Saturday, March 23, 2013

Ghee whiz. Butter isn't bad.

We've been told for decades that butter is bad for you. But the right form of butter may be useful in relieving joint stiffness and chronic pain.

Even with the backlash against margarine and other spreads that come from factories, not from cows, a lot of people are still suspicious of all-natural butter.

But the truth about butter – and especially a very specific kind of butter – is really quite different. Butter has been used as a staple food for thousands of years. And, clarified butter (known by the kind of weird word 'ghee' [pronounced "gee" as in "gee whiz"] in India where it got its origins) has been prized for its health benefits for millennia. 

We Were Duped into Believing Butter Is Bad for Us

But as America began expanding around the waistline and as heart disease rates exploded in the 1960s and 70s, fat and cholesterol in our diet got most of the blame.

Butter is basically pure fat. A tablespoon of butter contains 14 grams of fat, including 8 grams of saturated fat. It also has 30 mg of cholesterol. So, under the thought that fats, and particularly saturated fats, are bad for you, butter became a taboo food for many.

What people didn't realize was that while heart disease had been going up, butter consumption had been on the decline – people had been trading it in for margarine. With the low-fat diet craze, butter consumption fell even further, and the use of processed spreads like margarine rose even more. Heart disease, diabetes, and obesity continued to climb right along with our intake of processed foods.

Only recently have nutritionists and medical scientists come to realize that your body needs fat – even saturated fat. That means you can enjoy real butter – the great taste, the versatility – and get some great health benefits, too. 

The Real Skinny on Butter

Butter can play an important and healthful role in your diet as long as you follow a few simple guidelines.

The best kind of butter to use is clarified butter, often called by its Indian name, ghee. Ghee is made by melting butter over low heat to remove much of the moisture. The melted mixture is then strained to remove caramelized milk solids. You're left with a pure, rich buttery substance that is excellent for cooking.

And it's good for you! 

Consuming purified butter like ghee delivers vitamin A, which is essential for good adrenal health; lecithin, which helps your body metabolize cholesterol; antioxidants like vitamin E and selenium; and conjugated linoleic acid, which promotes a strong immune system. Foods like ghee can promote proper hormone balance, good heart health, and better energy levels.

Best Butter for Better Health 

The main difference between ghee and straight butter is that the impurities have been removed from ghee. You get all the health benefits without the drawbacks. Despite being a high-fat food, ghee offers a number of health benefits when you use it in moderation. Two tablespoons or less of ghee a day can help to lower your risk of cardiovascular disease, especially if the balance of fats in your diet comes from plant sources – a fact that hasn't been confirmed about regular butter.

Fats like butter and ghee are made of fatty acids, which get categorized as short-chain, medium-chain, and long-chain. Stick with me – I'll show you why this matters. Long-chain fatty acids tend to be the most damaging to your heart health. Compared with butter, ghee contains a higher percentage of short- and medium-chain fatty acids and a lower percentage of long-chain fatty acids, making it more beneficial for your health.

Ghee also has one of the highest smoke points that you'll find in a fat, making it ideal for cooking. Many fats begin smoking below 400 degrees, but ghee's smoke point can be as high as 500 degrees. When an oil or fat reaches its smoke point, heat damage occurs, and that can trigger the production of compounds that, when you eat the food, will increase the level of free radicals in your body. By cooking with ghee, you make healthier food that is less likely to cause the kind of free radical damage associated with premature aging.

In Ayurvedic medicine, ghee is prescribed for people with joint stiffness and chronic pain. Ghee helps to lubricate connective tissues, which can relieve pain and promote flexibility.

Traditionally, ghee is prepared in India according to their own customs. But as word has gotten out about the amazing health benefits of ghee, about its versatility in cooking, and about its rich, pure flavor, it's grown in popularity. Many companies around the world now produce and offer ghee, so you have a lot of options. You can find ghee at your local health food store or you can even buy high-quality butter and make you own.

However you get it, ghee is definitely worth adding to your daily diet. It's a food that truly is good and good for you. 

Another great saturated fat to cook with is coconut oil. More about coconut oil here ...

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Better nutrition helps against dementia

If you've ever had or cared for a loved one suffering from dementia, you know what a hopeless feeling it can be. 

Dementia cruelly attacks not only our loved ones' cherished memories and cognitive skills -- it often leaves them physically and emotionally wasting away, as they succumb to depression and even begin refusing foods they once loved.

I understand the heartbreak of caring for a loved one with dementia. 

And now there's a ray of hope on the horizon for dementia sufferers and their caregivers, thanks to an intriguing new study out of Taiwan.

Researchers from the National Yang-Ming University set out to improve quality of life for millions of people currently suffering from dementia. And these researchers noticed the same things we all notice -- as many dementia sufferers surrender to depression and cut back on eating and physical activity, their physical condition declines rapidly.

