Tag Archives: prebiotics

Beat The Heat – Five Health Foods That Can Keep You Cool This Summer

Summer is here.

We’re sweating buckets, and begging for shade.

When it’s hot, it’s all too easy to grab an ice cream or a cold lemonade for a frozen sugar rush, but are there any health foods that can naturally aid your bodies ability to regulate its temperature?

Homeostasis is the system by which the body maintains a number of checks and balances. Temperature, heart rate, blood glucose and pH to name a few, are all regulated by this system. Your body is in a constant balancing act to maintain homeostasis. When you’re not at your healthiest, it can struggle or become sluggish to environmental pressures, taking much longer to respond, which in turn takes a toll on the body.

Core temperature is sensed by fine nerves in the skin, the great veins and the spinal chord, among other systems. When temperatures drop, sensors alert the hypothalamus and the brain sends signals to initiate vasoconstriction, a process whereby all blood vessels (especially those on the extremities) shrink in diameter. The opposite is true when temperatures increase. Your blood vessels are commanded to relax and open up (advice I could use myself).

The effect of vasoconstriction and vasodilation is one of thermal conservation or loss. Constriction prevents blood flow over the larger extremities where surface area is increased, allowing heat to be lost more rapidly. When dilation occurs, more warm blood is able to get to the most heat wasteful areas of the body to cool down. Think of your body as a very efficient 2 in 1 radiator. You give off heat, or you close the pipes, depending on environmental temperature.

Not all of us are in prime condition when it comes to these processes however. Some of us have compromised homeostatic abilities due to unhealthy lifestyles or chronic conditions. For instance, those who suffer from heart disease may not be able to cool or warm up because the effectiveness of their heart muscle is compromised and arteries may be damaged. In those with Reynaud’s a type of spasmodic vascular response, vasoconstriction may happen even when temperatures are not too cold.

What can we do to support the process of vascular constriction and relaxation? Here are five foods you can incorporate into your diet to help support your bodies ability to react to temperature changes, especially important as it gets warmer!

As a shout back to my post on ‘What Would Jesus Eat?‘, many of the foods that ancient israelites ate supported excellent circulation. I suspect this is due to the climate’s extreme temperature. The bodies ability to dilate the blood vessels effectively seems very importantin these hot conditions. Pomegranates, garlic, onions and wine are all excellent foods to support circulation and vasodilation. Check the post out for more examples!

Green Leafy Vegetables

red and green leaves on white surface

Green leaves are full of nitrates which the body can convert into nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is a vasodilator which can improve circulation and lower blood pressure. Eat your veggies if you want to stay cool!

Oranges, Lemons and Limes, Oh My!

bunch of orange fruits

Ok, well it’s not just oranges and lemons, you’ve also got grapefruits and other citrus fruits too! Citrus fruits are packed with antioxidants which can reduce inflammation in the lining of the arteries. Inflammation causes hardening in the arterial walls which, over time, leads to a poor temperature response. An artery that is less flexible will not respond well to the demands of temperature change. Support your bodies response by eating lots of citrus which will keep your vascular system bouncy and supple!

Cinnamon, Hot But… Not?

brown wooden sticks

Maybe you ought to have your spiced orange wine in the summer rather than at Christmas to incorporate your citrus and your cinnamon! Cinnamon is a great spice that goes with many things and makes them taste even better. It’s implicated in better blood flow and heart performance under stress. For once, we’re barking up the right tree (it’s a pun I’m so sorry).

Berry For Your Thoughts?

blueberry fruits

Berries are delicious. You can’t NOT like berries, right? Anyway, like citrus, berries are brimming with antioxidants which support the bodies ability to elastically respond to temperature changes in the atmosphere. Berries are usually cheaper in the summer as well, so go mental! Get as many berries as you can, make your face look like a jammy mess. I’ll allow it, just this once.

Walnuts, As Sexy As They Are, Wrinkly…

bundle of white seeds

I absolutely SWEAR by walnuts. These blossoming, nutty brain sculptures are excellent for a whole range of ailments. They will help if you experience chronic skin issues, prostate or bladder problems, diabetes and will even improve heart health. Which is kinda why we’re here. They are packed with beautiful antioxidants that will soothe the lining of your vascular system like a luxurious, sexy oil rub for your insides. They are also filled with prebiotic fibre which supports digestive health. I’m a firm believer that many of our bodies health issues originate in the gut, so these little powerhouses of nutrition should be pouring out of your cupboard. I’m serious. Just put these nuts in your bed, by your computer, in your car. Wherever you are, they is, kapiche?

