Foods with anabolic steroids:

The most affordable and accessible foods with the highest concentrations of phytoecdysteroids are spinach, quinoa, and suma root.  These plants contain high amounts of a powerful and naturally occurring form of phytoecdysteroid known as b-ecdysterone or 20-hydroxyecdysone.  Yes, you read correctly, it’s a steroid.  There’s no need for alarm though – I’m not pushing any strange drugs to help pay for my master’s degree.  Actually, after researching phytoecdysteroids, I’m convinced that these little molecules are something we should have more of in our diets.  Some of the claimed benefits of phytoecdysteroids include: anabolic, adaptogenic, hepatoprotective, and hyperglycemic effects.  Below are the approximate amounts of b-ecdysterone contained in the richest food sources:

Spinach:          .01% of fresh weight = 45 mg b-ecdysterone in 450g spinach [1]
-Spinach is also rich in a vitamins, minerals, chlorophyll, and naturally occurring nitrates.  Plant-based nitrates can be converted by the body into nitric oxide, which is used to relax the blood vessels and improve blood flow.  Bodybuilders often take nitric oxide supplements to support muscle growth and athletic performance. 

Quinoa:           .037% of dry weight = 18.25 mg b-ecdysterone in 50g quinoa [2]
-Quinoa is a relative of the spinach plant and is high in minerals, protein, and fiber.  It can be used like a grain but is gluten-free.

Suma root:      .66% of dry weight = 26.4 mg b-ecdysterone in 4g of root powder [3]
(pfaffia paniculatta) The suma plant, also known as Brazilian Ginseng, is a traditional medicine in Brazil.  It’s known to be effective at alleviating so many health problems that it’s called “para todo” – for everything.  Suma is high in a number of powerful compounds including beneficial saponins.  You can get a 1lb bag of suma powder from  Epic Herbs.

When the word “steroid” is heard or read, it’s usually associated with the synthetic, anabolic-androgenic steroid that some athletes use to build muscle or improve performance.  There are many other steroids, however, that are naturally produced in the body and required for proper health: cholesterol, testosterone, and estrogen are the most well known.  Steroids are simply hormones that send messages to the body’s cells.  Different steroids produce different responses.  Humans, animals, and plants all use a number of varoious steroids.

Some plant-eating insects produce and use a group of steroids called ecdysteroids.  Yet, too much of the hormone can cause them problems.  Plants such as spinach, quinoa, and suma, use this biological principle to their advantage.  These plants contain high amounts of hormones that are nearly identical to ecdysteroids (known as phytoecdysteroids) — consequentially, insects that eat these plants can experience a hormonal overload that disables and deters them from continuing to eat the same plants.

In mammals, however, phytoecdysteroid consumption appears to have primarily highly positive effects.  In the 1970s and 80s, Soviet scientist were the first to study the effects of phytoecdysteroids in humans, and it’s suspected that a few Soviet athletes benefited from their findings.  Today, American scientists are performing further phytoecdysteroid studies and beginning to unlock the mysteries of how these powerful hormones work.

In a study done at Rutgers, rats given food containing Spinach extract (containing the equivalent of 50 mg 20-hydroxyecdysone/kg of body weight) had 24% stronger gripping strength at the end of 28-days than rats fed the same food without spinach extract. The rats fed the spinach extract also had slightly stronger gripping strength than rats given traditional anabolic-androgen steroids (the type often used by bodybuilders)!  The same study also used human muscle cell cultures to determine how the cells would respond to phytoecdysteroids.  Treatment with 20-hydroxyecdysone resulted in up to a 20% increase in protein synthesis and also caused decreased protein degradation (which can help improve overall protein gains in muscle).[4]

The greatest concern for most people, when talking about steroids, is the negative androgenic side effects associated with other anabolic (muscle enhancing) steroids, such as prostate growth and breast tissue development in men, and voice deepening and hair growth in women.  Common experience with phytoecdysteroids indicates that while they have powerful anabolic activity, they don’t have the negative side effects associated with anabolic-androgen steroids. Moreover, in the Rutgers study mentioned above, it was found that 20-hydroxydysone did not cause prostate growth like synthetic anabolic steroids did.  This may be attributed to phytoecdysteroids having a shape that prohibits them from binding to cells’ androgenic receptors (the receptors that trigger prostate and hair growth, etc).

