B12 – Just the facts Sunday, Mar 30 2014 

 

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Why do we need it?

-       Humans cannot synthesize this essential vitamin, so we must obtain it from dietary intake

-       It is one of the most metabolically important vitamins, involved in a wide array of body processes including cognitive ability, nerve transmission, red blood cell formation, mood support, DNA, ATP, fatty acid, and folate synthesis, and heart health

-       Vegans have a higher need for B12 because non-animal foods do not contain this essential vitamin. 

Where do I get it?

-       Food: only animal foods contain B12 (this includes dairy, eggs, butter, etc.)

-       Supplements: I recommend sublingual methylcobalamin because of its enhanced absorption

-       Once per month B12 injections

-       Nutritional yeast

Nutritional Yeast v. Brewer’s Yeast:

A product designed for vegans, nutritional yeast is a yeast grown on sugar beets, molasses or wood pulp, to absorb B-12 and protein.  The flakes are packaged in bottles, to be shaken onto your favorite foods!  It imparts a nutty/ cheesy flavor to foods.  I love Bragg’s Nutritional Yeast topping with a little melted coconut oil on popcorn– MUST TRY!!!

Brewer’s yeast is a by-product (derived from hops) of the beer-brewing process

 

Myth-busting!

Myth: Brewer’s and nutritional yeast contain B12

Fact: Only nutritional yeast is grown in a B12-rich medium.  Brewer’s yeast contains all B vitamins, except B12.

Myth: My food based vegan supplement contains B12.

Fact: Only if it has been fortified with a synthetic form* of B12.

*Note:  Synthetic B12 is a perfectly safe and acceptable way to supplement.   It is synthesized by fermenting and growing certain bacterium under special controlled conditions. Toxicity reports are extremely rare, even when taken in mega doses.

Myth: Brewer’s or nutritional yeast are not recommended on a candida diet.

Fact:  Both of these yeasts are inactive, and therefore can easily be included in a candida diet.

Oil pulling… is it just the latest fad? Wednesday, Mar 26 2014 

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If you’re into healthy living, chances are you’ve been hearing a lot of buzz surrounding the ancient ayurvedic practice of oil pulling; swishing the mouth with sesame oil for several minutes until the oil has become thick and viscous.

First, let’s address the fad factor.   I am never quick to dismiss any folk remedy that’s been around longer than the relatively new practice of modern medicine.  There is a lot of wisdom to be found in folk medicine, and there is generally a reason why the remedies have survived as long as they have.   An idea that I would love for readers to get used to is that folk remedies, while oftentimes lacking costly clinical trials as proof that they work… come with hundreds to thousands of years of trial and error.  If something has proven beneficial, it is human nature to keep it around.   With a little research, you will find that there are many parallels in specific-condition treatments spanning across cultures (particularly Eastern cultures).  In fact, plenty of parallels exist between ancient and modern medicine.  For example, today’s vaccines are a riff on the ancient homeopathic concept that “like cures like”.

So, what does the science say about oil pulling?  Fortunately, I found plenty of scientific evidence that speaks to its very real benefits.  The interest in conducting these evidence-based studies (all of which were performed in India) are twofold.  1- India has lots of sesame oil, and it’s cheap. 2- Chlorhexidine, the most effective anti-plaque and anti-gingivitis rinse is 5-6 times more expensive. The general consensus of all the studies I reviewed show that sesame oil is nearly as effective as chlorhexidine in reducing and/ or eliminating bad breath and the organisms that are associated with it.  An additional benefit of oil pulling is that unlike chlorhexidine, there is no risk of staining or potential allergic reaction (unless a person is allergic to sesame).

To date, there is no proof that oil pulling can detoxify the blood and organs. That said, perhaps its mechanism of action lies in the very modern idea that whole health begins first with oral health. While there is no conclusive theory on how oil pulling works to reduce halitosis and plaque build-up, it is evident that the interaction between salivary alkali and sesame oil during the swishing process lead to an emulsification/ saponification of the oil.   This enhances the cleansing properties of sesame oil by increasing the surface area of the fat droplets; essentially, it’s like washing your mouth out with soap (many of us can benefit from this in more ways than one)!  The viscosity of the oil probably helps prevent bacteria and plaque from sticking and accumulating.  Additionally, the three lignans found in sesame oil – sesamin, sesamolin, and sesaminol – have antioxidant properties and help to promote the action of another important antioxidant, Vitamin E.   This helps with plaque prevention and imparts anti-inflammatory benefits.

Bottom line:

Is it worth a try?   Absolutely!

How do I do it?

