Some foods and herbs may help ward off the flu

Patrick B. Massey, MD, PH.D., medical director for complementary and alternative medicine at Alexian Brothers Hospital Network and president of ALT-MED Medical and Physical Therapy, shared in the Daily Herald that he is often asked in winter is “should I get the flu shot?” He answered that his answer varies. Some people need all the protection they can get and others not as much. Truth be told, it is rare that the flu shot actually prevents the flu. Fortunately nature has provided some natural options to the flu vaccine. There is reasonable medical research that some foods, herbs and supplements may be effective in the prevention and treatment of influenza.

Glycyrrhiza lepidota is the name for the American licorice plant. The active ingredient is a group of compounds termed glycyrrhric acids. Licorice stimulates the production of anti-viral compounds called interferons. It also has anti-inflammatory properties so the symptoms of the flu may be blunted. The most interesting aspect of licorice root (at least to me) is that it actually prevents the influenza virus from getting into the cell, reducing the risk of the cell actually becoming infected. Overall licorice root is safe, however the glycyrrhric acids may cause high blood pressure.

Ginseng is an herb that is often used in Oriental medicine. Ginseng is classified as either red or white. Heat white ginseng and it becomes red ginseng. A number of medical studies have shown that red Korean ginseng helps to significantly reduce the symptoms and duration of upper respiratory tract infections. Although not shown specifically to reduce the incidence of influenza, it is historically used during influenza season to maintain health. Red ginseng can cause an increase in blood pressure in those with high blood pressure. Insomnia can be an issue as well as migraines in those who are sensitive to the effects of red ginseng. Read more

Want to Avoid Munching on Unhealthy Foods? Serve Yourself

Having to serve yourself doesn’t curb appetites for healthy foods, the study found. It only stopped people from eating unhealthy food.

“If they’re served by someone else, they can outsource responsibility to someone else,” says Dr. Linda Hagen, assistant professor of marketing at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business. “But if they serve themselves, they have to accept responsibility and that makes them feel bad.” Read more

What the ancient Greeks can teach us about herbs

 in the Washington Post shared that at a point in the 9th century, someone noticed a problem with all those ancient handwritten texts: The scribes had left their Caps Lock on.
Every character had been rendered in uppercase, or, in the terminology of philologists, majuscule. Suddenly, people who could read found this EXTREMELY ANNOYING and clamored for minuscule script.This shift created a new industry among the quill pushers of the day who would take moldy papyrus works — say, the landmark 1st-century herbal by Dioscorides describing 600 medicinal plants — and render them into manuscripts in the new style.Alain Touwaide, an expert in this field, says this development was an advancement in information technology as momentous as the appearance of digital books in our own time.

Touwaide, with his wife and fellow researcher Emanuela Appetiti, created an organization named the Institute for the Preservation of Medical Traditions 10 years ago whose mission, in part, has been to study the proliferation of manuscripts after this development.

This subject speaks to a deeply important and interesting aspect of garden history: how our forebears relied on a knowledge of herbs (and to a lesser degree, animal products and minerals) to manage maladies and keep themselves healthy.

Years before the institute was formed, Touwaide came to see a problem: Manuscripts were lost or misfiled, and the actual number of copies of a given text was often significantly understated. Now 63, he has haunted dozens of national, university and private libraries over his career in search of missing or hidden manuscripts.

The result is a new book, essentially an inventory of Greek medical manuscripts spanning the Byzantine Empire between the 5th and 15th centuries.

A Census of Greek Medical Manuscripts: From Byzantium to the Renaissance” will not make any bestseller list: It is a list of specific manuscripts that Touwaide and Appetiti, a cultural anthropologist, have tracked down, often by going to the libraries that hold them. One entry alone may have taken them days to pin down, especially if they had to find their way by bus and taxi to visit a monastery on a Greek hilltop somewhere (population: one monk).

The census is an inventory of all known surviving Byzantine medical manuscripts — it lists their titles and locations — and is primarily a tool for other researchers to spread knowledge of horticulture, botany, medicine and literature in the Middle Ages. It took 30 years of concerted effort, Touwaide said, and increases the number of known manuscripts from approximately 1,500 to 2,300, tracked to some 150 locations. Although they were written during the Byzantine Empire, they record texts dating to 5th century B.C.

