How Should I Organize My Diet To Help My Diabetes?

Diabetes is one of the most commonly occurring long-term medical conditions in the world.

According to the World Health Organization, as of 2014, over 422 million people worldwide have diabetes. Diabetes complications can include blindness, kidney problems, and heart disease.

Similar to many long-term diseases, complications may be prevented with proper management of the condition.

“Diet is one of the key elements in managing diabetes,” Amparo Gonzalez, RN, CDE, of the Johnson and Johnson Diabetes Institute. “People with diabetes need to manage the amounts of carbohydrates, fat, and overall calories they eat daily.”

“When it comes to diet, it’s also important to remember moderation and portion control are essential.”

The basics of diabetes

The two major types of diabetes are type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes.

A girl holding a glucometer.
Making the right food choices is important for both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes often develops early in life, and the cause is not fully understood. Type 1 diabetes occurs when the immune system damages the cells that make a hormone called insulin. The result is insufficient insulin production.

Type 2 diabetes is associated with a sedentary lifestyle and being overweight. It can develop in both children and adults. People with type 2 diabetes do not produce enough insulin, or the insulin they do produce is not used efficiently.

Fortunately, both types of diabetes can be managed through medication and lifestyle choices, such as healthy eating. Making healthy food choices and limiting unsuitable foods is a large part of a diabetes treatment plan.

Important goals for managing diabetes through diet include controlling blood sugar levels and maintaining a healthy weight.

The role of diet in diabetes

After eating, food breaks down into glucose. Glucose is a type of sugar and a major source of energy for the body.

In response to an increase in glucose levels, the body releases insulin. Insulin is an essential hormone because it allows the cells in the body to absorb glucose. It also plays a role in helping the body store protein and fat.

In people who have diabetes, their body may stop making insulin, not make sufficient levels of insulin, or may not use insulin efficiently. Without proper insulin production and use, glucose may not be absorbed by the cells. Instead, glucose levels rise in the bloodstream.

There are a couple of problems when blood sugar levels in the bloodstream become high. The cells don’t get the energy they need, and fatigue can occur.

High blood sugar levels over time can also damage blood vessels in the body. When the blood vessels become damaged, various complications can occur, such as kidney and heart disease, and vision loss.

The good news is that by making the right choices, people can manage their diabetes more effectively, keep glucose levels steady, and lower the risk of possible complications.

How does food affect blood sugar levels?

Different foods affect blood sugar levels differently. The three macronutrients the body uses are fat, protein, and carbohydrates. Carbohydrates affect glucose levels the most. When eaten alone, protein and fat do not have a significant impact on glucose levels.

It’s important to remember that many foods contain a combination of carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Since food can have a significant impact on blood sugar levels, it’s essential to make good food choices and monitor carbohydrate intake.

There is no “one-size-fits-all” diet for people with diabetes. Several individual factors play a role in dietary choices, including whether a person is overweight, has kidney disease, and whether they have type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes.

It’s always best to get nutritional advice from a registered dietitian. The guide below provides some general dietary guidelines to help manage diabetes.

Suitable food choices for people with diabetes

It’s difficult to state recommendations for an exact number of grams of nutrients, such as carbohydrates, a person with diabetes should eat.

A glucometer with fruit, vegetables, and grains.
Fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are good choices for people with diabetes.

According to dietary guidelines released by the American Diabetic Association (ADA), there is no conclusive evidence supporting an ideal amount of carbohydrates or other nutrients for people with diabetes.

Instead, an emphasis is placed on choosing healthy foods, including:

Complex carbohydrates

Complex carbohydrates differ from simple carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates are broken down slowly. They also often contain fiber, and they do not affect blood sugar levels as significantly as simple carbohydrates.

Foods containing complex carbohydrates include:

  • Beans
  • Peas
  • Whole grains
  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Sweet potatoes

Lean protein

The ADA guidelines do not provide a specific protein intake recommendation for blood sugar control. Again, the focus is on healthy choices.

People with diabetes should keep in mind that some sources of protein can be high in fat, which can contribute to weight gain.

The ADA recommend lean sources of protein including:

  • Fish (herring, sardines, salmon, tuna)
  • Eggs
  • Chicken
  • Nuts (cashews, peanuts, soy nuts)
  • Lentils

Healthy fats

Fat is an essential nutrient. Certain types of fat, such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat are considered healthy fats. More important than the quantity of fat is the type of fat eaten, however.

Suitable fat choices include:

  • Sesame seeds
  • Olive oil
  • Avocados
  • Nuts
  • Flaxseed

Unsuitable food choices for people with diabetes

People with diabetes should also be aware of food choices that can cause spikes in blood sugar and contribute to being overweight. When choosing foods, it’s helpful to limit those listed below.

A selection of foods that are bad for people with diabetes.
People with diabetes should limit refined carbohydrates and foods containing hidden sugars.

Refined carbohydrates

Refined carbohydrates may include foods containing processed sugar or refined grains. Most refined carbohydrates have their fiber removed and have limited nutritional value. They also lead to rapid spikes in blood sugar levels.

Refined carbohydrates to be limited include:

  • White bread
  • White rice
  • Cookies
  • Pastries
  • Cereal with added sugar

Trans fat and saturated fat

Excessive amounts of saturated fats and any amount of trans fats are unhealthy for everyone. They can raise “bad” cholesterol and contribute to heart disease.

Foods that are high in trans fat and saturated fat include:

  • Fried food
  • Chips
  • Commercially baked cookies and cakes
  • Vegetable shortening
  • Food containing partially hydrogenated oil

Hidden sugar

People with diabetes should also be aware of foods with hidden sugar. Some foods may look healthy but have a high sugar content on closer inspection.

Always check food labels to determine the sugar and carbohydrate content.

Foods that often contain hidden sugar include:

  • Yogurt
  • Granola
  • Canned fruit packed in syrup
  • Canned pasta sauce
  • Frozen dinners
  • Bottled condiments

Daily and weekly menu planning tips

People with diabetes may benefit from daily and weekly meal planning. Meal planning can help someone choose foods that keep glucose levels steady and help them maintain a healthy weight. Meal planning should also include keeping track of what is eaten.

There are three main ways for people to track what they eat: carbohydrate counting, glycemic index, and the plate method.

Plate method: Divide the plate into three categories. Half the plate should consist of non-starchy vegetables. One-fourth should consist of whole grains and complex starchy food. The remaining fourth of the plate should contain lean protein.

Carb counting: Carbohydrate counting involves planning how many grams of carbohydrates are eaten with each meal and snack.

Glycemic index: The glycemic index categorizes food by how much it increases blood sugar. Foods that have a high glycemic index raise blood sugar more than foods with a low glycemic index. Meal planning using the glycemic index involves choosing foods that are low or medium on the glycemic index.

Whether planning daily or weekly menus, it’s also important for people with diabetes to keep the following in mind:

  • Eating at regularly set times
  • Avoiding skipping meals as it can affect blood sugar levels
  • Spacing meals and snacks out to prevent large changes in blood sugar levels
  • Eating a wide range of foods
  • Thinking about the size of servings
  • Avoiding carbohydrate-only meals that can cause higher blood sugar spikes

Drinking Beetroot Juice Before Exercising Boosts Brain Performance

A number of studies have shown that physical activity can have positive effects on the brain, particularly in later life. New research has found that it may be possible to bolster these effects, simply by drinking beetroot juice before exercising.
[Beetroot and beetroot juice]
Researchers suggest that drinking beetroot before exercising may aid brain performance for older adults.

Researchers found that older adults who consumed beetroot juice prior to engaging in moderately intense exercise demonstrated greater connectivity in brain regions associated with motor function, compared with adults who did not drink beetroot juice before exercising.

The research team – including co-author W. Jack Rejeski of the Department of Health and Exercise Science at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, NC – says that the increased brain connectivity is seen among the adults who drank beetroot juice was comparable to the connectivity seen in younger adults.

Rejeski and colleagues recently reported their findings in the Journals of Gerontology: Series A.

