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A healthy lifestyle – top 5 biggest pitfalls

Photo by Simon Migaj - Serenity and a healthy lifestyle

A healthy lifestyle - top 5 biggest pitfalls

There’s libraries full of literature about it: living a healthy lifestyle. As well as the internet, where there are thousands of lists and tips to living healthy. Even though this information can be very valuable, we have to admit we already know a lot about it. Just like us, you know very well that daily exercise and eating fruit is healthy – whereas smoking and going to the local kebab shop is not. We figured it would be smart to find out where things tend to go wrong. Therefore we created a list of the 5 most common pitfalls to living a healthy life, that way you can prevent falling into them.

Why wait until tomorrow, when you can start today with Jake

1. Getting too ambitious

It’s not a rare occasion that people decide to completely change their lifestyle overnight. They wake up and decide to head to the gym every day from now on, only eat cucumbers and to run 10 kilometres – untrained. After a few weeks they ‘crash’ down on the couch: “It’s impossible to maintain a healthy lifestyle.” If you recognize this part, then you’ve probably – together with many others – planned your lifestyle a little too ambitious. Becoming healthy, fit and strong starts with baby steps.

2. The ‘unhealthy-domino’

When people make one unhealthy decision, there’s often more that follow: it’s a domino effect. You wanted to work out this morning, but did not feel like it at all. In the afternoon one of your colleagues offers you a slice of cake, that you can not say no to. Then when you come home at night, the lights of the local kebab shop shine brightly and you simply can not resist. A lot of people that are experiencing this unhealthy-domino will often use the same excuse: ‘today was a failure anyway’, resulting in one unhealthy choice after another. Rather, after an unhealthy choice – which occasionally is okay – try getting a grip again on your (new) healthy lifestyle.

3. Poor choice of nutrition

Making the right choice when it comes to nutrition is not easy. A common mistake people make is eating too little or eating too little healthy variety foods. In order for your body and mind to stay healthy, you need a lot of different nutrients. If you have trouble doing so, consider trying the meal replacement shakes we make. Our shakes contain the exact amount of nutrients your body needs, like: protein, minerals and essential fats such as omega 3 and 6. And they’re tasty!

4. Taking on more than you can handle

There’s people who are always ‘busy bees’. Of course there is nothing wrong with an active lifestyle, but there are limits. In order to live and maintain a healthy lifestyle, it is of high importance to set and stick to your personal boundaries. And if you don’t? Well, stress is out there looking for you and it will find you. In the long run it can bring you nasty affixes like insomnia, mental health issues, and in the worst case: heart and vascular diseases. So listen to your body, and take a step back when you notice you’re under a lot of stress.

5. Make a routine out of it

A healthy lifestyle is not achieved in a day – and you do not have to. Rather, try going step by step choosing the healthy option in life, whenever you can. Go to work by bike instead of car, grab some fruit during lunch and meet up with a friend every week to do some exercises or work out. When you stick to this routine for a longer period of time, you’ll notice that you start making the healthy choices subconsciously: it’s now part of your routine and lifestyle. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle becomes a lot easier using this approach – even for you!

Jake makes complete food, like healthy meal replacement shakes. Our products contain all the nutrients your body needs – easy and quick, in one meal. Want to try Jake? Click here

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3+2 Foods for Your Brain

If you’re finding it hard to concentrate and your brain is as hazy as the skies over Beijing, I’ve good news and bad news. The good news is, there are some solutions. The bad news is, none of them are magic. But with a couple of small tweaks in the way you eat, you can be on your way back to productivity soon enough.

What I want to share with you here is a list of foods that will benefit your brain function in the long run, if you make them part of your daily routine. And for those especially tough days, I’ve included some entries that can help you focus when you urgently need to.

3 foods to add to your daily routine

There’s only one way to help your brain be at its best, and that’s by providing it with enough of all the nutrients it needs. This applies at any time, though the effects of not doing it are especially obvious during a busy period when you need to stay focused and productive. Once you find yourself there, there’s no magic food that will help you at once. So, think ahead and enrich your regular diet with more brain-friendly nutrients. These three foods are a good start:

#1: Fatty fish

Fatty fish, such as salmon or mackerel, combines several of the key nutrients your brain needs to do its job.

First, it’s a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s help keep cholesterol levels healthy, which contributes to good blood flow. Source:Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Brain and Neurological Health. Next to omega-3s, fatty fish also contains vitamin D, which contributes to the production of cells and tissues.

Vitamin B12Source:Jake is another nutrient abundant in fatty fish, and it plays an important role in the functioning of nerves.

  • How to integrate in your daily routine:

You don’t have to eat fish all the time to make the most of its nutrient content. But try adding it to your menu at least once a week – as lunch or dinner. And, pick the right type – the common fish types richest in vitamin B12, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin D are salmon, catfish, herring and sardines.

Mackerel and tuna are also a good source of all the nutrients I’ve listed, but they both accumulate high levels of mercurySource:Wikipedia, which can have negative health effects over time, for your brain and your whole body. You don’t have to avoid tuna and mackerel completely, but it’s best not to have them regularly. And if you feel like having mackerel, go for a type that accumulates a bit less mercury – e.g. Atlantic mackerel – and try to avoid king mackerel, which is one of the front-runners of mercury accumulation among fish.

#2: Complex carbs

Unlike simple carbsSimple carbs are carbs whose molecules are made up of 1-10 sugar units. Examples of simple carbs are glucose, fructose and sucrose (table sugar). You’ll find them in junk foods, as well as dairy products and honey, among others., complex carbsComplex carbs are carbs whose molecules are made up of more than 10 sugar units. Examples are fibre and starch. Some of the foods where you’ll find them are fruits, beans, oats and nuts. are digested slowly and gradually. As a result, they don’t cause a spike in your blood sugar when you eat them and don’t leave you in a sugar crash a couple of hours after a meal. Instead, complex carbs give you a stable flow of energy. You’ll appreciate how important that is for your concentration if you’ve ever had to work through an afternoon slump.

Food containing complex carbs have additional benefits for the brain. Especially interesting are whole grains, legumes and sweet potatoes. They contain nutrients such as magnesium, zincSource: Jake and C. MagnesiumSource: Oregon State University, zincSource: Oregon State University have a positive influence on the cell division process. At the same time, vitamin CSource: Jake contributes to the formation of collagen which is important for a good condition of the blood vessels.

  • How to integrate in your daily routine:

You’ll get the most benefit for your brain if you make an effort to avoid simple carbs and replace them with complex carbs as much as possible throughout the day. A good way to start is at breakfast. Even if you’re not a fan of eating in the morning, something small and simple, such as oatmeal or a slice of wholegrain bread with some avocado spread, will be worth your effort. The whole grains will keep you full and give you stable energy until your next meal.

To avoid the dreaded afternoon slump, it’s important that you also pick your lunch wisely. For example, go for a lentil or bean soup, or get a side dish of sweet potatoes with your meal. And forget about getting a sugary drink, energy drink or a fruit juice with your lunch – they’re packed with simple carbs and within an hour of your lunch, they’ll bring your blood sugar and your energy down.

#3: Eggs

Eggs, and especially egg yolks, are a good source of vitamin KSource: Jake. Vitamin K helps maintaining strong bones.

Eggs aren’t the only source of vitamin K. You can also find it in green leafy vegetables. However, the type of vitamin K you’ll find in green leafy vegetables is K1, whereas the one you’ll find in eggs and other animal products is K2.

Next to being a good source of vitamin K2, eggs can also provide you with cholineSource: Jake. Choline contributes to a normal metabolism of homocysteine. A single egg contains 37% of your daily choline needs.

And if there’s a small voice at the back of your head warning you against eating too many eggs, tell it to calm down. Eggs used to get the blame for raising your LDL cholesterolLow-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol is also known as ‘bad’ cholesterol. A high concentration of LDL cholesterol in your blood can lead to cholesterol build-up in your arteries and lead to heart disease or atherosclerosis over time. level or increasing your risk of heart disease. However, there’s insufficient evidenceSource: Journal of the American College of Nutrition to support such claims. So, while you certainly shouldn’t overdo it, with eggs or anything else, there’s really no reason to avoid them.

  • How to integrate in your daily routine:

Eggs should be easy to add to your daily routine. You can have a boiled egg for breakfast or add it to your lunch salad.

If you’re vegan, you can get your vitamin K by adding steamed broccoli, spinach or kale as a side dish to any of your meals. Or, if you’re feeling extra determined, you can make yourself a green leafy vegetable smoothie and bring it along to the office. To make sure you’re also getting enough choline, cook with shiitake mushrooms instead of regular champignons, or keep a pack of roasted soy beans at your desk as a brain-healthy snack.

2 foods for concentration right now

Maybe your food options at work don’t include any of the entries above. Or, you don’t feel like preparing a smoothie or oatmeal for yourself each morning. Whatever your situation, if you need urgent help with concentration, here are a couple of things you can try. You won’t grow wings, but you’ll feel the difference.

#1: Water

Indeed, it’s not exactly food. But it’s just as important as any food. About 80% of your brain is water and every chemical reaction in your brain needs water. So, if you don’t have enough, you will feel tired, dizzy, confused. And not having enough is easier than you think. Recent research shows that losing as little as 0.72% of your body mass in water can alreadySource: The Conversation affect your concentration, memory and mood. If you’re a man with 70kg body weight, that’s about 0.5 litres of water, or 1/5th of the water you normally lose from peeing, sweating and breathing each day. You’re practically halfway to losing 0.5 l of water after your morning bathroom visit.

  • How to use:

To help give yourself a boost if you’re losing sharpness, drink some water and make sure you stay consistently hydrated throughout the day. You don’t have to drink the proverbial 2l per day, though. Your food also contributes to your water intake and how much water you need varies based on your gender, height, weight and activity level. A very basic way to check how hydrated you are, is to keep an eye on the colour of your urine. If it’s very light yellow, you’re good. It it’s dark, then you need more water. Usually, if you feel thirsty, the functioning of your brain may already be compromised. Don’t let that happen.

#2: Caffeine

Yes, caffeine. But not coffee per se. Caffeine is a great short-term concentration booster and has been shown to improve alertness and short-term memorySource: Nutrition Bulletin. However, only when used in moderation. If you have too much, it can increase your anxietySource: Oregon State University, make you feel restless and, overall, be very counterproductive.

Determining how much is too much isn’t very straightforward. On the one hand, how sensitive you are to caffeine can differ based on your weight, gender, and your typical caffeine consumptionSource: Committee on Military Nutrition Research. On the other hand, the caffeine content in a cup of coffee can vary a lot. Based on the coffee bean sort, the roasting method and the preparation, a single cup of coffee can contain 70-130mg caffeine. So, if one cup of a certain coffee doesn’t make you jittery, the same amount made differently might.

To enjoy the benefits of caffeine and minimise the risk of overdoing it, try getting your caffeine from tea instead of coffee. Most teas contain less caffeine per cup than the weakest coffee you can get. And the concentration-boosting benefits of caffeine can be enjoyed in doses starting from under 70mg.

  • How to use:

For an optimal effect, go for tea that contains caffeine, How do you pick the right tea? Lord Nelson Earl Grey1 gram of tea leaves contains 5.65mg l-theanine and 23.4 mg caffeine., Korean Green tea1 gram of tea leaves contains 10.93 mg l-theanine and 17.63 mg caffeine., and Oolong Hwa Gung1 gram of tea leaves contains 12.37 mg l-theanine and 39.71mg caffeine..

For a list of other tea sorts you can turn to for a boost, go here.

The bottom line

Staying sharp and concentrated can be a challenge, and there are no magic shortcuts. But it also isn’t rocket science. Maximising your productivity can be as simple as making small improvements in your diet. Pay more attention to what you eat.

Are eggs, fish and complex carbs the only food options you have? No. There are many ways to get the nutrients essential for your brain. But whichever one you pick, stick with it. Short-term boosts might be a good crutch from time to time but taking care of your brain is long-term work. At least, it’s work that always pays off.

Afraid to miss out on essential nutrients your body needs? You can always take our Jake meal replacement shakes or one of our delicious meal replacement bars.

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7 Foods that will help you sleep like a baby


7 Foods that will help you sleep like a baby

Whenever I just couldn’t sleep, a glass of warm milk has been my mom’s secret weapon for my entire youth. Why? Because milk helps you sleep!

I think we can all attest to the fact that some foods seem like a no-go right before bed, and some seem to work wonders. Enough reason for me to investigate further.

Who knew that pizza can increase your chances of plummeting into a deep sleep as soon as you hit the pillow?

I’m listing the 7 best foods for a good night’s sleep, and we’ll get to the bottom of why they make us sleepy:

1. Cherries

The most straightforward way to induce sleepiness is to eat cherries. Cherries are a great source of naturally occurring melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate your day and night cycle.

Melatonin is produced by the pineal gland in the centre of the brain. Production is triggered by a lack of light: at dusk and at night. In day-active animals and humans melatonin promotes sleep. On the other hand in night active animals it actually promotes activity, thus gathering its nickname ‘The Hormone Of Darkness’.

As you can imagine the melatonin our body produces is responsible for how our biological clock runs. It turns out, that ingesting additional melatonin can even fix disruptions of your biological clock, such as insomnia or a jet lag.


2. Lean proteins

There is some truth to the Thanksgiving myth that turkey will make you sleepy. Although not as extreme as I described in the article about food coma’s, turkey and other lean protein can actually help you getting to sleep.

In nearly all lean proteins, such as fish, chicken, turkey and red meat, the essential amino acid tryptophan is present. As you might expect, an essential amino acid cannot be synthesised by the body and therefore must be part of a healthy diet. Apart from being a protein building block, tryptophan is closely involved in human sleep.

Through an enzymatic process tryptophan is converted into the neurotransmitter serotonin. Another process converts the same serotonin to melatonin. And by now we know what melatonin is good for: a snug and a solid night of sleep.

