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.

Potatoes – a tubular superfood!

Starchy carbohydrate-filled little calorie bombs, coated in refined salt and fried in poly-unsaturated fat, creation’s tubular superfood has been given a horrible reputation!  It’s time to redeem the potato’s righteous place on our plates.  The potato shouldn’t be guilty for the health crimes committed by potato chip manufacturers and fast food restaurants.  In and of itself the potato is an incredibly healthy food – it’s how it’s cooked and what it’s cooked in (often refined seed/vegetable oils) that can make eating potatoes hazardous to health.  If you follow the guidelines in this article, you’ll discover how and why to include potatoes as part of a healthy, creation-based diet.

The evidence: While we’ve ruined potatoes by frying them in refined oil (which promotes weight gain and throws off the body’s proper Omega 6 to Omega 3 ratio), people from cultures around the world have enjoyed potatoes as a staple food and maintained excellent health for thousands of years.  Before the Great Irish Famine of 1845-1849, potatoes were the primary food source for the Irish.  Reports reveal that the general population was in excellent health – the men were well nourished and muscular, and fertility rates were high.  In fact, there’s reason to believe that introduction of the potato to Europe contributed to significant population growth in the entire continent.  

The potato was first domesticated about 10,000 years ago in Peru and was a staple food in the diets of many South American peoples, including the Incas.  Hundreds of different varieties were grown that provided varying amounts of almost every known vitamin and mineral, as well as a number of other health-promoting phytonutrients.  Today there are only a few commercially grown varieties available in the U.S., but these can still contribute a significant amount of healthy nutrients to one’s diet.  Potatoes contain high amounts of minerals like potassium, manganese, phosphorous, and copper, as well as vitamins C, B6, and thiamin.   The potato’s potassium content is especially important.  

Potatoes contains more potassium than even bananas or broccoli.  Potassium is crucial for maintaining healthy blood pressure and muscle function.  Recent studies indicate that consuming enough potassium might be more important than reducing salt intake for good cardiovascular health, and many Americans are potassium-deficient.

Surprising as it may be, potatoes are also a decent source of protein.  While there are only a couple of grams of protein per potato, eaten as a staple, potatoes can still provide quite a bit of protein.  Potatoes are also unique in that they contain a complete protein.  The quality of the protein is likely what enabled people, like the Irish, to maintain good health on a predominately potato diet.  

A couple of years ago a potato farmer from Washington named Chris Voigt set out to redeem the potato’s good name by going on an all potato diet for 60-days, eating 20 potatoes per day.  The result  — he lost 21 lbs and lowered his cholesterol by 67 points!   While an all-potato diet isn’t the most balanced our healthiest long term diet, it’s clear that potatoes aren’t the cause of weight gain.  Given their history as a healthy staple food, their high vitamin and mineral content, and the quality of protein they contain, I think the argument can be made that potatoes are actually a superfood.  To top it all off, potatoes are gluten free, making them a great alternative source of carbohydrates for those who are gluten-sensitive.  

How to enjoy: Eat them almost anyway except for fried in refined seed oil (which means no potato chips or fast-food french fries).  The one concern with potatoes is that they contain natural pesticides (like most other plants) called glycoalkaloids that can be harmful to humans if consumed in large quantities.  Glycoalkaloids are found mostly in and directly underneath the skin.  Peeling the skin will remove most of the glycoalkaloid content of domesticated varieties, so if you eat potatoes often, it’s best to peel them.  Also, avoid potatoes that are sprouting or turning green — these potatoes can have higher glycoalkaloid content.  

If peeled, potatoes can also be eaten raw.  Try adding them diced to salads or vegetable trays.  When pan frying potatoes, use a little bit of butter/olive oil/ or coconut oil, instead of refined seed oils, and a small amount of water.  

Together we can redeem the potato’s reputation as one of creation’s truly tubular foods — a gluten-free source of potassium, vitamin C, healthy energy, and quality protein!

Originally posted 2013-01-24 00:40:00.

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.

Vegetables High In Calcium

We are all aware of the importance of calcium, the benefit it has for our body and that it cannot function without it. Calcium is found naturally in dairy products and is added to a plethora of common foods such as orange juice, cereal, soy milk and breads. Most recommendations to add calcium in your diet will point you towards dairy products, but, a common question for many vegans and vegetarians who don’t eat dairy products is, “What vegetables are high in calcium?”

Before we get into specific vegetables and their calcium content we need to look at the difference in absorption of calcium from foods. Calcium is absorbed far better from dairy products than vegetables. Moreover, vegetables that are high in calcium but are also high in oxalic acid, such as spinach, sweet potatoes and beans, don’t provide the body as much calcium as they contain. The Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium states, “In comparison to calcium absorption from milk, calcium absorption from dried beans is about half and from spinach is about one tenth.” Oxalic acid essentially blocks calcium absorption. Protein and caffeine may also have a negative impact on the retention of Calcium. This must all be taken into account when choosing plant-based calcium sources.

The following chart has vegetables categorized by oxalate content, “Low” to “Very High.” Within those categories each vegetable is listed in order from highest calcium content to lowest. As you’ll see, spinach has the highest calcium content, but since it has a “Very High Oxalate” content it is not a good choice for calcium. Be sure to choose from the “Moderate” to “Low” oxalate categories to maximize calcium absorption.

 

Food

Serving SIze

Calcium (mg)

% DV

Calories

Oxalate Content

Dill

2 tsp

63.67

6.37

12.8

Low Oxalate

Basil

2 tsp

59.16

5.92

7

Low Oxalate

Oregano

2 tsp

57.49

5.75

9.5

Low Oxalate

Broccoli

1 cup raw

42.77

4.28

30.9

Low Oxalate

Brussels Sprouts

1 cup raw

36.96

3.7

37.8

Low Oxalate

Romaine Lettuce

2 cups

31.02

3.1

16

Low Oxalate

Cabbage, Green

1 cup raw

28

2.8

17.5

Low Oxalate

Kale

1 cup cooked

93.6

9.36

36.4

Moderate Oxalate

Thyme

2 tsp

52.92

5.29

7.7

Moderate Oxalate

Cinnamon

2 tsp

52.1

5.21

12.8

Moderate Oxalate

Asparagus

1 cup raw

32.16

3.22

26.8

Moderate Oxalate

Fennel

1 cup raw

42.63

4.26

27

Moderate Oxalate

Collard Greens

1 cup cooked

266

26.6

49.4

High Oxalate

Turnip Greens

1 cup cooked

197.28

19.73

28.8

High Oxalate

Mustard Greens

1 cup cooked

103.6

10.36

21

High Oxalate

Celery

1 cup

40.4

4.04

16.2

High Oxalate

Spinach

1 cup cooked

244.8

24.48

41.4

Very High Oxalate

Swiss Chard

1 cup cooked

101.5

10.15

35

Very High Oxalate

Sesame Seeds

0.25 cup

351

35.1

206.3

Very High Oxalate

Leeks

1 cup raw

52.51

5.25

54.3

Very High Oxalate

 

Works Cited for “Vegetables High in Calcium:” 

  1. O’Connor, H. The Oxalate Content of Food. http://www.ohf.org/docs/OxalateContent092003.pdf
  2. National Research Council. Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Vitamin D, and Fluoride. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 1997.
  3. Agricultural Research Service. United States Department of Agriculture. National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference. Release 26. http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/search/list

Photo Source: Kale

Originally posted 2013-12-20 15:29:11.