Archived Articles - May 2014


How to know you have an iodine deficiency?
    May-07-2014

Our body requires the essential trace element iodine for producing thyroid hormones. In the thyroid glands, iodine combines with an amino acid called tyrosine to produce thyroid hormones, which are essential for sustaining the usual as well as healthy metabolism in the body cells. Therefore, any deficit of iodine in our dietary intake may cause several health disorders and symptoms related to the thyroid glands.

In addition to the production of thyroid hormones, iodine has several other vital functions in our body. It possibly has a role in balancing the effects of estrogen on the breast tissue. However, further studies are necessary to establish the role of iodine in these areas.

Iodine deficiency symptoms

Intake of sufficient amounts of iodine is necessary for the good health and normal functioning of the thyroid glands. In fact, deficiency of this vital trace element is especially detrimental for pregnant women and newborns.

Iodine deficiency may cause several grave symptoms, including diminished mental development like intellectual inability; debilitated physical development, such as retarded growth; more chances of having a miscarriage; neonatal hyperthyrotropinemia; neonatal hypothyroidism; and even increased threats of infant mortality.

People with iodine deficiency may suffer from hypothyroidism (production of lesser hormones by the thyroid glands) and/ or goiter (distension of the thyroid glands). In fact, when the level of iodine in the bloodstream is low, it may cause the cells of the thyroid glands to distend and the entire gland below the neck is likely to swell sooner or later.

Hypothyroidism is generally distinguished by weariness and stupor, weight gain, constipation, dry skin, hair loss, hoarseness, poor endurance to cold and depression. Any individual with a few or all of these symptoms may possibly be suffering from some extent of iodine deficiency.

Iodine-rich foods

Seafoods, including seaweeds like kelp, are rich in iodine content. Even vegetables, eggs and meat enclose some amount of iodine, but not much.

A number of foods enclose a chemical compound called goitrogens that work to obstruct the body from using ingested iodine. Some of these foods include broccoli, cabbage, cassava root, peanuts, mustard, kale, pine nuts, turnips, soybeans and millet. Nevertheless, the nutrition content of all these foods is high and it is not advisable to avoid these foods. The good news is that when these foods are cooked, the problematic chemical is generally deactivated.

Avoid excessive iodine

It is important to note that consuming too much iodine may have an adverse effect on the health of the thyroid glands, resulting in slowing down thyroid hormone synthesis. In addition, too much iodine may also result in acne. According to Michael Murray, ND, daily iodine intake, including iodine contained in foods and supplements should not exceed 500 mcg.

People in the developed nations like the U.S. now seldom suffer from serious iodine deficiency, thanks to the use of iodized table salt. What is, however, worrying is that the findings of a study show that there has been a considerable decline in iodine intake in the U.S. between 1988 and 1994. If this trend continues, it may lead to more cases of iodine deficiency.

In case, you are experiencing constipation, sluggishness, fatigue, weight gain and/ or dry skin and suspect that you may have a mild iodine deficiency, it is advisable that you get your iodine profile reviewed by a nutritionist or a healthcare practitioner qualified to undertake the job.

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Cashew - a super nut that eliminates bacteria, alleviates diseases
    May-12-2014

While it may seem incredible, scientists have discovered that the cashew nut effectively neutralizes the bacteria that cause tooth decay, acne, pneumonia, tuberculosis and leprosy. Cashew nut, the flavourful seed of cashew apple, encloses anacardic chemicals, which destroy gram-positive bacteria, thereby facilitating the obliteration of harmful pathogens that are responsible for numerous health conditions. In addition, it has been found that cashews also have the potential to diminish the possibilities of developing diabetes, heart diseases, weight gain and even specific forms of cancer.

Cashews are indigenous to Brazil and now cultivated across the globe, especially in India, Nigeria, Tanzania and Mozambique. This delectable nut is an excellent source of vital minerals like manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, copper and zinc. These nuts should be harvested and processed cautiously to prevent the contamination of the nuts with the caustic resin present inside the shell, as contaminated nuts are not suitable for consumption. Hence, cashew nuts are sold pre-shelled all the times.