3. Pistachio Nuts

Apart from being delicious, pistachio nuts are a very good source of vitamin B6. The vitamin is present in many more foods, such as meats or fish. The reason why pistachio nuts are my first pick is because up to 50% of vitamin B6 is lost through cooking and storage. Plant foods lose the least vitamin B6 in these processes, because they contain the most stable form of vitamin B6: pyridoxine. Animal foods contain the less stable pyridoxal and pyridoxamine.

If tryptophan and serotonin were the fuel of our sleep-engine, eating a bag of pistachio nuts would be an oil change.

Glass of milk

4. Milk

What our mothers told us was no lie! A glass of warm milk will actually make you sleep better.

While milk does contain the same tryptophan that is essential for the synthesis of melatonin, it comes in such small doses it will not have any noticeable effect on falling asleep. The reason why warm milk helps falling asleep doesn’t even have anything to do with the biochemical processes in our body!

The reason warm milk is so good for falling asleep, is because it’s warm. We associate warmth at the end of the day with sleep. Just imagine sitting near a fireplace or crawling under your blanket: the warmth will make you drowsy and eventually fall asleep.

Traditionally hot chocolate is a bedtime drink too, but it doesn’t work as well as milk. Chocolate milk contains high levels of xanthines, the mother of stimulants like caffeine. Of course I don’t have to tell you you shouldn’t go for a coffee before nap time.

5. Bananas

Bananas are good for inducing sleep, but not because it affects the production of certain neurotransmitters or hormones. Bananas are full of useful electrolytes, namely potassium and magnesium.

As I’ve described before in the article about muscle cramps, a specific set of minerals are very important to our muscle function: electrolytes. We’ve seen that magnesium and potassium, in particular, are responsible for the relaxation of a muscle.

Apart from being sleepy in your head, it’s equally important for your body to relax. Eat a banana and feel the relaxation flow through you.


6. Pizza

This almost sounds too good to be true. While eating loads of pizza probably won’t get you in the best shape of your life, snatching a slice right before bed might actually send you right to your dreams.

The general consensus is that foods with a high glycemic index (GI) aren’t the healthiest. The GI represents the total rise in blood sugar level following the consumption of a food. Foods with a high GI will spike your blood sugar and then make it crash. The crash will make you hungry again, so you’ll quickly overeat. Not surprisingly, pizza has a high GI, according to Harvard scientists.

So does a blood sugar level that looks like a roller coaster help me get to sleep? Actually yes.

Researchers tested how low GI foods compared to high GI foods when consumed right before bedtime. They measured their results in the unit of Sleep Onset Latency (SOL), which is just a fancy term for how long it takes for somebody to fall asleep. Interestingly, it took candidates approximately 50% less time to fall asleep when they consumed a high GI meal before bedtime. Building on that, it turns out that the large amounts of rice (high GI) consumed in Japan are significantly associated with the good sleep that Japanese people have. High GI foods won’t get you in shape, but they might just let you enjoy some Japanese tranquillity.

7. Kiwi

Coined a superfood, the kiwi undoubtedly is more beneficial to your diet than a pizza. Recent research suggests that apart from being loaded with antioxidants, kiwis can make you fall asleep like a brick.

At Taiwan’s Taipei Medical University they specifically researched the effect of eating kiwis before going to bed. They found that eating kiwis on a daily basis was linked to significant improvements in both sleep quality and sleep quantity. It turns out eating kiwis for 4 weeks can:

– make you fall asleep up to 34% more quickly
– make you wake up 29% less when you’re supposed to be asleep
– make you feel like you’ve slept better, up to 42%
– make you sleep 13% more overall

While the researchers studied the effects on sleep, they didn’t map the biochemical process that caused improved sleep. Considering the fact that kiwis have one of the highest levels of serotonin, it probably has something to do with the eventual production of melatonin.

Bottom line

If there’s one thing we can agree on it’s that the body is very complex, also when it comes to sleep. While melatonin is ultimately responsible for making you sleepy, it is synthesised from several other biochemicals, such as serotonin and tryptophan. Those biochemicals are essential for the production of melatonin, as well as co-enzymes, mainly vitamin B6. If there’s another thing we can agree on it’s that this story probably isn’t the best to tell a 6-year-old when they ask you why milk makes them so sleepy.

The best advice for a solid sleep cycle is to maintain a nutritionally balanced diet and to make sure you’re getting all the essential ingredients for the production of melatonin. However, if you are in desperate need for a much needed nights sleep I recommend a pizza with tuna, filled with cherries, kiwi and banana, topped off with some pistachio nuts along with a glass of warm milk.

You can also simply order a box of Jake Shakes, to make sure you will get everything you need.