As you might expect, a lot of these foods are already health foods and something you should try to incorporate in your diet. If you have to choose just one though, try and add walnuts, as I really do think they are an absolutely phenomenal health food which can tackle all of the important issues that anyone with chronic disease or poor circulation may have.

But the good thing about many of these foods is that they are in season during the summer when your body needs that support the most to keep you cool. Berries and citrus fruits can be bought cheaply and you should take advantage of this! I’m a big believer in buying foods which are in season. Nature made them that way!

I hope some of this can give you an insight into how to tackle the summer heat. The vascular system is so complex and fascinating. Learning a bit of science while you eat can’t be bad, right?

Please like, comment, and subscribe for more interesting health tips.

Julian

What Would Jesus Eat?

I’m trialling a new series.

I’m looking at diets from around the world and seeing if anything we used to do has any merit today.

Jesus would have eaten an ancient Israelite diet, so let’s see what that involves.

Surprisingly, a large number of health foods were regularly consumed by the Israelites, so we’ve got a pretty solid anti-inflammatory diet here.

Jesus is always depicted drenched in amber glow, kissed by the warm silken banner of the almighty, but could a portion of that be due to a diet full of healthful foods promoting beautiful golden skin?

Let’s check out some of the staples in Jesus’ day:

Olive Oil

Olive oil and olives grew well in this mediterranean climate, so they were abundantly used. Olive oil was likely to have been cold pressed, avoiding the damage that other heated processes can cause to this stable oil. Oilve oil is high in unsaturated fats, which are linked to lower levels of heart disease and related disorders, like high blood pressure.

Figs and Dates

Figs grew well in this climate and are an excellent source of prebiotic fibre. Prebiotics support the natural gut flora and suppress the growth of pathogenic settlers! Dates are sweet, but also contain some fibre which slows down digestion and prevents unhealthy insulin spikes from occurring. Dates were also fermented into a drink called ‘Shechar’. Fermented beverages contain probiotics which help to colonise the gut with helpful bacteria.

Pomegranates

Pomegranates are unlikely to have been a huge part of the ancient Israelite diet, but they nevertheless tout a number of health benefits. A recent study found that pomegranate extract could reduce inflammation by bringing down blood lipid levels (a known risk factor for heart disease, obesity, diabetes and a range of other inflammatory conditions). Israelites probably would have eaten this fruit fresh in season, and may have fermented it into wine to preserve it out of season.

Wine

Many of you know that too much wine can cause inflammation and liver damage over time, but a little every day can actually support health. Red wine, which is what Israelites would largely have had access to, can reduce inflammation because it contains lots of antioxidants which inhibit cellular damage.

Dairy

This is where it gets really interesting. There were no cows in ancient Israel, so milk, cheese, and yogurt were made solely from goats. Goat milk is widely accepted as anti-inflammatory. Many who cannot tolerate cows milk can drink goats milk without difficulty. Due to the naturally warm temperatures, this could also be made into a range of probiotic yogurts and even something similar to ghee or clarified butter, which has become a popular health food.

Fish

Coastal and river dwelling inhabitants would have had access to a range of fresh fish. Fish is naturally high in Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, both of which are shown to support longevity and provide anti-inflammatory effects in the ratios naturally found in marine foods. Fish were also salted and dried, producing a lean, protein rich food source that could be transported and kept in storage without going off.

Leeks, Onions and Garlic

Potent prebiotics, these three vegetables were often added to a range of cooked dishes for flavour and nutrients. These three in particular have been praised in the scientific literature for contributing to the health of the gut due to their high levels of prebiotic fibre, which help good bacteria populate the large intestine, crowding our pathogens which cannot digest it. Leeks, garlic and onion are all related, coming from the onion family.

Wheat

Any of you Keto/ Paleo people will reel in horror at the notion that wheat was a staple in ancient Israel, but this was not the refined wheat you are used to today. Most widespread was Emmer Wheat, an ancestor of Durum Wheat. Durum wheat is a much heartier grain which contains more fibre and is less processed. It also contains less gluten, which is inflammatory to the gut lining.

Overall, to eat like Jesus, was to eat surprisingly well! Lots of healthy oils with anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids. Fruits and vegetables with prebiotic fibre. Dairy from goats instead of cows, and fresh fish some of the time! On a side note and not mentioned above, meat was rarely eaten during the year, and when it was, it was largely goat, with some chicken, duck and goose. Too much meat has been implicated in heart disease as well as some cancers, most commonly colorectal.

