By James Gallagher Health and science correspondent, BBC News
4 April 2019
The food we eat is putting 11 million of us into an early grave each year, an influential study shows.
The analysis, in the Lancet, found that our daily diet is a bigger killer than smoking and is now involved in one in five deaths around the world.
Salt - whether in bread, soy sauce or processed meals - shortened the highest number of lives.
Researchers say this study is not about obesity, but "poor quality" diets damaging hearts and causing cancer.
So which diets have got it in for me?
The Global Burden of Disease Study is the most authoritative assessment of how people are dying in every country in the world.
The latest analysis used estimates of countries' eating habits to pin down how often diet was shortening lives.
The dangerous diets were those containing:
- Too much salt - three million deaths
- Too few whole grains - three million deaths
- Too little fruit - two million deaths
Low levels of nuts, seeds, vegetables, omega-3 from seafood and fibre were the other major killers.
"We find that diet is one of the dominant drivers of health around the world, it's really quite profound," Prof Christopher Murray, the director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington told the BBC.
How is this killing people?
About 10 million out of the 11 million diet-related deaths were because of cardiovascular disease and that explains why salt is such a problem.
Too much salt raises blood pressure and that in turn raises the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Salt can also have a direct effect on the heart and blood vessels, leading to heart failure when the organ does not work effectively.
Whole grains, fruit and vegetables have the opposite effect - they are "cardioprotective" and lower the risk of heart problems.
Cancers and type 2 diabetes made up the rest of the diet-related deaths.
How far is the world off a perfect diet?
No country is perfect and each favours some part of a healthy diet more than others, but this is how far the world is from an optimal diet.
Nuts and seeds again?
The healthy foods missing from the most diets around the world were nuts and seeds, according to the study.
Eager readers will have noticed they featured heavily in the planetary health diet, unveiled in January, to save lives, save the planet and feed 10 billion people.
So why don't we munch them?
Prof Nita Forouhi, from the University of Cambridge, said: "The perception is they are little packs of energy that will make you fat, whereas they are packed full of good fats.
"And most people don't see them as mainstream food; and the other issue is cost."
I thought meat and sugar were the bad guys?
The huge fat versus sugar debate and the link between red and processed meats with cancer have attracted huge headlines in recent years.
"These can be harmful as we show, but they are much smaller issues than low whole grains, fruit, nuts, seeds and vegetable intake," said Prof Murray.
Although, the study did show too many fizzy drinks were being drunk in every corner of the world.
The researchers say it is time for health campaigns to switch from talking about nutrients like fat and sugar and instead promote healthy foods.
But is a tasty unhealthy diet worth it?
Bad diets are knocking a couple of years off life expectancies around the world, according to the researchers.
But Prof Murray warns this is just the average and says the real question we should be asking is: "Am I going to die in my 50s from a heart attack? Or am I going to have some of the diet-related cancers in my 40s?"
Are any countries doing well?
Mediterranean countries, particularly France, Spain and Israel, have some of the lowest numbers of diet-related deaths in the world.
Countries in South East, Southern and Central Asia are at the opposite end of the spectrum.
- Israel has the lowest diet-related deaths - 89 per 100,000 people a year
- Uzbekistan has the highest diet-related deaths - 892 per 100,000 people a year
Japan and China have curiously contrasting fortunes that reflect their changing relationship with salt.
China consumes enormous amounts of salt with soy and other salty sauces being a key part of the country's cuisine.
But the rising popularity of processed foods is introducing yet more salt to their diet. It has the highest death rate because of salt of any country.
Prof Murray said: "Japan is very interesting because if you go back 30 to 40 years, they like China today had enormous salt intake.
"Salt is still their number one problem, but it has come down dramatically,
"And they have a diet that is higher in many of the things we think are protective for heart disease such as vegetables and fruit."
What about the UK?
The UK is behind countries like France, Denmark and Belgium.
The biggest problems are a lack of whole grains, fruit, vegetables and nuts and seeds.
The study estimates 14% of UK deaths are related to diet, with 127 diet-related deaths per 100,000 people a year.
Prof Murray said: "Diet quality matters no matter what weight you are.
"The really big story for people to act on is increase your whole grains, fruit, nuts, seeds and vegetable intake and reduce salt if you can."
But money is an issue.
It is estimated that having your five fruit and veg a day would take up 52% of household income in poorer countries.
But Prof Forouhi warns: "The public can make healthier choices if informed and have the resources, but if what is on the shelves as buy-one-get-one-free is always unhealthy, then that message will fall down.
"Cheaper options that are healthy are badly needed."
Both agreed there needed to be a shift from focusing on nutrients (fat/sugar/salt) and on to which actual foods people should eat.
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Can exercise reverse the ageing process?
By Stephen Harridge & Norman LazarusKing's College London
20 March 2019 by BBC
Irene Obera (l), Emma Maria Mazzenga and Constance Marmour compete at the World Masters Athletics Championships in 2015
While many in their 80s and 90s may be starting to take it easy, 85-year-old track star Irene Obera is at the other end of the spectrum.
Setting multiple world athletics records in her age category, she is one of a growing band of "master athletes" who represent the extreme end of what is physically possible later in life.
Another is John Starbrook, who at 87 became the oldest runner to complete the 2018 London Marathon.
Studies suggest regular exercise is more effective than any drug yet invented to prevent conditions facing older people, such as muscle loss.
To reap the full benefits, this pattern of behaviour should be laid down in a person's teens and early 20s.
What can we learn from elderly athletes?
Studying master athletes - sportspeople aged 35 and over - gives us an idea of what is physically possible as we age.
Analysing the world record performance times of each age group unsurprisingly reveals that physical ability does ultimately diminish, the older you get - but doesn't fall off rapidly until after the age of 70.
It is reasonable to assume these top athletes have a healthy lifestyle in general; as well as exercising, they follow a balanced diet and don't smoke or drink heavily.
So their results can help us determine how much of this decline is due to the ageing process itself.
Can exercise reverse the ageing process?
The greater health of older exercisers compared to their sedentary counterparts can lead people to believe physical activity can reverse or slow down the ageing process.
But the reality is that these active older people are exactly as they should be.
In our distant past we were hunter-gatherers, and our bodies are designed to be physically active.
So, if an active 80-year-old has a similar physiology to an inactive 50-year-old, it is the younger person who appears older than they should be, not the other way around.
Kazuyoshi Miura, 52, is the world's oldest professional footballer
We often confuse the effects of inactivity with the ageing process itself, and believe certain diseases are purely the result of getting older.
Actually, our modern sedentary lifestyles have simply speeded up our underlying age-related decline. This contributes to the onset of diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Many of us are simply not active enough. In England fewer than half of 16-24 year olds meet the recommendation for aerobic and muscle strengthening exercises; for 65-74 year-olds, it falls to fewer than one in 10.
Quality of life
Not only does exercise help prevent the onset of many diseases, it can also help to cure or alleviate others, improving our quality of life.
Recent studies of recreational cyclists aged 55-79 suggest they have the capacity to do everyday tasks very easily and efficiently because nearly all parts of their body are in remarkably good condition.
The cyclists also scored highly on tests measuring mental agility, mental health and quality of life.
Professor Stephen Harridge (l) and Professor Norman Lazarus, who is aged 82 and has the immune system of a 20-year-old
The younger you start exercising the better.
Analysis of American adults aged 50-71 found those who had exercised between two and eight hours a week from their teens through to their 60s, had a 29-36% lower chance of dying from any cause over the 20-year study period.
The study suggests active young people should keep their activity levels up, but also that those aged 40 and above may be able to become more physically active and reap similar benefits.
In today's world we have largely been able to get away with problems related to our inactivity, by leaning on the crutch of modern medicine for support.
But while our average life expectancy has increased quite rapidly, our "healthspan" - the period of life we can enjoy free from disease - has not.
Many benefiting from projected life expectancy increases by 2035 will spend their extra years with four diseases or more, according to a study in England.
Martina Navratilova won the mixed doubles at Wimbledon in 2003 at the age of 46
While pharmaceuticals are improving all the time, exercise can do things that medicine cannot.
For example, there is currently no drug available that can protect against loss of muscle mass and strength, the biggest factor in our loss of physical function.
Being more active is not only better for an individual, it is also vital for the functioning of our wider society as it ages.
