Good Nutrition Advice

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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.

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 massage therapy 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

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.


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?


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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 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.


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.


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.


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.


Vitamin D and the obesity epidemic

THIS week I am going to write about the importance of vitamin D. Yes, yes, again, I know! But this time because it affects obesity.  As you are probably aware, the Western world is seeing an increase in obesity of epidemic proportion.  In May 2011 David Cameron stated that obesity already costs the NHS a staggering £4 billion a year, a figure expected to rise to £6.3 billion by 2015. However, within four years, that figure is expected to rise to £6.3 billion.

These figures include the cost of treating the spiralling number of people with type 2 diabetes, heart disease, strokes, many cancers and osteoarthritis.  The risk of developing type 2 diabetes is around 20–80 times more likely for people who are obese compared with lean people. Coronary heart disease (which itself is slightly more common among obese people) is two to three times more common among diabetic men and five times more common among diabetic women.

Could vitamin D deficiency cause obesity?

Let’s take a look at what researchers have found about the relationship between vitamin D deficiency and obesity.  A study published in the Journal Medical Hypotheses, entitled ‘Vitamin D deficiency is the cause of common obesity’ suggests that when the body perceives a drop in vitamin D levels, it assumes that the sun (our main source of vitamin D through the action of sunlight on the skin) has gone in and winter has arrived.  To prepare the body for the scarcities of this season, it adopts a winter metabolism by storing fat and therefore increasing body size. Other physiological changes could include an increase in blood pressure and insulin resistance – both perfectly normal bodily responses to ensure protection against cold and lack, but deadly in a time of warmth and plenty.  Insulin resistance is the precursor to diabetes and a study from Drexel University found that there is an increased risk of diabetes for the vitamin D deficient obese.

Now, clearly not everyone suffers from this kind of ‘winter response’ but if you think you do, I would really recommend that you have your vitamin D levels tested.  This is a simple blood test that Dr. Ruth Hillelson can do for you.

Don’t stop for a cappuccino

Don’t stop for a cappuccino just because you went to the gym.  People tend to overestimate the amount of calories they burn during physical activity and underestimate the calories in most foods!  It can take 45 minutes to burn off a cappuccino and will undo all the good you did in the gym!


Vitamin D deficiency is the cause of common obesity. Medical Hypotheses [2009, 72(3):314-321]

Foresight: Tackling Obesities: Future Choices – Modelling Future Trends in Obesity & Their Impact on Health.

Drexel University. Increased Risk For Diabetes When Obesity And Low Vitamin D Are Present. Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 19 Jul. 2012. Web.

Trojan Horse therapy eliminates prostate cancer in mice

salmon stk.

salmon stk. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

RESEARCHERS in the UK have ‘hidden’ cancer-killing viruses in white blood cells so they can ‘sneak’ them into a tumour. When inside, tens of thousands of viruses were released to kill the cancerous cells.

At the end of the 40-day trial, all the mice that received the treatment were still alive and had no signs of cancer. However, cancer spread in the mice that received other treatments, and some of them died.

All the mice had advanced prostate tumours, and had already been treated with chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

Researchers hope to begin human trials in 2013 but warn that many trials that involve treating mice, fail to have any effect on humans.

Dr Emma Smith, from Cancer Research UK, said: “Harnessing the body’s own immune system to deliver a deadly virus to tumours is an exciting approach that many scientists are pursuing.”

The number one thing you can do to reduce the risk of cancer – after giving up smoking – is to lose weight. Being overweight is linked with around 20,000 deaths from cancer each year. Ideally, your body mass index (BMI) should be between 20 and 25.

To achieve this, eat a healthy diet rich in fruit and vegetables, plus oily fish, nuts, seeds and wholegrains.

Source: Macrophage Delivery of an Oncolytic Virus Abolishes Tumor Regrowth and Metastasis After Chemotherapy or Irradiation Cancer Res canres.3056.2012; Published Online First November 20, 2012

Protect yourself against Alzheimer’s

SCIENTISTS can detect signs of Alzheimer’s decades before any symptoms show according to the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute.

