortunate seasonal allergies for many people. If you suffer from spring allergies, you may have tried many over-the-counter products, even getting prescriptions from your doctor. There are also natural remedies that can help. Of course, we are all different and what works for one person doesn’t work for another. You may find something that works for you!

Use Raw Honey
Among the different natural remedies for seasonal allergies, using honey is one of the best options. The trick here is to go for raw honey, preferably local honey instead of what you find in the supermarket or health food store. If you have a farmer’s market near you, that is probably the best place to find local, raw honey. Honey can not only help you relieve your current allergy symptoms, but using it on a regular basis year-round can actually help you build up a tolerance to those pesky spring allergies.

Eat Anti-Inflammatory Foods
Your diet may also need to change when you start experiencing allergy symptoms. Follow an anti-inflammatory diet that consists of foods like broccoli, ginger, avocado, chia seeds, beetroot, pineapples, and nuts. You want to avoid foods that tend to cause extra inflammation and might worsen seasonal allergy symptoms, including dairy, fried foods, corn oil, and processed foods. Sticking to a diet mostly of clean and fresh ingredients will make a big difference in how you feel.

Try Essential Oils
Essential oils can be very healing for you, with many of them being great for allergy symptoms. With the right oils, you can reduce your allergy symptoms, getting a break from the headaches, coughing, sneezing, and breathing issues. The best oils for springtime allergies are basil, peppermint, and eucalyptus. These have a fresh scent that is perfect for spring, just make sure you get the pure essential oils and not fragrance oils. You can use a diffuser when you are at home and explore other options for when you are not. Here’s a list of possibilities: https://oneessentialcommunity.com/25-ways-to-diffuse-essential-oils-without-a-diffuser/

Apple Cider Vinegar
If you have been reading about natural remedies, you have probably run across apple cider vinegar more than once. This seems to be a cure-all for everything from digestive issues to helping with heartburn. It also happens to be excellent when you have seasonal allergies. It is going to detox your lymphatic system and reduce mucus production, which helps with the coughing and sneezing from your spring allergies. It can be as simple as putting 2-3 tablespoons of organic apple cider vinegar into a glass of filtered water, adding local honey to taste, or your favorite juice. Drink this before each meal.

May you find a way to alleviate your spring allergies!!

What are Elderberries and What Can They do for Me?


Elderberries for Health
Elderberries are one of the “hot” nutritional items these days. Perhaps you haven’t even heard of this plant until recently. I have great childhood memories of picking elderberries off roadside bushes in rural southern Wisconsin. The berries, after being painstakingly stripped off the stems were made into wonderful pies and jelly by my grandmother and mother. The bushes slowly disappeared as roads were widened and other factors affected them. I always loved the flavor and was thrilled to find the jelly at farmers’ markets in more recent years. I had no idea of the health benefits as I spread the delicacy on toast and biscuits!

Elderberries are seen as beneficial to health in many ways and are now cultivated widely. The focus of this article is on how elderberries boost immunity and can alleviate cold and flu symptoms.

Everyone wants more antioxidants in their body, and during flu and cold system this is especially important. Elderberry, like many other fruits and herbs, provides an exceptional amount of antioxidants. Antioxidants work to keep you from getting illnesses and fight off infections since they protect your cells from free radicals. These free radicals can do a lot of damage to your body, lowering your immune system, and making you susceptible to illness.

Elderberry also has vitamin C, which is another great way to raise your immunity and keep you from getting illnesses and chronic diseases. Elderberry has about the same amount of antioxidants as other berries, including goji berries, blackberries, and blueberries, also with a high amount of flavonoids. Additional immune-strengthening compounds also exist in elderberry, another great bonus.

Taking a dosage daily of one of the elderberry syrups or juices on the market can be a preventative measure during flu and cold season. If you feel symptoms coming on, up your intake of the handy medicinal elderberry syrup.

Research has shown that elderberry syrup works wonders for various symptoms related to these illnesses, including congestion and headaches from both the cold and flu, inflammation, and digestive issues as the result of the influenza (flu). You can try a little elderberry syrup alternating with traditional cold medicine, or try just the elderberry with other natural remedies for a day or two to see if you notice any changes.

I have found elderberry syrup quite effective in fighting off the first symptoms and diminishing the time of a cold if I wait too long to start taking elderberry syrup.

As always, consult your doctor before trying any natural remedies. With a flu, if you have a high fever or dehydration, get medical attention right away.

There is an incredible amount of information available for your perusal. In the meantime, I suggest a couple of products that I have tried and which have been helpful. (These are my affiliate links; as always, you never pay more to use them.)

Elderberry Syrup

Elderberry Extract  –  Not as sweet as the syrup

Elderberry Lozenges

There are also dried elderberries available for you to use in teas and to make your own syrup, etc.

Dried Elderberries

 

Hygge as Self Care in Tough Times

HyggeThe weather outside may be frightful – whether a winter of record-breaking low temperatures, rainfall, snowfall, etc. or a summer of extreme heat and humidity with storms, floods or hurricanes – depending on where you live. Hygge attitudes and practices can help us get through weather extremes of all kinds and other stresses any time of year.

Perhaps it’s not the weather but other factors that are causing stress and anxiety. Personal or societal tensions and conflicts abound. There are things we can all do to regain and maintain our equilibrium and inner peace.

I invite you to embrace the Hygge principles of self-care like togetherness, relaxation, indulgence, presence, and comfort. Small effort and not much money are required for this and the payoffs can be significant.

Anne Roderique-Jones provides a fun overview of Hygge and its benefits in this article  “I Practiced Hygge and It’s Kind of the Best Thing Ever” which appeared in the December 25, 2018 issue of Self Magazine. After reading The Little Book of Hygge and implementing its suggestions, her conclusion was:

While hygge is not just about making sure you have (certain) elements in your space—after all, the main component of hygge is that you’re feeling present and spending quality time with yourself or your loved ones—the book did offer up plenty of advice that helped me get to that feeling of coziness and contentment. All in all, I can say with certainty that hygge is my jam. … Right now, when our world feels a little bit uncertain, hygge is a way to practice self-care that feels sincere.

Self care isn’t an escape from reality. It is a way to refill yourself with the energy, focus, and peace that will enable you to do your best, whatever the situation.

The Little Book of Hygge will get you started.

Hygge – the Art of Coziness in Winter and Beyond


Time to Hygge

Baby, it’s COLD outside!  It’s time to hygge!

You have probably heard the word “hygge” or seen Pinterest photos related to it. The Cambridge Dictionary defines it as “a Danish word for a quality of coziness (= feeling warm, comfortable, and safe) that comes from doing simple things such as lighting candles, baking, or spending time at home with your family.” The practice originated and thrives in Denmark, and other Scandinavian countries as well. The Danes believe in simplifying your life in order to bring in more positivity, comfort and contentment – and it is effective. Denmark regularly comes out as #1 in the World Happiness Report.

Hygge is all about being cozy, warm, comfortable, positive, and happy. You spend more time with family and friends. You forget the notions of material possessions and simplify your life. You spend more time in front of the fire while snuggling under a warm blanket.

This and so much more is what hygge represents. This brief video from Denmark provides a window into what it means and how it is lived there:  Hygge

Some basic elements of Hygge include creating a relaxed atmosphere, encouraging more family time, and inviting friends over for non-electronic activities. This is easily done by having lots of blankets and pillows where you spend relaxing time, adding candles and essential oils for flickering light and pleasant aromas, having great books laying around, playing relaxing music, utilizing your fireplace if you have one, and indulging in treats – beverages and sweets in particular.

Some may see this as indulgent; the Danes and others recognize it as effective self-care. If you haven’t tried it in an intentional way, this winter is a great time to do so.

If you want to learn more about it from a Dane, here’s a link to the book mentioned in the video, written by a researcher at the Happiness Research Institute:        The Little Book of Hygge

Multi-Tasking: Is It As Beneficial as We Imagine?


multi-tasking
Multi-tasking seems to be a fact of life for most of us these days. With all there is to do, learn, and manage, it seems necessary. But as with so many other things, there are plusses and minuses; and it benefits us to consider those factors and manage our use of multi-tasking accordingly.

Does multi-tasking affect your health? It may seem like it is increasing productivity and saving you time and energy, and many of us are proud of our multi-tasking abilities. However, ongoing research has confirmed that multi-tasking can have negative effects on levels of productivity and, in some cases, of our overall brain health.

Multi-tasking Is Safe Only If Different Stimuli Are Used

Experts agree that multi-tasking is safer if the tasks involved do not use the same stimuli, such as reading a message from the laptop while listening to music. Our brain is not designed to deal with the same stimulus challenge at the exact same time.

That is why driving a vehicle and texting on a phone at the same time is considered extremely dangerous. You are using the same visual stimulus. They are both competing for the same limited focus. Although it appears you are multi-tasking, you can only be actively engaged with one or the other.

So instead of doing two things at once, you are actually rapidly switching from one to the other, and back again. If your attention is attracted to the phone for a second too long, the job of consciously controlling the vehicle ceases, and catastrophe can follow.

Another example is when you are attempting to listen to multiple conversations around you. I know I have tried to do that. But it is impossible to really listen to two people who are talking to you simultaneously, because your auditory stimulus becomes overwhelmed.

Multi-tasking Can Harm Your Memory Ability

If you find yourself multi-tasking, each task in which your mind is engaged will drain a part of your mental energy. As your mental energy drains, you become more absent-minded. This is because your mind begins to drift.

Even if you could complete the two tasks successfully, you will quite probably not recall how you completed the tasks. This is because our brain does not have the ability to fully focus on two or several tasks at the same time.

Each time you multi-task, your mind becomes a juggling act. When you multitask, you are diluting your mind’s investment towards each task.

When Multi-taskers Think They Perform Better

A study headed by Zheng Wang of Ohio State University (Multi-Tasking Study, Ohio State University)showed that people who were text messaging while being asked to focus on the images displayed on a computer monitor had decreased levels of performance.

What makes this finding even more troubling is that those subjects who were asked to multi-task using the same visual stimulus, believed they performed better, although the results showed the opposite.

Their ability to focus on images displayed on their computer monitor plummeted up to 50% even though they thought they were performing perfectly. The same study participants were asked to multi-task using different stimuli, such as visual and auditory, and even then were found to have reduced levels of performance as much as 30%.

Professor Wang stated that performance level perception when multi-tasking is not the same, as the results proved. Researchers have also found that media multi-tasking increases your risks of developing impaired cognitive control.

The most current research is confirming that multi-tasking means “performing multiple tasks sub-optimally”. Unfortunately, in addition to productivity losses, there is a compounding, taxing burden placed on the mental and emotional faculties. This results in accumulated stress, which is already a very real problem for many, if not most, to some degree.

Although technology today makes it difficult for us to avoid multi-tasking, we can manage the effect on our performance of tasks and on our health. Awareness and trying to remove the overload on your mind as much as possible can be very helpful.

There many approaches to productivity; check out some of the books available about multitasking and productivity:

Multitasking and Productivity

Great Superfood Choices for Summer

Superfood - Cherries

Many of us eat differently in the summer, particularly when the temperatures are hottest.  We eat lighter, and often healthier.  We can make intentionally improve our nutrition by making great superfood choices.

Superfoods are foods that contain more nutrients than average: very high in vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, and more. Here are 13 that you can benefit from and enjoy during these summer months.

1. Cherries
Cherries have multiple amazing antioxidants. One of them is anthocyanin which provides easing of inflammation in your body and can help with joint pain. You can eat either fresh or frozen cherries.

2. Kiwi
Kiwi is sweet with a little tartness and includes many essential vitamins and minerals. It is a potassium powerhouse: a cup of sliced kiwi has the same amount of potassium as a cup of bananas. It also is lower in sugar and calories than many potassium-laden fruits and veggies with 7 grams of sugar – along with 5 grams of fiber – in a serving.

3. Bell Peppers
Choose all colors of bell peppers, such as green, yellow, orange, and red. In fact, using multiple colors adds vibrancy to your meals and often gives you a variance in the nutrients you get. Bell peppers contain vitamins and minerals like vitamin C, vitamin B6, potassium, and phytonutrients. Plus, they are very low in fat and calories.

4. Herbs
Most herbs are considered superfoods since they contain so many wonderful vitamins and minerals, but here are some of the best ones to find in the summer:
Basil – Nutrients in basil include vitamin A, vitamin K, manganese, vitamin C, omega=3 fatty acids, magnesium, iron, folate, and calcium.
Cilantro – Cilantro is extremely low in cholesterol, but it contains vitamins like C, E, A, and K. It also has dietary fiber, iron, potassium, magnesium, and calcium.
Parsley – Like many other herbs, it contains a good amount of folate, iron, vitamin A, vitamin K, and vitamin C.

