Janus Baker, Author at Wakunaga of America

It’s Never Too Early to Save Your Brain

Common changes in cognition typically include slower word and name recall, difficulty multitasking, and mild decreases in attention span, say researchers at the University of California, San Francisco Memory and Aging Center.2  These natural age-related changes happen because certain parts of the brain, especially the frontal cortex, shrink over time. In addition, connectivity between neurons also becomes less effective, blood flow often decreases, and inflammation may increase.3 But the rate at which these changes happen isn’t necessarily the same for everyone.

The good news is that there’s a lot you can do to protect your brain and your cognitive abilities. And it’s never too early to start!

Feed Your Brain

New research in the Annals of Neurology shows that what you eat can impact how fast you age as well as your risk of developing dementia. During the study, researchers from Columbia University analyzed data from the second generation of the famous Framingham Heart Study. They found that people who ate a diet similar to the Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay Diet, also known as the MIND diet, aged more slowly and had 27 percent less risk of developing dementia and 57 percent lower odds of a premature death.4

So what is this brain-centric way of eating? The MIND diet is a plant-forward pattern of eating that limits the intake of foods high in saturated fat and sugar. While it borrows from both the Mediterranean and DASH diets, the MIND diet also focuses heavily on foods that support brain health. These include vegetables, with an emphasis on green leafy veggies, beans, berries, fish, olive oil, poultry, nuts, whole grains, and red wine. It also allows for small amounts of red meat, butter, cheese, and sweets.5 

While this particular study involved 923 seniors, the sooner you bail on unhealthy eating habits in favor of nutrient-rich, minimally-processed foods, the better it will be for your future brain. But to make sure your new way of eating sticks for the long haul, make changes slowly. For instance, try switching from white rice to brown rice. A couple of weeks later, buy and prepare a couple of vegetables you’ve never tried. Continue stacking healthy dietary habits until you’re eating a MIND diet at least 80 percent of the time.

Work It Out

It’s undeniable that regular exercise is good for your body. But research has found it’s also good for your mind. A recent clinical trial published in Scientific Reports showed significant improvements in memory among middle-aged men who had exercised regularly for 20+ years.6

Other studies show that exercise—especially aerobic exercise—increases oxygen and blood flow, reduces inflammation, and enhances connectivity between neurons in the brain. It also boosts brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein in the brain that helps neurons survive and grow, modulates neurotransmitters, and fosters neuroplasticity that helps the brain adapt and learn.7  If you live a less than active life, make physical activity a priority. Current recommendations are 150 minutes of moderate exercise each weeks, which breaks down to just 30 minutes five days per week.8

Sleep Matters More Than You Think

Getting enough shuteye is crucial to proper brain function. That’s because neurons are regenerated and the connections between nerve cells in the brain are strengthened while you snooze. This adds to both improved learning and memory. But, a 2022 study out of Oxford University found that shortchanging the amount of sleep you get not only negatively impacts your cognition and memory the next day, it also increases your risk of dementia in the future. But the study also found that getting too much sleep—more than eight hours per night—can also decrease your cognitive abilities. What’s the sweet spot? The researchers reported that sleeping for seven hours a night on a regular basis can help you achieve optimal cognitive performance.9

Gamify Your Mind

It’s well known that brain training can help to prevent cognitive decline. But building your mental muscle with the standard methods, like doing crossword puzzles, can get old fast. Fortunately, a new generation of brain training is using gamification to keep things fun and interesting, and that’s improving adherence and cognition.10 Examples of online brain training platforms that employ gamification include brainHQ or Lumosity

Supplement Intelligently

Nootropic herbs and nutrients contain high amounts of antioxidant, neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory, and immune modulating compounds that work to rejuvenate brain function and reduce neurodegenerative effects. Giving your brain the specific nutrients it needs can help to keep your brain in top form. Here are five of the most effective:

  1. Aged Garlic Extract (AGE) has been shown to protect the brain in several ways. First, because AGE is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, it can reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in the brain.11 Second, AGE modulates how well neuro-transmitters function in areas of the brain linked to cognition and memory.12 And finally, AGE helps prevent age-related brain shrinkage.13
  2. B Vitamins can slow cognitive decline, especially in those who begin taking this family of nutrients early in their adult life. In one analysis of 95 studies, researchers found that folate, in particular, plays a strong role in protecting the brain against homocysteine—an amino acid that, at high levels, can contribute to a decline in cognition and memory.14 But, since the B vitamins often works together, it’s best to take a supplement that also includes vitamin B6 and B12.
  3. Carnitine: This amino acid provides the brain with much needed power by preserving mitochondria—tiny energy factories found deep within all cells, including your brain cells. It also improves blood flow, protects against toxins, and helps transport fatty acids between the cells.15 Recent findings have reported that pairing carnitine with the MIND diet is an effective way to protect against dementia and may even improve functioning in people suffering from cognitive decline.16
  4. Gingko biloba is a well-known memory enhancer that has also been shown to improve cognition. That’s because ginkgo regulates the action of neurotransmitters, enhances blood flow in the brain, and protects brain cells from excessive inflammation.17 One review of 29 double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials found that the long-term use of ginkgo improves selective attention, some executive processes, and long-term verbal and non-verbal memory.18
  5. Phosphatidylserine makes up part of every cell membrane in the body. It’s most abundant in brain cells and allows nutrients and waste products to flow in and out of the cells. It also supports neurotransmission and tames inflammation in the brain.19 One 2022 review of nine studies found that supplementing with phosphatidylserine improves memory, learning, concentration, word recall, and mood.20

While adopting these brain-saving strategies as you head into your senior years can be helpful, starting even earlier—think your 40s and 50s—can optimize your cognition and memory both today and tomorrow. It just might be the smartest move you can make!

