Is vegan ramen healthy?

This is a bit of a loaded question. And we definitely need some context to answer whether or not ramen is healthy. If we’re talking about the 30-cent ramen meals that come in a plastic bag with a sketchy packet of “seasoning,” then the answer is no. That ramen has simple carbs, not enough protein, and about 70 percent of the daily recommended amount of sodium. No, thank you. (Here’s what happens if you eat ramen every day for a week.)

Don’t fret, though: There is such a thing as healthy ramen. In fact, homemade ramen has all the potential in the world to be a healthy and balanced meal. Plus, with just a few changes, you can easily make vegan ramen. You just have to be picky about the type of noodles, include a source of protein, and add all the veggies you like.

Origins of ramen

Ramen has taken quite the journey over the years. What began as a widely consumed meal in Asian culture due to its low price and reliable shelf life soon became a notorious staple in American college students’ diets. Today, ramen is a popular delicacy with immense popularity in restaurants throughout the food world.

The roots of ramen bring us back to 17th century China. The noodles, a healthy alternative to pasta, went by “Chinese soba” noodles up until the 1950s. When Chinese populations settled in the Yokohama, Kobe, and Nagasaki ports, they formed Chinatown. The area was populated with poor, working-class families in need of cheap, yet satiating sustenance. Enter ramen.

Eating instant noodle on a working table

Health benefits of ramen

OK, remember how I said homemade ramen could actually be quite healthy? Let’s talk about how. Essentially, ramen consists of noodles in broth, with whatever add-ins you desire. First, let’s talk about the noodles.

Noodles

The noodles that come in the cheap, packaged ramen soups are processed white noodles. One of the main ingredients is enriched wheat flour, which is wheat flour stripped of its fiber and nutrients. When making vegan ramen at home, the noodles are an opportunity to add some healthy nutrients. I suggest going with whole wheat or brown rice for vegan ramen noodles. This will increase the fiber content. It will also make the carbs from those noodles slower digesting.

Broth

When it comes to the broth, I would suggest using a plain, low-sodium vegetable broth. This will add some flavor without overloading the sodium content of the soup. (Here are the most common high-sodium foods.)

Add-ins

Add-ins are your chance to really bump up the nutritional value of ramen soup. And the best way to do this is by adding all the veggies. Add any and all non-starchy veggies you like, such as broccoli, scallions, peppers, onions, zucchini, cauliflower, eggplant, carrots, cabbage, celery—the list goes on. By doing this, you’re adding tons of fiber and micronutrients without a ton of calories.

Finally, you’ve got to have a source of protein. For my vegetarians and vegans, tofu and tempeh are your friends. I suggest sautéing some tofu or tempeh in a bit of avocado oil—that will get the outside nice and crispy—and then add it to the soup. This will add protein and textural contrast to the rest of the meal. (Here are the best vegan protein sources.)

For the omnivores out there, try adding chicken, lean beef, salmon, shrimp, or eggs. These are all lean sources of animal protein that would make great additions to a hot bowl of ramen.

What’s the deal with vegan ramen?

There actually isn’t a huge difference between vegan and non-vegan ramen. The main differences are the choice of broth and the protein addition. Typical ramen has chicken, or beef broth and animal proteins. In vegan ramen, you just use a vegetable broth and skip the animal-based protein. You can opt for a plant-based protein, or skip the protein addition altogether. The dietitian in me, however, urges you not to skip protein.

How to make vegan ramen

Alright, now for the fun part: my favorite vegan ramen recipe. This is easy and customizable. You can switch up the veggies to include your favorites. My favorite part is that you can make vegan ramen with ingredients most people already have. You can use fresh or frozen veggies, any noodles you have, and any protein source you prefer. It’s a great go-to recipe for when you want a quick, easy, and healthy meal.

Vegan Ramen

Serves two

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons avocado oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons ginger, minced

1/2 cup white button mushrooms, sliced

1/2 cup broccoli, cut into ½-inch florets

1/2 cup zucchini, sliced

1/4 cup green onions, chopped

1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce or coconut aminos

Pinch red pepper flakes

4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth

6 oz whole wheat ramen noodles

2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped

Instructions:

Add avocado oil to a medium-sized pot over medium-low heat. Stir in garlic and ginger, and sauté until fragrant (about two minutes).

Add mushrooms, broccoli, zucchini, and onions to put. Cook until vegetables are slightly tender, about four minutes. Add soy sauce and red pepper flakes to season.

Add vegetable broth to the pot, and stir. Allow to simmer for three minutes.

Add ramen noodles, and cook until noodles are tender, about five minutes.

Divide soup into two bowls, and top with cilantro.

Bottom line

Ramen doesn’t have to be a processed, high-sodium, quick meal that’s only for broke college students. Vegan ramen can be a healthy, balanced, and delicious meal made from whole foods you have in your kitchen. Plus, it’s versatile and is a great option for both omnivores and vegans alike.

Ghosting someone: What it means

“One day we were fine, texting about the next movie we wanted to watch together, the next day I never heard from him again,” says Lyla Pratt, 24, of Minneapolis. “Not only did he stop texting, but he blocked me on social media too.”

The “he” she is talking about was her boyfriend of six months. (This is the difference between healthy vs. unhealthy relationships.)

The couple had met through a dating app and hit it off immediately, quickly becoming exclusive. “We talked or hung out nearly every day, even through Covid, so it was a huge shock when he ghosted me in November [2020],” she says. “He just stopped answering my texts and calls.” (Be on the lookout for these relationship deal breakers.)

Why would a man that had given her a ring with their initials as a birthday present and with whom she was sleeping with regularly, suddenly cut off all communication? “I have literally not a single clue,” she says, adding that the couple hadn’t fought or even had a disagreement prior to his disappearance. “That’s the worst part, I will never have any closure, I’ll never know why he left me and that really hurts,” she says.

Before understanding why people ghost, and its effects on the ghoster and the person being ghosted, here’s what ghosting is. Plus, you’ll get some expert tips on how to have a healthier breakup. (Here’s how to move on from a relationship.)

011921 Ghosting Animation

What is ghosting?

“Ghosting is exactly what it sounds like, it’s quietly disappearing from someone’s life, like a ghost,” says Ramani Durvasula, a licensed clinical psychologist, professor of psychology at California State University, Los Angeles, author, and expert in toxic relationships. “And it can be incredibly hurtful,” she says.

It’s a term that has become popular in online and digital dating and describes when you are dating someone or talking to them regularly, and communication abruptly ends, without any explanation, says Claire Postl, licensed professional clinical counselor and certified sex therapist at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

Ghostling is mainly used to describe a breakup in a romantic relationship but it can also happen in friendships or other types of platonic relationships. (Make sure you know the signs you’re in a toxic relationship.)

Ghosting is more common than you may think; a 2019 survey from YouGov, an international online market research and data company, found that one-third of U.S. adults confessed to doing it.

Why do people ghost?

Why would someone choose to go incommunicado rather than breaking up? The short answer: It’s easy. Many of us fear confrontation so much that we’ll do anything to avoid it, Postl says.

After all, it’s so much easier to just stop talking than it is to have a real conversation and get into all the messy, complicated feelings that come with relationships—especially if you’ve already mentally moved on.

“Many people weren’t taught what healthy adult communication looks like in relationships so they default to the easiest way out—ghosting,” Durvasula says. “For some people, it becomes a dysfunctional pattern,” she explains. Knowing how to communicate effectively is one of the characteristics of a healthy relationship.

It may also be a side effect of our digital dating culture, Postl says. Hooking up or meeting someone new is as easy as swiping your screen. So, she continues, it makes sense that people would want breaking up to be as simple.

In fact, ghosting after a first or second date or after just chatting or texting online is so common that it’s the expected way to end the interaction now. But just because it’s common doesn’t mean it’s OK, especially when you use ghosting to end longer-term relationships with no explanation, Durvasula says. (Believe your relationship still has hope? Here’s how to fix a broken relationship.)

Effects of being ghosted

Being ghosted, even by someone you’ve only seen a couple of times, can be hurtful. If you were in a long relationship with them and developed real feelings for them, being ghosted can be intensely painful and leave long-term scars.

Makes you doubt your self-worth

At best, ghosting leaves you feeling confused, self-conscious, and concerned. At worst, it makes you doubt and question your self-worth, leaving you with a lot of unanswered questions that you may then ruminate over, Postl says. (Some people use “breadcrumbing,” where they give you tiny bits of attention, instead of totally ghosting.)

“It can feel like you’re being ‘discarded’ or thrown out and that’s one of the most painful things a person can experience,” Durvasula says.

Triggers negative feelings

In addition, being ghosted triggers a cascade of negative feelings. “We all have doubts and vulnerabilities and being ghosted can bring up all those insecurities,” Postl says.

For example, if someone stops talking to you and you have a fear of not being enough, then you may assume that the person stopped talking to you because you weren’t good enough. Of course, there are lots of other explanations why someone might not want to continue dating. But, when you’re ghosted, you have no way of knowing the truth and so you may blame yourself.

“It’s those unanswered questions that do the damage,” Postl says. “People wonder, ‘What did I do wrong?’ ‘Did something happen to them, are they in trouble?’ ‘Do I need to do something different for someone to like me?’ ‘Are they angry at me?’ which increases self-doubt.”

Gaslighting is another toxic communication pattern that creates self-doubt. (Here are the gaslighting phrases to know about this type of emotional abuse.)

Effects of ghosting someone else

It’s not just the people who are ghosted that are harmed; the one doing the ghosting also experiences negative effects, although they may not be as obvious, Durvasula says.

Feeling emotionally stunted

People who have a habit of ghosting are emotionally stunted and it can keep them stuck in immature relationship patterns, unable to establish lasting connections with others, she says.

Lack of empathy and understanding

Another problem is that when you ghost someone you don’t see the other person’s reactions and feelings. “That may sound like a good thing but it’s not, it’s a lie you are telling yourself—you are pretending like someone is not hurt when they really are,” Postl says. “Our feelings are what make us human and it is a very powerful thing to sit with someone who is hurting or in emotional pain.”

Relationships are about the good and the bad. If you’ve been with someone long enough to deeply care about them, and they for you, it is part of your responsibility to be present when they’re sad or angry as well as when they’re happy.

“If this is something you don’t feel you can do, then you need to ask yourself, ‘Should I be in a relationship right now?'” Durvasula says, adding that she suggests therapy as a way to learn healthier relationship patterns. (This is your body after a breakup.)

What to do instead of ghosting someone

For healthy relationships, ending them via ghosting is hurtful to everyone involved. “Breaking up using direct communication is difficult, but necessary,” Postl says, adding that this is true whether it’s been one date or 100. (This kind of breakup hurts the most, according to science.)

“Even when casually dating online, letting someone know that you are no longer interested or that you have met someone else will provide the person with a sense of close or finality,” she says.

Easier said than done? Here’s an expert primer on how to break up without ghosting:

Do it in person

Having a two-way conversation is important, so both people feel heard, Durvasula says. The best way to do this is in person but if you can’t physically get together, a phone call is the next best thing. Texting isn’t a great way to break up but it’s still better than ghosting.

Do it at an appropriate, respectful time

The decision to break up may happen at 2 a.m. but that doesn’t mean that’s when you have to do it. Choose a time to meet that is respectful of the other person and how this news will impact them, Durvasula says. For instance, don’t dump them right before they have to go to work.

Practice ahead of time

Knowing what you want to communicate and having it come out of your mouth that way can be hard, especially if your emotions are running high. One way to combat that is to practice breaking up with a friend, Durvasula says. Another way to keep your thoughts clear is to write it down and read it to them, she adds. (Know these facts about breakups.)

Use “I” statements

Frame your thoughts in a way that makes them about you rather than the other person, Durvasula says. So instead of saying “You’re stressing me out and moving too fast so we need to break up,” try saying, “I feel stressed out and worried this is moving too fast for me, so after a lot of thought, I need to end our relationship,” Durvasula suggests.

Offer direct but kind feedback

Giving the other person feedback during a breakup isn’t necessary but it can provide a sense of closure. If you decide to answer the person’s questions about what went wrong, provide the feedback in a tactful and kind way designed to help them in future relationships. Do not make them feel bad about this one, Postl says. (Here’s why some couples get back together after a breakup.)

Accept that it will hurt—and that’s OK

“Breaking up is, by nature, painful, and it’s best to acknowledge that and prepare for it,” Durvasula says. Ghosting happens when people want to avoid these painful feelings. But a breakup hurts either way and doing it in a direct but kind way actually minimizes the hurt overall. “Know that the other person will feel hurt but it’s not your responsibility to fix that,” she says.

Block out some time to care for yourself afterward as well. Even if you are the one who initiated the breakup, it can still be really painful, she adds.

The one time you should ghost someone

There is one specific time when you should absolutely ghost someone and that’s if you are ending a relationship where you are worried that your partner will react in a violent or abusive way, Durvasula says. Put your safety first and in the case of abuse, ghosting is often the best and safest option.

Next, here’s some successful relationship advice.

What is kombucha?

Perhaps you’ve seen kombucha on grocery store shelves and restaurant menus, but maybe you haven’t tried the beverage—or don’t know exactly what it is. Kombucha is a fermented beverage made from a base of tea, bacteria, yeast, and sugar.

Because kombucha is a fermented tea, you get the benefits of tea (hello, antioxidants), as well as potential probiotics, which can help gut health. Kombucha contains lactic-acid bacteria, according to a study in Microbiology, and it’s believed that these bacteria could potentially offer probiotic benefits. (These are the best probiotic foods for gut bacteria.)

“Kombucha is sweet but not overly sweet, is carbonated, and has a touch of caffeine and a slight vinegary flavor,” says Megan Byrd, RD, a registered dietitian based in Keizer, Oregon. Because of other ingredients often used to make kombucha, the drink can be quite sweet without much added sugar. Some kombucha is made with fruit or herb juice—for instance, lemon juice, apple juice, or ginger juice—for additional flavor and sweetness. (Like kombucha? Try this tepache recipe.)

