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The Powerful Punch of Pumpkin Seeds

Posted on Tue, Nov 07, 2017 @ 02:46 PM

Pumpkin seeds, also known as pepitas, have gained quite a bit of popularity. Roasting pumpkin seeds has become a notable tradition, especially throughout the Halloween and Thanksgiving seasons. But these delicious seeds can also be enjoyed raw or roasted, unhulled or naked, salted or plain. In any form, they are certainly among the elite of all seeds.

Nutritional Profile

One nutritional element that sets pumpkin seeds apart from their clan is the tremendous amount of protein they offer. At 7 grams per ounce, pumpkin seeds become an important source of plant-based protein.

The seeds are also an excellent source of critical minerals. They supply 42% of the RDA of manganese, an important nutrient for bone metabolism, antioxidant function, and cognitive health. Each ounce of pumpkin seeds offers 150 mg of magnesium, one of the most deficient nutrients in our diets and an underlying problem in multiple health concerns. Phosphorus, iron, and copper are found in significant amounts, aiding in the body’s antioxidant systems and making pumpkin seeds a good tool for those struggling with anemia. Finally, pumpkin seeds are a good source of vitamin K, supplying 18% of the RDA.

In addition to vitamins and minerals, pumpkin seeds provide a variety of phytonutrients including phenolic acids, carotenoids, phytosterols, and squalene, which are shown to exert numerous therapeutic properties such as antioxidative, hypoglycemic, anticancer, antihypertensive, cardioprotective, antilipemic, gynoprotective, and anthelmintic.

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Tags: prostate, blood glucose, skin health, cholesterol, cardiovascular health, insulin resistance

Hooray for Hazelnuts

Posted on Wed, Oct 18, 2017 @ 01:53 PM

For people following a strict Paleo diet, almonds get all the love. Owing to the restriction on legumes, peanuts and cashews are out, so almonds figure prominently in snacks, whether eaten as is, or as almond butter with fruit, or ground up almond meal in an endless variety of grain-free cookies, cakes and other baked goods. As for other nuts, low carbers with the financial means may make pricey macadamias a regular staple in their snacking. (Dr. Robert Atkins called macadamia nuts a low carb dieter’s best friend!) Besides being just plain delicious, these nuts are high in monounsaturated fats and are rich sources of micronutrients. Another nut that fits all these criteria is the hazelnut.

Hazelnuts, also called filberts, consist primarily of monounsaturated fat, with tiny amounts of saturated and polyunsaturated fats. One ounce provides about 13 grams of monounsaturated fat, with just 1.3 grams saturated and 2.2 grams of polyunsaturated. The omega-6 to omega-3 ratio is a whopping 87, but with the total amount of polyunsaturated fat at just over 2 grams, this really isn’t an issue as long as someone isn’t getting the vast majority of their caloric intake from hazelnuts. (Anyone who can afford to do that should share their investing tips!)

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Tags: diet, paleo, cholesterol, CVD, cardiovascular health

Dairy & the (Full) Fat Wars

Posted on Thu, Jul 20, 2017 @ 06:37 PM

“The emerging scientific evidence indicates that the consumption of regular fat dairy foods is not associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and inversely associated with weight gain and the risk of obesity. Dairy foods, including regular-fat milk, cheese and yogurt, can be important components of an overall healthy dietary pattern.”

Arne Astrup, et al., 2016

The fat wars continue to rage. Olive oil, avocado and salmon get a free pass, but lard and tallow will kill you. And don’t even think about using heavy cream in your coffee or eating full-fat yogurt! (Good luck finding any amidst the shelves full of low-fat and fat-free anyway.)

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Tags: diet, stroke, cholesterol, fat, CVD, cardiovascular health

Statin Drugs: Worse Than We Thought?

Posted on Fri, May 12, 2017 @ 09:52 AM

“Pharmacological evidence and clinical trial results support the interpretation that statins stimulate atherogenesis by suppressing vitamin K2 synthesis and thereby enhancing artery calcification. Statins cause heart failure by depleting the myocardium of CoQ10, ‘heme A’ and selenoproteins, thereby impairing mitochondrial ATP production. In summary, statins are not only ineffective in preventing CHD events but instead are capable of increasing CHD and heart failure.”

