Who says we have to suffer...to live a healthy happy vibrant life?

Red wine and dark chocolate... might seem decadent...but these guilty pleasures also might help us live longer...and healthier lives. Red wine and dark chocolate definitely improve an evening..but they also contain resveratrol..which lowers blood sugar. Red wine is a great source of catechins..which boost protective HDL cholesterol. Green tea? Protects your brain..helps you live longer..and soothes your spirit.

Food for Thought, the blog, is about living the good life...a life we create with our thoughts and our choices...and having fun the whole while!

I say lets make the thoughts good ones..and let the choices be healthy...exciting...and delicious! Bon Appetit!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Foods that fight high cholesterol

It's easy to eat your way to an alarmingly high cholesterol level. The reverse is true too — changing what you eat can lower your cholesterol and improve the character of fats circulating through your blood vessels. Fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and "good fats" are all part of a heart-healthy diet. But some foods are particularly good at helping bring down cholesterol.

How? Some cholesterol-lowering foods deliver a good dose of soluble fiber, which binds cholesterol and its precursors in the digestive system and drags them out of the body before they get into circulation. Others provide polyunsaturated fats, which directly lower LDL. And those with plant sterols and stanols keep the body from absorbing cholesterol. Here are 5 of those foods:
  1. Oats. An easy way to start lowering cholesterol is to choose oatmeal or an oat-based cereal like Cheerios for breakfast. Just make sure you are eating the unsweetened Cheerios and not the sugar coated ones. Oatmeal gives you 1 to 2 grams of soluble fiber. Add a banana or some strawberries for another half-gram. 
  2. Beans. Beans are especially rich in soluble fiber. They also take time for the body to digest, meaning you feel full for longer after a meal. That's one reason beans are a useful food for folks trying to lose weight. With so many choices — from navy, pinto and kidney beans to lentils, garbanzos, black-eyed peas, and beyond — and so many ways to prepare them, beans are an inexpensive and versatile food. 
  3. Nuts. A host of studies shows that eating almonds, walnuts, peanuts, and other nuts is good for the heart. Eating 2 ounces of nuts a day can slightly lower LDL, on the order of 5%. Nuts have additional nutrients that protect the heart in other ways. An ounce of walnuts before a meal can tame your appetite and help you lose weight over the course of a few months, even if you make no other changes.
  4. Foods fortified with sterols and stanols. Sterols and stanols extracted from plants gum up the body's ability to absorb cholesterol from food. Companies are adding them to foods ranging from granola bars to orange juice and chocolate. They're also available as supplements. Getting 2 grams of plant sterols or stanols a day can lower LDL cholesterol by about 10%. 
  5. Fatty fish. Eating fish two or three times a week can lower LDL by replacing meat, which has LDL-boosting saturated fats, and they boost your levels of heart protective omega-3 fats. Plus the omega-3s from fish raise the beneficial HDL cholesterol too. Omega-3s reduce triglycerides in the bloodstream and also protect the heart by helping prevent the onset of abnormal heart rhythms. 
    But stay away from…
    As you consider eating more of the foods that can help dial down cholesterol, keep in mind that avoiding certain foods can also improve your results. To keep cholesterol levels and heart risk where you want them to be, limit intake of:
    Added sugars. Added sugars raise your blood sugar levels, which in turn raise the levels of triglycerides in your blood. Sugar also raises insulin which raises LDL cholesterol. High sugar levels and high insulin levels promote inflammation and oxidative stress, which are known to promote heart risk.
    Trans fats. Trans fats are a byproduct of the chemical reaction that turns liquid vegetable oil into solid margarine or shortening and that prevents liquid vegetable oils from turning rancid. Trans fats boost LDL as much as saturated fats do. They also lower protective HDL, rev up inflammation, and increase the tendency for blood clots to form inside blood vessels. Although trans fats were once ubiquitous in prepared foods, many companies now use trans-fat-free alternatives. Some restaurants and fast-food chains have yet to make the switch. Read labels and avoid foods that list  hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils in ingredients lists.

Making Choices that Slow Aging Significantly

Have you heard about telomeres? At the end of your chromosomes or DNA strands, you have protective caps called telomeres (imagine the little caps at the end of your shoelaces).
The length of your telomeres can tell you either how quickly or how slowly you are aging. Telomeres also shed light on the strength of your immune system. Their length indicates your risk of death and disease, including heart disease and cancer. Having short telomeres even points to higher risk of dementia.

In people who are older than 60 researchers have shown that those with shorter telomeres are eight times more likely to die from infectious diseases and three times more likely to die from heart disease. Although all telomeres shorten with age, an unhealthy lifestyle is linked to significantly greater telomere shortening. Researchers studying telomeres believe that lifespan may be increased by as much as five to ten years by changing habits that impact telomere length. Here are the most important choices you can make to protect your telomeres.

Knock out inflammation, and eat an antioxidant rich diet.
Chronic inflammation and oxidative stress caused by free radicals sabotage health, longevity and telomere length. Eating foods that contain lots of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds helps prevent this double whammy of damage.
Be sure your diet includes abundant colorful fruits and vegetables like berries, cherries, pomegranates,  beets, oranges, and apples. And load up on dark green vegetables like collard greens and kale. Choose daily servings of orange veggies like carrots and sweet potato. And enjoy nuts, seeds, beans, fatty fish (salmon, rainbow trout, sardines), herbs, spices, 100% whole grains. Drink green or black tea and cook at low temperatures with extra virgin olive oil.
In terms of supplements, research suggests that vitamin D may improve telomere maintenance. Know your vitamin D levels by getting them checked at your annual check up. In the Sister Study, a daily multivitamin was also linked to longer telomeres in women. And of course if you don’t eat fatty fish at least twice a week, you should take a daily fish oil capsule. In the Heart And Soul study at the University of California, San Francisco involving over 600 outpatients with stable heart disease, individuals with the lowest intakes of marine source omega-3 fats experienced the most rapid rate of telomere shortening, whereas those with the highest intakes experienced the slowest rate of telomere shortening. Be sure you get at least 1000 mg daily of the EPA and DHA from cold water fish. And be sure the supplement you choose is tested and found to be free of harmful levels of compounds like mercury, lead, cadmium and PCBs. My fish oil brand is Carlson Laboratories.  Disclosure: I am their Senior Nutritionist and Educator. The folks at Carlson are seriously nice people, lucky me.

Eliminate added sugar, white bread, unhealthy fats and processed meat.
Some foods slow the aging process, others put aging on the fast track. Sugar, refined carbohydrates including white bread cakes cookies and crackers, unhealthy fats particularly trans fats and high omega-6 vegetable oils and processed meats are the most harmful. Based on data from the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey involving over 5300 adults, drinking one sugar- sweetened soft drink daily accelerated aging as much as smoking. In a study of children and teens in Spain, white bread was the worst habit. In a study in Finland, involving almost 2000 elderly men and women, a high intake of saturated fat was linked to shorter telomeres.

Do whatever you must to stay at a healthy weight for your height.
At St. Thomas Hospital in the UK, obese women had telomeres that were significantly shorter than in lean women of the same age. This was not surprising. Fat cells are biologically active, and not in a good way. Fat secretes hormones that increase inflammation in the body and cause oxidative stress. ( Oh those two again!) Thus telomeres shorten, aging hits the gas pedal, and lifespans are shortened. Eat whole foods, be more active and work to reduce stress to keep your weight within a healthy range.

At the risk of being redundant. Stay active and reduce sitting time.
Moving your body several times everyday provides phenomenal health benefits, not the least of which is slamming the brakes on aging considerably. Daily activity boosts your resistance to infections, guards against chronic inflammation and helps to combat stress. You’ll get slim and you’ll be protecting the length of those all important telomeres. In one study that followed 2,400 twins, being regularly active during leisure time meant significantly longer telomeres (about 10 years younger biologically) compared to persons who were inactive.
Get up out of that chair! How much time you spend sitting also matters. In a 6 month study in Sweden, involving sedentary, overweight men and women, reducing sitting time resulted in significantly longer telomeres. Always aim for a minimum of 30 to 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity each day. Break up sitting time throughout the day and evening too. Sitting equals aging. Here’s an idea. Get up every 30 minutes and drink a small glass of water. (see what I did there?)

Watch your alcohol and never smoke cigarettes. If you smoke now is the time to quit.Have you ever looked at people who smoke regularly or who drink excessively? They do not paint a pretty picture. They always look older than they should for their age. Heavy drinking and smoking ages you at a cellular level. The American Association for Cancer Research reported that telomere length was dramatically shorter (about half as long) in those who consumed heavy amounts of alcohol compared to those who did not. In a study reported in the UK, telomere shortening caused by smoking one pack of cigarettes a day for 40 years was equivalent to the loss of almost 71⁄2 years of life. Bottom line: don’t smoke and if you drink, do so only in moderation (one drink daily for women and two for men).
Defend your quality of sleep vigorously. Getting enough sleep (7 hours or more) and getting good quality sleep are both linked to longer telomeres. The older you are, the more significant this relationship is. Proper sleep helps repair telomeres and protects against damage caused by inflammation. Lack of sleep increases inflammation in the body significantly.

