At this point, you’ve probably heard of the vegan diet. And there’s a good chance you know a handful of vegans. Veganism and other plant-based diets are becoming more and more mainstream with every passing year. According to one survey, only 1% of consumers in the U.S. identified as vegan in 2014. By 2017, that number had grown to 6%.This surge in popularity means that the vegan diet is more accessible than ever. While plant-based alternatives to meat and animal products were once few and far between, shoppers now enjoy a wide variety of plant-based substitutes at most stores. The same is true in many restaurants.

This also means that more people than ever are considering adopting a vegan diet—that’s where this article comes in. Whether you’re considering going vegan or simply curious about plant-based diets, read on for a deep dive on the different types of veganism, the health benefits of a vegan diet, and everything in between.

What is a Vegan Diet?

People who follow a vegan diet, also known as a plant-based diet, avoid consuming animal products. Like vegetarians, this means that vegans do not eat any form of meat. Additionally, however, vegans also avoid dairy, eggs, in many cases honey, and all other animal-derived food ingredients.

Veganism can extend beyond foods, too. Some vegans try to avoid any products—whether it is food, clothing, or toiletries—that involve animals in their production. Leather shoes and clothes are a no-go, as are products that rely on animal testing (these might include shampoos, makeup, and so on).

These lifestyle decisions are not always easy or convenient. So why do people choose veganism? Naturally, the answer changes from person to person. Some of the most frequently cited reasons for going vegan include animal rights, environmental concerns, and, of course, health.

The term “vegan diet” is a broad category that can be further divided into subcategories. That is, not all vegans are the same type of vegan. If that statement feels a little confusing, don’t worry—the list below breaks down some of the most common types of vegan diets:

  • Raw vegan diet: As the name suggests, raw vegans avoid eating foods that have been cooked. Or, more specifically, foods that have been cooked at a temperature above 118°F (48°C). This diet relies on raw fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and other minimally processed plant-based foods.
  • Whole foods vegan diet: Again, this one is pretty self-explanatory. Followers of a whole foods vegan diet build their meals around minimally processed plant-based foods. This includes fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and more. Unlike a raw vegan diet, however, this diet has no guidelines surrounding cooked food.
  • Raw till four vegan diet: This diet is a variation on the raw vegan diet in which you eat only raw plant-based foods until 4pm each day. After that, you are free to eat cooked and processed plant-based foods as well.
  • 80/10/10 vegan diet: The 80/10/10 diet is another variation on the raw vegan diet. In this case, the goal is to eliminate fat-rich plant-based foods, such as avocados and nuts, from your diet. Adherents to this diet strive to get 80% of their calories from carbohydrates (usually fruit), 10% of their calories from fat, and 10% of their calories from protein each day.

Health Benefits of a Vegan Diet

As mentioned above, health is one of the main reasons people go vegan. But are plant-based diets actually healthier than other options? The short answer is that it depends. Let’s get into the long answer.

Plant-based diets tend to have a few clear health benefits. Followers of a vegan diet may find it easier to reach and maintain a healthy weight. Some studies have also linked vegan diets to lower rates of heart disease.

There are a variety of reasons behind these health benefits, but many can be attributed to the same root cause. In general, nutritionists suggest eating a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and other whole foods. In other words, a well-balanced diet. Plant-based diets often naturally fall into line with this advice, as the main foods consumed are, well, plant-based.

That being said, following a plant-based diet does not guarantee better health—but more on that in the next section.

The Common Nutritional Challenges of a Vegan Diet

As mentioned above, going vegan isn’t a one-way ticket to better health. Just like any well-rounded diet, a healthy plant-based diet requires planning and intentionality. For vegans, this might mean paying extra attention to the nutrients listed below:

  • Protein: If you’re used to getting your protein from fish, meat, or eggs, don’t worry—there are plenty of plant-based protein sources as well. Some of the most common protein sources for vegans include soybeans (and tofu), lentils, beans, nuts, and seeds.
  • Vitamin B12: This vitamin is an essential nutrient that is most commonly found in fish, meat, and dairy—none of which are vegan. If you’re following a vegan diet, it is crucial that you eat foods that are fortified with vitamin B12. These might include fortified plant milks, cereals, or even nutritional yeast. Additionally, you may need to take a vitamin B12 supplement to ensure you are getting the proper amount each day.
  • Calcium: When most people hear calcium, they think of milk. Vegans have to think outside the box (or, in this case, carton). Common plant-based calcium sources include tofu and leafy greens. Some plant milks are also fortified with calcium.
  • Zinc: This micronutrient is another essential mineral that is most commonly found in meat (and shellfish). Plant-based sources include nuts, beans, and whole grains, but may also consider taking a zinc supplement.

Following a Vegan Diet: 3 Common Myths and Misconceptions About Veganism

Although veganism is more mainstream than ever, there are still a number of common myths surrounding vegan diets—most of which simply aren’t true. So let’s take a look at three of the most common myths and misconceptions about veganism and break them down:

  1. Vegans are malnourished: One of the most commonly touted criticisms of vegan diets is that veganism isn’t nutritionally viable. That is, many people think that it is impossible to get the proper nutrients while maintaining a plant-based diet. As outlined in the section above, this isn’t actually true.
    While some nutrients, such as vitamin B12, are less readily available in plant-based foods, there are a number of ways vegans can introduce that nutrient into their diet. By and large, vegans tend to eat a very nutrient-rich diet, as fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are jam-packed with essential nutrients.
  2. Being vegan is inherently healthy: On the flipside, some people believe that going vegan will automatically make them healthier. While vegans often do enjoy many of the health benefits listed above, maintaining a well-balanced diet is still essential. There are plenty of vegan foods that are highly processed and not very nutritious. In order to see the health benefits of being vegan, you will still need to be intentional about your meal planning.
  3. Being vegan limits you: Veganism is by definition restrictive. By choosing to follow a vegan diet or lifestyle, you are narrowing the foods and products available to you. But this doesn’t have to limit you! Rather than focusing on what you can’t eat, focus on all of the new foods and recipes out there to try. Sometimes a few restrictions can open the door to creativity.

Body language is a powerful communicator. Your posture, the way you hold your body, exudes confidence. It can show others if you are listening to them or even express if you’re feeling shy, tired, and so much more.

And, as it turns out, it can also affect your health.

The ties between posture and health cut both ways. Good posture brings great benefits, and, on the flip side, bad posture can be detrimental to your health. Let’s take a look at each element of your posture: the good, the bad, and what you can do about it.

Posture Perfect

Before getting into the nitty gritty, what exactly is posture and what makes it good or bad? “Good” posture is typically easy on your body: carrying yourself in positions that don’t strain or tweak your muscles and joints. “Bad” posture, well, does the opposite. (More on that later!)

