Is Homemade Better?

Grab your spatula, spoon, and whisks. The battle to end all battles has begun!

You want the best for your family. Unfortunately, when you walk through the store or spend time in the kitchen, it’s sometimes hard to figure out exactly what the best is for them. With so many quick-mix options readily available, you may be tempted to go with this choice every time you step foot in your kitchen. However, doing some things yourself may reap better rewards.

So when it comes down to cooking everything from scratch or using a mix, how do you choose which is best?

Ingredients

Want to know everything going into your body? Then you’re going to need to make all your foods from scratch. Otherwise, there is always the risk of putting something unexpected in your food and subsequently in your body. On the other hand, regulatory bodies have forced food companies to do a decent job of labeling what is in their products. Therefore, you will have a good idea of what is in a mix or even premade food item by simply paying attention to the labels. Unfortunately, food labels aren’t always written in easy-to-understand English. Common names for ingredients are tossed out the window and traded for their scientific (a.k.a. difficult to understand) names. Because of this, you may unknowingly use a food mix with an ingredient you don’t want you or your family to eat.

Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.
– Mark Twain

Time

Though it is vital to know everything that is going into your body and the bodies of your loved ones, the proper ingredients don’t always have the final say in whether you choose to use a mix for your foods or do it from scratch. Another very important factor is time. After all, the purpose in cooking food at home is to save a few bucks and bring the family together for meals. If you spend hours and hours preparing food, you won’t have as much time to socialize with your loved ones. Even something as simple as macaroni and cheese takes extra time if you have to measure and cut the cheese, and creating your own salad dressing can be time-consuming, so choose wisely!

Cost

At one point in time, making foods by scratch cost less than using a mix out of a box. However, those days are long gone. Today, it is almost always cheaper to buy a box of cookie mix than to whip out the flour, chocolate chips, and milk. On occasion, however, making it on your own can be more cost effective, so if cost is a big factor, get ready to do your math when you go to the grocery store.

Peace

Once you’ve figured out how important ingredients, cost, and time are to your decision, there is a fourth thing to consider: knowing your food is going to turn out right. Unless you’re an accomplished chef or have spent years and years preparing homemade foods from scratch, you may lack confidence in your cooking abilities. You you’re your food to turn out, and a mix may be the best way to ensure consistency. Because of this, using a ready made mix for your pancakes, cakes, biscuits, muffins, or stuffing may give you some peace of mind that it will turn out well. On the other hand, if you like the idea of growing your kitchen know-how and are willing to have a flop now and then (which all great cooks have), you ought to try making your foods from scratch. To get in a little practice, choose a food and make it for no reason at all. If it turns out okay, give it to a neighbor or friend. Do it over and over and your made-by-scratch skills will skyrocket!

 

More Delicious than Juicy Gossip

A little more information on the dripping wet juicing phenomenon.

It seems that just about everybody needs some more fruits and vegetables in their diet. If you’re one of them, you may find yourself wondering how to possibly cram more foods in your daily regimen without quitting your job to become a professional eater.

Well, if you’ve been hunting for a fast and furious way to jam a little more natural goodness into your daily diet, juicing may be just what your diet ordered. What’s all the juice about?

It’s All There. When you juice your favorite (or least favorite) fruit or vegetable, you leave very little behind. Therefore, every sip of your juice is chockfull of minerals, vitamins, and other nutrients. Since these are some of the main reasons you’re trying to add fruits and vegetables to your diet in the first place, juicing gives you a convenient way to get them all without needing any fancy utensils.

Your Body Gets a Break. The process of breaking down food in order to strip out the vitamins and minerals needed for good health is taxing on your digestive system. When you go with a little juicing, you allow your digestive system to take a break, as the vitamins and minerals are in more readily accessible forms. While your digestive system is relaxing, your body gets to use the energy provided by the juice to do other vital work, such as helping your cells repair themselves.

Juice Will Travel. If you’ve ever had to eat on the run, you know how big a hassle it can be. With juice, much of the problem is eliminated. Since you’re either drinking it out of a glass or through a straw, getting your fruits and veggies doesn’t require as much hand-eye coordination when it’s in juice form. And if you live in a big city, you can likely pick up a good serving of juiced veggies or fruits on your way to work. That way, you don’t even have to worry about keeping fresh ingredients at home for your concoctions.

Weight Loss May Occur. Over the years, a number of people have touted juice’s weight-loss properties. And while juicing may lend itself to weight loss, the reasons aren’t what you may think. When you get hungry or thirsty, what do you eat or drink? If you’re like many people, you grab a small bag of chips or a soda to get rid of your hunger or thirst. By going with some fresh-made juice, you give your body everything it needs to keep going strong, without filling it up with unneeded sugars and other items. Hence why juicing helps you shed pounds.

Cleaning the Machine. Don’t live near a juicing establishment or just want to do juicing on your terms in your own home? You should be prepared to reap all the rewards of juicing that have already been stated. On top of these perks, you should know that keeping your juicer clean is not always an easy task. But when you consider the benefits you’ll get from juicing (which are plentiful), the cleaning is well worth it.

Detrimental Pasteurizing

Love a little orange juice with your breakfast every morning? You may want to know that it’s not doing as much good as a glass of home-squeezed orange juice. What makes the difference? Pasteurization.

During the process of pasteurization, certain bacteria are removed from the juice in order to protect the juice from spoiling while on the store shelf. As great a benefit as this may be, it comes with a cost. Sometimes, the process strips the juice of some of the vitamins and minerals that make drinking juice so important. What should you do to avoid drinking loads of juice that has been stripped of its initial goodness? Grab a juicer and do it yourself.

 

Eat More Cherries!

There are all kinds of reasons why you should eat more cherries. The most important is your health!

It’s nothing new to hear that in order to stay healthy and trim, you need to eat more fruits and vegetables. So it shouldn’t be any surprise to hear that cherries are good for you. How good are they? Some consider this sweet and sometimes sour fruit to be one of the healthiest foods that you could possibly eat! They are fat-free; low in calories; packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, melatonin, and other beneficial enzymes; and look great on top of whipped cream.

Ready to learn more about this gorgeous fruit? You’ve come to the right place.

Neither give cherries to pigs nor advice to a fool.”
– Old Irish Saying

The Basics

Cherries are in the same fruit family as apricots, peaches, and plums, and come in two varieties. Depending on your taste buds, you will either prefer the wild, sweet cherries that are grown mainly in Michigan and on the east coast or the sour cherries grown in Michigan and the Pacific Northwest. Both are harvested during the summer months and only provide a small window for growth and harvesting. Additionally, both types can be prepared and consumed however you like, whether cooked, raw, canned, dried, or in juice.

When it comes down to what is inside of cherries, you can rest assured that every bite or sip is full of vitamins such as vitamin C, vitamin B, and the mineral potassium. So with a handful of cherries, you give your immune system, heart, and eyes a healthy boost (a few of vitamin C’s benefits); promote healthy cell metabolism and cell growth, while helping your body maintain its muscle tone and gorgeous skin (courtesy of vitamin B); and ensure the proper functioning of your kidneys, heart, muscles, nervous and digestive systems (thanks to potassium).

Even More Cherry-Colored Benefits

Just like most fruits, cherries – especially the dark red, tart variety – are full of antioxidants. And in case you’ve not heard, antioxidants play a key role in your ability to fend off three of your most dreaded foes: heart disease, cancer, and aging. Prefer getting your antioxidants via blueberries? Would you change your mind if you learned that tart cherry juice and dried cherries have more antioxidants than blueberries? Less concerned with long-term benefits and want something to help you right now?  You may be interested to learn that 20 tart cherries contain the same amount of pain relief that is found in ibuprofen or aspirin.

It has also been found that the enzymes found in cherries provide a number of perks. They ease the symptoms of arthritis and gout by reducing the amounts of uric acid circulating in the body, and if you drink the juice from Montmorency cherries, your muscles will be given the power to recover faster from strength-training sessions or other strenuous physical exercises.

