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FOOD

How to Save Money at Christmas

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The festive season gets expensive very quickly, and if you’re living on a tight budget, it can feel impossible to do all the things you want to do. Sometimes, you just have to put on the breaks and say no. But there are plenty of ways to stretch your cash to make it go as far as possible. If you’re looking to reduce your festive spend, start with these easy tricks.

1. Change Where You Shop For Food

If you have a little time to research, you can make big savings by splitting your food shop across different stores. Multibuy deals, offers, and so on can help to reduce your weekly shopping bill, but you can make even bigger savings if you switch supermarkets entirely. Aldi and Lidl are particularly brilliant during the festive season, when they stock all kinds of brilliant continental treats at low prices (hello, Lebkuchen and Stroopwafels!) as well as cheap own-brand versions of pricey essentials like washing powder and dishwasher tablets. If you simply must buy recognisable brands, check for deals and offers on a website like MySupermarket. And don’t forget Amazon Fresh, if you’re lucky enough to live in an area that offers the service.

2. Use Your Loyalty Points Carefully

A lot of people save up their loyalty card points for festive food shopping trips, and while it is amazing to watch the cost of your shopping drop, you can often make those points go even further if you’re clever. Nectar often runs its Double Up deal before to Christmas, when you can exchange your points for vouchers worth twice the usual value to spend in certain departments. In 2019 it’s taking place from the end of October to mid-November. You’ll apparently need to go online or use the Nectar App to be able to participate. Tesco Clubcard has a “clubcard boost” program, offering extra value when you use points at partners like Cineworld, Goldsmiths jewellers, and Pizza Express.

3. Set a Present Budget With Friends and Family

Gift-giving does not have to be a game of financial one-upmanship. The best gifts are the most thoughtful, not the most expensive. So agree to set a limit with people you buy for each year, and stick to it. For as little as £5 or £10, you can find (or DIY) some really lovely gifts. Or, even better, just agree to forego gifts entirely this year.

4. Reduce Your Christmas Card List

Some people really enjoy sending and receiving Christmas cards, and it’s important to show them that you care. You can also help charities by purchasing their cards each year. But if money is tight buying, writing, and posting dozens (if not hundreds) of cards is something to consider cutting down on, especially as most of them just end up in the recycling bin once we hit January. Firing off an e-card or Facebook message isn’t quite so festive, but for many people it’s just as effective. If you’re tech-minded, try building a Christmas website filled with news and photos from the year for your friends and family to see. If you are seeing people over Christmas (or if they live within walking distance), wish them a Merry Christmas in person instead. Surely a hug is just as good as a piece of cardboard?

5. Cut Down on Unnecessary Festive Food and Drink

We’ve heard tales of people who cook Brussels sprouts on Christmas Day even though nobody in the family eats them, of families who buy cranberry sauce but never open the jar . . . and how many of us have a half-empty and out-of-date bottle of Baileys or Tia Maria lurking in the back of a cupboard from last Christmas? Wasting food is not only expensive but also incredibly bad for the environment. Don’t feel obliged to follow every tradition just because it’s Christmas. If everyone in the family thinks chicken is better than turkey, why buy an expensive bird you won’t enjoy? Do you really need that second tin of Quality Street just because it’s on offer? Most of us are guilty of overeating during the festive season, and it’s all part of the fun, but don’t let all those deals, offers, and traditions encourage you into buying stuff you don’t need. If you do accidentally buy something you don’t need and it can’t be frozen, donate it to a food bank as soon as you can and help those who’re truly struggling this Christmas.

6. Start Stocking Up Now

Shops and supermarkets will do anything to get your custom during the holiday season, and that includes all manner of great deals during November and the first weeks of December. This is prime time for online vouchers, friends-and-family discounts, coupons, and discount codes. Sign up for every email newsletter you can, and make sure you have reward cards (but not store cards!) for all your favourite shops. Perishable items will obviously have to wait until the days before Christmas Eve, but everything else can be purchased ahead of time (just make sure to find a good hiding place if you have kids). Ideally, you can then spread your festive buys over multiple paycheques, and you can take advantage of great deals on clothes, toys, drinks, and long-life food items that can be stored away until needed. As well as many offers and sales, two particularly big events happen ahead of Christmas: “Singles Day” on Nov. 11 (a great time to buy from Chinese retailers) and Black Friday and cyber weekend, from Nov. 29.

7. Never Underestimate the Power of the Pound Shop

If you’re smart about it, you can decorate your Christmas tree for about £10 by shopping for decorations at Poundland or the 99p Store. During the festive season, these shops are a goldmine of great decorations, affordable gifts, beauty buys, and even food and drink. “Pound shop hampers” are also great gift for people who’re tricky to buy for.

8. Collaborate!

If you have siblings, cousins, colleagues, or friends and you’re all buying for the same person, consider going in on one gift instead of all buying small things. Not only will you save money, but you can probably buy the recipient something a bit more special, even if you’re all limited when it comes to funds. Encourage people to do the same for you, too, so this becomes a habit over the years.

9. Don’t Be Afraid to Say No

The festive season often means lots of social events, and all those dinners, drinks, and nights out can get very expensive. While you want to honour your friendships and catch up with people, it’s important to remember that you don’t have to end up in credit card debt to do so. Chances are most people are in a similar boat as you, so don’t be afraid to suggest catching up in a more frugal way. Instead of a night at the pub, try a coffee or a walk in the park. Instead of a dinner out, how about a pot-luck buffet at someone’s house? Good friends will understand that you don’t have the cash to buy endless rounds or three-course dinners.

10. Celebrate Late

OK, this one’s extreme, but if you’re really trying to save money and you’re not religious or restricted by work holiday, try celebrating later than usual. Push your big Christmas dinner back just a few days and you can take advantage of all kinds of reduced food and drink items, plus you can buy gifts in the Boxing Day sales. On top of this, if you have a job where people are required to work on Dec 25., you can be the one to make double or triple pay. Needless to say, this is perhaps an idea for adult-only households (unless you have very understanding kids)!