Posture can be broken into two categories: static (not moving) and dynamic (in motion). For now, we’ll deep dive into static posture. When your body is at rest, you’re probably doing one of three things: sitting, standing, or lying down. Let’s take a look at the ideal posture for each:

  • Sitting: You’ve probably heard it a thousand times: “sit up straight!” This is by no means bad advice, but it focuses solely on the spine. And good sitting posture is a whole-body activity. When sitting, strive to keep your back straight and balanced above your hips. Your shoulders should be relaxed, and your feet should rest flat on the floor. If you work at a computer desk, position your monitor so you are looking straight ahead, not slightly down. This helps reduce the tension exerted on your spine. Overall, good sitting posture should feel relatively neutral: if something seems tense or strained, it may be a sign to reevaluate your sitting position.
  • Standing: As with sitting, good standing posture starts with the spine. To maintain an ideal standing body position, focus to keep your back straight up and down—not rigidly, but in a natural, relaxed stance. Your shoulders shouldn’t be hunched forward, but pulled back so they are balanced over your hips. Engage your abdominal muscles to help maintain this position. Your feet should be about shoulder-width apart, with your weight balanced on the balls of your feet. Once again, try to avoid angling your head in strange directions: looking straight ahead causes the least spinal strain.
  • Lying down: People can get surprisingly opinionated about sleep positions. But whether you’re a back-, side-, or belly-sleeper, one thing is true: you should try to keep your ears, shoulders, and hips in alignment. By maintaining this axis through your body, you reduce strain on your neck and spine—which, in turn, can help reduce pain in your day-to-day. Sometimes this means getting creative with your pillow placement. If you sleep on your back, a pillow under your knees can help maintain the body’s natural contours. And for the side sleepers out there, a pillow placed between the knees has a similar effect. Belly-sleepers should use a flat pillow for their head (or no pillow at all). An additional pillow under the pelvis can also help reduce stress on the spine.

Why Bother: The Benefits of Good Posture

As a general rule, a little pain and discomfort each day is inevitable. It’s just part of life. That being said, there are steps you can take to help reduce the amount of discomfort you experience each day—and one is paying attention to your posture. Good posture can have a positive impact on your health by:

  • Reducing back pain: Sitting off-kilter or hunched over can increase the strain on your lumbar spine (aka your lower back). With time, this strain can lead to back pain. Good sitting and standing postures help you avoid this unnecessary discomfort by keeping lower back strain to a minimum.
  • Easing neck and shoulder tension: Proper posture balances your head comfortably over your spine. This reduces the amount of weight your head and shoulders have to support, which in turn reduces muscle tension in those areas.
  • Decreasing frequency of headaches: One of the most common culprits behind headaches is tension. And as mentioned, good posture can reduce the amount of tension in your neck and shoulders. While this may not eliminate all the headaches you experience, it will certainly help keep them at bay.
  • Increasing energy levels: Good posture is all about keeping your body balanced and neutral. In other words, it’s about not creating extra work for your stabilizing muscles. (You know what they say: work smarter, not harder.) This can reduce fatigue and muscle strain, giving you more energy throughout the day.
  • Improving joint health: Your body’s joints naturally experience wear-and-tear throughout your life. After all, they do move a lot. Some movements—especially unnatural ones—wear your joints down more than others. Proper posture can help you avoid many of these unnatural movements, keeping your joints healthier for longer.
  • Expanding lung capacity: Your lungs are the center of your respiratory system—needless to say, they’re pretty important. And to do their job properly, your lungs need room to expand fully. Slouching can restrict the amount of space they have, making it harder to breathe.

How Bad Posture Affects Your Health

Posture goes way beyond the way you look. Poor posture can directly impact your physical health. Some of the most common effects of bad posture include:

  • Neck, shoulder, and back pain: Posture is all about alignment. When your body—especially your neck and back—are out of alignment, it can cause unnecessary strain on your muscles and joints. Over time, this can lead to tension and pain.
  • Increase risk of spine injury: Slouching gradually wears down your spine and other joints. This might not seem like a big deal, but years of bad posture can catch up to you. The weaker your spine, the more fragile and prone it is to injury.
  • Decreased flexibility: Pulling your shoulders forward, slouching, and other forms of bad posture can all reduce your range of motion over time. When your muscles get accustomed to unusual or unnatural positions it can be difficult to return to a neutral stance. In other words, your abdomen, back, and shoulders can lose flexibility, making it more difficult to practice good posture.
  • Poor digestion: Like your lungs, your organs need space to do their jobs—space that’s naturally provided in your abdominal cavity. When you hunch forward or slouch, it can reduce this space, making it harder for your body to process and digest food.
  • Headaches: Tension in your neck and shoulders is one of the most common effects of bad posture. It’s also one of the most common causes for headaches. So next time you feel your posture slipping, remember: you’re setting yourself up, literally and figuratively, for future headaches.

How to Improve Your Posture

No matter where you are in your posture journey, the tips and tricks below can help you ditch the slouching and keep your posture balanced and natural:

  • Stay active: Good posture is all about holding your body in the right way. And this takes strength—not a lot of it, but enough to keep your body stable and upright. An active lifestyle can help keep your muscles strong enough to maintain good posture throughout the day.
  • Stretch regularly: If you’ve found that sitting up straight feels uncomfortable, this might be due to a lack of flexibility. It’s important to keep your body limber and flexible, which requires regular stretching. When it comes to posture, focus on stretching your neck, shoulder, and back muscles.
  • Keep your abs strong: As mentioned, strength is a big part of posture—specifically core strength. Your abs and core muscles help keep your torso upright and balanced, making good posture possible. There’s no right way to exercise these muscles—try anything from abdominal crunches and other ab exercises to swimming, yoga, and more.
  • Practice curve reversal: If you’ve been hunched forward for an extended time, counteract and “reset” your posture by stretching the other direction. Known as curve reversal, this is a great way to stretch or to simply remind yourself to return your posture to a more neutral position.
  • Avoid squishy chairs: Who doesn’t love a nice, plush chair? But like most good things, squishy chairs are best in moderation. If you’re going to be sitting for an extended period of time, it’s best to choose a firm seat with good back support to help you maintain proper posture as you sit. Soft chairs with lots of give let you to sink into the cushions, so keeping your body upright takes much more work.
  • Lift with your legs, not your back: It’s difficult to maintain good posture with a weak or injured back—so be careful! When lifting heavy objects, try to keep your back straight. Instead of bending over to lift, bend your knees and use your quads to raise yourself back up.
  • Be mindful: It may seem simple, but one of the most important aspects of posture is simply being mindful of how your body is positioned. If you notice yourself slouching or hunching forward, take a moment to readjust your posture.
  • Adjust work surface height: If you have a desk job, sitting up straight is only half the battle. You should also make sure your work surface is right height for good neck posture. Try to position your monitor so you are looking straight ahead. If your desk is too low, you may naturally hunch forward to reach it. Or if it is too high, your feet may not rest comfortably om the floor. If this is the case, adjust your desk so your arms reach it comfortably and your feet are flat as you sit up straight.

As you go throughout your busy day, try to be mindful of your posture. Over time, it’ll become more and more natural to keep your body upright, neutral and in alignment. Good posture will benefit your health and you might even feel a boost in confidence.

Everything you remember, from the meaningful to the mundane, shapes how you see the world…and yourself. In many ways, your memories make you who you are.

