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.

Lose fat, improve your health….with whole fat dairy?

There is a misconception, pehaps a result of the low-fat craze or the desire to blame our health problems on one cause, that whole fat dairy causes increased body fat and a number of other health problems.  Many have also stopped drinking milk or eating dairy products because of the health problems that can be caused by lactose.  In this article I will explain why the right kind of dairy is actually healthy and why many people don’t have to worry about eating lactose. 

While it can be difficult to wrap our minds around, especially given the message we’ve heard over and over againt that eating fat is bad, whole fat dairy can actually promote fat loss when coupled with an overall healthy diet.  Here’s how: high quality, whole fat milk contains a specific type of fat called coagulated linoleic acid (CLA) that may contribute to fat loss.  In addition to it’s potential fat-loss benefits, CLA also has anticarcinogenic properties.  Since non-fat milk doesn’t have any fat it doesn’t have any CLA either.  Also, CLA is only found in milk from cows that eat a natural grass diet.  By contrast, most cows raised in industrial dairies eat grains like corn rather than natural grass.  You can ensure your milk is from grass fed cows by looking for a label that says “pastured” or “organic.”  Organic milk has to come from cows that have been, at a minimum, partially pastured.  Also, cows that produce organic milk haven’t been treated with growth hormones.

Moreover, whole milk from pastured cows is rich in nutrients and has the ability to satisfy hunger.  Feeling full is an important part of being able to lose unhealhty weight, and whole milk helps accomplish this more than non-fat, low-fat milk, or other sugary drinks like soda or juice.  Milk from pastured cows is also rich in potassium, high quality protein, vitamin A, calcium and vitamin K2 (which isn’t found in industrially raised cows).  Together, these nutrients work together to support lean muscle mass, strong bones, and healthy teeth. Therefore, when milk replaces other less nutritious calories it can improve your overall health. 

Milk from pastured cows has even greater benefits when found in other forms.  For example, regular consumption of yogurt can have an even more pronounced effect on feeling full.  Yogurt also contains high amounts of iodine, an extremely important nutrient for women’s health.  It also contains healthy bacteria for a strengthened immune system and improved digestion.  Another benefit of yogurt is that those who are lactose intolerant can often eat it without any problems, as the bacteria in yogurt break lactose down into easily digestible sugars.

Cheese is another little recognized health food.  Cheese is especially high in K2, a vitamin that is different from the common form of Vitamin K and is gaining recognition for its importnant role in bone heath and preventing artherosclerosis.  Cheese is also high in calcium and protein.

Perhaps most suprising, butter from pastured cows is healthy too and might actually promote fat loss when eaten as part of a diet low in refined sugar and whigh in whole-foods!  While butter is high in saturated fat, the saturated fat is readily used by the body for energy and does not cause a spike in insulin.  Butter from pastured cows is also extremely high in vitamin K2, which helps the body deposit calcium in the bones and teeth, rather than in soft tissues like the arteries (one of the major causes of atherosclerosis).  Whole butter is also high in Vitamin A, an important nutrient for the skin, eyes, and immune system.  Finally, since it is almost pure fat, butter is extremely high in CLA! For a good source of butter, I recommend Kerry Gold (from Ireland) or a local organic butter.  You’ll be able to tell it’s from cows that eat grass by its distinct orange tint, indicating its high nutrient content. Another potential benefit of butter is that it contains little to no lactose.

Which leads me to the issue of lactose intollerance.  Avoiding lactose is one of those health trends that spread when a few people have good results with it and then assume that everyone else needs to do the same.  For most people of European descent, however, lactose consumption doesn’t pose any problems.  Lactose is the form of sugar that is found in milk.  The body breaks lactose down into glucose by releaseing lactase (a digetive enzyme).  Most humans can eat lactose when they are babies because their bodies still produce lactase.  Good thing, because they depend on their mother’s milk for survival.  Unfortunately, many people’s bodies stop producing lactase when they grow older, leading to digestion problems when dairy is eaten.  The bottom line is that unless you are actually lactose intollerant, you don’t need to stop eating dairy, just be sure to eat dairy from cows that eat grass (the food they are designed to eat).  If you have digestion problems or feel bloated or have other reactions after eating dairy, try going without it for a while to find out if that is the problem.

If you are lactose intollerant and still want to enjoy the health benefits of dairy, you might be able to eat yogurt, butter, or whey protein, as these products are low in lactose (be sure to consult with your doctor first).  Also, not all forms of lactose are the same, different cows produce different kinds of lactose. Old varieties of cows, called the A2 variety, such as Jersey and Guernsey, produce a milk that some people who are lactose intollerant can drink.  Most mass-produced milk, however, is produced by new varieties of cows (the A1 variety), like the Holstein, that can cause symptoms such as excess mucus production and other forms of lactose intollerance.

A note on raw vs pasteurized milk.  Many in the natural health community argue that raw milk is far healthier than pasteurized milk – I’m not convinced.  Based on the studies I’ve looked at ,the most common form of pasteurization used, Short Time High Temperature (STHT), has a minimal effect on milk’s nutrients.  Some milk is pasteurized using an Ultra High Temperature process, and this can have a more significant effect on milk’s nutrients and should be avoided.  In my opinion the benefits of STHT pasteurization outweight any small losses in nutrients.  Unless you get raw milk from cows rasied in your backyard of from someone you trust who lives very nearby, the risk of bacteria contamination is real. The more times raw milk is handled and the futher it has to be transported, the more opportunites there are for bacteria contamination or growth.   Raw milk consumption continues to result in sickness or death every year.  Some foods simply need to undergo a minimal amount of processesing to ensure edibility. 

The most important things to ask when purchasing dairy are: “Is it organic?”, “Are the cows grass fed?”, and, perhaps, “What kind of cows does it come from?”  Organic, whole dairy from grass fed cows is nutritionally superior to any other type of dairy and offers a whole host of health promoting nutrients!  So, put down the non-fat milk from cows fed corn and soy and enjoy the rich goodness of a cold glass of whole milk from happy cows that eat green, nutrient-dense, grass!

Pubmed study on dairy and body composition: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22249225
Dr. Weston Price study on K2: http://www.westonaprice.org/fat-soluble-activators/x-factor-is-vitamin-k2
Pubmed study on dairy and appetite: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22380537

Originally posted 2012-07-29 22:48:00.

What soil erosion, probiotics, and sauerkraut have to do with your health:

Topsoil supplies are being depleted at an alarming rate. Industrial agricultural practices like mechanized plowing, mono-crop planting, and enormous farms deplete the top soil and leave remaining deposits vulnerable to erosion by wind and water. The majority of land used for agriculture today doesn’t actual contain a healthy amount of top soil. Soil is living – it contains organic matter, bacteria, and other living organisms. The bacteria in soil suppress harmful funguses, affix nitrogen to the soil, and break down organic matter into useful material. By contrast, most food today is grown in dead dirt. Dirt requires fertilizers and pesticides to make it fruitful. Yet, while all this may sound interesting or even alarming, you might be wondering what it has to do with human health.

Actually, the state of soil has a lot to do with health; In fact, the very future of food depends on healthy soil. More immediately, however, topsoil also impacts another area of health: your intestines. Every gram of healthy soil is filled with millions of bacteria. In a previous time, people used to grow or harvest their food from healthy soil, lightly wash it, and eat it along with a mouthful of healthy bacteria. As a result of soil erosion, it turns out we are consuming a lot fewer healthy bacteria than we used to. There are over twenty varieties of bacterial strands that serve various functions in the digestive system. Intestinal bacteria help prevent infections, bolster the immune system, prevent disease, promote healthy digestion, and can help preserve critical nutrients. Much of these benefits are lost, however, if the digestive system isn’t regularly replenished with healthy bacteria, a task that is becoming increasingly difficult in our modern, sterilized age.

There are a number of food sources, however, from which healthy bacteria can be obtained. Yogurt is a well known source of the probiotic (bacteria) acidophilus (learn how to make your own yogurt by clicking here). Ingestion of acidophilus supports the immune system, prevents infections, and aids the digestion of vitamins K and B, as well as calcium. Sauerkraut is a lesser known source of probiotics but contains a plentiful amount of bacteria known as Lactobacilli Plantarum.  Sauerkaut’s probiotics help the body fight irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s disease, and colitis. Kefir is another excellent probiotic source, as it contains a variety of bacterial strains not found in yogurt. Outside of fermented food sources, the best way to replenish your digestive system’s flora is by taking a probiotic supplement. Affordable supplements are available that provide upwards of ten different bacterial strands in convenient pill form. For more information on probiotics visit: http://probiotics.org

The human dependence on microorganisms for optimum health speaks to the complexity and amazing symbiosis of God’s creation. The degradation of top soil and the resulting effect on human health is another example of how human efforts fail to procure a better life on earth. God created everything to work together in the best possible way – human pride and self-reliance only result in destruction of the good things God provided to keep us healthy and happy.

Originally posted 2011-07-31 10:29:00.

Butyric Acid, One Reason Real Butter is a Healthy Food

butter-butyric-acid-benefits-health

Butter, that creamy condiment and delicious baking ingredient, may be one of the most beloved and well-known dairy products of all time. Made simply by churning milk or cream and removing the liquid (buttermilk), butter is an essential ingredient in any chef’s refrigerator and a must-have on countless dinner tables. It’s hard to find a downside to butter, unless you consider its possible impact on your health. Butter is renowned for its high saturated fat content, which is thought to contribute to high cholesterol levels and heart disease. But before you rashly resign yourself to a butter-free diet, you may want to consider a compound in butter, commonly known as butyric acid, which actually yields a number of healthy benefits for your body.

