Monthly Archives: June 2017

Protein Foods that Fight Disease & Boost Weight Loss

1. Natto

Natto is a type of fermented soybean consumed most often in Japan. At 31 grams of protein in one cup, you can probably see why it ranked No. 1 on my list. It’s also a complete protein.

While I don’t recommend most soy products to my readers (due to the high prevalence of GMO options and phytoestrogen complications), natto is a fermented soy product that I think is worth the hype.

The smell and texture of natto often turn off people to trying it, but I enjoy the taste and don’t mind using it as a side dish — especially with all the benefits it provides.

2. Spirulina

This algae superfood looks a little bizarre, but this plant protein powerhouse has some unbelievable benefits, like heavy metal detox, HIV/AIDS improvement and cancer prevention.

While not a complete protein on its own, spirulina has a whopping 39 grams of protein in just a serving (part of why it’s a delicious part of a morning green smoothie). To supplement the methionine and cysteine it’s missing, just pair it with a whole grain or some nuts.

Spirulina also includes the highest amount of glutamine found in a plant food. Glutamine is an amino acid that is called “conditionally essential,” because the body is able to create it on its own, but it’s used in such large amounts that you also need to consume it through foods. (8)

3. Tempeh

Another one of the world’s best plant-based protein sources is tempeh, an Indonesian soybean. Like natto, this probiotic-rich bean is fermented to eliminate the common issues soy often provides.

You’ll get 18 grams of protein in a serving of this complete protein. Some people boil and eat it with soy sauce or coconut aminos, and since it absorbs neighboring flavors, you can use it with almost any recipe. Try it in chilis, salads and stews for a start.

4. Nutritional Yeast

Don’t let the name fool you — this yeast isn’t the same stuff that helps to bake bread. Nutritional yeast only contains about 9 grams of protein per serving; however, unlike almost any other plant food, it usually includes fortified Vitamin B-12.

Generally, you should treat nutritional yeast like a condiment or an ingredient in cheesy dishes or as a shake ingredient.

5. Pumpkin Seeds

A cup of pumpkin seeds contains 12 grams of protein. (9) Another complete protein source, pumpkin seeds are high in healthy fats, magnesium, lysine and zinc (the latter two of which are often limited on plant-based diets).

However, a word of caution: if you are counting calories (which I don’t often deem necessary), you should know that a cup of pumpkin seeds contains 264 calories.

6. Hemp Seeds

Hemp seeds have 9 grams of protein per serving, and are also complete in their amino acid profile. They contain gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), which is probably one reason they have so many health benefits, like reducing inflammation and helping with multiple sclerosis.

7. Amaranth

A gluten-free “ancient-grain” cultivated first in history by the Aztecs, amaranth grains are an excellent source of nutrition. Amaranth is a complete protein, offering 9 grams per serving, and also contains over 100 percent of your daily recommended manganeseintake.

8. Quinoa

Quinoa is another one of those incredible “ancient grains,” although it’s technically not a grain at all, but a “pseudocereal,” a seed that you use similarly to barley.

Due to its 8 grams of protein per serving, complete inclusion of amino acids and relative ease of access, quinoa is one of my favorite plant-based protein foods to eat often.

9. Black Beans

Although black beans are short just one amino acid (hydroxyproline) of being called “complete,” they still offer an awesome source of protein at 15 grams per serving.

They also contain a large amount of lysine and leucine, two of the amino acids rarely found in plant-based protein foods. (10) Leucine is the primary of three branched-chain amino acids, which is extremely significant for weight loss and metabolism management.

10. Green Peas

Apparently, your mom was right when she said eating your peas was important — green peas have 9 grams of protein per serving and include significant amounts of leucine, lysine and glutamine. (11)

They’re also one of those high-fiber foods that help decrease your risk of obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

Plant-Based Protein Nutrition

A major question people ask when considering plant-based dietary options is, “How will I get protein? Will I ever have enough?”

While kwashiorkor, the medical diagnosis for protein malnutrition, is rarely seen in first-world countries, it is common for people on the Standard American Diet to experience protein deficiency because of the prevalence of processed, empty foods.

As long as you take time to be intentional, as I said before, about your protein intake, you should be able to consume enough protein from plant-based foods.

However, if you start to notice you have trouble building muscle mass, constant fatigue, moodiness, bone/joint pain, slow wound healing or a low immunity, you should consult your doctor immediately to check your protein levels.

It’s okay that plant-based foods don’t all contain “complete” proteins, as long as you are careful to eat a variety of foods to fill in any potential gaps in amino acids.

There are 20 amino acids in proteins, 10 of which humans can produce on our own. The remaining 10 (or 9, for adults) are considered “essential” because our only source for them is through our diet. It’s not vital to have every single one of the 20 at each meal, but consuming a good variety of all of these amino acids throughout the day will help you achieve optimal health. (35)

Plant-based protein nutrition can, contrary to popular belief, also provide satiety, that full feeling at the end of a meal. Specifically, “dietary pulses” (beans, peas, chickpeas and lentils) have a potential to really help you feel full. (36)

Keeping in mind the vast benefits of plant-based protein foods, there are a few nutrients that plant-based nutrition simply does not provide in large quantities.

For one, the amino acid leucine, which triggers muscle growth, is not often found in most plant foods. (37) However, there’s a ton of it in spirulina, watercress and alfalfa seeds, so adding those to your regular diet can help, especially if you’re trying to build a lot of muscle. (38)

Plant-based proteins almost never contain Vitamin B-12. Because of this, it’s vital for vegans in particular to supplement their diet with an organic Vitamin B-12 or B-complex. Studies also recommend vegetarians be regularly screened for B-12 deficiency. (39)

The three exceptions to that B-12 rule are nutritional yeast, soy products (which I do not recommend) and nori seaweed, found in sushi wraps. (40) Nori has 9 percent of your required B-12 each day per serving, so even if you eat sushi every day, you’ll still need an additional supplement.

Lastly, vegans and vegetarians usually do not consume enough ALA or EPA, both omega-3 fatty acids found in fish that help to prevent heart disease. (41) For vegetarians, you may want to try a fish oil supplement. If you strictly consume only plant-based items, you should look into algal oil for these nutrients, although they are not available in the same quantities as fish oil would provide.

The good news is that plant-based proteins are great for your health. For most conditions and dietary changes, one of the first things I recommend is to start eating more protein-rich plant foods, because they offer a host of benefits, whether they make up a large portion or the entirety of your diet. Plant-based proteins have a ton of vitamins and minerals that are essential to bodily functions and longevity

Killing Lyme Disease Better than Standard Antibiotics,

Stevia kills Lyme disease? While it sounds too good to be true, there is legitimate evidence suggesting a beneficial stevia side effect could include killing Borrelia burgdorferi, the pathogen responsible for Lyme disease. Here, we’ll dive in to the University of New Haven study that opened our eyes to the stevia herb’s possible Lyme-killing properties, what’s happened since that study’s release in 2015 and if it’s too soon to recommend stevia as a Lyme treatment in humans.

Lyme is a stealthy infection, commonly called “The Great Imitator” because its symptoms often mimic other ailments like thyroid disease, lupus, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia.

Complicating matters, most doctors’ offices rely on the ELISA test when Lyme is first suspected, even though some studies indicate the test misses up to 50 percent of Lyme cases. Most people never recall a tick bite or see Lyme’s telltale bull’s eye rash, either. Now, if you are a Lyme patient who actually is properly diagnosed, getting effective treatment is a challenge, too. According to the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society, no study has ever shown that a short course of antibiotics effectively treats the infection. (1)

Clearly, we need better options. A 2015 study published in the European Journal of Microbiology and Immunology suggests we may need to shift our focus from antibiotics to plant extracts. While more research is needed in humans, I think you’ll be encouraged by the latest findings.

Lyme disease symptoms sometimes don’t go away with standard two- to four-week treatment of doxycycline or amoxicillin. University of New Haven researchers may be on to something more plant-based, though. The team found that exposing B. burgdorferi to stevia leaf extract wiped out Lyme disease in its different forms. (Yes, we’re talking about the liquid sweetener, stevia, which is about 200 times sweeter than sugar.) Those different forms include B. burgdorferi spirochetes, spheroplast (L-form), round bodies and the notoriously hard-to-kill biofilm forms. If you haven’t caught on yet, Lyme is a complex pathogen.

But why so many forms? It’s for survival. We know Borrelia shift into a more dormant, “round body” state when unfavorable conditions in the body strike. This even includes when your body’s immune system starts to mount an attack. Other things that trigger the Lyme pathogen to go into a more dormant, defensive mode include:

  • Antibiotic exposure
  • Temperature changes
  • High (or low) pH
  • Starvation
  • An attacking immune system

Some scientists say Lyme’s “biofilm” form is its most elusive. It’s in this form where the bacteria hide themselves in a complex mixture for protection against antibiotics. But the study found stevia leaf extract actually killed all forms of the Lyme germ, including its biofilm form.

It’s important to note that this was a lab study where scientists dealt with the bacteria in test tube and petri dish situations, so we need to follow up with studies in humans to see if stevia effectively kills Lyme in humans. In other words, we need clinical trials. (More on that later.)

Other important points of the stevia kills Lyme disease study: (2)

  • Researchers used four types of stevia: three in liquid form derived from standard alcohol extraction and one powdered. The powdered stevia diluted in liquid did notshow promise in killing off Lyme, but the alcohol extracted stevia samples did.
  • Stevia leaf extract outperformed individual drugs often used to treat Lyme disease (doxycycline, cefoperazone, daptomycin, and their combinations).
  • Interestingly, a week after treatment, viable B. burgdorferi started to surface again in the antibiotic groups. This did not happen in the stevia group, which appeared to be a complete kill off after seven days.
  • The biofilm associated with Lyme actually increased in size with individual antibiotic treatment. Not good!

If stevia kills Lyme disease, can we officially translate that into stevia acting as medicine in the human body? We’re not at a stage where we can prescribe whole leaf, liquid stevia extract to treat Lyme disease, but that’s not to say you have to avoid it in your diet.

Stevia also boasts blood sugar balance, weight loss and even anticancer properties. (3, 4, 5) While the University of New Haven Lyme study focused on stevia in alcohol-extracted, liquid form, I like to enjoy it in green powder form, too, since that is how people in Japan and South American have used it for centuries as a plant-based sweetener that doesn’t spike blood sugar levels and as a medicinal plant.

Just remember, the overly processed, white powdered form used in the study is popular among shoppers today, but it didn’t show any Lyme-fighting effects. In fact, there’s an interesting backstory to the highly processed powder forms of stevia. That’s the only type the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will give the the “generally recognized as safe” stamp of approval to, despite the fact it’s chemically processed, contains genetically modified ingredients and only often contains minute traces of actual stevia. (6)

The whole leaf stevia extracted with alcohol are considered dietary supplements, so you should go over any medications you’re on to make sure there are no possible interactions.

Today, University of New Haven researchers are still investigating liquid stevia leaf extract’s impact on Lyme. According to the New Haven Register, professor Eva Sapi, Ph.D, and students performed confirmation studies after the 2015 study. Time and time again, stevia emerges as a Lyme fighter. She told the New Haven Register, “So far, we haven’t seen anything better,” including all the antibiotics most commonly used.

The article explains that Sapi dealt with Lyme herself and started testing all different types of sweeteners after hearing sugar may boost certain antibiotics. From her earliest experiments, liquid stevia extract jumped out as a possible Lyme fighter. Today, she’s waiting to learn the results of a clinical trial involving stevia and antibiotics in New York. (7)

Whether fasting can lose weight?

Alternate Day Fasting vs. Intermittent Fasting (or Time-Restricted Eating)

Technically, alternate day fasting is just another type of intermittent fasting. The most popular type of intermittent fasting is time-restricted eating (TRE). When you follow TRE, you limit your eating to a certain window of time — perhaps 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. — and refrain from eating the rest of the time. Using this example, your fasting time would be 18 hours a day.

Time-restricted eating seems to seriously affect the hormone levels that regulate our metabolism, blood sugar and fat-burning — in a good way, and it’s often combined with a ketogenic diet to affect significant weight loss. See, our bodies prefer working on a regular, clock-like schedule to maintain necessarily bodily functions. When you spend the day grazing through meals and snacks, it’s not really sure what’s happening: Will you be eating again in a few hours, or can it get started on the necessary repairs and maintenance?

