Good Nutrition Archives - Wakunaga of America

Plant Sterol Esters Explained

So what are plant sterols? Actually, let’s back up…what is a “sterol?” Sterols are a family of molecules with a specific shape and structure. Phytosterols (“phyto” meaning plant) are sterols found in plants. They are similar in structure to cholesterol in the human body.1


When phytosterols are consumed, they compete with cholesterol absorption in digestive tract, blocking it and, as a result, lowering blood cholesterol levels. Some studies have found that getting just two grams of phytosterols a day may help you lower your LDL cholesterol by as much as 10%. Unfortunately though, most people aren’t getting nearly this much in their everyday diets. In fact, today, dietary intake of phytosterols ranges between 78 and 500 mg per day, even with food manufacturers enriching common foods we eat with these compounds.

Why are plant sterol esters such an integral part of healthy eating, and of lowering cholesterol? Let’s take a look.

More on Phytosterols

When it comes to lowering your cholesterol, your first strategy is usually to change the way you eat. You replace the unhealthy fats (trans and saturated) with healthy ones (monosaturated and polyunsaturated), and increase dietary fiber by emphasizing whole grains, fruits, and veggies. If these strategies haven’t worked to their fullest potential, or if you want to work on lowering your bad cholesterol even further, this is where plant sterol esters come into play.

As part of a heart-healthy eating program, eating foods containing plant sterols have been shown to reduce cholesterol up to 10% and LDL (bad) cholesterol up to 14%. This reduction is in addition to other cholesterol-lowering strategies you may have started, like eating more heart healthfully or taking a cholesterol-lowering medication. The effectiveness of plant sterols is so strong, so recognized, that the National Cholesterol Education Program recommends people with high cholesterol consume two grams of plant sterols every day.3

How to Incorporate Plant Sterol Esters in Your Diet

The National Institute of Health Reports that there are over 200 different kinds of sterols, and the highest concentrations are found naturally in vegetable oils, beans, and nuts. But what you might not know, is that many products also have added plant sterols. At the store for example, you might see orange juice or margarine advertising plant sterol content. Foods containing at least 0.65 grams per serving of plant sterols, eaten twice a day as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering cholesterol levels.4

The following foods contain the highest amounts of phytosterols (plant sterols):

Nuts: Nuts contain high amounts of phytosterols, ranging between 95 and 270 mg per 100 g serving of nuts. Studies have shown that a handful of most nuts can have a favorable impact on your lipid profile.5 If you’re going to load up on nuts, these nuts have the greatest amount of phytosterols: almonds, walnuts, and pistachios. Avoid eating salted nuts, since these may have adverse effects on your health.

Whole grains: Foods with whole grains, like barley, rye, and oatmeal, are high in many types of nutrients. Some whole grain products also contain high amounts of phytosterols, so aim for these: flaxseed, wheat germ, and rye bread. Flax seeds can be added as a nutritious oatmeal topping, as can wheat germ. As for the rye bread, try toasting it and adding nut butter, as opposed to a sugary jam, to reap the greatest benefits.

Fruits and Vegetables: Fruits and vegetables contain less phytosterols than nuts and whole grains, but they also contain lot’s of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other healthy ingredients that are great for cholesterol. These fruits and vegetables contain the greatest amount of phytosterols, so load up: broccoli, red onion, carrot, corn, Brussel sprouts, spinach, and strawberries.

Add Supplements

In addition to adding these plant sterol-rich foods to your diet, a supplement containing plant sterol esters (a.k.a. plant sterols) can help too. Studies have shown that, on average, supplements containing plant sterols produce an average decrease in LDL cholesterol of 5 percent to 15 percent, with greater decreases shown with higher doses (2 grams per day). Notably, there is also individual variation in how much people respond to these sterols. Genetics and other factors may play a role as well.

Foods containing at least 0.65g per serving of plant sterol esters, eaten twice a day, for a total intake of 1.3g, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering cholesterol levels.6

So if you’re looking to up your heart-health game, plant sterol esters can help support that goal. Try adding in some of the foods mentioned above, and a quality supplement, and reap the cardiovascular benefits.

This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.

 

Eat Well to Live Well: Eating for Preventative Care

People are bored, anxious, and stressed, so many of us have turned to food to provide some relief. In fact, by mid-April, popcorn sales rose almost 48%, pretzel sales were up 47%, and potato chip sales rose 30% compared to the same period last year, Bloomberg reported.1 So how are we supposed to reign in these cravings, what foods should we be reaching for instead, and if we think we are still missing healthy nutrients in our diet, what can we do? Let’s take a look.


Cravings

Spending more time at home means food is more easily accessible right now. *Ahem* we’re looking at you, fridge stocked with meats, cheeses, and ice cream bars. Snacking is more accepted because it’s something that gives us comfort. We are stressed because of uncertainty of what’s next, and bored because we are not engaging with friends and family like we used to. When we are anxious, stress hormones are released into the body and the flight-or-flight response is triggered. When we experience this response, our body thinks it is in danger, and needs fuel (food) for the extra tasks it may have to perform. The body can’t differentiate what is a real threat or a perceived threat. And so, we walk to the fridge.

One craving that many of us are most likely dealing with right now are sugar cravings. Instead of your usual oatmeal in the morning, maybe you are reaching for some chocolate chip toaster waffles instead. But then you reach for something else an hour later, something equally as sugary, because you weren’t necessarily full from just those toaster waffles. It’s a vicious cycle. But there are things you can do to curb these cravings a bit.

Give in (a little): Eat a bit of what you’re craving, maybe a small cookie or one chocolate chip toaster waffle instead of three. Enjoying a little of what you love can help you avoid feeling denied.

Grab some gum: If you want to avoid giving in to a sugar craving completely, try chewing a stick of gum. Research has shown that chewing gum can reduce food cravings.2

Reach for fruit: Keep some fruit on hand for whenever your sugar craving strikes, you’ll get some sweetness from the natural sugar found in fruit, but you’ll also get added fiber and nutrients.

Healthy Food Swaps

Here are some simple adjustments you can make to the foods you eat, to make things a bit healthier. You will still be eating delicious foods, but now they’ll also improve your health too:

Instead of chips: Instead of reaching for the bag of chips when you’re craving something salty, try reaching for a handful of nuts instead. That bag of chips is tempting, but it is high in sodium and is often high in saturated and trans fats. So when the urge for something crunchy and salty strikes, reach for those nuts. People who regularly eat nuts are 14 percent less likely to develop cardiovascular disease. Just don’t go overboard with them, because even though nuts contain heart-healthy unsaturated fats and fiber, there is such a thing as too much. A one-ounce handful is ideal.

Instead of soda: Instead of getting that caffeine boost from a can of soda, try making coffee or tea instead. A cup of coffee or some green or black tea are more beneficial than soda, because they are naturally sugar free and have antioxidants, which protect against cell damage, all while providing that much needed boost of energy. If you do have coffee though, watch out for the cream and sugar, because they are easy to load up on, and can turn your coffee from healthy to unhealthy very quickly.

Instead of baked goods: Sweets like donuts, Danish pastries, and cookies are delicious, but they get most of their delicious flavor from some not-so-healthy ingredients like sugar and white flour, margarine and hydrogenated oils, which are high in trans-fat. To satisfy your sweet tooth, try a piece of dark chocolate instead, which is high in antioxidants and flavanols, which can help to lower blood pressure.3

Instead of “white” side dishes: Potatoes, noodles, rice, and bread are typical side dishes served with meals. But if you eat these starchy carbohydrates a lot, it can lead to high blood sugar. If you choose to have a starchy side, select brown rice, whole grain pasta, or wild rice, and serve in small amounts. To that end, you can get just as much flavor from a side dish of green veggies, as you can with one of your typical “white” side dishes. Vegetables like kale, broccoli, and spinach are filled with fiber, low in carbohydrates, and supply vitamins K, A and C, along with other valuable nutrients.

Supplements to Try

If you feel like you are not getting all your necessary vitamins and nutrients in your daily diet, or just feel like you could use a little extra support, here are some key supplements that can come into play.

Aged Garlic Extract: With ample evidence for supporting healthy blood pressure levels and a strong heart (it reduces accumulation of plaque in the arteries), Aged Garlic Extract has a hefty resume for supporting immunity too. Odorless and aged to strengthen its antioxidant properties, this supplement is proven to support killer cell function and reduce symptoms and duration of colds and flus. It is recommended that you take 1,200 mg daily, to achieve the greatest results.4

Probiotics: Your gut microbiome affects everything from brain function to immunity. Your gut comprises about 70% of your immune system. Numerous studies have demonstrated that probiotic supplements that include strains of Lactobacillus and Bifodobacteria can help support the immune system and reduce the risk of infections, such as respiratory infections and ear infections.5 The healthy bacteria of the gut microbiome also impacts things like mood and cognitive function. Your gut contains 500 million neurons, which are connected to your brain through nerves in your nervous system. Your gut and brain are also connected through chemicals called neurotransmitters. Serotonin, for example, contributes to feelings of happiness and also helps control the body’s internal clock.6

When your microflora is imbalanced, your health suffers. Probiotics are important for replenishing and restoring microflora balance. Look for a supplement that is stable (should be fine at room temperature), heat and acid resistant, is suitable for travel, packaged in glass (to avoid antibiotic deterioration), and contains human bacterial strains, which implant more naturally in the intestines and produce better long-term outcomes67

Powdered Green Drink Mix: Many studies over the years have shown that green foods have marked beneficial effects on cholesterol, blood pressure, and immune response. Nutritionally, green superfoods, grasses, to be exact, are close cousins to dark leafy vegetables, and offer far greater levels of nutrient density. In other words, an ounce of these concentrated green foods contain much more of the beneficial phytonutrients that are fond in an ounce of green leafy vegetables.8 Make sure your powdered green drink mix contains certain powerhouse nutrients like barley grass, wheat grass, chlorella, and spirulina, and no sugar, for the best results for your health.

