ATTENTION MEN: Discover what foods and habits will raise your testosterone levels!

For men, having enough testosterone is about more than being macho or “ripped,” it’s about health and quality of life. Testosterone is a hormone (a cellular messenger) that plays a vital role in bone density, red blood cell production, mental acuity, metabolism, muscle strength/mass, and sex drive. While testosterone levels naturally start to decline after age 30, there are a number of nutrients and actions that promote the highest levels of testosterone possible at any given age. The key is Creation Based Living (eating real food, getting sunshine, exercising, and getting enough rest), but I’ve broken down some of the specifics as they relate to testosterone below:

Nutrients

  • Magnesium – Most Americans are at least 100 mg deficient of this important nutrient. Magnesium has dose dependent, positive effects on testosterone levels. Good sources of magnesium include: swiss chard, spinach, collard greens, halibut, pumpkin seeds, and mustard greens.
  • Zinc – Zinc deficiency contributes to low testosterone levels. Zinc is an important co-factor in testosterone production. Testosterone levels increase with zinc supplementation but stabilize after adequate zinc is obtained.
  • Vitamin D – Supplementation with cholecalciferol (vitamin D3) corresponds with increased blood levels of testosterone. In studies, testosterone levels were dose dependent but plateaued at higher levels of vitamin D supplementation. Vitamin D produced by the skin during sun exposure may be one of the best ways to boost testosterone levels, as 15 minutes in the sun can result in up to 20,000 IU of water soluble vitamin D.
  • Vitamins C – Also known as ascorbic acid, vitamin C has been shown to improve sperm quality, as well as lower cortisol levels. Cortisol is a hormone that is very similar to testosterone but has the opposite effects. Cortisol is released in response to mental and physical stress and directly corresponds to decreased levels of testosterone. Vitamin C may help maintain testosterone levels by protecting against excess cortisol production during extreme stress.

Exercise

  • Weight-loss/lean muscle mass – Obesity is linked to low testosterone and can result in a vicious cycle of ongoing weight gain. The best way to break the cycle is by eating a healthy diet and following an exercise routine.
  • Resistance Training/Heavy lifting – Lifting heaving weights is associated with increased testosterone production. High intensity exercises activate the central nervous and endocrine systems — jump starting the body’s testosterone output. To maximize testosterone levels, perform compound movements like squats, dead lifts, and bench presses, and lift with heavy enough weight that you can only perform 3-8 reps per set.

Rest

  • Sleep – Getting enough sleep is vital for a healthy reproductive system, keeping cortisol levels low, and boosting testosterone. Aim for seven to nine hours of quality sleep every night.
  • Meditation – Lowering mental stress is an essential part of maintaining optimum testosterone levels and overall health. Meditation is a proven technique for reducing anxiety, increasing calmness, and lowering cortisol levels.

In order to further limit cortisol production and excess estrogen, avoid the following:

  • Xenoestrogens – These are organic and synthetic compounds that imitate estrogen and may disturb the body’s appropriate estrogen/testosterone balance. Xenoestrogens include chemicals like BPA, phthalates, and PCBs.
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Excessive caffeine consumption
  • Excessive mental and physical stress

The take away: what’s good for your manliness is good for your whole body!

ReferencesMagnesium Supplementation in Older MenMagnesium and Testosterone Levels in AthletesAdequate Zinc and TestosteroneZinc Status and TestosteroneVitamin D Supplementation and Testosterone LevelsVitamin D and Dose DependentVitamin C and Cortisol,Testosterone Levels in Health Men: Facts and ConstructsObesity and Low TestosteroneThe Association of Testosterone and Sleep

Originally posted 2013-03-13 23:25:11.

Natural vs. Synthetic Vitamin C

vitamin cWhile generally, unprocessed foods are healthier than manufactured ones, science is often successful at manufacturing exact replicas of micronutrients (like vitamin C).  Synthesization in a lab, rather than through natural biological processes in God’s creation, does not automatically make something unhealthy or inferior.  Manufactured versions of naturally occurring micronutrients can still be considered “natural” when they integrate seamlessly with natural biological processes.  The evidence suggests that such is the case with vitamin C.

