6 Ways to Fight Seasonal Depression

Feeling the winter blues? You’re not alone — and there’s a reason. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is very real, and it affects an estimated 10 million Americans.

SAD is a type of depression that comes and goes with the seasons, often starting in the late fall as the days get shorter and darker. If most often begins to lift with the coming of spring and increased daylight.

What Causes Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Healthcare professionals believe that Seasonal Affective Disorder is a result of a few triggers. The first is the disruption to your circadian rhythm or biological clock. Less sunlight and longer hours of darkness in the fall and winter may disrupt your body’s internal clock, leaving you to feel more tired and depressed. 

Reduced sunlight can cause a drop in serotonin levels, a brain chemical that affects your mood. The reduction of this feel-good neurotransmitter can leave you feeling blue. Lack of sunlight also means a drop in melatonin levels, which can affect mood and sleep.

What Are The Symptoms Seasonal Affective Disorder?

SAD symptoms go beyond the occasional “feeling blue”. They may include:

  • Feeling depressed most days
  • Loss of interest in things you normally enjoy
  • Feeling sluggish and fatigued
  • Oversleeping or insomnia
  • Feeling hopeless, unworthy or guilty
  • Increased irritability
  • Weight and appetite loss or gain
  • Difficulty focusing and concentrating
  • Brain fog or trouble retaining information
  • Thoughts of death or suicide


6 Ways to Fight Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Thankfully, there are things you can do to combat Seasonal Affective Disorder. Follow these 6 tips to get back to feeling like yourself!

1. See your doctor.

It’s normal to have occasional days when you feel down. But if feelings of depression are plaguing you for days at a time, or if you are experiencing any of the symptoms above, it’s time to talk to your doctor. Your doctor may run blood tests to see if you are deficient in Vitamin D or other essential nutrients, as well as go over your symptoms and life changes. Together, you can determine the best course of action.

2. Try light therapy.

Phototherapy, or light therapy, is often the first defense against seasonal depression. It’s been a popular treatment for SAD since the 1980s. 

A full-spectrum light box mimics the sun’s rays to offset the lack of sunlight in the winter. Symptoms of seasonal depression may be relieved by sitting in front of a light box first thing in the morning each day throughout the fall and winter months. On average, you will need at least 20-30 minutes of exposure to 10,000 lux of cool-white fluorescent light per day.

While there are a plethora of light boxes available for purchase on the Internet, not all light boxes are created equally. It’s best to get a recommendation from your doctor prior to purchasing one.

The Mayo Clinic offers tips for selecting a light box here.

3. Commit to regular exercise.

One of your biggest weapons in the fight against depression is simply activity. Even when you don’t feel like crawling out of bed, taking a short walk around the block or doing 20 minutes of yoga can help restore health and wellbeing to your body.

Moderate exercise such as walking, jogging, climbing stairs and yoga release endorphins and serotonin to the brain, which elevate your mood and health. Aim for at least 20-30 minutes of moderate exercise per day.

4. Try mind-body techniques.

Mind-body techniques such as meditation, tai chi or yoga can help you better cope with the onset of depression. Focusing on gratitude can also help you steer your thoughts from helplessness to hope.

Take a class at a local community center, or try a morning meditation practice in the comfort of your home.

5. Stick to a schedule.

While you may be inclined to oversleep or binge-watch television on the couch, establishing and maintaining a schedule can help you be consistent with activity from day-to-day. Try your best to wake up and go to bed at the same time each day, schedule in your meals and exercise. Getting into a routine will help your body learn to navigate the winter months in a more productive and healthy way.

6. Enjoy nature or a getaway.

If you’re able, take a vacation to a warmer, sunnier place to give your body some extra Vitamin D and sunlight therapy. If that’s not possible, try getting away to a new town for a weekend. The new sights and sounds can build feelings of excitement and joy, renewing your energy and mood. 

It can also help to get out into nature, regardless of the weather. Suit up and go play in the snow, or don a raincoat and take a misty hike through the forest. Immersing yourself in the calm beauty of nature can do wonders for the soul.

5 Tips to Ease Holiday Stress

While holiday tunes may wish you a “Holly, Jolly Christmas” the truth is that the holidays may leave you feeling frazzled. In fact, a survey by the American Psychological Association shows that 8 out of 10 people anticipate increased stress over the holidays. In some cases, the increase in stress and anxiety may even lead to depression. 

 But you don’t have to let the holidays get the best of you. In this month’s blog, we’re sharing 5 tips for avoiding and easing stress so you can enjoy the season and all of its gifts.