How kombucha is made

To create kombucha, a sugary tea is combined with a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (called SCOBY). Together with yeast, the SCOBY bacteria removes most of the sugar from the tea—resulting in the bubbly, fermented tea that is kombucha. One major draw of kombucha is it’s pretty low in calories and is mostly non-alcoholic, although hard kombucha is becoming more and more prevalent.

“Kombucha makes a great, lower-calorie, lower-sugar alternative to soda,” says Jessie Valentine, a registered dietitian in Port Washington, New York. Most kombucha falls between 10 and 80 calories per bottle.

Health benefits of kombucha

When you hear about kombucha, you’ll hear a lot about probiotics. But here’s the bottom line: Science is iffy on whether kombucha naturally contains probiotics, though many kombucha beverages have probiotics added to the drink during processing. (Here are nutritionist-reviewed probiotics they trust.)

One thing that is for sure: Kombucha boasts polyphenols, thanks to its base of tea. “Polyphenols act as strong antioxidants in the body and decrease inflammation, the root cause of many chronic diseases,” says Priscila Ruiz, RD, in Portland, Oregon. (Here are some more kombucha benefits.)

How to choose a quality kombucha

You should consider several things when picking out a kombucha. First, look at how the drink is bottled. “When choosing kombucha, the darker the bottle, the better,” says Ruiz. “This is because probiotics are damaged when they are exposed to light for long periods of time.” (See probiotic-filled foods you need to work into your diet.)

Then, look at the nutrition facts label. “Ideally, you want a kombucha that has a small amount of sugar, which is necessary for the fermentation process,” says Valentine. You’ll find kombucha drinks with as little as 8 grams of added sugar per 12-ounce can. If live cultures and/or probiotics are important to you, look for their addition to the ingredients list.

Some kombucha is sweetened with sugar alcohols. And some people experience gastrointestinal distress from these. If that’s you, avoid those ingredients. (Take a look at these best foods and recipes for gut health.)

Also, don’t worry if you see something floating in your drink. “When purchasing kombucha, the presence of floating fungus-looking particles can be completely normal,” says Valentine. “These are part of the SCOBY that forms the kombucha. But you want to steer clear of any black, green, or moldy-looking particles,” she says.

Who should avoid drinking kombucha

Remember that most kombucha contains a small amount of alcohol. Anyone with a history of alcohol dependence will likely want to avoid the beverage.

Kombucha may also not be a good choice for pregnant or breastfeeding women because of the drink’s alcohol content and also the fact that some kombucha is unpasteurized. Pasteurization kills off harmful bacteria, which can threaten a pregnancy.

Best kombucha brands to buy

Health Ade Kombucha Ginger Lemon

Health-Ade Kombucha Ginger Lemon

$48 per 12 bottles

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“I really like Health-Ade Kombucha, which has less added sugar than some other brands I’ve seen,” says New York City-based registered dietitian Samantha Cassetty, and co-author of Sugar Shock. The Ginger Lemon contains 8 grams of added sugar, or two teaspoons, for the whole bottle.

“People often think they have to completely avoid added sugars, but that’s not necessary,” she says. “Kombucha is a great replacement for sugary beverages, like soda. Soda has four times as much added sugar as kombucha, and it doesn’t offer any health benefits.”

(Looking for a new tea to try? Check out these nettle tea benefits.)


Rowdy Mermaid Kombucha

Rowdy Mermaid Kombucha Rowdy Belly

$48 per 12 bottles

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Rowdy Mermaid kombucha has a nice, mild flavor and isn’t overly sweet,” says Denver-based dietitian Leanne Ray. “It also contains interesting functional ingredients like turmeric. It’s a great base for mocktails when you want something special without the added booze,” she says.


Koe Organic Kombucha Lemon Lime

KÖE Organic Kombucha Lemon Lime

$12 per 4 cans

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One of the only shelf-stable probiotic drinks out there, this KÖE Organic Kombucha pick is very low calorie at only 35 calories per 12-ounce can. This is due to a couple of things: The first ingredient is purified water, and in addition to sugar and fruit juice, the beverage is sweetened with stevia extract and erythritol, a sugar alcohol.

(These are the health benefits of probiotics besides digestion.)


Brew Dr Kombucha Love

Brew Dr. Kombucha Love

$3 per bottle

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“This kombucha [Brew Dr. Kombucha] is made from a blend of teas, including jasmine green tea and chamomile, along with organic cane sugar to make the taste refreshing and satisfying,” says South Carolina-based dietitian Lauren Manaker. “And 1 percent of the profits made from Love sales are donated to environmentally-focused nonprofits.” The brew contains live probiotic culture for additional health benefits.


Health Ade Plus Kombucha Immunity

Health-Ade PLUS Kombucha Immunity

$52 per 12 bottles

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“I like this item because it takes ginger beer to the next level,” says Jonathan Valdez, RD, a spokesperson for the New York State Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “It has a peppery and earthy taste from the turmeric, ginger, and pepper that wakes up the soul while tasting amazing.” This Health-Ade PLUS kombucha is a combination of black tea, green tea, ginger juice, turmeric juice, and black pepper extract.

(These are the things that happen when you eat more turmeric.)


Kevita Sparkling Probiotic Drink Tangerine

Kevita Sparkling Probiotic Drink Tangerine

$3 per bottle

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“This drink tastes amazing, with a minimal vinegar flavor,” says Byrd. “It uses all-natural ingredients and is organic.” Plus, the calories in this Kevita kombucha are really low, at only 10 per 16-ounce bottle. That’s because the first ingredient is purified water.

(A colorful and nutrient-rich drink is chicha morada. Here’s what to know.)


Gt Living Foods Synergy Kombucha

GT’s Living Foods Synergy Kombucha

$3 per bottle

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“I’m a fan of GT’s because it uses live, active cultures to ensure that the probiotics listed are actually in the tea,” says Valentine. “Plus, it uses fruit juice to sweeten and flavor the tea.”

Los Angeles-based registered dietitian Laura Farrell, also suggests checking out the brand’s seasonal kombucha flavors. “Each of the seasonal flavors is branded to represent values of love, personal growth, human connection, and gratitude,” she says.

What’s an abusive relationship?

The stats are pretty grim: Every minute, nearly 20 people in the United States suffer some kind of physical abuse, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), a nonprofit advocacy group in Denver.

This could include everything from slapping and shoving to beating, burning, and strangling. (These are the domestic violence signs to look for.)

And while abuse is an equal opportunity crime for both opposite and same-sex relationships, typically women are the ones who are more likely to be the victims of what NCADV calls “severe intimate violence.” One in four women versus one in nine men experience severe physical or sexual violence or stalking.

It’s not just the physical injuries, either. Relationships can be emotionally destructive too—researchers have found that roughly half of Americans have reported being emotionally abused by their partner over their lifetimes, according to a 2018 study in Violence and Victims.

Usually, one type of abuse leads to another, say experts. “In domestically violent relationships where there’s physical abuse, there’s usually more emotional and mental abuse that has occurred way before the physical abuse happens,” says Janie Lacy, a psychotherapist and relationship trauma expert in Maitland, Florida.

In fact, emotional abuse can be even more damaging than physical abuse, says Beverly Engel, a psychotherapist and author of several books on emotional abuse, including Escaping Emotional Abuse: Healing From the Shame You Don’t Deserve. “With physical abuse, a woman knows she’s being abused—she sees the bruises, she has the broken arm. When she’s being emotionally abused, she doesn’t necessarily know it,” she says.

You don’t deserve abuse

One thing is clear, whatever type of abusive relationship you’re in, you don’t deserve it, says David J. Glass, a certified family law specialist who practices in Los Angeles and a former clinical psychologist.

Another important thing to remember, he says: “The abuser is not going to change. A lot of people fall under the mistaken belief that they can somehow help this person become a better person. If they’re an abuser, they’re an abuser, and you need to just get away from them.”

Here is how to do exactly that. But before you learn how to get away, you should recognize what an abusive relationship is, and how it can damage you. (Here’s what women in abusive relationships want you to know.)

The hallmarks of an abusive relationship

There’s a pattern

Experts look for repeat offenders, whether the domestic violence is physical or emotional. “In any relationship, we all have a time where we may say something off the wall, or we may do something to unintentionally harm our partners or persons we’re in a relationship with,” says Lacy. But abusive partners do these things often and on purpose. (Learn the signs of a toxic relationship.)

Of course, physical abuse is easier to recognize—that’s when a person is intentionally hurting you to the point of injury or even threatening to kill you. “Emotional abuse can be anything where there’s deception, there’s power and control, there’s dominance over the other person, or someone is regularly devalued, disrespected, diminished, or deceived,” says Lacy.

Abusers use psychological weapons like humiliation and fear to isolate or punish you in some way. “They don’t even recognize that what they’re doing hurts you when anyone else would probably recognize it,” says Glass, who is also the author of Moving On: Redesigning Your Emotional, Financial and Social Life After Divorce. “It’s a lack of development in their own personality—they can’t understand that other people have different wants, needs, desires and feelings than they do. And so it will repeat itself,” he says.

It’s one-sided

One partner has all the power, says Lacy, and it’s used to control the other. Abusive partners dole out the money or make you ask for it because they are totally in charge of your bank accounts. Or they make you constantly check in with them—or worse, they know your whereabouts all the time because they’ve installed a GPS tracker in your car or are monitoring you via an Apple watch or smartphone, Lacy notes.

Not only do you not have any control, but you’re also not free to disagree with any opinions or statements since abusive partners consider this a sign of disrespect. That can lead to passivity, says Lacy, and you might find yourself thinking, “It’s pointless for me to express my feelings, my thoughts, my wants” just to keep the peace.

You might also start watching what you say in case your partner gets angry and lashes out, verbally or with fists. And that can make you anxious all the time.

It’s filled with shame and humiliation

Not only do you have to watch what you say all the time, but emotionally destructive partners are also more likely to throw you under the bus, usually in front of your kids or friends, Lacy explains. They’ll say things that are demeaning or belittling, like, “Well, you know how your mother is, always so scatterbrained.”

If you object, your partner might just say, “What’s wrong with you? I was just having fun and you always take things so seriously.”

Your partner blows hot and cold

Abusive partners aren’t nasty to you all the time. “It’s a cycle of abuse, and there’s a phase where they’re acting nice, buying flowers, and doing and saying all the right things. That can evaporate in a second, as soon as they feel threatened,” says Glass.

“Relationships are not made to be a cat and mouse chase, and one of the subtleties of an abusive relationship is the dynamic of ‘Come here. Go away.’ or ‘You’re the best thing. You’re the worst thing,'” says Lacy. “This creates an undercurrent of anxiety for the abused partner who thinks she’s now going crazy,” she adds.

Woman walking into rectangular opening in colored wall

How to leave your abuser

Step 1: Prepare yourself emotionally

If you’ve been repeatedly subjected to words and deeds that make you feel worthless, and you’re too beaten down to trust yourself, then it’s very hard to muster the courage to leave.

Another reason why people don’t leave? “They place an inaccurate and overwhelming amount of power in this other person—’This person can control my life, my money, how I see my friends, whether I see my family, how we raise our kids’—so they have to realize that all those things are false,” Glass explains. (Here’s why one woman stayed in an abusive relationship.)

So experts recommend that you try to get into the right mindset to get out. To do that:

Give words to your experience

People who are able to walk out on an abusive partner are often able to create a narrative so they can see what is really going on, says Lacy. “So then when I asked them, ‘When’s the first time you felt like you were going crazy? And when is the last time?’ I look to see if the person can give words to the experience and see the patterns,” she notes. That way a therapist (or a trusted friend) can validate your experience.

Keep a journal

An easy way to create the narrative is to write down all the big incidents of emotional abuse you’ve experienced and how you felt about them, advises Engel. “Like you went to a party and in front of everybody else, your partner was putting you down all night. That’s character assassination and humiliating you in front of people,” she explains. “Then refer to that list from time to time, so that you can begin to see the overall damage that it’s causing you,” she says.

The aim of the journal is to help build your resolve to leave. “When they start to waffle back and forth and say, ‘Well, maybe I could stay,’ they go back to that list again, and they recognize how damaging the incidents are. Every person reaches their conclusion that they have to go in their own time,” says Engel. (Need help getting started? Check out these six journaling tips from therapists.)

Realize your partner won’t change

It’s common to make excuses for your partner, says Lacy about her female patients. “Many of these women feel like ‘Well, if only I can get him to therapy’ or ‘If only he would just deal with his anger management problems.’ They’ll take the low hanging fruit that’s going on in the relationship—cheating, gambling, anger issues, these types of things,” she explains. That makes it less likely you’ll be willing to leave.

Instead, says Lacy, you have to identify what you can and can’t control so you can understand that the patterns of abuse aren’t typical relationship problems. “You need to get to the point where you understand it’s a character issue—you didn’t cause it, you can’t cure it, you can’t change it. When you really understand those three Cs, then you can walk in reality,” she says.

Be ready to grieve

Of course, steeling yourself to leave is one thing. You also need to tell yourself that you can survive without your mate and strengthen your resolve not to take your partner back even if they beg, says Engel.

Also crucial: “Being prepared for pain and grieving because it’s a loss of a relationship. No matter how painful the relationship is, be prepared they’re probably going to miss their partner,” she notes. (Here are tips on how to move on from the relationship.)

Step 2: Lay the groundwork

You need to start planning your exit—and that means figuring out all sorts of logistical and legal details so you (and your children) can get out safely. The National Domestic Violence Hotline can connect you with a trained advocate to create your own plan. Meanwhile, keep this expert advice in mind:

Don’t telegraph your plans

You can’t broadcast your intentions in any way, says Glass. That means no threats about leaving or getting a restraining order, which can take a lot of self-control in the middle of a blowout.

“If you tell this abusive person, ‘I’m going to get a restraining order,’ what they most likely will do is turn around, call the police, and say that you were abusing them. And the police show up and don’t know whom to believe. So any sort of telegraphing what your plans are will likely be used against you,” Glass explains.