Sleep and Live Better

Having trouble sleeping? Cherry time! It has been discovered that tart cherries contain a high amount of melatonin. A hormone that is produced naturally by the body, melatonin helps regulate sleep and slows the process of aging. So if you’ve been having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, try some cherry juice before bed!

In the event you’re still not convinced that cherries are a must have in your diet, here are a couple more cherry-tastic benefits that researchers have discovered. Eat more cherries and you may be able to better manage your diabetes, lower high blood sugar levels, reduce your risk of colon cancer, lower your LDL (bad) cholesterol, and prevent dementia.

 

Perk Up with Caffeine

The perky, on-task benefits of the often-criminalized caffeine.

It’s in some of your favorite drinks. And while it may keep you up at night, you feel the benefits of ingesting caffeine far outweigh the downsides. So what exactly are the benefits of caffeine? Let us count the ways.

One, One Thousand…

It gives your memory a little boost. Have a big exam coming up? Or are you meeting with your boss about a sensitive issue that will require you to have perfect recall of past events? Want to cement a certain event into your memory forever? You may want to sip on a cup of coffee or your favorite caffeinated drink of choice.

Decaf? No, it’s dangerous to my caffeine stream.
– Unknown

Two, One Thousand…

It can help your brain work better. Going hand in hand with increased memory, caffeine’s brain-boosting capacity has long been appreciated by lovers of all things coffee. With a bit of caffeine in your body, your brain is on overdrive. Sound a bit frightening? When you finally come up with a solution to a problem that’s been plaguing you at work for months or figure out a cure for cancer, you get over your fear of caffeine pretty fast. So down a little caffeine when you need your brain to be at its peak.

Three, One Thousand…

It can give your energy levels a helping hand. Feeling a bit tired? Dragging your way around the office or the house? If your to-do list is too big to just lie down and take a nap, you may want a caffeinated jolt to your system. As increased energy is one of the most beloved perks of caffeine, you can bet your bottom dollar that downing a few ounces of the liquid goodness will help you forge ahead and take on whatever life throws your way.

Four, One Thousand…

It may help you fend off all sorts of illnesses. Okay, caffeine may not be as good at keeping disease away as a healthy, well-balanced diet and regular exercise, but some studies have shown that the perky ingredient may actually lend a hand in fending off a number of troublesome and even deadly conditions. Conditions you may find some protection from via caffeine include liver disease, type 2 diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease.

It’s Not All Good

Despite all these great benefits, the downsides to getting too much caffeine in your system on a regular basis are real and really dangerous. In addition to keeping you awake at night and feeling tired the next day (unless you take another shot of caffeine in the morning), too much caffeine can give your blood pressure an unwanted rise and even increase your risk for heart disease.

Additionally, consuming excessive amounts of caffeine can cause you to be on edge and overreact, making big deals out of small issues that would normally not affect you. Drinking soda can also weaken women’s bones over time, and since caffeine is often in foods and drinks that lead to obesity, it can actually put you at higher risk for diabetes – a condition that caffeine is supposed to fend off. So before you start buying everything at the store that contains caffeine, weigh the pros and cons of caffeine. Also, consider other ways to boost your brain power, memory, and energy levels. Because while caffeine may offer an instant fix, working out at the gym frequently, going to bed at a decent hour every night, and eating a healthy diet do everything caffeine does without the potential negative side effects.

 

Should You Use a Weight Belt?

Tightening your understanding of when and why to use a weight belt.

They look like something given to professional wrestlers after winning a big match. Made of leather and unable to fit through the loops on any pair of pants you own, weight belts have long been found in gyms across the world. But if you’re like many, you may not understand the purpose of weight belts.

So why do those oversized hunks of leather wind up in every gym you’ve ever been in?

