Cardamom, small spice with huge benefits

Did you know that Cardamom, that secret spice in many Indian and Mediterranean dishes is nature’s Ricola and Pepto bismal all in one?

small pods with huge potential

small pods with huge potential

Ever taste the earthy vanilla undertones in Chai or that gloopy Indian milk dessert and wonder what that special flavor is? Most likely it’s cardamom. In the traditional Indian medicine, Ayurveda,

cardamom seeds are also used as lozenges to suck on after meals to help digestion. I’ve tried it, its a little minty, sorty like licorice but pleasant.

Indian medicine says that the acid from teas and coffee and spicy foods irritate the intestines, leading to an increase of gassy gassiness that make the other foods we eat (namely milk, cheese, wheat) more difficult to digest. Cardamom in your diet can help the body to better digest all the other possibly irritating foods we eat because they are natural carminatives which reduce gas. I recently learned that the word “carminative” comes from the latin word that means to “card” as in carding wool…so it helps to remove gas from the intestinal wall as you would remove knots from wool. See, didn’t you always want to know that? ūüėČ

Cardamom is also used in the Middle east as an additional flavor to ground coffee, making coffee brewed with these little pods less acidic on the body and actually helps regulate how we absorb the caffeine. You’ll still get the buzz without the possible gas or irritated stomach. And besides, it can make any coffee, especially bargain brand coffee taste like something that rhymes with Barbucks.

If you want to try it out, buy the bottled powder stuff and use it with cinnamon…over toast, oatmeal, in a cookie recipe, even in tea with milk and cheat your way to better digestion.

Best Benefits of Cardamom:

  • Detox the body of caffeine
  • Cleanses kidneys and bladder
  • Stimulates digestion and reduces gas
  • Improves circulation to lungs, helping asthma and bronchitis
  • Cures bad breath, even the official “halitosis” bad breath
Kimberly, counselor since 1998 and founder of, holds a Masters in Health & Healing as a Certified Nutritional Counselor, a Masters in Education and is an internationally trained advanced √ā¬†Yoga and Yoga Therapy instructor that has worked and studied in New York, Spain and in Southern India. Her practice is based in New York City. She believes in showing her clients how to combine time-tested ancient theories with modern knowledge to get the best benefits from both worlds.

Lose weight and still eat the foods you love

Did you know that nutrition is just as much about HOW and WHEN you eat as it is about what you eat?

Did you know that you can get more nutrients from eating your favorite neighborhood pizza in the right way, than you could from eating a steamed organic bowl of vegetables in the wrong way?

Ayurveda, the ancient system of health from India has given us tools to maximize the nutrients we get from our foods and to improve our digestion. So here’s 3 quick and crucial tips from ancient India!:

  1. When you eat, no matter what it is, chew it slowly, aiming for at least 30 chews per mouthful. Our saliva is the first step of digestion. Chewing well breaks down the food before your stomach processes it, exposing more of the nutrients to your body and also minimizing problems with reflux, acid and indigestion. Plus, savoring your food makes it last longer and may reduce the total amount of food you need to feel satisfied.
  2. When eating a heavy food like pizza, burgers, ice cream etc. try to eat these foods earlier on in the day, say for lunch or for an early dinner before 6:00pm. This will allow your body to digest and process the food before bed, going to sleep with a full stomach is at the root of a lot of weight management problems.
  3. When you eat a heavy meal, start with a raw salad filled with tons of crisp greens and your favorite light veggies like tomatos, cucumber, carrots etc topped with a light vinegar based dressing. The raw veggies act like a broom through the stomach, helping the body to digest the main meal and helping you maintain your weight.

Ancient India and China have a variety of techniques that can change your life depending on your lifestyle, body type, appetite, region that you live amongst many other considerations. This is something that an experienced practitioner can help you to decide. The above 3 suggestions will work for anyone anywhere and will provide simple and dramatic changes. Try them on for yourself and see how simple big change can be!