Zen extends life. If you’re chronically stressed out, anxious, lonely or depressed, your telomeres are probably shorter. If you have recently suffered a great loss, you’re also at risk. Stress hormones, like cortisol, make you gain weight around the middle, think belly fat. The hormone also damages cells and hastens aging. In a study involving healthy premenopausal women, those with the highest levels of perceived stress had telomeres shorter on average by the equivalent of at least 10 years of additional aging compared to low stress women. 

In a demonstration of all of the points made here today, a UC study found that telomere shortening was less pronounced  in high stress women if they exercised, ate well and got enough sleep. Good self-care must be a priority
There is also good news for meditators. Meditation also benefits telomere health. Om.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Monsanto. Guess whose executives direct the FDA? Corruption knows no bounds. The evil empire.

Why is a company that produces poisons controlling our food supply? Why are we letting companies like Monsanto control the worlds seed supplies? Why do we sit silent as they corrupt our food policies and make slaves out of farmers?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

High HDL Cholesterol Levels Associated With Reduced Alzheimer’s Risk

High levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), also known as “good” cholesterol, appear to be associated with a reduced risk for Alzheimer’s disease in older adults.

”Dyslipidemia [high total cholesterol and triglycerides] and late-onset Alzheimer’s disease are highly frequent in western societies,” the authors write as background information in the article. “More than 50 percent of the U.S. adult population has high cholesterol. About 1 percent of people age 65 to 69 years develop Alzheimer’s disease, and the prevalence increases to more than 60 percent for people older than 95 years.”
Christiane Reitz and colleagues studied 1,130 older adults to examine the association of blood lipid (fat) levels with Alzheimer’s disease. The study included a random sampling of Medicare recipients 65 or older residing in northern Manhattan, with no history of dementia or cognitive impairment. The researchers defined higher levels of HDL cholesterol as 55 milligrams per deciliter or more.
To determine this association, data were collected from medical, neurological and neuropsychological evaluations. Additionally, the authors assigned a diagnosis of “probable” Alzheimer’s disease when onset of dementia could not be explained by any other disorder. A diagnosis of “possible” Alzheimer’s disease was made when the most likely cause of dementia was Alzheimer’s disease but there were other disorders that could contribute to the dementia, such as stroke or Parkinson disease.
During the course of follow-up, there were 101 new cases of Alzheimer’s disease, of which 89 were probable and 12 were possible. The mean (average) age of individuals at the onset of probable and possible Alzheimer’s disease was 83 years, and compared with people who were not diagnosed with incident Alzheimer’s disease, those who did develop dementia were more often Hispanic and had a higher prevalence of diabetes at the start of the study. Higher plasma levels of HDL cholesterol were associated with a decreased risk of both probable and possible Alzheimer’s disease, even after adjusting for vascular risk factors and lipid-lowering treatments. Although higher plasma total cholesterol, non-HDL cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels also were associated with decreased risks of probable and possible Alzheimer’s disease, these associations became non-significant after adjusting for vascular risk factors and lipid-lowering treatments.
“In this study, higher levels of HDL cholesterol were associated with a decreased risk of both probable and possible Alzheimer’s disease,” the authors conclude. “An important consideration in the interpretation of the results is that it was conducted in an urban multiethnic elderly community with a high prevalence of risk factors for mortality and dementia. Thus, our results may not be generalizeable to cohorts with younger individuals or to cohorts with participants with a lower morbidity [disease] burden.”
Arch Neurol. 2010;67(12):1491-1497. doi:10.1001/archneurol.2010.297.

Toxic Compounds You May Be Absorbing

Friday, August 15, 2014

Tylenol use during pregnancy is linked to ADHD and behavior problems.

A study published in the journal Pediatrics finds that Tylenol (acetaminophen) taken by women during their pregnancy may raise the risk of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder) and similar disorders in their children up to 40%—and the risk is higher as use increases. The more acetaminophen the mother takes, the higher the risk in her child.

The study’s authors say it is plausible that the drug may interrupt fetal brain development by interfering with maternal hormones or through neurotoxicity. 

