Bembu Tips for Your Health & Happiness Thu, 19 Jan 2017 16:18:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Low-FODMAP Diet: Everything You Need to Know Thu, 19 Jan 2017 16:18:04 +0000 The first time I mentioned FODMAPs to a patient; he stared at me blankly and then said ‘Uh, nope I’m not really into fancy navigation systems.’ That was funny in a sad way. After all, FODMAPs are very trendy in the health and wellness world, but people who would benefit the most from understanding the […]

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The first time I mentioned FODMAPs to a patient; he stared at me blankly and then said ‘Uh, nope I’m not really into fancy navigation systems.’ That was funny in a sad way. After all, FODMAPs are very trendy in the health and wellness world, but people who would benefit the most from understanding the FODMAP science have never even heard of them…

You see, FODMAPs have absolutely nothing to do with any device whatsoever. They’re actually foods we commonly eat. So why would someone consider trying a low-FODMAP diet?

Well, let’s say, you (or someone you know) suffer from irritating digestive or IBS symptoms. If there were a natural strategy that could help reduce these debilitating symptoms, wouldn’t you want to know more about it?

In this article, I’ll cover the fundamentals of FODMAPs, the art of the low-FODMAP diet and how to use the science to improve your digestion (after consulting your physician).

Could these commonly consumed foods be behind your digestive or IBS symptoms?


What exactly are FODMAPs?

In a nutshell, FODMAPs are short-chain carbohydrates that are partially absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract where they are rapidly fermented. FODMAPs stand for ‘fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols’ – saccharides simply mean sugar.

To understand the low-FODMAP diet, we’ll need to cover some basic biochemistry. But don’t worry; I’ll keep it short and sweet (no pun intended).


‘Mono’ means ‘one’ – so monosaccharides are molecules with only one sugar. The monosaccharide of interest when it comes to digestion is fructose or the sugar found in fruits.

A food is considered a high FODMAP food if it contains more than:

  • 5g of fructose in excess of glucose per 100g serving.
  • 3g of fructose per serving.

Other monosaccharides include glucose and galactose.

FODMAP carbohydrates


‘Di’ means ‘two’ – as you must have guessed, disaccharides have two sugar molecules. The disaccharide that causes the most digestive issues is lactose or the sugar present in milk and dairy products. Lactose consists of one glucose molecule attached to one galactose molecule.

The other disaccharides are:

  • Sucrose or table sugar which consists of one glucose molecule attached to one fructose molecule.
  • Maltose, also known as ‘malt sugar’, is present in the starch that we get from tubers and grains. It consists of two glucose molecules attached together.

Oligosaccharides and Polysaccharides

‘Oligo’ means ‘few’ and ‘poly’ means ‘many’. As such, oligosaccharides refer to carbohydrates containing three to ten sugar molecules attached together whereas polysaccharides are those long chains of carbohydrates with 11 to 15 sugars bonded together.

Oligosaccharides are divided into two categories namely the prebiotics fructans and galactans which act as food for bacteria. Any food that contains more than 0.2g of fructan per serving is considered a high-FODMAP food.

In the FODMAP context, fructans can refer to both oligosaccharides and polysaccharides. Short-chain fructans are better known as fructo-oligosaccharides, or FOS, whereas inulin is a longer-chain fructan (polysaccharide). Both FOS and inulin exist naturally in vegetables and grains.


Those are sugar alcohols such as:

  • Maltitol
  • Mannitol
  • Sorbitol
  • Xylitol

In general, humans absorb these sugar alcohols poorly  – this is why products containing polyols will often carry a warning message saying that the product may cause digestive upset or diarrhea.

Take home message: FODMAPS are highly fermentable carbohydrates that are the most likely to cause digestive distress. These include:
  • Fructose (monosaccharide)
  • Lactose (disaccharide)
  • Fructans (these include the oligosaccharide FOS and the polysaccharide inulin)
  • Galactans (oligosaccharides)
  • Sugar alcohols (polyols)

Fermentable Oligo-, Di-, Monosaccharides And Polyols

Should you care about FODMAPs?

Do you suffer from any of the following?

  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Celiac disease
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Recurrent digestive issues such as bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation or gas
  • Heartburn

If despite eating a real food diet (one that is free from processed foods and industrial oils), you answered yes to any of the above questions, you may want to try a low-FODMAP diet for a while.

The same goes for individuals who have never had any digestive problems but end up constipated while transitioning to a Paleo diet.

What makes FODMAPs problematic?

While FODMAPs are usually well tolerated by healthy individuals, issues crop up when the body has trouble absorbing these saccharides. These carbohydrates end up being excessively fermented by bacteria in the intestines and can cause digestive mayhem in susceptible people.

lactose low-FODMAP diet

You see, in order to absorb FODMAPs, the body must break down (digest) disaccharides and polysaccharides into monosaccharides. If (for reasons covered below) the body is unable to digest these FODMAPs, bacteria naturally present in the intestines will gladly take over the job.

It is important to understand that bacteria will easily, and rapidly, ferment FODMAPs since these are short-chain carbohydrates. And when these bacteria have ‘access’ to disaccharides or oligosaccharides, they will produce enzymes to break down these molecules into monosaccharides so that they can feed on them. This fermentation process produces gas.

That’s not all: when carbohydrates ‘sit’ in the intestines, they draw water in – this is called an osmotic effect. And this effect is enhanced by the small size of the carbohydrates.

Now, the excess gas caused by fermentation and the excess water induced by the osmotic effect distend the lumen of the intestine. This swelling triggers the symptoms of flatulence, belching, bloating, constipation and/or diarrhea, nausea, acid reflux, pain or discomfort as well as fatigue.

The following video illustrates how FODMAPs can affect our digestion.

How does bacterial fermentation affect motility?

When bacteria eat our food, they produce the following gasses:

  • Methane which causes constipation by interacting with the nervous system in the intestinal wall.
  • Hydrogen which promotes diarrhea. The exact mechanism behind this is currently unknown.

Moreover, bacteria also produce short-chain fatty acids during their ‘feast’ – these can also increase motility.

Take home message: FODMAPs can cause problems in susceptible individuals because some bacteria are rude! They eat OUR food and then fart in our intestines… Plus they also possess a strong osmotic (drawing water) effect.

Why would anyone react to FODMAPs?

One of the underlying cause is carbohydrate malabsorption. This malabsorption occurs when carbohydrates bypass digestion in the small intestine and are left in the lumen (the inside space) of the small intestine or the large intestine. As explained earlier, this will cause excess gas and osmosis.

What causes carbohydrate malabsorption?

Issues with carbohydrate absorption can be linked to:

  • A lack of enzyme

    – That’s the case with the fructans and the galactans: unlike bacteria, we do not produce enzymes to digest these oligosaccharides. So, the bacteria will eat these oligosaccharides and produce gas.

  • Insufficient brush-border enzyme production – Brush-border enzymes refer to digestive substances that are embedded in the microvilli, finger-like projections in the intestine. A damaged intestinal lining (as in celiac disease or in small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) or genetics (such as primary lactose intolerance) can elad to a decreased production of these enzymes. For instance, individuals who do not produce enough of the enzyme lactase will react to products that contain lactose.

why do FODMAPs cause digestive symptoms

  • Issues with transporters

    These transporters act as ‘doors’ that allow molecules such as fructose to cross the lining of the intestines and enter the circulation (that is, they are absorbed). In some individuals, the transporters are not working normally. For instance, they may get saturated easily (the ‘door’ is too small for all the fructose to go through). Or some people may have too few transporters. Any issue with the transporters means that the fructose will not be absorbed properly and will be left stranded in the lumen of the intestine where bacteria will feast on it.

  • The size of the substance

    Polyols are too large to be effectively absorbed so they stay in the intestines where they cause an osmotic effect that results in diarrhea.

  • Very fast transit

    If for some reason, the food you eat moves very rapidly through your digestive tract, it won’t have the chance to be broken down. When this happens, the food is rapidly delivered to the large intestine making the bacteria there very happy.

Note: It is worth noting that individuals with small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) who also have a reduction in brush-border enzymes will often be unable to digest all disaccharides and most of the polysaccharides. However, this is not covered by the low-FODMAP diet. So, if you suspect you have SIBO, you may want to work with a qualified healthcare professional to come up with a dietary protocol that is better suited to your condition.

Take home message: Anything that causes carbohydrates to stay in the intestinal lumen instead of being absorbed will lead to carbohydrate malabsorption.

Who would be the most affected by carbohydrate malabsorption?

Individuals with some sort of functional gastrointestinal conditions such as IBS or the symptoms of IBS will often have a hard time absorbing carbohydrates. These people are more likely to suffer from luminal distention (swelling of the lumen or inside space of the intestines) compared to healthy individuals.

One important point here is that people with these gastrointestinal conditions often suffer from visceral hypersensitivity which is NOT within conscious control. What this means is that their nervous system and intestines will react more to this swelling causing physical pain which a healthy individual wouldn’t feel.

Do FODMAPs affect everyone?

Yes and no. You see, everyone will react to the oligosaccharides (fructans and galactans) and polyols. Even healthy individuals. However, compared to individuals with functional gastrointestinal conditions, those who are healthy will react to much, much higher doses.

I’m sure, you’ve probably met people who don’t normally have digestive problems but end up with diarrhea or loose stools after consuming lots of prunes. Well, that’s because they’re reacting to the polyols in the fruit.

On the other hand, only specific individuals will react to mono- and disaccharides for reasons explained earlier.

FODMAP testing

You can determine whether you react to fructose, lactose and sorbitol by doing a hydrogen breath test which is typically recommended in cases of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. However, instead of using glucose or galactose, you’ll be given a fructose-, lactose- or sorbitol-containing solution to drink.

Since humans do not produce hydrogen or methane, high levels of methane, or hydrogen or both can only indicate that bacteria have fermented the fructose, lactose or sorbitol. The test will also help you determine how much fructose, lactose or sorbitol you can tolerate.

To determine whether you react to fructans, galactans and mannitol, I recommend an elimination diet protocol.

So now that you know what FODMAPs are and why they can cause trouble, let’s move to the low-FODMAP diet.

Low-FODMAP diet: Evidence-based or just another fad?

Many clinical trials indicate that the low-FODMAP diet can successfully reduce digestive symptoms, especially among those with IBS. For instance, in one small 3-week study, individuals with or without IBS were randomly given a low-FODMAP diet (the research group) or a standard Australian diet (the control group). The low-FODMAP diet contained less than 0.5g of FODMAPs per meal. The participants were asked to rate their daily symptoms on a 0 – 100 scale. At the end of the study, the average score of the research group was 22.8 – IBS patients who consumed a regular diet scored an average of 44.9. That’s a 50% reduction in digestive symptoms such as bloating, gas and abdominal pain after just 3 weeks on a low-FODMAP diet!

What is a low-FODMAP diet?

As the name suggests, the low-FODMAP diet revolves around reducing specific carbohydrates (high FODMAP foods and, in some cases, moderate FODMAP foods) that appear to cause problems for people. It doesn’t have anything to do with dietary proteins and fats.

The lists below are not exhaustive so make sure to ‘listen’ to your body and read the ingredient list when appropriate. You may also want to try the low FODMAP smartphone app of Monash University which is the most reliable source of information on the FODMAP content of foods. It is available for both iPhone and Android users.

High FODMAP foods – Avoid

Vegetables (FODMAP in high amounts)

  • Artichoke (fructose)
  • Asparagus (4 spears, fructose)
  • Avocado and guacamole (more than 1/8 slice of a whole avocado; polyol) *
  • Cabbage (fructans)
  • Cauliflower
  • Jerusalem artichoke (fructans)
  • Leeks (fructans)
  • Okra (fructans)
  • Onions (fructans)
  • Shallot (fructans)
  • Snow peas (fructans and polyols)
  • Sugar snap peas (fructose)
  • Raddichio (fructans)
  • Tomato sauces and paste (fructose and fructans)

* 1/8 of a whole avocado is low in FODMAP and is usually well tolerated.

All legumes and pulses (fructans and galactans)


  • Rye (fructans)
  • Wheat-containing breads (fructans)
  • Wheat-based cereals (fructans)
  • Wheat pasta (fructans)


Fruits (FODMAP in high amounts)

  • Apples (fructose and polyol)
  • Apricots (polyols)
  • Blackberries (polyol)
  • Cherries (fructose and polyol)
  • Dried fruits (fructose)
  • Fruit juices (fructose)
  • Grapes (more than 15 per serving; fructose)
  • Mango (fructose)
  • Nectarines (polyol)
  • Pears (fructose and polyol)
  • Persimmon (polyol)
  • Plum (polyol)
  • Watermelon (fructose and polyol)

Nuts (FODMAP in high amounts)

  • Almonds (fructans)
  • Hazelnuts (fructans)
  • Pistachios (fructans)

Dairy (FODMAP in high amounts)             

  • Soft unripened cheese like mascarpone, ricotta and cream cheese (lactose)
  • Milk (lactose)
  • Yogurt (lactose and, if sweetened, fructose or sugar alcohols)

Sweeteners (FODMAP in high amounts)

  • Agave syrup (fructose)
  • Artificial sweeteners (polyol)
  • High-fructose corn syrup (fructose)
  • Honey (fructose)
  • Sugar-free foods (polyols)

Drinks and alcoholic beverages (FODMAP in high amounts)

  • Beer (some contain mannitol; gluten)
  • Coconut water (250ml serving; polyol and moderate amounts of fructans)
  • Fruit juices
  • Port wines
  • Sweeter wines
  • Sodas

Hot beverages

  • Chai tea, strong
  • Chamomile tea
  • Fennel tea
  • Herbal tea, strong (especially the fruit-based ones with chicory root)
  • Oolong tea

Food supplements, medications, seasonings

Talk to your pharmacist before taking any medication or supplement.

  • Carob powder (2 heaped teaspoons)
  • Chicory (fructans)
  • Fructo-oligosaccharide (fructans) and prebiotics (often fructans)
  • Inulin
  • Onion and garlic powder (fructans)
  • Sugar alcohols (sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, isomalt)
  • Thickeners and stabilizers like gums and carrageenan


Moderate FODMAP foods – Eat with caution

If you choose to eat any of the following foods, make sure to watch how much you consume in one sitting and closely monitor your symptoms.