Fat Facts: What’s the Difference Between Omega-3s and Omega-6s?

What Are EFAs?

EFAs are polyunsaturated fats that are critical to good health. In fact, studies have linked them to a reduced risk of diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and infant mortality. A diet rich in EFAs have also been found to foster better brain, eye, and joint health.2  The problem is, the body can’t make them. This means we have to get our EFAs from either food or supplements.

There are two main types of EFAs—omega-3s and omega-6s. To get the most benefit from these two types of fat, experts agree that people should consume a 4:1 ratio of omega-6s to omega 3. Yet the typical Western diet provides a ratio closer to 20:1, and that can foster chronic, low-level inflammation.3 Why is today’s ratio so out of whack? One of the main reasons is the reliance on cheap seed oils like canola oil or safflower oil that are used by food manufacturers to create the wide array of convenience and ultra-processed foods in supermarkets today. Fortunately, it’s relatively easy to optimize your omega fat ratio. But first, let’s take a deeper dive into how omega-3s and -6s can help you become healthier.

The 411 on Omega-3s

Omega-3 fatty acids is an umbrella term for three specific types of fats. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) are two types of omega-3s found in fish like salmon, anchovies, and mackerel. These types of fatty, cold water fish are considered the best source of omega-3s. Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is the third form of omega 3 and it’s found in plants like chia seeds, soybeans, and walnuts. In theory, ALA can be converted to the long-chain fatty acids EPA and DHA in the liver. However, studies show that less than 15 percent is actually converted into these marine-based omega-3s.4

Why do you need to consume more omega-3s? One of the best reasons is because omega-3s are powerful anti-inflammatories. While short-term inflammation is an important tool the immune system uses to heal the body, research has linked chronic inflammation to a wide variety of serious health conditions.5 However studies show that omega-3s can help protect against cardiovascular disease, reduce the risk of cognitive decline, and improve the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, anxiety, and depression due to their anti-inflammatory action.6,7,8,9,10  Omega-3s also play an important structural role in cell membranes and promote cell membrane fluidity—and that translates to healthier cells.11 No wonder health experts tell you to up your intake of omega-3s, especially if your diet contains large amounts of its cousin, omega-6.

The Truth About Omega-6s

Some people erroneously portray omega-6s as nothing more than unhealthy inflammation-triggering fats. But, while some omega-6s are indeed pro-inflammatory, these EFAs can offer health benefits, too. And that’s especially true when they come from healthy sources like avocado oil, borage oil, eggs, nuts, and seeds. When balanced with omega-3s, omega-6s play a crucial role in brain function and normal growth and development.12 They also act as precursors to eicosanoids, signaling molecules that modulate various systems in the body, including your arteries, kidneys, and lungs.13  But trouble begins with when you consume excessive amounts of omega-6s. Studies show that high levels can increase the risk of bone loss, cardiovascular disease, dementia, inflammatory bowel disease, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, and rheumatoid arthritis.14,15 This is why it’s so important to reduce your intake of omega-6s while, at the same time, increasing the amount of omega-3s you consume. The right ratio is key.

Why You Should Consider Omega-3 Supplements

Most Americans don’t eat a lot of fish, which is the richest source of dietary omega-3s. But you can bridge the gap with a high quality fish oil supplement. Unfortunately, many supplements contain fish oil that has oxidized—and that can cause the fishy smell and taste many associate with fish oil supplements. Another problem? Fish oil is often contaminated with PCBs and other toxins. If that weren’t enough, it’s not uncommon for fish oil to be extracted using harsh solvents like acetone and hexane. That’s why it’s always a good idea to check the source of your fish oil before buying a supplement to ensure it comes from a company that not only prioritizes purity and sustainability but that has been certified by a third-party group like Friends of the Sea.

Storing and Using Your Fish Oil Supplement

Once you’ve found a supplement that ticks all the boxes, there are a couple of things you can do to increase its potency and bioavailability. First, make sure to take your supplement with a meal that contains some fat. Taking fish oil with a good source of fat can increase the bioavailability of omega-3 fatty acids and enhance their effectiveness.16

Effectiveness also depends on how you store your supplement. Today, most fish oil supplements can be stored in a cool, dark location like a cabinet that’s not near a heat source. But check the label to make sure you’re storing your specific supplement properly.


While it’s always a great idea to enjoy fatty fish like salmon once or twice a week, the best way to consistently improve your omega 3/omega 6 ratio is with a high quality fish oil supplement. To get even more benefit, search out a supplement that pairs high quality fish oil with other critical nutrients like vitamins A, D, E, or even Aged Garlic Extract. It just might be the most convenient way to do a body good!

Fiber—Are You Getting Enough?

Dietary Fiber—Your Gut’s Best Buddy

Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that’s present in plant foods. What makes it different from other carbohydrates is that it can’t be digested or absorbed by your small intestine. Instead, it travels to the large intestine where it is partially or fully fermented and converted to short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) that play a crucial role in maintaining intestinal health.3  But their benefits don’t stop there. Studies suggest that SCFAs can also act to keep inflammation in check, regulate the immune system, promote better metabolic health, and even help to protect the brain, heart, and liver.4 Once all this activity occurs, whatever is left of the fiber you ate is then shuttled out of your body via your stool.

There are two types of fiber in foods, soluble and insoluble, and each one has its own health benefits. Soluble fiber is the type of fiber that dissolves in water and forms a gel-like consistency. This type of dietary fiber has been linked to a lower risk of heart disease, decreased cholesterol levels, and better blood sugar control.

Insoluble fiber, on the other hand, doesn’t dissolve in water. Instead, it aids in elimination and helps to prevent constipation. As insoluble fiber moves through the digestive tract it brushes the cells of the intestinal lining and helps to “clean” the digestive tract by picking up problematic substances and whisking them out of your system.5  Because of this, insoluble fiber is an essential part of detoxification.