Jesus is known for his wisdom as a prophet in Christianity, and is a guiding light for Christians across the globe, but even those of us who aren’t religious could probably learn a thing or two about health from this historical figure.

If you enjoyed this short insight into diets from around the world, let me know in the comments, and as ever, please like and subscribe for more to come!

J

Blame FAT SOCIETY, not fat people

The blame game.

We love to play it, but does pointing the finger really help us move forward?

Often when we reflect on blame, we find that it’s not always as satisfying as we expect, even though in many cases, it might be our first impulse.

Fat people.

The last acceptable bias in society.

Free game for laughter, shaming and bullying.

Most people will tell you that a fat person is an acceptable object of abuse because they can change their habits, they can become thin.

And they would be right. It is definitely possible to become thin when you started out fat, but we aren’t looking at the bigger picture.

Over the last few centuries, people have been getting bigger.

Obesity is the single largest (forgive me) health crisis in the west. We are spending astounding amounts of money on the end stage results of fatness.

Roll it back 2-300 years and almost nobody was fat. It just didn’t happen.

So, if society as a whole was thinner a century a go, is it fair to blame the fat individual for their weight? Do fat people just not try hard enough to eat well?

Based on everything we’ve seen so far, with rising obesity levels throughout the entire population, that would imply that society is losing its willpower? That every subsequent generation is just that little bit lazier, more sluggish and weak minded. Does anyone really believe that? I don’t think there is any evidence for it. So why do you say that about the individual fat person? Why is the onus on them to be thin, when all of society is wider than ever? It just doesn’t make sense to bash fat people in light of the scientific trend toward obesity documented copiously in the medical corpus.

This is where we come to the title of this article. Pointing fingers at individuals is never helpful and completely misplaced. We are facing an obesity epidemic because society is FAT.

Let me explain.

Antibiotics are pumped into all of our meat and dairy, pesticides, growth hormones and a myriad of synthetic fertilisers engorge our plants and make them grow to monstrous proportions. Our fruits and vegetables are genetically tweaked to include MORE sugar, to yield MORE oil and to stay fresher for longer. Our water is flooded with flouride, hormones and even antibiotics. SUGAR, the number one substance contributing to this epidemic, is cheaper than ever and in more of our foods.

When we head to a shop, everywhere we are bombarded by snacks filled with inflammatory oils like canola, sunflower and palm, added sugar, which goes by names so exotic you’d need a masters in food production to decode a Reeses Peanut Butter Cup, and preservatives of such abundance and diversity as to make jelly belly beans corp… well… jelly.

We are drowning in chemicals. Seemingly harmless products like yogurt and prepackaged salads contain teaspoons of sugar while claiming to support health. The food industry is deceitful to a fault, and if they were not regulated, we would be even worse off than we are now.

And what is it doing to us? Our digestive system cannot handle the abundance of damaging foods which are put on us unknowingly. Those of us who have become overweight have been the first to fall. Thin people, thank your good genetics amongst other things for your ability to stave off the fat, but eventually, even good genes will fail if we continue on this path.

Studies of the microbiome of the intestinal tract of obsese mice present some astounding findings. The most important of all being that in these mice, the microbiota are less diverse. Fat intestines are emaciated digestive landscapes. We are blaming fat people for the forest in their abdomen, but while they suffer with a digestive wildfire, their thin counterparts have stronger and more diverse intestinal landscapes.

When the gut biome fails, it makes room for pathogenic bacteria and glutinous carb/ sugar loving organisms. These bacteria, as described in GUT, could theoretically influence the host’s satiety and hunger levels, forcing them to eat more sugar by signalling the body to crave them. This reminds me of the cordyceps mushroom which takes over the host ant and makes it climb the canopies of trees to give the mushroom lots of light, to grow our of the dead ants HEAD (yuck). In this respect, we should treat the microbiome as something which can work in our favour to promote health, or against us, parasitically influencing us to gobble down more sugary fuel for their benefit.

Again, should we blame obese people for their fat bodies when we are only beginning to learn that our own intestinal tract, populated by a range of influential bacteria, can influence what we want to eat? And, that our society, pumping us full of the things which promote pathogens, is not at least somewhat to blame for fat people becoming fat?

What about fat children? You might say it was the parents. But, what about in cases where the child is fat, but not the parents? Children don’t actively attempt to gain weight and if their parents are not always fat as well, how can we blame them for their own obesity? Something else is at play here and it is not fat people’s unbridled gluttony.