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Blake Smith



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HEALTH

Is Grace Beverley’s Shreddy Fitness App Worth the Money?

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If you haven’t heard of British fitness influencer Grace Beverley, then we’re pretty sure at least one of your friends has. In the same week she announced the launch of her fitness app Shreddy, she won the NatWest GBEA London’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year award. Shreddy is a fitness app filled with recipes, workouts, and a built-in community of like-minded people who’re trying to better themselves. Though we’re fans of the app and certainly have our own opinions, we wanted to break down some things to consider before downloading the app for yourself.

Grace decided to take Shreddy mobile after selling more than 200,000 PDF workout guides, and with over 1.5 million social media followers, we’d assume she has a pretty good idea of what people want and need in the fitness space. So is Shreddy worth the monthly investment?



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FOOD

Wild Rice with Roasted Grapes & Walnuts Vegan Recipe

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Last weekend, Chris and I decided to get AppleTV. My plan was to get it, subscribe to Hulu, and then start watching old episodes of Rock of Love immediately. I was so excited that on the way to Best Buy, I sang the Rock of Love theme song, and since I only know approximately 3 lines from it (including “touch my backstage pass” which: ew, Bret Michaels, really???), I’m sure that was pretty annoying to listen to. (My poor husband puts up with so much. Seriously.)

When we got home and I was scrolling through to find Rock of Love, I found all of these other trashy reality shows I had forgotten about though. The Surreal Life! I Love New York! Daisy of Love! Weren’t things so much better back then? Wasn’t life so much simpler? Anyway, my goal is to work out while watching these shows, so by the time I catch up on all of them, I’ll be in the best shape of my life. I’ll be able to throw trays of Lean Cuisine stuffed cabbage across a tour bus with the strength of an olympic shot putter. Also, if you work out while watching crappy reality shows, it’s okay. Did you know that? It’s true. Don’t you believe me? You should.

Roasted Grapes
Discovering old favorites is awesome, right? So here’s another old favorite: wild rice! Wild rice is not as cool and happening as quinoa or freekeh, but you shouldn’t forget about it because it too is a delicious whole grain. (And did you know it’s actually a grass and not rice at all? It’s a fact!) Wild rice is one of those things that I rarely make, but whenever I do, I think, “I need to make this more often.” And then I don’t because I don’t really know what to do with it.

Well, here’s what I did with it. I roasted some grapes and sliced shallots and tossed them with wild rice, walnuts, and sage. It’s simple, but delicious–it’s one of those recipes that seems like there’s not much to it and you don’t expect it to blow you away when you try it, but then it does. Yes, I’m telling you that this wild rice recipe will blow your mind. If you haven’t had roasted grapes before, I’m pretty sure they’re about to be your new favorite thing.

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Wild Rice with Roasted Grapes & Walnuts

Wild Rice with Roasted Grapes & Walnuts Recipe

Wild rice tossed with oven-roasted red grapes, shallots, and toasted walnuts.

  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 40 minutes
  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: 4-6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups red seedless grapes
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup wild rice, cooked according to package directions
  • 1/2 cup walnut pieces, toasted
  • 1 tbsp + 2 tsp olive oil, divided
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp fresh sage leaves, chopped
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Toss the grapes and shallot with 2 teaspoons of olive oil. Transfer to a baking sheet that’s been sprayed with oil or lined with parchment paper and roast for about 20 minutes, or until the grapes are softened, but not burst.
  3. Transfer the grapes and shallot to a large bowl. Add rice, walnuts, remaining oil, vinegar, and sage; gently toss, careful not to smash the grapes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
About

Kiersten is the founder and editor of Oh My Veggies.



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FITNESS

The Best Hamstring Exercises For All Levels Of Gym-Goer

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You probably already know that spending all day sitting at a desk is not great for your lower back, and you might well also know that it’s not doing your glutes any favours. However, you may not be aware that your hamstrings also suffer as a result of long days in the office.

“The hamstrings bend and stabilise the knee, and are one of the most underworked muscles in the body,” says Emma Harbage, personal trainer at Snap Fitness Burntwood. “Most of us spend the day sitting on our hamstrings with bent knees, causing them to be weak yet tight.”

Furthermore, when we do hit the gym many of us neglect the hamstrings in our workouts, because they’re not easiest muscles in the body to target. To remedy that, take note of these beginner, intermediate and advanced hamstring exercises selected by Harbage.

“Keep your rep ranges above ten to 15,” says Harbage. “There is no need to go heavy – go slow and focus on good form to ensure maximum muscle fibre engagement.”

Beginner Hamstring Exercises

Hamstring curl

“These come in two variations, seated and lying on your front, both done on a weights machine,” says Harbage. “The lying-down variation is better, because you are not sitting on your hamstrings as they move, but both versions are highly effective.

“Get on the machine [either sitting or lying] with your legs outstretched and set the bar around the mid calf/upper ankle. Keep your legs as straight as possible in the starting position to ensure maximum stretch. Pull your heels back, tracking them towards your bum to contract the hamstring. Hold the squeeze position for a split second and then return to the start.

“These curls can be done with both legs, or one leg at a time. A top tip for an extra stretch is to contract with both legs, then when your hamstring is fully contracted, release the tension fully on one leg and lower the weight with the other leg. This overloads the eccentric phase of the movement where the muscle is strongest.”

Gym ball hamstring curl

“This is a very good beginner bodyweight movement,” says Harbage. “It may look easy but it’s not! It can also be performed with your feet in the handles of a suspension trainer.

“Lie on your back and place your heels up on a gym ball. Dig your heels into the ball and stabilise by bracing the core. Ensure your hips are high, bridging off the ground, and pull your heels to your bum, rolling the ball from a straight leg to a bent leg.”

