Next time you walk into the kitchen and smell something delicious that makes your mouth water, or you have a fresh salad that's got something extra yummy in it, odds are that you can blame it on fresh green herbs—fragrant, flavorful, and actually good for you. Sure, you can get the dried version in a jar, but fresh herbs bring a whole new dimension to healthy cooking.
Used sparingly or with a heavy hand, fresh green herbs are delicious and available year-round in your local market's produce section. Experiment with different kinds, and use your sniffer . . . you should be able to smell a full, fresh fragrance from bright, perky greens that don't show signs of brown spots or yellow, droopy sogginess. Better still, with a little sunshine and a few pots, you can start your own easy-to-maintain herb garden. Then you can be 100 percent sure they're fresh!
Not sure where to start? Here are eight awesome herbs that'll make your recipes sing and your health soar.
Try mincing fresh leaves very finely, and sprinkle on slices of tomato and cucumber, drizzled with a touch of olive oil—a very Mediterranean-style snack.
Although fresh green herbs are generally used sparingly in any dish, if used on a regular basis, you can benefit from all the good stuff packed into these fragrant plants. Some might not tickle your taste buds; others might totally have your tongue falling head over heels in love. Experiment as much as you can. Most herbs—even when sold in those little fancy plastic packages—are not that costly, especially considering you'll be using them in small amounts and they will last for at least several days in the refrigerator.
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And if you'd like to know more about Beachbody Director of Results Steve's views on fitness, nutrition, and outdoor sports, read his blog, The Straight Dope, named one of the Top 50 blogs covering the sports industry by the Masters in Sports Administration. You can also read a more scientific (not to mention snarky) take on many of the topics we discuss here at The Real Fitness Nerd blog.
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If you're one of those obnoxious, macho types who makes a big show of snacking on hot peppers for the shock value—keep it up! It looks like chili pepper hotheads may be less susceptible to inflammation, diabetes, prostate cancer, and heart disease. Plus, all that spicy hotness chases away congestion, and it even (ironically) helps to prevent stomach ulcers.
Native to Central and South America, chili peppers were introduced to Asia in the 1500s and have been a cornerstone of cuisines in both those parts of the world ever since. In the West, the heat of chili peppers is measured using the Scoville Organoleptic Test, named after Wilbur Scoville, the chemist who devised it in the early 1900s. It sounds very fancy and technical but, in fact, the Scoville method is a subjective process involving subjects who sip diluted solutions of ground chilis and sugar water. In other words, the Scoville Method isn't much more scientific than the Pepsi Challenge®. There are now more scientific ways of measuring chili heat, but the Scoville method is still the one mostly used by the food industry.
Asian countries don't use the Scoville method; instead, they rely on the general rule of thumb that the smaller a chili is, the hotter it is. Again, not so much with the science, but it makes sense when you consider this: the hottest part of a chili pepper actually is not the seeds, but the white membrane where the seed attaches inside the pepper. Larger peppers have proportionately less of this membrane than smaller ones, so they are generally milder. We probably all think the seeds pack the punch in hot peppers because they sit in such close proximity to the membrane and absorb its heat, and then they often remain whole in pepper sauces and condiments.
The fiery goodness of chili peppers comes from capsaicin, which has been found to inhibit substance P, associated with the inflammatory process. The hotter the pepper, the more capsaicin it contains. Researchers are looking at capsaicin as a treatment for arthritis, psoriasis, and diabetic neuropathy. It seems counterintuitive that chili peppers would inhibit the inflammatory process, since handling them in the kitchen can irritate your fingers, and too many of them in the salsa can make your head feel like it's on fire, but there you have it.
Some veteran travelers to countries where the freshness of food can be questionable make it a point to eat food as spicy as they possibly can—that spice invariably coming from fresh or dried chilis—in order to ward off illness and boost immunity. Chili peppers have lots of beta-carotene, vitamin A and vitamin C, and they kill bacteria you may have ingested.