Among Touwaide and Appetiti’s richest haunts have been the National Library in Paris and the Vatican Library, though Washington has its own riches in such places as the Library of Congress and the National Library of Medicine in Bethesda. The Austrian National Library is extremely proud of having Codex Vindobonensis, the most impressive of the more than 100 manuscript copies of Dioscorides’s seminal work. An early physician, Dioscorides was so good at identifying the therapeutic value of certain plants that his knowledge is still valued today.

This is more than just an exercise in logging historical documents. No two manuscripts of the same text turned out quite the same, and the fascination is in how they differ. Some of the manuscripts were copied by healers who would add their own pharmaceutical notes based on local practice and knowledge.

Comparing the manuscripts, Touwaide could see that the same plant might have different utility based on its location. This is because herbs take on varying chemical properties based on their terroir and because different human populations developed different genetic tolerance or susceptibilities to disease.

The more a given herbal preparation appears between texts, the higher the probability it’s the correct remedy, Touwaide said. The couple have been based in Washington for 17 years but are moving the institute, formerly affiliated with the Smithsonian, to Southern California, where Touwaide now teaches.

Far from quackery, these herbals were lifesavers, and the people who copied the words and illustrations shine through the murkiness of the Dark Ages as heroic figures to Touwaide and Appetiti. “I have admiration for these people but more than that, respect,” Touwaide said. “I’m amazed by what they have done, the exactness of the observations, the accuracy in keeping the information, and all the pain” of copying for long hours by candlelight.

Sometimes they didn’t know the plants firsthand and would wing it. Touwaide likes to show students an image of a cinnamon “tree” that the scribe rendered as a stick of cinnamon with a tuft of leaves on top.

“Alain would show this to students and they would laugh,” Appetiti said, “but then he asked them if they could describe a pepper plant, and they were, of course, lost.”

Touwaide said that in contrast to the learning embodied in these manuscripts, “we live in an age of inflation of information and deflation of knowledge.”

Another lesson from these texts is that there was little or no separation between medicine and diet, a link that is at best tenuous in the West today.

I asked them if they were stranded on a small island, what plants they would extract from antiquity to keep themselves healthy. At the top of the list would be rosemary, oregano, garlic, lavender and onions. But they would also seek out a pomegranate tree. The fruit “has a lot of properties,” Appetiti said.

Touwaide would also want those biblical gifts of frankincense and myrrh, derived from tree gum resins. “They are the antibiotics of history,” he said. “But I would need to find a merchant.”

@adrian_higgins on Twitter

Read more

Healthy food swaps you’ll barely notice

 Alanna Elliott, RD, LDN shared in Edwards-Elmhurst Hospital’s Healthy Driven News that there’s no more comforting food on a winter day than a big helping of creamy mashed potatoes or a plate piled with steaming hot pasta.

Comfort food is a go-to dinner on a cold night. I get that. The only problem is that most comfort food will leave you feeling uncomfortably stuffed full of high-calorie sugar or fat.

Don’t despair! You can still enjoy your favorite foods without as many calories or unhealthy fat. By replacing some of the ingredients with healthier options, you get the same meal with much better nutrition.

Take a look at some of these easy swaps:

  • Cauliflower. Cauliflower is full of fiber and vitamin C, is low in calories and carbs, and tastes very similar to potatoes. It’s a great substitute for mashed potatoes, which are high in carbohydrates and can raise your blood sugars quickly. You could also use mashed cauliflower instead of cream in cream-based soups, sub it for rice, or mash it into pizza crust! When you use mashed cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes and use low-fat milk instead of cream and butter, you save over 150 calories and about 35 grams of carbs per cup.
  • Zoodles. Zucchini is a great source of fiber, B vitamins and vitamin C.  And the fiber in zoodles helps keep you fuller longer and regulates your blood sugars. Creating noodles out of zucchini – “zoodles” – to replace pasta can slash more than 160 calories and 35 grams of carbs per cup. Zoodles can be used instead of noodles in almost any recipe, even lasagna (sliced into long thin strips). A spiralizer tool, available at most large stores or online, easily creates zoodles from veggies.
  • Nonfat plain Greek yogurt. It tastes so much like sour cream, you won’t notice the difference in your taco, holiday dip or soup. What’s even better about this swap is a half cup substitution saves you more than 220 calories, 22 fat grams and 13 saturated fat grams.
  • Unsweetened applesauce (or mashed banana). This swap is all about the calories. You can cut a whopping 900 calories and 109 fat grams per half cup by using unsweetened applesauce or mashed bananas in place of olive or canola oil in your baked goods.