1. Maintain Healthy Habits

All too often when the holidays arrive, we toss healthy habits out the window. Make an effort to stick to any healthy habits you have already created: a healthy diet, afternoon walks, morning meditation. Schedule these practices into your day if needed, but don’t abandon them for the overindulgence of the season.

Going to a party? Eat a healthy snack before you go, so those sugary sweets won’t be as tempting. A hectic day of shopping and activities? Start your day with a healthy breakfast smoothie and ten minutes of meditation

Of course, you’ll want to partake of holiday treats and activities, and indulging a little here and there is to be expected! Working to maintain regular, healthy habits throughout the season will keep you focused and you’ll feel less guilty when you do have a slice of that cheesecake.

2. Know When to Say No

The holiday season can be chaotic, and your calendar can fill up before you know it. But while you may be tempted to accept every party invitation that comes your way, it pays off to pace yourself. 

Say yes to gatherings and activities that truly bring you joy, and don’t be afraid to politely decline all others. Stagger outings with days of self-care in between. Taking time to rest and recharge will reduce stress and keep you going well through the New Year.

3. Set a Spending Budget

Finances are one of the biggest stressors during the holiday season. In fact, according to the National Retail Federation, the average American family spends more than $1,000 on Christmas gifts and decorations.

It’s easy to go overboard, especially when there are kids and grandchildren to buy for, and before you know it, you’ve racked up a mountain of holiday debt. 

Start the season right by taking an honest look at your finances, then set a realistic budget for holiday spending. Track your spending on paper or via an app like You Need A Budget and ensure that you don’t go over your limit. It will give you peace of mind and ensure that your finances don’t go off the rails.

4. Strengthen Healthy Bonds

Sometimes, less is more. Rather than spreading yourself too thin at multiple parties, create a special time for strengthening close connections with the family and friends that mean the most to you. Have a quiet meal and conversation, take a walk to see Christmas lights. 

Sometimes we’re so busy running around all season that we realize we didn’t have time to simply enjoy being with the ones we love. Don’t get so caught up in the festivities that you forget to just connect

5. Plan Ahead

Hosting a gathering? Create a plan and checklist, then delegate tasks to share the workload. Carve out your schedule for the week, setting blocks of time aside for self-care. Plan your menus ahead of time so you’re less tempted to give in to junk food.

A little prior planning and preparation will help you feel more focused and steady so you can make the most of the holidays with the ones you love.



The Importance of Micronutrients in your Diet

If you’re making the effort to eat better and be healthier, considering your intake of key micronutrients is vital. According to an article published by Harvard Medical School, micronutrients have a major impact on our health and wellbeing. Are you getting what your body needs?

In this month’s blog, we take a look at what exactly micronutrients are, why they are important to our health, and how to ensure we get enough in our diets.

What Are Micronutrients And Why Are They Important?

Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals that are only required in small quantities by our bodies, but have a big impact. In fact, micronutrients are essential for a number of different bodily functions, including growth and development. 

Although micronutrients are only required in trace amounts, becoming deficient in these micronutrients can cause a variety of problems in the body. And it happens easier than you may think. In fact, micronutrient deficiencies are quite widespread, affecting a third of the world’s population. 

Vitamins A, B6, C, D, and E are all examples of micronutrients, as are iron, magnesium, iodine, and zinc. 

Micronutrients are essential for maintaining your brain, muscle, bone, circulation, skin, and immune system. Failing to get enough micronutrients leads to deficiency, which can contribute to a number of health problems ranging from fatigue, depression, muscle weakness, and headaches to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and osteoporosis.

How To Obtain Micronutrients

While a plethora of studies offer conflicting and often confusing suggestions about micronutrients and nutrition (including the effectiveness of certain supplements) one thing is certain: the best way to get vitamins and minerals is from a well-rounded diet, with plenty of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and lean sources of protein, along with healthy fats, such as nuts and olive oil.

“You should ideally try to meet your vitamin and mineral needs through your diet rather than supplements,” says Dr. Howard D. Sesso, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and Medical Editor of the Special Health Report Making Sense of Vitamins and Minerals: Choosing the foods and nutrients you need to stay healthy.

If your diet consists of highly processed foods filled with sugar and salt, and if your diet lacks a well-balanced variety of fresh produce, you may be at risk for micronutrient deficiency.

Choose Fresh Foods Rich In Micronutrients

Five micronutrients in particular play vital roles in maintaining immune function and overall health: vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin E, magnesium, and zinc. While these and others are often sold as daily supplements, there is no evidence that such supplements have any more benefits than simply  following a fresh, healthy, wholesome diet. Adjusting your diet to include a variety of whole foods is always preferred to popping a supplement every day. 

Harvard Medical School suggests the following foods as great ways to get some of these essential micronutrients:

Obtain Vitamin B6 from…
Chicken, cereals, bananas, potato skins, chickpeas, tuna, salmon

Obtain Vitamin B12 from…
Fish, chicken, eggs, low fat cheese and milk

Obtain Vitamin C from…
Tomatoes, citrus fruit, sweet peppers, broccoli, kiwi

Obtain Vitamin E from…
Sunflower seeds and oils, almonds, peanut butter

Obtain Magnesium from…
Whole wheat, legumes, nuts, seeds, avocados, spinach, quinoa

Obtain Iron from…
Chicken, turkey, oysters, kale, collard greens, swiss chard, pumpkin seeds, legumes

Are You Deficient In Micronutrients?

If you’re concerned that you may be deficient in essential vitamins and minerals, or if you’re feeling extra sluggish or have possible symptoms, contact Exceed Hormone Specialists today to schedule a consult. 

Dr. Chauhan and Dr. Pearson are trained to evaluate your vitamins and supplements based on your medical history, complete evaluation, lab studies, and a clear understanding of your nutrition and performance goals.

Our specific recommendations will be based on core medical knowledge and the latest reliable research. We will then tailor the recommendations to your particular situation and needs. Such an approach ensures that your ongoing supplement and vitamin choices are aligned with your individual health situation, your needs, and your aspirations.


Healthy Eating Habits to Balance Menopause Symptoms

Hot flashes. Sleep disturbances. Mood swings. The onset of menopause symptoms (known as perimenopause) can leave you feeling out of balance and overwhelmed. As your reproduction system begins to wind down during middle age, your body experiences a drop in estrogen and progesterone, which can take a toll on your physical and mental wellbeing. 

Declining hormone levels can lead to bone density loss and osteoporosis and shifting metabolism can often cause weight gain. 

If you are starting to experience signs of menopause, contact us for a consultation so we can help you through this time of change. 

It’s also important to pay close attention to your diet during this time, so we’ve rounded up some foods to avoid — as well as ones you’ll want to make sure you’re getting on a daily basis.

Foods to Avoid During Menopause.

Quit caffeine. Although menopausal symptoms may leave you feeling fatigued, that cup of coffee may do more harm than good. In fact, according to researchers at the Mayo Clinic, caffeine intake can worsen vasomotor symptoms during menopause, such as night sweats and hot flashes. 

If you need a natural energy boost, opt for a healthy smoothie, increase water intake, get plenty of sleep and be sure to exercise 30-60 minutes at least 4 days a week. 

Fight sugary carb cravings. Lowered levels of estrogen and progesterone can increase sugar cravings and send you running for the nearest pasty. However, calorie-loaded carbs and sugars will leave you feeling drained and can cause unwanted weight gain due to slower metabolism during menopause. Try your best to avoid processed, sugary foods.

Ditch the alcohol. Insomnia is a common symptom of menopause, due to decreased levels of estrogen, decreased melatonin production and increased night sweats. Alcohol lowers melatonin production even further, making it hard for your body to regulate your sleep-wake cycle.

The good news? Your risk of cardiovascular disease begins to drop soon after quitting tobacco use! And the risk drops significantly after one year of being tobacco-free.

Increase these Foods to Balance Hormones During Menopause

Eat plenty of fresh produce. Eating a variety of fresh fruits and veggies helps to balance your hormones, boost energy, and keep you feeling your best throughout menopause. Be sure to get lots of dark, leafy greens (such as kale, spinach, mustard greens and collard greens) as well as bananas and other magnesium and calcium rich foods to keep bones strong and healthy as your body goes through this mid-life transition. Avocados are a favorite for providing healthy fats and a health boost!

Sprinkle those seeds! Flax, chia, and pumpkin seeds are rich in magnesium and healthy fats, making them a great addition to fresh salads or smoothies. 

Love your legumes. Chickpeas, lentils and other beans are full of protein and also aid in bone health.

Have a helping of healthy fats. Limit your oil intake to healthy, plant-based fats such as avocado and olive oils. Avoid fatty, red meats and opt for leaner meats such as fish or chicken.

