Good Nutrition Advice

For a healthy body and mind

Month: May 2013

Leafy greens and gut health

brusselsTHE largest part of our immune system is actually located in our gut, which is why it is so important to make sure we maintain a healthy balance of good gut bacteria.

Researchers recently found that a certain type of immune cell protects the gut from toxic bacteria and is also involved in protecting the whole body from major health problems including bowel cancers, inflammatory diseases, allergies and even obesity.

A study published in Nature Immunology found these cells developed in direct response to what we eat, and that there are specific compounds in cruciferous vegetables that activate them. So, make sure your gut is producing these important cells by including plenty of broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, kale, cabbage, and bok choy in your diet.

Source: Nature Immunology. http://www.nature.com/ni/journal/v14/n4/full/ni.2545.html

Vitamin therapy reduces dementia and Alzheimer’s

beta caroteneMORE research has confirmed there are ‘super vitamins’ that can actually dramatically reduce changes in forgetfulness or even dementia as we age. These include vitamin C and beta-carotene, vitamin E, lycopene and coenzyme Q10. 

Alzheimer’s patients are low in all these vitamins, particularly vitamin C and beta-carotene, compared to healthy people who have remained mentally sharp.

Researchers from the University of Ulm found that the vitamins can also protect against the milder symptoms of Alzheimer’s and dementia, such as forgetfulness, orientation problems and general cognitive decline, taking into consideration other factors that can also affect cognitive ability, such as education, alcohol and smoking, and weight.

Source: Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 2012; 31: 717-24

Why organic produce is better for you

Fruits-and-VegetablesTHERE are lots of reasons to buy organic produce. Obviously there are no pesticides, which is better for us and for the environment. No pesticides also mean healthier soil, water, and wildlife. Buying organic supports small farmers. But apart from those obvious reasons, organic fruit and vegetables are much better for you. Scientists have now finally explained why. It’s because organic produce have higher levels of antioxidants because they have to activate their own defence systems against pests and disease, rather than relying on protection from pesticides. 

Organic tomatoes have higher levels of phenolic compounds – antioxidants that protect against cardiovascular diseases, degenerative diseases and some cancers – than conventionally grown ones.  Even tomato juice and ketchup made from organic tomatoes have higher phenol levels than the non-organic brands, say researchers at the University of Barcelona.

If you’re on a tight budget or find getting hold of organic produce a challenge, the following have been found to be the least contaminated by pesticides: cauliflower, corn (but watch out for genetically modified), kiwi, mangoes, onions,

Papaya, pineapples and sweet peas while celery, pears, peaches, apples, cherries, strawberries, grapes, raspberries, spinach and potatoes contained the highest levels.

(Source: Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2012; 60: 4542-9)

When to supplement with CoQ10

CoQ10

COENZYME Q10 (CoQ10), also called ubiquinone, is a vitamin-like compound found in practically every cell of the human body, but particularly in the heart. The hundreds of studies that have been carried out on it clearly show that it is vital to health, playing a crucial role in the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the body’s major form of stored energy. It is also a powerful antioxidant with more than 50 times the power of vitamin E in combating free radicals.

Low CoQ10 levels have been found in a wide range of medical conditions, including heart disease, hypertension (high blood pressure), gum disease and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). This may explain why supplementing with CoQ10 — shown to raise tissue levels of the nutrient —appears to be beneficial for a wide range of health problems.

If you are older, particularly stressed, or ill then it may well be a good idea to supplement with CoQ10. It is essential to supplement with CoQ10 if you are taking statin drugs because statins deplete your body of this vital nutrient.

Soft drinks raise diabetes risk

FizzyRESEARCHERS from Stanford University, the University of California-Berkley and the University of California-San Francisco have found evidence that even one can of a sugary drink a day is one too many.

According to a recent report published in the journal PLoS One, scientists have found sugar-based calories, such as those found in fizzy drinks, are much more likely to cause Type 2 diabetes than the same number of calories from any other source. The incidences of diabetes in trial candidates rose by one per cent for each additional 150 calories of sugar per person per day.

On the other hand, an additional 150 calories from other source caused only a 0.1 per cent increase in the population’s diabetes rate. Yet again, sugar has been identified as a major culprit in Type 2 diabetes and that sugar-based calories, such as those found in fizzy drinks, are much more likely to cause diabetes than calories from other sources. Diabetes rates dropped over time when sugar availability dropped, independent of changes to consumption of other calories and physical activity or obesity rates.

