By Dr. Mercola
Nearly 60 percent of Americans drink coffee, and for many the habit is a daily one.1 Coffee drinking has long been viewed as more of a vice or a crutch to get a quick energy boost to power through the day, but this view is now changing as the health benefits of coffee continue to be revealed.
This is good news for those of you who sip on a cup of joe in the morning, as it turns out this may be a quite healthy way to start your day.
Daily Coffee Boosts Colon Cancer Survival
Among people with advanced (stage III) colon cancer, drinking four or more cups of caffeinated coffee daily lowered the risk of cancer recurrence or death during the study by 52 percent compared to those who drank no coffee.
Drinking two or three cups per day was also beneficial, lowering the risk of recurrence or death by 31 percent.
The researchers stressed that other caffeinated beverages, such as soda, did not have the same effect. No link was found between decaffeinated coffee and risk of colon cancer recurrence either.
Further, a causal link was not found. This means it could simply be that coffee drinkers tend to follow a healthier overall lifestyle that’s contributing to the lower risk. However, the antioxidants and other beneficial plant compounds in coffee have been linked to a lower chronic disease risk before.
In fact, coffee has been linked to a lower risk type 2 diabetes as well, a condition known to increase the risk of colon cancer. It’s likely that compounds in coffee may lower the risk of multiple chronic diseases via similar pathways.
As reported by the New York Times:2
“The researchers’ hypothesis is that the factors that increase risk for Type 2 diabetes, such as obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, and high insulin levels, also drive colon cancer, Dr. [Charles S.] Fuchs [director of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Center at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston] said.
And many studies have shown that coffee consumption is associated with a lower risk for Type 2 diabetes, a chronic illness that may increase the risk of colon cancer.
‘We believe that activating the energy pathways that contribute to heart disease and diabetes is also relevant for the proliferation of cancer cells,’ Dr. Fuchs said, while also stressing that more research was needed.
The analysis determined the lowered risk associated with coffee was… because of the caffeine. One hypothesis is that caffeine increases the body’s sensitivity to insulin, so it requires less of the hormone. That, in turn, may reduce inflammation, which is a risk factor for diabetes and cancer.”
What Else Does the Research Say About Coffee and Cancer?
While a number of individual studies have suggested coffee consumption might increase your cancer risk, when multiple studies are analyzed, such as is the case with meta-analyses, the association disappears, and, in fact, becomes protective.
For instance, one 2007 meta-analysis found an increase in consumption of two cups of coffee per day was associated with a 43 percent reduced risk of liver cancer3 – a finding that has been confirmed by more recent research.
Not to mention, coffee appears to have additional benefits for liver health, slowing down the progression of liver disease to cirrhosis, improving responses in people with hepatitis C, and lowering the risk of death in people with cirrhosis.4
The potential benefit of coffee for liver health appears so strong that researchers have stated daily coffee consumption should be encouraged in people with chronic liver disease.5
Another meta-analysis involving 59 studies revealed an increase in consumption of one cup of coffee per day was associated with a 3 percent reduced risk of cancers.6 According to the researchers:
“[C]offee drinking was associated with a reduced risk of bladder, breast, buccal and pharyngeal, colorectal, endometrial, esophageal, hepatocellular, leukemic, pancreatic, and prostate cancers.”7
There’s even research showing coffee consumption could lower your risk of skin cancer. Drinking four cups of caffeinated coffee daily might reduce your risk of melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer.8
According to researchers:
“[C]offee constituents suppress UVB-induced skin carcinogenesis, induce cell apoptosis, protect against oxidative stress and DNA damage, reduce inflammation in epidermal cells, and inhibit changes in DNA methylation.”9
Women who consumed more than three cups of coffee a day had a significantly lower risk of basal cell carcinoma (non-melanoma skin cancer) than those who consumed less than one cup per month.10
Roasted Coffee Contains More Than 1,000 Compounds, Many of Which May Help Fight Cancer
Coffee has multiple potential anti-cancer pathways. As mentioned, caffeine is one of them, as its been shown to both stimulate and suppress tumors depending on the cancer and when it’s administered.11
Polyphenols in coffee, such as lignan phytoestrogens, flavonoids, and polyphenols are also known to have anti-cancer properties, as does caffeic acid, which inactivates several pathways involved in the development of tumors – including cell cycle regulation, inflammatory and stress response, and apoptosis.
Researchers noted in the journal BMC Cancer:12
“There are two specific diterpenes in coffee, cafestol and kahweal, which produce biological effects compatible with anti-carcinogenic properties, including the induction of phase II enzymes involved in carcinogen detoxification, specific inhibition of the activity of phase I enzyme responsible for carcinogen activation, and stimulation of intracellular antioxidant defense mechanisms.
Coffee is also a major source of the chlorogenic acid that contributes to its antioxidant effect. Intake of chlorogenic acid has been shown to reduce glucose concentrations in rats and intake of quinides, degradation products of chlorogenic acid, increases insulin sensitivity.
Chronic hyperinsulinemia and insulin resistance are confirmed markers of high risk for some cancer sites.”
The Benefits of Coffee: From Your Heart to Your Brain
The benefits of coffee are becoming so well established that, for the first time, a government advisory committee included a mention of caffeine in its recommendations for the 2015 edition of Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The report said Americans could safely consume up to five cups of coffee a day, or approximately 400 milligrams (mg) of caffeine, with no detrimental effects.13
The recommendation was based on an evaluation of multiple meta-analyses and other studies evaluating the link between coffee and chronic diseases, including cancer, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s. Here’s a sampling of what the research shows:
In a study of more than 25,000 people, those who drank a moderate amount of coffee – defined as three to five cups daily – were less likely to have calcium deposits in their coronary arteries than those who drank no coffee or more coffee daily.14
A large part of arterial plaque consists of calcium deposits (atherosclerosis), hence the term "hardening of the arteries." Coronary artery calcium can be a significant predictor of future heart disease risk.
In addition, one study showed moderate coffee drinking reduces your chances of being hospitalized for heart rhythm problems. 15 Another study found it may trigger a 30 percent increase in blood flow in your small blood vessels, which might take some strain off your heart.16
Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson’s Disease
Drinking four to six cups of coffee a day is associated with a lower risk of multiple sclerosis, as is drinking a high amount of coffee over five to 10 years. According to researchers, “Caffeine has neuroprotective properties and seems to suppress the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines.”18 Higher coffee and caffeine intake are also associated with a lower risk of Parkinson’s disease.19
Caffeine promotes production of the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline, and triggers the release of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which activates brain stem cells to convert into new neurons, thereby improving your brain health.
Among people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), those with higher blood levels of caffeine (due to coffee consumption) were less likely to progress to full-blown dementia.20 “Caffeine/coffee intake is associated with a reduced risk of dementia or delayed onset, particularly for those who already have MCI,” the researchers said.
Research published in the New England Journal of Medicine has even shown that coffee consumption is inversely associated with premature death. The more coffee drank, the lower the risk of death became, including deaths from heart disease, respiratory disease, stroke, injuries and accidents, diabetes, and infections.21
Coffee Is the Number One Source of Antioxidants in the US
Another reason why coffee may have such dramatic effects on Americans’ health is because it is the number one source of antioxidants in the US diet. The research, which was presented at the 230th national meeting of the American Chemical Society, showed that Americans get more antioxidants from drinking coffee than from any other dietary source, with researchers noting “nothing else even comes close.”22
Examples of the antioxidants in coffee include significant amounts of hydrocinnamic acid and polyphenols. Antioxidants are nature's way of providing your cells with adequate defense against attack by reactive oxygen species (ROS) or free radicals.
Free radicals are a type of a highly reactive metabolite that is naturally produced by your body as a result of normal metabolism and energy production. They are your natural biological response to environmental toxins like cigarette smoke, sunlight, chemicals, cosmic, and manmade radiation, and are even a key feature of pharmaceutical drugs. Your body also produces free radicals when you exercise and when you have inflammation anywhere in your body.
As long as you have these important micronutrients, your body will be able to resist aging caused by your everyday exposure to pollutants. If you don't have an adequate supply of antioxidants to help squelch free radicals, then you can be at risk of oxidative stress, which leads to accelerated tissue and organ damage.
While fruits, such as berries, and vegetables are ideal sources of antioxidants, many Americans don’t eat the recommended amounts each day. This is why coffee, which is consumed widely on a daily basis, represents such a large dietary share of antioxidants. If you’re not a coffee drinker, you can easily boost your antioxidant intake by eating fresh produce – and even if you do drink coffee, getting your antioxidants from a wide variety of sources is still important.
Is Decaf Coffee a Healthy Choice?
The coffee beans used to make decaffeinated, or decaf, coffee undergo a process to remove most of the caffeine. In order to be labeled decaffeinated, the coffee must have 97 percent of the original caffeine content removed.23 This may be preferable for those who are highly sensitive to caffeine (for instance experiencing jitters after one regular cup), but there are some considerations. For starters, some of the research on coffee’s health benefits have shown caffeinated coffee to be more effective than decaf (the featured colon cancer study is one such example).
In particular, caffeinated coffee has also been linked to a lower risk of liver damage, increased metabolic rate, reduced risk of depression and suicidal thoughts, and enhanced athletic performance while decaf coffee has not.24 The process used to decaffeinate the coffee is also important to be aware of.
One of the most commonly used methods is Direct Process, which uses the chemical methyl chloride to remove the caffeine from coffee beans. Starbucks, for instance, uses this process on most of its decaf brews (although it also offers a “naturally processed” decaf Sumatra blend).25
The National Cancer Institute lists methyl chloride as a possible carcinogen, so it’s something you’re better off avoiding (trace amounts are sometimes detected in decaf coffee, although typically at levels below 1 part per million). Natural Process decaffeination uses either ethyl acetate (a plant hormone) or carbon dioxide to remove caffeine, while the Swiss Water process uses only water. Only the carbon dioxide or Swiss water methods are allowed in coffee that’s certified organic. If you choose to drink decaffeinated coffee, be sure to choose one that is decaffeinated using one of these latter two methods.
Another option, if you’re simply looking for a lower-caffeine blend, is to choose Arabica beans, which naturally have about half the caffeine content of Robusta beans. 26 Also, keep in mind that even decaffeinated coffee is not caffeine free (a typical cup of decaf may contain 3 to 18 milligrams (mg) of caffeine, compared to between 140 to 300 mg in a regular cup.
This is an important distinction for pregnant women to be aware of. Public health agencies suggest pregnant women limit daily caffeine to 200 mg (or about two cups of coffee a day). However, caffeine can significantly impact the growing fetus. It is able to freely pass through the placenta, and since caffeine does not provide any benefits to your baby, only potential hazards, I strongly recommend pregnant women avoid ALL forms of caffeine.
How to Ruin a Good Cup of Coffee…
If you want to drink coffee for its health benefits, drink your coffee black, without sugar, non-dairy creamer or cream, or flavorings. If you are dousing your cup of coffee in creamer, non-dairy creamer, sugar, and other sweeteners and flavorings, you are missing out on the therapeutic benefits and potentially harming your health.
The natural blend of polyphenol antioxidants are part of what makes coffee so healthy. However, some research suggests that adding dairy to your coffee may interfere with your body's absorption of beneficial chlorogenic acids.27 Meanwhile, if you add sugar to your coffee you’ll spike your insulin levels, which contributes to insulin resistance.
Also, coffee beans are one of the most heavily pesticides-sprayed crops. So, you should select only coffee beans that are certified organic. Remember, you will obliterate any positive effects if you consume coffee that's been doused in pesticides or other chemicals. Whenever possible, purchase sustainable "shade-grown" coffee to help prevent the continued destruction of our tropical rain forests and the birds that inhabit them.