In 2018, almost one in five Britons were over 65, while one in 40 were over 85.
The number of people aged 65 and over is projected to rise by more than 40% in the next 16 years.
The average 85-year-old costs the NHS more than five times as much as a 30-year-old, analysis suggests.
More stories like this
What can you do?
Most people should not be aiming to become a world-beating athlete in their advanced years; they don't need to be to reach optimal health.
Instead, incorporating small regular bouts of physical activity - brisk walking or ballroom dancing - into your routine is the key.
Physical activity is one of the cornerstones of a healthy life. Even if you can't be a competitive athlete, starting to regularly exercise in your 20s and 30s is likely to pay off later on.
And if you're past that point, just gently becoming active will do a huge amount of good.
About this piece
This analysis piece was commissioned by the BBC from experts working for an outside organisation.
Stephen Harridge is professor of Human & Applied Physiology at King's College London.
Norman Lazarus is Emeritus professor at King's College London and is a master cyclist in his 80s.
Edited by Eleanor Lawrie
Meditation can wipe away the day's stress, bringing with it inner peace. See how you can easily learn to practice meditation whenever you need it most.
By Mayo Clinic Staff
If stress has you anxious, tense and worried, consider trying meditation. Spending even a few minutes in meditation can restore your calm and inner peace.
Anyone can practice meditation. It's simple and inexpensive, and it doesn't require any special equipment.
And you can practice meditation wherever you are — whether you're out for a walk, riding the bus, waiting at the doctor's office or even in the middle of a difficult business meeting.
Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years. Meditation originally was meant to help deepen understanding of the sacred and mystical forces of life. These days, meditation is commonly used for relaxation and stress reduction.
Meditation is considered a type of mind-body complementary medicine. Meditation can produce a deep state of relaxation and a tranquil mind.
During meditation, you focus your attention and eliminate the stream of jumbled thoughts that may be crowding your mind and causing stress. This process may result in enhanced physical and emotional well-being.
Benefits of meditation
Meditation can give you a sense of calm, peace and balance that can benefit both your emotional well-being and your overall health.
And these benefits don't end when your meditation session ends. Meditation can help carry you more calmly through your day and may help you manage symptoms of certain medical conditions.
Meditation and emotional well-being
When you meditate, you may clear away the information overload that builds up every day and contributes to your stress.
The emotional benefits of meditation can include:
- Gaining a new perspective on stressful situations
- Building skills to manage your stress
- Increasing self-awareness
- Focusing on the present
- Reducing negative emotions
- Increasing imagination and creativity
- Increasing patience and tolerance
Meditation and illness
Meditation might also be useful if you have a medical condition, especially one that may be worsened by stress.
While a growing body of scientific research supports the health benefits of meditation, some researchers believe it's not yet possible to draw conclusions about the possible benefits of meditation.
With that in mind, some research suggests that meditation may help people manage symptoms of conditions such as:
- Chronic pain
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Sleep problems
- Tension headaches
Be sure to talk to your health care provider about the pros and cons of using meditation if you have any of these conditions or other health problems. In some cases, meditation can worsen symptoms associated with certain mental and physical health conditions.
Meditation isn't a replacement for traditional medical treatment. But it may be a useful addition to your other treatment.
Types of meditation
Meditation is an umbrella term for the many ways to a relaxed state of being. There are many types of meditation and relaxation techniques that have meditation components. All share the same goal of achieving inner peace.
Ways to meditate can include:
Guided meditation.Sometimes called guided imagery or visualization, with this method of meditation you form mental images of places or situations you find relaxing.
You try to use as many senses as possible, such as smells, sights, sounds and textures. You may be led through this process by a guide or teacher.
Mantra meditation.In this type of meditation, you silently repeat a calming word, thought or phrase to prevent distracting thoughts.
Mindfulness meditation.This type of meditation is based on being mindful, or having an increased awareness and acceptance of living in the present moment.
In mindfulness meditation, you broaden your conscious awareness. You focus on what you experience during meditation, such as the flow of your breath. You can observe your thoughts and emotions, but let them pass without judgment.
Qi gong.This practice generally combines meditation, relaxation, physical movement and breathing exercises to restore and maintain balance. Qi gong (CHEE-gung) is part of traditional Chinese medicine.
Tai chi.This is a form of gentle Chinese martial arts. In tai chi (TIE-CHEE), you perform a self-paced series of postures or movements in a slow, graceful manner while practicing deep breathing.
Transcendental Meditation®.Transcendental Meditation is a simple, natural technique. In Transcendental Meditation, you silently repeat a personally assigned mantra, such as a word, sound or phrase, in a specific way.
This form of meditation may allow your body to settle into a state of profound rest and relaxation and your mind to achieve a state of inner peace, without needing to use concentration or effort.
You perform a series of postures and controlled breathing exercises to promote a more flexible body and a calm mind. As you move through poses that require balance and concentration, you're encouraged to focus less on your busy day and more on the moment.
Elements of meditation
Different types of meditation may include different features to help you meditate. These may vary depending on whose guidance you follow or who's teaching a class. Some of the most common features in meditation include:
Focused attention.Focusing your attention is generally one of the most important elements of meditation.
Focusing your attention is what helps free your mind from the many distractions that cause stress and worry. You can focus your attention on such things as a specific object, an image, a mantra, or even your breathing.
Relaxed breathing.This technique involves deep, even-paced breathing using the diaphragm muscle to expand your lungs. The purpose is to slow your breathing, take in more oxygen, and reduce the use of shoulder, neck and upper chest muscles while breathing so that you breathe more efficiently.
A quiet setting.If you're a beginner, practicing meditation may be easier if you're in a quiet spot with few distractions, including no television, radios or cellphones.
As you get more skilled at meditation, you may be able to do it anywhere, especially in high-stress situations where you benefit the most from meditation, such as a traffic jam, a stressful work meeting or a long line at the grocery store.
A comfortable position.You can practice meditation whether you're sitting, lying down, walking, or in other positions or activities. Just try to be comfortable so that you can get the most out of your meditation. Aim to keep good posture during meditation.
Open attitude.Let thoughts pass through your mind without judgment.
Everyday ways to practice meditation
Don't let the thought of meditating the "right" way add to your stress. If you choose to, you can attend special meditation centers or group classes led by trained instructors. But you can also practice meditation easily on your own.
And you can make meditation as formal or informal as you like, however it suits your lifestyle and situation. Some people build meditation into their daily routine. For example, they may start and end each day with an hour of meditation. But all you really need is a few minutes of quality time for meditation.
Here are some ways you can practice meditation on your own, whenever you choose:
Breathe deeply.This technique is good for beginners because breathing is a natural function.
Focus all your attention on your breathing. Concentrate on feeling and listening as you inhale and exhale through your nostrils. Breathe deeply and slowly. When your attention wanders, gently return your focus to your breathing.
Scan your body.When using this technique, focus attention on different parts of your body. Become aware of your body's various sensations, whether that's pain, tension, warmth or relaxation.
Combine body scanning with breathing exercises and imagine breathing heat or relaxation into and out of different parts of your body.
Repeat a mantra.You can create your own mantra, whether it's religious or secular. Examples of religious mantras include the Jesus Prayer in the Christian tradition, the holy name of God in Judaism, or the om mantra of Hinduism, Buddhism and other Eastern religions.
Walk and meditate.Combining a walk with meditation is an efficient and healthy way to relax. You can use this technique anywhere you're walking, such as in a tranquil forest, on a city sidewalk or at the mall.
When you use this method, slow down your walking pace so that you can focus on each movement of your legs or feet. Don't focus on a particular destination. Concentrate on your legs and feet, repeating action words in your mind such as "lifting," "moving" and "placing" as you lift each foot, move your leg forward and place your foot on the ground.
Engage in prayer.Prayer is the best known and most widely practiced example of meditation. Spoken and written prayers are found in most faith traditions.
You can pray using your own words or read prayers written by others. Check the self-help section of your local bookstore for examples. Talk with your rabbi, priest, pastor or other spiritual leader about possible resources.
Read and reflect.Many people report that they benefit from reading poems or sacred texts, and taking a few moments to quietly reflect on their meaning.
You can also listen to sacred music, spoken words, or any music you find relaxing or inspiring. You may want to write your reflections in a journal or discuss them with a friend or spiritual leader.