As long as you eat mindfully, make some quick swaps to minimize bad food choices, and supplement with a few quality nutrients, you can ride out this quarantine in the best way possible for your health. Stay at home and stay healthy!

This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.


 

References

  1. https://www.today.com/health/coronavirus-how-stop-overeating-avoid-weight-gain-self-quarantine-t177113
  2. https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/13-ways-to-fight-sugar-cravings#1
  3. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/5-hearthealthy-food-swaps
  4. https://kyolic.com/7-best-immunity-supplements-for-the-cold-flu-season/
  5. https://probiotics.com/know-more/askexperts-faqs
  6. https://probiotics.com/healthy-living-blog/gut-brain-highway
  7. https://kyolic.com/picking-the-right-probiotic/
  8. https://kyolic.com/forget-smoking-it-here-are-the-grasses-you-need-to-drink-asap/

 

Smarter Eating in the Summer

It’s easy to throw caution to the wind when you’re with family and friends, and disregard your previous healthy eating practices. And this is fine every once in a while. But if you eat these foods regularly during the summer, this could take a toll on your health. So we are going to take you through some tips for smarter eating in the summer.

The Importance of Good Nutrition

The food choices you make each day affect your health – how you feel today, tomorrow, and in the future. Good nutrition is an important part of leading a healthy lifestyle. Combined with physical activity, your diet can help you reach and maintain a healthy weight, reduce your risk of chronic diseases, and promote your overall health. Unhealthy eating habits have contributed to the obesity epidemic in the United States – about one-third of U.S. adults are obese and approximately 17% of children and teenagers are obese.1 Even for people at a healthy weight, a poor diet is associated with major health risks that can cause illness and even death. So what can you do?

Healthy Summer Eating Habits

Work more veggies into your diet: Try adding avocado to your sandwich. Or the next time you’re cooking fish, meat or poultry, try sautéing some peppers, onion, garlic, and tomatoes to serve alongside, or even on top of your protein. Not only will it add an amazing flavor, but your portion size will be bigger without too many added calories.

Just because we’re recommending adding more veggies to your plate, that doesn’t mean you should forget about fruit. Summer is a great time for fresh fruit. Add your favorite berries to your morning cereal or oatmeal for a healthy flavor boost. You can also grill peaches (yes, that’s possible) for a sweeter, more caramelized flavor, which can act as a tasty summertime dessert.

Include more salads: If you order salads when you go out to eat at restaurants, well done! That takes some serious willpower. But remember, not all salads are healthy, especially at a restaurant, or fast-food drive through. Salads that are loaded with toppings, dressing, and things like fried chicken are also loaded with extra calories and fat. But healthy salads don’t have to be boring. Pick a salad with a lot of veggies, top it off with a lean protein like grilled fish or chicken. And when it comes to your salad dressing, opt for something light, like olive oil and balsamic vinegar, or a vinaigrette.

Pace yourself at summer BBQs: It’s easy to “go ham” at summer BBQs. There is just so much food available, and you can go back as many times as you want. Beat the temptation to overeat by filling up on the healthy stuff first, before you reach for the ribs and mac and cheese. Try filling your plate first with fruits, veggies, and a nice green salad. Moderation is the name of the game, when it comes to things like summer BBQs. And try to recognize when you are full. When you have finished eating and are satisfied, get up and get moving! Play with your kids or get a badminton game going with your friends. When you’re engaging in an activity like badminton, frisbee or tag, you’re less tempted to keep eating.

Cook at home: People who cook at home more often, rather than eating out, tend to have healthier overall diets without higher food expenses. Some studies have also found that home-cooked dinners were associated with a “greater dietary compliance,” meaning the overall weekly diet met more of the federal guidelines for a healthy diet.2  Additionally, the average fast food order ranges between 1,100 to 1,200 calories total – which is almost all of a woman’s recommended daily calorie intake (1,600-2,400 calories) and almost two thirds of a man’s daily intake (2,000-3,000 calories).3  So if you can, try and cook at home a little more. You’ll save money, eat healthier, and save time.

Greens to the Rescue

Speaking of healthy home cooking, if you’re looking for a healthy recipe that tastes great, and is also packed with a serving of greens like barley grass, wheatgrass, chlorella, kelp and spirulina, check out these recipes here.4 In our Great Greens Healthy Living Guide, we have some tasty and nutritious recipes for you to try. You can whip up a Green Goodness Protein Shake, Superfood Pesto (which is great on grilled chicken and even spread on a sandwich!), and even Dark Chocolate Mousse, while getting a serving of greens.

So while you are indulging in all the best foods summer has to offer, try and keep these tips in mind, so you can still keep your health top-of-mind.

This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.

Top 4 Foods to Keep Your Immune System in Fighting Shape

More and more research is showing that your diet is a super important indicator of how long you’ll live. In light of that, and the fact that March is National Nutrition Month, we have put together a list of foods and drinks to add to your plate so you can get boost and strengthen your immune system.Here are some of the top foods to add to your diet:

Cruciferous vegetables: Cruciferous vegetables, including broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, and kale, have the unique ability to modify human hormones, and activate the body’s natural detoxification system. The cruciferous phytochemical sulforaphane has also been found to protect the blood vessel wall from inflammatory signaling that can lead to heart disease.1 These vegetables should be chewed thoroughly or eaten shredded, chopped or juiced, to release their healthy properties.

Speaking of greens, raw leafy green vegetables are helpful too. They are rich in the essential B-vitamin folate, plus lutein and zeaxanthin, which are carotenoids that protect the eyes from light damage2. These greens include collard greens, mustard greens, spinach or lettuce. Drinking your greens is an easy way to get them into your diet too, if you don’t feel like snacking on them. Look for a powdered greens drink mix that contains organic and naturally-sourced grasses, ancient grains, fruits, vegetables, and alkalizing superfoods like chlorella and spirulina which will support your immune system.

Fatty Fish: We’ve always heard that fish is considered “brain food,” and with good reason! Research shows that compounds in fish called carotenoids can protect against some neurological diseases. Also, a study published in the BMJ (British Medical Journal) reinforces that the omega-3s in fatty fish-like salmon, tuna, and sardines—can help you live a longer, healthier life. After analyzing data from more than 2,600 American adults with the average age of 74, researchers from Tufts University found that people with higher levels of omega-3s in their blood (meaning they ate at least two servings of fish per week) had an 18 percent lower risk of unhealthy aging.3 This means they were less likely to suffer from chronic disease, experience cognitive decline, or having problems living their day-to-day life.

Nuts: Are almonds one of your favorite snacks? Well they could be adding years to your life! Two studies from the Harvard School of Public Health both found that the more often people ate nuts, the lower their risk of dying young. In fact, people who ate nuts twice daily were 20 percent less likely to die from heart disease and respiratory diseases, than those who don’t.4 Nuts are full of nutrients that protect your heart and fight inflammation, such as unsaturated fats, fiber, folate, vitamin E, potassium, magnesium, calcium, and antioxidants.

Berries: Who knew there could be such huge health benefits in such small packages? Berries are rich in antioxidants, including vitamins A, C, and E, which protect your cells from damage and disease. Some berries also contain resveratrol, which helps to lower inflammation and prevent clogged arteries. Additionally, berries contain nutrients called flavonoids, which give berries their brilliant colors and may help protect against inflammation and heart disease.5    Try and snack on some of these in your spare time: blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries.

Besides these foods above, incorporating a probiotic supplement can be helpful in keeping your digestive system running smoothly as you add these healthy foods to your diet, and can also promote healthy immune function. Look for one that is shelf-stable, clinically tested, DNA sequence verified, and one that does not require refrigeration.

While we are on the subject of healthy eating, there are many different diets out right now, with new ones being introduced every month. We recommend, instead of going all in with the current “fad” diet, start by making small, incremental changes in your life. For example, start by taking a closer look at your food, for instance, and making some healthy swaps. Then move onto the next area for improvement. Building slowly over time will help you create a new lifestyle in a relatively painless way, that you will be able to stick with.

References

  1. https://www.verywellhealth.com/best-foods-for-longevity-4005852
  2. https://www.verywellhealth.com/best-foods-for-longevity-4005852
  3. https://www.prevention.com/food-nutrition/g20473901/5-foods-to-eat-to-live-longer/
  4. https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1307352
  5. https://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/news/20160404/berries-nutrition-perks#1

This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.

What is Intermittent Fasting?

We wanted to dive into this diet and break down what it is, how it works, and its pros and cons, so that you will have all information necessary to decide if this is something that you would like to try.

What is Intermittent Fasting

When was the last time you fasted…on purpose. If you’re like me, when you first read about this diet, your gut reaction was probably along the lines of “why would I ever want to purposely fast! That sounds horrible.” As it turns out, there are some pretty clear benefits to intermittent fasting. Fasting can be very beneficial for weight loss, focus, energy, and the promotion of less insulin resistance in the individual.

The newest fasting diet trend is called Intermittent Fasting. This type of fasting pushes your fasting window from a regular 12 hour fasting window (the amount of time between dinner and the next day’s breakfast) to anywhere between 14 and 20 hours1. Sounds pretty extreme, right? But each of us usually “fasts” everyday while we sleep. Intermittent fasting can be as simple as extending this a little longer.

With intermittent fasting, you are not actually cutting calories, you are simply shifting them to later in the day. If you normally eat 2,000 calories/day, you won’t all of a sudden decrease down to 1,500 calories, you will just push your 2,000 calories closer together. You eat more per meal but with less meals, while keeping your caloric intake the same.

Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

Here are some of the benefits typically experienced while intermittent fasting:

  • Weight loss: Intermittent fasting may drive weight loss by lowering insulin levels. The body breaks down carbohydrates into glucose, which cells use for energy or convert into fat and store for later use. Insulin is a hormone that allows cells to take in glucose. Insulin levels drop when a person is not eating. During a period of fasting, it is possible that decreasing insulin levels can cause cells to release their glucose stores as energy2. Repeating this process regularly, like with intermittent fasting, may lead to weight loss.
  • Lower cholesterol: According to a study published in Obesity magazine, intermittent fasting may help lower total cholesterol, as well as LDL (bad) cholesterol, when done in combination with endurance exercise. The researchers in this study also noticed that intermittent fasting reduced the presence of triglycerides, which are fats found in the blood that can lead to stroke, heart attack, or heart disease3.
  • Reduced insulin resistance: Intermittent fasting may also help stabilize blood sugar levels in people with diabetes because it resets insulin, though more research is needed. The idea is that restricting calories may improve insulin resistance, which is a marker of type 2 diabetes. Fasting encourages insulin levels to fall, which may play a role in reducing the risk for type 2 diabetes, notes a study published in Nutrients magazine4.

These benefits sound all well and good, but what about the drawbacks? Well, a very notable aspect of this diet is its dropout rate. In a recent study evaluating intermittent fasting, which was published in JAMA Internal Medicine magazine, 38% of the 100 people involved in the study dropped out5. It is a tough diet to stick too. There is also a strong biological “push” to want to overeat after a fasting period, which could derail progress pretty quickly. Also, someone who would like to start this diet will need very strong willpower, along with a strong social support system to endure these fasting periods long-term.

One of the top tips for those embarking on the intermittent fasting journey is to make sure that you are still getting all of your vital nutrients in. You may need to add a supplement or two to your day-to-day routine, just to be safe. We recommend adding a powdered green drink mix to aid with digestion and help keep your immunity on track. A quality probiotic can also be helpful too, especially one with enzymes, which can help assist the body’s natural ability to break down proteins, fats, carbohydrates, and dairy into absorbable nutritional elements.

If you are considering intermittent fasting, make sure to discuss it with your doctor. Skipping meals can be dangerous to people with certain conditions.

References

  1. https://www.forbes.com/sites/jennifercohen/2018/06/01/the-trendiest-diets-of-2018-will-they-work-for-you/#11f979dd3aca
  2. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323605.php#weight-loss
  3. https://www.everydayhealth.com/diet-nutrition/possible-intermittent-fasting-benefits/
  4. https://www.everydayhealth.com/diet-nutrition/possible-intermittent-fasting-benefits/
  5. https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/not-so-fast-pros-and-cons-of-the-newest-diet-trend

This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.

What Antioxidants Do For Your Health

Antioxidants are substances that can prevent or slow damage to cells caused by free radicals, which are unstable molecules that the body produces as a reaction to environmental and other pressures. Free radicals are waste substances produced by cells as the body processes food and reacts to the environment. If the body cannot process and remove free radicals efficiently, oxidative stress can result, which harms the body1. Antioxidants are known to help neutralize free radicals in our bodies.

Where do antioxidants come from?

In terms of sources of antioxidants, there are only two sources to speak of. Antioxidants are either found in some plant-based foods, which are called phytonutrients, or either they are produced by our bodies.  An example of some antioxidants that are produced by the body, and can also be supplemented in pill form, would be vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, selenium, and manganese. And flavonoids, flavones, catechins, polyphenols, and phytoestrogens are all types of antioxidants that can be found in plant-based foods.

What is oxidative stress

Part of fully understanding antioxidants and their role in our bodies is also understanding what oxidative stress is. Oxidative stress, which is a normal part of the aging process, is an imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants in the body, which can lead to cell and tissue damage. The body’s cells produce free radicals during normal metabolic processes. However, cells also produce antioxidants that neutralize these free radicals. Usually, the body is able to maintain a balance between antioxidants and free radicals. But when there is an imbalance, like when the body produces too many free radicals, say, this can cause oxidative stress. It is the job of antioxidants to neutralize or ‘mop up’ these extra free radicals that can harm our cells. Your body’s ability to produce antioxidants is controlled by your genetic makeup and influenced by your exposure to environmental factors, like diet and smoking3. Our modern lifestyles, which include more environmental pollution and less quality foods in our diets, means that we are exposed to more free radicals now than ever before.

Interestingly, your body’s internal production of antioxidants may not be enough to neutralize all of these free radicals. So one way you can help your body to defend itself, is by increasing your dietary intake of antioxidants4. We briefly mentioned a few sources of antioxidants earlier, but we are going to elaborate a little, and talk about some antioxidant-rich foods you can easily incorporate into your diet.

