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3 posts from April 2010

04/27/2010

Super Foods

One way to help assess the nutritional merits of a diet or eating plan is to check out the number of super foods it contains. Super foods are better than others for your health. They can extend your "health span", prevent disease and may even reverse the effects of aging.

 
So, if you're looking to boost your health and wellbeing, make sure you include these foods to help you transform into a superman or woman.
 
Let's take a closer look at ten of the best:
 
Oats
Oats, the superstars of the whole grains are rich in beta glucan soluble fibre and are low GI. They can help lower cholesterol control blood sugar levels and help with satiety (feelings of fullness). They also contain potent phytochemicals, phenolic compounds in outer layer of grain, which act as antioxidants.
 
Yoghurt
You get a great calcium boost from yoghurt, but it's the probiotics that make it a super food. Probiotics, sometimes referred to as aBc bacteria, are live cultures found in certain yoghurts and there are different types or strains available. Emerging scientific evidence suggests that probiotics offer a host of benefits including promoting gut health, immune protection, cancer risk minimisation, cholesterol lowering as well as helping treat conditions like traveller and toddler diarrhoea and atopic eczema.
 
Blueberries
These brightly coloured fruits deliver high levels of antioxidants called anthocyanins. Anthocyanins have been shown to lower cholesterol, prevent blood clotting, protect body cells and decrease the effects of brain ageing. That's why they're sometimes referred to as the 'brain berries'.
 
Spinach
This dark green, leafy vegetable contains a synergy of phyto-nutrients and antioxidants including vitamin K, coenzyme Q10, folate, iron, and the carotenoids - lutein, zeaxanthin. Folate is especially important for women planning pregnancies, heart health and cancer protection. So it's not just Popeye who should be getting his fill.
 
Nuts
Nuts contain healthy oils, fibre, vitamins and minerals, potent phytochemicals and the amino acid arginine. They're no longer a dieter's foe with research showing that regular nut eaters often maintain a healthy weight. There's also compelling research linking nuts and heart health with findings that a serve of nuts (30-45g), five times a week, may cut the risk of coronary heart disease in half.
 
Soy beans
These beans are an excellent source of high quality protein, containing twice as much protein as any other legume. The active ingredients are the soy protein and plant phyto-oestrogens (isoflavones) which have positive benefits for heart disease and possibly diabetes control, cancer protection (breast, colon, prostate) and in some cases decreasing certain menopausal symptoms.
 
Tomato
These vibrant red fruits are packed with the anti-oxidant lycopene. Lycopene offers a host of benefits including heart health and may reduce risk of prostate cancer. Interestingly you can increase the absorption of the lycopene in tomatoes by cooking in a small amount of olive oil. What great news for pasta lovers!
 
Citrus fruits
The CSIRO's Health Benefits of Citrus Fruits report shows a compelling trend of protection against various types of cancers from eating citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons, limes and grapefruit. The greatest protection is for cancers of the mouth, oesophagus, larynx and stomach where studies showed risk reductions of 40 to 50% by consuming one to two serves of citrus fruit a day.
 
Sardines and oily fish
This heart-friendly, omega 3 and zinc rich fish, makes a perfect grilled lunch dish.  And they're also good news for osteoporosis prevention.   Sardines contain edible bones with calcium and significant sources of vitamin D.  Sunlight also provides vitamin D to the body, however dietary vitamin D may be more important as we 'slip, slop, slap' to prevent exposure to harmful sunrays. 
 
Rosemary and other herbs
Everybody loves a barbie, but in more recent times concerns have been raised about the potentially cancer causing compounds that are formed when meat is grilled at high temperatures.  But maybe Mother Nature is looking out for us?  Recent research from Kansas State University has revealed that there may be more to the story of the perfect flavour match of lamb and rosemary.  When meat was rubbed with antioxidant extracts of common herbs like rosemary, basil, oregano and thyme, the levels of harmful compounds known as heterocyclic amines (HA) were reduced.  This effect was thought to be due to the powerful antioxidants in herbs soaking up these HA free radicals.

04/15/2010

10 Reasons to Ditch Grains from Your Diet

By Karen Lirio, Registered Personal Trainer

 

1.    They are Making You Fat
Our bodies are designed to use slow burning fuel for energy, such as our stored body fat. Grains provide a fast burning fuel source. While that fast burning fuel source is being consumed by us in abundance our stored body fat remains just that, stored!

