Introduction to Superfoods

The word Superfood has been coined in the 1990’s and has taken a whole new look since then. It became a haven of true health benefits while becoming an escape of commercialized products to sell, creating unfounded fad and craze. So, what is it, really?

Superfoods have been coined to categorize certain foods in the health food industry. The categorization involves foods that aside from their healthy benefits for the body also have the capacity to aid and fight certain diseases. This aid stems from the superfoods unique components that can be enzymes, antioxidants, compounds or helpful oils.

Superfood as a label though has been put into scrutiny after just every food manufacturers has claimed their products to be one. For this, several food and drug bureaus as well as organizations put up regulations as well as standards to be met.

Countries that have the regulatory rules has indicated that a back up study needs to accompany a product before it can be labeled as such and be marketed to the public.

What is Superfood?

Superfoods have been a popular term. But one can distinguish these foods right away from ordinary food in the grocery stores. These foods mostly have low calories and are high in nutrients. Most superfoods are rich in anti-oxidants, differently categorized (depending on the type of the food).

IN recent standards, for a Superfood to be a Superfood, then it may need to be reaching some specifications. It should be nutrient densed; it should have a high ORAC than ordinary food produce and it should have a low calorie ration compared to its nutrients.

Types

Superfoods have different types. They can be categorized differently depending on its source or its classification in the food world. The list can be read below.

Green Superfoods

The green superfoods may include all green leafy vegetables. These veggies may come in hated by many but these foods have a high concentration of digestible nutrients. They also pack a heap of fat burning compounds while giving the body vitamins and minerals while protecting the body and healing it. Most of green superfoods have proteins, photo-chemicals, digestion friendly compounds and muscle building components. Kale, broccoli, spinach, are among the examples of green superfoods.

Marine Sourced Superfoods

Sea foods surely tease the tongue and for some it can be a rare treat. For the record though, seafood shouldn’t just become a treat, it should become a regular meal included menu due to its superpowers to fight certain diseases. Selected marine produce includes oily fish such mackerel, wild salmon, tuna and halibut and other source such as krill and calamari contains one super beneficial oil, the omega-3.

Omega-3 among its all other benefits, can help suppress impending heart diseases while helping in diabetes. It can also help fight cancer while quelling some disease’s inflammatory tendencies. Today, omega-3 has been a well studied and a phenomenal fatty component and the most consumed supplement in the US.

Fruit Superfoods

You can never go wrong with fruits. Fruit superfoods are high in anti-oxidants which help fight free radicals and prevent cellular damage in the body. Free radicals occur through our own doing though through pollution, smoking, burnt foods, deep frying foods, and radiation.

Fruits notably blueberries, lemons, grapes, kiwi, acai berry, dragon fruit, pomegranate, grapefruits, among others, are known as superfoods.

Nuts and Seeds Superfoods

Nuts such as walnuts, peanuts, almonds are known superfoods. They contain friendly fats and are good for the brain. Seeds on the other hand contain better benefit. Such is positive from the likes of Chia and flaxseed. Both contains the well revered omega-3 fatty acid and is known to be very helpful or the body.

Chia today has been taking the world by storm and has slowly been gaining some following as health boost included in meals and food menu.

Seaweed Superfoods

Seaweeds are known to be the nutritionally dense plants in the planets. This can be due to the fact that they get access from the world’s nutritionally dense ocean foods. They contain more calcium than milk and then beef. They can purify the blood system of the body since their chemical composition is close to those of human blood plasma.

Alga may be classified in this category.

Preparation

Superfoods when acquired naturally (not processed as product sold by manufacturers) may need to be prepared. Fruits though may not need preparation; they can be eaten as it is. Vegetables may be turned into salad or be included in Superfood menus you can choose from. Superfood that is often prepared though may include those of the fish or the marine sourced produce. In preparing ad cooking these, other Superfood veggies may be included.

Most Superfood fan though has the easy and the refreshing way to include Superfood into their meals, through juicing and smoothies. Just every fruit and every veggies out there can be tuned into that. Some veggies though may not palatable due to its bitter taste when eaten raw or mad into smoothie, honey can be your secret weapon in here.

You may see some recipes in this Superfood recipes link.

What not to do With Superfoods

Although superfoods are very beneficial at its best, some people have lost these benefits once preparations for these foods are altered. How? What are these sins you may commit against superfoods? Here are some.

