Numerous studies report up to a 10% reduction of bad Cholesterol (LDLs) for study particpants consuming almonds versus those who don't. This reduction occurs without harming levels of good cholesterol (HDLs).1-4 The results show you simply have to consume almonds without making any other changes to your diet. However, cutting all animal fats and many other high cholesterol foods will certainly help lower your LDL cholesterol numbers further.
How Many Almonds Should I Eat?
In order to achieve a 10% reduction in LDL cholesterol aim to eat around 73 grams of almonds per day. That is about half a cup of almonds, and around 400 calories from almonds alone. One dose-response study of almonds showed a 5% reduction in LDL cholesterol per 1/4 cup of almonds, and 10% for a 1/2 cup.2 Studies have not been done if you eat a full cup of almonds. However, since almonds are high in calories, it is not recommended that you eat more than a cup a day. Below is a graph representing how almonds might affect your cholesterol numbers. It assumes your current cholesterol level is 200 (mg/dL).
The Bottom Line with Almonds and Cholesterol
With several studies1-4 reporting a 10% decline in LDL cholesterol from eating almonds, it is recommended that you eat almonds as part of your plan to lower your cholesterol numbers. As always, consider buying a home cholesterol test kit so you can keep track of your own numbers, without expensive doctor bills and long waits, to see what foods work for you. Come back and comment on this article if you experience the same 10% reduction from eating almonds! Also, be sure to read the article on cholesterol lowering foods.
Fruit and Vegetable consumption in the United States is surprisingly low, and only getting lower.
No State or territory in the U.S. has over 50% of the population consuming fruit more than twice a day, and
vegetables 3 times a day.
Here are the statistics from 2000 to 2009.
|Percent of U.S. Population Eating 2 or More Fruits per Day||34.4%||32.5%|
|Percent of U.S. Population Eating 3 or More Vegetables per Day||26.7%||26.3%|
Here are the breakouts by state:
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) aims to have at least 75% of the U.S. population consuming two or more portions of fruits daily. And 50% consuming 3 or more servings of vegetables. This is of course, a great goal. Even if you are already meeting these targets there is nothing wrong with aiming to consume 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Browse the list of fruits and vegetables at HealthAliciousNess, or browse The Fruit and Vegetable Mosaic.
Research shows that drinking up to 10 cups of green tea a day has a significant impact on your blood cholesterol levels.1 Green tea lowers your bad cholesterol (LDL cholesterol) while leaving your good cholesterol (HDL) untouched. But by how much will green tea lower your cholesterol? How much protection does green tea offer from heart disease?
For every glass of green tea you drink you can expect a reduction of 0.015 milli-mols per liter (mmol/L), or 0.58 milli-grams per deciliter (mg/dL).2 That can be a little hard to grasp, so here is a graph to represent green tea's effect on your blood cholesterol levels:
This chart looks pretty impressive, however, looking at the bigger picture, green tea actually just makes a dent in our cholesterol numbers, and is in no way "a magic bullet". This graph shows the difference green tea makes in relation to risky cholesterol ranges set by the American Heart Association.3
The Bottom Line with Green Tea and Cholesterol
While green tea can help lower your cholesterol, it will not so greatly affect your numbers as to quickly pull you out of the high risk zones. Different foods will have a different affect on everyone. The best way to test if green tea works for you is to buy a cholesterol test kit, then test your cholesterol numbers before and after 1 month of drinking green tea every day.
If you are looking to lower your cholesterol, you should drink green tea in combination with avoiding high cholesterol foods, and also, adopting some form of daily exercise. For further reading see the article on foods which lower cholesterol.
Ever wonder how your immune system works and how to improve its functioning? Here is a basic outline told in cartoon superhero style.
The immune centers of your body are located in the tonsils, thymus, spleen, and bone marrow.
- The Tonsils are thought to be the first line of defense against ingested or inhaled diseases, however, their full role in the immune system is yet to be understood.2,3
- The Thymus is involved with the proper functioning of certain immune cells called T-lymphocytes or (T Cells).
- The Spleen filters the blood for diseases, foreign materials, also called "antigens".4
- The Bone Marrow is responsible for producing leukocytes, cells which are responsible for capturing cellular debris, foreign particles, and invading microorganisms.
From these centers your immune cells circulate around your body, looking for the "bad guys", foreign bodies, or antigens
which can appear in the form of viruses, bacteria, and even pollen.
When a disease is found by your immune cells their response depends both on the disease and on the particular immune cell.
(a type of white blood cell) actually engulf, absorb, or eat pathogens. Phagocytes also consume "dead cells" in our body, and play an important
roll in allowing wounds to heal.
Lymphocytes attack antigens by creating antibodies, or toxic granules.
Lymphocytes also destroy cells which have been infected by a virus, and tag antigens to be attacked later.