Real butter, not to be confused with high trans fat, commercial substitutes such as margarine, contains just a few ingredients: milk solids (proteins), butterfat and water. One element in these milk solids is the short fatty acid chain: butyric acid. Butyric acid is naturally produced in milk and butter, has a rancid smell and a bitter taste. That may not sound too appetizing, but butyric acid’s smell and flavor isn’t noticeable in fresh butter. And once ingested, this fatty acid can actually provide your body with a boost of health. Here are a few of the butter-fueled benefits of butyric acid:  

Butyric acid may promote better metabolic health: A study in which mice were fed butyric acid resulted in the mice exhibiting a lower rate of insulin resistance, a condition that can lead to type-2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome, and also accelerate the aging process. The mice also showed reduced adiposity (obesity) and more efficient metabolic function.

Butyric acid promotes colon health: Butyric acid fuels colonocytes (colon cells), thereby providing vital energy for your colon. Butyrate also facilitates the absorption of electrolytes, which are vital chemical compounds that help keep you hydrated and maintain proper body function.

Butyric acid may be an anti-carcinogen: Some studies suggest that butyric acid may produce anti-carcinogenic affects. Anti-carcinogens refer to elements that help protect against and reduce the severity of cancers.

Butyric acid is an anti-inflammatory: Butyric acid’s anti-inflammatory properties help prevent inflammation of the colon. Colon inflammation can lead to IBD (inflammatory bowel disease) and other serious health problems.

Butyric acid is anti-microbial: Short chain fatty acids, such as butyric acid, have been shown to produce anti-microbial effects and help reduce the growth of oral bacteria.

If you thought butter should be eliminated from your diet, the good news is that this good-tasting food delivers some health-boosting benefits, due in large part to its butyric acid content. So top off your favorite dish with a pad of butter, and enjoy some smooth, creamy flavor with a side of good health.

References: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2699871/http://jmm.sgmjournals.org/content/59/2/141.fullhttp://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9361838http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23140283http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21333271

Originally posted 2013-10-24 10:14:14.

The Benefits of Using Ghee (Clarified Butter)

 Ghee and Its Benefits: When you think of butter, you probably picture that rich, creamy medium you cook many of your favorite meals in; but not all butter looks, acts or tastes the same. Ghee or clarified butter, for example, is what you get when you remove the water and the milk solids, resulting in a pure butterfat. When butter is cooked long enough for the water in the butter to completely evaporate and for the milk solids to brown and produce a nutty flavor, you get a butter product called ghee. Ghee has a long history in Indian culture-and many other parts of the world!-for its use not only in meal preparation, but in holistic remedies as well. If you’ve never tried ghee, you may want to consider it for one of these delicious or healthy applications: 

Use ghee to fight inflammation: Ghee has been shown to reduce leukotriene secretion and reduce prostaglandin. Prostaglandin levels and leukotriene secretion both play a role in inflammation, which can not only lead to unpleasant physical reactions (redness, swelling, itchiness, etc.), but it can also accelerate the aging process.

Use ghee if you’re lactose or casein intolerant: The method of clarifying butter to turn it into ghee removes most of the lactose and casein contained in butter. Many of those who are lactose or casein intolerant can enjoy ghee without any negative reactions.  

Use ghee for a healthier butter choice: Although saturated fats, commonly found in butter products, should be consumed in moderation, ghee butter has been linked to decreased cholesterol levels in lab trials. Other butter products, such as margarine, are hydrogenated and have been shown to contribute to increased cholesterol levels, a leading cause in heart disease.

Use ghee to boost your daily dose of antioxidants: Ghee contains carotenoids and vitamins A and E. These antioxidants fight free radicals and promote skin cell growth, good vision and immune system health, as well as reduce the risk of certain cancers and heart disease. 

Use ghee to boost your micronutrient intake: Ghee is excellent source of vitamin K2 and CLA,  nutrients that aren’t found in very many other foods. Vitamin K2 may help prevent calcification of the arteries by activating the body’s system that removes calcium from the arteries to deposit it where it’s supposed to be, in the bones. Then there’s CLA, which is a special kind of fat that may provide anti-oxidant benefits and help promote a healthy metabolism.  

Use ghee to increase the effectiveness of some herbs: Ghee helps transport the medicinal properties of some herbs, when ingested, to organs and cells. Some herb mixtures used in Ayurveda (the Hindu system of holistic medicine) that contain ghee have been shown to enhance memory, increase the body’s wound healing ability and display anticonvulsant and hepatoprotective (liver-protective) properties.

Use ghee for flavor: Ghee’s nutty and intense flavor gives it a unique flair in the world of butters. Enjoy ghee on your popcorn without worrying about the soggy factor-the lack of water in ghee keeps the kernels dry! Rice and vegetables also complement ghee’s flavor and texture well, but you can try ghee on any food in your plant-based diet for a strong kick of buttery, nutty sweetness!

Use ghee for cooking: Ghee has a high smoke point, meaning it can be cooked at high temperatures without burning. Use ghee to fry or sauté your favorite foods to produce flavorful dishes, sans the singe!

The next time you’re planning a meal, you may want to walk past the margarine and vegetable oil in the grocery aisles and opt for ghee instead. This exotic butter will spice up your foods and add a little extra health to your diet!

References: University of Kansas Medical Center (inflammation); PubMed

Originally posted 2013-10-22 10:33:48.