Five principles of food combining – for fighting bloating and fatigue

 

It’s Christmas! And what’s the over-riding feeling at this time of year? Full of energy and festive fun? Or bloating and brain fog from the endless overindulgence? Whilst I hope for my readers that it will be the former, I can’t help but feel that there might be some tendency towards the latter. As with all my solutions to common problems, there is never just “one thing” that makes the difference here, but if we eat 5000 to 7000 calories on Christmas Day, as many people do, then giving some thought to how we can aid in the digestion of all that stuff could be useful.

There’s plenty of information indicating that paying attention to food combining prevents bloating and poor digestion, so what does that translate to? Here are my 5 top food-combining tips dedicated to digestion.

1. Keep proteins away from carbohydrates. If you get this, you’re half way there already. Proteins are long complex molecules which require acidic digestion and adequate concentration of hydrochloric acid in the stomach. Starches (carbs) require an alkaline or neutral pH for digestion, which starts in the mouth with the enzyme amylase. If you combine protein-heavy (nuts and seeds) with starch-heavy (sprouted grains) foods, what do you get? A mess, because proteins digest best in an acid pH and starches in neutral to alkali. And that’s a problem because enzymes work best within very specific temperature and pH ranges. Got it?

2. Eat fruit alone or leave it alone. Fruit digests quite fast, so eat it before other foods. Fruit salad at the end of a meal? Bad idea. A family friend is well known for his mantra “life is uncertain – eat dessert first”. In respect of fruit salad, he’s spot on.

3. Fats fight. It’s best not to mix too many fat-dominant foods to a meal. At Hippocrates, they have “avocado day” for a reason. When avocados are served, you won’t find any nuts or seeds, or nut-rich sauces on the menu. Too many fats fight. Keep it simple, OK?

4. Melons digest the fastest of all. Have it as a starter, on its own, or not at all. And where did the idea of serving it with Parma ham come from? You just wouldn’t, would you?

5. Greens go with most things. Greens and protein, greens and carbs, greens and fat – go right ahead. And if you like greens in your smoothie, there is evidence that mixing greens with fruit can be acceptable if everything is blended up. So – blend away!

For more information on all this, and how to aid your digestive system, take a look at my book The Whole Body Solution. Yes, your whole body will love you for it.

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Health Benefits of Algal Oil

Following on from my previous blogs about healthy fats, there’s a final part to the series – the often overlooked algal (or algae) oil, which I mentioned in my previous blog about healthy fats. Since this month I’m writing about brain health, I’ll focus mostly on the brain benefits of this valuable oil. As you read on, you’ll discover why I have decided to make a very special blend of plant oils, which includes algal oil, an important part of my life from now on.

Algal oil is extracted directly from algae. It contains DHA (docosohexaenoic acid for those who like long words), which makes up 97% of the omega-3 fats in the brain. Studies have shown that algal oil is just as effective as the fatty acids found in cold-water fish. A 2008 study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association indicated that algal oil capsules and cooked salmon appear to be bioequivalent – i.e. they have the same effect in the body. A 2014 scientific review published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition found that algal oil is an effective alternative source of DHA, which leads to significant increases in DHA levels in red blood cells and plasma (the liquid part of the blood).

So, when we take it, it has measurable benefits. What else can it do?

Brain development
Omega-3 foods are important for cognitive development and function. The brain is made mostly of fat, and it functions especially well when there are high levels of DHA in the body. DHA is also required for the development of the brain in infants and maintenance of normal brain function in adults. The inclusion of good levels of DHA in the diet improves learning ability, whilst deficiency causes a reduced learning ability. Oils with high omega 3 content also appear to reverse anxiety and depression in mammals, according to a study in the European Journal of Neuroscience. Dr Axe is suggesting that we should give it to our kids from an early age so that they won’t develop anxiety or depression later in life. What a great idea! Try this one – it’s the one I use.

