Health and Nutrition

Choose Right and Decrease High Cholesterol

Gregg Carroll - Sunday, April 21, 2013

One of the most important blood parameters that a physician looks for during a wellness visit is your cholesterol. If your cholesterol levels shoot beyond the normal range, you'll be advised to keep a watch on your food intake, make healthy alterations to your diet, and in some cases medications would be prescribed. So why is so much attention given to our cholesterol levels? Because the artery clogging activity of cholesterol begins as early as in your 20's and 30's. The Framingham Heart study states that nearly a quarter of women (early 30's) in the study showed borderline-high levels of bad cholesterol, more than a third in their early 40's, and more than half in their early 50's.


What Cholesterol Means to You

Cholesterol is a type of waxy substance that is present in all cells of the body and circulates in the blood stream. Not all cholesterol is bad, it is necessary to produce hormones, vitamin D, and certain enzymes that aid in digestion. Regardless of the supply of cholesterol in our diets, our body produces its own cholesterol called as endogenous cholesterol. The body uses both sources of cholesterol; dietary (exogenous such as meat, fish, egg, poultry, dairy) and endogenous cholesterol.

High cholesterol is one risk factor for stroke, heart disease and heart attack. The problem arises when excess cholesterol clogs the arteries and restricts blood flow, leading to heart disease and other dangerous complications. The National Heart, Blood and Lung Institute reports that about 42 million Americans are affected by high cholesterol and 63 million have borderline cholesterol.


What Factors Affect Blood Cholesterol Levels?

Diet, aging, genetics, diabetes, exercise, body weight, diabetes, smoking, sedentary lifestyle and stress influence the blood cholesterol levels. It is very important to consult your doctor regularly for blood tests, as an elevation in cholesterol does not produce warning signs or symptoms. The frequency of tests will be determined by your individual risk factors such as family history, patient history and diet.


Blood Cholesterol Levels

200 mg / 100 ml – Desirable

200 – 239 mg / 100 ml – Borderline High

240mg and above / 100 ml – High


Managing and decreasing high cholesterol has three important components: dietary changes, decreasing excess body weight, and increasing physical activity.


How Do You Effectively Lower High Cholesterol?

Choosing the right kind of foods will have a significant influence on cholesterol levels. Making a gradual shift from a predominantly animal-based diet to more plant-based foods does promote healthy blood cholesterol. However, plant-based food choices need to be wholesome and devoid of refined ingredients.

The National Institute of Health recommends the consumption of 2 grams per day of plant sterols (plant stanols) and 5–10 grams per day of dietary fiber to effectively decrease blood cholesterol.

Plant sterols and plant stanols: These are present only in plant sources and help to block cholesterol absorption from the digestive tract. They are unique in that they lower bad cholesterol but do not decrease the levels of good cholesterol. Studies show that consuming 2 grams of plant sterols (phytosterols) everyday can decrease LDL cholesterol by 10-15%.


Phytosterol Content of Food

Food Serving Size Approximate
Phytosterol
Content
Whole grain barley 100 grams 125 mg
Whole grain rye 100 grams 112 mg
Wheat germ ½ cup 237 mg
Whole wheat 100 grams 20.2 mg
Almonds 1 ounce 56 mg
Pistachios 1 ounce 79 mg
Sesame seeds 1 ounce 113 mg
Flax seed (ground) 2 tablespoon 26 mg
Cauliflower ½ cup 25 mg


Dietary fiber: These are plant parts that do not break down in the digestive tract but instead pass through undigested. Plants are the only source of dietary fiber and they contain soluble and insoluble fibers. Dietary fiber does not carry nutritive value, but it is important for maintaining your digestive tract and health.

Soluble fiber: Soluble fibers absorb water and form a gel which delays the passage of food in the stomach and intestine imparting a feeling of "fullness." A slower emptying of the stomach also causes a slow and steady raise in blood glucose levels that aids in weight management. It also blocks the absorption of dietary cholesterol and helps to lower blood cholesterol levels. Adding 5-10 grams per day of soluble fiber brings about a 3-5% reduction in cholesterol levels.

Insoluble fiber: Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water and also passes through the digestive tract undigested. It helps to maintain the pH balance in intestines and aids in regular bowel movements. It also helps in removing toxins from the body and decreasing the risk of developing colon cancer.

Soluble fiber Insoluble fiber
Oats, barley, millet, quinoa,, spelt, wild rice etc Whole grains, wheat wheat, whole bran, brown rice, barley, oats, spelt etc
Legumes such as peas and beans Legumes such as black eyed peas, chick peas, most lentils.
Grains & seeds like lentils, flax seeds, chia seeds, Nuts: Brazil nuts, Chest nuts, Coconuts, macadamia nuts, pistachios, pine nuts etc
Fruits such as apples, strawberries, blueberries, pears Seeds: Flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, quinoa
Vegetables like celery, carrots, cucumbers Fruits and vegetables.