But let’s set the philosophical aside for a moment and talk practical. Throughout your day, it’s your memory that lets you perform simple tasks like finding your keys or recognizing a coworker. And, of course, memory is also essential to learning.

Although the ability to recall and process memories naturally slows down with age, there are steps you can take to help keep your memory sharp. Let’s take a deep dive into how memory works and what you can do to improve it.

Memory and the Brain–How Does It Work?

Memory is the processing, storage, and recall of information. Your brain is always deciding what information is worth storing—and for how long. For example, you probably can’t remember every item on last month’s grocery list, but as you wrote it, you easily recalled what was missing from your pantry. And yet there are likely events from years ago—decades, even—that you remember with perfect clarity.

This recall is controlled by your long-term and short-term memory. Short-term memories are only stored for a brief period of time—usually a matter of seconds or minutes. While long-term memories are stored more or less permanently.

This leads us to the big, looming question: how are these memories stored?

Different regions of your brain perform separate tasks. Olfaction (your sense of smell), for instance, is handled in your brain’s temporal lobe. But visual processing takes place in the occipital lobe. Your memories often include diverse details like visual, auditory, and other sensory information—not to mention the associated emotions. Because of this, the rich variety of information that makes up a memory is stored throughout your brain.

So how does your brain keep track of all of these pieces? Enter the hippocampus. This brain structure is found deep in the temporal lobe. And it’s responsible to keep a running index of your memories and their elemental parts.

The final piece of the memory puzzle is the one we’re most familiar with: recall. So how exactly do you summon up stored memories? The answer: neural pathways. Your brain is made up of neurons using electrical and chemical signals to transmit information. With each new experience, multiple regions of your brain connect and communicate to create a new and unique neural pathway. When you remember something, your brain is simply recreating this pathway as a memory.

Why Does Memory Deteriorate

As mentioned, memory may naturally decline with age. This doesn’t necessarily mean your ability to form new memories is declining, but rather your brain’s ability to recall existing memories slows down. This is, in part, due to the deterioration of neurons in your brain.

With age, the communication between neurons that’s crucial to memory recall can become less efficient. It is not that your brain can no longer form the necessary neurological pathways, the process just takes a little longer than it used to.

Of course, other outside factors can also impact your ability to recall memories. These include sleep deprivation, stress, head trauma, and other neurological conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

How to Keep Your Memory Healthy

Struggling to recall a memory that feels just out of reach can be frustrating, inconvenient, and, at times, embarrassing. Thankfully, there are ways to help boost your memory and keep your recall sharp as a tack:

  1. Stay physically active: It might seem counterintuitive, but one of the best ways to keep your brain active is to keep your body in motion. Exercise improves blood flow to the brain, helping to keep your neurons healthy and happy. Studies show that as little as 15 minutes of exercise can lead to observable improvements in cognition and memory. Regular exercise—between 75–150 minutes per week—has been tied to improved memory function in adults.
  2. Get a good night’s sleep: Sleep plays a vital, albeit mysterious, role in memory encoding and processing. Although its exact role in memory function is still being explored, most scientists agree sleep allows your brain to store and process new memories from the day. But it’s not just new memories that sleep can help. Lack of sleep can also impact your ability to recall existing memories. To give your brain the rest it needs, try to get between 7–9 hours of sleep each night.
  3. Eat a well-balanced diet: You’ve probably heard it said, but it’s worth repeating—you are what you eat. Your diet can impact many aspects of your life, including your neurological function. Nutritious, vitamin-rich foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, can give your brain the fuel it needs to keep functioning as it should. And on the flip side, foods such as sugars, processed foods, and refined carbohydrates have been tied to cognitive decline and, in some cases, increased risk of dementia.
  4. Read a book: Your brain (and memory) is like a muscle—the more you use it, the stronger it gets. Creating new neural pathways keeps your neurons in tip-top shape. One great way to exercise your neurons is reading a book. Reading also decreases stress and improves concentration—both of which can have a positive impact on your memory.
  5. Try to stay organized: Clutter, both physical and mental, can negatively impact your ability to remember things. If you keep your working and living spaces tidy, it‘s easier to remember where you set your phone, keys, or wallet. Similarly, a planner can help keep you mentally organized, making it easier to remember appointments, tasks, and other responsibilities.
  6. Get plenty of vitamins B and D: If you’re eating a well-balanced, nutritious diet, there’s a good chance you’re already getting enough of the essential vitamins and minerals to help maintain your health. When it comes to your memory, you want to get enough vitamin B and D. These two nutrients have been tied to reduced rates of dementia and may play a vital role in keeping your memory working properly.
  7. Limit your alcohol consumption: Alcohol can affect your health in a number of ways, but one of the more obviously affected areas is your memory. If you drink excessively you run the risk of “blacking out”—or temporarily losing the ability to store new memories. That’s why after a night of heavy drinking some people struggle to remember the evening clearly. Although these effects may not be permanent, drinking alcohol in moderation or abstaining completely is one of the best ways to look out for your memory.

Memory Exercises: Tips and Tricks for Improving Your Memory

The tips above are great general lifestyle changes to keep your memory sharp. But how can you strengthen your ability to store and recall information in real-time? If you struggle to memorize details, or simply want to improve your recall, give these strategies a shot:

  1. Use memory associations: The human brain is a wonderful and mysterious organ capable of making connections between just about anything—related or not. And these connections can help you store and recall information. When committing new information to memory, try associating it with something unrelated. A new coworker’s name, for instance, could be connected to the song playing when you met. As your brain goes to remember your coworker’s name, this connection may help speed up the process.
  2. Say the information out loud: Whether you are trying to remember a phone number, studying for a test, or committing directions to memory, saying the information out loud can help it stick.
  3. Chunk the information: Rather than trying to remember a series of individual data points, you might find it easier to recall information organized into groups. Known as chunking, this strategy is often applied to phone numbers: many people memorize these as a set of three and a set of four, not as seven individual numbers. Chunking can be applied in a variety of ways—simply break information into smaller sets to tackle one at a time.
  4. Write it down: Hand-writing information has a similar effect as speaking it out loud. That is, it can make information easier to remember later on. Writing things out on paper can be especially helpful and even a more effective memory tool than taking digital notes on a laptop.

Practice some of these tips and watch your memory sharpen. The next time you’re running late for work and scrambling to get out the door, you can reach for your keys confidently because they’ll be right where you remember leaving them.

“Sitting is the new smoking”—this is the latest catch phrase surrounding health. Yes, perhaps it’s a bit alarmist, but the notion holds true. Sitting for extended periods can be detrimental to your health. And alas, many of us spend most of the day sitting.

One study reveals more than a quarter of American adults sit for over eight hours a day. This sitting epidemic has one major culprit: the desk job. If you work a nine-to-five in the office, that’s eight hours in a chair right there. Not to mention time spent relaxing at home.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Learn the health risks of sitting at a desk all day and what you can do to stay healthy while working your desk job.

Desk Stress and Your Body: Health Effects of a Sedentary Lifestyle

Let’s get one thing out of the way: sitting in moderation isn’t inherently bad for you. But grabbing a chair for excessive periods of time does come with side effects. The science is pretty straightforward—when you sit for prolonged intervals your body feels it:

  • Blood flow: While you’re sitting, your blood circulates at a slower rate than when you’re standing. As blood flow slows, it can be easier for fatty acids to build up in your arteries—a common precursor to heart disease.
  • Fat usage: Your body breaks down fats in your diet one of two ways—by processing it or storing it. Sitting has been shown to slow the body’s production of lipoprotein lipase, an enzyme that helps break down fats. This means less fat is processed and it’s instead being stored in your body.
  • Insulin resistance: When you’re sitting, your body experiences “muscle passivity.” Basically, you’re not actively using most of your muscles. This state could lead to increased insulin resistance, which may cause elevated blood sugar levels.

Scientists are still exploring the full impact these bodily changes can have on your health, but some of the repercussions are clear. Excessive sitting has the potential to increase your risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, blood clots, and obesity.

But there is good news! If you spend a lot of your day sitting, there’s plenty you can do to combat these health woes.

Staying Active at the Desk: Stretching Your In-Office Exercise Options


As more and more points to the detrimental effects of sitting, office norms are changing. For those with desk jobs, this means sitting for eight hours straight isn’t your only option. So what can you do instead? Let’s get into it:

  • Stand up to work: It seems too good to be true, but one of the best ways to avoid the health impacts of sitting is, well, to not sit. Enter the standing desk. Though they come in a variety of forms, each is designed to elevate the surface of your desk to let you stand instead of sit. While standing only burns marginally more calories than sitting, it can help you avoid the other health risks above. And what’s more, some studies suggest that standing desks can help boost productivity.
  • Break away: If possible, take a break at least once every hour. It doesn’t have to—and probably shouldn’t—be a long break. Just enjoy three to five minutes away from your desk to use the restroom, make a cup of coffee, grab a snack, etc. Time spent standing or, even better, walking can work wonders for your health and productivity.
  • Try a new desk accessory: Get creative with your at-work exercise by placing a small stationary bike, or even a treadmill, under your desk. Both are great options to stay active while working, helping you keep the blood flowing throughout the day. And the best part? You don’t even need to break a sweat to see the benefits.
  • Suggest a walk-and-talk: The business week can be chock full of meetings—most taken sitting down. A walking meeting is a great alternative to the traditional conference room meetup. It’s exactly what it sounds like: a meeting while trekking through the office, around the block, anywhere but sitting at a table. Of course, not every meeting can be held this way, but it is a terrific option for team brainstorming sessions and one-on-one conversations.
  • Step it up: If you’ve gotten in the habit of using the elevator, it’s time to mix it up. Stairs are a simple and easy way to get your blood pumping at work. Climbing the stairs is also a heart-healthy way to spend one of your mini breaks throughout the day.
  • Stretch your possibilities: Stop what you’re doing. Stand up, place one hand on your elbow, and pull your arm across your chest. Hold for 30 seconds. Reverse this stretch on the other side. Ahhh…doesn’t that feel good? Now turn around, place one foot on the seat of your chair, and engage your core as you slowly lean forward to stretch the back of your supporting leg. Switch sides. Fitting a quick stretch into your workday is as easy as that.

Make Your Commute Count

If you commute to work, you likely know firsthand how much sitting it can add to your day. Waiting in traffic, slumped on the bus, seated on the train—you get the idea. But it’s also one part of your workday that can turn physical. If you live cycling distance from the office, an early morning bike ride into work is a perfect way to start the day. And getting off the bus a few stops early lets you squeeze a brisk walk into an otherwise packed day.

Losing the car may seem like a drastic change to make, but give it a shot—after skipping traffic for a few days, you may never to go back to the auto commute!

Exercise After Work: Counteracting the Effects of Sitting

At the end of the day, you’re at work to work. Not all offices are open to the idea of a walking meeting. And, let’s face it, an under-the-desk stationary bike might not be in your future.

If this is your situation, don’t worry—a healthy lifestyle while working a desk job is still doable. It just takes a little after work motivation.

A day of sitting at a desk staring at a screen is exhausting. Plopping down on the couch and relaxing after work can be tempting. The problem is this adds even more sitting to your day. To stave off the negative health impacts of prolonged sitting, it’s crucial to mix some form of physical activity into your day.

This doesn’t mean hitting the gym for two hours every evening or going for a five-mile run (if that’s your thing, kudos to you). A 30-minute walk after dinner is enough to get the blood flowing. And if you don’t want to leave the house, home exercises can achieve the same benefit.

The Bottom Line

So, is sitting the new smoking? Not exactly. Sitting in moderation is a pervasive part of life, but too much of it for too long can have negative health consequences. Unlike smoking, sitting is an easy habit to break by simply finding creative ways to get up and get moving. It’s true, whether you like it or not, you’re going to spend some of each day seated. And that’s ok—you now have plenty of ideas to stay healthy, even with a desk job.

athlete doing exercise

athlete doing exercise

A good workout session can leave you feeling tired, sore, invigorated, happy—the list goes on and on. So, what exactly is going on inside your body?

Read on to know the physiological changes your body goes through during exercise, the lasting effects—and just about everything in between.

Exercise and Its Supporting Body Systems

Your body moves, breathes, and lives thanks to numerous systems working together in perfect harmony. Organs, tissues, and more step up to perform specific tasks and functions. And each plays a different role as you exercise. Here’s a breakdown of how some of them respond to exercise:

  • Cardiovascular System—You may know it as the circulatory system. Made up of the heart, arteries, and other blood vessels, it circulates oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood throughout your body. During exercise, your muscles require more oxygen than usual. In response, the cardiovascular system kicks into overdrive by increasing your heart rate and blood pressure. These changes give your hard-working muscles the oxygen they need. You feel this when your heart rate increases during your workout. This changes the blood distribution throughout your body. In a resting state your muscles receive about 20% of the blood your heart pumps; during exercise the number jumps up to 80%. Your heart loves it when you up your physical game.
  • Respiratory System: Breathing gives your body oxygen—and along with your muscles, your entire body needs more oxygen when you exercise. The respiratory system ignites pulmonary ventilation—increasing the air entering and exiting your lungs. This has two bodily effects. First, your lungs take in more air with each breath. And second, your breathing rate increases. You know this is happening when you get slightly out of breath during a workout.
  • Musculoskeletal System: Head to toe, your skeletal muscle helps provide movement, stabilize joints, and maintain posture. For most everyday activities, your muscles get ample energy from the oxygen you breathe in. The same holds true for prolonged, low-intensity exercise—known as aerobic exercise. During high intensity workouts—or anaerobic exercise—the oxygen in your blood doesn’t offer enough energy for your muscles. So your muscles turn to another energy source: the glycogen (a form of glucose, or sugar) stored in your muscles and liver. Three-quarters of your body’s total glycogen is stored in your skeletal muscles for go-to energy during regular exercise.
  • Endocrine System: One of the best things about exercise is it can make you feel good, and at times, almost euphoric. This is all thanks to this incredible system. As you exercise, it gives you bursts of several hormones—including dopamine and serotonin— neurotransmitters tied to improved mood and happiness. It doesn’t take pounding the pavement to get a “runners high,” but it does typically occur after intense or lengthy workout session. For those who prefer low intensity workouts, any form of exercise self-care can make you feel amazing.