How Much Fiber Do I Need?

The recommended amount to consume per day is 25-40 grams of a combination of soluble and insoluble fiber. More specifically, women should strive to get at least 25 grams and men should shoot for at least 38 grams per day.6 Yet the typical American only eats 10 to 15 grams each day. Making sure you’re getting at least the bare minimum dose of dietary fiber can have a huge impact on your overall health and longevity.

Case in point: A 2019 review of nearly 250 studies found that building your diet around lots of fiber-rich fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can reduce the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, stroke, or type 2 diabetes by as much as 24 percent. What’s more, for every additional 8 grams of dietary fiber consumed, the risk of these diseases fell by another 5-27 percent.7 Another study conducted by the National Cancer Institute reported that high-fiber diets were linked to a 23 percent lower risk of death of any cause.8

What Are the Best Sources of Dietary Fiber?

So where are you going to get all that fiber? Good sources of soluble fiber include beans, vegetables (especially broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and sweet potatoes), fruits (particularly avocados), nuts and seeds, and whole grains. What about insoluble fiber? The good news is that the same foods that are high in soluble fiber are also great sources of insoluble fiber!

Easy Ways to Eat More Fiber

Fitting more fiber into your daily meal plan may seem a bit intimidating but it’s actually easier than you think. Here are six easy ways to up your fiber game.

Check the “Nutrition Facts” label. Choose items that contain a minimum of 3 grams of fiber per serving.  

Include at least one fruit or vegetable in every meal. Try adding some berries at breakfast, an avocado at lunch, and a cup or two of greens for dinner.

Add a veggie-packed salad to your evening meal. Beets, carrots, cucumbers, grains, nuts, and tomatoes all enhance a bowl full of greens. Let your imagination run wild when customizing your salads.

Adopt “Meatless Mondays.” Periodically creating tasty meals that revolve around beans and legumes, vegetables, or whole grains instead of meat can significantly increase your fiber intake.

Snack on fruit and popcorn. Both fruit and popcorn are excellent sources of soluble and insoluble fiber.

Try chia or flax seeds. Sprinkle on cereals and salads or include in your favorite smoothie or pudding.

Your Microbiome Needs Fiber Too

While dietary fiber provides a ton of health benefits you can feel, there’s another type of fiber that can support all those invisible microbes that live in your gut. Prebiotics are a group of special fibers that feed the beneficial bacteria (also known as probiotics) that make up your microbiome. And that’s important because these microbes play a critical role in a variety of body functions, including your digestion, immune function, metabolism, and brain.9

Prebiotics by themselves can provide health benefits too by producing SCFAs.10 And that can help to fortify the gut barrier and improve the symptoms of some digestive conditions. This was shown in a trial of people suffering with irritable bowel syndrome. Those taking a prebiotic supplement experienced a significant improvement in their symptoms, including bloating, gas, and bowel regularity.11

While certain foods like almonds, bananas, and oats are rich in prebiotic fiber, it’s often easier to take supplemental prebiotics to ensure your gut bacteria is getting a steady supply. And it’s even better if your prebiotic fiber is packaged with several strains of probiotics to not only feed your garden of friendly flora but to repopulate the goods bugs already found there. Known as synbiotics, these two-for-one supplements provide a complete solution for supporting a healthy gut that, in turn, supports you.

While there are a number of prebiotic fibers used in synbiotics, one of the most beneficial is alpha-gluco-oligosaccharide. Studies show that this particular prebiotic not only supports the growth of beneficial gut bacteria, the production of SCFA, and overall digestive health, it also improves immune and metabolic health.12,13 Check the label when shopping for a synbiotic supplement to make sure it contains alpha-gluco-oligosaccharide. And since alpha-gluco-oligosaccharide specifically fosters the growth of both beneficial Lactobcillus and Bifidobacterium probiotics, it’s also smart to choose a synbiotic with an array of these probiotic strains such as L.gassari, L. longum, L. rhamnous, B. bifidum, B. breve, B. infantis, B. lactis, and B. longum.

Ramping up your fiber intake can make a huge difference in the health and wellbeing of both you and your gut. Just be sure to increase your fiber intake slowly, gradually increasing the amount you eat over the course of a week or two. And add in a comprehensive synbiotic to be sure your microbiome is well-fed, too!


A Positive Mindset = Positive Health Benefits

What is Positive Thinking?

Positive thinking means that you simply approach life and its challenges with a more optimistic and productive mindset. In other words, you are more likely to focus on the good in any given situation. This doesn’t mean you’re not realistic. It just means you tend to approach life’s problems or setbacks with the expectation that things will go well. On the other hand, people with a more pessimistic view of life tend to believe that if something can go wrong, it will.

According to new research in the journal Science Reports, people who practice positive thinking are more satisfied with their lives and are more resilient when faced with less than ideal situations. And this was even true in older people.1 But being optimistic doesn’t just make you happier. It can also make you healthier!

The Health Benefits of a Positive Mindset

It’s easy to see how positive thinking can make you feel happier and more productive. But a growing number of studies have found that an optimistic outlook can also provide a wealth of health benefits. These include:

  1. Boosting longevity 2,3
  2. Enhancing immunity4,5
  3. Improving cardiovascular health6
  4. Promoting better sleep7
  5. Protecting against the negative effects of chronic pain and disability8
  6. Reducing feelings of anxiety and depression9
  7. Reducing the risk of frailty in the elderly10

In one 2019 review of 15 studies that looked at the link between a positive attitude and cardiovascular disease, researchers found that people who were most optimistic had a lower risk of experiencing a potentially deadly heart attack or other cardiovascular event compared to those who were more pessimistic.11 And an earlier study analysis involving more than 70,000 people reported that those with higher levels of optimism had a 35 percent lower risk of experiencing a cardiovascular event compared to individuals with lower levels of optimism.12

How can a more positive mental mindset trigger these physical effects? Some experts believe that people with a positive outlook are either less affected by or more resilient to the negative effects of stress.13 Others think that optimists tend to practice healthier habits like making  better food choices, exercising more, and generally avoiding unhealthy behaviors.14 Whatever the reason, the bottom line is that taking a positive approach to life is good for both mind and body.

Support Your Optimism Neurotransmitters

So is positive thinking a choice? Not entirely. Research in the Journal of Positive Psychology suggests that up to 25 percent of your inner Eeyore is actually hereditary.15 But, like all things genetic, your genes aren’t necessarily your destiny. And that means you can take steps to change your world view to a more positive one, starting with your neurotransmitters.

Your happiness neurotransmitters—especially dopamine and serotonin—rely on certain nutrients. For instance, adequate amounts of the B vitamins, especially folate and vitamin B6, are needed for the production of dopamine and serotonin.16 And research suggests that ginkgo biloba and phosphatidylserine can also increase dopamine levels.17,18 

More recent research suggests that your neurotransmitters are also influenced by your gut via the gut-brain axis.19 In fact, serotonin is actually synthesized in the gut and not the brain.20 That’s one important reason why maintaining a healthy gut microbiome can influence your mood and sense of optimism. One way to foster a healthier microbiome and a more positive mindset is with a daily probiotic supplement. This was seen in a recent clinical study of healthy volunteers that appeared in the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry. The researchers reported that those taking a probiotic experienced a significant improvement in their mood and less depression, anger or fatigue, leading to a more positive attitude.21

5 Lifestyle Hacks to Foster Healthy Optimism

The Mayo Clinic also offers up a handful of ways you can re-train your brain to be more optimistic.22

  1. Check yourself. Take a minute to evaluate what you’re thinking. If you’re primarily thinking negative thoughts, stop and try to put a more positive spin on them.
  2. Be open to humor and fun. Laughter is a proven stress-buster, especially during difficult times. It’s also been shown to bolster your body’s immune response.23
  3. Surround yourself with positive people. Negative people can increase your stress levels and support a more pessimistic view of life. Hanging out with positive people, on the other hand, breeds happiness and optimism.
  4. Keep a gratitude journal. Counting your blessings on a daily basis is a great reminder that things aren’t as grim as you imagine. One study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that maintaining a gratitude journal was linked to greater feelings of optimism.24
  5. Practice positive self-talk. Don’t say anything to yourself you wouldn’t say to someone else. Be kind and encouraging with yourself by repeating affirmations confirming the good things about yourself and your life.


It may take a while to go from seeing people and events through a negative lens to looking for the bright side of life. But with practice, you can become more optimistic and learn to celebrate that glass half full.

Heart Disease Starts Sooner Than You Think

Consider these startling statistics:

  • 3 million people age 18 to 39 have borderline high or high LDL cholesterol levels. That’s more than one-quarter of all people in that age group.1
  • According to the CDC, one in seven teens, age 12 to 19, have high blood pressure.2
  • Plaque in arteries can start to build up during childhood, eventually leading to an artery-clogging condition known as atherosclerosis.3

Making matters worse, young adults and the parents of kids under 18 are often unaware that they or their kids have one or more of these risk factors. One reason cardiovascular disease in the young falls under the radar is that many doctors don’t test for these risk factors in those under 40, despite urging by the American Academy of Pediatrics to test cholesterol levels in children as young as 9 years old and again at age 17.4 And the CDC advises parents to ask their child’s pediatrician to check blood pressure as early as age three! 2

Early Signs of Cardiovascular Disease

High cholesterol and high blood pressure typically don’t have any symptoms. So how can you tell if you or your child should be tested? Fortunately, the following factors can point to a higher than average risk in children, teens, or young adults:

  • Are overweight or obese.
  • Being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
  • Having a family history of cardiovascular disease.
  • Living a sedentary lifestyle.
  • Routinely eating a diet filled with ultra-processed food.
  • Smoking, vaping, or exposure to second-hand smoke.5,6

Are These Heart Disease Risk Factors Really That Bad? 

Numerous studies have drawn a direct link between future cardiovascular disease and high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or atherosclerosis in the young. Getting to know how developing these factors in early life can up the odds of a later heart attack, stroke, or even sudden cardiac death can help you get a jump-start on prevention.

Atherosclerosis. This common condition can begin in childhood and develops slowly throughout life as cholesterol, fatty substances, calcium, and cellular waste forms a sticky substance called  plaque. As this plaque builds up inside your arteries, it causes them to narrow, reducing the supply of oxygen-rich blood to your tissues. Over time, plaque can build up to the point where it reduces or blocks blood flow in an artery.7 A piece of plaque can also break off and block an artery, causing a heart attack, stroke, or sudden death.8

High Blood Pressure. Also known as hypertension, high blood pressure occurs when the force of your blood pushing against the walls of your blood vessels is consistently too high. When you have high blood pressure, your heart and your arteries have to work harder to circulate blood throughout your body. Over time, this damages the tissues that make up the inner lining of your arteries, creating the perfect environment for the buildup of plaque. The more plaque increases, the narrower your arteries become, and this further raises your blood pressure, starting a vicious cycle that can harm your arteries, heart, and the rest of your body.9 In addition to heart attack and stroke, studies show that high blood pressure can lead to heart failure, kidney disease, sexual dysfunction, and vision loss.10,11,12,13

What’s considered a healthy blood pressure and when should you be concerned? Here’s what’s the American Heart Association has to say:14