5 Keys to Fat Loss Success

By Wendy Chant,
Author of Crack the Fat Loss Code

When it comes to losing fat, success doesn’t happen overnight.
Sometimes it doesn’t even happen over a few weeks, a few months or a
few years. Don’t rush it, don’t crash and don’t expect too much of
yourself too soon. Life is for the living; for the making of mistakes
and learning from them. Below I have outlined my5 Keys to Fat Loss
Success so that you can not only lose fat but keep it off — forever:

1. Set realistic short-term goals: The best way to think of these is
as “mini-goals.” When I was actively training in road racing I didn’t
start out running a marathon. I first started with smaller mileage
races and each time I would try to better my time — and better my
distance — until I was running a competitive marathon. There is no
way to reach such a huge long-term goal without a few mini-goals along
the way. What are your mini-goals?

2. Short-term goals should lead you to long-term goals: Allow for
occasional setbacks along the way, but regard them as learning
experiences. That’s the beauty of short-term, or mini, goals. You can
make a few missteps along the way and still reach your ultimate goal,
as long as you simply learn from your misstep and get back on track.

3. Set a training schedule and stick to it: It helps to have a
contract with yourself; how formal a “contract” is up to you. Some
clients put the schedule in writing; others tack it to their fridge or
keep a sticky-note in their wallets. Some keep it in their heads, but
all do one thing in common: stick to it.

4. Listen to Your Body: If I’ve taught you one thing in this book it’s
to listen to your body. We talked about not eating too much, stuffing,
and not eating too little, starving. Your body sends you signals when
it’s too full or too empty; listening to them is one way to stay in
balance. Your exercise should be the same. Fatigue is a sign to take a
break, and it’s OK to do so. The old adage of “no pain, no gain” has
gone by the wayside.

5. Constantly challenge yourself: Life is meant to be a challenge. We
strive to meet challenges and move beyond them. If we don’t learn, we
can’t grow. Success is like a muscle; it doesn’t grow if it isn’t
stretched. How far can you stretch today?

√ā¬©2008 Wendy Chant

Author Bio
Wendy Chant, MPT, SPN, is a certified personal trainer and a
specialist in performance nutrition. She holds a bachelor of science
degree in medical sciences and nutrition science. A champion body
builder, she opened her own training center, ForeverFit√ā¬ģ, in 1998.
Her book, Crack the Fat Loss Code, is available now from McGraw-Hill.

How To Look Great And Feel Better

This month the Metabolink staff shares practical and useful information on how to look great and feel better, just by understanding your body and treating it right.

With the summer rapidly approaching, so many people start thinking about their weight and general health. Many of our readers have written us with concerns about their metabolism and rapid weight gains.

“Tina” asks about the kinds of results she should be seeing with her diet program. She writes, “About 2 years ago I started gaining weight at a very rapid pace – about 20 pounds in less than one year. While I was eating out more often than before the weight gain, I maintained my exercise routine (2-3 aerobic workouts a week) and did not feel my eating habits had changed significantly. For the past 6 weeks I have been very focused on losing weight through reducing my calories and increasing my activity. I have been eating 1200 calories a day (less than 18 grams of fat) and participate in an aerobic activity at least 3 days a week√ɬĮ√ā¬Ņ√ā¬Ĺ. I also do weight training for 20 to 30 minutes twice a week and try to take at least a 30 minute brisk walk on the days I don’t workout. Despite all of these things, I have only dropped between 1-2 pounds in 6 weeks. My goal√ɬĮ√ā¬Ņ√ā¬Ĺwas to lose 1.5 pounds a week and I am becoming very discouraged by my lack of results. I have no known health problems and the only medication I take is Ortho Novum 7/7/7.

“Wow! With all that exercise, how do you find time for anything else? All kidding aside, “Tina’s” weight gain could be attributed to many things, and eating out is certainly one of them. Meals eaten outside the home often consist of bigger portions and contain “hidden” extras (bread and butter, high-calorie desserts, fatty sauces, etc.). Her diet and exercise routine should be enough to promote a higher weight loss than what she is experiencing. A weight loss of 1.5 pounds per week with this regimen is correct. But, it is possible; assuming her caloric count is accurate, that there are other factors preventing her expected weight loss. It would be wise to consult with a physician in order to rule out any metabolic or medical condition.

With a clean bill of health, you might want to consider consulting with a registered dietitian who can evaluate your current lifestyle and recommend changes, as well as give an individualized plan to help you achieve your desired weight goal.