Erase your digital footprint

Abusive people typically monitor their partner’s personal email, computer, and cell phone, says Glass: “Either the account is in their name and they can see who’s being called or who’s being texted, or they can track your browsing history on a web browser.”

As you do your research, whether that’s trying to find a domestic violence shelter, or talking with a friend about moving in with them, or talking to your family members about borrowing money so you can move out, you need to do this carefully so your partner can’t spy on you and learn your plans, Glass advises.

That means using the library or a friend’s computer to do research and buying a burner phone that you pay for on a monthly basis, Glass suggests. “You can get a brand-new phone number, keep it secret, and then you throw the thing away when you eventually get out.,” he says. Glass also recommends hiring a private investigator to scan your car in case your partner’s put a GPS tracker on it.

Pack your bags

Collect your important information—your bank cards, your birth and marriage certificates, your kids’ birth certificates—put them in a safe place, Engel advises. “Tell somebody, even one friend, and leave your important documents with that friend,” she adds.

Enlist professional allies

Having friends and family members who can listen and help you plan your escape is great. But if you can afford it, consider getting a therapist and/or lawyer, especially for the aftermath.

Here’s why: A therapist can help you do the emotional work and validate your experience so you can leave much more quickly, says Lacy. “When we have friends and family who have their own issues, as everyone does, they’re going to lose patience with you. ‘Why don’t you just leave already? You’re always talking about the same thing,'” she notes.

Ditto a lawyer. “An attorney can provide you with valuable feedback, because anyone who’s been in an abusive relationship probably starts to doubt their own beliefs about anything,” says Glass, who keeps a list of 10 false threats abusive partners make to give to his clients.

Two common ones: If you leave, your partner gets the kids or you’ll have to pay support—threats that a lawyer or therapist can quickly tell you probably won’t happen in a million years if your partner is abusive or you make less money or aren’t the one working full-time.

A lawyer can also help you file a restraining order, which is a court order that states that your partner can’t get within a 100 yards of you, can’t contact you, or go to your home or approach your car or go near your kids or their school, says Glass.

Figure out where you’ll go

Once you leave, you need somewhere to go, says Glass. So maybe it’s a domestic violence shelter (you can call Safe Horizon at 1-800-621-HOPE to find one near you). Or move in with friends or family. If you have the resources, maybe start looking for a place to rent (or start tucking money away), Engel advises.

Be alert to your partner’s changes in behavior

Sometimes abusive partners have a sixth sense, even if you’ve been careful to cover your tracks. That’s when you have to be aware of your partner’s red flags—especially when they’re unpredictable, says Lacy.

Destructive partners want to change your reality, so instead of getting angry or violent, they may start doing nice things—washing the dishes, spending time with the kids, paying attention to you.

Instead, says Lacy, focus on your goal and remember your partner’s character and patterns of abuse. (Are you with a narcissist? Here are real-life examples of narcissistic abuse.)

Have a code word

Work it out in advance and share it with your most trusted friends or family or even neighbors so when you use it, they know you’re in danger and can either come over and intervene or call the police, say experts.

ID a secure room

“If it’s going to take a while to get out of the house, you should identify some safe area in your home where you can go in case your partner gets abusive, whether it’s locking yourself in one of the bedrooms or a bathroom,” says Glass. Your goal is to be able to get away from the abusive person just long enough to be able to call someone using your code word.

By all means, take your kids in there too, he adds. “Abusers will use any sort of leverage possible and it doesn’t matter that it’s their child or someone else’s child. They’re going to take whatever opportunity they have to create leverage to get you out of the bathroom,” Glass says.

Step 3: Get out fast

Pick a safe time, not the right time

There’s no right time to leave, so it comes down to finding a safe time, says Glass, which usually means some time when you’re home and your partner is either at work or out with friends or visiting family. “You need to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice, especially under Covid where everyone is just sort of stuck at home and you’re never sure when your partner might be going out,” Glass notes.

Step 4: Once you’re out of the house

Keep your whereabouts secret

At least until you get the restraining order, which then provides you the additional protection, says Glass.

File the restraining order

Or get your lawyer to do it pronto. It may be a piece of paper, but it can be an effective tool in keeping your partner away from you and the kids, says Glass. “It puts you to the top of the list that if you call the police and you can say, ‘This person’s here, and I have a restraining order.’ Once the police see that it’s in the system, they come out immediately.”

It’s temporary, so it’s only good for several weeks. That can buy enough time for a family court judge to issue a permanent order. “In most states, there’s a presumption against the abusive parent having any significant time with the children, especially if the parent was abusive to you in front of the children or abusive to the children,” Glass explains.

Stop all contact with your partner

“If you still have the same phone and they text you, you cannot respond under any circumstances. If they call, if they send a message through a mutual friend, any contact with this person will be the first piece of information they’ll use to try and find you,” says Glass.

Besides, having any kind of contact means you’ll just encourage your mate to keep texting or calling. “If the abuser doesn’t hear from you at all, it’s a lot less likely that they’ll continue persisting. They’ll persist for a certain amount of time, and then, in essence, they move on to their next victim. They start looking for the next person that they’re going to control,” Glass notes.

Don’t leave clues

Don’t forward any bills or update your driver’s license with your new address, warns Glass. “You can’t do any of those things because those things make it easier for someone to track you down. Just having a cell phone number and finding one utility bill that’s been forwarded is usually enough for me to track down someone I’m trying to search. And so if I, as an attorney, can do it, an abuser can probably do the same thing,” he says. Later, when you have a permanent order, you can make the change.

Be prepared to call 911

“If, God forbid, your abuser shows up where you are or shows up to your work or sees you on the street, then you’ve got to call 911 immediately and say, ‘I have a restraining order. This person is right near me. I need help immediately,'” says Glass.

To find more support or resources, and create a personalized plan, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline—1-800-799-SAFE—or go the National Domestic Violence Hotline site to chat with someone right away. And don’t forget to do this on your burner phone or at the library, so your partner won’t know what you’re up to.

Next, here’s more information on what to do when it comes to coronavirus and domestic violence.

The rise of plant protein

Consumers are turning to plant-based foods now more than ever. According to a 2020 report from the Plant Based Foods Association, sales of plant-based foods spiked by 90 percent during the pandemic. But the interest isn’t new. Since 2017, total plant-based food sales have risen by 31 percent, far outpacing overall grocery sales, according to the group.

Plant protein replacements have exploded in popularity in recent years. A 2018 report from the consumer research group Mintel shows that shoppers choose plant-based protein alternatives for several reasons. These include taste preference, which ranked highest, in addition to an interest in protecting animals and the environment, and improving health and well-being.

As for health, a study published in 2020 in JAMA Internal Medicine, supports swapping animal protein for plant-based options. Researchers looked at data in more than 400,000 men and women in the United States over a 16-year period. They found that a higher intake of plant-based protein was tied to a lower risk of death from all causes, particularly heart disease, which remains the number-one killer of both men and women in the U.S.

High protein vegan recipe

If you’re among the consumers looking for tasty substitutions for animal products that won’t leave you short on protein, there are a number of choices. One common stand-in: tofu, a meat substitute traditionally made from soybeans. A four-ounce portion of extra firm soy-based tofu typically contains nine grams of protein. Here’s what I add to my high-protein vegan recipe (it’s also stir fry).

Opt for tofu

I enjoy the texture, ease, and versatility of tofu. But I’m sensitive to soy, so I opt for Pumfu ($6 per box). It’s  tofu made from organic pumpkin seeds and filtered water. It packs even more protein than conventional tofu, at 17 grams per four-ounce serving.

Tofu can be incorporated into a range of plant-based dishes—from smoothies and veggie scrambles for breakfast to entrée salads, soups, and grain bowls. My personal favorite is a simple plant-based stir fry.

Add broccoli, brown and wild rice, and cashews

In addition to the tofu, my go-to recipe provides small amounts of protein from broccoli (2.5 grams), brown and wild rice (4 grams), and cashews (2.5 grams). The total protein content of this healthy, nutrient-rich meal is 26 grams using pumpkin seed tofu, or 18 grams using soy-based tofu. That’s 33 to 47 percent of the daily protein needs of a 150-pound adult, based on the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA), set by the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine.

(Try this vegan cashew cheese sauce.)

Nutrition benefits

The dish also provides two and a half cups of veggies, two servings of whole grain, and healthful fats from extra virgin olive oil and cashews. The latter two foods are known to help curb heart disease risk, due to their ability to reduce inflammation and improve artery function. (Learn more about cashew nutrition and benefits.)

Make the sauce

To make the sauce, I reach for flavorful Bragg organic coconut aminos ($22 for three bottles) as the base. This soy-free and gluten-free alternative to traditional soy sauce is made with organic coconut blossom nectar, apple cider vinegar, and sea salt. I combine it with brown rice vinegar and garlic for umami flavor, along with fragrant fresh ginger root, and a bit of crushed red pepper for a kick of heat.

Apart from the aroma and zest ginger adds to the meal, the root also offers functional benefits. These include anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antimicrobial properties. They also include cardioprotective properties that can lead to potential improvements in blood pressure and cholesterol, according to a study published in 2020 in Current Molecular Pharmacology.

High Protein Vegan Stir Fry

Preparing this high protein, colorful vegan dish is easy, especially if you stash pre-cooked rice in the fridge, and chop the veggies in advance. It’s one of my quick, satisfying staple meals. And I love the texture contrast of the tender vegetables, chewy tofu and rice, and crunchy nuts. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

High Protein Vegan Stir Fry Recipe

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon coconut aminos

½ tablespoon brown rice vinegar

1 clove garlic, minced

¼ teaspoon fresh grated ginger

1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper

½ tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

¼ cup minced yellow onion

1 cup broccoli chopped into small florets

¼ cup minced red bell pepper

1 cup spinach

1 serving tofu, cubed (note: I used pumpkin seed tofu)

1 cup cooked brown and wild rice

2 tablespoons cashews, chopped

Instructions:

In a small bowl whisk together the coconut aminos, vinegar, garlic, ginger, and red pepper. In a medium pan over low heat, sauté onions in oil until translucent. Add broccoli, bell pepper, and sauce, and sauté until broccoli is tender, about 3-4 minutes. Add spinach and tofu and stir to heat through, about 1 minute. Serve the veggie and tofu mixture over the rice, and garnish with the cashews.

Next, here’s how to start a plant-based diet.

Manifestation 101

Two of the most popular self-help books about manifestation are The Law of Attraction and The Secret. Although they both came out in 2006, the books and the concept of manifestation are seeing a burst of popularity now, especially on social media.

Some social media accounts, for example, share images and posts urging people to like them and leave a comment in the comments section. Doing so is to “affirm” or “claim” anything from love to money. Some of these posts have sayings similar to self-motivational quotes.

Most rational people realize that commenting on a random Instagram post doesn’t mean you’ll receive love, money, or whatever you’re hoping to attain or achieve. Yet, these posts continue.

However, this doesn’t represent all manifestation practices. Some people manifest by creating vision boards or dream boxes representing their desires and making plans to achieve their goals. Others use positive words of affirmation. (These practices could be a good addition to your self-care plan.)

Although this might all seem like a bit of “woo-woo wellness,” it’s not entirely baseless. Some people who use the power of manifestation swear by it. But are these practices worth your time? Or could they do more harm than good? Here’s what therapists think about using manifestation to get something you want or achieve your goals.

Hand Outstretched Towards Scenic View Of Mountains

What is manifestation?

First, manifestation has many definitions. Paul Hokemeyer, PhD, a clinical and consulting psychotherapist in New York, and author of Fragile Power: Why Having Everything Is Never Enough, defines it as the attainment of intentions. He thinks it’s possible if you know how to manifest the right way and understand what manifestation is not (more on that later).

Caroline Hexdall, PhD, a clinical psychologist at the Center For Mindful Development in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, says that manifestation is the practice of focusing intently on the desire. “Through purposeful thoughts, feelings, and actions, what is desired is manifested,” she says.

The most crucial component is action, she says. “It brings to mind Thomas Jefferson’s quote: ‘The harder I work, the more luck I seem to have.’ In my opinion, it encompasses manifestation.”

Denise Fournier, PhD, a licensed mental health counselor and an adjunct psychology professor at Nova Southeastern University in Florida, has a similar definition.

“Manifestation refers to the notion that we can attract things into our lives through our intentions, beliefs, thoughts, and emotions,” Fournier says. “By focusing on the things we desire—and shifting our thoughts, beliefs, and emotions accordingly—we can enter an energetic frequency that aligns us with those things we’re seeking.”

As a result, she says, we make those things “manifest in our lives.”

People may tap into it in different ways. But the basics remain the same: Manifestation is bringing something into your life through intentional action and belief.

What manifestation is not

Hope

One common misconception about manifestation is that it’s the same as hope. Although Hokemeyer says it’s critically important for people to find hope, manifestation consists of the additional dimension of work. “To manifest something in our lives, we have to be out in the world taking calculated risks, stumbling and recalibrating, remaining disciplined and consistent in our efforts,” he says.

Magical thinking

Likewise, a lot of people assume manifestation is “a form of pure magic,” according to Fournier.

“That’s because many conversations about manifestation focus exclusively on the part about thinking and believing—they completely leave out anything about doing,” she says. “This makes it seem as though you merely have to want something bad enough and make your thoughts positive enough to manifest it in reality.” (What is toxic positivity?)

Unfortunately, it almost never happens that way, adds Fournier. “While some things manifest this way, most of the things people put on their vision boards can only materialize through committed action and discipline.”

The idea of manifestation is attractive to many because of an implied “hands-off” element. That is, some people believe manifestation is simply about thinking good thoughts.

“They may be disappointed when they realize that it is not that simple,” Hexdall says. “And it can be difficult to grasp just how hard it can be to change our thoughts until we dedicate ourselves to the practice.”

Optimism

Similarly, manifestation is not blind optimism. Like hope, optimism is critically important, according to Hokemeyer. “Studies that analyze traits of entrepreneurship consistently find optimism as one of the most important personality traits of successful entrepreneurs,” he says. “But optimism alone does not lead to success.”

