Monthly Archives: March 2012

Are Supplements Necessary? An original article by a FoodFacts.com nutritionist.

Are Supplements Necessary?

 

It seems that when science talks about the health benefits of foods, they often break
them down to their individual chemical components.  This process has been very helpful in
discovering nutrients that are both beneficial and detrimental to our health
(i.e. antioxidants and trans fats). However, when it comes to the positive
health effects fruits and vegetables have (such as anticancer properties),
research seems to look at single nutrients, which has helped to drive the nutraceutical
business. However, this blog article is going to focus on the known nutrients
that fruits and vegetables naturally contain and how they might work together
to help our bodies.

What do we find naturally occurring in fruits and vegetables and how do they play a role in our health? Vitamins, minerals,
fiber and phytonutrients are found in whole fruits and vegetables. There has been research showing that each of these may have antioxidant, antimicrobial, cardioprotective and/or anticarcinogenic properties.

Vitamins and Minerals:
Fruits and vegetables naturally contain Vitamins A, C, E, K and B vitamins such
as Niacin, Riboflavin, Folate, and B6. Minerals that we can find include iron,
potassium, calcium, magnesium and molybdenum. These vitamins and minerals help
to promote and maintain regular bodily functions, where each nutrient has a
unique role or some might work together towards a common goal. Many of the B
vitamins function as coenzymes (molecules which help enzymes carry out their
functions), are required to help our bodies get energy from proteins, fats,
carbohydrates and alcohol. Vitamin B6 is used in protein metabolism; folate and
B12 function together to ensure normal cell division. Vitamin K is required for
blood clotting, Vitamin C plays an essential role is synthesizing proteins for
connective tissue, neurotransmitters and hormones. Vitamins A, C and E act as
antioxidants to protect against oxidative damage to our cells. Vitamins A and D
along with calcium, phosphorus and magnesium, play an important role in
building and repairing our bones. This is just a very short list of the
functions vitamins and minerals have, not only in regulatory bodily functions, but
also in prevention of damage due to oxidation (which include cancers and heart
disease).

 

Fiber:  We could write whole books on the benefits of fiber and the mechanisms by which they do their work, but we’ll try to make
this short and sweet.  Fiber is a carbohydrate that human enzymes cannot digest. Fiber can help us lower our cholesterol, maintain blood sugar, relieve constipation and help us stay fuller, longer. Foods that are high in fiber are also nutrient dense and lower in calories. Fiber helps lower cholesterol by binding to bile and carrying it out of our bodies, our liver then uses cholesterol to create more bile. It helps us feel fuller, longer because it takes long to digest. Furthermore, since our bodies cannot digest fiber, it does not raise blood glucose and insulin levels. Fiber can help relieve constipation by adding bulk to stool and helping it move through our intestines.

 

Phytonutrients:  There have been about 8,000 phytonutrients discovered in fruits and vegetables and while we may not be completely sure of their benefits, there have been research showing that people, who consume more than 4 servings of fruits and vegetables that are high in nutrients such as flavonoids, lessened their risk of cardiovascular disease. In certain in vitro (test tube) and in vivo (living organism) trials, flavonoids have shown promising results as anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anticarcinogenic agents. They help our cell processes, including growth and death. This could help prevent cancer by helping our bodies destroy damaged/cancerous cells, which do not respond to signals from our bodies telling them to stop duplicating.

You could find each of these nutrients in supplement form (either in pills or powders), but do they have the same benefit as whole foods? They are the same nutrients, so why not? According to an article published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, supplements do not have the same effects as nutrients found in whole foods. “The isolated pure compound either loses its bioactivity or may
not behave the same way as the compound in whole foods.” It also mentions “in a human study, involving 30 healthy individuals whose diets were supplemented with 500 mg vitamin C showed an increase of oxidative damage in the DNA
isolated from lymphocytes.” Suggesting that it is not a good idea to take high dose supplements of Vitamin C. Another reason to choose foods over supplements are that supplements are not regulated by any government agency and some comes
with added sugars and other fillers.

For most people, taking supplements may be unnecessary and we can, instead, eat fresh, whole foods. Perhaps the next time we read emerging research on the benefits of nutrients that are found in fruits and vegetables, it will reaffirm our decision to choose a diet which includes a variety of whole foods, rather than encouraging us to go out and purchase a variety of supplements.

 

If you’re curious about the amount of flavonoids found in your favorite foods, visit here: http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp/Data/Flav/flav.html

Or for a much more simplified version, visit here: http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/phytochemicals/flavonoids/flavtab2.html
and here: http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/phytochemicals/flavonoids/flavtab2.html

 

http://carcin.oxfordjournals.org/content/27/5/989.full.pdf

 

http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/phytochemicals/flavonoids/index.html#intro

 

http://www.ajcn.org/content/78/3/517S.long

 

Smolin, Lori A., and Mary B. Grosvenor. Nutrition: science and applications. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2007. Print.

 

Cinnamon, making a healthier diet … nutritional information from FoodFacts.com

Cinnamon, a common spice found in most pantries has benefits that we at FoodFacts.com understand go beyond giving food a distinctive flavor and aroma. Cinnamon may be beneficial to health – possibly helping to lower blood glucose and blood lipids and increase insulin sensitivity. Cinnamon extracts can also be used as a natural pesticide, as well as a natural antimicrobial, making it an effective preservative. Nutritionally, cinnamon is a good source of calcium, manganese, iron and dietary fiber. With so many benefits to cinnamon, why not add it as part of a healthy diet?

