Whether you’re an omnivore, vegan, or something in between, you’ve probably noticed a profusion of meatless products on supermarket shelves. The market for plant-based meat substitutes is booming, growing 17 percent between 2014 and 2018, according to market research company Statista. And demand is still on the rise.

Though more and more people are open to meatless proteins like seitan and sea moss, there’s an ongoing hunt for plants that offer a more meat-like texture. There’s also a growing interest in medicinal plants, according to market research company Technavio. All of that makes the market ripe for hearty fungi like lion’s mane mushrooms. They’re sold as everything from mushroom “steaks” and mushroom jerky to powders and supplements. “People are always looking for a quick fix, and mushroom supplements are some of the newest and most innovative,” says Amy Gorin, a plant-based registered dietitian nutritionist and owner of Plant-Based Eats in Stamford, Connecticut.

Low in calories and packed with potential health benefits, this fungus could be a fun, nutritious addition to your diet. Here’s everything you need to know about lion’s mane mushrooms, including the benefits, risks, nutrition, and how to eat them.

(Related: What Are the Health Benefits of Mushrooms?)

What is lion’s mane mushroom?

Lion’s mane, also known as Hericium erinaceus, is a mushroom with a long history of medicinal and culinary use in Asia. It’s blond and shaggy—hence the name “lion’s mane.” Though the ragged, fleshy white fungus grows naturally on dying wood, you can now find lion’s mane mushrooms in processed supplements, extracts, and powders. Whole lion’s mane mushrooms also have a chewy texture and umami flavor that makes them an effective meat substitute in many dishes.

Lion’s mane is often marketed as a healing ingredient, but its benefits in that area aren’t well understood. “Medicinal mushrooms have been used and revered for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine, [but] more human studies are needed for safety, efficacy, and proper dosage,” says nutrition expert Vicki Shanta Retelny, RDN, host of the “Nourishing Notes” podcast.

(Related: 9 Reasons Mushrooms Are The Next Big Superfood)

Mushroom nutrition facts

Lion’s mane mushrooms have a similar nutritional profile to many other mushroom varieties. In general, fungi are low in calories and fat, with a sizable helping of antioxidants and minerals, such as iron and potassium.

One cup (70 grams) of the average raw mushroom contains the following nutrients:

  • Calories: 15.4
  • Protein: 2.16 g (4 percent recommended daily value, or DV)
  • Fat: .24 g (0 percent DV)
  • Carbohydrates: 2.28 g (0.8 percent DV)
  • Fibre: 0.7 g (2.5 percent DV)
  • Calcium: 2.1 mg (0 percent DV)
  • Iron: 0.35 mg (2 percent DV)
  • Potassium: 223 mg (4.7 percent DV)
  • Magnesium: 6.3 mg (1.5 percent DV)
  • Phosphorus: 60.2 mg (4.8 percent DV)

Varieties

There are several varieties of lion’s mane mushrooms. The fungus is native to Asia, Europe, and North America. In North America, it is common to find at least three distinct species: Hericium erinaceusHericium americanum, and Hericium coralloides. All three types have a similar look and nutritional profile. They are also all edible. Here’s what the experts have to say about these shaggy mushrooms’ health benefits.

(Related: 5 Supplements That’ll Help You Build a Better Brain)

Lion’s mane mushroom benefits

In general, mushrooms are healthy because they deliver disease-fighting phytochemicals in a tasty, low-calorie package. Lion’s mane mushrooms offer all the nutritional benefits of other mushrooms, including plant-based iron and other essential minerals. Some research suggests that lion’s mane might offer more health perks than other common mushrooms, such as portobello or shiitake. “Research on the health benefits of lion’s mane mushrooms is preliminary, and more studies need to be done,” says Gorin. “From the research that we do have, there may be benefits for cognitive function and gastritis (inflammation of the lining of the stomach).”

Though lion’s mane mushrooms are nutritious, there is little evidence to support claims that they boost energy, prevent disease, or speed up weight loss. “Although lion’s mane may have benefits, by no means is adding them to your diet a magic elixir,” says Shanta Retelny. “More human studies are needed.”

Provides a plant-based source of iron

A one-cup serving of lion’s mane provides about 2 percent of your recommended daily value of iron. Plant-based sources of iron are vital for vegetarians and vegans, according to Gorin. That’s because most high-iron foods are also animal products—think beef, chicken, and oysters. Since an iron deficiency can lead to anemia, consuming plant sources of iron, like lion’s mane, sea moss, and chia seeds, can help you keep your levels in the safe zone.

Might boost mental health

“Lion’s mane is believed to be beneficial for … fending off depression and anxiety,” Shanta Retelny says. As with the majority of research on lion’s mane, however, studies linking the mushroom to mental health benefits have mostly been done in animals. That’s a good start, but in no way do animal studies prove they’re useful in humans. For that, we need human studies.

(Related: 9 Superfoods You Can Turn Into Scrumptious Comfort Food)

May protect against dementia

According to Shanta Retelny, lion’s mane mushrooms may have a beneficial effect when it comes to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. That could be because lion’s mane mushrooms contain plant compounds known to stimulate new brain cell growth, according to research published in the International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms.

Gorin adds that in one small study of older Japanese adults with mild dementia, taking 1,000 milligrams of lion’s mane three times per day for four months seemed to improve mental clarity. “Compared to the placebo, these adults saw cognitive increases—but the benefits began to diminish within a month of termination of the treatment,” she says.

So while lion’s mane mushrooms might improve your mental health, research is still too limited to confirm precisely if and how this works. More studies are necessary to recommend supplementation for specific mental health conditions.

Could soothe abdominal pain

“Research shows that lion’s mane may help with upper abdominal pain for people with gastritis,” Gorin says. In a mouse study published in the International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms, scientists pinpointed a compound in lion’s mane mushroom extract that can fight against gastric ulcer activity. Just keep in mind that this study was done in mice, not people. More research is necessary to determine if the mushroom extract would have the same effect on humans.

Might aid weight loss

“There is very preliminary research to show that lion’s mane mushrooms may have weight loss benefits,” Gorin says. She explains that in a study of rats on high-fat diets, lion’s man supplementation resulted in a decrease in body weight gain. A 2018 research review published in the journal Molecules suggests that regularly eating mushrooms can help support weight loss and prevent weight gain. And an earlier study, published in Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry, found that mice fed  a high-fat diet along with lion’s mane extract gained less weight than mice who didn’t eat lion’s mane. Plus, they had lower triglyceride levels, which suggests lions mane may be beneficial to the heart.

But before you order a bottle of lion’s mane supplements, remember that most studies have been done on animals. Only controlled human studies can confirm the actual effect of lion’s mane mushrooms on your weight-loss efforts. Shanta Retelny adds that she is “always cautious about weight loss claims, especially on supplements” because these products are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. That means any old supplement company can slap on label that says “Hey, our stuff helps you lose weight!”—even if there’s no proof.

(Related: 50 Surprisingly Unhealthy Foods at the Grocery Store)

Risks and side effects

Lion’s mane mushrooms are generally considered safe and healthy. As with any medicinal plant, lion’s mane mushrooms may interact with supplements or drugs. If you are taking an anticoagulant or antiplatelet drug (such as aspirin or warfarin), Gorin says lion’s mane supplements could increase your risk of bleeding. That’s because lion’s mane contains a plant compound called hericenone B. According to a report in the science journal Phytomedicine, this compound can inhibit blood clotting.

Lion’s mane can also increase your risk of hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, if you combine it with certain antidiabetes medications or supplements (like garlic, ginseng, and psyllium), according to Gorin. The supplement’s hypoglycemic effect means it has potential for blood sugar management. That’s what researchers found when they tested lion’s mane on rats with diabetes.

Reporting in BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies, the researchers say that after 28 days of taking powdered lion’s mane, the rats had lower blood sugar levels. It’s promising, but scientists will need to conduct human studies to determine if the supplement is effective and, more important, safe for people with diabetes. Shanta Retelnty recommends avoiding lion’s mane if you are allergic to any other mushrooms.

How to use lion’s mane mushrooms

“Lion’s mane mushrooms are used raw, cooked, dried [powdered], and in teas,” says Shanta Retelny. There are many ways to incorporate this nutritious fungus into your diet.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Swap a meaty side dish or entrée for lion’s mane slices sauteed in butter. Gorin says the taste and texture are similar to crab and lobster.
  • Saute lion’s mane slices in olive oil, soy sauce, and seasonings before adding to your favorite stir-fry.
  • Add to one of these delicious mushroom recipes.
  • Lion’s mane tea can be purchased from health food stores or some supermarkets. Steep according to instructions on the label.
  • As a dietary supplement, lion’s mane powder can be added to smoothies or soups. However, it is best to talk to your doctor before ingesting a new supplement, especially if you take prescription medications.

Now that you know about the benefits of lion’s mane mushrooms, try this delicious mushroom toast recipe.

The end of the Covid-19 pandemic is edging closer. More and more people are vaccinated each day and we’re nearing herd immunity. A sense of normalcy is on the horizon. But while we spent 2020 expecting the arrival of vaccines to open the door to a carefree future, the reality is something quite different. For some people, feelings of stress and anxiety that plagued them during the pandemic have morphed into fear and anxiety about post-pandemic life.

An American Psychological Association survey of 3,000 U.S. adults found that 46 percent don’t feel comfortable going back to living life like they used to before the pandemic. And 49 percent of adults in the same survey reported feeling uncomfortable about returning to in-person interactions after the pandemic ends. Even the 48 percent of survey participants who were vaccinated shared similar feelings.

If you’re in the same boat and feel anxious about returning to “normal” after the pandemic, you’re not alone. Here’s what experts want you to know and how to keep your anxiety in check.

(Related: This is Languishing—The Mental State Many of Us Are Experiencing Right Now)

Entering a new “new normal”

The idea that we are returning to normal is not exactly accurate, according to Jane Greer, a marriage and family therapist in New York City and author of What About Me? Stop Selfishness From Ruining Your Relationship. “The numbers are still up, people are still encouraged to wear masks, social distancing is still important,” she says. “So the safety measures and protocols are still in place, and by virtue of that, that in and of itself means things are not normal.” Instead, we’re creating a new normal. We’re not returning to our pre-pandemic lives; nor are we continuing with the restricted living we’ve been doing for more than a year. The new norm allows for more activity and the ability to be out in the world more. “But it’s not one’s old life, so that’s the first thing,” Greer says.

Paul Hokemeyer, a clinical and consulting psychotherapist in New York and author of Fragile Power: Why Having Everything Is Never Enough, agrees. He says it’s perfectly normal to feel anxiety as the world returns to normal because we know the notion of returning to normal is a lie. “It’s a fiction that we tell ourselves to remain hopeful,” he says. “Deep in our hearts, we know that the world we left when Covid-19 hit did not remain stagnant. It was radically changed, just as we and our lives were changed.” This split between what we want to believe and what we know to be true causes discomfort that manifests as anxiousness or anxiety.