Success manifests when optimism, hard work, discipline, and singleness of purpose come together, Hokemeyer explains.

There’s a big misconception about the role that privilege and access play in being able to manifest what you want, too.

“We need to be highly aware of the fact that many, many people and populations in the world face legitimate and considerable barriers in the way of their ability to manifest their deepest desires,” Fournier says.

Manifestation has limits

There are real limitations to the concept of manifestation, which is a point Fournier always emphasizes when discussing the topic.

“We need to be very careful about how we think and talk about manifestation because we run the risk of assuming that people who live in conditions less fortunate or privileged than our own are manifesting their circumstances because they aren’t thinking positively or have simply failed to tune into the right energetic frequency,” Fournier says.

This is where manifestation really reaches its limits.

“While we can say—and see evidence to support—that our focus, feelings, thoughts, and beliefs can create our experience, we can’t say that everything we experience in life is subject to this formula,” she adds.

Manifestation and mental health

Manifestation highlights the importance of thought patterns

The concept of manifesting could be good for mental health since it may help people realize that thoughts matter. What you think may shape how you feel, what you do, and what you experience, Fournier says. “This is really foundational to any conversation about mental health.”

Manifestation points to what we can influence, which helps us feel motivated to reach our goals. “Generally speaking, our mental health improves when we feel capable of reaching goals and when we experience the satisfaction of actually reaching our goals,” Hexdall says.

So, in this way, approaching manifestation in a grounded and balanced way can positively affect our mental health. “Secondly, intention, purposeful attention, and anticipation of favorable future events—all elements of manifestation—are also known to have a positive impact on mental health,” Fournier says. (Here are the benefits of reframing your thoughts.)

Although there may be benefits to manifestation, they don’t come without practice. Thoughts, sometimes false beliefs about ourselves, have roots in the mind, and become well-worn paths. In a short period of time, that path is the only one our minds take, according to Hexdall.

“Carving a new path takes awareness, resistance to habit, as well as effort and dedication to rebuilding the new path,” Hexdall says. “The ‘thinking good thoughts’ component of manifestation is very hands-on, which may be surprising to some.”

Manifestation plays a role in therapy

The foundational elements of manifestation are already part of therapy, according to Fournier and Hokemeyer.

“Most therapists are helping their clients examine their thoughts and understand the connection between their thoughts, their emotions, and their experience,” Fournier says. “Therefore, I don’t see much value in focusing therapeutic conversations on manifestation specifically, unless it’s of particular interest to a client.”

Hokemeyer adds that successful therapy needs to have clearly articulated goals. “These can be as vast as getting clarity as to stay in or leave a relationship, to stop drinking alcohol, or to switch careers,” he says. The role of manifestation in this process is to work with the client to become the highest, best version of themselves. (This is how to suggest someone go to therapy.)

In fact, Hokemeyer uses a type of manifestation practice with his clients at the end of each year. “I have my patients do a strategic plan for the upcoming year in which they articulate three goals in the personal, professional, and spiritual realms of their life,” he says. “Through this exercise, they are forced to focus on being intentional with their lives and set goals they can integrate into their consciousness.”

This is very much an exercise in manifestation. Through these simple and clear goals, people have a sense of personal agency and feel like they have control over their future, according to Hokemeyer.

Manifestation might not be appropriate for everyone

People with underlying mental health issues

Some people might not be the best candidates for using manifestation in their lives, including those who are overly self-critical or those living with anxiety disorders like OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), according to Hokemeyer.

Those struggling with depression or anxiety, who may have negative thoughts about themselves or the world, need reminders that not everything they think is a fact. One of the potential pitfalls of manifestation is the logic that if good thoughts bring about good things, then bad thoughts bring about bad things.

This is why we need to be very careful not to discuss or teach manifestation in a reductive way, according to Fournier. “We need to ground the conversation and think about it in balanced terms; otherwise, the logic of it is pretty toxic.”

To help create that balance, Hokemeyer recommends using manifestation with the help of a “healthy other.” This can be a therapist, a person from a religious community, a good friend, or family member.

“Manifestations are most effective when shared with healthy others,” Hokemeyer says. “Through this sharing, the risks for harm are diminished, and the potential for success is maximized.” (Here’s how to find a therapist.)

People who misunderstand how manifestation works

People who don’t have a full understanding of manifestation should probably avoid it, according to Fournier.

“So long as the concept is understood to mean more than just believing in the magic of the universe, thinking positive thoughts, and expecting everything on your vision board to materialize for you without effort, then it doesn’t need to be avoided by anyone.”

Suppose someone has the wrong idea about manifestation? That can lead people who don’t get what they want or find themselves in unfavorable circumstances to blame themselves for it, Fournier explains.

Hexdall agrees and doesn’t think anyone should avoid manifestation. But those who engage in its practices should be aware of the limitations. (Here’s when overly positive thinking can backfire.)

“Believing that manifestation is the only way to reach your goals and fulfill your desires would be limiting, to say the least,” Hexdall says. It could do more harm than good if people find themselves overly relying on manifestation principles, rather than evidence-based, action-oriented strategies, according to Hexdall.

People may become quite discouraged or even depressed about limited productivity, for example.

“Relying on manifestation as a hands-off approach can also interfere with knowledge of how we are in control of many aspects of our lives,” Hexdall says. “That is, not taking action to get out of an abusive relationship because we are waiting for something else to manifest, would be very painful, harmful, and unnecessary.”

It is important to remember that good thoughts alone do not necessarily bring about good things or events in our lives, Hexdall says. “There will always be circumstances that are out of our control—with or without the practice of manifestation.”

People focusing on inauthentic goals

Manifesting your future can be bad for your mental health if the goals articulated are inauthentic and unrealistic, according to Hokemeyer.

“Inauthentic goals are those based on someone else’s standards.” For example, he says, it’s unrealistic to want to manifest a future in which you fit into a smaller size dress when your healthy self fits perfectly into a larger size. (Here’s what you need to know about goal setting from mental health experts.)

Bottom line

Manifestation is bringing something into your life through intentional action and belief. Therapists note that getting the most out of manifestation requires understanding how it works, that action is a key component, and that there are limits to manifesting.

Good or bad thoughts alone don’t automatically bring about good or bad things in life. And it’s not possible to control every part of life with or without manifestation. But applying this practice could be a good way to work towards your goals.

What you need to know about MCT oil

You may have come across an option to add MCT to your order at your local trendy coffee shop. Many believe it helps with weight loss, but is it true?

Here’s what you need to know about the potential benefits of MCT oil and why so many keto dieters swear by it.

MCT oil is popular

MCT oil has gained popularity in recent years, along with the ketogenic diet. This is no coincidence, as the two go hand in hand.

The keto diet is an eating plan that encourages a super low intake of carbohydrates, paired with a high intake of fat. That low-carb/high-fat combination forces the body to enter into a state of ketosis. Ketosis is a state in which the body uses and burns fat—rather than carbohydrates, its preferred fuel—for energy.

Given that the ketogenic diet encourages a high intake of fat, different types of fats have become popular, particularly those fats that encourage the formation of ketones and help maintain ketosis. It’s also difficult to comprise your diet mainly of fat, so many keto dieters are looking for creative ways to incorporate fats. Remember when coconut oil was the holy grail? MCT oil is having a similar moment, and in fact, coconut oil contains more MCT than other types of oil.

What is MCT oil?

MCT stands for medium-chain triglycerides, which are fats that are partially man-made. Medium-chain refers to the chemical arrangement of the carbon atoms, while triglycerides are a type of fat that is usually stored or burned for energy. MCT oil is a supplement that is often derived from processing coconut oil or palm kernel oil, which contain medium-chain triglycerides. (Here are the healthiest cooking oils.)

In contrast, foods such as fish, avocado, nuts, safflower oil, and soybean oil, contain long-chain triglycerides.

What makes MCT oil different from other fats is the way the body breaks it down. Fats are made of fatty acid molecules, and the length of the fatty acid chain determines the digestion process. Bile and enzymes secreted by the pancreas digest many types of fat. They are then absorbed and transported through the bloodstream to the liver.

Digesting medium-chain triglycerides, however, is much faster and simpler. They do not require bile or pancreatic enzymes—therefore, they are delivered more quickly to the liver, where they metabolize into ketones, which are used as energy. (What is CBD oil?)

Liquid coconut MCT oil in round glass bowl with wooden spoon and bottles. Health Benefits of MCT Oil. Triglycerides, a form of saturated fatty acid.

MCT oil nutrition and benefits

One tablespoon of MCT oil contains about 120 calories, 14 grams of fat, and no protein or carbs. Just one tablespoon contains about 18 percent of the daily recommended amount of fat, according to the USDA.

While research on MCT oil is ongoing, it has some known benefits. Here are the MCT oil benefits you need to know.

Fat absorption

The rapid and streamlined digestion of MCT oil is helpful in people with fat absorption disorders. Examples of such disorders include celiac disease, cystic fibrosis, and IBS (irritable bowel syndrome).

Additionally, it can be beneficial for patients who have just had gastrointestinal surgery, as they typically experience difficulty absorbing fat. (Here are the healthiest high-fat foods.)

Weight loss

There is not a lot of research on the relationship between MCT oil consumption and weight loss, but many people believe the two are intertwined. A study of healthy adults, published in 2015 in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, found that MCT oil consumption resulted in slightly reduced body weight, total body fat, and waist circumference when compared with consumption of long-chain triglycerides.

Additionally, the satiating quality of MCT oil can lend itself to weight loss. Consumption of MCT causes the body to release the hormones leptin and peptide YY, both of which decrease appetite and signal the body to stop eating, according to the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. This can lead to less caloric consumption, which can potentially result in weight loss.

Athletic performance

Studies have shown that consuming MCT oil can have a positive effect on physical performance. When you exercise, you produce lactic acid, a waste product of anaerobic metabolism, per Advanced Sports Medicine Concepts and Controversies. It is typically what causes the fatigue or burning sensation you feel when working out intensely.

Studies, including one in the Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology, suggest that consuming MCT oil with food may help lower the buildup of lactate when exercising.

Diabetes

Another area of research is that of the relationship between MCT oil consumption and diabetes. Some research suggests that supplementation with MCT oil may help stabilize blood sugar. While more research is necessary, an early study in the journal Metabolism suggests that people with type 2 diabetes who consumed MCT oil daily experienced weight loss and increased insulin sensitivity when compared to those who consumed long-chain triglycerides.

However, anybody with diabetes considering taking MCT oil should consult their doctor before doing so.

Who should not take MCT oil?

While MCT oil is generally safe for consumption, it can present certain side effects. The most common are diarrhea, abdominal pain, and general stomach discomfort.

To play it safe, start with a very small amount each day, and increase as tolerable. If you want to try it, I suggest starting with one teaspoon a day, and working your way up to a tablespoon. Additionally, taking MCT oil on an empty stomach may bring some discomfort. Try taking it with food if you experience symptoms.

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should consult with their doctor before taking MCT oil. While it is generally safe, the research on consumption in this group is quite limited.

How to use MCT oil

To get the benefits of MCT oil you have to take it, of course. But here’s the thing: It’s essentially flavorless and it has an oily mouthfeel, just like any other dietary oil. So I wouldn’t suggest taking it straight up—that won’t be enjoyable. Instead, mix it into drinks or smoothies.

butter coffee diet. Bulletproof Coffee.Creamy bubble.

Bulletproof coffee

You’ve heard of bulletproof coffee, right? Also known as butter coffee or keto coffee, it’s essentially a blend of coffee and fat—typically ghee or MCT oil. It’s a popular breakfast option for those who follow the ketogenic diet or practice intermittent fasting.

I can say from personal experience, it’s quite delicious. You can try blending your coffee with a teaspoon of MCT oil, a teaspoon of ghee, a splash of unsweetened almond milk, and a dash of cinnamon. I kid you not: It tastes like a cinnamon latte. (Here’s what happens if you drink coffee every day.)

You can also add a scoop or two of unflavored collagen peptides for extra protein. I will never encourage you to skip breakfast. But if you’re having a rushed morning and don’t have time to make a meal, this is a great option.

Smoothies

You can also add MCT oil to smoothies. Just take your normal smoothie recipe, and blend in anywhere from a teaspoon to a tablespoon of MCT oil. Many people are even baking with MCT oil these days. You can substitute some or all of the oil in a baked-good recipe for MCT oil, and it likely won’t alter the taste.

Bottom line

Is MCT oil necessary? No. Do we need it to achieve our health goals? Absolutely not. Are there MCT oil benefits? Yes. Does it present any dangerous risks? For most people, not really. Is there any harm in trying it? Most likely, no.

I say go for it if you want to try MCT oil. Just be careful with the amount, and monitor how you feel when you take it. And if you feel absolutely no desire to jump on the MCT train, that’s totally fine, too.

Since your body gets dehydrated overnight, it’s not uncommon to wake up thirsty. But whether or not you should sip from the glass you left on the nightstand (was it last night—or the night before?) is up for debate.

What can get in the open glass?

You probably know that drinking water left in an open glass is not super sanitary. Dust, debris, and even the odd passing mosquito can drop into the glass overnight, leaving an unhealthy surface scum. Even a closed container like a bottle or pitcher introduces problems, mainly because our skin is coated with sweat, dust, skin cells, and even nasal discharge. Once we put the bottle in our mouth, these can all “backwash” into the remaining water, causing contamination.

Our saliva also carries bacteria, which does the same. “If it’s allowed to incubate for hours, that could potentially contaminate the water, and make you ill by reintroducing that bacteria,” says Marc Leavey, MD, primary care specialist at Mercy Medical Center in Massachusetts. “Once you have put your lips to the bottle, you should consume that bottle in one sitting and then discard it.”

glass of water close upCould you get sick from drinking a glass of water that has been sitting overnight?

But let’s get real: Since it’s your own bacteria, it’s unlikely that you’ll actually get sick. Though no one brags about it, many people sip from used drinking glasses, mugs, and bottles without any ill effects. But it’s certainly not advisable to share your bottle with someone else. Neither should someone with a reduced immune system, such as transplant patients, those undergoing chemotherapy, or people living with HIV/AIDS, be exposed to contaminated water.

