Archive for the ‘diet’ Category

Ways to Naturally Boost your Immune System

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Boosting your immune system naturally sounds enticing, but is it feasible? The immune system consists of many moving parts and they all need to work together for optimal health. Many vitamins and supplements claim to have immunity boosting effects, however boosting immune cells in your system is not always a good thing. The body is always naturally creating immune cells, so creating more than your body needs can actually do more harm than good. As we get older, the strength of the immune system decreases, which means that it is easier to contract infectious diseases. Scientists are not sure why this happens, but they have found a relationship between decreased T cells, that are responsible for fighting off infections. Some believe this may be due to atrophy that comes with aging, but it has not been confirmed. A reduced immune system as you age has also been demonstrated in how elderly respond to vaccines, as opposed to children. Nevertheless, vaccines have been found to reduce the overall chance of infections. A healthy immune system, regardless of age, requires healthy nourishment.

healthy lifestyleResearch has found that those who live in poverty, thus are malnutritioned, are more susceptible to infectious diseases. It is important to ensure you are fueling your body with real whole foods, so this means reducing the processed foods and increasing fruits and vegetables. If you suspect that you are lacking certain micronutrients in your diet and may be deficient of certain vitamins, it may be a good thing to incorporate supplements into your diet, but be sure to ask your physician first. Taking megadoses of supplements will not boost your immune system more, as mentioned previously you do not want to add more cells than your body really needs. There has also been found that there is a correlation between the mind and the body. This means that leading a high-stress lifestyle may be detrimental to the immune system. Incorporating daily exercise and meditation can be great ways to reduce stress. Exercise is also incredibly important for overall health, thus also having a positive impact on your immune system. Living an active lifestyle can seem daunting, so it is important to find an activity that you enjoy. It can range from walking 30 minutes a day to a yoga class, as long as you are moving your body in some way. Overall, living a healthy lifestyle is the best way to boost your immune system!


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The Alkaline Diet

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The Alkaline diet’s goal is to cut out foods that produce more acid like processed foods, dairy, eggs, and meat. On the contrary, foods like some legumes, fruits, and vegetables can contribute to an increased production of alkaline. Proponents of the alkaline diet argue that it can enhance overall well being and can promote weight loss due to the lower production of acid.This diet consists of healthy whole foods that benefit kidney and bone health. The pH scale measures whether a substance is alkaline or acid. The scale is between 0 and 14, anything below 7 is an acid, 7 is neutral, and 7 to 14 is alkaline. The kidneys are responsible for controlling the pH levels in the blood by either expelling or soaking up compounds. Over time, the adjusting of pH levels could have a consequence on your health. Bone density is a measure of the strength of your bones, and the lower your bone density the higher the likelihood of osteoporosis. This means your bones are weaker and more likely to break. Research has found the diet high in acid foods leads to calcium to be sucked out from the bones, thus reducing bone density. Diets that are higher in acid can also cause kidney stone as well as kidney failure. The pH in the stomach is more acidic as opposed to blood which tends to be more alkaline. It is important to remember that certain foods paired together can affect the pH of each individual item. The alkaline diet promotes a diet that is high in legumes, fruits, and vegetables. It is also lower in processed food and animal protein, which is something health experts are proponents of. If you are considering giving the alkaline diet a try, you should speak to your physician beforehand to ensure it is a good option for you.


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There have been debates about the negative effects dairy can have on health, and one of the most common topics is whether the type of fat found in foods with dairy cause an increased risk for type 2 diabetes. Dairy products are high in fat, specifically in saturated fat, which is a major contributor to obesity. On the other hand, many believe that certain dairy products such as fermented yogurt actually may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes or at least not have an effect on the risk of developing it. Dieticians recommend limiting saturated fat intake by 10% of the total amount of calories consumed, which is about 20 grams of saturated fat per day for the majority of people. To put this into perspective, a single ounce of cheese has about 8 grams of saturated fat. Studies performed to see if there is a connection between dairy and diabetes have been inconclusive because they don’t take into account the types of dairy people are consuming.However, results from several studies do indicate that low-fat dairy consumption has a slight decrease in risk for type 2 diabetes. Specifically, it was found that a quality, low-fat, fermented yogurt was the most beneficial. The other side of dairy proponents say that quality full-fat dairy products like cream, yogurt, and cheese lower type 2 diabetes risk. A study from Framingham Heart Offspring found that those who consumed low-fat and high-fat dairy products reduced risk of prediabetes by 25%-39%. While studies like this did find these results, it is still not clear what dairy products are the best. Due to this unclarity, the dietary guidelines for dairy consumption say that 3 servings per day of low-fat or fat-free dairy products, especially fermented yogurts like kefir, are optimal.

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Vegan Food – Is it Health Food?

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Go to the supermarket and you will be overwhelmed with all the vegan alternatives in the aisle.   There are vegan milks, vegan meats, vegan butters, vegan yogurts, vegan snacks and the list is endless.   For those that have been vegan or those that are trying to live a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle, it seems like there is a plethora of food options for you now.  Are all these options healthy for you?   Have you read the labels on some of these vegan foods?   The list of ingredients is important and it’s prudent to read all labels.  Many of these items have added sugar, some bad fats and other chemicals that may not be particularly healthy.