Protecting Purpose

Believe it or not, weight belts weren’t created to make weight lifters look silly. The primary purpose of a weight belt is to allow the wearer to lift the maximum amount of weight with the least risk of injury to the back. It does this in two ways. First, it does this by cutting down on the amount of stress placed on the lower back while lifting weights in a standing position. Second, the belt helps keep you from hyperextending your back when performing overhead lifts. When lifting extremely heavy weights, these dangers can put you in a world of hurt. By wearing a weight belt, you give yourself the protection you need while getting the exercise you want.

Get It On

To get the most out of a weight belt, it has to be worn properly. It may be fashionable to wear your belt loosely and drooping over one hip, but if you’re going to wear a weight belt, it’s got to be tight. Otherwise, you do not get the protecting perks of wearing a weight belt. But remember – wearing a tight belt while you work out will make your workout seem a bit more difficult and will also increase your blood pressure. Therefore, as soon as you’re finished with a set of repetitions, you may want to loosen the belt until beginning the next set. This helps lower your blood pressure and allows you to work out longer.

Not for Everyone

Now that you know a weight belt is there to protect your back when lifting weights, you may be tempted to wear one every time you pick up a dumbbell. However, doing this is completely unnecessary. In fact, there are only two times you should wear a weight belt. Consider wearing a weight belt if you’re picking up some serious weight in the gym (or at home for that matter) or if you’ve suffered a significant back injury and are lifting weights. If neither of these pertains to you, the weight belt is best left for others to use.

Reducing the Benefit

As helpful as a weight belt can be when lifting an extremely heavy amount of weight, it can actually reduce your overall workout. Therefore, you shouldn’t use one if you don’t need it. Because the belt has a large role in stabilizing your mid-section while lifting weights, it also keeps your core from getting a thorough workout. So when your workout isn’t pushing your body to its absolute limits, don’t worry about the weight belt. Instead, concentrate on using proper form throughout your movements – form that will help your body take on the shape you desire.

Belting Up Beyond the Gym

Ever seen someone wearing something like a weight belt while on the job? Known as back braces, these belted inventions serve much the same purpose as weight belts. They, too, were created to protect the user’s back. However, the protection offered through a back brace is often greater than that with a weight belt.

With a back brace, the wearer’s lower back is practically immobile, allowing much less stress on the lower back than even a weight belt permits. Individuals who are required to lift heavy items repeatedly while working often wear these braces. And though they may look similar to weight belts, they should not be worn when working out.

 

Keeping Your Hot-Weather Workouts Safe

How to handle working out in the great outdoors when the temperature is high.

As the temperature outside begins to rise, so does your desire to get out of the gym and do a little exercising on the outside. But if you’re not careful, you could wind up suffering all sorts of heat-related health issues.

So what do you need to watch out for when exercising outside in the heat, and what can you do to avoid these issues? Read on to find out.

Potential Problems

A hard workout in the heat is filled with potential dangers. The most likely to occur is dehydration. While headache and exhaustion may seem harmless dangers to suffer, severe dehydration can have more serious consequences. You may become dizzy and be unable to maintain your balance, which puts you at risk for all sorts of injury.

But dehydration isn’t the only danger of hot-weather working out. You can wind up with heat exhaustion or heat stroke. With heat exhaustion, you feel weak, suffer muscle cramps, and your internal temperature rises. When your body temperature rises above 104 degrees Fahrenheit, your body can’t produce any more sweat, or you lose consciousness, it’s probably a heat stroke. Since heat strokes are responsible for hundreds of deaths each year, you don’t want to push your body to this point. Fortunately, avoiding heat stroke and other heat-induced issues isn’t too difficult if you’re careful.

Keeping Cool

Plan to do some outdoor exercising in the midst of the summer? Then you’ll need to take some steps to keep your body from getting too hot for its own good. The most obvious way to avoid heated health issues is to stay hydrated. But what kind of hydration is best in the simmering heat of mid-summer? Nearly any kind of fluid will help, but stay away from alcohol. Instead, go for the most plentiful drink on planet Earth: water. For extreme conditions or in the event you’ll be pushing yourself for more than 30 minutes in an extremely hot environment, go with a sports drink that provides electrolytes you lose during your workout.