Exercise from Start to Finish

Female athletes running towards finish line on track field

From the moment you begin your workout, your body starts to make adjustments. Right off the bat, you’ll likely notice your heart rate increase to give your muscles oxygen to support more strenuous activity.

Depending on the exercise—aerobic or anaerobic—your muscles will draw on different energy sources. During cardio activities, such as jogging or cycling, your body relies on an elevated heart rate and deepened breathing to give your muscles enough oxygen to keep them energized. Weightlifting, on the other hand, is an anaerobic exercise. Pumping iron prompts your muscles to dip into your body’s glucose stores for energy.

After both types of workouts, your body immediately begins to return to its resting state. Your heart rate slows and your breathing returns to normal. On the inside, the distribution of oxygen throughout your body goes back to normal, too. This usually takes about an hour depending on how used your body is to exercise.

In the days and weeks following regular exercise, you may experience other changes as well. Visible benefits may be a better mood, higher energy levels, and even improved confidence.

Working Out Gives You Energy

Did you know that exercise gives you more energy? It may be hard to believe. You’re expending energy to exercise so you might think it leaves you more depleted. But the opposite is true. When you exercise, you’ll feel more energetic right away.

Increased blood circulation distributes fresh oxygen, nutrients, and endorphins throughout the body. This helps the body function better and use energy more efficiently. You may experience sharper focus, increased alertness, a boost in your mood, and more energy, immediately after a workout.

Exercise gives you more energy in the long-term too. Research has shown that regular exercise helps you sleep better and more deeply. This is one of the most important factors in helping you feel refreshed and energized throughout the day. On a biological level, exercise stimulates your muscle cells to produce more mitochondria—the “powerhouse” of the cell. Mitochondria are responsible for creating cellular energy out of glucose from your food. When more mitochondria are produced in the cells, you’re body is able to convert glucose into energy more effectively.

When it comes to energy, you might have thought of the human body as a battery. With a limited amount to expend throughout each day. In reality, the body is more like a chargeabale generator. It requires regular work and movement to replenish itself and produce the energy it needs.

The Long-Lasting Effects of Exercise

Let’s be honest, most people aren’t too focused on the science of exercise. They’re striving for tangible results—like improving strength, increasing stamina, or losing weight.

Regular exercise can lead to weight loss as your body burns stored fat cells to give your muscles the energy they need. It may also improve stamina as your heart and lungs become stronger to provide your body oxygen more efficiently. And a regular workout may build your  strength over time as you build muscle mass. Don’t be surprised if you feel and see whole-body benefits.

Be sure to reward yourself for small physical changes as they come. And enjoy your exercise routine as a pleasurable experience in and of itself. Let it bring you into the moment and connect your mind and body by slowing down and focusing on your breathing and heart. Your body will thank you.

woman reading book at home

woman reading book at home

For some of us, there’s nothing better than curling up with a good book on a rainy day and reading for hours on end. And for others, there’s nothing worse. No matter which side you fall on, one fact remains the same: reading is good for both your physical and mental health.

This news likely comes as no surprise to most bookworms. After all, their love of reading is tied to how it makes them feel—that is, the way a good novel brings a welcome break from reality. But for both the avid and less-than-eager readers, let’s explore the health benefits of reading.

Less Stress: The Scientific Benefits of Reading

Stress is a sensation we are all too familiar with. We’ve all experienced it and have our own ways of coping—some better than others. What many people aren’t aware of, however, is that stress can adversely affect your health.

Day-to-day stress may simply make you uncomfortable—think headaches, stomach pains, fatigue, or restless sleep. Over time, stress can increase your risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and heart attacks. And it’s not just your body that feels the stress effects—it can also take a toll on your mental health. Stress has been tied to increased levels of depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions.

All that to say, stress is something you should try to minimize and manage to bolster your well-being. This is where reading comes in.

One study suggests reading for as little as six minutes each day is as effective at reducing stress in the body as many other popular stress-management techniques, such as going for a walk. And there’s tangible proof: reading can lower your resting heart rate and relieve muscle tension.

Although there’s still much to unpack regarding the neurological intricacies of reading, scientists theorize some of this stress relief is due to the focus it requires. Like meditation, reading directs an individual’s attention to a single task. Paired with how reading uniquely triggers imagination, people may transport to an altered state of consciousness—one free from many day-to-day stressors. If you’ve ever “escaped” into a book, you may have experienced this phenomena.

Some studies even tie regular reading to increased longevity. One study conducted by Yale suggests individuals over the age of 50 who regularly read books—not articles—had a decreased risk of dying in the next decade. The reason needs to be explored further, but one possible explanation goes back to stress relief. As mentioned, stress takes a toll on your body. If you reduce stress, you lessen the wear and tear your body experiences, which in turn, may boost longevity.

Food for Thought: What Reading Does for the Brain

People love to talk about reading being good for the brain, but often don’t get into specifics. So, what exactly does this mean? The short answer is reading can alter your brain on a neurological level. But let’s get to the long answer.

Reading engages several regions of the brain, including the temporal lobe and Broca’s area (in the frontal lobe). White-matter pathways—collections of nerve fibers in the brain—also play a crucial role in reading by connecting various brain regions. To best transmit information, these nerve pathways must be wide and smooth. As children learn to read, it’s crucial for these white-matter pathways to develop and grow properly. Bumpy or narrow pathways are tied to lower reading fluency. But here’s the amazing thing: with practice and remediation these neural pathways can change and develop, increasing a child’s ability to read fluently.

At this point you may be thinking it’s too late—you’re probably not a child learning to read. But reading’s impact on the brain isn’t limited to early childhood, as observed in one 2013 study.

Researchers monitored the resting-state networks (RSNs) of participants aged 19–27. RSNs are basically different regions or functional communities in the brain that play a role in several neural processes, including memory, attention, and sensory systems. As you age, the connectivity between these networks declines, which has been tied to various drops in cognitive function. This captivating study identified increased RSN connectivity among participants who were assigned a section of a novel to read each evening.

One study observation was not surprising—the language-processing regions of the participants’ brains were strengthened. But the positive effects didn’t stop there. The sensorimotor regions of their brains were also strengthened, suggesting that reading may have a broader impact on the brain than expected.

The main takeaway here is that reading is exercise for your brain. And just like any other workout, it helps build strength. The stronger your brain is as you age, the better it will function. This is backed up by numerous studies that found reading regularly may help delay Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other neurological declines associated with aging.