Systolic (Top Number) Diastolic (Bottom Number)
Normal Less than 120 Less than 80
Elevated 120-129 Less than 80
Stage 1 Hypertension 130-139 80-89
Stage 2 Hypertension 140 or higher 90 or higher
Hypertensive Crisis Higher than 180 Higher than 120


High Cholesterol. Cholesterol is a waxy substance that your body makes, and surprisingly it’s not inherently bad. In fact, your body needs cholesterol to build cells and make vitamins and other hormones. But too much low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, especially if it’s oxidized, can increase the buildup of arterial plaque. On the flip side, high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol is considered “good” cholesterol since it carries LDL to the liver where it’s then flushed from the body. This, in turn, can lower the risk for heart attack or stroke. Since it’s important to know where you stand, here’s a quick “cheat sheet” to cholesterol levels by age group:15


Healthy Borderline High
People under

age 20

HDL: 45 mg/dl or higher

LDL: < 110 mg/dL

Total: < 170 mg/dL

LDL: 110-129 mg/dL

Total: 170-199 mg/dL

LDL: 130 mg/dL or higher

Total: 200 mg/dL or higher

People over

age 20

HDL: 40 mg/dl or higher for men; 50 mg/dL or higher for women

LDL: < 100 mg/dL

Total: < 200 mg/dL

LDL: 130-159 mg/dL

Total: 200-239 mg/dL

LDL: 160-189 mg/dL

Total: 200 mg/dL or higher


Heart Healthy Action Plan for Kids, Teens, and Young Adults

The first step for prevention is knowing your (or your child’s) numbers. This is especially true if one or more of the risk factors ring true. Once you have the data, you can take these four actions to bring your cholesterol and blood pressure into a healthier range without resorting to medications. It may also help to keep atherosclerosis in check.

Level up your food choices. If you need yet another reason to eat healthier, two new studies have linked a diet high in ultra-processed food (think Doritos, Twinkies, and sugary sodas) to a greater risk of cardiovascular disease later in life.16,17 In another study, ultra-processed food consumption among preschoolers predicted higher total cholesterol levels from preschool to school age.18 What to do? Trade in unhealthy junk food for a Mediterranean-style diet rich in fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts, whole grains, and healthy fats like extra virgin olive oil.19

Get moving! Spending too much time playing video games or scrolling on your phone can contribute to a sedentary lifestyle that can undermine heart health. Balance your screen time with some daily activity that raises your heart rate, lowers your blood pressure, and helps you maintain a healthy weight.20

Add a supplement. A growing number of studies show that supplementing with Aged Garlic Extract (AGE) can improve both blood pressure and cholesterol levels while preventing the accumulation of calcium in arteries. In one 2020 clinical trial of 104 people, supplementing with a daily dose of AGE significantly discouraged the progression of coronary artery calcification and reduced systolic blood pressure and inflammation that can damage arteries.21  Earlier research reports that taking AGE resulted in a 7 percent drop in total cholesterol and a 10 percent decrease in LDL cholesterol in men.22  Note: since virtually all studies, including these, are  conducted on adults, do check with your pediatrician or family doctor before giving a child AGE or any other supplement.


Although the risk factors for cardiovascular disease among kids, teens, and young adults is more prevalent than we’d like to believe, it’s not an automatic path to a future heart attack or stroke. Pairing knowledge with a few simple lifestyle tweaks can reduce the risk and help to foster a healthier tomorrow.

Start Clean in 2024

  1. Improve Your Eating Habits

Starting out the New Year with a detox diet is great, but it doesn’t do you much good if you simply revert back to your old patterns once the diet is over. Rather than a temporary shift in eating, strive to incorporate foods that support detoxification into your everyday routine. The best detox foods are high in antioxidants—think berries, nuts, and dark leafy greens—which effectively and safely counteract the dangers of oxidative stress and free radicals.1

Of course, limiting the amount of toxins that go into your body is just as important as eating detoxifying foods. Try to avoid processed foods that contain a plethora of synthetic ingredients, from preservatives and additives to artificial colors and sweeteners—all of which have been linked to a variety of health problems.

  1. Get Better Sleep

Sleep doesn’t just recharge your energy levels; it’s also essential for proper detoxification. That’s because when you sleep, your glymphatic system kicks into gear. This network of vessels moves beneficial cerebrospinal fluid into your brain and removes metabolic waste.2 But since this process only occurs during non-REM sleep, it’s important to get seven to nine hours of quality shut-eye nightly.3

  1. Drink More Water

Since as much as 60 percent of the human body is made up of water, it’s little wonder that staying hydrated provides a number of health benefits. For instance, your kidneys rely on water to remove waste and extra fluid from your body. Making sure you’re drinking enough water also helps to prevent the buildup of waste products in your large intestines. What’s more, studies show that healthy hydration can protect against constipation and relieve the bloating and discomfort that accompany it.4 How much should you drink? Experts recommend drinking at least half your body weight in ounces every day. For example, someone weighing 150 pounds should drink at least 75 ounces (or a little more than nine 8-ounce glasses) of water each day to ensure healthy hydration.

  1. Reduce Your Alcohol Consumption

Limiting the amount of alcohol you drink—or abstaining from it altogether—is one of the best ways to keep your body’s detoxification system on track. There are two primary reasons for this. First, alcohol has a negative effect on the composition and function of your gut microbiota.5 Second, your liver can’t function adequately or perform its necessary tasks when you routinely consume alcohol. This includes filtering waste and other toxins from your body. So while a Dry January will help to get your liver’s detoxification capabilities back on track, reducing the number of alcoholic beverages you consume the rest of the year will help your body and mind stay clean.