There are many who say shade-grown coffee tastes better as well. In addition, you'll want to purchase whole bean coffee that smells and tastes fresh, not stale; if your coffee does not have a pleasant aroma, it is likely rancid. Grind it yourself to prevent rancidity, as pre-ground coffee may be rancid by the time you get it home. If you use a "drip" coffee maker, be sure to use non-bleached filters. The bright white ones are chlorine-bleached, and some of this chlorine will leach from the filter during the brewing process. Bleached filters are also notoriously full of dangerous disinfection byproducts, such as dioxin.
Finally, while it appears coffee in moderation is beneficial, be careful not to overdo it, as some studies have found adverse effects when about 10 cups a day or more are consumed. When referring to a “cup” of coffee, most research considers it to be five to eight ounces with about 100 mg of caffeine. In contrast, a small cup at many coffee houses starts at 12 ounces while a large cup may hold 20 to 24 ounces. Simply be aware of how much you’re actually consuming.
Is Drinking Tea or Coffee the Smarter Choice?
More Consensus on the Health Benefits of Tea and Coffee
By Dr. Mercola
Herbal therapies are an integral part of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). While there are 5,767 substances defined in the Encyclopedia of Traditional Chinese Medicinal Substances, a typical practitioner may routinely use between 200 and 600.
Most often, the herbs (a combination of one to 13 different plants) are added to water and boiled. The liquid is then separate from the herbs and drunk as a water decoction.
The herbs may also be consumed in powdered form, spray-dried concentrates, pill form, or even “honey pills,” which are “prepared by combining powdered herbs with concentrated decoctions and honey to produce a small herbal pill.”1
It used to be customary for Chinese families to maintain a collection of herbal formulas used to treat various medical problems, life changes (pregnancy, menopause, and old age), or even use for the different seasons.
Some still do maintain such knowledge and use herbal remedies in their daily lives, while in the modern day you can find a TCM practitioner to help determine which herbs are right for you.
7 Flowers Used in Chinese Herbal Medicine
You’ve probably heard of some of the more common herbs used in TCM, such as panax ginseng, licorice, and rhubarb root. However, there are others as well, including flowers you might not expect. For instance, the Epoch Times compiled the 7 flowers that follow, which have been used as part of Chinese medicine for centuries.2
1. Lonicera Flower (Jin Yin Hua)
Also known as honeysuckle flower, this remedy is often used for colds, flu, and sore throats. It was even used in combination with three other herbs as a treatment for swine flu.
Research has shown the flower, in combination with other herbs used to treat acute bronchitis, “had potent pharmacological action” as well as showed antiviral and antibacterial effects.3 It’s also known for its anti-inflammatory actions.4
2. Viola Flower (Zi Hua Di Ding)
Also known as the purple flower earth herb or the Chinese violet, viola flower has anti-inflammatory and antipyretic (fever-reducing) effects. It is often used for clearing heat, releasing toxins, or dissolving masses, and it is an age-old remedy for snake bites (to help reduce both swelling and toxicity).
Viola is traditionally associated with the heart and the liver5 and is also sometimes used for bacterial infections.
3. Pagoda Flower (Huai Hua)
Also known as Sophorae flower, this remedy is used for bleeding disorders, including in the treatment of hemorrhoids and excessive menstrual bleeding.
4. Chrysanthemum Flower (Ju Hua)
This common herbal medicine is useful for treating dry, irritated eyes, high blood pressure, and headaches. Chrysanthemum flowers are often used in combination with honeysuckle to lower high blood pressure and treat arteriosclerosis.6
It’s also said to affect the liver and lungs, and is commonly consumed in tea form. According to the Jade Institute:7
“The benefits of long-term consumption of Chrysanthemum tea have been recognized throughout the history of Chinese medicine. It is said to prevent aging and to be a favorite of Taoists and poets, though the benefits are achieved only with drinking the tea over a long period of time.
In the Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing, it says, ‘taken over a long time it facilitates the qi and blood, lightens the body and prevents aging.’”
5. Safflower (Hong Hua)
Also known as Carthamus, this red flower is typically used to treat menstrual disorders, invigorate circulation, and dissolve clots. It’s also useful for treating heart disease, joint pain, and flat warts.
Safflower was among a group of Chinese herbs found to be potentially beneficial for people with elevated blood triglyceride levels, a risk factor for arteriosclerosis, diabetes, and high blood pressure.8
According to the American Botanical Council (ABC), safflower is among the blood-promoting herbs in Chinese medicine that aid circulation, nourish blood and increase its production, and have anti-thrombotic properties. ABC notes safflower may “support coronary blood flow and reduce myocardial oxygen use, ischemia, and arrhythmia.”9
6. Magnolia Flower (Xin Yin Hua)
If you have nasal congestion or chronic sinusitis, magnolia flower is the herbal remedy for you. An herbal tea containing magnolia flower and other Chinese herbs was found to improve chronic sinusitis when used for six weeks.10
Fermented magnolia flower petal extract has also shown promise as a natural antioxidant and anti-cancer agent.11
7. Lotus Flower (Lian Zi Xin)
The lotus flower is used for treating bleeding disorders, including bloody noses, as well as irritability and fevers. Its seeds, stem, and leaves are also used in TCM.
Elder Flower: Another Traditional Flower Remedy Worth Trying
Elder flowers, the flowers of the elder tree (which also gives us elderberries), are rich in flavonoids, minerals, phenolic compounds, volatile oils, and more. In traditional Greek medicine, elder flowers were used as a diaphoretic (to increase sweating, which is helpful for eradicating a virus from your system).
In Germany, elder flower is commonly used to treat feverish common colds, and in the US and Canada, elder flower may be combined with yarrow flower and peppermint leaf in tea form to relieve colds and flu. According to the American Botanical Council:12
“Its flavonoids and phenolic acids may contribute to the diaphoretic effect. It has demonstrated anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and diuretic actions in in vitro studies. The flavonoids and triterpenes appear to be the main biologically active constituents.