So, fat people, unburden yourself from the shame which has been levied against you. You are not to blame for your weight (you probably already knew that anyway).

That doesn’t mean that you should continue to do the same thing. There are many ways you can start to improve you health. Two posts I created recently on fermentation and intermittent fasting can help you begin to regain some control over FAT SOCIETY.

At any rate, don’t forget that there are still whole foods, and cooking from scratch/ eating fruits, vegetables and free range meats and dairy are the best options in fat society. Go for foods that you know are single label. I’m talking bananas, cabbage, carrots, lettuce. Anything that comes with a list of ingredients is probably doing your body a disservice. Make it from scratch and claim back your health!

FAT SOCIETY WILL NOT WIN.

Leave a comment, like or share this with a friend!

J

 

 

 

Fermentation – An easy way to store veg and promote gut health.

It has been my pleasure in recent weeks to soak up the art of fermentation.

This involves something close to pickling a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, but not quite.

Lacto-fermentation does not involve added sugar, so many products are more savoury once they ferment. Nevertheless, the range of foods that you can use in fermentation are staggering, each blend unique. The process is quick and simple, yielding probiotic pickles that help support your gut biome.

I had dabbled in this for a while, reading about it online and researching recipes for a range of fermented foods like Kefir, Kimchi and Saurkraut, but I took a dive and bought The Noma Guide To Fermentation on Amazon, plunging into it’s passionate and informative manual of frothy foods and drinks.

This is a wondrous book which provides all the central theory on fermenting your own foods, and the best bit, the lack of prescription. Noma advises us to play around with fermentation, finding blends of fruits, vegetables and spices which create exceptional flavours and unique taste bud experiences.

The key is salt.

Salting your foods in a correct ratio, somewhere at about 2% of the biomass of fruit and veg, will yield a fermented product in 3-5 days.

You can also try adding spices and herbs to these ferments to bring flavours together.

Kimchi blends cabbage, chilli, garlic and ginger with salt, creating a delicious gut friendly addition. I did in fact have some of this today with my lunch. It makes a delicious accompaniment to an omelette or scrambled eggs, as well as with a sandwich, maybe even as an addition to your healthy salad.

Fermented fruits and vegetables, touting all of the above qualities of ease, health and flavour are also among some of the most versatile foods in the world. What savoury dish does not benefit from the tart fizz of fermented foods? I challenge you to come up with one! You can add fermented foods to almost any dish to enhance flavour. The juices can help to build up a stock or gravy, can be poured over a prepared meal for some added zing, and can even added to deserts to make them pop! Fermented fruits and veggies are literally oozing complexity and utility from simplicity.

Aside from Kimchi, I plan to use my monstrously fertile rhubarb plants (seriously, these ancient garden stalks are like a hydra, they cannot be killed and grow back stronger when you cut them down) for a lacto-fermented rhubarb recipe which I found here. What I love about this is the blend of fragrant cardamom and fiery ginger with a seriously unique use for a tart vegetable (yes, rhubarb is a vegetable! hard to believe, I know). Some of the most fascinating ferments involve salted fruits and veggies which you might normally find in sweet dishes. One of Noma’s most famous ferments involves the gooseberry, a sour green hairy grape that pairs beautifully with fermentation. Sour fruits and vegetables shine in this process. The natural sourness of these fruits and vegetables can create beautifully tart surprises.

To boot, fermented fruits and vegetables can last months in the fridge. They don’t really go off, if prepared correctly, but be warned, the taste can become pretty intense the longer you leave them! Nevertheless, if everything else I’ve said on the subject hasn’t swayed you, what will you do with all your greens and colourful fruits come winter (the gardeners among you especially will want to make the most of your painstakingly raised produce)? At the end of the summer season, when you harvest your garden’s bounty, what better way to pay homage to your labour, than to preserve and pickle your hard work, letting it give back to you all through the winter!

Fermentation provides a literally endless supply of opportunities for us humans. It allows us to venture into a weakly explored territory of new flavours and culinary experiences (arguably something our ancestors understood well, but largely forgotten in a modern setting). It can add something special to almost any meal you make. Every blend produces a new and exciting flavour combination, influenced by the type of bacteria growing on the fruits and vegetables you use (all the more reason to grow your own!). It naturally aids our digestive tracts, which are constantly bombarded by unnatural chemical soups and processed junk. And finally, it lasts, giving you the benefit of your hard work all through the winter!

What more could you possibly want? It’s a no brainer to get into fermentation!

Keep well and enjoy learning, and if you liked this article, please share it with a friend or loved one who can benefit!

J