Lowers cancer and diabetes risks, promotes heart health

As cashews are loaded with monounsaturated fats, they help to lessen triglyceride levels, which consecutively may improve the heart's health. Findings of a study carried in Current Atherosclerosis Reports note that clinical as well as epidemiological studies always found that fats present in cashew nuts lower LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, thus reducing the chances of developing heart diseases by as much as 30% to 45%.

Consuming tree nuts, including cashews, is said to reduce risks of diabetes mellitus, which is considered to be a risk factor for pancreatic cancer. The British Journal of Cancer reports that findings of a Nurses' Health Study undertaken on 75,680 women showed that consumption of one serving of nuts two times in a week significantly lowered the chances of developing pancreatic cancer vis-à-vis those who did not consume nuts. However, women with a history of cancer were not included in this study.

Checks weight gain

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published the findings of another study undertaken on 51,188 women in the 20-45 year age group, explored a relation between consumption of nuts and weight loss. Scientist assessed the daily nut consumption of these women and the ensuing weight changes over eight years. The findings show that women who ate tree nuts two times every week suffered less from weight gain problems compared to those who seldom consumed nuts. The scientists came to the conclusion that including nuts in one's diet not only prevents weight gain, but, in fact, promotes weight loss to some extent.

Destroys gram-positive bacteria

It is interesting to note that cashew nuts help to annihilate gram-positive bacteria, counting pathogens that are responsible for tooth decay, acne, leprosy and tuberculosis, in addition to pneumococcal contagions, such as acute sinusitis, bronchitis, pneumonia and meningitis among others. It seems that the anacardic acid in cashew nuts is a very effectual bactericide, even when heavily diluted. In fact, a dilution in proportion of one part anacardic acid to 2,000,000 parts of water will destroy gram-positive bacteria in just 15 minutes.

Apart from incorporating a little quantity of cashews in your diet every week, even the leaves, bark and seed oil of the cashew trees contain chemicals that kill bacteria.

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Five super foods to overcome magnesium deficiency
    May-18-2014

Although magnesium is an essential mineral and responsible for several bodily functions, especially muscle function and activating numerous enzymatic actions, it has been found to be drastically lacking in our diets and, hence, in our body. Hence, we need to identify foods containing this vital mineral and consume them in adequate amounts.

Some of the foods rich in magnesium, sometimes also referred to as a 'miracle mineral,' are discussed briefly below.

Pumpkin seeds

It is advisable that you should consume pumpkin seeds often, as they are not only loaded with magnesium, but with other nutrients too. It has been found that one 100 gram serving of pumpkin seeds provides us with roughly 535 mg magnesium, about 134% of our daily recommended intake. Taking these seeds with sea salts provides us with additional magnesium.

Apart from magnesium, pumpkin seeds also contain essential minerals like iron, manganese, copper, phosphorus, potassium and zinc. In addition, they have a significant vitamin K and B-vitamin content. It is advisable that you consume pumpkin seeds for sound sleep and put off kidney stones, osteoporosis and prostate problems.

Cacao

Derived from cacao beans, cacao is a much-admired food, as it can be transformed into chocolate. This super food is not only delectable, but is loaded with magnesium and other essential minerals.

A serving of 100 gram cacao provides us with 499 mg magnesium, which is about 125% of our daily recommended intake of the mineral. It is important to note that only raw and powdered cacao offer this health benefit, but not the various chocolate products, as they are generally denatured.

Like pumpkin seeds, cacao is also loaded with iron, copper, manganese, potassium, phosphorus and zinc. It is also a wonderful source of dietary fiber, antioxidants and phenols. Hence, it is advisable that you use cacao to lighten your mood, enhance the function of the brain and cardiovascular system, in addition to augment glucose metabolism and alleviate PMS problems.

Almonds

A rich source of magnesium, almonds are among the most popular nuts having an assortment of uses, including in nut butters as well as milk.

A serving of 100 grams of almonds provides us with 268 mg, which is about 72% of our daily recommended intake. You may easily incorporate them in your diet, but almonds need to be soaked before consumption to obtain utmost benefits from the nutrients encloses by them. In addition to magnesium, almonds also contain iron, calcium, copper, manganese, potassium, phosphorus and zinc, as well as adequate amounts of riboflavin and vitamin E.

Brazil nuts

A wonderful source of magnesium, Brazil nuts also contain an assortment of other nutrients.

A serving of 100 grams of Brazil nuts offers us 376 mg magnesium, which is about 94% of our recommended daily intake. In addition, the same amount of Brazil nuts provides us with a whopping 2739% of our daily recommended intake of the trace element selenium. Brazil nuts also contain sufficient amounts of manganese, copper, potassium, phosphorus, zinc, healthy fats and vitamins E and K.

Brazil nuts are known to possess cancer combating properties, especially reduce the chances of developing breast, lung, colon, prostate and rectal cancers.

Sesame seeds

Despite their small size, sesame seeds are an excellent source of magnesium as well as various other nutrients. A serving of 100 grams of magnesium contains roughly 351 mg magnesium, which is about 88% of our daily recommended intake. Sesame seeds can also be used as salad dressings, seed crackers, in sauces and noodle preparations.

Apart from magnesium, sesame seeds contain adequate amounts of iron, calcium, copper, manganese, zinc and phosphorus. They also enclose folate, thiamine, niacin and vitamin B6. It is recommended that you use sesame seeds to augment cognitive ability, regulate blood sugar, protect the kidneys from harm and make the teeth and bones stronger.

In addition to the above-mentioned foods, cashews, walnuts, leafy greens, beans, pine nuts, apricots, peanuts, avocados, pecans, dates, figs, raisins and bananas also have high magnesium content.

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Consumption of more olives helps to prevent cancer, boost overall health
    May-26-2014

If you thought olives are a mere delicious side dish like salads and are an excellent appetizer, it is time you should know that recent studies have discovered that they contain chemical compounds that help in combating cancer, especially breast and colon cancers.

Findings of a study undertaken by scientists at the University of Barcelona show that the peel of olive encloses maslinic acid, which destroys carcinogenic cells and also inhibits colon cancer cell growth drastically. In fact, some olive skins may contain an impressive 80% of maslinic acid.

Another study undertaken jointly by scientists at the Girona-based Catalan Institute of Oncology and University of Granada discovered that extra-virgin olive oil contains phenols which were effective in killing breast cancer cells by a process known as "apoptosis".

Hence, it is not surprising that olive is included in The World's Healthiest Foods list published by George Mateljan Foundation, especially because they possess cancer fighting as well as other abilities. Describing the food, the website says that olives contain antioxidant phytonutrients and these may be responsible for the herb's ability in protecting DNA (deoxyribonucleic acids) - the main chemical part of genetic material in our cells - from oxygen harm.

Olives also combat inflammation, high cholesterol

Besides fighting carcinogenic cells, olives provide us with various other health benefits. For instance, black olive contains elevated levels of vitamin E, which is beneficial for our lungs, brain and functioning of the blood cells. The National Institutes of Health says that consuming foods such as olives, which enclose high amount of high monounsaturated and healthy fats, perks up vitamin E consumption by our body.

In addition, olives are also beneficial for the health of our heart and prevent inflammation. Monounsaturated fats found in olives help to sustain normal blood cholesterol levels; raise HDL or good cholesterol, while lowering the LDL or bad cholesterol. In fact, compounds present in olive oil work in the same manner as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to prevent inflammation.

Considering the fact that using NSAIDs have several detrimental effects on our health, this is certainly great news. According to the Mayo Clinic, using NSAIDs may lead to severe pain, inflammation in the mouth and even night blindness. Hence, there is no doubt that consuming natural olives and use extra-virgin olive oils is a healthy option to remain in best of health.

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Five nourishing foods to deal with elevated cholesterol levels
    May-28-2014

It is concerning to note that as high as 15% American adults suffer from elevated blood cholesterol levels and are threatened with heart diseases, stroke and other serious conditions that may become life-threatening. Many of these people are surviving on statins, drugs used to control cholesterol, but still they are faced with many deadly risks owing to the long-term use of these medications.

In the West, most people turn to medicines whenever they have any ailment without realizing that the conditions can be treated using alternative methods to sustain normal cholesterol levels. All that you need to do is make a few simple changes in your diet and remain healthy.

Cholesterol

It is a wax-like substance drawn from various foods, counting vegetables and meat. While some are beneficial, as they help in metabolizing various vitamins and minerals, taking the wrong type in excess may impede blood circulation, often forming clots, as they accumulate along the walls of the vessels.

Basically, two forms of cholesterol are found in the bloodstream - low-density lipoproteins (LDL), which are also known as "bad" cholesterol, and high-density lipoproteins (HDL), which are also known as "good" cholesterol. LDLs are said to be "bad" as they may transform into a form of plaque and block the arteries. They attach to the vessel walls, obstructing blood circulation and make them stiff. Conversely, HDLs are considered good, because they serve as scavengers, facilitating the elimination of LDLs from the blood, thereby inhibiting formation of plaques.

Most people are able to regulate blood cholesterol by making some dietary changes. Some common foods that help to regulate cholesterol are discussed below.

Beans

As far as lowering blood cholesterol levels is concerned, beans are really magical. Findings of a study undertaken recently in Canada have revealed that taking a serving of only 3/4 cup beans, lentils or chickpeas daily may lower the cholesterol levels by about 5%. Beans are loaded with soluble fiber that aids in eliminating LDL or bad cholesterol from the bloodstream. In addition, fiber is also useful in promoting digestion and lowering chances of developing colon cancer. Including beans in your diet more often helps the body to adjust itself to increased fiber, thereby reducing gas formation in due course of time.

Oatmeal

Similar to beans, oatmeal also encloses fiber that lowers LDL cholesterol by preventing absorption of much "bad" cholesterol by the bloodstream. Although many stores sell products containing oatmeal, it is advisable that you purchase and consume oatmeal directly. A serving of 375 ml (1.5 cup) of oatmeal provides 6 gm of fiber. According to experts, 5 gm to 10 gm of fiber is necessary to lower LDL in bloodstream. You may also consume apples or bananas to increase fiber intake.

Olive oil

It is a common knowledge that most of the fats consumed by us contain LDL or "bad" cholesterol. Fats enclosed in Mediterranean diet help to lower bad cholesterol, but also offer many other health benefits. You only require adding only two tablespoons of olive oil to get its health benefits. Blend olive oil with other herbs that make a tasty dip for use with bread or dressing fresh vegetables. In fact, extra-virgin olive oil is most useful.

Tea

If you are one who loves tea, you should know this is one way of reducing LDL cholesterol. Consuming only three cups of black or green tea daily is enough for obtaining the utmost health benefits of tea. It also helps to improve HDL or "good" cholesterol in the body. In addition, tea also contains polyphenols, antioxidants that prevent the risk of specific cancers. Whether you like iced tea or hot tea, the benefits are similar.

Fish

Salmon, sardines and mackerel, which are full of fat, contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are beneficial for the heart's health and help to lower blood pressure. According to the American Heart Association, taking two servings of these fish daily sustains the heart's health. If you find fish smell repulsive, supplement your diet by taking fish oil tablets. In addition, flaxseed also contains high amount of omega-3 fatty acids. Pulverize these seeds to release their beneficial attributes and subsequently consume them by sprinkling the powdered seed on your food.

Besides alterations in your diet, you also need to emphasize on the initiatives, such as aerobic exercise, which keep your heart healthy and lowers blood cholesterol. These exercises need not to be difficult or extreme; just take regular walks and you will get amazing results.


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