The Commission E [in Germany] approved the internal use of elder flower for colds. The British Herbal Compendium lists its uses for common cold, feverish conditions, and as a diuretic. The German Standard License for elder flower tea calls it a diaphoretic medicine for the treatment of feverish common colds or catarrhal complaints.”
Elder flower has been traditionally used as a tonic to boost immunity. It is also widely known to promote lung and bronchial tract health. If you’re battling a cold or flu, try drinking elder flower tea (combined with yarrow, boneset, linden, peppermint, and ginger, if you like) hot and often to help induce sweating and flush the virus out. Further, as noted by Herb Wisdom:13
“The most common uses [of elder flower] are for colds and flu, sinus infections, and other respiratory disturbances. As a supplement, elderflower also has diuretic and laxative properties and is helpful in relieving occasional constipation.
Elderflower has antibacterial and antiviral properties and may also help alleviate some allergies and boost the functioning of the immune system. Topically, elderflower might help reduce pain and swelling in joints due to some forms of arthritis and is used to stop bleeding.
As an oral rinse, elderflower can be used for its antiseptic properties as a mouthwash and gargle. Elderflower also reduces blood sugar levels, very similar to the way insulin works.”
Lavender: Another Incredibly Useful Herb
Lavender oil is known for its calming and relaxing properties, and has been used for alleviating insomnia, anxiety, depression, restlessness, dental anxiety, and stress. It has also been proven effective for nearly all kinds of ailments, from pain to infections.
Its name actually comes from the Latin lavare, which means "to wash,” and lavender has long been used as a tonic to help cleanse the skin.14 I am particularly fascinated by lavender oil's potential in fighting antifungal-resistant skin and nail infections.
Scientists from the University of Coimbra found that lavender oil is lethal to skin-pathogenic strains known as dermatophytes, as well as various Candida species.15 Lavender oil has a chemically complex structure with over 150 active constituents.16 This oil is rich in esters, which are aromatic molecules with antispasmodic (suppressing spasms and pain), calming, and stimulating properties. The chief botanical constituents of lavender oil are linalyl acetate, linalool (a non-toxic terpene alcohol that has natural germicidal properties), terpinen-4-ol, and camphor.
Other constituents in lavender oil that are responsible for its antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory properties include cis-ocimene, lavandulyl acetate, 1,8-cineole, limonene, and geraniol. Lavender can also be used to:17
- Relieve pain. It can ease sore or tense muscles, joint pain and rheumatism, sprains, backache, and lumbago. Simply massage lavender oil onto the affected area. Lavender oil may also help lessen pain following needle insertion.
- Treat various skin disorders like acne, psoriasis, eczema, and wrinkles. It also helps form scar tissues, which may be essential in healing wounds, cuts, and burns. Lavender can also help soothe insect bites and itchy skin (lavender oil can help ward off mosquitoes and moths. It is actually used as an ingredient in some mosquito repellents).
- Keep your hair healthy. It helps kill lice, lice eggs, and nits. The Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database (NMCB) says that lavender is possibly effective for treating alopecia areata (hair loss), boosting hair growth by up to 44 percent after just seven months of treatment.
- Improve your digestion. This oil helps stimulate the mobility of your intestine and stimulates the production of bile and gastric juices, which may help treat stomach pain, indigestion, flatulence, colic, vomiting, and diarrhea.
- Relieve respiratory disorders. Lavender oil can help alleviate respiratory problems like colds and flu, throat infections, cough, asthma, whooping cough, sinus congestion, bronchitis, tonsillitis, and laryngitis. It can be applied on your neck, chest, or back, or inhaled via steam inhalation or through a vaporizer.
- Stimulates urine production, which helps restore hormonal balance, prevent cystitis (inflammation of the urinary bladder), and relieve cramps and other urinary disorders.
- Improve your blood circulation. It helps lower elevated blood pressure levels and can be used for hypertension.
Do You Want to Use More Medicinal Herbs?
Herbs can help support your health from a very basic level, just as foods do. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, you could walk into a drug store and find hundreds of herbal extracts for sale. Upwards of 90 percent of the population at that time knew how to use the medicinal plants growing in their backyards to treat common illnesses and injuries; they had too, as this was virtually the only "medicine" available.
With the rise of what is now known as conventional allopathic medicine shortly before World War I, herbalism slowly fell out of favor and became to be thought of as folk medicine. Rather than viewing nature as the source of healing, as had been done for centuries, people began to view drugs and other “modern” healing methods as superior. If you would like to start using medicinal plants more often, here are 9 tips to do so. I also recommend browsing through my “Ultimate Guide to Herbal Oils":18
- Learn to identify three medicinal plants you don't already know that grow in your region and learn their uses.
- Add at least one of these herbs to your garden or to pots on your windowsill.
- Make a tincture, tea, syrup, or salve. Or make one of each!
- Harvest and dry mint, lemon balm, calendula, nettles, or any other plant growing in your region.
- Find a plant to sit with quietly each morning for a week; draw the plant.
- Identify one healing skill you would like to have but don't, and find a way to learn it — perhaps by taking an herb or aromatherapy class.
- Make an herbal first aid kit.
- Organize local healers for emergency response in your community.
- With medicinal plants grown in your region, learn how to treat one condition that you and/or someone in your family struggles with.
7 Underrated Medicinal Plants
10 Spices, Herbs That Aid Weight Loss
By Dr. Mercola
This report serves as the foundation for the development of US dietary guidelines.
In a surprise twist, the DGAC not only suggested eliminating warnings about dietary cholesterol, it also reversed nearly four decades of nutrition policy by concluding that dietary fats have no impact on cardiovascular disease risk.
Unfortunately, the DGAC didn’t set the record straight with regards to saturated fats, as it makes no firm distinction between healthy saturated fats and decidedly unhealthy trans fats.
For decades, healthy fat and cholesterol have been wrongfully blamed for causing heart disease, but over 70 published studies overwhelmingly dispute this.4
Trans Fat, Not Saturated Fat, Raises Your Heart Disease Risk
Now we can add yet another large study to this ever-growing list. The meta-analysis5,6,7,8 published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), found no association between high levels of saturated fat in the diet and heart disease.