  1. Break a Sweat

Being active plays a key role in the elimination of toxins. When you move, your blood flow increases, and that delivers more oxygen and nutrients to cells while clearing out waste.6 Aerobic exercise also improves the function of your lymphatic system, which plays a vital role in waste elimination.7

According to the current , adults need 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity. That breaks down to just 30 minutes per day, five days a week. The guidelines also recommend adding 2 days of moderate muscle-strengthening activity each week that target all the major muscle groups (think weightlifting or bodyweight exercises like squats or pushups).

  1. Keep Stress to a Minimum

Stress is unavoidable. And although a little stress here and there is sometimes the best motivation, living with constant pressure can have serious implications for your body and your mind. Stress affects every system in your body, including your cardiovascular, respiratory, endocrine, gastrointestinal, nervous, muscular, and reproductive systems.8 Pinpoint your stressors and find ways to work around them. If you can’t sidestep them, try out a meditation app, deep-breathing or yoga to help you cope with the things that put you on edge.

  1. Try a Supplement

No matter how good your health routine is, your detox system could likely use a boost. Fortunately, one of the easiest ways to ensure proper cleansing is with a focused supplement regimen. Here are some of the most effective nutrients to enhance detoxification:

Aged Garlic Extract (AGE). Well known for its cardiovascular and cognitive benefits, AGE possesses powerful antioxidant activity that aids in the act of cleansing. In fact, some of its antioxidant capabilities have been shown to be more potent than those of vitamin C.9 AGE also helps to detoxify the brain by potentially reducing the buildup of cerebral beta-amyloid protein significantly.10

Digestive enzymes. Support healthy gastrointestinal function with a combination of digestive enzymes. In one double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial of Italian adults experiencing functional dyspepsia, treatment with digestive enzymes—particularly protease and lipase—was found to be effective for reducing indigestion and improving sleep quality.11

Milk thistle. Also referred to as silymarin, milk thistle supports healthy detoxification in the liver through its robust antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. A recent pharmacological review suggests that silymarin can effectively restore liver function and liver cells.12

Additional antioxidants. As mentioned earlier, antioxidants are vital for fighting off the oxidative stress and free radicals that can damage your cells—including those needed for healthy detoxification. When choosing a supplement, opt for one that combines an array of antioxidants, including vitamins C and E, which have been clinically shown to reduce oxidative stress.13 And be sure your antioxidant blend includes selenium, as it’s been shown to be an even more powerful antioxidant than vitamin E, vitamin C, or beta-carotene.14

Cleansing your body for a fresh start might be easier than you think it is. By changing up your diet and a few lifestyle habits, your body’s detoxification process will be better equipped to handle the demands of modern life. Toss in a targeted supplement or two, and 2024 will likely be your healthiest year yet!

Lift Your Mood with a Healthy Gut

The Gut-Brain Connection

Believe it or not, your mood largely depends on the state of your gut. In fact, your gut and brain are in constant communication via the vagus nerve, the longest cranial nerve in the body. This means, when things are out of balance in your digestive tract, your brain gets alerted—and that can leave you in a less than stellar mood. But this connection goes both ways—the brain also talks to the gut. It’s why you might experience digestive upset when you’re anxious or stressed out.

Better Disposition through Diet

If you want to improve your mood, your first order of business should be to focus on what you eat. Incorporating a diet rich in nutrients allows your gastrointestinal environment to flourish. And that, in turn, positively impacts your mental health.

For a holistic approach to your way of eating, adhering to the Mediterranean, DASH, ketogenic, or Paleo diet can all help improve your mood, according to a systematic review of 18 studies.1 Your gut and your mood can also benefit by incorporating the following mood-enhancing foods into your daily diet:

Omega-3s. A meta-analysis of 2,160 participants published in the journal Nature showed an overall beneficial effect of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids on the symptoms of depression.2 Good sources include cold-water fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and herring, as well as nuts and seeds.

Dark chocolate. Who said good health didn’t include tasty snacks! Dark chocolate increases the diversity and abundance of bacteria in your gut, and thereby improves your mood. For the most benefit, make sure that chocolate you choose contains at least 85 percent cocoa.3

Fiber. Fiber is an incredibly important nutrient that has a range of health benefits. And you’re probably not getting enough of it. Fiber promotes weight loss, lowers blood sugar, relieves constipation, and supports heart and gut health. It also enhances mood. This is because fiber works to improve the intestinal microbiota in the gut. The result is a significant improvement in depression and anxiety symptoms and a better overall state of mind.4  Good dietary sources of fiber include fresh fruits and veggies, beans and legumes, and whole grains (especially oats). Adding several of these sources to your meals can help you reach your daily fiber goal.

Fermented foods. Eaten for centuries, fermented foods such as kimchi, kefir, kombucha, and yogurt are packed with nutrients that improve the makeup and diversity of your gut microbiome. Not only do these gut-enhancing improvements provide cardiovascular and weight-management benefits, they also deliver mood-altering effects.5 What’s more, these foods use unprocessed raw ingredients, contain little or no added preservatives, colors or flavorings, and are made using established, sustainable, and traditional technologies.

