7 Aphrodisiacs to Heat Up Your Love Life

via The Shakeology Blog

Named for Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, aphrodisiacs have been the stuff of legend and song throughout history. Lovers looking for a leg up in the libido department have gone to their shamans, medicine men, and herbalists for centuries, searching for the magic ingredient that will kick their mojo into high gear.

Good news today, there are plenty of products that you can find right in your grocery store or farmers’ market and even in Shakeology that can potentially increase the heat between the sheets. Here are some common foods and minerals that might be able to put a little extra oomph into that special evening. And over half of them are in the top two tiers of Michi’s Ladder, so you can have your cake and eat it, too! (Well, not cake, but asparagus and bananas!)

Chocolate.

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What’s more associated with Valentine’s Day than chocolate? The ancient Aztecs considered chocolate to be an aphrodisiac for both men and women, and when the Europeans got wind of its inhibition-lowering properties, it wasn’t long before the candy treat became a must-have when pitching woo. Casanova and famed Louis XV courtesan Madame du Barry were reported to be great believers in the powers of chocolate, and there may have been something to it. Chocolate contains the chemicals phenylethylamine and serotonin, which are also naturally occurring chemicals in the brain, usually released when we are happy or in love. Its chemicals can literally cause your heart to beat a little faster. Add to that a boost of caffeine and sugar, and it can be a pretty good pick-me-up with a small side of euphoria. Go dark.

Figs.

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Maybe it wasn’t just the apple in the Garden of Eden that got things going. Remember, Adam and Eve ended up  covering themselves in fig leaves. And it was also the favorite fruit of Cleopatra, who was certainly no slouch in the ways of love. In ancient Greece, fertility rituals would often follow the first fig harvest, and Greek portrayals of bacchanalia usually also included some fig action. In some European countries, figs are thrown instead of rice at newly married couples (ouch!) as symbols of fertility.

Bananas.

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In the Islamic version of the tale, Adam and Eve covered themselves with banana leaves rather than fig leaves. Bananas are also considered a fertility symbol by the Hindus. Bananas can really get you going with their high levels of potassium and B vitamins, which aid the production of hormones. Bananas also contain the protease bromelain, which is believed to help circulation.

Avocado.

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The Aztecs referred to the avocado tree as Ahuacuatl or “testicle tree.” Apparently, the fruit usually hangs in pairs. There appears to be little besides anecdotal evidence to support its claim as an aphrodisiac, though it is rich in many nutrients, including vitamins B6, C, and E. The California Avocado Commission conducted a Valentine’s Day survey in 2000 of experts, 63 percent of whom concluded that the avocado does have some aphrodisiac qualities, some of which could be attributed to recently discovered phytochemicals.

Be smart about beverage calories.

The average American consumes around 400 calories a day in liquid form! This includes soda, sport drinks, energy drinks, juice, and flavored ice teas. You can be smart by making sure any calories you drink are in the form of a meal replacement rather than a hydrator. (Water’s still the best hydrator out there.) Shakeology is a great meal-replacement shake for busy people, because it’s convenient, jam-packed with important nutrients and antioxidants, and low in calories.

Truffles.

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Not the chocolate kind (although those count under the “chocolate” category) but the expensive underground mushroom kind. Unlike other foods, it is the musky scent of the truffle that is believed to be what gets us going. Scientists have recently discovered that black truffles contain the pheromone androstenol. There is some debate over how much human beings are affected by pheromones, but truffles have been considered to be aphrodisiacs for centuries, and this recent discovery could be one explanation.

Maca.

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Say what? Yes Maca, technically Maca Root to be precise. This ingredient, found in Shakeology, is sourced from Peru and helps to increase stamina and energy levels. South American’s even refer to it as ‘Peruvian Viagra’ for its libido enhancing properties…need I say more?

So there you have it, you officially can make the aphrodisiac-tastic meal of the century this Valentine’s day or dose up your shake with avocados or bananas daily for an extra love-boost year round. 

To get your own aphrodisiac cocktail, aka Shakeology, click the banner below.

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25 Ways to Drink More Water

Guest Post By Kirsten Morningstar 

Let’s do a simple nonscientific test to see if you are dehydrated right now. Pinch the skin on the back of your hand. Does your skin spring back into shape, like a gymnast sticking a landing? Or does it take its sweet time spreading out and settling? If your answer is the second one, you’re in need of some H2O.

You’ve heard us say hundreds of times how important it is to drink plenty of water. That’s because we can’t say it enough! If you want to lose weight, you need to drink water. If you exercise, you need to drink water. If you want healthy skin, you need to drink water. Your body is comprised of 70% water (and your brain is 90% water!). Your blood and every cell in your body are made almost entirely from water. If you want to be alert, have organs that function properly, and get the most out of your workouts, you need to drink enough water.

We get it. Drinking enough water to stay hydrated every day can be a daunting task. Here are 25 tips that will help. In the spirit of this article, how about pouring yourself a glass of water right now to sip as you read? Go ahead, we’ll wait.

Know how much you should drink

Knowing is half the battle, right? We recommend drinking half your body weight, in ounces of water, every day. So, if you weigh 180 pounds, divide that by 2. Your magic number would be 90. That’s 90 ounces of water every day, a little more than 2.5 liters.

Your number might be different

Everyone has different hydration needs, based on weight, exercise intensity, kidney function, climate, and a bunch of other stuff. If you live in Death Valley, for example, you’ll want to add a few more glasses of water. Pay attention to how your body feels when it is properly hydrated and use that as a cue.

Keep score!

Now that you know how much you need, it’s time to keep track of how much you are actually getting. Measure how many ounces your glass or bottle holds and figure out many times you’ll need to refill it during the day. There are a dozen free apps that keep track of your water consumption and reward you when you reach your goal. Find one that you like and turn hydration into a game.

Rise and shine!

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Drink a glass—or two!—as soon as you wake up. You haven’t had any fluids for 8 hours, so this could be the most dehydrated you will be all day. Plus, it’s a great way to jump-start your metabolism. Try leaving a tall glass of water on your nightstand and drink it before you get out of bed. (Don’t try this if you have a cat, or it will knock the glass over in the middle of the night, splashing your face and soaking your copy of People magazine.)

Watch the clock

Set an alarm to remind you to drink every hour during the workday. When it goes off, get up, shake a leg, and take a stroll to the water cooler for a refill. You’ll fulfill your water quota by quitting time.

Make it a habit

Do the timer trick above for 21 days and, congratulations, you will have formed a habit.

“But it will make me have to pee!”

Yes, it will. That’s a biological fact of life. While you’re in the bathroom, have a gander at the color of your pee. It should be mostly clear and odorless (unless you’ve been eating beets or asparagus). If it is dark or cloudy, you, my friend, are dehydrated. Drink a glass of water right away. Your body will also adjust to drinking this much water and soon, you won’t be running to restroom as often.

Make more water

Every time you go to the bathroom, replenish your body with a fresh 8 ounces of water.

Pair drinking water with other activities

Fill up your water bottle before you walk your dog, check your email, or when you leave for work. Drink a glass of water before you brush your teeth or wash your face. Then, drink another glass when you are done.

Choose your vessel

We think drinking out of a glass is more appealing than swilling from a paper or Styrofoam® cup. And, it’s gentler to the environment. Choose a beautiful glass or pitcher that you’ll want to use frequently. Feeling fancy? How about a goblet?

Take it to go

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Keep a water bottle with you at all times. Think of it as an accessory. Water bottles collided with fashion a long time ago; there are colors and styles for everyone. Splurge on one you really like, the bigger the better. Glass and stainless steel are the best choices, as they won’t leach chemicals into the liquid contents. Avoid plastic bottles whenever possible.

Exercise requires more water

Being dehydrated can slow you down and zap your energy, making your cardio or weight lifting workout feel brutal. Your muscles need fluids to function fluidly, so be sure to hydrate before, during, and after exercise.

Drink a glass before bed

If it doesn’t make you stumble to the bathroom in the middle of the night, drink a glass before you catch some Zs to stay hydrated until morning. Or, try a soothing mug of hot water with lemon and a small drizzle of honey.

Replace other beverages with water

How many ounces of soda, juice, coffee, or beer do you imbibe on a daily basis? Come on, be honest. If you regularly drink a Venti latte and an orange soda, swap them for water. That’s 32 ounces right there, not to mention the hundreds of calories eliminating those drinks will save you.

Drink when you are hungry

If you feel a snack attack coming on, drink a glass of water, then wait 15 minutes. Dehydration pangs are often misread by the body as hunger. A glass of water will replenish your body and help you feel satiated. If you are still hungry 15 minutes later, reach for a piece of fruit or a handful of raw nuts.

The drinking fountain rule

Every time you see a drinking fountain, drink for a count of 10.

Drink before you eat

Drinking water before you eat will help you feel more satiated and you will eat less. A study from the Virginia Tech Department of Nutrition suggests that drinking two glasses of water before (not during) each meal can significantly increase weight loss. Not only that, but the water drinkers in the study continued to lose weight and keep it off.

Eat your water

You can add even more hydration by eating water-packed fruits like melons, cucumbers, berries, and celery.

Go one-for-one

Pace yourself in social gatherings by drinking water between alcoholic beverages. You’ll reduce your risk of a pounding hangover and help meet your daily water intake goals.

Flavored water

Not thrilled with the tasteless taste of water? Think it tastes like licking windows? You can give your water zing by adding a wedge of lemon, crushed mint leaves, sliced cucumbers, or strawberries. They replenish your system with electrolytes and micronutrients at about 7 calories each.

Make it bubbly

If you are addicted to soda, and crave a fizzy refreshment, consider sparkling mineral water flavored with fruit, or invest in a SodaStream® to have an unending supply of bubbly water at your fingertips.

Give yourself a little variety

Not all of your H2O has to be room temperature, or loaded with ice. Mix it up. Serve warm water with lemon or brew a cup of herbal tea.

Suck it up

Some people find that they take bigger gulps when drinking through a straw. If you are one of these people, you might consider buying a reusable metal or glass straw. The plastic kind is coated in chemicals.

Drop your juice habit

If you are trying to lose weight, this is an easy place to cut calories. Make the transition to drinking pure water by filling your glass halfway with juice then filling the rest with flat or sparkling water. Once you get used to this, try using only 1/4 juice.

Involve others

Invite your friends or office mates to participate in a water challenge with you. Set a goal of how much water each person will drink per day, then keep score. The people who skip the most glasses of water have to buy lunch.

When in doubt, drink water

Many common complaints, including headache and constipation, can be alleviated by downing a tall glass of water. Studies show that water can play a vital role in preventing more dire conditions as well, including several types of cancer. In one study, drinking more water reduced the risk of colon cancer by 45% in women and 32% in men.

Ask the Expert: Can Stress Make You Fat?

Guest Post By Denis Faye 

Stress and poor eating go hand in hand. A hectic lifestyle can leave you with little free time and plenty of exhaustion. For thousands of overworked, under-relaxed Americans, grabbing a quick burger at McGreasy’s and skipping yoga class doesn’t seem like a choice. It feels like a survival necessity.

It’s all about hormones . . .

But in truth, the problem goes beyond how a few (hundred) extra calories can impact your gut. Your bodily functions are regulated by chemicals called hormones—and hormones are regulated by a series of glands throughout your body known as your endocrine system. These glands don’t work independently. Much like a government, a soufflé recipe, or a John Irving novel, they’re all interconnected and if one part is impacted, it can cause a cascade of health issues, including weight gain.

For example, for most of us, stress prevents you from sleeping well. This is a problem because this stimulates production of a hormone called ghrelin, which tells you to eat and decreases the levels of the hormone leptin, which tells you to stop eating. In other words, when you don’t get your 7 to 8 hours of sleep, your hormones send signals to your brain to eat more.

Why are those bad ol’ hormones beating you while you’re down? Probably because, in primitive times, we didn’t sacrifice sleep so that we could sit at a desk for an extra 4 hours or watch an entire season of The Walking Dead in one sitting. Instead, when we didn’t sleep, it meant we were on a 24-hour buffalo hunt or our cave had been flooded in the middle of the night so we were seeking shelter. In these situations, we needed to eat more because we needed energy for these demanding tasks.

. . . especially cortisol.

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But that’s just a small example of how stress can make you fat. The much larger issue has to do with your stress hormones, particularly everyone’s favorite biological bugbear, cortisol.

When thrown into a “fight or flight” situation, your endocrine system adapts by jacking your brain with adrenaline (aka epinephrine) in an effort to marshal all your bodily functions into solving the problem at hand. Blood flow to your brain increases to sharpen your wits. Blood is also sent to your extremities so that you can fight your way out of the situation or run away. (Contrary to the title, humans can’t actually “fly” in stressful situation, although that would be cool.) To pump all this blood around, your heart beats harder and you breathe harder so that you’re getting plenty of oxygen.

But if you remained in this state too long, you’d probably have a heart attack, so the next thing your body does is release noradrenaline into your system to normalize things and flush the excess hormones from your system (this is why people sweat in stressful situations). Then, if the issue isn’t completely resolved, the body releases a separate hormone to cope with prolonged stress: cortisol.

When it’s doing what it’s supposed to do, cortisol is great. It keeps you ready for action. It raises your blood pressure, elevates blood sugar, and diverts energy from other tasks to whatever is mission critical (healing, for example).

But it tears up your body in order to do this. To keep blood pressure up, it retains sodium in your cells. (Oh, hey there, water weight!) To keep blood sugar up, it breaks down lean body mass (muscle). And when it diverts energy, less immediately critical systems, such as digestion, are impaired. What’s more, this whole process depletes micronutrients like crazy.

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Chronic stress can make you fat in a number of ways. Faulty digestion means you don’t absorb nutrients as well, which can also influence your ability to exercise. (I know claiming that cortisol inhibits your ability to exercise sounds contradictory considering its raison d’être is to make you battle ready, but remember that cortisol was never intended for months or years of use—or abuse.)

Want a more direct link? A study in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology showed that cortisol increased women’s desire to eat foods high in sugar and fat. So if you’re stressed and you don’t sleep, it means that your poor willpower is being hit from all sides by ghrelin and cortisol.[1]

Even if you can resist those late night fridge raids, you’re still at risk. A study in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine showed that excess cortisol directly contributed to visceral adipose tissue around your stomach and intestines (aka “belly fat”) because the enzyme 11 beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase that is used to convert inactive cortisol to active cortisol is found in higher concentrations in visceral fat. Visceral fat is associated with increased risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. So, cortisol might not make you fatter, but it can give you a beer belly—and potentially, a heart attack.[2]

What you can do about cortisol

There are supplements out there that claim they can combat cortisol, but they don’t work. There are also adaptogens and antioxidants, which are great for fighting some stress-related issues. 

But there are a few simple things you can do to reduce cortisol levels:

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Get Regular Exercise. A sweaty, hard bout of cardio creates a “positive” stress situation that puts that extra cortisol to good use.

 

 

 

 

 

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Meditate. Giving your brain a break reduces anxiety—and that reduces cortisol. I recommend starting with the audiobook Meditation for Beginners by Jack Kornfield.

 

 

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Laugh. Having a good time cuts though stress like a hot knife through coconut oil. Maybe it’s time to upgrade your Three Stooges collection to Blu-ray—just make sure to watch it with some friends. Social interaction helps too.

 

 

 

See a pattern here? The best way to combat stress—not to mention the weight and other health-related issues that come with it—is to do things that help you stop stressing. So do your hormones, your mind, and your waistline a favor. Try to relax a little.

Sources:

  1. Epel, E., R. Lapidus, B. McEwen, et al. Stress may add bite to appetite in women: a laboratory study of stress-induced cortisol and eating behavior. Psychoneuroendocrinology 26: 37-49, 2001.

  2. Epel, E.S., B. McEwen, T. Seeman, et al. Stress and body shape: stress-induced cortisol secretion is consistently greater among women with central fat. Psychosomatic Medicine 62:623-632, 2000.

8 Superfoods for Summer

Guest Post By Kirsten Morningstar 

Wondering what to snack on this summer? Here are eight of our favorite summer superfoods! All of these fruits and veggies are in season all summer long. That means they’re not only available locally, but they’re at their peak of deliciousness!

And, as always, go organic when you can. Organic foods will help you avoid pesticides and herbicides, and often contain higher levels of nutrients than their nonorganic cousins.

Organic Blueberries

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There’s not much in nature that’s naturally blue, but these tiny berries are! They’re also one of the richest sources of antioxidants. Studies suggest that 1–2 cups of blueberries a day could help reduce cholesterol, and a diet high in blueberries (2–2-1/2 cups of blueberry juice made from fresh blueberries) may improve memory.[1] Oh, and we almost forgot to mention . . . they’re high in proanthocyanidins, a component that may help reduce the appearance of wrinkles. 