The capsaicin in chili peppers is also a thermogenic: it causes heat production and heat production burns calories. Even sweet red peppers increase the body's heat production for several minutes after they are consumed. Certainly there are more efficient ways to lose weight than stuffing your face with hot chili peppers! But isn't it nice to know that adding more salsa might help you burn that burrito off slightly faster?
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Odds are, you've noticed yoga and martial art studios popping up like Starbucks® in your neighborhood. Or maybe you've noticed that Sunday Tai Chi class in the park being populated by increasingly younger, fitter practitioners. Mindful exercise techniques may date back as far as 3rd millennium BC in Asia, but they're only now really starting to take hold in the West. And that's just great, because we simply can't ignore the insurmountable research that suggests we need the knowledge and benefits that these practices provide. So which one is right for you? Let's take a look.
Tai Chi and Qigong are gentle exercise routines that derived from traditional Chinese medicine. Formed from the martial arts, they consist of slow, concise movements, meditation, and deep breathing, which research suggests increases physical health and emotional well-being. Here are some of their benefits:
If you'd like to explore Tai Chi a little more, check out Tai Cheng™, a mix of classical Tai Chi techniques, ancient Chi Kung practices, and modern corrective exercise patterns that both rehab and prehab the body, improving the body's metabolism, joint function, stress management, and athletic performance!
The English translation of the sanskrit word yoga is "union." The goal is to bring the body, mind, and soul into a place of union. Here in the West, yoga is mostly physical postures or poses called asanas, paired with meditation through focused breath. Here is what research has to say about the benefits a yoga practice has to offer us:
Beachbody® has several yoga workouts for you to explore, ranging from the straightforward, meditative Yoga Booty Ballet® session Pure & Simple Yoga, to Tony Horton's more intense workouts such as Fountain of Youth and Hummingbird, both found in his One-on-One series.
While you may think martial arts are just about Bruce Lee beating the tar out of all takers, the truth is that most practitioners view it more as a lifestyle than a form of combat. There are scores of forms, ranging from Jiu Jitsu (a Brazilian wrestling martial art) to Capoeira (another Brazilian martial art involving dance and music) to Akido (a largely defense Japanese martial art) to the ever popular Karate. The main purpose of each of these is to teach self-defense and physical and mental discipline. While they all have their own unique benefits, here are a few they share.
Again, you'll find martial arts workouts littered throughout the Beachbody line, from Tony Horton’s Kenpo workouts in P90X® and P90X2®, to the Capoeira you'll find in Brazil Butt Lift® and RevAbs®. (You'll also find a few kickboxing moves in RevAbs!)
I began my own journey into the mind-body world of yoga the day my son was born and placed on my chest. The moment he looked into my eyes, I had an awakening of a peace and tranquility that I had not been aware of until that moment. I embarked on a journey from that moment on to seek out ways to keep this peace alive and awake. What I found was a beautiful, holistic approach toward health. I practice yoga every day of my life. With this have come additional benefits. I may be a 35-year-old woman, but I have the insides of an 18-year-old according to my doctor. Regardless of your intentions for practicing mind-body exercise, you will be pleasantly surprised on its ability to quiet your mind and strengthen you physically and emotionally.
So, begin your journey today.
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Tai Cheng™ is NOW available—order your copy today!
(Makes 2 servings)
Still not sure what to do with all those leafy herbs you read about in this issue? When all else fails, here's a sure-fire solution: put 'em all in a big bowl and eat 'em! This fragrant combination of greens makes a fabulous salad. You can eat it as is or serve it with just about any main dish. One of the myriad flavors within is bound to complement just about anything you serve alongside it.
The greens can be combined ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator in a resealable plastic bag. This salad can be served with added protein such as hard-boiled eggs, grilled chicken or fish, cooked beans, or sunflower seeds.
Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 0 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Nutritional Information (per serving):
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Nutritional Information: (per serving)
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†Results may vary. Exercise and proper diet are necessary to achieve and maintain weight loss and muscle definition.
Please consult with a physician before beginning any exercise program.
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