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Back away from the PB&J! These vegan lunch ideas are delicious eaten cold or reheated at the office. Up your vegan packed-lunch game!

Packing a lunch saves money, and if you use reusable containers and utensils, it can reduce the lunchtime waste you generate. Just make sure that you’re using safe practices when you’re packing your lunch for work. Whether you are just getting into the swing of packing your lunch for work or need some new packed-lunch inspiration, we’ve got you covered.

The vegan lunch ideas below are a mix of meals that you can eat cold or reheat in the microwave at work or school. Some taste great either way. If you don’t have access to a microwave or don’t like to use one, there are lots of options for you!

Vegan Lunch Ideas for the Work Week

Barley Salad in a Jar

1. Barley Salad

Salads in a jar are super hip right now, and with good reason. They’re portable, and you can even pack a few, so your fridge will have several days of grab-and-go vegan lunches at your fingertips.

Got some leftover brown rice in the fridge? Try this simple brown rice salad that works as a side or main dish.

2. Brown Rice Salad

Turn leftover brown rice from supper into a whole new meal for lunch the next day. Crunchy cashews and umami-packed sun dried tomatoes are the stars of this satisfying vegan lunch idea. You can even make extra rice on purpose, so you’ll have what you need to make this salad for the next afternoon’s lunch.

Instant Pot Baba Ghanoush

3. Mezze Platter

Mezze is a middle eastern appetizer platter, and it makes such a satisfying lunch! Pack all of your favorites, like baba ghanoush (pictured above), hummus, tabbouleh, stuffed grape leaves, olives and plenty of pita squares and raw veggies for dipping.

Sage Walnut Pesto_STILL

4. Pesto Pasta

Eat this flavorful pesto pasta recipe hot or cold. The pesto sauce uses avocados, walnuts and fresh sage for an oil free sauce. Add some baked tofu or white beans on top, if you’re looking for a protein boost.

baked lettuce wraps

5. Lettuce Wraps

Warm the filling for these lettuce wraps, or eat it cold. Either way, this is a fresh, satisfying vegan lunch that’s packed with protein to keep you going strong all afternoon.

Vegan Tuna Salad from Veggies Save the Day

6. Vegan “Tuna” Salad

This 6-ingredient vegan sandwich filling uses chickpeas as the base and capers to give it that salty flavor that you associate with canned tuna. Make a batch of the salad on Sunday evening, and you’ve got sandwich filling or salad toppings for days!

Wild Rice Salad from My Darling Vegan

7. Wild Rice Mason Jar Salad

Another filling salad in a jar! It’s packed with both raw and cooked veggies and pistachio nuts for protein and crunch. This salad uses basil pesto as the sauce, which you pack separately and shake in just before you eat.

Sesame Noodles from Dianne's Vegan Kitchen

8. Sesame Noodles

Noodles tossed with garlic-tahini sauce, fresh veggies and edamame are delicious warm or cold. You can use udon noodles or soba in this recipe. If you’re looking for more whole grains, soba noodles are your best bet—they’re usually made from buckwheat.

Vegan Taco Wraps from V Nutrition

9. Taco Wraps

These whole-food vegan tacos use seasoned, ground walnuts as the filling. Depending on how long your lunch will be sitting, you can either roll these up in the morning, or pack the fillings and wraps, and wrap them up at lunchtime to avoid a soggy tortilla.

Panzanella Pasta from Vegan in the Freezer

10. Panzanella Pasta Salad

This is a veggie-packed pasta salad tossed in homemade vinaigrette. It tastes even better the day after you make it and keeps for a few days in the fridge, so make a big batch over the weekend, and you’ll be able to dish out vegan lunches all week long!

Balsamic Tofu from Go Dairy Free

11. Balsamic Tofu with Cauliflower Rice

If it’s still grilling weather where you are, make a double batch of this tofu, so you can pack the leftovers for lunch the next day. The citrusy cauliflower rice goes perfectly with the smoky-sweet grilled tofu, for a satisfying vegan lunch.

Rosemary Chickpea Salad Sandwiches

12. Rosemary Chickpea Salad Sandwiches

Seasoned, smashed chickpeas and plenty of fresh veggies on a whole grain bun are an easy and satisfying vegan lunch idea. The chickpeas will last a few days, so you can get a few lunches out of this recipe.

Lentil Curry from Contentedness Cooking

13. Lentil and Chickpea Yellow Curry

Like most stews, this curry is even more flavorful the next day! If you don’t have access to a microwave (or don’t like them), reheat this on the stove at home, then pack the hot curry in a thermos, so it will be piping hot at lunchtime.

Mexican Casserole from My Plant-Based Family

14. Instant Pot Mexican Casserole

Eat this warm, like you would for supper, or dish it up cold at lunchtime, like a grain and bean salad. Either way, it’s a tasty, filling lunch!