Intermediate Hamstring Exercises

Partner Nordic raise

“The Nordic raise is a classic hamstring exercise that can be easily adjusted to progress as you get stronger,” says Harbage. “It’s fantastic for injury rehabilitation and no equipment is needed.

“Kneel down with your body upright and have your partner place their hands on your ankles to keep them on the floor. Keeping your torso as straight as possible, lower your chest and hips down to the ground. Then pull yourself back up using your hamstrings.

“Most beginners will need to perform a kneeling press-up to get back up, because these are tough. Make sure to lower slowly and go as low as you can before assisting with the hands. As you get stronger, use less and less upper-body assistance.”

Barbell good morning

“A good morning is a great hamstring and glute exercise when done properly,” says Harbage. “Some people struggle to feel this because they have incorrect upper-body position and bend the knees too much.

“The barbell should be placed on the back of your neck, just like a back squat starting position. Your feet should be narrower than for a squat, with your toes and heels forming a square, and your knees bent slightly. Bring your shoulders forwards, hinge forwards and drive your hips back, keeping your back flat. When you feel tension in your hamstrings, pull your upper body back up to the starting position to reset, keeping your back straight throughout. To feel a greater stretch place your toes on a small weight plate.”

Advanced Hamstring Exercises

Romanian deadlift

“Another classic hamstring exercise that, again, many people do incorrectly,” says Harbage. “Most people load up with too much weight and then fail to work the correct muscles. To start with, many people will find an empty bar is sufficient.

“Take hold of the bar and lift it to the top deadlift position. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart, or slightly narrower, and your knees should be slightly bent. Lower the bar, bending at your hips – the bar should shave your legs as you lower it. When you feel the tension in the hamstrings then pull directly up, like you’re pulling up a big pair of trousers, to return to the starting position, pushing your hips forwards and squeezing your glutes.

“Once you are comfortable with the movement, start adding weight.”

Barbell hip thrust

“The hip thrust is primarily a glute exercise, but there is also a good amount of hamstring activation during the move, especially when the upper body is propped up,” says Harbage.

“Place the barbell across your hips – you can use a mat or pad to protect the hip bones. Bend your knees at 90° with your body propped up on a bench or step – your upper back should be half on and half off. Lower your hips to the floor, then thrust them directly up. Your heels should be dug into the floor. Squeeze both the glutes and the hamstrings on every rep.”

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HEALTH

Why is Quinoa the mother of all grains – Health Benefits

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Popularly known as the “mother of all grains”, Quinoa was cultivated five thousand years ago in South America and has since been a staple in the region because of its nutritional and easy to prepare properties. As a result, it has slowly globalized and is now considered to be one of the best superfoods to consume by the health conscious.

Table of Contents:

What is quinoa?

Quinoa is a pseudo-cereal that rich in protein, fiber, and various minerals and vitamins. Although, quinoa acts as a whole grain, it is actually a seed from a plant called goosefoot. When cooked, quinoa is soft and fluffy, with a slightly nutty taste. It can also be made into flakes, flour, and foods like bread and pasta.

Quinoa seeds come in many varieties and different colors. However, the white, red, and black seeds are the most commonly harvested for consumption. The most common ‘white’ quinoa takes the shortest amount to cook and has the mildest flavor and crunchy texture, while the ‘red’ quinoa is known to be rich in flavor and crunch. The ‘black’ quinoa, on the other hand, is the most flavorful and crunchiest, requiring the longest cooking time. Apart from these colors, quinoa is also available in yellow, grey, orange, purple, pink, green or yellow, giving the consumer a wide variety to choose from.

Is Quinoa Healthy For you?

Quinoa is a good source of protein, fiber, iron, thiamine, copper, and vitamin B6. It is also considered to be an excellent source of phosphorous, manganese, magnesium, and folate. Therefore, the unusual composition and exceptional balance of protein and fat along with minerals, antioxidants, vitamins, and fatty acids make it a highly wholesome food.

5 Health benefits of quinoa

1. Quinoa is naturally gluten-free

If one falls under the spectrum of gluten-sensitivity, celiac disease or gluten intolerance, quinoa is the best alternative to a gluten-free diet as it can dramatically increase the nutrient and antioxidant value of your diet. It can be used in place of other gluten-free food items like potato, tapioca, and corn. It is also nutritionally better than rice as it provides the required intake of protein, calcium, iron, and fiber making the diet more balanced, thereby meeting the dietary requirements of the condition.

Quinoa-glutenfree

2. A rich source of protein

Quinoa is known to be one of the only few plant foods that is a complete protein food, which contains all nine essential amino acids, which the body cannot make on its own. It is a source of essential amino acids like lysine, methionine, and tryptophan. It has more protein than rice, corn, barley, and oats. Moreover, having protein on your plate is key to proper nutrition and maintaining blood, skin, muscle, bone, and health.

3. Loaded with minerals 

Many people do not get enough essential nutrients like potassium, magnesium, zinc and iron. Quinoa is very high in all four minerals, particularly magnesium and iron. Magnesium helps to relax blood vessels and helps in reducing type 2 diabetes, while promoting healthy blood sugar levels, and keeping the body healthy, free of headaches, muscle cramps, and insomnia.

Iron is one other nutrient that is necessary for a range of processes in the human body. The mineral is mainly required for the proper functioning of our red blood cells, higher and healthier muscle metabolism; and high brain functionality. Quinoa is full of iron and is the perfect food for those that suffer from iron deficiencies.

4. High in plant compounds

Quinoa contains large amounts of flavonoids. Flavonoids are a particular kind of antioxidants that fight to prevent diseases such as osteoporosis, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer. Two flavonoids that have been found in large amounts are Quercetin and Kaempferol. These flavonoids have been shown to have anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, and anti-depressant properties which helps keep oneself healthy and balanced.

