NutritionFacts.org http://nutritionfacts.org The Latest in Nutrition Research Sun, 21 Dec 2014 13:00:24 +0000 en-US hourly 1The latest in nutrition related research delivered in easy to understand video segments brought to you by Michael Greger M.D. Michael Greger, M.D. clean Michael Greger, M.D. mhg1@cornell.edu mhg1@cornell.edu (Michael Greger, M.D.) Copyright 2013 - NutritionFacts.org - All Rights Reserved The Latest in Nutrition Research nutrition, nutrition facts, diet, vegan, plant-based diet, healthy eating, nutritional data, cancer, cancer prevention NutritionFacts.org http://nutritionfacts.org/wp-content/themes/nutritionfacts/images/nutritionfacts_podcast.pnghttp://nutritionfacts.org TV-G Tri-Weekly The Vitamin Everyone on a Plant-Based Diet Needshttp://nutritionfacts.org/2014/12/18/the-vitamin-everyone-on-a-plant-based-diet-needs/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-vitamin-everyone-on-a-plant-based-diet-needs&utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-vitamin-everyone-on-a-plant-based-diet-needs http://nutritionfacts.org/2014/12/18/the-vitamin-everyone-on-a-plant-based-diet-needs/#comments Thu, 18 Dec 2014 13:00:40 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=24795 A new study from China found that compared to omnivores, those who ate egg-free and meat-free diets had all the typical benefits of eating more plant-based: lower body mass index, lower blood pressure, lower triglyceride, lower total cholesterol, lower bad cholesterol, less free radical damage, etc. Having said that, if those on plant-based diets don’t […]]]>

A new study from China found that compared to omnivores, those who ate egg-free and meat-free diets had all the typical benefits of eating more plant-based: lower body mass index, lower blood pressure, lower triglyceride, lower total cholesterol, lower bad cholesterol, less free radical damage, etc. Having said that, if those on plant-based diets don’t get enough vitamin B12, levels of an artery-damaging compound called homocysteine can start to rise in the bloodstream and may counteract some of the benefits of healthy eating.

In a study profiled in my video, Vitamin B12 Necessary for Arterial Health, a group of Taiwanese researchers found that the arteries of vegetarians were just as stiff as the omnivores and both had the same level of thickening in their carotid arteries, presumably because of the elevated homocysteine levels. The researchers concluded:

“The negative findings of these studies should not be considered as evidence of neutral cardiovascular effects of vegetarianism, but do indicate an urgent need for modification of vegan diets through vitamin B12 fortification or supplementation. Vitamin B12 deficiency is a very serious problem leading ultimately to anemia, neuropsychiatric disorders, irreversible nerve damage, and high levels of artery-damaging homocysteine in the blood. Prudent vegans should include sources of vitamin B12 in their diets.”

One study of vegetarians whose B12 levels were really hurting found that they had even thicker, more dysfunctional arteries than omnivores. How do we know B12 was to blame? Because once they were given B12 supplements they got better. Their arterial lining started to shrink back, and the proper functioning of their arteries returned.

Without B12 fortified foods or B12 supplements, omnivores who were switched to a vegan diet developed vitamin B12 deficiency. Yes, it may take our blood levels dropping down to around 150 picomoles per liter to develop classic signs of B12 deficiency, like anemia or spinal cord degeneration, but way before that, we may start getting increased risk of cognitive deficits and brain shrinkage, stroke, depression, and nerve and bone damage. The rise in homocysteine may attenuate the beneficial effects of a vegetarian diet on cardiovascular health. The researchers concluded that while the beneficial effects of vegetarian diets on cholesterol and blood sugars “need to be advocated, but at the same time efforts to correct vitamin B12 deficiency in vegetarian diets can never be overestimated.”

I have dozens of videos on B12. For a quick cut-to-the-chase see my Q&A What is the best way to get vitamin B12? and for some context Vegan B12 deficiency: putting it into perspective. Vitamin B12 supplementation with fortified foods or supplements is critical on a plant-based diet.

-Michael Greger, M.D

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live year-in-review presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death, More Than an Apple a Day, and From Table to Able.

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Comparing Vegans’ Arteries to Runners’http://nutritionfacts.org/2014/12/16/comparing-vegans-arteries-to-runners/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=comparing-vegans-arteries-to-runners&utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=comparing-vegans-arteries-to-runners http://nutritionfacts.org/2014/12/16/comparing-vegans-arteries-to-runners/#comments Tue, 16 Dec 2014 13:00:08 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=24790 We know from the work of Drs. Dean Ornish and Caldwell B. Esselstyn Jr. that switching to a plant-based diet can reverse heart disease, opening up arteries in some cases without drugs or surgery. We can’t wait until our first heart attack to start eating healthy, though, because our first symptom of heart disease may […]]]>

We know from the work of Drs. Dean Ornish and Caldwell B. Esselstyn Jr. that switching to a plant-based diet can reverse heart disease, opening up arteries in some cases without drugs or surgery. We can’t wait until our first heart attack to start eating healthy, though, because our first symptom of heart disease may be our last (See China Study on Sudden Cardiac Death). Fifty percent of men and 64% of women who die suddenly from coronary heart disease have no previous symptoms.

