A to Z Challenge: Reflections post!

A-to-Z Reflection [2018]

Did I scare you? Did you think I was going to write a bunch of health and fitness posts again 😊!

No, not to worry! The challenge is truly over, but part of this was for me to learn some things, and here is what I found out.

  1. Blogging everyday is hard! This is not really a surprise to me, but I thought it should be said out loud. I am sure I could have made this easier on myself by creating shorter posts, or leaving out some details. But the teacher/researcher in me took over. It is hard to short cut the process when you are talking about a subject you really care about ❤️.
  2. This would have been easier if I had not had house guests and painted several rooms in my home at the same time. Also, suspending some of my training activities, or not going on a three day road trip that month, would have freed up some time 🏋🏻‍♀️🥊🧘🏻‍♀️🧗‍♀️ But I can’t not workout, just not wired that way😅.
  3. I did learn how to schedule posts in advance, which was really helpful!
  4. Researching certain topics brought me up to date with new technologies and scientific findings, which was great!
  5. I realized how wonderful and supportive my fellow bloggers are!! Thank you, so much for your likes and comments. You really kept my spirits up when I was getting tired.😊💕

 

The A to Z Challenge folks are asking that we choose our favorite post to participate in the “Road Show”. I would love your help, one more time, in selecting the post to submit.

Anyone have a favorite “A to Z” topic of mine? I am taking suggestions😃

Aging, a huge thank you, to all my friends and I hope to get caught up on all your posts soon 🙏

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Jay Has Done It Again! “Father Figure” Is Sure To Be The Next Big Hit 📚 💕

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Did you love “Watching Glass Shatter” as much as I did!😀 Then I have fantastic news! Our favorite author has struck gold again with the release of his second novel, “FATHER FIGURE”

 

The Story

Publication Date: April 2, 2018

Genre: Contemporary Fiction/ Drama

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James J. Cudney, Author

Between the fast-paced New York City, a rural Mississippi town, and a charming Pennsylvania college campus filled with secrets, two young girls learn the consequences of growing up too quickly. Struggling to survive in a claustrophobic, unforgiving world, they embark on a journey to overcome all the pain, disappointment, and horror of their experiences.

Amalia Graeme, abused by her mother for most of her life, longs to escape her desolate hometown, connect with others, and fall in love. Contemplating an impending loss of innocence and conflicting feelings between her boyfriend and the dangerous attraction she’s developed for an older man, Amalia suffers devastating, life-altering tragedies. No matter where she turns, someone or something always steals her hope of finding happiness, protection, and love.

Brianna Porter, a sassy yet angst-ridden teenager raised in New York City, yearns to determine her life’s true purpose, conquer her fear of abandonment, and interpret an intimidating desire for her best friend, Shanelle. All the confusion stems from desperately needing to find the father whom her mother refuses to reveal, but an unexpected discovery of a journal leads Brianna to a shocking revelation about her missing parent. Unfortunately, by casting the net to find him, she’s unleashed a tragic history that was meant to stay buried and might now completely change everyone’s futures.

Through alternating chapters set two decades apart, each girl’s plight unfolds revealing the parallels between their lives and the subsequent collision that is bound to happen. In an emotional story filled with mystery, romance, and suspense, fate intervenes forcing someone to make a dreadful decision that will leave permanent scars.

Sounds great right? Can’t wait to start reading? Find it at Goodreads right now!

 

Giveaway!

 

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Father Figure will be available FREE from 5/6 thru 5/10! Don’t miss out on this opportunity! Also, if you haven’t read James’ fantastic debut novel, Watching Glass Shatter, pick it up on sale for only $0.99 on Amazon from 5/6 thru 5/10!!!

 

Still not fast enough for you?

Enter to win a free digital copy of “Father Figure” even sooner. Click the link below!

Link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/e5ee1a921/?