Take about a tablespoon of Eden organic sesame oil (you can also try this with Nutiva organic coconut oil- allow it to melt in your mouth first) and swish for 5-15 minutes, then spit out. The oil will become thicker and less pleasant-tasting the longer you swish.  This is perfectly normal!

 

 

 

 

Grains: The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly Wednesday, Dec 11 2013 

Like any other food, grains can have both beneficial and adverse health effects.  Ongoing studies have demonstrated that certain susceptible populations do much better on a gluten free or grain free diet, while most people are well equipped to tolerate small to moderate amounts of grains as part of a balanced diet.

Humans transition from hunter gatherers to farmers :

            Grains are a relatively new addition to the human diet, which until about 10,000-20,000 years ago consisted of wild meats, fresh fruits and vegetables.   As the planet’s population started to rise around the Pleistocene Era, humans abruptly transitioned from a hunter-gatherer lifestyle to becoming farmers.  Grains have since become a staple food, and the dominant source of both calories and protein (up to 80%) in many developing countries.  It is estimated that “three cereals: wheat, maize and rice together comprise at least 75% of the world’s grain production” (Cordain, 1999, p. 21).

Benefits of Grain Consumption :

When combined with adequate amounts of meat and plant based foods, grains can be a cheap way to boost caloric intake.   In this sense, they have helped tremendously in helping to keep an increasingly overpopulated world fed.  Other benefits of whole grains include their ability to flush the body of excess lipids, which make them a valuable option for anyone trying to prevent cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, and obesity.  Grains also contain B vitamins (except for B12), trace minerals, and anti-carcinogenic compounds which help protect against certain hormonally-mediated cancers.

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Negative impacts of a grain-heavy diet :

On the other hand, the displacement of nutrient-rich foods with a grain-heavy diet can have a negative impact on health.  The chelating effect of whole grains can flush both undesirable elements AND essential nutrients from the body.  Additionally, a diet too-high in grains is usually deficient in essential nutrients like B12 and iron, and can inhibit the bioavailability of many important nutrients, as demonstrated in the table below (click on table to view in full size).  (Gibson, Perlas, Hotz, 2006, p.161, 162).

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The bioavailability of zinc, copper, iron, calcium and magnesium in cereal grains is also typically low.  For example, zinc from animal sources is 4 times more bioavailable.  It has been suggested that the substitution of heme foods with fiber & phytate rich grains is a large contributing factor to the global iron-deficiency epidemic. Cereal grains’ inherent nutritional imbalances can give rise to conditions like dwarfism (zinc deficiency), bone mineral pathologies (calcium deficiency), iron-deficiency anemia, vitamin B12 & D deficiencies, and Pellagra (niacin and tryptophan deficiency).  In a study by Cohen, examining 51 different populations from around the world; physical stature, life span, and overall quality of life declined with the transition from a hunter-gatherer to an agricultural lifestyle.   A strong piece of supporting evidence that humans were not meant to consume a diet so high in grains is the fact that a plant-based diet alone cannot provide all of the essential nutrients required by humans. Whole grains contain no Vitamin A, no Beta-carotene (with the exception of yellow corn), no Vitamin C, and no Vitamin B12.  Cordain proposes that “The human nutritional requirement for vitamin B12 clearly demonstrates that vegetarian diets based entirely upon cereal grains, legumes and other plant foods were not the sole dietary components which shaped the human genome.” (Cordain, 1999; p. 27).

Susceptible populations :

        Many conditions have been shown to improve with the elimination of grain consumption.  Thus far, only two autoimmune diseases have conclusively been linked directly with wheat consumption; celiac disease, in which the microvilli of the small intestine are destroyed by wheat proteins, and a skin condition called dermatitis herpetiformis.  However, ALL grains contain carbohydrate-binding proteins called lectins, which have the potential to “interact with a variety of other cells in the body” and “represent powerful oral immunogens capable of eliciting specific and high antibody responses” (Cordain, 1999, p. 45).  Simply put, because of their resistance to digestive breakdown, lectins can wind up circulating systemically, causing self-destruction of various body tissues.  Cordain believes that the secondary metabolites developed by cereal grains to ward off predatory herbivores “can be either toxic, anti nutritional, benign, or somewhere in between, dependent upon the physiology of the consumer animal” (Cordain, 1999, p. 42).   Like any other food, grains may be tolerated better by some people as compared to others.  There is still much research to be done in elucidating the relationship of grains to allergies and autoimmune reactions.  However, many people with wide-ranging autoimmune conditions find that eliminating some or all grains from their diets helps to ameliorate their symptoms.

