Friday 28th September 2012
The Environmental Working Group - a consumer health non-profit organization - has published its "dirty dozen" list of fruits and vegetables most contaminated by pest- and weed-killer which you should try to buy organic, and apples tops this list. Most of the pesticides found in apples concentrated in the skin, but the skin is also unusually rich in beneficial anti-oxidant nutrients which will be lost if you peel them. Anti-oxidants help neutralise harmful chemicals that damage tissues and may contribute to the development of chronic disease such as heart disease. Choosing organic apples means you can eat apples with their skins on whilst avoid problems related to pesticide residues.
Posted by Maria Zaretti at 20:15
Friday 10th August 2012
What is acid-alkaline balance
In all of us blood needs to be maintained at a pH of 7.35 (very mildly alkaline) and the body's regulatory systems works hard to maintain this. If blood pH deviates too far to the acid side, oxygen decreases and metabolism is less effective so the body works less efficiently - this can lead to sickness.
Our bodies are exposed to a cascade of acidic substances every day – food, pollution, stress, even its own internal bio-chemicals contribute to the load. When faced with a lot of acid our body pulls alkaline minerals out of body tissues to compensate. If there are insufficient alkaline reserves in the tissues they are recruited from elsewhere, mainly being leached from bones as carbonates, which also releases calcium, and magnesium from muscle.
Common symptoms of over-acidity
Bone quality declines and the risk for osteoporosis increases when calcium is leached from bones due to high acidity.
How acidic are you?
pH test strips are a convenient way to monitor your acid-alkaline balance. Saliva pH varies a lot so urine pH is considered a more reliable indicator. Urine pH varies too, in response to what you have eaten, so measuring in the morning may result in overly-acidic reading (because during sleep the body deals with and excretes acids), so measures taken later in the day are more indicative. Used daily, pH test strips are great for helping you realise you are too acidic, and for monitoring pH improvement and keeping you motivated towards long-term change.
Top tips for pH balance
Reduce acid forming foods in your diet (animal products including dairy, sugar, white flour products, coffee, alcohol).
Increasing alkaline fruit and vegetables, especially green leafy veggies to help neutralise the acid.
Drink plenty of water to hydrate the cells and flush out the stored acid waste.
Ongoing stress increases acidity in the body so reduce stress and find ways to relax that suit you.
Taking an alkalising supplement that supplies calcium, magnesium and bicarbonates (sodium, potassium). This can help replenish buffer reserves and restore acid-alkaline balance to the body quicker, whilst you are working on longer term dietary change.
Posted by Maria Zaretti at 13:21
Tuesday 12th June 2012
Depression is very common with an estimated 5-10 per cent of the UK population affected to some degree at any one time. It is more typically thought of as strictly emotional or biochemical, but Nutrition can play a key role, contributing to onset of depression and exacerbating its severity.
New research by Fulton & Sharma (2012) shows that, in addition to causing obesity, excessive consumption of high-fat foods can cause chemical reactions in the brain ultimately leading to depression.
Reward and pleasure centres in the brains of both animals and humans are controlled by a chemical called dopamine. Dopamine enables people to see rewards and take actions to move towards them. Fulton & Sharma showed that mice fed a high-fat diet developed depressive symptoms with changes in the brain's reward and pleasure centres associated with depression.
The fat-fed mice developed high levels of CREB. CREB is a molecule that activates genes involved in brain function including genes that dampen the reward-circuitry. Having high CREB may make the same-old dose of a 'drug', in this instance high-fat food, less rewarding and promote a negative mood state. It seems that if you comfort eat fatty foods to improve your mood you may actually end up feeling worse!
Dr. Fulton draws a comparison with drug addiction whereby a vicious cycle sets in where “food-highs” are used as a way to combat depression. “In a similar way to illicit drugs” says Fulton “continually eating high-fat foods can lead to depression as the 'come-downs' take their toll”.
Whilst Fulton's research focuses on the relationship between high-fat diet and depression, there are plenty of other dietary patterns, including excess sugars, nutrient deficiencies and skipping meals that may contribute to or exacerbate depressive symptoms. The bottom line is that food often plays a key role in maintaining your mental health, and there is a lot that can be done naturally to help rebalance mood naturally if you are currently affected to some degree by depression.
Sharma S & Fulton S (2012) Diet-induced obesity promotes depressive-like behaviour that is associated with neural adaptations in brain reward circuitry International Journal of Obesity 10.1038/ijo.2012.48.
Posted by Maria Zaretti at 15:54
Tuesday 10th April 2012
Sweet potatoes are a robust vegetable that will remain fresh for a month if you store them in very cool, dark, dry place such as your kitchen cupboard. Don't store them in your refrigerator however, because the moisture and light encourages the sweet potato to sprout, and makes it more sugary by increasing the conversion of some of its starches to sugar.
When it comes to preparing and cooking your sweet potato, I'd recommend that you rinse and then cut your sweet potato into small pieces (about 1/2 inch cubes) to help them cook more quickly and then steam them for 7 minutes which makes them tender, brings out their flavor, and maximizes their vitamins, minerals and antioxidants for assimilation. I would not recommend boiling sweet potatoes which leaves them soggy and depletes many of the nutrients they contain. Cooking them in oil at high temperatures can potentially create harmful chemicals (free radicals) that can damage cells so I would recommend you avoid roasting your sweet potatoes. It's fine to leave the skins on if your sweet potatoes are organic, otherwise peel the flesh before chopping and cooking to reduce your exposure to pesticide residues with which they may have been treated. Vitamin A is better absorbed if you have a little fat with your sweet potato such as a 1/2 teaspoon of butter or drizzle of olive oil after dishing up.
The pigments in fruits and vegetables have antioxidant properties and the orangey-red hue of sweet potato flesh is a fabulous example. This vivid sweet potato flesh is due to it's exceptionally high beta-carotene content which helps protect your cells from damage by harmful chemicals (free radicals) and support your immune system function. Sweet potato also contains Vitamin C and some storage proteins called sporamins which further increases its antioxidant power. They are also supply good levels of minerals (manganese and copper) which are needed by your bodies inbuilt antioxidant system (called superoxide dismutase) which means they boost your body's antioxidant levels from within as well as being an external source.
When digested and absorbed beta-carotene is converted in your body into Vitamin A making sweet potato an excellent dietary source of vitamin A. Vitamin A helps fight viral infection so is an important immune system boosting nutrient. It also helps maintain the normal structure and function of your mucosal tissues found in your lungs and gastrointestinal tract, helping prevent nasty infection-causing microorganisms from taking hold in your lungs and gut. As well as that, Vitamin A is also important for maintaining healthy eyesight.
Posted by Maria Zaretti at 12:48
Friday 9th March 2012
Any long journey, whether by plane, road or rail, will be associated with "travel fatigue", the combined effects of a changed routine, particularly sleep loss, altered meals with poor food choices, and the general disruption caused by travel. Some factors are not easy to guard against like sitting in cramped and uncomfortable conditions others, like making the healthiest possible food choices whilst you are traveling, can help reduce travel fatigue and help keep you energized and focused.
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Posted by Maria Zaretti at 14:24