Mushrooms… How Good Are They?

Mushrooms – Those little one legged plants are getting some attention on the digital by-ways recently on YOU-TUBE , TED Talks and even on NPR radio. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WuF4s-0-0Gs

I am so excited after listening  reading about the extensive research being done on these phenomenal health saving plants that I want to share my excitement with you.

Recently, I listened to Paul Stamets,  a well known mycologist, speak at National College of Natural Medicine and since have become inspired by his intense love for this species of plant – fungi.  It turns out that they are extremely helpful in the environment as they act like the liver which acts as a biochemical filter. This means mushrooms can take a toxic substance and convert it to a non toxic chemical – just like the liver does.  He calls them “soil magicians” for the wondrous ways they work environmentally.

What is even more important is the way mushrooms can help the body heal. They provide immune support in the body and have shown their power in healing cancer. Stamets also states that they are known for their strong antibiotic and anti-viral effect.

Mushroom researcher and cultivator Jeff Chilton talks about polysaccharides found in mushrooms: “These compounds have been the primary focus of research due to their ability to inhibit tumors in laboratory test animals. Mushroom polysaccharides act by enhancing host defenses rather than directly killing tumor cells. For this reason they are called host defense potentiators (HDP).

A very specific variety called “shiitake” is one to highlight  I consume this particular species  regularly in my diet.  Here are a few facts for you:

  1. Shiitakes have four to ten times the flavor of common white button mushrooms.
  2.  In addition to their robust flavor  shiitakes provide high levels of protein (18%), potassium, niacin and B vitamins, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus.
  3. They have natural antiviral and immunity-boosting properties and are used nutritionally to fight viruses.
  4. They  lower cholesterol and regulate blood pressure.
  5. Lentinan,  an immunostimulant  contained in shiitakes, has been used to treat cancer, AIDS, diabetes, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibrocystic breast disease.
  6.  Researchers S. Suzuki and Oshima found that a raw shiitake eaten daily for one week lowered serum cholesterol by 12%. http://shiitakemushroomlog.com/facts&nutrition.html

This plant is the truest examples of Hippocrates statement:  “let food be your medicine and let medicine be your food” .   Be proactive and preventative by including mushrooms at least 3-4 times a week in your diet. Using shiitake mushrooms in salads, sautéed with veggies or scrambled eggs are some easy ways to improve your immune system – the guardian of health.

Listen to NPR interview on medicinal mushrooms:  http://www.npr.org/player/v2/mediaPlayer.html?action=1&t=1&islist=false&id=4783951&m=4784636

 

Go Ahead – Be a Fathead!

Our beautiful brain is comprised of 60% fat; brain cells are insulated with fat allowing biochemicals in and out of each cell. Brain activity depends upon the quality of its insulation. Since 50% of this fat is DHA there is a concern for the type of fat we consume. So be a fathead and eat healthy sources of omega 3 fatty acids.

The star today is DHA an omega 3 fat (fatty acid). It is plentiful in fish like salmon, sardines and trout. Where do fish get their omega 3’s? They get it by feeding on algae at the bottom of rivers and streams.
A study recently of 480 people with complaints of poor memory found improvement when participants took 900mg of DHA from algae each day.
How to keep a healthy brain:
* Know the type of fats you ingest; avoid all hydrogenated and deep fried fats.
* Wild caught salmon and trout are best.
* Beware of fish from fish farms. They are fed corn or soy which produces omega 6 fats that are less favorable.
* DHA from algae will deliver good fat to your brain.
Being a fathead  means consuming healthy fat that supports good brain cognition and intelligent function, while knowing that quality of the ingested fat is most important. For a further look on the subject of the quality of America’s food see the DVD “Fat Head” by Tom Naughton.

I invite you to live life one healthy day at a time eating one healthy meal at a time.

SAVE THE DATE!

Join me  April 18, 2012 at 5:00 PM PDT in my next conversation with an omega 3 fatty acid  expert Gretchen Vannice, MS, RD. Her recent publication  Omega 3 Hand Bookeducates us on these important nutrient. Information from Gretchen will be unbiased and informative (unlike the internet!).

Red Meat and Stroke

Eating those hamburgers and steaks may be hazardous a study has concluded. Not what you may have been hoping to hear. An even greater problem are red meats that are preserved with nitrates and sodium (salt) the same study revealed. Processed foods again show up as unhealthy.

Old favorites like luncheon meats such as salami, pepperoni, bologna, hot dogs and liverwurst can be the worst of all.