 

About the Author

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James is my given name; most call me Jay. I grew up on Long Island and currently live in New York City, but I’ve traveled all across the US (and various parts of the world). After college, I spent 15 years working in technology and business operations in the sports, entertainment and media industries. Although I enjoyed my job, I left in 2016 to focus on my passion: telling stories and connecting people through words. My debut novel is ‘Watching Glass Shatter,’ a contemporary fiction family drama with elements of mystery, suspense, humor and romance. To see samples or receive news from my current and upcoming books, please subscribe with your email address at my website: https://jamesjcudney.com

What do I do outside of writing: I’m an avid genealogist (discovered 2K family members going back about 250 years) and cook (I find it so hard to follow a recipe). I love to read; between Goodreads and my blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, I have over 500 book reviews which will give you a full flavor for my voice and style. On my blog, I started the 365 Daily Challenge, where I post a word each day that has some meaning to me, then converse with everyone about life. There is humor, tears, love, friendship, advice and bloopers. Lots of bloopers where I poke fun at myself all the time. Even my dog has a weekly segment called “Ryder’s Rants” where he complains about me. All these things make up who I am; none of them are very fancy or magnanimous, but they are real and show how I live every day.

A bit of humor: Everything doubles as something else when you live in NYC. For me, it’s the dining room, my favorite space in the apartment, where more than just my cooking is on display! As I look out the windows onto a 12th floor terrace, various parts of nature (trees, bushes, flowers, bugs & animals) inspire me to write. Ryder, my 10-year old shiba inu, usually lays on my feet, growling when I shift positions too many times or when I forget to share my food! Although he’s only 20 pounds, he’s quite strong and pushy. But how else can you pen the best story possible without these things by your side?

Connect with Jay

Author Links

Blog:https://thisismytruthnow.com

Author Website:https://jamesjcudney.com

Social Media Links

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/James-J.-Cudney/e/B076B6PB3M/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jamescudney4

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JamesJCudneyIVAuthor/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/jamescudney4/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jamescudney4/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/jamescudney4

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jamescudney4

 

On a personal note

Jay is not only a fantastic writer but a wonderful, loyal and supportive friend. A truly caring person who deserves all the best. Thank you for inviting me into your world💕.

 

A to Z Challenges: Z is for Zero Calorie Sweeteners

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Here we are! Finally at the letter Z😊

I didn’t have a lot of options with this letter, but I think this is a great way to wrap up this A to Z challenge.

Currently, the FDA has approved five artificial sweeteners: saccharin, acesulfame, aspartame, neotame, and sucralose. It has also approved one natural low-calorie sweetener, stevia (my personal favorite😊)

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Check out the last column. Obviously not all sweeteners are the same! The fact that each of these is so much sweeter than natural occurring sugar, without the same calorie cost, may be causing some significant problems.

One theory is that the use of these products has changed the way we percieve sweetness. Since a small amount of each of these can elicit a sweet sensation, hundreds to thousands of times greater than real sugar, 1479516236410the receptors in our brains that register the presence of sugar, are altered over time. Once they are changed the binding of natural sugar cannot meet that threshold, so we take in more sugar. Fruit can no longer taste sweet enough and vegetables may be unpalatable.

We then crave more sweetness, so we tend to choose sweets over whole nutritious foods to meet that new higher threshold.

There are many studies that back up this theory. In one human study participants who drank more than 21 diet drinks per week were twice as likely to become overweight or obese, than those who did not drink any at all.

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Of course there have been numerous animal studies which have linked artificial sweeteners to that same reward pathway in the brain. The result show that artificial sweeteners may be addictive. Rats were exposed to cocaine then given the choice of cocaine or saccharine, most chose saccharine.

Of course, rodent studies don’t always translate to people, it is important to remember that! However, the links to obesity, metabolic syndrome and type II diabetes can not be overlooked. One human study showed a 36% correlation with metabolic syndrome and 67% correlation to type II diabetes, which are quite high percentages! Additionally artificial sweeteners have been shown to interfere with the absorption of certain medicines and may harm the beneficial gut flora needed for overall digestive health.

Can zero calorie sweeteners be part of a healthy weight loss plan?

Yes, but moderation is the key! Study participants did loose weight, in the short term, when using diet drinks sparingly and as part of a healthy eating plan. The goal is to not treat them as “free foods”, there is a cost associated with all consumables.

One of the misperceptions is that diet drinks don’t count. The attitude that if I have a diet drink, I have room in my diet for cake, is not correct! I have been out with friends who have used this rationale many times, and then complain that they have been so good, but can’t loose weight. 😳

“Artificial sweeteners [are] a crutch that don’t force people to deal with deeper issues of regulating calorie intake and making healthier food choices,” says psychologist Ramani Durvasula author of You Are WHY You Eat: Change Your Food Attitude, Change Your Life.

If you have a 12oz. of Diet Coke a day, or use a packet of Splenda in your morning cup of coffee, you can still have a healthy diet. But, think about cutting back here or there, see if you really notice that reduction, and if not, then more power to you😊

References:

https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/artificial-sweeteners-sugar-free-but-at-what-cost-201207165030

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/artificial-sweeteners/art-20046936

https://www.thedailybeast.com/are-artificial-sweeteners-wrecking-your-diet

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10937404.2013.842523

https://www.fooducate.com/app#!page=post&id=57A354C9-A79D-A168-48E8-8DE562947252

Agatha Christie Readathon: The Murder at the Vicarage

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Time for our fourth, and final book for the month, a quick reminder…..

The awesome Jay Cudney is hosting an Agatha Christie Readathon! The plan is simple. We have a week to read one of Christie’s fabulous novels and we post a review at the end of the week.

My approach to this Readathon

I am new to Agatha Christie, and I am also embarrassed to admit that! She is such a well known author, yet I have waited 5 decades to read her classic mysteries. What make this admission even worse for me, is that this is my favorite literary genre! When Jay launched this readathon, I saw it as an opportunity to right a horrible wrong in my life (too bad Jay can’t fix all of those!😢 )

These stories have been discussed, reviewed, studied and examined by minds far greater than mine. You can find many a brilliant, detailed and thorough review in numerous places. So, rather than focus on the storyline, I would like to take some time to discuss my thoughts on each of the novels. I suppose this is my chance to have a book club discussion without the actual book club meeting. Dang, I will miss the wine and cookies 🍷 🍪 !

Now, onto the review!

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Synopsis:

Agatha Christie’s

The Murder at the Vicarage

A Miss Marple Mystery

Rating: 4/5 stars

 

 

The Murder at the Vicarage is the first of Agatha Christie’s “Miss Marple” series. As such, it made perfect sense that the story would revolve around the Vicar, who’s home in which the murder took place .

The story is slow to begin as the characters, of which there are quite a few, are introduced to the reader. As this is a small town, or village, everyone is overly involved in one another’s business. It took some time to understand those intimate relationships and to describe the crime in detail. However, once the true investigation begins, the story moves at a quicker pace.

The story is told from the Vicar’s point of view and he is somewhat of an amateur sleuth himself. Indeed, it seems the actual authorities are rather blind to a number of clues and important inferences, which makes me wonder how they got their jobs in the first place!

While the professional investigators are searching for the easiest explanation, the Vicar and Miss Marple are looking for the answers that makes sense, given the facts they have. This is made all the more complicated by the busy bodies and gossip hounds which cloud the facts by withholding information and elaborating details that may or may not be real. Ultimately it is “old Miss Marple” that sees through the deceptions of the culprits and weaves the fragmented truths together.

I do wish that this had been the first of the Miss Marple stories that I had read. I feel this was a great introduction to her character and her keen sense of observational powers. I can completely buy into her position as a supporting character, turned hero at the end when she is the one who puts it all together. I would expect that, as the series continues, Miss Marple would have a greater involvement in solving the future mysteries that seems to be in abundance in this tiny community. Having already completed “The body in the Library”, I do know that the series does not play out that way. Still, I do recommend “The Murder at the Vicarage” as a clever example of Agatha Christie’s excellent writing style!

Thank you Jay, for expanding my literary boundaries! So glad we went on this journey together my friend 😊💕!

A to Z Challenge: Y is for Yogurt

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To be fair, not just yogurt but all fermented foods! Yogurt just happens to be the best known for its probiotic content. All fermented foods contain probiotics, as long as they are unpasteurized!

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Lets talk about your intestinal flora! Is that too personal😉

 

the colon. intestinal flora

 

The bacteria in your system outnumber your cells of your body 10 to 1! That is a lot of bacteria, and they reside in your intestines and colon. There are a variety of strains, some good, some bad and many indifferent! You need these strains as some make vitamins, such as K, and provide for the optimal conditions for absorption of nutrients.

The “bad” ones? Well they provide you with that embarrassing gas and bloating😳

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The trick is learning how to balance these competing strains.

Eating a balanced and healthy diet is a great start. Consuming probiotics is key toward meeting this goal.

 

 

How are fermented foods produced?

Bacteria will ferment milk to produce lactic acid, which gives yogurt the tangy taste. Bacteria that feed on skim milk produce the fat free variety of foods.

Plain yogurt, that does not have any additives, should be white and thick. Commercial brands that add colors and sugars are not good for you. Those additives will actual feed the unhealthy flora that you are trying to replace and may contribute to weight gain over time.

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According to the official definition, probiotics are “live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.”

Which is a fancy way of saying they are good for you! Probiotics are usually bacteria but some yeast also have this function. But with so many strains to choose from, which should you be looking for in your yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi and tempeh?

All fermented foods, with live active cultures, contain probiotics, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus bulgaricus, Enterococcus faecium, Streptococcus thermophilus. 55DA57DA-1104-313F-4ED9-98BC16EAC422.jpeg-copy-e1474035349386-1024x317Be sure to read the label and look for these specific strains!

Benefits of consuming fermented foods, particularly yogurt

It is high in calcium which is needed for healthy teeth and bones. In fact, 1 8oz cup is 49% of your daily recommended total.

Yogurt is high in B vitamins, and required for heart health. 💕

It is also high in Phosphorus, Magnesium and Potassium, all needed for bone health, regulating blood pressure and metabolism. In fact, that same 1 8oz cup has 38%, 12% and 18% of each of those ions, respectively.

Yogurt is high in protein! Remember P is for Protein? We talked about how important protein is for a variety of reasons. Regular yogurt has 12 grams/7 oz, which is pretty good, but greek yogurt (which has been strained to remove all the water creating a denser product) has 22grams/ 7oz!

Protein will help you feel fuller longer and may aid in weight control. Studies have shown that particpants who consumed greek style yogurt remained fuller longer and ate fewer calories throughout the day, compared to participants who consumed regular yogurt.

In another study, obese individuals, who have different flora than lean people, had a  fecal transplant from a person with a lean weight flora. This caused weight loss in the obese host. This result confirmed that gut microorganisms can help with weight control.

In 2013, a study of 210 patients with central obesity (belly fat) was conducted. The subjects were given Lactobacillus gassers supplements. It was determined that the bacteria was responsible for a weight loss of 8.5% in 12 weeks. When the patients stopped ingesting the bacteria they gained all the weight back in just 4 weeks!

 

probiotics

What else?

Probiotics lower levels of inflammation.

Reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Cause the lowering of total cholesterol levels, and particularly, LDL.

Lowering blood pressure.

Skin health benefits, such as controlling acne, rosacea and eczema. 😊

Any Side Effects?

You could experience gas and mild discomfort for a couple days as the new bacteria settle in, after that your digestion should be better than it was before the probiotics.

Some antibiotics will be less effective due to the high calcium content in yogurt (and any dairy products). Your doctor or pharmacists will tell you to curtail your dairy intake while on the medications.

Many commercial yogurts contain additives that you do not want in your system, such as added sugars or dyes. I like to buy plain yogurt and add in fresh fruit to control the carbs and minimize calories. Making your own is actually quite easy!

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I hope you are interested in probiotics, if you weren’t before. There are quite a few benefits to be had!😋

References:

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/7-benefits-of-yogurt

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/probiotics-101#modal-close

https://www.escoffieronline.com/healthy-vs-unhealthy-yogurt/

https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-829/yogurt

 

X is for Xanthum Gum

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Have you heard of Xanthum Gum? If you are gluten free, have Celiac disease or are a strict vegan, then you probably have! The rest of us may have heard it on a popular ice cream commercial. It’s the one where the cute kids are trying to read the list of ingredients and have to pronounce all the strange chemical names.