Beetroot – often referred to as “beet” – is a root vegetable best known for dominating plates of food with its bright purple juice. In recent years, beetroot has gained popularity for its potential health benefits, which include reduced blood pressure and increased exercise performance.

Such benefits have been attributed to the high nitrate content in beetroot. When consumed, nitrates are converted into nitric oxide, which studies have shown can lower blood pressure and increase blood flow to the brain.

Studies have demonstrated that exercise alone can benefit the brain. For their study, Rejeski and team set out to investigate whether beetroot juice might boost the brain benefits of physical activity.

Beetroot juice helped strengthen brain’s somatomotor cortex

The study comprised 26 participants, aged 55 years and older, who had high blood pressure. None of the participants engaged in regular exercise, and they were taking up to two medications to help lower their blood pressure.

All subjects were required to engage in 50 minutes of moderately intense exercise on a treadmill three times per week for 6 weeks. One hour before each session, half of the participants consumed a beetroot juice supplement containing 560 milligrams of nitrate, while the remaining participants consumed a placebo low in nitrates.

At the end of the 6 weeks, the researchers measured participants’ brain functioning using MRI.

The team found that subjects who consumed the beetroot juice supplement prior to exercising demonstrated a structurally stronger somatomotor cortex – a brain region that helps to control body movement – compared with participants who consumed the placebo.

Furthermore, subjects who drank the beetroot juice supplement also showed greater connectivity between the somatomotor cortex and the insular cortex, a brain region associated with motor control, cognitive functioning, emotion, and other brain functions. Such connectivity is usually seen in the brains of younger individuals, the team notes.

The researchers explain that the somatomotor cortex receives and processes signals from the muscles. As such, physical activity should strengthen this process.

They suggest that beetroot juice strengthens the somatomotor cortex further through its nitrate content; its conversion into nitric oxide boosts the delivery of oxygen to the brain.

“Nitric oxide is a really powerful molecule. It goes to the areas of the body which are hypoxic or needing oxygen, and the brain is a heavy feeder of oxygen in your body,” says Rejeski.

While further research is required to replicate their results, the researchers believe that their study suggests that what we eat in later life may play an important role in brain health and mobility.

“We knew, going in, that a number of studies had shown that exercise has positive effects on the brain. But what we showed in this brief training study of hypertensive older adults was that, as compared to exercise alone, adding a beetroot juice supplement to exercise resulted in brain connectivity that closely resembles what you see in younger adults.”

Beetroot: Health Benefits

Beetroot, also known as a beet, has been gaining in popularity as a new super food due to recent studies claiming that beets and beetroot juice can improve athletic performance, lower blood pressure, and increase blood flow.

New products incorporating this highly nutritious food are appearing everywhere, and they include juices and drinks.

Beetroot or table beets are from the same family as sugar beets, but they are genetically and nutritionally different. Sugar beets are white in color and commonly used for extracting sugar and sweetening manufactured foods. Sugar cannot be obtained from beets, which are mostly red or gold in color.

Health benefits of consuming beetroot

Beetroot
Beetroot has been gaining in popularity as a new super food.

Consuming fruits and vegetables of all kinds has long been associated with a reduced risk of many lifestyle-related health conditions.

Many studies indicate that eating more plant foods, like beetroot, decreases the risk of obesity, overall mortality, diabetes, and heart disease and promotes a healthy complexion and hair, increased energy, and overall lower weight.

Heart health and blood pressure: A 2008 study published in Hypertension examined the effects of ingesting 500 milliliters of beetroot juice in healthy volunteers and found that blood pressure was significantly lowered after ingestion.

Researchers hypothesized this was likely due to the high nitrate levels contained in beet juice and that the high nitrate vegetables could prove to be a low-cost and effective way to treat cardiovascular conditions and blood pressure.

Another study conducted in 2010 found similar results, concluding that drinking beetroot juice lowered blood pressure considerably on a dose-dependent basis.

Dementia: Researchers at Wake Forest University have found that drinking juice from beetroot can improve oxygenation to the brain, slowing the progression of dementia in older adults.

According to Daniel Kim-Shapiro, director of Wake Forest’s Translational Science Center, blood flow to certain areas of the brain decrease with age and leads to a decline in cognition and possible dementia. Consuming beetroot juice as part of a high nitrate diet can improve the blood flow and oxygenation to these areas that are lacking.

Diabetes: Beets contain an antioxidant known as alpha-lipoic acid, which may help lower glucose levels, increase insulin sensitivity and prevent oxidative stress-induced changes in patients with diabetes.

Studies on alpha-lipoic acid have also shown a decrease in symptoms of peripheral neuropathy and autonomic neuropathy in people with diabetes.

However, a meta-analysis suggests that the benefits of alpha-lipoic acid for symptomatic peripheral neuropathy may be restricted to intravenous administration of the acid.The authors conclude: “It is unclear if the significant improvements seen after 3 to 5 weeks of oral administration at a dosage of more than 600 milligrams a day are clinically relevant.”

Digestion and regularity: Because of its high fiber content, beetroot helps to prevent constipation and promote regularity for a healthy digestive tract.

Inflammation: Choline is a very important and versatile nutrient in beetroot that helps with sleep, muscle movement, learning, and memory. Choline also helps to maintain the structure of cellular membranes, aids in the transmission of nerve impulses, assists in the absorption of fat and reduces chronic inflammation.

Exercise and athletic performance: Beetroot juice supplementation has been shown to improve muscle oxygenation during exercise, suggesting that increased dietary nitrate intake has the potential to enhance exercise tolerance during long-term endurance exercise. The quality of life for those with cardiovascular, respiratory, or metabolic diseases, who find the activities of daily living physically difficult because of lack of oxygenation, could be improved.

Beetroot juice improved performance by 2.8 percent, or 11 seconds, in a 4-km bicycle time trial and by 2.7 percent, or 45 seconds, in a 16.1-kilometer time trial.

Nutritional breakdown of beetroot

Beetroot and beet juice are good sources of various nutrients.

One cup of raw beets contains:

  • 58 calories
  • 13 grams of carbohydrate, including 9 grams of sugar and 4 grams of fiber
  • 2 grams of protein

Depending on the brand, a 296-milliliter bottle of beet juice can contain:

  • 44 calories
  • 11 grams of carbohydrate, including 1 gram of fiber and 8 grams of sugar
  • 2 grams of protein

It is important to check the label of packaged juices, however, to check for added sugars.

Beetroot provides 1 percent of the daily needs for vitamin A, 2 percent of calcium, 11 percent of vitamin C and 6 percent of iron.

Vitamin C, an antioxidant, plays a key role in creating collagen and some neurotransmitters, and in the metabolism of proteins. Iron is an essential part of hemoglobin, the protein that transfers oxygen from the lungs to the body tissues. It is needed for growth, development, and cell function. A lack of iron leads to s certain type of anemia.

It is a rich source of folate and manganese. It also contains thiamine, riboflavin, vitamin B-6, pantothenic acid, choline, betaine, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, and selenium.

Folate is important for a healthy metabolism encourages healthy skin and hair, and protects the mouth from soreness and ulceration. Folic acid is recommended during pregnancy and studies suggest that it contributes to a healthy birth weight and prevents congenital heart defects and other problems such as neural tubal defects in the newborn.

Manganese occurs in small amounts in the body, but it is needed for a range of functions. A lack of manganese can contribute to infertility, bone malformation, weakness, and seizures.

Beets are high in dietary nitrate, which is believed to benefit the cardiovascular system and may protect against cancer.

How to incorporate more beetroot into your diet

Beets can be roasted, steamed, boiled, pickled, or eaten raw.

Beetroot salad
Add sliced pickled beets to your favorite salad and top with goat cheese.
  • Make your own beetroot juice by peeling beetroot and blending with a combination of fresh orange, mint and pineapple or apples, lemon, and ginger. Blend and strain.
  • Grate raw beets and add them to coleslaw or your favorite salad.
  • Top roasted beets with goat cheese for a perfect pairing.
  • Add sliced pickled beets to your favorite salad and top with goat cheese.
  • Slice raw beets and serve them with lemon juice and a sprinkle of chili powder.