  • Beetroot (fructans)
  • Broccoli (fructans)
  • Brussels sprouts (fructans)
  • Butternut squash (fructans)
  • Celery (polyol)
  • Fennel bulb (fructans)
  • Green peas (fructans)
  • Mushrooms (polyol)
  • Sauerkraut (fructans)


  • Banana, unripe
  • Grapes (10 to 15 per serving; fructose)
  • Longan (polyol)
  • Lychee (polyol)
  • Rambutan (polyol)


  • Aged cheese (lactose)


  • Black tea leaves (1 bag, strong)
  • Dandelion tea, strong

Nuts and seeds

  • Most nut and nut butters like cashews, macadamia, pecan, pine nuts, walnuts
  • Most seeds and seed butters such as pumpkin, sesame and sunflower seeds


Note: 1/2 cup (37g) of desiccated (dried, shredded) coconut contains moderate amounts of FODMAPs. If you’re still in the elimination phase, stick to 1/4 cup (18g) per serving – this is considered to be low FODMAP.

Safe foods – Low FODMAPs

You are a unique individual. And you know yourself better than anyone else. So, if you are sure that any of the following foods is problematic for you, just avoid it. Even if it is on the ‘safe’ list.

For instance, I have a few patients with gut dysbiosis and eczema (an autoimmune condition) who just cannot tolerate tomatoes which are nightshades.

Vegetables (maximum amount that is usually well tolerated)

  • Alfalfa
  • Bamboo shoots
  • Bean sprouts
  • Bell peppers
  • Bok choy
  • Carrots
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Chives
  • Cucumber
  • Eggplant
  • Endive
  • Ginger
  • Green beans
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Olives
  • Parsnip
  • Pickles (without added sugar)
  • Seaweed
  • Spinach
  • Spring onion (green part only)
  • Zucchini

Fruits (maximum amount that is usually well tolerated)

  • Avocado (one 1/8 slice of a whole avocado)
  • Banana (1 medium, ripe)
  • Banana, dried (10 chips)
  • Blueberries (20 berries)
  • Cantaloupe (1/2 cup)


Drinks (maximum amount that is usually well tolerated)

  • Black tea leaves (250ml serving, weak)
  • Carob powder (1 heaped teaspoon)
  • Chai tea (250ml serving, weak)
  • Cocoa powder (3 heaped teaspoons)
  • Coconut water (100ml serving)
  • Dandelion tea (250ml serving, weak)
  • Espresso (single or double shot)
  • Peppermint tea (250ml serving, weak) [may exacerbate acid reflux in susceptible individuals]
  • White tea leaves (250ml serving)

Note: Coffee can irritate the gut even in moderate amounts. As such, I strongly advise my patients to avoid coffee and caffeine-containing beverages during the elimination phase.

Is the low-FODMAP diet a lifelong one?

No, the low-FODMAP diet isn’t a life sentence – isn’t that a relief?

Monash University advises patients to try a strict low-FODMAP diet for 2 to 6 weeks. However, from professional experience, I have noticed that 2 weeks is way too short. The diet is quite complex and people typically need more than two weeks to stop accidentally consuming foods high in FODMAPs.

I usually advise patients to stay on a low-FODMAP diet for a minimum of 6 to 8 weeks – the duration of the diet will depend on how extensive the symptoms are and how they subside on the diet.

In some cases, a hydrogen breath test can identify which specific FODMAP are problematic for you. You may then need to follow the low-FODMAP diet for 3 to 4 weeks only.

How does the low-FODMAP diet work?

In a nutshell, the diet can be broadly categorized as follows:

  • Stage 1: This is the elimination phase in which you will be strictly excluding all high FODMAP and moderate FODMAP foods from your diet.
  • Stage 2: During the reintroduction phase, you will start including one high-FODMAP food at a time for one week to see what triggers your symptoms. Some individuals choose to reintroduce one specific FODMAP at a time instead of one food at a time – for instance, foods containing fructose are reintroduced instead of reintroducing only, let’s say, grapes. However, from professional experience, I have noticed that the ‘one food at a time approach’, albeit more tedious, can make it easier to identify problematic foods.
  • Stage 3: I like to call this the personalization phase. Once you’re done with the reintroduction phase, you’ll know which foods you can eat and which ones you would be better off avoiding. Well, at least until the root cause of your intolerance has been holistically addressed.

But why isn’t sucrose on the FODMAP list?

Sucrose (table sugar) consists of one glucose molecule bonded to one fructose molecule. So, you would think that someone who reacts to fructose will also react to sucrose. But that’s not the case. You see, the body has issues absorbing fructose when it is present in higher amounts than glucose (such as high-fructose corn syrup) or when you’ve eaten an excessive amount. Since the glucose and fructose content of sucrose is pretty much equal, the fructose in sucrose is absorbed to about 85% efficiency. The fructose kinds of ‘hops a ride’ with the glucose as the latter attaches to transporters.

No-cook zucchini noodles with pesto

Tips to get the most out of the low-FODMAP diet

1. Eliminate gluten-containing products

Gluten is a protein and, therefore, not a FODMAP. This being said, in one study, IBS patients who reintroduced gluten after the elimination phase reported considerably worse symptoms.

2. Choose your probiotics wisely

Avoid those that contain FOS, GOS, inulin and other ingredients that are on either the high-FODMAP or the moderate-FODMAP list. You also want to avoid those that contain cellulose (see below).

3. Remember that not all fiber supplements were created equal

Gums (guar, locust bean, xanthan), pectin and cellulose are not related to FODMAPs. However, even these non-FODMAP ingredients can be fermented in our gut which means that can cause gastrointestinal issues in some individuals.

4. Keep in mind that fructans are water-soluble but not fat-soluble

Many of my patients who are on a low-FODMAP diet ask me if it’s okay to add chopped onions and garlic to soups and stews if they remove these pieces before eating. Well, since onions and garlic are rich in fructans and these are water soluble, this strategy will not work – the fructans will leech in the water. A better strategy would be to saute the onions and garlic in coconut oil and removing the pieces before adding the other ingredients since fructans are not fat-soluble and will therefore not leech in the oil.

5. Some low-FODMAP foods need portion control

  • Zucchini becomes high FODMAP for fructans if you consume 100g per serving – keep your serving low-FODMAP by sticking to 66g (1/2 cup) per serving.
  • Blueberries: A 28g serve is low FODMAP whereas a 60g serve is high FODMAP for fructans.
  • Bok choy: A 1 cup serve is low FODMAP; a 1 1/4 cup serve is high FODMAP for sorbitol
  • Canned tomatoes: 1/2 cup (90g) is low FODMAP; 1 cup (180g) is high FODMAP for fructose. To make tomato-based sauces go further, try adding some chicken stock.
  • Chia seeds: 2 tablespoons are low FODMAP; 4 tablespoons are high FODMAP.
  • Green beans: 86g is low FODMAP; 120g is high FODMAP.
  • Green peppers are higher in FODMAPs than the red ones. So if you need to use more than 1/2 cup (52g) of peppers, use red peppers instead of green ones.

 Now I’d like to hear from you: have you ever tried a low-FODMAP diet? Are there any tips you’d like to share?

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28 Healthy Cookie Recipes To Satisfy Your Craving! Mon, 16 Jan 2017 16:38:30 +0000 Whether it’s a crunchy oat cookie or a gooey peanut butter flavor you’re after, we have a recipe listed here to suit every hankering. From rich dark chocolate to tangy ginger, these delicious but healthy recipes will curb your cookie cravings…   Oat Cookies Healthy Oatmeal Raisin Breakfast Cookies – This easy oatmeal cookie recipe […]

The post 28 Healthy Cookie Recipes To Satisfy Your Craving! appeared first on Bembu.

Whether it’s a crunchy oat cookie or a gooey peanut butter flavor you’re after, we have a recipe listed here to suit every hankering. From rich dark chocolate to tangy ginger, these delicious but healthy recipes will curb your cookie cravings…

Don't give up cookies if you're trying to eat healthier - bake healthy ones instead!


Oat Cookies

Healthy Oatmeal Raisin Breakfast Cookies – This easy oatmeal cookie recipe makes delicious chewy cookies that are healthy enough to enjoy for breakfast. They have no butter, refined flour or sugar, and are only 82 calories. The recipe calls for oats, whole wheat flour, baking powder and cinnamon. Add to that coconut oil, egg, vanilla extract, maple syrup, milk and raisins. But make sure you buy 100% maple syrup, not the maple-flavored stuff, which is packed full of added sugar!

Honey & Oat Cookies – If you’re a fan of crispy, sweet cookies, then these honey and oat delights are sure to please! The ingredients work perfectly together, with a little tang from the ginger and earthiness from the cinnamon. The recipe calls for rolled oats, spelt flour, cinnamon, baking powder, salt, vanilla powder, coconut oil, honey, non-dairy milk and ginger. You can also add in raisins, chocolate chips and sliced almonds if you want to change it up a bit.

Honey oat cookies

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies – These are gluten-free, vegan and nut-free (for those with a nut allergy). Ingredients include flax eggs, oats, baking soda, cinnamon and maple syrup. You will also need vegan butter, unsweetened applesauce, vanilla extract and raisins. Again, make sure you get 100% maple syrup!

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Orange Chocolate Chip Protein Cookies – It’s hard to find a better flavor pairing than orange and chocolate. These soft gluten-free, butter-free cookies are bursting with those flavors and are made with healthy, natural ingredients! They include protein powder, oats, flaxseed, baking soda, coconut sugar, coconut oil, egg, orange zest and chocolate chips.

Orange chocolate chip cookies

Chocolate Chip Cookie Bites – Possibly the simplest, quickest chocolate chip cookie recipe you will find. And it’s paleo and gluten-free, made with totally natural ingredients! The recipe calls for almond flour, maple syrup or honey, chocolate chips (good quality dark ones), coconut oil or butter, salt, baking soda and vanilla.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies – These are healthy and delicious! The recipe calls for unsalted Finlandia butter, dark brown sugar, salt, egg, vanilla extract, flour and baking soda. Add to that rolled oats, bittersweet chocolate chips, granulated sugar and cinnamon.

oatmeal choc chip cookies

Vegetable-Based Cookies

Frosted Vegan Pumpkin Cookies – Pumpkin is one of the tastiest and healthiest dessert ingredients around! They are embedded in American tradition, from pumpkin pies to Halloween decorations. So, when you get a tasty but healthy cookie option, you can’t go wrong! This recipe calls for flax egg, coconut oil, sugar (you can substitute for coconut sugar). You will also need pumpkin puree, vanilla, flour (go for whole wheat), baking powder, pumpkin pie spice and salt. The frosting is made with powdered sugar, non-dairy milk (try almond or coconut), coconut oil and vanilla extract.

Pumpkin cookies

Nut & Seed-Based Cookies

Peanut Butter Banana Breakfast Cookies – It’s always a win when you find a cookie recipe that is not only super easy to whip up, but also healthy enough to eat for breakfast! These cookies are made with oats, bananas, peanut butter, chocolate chips, dried fruit, cinnamon and salt. It’s always better to find 100% peanut butter instead of the regular breakfast spread brands. And good quality dark chocolate chips are better than milk or poor quality. You can even substitute for cacao nibs if you want some extra health benefits.

Sesame Energy Bites – These are made with oats, honey, sesame spread, coconut shavings, dried blueberries, chocolate chips and vanilla. Make sure to choose good quality dark chocolate chips. Apart from having to sit in the refrigerator for one hour, they are extremely quick and handy to whip up! Plus, as the name suggests, they are packed full of anything. A great option for a healthy snack on busy days.

Sesame Energy Bites

Peanut Butter Protein Snickerdoodles – Fudgy and thick, these beautiful round cookies are to die for if you’re a peanut butter fan! They are made with ground almonds, tapioca flour, coconut sugar, cinnamon whey protein powder, peanut butter powder, cinnamon and baking soda. You will also need peanut butter (they mention a brand, but any 100% stuff is good), unsweetened applesauce, egg, honey and vanilla extract.

Chocolate Cookies

Gluten-Free Texas Sheet Cake Cookies – These cookies are tender, sweet, fluffy, soft, rich and chocolatey… what more could you want!? Oh yeah, easy to make as well! The cookies are made with peanut butter (make sure it’s 100%). Add to that butter and brown sugar (you can always halve sugar quantities when home baking). Then add egg, vanilla extract, baking powder, gluten-free powder and semi-sweet chocolate chips. The icing is made with peanut butter, cocoa powder, honey and vanilla extract.

Texas sheet cookie

Double Chocolate Banana Cookies – Bananas are a really handy ingredient for healthy cookie recipes because they add a soft, moist texture. At the same time, they reduce the need for certain unhealthy baking ingredients. This recipe calls for almond meal, coconut flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, chocolate baking powder, banana, coconut oil, egg and chocolate chips.

Double Chocolate Fudge Sea Salt Cookies – Chocolate and salt – it’s one of those unlikely matches that was discovered a few years ago by confectioners. But there’s no reason that decadent flavor can’t be converted into a healthy option! These cookies are made with coconut oil, Greek yogurt, coconut sugar, vanilla extract and eggs. Add to that coffee, cocoa powder, baking soda, course sea salt, whole wheat flour and chocolate chips.

fudge sea salt cookies

Fudgy Peppermint Mocha Cookies – Love coffee? Love chocolate? Love peppermint? Love them even more when they are all together? This is for you then! It is a healthy option, but is rich in those heavenly flavors, and only 89 calories! Dry ingredients include whole wheat flour or gluten-free flour, cocoa powder, cornstarch, baking powder and salt. Wet ingredients include butter, milk, coffee, egg whites, peppermint extract, coconut sugar and dark chocolate chips.

Red Velvet Crinkle Cookies – These could also be called ‘little balls of heaven’. They look and taste incredibly beautiful and festive, with a deep red interior and white powdered exterior. The recipe calls for flour, butter and sugar (you can use coconut sugar or stevia, or simply halve the sugar quantity). Add to that cocoa powder, eggs, baking powder, salt, natural red food coloring, vanilla extract and powdered sugar for coating.

Triple Chocolate Flourless Crinkle Cookies – If you’re looking for a delicious, decadent dessert with no flour or refined sugar, then these are for you! The recipe calls for medjool dates, cacao powder, baking powder, chocolate chips, vanilla extract and non-dairy milk (try almond or hazelnut). They are sure to curb your chocolate craving while packing you full of nutrients.

Ginger Cookies

Secretly Healthy Low-Carb Gingerbread Cookies – These are so tasty, you won’t even know they are healthy. They are the ultimate bring-to-work snack for morning or afternoon tea. The recipe calls for dairy-free butter, coconut sugar, honey, egg and ground almonds. You will also need coconut flour, baking soda and powder, cornflour, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, cinnamon and salt.

Gingerbread cookies

Vegan Gingerbread Cookies – Ginger is one of those delicious healthy ingredients that work perfectly in sweet recipes! This vegan cookie option is naturally sweet, packed full of flavor and the ideal cozy snack. It is made with whole wheat flour, coconut sugar, cane sugar, molasses, flax egg, coconut oil, ginger, ground cloves, cinnamon, salt, vanilla extract and baking powder.

Vegan Gingerbread Biscotti – This vegan, lentil and walnut gingerbread biscotti is packing a serious nutritional punch! It is just as crunchy and flavorful as traditional biscotti. But it is made healthier with the lentil puree. The recipe calls for lentils, coconut oil, vegan mayo, cane sugar and molasses. Add to that vanilla, unbleached spelt flour, baking powder, salt, ground ginger, cloves, allspice and walnuts.

Gingerbread Men – More gingerbread cookies because we know there are plenty of gingerbread fans out there! This time, they come in the festive shape of gingerbread men, but are much healthier than traditional recipes. They are made with applesauce, maple syrup, molasses and vanilla extract. Add to that whole wheat flour, unbleached flour, baking powder and soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and salt.

gingerbread men

Festive Cookies

Last-Minute Christmas Sandwich Cookies – Okay, so it’s not Christmas all-year-round, but who says you can’t enjoy these festive treats any time of the year? They are no-bake and look similar to Oreos, with a creamy center between two chocolate biscuits. The cookies are made with hazelnuts, medjool dates, raw cacao and coconut flour. The filling is made with coconut milk, agave nectar, cranberries, Indian wheat flour and nutmeg.

Healthy Matcha Green Tea Almond Shortbread Cookies – Matcha is the highest quality green tea around, and comes in the form of a powder. That means you are consuming the whole leaf, rather than the steeped liquid in green tea. So, if you really can’t stand the taste, then putting it in food is a clever and effective way of sneaking it into your body! Matcha boosts metabolism, is full of antioxidants and is great for detoxing. This recipe also calls for oat flour, sweetener, baking powder, coconut oil, unsweetened almond milk, vanilla extract, natural butter flavor, stevia extract and almond extract.

Low-Carb Pecan Shortbread Cookies – This melt-in-your-mouth shortbread takes less than 20 minutes to mix together and bake. It is low-carb, rich and buttery, but suitable for people on a diabetic, ketogenic, Atkins or low-carb diet. The recipe includes butter, almond flour, stevia, vanilla extract, baking soda, salt and pecans.

pecan shortbread

Fruit-Flavored Cookies

Cherry & Almond Breakfast Cookies – Cherry and almond is one of those classic flavor pairings that create delicate, instagram-worthy desserts. This recipe comes with a number of healthy ingredients, full of fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals. They include flaxseed, ground almonds, oats, sliced almonds, walnut pieces, pumpkin seeds and baking soda. Add to that chia seeds, salt, coconut oil, maple syrup (100%), almond extract and dried cherries.

Orange Cranberry Cookie Sandwiches – These cute little ‘stars’ are vegan and gluten-free, and made with all natural ingredients. For the orange cookies, you’ll need gluten-free flour, coconut sugar, maple syrup, salt,  baking powder, orange juice, orange zest and coconut oil. For the cranberry cashew cream, you’ll need cashews, coconut oil, maple syrup, nut milk and cranberry powder.

orange cranberry cookies

And Some More, Just In Case That Wasn’t Enough!

Healthy Vegan Snickerdoodles – This recipe calls for oat flour, baking soda and powder, salt, coconut sugar, ground cinnamon, vanilla extract, unsweetened almond milk and coconut oil. Just like traditional snickerdoodles, but made with healthier, natural ingredients!

Raw Vegan Marzipan Cookies – These raw cookies are incredibly quick and easy to whip up if you feel like a sweet snack. They are made with almonds, rolled oats, dates, coconut oil, coconut nectar or maple syrup and almond extract. Again, always make sure to choose 100% pure maple syrup.

marzipan cookies

Gluten-Free Soft Molasses Cookies – These are crunchy and delicious, with that irresistible rich sweet flavor of molasses and spices. Ingredients include sprouted pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, almond flour, coconut flour, tapioca starch, ground ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, coconut oil, molasses and water.

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7 Butter Substitutes For Baking (+ Swaps For Spreads) Tue, 10 Jan 2017 17:43:58 +0000 If you opened up your refrigerator right now, how many sticks of butter would you find? Chances are, at least a few. Whether you use the popular dairy product as a spread, pop a teaspoon or so in a frying pan when cooking, or add it to your homemade cookies, cupcakes, and pies, it seems the […]

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If you opened up your refrigerator right now, how many sticks of butter would you find? Chances are, at least a few. Whether you use the popular dairy product as a spread, pop a teaspoon or so in a frying pan when cooking, or add it to your homemade cookies, cupcakes, and pies, it seems the popularity of butter just continues to soar. While butter is considered okay to consume in moderate amounts, it’s easy to over-do it. So if you’re trying to avoid butter, or just cut back on the fatty ingredient, these seven butter substitutes may just become your new kitchen staples.

There are several reasons people cut back on, or completely eliminate, butter from their diet. See the top butter substitutes and how you can use them!

Why Many People Avoid Butter

There are several reasons why people cut back on, or completely eliminate, butter from their diet:

It’s Very High In Fat and Cholesterol

Made from milk fat, butter is about 80 percent fat (the rest is water). While it contains a fairly moderate amount of monounsaturated fat (about 25%) along with ruminant trans fat (around 2.3%), the one that turns a lot of people off is saturated fat. Butter is about 70 percent saturated fat, a type that top health organizations (including The American Heart Association) and doctors have warned us to stay away from for decades. Since 1953 when a man named Dr. Ancel Keys published a study that compared saturated fat intake to heart disease mortality, we’ve been told that saturated fats can lead to heart disease. After extensive research, though, we now know that the controversial type of fat isn’t the evil we once thought it was.

It’s High In Calories

Along with being high in fat, butter also has a lot of calories. In fact, just one tablespoon of butter contains about 100 calories. If that doesn’t seem like all that much to you, take a minute to think about how much butter you actually consume in a day. Do you use a little in the morning to grease the frying pan for your eggs? How much do you slather on top of your accompanying slice of toast? What about lunch and dinner? Did you cook your food with butter and then add some additional pats to the top of your cooked food? Did you indulge in a pastry, cookie, or another type of baked good during the day? If so, you probably had a little more butter than you even thought. Trust me, all of those calories add up!


It’s Not That Nutritious

Sure, butter does contain some vitamins – such as A, D, E, and K – along with trace minerals. However, given the high calorie and fat content, it’s really not that nutritious.

It Contains Lactose

So far, the reasons I’ve mentioned have been elective. These next two, on the other hand, are medical necessities. If you suffer from a mild form of lactose intolerance then you may be able to eat a small amount of butter and tolerate it just fine. However, if you have a severe case of lactose intolerance then even a small amount could lead to stomach upset. Symptoms can include belching, bloating, gas, stomach cramps, diarrhea, indigestion, and fat in the stool.

Milk Allergen

If you have a milk allergy then it’s also important to tread carefully with butter. That’s because butter contains a small amount of casein, a protein found in milk that some people’s bodies can’t tolerate. Casein intolerance symptoms are similar to lactose intolerance symptoms.

Butter Substitutes For Baking

Rather than just skipping over butter when baking, you will need to find a good replacement. That’s because, whether you realize it or not, butter is a key component to making our baked goods taste amazing. It’s a leavening agent that helps make our treats light and fluffy. Along with the texture, butter also adds to the overall flavor of a dish. So if you just leave the butter out, you may wind up with a dry and bland piece of yuck! Instead, try these great butter swaps:

1) Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is truly nature’s miracle. Researchers say it benefits weight loss, improves digestion, works wonders for oral health, wards off infections, has antibacterial/antiviral/antimicrobial properties, and may help fight cancer. While coconut oil is also high in fat, it’s packed with vitamins, minerals, and other key nutrients.

In baking, you can substitute butter for coconut oil at a 1:1 ratio. That means, if your recipe calls for 1/4 cup of butter, you would simply use 1/4 cup of coconut oil instead.

While coconut oil won’t do a heck of a lot to the texture, it may slightly change the flavor of your baked goods. Whether that’s a positive or a negative thing, all depends on your taste preferences. The first time I baked a cake with coconut oil I became obsessed with the slightly coconut flavor. I personally love it, but everyone is different. So give it a try and see what you think!


2) Olive Oil

Here at Bembu, we refer to olive oil as liquid gold! That’s because the popular oil extracted from olives is packed with antioxidants, key vitamins, and minerals. It’s been known to benefit heart health, mental health, and our skin and hair!

You can swap out butter with olive oil at a 3:4 ratio, meaning you will simply use 3/4 cup of olive oil for every cup of butter called for in a recipe. Just keep in mind, though, that olive oil cannot be used to replace butter in every recipe. Since it’s a liquid, it’s not good for frostings, creams, and something like an angel food cake.

When purchasing olive oil there are two main things you want to look for. For one – make sure it’s extra virgin. This refers to the grade of oil. Many cheap oils are loaded with chemicals and/or are diluted. Second — make sure to get “cold pressed.” This refers to the extraction process. When heat is used to extract oil from olives some of the nutrients are destroyed.


3) Applesauce

Applesauce works as another wholesome butter swap. It gives your baked foods the needed liquid but doesn’t drive up the calorie or fat content. Made from apples, applesauce is actually a wonderful ingredient to add to your baked masterpieces since it’s rich in nutrients that will help keep you healthy!

Swap at a 1:1 ratio. I recommend using an all-natural applesauce that doesn’t have any added sugar, so it doesn’t bump up the sweetness factor of your cake (or whatever it is you’re making). However, if you’re baking a fall-inspired treat, it may be fun to experiment with a cinnamon flavored applesauce.


4) Pumpkin Pureé

You don’t have to bake pumpkin pie or another fall treat to sneak some pumpkin pureé into your baked goods. Surprisingly, it won’t change the flavor of your treat. It will simply slash the calories and fat without destroying the taste or texture.

Use 3/4 cup of 100% pure pumpkin pureé for every cup of butter called for in a recipe.

Here’s a little trick: Buy a boxed cake mix, mix it with one can of pumpkin pureé, and follow the baking temp/time instructions. Trust me, it’s easy and way better for you than traditional store-bought cakes. You can even pour your batter into mini muffin tins to make perfect portion sized treats.


5) Avocado

Avocados are referred to as a “superfood.” They’re among the most nutrient-dense fruits on earth, touting a long list of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Plus, they’re loaded with protein, fiber, and fat. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), avocados contain around 29 grams of good-for-you fat. Along with the many ways avocados benefit our health, they also benefit our baking!

You can simply swap out butter for pureed avocado at a 1:1 ratio. While the avocado shouldn’t change the flavor of your treat, it may change the color. So a word of advice, use avocados when making something chocolate. The dark-colored ingredients will help cover up the potential green tint!


6) Greek Yogurt

Greek yogurt not only contains healthy fats that can benefit your body in many ways, it’s also high in protein. Protein is essential for muscle growth, brain function, a healthy heart, strong bones, and weight management. So why not turn a low-protein cupcake into a protein powerhouse?!

You can substitute butter for plain full-fat yogurt at a 1:1 ratio.

7) Nut Butters

Nut butters, like peanut and almond butters, are a great butter replacement. They are high in protein, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals. Just a quick note, swapping traditional butter out for a nut butter may slightly change the taste and texture. The nutty flavor may peek through and the feel of your treat may be a bit more dense. Like I mentioned with coconut oil, it’s all a matter of preference. So try it out and see what you think!

You can substitute butter in a recipe for nut butter at a 1:1 ratio.

Butter Substitutes For Spreads

Love smearing a little butter on top of your morning toast? Why not try one of these healthier alternatives instead? I mentioned some of these swaps above in the baking section, but they work well as spreads too!


  • Coconut Oil
  • Olive Oil
  • Nut Butters (Peanut, Almond, Hazlenut, etc.)
  • Avocado
  • Hummus
  • Ricotta
  • Cottage Cheese
  • All-Natural Jams, Jellies, and Preserves
  • Pesto

What Not To Use As A Substitute

For many years, people viewed margarine as the perfect butter substitute. One reason is because it looks, feels, and acts very similar to butter (although they do vary in taste). Additionally, people used to think it was a whole lot healthier than butter. We now know that isn’t the case. You see, margarine is highly processed. It’s a dairy-free replacement that’s made from inflammation-causing vegetable oils, colorants, and a number of questionable artificial ingredients. Since margarine’s main ingredient (vegetable oil) is solid at room temperature, it’s often hydrogenated. That’s what gives it its solid butter-like consistency. The hydrogenation process also turns some of those already not-so-good-for-you vegetable oils into trans fats. As I hinted at earlier, not all fats are created equal and this is the type that you want to stay away from.

Check out this video comparing butter and hydrogen to get a better understanding of the hydrogenation process. Plus, you’ll see why not all margarine products are the same!

With any food that you buy at your local grocery store, it’s extremely important to read labels and get a good feel for exactly what’s inside. In general, though, when you’re searching for the best butter substitute for baking and spreads, try to stick with the ones mentioned above!

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Get Bendy With These 8 Yoga Poses For Flexibility Sat, 07 Jan 2017 17:47:32 +0000 Asanas, or the physical side of yoga, focus on many, many things, including balance, strength, concentration, stability, breath and relaxation. They also focus on, and improve, flexibility. Here are 8 beginners’ yoga poses that increase flexibility.   But Yoga Is For Flexible People, Right? Myth: You have to be flexible to practice yoga. Reality: Yoga […]

The post Get Bendy With These 8 Yoga Poses For Flexibility appeared first on Bembu.

Asanas, or the physical side of yoga, focus on many, many things, including balance, strength, concentration, stability, breath and relaxation. They also focus on, and improve, flexibility. Here are 8 beginners’ yoga poses that increase flexibility.


But Yoga Is For Flexible People, Right?

Myth: You have to be flexible to practice yoga. Reality: Yoga is for EVERY body.

You don’t have to be slim, flexible, strong or particularly coordinated to start yoga. In fact, when trying yoga out for the first time, people tend to either be naturally flexible or naturally strong. It is rare that someone trying it out for the first time would be able to hold crow pose for a long period of time and then twist themselves into a pretzel pose. Over time, a yoga practice develops and increases flexibility and strength.

Yoga is non-judgmental, non-competitive and never completely mastered. In other words, you will be a yoga student your whole life. There are always more levels, deeper poses and different ways of practicing yoga. And you will naturally continue to build upon your flexibility as you practice, as well as your strength, balance and concentration.

Yoga flexibility

Yoga For Flexibility

These poses are great to practice on their own or as part of a sequence. Over time, they will help release tight muscles, benefit your nervous system, and increase flexibility.

Seated Twist

Even simply sitting cross-legged and twisting is a great start to building flexibility, if you are particularly stiff or inflexible. Twisting from the core stretches the back and spine, relieving stiffness in the body and even the hips if you are cross-legged.