Ways to Lower High Cholesterol Through Food

• Limit cholesterol-rich foods such as processed, baked goods, cookies, and animal products.

• If you like eating meat, switch to healthier options such as lean meat, fish and skim milk. If it is possible to switch to plant-based foods go for it, as studies have shown that switching to a plant-based diet significantly decreases blood cholesterol levels.

• Boost your antioxidant intake by consuming a variety of plant-based foods such as nuts, seeds, legumes, grains, fruits and vegetables.

• Try to include foods rich in plant sterols such as nuts and seeds, which are also naturally good sources of fiber. Consume a variety of mixed nuts for added benefits.

Apart from dietary changes it is also necessary to be active for at least 30 minutes per day. Physical activity may include brisk walking, jogging, cycling, kayaking, hiking and so on. If you are diagnosed with high cholesterol it is also important to visit with your physician for regular blood work to periodically monitor your blood cholesterol levels.


Interesting Cholesterol facts

• Your brain can use up to 25% of body's total cholesterol in order to function.

• The liver is responsible for cholesterol production by the body.

• Plants do not contain cholesterol, animal sources do.

Neuroprotectors in Our Food

Gregg Carroll - Sunday, April 21, 2013

According to a 2010 report on neurodegenerative diseases, every year more than 10 million people suffer from neurodegenerative diseases globally, and this figure is expected to grow by 20% over the next decade. Pharmaceutical-based research reveals that the market for this sector is estimated at reaching $20 billion by 2014. For more than a decade, researchers have been looking at ways to prevent neurodegenerative diseases that will ultimately place a heavy burden on our health care system. These statistics are certainly not welcome news in an era of such tremendous technological advancement.

Neurodegenerative diseases are a group of progressive nerve disorders that damage or destroy the function of neurons. Various alternatives have been explored to find side-effect-free prevention and treatment methods for these diseases that threaten active living. Neuroprotectors that exist in our food is one such niche that has recently captured the attention of scientists and neurologists. Neuroprotectors are essentially nerve protecting nutrients and natural compounds that have play a role in preventing neurodegenerative diseases.


What Does a Neuroprotector Do?

Neuroprotection is a concept in neuroscience research that suggests that specific factors such as diet and lifestyle changes can offer protection to nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. Neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s are likely to have many causes, but studies suggest that dietary factors also play a significant role in protection from nerve degenerative conditions.

Most neuroprotectors in food are antioxidants or anti-inflammatory agents that offer protection from degenerative conditions by repressing trigger factors. Abundant evidence indicates that chronic inflammatory conditions play a predominant role in the development of neurodegenerative conditions. Extensive research over the last decade has indicated that certain foods and their nutrient components target the inflammatory pathways and thereby offer protective benefits from neurodegenerative diseases.


Food Neuroprotectors

Certain foods have long been in use among certain cultures for their profound neuroprotective abilities. These include, herbs, spices, seeds, and other plant parts. These foods have been incorporated into their daily menu in order to promote nerve and brain health. Some examples are spices, such as turmeric (curcumin), cinnamon, condiments like ginger and garlic, and herbs such as holy basil. The positive effects that these foods have in common include:

• Potent antioxidant activity

• Anti-inflammatory activity

• Anti-proliferative effect


What Do You Need for Better Brain and Nerve Health?

1. Sulfur-containing aminoacids: Sulfur is an important mineral component in protein-rich foods. The trace mineral sulfur is present in the aminoacids taurine, methionine, glutathione and cysteine. Sulfur is primarily stored in the brain and nerves, and the rest in the liver, nails and skin. Rich plant source of sulfur-containing aminoacids are kale, wheat germ, brussel sprouts, garlic, onions legumes and beans.

2. Phenylalanine rich foods: Phenylalanine is an essential aminoacid present in most plant foods. Phenylalanine is required for producing three vital chemical messengers in the brain. Phenylalanine is converted into tyrosine in the brain, which helps produce epinephrine, norepinephrine and levodopa. Deficiency of phenylalanine leads to fatigue, depression and Parkinson's disease. Most nuts, especially almonds, seeds, soy, asparagus, peas, lentils (chick peas, black beans, adzuki beans, red lentils, and mung beans are rich sources of this nutrient.

3. Tryptophan rich foods: Tryptophan is a precursor of two important compounds, melatonin and serotonin, that induce calmness and promote sleep. Melatonin helps to regulate the circadian cycle, and serotonin influences sleep, calmness, and appetite. Low levels of tryptophan are said to cause migraines, sleeplessness, hyperactivity in children and inflammation. Rich food sources include whole grains such as brown rice (providing nearly 20%), oats (25%), barley (40%) and beans such as kidney, black, navy, and chick peas.

4. Polyphenol rich foods: Polyphenols are the magic antioxidant compounds that are one of nature's powerful tools in fighting off free radical damage. Whole grains, legumes, unrefined plant foods, fruits and vegetables are rich source of polyphenols. Others include bitter astringent plant foods such as pomegranates, onions, and green tea.

5. Vitamin E rich foods: This fat soluble vitamin is well-known to prevent and heal nerve damage. Diabetic patients are encouraged to consume vitamin E rich foods and are prescribed vitamin E rich supplements as they are susceptible to nerve damage. Sunflower seeds, almonds, pine nuts, pea nuts, dried herbs, olives, wheat germ, whole wheat grain, broccoli, bell peppers, collard, kale, spinach, dried apricots, tropical fruits like papaya and kiwi are some of nature's best vitamin E sources.

6. B vitamin rich foods: Vitamins, B6 and folic acid are popular nutrients in nerve health. They help maintain the key metabolic processes, calm the nerves and support adrenal function. B6 in particular is necessary for production of neurotransmitters, and is involved in preventing depression and premenstrual syndrome. Folic acid is used widely in the treatment of macular degeneration of the eyes, Alzheimer's disease, depression, sleep problems, and nerve pain. Folic acid is given as a supplement for pregnant women as it is crucial for the development of the neural tube in a fetus. Most dark greens, beans, nuts and seeds are rich in B vitamins.

7. Essential fats: These are polyunsaturated fats that are needed for essential brain function, hormonal function, and normal metabolism. Besides maintaining nerve health, they also promote heart health and prevent strokes. The brain requires omega-3 essential fats that are present in nuts, seeds, algae, and cold water fatty fish such as salmon and mackerel. The omega-3 fat ALA is abundant in plant sources such as nuts, and seeds. The human body converts ALA to another omega–3 fat EPA by adding two carbon atoms. Studies show that the conversion is efficient, however conversion of EPA to DHA is not and is largely depend on enzymes. If a given diet is high in omega-6 fats, there is a competition for these enzymes in the body, and consequently there is a poor conversion rate to DHA. Most recommendations therefore are to restrict omega-6 fats in the diet and increase the ALA-rich omega-3 fats. Another way to boost DHA is to consume algal supplements that are naturally high in DHA. According to Dr. Neal Bernard, if a diet is predominantly plant-based with nuts, fruits, vegetables, legumes and beans the food automatically provides an ideal 2:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega 3.

8. Include herbs and spices: Turmeric is a potent antioxidant spice that also has anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial effects. The compound curcuminoid is responsible for the yellow hue and nerve protective benefits of turmeric. Add a pinch to your recipes such as lentil soup, broth, gravies, vegetable preparation and rice dishes. Another important herb that has captured attention is the holy basil (called Tulsi) which has been shown to exhibit anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and antioxidant benefits. Thyme, oregano and scores of other herbs and condiments used in small quantities can have great protective benefits to you body.


Other Ways to Shield Your Nerves and Brain From Damage

Refrain from consuming meat: Study after study clearly indicates that meat contains saturated fat and cholesterol which increases the chance of Alzheimer's disease and stroke.

Steer clear of fish: Fish does contain omega-3 but it also comes with high cholesterol, as well as toxic contaminants which are all the more dangerous for nerve health. Dr. Neal Bernard in his book Power Foods For the Brain warns that many fish species are fatty, with only 15-30% of the required omega-3 fats with the remaining 70-85% a blend of saturated and unsaturated fats. A eighteen-month old study on fish oil supplementation among patients with Alzheimer's showed no benefits.

Avoid too much omega-6 fats: Omega-6 fats compete for carbon atoms, hinder the efficient conversion of ALA to DHA, and thereby the activity of omega-3.

Say no to high fructose corn syrup, refined carbohydrates and trans fats: High fructose corn syrup lurks everywhere, in bread, flavored drinks, certain canned foods, fruit juices, jellies and so on. The hydrogenated oil in processed and deep fried foods are strongly inflammatory.

Nutrient Importance Food
Sulfur containing foods. Synthesis of nerve protectors. onions, kale, legumes, beans
Phenylalanine rich foods. Produces chemical messengers. seeds, almonds, chick peas, adzuki, red lentils
Tryptophan rich foods. Promotes sleep, calms and maintains appetite. brown rice, barley, whole grains
Polyphenols Antioxidant effects. green tea, dark greens, whole grains, legumes, pomegranates, astringent tasting foods
Vitamin E Antioxidant, prevents nerve damage, used in treatment of depression. sunflower seeds, almonds, pine nuts, pea nuts, dried herbs, olives, wheat germ, whole wheat grain
Vitamin B Production of neurotransmitters , supports adrenal function, relieves stress. most dark greens, beans, nuts and seeds
Essential fats. Normal metabolism and brain function. rich availability in nuts and seeds as ALA, small amounts in fruits and vegetables.

Apart from the above mentioned nutrients there are several others present in natural foods that play a role in maintaining good nerve health. In addition, it is also necessary to adhere to a regular exercise schedule and de-stress through meditation and a good night's rest.