Focus your love and gratitude.In this type of meditation, you focus your attention on a sacred image or being, weaving feelings of love, compassion and gratitude into your thoughts. You can also close your eyes and use your imagination or gaze at representations of the image.
Building your meditation skills
Don't judge your meditation skills, which may only increase your stress. Meditation takes practice.
Keep in mind, for instance, that it's common for your mind to wander during meditation, no matter how long you've been practicing meditation. If you're meditating to calm your mind and your attention wanders, slowly return to the object, sensation or movement you're focusing on.
Experiment, and you'll likely find out what types of meditation work best for you and what you enjoy doing. Adapt meditation to your needs at the moment. Remember, there's no right way or wrong way to meditate. What matters is that meditation helps you reduce your stress and feel better overall.
Vegan diets are known to help people lose weight.
However, they also offer an array of additional health benefits.
For starters, a vegan diet may help you maintain a healthy heart.
What's more, this diet may offer some protection against type 2 diabetes and certain cancers.
Here are 6 science-based benefits of vegan diets.
- A Vegan Diet Is Richer in Certain Nutrients
If you switch to a vegan diet from a typical Western diet, you'll eliminate meat and animal products.
This will inevitably lead you to rely more heavily on other foods. In the case of a whole-foods vegan diet, replacements take the form of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, peas, nuts and seeds.
Since these foods make up a larger proportion of a vegan diet than a typical Western diet, they can contribute to a higher daily intake of certain beneficial nutrients.
For instance, several studies have reported that vegan diets tend to provide more fiber, antioxidants and beneficial plant compounds. They also appear to be richer in potassium, magnesium, folate and vitamins A, C and E (1, 2, 3, 4).
However, not all vegan diets are created equal.
For instance, poorly planned vegan diets may provide insufficient amounts of essential fatty acids, vitamin B12, iron, calcium, iodine or zinc (5).
That's why it's important to stay away from nutrient-poor, fast-food vegan options. Instead, base your diet around nutrient-rich whole plants and fortified foods. You may also want to consider supplements like vitamin B12.
BOTTOM LINE:Whole-food vegan diets are generally higher in certain nutrients. However, make sure you get all the nutrients your body needs.
- It Can Help You Lose Excess Weight
An increasing number of people are turning to plant-based diets in the hope of shedding excess weight.
This is perhaps for good reason.
Many observational studies show that vegans tend to be thinner and have lower body mass indexes (BMIs) than non-vegans (6, 7).
In addition, several randomized controlled studies — the gold standard in scientific research — report that vegan diets are more effective for weight loss than the diets they are compared to (8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16).
In one study, a vegan diet helped participants lose 9.3 lbs (4.2 kg) more than a control diet over an 18-week study period (9).
Interestingly, participants on the vegan diet lost more weight than those who followed calorie-restricted diets, even when the vegan groups were allowed to eat until they felt full (10, 11).
What's more, a recent small study comparing the weight loss effects of five different diets concluded that vegetarian and vegan diets were just as well-accepted as semi-vegetarian and standard Western diets (17).
Even when they weren't following their diets perfectly, the vegetarian and vegan groups still lost slightly more weight than those on a standard Western diet.
BOTTOM LINE:Vegan diets have a natural tendency to reduce your calorie intake. This makes them effective at promoting weight loss without the need to actively focus on cutting calories.
- It Appears to Lower Blood Sugar Levels and Improve Kidney Function
Going vegan may also have benefits for type 2 diabetes and declining kidney function.
Indeed, vegans tend to have lower blood sugar levels, higher insulin sensitivity and up to a 50–78% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes (7, 18, 19, 20, 21).
Studies even report that vegan diets lower blood sugar levels in diabetics more than the diets from the American Diabetes Association (ADA), American Heart Association (AHA) and National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) (10, 12, 13, 22).
In one study, 43% of participants following a vegan diet were able to reduce their dosage of blood-sugar-lowering medication, compared to only 26% in the group that followed an ADA-recommended diet (22).
Other studies report that diabetics who substitute meat for plant protein may reduce their risk of poor kidney function (23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28).
What's more, several studies report that a vegan diet may be able to provide complete relief of systemic distal polyneuropathy symptoms — a condition in diabetics that causes sharp, burning pain (29, 30).
BOTTOM LINE:Vegan diets may reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. They are also particularly effective at reducing blood sugar levels and may help prevent further medical issues from developing.
- A Vegan Diet May Protect Against Certain Cancers
According to the World Health Organization, about one-third of all cancers can be prevented by factors within your control, including diet.
For instance, eating legumes regularly may reduce your risk of colorectal cancer by about 9–18% (31).
Research also suggests that eating at least seven portions of fresh fruits and vegetables per day may lower your risk of dying from cancer by up to 15% (32).
Vegans generally eat considerably more legumes, fruit and vegetables than non-vegans. This may explain why a recent review of 96 studies found that vegans may benefit from a 15% lower risk of developing or dying from cancer (7).
What's more, vegan diets generally contain more soy products, which may offer some protection against breast cancer (33, 34, 35).
Avoiding certain animal products may also help reduce the risk of prostate, breast and colon cancers.
That may be because vegan diets are devoid of smoked or processed meats and meats cooked at high temperatures, which are thought to promote certain types of cancers (36, 37, 38, 39). Vegans also avoid dairy products, which some studies show may slightly increase the risk of prostate cancer (40).
On the other hand, there is also evidence that dairy may help reduce the risk of other cancers, such as colorectal cancer. Therefore, it's likely that avoiding dairy is not the factor that lowers vegans' overall risk of cancer (41).
It's important to note that these studies are observational in nature. They make it impossible to pinpoint the exact reason why vegans have a lower risk of cancer.
However, until researchers know more, it seems wise to focus on increasing the amount of fresh fruits, vegetables and legumes you eat each day while limiting your consumption of processed, smoked and overcooked meat.
BOTTOM LINE:Certain aspects of the vegan diet may offer protection against prostate, breast and colon cancers.
- It's Linked to a Lower Risk of Heart Disease
Eating fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes and fiber is linked to a lower risk of heart disease (32, 42, 43, 44, 45).
All of these are generally eaten in large amounts in well-planned vegan diets.
Observational studies comparing vegans to vegetarians and the general population report that vegans may benefit from up to a 75% lower risk of developing high blood pressure (20).
Vegans may also have up to a 42% lower risk of dying from heart disease (20).
What's more, several randomized controlled studies report that vegan diets are much more effective at reducing blood sugar, LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol levels than the diets they are compared to (7, 9, 10, 12, 46).
This may be particularly beneficial to heart health since reducing high blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels may reduce the risk of heart disease by as much as 46% (47).
Compared to the general population, vegans also tend to consume more whole grains and nuts, both of which are good for your heart (48, 49).
BOTTOM LINE:Vegan diets may benefit heart health by significantly reducing the risk factors that contribute to heart disease.
- A Vegan Diet Can Reduce Pain from Arthritis
A few studies have reported that a vegan diet has positive effects in people with different types of arthritis.
One study randomly assigned 40 arthritic participants to either continue eating their omnivorous diet or switch to a whole-food, plant-based vegan diet for 6 weeks.
Those on the vegan diet reported higher energy levels and better general functioning than those who didn't change their diet (50).
Two other studies investigated the effects of a probiotic-rich, raw food vegan diet on symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
Both reported that participants in the vegan group experienced a greater improvement in symptoms such as pain, joint swelling and morning stiffness than those who continued their omnivorous diet (51, 52).
BOTTOM LINE:Vegan diets based on probiotic-rich whole foods can significantly decrease symptoms of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Take Home Message
Vegan diets may provide an array of health benefits.
For the most part, the exact reasons why these benefits occur are not fully known.
That said, until further research emerges, it can only benefit you to increase the amount of nutrient-rich, whole plant foods in your diet.
GUELPH, Ont. - Researchers have long known that eating a variety of brightly coloured vegetables daily is good for health: red, orange, yellow, dark green — and purple?
New research by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada scientists suggests that purple vegetables are associated with higher levels of antioxidants, which can help reduce the risk of some types of cancer and heart disease.
Dr. Rong Cao of AAAFC and a team at the Guelph Food Research Centre suggest vegetables high in anthocyanins have an even stronger antioxidant activity than other varieties of the same vegetable.
