Sparkling Water: The Hottest Beverage Trend

What’s refreshing, comes in a wide assortment of fruit flavors, and is the hottest beverage to hit grocery store shelves in recent years?

Sparkling water.

If you visit any grocery store canned beverage section, you will see numerous brands and varieties of sparkling water.  The new drink trend reveals the changing American palate, with a step away from corn-syrup laden sugary sodas and artificially sweetened diet sodas to calorie-free, sodium free effervescent water with a splash of essential fruit oils.  This trend has exploded into a 1.2 billion dollar industry.

Two of the biggest soft drink companies, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo,  have jumped into the ring, vying for the title of best selling sparkling water brand with AHA and bubly, respectively.   However, the clear category leader is National Beverage, with its LaCroix line, which commands about 80% of the sparkling water market.

Admittedly, I have become a huge fan of AHA and bubly, and have determined the best flavors after trying the majority of the ones which appealed to me.  Apparently, the flavors which captured me the most (AHA Orange-Grapefruit, AHA Blueberry-Pomegranate, bubly Mango and bubly Pineapple) have also appealed to others, because I keep having a devil of a time finding those particular flavors. I’m definitely tempted to check out LaCroix varieties since I have also sampled Spindrift, Waterloo, Perrier, and S. Pellegrino, but have yet to do so.  According to some sparkling water aficionados, LaCroix reigns supreme in the flavor department.

Now that summer has hit in all its blazing glory, this is a perfect time to try some of the sparkling water brands if you haven’t yet done so.

Gustatory Challenges In The Land Of The Rising Sun

A lovely sashimi lunch in Tokyo…

The biggest bucket list destination on my list has always been Japan, so when I finally went there in March of this year, I set out to absorb as much of the country as I possibly could, traveling through Northern, Central, and Southern Japan over the course of 14 days.  I had a bit of a concern about encountering odd food items, but since I grew up eating Japanese food, I felt pretty confident that I would fare well through most of the trip.

One of my favorite Japanese food items, umeboshi

There are many Japanese food items which I love to eat, and some of them are comfort foods for me.  Things like manju, chawanmushi, umeboshi onigiri, tsukemono, and just plain old gohan (rice) give me a sense of great joy whenever I eat them, because they take me back to my childhood.  I knew that I could always order my favorite food items without any issues.

Overpriced imported strawberries and tomatoes

One thing I noticed immediately was that the sashimi I ordered in Japan was not only far superior to most of the sashimi I have had in the states, it was also much cheaper.  What would cost me about $25 in the U.S. ran only $11 to $13, and the fish was incredibly fresh and flavorful.  The food items which were outrageously overpriced were imported fruits like baby watermelon ($15), strawberries ($30 for 6 jumbo fruits), tomatoes (also $30 for 6 large fruits), and I wasn’t interested in those items anyway.

I wasn’t about to limit myself to safe food items like sashimi and ramen, but I also had some trepidation about encountering bizarre, Fear Factor type foods. What also added to the challenge was the fact that some restaurants which didn’t give a hoot about gaijin (foreign) customers refused to put out menus in any language other than Japanese.  So I struggled to decipher a few menus while I was in Japan, searching for the kanji and kana I knew, like 肉 (niku, or meat), 魚 (sakana, or fish), ご飯 (gohan, or rice), and 野菜 (yasai, or vegetables).

The first evening I was in Japan, I walked to a quaint little restaurant near the hotel I was staying at in in Ota-ku.  The proprietors were lovely, gracious, spoke a bit of English, and also served a tasty chirashi bowl which I happily devoured.  I was tempted to return to the same restaurant the following night, but I wanted to explore, and ended up in a very bizarre restaurant which featured the first nihongo-only menu.  The instant I walked in, the proprietors and guests all stared at me, making me very uneasy.  At that point though, it was late, I was hungry, and I needed to eat, so I put up with the icy reception.  One table in particular was quite loud, and one middle-aged man clad in manga covered pajama pants was making the most noise at that table.  He kept talking and cackling while taking long drags off his cigarette, creating clouds of off-putting fumes which wafted over to where I was sitting.  There was no way I would have a relaxing evening at this place!

