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Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Best Protein Powders

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Serotonin - The Feel Good Chemical

 The feel-good chemical, serotonin, cannot be produced by the body without tryptophan. Without serotonin, people feel low. Ten foods are natural sources of tryptophan. 

The body cannot produce tryptophan, an amino acid which is converted by the body into serotonin, so unless we get enough through our diets, we may suffer a deficiency, leading to low serotonin levels.
Low serotonin levels are associated with mood disorders, anxiety, cravings and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
In her e-book The Serotonin Secret, Dr Caroline Longmore says the best way to get optimum tryptophan levels is through a carefully devised eating plan. She rates dozens of foods for their levels of tryptophan.

A French-trained paediatrician who later worked with Medecins Sans Frontieres, travelling to areas in need such as Africa, Cambodia and Vietnam amongst others, Dr Longmore worked for many years in major children’s hospitals in Paris and London.
She has long been interested in nutrition and complementary medicine, and operates a naturopathic and nutrition clinic in Britain.

Food to Improve your Mood

Have a turkey sandwich. Or a handful of sunflower seeds.
These are among the ten best foods for tryptophan listed in The Serotonin Secret.
Written with Australian-trained medical scientist and naturopath Katrin Hempel, the book has 50 recipes designed to solve serotonin imbalance without drugs.
Dr Longmore says the concept works on the same principle as selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as popular antidepressant Prozac.
Her top ten good mood foods are mung beans, lobster, turkey, asparagus, sunflower seeds, cottage cheese, pineapple, tofu, spinach and bananas - the foods containing the highest levels of tryptophan.
Britain's Food and Mood Project also recommends eating chicken, sardines, turkey, salmon, fresh tuna, oats, nuts and seeds to boost serotonin levels.

Carbohydrates Help Absorb Tryptohan

The Food and Mood project website explains that including carbohydrates in the diet is important to help absorb tryptophan.
“The absorption of tryptophan into the brain is thought to be greatly enhanced by eating carbohydrate-containing foods and carbohydrate cravings have been explained as a subconscious drive to increase serotonin levels,” it says.
“Carbohydrates that are slow releasing can help the absorption of the tryptophan across the blood-brain barrier without creating a rebound hypoglycaemic dip. Oats are particularly important because they have a low Glycaemic Index.”

Avoid Tryptophan Supplements

Australian mental health experts say the use of tryptophan supplements in Australia has had a chequered history, and should be avoided.
They say that while the theory behind tryptophans for improving mood is solid, its use by depressed patients has not always been successful, and contaminated batches of tryptophan supplements had caused serious side-effects in many patients.
Professor Gordon Parker, of the Black Dog Institute said while some patients strongly believed such supplements were beneficial, scientific evidence was lacking.
"I would say it's something that can be useful for some people but the quality control varies enormously," he said.

Top Ten Good Mood Foods

• mung beans
• lobster
• turkey
• asparagus
• sunflower seeds
• cottage cheese
• pineapple
• tofu
• spinach
• bananas

Other Mood Foods

• chicken
• salmon
• sardines
• tuna
• nuts
• oats


Sunday, June 10, 2012

If It's Good Enough For Presidents...

What is a Vegan?

Vegetarians do not eat meat, fish, or poultry. Vegans, in addition to being vegetarian, do not use other animal products and by-products such as eggs, dairy products, honey, leather, fur, silk, wool, cosmetics, and soaps derived from animal products.

Why Veganism?

People choose to be vegan for health, environmental, and/or ethical reasons. For example, some vegans feel that one promotes the meat industry by consuming eggs and dairy products. That is, once dairy cows or egg-laying chickens are too old to be productive, they are often sold as meat; and since male calves do not produce milk, they usually are raised for veal or other products. Some people avoid these items because of conditions associated with their production.
Many vegans choose this lifestyle to promote a more humane and caring world. They know they are not perfect, but believe they have a responsibility to try to do their best, while not being judgmental of others.


Vegan Nutrition

The key to a nutritionally sound vegan diet is variety. A healthy and varied vegan diet includes fruits, vegetables, plenty of leafy greens, whole grain products, nuts, seeds, and legumes.



It is very easy for a vegan diet to meet the recommendations for protein as long as calorie intake is adequate. Strict protein planning or combining is not necessary. The key is to eat a varied diet.
Almost all foods except for alcohol, sugar, and fats provide some protein. Vegan sources include: lentils, chickpeas, tofu, peas, peanut butter, soy milk, almonds, spinach, rice, whole wheat bread, potatoes, broccoli, kale...



Vegan diets are free of cholesterol and are generally low in saturated fat. Thus eating a vegan diet makes it easy to conform to recommendations given to reduce the risk of major chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer. High-fat foods, which should be used sparingly, include oils, margarine, nuts, nut butters, seed butters, avocado, and coconut.


Vitamin D

Vitamin D is not found in the vegan diet but can be made by humans following exposure to sunlight. At least ten to fifteen minutes of summer sun on hands and face two to three times a week is recommended for adults so that vitamin D production can occur. Food sources of vitamin D include vitamin D-fortified orange juice and vitamin D-fortified soy milk and rice milk.



Calcium, needed for strong bones, is found in dark green vegetables, tofu made with calcium sulfate, calcium-fortified soy milk and orange juice, and many other foods commonly eaten by vegans. Although lower animal protein intake may reduce calcium losses, there is currently not enough evidence to suggest that vegans have lower calcium needs. Vegans should eat foods that are high in calcium and/or use a calcium supplement.



Following are some good sources of calcium:

   Soy or rice milk,
 commercial, calcium-
 fortified, plain     8 oz      200-300 mg

   Collard greens, cooked                  1 cup     357 mg

   Blackstrap molasses                     2 TB      400 mg

   Tofu, processed with 
        calcium sulfate                    4 oz      200-330 mg

 orange juice      8 oz      300 mg

   Tofu, processed with 
        nigari                     4 oz      80-230 mg

   Kale, cooked       1 cup     179 mg

   Tahini       2 TB      128 mg

   Almonds                                 1/4 cup   89 mg

Other good sources of calcium include: okra, turnip greens, soybeans, tempeh, almond butter, broccoli, bok choy, commercial soy yogurt...
The recommended intake for calcium for adults 19 through 50 years is 1000 milligrams/day.
Note: It appears that oxalic acid, which is found in spinach, rhubarb, chard, and beet greens, binds with calcium and reduces calcium absorption. Calcium is well absorbed from other dark green vegetables.



Vegan diets can provide zinc at levels close to or even higher than the RDA. Zinc is found in grains, legumes, and nuts.



Dried beans and dark green leafy vegetables are especially good sources of iron, better on a per calorie basis than meat. Iron absorption is increased markedly by eating foods containing vitamin C along with foods containing iron.


Sources of Iron

Soybeans, lentils, blackstrap molasses, kidney beans, chickpeas, black-eyed peas, Swiss chard, tempeh, black beans, prune juice, beet greens, tahini, peas, bulghur, bok choy, raisins, watermelon, millet, kale....


Comparison of Iron Sources

Here are the iron contents of selected foods:

            FOOD                            IRON (MG)

       1 cup cooked soybeans                   8.8
       2 Tbsp blackstrap molasses              7.0
       1 cup cooked lentils                    6.6  
       1 cup cooked kidney beans               5.2
       1 cup cooked chickpeas                  4.7
       1 cup cooked lima beans                 4.5
       1 cup cooked Swiss chard                4.0
       1/8 medium watermelon                   1.0


Omega-3 Fatty Acids

In order to maximize production of DHA and EPA (omega-3 fatty acids), vegans should include good sources of alpha-linolenic acid in their diets such as flaxseed, flaxseed oil, canola oil, tofu, soybeans, and walnuts.


Vitamin B12

The requirement for vitamin B12 is very low. Non-animal sources include Red Star nutritional yeast T6635 also known as Vegetarian Support Formula (around 2 teaspoons supplies the adult RDA). It is especially important for pregnant and lactating women, infants, and children to have reliable sources of vitamin B12 in their diets. Numerous foods are fortified with B12, but sometimes companies change what they do. So always read labels carefully or write the companies.
Tempeh, miso, and seaweed are often labeled as having large amounts of vitamin B12. However, these products are not reliable sources of the vitamin because the amount of vitamin B12 present depends on the type of processing the food undergoes. Other sources of vitamin B12 are fortified soy milk (check the label as this is rarely available in the U.S.), vitamin B12-fortified meat analogues, and vitamin B12 supplements. There are supplements which do not contain animal products. Vegetarians who are not vegan can also obtain vitamin B12 from dairy products and eggs.


Common Vegan Foods

Oatmeal, stir-fried vegetables, cereal, toast, orange juice, peanut butter on whole wheat bread, frozen fruit desserts, lentil soup, salad bar items like chickpeas and three bean salad, dates, apples, macaroni, fruit smoothies, popcorn, spaghetti, vegetarian baked beans, guacamole, chili...


Vegans Also Eat...

Tofu lasagna, homemade pancakes without eggs, hummus, eggless cookies, soy ice cream, tempeh, corn chowder, soy yogurt, rice pudding, fava beans, banana muffins, spinach pies, oat nut burgers, falafel, corn fritters, French toast made with soy milk, soy hot dogs, vegetable burgers, pumpkin casserole, scrambled tofu, seitan.


When Eating Out Try These Foods

Pizza without cheese, Chinese moo shu vegetables, Indian curries and dahl, eggplant dishes without the cheese, bean tacos without the lard and cheese (available from Taco Bell and other Mexican restaurants), Middle Eastern hummus and tabouli, Ethiopian injera (flat bread) and lentil stew, Thai vegetable curries...


Egg and Dairy Replacers

As a binder, substitute for each egg:
  • 1/4 cup (2 ounces) soft tofu blended with the liquid ingredients of the recipe, or
  • 1 small banana, mashed, or
  • 1/4 cup applesauce, or
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch or arrowroot starch, or Ener-G Egg Replacer or another commercial mix found in health food stores.
The following substitutions can be made for dairy products:
  • Soy milk, rice milk, potato milk, nut milk, or water (in some recipes) may be used.
  • Buttermilk can be replaced with soured soy or rice milk. For each Cup of buttermilk, use 1 cup soymilk plus 1 tablespoon of vinegar.
  • Soy cheese available in health food stores. (Be aware that many soy cheeses contain casein, which is a dairy product.)
  • Crumbled tofu can be substituted for cottage cheese or ricotta cheese in lasagna and similar dishes.
  • Several brands of nondairy cream cheese are available in some supermarkets and kosher stores.

Source: CNN,

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Prevent Bone Loss

If asked what they consider to be the primary component in maintaining healthy bones, most people would probably suggest calcium, and lots of it. But like one writer puts it, ingesting calcium by itself is like trying to build a brick wall without the mortar; the other vital components to structural integrity are missing from the equation. Current research is suggesting that maintaining the proper pH level in the blood is the primary factor in maintaining overall bone health, with calcium playing a supporting role in achieving this end.

Maintaining pH balance in the body has become an important subject of modern health research as it is being concluded that general wellness is predicated upon it. The human body is designed to maintain a pH level of roughly 7.3, or a slightly alkaline state, in order to properly assimilate nutrients and fend off disease. Drawing continually from alkaline-forming compound reserves that are maintained through proper nutrition, the body is able to self regulate as long as it is receiving an alkaline-rich diet. Without it, the body can drop into the acidic range with no recourse, making it susceptible to diseases like osteoporosis and cancer.

Dr. Otto Warburg, a medical doctor and one of the leading German biochemists of the twentieth century, won a Nobel Prize in 1931 for discovering that cancer cells are anaerobic, meaning they function without the presence of oxygen. Oxygen actually inhibits the growth of cancer cells and ultimately kills them. Based upon his foundational research, many nutrition-based doctors and scientists have been able to conclude that an alkaline-rich diet is able to keep the blood oxygenated and the cells healthy.

What does all of this have to do with calcium and bone loss? Calcium is an isolated mineral that requires other vitamins and minerals in order to properly assimilate and function as intended. Additionally, only in an oxygen-rich alkaline environment is calcium able to build strong and healthy bones. The problem lies in the fact that the typical Western diet is highly acid-forming, rendering calcium intake largely ineffective.

Most people identify milk and other types of dairy products as the primary sources for obtaining calcium. Dairy products are acid-forming foods that, apart from adequate intake of alkaline-forming foods, can severely compromise pH balance in the body. In the case of a threatening imbalance, the body begins to draw alkaline-forming compounds from the bones, including calcium, to maintain proper pH. As a result, the body can actually leech more calcium than it is receiving, leading to osteoporosis and other serious diseases.

The solution to avoiding pH imbalance and the resulting calcium leeching is to maintain a rich alkaline-forming diet by avoiding excess acid-forming foods. Professor Jurgen Vormanne of the Institute for Prevention and Diet in Ismaning, Germany has developed a helpful food chart that outlines foods and their pH effect on the body. There are also other helpful food charts available online that will assist in understanding acid- and alkaline-forming foods.

Some of the best alkaline-forming foods include most fruits and vegetables as well as certain teas, mineral water, and various fermented foods. Among the best alkaline-forming foods are figs, raisins, lemons, limes, carrot and other legume juices, garlic, stevia sweetener, and sea salt, to name just a few.

It is important to keep in mind the difference between acidic foods and acid-forming foods; acidic foods such as lemons actually create an alkalizing effect in the body while milk and most dairy products, though not acidic in taste, create an acid-forming effect in the body.

Maintaining healthy bones first requires proper nutrient intake in order to maintain a balanced pH level, allowing the blood to effectively assimilate calcium and the necessary nutrients such as magnesium, potassium, and vitamin D which work correspondingly to maintain and fortify the bones. Apart from one another these crucial components will not perform as intended, but together they are a powerhouse of bone-building material and defense against osteoporosis.

Source: Murray, Michael T., Lara Pizzorno. The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. Simon and Schuster, 2005.