Every so often people tell me that synthesized vitamin C is not as effective as naturally occurring vitamin C or vitamin C “complexes.”  All current studies, however, indicate that synthesized vitamin C and naturally occurring vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid) are identical; they have no difference in molecular structure or bioavailability.

It’s true that vitamin C occurs in plants as part of a nutrient “complex”  and that the nutrients in that complex may provide additional benefits, but the ascorbic acid component in the complex is the same as synthesized ascorbic acid.  Moreover, most mammals (other than humans) are capable of producing vitamin C internally, and when they do, it’s as pure L-ascorbic acid, not a complex of any other nutrients.  The L-ascorbic acid that these mammals produce is effective at carrying out all the important functions of vitamin C, like collagen and carnitine synthesis.

That being said, it’s clear that vitamin C isn’t the only health promoting factor in vitamin C rich foods.  Vitamin C in whole foods works synergistically with a number of other nutrients for increased health benefits.  For example, a study that compared vitamin C supplementation to consumption of orange juice with an equal amount of Vitamin C found that orange juice provided superior anti-oxidant protection.  Whole foods like oranges contain hundreds of healthy phytonutrients that researchers are only just starting to understand.  There’s no debate that a diet rich in whole foods offers tremendous benefits over a diet of processed foods that depends heavily on micronutrient supplementation.  Yet, in and of itself, synthesized vitamin C is exactly the same as natural occurring vitamin C and functions the same in the body.

Synthesized ascorbic acid can have a valid place in a creation-based diet.  Vitamin C supplementation is an affordable and easy way to ensure that the body is getting enough of one of the most important nutrients for optimum health.  In addition to being a powerful anti-oxidant, Vitamin C is essential for a healthy cardiovascular system, normal metabolic function, and collagen production (one of the most abundant proteins in the body).  When applied topically, synthesized vitamin C is also affective at reducing UV ray induced skin damage.   The benefits of supplemental vitamin C, specifically, are also supported by an ever growing number of studies.  Thus, when it comes to my personal health, I’ll keep eating a creation-based diet, high in natural sources of vitamin C, as well as supplementing with at least 500 mg of vitamin C daily.

References:

Originally posted 2013-03-13 23:00:47.

Butter From Grass Fed Cows

butterExtra virgin olive oil (EVOO) has tremendous health benefits — studies indicate that extra virgin olive oil may promote cardiovascular, bone, digestive, and cellular health.  It’s full of vitamin E, monounsaturated fat, and a number of antioxidant phytochemicals.   These qualities make EVOO difficult to top in terms of a healthy fat source, but if there was any other fatty food that came close, I’d say that butter from grass-fed cows would be it.

Butter isn’t traditionally considered a healthy food.  It’s been given a bad rap because of its high fat content, but don’t let that stop you from missing out on butter’s amazing nutrient content!  Just because a food is high in fat doesn’t mean that it causes people to gain excess fat (refined and engineered foods do that).  While butter from unpastured cows lacks important nutrients (and for that reason should be avoided like all empty calories), butter from pastured cows (grass-fed) contains nutrients that support a healthy cardiovascular system, strong bones, a healthy metabolism, and that reduce inflammation and prevent “leaky gut syndrome.”  Here are a few of the incredible nutrients contained in butter from grass-fed cows and what they do for your body:

  • Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) — is only found in meat and dairy products from grass-fed animals.  Studies indicate that CLA promotes lean muscle mass and healthy metabolic function.  CLA also has anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic properties.
  • Vitamin K2 (MK-4) — is different than the more commonly known vitamin K1.  It was recently discovered that vitamin K2 has an important role in preventing calcification in the arteries and, at the same time, promoting strong bones and teeth.  Vitamin K2 accomplishes this by activating osteocalcin to deposit calcium where it belongs.  Butter from grass-fed cows is one of the best known sources of vitamin K2, a vitamin that we don’t produce internally.
  • Vitamin A — is a crucial, fat-soluble antioxidant.  Vitamin A is important for eye function, cellular health, red blood cell production, bone health, and maintaining a robust immune system.
  • Butyric Acid — is found in such high quantities in butter that it borrowed butter’s name. This little known nutrient is one of the body’s preferred sources of energy.  Butyric acid is rapidly digested in the intestines and used by the body as fuel.  It’s known to decrease intestinal permeability, which is good because that means fewer harmful molecules or organisms are absorbed into the bloodstream.   Butyric acid also reduces inflammation and improves metabolic function.
  • Saturated fat — isn’t nearly as bad as most people think it is.  Saturated fat is one of best sources of energy (which is why this is the form the body stores fat in). It’s easily burned by the body’s cells and doesn’t cause an insulin spike.  Saturated fat is also a good source of fat energy because it doesn’t throw off the body’s omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid ratio.  Saturated fat only becomes problematic when it’s consumed from refined foods or meat and dairy products that aren’t from grass-fed animals.