Memory
Studies indicate that higher intakes of omega-3 oils significantly reduce the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease as well as vascular dementia; oils like algal oil also improve quality of life and memory in those affected by dementia. Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation improves cognitive function and reduces brain cell destruction.

Since plant-derived oils do not have the contamination issues that fish oils do (such as traces of PCB, mercury and organophosphates), they are considered to be a lot safer, and, from an ecological perspective, are totally sustainable.

Other oils and brain/circulatory function

Pomegranate seed oil
Punicic acid in pomegranate seed oil reduces the build-up of atherosclerotic plaque in the blood vessels, promoting heart and circulatory health. If blood vessels are narrowed anywhere in the body, less oxygen and fewer nutrients will be delivered and that body part will suffer. Anything that helps blood flow will be of benefit for vascular dementia.
The antioxidants in pomegranate seed oil have been shown to reduce LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels.

Sea buckthorn oil
The oil of this bright berry reduces cognitive decline and lowers cholesterol levels naturally. It also boosts microcirculation – flow in the smaller blood vessels.

Tomato seed oil
Tomato seed oil is rich in compounds that can naturally lower blood pressure. High blood pressure (hypertension) is a known contributor to vascular dementia, since it causes narrowing of the blood vessels in the brain.

The supplement I am now using contains all these oils, and therefore a fantastic range of omega 3, 5, 6, 7 and 9. Invest in your brain health today. Buy it here.
(Change the globe icon for your country of residence – this site automatically defaults to the UK. It’s available internationally).

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Depletion, Destruction, Devastation – and Regeneration

WP_20170909_16_06_43_ProI have recently been in southern Spain for a yoga retreat. Here’s the view from the yurt I was staying in. Lovely, right? But this photo actually tells a different tale – a darker tale of drastic intervention, depletion, destruction and, dare I say it, devastation. How could that be? Look at the parched land. All of the olive trees, some of which were over 1000 years old, and whose roots prevented soil erosion, have been cut down to grow wheat instead. And why? EU subsidies – farmers get paid via these subsidies for growing wheat, not olives.

But it gets worse. Losing the trees and hedgerows has created a monoculture, which is fed with chemical fertilisers and sprayed with Monsanto pesticides, according to the farmers I spoke to. Sometimes the harvest is so weak that it just isn’t worth cutting and processing it, so they burn it instead. After all, they get the EU subsidy for growing the crop, regardless of whether they end up harvesting and selling it. This burning, which I witnessed whilst in Spain, adds more carbon to the atmosphere, messing up the carbon cycle and, as I understand it from the permaculture experts, making the land even less useful.

This is a very sad state of affairs, adding to a worrying trend in southern Spain – that of desertification. In fact, if you look at a satellite image of southern Europe and north Africa, Spain is becoming an extension of the Sahara, and the region already contains Europe’s only true desert – Almeria. It is predicted that in 50 years the entire region could be totally dry and unproductive if nothing is done.

Even if these weak crops were harvested, would you really want to eat them? They contain very low levels of useful nutrition, and will be especially depleted in minerals, since the soil is mostly pesticide-ridden dust. With such farming techniques becoming more widespread, and the soil becoming ever more depleted, it’s more important than ever to consider food supplementation. Yes, I know, in theory if you’re on an excellent wholefoods raw or high-raw diet, you shouldn’t need it. But life isn’t perfect and our monocultured soil is in a mess.

Artificial fertilisers only provide “NPK” as it is known – nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Where are you going to get your other 89 minerals from? Not to mention the thousands of phytonutrients that you need for optimal health. Please click here to listen to why I believe supplementation is essential (scroll down on the webpage for “Do we need supplements?”). And click here for what I recommend to bridge the gap between what you are eating and what you should be eating. To find out more about the importance of minerals, click here.

You can avoid adding to the problem by reducing or eliminating your demand for monocultured crops. Why eat wheat anyway? We don’t have to – in fact, eliminating it is a positive health upgrade that is easy to do. You can also support local organic farmers – they know what to do to replenish and regenerate the soil, working with nature rather than against it.

And to prevent the northern extension of the Sahara into Europe? I attended an excellent presentation about what the retreat centre is doing about desertification. It was given by a representative of Danyadara, a non-profit organisation that is planting trees (olive, fig, almond etc.) in this part of Spain, regenerating the land and teaching local farmers to get the benefits by doing the same. No more monoculture and crop-burning. Making Spain greener again. It’s a long-term project, but highly worthwhile. You can find out more here. I’ve donated. I hope that you’ll consider doing the same.

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7 Benefits of Sulforaphane

One of the main reasons that eating cruciferous vegetables is so beneficial is because of their sulforaphane content. Sulforaphane is a phytonutrient classified as one of the isothiocyanate group, which has a wide range of effects in the body. Read on to discover my favourite 7.

1. Antioxidant activity. Numerous clinical studies indicate that sulforaphane has significant antioxidant effects, and according to a scientific paper published in Trends in Neuroscience, 2006, sulforaphane also stimulates the production of antioxidant enzymes. We need antioxidants to protect ourselves from the wide range of oxidative stresses that we are exposed to on a daily basis. For more information about oxidative stress and how it affects you, click here.

2. Detoxification. Detox is the buzzword of the decade, and not without good reason. In my book The Fatigue Solution, I have devoted a whole chapter to detox and why it is so important in fighting fatigue. Sulforaphane stimulates phase 1 and phase 2 detoxification in the liver and this has far-reaching benefits (see below). For the full lowdown on how to detox safely and very effectively, click here.

3. Anticancer. Leading on from the above, sulforaphane is very effective at detoxing potential carcinogens. This benefit is seen largely in phase 2 detoxification systems in the liver, and sulforaphane from broccoli appears to be dose-dependent – i.e. more broccoli, more detoxification of carcinogens. Broccoli sprouts, according to research conducted by Fahey, Zhang and Talalay, may be between 10 and 100 times more potent in this effect than consuming the mature plant. In other studies, sulforaphane from cruciferous vegetables has been shown to be protective against cancers of the breast, bladder, prostate, lung and colon. Good reason to grow your own broccoli sprouts in an automatic sprouter like the one I use – click here to buy one and quote RAWFOOD20 to get a 20% discount on this great kitchen device.

4. Antibacterial. H pylori is a bacterium that is implicated not just in gastric ulceration but also stomach cancer and, somewhat surprisingly, a heart condition known as atrial fibrillation, which leads to an irregular heartbeat. Research has shown that sulforaphane has the ability to destroy H pylori that resides both inside and outside the cell. It is as yet unknown how it does this, but it’s great to know that it does. Aren’t plants wonderful?

5. Anti-inflammatory. Since inflammation is something I have been fighting recently, this comes as great news. When sulforaphane is combined with curcumin from turmeric, there is a synergistic effect for reduction of inflammation. In nature, the sum is usually greater than the individual parts. Just as in cancer protection, the combination of nutrients from various plant sources is always more effective than one single ingredient (even if that ingredient is the wonderful sulforaphane).

6. Bone and cartilage health. Evidence is accumulating that not only could sulforaphane be useful in reducing the degradation of cartilage, but also might influence bone metabolism and protect against osteoporosis. For more information about keeping your bones healthy, click here.

7. Anti-Alzheimer’s. having lost my father to dementia, I am passionate about anything that can protect brain cells. It appears that via its detox action, sulforaphane could do just that. The studies are in the early stages, but why wait to increase your consumption of foods that are rich in sulforaphane?

And finally, it appears that raw really is best. With raw broccoli sprouts being shown to be significantly more powerful than the mature plant, what about the effects of cooking on sulforaphane? Naturally you would eat broccoli sprouts uncooked, but many people prefer to cook their “adult” broccoli. Studies have shown that boiling broccoli in water destroys 3 times the amount of sulforaphane than the process of steaming it. So if you must cook your broccoli, lightly steaming it is the way to go.

Want all the benefits of not just sulforaphane but the many, many other potent phytonutrients found in a rainbow-coloured variety of fruit, vegetables and berries? Click here for information on the scientifically proven supplement that I use and recommend. After all, we need all of the 25,000 phytonutrients found in the plant kingdom, not just sulforaphane.

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Resveratrol – Are You Getting Enough?

Resveratrol is one of the newly-proclaimed superheroes in nutrition, longevity and anti-ageing. Before I launch into this article extolling its benefits however, let me tell you this: there are probably about 25,000 important phytonutrients in food, and we need all of them. Resveratrol is one of them. Make sure you’re also getting the other 24,999 (some of which don’t even have names yet) by eating a rainbow plant-based diet.

Resveratrol is classified as a polyphenol, and it is a powerful antioxidant. It’s found in abundance in the dark skinned berries and any food with a blue/purple colour, such as red and black grapes, blueberries, cherries etc. It’s one of the reasons that you might have been told to drink red wine for its health benefits, since it is found in grape skins. Trouble is with this approach, you get all the downsides of the alcohol, which I’m not going to cover here. If you want the lowdown on why alcohol is damaging, particularly to your brain, check out my book The Whole Body Solution.

Here’s some reasons why foods containing resveratrol, and supplements made from these foods, are beneficial.

Anti-ageing/longevity. We’ve heard that caloric restriction plays a key part in life extension. Resveratrol and other similar molecules may mimic these beneficial effects, say scientists in the journal Biofactors. Additionally, resveratrol has been shown to activate sirtuins, our so-called longevity genes. In the skin, resveratrol may prevent skin disorders associated with ageing, according to a 2010 study. Via its anti-inflammatory effects, resveratrol and other polyphenol molecules have been predicted to increase life expectancy (Toxicology, 2009).

Type 2 diabetes. In an article in the journal Current Aging Science, 2008, the authors reveal how resveratrol has the potential to prevent the establishment of insulin resistance and postpone or even prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes. Fascinating stuff!

Alzheimer’s and dementia. In a review of over 300 articles, resveratrol was one of the antioxidants which showed promise to prevent these devastating brain-degenerative conditions. Others were curcumin (from turmeric), aged garlic, melatonin, green tea and ginkgo biloba.

Atherosclerosis. Resveratrol, via its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, inhibits the progression of the artery-hardening process. Via its benefits for the protection of the lining of the arteries, it protects against cardiovascular disease. Due to its antioxidant properties, it reduces the oxidation of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and also helps to prevent high blood pressure, thereby additionally protecting the eyes and kidneys.

Obesity. A study published in the European Journal of Pharmacology indicates that resveratrol has great potential for both the prevention and treatment of obesity, as well as diabetes.

Arthritis and osteoporosis. In my book Love Your Bones, I discuss the use of blueberries, which are high in resveratrol, for their potential benefits in bone-building. An interesting article published in the journal Arthritis Research and Therapeutics in 2010 suggests that resveratrol protects the cartilage from the damaging effects of advanced glycation end-products (AGEs, which I write about in my latest book The Fatigue Solution), and also might be useful in treatment options via its anti-inflammatory effect.

So, who’s for some resveratrol? Not me, because it shouldn’t be taken in isolation, due to the fact that it might affect blood clotting and also at high doses can be oestrogenic. But a supplement that contains all the foods that are high in resveratrol – absolutely! This is exactly what I do by using Juice Plus every day, especially the berry blend. It’s raw, it’s vegan and it’s very good for you. Find out more here.

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Essential fats – part 2

Last month I wrote about the importance of certain essential fats and set about busting some fat myths. If you missed that article, you can access it here. This month I wanted to elaborate more on this important subject, because it links in with some exciting news. We have all heard of the omega 3 fats and their benefits, and the general opinion in standard nutritional circles today is that you need to take fish oils to achieve this. On pages 56 and 57 of The Fatigue Solution, I discuss “fish food”. Sounds awful doesn’t it? But bear with me here. What is it that the fish are eating that makes their bodies high in the important omega fatty acids? Yes, you’ve guessed it – marine algae. Let’s look at some of the benefits of this genuine superfood.

Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are often cited as being the beneficial components of fish oil, yet they actually originate in algae (mainly DHA). These are omega 3 fats. Humans ideally should have the omega 3 fats in a ratio of 1:1 with the omega 6, but this ratio is often skewed and suboptimal due to poor eating habits, diets high in sugar, processed vegetable fats etc. Omega 3 fats from algae are beneficial for:

Cardiovascular function
Nervous system function
Immunity
Memory and concentration
Mood
Neurotransmission
Insulin sensitivity
Body composition
Anti-inflammatory effects

What about flax?
Flax seeds are a good source of omega 3, but this is mainly in the form of alpha linolenic acid (ALA) rather than EPA and DHA, and conversion rates to EPA tend to be poor. Conversion is also inhibited by:

High amounts of saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, and sugar in the diet
A high blood sugar level
Genetics
High stress
Altered micronutrient status
Too little zinc, magnesium, calcium, biotin, vitamin C, vitamin B3, and vitamin B6
Too much vitamin A, copper
Imbalanced fatty acid ratios (too much omega-6)
Pharmaceuticals/medications
A high alcohol intake
Sex (women seem to convert ALA to EPA better than men)
Advancing age (older people don’t convert ALA to EPA as well as they did in their youth)

What about the other omegas?
We have heard of omega 3 and 6, but they’re not the only ones that have nutritional benefits. There is increasing research indicating that omegas 5, 7 and 9 should not be overlooked.

Omega 5
A unique essential fatty acid obtained from the seed of the pomegranate, Omega 5 is the only known botanical form of Conjugated Linolenic Acid (CLnA), and one of the most potent antioxidants known to modern science. Its antioxidant activity is at least six times that of grape seed extract. It is a high-energy molecule that interferes with the production of inflammatory prostaglandins and leukotrienes that cause disease. It can mimic the behavior of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin, but without the side effects.

Omega 5 helps to repair damaged cells, and also controls and regulates glucose transport at the cell membrane level. It also has significant benefits for the protection of the human electromagnetic field. This is a subject I wrote about in chapter 10 of The Fatigue Solution, in which I explain how modern life is interfering with our innate micro-electrical potential and sapping our energy levels in the process.

Omega 7
The best plant source of this relatively rare oil is the Sea Buckthorn. Eastern medicinal systems have long relied on Sea Buckthorn omega 7 to relieve ulcers and other gastrointestinal problems. This is because the large amounts of omega 7 build up the inner lining of the stomach and intestines, protecting them from damage. Sea Buckthorn oil also has beauty benefits. Used both topically and by mouth, the omega 7 content helps to tackle sun damage, wrinkles, premature ageing and even certain medical conditions affecting the skin, such as eczema and atopic dermatitis.

Omega 9
Omega 9 fats are classified as “non-essential” since the body can make them, but if the diet is poor and there are incorrect levels of 3 and 6, then we can suffer with levels which are lower than ideal. Omega 9 fatty acids are associated with  improved arterial health and immune function.

So as you can see, there’s more to it than just omega 3…

So on to the good news. For the past 2 months I have been trialling an all-new omega blend which includes omega 3, 5, 6, 7 and 9, and I have to say it is brilliant. All the perceived benefits of fish-derived oils, none of the disadvantages. Email me pronto for more information – very limited stocks of this revolutionary supplement are currently available on pre-release.

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Busting some fat myths

So often considered to be the enemy, fat can be good for you – in fact, I will go further and state that to live an optimally healthy life, eating the right type of fat, in the right quantities, is an absolute must. I have devoted a whole chapter to the importance of the right type of fat in my latest book The Fatigue Solution, and if you want the complete lowdown you can listen to my CD or MP3 The Importance of Fat. In the meantime, here’s a summary for you.

Myth 1 – eating fat makes you fat
It doesn’t, provided that is the right type of fat. The raw plant fats such as avocado, olives, flax oil and the many different types of nuts and seeds actually help to keep us slim. Many people are put off eating nuts because they are seen as a high fat, high calorie food. However, a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2013 came to the following conclusion: compared with control diets, diets enriched with nuts did not increase body weight, body mass index, or waist circumference in controlled clinical trials (1).

Myth 2 – a low fat diet is healthier
This is a potential sticking point, since some low-fat diets can be very healthy; notably the plant-based, whole-food and mainly raw diets. However, if your diet is low fat because you are relying on processed reduced- and no-fat microwaveable ready meals provided for you by the processed food industry, your sugar and refined carbohydrate intake is likely to be far too high for your personal wellbeing.

Myth 3 – hydrogenated fat is OK to eat
It most certainly isn’t. Hydrogenation is a method of turning liquid oil into cheap, spreadable solid fat with a long shelf-life. Remember that the healthy seed oils are liquid at room temperature (with the exception of coconut oil), and animal fats such as butter and lard tend to be solid. Therefore, if you see those “vegetable spread and margarine” butter substitutes which you’ll readily find in the supermarket, beware! The end product is horribly bad for you and is just one chemical reaction away from being plastic. These deranged fats are also found in processed, added-sugar laden foods such as cakes, bread, biscuits, crackers, cereals, soups, chocolate, crisps and many other convenience foods. The reason they are so bad for you is that during the hydrogenation process, molecules of so-called trans fats are produced. These abnormally structured fats do not exist in nature and are structurally stiff and inflexible, causing serious problems if we then try to construct our cell membranes from them.

Myth 4 – there’s nothing wrong with fried food
All fats are damaged by heating, but frying is the most dangerous cooking method. Frying is one of the greatest creators of free radicals known in the human body. The more fried food you eat, the more antioxidants you need from ripe raw fruit and vegetables to reduce the ravages. Even coconut oil, one of the fats which is most stable at high temperatures, becomes damaged by frying, and the oils that are most health-giving when cold-pressed and raw become the most dangerous when fried, such as olive, flax and hemp oils.

Now for the good news – healthy omegas

Energy and stamina
Essential fats can elevate our metabolic rate and in turn increase energy levels and stamina – just what you need in the face of fatigue. They also help athletes to recover from injury more quickly.

Weight loss
Interestingly, essential fats actually increase calorie burning and keep us slim. They help our kidneys to dump excess water which might be held in the tissues – water that constitutes some of the “weight” in overweight people. A trigger for overeating is often considered to be a body’s cry for more essential fats, and depression also causes many people to overeat, as they try to numb their negative emotions with food. Essential fatty acids elevate mood and reduce depression, and this in turn can make us feel like being more active.

Healthy hearts
Cholesterol is often considered to be the bad guy, and cholesterol-lowering drugs such as statins have in turn made billions for the pharmaceutical companies which developed them (see my separate blog post about statins here). Cholesterol transport in the blood requires essential fatty acids. Elevated blood triglycerides can be lowered with a good omega 3 fat intake.

Other health benefits
Via numerous enzymatic pathways, healthy omegas are converted to active substances in the body which prevent your blood platelets from sticking together, act as vasodilators (relax the blood vessels, thereby reducing blood pressure), stimulate the immune response, reduce inflammation, reduce pain transmission, dilate the airways, increase endurance and increase the flow of oxygen. You can read more about this, and all the benefits it has for you, in The Fatigue Solution.

Watch out for my next newsletter and blog post which will go into detail on whether we should be taking an essential fat supplement. Sign up at www.therawfoodscientist.com

References

1. Flores-Mateo G, Rojas-Rueda D, Basora J, et al. Nut intake and adiposity: meta-analysis of clinical trials. AmJClinNutr, April 2013; doi: 10.3945/ajcn.111.031484

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