Are you addicted to sugar?

Glass of CokeDo you find yourself trying to avoid sugary foods for most of the day but then end up bingeing on a king size candy bar or a 32 oz soda? Maybe you go a couple of days without eating sugar, but then you “treat” yourself to a big dessert or some donuts?  Perhaps you’ve managed to cut back on sugar for a while, but you’ve noticed that you’re drinking more beer or wine instead.

If any of these scenarios ring a bell, you might have symptoms of what could be legitimately termed a sugar “addiction” or “dependency.”

Also, if you went without sugar for a while and started to feel depressed, anxious, moody or sleepy, and were able to relieve these symptoms by eating sugary foods, this could indicate a serotonin disruption caused by bouts of excess sugar intake.

While the use of the term “addiction” in regards to food is somewhat controversial, recent studies with rats found that the bingeing behavior associated with drugs looks neurologically similar to that seen with bingeing on sugar.  Like recreational drugs, excess sugar intake can cause an increase in the release of dopamine, triggering the brain’s pleasure center.  The repeated flooding of dopamine results in a desensitization of dopamine receptors, creating a need for more sugar or some other dopamine activating stimulant.

Based on the correlation between increased refined sugar consumption and higher rates of obesity (and in light of studies on sugar addiction using rats), many researchers are starting to believe that obesity may be connected to food/sugar addiction.  Fructose in particular might be an especially significant cause of weight gain and “sugar dependence” as it’s extremely sweet and doesn’t provide the feeling of satiety that glucose and sucrose do.

If you think you might have an addiction to sugar (recognizing it is the first step!), the best thing to do is to start reducing your sugar consumption.  When you get a craving, eat a highly nutritious meal rich in protein, healthy fats, and some glucose instead.  Eating good food, getting sunshine, and exercising can all help balance the body’ dopamine and serotonin levels and promote an overall sense of wellness.

References: Sugar and Fat Have Noticeable Differences in Addictive-like Behavior, Evidence For Sugar Addiction

Originally posted 2013-05-24 23:21:47.

Benefits of Beta Glucan (found in oats, mushrooms, and yeast)

Portabella MushroomBeta glucan is a powerful little fiber molecule that has several potential health benefits.  A fiber is anything that the body can’t fully digest and, therefore, passes through the digestive system.  There a many different types of fiber, and some fibers, like beta glucan, stand above the rest.

Beta-glucan is a type of sugar (called a polysaccharide) that is molecularly arranged in such a way that it’s indigestible.   There are basically two different classes of beta glucan: the insoluble kind that activate the digestive tract’s immune cells, and the soluble kind that absorb water and help remove excess cholesterol.

Beta Glucan In Oats and Barley (Grains)

Oats and barley are particularly high in soluble beta glucans, and studies have found that regular consumption of oatmeal or supplementation with grain-derived beta-glucan may help lower LDL cholesterol levels.  Beta-gluacan’s effectiveness, however, is not consistent and is affected by a number of variables.   The amount of oatmeal that was found to help lower cholesterol was 84 grams per day.  Supplemental doses of beta-glucan ranged from 3-9 grams per day.  Other studies indicate that beta-glucan may also help improve blood-sugar levels and perhaps enhance endurance capabilities.

Beta Glucan in Yeast and Mushrooms (Funguses) 

Both mushrooms and yeast are high in insoluble beta glucan.  Some of the best mushroom sources of beta glucan are common white mushrooms, crimini, and shitake.  The primary yeast source of beta glucan is baker’s yeast.  The beta glucan in mushrooms and yeast demonstrates strong immunomodulating effects.  In other words, it activates the body’s immune system, which makes sense given mushrooms’ reputation for boosting the immune system.  Studies have found the beta glucan from funguses activate powerful immune system responses like an increase in white blood cell and killer-t cell activity.  A growing number of studies (though still small) indicate that this activity may help the body fight against cancer cells and viral/bacterial infections. 

While the beta glucan in funguses stimulates specific immune responses, it simultaneously suppresses the body’ non-specific immune responses, like the release of superoxide anion and hydrogen peroxide.  There’s evidence that beta-glucan’s suppression of non-specific inflammatory responses can help reduce the symptoms of common respiratory allergies.

The take away: While the best way to lower LDL cholesterol is to reduce stress, exercise, and eat plenty of greens, eating a little bit of oatmeal everyday might not be a bad idea.  Also, even good old common mushrooms have powerful immune-boosting properties, so eat them up!  They’re affordable and add great flavor to a number of dishes.

Recommended Products:

References: Oats and Anti-fatigue, Beta-Glucan’s Effect on Glycemic Index, Biomedical Issues of Dietary Fiber Beta-Glucan, The Application of Beta-Glucan for the Treatment of Colon Cancer, Glucans Inhibit Allergic Airway Inflammation

Originally posted 2013-05-24 00:02:42.

Fitness Buzz: Seconds – an interval timer for smart-phones

smartphone interval timerIn a previous blog I wrote about the benefits of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). HIIT is a great way to maximize a workout in a minimum amount of time.  Interval training can also be done anywhere and anytime – during an outdoor run or on an indoor bike – but the one thing that’s needed is a good timer.

Recently I discovered an excellent interval timer (which I use for outdoor sprints) called “Seconds Pro,” so I thought I would share.  There are several things I really like about this app: for one, it’s completely customizable down to the second.  “Seconds” is also user friendly and works seamlessly while listening to music (whether web-based radio or iTunes). Perhaps my favorite features is that there’s an option to program warning beeps for the beginning and end of each interval, which means you don’t have to look at your phone to know when it’s time to start or end an interval. A final bonus is that this timer app is also compatible with a heart rate monitor strap.

The take away: If you’re looking for a great timer or a new way to push your workouts to the next level, you may want to give “Seconds” a try.   The app is available for both iPhones and Androids:

www.secondsapp.com (iPhone)

Seconds App (Android)

Originally posted 2013-05-22 21:22:36.

Phosphorous – Another Reason to Avoid Soda?

Phosphoric acid in sodaIf you needed another reason to avoid drinking dehydrating, addicting, and fattening sodas, we might have one for you — soda’s phosphorous (or phosphoric acid) content. Phosphorous is added to soda, primarily colas, as a sour flavoring ingredient, and too much of it in your diet may lead to decreased bone density.

In and of itself, phosphorous, which is a mineral acid, isn’t bad. In fact, in the right balance phosphorous is essential for our health: our bones use phosphorous to form their structure, our cells use phosphorous for energy, and phosphorous is needed in order to active numerous hormones, enzymes, and other cell-signaling molecules. Without phosphorous we can’t survive, but since it’s so prevalent in our foods, phosphorous deficiency is extremely rare and usually only occurs on the brink of starvation.

Too much phosphorous, however, can be a problem, especially for those who aren’t getting enough calcium or who have trouble with their kidneys.  Phosphorous and calcium are carefully regulated by the kidneys, and when there’s an excess amount of phosphorous in the blood stream, the kidneys stop releasing the active form of vitamin D (essential for calcium absorption).  The repercussions: Long-term elevation of phosphorous in the blood stream can cause decreased bone density, which can contribute to osteoporosis.  Here’s why cola can be an issue; at 40 mg of phosphorous per 12 oz, it’s relatively high in phosphorous, and several studies have linked excess cola consumption, in particular, with decreased bone density.

Soda’s phosphorous levels aren’t the only culprit though, soda is also high in caffeine and sodium — both can cause a loss of calcium.  At the same time, soda is low in calcium and other bone enhancing minerals and vitamins.  These nutrient embalances are exacerbated by the fact that people who drink lots of soda during the day tend not to consume enough milk or other calcium containing foods to offset the amount of phosphorous ingested.  Thus, overall, the problem with soda isn’t just that it contains phosphorous (a lot of foods contain phosphorous) but that it contributes to an unbalanced level of phosphorous and calcium in the bloodstream.  Soda isn’t the only offended either; phosphorous is being added to an increasing number of other processed foods as well.

Reducing or eliminating soda and processed foods from your diet is the best way to ensure an optimum phosphorous to calcium ratio.  Eating high quality dairy products from grass fed cow is another way to boost calcium levels.  Then, if you want to be even more ahead of the game in terms of bone and cardiovascular health, combine a whole-food diet with outdoor exercise.  The vitamin D from the sunshine, the healthy stress on the bones from exercise, and the proper calcium to phosphorous ratio will work together to help keep your bones healthy for life.

References: Linus Pauling Institute, PubMed

Originally posted 2013-04-30 03:16:53.

Yogurt: Enemy or Best Friend

The yogurt sitting in your refrigerator seems like a modest health choice but may not be as wise as you think.  True, yogurt is a great source of protein, probiotics, and potassium, but it can also be an unwanted source of sugar.  Have you looked at the nutrition facts on your favorite yogurt lately?

All yogurt, even plain, will contain sugar because of the lactose in milk.  However, a six-ounce serving of a typical flavored yogurt can easily contain 17 grams of added sugar!  Compare that to the 17 grams of sugar found in a Pop-Tart, and a supposedly healthy breakfast heads into a downward spiral real quickly. Wondering about the recent Greek yogurt trend? If you’ve been picking out Greek yogurt instead of regular, you should still be cautious of those tempting honey- or fruit-flavored Greek yogurt options.  Flavored Greek yogurt still has about 12 more grams of sugar than plain Greek yogurt.

The best choice is to stick with plain and add your own mix-ins at home.  Stir in some fresh or frozen berries, some homemade granola, or even add a teaspoon of honey (containing 4.5 grams of one of the healthiest forms of sugar) or organic jam–the few grams of sugar from honey or jam will be much better than the 17 grams found in the flavored yogurt!  It may take a little while to adjust to the tartness of plain yogurt, but it’s worth the effort and you may find you soon develop a taste for it.

To read our article on yogurt’s health benefits, click here.

Originally posted 2013-03-15 22:32:00.

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.

How Much Salt is Too Much?

SaltfieldThaiLandI’m tired of being told not to put too much salt on my food.  Personally, I love salt.  It brings out the delicious flavors of my favorite savory foods.  It was my love for salt that motivated me to find out how much salt is really too much.  Here’s what I discovered: Despite the warnings of the National Institute of Health, the Center for Disease Control, and other influential health organizations, moderate salt intake, the amount most Americans consume, has a very minimal affect on blood pressure and cardiovascular health.  The research indicates that it’s really only people who have high blood pressure that need to worry about lowering their salt intake, and even then, salt intake isn’t the main culprit of high blood pressure.

The average American consumes approximately 3,400 mg of sodium per day, which is the amount in about one and a half teaspoons of salt.  Since a reduction in sodium from this level can result in a slight reduction in blood pressure, most US health organizations recommend consuming less than 2,300 mg per day.  Here’s the thing, one of the most comprehensive studies on the effects of sodium consumption to date found that people who consumed a moderate amount of sodium (between 4,000 and 6,000 mg per day!) had lower mortality rates and fewer cardiovascular problems that those who consumed either greater or lesser amounts.  While this study caused quite a bit of controversy, it continues to call traditional assumptions into question.

While it’s clear that intake above 6,000 mg per day is unhealthy, it is yet to be seen exactly how much salt is healthy or what other factors come into play.  At some level, sodium intake is essential for good health.  Sodium is the body’s principal extracellular electrolyte; it works in conjunction with potassium (which gathers within the cells) to ensure proper nervous system function, muscle contraction, optimal blood pressure, and cardiac function.  Sodium also promotes intestinal absorption of water, glucose, amino acids, and chloride.  Chloride, in turn, competes with heavy metals for absorption in the body, promoting detoxification.  

As far as blood pressure goes, sodium intake is only half of the puzzle.  Potassium is the other half of the puzzle, and it’s a nutrient that many Americans are short on.  Numerous studies show that increased potassium intake results in lower blood pressure and fewer incidences of stroke.   Many sports nutritionists recommend achieving a potassium to sodium ratio of 2:1, but getting that much potassium requires eating a lot of whole foods. 

Whole foods that are particularly good for cardiovascular health include:

  • Potatoes, oranges, avocados, spinach, and bananas — they’re are all great sources of potassium and help improve the potassium to sodium ratio.  They also contain cardiovascular supporting antioxidants and phytonutrients. 
  • Dark Chocolate – its high magnesium (which most Americans are deficient of) and rich polyphenol content reduce hypertension almost immediately after consumption.
  • Hibiscus tea – it’s relaxing, tasty, and several studies have shown that it effectively reduces hypertension.

Based on the evidence surrounding sodium intake, potassium, and blood pressure, I’m led to believe that the amount of salt consumed isn’t so important as the types of food salt is added to.  According to one government health site, Americans get 75% of their salt from fast food!  The Center for Disease Control says that American get 90% of their salt from food bought from stores or restaurants.  In other words, we get very little salt from what we add to homemade food.  It’s all the refined and pre-made foods that contain most of the salt we eat, and there are other problems with those foods besides their salt content (like their refined sugar, refined flour, and seed oil content).

The take away:  

The current evidence indicates that moderate consumption of salt (2 tsps) can be part of a healthy diet.  Nevertheless, eliminating fast food and refined foods from one’s diet would likely reduce total sodium intake far below this.  Therefore, instead of focusing on reducing salt consumption, it makes more sense to focus on increasing whole food consumption (while allowing generous use of salt as a seasoning).  A diet that emphasizes tubers over grains as a carbohydrate source would also go a great way towards increasing total potassium intake.

As a final note, there are several means of supporting cardiovascular health in addition to eating whole foods, these include: regular exercise, stress free living, and getting quality sleep.  In other words, to maintain good cardiovascular health: EAT real foods, PLAY outside, and REST often!

References:
JAMA Research on Sodium Intake and Mortality
Harvard’s Response to JAMA
Potassium to Sodium Study
Linus Pauling Institute on Sodium

Originally posted 2013-02-02 05:54:00.

The Cost of Poor Health: $3,525+ Per Year

Imagine you had an extra $3,525 per year with which to take better care of yourself.  You could take an extra week or two off work, eat higher quality whole foods, or maybe sign up for that pilates class or gym membership you thought was too expensive.  Well, what if I told you that the average American does (or at least could) have this much to spend on better health.  It is all about priorities after all.  All we would have to do is save the money we would otherwise spend on treating the diseases of affluence (heart disease, diabetes, and cancer) by living healthier lives.  Buying and eating less refined food would be a great start!

Below I’ve compiled a list of the annual costs of treating the diseases of affluence in the United States, as well as the amounts we spend on various junk foods.  I added these costs together and divided them by the US population to arrive at a very rough estimate of how much the average American spends on treating preventable diseases and buying junk food each year.

$444 Billion – amount spent treating heart disease in 2010
$227 Billion – amount spent treating cancer in 2007
$174 Billion – medical costs associated with diabetes in 2007
$165 Billion – amount spent on fast food in 2010
$65 Billion –  amount spent on soda every year
$29 Billion – amount spent on candy every year
$7 Billion – amount spent on potato chips every year

$1,111,000,000,000.00 –  Total cost of diseases and poor health choices (a very rough estimate that doesn’t even include wasted food or cigarette and alcohol use)$1,111,000,000,000/315,209,000 (U.S. Population) = $3,525 per year for every man, woman, and child!
I hear people complain about how it’s expensive to eat healthy food or how it takes more time to prepare, but my question is “How valuable is your health?” In reality, we either pay for our health now, or we pay for it later.  In my opinion, after relationships, good health is the most valuable asset we have.  I think most people agree with this, but for some reason, perhaps because of the pressures of society to work and consume, we end up putting our time, effort, and money towards things that aren’t so important. Biblical wisdom puts it this way:

“Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.” -Isaiah 55:2

Each is called to take care of his body and the people and environment that surround him.  When we don’t, there are many unfortunate consequences.  When we make poor health decisions, we aren’t the only ones to reap the consequences — our loved ones and the greater society are affected as well.  Preventative health, living healthy, just makes sense.  It may cost more upfront, but the long term benefits are incomparable.

Keep in mind, I’m not saying that all the diseases mentioned above are always preventable (or at least we don’t always know what would have prevented it), but by and large heart disease, cancer, and diabetes are symptoms of the foods and lifestyles associated with industrialized society.  We were created to EAT real food, PLAY outside, and REST often.  As simple as these things sound, our culture makes them difficult to do.  I for one, am going to take my $3,525 per year and put it towards living a healthy lifestyle, even if it means I have to forgo the chips, candy, and soda.

References:

Heart Disease, Diabetes, Cancer, Soda, Candy, Fast Food, Potato Chips

Originally posted 2013-01-25 20:16:00.

The Gluten-Free Diet: A Not So Groundless Trend

“…Gliadin causes a release of zonulin, and zonulin signals the tight junctions to increase permeability, making an opening for a macronutrient invasion!” 

The gluten-free diet is undoubtedly a trend right now.  Gluten-free sections are sprouting up in supermarkets across America, and gluten-free options at restaurants are all the rage.  Yet, despite the popularity of going gluten free, it’s likely that gluten sensitivity is still under-diagnosed.  The estimates for the amount of people with gluten sensitivity range from 12-44% of the population.  Part of the reason gluten sensitivity is under-diagnosed is that it’s misunderstood — that its workings sound like a scene from a science fiction movie doesn’t help.  People are also skeptical that gluten can cause serious health problems.  Something as benign (and tasty) as bread can be responsible for or contribute to major intestinal problems, psychological disorders, arthritis, malnutrition, and a whole list of other problems — really?  Yes, really.

I too was reluctant to believe that gluten could be a serious threat to health.  Don’t get me wrong — I didn’t doubt that a few people were deathly allergic to gluten (in the case of celiac disease), but I was skeptical that those who didn’t suffer from celiac disease could benefit much by giving up a food as wholesome and delicious as sprouted, whole grain bread.  My posture towards gluten sensitivity wasn’t too different from that of the mainstream medical community.  If someone has a list of health problems and suspects gluten-intolerance, most doctors will usually test for celiac disease but discount the impact that gluten sensitivity can have.  After talking to friends, however, and hearing story after story about how eliminating gluten from their diet vastly improved their health, my perspective started to change.   I started doing my own research on why gluten sensitivity and celiac disease occur, and now I’m convinced that if someone has unexplainable health problems, especially related to their digestive system, gluten should be identified as a highly likely culprit.   

Understanding Celiac Disease:  Since celiac disease is essentially the extreme form of gluten sensitivity, an understanding of what causes it will help shed light on the causes of gluten sensitivity as well.  Celiac disease is caused by two factors: genetics and diet.  People with celiac disease have a genetic predisposition for extreme sensitivity to the gluten found in wheat, barley, rye, and sometimes oats.  When this type of gluten enters the small intestines of someone who’s highly sensitive to it, several things happen that cause the body’s immune system to start attacking itself instead of an actual threat (an auto-immune disease).  If gluten continues to be consumed it will lead to major digestive issues and the serious health problems mentioned earlier.

Here’s how it happens (This is a bit technical.  If you’re more interest in the “what” than the “how,” then skip ahead a couple paragraphs.):  Gluten is composed of two different types of proteins called gliadins and glutenins.  Gliadin is the primary culprit in celiacs disease.  When gliadin enters the small intestine, it’s still in its complete form because the human digestive system can’t digest it.  In response, the cells in the intestinal wall treat gliadin as a threat, as if it was a bacteria or virus instead of food  The cells proceed to release a protein called zonulin that signals the adjacent cells to separate, creating openings in the tight junctions of the intestinal wall (the spaces between the cells that line the intestine wall, called the mucosal barrier).  Usually there are openings just large enough to absorb fully digested nutrients, but the cells make a larger opening for the gliadin in order to expose it to the immune system.  

The larger openings in the mucosal barrier allow the gliadin to get through, but bacteria, fungus, and other harmful substances can get through too, and that’s just the beginning of the problem. Once the gliadin passes through the mucosal barrier, the intestinal cells release an enzyme that is part of their structure called tissue transglutaminase.  The transglutaminase binds to the gliadin to help equip the immune system to eliminate gliadin from the body.  The big problem is that the immune system mistakes transglutaminase as part of the gliadin, when it’s actually part of healthy cells throughout the body.  As a result, the immune system release antibodies against the transglutaminase that proceed to destroy healthy human cells in the intestinal wall, thyroid, brain, and elsewhere.  

Gluten Sensitivity: In people with gluten sensitivity, much of the same process takes place, but for whatever reason, their bodies don’t attack the transglutaminase to the same extent.  They may still, however, have many of the symptoms of celiacs disease, such as digestive problems, lethargy, thyroid problems, and psychological imbalance.  Gluten sensitivity can also cause the body to burn through its vitamin D stores, which is alarming given vitamin D’s importance in immunity and proper cellular function.

It should also be noted that the gliadin in gluten causes permeability in the small intestine whether one is sensitive to gluten or not.  This permeability can allow harmful organisms and toxins to enter the blood stream and can contribute to inflammation, acne, diabetes, allergies, and asthma.  

The take away: If you have any of the symptoms mentioned throughout this article and can’t seem to figure out what’s causing it, you may want to try going without gluten for a month.  If the symptoms go away, it’s likely that you have a sensitivity to gluten.  You can also talk to a doctor who’s knowledgeable about gluten sensitivity about being tested.  

If it seems odd that God would create an edible plant that has negative consequences for such a large percentage of the population, keep in mind that modern wheat has been transformed by the technologies of civilization.  Wheat has undergone extensive hybridization and genetic modifications, not for its nutritive value, but for pest resistance and crop yield.  Also, wheat is being consumed in larger quantities than ever before due to advances in agricultural and processing technologies.

Ancient forms of wheat, “uncivilized wheat,” so to speak, seem to have contained forms of gluten that didn’t affect the immune system the way modern wheat glutens do.  An ancient wheat called “einkorn” is still available today and shows promise for those with gluten sensitivity, but studies are still under way.  In the meantime, if you want or need to go without gluten, there are a variety of grains that are gluten free, including quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, and rice.  And like I mentioned earlier, the gluten-free diet is a growing trend, so gluten-free options are on the rise.  In another positive light, less bread means more room for vegetables, fruits, nuts, eggs, and free-range meats, which are healthier for us anyway! 

 

References:Celiac Disease Symptoms, Celiac Disease is the Tip of the Ice Berg, Zonulin and It’s Roll in Intestinal Barrier Function

Originally posted 2013-01-18 03:48:00.

Whole Oranges vs. Orange Juice

Have you ever wondered if drinking orange juice is as healthy as eating the whole orange? Perhaps you haven’t, but many people seem to think that drinking a serving of fruit juice is equivalent to eating a serving of whole fruit. This misunderstanding is reinforced by claims the USDA allows fruit juice companies to make on their products, such as “One serving is equal to one serving of fruit.” I’m not quite sure how the USDA arrived at supporting such a statement (probably because of the lobbying pressure from large food companies), but to say what is in some cases little more than liquid sugar is equal to a serving of whole fruit is preposterous. Don’t get me wrong, some juices are better than others, such as the less refined ones that are unfiltered or with pulp, and fruit juice is usually healthier than soda, but even juice with a little bit of fiber left in it doesn’t compare nutritionally to a serving of whole fruit.

Whole oranges and orange juice provide the perfect opportunity to compare the differences between the two. Check out the picture above of the three glasses of processed oranges. The glass on the left contains the juices of three hand squeezed oranges while the two glasses on the right contain the pulp and juice of three whole oranges that I liquified in a blender (minus the peel). Three whole oranges produced almost twice the volume of material as the juice alone. That extra material is the pulp and pith which contain a number of important nutrients that work together to make the whole orange a highly nutritious food.

To start, the high fiber content of a whole orange helps the body properly process the high fructose content of the juice. The fiber actually blocks some of the sugar from being absorbed, which makes the orange more nutritious for the amount of calories it contains. The fiber also makes a whole orange much more filling than the juice (it’s far easier to consume several glasses of high sugar orange juice than several whole oranges). If you eat a whole orange you’ll also be more satisfied and less hungry for calorie-dense, nutritionally-deficient food later on.

In addition to the benefits of the extra fiber in the pulp, a whole orange contains numerous health promoting micro-nutrients that aren’t found in the juice alone. One of the most researched is a flavanoid called hesperidin, which is concentrated in the pulp and inside of the peel. Hesperidin shows promise as an anti-inflammatory, in lowering blood pressure, and in promoting healthy cholesterol. One animal study also found that a diet rich in orange pulp increased bone density!

I’m not saying that we should never drink orange juice again; studies have shown that fresh-squeezed orange juice has significant anti-oxidant properties. It’s just important to know that the juice isn’t as healthy or satisfying as the whole fruit. Juices and other drinks can be a hidden source of surplus calories for those trying to live healthfully. A diet that emphasizes whole fruits over juices contains fewer sugary calories and more health promoting nutrients!

Originally posted 2013-01-12 02:35:00.