Monday, February 20, 2012

Cinnamon - can it help reverse diabetes?

This article will share with you what I learned recently regarding cinnamon; an amazing spice with great health benefits along with some potential future use to combat type 2 diabetes.
I'm a close follower of Mike Geary's newsletter. Mike is an expert in fitness and overall nutrition and is one of the reasons of my recent interest in better eating habits and why I decided to create and share this Blog with you. I highly recommend his books!

Cinnamon health benefits is again something that Mike brough to my attention via his newsletter and I really thank him for his hard work and passion in this domain.

Cinnamon - what is it?

Cinnamon is a sweet and quite tasty spice found mainly from South East Asia. It is a very old spice and you are very likely familiar with it as it is the primary spice used in foods such as apple pies and buns! What you probably don't know is the impressive list of health benefits of cinnamon and how it can help controlling your weight and blood sugar level.

Cinnamon Health benefits - another superfood?

Cinnamon is known to provide you the following health benefits below:

  •          Anti-Clotting and Anti-Microbial properties
  •          Consuming cinnamon right before / with a high carb meal can help reduce impact on your blood sugar levels. This is due to the fact Cinnamon slows the foods absorption of your foods in your stomach (up to 37% reduction based on some research)
  •          May improve the effectiveness of your body insulin response (very good news for type 2 diabetes individuals)
  •           Its calcium and fiber can improve your colon and heart health (positive effect on your cholesterol)
  • Cinnamon's scent may also boosts your brain function (good news for cognitive related diseases)

Why is cinnamon helpful in controlling blood sugar level?

Eating a meal high in carb triggers an insulin response by your body in order to keep your blood sugar level under control. For diabetes individuals, either their body does not produce enough insulin, produces no insulin, or has cells that do not respond properly to the insulin the pancreas produces. You can access the full report (video) below:

Cinnamon can help by both controlling surge of sugar level due to reduced meal absorption along with an increase ability for your body to respond to insulin.

Some people believe and even suggest that it can reverse diabetes type 2. However, current positive studies appear to have been small and larger trials will be required to confirm such findings with an increase confidence level.

What can cinnamon do for a non diabetes individual?

Keeping your sugar level under control is also important in order to reduce risk of developing type 2 diabetes (along with good long term eating habits). Also, your body fat burning machine is typically turned OFF in presence of insulin so adding cinnamon from time to time (especially when you are expecting a carb heavy meal) before a meal may help keep down these insulin surges and maintain your body in its "fat burning" state for longer periods of time during the day.

My experience and tips

I personally enjoy cinnamon taste very much. Adding cinnamon in a cup of coffee or green tea (instead of sugar) is one way to consume more cinnamon and my current preferred choice.

Please share your experience with cinnamon, the effect on your body and recipes.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Curcuma - Powerful anti-cancer ally?

One of the key goals to eat better is not only to promote weight loss and overall better health but also to help reduce risk of major health problems such as cancer. This is why I will also research on this subject and create a "cancer fighting foods" section from this Blog.

This article will share with you what I learned with regarding curcuma, especially turmeric (Curcuma longa), a spice with promising cancer fighting properties.

Curcuma - what is it?

Curcuma is basically a genus of many species in the plant family Zingiberaceae. It is actually from the same plant family of ginger (another healthy spice).

The turmeric plant appears to be one of the curcuma species that has been more studied recently for its anti-cancer capabilities. It is mainly used as a spice in curry (to give curry a spicy taste and yellow-orange color) and consumed in Asian countries such as India.

Health benefits

Turmeric has been used and harvested as far as 5,000 years ago in countries like India, China as a spice but also as an overall digestive tonic. Turmeric is believed to have anti-inflammatory (reducing inflammation in your body should always be a goal) and antioxidant (very important to protect your body and cells against free radicals, which can damage your cells and lead to cancer) effects.