Tomatoes: Tomatoes contain a pigment called lycopene, which is responsible for a tomatoes’ red color. As it turns out, this pigment is also a powerful antioxidant. Tomatoes, in all their forms (including canned tomatoes/tomato juice/tomato soup) are a major source of lycopene. Yes, this even includes ketchup! (But keep it limited due to the added sugars).

Citrus fruits: Oranges, grapefruits, lemons, and limes all possess lot’s of natural substances that are important for disease protection, like carotenoids, and flavonoids (types of antioxidants). As a side note, it is always better to eat these fruits in their natural form, because some of the potency is lost when the juice is extracted.

Tea: Black tea, green tea, and even oolong tea all have antioxidant properties, though the most potent source of antioxidants is in green tea, since it has the most catechins (type of antioxidant).

In addition to these antioxidant-rich foods, another way to up your intake of antioxidants is through a powdered green drink mix. This is a quick and easy way to give your antioxidant levels a boost, and is very simple, since you can just pour a powdered greens blend into a bottle of water, shake or stir and get going! We recommend looking for one that contains ingredients like natural grasses (barley grass and wheatgrass), ancient grains, spirulina, chlorella, kelp, and other superfoods, with no added sugar or artificial flavors. Superfood greens can not only give you a boost of antioxidants, but can also support a healthy immune function.

Protect your body from the inside out, and try adding these antioxidant foods, as well as a quality powdered green drink mix, to your diet today!

References

  1. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/301506.php
  2. https://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/10-super-foods#1
  3. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324863.php
  4. https://www.netdoctor.co.uk/healthy-eating/a10835/antioxidants-and-oxidative-stress/

This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.

All About Inflammation

Inflammation helps the body by producing white blood cells and other substances. When the inflammation process starts, chemicals in the white blood cells are released into the blood and the affected tissues to protect the body. The chemicals increase blood flow to the infected or injured body areas, causing redness and warmth in those locations. These chemicals can also cause leaking of fluids into tissues, resulting in swelling. This protective process can also stimulate nerves and tissues, causing pain1.  So how much do we actually know about inflammation, and how it affects the body?

Different Types of Inflammation

Scientists, over the years, have searched for commonalities behind some of our most common and prevalent diseases, like Alzheimer’s, arthritis, diabetes, and more,  and have zeroed in on one factor that seems to play into them all: inflammation. Now, inflammation happens to everyone, whether you’re aware of it or not. Inflammation is classified into two different types, acute inflammation, and chronic inflammation.

  • Acute inflammation usually occurs for a short, albeit severe, duration, and it usually resolves in about a week or two. Symptoms oftentimes appear quickly. This type of inflammation can restore your body to its state before injury or illness. It may include heat of a fever or warmth in the affected area. Acute inflammation is a healthy and necessary function that helps the body to attack bad bacteria and other foreign substances anywhere in the body. Once the body has healed, the inflammation usually goes away.
    • Some examples of acute inflammation include bronchitis, an infected/ingrown toenail, a sore throat, skin cuts, and dermatitis.
  • Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, is a slower and less severe for of inflammation. It typically lasts longer than six weeks, and can occur when there’s no injury, and doesn’t always end when the injury/illness is healed. Unfortunately, it can continue to attack healthy areas of the body, unless the body’s immune response “turns off.” Chronic inflammation has been linked to autoimmune disorders and even to chronic stress2.
    • Some examples of conditions that cause chronic inflammation include inflammatory arthritis, asthma, periodontitis (inflammation of the gums and other supporting teeth structures), and inflammatory bowel disease (IBS).

Symptoms of Inflammation

The specific symptoms that you have will depend on where in the body the inflammation is found, and what is causing it. Nevertheless, there are five classic markers for inflammation, which are heat, pain, redness, swelling, and even loss of function. In some autoimmune conditions, your immune system can trigger inflammation that affects your skin, leading to rashes. In other types, it attacks specific glands, which affects hormone levels in the body. With rheumatoid arthritis, for example, your immune system attacks your joints, and you may experience joint pain, stiffness, fatigue, numbness, tingling, and a limited range of motion from inflammation. With IBS, some common symptoms include diarrhea, stomach pain, weight loss, anemia, and bloating.

Ways to Help Fight Inflammation

There are several things you can do yourself, in order to help fight inflammation. The first is to monitor the foods that you eat, because changes to diet really can help! To reduce inflammation, you should limit these three things in your diet: sugar, saturated fat, and refined carbohydrates. Many studies have found that eating foods high in sugar can cause inflammation in the body. When we eat processed sugars, it triggers the release of “inflammatory messengers,” called cytokines. Next, is saturated fats. Saturated fats can trigger inflammation in fat cells called adipose tissue, which increases the inflammation associated with arthritis. Consumption of refined carbohydrates should be reduced, because not only has most of their fiber been removed, but they provide very little “nutrition.” They have also been linked to high levels of inflammatory markers in the blood3.

Another item that might help you to reduce inflammation is to start taking a supplement containing turmeric. Turmeric is sold as a spice and also as a supplement. Dozens of studies and trials have shown that curcumin (the main active ingredient in turmeric) has anti-inflammatory properties. In addition, curcumin has been found to increase the antioxidant capacity of the body. The reason antioxidants are so important, is that they protect your body from free radicals, which can cause oxidative stress to the body4. Curcumin is great because it can help to neutralize these free radicals, due to its chemical structure, and it also boosts the activity of the body’s antioxidant enzymes. When choosing a curcumin supplement, look for one that is formulated to be bioavailable (natural curcumin does not absorb well and is rapidly eliminated from the body). For example, Kyolic Curcumin supplement contains Meriva® Turmeric Complex that binds curcumin with phosphatidylcholine to increase bioavailability and absorption.

Inflammation is a necessary part of the body’s healing process, and is usually nothing to worry about. But when inflammation is chronic, it can turn into a serious health problem. Watch your diet and take care of your body to keep your immune system in balance. If you are experiencing ongoing inflammation, you should consult with your healthcare professional for more information.

References

  1. https://www.verywellhealth.com/signs-of-inflammation-4580526
  2. https://www.healthline.com/health/inflammation#symptoms
  3. https://www.lifespan.org/lifespan-living/foods-fighting-inflammation-arthritis-and-joint-pain
  4. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/top-10-evidence-based-health-benefits-of-turmeric#section11

This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.

Omega 3 Vs Omega 6: Is One Better than the Other?

Research also suggests that these hunter-gatherers were free of modern inflammatory diseases like heart disease, and diabetes, to name a few, that are some of our primary causes of death today1

When the industrial revolution began, there was actually a shift in the ratio of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in peoples’ diets. Consumption of omega-6 fatty acids increased at the expense of omega-3 fatty acids. This change was due to the rise of the modern vegetable oil industry and the increased use of cereal grains as feed for livestock2 (which in turn changed the fatty acid profile of meat that humans ate). As vegetable oil consumption rose pretty dramatically, it had a major effect on the ratio of omega-6s and omega-3s in the American diet. This was so dramatic, in fact, that between 1935 and 1939, the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids was reported to be 8.4:1. Today, estimates of this ratio range from an overage of 10:1 to 20:1.

The Essentials

When it comes to these fatty acids, your body does not have the enzyme to produce them, so you must get them from your diet. If you do not get omega-6 and omega-3 fats from your diet, you will develop a deficiency and may become sick. That is why many refer to these fats as “essential” fatty acids. However, these fatty acids are different than most other fats. They are not just used for energy or stored, they are biologically active and have important roles in processes like blood clotting and inflammation. Omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids have different effects on the body. Scientists believe that omega-6s are pro-inflammatory, while omega-3s are anti-inflammatory3. Of course, inflammation is key to our survival. It helps protect our body from infection and injury, which is why Omega-6s are necessary, but it can also cause severe damage and contribute to disease when it is chronic or excessive. In fact, chronic inflammation may be one of the leading causes of some of the most serious modern diseases. It is hypothesized by some scientists that a diet high in omega-6s but low in omega-3s increases inflammation, while a diet that includes balanced amounts of each reduces inflammation4 (Russo, 2009). Those who follow a Western diet (high intake of red meat, processed meat, pre-packaged foods, butter, fried foods…etc.) are typically eating too many omega-6s relative to omega-3s.

Avoid Omega-3 Deficiencies 

The bottom line is that we need to get more omega-3s in our diet. This fatty acid is key to having a healthy heart and well-functioning cells throughout the body. Most Americans do not get the recommended amount of omega-3s, which is about 1-3 grams per day, according to the American Heart Association5 (Schiff, 2018). A deficiency in omega-3 can manifest in the following ways:

  • Rough, dry skin
  • Dry, brittle hair and dandruff
  • Soft, peeling nails
  • Excessive thirst
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Difficulty paying attention
  • Excessive mood swings, depression, and anxiety

We normally think of seafood when it comes to getting our omega-3s in, which is completely accurate, since fish (salmon, mackerel, seabass, oysters, shrimp, sardines…etc.) have a very high concentration of omega-3s, but certain meats are also great sources of the preformed omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. One problem today though, is that animals are usually fed grain-based feeds containing soy and corn, which reduces their omega-3 content, so the polyunsaturated fats in these meats are mostly omega-6s6. So if you can afford it, grass-fed meat is definitely the better choice. In that vein, it is also a good idea to buy pasteurized or omega-3 enriched eggs, which are higher in omega-3s, compared to eggs from hens raised on grain-based feeds7.

Apart from your diet, another great way to up your omega-3 intake is with a quality supplement. Look for one that contains omega-3 fish oil with EPA and DHA, and vitamin E, which not only supports cholesterol, triglycerides and circulation, but also supports the body’s natural anti-inflammatory response.

References

  1. https://chriskresser.com/how-too-much-omega-6-and-not-enough-omega-3-is-making-us-sick/
  2. https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/71/1/179S/4729338?ijkey=5c7af875f3dc71a303f7df78c52145e8b7c31643
  3. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/optimize-omega-6-omega-3-ratio
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19022225
  5. https://www.schiffvitamins.com/blogs/health-wellness/lack-of-omega-3
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16500874
  7. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/pastured-vs-omega-3-vs-conventional-eggs

This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.

Tips for Tipping the Immune Balance Scales to Healthy

Immune Boosting Diet

To help keep your immune system healthy all year long, focus on a balanced eating plan, get enough sleep, and work on stress management. Eating healthily can go a long way in keeping you and your immune system in fighting shape. Good nutrition is essential to a strong, resilient immune system. Here are some items to start including in your diet, to help boost your immunity:

Phytosterols: Phytosterols are compounds found in plants that resemble cholesterol (i.e. are structurally similar to cholesterol). When phytosterols are consumed, they compete with cholesterol absorption in the digestive tract, blocking it, and as a result, lowering cholesterol levels. Some studies have found that getting just two grams of phytosterols per day may help you lower your LDL cholesterol1 (Leech, 2019). Unfortunately, though, most people are not getting nearly this much in their everyday diets. Foods that contain considerable amounts of phytosterols include nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, and legumes.

Protein: Protein is part of the body’s defense mechanism. Work on adding a variety of protein-rich foods to your diet, like seafood, lean meat, poultry, eggs, beans, nuts, and seeds.

Vitamin A: Vitamin A helps to regulate the immune system and protects from infections by keeping skin and tissues in the mouth, stomach, intestines, and respiratory system healthy2 (Wolfram, 2017). Get this immune-boosting vitamin from foods like sweet potatoes, carrots, kale, spinach, red bell peppers, apricots, eggs, or foods labeled “vitamin A fortified,” such as milk or cereal.

Vitamin C: Vitamin C protects your body from infection by stimulating the formation of antibodies and boosting immunity. Try adding foods like oranges, grapefruit, tangerines, red bell peppers, papaya, strawberries, and tomato juice, to your diet.

Vitamin E: Vitamin E works as an antioxidant, neutralizing free radicals to improve immune function. Vitamin E rich food include fortified cereals, almonds, sunflower seeds, vegetable oils like sunflower oil, hazelnuts, and peanut butter.

Zinc: Zinc helps the immune system work properly and may help wounds heal. Zinc can be found in lean meat, poultry, seafood, milk, whole grains, beans, seeds, and nuts.

Less Stress and More Sleep

Stress and sleep also play a significant role in keeping your immune system balanced. Ongoing stress makes us susceptible to illness and disease because when under stress, the brain sends out defense signals, which then release an array of hormones that not only get us ready for emergency situations but depresses our immunity at the same time3 (Goliszek, 2019). Because the effects of stress are cumulative, even ordinary, day-to-day activities can eventually lead to more serious health issues. So it is important to be aware of our stress, and to find ways to mitigate it. It is difficult to set out a one-size-fits-all gameplan for dealing with stress, since what stresses one person out may not phase another, but there are certain things that are helpful for everyone. Meditation can help the body and mind to relax, and can act as a buffer to protect the body from the harmful effects of stress. Social support can help too. People with strong social support systems have better overall health and are more resistant to infections. Hold onto those friendships!

Poor sleep can affect your immunity as well. While more sleep won’t necessarily prevent you from getting sick, skimping on it could adversely affect your immune system, leaving you more susceptible to a bad cold or the flu. To stay healthy, try to get the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep each night. This will help keep your immune system in good shape. If you typically work late at work, or go out late a lot, try to make up for lost sleep with naps. If possible, take a 30 minute nap in the afternoon, which has been shown to decrease stress and offset the negative effects that sleep deprivation has on the immune system4 (National Sleep Foundation, 2019).

If your diet is lacking in the vitamins and nutrients mentioned, you can add a supplement to help bridge the gaps. There are also supplements that can help to balance your immune system. Look for one that contains plant sterols and sterolins in a ratio of 100:1, this has been clinically proven to help restore, strengthen, and balance your body’s immune system.

Keep your immune system strong by incorporating these healthy lifestyle habits and reap the benefits of vibrant health!

References

  1. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/phytosterols-good-or-bad#heart-health
  2. https://www.eatright.org/health/wellness/preventing-illness/protect-your-health-with-immune-boosting-nutrition
  3. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/how-the-mind-heals-the-body/201411/how-stress-affects-the-immune-system
  4. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/how-sleep-affects-your-immunity

This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.