Picnic Sandwich from Cadry's Kitchen

15. Picnic Sandwich

Homemade jalapeno-cashew cheese is the base for this fresh vegan sandwich. Pile on the fresh veggies! The cashew cheese keeps for a few days, and you can get quite a few lunches out of one batch.

Chickpea Salad from Veganosity

16. Easy Chickpea Salad

Whole chickpea with sliced hearts of palm and kalamata olives are the stars of this bright, citrusy salad. It’s perfect served cold or even at room temperature.

Curried Tofu Salad from Veggie Inspired

17. Curried Tofu Salad

This is a spicy spin on the usual vegan “egg” salad sandwich. The spice from the curry powder is so nice with the sweet pieces of chopped, fresh apples. This salad tastes even better the next day, which makes it perfect for lunchboxes!

Collard Wraps from Plant Powered Kitchen

18. Collard Wraps

Fresh collards are the ”tortillas” in these healthy wraps packed with hummus and veggies. The best part? Collards don’t get soggy, which means you can even make these the night before!

Vegan Chicken Salad from Fried Dandelions

19. Vegan Chicken Salad with Pickles

This versatile chickenless salad is so easy to make. Sarah serves hers on a pretzel bun, but you could stuff this salad into pitas or even pack a scoop over salad greens. You can use soy curls, chickenless strips or chickpeas as the base, so it’s really a use-what-you-have situation. Perfect for last-minute lunches!

Vegan BLT from Ceara's Kitchen

20. Vegan BLT

Tempeh bacon (or your favorite vegan bacon) on whole grain bread with fresh tomato and lettuce. Instead of mayo, you spread avocado onto your bread slices!

Italian Pasta Salad from Healthier Steps

21. Vegan Italian Pasta Salad

Fresh veggies and homemade vegan mozzarella cubes tossed with plenty of pasta is a hearty vegan lunch. You can add white or kidney beans, if you want to bulk out this tasty salad even more.

Related at Care2

Back away from the PB&J! These vegan lunch ideas are delicious eaten cold or reheated at the office. Up your vegan packed-lunch game!

All images via recipe authors, used with permission.

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8 Natural Ways to Improve Blood Circulation

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Most people don’t give blood circulation much thought. Even when they have common symptoms of poor blood circulation like numbness in the legs and hands, cold hands and feet, fatigue and swollen feet or fingers.

Related: 10 Natural Remedies for Swollen Feet and Ankles

Ignoring these symptoms can lead to more serious problems like cardiovascular disease and stroke.

Luckily, there are things you can start doing today to improve circulation. But making these changes may not help much if you don’t avoid habits that cause poor blood circulation. These habits include:

  • Heavy alcohol drinking
  • Tobacco smoking
  • Poor diet
  • Inactivity
  • High caffeine intake

Here are 8 natural ways to improve blood circulation.

Serene girl enjoying thai massage

Get a good massage

Massage creates pressure which forces blood in congested areas to flow. This pressure also allows easy flow of new blood to different body parts.

Get a good massage several times a week if you experience the symptoms of poor blood circulation I mentioned above.

Related: 6 Incredible Reasons to Get More Massages

Add herbs into your diet

Some herbs are good for blood circulation. They strengthen the blood vessels and help unclog the arteries.

Research shows that gingko biloba and cayenne pepper improve circulation. Cayenne pepper strengthens the blood vessels and stimulates the heart while gingko biloba improves blood flow which consequently improves memory.

Other helpful herbs include garlic, ginger, bilberry and parsley.

Keep your legs elevated

It’s hard for blood to flow from the feet to the heart since it has to flow uphill. In fact, this is the main reason poor blood circulation largely affects the legs.

Elevating your legs will make it easier for blood to flow. Lift the legs above heart level and keep them elevated for 20 minutes.

Exercise every day

There’s a lot of research showing that exercise improves blood circulation. Even simple exercises like walking can climbing stairs can help.

You may want to start with low intensity exercises if you’re out of shape and then increase intensity as you get fitter.

Use these yoga poses to improve circulation.

Reduce salt intake

Research shows that high salt intake can cause poor blood circulation. This is alarming because Americans consume an average of 3.4 grams of sodium a day. That’s higher than the recommended 2.3 grams per day.

Avoiding canned food and reading food labels can help reduce sodium in your diet.

Don’t wear tight clothes for long

Those skinny jeans can cut off blood circulation to the legs, research shows. In fact, one woman had to be hospitalized for 4 days because of squatting while wearing skinny jeans.

On the other hand, clothes like the compression socks are said to improve blood circulation in the legs.

Drink more water

I don’t think you need any convincing that water is good for your health. Aim for 2 liters of water day.

Here are tips that can help you drink more water.

Add nuts into your diet

Nuts contain vitamins and minerals that can improve blood circulation. According to this study, raw almonds and walnuts boost blood circulation.

Nuts are also a great source of healthy fats. But eat them in moderation if you want to lose weight.

What’s your secret to improving blood circulation?

Related:
How to Stay Hydrated When You Don’t Like Water
Health Benefits of Nuts and Seeds
6 Foods That Improve Blood Circulation

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The 10 Best Weight Loss Apps

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Weight loss apps are incredibly useful. They are programs you can download to your mobile device and use to track various lifestyle habits, such as calorie intake and exercise. Some of them have unique characteristics as well, such as financial rewards and support forums, that help keep you motivated toward your weight loss goal. Not only are weight loss apps easy to use, but many of their benefits are also supported by scientific evidence. Several studies have shown that self-monitoring may promote weight loss by increasing awareness of your habits and progress (12). Here are 10 of the best weight loss apps that can help you shed unwanted pounds.
Lose It! is a user-friendly weight loss app focused on calorie counting and weight tracking. Through an analysis of your weight, age and health goals, Lose It! generates your daily calorie needs and a personalized weight loss plan. Once your plan is established, you can easily log your food intake into the app, which pulls from a comprehensive database of over 7 million foods, restaurant items and brands. Additionally, the app’s barcode scanner can be used to add some foods to your log. It saves foods that you enter frequently, so you can quickly select them from a list whenever you eat them. You’ll also get reports of daily and weekly calorie intake. If you use the app to keep track of your weight, it will present your weight changes on a graph. What makes Lose It! different from other weight loss apps is that it has a “Snap It” feature, which allows you to track your food intake and portion sizes simply by taking pictures of your meals. Studies have shown that taking pictures of your meals may help you keep track of portion sizes more accurately and observe trends in your dietary intake, both of which are helpful for promoting weight loss (4567). Another highlight of Lose It! is its community component, where you can participate in challenges with other users and share information or ask questions in a forum.

Pros

  • Lose It! has a team of experts that verify the nutrition information of the foods in their database.
  • It is extremely easy to sign up for Lose It! and there is no cost unless you want access to the premium version.
  • You can sync Lose It! with other weight loss and fitness apps.

Cons

  • Lose It! doesn’t keep track of the vitamins and minerals that you consume.
  • The food database is missing some popular brands that you might expect to find otherwise.
SparkPeople allows you to log your daily meals, weight and exercise with their user-friendly tracking tools. What makes SparkPeople unique is that its nutrition database is much larger than other popular apps. In fact, it contains over 3,000,000 food items. Additionally, it includes a barcode scanner, making it easy for you to keep track of any packaged foods that you eat. When you sign up for SparkPeople, you gain access to their exercise demo component. This includes photos and descriptions of many common exercises, so you can ensure you are using proper techniques during your workouts. There is also a points system integrated into SparkPeople. As you log your habits and achieve your goals, you will receive “points,” which can be used for personal motivation.

Pros

  • The SparkPeople app is free.
  • Those who use the app have access to SparkPeople’s health and fitness articles in addition to an interactive online community.

Con

  • SparkPeople provides a significant amount of information, which may be difficult to sort through.
Calorie counting is a proven weight loss tool (13). One popular app, MyFitnessPal, integrates calorie counting into its strategy for supporting weight loss. MyFitnessPal calculates your daily calorie needs and allows you to log what you eat throughout the day from a nutrition database of over 5 million different foods. This even includes many restaurant foods that are not always easy to track. After you enter your food intake, MyFitnessPal provides a breakdown of the calories and nutrients that you consumed throughout the day. The app can generate a few different reports, including a pie chart that gives you an overview of your total fat, carb and protein consumption. One of MyFitnessPal’s unique features is its barcode scanner, which makes it easy to enter the nutrition information of some packaged foods. You can also track your weight and search for healthy recipes with MyFitnessPal. Furthermore, it has a message board where you can connect with other users to share tips and success stories.

Pros

  • MyFitnessPal has a “Quick Add” feature, which you can use when you know the number of calories you ate but don’t have the time to enter in all the details of your meal.
  • If you use fitness-tracking apps, such as Fitbit, MyFitnessPal will sync with them and adjust your calorie needs based on what you burned via exercise.
  • Although there is a premium version with extra features you can pay for, the basic version is free to use.

Cons

  • The nutrition information of the foods in the database may not be entirely accurate, as most of them are entered by other users.
  • Due to the size of the database, there are often multiple options for one food item, meaning you may have to spend some time to find the “correct” option to log.
  • Adjusting serving sizes in the app may be time-consuming.
One potential way to shed pounds is by keeping track of your exercise habits with a wearable activity tracker (111213). Fitbits are an excellent resource to help you track physical activity. They are wearable devices that measure your activity level throughout the day by recording the number of steps taken, miles walked, stairs climbed and heart rate. Those who use Fitbits have access to the Fitbit app, which is where all of your physical activity information is synced. You can also keep track of your food and water intake, sleep habits and weight goals with Fitbit. Fitbit also has strong community features. The app allows you to connect with your friends and family who use Fitbit. You can participate in various “challenges” with them and share your progress if you choose. Depending on the type of Fitbit you have, you can set alarms as reminders to get up and exercise, and Fitbit will send notifications to your phone to tell you how close you are to your fitness goals for the day. Additionally, you receive “awards” whenever you achieve a specific goal. For example, you may receive the “New Zealand Award” once you walk 990 lifetime miles, signifying that you’ve walked the entire length of New Zealand. There are several other devices and apps similar to Fitbit, such as Jawbone UP, Apple Watch and Google Fit.