So instead of attacking the problem with some toxic, side-effect-laden prescription pill, the researchers tackled the problem another way -- with a fork.

More than five dozen dementia sufferers underwent memory training exercises that were designed to help them remember proper nutritional habits and to eat more regularly. The trick, it appears, is to get patients to remember the same thing over increasing lengths of time.

And if you think memory training can't work for dementia patients, think again. The patients who received memory training were able to dramatically slow their emotional and physical declines.

Patients who were trained to remember proper nutrition were able to increase their body mass index and significantly reduce their scores on a common depression scale -- all in just six months.

Dementia always effects more than just one person. It takes a terrible physical and emotional toll on both patients and their caregivers. If a loved one is suffering from dementia, don't give up hope and don't watch him slowly disappear into the couch. By working with your loved one to maintain proper eating habits, you may improve his quality of life and lengthen the time you have together.

Since nutrition is so important, that also means that proper digestion is right up there. Make sure you are getting a good digestive enzyme

Saturday, March 9, 2013

7 natural alternatives to flu shots

Before we go over some of the most effective natural flu fighters, don't forget about the power of good hand hygiene – it's probably the most effective way that you can naturally reduce your risk of getting the flu. Whenever someone near you coughs or sneezes, you're exposed to respiratory droplets that may carry the flu. You can pick up the flu directly by breathing in these droplets.

Or, more often the droplets settle on a surface, you touch the surface, and then you touch your mouth or nose, and the flu enters your system through that route. So be careful out there. Wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water. It's easy to do, and it's free. Don't use hand sanitizers! Most of them are alcohol based and have been known to cause problems, but that's another story.

Now let's take a look at what you can do to get your immune system in fighting form:

Echinacea is a type of plant in the daisy family, has been shown to boost the immune system by activating your white blood cells. It also increases interferon production which can specifically help fight off viral infections, including the flu. One study showed that an Echinacea compound herbal tea was effective for the relief of flu symptoms if taken at the earliest onset. Evidence also shows that if you take Echinacea about a week before being exposed to the flu virus, you may prevent yourself from getting sick.

Zinc is an essential mineral and has a role in multiple biochemical processes. It is found in a variety of foods, such as poultry, red meat, dairy products, whole grains, nuts, beans, and some types of seafood. Your body has no specialized storage system for zinc, so it needs it on a daily basis either from your diet or from a supplement.

Medical evidence suggests that zinc lozenges can shorten the duration of flu symptoms, such as cough, sore throat, and nasal drainage. It may also have some preventive benefits against developing a respiratory viral infection, such as the flu, in the first place. The average recommended dose is 15-25 mg per day but not more since too much zinc can actually worsen your immunity. 

Garlic has been used to help prevent some illnesses for centuries. It has powerful antioxidant effects, which can help to stabilize your cells and your DNA. By doing so, it can actually improve your immunity.

Aged garlic extract has been shown to be helpful in preventing the flu and reducing the recovery period (by about a day), according to one medical study. However, it may not be as good at treating flu symptoms once the infection occurs. Be careful about taking it if you are taking any blood-thinning medications (including aspirin) since garlic has blood-thinning properties and can increase your risk for bleeding problems. Of course, check with your doctor for your best advice.

Vitamin C. Medical literature suggests that taking 1000-2000 mg if vitamin C daily on a consistent basis, rather than as needed, can help shorten the duration and severity of upper respiratory infections in general.

Ginseng / Cold-Fx. Cold-Fx is a proprietary extract of the roots of North American ginseng and has been shown in studies to prevent respiratory infections. One study showed that when seniors with good immune systems take Cold-Fx, it helps to reduce the risk of respiratory infections by 48% and can reduce their duration by 55%. It was also found to be a safe natural therapy. 

Essential Oils. The combination of 3 essential oils – eucalyptus, alpha-pinene from pine, and d-limonene from citrus – has been shown to be helpful in treating acute and chronic inflammation of the lungs, and so may be promising in helping you to fight off the flu. This combination comes in oral form and is recommended to be taken at a dose of 300 mg, three to four times daily.

Probiotics. Probiotics ("pro-life") are bacteria that are good for you. Scientific evidence shows that this type of bacteria can improve your immune system by increasing certain T cells, which can fight off infection, or by helping to reverse some vitamin deficiencies. You can find probiotics in cultured dairy products – like kefir or yogurt. They are also available in different types of oral supplements.

One clinical study showed that a probiotic bacteria, Lactobacillus fermentum, helped to improve the effectiveness of the flu vaccines. Other studies have shown probiotic benefits, when taken with multivitamins and minerals, in helping to improve the duration and severity of flu symptoms. It's also essential to take a course of probiotics following any antibiotic treatment. After a course of antibiotics you are especially vulnerable to the flu and other illnesses – probiotics can help protect you.

Another great supplement to help strengthen and bolster your immune system is a product from Enriching Gifts called Sterol Max. This is one of our essential "medicine cabinet" items.