To predict the risk of dying from a heart attack, we can measure risk factors such as cholesterol levels and blood pressure. But wouldn’t it be nice to actually see what’s going on inside our arteries before it’s too late? Our imaging technologies are so good now that we can, but the required dose of radiation delivered to one’s chest is so high that a young woman getting just a single scan may increase her lifetime risk of breast cancer and lung cancer by between around 1% and 4%. More on the radiation risks associated with diagnostic procedures in Cancer Risk From CT Scan Radiation and Do Dental X-Rays Cause Brain Tumors?

Our carotid arteries, though, which connect our heart to our brain, come close enough to the surface in our necks that we can visualize the arterial wall using harmless sound waves (ultrasound). Carotid artery wall thickness is what was measured in the study I profiled in Eggs vs. Cigarettes in Atherosclerosis. How do the arteries of those eating plant-based diets compare to those eating the standard American diet? Researchers gathered up some vegans to find out.

In the video, Arteries of Vegans vs. Runners, you can see the thickness of the inner wall of the carotid arteries where the atherosclerotic plaque (considered a predictor of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality) builds up in the standard American diet group. This same inner layer was significantly slimmer in vegans, but so were the vegans themselves. Those eating the standard American diet were, on average, overweight with a BMI over 26 while the vegans were a trim 21—about 36 pounds lighter on average.

So maybe the only reason those eating meat, eggs, and dairy had thickened arterial walls was because they were overweight—maybe the diet per se had nothing to do with it. To solve the riddle one would have to find a group of people still eating the standard American diet, but as slim as vegans. To find a group that trim, researchers had to use long-distance endurance athletes, who ate the standard American diet, but ran an average of 48 miles per week for 21 years. Both the vegans and the conventional diet group were sedentary—less than an hour of exercise a week.

As you can see in the video, the average thickness of endurance runners’ carotid arteries is between that of sedentary vegans and omnivores. It appears that if we run an average of about a thousand miles every year we can rival some couch potato vegans. But that doesn’t mean we can’t do both.

Another comparison between athletes and plant-eaters can be found in Is It the Diet, the Exercise, or Both? It compares cancer-fighting abilities with a similar result.

None of this is to disparage exercise, which is critical for a variety of important reasons, immunity (Preserving Immune Function in Athletes With Nutritional Yeast), breast health (Exercise & Breast Cancer), and brain protection (Reversing Cognitive Decline). So diet and exercise, not or exercise. My physical activity comes from walking while I work: Standing Up for Your Health.

Not all studies showed vegans have superior arterial form and function. Find out why in my video Vitamin B12 Necessary for Arterial Health.

-Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live year-in-review presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death, More Than an Apple a Day, and From Table to Able.

Image Credit: Oscar Rethwill / Flickr

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Add Beans, Berries, and Greens to More Mealshttp://nutritionfacts.org/2014/12/11/add-beans-berries-and-greens-to-more-meals/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=add-beans-berries-and-greens-to-more-meals&utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=add-beans-berries-and-greens-to-more-meals http://nutritionfacts.org/2014/12/11/add-beans-berries-and-greens-to-more-meals/#comments Thu, 11 Dec 2014 13:00:18 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=24646 After we eat, our bodies create free radicals in the process of breaking down our food. That’s why we need to eat antioxidant-rich foods with every meal to counteract this oxidation caused by metabolism. We can’t just have berries on our oatmeal in the morning to meet our Minimum Recommended Daily Allowance of Antioxidants and […]]]>

After we eat, our bodies create free radicals in the process of breaking down our food. That’s why we need to eat antioxidant-rich foods with every meal to counteract this oxidation caused by metabolism. We can’t just have berries on our oatmeal in the morning to meet our Minimum Recommended Daily Allowance of Antioxidants and call it a day. Each and every meal should contain high antioxidant foods, which means that each and every meal should contain whole plant foods. Antioxidant rich foods originate from the plant kingdom, due to the thousands of different natural antioxidant compounds naturally created by the plants we eat.

Consuming fruits—which are high in phenolic phytonutrients—increases the antioxidant capacity of the blood. When fruits are consumed along with high fat and refined carbohydrate “pro-oxidant and pro-inflammatory” meals, they may help counterbalance their negative effects. Given the content and availability of fat and sugars in the Western diet, regular consumption of phenolic-rich foods, particularly in conjunction with meals, appears to be a prudent strategy to maintain oxidative balance and health.

And of all fruits, berries may be the best source of phytonutrients. In the video, How to Reach the Antioxidant “RDA”, you can see an example of the spike in oxidation caused by a Mediterranean meal of pasta, tomato sauce, olive oil, and fried fish. Obviously, given the spike of oxidation, there were not enough tomatoes. Add a glass of red wine, which contains berry phytonutrients from grapes, and we can bring down, but not blunt completely, the level of oxidation. So the meal needs even more plants.

In a study I profile in the video, researchers gave subjects standard breakfast items, resulting in lots of oxidized cholesterol in their bloodstream one to six hours after the meal. But all it took was a cup of strawberries with that same breakfast to at least keep the meal from contributing to further oxidation. In my Food Antioxidants and Cancer video, you can see a comparison of breakfast with berries versus breakfast without.

