Showing posts with label weight loss. Show all posts
Showing posts with label weight loss. Show all posts

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Health Benefits of Mango Seed

The mango is a favorite summertime fruit, but are you missing out on health benefits if you stop at the mango’s flesh? A recent spate of weight loss products espouse mango seeds as an effective weight loss tool. Do they work? Are there other health benefits? What about risks? Let’s investigate!

And yes, we are talking about something that big “pit” or seed in the middle of a mango, which you would normally gnaw around and then throw away. In recent years, extracts from the African mango seed have been used in diet supplements or made available as a liquid extract or powder, which you can use as an additive in drinks, smoothies, or other dishes.

Before you dig down to the pit, you’ll be happy to know
that the fleshy part of the fruit that you are used to consuming is already full of nutrients. It’s rich in flavonoids (specifically, beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, and beta-cryptoxanthin), essential minerals like copper and potassium, and vitamins A, C, B6, and E. It is also a fiber-rich fruit, which can potentially help manage your weight, cholesterol, and blood sugar level.

The seed is often used as an ingredient in weight management products. In other cultures, the seed or seed extract is used to treat a myriad of ailments, including tooth pain and diarrhea.

What the mango seed research shows

There is not enough independent scientific research on the health benefits of African mango seeds to give them a definitive thumbs up. But here are some of the more interesting study results:
  • Mango seeds in diabetes support: A 1986 study testing mango seed supplementation in diabetic patients successfully reduced blood glucose levels.  A 1990 study showed that it is effective in treating type II diabetes, decreasing bad cholesterol and increasing good HDL cholesterol.
  • Mango seeds in weight loss: A 2005 study showed that African mango oil lowered abdominal fat and HDLs in rats. And a 2008 study showed that mango seed extract inhibited the conversion of sugars into fat. In a 2009 study, mango seed extract reduced weight and improved metabolism in overweight humans in 10 weeks. Another human study showed similar results.
  • Other mango seed studies showed it or its extract to be effective as an antioxidant.

How to eat mango seed

If you are interested in enjoying the benefits of the mango seed in its most natural form, rather than in a powder form or tablet, have at it. Believe it or, that big seed in the middle of the mango fruit is edible, with one caveat: go green. If you’ve eaten a ripe mango, you know that the seed seems impenetrably hard and fibrous. They are often also bitter. But try the mango seed of a green mango, not yet ripened, and you'll find that it is downright soft and easily sliced with a sharp knife.

Mango seed recipes

Looking for a way to add mango seeds to your diet? Try these recipes:

African mango seed health risks

Unless you have a known allergy to mangoes, there is little evidence of health risks in consuming African mango seeds or extracted forms of it, and no known adverse side effects. That said, you should consult with your doctor before consuming African mango seed or any other supplements.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Study Shows Intermittent Fasting Brings Big Health Benefits

Fasting on a given number of consecutive or alternate days – a practice known as “intermittent fasting” – is all the rage, mostly because of weight loss claims. But is it good for you?

Recent scientific evidence suggests that these fasting diets may do much more good for us than just aiding weight loss; intermittent fasting may boost health and prevent several diseases, including diabetes, cardiovascular conditions, and Alzheimer's.

Recently, it's been hailed as a path to weight loss and improved cardiovascular risk. Now, a team led by James Brown from Aston University has evaluated the various approaches to intermittent fasting in scientific literature. They searched specifically for advantages and limitations in treating obesity and type 2 diabetes using fasting diets.

What is intermittent fasting and how does it work?

When we fast, our bodies modify how they select which fuel to burn. Studies have found that this results in improving our metabolism and reducing oxidative stress.

For people with obesity, few drugs are available to aid in healthy weight loss, and gastric surgery is a relatively rare and expensive alternative. Dietary changes remain the most common intervention used for obese people.

Fasting is known to help, but former treatments were based on intermittent starving. Today’s intermittent fasting regimes are easier to stick to, and are proven to help melt away excess pounds.

Scientists have known since the 1940s that intermittent fasting helps us lose weight, and can cut the incidence of diabetes in lab animals. Recent studies have also confirmed that restricting calorie intake could possibly reverse type 2 diabetes in some people.

