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Food
Frozen foods: Knowing the good from the bad

To anyone with a busy life, frozen food can feel like a gift. If we’re honest, most of us could probably confess to slipping a frozen meal into the oven or microwave after a long day when we don’t have the energy to cook from scratch. And not only is cooking from frozen convenient, but those frozen pizzas and chicken drumsticks can hit the spot too – there’s definitely something about them that makes our brains light up. But trust me … that’s not a good thing. The reason we get such a kick out of them is that most are packed with ingredients that our brains have been conditioned over the years to love: Fat, salt, added sugar and more. Such is the impact of many of these foods on our brains that a 2015 study published by the Public Library of Science concluded that ‘highly processed foods, which may share characteristics with drugs of abuse (e.g. high dose, a rapid rate of absorption) appear to be particularly associated with “food addiction”.’ But is all frozen food really so bad for you? And if not, what’s okay and what should you avoid? The frozen food debate First, the good news. Frozen food itself is not inherently bad. On the contrary, in 2014 two independent studies by the University of Chester and Leatherhead Food Research found that in two-thirds of cases, frozen fruit and vegetables actually contained more vital nutrients than those that were refrigerated from fresh for just three days. The researchers concluded that this was likely to be because fresh foods of this type are frozen at the point when they are most nutritious, whereas fresh produce may have spent days or even weeks in transit and on supermarket shelves, gradually losing nutrients. Other studies have found that vegetables lose their valuable nutrients more slowly, the lower the temperature at which they are stored. In 2007, a large two-part review conducted by the Department of Food Science and Technology at the University of California found that by the time a consumer eats fresh goods bought from a shop, the frozen equivalent may be nutritionally similar due to the loss of nutrients during handling and storage. (Of course, eating fruit and veg fresh from your garden or allotment will always be the most nutritious option). It seems that the story is similar for meat products as well. So what’s the problem with frozen food? Let’s be clear, We’re not attacking the freezing process here. The problems come down to the types of frozen foods designed purely to be put straight into the oven or microwave, with little to no prep. I’m talking about pizzas, processed ready meals, chicken pieces, fish sticks – and anything else pre-packed that bears little resemblance to the food in its original form. As a 2014 study published in the journal Food Chemistry recently highlighted, those foods are bad news. The study reported that at least half of such meals commonly found on the European market are nutritionally imbalanced. To make matters worse, some of the nutritional information on the food packaging was shown to contain inaccuracies. Sodium content It’s also not uncommon for processed frozen foods to be packed full of sodium – a component of salt. While sodium is an essential mineral, the problem is that most of us consume far too much of it, often from processed food. The reason for these high sodium levels in processed frozen foods is two-fold. First, sodium reduces what’s known as the water activity of food. This serves to draw water out of any bacteria that may be present in the food, slowing the decaying process and preventing your meal from turning into a soggy mess when thawed. Sodium is also added to enhance the flavor of such meals. As most frozen meals are relatively inexpensive, sodium comes in handy for food manufacturers as a cheaper alternative to higher quality flavorings such as herbs and spices. Dangerous fats Another common ingredient in processed frozen foods is trans fats, which are particularly bad news for our health. They are made by adding hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid. Their use in processed foods became popular because they provide a cheap and easy way to enhance taste and texture. Not so sweet And of course there’s sugar, which is often added to processed and frozen foods, not just for flavor but to maintain texture and prevent discoloration in some foods. Eating too much added sugar is a known cause of obesity as well as being strongly linked to increased risks for high blood pressure, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes, so it’s important to keep levels down. The AHA recommends limiting added sugar to no more than 25g a day for women and 36g a day for men. Fresh v froze – settling the debate In truth, the fresh-versus-frozen debate misses the point. By the time food reaches the consumer’s plate, there are no more nutrients lost from freshly frozen food than the fresh equivalent – and fewer in some cases. As with most matters concerning diet, it really comes down to the quality of the produce. If food is healthy before it is frozen, in most cases, it’ll be healthy afterward too. Equally, if a dish is packed full of sodium, trans fats and added sugar before it even hits the deep freeze, these ingredients will still be waiting for you when you take it out of the microwave. It makes sense to peruse the frozen aisle with the same mindset as when buying any foods: avoid anything high in salt, added sugar and trans fats – and always read the label. So, should you eat frozen or should you eat fresh? Ideally, a mixture of the two is best, but what’s most important is that you’re getting enough of the good stuff – vegetables, fruit, lean meats, and fish. Let’s aim to keep it simple, folks.

