During These Turbulent Times, Here’s How We Talk About Race in Our Interracial Relationship

Tips for turning an uncomfortable conversation about race into an opportunity for growth.
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The ironic thing about being in an interracial relationship is how rarely race comes up. When my partner and I fell in love, I wasn’t falling in love with a white man, and he wasn’t falling in love with a Black woman. It was just a man and a woman falling in love.

And unlike the groundbreaking show Mixed-ish, portraying a married interracial couple raising three biracial children, not every disagreement that comes up between us is a “learning moment” on cultural sensitivity or ways to fight racism. Discord for us is like most couples: differences of opinion, being triggered by something the other did or said, old emotional wounds, adjusting to 24/7 quarantine togetherness, or just being desperately hungry.

Race so seldom plays a role in our day-to-day lives. However, following the death of George Floyd, a Black man, at the knee of Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, and the subsequent protests, the whole issue of race became amplified as we grappled with these issues and complex feelings.

Coming from different cultural backgrounds and different ideologies can be a cause for some tense conversations around the targeting of Black people, police violence, and systemic racism.

Here are some things we do to take the heat out of talking about race.

To love, accept, and validate

Years ago we listed things we felt were important in keeping our relationship strong. Those things have become our communication vows: to love and accept each other and to validate one another’s emotional experiences. So rather than rush in to fix a problem, we try our best to listen first, ask questions second.

Without that kind of understanding in place, tough conversations would be almost impossible, particularly those touching on subjects as potentially volatile as race, police violence, and social justice.

The astonishing thing is that by now, these “vows” have become the invisible backdrop behind our talks, so we can fall into a place of listening with acceptance without thinking about it. This comes in handy when one of us voices frustration and the other is just able to take it in without needing to do anything about it.

If this doesn’t come easily for you (and it didn’t for us for a while) you can start with these 7 ways to be more accepting of your partner.

Actively listen

These conversations usually happen when we’re hanging out in our front yard or sitting together on the couch and the subject turns to the following: “So, how are you doing with all this stuff in the news?”

During those times, when we delve into tougher feelings, we aim for being a better listener by staying in the moment. This means putting down the book or the phone, blocking out the distractions of neighbors walking by, and fully giving our attention to the other. Here’s how couples can become better listeners and strengthen their relationships.

Listen to understand the other’s point of view

It can be challenging when we disagree on something we feel strongly about. The way we try to improve our communication at those times is to take a step back and start asking questions to better understand the other person’s point of view. It doesn’t mean that we’ll end up agreeing, but it lessens confusion and defensiveness when we can understand why the other thinks the way they do.

So, as we discuss our reactions to Floyd’s killing and the protests, we may ask the other, “How did you come to think that or feel that way?” And it’s not uncommon that it’s the first time we’ve had to think about how we formed some ideas on a specific issue.

My background of living in predominately Black neighborhoods until my teens and then predominately non-Black neighborhoods thereafter shaped my feelings on how Black people are treated. Similarly, his upbringing of being raised in a predominately Polish neighborhood in an area where different ethnicities kept to themselves, shaped his feelings on how people from different ethnic or cultural backgrounds treated each other.

We both grew up in segregated environments and were exposed to ideas and beliefs about other races that reflected our environments. Some of those ideas we abandoned if they didn’t fit our concept of the world and some we’ve kept.

To hear the other’s perspective, self-reflect on, and challenge ideologies we hold helps us refine our thoughts and see a wider picture of the world.

While it would be a tall order for him to feel what I’ve experienced as a Black woman or for me to feel what he’s experienced as a white man regarding racism, we can show empathy by striving to understand the context within which certain beliefs and opinions were formed.

Don’t worry about being politically correct

Whereas we want to be cognizant of each other’s feelings, playing nice by being politically correct doesn’t work. For one thing, that’s not our style. More importantly, though, being politically correct has no place in a frank discussion about race within our relationship.

We call it as we see it because of our core belief that our relationship is a safe place to be real.

So, when we’re talking about things we’re seeing on the news, there are things that are just unequivocal: These are images of white cops killing Black men or these are images of Black people looting businesses downtown. We don’t dance around the issue.

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Keep the dialogue flowing even if we hit a sore spot

To say that talking about race doesn’t press some sensitive buttons would be a lie. The worst thing to do, though, is to clam up and stop talking (or stonewall) because we’ve become upset. That can lead to passive-aggression and resentment. Or the opposite: speaking out of anger and saying things you should never say to your spouse or partner.

What we do instead is keep talking until both have stated their point of view and if we can’t come to an agreement, let it go and move on.

