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Spend this much time in nature weekly to boost your health


Article Source: Health And Fitness Journal

In 2018, more than 318.2 million people visited U.S. national parks, logging more than 1.4 billion recreation visitor hours.1 Their popularity hints at humans’ inherent desire to spend time in natural spaces, and research backs up the benefits, showing that greater exposure to parks and other “green” spaces is associated with better health and well-being.2

Taking time to explore national parks is a worthy endeavor to get in your nature fix, but even better may be taking time to explore the natural world on a daily or weekly basis. Is there a magic number when it comes to the ideal amount of time to spend in nature to maximize its benefits to your health?

120 minutes a week in nature is ideal for health and well-being

A study published in Scientific Reports explored the associations between contact with nature in the last seven days and self-reported health and well-being.3 Data from 19,806 participants were included, revealing that, compared to no nature contact, spending 120 minutes or more in nature during the previous week was associated with a greater likelihood of good health or high well-being.

There were decreasing returns with nature exposure beyond 120 minutes, and the association flattened out and even dropped between 200 and 300 minutes per week.

“We tentatively suggest, therefore, that 120?minutes contact with nature per week may reflect a kind of ‘threshold,’ below which there is insufficient contact to produce significant benefits to health and well-being, but above which such benefits become manifest,” the researchers said.4

It didn’t matter how the 120 minutes was achieved; multiple shorter visits had the same effect as fewer, longer visits, as long as they added up to 120 minutes, and the benefits held true across different populations, including older adults and people with long-term health issues. Lead study author Matthew White, of the University of Exeter Medical School, said in a news release:5

“It’s well known that getting outdoors in nature can be good for people’s health and wellbeing but until now we’ve not been able to say how much is enough.

The majority of nature visits in this research took place within just two miles of home so even visiting local urban greenspaces seems to be a good thing. Two hours a week is hopefully a realistic target for many people, especially given that it can be spread over an entire week to get the benefit.”

Health benefits of nature depend on the dose

The researchers of the featured study even suggested that, with further research, weekly nature guidelines could be developed similar to those given for physical activity. In fact, the study found that getting recommended levels of nature exposure weekly could result in a similar magnitude of health gains as achieving recommended levels of physical activity.6

Indeed, past research also shows that the health benefits of nature experiences depend on the dose. Among people in an urban environment, long visits to green spaces were associated with lower rates of depression and high blood pressure, while more frequent visits were linked to greater social cohesion, which is associated with physical and mental well-being. The study further revealed:7

“The results here suggest that nature experiences in urban green spaces may be having a considerable impact on population health, and that these benefits could be higher if more people were engaged in nature experiences.

Specifically, our results suggest that up to a further 7% of depression cases and 9% of high blood pressure cases could be prevented if all city residents were to visit green spaces at least once a week for an average duration of 30?minutes or more.”

More frequent and longer visits to green spaces were also associated with physical activity, which can further boost health. Visiting natural settings may help to facilitate exercise, as you can easily spend time walking, hiking or cycling trails.

How nature can improve your health

Spending time in nature carries an impressive potential to boost your health. One meta-analysis of 103 observational and 40 interventional studies investigating about 100 health outcomes revealed that spending more time in green spaces is associated with decreased:8

Salivary cortisol (a marker of stress)

Heart rate

Diastolic blood pressure

Preterm birth

Type 2 diabetes

All-cause mortality

Cardiovascular mortality

Further, increased nature exposure reduced the incidence of stroke, high blood pressure, asthma and coronary heart disease, while good self-reported health increased.

According to the study, “For several nonpooled health outcomes, between 66.7% and 100% of studies showed health-denoting associations with increased greenspace exposure including neurological and cancer-related outcomes, and respiratory mortality.”9

Delving even deeper into nature’s connection to health, some research suggests that green spaces with the highest levels of plants, butterflies and birds, otherwise known as species richness or biodiversity, may further enhance psychological health.10 On the other hand, the opposite also holds true in that living in an urban environment might negatively affect mental health.

City living is linked to mood and anxiety disorders, as well as increased incidence of schizophrenia, and it could be that lack of access to green spaces is one reason why.11

Doctors handing out ‘green prescriptions’

One of the goals of quantifying the optimal “dose” of nature is so doctors can advise their patients on how to get the most benefits of outdoor time. They could even hand out “green prescriptions.” The authors of the meta-analysis noted:12

“Green prescriptions involving greenspace use may have substantial benefits. Our findings should encourage practitioners and policymakers to give due regard to how they can create, maintain, and improve existing accessible greenspaces in deprived areas.

