On Physical Wellness

On Physical Wellness

 

Table of Contents

 

Is Coconut Oil a Miracle?

Coconut oil is an extremely smart alternative compared to all the other oils that exist. Contrary to popular opinion, it improves heart health and helps one lose weight. It supports increased metabolism and a healthy immune system. It can also be used on the skin to keep it healthy, soft, and youthful. In addition, coconut oil improves the functioning of the thyroid gland, and provides one with an immediate energy source. Coconut oil is extracted from the kernel or meat of a matured coconut. It has a white texture that is solid at around 76°F.

All vegetable oils and animal fats contain a mixture of saturated and unsaturated (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated) fatty acids. Further, there are several different types of saturated fats, some of which are very healthy. Studies have confirmed that exposure to light, oxygen and especially heat, causes oxidization of unsaturated fats, especially polyunsaturated ones. This process of oxidization causes toxic chemicals (free radicals) to be released, that in turn contribute to a host of modern diseases including heart disease, cancer and diabetes.

Oils like soybean, sunflower, and corn contain predominantly polyunsaturated long chain fatty acids (PLCFAs){ 61%, 69% and 62% respectively}. Canola oil contains about 31% PLCFAs. Olive oil, which is 77% monounsaturated (with 9% being PLCFA) is chemically more stable. However, at high temperatures, it too can lead to oxidization. Saturated fats on the other hand are highly resistant to oxidization. Coconut oil in particular contains only 2% PLCFAs. 92% of the oil is composed of saturated fat, making it one of the safest oils for cooking, baking and deep frying.

The main health benefit of coconut oil comes from the composition of its saturated fat content. The latter is composed of medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs). Compared to PLCFAs, MCFA’s are smaller so they do not need extra enzymes to help with digestion. Further, they are converted into energy, instead of being stored as fat. PLCFAs on the other hand are stored as fat. The major clinical impact of MCFAs include:

  • Raising high density lipoprotein (HDL) {good cholesterol} and lowering triglycerides.
  • Preventing diabetes by making insulin work more efficiently.
  • Promoting calcium absorption (important for women, thus preventing osteoporosis).
  • Raising basal metabolism thus helping with weight loss.
  • Improving digestion and assisting in various digestive disorders.
  • Having powerful anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties.
  • Protecting teeth because of its calcium absorption abilities.
Why Coconut Oil is Not Widely Used in the U.S.

The reason why organic coconut oil has not been widely used in the U.S has to do with politics and propaganda. In the first place, huge government subsidies are given to manufacturers of polyunsaturated vegetable oils. It is in the interest of the U.S. government to support corn and soybean famers rather than promote the coconut oil industry that is primarily based in the developing countries. Secondly, U.S vegetable oil manufacturers created a negative campaign and confusion between hydrogenated coconut oil and organic coconut oil. Any vegetable oil that is chemically altered to become hydrogenated (trans fats) becomes very unhealthy. Organic coconut oil became lumped into this category. Additionally, there was propaganda that because coconut oil was ‘saturated’ it was harmful. The fact that there are different types of saturated fats and that some are extremely healthy, was suppressed from the general public.

Amount and Usage of Coconut Oil

About 1 tablespoon a day is recommended. It can be mixed with morning oatmeal, soups and used as a spread. As noted earlier, it can be used for all cooking, frying and baking needs. Depending on your medical requirements and tolerability, the amount used can be increased to 1.5 tablespoons. As with anything, moderation is key. Some people may not tolerate it. If this is the case, you might feel nausea. In general however, it is a well-tolerated oil.

Where to Get Coconut Oil

Coconut oil can be found in local whole food stores as well as amazon.com. Some chain groceries carry it. It is likely to be found in the ethnic and/or organic sections of these stores. Brands include, Nutiva, Tropical Traditions and Spectrum.

 

Going Cuckoo for Coconut Flour

Almost every meal that we consume contains some sort of wheat product. Whether it is bread, cookies, pizza, pasta, cereal, or something else, wheat is an indispensable facet of our diet. That being said, people are trying to cut down on the amount of carbohydrate intake by limiting the amount or by choosing low-carb wheat products. In addition, there are some people who are unable to eat most normally bought wheat products because they cannot tolerate the protein gluten which is prevalent in most grains. Seeing this situation arise, food manufacturers have developed various low-carb and other gluten-free wheat products. However, there are few naturally developed wheat-like products that are low in carbohydrates and are gluten free. Of the most beneficial of these products that can be easily found is coconut flour.

Coconut flour is a low-carb, gluten-free flour that is made from the crushed and dried meat (the inside fleshy part) of the coconut. In addition, coconut is high in fiber, high in protein, and can be extremely tasty. Coconut flour enhances the flavor and nutritional benefit of most wheat products. It can be used to make cakes, pies, bread, cereal, muffins, pancakes, and every other type of wheat based product you can think of. Besides that, it is a healthy compound that can be used to make everyday meals more nutritionally beneficial.

The Health Benefits of Coconut Flour

Coconut flour is one of the healthiest flours you can use in cooking. Besides the fact that it is gluten-free, it is considered a hypoallergenic food. People who are allergic to nuts, gluten, and dairy products can look to coconuts to find a tasty food to provide them their basic needs. From coconuts, you can derive milk, flour, oil, and flakes to take care of your dairy, wheat, and other needs. You can cook using coconut flour, enabling your food to be free of wheat, gluten, soy, Trans fat, and yeast.

The low carbohydrate levels in coconut flour are due mostly to the prevalence of non-digestible carbohydrates found in the flour. Non-digestible carbohydrates, such as fiber, are able to go through the digestive system without being absorbed into the body. This property prevents non-digestible carbohydrates from transforming into fat and being stored in our bodies. Coconut flour has more fiber per serving than wheat bran, soy flour, and all other commonly used flours. Below is a graph illustrating the difference in fiber content for a variety of different flours.

If you look at the table above, you will notice that coconut flour (far left) is made of 61% fiber, nearly 2.5 times more than the next closest type of flour.

Benefits of Fiber

Now that you know about coconut flour’s high fiber content, you’re probably wondering, why the emphasis on fiber? Fiber, as mentioned earlier, is a non-digestible carbohydrate, and as such, it can help people to manage their weight. In addition, fiber helps to improve:

  1. The intestinal environment
    • The intestines are filled with good and harmful bacteria. Fiber is a food source for the good bacteria, and as such, limiting fiber intake can be detrimental to the good bacteria, which can lead to nutrient deficiencies, food allergies, and even depression.
    • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, is caused by an out of balance intestinal environment. Eating coconut flour helps to relieve symptoms associated with IBD.
    • Coconut fiber has a unique property uncharacteristic of most fibers: it helps to rid the intestines of intestinal worms. Eating coconut can reduce the intestinal worm content by 90% after just 12 hours.
  2. Blood sugar and prevent diabetes.
    • Because fiber slows down the absorption of sugar into the blood stream, it is extremely beneficial for people who have diabetes or are at risk of developing diabetes.
    • Coconut flour actually reduces the glycemic index of foods, allowing diabetics to eat foods they would normally be forced to avoid.
  3. Heart health.
    • The high fiber in coconut flour can help to reduce your blood pressure and cholesterol.
    • Coconut flour is also a great provider of antioxidants which help to keep your arteries from clogging.
  4. Overall health and prevent cancer.
    • Fiber helps to clean out the intestines of unwanted toxins, parasites, and carcinogens thereby aiding in cancer prevention.

In addition to the benefits due to high fiber content, coconut flour is filled with trace minerals that are hard to come by. The high content of trace minerals is due to the conditions under which coconut trees grow. Coconut trees usually grow near the sea or in nutrient rich volcanic soil, both of which have an abundant source of trace elements that are necessary for optimal health. Using coconut flour can help to guarantee a healthy supply of vitamins and minerals for your body.

Using Coconut Flour

Coconut flour can easily be used by replacing 15%-25% of the flour used in a normal recipe with coconut flour and adding to the recipe an equal amount of water. For example, if a recipe calls for 2 cups of flour and 2 cups of water, you can use 1.5 cups of whatever flour you normally use (not coconut flour), half a cup of coconut flour, and 2.5 cups of water. You should not exceed using 25% coconut flour if using a recipe that calls for some type of all-purpose flour or bread flour. However, there are wheat based foods that can be made with 100% coconut flour. For a complete list of recipes and tips about cooking with coconut flour, see the book Cooking with Coconut Flour by Bruce Fife, N.D. Coconut flour is available online at Amazon.com and other internet websites.

 

Going Nuts over Nuts

Nuts are one of the healthiest foods around. Many people mistakenly stay away from nuts because of high fat levels, but actually, most of these fats are unsaturated ones (‘good’ fats). These kind of fats decrease the amount of low density lipoproteins (LDL) {‘bad cholesterol} and maintain levels of high density lipoproteins (HDL) {‘good’ cholesterol). In fact, studies show that:

  • Nuts have been proven to lower cholesterol, thereby decreasing the risk of heart attack. Additionally, type 2 diabetes and even some forms of cancer have been reduced.
  • Nuts provide a lot of energy. Nuts contain plenty of vitamins and minerals such as potassium, magnesium, iron, zinc, vitamin E and calcium.

Here are the details on some specific nuts:

  • Pecans – a good source of Vitamin B, protein and fiber, are known to fight some forms of cancer.
  • Almonds – guarantee strong bones. Contains calcium, vitamin E, and others that are believed to fight heart disease and cancer.
  • Walnuts – contain several vitamins and minerals that are known to lower cholesterol.
  • Peanuts and pistachios – contain vitamin B, which is necessary for energy and metabolism.
Nuts as a Good Snack

Although nuts are healthy and delicious, they are high in calories. Therefore, the portion size should be limited, especially for people on a weight loss program.

  • A good rule of thumb for a serving size is a small handful (about a quarter cup size). According to the Department of Agriculture, one serving of nuts equals about 28 peanuts, 22 almonds, 18 cashews, 47 pistachios, or 20 pecan halves.
  • A serving size of nuts should ideally be eaten an hour or two before a major meal to curb hunger and prevent over-eating during the main meal.

Given the wonderful properties of nuts, why not bag the unhealthy snacks like chips and cookies and eat nuts as a snack food instead?

The Power of Protein

Protein is an essential material of life. Proteins are necessary for the body to grow and function. The body would not be able to operate without them. The word “protein” comes from the Greek root
meaning “of first importance”. After proteins are broken down by digestion, 22 amino acids are formed. Eight of these acids, those that are not produced by the body, are essential. These 8 acids
are provided from the protein that comes from food. The other 14 acids are non‐essential because they are naturally produced by the body. If any of the 8 essential acids fail to enter the body, the body will break down muscles and tissue to make up for the lack of protein. When the human body does not get an adequate intake of protein, it slowly starts to deteriorate. This happens because almost every part of the body consists of protein. The reason why protein is so important is because when the body does not have proper levels of protein, it starts to feed off from other important parts which in the end, leaves the body in a very unhealthy state. Since protein cannot be stored in the body, it is recommended to eat these healthy foods every day:

  • Fish (e.g. wild Alaskan salmon)
  • Shellfish
  • Free range poultry
  • Omega 3 organic eggs from free range chickens
  • Tofu
  • Low fat dairy products (e.g. yogurt, kefir)

Having large quantities of protein in breakfast is very important too, because it will keep you going
throughout the day. In addition, it will hold back your hunger and keep you from overeating.

Vitamin D3

Vitamin D3 is a very useful and important substance that can be used to improve our health.
Having the characteristics of a hormone, it controls various aspects of the body, such as
calcium, bone metabolism, and phosphorus. Vitamin D3 is produced when the skin is exposed
to sunlight, but now, with today’s increased use of sunscreen and indoor living, the amount of
vitamin D3 in the population is much less than it should be. This needs to change, because vitamin
D3 is very important for bone health, as it reduces the risk of fractures. In fact, research shows that
lack of vitamin D3 plays a big part in a large number of other health conditions:

  • Depression – vitamin D3 deficiency is associated with depressed mood.
  • Chronic back pain – studies have shown that low levels of vitamin D3 played a big part in
    chronic lower back pains.
  • Cancer – breast cancer, ovarian, prostate, and colon cancer may be connected with
    the deficiency of vitamin D3.
  • Impaired immunity – as vitamin D3 regulates the T cells, it may play a big part in immune deficiency.

As you can see, vitamin D3 plays an important role in our health, yet many of us lack this nutrient. As
we age, the amount of vitamin D3 decreases, whereas the need for it increases. Another reason
why so many of us have not been getting the proper amount of vitamin D3 is because the
Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) is set very low (400 to 600 International Units (IUs)). More recent
research has shown that adults should be taking at least 1000 IUs or more. Individuals at special risk
may take up to 5000 I.U.s.

 

Curcumin: The Spice of Life

Curcumin is the main substance found in the spice turmeric. It is used in various piquant dishes or curries from India, and countries in the Middle East. Curcumin is actually the material that gives curry that yellow color, and unique one of a kind taste. Recent research has shown that it may be one of the most powerful, health‐enhancing spices available to mankind. This gold standard spice has many health benefits to offer:

  • A number of studies have shown that it reduces the risk of cancer.
  • It relieves arthritis symptoms.
  • It heals inflammation and relieves pain in the muscles and skin.
  • It can be used as a treatment for stomach pains.
  • It has been known to lower LDL (bad cholesterol) and raise the level of HDL (good cholesterol).
  • Research also shows that those who consumed curcumin had a lesser chance of getting kidney failure.
  • This is because the curcumin holds back free radicals and increases the amount of certain antioxidants.

  • Curcumin may also be a possible cure for Alzheimer’s disease.

Curcumin can be taken in a few different ways. Some prefer to acquire it by putting it into their cooking. However, sufficient quantities of this spice may not be available through cooked food. It should be supplemented, therefore with capsules, which can be purchased at a local health food stores. One or two capsules a day (or more as directed by your physician) is sufficient.

 

All You Need to Know About Trans Fatty Acids

Every day, millions of Americans enjoy some of their favorite foods (cookies, pizza, fast food, frozen foods…) not realizing that each bite is increasing their chances of developing cardiovascular disorders. That is because Trans Fatty Acids (TFA’s), a type of fat that is found in unnaturally manufactured hydrogenated oils, are present in many of the previously mentioned foods. TFA’s are responsible for over 30% of deaths related to cardiovascular disease, and are therefore hazardous if consumed even in small amounts. If Trans Fatty Acids are so dangerous, how have they become prevalent in many foods that we now consume?

A Short History of TFA’s

  • Before the beginning of the 20th century, the food industry began to worry about providing food to a growing number of consumers with longer shelf-life.
  • In 1902, the German scientist Wilhelm Normann created a “hard fat,” known today as partially hydrogenated oil, by applying pressure and hydrogen to vegetable oil using nickel as a catalyst.
  • This new oil had unique qualities unknown to any other vegetable oil before it. Partially hydrogenated oil:
    1. was solid at room temperature.
    2. had a creamy butter-like texture.
    3. was able to remain stable for years without having to be cooled (longer shelf-life).
  • In 1911, Procter and Gamble took a gamble in introducing their new product, Crisco, one of the first manufactured food products to contain partially hydrogenated oils and TFA’s.
  • In the 1940’s, partially hydrogenated oil spread across America because butter and animal fats were rationed due to World War II.
  • In 1957, the American Heart Association asserted that reducing saturated fat consumption, the fats found in butter and red meat, could decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • By the mid 1980’s, Americans called for fast food giants to use partially hydrogenated oil in cooking because of the American Heart Association’s support for the product.
  • Finally, in 1993, health advocacy groups began to realize the dangers of TFA’s.
  • In 2002, the federal government agreed with researchers that, “There is likely no safe level of Trans Fat (consumption) and that people should eat as little as possible.”
  • A law was enacted shortly after that requires all food labels must list the amount of Trans Fat present per serving.
Decreasing TFA consumption

Given the previous information, it is your obligation to reduce the amount of TFA’s you consume in an effort to ultimately eliminate TFA consumption in your life. How do you reduce TFA consumption? When you purchase food from the store, take time to read the food label and buy foods that have 0g of Trans Fat. However, if you look only at the Trans Fat content, you may purchase something that claims to have 0g Trans Fat per serving, but actually contains partially hydrogenated oil. The reason why this can be possible is that in the law that requires that food labels include Trans Fat content, a loophole exists that allows food manufacturers to claim 0g Trans Fat per serving if there is less than 0.5g of Trans Fat per serving. The ingredients on the other hand tell the full story. If the ingredients state that there is “partially hydrogenated oil,” there must be Trans Fat. The diagram below highlights one of the many cases in which there are Trans Fats in a product that claims to be Trans Fat free.

Figure 1: Cookie Nutrition Label

If you look at the Nutrition facts of Figure1, right, it states “Trans Fat 0g” (underlined). However, if you read the ingredients, you see that there is “partially hydrogenated soybean and/or cottonseed oil” (underlined). Any food product that contains partially hydrogenated oil contains TFA’s regardless of what the label says it includes. This product contains TFA’s

Alternatives to Partially Hydrogenated Oils

Of the many alternatives to partially hydrogenated oil is coconut oil (See July/August newsletter). Because it contains saturated fats, it is solid at room temperature, and has many other positive qualities including improving heart health, and promoting weight loss. Palm oil is also similar to coconut oil and therefore is also a recommended substitute for partially hydrogenated oil.

 

Whey Protein

A rich source of protein is whey protein. Whey protein is one of the main proteins found in milk, along with casein. It contains the largest source of branched chain amino acids, which are
important for building lean muscle tissue. A specific amino acid, leucine, promotes muscle growth and is therefore especially important to athletes. Since it takes the body more energy to
digest protein, a larger number of calories are burned after consuming protein. Because whey protein isolate is abundant in leucine, it promotes lean muscle growth while preventing fat gain.
Although soy and egg proteins are rich in leucine, whey protein contains more.

In addition, whey protein balances blood sugar levels by slowing the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream. This results in appetite suppression, because insulin levels are reduced and fat is burned more easily. Studies have shown that whey protein curbs hunger even more than casein, the other main protein in milk. Therefore, adding whey protein to in between snacks or beverages is a more nutritious alternative to other foods. Whey protein can especially be eaten as a snack before dinner, in order to control food consumption at that time. Aside from curbing hunger and promoting lean muscle, whey protein strengthens the immune system. Using the amino acid cysteine, whey protein reduces the risk of infection and increases immunity. Whey protein is a very pure, beneficial protein with important health benefits.