Dr Adam Bernstein,  research director of the Wellness Institute at the Cleveland Clinic, Ohio,  reviewed data of several thousand people and looked at health outcomes.  Most participants were doctors and nurses studied from 1980 -2006 – a  25 year period.

Red meat has already been associated in other studies  with  coronary heart disease, diabetes, total mortality, weight gain, and some cancers. This finding added stroke as another outcome associated with regular consumption of a red meat and processed meat diet.

The good news is that with this same group of people, eating chicken and fish instead of red meat actually lowered  stroke risk.  So if you want to keep a healthier profile, replace red meat with chicken, fish or nuts as a protein source.

When choosing your protein source select  animals that have been fed well and hopefully have had a cage free life, have not been given growth hormones or antibiotics to enhance their growth.  Farmed fish is another poor choice of protein for reasons cited above.

Here is a list of other good choices of protein. Remember variety is good, so change it up often!

  • Nuts and seeds – nut and seed “butter”
  • Nut “milk”: almond or soy,
  • Soybean in the form of tofu or tempeh.
  • Turkey, chicken  and eggs.
  • Rice and beans are good protein combination
  • Goat and sheep cheeses.

Learn to be very selective in food choices. This study took 25 years to see the dire consequences of a type of food so many Americans eat daily.

Read more…

Your Best Buddy – Your Immune System

Two delicious fruits that are in season can be great immune system supporters as the winter season approaches – Kiwi and Apple.

KIWI

Kiwi made its way to the US from China via New Zealand and now grows in many areas of this country including the northwest, California and even North Carolina. It is an easy to grow vine and its fruit is full of vitamin C, minerals and other antioxidants. The green flesh of the fruit is luscious along with its cousin the golden kiwi with its yellow insides . Its claim to immune fame is that it protects lymphocytes – one type of white blood cell essential to immune health. I love how easy it is to travel with a kiwi in my pocket. I slice it in half and just scoop out the lovely flesh. Yum!

APPLE

“An apple a day keeps the doctor away” – is that true? It is a fact that apples are high in nutrients that support immunity. Eaten raw and with the skin intact apples provides phytochemicals (phyto = plant), pectin – an important fiber for the GI tract and flavonoids like quercitin. Studies have shown these phytonutrients play a role in reducing heart disease and asthma. Pectin alone has shown to reduce cholesterol levels and improve bowel function.

Adding both of these fruits to your nutrition plan will give added health benefits. Plan to eat at least one medium apple 3 times a week and one kiwi 3 times a week to have a healthy winter. Start now.

When buying apples choose organically grown produce – you want to eat the skin. Testing has shown that some of the highest residues of pesticides are found in apples. Kiwi skin is removed, but I recommend organic because pesticides rarely stay just on the skin surfaces.

SNACK: sliced apples with peanut butter or almond butter is a great protein snack.

Add sliced apples or kiwis to salads or add chopped apples to oatmeal or other breakfast cereals.

Apples and kiwis are great in fruit salads along with citrus fruits, grapes or berries. Eat a colorful array of food in your diet every day. The more color the better. Make healthy eating a lifelong habit!

I highly recommend a book The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods by Dr. Murray. It is a pocket book full of the nutrients of foods with useful information on how each food supports the body, the health benefits and how to select and store each food. Every family should have one!

Resources: The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods by Dr Michael Murray, Pocket Books, New York, 2006

Alzheimer’s Disease (AD): Is Inflammation a Culprit?

The rapid rise of chronic disease in the United States over the past 30+ years clearly is changing the end of life for Americans. Heart disease, diabetes and cancers all have been linked to the Standard American Diet (SAD) – a sad commentary indeed. Alzheimer’s disease, the butt of jokes among those over 50, is now listed as the sixth leading cause of death in this country, and rising. It, too, has studies linking the “SAD” diet to the increased incidence of this devastating protracted disease. This is no joke.

William Banks, MD, reported in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease on his study showing that the levels of amyloid beta protein accumulate in the brain and lead to this disease. Normally this protein should be able to leave via the brain barrier, but inflammation prevents this biochemistry from occurring. Read more here.

Cynthia Lemere, PhD, of Harvard Medical School has been doing research on the disease and gives a convincing talk on the connection of (AD) and inflammation. Listen to her talk here.

There are numerous other published studies addressing the link between neuro-inflammatory (nerve inflammation) markers and AD. In searching the internet, PubMed database and others, the main focus I find is that research still wants to find a special pill or quick solution to a very insidious disease.

Many of the other blogs I have posted reveal that lowering inflammation and creating a favorable environment in the body happens when we eat a higher percentage of alkaline foods. These foods are mainly vegetables and fruits which, when metabolized inside the body, leave the fluids that bathe the cells in an alkaline environment. The alkaline state of the body is a healthy milieu of balance and reduced inflammation.

Human nutrition is key to keeping the body in better health as we age; therefore, eating well is the basic foundation to wellness. Conventional medicine keeps searching for a magic elixir, a fast acting pill or vaccination to cure disease. The main thing we need to cure is our addiction to boxed/packaged processed food Michael Pollan’s book Food Rules, says in Rule # 20: “It’s not food if it arrived through the car window”.

Eating whole foods from God’s green earth has more solutions than drug potions can ever offer.

LIVE LONG – DIE SHORT is a simple philosophy which is opposite to what Americans are doing – LIVING SHORT AND DYING LONG. Mostly what is required is to pay close attention to what goes into the body. Therefore, EAT HEALTHY AND LIVE LONG!

Potassium – What Is It?

An important element in the body, potassium regulates the fluid balance as significantly as sodium which is common table salt (sodium chloride). Potassium is the primary element that helps carry on the electric ‘charge’ found in and around all cells. In addition potassium helps to regulate the acid alkaline balance inside the body so essential for well being, energy production and vitality.

When processed and cooked foods especially canned foods are eaten, potassium is lost. A diet without fresh fruits and vegetables is a low potassium diet. An intake of highly processed foods contains high amount of sodium especially snack foods like chips, pretzels and some nuts. The next problem people encounter with many years of eating American processed foods is high blood pressure, weight gain and heart disease. An important piece of this disease progression is sodium/potassium imbalance which affects the body’s water balance. Adding insult to this are prescription diuretic drugs (for elevated B/P) that excrete more sodium and potassium goes with it. Other culprits of potassium loss are caffeine drinks, sugar and alcohol.

Whew! What a mess one can find themselves in especially after years of not knowing. Now we know!

It may seem like a panacea, but eating fresh unprocessed fruits and vegetables gives us the nutrients like potassium that we need. Actually high intake of fruits and vegetables can prevent hypertension and restore the potassium and sodium imbalance. Here is a beginning list of high potassium foods:

Vegetables Fruits Other good foods
all green leafy veggies citrus fruits whole grains
broccoli bananas nuts and seeds
peas apples flounder
tomatoes avocados salmon
potatoes with skins apricots sardines
mushrooms raisins cod

There are numerous benefits to changing eating habits to fresh foods besides improving potassium balance. A fresh food diet increases vitality and healing capacity for the body. People with low potassium ratios are often very tired, may have muscle weakness, slow reflexes which can lead to other nervous system changes, or it may cause slow or irregular heart rhythm.

Your medicine is in your food! Start with a glass of fresh vegetable juice every day! Or try this simple smoothie recipe:

In a blender put:

8 oz water
½ cup fresh spinach or mixed baby salad greens
½ cup fresh or frozen blueberries
1 small frozen banana.
Optional: ½ tsp fresh lemon juice

Blend until smooth. Begin to enjoy your renewed health!

No More “Eggscuses”

Keeping chickens in the backyard is gaining popularity nationwide. In fact, Portland Oregon has one of the fastest growing urban chicken populations in the country. We joined this trend four years ago and are now blessed with 2-3 fresh eggs almost everyday. Having friendly bird creatures running to greet us every time we step into the back yard is a delightful benefit as is chicken manure for the garden and insect control.

We feed our chickens organic feed, vegetable and fruit scraps including unwanted carrot tops and discarded greens form our natural food store and farmers market which in turn gives us eggs that are higher in beta carotene, omega 3 fatty acids along with 13 essential nutrients. The egg is a packed nutritious morsel of food supplying 9 essential amino acids with only 70 calories!

If you purchase eggs in the market place only buy eggs laid by chickens who are free to roam (free range) and are fed only non antibiotic feed. What chickens are eating makes a difference in the eggs they lay and the meat they produce. Remember whether you eat the eggs or meat you do not want those chemicals ingested into your body. Know the source of your food!

Lutein & zeaxanthin are two easily absorbed anti-oxidants found in eggs which help to keep eyes healthy. Whoever said eggs are not good for you? More recent research has shown that people who eat eggs regularly do not have elevated cholesterol levels. The concern is the total amount of cholesterol intake mainly derived from meat sources (beef and pork fat), however if one consumes 5-6 healthy fruits and vegetables per day this will promote better liver function which keeps cholesterol levels balanced.

Don’t let “eggscuses” keep you from eating eggs laid by chickens roaming freely and in a happy environment. They are the best nutrition in the market!

Photo: Granddaughter Victoria hand-feeding the chickens.


Baby Carrots – Again

A few years ago, a flurry of internet concerns circulated about baby carrots not really being a young baby vegetable, as was implied.

The truth of all that uproar is that carrots were saved from their own demise, simply by manufacturers whittling them down to a small, edible size. What happened next is that Americans started to consume carrots like never before. It was a brilliant marketing strategy that also reduced the wasting of deformed and unwanted carrots (sigh). Without a doubt, the carrot is the premier vegetable delivering the highest per serving of an important nutrient: beta carotene. The Carrot Museum is a cool website that gives considerable details on this orange cutie, so check it out.

One word of caution; some carrots are washed in chlorinated water to preserve them, so be aware of that unwanted chemical. Some alternative packaging uses more friendly preservatives, like citric acid.

Food as Medicine

The carrot, with its high beta carotene content, helps maintain good eyesight and has beneficial effects for the liver, our main detoxifying organ. Additionally, carrots are high in antioxidants and fiber, which explains why they help with constipation and/or diarrhea. Dr. Michael Murray, in his book: Encyclopedia of Healing Foods (highly recommended resource guide), suggests: “ A diet of one carrot per day could conceivably cut the rate of lung cancer in half.”1

Blindness

In the aging population, loss of vision is caused by two major diseases: cataracts and macular degeneration. The intake of adequate daily beta carotene (think one good sized carrot) is an excellent preventative for these two problems.

External Healing

Carrots are great used as a skin poultice. Simply grate a raw carrot, and place over a burn or scraped skin to promote healing. I have used carrots as an eye poultice for tired, sore eyes. Try it!
Recommendations: get creative with carrots. Eat them raw, locally and organically grown, and leave the skin intact, as the skin is where most nutrients lie. If the carrots are not organic, then peel the skin. Drink 6-8 oz of carrot juice several times a week. Try roasting them, using this wonderful recipe.

1.Michael Murray ND, The Condensed Encyclopedia of Healing Foods, Pocket Books, NY,p.72

What IS Wrong with Sugar?

I sat and listened to medical writer Michael Pollan at the University of Portland with 4,000 others last weekend and he struck a chord within me. He spoke about how nutrition experts became so good at demonizing food elements over the last 30 years. The perfect example is how fat was considered bad for you in the 1980’s and was heavily promoted by medical folks (AMA and American Heart Association). This resulted in Americans switching over to simple carbs and sugars to replace the fat in food and this switch was heavily marketed by food manufacturers. Today the consequences of this shift is the frightening rise of diabetic disease not just in adults but more so in young children – out next generation.

The high percentage of sugar found in almost all processed and packaged foods is now known to result in diabetes, heart disease and cancer – the leading causes of death and disability in the U.S.

But you may ask: don’t we need sugar for energy? Doesn’t the brain require sugar to work? Emphatically yes to both questions. To further explain this confusion have we have to look at the type of sugar being consumed. Sugar in the form of glucose is the preferred body fuel. With the rise of fast foods, packaged and prepared foods other types of sugars have been used. The real problem sugar is fructose. Its cousin high fructose corn syrup (HFC) structurally similar is even more problematic due to its intense sweetness. But the most concerning factor is the way fructose and high fructose corn syrup metabolizes in the body. As this sugar is digested excess amounts are stored in the liver and then become trapped if we consume more that we burn up. Then two things occur: the liver becomes a storage bin for fat and eventually cannot function normally; the high sweetness does not allow a satiety level to be stimulated therefore we just eat more and more sweetened foods.

The metabolism of food is complex, but the intake of too much sugar without fiber normally found in fresh fruits is the real issue. To maintain health create a healthy balance of sugars with the right kind of sugars. The big issue is excess sugar intake that needs to be stored somewhere if calories are not burned. The confusion for many people is that we were told to eat less fat yet America has become fatter over these last 30+ years.

Sugar is a essential for cell function, but it has to be in the right amount and the right kind. Regardless of what the Corn Refiners Association says – HFC is not good for you because of the way it is stored in the liver. It will harm your liver and your health.

Robert Lustig MD a pediatric endocrinologist has now named fructose sugar a poison – click here to read further.

As Michael Pollan says in his book – In Defense of Food, “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants”.

Keep it simple; keep yourself healthy with whole unprocessed foods. The body knows exactly what to do. And Grandmother was so right when she said: “Eat your fruits and vegetables”!

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