Nutrition

UNDERSTANDING ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS

What are Essential Fatty Acids (or EFA’s as they are commonly known), and why are they so darn essential?

Essential fatty acids play a very important role in the prevention of cancer and heart disease, help reduce and prevent inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, eczema, and psoriasis; they improve the softness and smoothness of your skin and provide many other health benefits.  Essential fatty acids are important components of the outer skin or membrane of every cell. The membrane determines which chemicals and nutrients will be allowed to enter and exit the cell; within the cell membrane essential fatty acids are continually activated and converted into prostaglandin hormones, a process that allows essential fatty acids to supply their disease prevention and anti-aging effects to a wide range of tissues within the body

Anti-aging and disease prevention?  Sounds amazing, right?

Well, if your terrified of eating fat, as many people on diets are, you aren’t getting enough because your body cannot make this stuff.  You NEED to get it through diet and/or supplements.  But hang on a second, before you think “I KNEW those high-fat, carb-free programs are the best!,” because not ALL prostaglandin hormones are good for you.

Some more boring scientific stuff:

There are three main types of prostaglandin hormones (PG): PG-1, PG-2, and PG-3. PG-1 and PG-3 have positive impacts on our health, while PG-2 can lead to highly negative effects. It encourages blood vessels to constrict and blood platelets to clot abnormally,  increasing the chance of heart attack, ischemic stroke, and high blood pressure. It also encourages inflammation, worsening arthritis and other joint, muscle and tendon conditions, including Crohn’s disease and colitis. PG-2 is associated with greater risk of cancer in that it prompts rapid cell division. Finally, it can make the skin dry, rough, and scaly, and aggravate a number of common skin disorders, such as eczema, psoriasis, and possibly roscacea.  surprise YIKES!

Reading that makes you want to stay away from that stuff like the plague…..but unfortunately….you love it too much.  You see, PG-2 is formed from a saturated fat known as arachidonic acid, found in high-fat meats and high-fat dairy products.  Yep, your steaks, burgers, milkshakes, cheese and other yummy foods.  You know what else makes PG-2? The over-consumption of linoleic acid, an unsaturated fat found in your typical grocery store corn oil, sunflower seed oil, safflower seed oil, and mixed vegetable oils, all of which promote the production of arachidonic acid by the body. Unfortunately, the typical North American diet is a rich source of arachidonic acid and linoleic acid, and most individuals produce too much PG-2.

You can lower your tissue concentrations of arachidoninc acid by choosing chicken, turkey or fish, instead of high-fat meat products, and non-fat or 1 percent milk and yogurt products.  Remove from your diet any cheese that is more than 3 percent milk fat, and use cold-pressed olive oil or organic canola or grapeseed oil in place of other vegetable oils in salad dressings.  These are good sources of monounsaturated fat, which does not participate in the formation of prostaglandin hormones and is known to help reduce cholesterol and contribute to cardiovascular health in other ways.

So now you know how to reduce the formation of PG-2, but what about the good prostaglandin hormones, PG-1 and PG-3, the ones with all those health benefits?

The key building block for PG-1 is an unsaturated fat known as gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), which is found in high concentrations in borage oil or evening primrose oil. GLA can also be formed in the body from linoleic acid (the oils we consume too much of), but individuals who suffer diabetes, eczema, or premenstrual syndrome have a defective enzyme that prevents the conversion of linoleic acid to GLA.  Drinking alcohol, eating refined sugars, and hydrogenated fats (margarine, shortening, pastries, chips and other snacks) tends to inhibit this conversion as well, as does the aging process itself.  For all these reasons, virtually everyone has suboptimal cell membrane concentrations of GLA, so it’s a good idea to supplement especially if you have one of the conditions mentioned.

PG-3, on the other hand,  is formed from an omega-3 unsaturated fat called eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), which is found in cold-water marine fish such as salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, and tuna.  This is the reason that fish oil supplements are so popular, and rightfully so.  The body can also convert the omega-3 fat alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) found in flaxseed oil, and chia seeds as well as walnuts, into EPA, increasing the production of PG-3, but as you can see from the chart below, it’s a much quicker process to go directly from fish oil to PG-3. Fish oil, by the way, also contains docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which enhances immune function and the development and function of the brain, and is essential to good vision.  (This is why a higher DHA to EPA ratio fish oil supplement is often recommended for kids with ADHD).

PG-3 is considered very important for total body wellness, as it reduces risk of heart attacks by dilating blood vessels and discouraging abnormal blood clotting. It slows the rate of cell division and so reduces the risk, especially of breast, prostate, and colon cancer. PG-3 is also known to reduce inflammation, including skin inflammatory responses, a role it shares with PG-1.

If you are looking to build muscle, you’ll like this one:

For exercisers, particular relevance is the anti-oxidant and acute, exercise-related anti-inflammatory nature of EPA and DHA. Since high-intensity exercise and weight training cause increases in inflammation and oxidation, reducing this response may be beneficial in improving exercise recovery. Even more interesting for people looking to build muscle, EPA and DHA supplementation has been suggested to support muscle protein synthesis and limit muscle protein degradation. This can mean less muscle breakdown and more muscle growth.

Why supplement?

Most individuals suffer unknowingly from an essential fatty acid deficiency or imbalance, thanks to modern agricultural and food processing methods and the typical North American diet.  To ensure optimal essential fatty acid nutritional status, it is highly recommended to take a quality EFA supplement, preferably in the form of professional-quality fish oil.  This simple practice can result in significant benefits for your health, your appearance, the rate at which your body will age, and your risk of future illness.

The bottom line?

Taking fish oil daily may seem disgusting, but high quality brands like those found in our Online Dispensary make great-tasting fish oils, free from mercury and other impurities.  I also highly recommend Organic Atlantic Salmon Oil from Vital Choice.  Give either of those a try, you’ll be glad you did! On a personal note, I used to have high cholesterol as a teenager (if you’re thinking that’s insane, you’d be right!) and even after changing my dietary habits it still stayed on the border.  Taking a fish oil supplement daily has helped bring the levels down to normal, with no other meds required.

 A handy chart, which may or may not clarify things:  tongue

weight, Rebecca Lazar - UNDERSTANDING ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS

Read More

THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF COCONUT OIL

weight, Rebecca Lazar - THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF COCONUT OILCoconut oil has gotten a bad rep over the years because it has a high amount of saturated fat, and, if you know anything about fats, you know that saturated fats are not good for you, especially if you have high cholesterol or heart disease.  Unfortunately, this reputation is completely unfair since REAL coconut oil (unprocessed and organic) is extremely healthy, can actually lower cholesterol, and even helps you lose weight.

What makes coconut oil so great? Get ready for a little science, and try not to fall asleep, this is actually interesting! sleepy Whether unsaturated (think olive oil) or saturated (butter, animal fats), the majority of fats and oils in our diet are composed of long chain fatty acids.  Coconut oil is a different type of saturated fatty acid – it has mainly medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA) and the effects of MCFA are different from the long chain fatty acids (LCFA) found in other foods. In fact, the saturated and unsaturated fat in milk, eggs, meat and even in plants and most vegetable oils are made of LCFA. This is important because our bodies respond and metabolize each fatty acid differently.  When it comes to MCFA, the liver and gall bladder do not need to digest and emulsify it; this results in instant energy, increased metabolic rate and subsequently more heat production as well as increased circulation. By the way, anyone with an impaired fat digestion or a removed gallbladder will benefit from coconut oil since it’s easily digested.  There are only few dietary sources of MCFA, and one of the best sources by far is coconut oil.

Coconut oil has many health benefits which are attributed to the presence of lauric acid. When it is present in the body, lauric acid is converted into monolaurin, a compound that is highly toxic to viruses, bacteria, funguses and other microorganisms because of its ability to disrupt their lipid membranes and virtually destroy them.  Without lauric acid, monolaurin cannot be produced by the body. Interestingly enough, breast milk is the only other source of lauric acid, which must explain the lesser incidents of infections with breast-fed infants. Regular consumption of coconut oil actually boosts immunity and reduces incidences of sickness.

Medium-chain fatty acids found in coconut oil can also be helpful for weight loss by its ability to speed up metabolism faster than long-chain fatty acids because they are easily digested and converted into energy. In fact, a study reported medium-chain fatty acids to be three times more effective in raising metabolism than long-chain fatty acids.  If that isn’t enough to make you eat spoonfuls of coconut oil right out of the container sick , I don’t know what is.

So how much do you need to consume for all these awesome health benefits? Well, that depends who you ask.  The common theory is 1 tablespoon, 3 times a day, but I usually just suggest to incorporate it into your cooking – did I mention you can stir-fry and bake with coconut oil with fantastic results and without destroying its health benefits like some other oils? – well, now I just did.

Hmmm, all of this talk about coconut has given me a craving for coconut ice cream by So Delicious, so I’m gonna head to my freezer for this high-fiber, MCFA-rich dessert! winking

Read More

NUTS ABOUT NUTS!

weight, Rebecca Lazar - NUTS ABOUT NUTS!If you’re afraid to eat nuts because they are high in calories and you are convinced they will make you gain weight, know that the type of fats nuts contain are GOOD for you and studies have shown nuts actually help DECREASE excess body fat when eaten as part of a healthy diet. Nuts are best eaten raw, but dry roasted nuts have benefits as well including ease of digestibility.  If you are allergic to one or more nuts, you should avoid them completely, though some poeple (including myself) have a mild tree nut allergy where raw tree nuts cause a histamine response, while roasted ones do not.

Nuts are excellent sources of minerals, proteins, monounsaturated fats and other nutrients.  Eating just 1.5 ounces a day may reduce the risk of age related degeneration of cognitive skills, motor abilities, heart disease and risk for some cancers.  The omega-3 fatty acids found in nuts can alter the effect of chronic stress on the body by reducing the production of several pro-inflammatory biochemicals in the body which lead to age-related disease.

Nuts are best purchased and stored in their shells, which naturally protect against fee radical damage caused by light and air.  Do not eat or use moldy nuts; if it smells or looks even remotely moldy, it is RANCID.  If you buy shelled nuts, store them in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer.  Crushed nuts, slivered nuts and nut pieces are often rancid, so it’s best to prepare your own from whole nuts.  Here are the health benefits (and some drawbacks) for the most common types of nuts:

ALMONDS

By far my favorite nut, almonds are a great source of calcium, magnesium, Vitamin E and selenium.  They are also the most alkaline of the nuts – typical American/Canadian diets are way too acidic, and acidity is a breeding ground for disease, so consuming more alkaline foods is always helpful.  Almonds also help support colon health and reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol.

BRAZIL NUTS

High in selenium, brazil nuts reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer and also play a role in reducing allergies and inflammation.  That being said, due to it’s high selenium content, it’s best to have no more than 1-2 serving twice per week.  As well, it is high in oxalates, so if you have a history of oxalate-containing kidney stones, it’s best to limit consumption.

WALNUTS

Walnuts are full of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, contain ellagic acid known to fight cancer and support the immune system and have anti-inflammatory properties important for controlling asthma, arthritis, eczema and psoriasis.

CASHEWS

A good source of minerals and lower in fact than most nuts.  The fat they contain is the heart-healthy oleic acid.

PECANS

Known to reduce cholesterol, pecans are also an excellent source of 19 vitamins and minerals.  Pecans were the nuts used in the studies on weight and body mass index.  Subjects consumed about 3.5 oz. of pecans per day (459 calories and 44 gr of fat), yet their body mas index and weight remained unchanged.

MACADAMIA NUTS

Highest in monounsaturated fats and high in portein, fiber, potassium and magnesium, macadamia nuts also lower triglyceride levels.  Macadamia nut oil is also stable at much higher temperatures than olive oil or canola oil.

PEANUTS

Peanuts, as most people know, is actually not a nut at all, but rather a legume.  Another well-known fact is that peanuts are a highly allergenic food.   This may or may not be due to the overwhelming amount of aflatoxins, a poison produced by the Aspergillus flavus fungus,  which grows well on peanuts.  A known carcinogen, it is 20 times more noxious than DDT.  Peanut also contain large amounts of oxalates (see brazil nuts above)……Although peanuts do have similar health benefits as other nuts, in my practice I generally recommend to limit or avoid their consumption.  Commercially prepared peanut butter should be completely avoided since they use hydrogenated stabilizing oils which are hazardous to the cardiovascular system.

PINE NUTS

Pine nuts are high in magnesium and potassium, two minerals whose combined effects product a strong, healthy heartbeat, lowered blood pressure and improved blood flow.

PISTACHIOS

In addition to lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol and raising HDL (good) cholesterol, pistachios contain a compound with anti inflammatory effects.  Another study demonstrated pistachios as effective against jaundice.  Individuals who are allergic to mango and cashews should avoid pistachios as well, since they are from the same family.  Do not consume pistachios with red dye.

Now that you know how great nuts can be for you, toss some nuts on your next salad, in your next cup of organic yogurt or use them in your baked goods.  Enjoy! happy

Source: The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods, by Michael Murray N.D.

 

 

Read More

HEALTHY SNACK CHOICES FOR WEIGHT LOSS

Confused about what to snack on when trying to lose weight and/or get healthy? Here are some of my personal top picks. All the items mentioned are strictly kosher soy-free (a couple of the items may contain soy lecithin), and some are gluten-free. Most of these products can be found at your local health food store, although some are available in regular grocery stores as well. Yes, snacks can taste good AND be good for you! Enjoy happy

Read More

WHAT TO EAT ON PASSOVER

If I had a dollar for every phone call or email I get this time of year with someone frantically asking me what the heck they are going to eat on Passover without packing on the pounds or destroying their health, I’d probably have enough money to go to a nice hotel for Passover and thereby ignore said phone calls and emails. Ok, perhaps I’m exaggerating a tad (do you know how much it costs to stay at one of those kosher for Passover hotels? Yikes!), but you get the point….

Of course I’m happy to help, so listen up, because if you know anything about me, it’s that I hate repeating myself (the hubby can attest to that big grin ).  So here is my very deep and insightful thoughts regarding this topic: the more unhealthy, packaged, processed food items you eat throughout the year, the more difficult of a time you will have on Passover.

Wow.  That is some pure genius right there.

You see, the challenge is, in order to eat healthy on Passover, you have to completely avoid the temptation to buy anything pre-made.  The companies make these products for your “convenience” but it is nothing more than a very expensive way to throw all the garbage ingredients they could find into a box and then add chemicals and preservatives to keep the garbage on the shelf as long as possible.  Yes, it’s THAT bad, don’t even get me started.

So what should you do? It’s simple and it’s easy.  Go back to the basics.  For G-d’s sakes, people it’s only a week – or 2, if you change over your kitchen far in advance due to your OCD, but that’s another story!  Here is a list of foods to eat and foods to avoid on Passover.

Foods to eat:

  • Fish, all kinds.
  • Poultry – chicken and turkey
  • Hormone and antibiotic-free eggs
  • Lean meat (limit to once or twice per week)
  • Fruits of any kind, but avoid eating after a meal as it inhibits digestion.
  • Vegetables (yes, including *gasp* the “evil” potato and sweet potato, which are far more healthy than eating pounds of matzhoh, especially if organic)
  • Quinoa, assuming your Rabbi approves this contraversial non-grain.
  • Organic spelt matzoh, which is very easy to find these days and more gentle on the digestive system than whole wheat matzoh.
  • Grapeseed oil for baking and stir-frying; olive oil for salads and other cold dishes.
  • Incorporate nuts into your food prep, assuming you are not allergic of course, as nuts have healthy fats and will keep you fuller longer.

Foods to avoid:

  • As always, I recommend to avoid dairy products, with the exception of plain or vanilla yogurt – If you can find organic yogurt that is Kosher for Passover, that is the best choice.  Otherwise, Danone is okay; they are the only company I could find here in Toronto that has less sugar, and no potassium sorbate or sodium benzoate, two potentially harmful (and awful-tasting) preservatives.
  • Kugels and other dishes with matzoh meal, it will just add unnecessary carbs and calories.  In other words, even if your custom is to eat Gebroks (mixing matzoh into your food) you’re waaay better off without it.
  • Limit your intake of sugar and potato starch.  There’s no need to put a ton of sugar or potato starch in your cakes (a half ton will do, thank you).
  • Cottonseed oil, a highly genetically modified substance that shouldn’t even be classified as a food.

Some packaged food products may understandably be difficult to do without, such as ketchup and mayonnaise (see how to make your own mayo HERE) – and of course those ladyfingers, what on earth would we do without ladyfingers? tongue -but not as many as you think.  Always look for items that contain ingredients you understand; many items can be found without chemicals and preservatives if you look hard enough.   Or, make all your own fresh food, you will feel better and it will get rave reviews from family and freinds.  If you stick to these principles, you will have no trouble maintaining your healthy lifestyle on Passover.

Chag Sameach!

Read More