Posts

by Susan Kapatoes, MHA, CPC

What are Free Radicals?

A free radical can be defined as any molecule that contains an unpaired electron in its atomic orbital. The presence of an unpaired electron results in common characteristics that are shared by most radicals such as instability and extreme reactiveness. For this discussion, we are focusing upon the harmful effects that may result from free radicals being present within the human body.

Once the formation of free radicals begins within the body, a chain reaction can occur, creating more and more free radicals. Imagine a molecule floating within our body that only has one electron in its atomic orbital (free radical). This molecule is looking to steal an electron from another molecule so that it becomes paired and more stabilized.

When this free radical pulls another electron from a molecule, it destabilizes the molecule and turns it into a free radical. That molecule then takes an electron from another molecule, turning it into a free radical, and so-on and so-on. This domino effect can have detrimental effects to the whole cell and eventually cause damage.

The primary targets in the human body that are damaged by free radicals are proteins, DNA, and lipids. Free radicals can lodge themselves within the membranes of our cells and disrupt the body’s ability to maintain a state of homeostasis.

According to the Harvard School of Public Health, free radical chain reactions may change the structure of a lipid, making it more likely to become trapped in an artery. The damaged molecules may mutate and grow tumors. Or, the free radicals may alter DNA code.

Where do free radicals come from?

We are exposed to free radicals from a variety of sources that originate from both internal and external origins. The good news is that there are ways to neutralize the negative impact that free radicals can have upon our physical body so that we can remain healthy in the long term.

Internally, free radicals originate from natural metabolic processes within the human body. These include the biochemical processes of respiration, energy production, the inflammatory response pathway, and others.

Externally, free radicals can be found in air pollutants, cigarette smoke, ultraviolet radiation, x-rays, radon, and industrial chemicals. The foods that we eat can also promote the formation of free radicals. By eating a balanced and healthy diet, our body has the capability to fight off free radicals and keep them in check. Here is where we introduce antioxidants for they act as our body’s natural defense system against free radicals.

What are antioxidants?

An antioxidant is a molecule stable enough to donate an electron to a rampaging free radical and neutralize it, thereby reducing its capacity to damage. Antioxidants can also scavenge free radicals and destroy them. They can safely interact with free radicals and terminate the chain reaction before cells are damaged.

Our body produces some antioxidants on its own, but we need additional antioxidants from our diet to effectively counterbalance the detrimental effects of free radicals. The optimal source of antioxidants comes through our diet. Specifically, a plant-based diet has demonstrated stronger antioxidant activity than a diet that is primarily animal-based.

Studies have shown that there are large amounts of antioxidants in fruits, vegetables, and nuts. There are smaller amounts of antioxidants in meats, poultry, and fish. Junk foods, cakes, pastries, and other highly processed fast foods tend to be much lower in antioxidants which comes as no surprise.

There are many substances that can act like antioxidants, but the principle antioxidants are vitamin E (α-tocopherol), vitamin C (ascorbic acid), and beta-carotene. The body cannot manufacture these micronutrients, so they must be supplied in the diet. They are found in a variety of foods, but they are highest in plant sources.

Many antioxidant compounds, naturally occurring in plant sources, have been identified as free radical scavengers. A study published in Advances in Nutrition showed that the dietary phytochemicals of fruits, vegetables, and other plant foods displayed potent antioxidant activity.

Research has also shown that it is more efficient to obtain your antioxidants by eating fruits and vegetables in their whole form versus taking antioxidant supplements. This is because whole fruits and vegetables contain a myriad of other bio-active compounds that have synergistic activities when they are consumed in their natural unaltered state.

What is Functional Food? 

The term functional food was born from the perspective that food is not only necessary for keeping the human body alive. It also viewed as a source of comfort and support for your physical, mental, and emotional well-being.

This is demonstrated during those times when we are experiencing hunger. When are stomach is growling, our mood might be growling as well. We are probably not feeling very peaceful when our mind is thinking about our next meal and wondering when we will eat again.

When we satisfy our hunger with a meal that is made from high quality ingredients or a home cooked meal that is lovingly prepared from a family member, we not only feel satisfaction on a physical level, but we also feel nurtured to the core of our being, both emotionally and physically.

