All Posts tagged cardiovascular health

Garlic, an Important Part of Your Healthcare

Garlic is thought to work because of its antibiotic and blood cleansing properties.  As you can see from my previous post, it can help everything from cardiovascular health to cold and flu prevention.  In this post we’re going to go over some pointers on how to take garlic and some of its possible side effects.

Garlic is most potent, in terms of health benefits, when it is in its raw form.  Crushing or chopping it up helps to release its active compounds.  I have a colleague who will chew a raw clove whenever she feels like she is coming down with a sore throat.  Although this works well, not everyone may be able to tolerate chewing a raw clove.  If you are cooking with it, in order to preserve its health benefits, wait until the last 10 minutes of cooking to add it.  Make sure you don’t microwave garlic as this kills the active ingredients.  One good tip is to place a few cloves in a bottle of olive oil and then drizzle it over a salad.

For most individuals, garlic does not cause any serious side effects.  However people who consume it in large quantities may suffer from stomach irritation, heartburn, or flatulence.  One clove a day is sufficient to improve your health, and 2-3 cloves will help prevent a cold.  Garlic also appears to be safe during pregnancy and breast-feeding. In fact, two studies have shown that babies prefer breast milk better from mothers who eat it regularly.   Warning, due to garlic’s anti-clotting and blood thinning properties, people taking anti-coagulant drugs or who are scheduled for surgery should check with their doctor before taking supplements.

If you are taking garlic in supplement form instead of consuming the cloves directly, 600-900 mg/day is a good dosage.  Supplements can also help if you are concerned about “garlic breath” because you can purchase “odorless” supplements from most health food stores.  However, there is some question out there whether the odorless garlic supplements work as well.  When looking for a good garlic supplement at your local health food store or online, don’t go for the cheapest brand as it will have a lot of fillers.  Paying a little more is always a good idea. The best type of supplements is a gelatin capsules filled with garlic liquid.  They tend to be more potent, which means it delivers more pure garlic to your system.

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Almonds: Go Nuts

Personally, I’m a big fan of having nuts for a snack.  It provides that saltiness, but not all of the carbohydrates and saturated fat of chips or other typical snack foods.  I’ve always heard that almonds were healthy for you, but I never realized how healthy until I started doing a little research.  They are high in protein, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals, and they are considered one of my most nutritious nuts. The almond that we think of as a nut is technically the seed of the fruit of the almond tree, a medium-size tree that bears fragrant pink and white flowers.  Like its cousins, the peach, cherry and apricot trees, it bears fruits with stone-like seeds (or pits) within. The seed of the almond fruit is what we refer to as the almond nut. The almond is one of the healthiest snack foods you can eat.  Its health benefits are wide and varied.  Below are some of the health benefits that almonds have:

