5 countries, 5 weird foods I dare you to eat 1 3131

Part of the adventure of traveling is trying things that are weird and different. That also applies to food.

People around the world eat all sorts of strange things – from fried spiders in Cambodia to live octopus in Korea. Often these bizarre delicacies are a part of the culture, perhaps a tradition evolving from necessity and eating what is available. Over the years these odd foods are cooked to culinary perfection and become a fascinating part of the culture of your destination.

I’m a huge advocate of trying new and strange local foods when you travel. Okay, they might not be appealing at first but it’s all part of the adventure. Here are five foods from five different countries that you really should try if you travel there – I dare you.

(Note: I am only recommending weird foods that I have actually eaten. I’m not going to tell you to chow down on a rotten shark in Greenland if I haven’t actually done so myself. These are strange foods that have been tested by yours truly and are not as horrifying as they might sound.)

Peru – Guinea Pig

Fried or roasted Guinea Pig is a Peruvian delicacy. I ate it in Aguas Calientes, the evening before I visited the beautiful ancient ruins of Machu Picchu.

When I tell most people that I have eaten Guinea Pig (or Cuy, as it is called), they are disgusted – in our Western culture this animal is generally considered a cute pet. However, Guinea Pig has been a staple in the Peruvian Andean diet for about 5,000 years.

After all, these creatures are the ideal animal to farm in the steep Andean mountains – they are high in protein, they don’t take up very much space and they eat vegetable scraps. Plus, they are pretty tasty when slow-roasted with a bit of salt and pepper to make the skin crispy. Overall, it tastes a bit like a rabbit or dark chicken meat.

When you order Cuy be warned – it will show up on your plate whole with the ears, legs, snout and tiny feet still attached. If you can get past the horror of this, it is customary to eat the meat with your hands. Watch out, Fluffy has a lot of tiny bones so it’s best to go slowly.

Thailand – Crickets

You know how a handful of potato chips or salted peanuts goes down really nicely with a cold beer? In Thailand, they feel the same way about fried and salted crickets. Crickets have been part of the Thai diet for a long time, the tradition originating in the poor northeast where crops were hard to grow. Plus, crickets and grasshoppers were pests in the rice fields, so eating them was a win-win – pest control and a source of protein.

These insects are usually fried up in a wok and then seasoned with Thai pepper powder and a bit of Golden Mountain sauce. They are only around 1-2 centimeters in length and you can just pop them in your mouth and crunch the entire thing (if you are brave enough).

I ate crickets prepared by a street vendor while on a drunken night out in Bangkok. They really weren’t so bad – salty and crunchy and a bit spicy. However, if I am being honest I prefer potato chips with my beer.

Australia – Kangaroo

Australians like to say that they are the only country in the world that eats its national animal. That’s not really true though, there are a few. Plus, I think your average Australian doesn’t eat kangaroo on a regular basis – perhaps because of the 1960s cartoon Skippy the Bush Kangaroo made everyone sentimental towards these animals.

However, Kangaroo meat can be found in the supermarkets in Australia and I dare you to try it while you are there. You can buy some and cook it yourself, or you can find it in many local restaurants. I tried it for the first time at a “Roo and Wine for $11.99” night at a pub in Melbourne. It was delicious – juicy and meaty and with a slight gamey taste, a little bit like venison or alpaca. My partner Lee even prepared some kangaroo meat in a curry… he called it “Vindaroo.” **groan**

Kangaroo meat is actually really awesome for your health and for the environment. Kangaroo produces less greenhouse gas methane than cattle and there are so many of them in Australia that they are regarded as pests – hunted by professional shooters in a strict quota system. It’s healthy, low in saturated fats, high in iron, high in protein, wonderfully lean, and deliciously tender if you cook it properly. It has been eaten for many generations by the aboriginal Australians, who would roast the tender and succulent tail in a pit of burning embers.

Scotland – Haggis

Great chieftain o the puddin’-race indeed. The Scots love their haggis so much that famous poet Robbie Burns wrote a much-celebrated ode to this dish. They will eat it with everything, including in toasties, on pizza, in a baked potato – but the traditional way of serving it is with neeps (mashed turnip) and tatties (mashed potatoes).

So what is it? In 2003, a study revealed that one-third of American visitors to Scotland actually thought that haggis was a real animal that could be caught. However, it’s not. (Silly Americans!)

Haggis is a sheep’s stomach that is stuffed with the minced odd, random bits of the sheep such as the lungs, liver, heart, etc. Add some onion, suet, oatmeal, salt, and spices and boil it and you’re ready to go. This makes sense historically, it’s a quick way to cook up the offal before it spoils after butchering an animal and it was a nourishing and cheap dish commonly eaten by the poor.

Although it sounds horrendous, it’s actually quite nice. Everything is all minced up, so you don’t really think about the fact that you are eating lungs or heart. It has a nutty and savory flavor and when you add some whiskey gravy it’s quite delightful. It’s a comforting meal perfect for enjoying on a rainy evening in an old pub, or as a part of a gloriously greasy full Scottish breakfast after a night of drinking.

Brazil – Coconut Tree Grubs

Last but not least, we come to THE weirdest thing I have ever eaten.

My partner and I were on a tour in the Amazon jungle when our guide grabbed a coconut from a nearby tree and hacked it open with a machete. Inside there were multiple fat grubs squirming through the coconut meat. The guide pinched one between his fingers and gave it to me to eat.

“Hakuna Matata!” I said as I squeezed my eyes shut and popped the wriggling maggot into my mouth.

Guess what? These are the larvae of a beetle that lays its eggs after burrowing deep into the coconut. The grubs spend their entire life eating the coconut meat all around them – so they taste exactly like coconut.

But before you get excited, let me warn you that they aren’t like some delightful coconut candy. While the coconut flavor is nice, the texture is pretty nasty. Imagine biting down on an overripe grape and having the skin burst and the juices fill your mouth – yet knowing that those juices are maggot insides. Coconut-flavored or not, it’s a challenging snack to appreciate.

Eating grubs and larvae is no big deal to the indigenous people of the Amazon jungle. And why not? They are an important, widely available source of protein and fat. As you’ve probably learned so far, what’s considered disgusting and inedible to one culture is considered a valuable source of nutrients to another culture.

Have you tried any of these weird foods? I dare you to try these foods – or any other strange local delicacies – on your travels. It’s all part of the adventure!

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What are nootropics? 0 70396

Nootropics, according to Corneliu E. Giurgea, the father of nootropics, are drugs that simultaneously enhance learning and memory, protect the brain, increase the efficacy of brain-related control mechanisms, should lack the pharmacologic structure of psychotropic drugs, and be devoid of side effects. Over time, the description has been expanded to include other non-drug substances.

Whether or not drugs are involved, the idea of nootropics is that they boost mental capacity, allowing you to accomplish goals that would be quite strenuous without them. They are used by various individuals, ranging from students wanting to get more studying done or turning in a paper on time, to engineers trying to figure out a problem.

What are nootropics made of?

Nootropics are traditionally made of naturally-occurring substances like ginseng, or synthetic substances in the form of chemicals not uncommon in drugs (like L-Theanine). Even though Corneliu Giurgea’s description referred to drugs, nootropics have evolved to include non-synthetic substances that can give similar outputs. Nootropics are sometimes called “smart drugs”.

Various nootropics

The large range of nootropics make it difficult to describe them with a blanket sentence other than “they boost brain performance”. So, instead of a generalization, here is a short list of popular nootropics, as well as their specific actions, and possible side effects.

1. Caffeine: Caffeine is without-a-doubt the most popular nootropic, being present in most nootropic substances available on the market. It’s effective in wakefulness, improved concentration, increased motivation, alertness, and focus.

The side effects of caffeine are as well-known as its usefulness. Excessive consumption of caffeine causes insomnia, nervousness, restlessness, tachycardia (elevated heart rate), and even muscle tremors.

2. L-Theanine: Unlike Guarana, L-Theanine is an amino acid that can be found in many tea leaves and herbs. It’s known to aid stress relief and reduce anxiety. Even though is also taken to increase focus and attention, stress relief is its most evidence-based function.

Its side effects may include nausea and irritability.

3. CPD Choline: CPD Choline is naturally-occurring in humans and animals and is an intermediate substance in a common biochemical process that involves converting Choline to Phosphaatidylcholine. Studies show that CPD protects the brain, especially in times of low oxygen supply. In addition, it also increases alertness and consciousness.

Being a natural substance in the body, CPD has no negative effects, except when it is taken in excess, where it can cause stomachaches and diarrhea.

4. Modafinil: As far as performance-boosting drugs go, Modafinil tops the list, having been shown to increase fatigue resistance, improve mood, as well as increase motivation and vigilance. It really is a wonder drug, often rumored to be used by sleep-deprived doctors.

Its side effects are abuse-induced, which means you may suffer things like chronic headaches, if you use it all the time to fight fatigue, without getting enough sleep.

5. Guarana: Guarana, also called Guaranine, is a plant with well-researched and documented effects of improved mental focus and alertness. It is also taken for various other purposes from weight loss to exercise tolerance, but these have not been proven.

Being a naturally-occurring fruit, it does not have severe side effects. However, users have been known to experience insomnia and fatigue when taken in high doses.

6. Panax Ginseng: Certain herbs are sometimes assumed to have positive, even performance-enhancing effects. One of the most popular is Ginseng. Common in East Asia and North America, the plant does not have any nootropic effects backed by strong scientific evidence. However, it has been said to increase energy levels and activity.

Ginseng does not have any known side effects.

7.Ginkgo Biloba: Also a leaf extract, it is wildly known as a cognitive enhancer, with weak scientific evidence to support it.

8. Vitamin B12: The controversy surrounding vitamin B12 is that it may not be a nootropic, as it does not have any noticeable, quick-onset effects. It is considered more of supplement and nutritional requirement than a nootropic. However, it’s on this list because some people still consider it a smart drug.

Nootropic tolerance

Overuse of many nootropics can lead to your body building tolerance, and needing more and more of the substance to get the same effect. It’s a little like what happens with regular alcohol drinkers. They often need more and more alcohol to feel its effects.

Things to remember about nootropics

Many individuals have their definition of nootropics, thus making it a controversial topic. The situation is made worse by substances that are claimed to boost productivity but have not yet been proven. Amongst all these controversies, here are some points for you to keep in mind about nootropics:

  1. They are performance-boosting substances and are often used to get an extra edge.
  2. They should be free of side effects, and should have low toxicity.
  3. They contain naturally-occurring substances.
  4. They work by interacting with receptors in the brain.
  5. Even though they are supposed to be side effect free, some supposed nootropics do have side effects.
  6. Some substances considered nootropics work, and some don’t.
  7. The adverse effects of nootropics can sometimes be avoided by keeping dosage low and cycling between usage and abstinence.

5 Yoga moves to add to your daily stretching today 0 53353

Introduction

It’s no surprise that the practice of yoga has grown in popularity over the last couple of decades. It has several benefits like core strengthening and improved flexibility. However, yoga has several poses and positions that can get a little confusing when choosing what poses to do to achieve your goals. Whether you are just starting out, or are looking to raise the bar during your yoga, this is the post for you.

A brief history on the origin of yoga

Modern yoga as we know it is a combination of different poses and forms, evolved over centuries and modified by different practitioners. Take the first ever recorded instance of yoga, which dates as far back as the 2nd century which, although it was not clearly described as yoga, involved a sitting posture described to require a steady form and comfort. The form was assumed for meditation, not unlike what we have today. In about the 11th century, there was a description of a non-seated pose in which the practitioner balances on the hands. As the centuries passed, yoga became more evolved, and more adapted to modern cultures like ours.

Simple forms

Even though yoga has changed over the years, there are simple poses that have remained relatively constant through the ages, retaining their simplicity and form.

Here are 5 of those simple forms that can be incorporated into your daily routine

  1. Lotus Position: The lotus is one of the most fundamental positions in yoga, with a long history like we discussed. The lotus has a special position among all the stretches and positions not just because it is the oldest, but also because it is key to meditation, which is a big part of yoga.

To enter the sitting position:

  • Sit on the mat with your legs and your back straight
  • Fold your legs so that your feet now rest under your thigh as you relax and let your feet rest comfortably on the floor.
  1. Cow position: The cow position is also a relatively easy position to attain. It is especially good for stretching and relaxing the back muscles as it involves stretching the vertebrae (back bone) and the spinal muscles.

To perform the cow position,

  • Start by kneeling on all fours (hands directly beneath shoulders, and knees directly beneath the hips)
  • Breath in and turn your head upwards as if to look at the ceiling, forming an upward facing curve with your back (the hollow facing upwards)
  • Breath out and return to the neutral position
  • Repeat as necessary
  1. Child Position: The child pose is different from the cow position, only because it stretches the back in the opposite direction, as well as the neck, arms, and legs. It also tones and strengthens the core muscles, giving a mild general body stretch. The child pose is especially good in situations where you don’t have a lot of time during the session. It is a great pose for stretching a lot of areas at once.

To enter the child position:

  • Kneel on all fours like in the cow position
  • Lower your hips so your thighs touch your calves
  • Lean forward, and extend your arms so your elbow and hands touch the mat
  • Maintain the position for the desired length of time
  • Repeat
  1. Bridge pose: So named because of the way the body resembles a bridge when done correctly. The bridge position can be considered the opposite of the child’s pose because here, the back is active and extended, with the hips and knees flexed and bearing most of the body’s weight. The bridge is good for stretching the abdominal muscles and the thighs.

To enter the bridge position:

  • Lie flat on your back and bend your knees
  • With your bent knees, elevate your body so your buttocks and lower back lift off the mat
  • Bring your arms forward so they are positioned directly beneath your body
  • Be sure to keep your upper back and head on the mat during the pose
  • Hold for as long as necessary and repeat as desired
  • Repeat
  1. Locust Position: The locust position is an intermediate level position, because of the core strength it requires to execute. It is very similar to the “superman” in resistance training. While the superman is for strength building, the locust is for stretching and relaxation. It concentrates on the arms, legs and upper back.

To enter the locust position:

  • Lie on your chest with your arms and legs stretched out on the mat
  • Lift your legs from the hip off the mat, while simultaneously lifting your head, arms, and upper chest
  • Maintain the position for the desired length of time
  • Repeat

Incorporate these stretches and positions into your daily routine to increase strength, flexibility, and improve inner-peace. Let us know what you think!

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