When choosing a beetroot, make sure it is heavy for its size and without surface damage. If the green tops are still on, they should look fresh, not wilted. These are also edible.

Beetroots are not only red. There are also golden beets and white beets. They are widely available in grocery stores and farmer’s markets.

To store beets for a few days, refrigerate them in a tightly sealed bag.

If you grow beetroot and need to keep them for longer, cut off the leaves and stalks, leaving about 2 inches of length. Keep them in a box of sand in a garage or shed, somewhere that is cool but frost-free.

Potential health risks of consuming beetroot

If improperly stored, nitrate-containing vegetable juice may accumulate bacteria that convert nitrate to nitrite and contaminate the juice. High levels of nitrite can be potentially harmful if consumed.

A high-nitrate diet may interact with certain medications such as organic nitrate (nitroglycerine) or nitrite drugs used for angina, sildenafil citrate, tadalafil, and vardenafil.

Drinking beetroot juice may cause red urine or stool.

It is the total diet or overall eating pattern that is most important in disease prevention and achieving good health. It is better to eat a diet with variety than to concentrate on individual foods as the key to good health.

Coconut Oil – Countless Uses!

Coconut oil has been a dietary and beauty staple for millennia. It’s a powerful destroyer of all kinds of microbes, from viruses to bacteria to protozoa, many of which can be harmful, and provides your body with high-quality fat that is critical for optimal health.

Around 50 percent of the fat in coconut oil is lauric acid, which is rarely found in nature. In fact, coconut oil contains the most lauric acid of any substance on Earth.

Your body converts lauric acid into monolaurin, a monoglyceride that can actually destroy lipid-coated viruses such as HIV and herpes, influenza, measles, gram-negative bacteria, and protozoa such as giardia lamblia.

This is undoubtedly part of what makes it so medicinally useful—both when taken internally and applied externally.

Coconut oil is comprised of medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs) that are easily digested and readily cross cell membranes. MCFAs are immediately converted by your liver into energy rather than being stored as fat. This is in part why I recommend coconut oil as an ideal replacement for non-vegetable carbohydrates.

Coconut oil is easy on your digestive system and does not produce an insulin spike in your bloodstream, so for a quick energy boost, you could simply eat a spoonful of coconut oil, or add it to your food. In the video above, I also share my recipe for a scrumptious yet healthful chocolate treat, courtesy of the healthy fat from coconut oil.

To get more coconut oil into your diet, you can add it to your tea or coffee, in lieu of a sweetener. It will also help improve absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, so taking a spoonful of coconut oil along with your daily vitamins may help boost their effectiveness.

Coconut oil is ideal for all sorts of cooking and baking, as it can withstand higher temperatures without being damaged like many other oils (olive oil, for example, should not be used for cooking for this reason).

Furthermore, coconut oil does not go rancid, which is a huge boon when you’re making homemade concoctions. Coconut oil that has been kept at room temperature for a year has been tested for rancidity, and showed no evidence of it. Since you would expect the small percentage of unsaturated oils naturally contained in coconut oil to become rancid, it seems that the other (saturated) oils have a powerful antioxidant effect.

GENERAL HEALTH BENEFITS OF COCONUT OIL

In all, coconut oil offers a truly impressive array of health benefits when included in your daily diet. In addition to its antimicrobial properties, coconut oil is beneficial for:

Promoting heart health Supporting proper thyroid function
Promoting healthy brain function Strengthening your immune system
Providing an excellent “fuel” for your body and supporting a strong metabolism that can aid in weight loss Maintaining healthy and youthful looking skin

While coconut oil is an ideal food for fostering health and beauty from the inside out, it also has a staggering number of other uses, from topical beauty applications to first aid treatments, to general household cleaning.  Once you’re done reading through this article, you’ll probably be inspired to stock up for all eventualities!

COCONUT OIL CAN REPLACE DOZENS OF BEAUTY AND PERSONAL CARE PRODUCTS

 

One of the best personal care products you’ll ever find may be sitting in your kitchen cupboard right now. The video above, featuring HolisticHabits blogger and coconut oil aficionado Sarah, recounts many of its beauty uses. The second video includes a recipe making your own coconut oil-based deodorant. A previous article by Delicious Obsessions also lists no less than 122 creative uses for this household staple, including 21 DIY coconut oil skin care recipes. For example, coconut oil can be used to replace the following personal care and beauty products.

Makeup remover: Swipe on with a moist cotton ball. Wipe off with a clean cotton ball or wet washcloth.
Facial cleanser: Massage a dollop of coconut oil onto face and neck. Wash off with a wet washcloth and pat dry.
Body scrub: Mix equal parts coconut oil with organic cane sugar in a glass jar. Use the scrub on dry skin prior to your shower or bath.
Facial scrub: Instead of sugar, mix coconut oil with baking soda, or oatmeal with a dash of cinnamon, for a gentle facial scrub.
Shaving lotion: Apply a thin layer of coconut oil on the area to be shaved, and shave as usual. The lauric acid in the coconut oil will also serve as an antiseptic for cuts that result from shaving.
Face and body moisturizer: You can use it either by itself or add your favorite essential oil. (Make sure you’re using a high-quality essential oil that is safe for topical application.) The featured article also suggests whipping the coconut oil with an electric mixer to produce a fluffy moisturizer that stays soft and spreadable even in cooler temperatures.

When applied topically, coconut oil helps to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles by helping to keep your connective tissues strong and supple, and aids in exfoliating the outer layer of dead skin cells, making your skin smoother.

Eye cream: Apply a thin layer of coconut oil around your eyes to soften wrinkles and counteract thinning, sagging skin.
Cuticle cream: Simply rub a small amount of coconut oil around your cuticles to soften dry areas.
Deodorant: Applying a small amount of coconut oil directly onto your armpits can help keep odors at bay, courtesy of the oil’s antibacterial properties. If you prefer, you can add a small amount of baking soda, or make a homemade deodorant using coconut oil, baking soda, and arrowroot powder. For directions, see the second video above. DeliciousObsessions.com also lists additional deodorant recipes using coconut oil as the base.
Bath soak: Adding coconut oil to your bath can help moisturize dry itchy skin (Make sure to scrub your tub afterward to prevent slipping!). Make sure the water is warmer than 76 degrees Fahrenheit though, otherwise the oil will turn to a solid.
Soap: Coconut oil is one of the base ingredients in many homemade soap recipes, such as this one by NourishingJoy.com
Lip balm: You can either apply a small amount of coconut oil, as is or make your own lip balm using coconut oil as one of the base ingredients. You can find all sorts of recipes online, but here’s one by The Liberated Kitchen.
Toothpaste: Mixed with baking soda, coconut oil can replace your regular toothpaste. The baking soda will gently cleanse while the coconut oil’s antibacterial action may help keep harmful bacteria in check. For recipes using essential oils to spruce up your toothpaste, seeDeliciousObsessions.com.
Insect repellent: Mixing coconut oil with high-quality essential oils may help keep biting insects at bay when applied to exposed skin. Effective choices include: peppermint, lemon balm, rosemary, tea tree oil, neem, citronella(Java Citronella), geraniol, catnip oil (according to one study, catnip oil is 10 times more effective than DEET), and/or clear vanilla oil

HAIR’S BEST FRIEND

Coconut oil is also known for its hair benefits. Most women seem to prefer using it as a pre-shampoo conditioner. Simply massage the coconut oil onto dry hair and leave on for about an hour or longer. You could even leave it on overnight. Just wear a shower cap to protect your pillow. Then, wash and style as usual.

When applied in this manner, the coconut oil inhibits the penetration of water into the hair strands, which would otherwise cause the cuticle, or surface of the hair shaft, to rise, making it prone to damage and breakage. Furthermore, when applied as a pre-wash treatment, a small amount of the coconut oil is able to penetrate deeper into the hair shaft during the wash, when the hair fiber swells slightly.