5. Improves skin health

Quinoa contains lysine, which is a key ingredient that is a building block in synthesizing collagen and elastin. It helps repair damaged skin and counterbalances the oxidant effect of free radicals from sun and pollution exposure. It also helps reducing brown spots as the vitamin B found in quinoa reduces the dark melanin deposits that leads to age spots and other pigment related conditions. 

Quinoa-skin-health

Quinoa and Weight Loss

With quinoa being an insoluble fiber, it helps increase the feeling of fullness, keeping you fuller for longer and aiding in weight loss. As it is also rich in dietary fiber and protein, it increases metabolism and reduces food cravings, thereby decreasing calorie intake. Substituting traditional grains like rice or wheat with quinoa could be a small change that will provide more protein and fiber and help reach weight loss goals. Quinoa is particularly helpful for vegetarians trying to lose weight who have trouble finding foods that will fill them up. Quinoa is also low on the glycemic index (GI) and it means that quinoa is safe for diabetes  and helps keep blood sugar under control. Therefore, quinoa is an excellent choice for weight-conscious people, for it helps curb appetite and also adds a nice texture to food.

Quinoa-Reducing-weight
Quinoa aids weight loss

Nutrition Value of Quinoa

The nutritional value of a cup of cooked quinoa is:

  • Total calories: 222 Cal
  • Protein: 8 gm
  • Fiber: 5 gm
  • Carbs: 39 gm
  • Fat: 4 gm
  • Copper: 18% of the RDA
  • Iron: 15% of the RDA
  • Zinc: 13% of the RDA.
  • Potassium: 9% of the RDA
  • Phosphorus: 28% of the RDA
  • Folate: 19% of the RDA
  • Manganese: 58% of the RDA
  • Magnesium: 30% of the RDA
  • Over 10% of the RDA for vitamins B1, B2 and B6
  • Small amounts of calcium, B3 (niacin), vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids

Quinoa vs Millets

A rarity among grains, quinoa is a complete protein and contains all nine essential amino acids. It offers approximately 6 grams of protein per serving (1/2 cup). Millets, on the other hand, lack the essential amino acids and has a low overall protein constitute. However, apart from the difference in  protein, millets and quinoa are both excellent choices for they are both rich sources of fiber and antioxidants which fight disease causing free radicals.

In terms of cooking, quinoa preparation is very similar to rice and takes about 15 minutes to cook. Millets, however, is more demanding to cook as it quadruples in size. With lots of water, millets are fluffy grains that gives a texture between pasta and mashed potatoes. When serving, both grains have mild flavors, however, millets has a strong nutty taste and texture to it when compared.

Quinoa-vs-Millets
Quinoa vs Millets

Quinoa recipes

The uses of quinoa are diverse. Quinoa can be cooked for breakfast, as lunch serving or for dinner. White rice can be replaced by quinoa and food preparation will be significantly healthier. Below we share a recipe with quinoa, that can easily replace white rice in your diet. 

Quinoa vegetable pulao

Quinoa Vegetable Pulao
Quinoa Vegetable Puloa

Serving size: 4-5 people

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

• Quinoa – 1 cup

• Onion chopped – 1 cup

• Corn – 1/4 cup

• Chopped mixed vegetables (carrots, beans, cauliflower) – 1 cup

• Green peas – 1/4 cup

• Peanuts – 1 tbsp

• Ginger-garlic paste – 1 tbsp

• Ghee – 1 tbsp

• Cumin seeds – 1 tsp

• Cloves – 2-3

• Cinnamon -1-inch piece

• Black peppercorns – 4

• Bay leaf -1

• Salt to taste

• Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp

• Chili powder – 1 tsp

• Garam masala – 1 tsp

• Water – 2 cups

• Lemon juice – 1 tbsp

• Coriander leaves – 1 tbsp chopped

Instructions

1. Heat ghee in a non-stick pan. Add peanuts and sauté. Add cumin seeds and whole spices and bay leaf. Let seeds splutter. Add ginger-garlic and sauté for a few seconds. Now add the onions and sauté it for a minute.

2. Add mixed vegetables, corn and peas and sauté for a minute. Now add turmeric powder, chili powder, and garam masala. Let it cook for a minute. Wash the quinoa properly and add it into the sautéed veggie mixture. Cook for a minute and add water and salt to taste.

3. Cover with a lid and cook on low flame for 10 -15 minutes. Let the pulao sit for 5 minutes. Open the lid, fluff up with a fork and serve garnished with lemon juice and coriander leaves. 

Summary

Quinoa is a gluten-free, pseudo-cereal that is rich in carbohydrates, protein, vitamins and minerals. It contains all 9 essential amino acids making it a great choice for vegans, vegetarians, and people trying to cut down on meat. Quinoa is also high in B-vitamins that contribute to the metabolic reactions in the body, converting food into fuel for energy. Eating quinoa also lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, thereby reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Furthermore, quinoa is considered to be the best alternative to rice due to its nutrient dense characteristics and can thus be inculcated into a diet that meets all fitness and health goals.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)

Q. Is quinoa good for losing weight?

A. Yes, quinoa can surely help in weight loss. Quinoa is rich in insoluble fiber which keeps one full for longer time and curb appetite. The high protein and good fat in quinoa boost metabolism and keeps one energetic as well. Quinoa is low in glycemic index as well thereby keeping sugar levels stable and further aiding in controlling hunger and simultaneous weight loss.

Q. Will it be okay to eat quinoa everyday?

A. It is always good to incorporate different types of grains in your diet to get benefits from different spectrum of nutrients from different foods. However, quinoa can surely be used to replace the daily grains like rice and roti as well as other pulses due to it being a  complete protein as well as the vast array of nutrients quinoa contains.