  •    Frying superfoods
  •  Covering Superfood with flavoring (sugar, colored coatings)
  •  Smothering your food with sauces
  • Believing that the muffins you are eating really contains those berries so you buy it instead of doing it yourself.
  • Putting butter in your superfoods
  • Artificially flavoring your superfoods
  •  Over seasoning your Superfood meals or products

Benefits

Here are the main benefits of the superfoods to the health.

    1.  Regulates the metabolism
    2.  Burns body fat (paired with exercise and other healthy lifestyle)
    3. Lowers LDL (bad cholesterol) while increasing the HDL (good cholesterol)
    4. Reduces or prevents inflammation
    5.  Prevents heart disease
    6.  Lowers risk o cancer
    7. Promotes digestive health
    8.  Protects and detoxify organs from toxins

Warning and Safety

It is impossible to be able to just consume superfoods and avoid all other foods. They key is to consume as much superfoods as possible and portion what you eat of the remaining foods.

As the popularity of the superfoods has become a craze and has increase, variety of products and from the natural superfoods has been introduce e in the market. Other things such as supplement that can mimic the Superfood effects has also been manufactured and sold. These products may be unregulated and may need further evaluation before being taken in. Some of these products may be unhealthy, thus may warrant recall from certain food and drug bureaus.

For safety, cook or prepare your own food. Or if buying packed Superfood products, refer it and have it approved by a health care provider first.

Image Credit: mcrosacci via Flickr

Cardiometabolic Risk: Intro, Evaluation and Management

The world today is diagnosed with epidemic of obesity. It affects kids and adults alike. This epidemic has resulted into far troubling health dilemma—the cardiometabolic risk.

Cardiometabolic risk is defined as the collective impact of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity and other risks put together. These common risk factors have been singled out by a study to have a significant and negative effect in the health related quality of life in the United States.

Cardiometabolic Risk in a Capsule

The CMR or the cardiometabolic risk is a construct of clustered risk factors which can be an indicator of a patient’s overall risk for type two diabetes and cardiovascular disease. These things if not detected early or evaluated at most will pose a great health risk in forms of even worse conditions.

Cardiometabolic risk has become the focus of most government funded studies today since it has affected a large part of the population. Most of the health organizations who are concerned for the condition involve services which include systematic evaluation, education, lifestyle behavioral changes, disease and condition prevention as well as treatment of the risk.

What Risk Factors Increases CMR?

    1. Obesity. Obesity is described in Wikipedia as the medical condition wherein fats gets accumulated in the body to excess that it results to some health problems. Obesity may result to adverse health effects and is the major factor in CMR. The US has recorded 33.8% of its population to be suffering from obesity. This condition resulted to heart diseases, stroke and type two diabetes. This is not only widespread among adults though but with children as well. Obesity doesn’t only affects the health but it even contributes to the world’s mortality rate. In the WHO’s statistics, at least 2.8 million people die each year due to the condition.
    2. Insulin resistance. Insulin resistance means that your body may not be using insulin effectively as it should. This is especially true in the case of the muscle and liver usage. Insulin resistance manifests when the pancreas releases more insulin than normal to help maintain the blood glucose levels. Insulin resistance and diabetes can be found in a large part of the population.
    3. High Cholesterol. The higher your cholesterol the higher you may have the risk for heart disease.
    4. Hyperglycemia. When so much glucose revolves around your body, then the hyperglycemia condition may set in. This can be a serious medical problem among people with diabetes or can be factor in developing the condition.
    5. Dyslipoproteinemia. This condition happens when the body’s lipoprotein is abnormally high. The condition increases the risk of vascular disease even though the total amount of cholesterol isn’t increased.

Other Factors worth Considering

Although the above factors are the major ones, there are still other least important factors that plays a role in CMR and shouldn’t be overlooked.

    1. Lead Exposure. Increase in lead exposure can lead to increase of CVD risk.
    2. Celiac Disease, leaky Gut. People with celiac disease or leaky gut also may have increased risk of developing CVD.
    3. Artificial sweeteners. The intake of artificial sweeteners, risk of obesity is increased as well as the risk of diabetes.
    4. Statin Drugs. Statin drugs are known for CVD prevention but it may actually increase diabetes risk among menopausal women.
    5. Altered Gut Flora.  Altered gut flora seems like farfetched risk in the CMR, there is an evidence that microbial ecosystem in the GI tract can increase CMR.

Other factors include:

    • Smoking
    • Age, race and ethnicity
    • Hypertension
    • Physical inactivity
    • Inflammation

Evaluation of CMR

CMR can be diagnosed though physical and medical evaluation. But most medical institution has problems in the diagnosis of the risk factors since there is little to no availability of evaluation initiative from patients and local health units.

Some single risk factor also cannot be discriminated between those who will develop it or who will not. This lead to broad interpretation of diabetes risk. In the CVD risk though, it can be specific since there are already proactive evaluation and treatments available.

The most involved professional for the evaluation is the primary physician of the patient. Although there is a little percentage if pre-diabetic patients who really develop the disease, still most doctors deemed it necessary to address CMR not only for Diabetes alone.

Treatment and Management of CMR

Cardio metabolic risk can be prevented and managed. The primary focus of most treatments and preventive management may include the addressing of the primary concerns which involves the dyslipoproteinemia, hypertension, and diabetes. Here are some tips for that.

    1. Measure waist circumference regularly to detect cardiometabolic risk among adults and children. That is because the abdominal fat can be the first indication of CMR. The regular measurement of waistline can help.
    2. Diet modification. Diet modification can better ones CMR and help in its prevention.
    3. Daily exercise. Daily exercise can reduce waistline and can help manage sugar levels and can benefit the heart.
    4. Treating dyslipidaemia.
    5. Antihyperglycaemic therapies
    6. Treatment of obesity through medications like orlistat or sibutramine.
    7. Medication for CMR in form of Rimonabant.

There are lots of ways to manage CMR. Treating multiple cardiometabolic risk factors is even possible.  Primary physicians may even give patients the multidisciplinary approach one can choose from. Intensive intervention ad well as consistent lifestyle change can make a vast difference in the condition.
Image Credit: tienvijftien via Flickr

Omega-3 for Treatment of Crohn’s Disease

Alternative and complementary treatments have always been a choice by many to treat Crohn’s disease. Of which omega-3 fatty acids, a polyunsaturated fat, have topped these alternatives, but will it suffice together with all other medications?

The answer would be yes, according to studies.

Omega-3

Omega-3 fatty acids are long chained fatty acids that can’t be produced by the body but are badly needed by almost all bodily system. The cardiovascular is one of the most benefited systems of omega-3 fatty acids. The said fats can help protect the heart and even decrease risk of heart attacks.

Aside from the heart, omega-3 is said and found out to have good effects on eye health, can reduce LDL or the bad cholesterol, lessen chronic pain symptoms, help reduce menstrual symptoms and prevent certain kinds of cancer.

And now, Crohn’s disease has been added in its long list of medical condition to assist into cure.

Omega-3 and Crohn’s Disease

In my last article, Crohn’s Disease, the basics of the medical condition has already been discussed. So now we will focus on an alternative treatment – the omega-3.

There are two types of omega-3 fatty acids that are commonly known and are from marine life sources, the EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). Another one is the ALA and it can be found from the plant sources. For CD, the first two fatty acids are given emphasis with.

Omega-3’s EPA and DHA have been highlighted in terms of its anti-inflammatory properties and its capacity to strengthen immune system.

Omega-3 therefore is beneficial in terms of its inflammation fighting capacity since it can soothe the guts’ swelling.  Another study had tested and proven omega-3’s benefits in terms of CD’s remission. 59% of patients with CD had maintained their remission compared to those who had been given placebo.

In another study conducted and published in the New England Journal of Medicine, it has been found that 33% reduction in the CD relapse has been recorded with those who take omega-3 fatty acids.

Another evidence pointed out by experts is the diets of Eskimos. Eskimos has high consumption of oily fish, major source of omega-3 which has been the major link in the low prevalence of Crohn’s disease among them.

Omega-3 Sources

The most famous omega-3 source is fish and its oil. Known fish to have beneficial omega-3 includes mackerel, tuna, herring, salmon, tilapia and sardines. Calamari and krill though are good sources of omega-3 as well. Processed essential fatty acids from these marine produce are capsulated and distilled to be distributed as omega-3 fish oil, krill oil and calamari oil capsules for supplements.

Lesser known options of omega-3 source include flaxseed, Chia seeds and walnuts.

Although fresh and natural options for consumption is advisable, most would prefer the omega-3 in supplement form due to the rise of the mercury issues that most cold water fish are exposed to. Although of course there are a lot of exceptions since there are shores that are still free of toxic wastes and mercuric content mostly dumped by the advent of industrializations.

Conclusion

Although omega-3 fatty acids supplementation may not cure Crohn’s disease overall, it can certainly dampen its effects in terms of inflammation and in strengthening the immune system health. Higher anti-inflammatory EPA and DHA rose in key immune system cells and pro-inflammatory factors in immune system cells has been lowered as said in year 2000 research. And since there is no highly effective treatment exists for CD, the use of alternative and complementary treatments can help a lot and can ease a lot of burden among CD patient.

Image Credit: Happy Sleepy via Flickr

Crohn’s Disease

Your gut can be the set of thousands of bacteria. Good, bad, the needed and the unneeded. And more often, the gut becomes the center of conditions that may affect your day to day living from simple constipation to diarrhea to irritable bowel to food intolerance. These digestive conditions are often ranging from mild condition into severe cases of disruptive gut problems.

One of the disruptive gut problems many can relate about is Crohn’s disease (to be referred all throughout the article as CD).

CD affects 700, 000 Americans and can be experienced by both men and women. It is more prevalent through among young adults in the age 15-35. Developed countries tend to have more CD cases, urban cities may have more cases than rural places and northern climates may have higher number than southern ones.

What is Crohn’s Disease?

CD is a condition wherein the digestive tract is inflamed. It can affect any part of the gut starting from the mouth all the way to the anus. It affects 1 in every 5, 000 people in UK and is said to be more prevalent among women.

CD is often tricky to diagnose since its symptoms can be similar to those of IBS or Irritable Bowel Syndrome and ulcerative colitis. Genes and heredity can play a big part in it. For that, Jewish people are known to have higher chance of developing the condition and those who have a type of inflammatory bowel disease can be a likely candidate in the future.

Causes of CD

CD’s causes can’t be pointed out but there are things that can be attributed to it and some things that can flare it up.

Researcher’s though believed that it is a result of some abnormal reaction of the body’s immune system. In normal guts, the immune system attacks bacteria to protect the body. In a person with CD, his or her immune system attacks the good bacteria, the food and the substances that could have helped the digestive process.  Due to this, the white blood cells start accumulating in the lining of the guts or the intestines which results to chronic inflammation.

After the inflammation, ulcers, sores and injury to the guts may follow.

The genes, the immune system and few of environmental factors are the main reason or cause of the condition.

What are its symptoms?

CD may make you experience several things. Here’s a list of its symptoms:

  1. Pain. Due to the inflammation, pain can be felt. It happens in the lower right side of the abdomen.
  2. Gut ulcers. Blood in the stools can be another symptom of CD. This can be due to the ulcers in that gut that bleeds.
  3. Mouth ulcers. Mouth ulcers are also fairly common.
  4. Diarrhea. Occasional diarrhea can also be common. It can range from mild to severe and can include pus, mucus and even blood.
  5. Fatigue. Fatigue, tiredness and fever are another symptom of CD.
  6. Appetite change.  Appetite of people with CD may experience the high and low. Sometimes they may feel like eating and sometimes they don’t have the stomach to swallow food.
  7. Anemia. Due to blood loss, anemia can be experienced later.
  8. Rectal bleeding. Due to anal fissures, rectal bleeding can happen. The experience can be very painful.
  9. Arthritis, skin rash, liver inflammation and eye inflammation are also possible symptoms.

Common Treatments

Most often, CD can be diagnosed through stool and blood tests. Biopsy and colonoscopy can be requested as well. Endoscopy, CT scan and barium meal x-ray are also good if its available. After it has been diagnosed, there are plenty of paths to choose from to treat it.

The treatment though may vary depending on where the inflammation is located. Here are some quick options:

    1. Anti-inflammatory medications
    2. Steroids
    3. Immunosuppressant drugs
    4. Antibiotics
    5. Infliximab
    6. Anti-diarrheal dn fluid replacement therapy
    7. Surgery
    8. Supplements such as omega-3.

Yes, you may have some medications to help but the last one option is the newest find today. Omega-3 is said to help and can address both inflammation issues and can prevent flare ups.

The benefits of omega-3 and Crohn’s disease will be discussed in the next article, Omega-3 for Treatment of Crohn’s Disease.

Image Credit: Zellaby via Flickr