This can also explain why so many rave about the oil’s ability to prevent “the frizzies” in humid weather—this is another feature of its hydrophobic activity. More porous types of hair may find coconut oil particularly beneficial, such as African and chemically treated hair, as well as those suffering with any type of scalp problems, including dandruff.

ORAL HEALTH BENEFITS

As mentioned above, coconut oil mixed with baking soda makes for very simple and inexpensive, yet effective, toothpaste. It’s also a great alternative if you want a fluoride-free toothpaste but don’t want to spend the extra money, since they tend to cost more than most regular, fluoridated toothpaste brands.

Another oral health technique where I believe coconut oil can be quite beneficial is oil pulling. This technique has significantly reduced my plaque buildup, allowing me to go longer between visits to the dental hygienist. (Adding fermented vegetables to my diet has been another game-changer in my oral health.)

Oil pulling is a practice dating back thousands of years, having originated with Ayurvedic medicine. When oil pulling is combined with the antimicrobial power of coconut oil, I believe it can be a very powerful health tool. Sesame oil is traditionally recommended, but it has relatively high concentration of omega-6 oils. Therefore, I believe coconut oil is far superior, and, in my mind, it tastes better. But from a mechanical and biophysical perspective, it is likely that both work.

Oil pulling involves rinsing your mouth with the oil, much like you would with a mouthwash. The oil is “worked” around your mouth by pushing, pulling, and drawing it through your teeth for a period of 15 minutes. If you are obsessive like me and want even better results, you can go for 30-45 minutes. This process allows the oil to “pull out” bacteria, viruses, fungi and other debris. The best time is in the morning before eating breakfast, but it can be done at any time. I try to do it twice a day if my schedule allows. When done, spit out the oil and rinse your mouth with water. Avoid swallowing the oil as it will be loaded with bacteria and whatever potential toxins and debris it has pulled out.

When done correctly, oil pulling has a significant cleansing, detoxifying and healing affect, not only for your mouth and sinuses but for the rest of your body as well. Candida and Streptococcus are common residents in your mouth, and these germs and their toxic waste products can contribute to plaque accumulation and tooth decay, in addition to secondary infections and chronic inflammation throughout your body. Oil pulling may help lessen the overall toxic burden on your immune system by preventing the spread of these organisms from your mouth to the rest of your body, by way of your bloodstream.

COCONUT OIL TO THE RESCUE

Besides its usefulness in the kitchen and bathroom, coconut oil deserves a place in your medicine cabinet as well—again courtesy of its antimicrobial and anti-viral activity. For example, coconut oil may be helpful in the treatment of:

Ear infections: Place a couple of drops into each ear canal. If the coconut oil has solidified, you can easily liquefy it by placing a small amount in a shot glass or other small container and placing it into a cup of hot water Skin rashes and irritations, including chicken pox and shingles: Simply apply a small amount to the affected area
Fungal and/or yeast infections, such as athlete’s foot and ringworm. For fungal infections, you can mix in a small amount of oregano oil or tea tree oil Bug bites and bee stings
Cold sores: mix in a small amount of oregano oil, and apply at the first signs Frequent nosebleeds may be improved by regularly applying a small amount to the inside of your nostrils
Thrush Hemorrhoids and piles: You may add a small amount of lavender essential oil for added healing power
Vaginal dryness Perineal massage: Expectant mothers can use it to massage the perineum daily, starting about a month or so before your due date, to help reduce your chances of tearing and/or the need for an episiotomy

COCONUT OIL—MORE EFFECTIVE THAN PERMETHRIN FOR HEAD LICE

According to research published in the European Journal of Pediatrics, a combination of coconut oil and anise was found to be nearly twice as effective as the commonly prescribed permethrin lotion for the treatment of head lice. According to the authors:

“We designed a randomized, controlled, parallel group trial involving 100 participants with active head louse infestation to investigate the activity of a coconut and anise spray and to see whether permethrin lotion is still effective, using two applications of product 9 days apart. The spray was significantly more successful (41/50, 82.0%) cures compared with permethrin (21/50, 42.0%…). Per-protocol success was 83.3% and 44.7%, respectively. Thirty-three people reported irritant reactions following alcohol contact with excoriated skin. We concluded that, although permethrin lotion is still effective for some people, the coconut and anise spray can be a significantly more effective alternative treatment.” [Emphasis mine]

Isn’t it wonderful to see how nature provides us with so many effective solutions to so many of our ills? And does so in a way that is oftentimes more effective than our chemical drug concoctions! Another anecdotal Hawaiian head lice treatment is to first soak your hair in vinegar and leave it in to dry (don’t rinse). Next, coat your hair with coconut oil over night. I’d recommend sleeping with a shower cap to protect your bedding. The following day, the nits reportedly comb out easily.

14 SURPRISING USES FOR COCONUT OIL AROUND THE HOUSE

Last but not least, coconut oil can be used for a number of household tasks otherwise relegated to more costly, and potentially toxic, alternatives. Following are 14 creative yet practical uses for this fantastic oil:

1. Clean, condition and sanitize your wooden cutting board. Use whenever the wood starts to look dry.
2. Use when making compost tea for your garden to reduce foam.
3. Use as a metal polish. Make sure to test a small area first.
4. Moisturize and soften leather goods as you would using other leather conditioners.
5. Season your cast iron pots and pans using coconut oil in lieu of lard or corn oil.
6. Lubricate squeaky hinges and sticky mechanisms with coconut oil instead of WD-40.
7. Clean and condition wooden furniture in lieu of furniture polish. Make sure to test a small area first.
8. Lubricate your guitar strings.
9. Clean soap scum from your shower using a small dollop of coconut oil on a damp cloth. Spray the area with white vinegar and wipe dry with a lint-free cloth.
10. Clean your hands and paint brushes with coconut oil after using oil-based paints, in lieu of mineral spirits.
11. Clean and condition the inside of your car by adding a small amount to a soft lint-free cloth. Rub in and wipe off excess.
12. Clean and sanitize your mouth guard by applying a thin layer of coconut oil. Leave the coconut oil on when not in use. Rinse before using.
13. Cleanse and add a glossy finish to indoor plants by wiping the leaves with a small amount of coconut oil on a lint-free cloth.
14. Remove chewing gum from virtually any area, including carpets and hair.

Legumes May Lower Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is a serious health concern in the United States and across the globe. New research shows that a high consumption of legumes significantly reduces the risk of developing the disease.
[various types of legumes]
A new study suggests that a high consumption of legumes can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by 35 percent.

The legume family consists of plants such as alfalfa, clover, peas, peanuts, soybeans, chickpeas, lentils, and various types of beans.

As a food group, they are believed to be particularly nutritious and healthful. One of the reasons for this is that they contain a high level of B vitamins, which help the body to make energy and regulate its metabolism.

Additionally, legumes are high in fiber and contain minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium. They also comprise a variety of so-called phytochemicals – bioactive compounds that further improve the body’s metabolism and have been suggested to protect against heart disease and diabetes.

Finally, legumes are also considered to be a “low glycemic index food,” which means that blood sugar levels increase very slowly after they are consumed.

To make people aware of the many health benefits of legumes, the year 2016 has been declared the International Year of Pulses by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Pulses are a subgroup of legumes.

Because of their various health benefits, it has been suggested that legumes protect against the onset of type 2 diabetes – a serious illness that affects around 29 million people in the U.S. and more than 400 million adults worldwide. However, little research has been carried out to test this hypothesis.

Therefore, researchers from the Unit of Human Nutrition at the Universitat Rovira i Virgili in Tarragona, Spain, together with other investigators from the Prevención con Dieta Mediterránea (PREDIMED) study, set out to investigate the association between legume consumption and the risk of developing type 2 diabetes in people at an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

The study also analyzes the effects of substituting legumes with other foods rich in proteins and carbohydrates, and the findings were published in the journal Clinical Nutrition.