Dark leafy greens. Don’t forget your greens! Dark leafy green vegetables, including kale, spinach, collard greens, and cabbage, contain folic acid, which has been shown to help modulate mood. One systematic review found that this nutrient was effective at safely relieving depression and bipolar symptoms.6

Stay Hydrated

Drinking plenty of water isn’t just something you should do because you’re thirsty; it’s something you should do to feel better mentally. Dehydration can negatively affect your mood, not to mention your brain’s processing speed and working memory, as well as your energy levels.7 Fortunately, drinking water can alleviate these symptoms and help keep your spirits up. It’s also been shown to prevent and relieve headaches and even migraines. A study out of the Tehran University of Medical Science shows that adequate hydration can reduce the severity of migraine disability, pain severity, frequency, and duration.8

Take a Probiotic Supplement

 Probiotics play a pivotal part in promoting a balanced and healthy gut microbiome. Not only do they support healthy digestion, but probiotics can also influence mental health and improve your mood. Two recent studies back this up: In one six-week trial of badminton players, supplementing with probiotics reduced anxiety by 16 percent and stress levels by 20 percent.9 Another six-week stint of supplementation in overweight and obese participants saw significantly improved global mood and vigor along with reduced feelings of depression, tension, fatigue, confusion, and anger. Researchers noted that these results were due to a substantial increase in “good” gut bacteria, highlighting the close relationship between the gut and brain when it comes to mental health.10

 Level Up Your Lifestyle Habits

 Taking a proactive approach to your gut health can definitely lead to a better mood. Working in a few other lifestyle improvements can lift your spirits even higher.

 Physical Activity. Exercise is the perfect activity for a mental boost. And the good news is that you don’t have to be a hardcore gym rat or ultramarathoner to experience its benefits. Exercise of any intensity can significantly improve feelings of depression, and these good feelings can last for up to 30 minutes following the activity.11 Another more recent study confirmed these results while showing that exercise doesn’t just boost mood in depressed individuals, but it does so in healthy people as well.12

Good Vibes. Positive thinking isn’t just for the free spirited. Having a positive mental attitude can help improve your mood and outlook on life. Thinking positively means adopting an optimistic mindset that actively pursues favorable outcomes. One way to achieve this is with thought replacement. A report in the journal Behaviour Research and Therapy shows that when you replace worrisome thoughts with positive ones, you can effectively reduce worry.13

Get Social. Getting together with friends is a great way to improve your mood. In fact, a 2019 study in Frontiers in Psychology shows that a lack of social support is the strongest predictor of depressive symptoms in older adults.14 So have a family or friends over for dinner, volunteer in your community, or hit your local hot spots on a regular basis to keep your mood in good health.

A good mood relies on good gut health. By focusing on a gut-supporting diet, supplementing with probiotics, and adding in a few lifestyle hacks, your spirits will be up in no time.

Add Enzymes to Your Holiday List

What Are Digestive Enzymes

Digestive enzymes break down the proteins, carbohydrates, and fats in the foods you eat. From the moment you sit down to your holiday feast throughout the entire digestion process, your body produces these enzymes. But the catch is that the natural enzymes in your system are made in limited quantities. So eating too much food—and the wrong kinds of food—can overload your digestive system, causing the typical after-effects of those holiday indulgences: bloating, flatulence, abdominal pain, and more.

Types of Digestive Enzymes

 There are many types of enzymes and they all play an important role in the digestive process. Four of the main digestive enzymes are:

  • Amylase, which is produced by the salivary glands and pancreas, digests starches into smaller molecules which are more readily absorbed.1
  • Lactase, which is found in the small intestine, breaks down the lactose in dairy products.2
  • Lipase breaks down fats, including triglycerides, and absorbs fat-soluble vitamins.3
  • Protease, which is made in the pancreas, helps the body digest dietary protein.4

The Benefits of Digestive Enzymes

Whether you overindulge a little this holiday or have an ongoing gastrointestinal issue, digestive enzymes can provide the relief you’re looking for. Here are five common digestive conditions that benefit from enzyme support.

Indigestion. Functional dyspepsia—often called chronic indigestion—is one of the most common functional gastrointestinal disorders, affecting more than 20 percent of the population.5 But supplemental  enzymes can blunt the effects of indigestion. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group study appearing in the Journal of Medicinal Food, 40 patients were randomly assigned to receive either an enzyme combo that included amylase, protease, lactase, and lipase or a placebo. After the 60-day trial period, the patients taking the enzyme blend exhibited a reduction in their symptoms, whereas those taking the placebo did not.6

Fermentable carbohydrate digestion. Beans are infamous for causing flatulence. That’s because the body has trouble breaking down the complex carbohydrates in beans and other high FODMAP foods such as garlic, onion, wheat, and several fruits and vegetables. However, enzymes can help reduce the severity of your flatulence. And the proof is in the pudding (or rather in the bean dip): a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial on healthy volunteers showed that those who consumed digestive enzymes during a meal of cooked beans saw significantly diminished intestinal gas production and gas-related symptoms.7

Lactose intolerance. This digestive disorder results from a lactase deficiency in the small intestine, which prevents the body from fully breaking down the lactose in milk and other dairy products. Symptoms can include bloating, abdominal pain, gas, and diarrhea—and it’s common in patients with gastrointestinal tract diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease. Because some holiday traditions like that glass of eggnog are admittedly worth it, over-the-counter digestive enzymes like lactase can help prevent lactose indigestion by 50 percent.8

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). IBD, which encompasses Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, is a chronic inflammatory condition that can do permanent damage to the digestive tract—and symptoms can have a severe impact on a person’s quality of life. Yet, in a study conducted at an Italian university, patients who received a supplement containing digestive enzymes reported reduced abdominal pain, bloating, and flatulence after four weeks of treatment.9

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Unlike IBD, IBS doesn’t have the same enduring inflammatory effects on the intestines, though symptoms can still be fairly intense. Digestive enzymes have a long track record of relieving post-meal IBS symptoms including diarrhea, abdominal distension, flatulence, bloating, and a feeling of fullness.10

How to Get More Digestive Enzymes

There are two natural ways to increase your digestive enzyme count: through supplementation and through the foods you eat.