This isn’t the first study to note the connection between a mother’s Tylenol use and her child’s reaction to the toxic drug. Last year a troubling study showed that women taking acetaminophen during pregnancy increased the risk of their children having serious behavior problems at age 3 by an overwhelming 70%.

It is simply not worth the risk, to use acetaminophen. Every year, 78,000 people go to the emergency room from intentional or accidental acetaminophen overdose; 33,000 are hospitalized, and about 450 die.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The greatest dietary mistake of the 20th century....was NOT saturated fat.

No it was the wrecked balance of Omega-3 and Omega-6 intake. 

Dietary fats have become completely deranged in the last 100 years. Enter trans fats. Enter concentrated animal farming operations and feeding soybeans and corn to fatten up beef, pork and chickens. We've run amok. and it is time to correct things.

We have a tendency to obsess about fat in our culture. We’ve recently seen an about face in recommendations regarding saturated fat. Saturated fat was the dietary bogeyman for the last few decades and now research is suggesting that it may not be as harmful as we thought. Really? So butter is ok now? Yes and it always has been. Margarine was a health scam perpetrated by greedy oil companies. Greed...oil... sound familiar? But in all of this back and forth on fats in our diet one point remains painfully obvious.
Today, people are eating way too many Omega-6 fatty acids. Mostly from corn and soybeans and their oils that dominate the western diet.
At the same time, consumption of animal foods high in Omega-3 is the lowest it has ever been. To make matters worse the animals we eat are no longer roaming free on the range eating omega-3 rich grass, they are raised on feed lots and fattened up with omega-6 loaded (you guessed it) corn and soybeans.
The net effect is we now consume a grossly distorted ratio of these polyunsaturated fatty acids. Setting our sugar insanity aside for the moment, this is arguably one of the most damaging aspects of the modern Western diet.
Omega-3 and Omega-6 fats are essential components of the human diet. Our bodies don’t have the ability to manufacture them and therefore we must get them from the foods we eat everyday. Allow me to introduce you to the Omegas.

If the Omega-3s and Omega-6s are missing from our diet, we develop a deficiency and become sick. That is why they are termed the “essential” fatty acids.
However, these fatty acids are different than most other fats. They are not simply used for energy or stored in tissue; they are biologically active and play crucial roles in survival events like blood clotting and inflammation, brain cell communication, and even regulation of heart rhythm.
But here is a problem. Omega-6s and Omega-3s don’t have the same effects. Omega-6s are pro-inflammatory, while Omega-3s have an anti-inflammatory effect. Omega-6s promote unhealthy clotting and narrowing of blood vessels while Omega-3s have the opposite effect.

Don’t get me wrong. Omega-6s are not all bad. In the body inflammation is essential for our survival. It helps our bodies fight infection and recover from trauma, but inflammation allowed to go unresolved can also cause severe damage and contribute to disease when the inflammatory response is exaggerated or excessive.
Today we realize that unresolved, chronic inflammation may be setting the biochemical stage allowing the development of the most challenging diseases we face today, including heart disease, obesity and metabolic syndrome, diabetes, arthritis, Alzheimer’s, asthma and many types of cancer.
Put simply, a diet that is high in Omega-6 but low in Omega-3 increases inflammation, while a diet that includes balanced amounts of these fats governs inflammation appropriately.

So again, the issue is that people who eat a typical Western diet are eating way too many Omega-6s relative to Omega-3s.

A good way to figure out what is healthy for humans, is to look at populations that are healthy and don’t have all these Western diseases.
Good luck finding developed countries that fit that description. The sad truth is, every country that eats an industrial diet gets sick. Our food practices today erode our health and send our health care costs skyrocketing upward. Bully for hospitals and drug companies, but not so great for you and me.
Therefore, to find dietary guidance we must look at non-industrial populations like the most recent hunter-gatherers.
Hunter-gatherers who eat mostly deer, elk, and other land dwelling animals have a. Omega-6 to Omega-3 3 ratio of 2:1 to 4:1, while the Inuit, who ate mostly Omega-3 rich seafoods, had a ratio of 1:4.
All of these populations enjoyed good health. They did not suffer from the chronic diseases we face today.
Keep in mind that none of these populations were eating a lot of Omega-6. We need to consider that we will not fix our own health by continuing to consume high levels of omega-6 and simply adding omega-3. Getting a daily small balanced amount of both is probably best. Emphasis on balanced.
Anthropological evidence also suggests that the ratio of Omegas human beings evolved with is closer to 1:1, while the ratio today is around 22:1 or worse. Meaning 22 times more omega-6 than what we are genetically programmed to handle.