The proprietress handed me a menu and mumbled something very rapidly in Japanese, then shuffled off hurriedly.  I took one look at the menu, took a deep breath, then scanned the menu for kanji I could recognize.  I ended up ordering a bowl of rice, tsukemono, edamame, gyoza, and a whole fish which was so tiny that I had to order 3 more to fill up on the meal.  The food was ordinary, unimpressive, and it was incredibly expensive.  Thank goodness I was leaving for Sendai the following morning!

On March 9th, I took the shinkansen from Haneda Tokyo to Sendai, and once there, I was determined to have a bowl of ramen.  I had fantasized about eating ramen while in Japan, and I wasn’t about to wait any longer.  Luckily, I was able to find a tiny yet popular ramen house in Sendai, and I was rewarded with a spectacular bowl of ramen.

Later that evening, I became hungry again and began to scan the area for a place to have dinner.  My travel companion noticed a restaurant which was perched on the second floor of a building and suggested we try it, so we trekked upstairs for what would become the most bizarre and costly meal of the entire trip.  The menus were only in Japanese, and the waitstaff spoke absolutely no English.  We ended up ordering sake, rice, gyoza, sashimi, chicken skewers, and tsukemono.

The menu at a small restaurant in Sendai

The tsukemono, sashimi, and chicken skewers were not what we were expecting, and our taste buds were definitely offended by the experience.  The tsukemono featured vegetables like eggplant which, in our estimation, does not produce an ideal pickle, due to its mushy texture and bland flavor.  Next was the sashimi, which included some very strange seafood selections which were a very different texture and flavor from what we have enjoyed, even in other restaurants throughout Japan.  Let’s just say there were some neglected morsels of seafood after we relinquished the plate.

Lastly, there were the chicken skewers, which were also quite surprising.  There were eight skewers, but only two had chicken muscle meat, and those two consisted of chicken thigh and not chicken breast.  Two skewers were chicken skin, two were chicken kidney, and two were chicken gizzards.  I was a sport and ate one kidney skewer, but I could not tolerate the gizzards or chicken skin, and my buddy wouldn’t touch any of them.  We learned our lesson from that restaurant and avoided ordering any chicken skewers for the remainder of our trip, because we noticed that all chicken skewer dishes in Japan seemed to include the undesirable organs which we were served while in Sendai.

The next day, I had another bizarre food experience which almost completely turned me off from ikura, or salmon roe.  I visited the Mitsukoshi in Sapporo, and saw numerous vendors selling the bright orange, salty roe which was my grandmother’s favorite.  I alighted upon one vendor whose ikura looked especially fresh, and was offered a sample, which was absolutely divine.  I promptly selected a tray and paid for it, not noticing the mentaiko which was also on the tray.  For those of you who don’t know what mentaiko is, just click here for a description.  Despite the fact that I had only heard about mentaiko, and didn’t know that it was sold with the roe sac.  I quickly found out that it was tough, rubbery, very strong in flavor, and so disgusting that I spat out the first bite, drank a bunch of green tea, then brushed my teeth to get rid of the taste.  They say that people either love or hate mentaiko, and I found out I am definitely a hater!

 

 

I’m A Jasmin Influencer!

I am so thrilled to be a Jasmin Influencer!  I have been with them since early December, and I have a blast creating highlights for the site and posting every day.  Yes that’s right, every single day, even on holidays and weekends!

Please follow me at www.Jasmin.com/staceynaito  and check out my highlights and daily story elements!  You can also direct message me anytime through the site, and I also make myself available for Video Calls for a pocket of time every day.

Topics I cover include:

Dating

Relationship

Soul Mate

Fitness

Flirt Advice

Beauty

Lifestyle

Travel

Fashion

I haven’t posted anything on Dance, but who knows?  I may talk about my three year stint with salsa dancing on the Jasmin platform!

You can sign up for FREE and get 15 FREE CREDITS!

 

I am also always open to suggestions on topics which you would like to have me cover.  Want more nutrition tips?  Beauty hacks?  Travel deals? Relaxation techniques?  On the go workouts?  You tell me, I’m open!

Do You Need Probiotics?

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Probiotics supplements have become so ubiquitous that it can be confusing to try to determine which ones you should take. You may even be asking yourself if there is any point to taking probiotics, especially if you are already taking a handful of nutritional supplements.