Cows were meant to eat grass on the open pasture.  When they eat nutritious food (it doesn’t get much healthier than grass), they produce nutritious milk.  The cream from nutritious milk makes the healthiest, nutrient-dense butter.  Happy cows = happy people.  EAT real food.

References: Effects of CLA on Fat-MassCLA affects MitochondriaK2 Improves Bone StrengthButyrate Attenuates Inflammation

Originally posted 2013-03-13 22:34:36.

On Using Weight Lifting Straps

wriststraps2Should you use weight lifting straps for exercises like dead lifts, pull-downs, rows, and pull-ups?  The answer is yes.

Personally,  I wish I would have known about weight lifting straps when I first started lifting.
Weight lifting straps aren’t the wimpy way out and they aren’t cheating.  Straps simply help you target the muscles you are trying to target.  While grip strength is important, the main point of compound exercises like the dead lift isn’t to develop stronger hands, it’s to build strong leg, core, and back muscles.

Using straps will allow you to max out the muscles you’re trying to target.  As you lift heavier weight, your grip strength (forearm muscles) will not be able to outlast the ability of your large muscle groups to perform repetitions with heavy loads.  A weakened grip can cause you to drop weights or compromise form — both can lead to injury.

Straps are especially useful if you workout a lot or participate in a number of different sports.  For example, I enjoy rock climbing, and if I don’t use straps for weight lifting during the week, my grip strength is shot when I’m ready to climb on the weekend. Use straps to preserve your grip strength when you need it.

There are a couple of ways to develop grip strength without going completely strapless:

  • Begin your workout without straps, but use the straps as soon as you feel your grip start to weaken.
  • Target your grip strength with separate exercises, like wrist flexes or roll-ups.

The take away: Use straps for heavy pulling exercises.  They’ll help you lift heavier, get stronger, and stay more active.

Originally posted 2013-03-13 22:24:05.

How does creatine work?

Creatine is one of the most researched weight lifting and sport supplements on the market. While many remain skeptical about what creatine is or how it works, the science behind creatine is pretty simple.

Creatine is a molecule made up of amino-acids (proteins) and occurs naturally in the human body.  The liver and kidneys synthesize creatine and add phosphate to it in order to produce a rapid source of energy for the skeletal muscles and brain.  With the added phosphate, creatine becomes phosphocreatine and can supply the phosphate needed to “reload” adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the body’s ultimate fuel.

Adenosine triphosphate is composed of three phosphate ions; when one of these is cleaved, the breaking of the chemical bond produces energy and an adenosine diphosphate (ADP) is left behind.  During intense bouts of activity, the muscles and brain use stored phosphocreatine to rapidly supply a phosphate group to ADP, so that it becomes an ATP again and can provide more energy.

While the body can produce its own creatine, production is dependent on whether or not all the amino-acid building blocks are available (l-arginine, glycine, and l-methionine). Creatine levels are directly related to dietary intake, and meat and dairy are the only natural sources of creatine in its complete form.  Thus, vegetarians or people who eat little meat have low levels of stored creatine and less energy for intense activities.  In one study, vegetarians who supplemented their diets with creatine gained better memory.  A number of other studies have focused on supplemental creatine’s effect on strength training and intense sports.  By supplying the muscles with ample energy, creatine allows the muscles to work harder.  When the muscles work harder and have enough protein, they get bigger and stronger.