(Related: How to Move Ahead When the Tank Feels Empty)

Why are people anxious about the post-pandemic world?

It’s hard to quantify the many different reasons people might feel anxious about the world opening back up, but an obvious reason is that there is still a world health crisis going on. Sanam Hafeez, MD, a neuropsychologist and faculty member at Columbia University in New York City, says some may feel anxiety about the vaccine’s efficacy against new variants, for example. “For over a year, people are so used to checking themselves for symptoms of Covid-19 that it’s possible that some people have developed varying forms of health anxiety,” she says.

(Related: How to Talk to Your Loved Ones About the COVID-19 Vaccines)

Fear of the unknown

At first, there was fear around the change that came with the pandemic. Now, that fear is the change that comes with the post-pandemic limbo. You can’t go back to the routine you held before the coronavirus hit because Covid-19 is still a global issue. But you don’t need to keep the same pandemic routine either. “Anxiety comes from not knowing, and when we’re doing the same thing daily, we know what we’re doing, where we’re going, and we’re comfortable in our routine,” Greer says.

(Related: 8 Women Share the Impact the Pandemic Has Had on Their Mental Health)

Anxiety accompanies change

To an extent, people adapted to pandemic life and now need to adapt yet again. That’s a lot of change and unknowns for anyone to handle. Our rhythms and routines of daily living are comforting. When your regular schedule is disrupted, you’ll feel anxious—even if it means moving beyond a pandemic. “This is extraordinarily true with Covid-19 because people have taken a break on so many levels,” Greer says. People have been on a break from the ordinary activities of life, like school and in-office work. They’re also taken a break from life’s joys, such as parties, travel, sports, and close contact. There’s also the fact that some people are returning to old routines that now might feel brand new. “One person, after she was vaccinated, saw her grandchildren and was absolutely crying,” Greer says. “She said, ‘I can’t believe what it was like just to put my arms around them.'”

(Related: How Covid Has Remapped Friendships)

Abandoning the comforts of home

In addition to the unknown, some people are also anxious about losing some of the pandemic’s silver linings—things they enjoyed or appreciated about the past year. Maybe you discovered a new hobby, spent more time with your partner or pet, or started cooking more. Or maybe you’re one of the many office workers who shifted to a work-from-home arrangement and are dreading the day you have to give that up.

Living through a pandemic puts many things into perspective, and you may value things like social or solo time in a different way. According to Dr. Hafeez, shy people, introverts, or those who experience social anxiety, are especially susceptible to anxiety about the world reopening. “This group of people may have found some relief that the restrictions of Covid-19 afforded,” she says. “As the world moves from virtual to real-life or in-person situations, this places more stress on those who either like their alone time or have anxiety in business or social situations.”

People who were happy to skip in-person socializing during the pandemic may experience anxiety from the pressure to participate in social engagements once again. After all, during Covid-19, they could avoid socializing without worrying about external pressure to show up. “Now, as many have settled into that routine, we are about to go back to a semblance of our former routines, and that reentry can cause anxiety for many, as we are out of practice with ‘normal’ things in life, like dating in person, going to cocktail parties, and meeting friends for happy hour,” Dr. Hafeez says. Getting accustomed to this social interaction is going to take some time.

(Related: Could Your Chest Tightness Be Due to Anxiety? Why It Happens)

Existential dread

Anxiety, in moderation and properly managed, provides people with important data and information. “It tells us the status quo in which we are currently living needs to be altered because it’s too chaotic and uncomfortable,” Hokemeyer says. “As this relates to the anxiety we are feeling about reentering our post-Covid-19 world, the anxiety we are feeling individually and collectively is telling us we have work to do to repair ourselves, our relationship, and the world we live in.”

The bigger issue is anxiety of an existential nature: Your life may have undergone dramatic alterations during-Covid-19 and you’re wondering what kind of world you’ll be re-entering. “Covid-19 and its attendant stresses and strains changed us,” Hokemeyer says. “It brought into sharp relief the thin and very tenuous line that separates chaos and order, health and illness, life and death. While this heightened awareness and deeper consciousness present an exceptional opportunity for repair, it can also be overwhelming,” Hokemeyer says.

(Related: 6 Breathing Exercises for Anxiety That Can Help You Feel Calmer)

Who is most at risk?

Some people might not feel as anxious as others about this coming change. Hokemeyer says that people who are conscious of and thinking about the way they are in the world are susceptible to these feelings of “emergent anxiety.”

“My patients who want desperately to make meaning and manifest change from this experience are the ones who are suffering from the most anxiety,” Hokemeyer says. “This is because at this nascent stage of reemergence, they haven’t quite figured out how to concretely manifest the change they want to see.” Of course, anyone with existing anxiety disorders is also more prone to feeling anxious about the changes coming with post-pandemic life.

How to manage post-pandemic anxiety

Plan what you can

Anxiety stems from feeling a loss of control, so the more people can exercise control, take control, and put controls in place, the calmer they will be, according to Greer. That means being very mindful, thoughtful, and intentional about the activities and plans you participate in post-pandemic. “Do it in a structured way that you plan for it and you look forward to it, like a vacation,” Greer says. “That way, you know what you’re doing, who you’re going be doing it with, and where you’re going be going.” All of that gives you something exciting to look forward to, and it gives you some sense of control over the events and happenings in your life. Plus, it gives you time to mentally prepare. “You can make a plan, look forward to it, and actually do it,” Greer says.

Hokemeyer says one of the best treatments for anxiety is structure. Create and keep a daily routine and be sure to set goals. “Make sure you are sticking with a daily routine that includes time for exercise and social engagement,” he says. “Get up and go to bed at the same time every day. Eat three healthy meals. Take a daily walk.”

Find your support staff

Another way to manage anxiety is to talk to friends and family. Share your concerns because others probably feel the same way. “Learn about anxiety in general and what tools can be used to master it, such as belly breathing and meditation,” Dr. Hafeez says. If these thoughts are really interfering with your quality of life, seek help from a mental health professional.

(Related: How to Find the Best Therapy App for You, According to Experts)

Practice self-care

Hokemeyer highly recommends starting a journal, particularly when it includes positive affirmations. These are short statements meant to inspire you, like “I am full of energy and ready to take on the day” or “I am worthy of love.” You may also want to do some bullet journaling. Fill one page in a notebook with your random thoughts in the morning. “Then fill up another page of one to three affirmations that you want to manifest as you reemerge into our post-Covid-19 world,” he says. These can be simple and broad or really specific to your desires. The main point, Hokemeyer says, is to be an active participant in your healing journey. Consider jotting down these phrases that calm anxiety.

Don’t say “goodbye” to the good stuff

If you’re anxious about leaving behind the silver linings of pandemic life, Greer suggests taking inventory of what has worked for you during the pandemic. “Once you know what it is, then you put the controls in place by planning those activities into your life so that you’re not losing them; you’re just not going to be able to have them the same amount of time,” Greer says. “So you find they become your takeaway lesson from the pandemic, and you learn now how to integrate them into your life to have a more meaningful experience.”

Be aware of what’s important to you, what you gained, and what you don’t want to give up. Then really structure your life and figure out how to include those aspects in it. Will you be able to add those elements of your life into every single day? Maybe not. But consider doing so on a weekly or monthly basis. According to Greer, that will give you a sense of control and will let you keep having these positive experiences.

(Related: How Rumination and Obsessive Thoughts Are Linked to Anxiety and Depression)

When will the anxiety ease?

As more time goes by, Covid-19 cases and deaths will decline more and more, and people will see that they remain Covid-19-free. At that point, most people should feel better about returning to the world, says Dr. Hafeez. But change takes time. Dr. Hafeez recommends taking baby steps when returning to a “normal” life. “For example, if you are traveling for the first time since the pandemic, don’t take an overseas flight,” she says. “Take a short, domestic flight to build your confidence.”

If you are dining out at a restaurant for the first time, don’t go with a larger group during the Saturday night rush. Try a Monday night with one friend. According to Dr. Hafeez, this baby-steps process goes by a more sophisticated term: exposure therapy. With this technique, you expose yourself to the thing you fear, little by little, until the fear subsides. “Yes, as a whole, we will go back to normal, but it will take some time after the collective trauma this country and the world have been through,” she says.

Hokemeyer is optimistic that post-pandemic life anxiety may start to subside around 90 days into the complete reemergence and reopening of the world. “Ninety days is an important period neurologically,” he says. “It’s the amount of time required by our central nervous system to integrate new information and recalibrate to a new reality.”

(Related: How to Build A Self-Care Plan, According to Experts)

Keep tabs on your feelings

The essence of anxiety comes from change, not knowing what will happen, and a certain sense of helplessness. Be aware of how you feel as you make plans for yourself, Greer says. Look for ways you can control or take charge of your post-pandemic life. The more controls you have in place, the calmer you’ll be.

Next: This Unexpected Technique Can Help Control Anxiety

Plant-based diets have never been more popular. Science shows us there are benefits to this fibre-packed diet pattern, including lower rates of heart disease and both breast and colon cancer. And, if you’re worried about getting enough protein, legumes and beans are the perfect answer—along with a balanced diet of whole grains, vegetables, nuts seeds fruits, and healthy fats. But what does plant-based eating entail, and how do you get started if this whole idea is brand-spanking new to you?

(Related: 24 Plant-Based Dinner Recipes to Make in Quarantine and Beyond)

What is plant-based eating?

The good news is that you’ve already started! If your diet contains anything that does not come from an animal, then you’re enjoying plant-based meals right now. Fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, and grains are all plant-based foods. The purpose of plant-based eating is to include these foods more often. Some people may continue to consume their usual amounts of meat, fish, and other animal products; others may replace such food entirely with plant-based options. Plant-based foods contain a variety of nutrients that can meet your nutrition needs just as much as a diet with animal products.

(Related: What Is Plant-Based Protein and How to Add More to Your Diet)

What are the main benefits of eating more plants?

Health: Eating more plant-based food is associated with lower risk of chronic diseases and can also help with managing abdominal fat—all while still providing the nutrients your body needs.

Environmental: Farming livestock uses up massive amounts of land and water resources, making plant-based foods, and in particular plant-based proteins, a more sustainable food source than meat and poultry. Animal production also causes excessive amounts of pollution. And, the current rate of population growth makes it impossible to feed the world with animal protein alone.

Cost: While this obviously varies depending on what you’re buying and where you’re buying it, balanced plant-based diets can be created at a reasonable cost. Plant-based proteins such as dried beans and lentils are a fraction of the cost of most animal protein products. Learning to shop seasonally and effectively using plant-based foods can also cut down on your food waste.

(Related: These Plant-Based Products Are Having a Negative Impact on the Environment)

What are plant-based proteins?

Plant-based proteins are a specific category of plant foods that contain protein. And there are a lot of them! Legumes such as lentils, beans and peas, nuts, tofu, and tempeh, are specifically good sources, but protein is also found in whole grains such as steel-cut oats and whole wheat. Eating a variety of these foods can meet some or all of your protein needs. Plant-based proteins are also a great way to add this nutrient without the additional saturated fat that is commonly found in all animal products. Bonus: plant-based proteins like black beans and lentils will also increase your daily fibre intake.

It’s true that animal products contain “complete” proteins—in that they have all of the essential amino acids that humans can’t make, and therefore need to eat in their diets. Luckily, different types of plants contain different amino acids and eating a variety of them, even at separate meals over time , can still give you all the amino acids you need to meet your protein needs. The key is to maintain a diverse diet.

(Related: 6 High-Protein Plant-Based Meals This Nutritionist Loves)

Does this mean going vegetarian or vegan?

Only if you want it to. Animal products have many benefits and can fit into a balanced diet. But if you want to take the plunge into vegetarian, pescatarian or vegan diets, you can usually do so and still get all of the nutrition you need. What exactly you restrict or allow is up to you. Many people do variations on these diets and choose to still eat eggs, dairy, or fish.

The main challenge here is planning. You’ll want to be proactive about picking meals that make up for key nutrients, such as protein, iron, and Vitamin B12, that are much easier to get through animal products. To make sure you’re getting enough iron, try plant-based foods such as legumes and tofu. There are also many fortified products on the market, such as plant-based “milk,” that will sometimes add Vitamin B12 as well. Do your research, and check out some of our vegetarian and vegan meal plans as well.

(Related: How Does This Trendy Plant-Based Egg Compare to the Real Thing?)

What are some examples of plant-based, protein-rich foods?

1. Grains

This group often gets neglected because of the plethora of low-carb diets out there, but whole, intact grains provide a protein-energy punch. Typical bread and pasta are made with wheat flour, and whole wheat contains fibre, vitamins, and protein. But it’s just the beginning of the whole grain category. Think also: rice, oats, barley, bulgur, quinoa, amaranth, teff, rye buckwheat, and many more varieties of flour. Many of these are quite high in protein and fibre, which help to keep you full, making many meals and snacks more satisfying.

(Related: 19 Oat Recipes for Every Time of Day)

2. Legumes

Legumes are by far the most protein-rich, high-fibre, calorie-efficient way to get protein from plants. This category includes beans, peas, and lentils in all their forms. But in their whole form—meaning when they are not ground and/or crushed—beans provide the most protein.

If you haven’t cooked beans before, the easiest way to start is with canned beans! They are industrially pressure-cooked and can be found in no-salt versions. You simply open the can, and because they are already cooked, you can easily add and create any meal.

Once you do get the hang of it, cooking beans from scratch is easy and economical. It is important to break down the natural sugars in beans and lentils, so they don’t cause digestive distress, and this is best done with a pressure cooker, slow-cooker or instant-pot. This additional pressure breaks down the natural sugars quickly and shortens cooking time.

Otherwise, soak your beans overnight, throw out that water the next day and extend cooking time on the stove top. For lentils, rinse, and then cook with a 3:1 ratio of water for 15-20 minutes. Beans take a little longer as they require a good soak to cook evenly. If you can, rinse, then soak overnight in a covered bowl with about 2 times the water. Then drain that liquid, cover with water in a pot and bring to a boil and cook.

Many legumes are now also processed into other popular foods. Often these are pureed or ground into flour, similar to other grains that are added to pasta and bread. You can use these flours for baking and they’re often found in gluten-free products—something fun that you can experiment with too!

Beans are more versatile than just your typical baked or chili dishes. They can be the main protein of your stew or curry, roasted as a snack, baked into brownies, pureed into dips, added to salads, tortillas, or wraps—and that’s just the start.

Small but mighty, lentils are a great addition to your meals. An easy way to start using them is to replace half of your ground meat in any recipe with lentils. The consistency is so similar you’ll barely notice the difference in your chili, shepherd’s pie, or sloppy joes. They’re also great as the star of soups, dahls, sauces, or stews.

Peas are a member of the legume family, and contain protein, iron, fibre, and zinc. Split peas are regular peas that are dried and have the outer skin removed, and act more similar to lentils when cooked. Peas are great in soups, dal, and can be used to create little fritters as well.

(Related: 6 Types of Beans to Meet Your Protein Needs)

3. Nuts

Nuts are high in protein, fibre, and healthy fats. They’re also incredibly versatile. Include them in your diet as a snack, throw them into a curry or salad or use them to form the basis of many creamy vegan dishes. It’s better to opt for unsalted when you’re buying them—you can always roast and flavor them yourself (it will almost always end up being less sodium content than the store-bought versions). A standard portion size of nuts is about ¼ cup.

(Here’s what to know about the health benefits of hazelnuts, walnuts, macadamia, and Brazil nuts.)

4. Seeds

We often overlook these tiny ingredients, but good things come in small packages. Just 1oz of seeds can deliver 4-10g of protein, not to mention healthy omega fats and antioxidants. They are so great to include in your baking, salads, smoothies, and more. Try a chia pudding for wonderful soluble fibre to help aid digestion or roasted pumpkin seeds to give you a powerful punch of dietary zinc!

(Here’s what to know about the health benefits of sesame, hemp, poppy, chia, and flaxseeds.

How much plant-based protein do I need?

Babies and toddlers have a higher protein requirement per body weight than adults because they are growing. This age group needs between 1-1.2g of protein per kg of bodyweight whereas the requirement for adults is closer to 0.8g/kg. So, if your child is about 10kg (22lbs), then they would need about 10-12g of protein each day. The numbers in the chart below show average portion sizes commonly eaten by adults.

Food Amount of Protein Portion Size

  • Beans: 9-11g ¾ cup cooked, served on their own or mixed into a soup
  • Lentils, canned or cooked: 13g ¾ cup cooked into a veggie patty or mixed into a sauce
  • Nut butter: 7g 2 tbsp spread on to toast or mixed into oatmeal
  • Tofu: 12g ¾ cup baked tofu strips
  • Soy burger patty: 10g 1 patty, cut into pieces
  • Soy milk: 7g 1 cup (not recommended under 2 years of age)
  • Hemp hearts/seeds: 13g ¼ cup mixed into cereal
  • Chia seeds: 5g 2 tbsp in overnight chia pudding
  • Weight Watchers or lentil pasta: 3.5g ½ cup cooked
  • Quinoa: 3-4g ½ cup cooked

Okay, I’m in! What’s my first step?

Make your next meal a bean-based one! Adding beans and more plants to your diet has a whole host of protective effects for the heart, brain and body—not to mention the earth and your budget. And remember, you don’t have to give up animal protein to enjoy plant-protein; they can co-exist beautifully in your diet together!

Next: 3 of Our Favourite Plant-Based Meals From the New “Oh She Glows” Cookbook

The way most people get barley is through beer. “Malt is germinated (sprouted) barley that has been gently dried to stop the growth of germinating roots,” explains Danielle Gaffen, registered dietitian nutritionist and nutrition consultant, San Diego, California. “This leaves intact the enzymes that convert starches to sugars such as maltose.”

A staple in some alcoholic beverages, such as whisky and beer, malt is also used in some food products, too. You may be surprised to learn just how many processed food products use malt. “Common foods to which malt is added include milkshakes, cereals, waffles, pancakes, ice cream, baked foods (cookies, crackers, pretzels, pizza, bagels), imitation coffees, and confections. Malt can be used as a food flavouring, colour additive in caramel, and as optional ingredients in baked products,” says Gaffen.

So you’re getting a form of barley almost daily. But barley itself is worth adding to your diet, as well: It’s a whole grain that can be eaten hulled or hull-less and is loaded with nutritional benefits. Here’s everything you need to know about the cereal grain, including how to add it to your diet.

(Related: Is Spelt Good for You? What to Know About This Ancient Whole Grain)

Barley nutrition facts

This whole grain is packed with nutrients. “Barley contains 13 grams of fibre per cup along with copper, manganese, phosphorus, and selenium,” says Gaffen.

Here are the nutrients in one-half cup (100 grams) of uncooked, hulled barley:

  • Calories: 354
  • Carbs: 73.5 g (27 percent DV)
  • Fibre: 17.3 g (61 percent DV)
  • Protein: 12 g (24 percent DV)
  • Fat: 2.3 grams (3 percent DV)
  • Sugar: 0.8 g
  • Calcium: 3.00 mg (3 percent DV)
  • Iron: 3.60 mg (20 percent DV)
  • Potassium: 452 mg (10 percent DV)

(Related: What to Know About Quinoa’s Nutrition, Calories, and Benefits)

Origins of barley

Barley is a type of grass and is very similar to wheat. It is an annual grass that grows well in warm climates and is usually harvested in the spring.

The origins of barley are unclear, but experts believe it comes from the Fertile Crescent of the Middle East, near regions that are now known as Iran, Iraq, Turkey, and Lebanon. Barley is a grass that doesn’t grow in the wild and has been domesticated throughout centuries.

Varieties

You can find a wide variety of barley options at your grocery store—just know that not all forms of barley are equally nutritious. The healthiest choice is barley that is minimally processed—look for options labeled as whole grain. Here’s what to know about the varieties you’ll see:

Hulled

This is barley that has been harvested and the inedible outer hull has been removed with minimal processing. “Hulled or hull-less barley is a whole grain that provides a bounty of essential nutrients, including a good source of plant-based protein, magnesium, phosphorus and niacin and an excellent source of fibre, manganese, selenium, and thiamine,” explains Beth Stark, RDN, a nutrition consultant in Harrisburg, Pennslyvania.

Hull-less

This barley has an outer hull that usually comes off during the harvest and helps minimize processing times. Hull-less still has the bran and germ intact and is considered a whole grain. “It’s important to note that hulled and hull-less barley are both minimally processed forms of the grain that retain their outer layers after harvest,” says Stark. “Because of this, they are a source of whole grains.”

(Related: How to Choose a Healthy Bread)

Pearled

Pearled is very common but not as nutritious as hulled or hull-less barley because during processing some of the bran layers and important nutrients are stripped away. Gaffen explains: “In pearly barley processing, additional pearlings remove more of the bran, germ, and part of the endosperm, resulting in tiny grains with a polished, pearl-like colour.”

According to Stark, “For this reason, pearled barley is not technically a whole grain and therefore does not offer the same nutrition perks shared here. It’s still a better option than a fully refined grain though.” You’ll find pearled barley in various baked goods or meals. “Pearled barley is used to make barley flour, grits, and flakes, which can then be incorporated into breakfast cereals, breads, soups, cookies, and crackers,” says Gaffen.

Flakes

Barley flakes look similar to oatmeal. Flakes can be made from hulled, hull-less or pearled barley and are made by steaming the kernels and then rolling them before drying them.

Barley grits

Grits can be made from hulled, hull-less, or pearl barley when the kernels are broken into pieces. “Barley grits are barley grains that have been toasted and cracked into particles,” says Gaffen.

