The essence of a healthy diet is a bit of a mystery. Everyone knows that a diet full of plant foods—fruits, vegetables, and nuts—is good for you, as it can lower the risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and other ailments. But scientists, being scientists, want to know the exact reason, and they have long eyed antioxidants. These chemicals, found in high amounts in some plants, quench harmful molecules that can run amok in cells, fatally damaging DNA and the cellular machinery.
As the hypothesis that antioxidants offer health benefits took root in the minds of consumers, however, it shriveled in labs. Mounds of studies, conducted over decades, have found no conclusive link between antioxidants and lower disease risks. And, this month, two studies add to evidence that antioxidants may actually increase the spread and severity of some cancers.
What I’m missing in this story is whether free radicals can actually promote the growth of cancer cells as healthy cells are damaged. Yes, I get that the downside is that antioxidants can protect growing cancer cells, but what about before cancer cells develop? In other words, can the antioxidant protection against free radicals help prevent the formation of cancer cells in the first place? Or is there no link?
I’d like to point out another medical truism: if men were mice, we’d have cured cancer a long time ago.
Since the term “antioxidants” made the leap from the realm of biochemistry labs and into the public consciousness in the 1990s, Americans have come to believe that more is better when it comes to consuming the substance that comes in things like acai berries, green tea and leafy veggies.
A provocative new study published Wednesday in the journal Nature raises important questions about that assumption.
The iconic cartoon character Popeye became most famous for his slapstick routine of eating a can of spinach, then attaining superpowers that he often used to give his gigantic nemesis Bluto a severe pummeling.
But Bluto might be lucky that Popeye never got his hands on a glass of beet juice.
100 grams of arugula is roughly equivalent to 500 grams of beets. To varying degrees, many other leafy greens work too. You can also get the same effect by supplementing citrulline. But for those of us on warfarin/coumadin – stick to beets for vitamin k content.
If you’re the type with enough self-restraint to allow cheese to stay in the fridge for a while, you might be alarmed by the fact that it’s turned pink. Not to worry. It’s probably due to a harmless, and ancient, additive.
While the egg yolk debate (to eat or not to eat) may continue among doctors, nutritionists and others in the health industry, researchers from Purdue University are giving the whole egg the thumbs up.
In fact, they’ve discovered that eggs consumed with raw vegetables can actually increase the nutritional value of the veggies.
This study, which was presented earlier this month at the American Society for Nutrition’s Annual Meeting, consisted of 16 healthy young men who were instructed to eat three different salads — one with no egg, one with one-and-a-half scrambled whole eggs and another with three scrambled whole eggs. “And what we observed was that there was a progressive increase in the absorption of the carotenoids from the vegetables as you had more eggs, which we attribute to the fat component of the yolk,” lead study author Wayne Campbell, Ph.D., a professor of nutrition science at Purdue University, tells Yahoo Health.
Some bacteria produce beta-carotene, the pigment that gives carrots their orange colour. It is also a precursor chemical that our bodies use to make vitamin A. Quadro and her colleagues took the bacterial DNA that codes for this chemical and inserted it into a different strain – one that colonises mouse intestines.
After two weeks living in the guts of lab mice, the bacteria had made themselves at home and were making beta-carotene that could be detected in the gut, bloodstream and liver.
Each year, up to 500,000 children in the developing world go blind from lack of vitamin A, half of whom will then die within 12 months. The molecule that could save their lives is so well-studied and abundant, yet we haven’t figured out how to get it to them.
Genetically engineered bacteria are routinely used in the biomedical industry to make insulin, blood-clotting factors, and hormone that save lives. There’s a disconnect between the spook factor of the term “GMO” when it comes to food, and our relatively silent acceptance of it in medicine.
FYI: The majority of our vitamin K, which is essentially for blood to clot, comes not from food but from gut bacteria. That’s why antibiotics can cause a vitamin K deficiency.
We all could probably eat more fruits and vegetables. But if forced to choose between whole fruit or a glass of juice, which one seems more healthful?
The general advice is to opt for the fruit, since juices are stripped of the fiber – which most us don’t get enough of — in whole fruit. And let’s face it: Most juice contains a lot of sugar, which most of us consume too much of.
So our interest was piqued when we spotted a study suggesting that, when it comes to oranges, juice might actually unlock more carotenoids and flavonoids – both beneficial phytonutrients — than an equivalent amount of fruit.
Fruit juice has also been criticized as a sugary, fiberless drink no better for you than cola. The study shows that orange juice does make certain nutrients more accessible to your body, but not enough to recommend juice over whole fruit. Keep in mind that a home juicer is not going to pasteurize your OJ. It is well known (or not) that pasteurizing sweetens juices quite dramatically. And since this was done is a test tube (in vitro), actual blood sugar spikes to a cohort population was not even tested.
So is orange juice healthy? That depends on whether it helps you meet your goals. If you’re trying to reduce the sugar in your diet (as many of us should), the sugar concerns may outweigh the benefits you get from the extra micronutrients. For those who must maintain a very low fiber (low residue) diet, juicing is a great alternative to otherwise problematic fruits and veggies.
What about blending the whole fruit into smoothies instead of just juicing? In the study, the puree’s nutrients were less bioavailable than the juice.
There are several types of persimmons, and the key is to know which kinds are astringent and which are sweet. The astringent persimmons are still a wonderful food when they’re ripe. If you’ve ever had an unripe persimmon, the experience is memorable. Often described as “furry,” for me the experience was akin to trying to eat a sweet yet dense cotton ball. It doesn’t taste like a good idea, and eating a lot of unripe persimmon can cause digestive problems.
You may want to pause before gulping down that pumpkin spice latte. While everyone from Starbucks to Oreo wants you craving all pumpkin everything, there’s actually a healthy way to utilize the seasonal orange squash—the real stuff, not the sugar-high inducing, cinnamon spiked puree in a can.
You may have noticed pumpkin face masks and cranberry hair treatments flooding the beauty aisles, and while some are gimmicks capitalizing on your fall nostalgia, dermatologist Marnie Nussbaum says there are a few fall foods that can truly help your hair and skin when applied topically.