The basic format of intermittent fasting is to alternate days eating ‘normally’ with days when calorie consumption is restricted. This can either be done on alternating days, or where two days each week are designated as “fasting days.”

Results of intermittent fasting in studies

These types of intermittent fasting have been shown in trial studies to be as effective or more effective than counting calories every day to lose weight.

Evidence from clinical trials shows many potential health benefits of intermittent fasting, including:
  • Limiting inflammation
  • Improving levels of sugars and fats in circulation
  • Reducing blood pressure
  • Improving pancreatic function
  • Reducing the fatty deposits associated with insulin resistance

Intermittent fasting and heart health

In animal models, scientists have shown that intermittent fasting has some cardiovascular benefits that appear similar to exercising, such as improving blood pressure and heart rate, and lowering cholesterol.

Fasting also appears to aid those with ischemic heart disease. Fasting may even protect the heart by raising levels of adiponectin, a protein that has several important roles in carbohydrate and lipid metabolism and vascular biology.

Intermittent fasting and weight loss

Based on these findings, researchers believe that intermittent fasting might achieve much of the same benefits as bariatric surgery, but without the costs, restrictions, and risks associated with surgery.

According to the study’s lead author, James Brown, “Whether intermittent fasting can be used as a tool to prevent diabetes in those individuals at high risk, or to prevent progression in those recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes remains a tantalizing notion, and we are currently in preparation for clinical trials to assess the effectiveness of this form of lifestyle intervention in various patient groups.”

Intermittent fasting is an increasingly popular diet plan that hit the headlines in the run up to Christmas 2012 after the release of a book on the subject. Proponents claim that in addition to weight loss, the diet can lead to longer life and protection against disease, particularly conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Medicine Cabinet in Your Kitchen

Ordinary kitchen spices are good for so much more than flavoring your favorite dish.  Some of these common seasonings and herbs show promise for cancer treatment or prevention. Others aid in stomach issues, drug detoxification, virus prevention, weight loss, appetite management, pain control, and blood pressure regulation. A few more have proven antibacterial, antimicrobial, or anti-inflammatory properties.

The surprising health benefits of 6 common kitchen spices, herbs, and seasonings

That many kitchen spices are good for you is less surprising when you consider that herbs and spices derive mostly from parts of plants, such as the berries, bark, seeds, leaves, or roots of plants – which are also the sources of many pharmaceuticals.

To get you started on this whole new way of looking at your spice rack, we investigate the health benefits of six spices – allspice, basil, caraway, cardamom, cayenne pepper, and cinnamon.

Health benefits of ALLSPICE

Allspice, so called because its flavor is often defined as a combination of spice flavors (cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg), lends more than its delightful flavor; allspice is a virtual medicine cabinet because of its many bioactive agents such as flavonoids, phenylpropanoids, phenolic acids, and catechins.

What that gets you: antioxidants, anticancer benefits, anti-inflammation reduction, analgesics (painkillers), antimicrobials (kills or blocks microorganisms), antipyretics (fever reduction), and even tumor-blocking properties. Allspice has been shown in studies to have anticancer properties, influencing carcinogen bioactivation.

Health benefits of BASIL

The popular basil herb does wonders for bringing out the flavor in Italian and Asian recipes. But studies have also shown that sweet basil is chockfull of antiviral, antioxidant, and antibacterial  properties.

As well, basil has been shown in these studies to reduce the frequency of genetic mutations and counteracts the formation of tumors – important cancer-fighting properties.

Health benefits of CARAWAY

Do you like caraway seeds? Turns out that they like you too! Sure, you can use caraway to spice up rye breads, cakes, stews, cheeses, meat dishes, sauerkraut, and more.  But the essential oils from caraway seeds and its oleoresins are highly effective antioxidants, shown in studies to be more effective than the synthetic antioxidants butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene. Looks like mother nature got it right. What’s more, this study showed that caraway oil had positive effects on skin tumors, reducing the number of carcinomas.

Are you fighting lesser problems than skin cancer? Caraway is also used by many to aid in relief of digestive problems, to loosen up phlegm, fight bacteria, and help control urination.