A common link found between autoimmunity and conditions like autism and schizophrenia are genes that code for the human leukocyte antigens (HLA).  Many autistic children experience improvement on a gluten-free diet, and interestingly, research shows that populations who consume little to no gluten-containing grains (rye, wheat, barley) have a lower prevalence of schizophrenia.  Studies have long shown that certain gluten peptides can behave like opioids, and that their effects can be reversed by using an opioid-antagonist drug called naloxone (Cordain, 1999, p. 58).  Some side effects of opioids (ie. heroin, codeine, methadone, morphine) include constipation, sedation/drowsiness, and respiratory depression.  They are usually prescribed to increase pain tolerance.

A variety of neurological conditions respond favorably to a gluten –free, grain-free or low-grain diet.  One of the earliest examples comes from a 1921 report by the Mayo Clinic demonstrating the Ketogenic Diet’s (KD) efficacy in treating a broad range of epileptic conditions. The diet consists of a high fat, adequate protein, and low carbohydrate diet.  KD is now an accepted treatment for epilepsy; strict compliance significantly reduces seizure frequency in up to one-third of patients (Aguirre Castaneda, Mack, Lteif, 2012, p. e512); better results than any one drug or combination of drugs. The KD has also demonstrated neuroprotective activity, and has shown promising results in ameliorating a wide array of neurodegenerative conditions including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.  While its mechanism of action is still unknown, the KD’s ability to reduce inflammation has shown great promise in the treatment of a variety of conditions such as diabetes, obesity, and even brain and prostate cancers (Masino & Rho, 2012, p. 15, 16).

The takeaway message here is that the affordability of grains makes them an important supplement/ addition to boost the caloric content of many individuals’ diets worldwide.  Most people seem capable of tolerating a moderate amount of grains, as part of a well-balanced diet.   Although, with food allergy-related conditions on the rise, that issue is currently up for debate. The research does make one thing very clear: some highly susceptible populations are better off consuming a minimal amount of grains or eliminating them from their diets altogether.

REFERENCES

Aguirre Castaneda, R.L., Mack, K.J., Lteif, A. (2012). Successful Treatment of Type 1 Diabetes and Seizures with Combined Ketogenic Diet and Insulin.  Pediatrics, 129; e512. DOI: 10.1542/peds.2011-0741Cordain, L. (1999). Cereal Grains: Humanity’s Double-Edged Sword.  World Rev Nutr Diet. Basel, Karger, 84, p. 21, 22, 23, 27, 33, 42, 45, 58.

Gibson, R.S., Perlas, L., & Hotz, C. (2006).  Improving the bioavailability of nutrients in plant foods at the household level.  Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 65, 160-161.

Masino, S.A., Rho, J.M. (2012). Jasper’s Mechanisms of the Epilepsies. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK50785/ .

Nuts: Roasted or Unroasted? Monday, Sep 16 2013 

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We oftentimes overhear nutrition tidbits here and there, and repeat/ retain them as if they’re the gospel truth.  I’ve always heard: “eat raw nuts, they’re better for you”.  As a nutritionist, and lover of roasted nuts… I wanted to know if this was true for both professional and personal reasons.  So I did a little research, and it turns out the answer is not so clear-cut after all.  I did, however, sort through some facts that will help shed light on your decision-making process:

 PROS:

  • Roasting helps break down the nutrients in nuts, making them more bioavailable; helping facilitate effective digestion.  This is good news for anyone with gastrointestinal problems, who should, as a general rule, eat cooked foods.

 * Note: roasted nuts are generally less filling. 

  • High temperature (130ºC), short time (33 minutes) enhanced the antioxidant activity of cashews, and some seeds.  Flavanoids  also increased with increasing temperatures.
  • Nuts are generally high in unsaturated fatty acids, with a low lysine: arginine ratio, and are rich in bioactive molecules.  Both roasted and unroasted nuts, and nut butters are effective in preventing heart disease and lowering blood cholesterol levels.

 CONS:

  • Roasted nuts show a significant decrease in amino acid levels; the higher the roasting temperature, the lower the amino acid content
  • Roasting peanuts (and other nuts) may be linked with increased allergenicity

MIXED RESULTS:

  • Raw nuts with skins intact appear to have superior phenolic levels and antioxidant capacity, when compared with roasted and bleached nuts.  However, the roasting process has different effects on different nuts, seeds and pulses.   Effects on antioxidant levels depend on the roasting conditions (duration and temperature).  Furthermore, higher starch items like cashews and chickpeas develop a higher total antioxidant capacity (TAC).