Our food is considered functional if it adds benefit to the human body’s physiological processes and helps to maintain our psychological state of wellness. Whole foods represent the simplest example of functional food which consist of beneficial ingredients such as dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids.

The Challenge of Eating Functional Food

If you are fortunate enough to live in a developed country where there is an abundance of food choices, then you are blessed. It is wonderful to have so many opportunities to fine-tune our taste buds and choose from the myriad of foods at the grocery store. But along with this blessing comes the challenge of making healthy eating decisions. It takes self-discipline to resist the foods that are not beneficial for your health.

As you know, the junk food that tastes good to your palette is not very good for your body. The sodas, cakes, pastries, white bread, packaged and processed foods offer little nutritional value, and they are often high in sugar and non-essential ingredients such as artificial colors and preservatives.

Having the proper knowledge and a support system in place can help you develop the will power that is necessary to make those healthy food choices. When you are aware that the cheesecake you are eating could be harming your cells and clogging your arteries, you might be more willing to say NO when you otherwise would have said yes.

If you are a person who has difficulty following through with your good intentions when it comes to making healthy food choices, then I can help you strengthen your willpower and provide you with a support structure so that you can feel confident about your dietary decisions.

Being consistent and persistent is essential for your long term success in any personal development endeavor – whether it be a physical challenge such as changing your dietary lifestyle or upgrading your mental attitude so that your thought patterns support your health and well-being.

Conclusion

The cell damage done by free radicals is the cause of many chronic diseases that we see in the world today. We are exposed to free radicals on a daily basis — from the natural metabolic processes within the human body to external sources such as environmental pollution, cigarette smoke, and the foods that we consume from day-to-day.

Antioxidants are the body’s natural defense system against free radicals. Our body produces some antioxidants on its own, but it needs an additional supply from our diet in order to optimize our health. The richest source of antioxidants can be found in a plant-based diet that is rich in whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, seeds, and nuts.

If you are interested in how to best protect yourself against the harmful effects of free radicals by eating a healthy diet, then I can help you create a meal plan that will support your preferences and boost your health at the same time. We will keep things simple and design a dietary lifestyle that is easy for you to manage.


Interested in learning more?

 

 

Susan Kapatoes, MHA, CPC  is a Holistic Health Practitioner, Nutritionist, Reiki Master, Meditation Instructor, and published author. She is the owner of Inspire Your Journey and a Wellness Partner with Amare Global, the Mental Wellness Company. She is available for appointments at the SheBreathes Balance & Wellness Studio in Walpole, MA. 

References

Dagfinn Aune, NaNa Keum, Edward Giovannucci, Lars T Fadnes, Paolo Boffetta, Darren C Greenwood, Serena Tonstad, Lars J Vatten, Elio Riboli, Teresa Norat; Dietary intake and blood concentrations of antioxidants and the risk of cardiovascular disease, total cancer, and all-cause mortality: a systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 108, Issue 5, 1 November 2018, Pages 1069–1091, https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/nqy097

Eldridge, MD, L. and Hughes, MD, G. (2018). What Exactly Are Free Radicals and Why Are They Important?. [online] Verywell Health. https://www.verywellhealth.com/information-about-free-radicals-2249103

Lobo, V., Patil, A., Phatak, A., & Chandra, N. (2010). Free radicals, antioxidants and functional foods: Impact on human health. Pharmacognosy reviews, 4(8), 118-26.

Naha N, Das M, Banerjee A (2018) Toxic Exposure and Life Style Factors on Ageing Brain Neurodegenerative Disease, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s: Role of Natural Antioxidants to Ameliorate the Condition. J Alcohol Drug Depend 6: 309. DOI: 10.4172/2329-6488.1000309

The Nutrition Source. (2018). Antioxidants: Beyond the Hype. [online] Harvard School of Public Health. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/antioxidants/#potential%20hazards%20of%20antioxidants

Rui Hai Liu; Health-Promoting Components of Fruits and Vegetables in the Diet, Advances in Nutrition, Volume 4, Issue 3, 1 May 2013, Pages 384S–392S, https://doi.org/10.3945/an.112.003517

 

 

 

 

by Susan Kapatoes, MHA, CPC

It has been proven that meditation helps you lose weight, but how?