Health benefits of CARDAMOM

The herb Cardamom – part of the ginger family – is often found in Indian recipes and in some European dishes. But did you know it’s also a powerful antioxidant?

Cardamom research shows that it scavenges radicals and inhibits chemical carcinogenesis, functioning as a deterrent to cancer.  Testing showed that it has positive effects against colon cancer due to its anti-inflammatory characteristics and its ability to aid in blocking cell proliferation.

The chemicals in cardamom also benefit those with gas and stomach or intestinal spasms.

Health benefits of CAYENNE PEPPER

The hot chili cayenne pepper, also known as red pepper when you buy it in powdered form, is not only hot stuff for recipes but it’s hot stuff for your health.

  • Weight loss: Much research has shown that cayenne pepper can help you lose weight.  Some studies suggest that it does so by reducing your gut’s ability to absorb calories. Others show that it appears to reduce fat tissue or that it revs up your metabolism.A more recent study from South Korea’s Daegu University, suggests that capsaicin stimulates  fat-degrading proteins. In effect, eating peppers eats your fat.
  • Killing cancer cells: The property that gives cayenne peppers it’s heat on your tongue – Capsaicin – appears to also be capable of killing cancerous cells. A 2006 study reported in Cancer Research suggested that capsaicin caused prostate cancer cells to shrink and die.
  • Improve digestion:  Hot peppers with capsaicin can bolster your digestion by increasing your stomach’s digestive juices. It’s antibacterial properties can also help you to overcome diarrhea when it is caused by bacterial infection.
Cayenne pepper is also used for pain relief to clear lung congestion.

Health benefits of CINNAMON

Cinnamon is a powerful antioxidant, and a good source of iron, fiber, manganese, and calcium. Benefits:

  • Cinnamon has been shown in studies to be effective in reducing colon cancer risk. Some research has shown that as little as a daily half teaspoon of cinnamon is sufficient to reduce risk.
  • Cinnamon lowers blood sugar levels, and has been used to help those with type 2 diabetes to respond better to insulin.
  • Cinnamon’s anti-microbial properties make it capable of stopping the growth of bacteria and fungi, and is often used to treat Candida yeast. 
  • Cinnamon improves vascular health, aiding in heart health.
  • A 2004 study showed that the smell of cinnamon can boost brain activity. In the study, test scores improved simply by chewing cinnamon flavored gum.
  • Results from a 2005 study and a 2006 study showed that cinnamon can suppress the growth of gastric cancer, lymphoma, and pancreatic cancer.

Many of these herbs and spices are also available in tablet form.  But if you can get them fresh, you’ll also be benefiting from their live enzymes and greatest nutrient density.

In follow-up articles, we’ll tackle the rest of your spice rack.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Truth About Artificial Sweeteners

What your parents or grandparents taught you about eating healthfully might be right … but it might not.  With so much conflicting data on what is good for you or not, the sad truth is that more Americans today feel that is is easier to figure out how to do their own taxes than it is to figure out what they should or should not eat to be healthy, according to the International Food Information Council Foundation’s 2012 survey.

Is it any wonder?  It shouldn't be, when you consider that what we eat, and how much, has changed significantly in the last 50 to 80 years.  As well, what we know about what we eat is continually evolving, thanks to medical and scientific advancement. Here are some things you need to know about using surgar alternatives for health and weight loss.

Sugar cubes

Put a little sugar on it, honey

One of the biggest dietary changes over the past few decades is the choices we have to reduce the sugars in our diet.  In the past, just about the only way to reduce sugars in your diet was to reduce the sweetness altogether.  But today, we are inundated with choices in sugar substitutes.
With more than half of Americans surveyed trying to lose weight – and with no foreseeable change in the number of us with a sweet tooth – the proliferation and consumption of low-calorie sugar alternatives is likely to continue. 

Why do we consume artificial sweeteners?

Survey says:
  • To reduce calorie intake: 73 percent – presumably to achieve weight loss, or to avoid weight gain
  • To prevent health issues: 37 percent
  • To manage existing health issues:  29 percent
With such high numbers of us (95 percent of those surveyed!) swapping natural sugars for artificial sweeteners to lose weight and to be healthier, we’d better be certain that artificial sugars actually do improve health or facilitate weight loss. 
It turns out that this is one thing we cannot count on.  Mounting evidence indicates that some artificial sweeteners previously thought to be healthy sugar alternatives may actually pose serious health risks.  More shocking is the new evidence suggesting that some sugar alternatives are resulting in weight gain, not weight loss!