  1. Helps heart health:  A study showed those who consumed almonds five times a week had a 50% reduction in risk of heart attack.  They have large amounts of vitamin E that acts as an antioxidant and reduces the risk of heart diseases.  Almonds also help reduce C-reactive protein (CRP) which causes artery-damaging inflammation.
  2. Reduces bad cholesterol:  Almonds are a good source of monounsaturated fats and some polyunsaturated fats which help to lower the low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad” cholesterol).  A handful every day can lower your bad cholesterol level by 8 to 12 percent.
  3. Improves blood circulation:  Almonds are high in potassium and low in sodium, both are factors that regulate blood pressure.  The high level of magnesium in almonds has a very positive effect on our arteries and veins and helps to improve the overall flow of nutrients through our bodies.  It also contains iron, which helps carry oxygen to all of the body’s cells and organs.
  4. Good source of Protein:  Almonds provide one of the best plant sources of protein.  They provide high quality and highly absorbable protein. A quarter-cup (containing around 30 nuts) contains around 7.6 grams of protein.
  5. Strengthens the bones:  Almonds are a good source of calcium which prevents osteoporosis and strengthens the bones, teeth and muscles.  It also provides other nutrients that help to increase the bone mineral density, which helps to strengthen the skeletal system.
  6. Good for brain power:  The almond is a source of many nutrients which helps in development of the brain development.  I’ve heard it recommended having 5 almonds in the morning everyday for maximum brainpower.  They contain phenylalanine, a brain-boosting chemical, which aids in healthy development of our cognitive functions.
  7. Helps you lose weight:  Almonds have high fiber content, protein and the good type of fat which satisfies your appetite very soon therefore you are less likely to have cravings and overeat.  Studies have revealed that almond rich low calorie diet is good for obese people to assist in shedding their weight.
  8. Good for diabetic people: They are a low glycemic index (GI) food. When eaten with a high GI food, it helps in reducing the rise in sugar and insulin levels after meals.
  9. Reduces the risk of Cancer:  Being high in natural fiber, it improves the movement of food through the colon, thereby preventing colon cancer.  Almonds are an excellent source of vitamin E, phytochemicals and flavonoids which suppress the growth of cancer cells. It is also rich source of boron which helps to prevent prostate cancer.
  10. Prevents Gallstones: People eating at least 5 almonds a day have a 25% lower risk of developing gallstones, a study confirms.  Almond oil also possesses laxative properties and helps to produce soft stools and avoid any constipation.
  11. Good for skin:  An almond face pack prevents dry skin, pimples and black heads and is a good long term cure for acne.  It also improves skin complexion and premature aging. It nourishes the skin making it smooth and soft.
  12. Energy booster:  Nutrients present in almonds like Protein, Manganese, Copper & Riboflavin are all used to generate energy in our body.

So you can see, almonds are a nutritious snack that will have a positive effect on your overall health.  So Go Nuts on Almonds!!!!

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Laughter IS the BEST Medicine

I was at a conference this past weekend, and they were discussing this YouTube video.  It made me think of how infectious laughter is.  Laughter is more contagious than any cough, sneeze or flu bug.  It’s also a lot better for you.  In addition to the spread of joy, laughter also triggers healthy physical changes in the body.  Humor and laughter strengthen your immune system, boost your energy, diminish pain, and protect you from the damaging effects of stress.  When we laugh, we stretch muscles throughout our face and body, our pulse and blood pressure go up, and we breathe faster, sending more oxygen to our tissues.  It is almost like a mild workout.  Other physiological affects of laughter include:

–          Helps your cardiovascular system by increasing blood flow. Researchers at the University of Maryland studied the effects on blood vessels when people were shown either comedies or dramas. They found that laughter improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect you against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.

–          Naturally boosts your immune response.  Some studies have shown that humor may raise the level of antibodies in the body and boost the levels of immune cells by decreasing your stress hormones.  Thus, laughter improves your resistance to disease.

–          Relaxes the whole body – Studies into the benefits of laughter began with Norman Cousin’s memoir, Anatomy of an Illness.  Cousins, who suffered from a painful spinal condition called ankylosing spondylitis, found that watching comedies like the Marx Brothers films and episodes of Candid Camera helped him feel better.  Since then, it has been found that A good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes.

–          Lowers blood sugar levels. One study of 19 people with diabetes looked at the effects of laughter on blood sugar levels. After eating, the group attended a tedious lecture. On the next day, the group ate the same meal and then watched a comedy. After the comedy, the group had lower blood sugar levels than they did after the lecture.

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Green Tea, A Miracle Drink? Part 1

The health effects of green tea have long been touted by the Chinese people, but within the past few decades, green tea has received more attention in the United States.  Because green tea is rich in catechin polyphenols, particularly epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), it is a powerful anti-oxidant.  Drinking green tea is reputed to be helpful in preventing cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, infection, and impaired immune function.

What makes green tea different from other Chinese teas?

Green, oolong, and black teas all come from the leaves of the Camelia sinensis plant.  However, green tea leaves are steamed, which prevents the EGCG from being oxidized.  Black and oolong tea leaves are made from fermented leaves, which results in the EGCG being converted into other compounds that are not nearly as effective in preventing and fighting various diseases.

Health Benefits of Green Tea

Green Tea Fights Against Cancer

Most scientists believe that catechins in green tea have a tremendous effect on cancer.  It is believed that it lowers the toxicity of certain carcinogens, thereby reducing their cancer-reducing potential.  It also interferes with the binding of cancer-causing substances to the DNA of healthy cells.  Green tea also acts as an antioxidant, protecting your body from free radical damage.  Furthermore, scientists believe that green tea works together with antioxidants and enzymes in the small intestine, liver, and lungs to prevent tumors from starting.  Thus, it inhibits tumor activation.

Interest in green tea and its effect on cancer was initially aroused by a comparison of the lung cancer rates in Japan to those of the United States.  The Japanese seemed to smoke nearly twice as many cigarettes as Americans, but had only about half the amount of lung cancer.  So far, green tea has been studied as having a positive influence on stomach, pancreatic, colon, esophageal and prostate cancers.  With stomach cancer, a case-controlled study in Northern Kyushu, Japan, found that people who drank 10 or more cups of green tea per day had a decreased risk of gastric cancer.  With pancreatic cancer, a study found that those who drank 2 or more cups of green tea per day, the risk of developing pancreatic cancer was almost 60% lower than those who did not drink tea.  With colon cancer, a 1990 study published in the Japanese Journal of Cancer Research found that consumption of green tea lowered the risk of colon cancer.  In 1994 the Journal of the National Cancer Institute published the results of an epidemiological study indicating that drinking green tea reduced the risk of esophageal cancer in Chinese men and women by nearly sixty percent.  And finally, in a recent study by the University of Purdue, prostate cancer cells were mixed with testosterone, the hormone that makes them grow uncontrollably. But when green tea extract was added to the solution, the cells grew more slowly. The more green tea, the slower the growth of the cancer cells.

Green Tea Helps Stabilize Diabetes

Insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, is made in response to the level of glucose (sugar) in the bloodstream. Insulin serves two purposes: it lowers blood sugar levels and increases the availability of sugar for normal cell functioning.  Normally, after a meal, complex carbohydrates are digested and absorbed from the intestine into the bloodstream in the form of glucose and other simple sugars.  This resulting rise in blood sugar causes the pancreas to secrete insulin, which encourages the transportation of sugar from the blood into the cells. As blood sugar levels fall, blood insulin levels return to the pre-meal state.

With diabetes, either the pancreas secretes too little or no insulin in response to the rise in blood sugar after a meal or the pancreas secretes a normal amount of insulin but the cells do not respond to the hormone.  In either case, the result is that blood sugar levels remain high, and many complications can develop in the body from the abnormal blood sugar levels.

One study found that feeding green tea to rats reduced both blood glucose and insulin levels, and that catechins were very effective starch and sucrose blockers in the digestive tracts of rats.  Similar results were observed in humans.  When 300 mg (about 3 cups) of green tea were given to subjects ten minutes before taking in 50 grams of starch, their glucose and insulin levels did not rise nearly as much as was expected.  Besides, because of green tea’s starch-blocking effect, it may also help get rid of excess fat, the villain that can make diabetes much worse.

Green Tea Prevents Cardiovascular Disease

Drinking green tea is said to improve cholesterol levels, thereby reducing platelet aggregation, and helping keep blood pressure in check.  There is research indicating that drinking green tea lowers total cholesterol levels, as well as improving the ratio of good (HDL) cholesterol to bad (LDL) cholesterol.  Green tea also inhibits the abnormal formation of blood clots.  This is important when you consider that thrombosis (the formation of abnormal blood clots) is the leading cause of heart attacks and stroke.  Much of these affects can be contributed to green tea’s antioxidants that decrease the effects of free radicals from a fatty diet that contribute to blood clot formation and atherosclerosis.

If you remember in the 1990’s researchers studied the “French Paradox” where the French people consumed a higher fat diet than the Americans but had a lower incidence of heart disease.  The answer was the French drank more red wine which contains resveratrol.  In a 1997 study, researchers from the University of Kansas determined that EGCG found in green tea is twice as powerful as resveratrol.

If you find this post interesting, please return here tomorrow for part two of this post which will include the treatment of acne, weight loss, tooth decay, and how much green tea you should drink to get its benefits.

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