Switch out your snacks. When salt and sugar cravings hit, opt for a healthy snack pairing such as apple slices with almond butter, raw veggies with a low-fat dip, or hummus with whole grain toast or crackers.

5 Strategies for Preventing Cardiovascular Disease

Cardiovascular disease is a killer. In fact, it’s the number one cause of death globally, claiming an estimated 18 million lives each year. 

But what exactly defines cardiovascular disease? “Cardio” refers to the heart, while “vascular” refers to blood vessels. Therefore, cardiovascular disease includes heart conditions such as coronary artery disease and heart failure, as well as vascular problems such as high blood pressure and narrowing of arteries.

Most often, the term cardiovascular disease refers to atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, which is the underlying cause of most heart attacks and strokes. 

Fortunately, cardiovascular disease can often be prevented by making healthier choices in your daily life. September 29th is World Heart Day, so we’re sharing some key strategies for maintaining cardiovascular health and preventing disease. Here’s to a happy heart!

1. If you use tobacco, stop. Today.

Smoking and tobacco use is one of the most significant risk factors for developing heart disease. The toxins in tobacco damage your heart and blood vessels, putting you at an increased risk for a heart attack.

The good news? Your risk of cardiovascular disease begins to drop soon after quitting tobacco use! And the risk drops significantly after one year of being tobacco-free.

2. Get your heart rate up through moderate exercise.

Committing to moderate exercise (just as walking at a brisk pace or riding a bike) for 30 minutes each day–or at least 4 to 5 days a week– goes a long way toward preventing cardiovascular complications.

The Department of Health and Human Services recommendations of 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity, 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic activity, or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity.

And it’s not all or nothing. Busy week? Any exercise is better than none!

Find ways to work extra cardio conditioning into your daily tasks. If you’re able, opt for the stairs instead of taking the elevator. Give the dog an extra walk. Making exercise a top priority will not only help fight off heart disease; it also promotes hormone health, better energy levels and weight loss while reducing the risk of high blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes.

3. Commit to a heart-healthy diet. 

Ditch the junk food and reduce your reliance on sugar and salt laden processed foods. Aim for a diet rich in fresh vegetables, fruit, beans, and whole grains. Try to get five to ten servings of fresh fruits and vegetables each day.

If you eat meat and dairy, opt for lean meats, fish and low-fat dairy products. Limit saturated and trans fats, and opt for healthy fats and oils from plant-based sources, such as avocados, nuts, and olives.

4. Get plenty of quality sleep.

Sleep deprivation does more than give you an afternoon case of the yawns. It also puts you at risk for obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart attack.

The average adult requires seven to nine hours of sleep each night. If you’re struggling when your alarm goes off each morning, you’re not getting enough rest. 

Make a healthy sleep schedule a top priority. Set a bedtime and waking time, then stick to it as often as possible. Unwind away from electronic devices for an hour before you head to bed. Read a book, take a warm bath, spend a few moments in meditation, or enjoy a hot cup of herbal tea. 

If you find that anxiety and worry is keeping you up at night, talk to your doctor about ways to better manage stress. Keep in mind that a healthy diet and exercise will help to relieve stress as well!

5. Get regular health checkups.

Cardiovascular problems like high blood pressure and high cholesterol can seemingly sneak up on you. Regularly scheduled health screenings with your doctor will ensure that any warning signs are caught early on.


Reduce Stress Hormones through Mindful Meditation

Feeling stressed? You’re not alone. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting 40 million adults. And while anxiety disorders can develop from a variety of risk factors–such as genetics, brain chemistry, and environmental factors–stress is a big antagonist.

Physical, emotional, and mental stress leads to higher levels of cortisol, a hormone produced by the adrenal gland. Over time, the continual release of this stress hormone can contribute to a variety of adverse effects on our physiological systems.

While medications often play an important role in magazine anxiety and depression, there are also a number of natural ways to help ease your body and mind.

Mindfulness Meditation Lowers Stress Hormones

Mindfulness meditation, the practice of focusing your attention on your breath and the present moment, helps lower stress hormones, thereby decreasing inflammation in the body.

The topic has gained a lot of scientific interest in the past decade, with numerous studies pointing toward these findings. According to a study conducted by Georgetown University Medical Center’s Department of Psychiatry, mindfulness meditation can help lower inflammation and stress hormones by around 15%. 

The findings were echoed by a study in the journal Health Psychology, which showed an association between increased mindfulness and decreased levels of cortisol. 

