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How to keep your seafood wild

(BPT) – Every day, consumers are bombarded with buzzwords when selecting groceries — natural, organic, non-GMO, gluten-free and so on. Coupled with news headlines about the environmental impacts of growing, raising and catching food, it’s no wonder many of us are becoming more confused about which choices are right for our diets, our budgets and the environment. And nowhere is this issue more confounding, perhaps, than in the seafood section.

Fish and seafood are flavorful sources of protein, and the variety and versatility of the ocean’s bounty is no mystery. What may be considered a mystery is whether all the options in front of us are sustainably sourced. Some are labeled wild, others farm-raised, but questions remain given the limited information provided and the fact that mislabeling can occur (an independent study of the open global market found an average mislabeling rate of 30 percent for all fish and seafood).

With the world’s growing demand for seafood, ocean environments are increasingly strained. The livelihoods of approximately 10 percent of the global population are supported by the oceans through artisanal and commercial fishing careers. Overfishing — when too few adult fish remain to breed for a healthy population — has been an issue for some species, and it can decimate fish stocks and habitats as well as the fishing communities and economies that rely on a healthy supply.

Illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing continues to occur around the world and can exacerbate overfishing problems. IUU fishing generally disregards quotas and the environment, as does destructive fishing, which may expose delicate ecosystems to explosives or chemicals.

Fortunately, industry groups have developed standards and certifications to help us navigate the murky waters and find some clarity. For 20 years, the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), for instance, has been refining its science-based standards for certifying sustainable fisheries and introducing traceability in its efforts to keep the oceans wild and teeming with life for generations to come. And, seafood that has been determined to meet the MSC’s stringent standards is marked with an easily identifiable blue fish label.

By looking for the trusted blue fish label, seafood shoppers can be assured that their purchase:

* Represents only wild fish or seafood from fisheries assessed by an independent third party to meet strict science-based criteria.

* Supports sustainable fishery practices and good management that adapts to changes in the environment.

* Traces back to a certified sustainable fishery and is kept separate from non-certified fish and seafood.

* Features correct labeling, providing peace of mind while selecting food for the dinner table.

Of course, not all certification labels are the same. To make a truly informed choice, you might consider doing a little homework before deciding which label to seek and support with your shopping and dining-out dollars. Several well-regarded international organizations maintain best practices for food production, sustainability and traceability, providing recognition of certification and ecolabeling programs that meet them. Organizations like the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UNFAO), ISEAL Alliance (the global memberships association for sustainability standards) and the Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative (GSSI) are all considered reputable sources for more information.

With a little research, you can gather information that helps ensure the seafood you put on the table can be traced to its source and verified as wild and sustainable. At the same time, its enjoyment can be guilt-free: each purchase provides incentive for more fisheries, retailers and restaurants to join the movement to support transparency, traceability and sustainability in our food system. By speaking with their wallets, consumers have the power to track their seafood from ocean to plate and keep it wild.

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5 helpful tips for sticking to your New Year’s resolutions this spring

(BPT) – On average, two-thirds of Americans set New Year’s resolutions to begin the new year with a fresh outlook. Whether it’s changing your diet, saving money or starting a new hobby, it seems almost everyone is trying to accomplish something when January rolls around.

With the new year well underway and spring just around the corner, many people are still working hard on their New Year’s resolutions. While it might have been easy for so many to start working on these resolutions, few are able to stick to them throughout the year. To stay on track, here are five helpful tips to keep in mind.

Set daily goals

Keep your eyes on the prize and focus on what your goals are for each day. By having a clear idea of what you’re working toward and the steps needed to get there, you can track your progress as you strive to achieve your ultimate goal.

Make it fun

A resolution is often a big goal that can take some hard work to reach, so why not make it fun? Attend mixers and other events when looking for a new job, or grab a friend and go exercise together when you are working on your fitness. If you’re looking to make healthier eating decisions, check out the frozen section of your local supermarket, where you’ll find plenty of new options like SeaPak Selections Lemon Pepper Shrimp and Maryland Style Crab Cakes. These tasty seafood products are low calorie and make it easy to pull together a healthy meal in just minutes with little fuss or hassle.

Switch it up

If you’ve been sticking to the same routine since Jan. 1, changing things up is critical to staying motivated. Infuse fresh flavor into mealtime with dishes like SeaPak Selections Sesame Ginger Salmon or enroll in a new fitness class to update your workout regimen. By making changes here and there, it’s less likely you’ll tire of working toward your goals.

Bounce back

No one is perfect, so don’t consider your resolution a loss if you have a bad day once in a while. Use any setbacks as motivation. Then, refocus and determine your next steps to get back on track toward your goals.

Celebrate the victories

Whether you are simply working toward some closer targets or halfway to realizing your main goal, celebrate all the steps in between. Doing so will motivate you to work even harder to accomplish what’s next, and you’ll make each resolution a reality before you know it.

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These health benefits of salt might surprise you

(BPT) – World Salt Awareness Week is being celebrated this year from March 12 to 18 and is the perfect opportunity to recognize all the many benefits of salt. Salt, or sodium chloride, is essential for life. In fact, no mineral is more essential to human survival than sodium because it allows nerves to send and receive electrical impulses, helps your muscles stay strong and keeps your cells and brain functioning. However, sodium chloride (salt) is a nutrient that the body cannot produce, and therefore it must be consumed.

The other component of salt, chloride, is also essential to survival and good health. It preserves acid-base balance in the body, aids potassium absorption, improves the ability of the blood to move harmful carbon dioxide from tissues out to the lungs and most importantly, supplies the crucial stomach acids required to break down and digest the foods we eat.

Because the level of salt consumption is so stable, it is an ideal medium to fortify with other essential nutrients such as iodine. Iodized salt was first produced in the U.S. in 1924 and is now used by 75 percent of the world’s population to protect against intellectual disability due to Iodine Deficiency Disorders (IDD). Iodine is an essential element in healthy human life, enabling the function of thyroid glands to produce needed hormones for proper metabolism. When children in the womb don’t get enough iodine from their mother, fetal brain development may be impaired. Iodized salt remains one of the greatest public health success stories.

Salt is also essential in hospital IV saline, which is standard therapy and the fastest way to deliver fluids and medications throughout the body. This saline drip doesn’t just keep patients hydrated, it delivers a 0.9 percent solution of salt. Without this saline drip, patients can end up with low levels of sodium in the blood, resulting in a condition known as hyponatremia. This serious condition can lead to seizures, coma, permanent brain damage, respiratory arrest and death, and it is why the shortage of saline in hospitals is of such critical importance.

Salt is also a vital component of hydration. After exercise, it is critical to replace both water and salt lost through perspiration. That is why all athletes make sure they are consuming sufficient salt during and after a workout. Salt rooms are becoming increasingly popular around the globe to aid in the treatment of various pulmonary disorders as well as to promote relaxation and reduce stress. This is because the unique microclimate, containing ultrafine salt particles, helps clear the lungs.

The average American eats about 3,400 mg per day of sodium, according to The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, and this may be on the low side of the safe range. A 2014 study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, tested sodium consumption in more than 100,000 people in 17 countries. The study found that the healthy range for sodium consumption was between 3,000 and 6,000 mg per day.

Seniors can be especially susceptible to the dangers of low-salt diets. In 2013 a task force of 12 professional medical, nursing and nutritional organizations assembled by the Pioneer Network published the “New Dining Practice Standards.” Their report concluded that low-salt diets were contributing to malnutrition and weight loss among a significant percentage of seniors in assisted living facilities. Low-salt diets can also cause seniors to suffer from mild hyponatremia, an electrolyte imbalance in the blood that can lead directly to walking impairment, attention deficits and a much higher frequency of falls.

Salt is the flavor of life, and this year we should all recognize its many benefits while we celebrate World Salt Awareness Week. To learn more visit www.worldsaltawarenessweek.org.

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6 smart snacking ideas for busy moms

(BPT) – Whether you have a new baby, toddler, big kid or teen, life is busy when you have kids. From play dates to playoffs, busy moms need to stay fueled to feel their best. However, being so busy can mean forgetting about healthy snacking. Fortunately with a few tips and tricks, eating right on the go doesn’t have to be difficult.

The first step is to be prepared before hunger strikes. Stock up on plastic or stainless steel containers that are easy to tote in purses or backpacks. Then, make a shopping list so your fridge and cupboards are full of wholesome snacks. By removing temptation of junk food, you make it easy to snack well.

Here are six easy (and tasty!) snack ideas for busy moms. No matter where your day takes you, you’ll be ready with nutrient-rich snacks easy for eating on the go.