 

2.    They are Toxic to Human Beings
Grains (especially wheat and wheat germ but also quinoa, rice, buckwheat, oats, rye, barley, millet and corn), legumes (all dried beans, including soy and peanuts), dairy (from grain fed cows), and nightshade (including potato, tomato, eggplant and pepper), all contain high levels of lectins. Lectins are toxic to the human body and have been linked to
arthritis, allergy, asthma, high cholesterol, congestive heart failure, high blood pressure, diabetes, low blood sugar, chronic fatigue, IBS, Crohn's, colitis, celiac, chronic Candida, repeated gut pathogen infections, malabsorption syndromes, autoimmune diseases, dementia, Alzheimer's, autism, ADD/ADHD, Schizophrenia, osteoporosis, cancer, adrenal insufficiency, obesity, and hormonal imbalances; just to name a few.

3.    They are an Allergen
One of our most common allergies is to gluten. Gluten is a mixture of proteins found in wheat and other grains such as rye, oats and barley. Gluten is responsible for the porous, spongy texture of bread. Maladies range from a runny nose to severe gas and chronic dermatitis herpetiformis. And if the gluten doesn’t get you then there is always corn wreaking its own havoc in the form of skin rashes, a runny nose and itchy eyes, and asthma.

4.    Human Beings Were never Meant to Eat Them
For 150,000 humans roamed the earth hunting and foraging for meats, nuts, leafy greens, regional veggies, some tubers and roots, the occasional berries or seasonal fruits and seeds. We ate what nature served up. Around 10,000 years ago however, the tide turned with the Agricultural Revolution and grains became a dominant part of our diet. Sadly people became smaller and frailer as a result of a deathly allergy to them, or limited capacity to take in their poor nutrient value. It takes a lot more than 10,000 years, in the context of evolution, to drastically change our digestive systems and so we continue to suffer the repercussions of our new ill-suited diet.

5.    They Were Never Meant to be Eaten by Human Beings
Grains are plant seeds (plant embryos), housed in a hard or semi-hard shell to help them survive until germination. Their shell helps them, in particular, to weather the journey through an animal’s intestines should they be inadvertadely eaten. They don’t even taste good, to discourage ingestion in the first place. Have you never wondered why we insist on eating something that we have to smash and/or cook to death and drown in flavouring for it to be palatable!

 

6.    They Cause an Abnormal Insulin Response
Grains, once you strip off the hard shell, grind down the inside and then cook them, have an extremely high glycemic index. This basically means that as soon as they are digested they quickly spike blood sugar levels and send the body into panic mode. To mop up these toxic levels of sugar the pancreas sends out huge amounts of insulin to process the excess sugar, storing it in the muscle, liver and then fat cells. Unfortunately this rapid removal of excess blood sugar then sends you reeling into a lightheaded sugar crash. It is this sugar-insulin-sugar cycle that often leads to Type II Diabetes.

 

7.    They are Nutritionally Devoid and a Poor Source of Fibre
Unfortunately grains aren’t quite the complete nutritional source we’ve been lead to believe and have in fact been associated with minerals deficiencies. Whatever nutrients you can get from whole grains you can get in equal or greater amounts in other food. If the label says otherwise, look closely because the product has probably been fortified. As for fibre, vegetables have 8-10 times the fibre of grains!

8.    They’re Cheap As Well As Nasty
Why is something so nutritionally marginal so dominant in our diets? As I’ve already mentioned our lives and diets radically changed 10000 years ago with the Agricultural Revolution. Humans learned how to farm, process, cook and eat grains which suddenly provided us with a cheap and easily accessible supply of calories. Grains are still a cheap and easily accessible supply of calories and pop up in almost everything processed that we eat. They are literally a cheap and nasty filler that we end up paying top dollar for. 

 

9.    They’re Not Satiating
Foods that are satiating (ie. fill you up and keep you feeling full) are rich in protein or fiber. You now know that neither of these are characteristics of grains; which are relatively low in protein and fibre when compared to lean meats and vegetables. Red meats, fish and chicken are a great source of satiating protein but are often accompanied by unhealthy saturated fats and need to be limited. Vegetables on the other hand are fat free and very low in calories. Did you know that you can reduce the calorie content of a casserole by 30 percent simply by adding bulky vegetables!

 

10. They Don’t Leave any Room for the Good Stuff
The reason that the Government and health experts have us eating 2 Fruits & 5 Veg a day; a glass of milk, a tub of yogurt and two slices of cheese a day; lean red meat 3-4 times a week; and fish 1-2 times a week; is because we are filling up on cheap and readily available grains and becoming malnutritioned. The very society that gave us grains in the first place has gone into major damage control. What more can I say.