Furthermore the development of strategies and interventions for the utilisation of such greenspaces by those who stand to benefit the most.”

It’s an idea that’s catching on. One partnership project between NHS Shetland and the U.K.’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds allows general practitioners to prescribe nature as part of their patients’ treatment.

The Nature Prescriptions program “recognizes the benefits of nature on reducing blood pressure, reducing anxiety and increasing happiness as well as the growing disconnection with nature throughout society.”13 The program includes a schedule of seasonal activities designed to encourage more time in nature, which include such activities as:14

Counting the birds in your garden

Stepping outside and being still for three minutes, just listening

Getting out “whatever the weather” and feeling the exhilaration of wind and rain on your face

Making a birdbath

Looking for tracks and signs of animals

Planting some bulbs

Are you getting enough nature time?

As scientists continue to reaffirm the benefits of spending time in nature, many Americans struggle with getting enough outdoor time. In a report commissioned by Velux, a window manufacturing company, it’s revealed that 25 percent of Americans hardly ever go outside.15,16

“We are increasingly turning into a generation of indoor people where the only time we get daylight and fresh air midweek is on the commute to work or school,” Peter Foldbjerg, the head of daylight energy and indoor climate at Velux, a window manufacturing company, said in a statement.17

In another survey of 11,817 U.S. adults and children, 25% of adults reported spending less than two hours in nature each week.18 “The relationship of Americans and nature is changing,” the Nature of Americans report found, adding:19

“Adults and children alike spend evermore time indoors, participation in activities like hunting and fishing is stagnant or declining, and shifts in social expectations treat engagement with nature as a mere amenity.

These trends pose a nationwide problem, since overwhelming evidence shows the physical, psychological, and social wellbeing of humans depends on contact with nature.”

The report described a significant gap between Americans’ interest in nature and their efforts and ability to pursue that interest. While numerous factors are contributing to an increasing disconnect between Americans and nature, the report highlighted five of the most prominent:20

  1. Physical places, or a built environment, generally discourage contact with the natural world.
  2. Competing priorities for time, attention and money prevent contact with nature from becoming routine and habitual.
  3. Declining direct dependence on the natural world for livelihoods and subsistence allows Americans to orient their lives to other things.
  4. New technologies, especially electronic media, distract and captivate.
  5. Shifting expectations about what “good” contact to nature ought to be mean adults are generally satisfied with the relatively little time they spend outdoors in nature.

How to make nature part of your daily life

The good news is that it may require only 120 minutes a week to reap the many benefits that nature has to offer, and this is an amount that should be achievable for most people. Further, you needn’t spend two hours at one time; if you break it up into daily increments, that’s only about 17 minutes a day.

Taking time to walk outdoors during your lunch break, tend to your garden after work or walk your dog in the morning can all increase your exposure to beneficial green spaces. Try to make a habit of getting outdoors as much as possible; meal times, family gatherings and washing your dog are all opportunities to be outdoors.

Combining your workouts with nature by doing them outdoors is another good idea, and even talking a longer walk outdoors when you have time can be incredibly beneficial.

In one study, people who took a 90-minute walk in nature reported lower levels of rumination and had reduced neural activity in an area of the brain (the subgenual prefrontal cortex) linked to risk of mental illness such as depression than people who took a comparable walk in the city.21

As it stands, more than 50% of people live in urban areas, and this is expected to increase to 70% by 2050,22 which means making a conscious effort to increase access to green spaces will become ever more important — as will taking the time to use such spaces.

The Nature of Americans report suggested “transformative action” to achieve this, including the recommendations that follow to help connect Americans with nature:23

Emphasize regular, recurrent and routine engagement with nature, the outdoors and wildlife.

For adults and children, promote nature not only as a place for experiences, but also as a place for involvement and care.

Assure adults and children that time in nature can be (and even ought to be) social.

Provide socially safe and satisfying places outdoors, especially for urban and minority adults and children.

Work to lower the perceived costs of participation in recreational activities.

Promote experiences in nature that match Americans’ multidimensional values of nature.

Broaden programming to include a range of outcomes.

For adults, promote conservation efforts as a way to improve their overall community and quality of life.