Q. Is quinoa good for diet?

A. Quinoa is rich in protein, good fats, fibre as well as a lot of vitamins and minerals thereby making it a great choice of food to be used in any diet.

Q. what is the best way to cook quinoa?

A. Quinoa has a bitter covering called saponin to prevent it from becoming rancid due to its high fat content. So, it needs to be washed properly in running water to get rid of the saponin. The best way to cook quinoa is to cook it in double the amount of water, uncovered for about 10-15 minutes. Then cover and take off the heat and let it sit for 10 minutes. Uncover and fluff the quinoa with a fork and use it for salads or smoothies or any other dish.



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FOOD

Soft & Chewy Spiced Apple Rings Recipe from Oh My Veggies!

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Soft & Chewy Spiced Apple Rings
Is there a secret to coring apples? Please tell me that there is and I’m doing it wrong. I have an apple corer and I can never get it to go in through the stem and out through the bottom–it always goes out slightly to the side of the bottom and then I have to core my apples twice. And twice-cored apples are not as nice looking as once-cored apples.

I made apple chips for Henry Happened last fall and I decided to revisit that idea, but with the addition of chai spices—cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, and just a pinch of cloves. Instead of baking the apples until they were crispy, I baked them until they were soft and chewy. Erin from Texanerin Baking posted chewy apple chips last year and I wanted to see if I could make my recipe chewy too. Because the only descriptor I like more than spiced is chewy. Chewy is never not good! Yes, I said never not!

Soft & Chewy Spiced Apple Rings
Apple rings and chips are really simple to make at home. While it’s nice to have a dehydrator for these sorts of things, you don’t need one—an oven set at a low temperature works too. When you make your own dried fruit, you can avoid adding sugar (a lot of dried fruit has added sugar!) and sulfites. Sulfites are added to dried fruit to help make it last longer, but they can be a trigger for migraines, so I try to avoid them as much as possible. So homemade dried fruit might not last as long as the kind you buy at the store, but it’s so tasty, you’ll probably want to eat it all within a day or two anyway. (Maybe even within an hour or two.)

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Soft & Chewy Spiced Apple Rings

Soft & Chewy Spiced Apple Rings Recipe

Chewy spiced apple rings made without any added sugar!

  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
  • Yield: 1-2 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 extra-large, tasty apple (Honeycrisp, Pink Lady, Braeburn, and Fuji work well)
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/8 tsp ground cardamom
  • pinch of ground cloves

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 225°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Core the apple and use a mandoline slicer to slice it between 1/8- and 1/4-inch thick. (If you don’t have a slicer, don’t worry, you can do it by hand too!) Place the apple slices in a large bowl.
  3. Combine the spices in a small pinch bowl. Sprinkle the spices over the apple rings and use your hands to gently toss to coat.
  4. Transfer the apple slices to the baking sheet. Bake the apples for 60–90 minutes, or until they’re dried and shriveled, but still tender.

Notes

This recipe is easy to double; just make sure you rotate the baking sheets halfway through the baking time. The baking time can vary depending on how thick your slices are, so check your apple rings often!

About

Kiersten is the founder and editor of Oh My Veggies.



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Try the Burpee Bolt, an Intense Core-Burning Exercise

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One of my favourite ways to challenge myself in fitness is to try an exercise that makes me think, “How am I supposed to do that?” It’s so satisfying to find a move that’s out of your comfort zone, put in the time and effort to do it right, and finally crush it.

For an example, let’s talk about the Burpee Bolt. This exercise is, hands-down, one of the most WTF moves I’ve seen. I tried it on Morning Meltdown 100, a new Beachbody program that I’ve been testing out for the past few weeks, and it actually looked like a joke at first. This move is what happens when you combine a mountain climber with a burpee and add in an extra jump, while you’re doing the mountain climber. I know! What were they thinking!?

The Burpee Bolt is an intense move that primarily works your core, but honestly, I felt it all over. My shoulders were on fire, my glutes and thighs got some work, and my abs were engaged the whole time, especially as I drove my knee in and jumped. There’s a lot going on and there’s no doubt this move is advanced, which is why Morning Meltdown 100 trainer Jericho McMatthews gave us a lot of modifications to try (which are also demoed in the program). Regardless of whether you’re trying the advanced or the modified options, she said form is the most important thing. If you can’t maintain proper form for every rep, it’s time to switch to a modification.

If this move is new to you, Jericho’s tip is to break it down and try it slow and steady first. It’s also fine to start with a modified version. Focus on mastering the modification, then slowly add in a few advanced reps. “Listen to your body and only perform as many reps as you can with great technique, before returning to the modified version. As your strength and stamina builds, you’ll modify less and less!” Jericho told POPSUGAR.

Keep reading for directions on how to do this challenging move and all of its modifications.



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HEALTH

10 Weight Loss Fruits That You Must Eat

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Losing unwanted weight and keeping it off can be a tricky task. Most people find it hard to enjoy their weight loss journeys because they involve regular exercise, a healthy diet, and a shift from a lazy lifestyle. Some people try to shed extra kilos and maintain a lean body through a well-balanced diet alone. This means incorporating more nutrients, protein, and fibre in your diet. It is possible to make weight loss fun by enjoying your new diet.

Add flavour to your diet

Losing weight doesn’t involve just eating less or fewer meals. The most effective way to shed those unnecessary kilos is by following a healthy diet. And one of the best ways to start a healthy lifestyle is by eating more fruit. These natural goodies come in all shapes, sizes, colours, and flavours, making them easy and fun to add in your diet. Thanks to fruits, you no longer have to follow a bland diet. In addition to that, following a fruit based diet is one of the best ways to stay fit.

What are the best weight loss fruits?

Fruits contain little to no fat, which is why they are the ideal addition to your weight loss diet. They are packed with high levels of vitamins, minerals, fibre, protein, and everything else you need to stay fit and healthy. These low-calorie foods also help you keep heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes at bay. Here are some easily available fruits that are great for losing weight.