(Related: How to Eat a Whole Food, Plant-Based Diet)

Health benefits of barley

“The benefits associated with eating an adequate amount of whole grains and fibre from foods like barley and others may also include weight management, appetite control, and a healthier GI tract, or ‘gut,'” says Stark.

High in antioxidants

Antioxidants are molecules that reduce the effects of free radicals, or unstable atoms, on the body. “Antioxidants are powerful compounds found in foods, especially plants, that help neutralize free radicals in the body that may contribute to several diseases, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and inflammatory joint diseases, among others,” explains Vanessa Rissetto, registered dietitian and Co-Founder of Culina Health.

Barley has different antioxidants, including vitamin E, and beta-carotene among others. Rissetto advises, “Getting more antioxidants in your diet is essential for minimizing inflammation and protecting your cells from oxidative damage.”

High in fibre

Eating a diet rich in fibre is important for keeping the body healthy. Fibre helps maintain a healthy digestive tract and good digestion. “Fibre supports healthy digestion and controls blood sugar better,” explains Rachel Naar, a New York City-based registered dietitian and nutrition consultant.

“Barley is one of the highest-fibre cereal grains there is as it consists of around 17 percent fibre,” says Stark. There are different types of fibre, including soluble fibre, which the body can’t digest but is important and beneficial for the digestive tract. One type of soluble fibre is beta-glucan, and barley delivers plenty of this healthy substance. Beta-glucan fibre helps slow down digestion, says Naar, and helps you feel full longer.

There are more pluses to beta-glucans, says Gaffen. “The fibre may also have beneficial roles in lowering insulin resistance, reducing the risk of obesity, and boosting the immune system to fight cancer.”

(Related: What’s the Healthiest Cereal to Buy in Canada?)

Lowers cholesterol

Because barley is high in soluble fibre, beta-glucans, eating barley can help with cholesterol. “Beta-glucans help lower cholesterol by binding to bile acids and removing them from the body,” says Gaffen. Barley also has phytosterols, or plant sterols—compounds that are similar to cholesterol but found in plants, specifically inside plant cell membranes. “Barley helps reduce cholesterol due to its high content of phytosterols, a phytochemical,” says Naar.

Manages blood sugar

High fibre foods can help maintain or stabilize blood sugar levels. Stark explains: “Because of its rich fibre and plant-based protein content, a whole grain like barley can keep blood sugar levels more steady, compared to refined grains that are lower in these nutrients.” Stark advises that people who have high blood sugar or are concerned about their blood sugar levels should consider whole grain and high fibre foods to minimize drastic spikes in their blood sugar after eating.

Heart-healthy

Barley has different plant compounds, known as phytochemicals that may help or reduce heart conditions and diseases. “The grain may protect against heart disease and cancer through its high phytochemical content of flavonoids,” says Naar.

Plus, barley has polyphenols, which are essential micronutrients in plant-based foods. One of the polyphenols is called lignans. Barley is “high in lignans, a phytochemical, which has antioxidant, anti-tumor, antiviral, and antibacterial effects,” she explains. The lignans can aid the heart and consuming barley “may protect against coronary heart disease because of its high lignans content,” says Naar.

Aids weight loss

Eating a high-fibre diet can be important in reducing appetite, which can help you feel full longer, often leading you to eat less. “Barley also helps to maintain good levels of fullness until your next meal which ultimately can help maintain a healthy weight,” says Rissetto.

(Related: What is Teff? What to Know About This Gluten-Free Ancient Grain)

Risks or side effects

Although barley is a whole grain and full of nutritional benefits it may not be suitable for everyone. Barley is similar to wheat and does have gluten. Individuals with gluten allergies, intolerance, or celiac disease will want to stay away from this grain. “This grain is not suitable for people with celiac disease or who have gluten/wheat intolerances,” advises Gaffen.

How to cook it

Depending on what type of barley you choose to prepare will take more or less time and have a different texture. According to Gaffen, “[Hulled barley] is somewhat chewier than pearl barley and requires longer soaking and cooking times, but it’s ultimately more nutritious. This form of barley must be soaked for several hours or overnight using twice the amount of water to the amount of barley. Once the barley has soaked, it can be drained and rinsed.”

Soaking overnight may be an extra step but in the long run, it will save you time and will be easier for your body to digest the whole grains. “Soaking the barley facilitates digestion and reduces cooking time,” explains Gaffen.

Although it doesn’t look like pasta, barley is often cooked in a similar way by placing the grain in boiling water until it becomes tender but not mushy. “However, unlike pasta and grains like quinoa, rice, and pearled barley, hulled and hull-less barley takes much longer to cook; 45 minutes to an hour or so,” says Stark.

Whole-grain barley may not be for a quick fix dinner because of its long cooking time. However, if you plan in advance or make extra for future meals, you can use cooked barley for an array of dishes. Stark recommends, “Since it does take a bit more time to cook, consider making a double batch and storing it in the fridge for quick use.”

It may be typical to add salt to your pasta water but this isn’t recommended when cooking barley. “Salt shouldn’t be added to barley before it finishes cooking, as it prevents the water the barley is cooked in from being properly absorbed,” explains Gaffen.

(Related: Buckwheat: Health Benefits, Nutrition Facts, and How to Eat It)

How to eat barley

Barley is a fun and easy whole grain to incorporate into meals and can be eaten for breakfast, as a substitute for pasta, rice, or other grains. “Enjoy it as a side dish or as the base of a hearty power bowl,” says Stark. Gaffen adds that “barley can be added to canned soups and stews, bread stuffing, as a side dish similar to rice, and so much more.” Once barley is cooked, it’s an easy whole grain to make numerous dishes. “The hearty texture and nutty flavour of barley by cooking it in stock or bone broth instead of water, then flavour with fresh herbs, spices, a drizzle of pesto or dollop of hummus,” says Stark.

Barley is a versatile whole grain so you combine this ingredient with many different foods. “It also pairs well with a variety of nutrient-dense foods like olive oil, vegetables, nuts, beans, herbs, lean proteins, and fish,” says Stark, “and makes a good vehicle for getting these foods onto the plate.”

But Barley isn’t only to be served as a savoury dish. “You can pair barley with sweet ingredients too and use it as a satisfying breakfast stand-in for oatmeal. Simply cook and then top with berries, cinnamon, maple syrup, and walnuts or your favorite oatmeal toppers,” explains Stark. Plus, barley can be used in baked goods or even for other breakfast recipes, such as waffles or pancakes to give you a boost of nutrients as well as provide a nice flavour. Naar says, you “can use barley flour for breads or even pancake batter as it has a sweet, nutty flavour.”

(Related: 8 Tofu Health Benefits You Should Know)

Why eat barley

Eating a varied diet is important to receive an array of nutrients that are important for our bodies. Incorporating barley can be another way to have more diversity in your diet. “Many of us fall short of both whole grains and fibre in our diets,” explains Stark. “Adding barley into the mix offers an easy and tasty way to boost these important nutrients.”

Ratios of water to grain for different types of barley

These are the barley cooking tips Gaffen gives to her clients for a nutritious meal or side:

Hulled Barley

Cooking time: 1 hour, 40 minutes

Yield: 1.75 cups

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup uncooked hulled barley
  • 2 cups of liquid (water can be used, or chicken- or beef- flavoured soup stock or bouillon can be used instead of water to give the grain a slight chicken or beef flavour)

Instructions:

  1. The following steps can apply to each type of barley. Make sure to pay attention to the differences in cooking times, as stated.
  2. Add barley and liquid (water, stock, etc.) to a large saucepan.
  3. Bring to a boil over high heat (keep an eye on it as there may be foam, causing the mixture to boil over).
  4. Once the barley has come to a boil, reduce heat to low and cover the saucepan. Allow barley to simmer for remainder of the cooking time
  5. Once cooking time has elapsed, fluff with a fork.

(Related: Amaranth: This Grain’s Nutrition, Benefits—Plus Recipes

Pearl Barley

Cooking time: 55 minutes

Yield: 2 cups

Ingredients:

  • 1⁄2 cup uncooked pearl barley
  • 1.5 cups of liquid (water can be used, or chicken- or beef- flavoured soup stock or bouillon can be used instead of water to give the grain a slight chicken or beef flavour)

Quick Barley

Cooking time: 10-12 minutes (let stand 5 minutes)

Yield: 1.5 cups

Ingredients:

  • 1⁄2 cup uncooked quick barley
  • 1 cup of liquid (water can be used, for chicken- or beef- favored soup stock or bouillon can be used instead of water to give the grain a slight chicken or beef flavour)

Barley Flakes

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Yield: 1 cup

Ingredients

  • 1⁄2 cup uncooked barley flakes
  • 1.5 cups of liquid (water can be used, or chicken- or beef- flavoured soup stock or bouillon can be used instead of water to give the grain a slight chicken or beef flavour)

Now that you know about barley’s benefits, here’s what you need to know about seed cycling for your menstrual cycle.

Matcha may have a long history in Japan, but this ancient green tea has an increasingly bright future around the world. The global matcha tea market was valued at $1.63 billion in 2018, and it’s projected to reach $2.69 billion by 2026, according to global marketing research firm Research and Markets. That’s small beans compared with coffee, which is valued globally at more than $100 billion and keeps growing. But coffee is not for everyone, and awareness of matcha’s potential health benefits seems to be luring away more and more coffee drinkers, many of whom are intrigued by its antioxidants.

There’s also a growing group of people who embrace the drink because it’s stronger than traditional green tea but lighter and less anxiety-inducing than coffee. “I think that people are always interested in finding healthier alternatives to coffee, particularly if coffee doesn’t sit well with them,” says Desiree Nielsen, a registered dietitian based in Vancouver, British Columbia, and author of the plant-based cookbook Eat More Plants. To be fair, coffee offers significant health benefits. But, she says, but matcha can be gentler, its calmer form of alertness working better for some people.

Here is a closer look at both of these popular drinks, including how they’re made, what they contain, and how they can affect the human body.

(Related: Is Olive Leaf Tea The New Matcha? Everything You Need to Know)

What is coffee?

Coffee is a ubiquitous stimulant. It’s the go-to energizer for all kinds of people, all over the planet. It’s made from coffee beans, which are actually seeds of flowering plants in the genus Coffea, native to tropical Asia and Africa.

Coffee is now grown in dozens of countries around the world, but Brazil alone accounts for about one-third of global production. Other top coffee-producing countries include Vietnam, Colombia, Indonesia, and Ethiopia. Coffee plants produce fruits (known as “cherries”) that turn red when ripe, at which point they’re harvested and processed. The resulting dry beans can then be ground up to make coffee.

There are many ways to brew coffee—including boiling, steeping, percolating, and pressurizing—all of which can result in remarkably different drinks.

(Related: A Healthy Whipped Coffee Recipe Everyone Will Love)

What is matcha?

Like all true teas, matcha begins as leaves and buds on the Camellia sinensis plant, which is native to China. Tea seeds from China were first introduced to Japan in the eighth century, and the concept of matcha followed a few hundred years later, reportedly brought back from China by the Buddhist monk Eisai. Once established in Japan, matcha took on a life of its own, becoming a key ingredient in the country’s tea culture.