What I’ve seen happen in our conversations is that when we hit upon a provocative issue like where to draw the line between social reform and community responsibility (or if such a delineation is even useful), after a couple of turns in sharing our thoughts and hearing the other person out, we’ll eventually get to, “Yeah, I see what you’re saying.”

Be all right with opposing opinions

We have to be all right with the other person having a different opinion because we’ll never agree on everything 100 percent. Since we base opinions on feelings or ideologies and not facts, they can be contentious if we hold on to them firmly.

Knowing that we try to be clear by saying: “This is just my feeling; I’m not saying it’s a fact or that it’s even right. It’s just how I feel.”

When it comes to discussing things like social justice, we both have opinions on what should be done to address the issues, the points that should take priority, and who should shoulder responsibility for what.

And since we are not part of a governing body, but a couple having a conversation on their couch, it’s just better to allow for the fact that we see some things differently.

Build on common ground

Because discussions about race and social justice can be fraught with tension, we’re sensitive to jump on things we agree on. We take some fire out of the conversation and reestablish our connection by taking a moment to acknowledge the points where we overlap and say, “You’re right about that, or I agree with what you just said.” Those moments feel more affirming than the moments of asserting our individual point of view.

An easy point for us to agree on is that the protests are good for raising awareness, propelling social reform, and showing global solidarity against racial injustice; while looting is untenable and deplorable, detracts from the movement, and gives those who already hate people of color evidence to prop up their hatred.

Come from a place of mutual respect

We can easily reduce differences of opinion on race within a group of acquaintances by saying, “s/he just doesn’t get it” and writing the person off. Within a couple, though, where you have history and know this person intimately, you also know the following: 1.) They have a genuine interest in doing the right thing and 2.) Dismissal would be disrespectful and damaging to the connection.

One of the signs that your relationship is solid as a rock, is your mutual respect of each other. One way we show that is in the value we place on our connection and the steps we take to keep that connection strong.

Mind you, these conversations don’t go perfectly every time. We’re human and sometimes we don’t get the words right. However, we know that we’re coming from a place of wanting to understand, to be understood, and to gain a wider perspective.

These could be some of the hardest conversations interracial couples have and as we move through this moment in history together, it’s important to remember that we’re on the same team.

On the macro-level, as we hold conversations across cultures in the United States, the same holds true: We’re on the same team.

Next, read how to support the Black Lives Matter movement and become anti-racist.

For more on this important issue, see our guide to the Fight Against Racism.

[Article first published on Reader’s Digest.]

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Tamara Jefferies MA is a freelance wellness writer and holistic counselor/coach based in Long Beach, CA. She has worked in the wellness field since 2005 and holds a Master’s in Somatic Psychology from John F. Kennedy University, several certifications in the specialization of trauma and trauma resolution, and is a certified yoga teacher and holistic practitioner offering transformational counseling to women.

Writing on topics that help women heal, grow, and live fulfilled and happy lives is her passion as is writing for wellness businesses, publications, and brands. She is a regular contributing writer to the wellness brand, The Candidly, and a Brand Ambassador to ADORAtherapy.

Contact her at info@growandthrivewellness.com for all your wellness writing or counseling needs.

Or just fill out the form below.

Be Well!

7 Guaranteed Steps To A Good Night’s Sleep

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels  

You’re exhausted. And you’re counting the minutes until you can just collapse into bed. But when you finally lay down your mind races and you can’t relax enough to go to sleep. 

Why is falling asleep so hard for many of us?

Heightened levels of stress and anxiety can make getting to sleep (and staying asleep) a challenge. But it’s not always about stress. You could just have a lot on your mind left over from the day or already prepping your to-do list for tomorrow. Your room is too warm or there’s too much noise. 

So many factors can play into having disrupted sleep. But there are simple steps you can take to transition into deep sleep quicker and easier. 

Here are seven guaranteed tactics to bridge the gap between you and a solid night’s sleep. 

1. Your Bedroom Should Feel Delicious. 

If you’ve had trouble sleeping a problem could be that your bedroom isn’t cutting it. For maximum somniferous effect you want to create a sleep cave of sorts full of linens and things (pun fully intended) that lull you to sleep. 

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine the three things you want your bedroom to be are “quiet, dark, and a little bit cool.” 

The reason for the cooler temperature is that our body temperature naturally decreases during the night. “When you go to sleep,” says H. Craig Heller, PhD, professor of biology at Stanford University, “your set point for body temperature — the temperature your brain is trying to achieve — goes down.”