1. Bananas

This commonly found fruit is a favourite among gym addicts due to its high-calorie content, but don’t let that deter you. Although they have high calories, bananas also give you a great boost of nutrients. This yellow fruit comes loaded with potassium, manganese, magnesium, antioxidants, vitamins, and fibre. It is also known to help regulate insulin levels in your system, making it the ideal snack for people with diabetes. The fruit also helps fight cholesterol.

Bananas aid weight loss

Bananas make for great weight loss fruits because they can make you feel full for longer, reducing any unnecessary cravings after a meal. It’s easy to incorporate bananas in your weight loss diet by adding them to your oatmeal, fruit salads, muesli, millets, and smoothies.

2. Apples

These sweet juicy treats are the ideal weight loss fruits thanks to their high-fibre, low-calorie values. Apples help you lose weight because they make you feel full and are also known to keep you awake. Eating apples during breakfast or lunch will keep you feeling active throughout the day. These fruits are a great non-caffeinated way to stay awake. When eaten whole, apples can help control your appetite and reduce hunger. Reports have also shown that people who ate more apples had fewer issues with cholesterol. They are a delicious way to include more fibre in your diet. Add some apple slices to your cereal, salads, yoghurt, or oatmeal for a fibre-rich tasty meal.

3. Avocados

Avocados became popular thanks to millennial culture, but these fruits do a lot more than adorn a sandwich. These buttery fruits are rich in fat and calories, but that shouldn’t discourage you from including them in your weight loss diet. Studies have shown that avocados assist weight loss and adding them to your diet will ensure that you shed a few kilos and keep them from coming back. Avocados can help you feel full, decrease appetite, and resist cravings. This fruit is also known to combat high cholesterol and keep heart disease at bay. Avocados can be used in smoothies, dips, salads, or even in place of margarine or butter on toast. Keep in mind that avocados are high-calorie fruits, so make sure to indulge in them once in a while.

4. Berries

Blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries are tasty fruits that improve any meal or snack. These berries contain high amounts of vitamins, minerals, manganese, and antioxidants while being low on the calorie scale. Strawberries are loaded with vitamin C and manganese, and blueberries contain a high amount of vitamin K. Berries also make you feel full very quickly, which is why you should add them to your diet. These fruits help reduce cholesterol and blood pressure levels. They also have anti-inflammatory properties. Berries are delicious and can be eaten whole or in smoothies, salads, or baked dishes.

Berries

5. Melons

Some of the best weight loss fruits you can find on the market are melons. These fruits contain high amounts of water, which is why you feel full after eating even a small bowl of watermelon or honeydew. They also contain low calories, making them excellent fruits to add in your weight loss diet. Melons are packed with antioxidants, vitamins, potassium, and fibre, but they are also high on the glycaemic index. People with diabetes must exercise portion control while consuming melons. They are best eaten as they are or in salads, but you can also consume them as smoothies or fruit popsicles.

6. Grapefruit

Another popular weight loss fruit is the grapefruit. These delicious fruits are rich in vitamin C and vitamin A. Studies have shown that regularly eating grapefruit can help you burn tummy fat, reduce waist circumference, and regulate blood pressure levels. They are low on the glycaemic index, making them ideal snacks for people with diabetes. Another benefit of grapefruit is that they have the most fibre compared to other citrus fruits. Grapefruit can be eaten on their own, but you can also add them to salads or drink them as a healthy juice if you aren’t fond of the tart flavour.

7. Pomegranate

If you are looking for an antioxidant boost, then all you need is a pomegranate. These complex fruits are loaded with antioxidants like vitamins and polyphenols. They help boost your metabolism and keep unwanted fat at a distance. Pomegranate seeds improve your circulatory system and increase blood flow throughout your body. This fruit is also known to bring down LDL cholesterol levels in your system. Adding a handful of juicy pomegranate seeds to your daily oatmeal, salad, or yoghurt can help you shed a few kilos.

8. Papaya

Papayas have been a popular weight loss fruit for many decades. This fruit contains an enzyme called papain, which boosts your metabolism and breaks down food in your system. This prevents your body from retaining too much fat and helps you lose weight. It also helps reduce bloating and constipation. Papayas also contain high amounts of vitamin C, antioxidants, and flavonoids. You can eat papayas as they are or blend them into a smoothie.

Papaya

9. Kiwi

Kiwis have a high concentration of nutrients, making it a superfood among weight loss fruits. Each kiwi fruit contains large amounts of fibre, vitamin E, vitamin C, and folate. Eating at least two of these fruits a week can help burn belly fat and reduce your waist size. They also have a low glycaemic index, making them suitable for people with diabetes as well. Other benefits of eating kiwi fruits include improved cholesterol, improved gut health, and reduced blood pressure. People who are at risk of developing heart disease are advised to add kiwis to their diets. You can eat kiwis unpeeled or peeled and add them to salads, smoothies, or juices.

10. Pears

Pears are fibre-rich fruits that have high concentrations of vitamin C. They have the highest amounts of fibre compared to most fruits. This makes them the perfect fruit for people looking to lose weight. Pears are known to fight off coronary heart disease and type II diabetes. They are also effective in reducing cholesterol levels and improving cardiac health. Another fantastic benefit of eating pears regularly is that they give you a powerful energy boost. This property, along with its high fibre content makes pears a great food to include in your weight loss diet. You can consume pears raw in salads or add them to baked dishes like tarts or pies.

Fruits to avoid for weight loss

Fresh fruits are a great addition to a weight loss diet, but there are always exceptions. Although all fruits are healthy and have their own benefits, it is wise to avoid some of them if you want to lose weight. Most fruits are sweet and contain high amounts of natural sugar, called fructose. 