Not only are modern people eating much less Omega-3 from animal sources, they are eating huge amounts of processed seed and vegetable oils which provide ridiculously high levels of Omega-6.
The technology to extract seed and vegetable oils is twentieth century technology.  Evolutionarily speaking we simply have had no time to genetically adapt to these high amounts of Omega-6.
Soy is the major culprit here. Here is a chart that shows the dramatic increase in soybean oil consumption in the USA, from zero to 11 kilograms (24 pounds) per person per year.

Soybean oil is currently the biggest source of Omega-6 fatty acids in the USA, because it is abundant and dirt cheap. Don’t even get me started on government subsidies for soy and corn.  Thus soy oil, and to a slightly lesser extent corn oil are used in all manner of processed foods. Unfortunately processed foods make up an ever-increasing part of daily food intake in developed countries, so we are literally stuffing our cells and tissues with excessive omega-6.
The amount of Omega-6 fatty acids found in body fat stores has increased by more than 200% in the past 50 years alone.

So the unbalanced fats that we are eating are leading to structural changes, in our body fat stores, cell membranes, tissues and organs everywhere in the body. Continuing on this path is suicidal.
A high amount of Omega-6 in cell membranes is strongly associated with the risk of cardiovascular disease, partly due to the pro-inflammatory effects, but also due to lipid imbalances and unwarranted clotting.

There have been several controlled trials where people were directed to replace saturated fats like butter with Omega-6 rich vegetable oils. Instead of having healthier hearts, the dietary changes backfired and they had a significantly increased risk of heart disease.

A high Omega-6 intake is also associated with violence and depression, while Omega-3s improve all sorts of mental disorders like depression, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Consumption of vegetable oils high in Omega-6, and a precipitous drop in omega-3 levels is simply the reality of food policy and production changes over the past 100 years. There is a tsunami of evidence that this is causing serious harm.

Fortunately, optimizing your intake of the most important Omega-3 fatty acids is relatively simple.

The single most important thing you can do to reduce your Omega-6 intake is to avoid processed seed and vegetable oils high in Omega-6, as well as the processed foods that contain them.
Here is a chart with some common fats and oils. This is why I prefer using olive oil in the kitchen. To reduce your intake of Omega-6 you need to avoid all of these oils that have a high proportion of Omega-6 (blue bars).

You can see that all of these plant oils are much higher in Omega-6, relative to Omega-3. In fact Omega-3 in plant oils is virtually non-existent. Mind you I said to reduce Omega-6 not eliminate it. Omega-6 is essential for health, it is the overconsumption, the loss of balance that is the issue.

Animal foods are the best sources of the preformed Omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA. And they provide omega-6 too. Think fish and grass fed beef and pork.
The problem is that commercially raised animals are fattened up with grain-based feeds of mainly soy and corn. If those grains fatten up cows what must they be doing to us?
Feeding soy and corn to cows, pigs and chickens reduces the Omega-3 content, so the fats in the meat are mostly Omega-6. Therefore, if you can afford it, grass fed or wild meat is definitely optimal. However, occasional consumption of conventionally raised meat is healthy, as long as it is not processed.

It is also best to buy pastured or omega-3 eggs, which are much healthier than eggs from hens that were fed grain-based feeds.

By far the best and healthiest way to increase your Omega-3 intake is to eat seafood at least twice per week or ideally, even more often. Fatty fish like salmon is a particularly good source. Sardines, mackerel, herring and tuna are good choices too. Wild caught fish is best, but eating farmed fish is much better than eating no fish at all.
If you eat a lot of conventionally raised meats and/or don’t eat much seafood, then I strongly suggest you take a fish oil supplement.

And when you are choosing supplements, please be aware of this. There are some plant sources of Omega-3, like flax and chia seeds. However, these contain a type of Omega-3 called ALA. ALA does not confer the heart, eye and brain benefits of its longer cousins EPA and DHA. And humans are inefficient converters of ALA into the active forms, EPA and DHA. So be sure you either eat fish or take a supplement that provides EPA and DHA. Adults need between 1000 and 4000 mg EPA/DHA daily and children under the age of 10 need 200-1000 mg EPA/DHA daily for best results. Teenagers should be dosed as adults.

And finally for the geeks in the room, here is a nifty chart showing the metabolic pathways of Omega-6 and Omega-3s.