“This is the first study to show a direct relation between resting cortisol and scores on any type of mindfulness scale,” study researcher Tonya Jacobs, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Davis Center for Mind and Brain, said in a statement. Participants in the meditation group showed reductions in their levels of ACTH, IL-6 and TNF-alpha during the stress test.

How to Begin a Meditation Practice

So how does one mindfully meditate? While the notion may conjure visions of distant monasteries and daily devotion, meditation is for everyone. And it’s not as hard as you think. Here are 7 tips for getting started with your own practice today.

1. Choose the right location.

Find a soothing spot for your meditation practice. It might be a room in your home, or a corner of your office or apartment. It’s best if this nook is free of clutter, has nice natural light and is quiet and free of distractions. You may want to place some water features or green plants in this area or, if the weather allows, you might prefer to sit outdoors. You may choose to set a gentle alarm to sound after five or ten minutes. With practice, you can work up to longer sessions, but in the beginning, keep the short and focused.  

2. How to Prepare for Sitting Meditation

Whether you choose to sit on a mat, a cushion, a chair or a park bench, find a seat that offers stable, upright sitting. If you’re on a cushion or mat on the floor, cross your legs in front of you. If you opt for a chair or bench, make sure your feet are resting on the floor to ground you.

The general idea here is to sit comfortably straight and upright, although not rigid. Your natural spinal curve should feel flexible, but take care that you are not slouching. 

Let your arms and hands softly rest on the tops of your thighs.

3. Lower Your Gaze. 

Allow your chin to drop a little, softening your gaze downward, out in front of you. While you may wish to close your eyes, it’s not necessary for meditation. However, your gaze should soften and become somewhat unfocused.

4. Focus on your Breath.

Take a deep breath and relax. Begin to tune into your mind and body by focusing on your breath–the way it moves in and out. Notice your bodily sensations as you inhale and exhale. 

Notice how the breath moves through your nose or mouth, how it feels as your chest inflates, and notice the rise and fall of your belly. 

Since anxiety and stress can often cause shallow breathing, focus on deep inhales and long, slow exhales. Feel your lungs fill up with air and expand… hold it… and then release. 

You may wish to simply focus on this breathing, or you may want to mentally repeat a mantra such as “I breathe out stress, I breathe in peace.”

5. How to Respond to a Wandering Mind

In the earlier stages of meditation, wandering thoughts can feel like a frustrating distraction. It is completely normal. If you find your mind wandering or thoughts intruding on your space, let them come. Acknowledge them, and let them pass by like clouds. Return your focus to your breathing. 

Especially when dealing with heightened anxiety, you may find that you are needing to redirect your focus to your breath every few seconds or minutes. Rather than become discouraged, accept that this is a normal part of beginning a meditation practice. 

Observe this cycle of thoughts and refocusing without judgement or expectation. Simply notice it, and then focus on your breath. It is really as simple as that.

6. Ending a Meditation Session

Once your timer is up, gently and slowly open your eyes or lift your gaze to take in the space around you. Notice any sounds, sights and scents in your environment. The breeze, the sound of children laughing down the street. Notice how your body feels in this moment. Notice your thoughts and emotions. 

There are no right or wrong ways to feel in this moment; just simply notice the sensations without judgement.

Then, set an intention for how you’d like to proceed with your day. Set an intention to bring compassion, love and understanding to your interactions. 

7. Practice Consistently

While meditating in itself is a very simple act, that doesn’t mean it’s easy! Our overworked and often overwhelmed minds can be hard to quiet, and sitting in silence with ourselves can sometimes feel uneasy. Stick with it. Even just 15 minutes a day can make a positive impact on your hormone health and wellbeing!

5 Natural Ways to Balance your Hormones

Our hormones play an important role in how we feel and function. In fact, hormones can impact us in many ways we don’t always realize.

Hormones are a part of the endocrine system and serve as the body’s chemical messengers, regulating everything from heart rate and metabolism to sexual functioning, mood, and sleep cycles.

When our hormone levels are imbalanced, we can experience mood swings, weight gain, problems sleeping, low libido, decreased energy levels and more.

Hormones change as we age. Women over 45 experience a drop in estrogen and progesterone, while men drop in testosterone levels. These changes can leave many of us feeling frustrated and generally unwell.

If you believe you are experiencing hormonal changes, it’s important to book an appointment with our office to talk to a professional about your symptoms. But there are things you can do to help balance your hormones as well.

Today, we’re going to explore 5 natural ways that you can promote healthy hormone balance.

