Monday, March 18, 2013

Quinoa - what's the scoop?

by Leanne Ely

Everyone is so wild over quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) these days that you'd think it had just been invented. But this ancient grain (which is actually a seed, though it's treated like a grain) has been around for thousands of years.

Grown in the mountain regions of South America, quinoa has been a staple there for centuries. Recently, this seed has become popular in North America and Europe because it has such an excellent nutritional profile.

Let's take a minute to see why quinoa is so healthy:

*    Gluten-free. Because quinoa is a seed and not a grain, it's the obvious choice for those trying to live a gluten-free lifestyle.
*    Protein. Quinoa provides a complete source of protein, so vegetarians love this stuff!
*    Healthy fat. Quinoa contains health-supportive fats. A quarter of the fatty acids in quinoa are in the form of oleic acid, a good-for-you monounsaturated fat.
*    Vitamins. Quinoa is an excellent source of Vitamin E which is believed to provide anti-inflammatory benefits. This wonder seed also has good amounts of folate, phosphorus, calcium and copper.
   Fiber. Quinoa is an excellent source of fiber, which keeps your digestive system and your blood sugar levels healthy.
*    Antioxidants. There are a couple of antioxidant flavonoids (kaempferol and quercetin) that are found in abundance in quinoa.

Quinoa lowers your cholesterol and helps keep those levels of HDL cholesterol (the good kind!) nice and balanced. Quinoa is easy to digest, it's easy to cook and it's easy to love. Oh, did I forget to mention that it's also delicious?

Now before you get all carried away, you need to know that while quinoa is a much more nutritious choice than rice or a wheat-based side dish, it is still pretty carb-heavy, so make portion control a priority.

Look for certified organic/fair trade quinoa

As mentioned above, quinoa has become tremendously popular in North America and Europe because of all these health benefits I just talked about. You may have come across some articles recently suggesting that this newfound popularity has forced South American quinoa farmers to raise their prices (supply and demand) to the point where locals can no longer afford to buy this staple food. Farmers can get a higher price if they sell to foreign markets, leaving many South Americans quinoa-less.

This is a complicated issue and it's not as black and white as some may have us think. For instance, many South Americans who were once forced to leave the farming industry, moving to larger cities to earn a living, can now return to their homeland and do what they love.

If this issue is of concern to you, look for certified organic/fair trade quinoa which has been popping up in several places (and it will just become more easily available if we consumers demand the fair trade option).

Different types of quinoa

Most of us are familiar with beige-colored quinoa, but you can actually find these seeds in red, pink, black, yellow, purple, green, orange and every color in between. The quinoa we're most familiar with in the US are the traditional pale ivory varieties and red quinoa. The traditional quinoa is the tastier of the two options, but the red is more nutritious.

It would be wise to watch your portion size since quinoa is so high in carbs (39 grams of carbs per serving, 5 grams of fiber = 34 net grams carbs). However, quinoa is a transitional food for some since it is, in fact, a seed.

So there you have it. The whole scoop on quinoa. Enjoy it if you wish-just look for organic quinoa and keep the portions reasonable!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Secret of Sound Sleep Dr. Andrew Weil

In This Week's Issue:

Secret of Sound SleepRegular exercise is good for your heart, your waistline and your sleep. A new poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation revealed that people who reported exercising vigorously were almost twice as likely to say they slept well nightly, or almost every night. They were also the least likely to complain of problems falling asleep or waking too early and not being able to nod off again. In comparison, half of poll participants who said they don't exercise reported waking during the night, and nearly one quarter had trouble falling asleep again. Worse, poll participants who didn't exercise experienced more symptoms of sleep apnea, a condition that causes you to stop breathing periodically during sleep and is associated with an increased the risk of heart disease and stroke. The poll found a 44 percent risk of sleep apnea in non-exercisers, compared to a 26 percent risk among participants who said they exercised lightly, a 22 percent risk among those who described their exercise as moderate and only a 19 percent risk in those who exercise vigorously. Another interesting finding: contrary to conventional wisdom, poll participants who exercised close to bedtime reported sleeping as well as those who exercised earlier in the day, a finding that prompted the NSF to change its recommendation about the timing of exercise from "not in the hours prior to bedtime" to "any time you want."