Start in staff pose, sitting up straight with your legs crossed. Inhale and raise your arms above your head, lengthening your spine. As you exhale, twist from the core to the right, placing your left hand on your right knee and right hand behind you. Inhale and lengthen your spine a bit more, then exhale and twist a little deeper. Stay there for three breaths and then move back to neutral. Repeat on the other side. If sitting with your legs crossed is too difficult to begin with, you can straighten your legs and cross one over the other, twisting with your opposite elbow on the outside of your bend knee.


Bound Angle

If you have tight hips or are inflexible around the groin and inner thighs, then spending a bit of time in bound angle is a great way to release that whole area. This pose can be performed in three different ways – each with slightly different benefits. But all three options help with flexibility around that target area.

Bound angle

Start sitting up straight with your legs out in front of you, in staff pose again. Fold your knees out to open your hips, and place the soles of your feet together. Hold your ankles or clasp your fingers together around the outside of your feet. Bring your heels in as close to your groin as you can. Your legs should make a diamond shape. Make sure your back is straight, not curved. Start to gently flap your knees up and down like a butterfly to help release any tension you may be holding. You can also try swaying from side-to-side, gently pressing your elbow into your inner thigh to carefully encourage it closer to the ground.

If you can, move your chest towards the ground, leading with your heart to get a deeper stretch around the hips. Stretch your arms out in front and rest your forehead and chest over your feet and on the mat.

Hip opener

Reclined Bound Angle

For reclined bound angle pose, start by lying on your back with your knees bent. Slowly release your knees apart towards the ground and place the soles of your feet together. Make sure you’re not straining the insides of your thighs and groin. You can place blocks underneath your hips to reduce any extreme tension. Rest your hands either out to the sides with your palms facing up, or rest your hands on your belly. You can add a bolster under your spine to open your chest and rest here for as long as you like. This is a popular restorative pose.

Forward Bend

This is one of those go-to stretches that people think of when talking about flexibility. ‘I can’t do yoga – I can’t even touch my toes’, is a common statement heard by yoga teachers. The aim, however, is not to touch your toes. It is to stretch the muscles in the backs of your legs and release the spine. Whether that means your hands get as far as your thighs or down to the ground is irrelevant. Having said that, though, the more you practice, the closer you will get to the ground! The most important thing to remember here is not to force it. This is something that takes time and practice.

Tight muscles

Forward bends can be done standing up or seated. If you are standing, start in mountain pose with your big toes touching and about an inch of space between your heels to slightly rotate your thighs inward. On an inhale, lift your arms up above your head, opening your chest and looking up. Make sure your knees are lifted and your core is engaged to protect your back. Release your shoulder blades down your back.

On an exhale, fold forward from your waist, leading with your chest, and keep your backs straight. Keep a bend in your knees if your legs are tight, and if you are comfortable enough to straighten them, make sure you still have a micro-bend in them (don’t lock the knee joints). Allow your spine and neck to lengthen, and release your head towards the floor. Your hands can rest on your thighs, shins, on the ground, around your ankles, or you can hug around the back of your knees. Stay here for five to 10 breaths.

Forward bend

Seated Version

If you are practicing a seated forward bend, start in staff pose with your torso and back straight and your legs out in front of you. Point your toes to the sky, lengthening the backs of your legs. Inhale and open your chest, looking up. Lean forward on an exhale, leading with your chest again. Slide your hands along your legs. Either hold the bottoms of your feet, or rest your hands on your thighs or shins, releasing your head, and lengthening your spine and neck. This is where a yoga strap can come in handy. If you have one, loop it around your feet and walk your hands down the strap as you exhale. Hold the pose for five to 10 breaths.

Seated forward bend

Wide-Legged Forward Fold

This one still stretches the backs of your legs and decompresses the spine, but it also works again on opening the hips and stretching the inner thighs and groin. Have a yoga block ready in front of you.

Start by standing with your legs wide in an upside-down ‘V’ shape. Slightly pigeon-toe your feet to internally rotate your thighs. Place your hands on your hips and life your collarbone and chest upwards to lengthen your torso on an inhale. As you exhale, slowly fold forward, keeping your core strong and engaged and your back straight, leading with your chest. Once you are halfway down, with a flat back, release your hands from your hips and place them either on the block in front of you, or directly on the mat if you can reach. Keep your core and back strong and on each exhale, try to fold a little deeper, moving the crown of your head towards the ground, releasing your spine.

Wide-legged forward bend

Camel Pose

Strengthening the muscles around your back and abdomen will support you as you stretch deeper and increase your flexibility. Camel pose is a fantastic back bend that works all those muscles along the spine, as well as your postural muscles. At the same time, it stretches your chest, abdominal muscles, pelvis, psoas and thighs. That makes it a particularly beneficial pose for increasing flexibility along the front of your body if you are particularly stiff or inflexible in any of those areas.

Start by kneeling on the floor with your knees hip-distance apart. Lift your buttocks away from your heels so that you are kneeling in an L-shape. Slightly rotate your thighs inwards and firm your glutes, but don’t engage them fully. Draw your pelvis slightly forward and lengthen your tailbone towards the ground so that you don’t collapse into your lower back when you move into the pose. Press your shins and feet into the floor and rest your hands on your lower back with your fingers pointing down. On an inhale, life your chest up and out, pressing your shoulder blades down your back ribs. Start to lean back, keeping your tailbone and shoulder blades firm. If this feels like enough of a stretch along the front of your body, you can hold the pose here.


Work Towards…

Once you are a bit more flexible and experienced, you can move into full camel. To do this, carefully place your hands on your heels, one at a time, moving deeper into the back bend. Lift your pelvis out, increasing the back bend and stretching your thighs even more. Make sure you are not collapsing into your lower back. If that feels alright, you can release your head back, stretching along the throat. Hold for five breaths, and when you are ready to release the pose, firm your thighs and release one hand, rolling your head and body around the other side and lifting back up.

Camel pose

Child’s Pose

Child’s pose is a very restorative pose that is a great accompaniment to deep back bends like camel, because it releases the back and decompresses the spine. It is also a very restorative pose that is great for relieving the back and neck. At the same time, it can help increase flexibility around the knees, hips, groin and thighs.

Start in tabletop position with your wrists underneath your shoulders and knees underneath your hips. As you exhale, sit back onto your heels. Your torso should rest on your thighs, or in between them for wide-angle child’s pose. Make sure your arms are stretched out in front of you to create more space along the back and sides of your body. Rest your forehead on the mat. You should feel a nice stretch and release along your back and between your shoulder blades. Stay here for a few breaths, allowing yourself to relax into the pose. You can then send your arms backwards, either side of your body and relax your shoulders.

Child's pose

Bridge Pose

This gentle restorative pose is both a back bend and heart opener, and is also considered a minor inversion. This mix of opening the chest and heart cavity, as well as changing the direction of blood flow, calms anxiety and releases any stored emotions. It also helps you work on flexibility around your shoulders, chest, abdomen, psoas and thighs.

Lie on the floor with your knees bent and feet planted on the mat. Make sure your fingertips can brush your heels and your legs are hip-distance apart. As you exhale, press your feet into the ground and slowly lift your tailbone, lower back, middle back and upper back towards the ceiling. Tuck your shoulders towards each other underneath your back and clasp your hands together below your buttocks. You should feel open across the chest and strong in the back. Take long, slow breaths in this pose and watch your belly expanding with each inhale and contracting with each exhale.

Bridge pose

Universal Spinal Twist

This is a fantastic restorative pose that relaxes the body, stretches the hips, glutes and outer thighs, and releases the back. It’s great for releasing tension in the hips and back, as well as increasing flexibility in that area.

Start on your back and bend your right knee on an inhale. Open your arms out to either site, palms facing down. Gently drop your right knee to the left on an exhale, twisting from the hips and spine. Keep both shoulders on the mat and turn your gaze towards the right. You should feel a fairly deep stretch around your right hip and glute, and around your spine. At the same time, your chest should feel open. Stay in this restful pose for at least 10 breaths on each side.

Spinal twist

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23 Fun & Creative Snacks For Under 100 Calories Mon, 02 Jan 2017 18:52:09 +0000 We’re not all about calorie counting at, but when you’re looking for a snack, it’s a great idea to keep the calories to a minimum. And more importantly, make them healthy low calorie snacks. Here are some of our favorite snack and dessert recipes that come in under 100 calories…   Should You Be […]

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We’re not all about calorie counting at, but when you’re looking for a snack, it’s a great idea to keep the calories to a minimum. And more importantly, make them healthy low calorie snacks. Here are some of our favorite snack and dessert recipes that come in under 100 calories…

Try these low calorie snacks to reduce your daily intake!


Should You Be Counting Calories?

This is a tricky area because it works for some people, but others get it totally wrong. If you focus on calories and not nutrients and balance in food, then you will most likely end up with deficiencies somewhere. Before we impose a blanket ban on calorie counting, however, there are some benefits to it, if you are doing it right. The problem is, most people don’t get it right. It is extremely difficult to understand how many calories and what sorts of calories you are consuming. If you are doing it wrong, it can be detrimental to your weight loss regime, and your overall health and energy.

A study of obese people on a ‘low calorie diet’ in the US found that participants did not lose weight because they under-reported their energy intake and overestimated their physical activity. Like fad dieting, calorie counting can lead to an unhealthy relationship with food, or a food obsession. And, if people are looking only at the calories they are consuming, instead of choosing food for its nutritional value, it often results in an unhealthy, unbalanced diet.

snacks under 100 calories

So Why Bother With ‘Low Calorie’ Snacks?

The important thing to note here is that, if you are trying to lose weight or keep weight off, you do need to be mindful of your calorie intake. That doesn’t mean counting them necessarily. Instead it means choosing low calorie options where possible. And snacks are a great place to focus. If you are a ‘snacker’, you don’t want to be consuming mountains of your daily calories through those in-between meal bites. Choosing low calorie snacks lessens your calorie intake throughout the day, which minimizes your overall calorie intake. Similarly, it is important to choose healthy low calorie snacks. That way, you will not be consuming bad calories, like, for example, sugary, processed, refined food that can lead to a blood sugar spike. That, in turn, can lead to sugar cravings and binging during the remainder of the day.

healthy snacks

Healthy Low Calorie Snacks (For Under 100 Calories!)

Here are 23 of our favorite sweets and snacks for under 100 calories…

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Healthy Gluten-Free Double Chocolate Chip Cookies – You can’t beat a chocolate chip cookie when you’re craving a chewy, sweet snack with a coffee at break time. The problem is, traditional chocolate chip cookies are packed full of sugar and refined flour, as well as a fair few calories! This option comes with the added bonus of being double chocolate. It is made with gluten-free flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, cornstarch, vanilla, honey, peanut butter (choose 100% stuff), unsweetened applesauce and mini chocolate chips. Choose good quality dark chocolate chips!

Low Fat Chocolate Chip Cookies – This low calorie take on a classic break-time favorite trades in some traditionally unhealthy, refined ingredients for some slightly healthier ones! The recipe calls for flour (you can always trade all-purpose flour with whole wheat for some added fiber), baking soda, coconut sugar, granulated sugar, whipped butter, egg whites, vanilla extract, almond milk and semi-sweet chocolate chips.

choc chip cookies

Oatmeal Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies (With Flax) – These chewy, sweet cookies are just as tasty as sugar, refined floury chocolate chip cookies, but with ingredients that are full of nutrients, like fiber, vitamins and minerals. The recipe calls for whole wheat flour, ground flaxseed, oats, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, ginger, butter, light brown sugar, egg, vanilla extract and dark chocolate chips.

Other Cookies

Healthy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies – These low sugar cookies will curb any cookie craving, with a nutritious mix of healthy ingredients. The recipe calls for oat flour, oats, baking powder, cinnamon, coconut sugar, coconut oil, vanilla, milk and raisins. They come in at 81 calories per cookie.

oatmeal raisin cookies

Healthy Nut, Carrot & Raisin Cookies – These nutrient-rich cookies curb a sweet craving, while packing you full of healthy ingredients, including nuts, carrots, oats, cinnamon, nutmeg, egg, applesauce and coconut oil. There’s no sweetener added (the carrots and apples do the trick) and no refined sugar! They have 83 calories, just over 5 grams of fat, 8 grams of carbohydrates, just over 2 grams of sugar, 81mg of sodium, 1.5 grams of cholesterol and 14mg of cholesterol.

nut carrot raisin cookies

Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Cookie Buttons – These cute little cookies come with 94 calories each and make a tasty little snack when you’re in the mood for a small sweet treat! They are made with sorghum flour, coconut flour, brown rice flour, baking powder, butter, peanut butter (go for 100%), maple sugar, egg, vanilla extract and dark chocolate.

Skinny Sugar Cookies – There’s sugar in the title of these tasty Christmas-inspired cookies, but there is actually no refined sugar in the ingredients. These cookies each have 98 calories, less than 4 grams of fat, 14.2 grams of carbohydrates, less than 5 grams of sugar, 1.4 grams of fiber and 16 grams of protein. They are made with whole wheat flour, baking powder, coconut oil, maple syrup, vanilla extract, butter extract and cinnamon.

sugar cookies


Gluten-Free Cinnamon Apple Pancakes – These delicious, moist pancakes are made with gluten-free baking flour, baking powder and soda, sugar, eggs, unsweetened almond milk, apple cider vinegar, vanilla extract, ground cinnamon, and apple. One pancake equals 90 calories. They also come with 2 grams of fat, 31mg of cholesterol, 67mg of sodium, 18 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 5 grams of sugar and 3 grams of protein.


Fresh Corn And Mango Salad – This fresh, tasty salad is a great low calorie snack option if you are not craving a sweet or dessert. It calls for corn, mangoes, yellow bell pepper, orange bell pepper, cherry tomatoes, chili, red onion, cilantro, rice vinegar, lime zest, lime juice and avocado oil or olive oil. One serving equals just under 78 calories, with less than 3 grams of fat, 2 grams of fiber, just over 7 grams of sugar and no cholesterol.

mango salad


Flourless Blueberry Banana Blender Muffins – There’s nothing better than blending a batter to save time and dishes! These moist, delicious little bites are made with banana, egg, almond butter, honey, vanilla, baking soda and powder, and blueberries. One muffin comes with 75 calories, no refined sugar, no refined flour and plenty of nutrients!

Brownies & Bites

Pumpkin Pie Fudge – You can’t beat fudge for a delicious, indulgent coffee break snack! This one not only has the scrumptious flavor of pumpkin pie, but also comes in at just 93 calories. But be aware that it also comes with a decent kick of sugar, so enjoy in moderation. Other than sugar, the recipe includes butter, evaporated milk, pumpkin puree and corn syrup. Dry ingredients include pumpkin pie spice, white chocolate chips, marshmallow fluff and vanilla.

pumpkin pie fudge

Coconut Rum Energy Balls – These are a fantastic low calorie Christmas option when you are in the mood for a good rum ball! They take just 10 minutes to prepare. The recipe calls for almonds, ground almonds or coconut flour, shredded coconut, protein powder, raisins, rum extract, cinnamon, nut butter, honey or maple syrup and vanilla.

The Ultimate One-Minute Protein Brownie – This delicious, rich but fluffy, protein-packed brownie takes just one minute to whip up. It is naturally gluten-free and can be vegan. One serving comes in at 150 calories, which means you can easily serve yourself a slightly smaller size (it’s rich, so you don’t need a regular serving size), and bring it down to 100 calories or under! The recipe includes protein powder, coconut flour, sweetener of choice (try stevia powder), baking powder and cocoa powder. It also calls for an egg (or flax egg for vegan option), nut milk (try almond or hazelnut), and dairy-free chocolate chips and peanut butter chips.

Zucchini Brownies – These indulgent-looking brownies are rich, moist and secretly healthy! They are packed full of fiber and other powerful nutrients. The recipe calls for zucchini, brown sugar, unsweetened applesauce, eggs, vanilla and oat flour. Add to that cocoa powder, baking soda and powder and cinnamon, and you’re done!


37 Calorie Brownies – Now we’re getting serious, with some rich, moist, delicious chocolately brownies that come with just 37 calories! They take less than 30 minutes to prepare. Ingredients include Greek yogurt, milk, cocoa powder and rolled oats. They also call for Truvia (natural stevia-based sweetener), egg and baking powder.

Samoa Banana Bites – Made with bananas, caramel, cocoa powder, coconut oil, agave syrup, coconut flakes and salt, these yummy little snack bites are quick and easy to make. They come with 93 calories, 12.5 grams of carbohydrates, 5.3 grams of fat, 5 grams of protein, 1.8 grams of fiber and 8.7 grams of sugar.

Fruity Treats

Skinny Peach Pie Popsicles – These popsicles are made with peaches, soy milk (or nut milk of your choice) and graham crackers. They make delicious, energizing, cooling post-workout snacks, especially in summer.


Baked Peaches With Cherries & Pecans – This fancy-looking snack or dessert is enough to impress any dinner guest and comes in at just 70 calories. One serving also has 12 grams of carbohydrates, 11 grams of sugar, 0mg of sodium and 1 gram of protein. However, there are no refined carbs in it, or refined sugar. The recipe calls for peaches, cherries, pecans, cinnamon, nutmeg and honey.

Berry Wine Sherbet – This creative beautifully-colored iced treat is perfect for a hot summer’s day. It is quick and easy to whip up (as long as you leave time for it to freeze!). The recipe calls for dry red wine, sugar, fresh blackberries, lemon juice and milk.


Skinny Tropical Pudding Cups – If you’re a fan of tropical-flavored desserts or sweet treats, then these pudding cups are for you! Coming in at 75 calories per serving, with less than 2 grams of fat and 14.5 grams of carbohydrates, they have some light, refreshing ingredients that will satisfy your sweet craving. The cups are made with milk, sugar-free, fat-free instant vanilla pudding mix, coconut extract, rum extract, lime juice, pineapple juice, fat-free whipped topping and chocolate macadamia nut cookies.

Raspberry Cheesecake Popsicles – These pretty popsicles make a delicious dessert-inspired summer treat. They come with just 93 calories each, and plenty of tasty ingredients! The recipe calls for fresh raspberries, water, cream cheese, milk, vanilla extract and sugar.

raspberry cheesecake popsicles


Healthy One-Minute Vanilla Cake – This light, fluffy, moist vanilla cake takes just one minute to throw together and microwave! It is low calorie, gluten-free, with vegan, high protein and paleo versions on the blog. Not only that, but if you don’t have a microwave, or prefer not to use a microwave, there’s an oven version too. The recipe calls for coconut flour, ground almonds, cinnamon, baking powder, granulated sweetener (try stevia), egg white or flax egg, dairy-free milk and sprinkles.

Pumpkin Cake – Dubbed ‘single gal’ pumpkin cake, this gluten-free, paleo friendly, vegan, refined sugar-free treat can be whipped up in just three minutes. It is made with coconut flour, pumpkin puree, cinnamon, vanilla extract, maple syrup, unsweetened vanilla almond milk, Truvia, and nut butter or coconut butter as frosting. It comes with 86 calories, 3 grams of fat, 12 grams of carbohydrates, 64mg of sodium, 2 grams of sugar and 3 grams of protein.

The post 23 Fun & Creative Snacks For Under 100 Calories appeared first on Bembu.

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Histamine Intolerance: How to Address the Root Cause Wed, 28 Dec 2016 16:22:32 +0000 Do you start itching when you eat cured meat? What about random headaches you can’t figure out? Or perhaps your tongue gets all swollen when you eat bananas? If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, let me assure you that it’s not ‘all in your head’: you could have a histamine intolerance. Or […]

The post Histamine Intolerance: How to Address the Root Cause appeared first on Bembu.

Do you start itching when you eat cured meat? What about random headaches you can’t figure out? Or perhaps your tongue gets all swollen when you eat bananas?

If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, let me assure you that it’s not ‘all in your head’: you could have a histamine intolerance. Or more precisely a ‘mast cell activation disorder’. I’ve experienced histamine intolerance first hand, which is why I wrote this article. So I know how annoying and troubling the symptoms can be.

But the good news is that you can get better. Read on to find out everything you need to know about histamine intolerance and what you can do to address the root cause of your symptoms.

Bugged by histamine intolerance? Find out how to naturally get rid of your symptoms.

What is histamine?

What comes to your mind when you think of histamine? Allergies and a stuffy nose during seasonal changes? Or perhaps the redness and painful swelling caused by a mosquito bite or a bee sting? Well, these symptoms occur due to the release of histamine, an organic nitrogen compound that causes an immediate inflammatory response.

Many of us see histamine as an irritating bad guy that causes allergies. But the truth is that histamine is a normal physiological response that acts as a red flag to alert the body of any potential attacker.

Moreover, histamine also works as a:

  • Neurotransmitter which communicates important messages between the brain and various parts of the body.
  • Component of stomach acid which helps the body extracts nutrients from the food you eat.

histamine production

Immune system meets Invader – a real life story

The production of histamine is very complex but in a nutshell, here’s how that goes:
1. An invader (such as pollen, dust particles or an insect’s venom) enters the body.

2. The immune system encounters the invader and trigger mast cells, white blood cells that act as the sentinels of our innate immune system.

3. The mast cells quickly notify the body by releasing histamine from secretory granules (storage sacs).

4. The histamine produced triggers the release of other immune cells and also dilates capillaries – small blood vessels. This swelling makes the capillaries more permeable to those immune cells, allowing them to quickly find the invader and attack it.

5. Usually, once the invader has been ‘apprehended’, the body releases two main enzymes. These include namely histamine N-methyltransferase (HMT or HNMT) and diamine oxidase (DAO). HMT and DAO break down the histamine produced into N4-methylhistamine and imidazole acetaldehyde respectively. These reactions inactivate the histamine thus preventing its accumulation in the blood.

For most people, this usually marks the end of the story. However, as discussed below, for some individuals, histamine can be a much greater issue.

Good to know: Bacteria in our guts also produce histamine. Plus, some of the foods we eat contain histamine. And to make things more confusing, some foods can trigger the release of histamine.

HFCS and goutHistamine intolerance – Not your typical food intolerance

Let me start by saying that, just like ‘adrenal fatigue’, ‘histamine intolerance’ is a collection of symptoms and not a diagnosis. This is why many conventional practitioners will tell you that histamine intolerance does not exist.

A mast cell activation disorder (MCAD) is currently the most accurate diagnosis of what patients with ‘histamine intolerance’ are suffering from. However, since not many individuals know about MCAD, I’ll be using the term ‘histamine intolerance’ in this article.

As mentioned earlier, mast cells act as the guards of the immune system. Therefore, in an attempt to maintain a normal environment within the body, these cells react to changes in the environment or insults to the body. They do so by releasing molecules such as histamine. For optimal body function, we need these mast cells and the molecules they release. Besides their role in allergies, mast cells are involved in:

  • The production of new blood cells
  • Wound healing
  • Immune tolerance development
  • Maintenance of the blood-brain barrier function
  • Protection against pathogens

mast cell histamine production

However, in the case of MCAD, problems occur when these cells function abnormally, leading to histamine intolerance. MCAD has also been linked to:

  • Skin conditions
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Male infertility
  • Autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis
  • Bladder pain syndrome
Good to know: Although MCAD can be ‘in your genes’, different members of the same family can present with very different symptoms.

Why would someone have issues with histamine?

By now, you will have realized that the problem isn’t with the histamine. So why would histamine be so problematic for some individuals?

Well, based on current research, it appears that some individuals produce too much histamine whilst others are unable to break down histamine.

Why would a person make too much histamine?

1. Overactive mast cells (mast cell activation syndrome). This can be caused by:

Toxicity of heavy metals like aluminum and mercury

– Infections or gut dysbiosis

–  Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS) – individuals who are particularly sensitive to molds, are more likely to be constantly activating their mast cells. That’s because these individuals would be less able to clear out mycotoxins (poisons released by toxic molds) from their bodies.

4. Mastocytosis, a rare genetic condition caused by an excess of genetically altered mast cells.

3. Too many gut bacteria that produce histamine.

cured meat histamine

Why would a person have trouble breaking down histamine?

Unfortunately, there are numerous possibilities. For instance, a person may suffer from:

  • A deficiency of histamine N-methyltransferase (HMT or HNMT)
  • Impaired efficiency of DAO due to genetic mutations in the DAO gene. These mutations are more common among Caucasians.
  • Reduced activity of HMT due to micronutrient deficiencies which can affect the methylation pathway through which HMT deactivates histamine
  • Low levels of bacteria that degrade histamine
  • MTHFR mutation – No, it’s not a swear word (although it sure looks like one!): MTHFR actually stands for methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase. This involves a defect in the genes related to the methylation pathway. Individuals who are homozygous for MAO can be more sensitive to histamine. [A 23andMe gene profile run through Genetic Genie or MTHFR Support can help you determine this.]

Some individuals may also be deficient in diamine oxidase (DAO). This deficiency can be caused by:

  • A genetic issue with DAO production (more common in people of Asian origin)
  • Gluten intolerance
  • Increased intestinal permeability (very common among individuals on a standard Western diet)
  • Inflammation

The following drugs can also interfere with DAO levels in the body:

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin or ibuprofen
  • Antihistamines like Zyrtec, Allegra and Benadryl
  • Histamine (H2) blockers like Tagamet, Zantac, Pepcid
  • Antidepressants like Cymbalta, Effexor, Prozac, Zoloft
  • Immune modulators like Plaquenil
  • Antiarrhythmics like metoprolol

tomatoes histamine

Why does the degree of histamine sensitivity vary so much?

That’s a question I get asked all the time. Some may say that a person suffering from poor health or poor lifestyle habits is more likely to be more histamine intolerant. While it is true that health status does determine sensitivity, the issue is much more complex.

For instance, one could have a MAO mutation coupled with ineffective methylation and trouble breaking down histamine once it is produced. Plus, they could have overactivated mast cells that lead to histamine overproduction. And all this could happen even if that person is eating a real food diet and practicing a healthy lifestyle.

So, there are cases where there is a constellation of issues. As such, these people may need to always be careful with foods rich in histamine.

Good to know: If you must talk to your doctor about histamine intolerance, use the term ‘mast cell activation disorder’ instead. Otherwise, she/he might look at you like you have two heads.

fermented products histamine

Common symptoms of histamine intolerance

Symptoms will vary considerably (from irritating to life-threatening) between individuals depending on which body systems are affected:

  • Eyes – Redness, itching, burning, watery
  • Nose – Runny, itching, sneezing, seasonal allergies
  • Mouth – Swelling, itching
  • Skin – Swelling, rashes, itching, hives (can be localized or all over the body)
  • Throat – Swelling or ‘throat tightening’
  • Lungs – Coughing, wheezing
  • Digestive tract – Heartburn, indigestion, reflux, cramps, diarrhea
  • Vascular – Headaches, fatigue, confusion, irritability, symptoms resembling those of anxiety or panic attack, loss of consciousness unexplained by other causes
  • Cardiovascular – Drop in blood pressure (especially when you stand up quickly), chest pain, increased heart rate or ‘racing heart’
Take-home message: Since all human tissues contain mast cells and almost every cell has a mast cell receptor, MCAD can affect any organ system, making detection quite difficult.

Now that you know what histamine intolerance is, let’s talk about how to test for it.

canned foods histamine

Testing for histamine intolerance

1. Elimination / Reintroduction diet: Start by eliminating foods rich in histamine, those that release histamine as well as DAO blocking drinks (see below) for at least 30 days. Then, work with a qualified healthcare practitioner to reintroduce foods one at a time.

2. Blood tests: Test for both histamine and DAO levels. Moreover, you can also run a serum tryptase test to assess mast cell activation syndrome.

Usually, a high histamine to DAO ratio would indicate that your:

  • Dietary intake of histamine is too high (if you’re on a normal diet)
  • Body is over-producing histamine (due to gut dysbiosis) on a low-histamine diet
  • Body isn’t producing enough DAO levels.

But if your DAO levels are very low and you have normal histamine levels, then that could indicate a genetic deficiency of DAO.

3. DAO supplements: If you are unable to test your histamine and DAO levels, you could do a ‘DAO supplement trial’. You just have to eat a low histamine diet and take a DAO supplement at each meal. If your symptoms improve, this could indicate that you have low DAO levels.

Histamine-free and low histamine diet

If you do a Google search for ‘histamine intolerance’, you’ll come across the ‘histamine-free’ or ‘low histamine’ diet, a VERY long list of foods to avoid. I have to admit that just glossing through foods to avoid on a low histamine diet can be quite distressing. Netherveless, this diet is an important part of treatment as it can help you tone down some of your symptoms and finally get relief.

Let’s have a look at foods which naturally contain histamine, those that release histamine and those that inhibit DAO.

beer gout

Histamine-rich foods

As the name suggests, these foods contain histamine. The biggest offenders are usually any type of fermented foods – during fermentation, the bacteria produce histamine. Leftover meat can also be problematic since microbial action increases histamine levels as the meat sits. Slow cooked foods like bone broth or crockpot recipes will also be high in histamine.

  • All fermented alcoholic beverages especially wine (white and red), beer, champagne, sherry and all other alcoholic drinks – even if the alcohol has been cooked off
  • Cured meats including bacon, dried cured sausages, hot dogs, luncheon meats, pepperoni and salami
  • Pork
  • Smoked or canned seafood and seafood that has been improperly handled or stored for too long
  • Certain fish like anchovies, bonito, butterfly kingfish, dried milkfish, herring, mackerel, mahi-mahi, marlin, pilchards, saury, scads, smooth-tailed trevally
  • Tuna and sardines – the amount of histamine varies between different species with some containing no histamine at all
  • Fish paste (like anchovy paste), fish paste and shrimp paste
  • Fermented foods like kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, yogurt, fermented sausages, fermented ham, vinegar, soy sauce and any fermented soy product
  • Vinegar-containing foods such as mayonnaise, pickles, and preserved olives
  • Soured-foods like buttermilk, soured bread, sour cream, and sour milk
  • Dried fruits like apricots, dates, figs, raisins, prunes
  • Most citrus fruits
  • Nuts like cashews and walnuts
  • Peanuts
  • Cheeses like Camembert, cheddar, Emmental, Gouda, Harzer (German sour milk cheese), Parmesan, Swiss cheese and Tilsit or Tilsiter cheese
  • Avocados
  • Coffee
  • Eggplant
  • Pineapples
  • Spinach
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes and ketchup
Did you know? The average histamine content of the above foods can vary between 2mg/kg to 400mg/kg! Fruits are usually lower in histamine compared to cured meats, pork, and sausage which win the award for foods highest in histamine.

pork histamine

Histamine-releasing foods

The following foods do not contain histamines. However, when ingested, they can trigger mast cells to release histamine.

  • Alcohol
  • Bananas
  • Chocolate
  • Cocoa
  • Cow’s milk
  • Crustaceans
  • Licorice root
  • Nuts
  • Papaya
  • Pineapple
  • Pork
  • Shellfish
  • Tomatoes
  • Wheat germ
  • Various artificial preservatives and dyes

 DAO-Blocking beverages

As the name suggests, in susceptible individuals, the following drinks can inhibit DAO’s activity when consumed

  • Alcohol
  • Black tea
  • Green tea
  • Mate tea
  • Energy drinks

That’s a long list of foods but, don’t worry, once you’ve addressed the root cause of your histamine intolerance, you’ll probably be able to start enjoying them again.

heal histamine intolerance

So what can you eat?

As a rule of thumb, when it comes to histamine intolerance, remember to eat the freshest foods you have access to:

  • Freshly cooked poultry, meat and game
  • Cooked eggs
  • Fresh produce excluding avocado, eggplant, spinach, tomatoes
  • Dairy substitutes like coconut or almond milk
  • Extra virgin olive oil and virgin coconut oil
  • Herbal teas
  • Certified gluten-free rice, quinoa, buckwheat and amaranth – avoid these if you have an autoimmune condition or a lot of inflammation in your body (this would be indicated by high ESR and/or CRP levels on blood tests)
  • Freshly caught fish – the video below will walk you through how to select the freshest fish

Do you really need to address your root cause?

Short answer: Definitely!

Because do you think you could follow a low-histamine diet for life? If yes, that’s impressive! However, be forewarned: not this only can this diet be very overwhelming, but it may not be very useful in the long run if you don’t address the underlying cause.

Why? For two main reasons:

  1. A low-histamine diet with supplemental DAO will only help reduce the amount of histamine that you’re consuming. It will do nothing to modify the amount produced by your mast cells within your body.
  1. No two individuals with histamine intolerance will react to the same foods. For instance, my dad gets hives when he eats spinach but no reaction whatsoever when he eats eggplants, unlike my older brother who reacts strongly to eggplants. In other words, if you avoid all foods that contain histamine, you will probably be missing out on foods you may actually tolerate well.

Plus, to make things more complicated, the histamine content of foods will vary depending on:

  • How they’ve been handled
  • Processing methods
  • The type of bacteria that has been used in fermentation

This is one of the reasons why you won’t find histamine content on labels.

Why not simply follow conventional treatments?

Conventional treatments involve drugs that focus on blocking the action of mast cell mediators like histamine. It is true that they can give you much-needed relief but these short-term solutions can have unwanted side effects.

This is why I strongly advise addressing the root cause of your histamine intolerance. While this will not be a quick fix, this approach can help you reverse your condition.

Eggplant histamine

So, how can you treat histamine intolerance?

1. Heal your gut!

If you’ve read my previous articles, you’re probably thinking ‘Whoa, what a broken record!’ But the importance of a healthy gut cannot be over-emphasized. You see, histamine intolerance indicates both a damaged gut (increased intestinal permeability) as well as an overgrowth of bad bacteria and too few beneficial ones (dysbiosis).

To heal your gut, avoid:

  • Gluten-containing foods
  • Grains
  • Vegetable oils (like canola oil, cottonseed oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil and soybean oil)
  • Sugar
  • Processed foods.

You can also try probiotics but adhere closely to these two guidelines:

  • Avoid probiotics that produce histamine – these can worsen your symptoms. Hello chaos if they start colonizing your gut! These probiotics include Lactobacillus bulgaricus, Lactobacillus casei and Lactobacillus delbrueckii. These strains are often found in most dairy products which is why I strongly discourage consumption of fermented dairy products if you have histamine intolerance.
  • Try probiotic strains that degrade histamine – these should improve your symptoms. Lactobacillus plantarum and Bifidobacterium infantis are good choices. Or you could try soil-based organisms.

fish histamine

2. Give your liver some love

Remember HMT, the other enzyme that breaks down histamine? Well, it is active in the liver. If your liver is unhealthy, the efficiency of HMT will decline. So, to keep your liver healthy, you want to:

  • Avoid sugar and high fructose corn syrup
  • Choose healthy fats (such as coconut oil) instead of refined, industrial seed oils
  • Select nutrient-packed carbohydrates such as sweet potatoes
  • Eat a colorful diet to get enough polyphenols
  • Be active throughout the day to use up your liver glycogen stores
  • Avoid alcohol – this includes wine – since it is one of the major inhibitors of DAO

3. Take care of any existing infections

As mentioned earlier, parasites and infections can over-activate mast cells. Your doctor can work with you to assess your comprehensive stool test analysis and identify what might be bugging you.

citrus histamine

3. Take care of any existing infections

This test will help determine if you are suffering from heavy metal toxicity. Once you get the test’s results, try chelating agents (under the guidance of a qualified healthcare professional) to get rid of these metals. It is also a wise idea to have a trained dentist safely remove any old mercury fillings you may have. This can reduce the burden of mercury on your body.

Lifestyle changes to improve histamine intolerance

1. Get enough quality sleep

Activation of mast cells tends to be similar to circadian rhythms. As such, hit the hay early and get enough sleep (about seven to eight consecutive hours at night) is essential. You also want to avoid blue light from electronic devices at night. This being said, if you really need to use such devices at night, install f.lux on your laptop or Mac or twilight on your smartphone. Moreover, take care of your circadian hygiene by getting enough sunlight exposure on a daily basis, whenever that’s possible.

2. Manage your stress levels

When you’re stressed (physically or physiologically), your body releases corticotropin hormone. This hormone ‘startle’ mast cells, causing them to release mediators such as histamine. Hence, this is why many individuals will see symptoms worsen during periods of stress. You may also want to try some supplemental magnesium. But be sure to know how to select the right magnesium supplement for you.

spinach histamine

Nutrients to include

1. Resistant starches

These include unripened green bananas – these are great in smoothies or fried in coconut oil to make chips. But make sure to avoid raw potato starch which may worsen your symptoms. That’s because lectins, naturally occurring substances in potatoes, can provoke mast cells to release histamine.

2. Get plenty of nutrients that can help stabilize your mast cells

Here’s what I typically use in my practice:

  • Bromelain (natural anti-histamine)
  • Butterbur
  • Ginger
  • Holy basil
  • Nettle tea
  • Nigella sativa
  • Peppermint
  • Pine bark extract (natural anti-histamine)
  • Quercetin (natural anti-histamine)
  • Selenium
  • Thyme
  • Turmeric
  • Vitamin C from amla berries or camu-camu

Have you experienced histamine intolerance? If so, what was your underlying issue and what did you do to address that?


The post Histamine Intolerance: How to Address the Root Cause appeared first on Bembu.

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7 Relieving Yoga Poses For Sciatica Mon, 26 Dec 2016 18:11:53 +0000 Many people around the world suffer from lower back pain, but when that pain starts to shoot down one of your legs and feel like an unbearable cramp, it may be sciatica. While most cases of sciatica don’t have to be drastically treated with invasive surgery, there are cases where it can be quite severe. […]

The post 7 Relieving Yoga Poses For Sciatica appeared first on Bembu.

Many people around the world suffer from lower back pain, but when that pain starts to shoot down one of your legs and feel like an unbearable cramp, it may be sciatica. While most cases of sciatica don’t have to be drastically treated with invasive surgery, there are cases where it can be quite severe. A regular yoga practice, such as a gentle flow, Hatha, restorative or yin class, is a great way to ease symptoms of sciatica and help treat it. And there are some yoga poses that are particularly helpful in relieving sciatic pain.

Relieve symptoms of sciatica with these 7 yoga poses...


What Is Sciatica?

Sciatica is the name given to pain in the back and/or leg caused by a problem with the sciatic nerve. The large nerve runs from the lower back down the back of each leg. Sciatica can occur from an injury or pressure being put on the sciatic nerve, and the pain can spread from the lower back to the hip, glute and leg. While it may need surgery in some cases, up to 90% of people recover without the need for an operation.

Symptoms Of Sciatica

The most common symptom is pain that can extend from the lower back through the hip, glute and leg of one side of the body. It may feel like a particularly bad leg cramp, and can become an excruciating shooting pain that makes either standing or sitting almost intolerable. Other symptoms include numbness, weakness or tingling in the leg. Sciatica symptoms can appear suddenly or develop gradually, and last for days or weeks. Pain can become worse when you sit, cough or sneeze.

lower back pain

Causes Of Sciatica

There are a few different conditions that may cause sciatica, including a ‘pinched nerve’. This may affect one or more of your lower spinal nerves, inside or outside of the spinal canal as it passes into the leg. One of the most common causes of sciatica is a herniated or slipped disc, which can cause pressure on the nerves that run down the spinal column. This can occur from injury or weakness, causing the inner portion of the disc to protrude through the outer ring.

Piriformis syndrome is another common cause of sciatica. It develops when the piriformis muscle tightens or spasms, putting pressure on the sciatic nerve. The piriformis muscle is a small muscle found deep inside the buttocks. It connects the lower spine to the upper thighbone and runs over the sciatic nerve. This is a more common cause of sciatica in women. Spinal stenosis is a condition resulting from a narrowing of the spinal canal putting pressure on the nerves, which can also lead to symptoms of sciatica. And spondylolisthesis, caused by one vertebra slipping out of line with the one above it, is another potential cause. The slippage leads to a narrowing of the opening where the nerve exits.


Sciatica Or Some Other Back Pain?

Back pain is extremely common around the world, with up to 85% of Americans experiencing some form or another in their lifetime. However, back pain is not always necessarily to do with the sciatic nerve. Often it is the result of straining muscles in the lower back. The main sign that your lower back pain might be sciatica is if it shoots down the leg and possibly even into the foot. It can feel like a particularly bad leg cramp that can last for days.

How To Treat Sciatica

Most sciatica can be treated without invasive surgery, with the aim of treatment being to decrease pain and increase mobility. That can include physical therapy and pain and inflammation medication. In more severe cases, doctors may suggest an injection of anti-inflammatory medicine, which resembles cortisone, into the lower back to reduce swelling of the nerve roots. If none of those methods are successful, surgery may be needed if symptoms are progressing and the patient is in severe pain. Surgical options can include microdiscectomy, which removes fragments of a herniated disc. Or laminectomy, which involves removing the tissue that is causing pressure on the sciatic nerve and the bone that curves around and covers the spinal cord (lamina). Alternative methods of treatment, including yoga and acupuncture, have also proven to be beneficial in relieving sciatic pain.


Yoga For Sciatica

Yoga can be particularly beneficial to sciatica if the source of the pain is the piriformis muscle. Signs can include:

  • Pain and tingling down the outside of your calf muscle to the space between your little and fourth toe.
  • Discomfort on your heels and toes when walking.
  • A burning sensation in the back of the thigh and calf down to the heel, and stiffness in the legs.
  • Pain and discomfort from sitting.
  • Pain in the buttocks after exercising or sitting for a long period.


Yoga Poses To Relieve Sciatica

These yoga poses can help stretch and relieve sore muscles and cramping caused by sciatica…

Seated Spinal Twist

Twisting the spine is a great way to relieve stiffness and stretch the back and spine. Start in staff pose, sitting up straight with your legs crossed. Inhale and raise your arms above your head, lengthening your spine. As you exhale, twist from the core to the left, placing your right hand on your left knee and left hand behind you. Inhale and lengthen the spine a bit more, then exhale and twist a little deeper. Stay there for two breaths and then move back to neutral. Repeat on the other side, but spend more time on the side that is showing symptoms of sciatica. If you find sitting cross-legged to be uncomfortable, you can straighten your legs and cross one over the other, twisting in the opposite direction.

seated twist

Knee Raise

This stretches and relieves the lower back and buttock on one side of the body at a time. Start by lying on your back, trying to relax your spine as close to the mat as possible. Lengthen the back of your neck and relax your shoulders. On an inhale, draw one knee to your chest, keeping the other leg straight. Take hold of the bent leg around the shin and pull your leg closer towards your chest, resisting with your knee at the same time. Make sure your shoulders remain on your mat.

knee lift

Cat-Cow Flow

This sequence of two poses not only stretches the back, shoulders and abdomen, but it also warms the body up, which lubricates joints, loosens muscles and makes other stretches easier. Start in tabletop position, placing a blanket underneath your knees if they are sensitive. Make sure your knees are directly under your hips and hip-distance apart, and your hands are directly under your shoulders, shoulder-distance apart. On an inhale, drop your belly towards the ground, arching the back and lifting your tailbone towards the sky. If you feel comfortable and balanced, you can also raise your face towards the ceiling. On an exhale, round your back, dropping your head and tailbone toward the floor. Repeat, moving with your own breath, for at least 10 rounds.

Child’s Pose

This is a relaxing, restorative pose that gently stretches the legs, ankles and hips, while relieving stress and fatigue. It also releases tension in the back and neck, and opens the hips. Start in tabletop position, making sure your wrists are directly under your shoulders and knees underneath your hips. As you exhale, sit back towards your heels, moving your torso between your thighs. Allow your arms to stretch out in front of you and rest your forehead on the mat. You should feel a stretch and release along your spine and between your shoulder blades. Even your buttocks might feel a good stretch if sciatica has caused stiffness in that area. You should try to relax in this pose for a few minutes if you can, allowing your buttocks to move closer and closer to your heels.

child's pose

Twisted Lunge

This pose takes a bit more strength and can feel more difficult than the relaxing and restorative poses we’ve looked at so far. It is a great yoga pose for opening and stretching the hips. Start in mountain pose (standing tall) and then slowly step your right foot back, with the ball of your foot raised and your heel off the ground. Bend your left knee. Keep your right leg straight and make sure you are not overextending your left knee – it should be directly above your ankle. Twisting from your back, place your right elbow outside your left knee, palms together and pressing away from each other. Resist the pressure of your right elbow with your left thigh. Hold for five breaths and then release, repeating on the other side.


One-Legged Pigeon Pose

This is one of the best poses to stretch the thighs and open the hips. It melts away tension and anxiety, relieves symptoms of sciatica and stimulates abdominal organs, while also improving muscle flexibility around the entire hip area. However, it is a very strong pose, so you want your body to be warm before you practice, and if you are not very flexible or experienced in yoga, work up to it with some other yoga poses. If you are a beginner, have some folded blankets or cushions handy.

Start in downward facing dog and gently bring one leg forward in between your hands. Set the outside of your leg down on the mat, with your lower leg crossing in front of your groin and opposite hip. Again, depending on your flexibility, your leg might be on a bit of an angle back towards your groin. As you exhale, start to move your other foot back, straightening the leg behind you and moving your groin and pelvis as close to the mat as possible. This is where you can add the blanket or cushion under the buttock of your bend leg once you feel enough of a stretch. You can remain upright, or move your hands forward and lay your torso over your front leg, forehead on the mat.

pigeon pose

Universal Spinal Twist

This is a fantastic restorative pose that relaxes the body, stretches the hips, glutes and out thighs, and releases the back. It’s great for releasing tension in the hips and back. Start on your back and bend your right knee on an inhale. Open your arms out to either site, palms facing down. Gently drop your right knee to the left on an exhale, twisting from the hips and spine. Keep both shoulders on the mat and turn your gaze towards the right. You should feel a fairly deep stretch around your right hip and glute and around your spine. At the same time, your chest should feel open. Stay in this restful pose for at least 10 breaths on each side, and more on the side suffering from sciatica.

spinal twist

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Top 11 Health Benefits of Sleep Fri, 23 Dec 2016 15:31:11 +0000 According to doctors, we can and should sleep our way to better health and overall life success! Chances are you’ve heard that before. I mean, how many times has someone told you to get a solid eight hours of sleep so you can have more energy and boosted productivity the following day? Still, many people […]

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According to doctors, we can and should sleep our way to better health and overall life success! Chances are you’ve heard that before. I mean, how many times has someone told you to get a solid eight hours of sleep so you can have more energy and boosted productivity the following day? Still, many people ignore this advice, and it affects more than just your mood. Adequate sleep is key for a healthy lifestyle. It can impact everything from your heart health to the number you see pop up on the scale. While it’s clear there aren’t enough hours in the day to fit in all of our modern day life’s demands, it’s still important to prioritize bed time. Read on to find out the top 11 benefits of sleep — both in quantity and quality.

Sleep your way to better health and overall life success! Read on to find out the top 11 benefits of sleep -- both in quantity and quality.


Top 11 Health Benefits of Sleep

1) Improved Concentration and Productivity

Have you ever pulled an all-nighter preparing for a big school test or work project and then felt like a complete waste the next day? Or perhaps you work the graveyard shift and after a few weeks in you started to feel like the inside of your eyelids had turned into a lightly abrasive sandpaper (I’ve been there). Various researchers have studied the effects of sleep deprivation on the brain and found it does negatively impact cognition in various ways. From concentration to productivity, memory, problem-solving skills, and overall performance, studies show that adequate sleep gives our brain the opportunity to rest, recover, and recharge. One study on medical interns is the perfect example.

In this study, researchers closely monitored medical interns, comparing the rates of serious medical errors made by those who worked more than 24-hours long and others who worked shorter shifts. Researchers found that interns made substantially more serious medical errors when they worked frequent shifts of 24 hours or more than those who worked shorter shifts.

Another study compares moderate sleep deprivation to alcohol intoxication. Researchers found that after 17-19 hours without sleep, participants’ performance on certain tests was equivalent to or worse than having a 0.05% Blood Alcohol Content.

Check out more on how sleep affects the brain in this eye-opening TEDTalk video:

2) Improved Immune Function

Think of your immune system as a sharp shield that protects your body against viruses and various illnesses. When you don’t catch enough zzz’s, though, just like how your mind isn’t as sharp, neither is that shield. Studies show a lack of sleep impacts the body on a cellular level, and it can increase your chances of getting sick. Just take this study for example: For two weeks, a total of 153 healthy men and women, reported their sleep patterns. Then, based on their average sleep length and quality, participants were quarantined, administered nasal drops containing a rhinovirus, and monitored closely. After a few days, researchers found participants who slept less than 7 hours a night and had a poor sleep quality, were more likely to develop a cold than those who slept a quality 8 or more hours a night.

Additionally, if you are suffering from a cold or other illness and don’t get enough sleep, it can prolong your time stuck in bed with a box of tissues and bowl of hot soup. Think back to when you were sick as a little kid. Did your grandparents or parents ever tell you to “sleep it off?” Turns out, they were right!


3) Healthy Heart

Most of us exercise and eat a well-balanced diet to maintain good heart health. While they are definitely two important factors, did you know that sleep is also an essential component to a healthy heart? Various studies show people who sleep less than six hours a night have a greater chance of developing heart disease. In adults, the risk of heart attack and stroke rises. In adolescents, according to The Sleep Foundation, a lack of sleep has been linked to high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

So how much sleep does your heart need? While there is some debate here, most experts recommend about 7-9 hours for adults and around 10 hours for adolescents.

4) Better Glucose Metabolism and Type 2 Diabetes Risk

It doesn’t take long for sleep deprivation to start affecting the body in a big way. In one study, 11 healthy men who were restricted to sleeping just four hours a night for six nights in a row started developing pre-diabetes symptoms. Then, after another six nights where the men were allowed to sleep up to 12 hours a night, those symptoms started to resolve themselves.

This isn’t the only study that showed these type of results. Researchers say, after running tests, it’s clear that sleep affects blood glucose metabolism and it’s subsequent impact on the body.

5) Weight Management

There’s no doubt that weight is determined by a number of factors, mainly our diet and exercise level. But sleep also plays an important role in the number that pops up on the scale. That’s partly because when someone is fatigued, they are less likely to get their booty to the gym and have the energy for a good workout. But it get’s a bit more complicated than that.

Sleep deprivation also affects our fat hormones in a negative way. You may not even realize it, but your body’s hormones have a major impact on your pant size. For many women, an overload or lack of certain hormones are actually blocking weight loss efforts. One such hormone is leptin, which plays a key role in making the body feel full. Leptin essentially lets the brain know that the body is full and has stored enough fat, so you can stop eating! When you don’t get enough sleep, though, leptin levels drop and you begin to crave those not-so-good-for-you foods. That’s when you put those skinny jeans toward the back of your closet. 

Leptin is just one of many fat hormones that sleep has a direct effect on. So if you’re struggling to lose weight, make sure to prioritize sleep and balance out your hormones.


6) Improved Workout Performance

I started to touch on this in the beginning of #5. When someone is tired, they aren’t as likely to get the most out of their exercise. If you make your way to the gym after a restless night, you may not be able to lift as heavy of a weight as you could if you had a great night’s sleep. Or, maybe you won’t push yourself to complete as many reps as you otherwise would have. While this is common sense, it’s also scientifically proven. Researchers have studied everyone from athletic basketball players to walking women and found they both had an increased workout performance when they had an adequate night’s sleep.

So if you want to kill it at the gym tomorrow and start building more muscle, slip into your PJs, strap on that eye mask, and get some sleep.

7) Pain Management

If you suffer from chronic pain or are dealing with uncomfortable sensations from a recent injury, then make sure to get some rest. Various studies link sleep loss to increased pain sensitivity. In fact, researchers say getting a good night’s sleep can even supplement mild gut-destroying pain medication.


8) Mood

Maybe you’ve noticed that you wake up more cranky when you don’t get enough hours of sleep the night before. It’s okay, it happens to the best of us! But the effects of sleep deprivation go way beyond a small attitude problem. Stress, anxiety, and depression are all enhanced by a lack of sleep. In fact, it has been estimated that 90 percent of patients with depression complain about sleep quality. Additionally, poor sleep has also been linked to increased risk of suicide death. This is not something to be taken lightly. If you are having trouble sleeping and are dealing with symptoms of depression, talk to your doctor.

9) Inflammation

Poor sleep has been linked to severe inflammation in the digestive tract and all throughout the body. While temporary inflammation from an injury is perfectly normal, if inflammation persists when the body isn’t under threat, there is a potential problem. Inflammation is at the root of almost all diseases. In fact, chronic inflammation has been linked to arthritis, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, and depression. Make sure to get enough sleep to keep inflammation under control. Plus, add some inflammation-fighting foods to your diet (like salmon)!

10) Vision

When you sleep, your entire body gets much-needed rest. It recharges and resets, preparing for the next day ahead. If you don’t give your body this down time, though, it won’t function properly. This includes your vision. People who are chronically fatigued have reported fuzzy eyesight, seeing double, and in extreme cases, people have experienced hallucinations.


11) Headaches

Do you suffer from frequent headaches and throbbing migraines? It may be your sleep habits. Studies show that not getting enough quality sleep can also lead to frequent head pain. According to researchers, this may have something to do with certain proteins that are triggered during REM sleep.

Natural Ways To Improve Sleep

While we have compiled a more detailed list of 11 Evening Wind Down Rituals for a Good Night’s Sleep, here are a few things you can do tonight to make it easier for your body to drift off into dreamland and stay there for a full night (without all that tossing and turning)!


  • Pull back on caffeine after noon.
  • Turn off electronics (televisions and phones) one hour before bedtime.
  • Do some light stretches before getting into bed.
  • Take a warm, relaxing detox bath before bed.
  • Read a book in bed.
  • Journal in bed.
  • Sip on a cup of relaxing tea before bed (try chamomile or lavender).
  • Keep your bedroom cool and pile on the blankets if you’re chilly.
  • Begin a sleep schedule. Going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day have been proven to help!

The post Top 11 Health Benefits of Sleep appeared first on Bembu.

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Target Your Lower Abs With These 11 Genius Exercises Tue, 20 Dec 2016 15:38:47 +0000 The belly area in general is a tough place to tone and tighten. And, on top of that, the lower abs tend to be ignored more than the upper abs in core workouts. With stubborn fat that tries hard not to let go, and a number of different muscles and organs to think about, the […]

The post Target Your Lower Abs With These 11 Genius Exercises appeared first on Bembu.

The belly area in general is a tough place to tone and tighten. And, on top of that, the lower abs tend to be ignored more than the upper abs in core workouts. With stubborn fat that tries hard not to let go, and a number of different muscles and organs to think about, the lower abdominal region can be the bane of many people’s fitness regime. But don’t worry, we’ve put together a list of exercises for lower abs that will help you strengthen and flatten that muffin top…

Get a rock hard core with these killer exercises for lower abs!

A Quick Lesson In Ab Anatomy

Before we get into exercises for lower abs, we need to understand the area we’re targeting. The abdomen, commonly referred to as the ‘belly’, is located in your upper body, also known as the ‘core’. It contains all your digestive organs, including your stomach, small and large intestines, pancreas, liver and gallbladder. It also contains your kidneys and spleen, as well as a number of important blood vessels. The abdomen is covered by fascia, a thin but tough layer of tissue. In front of that, you will find your abdominal muscles, including:

  • Transversus Abdominis – This is the deepest muscle layer, which stabilizes your core and maintains internal abdominal pressure.
  • Rectus Abdominis – This is located between the ribs and pubic bone at the front of the pelvis. When engaged, it can create those bumps and bulges known as the ‘six pack’. Its main function is to move the body between those areas.
  • External Oblique Muscles – These are positioned on either side of the rectus abdominis. They support the trunk in twisting motions.
  • Internal Oblique Muscles – These are located just inside the hipbones and work with the opposite external oblique in twisting motions. For example, to twist to the right, your right internal oblique and left external oblique are engaged.


So, in certain lower ab exercises, you are targeting the internal and external oblique muscles, as well as the lower parts of your transversus abdominis and rectus abdominis. But, targeted exercises are not enough to flatten and tone the belly – an area notorious for its stubborn fat storage…

Why Does The Belly Store So Much Fat?

The belly is one of those problem areas that can be extremely difficult to tone and trim. And the lower abdominal muscles are often missed or ignored in regular ‘core’ exercises. Sit-ups, for example, target the upper abdominal muscles much more than the lower muscles. The issue with this whole belly area, however, is that target exercises are not enough to tighten, tone and remove belly fat. The belly area is one of the most difficult areas to remove flab from, often holding on even when other areas of the body have shrunk. So, why is the belly so prone to stubborn fat storage?

belly fat

To begin with, let’s look at fat itself. There are two layers of fat in the body – some is right under your skin, called ‘subcutaneous’ fat. Then, there is a deeper layer of fat called ‘visceral’, which layers your heart, lungs, liver and other organs. Visceral fat is what can become the bigger problem in relation to health. While you do need it to cushion your organs, too much can cause high blood pressure, and lead to type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers. When too much fat builds up in the body, it starts to get stored in unusual places, and the belly is one of those go-to areas. Too much visceral fat is more harmful that excess subcutaneous fat. However, the good news is, it is also easier to lose than subcutaneous fat. Although, it does become even more complicated when you look at it on a cellular level…

Understanding Fat At A Cellular Level

Certain fat cells that are very resistant to burning tend to accumulate in certain areas. They include the belly, along with the hips and thighs. Because these cells are programmed to hold on and accumulate, people tend to really struggle with tightening and toning those areas. Burning fat is a two-part process that includes lipolysis and oxidation. Lipolysis involves the release of fatty acid molecules into the blood, followed by oxidation, which involves those fatty acids being utilized or ‘burned’ by other cells. Certain chemical responses in the body stimulate this process, mainly the production of adrenaline and noradrenaline, or catecholamines. When these hormones enter your blood, they travel to fat cells, attach themseleves, and trigger the release of fatty acids stored in them. Other cells in the body are then able to use the fatty acids as energy.


BUT, fat cells aren’t all made alike, and, while some respond well to catecholamines, others don’t. Unfortunately, those stubborn fat cells in the belly are the type that doesn’t respond well. That’s because belly fat contains many more alpha-receptions, which hinder lipolysis, than beta-receptors, which trigger it. You’ve probably noticed when losing weight that it always disappears from your chest, face and arms first. That’s because they all contain more beta-receptors.