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Genetically engineered salmon on your plate without your knowledge


Article Source: Health And Fitness Journal

In a survey of 800 Americans, 89% said they were in favor of mandatory labels on foods that have been genetically engineered or contain genetically engineered ingredients. When asked whether they’d rather have genetically modified organism labels printed on food packages or in the form of a bar code that could be scanned with a smartphone, 88% said they preferred printed labels.1

Yet, in a facility in Albany, Indiana, eggs intended to grow the first GE salmon for human consumption in the U.S. arrived in May 2019. AquaBounty, the company that created the so-called “frankenfish,” plans to begin harvesting the GE salmon in late 2020.2 When it arrives in supermarkets and restaurants, however, it may be hard to decipher whether the salmon you’re eating is GE or not.

AquaBounty GE salmon to be labeled ‘bioengineered’ — but not until 2022

Opinion polls from a few years ago suggest most Americans don’t want to eat GE fish,3 but the labeling for AquaBounty’s salmon, which is trademarked “aquadvantage,” will make it hard for Americans to avoid it. The USDA included AquaBounty’s salmon on a list of foods that must be labeled “bioengineered” (BE) under the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard. According to the USDA:

“The Standard defines bioengineered foods as those that contain detectable genetic material that has been modified through in vitro recombinant deoxyribonucleic acid (rDNA) techniques and for which the modification could not otherwise be obtained through conventional breeding or found in nature.”

However, while the disclosure regulation for “bioengineered” foods may start to be implemented as early as 2019 for some products, it doesn’t become mandatory until January 1, 2022. Thus, AquaBounty can release its GE salmon initially without even disclosing that it’s bioengineered — a term that will be confusing for many people who are looking instead for the more familiar GMO or GE label.

Adding even more smoke and mirrors, the regulation allows the disclosure to be electronic or digital in nature, such as in the form of a quick response, or QR, code that must be scanned with a cellphone to get the information and “instructions to ‘Scan here for more food information’ or similar language, and include a phone number.”4

In 2016, a survey of 1,011 U.S. adults by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania and the department of human ecology at Rutgers University, found 21% of respondents said “it is not too likely” that they would scan a QR code to find out whether a product was GE and 38 percent said that “it is not likely at all” that they would do so.5

Restaurants won’t have to disclose GE salmon

Not only is the term bioengineering confusing, and any QR codes used for disclosure likely to go unscanned by many, but food served in restaurants or “similar retail food establishments” is exempt from the labeling standard. This means that restaurants, cafeterias and even salad bars that sell food within a retail establishment don’t have to disclose to consumers if they’re serving GE salmon.6

“It’s their customer, not ours,” Sylvia Wulf, AquaBounty’s CEO, told The Associated Press,7 in a surprisingly flippant comment. You could certainly ask the restaurant or foodservice location directly if the salmon on their menu is genetically engineered, but you’re at their mercy to disclose it.

Caleb Churchill, a chef and owner of a restaurant near AquaBounty’s Indiana facility, told NPR, “I think a lot of people that are chefs will entertain it but be very cautious about putting it on their menu. You know, we’re the middleman, I think, is the way you got to kind of look at it.”8

However, the news outlet also quoted another restaurant owner in Indiana, Kirsten Serrano, who said she’s opposed to the GE fish. “I definitely want to say no to GMOs,” she said. “I think that, you know, local is fantastic. The farm-to-table movement is fantastic. You know, we are a farm-to-table restaurant. But local doesn’t trump everything. You know, you still need to look at sourcing and quality.”9

AquaBounty has marketed its GE salmon as a type of local food that’s “built closer to consumers to reduce the need for energy-intensive air freight shipping and transportation,”10 but there are serious concerns with growing GE fish.

GE salmon grow twice as fast as wild salmon

The idea for AquaBounty’s GE salmon came from physiologist Garth Fletcher, who decided to alter Atlantic salmon DNA so they would grow faster. In the PBS video above, Fletcher says, “Because behind every production system is an accountant that says are we making any money, can we produce the fish faster, can we turn the inventory over, type idea.”11 PBS NewsHour Weekend’s Megan Thompson adds:12

“A salmon’s growth hormones are more active during certain times of the year. Fletcher thought, what if he could get the hormones to stay active all the time?

He took DNA from a fish called an ocean pout, which produces a special protein all year long that helps it survive in frigid waters. Fletcher took the DNA that keeps those proteins turned on and running and connected it to a salmon growth hormone gene, which had the effect of keeping the growth hormone on.”