Organic Avocados

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Buttery avocado is a dieter’s dream. It tastes rich and creamy (in fact, in some parts of India, it’s known as “butter fruit”), thanks to its high concentration of monounsaturated fats. But, don’t worry—not all fat is bad for you. A study conducted at the Reina Sofia University in Spain revealed that avocado’s high monounsaturated fats, when consumed as part of a reasonable, balanced diet, may help reduce belly fat! And, that’s not all. Monounsaturated fats help lower LDL cholesterol, as well as decrease the risk of breast cancer, heart disease, and stroke.[2,3] 

Organic Lemons

Lemon WaterLemons not only bring out the flavor of food, but they’re also great for digestion. Dr. Oz recommends combining lemon juice and ground flaxseeds to aid digestion, thanks to the pectin in the lemon juice and the fiber in the flaxseeds. But, they do much more. They also contain a compound known as limonin that stays in the body up to 24 hours after consumption and can help cancer cells from rapidly growing,[4] and their high levels of vitamin C—one lemon contains 1/3 of your recommended daily allowance (RDA)—can help protect the body against osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, and help you absorb iron. So, go ahead, squeeze it on everything!

Organic Raspberries

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In need of fiber? In just one cup, these little jewels contain 30% of your daily dose of fiber and 60% of your RDA of manganese, a mineral critical for building strong bones and cartilage. They’re also a great post-workout snack, due to their high levels of ellagic acid, a compound that reduces inflammation.[5] However, don’t get too excited about their ketones, the chemical that gives them their unique scent, just yet. While it’s been touted as a “miracle fat burner,” the scientific jury is still out on whether the supplement works for people as well as it did for mice.  Popsicles

Watermelon

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Watermelon and summer were made for each other. Clocking in at 92% water, this classic summer snack is one of the most refreshing ways to hydrate on a hot day. And, while we don’t suggest you skimp on the sunblock, its beta-carotene and flavonoids have been shown to reduce the risk of sunburns and skin damage caused by UV-B rays.[6]

Also, did you know that its red hue isn’t just for looks? It comes from lycopene, a powerful antioxidant most often associated with the tomato, known for fighting inflammation in the body and promoting cardiovascular health.[7] And a final fun fact about this fruit packed with vitamins A and C: The black seeds are a good source of protein, zinc, and iron. They’re not very tasty raw, but try them toasted like pumpkin seeds.

Organic Strawberries

StrawberriesAs a kid, our favorite treat was strawberries . . . blanketed in powered sugar. But, while that snack is undoubtedly sweet, we’ve come to love these berries without their fattening topping, which is great because a single cup of them provides 100% of your vitamin C for the day and a mere 47 calories![8] Additionally, these little fruits contain the antioxidant anthocyanin and other phytonutrients that can reduce inflammation, and their ellagitannins may be responsible for helping to decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes when they’re eaten 3 times a week or more.[9] For the fruits with the most flavor, choose smaller berries over larger ones. Another easy way to check sweetness is to cut them in half—easier done at the farmers’ market than the supermarket. The redder the center, the sweeter the taste.

Organic Tomatoes

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This staple of Italian cooking actually originated in Mexico. It’s also one of the easiest fruits to grow in your backyard or on your patio. This shiny, bright red globe is a nutrient-packed powerhouse that has been attributed with the ability to prevent prostate cancer, breast cancer, and promote heart health. They can help you absorb calcium, thanks to all that lycopene, as well as vitamins A, C, and E.[10] To get even more benefits from tomatoes, cook them in heart-healthy olive oil as the lycopene is fat-soluble. 

Organic Cucumbers

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Pickled or raw, these crunchy veggies are great for you! Cucumbers contain three types of the polyphenol lignan, a compound that may reduce the risk of heart disease and guard against a variety of cancers.[11] Enjoying a pickle with your sandwich isn’t only tasty, it could also improve your immune system’s ability to ward off disease.[12]

 

Resources:

  1. http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice

  2. http://archinte.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/abstract/158/1/41

  3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17384344

  4. http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice

  5. http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice

  6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7948931

  7. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21291369

  8. http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminC-HealthProfessional/

  9. http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice

  10. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1020374

  11. http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice

  12. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16987435

 

5 Ways to Boost Your Willpower and Beat Temptation

Guest Post By Kara Wahlgren 

Okay, I’ll admit it. I’m the first person to curse my weak willpower when I find myself polishing off a bag of tortilla chips or skipping a Piloxing class. But I may have to find a new excuse, because apparently I—and maybe you too—have gotten the whole idea of willpower completely wrong.

Most of us believe that willpower is some innate, magical quality that only a lucky few are born with enough of to reach the goals they set for themselves. But according to scientists and psychologists who specialize in this sort of thing, what we call “willpower” is actually just a one-two punch of self-control and smart decision–making strategies.

On one hand, that’s bad news for anyone—ahem, me—who likes to use lack of willpower as an excuse for falling off the weight loss wagon. On the other hand, it’s good news because it means you can hone your willpower like any other skill. And, just like doing push-ups, it gets easier the more you do it. Here are five easy ways to tap into your willpower (or whatever you want to call it).

1. Change how you define willpower

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You have it or you don’t, right? Wrong. Instead of thinking of willpower as a genetic gift, think of it as a game plan. “Instead of saying, ‘I have no willpower,’ ask yourself how to handle the situation,” says registered dietitian Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D., and author ofDiabetes Weight Loss—Week by Week. Think you just can’t give up your soda habit? Can’t stick to a gym routine? Can’t make yourself eat veggies? Think again. “When my patients say, ‘I can’t,’ they usually mean, ‘I choose not to,’ or, ‘I haven’t yet figured out how to,'” Weisenberger says. “There is a solution to most problems. You have to look for it and then practice that strategy.” Another fun fact? Through his research, willpower expert Roy Baumeister discovered that those who believe willpower is finite tend to run out of it. Those who believe that willpower is not a limited resource continue to be able to tap into it when they need it. Believe in your willpower, find a few strategies that work for you to set yourself up for success, and voilá, you’ll have the willpower you need.