By regulating our cortisol levels, nourishing a balanced state of consciousness, and promoting a healthy state of mind, meditation is a powerful tool to help you shed those unwanted pounds.

Meditation helps to Regulate Cortisol

Cortisol is an important hormone released by the adrenal glands. It helps to regulate the body’s metabolism, especially when we are under stressful situations. Levels of cortisol rise during tension-filled times which is a natural part of our body’s “fight-or-flight” response to stress. It prepares the body by flooding it with glucose (blood sugar) and inhibiting insulin secretion, thereby preventing the glucose from being stored and making it available for immediate use by the body. After the stressful situation subsides, hormone levels return to normal.

However, when we are experiencing chronic stress, this can lead to chronic excess levels of cortisol which can cause weight gain. High levels of cortisol are known to promote storage of fat within visceral fat cells, those located under the muscle and deep in the abdomen. Chronically high levels of cortisol result in consistently high levels of blood sugar (along with insulin suppression) which leads to cells that are starved of glucose and crying out for energy. This scenario sends hunger signals to the brain which can cause overeating and any unused glucose is eventually stored as fat.

In a 2013 study conducted by the University of California, Davis (Saron et al), researchers found that mindfulness meditation had cut cortisol levels by more than half. Another study conducted in Thailand (Turakitwanakan et al) concurred that mindfulness meditation lowers the cortisol levels in the blood suggesting that it can lower stress and may decrease the risk of diseases that arise from stress such as psychiatric disorder, peptic ulcer and migraine.

Meditation helps to decrease Binge Eating

For many people going through emotional challenges such as depression, loneliness, or boredom, they often turn to food to help appease the emotional emptiness they are feeling inside. Comfort foods such as sweets, cakes, and pastries might make us feel ‘good’ for a couple of hours, but when the sugar crash hits, the desire to eat more sugary foods increases, and the vicious craving cycle begins. Meanwhile, the food has done nothing to truly mitigate the emotional distress that triggered the binge eating in the first place.

This is where meditation comes into play as it helps to soothe the stress and anxiety that is associated with our emotional roller coaster rides. Regular meditation practice increases our Emotional Intelligence (EQ) which means that we remain calmer during stressful situations. We can better cope with the demands of our daily life and not get frazzled so easily. We can remain more even keeled during the taxing times, nurturing a balanced state of consciousness throughout the day. When we feel centered and more grounded with our emotions, we make better decisions and are less likely to react with the same binge eating impulse that we did before.

Meditation helps to Combat Food Addiction

The common traits of people with addictive behavior patterns (food, alcohol, drugs, tobacco) include: (1) lack of GABA, (2) beta waves dominate, and (3) dopamine levels rise and crash. The common traits of people who meditate on a regular basis, especially when combined with brainwave entrainment, include: (1) optimal levels of GABA, (2) alpha & theta waves dominate, and (3) dopamine levels increase but remain steady.

When there are optimal levels of GABA and our dopamine levels remain steady, the cravings for sugary food and the tendency to overeat will naturally diminish. Luckily, the science of brainwave entrainment can be used as tool to help steady our levels of GABA and dopamine.

To learn more about brainwave entrainment, please read my blog Using Brainwave Entrainment To Conquer Addiction.

  • Common Traits of People with Addictive Behavior Patterns
  • Lack of GABA
  • Beta Waves dominate
  • Dopamine levels rise and crash
  • Common Traits of People who Meditate on a Consistent Basis
  • Optimal levels of GABA
  • Alpha & Theta Waves dominate
  • Dopamine levels increase but remain steady

GABA: The calm brain chemical; reduces nerve cell excitability throughout the central nervous system.

Beta Waves: Normal waking consciousness.

Dopamine: The euphoria-producing brain chemical.

Interested in learning more?

 

 

Susan Kapatoes, MHA, CPC  is a Holistic Health Practitioner, Nutritionist, Reiki Master, Meditation Instructor, and published author. She is the owner of Inspire Your Journey and a Wellness Partner with Amare Global, the Mental Wellness Company. She is available for appointments at the SheBreathes Balance & Wellness Studio in Walpole, MA. 