One example of a meatless entree recently reviewed has jackfruit listed in the ingredients.   This fruit is similar to fig but it does not contain much protein.    Jackfruit is mostly carbohydrates so it’s probably not the best substitute for meat if you are seeking protein.  Another issue is that some vegan foods are highly processed.  They may have some veggies listed as an ingredient but recognize that they may not be the whole foods you need for your diet.   Generally, if you want to have a vegan diet, it’s best to consume whole foods – the actual fruit, vegetable, nut, etc.

Also, just because it is vegan does not mean that it is great for you.   Oreos, gummi bears, Wheat Thins, even some pop tarts are vegan.

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Vitamin D is often associated with strong bones. The major biological function of Vitamin D is to keep the serum calcium and phosphorus concentrations within the normal range which maintains essential cellular functions and promotes mineralization of the skeleton. But more is not necessarily better. Research has found that those who take large amounts of vitamin D not only did not see any benefits in regards of bone density, but actually ended up with worse bone density in the long run.

vitamin D graphic

It has been found that high doses of vitamin D do not provide additional benefits for bone health. There are are a few instances where doctor’s believe higher doses of vitamin D are beneficial with those that have conditions that prevent the body from absorbing nutrients properly: ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. But increasing vitamin D in hopes your bones will be stronger, is not recommended for most people.

There are simple tactics you should follow to maintain your bone health. It is safe and sensible to take small amounts of vitamin D, like 1,000 International Units (IU), if you believe that you are not getting enough of this vitamin naturally. Get tested to see if you have sufficient vitamin D. Supplements are best for those who consume a small amount of vitamin D in their diet but it is recommended that you get vitamin D through diet and sun exposure rather then supplements, when possible. Some good sources of vitamin D are cheese, milk, yogurt, fatty fish like tuna or salmon, and cereals. People that don’t spend a lot of time outdoors should also consider taking small doses of vitamin D supplement. This vitamin is often referred to as the “sunshine vitamin” as it is produced by your body after exposure to the sun. As you get older, your body produces less and less vitamin D. People that are over the age of 65 make about 25% of the vitamin D they did in their twenties. Doses of vitamin D 4,000 IU or higher should only be taken under the advice of your primary care physician. In rare cases, a high dosage can actually be toxic. It can even lead to hypercalcemia, which is a condition that causes high amounts of calcium build up in the blood. This condition could cause a formation of deposits in soft tissues or arteries. It could also cause a predisposition to kidney stones, which are pebble like masses, created when high levels of minerals in your urine begin to crystallize in the kidneys. Again, the preferable method of getting your vitamins and minerals is through your diet. You can check food labels on the back of packaged foods to see the amount of vitamin D they contain.


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lutein graphic

Lutein is a plant pigment, or phytochemical that belongs to the carotenoid family. They are responsible for giving plants their bright orange, red, and yellow colors, and contain many health encouraging properties like antioxidants. Lutein differs from other carotenoids because is taken up directly to the brain and eyes. Although lutein is not classified as an essential nutrient, it does provide some health benefits. Due to the fact that Americans are living longer, more are experiencing cataracts and age-related macular degeneration(AMD); both are vision issues. Research has found lutein’s antioxidant effects help prevent damage to the retina from the sun. It was also found that consuming foods that are high in carotenoid reduces the risk for AMD and cataracts.

Since the retina is an extension of the brain, the lutein gets to the eye through the barrier between the blood and brain. The tissue that makes up the retina and brain are similar in the amount of lutein they contain, and there is a positive correlation linking it with cognitive function. Studies show that lutein supplements in women have increased verbal fluency and cognitive function significantly. A similar study also provided subjects the experimental group lutein through avocados and the control group with the same amount of calories through chickpeas or potatoes daily for six months. Those that ate the lutein-high avocados scored higher in problem solving than the control group. These benefits are not seen at the levels of lutein which the majority of Americans consume. You can increase your lutein consumption by incorporating more eggs, yellow/red vegetables, avocados, and leafy greens. It is also important to note that lutein is a fat soluble, so the body can’t absorb it without a healthy fats, like olive oil or salmon, present.


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How to identify Vitamin B12 Deficiency

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Studies have found that around 20% of people over 60 years old are deficient in Vitamin B12, but many are not even aware of it. Vitamin B12 is responsible for creating nerves, DNA, and red blood cells.

vitamin B12 graphic

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Deficiency of this vitamin may present itself as shortness of breath, tingling/numbness of extremities, constipation, paranoia, and irritability. B12 deficiency can also be developed over time, and may present only a few or all symptoms. It is often overlooked to diagnose as symptoms presented can resemble other diagnoses, and if left untreated it could cause irreversible damage. The optimal amount of B12 you should be getting daily is somewhere around 2.4 micrograms, and it can be found naturally in animal products such as dairy, fish, eggs, and fish. For this reason many vegetarians and vegans are deficient in B12. Even those older adults that consume plenty of Vitamin B12 can lack sufficient amounts because the production of stomach acid reduces with age, which makes it more difficult to absorb B12. Certain medications like omeprazole and ranitidine can also affect B12 levels. Autoimmune disorders like pernicious anemia, usually present themselves in people over the age of 65, and is one of the most common causes for severe Vitamin B12 deficiency. If you believe you are suffering from any of the symptoms related to deficiency, you can check your vitamin B12 levels through a blood test. If your blood test determine you don’t have sufficient amount of B12, you can speak to your physician about possibly taking a B12 supplement. Your doctor will help you determine the best dosage for you depending on the extent of your deficiency. Always check with your physician prior to taking vitamin B12 supplements.