High intake of lentils lowers risk of type 2 diabetes by 33 percent

The team investigated 3,349 participants in the PREDIMED study who did not have type 2 diabetes at the beginning of the study. The researchers collected information on their diets at the start of the study and every year throughout the median follow-up period of 4.3 years.

Individuals with a lower cumulative consumption of legumes had approximately 1.5 weekly servings of 60 grams of raw legumes, or 12.73 grams per day. A higher legume consumption was defined as 28.75 daily grams of legumes, or the equivalent of 3.35 servings per week.

Using Cox regression models, the researchers analyzed the association between the incidence of type 2 diabetes and the average consumption of legumes such as lentils, chickpeas, dry beans, and fresh peas.

Overall, during the follow-up period, the team identified 266 new cases of type 2 diabetes.

The study revealed that those with a higher intake of legumes were 35 percent less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than their counterparts who consumed a smaller amount of legumes. Of all the legumes studied, lentils had the strongest association with a low risk of type 2 diabetes.

In fact, individuals with a high consumption of lentils (defined as almost one weekly serving) were 33 percent less likely to develop diabetes compared with their low-consumption counterparts – that is, the participants who had less than half a serving per week.

Additionally, the researchers found that replacing half a serving per day of legumes with an equivalent portion of protein- and carbohydrate-rich foods including bread, eggs, rice, or potatoes also correlated with a reduced risk of diabetes.

The authors conclude that:

“A frequent consumption of legumes, particularly lentils, in the context of a Mediterranean diet, may provide benefits on type 2 diabetes prevention in older adults at high cardiovascular risk.”

Grapefruit Health Benefits

February was Grapefruit Month, and even if you missed it, it is still a great time to pay a little tribute to the virtues of this much-maligned fruit. It’s tangy, the citrusy flavor can serve as a reminder of the warm weather climates in which it grows, helping us get through the sluggish end of winter. Grapefruit health benefits offer plenty in the way of nutrition that helps with weight maintenance and will also help the body fight off the colds and assorted maladies that are so common this time of year.

Pink grapefruit provides 80 percent of your daily vitamin C needs in a typical serving of half the fruit, is proven to bolster the immune system, can detoxify the body, and even slow the growth rate of tumors. It is also chock full of lycopene, which is an antioxidant that has been found to lower the risk of both bladder and prostate cancer. And pink grapefruit provides you with 6 percent of the RDA of vitamin A, another valuable nutrient that helps maintain the health of the retina, particularly important for our vision in lower light.

Yellow grapefruit is no slouch, either, in the vitamin and nutrient department. Just under its more colorful cousin, the yellow grapefruit health benefits include 73.3 percent of your vitamin C quota for the day, as well as an impressive 23.7 percent of vitamin A.

In addition, grapefruit is a great choice for weight maintenance. And keep in mind that while 100 percent grapefruit juice will deliver nutrients to your body, it will not give you fiber. But as long as you eat the fruit rather than drinking the juice, you will get 0.8 gram of fiber, which fulfills nearly 6 percent of your recommended daily allowance. It is also high in pectin, which helps move things along in your digestive tract to both keep your bowel movements regular and lessen the amount of time potentially damaging fecal matter hangs around in the colon. In addition, that fiber will keep you feel satiated longer, while only serving up a mere 30 calories. And studies have shown that the pectin may be strongly anti-carcinogenic–particularly with regard to colon cancer.

Grapefruit has been found in numerous studies to confer disease protection as well. In a 2006 study, a team of researchers from universities in Israel, Singapore, and Poland split participants into three groups. All of them ate healthy, low-fat diets, but one group had a red grapefruit each day, another had a yellow grapefruit each day, and the third ate no grapefruit. Both groups of grapefruit eaters experienced reduced levels of total cholesterol as well as LDL, the “bad,” cholesterol. The red grapefruit eaters enjoyed the additional benefit of lowering their triglyceride levels too.

So, with all these health benefits, why has the media labeled grapefruit a danger? Simply put, grapefruit can enhance the risks already inherent in pharmaceutical drugs. Upwards of 85 medications have been found to interact with grapefruit. Those research and development departments at pharmaceutical conglomerates keep busy by constantly rolling out new drugs, so needless to say, the incidence of problems experienced by grapefruit eaters has risen in recent years. And, despite the known interactions, many doctors don’t think to ask patients if they eat grapefruit or mention that it is a contraindication.

Grapefruit itself is not harmful. Certain pharmaceuticals for pain, heart disease, schizophrenia, and cancer, on the other hand, have been found to be problematic when combined with grapefruit. The danger comes from the fact that grapefruit inhibits the CYP3A4 enzyme in the liver that helps the body metabolize the pharmaceutical. Therefore, the medication is much stronger as it enters the system, and its effects are magnified, sometimes to the point of causing an overdose.

But the key issue to remember is that the toxicity is inherent in the pharmaceutical drug, not the grapefruit. The problem, once again, is that grapefruit can enhance that toxicity–particularly that of statin drugs. If you are prescribed pharmaceuticals, it is essential to discuss with your doctor whether grapefruit is safe to consume for the duration of the medication. And if you are not taking any kind of prescription medicine, dig right into this citrus delight because, for most of us, grapefruit is nothing but healthy.

7 Sure-Fire Stress-Busters

Why is reducing stress so important? Believe it or not, the American Association of Family Physicians reports that two-thirds of all doctor visits are due to stress-related ailments. It’s also believed that 80 to 90 percent of all diseases are stress-related. And if you’re female, stress may be even more damaging to your health. Study after study has found that women suffer from both stress and depression more often than men.

For some of us, our biggest stressors might be weather-related situations such as tornados, earthquakes, floods, fires, and hurricanes. Similarly, for most of us, we get stressed out thinking of deadlines and commitments, but stress has many other causes. It can be triggered by emotions — anger, fear, worry, grief, depression, or even guilt. And stress can actually lead to high blood pressure, heart problems, fatigue, muscle and joint pain, headaches, and other illnesses and chronic health conditions. If you want to avoid these problems, here are my favorite seven tips to reduce stress, promote relaxation, and bring a sacred balance back into your body and world.

1. Get moving! That’s right — exercise is one of the best ways to reduce stress in your life: it relaxes muscles and eases tension. Want proof? A study at the University of Southern California shows that patients who took a vigorous walk and raised their heart rates to more than 100 beats per minute reduced the tension in their bodies by 20 percent. This effect was greater than the second group of patients who were given a tranquilizer! So go for a walk, hit the gym and do some weight-bearing exercises, or give yoga a try. Studies have shown that those who practice yoga have lower stress hormones than those who don’t.

2. Meditate & Breathe Deeply (really, it’s simple). Don’t worry — you don’t have to be a Buddhist monk to know how to meditate. Here’s how to do it: find a special, quiet space in your home. Spend at least 15 minutes here first thing in the morning and before going to bed. Sit and close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Inhale and exhale slowly and deeply, focusing on the sound and rhythm of your breathing. Mentally visualize peace and calmness. Your day will start and end on a stress-free note.

And when I need the perfect remedy for clearing my nasal passages so I can breathe more deeply, I always use products from the Penn Herb Company’s Olbas line, including the Olbas Inhaler, Oil, and the Lozenges. I am never without any of these products, and I take them with me as I travel worldwide to give holistic health retreats and workshops.

3. Eat a stress-relieving diet. Can what you eat really help relieve stress? You bet. Take the stress off your digestive system by eating at least seven servings of fresh fruits and vegetables, which are high in water content and, therefore, easily digestible. Especially beneficial are antioxidant-rich leafy greens, such as romaine lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, kale, and collards. Also, choose an array of colors when it comes to your fruits and vegetables to benefit from an array of antioxidants. Here’s a great way to think of nutritious food: Produce is the most important health care money can buy.

4. Keep your body hydrated. Our bodies are 70% water. Our cells are 70% water and our planet Earth is 70% water. That’s no coincidence. Each day we need to drink at least 8 glasses of water. At a cellular level, dehydration makes us as droopy as a neglected violet. Lack of moisture in faces causes wrinkles the way lack of moisture in plums causes prunes. Drinking “liquids” won’t do. Although herbal tea, freshly extracted vegetable juice and diluted fruit juice can count in the water tally, coffee, tea, colas, and alcoholic beverages actually dehydrate the body. They’re wet, but they’re not water; in fact, they’re antiwater.

We need to maintain proper fluid balance for brain and kidney function, to rid the body of waste material and toxins, and to maintain radiant health. Water is also a safe, cheap, and effective appetite suppressant. Often when we think we’re hungry, we’re actually thirsty. Get into the habit of carrying a reusable, earth-friendly bottle of water when you walk or drive. If it’s there, you’re more likely to drink it. You can refill them from your filtered or purified water source at home.

5. Catch plenty of Zzzs. Lack of sleep undermines your body’s ability to deal with stress. That’s why it’s important to get eight hours of rest per night. One way to tell if you’re getting enough shut-eye is to see if you wake at a regular time without an alarm. If you require a buzzer to out of bed in the morning, you’re not getting enough sleep.

6. Laugh a lot. Worried about something? Maybe you’re stressed out about your relationship with a loved one, the monthly bills that are stacking up, or the poor grades your son or daughter is suddenly bringing home from school. Whatever it is, one way to mollify this stress is to make sure your life is filled with laughter.

According to researchers, laughter releases endorphins into the body that act as natural stress beaters. In fact, a good belly laugh gives your heart muscles a good workout, improves circulation, fills your lungs with oxygen-rich air, clears your respiratory passages, stimulates alertness hormones, helps relieve pain, and counteracts fear, anger, and depression, all of which are linked to illness and stress. So be sure to schedule time into your busy schedule to be with friends and family who make you smile and laugh, and go to movies or read a book that tickles your funny bone. Just make sure you’re getting plenty of things to giggle about in your life.

7. Be thankful—and reap the health benefits. Each and every day, take a moment and be grateful for all you have in life. Gratitude, after all, is a great stress-buster. What you think about consistently brings more of the same into your life. So focusing on the positive, even during difficult times, is the best way to reduce and alleviate stress and transform your life.

Eating 10 Portions of Fruits and Vegetables Daily Best for Health

Eating five portions of fruits and vegetables daily is considered sufficient for good health. But according to a new study, the greatest benefits come from eating 10 portions a day.
[A colorful selection of fruits and vegetables]
Researchers say eating 10 portions of fruits and vegetables daily is best for preventing disease and premature death.

From an analysis of 95 studies assessing the health benefits of fruit and vegetable consumption, researchers found that eating 800 grams of fruits and vegetables daily – or around 10 portions of 80 grams – was associated with the lowest risk of disease and premature death.

Apples, pears, green leafy vegetables, and cruciferous vegetables were found to be among the most beneficial for health.

Lead author Dr. Dagfinn Aune, of the School of Public Health at Imperial College London in the United Kingdom, and colleagues recently reported their findings in the International Journal of Epidemiology.

Current guidelines recommend that adults should aim to eat around five cups of fruits and vegetables daily – two cups of fruits and three cups of vegetables – to help reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, and other chronic diseases.

While consuming five portions of fruits and vegetables daily is beneficial, Dr. Aune and colleagues set out to determine how many fruits and vegetables need to be consumed for maximum protection against disease and early death.

To reach their findings, the researchers analyzed the data of 95 studies that looked at the health benefits of fruit and vegetable intake.

In total, the studies involved almost 2 million participants and around 43,000 cases of heart disease, 47,000 cases of stroke, 81,000 cases of cardiovascular disease (CVD), and 94,000 deaths.

The team analyzed the fruit and vegetable intake of each participant, looking specifically at how much they consumed daily and the specific fruits and vegetables consumed.

Up to 33 percent lower risk of disease and death with 10 portions daily

One portion of fruits of vegetables was defined as 80 grams – the equivalent of a small banana, pear, or apple, or three heaped tablespoons of cooked vegetables, such as peas, broccoli, or cauliflower.

The researchers then calculated the association between fruit and vegetable intake and the risks of heart disease, stroke, CVD, cancer, and premature death.

The team found that, compared with no fruit and vegetable consumption, participants who ate just 200 grams of fruits and vegetables a day – the equivalent to around 2.5 portions – saw health benefits. These included an 18 percent reduced risk of stroke, a 16 percent reduced risk of heart disease, a 13 percent lower risk of CVD, and a 4 percent reduced risk of cancer.

Eating 200 grams of fruits and vegetables daily was also associated with a 15 percent lower risk of premature death.

However, the researchers found that the more fruits and vegetable participants ate daily, the greater the benefits.

Compared with subjects who consumed no fruits and vegetables, those who ate up to 800 grams – or 10 portions – each day were found to have a 33 percent lower risk of stroke, a 28 percent reduced risk of CVD, a 24 percent lower risk of heart disease, and a 13 percent decrease in cancer risk.

A 31 percent reduction in premature death was also associated with a daily fruit and vegetable intake of up to 800 grams.

What is more, the researchers calculated that if everyone ate 10 portions of fruits and vegetables daily, then around 7.8 million premature deaths could be prevented across the globe annually.

Which fruits and vegetables are best?

The team found that apples, pears, citrus fruits, green leafy vegetables (such as chicory and spinach), and cruciferous vegetables (such as cabbage and broccoli) were best for reducing the risk of stroke, CVD, heart disease, and premature death.

The greatest reduction in cancer risk was associated with intake of green vegetables (such as green beans), yellow vegetables (such as peppers and carrots), and cruciferous vegetables.

Consumption of raw and cooked vegetables was associated with reduced risk of premature death, but the team did not have enough data to determine which specific fruits and vegetables reduced this risk.

While the study did not investigate the mechanisms behind high fruit and vegetable intake and reduced risk of disease and death, the team notes that fruits and vegetables have been linked to lower cholesterol and improved blood vessel and immune system function.

“This may be due to the complex network of nutrients they hold,” notes Dr. Aune. “For instance, they contain many antioxidants, which may reduce DNA damage, and lead to a reduction in cancer risk.”

Overall, the researchers believe their findings highlight the importance of fruits and vegetables as part of a healthful diet.

“We need further research into the effects of specific types of fruits and vegetables and preparation methods of fruit and vegetables. We also need more research on the relationship between fruit and vegetable intake with causes of death other than cancer and cardiovascular disease.

However, it is clear from this work that a high intake of fruit and vegetables hold tremendous health benefits, and we should try to increase their intake in our diet.”

Dr. Dagfinn Aune

What Is Lycopene?

The important plant-based pigment lycopene is found mainly in tomatoes. This carotenoid is just one of the approximately six hundred members of the family of carotenoid compounds. These beneficial phytochemicals are very good for health and are found in abundant quantities in many common fruits and vegetables consumed daily. The humble tomato and products made from tomato form the best source of lycopene.