 

If you are interested in learning more about living without grains, log on to www.marksdailyapple.com for an introduction to The Primal Blueprint. Learn how the author, a former Hawaiian Ironman, relieved his bowel and arthritis symptoms by ditching grains for a thoroughly modern diet of lean grass fed meat, truly gourmet salads and vegetable dishes, fresh fruit and the occasional cheese platter, glass of red wine and block of rich dark chocolate.     

04/07/2010

All about Water

Constant body water content is essential as water comprises about 60% of our body weight and is vital to all physiologic and living processes. Adequate hydration is necessary for ideal physiological functioning and maintaining optimal health.

Water balance in the human body is dependent on the difference between water intake and water loss. Sources of water intake are the consumption of liquids and food (~85%) and the production of metabolic water (~15%). Water loss occurs through respiration, gastrointestinal and kidney functioning, and sweat loss. The normal body water turnover rate in human’s ranges from 1-3 liters per day.

Roles of Water in the Body

Cellular Health
Function of Cell Fluids
Healthy Joints and Cartilage

Recommended Water Intake

Humans are advised to consume a daily water intake of 8-12 glasses of total water, i.e. from drink and food, per day. Approximately 80% of total water intake comes from drinking liquids and the remaining 20% from eating foods.

How much water each human needs to drink can vary tremendously depending on gender, body size, physical activity level and heat exposure. When the volume of water loss is greater than the volume of water intake, dehydration occurs.

Your recommended daily intake of fluid for hydration can come from anything you drink such as tea, coffee, coke, fruit juice, even beer (though we don't recommend drinking two litres of beer each day). We also get approximately half a litre from the food we eat each day, most of that coming from fruit and vegetables. Of course, hydration alternatives to water do tend to have more calories, so it makes sense to get at least some of our daily fluid needs from water. Some studies have also indicated that drinking mostly water for your fluid intake is beneficial to the immune system, good for the skin, alleviates constipation, and can reduce the risk of kidney stones.


Coffee, Alcohol & Soft Drink

I
t is a common belief that the consumption of alcohol, caffeine and caffeinated soft drinks should not be counted as part of your recommended daily intake of fluid. While
alcohol can have a dehydrating effect on the body because it causes you to urinate and perspire more than normal, there is no scientific evidence to indicate that caffeine has the same effect. Do however limit your consumption of alcohol, caffeine and soft drink to avoid the other health risks associated with their excess consumption, and to leave plenty of room for the benefits of drinking good old fashioned water.                                     


Mild Dehydration Risks

Dehydration may be caused by restricted water intake, excessive water losses, or a combination of both factors. Mild dehydration is typically defined as loss of 2-5% of body weight due to water losses. Mild dehydration produces predictable effects in humans including weight loss, thirst, mouth dryness, and swallowing difficulty.

As dehydration becomes more severe, body tissues begin to shrink, the skin dries and wrinkles and fever may develop. Blood plasma volume and stroke volume decrease, which results in decreased blood flow to the skin.

The heart rate will increase in an effort to maintain an adequate cardiac output. Sweating will decrease or stop altogether, which limits the body’s ability to effectively dissipate heat. Consequently, body temperature will rise exponentially to dangerous levels. Urine production decreases, which hinders the body’s ability to excrete waste and causes toxic levels in the bloodstream to increase.


Severe Dehydration Risks

Severe dehydration (loss of > 10% of body weight from water losses) is characterized by extremely high body temperature, low cardiac output, and kidney failure. Risk for irreversible brain damage and shock increase due to these effects; these complications will ultimately lead to death if not quickly reversed.

Dehydration that results in 15% loss in body weight typically causes death from irreversible brain damage caused by high body temperature, cardiac arrhythmia (abnormal heart beat patterns) caused by low blood volume, or kidney failure with accompanying increases of toxins in the bloodstream.


The Signs and Symptoms of Dehydration

Symptoms of dehydration usually begin with thirst and progress to more alarming manifestations as the need for water becomes more dire. The initial signs and symptoms of mild dehydration in adults appear when the body has lost about 2% of its total fluid. These mild dehydration symptoms are often (but not limited to):

If the dehydration is allowed to continue unabated, when the total fluid loss reaches 5% the following effects of dehydration are normally experienced:
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased respiration
  • Decreased sweating
  • Decreased urination
  • Increased body temperature
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Muscle cramps
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Tingling of the limbs

When the body reaches 10% fluid loss emergency help is needed. 10% fluid loss and above is often fatal. Symptoms of severe dehydration include:

  • Muscle spasms
  • Vomiting
  • Racing pulse
  • Shriveled skin
  • Dim vision
  • Painful urination
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Seizures
  • Chest and Abdominal pain
  • Unconsciousness

Drink up!