1. Eat a healthy diet.

A well-balanced, healthy diet is crucial to healthy, balanced hormones. Avoid processed foods loaded with sugars and simple carbohydrates. Opt for whole grains, a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables (especially lots of dark, leafy greens), lean meats, and healthy fats.

Fats help build healthy hormones, and one of the healthiest ways you can get enough Omega-rich fats is to use coconut oil. It’s a powerhouse for building hormone health and can also assist with weight loss and reduce inflammation.

You’ll also find plenty of healthy fats in avocados, olive oil, pastured eggs, and lean, grass-fed meats. Conversely, avoid oils made from peanuts, soy, and canola.

2. Avoid or limit caffeine intake.

Excess caffeine can take a major toll on the endocrine system, especially when coupled with other hormone stressors like aging, pregnancy, or stress.

Try a caffeine-free herbal tea or caffeine-free coffee with a tablespoon of coconut oil to avoid the caffeine pitfalls while adding in healthy fats!

Better yet, skip the coffee and try a healthy, hormone-balancing smoothie!

3. Move your body.

In order to maintain healthy hormone levels, it’s important to get enough exercise. Try to get 30 minutes of moderate physical activity each day, whether it’s a fast-paced walk, a bike ride, swimming laps, or practicing yoga or pilates.

And while you can achieve these same effects indoors at the gym, if you take your exercise into nature, it can also help improve your mood and reduce stress.

4. Avoid toxins wherever you can.

Many household cleaners, air fresheners, and cosmetics are hiding a dirty secret. In fact, hormone disruptors and toxic chemicals are lurking in everything from our shampoo and body lotion to our mascara and foundation makeup. What’s worse, many of these products tout their “natural” ingredients on the front of the label while hiding their not-so-innocent chemicals in fine print on the back.

Visit our previous blog post on how to identify and avoid toxins in the products you use.

5. Create a healthy sleep habit.

Adequate and restful sleep is crucial to maintaining hormone balance. During the sleep cycle, our bodies are busy creating hormones, removing toxins, resting and recharging. Skipping sleep or not sleeping long enough can dramatically impact hormone levels, impacting your mood, appetite, stress levels, and more.

Encourage healthy sleep patterns by trying to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Stay away from your computer and mobile screens for an hour before bedtime, so as not to disrupt your natural circadian rhythm.

Get 20-30 minutes of natural sunlight each day to soak in a wide spectrum of light to boost serotonin levels, which in turn will balance melatonin levels at night.

If you find it hard to go to sleep at night, try a soothing hot tea, hot bath, meditating, or relaxing to some soft music before bed.

5 Key Ingredients for Hormone-Balancing Breakfast Smoothies

Looking for an easy, healthy way to start your morning? Try a nutrient-packed breakfast smoothie! Eating the right foods is crucial when you’re working to maintain healthy hormone levels, and the right smoothie can help you do just that.

Of course, many store-bought smoothies are loaded with sugar, which can wreak havoc on hormones. If you have a blender, it only takes a minute to skip the sugar and prepare your own delicious, power-packed smoothies at home.

The key to a healthy smoothie is the right balance of nutrients. These five key ingredients will help balance your hormones, boost your energy and keep you feeling fuller longer.

Blend These 5 Ingredients into Your Morning Smoothie

When blending a healthy, hormone-balancing smoothie, keep in mind the Fab Five ingredients: protein, fiber, healthy fats, greens, and non-dairy milk. Combining these together helps to elongate your blood sugar curve and keep you feeling fuller longer–helping you resist the urge to reach for those mid-morning snacks.

1. Protein

Protein is an important part of any diet. It builds and repairs muscles and tissues, and helps to make hormones and enzymes. High-Quality protein powder is a great base for any breakfast smoothie and helps to jumpstart your day and keep you full until lunch rolls around.

If your diet includes dairy, an organic whey protein powder is ideal as it offers all nine essential amino acids, making it a complete protein.

Egg white protein powder is also a great option. Or, for a plant-based option, combine pea protein with a hemp or rice protein to round out the amino acid profile.

2. Fiber

Fiber plays an important role in gut health, and according to some studies, it may also help regulate hormones such as insulin and help maintain a healthy weight.

Chia seeds, flax seeds, and acacia fiber are excellent ways to add fiber to your morning smoothies. You can also add in ground almonds or oatmeal for a fiber boost. Aim for 1-2 tablespoons.