If we don’t consume high-antioxidant plants with breakfast, by lunch we’ll already be in oxidative debt. Let’s say we ate a standard American breakfast at 6 a.m. If we didn’t eat that cup of strawberries with breakfast, by the time lunch rolls around we’d already be starting out in the hyper-oxidized state, and lunch could just make things worse. Since western eating patterns include eating multiple meals a day, including snacks, one can only speculate on the level of biological unrest.

If we have some berries for breakfast, at least we’d be starting out at baseline for lunch. This acute protection is likely due to the antioxidant effects of the strawberry phytonutrients. What if, by lunch, we could be even better than baseline? How about our meals actually improving our antioxidant status?

If, for example, we eat a big bunch of red grapes with our meal, the antioxidant level of our bloodstream goes up and our bodies are in positive antioxidant balance for a few hours. We get the same result after eating enough blueberries. And imagine if in these ensuing hours before our next meal we were sipping green tea, hibiscus tea or even whole cranberries? (See Pink Juice with Green Foam). We’d have a nice antioxidant surplus all day long.

One group of researchers conclude: “These data provide an interesting perspective for advising individuals on food choice when consuming a moderate- to high-fat meal is unavoidable.” (Unavoidable? So what, if we’re locked in a fast food joint or something?) They suggest chasing whatever we’re forced to eat with some berries. Reminds me of those studies I’ve talked about suggesting that smokers should eat lots of kale and broccoli to reduce the oxidative damage to their DNA. Of course, they could also just not smoke.

In a single day, the systemic stress of all the fat in our blood and “redox imbalance” (being in a mild pro-oxidant state after meals) may seem trivial. Over time, however, these daily insults can lead to problems such as heart disease, contributing to the hundreds of thousands of deaths a year (See The Power of NO).

I strive to eat berries every day and so should everyone. If we are going to drink wine, red is preferable (See Breast Cancer Risk: Red Wine vs. White Wine)

See how quickly stress can eat our antioxidants in: Antioxidant Level Dynamics.

I used a similar meal-components technique to illustrate the potent antioxidant power of spices. See Antioxidants in a Pinch.

All fruits and veggies aren’t the same. I make this point in different ways in videos like Which Fruit Fights Cancer Better? and Anti-Inflammatory Antioxidants.

I have a series of videos on which foods have the most antioxidants. See Antioxidant Content of 3,139 Foods and Antioxidant Power of Plant Foods Versus Animal Foods. Note these are measured based on test tube tests. There are more sophisticated ways to measure antioxidant activity. See Anti Up on the Veggies.

What’s the cheapest common source of whole food antioxidants? See Superfood Bargains for a dollar per dollar comparison. What’s the cheapest uncommon source? See Dragon’s Blood.

Are there diminishing returns to getting too many antioxidants? See Maxing Out on Antioxidants.

So if we have that bowl of berries in the morning to meet our minimum daily antioxidant needs can we just call it a day?. Hint: the title of my follow-up video is: Antioxidant Rich Foods With Every Meal.

-Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live year-in-review presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death, More Than an Apple a Day, and From Table to Able.

Image Credit: Vegan Feast Catering / Flickr

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Dr. Greger Addresses Saturated Fat Confusion in New DVDhttp://nutritionfacts.org/2014/12/09/dr-greger-addresses-saturated-fat-confusion-in-new-dvd/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=dr-greger-addresses-saturated-fat-confusion-in-new-dvd&utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=dr-greger-addresses-saturated-fat-confusion-in-new-dvd http://nutritionfacts.org/2014/12/09/dr-greger-addresses-saturated-fat-confusion-in-new-dvd/#comments Tue, 09 Dec 2014 13:00:39 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=25284 Considering concerns over saturated fat to be the #1 threat to their growth, the global dairy industry launched a covert campaign to “neutralize the negative image of milkfat among regulators and health professionals.” This would be no small task, as leading health authorities around the world encourage the public to decrease saturated fat consumption “as […]]]>

Considering concerns over saturated fat to be the #1 threat to their growth, the global dairy industry launched a covert campaign to “neutralize the negative image of milkfat among regulators and health professionals.” This would be no small task, as leading health authorities around the world encourage the public to decrease saturated fat consumption “as low as possible” to lower the risk of chronic disease. Learn how the industry attempted to undermine the global scientific consensus and the fatal flaw in the recent saturated fat meta-analysis in a new series of videos I just completed. They are all available right now as a video download as part of my new Latest in Clinical Nutrition volume 22 (all proceeds go to charity). It can also be ordered as a physical DVD.

The saturated fat videos are all scheduled to go up on NutritionFacts.org early next year, but you can download and watch them right now.

The current batch of videos from volume 21 on NutritionFacts.org is set to run out soon, so starting next month and running through January, I’ll be rolling out the videos from this new DVD, volume 22. The DVDs give folks the opportunity to sneak-preview videos months ahead of time, watch them all straight through, and share them as gifts, but there is nothing on the DVDs that won’t eventually end up free online at NutritionFacts.org. If you’d like the works–40+ hours of video–you can get the complete DVD collection.