Artificial Sweeteners: The good, the Bad, the Ugly

Soda can
An earlier FamilyWize article Is There Danger in Your Diet Soda? focused on diet soda risks – an important subject if you consume diet soft drinks.  But there are many artificial sweeteners available for cooking and food preparation that you aren't likely to find in your diet soft drink.  Here, we’ll take a look at the usual suspects in the wider sugar substitute market – aspartame, saccharin, sucralose, sugar alcohols, and stevia – all  food additives that imitate the taste of sugar.

Are they good for you or bad?
Let’s start with a universally acknowledged scientific truth; obesity is bad for us: often blamed for many of our most common and dangerous health issues, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and cancer.  If reducing calories by switching from sugar to a sugar substitute can help reduce obesity, it’s all good, right?  Mostly, yes; just be aware of the following sugar substitute risks and balance that with the benefits.

Another widely accepted (and FDA-stated) sugar substitutes benefit is that – with the exception of sugar alcohols – they do not affect your blood sugar, which makes them safe to use if you have diabetes.
One overarching concern though is the common tendency we have to justify eating more food because we are using artificial sweeteners.  When I was a teen, working at a Wendy’s restaurant, I lost count of the numbers of people who would order the largest burger, the largest order of fries, a Frosty for dessert … and a diet soda!  Net weight loss with such dietary habits as this will be nil, no matter which sugar substitute you use.

Other risks associated with sugar substitutes in general:
  • In one study, daily consumption of diet drinks showed a 36 percent greater risk for metabolic syndrome and nearly 70 percent for type 2 diabetes. 
  • Another study seems to indicate that artificial sweeteners may be addictive, at least in rats.
  • A San Antonio heart study showed that those who drank more than 21 diet drinks per week were twice as likely to become overweight as those who didn’t drink diet soda.
What you should know about certain sugar substitutes:
Saccharin, the original artificial sweetener, first synthesized in the late 1800s, is considered much safer than previously thought.  A 1960 study created a cancer scare associated with Saccharin, until it was later discovered that saccharin’s cancer risk only occurred in male rats by a process that does not occur in humans. The World Health Organization has consequently ruled that saccharin is not consider carcinogenic to humans, stating that, “despite sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity to animals … saccharin is no longer considered a potential hazard to human health.”  Nonetheless, the stigma persists. That, combined with its reputation for a bitter aftertaste, compared to many of the newer alternative sweeteners, has kept Saccharin low in the selection of sugar substitutes.
Aspartame, is the most common sweetener found in diet sodas on the market.  It’s also used as a sugar bowl sweetener alternatives, and in frozen desserts, gelatins, and chewing gum.  Some aspartame risks:
  • Do not cook with aspartame, and store it at cool temperatures; aspartame breaks down under heat. 
  • A bigger risk: a 2012 study linked aspartame to a heightened risk of Lymphoma and Leukemia. 
  • A separate study indicated that aspartame can cause brain damage by leaving traces of methanol in the blood.
Sucralose (Splenda)
Until recently sucralose was thought to be the safest alternative to sugar.  But a 2002 study showed sucralose presenting gastrointestinal risks. A 2006 study indicated that it may be a trigger for migraines.  

Sugar alcohols
Sugar alcohols include sorbitol and xylitol, produced by catalytic hydrogenation of natural sugars.  On the good side: studies indicate the xylitol has positive benefits to teeth, reducing cavities.  But be aware that many individuals find that sugar alcohols cause gastrointestinal issues.
The plant-based stevia is a natural sugar substitute (i.e. not classified as an artificial sugar) that has been in use in other countries for centuries, and is rapidly gaining in popularity in the U.S., especially since modern processing techniques have helped to reduce the bitter aftertaste.  There are no known studies that indicate any known risks in the use of stevia to humans. It’s available in a concentrated liquid form and also in a powdered form.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer