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‘Go Nuts’ for the Health Benefits of Tree Nuts

From breakfast to dinner to snacks, tree nuts are popular across the globe. They can be eaten whole (fresh or roasted), in spreads and butters, used as a source for gluten-free flour, and blended into smoothies or dessert recipes. Nut oils are used for cooking and are even found in skincare and haircare products. But what is a nut? And what makes nuts so good for our health?

Tree nuts are dry fruits with one seed that becomes hard at maturity. With the exception of chestnuts, which have a different nutrient profile and higher level of starch, the most popular edible tree nuts are almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, pistachios, and cashews. Other favorites include pecans, macadamia, and Brazil nuts. And then there’s the peanut: even though it grows from the ground rather than on a tree and is technically a legume, its nutrient profile is considerably similar to tree nuts.

What Makes Nuts Good for Health?

Nuts are low in carbohydrates and high in vegetable protein, fiber, magnesium, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. They are low in saturated fat and a rich source of ‘healthy’ fats, mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs and PUFAs). Studies show that nuts . . .

  • protect the heart, helping reduce risk for cardiovascular disease
  • support cellular defenses against free radicals that damage cells and are implicated in chronic disease
  • balance insulin levels, which relates to lower risk for Type 2 Diabetes
  • support healthy brain tissue
  • reduce inflammation
  • help maintain healthy cholesterol level
  • help maintain a healthy body weight

Epidemiological studies show regular consumption of nuts is linked to lower risk of all-cause mortality. High nut intake is associated with better overall cognition at older ages. In particular, walnuts are high in an essential fatty acid, named Omega-3 fatty acid, important to brain function. Pistachio nuts have been associated with significant gamma brain wave activity, critical for cognitive processing, memory, learning and perception.

It’s clear that tree nuts make an indispensable contribution to a well-balanced diet for omnivores and vegetarians alike. So, find a nut you love and make it part of your daily diet.

References

 

How Crucial is Gut Health?

Healthy Gut, Healthy Body: What You Need to Know

The human body is home to over 100 trillion microorganisms, the majority of which are found in the gastrointestinal tract (“gut”). Taken as a whole, this community of microorganisms, their genes and the functions they encode, are referred to as the microbiome.

During the past two decades, research has revealed significant associations between the gut microbiome and conditions such as cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s Disease, psoriasis, and cancer. Recent research is also striving to understand the correlation between the microbiome and Alzheimer’s Disease, autoimmune conditions, and various inflammatory responses. Because of the highly individualized make-up of each person’s microbiome, researchers are exploring how nutrition and other factors influence the gut microbiome and how imbalances can be corrected with lifestyle interventions.

Disruption to the delicate balance in the microbiome can be caused by many factors, such as

  • age (microbiome composition changes throughout the lifespan)
  • dietary habits and quality of our food
  • history of illness, existing chronic health conditions or autoimmune conditions
  • imbalance in stomach acid production
  • frequency of use of certain prescription medications including antibiotics
  • lifestyle factors: smoking (including e-cigarettes), use of alcohol or recreational drugs
  • high stress level
  • exposure to toxins in the environment (e.g., work conditions, atmosphere)

While research reveals a link between lifestyle factors, the microbiome, and the health of our system, there is a great deal more to be discovered. For example, scientists want to better identify which bacteria in the microbiome are most implicated in specific diseases. They also want to understand whether an imbalance is the cause for the disease, or the result of the disease, or both.

One thing that is clear: Failure to take care of ourselves disrupts the microbiome, which then creates a cycle of imbalance that manifests in symptoms of illness (in the gut and in other organs). Some of these include:

  • poor absorption of nutrients (tested by a physician)
  • bad breath (halitosis)
  • recurrent upset stomach, nausea, or bloating
  • persistent constipation or diarrhea
  • difficulty urinating
  • vaginal or anal itching or discharge
  • rash or redness
  • fatigue
  • trouble concentrating
  • changes in mood

Unless the microbiome is brought back into balance, symptoms of illness will persist and quality of life diminishes. Even if you have been ill, or not kind to your body with a healthy lifestyle, there is good news: Healthy dietary changes and nutritional supplements can rebalance the microbiome, strengthening immunity and reducing inflammation throughout the body. Here are a few tips to help rebalance your gut:

Eat a whole foods diet. In particular, the high-fiber, nutrient-rich foods in the Mediterranean Diet has been shown to protect the integrity of the gut microbiome.

Eat more fermented foods. Fermentation is a process for preserving food that can improve digestibility. Fermented foods contain bacteria that are an important source of nutrients and health-promoting bacteria for the gut.

Take a prebiotic/probiotic supplement. Prebiotics are a type of fiber that the human body cannot digest. They serve as fuel for probiotics, which are tiny living microorganisms, (bacteria and yeast). Both prebiotics and probiotics support the body in building and maintaining a healthy gut. To ensure the right combination and proper absorption, prebiotic – probiotic regiment needs to be prescribed by your physician.

If you’ve had ongoing problems with gastrointestinal symptoms, it’s time to see a health practitioner rather than trying to treat the gut on your own. Since the microbiome is unique to each person, you need a personalized approach to rebalancing, which can be provided in consultation with a holistic medical practitioner.