My take? This is good news.Inadequate sleep can endanger your health in many ways: it increases the risk of accidents caused by fatigue and promotes weight gain, perhaps by disrupting production of the appetite regulating hormones ghrelin and leptin. Sleep deprivation can also disrupt the body's regulation of blood sugar, which can increase risk of type 2 diabetes. And laboratory studies suggest that not getting adequate rest may also elevate levels of stress hormones, boost blood pressure, and increase inflammation - all changes that may lead to disease later in life. Performing regular physical activity can allow you to get the rest you need and help prevent the health problems caused by poor sleep.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Mixing Drugs and Vitamins: What Are the Dangers?

by Dr. Stephen Sinatra

Filed Under: General Health
Last Reviewed 03/04/2013
Many people ask me about taking various vitamins and herbs with pharmacological drugs. Be assured that most vitamin and mineral supplements, including coenzyme Q10, can be taken with drugs.
I've been mixing conventional drugs with vitamin and mineral supplements for more than 20 years and, generally speaking, most of my patients have used combinations of vitamins and minerals and conventional drugs without any undue side effects.
That doesn't mean you shouldn't be cautious, however. The literature is loaded with studies demonstrating that herbs—like drugs—can trigger adverse and dangerous reactions.
With the following exceptions, most herbs and drugs can be safely mixed.

Drug/Vitamin/Herb Mixtures You Should Avoid

  • Never take long-acting niacin if you take statin-like drugs. A combination of the two could cause excessive metabolic stress to the liver. Remember, long-acting niacin in gram doses acts like a drug (don't worry if you're taking small doses of short-acting preparations).
  • Do not take standard dosages of ginkgo biloba (120–240 mg daily) if you're on Coumadin.
  • If you're on Digoxin, take hawthorn berry only under a physician's guidance. This combo could cause your heart rate to slow too much.
  • If you're taking Digoxin with beta blockers, stay away from large doses of vitamin E (more than 800 IU) and magnesium (more than 600 mg), as a combination of this mixture may cause additional heart-rate slowing.
  • Never use Kava Kava or St. John's wort, natural supplements for depression, with anti-depression drugs like Paxil, Prozac or Zoloft. An overdose of serotonin, the brain's happy hormone, may occur, resulting in serotonin excess, which manifests itself as irritability, dry mouth, and insomnia.
  • Do not use the herbs valerian root or passion flower if you take tranquilizers like Valium or Xanax because this combination can make you drowsy.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Curcumin vs. cancer: The scientific evidence continues to flow in

by Ethan A. Huff, staff writer 

(NaturalNews) There is definitely no shortage of scientific evidence these days to show that curcumin, the believed-to-be primary active ingredient in the spice turmeric, holds incredible therapeutic value, and just might be the most advisable medicinal spice of our day. And a prominent medical oncologist from Johns Hopkins University seems to agree, having recently held a large seminar highlighting the incredible ability of curcumin to fight diabetes, inflammation, and even cancer without causing any harmful side effects.

Dr. Saraswati Sukumar's passion for turmeric is partially rooted in the fact that the spice has long been a staple in traditional Indian cuisine, which is a significant part of her own rich heritage. But Dr. Sukumar has also been studying the unique compositional profile of turmeric, and specifically curcumin, for many years now, which has led her to some fascinating discoveries about its vast potential for use in medicine. Besides quelling inflammatory pain and promoting wound healing, turmeric is a seemingly miraculous anti-cancer nutrient of the highest order.

"We have close to 300 publications (that cite turmeric) for its anti-cancer effects," Dr. Sukumar is quoted as saying to the Palm Beach Postrecently. "Many diseases, such as colon cancer and other types of cancer, are being traced to inflammation."

Curcumin, arguably the most potent anti-cancer nutrient in existence

The inflammation link to cancer is backed by numerous scientific studies, including a 2011 review published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences which found that up to 25 percent of all cancers are caused by chronic inflammation. According to scientists from Ohio State University's (OSU) Comprehensive Cancer Center, inflammation triggers an increase in a molecule known as microRNA-155 (miR-155) that causes a reduction in levels of the protein responsible for repairing damaged DNA.

And what about the other 75 percent of cancers? Curcumin appears to have those covered as well. Research released that same year by scientists from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center revealed that curcumin actually seeks out malignant cancer cells and alters the regulation of DNA in order to kill them. And unlike synthetic anti-cancer drugs, curcumin leaves healthy cells and DNA alone so as not to cause harmful side effects.

"Curcumin (diferuloylmethane) ... is one of the most powerful and promising chemopreventive and anticancer agents, and epidemiological evidence demonstrates that people who incorporate high doses of this spice in their diets have a lower incidence of cancer," explains board-certified clinical nutritionist Byron J. Richards about the power of curcumin to fight cancer.

Curcumin is an all-around healing agent that promotes vibrant health

Curcumin's health benefits do not stop here, though. The same study that identified curcumin's gene-regulating abilities in fighting cancer also highlights the nutrient's ability to regulate a whole host of bodily systems. Based on the available evidence, in others words, there are few conditions that curcumin is unable to effectively mitigate when taken in therapeutic doses, which means adding it to your diet is one of the easiest and most effective ways to promote vibrant health.

"Extensive research over the past five decades has indicated that curcumin reduces blood cholesterol levels, prevents low-density lipoprotein oxidation, inhibits platelet aggregation, suppresses thrombosis and myocardial infarction, suppresses symptoms associated with Type II diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and Alzheimer's disease; inhibits HIV replication, suppresses tumor formation, enhances wound healing, protects against liver injury, increases bile secretion, protects against cataract formation, and protects against pulmonary toxicity and fibrosis," explain the researchers about their incredible findings.

Sources for this article include:

Omega-3s May Reduce Breast Cancer Risk

A group of Canadian researchers has demonstrated that lifelong exposure to omega-3 fatty acids can help prevent breast cancer, at least in mice. The investigators worked with mice bred to develop aggressive breast tumors and genetically engineered to produce their own omega-3 fatty acids. They compared their growth with a control group of mice bred to produce only the tumors. They found that the omega-3 mice developed only two-thirds as many breast cancers as the controls and that the tumors that did occur in this group were 30 percent smaller than those observed in the controls. According to study leader David Ma, Ph.D., the difference in size and number of breast tumors that occurred in the two groups can be "solely attributed to the presence of omega-3s in the transgenic mice - that's significant." He added that "to our knowledge, no such approach has been used previously to investigate the role of omega-3s and breast cancer". The study took place at Canada's University of Guelph and was published in the January 2013 issue of the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry.

My take? This good news seems to confirm earlier findings that omega-3 fats can help inhibit the growth of breast tumors and that high omega-3 fatty acid intake significantly reduces the risk of breast cancer. You can obtain these fats in your daily diet by eating cold-water fish (especially wild salmon and sardines), as well as freshly ground flaxseed and walnuts. I recommend that women who are concerned about the risk of breast cancer consider taking two grams of a high quality fish oil supplement daily.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Preventing Cancer via Your Diet

Dr. Andrew Weil
Published: 2/28/2013
A healthy diet can help the body in its efforts to heal itself, and in some cases, particular foods can reduce the risks of serious illness. The following may be particularly effective in lowering cancer risk:

  1. Avoid polyunsaturated vegetable oils, margarine, vegetable shortening, all partially hydrogenated oils and all foods that might contain trans-fatty acids (such as deep-fried foods).
  2. Minimize or eliminate consumption of foods with added sugar.
  3. Increase omega-3 fatty acid intake by eating more cold-water oily fish, freshly ground flaxseed and walnuts.
  4. Reduce consumption of animal foods and try replacing them with plant-based proteins such as whole soy products.
  5. Use hormone-free, organically produced products whenever possible.
  6. Eat plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits.
  7. Eat shiitake, enokidake, maitake and oyster mushrooms frequently.
  8. Drink green tea daily.