1. Cheese

To feel full fast, reach for snacking cheese. Wisconsin-made Great Midwest Cheese has Mild Cheddar, Colby Jack and Pepper Jack Cheeses available in snack-sized cubes, perfect for on-the-go fuel. Every cheese is hand-crafted in small batches, using only the purest, certified hormone-free milk for a smooth, natural, consistent flavor sure to satisfy.

2. Edamame

You probably munch on edamame when visiting your favorite sushi restaurant, but these pods are perfect for travel, too. Packed with protein but low on carbs, they are a great healthy alternative to chips when you have a hankering for something salty. You can buy frozen varieties to pack and they’ll thaw in your container of choice so you’re ready when hunger pangs strike.

3. Fruit

Packed with vitamins and minerals, fresh produce is always a smart choice. Bananas may be an easy choice, but they can bruise quickly in a bag. Instead, consider portable options less likely to bruise such as apples or easy-to-peel tangerines. Try pairing fruit with individually-wrapped snack portions of Great Midwest Gouda or Mild Cheddar Cheese and you’ll feel full for hours.

4. Nuts and seeds

Raw, unsalted nuts are high in protein and healthy fats. Stock up on mixed varieties or just your favorites, such as almonds, walnuts or cashews. Seeds are another easy go-to for snacks. Sunflower seeds are full of vitamin E and come in a variety of flavors (just keep an eye on salt levels in the ingredient lists and consider opting for low-sodium varieties).

5. Jerky

For your carnivorous cravings with a protein punch, consider packing jerky for snacking. Beef and turkey jerky aren’t just for weight lifters. These shelf-stable snacks last for a long time and are easy to pack in a purse and grab on the go. If you want to control the ingredients and experiment with flavors, consider making your own at home!

6. Cereal

Moms everywhere pack up containers of cereal for their babies and toddlers for a quick and easy snack. But what about for yourself? Your favorite cereal can serve as a snack throughout the day when you pack a container and bring it in your tote. Opt for high-fiber, low-sugar varieties to keep you fueled and full without the sugar crash later.

Bonus idea: Water

Water may not count as a snack, but it’s important to keep a bottle always by your side. Many people confuse hunger with thirst, so if you stay hydrated, you might find you have fewer snack cravings. If water is too bland for you, try adding a healthy flavor boost with a few slices of fruit or cucumber.

Regular healthy snacking helps give you the energy you need to keep up with your kids and helps level your moods. Nobody wants a hangry (hungry + angry) mom whose patience is thin because her stomach is grumbling! Plan ahead and focus on smart snacking to be the best mother you can be.

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Chef Jose Garces focuses on quality and versatility at this year’s sold-out South Beach Wine and Food Festival

(BPT) – There are few foods that span a variety of diverse culinary styles more than fresh pork. Fresh pork is known by both leading chefs and home cooks as a flavorful, versatile solution for any night of the week.

Smithfield Fresh Pork is proud to partner with the National Pork Board and 20 award-winning chefs at this year’s South Beach Wine and Food Festival (SOBEWFF). These chefs will create high-quality pork dishes for attendees featuring Smithfield Prime Fresh Pork, an all-natural premium line of fresh pork. Each recipe will showcase the superior quality and versatility of the Smithfield Prime collection and inspire consumers to cook with only the best ingredients at home. Event-goers will have the opportunity to experience these recipes at the following NPB-sponsored events: Tacos After Dark on Thursday, February 22; Burger Bash on Friday, February 23; Spanish Dinner on Saturday, February 23; Swine, Wine & Spirits and Coca-Cola Beachside BBQ, both on Sunday, February 25.

Chef Jose Garces, one of Smithfield’s Chef Partners, will host two pork-centric events at SOBEWFF. Garces, a James Beard award winner and Iron Chef, prefers to cook with Smithfield Prime Fresh Pork due its high quality and flavor.

“As a chef, there is nothing more important to me than the quality of the ingredients I choose for my dishes,” said Garces. “That is why I love to work with Smithfield Prime Fresh Pork. They understand that quality leads to flavor and flavorful dishes create the best experiences and memories.”

The most discerning chefs, championship pitmasters and home cooks alike seek quality, flavorful fresh pork, and that is why they trust Smithfield Prime Fresh Pork. Smithfield Prime Fresh Pork is a line of premium, all-natural fresh pork that is certifiably 20 percent more tender than other leading brands of all-natural pork. The Smithfield Prime collection is hand-trimmed and sourced from America’s most trusted farms, using a specialty breed of Duroc hogs and some of the most stringent quality standards in the industry. Thus, Smithfield Prime Fresh Pork products naturally have exceptional color, increased marbling and enhanced flavor, creating an elevated eating experience.

You can catch Chef Garces in action at the Spanish Dinner event taking place Saturday, February 24; and at the Coca-Cola Beachside BBQ on Sunday, February 25. For those who want to take a page out of Chef Garces’ book and try their hand at cooking up one of his signature dishes, below is a recipe he crafted specially for Smithfield.

Grilled pork chops with cognac butter, mustard aioli and mushrooms

For the pork chops:

4 Smithfield(R) Prime Bone-In Pork Chops (1-inch thick)

1 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh thyme

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh rosemary

1/4 cup finely chopped garlic

Directions:

Mix oil, thyme, rosemary and garlic in large mixing bowl. Add pork chops and coat thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours. Heat grill to medium using hickory wood charcoal. Remove chops from marinade and grill 7 to 9 minutes per side until internal temperature reaches 145 F to 160 F. Remove from heat and immediately brush with cognac butter. Let stand 3 minutes before serving.

For the cognac butter:

1 cup good-quality cognac

1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots

1 cup butter, room temperature

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Directions:

Combine cognac and shallots in a small saucepan. Simmer until cognac is reduced by two-thirds. Strain and let cool. Mix together with butter and parsley; let stand at room temperature until ready to use.

For the mustard aioli:

3 eggs

1 cup Dijon mustard

1/4 cup lemon juice

1/2 cup whole grain mustard

3 cups vegetable oil

Directions:

Combine eggs, Dijon mustard and lemon juice in food processor or blender. Blend until smooth. Slowly drizzle in vegetable oil, while food processor is running, until emulsified. Remove from processor and fold in whole grain mustard. Season to taste.

For the mushrooms:

2 lbs. mixed fresh wild mushrooms (such as chanterelle, hen of the woods, porcini and morel)

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh thyme

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh rosemary

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Directions:

Toss together mushrooms and olive oil. Place in grill basket and grill until tender and cooked through, turning occasionally. Remove from heat and toss with remaining ingredients. Serve immediately.

This recipe yields four servings; total prep time is 25 minutes (plus two hours marinade time), and total cook time is expected at 35 minutes.

Visit SaborSmithfield.com for more of Chef Garces’ recipes and inspiration for your next meal and to learn more about Smithfield’s quality and freshness. And visit sobewff.org for more details on the South Beach Wine and Food Festival. For more information about National Pork Board, visit porkteinspira.com.

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Swap these 4 food fads with nutritious kitchen staples

(BPT) – With new so-called “healthy” food trends popping up all the time, it’s hard to keep track of what’s actually good for your health and what’s just a fad. Luckily, new research continually shows consumers which fads to ditch and which kitchen staples stand the test of time and should be kept in our diets. For example, did you know that coconut oil, a recent consumer favorite in health and beauty circles, has been found in a new study to actually increase cholesterol?

If you are looking for simple changes that have a big impact on nutritional health, consider clearing some unhealthy eating habits from your diet. Here are a few health fads that aren’t as nutritious as you may have heard, and helpful swaps that can benefit your health.

Cooking with coconut oil

Over the last few years, coconut oil has gained prominence on grocery store shelves, in the news and on social media. Long considered a multipurpose beauty oil, coconut oil began to make its way into recipes, and consumers hoped its health benefits extended to the kitchen. However, a recent study has found that coconut oil increases cholesterol. Adding corn oil to one’s diet, on the other hand, was found by the study to result in better cholesterol levels compared with coconut oil. Similarly, a previous study published in The Journal of Clinical Lipidology found that corn oil can help lower cholesterol two times more than extra virgin olive oil. With a high smoke point, versatile usage and a neutral flavor, corn oil makes a great staple for any pantry.