Read more

Make 2017 Your Healthiest Year Yet

Research shows that when it comes to the New Year, everyone’s top priority is their HEALTH. Yet, 92% of people will FAIL or give up on their resolutions. That only leaves a mere 8% who actually succeed. Take a moment and think about which percentile you’ve fallen in since the year began…Are you still going strong or have you fallen off the ladder? Do not fear. We are here to help you succeed!! We’ve learned that all it takes is a little bit of accountability and action to be able to maintain your 2017 goals.

Bring a friend or 2 and join us Sat. 1/28 for an exciting seminar, which covers the secrets you need to:

  • Lose a few pounds
  • Improve your diet
  • Boost your energy
  • Jumpstart your health

Our key speakers include Dr. Timothy Weselak, DC, CCWP & Julianne Schager, ACE Personal Trainer. Both are incredibly talented professionals and have extensive health-related backgrounds in order to share with you the most up to date knowledge on the topics of nutrition, exercise, weight loss, and overall health and wellness.

As a free bonus for you, Glen Prairie (well-known for their local natural and organic ingredients) is providing a healthy brunch to enjoy during the seminar!! Yumm.

Looking for a change in 2017? Try eating organic

Child and fresh vegetables

Josh Steckler, from PUSH Fitness, shared that the New Year has arrived, and for many people, it brings with it a new attitude toward diet and exercise. If you’re wondering which approach to take in 2017, don’t forget one of the most natural ways to stay healthy: eating organic.According to the USDA, organic food is produced without: antibiotics, growth hormones, conventional pesticides, petroleum-based fertilizers or sewage sludge-based fertilizers, bioengineering, or ionizing radiation.

Organic food does not contain antibiotics, hormones, chemical preservatives, pesticides, or any other added harsh chemicals. The controversial genetically modified organisms (GMO) are not present in 100 percent organic foods either. In other words, organic foods are foods in their natural state — which is the way nature intended food to be eaten.

Eating organic has many health benefits. Because much of our nonorganic food is mass produced, chemicals and additives are used to increase production, including pesticides and growth hormones. These substances eventually end up in our bodies and over time can disrupt our natural metabolic processes and cause toxicity. This could lead to weight gain, food allergies, digestive problems, headaches, and lack of energy. These chemicals were never intended for human consumption. Fortunately, organic foods do not contain any of these substances, so they fuel the body without the negative side effects.

Certain organic foods have been shown to be more nutritious than their nonorganic counterparts. Most organic foods are in their natural state or minimally processed, so this means less ‘filler’ ingredients and more of what your body needs. Organics contain more nutrients with fewer calories, which will leave you more satiated and aid in weight control.

Organic food production also benefits our environment. By eating organic, you are supporting natural farming methods, which minimize damage to our water, soil, air and any animals involved.

So while the benefits of eating organic may seem obvious, the increased cost of organic foods can sometimes scare people away. This is where it comes down to the consumer to make the most sensible choice.

Next to air and water, food is one of the most important substances we consume. Is it really worth cutting corners when it comes to the quality of the food that fuels your body? Many of our clients have realized that once they evaluate how they are spending their grocery money and cut out the unnecessary items, their grocery bill really isn’t much higher with organic foods.

So if you’re ready to make a positive change, give organic a try. Focusing more on the types of calories you’re eating is just as important as the number of calories. Take a look at the big picture and you’ll be on your way to a healthy year.

For more exercise and nutrition tips check out our blog at PushFitnessTraining.com as well as links to our social media resources.

• Joshua Steckler is the owner of Push Fitness, a personal training studio in Schaumburg specializing in weight loss, muscle toning, and nutrition. Contact him at PushFitnessTraining.com.

Read more

Don’t let detox diets deceive you, says chef

Ellie Krieger in the Washington Post shared that  she still chuckles when she  thinks about the tweet put out years ago by the famed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson: “The likelihood that a person uses the word ‘toxin’ correlates strongly with how much chemistry the person does *not* know” (punctuation his).

She continues with, no doubt we will be pummeled by that word and its cousin “detox” over the next few weeks as the diet industry jumps on its big window of opportunity with resolution makers. Despite that, those who know chemistry agree that some foods and drinks are more protective than others. So apart from all the hype, is there anything true or helpful about the notion of detoxing?

Ms. Krieger posed that question to Rebecca Katz, author and founder of the Healing Kitchens Institute. As a consultant, speaker, teacher and chef, Katz seeks to help medical professionals incorporate flavor and nutrition into their work. She is the author of “The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen: Nourishing, Big-Flavor Recipes for Cancer Treatment and Recovery” and “Clean Soups: Simple, Nourishing Recipes for Health and Vitality.”Ellie asked her, by phone and email, for her insights on detoxing. Here are her responses, edited for space and clarity.