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February 05, 2019
Novomed Integrative Medicine
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Food
Vitamins and supplements: The good, the bad and the ugly

When it comes to medical information, half the truth can be a dangerous thing. And there are a lot of half-truths when it comes to vitamins. Want a clear story? Here is what an intelligent consumer should know. Toxicity China is the largest source of vitamins on earth and Hebei Yuxing Bio-Engineering is the largest source of B vitamins in the world. Yet a lot of these vitamins are contaminated with lead, a heavy metal that seriously affects your brain and bone. In late 2016, the company was also slapped with an FDA warning for persistent microbial contamination of its products and for falsification of test results. Mercury is another heavy metal that poisons your heart, your bones, your hormones, and your brain. When it comes to heavy metals, I personally do not believe in such a thing as “negligible amounts”. It takes 30 years for your body to get rid of half of the amount of any mercury that you ingest. Cancer risk and vitamins The studies that show that vitamins may increase cancer risk are misleading. They included heavy smokers who were taking vitamins with a high dose of Vitamin A. Vitamin A does increase the risk of lung cancer in smokers. An honestly designed study should exclude smokers who are taking Vitamin A. High dose Vitamin C can positively affect the success of treating cancers. However, high doses are not tolerated as they produce severe diarrhea. That is why it is advised to use a high dose of Vitamin C intravenously. Dosage Frequently, the bottle displays in large print “1000 mg” of fish oil, for example. But when you read the fine print it says something like “of that 1000 mg, only 200 mg of EPA and DHA are found per softgel”. EPA and DHA are the primary components by which the majority of studies focusing on benefits are based on. That claim of “1000 mg” is in fact simply window dressing in order to catch your eye. In this case, 1000 mg of EPA/DHA would require taking 5 softgels. So unless you are taking 5 softgels, you are not getting the 1000 mg of Omega 3 fatty acids. Patients with cardio-metabolic issues should get one-to-two grams per day of EPA / DHA depending on their weight. Because you wouldn’t actually take 10 softgels, you simply won’t get what you need. The same applies to memory-enhancing pills which contain phosphatidylserine. The dose is 300 mg a day. Most “memory formulations” contain only 25-50 mg, as a serine is an expensive ingredient. This means you have to take 10-20 pills to get the memory-enhancing dose. Certain formulas contain 100 mg per pill but then they would be judged as “too expensive” compared to other brain-enhancing formulas. But are we comparing apples to apples? Again the studies conducted by pharmaceutical companies to discredit supplements are conducted on the products that most consumers use, which contain inadequate dosages. Truth in labeling The global vitamin and supplement sales reached 122 billion USD in 2015 and are growing at more than 10% per year. The FDA in the US does not regulate this enormous industry. Their limited inspectors are busy monitoring the more critical drug industry. When a manufacturer’s label states that a pill contains 100 mg of CoQ10, the pill may or may not contain that much. Some may contain as little as 30 or 50 mg. It is the Wild West. Bioavailability Sophisticated consumers are now aware of the critical importance that the microbiome and friendly bacteria play in their gut health, psychology, immune system, and lipid metabolism. They also know that they should choose pills that contain at least 20 billion colonies from a variety of bacteria strains. What they do not realize is that many of these labels state in fine print “20 billion at the time of manufacturing”. When the product leaves the factory, the count goes down due to inferior manufacturing and packaging. When the consumer opens the bottle and exposes it to humidity and heat, these live organisms die off to a negligible level within two weeks. Furthermore, one strain of bacteria may represent 90% of the total count of the advertised 18 different strains. The bottom line: Unless you choose a stable formulation which has strain identity and is ensured by finished goods assays, you are mainly consuming dead bacteria that no longer hold therapeutic value. Individualized medicine and bar codes as a solution Some patients have inherited difficulty absorbing certain vitamins or ingredients, hence need much higher levels, different formulations or different administration routes. When using vitamins and supplements to reduce or eliminate your need for high blood pressure medications, we recommend checking the vitamin and nutritional status with a special blood test that your integrative medicine doctor can send to a specialty lab. They can prepare the vitamins and supplements that your body specifically needs. The future of medicine is here albeit not covered by your insurance yet. In 2015, a large randomized European study proved that it is safe to treat acute appendicitis with antibiotics alone. Yet 95% of surgeons in the US and Europe continue to operate on every patient. Reputable providers of food vitamins and food supplements can be found. They use a barcode that you can scan that ties through their website the batch number on your bottle to the outside independent certified laboratory essay that shows toxicity levels and dosages. That is the kind of professional supplements and vitamins that should be recommended to patients.

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February 05, 2019
Novomed Integrative Medicine
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Food
Do or Diet – The DASH Edition

Make that change! Whether you’re trying to lose weight or achieve healthier eating habits, the DASH diet is a great way to start. DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. This diet focuses on eating a variety of food, portion control and getting the right amount of nutrients. It is a lifelong approach to help prevent high blood pressure (hypertension) but has been effective in general weight loss and overall well-being. The Breakdown The diet places emphasis on eating more fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products and moderate amounts of whole grains, poultry, fish and nuts. Red meat, sweets, and fats can be consumed but only in small amounts. Here are the recommended servings for a 2,000-calorie-a-day plan. Grains: 6 to 8 Servings per Day These include rice, bread, pasta, noodles, and cereal. Serving size would be 1 slice of whole-wheat bread or ½ cup of cooked rice. Opt for whole grains/wheat as they contain more fiber and nutrients. Vegetables: 4 to 5 Servings per Day Carrots, broccoli, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, greens, and other vegetables are loaded with fiber, vitamins, and minerals such as potassium and magnesium. Serving size would be ½ cup of cut-up raw or cooked vegetables or 1 cup of raw leafy greens. Fresh is best but frozen or canned is fine for consumption, just make sure the labels state they are low sodium or without added salt. Fruits: 4 to 5 Servings per Day Just like vegetables, fruits are jammed packed with fiber, potassium, and magnesium. Typically they are low in fat with coconuts as an exception. Serving size would be 1 medium fruit, ½ cup of fresh, frozen or canned fruits or ½ cup of juice. Try having fruits with every meal and snack. Leave on edible peels as they contain healthy nutrients and fiber. Take note that citrus fruits like oranges/grapefruits/lemons/limes may interact with certain medications, so check with your doctor or pharmacist. If you select canned fruits or juices make sure that there is no sugar added. Dairy: 2 to 3 Servings per Day Milk, cheese, and other dairy products are great sources of protein, calcium, and vitamin D. Opt for low-fat or fat-free options as whole fat is often saturated and can lead to a number of health issues. Serving size would be 1 cup of skim/1% milk, 1 cups of low-fat yogurt, 1 slice of part-skim cheese. If you are lactose intolerant, look for lactose-free products or consider taking an over-the-counter product that contains the enzyme lactase which may aid with digestion. You can have regular or fat-free cheese but only in small amounts as they contain high levels of sodium. Lean meat, poultry, and fish: 0 to 6 Servings per Day Meat is a rich source of protein, iron, zinc, and B vitamins. Opt for lean varieties (less fat) and do not consume beyond 6 servings a day. Serving size would be 1 egg or a matchbox size of meat. Make sure to remove any excess fat or skin and rather than fry in fat/oil/butter, it would be better to grill, bake, roast or broil instead. Fish such as salmon, tuna, and herring are high in omega-3 fatty acids which help lower cholesterol. Fats and Oils: 2 to 3 servings per Day Yes, you still need fat. Not all fat is bad and it actually helps you absorb essential vitamins and improve your body’s immune system. It’s only when you have too much fat wherein you increase your risk of heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. Serving size would be 1 teaspoon of margarine, 2 tablespoons of salad dressing or a tablespoon of mayonnaise. Avoid trans fat and limit saturated fat. Nuts, seeds, and legumes: 4 to 5 Servings per Week Beans, lentils, almonds, sunflower seeds, and other food from this family are great sources of protein, potassium, fiber, and magnesium. A serving size is about 1/3 cup of nuts, ½ cup of cooked beans, or 2 tablespoons of seeds. Consume only a few times a week as this kind of food is high in calories. Sweets: 0 to 5 servings per Week Avoiding sweets can be difficult but you and control it. Serving size would be 1 tablespoon of sugar, jelly or jam, 1 cup of lemonade, or ½ cup of sorbet. Choose options that are fat-free or low-fat like sorbets, fruit ices, graham crackers, cookies, hard candies or jelly beans. Added sugar just means more calories without nutritional value. Applying It to Your Life Change gradually and find what works for you. This diet is really more of a guideline to achieve healthier eating habits. Discover new food to try out. If you’re vegetarian there are many options to make up for protein such as soy, tofu, mushrooms and nuts that can be replaced over the lean meat, poultry and fish section. You can’t expect change overnight but once you get started, keep going! Remember, healthy eating is about nutrition and variety to benefit your health. How healthy are your habits? What do you think of the DASH diet? Let us know down below!

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February 05, 2019
Lifeline Hospital
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Food
Foods that can reduce your cancer risk

While cancer was previously considered a disease of bad luck, it is now more widely accepted as multifactorial in nature - with genetics, the aging process, and lifestyle all playing a part. And although there’s little many of us can do to alter our genetics or stop from getting older each year, we can certainly adjust our lifestyles. And a huge part of that is what we eat. Nine out of 10 cancers are caused by lifestyle, and this means we all have more control over our likelihood of developing cancer than we realize. And with cancer rates projected to rise from the 14.1 million cases seen in 2012 to 24 million by 2035, the news that we can all influence our risk of cancer could not have come at a better time. When we talk about lifestyle factors, of course, tobacco smoke comes to mind. But what about the food-cancer link? Well, it’s strong – and the evidence is growing. So today we’re going to look at what you should be eating, rather than what you shouldn’t. Green vegetables There are many reasons to eat your greens, from boosting your iron levels to keeping your bowels regular. What is less talked about is how green, leafy and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and spinach can reduce your risk of many types of cancer. Reduced risk of colon cancer is linked to eating green vegetables because the green chlorophyll molecules found in them prevent the damage that dietary haem (a molecule found in red meat) does to the colon. And eating green and yellow vegetables also lowers the risk of other cancers, including stomach and lung cancer. This is due to the cancer-protecting effects of the high levels of beta-carotene - a well-known antioxidant - in green vegetables. Reduced risk of colon cancer is linked to eating green vegetables because the green chlorophyll molecules found in them prevent the damage that dietary haem (a molecule found in red meat) does to the colon. Antioxidants, like beta carotene, are thought to protect against cancer because they neutralize molecules called free radicals, that otherwise damage healthy cells and trigger the abnormal cell growth that underlies cancer. Interestingly, while it’s widely believed that cooking destroys the health benefits of vegetables, cancer-reducing properties of green vegetables are in fact boosted by eating them cooked instead of raw. Why? Because of an increase in the free-radical-trapping antioxidant content of courgettes and broccoli that results from cooking them. Garlic, onions, and mushrooms If you’re keen to minimize your risk of stomach cancer, it may also be worth stocking up on onions and garlic. This is because a high intake of alliums (like onions and garlic) helps to protect against stomach cancer. The theory is that the high sulfur content of these vegetables may slow down the growth of cancer cells as well as the activity of carcinogens that trigger cancer. And how about those mushrooms? Well, mushrooms have long been favored as a cancer treatment in Chinese medicine, particularly shiitake and maitake varieties. Studies indicate that fungus-specific chemicals in shiitake mushrooms can prevent the growth of different types of cancer cells (including breast and bone cancer), and clinical studies have shown that extracts of medicinal mushrooms improved the health and quality of life in breast cancer patients. Beans, berries, and seeds The cancer-protecting properties of beans first came to light in research carried out in the 1980s, which showed a lower risk of colon, breast, and prostate cancer among populations that had diets rich in beans and other legumes. And just as with green vegetables, it’s thought that the cancer-protecting effects of beans and other legumes are due to their high antioxidant content. Berries, such as blueberries and strawberries, are also rich in antioxidants, and unsurprisingly, they too are known anti-cancer foods. Interestingly, however, it’s the high vitamin C content of berries that most likely underlies their association with reduced colorectal and oesophageal cancer risk. An antioxidant called ellagic acid, found in all berries, has also been shown to prevent skin, lung, bladder, breast, and oesophageal cancer, with one study concluding that ellagic acid protects against these cancers by a variety of methods, including blocking tumor cell growth, virus infection, and inflammation. Seeds, such as flax, sunflower, and pumpkin, are recognized as health foods due to the wide variety of nutrients, including unsaturated ‘heart healthy’ fatty acids and fiber, they provide. However, research shows that their benefits extend beyond keeping heart health and waistline slim. One study showed that women who ate a diet high in nuts and seeds had a lower risk of colon cancer than those who didn’t. But as this protective effect was not seen in men, the researchers suggested that the plant hormones, including estrogens, found in these foods may be responsible for their anti-cancer benefits. Let food be the medicine and medicine be the food. If you want to minimize your risk of all cancers, adjusting your diet is an effective way of doing so and… it’s never too late to start.

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February 05, 2019
Novomed Integrative Medicine
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Food
Why humans were never meant to eat grains

If you eat a diet that features popular foods like bread, pasta, and rice, the chances are, you eat a variety of grains every single day. And you’re not alone. These foods are the most widely eaten in the world because they grow easily in many climates. But while many people rely on grains to keep bellies full and meal tasty, fewer realize the true impact these grains have on our bodies and overall health. Grains are best described as small, dry seeds that grow on plants called cereals. The most common varieties are rice, wheat, corn, oats, and barley, and they make up the bulk of carbohydrates (commonly known as carbs) found on our plates at mealtimes. When eaten as they come, they’re called whole grains, but in today’s society, whole grains are typically refined before hitting the supermarket shelf. This process, in which the nutritious bran and germ are removed from grains, improves the texture and increases the shelf life of foods. And this is why you’re more likely to find white rice, white pasta and white bread (all processed) in your local grocery store than their unrefined 100% wholegrain versions. Refined versus Wholegrains Researchers have long been aware that refining grains strip them of most of their nutrients. Back in 1999, food scientists identified that the process by which a wholegrain is turned into a refined grain not only removes much needed dietary fiber, it also strips the food of B vitamins and minerals, such as iron, zinc, and calcium. But even though the scientific consensus is that unrefined whole grains are more nutritious than refined ones, unrefined grains still pose a health challenge. Why? Because all grains, even unprocessed whole grains, are primarily carbohydrates, and the building blocks of all carbohydrates are… sugar molecules. Take rice for example: in some cases, carbohydrates account for 80% of raw white rice and 75% of raw unprocessed wild rice. While there’s a lot of carbohydrate in both types of rice, the presence of fiber in unprocessed varieties delays the breakdown of carbohydrates to sugar inside the body. But with refined rice and other grains, the absence of fiber means their carbohydrates are easily accessible in the body and are quickly turned into sugar. The outcome? Eating refined grain can quickly spike blood sugar levels and encourages the body to produce insulin – the hormone that removes sugar from the blood and turns it into fat. A 2011 review of 23 clinical studies showed foods that rapidly raise blood sugar levels to cause cravings, overeating, weight gain, and obesity. And other research has found that these foods increase a person’s potential risk of developing heart disease and type 2 diabetes. But unrefined grains are also problematic because even though the fiber they contain slows down their impact on blood sugar, as high carbohydrate foods, they are still turned into sugar in the body. That means blood sugar spikes and insulin spikes and this can be so damaging to your health. Why grains can upset blood sugar? While grain-free, low carbohydrate diets are synonymous with certain weight loss programs, like the Atkins or Dukan diet, research shows that a diet that’s low in carbohydrates like grains doesn’t just benefit your waistline, it can also improve heart and brain health. A study this year looked specifically at the impact of carbohydrates on the health of Middle Eastern populations and found a lower risk of metabolic syndrome – a group of conditions that increase a person’s risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke – among those who ate low carbohydrate diets. More specifically, low carbohydrate consumption was found to improve blood sugar levels, blood triglycerides (fats that raise heart disease risk), blood pressure and weight. And if you consider the role of insulin in the body, this finding soon makes sense Insulin’s main function is to clear sugar from the blood and into cells for use, but its secondary function is to turn the sugar that isn’t used for energy into fat – fat that’s laid under the skin (leading to obesity) and fat that’s laid in and around vital organs – two factors that expert bodies say can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. This year, guidelines named high carbohydrate diets as a risk factor for a condition called insulin resistance. In this situation, the body’s cells don’t respond properly to the hormone insulin, resulting in a build-up of the sugar molecule glucose in the blood. Excess insulin is then produced by the pancreas in an attempt to counteract the glucose build-up, but this abundance of insulin in the blood leads to a whole host of health problems, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, weight gain, and diabetes. To grain or not to grain? So is the key to ultimate health to eat a grain-free diet? This is still a point of a lot of debate among many doctors, but for us, the answer is clear – do without them. There is an abundance of evidence implicating grains – both unhealthy refined ones and ‘healthier’ wholegrains – in the development of conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Sure, whole grains are sources of fiber, vitamins, like B vitamins, and minerals, including selenium, potassium, and magnesium; however, if you can’t separate the bad from the good in a certain food, then that food is bad for you. Cut grains out of your diet completely and watch how quickly you start to look and feel better. Sure, there will be a withdrawal. Coming off grains is very difficult. But if you get through that period, the other side is a far healthier life with increased wellbeing and an improvement or even reversal of serious conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes.

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February 05, 2019
Novomed Integrative Medicine
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