Category Archives: nutrition

Almonds versus complex carbohydrates for weight loss

Many people avoid eating nuts because of their high fat content. They are afraid they will gain weight if they eat nuts, and may instead eat low fat, high carb foods. This may sound like nonsense to some of you, but is this fear justified at all? I found a very interesting study which compared eating almonds with eating complex carbohydrates for weight reduction. According to City of Hope National Medical Center, Duarte, CA, in Almonds vs complex carbohydrates in a weight reduction program:

CONCLUSION:

Our findings suggest that an almond-enriched LCD improves a preponderance of the abnormalities associated with the metabolic syndrome. Both dietary interventions were effective in decreasing body weight beyond the weight loss observed during long-term pharmacological interventions; however, the almond-LCD group experienced a sustained and greater weight reduction for the duration of the 24-week intervention. Almond supplementation of a formula-based LCD is a novel alternative to self-selected complex carbohydrates and has a potential role in reducing the public health implications of obesity.

The conclusion was the opposite of what many people believe. This may be due to the fact that on average we only absorb about 70% – 80% of the calories from nuts. This is largely due to their high fiber content. In general, people who eat the most nuts tend to be slimmer and healthier on average. And don’t forget that the fat in most nuts, in particular almonds, is the healthy kind.

Why eating nuts can help you lose weight

Can Mad Deer Disease spread to humans?

Oh deer!

Most meat-eaters in the western world consume store-bought processed meats from common livestock animals like cows or pigs. A small number of meat-eaters hunt for their meat, believing wild sources of animal flesh to be safer and more “natural” than meat from the store. In much of North America, deer are the most commonly hunted animal for consumption.

But is it really safer? Believe it or not, there is a Deer version of Mad Cow Disease that is sometimes called “Mad Deer Disease”. It is similar in many ways to Mad Cow Disease in that it is a neuro-degenerative disease(or “CWD” – chronic wasting disease) caused by a prion. It also shows some potential to spread to humans. According to the Department of Neurology, University of Texas Medical School at Houston, Texas, in Generation of a new form of human PrP(Sc) in vitro by interspecies transmission from cervid(deer) prions:

Prion diseases are infectious neurodegenerative disorders that affect humans and animals and that result from the conversion of normal prion protein (PrP(C)) into the misfolded prion protein (PrP(Sc)). Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a prion disorder of increasing prevalence within the United States that affects a large population of wild and captive deer and elk. Determining the risk of transmission of CWD to humans is of utmost importance, considering that people can be infected by animal prions, resulting in new fatal diseases. To study the possibility that human PrP(C) can be converted into the misfolded form by CWD PrP(Sc), we performed experiments using the protein misfolding cyclic amplification technique, which mimics in vitro the process of prion replication. Our results show that cervid PrP(Sc) can induce the conversion of human PrP(C) but only after the CWD prion strain has been stabilized by successive passages in vitro or in vivo. Interestingly, the newly generated human PrP(Sc) exhibits a distinct biochemical pattern that differs from that of any of the currently known forms of human PrP(Sc). Our results also have profound implications for understanding the mechanisms of the prion species barrier and indicate that the transmission barrier is a dynamic process that depends on the strain and moreover the degree of adaptation of the strain. If our findings are corroborated by infectivity assays, they will imply that CWD prions have the potential to infect humans and that this ability progressively increases with CWD spreading.

Since I never ever consume meat from any source, this isn’t something I have to worry about. But if you’re a hunter living the paleo life, this should concern you.

13.1 mile run to Valhalla again

Screenshot from 2013-10-19 09:27:04I love saying “I ran to Valhalla”. I did it again. And again, no, I am not crazy, I mean the town here in New York, not the grand hall in Asgard in Norse mythology where warriors go after dying in battle.

I managed to run 13.1 miles to Valhalla yesterday, 19 days after running the marathon, and 3 days after donating a pint of blood. This is my first almost long run after donating. Mostly due to the blood donation, it took me 2 hours and 18 minutes to complete this run, much slower than usual. I’m far from anemic, but I could feel an obvious difference, especially when running up hills. I felt weaker than I usually do while running this distance, and also had this weird, hard to describe feeling much of the way. My speed suffered as a result, and I dropped the balls more than usual.

I am currently eating a lot of iron rich foods to replenish my lost red blood cells. Within a week, or 2 weeks the most, I should be back to normal(I think it is safe to say I am fully recovered from the marathon, this isn’t an issue for me anymore). Still, it feels great knowing that my blood was used to help some sick people.

Eating bacon lowers sperm quality

Well what do you know? Shocking as it may sound, eating meat isn’t good for you, and may be particularly bad for your reproductive health if you’re a man. I know what some people may be thinking: But but but aren’t macho men supposed to eat a lot of meat? Aren’t they macho because they eat meat? Vegan men are the ones who are supposed to be the sissies! This new study that has been making a lot of news can’t be right!

Of course, this study shouldn’t come as a big surprise to regular readers of this blog. According to the study, which was presented at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine’s 2013 Annual Meeting in Boston:

Overall, men who consumed more than half a portion of processed meats such as bacon each day had significantly lower levels of “normal” sperm, compared to men who ate less than half a portion of processed meats per day.

Like I’ve already said, this shouldn’t come as a big surprise to the devotees of Wild Juggling because just a few weeks ago on september 25th, I already posted a study which demonstrated a link between meat consumption and poor semen quality: Semen quality and diet. I’m sure many of my followers knew this or at least suspected this before I posted that study.

Will a lot of men consider going vegetarian or even vegan due to how meat consumption may negatively affect their reproductive health? That’s very doubtful, since most people have short attention spans and will be very cynical toward news that challenges their lifestyle. Of course, leave it to the media to cover the problems with meat-eating piecemeal. With the countless other terrible things meat consumption is associated with, sperm quality should be the least of everyone’s worries.

Are broccoli sprouts better than mature broccoli?

Just about everyone knows about the health benefits of broccoli. All vegetables wish they could be like broccoli. When it comes to cancer prevention, broccoli has no rival. This is because it contains a bunch of different nutrients with anti-carcinogenic effects, like diindolylmethane, glucoraphaninindole-3-carbinol, and various carotenoids.

With all these health benefits, you may be wondering how it is even possible that an even more powerful form of broccoli exists.

Yet, according to this study, Broccoli sprouts: An exceptionally rich source of inducers of enzymes that protect against chemical carcinogens by Jed W. Fahey, Yuesheng Zhang, and Paul Talalay from http://www.pnas.org:

CONCLUSIONS

Large quantities of inducers of enzymes that protect against carcinogens can be delivered in the diet by small quantities of young crucifer sprouts (e.g., 3-day-old broccoli sprouts) that contain as much inducer activity as 10–100 times larger quantities of mature vegetables. Moreover, the inducer activity arises primarily from glucoraphanin (the glucosinolate of sulforaphane) and such sprouts contain relatively low quantities of indole glucosinolates, which are potential tumor promoters. Because little is known of the metabolism of glucosinolates in humans, we have undertaken studies (to be published separately) that demonstrate efficient conversion of glucosinolates to isothiocyanates in humans in the absence of plant myrosinase.

So if you really want to do all you can to prevent cancer, go for the broccoli sprouts. There’s nothing wrong with mature broccoli, it’s just that the sprouts are a more concentrated source of the anti-cancer chemicals. And try not to cook them too much, eat them raw if you can. Heating can destroy some of these amazing natural chemicals.

Blood donation and athletic performance

Red blood cells

Red blood cells, made up of hemoglobin flowing through blood plasma.

Yesterday, just a few hours after an easy run I donated a pint of blood. It feels great knowing my blood will help some sick people, unless the blood drive I went to was a front for some enterprising vampires. I’ve done this many times before, so it was no big deal, though I do wonder at times if donating blood affects athletic performance. And how long it takes for the blood(especially hemoglobin) to be replenished.

Blood is made up of many different components. Blood plasma can be restored in as little as 24 hours, so long as the donor stays well-hydrated. Hemoglobin(or haemoglobin, for my British friends), on the other hand, can take 4 to 6 weeks to be fully replenished, as long as you get enough iron and protein. So if my athletic performance is going to suffer at all, it will suffer for a few weeks at most.

For those of you who want a more in depth look at this issue, I found this interesting article over on Runnersweb: Science of Sport: The Effects of Blood Donation on Endurance Athletes

Rest assured, the effect is rarely big, and it depends on the individual. After donating, drink plenty of mineral rich fluids and eat a lot of iron rich food, which is what I am currently doing. Avoid alcohol and caffeine. I encourage everyone, so long as you qualify, athlete or non-athlete, to donate your blood to help those in need.

Red Cross Blood Donation

Legume consumption and cancer risk

Broad beans. Source: Public domain.

Broad beans. Source: Public domain.

Legumes are nutritional powerhouses. Not only are they packed with quality protein, they also contain vitamins, minerals, fiber, starch, and phyto-nutrients. Most contain only a little fat.

So it is for good reason that doctors and health professionals are increasingly recommending replacing animal protein with legumes like beans, lentils, and peas – high legume consumption is associated with a lower risk for heart disease. But what about legume consumption and cancer risk? According to the Institute of Basic Medical Sciences, University of Oslo in Legume intake and the risk of cancer: a multisite case-control study in Uruguay:

CONCLUSION:

Higher intake of legumes was associated with a decreased risk of several cancers including those of the upper aerodigestive tract, stomach, colorectum, and kidney, but not lung, breast, prostate or bladder. Further investigations of these associations in prospective cohort studies are warranted.

Very interesting. It looks like legumes have a protective effect on the parts of the body they come in direct contact with. So you’re doing a lot of good for yourself if legumes are your preferred protein source.

Can quercetin improve endurance capacity?

Quercetin is a plant chemical that naturally occurs in many different fruits and vegetables. Red onions are one of the best sources of quercetin. It has demonstrated both anti-inflammatory, and anti-viral effects. But can it also help improve endurance capacity?

According to the University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC, in The dietary flavonoid quercetin increases VO(2max) and endurance capacity:

Seven days of quercetin feedings were associated with a modest increase in VO2max (3.9% vs. placebo; p < .05) along with a substantial (13.2%) increase in ride time to fatigue (p < .05). These data suggest that as little as 7 days of quercetin supplementation can increase endurance without exercise training in untrained participants. These benefits of quercetin may have important implications for enhancement of athletic and military performance. This apparent increase in fitness without exercise training may have implications beyond that of performance enhancement to health promotion and disease prevention.

Interesting! But this is just one study. Fortunately a meta-analysis(a study that combines the results of several studies) of the effects of quercetin was done by the Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA, in Quercetin and endurance exercise capacity: a systematic review and meta-analysis:

CONCLUSIONS:

On average, quercetin provides a statistically significant benefit in human endurance exercise capacity (VO(2max) and endurance exercise performance), but the effect is between trivial and small. Experimental factors that explain the between-study variation remain to be elucidated.

There does appear to be an effect, but it’s small. More research needs to be done, but I won’t be eating lots of red onions just because of this.

Soy Tender Sandwiches

IMG_2045I had this for dinner last night. Here’s a quick vegan meal idea that is also a great, high protein recovery meal. I used:

  • Trader Joe’s Chickenless Crispy Tenders
  • Trader Joe’s Whole Wheat Hambuger Buns
  • So Good Vegan Miso Mayo
  • Sunja’s Medium Spicy Kimchi

I got the Miso Mayo and Sunja’s Kimchi from the local health food store, not from Trader Joe’s. It’s great that Sunja’s Kimchi is vegan, since kimchi from Asian markets and restaurants usually contains fish or shrimp.

Screenshot from 2013-10-02 13:54:45It takes only 20 minutes to cook the Chickenless Tenders(they taste just like Gardein Tenders). The Miso Mayo tastes like mayo but with a strong soy miso component; add the kimchi and the sandwich has a strong Asian twist to it. It was delicious, tastes very “chickeny”, and was very filling.

Berries of Death

Among Mother Nature’s greatest gifts to humans, as well as bears, and birds, and countless other species are berries. How can anyone resist berries? Brightly colored morsels of sweetness packed with nutrition, how can berries be anything but good? Unfortunately, looks can be deceiving. Some berries can be very toxic, and may even kill. There are certain varieties of toxic plants that produce berries this time of year, and it is good to be on the lookout for them. Children and even some foolish adults may eat some of these berries, only to end up poisoning themselves.

IMG_2035

A yew plant and its red berries in New York

One of the most common toxic plants that produces brightly colored berries in the north-eastern U.S is the yew. Usually it’s a medium sized bush, but you can often find medium sized yew trees. You will often see this plant growing in front of or alongside buildings, houses and in parks. Its bright red berries may be eye-catching, but the plant can be deadly toxic. This is because the yew contains the toxins taxol and taxine. Taxol is a mitotic inhibitor, which means it prevents cells from dividing. This is why it is currently the basis of a powerful cancer drug, underscoring the idea that the only difference between a drug and a poison is the amount.

Yew plants are evergreens, with needle-like leaves, similar to pine needles except that yew needles are flat. Even though the fleshy part of the berries usually contains little toxin, the seeds and every other part of the plant are very toxic. So the berries are not worth the risk.

IMG_2019

Pokeweed or pokeberry and its dark purple toxic berries in Connecticut

Another toxic berry plant common in the eastern U.S is pokeweed. It is called “pokeweed” because of how the purple berries all have these indentations in them, as if they’ve been poked. Usually a bush, or a small tree it produces purple berries in the autumn. It often grows along the edges of woods, sometimes in woods, in abandoned lots, and in overgrown fields. I’ve also seen it growing as a weed alongside buildings in very urban areas, usually in the back area. Consider all parts of this plant toxic. As poisonous as pokeweed is, it has long been a staple of Southern cuisine, but only when the early spring shoots are used and it is properly prepared. The plant becomes more toxic as it matures. I would just avoid it altogether when foraging.

The killer toxins in this plant are phytolaccatoxin, phytolaccigenin, and glycoprotein. Convulsions, diarrhea, vomiting, headache, or some other wonderful reactions may result from ingesting pokeweed. Like yew, some of the toxins in this plant have shown anti-cancer effects. Pokeweed often has reddish or pink stems. The green leaves are simple, alternate, and pointy at the end.

Study these plants, or admire them for their natural beauty all you want, but make sure no one is eating them.