Xanthum gum is not a strange name, but is a food additive that is found in almost anything that needs a preservative or stabilizer, think of the interior of your local grocery store!images

It was discovered in 1960, and by 1968 the FDA had approved it for human consumption.

It is a polysaccharide made from either glucose, sucrose or lactose.

Xanthomonas campestris is the naturally occurring bacteria that is used to make Xanthum gum. If you are a gardener then you have seen this bacteria many times (I know I have!) See the black rot on this cauliflower leaf? That’s Xanthomonas campestris

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How Xanthum gum  is made

Xanthomonas campestris is a bacteria that will use glucose, sucrose or lactose as a food source. Xanthum gum is produced when one of these sugars is fermented by the bacteria, and then precipitated with isopropyl alcohol. The precipitate is then dried and ground into a powder which can be added to a liquid to form a “gum”.

 

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The result is the white powder that you can buy at the store. It is often used in vegan and gluten free baking.

What is it used for specifically?

The applications for this gel like substance are almost endless. It is inert, meaning is has no flavor of its own and does not interact, chemically, to its surroundings. It is therefore useful in lowering the friction point of metals. In an industrial setting it can act as a lubricant for pistons and cylinders. It is used as a cheap and effective substance in drilling operations, particularly in fresh and salt water operations.

It is also found in cosmetics, lotions and medicines. Even your toothpaste has xanthum gum!

Sounds tasty huh? But, remember is has no taste!

Why is it in our food supply?

People often site the fact that xanthum gum is used for large scale industrial purposes as a reason for it to be unhealthy for human consumption. It bother folks that this product can be used for other applications. The truth is that this is a natural product, produced by a bacterium, and has unique properties that make is useful in food preparation.

Like chia seeds, the xanthum gum will swell when added to liquids.

l_11350_chefsteps.coffeeIts consistency acts as a thickening agent when added to soups or stews. Most of us use butter and flour as a thickening agent, but if you are gluten or dairy free, that is not an option for you.

Xanthum can be used as a gluten subsitute in baking by acting as a binding agent, taking the place of eggs and/or flour.

It is also found in commercially prepared salad dressings, where it is utilized as an emulsifier, to keep oil and water mixed. As well as commercially prepared pastry fillings to keep water from soaking into the pastry dough.

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It is found in ice cream to prevent ice crystals from forming and helps to maintain the smoothness of the final product.

 

 

 

Since xanthum gum swells when it contacts liquids, it will do that in your intestines as well. Therefore it acts like a laxative in the intestines and stimulates the digetstive tract to push stool through the colon. The more xanthum gum one ingests the more laxative effect! Many popular bulk laxatives use xanthum gum to help people deal with constipation.

Is it safe to eat?

Yes! The World Health Organization (WHO) determined that it is safe to consume 15 grams/day. As  a reference point, most protein powders use less than half a gram per serving, mainly for texture, so 15 grams in a single day would be considered a huge amount.

Are you afraid to drinking beer of wine, consider it is dangerous? Both liquids are a products of bacterial or fungal fermentation. As is yogurt and cheese! One of my favs 😊

Studies have been conducted on the effects of  xanthum gum and found that it can lower both overall sugars and cholesterol in diabetics. Additionally, it can act as a saliva substitute in people who suffer from dry mouth.

Of course, people can be sensitive to this, like they can be sensitivite to any food additive.  If you suspect that you have a sensitivity to xanthum gum, it is not easily avoided due to its prevalence in so many products, food or otherwise. However, when you make salad dressings, or ice cream at home, you do not add xanthum gum specifically.

Home cooked is still always best 😉

Hopefully this demystifies xanthum gum for you, at least a little bit. 🙏😊

References;

https://draxe.com/what-is-xanthan-gum/

https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-340/xanthan-gum

https://www.fooducate.com/app#!page=post&id=57A3313A-D446-9E0C-44E2-8CDDCC498C35

 

 

A to Z Challenge: W is for Wine

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Do you remember when a study came out, about 20 years ago, stating that red wine was good for you? There were no real details, like why it was good for you, or in what way you would benefit. There certainly was no information about how much, or how little, you should drink to get these amazing benefits. A lot of people just heard “red wine” and “good”, and were satisfied with that!

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I get it! I like a drink every now and then too, so it would make sense that if you tell people something they want to hear, they won’t ask a lot of questions. 🧐

In the two decades that have passed since that day, there have been numerous studies conducted on both white and red wine, as well as other spirits, largely negating those small, positive correlations of the original studies.  But, if you ask the average person if consuming alcohol is healthy, they most likely will tell you that red wine is good for you, and leave it at that.

So, let’s take a look at that statement.

All forms of alcohol, not just wine, contain heart healthy factors.

Alcohol will raise the HDL form of cholesterol, and lower the LDL form. This means that cholesterol will be flushed out of the arteries before it has a chance to build up and form a blockage, known as plaque.

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Alcohol also reduces the formation of blood clots by interfering with platelet adhesion, thereby acting as a blood thinner.

Alcohol may also improve the function of the cells lining the arteries themselves.

Alcohols also has anti-inflammatory properties, anti- cancer activators and has been shown to increase longevity in lower life forms.

It sounds amazing doesn’t it! 🍸 🍷 🍹

Why did red wine get singled out?

Red wine contains over 500 natural occurring chemical substances. One of those is resveratrol.

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This is the compound found in the skin of red grapes. 🍇 It is one of the polyphenol class of antioxidants. Red grape skins are used in the fermentation of both red and white wine varieties, so white wine also contains resveratrol, but the red varieties have 13 times the amount. Food scientists have long credited red wine, and resveratrol, as the factor that explains the “French Paradox”. This is the notion that the French, who have lower levels of heart disease, obesity and Type II diabetes, in spite of consuming a diet high in fat and cholesterol, are drinking red wine with their meals and avoiding the harmful effects of their cuisine. Studies began by isolating resveratrol and looking at its effects on cells, and in small mammals. Small, positive correlations were observed and quickly the population grabbed onto the new idea that red wine was good for you.

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It didn’t take long for the herbal supplement machine to grab onto this information. This single antioxidant was concentrated and plugged into a capsule and sold. Annual sales reached an all time high of 30 million dollars in the Untied States, and the list of aliments supposedly cured by this one substances went far and above any of the actual testing that occurred.

The marketing teams touted that you can get all the benefits without the nasty hangovers or detrimental affects brought on by alcoholic beverages.

Not surprising!

 

 

Are there no other sources of resveratrol in the world!?😳

Of course there are! This is an antioxidant, which means you can eat healthy, colorful foods that will give you all the resveratrol your cells can use. The added bonus is that these foods are also full of other cancer fighting, and heart healthy boosting nutrients.

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You could just eat the grapes! The skin is where the antioxidants are contained so look for red, black and purple fruits. Blueberries, cranberries, dark chocolate and even peanuts have resveratrol, as well as many other fine nutrients.

The key is moderation🍇🍆🍫🍷

The last 20 years of data have demonstrated that red wine is not responsible for The French Paradox. There really is no mystery there at all. The French practice portion control, walking is part of their daily lifestyle and they consume more whole foods and less processed products.

Bottom line: if you love your red wine, have a glass (ladies) or two (fellas). Not a bottle! The standard serving size varies from different regulatory governing bodies, but this chart is a close representation from all guidelines.

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And don’t drink to the point of lowering your inhibitions and eating the foods you know will not help you meet your overall health goals. 😉

And don’t kid yourself! That is not a 5 oz. vitamin drink! You need a balanced diet to get the benefits of resveratrol and its antioxidant buddies. 😊

Cheers 🥂 !

References:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/in-depth/red-wine/art-20048281

https://www.everydayhealth.com/longevity/is-red-wine-good-for-you.aspx

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/1868537

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/drinking-red-wine-is-good-for-you–or-maybe-not/2017/12/01/49f55e7a-cbd3-11e7-aa96-54417592cf72_story.html?utm_term=.61891f50c52e