Although “Tina” did not specify how long she has been using the Ortho Novum; it is possible that it is related to her weight gain. Hormone therapy can affect weight and appetite, and also induces gastrointestinal problems and edema (fluid retention) in some people. This is definitely something you need to consult with your doctor on.

Weight gain/loss rates vary among individuals. Age, sex, genetics and metabolism factors play important roles in this process. If you are consistent with your exercise regimen, you may need a professional assessment of your physical condition and eating behavior habits. As mentioned before, its those “hidden” extras when eating out that can sabotage the best of diets. Avoid fried foods and cream or cheese-based sauces and ask for the bread basket and butter dish to be removed from the table. Start your meal with a salad with low-fat dressing, so you will be less hungry for the rest of the meal. Eat slowly and take small bites. Choose water, seltzer or diet sodas rather than regular soda, juices or alcoholic drinks. Share a dish with another person, or take half of it home for another meal, and if you must have desert, share that too. These suggestions should be able to start many of you on your way to reaching your goals.

Both “Mel” and “Pat” have questions about how their metabolic system works. Metabolic rates vary from one person to another and are affected by any number of factors. It is higher in men, tall and thin people, children and pregnant women. It increases with fever, a hyperactive thyroid gland and many diseases. Certain drugs can also have the effect of temporarily speeding up metabolism.

The metabolic rate decreases with age, fasting or starvation, malnutrition, an under-active thyroid gland, and when sleeping. Exercise, probably due to an increase in muscle mass, increases the body’s metabolic rate. The amount depends on type and duration, as well as percentage of existing muscle mass. It is the only safe and natural method to increase the metabolic rate. Without a medical diagnosis, you won’t know what leads to a low metabolism. The physician who diagnoses this condition can tell you more, and possibly prescribe medication if your condition requires it. Ask him/her for help to avoid weight gain, including a referral to a registered dietitian, who can provide you with a personalized plan according to your needs and medical condition.

A low metabolic rate is conducive to weight gain. In order to avoid it, watch your caloric intake and increase your physical activity. Choose low-fat and nonfat products (milk, cheese, dressings, etc.). Cut down on portion sizes by eating less than you are used to. Try using smaller plates and bowls and avoid second portions. Avoid those tempting high-fat sauces and gravies, such as cream-based pasta sauces. Eat three balanced meals everyday and do not skip meals. This leads to excessive hunger and a tendency to snack and overeat. Eat slowly and take small bites, and remember to drink at least eight glasses of water a day. Limit the amounts of high-fat, high-sugar desserts you have. Remember to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables – these should be the bulk of your meals. There are many weight loss products available which claim to curb your appetite, melt away fat, or increase your metabolism. Be aware that using some of these without medical clearance and guidance may be extremely harmful. Follow the above suggestions and always check with your doctor before attempting additional measures.

Another reader, “Sheila,” writes, “I’ve been to see my physician and a nutritionist, but they don’t seem to be able to give me advice that will help me solve my problem. I’m 30 and have been a consistent “calorie counter” for over 10 years, which has left me with a slowed metabolism. (I also am hyperthyroid, but that has been monitored and treated since I was 14.) I do 45-min. running or 60 minutes very brisk walking 6-7 times a week, plus 45 mins. Biking twice a week. In an effort in increase my metabolism, I have been weight training 2-3 times a week as well. In the past six months, I have gained nearly 12 pounds (some muscle, but mostly fat) with absolutely no explanation other than my metabolism is revolting against me. In frustration, as I gained this weight I decreased my calories even further, to about 800 a day (about 50% carb., 40% protein, 10% fat). The nutritionist says I need to eat more, which of course I agree! But how can I keep my body from gaining additional weight while my metabolism sorts itself out? Will it sort itself out? How long will it take? Are there other ways to boost my metabolism? It seems to defy logic that I can work this hard and keep gaining fat! I don’t want to be stick thin – I just want to be fit and at a weight I’m comfortable at (and previously could maintain with much less effort)! Can you offer any insight? I’m 5’5″, and currently 135 pounds.”