Best Sources of Non-dairy Calcium

Gregg Carroll - Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Recent research has underscored the negative effects of consuming animal products in human health. This also includes milk and dairy products which are a dietary staple in the Western diet. For nearly a decade we have been led to believe milk and dairy products are the richest source of calcium available. The credit for this goes to the National Dairy Council which has worked for many years to lay this strong foundation through sponsored research and false claims. Modern science has shown that this information is outdated, misleading, and has proven that dairy products do more harm than good.

Studies show that calcium from milk is not well absorbed or used by the body. Furthermore, milk and milk products are high in oxidized cholesterol, high in protein, hormones and antibiotics. When it comes to choosing calcium from natural food sources, the choices are plentiful, and come with the added benefits of better immune function and protection from degenerative diseases. Plant sources are the best sources of calcium which our bodies can absorb and utilize completely without having to deal with the presence of growth hormones, antibiotics, and high cholesterol. The good news about plant-based calcium is that there are a variety of ways one can include dietary calcium from non-dairy sources that are tasty and easy to incorporate. Here are some of nature's best sources of calcium that the human body can absorb and effectively utilize.


Seeds

Chia seeds: Chia seeds were a component of the diet of ancient civilizations – Aztecs and Mayans. They are one of nature's richest sources of calcium. The best part is that they are rich in essential fats – omega-3 and omega-6 as well. Chia seeds can be easily incorporated to our everyday meals, such as oatmeal, cereals, salsa, dips, and smoothies.

Sesame seeds: Sesame seeds are the oldest known condiment. Sesame seeds are used in a variety of Asian dishes and add a characteristic nutty flavor. Besides being a good source of calcium they are also abundant in copper, magnesium, manganese, and zinc that are useful in bone-building, as well as iron and vitamin B1. An ounce of hulled sesame seeds provides 15 mg of calcium, the un-hulled variety (black) provide 265 mg. Tahini butter (2 tablespoon) provides 128 mg.


Nuts

Almonds: Almonds are not only rich in calcium, but they are a powerhouse of antioxidants. Additional benefits include the lowering of high blood cholesterol and promoting heart health.



Walnuts: Calcium in walnuts occurs in combination with several phytonutrients, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Walnuts are also called 'brain foods,' as calcium and the essential fat (omega-3) are also present. These two nutrients are vital for maintaining cognitive as well as nerve health.


Dark Greens

All dark green vegetables and leaves are remarkably high in calcium content. Examples include broccoli, kale, bok choy, and spinach. They are plentiful in vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients which pack added health advantages with fewer calories.

Below are a collection of calcium-rich plant foods that can help you create a menu plan rich in calcium. Try to consume at least three calcium-rich foods a day while enjoying variety in your diet.


Food Portion Calcium (mg)
Beans
Garbanzo beans (chick peas)
Edamame beans (soy)
Tofu

1 cup
1 cup
1 slice (84 g)

80.4 mg
97.6 mg
26.9 mg
Nut Butters
Almond butter
Tahini
Cashew Butter
Sunflower seed butter

2 Tbsp.
2 Tbsp.
2 Tbsp.
2 Tbsp.

111 mg
128 mg
13.8 mg
39.0 mg
Whole Nuts
Almonds
Cashews
Walnuts
Macadamia
Pecan

1 oz (28 g)
1 oz.
1 oz.
1 oz.
1 oz.

73.9 mg
10.4 mg
27.4 mg
23.8 mg
19.6 mg
Dark Greens
Bokchoy
Spinach
Bean sprouts
Collards
Mustard greens
Turnip greens

1 cup
1 cup
1 cup
1 cup
1 cup
1 cup

330 mg
250 mg
320 mg
260 mg
450 mg
450 mg
Dried Fruits
Dried apricots
Dried figs

3 oz.
3 oz.

80 mg
100 mg
Raw Kale 1 cup 90.5 mg


The "Calcium Paradox"

The National Institute of Health (NIH) recommends that adult males consume 1000 mg of calcium per day and woemn 1200 mg of calcium per day. It should be noted that these recommendations are based on calcium availability from a Standard American Diet (SAD) that consists of meat, meat products, refined grains and sugar. The dietary availability of calcium from a western diet is questionable, and hence the need for high calcium intake.

On the other hand, many epidemiological studies, including the famous China Study, reports that the calcium intake of populations that consume largely a plant-based diets is relatively low when compared to Western populations. The study stated that the average calcium consumption among the Chinese population was 544 mg per day as opposed to the average consumption of 1143 mg per day by the U.S. population. Although calcium is important for bone health, these studies indicate that we may not need high quantities of dietary calcium for optimal bone health. The evidence is strengthened by the relative absence of osteoporosis and other bone diseases among the Chinese population considering of the amount of calcium they consume per day.