References:

Aronson, Dina. “Cortisol – Its Role in Stress, Inflammation, and Indications for Diet Therapy.” Today’s Dietitian, Vol. 11 No. 11 P. 38, Nov. 2009, www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/111609p38.shtml

EOC Institute – Why Mindfulness Meditation Is Such A Powerful Weight Loss Tool (2018). Retrieved from https://eocinstitute.org/meditation/4-ways-meditation-is-the-weight-loss-key-healthy-mind-healthy-body/

Kjaer TW, e. (2002). Increased dopamine tone during meditation-induced change of consciousness. PubMed.  NCBI. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11958969

Turakitwanakan W, e. (2013). Effects of mindfulness meditation on serum cortisol of medical students. J Med Assoc Thai. 2013 Jan;96 Suppl 1: S90-5. PubMed. NCBI. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2372446

Saron, e. (2013). Mindfulness from meditation associated with lower stress hormone. Retrieved from https://www.ucdavis.edu/news/mindfulness-meditation-associated-lower-stress-hormone/

 

 

by Susan Kapatoes, MHA, CPC

The purpose of this article is to illuminate the symbiotic relationship between nutrition and meditation and why it is important to get these two into proper alignment. The foods that you are eating on a daily basis will influence your ability to think clearly and meditate effectively, so you’ll want to be mindful of your diet as you begin to experience the benefits of meditation which include an increase in calmness, improved mental clarity, and the ability to soothe the stress and anxiety of everyday living.

Before we get into the dietary aspects, I would like to provide a bit of information about myself as I have always been interested in the world of nutrition starting from a very young age. When I was about 7 years old, I used to love to eat cold cereal. As I ate my bowl of Cheerios, I placed several other boxes of cereal in front of me so I could read their nutrition labels as I enjoyed my breakfast.

At this young age, I did not know the meaning of carbohydrates, protein, or fat but I was fascinated with the percentages and intently compared each box against the other. Thus began my interest in the wellness arena. Since those early days of reading cereal labels, I have since earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Nutrition and continue to be mindful of the foods that I consume on a daily basis.

What Is Meditation?

Meditation is a self-directed practice for relaxing the body and calming the mind. Most meditative techniques have come to the West from Eastern practices in India, China, and Japan. It has a long history of use for promoting physical relaxation, improving emotional composure, decreasing stress, and enhancing overall health and well-being.

There are many types of meditation, but most have four elements in common: (1) a quiet location, (2) a comfortable posture, (3) a focus of attention, and (4) a mindful attitude of letting distractions come and go without judging them.

Your Dietary Habits Will Influence Your Mind 

As you begin to meditate, it will be important that you become aware of the foods that you are consuming on a daily basis because the quality of your dietary intake will have an influence upon your meditative experience. Feeding your body a nourishing diet is a key for success because this will give your system a steady stream of energy along with all the vitamins and minerals it needs to obtain optimal health.

If you consistently suffer from blood sugar highs and lows on a day to day basis, you will have greater difficulty getting into the meditative state and holding it there for an extended period of time. Ideally, you want to be able to ‘get into the zone’ as easily as possible and maintain that state of mind as you progress through your session.

If you experience a blood sugar crash mid-way through, your body will pull you away from that meditative state and take you out of the zone. With this being said, here are some health-giving tips that will help to keep your mind in that reflective focus. After reading this blog, you will have a better idea of how to eat right in order to experience the best meditation results.

The Importance of Carbohydrates

Eating the right type of carbohydrates can not only boost your health, they can help you to concentrate and meditate more efficiently. According to the American Diabetes Association, carbohydrates are the main source of energy for our body. We also intake energy in the form of protein and fats. For this discussion, we will be spotlighting our attention on carbohydrates.

Carbohydrates are the sugars, starches, and fibers found in fruits, grains, vegetables and milk products. They are called carbohydrates because, at the chemical level, they contain carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. Carbohydrates are important for many functions within our body, including brain performance and blood sugar optimization.

Through research that has been performed over the years, it has been discovered that not all carbohydrates are created equally. Choosing the right kind of carbs to consume in your diet will have a beneficial impact upon your meditative experience.