Some studies show that cinnamon can aid in lower blood sugar and blood lipids, as well as increase insulin sensitivity – which is great news for people with metabolic syndrome and/or type 2 diabetes. In one animal study, rats were fed a high fat, high fructose diet, to stimulate metabolic syndrome. The rats experienced abnormal fat accumulation and reduced pancreatic weight, which was alleviated with the addition of cinnamon. An extract of cinnamon was also shown to regulate genes critical to the uptake of glucose and the function of insulin in isolated fat cells.

In studies using human subjects, cinnamon’s effects on gastric emptying and blood glucose were tested. The study showed that adding 6 grams of cinnamon (a little more than 2 teaspoons ) helped to delay gastric emptying, possibly resulting in lower blood glucose. However, one meta analysis study of cinnamon’s effects for blood glucose, blood lipids, and A1C did not show significant results, so more research in this area is needed.

Cinnamon extracts are also used as natural pesticides, insecticides, fungicides as well as cat and dog repellants. A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry shows that a cinnamon extract is effective insecticide for mosquito larva.

Cinnamon also acts as a powerful antimicrobial. One study shows it was effective against some bacteria (Pseudomonas fluorescens and Serratia liquefaciens, Brochothrix thermosphacta, Carnobacterium piscicola, Lactobacillus curvatus, and Lactobacillus sake) In fact, cinnamon is also comparable to chemical preservatives such as BHA, BHT and propyl gallate in preventing oxidative damage, keeping food from spoiling.

The next time you are unsure which spice to pick from the spice rack, may we suggest cinnamon? It’s health benefits alone are a good enough reason to use the spice, but it will also add a wonderful scent and flavor to your food.
http://www.ars.usda.gov/SP2UserFiles/Place/12354500/Data/SR24/reports/sr24fg02.pdf (pg 53)
http://www.ars.usda.gov/research/projects/projects.htm?ACCN_NO=415229&showpars=true&fy=2011
http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=68
http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/31/1/41.full
http://www.pesticideinfo.org/Detail_Chemical.jsp?Rec_Id=PC33596
http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf0497152?prevSearch=cinnamaldehyde%2Bmosquito&searchHistoryKey=

Chemicals in our environment and our bodies … healthy lifestyle information from FoodFacts.com

FoodFacts.com understands that people don’t want manmade chemicals in their bodies; we definitely don’t. To avoid unwanted chemicals (such as pesticides and heavy metals) in our bodies, we wash our fruits and vegetables to rid them of pesticides and avoid taking huge bites of lead (maybe only little ones). However, a report published by the CDC titled Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals shows the level of chemicals people have in their bodies. The latest report has 75 chemicals listed; some which may be surprising.

The Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals report measures the amount of chemicals in blood and urine from a sample group of people and over a number of years. They state that the chemicals they tested for may have found their way into the human body through air, dust, soil, water and food. It also shows if a population has more/less of a certain chemical in their system. For example, their toxicology report states “In the past 15 years, data show that blood cotinine levels for nonsmokers in the US population have decreased about 70%, indicating that public health interventions to reduce ETS exposure have been successful.” The same report also says bisphenol A (BPA), which is linked to reproductive toxicity, has been found 90% of the samples tested. Furthermore, the report states, “the measurement of an environmental chemical in a persons blood or urine does not by itself mean that the chemical causes disease.” While there might be traces of chemicals found in our system, which may or may not be causing harm, do we want them there at all?

For example, one of the herbacides, 2,4- D, was found in concentrations of 12.6 micrograms/L in samples in the 95th percentile. Pesticideinfo.org lists this chemical having moderate toxicity, a possible carcinogen and a suspected endocrine disrupter. Another chemical listed 1,4 dichlorobenzene (urinary 2,5 Dichlorophenol) was found in amounts of 473 micrograms/liter in samples in the 95th percentile. 1,4 dichlorobenzene is listed as a known carcinogen in California. So what can we do about this?

On the plus side, however, our bodies are amazing machines that can filter out chemicals that aren’t supposed to be there. Our bodies rid toxins from our system through waste elimination (feces/urine), but there are multiple organ systems at work – like our livers, kidneys, lungs as well as our colon (plus other systems, like our immune system). For those of us that want to keep chemicals in our bodies low, we can keep our organs running efficiently by taking a few simple measures.

Drinking plenty of (filtered) water to help our kidneys flush away toxins, keep caffeine, alcohol and processed foods to a minimum – the less your liver has to do, the better. Sweating also helps remove a trace amount of chemicals, so we can go ahead and add another benefit to exercising. Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables for their vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, antioxidants and fiber, which will help our immune system and keep a healthy colon. Remember to thoroughly wash your fruits and vegetables and/or buy organic when/if possible.

Taking these simple precautions may not only reduce your exposure to chemicals, but also add to an overall healthy lifestyle.

http://www.pesticideinfo.org/Search_Chemicals.jsp
http://www.cdc.gov/exposurereport/