Pros

  • Fitbit provides you with a considerable amount of information, so you can keep good track of your weight and health goals.
  • The app is extremely easy to use and has several ways of showing you your progress and keeping you motivated.

Con

  • In order to use the exercise, sleep and heart rate components of the app, you must own a Fitbit device, which can be expensive.

5. Weight Watchers

Weight Watchers is a company that offers various services to assist with weight loss and maintenance. Their aim is to help participants lower their calorie intake by assigning “points” to foods based on their calorie, saturated fat and sugar content. The higher a food is in these components, the more “points” it has.

Based on individual goals, each person is assigned a specific amount of “points” to aim for in their diet. You can participate in Weight Watchers by attending their in-person meetings, which are held in various locations throughout the US. Additionally, Weight Watchers has an online-only program you can sign up for.

A few studies have demonstrated the positive effects that Weight Watchers may have on weight control (141516). One review of 39 studies found that people who participated in Weight Watchers achieved at least 2.6% greater weight loss than those who did not participate (14). If you are a member of Weight Watchers, you can use their app to monitor your progress. It allows you to log your food intake and keep track of your “points.” A barcode scanner makes it easy to enter foods.

Furthermore, the Weight Watchers app has a component that will assist you with making healthy choices while eating out. They have a list of some restaurant dishes and their point totals, which you can add to your intake with the click of a button. Another benefit of the Weight Watchers app is its broad collection of recipes that you can search based on meal time and dietary requirements.

Pros

  • The Weight Watchers app has many features to help keep you motivated, including its “Journey” tab, which provides details and graphs to show your progress over time.
  • There is a “Connect Page” that gives you access to the Weight Watchers social community where you can view updates from other members.

Cons

  • You have to be a member of Weight Watchers to use the app.
  • There is a cost associated with Weight Watchers. It costs about $8.92 USD per week to attend meetings and $3.91 per week for the online program.

6. FatSecret

Having a support system may be helpful for weight management. FatSecret focuses on providing its users with that support. It allows you to log your food intake, monitor your weight and interact with other people through its community chat feature. Not only are you able to chat with other users through FatSecret, but you can also join groups to connect with people who have similar goals.

Research has shown that individuals who have social support tend to be more successful at achieving and maintaining weight loss than those who do not receive social support (8910). In one study, 88% of subjects who joined an internet weight loss community reported that being part of a group supported their weight loss efforts by providing encouragement and motivation (10). In addition to a large collection of healthy recipes that you can make, FatSecret features a journal where you can record information about your weight loss journey, such as your successes and drawbacks.

What makes FatSecret stand out from other weight loss apps is its “My Professionals” tool, in which you can share your food, exercise and weight data with your preferred healthcare providers.

Pros

  • FatSecret’s nutrition database is comprehensive and includes many restaurant and supermarket foods that would be difficult to track otherwise.
  • Not only does FatSecret show you your daily calorie intake, but it also has the ability to display your monthly calorie averages, which is helpful for monitoring progress.
  • It is very easy to sign up and free of cost.

Con

  • Due to its many different components, FatSecret can be difficult to navigate.

7. Pact

Pact is a weight loss app that uses cash stakes to keep you motivated and help you achieve your goals. When you sign up for Pact, you choose a specific amount of money to pay out to other members if you don’t reach your goals by the end of the week. Weekly payments typically range from $0.30 to $5 USD.

If you do reach your goals, you receive a cash reward that is paid for by members who missed their goals. Several studies have shown financial incentives to be beneficial for promoting weight loss, which is likely the reason why Pact has been suggested as a helpful tool for dieters (17181920). In one study, individuals who were offered a financial reward of $10 for meeting their weight loss goal lost about 10 more pounds over 16 weeks compared to those who were not offered the incentive (21).

There are three different types of “pacts” you can choose to commit to through the app: a gym pact, veggie pact and food logging pact. Met goals are “verified” by the Pact community after they’ve seen photos of your meals or by ensuring you’ve filled out your workout or food log. If you use Pact, you will also need a MyFitnessPal account to log your food intake. The apps sync with each other, so you can easily see your progress toward your nutrition goals.

Pros

  • You can tailor your use of the app to your specific goals and lifestyle.
  • Pact may be incredibly effective for weight loss, especially if you are motivated by its financial incentives.