And it makes no difference whether it’s bottled or tap water. It’s a common myth that bottled water is cleaner than tap. Both have to meet exacting hygiene standards, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. And up to 25 percent of bottled water is drawn from the main water supply anyway, per the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Where else should you be cautious of leaving water for long periods of time?

So what about leaving water in places like your car? Water left in the sun will heat up, making it the perfect breeding ground for bacteria, especially if you’ve already drunk from it. Placing the bottle under your seat may reduce the heat a little, but bacteria will still grow. (Here’s why you shouldn’t refill your plastic water bottle.)

Some kinds of plastic bottles contain BPA or similar chemicals, that may leach into the water, especially after exposure to sunlight. There is research suggesting that BPA is linked to a wide range of health problems affecting the brain and behavior. Using a BPA-free bottle would eliminate this issue, but not the growth of bacteria, especially if you’re using a metal bottle, which heats up quickly, encouraging the germs to multiply.

Of course, staying hydrated is good for our health, so it’s important to recognize the signs of dehydration. Dr. Leavey offers this advice to stay healthy: “Avoid putting your mouth to the bottle. Just pour it into a cup or pour it directly into your mouth.” To also keep yourself safe, don’t drink water that is past its expiration date. Next, check out the facts that will make you stop using plastic.

Is manifestation real?

It depends on who you ask. The practice of manifestation involves bringing something into your life through intentional action and belief. Some people consider it a strategy to help you get what you want. Others think of it as just another word for wishful thinking.

So the “realness” of manifestation depends on how you define it and how you work to implement it.

“Since manifestation is basically the notion that our intentions, thoughts, and emotions lead us to materialize certain things in our lives, it’s certainly possible to manifest,” says licensed mental health counselor Denise Fournier, PhD, an adjunct psychology professor at Nova Southeastern University in Florida. On the other hand, she adds, manifestation is sometimes thought of as a form of magic wielded by people who think positively. “Seen in this reductive way, nobody should take the concept very seriously.”

With the right understanding and strategy, however, it’s possible to manifest, says Paul Hokemeyer, PhD, a clinical and consulting psychotherapist in New York and author of Fragile Power: Why Having Everything Is Never Enough.

“This is because manifestation enables us to articulate our goals and come up with a strategy to attain them,” he says. But “to be successful, the goals to be manifested must be clear, authentic, and directed to the betterment of self and humanity.” (Here are some goal-setting tips.)

Here’s what therapists want you to know about how to manifest.

Smiling young woman in office looking sideways

The benefits of manifestation

Manifestation highlights the importance of thought patterns, which is foundational in any conversation about mental health, says Fournier. Thoughts matter. And they may shape your feelings, actions, and experiences. (Here’s how reframing your thoughts could change your life.)

Another benefit of believing in manifestation: It may motivate you to reach your goals. The combination of intention, attention, and excitement about the future—key parts of manifestation—can positively impact mental health, Fournier says.

In fact, parts of manifestation already exist in therapy. Most therapists help people examine their thoughts and understand the connection between those thoughts and their emotions and experiences, she adds. Successful therapy has clear goals—just like manifestation.

People who benefit the most from manifestation practices

People with discipline, self-motivation, and healthy self-esteem are the best candidates to apply manifestation in their lives, according to Hokemeyer.

You’re a good candidate for manifestation so long as you approach manifestation in a grounded way, says Fournier. Once you’ve set, focused, and aligned your thoughts, emotions, and beliefs according to what you desire, you need to be ready to take action, make choices, and even make sacrifices for your desires to fully manifest, she says. People who understand that will see the most success with manifestation.

People who benefit from manifestation also realize that there are limitations to the concept, and that there are real societal factors that can pose barriers to success.

“We need to be very careful about how we think and talk about manifestation,” she says. Otherwise, “we run the risk of assuming that people who live in conditions less fortunate than our own are manifesting their circumstances because they aren’t thinking positively.”

Even though our focus, feelings, thoughts, and beliefs can create our experience, not every life experience is subject to this formula, adds Fournier. People who understand all of the above will see the most success with manifestation.

People who may not benefit from manifestation practices

Although some people may see positive changes with manifestation, that doesn’t mean it’s a good fit for everyone, especially those with mental health issues like anxiety or depression, Hokemeyer says.

Having these issues may mean you’re more likely to have negative thoughts. If people with these conditions believe in manifestation as a form of wishful thinking, they may incorrectly believe that simply thinking negative thoughts will bring them to life. That’s why it’s essential not to teach manifestation simplistically, Fournier says. “We need to ground the conversation and think about it in balanced terms. Otherwise, the logic of it is pretty toxic.”

Other people who should avoid manifestation, according to Fournier, include those with psychopathy, sociopathy, or antisocial behavior who may want to use the practice to exploit or harm other people.

Even if you don’t suffer from a mental health condition, misunderstanding manifestation can lead to problems. The only way to benefit from manifestation is to understand its limits and how it works. So if you think that manifestation is only about hoping, optimism, or magical thinking, it’s not going to be a useful practice. (What is toxic positivity?)

Remember that good thoughts alone do not necessarily bring about good things or events in our lives, says Caroline Hexdall, PhD, a clinical psychologist at the Center For Mindful Development in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. “There will always be circumstances in our lives that are out of our control—with or without the practice of manifestation.”

How to manifest, according to therapists

Articulate a goal

Take time to center yourself, so you are truly listening to yourself to consider what it is you want, Hexdall says. Be specific and simple. Write down what that goal would look like once you accomplish it, Hokemeyer advises. Get clear about your intentions and desires.

Build awareness

Become aware of your thoughts, and shift them to be consistent with having or experiencing what you intend and desire, Fournier says. “Tap into the emotional state consistent with receiving what you intend and desire,” she says.

Ask for what you want

Then ask for what you want through meditation, prayer, or visualization. To get your visions out of your mind and out in the open, try using a vision board, poster with pictures, and sayings of how you want to experience life, suggests Hexdall. “This step is similar to making a goal known to friends and family,” she says. “It typically increases the commitment we have to reach our goals.”

Come up with an action-focused plan

Step back and figure out what needs to be in place before your goal is manifested, Hokemeyer says. “Come up with a one-, three-, and five-year plan.” Then break it down and ask yourself what the very first step toward reaching this goal is.

“It may be to start a specific savings account, update your resume, pursue an area of interest you have wanted to learn more about, or learn a skill you need to build,” Hexdall says.

Activate the plan

Take actions that are consistent with receiving what you intend and desire. The best way to manifest positive results in your life is through small and consistent actions.

“If you want to lose 10 pounds, for example, focus on the incremental pounds to lose rather than the final goal,” Hokemeyer says. “If you want to manifest a healthy planet, monitor your single-use plastic consumption, and pick up the litter along your path.” (Manifestation practices could be a good addition to your self-care plan.)

Check-in

Remind yourself along the way that you are worthy of reaching this goal or having this desire met in your life. And accept that it may not manifest itself in the exact way you desire, Hexdall notes. (Here are the benefits of being kind to yourself.)

Look for signs of small shifts in your life that are moving you more toward the goal. These could be subtle, but need appreciation and notice, according to Hexdall. “Some signs may be less resistance toward the actions you are taking or more willingness to try new steps,” she says.

Remember to stay patient and stay the course. Carving a new path takes awareness, resistance to habit, as well as effort and dedication to rebuilding the new path, Hexdall says.

Businessman sitting on stairs with notebook

Therapist-approved tips on how to manifest

Start with awareness

“The most important part of manifestation that I would want people to take away more than anything else, is that what you focus on expands,” Fournier says. “Instead of thinking about manifestation as a specific practice, think about it as a practice of being intentional, noticing where your attention is going, noticing the nature and quality of your thoughts, and recognizing the power you have over your own internal experience.”

Ask yourself questions

If you’re engaging in all of those things, you will experience meaningful and beneficial changes in your life, according to Fournier.

“Sometimes, manifestation overly focuses on the ‘what’—in other words, the material things you want to receive,” Fournier says. “As far as mental health is concerned, we need to focus more on the ‘how.’ ”

She suggests asking yourself: How do I imagine I will feel when I create or receive what I desire? Why is it important for me to experience those feelings? How can I set myself up, today, to generate that experience for myself? These questions can be a valuable way of breaking the attachment to specific material things, and expanding your ability to shift your experience right now, according to Fournier.

Manifestation loves company

Make sure you are not manifesting in isolation. Join up with someone else who shares your goal. Make sure the goal you want to manifest is healing, either of yourself or others. “Remember that good things come to those who wait and work,” Hokemeyer says. The keyword here is “work.”

Hexdall agrees, adding that manifestation is a process that may yield the best results when practiced with someone else. It may not necessarily be with a therapist or guide of some kind, but perhaps with a trusted friend.

“Through partnered encouragement and accountability, goals, in general, are reached more effectively,” Hexdall says. “This is the action part of manifestation.” (Here’s how to find a therapist.)

Bottom line

The key to healthy manifestation is understanding what manifestation is, consistency in your approach to it, and a willingness to do what it takes to experience what you desire, according to Fournier. “Closing your eyes and wishing for it won’t be enough,” she says.

If you act—asking for what you want, changing your thoughts, and working toward what you want—you’re on the right path to manifestation. Remember to actively appreciate yourself in your work toward reaching your goals, no matter the outcome.

Health products to feel better

It’s no secret that 2020 was a rough year with way too many negatives to list here. I found myself willing to try anything and everything that could make me feel better—mentally and physically.

Some of the experiments ended up being a waste of time and money.

Other products actually did improve my overall health, reduce my stress, or help me sleep better or feel less pain on a daily basis. (Here are the health and fitness products our editors love.) I called it my “15 Days of Feeling Better.”

One of the first on my list to try was a product designed to help reduce foot pain: YogaToes. (Also, splurge on these self-care health products for quality “me time.”)

What are YogaToes?

YogaToes sounds like a yoga posture for your feet, and they sort of are—they’re toe separators  that spread your toes to relax and realign them and hopefully prevent or relieve foot pain. But before we get into that, let me back up. For over three years, I walked two miles round trip every single day to work. The walking commute was glorious for my mental health and heart, but not so great for my feet.

I’m mostly to blame for regularly doing the walk in pointy-toe heeled boots and Converse high tops instead of properly fitting arch-supportive walking shoes. (Here are the best shoes for walking, according to podiatrists.)

Last year, I noticed that my fourth toe had started to slightly cross under my third toe—even when I wasn’t wearing pointy-toe shoes. The nail was actually cutting into my toe. Uh-oh, and ouch!

(Here are podiatrists’ solutions to common foot problems.)

Aside from the occasional blister, I’d never dealt with foot pain before. Frantic, I searched for foot pain relief products. I came across YogaToes, a toe separator and stretcher that promised “instant therapeutic relief for your feet.” The company says they should help bunions (pain and swelling in the big toe’s first joint), chronic foot pain, hammertoes (toes bent permanently downward), plantar fasciitis (the most common cause of heel pain), and overlapping toes.

The YogaToes website and over 6,000 Amazon reviews promised amazing results for stretching and straightening toes. If you’ve ever had a pedicure, YogaToes look like a way more intense version of the toe separators the nail technician uses to keep your toes apart while they’re polished.

Of the three YogaToes products, I decided to try the YogaToes Gems. One, they were the most affordable option at $29.95. Two, according to user reviews, this is the easiest YogaToes product to put on and take off. The YogaToes Gems are gel-based and a sort of starter toe stretcher.

yogatoes product photo from amazon

What do podiatrists say about the benefits of YogaToes?

YogaToes has an obvious online fan following, but what do podiatrists think?

“YogaToes can work to some degree,” says Rebecca Pruthi, DPM, a board-certified podiatric surgeon in New York City. “Full-on bunions and hammertoes are a structural problem—YogaToes can’t realign bones. But even if you don’t have foot pain, it’s a good idea to use YogaToes to get a good stretch.”

That made sense, but what about my issue of overlapping toes? Dr. Pruthi agrees YogaToes can provide relief for some foot issues. “By stretching your feet, you’re relaxing the muscles and creating elasticity of the tissues,” she says. “Your foot is more pliable, more flexible, and feels more comfortable during the day in your shoes.”

Bingo. That’s exactly what I wanted from YogaToes—for my feet to feel stretched and relaxed, kind of like my hamstrings feel after downward dog yoga poses.

Still, Dr. Pruthi advises that anytime a person has foot pain they should get it checked out by a professional. She also suggests regular foot stretching for good foot care practice in general, especially if you have a specific foot type. “Flat feet or high arches will especially benefit from YogaToes,” she says. (Got flat feet? Here are the best summer shoes for flat feet.)

How do you use YogaToes?

Using YogaToes is pretty simple. Simply insert the device between each bare toe and wear it for a period of 15 minutes to an hour each day. It’s made of medical grade silicone gel and is more firm than squishy.

Once your toes are separated, pull on each diamond-shaped separator to make sure your toes are evenly separated and secure. The first time I put on YogaToes Gems my foot arch cramped slightly for a few seconds, but then my foot and toes relaxed into alignment. After 15 minutes, I took the Toes off and my feet felt fantastic. Almost as if I’d just had a strong foot massage. (These are the best flip-flops with arch support.)

By the end of the week, I could comfortably wear YogaToes Gems for a solid 45 minutes. I generally wear them while watching TV or sitting at my desk. I notice that if I walk around in them, the added body weight creates even more stretch—which feels good. They’re waterproof, so sometimes I wear them in the bathtub (and rinse them off if they get dirty). Don’t wear YogaToes or YogaToe Gems with shoes—not that your toes would fit in them anyway.

Dr. Pruthi recommends a slow build up to avoid injury. “To start off, wear YogaToes for five or 10 minutes at a time,” she says. “As you feel more comfortable, work up to wearing the Toes up to 30 minutes.”