2. Set yourself up for success

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You’ve probably heard the adage that luck is where preparation meets opportunity. The same can be said for willpower—a little prep work can help you make healthy choices. “One of the best things you can do is create an environment that will help you be successful,” says Mitzi Dulan, R.D., coauthor ofThe All-Pro Diet. “Avoid buying chips and cookies. If you buy chocolate, buy bite-size.” Look at it this way—if you can resist buying chips at the grocery store, you only have to resist temptation once. If you buy the chips, you’ll have to resist temptation every single time you walk past your kitchen.

3. Respect your R&R

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In House of Cards, Kevin Spacey’s character Frank Underwood quips, “I never make big decisions so long after sunset and so far before dawn.” Sure, Underwood is a manipulative villain, but it’s not a bad strategy—lack of sleep can impair your ability to make smart decisions. “Both stress and sleep deprivation affect hormones that may impact our appetite and food choices,” Weisenberger says. “Adequate sleep and appropriate stress management aren’t optional—they are as critical as eating your fruits and vegetables and being physically active.” No matter how busy you are, make sure you get a good night’s sleep and carve out a few minutes each day to de-stress. It can make a world of difference to your willpower.

4. Keep your sugar in check

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It’s harder to stick to your diet when you’re hungry—not exactly breaking news, right? But it’s not just pure hunger that’s getting in your way, or else you’d be just as satisfied with a handful of carrots as a handful of cookies. The real problem is that glucose levels seem to play a big role in self-control, so the hungrier you get, the harder it becomes to choose healthy foods over calorie-laden comfort foods. Last year, Baumeister wrote in the APA Monitor on Psychology that low glucose levels can reduce self-control—so eat before you’re famished if you want to improve your odds of resisting junk-food faves.

Oddly enough, Baumeister found that it also works the other way around—exercising self-control can actually lower your glucose levels. It’s possible that the more decisions you have to make, the more your glucose levels dip, and the harder it is to make a healthy choice the next time. In other words, resisting that donut on your commute to work might make it harder to walk past the candy dish in the office, or turn down greasy takeout at lunch. So rather than relying on sheer self-control, see if you can find ways to avoid tempting situations—for example, find a route to work that doesn’t pass your favorite bakery. That way, you’ll have plenty of willpower left for the temptations you can’t avoid.

5. Focus on tomorrow’s goal, not today’s mistakes

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When you’re on a weight loss regimen, it’s easy to obsess over the occasional slip-up—a high-calorie snack here, a skipped workout there—and lose sight of your long-term goal. But the ability to rally after a setback may be more important than the ability to make virtuous decisions all the time. Angela Duckworth, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, coined the term “grit” for people who stay focused on a long-term goal, come hell or high water. “The gritty individual approaches achievement as a marathon,” Duckworth said in a 2007 study. “Whereas disappointment or boredom signals to others that it is time to change trajectory and cut losses, the gritty individual stays the course.”

So the next time you’re tempted to curse your lack of willpower, remember that self-control is a skill—and like any skill, you’ll screw up a few times while you’re learning it. What’s important is that you keep going. “Determine your weak areas or obstacles and make a plan to overcome them. Put your plan into practice, evaluate it and adjust it if necessary. And expect to stray from the plan and know that you can keep moving forward”.

How Can Shakeology Help Give You Energy?

Via The Shakeology Blog

Our Food Technologist, Danielle Robertson is guest blogging! She is super-knowledgeable as her job is to help formulate Shakeology. Who better to teach us about energy properties in Shakeology than the science girl herself!

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Hi! Let’s begin by talking about what an ergogenic aid is — it’s something that increases the output of work in terms of mental or physical energy. While caffeine is the most popular ergogenic aid, it’s not the only one that’s effective. Many reported ergogenic aids (like ginseng) don’t have enough evidence for scientists to know for sure whether or how it works. However, there are several key nutrients that your body depends on in order to get the most energy from the foods you consume. Many of those nutrients are depleted throughout the day, especially after moderate to strenuous exercise. Shakeology can help you restore those nutrients, thus restoring your body’s ability to maximize your energy levels. Let’s take a look at the top 7 energy-essential ingredients included in every dose of Shakeology:

Green Tea Extract

Green Tea Extract Excellent Option to Stay in Shape

What is it?
Green tea extract contains many different phytonutrients (plant nutrients) called catechins, which are potent antioxidants. While green tea extract contains a tiny bit of caffeine, it also contains a powerful catechin called epigallocatechin gallate or EGCG for short.

What does it do?
A recent study showed that green tea supplements increased fat metabolism at rest and carbohydrate metabolism during moderate exercise. This study gave volunteers either a drink containing green tea extract or a placebo (a drink that looked just like the green tea drink). This study was double-blind, placebo controlled, which means there was very little chance of cheating or bias because neither the participants nor the scientists knew who was getting what until after all the blood samples were collected, tested and analyzed.

B Vitamins: Thiamin

What is it?
Thiamin, aka vitamin B1, is a vitamin found in pork products, sunflower seeds, legumes, wheat germ, watermelon and, of course, Shakeology. Thiamin was discovered as the “cure” for the disease Beriberi. Symptoms of beriberi include lethargy, weakness and mental confusion. In Singhalese, the language spoken in Sri Lanka, beri beri means, “I can’t, I can’t”. Thiamin plays such a huge role in energy and metabolism, that it’s no wonder a deficiency in this vitamin would be marked with such significant weakness and this specific name.

What does it do?
Thiamin plays a big role in carbohydrate metabolism. Glucose is the most basic unit of a carbohydrate and it’s the #1 source of fuel for the body. When a glucose molecule is broken down to release energy, it must become pyruvate. Pyruvate cannot go on to the next step in carbohydrate metabolism without help from thiamin. The body does not store thiamin, and a high carbohydrate intake followed by strenuous exercise can rapidly use up the thiamin available. Getting enough thiamin is essential to helping your body convert carbohydrates to energy.

B Vitamins: Riboflavin

What is it?
Riboflavin, aka vitamin B2, was discovered as a yellow pigment in milk. Milk products are good sources of riboflavin but other sources include mushrooms, broccoli, asparagus, spinach and other green leafy vegetables.

What does it do?
In the movie How to Train Your Dragon, wild dragons steal sheep from the local village and carry them to a massive cave where (spoiler alert) they drop the sheep in a hole to feed a gigantic dragon. Riboflavin is like the wild dragons but, instead of stealing sheep, it collects hydrogen atoms from various reactions in the body. Those hydrogen atoms get passed along not to a gigantic dragon, but to a prominent energy-producing reaction called the Electron Transport Chain (or “ETC”). The ETC is a crucial part of carbohydrate and fat metabolism, so by helping this process, riboflavin is helping your body convert food to energy.

B Vitamins: Niacin

What is it?
Niacin is a vitamin found in mushrooms, wheat bran, tuna, chicken, turkey, asparagus, and peanuts. Since our bodies can make small amounts of niacin from the amino acid tryptophan, animal proteins that are rich in tryptophan are also considered sources of niacin.

What does it do?
Niacin-containing enzymes participate in at least 200 reactions, most of those used to produce ATP (the chemical form of energy). Like riboflavin, niacin’s role is to collect hydrogens to “feed the dragon” (the electron transport chain) which ultimately results in a release of energy. Despite the similar role, niacin far outshines riboflavin by the sheer number of reactions it participates in. Really, there’s no contest. The sheer number of energy-related chemical reactions niacin participates in is why it’s so important to get enough niacin to optimize your energy levels.

B Vitamins: Pantothenic Acid

What is it?
Pantothenic Acid, aka vitamin B5, gets its name from the Greek work pantothen, which means “from every side” or “widespread”. The name is appropriate considering the widespread supply of pantothenic acid in food. Pantothenic acid is so prevalent in the American diet that there isn’t enough data on people with a B5 deficiency to establish the RDA. Instead, there is value for Adequate Intake (AI), which is basically the amount of pantothenic acid needed to replace the amount that was excreted in urine. This may be a good time to point out that scientists are often under-appreciated for their hard and sometimes gruesome work.

What does it do?
Have you ever taken a dog for a walk or, better yet, taken a dog to a park? The dog wants to go to the park, but it needs to be brought there. Pantothenic acid is like the person that brings the dog (in this case a molecule named acetate) to the park. Acetate may come from the breakdown of a carbohydrate, a fatty acid, an alcohol or a protein, just like a dog may come from the pet store, the pound, the street, or a neighbor. Regardless of where it came from, a healthy dog wants to go to the park. If you bring it to the park and set it loose to run, you’ll see a huge burst of energy. In a similar fashion, pantothenic acid helps bring acetate to the metabolic process in your body that results in a release of energy.

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Protein

What is it?
Protein is your body’s least favorite type of fuel. It much prefers to use carbohydrates or fats, but some minimal protein does get used as fuel. However, protein’s role in energy metabolism is not as fuel, but as the parts of the machine itself.

What does it do?
The building block of a protein is an amino acid, and amino acids come together to make enzymes (a special type of protein), which act as machines that facilitate the chemical reactions in your body. There are some molecules like taurine that are technically amino acids, but the terms “essential” and “non-essential” refer to amino acids that help make proteins. Your body can make the non-essential amino acids, but it’s important to get enough of the essential amino acids so your body can build and repair its enzymes and proteins. As Canadian philosopher Marshall McLuhan put it, “We become what we behold. We shape our tools and then our tools shape us.” In other words, to make sure your body can build the right proteins for energy metabolism, it’s important to eat the right proteins. A serving of Shakeology provides all the amino acids you need to get the job done.

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Water

What is it?
Water is defined as the basis of the fluids in living organisms. Considering the human body is mostly water, it’s surprising how many people don’t pay enough attention to staying fully hydrated. As it turns out, this has a noticeable impact on your metabolism. Regardless of whether you make your Shakeology with water or a water-based liquid (yes, milk counts), drinking it can help your body stay hydrated.

What does it do?
Water serves as the medium for many reactions in our body, and even participates in several reactions. Minimal dehydration (1-2% of body weight in fluids) can slow down metabolism and make you feel thirsty and slightly fatigued. The solution to this fatigue is not caffeine; it’s plain old-fashioned water (or water with cucumber slices in it if that’s more your style). Consuming caffeine won’t quench your thirst, and it could worsen your degree of dehydration, which would make you feel even more tired. If dehydration continues to 4% (meaning a 135 pound woman now weighs about 130 pounds), symptoms include lagging pace, weariness, sleepiness and apathy. Some people might associate sleepiness with a sign they need caffeine, but drinking caffeine instead of water could be counter-productive. Skip the irony – sip water or Shakeology!

Thanks to the Shakeology Team for the opportunity to guest blog and share my science background with the community! Hope you learned something new.

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Beauty Starts on the Inside

It’s no secret a healthy diet and active lifestyle does wonders for your appearance. Not only does eating clean help you keep the weight off, but it also enriches your beauty. When you take care of yourself your health radiates from the inside out!

Good nutrition naturally nurtures healthy, glowing skin to help keep it free of acne. That’s why many skin-nurturing beauty products on the market have ingredients like citrus, acai berries, camu-camu and other potent superfoods in them; these ingredients are as good for you insides as they are for your exterior.

Good nutrition also can do wonders for strengthening your hair from heating products you may use every day and it also supports healthy growth and texture. Finally, when you’re eating right you may also notice your nails become stronger, grow faster and maybe don’t crack and break as often.

This is all thanks to good nutrition! So what should you be eating to enrich your hair, skin and nails? Here are a few ingredients that are great for all of the above. You can find these ingredients in many foods at your local grocery store and you can find all of them in Shakeology.

Biotin: Helps promote the health of hair, skin, and nails.

Bromelain: Helps support damaged tissue especially after a burn.

Chlorella: Phytonutrient that helps support healthy skin.

Citric Acid: Helps provide antioxidant protection for the skin.

Folic Acid: A deficiency may cause gray hair.

Cocao: Antioxidant support for healthy skin.

Gingko: Antioxidant support for skin and promotes healthy circulation.

Goji Berry: High in antioxidants which help minimize damage from free radicals that injure cells and can damage DNA.

Grape Seed Extract: Used to protect collagen and elastin in skin (anti-aging).

Green Tea: Comes from the Camellia Sinensis tea plant, which is rich in polyphenols, antioxidants and that detoxify cell-damaging free radicals in the body.

Magnesium: Can help cells repair faster.

Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5): Helps reduce signs of aging, skin disorders, and gray hair.

Papain:Taken from the fruit of the papaya tree. It is used to help promote healing for a variety of skin conditions.

Schisandra: Helps to prevent aging.

Vitamin A: Is often used to help skin conditions including acne, eczema, psoriasis, cold sores, wounds, burns, and sunburn.

Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin): Used for treating acne, maintaining healthy hair, skin and nails. It also has anti-aging properties

Vitamin B6: Beneficial for acne and various other skin conditions.

Vitamin C: Powerful antioxidant that can be used to help repair and firm the skin.

Vitamin E: Can help to stimulate the production of collagen and elastin. Collagen is a primary component of your skin and may help prevent scarring from wounds and acne.

Vitamin K: Helps promote healing and helpful for mild bruising and swelling.

Wheat Grass: Rich in phytonutrients that may help to prevent gray hair.
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Crazy for Chia Seeds!

Shakeology ingredient, chia seeds, are edible seeds that come from the desert plant Salvia Hispanica, a member of the mint family that grows abundantly in South America. I’m sure you have seen chia sprouts growing on Chia Pets since the 1980s, but the seeds themselves have a long track record historically as a dietary supplement due to their amazing nutrition! In fact, they date all the way back to pre-Columbian times, where chia seeds were a main component of the Aztec and Mayan diets; women would give them to the warriors for energy and endurance before battle.

As you can see, Chia seeds have been around for a long time but they’re having a second life so-to-speak as the newest ‘it’ health food and potent superfood! In fact, New York Times recently wrote an article about them where they noted the rebirth of chia seeds from the 80s as a health food, read it here.

So what’s all the fuss about? Well, they’re incredibly good for you! They’re an excellent source of Omega-3, antioxidants, protein and fiber. And what do those things do for your health? They can help you feel full for longer, they can support healthy blood sugar levels, they are rich in Omega 3 which is important to heart and cholesterol health, and they help to support healthy, sustained energy levels.

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All these health benefits, complimented by the fact that they have a very mild taste, make them a great superfood to have on hand to add to salads, shakes, oatmeal, smoothies, yogurt, dressings and marinades. You can even add more to your Shakeology for a boost (approximately 1 tsp) but rest assured, they’re already in there so you’ve been getting all these benefits daily for the duration that you’ve been drinking Shakeology. See, you’re ahead of the trend!

When adding extra chia to your Shakeology or any recipe for that matter though, keep in mind that chia is very high in fiber – just 2 tbsp contain almost ¼ of your daily recommended fiber amount. So, just like when you first started drinking fiber-rich Shakeology, make sure your body adjusts gradually; start small and work your way up!

You can also use chia interchangeably with flaxseed, a product many people use as a digestion aid by adding to juices, etc. A couple advantages chia has over flax is that it has a longer shelf life and unlike flax, chia seeds don’t have to be ground before using- they are perfectly digestible in whole form!

Another advantage: when added to water and allowed to sit for 30 minutes, chia forms a gel. Researchers suggest that this reaction also takes place in the stomach, slowing the process by which digestive enzymes break down carbohydrates and convert them into sugar. This can help you feel full for longer making chia seeds a great weight loss tool too!

Enjoy the healthy benefits of chia, one of our favorite superfood-superstars of the year!

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Melanie T. Lost 75 lbs with Shakeology’s Help

via The Shakeology Blog

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“I love Shakeology!!! It is so good for you and it made me feel as though I was taking a proactive step each day towards being healthier!”

What inspired you to change your life and begin your transformation journey?

My children are my inspiration. When I looked at my activity level and their activity level, we were on opposite ends of the spectrum. Fortunately a friend had found Beachbody workout programs and Shakeology a few months earlier and encouraged me to give it a try. (Prefacing it with, this isn’t an overnight process.) I knew at this point in my life, I needed a program that was long term…I needed a lifestyle change!

Tell us about your life before you started the program. How did you feel about yourself and your body?

Prior to starting my Beachbody Challenge in January 2012 I had hit a record (non-pregnant) high for my weight. I hated my body and was extremely self-conscious. I was lethargic, depressed and uncertain of what steps to take to get back on track with my weight and my health. I knew I needed to do something, but I didn’t have the energy or the focus to lay out a plan of attack.

What is the greatest challenge you faced before beginning the program?

I had always focused on dieting and not on my overall fitness. Interval training similar to the Shredfat inc program helped me to realize that weight loss isn’t the only goal I should have, thus helping me to adhere to the workout schedule. The workout schedule was a great motivator!!!

Why did you choose this particular program?

The programs I chose have been based on my goals at the time, weight loss to strength building to toning, each program has had a major impact on reaching my goals! Top priority though is fun workouts that I enjoy doing! 

How has your life changed?

I have become more focused and active. My confidence is higher and I feel healthy, not just “fit”. I love the knowledge I have gained about health and fitness and my ability to share it with others! Plus, I have met a new group of people who share the same goals for a healthier lifestyle!

 

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10 Popular Diet Tips to Ignore

Guest Post By Kara Wahlgren 

If you’ve ever tried to lose a few pounds, you’ve probably been inundated with diet tips. But take them all with a grain of salt—some advice may sound legit but can actually derail your diet. Here are 10 tips you don’t want to follow.

BAD ADVICE: Choose fat-free or sugar-free foods

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BETTER ADVICE: Don’t believe the hype. “They usually use fat and sodium to replace sugar, and sugar to replace fat—or chemicals to replace both,” says Denis Faye, Beachbody’s nutrition expert. And Rania Batayneh, MPH, a nutritionist and author of the upcoming book, The 1:1:1 Diet, adds, “Removing fat from a food makes it less satiating, so you ultimately may end up eating more.” Stick with the original versions, and watch your portions or better yet, eat more unprocessed foods.

BAD ADVICE: No cheating ever!

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BETTER ADVICE: Relax your diet rules, and you’ll be more likely to stick it out long-term. “If 80% of your diet is tight, then 20% can be a party,” Faye says. “It keeps you from getting stressed—and stress is a huge obstacle in weight loss.” Just plan your splurges ahead of time so you’re not giving in to every temptation that crosses your plate.

BAD ADVICE: Stop snacking

BETTER ADVICE: Choose snacks that offer a balance of protein, fiber, and healthy fats—like apples with peanut butter, or carrots with hummus. “A healthy snack can help maintain steady blood sugar levels, which keeps your appetite in check and your energy stable,” Batayneh says. 

Don’t know what you should be snacking on? Check out our snacks under 100 calories article.

BAD ADVICE: Don’t eat fruit—it’s full of sugar.

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BETTER ADVICE: Let fruit satisfy your sweet tooth. “Yes, fresh produce is full of sugar and carbs,” Faye says. “But sugar itself is not the enemy. Fruit is packed with vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals; it’s also rich in fiber, which slows the absorption of sugar. I’ve never met a human being who got fat because of bananas.” When you’re craving sugar, there’s no debate that a handful of grapes is healthier than a hot fudge sundae.

BAD ADVICE: If it’s organic, it’s good for you.

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BETTER ADVICE: According to the USDA, organic food is produced without antibiotics, growth hormones, conventional pesticides, and synthetic ingredients.1 The problem is that many people assume organic foods are all low in calories, too, which isn’t necessarily true. Don’t get us wrong—we’d rather eat food that doesn’t resemble a science experiment. But, Faye cautions, “You need to use common sense. If it’s bad for you with conventional ingredients, it’s still bad for you when it’s organic.” A cookie is a cookie, no matter how all-natural it is.

BAD ADVICE: Calories in, calories out—it doesn’t matter what you eat.

BETTER ADVICE: What you’re eating matters. Compare a 100-calorie candy bar to 100 calories of avocado—the latter is packed with nutrients and has healthy fats and fiber to keep you full. Or compare 50 calories of spinach (about seven cups) to 50 calories of ice cream (about two tablespoons). To feel full when you’re cutting calories, look for foods loaded with water and fiber, like veggies or broth-based soups. Plus, “Hormones have a huge impact on our health. Junk food can trigger bad hormonal responses that, over time, can lead to all kinds of problems, including weight gain,” Faye says. Occasionally, someone will pop up in the news claiming they lost a ton of weight while eating nothing but Subway®, Starbucks®, or Snickers®bars—but don’t put too much stock in those success stories. “When you go that route, you’re not educating yourself,” Faye says. “It’s like the teach-a-man-to-fish adage. If you give someone a gimmicky diet, they might lose weight for now; but provide them with knowledge, and they can be healthy for life.”

BAD ADVICE: Try XYZ Extreme Diet—it works for everyone!

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BETTER ADVICE: Find a plan that works for you. Gender, age, genetics, metabolism, and lifestyle can all play a role in weight loss—so even if a fad diet has worked for others, that doesn’t mean you’ll get the same results. “There’s no single diet that works for everyone; our biochemical needs are different,” Faye says. Talk to a dietitian or nutrition consultant to find a long-term eating strategy that is tailor-fit to you.

BAD ADVICE: When in doubt, order the salad.

BETTER ADVICE: Choose your greens wisely. Leafy greens and vegetables may be virtuous, but not if they’re slathered in creamy dressing and topped with candied nuts, croutons, and deli meats. “Fatty fixings can add hundreds of calories to your meal, and sometimes contain more calories than that juicy burger!” Batayneh says. Salad can be a healthy choice, but order dressing on the side and limit the add-ons.

BAD ADVICE: Don’t exercise—it’ll only make you hungrier.

BETTER ADVICE: Get moving—an hour-long workout isn’t going to make you suck down calories like Michael Phelps. “Exercise isn’t just for losing weight—it improves your cardiovascular health and strengthens your bones,” Faye says. You might feel hungrier while recovering from a grueling workout, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to pack on pounds. “As long as you’re eating clean, your body is amazing at self-regulating,” Faye adds. “It should crave the calories you need to fuel your workouts, not to get fat.”

BAD ADVICE: Treat yourself for a job well done!

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BETTER ADVICE: Rethink your reward system. After an intense workout, you may feel like you’ve earned a cocktail or cupcake. But splurging after every workout can quickly undo all your hard work. If you’ve been good all week, go ahead and grab a guilt-free beer on Friday. But, Faye says, “Don’t let every workout become a Pavlovian thing where you need to eat cake afterwards.” After all, the best reward for a killer workout is getting one step closer to the body you want.

What’s the worst diet advice you’ve ever received? Tell us by commenting below.

Resources:

  1. http://www.nal.usda.gov/afsic/pubs/ofp/ofp.shtml