Honing Healthy Habits: Stories on wellness and nutrition to inspire a summer health check-in

By The Optimist Daily Staff   |   August 24, 2021

Turmeric tends to get all the attention when it comes to anti-inflammatory spices, but don’t overlook these five other spices that functional food expert Kanchan Koya, Ph.D. touts as her favorites for fighting off inflammation. Here are five anti-inflammatory spices that aren’t turmeric:

Cayenne: Cayenne is a great choice for spicy food lovers, as it will certainly add a bit of bite to your dish along with anti-inflammatory power. This hot spice is also a great source of phytonutrients, as well as potassium and magnesium.

Nutmeg: Nutmeg brings thoughts of winter holidays cozying up next to the fireplace, but you should really be using it year-round for its anti-inflammatory compounds called monoterpenes, specifically sabinene, terpineol, and pinene.

Black pepper: If you want to max out the benefits of turmeric, then black pepper is key. Black pepper enhances the absorption of curcumin 20-fold which is turmeric’s active compound. That said, the active ingredient in black pepper, piperine, has also been linked to fighting inflammation, so grind that fresh black pepper onto your dish for some extra anti-inflammation action.

Sumac: Sumac may not have a deep-rooted history in the west; however, it’s been used in Eastern cultures for centuries. This may be because it’s a rich source of phytonutrients as well as antioxidant compounds, both of which have anti-inflammatory properties.

Cinnamon: Cinnamon is also widely known for its powerful anti-inflammatory properties, but according to Koya, you should be careful about which kind of cinnamon you use, especially if you consume cinnamon daily. Ceylon cinnamon has a lower concentration of coumarin, which could be detrimental to your liver in large quantities, which makes it safer than Cassia cinnamon for everyday use.

How People in Blue Zones Drink Alcohol

While there is quite a bit of debate around touting alcohol as something that is beneficial to our health, the fact of the matter is that people living in Blue Zones, which are places with the highest concentration of centenarians, do consume alcohol regularly — they just consume it in a mindful and intentional way.

It’s important to note that Blue Zone residents aren’t downing sugary cocktails all day. For instance, in Sardinia, Italy, a red wine called Cannonau is a common accompaniment to dinner. It has double to triple the number of flavonoids (a kind of antioxidant), compared with other wines. The way they consume the wine is also worth observing. They drink only one or two glasses to go with a Mediterranean-inspired meal and enjoy them with loved ones. 

In Okinawa, Japan, where there are lower rates of cancer, heart disease, and dementia than in the general population, their beverage of choice is awamori, a rice-based distilled liquor. Awamori, which is often mixed with water and has been a part of their culture for over six centuries. Like their Sardinian counterparts, residents of Okinawa consume alcohol in moderation, in a social setting, and paired with a diet that is mostly plant-based.

Tips to Maintain a Positive Body Image

Many of us are itching to get back out into the world and experience some normalcy once again, but social events and in-person gatherings might cause body image issues and insecurities to resurface. Stress can take a toll on the body, and after a global pandemic, many of us are not at the same fitness level we were two years ago. Today we bring you a few strategies to feel confident and secure in your body as you head back into the world. 

Practice self-compassion: The words we speak to ourselves are often the harshest. Be an ally to yourself and accept your body by using compassion when thinking and talking about yourself. Don’t engage in deprecating jokes or language.

Know that everyone is experiencing their own insecurities: While you may look in the mirror and see subtle differences from week to week, the reality is that most people around you aren’t even thinking about your body or how it’s changed. Everyone around you is facing their own body image issues, but the truth is that most people are judging their own bodies more than anyone around them is. People will be too busy being excited to just see you face to face again to even think about your body or fitness.

Ignore critical voices: The unfortunate truth is that not everyone is well-versed in the body-positive language. Whether it’s your mother suggesting a workout class or a friend commenting on baby weight, we must learn to let these comments roll off our backs. Know that how you feel about yourself is what matters most and practice using body-positive language with yourself and others to encourage less judgment and more kindness.

Focus on what your body can do: Our bodies have value not because of how they look, but what they allow us to do. Your body carries you through the world, lets you find new places, and gives your strength. Appreciate what your body does for you and focus on what it allows you to accomplish. 

Find true priorities: It’s time to let go of the idea that simply being skinnier will make you happier. If you do want to make health and fitness a bigger part of your routine, think about progress in terms of tangible goals, not weight loss. Aim to go for a hike three times a week, achieve a difficult yoga pose, or learn to cook new and challenging recipes.

Prune your social media: Social media is a huge factor in body positivity issues. If people you follow on social media promote content that makes you feel inferior or judged, it’s probably time to unfollow or at least mute their pages. Simultaneously, you can seek out content creators actively working to promote healthier body images and let social media be a force for good in your day.

Practice gratitude: After a global pandemic, we all have a newfound appreciation for our health and stability. Thank your body for protecting and supporting you during this difficult time and be grateful for your health every day.


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