So you want to create as cool of an atmosphere as makes you comfortable and helps you stay asleep. 

What’s comfortable for each person differs – thus the never ending battle of the sexes for setting the thermostat—but you want to shoot for a room temperature that hovers around 65 degrees

Along with adjusting your thermostat you’ll also want to choose linens, pillows, and a mattress that draw heat away from you. Because, even if you get the room temperature right, your linens and clothes can make you too warm, causing you to overheat during the night. If you naturally run hot, this can spell disaster for a sound sleep.

That means, as much as you may love your memory foam because of how it contours to you, it holds heat. So, buh-bye. Toss ‘em. And replace them with natural fibers that don’t trap heat. 

You’ll want to check out switching your mattress for a cooling model. And for natural sheets—a fantastic and little known natural option is bamboo. Bamboo sheets are deliciously soft and durable. If you’re in the mood for something a bit more luxurious, check out the cotton percale sheets that, because of their tight weave (percale describes the type of weave and not the type of cotton), are so luxuriously soft they earned a spot on our The Best list, which is the definitive repository for the greatest of the great. 

There’s also a new all-natural pillow made from organic cotton and buckwheat that will make giving up that memory foam pillow a painless transaction. Unlike foam or down filling, buckwheat doesn’t collapse under your weight. And you won’t have awake pulling your sweat soaked shirt away from you—the pillow stays cool. 

2: Filter Your Phone Light

We’ve all heard it dozens of times—the light from our phone is bad news as far as sleep is concerned. And we’re like ‘Yeah, uh-huh, scroll, scroll.’ But seriously, when it comes to falling asleep, the light from our phones is doing us more harm than good. 

The problem is that our screens emit short-wavelength blue light that sends signals to our brain that it’s still daylight. A study has shown that this blue light “damages the duration” and “quality of our sleep”. Could be a reason you find it hard to wind down enough to sleep. Just sayin. 

Lisa Ostrin, an assistant professor of Optometry at the University of Houston College, explains, “that blue light prevents special photoreceptor cells in the eye from triggering the release of a sleep hormone.” The hormone she’s talking about is melatonin. Without sufficient melatonin our bodies don’t know to become sleepy.  

Ostrin and a team of researchers conducted a study where they provided participants with special blue-blocking glasses to wear after sun-down. Two weeks after the study began, participants experienced an increase in melatonin production of 58 percent. Not surprisingly, they reported sleeping better. 

But if you can’t really see yourself sporting blue-blocking glasses around your house, then the next best thing is a blue-light filter for your screen.  

3. Be Picky With Screen Time 

Seeing as we’re all on our phones 24/7 telling people not to use their devices before bed is just impractical, lame, and unlikely.

If you’ve done your homework and dimmed your devices with a blue-light filter then the next important thing you can do is choose things to do or watch that you find calming, soothing, or mindless. 

Reason being, according to the National Sleep Foundation, “Using electronic devices before bedtime can be physiologically and psychologically stimulating in ways that can adversely affect your sleep.” To mitigate the stimulation, choose things that are super chill. 

If playing Candy Crush or Pokémon Go are your wind down go-tos, so be it. Or if watching Brooklyn 99 or Parks and Recreation on repeat chills you out, do it. Just hold off on binging Ozark or Breaking Bad until the next day. And skip scrolling through your newsfeed, Facebook, or Twitter feeds which are gloom-and-doom anxiety-inducing mines waiting to explode right before you’re ready to go to sleep. 

Although experts say that watching TV before bed “makes it more difficult to fall asleep”, in my experience, falling asleep while watching a movie is like a no-brainer, it just happens and  it’s a deep sleep. So you do what works for you. 

4. Try Essential Oils. Seriously, They Are (Sometimes) Legit

Essential oils are fantastic for relaxation. Trouble is, certain purveyors of essential oils have been caught making totally unsubstantiated claims about the curative properties of essential oils, telling people to ingest them (please don’t) and claiming they can cure fatal disease (they don’t). DoTERRA, a huge purveyor of essential oils and a multi-level marketing company, was the biggest offender of this and since the crackdown by the FDA has backpedaled and is now training their sales reps not to tell customers that ingesting essential oils will cure their cancer (that’s progress, I guess?). 

Barring the bad name with which quackery sales gimmicks have smeared essential oils, there is ample evidence that scent affects our brains and that essential oils have proven psychological and physiological benefits, as has been shown in numerous studies. One study focused on Intensive Care Unit patients who weren’t sleeping well. After fifteen days of receiving lavender oil through an inhalator the intervention group reported significant improvement in sleep, whereas the control group didn’t.   

Northern California based dermatologist, Cynthia Bailey, MD  explains, “There is definitely credible science behind certain benefits for certain essential oils. But you have to choose wisely, and you cannot use them indiscriminately.”

So bring out all the smell goods—your yummiest candles and your essential oil diffusers—to help you relax into sleep. 

5. Choose The Right Sounds To Unwind 

Remember when people started listening to whale songs, falling rain, or chirping toads to fall asleep? Maybe you even still have that Sharper Image sound maker you got as a gift stored away somewhere, forever buried.  

The effect of sound on our sleep has led to the distinction of various color-coded noises. Stay with me. We all know of white noise—radio or TV static—an unobtrusive continuous hum. But there’s also pink noise, which is akin to those nature sounds mentioned earlier; brown noise—think waterfalls, roaring rivers, or thunder; and black noise—which, weirdly enough is just another word for silence. “Silence” wasn’t a good enough word, apparently. 

White and pink noise have both been shown to help you sleep better. It’s still too soon to say which is better, more research is needed. In the meantime there are plenty of sleep sound machines and apps to help you explore the spectrum of soothing noises. 

Those looking for new ways to wind down are discovering the soothing sounds of binaural beats. The music described as an “auditory illusion” is achieved by layering two different sound frequencies that are allegedly picked up separately through each ear (thus the bi- in binaural). 

Technical stuff aside, listening to binaural beats is utterly calming. There’s nothing there to distract or rile the mind. It’s just chill.  

Another wildly popular option is watching/listening to ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) videos—those softly spoken words or actions, like hair brushing) are great for falling asleep. The effect is quasi-hypnotic. Don’t be afraid to mix things up. Maybe a playlist of ASMR, wind rustling through leaves, and binaural beats will be your magic sleep cocktail. 

Oh, and I’d be remiss if I failed to mention meditation apps that are also great for getting to sleep. We like Insight Timer—a meditation app perfect for those who aren’t really into meditation. They offer guided meditations of varying lengths. There’s also the Calm app for meditation and sleep. Fun thing about this app, if you’re not feeling meditation, and you’re of the opinion that you’re never too old for “bedtime stories ” or Sleep Stories, as they call them, and I will shamelessly profess that I am of that ilk, then Calm has gently narrated stories to lull you to sleep.  

6. Have Relaxing Night-Time Rituals

A big part of falling asleep easily is tricking the brain into slowing down and readying itself for sleep. Simple night time rituals—things that you probably already do—can flip the switch in your head so that your body detects sleep being near. 

Perhaps the most obvious night-time routine to cultivate is your skincare routine because, unless we’ve just given up completely, we will still wash our faces before bed. Long, tiring days that end in, “I can’t even” notwithstanding. Think of this as time to look forward to, where you get to pamper yourself with all your favorite skin care products like this, and this, and definitely this, and decompress. 

Once you’re all dewy and dulcetly scented drop deeper into relaxation with some gentle stretches. As little as ten minutes spent stretching before bed will ease tense muscles exponentially. 

7. Get The Feels From Sex Or Self-Pleasure

We can’t really do justice to talking about relaxing night time rituals without talking about sex and self-pleasure, the penultimate of relaxation rituals. Much has been written on the topic of how sex improves overall wellbeing. And you don’t need me telling you that reaching orgasm releases a cascade of feel-good hormones, like oxytocin.

But interestingly enough, there is another hormone responsible for that post-coital crash that many slip into and that’s prolactin. You can probably guess by the “lact” that it has to do with producing breastmilk. According to psychiatrist, Sheenie Ambardar, MD, “After orgasm, the hormone prolactin is released, which is responsible for the feelings of relaxation and sleepiness”

Because prolactin is released after orgasm, any orgasm, you can feel the soporific effects with self-pleasure as well. So, keep your favorite toys nearby, ladies. 

This has been substantiated by a study out of the Appleton Institute for Behavioural Science in Australia, reported that while “orgasms with a partner appear to have the most benefit in terms of sleep outcomes, orgasms achieved through self-stimulation can also aid sleep quality and latency.” 

And, as if you needed more reason to pounce on your partner, another study showed that prolactin production after an orgasm reached with a partner was 400% greater than from self-pleasuring. 400%! Numbers don’t lie. 

So if sound sleep has been eluding you, by taking an intentional approach to ending your day and cultivating habits that will promote better sleep, you create an atmosphere of rest all around you. Sounds dreamy, right? Now go try out that whole prolactin business. 

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Tamara Jefferies MA is a freelance wellness writer and holistic counselor/coach based in Long Beach, CA. She has worked in the wellness field since 2005 and holds a Master’s in Somatic Psychology from John F. Kennedy University, several certifications in the specialization of trauma and trauma resolution, and is a certified yoga teacher and holistic practitioner offering transformational counseling to women.

Writing on topics that help women heal, grow, and live fulfilled and happy lives is her passion as is writing for wellness businesses, publications, and brands. She is a regular contributing writer to the wellness brand, The Candidly, and a Brand Ambassador to ADORAtherapy.

Contact her at info@growandthrivewellness.com for all your wellness writing or counseling needs.

Or just fill out the form below.

Be Well!

What To Do With All These Emotions – How giving shape to your feelings helps you to process them.

A demonstrator stands during a march in central Auckland, New Zealand, Monday, June 1, 2020, to protest the death of United States’ George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25. Floyd, who after a white police officer who is now charged with murder, Derek Chauvin, pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for several minutes even after he stopped moving and pleading for air. (Dean Purcell/New Zealand Herald via AP)

The shape of your feelings…

Despair has a shape. Outrage has a shape. As do anger, fear, rage, or terror.

Our bodies are fully integrated vessels that are able to feel and process and move emotions healthily if we allow them to. The problem is when we hold back, hold in, or lash out.

When given time and the proper space, we can feel and express our feelings in a way that completely discharges the emotion and does no harm.

With emotions running so high right now, one thing we can do is allow ourselves to move our emotions in a healthy, productive, and healing way.

You can do this individually, and there is also a way to do this communally that could bring deep healing.

It begins with the ability to identify and speak your feeling. What are you feeling? Anger, rage, outrage, despair?

Say it out loud to another person. They don’t have to do anything in return other than show that they are listening. If you are alone, write it down, and say it to yourself. If it helps,  look at yourself in the mirror as you speak your feelings.

Next, give the feeling a shape. That is, let your body move in the way that will express the feeling.

Despair can look like you balled up in the fetal position rocking yourself side to side.

Outrage can look like you flinging your arms and legs, kicking, or punching as if you were shadowboxing but with all your energy invested into each motion.

The key is to listen to your body. Once you’ve spoken your feelings, listen to what your body wants to do to move the emotion.

In community, the most powerful way of doing this is in a circle. Allow a person (the doer)  to be in the center of the circle with one other person (the witness) who is listening to them and holding space for their movement. The witness can mimic the movement of the doer and in this mirroring relay the feeling of being seen and understood to the doer. All the while those sitting in the circle witness and hold the container for this emotional process.

If alone or in a group, give your body the time it needs to move in any way it needs to move to fully express your emotions. You’ll know when it’s over because your body will feel calm and the emotion will have subsided. You will feel more at peace.

Give shape to your emotions and feel them move through your body.

 In this way, you will have restored wellbeing to your mind, body, and spirit. Not just to yourself, but to your community as well.

What’s The Deal With Oat Milk? Is It Healthy Or Not?

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Before we get into the nitty gritty behind this explosive new (ish) health trend, let’s begin with this semi-insane fact:

There. Is. Now. An. Oat milk. Finder. Website.

Yes. It’s called Oatfinder. And it’s the brainchild of Oatly, the main oat milk supplier in the country. It helps consumers track down where to purchase this beloved elixir de rigueur, and because of this handy little tool, keeping Oatly stocked is becoming near impossible and causing baristas to break out into a light rash each time they have to tell a customer they’ve run out of oat milk for the day.

Though with a growing number of makers of oat milk – Oatly, Califa Farms, Mooala, Planet Oat, Pacific Foods, Dream, Silk, and Thrive Market (which not only makes its own plant-based drinks but is an online marketplace for their competitor’s products alongside their own)—your options are becoming more abundant by the day.

With demand so high, smaller coffee shops are struggling to keep up. And because of this frenzy, huge outlets like Peet’s Coffee and Starbucks are scrambling to meet the en-masse demand of their voracious customers, as the rate of oat milk production has yet to keep pace with American consumption. Since they still want in on the action, they’re slowly stocking oat milk in as many stores as they can.

Clearly, the public is loving oat milk’s creamy, frothy, non-dairy goodness, as well as its relatively low environmental impact; oat milk is much more eco-friendly than regular dairy milk and requires less water during production than almond milk. But while we’re pouring it into our coffee by the gallon, we have to ask—are all these oaty carbs just turning into sugar and sneakily making us gain weight?

Do we really want the truth?

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What Is Oat Milk, Like Specifically?

Oat milk is a plant-based, dairy-free, milk-alternative made of whole oats and water. The ingredients are so simple that making your own batch is, in theory, “easy”—assuming you’re handy with cheesecloth and have a spare few hours to devote to laboratory-level experiments, which include soaking whole oats in water for anywhere from 30 minutes to overnight, blending them, and pouring the mixture through a very fine colander or cheesecloth to separate the solids from the liquid. From there, you can get creative by adding cinnamon, vanilla extract, or nutmeg. See? So easy! But the reality is, 99.9999% of us will not be doing this “easy” process, and most of us will be purchasing it ready-made. So, are these cartons and cartons of oat milk we’re buying….actually good for us?

Is Oat Milk Healthy? JUST TELL ME.

Annoyingly, the answer depends on how and why you drink oat milk. But to sum it up…it’s fine? Oat milk is probably not going to cure any diseases or help you magically grow abs overnight, but it’s a perfectly good alternative to milk and other non-dairy milks, with its own set of benefits and drawbacks that vary per brand and ingredients.

Here’s the good news; oats are a great source of protein and minerals, and have been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease and lower cholesterol levels. Oats are also extremely high in fiber, which slows down the release of sugar into the bloodstream, making Oat Milk a healthy alternative for those with diabetes.

If you’re simply looking for a milk-alternative to splash into your morning coffee that’s vegan, soy-free, and nut-free, then you may not care how many vitamins, nutrients, or calories are crammed into a few ounces of oat milk. If you want to reap the benefits of the wholesomeness of the oats, then you can make your own at home, and not worry about any additives or flavorings.

But if your morning alt-milk latte is one of your favorite sources of vitamins and nutrients, then surprisingly, store-bought is your best bet as oat milk manufacturers like Oatly add vitamins A, B12, and D2, calcium, and riboflavin.

If you want to lose weight or just maintain a healthy weight, oat milk won’t exactly make you pack on the pounds, but it’s also not the most slimming alt-milk. Oat milk has slightly more carbs, fats, and calories than alternative milks like almond milk, and a similar nutritional profile to coconut milk. But since carbohydrates get broken down into sugar, you’re not getting a completely sugar-free drink.

Even though the sugar in unsweetened oat milk is naturally occurring (don’t even get us started on the sugar-bomb flavored varieties), we all know how too much sugar can lead to weight gain. So, if you’re trying to cut out carbs and lose weight, unsweetened almond milk still might be your best bet.

Carbs aren’t fully the axis of evil, though; the carbs in oat milk will break down into glucose and turned into energy. Once glucose is formed, the body can use the glucose for energy or turn it into glycogen, a substance found in the liver and muscles. And if there’s still more left over, which means you’ve taken in more carbs than you can burn, it gets converted to fat.

So just like anything with naturally occurring carbs, fats, and sugars, you don’t want to overdo it.

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So, What’s Up With All The Oil?

Though oat milk seems like it would be made of a perfect combination of only the most gorgeously filtered water on the planet and the healthiest organic oats in existence, the second ingredient in most store-bought Oat Milk is oil, usually canola/rapeseed or sunflower.

Oil is a common additive in oat milk that increases nutritional fats and improves the texture. Unfortunately, this is what makes Oat Milk so rich and highly frothable (and therefore, delicious). As baristas worldwide will attest to, almond milk has fallen out of favor because unlike oat milk, almond milk is too thin for a good foam, making latte art so difficult and so deeply uninstagrammable.

Canola oil, also known as culinary rapeseed oil (as opposed to industrial rapeseed oil; and why, god, why the name rapeseed?) is actually a pretty good source of vitamin E, is low in saturated fat (the bad fat) and is high in mono- and polyunsaturated fat (the good fats).

The bad news? Rapeseed oil, which canola oil derives from, is typically high in erucic acid, which in the 1970s was linked to heart problems. In the U.S., for an oil to be classified as “canola,” and not “rapeseed,” no more than 2% of its fatty acid profile can come from erucic acid (so canola oil should have less of the stuff linked to heart problems). In other parts of the world though, these oil names are used interchangeably, and both can be found in oat milk. Meaning sometimes, you might be getting the healthier “canola” oil, and other times, you’ll be getting the less-healthy “rapeseed.”

Oatly claims to use only non-GMO canola oil, which is arguably better than traditional rapeseed oil. Unfortunately, whether either of these oils will have negative, long-term effects on your health is still up for debate.

If this science-y discussion of canola oil, rapeseed oil, and erucic acid (which are all very unpleasant words) is turning you off your oat milk habit for good, don’t fret—it’s possible to find plenty of oat milk labels with just oats and water (and sometimes salt, too). Like this one from Trader Joe’s—hallelujah!

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Is Oat Milk Allergen-Free?

If you have a tree nut allergy, then the last few years of nut milk has probably been a frustrating time for you. Since allergies are a huge nightmare to live with, we’re thrilled to report that oat milk isn’t associated with any of the major allergens. Those allergic to dairy or lactose are obviously in the clear. Oat Milk is safe for basically everyone, as allergic reactions to oats are rare. In the event of an allergic reaction, however, it is commonly because of a protein found in oats called avenin.

What about gluten, though? For those with celiac disease, oats do not typically contain gluten. But since other gluten products can occasionally contaminate oats if they are processed in the same factory, you’ll probably want to double check to make sure the oat milk carton is labeled as “gluten-free” or “no gluten.”

Where’s The Oat Milk Trend Heading? 

For the near future, the answer to that question is up.

Sales for traditional dairy products are declining, while alternative milk choices are on the uptick. Between 2015 and 2018, American consumers spent $4.13 billion less on milk, while the dairy-alternative beverage businesses steadily rose. In fact, at the beginning of 2019, their sales reached $1.7 billion. It will be interesting to see what happens because although Almond Milk is lower in calories, carbs, and fat, it looks like it may get left in Oat Milk’s dust.

Our fave, and in fact The Best Oat Milk for your casual, “in the home” Oat Milk– one that tastes great in a simple iced coffee with no sugar, no added oil, and which froths up nicely in coffee and matcha lattes– is Planet Oat Original Unsweetened. Most coffee shops use Oatly “barista” blend, or Califa Farms, both of which are SO creamy and SO delicious, we feel wildly suspicious about their health benefits, and instead, choose to view these treats like an ice cream cone.

Or, as we say to our kids, a sometimes food.

[Article first published by The Candidly.]

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Tamara Jefferies MA is a freelance wellness writer and holistic counselor/coach based in Long Beach, CA. She has worked in the wellness field since 2005 and holds a Master’s in Somatic Psychology from John F. Kennedy University, several certifications in the specialization of trauma and trauma resolution, and is a certified yoga teacher and holistic practitioner offering transformational counseling to women.

Writing on topics that help women heal, grow, and live fulfilled and happy lives is her passion as is writing for wellness businesses, publications, and brands. She is a regular contributing writer to the wellness brand, The Candidly, and a Brand Ambassador to ADORAtherapy.

Contact her at info@growandthrivewellness.com for all your wellness writing or counseling needs.

Or just fill out the form below.

Be Well!

What Exactly Does Ingesting Collagen Do For Me?

collagen

There’s been a lot of hype around the benefits of ingesting collagen over the last year or so, which has led to a boom in the collagen supplement market. You can now find collagen in tablets and capsules and protein powders and chews and gummies. To name a few.

You’ve probably read articles claiming that collagen supplements are good for gut health. You’ve also probably read that collagen is the literal fountain of youth, gives women clearer skin, stronger hair, and nails, and alleviates joint pain. Who wouldn’t sign up for that? But with the shiny patina of collagen’s miracle benefits, you might feel that this all sounds too good to be true.

So, what’s real? Does this stuff really work? And should you be putting it in your body?

Long story short, recent studies have shown that collagen, a protein the body naturally produces and requires throughout life, may improve aging skin, increase skin elasticity, and hydration when taken orally over the long term.

Top 5 (Suggested) Benefits of Collagen Supplements:

  • May ease joint pain

  • May make skin look younger

  • May help build muscle and burn fat

  • May reduce cellulite (and this is the biggest MAY of all)

  • May strengthen digestive tract lining

I’m repeating “May” because, as of now, studies are limited, and most have only had short trial periods of 4 to 24 weeks. We still don’t have much in the way of longitudinal studies showing how ingesting collagen over years affects the body. Instead, we mostly have a lot of anecdotes from consumers sharing how they use collagen.

So what’s the big deal about collagen anyway?

Well, for starters, it’s a protein, and proteins are crucial to the overall healthy functioning of our cells. They carry out a slew of functions within each cell, such as bringing in nutrients, carrying out waste, and most importantly (for the purposes of this conversation)—building muscle and connective tissues.

That’s where collagen comes in. It creates fibers for muscle, cartilage, tendons, connective tissue, and digestive lining.

The problem with ingestible collagen is that most people believe that by adding it to their daily smoothies, they’ll immediately have great skin. As if collagen, when it enters the bloodstream, knows exactly where to go: “Kelly’s skin isn’t dewy today; I’m going there!’”

But that’s not how it works.

Ingesting collagen will impact more areas than just your skin. It’s a protein and will go where it is needed—skin, hair, bones, etc. Assuming it’s properly absorbed into the bloodstream at all.

When collagen gets broken down in the digestive system, only a minuscule amount actually makes it into our blood and is used by our cells. In other words, you’re just not going to get a big bang for your buck. And those powders are not cheap. So, dosage and absorption are issues to keep in mind when ingesting collagen.

Just like all supplements, collagen pills, powders, and chews are not regulated by the FDA, which means their purity and efficacy haven’t been fully guaranteed by the government. However, there are other organizations that provide third-party testing, quality control, and labeling.

Even studies with promising results, like one that was done on the efficacy of the collagen protein powder VERISOL (which demonstrated improved skin elasticity), have limited applications. Since the study was conducted on the skin of the forearm, not the face, drawing concrete conclusions on collagen’s effect on crow’s feet is a challenge.

To make matters more confusing, many skin care professionals believe that ingesting collagen doesn’t work at all.

Celebrity dermatologist Dr. Dennis Gross, who has a high-end line of skincare products, promotes topical treatments and injectables to encourage collagen production, arguing that these are superior to supplements.

“When you eat collagen,” Dr. Gross said recently in an Instagram post “it’s broken down by the acids in your stomach into what’s called amino acids.” Because collagen is a large protein molecule, once broken down, it just doesn’t work the same.

Dr. Gross recommends if you want more collagen in your skin, “use ingredients applied topically that stimulate your skin to make more of its own collagen.”

Of course, any doctor performing elective procedures probably has their own agenda when it comes to disbelieving ingestible collagen; if collagen supplements really work, then who needs Botox?

But who can say? What we know for sure is that, so far, there have been few trials studying the effects of ingestible collagen.

So, are there proven and safe ways to ingest collagen?

If you’re concerned about collagen loss because of aging and want safe ways to get more of it in your diet, then ingesting collagen through the foods you eat is a healthy alternative to non-regulated collagen supplements.

Here’s a quick run-down of effective, healthy ways to promote collagen production.

Bone Broth

1. BONE BROTH                                                                                                                               This seems to be the winner among nutrition experts. According to L.A.-based fitness nutrition specialist and healthy chef, Marcia Whitfield, since there is so little evidence on collagen, “I wouldn’t waste my money. If people are looking for more protein, which is collagen, I’d suggest making homemade bone broth from chicken, beef, and turkey bones.” She’s not alone in this perspective.

2. AVOID TOO MUCH SUN EXPOSURE AND SMOKING                                                             Just doing these two things alone will help your skin tremendously. Because if you take collagen supplements and smoke a pack a day or love to sunbathe, you will see very little improvement.

 

Balanced Diet

3. EAT A BALANCED DIET

Unsurprisingly, people who respond best to collagen supplements were also the people who had the least amount of protein in their diets. So eat a healthy balance of animal protein, eggs, and dairy, and for the vegans—load up on legumes and green leafy vegetables.

 

Exercise

4. EXERCISE

To get (or keep) those strong muscles of yours, get a moderate amount of exercise with a bit of resistance training thrown in there and you will be well on your way to a stronger you.

 

Like so many trends that come and go, ingestible collagen is new and hot. Although preliminary results look promising, it’s still too soon to claim definitively that the hype is real. So before you hand over that credit card, think about if you really need it.

Chances are, if you just up your intake of healthy proteins and take a few precautions, you’ll see the same benefits that ingesting collagen supplements may or may not give you.

And for those of you who have been ordering bone marrow and saying it was for your skin, feel free to finally admit you just love bone marrow (and if your skin looks radiant afterward, all the better).

[Article first published by The Candidly.]

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Tamara Jefferies MA is a freelance wellness writer and holistic counselor/coach based in Long Beach, CA. She has worked in the wellness field since 2005 and holds a Master’s in Somatic Psychology from John F. Kennedy University, several certifications in the specialization of trauma and trauma resolution, and is a certified yoga teacher and holistic practitioner offering transformational counseling to women.

Writing on topics that help women heal, grow, and live fulfilled and happy lives is her passion as is writing for wellness businesses, publications, and brands. She is a regular contributing writer to the wellness brand, The Candidly, and a Brand Ambassador to ADORAtherapy.

Contact her at info@growandthrivewellness.com for all your wellness writing or counseling needs.

Or just fill out the form below.

Be Well!