--Harumi Okuyama et al., 2015

The authors of a paper in Expert Review of Clinical Pharmacology didn’t hold back in their scathing condemnation of statin drugs. The abstract alone is quite an indictment of these drugs: “In contrast to the current belief that cholesterol reduction with statins decreases atherosclerosis, we present a perspective that statins may be causative in coronary artery calcification and can function as mitochondrial toxins […] the epidemic of heart failure and atherosclerosis that plagues the modern world may paradoxically be aggravated by the pervasive use of statin drugs. We propose that current statin treatment guidelines be critically reevaluated.”

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Tags: Diabetes, insulin, statins, cholesterol, cardiovascular health

Coronary Artery Calcium: Better Indicator for Cardiovascular Risk?

Posted on Tue, Mar 21, 2017 @ 04:17 PM

There’s “a growing volume of knowledge that challenges the validity of the cholesterol hypothesis and the utility of cholesterol as a surrogate end point.”

DuBroff, 2016 

Evidence continues to build that cholesterol levels—including LDL—are not accurate indicators of cardiovascular disease risk, and that the medical community as a whole may have gotten “the cholesterol story” quite wrong. For example, findings that high LDL-C is inversely associated with mortality in most people over sixty years of age have given researchers “reason to question the validity of the cholesterol hypothesis.” And researchers have noted a “reverse epidemiology” involving traditional markers (such as blood pressure, BMI, and serum cholesterol) among the elderly, wherein elevated cholesterol seems to be protective for health, possibly necessitating a reevaluation of traditional treatment guidelines for older patients. 

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Tags: Cardiovascular Disease, cholesterol, CVD

Cholesterol Buzz

Posted on Tue, Jan 10, 2017 @ 10:00 AM

In 2016, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services rolled out the latest edition of their 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which created a shockwave effect. Something was missing in the new guidelines. Namely, cholesterol limits disappeared. The new guidelines state, “The Key Recommendation from the 2010 Dietary Guidelines to limit consumption of dietary cholesterol to 300 mg per day is not included in the 2015 edition… More research is needed regarding the dose-response relationship between dietary cholesterol and blood cholesterol levels. Adequate evidence is not available for a quantitative limit for dietary cholesterol specific to the Dietary Guidelines.” As traditionalists are shaking their heads and foreshadowing epidemics of cardiovascular disease, non-conventionalists are celebrating victory. The new guidelines, however, are not completely sympathetic to the new change and are still quick to inform Americans that they “should eat as little dietary cholesterol as possible.” So, although this reform is a success for practitioners who understand the requirements for adequate cholesterol, the work is now cut out for us to begin disassembling the well-established fear of cholesterol from the minds of most Americans.

To a great degree, the battle of dietary recommendations for cholesterol and other fats have hinged on the belief that serum cholesterol levels are a direct predictor of cardiovascular disease. Despite the broad awareness and even larger acceptance of this theory, science still struggles to authenticate this claim. Dietary cholesterol and saturated fats do, indeed, influence serum cholesterol levels, but is that truly a good predictor of cardiovascular risk? If history has any say in the matter, decades of fat-free marketing, food products, and diet plans haven’t seemed to curtail the mortality rate, and cardiovascular disease still remains the number one cause of death in this country. Dietary guidelines continue to push for an increase in omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids in place of saturated fats, but again, this advice is rooted in the so-called improvement in serum cholesterol ratios, resulting from this shift in dietary fat, even in the absence of cardiovascular improvements. We have even explored the effects of replacing saturated fats with carbohydrates on cardiovascular risk factors, and not surprisingly, that has not yielded positive results either. In fact, replacing saturated fats with carbohydrates has worsened cardiovascular risks by increasing small, dense low-density lipoprotein particles, which are more indicative of cardiovascular events than large LDL particles, which are produced by dietary saturated fats.

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Tags: heart health, Cardiovascular Disease, cholesterol

Pecans: Autumn’s Favorite Nut

Posted on Thu, Dec 01, 2016 @ 09:47 AM

When someone describes something as having a “nutty” flavor, they’re not usually referring to pistachios, macadamias, or peanuts. More likely, they’re talking about the unique flavor imparted by roasted almonds and pecans. It’s a warm, toasty, and “golden brown” flavor, if a taste sensation can be said to have a color. With all the love for grain-free treats made with almond flour, and dairy-free smoothies and lattes made with almond milk, poor pecans get the short shrift. Well, not anymore!

Like most nuts, pecans fit into just about every diet paradigm out there. Vegetarians, vegans, low-carbers, keto dieters, and Paleo adherents alike can all enjoy these delicious, crunchy nuts. The only people who might want to stay away (besides people with tree nut allergies, of course) are those on very low-fat diets, but even in that case, the body does still require some dietary fat, and pecans are loaded with monounsaturated fat, a bit of polyunsaturated, and just a touch of saturated rounding things out. The predominant individual fatty acid in pecans is oleic acid, the same one that predominates in olive oil. The omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of pecans is a heavy 21:1, but the total amount of polyunsaturated fat in an ounce of pecans is only about 6 grams, so the total omega-6 is nothing to lose sleep over. (Unless you wolf down a large amount of pecans, which is certainly not impossible, considering how delicious they are.)

Nutrient-wise, pecans provide copper, manganese, zinc, and thiamin, with small amounts of magnesium and iron. They’re high in fiber and very low in total carbohydrates, making them a great snack for people eating low-carb, higher-fat diets. Not that anyone gravitates toward pecans for their nutrient content. More likely, it’s because, plain and simple, they’re just really tasty. They work in both sweet and savory dishes, and they’re practically a staple for pairing with classic autumn foods, like apples, pumpkin, winter squash, and many side dishes, some of which may have made an appearance at the Thanksgiving table. 

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Tags: healthy eating, cholesterol

Lemons, Lemons, Lemons

Posted on Thu, Jun 23, 2016 @ 09:32 AM

Lemon cultivars can be sweet, sour, and downright pucker-inducing. In the kitchen, they can be used in savory dishes and sweet treats, as well as employed as antibacterial cleaning agents. They’re good for digestion, too. That’s a lot of work packed into these little yellow fruits! 

Like other citrus fruits, lemons are high in vitamin C, and they also contain small amounts of potassium, folate, and B6. When consumed along with iron-rich foods, vitamin C may help the body absorb more of this mineral. (A good tip for patients who tend toward iron deficiency anemia. Who wouldn’t want lemon garlic lamb kebabs? Or, for vegetarians, how about fresh squeezed lemon juice on an iron-rich bean salad?)

The acidity of lemons may help aid digestion, and their pectin—a soluble fiber—may help reduce total cholesterol as well as improve bowel health. (It should be noted, however, that lemon juice doesn’t provide fiber. For that, the pulp of the fruit must be consumed. A tall order, perhaps, for people who don’t like the sour taste, but grilling lemons is a way to bring out their sweetness. Preserving lemons in salt or with spices is another way to tone down the tartness and bring out the sweet zing while making the pulp very soft and easy to eat—including the rind!)  

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Tags: Vitamin C, cholesterol, digestion

The Delicate Acid-Alkaline Balance

Posted on Thu, May 26, 2016 @ 09:18 AM

Progress and forward change are concepts modern society thrives on. Advances in automobiles, technology, mechanics, education and other areas of life have soared and created an insatiable appetite for progress. Americans are neophiliacs. We love anything new! While progress is vital to success and advancement, there are some areas of life in which our neglect of the “old” has actually hindered progress. In the wake of progress, the health of Americans has clearly seen a decline. Some health advocates, recognizing this trend, have taken the bold step to look backwards, rather than forwards, for solutions to this dilemma. In doing so, they have found ancient wisdom to be useful. Thus was born the Paleolithic diet. 

Although, historically “tried and true,” the Paleolithic diet has been weaving its way into the public eye, and has become more and more acceptable to some of the modern skeptics. Peer-reviewed studies are proving what our ancestors already knew to be true. Compared to current dietary guidelines, a hunter-gatherer type diet can improve a host of modern health indicators, including triglycerides, systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, HDL cholesterol and fasting blood sugar

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Tags: paleo, kidney Health, cholesterol

Cholesterol & Aggression

Posted on Tue, Mar 01, 2016 @ 09:12 AM

cholest.jpgMore evidence constantly emerges suggesting that the half-century old “war on cholesterol” has had unintended consequences for health, wellbeing and overall quality of life. Considering the crucial role this molecule plays as the raw material for pregnenolone and the multitude of hormones that come from it, plus the structural role of cholesterol in building healthy cell membranes and neuronal myelin, the effects of serum cholesterol that is too low should not come as any surprise. Lower cholesterol levels in aged populations have been linked to increased all-cause mortality, and new research is adding to the body of evidence indicating the cholesterol-lowering effects of statin drugs have effects on the mind as well as the body.

It has been recognized for several years that there may be an association between low cholesterol and violent behavior. In one study, cholesterol levels below the median were strongly associated with criminal violence among individuals of the same gender, age, alcohol intake and level of education. Among individuals who have attempted suicide, those who chose violent means had serum cholesterol concentrations 30% lower than those who chose non-violent methods.

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Tags: statins, cholesterol

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