A note on YogaToes sizing and products

YogaToes come in three varieties: YogaToes Gems, YogaToes for Men, and YogaToes for Women. The YogaToes Gems are the easiest to put on. The diamond-shaped flexible silicone gel bends to align your toes and the open design allows for a bit of movement and fluidity. The design also accommodates pretty much any size foot, from a women’s size 6 to 11 and men’s size 7 to 10.

YogaToes are slightly different. With this one, your toes are fixed in a closed top design. It’s made from similar silicone gel material as the Gems, but it’s a bit more rigid, with hole openings for your toes to fit into (even if it’s a big stretch).

For YogaToes sizing, YogaToes for Men is for people with shoe sizes men’s 11 and up. YogaToes for Women is similarly constructed, but for people with smaller feet (women’s shoe size 7.5 to 11). It also comes in an extra-small size. Getting the size right with this product is important for the right stretch.

(Avoid these mistakes that can lead to foot shoe pain.)

Do YogaToes really work?

I’ve worn my YogaToes Gems almost every day for close to three months. My overlapped toes are completely straightened out, and I’ve noticed a serious difference in how strong and flexible my feet are. I went ice skating and didn’t have the usual foot cramping I tend to get while wearing skates.

To be fair, I’m also no longer wearing inappropriate shoes on my walk to work. Because of Covid-19, my work commute is currently just to the desk next to my bed. But I do walk my dog for a mile each day, wearing tennis shoes or winter boots.

Overall, I can feel a real difference in my foot health, strength, and flexibility. I’ll continue to wear YogaToes Gems throughout 2021—no matter how far I have to walk.

Next, check out the best slip-on sneakers for women.

Jami Carder01

By 2030, an estimated 12.1 million people in the United States will be diagnosed with atrial fibrillation  (AFib), the most common type of treated heart arrhythmia, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But AFib is only one type of arrhythmia. And this change in the rate or rhythm of the heartbeat—which can cause the heart to beat too fast, too slowly, or with an irregular rhythm—often occurs randomly and can therefore be difficult to diagnose. Just ask Jami Carder. It took years for her to prove she had an arrhythmia and get the treatment she needed. This is her story.

Early occurrences

My arrhythmia started when I was in my 20s. I knew right away that’s what it was. It felt like a fluttering in my chest, or like a big thump, thump, thump. Normally you don’t feel your heart beating unless you’re exercising. But I would be at rest and then all of a sudden it would start fluttering. Or I would be sitting and suddenly feel as if I had just run up and down the stairs. But it was totally random and unpredictable. And it never seemed to last too long.

Through my work as a nurse, I did know some maneuvers that were supposed to stop an arrhythmia. I would hold my breath and bear down (like you would during a bowel movement) or I would cough forcefully. A lot of times, that would do the trick and it would stop. I was busy working and raising two kids, so I would feel concerned when it would happen. But then it would stop and I’d feel totally fine. So I brushed it off and didn’t do anything more about it for years.

Missed connections

It was probably in my early 30s when I noticed that the arrhythmia was happening more often, so I reported it to my primary care physician. I went in and they ran an EKG. But the EKG was normal so they just sent me home. Then the arrhythmia began happening more often and lasting longer.

At one point I got poison ivy and had to go on prednisone, which made the arrhythmia happen at least once a day—more frequently than ever before. So I decided to go to the emergency room. They put me on a 24-hour monitor. But by the time I got home and started the test my heartbeat had returned to normal. And, of course, it didn’t happen during the following 24 hours.

Looking at my normal test results, the physicians didn’t say that they didn’t believe me but that was the vibe I felt. I went home feeling rather deflated and embarrassed.

Getting proof

After that, my arrhythmia began happening at work. At the time, I worked on the telemetry floor of the hospital, which is where we monitor the vital signs of patients with critical conditions.

One day I started to feel the fluttering, so I grabbed a heart monitor that wasn’t being used and hooked myself up. The machine said my heart rate was at 208 and the alarm went off to alert the doctors and nurses. One of the doctors became really panicked and demanded to know which patient it was. When I told him it was me, he said that I needed to go to the emergency room right away because I was the sickest person on the floor!

I didn’t participate in his panic, explaining that it happened often and that my heart rate would return to normal—which it did. But luckily, I was able to print out the data from the machine. Finally, I had proof that my arrhythmia was real! (Here’s what happens when your heart stops beating.)

Tests and treatment

That same day, I took my printout to a cardiologist, who sent me to an electrophysiologist for EP studies. Those are the ones that require you to lie on a table so they can put catheters through the vessels in your groin area and snake them up to your heart. Once in, they can induce the arrhythmia and map out the electrical pathways in your heart. They found the arrhythmia and performed an ablation, a procedure that prevents the heart from using the incorrect pathway causing the irregular heartbeat.

The second arrhythmia

After the ablation, they performed another test to make sure everything was fixed, at which time they found a second arrhythmia. It turned out that when I felt the fluttering in my chest that was from one arrhythmia, in which my heart was using a shorter loop on the electrical pathway than it was supposed to (known as AVNRT). But the second one, which had been causing the thumping sensation, was a different pathway that was going in reverse (that one was known as AVRT).

The heart is not supposed to have these wrong turns and shorter loops available. But no one is perfect. When an arrhythmia happens, the heart gets stuck on the wrong loop and keeps going around and around.

In my case, the brakes would eventually kick in and it would go back to the normal pathway. Nonetheless, they ablated the second arrhythmia, as well, and I went on my way.

Living and advocating

I had the ablations around 2012 and didn’t experience the arrhythmias for quite a while. They have started to return occasionally. But they’re not nearly as frequent as before, so I feel like it’s very manageable.

In the past, my arrhythmias would kick in if I was feeling really stressed or was having an argument. In the time since, I have taken steps to reduce my stress. I’ve made lifestyle changes like practicing meditation. Not every illness can be healed by your mind. But I think a lot of them can be helped by reducing your stress load and taking care of yourself. Today, my arrhythmia is extremely rare as a result.

My experience also changed how I treat my own patients. If they complain about something and the tests are negative, I try to advocate for them and push for more tests because of what I went through.

These days, if someone complains of their heart racing or skipping a beat we will put them on a monitor for two weeks. The longest I was ever on one was 24 hours. I think that’s why so many people are never diagnosed with an arrhythmia, but I’m trying to make sure that none of my patients ever fall into that category. (Next: Learn 6 types of heart disease and their warning signs.)

—As told to Alyssa Sybertz

 

What is millet?

A seed that is classified as a whole grain, millet is often found in birdseed. But it’s definitely not just for the birds. This naturally occurring gluten-free cereal is full of minerals—such as potassium and magnesium—and packs a punch with plenty of protein per serving. With a mild corn flavor that cooks similarly to rice or quinoa, millet pairs well in salads, as a side dish, as a porridge for breakfast, or even in breads and cakes. To add deeper flavor to your meals, you can also toast millet before cooking to bring out its more nutty or earthy notes. Keep reading to learn more about what is millet, the nutrition facts and benefits, and how to eat this healthy grain.

Millet nutrition facts

This small whole grain offers a powerful nutritional punch.

“Millet is a starchy, gluten-free grain that is packed with vitamins and minerals like calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium,” says Samantha Murdoch, RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. Those nutrients “all have a crucial role in bone health, and nerve and muscle function.”

Here’s what you’ll find in a one-cup (174 grams) serving of cooked millet.

Calories: 207

Protein: 6.1 g (12 percent of the Daily Value)

Fiber: 2.3 g (9 percent DV)

Fat: 1.7 g

Carbohydrates: 41.2 g (14 percent DV)

Calcium: 5.2 mg (1 percent DV)

Iron: 1.1 mg (6 percent DV)

Niacin: 2.31 mg (12 percent DV)

Magnesium: 76.6 mg (19 percent DV)

Phosphorus: 174 mg (17 percent DV)

Potassium: 108 mg (3 percent DV)

A gluten-free whole grain packed with protein

If millet isn’t a regular part of your diet, you may want to rethink this. This cereal grain that looks like a seed has plenty of protein—6 grams per serving—plus, lots of fiber, iron, and magnesium. It’s also a great gluten-free alternative for people who have celiac disease or anyone who wants to reduce their gluten intake.

The best part? Millet is easy to incorporate into your meals because it’s so versatile. You can eat it as a breakfast porridge, drink it as a fermented beverage, use it as a substitute for rice, or toss it on salads. You can even use millet flour for baking.

Origins of millet

Millet is a small grain cereal that is a type of grass and is part of the Poaceae family. A native plant to many regions in Asia and Africa, it is a staple food for many cultures. It is often fermented or made into a beverage. Over a third of the world’s population rely on this whole grain.

Millet is favored not only for its nutritional benefits, but also because it can grow in hot, arid, and challenging climates.

Varieties

There are several varieties of millet that are grown for both human consumption and for livestock. Pearl millet is predominantly grown in India and parts of Africa. It is one of the most cultivated millets, making it easy to find on grocery store shelves. Pearl millet ranges in color, from white and yellow to gray and brown.

Millet is classified into two different types: The commonly grown major millet, which is more popular, and the less common minor millet. Major millet varieties include finger millet, foxtail millet, pearl millet, and proso millet. According to a study in Advances in Food and Nutrition Research, finger millet has the highest calcium and potassium content compared to other types of millet.

Millet varieties differ in color, size, and where they are grown. And all have varying degrees of nutrients.

Cooked Millet

Health benefits of millet

Amino acids

Millet is one of the few grains that have a high protein content per serving, making it ideal for vegetarian, vegan, or plant-based diets. “Millet is unique as it provides more essential amino acids compared to most cereals,” says Allison Gregg, RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist in Jacksonville, Florida. “Amino acids act as the building blocks of protein.”

High in antioxidants

Antioxidants are molecules that fight against free radicals. Free radicals can cause harm to the body if levels are too high. “Free radical damage contributes to the etiology of chronic health problems, such as cardiovascular and inflammatory diseases,” Gregg says.

Millet is high in ferulic acid and catechins, phenolic compounds that act as antioxidants. The grain’s “rich antioxidant content helps protect the body from oxidative stress resulting from free radicals,” says Kristin Gillespie, RD, a registered dietitian and certified nutrition support clinician based in Virginia Beach, Virginia. “This, in turn, helps reduce the risk of several chronic conditions, including heart disease and certain types of cancer.”

The color of the grain also makes a difference. “The darker the color of millet, such as finger and proso [varieties], the higher the antioxidant capabilities,” says Gregg.

Millet can help reduce blood sugar levels

Fiber is important for a healthy body for a variety of reasons, including helping your digestive tract with good bacteria and aiding bowel movements. Millet has both soluble and insoluble fiber. “Millet’s rich fiber and non-starchy polysaccharides content help control blood sugar levels,” says Gregg. “Its low glycemic index helps avoid blood sugar spikes.”

Conditions it might help control or reduce

The nutritional benefits of millet can help ease some health conditions.

“This grain, along with other whole grains, can help lower your cholesterol levels,” Murdoch explains. “Millet also may play a role in reducing triglyceride levels,” adds Gregg.

Not only is millet beneficial in lowering cholesterol, but “the rich antioxidant and fiber content of millet helps protect against chronic conditions, including heart disease and certain types of cancer,” says Gillespie.

Gluten-free option for those with celiac disease

Millet is a naturally gluten-free cereal, making it ideal for anyone who wants to reduce the amount of gluten they consume or for those with celiac disease. Although it’s a gluten-free whole grain, Gregg says “that you should still look at the label when purchasing millet to ensure it is gluten-free and has not been contaminated with gluten-containing ingredients.”

Risks or side effects

Although millet has an array of health benefits, it’s important to know that it has antinutrients. Those are compounds that block or minimize the body’s ability to absorb nutrients.

There are different types of antinutrients and “millet contains several, including tannins, phytates, polyphenols, trypsin inhibitors, and fiber,” says Gillespie. “Antinutrients are essentially plant-derived components that reduce the bioavailability—and, therefore, absorptive capacity—of certain nutrients,” says Gillespie.

There are several nutrients and minerals that can be influenced by antinutrients. “While these antinutrients play a role in calcium, iron, zinc, and magnesium absorption, there are various factors that may impact the amount of absorption,” says Murdoch.

There can be uncomfortable side effects, especially if you eat too much millet. “Eating a large quantity of millet can lead to stomach ache, bloating, and constipation,” says Gregg.

Some people may need to pay more attention to their consumption of millet. “There are a few populations that should monitor their intake and not overdo the millet,” says Murdoch. If you have, or are at risk for osteoporosis or iron deficiency anemia, for instance, “it may be beneficial to have high iron or calcium-rich foods before or after consuming millet so the full extent of the nutrient is absorbed properly.”

Another concerning compound is goitrogenic polyphenols, which can affect the thyroid and cause goiter. Goiter is the enlargement of the thyroid gland. “If you suffer from thyroid issues, you may need to limit your intake as millet contains small amounts of goitrogen, which can interfere with thyroid activity,” says Gregg.

How to eat millet

Millet has a mild corn flavor and can be used in a plethora of dishes. Cooking millet is similar to making rice: Follow a 2-cups-water-to-1-cup-grain ratio. It takes around 20 minutes, making it a quick and easy dish to prepare. If you want to bring out more of a nutty flavor, you can toast millet with a little oil in a pan before cooking.

“I personally love to place roasted vegetables and a protein on top of millet to get extra fiber into my meal,” says Murdoch.

You can purchase millet in a variety of forms, including whole grain, millet grits, puffed, and flour.

“People should consider adding millet to their diet because it is an additional healthy option, easy to make, and affordable,” says Gregg. Millet can be incorporated into baked goods, such as cookies, breads, and cakes, and used as a thickener for soups.

“It can be cooked and eaten as a breakfast cereal similarly to oatmeal, cooked and utilized as a side dish, tossed into your salad, or even added to smoothies or protein shakes,” Gillespie says.

Try these millet-stuffed red peppers or this seeded whole grain loaf with millet.

The benefits of building muscle

If getting stronger is one of your fitness goals, you’re on the right track to better overall health. There are a lot of good reasons to build muscle and get stronger.