If you like to add fruit to your smoothies, opt for fiber-rich fruits such as pears, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and kiwi. Try to keep fruits to a ½ cup or less.

3. Healthy Fats

Omega-3 fatty acids and monounsaturated fats give you energy, help balance blood sugar and insulin levels and raise good cholesterol while reducing bad cholesterol. They can even help reduce the risk of heart disease.

Those chia, hemp, and flax seeds not only count as your fiber source, but they’re also rich in healthy fats!

Adding ¼ of a fresh avocado to your smoothie provides healthy fats as well as giving your smoothie a thick, creamy texture. Coconut oil is a great option, too. When you’re ready to change up the flavor, try a couple of tablespoons of almond, walnut or cashew butter.

4. Greens

Greens like spinach, kale, mustard greens, and swiss chard are low in calories and high in folate, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, making them one of the healthiest things you can add to your daily smoothie. They can reduce the risk of heart disease, lower blood pressure, burn fat and more.

Spinach is a favorite for adding to smoothies, and it’s high in magnesium and iron, which are essential for healthy hormones. Swiss chard is high in antioxidants, while mustard and collard greens can help balance estrogen.

Fresh herbs like basil and dandelion greens are a great addition as well!

5. Non-Dairy Milk

Rounding out your smoothie with almond or coconut milk adds calcium and healthy fats while providing optimal texture and smoothness for a drinkable meal.

Try These Hormone-Balancing Smoothie Recipes

Need help getting started? These 3 smoothie recipes are great options for boosting energy, maintaining healthy hormone levels and helping you stay full until lunch.

Ready to Boost your Health and Wellbeing? Here are 3 Reasons to Hit a Trail.

If you want to boost your health and wellness, exercise is essential. But those repetitive workouts at the gym can start to get…boring. And walking on a treadmill is never as fun as a forest or park trail!

If you’re ready to add some fun and interest to your fitness routine, take a hike! Whether you’re walking a paved nature trail at a local park or meandering through the woods on a nature trail, hiking boosts your physical, mental and social wellbeing.

1. Physical Health Benefits

Hiking in nature is a great way to get a full-body workout! Hiking promotes heart health, strengthens muscles and joints, and improves your balance and coordination. Hitting the trail also builds up your endurance level.

And if you suffer from arthritis or joint injuries, hiking is a lower impact workout compared to many other types of cardio and strengthening exercises.

Start with shorter, flatter hikes to get into the groove, such as a paved trail at the park. Take a walk in nature 2-3 times a week, even if it’s just for 20 minutes.

When you’re ready to boost your routine, try a wooded trail at a state park. Choose a longer hike for endurance building or a shorter trail with higher elevation gain to work on strength building.

2. Mental Benefits

According to a study by researchers at Stanford University, hiking helps with mental health and mood. The study found that people who walked for 90 minutes in a natural area (as opposed to participants who walked in a high-traffic urban setting) showed decreased activity in a region of the brain associated with a key factor in depression.

Spending time in the Great Outdoors helps reduce stress and anxiety, fight depression, and promote feelings of peace and wellbeing. In a fast-paced and digital society, reconnecting to our natural world can be as therapeutic as it is fun.

Being in nature also improves sensory perception, as you open up your senses to new sights, sounds, scents and touch.

3. Social Benefits

Unlike trying to conquer the treadmill at the gym alone, hiking is better with friends! Hiking with a partner, friend or small group helps form and deepen social bonds. It’s also safer to hike with someone else, and having a hiking partner is great for accountability.

Plus, it’s helpful to have others cheering you on! Motivating one another to climb that incline pays off in a shared victory at the top!

Find A Trail Near You

Situated right in the heart of Memphis, Shelby Farms is one of the 20 largest urban parks in the country, offering 4,500 acres of beautiful green space. More than 10 miles of paved pathways make up the Shelby Farms Greenline, which runs from Midtown to Cordova.

Prefer a more wooded hike? The park’s 40 miles of scenic, multi-use park trails offer a range of hiking routes for all experience levels. Find the best trail for you here.

And Shelby Farms offers more than just hiking! Bike rentals are open daily, and free outdoor fitness classes are offered throughout the week.

If you’d like to venture a little deeper into nature, try a trail at Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park. Located 13 miles north of Memphis stretched along the Mississippi River, over 12,000 acres of Tupelo swamp and forest await you. The park is home to a host of activities, from paddling, birding, and biking to boating, fishing, and camping. There are 20 miles of hiking trails, ranging from moderate 3-mile trails to longer and more strenuous hikes.