Anthocyanins are the phytochemicals responsible for purple (or blue or red) pigments in highly pigmented vegetables such as purple carrots, potatoes and tomatoes. Antioxidants are substances such as vitamin E and vitamin C, or beta carotene, thought to protect body cells from the damaging effects of oxidation.
Cao's team has the go-ahead to examine how anthocyanins in purple carrots and potatoes contribute to reducing blood sugar.
A previous study with Dr. Dan Ramdath, also of the Guelph Food Research Centre, showed that anthocyanins inhibit enzymes such as alpha-glycosidase, which is needed to metabolize sugar. Inhibiting this enzyme slows the rate of glucose production, which helps maintain blood sugar levels, crucial for those living with diabetes.
Root vegetables have an advantage over fruits because they can be a fresh staple in the diet year-round.
Cao's research will be done through collaborative animal and human clinical trials.
Which purple foods can benefit you? Check these out:
Probably the first purple food most think of, eggplants have plenty of antioxidants, as well as potential cholesterol fighting and brain enhancing properties. However, because of the oxalates naturally found in eggplants (which can crystallize in the body), people with kidney and gallbladder problems may want to avoid them.
Hugely popular blueberries are rich antioxidants, can help with memory, cardiovascular health and boast a low glycemic index. Opt for organic blueberries, as the berries do get a high pesticide rating.
Freshly harvested blueberries are pictured on June 28, 2009 on a farm in Klaistow, eastern Germany. (MICHAEL URBAN/AFP/Getty Images)
We hear a lot about the resveratrol in grapes (and wine), and its role in increasing longevity, but these grapes also help with blood sugar balance and pump up the immune system.
Merlot grapes sit in bunches after being freshly picked during a night harvest for Artesa Winery October 1, 2007 in Napa, California. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
A bit more rare than the usual red variety (which already has benefits from lycopene), purple tomatoes are usually heirloom and thanks to their hue, rich in those helpful anthocyanins.
Put a cherry on top! In addition to their anthocyanins, cherries have also been found to help with arthritis pain (thanks to their anti-inflammatory qualities) and sleep (thanks to their natural melatonin).
Like purple tomatoes, purple carrots can be a bit harder to find, even though they date back to 2000 B.C.E. They taste sweeter than their orange cousins, and are high in fiber. Their anthocyanins can also help with the effects of diabetes.
Like sweet potatoes, purple potatoes are rich in colour, which helps lead to their numerable health benefits. These pretty spuds help lower blood pressure, have tons of fiber, and of course, fight free radicals like all these purple foods.
Delicious and nutritious -- what more can you ask for from a berry? In addition the anthocyanins, blackberries are also rich in vitamin C (for eyes), vitamin K (for bones) and ellagic acid (for sun damage).
Though it's traditionally known as "red" cabbage, the leaves of this vegetable are no less rich in anthocyanin -- and as a bonus, cabbage is well known for its help with healing stomach ulcers.
You can help your child develop healthy habits early in life that will bring lifelong benefits. As a parent, you can encourage your kids to evaluate their food choice and physical activity habits. Here are some tips and guidelines to get you started.
Be a good role model - You don’t have to be perfect all the time, but if kids see you trying to eat right and getting physically active, they’ll take notice of your efforts. You’ll send a message that good health is important to your family.
Keep things positive - Kid’s don’t like to hear what they can’t do, tell them what they can do instead. Keep it fun and positive. Everyone likes to be praised for a job well done. Celebrate successes and help children and teens develop a good self-image.
Get the whole family moving - Plan times for everyone to get moving together. Take walks, ride bikes, go swimming, garden or just play hide-and-seek outside. Everyone will benefit from the exercise and the time together.
Be realistic - Setting realistic goals and limits are key to adopting any new behavior. Small steps and gradual changes can make a big difference in your health over time, so start small and build up.
Limit TV, video game and computer time - These habits lead to a sedentary lifestyle and excessive snacking, which increase risks for obesity and cardiovascular disease. Limit screen time to 2 hours per day.
Encourage physical activities that they’ll really enjoy - Every child is unique. Let your child experiment with different activities until they find something that they really love doing. They’ll stick with it longer if they love it. check out these activities for kids.
Pick truly rewarding rewards - Don’t reward children with tv, video games, candy or snacks for a job well done. Find other ways to celebrate good behavior.
Make dinnertime a family time - When everyone sits down together to eat, there’s less chance of children eating the wrong foods or snacking too much. Get your kids involved in cooking and planning meals. Everyone develops good eating habits together and the quality time with the family will be an added bonus.
Make a game of reading food labels - The whole family will learn what’s good for their health and be more conscious of what they eat. It’s a habit that helps change behavior for a lifetime. Learn more about reading nutrition labels.
Stay involved - Be an advocate for healthier children. Insist on good food choices at school. Make sure your children’s healthcare providers are monitoring cardiovascular indicators like BMI, blood pressure and cholesterol. Contact public officials on matters of the heart. Make your voice heard.
Originally published on http://www.heart.org/
By teaching your children healthy eating habits, and modeling these behaviors in yourself, you can help your children maintain a healthy weight and normal growth. Also, the eating habits your children pick up when they are young will help them maintain a healthy lifestyle when they are adults.
Your child's health care provider can evaluate your child's weight and growth and let you know if your child needs to lose or gain weight or if any dietary changes need to be made.
Some of the most important aspects of healthy eating are portion control and cutting down on how much fat your child eats. Simple ways to reduce fat intake in your child's diet and promote a healthy weight include serving:
- Low-fat or nonfat dairy products
- Poultry without skin
- Lean cuts of meats
- Whole grain breads and cereals
- Healthy snacks such as fruit and veggies
Also, reduce the amount of sugar sweetened drinks and salt in your child's diet.
If you are unsure about how to select and prepare a variety of foods for your family, consult a registered dietitian for nutrition counseling.
It is important that you do not place your overweight child(ren) on a restrictive diet. Children should never be placed on a restrictive diet to lose weight unless a doctor supervises one for medical reasons.
Other approaches parents can take to develop healthy eating habits in their children include:
- Guide your family's choices rather than dictate foods. Make a wide variety of healthful foods available in the house. This practice will help your children learn how to make healthy food choices. Leave the unhealthy choices like chips, soda, and juice at the grocery store. Serve water with meals.
- Encourage your children to eat slowly. A child can detect hunger and fullness better when they eat slowly. Before offering a second helping or serving, ask your child to wait at least 15 minutes to see if they are truly still hungry. This will give the brain time to register fullness. Also, that second helping should be much smaller than the first.
- Eat meals together as a family as often as possible. Try to make mealtimes pleasant with conversation and sharing, not a time for scolding or arguing. If mealtimes are unpleasant, children may try to eat faster to leave the table as soon as possible. They then may learn to associate eating with stress.
- Involve your children in food shopping and preparing meals. These activities will give you hints about your children's food preferences, an opportunity to teach your children about nutrition, and provide your kids with a feeling of accomplishment. In addition, children may be more willing to eat or try foods that they help prepare.
- Plan for snacks. Continuous snacking may lead to overeating, but snacks that are planned at specific times during the day can be part of a nutritious diet, without spoiling a child's appetite at meal times. You should make snacks as nutritious as possible, without depriving your children of occasional chips or cookies, especially at parties or other social events.
- Discourage eating meals or snacks while watching TV. Try to eat only in designated areas of your home, such as the dining room or kitchen. Eating in front of the TV may make it difficult to pay attention to feelings of fullness, and may lead to overeating.
- Encourage your children to drink more water. Over consumption of sweetened drinks and sodas has been linked to increased rates of obesity in children.
- Try not to use food to punish or reward your children. Withholding food as a punishment may lead children to worry that they will not get enough food. For example, sending children to bed without any dinner may cause them to worry that they will go hungry. As a result, children may try to eat whenever they get a chance. Similarly, when foods, such as sweets, are used as a reward, children may assume that these foods are better or more valuable than other foods. For example, telling children that they will get dessert if they eat all of their vegetables sends the wrong message about vegetables.
- Make sure your children's meals outside the home are balanced. Find out more about their school lunch program, or pack their lunch to include a variety of foods. Also, select healthier items when dining at restaurants.
- Pay attention to portion size and ingredients. Read food labels and limit foods with trans fat. Also, make sure you serve the appropriate portion as indicated on the label.
originally published on www.webmd.com
September 08, 2014
By Dr. Mercola @ http://articles.mercola.com/
Eating more fresh vegetables is one of the simplest choices you can make to improve your overall health. A vegetable-rich diet can help protect you from arthritis, heart disease, stroke, dementia, cancer, and can even help slow down your body's aging process.