In November 2015, the U.S. FDA approved AquaBounty salmon, which contains the DNA from two other fish, a growth-promoting gene from a Chinook salmon and a “promoter” gene from the eel-like ocean pout.

As Thompson noted, this genetic tweaking results in fish with always-on growth hormone, and because they grow so much faster than other salmon, they also require less food. The GE fish have already been sold and eaten in Canada,13 where the GE fish don’t have to be labeled, but a rider attached to an Alaskan budget bill imposed an import ban, effectively blocking the FDA from allowing GE salmon into the U.S.

The import ban was lifted by the FDA in March 2019, with FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb stating, “[T]his fish is safe to eat, the genetic construct added to the fish’s genome is safe for the animal, and the manufacturer’s claim that it reaches a growth marker important to the aquaculture industry more rapidly than its non-GE farm-raised Atlantic salmon counterpart is confirmed.14

GE salmon is not the same as wild salmon

In the PBS video, Ron Stotish, AquaBounty’s chief technology officer, makes the statement that the GE salmon is “exactly the same” as nongenetically modified salmon, and uses this as the reasoning for why labeling shouldn’t be required:15

“As a small company, with your first offering, with a limited quantity, there’s a huge risk associated with just putting a label, genetically modified, genetically engineered, on it. If it’s identical to the traditional food, why put a label on it?”

Except, GE salmon isn’t exactly the same as wild salmon. Even Thompson quipped, “But its DNA has been altered.” The fact is, little is known about the health consequences of consuming these altered salmon, as doing so is an unprecedented experiment. But in their issue brief on GE salmon, consumer group Food & Water Watch raised several important points:16

“The limited summaries of data that the FDA has released about the food safety of GE salmon show troubling results. GE salmon exhibited 40 percent higher levels of a hormone called insulin-like growth factor 1, which has been shown to increase the risk of certain cancers.

Also troublingly, GE salmon exhibited as much as 52 percent higher levels of ‘allergenic potency,’ which indicates possible allergic reactions from consumers.”

There were also concerns that the salmon may have less protein and differences in vitamin, mineral and amino acid levels compared to non-GE salmon which, according to Food & Water Watch, “the FDA did not rigorously investigate.”17

What if GE salmon escape into the environment?

In the video, Stotish touts the GE fish as a way to reduce global carbon footprints due to their “local” nature:18

“If you have a fish that grows a little faster, such as an Aquadvantage that reaches market weight in half the time, you can produce those fish almost anywhere because you can grow them in a land-based aquaculture facility. Closer to consumers.

So you can reduce the transportation cost, you can reduce the carbon footprint associated with transportation. So this opens up a whole new opportunity for global salmon production.”

But they pose one of the gravest environmental threats of all should they escape into the environment. While this seems unlikely in the land-locked Indiana facility, the Canadian AquaBounty facility is located across from a river that reaches the Atlantic Ocean. There are filters and “containment barriers” in place to prevent accidental escape, Stotish says, and the fish are microchipped so they can be tracked.

“We’ve been operating for more than 25 years and we’ve never lost a single fish,” Stotish told PBS.19 What if, however, someone — say a disgruntled employee — decides to intentionally release the GE fish into the wild? Most of AquaBounty’s fish are altered to be sterile so they can’t breed with wild salmon.

But the key word is “most.” A small percentage is not sterile, which means they could theoretically breed with wild fish populations, leading to generations of unnaturally fast-growing salmon, with unknown consequences.

PBS also spoke with Sharon Labchuk of the group Earth Action, who spoke out against the risks of GE salmon, “Do we have the right to manipulate the DNA of another living being? And, I don’t agree that that’s something that humans should be able to do.”20

Farmed salmon is no better

While farmed salmon isn’t genetically altered, it’s not a healthier or more sustainable option than GE salmon. One of the major problems is that farmed salmon are typically raised in pens in the ocean, where their excrement and food residues are disrupting local marine life. The potential for escape is also high, and farmed salmon is high in pollutants.21

Even land-based salmon aquaculture is problematic, according to research published in Scientific Reports, which performed an analysis of four salmon aquacultures in Chile.22 The facilities, often described as CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) of the sea, pump water from rivers into their hatcheries, then pump it back out to the river once it’s no longer clean.

The researchers found the water is often contaminated with dissolved organic matter (DOM) — a mixture of liquid excrement, food residue and other salmon excretions, along with disinfectants and antibiotics.

The release of DOM into Chile’s rivers is causing significant ramifications for the entire ecosystem. Upstream of the fish farms, the researchers detected higher amounts of natural algae biofilms on rocks, which help to produce oxygen and provide food for organisms that fish later eat.

Downstream, however, biofilms had a greater abundance of bacteria, which use up oxygen and may lead to low-oxygen environments that could threaten many species. The researchers suggested that no additional fish farms should be installed on Chilean rivers, noting, “[R]ivers should not be misused as natural sewage treatment plants.”23

How to avoid GE salmon

If you’re wondering how can you tell whether salmon is wild or farm-raised, the flesh of wild sockeye salmon is bright red, courtesy of its natural astaxanthin content. It’s also very lean, so the fat marks, those white stripes you see in the meat, are very thin. If the fish is pale pink with wide fat marks, the salmon is farmed.

Avoid Atlantic salmon, as typically salmon labeled “Atlantic Salmon” comes from fish farms. To avoid GE salmon, avoid any products labeled “bioengineered” and check any QR codes necessary to find out additional information. If you order salmon in a restaurant and it doesn’t specify that it’s wild-caught, avoid it — or at least ask the restaurant directly whether it’s GMO or not.

Fortunately, more than 80 retailers, including Aldi, Costco, Kroger and Meijer, have policies against selling GE seafood,24 and the more consumers speak out against it, the less likely U.S. stores will be to sell it — and restaurants to serve it.


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Nutty Almond Butter Bread Recipe


Article Source: Health And Fitness Journal

Recipe from Naturally Savvy

Apart from being a popular flavor and ingredient in food all over the world, almonds are one of the healthiest nuts that can provide immense benefits to your health. This Almond Butter Bread Recipe from Naturally Savvy uses creamy almond butter as the main ingredient for this delicious, no-grain bread. Whether you eat it alone or pair it with other foods such as fruits, vegetables or high-quality protein, you can be sure that your meal will be both healthy and delicious.

Ingredients

1 cup natural almond butter with no additives (including the oil that gathers at the top)

4 eggs

1 tsp. baking soda

Pinch of Himalayan salt

Procedure

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Line an 8×4-inch loaf pan with parchment paper.

2. Whisk the almond butter and eggs together until blended smoothly. Then whisk in the salt and baking soda.

3. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 30 minutes.

4. The bread is done when you insert a toothpick and it comes out clean.

This No-Grain Almond Butter Bread Is Fuss-Free and Healthy

Almond butter is rising in popularity not just as a wonderful spread for snacks, but as a delicious ingredient for pastries and breads, just like in this recipe. But the taste isn’t just one of almond butter’s good qualities — if the butter you use is made from organic almonds and deprived of trans fat-loaded oils, you may be able to reap some of the health benefits from these nuts.

Almonds can greatly boost your heart health, as a study published in the journal Circulation pointed out. People with abnormally high lipid levels in the blood, such as cholesterol, significantly lowered their risk for coronary heart disease when they snacked on whole almonds.

Beneficial healthy fats and an amino acid called l-arginine are also present in almonds, and these help enhance your vascular health. Don’t skimp on the almond skins either, because they are loaded with antioxidants such as phenols, flavonoids and phenolic acids.

If you’re purchasing ready-made almond butter, make sure that you buy it from a trusted, organic source that uses raw almonds instead of pasteurized almonds. Go easy when snacking on whole almonds or almond butter as well — they’re high in protein, as one almond has 1 gram of protein.

Using high-quality pasture-raised organic eggs for this recipe is important. Eggs provide structure and stability for your batter, add moisture to cakes and other baked items and even act as a glue or glaze.

Unlike eggs that come from conventional animal feeding operations (CAFOs), pasture-raised, organic eggs will not only lead to a healthier finished product, but contribute nutrients to your food as well. Research has shown that organic pasture-raised eggs are higher in vitamin A (2/3 times more), omega-3 fatty acids (two times more), vitamin E (three times more) and beta-carotene (seven times more).

About the Blog

Founded by two holistic nutritionists and a trusted expert on healthy living, Naturally Savvy’s main focus is to make sure its readers eat organic and whole foods, while learning how to integrate nutrition into their daily lives. The website shares the latest news on heathy living, lessons about the harmful ingredients lurking in various food items available today and other tips to make you and your family live a happy and healthy life.


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