Cons

  • The app can get expensive, especially if you don’t follow through with your goals and have to pay out every week.
  • Pact doesn’t have a built-in food log. You have to use a different app to keep track of your food intake. Using multiple apps at once may become complicated.

8. Cron-O-Meter

Cron-O-Meter is another weight loss app you can use to track nutrition, fitness and health data. Similar to other apps, it has an extensive calorie-counting feature along with a database of over 50,000 different foods. Cron-O-Meter focuses on helping you obtain optimal nutrient intake while keeping your calorie intake under control. It tracks over 60 different nutrients, so you can make sure you’re meeting your dietary needs.

You also have access to a “Trends” feature, which displays your progress toward your weight goals over a specific time range. Another unique feature of Cron-O-Meter is its “Snapshot” section. Here, you can upload photos of your body to compare throughout your weight loss journey. It can also estimate your body fat percentage.

Additionally, the app offers a forum where you can start online discussions with other Cron-O-Meter users about various nutrition topics.

Pros

  • Compared to other apps, Cron-O-Meter can track significantly more nutrients, which is helpful if you are trying to improve your overall nutrient intake.
  • Cron-O-Meter can keep track of an extensive amount of information, including biometric data like cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
  • It is a very user-friendly app. Their website also has a blog and forum where users can ask questions and find information about how to use it.

Con

  • While the Cron-O-Meter website is free to use, the app costs $2.99 USD.

9. Fooducate

Making healthy choices while grocery shopping is extremely important for weight loss, but it can be overwhelming. Using an app like Fooducate may help you better navigate all of the different products at the grocery store. Fooducate is a “nutrition scanner” that allows you to scan a food’s barcode and receive detailed information on it, including nutrition facts and ingredients.

One unique aspect of Fooducate’s nutrition scanner is that it notifies you of unhealthy ingredients that are commonly hidden in products, such as trans fat and high-fructose corn syrup. Not only does Fooducate bring certain characteristics of foods to your attention — it also gives you a list of healthier alternatives to purchase. For example, if you scan a specific type of yogurt that contains a lot of added sugar, the app will show you some healthier yogurts to try instead.

Pros

  • Fooducate’s food grading system assists you with making choices based on your own dietary goals.
  • The app also has tools that allow you to keep track of your exercise habits and calorie intake.
  • You can scan certain products for allergens like gluten with Fooducate if you purchase a monthly subscription.

Con

  • Although the general version of the app is free, there are certain functions that are only available with a paid upgrade, including the health and nutrient tracking features.

10. HealthyOut

Eating out can be difficult if you’re trying to lose weight, due to the high-calorie dishes and large portions that many restaurants offer. Several studies have shown that individuals who eat out at fast-food or full-service restaurants tend to consume more calories and are more likely to gain weight compared to those who eat meals at home (22232425).

The best solution is to avoid eating out, which can be difficult if you live a busy, on-the-go lifestyle. If this is the case for you, downloading the HealthyOut app may be helpful. HealthyOut provides you with a list of healthy restaurant dishes that you can find in your area based on your selected nutrition preferences. You can filter the results with a variety of options, such as heart-healthy, paleo or vegetarian. Since HealthyOut helps you make better on-the-go food choices, using it may be a smart strategy to promote your weight loss efforts.

Pros

  • HealthyOut is free and easy to use.
  • It is incredibly useful for individuals who have specific dietary needs and food allergies.

Cons

  • Although the app has restaurant information from over 500 different cities, it is not useful if you live outside of the app’s focused areas.
  • It doesn’t sync with other apps.
  • HealthyOut doesn’t have a food or exercise logging feature like many other weight loss apps do.

The Bottom Line

There are several helpful apps that you can use to support your weight loss goals.

Many of them use tracking tools to monitor your weight, food intake and exercise habits, while others provide guidance for making healthy choices when grocery shopping or eating out.

Additionally, many weight loss apps have components meant to increase your motivation, including community support, point systems and tools that document the progress you’ve made over time.

Although there are several benefits to using weight loss apps, some do have downfalls. For example, some people may find them to be time-consuming and overwhelming.

Nevertheless, weight loss apps are certainly worth experimenting with to see if they can assist you with reaching your goals. With so many different features, you may need to try a few before finding one that best suits your needs.

Post originally appeared on Healthline

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6 Tips to Stop Overscheduling

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Too much on your plate? Here’s how to get back on schedule and recapture your sanity.

Most of us pack our calendars to the gills in an effort to get more done. We commit to more than we should, assuming that we’ll somehow squeeze it all in. Often, we ignore the consequences of overscheduling until we become so exhausted we can’t keep up, sometimes to the detriment of our health and our closest relationships.

So how can we stop overscheduling? Admitting we have a problem is the first step. But actually breaking our addiction to overscheduling requires acknowledging our limits, observing our patterns, and clarifying the values that make our lives worth living in the first place.