A recent study found that people who consume seven or more portions of vegetables and fruit a day have a 42 percent lower risk of dying from any cause, compared to those who eat less than one portion—and vegetables have the greatest impact.1
But vegetables can also benefit you in some surprising ways. Did you know that certain vegetables can help reduce bloating, and others can give your skin a more youthful glow? They can even improve how you handle stress—and adapting to stress is critically important to your mental AND physical health.2
Could Vegetables Be the REAL Comfort Foods?
Move over mac-and-cheese... vegetables are the REAL comfort foods, with nutrients that actually improve your resilience to stress. Eating vegetables helps replenish your magnesium and vitamin C, which can be depleted by stress.
Vegetables also provide you with omega-3 fats and B vitamins, proven to help reduce anxiety and depression. The vitamin K in veggies helps reduce inflammation in your body, which stress can aggravate.3
Green leafy vegetables, such as kale, spinach, and Swiss chard, are loaded with magnesium, which helps balance your cortisol, one of your "stress hormones." Magnesium and potassium relax blood vessels, helping keep your blood pressure low.4
Magnesium also plays an important role in calcium absorption, helping you maintain good muscle and nerve function and a healthy immune system. Low magnesium levels have been linked with anxiety disorders and migraines, both of which are typically aggravated by stress.5
Avocados are one of the best stress-busting foods you can eat, replete with potassium, glutathione, healthy fats, and more folate than any other fruit. Folateis extremely important for your brain. Asparagus is also rich in folate.
The Causes of Gas and Bloating
Bloating and gas are usually tied to what and how you eat. Vegetables can help reduce bloating—but if your gut is not healthy, they can make bloating worse.
A major cause of bloating is gas in your abdomen, half of which is simply swallowed air.6 You can reduce swallowed air by refraining from habits like drinking through a straw, chewing gum, or drinking carbonated beverages.
The remaining abdominal gas is produced by the bacteria in your gut that help digest your food. If food doesn't move quickly enough through your digestive tract, gas can build up in your intestines, resulting in that uncomfortable bloated feeling.
Foods that tend to make bloating worse include sweeteners like sorbitol andfructose, grains, legumes, dairy products (if you have difficulty digesting lactose), and certain fruits and vegetables such as cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and prunes.
These foods contain sugars and starches that some people have trouble digesting. Overeating, eating too quickly, and not chewing your food adequately also contribute to bloating.
Fiber May Be Friend or Foe, Depending on Your Gut
You have probably heard that fiber is important for good health, but it is important to realize that eating a high-fiber diet with a damaged intestinal lining can lead to serious health problems. If high-fiber foods make you feel bloated, then it may indicate your digestive tract is in need of healing.
Your digestive system is not designed to break down fiber. It is actually because your body can't digest fiber that it plays such an important part in digestion.
Soluble fiber, like that found in cucumbers, blueberries, beans, and nuts, dissolves into a gel-like texture, helping to slow down your digestion. This helps you to feel full longer and is one reason why fiber may help with weight control.
Insoluble fiber, found in foods like dark green leafy vegetables, green beans, celery, and carrots, does not dissolve at all and helps add bulk to your stool.
This helps food to move through your digestive tract more quickly for healthy elimination. Many whole foods, especially fruits and vegetables, naturally contain both soluble and insoluble fiber.
If your gut flora is healthy, i.e. dominated by beneficial, probiotic species, then these microbes will feed on the undigested fiber in your bowel, allowing it to thrive and proliferate.
Fiber Helps Nourish Your Gut
Many of these dietary fibers are digested by the beneficial bacteria in your distal colon and they produce short-chain fatty acids, like butyric acid, that are highly nourishing to your intestinal cells. This creates a very healthy symbiosis.
However, if your gut is filled with pathogenic organisms (dysbiosis), fiber will actually make your symptoms worse, as it is a non-specific growth promoter for intestinal bacteria that doesn't discriminate between pathogenic and beneficial microorganisms. One of the best ways to restore your gut health is by regularly consuming naturally fermented vegetables, which I will be discussing shortly.
A temporary low-fiber, low-residue diet may also be quite helpful, such as theGAPS diet (Gut and Physiology Syndrome). Part of the GAPS program is removing fiber because it feeds microbes.
Most healthy people need upwards of 32 grams of fiber per day, but the majority of Americans fall quite short of this amount. Most of your fiber should come from vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds—not grains. Psyllium seed husk and flax are also beneficial. Also drink plenty of fresh, pure water every day, as this too is important for a healthy GI tract.
Vegetables May Reduce Bloating—But Increase Them Gradually
Once your digestive tract is working optimally, the fiber in vegetables will help flush out waste and gastric irritants, thereby minimizing bloating by keeping things moving along. When changing your diet, do so gradually, because suddenly eating lots of vegetables, or radically increasing your dietary fiber when you're not accustomed to doing so, can be a shock to your system.
The microbial environment in your gut is accustomed to certain conditions, and changing this too abruptly can result in gastric distress, bloating, and other GI symptoms. Whenever making changes to your diet—even beneficial ones—take care to acclimate over time. If you introduce new foods and experience a problem, back off a bit and see if it helps.
According to Dr. Wayne Pickering, improper food combining is another major factor behind gas and bloating, as well as heartburn and upset stomach. If the food you eat is not digesting properly, not only can these symptoms arise, but your body will also be deprived of critical nutrients.
The two foremost rules of food combining are: 1) No proteins and starches at the same meal, and 2) No fruits and vegetables at the same meal. For more information about the principles of food combining, please listen to my interview with Dr. Pickering. More of his information is available on his site,MangoDiet.com.
Veggies for That Youthful Glow
Vegetables hydrate your skin, which can help reduce wrinkles. Not only are some vegetables 85 to 95 percent water, but they also contain a plethora of phytonutrients that help guard against aging by preventing cell damage from stress, ultraviolet light, and environmental toxins.7 Vitamin C, abundant in tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, broccoli, and others, aids in collagen formation.
Brightly colored red and orange vegetables such as carrots, peppers, and winter squash, give you beta-carotene and help protect your skin from sun damage. Tomatoes contain lycopene, which acts as a natural sunscreen. A Scottish study involving college students suggests that fruit and vegetable consumption may even increase your attractiveness! Researchers found that the pigments (carotenoids) in many fruits and vegetables impart a warm glow "sufficient to convey perceptible improvements in the apparent healthiness and attractiveness of facial skin."8 Translation: vegetables make you appear more healthy and beautiful!
Vegetables Build Healthy Bones
Fresh vegetables are like rock stars when it comes to bone health. They offer highly bioavailable forms of calcium, magnesium, silica, and a host of other minerals that work synergistically to build strong, healthy bones. One of the fat-soluble vitamins playing a critical role in bone health is vitamin K2, as its primary function is to move calcium into the proper areas (teeth and bones). Vitamin K2 also helps direct calcium away from areas where it can cause problems, such as your arteries and soft tissues.
One of the best sources of vitamin K2 is fermented vegetables made with a special starter culture designed to optimize this nutrient. Fennel is also very good for your bones—the seeds in particular. Research has shown that eating the seeds of the fennel plant has a beneficial effect on bone mineral density, as well as bone mineral content. Researchers found that fennel seeds show potential in preventing bone loss in postmenopausal osteoporosis.
Tips for Selecting the Best Vegetables
If you want your vegetables to have the highest nutritional density, take a look at my list of powerhouse fruits and vegetables. Generally speaking, the greener the vegetable, the more nutritious it will be. I strongly advise you to avoid wilted vegetables, because they lose much of their nutritional value. It is wise to eat a variety of dark green leafy vegetables, plus other vividly colored veggies (purple, red, yellow, and orange) to make sure you receive a broad range of those powerful plant nutrients.
Eating foods that are in season, especially in your local area, will help ensure they are fresh and at peak nutritional value, as well as typically being less expensive. Here is a graphic for determining what veggies may be in season:
Three Ways to Boost the Nutrient Power of Your Vegetables
Eating a variety of fresh vegetables is always desirable, but there are ways to boost their nutritional value even further. My favorites are fermenting, juicing, and sprouting.