To find more hiking opportunities, try an app or website like alltrails.com to find trail information near you. You’ll find helpful details such as trail length, difficulty level and elevation gain as well as key features and directions. Hiking trails are usually rated Easy, Moderate or Difficult, making it easy to choose the level that best suits your ability level and goals. Happy hiking!

3 Tips for Cleaning Up Your Beauty Routine

You’re making efforts to live your healthiest life. You’re careful about what you put into your body and focus on eating healthy, wholesome foods. You make the time to exercise. You meditate. And all of these efforts are rewarded with a fuller sense of health and wellbeing.

But are you paying close attention to what you put on your body? After all, most of us use quite a few beauty and body products, and they could be undercutting all your other efforts.

Think about your daily beauty routine, from the body wash you use in the shower to the face cream you apply every night. After all, that lotion is from a “natural” product company and that fresh grapefruit on the label looks mighty convincing!

Unfortunately, many cosmetics are hiding a dirty secret. In fact, hormone disruptors and toxic chemicals are lurking in everything from our shampoo and body lotion to our mascara and foundation makeup. What’s worse, many of these products tout their “natural” ingredients on the front of the label while hiding their not-so-innocent chemicals in fine print on the back.

Thankfully, just as with your diet and exercise, you have a lot of control over the products you choose to apply on your body. That’s why we’re sharing our top 3 tips for cleaning up your beauty routine by recognizing and weeding out harmful toxins in your beauty products.

1. Watch Out For Greenwashing

Let’s talk about our example above: the “natural” face cream with fresh fruit on the front label. It may tout “natural grapefruit extract” and say it’s “paraben free” to sound safe, but if you peek at the ingredients list, you may find a plethora of hard-to-pronounce chemicals listed in fine print. Have you been bamboozled? Certainly. But there’s another name for this deceptive marketing tactic, and it’s called greenwashing.

Greenwashing is when companies market their products as eco-friendly, natural or organic when they are anything but. This type of marketing is deceptively used to promote the perception that a company’s products or policies are safe, natural and environmentally friendly. Terms like “organic” and “natural” are not well regulated in body products, and just because a product contains an organic or natural ingredient doesn’t mean it’s free of chemicals.

So don’t take any company at its word. Look beyond the front-of-package hype and dig into the ingredients list.

2. Avoid Endocrine (Hormone) Disruptors

Many common beauty and household products are packed full of chemicals that are known to be hormone disruptors, and this is a serious problem. After all, what good is using an anti-aging cream if it’s making you sick in the long run?

These hormone disruptors interfere with the endocrine system and can cause major issues in the body. Some of them are even known to cause cancer, immune problems and neurological disorders.

So how do you spot one of these toxins in your beauty products? Look for the following chemicals hiding in the ingredients list:

Look for words ending with “paraben” such as butylparaben, methylparaben, propylparaben, and isobutylparaben. Parabens can even cause reproductive problems, which is why many pregnant women are cautioned against using paraben-based products.

These toxins are tricky because they can cause problems when applied to your body as well as when breathed in through the air. Phthalates are found in a number of popular air freshener plug-ins, candles and sprays as well as all sorts of body products and cosmetics. While there are more than 20 types of phthalates, the most common to see on a label is diethylhexyl phthalate DEHP/DOP. Avoid this, or look for a product that is phthalate-free.

Synthetic Fragrances
Avoid anything labeled as “fragrance” or “parfum”. Some 95% of the chemicals used in synthetic fragrances come from crude oil production and contain carcinogenic and hormone disrupting compounds.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
Also labeled as SLS, it’s found in everything from shampoo to engine degreasers. SLS has been linked to endocrine disruption as well as neurotoxicity, organ toxicity, skin allergies and cancer.

This widely-used antimicrobial chemical can be found in toothpaste, antibacterial soaps, and deodorants. It’s a known endocrine disruptor and can especially affect thyroid and reproductive hormones.

3. Use Technology to Your Advantage

It used to be easy for companies to pull the wool over our eyes, but these days, investigating a product is as easy as a few taps on your phone.

Download the Think Dirty app on your phone, and you’ll be able to scan or search products to find easy-to-understand info on their ingredients. The handy rating system lets you know where a product falls on a scale of safe to harmful.

Similarly, the cosmetics database at Skin Deep offers ingredient details, safety ratings, and product recommendations for a variety of body and beauty products.

With these few simple steps, you’ll take back control of your beauty regime in no time, and you’ll be healthier for it!