Read more

Why Undereating Won’t Actually Help You Lose Weight

 

Trinh Le, MPH, RD, a registered dietitian for MyFitnessPal shared that we all know that calories matter a lot when it comes to weight loss. As long as you eat fewer calories than you burn, you should lose weight. The logic is sound for most healthy adults, but we can also take that logic too far. In the case of healthy, sustainable weight loss, more restriction doesn’t always lead to better weight loss. In fact, regularly eating too few calories can put you at risk of malnutrition, resulting in unhealthy weight loss and nutrient deficiencies.

To prevent this, MyFitnessPal automatically has a minimum daily calorie goal of 1,200 calories per day for women and 1,500 calories per day for men. These minimums, based on recommendations from the National Institutes of Health, ensure the majority of us trying to lose weight do so safely and get enough essential nutrients from food to prevent malnutrition.

WHAT REALLY HAPPENS WHEN YOU CHRONICALLY UNDEREAT?

The difference between fasting and chronically undereating (which can lead to starvation) is a matter of duration. Fasting is commonly practiced on a timescale of several hours, but while the term has earned itself a bad reputation from notorious fasting or “detox” diets (think: cayenne pepper diet), fasting for weight loss can be safe. Our bodies were actually designed to handle short-term fasts, like when we don’t eat for eight hours during sleep. We also go anywhere from 4–8 hours without eating when we skip meals during life’s busier moments.

On the other hand, going without food for several days or eating less than the calorie minimum for weeks to months puts you at risk of malnutrition. As well-nourished individuals, we do carry enough stored fuel to meet our needs for 1–3 months in the form of muscle tissue and fat. However, our body can only store 1–2 days’ worth of glycogen (the body’s carbohydrate stores), which, if not replenished, is quickly used up to maintain blood sugar.

After several days of undereating, the body switches to energy-conservation mode, meaning your metabolism slows way down, making you feel tired and edgy. As carbohydrate stores run low, protein and fat become the dominant sources of fuel. After 48 hours without food, your body runs out of glycogen to power the two organs that need it the most: red blood cells and the brain. While glucose is the only fuel blood cells can run on, the brain will begin to adapt to power itself with ketone bodies made from fat. To meet basic energy needs, your body ramps up breakdown of muscles and organs in addition to fat. Read more

Some tips for reducing the sugar in your morning smoothie

Food Network star Melissa d’Arabian, an expert on healthy eating on a budget, shared that the smoothie has become ubiquitous because it makes healthy eating sound easy and attainable. I’ll admit to you right here: I love smoothies — throwing a bunch of things into a blender and then sipping on my breakfast. The more nutrients I can cram into that cool and creamy treat, the better. Healthy mornings are smart because mornings are when we have the most discipline since the day hasn’t tired us out, and our willpower isn’t exhausted. And smoothies are quick to throw together, and they’re portable, which makes them a busy-person’s best friend at breakfast. (You can even pre-prep smoothie ingredients in resealable bags to keep in the fridge or freezer for dump-and-blend convenience).

Not all smoothies are equal, however. Just because something is a “green smoothie” doesn’t mean that it isn’t loaded with sugar. (Just read the labels of some commercially available smoothies). Making your own smoothies at home gives you a lot more control, of course. But even so, if you load up a smoothie with an apple, a banana, some honey and berries, you could easily be looking at the same amount of sugar as a can of cola, which we would never gulp down at breakfast. Yes, fruit is natural sugar, but it still needs to be consumed mindfully.

Read more

A 2-Ingredient Snack to Help You Lose Weight

POPSUGAR shared that this avocado-based snack will help you lose weight for two awesome reasons: it’s full of healthy fats and fiber. Consuming healthy fats and fiber keeps that “I’m full” feeling going strong, so hunger and cravings will be brushed aside, and you’ll be full for hours. Add the protein, crunch, and saltiness of sunflower seeds, and this snack is a weight-loss superstar. It also helps that you can whip it up in two minutes.

  1. Cut an avocado in half. Use the side without the pit, and save the other half for later since the pit can help keep the green flesh from browning.
  2. Sprinkle one tablespoon of salted sunflower seeds in the middle.
  3. Use a spoon to scoop out bites right out of the avocado peel. You don’t even need to bother with dirtying a dish.