Fermenting is one of the best ways to turn ordinary vegetables into superfoods. The culturing process produces beneficial microbes that are extremely important for your health as they help balance your intestinal flora, thereby boosting overall immunity. When fermenting vegetables, you can either use a starter culture or simply allow the natural enzymes, and good bacteria in and on the vegetables, to do all the work. This is called "wild fermentation." Personally, I prefer a starter culture, as it provides a larger number of different species and the culture can be optimized with species that produce high levels of vitamin K2.
For more than a year, we've been making two to three gallons of fermented vegetables every week in our Chicago office for our staff to enjoy. We use a starter culture of the same probiotic strains that we sell in our store as a supplement, which has been researched by our team to produce about 10 times the amount of vitamin K2 as any other starter culture.
Juicing provides an easy way for you to consume more vegetables and a greater variety of them, as well as providing ALL of those important nutrients in an easily assimilated form. Virtually every health authority recommends that we get six to eight servings of vegetables and fruits per day, but very few of us actually get that. Juicing is an easy way to reach your daily vegetable quota. Raw juice can be likened to a "living broth," as it is teeming with micronutrients and good bacteria that many people are lacking.
When you drink fresh-made green juice, it is almost like receiving an intravenous infusion of vitamins, minerals, and enzymes because they go straight into your system without needing to be broken down. Drinking your juice first thing in the morning can give you a natural energy boost without resorting to stimulants like coffee. Since the juice is so easily digested, it can help revitalize your energy levels in as little as 20 minutes. Juicing is also an excellent way to get your vegetables in if you have issues with fiber, as discussed earlier.
Sprouting is a perfect complement to juicing! Sprouts are a superfood that many people overlook, as they offer a concentrated source of nutrition that's different from eating the vegetable in its mature form. Sprouts provide some of the highest quality protein you can eat and can contain up to 30 times the nutrient content of home-grown organic vegetables. They're also easy to grow with very little space and time. Some of the most common sprouts include alfalfa, mung bean, wheatgrass, peas, broccoli, and lentils—but my personal favorites are sunflower and watercress. You can even sprout garlic! Sprouts have the following beneficial attributes:
- Support for cell regeneration
- Powerful sources of antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, and enzymes that protect against free radical damage
- Alkalinizing effect on your body, which is thought to protect against disease, including cancer (as many tumors are acidic)
- Abundantly rich in oxygen, which can also help protect against abnormal cell growth, viruses, and bacteria that cannot survive in an oxygen-rich environment
Five More Tips for 'Sneaking' More Vegetables Into Your Diet
Grow your own garden. Replace your lawn or shrubs with a vegetable garden—just be careful about your local zoning laws. If a garden is not feasible, join a CSA where you'll get veggies delivered every week.
- Put your vegetables on the top shelf of your fridge so you will see them—especially veggies already prepped for snacking on the go. (Sticking a head of cauliflower in the back of the bottom drawer may be a "vegetable death sentence.")
- Add vegetables to foods you already love—for example, soups, sauces, stews, chili, etc. You can even add a green veggie powder to healthy chocolate treats, or try "avocado chocolate pudding." There are many creative recipes online.
- As an alternative to juicing, make a "green drink" with a high-quality green vegetable powder.
- Don't disregard frozen veggies! They are often picked at their peak and frozen right at the farm, so they can be a nutritious alternative when you run out of the fresh, or a vegetable you want is out of season
by Lisa Gallant C.A.S
Within the cornucopia of medicinal plants, few possess such a wide spectrum of qualities and medicinal uses as turmeric. For countless centuries, many different cultures have used this wonderful, versatile herb to treat a myriad of diseases and ailments. The most well known medicinal action of turmeric is its use as a powerful anti-inflammatory, the effectiveness of which is comparable to pharmaceutical medicines. However, it also acts as an alterative, analgesic, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor, anti-allergic, anti-oxidant, antiseptic, antispasmodic, astringent, carminative, cholagogue, digestive, diuretic, stimulant, and vulnerary 6,8,10 . Modern science is beginning to recognize and understand the amazing healing qualities of turmeric and much research is currently being conducted.
Turmeric has been proven effective in treating some of the most intense ailments afflicting the world today including: Arthritis, Cancer, Alzheimer's Disease, Diabetes, Multiple Sclerosis, Atherosclerosis, HIV/AIDS, Sexually Transmitted Diseases (Hepatitis-C, Genital Herpes) , Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Indigestion, Inflammation, Acne, Urinary Tract Infections, Kidney Infections, Gallstones, Anemia, Hemorrhoids, Liver Disease, Leprosy, Amenorrhea, Edema, Bronchitis, Common Cold, Headaches, Conjunctivitis, Bursitis, food poisoning, parasites, fever, diarrhea, poor circulation, lower back and abdominal pain. It can also be used as a mosquito repellent, wound healer, and immediate cure for scorpion stings. Turmeric helps balance the female reproductive and lactation systems, and in men it purifies and improves the health of semen. It is used to treat external ulcers that would not respond to other treatment 6,8,10 . Due to its vast array of medicinal purposes and versatility, turmeric is one of the most important herbs in any natural medicine cabinet.
The Latin name for turmeric is “Curcuma Longa”, which comes from the Arabic name for the plant, “Kurkum.” 10 It comes from the Zingiberaceae family (same as ginger) and in Sanskrit is called “Haridra”(“The Yellow One”), “Gauri” (“The One Whose Face is Light and Shining”),“Kanchani” (“Golden Goddess”) , and Aushadhi (“Herb”). It is called “Jiang Huang” in Chinese, and “Haldi” (“Yellow”) in Hindi, the most common name in India 6 . The healing properties of turmeric lie in the golden fingerlike stalk, or rhizome, the same part that is used to flavor, color, and preserve food. Turmeric is commonly found in Indian curries, giving the food a golden orange color. Turmeric has also been used as a dye for mustards, canned chicken broth, and pickles. It has been coded as food additive “E100” in canned beverages, baked products, dairy, ice cream, yogurts, yellow cakes, biscuits, popcorn, sweets, cake icing, cereal, sauces, gelatins, and also direct compression tablets. In combination with annatto, turmeric is used to color cheese, dry mixes, salad dressing, butter and margarine 3 . The brilliant color has also been used for dyeing silk and wool; the robes of Buddhist monks were traditionally dyed with turmeric 10 .
Turmeric is a native to South Asia , particularly India , but is cultivated in many warm regions of the world. It can be found growing extensively in all of India , but does especially well in the regions of Tamil Nadu, West Bengal , and Maharashtra 10 . It is also cultivated in Sri Lanka , Indonesia , China , Taiwan , Indochina , Peru , Haiti , and Jamacia. India is the largest producer in the world; Jamacia and Peru are the chief exporters, and Iran the largest importer. Other large importers are the United Kingdom , Japan , Canada , Sri Lanka , Singapore , and the Middle East 9 .
There are two main varieties of turmeric: one with hard, rich colored, oval rhizomes, called “Lokahandi Halad” that is used mostly for dying, and a variety that is softer, larger, lighter colored with long rhizomes used mostly for eating 8 . Turmeric became valuable to humans when it was discovered that the powdered rhizome preserved the freshness and nutritive value of foods. It was originally used in curries and other food to improve storage conditions, palatability, and preservation. Because of its preservation properties, turmeric played a vital role in survival and sustainability in South Asia , and was valued more than gold and precious stones 7 . However, turmeric was eventually replaced by cheaper, synthetic preservatives.
Turmeric was used much more extensively by the natives of India than today. Turmeric was highly valued by the ancient Indo-European people not only for its preservation properties, but for its energetic and spiritual qualities as well. The Arya culture was a group of people who worshipped the solar system and the sun as a deity. Turmeric was very sacred to them, due to its golden yellow color (like sunlight) and they believed it had special protective properties 7 . Remnants of this belief still exist today, particularly in South India , where some people wear a dried turmeric rhizome bead the size of a large grape around their neck or arm. This is an ancient talisman tradition used to ward off evil and grant to the wearer healing and protection 16 . People of ancient India believed that turmeric contained the energy of the Divine Mother, helped to grant prosperity, cleanse the chakras (energy centers in the body), and purify the channels of the subtle body 6 . Even today, Hindu people consider turmeric to have auspicious qualities, and use it in many sacred ceremonies. It is commonly made into a paste and applied to the forehead (ajna chakra or third eye) during pujas (devotional ceremonies) and weddings. During a traditional Indian wedding ceremony, the bridge and groom apply a paste of turmeric and sandalwood powder on each other's foreheads. Some women use it as a cosmetic, called “Kappumanjal” or rub it over their bodies as a detergent 8 . Traditionally, turmeric was also used to dye the marriage clothing. It was believed that any clothing dyed with turmeric was protection from fever. New clothes would sometimes be stained with a paste of turmeric, lime, and water. Today, magenta dye has become more popular 9 .