Carbohydrates:  The Good vs. Bad

In general, there are two types of carbohydrates that we consume in our diet: non-processed (good) and processed (bad). The processed or simple carbs are found in candy, soda and syrups. These foods are made with refined sugars and typically do not have vitamins, minerals or fiber. This is why they are frequently called “empty calories.”

The non-processed or complex carbs are often found in starchy foods such as beans, peas, potatoes, corn, and whole-grain breads and cereal. These carbs get absorbed more slowly into our systems, avoiding spikes in blood sugar levels, thereby providing a more sustained energy level.

Processed carbs, on the other hand, cause bursts of energy much more quickly than complex carbs because of the quicker rate at which they are digested and absorbed. The processed carbs can lead to spikes in blood sugar levels causing “sugar highs” which in turn can also cause “sugar lows.”

Common Sources of  Non-Processed Carbs:

  • Whole Grains
  • Fruits & Vegetables
  • Nuts & Seeds
  • Beans & Legumes
  • Meat, Poultry, Seafood

Common Sources of Processed Carbs:

  • White Bread & Pasta
  • Soda & Syrups
  • Donuts & Pastry
  • Candy & Sweets
  • White Rice

Maintaining Homeostasis

If you eat two donuts and drink a can of soda at the same time, you will experience a temporary boost of energy. This is due to the insulin rapidly taking the sugar from your bloodstream and bringing it into the cells so the sugar can be used as energy. But, as that sugar is removed from the bloodstream, you’ll then suffer from a significant blood glucose crash, which will probably leave you ravenous, irritable, and very unable to concentrate.

The above explanation is a simplified version of how refined sugar is assimilated in your physical body, but it gives you an idea of how simple carbohydrates, such as white sugar, can influence your mood due to the way they are metabolized in the body. This is why it is important that you are not over consuming refined or processed carbohydrates, especially right before you begin a meditation.

It is best to focus on getting primarily unprocessed carbs in your diet, including whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and beans. These types of carbs will aid the body in maintaining an environment of homeostasis which is defined as the stable state of an organism. Natural, wholesome foods provide a healthy source of fuel for the body, and they also contain a bounty of essential nutrients.

Light Meals Beforehand

There is a reason why meditation teachers and seasoned practitioners recommend waiting 1 to 2 hours after eating a meal to begin a meditation. This general rule has to do with the digestive process. If you try to meditate immediately after eating, you might feel sluggish and struggle to stay awake because the body streams more blood to the digestive system, and the brain releases serotonin that causes drowsiness.

Eating a large, heavy meal before meditating might be the most significant blunder that you could make as you settle into a comfortable position to begin your meditation. You want to make sure that you are feeling content, but not over satiated as this could cause lethargy.  If you are going to eat within 60 minutes of doing your meditation, keep it to small portions that contain around 300 calories which is more like a snack. Fresh fruit, a handful of almonds, or drinking a nutritious smoothie are all healthy choices.

Closing Thoughts

Meditation is part of a collective health and wellness program which includes taking care of your physical body while nourishing a strong mind. By eating right, you can maintain better concentration throughout your meditations.

Consider meditation as exercise for the mind, the same way that a jog or a session of yoga can help to strengthen your body. If you think about what you eat before you meditate the same way that you think about what you eat before you do physical exercise, you will be in good shape.

For overall well-being, it is best to choose wholesome and healthy foods that comprise the majority of your diet. Incorporating meditation into your daily life, even if it is just for five minutes a day, will cultivate centeredness and mental equanimity. By aligning these two elements, proper nutrition and meditation, you will experience a more consistent state of health and balance.

Interested in learning more?

For additional information on proven exercises that you can use to boost your mental strength, please check out the actionable guide by Cleverism, 8 Proven Exercises that Boost Your Mental Strength.

 

Susan Kapatoes, MHA, CPC  is a Holistic Health Practitioner, Nutritionist, Reiki Master, Meditation Instructor, and published author. She is the owner of Inspire Your Journey and a Wellness Partner with Amare Global, the Mental Wellness Company. She is available for appointments at the SheBreathes Balance & Wellness Studio in Walpole, MA.