INTERESTING NOTE:

In a study that tested boiled peanuts against oil-roasted and dry-roasted peanuts, the boiled nuts had significantly higher levels of flavanoids and polyphenolic compounds.  The boiled peanuts also contained trans-Resveratrol, whereas the othe

Magic Chocolate Shell Ice Cream Topping Sunday, Sep 1 2013 

This very simple recipe was a happy accident when I blended some cocoa and melted coconut oil into chilled almond milk as part of my breakfast one morning.  Since coconut oil hardens at colder temperatures, it seized up and turned into something that transported me back in time to my childhood… a chocolate syrup you could pour onto your ice cream that would quickly form into a solid shell; making it even more fun to enjoy this favorite frozen dessert by giving it that creme brulee effect.  What I love about this simple recipe is that you can adjust the sweetness and the sweetener to your liking, though I have not tested how different sugars may alter the effects of freezing (I personally used no sugar).  I would love to hear about your results with a variety of sugars!  I would love it even more if you enjoyed it without added sugar, though I realize that bitter is not an agreeable flavor profile for some.  Feel free to play around with the recipe, adding spices like cinnamon and nutmeg to give it a Mexican twist!

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Recipe:

1 Tbsp coconut oil melted to liquid form

1 tsp unsweetened cacao/ cocoa (interchangeable terms)

your sweetener of choice to taste (optional)

Blend cocoa and sugar into melted oil, pour over ice cream…

Enjoy moderately!

Vitamin D and Women’s Health Tuesday, Aug 6 2013 

New research has uncovered even more reasons why adequate levels of Vitamin D are so important. Whether you’re a woman of child-bearing age or approaching menopause, this information applies to you.

CMAJ Open journal recently reported that in a study involving 173 women receiving IVF treatment, the women with sufficient levels of Vitamin D had “both significantly higher rates of clinical pregnancy and also higher implantation rates”.

In another study of 30,000 menopausal women, slated for the February 2014 issue of Menopause, The Journal of The North American Menopause Society, revealed that a combination of Vitamin D and hormone replacement therapy worked synergistically to reduce the occurrence of hip fractures.  Hormones alone were helpful, but women taking a combination of both experienced 61% less fractures!

Tips:

  • Vitamin D should be taken with food for optimal absorption
  • Daily Requirement (per NIH; progressive-minded health authorities recommend MUCH higher doses- check with your doctor) :
Life Stage Recommended Amount
Birth to 12 months

400 IU

Children 1–13 years

600 IU

Teens 14–18 years

600 IU

Adults 19–70 years

600 IU

Adults 71 years and older

800 IU

Pregnant and breastfeeding women

600 IU

  • Vegetarians and vegans: look for UV-exposed shiitake and button mushrooms (a good source of Vitamin D) at your grocery store
  • Mackerel (Atlantic/ chub), wild caught sockeye salmon, herring, sardines, and pasture raised eggs are excellent sources.  All listed fish are also very low in mercury.  Fish with skin and bones intact are preferable.  I love VitalChoice.com for their BPA free cans, high quality products, and sustainable fishing practices.
  • Sunshine 10-15 minutes per day, with legs and arms exposed

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Medicinal Mushrooms Friday, Aug 2 2013 

 

Overheard recently in Santa Monica coffee shop … “my sister predicts that mushrooms will be the next health fad”.   It’s true that medicinal mushrooms are making a comeback, but what you may not know is that they have been used for thousands of years in folk medicine and now, the scientific evidence is catching up to reveal their many health benefits.

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Did you know…

-       that the first antibiotics to be introduced were mushroom derivatives

-       PSK and PSP polysaccharides have antiviral, antitumor, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and pain-relieving properties.

-       PSK can inhibit HIV infection

-       have both direct and indirect anti-cancer properties.  In fact, the polysaccharides Lentinan, PSK, and PSP are now used in US hospitals in conjunction with chemotherapy to enhance the effects of treatment while minimizing side effects. PSK and PSP have the ability to activate cell death, inhibit DNA synthesis, arrest the cell cycle, and inhibit cell division

-       mycologists (biologists who study fungi) believe that understanding the roles of mushrooms’ multiple bioactive compounds and their mechanisms of action can alleviate many forms of cancers

-       mushrooms have immune (both innate and adaptive) modulating properties, dialing down the immune system when it’s overactive (as in the case of autoimmune disease), or dialing it up (as in the case of viruses)

-       have the ability to regulate blood glucose levels

-       statin-containing mushrooms such as Agaricus bisporus (white button) have the ability to regulate blood cholesterol

-       some medications for Parkinson’s disease utilize the rich neuroprotective compounds  found in mushrooms

-       some headache medications are mushroom derivatives

-       studies of hot water extracts (HWE- PSK) reveal their superior chelating (heavy metal detox) and antioxidant activities, when compared to other types of formulations

-       ethanol extracts (EE- PSP) have powerful anti-inflammatory properties.  They also have the remarkable ability to induce apoptosis (programmed cell death) in cases of cancer/ tumors

-       UV-exposed mushrooms (now becoming available in stores)

are a good source of Vitamin D; great news for vegetarians!

Science –

-       In a 1994 animal study, Paracetamol (an analgesic commonly used for mild aches and pains), when coadministered with PSP was found to have a significant protective effect on the liver

-       A study published in Vol. 97 (2003) 618-624 of Respiratory Medicine, showed that PSP administration resulted in a decelerated rate of deterioration in patients with Non-small cell lung cancer.  The study also revealed PSP’s direct anti-cancer potential and immunomodulatory effects

-        In a study published in Volume 12, Issue 6, November-December 2012; p. 467-474 of Pancreatology, PSK was shown to inhibit the growth of human pancreatic cells by promoting cell cycle arrest and apoptosis

-       A Japanese study published in the November 2010; (37)12:2255-7 of Gan To Kagaku Ryoho, showed that PSK has the ability to induce apoptosis and prevent cell proliferation in HL60 leukemia cells

Tips for effective administration:

It takes a minimum of 30 days to notice a difference in cancer patients receiving Lentinan, PSK, and/ or PSP.  It is recommended that patients continue the supplement for as long as possible both during and after treatment.

In the US, look for these science-driven brands:

FineCo Ltd. (also sold in JP, HK, AUS, and Europe)

Mushroom Wisdom

Mushroom Science

Aloha Medicinal, Inc.

Bill Clinton… model vegan? Thursday, Aug 1 2013 

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Did you know… Wednesday, Jul 31 2013 

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Canned foods, though practical and economical, can be harmful due to the BPA lining typically found in the cans.  According to the Mayo Clinic, BPA can have adverse health effects on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland.  This is particularly true in fetuses, infants and children.

Despite FDA reports that canned foods typically contain very low, “harmless” levels of BPA, some food manufacturers have decided to err on the side of caution… opting to utilize slightly more expensive BPA-free cans in the interest of their consumers’ good health.

You can enjoy foods from the following companies with peace of mind:

Eden Natural Foods

Vital Choice Wild Seafood & Organics

Oregon’s Choice

Wild Planet

Eco Fish

Trader Joe’s canned corn, beans, fish, poultry, and beef (check with your store on each of these, as they do not advertise the BPA free claim which means that it can change at any time)

Native Forest/ Native Factor

Foods that should never be purchased canned:

Tomatoes/ tomato paste

Any foods containing acidic foods/ ingredients (ie. citric acid)

Tip:

Opt for foods packed in glass jars

Did you know… Friday, Jul 26 2013 

ah-ha-moment 

  • High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) and sucrose are no different; both are equally bad for the body!
  • Fat COMBINED with sugar (not fat alone) has been strongly linked with heart disease
  • Fructose has been shown to raise triglyceride levels, lower good cholesterol and increases LDL  cholesterol (remember, the ‘L’ is for lousy). In a 6-day study of healthy medical students who were fed an acute fructose diet, their triglyceride levels doubled, their new fat synthesis showed a five-fold increase, and their free fatty acid levels (a contributing factor to insulin resistance) doubled!
  • All LDL is not created equal.  Pattern A (large, buoyant) type LDL is harmless, while Pattern B (small, dense) is the one to watch out for; Type A is raised by fat intake, while B is raised by carbohydrate intake
  • Exercise mitigates the damage done by fructose; by speeding up the body’s ability to process it before harmful waste products are created and/ or converted to fat
  • Regularly giving your child fruit juice is just as bad as giving them beer
  • Agave and commercially made fruit juice can contain as much as 90% fructose—stay away!
  • AHA guidelines for SUGAR intake are as follow (varies with activity level):

 

for Men: 36 grams or 9 teaspoons  

for Women: 20 grams or 5 teaspoons  

for Children: 12 grams or 3 teaspoons  

  • To roughly determine the fructose content of a food item, simply look up the grams of sugar and divide in half.

** It is HIGHLY recommended that any sugar intake come from whole food sources like fruits, vegetables and nuts.   If a person is ill, I suggest limiting SUGAR intake to no more than 25 grams, and FRUCTOSE to 15 grams.

 

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