Mind, Body, and Soul: More Reasons Why Reading is Good for You

So far, we’ve focused on the scientific benefits of reading—those that can be observed and measured through studies and experiments. While these benefits are significant, it would be a shame to end the discussion here. After all, reading has many other upsides—they are just a little more difficult to measure. Let’s break down a few:

  • Increased empathy: It’s no surprise that reading literary fiction—novels and stories about made-up characters—can increase your ability to understand and connect with others. Novels put you inside the mind of the characters, giving you direct access to their thoughts, feelings, and desires. This experience translates directly to the real world, where you may find you’re better equipped to understand and form relationships with those around you.
  • Decreased loneliness: Both writers and readers often liken a good book to a good friend. And, as it turns out, this comparison is fairly apt. Just like a bestie, a good book can help reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness. Whether it’s the company of a novel’s characters or your newfound friends in book clubs or other similar forums, connections are created a variety of ways.
  • Greater social awareness: Middle school to high school can be difficult years to say the least. It’s a period of transition—physically, emotionally, and socially. While reading can’t help much with the first, it can ease emotional and social transitions in adolescence. By reading about characters in situations like their own, teens may find their lives a little less awkward. And by reading about characters from different cultures, situations, economic status, etc. they gain insight into the world around them as they increase their social awareness and emotional maturity.

Making Time to Read: Books Are More Than a Guilty Pleasure

People often say they read less than they would like to. And the reason is simple: there just isn’t enough time. Reading is seen as a leisure activity, something enjoyed when you have down time—a rare commodity these days.

If you’ve ever found yourself falling into this line of thinking, just remember, getting lost in the pages of a good book is more than a guilty pleasure. Making time to read means taking time for your mental, physical, and emotional well-being. It’s an act of self-care. And the best part…all you need is a good book.

woman in cafe using her mobile phone

woman in cafe using her mobile phone

In the not-so-distant past, cell phones were a new and exciting technology. Now it seems you can’t go anywhere without seeing a smartphone in nearly every hand. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing—they are awfully practical. If you’re trying to call a friend, find the nearest coffee shop, or simply keep up with the news, your cell phone can help you do just that. And you can do it from just about anywhere.

If smartphones are an inextricable part of day-to-day life—which they seem to be—it’s worth looking into the ties between them and your health. So, whether you’re an occasional user or stay tied to your phone, read on for a breakdown of how your cell phone affects you.

Smartphones and Physical Health: The Effects of Cell Phones on Your Body

When it comes to cell phones and health, many people immediately jump to the radio frequency energy these devices emit. While it is technically true that cell phones expose users to a type of radiation, it’s important to note it’s a low level of non-ionizing radiation—a type that has not been linked to any health problems.

With the insidious threat of radiation out of the way, let’s look at the ways your smartphone actually can impact your physical well-being:

  • Disrupted sleep: One of the most reported effects of smartphone use is disrupted sleep patterns. This is especially true when you are on your phone in bed before falling asleep. Excessive exposure to screens throughout the day can also lead to difficulty falling asleep and insomnia. To avoid screen-related sleeping woes, some experts recommend cutting out your cell phone, laptop, and TV usage 30 minutes before bed.
  • Increased eye fatigue and headaches: It’s probably not too surprising that staring at a screen isn’t great for your eyes. This is partially due to the blue light your smartphone screen emits, as well as how close many people view their phones. Eye fatigue can present several symptoms ranging from double vision and difficulty focusing to headaches and dry eyes.
  • Neck, back, and shoulder pain: In a 2022 study, researchers observed higher reported neck, back, and shoulder pain in college undergraduates and graduate students who used their smartphones excessively (more than five hours a day per this study). These physical symptoms are likely the result of posture and head positioning during cell phone use.
  • Hand and wrist pain: The musculoskeletal effects your smartphone can have on your body aren’t limited to the head and neck. You do, after all, hold your phone in your hand. Excessive cell phone use—especially texting or typing—can lead to trigger thumb (tissue thickening in your thumb), thumb arthritis, wrist pain, and more. If you feel your thumbs or wrists getting achy and sore, it might be time to take a break from the phone for a bit.

In many studies conducted, researchers found it difficult to tie cell phone usage to weight and physical activity. Many theorized that higher levels of smartphone use would directly correlate to weight gain and obesity, as it seems plausible that time spent on a phone might replace time spent exercising.

However, many individuals use their smartphones to track workouts, map runs, and perform other fitness-related activities. In these cases, researchers found smartphone usage was promoting physical activity, not replacing it. So, the way you use your phone could make a difference in how it impacts your health.

Smartphones and the Brain: Cognition, Mental Health, and Your Cell Phone

If you’ve ever felt like your cell phone is wrecking your attention span, you’re not alone. Various levels of smartphone addiction are so common that products have been created to help monitor and restrict phone usage, be it through an app or a physical lockbox.

Such solutions may seem extreme, but product developers aren’t acting on anecdotal evidence alone. Scientific studies have identified the very real effects smartphones can have on the brain. Some of these include:

  • Decreased attention span: If you regularly use a smartphone, there’s a good chance you’ve noticed your attention span has been impacted. Cell phones can affect your ability to focus in a variety of ways. As scientists study attention and focus, they often measure their subjects’ ability to achieve “flow”—a state of mind achieved when you are completely focused on and absorbed in a task. One 2015 study found that participants who displayed some level of phone addiction were less likely to achieve “flow” performance.
  • Increased risk for anxiety and depression: Several studies have linked excessive smartphone use and cell phone addiction to anxiety and depression. While the exact causes for this are not clear, one theory suggests smartphone use can increase an individual’s sense of isolation and loneliness. Another theory correlates the amount of time people, especially young adults, use their smartphones for social media. Other studies, however, show evidence that some smartphone usage can decrease your sense of loneliness and boost your mood. It all depends on how and why you interact on your phone.
  • Decreased ability to connect with others: Some researchers break cell phone distractions into two categories: endogenous and exogenous. Endogenous distractions come from your own mind, not the phone itself. Exogenous distractions refer to vibrations, rings, and other phone notifications. During a conversation, exogenous factors can obviously be a distraction—it’s hard to focus on what someone is saying when your phone is vibrating nonstop in your pocket. As it turns out, endogenous factors can be just as distracting. One study showed when a cell phone is visible on the table the owner must fight the impulse to check it. And this urge can be incredibly distracting. In other words, if you can see your phone, your own thoughts can draw your attention away from engaging face-to-face.

Kids and Their Phones: Smartphones and Health in Childhood and Adolescence

In schools, the mental and cognitive effects of smartphones on children and teens have become a major talking point—especially after the COVID-19 pandemic forced many school districts to virtual instruction.

And for good reason. Many of the symptoms of excessive smartphone use listed above are more pronounced in children and teens. It’s also important to remember that these are habit-forming years. The relationship you develop to technology in your teens is likely going to shape your adult years. For this reason, it is crucial to monitor how much time children and teens are spending on their phones to help them develop healthy lifelong habits.

It’s Not All Bad: Using Your Smartphone to Promote Healthy Living

Sure, smartphones can affect your health in a variety of negative ways, but that doesn’t mean a phone in hand is inherently bad. In fact, many people use their smartphone to promote healthy lifestyles.

