Food & Nutrition

Everyone can use some healthy eating tips these days—when we’re bombarded with low-fat this, and sugar-free that, it can be difficult to know exactly what to put on our plates. We’ll continue to post recipes, eating suggestions and other healthy food tips that we think will help clarify the oft-confusing world of dieting, food fads and research that tells us one day that coffee is good for us and the next day it’s not. From research studies about the latest superfoods to recommendations from our nutritionists, Project Wellness offers practical eating healthy tips for even the most confused consumer.

  • Easy Switches for a Healthy Thanksgiving

    SaladEaterIf you’ve got dinner guests following a Paleo, Gluten-Free or Vegan diet—or just anyone concerned with all the calories that come with Thanksgiving dinner—planning a meal that will suit everyone’s needs is no small task. But fear not: A few easy switches can accommodate them and help everyone celebrate and enjoy the holidays! We got ideas for simple swaps from Nutritionists Liz Gilliam in Albuquerque and Toni Eastwood in Redmond.

    Traditional trade outs
    Thankfully roasted turkey (white meat without the skin) is low in fat and calories. But traditional side dishes can be loaded with hidden fat and sugar. Canned cranberry sauce is full of high fructose corn syrup, Liz says. She suggests making a cranberry side dish with fresh cranberries (like this Cranberry Apple Sauce—it’s super easy, tastes better and is loaded with healthy antioxidants).

    Other healthy ideas

    • Bread stuffing comes packed with carbohydrates that can leave us feeling bloated, says Liz. Instead, try a stuffing made with whole grains that are rich in protein (like this Quinoa Stuffing).
    • Homemade gravy can be high in fat, so be sure to skim the fat off before using pan drippings.
    • For dessert, Liz tell us to choose pumpkin pie over pecan; it has about half of the calories and pumpkin is rich in vitamins A and C, and potassium, to boot. Fruit desserts are an elegant and healthy option, too—try these Vanilla Poached Pears that are naturally high in fiber to aid digestion.

    Paleo swaps
    Paleo dieters enjoy all things that could be hunted or gathered in the caveman era. Roasted poultry or meat and root veggies are ideal, but grains, dairy and refined sugar are a no-no—so traditional foods will need some tweaking. Bread stuffing can easily be Paleo-fied by using only chopped onions, apples and celery. Or try a pork, apple and cranberry recipe like this Best Ever Paleo Thanksgiving Stuffing.

    Instead of mashed potatoes whipped with milk or cheese, try blending boiled or steamed cauliflower with a little butter or almond milk in a food processor, then adding roasted garlic or chives. Finally, think nut crusts when you’re looking for a flavorful switch for pies. This Grain-free Pumpkin Pie is Paleo-friendly with an almond and coconut grain-free crust and yummy pumpkin-honey filling.

    Vegan swaps
    Adding a veggie, grain and bean dish will keep vegans (and non-vegans, too!) happy at holiday meals. Fall produce like squash, apples and pumpkin are especially welcome. Stuffed butternut squash filled with rice, Brussels sprouts, garbanzo beans and flavorful spices is an easy make-ahead dish. Traditional Style Vegan Shepherd’s Pie cooked in individual baking dishes is a full-flavored side or main dish (and can easily be made with regular dairy products for vegetarians). And celebrate the fall harvest with Vegan Pumpkin Pie Blondies, moist brownie-like bars with a spicy twist.

    Gluten-free swaps
    For those with celiac disease, or gluten sensitivities, think beyond traditional bread stuffing for a side dish and try protein-rich ancient grains or rice, Toni tells us. Baked Rice flavored with shitake mushrooms and saffron pairs beautifully with roasted poultry or meat dishes. Or choose a quinoa-based salad like Quinoa with Currants, Dill and Zucchini. Using nuts instead of flour, this Pecan Nut Crust is a perfect accompaniment to your favorite creamy pumpkin filling.

    And don’t forget about digestive support
    Regardless of what foods you eat, keeping your digestive tract functioning well is important, especially during the holidays when stress and over-eating is more common. Pharmaca’s Chewable Papaya Enzymes feature natural papaya and pineapple enzymes that help break down food so it’s more easily digested. And vegetarian-friendly Doctor’s Best Digestive Enzymes and Enzymedica’s Digest Gold with ATPro (great for Paleo and gluten-free diets) are a good bet for helping your body digest fats, proteins and carbs.