Here’s the list of chapters from the new volume 22 DVD — a preview of what’s to come over the next few months on NutritionFacts.org:

  1. If Fructose is Bad, What About Fruit?
  2. Back in Circulation: Sciatica and Cholesterol
  3. Kempner Rice Diet: Whipping Us Into Shape
  4. Food Industry Funded Research Bias
  5. Coffee and Artery Function
  6. Chicken Big: Poultry and Obesity
  7. Aspartame and the Brain
  8. Paleo Diets May Negate Benefits of Exercise
  9. Can Diet Protect Against Kidney Cancer?
  10. Estrogen in Meat, Dairy, and Eggs
  11. Why Do Vegan Women Have 5x Fewer Twins?
  12. Preventing Crohn’s Disease With Diet
  13. Ciguatera Poisoning & Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  14. Which Dietary Factors Affect Breast Cancer Most?
  15. The Saturated Fat Studies: Buttering Up the Public
  16. The Saturated Fat Studies: Set Up to Fail
  17. How Many Meet the Simple Seven?
  18. Plant-Based Diets and Diabetes
  19. Are Raisins Good Snacks for Kids?
  20. Never Too Late to Start Eating Healthier
  21. Enhancing Athletic Performance With Peppermint
  22. Turmeric Curcumin vs. Exercise for Artery Function
  23. Preventing Alzheimer’s Disease With Plants
  24. Flax Seeds for Hypertension
  25. The Actual Benefit of Diet vs. Drugs
  26. Why Prevention is Worth a Ton of Cure

Order my new DVD at DrGreger.org/dvds or through Amazon. It can also be ordered as a video download at DrGreger.org/downloads.

DVD Subscription

If you were a regular supporter, you’d already be a saturated fat expert by now, having gotten the new DVD two weeks ago! I now come out with new DVDs every 9 weeks (*phew*). If you’d like to automatically receive them before they’re even available to the public, please consider becoming a monthly donor.

Anyone signing up on the donation page to become a $15 monthly contributor will receive the next three DVDs for free (as physical DVDs, downloads, or both–your choice), and anyone signing up as a $25 monthly contributor will get a whole year’s worth of new DVDs. If you’re already signed up and didn’t receive your volume 22 yet, please email Tommasina@NutritionFacts.org and she’ll make everything all better.

If you’d rather just watch all the videos online as they launch, but would still like to support my work of cutting through the confusion and educating millions about healthy eating, you can make a year-end tax-deductible donation to NutritionFacts.org using a credit card, a direct PayPal link, or by sending a check to “NutritionFacts.org” c/o Michael Greger, 700 Professional Dr., Gaithersburg, MD 20879.

Holiday Recipes

If you missed it last week, I featured an exclusive guest blog post by dietitian powerhouse Vesanto Melina, who made it her mission to come up with some celebratory superfood suggestions for the holidays. Check it out: Healthy Holiday Recipes. Hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving!

Internship Opportunities
We have three new internship opportunities coming up in 2015:

  • Graphic Design
  • Social Media
  • Technical Support

They are all remote, meaning the work can be done from anywhere, but unfortunately are all unpaid. They could be a great learning experience, though, not to mention how much good you’d be doing for the world by helping us help everyone make better dietary decisions. For more details, see our new Internship Opportunities page.

In my next DVD I’ll address the Mediterranean diet–stay tuned!

-Michael Greger, M.D.

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How to Get Enough Antioxidants Each Dayhttp://nutritionfacts.org/2014/12/04/how-to-get-enough-antioxidants-each-day/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=how-to-get-enough-antioxidants-each-day&utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=how-to-get-enough-antioxidants-each-day http://nutritionfacts.org/2014/12/04/how-to-get-enough-antioxidants-each-day/#comments Thu, 04 Dec 2014 13:00:28 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=24821 We need to get a daily minimum of 8-11,000 antioxidant units a day in our food just to stay out of oxidative debt (see my video on The Reason We Need More Antioxidants). To reach that minimum, all we have to do is eat lots of fruits and vegetables, right? Not exactly. Let’s say I […]]]>

We need to get a daily minimum of 8-11,000 antioxidant units a day in our food just to stay out of oxidative debt (see my video on The Reason We Need More Antioxidants). To reach that minimum, all we have to do is eat lots of fruits and vegetables, right? Not exactly. Let’s say I ate a whole banana during breakfast (in addition to whatever else). For lunch I eat a typical American salad— iceberg lettuce, half cup of cucumber slices, and canned peaches for dessert. Supper included a side serving of peas and carrots and half a cup of snap peas along with yet another salad. And, finally, let’s say I had a cup of watermelon for dessert. I just ate nine servings of fruits and vegetables and am feeling all good about myself. However, I only made it up to 2700 units, less than a quarter of the way to my minimum daily recommended intake. What am I supposed to do, eat 36 servings a day? (For a cool visual of this, check out my video, How to Reach the Antioxidant “RDA”).

What if instead of that banana, I had a single serving of blueberries? And instead of iceberg lettuce for that afternoon salad, I ate four leaves of red leaf lettuce, maybe some kidney beans on top, and a teaspoon of dried oregano as a bonus? For a snack, I had an apple and some dates. It’s not even suppertime, only had five servings, yet I’ve left the minimum recommended daily intake of antioxidants in the dust (topping 28,000 units!). That’s why it’s not just quantity of fruits and veggies that matters, but also the quality. All fruits and veggies aren’t the same. I make this point in different ways in videos like Which Fruit Fights Cancer Better? and Anti-Inflammatory Antioxidants. If possible, we should try to choose the healthiest options out there.

Now that it’s midday and I’ve reached my daily minimum of antioxidants with those five super servings, can I just eat whatever I want for dinner? That’s probably not a good idea. The estimated minimum antioxidant need of 8,000-11,000 units does not take into account the added amounts needed if other oxidant stressors—”such as illness, cigarette smoke, meat consumption, air pollution, sleep deprivation”—are present. If we had to deal with these stressors we’d need to consume more fruits and veggies just to stay out of the red.

In my video Antioxidant Level Dynamics, I profiled a study that used an argon laser to measure human antioxidant levels in real time. The study’s most important finding was that antioxidant levels can plummet within two hours of a stressful event, but it may take up to three days to get our levels back to normal. The take-home message is that, especially when we’re sick, stressed, or tired, we should try to go above and beyond the antioxidant food minimum. Ideally, we need to be constantly soaking our bloodstream with antioxidants, meaning that we should consume high-powered fruits and vegetables—like berries, beans, and green tea or hibiscus—all day long.

Unsure of which foods have the most antioxidants? I have a series of videos on this very topic. See Antioxidant Content of 3,139 Foods and Antioxidant Power of Plant Foods Versus Animal Foods. (Note these are measured based on test tube tests. There are more sophisticated ways to measure antioxidant activity. See Anti Up on the Veggies). Spices in particular present a powerful source of antioxidants. See Antioxidants in a Pinch.

What’s the cheapest common source of whole food antioxidants? See Superfood Bargains for a dollar per dollar comparison. What’s the cheapest uncommon source? See Dragon’s Blood.

Are there diminishing returns to getting too many antioxidants? See Maxing Out on Antioxidants. So if we have that bowl of berries in the morning to meet our minimum daily antioxidant needs can we just call it a day? See: Antioxidant Rich Foods With Every Meal.

-Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live year-in-review presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death, More Than an Apple a Day, and From Table to Able.

Image Credit: Mr.TinDC / Flickr

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The Reason We Need More Antioxidantshttp://nutritionfacts.org/2014/12/02/the-reason-we-need-more-antioxidants-and-why-were-not-getting-them/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-reason-we-need-more-antioxidants-and-why-were-not-getting-them&utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-reason-we-need-more-antioxidants-and-why-were-not-getting-them http://nutritionfacts.org/2014/12/02/the-reason-we-need-more-antioxidants-and-why-were-not-getting-them/#comments Tue, 02 Dec 2014 13:00:29 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=24643 Glucose is the primary fuel of the human body. We consume glucose and breathe in oxygen to make the energy needed to power our bodies. Plants then take the water and carbon dioxide we breathe out to make oxygen and organic compounds like glucose—and the circle of life continues. The word carbohydrate means, basically, hydrated […]]]>

Glucose is the primary fuel of the human body. We consume glucose and breathe in oxygen to make the energy needed to power our bodies. Plants then take the water and carbon dioxide we breathe out to make oxygen and organic compounds like glucose—and the circle of life continues. The word carbohydrate means, basically, hydrated carbon, which is what plants use to make carbs and all that’s left after we burn them for energy in our muscles and brain.

This process of oxidizing glucose to make energy is messy, though, and generates free radicals. Chugging sugar water increases the level of oxidation in our bloodstreams over the next few hours as our bodies metabolize the glucose. (Digestion isn’t the only physiological source of free radicals—exercise is too. See Preventing Exercise-Induced Oxidative Stress With Watercress). Why would we evolve to have a negative reaction to our primary fuel? Because over the millions of years we evolved, there was no such thing as sugar water—all sugars and starches came pre-packaged with protective compounds: antioxidants. In nature, sugar always comes with phytonutrients.

If we drink the same amount of sugar in the form of orange juice, we don’t get that spike in oxidation, because the sugar in fruit comes prepackaged with antioxidants. We can’t just drink vitamin C enriched sugar water either, because it’s not the vitamin C in the OJ but the citrus phytonutrients like hesperetin and naringenin that beat back the oxidation. And it’s always better to eat the whole fruit than drink the juice (See Best Fruit Juice and Apple Juice May Be Worse Than Sugar Water). If those citrus phytonutrients sounded familiar to you, it’s because I mentioned them before in videos like Keeping Your Hands Warm With Citrus and Reducing Muscle Fatigue With Citrus.

If we don’t eat phytonutrient-rich plant foods with each meal, then for hours after we eat, our bodies are tipped out of balance into a pro-oxidative state, which can set us up for oxidant stress diseases. That’s why we need to ideally eat antioxidant rich foods with every meal.

In the video, Minimum “Recommended Daily Allowance” of Antioxidants, we can see the levels of oxidized fat in our blood one, two, and three hours after sugar water ingestion, and the corresponding drop in vitamin E levels in our blood as our body’s antioxidant stores are being used up. If we don’t eat phytonutrient-rich foods with our meals, our body has to dip into its backup supply of antioxidants. We can’t get away with that for long. So while ideally we should stuff our faces with as many phytonutrient-rich foods as we can.

In  the very least we should eat enough antioxidants to counter the oxidation of digestion. We don’t want to slide backwards every day and end up with less antioxidants in our bodies than we woke up with.

A chart in the video, Minimum “Recommended Daily Allowance” of Antioxidants, shows the amount of antioxidants we need every day, depending on how much we eat, just to counter the oxidation of digestion. Men in the U.S. average about 2500 calories a day and so should be getting at least 11,000 antioxidant units a day. Women eat about 1800 calories and so should get at least 8,000 units just to stay solvent. However, the average American doesn’t even get half the minimum–no wonder oxidant stress related diseases abound. We’re getting so few antioxidants in our diet that we can’t even keep up with the free radicals created by merely digesting our meals. We are a nation in chronic oxidative debt.

Developed societies eat a lot of food but not enough plants, which could result in exaggerated and prolonged metabolic, oxidative, and immune imbalance. This presents opportunity for biological insult that over time could supersede our defense and repair systems, and manifest in cellular dysfunction, disease, and ultimately death.

Is there a refined sweetener that doesn’t cause free radical formation? Yes: Erythritol May Be a Sweet Antioxidant.

What’s the best way of reaching our daily minimum of 8,000-11,000 antioxidant units a day? That’s covered in my video How to Reach the Antioxidant “RDA.

Background on the role free radicals play in aging and disease can be found in my video Mitochondrial Theory of Aging. Antioxidant-rich diets can even change gene expression: Plant-Based Diets and Cellular Stress Defenses.

-Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live year-in-review presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death, More Than an Apple a Day, and From Table to Able.

Image Credit: Benson Kua / Flickr

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How Avoiding Eggs Could Help You Avoid Diabeteshttp://nutritionfacts.org/2014/11/27/how-avoiding-eggs-could-help-you-avoid-diabetes/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=how-avoiding-eggs-could-help-you-avoid-diabetes&utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=how-avoiding-eggs-could-help-you-avoid-diabetes http://nutritionfacts.org/2014/11/27/how-avoiding-eggs-could-help-you-avoid-diabetes/#comments Thu, 27 Nov 2014 13:00:38 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=24639 Type 2 diabetes is becoming a global pandemic. We know the consumption of eggs is related to the development of some other chronic diseases, what about diabetes? There appears to be a stepwise increase in risk as more and more eggs are consumed. One study found that eating just a single egg a week increased […]]]>

Type 2 diabetes is becoming a global pandemic. We know the consumption of eggs is related to the development of some other chronic diseases, what about diabetes? There appears to be a stepwise increase in risk as more and more eggs are consumed. One study found that eating just a single egg a week increased the odds of diabetes by 76%. Two eggs a week doubled the odds, and an egg a day tripled the odds.

Recent studies, profiled in my video Eggs and Diabetes, have confirmed the link. In 2009, Harvard researchers found that a single egg a day or more was associated with an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes in men and women. This finding has since been confirmed in Asia in 2011 and in Europe in 2012. Reducing egg consumption should start early in life, though, as it appears once we get into our 70s, it may be too late.

For those with diabetes, eggs may then hasten our death. Eating one egg or more a day appears to shorten anyone’s lifespan, but may be even worse for those with diabetes, potentially doubling all-cause mortality, meaning egg-eating diabetics seem to live particularly short lives.

This is not good news for the egg industry. From a transcript of a closed meeting I got through the Freedom of Information Act, one egg industry advisor said, “Given the rate at which obesity and incidence of type II diabetes is growing in the US, any association between dietary cholesterol and type II diabetes could be a ‘showstopper’ that could overshadow the positive attributes in eggs.”

More Freedom of Information Act insights into the egg industry can be found in:

Flax seeds may help control blood sugars (Flaxseeds for Diabetes) as well as Indian gooseberries (Amla Versus Diabetes), but our best bet may be a diet composed entirely of plants (How to Prevent Diabetes and How to Treat Diabetes).

-Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live year-in-review presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death and More Than an Apple a Day, and From Table to Able.

Image Credit: Lif / Flickr

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Guest Blog: Healthy Holiday Eatinghttp://nutritionfacts.org/2014/11/25/healthy-holiday-eating/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=healthy-holiday-eating&utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=healthy-holiday-eating http://nutritionfacts.org/2014/11/25/healthy-holiday-eating/#comments Tue, 25 Nov 2014 13:00:33 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=25104 Imagine if, instead of a Thanksgiving dinner or winter celebration meal that left you and your guests overweight and over-stuffed, you had a meal that was both superbly satisfying and healthful! It could be the perfect opportunity to introduce some delicious plant-based holiday options to your family and friends. If you are the guest, bring […]]]>

Imagine if, instead of a Thanksgiving dinner or winter celebration meal that left you and your guests overweight and over-stuffed, you had a meal that was both superbly satisfying and healthful! It could be the perfect opportunity to introduce some delicious plant-based holiday options to your family and friends. If you are the guest, bring a fabulous main dish to share.

A number of national health organizations– U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Public Health Service, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have given nutrient density ratings that qualify certain foods as “powerhouse” foods.1 Powerhouse fruits and vegetables are defined as those that provide, on average, 10 percent or more per 100 calories of 17 qualifying nutrients that are deemed of public health importance by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and Institute of Medicine. including iron, zinc, potassium, numerous B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, and B6), and vitamins A (as carotenoids), C, E, and K.

The powerhouse foods they list—all plant foods–contain a wealth of protective phytochemicals that are linked with reduced risk of chronic disease. Eight of the nutrients provided are deemed particularly protective against heart disease and cancer. Instead of a meal that is centered on turkey, an entree that is nearly devoid of phytochemicals, your health will get a big boost. Your taste buds will be happy too!

Identified powerhouse foods include winter squash, kale and other leafy greens (Chinese/napa cabbage, leaf or romaine lettuce, collard greens), Brussels sprouts, turnips, carrots, pumpkin, and lime or lemon. These can feature in a celebration meal that is satisfying, delicious, and beautiful! To round out a meal, add a salad (lettuce and berries), seasoned and baked tofu, gravy, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie.

Here are some recipes:

Kale and Red Pepper Holiday Wreath

Kale wreath from Cooking Vegan

Makes about 5 cups

From “Cooking Vegan” by Vesanto Melina RD and Joseph Forest.  Book Publishing Co. 2012

The deep green kale, tossed with pieces of bright red bell pepper, provide a rich source of calcium, iron, potassium, the antioxidant vitamins A, C, and E, and omega 3 fatty acids. For a larger wreath, double the recipe. Including tahini as an ingredient is a delicious option, though the wreath will not be such a bright green.

  • 12 cups kale, stem removed and thinly sliced, packed
  • 4 teaspoons lemon juice or balsamic vinegar
  • 4 teaspoons tamari, Braggs, or soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons sesame tahini (optional)Kale wreath ingredients
  • 1/2 cup diced sweet red pepper

Place kale in a steamer, cover, and steam over medium-high heat until the kale is soft to the bite. Drain in a colander and squeeze out any excess water. With a fork, combine the lemon juice, tamari, and tahini (if using) in a large bowl. Add the kale and toss to coat the leaves with dressing. Arrange on a warm platter to create a round wreath shape, leaving a clean open space in the center. Sprinkle with the red pepper and serve.

 

 

 

 

Holiday Winter Stuffed SquashStuffed squash sections Cooking Vegan  

Makes 1 stuffed squash, about 8 servings, with 5 cups stuffing

From “Cooking Vegan” by Vesanto Melina RD and Joseph Forest.  Book Publishing Co. 2012.

1 winter squash, about 5 lbs (Hubbard, butternut, acorn, kabocha, or turban)

Quinoa Stuffing

  • 1-1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup water or vegetable stock
  • 1/2 onion, diced Stuffed squash ingredients 1
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 cup corn kernels
  • 1/2 cup diced sweet red pepper
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1 tablespoon lime or lemon juice
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon basil
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon dill
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper

Squash

Pre heat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Pierce the top of the squash with a sharp knife at 45 degree angle 2-inches (5 cm) over from the top. Pushing the knife blade away from your body, cut around the top of the squash and remove the cone-shaped top piece. Remove any fibrous material from the cone and set the top aside. Remove the seeds and pulp from the cavity of the squash with a spoon. Put the top back on the squash, put on a baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool for 15 minutes.

Stuffing

Bring 1-1/2 cups water to a boil over high heat in a small sauce pan. Stir in quinoa and salt, reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 15-20 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed. Put into a large bowl and set aside to cool. Heat 1/4 cup water in a skillet over medium heat and cook onion for 5 to 7 minutes or until tender. Add the garlic and celery and cook for 3 minutes. Stir into the cooled quinoa along with the corn, red pepper, sunflower seeds, parsley, lime juice, basil, dill, thyme, and pepper. Mix and adjust the seasoning.

Stuffed squash ingredients 2Squash ready to stuff

Assembly

Spoon the stuffing into the squash cavity. Leave a little space to allow stuffing to expand while baking. Set lid in place, return squash to baking sheet and bake for 45 to 60 minutes or until a toothpick can be easily inserted into the side of the squash. Leftover stuffing can be placed in a loaf pan, sprinkled with 2 – 3 tablespoons of water, covered, and heated in the oven for the last 20 minutes of the cooking time for the squash. Remove the squash from the oven and place on a warm serving platter. Slice into wedges and serve.

Baking stage 1Ready to bake with extra stuffing

 Vesanto Melina, MS, Registered Dietitian is co-author, with Brenda Davis, of a series of books that are classics on plant-based nutrition including Becoming Vegan: Comprehensive Edition, the award winning Becoming Vegan: Express Edition and Becoming Raw, and of Cooking Vegan with chef Joseph Forest. She is an internationally known nutrition consultant and speaker, and taught nutrition at the University of British Columbia and at Seattle’s Bastyr University. Professional memberships include the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and Dietitians of Canada.

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How Beans Help Our Boneshttp://nutritionfacts.org/2014/11/20/how-beans-help-our-bones/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=how-beans-help-our-bones&utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=how-beans-help-our-bones http://nutritionfacts.org/2014/11/20/how-beans-help-our-bones/#comments Thu, 20 Nov 2014 13:00:09 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=24635 Health authorities from all over the world universally recommend increasing the consumption of whole grains and legumes—beans, split peas, chickpeas, and lentils—for health promotion. But what about the phytates? Phytate is a naturally occurring compound found in all plant seeds (like beans, grains, and nuts) that over the decades has been maligned as mineral absorption […]]]>

Health authorities from all over the world universally recommend increasing the consumption of whole grains and legumes—beans, split peas, chickpeas, and lentils—for health promotion. But what about the phytates?

Phytate is a naturally occurring compound found in all plant seeds (like beans, grains, and nuts) that over the decades has been maligned as mineral absorption inhibitors. That’s why, for example, one hears advice to roast, sprout, or soak your nuts to get rid of the phytates so we can absorb more minerals, like calcium.

The concern about phytates and bone health arose from a series of laboratory experiments performed on puppies published in 1949, which suggested that high phytate diets have a bone softening and anti-calcifying effect. Subsequent studies on rats, in which they fed them the equivalent of ten loaves of bread a day, “confirmed” phytate’s status as a so-called anti-nutrient. But more recently, in the light of actual human data, phytate’s image has undergone a makeover.

A recent study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food asked a simple question: Do people who avoid high phytate foods—legumes, nuts, and whole grains—have better bone mineral density? No. Those that consumed more high-phytate foods actually had stronger bones, as measured in the heel, spine and hip. The researchers conclude that dietary phytate consumption had protective effects against osteoporosis and that low phytate consumption should actually be what’s considered an osteoporosis risk factor.

A follow-up study, measuring phytate levels flowing through women’s bodies and following bone mass over time, found the same thing: women with the highest phytate levels had the lowest levels of bone loss in the spine and hip. Those who ate the most phytates were also estimated to have a significantly lower risk of major fracture, and a lower risk of hip fracture specifically.

This is consistent with reports that phytate can inhibit the dissolution of bone similar to anti-osteoporosis drugs like Fosamax. Phytates don’t have the side effects, though, such as osteonecrosis (bone death) associated with that class of drugs. People take these drugs to protect their bones, but by doing so may also risk rotting them away (See Phytates for the Prevention of Osteoporosis).

Eating healthy can help us avoid other drugs as well. See, for example:

Beans might not just help our skeleton last longer, but the rest of us as well. See Increased Lifespan From Beans.

How might one boost mineral absorption? See New Mineral Absorption Enhancers Found.

Alkaline Diets, Animal Protein, & Calcium Loss is another surprising video on bone health.

And more on the benefits of phytates can be found in my videos:

-Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live year-in-review presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death, More Than an Apple a Day, and From Table to Able.

Image Credit: Asja Boros / Flickr

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What is Actually in Chicken Nuggets?http://nutritionfacts.org/2014/11/18/what-is-actually-in-chicken-nuggets/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=what-is-actually-in-chicken-nuggets&utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=what-is-actually-in-chicken-nuggets http://nutritionfacts.org/2014/11/18/what-is-actually-in-chicken-nuggets/#comments Tue, 18 Nov 2014 13:00:14 +0000 http://nutritionfacts.org/?p=24631 In a scathing expose of the USDA’s new meat inspection program, the Washington Post quoted a representative from the meat inspectors union, who said: “pig processing lines may be moving too quickly to catch tainted meat… Tremendous amounts of fecal matter remain on the carcasses. Not small bits, but chunks.” What about the other white […]]]>

In a scathing expose of the USDA’s new meat inspection program, the Washington Post quoted a representative from the meat inspectors union, who said:

“pig processing lines may be moving too quickly to catch tainted meat… Tremendous amounts of fecal matter remain on the carcasses. Not small bits, but chunks.”

What about the other white meat?

In the video, Autopsy of Chicken Nuggets, you can see an infographic the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine created to highlight what they consider to be the five worst contaminants in chicken products. In their investigation of retail chicken products in ten U.S. cities, they found fecal contamination in about half the chicken they bought at the store. But with all the focus on what’s in chicken products, we may have lost sight on what may be missing—such as actual chicken.

Researchers from the University of Mississippi Medical Center and the Baptist Medical Center recently published an “autopsy” of chicken nuggets in the American Journal of Medicine. The purpose was to determine the contents of chicken nuggets from two national food chains. Because chicken nuggets are popular among children, the researchers thought that parents should know more about what they may be feeding to their kids.

The nugget from the first restaurant was composed of approximately 50% skeletal muscle, with the remainder composed primarily of fat, blood vessels and nerves, and generous quantities of skin or gut lining and associated supportive tissue. The nugget from the second restaurant was composed of approximately 40% skeletal muscle with lots of other tissues, including bone.

“I was floored,” said the lead investigator. “I had read what other reports have said is in them and I didn’t believe it. I was astonished actually seeing it under the microscope.” I profile some of those other pathology reports in my videos Whats in a Burger? and What Is Really in Hot Dogs?

The researchers concluded that since actual chicken meat was not the predominant component of either nugget, the term “chicken” nugget was really a misnomer.

If we’re going to eat something chicken-ish that isn’t chicken meat, why not truly boneless chicken: Chicken vs. Veggie Chicken.

More on fecal contamination of chicken in Fecal Bacteria Survey, of fish in Fecal Contamination of Sushi, and of pork in Yersinia in Pork. How can that be legal? See Salmonella in Chicken & Turkey: Deadly But Not Illegal.

More on the preservatives in chicken in Phosphate Additives in Meat Purge and Cola and antibiotic contamination in Drug Residues in Meat.

Estrogenic Cooked Meat Carcinogens also build up in poultry in particular, something the Physicians Committee also tested for previously: Fast Food Tested for Carcinogens.

-Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live year-in-review presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death,  More Than an Apple a Day, and From Table to Able.

Image Credit: Jacob Enos / Flickr

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