But when you’re practicing time-restricted eating, the body learns that it’s on a schedule and that it can maximize those fasting hours to get stuff done. The results are higher fat burning, lower levels of inflammation (which is at the root of most diseases!) and more stable blood sugar levels, which can decrease your risk of diabetes. (2)

Best of all, when it comes to TRE, it’s less about what you eat than when you eat it. This doesn’t mean, of course, that during eating hours, you should go to town on potato chips and fast food. Whole foods, like quality proteins, healthy fats (yes, coconut oil is still healthy), fruits and veggies will always help your body perform best, no matter what eating plan you’re on. But it does mean that the occasional indulgence or cheese splurge won’t set you back the way it might in a strict, calorie-reduced diet.

For some people, however, alternate day fasting might feel like the best option. Let’s take a look at what makes alternate day fasting effective for some people — and why it might not always be the right choice.

Pros & Cons of Alternate Day Fasting

Pros

1. Alternate day fasting will help you lose weight. If your main goal with alternate day fasting is to lose weight, there’s no denying that this method is effective.

Though several studies have found that while there’s no major difference between restricting calories and alternate day fasting for shedding pounds, ADF seems to have the leg up when it comes to reducing fat mass over strict calorie reduction. (3, 4) This can be especially beneficial for obese individuals.

2. Alternate day fasting can help prevent chronic diseases. A fascinating review of human and animal trials focused on alternate day fasting found that ADF can be a powerful weapon in preventing chronic disease like diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer. (5)

In animals, ADF leads to lower rates of diabetes and lower glucose and insulin concentrations. In humans, ADF suggests higher “good” cholesterol levels, which can reduce the risk of heart disease. And in animals again, alternate day fasting reduced the rate of lymphoma, increased survival times after tumors and lowered the multiplication rate of cancerous cells. This all suggests that ADF might actually temper cancer risk factors. While more studies are required in humans, these initial findings are really positive.

3. Alternate day fasting might be easier to follow … Let’s face it: dieting is tough. Counting calories, figuring out what you’re “allowed” to eat, juggling social commitments with a calorie-restricted eating plan — it’s enough to make you throw in the towel. For some people, that’s the beauty of alternate day fasting. It takes a lot of the guesswork around dieting out of the picture with really simple guidelines: eat minimal calories on fasting days, whatever you want within your caloric range on non-fasting days.

Cons

4. … but alternate day fasting can be hard to commit to long-term. One of the most interesting pieces out of the recent study is that the alternate day-fasting group had a higher dropout rate than those restricting calories.

Of those who stuck it out for the entire duration, there were also more “slip-ups” than the calorie-restricted group. The ADF subjects tended to eat more than the recommended calories on their non-fasting days.

Another study points to the fact that, for people on alternate day fasting diets, hunger on fasting days doesn’t seem to recede and could actually be detrimental to sticking to an ADF plan for a long period of time. (6) If losing weight quickly is your goal, ADF can definitely help but if you want a way of eating that you can sustain for a long period of time, that might not be it.

5. You might be too tired to hit the gym. It’s a myth that exercise is key for weight loss. But while abs are absolutely made in the kitchen, working out comes with its own health benefits — and you might be likelier to miss them if you’re hungry and tired from an alternate day fast.


Precautions

If you’re considering an alternate day fast eating plan, it’s important to speak with your doctor, particularly if you’re on medications that need to be taken with food.

You also might find it helpful to come up with a menu for your eating days to help you stay on track with your caloric needs without binge eating, which can derail your weight loss efforts.

Finally, on fasting days, if you find yourself unable to think about anything other than food or feel extreme hunger, it’s best to eat a small meal. While eventually you might “train” your body to get by without much fuel on those days, especially in the early stages, it’s important to ease into this new method of eating without putting too much stress (both mental and physical) on yourself.

Chemicals in Mac and Cheese

The coalition sent 30 U.S. purchased, unopened mac and cheese packages to an independent lab. Nine of those included products from the market leader in packaged mac and cheese. The report did not name all of the brands in the study, but focused on this particular cheese product because researchers recently identified diary as the No. 1 food source of phthalates.

Here are the major takeaways of the chemicals-in-mac-and-cheese testing:

  • These packaged mac and cheese products are laden with phthalates.
  • Lab testing confirmed 10 different phthalates in the samples.
  • One single product even tested positive for six different phthalates.
  • 89 percent of the market-leading products tested contained phthalates.
  • Phthalates levels were about four times higher in macaroni and cheese powder compared to cheese in other forms, like natural cheese in block form.
  • All 10 cheese powders contained toxic DEHP, one of the most harmful phthalates that’s banned in countries around the world.
  • DEHP accounted for nearly 60 percent of all phthalates found in the cheese product items that were tested. (2)

The eye-opening report highlights the need for food manufacturers to test products for phthalate contamination — and figure out how to get it out of the food system.

Phthalates are ubiquitous in the dairy products we use. They can migrate into food at several points between the field and your plate, including during processing, packaging and prep. Think about dairy in general. There are lots of plastic tubes used to harvest the cow’s milk. Phthalate contamination in food can come from:

  • Inks on packaging
  • Tubing & hoses
  • Plastics & gloves
  • Adhesives, seals & gaskets
  • Coatings

Dangers of Chemicals in Mac and Cheese

Phthalates do the most damage when pregnant women and young children are exposed in certain amounts during critical windows of development. And it doesn’t take a lot. Our delicate hormones operate in the parts per billion range, and many exposures are powerful enough to interfere with that.

For most Americans, the diet is the single biggest source of phthalates. Researchers looked at cheese because one review study identified dairy as the largest source of food-based phthalate exposure. (3)

This is significant, since U.S. scientists estimate 725,000 American women of childbearing age could be exposed to phthalates at levels that could disrupt healthy development of their babies. (4) According to Charlotte Brody, RN, National Director of Healthy Babies Bright Futures:

Studies repeatedly show that these endocrine-disruptors may harm developing brains. Scientists say there are no known safe levels of phthalates for vulnerable populations, such as pregnant women and young children.

Here are some of the health risks associated with phthalate exposure:

  • Abnormal thyroid function
  • Developmental problems
  • Testicular cancer
  • Abnormal sperm function
  • Infertility
  • Unhealthy sex hormone function
  • Abnormal infant sex hormones
  • Endometriosis (5)
  • Heart disease & diabetes (6)

Phthalates were banned from children’s teething rings a decade ago, yet the FDA still allowed the contamination to take place in food. That’s despite a petition from environmental and food safety groups urging FDA to get phthalates out of  food processing and packaging.

These chemicals are still legal in food even though scientists show their testosterone-blocking properties. This actually impacts the male fetus’ reproductive organ development, which can lead to cascading effects for decades into his life. A doctor interviewed by the New York Times says these hormonal changes can lead to “changes in the area of the brain that are important for sex differences between men and women.” (7)

The Coalition for Safer Food Processing & Packaging says the market leader agreed to review the test results.

How to Avoid Chemicals in Mac and Cheese & Beyond

Phthalates are detected in the urine of most Americans, so until meaningful changes are made in food manufacturing, it’s going to be impossible to avoid all exposures. But there are major things you can do to drastically lower your exposure to not just chemicals in mac and cheese, but phthalates lurking elsewhere, too.

Avoid these things to reduce exposure:

  • Avoid processed foods as much as possible. If you’re craving comfort food, try my cauliflower mac and cheese recipe to avoid those shady powdered cheese mixes.
  • Eat a more organic, plant-based diet. Phthalates levels are higher in animal-derived foods products. (8)
  • Avoid artificial fragrances. Choose unscented instead or use appropriate organic, therapeutic-grade pure essential oils
  • Avoid air freshener sprays, plug-ins and melts.
  • Stop burning scented candles. Choose beeswax instead.
  • Avoid storing or heating your foods and drinks in plastic. Use glass or food-grade stainless steel instead.
  • Beware of the dangers of fracking. Phthalate contamination is documented through fracking wastewater spills