All Posts tagged cholesterol

Garlic, From Heart Disease to the Common Cold

Garlic is good for more than just repelling people with your breath.  It’s actually one of the healthiest foods you can eat.  Its key medicinal ingredient is allicin, which is known to have wonderful anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-oxidant properties.  So here are just a few of the health benefits of garlic:

Acne – Garlic can be used in conjunction with other treatments for acne.  Because acne can be caused by numerous things including hormones, diet, and stress, garlic alone may not be as effective.  However, it has been known to help kill the bacteria that that causes acne so it is a good addition to any acne treatment protocol.

High Cholesterol – Studies have shown that taking 600-900 mg of garlic per day lowers cholesterol levels and reduces arterial plaque formation by 5-18%

Antioxidant – Allicin naturally increases antioxidant enzymes in your blood.  It can also help against the damaging effects of nicotine and slows the aging process of your liver.

Anti-Bacterial – Garlic has 1% of the potency of penicillin and can ward off a number of bacteria such as Listeria, Salmonella, E. coli, Candida albican, and Staphylococcus.  In addition, bacteria don’t develop resistance to it like they do antibiotics.  This benefit was first realized back in the early 19th century when English priests caught infectious fevers, and the French priests who ate garlic didn’t.

High Blood Pressure – Clinical trials showed that blood pressure can be reduced by 1-5% after taking garlic supplements.  This may not sound a lot but this small reduction can reduce the chance of a stroke by 30-40% and heart disease by 20-25%.  Another clinical study showed that people with high blood pressure who took garlic capsules daily for up to two months lowered their blood pressure levels as effectively as patients taking prescription blood pressure drugs. A suggested dosage is 600-900mg capsules once daily.

Sore Throat/Cough – Garlic’s antibacterial properties make it a wonderful treatment for coughs and other throat irritations. It may also reduce the severity of upper respiratory tract infections.

Diabetes – Garlic is considered to regulate blood sugar levels by increasing the release of insulin in diabetics.  Therefore an effective remedy is to take one clove or one supplement every day.

Toothaches – Garlic’s antibacterial, analgesic, and anesthetizing properties can help cure toothaches. Simply put some garlic oil or a piece of crushed garlic clove directly onto the affected tooth and the gum for instant relief.

Warts – Garlic’s ability to fight infections and bacteria makes it an effective cure for warts and other skin problems.  Take a fresh clove and cut its tip off.  Rub the cut area of the clove directly onto the wart for a few seconds.  Repeat this each night before going to bed until the wart disappears.  If you feel any kind of irritation or strong burning sensation, simply rinse the area with water.

Make sure you join us back tomorrow for how to use garlic as part of your health care regime.

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Trans-Fats: What To Look Out For

Trans-fats (trans-fatty acids – TFA)

Trans-fats are probably the worst fats for you.  A trans-fat is a normal fat molecule that has been distorted during a process called hydrogenation. During this process, liquid vegetable oil is heated and combined with hydrogen gas.  If you eat trans-fat (which let’s face it, most of us do) and your diet doesn’t include enough of the good fats, your body will use the deformed trans-fats instead, which could possibly contribute to major health risks from heart disease to cancer.

So why are trans fatty acids (TFAs) so prevalent in commercial foods? Partially hydrogenated oils (from the hydrogenation process) are more stable (less likely to spoil), can be transported more easily, and can withstand repeated heating, which makes them perfect for frying up those French fries and burgers at your favorite fast food establishment.

Trans-fats may be found in foods like:

  • Baked Goods — cookies, crackers, cakes, muffins, pie crusts, pizza dough, and some breads like hamburger buns
  • Fried foods — doughnuts, French fries, fried chicken including chicken nuggets, and hard taco shells
  • Snack foods — potato, corn, and tortilla chips; candy; packaged or microwave popcorn.
  • Solid fats — Hard margarine (stick margarine) and semi solid vegetable shortening.
  • Pre-mixed products — cake mix, pancake mix, and chocolate drink mix.

Trans-fats tend to raise total LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and lower HDL (good cholesterol).  This can contribute to major health problems, from heart disease to cancer. No amount of trans-fat is healthy, and should be kept below 1 percent of your total calories.

Things to Look For When Shopping/Eating Out

  • When shopping, read the labels and watch out for “partially hydrogenated oil” in the ingredients. Even if the food claims to be trans-fat free, this ingredient tells you that the product is a trans-fat suspect.
  • When eating out, put fried foods, biscuits, and other baked goods on your “skip” list. Avoid these products unless you know that the restaurant has eliminated trans-fat
  • Most states have no labeling regulations for fast food, and it can even be advertised as cholesterol-free and cooked in vegetable oil. Eating one doughnut at breakfast (3.2 g of TFA) and a large order of french fries at lunch (6.8 g of TFA) adds 10 grams of TFA to one’s diet, according to the American Heart Association.
  • Some cities (i.e. NYC, Philadelphia, Seattle, Boston), as well as the state of California, have banned trans-fats in restaurants. This has caused some big chains to start to move away from using trans-fats.
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Fats and Fatty Acids – What You Need To Know

Fat in our diets has been blamed for many of our health issues:  obesity, heart disease, and some types of cancer.  As a result, many people turned to a “low fat” diet.  Unfortunately, the resulting “low fat” foods and diets haven’t resulted in most people controlling their weight or becoming healthier.  In fact, the opposite is true.  What we have found is it is the type of fat that matters in addition to how much you consume.  Reducing your intake of some types of fats reduces the risk of several chronic diseases, but other types of fats are absolutely essential to our health and well-being.

Sifting through all the conflicting information on fats can leave you with even more questions.   In order to understand good and bad fats, you need to know their names and some information about them:

Monounsaturated fats

  • Are liquid at room temperature and turn cloudy when kept in refrigerator.
  • Primary sources are plant oils like canola oil, peanut oil, and olive oil. Other good sources are avocados; nuts such as almonds, hazelnuts, and pecans; and seeds such as pumpkin and sesame seeds.
  • People following traditional Mediterranean diets, which are very high in foods containing monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil, tend to have lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

Polyunsaturated fats

  • Are liquid at room temperatures as well as at cold temperatures
  • Primary sources are sunflower, corn, soybean, and flaxseed oils, and also foods such as walnuts, flax seeds, and fish.
  • This fat family includes the Omega-3 group of fatty acids, which are anti-inflammatory and your body can’t make them on its own.

Saturated fat

  • Are usually solid at room temperature and have a high melting point
  • Primary sources are animal products including red meat and whole milk dairy products. Other sources are tropical vegetable oils such as coconut oil, palm oil and foods made with these oils. Poultry and fish contain saturated fat, but less than red meat.
  • Saturated fat raises low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad”) cholesterol that increases your risk of coronary heart disease.
  • It is unnecessary to eat saturated fat sources since our bodies can produce all the saturated fat that we need when we consume enough of the good fats.

Trans Fats

  • Trans fats are created by heating liquid vegetable oils in the presence of hydrogen gas, a process called hydrogenation. Partially hydrogenating vegetable oils makes them more stable and less likely to spoil, which is very good for food manufacturers – and very bad for you.
  • Primary sources of trans fat are vegetable shortenings, some margarines, crackers, candies, cookies, fried foods, baked goods, and other processed foods made with partially hydrogenated vegetable oils.
  • Trans fat raises LDL or “bad” cholesterol that increases your risk of coronary heart disease, as well as lowering HDL, or good cholesterol.

Omega-3 Fats

We should all be increasing our intake of healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which we need for body functions like controlling blood clotting and building cell membranes in the brain. We’re still learning about the many benefits of Omega-3, but research has shown this fatty acid can have a positive impact on:

  • Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) Epidemiologic and clinical trials have shown that omega-3 fatty acids reduce CVD incidence (American Heart Association), by:
    • decreasing risk of arrhythmias, which can lead to sudden cardiac death
    • decreasing triglyceride levels
    • decreasing growth rate of atherosclerotic plaque
    • lowering blood pressure (slightly)
  • Liver cancer: omega-3 fatty acids may be an effective therapy for both the treatment and prevention of human liver cancers. (University of Pittsburgh study)
  • Depression: Omega-3 fatty acid DHA reduces symptoms of depression probably because it increases gray matter in the brain. (University of Pittsburgh study)
  • Dementia – Eating fatty fish, high in omega 3, lowers the likelihood of developing “silent” brain lesions that can cause memory loss and dementia (University of Kuopio in Finland)

Types of Omega 3 fatty acids

The three key members of the Omega -3 family are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA); eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA); and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). The best sources for these are fatty fish such as salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies, or sardines, or some cold-water fish oil supplements.  Canned (albacore) tuna and lake trout can also be good sources, depending on how the fish were raised and processed.

You may hear a lot about getting your omega-3’s from foods rich in ALA fatty acids.  ALA is the most common Omega-3 found in American diets and is found in abundance in flax seeds and flax seed oil, as well as walnuts. While your body may be able to convert ALA into EPA and DHA, you can’t be sure – only some people have the ability to do so. Thus, to insure you get enough of these vital nutrients, it’s prudent to include fatty fish or fatty fish oil supplements in your diet. But, if you eat no fish or fish oil, getting just ALA is better than nothing – your cardiovascular protection may still go up, though not nearly as much as with fish oils.

Some people avoid seafood because they worry about mercury or other possible toxins in fish. Most experts agree that the benefits of eating two servings a week of these cold water fatty fish outweigh the risks.

Choosing the best Omega-3 Supplements

When choosing an omega-3 supplement, keep the following in mind:

  • One 500-mg capsule per day is sufficient – any more than that is extraneous and could even be detrimental to your health. The American Heart Association recommends consuming 1–3 grams per day of EPA and DHA. For certain medical conditions, higher doses of omega-3 might be beneficial, but make sure these are prescribed by a medical professional.
  • Choose supplements that are mercury-free, pharmaceutical grade and molecularly distilled. Make sure the supplement contains both DHA and EPA. They may be hard to find, but supplements with higher concentrations of EPA are better. A good ratio to look for is 3:2 (EPA:DHA).

The Omega-6 to Omega-3 Ratio

Omega-3 and omega-6 fats are both essential fats (meaning the body can’t make them and instead we need to get them from the food we eat). The proper balance of these two fats is extremely important for a number of reasons – one being that omega-6 fats are the precursors for pro-inflammatory molecules (which helps us avoid infections and promotes healing) whereas omega-3 fats are anti-inflammatory and turn off the inflammatory response when it is no longer needed.

In recent decades the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids has become way out of balance in the western diet. Most people consume far too many omega-6 fatty acids and consume far too little omega-3 fatty acids. This ratio is one of the important factors that can help reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, inflammatory conditions, and depression.

Tips for helping to balance your intake of the omega fats

  • Avoid vegetable oils such as corn or safflower oil.
  • Reduce your consumption of meats and dairy products.
  • Eliminate highly processed foods.
  • Increase consumption of omega-3 rich foods such as wild-caught cold-water fish like salmon, flaxseed oil, and walnuts.
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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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How to Add More Fiber to Your Diet

Fiber’s an important part of your diet.  Fiber is basically the parts of plants that your body cannot digest.  There are two categories of dietary fiber:  soluble (fiber that can be absorbed in water) and insoluble (fiber that can’t be absorbed in water).  Insoluble fiber is what bulks up your stool and increases the ease and speed of digestive material traveling through your colon.  Everyone needs insoluble fiber in their diet, but it is especially helpful for those with constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, and irregular stools.  Soluble fiber dissolves in water to form a gelatinous substance that can lower blood glucose and cholesterol levels.

Getting enough fiber in the diet can help to lower the risk of developing certain health conditions.  Evidence is now growing to support the notion that foods containing soluble fiber such as oats, rye, barley and beans can have a positive influence on cholesterol, triglycerides, and other particles in the blood that affect the development of heart disease.  Some people believe that fiber can help protect against colon cancer because it speeds up the passage of food through the body, thus preventing harmful substances from being absorbed.  Others believe that cancers such as breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and uterine cancer that are linked with over-nutrition can also be prevented by a fiber-rich diet.  Adding fiber to the diet helps lower blood sugar levels, which is important in avoiding diabetes.  In addition, some people with diabetes can achieve a significant reduction in their blood sugar levels and may be able to reduce their medication.  In addition, rapid digestion leads to a rapid release of glucose into the bloodstream.  To cope with this, the body has to release large amounts of insulin into the bloodstream, and this can make a person more likely to develop gall stones and kidney stones as well as diabetes and high cholesterol.

The National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine recommends that adult males under 50 consume 38 grams of fiber a day (men 50+ should eat around 30 grams daily), and adult women should include about 25 grams (for 50+: 21 grams) in their diet. That may sound like a lot by itself, but there are some simple ways to ensure you are getting your fair share of fiber.  Choose whole-grain breads and pasta over processed products.  Eat more of your fruits and vegetables raw, leaving the skin on whenever possible.  Replace juices with whole fruit to feel fuller and get more nutrition for the same number of calories.  Snack on nuts instead of chips; the healthy omega-3 fatty acids will help you feel full, with the added benefit of fiber.

Here are some suggestions from the Mayo Clinic on how to add more fiber into your diet:

  1. Eat a high-fiber cereal for breakfast (5 or more grams of fiber per serving). You can also add a few tablespoons of unprocessed wheat bran to your favorite cereal.
  2. Add crushed bran cereal of unprocessed what bran to baked products such as meatloaf, breads, muffins, casseroles, cakes and cookies.  You can also use bran products as crunchy topping for casseroles, salads or cooked vegetables.
  3. Switch to whole-grain breads. These breads list whole wheat, whole-wheat flour or another whole grain as the first ingredient on the label. Look for a brand with at least 2 grams of dietary fiber per serving.
  4. Substitute whole-grain flour for half or all of the white flour when baking bread. Whole-grain flour is heavier than white flour. In yeast breads, use a bit more yeast or let the dough rise longer. When using baking powder, increase it by 1 teaspoon for every 3 cups of whole-grain flour.
  5. Eat more whole grains and whole-grain products. Experiment with brown rice, barley, whole-wheat pasta and bulgur.
  6. Take advantage of ready-to-use vegetables. Mix chopped frozen broccoli into prepared spaghetti sauce. Snack on baby carrots.
  7. Eat more beans, peas and lentils. Add kidney beans to canned soup or a green salad. Or make nachos with refried black beans, baked tortilla chips and salsa.
  8. Eat fruit at every meal. Apples, bananas, oranges, pears and berries are good sources of fiber.
  9. Make snacks count. Fresh and dried fruit, raw vegetables, and low-fat popcorn and whole-grain crackers are all good choices.
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