So What Are Probiotics Anyway?

Our digestive tracts serve as the home for many billions of bacteria, viruses, yeasts, and fungi which are actually beneficial to us and essential for normal function. These living organisms, collectively known as the micro biome, are consumed either in foods or in a probiotic supplement, and are vital to not only gut health, but to our immunity and overall health.

Probiotics were discovered by Elie Metchnikoff, who is known as the father of probiotics. He noticed that inhabitants of rural sections of Bulgaria would live to ripe old ages despite living in extreme poverty. When he discovered that they consumed sour milk, he encountered the gut-friendly bacteria which are now known as probiotics.

Another interesting manner in which humans acquire beneficial bacteria is through the birth canal, where a newborn will be exposed to Bacteroides, Lactobacillus, Escherichia coli, and Bifidobacterium. This is the main reason why infants who are born via C-section have weaker immune systems and are more susceptible to allergies.

What exactly do probiotics do? They are believed to protect us in two ways. The first is the role that they play in our digestion. We know that our digestive tract needs a healthy balance between the good and bad gut bacteria, so what gets in the way of this? It looks like our lifestyle is both the problem and the solution. Poor food choices, emotional stress, lack of sleep, antibiotic overuse, other drugs, and environmental influences can all shift the balance in favor of the bad bacteria.

Since our immune response protects us from germs, and also since beneficial bacteria in our digestive tracts are vital to optimal immunity, it makes sense to replenish our guts with probiotics. If our digestive tracts are deficient in probiotics, we are more susceptible to infections, autoimmune disorders, and allergic reactions.

In order for a microbe to be designated as a probiotic, it must meet the following criteria:
1. It must have a documented health benefit,
2. It must be alive when taken, and
3. It must be administered at levels to offer a health benefit.

You should take at least one billion colony forming units (CFU’s) each day.

If you would like to supplement your diet with foods which contain probiotic bacteria, you can incorporate the following foods into your regimen:
Sauerkraut
Pickles
Kimchi
Kombucha
Yogurt
Goat cheese
Miso soup

What In The World Are Prebiotics, And Why Do You Need Them In Your Life?

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Prebiotics are quite different from probiotics, but they work in tandem with probiotics to have a synergistic effect. For this reason, prebiotics and probiotics are known as synbiotics.

While probiotics are live microbes, prebiotics are a type of insoluble fiber which probiotic organisms use as food. When you take prebiotics, you supply the probiotics you ingest with nutrients they need in order to thrive. These fiber sources (inulin and oligosaccharides) pass through the human stomach and small intestine without being broken down. When they reach the colon, they are fermented, producing short-chain fatty acids which are then consumed by the beneficial microbes which have set up house there.

Prebiotics are found naturally in the following foods:
– Asparagus
– Lentils
– Garlic
– Onions
– Leeks
– Oats
– Artichokes
– Bamboo shoots
– Bananas
– Honey
– Milk
– Mustard
– Rye
– Soybean
– Barley
– Wheat
– Tomatoes
– Sugarcane juice
– Sugar beet

Since the probiotics rely on the prebiotics for food, prebiotics must be taken prior to the probiotics.

Experts are now stating that by taking prebiotics, individuals can treat constipation and irritable bowel disease, immune deficiencies, and even prevent and treat different types of cancer. Other research has proven that consuming prebiotic-containing foods increases calcium absorption and bone mineral density in adolescents as well as post-menopausal women. Other studies suggest that probiotics can promote healthy body weight and optimize energy homeostasis.

Conclusion? It’s a great idea to incorporate either prebiotic supplements or prebiotic-containing foods in your daily regimen, along with probiotics, to ensure optimal gut health, support immunity, and protect against a myriad of disease processes.

Why Influencer Marketing Is Key In The Fitness Industry

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Influencer marketing has become an integral part of our modern culture, and is increasing in popularity as a way for businesses to capture new customers to purchase their products and services. Since the fitness industry is particularly visually centered, and also because it tends to sit on the cutting edge of brand marketing, many of my fitness friends and I have been able to forge long-standing relationships with brands as we bring awareness to their products, while also solidifying our relationships with our followers. It’s a wonderful symbiosis in which everyone wins – the brand has powerful advertising via social media portals, the influencer is able to garner the loyalty of fans by promoting respected items, and the followers are introduced to new and exciting products, usually with an associated discount as a thank you from the influencer and the company which is selling the product.

One critical component to success with influencer marketing, regardless of whether you are a company or an individual influencer, is to be willing and able to adjust to the changes which tend to occur across social media platforms. For example, Instagram and Facebook fairly recently implemented certain regulations on how a post should be tagged, and such regulations are always subject to change. It is vital to stay abreast of guideline changes as they come down the pike.

Another important aspect of influencer marketing is that influencers should be genuinely passionate about the brands they represent. A prime reason why social media marketing is so popular is that followers believe in the influencers they follow, and they want sound, honest advice on what merchandise or services they can purchase which will enable them to reach their fitness goals. Followers want to know what products an influencer has used to obtain his or her enviable physique, what fitness apparel is the most comfortable, functional and flattering, etc. The more honest an influencer is, the more the audience appreciates any recommendations made by that person.

Dr. Stacey Naito

In a similar vein, companies which turn to social media influencers to promote their products or services meet with the best success when they like the influencer’s overall vibe and messages, as well as the target audience which the influencer has built via social media. Fitness influencers of varying ages can also help to expand brand awareness for a company, as can influencers who have a unique perspective (moms, senior citizens, people with diabetes, etc.).

There are many athletes and fitness professionals who essentially fell into the world of brand influencership, partially because they were well-respected by their fitness peers, but mostly because they behaved with integrity and were transparent with their fans and followers about their experiences and struggles with training, diet, and performance. It makes a huge difference when an athlete speaks from the heart, and such candor helps to build up the brands he or she represents. From a personal perspective, I have never endorsed or promoted a brand or product which I did not wholeheartedly believe in, and I know my followers can tell that I am forthright and honest when I post YouTube reviews, blogposts, etc.

We certainly live in a very different age now, one in which people expect different options for their exercise regimens and meal plans. For example, fitness apps are incredibly popular, especially since most of them have tracking software built in so that a user can enter in goals and track progress. Other people specifically want at-home workouts because they either don’t want to join a gym, or don’t feel comfortable working out in a public environment. That’s where some popular fitness influencers can guide followers to workouts they can perform while they are in the comfort of their own homes.

If you are the owner of a fitness-minded company, and you haven’t explored the world of brand influencer marketing, doing so could take your brand to the next level. For aspiring fitness brand influencers, make sure the brands you post on your profile are congruent with what your followers want to see. As long as you are consistent and honest with your marketing, chances are your brand and your following will steadily grow.

Seasonal Probiotics Make Sense

I recently had the good fortune to try the innovative seasonal probiotics which Jetson sells. Seasonal probiotics? You bet. With a seasonal rotation, Jetson ensures that your gut is exposed to as many strains of probiotics as possible, which means the strains are fresh, delivered monthly to your door, and offer the best guarantee for optimal gut health. In comparison, most probiotics brands on the market only offer the same small handful every month, while Jetson delivers over 20 strains in a rotating pattern with their subscription program. Such diversity of good bacteria makes a tremendous difference in how well your gut can carry out essential functions.

Another great reason to subscribe to Jetson seasonal probiotics is that they are made in fresh batches and delivered to you every month, as opposed to sitting in a bottle on a shelf for many months, degrading from moisture and heat. In addition, Jetson uses a protective gel material in their capsules to prevent them from being broken down by highly acidic environment of the stomach. This means that the probiotic capsule reaches the small intestine unscathed, and can exert its beneficial effects.

Interestingly enough, right before I started taking Jetson Probiotics, I was having issues with abdominal bloating which I just couldn’t shake. About 3 days after I began taking Jetson probiotics, I noticed that my bloating decreased noticeably, which I definitely appreciated, especially since I was concerned about an upcoming photo shoot! I’m looking forward to subscribing to Jetson to see how my body responds to the expanded variety of probiotic strains. This is an especially good time to start thinking about improving gut health, since we all have to deal with holiday stress as well as holiday foods which we don’t usually consume during other times of the year.

Jetson offers more strains of probiotics on a seasonal schedule for optimal gut function.

Check out Jetson seasonal probiotics here:

https://wearejetson.com/