Another important point is that the source of calcium plays a critical role in influencing the absorption and utilization of this nutrient. WHO calls this the "calcium paradox," and states that to date, the accumulated data indicates that the adverse effect of protein, specifically animal protein, not vegetable, might outweigh the positive effects of calcium intake on calcium balance. The report of the joint FAO/WHO consultation on vitamin and mineral requirements makes it clear that the requirements for calcium might vary from culture to culture for dietary, genetic, lifestyle and geographical reasons.

Currently there is little research available on the bone health of vegans, and until more evidence emerges, many health experts recommend it is best to adhere to the current recommended intakes for calcium. While looking for calcium specific foods, non-dairy sources are the most healthy and effective way to achieve a positive calcium balance and excellent bone health.


Here is a sample menu that provides a total of 1654.9 mg of calcium per day.

Breakfast — 111 milligrams of calcium

Toasted whole grain bread with 2 tablespoon of almond butter

Mid-morning snack — 770 milligrams of calcium

LRF Dried figs – 5 each 770 mg

Lunch — 426.15 milligrams of calcium

Tempeh with brown rice with tahini sauce

½ cup brown rice 31.35 mg

½ cup tempeh 107.6 mg

¼ cup Tahini sauce 256 mg

½ cup broccoli (steamed) 31.2 mg

Snack — 175 milligrams of calcium

A cup of Edamame (soy beans) cooked

Dinner — 172.75 milligrams of calcium

Spinach - Lentil soup

¼ cup dry lentils 4.75 mg

Half of spinach bunch 168 mg


Tips To Improve Absorption and
Utilization of Dietary Calcium

Exercise: At least 30-40 minutes of brisk walking helps to build bone with calcium.

Sensible sun exposure: Vitamin D is vital for calcium absorption and use in the body. Just 15 minutes of sunlight exposure* (without sunblock) is enough for the body to make its own vitamin D.

Eat fresh: Consume freshly prepared meals whenever possible, choosing raw foods such as salads, mixed nuts for snacks.

Variety: Choose to eat a variety of foods that provide you with a mix of minerals and vitamins that aid in calcium absorption and utilization in the body.

*Please note that if you are going to be outdoors longer than 15 minutes, it is advised to use a sunblock to prevent skin cancer.

Milk Calcium: The Untold Story

Gregg Carroll - Tuesday, April 16, 2013

For many years now, milk has been considered synonymous with calcium and we have been taught that drinking milk promotes stronger bones. This incorrect idea has been reinforced to such an extent that we believe that a diet without milk is unhealthy and may lead to a severe calcium deficiency, and that inadequate dairy consumption leads to poor bone health and osteoporosis.


About Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a disease that causes the loss of bone tissue. Bones become weak, and people are more likely to break bones in the hip, spine, and wrist. According to the data from the NIH Osteoporosis National Resource Center, in the U.S., more than 40 million people either already have osteoporosis or are at high risk for developing it. However, if dairy can promote bone health as claimed, why are so many suffering from osteoporosis? It is time to take another look at the facts presented on milk.


Dairy Intake and Osteoporosis

Many factors such as age, smoking, alcoholism, gender, etc. play a role in the etiology of this disease, however nutritional factors have been of particular interest to researchers. They point out that osteoporosis is not only associated with low calcium intake, but also to other nutritional factors that result in the excessive urinary loss of calcium. They include high intake of animal protein, steroids, antibiotics, growth hormones (dairy and meat sources), caffeine and alcohol. Furthermore, besides calcium there are 19 other nutrients that are necessary for the process of bone building and maintenance. Unless these nutrients are present in our diet, consuming calcium rich foods will not be of much use to bone health.

Key Bone Building Nutrients

Calcium • Phosphorus • Chromium • Silica • Zinc

Manganese • Copper • Magnesium • Boron • Potassium

Vitamin D • Vitamin A

Epidemiological data indicates that the incidence of age-related bone loss, osteoporosis, and fractures were many times higher among the Western population than in Asian and African populations. Statistics from WHO show that osteoporosis is common in those countries that are high dairy producers and consumers (the U.S., Finland, Sweden and the U.K.). It should be noted that the intake of animal protein among these populations is also considerably higher than the Asian and African populations. If milk can promote excellent bone health, the incidence of osteoporosis should be absent or lower among dairy consumers, but statistics reveal the opposite.


Present Research On Dairy and Osteoporosis

Nutritional research as early as the 1970's showed that milk may not be a healthy drink for humans. Today, modern science has consistently proved that dairy has little effect on decreasing the incidence of osteoporosis, and studies on postmenopausal women have shown that calcium intake has little effect on bone density. According to a publication in Science magazine, there exists a large body of evidence indicating there is no association between calcium intake and bone density. The 2005 issue of the Journal of Pediatrics concludes that there is scant evidence that increasing milk or other dairy products aid in bone mineralization among children and adolescents.


Milk Calcium Facts

Dairy does not protect from osteoporosis: Acidity introduced by milk and milk products cause calcium loss, and despite its high calcium content, cow's milk is shown to promote osteoporosis and hip fractures.The incidence of osteoporosis is highest in countries that are chief dairy producers.

