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5 Ways to Minimize Public Speaking Fears

Ever feel anxious when speaking in front of an audience? Some jitters in such situations are normal, but if your life is severely restricted by fears of being criticized, embarrassed, or humiliated in public situations, you may have social phobia or social anxiety. This excessive fear may be caused by chemical imbalances in the brain, or by factors such as low self-esteem, past rejection by peers, poor social skills, or a history of public embarrassment. Panic attacks are a common reaction among those with social anxiety, and can cause heart palpitations, trembling, blushing, nausea, lightheadedness, stomach discomfort, shortness of breath, and heavy sweating.

The good news is that there are natural ways to address social anxiety, and these simple tips are also effective against other forms of anxiety. Try the following:

  1. Avoid coffee and other forms of caffeine; stimulants can heighten anxiety.
  2. Practice breathing exercises, an effective relaxation technique.
  3. Consider passionflower, a natural, mild sedative that's safer than pharmaceuticals. The recommended dosage is one dropperful of a tincture in a little warm water, or two capsules of the extract, up to four times a day as needed.
  4. Consider supplementing with B vitamins and magnesium, which are sometimes helpful in dealing with the symptoms of anxiety.
  5. Consider seeking professional therapy. Exposure therapy can slowly introduce you to the specific situations you fear, and hypnotherapy can give you a sense of what it feels like to be relaxed and open in those settings.

Cooking Whole Grains

One of the best nutritional decisions you can make is to replace most of your daily carbohydrates with true (not pulverized) whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, millet, kasha and bulgur. The body metabolizes large, intact grains more slowly, preventing blood sugar “spikes” that are followed by “lows.” The result is a steady, productive energy that propels you through the day.

If you want to make the switch to whole grains, consider getting a thermal regulated rice cooker. It is a simple and efficient way to cook whole grains, as well as small legumes such as lentils. Fill the rice cooker, turn it on and forget it - grains are cooked perfectly, and the heat automatically lowers to keep it warm for hours.

If you need additional motivation to include more whole grains in your diet, they may also help you reduce belly fat.


Picky Eating to Slow Alzheimer's

The idea here is to cut back on food containing the amino acid methionine. This simple dietary measure seems to reverse cognitive impairment in mice, enabling them to function normally again. The researchers at Temple University School of Medicine who saw this effect suggest that avoiding foods high in methionine might improve memory in patients in the early to moderate stages of Alzheimer's disease. Foods high in methionine include red meats, some types of fish, beans, eggs, garlic, lentils, onions, yogurt and seeds. In their study, the investigators put one group of mice on a high methionine diet and another group on a regular, healthy mouse diet. After three months, they switched half the mice on the high methionine diet to a healthy diet. After two months on the regular diet, they found a complete reversal of cognitive impairment they had seen earlier in this group of mice. The investigators noted that to slow progression of Alzheimer’s in humans, both physical and mental exercises are needed in addition to dietary changes.

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Lack of Sleep May Account for Weight Gain in Women

While there’s no direct proof that sleep deprivation is the only factor to blame, researchers in Finland have found that women who have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep tend to gain more weight over time than women who have no sleeping problems. The investigators followed more than 7,300 40- to 60-year-old men and women for seven years. During that time, they saw that about one third of the women who had trouble sleeping at the outset of the study generally gained at least 11 pounds by the study's end compared to a similar weight gain among only one fifth of the women who reported sleeping well. Some other contributors could be responsible for the weight gain but these findings raise the possibility that addressing sleeping problems might help some women with weight control. Earlier evidence suggested that sleep deprivation affects levels of appetite regulating hormones, which in turn might account for weight gain. The Finnish findings were reported online June 8, 2010 in the International Journal of Obesity. The researchers saw no connection between sleep deprivation and weight gain in men.

Here are ten natural sleep tips to ensure that you stay at a healthy weight, and even more importantly, happy and full of life.


Is MSG Unhealthy?

Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a flavor enhancer often used in Asian dishes as well as in a wide range of commercially prepared foods. Chemically, it is a salt of glutamic acid, one of the amino-acid building blocks of protein. Glutamic acid and its salts, including MSG, stimulate a particular taste receptor, the one responsible for the so-called "fifth taste" or umami (a Japanese word meaning "meaty" or "savory").

MSG is often suspected of causing health concerns such as flushing, general weakness, and heart palpitations, but studies have produced no evidence linking consumption of moderate amounts of MSG with any serious reactions, and have found no links to short- or long-term health problems, including Alzheimer's disease, Huntington's disease or neurodegenerative diseases. However, people who eat large amounts of MSG (three grams or more per meal) on an empty stomach and people with severe and poorly controlled asthma can develop such symptoms as numbness, burning sensation, tingling, facial pressure or tightness, chest pain, headache, nausea, rapid heartbeat, drowsiness and weakness. (Note that three grams is a lot of MSG - the amount in a typical serving of food to which MSG is added is less than 0.5 grams.)

If you find that you react to foods containing MSG or glutamate, check labels when shopping, and when dining in Asian restaurants, ask that your food be prepared without MSG.

If you want to boost the umami component of foods naturally, try using seaweeds such as kombu and mushrooms such as shiitake in soups and stocks and sauces, or add other foods naturally containing free glutamates: fresh tomatoes, tomato paste and Parmesan cheese.

Try these natural umami recipes using one of my favorite foods - mushrooms - and skip the MSG!


Eggplant Walnut Pâté

Anyone enjoy the recipe for Eggplant Dip I posted two weeks ago? Here's another, slightly fancier way to enjoy this beloved bulbous vegetable. Traditional pâtés are often made from high-fat meats and liver. They can be delicious and quite elegant, but less than nutritious. This vegetarian version is sophisticated, filled with flavor, and healthful. Enjoy it on a special occasion or as an everyday spread with whole-grain crackers.

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6 Ways to Treat Sun Poisoning

It's August, and temperatures are still sky-high. Watch out for sun poisoning.

Sun poisoning is a layman's term for the symptoms that can accompany severe sunburn, such as nausea, vomiting, fever, chills and headache. It should not be confused with sunstroke (also referred to as heatstroke), a medical emergency that occurs when the body overheats to the point that it can no longer regulate its internal temperature.

You can help prevent sun poisoning by remaining indoors during peak daylight hours (10 a.m. to 2 p.m. during the summer months), wearing protective clothing and using sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 15. If you do get sun poisoning, stay out of the sun and try the following to help alleviate the symptoms:

  1. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water
  2. Take a cool bath and pat dry - don’t rub your skin, which can cause further irritation
  3. Apply a cold washcloth or ice to areas that are swollen or itching
  4. Take an aspirin or other NSAID to help reduce swelling and inflammation
  5. Apply aloe to any affected areas, but avoid oils or anything that contains potential irritants such as fragrances and exfoliants
  6. Be aware that you should seek immediate medical attention if your temperature exceeds 104 degrees Fahrenheit, or if you experience vomiting or extreme pain

More about the difference between sun poisoning and sun stroke.


True Food Kitchen Philosophy

Perhaps you've heard of - or even been to - my True Food Kitchen restaurant in Phoenix. In this video, executive chef Michael Stebner shares the philosophy and ideals behind our food.

I'm also proud to announce that today marks the opening of our second True Food Kitchen location - this one at Fashion Island in Newport Beach, California!

If you don't live in Phoenix or Southern California, here's the recipe for True Food's famous Chocolate Flourless Cake.