References

 

No Magic Required: Alleviate Congestion with Warming Socks

Who would ever guess that a pair of insulated, wet socks could help alleviate congestion from your head and stimulate the immune system? Sounds a bit like a storyline in a Disney movie, right?

A natural remedy that has been used by healers for centuries, it’s a fast-acting approach to reduce, or even arrest, congestion associated with mild colds, flu and allergies. It works for children and adults. Here’s how:

A pair of thin, wet cotton socks are covered (insulated) by a pair of heavy, dry wool or fleece socks. That’s right: you have to put on wet socks! Throughout the night, our body will bring warm blood to the feet, creating a pumping mechanism in the blood vessels that stimulates circulation and promotes release of congestion in the head and upper respiratory passages. In turn, this invigorates the immune system to fend off acute illness. By morning, the socks will be completely dry. And you should feel less congested.

Make a Pair of Warming Wet Socks

  • Before bed, wet a pair of thin, cotton anklets in a bowl of ice cold water.*
  • Wring out excess water and place on the feet.
  • Pull a pair of heavy wool socks (at least 60% wool, 100% wool best) over the anklets and climb into bed.
  • Cover well; sleep all night with the socks on.

*Optional Step– If you are feeling very cold, take a very warm shower before Step 1.

For best results, repeat treatment for three nights in a row or as instructed by your doctor.

 

Resources

Personal Communication: Eli Camp, N.D. January 2015.

Bastyr University. “Dive ‘Feet First’ Into Wellness With a Natural Remedy.” Accessed 10 Mar 2020: https://health.bastyr.edu/news/health-tips/2009/11/dive-feet-first-wellness-natural-remedy

Bastyr University. “A Surprising Cold Remedy for the Post-holiday Months.” Accessed 16 Mar 2020: https://health.bastyr.edu/news/health-tips/2017/01/surprising-cold-remedy-post-holiday-months

Magnificent Moringa to Support Respiratory Health

While Moringa is a superfood known to treat malnutrition in various cultures, it’s greatest impact is on respiratory health. A study has shown that the leaves and pods from the moringa tree (Moringa oleifera) inhibit 72% of all histamines released, making it almost as effective as the drug Ketoifen. It is also used in topical applications to treat inflammation of the skin such as in atopic dermatitis. But what is moringa and how can you make it a part of your healthy diet?

Found mostly in tropical regions of India and Africa, moringa contains proteins, vitamins, and minerals. It is also rich in plant compounds that work as antioxidants, which help protect our cells from damage. Other plant compounds found in Moringa have an action which may help ease the bronchial constriction and respiratory distress associated with asthma.

Since most of us aren’t going to find a moringa tree growing in the local forest, we have to acquire this superfood from a supplement, usually in powder, capsule, or tea form. These supplements can be derived from the leaves, stem, and seeds (also a food source in many countries). For general health, a cup or two of moringa tea is a delicious way to start or end the day. The tea has a mild sweet nutty flavor. A holistic health physician can help you determine the best form and dose of moringa to address specific health concerns.

References

Mehta, A., and Babita, A. “Investigation into the mechanism of action of Moringa oleifera for its anti-asthmatic activity.” Oriental Pharmacy and Experimental Medicine (2008) 8:1, 24-31. Accessed 14 Mar 2020: http://www.moringanews.org/documents/asthma.pdf

Choi, Eun-Ju, et al. “Topical application of Moringa oleifera leaf extract ameliorates experimentally induced atopic dermatitis by the regulation of Th1/Th2/Th17 balance.” Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy (2016) 84, 870-877.

Abduhli Razis, MF et al. “Health Benefits of Moringa oleifera. Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention.” (2014). 15(20), 8571-8576. Accessed 14 Mar 2020: http://journal.waocp.org/?sid=Entrez:PubMed&id=pmid:25374169&key=2014.15.20.8571

Springtime Recipe: Watercress

Watercress with Sauteed Ginger and Shiitake Mushrooms Recipe

Spring into the season with this zesty and healthy dish. Watercress is one of the beautiful greens you’ll see in the supermarket or farmer’s market. With its exotic leaves and zesty flavor, watercress is ideally suited for sauteing. Because the flavor is strong (unlike spinach, which is mild), it’s best to pair watercress with other strong flavors such as ginger, garlic, green onion and sesame oil, making it the perfect addition to a stir-fry recipe.

Ingredients

  • 2 TB Sunflower Oil *see alternate option
  • 1 inch piece fresh ginger, grated
  • 2 garlic cloves, grated
  • 8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, sliced into thick matchsticks
  • 1 bunch watercress, trimmed and chopped roughly
  • 1 TB toasted sesame seeds

Preparation

Heat the oil over low-medium heat; cook garlic and ginger until fragrant.
Increase the heat to medium, add the shiitake mushrooms and cook for 4 minutes. Add the watercress and saute another 2-3 minutes.
While the watercress is finishing, toast sesame seeds in the toaster oven on a foil lined pan for 1 minute. Sprinkle the seeds on the saute to finish.

Serve with brown rice and your favorite protein source.

Recipe Options
*Instead of 2 TB Sunflower Oil, you can use 1 TB Sunflower Oil + 1 TB Sesame Seed Oil

 

Recipe Source: https://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/browse-all-recipes/gingery-sauteed-watercress-shiitakes