Supplements. As the previous examples demonstrate, taking a digestive enzyme supplement can effectively help manage a variety of gastrointestinal issues. To enhance digestive support even further, opt for a supplement that combines digestive enzymes with probiotic strains shown to support healthy GI function. This combo not only aids digestion, but experimental data show that it dramatically lowers harmful LDL cholesterol while increasing beneficial HDL levels.11

Foods. Digestive enzymes also occur naturally in plant foods, and eating them can improve your digestion. Pineapples, mangoes, bananas, avocados, raw honey, ginger, and fermented foods like kefir and sauerkraut are all good sources of digestive enzymes as well as important vitamins and nutrients. On the flip side, be sure to also cut back on highly processed foods, which can put a strain on your digestive system and overwhelm your enzymes’ ability to efficiently break them down.

Support healthy digestion this holiday season with a high-quality digestive enzyme supplement. From preventing discomfort following a big meal to addressing a recurring condition, these enzymes offer a natural way to achieve digestive bliss all year long.

What Are Nootropics?

How Do Nootropics Work?

Nootropic herbs and nutrients contain high amounts of antioxidant, neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory, and immune modulating compounds that work to rejuvenate brain function and reduce neurodegenerative effects. For example, nootropics increase acetylcholine (a compound that acts as a neurotransmitter) and oxygen levels while delivering enzymes and key hormones to the brain.1 In doing so, they protect brain tissues from neurotoxicity by eliminating damaging free radicals, acting as an antiplatelet to prevent blood clots, and improving the brain’s ability to rewire itself in response to stimulation—a process known as plasticity.2

What Are the Benefits of Nootropics?

The brain-enhancing impacts of nootropics are especially beneficial for two specific conditions.

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Marked by inattention, distractibility, nervous energy, and poor executive function, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can significantly affect all aspects of daily life, from school and work performance to personal relationships. To cope, sufferers often turn to prescription drugs that carry a slew of side effects. But, nootropics can help alleviate the impacts of ADHD without having to go the pharmaceutical route. By improving attention, concentration, hyperactivity, anxiety, and the ability to deal with frustration, nootropics offer a natural solution to managing symptoms.3

Dementia. Research suggests that nootropics may be an effective preventive and therapeutic for Alzheimer’s disease (AD), the most common form of dementia. In one study review, nootropics appeared to reduce cognitive deficits by acting as antioxidants, calcium-channel blockers, and acetylcholinesterase inhibitors to improve memory and learning. What’s more, these compounds’ neuroprotective activities have been found to decrease the beta-amyloid accumulation, synaptic dysfunction, inflammation, and oxidative stress commonly found in those experiencing AD.4 And a recent clinical trial involving 583 patients with mild to moderate dementia found that those taking nootropics had less cognitive decline than those taking a placebo.5

Enhance Cognitive Health with Plant-Based Nootropics

You can up your mental capacity naturally with a combination of botanicals known to promote sharpness, mental acuity, and attention.

Aged Garlic Extract (AGE). Studies show that AGE improves memory retention and the ability to learn new information. That’s not surprising since this unique herb boasts potent anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and neuroprotective properties.6 Preliminary research suggests that AGE also increases the survival of specific nerve cells (neurons) in the hippocampus—the area of the brain, thought to be the center of emotion, memory, and the autonomic nervous system.7 AGE may help guard against Alzheimer’s disease (AD) by discouraging the buildup of amyloid-beta plaque, which is the primary hallmark of the disease.8

Ginkgo biloba. This ancient herb has been shown to improve both mental acuity and focus. A 2023 review of 256 studies found that standardized ginkgo biloba extract can effectively increase blood flow to the brain and enhance vascular permeability. The researchers noted that these benefits are especially useful for anyone experiencing cognitive problems, such as delayed reaction time and reduced global functioning (a measure of how much a person’s symptoms affect their day-to-day life).9

Siberian ginseng. This unique form of ginseng, also known as eleuthero, not only boosts brainpower, it also acts as an adaptogen to ease the negative effects of stress on the brain. This is important since high levels of stress damage the brain’s ability to learn, form new memories, and retrieve existing memories.10  Siberian ginseng has also been shown to increase acetylcholine in the hippocampus, thereby improving communication between neurons.11 Plus, preliminary research suggests that eleuthero might safeguard cognition by helping the brain to maintain its ability to regenerate after experiencing beta-amyloid damage.12

 Healthy Habits for Improved Brain Activity

Though a nootropic supplement can go a long way toward providing an improvement in your cognitive function, it’s not the only step you should take to enhance your mental acuity. Here are a few more ways to get the most out of your brain.

Diet. Boosting your brain power through food is an easy way to stay sharp at every age. Whole foods diets, such as the Mediterranean or Nordic diet, are linked to a lower risk of cognitive decline and dementia. On the other hand, consuming a diet high in saturated fats and refined carbohydrates can lead to impaired cognitive function.13

Exercise. Physical activity doesn’t just influence your cardiovascular system; a wealth of research shows that it also supports cognitive function, particularly for those experiencing mild cognitive impairment (MCI). One meta-analysis found that engaging in regular physical exercise improves global cognitive function, executive function, and delayed recall in MCI patients.14

But to get the most brain benefits, take your workout outside. Exercising outdoors—even a 15-minute walk around the neighborhood—can improve cognitive performance and increase the neural responses associated with attention and working memory.15

Sleep. Subpar sleep habits are directly related to poor memory and an increased risk of dementia. Fortunately, researchers have determined the optimal amount of shuteye you should get every night. In a study of 479,420 adults, they found that sleeping seven hours per night was associated with the highest cognitive performance, and for every hour below and above, cognitive performance decreased.16

Nootropics are a great way to give your mental acuity a lift, whether you suffer from a lack of focus or slight cognitive impairment. They are typically very well tolerated, but it’s wise to always talk with your doctor before starting a new supplement.