Technology has revolutionized the ways you can approach fitness, health, and wellness. So rather than ditching the smartphone completely, think about how it can be a tool for your health. Look for new apps to track your workouts, set health goals, practice daily mindfulness, or even build better connections with your loved ones. The possibilities are limitless—you’ve just got to explore what’s out there!

Red wine pouring into wine glass

Red wine pouring into wine glass

Although people have been drinking alcohol for thousands of years, the role boozy beverages play in a healthy lifestyle is hotly debated. Some argue that teetotaling is the healthiest option, while others tout the health benefits of a daily glass of red wine. If you’re not sure what to believe…read on.

At the end of the day, your alcohol choices are up to you. But as you navigate the world of drinking, abstaining, and everything in between, it’s good to have the facts.

What Is Alcohol and How Does It Work?

Most define alcohol in loose terms: it’s found in beer, wine, and liquor (and more) and is responsible for intoxication—and other side effects—of such beverages. This description, while accurate and practical, doesn’t answer what alcohol is and how it actually works. For that, we need to turn to science.

Alcohols (yes, plural intended) are organic compounds composed of at least one hydroxyl (a hydrogen and oxygen atom bonded together) that is bound to an alkyl group. These compounds are incredibly common—a wide variety of organic compounds can be classified as alcohols. The two most notable are ethanol and methanol. We’ll be focusing on ethanol, given it’s the alcohol  found in alcoholic beverages.

Ethanol, which looks a lot like water, is a byproduct of plant fermentation. When it’s consumed your liver immediately begins breaking it down to remove it from the body. But your liver can only work so fast. Intoxication is the result of drinking alcohol faster than your liver can do its job.

With your liver working overtime, the excess alcohol enters your bloodstream. Once in the blood, alcohol acts as a central nervous system (CNS) depressant. It slows down a variety of brain functions, starting with the cerebellum, which is responsible for balance and motor function. Alcohol also triggers the release of certain neurotransmitters, including dopamine and serotonin, both tied to mood boosts and mild euphoria.

The Short-Term Effects of Alcohol

Although alcohol doesn’t affect the body immediately, it does act pretty quickly. Everyone processes alcohol a little differently, but after a drink or two, most people start to feel the first effects. These include mild euphoria (think dopamine and serotonin release), lowered inhibitions, and slowed reaction time.

The more you drink, the more it impacts your body. Short-term effects of alcohol include slurred speech, decreased motor function, distorted vision, vomiting, impaired memory (to the point of “blacking out”), and even loss of consciousness. Many of these more serious effects are signs of alcohol poisoning—a clear indicator you’ve overdone the drinking.

Alcohol also acts as a diuretic—a substance that causes frequent urination. This means when you’re drinking your body is losing fluid faster than usual. And this can lead to dehydration. In fact, dehydration is one of the biggest contributing factors to the hangover you might feel the next day.

Most people drink in the evening as they wind down for the day. While this isn’t necessarily a problem, consuming alcohol right before bed can disrupt your sleep cycle. You may find it easier to fall asleep after drinking your beverage of choice, but alcohol can prevent your body from reaching the deepest, most restful stages of sleep. This may leave you feeling unrested and fatigued.

So how long do these effects last? Well, it depends on the person, how much they drank, how fast they drank it, and a whole slew of other factors. Alcohol can typically be detected in your system anywhere from six hours to three days. But most of the short-term effects will likely clear up within a day.

The Long-Term Effects of Drinking

The human body is incredibly resilient, and there generally aren’t long-term health problems tied to moderate alcohol consumption. The key word here is moderate. Heavy drinking, on the other hand, can start to take its toll on the body over time.

Naturally, the long-term effects of alcohol consumption vary from person to person. Some of the most common health complications of prolonged, heavy drinking include high blood pressure, increased risk of heart disease, increased risk of stroke, liver disease, and digestive problems.

And these are just the physical effects. Excessive alcohol consumption has also been tied to higher occurrences of certain mental illnesses, including depression and anxiety. In extreme cases, heavy drinking can also lead to alcohol dependence, which, like most addictions, is both a physical and a mental ailment that needs to be dealt with.

How Much Is Too Much? Levels of Alcohol Consumption

From complete abstinence (teetotaling), to moderate, and all the way to and excessive or heavy, there are many levels of drinking. And, as mentioned, most long-term health risks stem from heavy alcohol consumption.

This begs the question: how much is too much?

Although there’s no exact answer to this question—everybody processes alcohol a little bit differently—most government health agencies have guidelines to follow. In the United States, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) classifies the levels of drinking as follows:

  • Moderate drinking: For men, moderate drinking is defined as up to two drinks per day, fifteen drinks per week. For women, those numbers change to one drink per day, eight drinks per week.
  • Heavy drinking: Any drinking that exceeds the CDC guidelines for moderate drinking. Three or more drinks per day for men, or more than fifteen drinks per week. And for women, two or more drinks per day, eight or more drinks per week.

Additionally, the CDC also defines binge drinking—heavy drinking in a small window of time. Five or more drinks per single occasion constitutes binge drinking for men; for women, this number is four or more drinks.

As you get older, you may want to revisit these guidelines, as well as your relationship to alcohol—especially if you are a man. Aging is associated with a decreased ability to metabolize alcohol. As such, both the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the American Geriatric Society advise men over the age of 65 to consume no more than one drink per day.

Fact or Fiction: Drinking Can Be Good For Your Health

You’ve probably heard someone make the claim a glass of red wine in the evening is actually good for health. And, more specifically, good for your heart. But how true is it?

This theory is believed to have originated with what is called the French Paradox—the notion that French people love three things: butter, cheese, and wine. Cheese and butter are not terribly good for the heart, and yet France sees relatively low rates of heart disease. So some theorized that red wine must counteract the effects of those fatty foods.

As nice as it sounds, there’s a narrow amount of science to back this up. Some beneficial phytonutrients, like resveratrol, can be found in wine. But phytonutrient totals are typically pretty limited and vary a lot wine to wine.

Some surprising nutritional perks are hidden in beer. Unfiltered beers can contain small amounts of antioxidants, soluble fiber, and other micronutrients. These nutrients aren’t in high enough quantities to justify pouring yourself a beer just for the nutritional content. But hey, if you’re already cracking one open, you’ll take all the nutrients you can get.



Herbs and plants have been used throughout history for their beneficial properties. Over 5,000 years ago Eastern civilizations began using natural herbs, practices, and recommendations for the entire spectrum of health needs, including stress.

Ashwagandha is one of the most important ancient herbs. It has been used to relieve mild stress, maintain energy levels, and support concentration. Recently, holistic practices for health have become popular across the world, and Ashwagandha has enjoyed a worldwide resurgence.

What is Ashwagandha?

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is a small shrub with yellow flowers found primarily in Asia and Africa. Its name is Sanskrit for “smell of the horse” because of the herb’s scent. Although it’s traditionally ingested by making tea from the root, it is now commonly available as a supplement.

Ashwagandha is an example of an adaptogen. This class of substances can support the body’s natural resistance to occasional stress. You can think of adaptogens as “bioregulators” that help support your body when dealing with minor stress in the environment.