  • Coffee: Why You Should Pour Yourself a Cup of Joe

    WarmTEaIs waking up with freshly brewed java the way you kick start your day? Besides the burst of energy it provides, you can feel good about a whole host of benefits coffee gives us.

    Drink to lower your risk of Type 2 Diabetes.

    Coffee, especially fresh-brewed, is full of disease-preventing antioxidants, and it’s high in magnesium, riboflavin and chromium too. This potent package has been shown to lower the risk of type 2 diabetes by up to 11% and help control blood sugar levels. The studies show the more you drink (up to 6 cups a day) the lower the risk.

    Drink to protect your brain.

    Researchers have proven that you can lower your risk of developing neurological conditions like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and stroke by drinking two to three cups of caffeinated coffee a day. In fact, those who drink coffee regularly, from midlife on, have a 65% less chance of developing dementia in later life.

    Drink to protect your arteries.

    Drinking 3 to 5 cups of coffee a day is a good way to keep your arteries clear. A study published in the medical journal Heart says that calcium buildup in arteries was less in healthy individuals who drank black coffee compared to non-coffee drinkers, possibly lowering the risk of future heart disease.

    Drink to prevent cancer.

    Coffee has been linked to lower cancer levels, especially liver and endometrial cancers, says the American Institute for Cancer Research. The laboratory research continues into how and why coffee helps prevent cancer but coffee compounds chlorogenic acid (a powerful antioxidant) and lignans (these cause abnormal cells to self-destruct) are believed to be part of the answer.

    Drink to prevent cavities.

    A compound in black coffee works to prevent cavities by keeping the cavity-causing bacteria S.mutans from adhering to tooth enamel. And freshly roasted caffeinated coffee, decaffeinated or even instant gives us the same benefits, but it only prevents cavities if you leave out the cream and sugar.

    Black is better.

    When it comes to health benefits we’re talking black coffee with less than 5 calories, not a sugar-laden whipped caramel mocha that can easily have a whopping 500+ calories. With the wide variety of fresh roasted beans that are now available, you can taste the pure essence of the roasted bean when it’s not masked with sugar or cream and find your favorite underlying notes like fruit, nuts or chocolate.

    Support fair trade, sustainable and organic farming.

    We can aid farmers in developing nations by choosing fair trade coffee that’s ethically produced. Fair trade guarantees farmers a fair minimum price for their coffee and links them directly to importers (bypassing costly middlemen) helping farmers earn better incomes. Fair trade certified coffee farmers commit to environmental standards too, like protecting water resources, restricting pesticides and banning GMOs. Farmers are given resources for switching to safe environmental and organic growing practices, and so far more than half have successfully made the changes necessary for fully organic farming.

  • Herbalist’s Spotlight: What supplements does our lead practitioner recommend for men?

    SunCare2-ArticleEvery day at Pharmaca, our health care practitioners recommend natural remedies for customers from all walks of life. We asked experienced herbalist Matthew B. to share his favorite supplements for men.

     Pure Encapsulations Phyto-ADR

    “I recommend this as a restorative tonic. The adoptogens in this vegetarian formulation provide comprehensive support for the adrenal glands, promoting physiological balance and improving resistance to stress. Who doesn’t need that?”

    Jarrow Prostate Optimizer

    “As men get older, this supplement—which is formulated with natural extracts and necessary fatty acids—becomes important for optimal prostate function and urinary flow.”

    Thorne Vitamin D (5,000 IU)

    “What I like about this particular Vitamin D supplement is that it’s the right dose and not a dangerous dose. It also has no hidden ingredients like lactose, BHT, BHA, sodium benzoate and sorbic acid, which can be detrimental to people with sensitivities.”

    Metagenics Highly Absorbable Magnesium Glycinate

    “For muscle tension and insomnia—another common complaint for men—I recommend magnesium glycinate. Not only is it highly absorbable, it’s not dependent on stomach acid for absorption, which means you won’t experience loose stools.”

    Natura InflamAway

    “Just the thing for weekend warriors and serious athletes. One of my favorites for inflammation, swelling and pain from physical trauma, InflamAway works at the cellular level to assist in the removal of damaging toxins and help balance the body’s inflammatory processes.”


  • Secrets for Super Creamy, Nutrient-Packed Smoothies

    Pharmaca SUper Chia Seecsd Stuck in a smoothie-making rut? Take your usual protein shake to the next level by adding nutrient-dense superstars like chia seeds, flaxseed or coconut oil. To up the nutrition level while keeping the smooth in your smoothie, be sure to follow the blending tips below.

    Chia Seeds

    With their mild, nutty flavor chia seeds are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, and just 2 tablespoons can provide 10 grams of fiber. Chia seeds also contain protein and minerals like iron, calcium, magnesium and zinc.

    Tip: To improve digestibility, soak the chia seeds in water for 10 to 15 minutes—save time by storing ready-to blend chia seed gel (one part chia seed to one part water) in the fridge for a few weeks.

    Coconut Oil

    The naturally found medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) in coconut oil are metabolized by the liver, making them a favorite of athletes or anyone looking for a quick energy boost. Research has shown that MCTs may also suppress appetite and slow down accumulation of fat in the body over time.

    Tip: To prevent coconut oil from clumping in your smoothies, always add it before you add any cold ingredients. Start with the coconut oil, next add protein or vitamin powders and finish with any ice or frozen fruit.


    An excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, flaxseed is also the number one whole-food source of lignans, a phytonutrient associated with prolonged survival in cancer patients. Unlike flaxseed oil, ground flaxseed offers some additional protein and soluble fiber.

    Tip: To unlock all of flaxseed’s nutritional benefits, be sure to use ground flaxseed. Purchase it pre-ground or grind it yourself at home.

  • Tea Up for Health


    Green, black, white, oolong or pu-erh, whatever your taste preference, these traditional teas from the Camellia sinesis plant deliver a potent brew of health benefits. Scientists have shown that tea can help our heart, reduce cancer risks and protect us against sun damage thanks to powerful compounds found in the leaves. Each tea’s characteristics depend on when the leaves are picked and if they are allowed to wither or turn black, a process called oxidation. White and green teas come from shoots and leaves that are not yet oxidized and retain the most beneficial anti-oxidant properties. Oolong, black or pu-erh tea are oxidized and have higher caffeine levels. Here’s why a cuppa should be a part of your daily routine.

    White tea comes from the young shoots of the tea plants and is the most delicate tasting, caffeine-free tea.

    Health Benefit: White tea is a good germ fighter, especially for bacteria that causes strep, pneumonia and tooth infections.

    Try: Teatulia Organic White Tea Pyramid bags for a mild tea with peachy notes.

    Green tea is a light tasting tea from green leaves of the plant that are heated to stop oxidation.

    Health Benefits: An anti-oxidant compound in green tea called EGCG can dramatically slow the growth of cancerous tumors.   When a protein found on the surface of cancer cells is treated with tea’s EGCG, the cancer cells growth is significantly reduced. Drinking just 2 or 3 cups a day produces anticancer effects, especially in lung, breast and prostate cancer. Green tea also helps make your skin more resistant to ultraviolet radiation from the sun. The tea reduces inflammation caused by damaging sun rays, keeping wrinkles in check.

    Try: Teatulia Organic Green Tea Pyramid bags with whole green leaves and a tea bud for maximum antioxidants.

    Oolong tea is partially oxidized and medium-bodied falling somewhere between a green tea and a black tea in taste and caffeine levels.

    Health Benefit: Oolong tea lowers our LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and prevents arteries from clogging.

    Black tea is made from fully oxidized leaves that have turned dark and it’s favored for its robust flavor.

    Health Benefit: Studies have shown that women who regularly drink black tea have a much lower risk of ovarian cancer.

    Try: Republic of Tea Biodynamic Organic Darjeeling Black Tea with rich, dark grape notes.

    Pu-erh tea is a very dark, aged tea, fully oxidized for a strong, earthy taste with high caffeine levels.

    Health Benefit: Pu-erh has been shown to reduce high cholesterol levels due to a natural form of lovastatin that’s found in the tea.

    Tea for two or to go? A tea tasting is the perfect way to experience the subtleties of various teas. Tea Forte Rare Imperial Tea Gift Set offers different six limited edition teas, a proper artisan-crafted cast-iron teapot for brewing and two traditional sipping cups. Pharmaca’s Triple Insulated Hot and Cold Beverage Bottle with Tea Strainer keeps tea warm for 8 hours, a great way to keep sipping throughout the day.

  • More about Medium Chain Triglycerides: The Saturated Fat With Benefits!


    Contrary to popular thought, not all saturated fats can lead to heart disease and obesity. That’s because they’re not all created equal—Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs), for example, are saturated fats with many health benefits, including support for metabolism, energy and beauty. (Learn more about the beauty benefits of MCTs and coconut oil here.)

    What Are Medium Chain Triglycerides?

    Medium Chain Triglycerides are saturated fats naturally found in coconut oil and palm kernel oils (and in lesser amounts in whole milk and butter). Long Chain Triglycerides (LCTs), on the other hand, are the most abundant fat in nature, and the source of 98 percent of our dietary fat.

    Medium and Long Chain Triglycerides are named based on the length of their carbon chains, and as you would suspect, LCTs have longer carbons chains than MCTs. This structural difference affects how each fat is metabolized—LCTs pass slowly through the digestive tract, requiring bile salts and enzymes to break them down, then entering the lymphatic system and ending up mostly in fat stores as conserved energy. Conversely, MCTs are metabolized by the liver—bypassing the lymphatic system and the need for bile salts and enzymes—making them available for quick energy.

    MCTs for metabolism and weight management

    By replacing common LCTs with MCTs in your diet, you reap many metabolism- and weight-associated benefits. First, MCTs provide about 10 percent fewer calories per gram than LCTs. Consuming MCTs also slows down accumulation of fat over time, since MCTs are not stored in fat deposits the way LCTs are. MCTs may also suppress appetite.

    To get started, try cooking and baking with coconut oil to get more fat calories from MCTs and fewer from LCTs. Palm kernel and coconut oils are also great for cooking because they are stable at high temperatures, unlike vegetable oils such as canola oil.

    Other healthy benefits of MCTs

    Energy – As we’ve established, MCTs provide quick energy because they are so readily metabolized by the liver. This makes them great for endurance athletes, bodybuilders or anyone looking for a quick energy boost.

    Heart Health – MCTs promote normal blood platelet function, healthy cholesterol levels and prevent plaque build-up. Worth noting: Pacific Islanders—whose diet features a whopping 30-60 percent coconut content—show nearly non-existent rates of cardiovascular disease.

    Brain Health – MCTs may also be helpful in supporting cognitive health. Here’s why: The brain regularly uses insulin to convert glucose to brain fuel. When insulin response is compromised (e.g. through poor diet or diabetes), the brain can starve of the glucose-converted energy it needs. But MCTs can be converted into ketone bodies or ketoacids, an alternative form of fuel for the brain. In this way, the body treats MCTs more like a carbohydrate than a fat, turning it into quick brain fuel.

    Immunity – The fatty acids in coconut oil (i.e. capric, caprylic and lauric acids) have many immune-benefitting properties, including anti-microbial actions.

    Ways to get your MCTs

    Ready to improve energy, boost immunity and brain power, manage weight and beautify your skin and hair? Pharmaca carries a variety of great products containing MCTs.

    NOW Foods’ MCT Oil – A blend of liquefied pure coconut/palm kernel oils.

    Nutiva’s Organic Red Palm Oil – A buttery, MCT-rich oil that’s great for sauces, sautéing and baking. (Note: Red palm oil is not to be confused with palm kernel oil that has a richer amount of MCTs.)

    Nature’s Way’s Liquid Coconut Premium Oil Made from pure, expeller-pressed coconuts, and formulated to maintain a liquid form wither refrigerated or at room temperature. A great alternative for vegetable oil in cooking, or adding to dressing, sauces and dips.

    Jarrow Formulas’ Extra Virgin Coconut Oil Made with organic, non-GMO, cold-pressed coconuts. Try the easy-to-take pill form, or the solid form that’s great for cooking, baking and for use topically on the hair and skin.

    Nature’s Way’s EFAGold Coconut Oil – Another great option made from certified organic, non-GMO, extra virgin coconuts. Cold pressed, hexane-free, unrefined and non-bleached.

  • 10 Healthy Habits For a New Year, New You!

    Woman Doing YogaIt’s been almost four weeks since we’ve made resolutions for better health in 2015. But so often our lofty health aspirations set us up for failure; this year, let’s make the resolution to be easier on ourselves and more accepting of our limitations. Instead of a whole life-overhaul—strict juice cleanses, promising to work out every day, consuming nothing but kale and water—consider a simpler approach: step by step, add in a few healthy habits. By starting small, we can eventually effect dramatic change.

    1. Get an exercise buddy. Accountability is so important. Letting others down doesn’t make us feel good, so committing to an activity with someone else makes us more likely to stick to the plan. Find someone with similar health goals to meet up with for a walk around the park, a class at the gym, or a run around your neighborhood.
    2. Sub a smoothie for a meal. Breakfast, lunch or dinner, you can get your garden-fresh greens and fresh fruits in a delicious, rich and quick blend of fruits and vegetables to give you all the vitamins and nutrients your body needs. On the go? Fill a Blender Bottle with Vega’s Protein Smoothie or Nutritional Shake powders for a fast, super healthy meal substitute. (Get inspired by a few healthy, green smoothie ideas here.)
    3. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Studies show that you’ll be more likely to choose a healthy snack if it’s within reach. Set a fruit bowl on your desk or kitchen counter, making sure this cornucopia of good health is in your eyeline as a constant reminder of good fuel for your next snack attack.
    4. Get up, stand up. You’ve most likely heard about how too much desk-sitting can cause all kinds of health problems. If you’re a deskworker, considering asking your boss about installing a standing desk, which they may happily subsidize in order to prevent injuries and conditions such as carpal tunnel or chronic back issues. If you have a laptop, using boxes or books to elevate it can work in a pinch. Want to switch it up, but don’t want to stand? Rotating between a fit ball and chair may be just the thing to keep your core engaged and gradually strengthen back muscles.
    5. Fill your feed with healthy food. If you’re like the majority of the world, it’s likely one of the first things you do in the morning is to check your social media and news feeds. Get inspired by cooking magazines such as Cooking Light and EatingWell on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. If you surround yourself with ideas, you’re more likely to keep healthy meal ideas—and their fresh ingredients—in mind when grocery shopping for your next meal. Use your social media feeds to discover new blogs, get out of a cooking rut, or to explore other diets (Check out PaleOMG for paleo suggestions, or fulfill your quest for a Meatless Monday with ideas from vegetarian food blogs such as The Sprouted Kitchen).
    6. Make a meal for the week. A simple meal of quinoa and vegetables makes a filling, healthy lunch, is easy to prepare and stores well in the fridge. Whip up a batch on Sunday night, then separate into 5 to-go containers. By eliminating one decision from your week, life just got a whole lot easier. Similarly, make a healthy breakfast the most important—and most convenient—meal of the day by preparing a big pot of oatmeal and packing containers of healthy toppings (e.g. berries, flaxseed, granola, chopped nuts and toasted seeds) for each morning.
    7. Practice gratitude. The power of a gratitude journal can be surprising and life changing. Something as small as writing down what you are appreciative of can help you keep perspective while encouraging positive thinking, optimism and increased energy throughout the day.
    8. Make sleep a priority. Without enough sleep, productivity and efficiency suffer. Make sure to get 7–8 hours of quality sleep a night by setting a schedule and committing to a bedtime that gives you enough rest. Instead of watching TV or checking your social feeds, take the last hour of your day to prepare for the following day—making a schedule or to-do list, packing a lunch, laying out clothes. Creating a consistent environment is also key to sufficient sleep; for some, white noise helps to drown out distractions. Humidifiers do double-duty – providing both much-needed moisture and soft background noise (we like the aesthetically pleasing Drop Humidifier from Crane).
    9. Meditate. Intimidated by meditation? Don’t be. While deep meditation takes practice, a good beginner routine is as simple as relaxing your brain for 5–10 minutes a day. Similar to resting during periods of exercise, your brain also needs time to recharge after writing an intensive proposal, participating in a meeting or coordinating a day of intricate scheduling.
    10. Stay social, stay smart. When you connect with other people, your brain stays alert and focused through the exchange of ideas. Making new contacts and increasing your social circles also helps to keep the brain synapses firing, opening your mind to new opportunities and creativity. Make it a monthly goal to have lunch with someone outside your immediate network—chances are, you’ll end up happier and more well-connected.

    Do these steps still feel too big? Start small: try to floss your teeth, drink more water and call your mother.

  • Top 5 Ways To Recover After Exercise

    Woman stretchingCongratulations! You’ve joined a gym or started a new fitness program. But did you know that what you do after your workout—especially in the first two hours—is almost as important as the exercise itself? Try these techniques to help your body recover more quickly and maximize the impact of your exercise.

    Rehydrate: Water is a simple choice for rehydration, and is fine for low-impact exercise under 45 minutes. But more intense exercise, or exercise performed in hot weather, requires that you replace fluids lost through sweat with electrolytes and sodium. Try Nuun’s U Natural Hydration Goji Berry Green Tea tablets for an easy do-it-yourself sports drink without added sugars.

    Replace Carbohydrates: Glycogen, stored in our muscles, fuels our bodies during exercise. That’s why it’s important to quickly replace lost glycogen during the “carbohydrate window” that occurs within 60 minutes after stopping—when muscles are converting carbohydrate-rich drinks and food into glycogen up to three times faster. In addition to eating carb-rich food, Boulder-based nutrition expert Julie McGinnis recommends L-Glutamine, an amino acid supplement that boosts the production of glycogen and helps us refuel. She likes Jarrow Formulas’ L-Glutamine Powder. TIP: Refueling in the first 15-30 minutes of the carbohydrate window is most effective.

    Add Protein: Along with carbs, protein is needed to repair the micro tears in muscles after workouts, especially weight-bearing exercises like running and weight lifting. Whey, a by-product of cheese production, is a good source of protein and is rich in branch-chain amino acids (BCAAs), which help repair muscles and prevent soreness, says Julie. One serving of Pharmaca’s Grass-Fed Whey Protein Powder Drink is a quick, tasty way to get 15 g of protein. Fat-free chocolate milk is another good choice for protein and carb replacement, say researchers, since a 16 oz serving has about 15 g of protein and twice the carbs of plain milk. Vegetarians and vegans can turn to spirulina, an algae-based complete protein. (Find it in Health Force Nutritionals’ Spirulina Manna). TIP: Most experts recommend 10-20 g of protein after a workout.

    Treat sore muscles: Stretching for 15 minutes after your workout can prevent soreness, but in those times when you know you’ve done too much, topical treatments or warm baths can also help, Julie tells us. Arnica relieves pain and stiffness, and speeds recovery of bruises; Boericke & Tafel’s Arniflora Arnica Gel with 8% tincture of arnica Montana rubbed on four times a day will help reduce inflammation and pain. Warm baths are another good choice for soothing aches; Kneipp’s Arnica Joint & Muscle Mineral Bath Salts combine arnica, pine and thermal salts to relieve soreness.

    Take a break: As good as it feels to find your groove with your exercise program, it’s important to take a break to let muscles repair. Fitness coaches say that after 8-12 weeks, take a week off. That doesn’t mean going back to couch-potato status—instead, transition to a less intense exercise to keep you moving and flexible, like yoga, dancing or walking. You’ll come back to your favorite exercise renewed.

  • Superfood vs. Powerhouse Food: Why They're Not the Same Thing

    WatercressWe’ve been hearing about superfoods and superfruits for awhile—by now we know to stock up on kale and goji berries. Though these “super” labels are used often, many of them can be gimmicky catchphrases that don't have real scientific basis. Until now. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently developed a scientific classification scheme for vegetables and fruits that are jam-packed with nutrients and may reduce our risk of chronic disease. Here’s what you need to know about the proven heroes at your farmer's market or grocery store.

    What is a powerhouse food?

    The CDC defines Powerhouse Fruits and Vegetables as naturally “nutrient-dense,” meaning they provide anywhere from 10 to 100 percent of our daily requirements of 17 beneficial nutrients: potassium, fiber, protein, calcium, iron, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, folate, zinc and vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, E and K. These nutrients are essential for protection against chronic disease.

    Which foods were tested?

    For obvious reasons, the CDC tested foods that scientists had already linked to prevention of heart disease, cancer and neurodegenerative diseases. The foods fell into five categories of fruits and vegetables: cruciferous, green leafy, yellow/orange, allium (onion family), citrus and berries.

    Watercress in, blueberries out?

    So which made the cut? Of the 47 fruits and vegetables tested, the cruciferous and leafy green veggies overwhelmingly came out on top. Surprisingly, raspberries, tangerines, cranberries, garlic, onion and blueberries did not make the list, even though they're rich in helpful antioxidants (so keep eating them!).

    Top 15 Powerhouse Fruits & Veggies

    Watercress 100.00 (wow!)
    Chinese cabbage 91.99
    Chard 89.27
    Beet greens 87.08
    Spinach 86.43
    Chicory 73.36
    Leaf lettuce 70.73
    Parsley 65.59
    Romaine lettuce 63.48
    Collard Greens 62.49
    Turnip Greens 62.12
    Mustard Greens 61.39
    Endive 60.44
    Chive 54.80
    Kale 49.07

    The next most powerful fruits and vegetables (with nutrient density ratings under 50) fall primarily into the yellow/orange category (red pepper, pumpkin, carrot, tomato and winter squash) and allium category (scallion, leek), followed by citrus (lemon, orange, lime and grapefruit) and berries (strawberry, blackberry).

    The Powerhouse list is a good starting point for choosing the veggies and fruits that give us the most bang for our buck. The CDC tested these foods in their raw state, and salads can be a great way to incorporate them into our diet. But cruciferous and leafy green vegetables are also a good addition to soups or stews, or simply sautéed.

    While the government's My Plate guidelines say fruits and veggies should make up 50 percent of each meal, don't forget about the important parts of a healthy diet—whole grains and lean proteins! Speak with a Pharmaca practitioner about other ways to get all the nutrients you need in your diet.

  • Coffee: Is it Really Good For Us?

    Young woman drinking tea at homeFor coffee drinkers, nothing beats the aroma and taste of a freshly brewed cuppa. Considering so many of us start the day with a cup or two, here are a few things to know about whether to imbibe or abstain?

    It’s full of antioxidants and nutrients.

    Coffee is a pretty complex drink, as it’s made up of hundred of compounds, from caffeine to vitamins and minerals. A single cup of coffee contains 11 percent of your daily recommended riboflavin (vitamin B2), and also has small amounts of pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), magnesium, potassium and niacin.

    Coffee also contains powerful antioxidants called quinines that become more potent after the beans are roasted. And the antibacterial compound trigonelline in coffee has been shown to prevent cavities in black coffee drinkers.

    Coffee’s caffeine may delay the onset of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

    Alzheimer's research studies have shown that drinking 3-5 cups of coffee a day in midlife can slow down the start of the illness by up to 65 percent later in life. This is perhaps because caffeine blocks inflammation in the brain and suppresses the rise of amyloid plaques that are strongly linked to Alzheimer’s disease. Caffeine also slows the progression of Parkinson’s disease, and eases tremors by blocking certain receptors in the brain that cause symptoms.

    Coffee protects us against type 2 diabetes.

    Drinking more than four cups of coffee each day can help keep type 2 diabetes at bay, according to scientists at Harvard. Seems the antioxidants and minerals in coffee, including magnesium and chromium, help your body use insulin which controls blood sugar levels.

    Skip it if: You’re pregnant.

    Caffeine is the culprit here—it can go through the placenta and reach the fetus, and can keep you and your baby awake (it has also been linked to higher incidences of miscarriage). For pregnant women it may be better to reduce coffee consumption to one or two cups a day.

    Skip it if: You have trouble controlling high blood pressure.

    If you’re not a coffee drinker and you start, the first week or so of drinking it can raise your blood pressure significantly, though after a few weeks those readings usually go down. If you have a hard time controlling your hypertension, limit coffee intake or switch to decaf coffee.

    Skip it if: Your decaffeinated coffee is processed with solvents.

    There are a few ways to remove caffeine from coffee beans, and a common process uses the chemical solvent methylene chloride. Although the FDA has approved its use in decaffeinating coffee, this solvent’s side effects in higher exposures include headaches, dizziness and other central nervous system troubles. Instead, be sure your decaf coffee is processed by the Swiss water process, a chemical-free method that uses green coffee bean water and filters to remove nearly 100 percent of the caffeine.

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