Turmeric and Ayurveda
Turmeric has been used for centuries in Ayurveda, the 5,000 year old natural healing system of India . It is called by 46 different synonyms, including: “pitta” (yellow), “gauri” (brilliant), and all words that indicate “night” 10 . This comes from a tradition of married women applying turmeric to their cheeks in the evening in preparation for a visit from Lakshmi (The Goddess of Prosperity) 7 . In Ayurveda, turmeric is believed to balance the three doshas (vata, pitta, and kapha). It has been used by Ayurvedic healers as medicine taken internally in the form of fresh juice, boiled tea, tinctures, or powder, and topically as creams, lotions, pastes, and ointments 1 . There are many ancient Ayurvedic formulas utilizing turmeric. Milk boiled with turmeric and sugar was a popular cold remedy and turmeric juice was used to help heal wounds, bruises, and leech bites. A paste made from turmeric, lime, and salt was commonly applied to sprains and inflamed joints 8 . Smoke made by sprinkling turmeric over burnt charcoal was used to relieve scorpion stings within a few minutes that the affected area is exposed to smoke. Inhaling the fumes of burning turmeric was also used commonly to release copious amounts of mucous and provide instant relief from congestion. The fumes also were believed to help in hysteric fits 8 . A pinch of turmeric was also used as an insect repellent in the kitchen 9 . A paste made of turmeric alone or with neem leaves was used for ringworm, itching, eczema, and any other parasitic skin condition 8 . The Charakra Samhita section on Therapeutics states that turmeric, black pepper, long pepper, and ox bile was a common remedy for consumed poison or snake bites, up until the last stage 15 . The Charakra Samhita also provides a traditional remedy for jaundice: turmeric, triphala, neem bark, bala, licorice cooked in milk and ghee of buffalo. If this did not work and there is “found residue of morbidity still lodged in the body”, inhalation therapy was indicated. Cigars were made from turmeric paste, cinnamon, castor plant root, lac, red arsenic, deodar, yellow orpiment, and nardus, smeared with ghee and smoked. Inhalation of the fumes of barley paste with ghee was also a treatment for jaundice 15 . Hemorrhoids (piles) were treated with an ointment of turmeric, hemp leaves, onions, and warm mustard oil or linseed oil, applied externally when the hemorrhoids are painful and protruding 8 . Pastes of turmeric were used for smallpox, chickenpox, shingles, ulcers, conjunctivitis, skin blemishes, malaria, and applied to the cut placenta after the birth of a child 8 .
Turmeric has hundreds of molecular constituents, each with a variety of biological activities. There are at least 20 molecules that are anti-biotic, 14 that are known cancer preventatives, 12 that are anti-tumor, 12 are anti-inflammatory and there are at least 10 different anti-oxidants 7 . One database presented over 326 known biological activities of turmeric 12 . The rhizome is 70% carbohydrates, 7% protein, 4% minerals, and at least 4% essential oils. It also has vitamins, other alkaloids, and is about 1% resin 7 . The active ingredient in turmeric is called “curcumin”, although in its raw state turmeric only contains 2-5% curcumin 4 . Curcumin is the substance that is responsible for the biological activity of turmeric. Combined with black pepper, curcumin becomes 2000 times more potent 4 . Curcumin is now extracted from turmeric, sold as supplements, and is the basis of most scientific research.
The active properties of curcumin are best called “protective properties”. The same components that prevent deterioration of food protect living tissue from degenerating, possibly extending the life span of our bodies 7 . Clinical and laboratory research indicates that diets that include turmeric or curcumin “stabilize and protect biomolecules in the body at the molecular level”, which is shown in its anti-oxidant, anti- mutagenic, and anti-carcinogenic action 7 . These components may work by protecting a person directly, by shielding the biomolecules, or indirectly, by stimulating the natural detoxification and defense mechanisms of the body: helping the body to heal and preserve itself naturally 7 . Current statistics show that 98% of all diseases are controlled by a molecule called NF-Kappa B, a powerful protein that promotes abnormal inflammatory response in the body. Excess of NF-Kappa B can lead to Cancer, Arthritis, and a wide range of other diseases. Studies show that curcumin subdues NF-Kappa B, meaning that it may work to prevent nearly all diseases afflicting our world today 4 .
Science and Turmeric
Scientists are beginning to realize the importance of turmeric/curcumin in treating modern disease. Much research has been conducted on the various effects of curcumin in the body; the most widely researched is that of its effects on Cancer. In both India and Pakistan , where curry/turmeric is a dietary staple, boast much lower incidence of cancer than in other countries where turmeric is not regularly consumed 2 . Turmeric is considered to fight Cancer in three ways: It neutralizes those substances and conditions which can cause cancer; It directly helps a cell retain its integrity if threatened by carcinogens (a substance showing significant evidence of causing cancer or growth of cancer cells); If a tumor does grow the curcumins can often destroy it 13 . There are many reasons why turmeric helps to destroy Cancer. One of the keys to this activity is the ability of curcumin to inhibit the enzyme Topoisomerase, which is required for the replication of cancer cells. “Topoisomerase works within the nucleus of the cell, where it first binds to supercoiled DNA and then catalyzes the passage of one DNA helix through another via a transient double-stranded break. This splits the DNA and thus allows cell replication to occur. Stopping Topoisomerase stops replication which stops the spread of the problem 13 .”
Curcumin is also one of the most studied natural COX-2 inhibitors, which block an enzyme called cyclooxygenase-2. This is beneficial because the COX-2 enzyme helps make carcinogens more active in the body and allows cancerous cells to survive by growing new blood vessels 2 . In essence, curcumin completely blocks the formation of cancer causing enzymes, decreasing the likelihood of cancerous cell formation or growth. Curcumin is also rich in antioxidants, which are important disease fighting substances that help to clean up unstable oxygen molecules (free radicals) that can damage cells and cause diseases such as Cancer. Other antioxidants and COX-2 inhibitors are red grapes, green tea, rosemary, and bee propolis 2 .
Even when using more allopathic methods to treat cancer, turmeric/curcumin still helps to increase the effectiveness and decrease some of the side effects of cancer treatments. Current research suggests that including curcumin in the diet during the “initiation and or post initiation periods” of cancer significantly suppresses the development of chemically induced tumors 13 . In summary, research is showing that curcumin may be more effective treatment for cancer in the beginning phases of the disease, as well as preventative treatment throughout life before cancer even emerges. A study performed in 1992 on 16 cigarette smokers who took 1.5 g of turmeric a day for 30 days had much lower mutagenic levels in their urine than those who did not include turmeric in their diet 1 . Mutagens are substances that cause cell mutation and increase the occurrence of cancer. There is, however, some new research suggesting that taking curcumin may counteract the effectiveness of chemotherapy. Thus, many cancer treatment programs are developing a periodic schedule of use to avoid any issues 13 .
“We have not found a single cancer on which curcumin does not work”, states Dr. Bharat Aggarwal, who conducts cancer research at the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research in Bangalore , India 4 . Ayurveda especially recommends turmeric for cancers of the female reproductive system, specifically breast and uterine cancer, and to treat benign tumors as well 11 . Although the current research looks promising, there have been very few long term tests performed on large quantities of humans. Turmeric was recently nominated by the National Cancer Institute for more study so we can look forward to many more research findings in the future.