Being strong makes it easier to do everyday things—like lifting a suitcase overhead, picking a toddler up off the ground, or even just pushing a heavy door open on a windy day. Having a baseline level of strength will help you go through daily life more independently and confidently.

As we age, we naturally lose muscle mass. Around age 30, most people start to lose muscle mass while also more easily gaining fat, primarily around the midsection. From 30 to 60, we lose approximately 3 to 8 percent of muscle per decade; after 60, the rate is even higher. The best way to prevent muscle loss, maintain mobility and balance, and reduce the risk of falls and other injuries? Doing activities that build muscle.

Muscle mass is also important for a healthy metabolism. Muscle is more “metabolically active,” meaning it uses up more calories to simply maintain itself, than fat. Each body is different. But, generally, having more muscle mass means your metabolism will rev a little faster. Plus, the decline in muscle mass as we age typically comes with a decline in metabolism. By focusing on strength training and maintaining muscle mass throughout adulthood, you may be able to better maintain your metabolism as you age.

Strong muscles are also good for healthy joints. When the muscles that surround your joints are strong, they help take some of the pressure and impact off the joints. This is a good thing for everyone. But it’s especially good if you have joint problems or a condition like arthritis.

Woman exercising with dumbbells in gym

How to build muscle and get stronger

Getting stronger requires more than just pumping iron at the gym—though that is one key part of the equation. Your fitness routine, diet, and other lifestyle habits also play a role. Here are some things you can do to reach your goals.

Master basic strength training moves

You don’t need to do anything fancy to get strong. In fact, a good strength training routine is made up of basic, foundational exercises that get you moving through these basic movement patterns: squat, lunge, hinge, push, pull, rotation, and anti-rotation. (There’s some debate among trainers about what patterns should make this exclusive list. But all of these regularly come up—both in life and in gym workouts—so doing them all will only help you to build strength.)

If you want to get stronger, you have to start strength training. If you’re a beginner, it’s a good idea to work with a trainer who can help you start with exercises that meet you at your current fitness level and advise you on how to progress. They can also take into account your medical history and limitations, and help motivate you to stick with a regular strength training routine.

Generally, the way to build muscle and increase strength is through a training concept called progressive overload. Progressive overload means that you gradually put your body under more stress to keep pushing it to get stronger. Stress can come in the form of heavier weights, more reps, or even frequency of exercise. It’s all about slowly challenging your body more and more each time it adapts enough to handle the current challenge.

Before picking up a weight, start with bodyweight strength exercises. If you want to avoid injury, it’s crucial to get comfortable with an exercise and nail proper form before ever adding weights. Then, once you’re confident in your movements and feel that the bodyweight moves aren’t tiring you out or making your muscles feel challenged anymore, you can start to add weight.

The most efficient way to build strength is through compound exercises. Compound exercises involve more than one major muscle group, so they hit a lot of areas at once. They also get your heart rate higher and burn more calories. Any time more muscles are working at the same time, your heart has to work harder, too.

These basic strength training moves are important to know and practice; just remember to check with your doctor before starting this or any workout program.

squat exercise

Squat

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Bend both knees and sit your butt back as you lower into a squat. Keep your core engaged and your spine straight. Be careful not to let your knees extend beyond your toes.
  • Straighten your knees to return to standing.

Targets the glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, and core.

reverse lunge exercise

Reverse lunge

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Take a big step back with your right foot and bend both knees to lower into a lunge. Keep your core engaged and spine straight. It’s OK if your torso leans forward a bit.
  • Push off your right foot and step forward to return back to starting position.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Forward lunge

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Take a step forward with your right foot and bend both knees to lower into a lunge. Keep your core engaged and spine straight.
  • Push off your right foot and return back to starting position.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Note: Reverse lunges are typically more beginner-friendly because it’s easier to control the momentum moving in this direction. Reverse lunges are also gentler on the knees.

Targets the glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, calf muscles, and core.

deadlift exercise

Deadlift

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart, hands at the front of your thighs. (As you become comfortable with the move, try holding a five- to ten-pound dumbbell in each hand.)
  • Hinge at your hips to bend your torso forward and push your butt back toward the wall behind you. Keep your spine flat and your knees slightly bent. Let your hands move down toward the floor as your torso moves.
  • Push through your heels to return back to starting position.

Targets the glutes, hamstrings, core, and back.

Push-up

  • Start in a high plank position with your hands about shoulder-width apart.
  • Bend your elbows to lower your chest toward the floor. Your body should lower in one long line. Don’t arch your back or round your shoulders.
  • Push through your hands to straighten your elbows and return to starting position.

Targets the pectoral muscles and triceps.

bent over row exercise

Bent-over row

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart, arms by your sides. (As you become comfortable with the move, try holding a five- to ten-pound dumbbell in each hand.)
  • Hinge forward at your hips so that your torso is parallel (or close to parallel) to the floor. Let your hands hang down toward the floor.
  • Keep your core tight as you pull your hands up toward your chest. Keep your elbows close to your body and squeeze your shoulder blades together for two seconds at the top of the movement. Your elbows should go past your back as you bring your hands toward your chest.
  • Slowly straighten your arms and lower your hands back down.

Targets biceps and back (the lats, rhomboids, deltoids, and trapezius).

wood chopper exercise

Woodchopper

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. (As you become comfortable with the move, try doing the move holding one five- to ten-pound dumbbell with both hands.)
  • Twist your torso to the right, raise up onto the ball of your left foot, and bring your hands up high past your right shoulder.
  • In a quick but controlled motion, bring your hands across the front of your body and down to your left side. Pivot on the ball of your right foot to turn your torso toward the left.

Targets the core, shoulders, back, and glutes.

plank exercise

Forearm plank

  • Start in a kneeling position. Bend your arms, and place your forearms on the floor in front of you, with your shoulders stacked directly over your elbows.
  • Extend your legs out behind you and tuck your toes under. Your body should be in one long line from shoulders to toes.
  • Squeeze your core and your glutes and think about lifting up at the hips slightly so that your lower back is not arched.

The forearm plank recruits more of the deep core muscles than the high plank (on your hands). It’s also better for people with wrist pain. If the forearm plank is too challenging, try a high plank instead. The only difference: Instead of resting on your forearms, you’ll put your hands directly on the floor, like you’re about to do a push-up.

Targets the core and glutes.

Keep it consistent

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends working all major muscle groups—legs, hips, back, chest, abdomen, shoulders, and arms—at least two days per week. You can break it up however you want.

For example, maybe you do a lower-body strength workout two days a week, and then an upper-body strength workout two different days. Or, you can do a full-body strength workout on two nonconsecutive days per week. (A minimum of 48 hours of rest between full-body workouts is recommended to prevent injury and allow muscles to recover.)

You don’t need to work out for an hour to get results. Even 20 to 30 minutes of strength training can make a huge difference.

Start by doing eight to 12 repetitions (reps) of each exercise. Do this two to three times (each time through is called a set). Rest in between for 30 seconds to two minutes.

Notice how you feel throughout the exercise. Can you breeze through eight to 12 reps, no problem? Or are the last few reps of each set difficult to finish? If the last few reps feel challenging, that’s how you know you’re lifting the right amount of weight.

Once the same number of reps with that weight feels easy, it’s time to add either more reps or more weight. You can also try adding another strength workout into the week.

Add in other exercises as needed

Your strength workouts don’t need to be limited to the staple exercises above. Those are just to get you started. Feel free to try other exercises—just make sure you’re balancing things out and not overdoing it on one movement pattern and neglecting others. You may also choose to add in exercises that target specific muscles you want to focus on.

The American Council on Exercise Exercise Database & Library is a great resource to learn about various exercises, the muscles they target, and how to do them properly.

man preparing scrambled eggs for breakfast.

Feed your muscles

“The only way muscle is going to grow is if you feed it,” says Amy Carson, RD, nutrition and medical services coordinator at Fitness Formula Clubs. “Your results are going to be a lot slower, if at all if you’re not fueling your body correctly.”

Before a workout, you want to focus on consuming carbohydrates, which are the body’s primary source of energy. Post workout, you need both carbs and protein, Carson says, to refuel and rebuild the muscles. “So often people know the protein part, but they forget about the carbs.”

Another mistake that a lot of people make is under-fueling, says Cara Harbstreet, RD, a registered dietitian with Street Smart Nutrition. “A lot of times, especially at the onset of a new fitness program, people also couple strength goals with weight loss goals,” she says. They eat less, in an attempt to lose weight, and end up not eating enough to support muscle growth.

The biggest potential sign of under-fueling is an overall lack of energy, Harbstreet says. “It’s difficult to pinpoint if it’s a lack of protein specifically or under-fueling across the board. But if you notice the workouts you’ve been doing are not getting progressively easier. Or you feel like you’re taking longer to recover and bounce back from hard sessions, then that points to something amiss in nutrition, sleep, and/or recovery.”

This doesn’t mean you have to count calories or be super regimented about your eating. Harbstreet suggests simply making sure you have a protein source, either plant- or animal-based, at every meal, and some form of grain or legume, or other sources of carbs.

Carson suggests eating 20 to 40 grams of protein after a workout. The specific amount you need will depend on so many factors, including your weight, fitness level, and how hard you worked out. Again, no need to overthink it: If you eat a meal after your workout with at least one good source of protein, you should be set.

It’s also best to space out protein intake throughout the day instead of cramming it into one meal. “The body can only use a certain amount of protein at a time,” says Carson.

Make sure you have some within two hours of a workout to make sure you’re giving your body the fuel it needs to avoid a dip in energy post-workout. You also want to try to have some with every meal and snack.

Give your body the rest it needs

Rest is just as important as your workouts. Your muscles need sufficient time in between workouts to recover and rebuild—which is how you get stronger.

If you did a strength training workout and are pretty sore the next day, rest. Give your body a day or two to recover before doing it again.

Sleep is also an important part of the muscle-building equation. When you sleep, your body produces human growth hormone, which is essential for rebuilding muscles. Sleep also increases blood flow to the muscles, which also aids tissue growth and repair. Most adults need seven to nine hours of sleep each night. But if you’re hitting the gym hard, you might need more.

Listen to your body. If you’re constantly tired, you may need to change up your diet or sleep schedule to make sure your body is getting the energy it needs to not only get you through the day, but to also do the hard internal work of building muscle and making you stronger.

Your diet and your brain

What you eat every day does a lot more than just fuel your body, it plays an important part in your cognitive health.

“There is a direct physical connection between the brain and your gut,” says Kien Vuu, MD, assistant professor of Health Sciences at UCLA and founder of VuuMD Performance and Longevity. “It’s called the vagus nerve and it links down from the brain to the gut and surrounding nervous system, sending messages back and forth between the two. When you eat poorly or eat foods that irritate the gut, it will send that signal to your brain, which can cause memory issues and brain fog.”

There’s been lots of research focusing on what to eat to feed your brain. In general, foods that are good for your heart—fruit, vegetables, healthy fats, and more—are also good for your brain. (And exercise is known to be particularly good for brain health, too.)

But a study published in a September 2020 issue of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Diseasesuggests there may be some lesser-known types of food that are associated with cognitive function.

(Plus, make sure to skip these foods that can zap your brain power.)

Brain food resembling a brain.

Cheese

For the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease study, researchers monitored a large sample of subjects over a 10-year period to collect both dietary and cognitive data. The study included 1,787 adults in the UK aged 46 to 77 who took a touchscreen questionnaire and a test of their ability to “think on the fly.”

The test measured fluid intelligence, or the ability to problem-solve without prior knowledge. The participants took the test two more times at two to three-year intervals.

“By doing an observational study we could model the 10-year trajectory of cognitive change as the outcome (rather than just one point in time values), as well as get a sense of the entire diet participants were eating during that time,” says Brandon Klinedinst, a PhD student in neuroscience at Iowa State University and one of the study’s lead researchers.

After examining the data, the researchers discovered daily consumption of cheese was associated with better performance on the cognitive test. This type of flexible thinkingthe ability to take information you already know and use it in other ways, such as doing a crossword puzzle—becomes progressively more difficult as we get older, particularly for those at high risk for Alzheimer’s. (Here are 15 things that can slow down Alzheimer’s.

“Cheese is often synonymous with indulgent eating because of its saturated fat content,” says Auriel Willette, PhD, assistant professor of food science and human nutrition at Iowa State University and a lead researcher of the study.

“But cheese has healthy nutrients like conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which is especially high in grass-fed cows or in cheeses with longer aging times or that are more oxygenated—like blue, Swiss, sharp cheddar, and brie,” he says. “Higher levels of CLA have been linked to anti-inflammation, weight loss, and better regulation of fats, in part through omega-3 fatty acids.”

These types of studies can’t prove cause and effect—some other factor might be associated with both cheese-eating and mental performance, like having a higher income. However, the researchers took into account other factors, like socioeconomic status, when looking at the results.

Lamb

“Our findings suggested that eating lamb weekly seemed to be related to better fluid thinking, which is in line with the Mediterranean diet and others that suggest eating meat in moderation,” says Willette. “It’s very lean while also being protein dense.”

Another reason this meat might be better than the rest may be in how it’s raised before it gets to your plate. “Lamb tends not to be an industrial meat,” says Dr. Vuu. “Pasture-bred meats [like lamb] don’t have antibiotics pumped into them and are also a lower inflammatory meat compared to other red meats.”

Alcohol, in moderation

In the same study, alcohol intake of any kind seemed beneficial, with red wine sometimes showing an added benefit. Participants in the study who drank alcohol had higher flexible thinking scores than those who abstained.

“Wine comes from fermented fruit, so it’s rich in antioxidants,” says Willette. Polyphenols, one variety of antioxidants, “are naturally produced in the pulp, seeds, and skin of the grape. Polyphenols like resveratrol, quercetin, and others have been related to factors that increase blood flow.”

Although it’s speculation at this point, he adds, “more blood flow might mean more blood sugar and nutrients that are absorbed and used by parts of the brain responsible for flexible thinking.”

The brain is very susceptible to antioxidant stress, says Dr. Vuu. Things like obesity or a diet high in fat or sugar can impact the mind, making antioxidants a great source of protection against these stressors.

