Showing posts with label inflammation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label inflammation. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Top 5 Health Benefits of Beets

That bright red root isn’t just a looker.  It’s hard to beat a beet for providing certain health benefits too. There are many, but we’ll focus here on the top 5 beet benefits, and provide a few beetroot recipes that will make it easy to regularly get this super-healthy root into your diet.

Beet benefit #1 – Reduces inflammation
Do you struggle with health issues like chronic pain, obesity, peripheral neuropathy, diabetes, heart disease, migraines, thyroid issues, or dental problems?

These and many other health ailments can be caused or triggered by inflammation – your body’s effort to protect itself from something it perceives as harmful.  If this sounds like you, then it's time to seriously think about adding a beet boost to your diet.

Beets are packed with anti-inflammatory phytonutrients, such vulgaxanthin, betanin, and isobetanin. The phytonutrients inhibit the enzymes that notify cells to “flame up” – which is normally a healthy and protective action. However, when dealing with chronic inflammation, this "flaming up" exacerbates issues and causes pain.

Beets are also high in betaine – a key nutrient formed from choline. Choline regulates inflammation in your cardiovascular system.
Beet benefit #2 – Nature’s multivitamin/mineral supplement
Beets and beet greens are loaded with life-giving minerals, including magnesium (which has lots of benefits, including Alzheimer’s prevention), potassium (which aids heart, kidneys, muscle, nerve, and digestive functions), copper, iron, and phosphorus, an essential mineral aiding cell function throughout the body – and it's good for bones and teeth, too. Beets are also a great source of Vitamins A, B, and C, as well as healthy fiber.  
Beet benefit #3 – An antioxidant powerhouse
The part of beets that gives it its dark red color is beta-cyanine. Beta-cyanine is a powerful antioxidant that's important in fighting disease. This includes cancer prevention, especially colon cancers.

Beta-carotene –a powerful antioxidant phytonutrient – is also prevalent in the peel and flesh of beets.  In fact, beets are on the top-10 list of beta carotene-rich foods.
Beet benefit #4 – Lowering blood pressure
Beets are a prime source of phyto-nitrates. Do not confuse these plant-based nitrates with sodium nitrate, a carcinogenic chemical preservative found in many processed foods. 

Phyto-nitrates are great for your health, helping your body to naturally lower and maintain a healthy blood pressure level. In your body, these healthy nitrites morph into nitric oxide – a compound that open up your vessels, which improves blood flow, lowering the pressure.

To get the full benefits of beets' phyto-nitrates, juice not just the beet, but the beet greens and even the beet root, as all three parts are rich in phyto-nitrates.
Beet benefit #5 – Boost your sports performance
The same plant-based nitrates that lower blood pressure also give your workout a shot in the arm.
The body’s natural conversion of nitrates into nitric oxide is the key. Many athletes boost their abilities with nitric oxide supplementation – a good thing, but they are missing out on many other healthy beet benefits by getting their supply of nitrites from a supplement tablet or powder.

Beets’ nitrates and resulting nitric oxide helps your body recuperate from intense physical activity.  Even during performance, the nitric oxide generation bolsters sports stamina and endurance, as shown in this England study, which showed big improvement in high-intensity training when tested on sports rowing crew athletes.  This 1985 study backs up these results, testing beetroot juice during exercise, showing that beet root boosted cardiovascular health and exercise performance in its young adult test subjects.

Creative ways to get beets into your family’s diet

Did you know that you can eat beets raw? In fact, consuming them raw, such as an added smoothie ingredient or by juicing them, gives you the highest level of nutrients.
Yes, there is nutrition in cooked beets, but raw beetroots and beetroot juice gives you the most bang per beet, health-wise.
To make a smoothie with raw beets:
Use about a fourth of a beet (if it’s a large beet – or use the whole thing if it’s small) and add it to your regular smoothie recipe.  It will thicken up the smoothie, so you may need to add a bit more water than you normally would.
Juice with beets
Juicing vegetables concentrates their nutrients, which are mostly in the juiciest parts of the vegetable.  If you have a juicer, try beet juice straight up – it’s sweeter than you might think! – or add it to the juice of an apple to reduce the intensity of its flavor. 
A raw food twist on Borscht – a Ukrainian classic beet recipe
Though borscht is traditionally made with cooked beets, it’s entirely unnecessary, especially since it’s served cold.  Why not make it raw and retain the highest nutritional value and its antioxidants?
This is one of the simplest borscht recipes you’ll find -- Victoria Boutenko's Raw Borscht.
Cooked beet recipes
Here are several good resources for creatively adding beets into your diet:
If you’ve got a killer beets recipe, please share it below!

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Embracing the Anti-Inflammatory Lifestyle

From arthritis and asthma to bronchitis and cancer, experts indicate many health conditions share a common factor -- inflammation. What do you need to know about inflammation and how can you keep your family healthy?

What is inflammation?

Inflammation is the body’s natural response to infection or injury. It’s necessary for your body to heal.

How does inflammation work?

When injury or illness occurs in your body, blood flow to the affected area increases and healing proteins and infection-fighting cells follow. This begins the healing process.

When is inflammation dangerous?

It’s chronic inflammation in the body, a condition that experts describe as an out-of-control immune system response, which signals a problem. Chronic inflammation stresses and injures your cells, causing damage and aging.

What health conditions are linked to inflammation?

Experts say many health conditions are linked to inflammation, including:
Cardiovascular disease
Joint problems
Skin conditions, such as psoriasis and eczema

What foods are linked to inflammation?

Sugar: White sugar, in particular, causes a high spike in blood sugar levels in your body, triggering an inflammatory response.
Processed foods: White flour, for instance, is a processed food that can cause inflammation in your body.
Genetically Modified Foods (GMOs): Your body tries to protect against food it doesn’t recognize, such as GMOs, resulting in inflammation.
Dairy products, fried foods, processed and red meats.

Some suggestions for an anti-inflammatory diet:

Some foods that may guard against inflammation and calm inflammation already present in your body include:

Fresh fruits and vegetables: From bitter veggies such as radishes, kale, and spinach, to blueberries and red peppers, fresh fruits and vegetables are great defenders against inflammation.
Green tea: Green tea contains powerful antioxidants that help fight inflammation. Consume at least 2 cups per day for maximum benefits.
Mushrooms: If grown under UV light, mushrooms contain vitamin D, which plays a major role in immune system health.
Grain alternatives:  Amaranth, quinoa, millet, and wild rice are good choices.
Bitter herbs:  Ginger and horseradish are very good anti-inflammatories.

For more diet suggestions, visit this site.

Are there other lifestyle factors that can lead to inflammation?

1. Lack of sleep – Sleep is essential to controlling inflammatory hormones in your body.
2. Carrying excess weight – Extra pounds, especially around your waistline, can be a contributing factor to inflammation.
3. Lack of exercise – Exercise increases blood flow in your body, which decreases inflammation.
4. Excess stress - Stress hormones can cause an inflammatory response in your body.
5. Environmental factors - May affect the estrogen balance in your body.
6. Heavy meal overload -- An excess of mercury and lead in the body can contribute to inflammation.

How do anti-inflammatory medications factor in?

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, NSAIDs, such as aspirin and ibuprofen, block pain and reduce fever.  NSAIDs are typically used for inflammatory conditions such as arthritis or to ease the pain associated with an injury. They are taken by mouth and are available without a prescription.  Always check with your doctor or healthcare provider before taking any over-the-counter medication.

Steroids help reduce the signs and symptoms of conditions such as asthma, lupus, and more. Steroids may be taken by mouth, via an inhaler or spray, topically, or by injection. Your doctor or healthcare provider prescribes steroids. Remember to use your Familywize Discount Prescription Drug Card for maximum savings on medication.

By educating yourself regarding the options available for treating inflammation and embracing an anti-inflammatory lifestyle, you and your family can lead the best life possible.

Live Healthy. Live Smart

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Spirulina – Is It Good for You or Bad for You?

Some give high praise to spirulina, dubbing it a superfood. But how super is it really? While several studies show that spirulina has a wealth of health benefits, recent research warns of risks associated with consuming spirulina.

The benefits and popularity of this odd, super-green powder derived from watery depths are hard to ignore. Equally hard to ignore are the apparent risks implied by some studies and research. Given the controversy, spirulina certainly deserves a closer look at both the benefits and the risks.

What is spirulina?

Similar to blue-green algae, spirulina is found in lakes in the tropics and subtropics. But because of its popularity, spirulina is also cultivated in ponds in the US and many other countries.
Spirulina is about one-fourth phycocyanin by weight. Phycocyanin is a blue pigment that latches onto spirulina's membranes and is  believed to play a role in spirulina’s health benefits.

What are the health benefits of spirulina?

Proponents of spirulina praise it as a rich source of protein, minerals, vitamins, and carotenoids – the substance that gives many plants there bright color, such as watermelon and elderberries.  And scientific studies give credence to many of these claims.
Its nutritional content includes generous amounts of vitamin E, manganese, zinc, copper, iron, selenium, beta-carotene, and B complex vitamins. Some specific benefits linked to spirulina include:
  • Cell protection. Spiralina contains antioxidants, known for combating free radicals, strengthening the immune system, and promoting cell regeneration. Spirulina has 400 percent more antioxidant ability than blueberries. A 2008 study, Spirulina in Human Nutrition and Health, showed that spirulina can prevent organ damage caused by toxins.
  • Cancer and eye health. Because of the carotenoids that give spirulina it's rich green color, spirulina may help reduce the risk of some forms of cancer and eye disease.
  • Anti-inflammation.  Spirulina is packed with gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), a natural anti-inflammatory agent, making it good for your joints, your heart, and for PMS symptoms management.
  • ADHD symptom reduction. Some research indicates that spirulina may have positive benefits for those who suffer from attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder when used in combination with other herbs.
  • Detoxification. Spirulina’s high chlorophyll content makes it an effective detoxifier, removing toxins from your system.  The chlorophyll binds to heavy metals and radioactive isotopes, which can help to protect organs for those going through radiation therapy (a method of treating thyroid cancer) or recovering from radiation exposure.
  • Eye Health.  Rich in vitamin A – about 10 times as much as in carrots – spirulina can benefit your vision.
There are naysayers….
There are a couple of question marks regarding the nutritional value of spirulina:
  • While there is no doubt that spirulina is a good source of protein – up to 70 percent protein by weight – the U.S. National Library of Medicine states that spirulina is only about as good as milk or meat for obtaining dietary protein per normal serving … but that you will pay around 30 times more per gram to get the same amount of protein in spirulina.
  • Though spirulina is often marketed as being a good source of vitamin B12, several studies (here, here, and here) refute this claim, saying that the form of vitamin B12 in spirulina is in active/not bioavailable for humans –  in other words, it's there, but your body cannot use it.

What are the health risks of spirulina?

Ironically, the fact that spirulina in the body binds to heavy metals and radioactive isotopes – a good thing – spirulina also binds in  nature to binds to heavy metals and radioactive isotopes. Effectively, it’s a natural toxins magnet.
Consequently, if the source of spirulina you use is from a body of water contaminated with radioactive exposure, your spirulina is likely also contaminated, as researchers have found in some spirulina supplements on the market. Reports indicate that some spirulina to to be contaminated with lead, mercury, and arsenic – a particular risk to infants.  Other risks:
  • Testing on spirulina supplements has has shown some to be contaminated with microcystins, which can produce gastrointestinal problems and, with prolonged exposure, even at a minimal levels, liver cancer.
  • It is believed that spirulina may interfere with certain immunosuppressant drugs.
  • Some scientists have connected cases of serious (albeit rare) of muscle disease to spirulina.
  • Samples of spirulina have contained liver toxins and neurotoxins.
  • Some researchers caution that those with phenylketonuria should not take spirulina.

Should I take spirulina?

It’s your call.  Most research shows minimal risks with spirulina supplementation, and plenty of health benefits. On the other hand, with the current lack of regulatory standards in the U.S, it is uncertain whether any spirulina and other blue-green algae supplements are free of contamination.
Given the potential risks associated with contaminated spirulina, you may conclude that the generous benefits of spirulina may not be worth the toxicity risks, unless you are fully confident in the source of your spirulina supplements.
If you want the benefits of spirulina with the risks, check out chlorella, which has many of the same health benefits as spirulina and yet with fewer risks.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Can a Scent Improve Your Health?

You have likely heard the word aromatherapy, referring to the use of essential oils that have been extracted from plants and that are believed to have therapeutic value.  Historic documents suggest that aromatherapy has been practiced in various forms for nearly a thousand years by those who claim that certain scents can produce psychological or even physical well-being – that inhaling certain aromas can help us fight inflammation and depression, induce sleep, and reduce stress.

But is it true? Can smelling a certain odor improve your health and happiness, or is this just wishful thinking – psychosomatic influence at best? 

Until recently, your answer would have been as good as mine.  But now, Japanese scientists have concrete evidence that inhaling certain fragrances can have pronounced affects on our bodies – that some smells are capable of altering the activity of our genes and influencing our blood chemistry, resulting in stress reduction.  These researchers found that the use of fragrant plant oils to improve mood and health – a popular form of alternative medicine today – really works! 

Some of the scents that were tested by scientist Akio Nakamura and his colleagues, as reported in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, include lemon, mango, lavender, and other fragrant plants.  One of the most widely used substances in aromatherapy is the compound linalool, a naturally occurring component of lavender oil, geranium oil, ylang-ylang oil, and many other essential oils.  Linalool has long been used to soothe away emotional stress. Until now, however, linalool's exact effects on the body have been a deep mystery.

The scientists in this Japanese study exposed lab rats to stressful conditions while inhaling and not inhaling linalool. The stress-elevated levels of neutrophils and lymphocytes (key parts of the immune system) in the rats exposed to the linalool returned to near normal, but the stress levels of the rats who were not inhaling linalool remained elevated.

The scientists also observed that inhaling linalool reduced the activity of more than 100 genes that normally go into overdrive when we are in stressful situations.

What does this mean for the present? We can now confidently invest in aromatherapy at least for the purpose of reducing stress, as long as the essential oil contains linalool. 

What does this mean for the future?  Imagine a world where you can buy aftershave or perfume that not only improves your body odor but also has the power to soothe your troubled soul.  According to the researchers, the findings could form the basis of new blood tests for identifying fragrances that can soothe stress.  But you don’t have to wait for the future; you can already find after shaves, massage oils, baby creams, shampoos, body washes, foot balms, and facial lotions on the market that contain linalool. 
Are there any risks with aromatherapy?  Yes, the most common risk being the potential of allergic reactions.  For example, linalool can over time break down, forming by-products capable of causing allergic reactions, including eczema.  Because this is a process of oxidation, keep the lid closed tightly on any aromatherapy products, or any product containing linalool, and consider buying the product in smaller sizes.

Another linalool risk: It turns out that what’s good for the goose may not be good for the gander – when humans are the goose and insects are the gander.  While linalool benefits us, you’ll also find that it is used in pest control as an insecticide to kill fleas, fruit flies, and cockroaches.  It’s also used in some mosquito repellents. 

If you’d like to try aromatherapy at home, rather than buying pre-mixed essential oils, you can.  There are many online recipes for creating your own “brew” for the most personalized aromatherapy experiment.  One good resource is the AromaWeb recipe section, which breaks its recipes into useful categories, such as aroma recipes for emotional well-being, for household cleaning, for physical well-being, skincare, and more.  Also, check out the Easy Aromatherapy Recipes site and the Aromatics International collection of Essential Oil Blending Recipes – a 15-year collection of aromatherapy recipes.

If you have any good essential oil recipes or other kinds of aroma recipes, please use our comments section to share!

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer