Detoxing??? Not So Fast…

In a world full of quick fixes and immediate results, the detox fad has completely exploded.  Everywhere you look, you see somebody buying or selling a detox system that is going to cleanse you of all the bad shit you’ve been feeding your body.  Well, the reality isn’t quite so simple.  Here is an article posted on TheGuardian.com that covers the ever-so-popular topic of detoxing.  Just a warning, you may not like what it has to say….

 

You can’t detox your body. It’s a myth. So how do you get healthy?

cucumber lemon, celery, spinach and kale juice

There’s no such thing as ‘detoxing’. In medical terms, it’s a nonsense. Diet and exercise is the only way to get healthy. But which of the latest fad regimes can really make a difference? We look at the facts

Whether it’s cucumbers splashing into water or models sitting smugly next to a pile of vegetables, it’s tough not to be sucked in by the detox industry. The idea that you can wash away your calorific sins is the perfect antidote to our fast-food lifestyles and alcohol-lubricated social lives. But before you dust off that juicer or take the first tentative steps towards a colonic irrigation clinic, there’s something you should know: detoxing – the idea that you can flush your system of impurities and leave your organs squeaky clean and raring to go – is a scam. It’s a pseudo-medical concept designed to sell you things.

“Let’s be clear,” says Edzard Ernst, emeritus professor of complementary medicine at Exeter University, “there are two types of detox: one is respectable and the other isn’t.” The respectable one, he says, is the medical treatment of people with life-threatening drug addictions. “The other is the word being hijacked by entrepreneurs, quacks and charlatans to sell a bogus treatment that allegedly detoxifies your body of toxins you’re supposed to have accumulated.”

If toxins did build up in a way your body couldn’t excrete, he says, you’d likely be dead or in need of serious medical intervention. “The healthy body has kidneys, a liver, skin, even lungs that are detoxifying as we speak,” he says. “There is no known way – certainly not through detox treatments – to make something that works perfectly well in a healthy body work better.”

Much of the sales patter revolves around “toxins”: poisonous substances that you ingest or inhale. But it’s not clear exactly what these toxins are. If they were named they could be measured before and after treatment to test effectiveness. Yet, much like floaters in your eye, try to focus on these toxins and they scamper from view. In 2009, a network of scientists assembled by the UK charity Sense about Science contacted the manufacturers of 15 products sold in pharmacies and supermarkets that claimed to detoxify. The products ranged from dietary supplements to smoothies and shampoos. When the scientists asked for evidence behind the claims, not one of the manufacturers could define what they meant by detoxification, let alone name the toxins.

Spinach and broccoli smoothie.

Yet, inexplicably, the shelves of health food stores are still packed with products bearing the word “detox” – it’s the marketing equivalent of drawing go-faster stripes on your car. You can buy detoxifying tablets, tinctures, tea bags, face masks, bath salts, hair brushes, shampoos, body gels and even hair straighteners. Yoga, luxury retreats, and massages will also all erroneously promise to detoxify. You can go on a seven-day detox diet and you’ll probably lose weight, but that’s nothing to do with toxins, it’s because you would have starved yourself for a week.

Then there’s colonic irrigation. Its proponents will tell you that mischievous plaques of impacted poo can lurk in your colon for months or years and pump disease-causing toxins back into your system. Pay them a small fee, though, and they’ll insert a hose up your bottom and wash them all away. Unfortunately for them – and possibly fortunately for you – no doctor has ever seen one of these mythical plaques, and many warn against having the procedure done, saying that it can perforate your bowel.

Other tactics are more insidious. Some colon-cleansing tablets contain a polymerising agent that turns your faeces into something like a plastic, so that when a massive rubbery poo snake slithers into your toilet you can stare back at it and feel vindicated in your purchase. Detoxing foot pads turn brown overnight with what manufacturers claim is toxic sludge drawn from your body. This sludge is nothing of the sort – a substance in the pads turns brown when it mixes with water from your sweat.

“It’s a scandal,” fumes Ernst. “It’s criminal exploitation of the gullible man on the street and it sort of keys into something that we all would love to have – a simple remedy that frees us of our sins, so to speak. It’s nice to think that it could exist but unfortunately it doesn’t.”

That the concept of detoxification is so nebulous might be why it has evaded public suspicion. When most of us utter the word detox, it’s usually when we’re bleary eyed and stumbling out of the wrong end of a heavy weekend. In this case, surely, a detox from alcohol is a good thing? “It’s definitely good to have non-alcohol days as part of your lifestyle,” says Catherine Collins, an NHS dietitian at St George’s Hospital. “It’ll probably give you a chance to reassess your drinking habits if you’re drinking too much. But the idea that your liver somehow needs to be ‘cleansed’ is ridiculous.”

The liver breaks down alcohol in a two-step process. Enzymes in the liver first convert alcohol to acetaldehyde, a very toxic substance that damages liver cells. It is then almost immediately converted into carbon dioxide and water which the body gets rid of. Drinking too much can overwhelm these enzymes and the acetaldehyde buildup will lead to liver damage. Moderate and occasional drinking, though, might have a protective effect. Population studies, says Collins, have shown that teetotallers and those who drink alcohol excessively have a shorter life expectancy than people who drink moderately and in small amounts.

“We know that a little bit of alcohol seems to be helpful,” she says. “Maybe because its sedative effect relaxes you slightly or because it keeps the liver primed with these detoxifying enzymes to help deal with other toxins you’ve consumed. That’s why the government guidelines don’t say, ‘Don’t drink’; they say, ‘OK drink, but only modestly.’ It’s like a little of what doesn’t kill you cures you.”

This adage also applies in an unexpected place – to broccoli, the luvvie of the high-street “superfood” detox salad. Broccoli does help the liver out but, unlike the broad-shouldered, cape-wearing image that its superfood moniker suggests, it is no hero. Broccoli, as with all brassicas – sprouts, mustard plants, cabbages – contains cyanide. Eating it provides a tiny bit of poison that, like alcohol, primes the enzymes in your liver to deal better with any other poisons.

Collins guffaws at the notion of superfoods. “Most people think that you should restrict or pay particular attention to certain food groups, but this is totally not the case,” she says. “The ultimate lifestyle ‘detox’ is not smoking, exercising and enjoying a healthy balanced diet like the Mediterranean diet.”

Close your eyes, if you will, and imagine a Mediterranean diet. A red chequered table cloth adorned with meats, fish, olive oil, cheeses, salads, wholegrain cereals, nuts and fruits. All these foods give the protein, amino acids, unsaturated fats, fibre, starches, vitamins and minerals to keep the body – and your immune system, the biggest protector from ill-health – functioning perfectly.

So why, then, with such a feast available on doctor’s orders, do we feel the need to punish ourselves to be healthy? Are we hard-wired to want to detox, given that many of the oldest religions practise fasting and purification? Has the scientific awakening shunted bad spirits to the periphery and replaced them with environmental toxins that we think we have to purge ourselves of?

Susan Marchant-Haycox, a London psychologist, doesn’t think so. “Trying to tie detoxing in with ancient religious practices is clutching at straws,” she says. “You need to look at our social makeup over the very recent past. In the 70s, you had all these gyms popping up, and from there we’ve had the proliferation of the beauty and diet industry with people becoming more aware of certain food groups and so on.

“The detox industry is just a follow-on from that. There’s a lot of money in it and there are lots of people out there in marketing making a lot of money.”

Peter Ayton, a professor of psychology at City University London, agrees. He says that we’re susceptible to such gimmicks because we live in a world with so much information we’re happy to defer responsibility to others who might understand things better. “To understand even shampoo you need to have PhD in biochemistry,” he says, “but a lot of people don’t have that. If it seems reasonable and plausible and invokes a familiar concept, like detoxing, then we’re happy to go with it.”

Many of our consumer decisions, he adds, are made in ignorance and supposition, which is rarely challenged or informed. “People assume that the world is carefully regulated and that there are benign institutions guarding them from making any kind of errors. A lot of marketing drip-feeds that idea, surreptitiously. So if people see somebody with apparently the right credentials, they think they’re listening to a respectable medic and trust their advice.”

Ernst is less forgiving: “Ask trading standards what they’re doing about it. Anyone who says, ‘I have a detox treatment’ is profiting from a false claim and is by definition a crook. And it shouldn’t be left to scientists and charities to go after crooks.”

 

So, there you have it.  A rather long article, but I think the take away is simple: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  An detoxing is no different.

Healthy and Homemade

It’s the holiday season.  Let’s face it, most of us eat really crappy food for a month and a half during this time of year.  I can eat a whole chocolate pie by myself if I want, so I’m just as guilty as the next person (sometimes).  So, why not make somewhat of an effort this year to minimize the damage??  Here is a quick recipe that will save you some plenty of carbs and calories.

Doesn’t that look delicious???  Mine most certainly doesn’t come out looking like that..

Click here to check out the recipe for this revamped, healthier lasagna.  You won’t be upset

Difficult, but Simple

I get asked something along the lines of the following question on almost a daily basis:  What’s the best way to improve my nutrition?

It’s a question that doesn’t have a straightforward answer.  Every individual that I come into contact with is different, from their exercise habits, diet, to lifestyle.  Each person is unique in their own way.  But, that doesn’t mean that nutrition can’t have some universal rules that should apply to everyone.

If you follow sports at all, or pop culture, for that matter, you might have noticed a rather significant transformation of one of the world’s most famous athletes.  Lebron James has dropped quite a bit of weight this summer, and he has done it exclusively through healthy eating.  I understand that Mr. James has unlimited resources.  He has the money to buy healthy food, the money to pay somebody to cook it, and access to his own personal menu at restaurants.  So he undoubtedly has an advantage on most of us.  But, take a look at the article.  Notice how many days in a row he at clean.  67 DAYS!!!  The only foods he ate for 67 DAYS were meat, fish, fruits, vegetables, and some nuts/seeds.  That’s discipline right there folks.

Here’s what I’m trying to get across to you.  Keep your diet plan simple.  Include real foods – things that you can grow or kill (Yes, somebody does in fact have to kill the meat or chicken you eat.  Get over it).  Your diet shouldn’t have a huge variety in it, especially for those who are new to it.  The fewer options you have to choose from, the less likely you are to stray. Fruits, vegetables, animal proteins, and some nuts/seeds.  It’s difficult, yes.  But it’s not complicated.  And more importantly, IT WORKS!!!!  Eat right, stay disciplined, and you will see results.

If Lebron can eat clean for 67 days in a row, can’t you eat clean for a week at a time???  I think so…

Food Profile: Green Beans

These lean, green, machines are packed with all sorts of health benefits.  Unique from most other beans, green beans are picked when they are still immature.  This is why they can be snapped in half with something as little as a twist of the fingers, and also why they can be eaten fresh, full pod and all.  They are generally sold year round in most grocery stores, but are in season during the summer and early fall.

Health Benefits

Antioxidant Support – green beans are a great source of antioxidants such as vitamin C, beta-carotene, and manganese.  The falvonoid and carotenoid content is where green beans get most of their antioxidant activity, however.

Cardiovascular – Improvements in blood fat levels, and protection of blood fats has been shown from increased green bean intake.

Omega 3s, Folate, Vitamin K – Most people do not realize, but green beans are a good source of Omega 3 Fatty Acids, containing similar levels of certain FAs as walnuts!  Folate and Vitamin K are also two nutrients that can be found in abundance in green beans

Green Beans, cooked
(Note: “–” indicates data unavailable)
1.00 cup
(125.00 g)
GI: very low
BASIC MACRONUTRIENTS AND CALORIES
nutrient amount DRI/DV
(%)
Protein 2.36 g 4.72
Carbohydrates 9.85 g 4.38
Fat – total 0.35 g
Dietary Fiber 4.00 g 16.00
Calories 43.75 2.43

Green beans are obviously best when fresh.  They hold their nutritional value when placed in the refrigerator and can keep for up to a week.  Green beans can also be frozen and keep their nutritional value for up to 3-4 months.  When cooking, especially fresh beans, make sure to rinse them off with hot water and snap or cut off both edges.  Steaming is the optimal way to maintain the nutrient content, but boiling works well also.  Now go enjoy these very-easy-to-cook green machines!!

 

Food Profile: Blueberries

Blueberries are second only to strawberries in popularity in the United States.  They are one of the very few fruits that are native to North America, so be proud of these little bundles of joy.  Blueberries have a wide range of health benefits, making them one of the healthiest foods you can put into your body.

Phytonutrients – Phytonutrients are simply nutrients that are found naturally within a certain food.  Almost every single nutrient found in blueberries – too many to list – serve either an antioxidant or anti-inflammatory role within the body.

Antioxidant – antioxidants serve to fight against free radicals within the body.  F.R.’s are known to damage cellular structure and DNA, making individuals susceptible to sickness and disease development.  The interesting thing about blueberries is that their antioxidant support seems to be a full body task.  Most antioxidants focus on one particular area or system within the body, but blueberries have been shown to affect every system within the body!

Cardiovascular – consistent consumption of blueberries has been shown to improve fat balances, decrease total cholesterol, raise HDL levels, and lower triglycerides.  It has also been proven to protect cells lining blood vessel walls, helping to improve blood flow and overall cardiovascular function

Blood Sugar – When comparing to other fruits, blueberries are not “super low” in their GI rating (GI rating is essentially how quickly your blood sugar is elevated by a certain food).  Blueberries score around a 50, while some other fruits have been scored at 30-40.  With that, however, blueberries have been reported to have positive effects on overall blood sugar, particularly in people with Type II Diabetes.  This is because they contain about 15% of our daily requirement of fiber.  Even though they’re higher amount fruits, blueberries have a relatively low GI rating when compared to other foods.

Blueberries, fresh
1.00 cup
(148.00 g)
GI: low
BASIC MACRONUTRIENTS AND CALORIES
nutrient amount DRI/DV
(%)
Protein 1.10 g 2.20
Carbohydrates 21.45 g 9.53
Fat – total 0.49 g
Dietary Fiber 3.55 g 14.20
Calories 84.36 4.69

 

Blueberries, fresh
1.00 cup
148.00 grams
Calories: 84
GI: low
Nutrient Amount DRI/DV
(%)
Nutrient
Density
World’s Healthiest
Foods Rating
vitamin K 28.56 mcg 31.7 6.8 very good
manganese 0.50 mg 25.0 5.3 very good
vitamin C 14.36 mg 19.1 4.1 very good
fiber 3.55 g 14.2 3.0 good
copper 0.08 mg 8.9 1.9 good

How much do we need??

There are a lot of different recommendations out there for fruit/vegetable servings per day.  Since were talking about a fruit here, I’ll limit to that.  Some organizations so you only need about 2.5 cups of fruit per day, while others believe you need closer to 3-3.5 cups to see the full benefits of fruits.  So I will put it somewhere in the middle, saying 2.5-3 cups of fruit per day.  Now, this doesn’t all have/need to come from blueberries.  But, because of their superb health benefits, they should be a key part of your everyday food intake.

So, next time you’re in the grocery store, make a note to throw some of these bad boys in the cart.  Throw them in some oatmeal for a great breakfast, or take them with you to work and make them a healthy snack.  Either way, this food choice is too healthy to not have in your diet.

Nutritional Profile: Sweet Potatoes

A lot of the times, the problem with healthy eating is that people simply don’t know what they’re putting in their body.  Whether it’s a healthy or unhealthy product, they simply don’t know what is in it and what makes it good or bad.  While I do have a pretty good knowledge on healthy foods, I’m not completely exempt from this.  That’s why I’m starting this Nutritional Profile for you.  Every week I’ll pick a food product and give you a relatively in depth look at not only what the food’s nutrient/vitamin/mineral composition consists of, but also how it applies to your health.  This week, I’m choosing one of my favorite foods: the sweet potato.

Kumara

  • Orange-fleshed sweet potatoes may be one of nature’s unsurpassed sources of beta-carotene. Several recent studies have shown the superior ability of sweet potatoes to raise our blood levels of vitamin A. This benefit may be particularly true for children. In several studies from Africa, sweet potatoes were found to contain between 100-1,600 micrograms (RAE) of vitamin A in every 3.5 ounces—enough, on average, to meet 35% of all vitamin A needs, and in many cases enough to meet over 90% of vitamin A needs (from this single food alone).
  • Sweet potatoes are not always orange-fleshed on the inside but can also be a spectacular purple color. Sometimes it’s impossible to tell from the skin of sweet potato just how rich in purple tones its inside will be. That’s because scientists have now identified the exact genes in sweet potatoes (IbMYB1 and IbMYB2) that get activated to produce the purple anthocyanin pigments responsible for the rich purple tones of the flesh. The purple-fleshed sweet potato anthocyanins—primarily peonidins and cyanidins—have important antioxidant properties and anti-inflammatory properties. Particularly when passing through our digestive tract, they may be able to lower the potential health risk posed by heavy metals and oxygen radicals. For more details on purple-fleshed and orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, please see our Description section below.
  • It can be helpful to include some fat in your sweet potato-containing meals if you want to enjoy the full beta-carotene benefits of this root vegetable. Recent research has shown that a minimum of 3-5 grams of fat per meal significantly increases our uptake of beta-carotene from sweet potatoes. Of course, this minimal amount of fat can be very easy to include. In our Healthy Mashed Sweet Potatoes recipe, for example, we include 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, and with just this one tablespoon, each of our 4 servings for this delicious recipe provides 3.5 grams of fat.

 

What’s in it:

Sweet Potato, baked
(Note: “–” indicates data unavailable)
1.00 medium
(200.00 g)
GI: medium
BASIC MACRONUTRIENTS AND CALORIES
nutrient amount DRI/DV
(%)
Protein 4.02 g 8.04
Carbohydrates 41.42 g 18.41
Fat – total 0.30 g
Dietary Fiber 6.60 g 26.40
Calories 180.00 10.00

Health benefits:

Serves as  a source of key antioxidants, such as beta-carotene.  Antioxidants are important for killing free radicals throughout our bodies, which have a known association with the development of cancer.

Helps reduce inflammation and promotes healthy blood clotting

Helps regulate blood sugar levels.  The fiber content helps to steady the digestion process, preventing blood sugar from rising too quickly

 

How to Cook:

Optimal for nutritional value and taste – Steaming allows you to cook quickly while avoiding submersion in water.  Submersion allows for water-soluble vitamins to leak out

Other methods – boiling, baking, stir-fry

 

For a very full, very in-depth profile of sweet potatoes, click here

 

Healthy and Homemade

Memorial Day weekend is here and the food and drinks will be flowing.  Most of you will over-indulge – trust me, I’m including myself in that category.  But, for those of you who are going to be somewhat conscious of what you’re eating, here is a SUPER easy recipe for you to try out.

Spiced Sweet Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

 

Ingredients

1 16 oz can drained garbanzo beans

1 4 0z jar roasted red peppers

3 tablespoons lemon juice

1 1/2 tablespoon tahini

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon ground cumen

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley

Directions

In an electric blender or food processor, puree all ingredients.  Process them using long pulses, until the mixture is fairly light and slightly fluffy.  Make sure to scrape the mixture off the sides of the food processor or blender in between pulses.  Transfer to serving bowl and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.Sprinkle the hummus with the chopped parsley before serving.

Sprinkle chopped parsley on top before serving.