Turmeric is also a powerful anti-inflammatory herb. It has been shown to be helpful in the treatment of Arthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Osteoarthritis, injuries, trauma, and stiffness from both under activity and over activity 10 . It is also helpful after surgery to decrease pain, inflammation and accelerate healing. One study conducted in 1986 showed that a dosage of 1200 mg of curcumin a day was more effective in reducing post-surgical inflammation than either the placebo group or anti-inflammatory medication normally prescribed 5 . In India , turmeric is considered the standard anti-inflammatory, and yogis use it to help keep their tendons and ligaments free from injury and to assist in their asana practice 6 . In the same way, it minimizes pain and inflammation related to any kind of exercise or strenuous activity. Majeed states: “Perhaps Turmeric's most important anti-inflammatory mechanism centers on its effects on the Prostaglandins (PGs), a large family of potent lipids produced by the body. PG1 and PG3 calm the body while PG2 inflames the body. Turmeric is a potent inhibitor of cyclooxygenase 5-lipoxygenase and also 5-HETE production in neutrophils. Reducing these enzymes means less arachidonic acid metabolism, which means less PG2, which means less pain and inflammation 7 .” Some sources suggest that turmeric/curcumin is most effective for acute inflammation, and not for chronic 1 . Many sources recommend turmeric for Arthritis but the scientific evidence is still unclear and much more research is underway.
Turmeric also has a special action to purify and nourish the blood and skin. External application stops pain and swelling, heals wounds rapidly, and treats many skin diseases ranging from acne to leprosy. The classic way to apply turmeric topically is as an “Ubtan”: a blend of turmeric, chick-pea flour, sesame or almond oil, a little fresh cream and honey. This will clear up skin blemishes, and increase the natural glow and radiance of the skin 16 . Turmeric essential oil works wonderfully as an external antibiotic to prevent infections in wounds. A nice formula for a wound healing salve is a mixture of olive oil, beeswax, tea tree oil, aloe, turmeric, arnica, slippery elm, red clover, thyme oil, and vitamin E 9 . Since turmeric is bitter and anti-inflammatory, it is excellent for hot skin diseases, red rashes, and especially wet eczema 16 . Turmeric essential oil, mixed with citronella, tulsi, and vanillin, works as a powerful insect repellent, and is a natural alternative to D.E.E.T, the most common chemical insect repellent commercially available. Studies show that D.E.E.T. is extremely toxic, hazardous to the environment, and actually kills plant and insect life that it contacts 3 .
Turmeric also protects the liver from toxins and pathogens. It is known to both destroy m toxins in the liver, and to rebuild the liver after a toxic attack 16 . Turmeric increases the secretion and movement of bile, and may prevent all forms of liver disease. Excessive use of drugs and/or alcohol can tax the liver and lead to liver diseases 16 . One study shows that curcumin blocks some of the harmful side effects of cigarette smoke, and prevents dangerous chemical formation after eating processed food 11 . It is also helpful in treating food poisoning. Traditionally, about 5 grams of Turmeric is taken with a glass of whey, morning and evening, for a month to activate and rebuild a liver 8 . Another good liver remedy could be based on Turmeric, Kutki root, and Milk Thistle seeds. In essence, turmeric helps keep the liver healthy so it can do its job of keeping the body detoxified.
Ayurveda uses turmeric to purify and move the blood, as it is a wonderful alterative. It helps to remove stagnant blood while stimulating the formation of new blood tissue 6 . Turmeric regulates menses, and decreases the intensity and pain of menstrual periods, and of uterine tumors. Turmeric is a mild and supportive uterine stimulant and its many actions on the liver suggest that it may assist in balancing hormone levels as well 16 .
Turmeric also plays a role in pregnancy and birthing in India . Traditionally, it is said that taking turmeric when pregnant will ensure that the child will always have beautiful skin 16 . (However, turmeric is a mild uterine stimulant, so there is a chance of over stimulation; it is essential to consult a healthcare practitioner before taking any herbs during pregnancy.) Turmeric taken in the last two weeks of pregnancy in warm, organic milk helps to expedite a simple birth, while increasing the health of the mother and child as well. Turmeric is also an analgesic (pain reliever) and is sometimes used in natural childbirth to decrease pain 16 .
Turmeric also has a special action to help the entire Gastro-Intestinal system by increasing intestinal flora and generate healthy digestion 6 . It is traditionally used for weak stomachs, poor digestion, dyspepsia, parasites, abdominal cramps, to normalize metabolism, to help digest protein and breakdown of fats, to increase absorption, and the ability of the stomach to withstand digestive acids 6 . Turmeric is also a carminative: it helps to decrease gas and distention. According to Ayurveda, plants that treat digestion are often the most important herbs of all since digestion is the basis of mental and physical health. Prashanti de Jager states, “Turmeric is one of the best carminatives because though it leans towards being heating-pungent, it is very balanced and does not aggravate any of the doshas if taken in normal amounts, a few grams per day 16 .” As a vulnerary it also helps to nurture and heal mucous membranes; it has a strong protective effect against food and materials that are corrosive to the stomach and intestines as from food poisoning. In a 1989 double blind study (the participants and researches did not know which groups were taking the herb or the placebo) conducted in Thailand , 500mg capsules of curcumin were given to 116 adults suffering from indigestion at six different hospitals. Stunning results showed that 90% of those taking the curcumin felt full or partial relief after seven days, while 53% of the placebo group felt relief 1 .
Another major use of turmeric is support of the respiratory system. As an anti-oxidant it protects the lungs from pollution and toxins. It also helps the oxygen transfer from the lungs to the blood. Turmeric with ghee is traditionally used to get rid of cough and to treat asthma 8 . It also supports the heart in many ways. A study conducted in 1992 shows that turmeric may assist in lowering cholesterol and prevent Atherosclerosis (blockage of arteries that can cause heart attack and/or stroke) 12 . Animal studies have shown that turmeric lowers cholesterol levels and inhibits the oxidation of LDL (“bad cholesterol”, responsible for clogging of arteries). When LDL becomes oxidized, it creates deposits in the walls of blood vessels and contributes to the formation of arteriosclerosis. Turmeric may also prevent platelet buildup along the walls of injured blood vessels, another common cause of blood clots and artery blockage that can result in heart attacks and strokes 12 .
Studies are also underway regarding turmeric's believed effects in treating and preventing neurological diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis and Alzheimer's Disease. This belief generates from the realization that elderly Indian people who eat turmeric on a regular basis are far less likely to develop these ailments than those who do not eat turmeric. In fact, Alzheimer's Disease is 4.4 times less common among older adults in India than in the United States 4 . It has been noted that people taking anti-inflammatory medication for Arthritis are less likely to develop Alzheimer's Disease 1 . Since turmeric possesses such a powerful anti-inflammatory action, scientists speculate that it most likely will have a preventative effect on such disorders. More research is needed in this area to prove such theories.
New research also suggests that turmeric may play a vital role in fighting HIV/AIDS, particularly HIV, Type 1 10 . In a recent study at the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research in Bangalore , India , when scientists 'fed' curcumin to HIV-infected cells in the laboratory, the virus stopped replicating 17 . Several studies have shown that people who have HIV and AIDS are deficient in many antioxidant vitamins and minerals, and it is believed that it is the powerful antioxidant properties of turmeric that combat the disease 17 . "Curcumin's antioxidant properties will protect your DNA from the ravages of the virus. It's also antimicrobial, so it will help prevent the many opportunistic illnesses associated with HIV and AIDS," says Dr. Susan Kowalsky, N.D., a naturopathic doctor in Norwich , Vermont 18 . In a study at Harvard Medical School , research showed that curcumin prevented the reproduction of HIV by blocking a specific gene that activates the virus and causes it to spread. Another study showed that it may help decrease the reproduction of HIV 18 . This is a currently major topic of research, so we can look forward to updates in the near future.
Turmeric can obviously stand the test of time. It has been worshipped, reveled and revered by people for centuries, and still today it is one of the most significant players in the prevention of serious disease as well as the general afflictions of living. Much more research is underway to prove scientifically what the ancient people of India have known for centuries: that turmeric is one of the most powerful plants on the planet. Whether suffering from an acute or chronic disease, aches and pains, bumps and bruises, or as preventative maintenance, turmeric can and should be utilized by everyone on a regular basis. In the words of David Frawley: “If I had only a single herb to depend upon for all possible health and dietary needs, I would without much hesitation choose the Indian spice turmeric 16 .” Without a doubt, this writer feels exactly the same.
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18. Mother Nature.com, Article: “HIV and AIDS”. http://www.mothernature.com/Library/Bookshelf/Books/23/102.cfm
19. Pub-Med, Article: “In Vitro and in Vivo Anti-Tumoral Effect of Curcumin Against Melanoma Cells.”http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=pubmed&dop...