We can appreciate your concern about a 12-pound weight gain in six months! Our nutritionist, Carol Testa, advises that after 10 years of calorie counting and a history of hypoglycemia, “Shelly’s” metabolic set point for calories may be very low indeed. Her nutritionist is right, 800 calories is low – in fact this is considered a VLCD (very low calorie diet) which should only be followed if obesity is severe and under careful medical watch. The reason is that it is not possible to meet nutritional needs with so few calories. At 5’5″ and 135 pounds, “Sheila” is well within good weight guidelines. 135 pounds is exactly her IBW (ideal body weight). This also indicates a BMI (body mass index) of 22.5 which carriers very little health risk – she wouldn’t be considered obese or even overweight. In fact, she would have been considered underweight at her previous weight of 123 lbs., so perhaps this is a more realistic weight for her.

We aim these days for a healthy state of mind and body, and are not so concerned with weight only. “Sheila” says the gain was mostly fat. How was this determined? With the amount of exercise she gets, plus weight training, she may be adding muscle which weighs more than fat. It doesn’t sound like she needs any more exercise, but the rest of her day should not be sedentary, either. If you have a desk job, get up often and walk around. Use the stairs whenever possible and park farther out in the lot, etc. studies show that people who are more active in their daily activities have a higher metabolic rate. Instead of focusing on calories, those wishing to loss weight should try using a good guide for healthy eating, such as the Food Guide Pyramid.

Try also to eat a mix of protein, carbohydrates (avoid simple sugars) and fat at each meal. Eat the same relative amount of food per meal each day, don’t skip meals, don’t overeat or over-drink on weekends and then cut back during the week – this makes it very difficult to get a healthy set point. Stress and certain medications also need to be considered. Carol advises “Sheila” to keep working with her physician to adjust her medications, and work with the dietitian on her diet. Exercise and eating should be a natural and joyous part of life.

Healthy Nutritional Habits

Sometimes the things you think are safe to eat or drink, are the ones you should be the most careful about. For example, a website visitor writes that she switched from regular coffee to decaf about 6 months ago, and that about 1-1/2 years ago, she as diagnosed with hypothyroidism. She has also been fighting weight gain for about two years, but even more over the past 6 months. Recently she was told that decaf coffee has a great deal of cholesterol because oil is used in the decaffination process. Our reader wondered if this could have anything to do with her current weight battle.

Registered dietitian, Astrid, says that our readers increased weight is not connected to the use of decaf, unless cream and sugar are used and she drinks more than 3-4 cups a day. According to Astrid, decaffeinated coffee contains no fat or cholesterol. Cholesterol is only found in products of animal origin. Caffeine is a stimulant that increases energy expenditure, but its elimination should not affect weight, as large enough quantities to cause any metabolic effect probably aren’t being consumed. Common symptoms of caffeine withdrawal are headaches and mood swings. Assuming our reading was diagnosed and treated by an endocrinologist for the hypothyroidism, Astrid advises continued regular checkups to make sure this condition is under control. Hyperthyroidism contributes to weight gain, but once the condition is treated, metabolism should return to normal, and you should be able to lose weight with a sensible weight loss plan.

The elimination of a bad habit can also affect your health and metabolism dramatically. Another of our web visitors tells us that a friend doesn’t believe there is a link between metabolism and smoking. After 20+ years, our reader quit smoking, and believes his metabolism has slowed dramatically. He has gained several pounds, but exercises aerobically almost everyday and lives a fairly active lifestyle. But admits that when he was smoking he could eat more and not have his weight affected. His question is: Is there evidence that smoking increases metabolism and/or that metabolism slows when people quit smoking?

Since more Americans die from smoking-related diseases than from AIDS, drug abuse, car accidents and murder combined, its always a good step toward better health for you and those around you to quit smoking. According to Astrid, nicotine, one of the components of cigarette smoke, increases energy expenditure by stimulating the central nervous system. Once this drug is eliminated from a person’s system, energy expenditure returns to normal. This difference is not very significant and your body should adjust to it in a short while. Smoking also appears to ease feelings of hunger. Smokers usually overcome hunger by lighting up. Consequently, Astrid says that weight gain is often experienced soon after a person stops smoking. The average weight gain of people who quit smoking, however, is less than 10 pounds. Being aware of the problem will help in avoiding or minimizing the weight gain. Astrid suggests adjusting eating habits and physical activity to maintain weight during and after quitting. Smoking cessation, she notes, lengthens life expectancy by an average of 2-4 years and is well worth the effort.

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