Nor could they find an association between saturated fat consumption and other life-threatening diseases like stroke or type 2 diabetes.
However, the study DID find a disease link to trans fat consumption. As reported by Newsweek:9
“[C]onsumption of trans unsaturated fats found in everyday supermarket goods such as margarine, processed cakes, and microwave popcorn can increase the risk of death from coronary heart disease (CHD) by 28 percent.”
Trans fats also increased all-cause mortality by 34 percent. This is important because many “experts” frequently confuse trans fat with saturated fat intake.
Moreover, a pooled analysis of 11 studies10,11 showed that replacing saturated fat (found in foods like meat, egg yolks, dairy products, salmon, nuts, avocados, coconut oil, and olive oil) with monounsaturated fat (vegetable cooking oils12), or carbohydrates (sugars and grains) raised the risk of non-fatal heart attacks.
This prompted the authors to comment that dietary guidelines for saturated fats and trans fats “must carefully consider the effect of replacement nutrients.” This too is in line with previous findings.
What Happens When You Replace Saturated Fat with Carbs?
In a 2014 editorial13 published in the Open Heart journal, research scientist and doctor of Pharmacy James J. DiNicolantonio reviewed the cardiometabolic consequences of replacing saturated fats with carbohydrates.
The health consequences are significant, including the following:
Shift to overall atherogenic lipid profile (lower HDL, increased triglycerides, and increased ApoB/ApoA-1 ratio) Increased risk of coronary heart disease, cardiovascular events, and death from heart disease and increased overall mortality (all causes) Increased thrombogenic markers Increased oxidized LDL Increased inflammation Reduced HDL Impaired glucose tolerance, higher body fat, weight gain, obesity, and diabetes Increased small, high-density LDL particles Increased risk for cancer
The Hazards of Replacing Partially Hydrogenated Oils with Vegetable Oils
The issue of what to replace trans fats (partially hydrogenated oils) with is equally important. Ideally, you’ll want to replace them with healthy saturated fats — NOT vegetable oils.
This is discussed in Nina Teicholz’ book, The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat, and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet, and in the interview I did with her last year. Nina is an investigative journalist, and she was actually one of the reporters who broke the story on the dangers of trans fats, a little over 10 years ago.
Now she’s warning us that the vegetable oils many restaurants and food manufacturers are trading the trans fats in for may actually be more harmful than the trans fats! The reason for this is because when heated, they create highly toxic oxidation products, including aldehydes, which are extremely inflammatory.
So what’s the ideal fat to cook with?
Tallow and lard are two great options. Tallow is a hard fat that comes from cows. Lard is a hard fat that comes from pigs. They're both animal fats, and used to be the main fats used in cooking.
One of their benefits is that, since they're saturated fats, they do not oxidize when heated. And saturated fats do not have double bonds that can react with oxygen; therefore they cannot form dangerous aldehydes or other toxic oxidation products. Coconut oil is another healthy option, as it too resists oxidation when heated.
Food Industry Petitions FDA to Make Allowances for Trans Fats in Packaged Foods
The evidence showing trans fats are a major health hazard has prompted the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to remove partially hydrogenated oils — the primary source of trans fats — from the list of "generally recognized as safe" (GRAS) ingredients.
The initial proposal was issued in 2013, and on June 16, 2015, the decision was finalized.14 Food manufacturers have until 2018 to get partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) out of their products.
Despite the evidence of harm, and less than a week after the BMJ study’s publication, the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) petitioned the FDA to permit “small amounts” of trans fats in certain packaged foods.15 Proposed allowance for trans fats in the GMA’s petition include adding PHOs during processing, as an:
Anti-caking agent, free flow agent, and lubricant Emulsifier Solvent for fat-soluble ingredients Textural agent to improve textural characteristics of the food Dough strengthener Moisture retainer Stabilizer Thickener Surface-finishing agent Heating medium, such as frying oil
In its petition, the GMA argues that “low-level uses of PHOs are as safe as the naturally occurring trans fat present in the normal diet.” Incidentally, this is NOT what the BMJ study16 found. In it, they found no observed link between naturally occurring trans fats in foods like meat and dairy and heart disease.17 That link was only found for artificially created trans fats.
According to the authors, this discrepancy “might reflect a true difference between sources or might be a function of consumption levels...” noting that the average consumption of industrially produced trans fats was about 250 percent greater than that of naturally-derived ruminated trans fats. The assertion that low levels of trans fats is safe also flies in the face of a previous determination by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), which as far back as 2002 noted there is "no safe level of trans fatty acids and people should eat as little of them as possible."
Heart Healthy Benefits of Nuts and Olive Oil
In related news, both nuts and olive oil — which are sources of healthy fats — have been shown to promote heart health. As noted by Dr. Michael Greger, MD,18 a number of studies in which subjects added nuts to their diet (without replacing specific foods, which might skew results one way or another), found that nuts significantly improved arterial health. Moreover, while some studies show mixed results in terms of the level of benefit, there’s no evidence that nuts might actually worsen health (provided you’re not allergic).
According to Dr. Greger:
“Eating at least one serving of walnuts per week may drop our chances of a cardiovascular-related death by 50 percent.19 However, walnut consumption may only drop our cholesterol levels about 5 percent. How could we get a 50 percent drop in cardiac mortality from just a 5 percent drop in cholesterol? Walnuts must have some other heart-protecting benefits besides lowering cholesterol.
The ability of blood vessels to relax and open normally is considered an excellent barometer of underlying vascular health... So what effect do nuts have? A 2011 review20 in the journal Nutrition, Metabolism, and Cardiovascular Diseases found five clinical trials analyzing the effect of nut consumption on arterial function, and all three studies on walnuts showed an improvement in endothelial function measured in the arm.”