The lesson: More creatine means more energy for intense activities. Creatine’s not a steroid or a stimulant.  It’s basically a vehicle that delivers the phosphate needed to “reload” ATP.  To get more creatine in your diet, eat plenty of meat and dairy from grass-fed animals or use a creatine supplement like CBH Micronized Creatine.  The micronized stuff mixes easily in water, but non-micronized is fine for adding to smoothies.

References: Effect of Supplemental Creatine on Vegetarians, The Effects of Creatine Supplementation for Muscles Gains

Originally posted 2013-03-09 00:35:00.

Is brown rice toxic or nutritious? It all depends.

Rice is one of those foods that people seem to be on two sides of the fence about. For most, it’s a sacred source of nutrition; for others it’s a source of empty calories and even a toxin. It turns out there’s evidence to support both perspectives, but whether or not brown rice is nutritious or toxic really depends on how it’s prepared.

When properly prepared, rice is more than empty calories, and it doesn’t have to be abandoned just because it’s high in carbohydrates. The predominate type of carbohydrate in rice is glucose, which is the body’s preferred source of energy. The brain, in particular, depends on glucose for proper functioning. Glucose is also an awesome source of energy for athletic activities, as it can be stored as glycogen for use during intense activities.

In addition to being an excellent source of energy, brown rice is high in fiber and a number of micronutrients. These nutrients support a healthy metabolism, strengthen the bones, and may help prevent cancer. Brown rice supplies vitamins B6, niacin, thiamin, manganese, selenium, and zinc. It also contains a phytonutrient called lignan, which is converted by bacteria in the intestines into enterolactone and appears to have health promoting properties.

Yet, despite all the awesome nutrients brown rice contains, there are a couple of instances when brown rice is toxic rather than nutritious: when it’s not soaked and when its not adequately boiled.

Brown rice must be soaked because it contains a chemical called phytic acid that prevents minerals from being absorbed by the small intestines. If these important nutrients aren’t absorbed then rice does indeed become an “empty carb.” Soaking activates an enzyme called phytase that breaks down phytic acid and allows all the healthy minerals to be absorbed. The only problem is that that rice contains very little phytase potential, so fermentation is the best way to develop phytic acid reducing enzymes. While it may sound a little complex, having a fermenting rice soaking solution on hand is relatively easy and is a traditional Chinese practice. Heres how:

Soak your brown rice in non-chlorinated water for 24 hours. Drain the soaking water before cooking, but save 10% of the water for future soaking use (stored in the refrigerator). The next time you soak your rice, add the saved water to the soaking solution. Repeat this cycle every time you cook brown rice. Over time this solution develops phytase enzymes that will deactivate up to 96% of the phytic acid content in your brown rice.

After soaking your rice to deactivate the phytic acid, the next step is properly cooking it to remove the arsenic content. Rice concentrates arsenic, a carcinogenic toxin, more than any other grain. Regular consumption of improperly cooked rice can lead to unhealthy blood levels of this dangerous chemical. There’s any easy method, however, to drastically reduce the arsenic content:

Cook your brown rice like you would cook pasta — boiled in plenty of water. Today, most people add just enough water to their rice so that the rice is ready at the same time all the water is absorbed or evaporated, but this can actually contribute to even higher levels of arsenic consumption. The traditional way of preparing rice is to boil it in water at a 1:6 ratio. To use this method, simply cook your brown rice in a large pot and boil for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, drain the excess water and allow the rice to rest (covered) off the heat for 10 minutes. Not only does this method reduce the arsenic, it also produces a great tasting and nicely textured brown rice!

Sure, it might require a little more effort than microwaving a TV dinner, but properly preparing rice is mostly a matter of planning ahead. The result: a delicious, affordable, high energy, and nutrient-rich food!

Recommend Products: Bulk Organic Brown Rice

References:
Whole Health Source – Brown Rice
Science Direct – Soaking Brown Rice
Rice Consumption and Arsenic Content 
Arsenic In Rice: How Concerned Should You Be?

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Originally posted 2013-03-02 05:22:00.