Juice diets and cleanses

While it’s important to include fruits and vegetables in your diet, “cleansing” your body with a diet limited to cold-pressed juices won’t provide enough essential vitamins and minerals for a healthy diet. According to research by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, there is no real evidence that juice cleanses work. The human body is great at keeping the good stuff in and filtering out the bad, and a varied diet is important for maintaining energy throughout the day. Plus, according to Vive Nutrition, juice diets tend to make people feel hungrier and lead to overeating. If cold-pressed juices are something you enjoy, go ahead and include them in addition to your meals.

Skipping dessert

Everything in moderation! Indulging every once in a while is an important part of a balanced diet. Harsh dietary restrictions, especially on the foods you love, may lead to short-term results, but aren’t sustainable in the long run, according to research by the National Center for Biotechnology Information. Rather than cutting sugar completely, avoid binges by allowing yourself a treat every once in a while on a cheat day to maintain balance in your diet.

Snacking on granola bars

Packed with whole grains, granola bars seem like the perfect healthy snack, but many contain an unhealthy amount of added sugar, which creates a caloric and less-than-nutritious food choice. In fact, according to a survey in the New York Times, less than 30 percent of nutritionists would call granola a healthy food. Replacing granola bars with healthier options like whole nuts will greatly benefit your health. This snack choice is less sugary, more filling and full of omega-3 fatty acids, which are shown to reduce the risk of chronic diseases.

With contradicting information about health coming out daily, it’s important to research the facts to learn which tips are fads and which are truly good for you. By making these diet swaps that benefit your body, you can start the year as your healthiest self ever.

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Forward-thinking programs get kids to eat better

(BPT) – They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But for millions of low-income children across the country, the low-cost or free lunch they get at school is the most nutritious, most filling meal they will eat.

In 2016, over 30 million kids across the U.S. received low-cost or free lunches at their school. With such a wide-ranging impact, school meal programs play a huge role in the well-being of our nation’s young people.

According to Wilder Research, nearly one in six children in the state of Minnesota live in food-insecure households. Many of these kids rely on school lunch to get the nutrients they need. To make sure these needs are met, one school district in the state has been blending nutrition with trends in popular culture to create a dynamic program that is getting kids excited about healthy food while also creating better eating habits.

Jr. Iron Chef

Question: In an urban school district, how can the idea behind a popular television show be used to raise awareness of healthy meal options?

In essence, this is what happened when Miguel Lopez, a seventh-grader at Anwatin Middle School, along with seven other teams and 16 other students, competed alongside eight professional chefs in one of Minneapolis Public Schools’ “Jr. Iron Chef” competitions.

Modeled after the popular television show, where teams compete to create the most appetizing dish, this three-year-old program was designed in cooperation with Cargill to teach students about good nutrition and meal preparation. Students from across the district were invited to compete — just as popular celebrity chefs on TV do — in live cooking competitions.

“This night was not so much about the competition, but about what these students have learned about how to prepare good meals on their own,” said Minneapolis Public Schools’ Director of Culinary and Wellness Services, Bertrand Weber. “We wanted to apply the Iron Chef concept to help improve our students’ health and well-being. Yes, it was a cool night, but the hope is that they will go home and do this for themselves and their families versus choosing less healthy meal options.”

While the Jr. Iron Chef competition was getting students all over the district revved up, Cargill and Minneapolis Public Schools were weaving another popular culinary trend into the district’s nutrition and wellness programs: food trucks.

Nutrition on wheels

Parked outside the venue where Jr. Iron Chef was held was a shiny, new food truck purchased with a recent $75,000 grant from Cargill to Minneapolis Public Schools. This is the school district’s second food truck. The first one hit the road in 2013 and became so popular that it quickly exceeded capacity.

The trucks are staffed by the school district’s nutrition and culinary staff, to bring nutritious meals to students, especially when school is not in session.

The trucks also appear at district-run wellness seminars and cooking demonstrations.

“The value of these food trucks has been recognized by Minneapolis Public Schools and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA),” said Cargill Vice President of Corporate Responsibility Michelle Grogg. “It’s been a successful strategy that community and state partners have found to improve their capacity to reach food-insecure children when school is in and out of session.”

In the summer of 2017, Minneapolis Public Schools served approximately 400,000 free meals and snacks to Minneapolis youth. This coming summer, Minneapolis Public Schools’ two food trucks will operate at a total of eight summer feeding sites in conjunction with community youth and physical activity programming.