Milk an acid former: The sulfur-based aminoacids present in milk and other animal products promote urinary acid production and as a result significant amounts of calcium are lost in urine while neutralizing the acidity. When the acidity levels increase, our body automatically uses calcium (the alkaline reserve) to neutralize this effect. This results in leaching out of calcium from the bones to the blood and subsequent excretion in urine.

Calcium from milk is less absorbed by the body: Only 25% of calcium from cow's milk is absorbed by the body. On the other hand, absorption of calcium from dark greens such as kale, turnips, and sesame seeds is relatively higher.

Not a healthy calcium source: Milk is a source of an oxidized form of cholesterol which causes plaques and atherosclerosis. It is also a medium for growth hormones, antibiotics, virus and bacteria to reach the body. Studies have shown that long term consumption of milk leads to conditions of senile cataracts and gout in later stages of life.

Constipation: Milk calcium is one cause of constipation among Western populations besides the low intake of fruits and vegetables. The reason being, the muscles in the lower intestine cannot contract efficiently to propel the waste material out of the body due to the presence of excess calcium in their cells. An article in the journal of the American Medical Association (1974) confirms that cow's milk is one food that causes constipation. A cross over study that compared the effects of cow's milk and rice milk on children showed that there was a clear association between cow's milk and constipation in nearly one-third of children.

Other problems: Other problems associated with milk consumption include gastritis, ulceritis, chronic inflammation, allergies, nasal congestion, and ear infections.


Why is a Plant-Based Diet the Best Way to Build Bone?

Despite its rich calcium content, cow's milk is associated with osteoporosis, allergies and inflammation. The calcium package in milk comes with high protein and acidity, which triggers unwanted calcium loss from the bones. Choosing healthier alternatives of calcium such as fruits, vegetables, and nuts are recommended by health researchers. Major research journals have encouraged the idea of consuming non-dairy calcium sources such as legumes and nuts for preventing osteoporosis. Here is why plant-based food is better source of calcium and a best way to build your bones:

Alkaline forming: Although rich in protein, plant foods are not acid forming. The alkaline forming ability of wholesome and natural plant foods enhances the calcium absorbability as well as retaining bone calcium. This prevents urinary loss of calcium and also reduces the heavy demand for calcium in the body.

Ideal calcium-magnesium ratio: Consuming a variety of plant-based foods provides an ideal calcium-magnesium ratio of 2:1 that aids in optimal calcium absorption, whereas milk does not offer this ratio resulting in poor calcium absorption in the diet.

Bone-building nutrients: Plants are a natural source of bone-building nutrients such as boron, vitamin A, folic acid and strontium that are necessary for healthy bone formation. Milk is a poor source of most of the bone-building nutrients and therefore is not a good osteoporosis fighting food.

Safe source: Plant-based foods are a safer source of calcium as they are free of steroids, growth hormones and antibiotics. In addition, most plant proteins are less acid forming.

Non-allergenic: Whole, natural plant-based foods are anti-inflammatory and do not trigger allergic reactions like dairy foods can.

Healthy body weight: Plant-based unprocessed foods promote healthier body weight in normal as well as obese individuals. This huge advantage comes from the dietary fiber present in plant foods that helps normalize body weight.


Bone Health is More Than Just Calcium

Maintaining bone health depends on many factors and calcium is only one of them. In order to maintain bone health it is essential to stay physically active, get enough exposure to sunlight for vitamin D, eat a variety of natural plant-based mineral resources, and steer clear of refined and processed foods. It is proven that individuals that consume a high amount of plant-based foods such as fruits, legumes, beans, nuts and green vegetables have a higher bone density than animal-based food consumers. Plant-based foods with their high nutrient density and potential to protect against many diseases are no doubt a better choice for bone building and protecting against osteoporosis. The key is to consume a wide variety of foods to gain the best of health.

Discover the Antioxidant Arsenal in Your Pantry

Gregg Carroll - Tuesday, April 16, 2013

For many years there has been a lot of hype about antioxidants. Thanks to the media and health discussion, a lot of awareness has been generated about these important compounds and their role in our health. Antioxidants are touted as having multiple health benefits ranging from disease prevention to fighting off premature aging.


What Are Antioxidants?

“Antioxidants,” as the name suggests, act against the process of oxidation in our bodies. Normal tasks such as breathing, digestion, exercise, and so forth generate byproducts called free radicals. These free radicals have an important job; they scavenge for dead cells and eliminate them from our bodies. However, there is the possibility that free radicals will take on healthy cells and damage them. This is called free radical damage, or oxidative damage. Free radical damage is implicated in many disease conditions such as heart problems, cancer, diabetes, premature aging and many more. Our bodies have their own antioxidant defense system to combat the excess free radicals, but it also takes the help of dietary antioxidants to effectively neutralize free radical damage.