There are a few key differences between matcha and green tea, including how they’re grown, processed, and brewed. Matcha plants are grown under partial shade for a few weeks prior to harvest, which triggers the leaves to produce more chlorophyll as an adaptation to less sunlight. This extra chlorophyll results in leaves that are darker green, more flavourful, and more packed with certain nutrients. These leaves are harvested by hand early in the growing season, then carefully processed and ground into a fine, bright green powder.

Unlike a typical tea infusion—in which tea leaves are steeped in hot water but removed before drinking—matcha powder is typically mixed into water to create a suspension, which is then consumed in its entirety. Many people drink it just like that, nothing else added. Others combine it with milk and sweetener for a matcha latte.

(Try: A Matcha Smoothie Recipe This Dietitian Makes on Repeat)

Health benefits of coffee

Matcha may be generating more buzz these days, but while its potential health benefits are impressive (more on that later), they shouldn’t detract from the comparable perks coffee can offer. Since coffee is often a daily habit, it’s an important dietary source of antioxidants for many people, according to a study published in the journal Antioxidants. Research suggests drinking coffee is associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, liver disease, Parkinson’s disease, and death from various causes.

Drinking coffee “seems generally safe within usual levels of intake,” a BMJ research review found in 2017, and at three to four cups per day, it’s more likely beneficial than harmful. More research is still needed to reveal whether coffee really causes all of its associated health benefits, the review authors noted. An eight-ounce cup of coffee typically has 80 to 100 milligrams of caffeine, or 40 milligrams per 100 milligrams of coffee.

Caffeine has been linked to improved mood and cognitive function, but it’s also associated with anxiety, and high doses can worsen anxiety and sleep disorders, according to a 2018 study published in Advances in Psychiatric Treatment. Drinking coffee can also promote acid reflux, and as Nielsen points out, many people drink their coffee with less beneficial additives. “Coffee is actually a healthy beverage on its own,” Nielsen says. The key: on its own. “We also drink coffee in the form of heavily sweetened coffee drinks, packed with cream and sugar, which is not the best for us.”

So, yes, a black coffee will do you good. Coffee loaded with cream, sugar, whipped cream, and a drizzle of chocolate? Not so much.

(Related: The Different Types of Coffee—From Healthiest to Least Healthy)

Health benefits of matcha

Green tea has been linked to lower risk of several diseases in animal studies, but research in humans has often yielded inconsistent results, according to the U.S. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Nonetheless, green tea has been used medicinally for millennia, and there is mounting evidence to support at least some of its reputed benefits. Green tea is rich in plant micronutrients known as polyphenols, including a group of antioxidants called catechins.

Evidence suggests daily tea drinking—plus a “healthy habitual dietary pattern”—may be associated with a lower risk of heart disease and all-cause mortality in adults, researchers reported in a 2020 research review in Advances in Nutrition. The major polyphenol in green tea, epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), has been linked to anti-diabetes, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant effects, according to a 2018 research review in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology. It’s also is associated with preventing or breaking up atherosclerosis, a buildup of fats in the artery walls. Green tea also contains L-theanine, an amino acid that can help reduce stress and anxiety.

While matcha is a type of green tea, the way it’s grown and prepared gives it a big nutrition boost over other green teas. Not only is matcha made from shade-grown leaves with more chlorophyll, but we ingest much more of those leaves than we do with steeped tea. “You are grinding and consuming the whole leaf as opposed to steeping and throwing the leaves away, so you are going to consume more of the naturally occurring phytochemicals in matcha,” Nielsen explains. The level of EGCG is 137 times higher in matcha than in China Green Tea Tips green tea, according to a widely cited study in the Journal of Chromatography A, and it’s at least three times higher than in other green teas.

Matcha also contains more caffeine than steeped green tea, and it even rivals the caffeine content of coffee beans gram for gram, Nielsen says.  But a typical cup of matcha still has less caffeine than a typical cup of coffee, she adds. That’s because we use less matcha in our drink than we do coffee.

(Try: Our Matcha Smoothie Bowl)

Matcha vs. coffee: Which is better?

Matcha and coffee are both potentially beneficial drinks, offering alertness along with valuable antioxidants. Your choice between the two may come down to how coffee makes you feel. If you have anxiety or acid reflux, you may need to skip the coffee altogether. Green tea can be a good alternative. And then there’s the matter of caffeine. “Depending on how sensitive an individual is to caffeine, green tea or matcha might offer a less jittery alternative,” Nielsen says.

It’s a nice middle ground between the caffeine levels of coffee and steeped green tea, and it might feel less intense than coffee, even if its caffeine content isn’t much lower. “The presence of an amino acid called L-theanine in green tea and matcha may be even more important, as it moderates the effect of caffeine on the nervous system,” she says.

Growing in the shade helps preserve L-theanine in tea leaves, Nielsen says, so matcha may contain even more L-theanine than other green teas, possibly helping soften the effects of its extra caffeine. “For some folks, though, any caffeine will contribute to the jitters,” she says. “So people have to experiment and see where their unique tolerance lies.”

On the other hand, if you have no issues handling coffee or caffeine, you don’t necessarily have to choose sides. Go ahead and drink coffee sometimes and matcha other times. Or to just pick a favorite based on taste rather than trying to weigh health benefits.

(Related: Is French Press Coffee Bad for You?)

Don’t sabotage your drink

Nielsen points to one thing that can sabotage the benefits of both coffee and tea: your sweet tooth. No matter how healthful those coffee beans and tea leaves are, they won’t cancel out heaps of sugar, heavy cream, or dessert-worthy add-ons like chocolate, caramel syrup, or whipped cream.

“Drink the one you enjoy most, as long as it doesn’t cause any troublesome side effects like GI upset or the jitters,” she says. “Buy the best quality you can afford in hopes of maximizing phytochemicals, and if you can, drink it straight up or, at the very least, with a minimum of added sugar.”

Next: Is Stevia Bad for You? Here’s What Experts Say About This Sugar Substitute

After more than a year of pandemic life, I’ve been afraid to even look forward to this but it’s finally happened — I got my vaccine.

I got it last week at a pharmacy one block from my front door. On the walk home, I felt lighter with each step and decided it was cause for an impromptu party so I picked up flowers, fruit and a peanut butter pie. Random, but I’ll take anything to get this party started.

I mean, both my husband and I had just gotten injected with miracles of science — that day, of all days in the pandemic, was a very different day. And even though there was no way to plan for it, with the vaccine roll-out being so unpredictable, I wasn’t going to miss any reason for a kitchen party.

With all the news on variants, and because I am just plain tired of this pandemic, I was relieved to get my first shot. Still, I felt hesitant about how I’d gotten it. And should I tell friends on my social media? Would it make anyone else feel the FOMO? Would it feel like boasting, especially given the inequitable access to vaccines in my neighbourhood, city and around the world.

Here in Ontario, where the vaccine roll-out has been like The Hunger Games, we’re finally in the phase of the pandemic where our social media feeds are filled with vaccine selfies and I’m so happy for everyone showing off their shoulder and Band- Aid combo. Every time I see one, I literally want to stand up and cheer. That person I love is that much safer from Covid.

But getting the vaccine wasn’t an easy straight path.

I had a ton of unexpected emotions on vaccine day. The closer I got to it, the more stressed I felt, wondering if in fact, I hadn’t organized myself properly to juggle everything and get through the eye of the needle to get myself to finally connect with that vaccine.

Afterward, I felt relief, mostly because I felt so incredibly lucky. And while I believe in gratitude, it’s that luck factor that really bugs me because something as important as this vaccine shouldn’t feel like a game of chance.

Here’s what happened as I navigated my haphazard path to the jab:

(Related: This Is What It’s Like Getting the COVID Vaccine)

First Eligibility — Postal Code Hotspot

Three weeks ago, Ontario pivoted their vaccine strategy to include neighbourhoods with high COVID rates. My Toronto neighbourhood was identified as a hotspot. Previously, I thought I’d be among the last to receive a vaccine and I was ok with that (until the news on variants became scarier and scarier). However, suddenly and surprisingly, I was eligible for a vaccine earlier than expected.

“But I’m not a vulnerable essential worker,” I thought. “I work from home. Others need it more, I can wait.”

I’m not saying this is the right attitude (it’s not—as health experts have since reminded us, getting vaccinated helps everyone). But it’s how I felt. So, I didn’t get on waitlists as early as I could have.

(Related: Hayley Wickenheiser On What Working on the Frontlines of COVID-19 Has Been Like)

Second Eligibility — GenXeca 40+

About a week later, it was announced that the age for AstraZeneca vaccines was being lowered to 40+. Now I was eligible in two ways, by location and age. But to get the AZ shot, I knew I’d have to start making tons of phone calls, researching pharmacies and deciphering different online forms, since in Ontario, there is no central booking system. I didn’t have the energy. I already work all day and night. This isn’t woe is me, it’s just facts. I needed a break and I wanted to enjoy some outdoor time with my family on the weekend. So, I didn’t get on it until a friend texted with some pharmacy information and another friend phoned to push me to start calling. Meanwhile, one of my group chats started popping off, with information on various pharmacies in our neighbourhood.

On Sunday night, I made calls for hours. I left my name and number with multiple pharmacies, yet nothing was confirmed.

(Related: How to Talk to Your Loved Ones About the COVID-19 Vaccines)

The Plan To Walk-In

Monday morning, I was back to the work grind, so my husband took on the vaccine chase. When he learned our local pharmacy would be doing walk-ins the next day, we devised a plan: He would go early, check out the line, and call me when I should join the line myself. I had morning meetings and an afternoon recording session that had been booked for weeks. But the pharmacist was due to arrive at noon, at which point the walk-in would begin. I really didn’t know what I’d do with the kids. But I hoped I could just run over quickly while my husband held a spot in line and that I would only be leaving the kids, who are young, at home for a half hour on their own.

My husband set out two hours before the pharmacist was due to arrive, with a lawn chair and a book in hand.

And Then I Really Did Walk Right In

When I got the call to join my husband in line, my kids were at the park getting some much-needed exercise after three hours of sitting at computer school that morning.

“Pharmacist is here now and the line is moving. Come!” my husband texted.

But I couldn’t leave. Afternoon class was about to start, and my kids need an adult to get them through the full-time IT job of printing worksheets, updating Chrome plug-ins and managing Zoom and Google tabs. Frankly, every school day involves tears. I couldn’t leave them alone with that.

I just stood there in my kitchen, paralysed, frozen empanadas in the toaster oven, ready to serve for lunch, but unsure exactly when the kids would come back in the door. Should I run down to the street to find them and then park them in front of a Netflix marathon with the instructions, “Don’t move! I’ll be back in an hour!” and cancel my afternoon of work?