A new example

As school lunch plays such an important role for millions of urban, low-income students, the importance of steering these kids toward eating more nutritious, wholesome meals cannot be overstated. Though it can be hard to get kids excited about fruits and vegetables, the creative and forward-thinking programs put on by the Minneapolis Public Schools point in a fun, and promising, direction.

“It’s great to see two popular trends in food being applied to the nutritional needs of our students,” says Grogg. “We hope it doesn’t stop here and we hope other communities around Minnesota and the U.S. learn from our successes.”

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New research calls pistachios superfood for people with desk jobs

(BPT) – Recent research is giving the 86 percent of Americans who sit all day at their jobs new reasons to reach for a handful of nuts while at work, and in particular, pistachios. Adding to an increasing volume of research around the health benefits of pistachios, one study and a national survey in the U.S. suggest a snack of pistachios might boost brain power and concentration levels at work.

Pistachios helped office workers stay focused until lunchtime

In a national survey, 1,000 American office workers who skipped breakfast consumed a snack of 42 grams (1 and 1/2 serving size) of pistachios between 9 and 11 a.m. Ninety-two percent of the participants said they are “distracted from their tasks at work due to hunger before lunch.” Eighty percent said they usually get hungry in the mornings before lunch and think about food often or every day.

The midmorning snack of pistachios proved to be just what they needed to power through the morning. Ninety-two percent of the participants reported the pistachio snack helped improve their concentration at work as stated in the study, “somewhat or greatly.”

That’s not surprising, according to Dr. Mike Roussell, nutrition expert and adviser. “Skipping breakfast is never a good idea, but even with a good breakfast and lunch, hunger pangs and stress-driven hunger can be distracting, leading to unhealthy snacking habits.”

Roussell says pistachios are an ideal midmorning or midafternoon snack because of their unique nutrient package that not only promotes feelings of fullness and satiation, but also, newer studies show, can promote an optimal mental state and more focus at work.

Increasingly, people with desk jobs are looking for a healthier snack alternative to the usual donuts and vending machine fare. Ninety percent of the survey’s participants said they believe the snack of pistachios is healthier than their usual snack. The study involved office workers in the Northeast, South, Midwest and Western U.S. who snack at their desk two or more times a week at midmorning.

Pistachios may have a role in improved brain function

Loma Linda University (LLU) researchers found that eating nuts on a regular basis enhances brainwave frequencies associated with cognition, learning, memory, recall and other key brain functions. While the research studied multiple nuts, pistachios produced the greatest gamma wave response, which is critical for enhancing cognitive processing, information retention, learning and perception.

In the study, electroencephalograms (EEG) were taken to measure the strength of brainwave signals. EEG wave band activity was then recorded from nine regions of the scalp associated with cerebral cortical function.

“This study provides significant beneficial findings by demonstrating that nuts are as good for your brain as they are for the rest of your body,” said the study’s principal investigator, Lee Berk, DrPH, MPH, associate dean for research at the LLU School of Allied Health Professions, in an interview featured in the November 2017 issue of LLU’s publication, Today. An abstract of the study was presented at Experimental Biology 2017 in San Diego, California, and published in the FASEB Journal.

The workplace-snacking survey and health-benefit studies add to a growing base of pistachio research, solidifying that pistachios have all the ideal qualities for a go-to workplace snack.

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5 tips from a tea expert to brew the perfect cup

(BPT) – For most of us, a little evening downtime is not a luxury — it’s a necessity. After a hectic day of work, commutes, kids and dinner prep, we deserve to take a moment to slow down and enjoy some hard-earned “me time.”

Instead of using this time to stream your favorite show or scroll through social media, try a gentle and relaxing activity that puts your focus on the present moment and makes this time truly enjoyable.

“For a relaxing end-of-day activity, there’s nothing quite like preparing and savoring the perfect cup of herbal tea,” says Stephen Twining, whose family founded the world-famous tea brand, Twinings of London, in 1706.

The steps we take to prepare and enjoy our perfect cup of tea can help us unwind and feel refreshed, Twining says. Tea releases pleasing scents, the warm brew makes comforting sensations as we wrap our fingers around the mug and take sips, and there’s the deep and satisfying flavors of the tea itself.

Of course, when we’re engaged in a mindful activity, it’s that much easier to let go of daily stress and transition into a more relaxed state. Follow these five tips from Twining to brew your favorite cup of herbal tea, and try making this a part of your end-of-day ritual.