“When you are overscheduled, you have no time to reflect on your priorities and your to-do lists, and you very easily get caught up in — and spend an enormous amount of time on — things that are not necessarily important,” says Julie Morgenstern, author of SHED Your Stuff, Change Your Life.

Moving away from this sort of “what next?” reactivity is the first step to creating a manageable schedule. That means taking time to reflect on which tasks you really need to accomplish now, and which can wait or be dropped entirely.

Once you prioritize things, here are some additional tips for taking control of your schedule: 

Build in buffer zones.

When you’re scheduling an activity or a deadline, pencil in a “buffer zone” — say, 15 to 30 minutes before and after each significant task — rather than scheduling items back-to-back. Including buffer zones serves a number of functions: First, it builds in the breaks you need to be effective and acknowledges that virtually all tasks require some kind of mental and physical transition time. Second, it helps you tend to unexpected items that crop up during the day. Meetings, in particular, tend to involve both preparatory and subsequent tasks, and creating a zone of time to accommodate those demands keeps them from contributing to a full-blown cascade of lateness.

Know when you work best.

Everyone has peak times of energy, creativity, and mental focus — and at times those resources lag. Pay attention to this ebb and flow and schedule your commitments accordingly: Plan to accomplish demanding tasks when you’re likely to be charged up; the least important or challenging when you’re more likely to have low energy or needing some kind of break. Working with your natural energy patterns will allow you to accomplish more in less time — and with less effort.

Understand your limits. 

Many of us don’t know how long it actually takes to complete routine tasks during our day, and as a result we have no clue about how much time to allot to various activities. Morgenstern suggests timing yourself doing the same task (such as creating a meeting agenda or sending a memo) on three different occasions and then determining the average. That number will give you a good guideline to follow when making similar future time commitments. Alternatively, you can start by doubling the amount of time you think something “should” take. This will probably get you close to the actual time requirement, and you can always use any leftover time to get a head start on your next task. Finally, avoid scheduling more than one ultra-demanding task for the same day. It’s a recipe for exhaustion and anxiety.

Harness the power of technology.

Turn off your email notifications, and close down any social networking or instant-messaging tools before you begin your work session. Set a timer on your phone or watch to alert you when your allotted time is almost up. If you see that you are running significantly behind as your day’s agenda progresses, proactively reschedule or delegate any items that can’t realistically be accomplished within the confines of your current schedule.

Fight the urge to multitask.

Performance psychologist Jim Loehr, EdD says multitasking is not the productivity maximizer many think it is. In fact, he says, it works against effective time use. “People get the sense — because there is so much on their plate — that they have to be able to do a number of things simultaneously,” Loehr explains. “But the energy signal in a human’s focusing system is binary. You are either focused or you are not. If you have 10 balls in the air, nine of them are in free fall.”

Honor the priority of the moment.

As an extension of the multitasking wisdom above, designate specific hours for work, family, and self-care, and don’t let them bleed into each other. Writing staff performance reviews or answering emails while trying to interact with someone you love doesn’t give either commitment the attention it deserves. Worse, it will likely leave everyone involved feeling both frazzled and frustrated, creating a negative domino effect on the activities and interactions that follow.

Originally appeared on Experience Life

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This post was originally published on this site

Fiber is an essential part of a healthy diet, especially for optimal digestive health.

But conflicting information about what type of fiber and how much to eat can be confusing.

This article breaks down what fiber is and how it can protect you from digestive disorders and discomfort.

What Is Fiber?

What-Is-FiberFiber is a type of carbohydrate, alongside sugar and starch.

It’s found in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains and legumes.

Unlike starchy carbohydrates and sugars, fiber contains chemical bonds that can’t be broken down by digestive enzymes in the body. This is why it reaches the large intestine (the gut) mostly undigested.

While the bulk of fiber ends up being excreted, some of it will be digested by gut bacteria in a process called fermentation. This produces certain fatty acids and gas.

Summary: Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that is difficult for the body to breakdown and digest. Most is excreted as waste, but some is fermented in the large intestine.

What Are the Different Types of Fiber?

Fiber is classified in a number of ways. It’s most often broken down into soluble and insoluble fiber.

Soluble Fiber

Soluble FiberSoluble refers to a substance that dissolves in water and forms into a gel. If you’ve ever mixed chia seeds with liquid, you may have seen this process in action.

Soluble fiber is commonly found in foods such as oats, barley, citrus fruits and legumes. It’s generally readily fermented in the gut.

An increased intake of soluble fiber has been shown to lower cholesterol, maintain heart health, regulate blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes (1).

Insoluble Fiber

Insoluble FiberInsoluble fiber does not mix in water or form a gel.

It’s also found in many whole grains, fruits and vegetables, but is not as easily fermented as soluble fiber.

An increased intake of insoluble fiber has shown to help with weight control and regulating bowel movements. It may also improve heart health and blood sugar regulation (1).

Resistant Starch

Resistant starchResistant Starch also acts as a type of fiber.

It has the same chemical bonds holding them together as regular starch and can be broken down by digestive enzymes. However, they’re able to avoid digestion, too, hence the name resistant starch.

Resistant starches are naturally present in foods such as whole legumes and slightly green bananas. Other foods, like pasta, produce resistant starch when they are cooked and then cooled.

Resistant starch has many of the same health benefits as soluble fiber. It can promote good gut bacteria growth and appetite control, reduce insulin resistance and produce compounds called butyrate that are beneficial to colon health (2).

Other Classifications

Fiber classification can be broken down even further to include:

  • Dietary (occurs naturally) and functional (added to food products)
  • Viscous (forms a thick gel) and non-viscous (does not gel)
  • Fermentable (digested by gut bacteria) and non-fermentable (not readily fermented)

Summary: Fiber is classified as soluble (dissolves in water), insoluble (does not dissolve in water) or resistant starch. It can be further classified by its origin (dietary or functional), whether it gels (viscous or non-viscous) and how it is processed in the gut (fermentable or non-fermentable).

How Does Fiber Affect Digestive Health?

How Does Fiber Affect Digestive Health?In addition to its many metabolic health benefits, fiber also plays an important role in digestive health.

It does so by the following actions:

  • Normalises frequency of bowel movements: This occurs by drawing water into the gastrointestinal (GI) tract to soften stools, and by increasing bulk, which stimulates faster passage through the GI tract (1).
  • Acts as a prebiotic: Prebiotics are substances that “feed” gut bacteria to help them grow. Fiber is a well-known prebiotic (3).
  • Produces short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs): The fermentation of fiber in the large intestine produces SCFAs, mainly acetic acid, propionic acid and butyric acid. Butyric acid in particular aids gut health (5).

Summary: Fiber is important for digestive health because it helps regulate bowel movements, feed good gut bacteria and produce short-chain fatty acids.

Does Fiber Protect Against Digestive Disease and Disorders?

Does-Fiber-Protect-Against-Digestive-Disease-and-DisordersFiber encourages the growth of “healthy” gut bacteria (the gut microbiome), while inhibiting the growth of pathogens in the large intestine.

For these reasons it may protect against certain digestive disorders and diseases. Here’s how fiber does just that.

Short-Chain Fatty Acids and Digestive Health

Short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) contain six carbon molecules or less.

They are produced when fiber is fermented in the gut. SCFAs can lower the pH of the gut (which alters its acidity), inhibiting the growth of acid-intolerant pathogens. This in turn may protect against infection and diarrhea (5).

SCFAs are also thought to improve muscle tone and blood flow in the GI tract (5).

The production of SCFAs plays an important role in the makeup of the gut microbiome. Likewise, the composition of the microbiome can also affect the production of SCFA – they essentially work together to maintain digestive health (6).

Fiber and the Gut Microbiome

The makeup of the gut microbiome is attributed to a host of health benefits and disorders.

It can have a significant effect on digestive health. Imbalanced microbiomes are linked to irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease and colorectal cancer (3, 4).

Fiber can affect the composition of the gut microbiome by altering fermentation, colony size and strains of bacteria.

The amount and type of fiber in the diet, as well as the acidity of the GI tract and stool transit time (which are also regulated by fiber), heavily influence the microbiome. This is why fiber is so important (3, 4).

In fact, just by altering the fiber content in our diet, we can produce specific microbiome outcomes. This is not yet fully understood, but there is a lot of exciting research happening in this area.

Fiber and Colorectal Cancer

Diets high in fiber are associated with lower risk of colorectal cancers.

Some studies suggest that for every 10 grams of dietary fiber consumed per day, colorectal cancer risk declines by 9-10% (1).

Interestingly, it appears that fiber from cereal grains is more protective than fiber from fruits and vegetables (1).

This observed reduction in cancer risk is likely due to fiber’s role in helping keep bowel movements regular so that stool spends less time in the GI tract.

Fiber and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) includes a number of diseases that cause chronic inflammation of the digestive tract.

Some studies suggest a high-fiber diet can reduce the risk of IBD.

It’s believed that the effect of fiber on the microbiome and the anti-inflammatory effects of butyrate (a type of SCFA) may contribute to reduced incidence and relapse of IBD (7). It may also play a protective role against colorectal cancer in susceptible IBD patients (8).

Fiber consumption often needs to be altered for people with IBD – you can read more about those diets here.

Fiber and Diverticular Disease

When muscles of the GI tract lose strength they can bulge out into pockets causing diverticular disease.

Increased fiber consumption may help prevent inflammation of these pockets, a condition called diverticulitis. Evidence in this area is weak, yet a high-fiber diet is still recommended as it doesn’t make things worse and has other health benefits (9, 10).

More information about diverticular disease and diet can be found here.

Summary: A fiber-rich diet contributes significantly to a healthy gut microbiome. It may also protect against certain digestive diseases and disorders like colorectal cancer, IBD and diverticular disease.