This sugar can negate your weight loss efforts as it can tip the scales of your diet’s glycaemic index. Controlling portions of high glycemic index fruits will also assist you in your weight loss journey. Here is a list of fruits you should restrict during your weight loss journey.

1. Mangoes

Mangoes are a great way to add a tropical element to your smoothie or salad, but they contain high sugar levels. These juicy fruits are rich in fibre and vitamins, but their increased sugar content can offset your weight loss effort.

2. Grapes

A grape smoothie sounds delicious, but it is advised that you keep a close eye on your portions. Grapes fall under the category of high-sugar fruits, which make them unsuitable as weight loss fruits. They do, however, contain significant amounts of vitamins and minerals and are known to combat heart disease and high blood pressure.

3. Figs

Fresh figs are a rich source of dietary fibre and have shown great results in reducing blood pressure and cholesterol levels. These fruits are a delicious addition to salads, smoothie bowls, and cereal, but they contain high sugar levels. Make sure to avoid large amounts of this fructose-heavy fruit as it can cause you to gain weight and increase blood sugar levels.

Avoid figs for weight loss

4. Cherries

Another sugar-rich fruit not ideal for a weight loss diet is cherries. They contain exorbitant amounts of sugar, which is why they are perfect in pies and tarts. Although cherries are rich in vitamin C and other antioxidants, the high sugar levels can lead to weight gain. Cherries are also not ideal for diabetics and people with high blood pressure.

5. Dried fruits

Dried fruits such as raisins and prunes contain high calories because they are desiccated and don’t contain any water. These dried fruits contain higher amounts of calories compared to their fresher counterparts, which is why you should consume them in limited quantities.

Dried fruits

Bananas and avocados are high-calorie fruits and are known to promote weight loss, but it is important to remember to monitor your portions. If you consume these fruits frequently, they can offset your efforts to lose weight. All fruits are healthy, but the key to a fruit diet for weight loss is quantity.

Summary

Eating more fruit instead of junk food is a great way to lose weight. Choosing the right fruit will ensure that you lose weight and keep it from coming back. Most fruits are low in calories, which is why you should include more of these natural treats in your daily meals.

Most fruits are fiber-rich foods that boost your metabolism and promote weight loss. They also come with high amounts of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, everything you need to feel healthy and young. Another reason why fruit is better than junk food is that it keeps you feeling full much longer. This prevents you from eating too much and helps you avoid snacking on unhealthy foods.

Sugar is the biggest culprit behind weight gain and obesity among people of all age groups. Eating fruits regularly helps you ward off cravings for sugary or high-calorie processed foods. Consuming a moderate amount of fruit every day will help control your appetite and give up the unhealthy habit of snacking on junk food.

The key to a fruit diet for weight loss is moderation. Keep an eye on your portions so you can get the most out of these delicious foods.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQs)

Q. What fruit burns the most fat?

A: Fruits with high fibre such as apples, pears, melons keep you full for longer in spite of containing fewer calories. These fruits, combined with a low fat diet, can help burn fat. Including high-fat avocados can also help get rid of unwanted body fat provided the overall fat intake is controlled.

Q. Is pineapple good for weight loss?

A: Pineapple contains an enzyme called bromelain which helps in proper digestion, thereby improving metabolism and helping in weight loss. However, pineapple contains natural sugars so portion control is key.

Q. What fruits help you lose weight fast?

A: Most fruits, when eaten in season and combined with a whole food diet with all nutrients, can help you lose weight. The key is to avoid processed and junk foods as well.

Q. Which fruits burn belly fat?

A: Adding fruits rich in antioxidants like kiwis and grapefruit have known to help burn belly fat. Adding a regular exercise routine along with fruits and other whole foods will give substantial results.



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NEWS

How to improve your care team? Enlist the help of a pharmacist.

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As the nation’s population ages, our medication regimens grow. Government sources cite that 42 percent  of American adults take five or more medications – this is up from 14 percent 20 ago. With this dramatic number of individuals on multiple medications, we need a single source to navigate patients and their care teams through the medication complexities.  That source is a pharmacist.

The pharmacist’s role continues to evolve. With technological advances in healthcare; greater patient involvement and empowerment; and a greater overall focus on reducing costs and improving health outcomes, pharmacists are a key cog in the wheel of change.

The Medication Safety Problem
If adverse drug events (ADEs) were classified as a disease, they would be the third leading cause of death behind cardiovascular disease and cancer according to a report published by the NIH. Last year, there were 173,000 deaths due to ADEs in the United States. These events are not triggered by prescriptions that are taken randomly but are due to medications that are prescribed by providers for therapeutic use. Further, a contributing factor to this ADE crisis is that increasing numbers of Americans are consuming multiple medications simultaneously.

The Pharmacist Solution: Accessibility and Expertise
Today, pharmacists are accessible, trusted medication experts. More than 254,000 pharmacists are licensed in the United States, providing services to assure the rational and safe use of all medications – prescribed, OTC, and recreational. In most instances, a pharmacist is the most accessible healthcare practitioner, as 91% of Americans live within five miles of a community pharmacy. Furthermore, the counsel of a local pharmacist requires no insurance, no appointment, and often no wait time.

What qualifies the pharmacist as the medication expert? Pharmacy is one of the oldest of the health professions concerned with health and well-being, and patient care is at the core of the training received in pharmacy school. Today, pharmacy students complete at least six years of schooling, which is often followed by a one- or two-year residency and/or specialty Board Certification (ambulatory care, cardiology, compounding, critical care, geriatrics, infection disease, nuclear, nutrition support, oncology, pediatrics, pharmacotherapy, psychiatric, and solid organ transplant).  Whereas most medical practitioners complete only a few pharmacology classes, Pharmacists spend years studying drugs themselves, pharmacokinetics (what the body does to drugs), pharmacogenomics (how drugs are metabolized), pharmacodynamics (what drugs do to the body), and pharmacotherapeutics (how drugs influence specific diseases).