The findings support those from previous trials that suggest sugar affects the liver and pancreas in ways that other types of foods or obesity doesn’t.

So what should you drink? Well, green tea is a great option. It’s a wonderful source of catechins, the healthy antioxidants that can inhibit cancer cell activity and help boost the immune system. Replace your morning coffee with a cup of green tea for an immune boosting wake-up.

Cranberry juice is another great choice. Cranberries are a good source of vitamin C but also contain a substance that helps prevent the build up of bacteria on bladder walls. This can help prevent urinary tract infections. Go for unsweetened cranberry juice concentrate and dilute with water or sparkling water. Diluted blueberry juice is a great choice too.

The antioxidants found in red wine have been linked to heart benefits, reduced stress and may even help preserve your memory – as long as you don’t drink too much of it! Try and limit your intake to one to two glasses a day. But, if you don’t drink, don’t worry – there are plenty of other ways to get lots of antioxidants in your diet, including fresh whole fruits and vegetables.

Pure, filtered water is a great option during the day. Staying well hydrated is essential for optimal health and general body functioning. Just sip water throughout the day, and as the weather gets warmer, make sure you drink enough before and after exercising to avoid dehydration.

Source: www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0057873

Why soap and shampoo may not be good for you

soapSODIUM lauryl sulphate (SLS) is a surfactant, detergent and emulsifier used in hundreds of cosmetic products and household cleaners. According to the Environment Working Group’s ‘Skin Deep: Cosmetic Safety Reviews’, research has shown links between SLS and its derivatives to skin and eye irritation, organ toxicity, biochemical or cellular changes, nerve toxicity and even possible mutations and cancer.

This information isn’t new: a report published in the Journal of The American College of Toxicology in 1983 showed that concentrations as low as 0.5% could cause irritation and concentrations of 10-30% caused skin corrosion and severe irritation. The National Institutes of Health’s Household Products Directory of chemical ingredients lists lots of products that contain sodium lauryl sulfate. Some soaps have concentrations of up to 30%, which the ACT report called highly irritating and dangerous. So, unless you use organic, chemical-free shampoo and soap, you are immersing your hair, skin and nails in this and other toxic compounds every day.

The only way to know what is in the products you are using is to read the list of ingredients on the packaging of everything you use on your skin, including make-up and toothpaste. If it reads like a laboratory check-list – and if you’re buying it at a supermarket or on the High Street, you can be pretty sure that it will –  you can easily find pure, natural, chemical-free alternatives online.

Refs. www.ewg.org/skindeep/ingredient/706110/SODIUM_LAURYL_SULFATE

Boost your immune system naturally

 

boost your immune system naturally

Lots of foods can boost your immune system naturally

OUR immune systems play such a huge role in disease prevention and keeping us healthy. Recent research has again found links between a lowered immune system and chronic disease. So how do you boost your immune system naturally?

According to a new research paper from the University Medical Centre Tubingen, the immune system can render tumours and cancerous cells inactive, permanently. So, if you boost your immune system naturally you have an effective cancer therapy without destroying any cells in the way chemotherapy does. But which foods can really help boost your immune system naturally?

Elderberry

An old folk remedy, extract from these dark berries appears to block flu viruses in test tube studies. However scientists do caution that further study is needed. The fruit itself is rich in antioxidants so may also have the ability to fight inflammation.

Button Mushrooms

Don’t dismiss the humble mushroom. It contains the mineral selenium along with other antioxidants. Low levels of selenium have been linked to increased risk of developing more severe flu. The B vitamins riboflavin and niacin, found in these mushrooms, play a role in a healthy immune system. Animal studies have also shown mushrooms have antiviral, antibacterial, and anti-tumour properties.

Acai Berry

Touted as a superfood in the same category as blueberries, the little acai berry’s dark colour means it is high in antioxidants called anthocyanins. While the acai isn’t scientifically linked to any specific disease or illness-fighting ability, antioxidants do help your body fight aging and disease and will boost your immune system naturally. Acai berries can be found most often in juice or smoothie form, or dried and mixed with granola.

Oysters

Aphrodisiac … immune boosters …? Could be both, due to the zinc that’s found in oysters. Low zinc levels have been linked to male infertility. Zinc also has some antiviral properties, although researchers can’t explain why. However, they do know it is important for several immune system functions, including wound healing.

Watermelon

Hydrating and refreshing, watermelon also contains high levels of the powerful antioxidant, glutathione. Known to help strengthen the immune system so it can fight infection, glutathione is found in the red pulpy flesh near the rind.

Cabbage

This is a great source of immune-strengthening glutamine. Cabbage is easy and inexpensive to find during the winter months when it’s in season. Try adding cabbages of any variety (white, red, Chinese) to soups and stews to sneak in extra antioxidants and boost your nutritional value.

Almonds

A handful of almonds may boost your immune system naturally from the effects of stress. A recommended 1/4 cup serving carries nearly 50% of the daily recommended amount of vitamin E, which helps boost the immune system. They also contain riboflavin and niacin, B vitamins that may help you bounce back from the effects of stress.

Grapefruit

Grapefruits have a good level of vitamin C, but science has yet to prove that you can easily get enough vitamin C through foods alone, without supplementation, to help treat cold and flu. However, grapefruit is packed with flavonoids which are the natural chemical compounds found to increase immune system activation.  Don’t like grapefruit? Try oranges or tangerines.

Wheat Germ

Wheat germ is the part of a wheat seed that feeds a baby wheat plant, so it is full of nutrients. It contains zinc, antioxidants, and B vitamins among other vital vitamins and minerals. Wheat germ also offers a good mix of fibre, protein, and some good fat. Substitute wheat germ for part of your regular flour in baked goods and other recipes.

Low-Fat Yogurt

A daily cup may reduce your chances of getting a cold.  Look for labels listing ‘live and active cultures’. Some researchers believe they may stimulate your immune system to fight disease. Also look for vitamin D. Recent studies have found a link between low vitamin D levels and an increased risk of cold and flu.

Garlic

Garlic offers several antioxidants that battle immune system invaders. Among garlic’s targets are H. pylori, the bacteria associated with some ulcers and stomach cancer. Cooking tip: Peel, chop and let sit 15 to 20 minutes before cooking to activate immune-boosting enzymes.

Spinach

Known as a superfood, spinach is nutrient-rich.  It contains folate, which helps your body produce new cells and repair DNA. It also contains good levels of fibre, antioxidants, including vitamin C, and much more. Eat spinach raw or lightly cooked to get the most benefits.

Tea

Green or black? Both are loaded with disease-fighting polyphenols and flavonoids. These antioxidants seek out cell-damaging free radicals and destroy them. Caffeinated and decaf work just as well.

Sweet Potato

Like carrots, sweet potatoes contain the antioxidant beta-carotene, which soaks up damaging free radicals. Sweet potatoes also have good levels of vitamin A, which is linked to slowing the aging process and may reduce the risk of some cancers.

Broccoli

Easy to find and incorporate into dinner, broccoli is an immune-boosting basic. One study reported a chemical in broccoli helped stimulate the immune systems in mice. Plus, it’s full of nutrients that protect your body from damage.  It has vitamins A, vitamin C, and glutathione.  Add some low-fat cheese to round out a side dish with immune-enhancing B vitamins and vitamin D.

Source: Webmd.com

All about MSM

MSMYOU may have seen nutritional supplements targeting bone health where MSM is combined with the better-known supplements glucosamine and chondroitin. But what is MSM and what does it do?

Well, Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is a naturally occurring, organic sulphur-containing compound found in small amounts throughout nature, including our blood and urine. In one controlled trial, DMSO – a variant of MSM – was found to reduce osteoarthritis pain after six weeks, and in another, supplementing with three grams of MSM twice a day for 12 weeks significantly reduced pain, and improved overall physical functioning in patients with OA of the knee. Small studies have also shown that patients taking MSM have reported increased skin, hair and nail health.

Refs.  Lawrence RM. Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM): a double-blind study of its use in degenerative arthritis.Int J of Anti-Aging Med 1998;1:50.

Kim LS, Axelrod LJ, Howard P, et al. Efficacy of methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) in osteoarthritis pain of the knee: a pilot clinical trial. Osteoarthritis Cartilage 2006;14:286–94.

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