Fiber and IBS

Fiber-and-IBSThe evidence for additional fiber to treat irritable bowel syndrome is a mixed bag.

Two recent studies examined the effects of fiber on IBS symptoms in over 2,000 patients. Researchers concluded that soluble fiber, but not insoluble fiber, improved IBS symptoms (11, 12).

It’s possible that fermentation of soluble fiber in the gut will actually exacerbate symptoms. If you decide to trial soluble fiber, you should gradually add it to your diet over a few weeks. You can then determine if it’s beneficial for you.

IBS symptoms can often be relieved by following a diet low in fermentable carbohydrates called FODMAPS. Some foods high in soluble fiber such as beans and legumes are also high in FODMAPS. This should be taken into account when choosing high-fiber foods.

You can read more about relieving IBS symptoms here.

Summary: Soluble fiber may help some sufferers of IBS, but not all. To trial, soluble fiber should be introduced to the diet gradually.

Fiber and Constipation

Fiber-and-Constipation-1-People who suffer from chronic constipation will likely benefit from increasing fiber in their diet (13).

Insoluble fiber attracts water into the GI tract and adds bulk to stools, while soluble fiber can help soften stools. Both contribute to making stool passage and excretion easier.

If you are currently experiencing constipation, introducing fiber or fiber supplements may cause initial discomfort until the “blockage” is cleared. Continual consumption of fiber will help keep bowel movements regular and prevent the reoccurrence of constipation (14).

If diet alone does not help with symptoms, fiber supplements may be beneficial.

A multi-study analysis found that fiber supplementation was effective in treating chronic constipation in 5 out of 7 studies, and in all 3 studies looking at fiber’s role in treating constipation-predominant irritable bowel syndrome (IBS-C) symptoms (15).

These studies were all small in size and short in duration, which means more research is needed in this area.

If a fiber supplement is required, psyllium is likely the best to treat constipation (14).

You can find more tips on relieving constipation here.

Summary: Increasing fiber content can likely help relieve chronic constipation. Fiber supplements may be useful if sufficient fiber cannot be consumed in the diet.

Fiber and Diarrhea

Fiber-and-DiarrheaA high-fiber diet may also help with diarrhea.

It does so by adding bulk to the stool and absorbing excess water present in the GI tract.

If a supplement is required, psyllium is preferred. It can improve stool formation and reduce the severity of chronic diarrhea (16).

Unfortunately, there is a lack of research on fiber and diarrhea, so other fiber supplements cannot be recommended at this time.

More tips on how to manage diarrhea can be found here.

Summary: Dietary fiber can help manage chronic diarrhea. Psyllium supplements may improve symptoms. There is still a lack of evidence regarding the effectiveness of other types of fiber supplements.

How Much Fiber Per Day?

The Institute of Medicine recommends this much fiber per day (17):

Children

  • 1-3 years: 19g
  • 4-8 years: 25g

Adult Males

  • 19-50 years: 38g
  • >50 years: 30g

Adult Females

  • 19- 50 years: 25g
  • >50 years: 21g
  • pregnancy: 28g
  • lactation: 29g      

How-much-fiber-per-day-IOM-recommendations

High-Fiber Foods That Help You Poop

As mentioned above, both soluble and insoluble fiber foods will help you poop.

Legumes, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, bran products, nuts and seeds are all high in fiber.

The best sources include berries, fruits and non-starchy vegetables with their skins intact, and nuts.

HIGH-FIBER-FOODS-THAT-HELP-YOU-POOP-table

Is There Such a Thing as Too Much Fiber?

Is-There-Such-a-Thing-as-Too-Much-Fiber-1There is currently no upper tolerable limit set by the Institute of Medicine for fiber intake (17).

However, simply eating too much fiber all at once may cause digestive discomfort.

This is especially true if your current diet is low in fiber. For this reason introducing fiber into the diet should be done over a period of a few weeks and spread out over meals.

If you eat a low-fiber diet, aim to take the following steps:

  • Add high-fiber foods gradually
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Choose from a variety of fiber-rich foods, so that you get both soluble and insoluble fiber

If you have a digestive disorder such as IBS or IBD you should speak with your dietitian or doctor to make sure you do not exacerbate symptoms.

Summary: By gradually adding high-fiber foods into your diet, you will likely avoid experiencing any side effects. Those with digestive disorders should be cautious when increasing their fiber intake.

Should I Take a Fiber Supplement?

Naturally occurring fiber from whole foods is the best way to incorporate fiber into the diet.

If you are unable to add enough through your diet, you may consider a fiber supplement. Alternatively, you can try adding bran, psyllium, and/or flaxseed to your meals.

Psyllium is the fiber supplement with the most supporting evidence to treat both constipation and diarrhea and, in some cases, IBS.

This post originally appeared on Diet vs Disease as High-Fiber Foods and Digestive Health: More or Less? 

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