July 25, 2012
Let food be thy medicine, thy medicine shall be thy food. ~Hippocrates
We eat for a number of reasons — because we’re hungry, because we have a craving, or maybe because we are emotional or bored. But how often do we eat therapeutically? Despite truisms like “you are what you eat,” most of us have a disconnect between what we ingest and how that food affects our bodies. The ongoing news about heart disease, type 2 diabetes and the obesity epidemic all testify to that disconnect.
Scientists have been slow in fully embracing the relationship between eating and health, but that is rapidly changing. An article in Pharmacognosy Review highlights the new discipline of Functional Food Science: the study of foods that have a positive health influence on our bodies.
Science shows that there are many extraordinary properties of medicinal mushrooms, which have been used for centuries in many cultures around the world. They can modulate the immune system, neutralize oxidizing molecules, and even support cellular health.
For example, the reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum) is an excellent source of potent antioxidants and can protect against the damaging effects of radiation. Lentinus edode, commonly known as the delicious shiitake mushroom, has shown major cellular health benefits. In Japan, a compound derived from shiitake is one of the most frequently used complementary medicines for cancer patients. Grifola frondosa, known as maitake, has also shown cellular health activity and immune system support; Hericium erinaceus (also known as Lion’s Mane or Monkey’s Head,) supports good digestion; Cordyceps sinensis, the amazing caterpillar mushroom, supports internal organs like the liver and kidneys; and the gelatinous Tremella fuciformis supports healthy blood sugar.
Research demonstrates that medicinal mushrooms are a relatively untapped health resource, especially in the Western diet. Many people aren’t used to or don’t like the flavor and texture of the especially potent mushrooms. However, they’re easy to grow, contain many beneficial compounds, and are easily metabolized by the body. For those seeking to incorporate more functional foods into their diet, specific dietary formulas containing a variety of mushroom species offer an excellent way to supplement your diet. Combining medicinal mushrooms into a synergistic formula can work to maximize mushrooms’ natural immune-supporting qualities and provide long-term immune system health.
Medicinal mushrooms may top the list of powerful therapeutic foods, but they are certainly not alone. Other top-functioning super-foods include:
Cruciferous vegetables, such as bok choy, broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts are excellent for your cells and for overall health. In addition to an abundance of diverse phytonutrients and antioxidants, these vegetables contain amounts of a compound called brassinin, which helps support healthy cell growth. They also contain the precursor to the active ingredient DIM. Studies have shown that DIM supports healthy hormonal balance in part by promoting the excretion of harmful xenoestrogens, which are “bad estrogens” we encounter through toxins and pollution.
A number of dark colored berries, including açaí, blackberry, blueberry, black raspberry and others have been well researched for their powerful health promoting properties. They are high in antioxidants and other phytonutrient compounds shown to support healthy cells and immunity, among other important properties such as supporting the brain, eyes, and even slowing the aging process.
Yogurt, sauerkraut, and other fermented or “cultured” foods have been a traditional staple in many areas of the world for millennia. These foods offer some of the best source of viable friendly flora, or “probiotics”, which work to support the intestines and other areas of the body. Beneficial bacterial such as those in the lactobacillus family and others, are shown to promote immune health, improve nutrient assimilation, promote healthy cells, and even benefit our mental and emotional health.
Biomedical research is confirming what many cultures have known for thousands of years: functional foods do the body good. There are obvious advantages to becoming more mindful of the food we eat, including seeking out organic, locally grown produce, and making healthier food choices overall. However, in today’s world we need to take a more specific approach and emphasize those foods known to provide powerful support for optimal health. These are just a few great examples of what will assuredly become a long list of functional, healing foods to support a lifetime of wellness.
November 11, 2011
Feast Like a Caveman and Watch the Pounds Melt Away By Dr. Mercola
By Dr. Mercola
During the Paleolithic period, many thousands of years ago, people ate primarily vegetables, fruit, nuts, roots and meat—and a wide variety of it.
Today, these staples have been largely replaced with refined sugar, high fructose corn syrup, cereal, bread, potatoes and pasteurized milk products… and a much narrower selection of fruits, vegetables, roots and nuts.
While we may consider ourselves to be at the pinnacle of human development, our modern food manufacturing processes have not created a race of super-humans in possession of great health and longevity.
Quite the contrary...
Humans today suffer more chronic and debilitating diseases than ever before. And there can be little doubt that our food choices play a major role in this development.
Can a Stone Age Diet Make You Healthier?
CBS recently ran an excellent series of reports about the Paleolithic diet movement. Of the mainstream press, Dr. Kim Mulvihill was the sole member present at the recent Ancestral Health Symposium in Los Angeles. She ended up taking part in Dr. Lynda Frassetto's scientific study on the Paleo diet herself.
As reported on CBS:
"You can eat anything that would be able to be eaten without being processed," explained Dr. Lynda Frassetto. That means no grains, no bread, and no [pasteurized] dairy but does include lots of fruits and vegetables, some nuts and oils and lots of fish, poultry and lean meats.
... Dr. Frassetto and her team at the University of California in San Francisco tested the Paleo-diet on out-of-shape volunteers. The group ate lots of food without losing any weight or exercising. "In two weeks, everybody's blood pressure went down and everybody's cholesterol and triglyceride levels got better. The average drop was 30 points, which was pretty amazing. It's the type of drop you get by taking statins for six months," said Dr. Frassetto.
Dr. Frassetto says Paleo foods, also known as the caveman diet, works by keeping your body's chemistry in better balance. The goal of the caveman diet is to reduce excess body fat, aid in the normalization of blood sugar levels and reduce toxins and anti-nutrients."
"Normalizing" your system is the true strength of the so-called caveman diet. By eating foods that are concordant with your genetic ancestry, you can avoid many of the diseases associated with our modern diet. As Dr. Loren Cordain, author of The Paleo Diet and one of the world's leading
experts on Paleolithic nutrition, states:
"The nutritional qualities of modern processed foods and foods introduced during the Neolithic period are discordant with our ancient and conservative genome. This genetic discordance ultimately manifests itself as various chronic illnesses, which have been dubbed "diseases of civilization." By severely reducing or eliminating these foods and replacing them with a more healthful cuisine, possessing nutrient qualities more in line with the foods our ancestors consumed, it is possible to improve health and reduce the risk of chronic disease."
Why the Paleo Diet Works for Weight Loss
A common "side effect" of rebalancing your body's chemistry is weight loss, as the two tend to go hand-in-hand. One explanation for this is that you don't really get fat from eating too much and exercising too little. Nor do you get fat from eating fat.
So what does cause your fat tissue to accumulate and hold on to fat?
In a word: carbohydrates.
In essence, overeating and excess weight could be viewed as a symptom of an improper diet, because when you consume too many sugars and carbs, you set off a cascade of chemical reactions in your body that makes you hungry and craving for sweets:
The resulting equation is simple: fructose and dietary carbohydrates (grains, which break down into sugar) lead to excess body fat, obesity and related health issues. Furthermore, no amount of exercise can compensate for this damage because if you eat excessive fructose and grains—the primary ingredients NOT found in the Paleo diet—it will activate programming to cause your body to become, and remain, fat.
Fructose and High Blood Pressure
As mentioned earlier, the Paleo diet can be very effective for reducing blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels—more effective, in fact, than a statin drug. According to Dr. Frassetto, people can see a 30 point drop in cholesterol in just two weeks!
That really is quite remarkable.
It is, however, also quite understandable once you realize that fructose is a major promoter of hypertension—far more so than salt. The connecting link between fructose consumption and hypertension lies in the uric acid produced. Uric acid is a byproduct of fructose metabolism, and increased uric acid levels drive up your blood pressure.
Excess sugars (including grains) also promote unhealthy cholesterol levels and raise triglyceride levels.
How does it do this?
Dr. Stephanie Seneff explained this in some detail in a previous interview. In summary, when you eat a diet high in fructose and other sugars, it over-taxes your liver as it cannot properly make cholesterol while simultaneously processing fructose (which it turns into fat). As a result, you end up with impaired cholesterol formation, which can eventually lead to a cholesterol- and cholesterol sulfate deficiency. At that point, your body begins to form arterial plaque to compensate for this deficiency, because your platelets can produce the cholesterol sulfate your heart and brain needs within that plaque. It's a sort of backup mechanism to maintain proper heart- and brain function.
Unfortunately, it's not an ideal backup mechanism because arterial plaque also increases your risk for heart- and vascular disease. So truly, you'll want to avoid forcing your body to resort to these measures in the first place, and the way you do that is by feeding it correctly... This is yet another important detail that explains how and why excessive fructose consumption is so detrimental to your health.
As you can see, simply cutting out fructose and grains from your diet effectively eliminates one of the underlying causes of a number of health problems, including:
... and that's one of the primary reasons the Paleo and other low-carb diets work so well.
The Diet that May Beat All Others...
While you wouldn't be able to find many of the wild varieties of plant foods eaten by cavemen even if you wanted to, you can certainly mold your diet around the principles of Paleo eating rather easily by following my nutrition plan.
I believe it to be one of the most profound interventions for the 21st century. Quite simply, we've strayed too far from the foods we are designed to eat, so going back to basics and refocusing your diet on fresh, whole, unprocessed, "real" food can improve just about anyone's health. The full details are outlined in my nutrition plan, but generally speaking a "healthy diet" is qualified by the following key factors:
The Case for Moving Like a Hunter-Gatherer Too...
Going back to our roots in terms of what we eat is about 80 percent of the battle and subsequent reward in terms of improved health. But there's a lot to be said about moving like a hunter-gatherer too. Instead of being sedentary for much of the day and then running for an hour on a treadmill, our ancient ancestors combined lots of walking with regular lifting and short bursts of high-intensity activities, and health experts agree that this may be a healthier way to live because this is what your body is "wired" for.
My Peak Fitness program incorporates this essential factor, which is, I believe, why so many people have achieved such great results with it. For detailed instructions, please see this previous article. A summary of what researchers believe might be an ideal exercise prescription would include
the following aspects of normal hunger-gatherer living:
A variety of exercises performed regularly (weight training, cardio, stretching, etc.)
Alternate difficult days with easier days
Exercise outdoors, which helps maintain vitamin D levels and improve mood
Interval training sessions performed three times a week
Weight training at least twice a week
Walk and run on softer, uneven terrain, such as grass and dirt, possibly barefoot or using "simpler shoes that do not drastically restrict foot motion or alter natural foot strike dynamics"
Exercise with a friend to receive social stimulation as well
Ample time for rest after physical exertion
Recreational activities, including dancing and sex