Good Stress Gone Bad … it is a bit like Darth Vader

When I grew up, Darth Vader was marauding the galaxy, just being 50 shades of evil. And that was great to know. Vader = bad. Luke = good.

But that simple little equation didn’t hold for long, because later we learned that dear old Darth was actually daddy Darth for little Luke and had a soft spot somewhere in the pit of his black mechanical heart.

Awww. He’s not all bad, he’s just misunderstood!

In today’s nutritional world the same thing happened. All cholesterol was all bad all the time. Cholesterol = bad. Simple. But now we learn, like daddy Darth, that there is good cholesterol and bad cholesterol, and 75% of your cholesterol is made by your own liver because it’s vital for your health to have it on board. You need that good cholesterol!

Awww. It’s not all bad, it was just misunderstood!

Let me stress that stress is the same way. When you hear people talk, they’ll speak about stress like it’s something they need to avoid. But your body is set up to respond to stress by making you focused, routing blood to your brain, to your muscles and lungs. Your physiology create the internal conditions that gives you an advantage during stress.

Awww … just misunderstood, again!

What turns stress from a good thing into a bad thing is the same thing that turns any food from good-for-you to bad-for-you. And that is volume. Too much water = hyponatremia, which is bad. Too much wine = bad; too much chocolate = bad; too much food = bad; and on and on. When stress goes from being a short term occurrence to a chronic burden, then your body’s long term exposure to stress hormones can create a raft of unhealthy effects downstream.

So, remember that short term stress is not bad at all, until it becomes chronic stress.

Top 10 Probiotic Foods

(Excellent article from Alexandra Sifferlin at Time/Health)

One of the most crucial parts of our body when it comes to health is our microbiome—the trillions of bacteria that live in our gut. Scientists are learning that the bacterial communities we live with are linked to everything from body weight to asthma to acne. Having the right balance of bugs may keep us well in the long term. Some bacteria in the gut are good for our health, while other strains raise our risk for disease.

 We shape our microbiome makeup through our everyday diet. Many of the foods listed below are high in nutrients like fiber, which feeds healthy gut microbes. Those microbes produce short-chain fatty acids that get absorbed into the bloodstream and reduce inflammation while strengthening the immune system. These gut-friendly foods also contain pro- or prebiotics, which help gut-bacteria diversity. Probiotics are bacteria that are very similar to or the same as good-bacteria colonies already in our gut. They’re in many foods on this list, including yogurt and sauerkraut. Prebiotics, on the other hand, are a type of plant fiber often found in vegetables that nourishes good bacteria. (Good sources of prebiotics include chickpeas, bananas and artichokes.)

Both are important for keeping you regular and building a better microbiome. Here are some probiotic-filled foods to consider adding to your diet.

Cottage cheese

Lucas Zarebinski

How to eat it: This throwback cheese makes a great base for both sweet and savory snacks. Mix it with fruit and walnuts, or add olive oil, cucumber slices and a pinch of salt and pepper.

Why it’s good for you: Cheese lovers, rejoice: cottage cheese is a great pick for your gut. As with other fermented foods, cottage cheese often delivers probiotics (check the package labels for live and active cultures), and it’s high in calcium, which is important for strong bones.


Lucas Zarebinski

How to eat it: This Korean fermented- cabbage dish can add a flavor kick to nearly any food. Mix kimchi with brown rice or simply enjoy on its own.

Why it’s good for you: A probiotic made with cruciferous vegetables like cabbage and garlic, kimchi not only is gut-friendly but also may help reduce cancer risk.


Lucas Zarebinski

How to eat it: A small helping of sauerkraut paired with lean meat adds up to a tasty and nutritious meal.

Why it’s good for you: The cabbage in sauerkraut, a food that dates to the 4th century B.C., is fermented with lactic-acid bacteria, which means it’s good for keeping your digestive system in balance. You also get fiber and compounds that boost the immune system.


Lucas Zarebinski

How to eat it: Add fresh fruit, seeds and a little granola to a bowl of plain yogurt for a filling breakfast or afternoon snack.

Why it’s good for you: A fermented food, yogurt naturally contains lots of probiotic cultures that strengthen the digestive tract. Some Greek yogurt also boasts added probiotics like Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus casei that may help increase the good bacteria in your gut.


Lucas Zarebinski

How to eat it: Add a dollop of miso—a fermented soybean-based paste used in Japanese cooking—to soups. For a tasty salmon marinade, mix miso with ingredients like mirin, vinegar, soy sauce and sesame oil.

Why it’s good for you: Yes, miso can be high in sodium, but this gut-healthy pick delivers good amounts of protein, calcium, iron and magnesium.


Lucas Zarebinski

How to eat them: Add chopped pickles to your potato salad or use in your lunch wrap in place of high-fat spreads. To get that healthy bacteria, buy pickles brined in salt water, not vinegar.

Why they’re good for you: Cucumber pickles are brined in salt water and fermented, giving you that beneficial bacteria. Each spear offers vitamins A and K, important for blood and cell health, and potassium, vital for healthy heart function. Just keep in mind that pickles tend to be high in sodium.


Lucas Zarebinski

How to drink it: Enjoy kombucha straight from the bottle. You may need to sample a few varieties to find the one you like best.

Why it’s good for you: Kombucha is a fermented tea that also contains some gases and a small amount of alcohol, which gives it carbonation. It’s full of probiotics and antioxidants that support the immune system. Sip in moderation, though: it contains lactic acid, which in large amounts can build up in the bloodstream and harm your health.

Apple-cider vinegar

Lucas Zarebinski

How to eat it: This vinegar—made from fermented apple sugars—is delicious in salad dressings.

Why it’s good for you: The acetic acid in vinegar aids digestion. One 2009 study even linked regular apple- cider-vinegar consumption with weight loss. The acid may turn on fat metabolism and help keep blood sugar levels normal. Experts recommend keeping total intake per day at or below four tablespoons.


Lucas Zarebinski

How to eat it: Tempeh is a protein made from soybeans that you can use instead of meat. Add it to stir-fries with vegetables and healthy grains like brown rice.

Why it’s good for you: Compounds in this good gut food may have anti-inflammatory and even anti- tumor effects. Tempeh also serves up a helping of healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.

Parmesan cheese

Lucas Zarebinski

How to eat it: Sprinkle parmesan cheese on air- popped popcorn for a healthy and filling snack.

Why it’s good for you: Some fermented cheeses, like parmesan, contain lactic-acid bacteria that can create gut-healthy probiotics. Cheese also contains important nutrients like protein and calcium.

When It’s Okay To Be Type-A

I feel like I need to go to meetings. 

“Hello, my name is Will”. 

[in unison] “Hello Will.” 

“It’s been two weeks since my last workaholic episode, my phone is no longer physically plugged into my umbilical cord, and I don’t hyperventilate until I pass out when I take an entire day off.” 

[polite applause] I nod. Smile meekly but appreciatively, and sit back down.  

Yes, I am that person. The one who works all the time. And I know how that seems like I’m a tortured soul with a one-dimensional life, but that’s not actually true. And I also know that this article is going to sound a bit like a rationalization for an obvious mental disorder, but it also isn’t.  

Where The Concern Comes From 

The Type-A behavior pattern is defined as a temperament with excessive ambition, aggression, competitiveness, drive, impatience, need for control, and unrealistic sense of urgency. These are the overachievers who just cannot get themselves to sit down and chill out for a second.  

It’s also commonly stated that this pattern of behavior can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. In fact, this WebMD article is explicit: “Type A Triggers Heart Disease”. Nothing equivocal about that. And if you’re a competitive person, or someone driven to succeed, you might read this and think that these tendencies will be the death of you.  

However, although it’s true that the Type-A personality profile is more prone to cardiovascular disease and death, it’s also completely misleading. Type A behavior has many traits associated it (seven of them, based on the list above). And the uber anal-retentive fact-finding obsessives like me will doubtless ask which one of these traits is most responsible, or whether it is the combination of those traits, or perhaps a subset of those traits. Huh? Huh?  

It turns out that there is hope for my people.  

Type-A personality is to heart disease … as coffee is to cancer   

Several decades ago, researchers discovered that those people who drink coffee also have a greater risk of getting cancer. As a result, these two factors were linked and we were burdened with an incorrect assumption: coffee consumption increases the risk of cancer.  

The problem with this conclusion – in addition coffee-deprived mornings – was that those who drank coffee also tended to smoke. In other words, many variables were associated with coffee consumption and only one of them was actually responsible an increased risk of cancer (smoking). That means all the other variables associated with coffee consumption – like actually drinking coffee – are not related an increasing risk of cancer at all.  

It’s a totally rookie science error.  

The same basic problem seems to be at play in the link between the Type-A personality and cardiovascular disease. Of the seven different traits all assigned to this personality type, it turns out that only a couple of them contribute to heart problems.  And the question really is, which trait is contributing to heart problems?  

Anger and Hostility Are Not Your Friend 

Hostility itself is a well-established risk factor for heart disease, all on its own.  This effect held up for healthy people as well as those who have had prior cardiovascular problems.  

This is supported by the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study. A total of 3308 adults aged 18 to 30 years from 4 US metropolitan areas were followed up on over 15 years. Researchers wanted to discover which of the traits (time urgency/impatience (TUI), achievement striving/competitiveness (ASC), hostility, depression, and/or anxiety) were associated with hypertension.  

They found that achievement, striving, and competitiveness – all classic hallmarks of a Type-A person – were not related to hypertension at all. However, the traits of impatience and hostility were related in a dose-dependent manner. In other words, the higher the hostility and impatience, the higher the risk of hypertension.  

The message seems to be that being a hypermotivated slacker-annoying overachiever is irrelevant to your cardiovascular health. It’s neither here nor there (one less thing to micromanage, right?). So go ahead and achieve away. Have a good time running through your infinite do-loop of tasks.  

What does matter is whether you carry yourself through this life with anger and hostility, or live through more positive emotions. And this distinction seems to be the case no matter where you are on the scale, from busy bee to beach bum.   

Stress, And Creating Your Own Reality

Bobby McFerrin’s popular song informs us that, when you worry your face will frown, and that will bring everybody down so don’t worry, be happy. This may sound like some kind of Norman Vincent Peale power of positive thinking pap, but it turns out that your subjective feelings impact your objective measures of health.  

Researchers have measures of optimism and pessimism for many kinds of personalities. They can then correlate these measures with health outcomes to see whether there is any connection at all.  

What they find is that – and I don’t mean to bum you out – but the list of health issues caused by pessimism is just depressing. Across 83 different studies, “mortality, survival, cardiovascular outcomes, … immune function, cancer outcomes, outcomes related to pregnancy … pain” were all significantly affected by whether you thought your glass was half full or half empty. On the other hand, in heart patients lower scores on pessimism happen in people with lower risks for stroke 

This may be because, even if you are free of heart disease, levels of inflammation and vascular dysfunction are lower when optimism scores are higher. And in this long term, this may be why positive outlook on life is also linked to longevity. 

Given all this, it’s not off base to think about optimism as a medicine and pessimism as a toxin. And the impact of this medicine is dose dependent – the more you have it, the greater the impact. In this study of 1306 men, the likelihood of suffering any cardiac event varied in lockstep with measures of optimism/pessimism: the greater the optimism score, the greater the protection; the greater the pessimism score, the greater the risk.  


The bottom line is that, if you can influence your own health. If are optimistic about your health, you’re more likely to be right. If you are pessimistic about your health, you’re also more likely to be right. It’s the equivalent of Henry Ford’s comment that “whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right.”  

Can you create your own reality and make yourself instantly healthy forever? Nope, but the good news is that these data show that you may just be able to move the needle on your health in a positive direction by being positive about your health.  

Yeah, Size Matters … For Your Health

Image result for eat small be smallNeed a rule? For your health, “To lengthen thy life, lessen thy meals.” 

That was Ben Franklin, a million years ago. But it is just as true now as it was then — even more so? A little wine is awesome, a lot of wine is terrible. A little chocolate, potatoes (anything at all that’s a real food) is good for you, but all of those become bad for you when they’re over-consumed. In other words, to lengthen thy life, lessen thy meals. 

And for your weight, “Eat Small, Be Small”. The thing to know is that your body is an adaptive miracle that can be trained over time. If you want to eat in control … if you want to eat ALL YOU WANT, but want less, eat small to train your physiology to expect that much food. 

Hear Here To Hear More

Parmesan Croutons

 Croutons anyone? This is a great thing to do with bread that is starting to go a bit stale.
You’ll Need
  • 4 slices of bread
  • 2 Tablespoons Parmesan cheese
  • ¼ teaspoon oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon celery salt
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • Cut bread into crouton sized cubes and place in a bowl.
  • Add seasonings and oil.
  • Toss well to mix.
  • Place on cookie sheet.
  • Bake at 300F until crisp.
  • Cool.
  • Store in a glass jar.

Play with your food

  • You can leave out the celery salt and add in more garlic powder if you prefer.
  • Replace garlic salt with some dried oregano.

Follow @willclower

For more information: Click here to visit Will Clower’s website.

Will Clower Articles



Shop Healthfully, Even At The Piggly Wiggly. The big, bad three.

Related imageNormal grocery stores really do have things you want to put in your mouth. Some of them are produce, some are in cans, some are produced at the grocery store, and others are in bags. But the key to finding them, is to rule out the “Big, Bad Three”.

Let’s start with the non-produce, non-dairy, prepackaged foods. Think about food in cans, frozen foods, and foods in bags. If you are buying frozen or canned beans, or veg, or fruit, the key is to find items that don’t have weird ingredients added to them.

Once you start taking a peek behind the curtain, and reading the ingredients of the foods they purchase, then you have access to choosing the healthiest options. What you will see when you look is that there are additive sugars in everything. There is sodium in everything. There are preservatives in everything.

Look for them. Find them. Then you’ll see those items in the ingredients list, you can use that to choose the healthiest items on the shelf. More importantly, you can rule out the products that have ingredients that are bad for your weight (sugar), heart health (sodium), or overall health (artificial ingredients).

So the first best solution for shopping at a grocery store is to find the big bad three: sugar, sodium, and artificial ingredients.