Other recent research21 again confirms the health benefits of extra virgin olive oil, showing it improves blood sugar and cholesterol after meals to a greater degree than corn oil. As reported by Reuters:22
“Lowering (post-meal) blood glucose and cholesterol may be useful to reduce the negative effects of glucose and cholesterol on the cardiovascular system,’ lead study author Francesco Violi, a researcher at Sapienza University in Rome, said...
On two separate occasions, researchers gave 25 healthy people a typical Mediterranean lunch. For one meal, they added 10 grams (about 2 teaspoons) of extra virgin olive oil, and for the other, they added 10 g of corn oil.
Blood tests done before and two hours after the meals found that blood sugar rose after eating in all the participants, which is normal. But blood sugar rose much less after a meal with olive oil compared to one with corn oil. That’s in line with previous research linking EVOO to elevated levels of insulin, a hormone that helps convert glucose into energy, Violi said.”
Take-Home Message: Unprocessed Saturated Fat Is Good for You
Focusing your diet on REAL FOOD (raw whole, ideally organic, and from pasture raised cows) rather than processed fare is one of the easiest ways to sidestep dietary pitfalls like harmful fats — not to mention other harmful ingredients like refined sugars, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and additives that have never been properly tested for safety. Beyond that, it’s really just a matter of tweaking the ratios of fat, carbs and protein to suit your individual situation.
One key though is to trade refined sugar and processed fructose for healthy fat, as this will help optimize your insulin and leptin levels. We’ve spent decades trading healthy saturated fats for carbs and trans fats, and there can be no doubt that this has had an enormous influence on disease statistics, raising incidence of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s — all the top killers.
Healthy fat is particularly important for optimal brain function and memory. This is true throughout life, but especially during childhood. So, if processed food still make up the bulk of your meals, you’d be wise to reconsider your eating habits. Not only are processed foods the primary culprit in obesity and insulin resistance, processed foods can also affect the IQ of young children. One British study23 revealed that kids who ate a predominantly processed food diet at age three had lower IQ scores at age 8.5. For each measured increase in processed foods, participants had a 1.67-point decrease in IQ.
Another study published in the journal Clinical Pediatrics24,25,26 also warns that frequent fast food consumption may stunt your child’s academic performance. For more detailed dietary guidance, please see my optimal nutrition plan. It’s a step-by-step guide to feeding your family right, and I encourage you to read through it. I’ve also created my own “food pyramid,” based on nutritional science, which you can print out and share.
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By Dr. Mercola
Gazpacho is an authentic Mediterranean dish that originates from the southern Spanish region of Andalusia and is a classic meal staple, especially during hot summer seasons.
Usually served cold, this tomato-based recipe is an instant feast to the eyes with its chockfull of colorful vegetable ingredients. Although there are many varieties of gazpacho soup, depending on the region, the most popular and traditional way to make it involves pounding and pureeing the vegetables using a mortar and pestle to create a smooth consistency and avoid foaming.
But to add a little twist and to make my gazpacho soup recipe chunkier and tastier, I'm going to skip that process and introduce some new ingredients. Check out my Fresh and Chunky Gazpacho recipe:
- 3 cups chopped tomatoes
- 1 cup chopped cucumber, peeled and seeded
- ²∕3 cup finely chopped yellow onion
- ½ cup chopped red bell pepper
- ½ cup chopped yellow bell pepper
- ½ cup chopped celery
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons horseradish
- 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 teaspoons brown rice vinegar
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 2 cups tomato juice
- 1 clove garlic, minced
For the garnish:
- ¼ cup plain yogurt or plain non-fat yogurt
- ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
- ½ avocado, chopped
- In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients, except the items for garnishing.
- Cover and chill at least two hours, or overnight.
- Serve in chilled bowls and top each serving with a dollop of yogurt, two tablespoons of cilantro, and a few avocado pieces.
Fresh and Chunky Gazpacho Preparation Tips
Make your chunky gazpacho soup even more delicious and nutritious with these practical tips:
- Don't use canned tomatoes, as they typically have a lining that contains bisphenol-A (BPA), which is a potent endocrine-disrupting chemical that has been linked to a number of health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, heightened risk of breast and prostate cancers, neurological effects, and reproductive problems.
- Use organic tomatoes. Research shows they contain 55 percent more vitamin C and 139 percent more total phenolic content at the stage of commercial maturity compared to conventionally grown tomatoes.1
- Consume your tomatoes with a healthy fat like coconut oil or olive oil, which is what we used in this recipe, because the lycopene in them is a fat-soluble nutrient.
- Do not refrigerate your tomatoes. If a tomato gets too cold, not only will its flavor be affected but also its texture, color, and ripening potential. Allowing your tomatoes to ripen naturally on your countertop will bring out the best in them in terms of taste and flavor.
- Avoid using aluminum cookware or utensils when cooking tomatoes. This is to prevent the aluminum from leaching into your dish and to prevent your tomatoes from fading, getting bitter, and discoloring your cookware because of their high acid content.
- Add a sprinkle of salt, sugar, or some grated carrot to bring out the flavor in overly acidic tomatoes.2
- Choose organic, fresh, firm, and green cucumbers with no hint of bruising or discoloration. Avoid those that are mushy, shriveled, discolored, or without their skin intact.
- Store cucumbers in a plastic bag or original packaging in the refrigerator for up to one week. Wash and scrub them gently before use.3
- Scrub with a stiff brush and peel off its dark skin before using.4
- Chop or grate horseradish finely to stimulate a stronger flavor.
- When serving horseradish, do not use silver to avoid tarnishing reactions.
- Never vigorously stir, whisk, or beat yogurt. Instead, fold it into your recipes to maintain its rich and creamy consistency. Over-stirring may cause it to break down and thin out. 5
- Do not use aluminum pans when preparing anything with yogurt, as the acid in it will react with the metal.
- Buy non-pasteurized yogurt made from raw milk from grass-fed cows to ensure its probiotic benefits.
Why Is Fresh and Chunky Gazpacho Good for You?
What I like most about this scrumptious gazpacho soup recipe is that its preparation process doesn't involve any form of heating, which could potentially diminish its nutrient content. That's on top of the exciting health benefits from all its fresh and colorful vegetable ingredients.