The most famous carotenoid is, of course, beta-carotene, found in carrots. This compound has stoked the curiosity of researchers for a long time due to its role as a pro-vitamin A in the body – it undergoes chemical conversion to form vitamin A, whenever the supply of the vitamin runs low. The majority of clinical research has focused on the effects of a few beneficial carotenoids including the much-studied beta-carotene, at the same time, the often ignored lesser carotenoids like lycopene, that does not show pro-vitamin A-like activity, has been sidelined. In previous decades, scientist believed that these other carotenoids like lycopene were mere “junk” carotenoids, which had little purpose in the body other than their role as natural pigments lending color to fruits and vegetables. As time has passed, however, the unique and beneficial roles that carotenoids like lycopene play in the body have been realized following a more thorough clinical investigation. Now, most researchers are of the opinion that lycopene has a much more potent antioxidant effect than beta-carotene in the body; it is also believed to be a strong anti-carcinogen.

tomatoes-heirloomLycopene has been tested on human and animal cancer cells every since the first positive results of its anti-carcinogenic action came out. In these second series of confirmatory trials, the results obtained hold great potential and promise for the future treatment strategies. In clinical reports, the ability of lycopene to suppress the growth of cancer cells from cancerous breast, lung, and endometrial tissues has been announced by the researchers. In fact, the potent effect of lycopene was further confirmed laboratory animals that were fed potent carcinogens, in these animals the administration of high levels of lycopene helped to suppress all the cancerous growths resulting from the forced use of carcinogens. One relationship was clear, the effectiveness of the lycopene in suppressing cancer was greater the higher the doses administered. Researchers have also confirmed the great effectiveness of lycopene in dealing with the chemical carcinogens found in tobacco smoke. In one more study, results indicated that the use of lycopene can possibly give a protective effect to skin against the photo damage from long exposure to ultraviolet light – long exposure to sunlight during a lifetime can increase wrinkles and causes skin cancer in many people.

As a human grows older they become more susceptible to diseases, as the levels of all nutrients in the blood decline with old age. Lycopene supplements are ideal as a potent nutrient for all individuals who are 50 or older, particularly if such individuals do not consume at least one tomato dish on a daily basis. The ideal way to get lycopene in the diet is not by drinking a glass of tomato juice, even consuming a fresh tomato a day will not be sufficient in the long run – supplements must be taken to ensure adequate amounts in the body. The human body does not absorb the lycopene present in tomatoes well, if the vegetable is not heated or mixed with a little fat, like olive oil. Therefore, supplemental lycopene is the best to get adequate amounts of the lycopene.

Studies have established that individuals, who consume diets rich in tomatoes, have a lower risk of suffering from certain types of cancer. The lycopene in the tomatoes seemed to suppress the cancers of the lung, the prostate, and the stomach, particularly well. The effect of lycopene and its preventive role against cancer or its potential use in treating cancers requires further clinical research. One can be certain, that with the beneficial and preventive effect of human diets that are rich in fruits and vegetables is not simply explainable on one single component of the diet.

At the same time, some proponents of lycopene as a supplement claim that it can help reduce the risk of heart disease by preventing the hardening of the arteries in the heart, they also suggest that lycopene can preventmacular degenerative disease in old people; this is a common age specific illness leading to blindness. These people also suggest that lycopene plays a role in the regulation of lipid oxidation, a chemical damage that affects normal fat molecules leading to inflammation and disease in some individuals. Lycopene has also been suggested as being capable of lowering the elevated levels of the “bad” cholesterol known as low-density lipoprotein – or LDL cholesterol. It is said to boost the functioning of theimmune system and of supporting the body defenses against pathogens. Lycopene may also protect enzymes, DNA, and cellular fats according to some proponents of this supplement. The biggest support for lycopene is for its use in treating cancers of the lung, the prostate gland, the stomach, the urinary bladder, the cervix, and the skin. Some of these claims may have a basis in fact, while other need further study and confirmation.

Based on clinical studies, some researchers are of the view that lycopene may possibly prevents the spread and slows the growth of cancerous tissues in case of prostate, lung, and stomach cancers. The researchers attribute such beneficial effects of the lycopene to its potency as an antioxidant, which are organic compounds that help blocks the action of activated oxygen molecules called free radicals which are released in the cells as a part of normal metabolism – the action of these free radicals can severely damage cells in the body. Indeed, lycopene is a very active and effective antioxidant molecule, with an activity said to be equal or double that of beta-carotene – the other well known carotenoid anti-oxidant that is also believed to be a potent cancer preventing nutrient obtainable from the diet. As nutrient, the lycopene is regarded as being one of the more effective of the antioxidant compounds as it does not undergo chemical conversion to vitamin A in the body, following its consumption. The chemical conversion of beta-carotene to vitamin A limits its use as an antioxidant compound.

The highest levels of dietary lycopene are found principally in tomatoes; however, other fruits also contain high levels of the compound includingguava, apricots, watermelons, papayas, and pink grapefruit. As tomatoes are readily available and often used as food, they are best food source for lycopene – tomatoes are also cheaper than other costly fruits. In clinical studies it has been confirmed that the lycopene levels in the blood were higher in the blood of people who consumed cooked tomatoes than in the body of those who consumed raw tomatoes or drank tomato juice alone. What this result suggests is that dietary tomato sauce or paste might be the ideal source for the lycopene contained in tomatoes than the consumption of raw tomatoes itself. In most health food stores, the supplements of lycopene are sold in the form of soft gel capsule supplements. The dosages of lycopene differ and different manufacturers may give different dosage regimens in the product label.

The proof that diets high in lycopene leads to a reduced incidence of cancer has come from the long term scientific observation of the nutritional pattern of groups of individuals from many countries across the world. In these populations, a diet high in tomato products translated into high levels of lycopene in the blood is associated with the lowest chance of developing certain cancers. These nutritional studies all suggests that in general diets that are rich in tomatoes might be the possible reason for the reduction in the risks of developing several different kinds of cancer across any population.

Lycopene may also possibly have a beneficial protective effect against the chance of cancers of the cervix and breast in women, and cancers of the mouth, the pancreas, the esophagus, as well as those of the colon, and the rectum in men and women.

Tomatoes in the diet have been linked to lowered risk for prostate cancer in some nutritional studies that observed large groups of people – this is said to be due to the diet high in lycopene from the tomato based foods taken in the diet. This connection between tomato based foods and lowering of prostate cancer risk is disputed by the other researchers, however, in these studies some researchers have found no concrete link between the consumption of large amounts of tomato based food products and a lowering in prostate cancer risk. There may be a genetic factor behind all this, as the results from one recent study show. These results suggests that the form or variation in a particular gene called XRCC1, which codes for proteins that helps repair damaged DNA damage influences the effectiveness of lycopene. This gene may be affecting the chances of whether a high intake of lycopene will influence the risk of prostate cancer in men.

Lycopene in itself may not be the sole agent in tomatoes that lowers the risk for cancer. Many other important nutrients such as vitamins, the mineral potassium, pigments like the carotenoids, and other classes of antioxidants, and many other beneficial compounds are found in tomatoes, these acting alone or affecting a combined effect with the lycopene, may be the agent or agents that induce the protective effects attributed solely to lycopene by some researchers. In studies in which the researchers have analyzed the dietary habits of large groups of people all with varied lifestyles and habits, it might be the case that also the effect in lowered cancer risk attributed to certain diets is induced in fact, by other factors that were never examined in the study.

In a scientific review of a study published in 2004, it was stated that in a study in which eleven observational and ten cases control studies were analyzed, it did seem that tomato based products give a weak but protective effect over the chance of prostate cancer – this results in a lowered risk of prostate cancer according to the conclusion based on the study. It is important to state here, that this analysis of the study results did not involve the use of any lycopene supplements whatsoever, only tomato and tomato based food products were utilized. However, lycopene levels in the blood were indeed considered in some of the individual studies. In the review, the analyst suggested that the protective effect was indeed somewhat stronger when cooked tomato products were consumed. It was also noted that the addition of small quantities of fat improved the absorption of lycopene in the body.

In fact, the role of lycopene possibly preventing or treating cancers completely has been investigated in a few experimental studies. In one of these experiments, animals given supplements of lycopene displayed reductions in the growth rate of induced brain tumors – this is a significant result. Administration of high doses of lycopene to test mice studied in another experimental study showed that the high levels of lycopene in the body of the animal led to the suppression of induced breast tumor growth to a very significant extent. The insight gained from this particular study may not be applicable to human disease states, as at least ninety five percent of all the human breast cancers cases are different to the form of breast cancers seen in mice and other mammals.

In addition, supplements of lycopene have been shown to actively suppress the growth of a variety of human cancer cell lines under laboratory conditions. This ability of lycopene to interfere and disrupt cancer cell growth was particularly potent in cancers that grow in response to the insulin like growth factor I – a growth factor in mammals. Therefore, at least in the animal and laboratory studies, lycopene has shown a certain promise for the treatment of cancer. However, its application to human cancers requires further studies and long term testing, before it can be used on humans.

