I often come up with the ideas for my blogs while working in my garden. This one started with a very simple thought: I love purple. I was admiring the purple cayenne we are growing this year. They have that lovely deep purple like eggplant.
We are growing several other purple varieties in our garden this year like carrots, tomatillos, and okra. The presence of this purple color indicates that these vegetables provide a specific type of antioxidant known as anthocyanins. Other sources of anthocyanins are purple cabbage, purple potatoes, blue corn, black beans, plums, dark grapes, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and black berries, as well as herbs like elderberry, hawthorn, and acai. Anthocyanins are considered to be one of the best antioxidants for protecting our brains, hearts, and blood vessels.
Our Purple Crops
Even though purple is so enthralling, we need other colors to round out our intake of antioxidants. Leafy green veggies are a great source of chlorophyll, which can help protect our DNA from damage and aid the detoxification process. Leafy greens also hide a bunch of beta-carotene under that green. So along with carrots and other orange foods, we can eat our greens to help maintain our vision and enhance the ability of white blood cells to neutralize carcinogens. Lycopene is one of the most potent antioxidants for cancer prevention, especially prostate cancer. It is found in the pink foods: tomatoes, watermelon, and pink grapefruit.
Overall the goal is to eat a rainbow of foods so we are getting a diversity of antioxidants to protect our cells from damage and help prevent cancer.
If you want to try some of my purple okra, we are now selling it in the produce department of Ozark Natural Foods.
Posted in Health
Tagged antioxidant, black berries, cancer prevention, cardiovascular disease, cardiovascular health, cognitive support, dementia, detoxification, food, health, heart health, immune support, inflammation, memory, nutrition
Recently my husband asked me why I hadn’t made a certain dish in a while. My answer was that I was trying to cook like a farm wife by focusing on the ingredients from our farm, whereas the dish he wanted featured spinach, which I don’t have great luck growing. My husband and I run a small organic farm, Downstream Farm Organic Produce, about 8 miles west of Fayetteville on Clear Creek. We mostly grow food for ourselves and sell the extra produce to friends, restaurants, and Ozark Natural Foods. We raise chickens and grow vegetables like okra, tomatoes, tomatillos, bell peppers, and too many others to name.
Oyster Mushrooms, Wood Ears, Coral Fungus, and Boletes. FYI, I didn’t eat all of these mushroom varieties.
Recently, my husband found a bounty of wild mushrooms, including oyster mushrooms and wood ear mushrooms, so I made a special dish to feature them. My venison and wild mushroom stew also included our venison, radish greens, fresh herbs, and tomatoes. Not all ingredients have to be from the farm. For instance, this farm wife happened to have some red wine around. The carrots and potatoes were also from the store since we had run out of our own a few months ago.
I know that everyone can’t grow as much of their food as we do, but you can still incorporate some of my thinking into your own cooking by focusing on local and seasonal ingredients. Local foods can be fresher and therefore higher in nutrients. Seasonal ingredients tend to be more affordable and often shipped shorter distances so fewer resources are used to get them to us. I try to avoid buying certain summer foods, like melons, in the middle of winter when the only ones available have been shipped from South America or even further away. And these foods aren’t necessarily appropriate for our bodies during the winter. It makes sense that we need cooling foods like melons and cucumbers in the summer and warmer, higher calorie foods in the winter. Part of my process is to be creative with substitutions. For instance, I still look at recipes to get a basic framework for a dish, but readily add or subtract vegetables and other ingredients based on what is available at that time of the year.
I also focus my cooking on nutrient dense foods, as in foods that provide a lot of our necessary vitamins and minerals per calorie. Or in the case of the wild mushrooms, add medicinal benefits to the dish. Nearly all culinary mushrooms strengthen the immune system and help reduce inflammation. Oyster mushrooms may also help lower cholesterol. Consumption of mushrooms like these may help prevent cancer, partially because of the beta-glucans they provide. Oyster mushrooms are fairly commonly available in stores, so you don’t have to find them on a log after the rain like my husband did. And you can grow your own using a mushroom kit or mushroom logs. Since some mushrooms are poisonous don’t eat wild ones unless you know them well like my husband does.
Posted in Health
Tagged antioxidant, cancer prevention, cardiovascular disease, cardiovascular health, cholesterol, cholesterol lowering, eating local, food, health, immune support, inflammation, local food, nature, nutrition, oyster mushrooms
As well as being a wonderfully tasty beverage, green tea contains fantastic compounds that can help prevent many common health conditions. Green tea comes from the same plant as black tea, Camellia sinensis. The difference, however, is that green tea is blanched before drying, while black tea is allowed to oxidize, effectively converting many of the beneficial catechins into astringent tannins. In part because of these catechins, like EGCG, green tea is antimicrobial, astringent, antioxidant, cancer fighting, and inflammation modulating. Not only does it contain less caffeine than black tea, green tea also has theanine, a relaxation-inducing compound that can help reduce anxiety.
Just three cups a day may be helpful for the prevention of cancer and atherosclerosis. Numerous studies have shown green tea to be useful for lowering cholesterol, especially LDL cholesterol. Additionally, when combined with sensible diet and exercise, green tea may help with weight loss, especially in people with increased belly fat. Green tea’s ability to help reduce glucose and insulin could explain why it helps induce belly fat loss, as insulin resistance and elevated glucose tend to encourage weight gain in that region of the body. Regular consumption of green tea is also thought to be one of the reasons why Asian women have a consistently lower rate of breast cancer. Furthermore, if you swish it around your mouth before swallowing, green tea can help stop gingivitis.
To prepare, you need only to steep your green tea for one minute to extract these incredible compounds, but feel free to steep it longer if you prefer a stronger, more bitter flavor. During these hot Arkansas summers, green tea also makes a refreshing iced tea that can help beat the heat. To give you another way to enjoy green tea this summer, our bulk herbs department has added a delicious raspberry flavored green tea.
If you wish to read Dr. Michael Greger’s other ideas on why there are lower rates of breast cancer in Asian demographics, check out his recent post.
Posted in Health, Herbs
Tagged antioxidant, blood pressure, camellia sinensis, cancer prevention, cardiovascular disease, cardiovascular health, cholesterol, cholesterol lowering, detoxification, health, heart health, high blood pressure, inflammation, insulin resistance, lowering cholesterol, nutrition, weight loss
I occasionally use a protein powder as a snack or part of a meal replacement. While I don’t believe we can truly replace a meal with supplements, sometimes protein powders can be a handy way to boost our protein intake. For people that tolerate dairy well, whey protein can be a good choice because it mixes easily and tends to be very palatable. Because of its particular amino acid compositions, whey protein also offers some benefits that other protein powders don’t. For instance, in a small study participants given whey protein, who otherwise ate as they wished, experienced a slight weight loss compared to those given soy protein who had no change in weight. This group also saw a reduction in ghrelin, a hunger hormone that makes us crave high calorie foods. Whey protein is also commonly used by athletes and has been shown to reduce post-workout muscle damage. Whey protein is high in branched-chain amino acids like leucine that have been shown to improve upper body strength and lean body mass. Whey protein can also help seniors shape up by helping improve muscle mass and function. In fact, whey protein led to skeletal muscle improvements that were superior to those from control groups of participants taking an equivalent amount of amino acids, the building blocks of proteins like our muscles.
In addition to helping body composition, whey protein can improve our well being in several key ways. One study demonstrated significant decreases in cholesterol, triglycerides and fasting insulin levels when participants consumed whey protein, but not when they received casein protein. Whey protein may also help with detoxification and cancer prevention since it is a source of cysteine, which our bodies need to make glutathione, a critical antioxidant for protecting our bodies from toxins. There are also immune benefits from whey protein as demonstrated in a study where elderly subjects receiving pneumonia vaccines produced more of the protective antibodies against the pneumonia-causing organisms. Whey protein is also a good choice as part of a protocol to speed healing from surgery.
Posted in Health
Tagged antioxidant, blood sugar, cancer prevention, cardiovascular disease, cardiovascular health, cholesterol, cholesterol lowering, detoxification, diabetes, food, health, heart health, immune support, lean body mass, nutrition, weight loss
It is sad to see someone who used to be full of vitality now walking with slow shuffling steps or dealing with the uncontrollable tremors of Parkinson’s disease. While there are natural treatments that can slow and/or improve the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, we are much better off focusing on prevention. A few new studies are pointing to some easy steps to help reduce your chance of getting this illness. It has long been observed that people who use tobacco have lower risk of Parkinson’s disease, but who wants to adopt all of the other health concerns that come with smoking. Fortunately, a small amount of nicotine is found in the nightshade vegetables, which include tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, hot peppers, and bell peppers and are in the same plant family as tobacco. It has been shown that the neuroprotective effects of nicotine occur with very low doses and these vegetables seem to have enough to provide that protection. A recent study demonstrated that people who regularly consumed these vegetables, particularly peppers, reduced their risk of Parkinson’s disease by 19%. The effect was the greatest in people who had never smoked with a risk reduction of 31%. Of course, a diet high in diverse amounts of veggies and fruits is generally recommended for the prevention of many diseases, but don’t forget the humble bell pepper.
A review of other studies on Parkinson’s disease prevention gives us still more reason to make sure we are getting the optimal level of nutrients and working to reduce our exposure to toxins. Optimal vitamin D levels have been linked to the prevention of many diseases including breast cancer as I discussed in last week’s blog. Again in the case of Parkinson’s, there is an inverse relationship between vitamin D levels and the risk of this illness. Also, a small study confirmed that vitamin D supplementation helped slow the deterioration of symptoms in Parkinson’s patients with specific genetic markers. It is also important to consider antioxidant intake. Some studies have shown that patients with Parkinson’s disease have reduced antioxidant capacity as demonstrated by lower vitamin E and glutathione peroxidase levels. Glutathione peroxidase is one of the most important detoxification enzymes in the body, which uses glutathione to neutralize toxins. This study also revealed that the severity of the Parkinson’s disease correlated to the degree of oxidative stress. This supports many observational studies showing higher rates of Parkinson’s disease among people exposed to different chemicals in paper mills, orchards, and even from well water. Toxins are not the only contributing factor to Parkinson’s disease, but it appears that we can help prevent this and many other diseases by reducing our exposure to toxins and increasing our antioxidants.
Posted in Health
Tagged antioxidant, bell pepper, cancer prevention, cognitive decline, cognitive support, dementia, detoxification, disease prevention, health, memory, mental-health, nightshade vegetables, nutrition
Coenzyme Q10 is an important supplement that can benefit numerous conditions, especially heart disease. CoQ10, as it is often called, supports energy production in our cells and works as an antioxidant to protect our cells from damage. These roles are important for heart health because the heart needs a lot of energy. In addition, the ability of CoQ10 to prevent the oxidation of cholesterol may help protect us from atherosclerosis. CoQ10 is also used to reduce fatigue in patients with fibromyalgia. It can help protect the kidneys and liver. One month of CoQ10 supplementation was even shown to reduce symptoms of dry mouth, probably by improving the functioning of the salivary glands. CoQ10 is even thought to reduce some of the symptoms of old age. In a study with middle-aged mice, those who had received regular CoQ10 showed reduced signs of aging and improved activity levels.
So where does ubiquinol fit into this picture? There are actually two forms of CoQ10, known as ubiquinone and ubiquinol. Most CoQ10 is ubiquinone, the oxidized form of the molecule, while ubiquinol is the reduced form. This means that ubiquinol is the form of CoQ10 that is ready to neutralize antioxidants. Even more important is that ubiquinol can be up to 3 times more absorbable than the standard ubiquinone form. This varies because our body seem to change how much it absorbs based on how much CoQ10 we need. For instance, people with congestive heart failure usually need more CoQ10. In a recent study among this patient group, taking an average of 450 mg of ubiquinone resulted in blood levels of CoQ10 around 1.6 micrograms per milliliter, but when they switched to an average of 580 mg of ubiquinol, their blood levels jumped to 6.5 micrograms per milliliter. Even more importantly, the switch to ubiquinol resulted in improvements in their symptoms. So even though ubiquinol is more expensive than the standard forms of CoQ10, you can get more for your money by buying this more absorbable form.
Posted in Health
Tagged aging, antioxidant, cardiovascular disease, cholesterol, chronic fatigue syndrome, coenzyme q10, congestive heart failure, dry mouth, energy, fatigue, fibromyalgia, health, heart failure, heart health, kidney health, liver health, salivary glands, sjorgens, ubiquinone
I remember spending hours during the summer as a child eating black cherries off a tree in our yard. It wasn’t until years later that I learned of the medicinal and nutritive benefits of this plant that is also known as wild cherry. The juice from the berries is a popular folk remedy for gout pain. Studies done on tart cherries confirm that they do help reduce the inflammation and pain associated with gout. Black cherries haven’t had similar studies yet, but there is enough anecdotal evidence for us to assume they have the same benefits. The black cherries are also very rich in antioxidants, especially those known as proanthocyanidins that are found in many purple foods and are gently tone to the lining of our blood vessels.
The bark of wild cherry trees is a popular addition to herbal cough formulas. It is used for all types of coughs particularly those that have been going on for a while. Wild cherry bark is an anti-tussive, meaning that it reduces coughing. It may also be useful for an allergic coughs since it has been shown to mildly reduce histamine reactions in the lungs. Wild cherry bark is astringent so it tones mucus membranes such as the linings of the respiratory, digestive, and urinary tracts. Wild cherry bark is a gentle herb that is most commonly used in conjunction with other herbs to enhance it effects. It is also very safe so it is frequently seen in children’s formulas. Occasionally, the fruit is also added to the formulas to improve the taste.