 


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Benefits of Herbal Teas

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herbal teaWhether it’d be summer or winter, you can always find an herbal tea to fit your preference, but did you know different herbal teas have various health benefits? Herbal teas differ from green, black, or oolong tea because they are made from dried fruits, herbs, and flowers instead of the camellia sinensis plant that is used for standard teas. The majority of herbal teas are caffeine free, so they are perfect for anytime of the day, and contain many vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. The following are some benefits of various herbal teas you may want to try out:

  • One of the most popular and well known effects of tea is relaxation. Nowadays, more likely than not you’ll be under some type of stress, so it is important to unwind, and herbal tea is a great natural alternative to medication that can be harmful in the long run. Some options of teas that have relaxing properties include chamomile, lemon balm, peppermint, and passionflower tea.
  • Even those who aren’t avid tea drinkers will drink a hot cup of herbal tea when they have a cold and it’s for good reason. The medicinal properties of some teas relieve some of your symptoms and may even shorten the amount of time you are sick. You should opt for Licorice, dandelion, cayenne, or ginseng tea if you are feeling under the weather.
  • Herbal tea can be helpful when it comes to aiding digestion as it improves blood flow to the digestive tract absorb gas, and aid digestive tract to absorb nutrients. A few options include chamomile, ginger,  and chai tea.

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Can Diet Optimize Human Memory

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Improve Your Diet optimize Memory with Brain Foods and Exercise

Memories influence and shape your personality. It’s your thoughts, connections, and all other recollections that make you who you are, and memory loss is essentially a loss of a part of you. However, there might be more you can do to boost your memory. Studies show that healthier diets help improve memory in the long run. Diets high in cholesterol and fat could increase the rate at which beta-amyloid plaques in the brain are created. Amyloid-beta is a protein involved with Alzheimer’s disease; it is the main component found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.  Also affected are the blood vessels in the brain which can be damaged thus preventing brain cells from receiving the oxygen-rich blood they need to function normally.

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The end result may be a degradation in thinking and memory. Although there is still not much information available about a brain-healthy diet, a heart-healthy diet that is low in saturated fat reduces the risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity and may also help prevent memory loss. A heart-healthy diet is very similar to a Mediterranean diet which includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, olive oil, and limited red meat. There are limited studies that dietary supplements such as antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids may stall memory loss, but may be considered for some.

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What you should know about CRP

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What you should know about CRP

CRP is C-reactive protein, a protein found in the body that reacts to the inflammatory response. Called a complement protein, CRP and other proteins like it respond to tissue damage. These proteins and other aggregates of the inflammatory, cause a reaction to help repair when there is an injury anywhere in the body. This quick reaction to tissue damage and inflammation is part of our immune response.

Reactions to Inflammation

Due to this reaction, CRP levels are understandably elevated after surgery or accidental physical trauma. CRP levels are also affected when the body undergoes vascular events that leave tissue without oxygen, such as heart attacks or strokes. CRP levels are often watched after myocardial infarction or heart attack, along with other blood tests to prevent another episode.

CRP & Infection

When someone is actively fighting infections, like appendicitis, influenza, or pneumonia, CRP levels will also be elevated. CRP levels, along with white blood cell counts, are a big determinant when physicians decide if a treatment is effective at eliminating the infection.

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Autoimmunity and CRP

When the body’s immune system starts to target its own cells, it is called Autoimmune disorder.  Some examples of autoimmune diseases are rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s Disease, lupus, and hypothyroidism in some cases. In addition to physical symptoms of pain and fever, autoimmune diseases will increase the inflammatory response. C-reactive protein levels are often evaluated by doctors, again, with other tests, to help determine the severity or progression of the disease or episode.

CRP & Heart

Because CRP is elevated after a heart attack, most doctors will follow its levels in patients after coronary events. If initial levels of CRP are over 2.4 mg/dL, they are considered at risk for coronary events.  It is desirable to have CRP levels less than 1.0 mg/dL. Statin drugs treated for hyperlipidemia reduce CRP levels, another reason to keep at-risk patients on these drugs. It is evident that patients who have consistently higher CRP levels are more likely to have hypertension, diabetes and heart disease.

Some cancers may elevate CRP levels and is often very high during acute or chronic kidney failure. A CRP blood test alone will not diagnose a single disease but can be significant in the presence of other symptoms.

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