The generation of free radicals increases by:

• Excess consumption of processed or refined foods

• Increased consumption of meat and other animal products

• Pollution

• Stress

• Sleeplessness

• Decreased consumption of natural foods

• Strenuous exercise


Sources of Dietary Antioxidants

Antioxidants are not exclusive to exotic fruits and expensive dietary supplements, you can find these compounds in most of the natural and wholesome foods that you stock in the kitchen. There is no better way to include antioxidants everyday in our diet than through simple recipes. Here are some surprising nutrient-dense foods sitting right in your pantry that are super-rich in a spectrum of antioxidants:

Oats: Oats are often praised for their soluble fiber content, but their antioxidant profile is barely ever mentioned. They are good source of more than 20 unique polyphenols, avenanthramides that show strong antioxidant effect. They are also well-known for their beta-glucan content which show heart protective benefits. These polyphenolic compounds are anti-inflammatory, anti-proliferative, exhibit anti-itching effects, and are suggested to have protective effect against skin irritation, colon cancer and heart diseases.

Nuts: Nuts are unique in that they pack in all the major nutrients as well as micronutrients, including beneficial antioxidants, inside their crunchy structure. Nuts are considered one of the best plant sources with a high content of total antioxidants. Walnuts, for instance, contain more than 20 mmol antioxidants per 100 grams, and they rank first among all other nuts for their antioxidant components.

Cinnamon: The compound cinnamaldehyde in cinnamon is a potent antioxidant, anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory agent. Laboratory animal studies have shown that cinnamon aids in increasing the activity of the body's own antioxidant enzyme system.

Beans and lentils: Chick peas, fava beans, black beans, kidney beans and lentils are known to be power houses of antioxidants. A study published by the Journal of Food Science, it was found that lentils and black beans are among the top antioxidant containing legumes. They are rich sources of anthocyanin which is a powerful flavonoid compound commonly found in blueberries. When choosing lentils, avoid canned lentils as the processing of canned foods destroys important phytonutrients.

Seeds: Seeds are densely packed with many beneficial compounds. A handful of sunflower seeds provides an excellent antioxidant punch comprising of chlorogenic compounds, tocohpehrols, caffeic acd, ferulic, myricetin and rutin compounds. Sesame seeds contain the antioxidants sesamolinol and sesamino that bolster our body's antioxidant defense. Chia seeds provide quercetin, caffeic acid, chlorogenic acids that exhibit anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effect in many studies.

Herbs: Herbs are another excellent way to add antioxidants to our every day meals. In a study that analyzed the antioxidant capacity of 425 spices and herbs, the following culinary herbs topped the antioxidant list: about a gram (approximately ½ teaspoon) of cloves will provide more antioxidants than consuming ½ cup of blueberries or cranberries; about ½ teaspoon of oregano contains the same amount of antioxidants as ½ cup of sweet potatoes. The authors of the study suggested that spices such as cloves, oregano, allspice, sage, thyme etc added in fresh and dried form to dishes contribute to significant antioxidant activity.

Nature provides a bounty of life protecting antioxidants, and there is incresing evidence that while on a plant-based diet, it is easier to boost our antioxidant content in our meals. However, the effect can be augmented only when we consume a diverse range of plant foods. A heart warming lentil soup, a simple brown rice pilaf cooked with spices and herbs, a quick breakfast with oats topped with a variety of nuts and seeds, or a calming herbal tea can do the trick of including a spectrum of antioxidants. It is encouraging to see that we have all our antioxidant tools right in our kitchens to help us combat diseases, fight off premature aging, and boost our immune systems.

So next time you decide to pick that expensive, hyped antioxidant supplement, take a moment to peek into your pantry. It will certainly save you money and is also the best place to get your antioxidants, instead of from your medicine cabinet or a pharmacy shelf.


Basic Lentil Soup

4 Tbsp. Love Raw Foods™ red lentils

1 onion

a pinch of dried oregano

a pinch of dried rosemary

1 tsp. garlic, minced

1 tomato, chopped

water, as needed

1 tsp. olive oil

1 medium carrot, chopped

1 bay leaf

salt and pepper to taste

1 cup chopped spinach/kale, optional

¼ tsp. turmeric powder, optional (the curcumin in turmeric is a powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial agent.)

*There are no hard and fast rules, this is just a basic recipe you can scale up more antioxidant ingredients, the key is to include a variety and a spectrum of antioxidants for maximum benefits.

In a medium saucepan, cook the lentils with enough water, cover and cook for 10 minutes while still boiling.

In another saucepan saute the onions, garlic, tomatoes and carrot until softened.

Add in the vegetable mixture and allow to cook for another 10 minutes.

Once the soup thickens, add the herbs, salt and pepper, if need be add more water if the soup turns too thick.

Plant-Based Foods: The Best Way to Build Your Immunity

Gregg Carroll - Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Plant-Based Foods: The Best Way to Build Your Immunity

"The U.S death rate from infectious diseases is about 170,000 annually, double than what it was in 1980. With two billion people traveling by air each year, the potential for serious viral illnesses looms even larger in our future" — National Intelligence Council, The Global Infectious Disease Threat and Its Implications for the US; Jan 2000.