Avoid Alzheimer's Disease 2

Avoid Alzheimer’s Disease 2 (Photo credit: AlzheimerHelp)

A team at the institute in Arizona studied brain scans of 20 people. The subjects were all members of a Columbian family who have a genetic mutation that means they tend to get Alzheimer’s in their 40s (the usual onset is age 75+).

The researchers found that differences could be detected more than 20 years before symptoms would appear, so identifying high-risk patients and allowing for earlier treatment.

Signs of dementia only appear when sufficient brain cells have died, maybe up to 20%. At that point it may be too late for treatment.

Early diagnosis and treatment should help prevent damage to memory and thinking – if drugs can be found.

Source: The Lancet

To keep your brain healthy, it’s important to eat omega-3 oils two or three times a week.

They’re found in oily fish (such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring and anchovies), nuts and seeds, and of course omega-3 supplements. Note that baked or steamed fish is better than fried.

You can also increase cognitive performance through regular exercise, as it improves blood flow to the brain and so helps retain mental agility and avoid memory loss. Simply going for a brisk walk every day will help protect you as you age.

Antioxidants including vitamin C found in fruits and vegetables are thought to help relax arteries and improve blood flow.

So there you go – three practical ways to help preserve your memory.

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Vitamin D for pregnant women

A pregnant woman

A pregnant woman (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

PREGNANT women in the UK should be told to routinely take vitamin D supplements, researchers say. The team at University College London Institute of Child Health says official bodies currently offer conflicting advice.

Writing in the British Journal of Nutrition, they say there is a “strong case” for a daily dose of vitamin D in pregnancy.

But one leading expert said more evidence was needed.

The Department of Health advises pregnant women to ensure they receive a certain level of vitamin D – 10 micrograms per day. The researchers say this in effect endorses use of supplements, because diet and the sun provide too little.

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Health benefits of vitamin A

VITAMIN A comes in two forms: retinol and beta carotene. Retinol is the animal source of vitamin A, while beta carotene is derived from a variety of yellow and orange fruits and vegetables as well as leafy greens. Beta carotene is converted into vitamin A in the intestine and also in the liver.

Vitamin A Benefits

Vitamin A has many important functions that include good eyesight, growth and tissue healing and a healthy skin. It also plays an important role as an antioxidant, lowers cancer risk and regulates genetic processes. Studies have shown that around 25 percent of Americans get less than half the recommended daily allowance in their diets for vitamin A. This is most noticeable in people who do not eat many fruits and vegetables or those who eat highly processed foods which are lacking in vitamins.

Read more at Suite101: Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin A Benefits | Suite101
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How to Read Food Labels

US Nutritional Fact Label

US Nutritional Fact Label (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

TO judge the quality of the food you are buying, take a close look at the Nutrition Facts panel which most foods have.

You can use the guide below to work out if the product contains high levels of fat, sugar or salt (sodium).

Fresh fruit makes a healthy, refreshing snack, but watch out for the processed fruit found in snacks. Processing concentrates fruit sugars until they become a sticky, calorie laden threat to teeth.

School Bars are over 60% sugar and Kellogg’s Fruit Winders are high in both sugar and saturated fat.

Fruit and vegetables are so essential to good health that we should all try to eat more than five portions of fruit and veg every day.

Fresh, frozen, chilled, canned (with no added sugar), freshly squeezed juice and dried fruit and vegetables all count.

Processed foods (such as ready meals) tend to contain low levels of fruit and vegetables and can also contain unhealthy levels of fat, sugar and salt.

Vitamin supplements (and many foods which contain added vitamins) do not have the same nutritional benefits as real fruit and vegetables.

Amount per 100g Amount per 100g
This is a lot This is a little
Total fat 20g 3g
Saturated fat 5g 1g
Sugar 10g 2g
Sodium 0.5g 0.1g

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Do you have a health challenge that you’d like to discuss with me? I offer online Naturopathic and Nutrition Consultations. Fill out my forms here to book your personal consultation with me.

Thank you!

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