Office Job Hazards: Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

In previous articles in the “Office Job Hazards” series we looked at the hazards of prolonged sitting and close-up reading.  In this article we’ll look at the hazard presented by typing and using a mouse all day long — carpal tunnel syndrome.

I never would have thought that performing an activity as benign as typing or applying a small amount of pressure to a mouse could cause immobilizing pain and numbness. Then I personally experienced the consequences of stressing my carpal tunnels, and I was shocked.  After two years of using a laptop during grad school, with no peripheral keyboard or mouse, I started having pain and numbness in the tips of my index fingers and thumbs.  Shortly after the initial symptoms, I started weight-lifting, which seemed to exacerbate the problem at first.  I then frantically researched ways to reverse the problem.   After applying what I learned, I’m happy to say that I no longer have symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.

Here are a few strategies, based on my own experiences and some of the latest medical research, that I hope will help you prevent or alleviate the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome:

Stretching: While there are likely several likely causes of carpal tunnel syndrome, there is growing evidence that at least one of the causes is repetitive motion, and clicking a mouse or using a keyboard throughout the day definitely qualifies.  Research indicates that activities like clicking a mouse can cause the transverse carpal ligament to grow, which then cinches down on the median nerve in the wrist, causing pain and numbness.  The good news is that regular stretching can help prevent and (in my case) reverse the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.  While working on the computer throughout the day, try periodically performing the following stretches:

  • Prayer stretch – place your palms together in the “prayer position,” up against your chest.  Then, lower your hands towards your stomach, keeping your palms together, until you feel a gentle stretch.  Hold for 6 seconds.
  • Backhand stretch – place the back of your hands together and up against your chest.  Then, raise your hands toward you chin, keeping the back of your hands touching, until you feel a gentle stretch.  Hold for 6 seconds.

Exercise: Since one of the causes of carpal tunnel syndrome is repetitive movement, it’s important to vary your movements with exercise.  There’s also evidence to suggest that exercise can promote the body’s ability to heal damaged nerves.  If you have severe carpal tunnel symptoms, you’ll likely have to modify the exercises you do (for example, I started doing push-ups on my fists or with perfect push-ups, until my symptoms were alleviated), but don’t let that stop you from moving.  Your health depends on it!

Get enough B-vitamins: B-vitamins, especially vitamins B-12 and B-6, are crucial for nerve health.

Reduce Inflammation: The body’s inflammatory response to excess stress on the carpal tunnel can make carpal tunnel syndrome even worse.  Be sure to eat an anti-inflammatory diet, low in refined sugar and omega-6 fatty acids, and high in omega-3 fatty acids, vegetables, and fruit! 

Use the right equipment: I’ve found that this has been an essential part of reducing the strain and impact of working on a computer all day.  The amount of pressure required to click the mouse is directly related to the amount of pressure put on the transverse carpal ligament.  Pressure placed on the wrist through being constantly bent backwards can also cause excess strain.  Here’s the equipment you’ll need:

  • A mouse that allows you to place your hand in a sideways position (with a less bent wrist) and one that is easy to click.  
  • A keyboard that is angled to prevent excess wrist flex.

Recommended products:
Ergonomic Keyboard and Mouse by Microsoft (Amazon.com)
Leap Motion – I’m really looking forward to this one! Leap Motion will allow users to control the mouse cursor with the motions of their hands in the air (without touching anything)!  This will drastically reduce repetitive movement and strain on the wrist!

References: Transverse Carpal Tunnel Ligaments and Thenar Muscles, Mechanical Strain, B12 and Peripheral Nerve Damage, Omega-3 and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

Originally posted 2013-02-28 03:10:00.

Avoid Harmful Toxins Without Living in a Space Suit

With the number of chemicals that we’re exposed to on a daily basis and the growing dichotomy between people who are either hysterical or extremely skeptical, it can be difficult to sort out what chemicals pose a real threat to our health. Perhaps even more challenging is figuring out how to take practical steps to limit exposure to the substances that are truly harmful.  After all, it’s not very practical to walk around in a space suit or (if you’re a parent) to provide space suits for all your children.  In an attempt to make things a little simpler, we’ve compiled a list of a few of the chemicals that pose real threats and ways to easily avoid them.  

BPA – Bisphenol A: an organic chemical used in the production of hard plastics.  BPA is a xenoestrogen and functions as a hormone in the body, disrupting the endocrine system and the body’s normal hormone function.  Studies have found that even low doses of BPA can affect reproductive health and normal development.  There’s evidence to suggest that ingestion of BPA can also contribute to neurological problems, weight gain, thyroid disfunction, and cancer.

  • Common sources of exposure: Canned foods, water bottles and other #7 plastics, coffee makers made with hard plastic, and receipts.
  • Ways to limit exposure: Instead of buying canned foods, buy frozen or jarred foods.  Purchase BPA-free plastic drinking bottles or use stainless steel containers.  Handle receipts as little as possible and be sure to wash your hands after touching them.  

PTFE (Polytetrafluoroetheylene) and PFOA (Perfluorooctanoic acid): chemicals used in the production of non-stick cookware, as well as waterproofing, friction-reducing, and stain-resistant technologies.  PTFE is relatively stable and harmless in its solid state, but when heated at high temperatures it breaks down (starting at 392 degrees) and emits toxic fumes.  PTFE fumes have killed pet birds and are toxic for human inhalation.  PFOA is a toxic and highly pervasive pollutant and can last in the environment indefinitely.  PFOA disrupts normal hormone function, damages cells, and is carcinogenic.

  • Common sources of exposure: teflon, non-stick cookware, snack food/popcorn bags, stain-repellant sprays and coatings.
  • Ways to limit exposure: Cook with stainless steel or ceramic coated cookware.  Eat less greasy snack foods and more whole foods.  Avoid using stain repellants by getting a cover for your furniture.  Wear untreated cotton or wool fabrics.

Pesticides: There are a variety of pesticides used on America’s vast crops.  Some of them include: Pyrethrins, dibromochlorophane, Imazalil, organophosphates, and clothianidin.  Government agencies and chemical companies have tried to say that use of these chemicals isn’t posing any real harm, but if that’s the case then why do they cause health problems for the workers that are regularly exposed to them?  In the lab pesticides are known to disrupt the endocrine system, negatively affect reproductive health, cause cancer , and worsen outcomes for neurological health.  There’s also increasing evidence that non-occupational exposure is having negative outcomes for the general population.  In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics recently made a recommendation to reduce children’s exposure to pesticides, as early exposure is associated with cancer and decreased cognitive abilities.  

  • Common sources of exposure: non-organic fruits and vegetables, water, and the air.
  • Ways to limit exposure: If you live near an area where there is constant spraying of pesticides, you might consider moving.  Otherwise, buying organic fruits and vegetables is an easy and proven way to reduce pesticide exposure.   According to the the Environmental Working Group, the 10 fruits and vegetables with the highest amount of pesticides, starting with the highest, are: apples, celery, sweet peppers, peaches, strawberries, imported nectarines, grapes, spinach, lettuce, and cucumbers.  Buy these fruits and vegetables organic whenever possible.  

Disinfectant products, Chromium-6, Nitrate, and Arsenic: toxic and carcinogenic chemicals commonly found in our water supply and in some foods.  Chromium-6, in particularly, has been found at levels above proposed goals in a number of municipal water sources.  

  • Common sources of exposure: Tap water, Rice (Arsenic)
  • Ways to limit exposure: Install a charcoal water filter.  If you eat rice, choose brown rice and soak it in water for a day before consuming, then rinse and drain before cooking.

Triclosan: an organic chemical used for its anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties.  Its anti-bacterial health benefits, however, are limited.  Exposure to triclosan is connected to an increased occurrence of allergies. It is toxic when inhaled and may disrupt thyroid function.  Triclosan can also react to form dioxins, which are extremely toxic and carcinogenic.

  • Common sources of exposure: Hand soap, toothpaste, and deodorant.
  • Ways to limit exposure: Read the labels on soaps, toothpastes, and deodorants and choose triclosan-free options.

The effect manmade chemicals can have on human health is another example of how human civilization often brings us further away from good health, instead of closer to it.  It’s important to carefully examine and discriminately select human technologies based on the consequences they have for all living creatures.  We don’t have to live in a bubble or wear a space suit; we just need to make smart choices.

Chemical-free product suggestions:
Kleen Kanteen (REI) – stainless steel, BPA-free drinking container
Ceramic-Coated Non-Stick Frying Pan – PTFE and PFOA-free (Amazon.com)
Brita or Under-Sink charcoal water filters
Natural soap -triclosan-free (Amazon.com)

References:
Environmental Working Group, BPA and Male Infertility, BPA Exposure and Child Obesity, PFOA Toxicity, PTFE Inhalation, PTFE and PFOA in Food Packaging,  Are Organic Foods Safer?Pesticides Pose Serious Risk to Children

Originally posted 2013-02-26 23:17:00.

Cooking Oils to Avoid

There might be something shady going on when refined oil manufacturers have to make up names to obscure their products’ actual ingredients. From a marketing standpoint, however, it makes sense. After all, “Rapeseed oil” doesn’t sound nearly as appetizing as “canola oil,” nor does “soybean oil” sound as healthy “vegetable oil,” and there are good reasons that “rapeseed oil” and “soybean oil” dont’ sound so appetizing. For one, what the heck is a rapeseed? It has a strange name, and I’ve never eaten one. Have you? And how is it possible to get so much oil from soybeans? I’ve eaten soybeans, and they don’t taste very oily. For that matter, how is it possible to get so much oil from corn? Rapeseeds, corn, soybeans — none of these are foods that people have traditionally obtained oil from. The only way it’s possible to get oil from these industrial crops is with lots of petroleum, chemical fertilizers, pesticides and high-tech refineries. If I haven’t given you enough reasons to avoid these all too common refined oils by now, here are a few more:

Canola Oil (rapeseed oil) — 21% Omega-6 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFA): Canola oil contains a high amount of Omega-6 fatty acids, which can throw off the body’s Omega-3 to Omega-6 ratio, leading to inflammation and metabolic syndrome. Canola oil also contains trace amounts of erucic acid, which can damage the heart, cardiovascular system, and liver when consumed in high enough quantities. Another concern is that a large percentage of the canola grown is genetically modified.

Corn Oil — 54% Omega-6 PUFA: Since corn is only 2.8% oil by weight, extraction of corn oil requires planting vast mono-crops and a high-input production process (made possible by government subsidies). Corn oil is primarily composed of omega-6 fatty acids. It’s also another largely genetically modified crop.
Vegetable Oil (soybean oil) — 50% Omega-6 PUFA: Soybeans are one of the largest and most genetically modified crops in the world. Huge swaths of rainforest are cut down every year to plant more soy. Soybean oil is also high in omega-6 fatty acids.

Safflower Oil — 31% Omega-6 PUFA: While safflower oil is somewhat healthier than other common cooking oils, as it contains a higher percentage of monounsaturated fats (like olive oil), it’s still high in omega-6 fatty acids.

Sunflower Seed Oil — 4% Omega-6 PUFA (high oleic variety) or 29% Omega-6 PUFA (standard variety) : High oleic sunflower oil is probably healthy to use in moderation, as it’s high in monounsaturated fats and vitamin E. Most sunflower seed oil, however, is high in omega-6 fatty acids.

Cottonseed Oil — 51% Omega-6 PUFA: Cottonseed oil is one of the most commonly used oils in the food industry. It’s used for everything from frying potato chips to canning seafood; yet, it’s probably the worst oil for human health. In addition to being high in omega-6 fatty acids, cottonseed oil may contain trace amounts of the toxin gossypol (though most of it is removed during the refining process). As with all mass produced oils, it also contains trace amounts of pesticides, though the pesticide levels are supposedly monitored by the USDA.

Grape Seed Oil — 70% Omega-6 PUFA: While the name make’s it sound healthy, grape seed oil doesn’t contain the benefits that you would think it would. In fact, it comes in a close second for being the worst cooking oil for human health, as it’s composed primarily of omega-6 fatty acids. Grape seed oil doesn’t have any of the benefits of grapes, red wine, or grape seed extract, just the unhealthy PUFAs.

The take away: Since most refined seeds oils are composed primarily of Omega-6 PUFAs, they are not a healthy choice for human consumption. They are best left to be used to oil the machines that manufacture them. The above seeds and grains aren’t intuitive sources of oil — harvesting their oil requires intensive chemical use and mechanical processing. Some of the seed oils mentioned above, such as high oleic sunflower oil, may be OK for use as a salad dressing if expeller pressed, but in general it’s best to avoid their use. In addition to throwing off the body’s omega-6 to omega-3 ratio, which can contribute to heart disease, inflammation, and diabetes, oils high in Omega-6 PUFAs easily go rancid when exposed to high temperatures and lack other health supporting nutrients. Stay tuned for a detailed article on the oils you can use for cooking, the world’s healthiest, creation-based oils!

References:
Nutrition DataDietary Linoleic Acid and Heart Disease

Originally posted 2013-02-23 20:52:00.

The Ultimate Ancient Exercise

Our ancestors practiced this ancient exercise on a regular basis, lifting stones and logs for shelter and other survival activities, but now we rarely do it as part of daily life. Yet, while it’s gone by many names and has fallen out of regular use, it remains one of the most important exercises for athletes of all kinds — it’s most commonly known as the deadlift.

The human body is specially designed to pick things up, to lift heavy objects. The ability to lift things well sets us apart from most other creatures. And since we have this special gift, we need to exercise it in order to maintain optimum health.

The largest muscles in the body (the glutes, hamstrings, core, and back) are all activated by this powerful lifting movement. These muscles, in fact, depend on lifting things for health. The ancient deadlift is probably the best overall exercise for strengthening the core, building strength, reinforcing the spine, and improving posture.

The deadlift can be included as part of a variety of fitness routines. Whether you want to strengthen your back and improve general health, burn excess fat, or build muscle mass, lifting heavy things will do the trick. Weight lifting boosts the body’s resting metabolism, which means burning more calories while not even lifting a finger. The deadlift is particularly good at boosting the metabolism because it activates so many major muscle groups at once.

If you want to build strength and muscle mass, deadlifts performed with heavy weight will activate the central nervous system and signal the body to produce growth hormones, increasing the body’s anabolic activity. Deadlifts also help develop a solid foundation of muscle for improved performance of all types of weight lifting exercises and athletic activities. In addition to strengthening the legs, core, and back, deadlifts are effective at improving grip strength, which can have great turnover application for sports like rock climbing.

There are a number of ways you can go about incorporating deadlifts into your fitness routine. If you want to start with something light or minimalistic, pick up a medium-sized rock during your next run. Grasp it with two hands, then pick it up and lower it to the ground in one smooth motion. Try doing three sets of 15 reps. If you want to get more serious about it, the best way to perform a deadlift is with a barbell. If you’re aiming for basic strength and fitness, start with a weight you can perform three sets of 12 reps with. If you’re hoping to add muscle mass, I recommend using a weight you can perform five sets of five with, or try increasing your weight progressively during each set (a pyramid lift).

femaledeadlift1The deadlift is an extremely taxing exercise, so most people only include this exercise in their fitness routine once a week. Also, it’s crucial that you maintain proper posture:

Keep your feet shoulder width apart, and stand with the middle of your feet under the bar, then reach down and grab the bar with an overhand grip. Your arms should be perpendicular with the floor.
Your knees should be bent and your upper body slightly leaning forward. Keep your back straight or slightly arched, then lift the weight, pushing up with your legs.
Shoulders should be slightly back and down.

Do not jerk the weight. Rely on the legs to lift the weight during the initial phase, then allow the momentum to assist your arms and back in lifting the weight the rest of the way.
Lockout in the standing position, then return the weight to the floor by pushing your hips back first and then bending the knees when the bar is at knee level.
Maintain posture and control as you return the bar.

If you’re a beginner, I recommend watching a few videos first and exercising with an experienced partner that can offer helpful pointers. It’s also a good idea to stretch and warm up with a few body weight squats before performing deadlifts.

Most importantly, have fun joining the ranks of ancient fitness practitioners with one of the most effective and practical exercises known to man!

Originally posted 2013-02-21 19:15:00.