Exercises To Target Your Lower Abs

The lower abs can often be forgotten or ignored in ‘core’ focused workouts. For example, regular sit-ups or crunches really target the upper abdominal muscles, and leave out the lower ones. Here are some great exercises for lower abs that can be added to the end or beginning of a cardio or resistance workout. Or, you can simply add them to the end of your usual exercise of walking, swimming, running, cycling or sport.

core workout


Plank targets every single abdominal muscle, including upper and lower. Lift yourself off the ground with your feet and hands – wrists under shoulders, body straight, and hands firmly pressed on the ground protecting the wrists. Your core should be strong and your back straight (don’t collapse in the back). Depending on your strength, hold the pose for 30 seconds to begin with – if that’s easy, hold it for a couple of minutes, otherwise work up to that.


Variations: If you have weak or injured wrists, practice plank with your forearms (elbows to hands) on the ground. When you have built up your strength and balance, you can also add arm and leg raises. Start in plank, then raise one leg straight up and extend the opposite arm up and out in front of you. Make sure you’re not collapsing in the back. Hold for three breaths, then take a couple of breaths in regular plank and repeat with the other arm and leg.

Side Plank

This is great for targeting all core muscles, especially the external obliques. Start in plank and then turn and rest the outer part of your right foot on the ground. Lift your left arm up and stack your left foot on top of your right foot. Lift your left hip up and make sure your right hand is directly under your right shoulder. Everything should be strong and straight – not collapsing into your right hip. This pose takes balance, as well as strength, making it a great core-focused pose. Hold for 30 seconds, then move back into plank for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.

side plank

Down Dog Knee-To-Nose

Again, this exercise targets all of your core muscles, and you’re also getting a nice little arm workout at the same time. Start in downward facing dog, then lift your right leg up into the air for three-legged dog. On an exhale, bring your knee in between your arms, shoulders over wrists, and nose towards knee. On your next inhale, move back into three-legged dog. Repeat five to 10 times with the same leg and then swap and repeat with the other leg. Watch this video to make sure you get the technique right…

Tree Pose

People often don’t realize that balance actually comes largely from core strength, and practicing balancing poses works your entire core. Just about every muscle in your body gets worked by standing in difficult balancing positions, especially the core. For tree pose, start by standing tall and focusing your eyes on something still in front of you. Lift one foot and place it on your lower leg or inner thigh (not on your knee because you don’t want to put pressure on the joint). Bring your hands together in prayer position in front of your chest, or above your head. Engage your core and make sure the hip of your standing leg is not popping outwards – you should be strong and straight. Check your posture, making sure your shoulders are back and down. Hold for an extended period of time – at least 10 breaths, but longer if possible. Release and shake out that leg, then repeat with the other leg.

tree pose

Warrior 3

This is another pose that involves a lot of balance, and takes a bit of time and practice to get right. You are working your entire core and back in this pose, as well as relying on some leg strength.

Start on your feet and fold forward, placing your finger tips on the floor in front of you. Lift your right leg and straighten it behind you, keeping your hips square and facing the ground. In other words, don’t let the right hip open out to the side – the back of your leg should be facing the ceiling and the front of the thigh, knee and shin should be facing the ground, along with the hip. When you feel balanced enough, slowly lift your arms up and shoot them forward so that you’re making one long line, like a tabletop, from your hands to your right foot. Hold for at least five breaths and repeat on the other side.

warrior 3

Boat Pose

This is one of the best core strengthening exercises, and works on most of the abdominal muscles. Bend your knees and rest your hands underneath them. Lift one leg, then the other so that your lower legs are raised and parallel to the floor in a straight line. Ensure your back is straight by lifting your collarbone towards the sky, making sure you’re not straining your neck or rounding your back. Release your hands and rest them gently on the ground by your sides. As you build strength, you can lift your arms up, keeping them straight next to your legs. Hold this pose for as long as you can, or take a few breaths, release, and repeat a few times. Again, everyone’s ability is different, so increase your pose length and repetitions over the weeks as you build strength.


Variations: You can add a bit of oblique work into this by bringing your hands together and dynamically twisting side to side – exhale, twist to the left, moving your hands to the left, inhale back to center, exhale twist to the right. You can also move into dynamic boat crunches. Exhale, straighten your legs and lean backwards, hovering your legs and back above the floor, inhale and slowly lift back into boat, repeating as many times as you can.

boat pose

Leg Lowers

This is one of the best lower ab exercises going! Start by lying on your back, placing your hands, palms down, beside you, or under your lower back. Lift your legs up to the sky, making an L-shape with your body. On an exhale, slowly lower your right leg to about three to five inches from the ground and hover. Then, on an inhale, slowly lift the leg back up. Repeat on your next breath with the left leg and continue alternating for about 10 reps. Then, once you are stronger, you can add double leg lowers into your routine. Simply repeat the process, but lower both legs at the same time on an exhale, hovering them above the ground, and then slowly lift them on an inhale. Continue five to 10 reps, completing three rounds.


If you are already quite strong and fit, then chin-ups are the ultimate core and arm strength workout and test! They target every muscle in your core, including your lower abs. It’s best to learn these at the gym or with a personal trainer who can teach you proper technique, making sure you’re safe. You’ll need a chin-up bar for this exercise…

Bridge Pose

Always stretch after strengthening exercises like these ones. Bridge pose is a great one to release the abdomen. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet planted on the ground, hip-distance apart. On an inhale, slowly lift your pelvis and lower back towards the sky, pressing your hands into the mat. If that feels good, lift yourself up higher, lifting your middle back and upper back, tucking your shoulders underneath and squeezing your shoulder blades together. Lift your collarbone towards the sky and clasp your hands underneath you or place your elbows on the ground and hands on your lower back, supporting it. Stay in this pose for at least 10 breaths.

bridge pose

Video Workout

And here’s a killer workout you can try at home with lots more lower ab exercises! All you need is a mat and ball…

Take Home Messages

These exercises for lower abs are great for toning muscles, but to remove flab from the belly area, you need to take an overall approach. That means taking nutrition into account as well. Check out our tips for losing weight and keeping it off to work alongside these ab exercises.

The post Target Your Lower Abs With These 11 Genius Exercises appeared first on Bembu.

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Is Coconut Vinegar The New Apple Cider Vinegar? Fri, 16 Dec 2016 19:02:34 +0000 With coconut milk, flour, oil and water leading the coco health craze around the world, you wouldn’t think we could come up with anything else. But the latest to hit the headlines is coconut vinegar – a sweeter tasting fermented vinegar that boasts the same health benefits as apple cider vinegar, but with fewer calories. […]

The post Is Coconut Vinegar The New Apple Cider Vinegar? appeared first on Bembu.

With coconut milk, flour, oil and water leading the coco health craze around the world, you wouldn’t think we could come up with anything else. But the latest to hit the headlines is coconut vinegar – a sweeter tasting fermented vinegar that boasts the same health benefits as apple cider vinegar, but with fewer calories. Let’s see how it compares to the famous apple cider vinegar…

It's still a pretty new health trend in the US, but already, coconut vinegar is giving ACV a run for its money...

What Is Coconut Vinegar?

The coconut has been an extremely popular base for a number of healthy substitute ingredients in recent years, as the Western world moves towards healthier, more natural foods. But it has been around for a long time in other societies, used as a whole food, condiment and beverage. The fibrous one-seeded drupe, or dry drupe, dates back to at least 300 B.C. in some regions, according to records. Coconut toddy, which is an acidic alcoholic beverage made from the coconut palm, dates back to around the fifth century A.D.

harvesting coconuts

Coconut vinegar is made with coconut water, or from the sap (‘tuba’) of the coconut tree. It is similar to other fermented vinegars, including balsamic and apple cider. The sap version comes with higher doses of nutrients and more health benefits than the coconut water version. While it is relatively new to the Western world, coconut vinegar is already a popular staple in Southeast Asia, particularly in the Philippines and some parts of India. It is a white and cloudy vinegar with a pungent acidic taste and a slight hint of yeast. As with apple cider vinegar, the cloudy floating bits are an important part of true and healthy coconut vinegar, which is known as the ‘mother’.

coconut vinegar

Nutritional Profile Of Coconut Vinegar (1 TBS)

Calories – 0
Total Fat – 0g
Sodium – 0mg
Total Carbohydrates – 0g
Sugars – 0g
Protein – 0g

This information, which is what you will see on coconut vinegar nutrition labels, looks pretty empty, doesn’t it? That doesn’t mean it is lacking in nutrients though – it’s just that food labels look at factors like calories, carbs and sugar, which we like to see the number ‘0’ next to! Besides having zero calories, sugars and carbohydrates, coconut vinegar has a number of powerful nutrients. That includes essential vitamins and minerals, and gut-healthy prebiotics and probiotics.

coconut palms

Coconut Vinegar Is Low GI

The glycemic index categorizes carbohydrate-containing foods by how much they affect blood-glucose fluctuations. Coconut vinegar rates a low 35 on the index. That is on a scale of between 0 and 100, with foods under 55 being considered low.

Coconut Vinegar Is Rich In Minerals

Coconut vinegar contains high amounts of 65 minerals, as well as B vitamins and vitamin C. It is made from the sap of coconut trees grown in volcanic soil. That soil is rich in minerals, including phosphorus, potassium, iron, magnesium, copper, sulfur, boron, zinc and manganese. Coconut vinegar from sap is particularly rich in potassium, with 192 mg in one tablespoon. Potassium is an important mineral for balancing electrolytes, regulating high blood pressure and metabolizing sugar.


Coconut Vinegar Contains Amino Acids

The sap from coconut trees contains trace amounts of the nine essential amino acids, which build protein in the body, as well as eight non-essential amino acids. Amino acids are important for forming hemoglobin to carry oxygen around the body, and antibodies to boost immune function. Some amino acids help repair tissue in the body and some transmit messages within the brain, known as neurotransmitters. Others are used by the body for detoxification and metabolic functions. In fact, it is a great alternative to warm lemon water in the morning…

Potential Health Benefits Of Coconut Vinegar

Coconut vinegar is relatively new to the US market. But, already it is famed for its gut-healthy properties, potential to aid weight loss and ability to fight infections. It provides the health benefits of coconuts and raw fermented vinegar all-in-one. But, in order to reap its benefits, make sure you buy the raw organic stuff. And look for coconut vinegar made from sap, rather than water.

coconut water

1. Coconut Vinegar Has Gut-Healthy Properties

The 17 amino acids in coconut vinegar have an alkalizing effect on the body, which aid digestion. You can take a tablespoon of it before a meal to stimulate stomach acid concentration. This is already a popular treatment using ACV. Coconut vinegar contains beneficial enzymes, which can balance immune function, alleviate stomach issues and aid digestion. Raw, unfiltered coconut vinegar is full of prebiotics and probiotics, making it extremely good for gut health. Prebiotics feed probiotics, which ensures they can work in the gut to keep good bacteria healthy. Coconut vinegar is one of the few foods that has both prebiotic and probiotic properties. That makes it an extremely powerful gut-healing substance.

gut health

2. Coconut Vinegar May Aid Weight Loss

There have been many claims about the weight loss benefits of apple cider vinegar in recent years. Some theories have been debunked; others seem promising. One of the most likely ways it could potentially help you lose weight is by making you feel fuller for longer, which goes for coconut vinegar as well. Vinegar lowers blood sugar and insulin levels, so it’s only reasonable to assume that it can therefore help with weight loss. Some human studies have found that vinegar can increase satiety, which assists you in consuming fewer calories.

weight loss

One study in particular found that eating vinegar with high-carb meals can increase your feeling of fullness. That led led to a reduction of 200 to 275 calories for participants during the rest of the day. A reduction in calorie intake, of course, equates to inches off the waist over time. This will not work in some miraculous way, however. If you simply add coconut vinegar to your same meals and don’t decrease your portion sizes or calorie intake in the 24-hour period, then it will have no effect on your weight. In order to make use of it as a weight management tool, it needs to be consumed with healthy carbohydrates. Your overall calorie consumption for the day needs to decrease as well. Try using coconut vinegar as a dressing on a salad at lunch and reducing your usual calorie intake during your next meal.

coconut water

3. Coconut Vinegar May Help Stabilize Blood Sugar Levels

The anti-glycemic effect of certain unfiltered vinegar has a positive effect on blood sugar control. Apple cider vinegar and coconut vinegar are examples of unfiltered vinegars, which are great condiment options for diabetics. Coconut vinegar contains acetic acid, which is what gives it that sharp taste. Acetic acid can help keep blood sugar levels from spiking, which has a stabilizing effect on energy levels. This occurs because the acid prevents complete digestion of some carbohydrates. That slows down the transformation of carbohydrates into sugar in the body. There is limited evidence about the positive impact vinegar can have on diabetes at this stage. However, one study found that it could significantly improve postprandial insulin sensitivity in insulin-resistant subjects. It may, therefore, be a positive condiment to use with a healthy, diabetic-friendly diet to reduce the risk of blood sugar spikes and crashes.

blood sugar

4. Coconut Vinegar Has Antimicrobial Properties

All types of vinegar are great natural cleaning agents because of their natural antimicrobial properties. That is what gives them their bacteria-killing abilities. The organic acids in vinegar, especially acetic acid, work in the same way when consumed. They pass into the cell membranes in your body and killing harmful bacteria. While no studies have looked specifically at coconut vinegar yet, one study did look at the antimicrobial effect of rice vinegar on E. coli in lettuce. Researchers concluded that vinegar with a minimum acetic acid content of 5% reduced the E. coli bacteria population significantly.

coconut vinegar nutrition

How Does Coconut Vinegar Compare To Apple Cider Vinegar?

If you don’t like the taste or smell of apple cider vinegar, then coconut vinegar might be your savior! It turns out that coconut vinegar has the same health benefits of coconuts as well as raw, unfiltered vinegars like ACV. While far more research has been conducted into apple cider vinegar than coconut vinegar, it is highly likely that the latter has as many, if not more, health benefits. And, on top of that, it has fewer calories. Coconut vinegar has a slightly sweeter, less pungent taste than apple cider vinegar. That makes it an easier option to chug from a shot glass before a meal, if that’s your style.


How To Use Coconut Vinegar

Like we’ve just mentioned, you can down a shot of coconut vinegar before a meal to aid digestion and assist with weight loss. You can also use it as a salad dressing, or in a marinade recipe that calls for some sort of vinegar. If you already use ACV as a staple in your kitchen, then you can simply swap it for coconut vinegar, or switch between the two.

Coconut vinegar salad dressing

Take Home Message

At this stage, coconut vinegar is still too new a health trend in the Western world to 100% confirm its exact health benefits – the studies haven’t been done yet. But, with the same, or similar enzymes and nutrients as ACV, as well as some of its very own, it’s fair to conclude that it has the same or similar health benefits, with a less offensive taste!

The post Is Coconut Vinegar The New Apple Cider Vinegar? appeared first on Bembu.

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