Ashwagandha exhibits these adaptogenic properties:

  1. Non-specific effect on the body. Ashwagandha doesn’t target a single mechanism or biochemical pathway. It supports the body’s resistance to occasional stress broadly and exhibits a variety of benefits.
  2. Does not harm the usual function of the body.

Adaptogens can contain a variety of phytonutrients. The active compounds in Ashwagandha include alkaloids, lactones, and saponins.

Benefits of Ashwagandha

Your body has a built-in process for dealing with occasional stress called the general adaptation syndrome (GAS). This process has three stages: alarm, resistance, and exhaustion.

The stimulating effect of Ashwagandha maintains the resistance phase and buffers the exhaustion phase. Instead of a hard crash at the end of the stress response, Ashwagandha supports the transition from the resistance phase into a balanced state of homeostasis. This new state of balance allows the body and mind to carry on, even during a slightly stressful event.

The benefits of Ashwagandha may include:

  • Antioxidant activity
  • Supports calm feelings
  • Helps maintain healthy brain function
  • Supports normal levels of cortisol and neurotransmitters
  • Supports resistance during mild stress
  • Supports healthy sleep
  • Supports athletic performance

Ashwagandha “hacks” your body’s natural stress response. It initiates the same physiological responses that a little bit of stress would—without harming the body. This increases the body’s resilience and helps you maintain balance during occasional physical, mental, or environmental stress.

Research Behind Ashwagandha

Although Ashwagandha has been used for thousands of years, western scientists have just begun studying all its benefits and applications. As modern research catches up, many of their findings support the way Ashwagandha has been traditionally used.

One study conducted in 2012 broke patients into two groups: one group received a capsule of high-concentration ashwagandha root extract twice a day; the other group was given a placebo capsule twice a day. The study lasted for 60 days, over the course of which participants filled out stress-measuring questionnaires and had their cortisol (a hormone related to stress) levels measured.

After 60 days, the study participants who received ashwagandha had lower cortisol levels than those who received a placebo. This result suggests that ashwagandha may be effective at reducing occasional stress in individuals—a conclusion that is supported by a number of other studies as well.

Additionally, a 2019 study found that participants who were given ashwagandha twice daily experienced improved sleep compared to participants in the placebo group. Given the stress-managing effects of ashwagandha, this result isn’t terribly surprising, but it does illustrate another possible application for ashwagandha: supporting healthy sleep.

The only possible side effect noted from consumption of Ashwagandha was minor stomach upset. It is also not recommended during pregnancy.

Resist Occasional Stress with Ashwagandha

The best way to decide if you’ll benefit from Ashwagandha is to try it out. Add a cup of Ashwagandha tea to your morning routine. Or maybe try a supplement daily for a week.

Whether it’s work, family commitments, or just life in general, Ashwaghanda could be the support you need to get through a difficult time.

Gut-brain connection

Gut-brain connection

Fat gets a bad rap in the world of nutrition. Somewhere along the line society decided fat is bad—and by extension, that fatty foods are bad. For instance, when you read the term “short-chain fatty acids,” your knee-jerk reaction is probably something negative. But as any nutritionist worth their salt can tell you, this isn’t the case.

So set your preconceived notions aside and read on to learn what short-chain fatty acids are and why they’re crucial to your gut health.

What are Short-Chain Fatty Acids (SCFAs)?

A lot of misconceptions about fat are out there. So before getting into anything else, let’s clear a few of those up. The first thing to remember is that fats aren’t inherently bad. In fact, fats play a crucial role in your body’s nutrition. Dietary fats—or fats you get from food—give your body energy, store and absorb nutrients, and help your cells function properly.

When you ingest dietary fats, your body breaks them down into fatty acids. Think of these as the base building blocks of fats. Fatty acids are molecules with a chain of carbon atoms bonded with hydrogen atoms.

The term “short-chain” refers to the string of carbon atoms. Short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) are simply fatty acids that have a small carbon backbone. (Fatty acids with more than six carbon atoms are categorized as medium-chain, long-chain, or very long-chain.)

Unlike most fatty acids, the majority of SCFAs are not actually found in foods. Instead, they’re a byproduct created in your colon as your body digests fiber. So the more fiber you have in your diet, the more short-chain fatty acids your body will produce.

If this doesn’t seem like a big deal, don’t worry—the next section explains why.

Short-chain Fatty Acids and Health

Short-chain fatty acids are produced from fiber digested primarily in the large intestine—specifically the colon. To see the role SCFAs play in your body, you don’t have to look far.

As the good bacteria in your intestines—aka your microbiome—break down fiber to create SCFAs, these fatty acids go on to provide energy to the cells and support healthy inflammation in your colon. Basically, SCFAs help keep your large intestine running smoothly—and that’s never a bad thing.

If weight management is one of your health goals, short-chain fatty acids will play a part in your success. Acetate, one of the three most common SCFAs in the body, has been tied to increased metabolism (your body’s ability to digest food) as well as decreased appetite. Together, these two factors can help you maintain a healthy weight.

The Gut-Brain Axis: Short-Chain Fatty Acids and the Central Nervous System

Whether you’re aware of it or not, your gut is home to trillions of bacteria, fungi, viruses, and other microorganisms. This lively community, known as your gut biome, is responsible for several vital bodily functions (like producing SCFAs from fiber).

For your microbiome to do its job effectively, it has to communicate with your body—more specifically, with your brain. Here’s the problem: these microorganisms are residents of your body, not a part of it. So how can you communicate with them?

The answer is simple: trust your gut. Studies have pinpointed the intestines as the main line of communication between your central nervous system (the brain) and your resident microbiome. This connection, known as the gut-brain axis, is crucial for maintaining balance in your gut and your body as a whole.

So where do short-chain fatty acids come in?

SCFAs help promote colon and intestinal health, which indirectly helps keep communication flowing along the gut-brain axis. Your gut is the mediator between your microbiome and your brain after all, so a healthy gut is perhaps the most important part of the axis.

As it turns out, the effects of short-chain fatty acids on the gut-brain axis might not end there. Recent studies have shown that SCFAs can cross the blood-brain barrier (BBB). This means SCFAs are able to move from the colon where they’re produced to the brain. The exact impact of this movement has yet to be fully explored, but it’s speculated SCFAs actually help maintain the health of the BBB, which in turn helps promote balance in the central nervous system.

Although there’s a lot of information out there about the microbiome, researchers have only scratched the surface of the gut-brain axis. The more we learn about the communication between our body’s microorganisms and our brain, the more we will learn about our health.

Short-Chain Fatty Acids and Your Diet

As mentioned above, you don’t get many short-chain fatty acids from food—at least not directly. If you want to increase the level of SCFAs in your body, look to increase your fiber intake.

Fiber-rich foods linked to the production of SCFAs include fruits, vegetables, and legumes. These are some pretty broad categories, so you’ve got lots of options. Whether you’re eating artichokes, apples, or just about anything in between, you’re giving your body a fiber boost. When it comes to SCFAs, an apple a day keeps the colon happy.