After defeating a particular disease lymphocytes
will keep a profile and remember the disease throughout your life. Should it appear again, they will quickly eliminate it.
This memory effect of immune cells led to the idea of a vaccine: weakened antigens which could be injected into your body.
Your immune system can then "practice" on this weakened form of a disease.
What foods boost my immune system?
- Vitamin A plays a key role in production of white blood cells, vital for fighting off infection. Vitamin A Foods include carrots, butternut squash, and sweet potatoes.
- Vitamin C can help boost the immune system, particularly in endurance athletes and those undergoing physical stress. Vitamin C Foods include chilies, guavas, bell peppers, broccoli, papayas, and strawberries.
- Zinc, among other immune functions, is necessary for the creation and activation of lymphocytes. Zinc has also been shown to help alleviate symptoms of the common cold, and may even accelerate the time to recovery. High Zinc Foods include Oysters, wheat germ, sesame seeds, pumpkin and squash seeds, peanuts, and dark chocolate.
New York City has launched an advertising campaign against soft drinks and sugar, which brings to mind a time when the Senate was considering a nationwide tax on all sugared drinks.
Here is their first video from the campaign of a man eating sugar packets.
And another video of a man drinking fat.
Lastly are some posters depicting the pure unrefined sugar in sodas:
This is an inforgraphic displaying the tablespoons of sugar in each product:
What are the causes of cancer? What makes us older? If lifestyle choices like smoking cigarettes or drinking cola increase our risk of cancer, what can we do to try reverse or slow aging? Are cancer and aging related?
Adequate, or more than adequate, levels of vitamins and minerals are thought to play a significant role in DNA repair and protection. The repair and protection of DNA is then thought to play a critical role in preventing cancer and slowing aging. This article looks specifically at nutrient-gene interactions with the hope of finding vitamins that could be used as a kind of diet medication.
Carotenoids (vitamin A precursors) such as beta-carotene are now conclusively considered anti-oxidants which ensure genomic stability. Their role in preventing cancer, however, is still considered somewhat controversial, with some studies reporting that carotenoids prevent cancer, and other studies reporting no effect.1
Vitamins B3 (Niacin), B9 (Folate), and B12 (Cobalamin) have also been found as essential for DNA metabolism.1-4 Vitamins B9 and B12 particularly are required for the maintenance of DNA conformation and methylation patterns. The exact concentrations required to maintain DNA integrity are unknown. There is also increasing evidence that single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) might affect the activity of the proteins required for the absorption, transport, and metabolism of b12 and folic acid. In other words the amount of vitamin B12 and folic acid you absorb depends on your own genome, or genetic fingerprint.1
Vitamin D has also been shown to play a role in stabilizing DNA structure, and has been proven to help in bone health, multiple sclerosis, hypertension and possibly cancer. The idea of taking vitamin D supplements should be approached with caution, however, as too much is potentially toxic to the body.1
Vitamin E is lipid peroxyl radical scavenger which makes it very effective at reducing chromosome damage. However, there is mixed evidence if vitamin E supplements play a role in reducing heart disease, Alzheimer's, and Parkinson's.1
- Hageman GJ, Stierum RH. Niacin, poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase-1 and genomic stability. Mutat Res. 2001;475(1-2):45-56.
- Jacobson EL, Shieh WM, Huang AC. Mapping the role of NAD metabolism in prevention and treatment of carcinogenesis. Mol Cell Biochem. 1999;193(1-2):69-74.
- Weitberg AB. Effect of nicotinic acid supplementation in vivo on oxygen radical-induced genetic damage in human lymphocytes. Mutat Res. 1989;216(4):197-201.
The glycemic index is a ranking system designed to express how quickly the sugars and carbohydrates from foods are absorbed into your blood stream. Highly refined foods tend to have a higher glycemic index(GI) and therefore cause your body to over-react and excrete unusually high amounts of insulin to absorb all the free sugar. What ends up happening is that your body over-compensates and excretes too much insulin. This pushes your blood sugar back down again, increasing your hunger level, and causing you to eat even more.
If you have ever been eating a high sugar snack, and wondered why you did not get full, well, that is the reason why. Insulin is more than a hormone telling your body to absorb sugar, it also controls your hunger level, and too much of it can create a cycle of over-eating.
Below is a list of high GI foods which can be reduced or eliminated:
|Food||GI Score (1-100)|
|White Bread / Rice||~70|
|Potatoes (Excluding Sweet Potatoes)||~80|
Do I really need to eliminate all these foods? What can I do to help reduce glycemic load? In general, you do not have to eliminate these foods and pairing them with low GI foods (i.e. fats and proteins) will help slow their absorption in your blood stream and regulate your hunger level. For example, try eating your cereal with milk and nuts. Choose cakes that have no icing and a mixture of fruits. Also, try to choose whole wheat products over refined products, as the bran in whole wheat products helps to slow absorption to your blood stream.
What are the best dietary choices to maximize chances for conception in both men and women?
According to an article in Nutrition & Food Science the strongest factor affecting fertility is being either overweight or underweight. You can use a BMI (body mass index) calculator to check if you are overweight or underweight. The results may surprise you!
The article also states that testosterone and body weight have an inverse relationship in men. In other words, the more you weigh, the less testosterone you produce. So maintaining a healthy weight is particularly important for men. In terms of nutrients both zinc and folate have been identified as increasing fertility for both men and women. Zinc is particularly important for men. Click here for the top ten foods high in zinc, and here, for a list of foods high in folate (vitamin B9).
Are there any other factors?
A recent study on the effects of dairy and fertility published in the journal of Human Reproduction found that women who consume low fat dairy products (skim milk, low fat cheese, etc) are twice as likely to experience infertility compared to those who consume full fat products.
One, however, should not start eating butter in the hopes of increasing fertility and should still approach high fat dairy foods with caution. Instead, one can look to consume a diet higher in healthier fats such as seeds and nuts.
An article in Current Nutrition & Food Science has pointed out that "open leaf" type lettuces such as romaine are much richer in nutrients than crisp head types, like ice bergs. The main reason for this difference is the ability of the leaves to absorb light, and thereby synthesize more vitamins.
Take a look at the nutrient profile comparison of romaine lettuce to ice-berg.
While the amounts of vitamin C and iron are slightly higher in cabbage, the collards still maintain higher protein levels, about 3 times the calcium, and over 50 times the vitamin A. The rule of thumb is to choose and prepare the outer dark green leaves of all leaf vegetables you consume.
The amount of protein you should eat is a factor of your goals in nutrition. For the sake of argument, this article will assume that you want to know how much protein to eat to minimize your risk of cancer and aging, and not to build massive amounts of muscle.
According to a publication out of Washington University St. Louis a low-protein diet reduces levels of a hormone called IGF1 in the blood. IGF1 is theorized to play a key role in regulation of aging and cancer risk. Most animals on a calorie restricted diet experience a decline in IGF1 levels in line with an increase in life-span and health span. They are literally younger for longer. The same reduction in IGF1 only occurred in humans on a protein restricted diet, and not on a calorie restricted diet alone. In order to receive the benefit of a decline in IGF1 levels the participants ate 0.76 grams per kilo-gram of body weight, still above the median required intake of 0.65 g/kg body weight, but way down from the 1.34g/kg body weight that the average American male is eating.
What is the bottom line? Eat less protein for your body weight. What should the serving sizes be? Well that depends on your body weight. The serving sizes below are for a 150 pound (68 kg) person, who should eat 50 grams of protein per day.
Assuming you get no protein from other sources eg: grains, vegetables, etc...per day you should eat no more than any one of the follow:
- 2 chicken legs (~52g protein)
- 6 cups of skim milk (~50g protein) (those are measuring cups or 8 ounces)
- 3 pork chops (~55g protein)
- 2 cans of tuna (~51g protein)
- 10 cups of cooked brown rice (~50g protein)
- 3 cups cooked lentils (~53g protein)
- 4 cups cooked black beans (~58g protein)
- 14 slices of whole grain bread (~49g protein)
- 8 eggs (~50g protein)
- 1.5 cups of whole almonds (~45g protein)
And remember, these numbers are assuming that is all you are eating. When you eat these foods in combination you need even less! So reduce portion size always!
The brain is a very complicated organ of which understanding is still its infancy. Little is known about how most headache medicines act on the brain, other than that they stop pain with no apparent damaging effects. It should therefore be taken with caution when people make adamant statements that alcohol kills brain cells. Long term studies have shown that moderate consumption of alcohol does not kill brain cells, or damage the brain in any way that is not quickly reversible. Studies have even shown that moderate consumption of alcohol can enhance cognitive functioning.
It should be noted that long term abuse of alcohol will cause irreversible damage on your brain, as well as much of your body, and is still a very bad idea.
Brewers Yeast is a rich source of nutrients, typically used for making beer, but can also be used to make bread, and other consumables.
There are conflicting reports on how much vitamin B12 brewers yeast provides. The University of Maryland Medical Center states that it provides no B12. However, the nutrition facts from Now Foods lists a whopping 4 micrograms (67% DV) of vitamin B12 in two tablespoons of brewers yeast. This is way more B12 than what you can get from Marmite or other yeast extracts.
So, as ever with nutrition facts, it is best to buy a product where you can consult the label for specific B12 content. One should also be cautious on counting on the yeast as a sole source for vitamin B12.
Sugar is controversial now, yet lots of people stand by it. "What is the big deal?" they say. As with epidemiology it is always difficult to prove direct effects in humans. People are complicated, they have different genes, different lifestyle habits. Some smoke, some run marathons, some live in cities with smog, some are in the country by animal waste. All this makes it difficult to find a direct effect between nutrition and health.
In the case of blood sugar, we need to look at what we know about how the body works. First, when blood sugar is high your pancreas releases insulin so the excess sugar (glucose) can be absorbed by fat cells in your body. Conversely, when your blood sugar is low, the pancreas releases glucagon which signals the liver to release glucose in the blood. Both insulin and glucagen are hormonal signals, which send messages to your body. They are bound to have more than one function, and indeed as we have seen earlier, insluin is also important in making you feel hungry. This is part of the reason why a person usually feels hungry after eating high sugar foods.
So how does all this relate to health and aging? Well first off, if your blood sugar is consistently high from eating high sugar foods then your body eventually becomes less and less responsive to the insulin, precipitating a condition known as type II diabetes.
Further, caloric restriction is probably the most famous intervention known to extend healthy years of life and "preserve youth". While it is still not known how caloric restriction does this, one of the main theories is that by starving the body, insulin sensitivity increases. In other words, it takes less insulin to keep blood sugar in line, and this in turn slows down the aging of your body. Could you ask for a better reason to eat lettuce instead of candy?
A reader recently asked the question of how vitamin C prevents Scurvy. To answer this question for everyone, it is first important to understand what scurvy is. Scurvy is a disease wherein the body cannot create enough collagen due to a lack of vitamin C. Basically, your body cannot manufacture the connective tissue which holds your organs and teeth in place, and cushions your joints.
So the short answer to the question is that vitamin C plays a rather critical role in how your body makes collagen (connective tissue). Vitamin C, like other vitamins, is a catalyst, a molecule that helps chemical reactions occur with less time and effort. While this article will not delve into the exact biochemistry of how the body produces collagen, it should be noted that vitamin C hydroxialtes two amino acids (the building blocks of life) proline and lysine which then go on to create collagen, thus preventing scurvy.
An editorial in The American Journal of Clincal Nutrition suggests that large scale studies on diet and cancer show little to no link between eating red meat and breast cancer in women who are past adolescence. The study did caution that the degree and heat used to cook the meat was not taken into account, since burning of meat, or any food, is currently considered to be a "no-no" when it comes to cancer. Put the grills on low, or away.
Of course, the whole problem with cancer in epidemiology is that it is hard to study the effect of food for more than a 10-20 year period, since there are so many other factors that can be taking place. People are bad lab animals in other words. You can't isolate them and control for single factors, and so the cancer link is always a challenge which is what leads to all the mixed news.
At the end of the editorial the authors did still urge that red meat intake be limited, citing increased risk to heart disease and cancer. Sage advice, though it goes without saying that almost any food should be limited.
The Complete Blog Archive
How Much Do Almonds Lower Cholesterol?
What Percent of Americans Eat Their Fruits and Vegetables?
How Much Does Green Tea Lower My Cholesterol?
Understanding How Your Immune System Works (A Cartoon Story)
New York City Campaign Against Sugar, Soft Drinks, and Obesity
Vitamins that Protect and Repair DNA to Prevent Cancer and Slow Aging
A list of Common High Glycemic Index (GI) foods which can be eliminated
Reader Question: Foods for Fertility?
Seeing the light: The outer leaves of lettuces and cabbages are the most nutritious
How much protein should I eat?
Alcohol doesn't kill brain cells and may even enhance cognitive functioning
Reader Question: How much Vitamin B12 is in Brewers Yeast?
Blood Sugar, Aging, and Health
How does vitamin C prevent Scurvy?
Red meat no longer a breast cancer risk?
Antioxidant capacity of String Beans, Winged Beans, French Beans, and Snow Peas
How to choose a Low Calorie Soup
Pitfalls and Problems with Food Nutrient Rankings
Eastern Oysters: A Nutritional Comparison of Farm Raised Vs. Wild Caught
How much is 100 grams?
The Hormones of Digestion
How to Build a Low Calorie Pizza
Zinc and the Immune System
The Most Preventable Causes of Death in the U.S.
Smoking and Cancer: A Case Study for Epidemiology
Reader Question: What fruits and vegetables contain Cyanide?
Molecular Link between High Fructose Corn Syrup and the Obesity Epidemic
How can we test if a food really slows aging? A newly discovered biomarker may give us the chance
Senate Considers New Nationwide Tax on Sugared Drinks
Butter that is Good for your Heart? Could be Ghee...
Keep Osteoporosis at Bay with Vitamin K
Nootropics - enhancing learning and memory
Clive McCay and Rethinking Long Term Health
You can't compare oranges to oranges
Reader Question: What are the ingredients for Parmesan Cheese?
Mungo Beans vs. Mung Beans (How to tell the difference and why it matters)
The Blog at HealthAliciousNess