At any rate, spinach, quinoa, and suma are all incredibly safe, whole foods! Several studies in addition to the Rutger’s study indicate that phytoecdysteroids have many promising health benefits.  Not only have they been show to increase strength and anabolic activity in mammals, they may also improve insulin sensitivity, reduce visceral fat, aid memory, and improve wound healing efficiency.  The good news is that many of the effects of phytoecdysteroids appear to be achieved at relatively low daily doses: between .5 and 5/mg of 20-hydroxydysone per kg of body weight.  Also, you would have to eat over a hundred pounds of spinach per day before you consumed potentially toxic amounts. On the other hand, if you want to supplement with 20-hydroxyecdysone, there are a number of 20-hyroxyecdysone powders and capsules available.[5][6]

So, while the evidence for phytoecdysteroids is still unfolding, it seems like Popeye was right after all… “Eat your spinach kids!”

Related Products: Suma, Spinach Powder, QuinoaEcdysterone, Creatine, Whey Protein, Glutamine

[1] Phytoecdysteroids: Understanding Their Anabolic Activity by Jonathan Gorelick-Feldman at Rutgers
[2] Ecdysteroids from Chenopodium quinoa Willd., an ancient Andean crop of high nutritional value
[3] Level and distribution of 20-hydroxydysone during Pfaffi glomerata development
[4] Phytoecdysteroids: Understanding Their Anabolic Activity by Jonathan Gorelick-Feldman at Rutgers
[5] Effects and applications of arthropod steroid hormones (ecdysteroids) in mammals.
[6] Practical uses for ecdysteroids in mammals including humans: an update

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Originally posted 2011-09-28 17:46:00.

Is quinoa fattening?

Quinoa has quickly become one of the most popular health foods on the market. It’s high in protein and fiber, it’s gluten-free, and it’s a good source of a number of vitamin and minerals. But… is quinoa fattening? Quinoa is relatively high in calories, and it can require a few extra “fixings” to make it taste good, so this is actually not a bad question — especially if you’re trying to lose a few extra pounds.

The answer to the question “Is quinoa fattening?” is a little more nuanced than whether or not quinoa contains fat. With only 4 grams of fat per 1 cup serving, quinoa is actually a low fat food. What really gives quinoa its potential to be fattening is the total amount of calories and carbohydrates it contains. In 1 cup of quinoa there are 222 calories and 35 grams of carbohydrates. 

If you think about it though, 222 calories really isn’t that much. Even if your daily caloric need is low and you’re on a 1,000 calorie diet, 222 calories would only meet about 1/4th of your total caloric need for the day. So far so good. But have you seen 1 cup of quinoa? It isn’t much, and you’re not just going to eat plain quinoa. You’ll need something on it. If you have it for breakfast, you’re going to want to add some milk and honey. For dinner you might cook it up with some olive oil or tomato juice and veggies. The calories can quickly add up. There is some potential that quinoa could become a vehicle for a few extra calories, but overall I’m not convinced that quinoa is a fattening food.

Is quinoa fattening? I’m more inclined to argue just the opposite. Even the 35 gram or carbohydrates isn’t all that problematic. Your body needs some carbohydrates during the day, and the type of carbohydrates found in quinoa are the best kind. Quinoa’s starches make excellent fuel for your brain and muscles. On top of that, 1 cup of quinoa contains 8 grams of high quality protein and a full spectrum of vitamins and minerals. Quinoa isn’t an empty source of fattening calories — it’s a highly nourishing food for restoring and energizing your body.  

If you’re really trying to lose excess fat, my only recommendation would be to eat quinoa for breakfast instead of for lunch or dinner. Eating quinoa in the morning will give your brain thinking fuel, boost your metabolism, and give you plenty of time to burn off those carbohydrates. For more information about quinoa, including how to cook it, read our more in-depth article on quinoa.

Sources: USDA Food Database
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Originally posted 2013-12-04 10:11:29.