For example, tomatoes are rich in flavonoids and other phytochemicals that have anti-carcinogenic properties. They're also an excellent source of lutein, zeaxanthin, vitamin C, which is most concentrated in the jelly-like substance that surrounds the seeds, as well as vitamins A, E and B-complex vitamins, potassium, manganese, and phosphorus. Other lesser known phytonutrients found in tomatoes include:
- Flavonols – rutin, kaempferol, and quercetin
- Flavonones – naringenin and chalconaringenin
- Hydroxycinnamic acids – caffeic acid, ferulic acid, and coumaric acid
- Glycosides – esculeoside A
- Fatty acid derivatives – 9-oxo-octadecadienoic acid
Plus, cucumbers are excellent sources of beneficial vitamins and minerals, such as:
- Bone-building manganese
- Heart-healthy potassium and magnesium
- Anti-inflammatory vitamin K
- Infection-fighting vitamin C
- Energy-producing pantothenic acid (vitamin B5)
In addition, recent studies show that cucumbers contain powerful lignans, which are unique polyphenols usually found in crucifers and alliums like cabbage and onions, that bind with estrogen-related bacteria in the digestive tract, contributing to a reduced risk of several cancers, including breast, uterus, ovarian, and prostate cancers. Another cancer-fighting phytonutrient in cucumbers are called cucurbitacins, which are part of a larger group known as triterpenes.
Meanwhile, perhaps due to their intense colors and flavors, bell peppers were also found to be packed with:
Studies by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) showed that the vitamin K (phylloquinone) content in bell peppers, including hot varieties, may affect blood coagulation and may also play a role in protecting against osteoporosis, since patients with reduced bone density show lower levels of this nutrient. Interestingly enough, sautéed peppers contain higher amounts of vitamin K than raw peppers.
Onions, on the other hand, which are one of my most highly recommended vegetables, are abundant in an antioxidant flavonoid called quercetin, which has proven anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, and anti-diabetic functions.
By Dr. Mercola
The health of the soil in which ourbr food is grown is intimately connected to our health, not to mention the environment as a whole.
Ray Archuleta, aka "the Soil Guy," is a soil scientist and conservation agronomist at the United States Department of Agriculture - Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS) at the East National Technology Support Center (ENTSC) in Greensboro, North Carolina.
"I've been working for the government for about 30 years. It was during the last 10 years that I started discovering that we weren't fixing our resource issues.
Our water quality wasn't getting better, and the farmers were going broke. The worst thing about it is I couldn't help them.
Even though I went to eight years of university studies, I realized that I didn't understand how the soil and the ecosystem function. That led to the fact that I couldn't help the producers save their farms," he says.
Once Ray got a job at the East National Technology Service Center, he was finally exposed to the right people with the right paradigm and began learning how a farm connects to and is part of the natural ecosystem.
"I think the majority of our farmers think that the farms are separate from the woods or the prairie. But I started realizing that the soils still want to be treated like those prairies and like those woods.
Simply stated, soil health is the soil's ability to function, to sustain animals, plants, humans, and our climate. The healthier the soil is, the more it functions properly.
If I would use one word to explain soil health, I would say biomimicry: mimicking nature, the biology and the ecology, to make it function.
Keeping the soil covered, having living root, bringing diversity, and integrating animals — those are principles we teach to make soil healthy and functioning."
The Importance of Cover Crops
Gabe Brown was one of the first to introduce me to the concept of "soil armor," basically providing the soil with a shield of protection in the form of mulch or wood chips, or by using a cocktail of cover crops.
Bare soil is a recipe for poor soil health, as it dries up the soil and prevents the soil microbes from thriving. So making sure the soil is covered is a foundational step, no matter what the size of your farm or garden.
"A plant doesn't just cover the soil but it's a biological primer. It's an energy transformer. It feeds the soil microbiology. It's so critical for people to understand that it's not just a cover for protection, but it's a biological primer and energy transformer.
So, the plants are absolutely critical for the soil ecosystem. The ironic thing is that a majority of our producers think that cover crops are optional. They look at them as just something to stop erosion."
The thing is, unless you provide the soil with armor, nature will try to provide it — typically with intensified weed growth! That's why I'm a big fan of mulch, which can cut weeds by nearly 90 percent. It can also cut water needs in half.
My favorite is wood chips as they provide plenty of carbon, are great food for earthworms, radically increase mycorrhizal fungi, and are very inexpensive if not free. But cover crops will do the same thing, and is easier to use on a farm.
"Carbon is the driving cycle," Ray explains. "It drives the phosphorus - and nitrogen cycle. It is the driving force because it is the one that feeds the soil organisms.
And that photosynthetic material leaks into the soil rhizosphere, and it feeds the biology and it drives the soil biology.
So, to me, carbon is the most limiting nutrients in our soils todays because we till it so much, we don't use covers, and we strip all the armor away. Most of our soils are carbon depleted, so carbon is the most critical."
USDA Now Prioritizes Soil Health
Fortunately, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), which is part of the USDA and the major agency that works with private land owners, farmers, and ranchers, has become very committed to understanding and teaching about soil health.
Not only will regenerating our soils lead to improved food production, it also addresses a majority of resource concerns, such as water.
When you add carbon back into the soil, either by adding mulch or cover crops, the carbon feeds mycorrhizal fungi that eventually produce glomalin, which may be even better than humic acid at retaining water, so that you limit your irrigation needs and make your garden or fields more resilient during droughts.
"Our chief, Jason Weller, requires that all of us, every NRCS employee, be taught soil health so it spread through the whole agency. So, it is a priority for NRCS to not only learn soil health and to teach our employees but also to facilitate it at the ground level to our farmers and ranchers. This movement is growing by leaps and bounds... I think modern agriculture is turning the corner," Ray says.
Considering data suggesting we may lose all commercial top soil, globally, in the next 60 years if we keep going at the current rate, such changes cannot move fast enough.