1. Start fresh: The perfect cup of tea starts with a clean mug and a clean kettle of fresh, cold water. Never reuse water that’s already been boiled, because that can weaken the tea’s flavor, Twining says.

2. Don’t over-boil: As soon as the water reaches a boil, it’s time to remove the kettle from the heat source.

“I never let the water over-boil because in doing so, you will cause the oxygen in the water to be reduced, making the tea taste ‘flat,’” Twining says. For that reason, he recommends not using a microwave to boil the water.

3. Savor the moment: Set the tea bag in the mug before you add hot water, pouring it directly onto the tea bag. Just then, it starts releasing its herbal scent, so make sure you take a moment to inhale and relax while enjoying the aroma. Twinings offers a range of herbal teas each expertly blended to provide the perfect balance of taste, flavor and aroma. For example, Buttermint has a refreshing blend of peppermint leaves combined with the creamy flavor of vanilla for a smooth taste and rich aroma, perfect for helping you unwind.

4. Wait for the perfect flavor: Many people make the mistake of thinking that once the brew darkens, it’s ready to drink. However, Twining says color merely washes off the tea leaves early in the process, so don’t let the appearance mislead you. To make sure the flavors fully develop, know how much time your tea needs to brew, and keep an eye on the clock. Herbal teas should steep for a full four minutes.

5. Customize and enjoy: Hopefully, you will find your perfectly brewed cup of herbal tea needs no embellishment because the expertly blended herbs and flowers will provide all the flavor you need. But as Twining says, “The best cup of tea is the one you like the most,” so feel free to make adjustments. The recommended add-ins for herbal teas are honey, sugar or a squeeze of lemon — do not add milk or cream. For a deeper flavor, let the tea steep a minute or two longer.

After a long day, you definitely earned this moment, so make sure you take time to enjoy it. If you’re interested in exploring Twinings’ complete line of herbal teas, visit twiningsusa.com.

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Why probiotics should be part of your routine in 2018

(BPT) – At the turn of the calendar, many people begin taking action on what they plan to accomplish in the new year. Some have resolved to take up a new hobby, to save more money, to travel and, of course, to improve their health.

New eating plans and gym memberships are common steps people take toward their health goals, but there are other effective ways to improve your health — like adding probiotics to your daily regimen. You’ve likely heard of probiotics before, but do you know how they benefit your health and how to select the right one for you? This article can help.*

What is a probiotic?

Before delving into how probiotics can help your body, let’s first explain what they actually are. In the simplest terms, probiotics are the good bacteria (live microorganisms) that live inside your digestive tract and help your body to function properly. There are many different types of probiotics, and each one performs a different function in your digestive system.*

The billions of bacteria that live inside your digestive tract are often called “microflora,” or more correctly, “microbiota,” and the environment that they work together to create inside the body is called the microbiome. Maintaining proper balance within your microbiome is crucial for overall health.*

How do probiotics help?

The beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract are influenced by a variety of factors such as stress, medication use, traveling and poor diet. Therefore, it is important to prioritize diet and lifestyle to maintain proper gut ecology. Probiotics are also effective for maintaining healthy populations of beneficial bacteria. Numerous clinical studies have shown probiotics have positive effects on health, including assisting in the digestion of food and the absorption of nutrients and contributing to immune system health. Some studies have suggested that certain beneficial strains may also support brain function.*

Probiotics in your diet

Probiotics are found in many foods you may enjoy every day including yogurt, kefir and sauerkraut. However, due to food processing and packaging, maintaining the stability and potency of the live beneficial bacteria in these foods can be a challenge. Including probiotic supplements in your routine ensures a consistent dose to help you and your family maintain optimal health.*

Finding the right probiotic supplement for you

Probiotic supplements can help support health at any age — from infancy to adulthood. When it comes to selecting the probiotics for you and your family, the best options are those that are formulated based on clinical research. Genestra Brands offers a comprehensive line of clinically studied, effective probiotic strains that have been recommended by doctors for more than 20 years. With more than 25 gluten-free, non-GMO formulas, Genestra Brands’ probiotics offer personalized support to help make your New Year’s resolution of becoming a healthier you that much easier.*

Before you begin taking any type of probiotic, speak with your doctor and/or pharmacist about whether they are safe and right for you.

To learn more about probiotics designed with you in mind, visit genestrahmf.com.

* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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