You can also avoid overheating by working out when the sun is not directly overhead. This means exercising either in the early hours of the morning or after the sun has started going down in the evening. Additionally, you can keep your body from suffering heat-related problems by wearing loose-fitting clothes that absorb your sweat. As a final tip, your outdoor routine should be called off for the day if you feel any symptoms of a heat stroke or heat exhaustion coming on. In the event you begin feeling weak, tired, or have other heat-related symptoms, get inside and drink up. Doing this can help you prevent your minor symptoms from turning into something major.

Feel the Burn

It’s normal to feel some burn in your muscles after a hard workout. In fact, if you never feel any burn, you may not be pushing yourself hard enough during your routine. However, you never want to feel sunburn before, during, or after you get done working out.

How can you avoid suffering burns on your skin during your summertime outdoor exercise? Remember these tips to avoid sunburn while exercising outdoors or simply enjoying a beautiful day outside.

Wear Sunscreen. It may seem like a hassle to apply sunscreen every day, but it is your best line of defense against sunburn. Give your entire body a nice even coat and reapply every couple hours. Even if the sunscreen is labeled as being waterproof, its protecting ability gradually fades as you’re outside.

Cover Up. Of course, you shouldn’t wear long-sleeve shirts and pants while exercising, but you should wear a hat and sunglasses. They may seem like small accessories, but they provide massive coverage from sunburn.

Time It Right. The sun is at its most dangerous from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Give your skin the upper hand against sunburn by avoiding outdoor exercises during these hours.

 

How to Avoid Pulling a Hammy

Steps you can take today to protect your hamstrings tomorrow.

Located on the back of your thighs, your hamstrings are a group of muscles that are key to your ability to take off running from a standstill. They also make it possible for you to perform the less strenuous task of walking.

If you’re not careful, you can pull a hamstring muscle, which can cause significant pain and reduced quality of life. From sudden pain in the back of your thigh to bruising or muscle weakness in the hamstring to an inability to bear weight on the affected leg, an injured hamstring should not be taken lightly.

So what can you do to offer maximum protection to your hamstrings?

Strengthen Your Hammies

Want to keep your hamstrings from injury? The first step is to make them stronger. There are a lot of great exercises that can help you do this, and one of the simplest is to lie on your back on the ground. While bending your right leg and holding it with both hands behind the knee, allow your left leg to extend out completely on the floor. Slowly straighten your right leg until it is pointed directly overhead. Hold the position for a moment and return to the starting position. Repeat 15 times and then switch legs for another set.

Bigger Risk. Everyone runs the risk of a pulled hamstring now and then. But some folks are more likely than others to suffer a hamstring injury. If you’re not very flexible, play sports, or have had a hamstring injury in the past, you’re more likely than others to suffer a future hamstring injury.

Stretch Them Out

In addition to having strong hamstrings, you should make sure they’re ready for exercise when you’re about to hit the court or field. Hamstring stretches are some of the most common stretches people do, so you probably already have a few of them up your sleeve. Good choices include touching your toes while standing up (bend at the knees if needed) or sitting down on the ground with one leg extended and bending over your legs to touch your toes. Another good hamstring stretch is placing one foot on a step and flexing your foot upward, while leaning your body forward.

Pay Attention

Not a world-class athlete? Then you shouldn’t push your body like one. To avoid hamstring injuries that often occur, know your body’s limits and don’t push it to the point of pain. Feel yourself getting tired and a little bit sloppy? Call it a day and get some rest. Otherwise, your likelihood of hamstring injury increases substantially. You should also know yourself well enough to be cautious when trying out new activities. As hamstring injuries frequently occur while skiing, kicking, dancing, running, jumping, and lifting weights, be particularly careful when trying these activities for the first time – or for the first time in a while.

Take Action

Feel a little pain in your hamstrings? Unless you want a minor muscle strain to turn into a torn muscle, you’ll want to get off your feet and onto the at-home treatment of choice: RICE. With RICE, you start off by resting (R) the injured body part. Since it’s difficult to walk without using both legs, you may need to spend a little time off your feet. The next step is to use ice (I) to reduce swelling that may occur when you injure your hamstring. Following 20 or 30 minutes of ice, compress (C) the injured hamstring. If this is not effective in alleviating pain, skip the compression and go ahead and elevate (E) the injured leg. This keeps your injured hamstring from getting too much blood flow and increasing inflammation. It also helps you rest, which is the first step of RICE.

 

What you need to do to be strong off the tee, in the fairway, and on the green.

Don’t think golf puts specific demands on your body? You must not be a golfer. If you understand the need for a golf-specific regiment in the gym, read on to learn about the exercises that will help you feel better and hit the ball farther every time you go to the country club.

Prone Bridge – Start by lying on the floor with your face down. Lift your body with your toes and forearms, keeping a straight line from the heels of your feet to the back of your head. Hold this position for 10 to 20 seconds and repeat. This improves your core, a portion of your body that is essential for good balance and form in your swing.

Pelvic Thrusts – Lying on your back, bend your legs toward the ceiling at the hip. With your arms flat on the floor by your side, lift your hips a few inches off of the floor and return to your original position. Repeat 15 times. This will also work your core muscles.

Horizontal Rotator Cuff Rotation – Standing straight with arms out to either side at shoulder level, allow your elbow to bend at a 90-degree angle. With a weight in each hand, lift the weights toward the ceiling, keeping your upper arm still. Return to the original position and repeat. As a strong rotator cuff is vital to your golf swing, perform this and other rotator-cuff exercises regularly. However, if you have any rotator cuff pain, avoid these exercises to avoid aggravating your injury.

Standing Torso Twist – Place your feet a little wider than shoulder-width apart and place a bar (it can be a broomstick) across your shoulders, holding the bar in place with your hands. Then, twist slowly and deliberately from the right to the left, feeling your abdominals tighten with each movement. Repeat 10 times. This movement obviously correlates to your golf swing, and so will the benefits.

Reverse Barbell Wrist Curls – Sitting at the end of a weight bench, hold a bar in your hands, palms down. Place your forearms on your thighs and let your hands hang over your knees. Next, raise your hands simultaneously. At the peak of the repetition, return to your original position and repeat 10-20 times. Maintaining perfect control over the placement and distance of your putting requires perfect muscle tone and strength, and reverse wrist curls help you tone and strengthen a vitally important golf muscle.

Lunge with a Twist – Holding a weighted dumbbell or medicine ball, stand upright with your arms straight ahead, holding the weight. Step forward with one leg and rotate your upper body to the same side. Return to your starting position and repeat with the other leg. Perform the exercise on each side 10 times. Awkward as the exercise feels initially, it pays off in the long run, adding speed, distance, and power to your gorgeous golf swing.

On the Way Out

When you’re about to head out for a round of golf, you never forget your lucky putter or your favorite pair of gloves. But there may be something you forget that puts you at a disadvantage. What are you forgetting? To stretch.

Toss these golf-friendly stretches in your golf bag for a safe and improved round.

Shoulder: With one arm across your chest, grab the arm by the elbow using your other hand and pull the arm toward your chest. Hold for a few seconds and repeat with the other arm.

Chest: With your arm outstretched, place your hand against a wall, doorway, or tree. Lean forward on the outstretched shoulder until you feel a stretch in your chest. Hold for a few seconds and repeat for your other arm.

Back: Kneel on the ground with your arms stretched out in front of you. Allow your arms to slide away from your body as you shift your hips backward toward your feet. Once you feel the stretch, hold for a few seconds and repeat by performing the stretch to both the left and right sides.

Thighs: Holding a chair, table, pole, or tree for balance, stand straight and bring one foot up to your hand. Hold for a few seconds, relax, and repeat with the other leg.

 

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