Keep in mind that most experts say that the health benefits of alcohol (including this study) aren’t enough to recommend that non-drinkers start drinking. And they note that the benefits turn into risks if you exceed a moderate intake, which is considered to be two drinks a day for men and one for women.

For example, excess alcohol intake is linked to high blood pressure, breast cancer, liver disease, and is one of the everyday habits linked to dementia risk.

Oily fish

“Omega-3s are important nutrients for every cell membrane, but particularly ones in our brain,” says Dr. Vuu.

You probably already know salmon is a top source of omega-3s, but what about other types of fish? There’s an easy acronym to help with this called SMASH, says Dr. Vuu. It stands for sardines, mackerel, anchovies, salmon, and herringall oily fish sources with big brain benefits.

Research published in Neurology suggests that eating seafood with omega-3 fatty acids at least once a week may protect against memory loss. This association was even stronger in those who had the APOE4 gene variant, which is known to increase a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s.

(It’s not just fish. Learn some surprising food sources that have omega-3s to add to your diet.)

Dark chocolate

You have to be mindful of what kind of chocolate you’re buying (sorry, a Snickers bar won’t do much here), but pure dark chocolate can help improve cognitive health. “The cacao in dark chocolate has flavonols, which act as an antioxidant and can help protect the brain,” says Dr. Vuu.

And apparently every little bit helps. A review of studies published in Frontiers in Nutrition showed a link between flavonol consumption and better memory, higher test scores, and improved blood flow in the brain, which may indirectly improve memory and cognitive thinking.

Green tea

Green tea has a moderate amount of caffeine in it, which is a brain stimulant that can boost brain and memory function. (This means you can use your coffee habit as a means to strengthen your brain, as well.)

“Green tea has a few properties that coffee doesn’t have, the biggest one being theanine,” says Dr. Vuu. “This is an amino acid that can cross into the brain and make you feel more relaxed and less anxious, improving your mental function.”

Green tea also has similar polyphenols to red wine, meaning those who don’t drink alcohol can still get the brain benefits by steeping a cup of tea instead.

Find out eight more benefits of drinking green tea.

It’s no secret that marijuana not only makes you high, it can also bring on “the munchies.” But what about cannabidiol or CBD? The marijuana derivative doesn’t make you high and may have numerous health benefits. But does it make you reach for the potato chips and whatever else you can get your hands on to satisfy your suddenly surging appetite?

The answer may surprise you. “CBD suppresses the appetite,” says Martin A. Lee, co-founder and director of Project CBD, a California nonprofit that promotes CBD research, and author of Smoke Signals: A Social History of Marijuana–Medical, Recreational, and Scientific. “It has the opposite effect of what’s typically thought of with THC.”

THC is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, the compound in marijuana that’s responsible for the high and the munchies. (CBD doesn’t make you high).

Still, we’re a long way from being able to say commercially available CBD products can help you control your weight or shed those extra pounds.

What is CBD?

CBD is found in medical marijuana and is one of two main active ingredients in marijuana. The other is THC.

CBD can also be extracted from the hemp plant, a cousin of the marijuana plant which has much lower levels of THC. Farmers have been able to grow hemp since the 2018 Farm Bill was passed, but only as long as it has no more than 0.3 percent THC. (Here’s more on the difference between CBD vs. THC.)

CBD’s various health benefits (some scientifically validated, some not) have led to an explosion of CBD products. Among them: CBD oil, CBD tinctures, CBD capsules, and edible CBD. Oil can be ingested orally or vaped, but vaping has been linked to lung injuries, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Learn more about the risks and benefits of vaping CBD.

Hand dropping CBD oil into a Cup of Tea, surrounded by Cannabis Plants

CBD and weight loss: The science

One of the few studies done in humans reported that people who used marijuana regularly had a lower body mass index (BMI). The study stopped short of saying that cannabis actually caused a lower BMI or that CBD might have an effect.

Because scientists have not studied CBD extensively in humans, “most of what we have to go on is what CBD does to mice and rats,” says Lee. And the research shows that CBD does indeed suppress rodent appetites.

To understand how CBD may affect hunger and your calorie burn, it’s useful to know about the endocannabinoid system. This is a signaling network in your body that helps regulate metabolism and appetite.

There are two cannabinoid receptors: CB1 and CB2, which act as yin and yang.

“Generally speaking, CB1, if it’s active, promotes food intake, promotes appetite, and enhances senses of smell and taste,” explains Lee. CBD doesn’t actually bind to this receptor but acts as a sort of “dimmer switch” turning down its effect on appetite. People who are obese have more appetite-friendly CB1 receptors.

CB2, on the other hand, acts as a brake on appetite and has been proposed as a drug target. Regular marijuana also seems to act as a brake on CB1, which could help account for the fact that regular users have a lower BMI, despite the munchies. Again, none of this suggests that currently available CBD products can help you slim down.

A diabetes link?

Research from 2012 found that—in obese mice with more of these receptors—muting CB1 limited insulin resistance, which is a major factor in diabetes risk. A study published in 2016 in Diabetes Care found that CBD lowered blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes. At least one company is investigating whether this is an avenue for drug development.

CBD products and weight loss

There are no formal guidelines on using CBD products and losing weight. That means there are also no recommendations on dosages or which kind of product might be best.

In general, CBD seems to be safe, says Bonni Goldstein, MD, medical director and owner of Cannacenters, a medical practice in Los Angeles and author of Cannabis is Medicine: How Medical Cannabis and CBD are Healing Everything from Anxiety to Chronic Pain. But there can be side effects like nausea, fatigue, irritability, and diarrhea. CBD can also interact with the blood thinner warfarin (Coumadin) and other medications.

“If you’re a person who takes other medications, it’s not a good idea to haphazardly add CBD thinking it will be completely benign,” Dr. Goldstein warns.

Long-term use may also hurt your liver, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Is CBD legal?

This is not a simple question. While many states consider CBD legal, the federal government does not. California was the first to legalize medical marijuana. Now another 35 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands have followed suit, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

National laws are another matter. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration considers marijuana and its components Schedule 1 substances, which are “drugs of abuse.” There is a push to legalize marijuana at the national level. A bill to take marijuana off the Controlled Substances Act passed the House late in 2020 but has not yet reached the Senate.

The FDA has approved only one CBD-derived drug. That’s Epidiolex, to treat rare forms of pediatric epilepsy.

The last word

With more than 42 percent of the U.S. population obese, the country is desperate for effective modes of losing weight. Right now, experts recommend diet and exercise above all. But for some people, it’s hard to sustain lifestyle changes for long periods of time. Meanwhile, there are few drugs available to lower BMI.

The number of CBD products, including those that claim to lower weight, is exploding. So far, though, the evidence is far behind. “CBD is associated with decreasing appetite but I can’t say it correlates to weight loss,” says Lee.

Soothing dry cracked skin

Dry skin can be a chronic issue for some people, especially during winter when the harsh, cold, and humidity-depleted air strips skin of its moisture. The lengths we go to stay warm certainly don’t help, from running heaters and furnaces which create a dry internal environment, as well as taking longer, hotter showers that cause further damage to our skin, notes Jeremy A. Brauer, MD, a New York-based dermatologist. (Here’s how to fight dry winter skin.)

While you can cover up most areas of your body, your hands are usually exposed to the elements, because you need to use them for just about everything you do. And, though washing your hands regularly to prevent sickness is critical, doing so can also result in dry cracked hands. (Try these home remedies for dry hands and feet.)

How common is dry skin?

Virtually any person can be prone to dry skin, however, individuals with a history of childhood eczema and seasonal allergies are more prone to it, according to Rina Allawh, MD, a dermatologist at Montgomery Dermatology in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. (Here’s the best eczema cream for your type.)

Occupation is also a factor when it comes to dry skin. “Individuals where they frequently wash their hands during the workday are more prone to dry skin, specifically hand rashes and dry hands,” says Dr. Allawh. “For example, individuals who work in healthcare, food and cleaning industry, and childcare are at an increased risk for dry skin.”

How to prevent dry skin

The best way to prevent dry skin, according to Blair Murphy-Rose, MD, New York City-based dermatologist and clinical assistant professor at New York-Presbyterian Hospital–Weill Cornell Medical Center, is by providing a skin barrier (protective layer) to protect your vulnerable skin from “the elements,” which include handwashing, hand sanitizing gels and solutions, cleaning products, and dry, cold, windy air.

“Avoid excessive handwashing as much as possible while maintaining good hygiene and viral protection and apply a hand moisturizer every time you wash,” Dr. Murphy-Rose says. (Try these dry skin remedy foods.)

For her eczema-prone patients and those with sensitive or dry skin, Dr. Murphy-Rose often recommends moisturizing before and after handwashing to get the best protection for your skin. “Once the skin breaks or cracks, microorganisms can enter and actually cause skin infection, so always wear gloves while touching cleaning products at home and when outdoors,” she says.

What to look for in a product meant to treat dry, cracked hands

The good news is that there are countless products on the market that are formulated to soften and hydrate dry, cracked skin. Here are some of the key ingredients that dermatologists recommend looking for when purchasing lotions, creams, and gels.

Ceramides

According to Dr. Murphy-Rose, all great moisturizers contain essential ceramides, as they help prevent transepidermal water loss. That’s the amount of moisture lost from the skin into the atmosphere. “Ceramides are waxy fats that are found naturally in high concentrations in the outer layers of the skin,” she says. “They help form a shield-like barrier to keep moisture in and to protect skin from the environment.”

Hyaluronic acid

This well-known humectant has the impressive ability to hold up to 1,000 times its weight in water, notes Brendan Camp, MD, a Manhattan-based dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology. “It is a naturally occurring molecule that exists in the dermal matrix, the gel between cells and other skin structures, and contributes to moisture by attracting water to the skin,” he says.

Essential fatty acids

Dr. Murphy-Rose also recommends looking for moisturizers and skin-soothing ingredients rich in essential fatty acids, like shea butter and cocoa butter as well as colloidal oatmeal, which has the ability to calm and soothe irritated skin.

Best products for treating dry cracked hands

Here are some of the best products that dermatologists recommend to their patients suffering from dry, cracked skin. (Also, here are some natural moisturizers you can find at home.)

Aquaphor Healing Ointment

Aquaphor Healing Ointment

$10

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One of the most tried-and-true treatments for dry hands that dermatologists still recommend is old-fashioned petroleum jelly.  That’s the main ingredient in this Aquaphor ointment which helps keep hands feeling smooth and moisturized.

“It has been a staple in numerous households for a majority of my patients for various ailments including dry skin, rashes, nosebleeds, and cosmetic purposes,” says Dr. Allawh. “In my patients suffering from dry skin, especially in the winter months, I recommend greasing their body after showers with petroleum jelly—leaving your skin feeling silky smooth after showers. Ingredients are safe and effective and gentle for patients with sensitive, dry skin,” she says. (Also, follow these dermatologist skin care tips.)


Aveeno Skin Relief Intense Moisture Hand Cream

Aveeno Skin Relief Intense Moisture Hand Cream

$19

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“Formulated with protective ceramides, emollients, and occlusive ingredients, this intensely hydrating and rich moisturizer will help soothe and protect your hands,” says Dr. Murphy-Rose. This Aveeno formula also contains oat flour and oat oil extracts to help soothe and calm flared and irritated skin. This can be especially beneficial for those dealing with psoriasis and eczema.


Eucerin Advanced Repair Cream

Eucerin Advanced Repair Cream

$12

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The skin care brand Eucerin was formulated to specifically remedy dry, cracked skin. “It is rich in ceramides to help strengthen the skin’s barrier and replenish moisture, as well as glycerin, shea butter, and lactic acid,” says Dr. Murphy-Rose.

Although it says it contains cetearyl alcohol, it’s worth noting that this “fatty alcohol” behaves more like an emollient than an alcohol so it’s neither drying or irritating, notes Dr. Murphy-Rose. (Psst, here are some DIY skin care treatments from dermatologists.)


Neutrogena Norwegian Formula Hand Cream

Neutrogena Norwegian Formula Hand Cream

$10

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“The search for a non-greasy, yet hydrating hand cream can be a daunting task for many of my patients, especially those with hand dermatitis,” says Dr. Allawh. She highly recommends this hand cream from Neutrogena, which contains a high concentration of glycerin.

Dr. Allawh says glycerin is an important player in restoring moisture and the protective skin barrier. It’s also ideal for frequent hand washers since it’s fragrance-free, lightweight, non-greasy, and translucent.


Kiehls Ultimate Strength Hand Salve

Kiehl’s Ultimate Strength Hand Salve

$24

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This hydrating salve from Kiehl’s is great to keep with you year-round, thanks to its high-quality list of nourishing ingredients, including avocado, sesame seed, and olive and eucalyptus oils. It soothes and nourishes deeply dehydrated hands. You can purchase it in a larger, 5.1-ounce bottle for use in the home as well as a smaller, 2.5-ounce bottle for on-the-go use. (These are the signs your skin care products are bad for you.)


Cerave Therapeutic Hand Cream Skin Protectant

CeraVe Therapeutic Hand Cream Skin Protectant

$13

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“Developed with dermatologists, this drug-store hand cream [CeraVe] includes multiple ingredients like dimethicone, an emollient that protects the skin, hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, and ceramides to moisturizer and restore the skin barrier,” says Dr. Camp. It’s fragrance-free and non-irritating, so it’s a great option for those with sensitive skin or eczema.


La Roche Posay Lipikar Body Lotion

La Roche-Posay Lipikar Body Lotion

$18

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If you’re looking for an overall body lotion that you can also use on your hands to fight dryness, this one from La Roche-Posay is a great choice. It is lightweight, fragrance-free, non-comedogenic, and non-greasy, so Dr. Allawh recommends it to all her patients, even those with eczema and psoriasis.

“It is excellent for dry, cracked skin to further supplement prescription topical steroid use,” she says. “Ingredients are safe and above all else provide optimum hydration with minimal irritation, both of which are favorites among my skin of color patients with acne-prone skin.”

Next, here are the best hand sanitizers for dry skin.