In one test, to assess the fact about lycopene as the principal cancer fighting compound in tomatoes, animals given lycopene supplements were compared to those given powdered tomatoes as a supplement. The group of laboratory rats were fed tomato powder and analytically compared to rats given just lycopene supplements over a long period of time. There was a significant lowering of risk for cancer in the rats that received tomato powder, while it was notice, that the rats administered only lycopene supplements had no more significant lowering in risk for cancers from the group that was given only powdered tomatoes.

Human tests have also been conducted to check the possibility of lycopene use in the treatment of cancer. In one particular controlled study that checked a small group of men affected by prostate cancer, it was discovered that the use of lycopene supplements seemed to result in a reduction of rapid growth in prostate cancer cells normally seen in such affected men. This result is disputed and a more recent clinical study has indicated that lycopene supplements induced no significant healing effect on prostate cancer affected men who had all failed hormone therapy as part of an earlier treatment. At any rate, human tests of this type are just in the starting stage, and it is necessary to conduct more controlled studies that test larger groups of patients, before the benefits of lycopene in dealing with cancer if any, are known. Currently, individuals with cancer are being tested in a number of smaller studies now underway to check if any tomato products or supplements lycopene can be used in treating cancer states.

Since it is a natural organic compound, there are no safety issues connected to the intake of lycopene from the consumption of fruits and vegetables. High levels of the compound are also not known to induce any significant side effects and lycopene is believed to safe for human use – unless such people are allergic to the fruit or vegetable itself. Supplemental lycopene is a different matter, though the potential side effects of such supplements if any are still not fully known due to the scarcity of reports. Lycopene and its potential side effects were studied in a group of test patients, who all received a supplement rich in tomato based lycopene at doses of fifteen mg two times every day. In these patients, the supplement induced some type of intestinal side effects including spells of nausea and vomiting, persistent diarrhea, indigestion, abdominal gas and bloating of the stomach. Therefore, lycopene supplements are comparatively safe and side effects are considered mild. Consuming large amounts of tomato based products for prolonged periods of time is also known to bring out an orange color in the skin, with no other symptoms.

If they are used during the course of a radiation or chemotherapy regimen, then antioxidant supplements may interfere with the actual killing of the cancer cells in the body – therefore, antioxidants must be avoided during such treatments. This area of research is still unclear and more studies in humans are required to find out the exact manner in which antioxidants might interfere in such cases. It is suggested, however, that supplements of vitamins, minerals, or nutrient supplements taken by cancer patients undergoing therapy must be only under medical supervision, a qualified doctor must be consulted by the patient before such supplements are used to avoid possible problems. On the other hand, fresh fruits and vegetables, which are all high in antioxidants, can be safely eaten by the patient during the radioactive or drug based chemotherapy treatment of cancer without fear of a possible interference in the treatment.

Mediterranean Diet: Facts and Health Benefits

Traditionally, Western Europe has two broad nutritional approaches – the Northern European and Southern European. The Mediterranean Diet is Southern European, and more specifically focuses on the eating habits of the people of Crete, much of Greece, and southern Italy.

Today, Spain, southern France, and Portugal are also included; even though Portugal does not have a Mediterranean coast.

The Mediterranean diet includes

  • Lots of plant foods
  • Fresh fruit as dessert
  • High consumption of beans, nuts, cereals (in the form of wheat, oats, barley, corn or brown rice) and seeds
  • Olive oil as the main source of dietary fat
  • Cheese and yogurt as the main dairy foods
  • Moderate amounts of fish and poultry
  • No more than about four eggs each week
  • Small amounts of red meat each week (compared to northern Europe)
  • Low to moderate amounts of wine
  • 25% to 35% of calorie intake consists of fat
  • Saturated fat makes up no more than 8% of calorie intake
Olive oil
Olive oil is one of the main sources of dietary fat.

Fats – the Mediterranean diet is known to be low in saturated fat, high in monounsaturated fat, and high in dietary fiber.

Legumes – the Mediterranean diet includes plenty of legumes. Legumes are plants in the pea family that produce pods which slit open naturally along a seam, revealing a row of seeds.

Examples of legumes include peas, chick peas, lentils, alfalfa, and beans.

Scientists from the University of Toronto reported in Archives of Internal Medicine, October 2012 issue, that eating more legumes helps improve glycemic control in people with diabetes type 2, as well as lessening the risk of developing coronary heart disease.

The Mediterranean diet – worldwide recognition

The Mediterranean diet became popular in the 1990s – even though the American Scientist Dr. Ancel Keys (1904-2004) publicized the Mediterranean diet while he was stationed in Italy, it was not until about the 1990s that it was widely recognized and followed elsewhere by nutritionally conscious people.

An enigma

Compared to other Western diets, the Mediterranean diet was seen by others as a bit of an enigma. Although fat consumption is high, the prevalence of hypertension, cardiovascular disease, obesity, cancer, and diabetes has always been significantly lower in Mediterranean countries than northern European countries and the USA. The American diet is more similar to the northern European diet – with high red meat consumption, greater consumption of butter and animal fats, and a lower intake of fruit and vegetables, compared to the eating habits of Italy, Greece, southern France, and Spain.

Mediterranean diet more popular in non-English speaking nations

The non-English speaking countries of northern Europe, such as Scandinavia, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, and Austria have adopted the Mediterranean diet to a much greater degree than English-speaking nations, such as the UK, Ireland, the USA, Australia and New Zealand.

Dietary habits in Canada vary; with the French-speaking Quebec areas tending more towards a Mediterranean diet, compared to the rest of the country. Many experts believe that is why developed English-speaking nations have a lower life expectancy than the other developed nations.

Mediterranean countries consume higher quantities of red wine, while northern European countries and the USA consume more beer. Red wine contains flavonoids, which are powerful antioxidants, according to a study in the Journal of Natural Products.

The Mediterranean diet, compared to the Anglo-Saxon diet, contains much higher quantities of unprocessed foods.

Health benefits of the Mediterranean diet

Studies have been carried out which compare the health risks of developing certain diseases, depending on people’s diets. People who adopted the Mediterranean diet have been compared with those who have an American or Northern European diet.

An article published in Food Technology in October 2012 explained that plant-based diets either considerably reduce or totally eliminate people’s genetic propensity to developing chronic diseases, such as diabetes type 2, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.

Mediterranean diet helps prevent a genetic risk of stroke – a variant (mutation) in the Transcription Factor 7-like 2 (TCF7L2) gene, which is associated with the development of type 2 diabetes, is also linked to higher stroke risk, especially if a person carries two copies (homozygous carriers).

Scientists from Tufts University, USA, and the CIBER Fisiopatología de la Obesidad y Nutriciόn, Spain, found that the Mediterranean diet may protect homozygous carriers of the mutated gene.

The researchers wrote in the journal Diabetes Care “Being on the Mediterranean diet reduced the number of strokes in people with two copies of the variant. The food they ate appeared to eliminate any increased stroke susceptibility, putting them on an even playing field with people with one or no copies of the variant.”

An Italian study published in BMJ Open reported that people who stick to a Mediterranean diet tend to have better HRQL (health-related quality of life). They added that the link is stronger with mental than physical health. “Dietary total antioxidant and fiber content independently explain this relationship,” they added.

Heart benefits

Researchers at McMaster University found an association between good heart health and certain food groups or dietary patterns including vegetables, nuts, monounsaturated fatty acids, and overall ‘healthy’ dietary patterns, such as the Mediterranean diet. The study was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

A later study, published in the American Journal of Medicine, suggested that people who adopt a whole diet approach – such as a Mediterranean diet – have a lower risk of heart attack and cardiovascular-related death than those who follow a strictly low-fat diet

Diabetes

A study published in the BMJ in 2008 revealed that the traditional Mediterranean diet can help protect people from type 2 diabetes.