Another text. “Pharmacist says they are going to run out soon! It’s now or never!” Logistically, the moment seemed impossible. So I decided to give up.

“I will get it another day,” I texted back. But I’m not very good at giving up. As soon as I pressed send, on a whim, I called.

“When you’re with the pharmacist, tell them your nice wife is at home with the kids and ask if he can put one aside — I can swap out with you and be there in five seconds!”

Whenever I get like this, my husband gives me major side-eye. “Okayyyy.” But a half hour later, I got a text:Wow! Pharmacist says he’ll save you one!” 

(Related: Going the Distance: How Covid Has Remapped Friendships)

My husband rushed home, happy to escape the crowded pharmacy. He didn’t feel like the deed was done, though. Only half of us were vaccinated. He took over with the kids and I wrapped my Zoom call to run back to the pharmacy.

“Here, take this!” My husband passed me a handwritten note from the pharmacist on my way out the door. It had my name on it and the pharmacist’s name, plus the words: BYPASS LINE. “Show it to the security guard.”

When I arrived at the pharmacy, there was a long line up stretching down the street. Feeling unsure, I walked past it, as instructed. Are the folks in line wondering why I’ve walked right in?

“Hi,” I greeted the security guard. “The pharmacist is expecting me.” “OK!” The guard waved me to the back of the pharmacy where there was another group of people standing around. I interrupted a harried pharmacy technician to ask where I should go. She asked my name.

“Hannah’s here!” She called out to the pharmacist.

“Oh, great, Hannah’s here!” He sang back, as if he knew me.

I awkwardly hovered around the tiny vestibule where I’ve previously gotten flu shots over the years and as soon as they had their next round of vaccines ready, I was the first person he called in, like an old friend. “Hannah!”

It all happened so fast. I didn’t even take a selfie, I was too nervous. There was no chair, no Band-Aid, no button that read, “I got the vaccine!” Just sticker footprints on the ground, to indicate where to stand. I stood there for five seconds as we bantered, and I thanked him repeatedly. I was jabbed. It was done.

(Related: How Are Canadian Caregivers Handling COVID?)

Bypassing the line

I had gotten what I’d come for, a shot in the arm. But standing there in the pharmacy, I felt torn. I had breezed right into the pharmacy with a handwritten note that read, “bypass line.” Had I just become an actual queue-jumper?

The pharmacist’s note burned a hole in my pocket. It was written on the back of the receipt that shows my husband had gotten the vaccine, so I couldn’t even throw it away. It’s on our fridge now, waiting for us to book our appointments for our second dose.

Today, I’m frustrated by what I felt that day. Queue-jumping isn’t real (unless it is — don’t lie about who you are or where you live). When you’re eligible, that’s it — you should get the vaccine, period.

The truth is, there a similarity between all of us who got vaccinated at that pharmacy that day. We all had enough give in our routines, our lives, our work, to be at the Shoppers for three hours, and perhaps more, in the middle of the day on a Tuesday. That is a luxury. Thinking about it now almost makes me want to cry. It shouldn’t be this way.

The root of my guilt is the knowledge that others are lining up overnight, in the rain and navigating online systems without the language and computer-literacy skills that make it easy for me. Instead of having centralized, easy sign-ups or bringing vaccines to workers where they are, getting a vaccine comes down to how much time you have and an unnecessary amount of luck.

What we have in Ontario with Premier Doug Ford and his Conservative Party is a complete lack of political leadership. They shirk their duties and responsibilities, while downloading responsibility onto individuals, as if a pandemic can be effectively fought this way.

As I continued to think about it, my guilt turned to a familiar feeling of frustration and anger with our shoddy political leadership in Ontario. I refuse to feel responsible for what this government is actually responsible for.

When a pharmacist writes me a note, it doesn’t change the reality of what Ontario has done with this vaccine roll-out, how inequitable it’s been, how lacking in strategy to connect with the people who need it most.

Last spring, when I was feeling a ton of guilt over how much privilege I have, my friend Lisan, a therapist, said, “Don’t. Guilt is not helpful or productive. It’s more like a self-flagellating tool. It saps energy. Having said that, it’s also not voluntary. It’s hard to turn the tap off of guilt. One way to do it is to act, rather than getting stuck in guilt.”

How to get over the guilt is to act. Get the vaccine — it’s the best thing you can do for your community. Celebrate other people’s vaccines. Help others connect to their own vaccines and keep pushing the Ontario government for much-needed measures like paid sick leave, real paid sick leave that doesn’t leave workers worse off than the already-difficult CRSB system. Demand better funding of public health, public education, affordable housing, all the things that keep everyone safe, not just the privileged few.

I am proud, relieved and so very thankful I got vaccinated. And I continue to feel elated for anyone I know who’s gotten it as well. Guilt is no longer an option.

Hannah Sung’s column appears monthly(ish) on Best Health. It’s adapted from her (excellent) newsletter, At The End Of The Day. If you’re interested in reading more, sign up for it down below or click here.

Next, this is languishing: the “bleh” feeling brought on by Covid.

Getting your wisdom teeth out is a rite of passage up there with learning to drive and going to prom but decidedly less fun. Because wisdom teeth are often removed when preparing for orthodontic treatment such as braces, says New York-based dentist Greg Gelfand, many teenagers have wisdom teeth surgery in high school. Having your wisdom teeth out when you’re younger is seen as preferable, because the roots are not yet fully formed.

We spoke with dentists to uncover everything you need to know about wisdom tooth removal, from why we need to have them removed (or not) to ways to prepare to make your wisdom tooth removal a little less terrifying and a little more pleasant.

(Related: 5 Oral Care Tips for When You Can’t Get to the Dentist)

What are wisdom teeth?

“Wisdom teeth are the third set of molars that adults generally will get when they are between 18-26 years old. The nickname wisdom teeth comes from the fact that they erupt into the mouth during the college years in the majority of adults,” says Christopher Norman, a dentist in Englewood, Colorado.

The third molars are the last teeth in your jawbone, explains Dr. Gelfand. “Due to their positioning in the mouth, wisdom teeth are often difficult to access and properly clean, causing cavities and/or gum issues to readily develop.” Three large molars make up the teeth in the back of the mouth for most adults, for a total of 12—six on top and six on the bottom. The four wisdom teeth are the last ones to come in.

Because they’re the last teeth to grow, due to the “current morphologic features of the modern human jaw, we simply do not have room for them,” says Los Angeles-based dentist Rhonda Kalasho, calling them “vestigial.”

When do you get wisdom teeth?

Wisdom teeth usually erupt when a person is between 16 and 20, explains Marc Sclafani, a dentist at One Dental in New York City. As mentioned, there is often not enough room for them when they start to come in. “This can lead to impacted wisdom teeth that are trapped beneath the gum tissue by other teeth or bone,” says Dr. Sclafani. Wisdom teeth that only partially emerge or come in crooked can also lead to crowding and disease, Dr. Sclafani adds. “Since teeth removed before age 20 have less developed roots and fewer complications, the American Dental Association recommends that people between 16 and 19 have their wisdom teeth evaluated to see if they need to be removed.”

Impacted vs. non-impacted wisdom teeth

There are two types of wisdom teeth: those that grow in normally and those that are impacted and can’t grow in properly. “If they are impacted, but not causing issues for the adjacent teeth, then the wisdom teeth do not have to be removed, and are monitored for any significant changes,” Dr. Gelfand says. “In some instances, there is sufficient room in the jawbone for wisdom teeth to function like other teeth, but in other cases, there is either inadequate space, or the positioning starts to cause issues with the adjacent molar.”

(Related: What to Know About Toothpaste Tablets Before Making the Switch)

Why do we need to have them removed?

There are a variety of reasons wisdom teeth might need to be removed.

Pain

“The number one reason why wisdom teeth are removed is because they are impacted in our jaws and will cause pain/infection/or other issues,” says Dr. Norman, who adds that active cavities, a localized abscess, and cheek biting are also common reasons.

Overcrowding

Geoffrey R. Morris, a dentist from Boca Raton, Florida, also points to bone structure as a possible factor. “Not everyone needs them removed, but the most common reason for removal is a lack of bone structure to accommodate them comfortably. For some people, if they aren’t removed it may cause crowding of your teeth or jaw discomfort,” he says. Dr. Kalasho agrees that crowding tends to be a factor, which can lead to health issues. “Since most of us do not have room for our wisdom teeth, they grow in sideways, or they grow in so far back that it is hard to clean, thus leading to some localized gum disease, cavities, and swelling in the area,” she says. “Typically, if patients are unable to keep wisdom teeth clean, leading to cavities and gum disease of the wisdom teeth, then we highly suggest removal.”

Bone health

“Sometimes when the wisdom teeth health is compromised, it starts to negatively affect the neighboring teeth, like a rotten apple in a pile of good apples, it starts to break down the teeth we do use,” Dr. Kalasho says. Luckily, much like your appendix, wisdom teeth are body parts you don’t need.

(Related: 10 Teeth Whitening Mistakes to Avoid)

Wisdom tooth removal isn’t always necessary

While dentists almost always used to insist on removing wisdom teeth, attitudes have changed. Now some dentists no longer believe in automatically scheduling surgery. “There are varying schools of thought in terms of the risk/reward benefit of removing wisdom teeth that are not hurting,” says Dr. Norman. “My philosophy with patients is that if I see an indication that a wisdom tooth is going to cause them an issue in the future, I recommend getting it removed while they are still young and healthy and complications can be kept to a minimum.”

For Dr. Kalasho, wisdom tooth removal isn’t necessarily a given. “If you can keep your wisdom teeth clean, and they are not causing issues to the surrounding dentition, occlusion, or your general oral health, then they can stay there for as long as they like. Many times the wisdom teeth or so impacted and stuck so deep near important structures, that it is safer to keep them in, think out of sight, and out of mind.”

Similarly, Dr. Gelfand prefers to monitor patients. “If they are impacted, but not causing issues for the adjacent teeth, then the wisdom teeth do not have to be removed, and are instead monitored for any significant changes.”

(Relayed: 7 Healthy Habits That Are Damaging Your Teeth)

Signs you may need your wisdom teeth removed

Whatever your age, you may be able to recognize signs in advance that it’s time to have your wisdom teeth removed. “Some of the most common signs that a wisdom tooth will need to be removed are: pain or pressure in the areas behind the last visible tooth, swelling or tenderness in the gums and or jaws around the wisdom teeth, and chronic cheek biting from wisdom teeth that come in at odd angles,” says Dr. Norman.

Dr. Kalasho also warns about paying attention to factors like swelling and pervasive odors. “Gum swelling around your wisdom tooth, a bad smell coming from the area of the wisdom tooth, pain in the region, immediate neighboring teeth having dental pain due to impaction of the wisdoms, and most commonly seen facial swelling limiting the range of opening the mouth.”

Dr. Morris points to other signs, including the shifting of the teeth, as well as joint and jaw pain or eruption of the teeth at unusual angles. Notice people backing away when you talk? Bad breath can also be a sign, says Dr. Gelfand. “Since proper cleaning of wisdom teeth is often difficult—for patients and dentists alike—food particles and buildup can accumulate in this far-reaching area of your mouth, which may lead to bad breath, cavities, and gum disease.”

(Related: 11 Dentist-Approved Home Remedies for Sensitive Teeth)

How to prepare for wisdom tooth removal

Your dentist should give you pre-operative instructions; make sure you follow them closely, says Dr. Norman. “These instructions can be unique to each doctor based on how they perform your surgery and should not be deviated from,” he says.

Avoid smoking—both before and after surgery—to limit the chances of dry socket. Dry socket, or alveolar osteitis, is a painful condition in which the blood clot that’s supposed to form in the spot where a tooth was removed doesn’t form or is dislodged, exposing the bone or nerves. “Make sure you are not taking any medications that can lead to thinning of the blood like ibuprofen before surgery, you will want to stick to Tylenol. Keep a healthy and clean diet, and minimize your anxiety levels,” says Dr. Kalasho.

Dr. Morris recommends vitamins and a healthy diet, as well as proper hygiene, to give patients the best chance of a good surgery and easy recovery. “The best recommendation is to make sure you are brushing and cleaning your mouth to the best of your abilities to decrease bacterial contact, as well as eating properly and taking vitamins to promote healing.”

Tips for a successful (and pain-free) recovery

After your wisdom tooth removal, you can expect recovery lasting between one to five days, says Dr. Kalasho, with days two and three usually being the worst for pain and swelling. Here are some tips and tricks to make your recovery easier.

Pain relievers

“We always recommend staying ahead of the pain and taking the pain reliever prescribed to you by your doctor as soon as you get home, even if you do not feel pain yet,” says Dr. Kalasho, who says that bleeding, throbbing, and pressure is normal.

Use gauze to stop the bleeding

During the day, Dr. Kalasho advises rolling up a piece of gauze, placing it on the extraction site, and biting down to tamper bleeding. If bleeding before bed, try elevating the head with pillows covered by a towel. Be mindful that certain behaviors can exacerbate bleeding.

Brush gently

“Do not do anything that would cause you to lose the clot, like rinsing too vigorously, drinking through a straw, smoking, or eating something too sharp,” says Dr. Kalasho.

Dr. Sclafani agrees that you should go gentle on your mouth. “Do not clean the teeth next to the healing tooth socket for the rest of the day,” he says. “You should, however, brush and floss your other teeth well and begin cleaning the teeth next to the healing tooth socket the next day.” It’s also a good idea to brush your tongue. That will help get rid of bad breath and any lingering unpleasant tastes that can be common after teeth are pulled.

Rinse with salt

Dr. Sclafani recommends that after surgery his patients rinse with a solution of half a teaspoon of salt in an 8-ounce glass of warm water after meals. That will help keep food particles out of the extraction site. “Try not to rinse your mouth vigorously, as this may loosen the blood clot,” he says. “Avoid using a mouthwash during this early healing period unless your dentist advises you to do so.”

(Related: I Tried a Charcoal Toothbrush to Whiten My Teeth—Here’s What Happened)

Ice it

Swelling and discomfort are normal, Dr. Sclafani says. “To help reduce swelling and pain, try applying an ice bag or cold, moist cloth to your face. Your dentist may give you specific instructions on how long and how often to use a cold compress.”

Take it slow

Dr. Norman cautions his patients to follow post-operative instructions carefully, which involves easing back into normal behavior. “Don’t rush back into things too quickly,” Dr. Norman says. “This can lead to some uncomfortable post-operative complications such as dry sockets and prolonged soreness in the surgical areas. Other than that, use the removal of your wisdom teeth as an opportunity to lay on the couch, relax, and catch up on some Netflix while your body is healing.”

What to eat after wisdom tooth removal

“This is my favorite part to go over with my patients!” says Dr. Norman. He recommends soft foods that don’t require heavy chewing. “Examples of foods I suggest to my patients are: scrambled eggs, mashed potatoes, yogurt, ice cream, fruit smoothies, protein drinks, and lots and lots of water. Your calorie content needs to stay the same while you are recovering, so high-calorie soft foods are the way to go!”

Dr. Sclafani also recommends soft foods such as scrambled eggs, as well as liquids. Equally important: what not to eat. “It is best to avoid hot foods and alcoholic beverages.”

Dr. Norman cautions his patients away from things like bagels, steak, and sandwiches that require lots of chewing. “I also tell my patients to stay away from anything that has small pieces that could get stuck in your surgery site: granola, potato chips, nuts, etc.”

Finally, stay away from hot or spicy foods, warns Dr. Gelfand. He also recommends avoiding small seeds and alcohol, which might impede wound healing. “Generally, food that requires a lot of chewing should be avoided since post-surgical swelling can make chewing especially difficult.”

Now that you know about wisdom teeth removal, here’s what you need to know about oil pulling your teeth.

Anyone else currently have a severe case of FOMO when it comes to investing in the stock market? From the GameStop frenzy to folks on the internet encouraging everyone to “buy the dip,” it seems like now — right now! — is the best time to invest. But while some experts might say it’s as simple as calling your bank to open an investment account or signing up for a robo-advisor, I’ve found that there are several steps you might want to take before you dip a toe into the stock market.

“There’s a checklist you need to create and run through before you start investing,” says Saijal Patel, founder and CEO of Saij Elle, a financial wellness consulting firm. “So many people look to their friends or other family members for tips and investment advice. But how you create your investment portfolio has to make sense for you.”

In other words, just because the stock market is on sale doesn’t always mean it’s a good time to invest. Rather than wondering if it’s the exact right moment to enter the market, consider whether you are in the best place financially and mentally to do so.

(Related: How to Use Design Thinking to Revamp Your Finances)

Set your goals

“Ask yourself why you are investing in the first place,” suggests Patel. “Then you can allocate a dollar amount to each target and establish a timeline to achieve your objectives.” If you have long-term goals like retirement, you’re not going to need to access that money for a while — in which case, it doesn’t make sense to leave it in the bank earning very little interest. If you can afford not to touch the money, you can better ride out the stock market’s ups and downs. But if you might need the money in a year or two, Patel warns, “the market could crash and then you’re pulling it out at a loss.”

Most experts recommend you have three to six months saved in an emergency fund before you invest. They also suggest you pay down high-interest debts first. But that doesn’t mean you have to wait until you’re debt-free to start investing.

(Related: How to Feel Better About Your Financial Situation, According to an Expert)

Identify your risk tolerance

Almost every investment entails some level of risk — the degree of uncertainty about how much money you’ll make or lose. The greater the potential return, the greater the risk. And your tolerance for that risk will be influenced by your age, income, investment goals, and level of comfort. (Ask yourself: What would you do if the value of your investments declined? How would you feel?)

There’s no way to eliminate risk entirely when investing in stocks. To handle risk, you need to embrace the fact that the market will go up and down, put a plan in place that aligns with your tolerance and goals, and focus on nurturing the habit of investing.

(Related: I Had $1.11 in Savings. Here’s How I Improved My Relationship With Money)

Start small (really!)

A common misconception about investing is that you need to be making six figures to start. In fact, the earlier in life you start, the more time you have to take advantage of compounding — the process of money multiplying itself, which allows investors to earn interest on their interest. “That’s actually going to determine wealth far more than what you invest,” says Patel.

There’s also a myth out there that the stock market is scary. I get where that comes from. There are no guarantees, and the market can (and will!) crash again. But the good news is that you don’t have to take excessive risks. There are different investment products that vary on the risk spectrum: mutual funds, guaranteed investment certificates (GICs), government bonds and equities, to name a few. Diversifying your portfolio can be far more helpful than focusing on what you are investing in.

(Related: How to Save Money, Depending on Your Current Pandemic Situation)

Learn what you can

“Nobody can predict what’s going to happen in the market because there are so many factors you have to consider,” Patel says “You can look at a company and say the fundamentals are great, but then something happens, like a pandemic or geopolitical risk, that throws everything out.” That’s why she emphasizes that investment is a long-term game. And even if there are no sure things when it comes to investing, there are lots of ways to learn more: Watch YouTube, listen to podcasts, join free online communities, or pay for a course.

We all have to start somewhere (including me), so the only way to gain confidence is to take control and educate yourself. If you’re still on the fence about investing in the stock market, investigate why you might be feeling that way, then seek advice from a source you trust.

Now that you know more about what you can do before you start investing, here is the conversation you need to have about finances after the pandemic.

You wash with a gentle cleanser, slather on moisturizer, dab on face oil … and yet you’re still fighting dry skin? If you’re struggling to keep your skin hydrated, you may want to add hyaluronic acid to your routine. Don’t let the “acid” in its name put you off. It’s actually something of a miracle moisturizer.

“Hyaluronic acid is a sugar molecule that is naturally occurring in skin and other types of human tissue,” says Nancy Samolitis, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and owner of Facile Dermatology and Boutique in West Hollywood, California. “It has a jelly-like texture and holds over 1,000 times its weight in water, therefore creating plumpness and hydration in the skin.” When used properly, some forms of hyaluronic acid can be extremely effective for preventing water loss in dry skin.

(Related: The Difference Between Dry and Dehydrated Skin—Plus, the Best Moisturizers)

How does hyaluronic acid work?

Think of hyaluronic acid as a sort of magnet, drawing water to it and making sure it doesn’t evaporate from your skin. That “makes it hydrating and effective at treating transepidermal water loss, or dehydration,” says Karen Fernandez, lead aesthetician for SkinSpirit clinics. Although it has the word acid in it, hyaluronic acid doesn’t act like an exfoliator. “I think of hyaluronic acid like thick water serum,” says Fernandez.

Marisa Garshick, MD, a board-certified dermatologist with MDCS Dermatology in New York City, notes that hyaluronic acid works for anti-aging as well as dryness. “Because hyaluronic acid helps to draw in moisture, not only is it great to help with skin hydration, but it also serves as a way to plump fine lines, wrinkles, and other areas on the face with volume loss, and therefore helps to improve signs of aging and can help give a more refreshed appearance to the skin,” says Dr. Garshick, who is also a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at Weill Cornell Medicine.

Where does hyaluronic acid show up in the body?

You’ll find hyaluronic acid throughout the body, though it’s more abundant in some areas than others. “Hyaluronic acid is found in those areas of our body that need moisture and lubrication to function and is most common in the eyes, skin, and joints,” says Flora Waples, MD, medical director of Restor Medical Spa in Denver.

There’s a reason it’s most often associated with skin care. A huge amount of hyaluronic acid resides in the skin. “This accounts for 50 percent of the total body hyaluronic acid,” says Dr. Garshick. “Within the skin, it can be found in the dermis and epidermis.”

The epidermis is the thinner, top layer of skin—the surface you see and feel. The dermis is the second, thicker layer of skin. This lower layer is where you make sweat and oil, grow hair, and feel things. The older you get, the more hyaluronic acid your body needs but—and here’s the big downside—the less your body makes.

“It is naturally occurring in our bodies and skin, but with age and the damaging effects of pollutants and sun, our production declines as we get older,” says Fernandez. “Using products that will deliver hyaluronic acid to the skin will help skin have the ability to attract and contain more hydration.”

(Related: 8 Face Mist Sprays That Can Help Hydrate Skin)

How effective is hyaluronic acid?

If you’ve spent any time scanning the shelves of your local beauty emporium, you might have noticed the term hyaluronic acid turning up over and over again. It’s available as serums. It’s added to moisturizers. It’s even showing up in cleansers and masks. Not only is it popular, but it’s pretty darn effective.

“For some, the result can be nearly immediate because when hyaluronic acid sits on the surface, it draws moisture in to provide an instant boost,” says Dr. Garshick. Why does it work so well? Chalk it up to hyaluronic acid’s water-retaining ability. “It’s that ‘1,000 times its weight in water’ ability that truly makes hyaluronic acid such a powerhouse,” says Dr. Waples. “It literally pulls water into your skin and holds it there, as opposed to lipid-based moisturizers, which try to ‘seal’ the outside of the skin to prevent water from evaporating away.”

What are hyaluronic acid injectables?

You can add hyaluronic acid to your skin to boost hydration, but there’s another way to get the ingredient: you can inject it into the skin. Dermal fillers like Juvederm and Restylane, which are used to plump lips and smooth lines, are made from hyaluronic acid. “That is why, when properly done, they look so natural,” Dr. Waples says. Of course, these aren’t DIY treatments like a serum you pick up at the pharmacy. They’re in-office procedures.

(Related: What Experts Want You to Know About Collagen Injections)

What are hyaluronic acid supplements?

Most people use topical hyaluronic acid—you know, the serums, creams, and lotions you rub onto your face. But you can also take it orally. Oral supplements of hyaluronic acid promise to plump skin from the inside. While studies on the effectiveness of these supplements show promise, few have drawn a line between supplemental hylauronic acid and skin hydration. Research have, however, looked at the association between oral hyaluronic acid and knee pain.

A 2016 article in Nutrition Journal reviewing multiple hyaluronic acid trials between 2008 and 2015 observed that studies “clearly suggest hyaluronic acid is absorbed by the body.” The studies found that the supplement can help reduce knee pain. And a study published in The Scientific World Journal found that hyaluronic acid taken orally helped improve the symptoms of knee osteoarthritis in patients younger than 70.

Kelly Bickle, MD, a dermatologist in Santa Monica, California, believes hyaluronic acid can have positive skin care results when taken as a supplement. “Oral supplementation of hyaluronic acid is beneficial in terms of hydrating the skin, which gives an appearance of fewer wrinkles and therefore a less-aged appearance,” she says. “Studies showed uptake into the skin of the hyaluronic acid when ingested orally—not a huge amount, but significant enough to show clinically some improvement in the appearance of skin hydration.”

Risks and side effects of hyaluronic acid

Most people won’t have any problems using hyaluronic acid. “Because hyaluronic acid is naturally found in the skin, it has a lower chance of causing skin sensitivity or allergic reactions,” says Zain Husain, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of New Jersey Dermatology and Aesthetics Center in Marlboro, New Jersey. And while it’s touted as a holy grail for dry skin, pretty much anyone can use it. (Yes, even people with oily skin.)

Still, it’s best to pay attention for any signs of irritation. “If you do experience side effects—like redness, itching, or swelling—when using hyaluronic acid topically, make sure to discontinue the use of your product and consult your dermatologist,” Dr. Husain says.

Dr. Garshick cautions people with rosacea-prone skin to incorporate it gradually to avoid sensitivity. As for hyaluronic acid fillers, discuss potential side effects with your doctor before going under the needle. “It is important to remember that all fillers can have potential side effects, including bruising, swelling, and the rare but possible risk of blood vessel occlusion,” says Dr. Garshick.

(Related: How to Get Natural-Looking Results With Dermal Fillers)

How to choose the best hyaluronic acid

Check a hyaluronic acid product’s label, and you’ll probably see a percentage (generally 1 to 2 percent, Dr. Garshick says). That refers to the concentration of hyaluronic acid, and higher isn’t always better. “a higher strength of hyaluronic acid doesn’t necessarily make it more effective,” Dr. Garshick says. Unlike other skin care ingredients, hyaluronic acid is less about strength and more about the weight of the molecules.

Look for hyaluronic acid serums and moisturizers with lower molecular weights, which may be able to penetrate more deeply. Those with higher molecular weights, which sit on the surface of the skin, may give you immediate moisture but don’t offer long-lasting benefits.

Here’s where it gets tricky. Not every hyaluronic acid product says its molecular weight. In fact, most don’t. But you can look for phrases like “low molecular weight” or “multi-molecular weight,” which refers to a mix of molecular weights.

How to use hyaluronic acid properly

Dry skin? Check. A burning desire to show your skin the meaning of “moisturized”? Double-check.

Apply regularly

Some skin care ingredients can only be applied once a day—or less—because they can cause irritation. (We’re looking at you, retinol.) Not hyaluronic acid, though. “In general, depending on the specific formulation, hyaluronic acid can be used one to two times daily and can be used in the morning or night,” Dr. Garshick says.

Fernandez recommends applying it twice a day. “Think of it as the drink of water for your skin for the day and then another for the night,” she says. “When the skin has had its water—delivered deep into dermal tissues, ideally—it can function at its very best: making new cells and cycling out the old ones.”

Apply to damp skin

Remember how hyaluronic acid can dry out skin if used improperly? Not such a great outcome when you slathered on the stuff in order to beat dryness. That’s why experts swear by this super-simple trick: apply hyaluronic acid when the skin is damp.

Remember, hyaluronic acid attracts moisture. If there’s none in the air, guess where it’s taking it from. You got it: your skin. “In fact, if it draws too much moisture away from the skin, it can actually paradoxically dry the skin out,” says Dr. Garshick. Add it to damp skin, however, and your skin will absorb maximum moisture. If you’re using a hyaluronic acid serum, put it on damp skin, then layer on a cream, lotion, or oil to seal in the moisture.

Combine with other products

According to Fernandez, hyaluronic acid doesn’t have to be used with a retinoid (an anti-aging powerhouse derived from vitamin A ), but they’re stronger together than separate.

“Retinol will help build up the dermal layer—what I call the engine room of your skin—and by thickening that layer, you will have more collagen and elastin fibers being reproduced and more space for more hyaluronic acid molecules to land and do their magic,” she says.

Celebrity aesthetician Sonya Dakar, founder of Sonya Dakar (a skin care line) and the Sonya Dakar Skin Clinic, loves to combine hyaluronic acid with another skin care superstar. “Hyaluronic acid works really well with vitamin C.”

(Related: The Best Face Moisturizers for Your Skin Type)

Mixing hyaluronic acid with other products

Experts agree that hyaluronic acid doesn’t have negative interactions with other skin care products. In fact, Dr. Garshick notes that it usually has positive interactions. “It tends to work well with other skin care ingredients as it hydrates the skin, potentially helping to make other products and ingredients more tolerable,” Dr. Garshick says.

Dr. Waples agrees. “It will augment any moisturizer that you combine it with, and it has no negative interactions with any other skin care products,” she says.

Next: How to Give Yourself a Spa-Worthy At-Home Facial

While the French are known for singing the praises of a good haircut and facial, one of the buzziest appointments to book in Paris right now happens to be not for the hair or face—but the derrière.

“Interest in lymphatic drainage massages has been growing since summer 2020,” says Sarra Saha, owner of Madéro & Co in Paris. And that’s primarily due to people sharing their experiences on social media. Her clients, including French actresses Camille Razat from Emily in Paris and Shirine Boutella from Lupin, frequently post before and after pictures and videos to show the sculpting capabilities of the massage. Fans of the treatment say it can flatten the abdomen, abs can look more defined, bums can look lifted, legs can look leaner—but they also tout the non-visible benefits.

“The majority of our clients want to both look and feel better,” says Saha. And even those looking for body-defining benefits “are amazed by how they feel at the end of the massage.” Saha says it helps clients feel less bloated and more relaxed. Plus, it can help reduce swelling caused by conditions like lymphedema or surgery.

Lymphatic drainage massage is available across Canada. Interested in giving it a try? We caught up with a few Canadian experts to learn more.

(Related: Does Dry Brushing Really Make Your Skin Healthier?)

How does a lymphatic drainage massage work?

First, some background: The lymphatic system is the network of vessels and organs that help remove waste and bacteria from the body. Its main duty is to help prevent illness by transporting lymph, a fluid that fights infection, throughout the body. Lymphatic drainage massages are thought to help the lymphatic system do its job by moving excess lymph and fluid out of swollen tissues and back into the lymphatic vessels. Proponents say the massage results in increased energy levels, reduced stress, and a boosted immune system, as well as improved circulation, digestion, and sleep.

How does it differ from a normal massage?

Lymphatic drainage massage concentrates on the lower half of the body—the stomach, legs, and bum—instead of the back. It involves a gentler touch, instead of strong kneading common in typical massages.

(Related: The Best Thing to Do for Your Skin in Lockdown)

Who’s getting one?

There are people who gravitate towards lymphatic drainage massages specifically for the de-puffing benefits—but even more rely on them for the feel-good benefits. “Most of my clients have digestive problems,” says Mariana Aguiar, who performs Brazilian lymphatic drainage massages at Tight Clinic in Toronto. “And I see a lot of pregnant women because they can swell so much in the legs.” Tight Clinic owner, Karmen Lamer, adds that many of their clients have an autoimmune disease or disorder and get the treatment consistently to help relieve swelling. “We’ve seen so much interest since we started offering it right before [the first] shutdown,” says Lamer. “And that was before we started posting the before and after shots on Instagram.” When Covid restrictions lifted in 2020 and Tight Clinic was permitted to offer the treatment, they were booking about four months in advance.

How can it help people with lymphedema?

“Lymphedema is a swelling disorder, and it happens because of irregularities of the lymphatic system when it’s unable to pump out fluid from an area in the body,” says Ann DiMenna, board member of the Lymphedema Association of Ontario and author of The Complete Lymphedema Management and Nutrition Guide. It’s a condition that affects about one million Canadians and can occur due to cancer or other trauma. DiMenna says lymphatic drainage massages prove to be effective at helping to reduce swelling and can also help ease pain or discomfort, like heaviness, aching, and pins and needles. “With the massage, we’re trying to stimulate healthy areas that can flush out the fluid—so we try to redirect the fluid away from the damaged tissues,” says DiMenna. “We hope, over time, people get lymphangiogenesis, which is a regeneration of the lymphatic vessels.”

Are there any après-massage recommendations?

“The day you get the massage, I recommend drinking lots of water to make sure you’re hydrated,” says Aguiar. “The next day, you’ll feel amazing, and you’ll have such a boost of energy.” Results last a few days.

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