"Invisible warriors": Your immune system in action.

The idea of "being immune" rarely occurs to us until we're down and out with a nasty cold or a fever. You might think that the body's immune system jumps into action only during illness, which is not the case. Our immune system is constantly at work, fighting off billions of bacteria, germs and other pathogens we encounter in our daily lives. Our immune system is a conglomerate of cells and organs that combat invading bacteria, and these "invisible warriors" are an essential part of our biology. This invisible defense shield remains active even when you are asleep. Being immune is one of the ways our bodies stay alive.


How Do You Measure Immunity?

Unlike other biological markers such as cholesterol and glucose, we cannot assign a number to the immune defense to quantify its strength. That said, it is not difficult to see that some people get sick frequently, while others only occasionally. Some people may beat a cold or fever within a few days, while others battle with infection for a week or more. How does this difference of staying sicker for longer than other people occur? Scientists searched for answers to this question and came up with a solid finding. The answer largely depends on the kind of support against illness that is or is not present in the form of nutrients.


Ammunition for the Invisible Warriors

Study after study has proven that nutrients are the best tools that we can offer ourselves to build a strong immunity defense. Research clearly suggests that the nutritional status of a person plays a critical role in preventing or succumbing to a viral or bacterial infection. This fact is supported by hundreds of scientific studies which state that excellent nutrition can support immune health directly and indirectly by promoting resistance and fighting off illness when sickness does strike.

Many nutraceuticals and health supplement companies now bank on this finding and have introduced pills, tablets, capsules and even drinks to restore and build strong immunity, along with a relentless bombardment of conflicting health messages. In most cases one nutrient is deemed superior over the other, which encourages a faulty trend of ingesting isolated vitamins and minerals as immune building supplements. However, adhering to healthy eating habits is the one and only way to keep the immune system equipped and and ready to fight off invading bacteria and germs. The practice of consuming phytonutrients to boost immune health stems from many ancient cultures and civilizations. Ancient humans consumed certain plant foods for their astounding heath benefits, and also applied them topically for wound healing as well as treating scars. Equipping the body with wholesome and natural foods is key in improving human health, and plant-based foods are the wise path towards strong immunity. A plethora of research suggests that an exclusive plant-based diet is all it takes to boost our immune health.


Top 10 Reasons Why Plant-based Foods
Equal Better Immune Health

Here are some concrete reasons as why plant-based foods acts as perfect immune boosters:

1. Anti-inflammatory

2. Rich in antioxidant

3. Rich in phytonutrients

4. Nutrient-dense and provides an array of minerals and vitamins

5. Confers additional benefits, such as healthy cholesterol, blood pressure, body weight

6. Maintains the ideal pH balance of the body

7. Aids in a natural detoxification process

8. Tasty and flavorful

9. No additives or chemicals

10. Backed by years of research and traditional cultures


How to Eat for Building Immunity?

Contrary to popular belief it is not difficult to eat your way to a having a strong immune system. Here are some quick and easy ways to incorporate plant-based foods in your eating habits:

• Include a vegetable in every meal

• Choose plant proteins such as legumes, beans and lentils over animal proteins

• Consume a combination of nuts in place of an unhealthy snack

• Consume a variety of whole grains over refined grains

• Add a cup of fruit salad as part of your meal

• Incorporate herbs, spices and condiments such as turmeric, garlic, thyme, etc.

Plant-based foods are one important part of building immunity, the other two important factors are exercise and low stress. The idea of being super-resistant to infections and illnesses based solely on a plant-based diet is still not known, but what we can say is that plant-based foods certainly help our immune system to interact more efficiently with infectious pathogens, and decrease the frequency and length of illnesses.


Tips for Better Immune Health

Exercise regularly

Consume healthy fats

Eat anti-inflammatory foods such as nuts

Consume a variety of antioxidants from natural and wholesome foods

Consume enough water to stay hydrated

Enjoy a good night's sleep

Choose fresh and less processed foods

Cut back on alcohol and refined sugar

Maintain oral hygiene


Factors Influencing Immune Health

Poor nutrition

Stress

Free radicals

Food allergens

Aging

Overuse of medication

Environmental toxins such as pesticides

Pollution


Quick Immune Building Recipe

Bok Choy Chick Pea Salad

½ cup red onions

1 large bunch bok choy, chopped

1 tsp. minced ginger

2 cloves roasted garlic, chopped

¼ cup carrot, shredded

¼ cup beets, shredded

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

¼ cup cherry tomatoes

¼ cup Love Raw Foods™ chick peas, cooked

1 Tbsp. Love Raw Foods™ walnuts

1 Tbsp. Love Raw Foods™ raisins

salt and pepper to taste

dash of lemon juice, optional

Toss all the ingredients together and serve fresh for a quick lunch or dinner.


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