Wellness

VarCity Wellness Trends: Chlorophyll

Chlorophyll Latte

Step aside matcha, there’s a new drink in the neighborhood. Chlorophyll lattes are here and the health claims are getting out of control. From bad breath to depression to exercise recovery, if you google it, chances are chlorophyll can apparently fix it. While a few smaller studies did find that taking chlorophyll supplements did slightly increase weight loss and lower cholesterol, experts have suggested that we need a lot more research to confirm the “superfood” claims.

Today it’s not unusual to find coffeeshops blending chlorophyll-packed supplements like spirulina and chlorella into your frothy morning brew,. And hey, even if the whipped cream and syrup pumps somewhat nullify any potential health benefits from the superfood greens, at least you’re getting a good ‘gram.

Big Presentation? Final Exams? Try this!

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Big test coming up?  Or maybe you have an important class presentation first thing and you need to be at the top of your game?  Try a cold shower first thing in the morning.  Cold showers are any showers with a water temperature below 70°F.  Cold water therapy (i.e. hydrotherapy) has been used for centuries to take advantage of our body’s tendency to adapt to harsher conditions. As a result, after a cold shower our bodies become more resistant to stress and allows us to increase alertness and overall mental awareness.  Check out the benefits of a cold shower below.

Increases endorphins

Depression affects at least 10 percent of American adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  One holistic method of treatment that’s gaining popularity is hydrotherapy. Taking a cold shower for up to 5 minutes, 2 to 3 times per week, was shown to help relieve symptoms of depression.

The cold water sends many electrical impulses to your brain. It jolts your system to increase alertness, clarity, and energy levels. Endorphins, which are sometimes called happiness hormones, are also released. This effect leads to feelings of well-being and optimism.

Helps improve metabolism

People that are obese can’t simply start taking cold showers to lose weight without changing other lifestyle habits. But taking a cold shower 2 or 3 times per week may contribute to increased metabolism.  The research about how exactly cold showers help people lose weight is unclear. Still, it does show that cold water can even out certain hormone levels and heal the gastrointestinal system. These effects may add to the cold shower’s ability to lead to weight loss.

Improves circulation

It can feel uncomfortable to immerse our bodies in cold water, but it can also be invigorating. That’s because water that’s colder than our natural body temperature causes the body to work slightly harder to maintain its core temperature. When taken regularly, cold showers can make our circulatory system more efficient. Some people also report that their skin looks better as a result of cold showers, probably because of better circulation.

Athletes have known this benefit for years, even if we have only recently seen data that supports cold water for healing after a sport injury.  By bringing the temperature of an area of the body down, we speed up the delivery of warmer, freshly oxygenated blood to that area. And that speeds up recovery time. Some people may benefit from cold showers as a way to help their blood move through their body more quickly. These include people with poor circulation, high blood pressure and diabetes.

Helps fight off common illnesses

Our bodies are designed to become resistant to the elements we are exposed to. For example, leukocytes help fight infection in the body. The shock of cold water in the bloodstream stimulates leukocytes. This means that taking cold showers can help your resistance to common illnesses, like colds and the flu.

One study even indicated that cold showers could make the body more resistant to certain types of cancer. And a clinical trial in the Netherlands showed that people who took cold showers called out of work less.

People that are preparing for surgery or other disease treatment that could lead to decreased immunity might want to start taking cold showers in preparation.

Outlook

The ideal way to take a cold shower is to ease in to the habit.

Start by slowly lowering the temperature at the end of a usual shower. Get the water cold enough that you start to feel uncomfortable. Then, stay underneath the water for 2 or 3 minutes. Breathing deeply will help decrease your discomfort in your mind. The next time you try this exercise, make the water slightly colder. Try to last for another minute or two in the colder water. After performing this activity 7 to 10 times, you’ll find that you might even look forward to turning the hot water down.

4 Ways to Improve Your Smoothie

Healthy Smoothie

Smoothies are an everyday part of life for most of us, but they can quickly become sugar bombs loaded with empty calories if you’re not careful. Below are our top 4 ways to make sure your smoothie stays a positive part of your diet!

Choose fruit that has a lower sugar content

Fruit is absolutely good for you, but too much of anything can have a negative impact. If you’re gonna load up on fruit, make sure you’re not also loading up on calories. Most berries, such as blackberries, raspberries, and even strawberries, are low in sugar. So are grapefruit, cantaloupe, and papaya, so stick with these smoothie fruit friends.

Avoid store-bought juice

Often the juice we buy in the store is loaded with added sweeteners. Instead, juice your own fruit, or use another liquid. You can try water or coconut water. The liquid from young coconuts is quite sweet. Unsweetened almond milk, flax milk, soy milk, and hemp milk are great nondairy substitutes. Regular milk can work, too. Just be mindful of the additional calories.

Go Green

Green smoothies are all the rage for a reason. A few handfuls of spinach, kale, or Swiss chard make your smoothie look virtuous without negatively impacting the taste. The blended flavor of these greens is very mild and usually masked well by the taste of the fruits you add. Plus, you’re getting the benefit of less sugar and lots of antioxidants, fiber, and other essential nutrients. If you decide to add more greens, tartness from fresh lemon or lime juice can help mask the bitterness without relying on sugar.

Sweeten Wisely

It doesn’t make any sense to choose low-sugar fruits and then dump in spoonfuls of honey or table sugar. Use a very light hand when adding sweeteners, or try using spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, or a dash of vanilla extract. You can also use a high-quality, flavored protein powder.

How to Recognize Signs of Teen Anxiety

Teen Anxiety

As we all have more and more distractions on a daily basis, it’s increasingly easier for parents and teachers to miss signs of anxiety among teens.

Here’s a list of symptoms you should notice and consider if they’re related to anxiety. They include:

  • headaches

  • stomachaches

  • physical distress (when they can’t put words to how they’re feeling)

  • not wanting to go to school

  • talking frequently about not feeling well

  • withdrawing from social opportunities

  • trouble sleeping

  • excessive fears

  • excessive worries

  • restlessness

  • hypervigilance

  • always being on the lookout for what might go wrong

  • performance anxiety

    If any one you know appears to be struggling with anxiety that interferes with school, friendships, family relationships, or other areas of daily functioning, it’s important to get an evaluation from a licensed mental health practitioner. Anxiety is treatable, and most teens can learn to cope with and manage their anxiety independently.

Hydrogenated Oils: What Are They and How to Avoid Them

Hydrogenated Oil

Food companies began use hydrogenated oil to help increase shelf life and save costs. Hydrogenation is a process in which a liquid unsaturated fat (e.g. olive or peanut oil) is turned into a solid fat by adding hydrogen. During this processing, a type of fat called trans fat is made.

While small amounts of trans fats are found naturally in some foods, most trans fats in the diet come from these processed hydrogenated fats.

Partially hydrogenated oils can affect heart health because they increase “bad” cholesterol and lower “good” cholesterol. On the other hand, a fully hydrogenated oil contains very little trans fat, mostly saturated fat, and doesn’t carry the same health risks as trans fat.

Still, food manufacturers continue to use partially hydrogenated oils to save money, extend shelf life, add texture and increase stability.