The NRCS website is an excellent resource for anyone interested in learning more about soil health, and farmers wanting to change their system. At present, about 10 percent of US farmers have started incorporating practices to address soil health. Only about two percent have transitioned to full-on regenerative land management, such as that taught by Gabe Brown.
So there's still plenty of room for improvement. But it's certainly a start, and the winds of change are picking up. One incentive for farmers, once they understand the system, is that it can save them quite a bit of money, improving the profitability of their farm.
"It helps wean them off costly chemical fertilizers, helps them reduce the fungicide cost, the insecticide cost. Going to no-till farming with cover crops, integrating animals, and in farming more like nature, they're reducing a lot of their petroleum-based inputs. This is phenomenal. It also saves them work. And they can see how the farm soil is improving, and they get excited about that.
I've had farmers said, 'You know what? Right now, I am excited about farming, and I haven't been excited about farming in years.' Some of them say, 'Now, I have hope.' That's really encouraging. The number one thing I do is get people to look at the soil differently, as a living ecosystem. I think that's the number one thing. If I cannot convince them to do that, they won't do the rest of the practices."
Anyone Can Grow Food
The late Jerry Brunetti discussed Victory Gardens during World War I and II in his last book, The Farm as Ecosystem. The gardens were advertised as a way for patriots to make a difference on the home-front. At that time, the majority of the produce grown in the US was grown right in people's backyards, and I firmly believe we need to revert back to growing our own food.
We don't have to rely on large-scale commercial agriculture and industrial agriculture. And you don't need an entire farm to grow some of your own food. All you need to do is convert some of your decorative landscaping to edibles if you have a front – or backyard. Or you can grow food in containers if you live in an apartment. Community gardens are another option.
"I love the idea of victory gardens," Ray says. "I think one of the most powerful ways to reconnect people back to the land. We're connected very well with our cellphones but we're incredibly disconnected from the natural resource, and I think the victory garden would be a great way to do that and spread that kind of understanding. And it's simple.
I think that's where we have to go because one of my biggest concerns, too, is our farms are too big. A lot of producers don't want to hear that. I'm telling them they're farming too many acres and it's hard to do it right. I tell a lot of young farmers, 'You're better off doing it with the acreage you have. Learn how to do it right. Learn the management skills. Learn the logistics. You're better off than buying and farming another hundred acres.'"
Tips for the Garden Enthusiast
YouTube is a fantastic resource where you can learn a lot, including how to optimize your garden and grow your own food. To start off, search YouTube using the keywords "no-till garden." Tilling your soil is a major mistake, as it destroys valuable soil life and promotes weed growth. When you till, you break up the aggregates, waking up R-strategist bacteria that consume the glomalin, the organo-mineral complexes or organic matter that acts like a glue in the soil and help retain water. So tilling is profoundly counterproductive.
Instead, do what Ray suggests:
"Get some cardboard, lay it on top [of the soil], get your leaves, get a bunch of compost, smother the grass there, and start layering that like a lasagna. When you're ready to plant your tomatoes, you just create a hole right through, pierce the cardboard into the soil beneath, and let it go. That's all you have to. And then every season after you get your vegetables up, plant a cover crop. It's that simple."
Keep in mind you do not want to plant in the composting materials on the top of your cardboard, or directly into the pile of wood chips. You need to drop your plants through all of that material into the soil underneath. The mulch just helps protect your plants and nourish the soil. Another important point: do not mix the wood chips into your soil, as that ties up nitrogen. Simply place the wood chips on top of the soil and leave them; do not bury them.
There are also a number of excellent books available these days. Ray recommends Carrots Love Tomatoes: Companion Planting for a Healthy Garden, which teaches you how to do intercropping of vegetables. Certain vegetables grow better when joined by other plants. The Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SARE) website also has a number of books, including one of cover crops that, along with many others, can be read online for free if you don't want to purchase a paper copy.
Two Ways to Use Cover Crops
There are two ways to use cover crops. One way is to simply plant the cover crop once you've grown and harvested your regular crop. This way the soil is not left bare, and the cover crop basically becomes mulch for the next growing season. The second way is to mix the cover crop in with the regular crops during the growing season — a system called intercropping. Here, you have to make sure the crops go well together.
For example, if you're growing sweet corn, you could use clover, as it does not compete too much with the corn while building the mycorrhizal network. So intercropping requires you to learn which crops support and benefit each other.
"Some producers will grow cowpeas or soybeans next to their corn. Again, it's a legume and the legumes, at the bottom, have these nodules that these rhizobia bacteria nodulate and get nitrogen from the air and they transform it to a soluble form that the plants can utilize," Ray explains. "The legume will build this underground network, and they feed each other, share resources: nutrients, phosphorus, and water. It's just beautiful."
Going Beyond Organic...
From my perspective, one of the best ways to optimize your health is to grow your own food. Not to mention the fact that gardening can help boost your mental well-being, and may help promote a healthier microbiome to boot, if you allow yourself to get a bit dirty.
Once you get started, I think you'll find that little compares to the joy of interacting with nature, watching your garden grow and flourish, knowing that you're going to get nutrient-dense foods that are not only nourishing you and your family but also helpful for the environment.
"I see so much parallelism between the medical institutions and agricultural institutions," Ray says. "There's really no buy-in from the people themselves. In other words, I think we're not going to change dramatically until people start educating themselves and have skin in the game, which leads to soul of the game...
I never thought that one person could make a difference, but they can. I have a lot of organic producers I work with, and I love them dearly. I think we need to take it beyond organic as ecological farming because some of the organic farms – I've been all over the country like in California – some of them have the most degraded soils, and it's not just about organic, it's above organic.
We're teaching people how to farm more like nature does and reduce the tillage. Tillage can be as intrusive as chemical fertilizers and pesticides. So for my brothers and sisters of organic, I think [the key] is to help them and teach them also to reduce tillage, do more mulch tillage, and use more of the cover [crops]... Organic means they're not using chemicals, which is fine. But [healthy soil] is about much more than that."
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