Community pharmacists are already administering vaccinations and smoking cessation programs, supporting diagnostic testing, offering diabetes and other disease-specific education, and more.  Beyond dispensing pills and ensuring medication safety, today’s pharmacists serve as educators, empowering patients to manage their own health and well-being.

Pharmacy Systems and Technology
Medical advancements and the complexities of the nation’s healthcare system exacerbate the need for a single individual to help navigate patients through their medication journeys. Pharmacists’ extensive training is even more valuable when they have access to complete medication profiles (through EMRs, PDMPs, integrated pharmacy systems, etc.).  With comprehensive access, pharmacists are uniquely positioned to ‘quarterback’ patient care, working with various prescribers and specialties to ensure medication safety.

Today’s pharmacy capabilities and technologies allow for multi-dose packaging, robotic systems, texting and voice communications that can greatly enhance patient adherence to their medication regimens. And, with new pharmacy-specific medication decision support tools that perform aggregate multi-drug review, pharmacists can prospectively identify patients who are at risk for ADEs and work with healthcare teams to refine and optimize their medication regimens. Pharmacist efforts increase adherence, optimize medication regimens, and prevent ADEs—ultimately leading to better outcomes, including reduced hospitalizations.

The scope of pharmacy practice has evolved – from pharmacy services to counseling, educating, and advising both patients and interdisciplinary healthcare teams. Pharmacists today are equipped to effect positive medication outcomes for all patients and practitioners. Pharmacists can reduce the occurrence of adverse drug events, improve medication adherence, and lower hospital readmission rates.

Medication safety is a significant risk and a growing problem, fueled by the aging of our population, the increasing number and availability of medications, formulary-based practices, and marketing-driven prescribing. Pharmacists are the only professionals sufficiently educated, experienced and equipped to help mitigate medication-related problems and to assist their medical colleagues with safe, optimal prescribing practices. Pharmacists are the most directly accessible medical professionals for patients who are in need.  And, with digital information sharing and technology support, pharmacists are able to expertly quarterback patient care to assure medication safety and prevent ADEs. Clearly, it’s time to enlist the help of a pharmacist!

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Azitra brings in Series A to advance microbiome skin therapies

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money

Connecticut-based microbiome therapy company Azitra recently announced a $14 million haul in Series A funding. The round was led by KdT Ventures and previous investor Bios Partners, along with Godfrey Capital and Connecticut Innovations. Azitra, which focuses on dermatologic conditions, will use the funding to expand its team and move therapies into clinical trials.

“We want to leverage the microbiome and take advantage of the contributions that bacteria on our skin make to skin appearance and health, but then amplify it and bring in the ability to deliver therapeutic proteins,” said president and CEO Richard Andrews in a phone interview.

Azitra has four topical therapies in the pipeline to treat Netherton syndrome, cancer treatment-associated rashes, eczema and ichthyosis vulgaris.

Netherton is a chronic, orphan disease caused by a LEKTI protein deficiency. LEKTI regulates certain proteases, enzymes that breakdown other proteins. When LEKTI is missing, these overactive proteases can play havoc on the skin, which can be particularly harmful to babies.

“These infants, when they’re born, can be subjected to terrible conditions: skin loss, dehydration, infection,” said Andrews. “It’s a real challenge for them without the protection of that LEKTI protein.”

Azitra has engineered a strain of Staphylococcus epidermidis, one of the skin’s friendly microbes, to produce LEKTI. The goal is to stabilize the skin microbiome and replace the missing protein.

“We engineer it to deliver the protein on a nice continuous basis, so the protein is there when it’s needed,” said Andrews.

The company hopes to move its Netherton therapy into clinical trials in 2020 and plans to seek Orphan Drug Designation.

Azitra’s cancer therapy-associated rash drug takes a similar approach, though it does not deliver a therapeutic protein. Because many cancer treatments target fast-growing cells, they can damage the skin, perturbing the normal microbiome and opening the door for more dangerous microbes, such as Staphylococcus aureus.

“Staph aureus is highly antigenic, and the body doesn’t like it,” said Andrews. “You get a massive inflammatory response to the concentration of Staph aureus on the skin. We take away the environment that lets Staph aureus grow by adding Staph epi. Staph epi likes the skin, and it doesn’t like Staph aureus.”

The company hopes the added Staph epidermis will outcompete Staph aureus, keeping it at bay. The treatment could be used before cancer patients receive EGFR inhibitors, which can badly impact skin. Azitra is currently in talks with the Food & Drug Administration to set up a pre-IND meeting.

In addition to funding clinical research, the Series A funding will also augment Azitra’s growing management team. The company recently added microbiologist Trudy Grossman, formerly at Melinta Therapeutics, as vice president of Research. Roger Léger came to the company from Thrasos Therapeutics. He is now vice president of Chemistry, Formulation and Development. Mark Sampson, who came from Botanix Pharmaceuticals, recently signed on as chief scientific officer.

The company has a lot of plans, including a possible Series B. They feel microbiome-based therapeutics offer many possibilities, and they are only scratching the surface.

“We’re really at the beginning of understanding the science,” said Andrews. “We may even be able to engineer microbiome strains to prevent mosquito bites.”

Azitra is not alone in its quest to leverage microbiomes in tackling dermatological problems. Cambridge, Massachusetts-based AOBiome is developing a topical formulation of beneficial ammonia oxidizing bacteria to treat eczema in children. Sarasota, Florida-based Quorum Innovations is trying to develop microbiome therapeutics for a host of conditions including eczema and rosacea. The company also sells a line of cosmetic skin care products called BioEsse that it bills as “world’s first skin microbiome facial care system.”

Photo: freedigitalphotos user Salvatore Vuono

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