5. Swiss Chard
Swiss Chard is another type of dark, leafy green vegetable just like spinach and kale, except it is a little more bitter. It is full of phytonutrients, especially in the red-purple stems and veins of this vegetable. That is where you get a lot of the nutrients. Swiss chard also contains potassium and magnesium, two nutrients that are essential for a healthy, well-balanced diet. Eat it raw or cooked; if you cook it, it will be less bitter.

6. Lemons
Lemons are loaded with vitamin C and antioxidants and also contain fiber and micronutrients, as well as being very low in calories. There are endless ways to use them, but here are a few ideas:
Infused Water – Add lemons to water (as well as other fruits you may choose). A simple sugar-free strawberry lemon water tastes like lemonade, without added sweeteners.
Lemon Ice Cubes – Just add lemon juice to an ice cube tray and cover with filtered water. Add these to every glass of water you drink for nutrients and flavor.
Garlic Lemon Sauces – Make a citrus sauce or dressing and use them in a casserole with chicken, over a light salad, on pasta, or even to coat veggies.

7. Spinach
Spinach is more nutrient-dense than romaine or iceberg lettuce and makes a healthy salad on its own or combined with other greens. The top nutrients in spinach include Vitamin K, Vitamin A, Vitamin B2, Iron, Folate, Copper, Vitamin B6, Vitamin E, Manganese and Magnesium.

8. Avocado
Avocado is actually a fruit, and often considered a “superfruit” – or a superfood fruit. You get a lot of great fiber in avocados, plus vitamins and minerals like vitamin C, vitamin B6, vitamin E, vitamin K, beta-carotene, omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, and potassium.

9. Watermelon
Watermelon is relatively low in calories, is fresh, sweet, and has a high water content so a little bit goes a long way. It is also loaded with nutrients including Vitamin C and Vitamin A, which help reduce inflammation, lower your blood pressure, and even protect your skin from UV rays thanks to the lycopene.

10. Strawberries
Strawberries have a higher-than-average amount of vitamin C. They are very antioxidant-rich to help fight illnesses and boost your immune system, and contain an excellent amount of manganese, a mineral that helps improve your health and vitality. Other important nutrients in this fruit are potassium and B vitamins.

11. Summer Squash
There are many different varieties of squash, from yellow squash to zucchini, but not all of them are available year-round. Summer squash have a good amount of vitamin C, as well as lutein and xeaxanthin. You can get help preventing a summer cold thanks to some squash in your diet. You can eat them raw, make a roasted veggie side dish with other veggies, saute with olive oil and seasonings, and include them in a pasta dish.

12. Peaches
Peaches not only have vitamin C, but peaches also contain potassium and fiber. Besides eating them fresh and whole, they can be added to salads, served over ice cream or yogurt, or grilled for a sidedish.

13. Blueberries
Blueberries contain vitamin C, fiber, vitamin K, and manganese. They are low in fat and calories as well. Enjoy your blueberries many different ways, such as on your salads, mixed in with yogurt or granola, as a side dish, or just a light snack.

Eat light and healthy with these Summer Superfoods!!

INFUSED WATER: EXPANDING YOUR WATER OPTIONS

Infused water is the process of adding fruits, vegetables, and herbs to your water, then letting these ingredients flavor the water. Infused water expands your water options by providing a variety of tastes, plus nutrients from the produce and herbs. These waters will make water more appealing so you want to drink more.

Here are the basics: filtered water is always better, both for quality and flavor. Start with room temperature or cold water.

Organic produce is best because there aren’t added fertilizers and other chemicals. If not using organic produce, wash more carefully.

Rinse all fruits or vegetables well and cut them at least in half to release their flavors. Hard fruits or vegetables like cucumber and apples need to be cut into thin slices. Herbs should be crushed to release their oils, with the exception of leafy herbs like mint or basil.

Put your produce into a pitcher designed for infusing (see below).  Alternatively, you can use a glass pitcher or BPA-free and food-safe container. Then add the water.

Let the water infuse on the counter for about 2 hours, or in the refrigerator for 4-6 hours or overnight.

Ideally, drink the infused water within 24-48 hours after completion of the infusing process. If you go into a third day, remove the produce.

You can replenish the water 2-3 times with the same produce if it is in within the first day or a little longer.

Here is one of a number of infusion pitchers available through Amazon.com. These are especially great if you don’t want the fruit or vegetables floating around in your water and have to dip them out.