Curcumin is believed to be the primary agent responsible for turmeric's yellow-orange color and its health benefits:

  •           Early research suggest turmeric can keep several kinds of cancers from growing or spreading
  •           Strong antioxidant effect that can reduce risk of cancer but also protect the brain, liver (detoxification effect), and other key organs from damage by toxic substances such as drugs, radiation, excessive alcohol, heavy metals etc.
  •           Anti-inflammatory effect (useful to treat or prevent diseases such as arthritis, IBS etc.)
  •           Can help your digestive system due to its strong by reducing inflammation (has been shown to help reduce and health stomach ulcers)
  •           Can help protect your cardiovascular system by preventing the oxidation of cholesterol which can lead to blood vessel damage. Turmeric can also help reduce your "bad" cholesterol level
  •           Some research also suggest turmeric may help protect against Alzheimer's (neurodegenerative) disease. Alzheimer rate is very low for example in countries such as India.

As you can see, the list of curcuma health benefits is very impressive, especially regarding cancer prevention and its overall healing & anti-inflammation effects.

How to use

I'm planning to purchase curcuma very soon and share my experience. For now, find below information and ideas I found regarding how to select and consume curcuma (turmeric powder).

  •           If possible, use organically grown turmeric (reduced risk that the herb has been irradiated)
  •           Pure turmeric powder is recommended vs. curry powder (pure turmeric powder has the highest concentration of curcumin)
  •           Turmeric powder is typically used in Indian foods. You can add it to your rice, soup etc. for an increased taste and color
  •           Another interesting idea is to add turmeric powder to any healthy (homemade if possible) vegetable dip (this is very likely how I will first try turmeric)

Please share your experience of curcuma, the effect on your body and recipes.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Ginger - Surprising health benefits

Ginger is a very common spice that you are likely familiar with. This spice has been used for thousands of years in Asia for its medicinal properties. I personally enjoy it very much when eating sushi or when used as an ingredient for a general Tao sauce for example.

What I did not know is that this spice also provides some very unique health benefits.

Known Health Benefits

The primary known health benefits of ginger are as per below:

  •           Help and support your overall digestion
  •           Increase your energy level
  •           Can help in gas relieve and reduce nauseas
  •          Can help in reducing inflammation (foods which help reduced your body inflammation is always preferred)
  •           Can stimulate your blood circulation
  •           Ginger powerful oils (gingerols and shogaol) have healing properties

Ginger effect on your fat cells

What I found actually the most interesting with ginger is that recent research is showing that it can help burn fat by reducing the number of fat cells produced by your body.

Apparently, this is due to ginger components 6-shogaol and 6-gingerol which help increase your level of adiponectin in your blood. Adiponectin is a key protein hormone in your body important in glucose regulation and to break down your fat cells (in order for your body to use fat as energy). For example, obese individuals have lower level of adiponectin in their level which make it harder for them to lose fat.

How to increase your ginger consumption

The simplest way I found to increase my consumption of ginger is to make some tea! You simply need to cut about 3-5 pieces of ginger then add hot water on top. The taste is pretty good too!

My experience and observations

My initial observation after a cup of pure ginger tea is increased stamina and blood flow.
Please share your experience with ginger and its overall effect on your body.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Coconut - Health benefits finally exposed?

While doing research on healthy fats and oils, I found several articles and Web sites praising the health benefits of coconut; especially coconut oil and how it can do wonders for your body and your health.

This article will share with you what I learned on coconut oil and why and how I decided to include it in my diet.

Coconut oil - history recap

Coconut is mainly found in tropic and sub tropic areas and produced in bigger quantify in countries such as Philippine, Vietnam, India etc. Coconut oil was consumed in bigger quantity in US a few decades ago (along with butter, animal fat etc.) but then got bad press due to its high saturated fat content, which has been linked generally as bad for your heart and arteries. Such bad press did trigger people to switch to other available cooking oils such as vegetable unsaturated  oils (corn, sunflower, canola, olive etc.).

Coconut oil saturated fat - valid concern or not?

Coconut oil is quite high in saturated fat (90%+ of fat content is saturated) which was (still is) originally a source of health concern. However, recent research has demonstrated that not all saturated fat have a negative effect on your cholesterol level (bad cholesterol). Recent researches has in fact shown that coconut oil can actually increase your "good" cholesterol level and reduce level of "bad" cholesterol.

If you are like me and learning all this for the first time then I'm sure that you will be confused given the different and conflicting sources of information that are available to us out there.

Raw virgin coconut oil is what appears to be healthy since it is composed mainly of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) which are easily digested and absorbed by our digestive system.
This oil is also very stable at high temperature which makes it a perfect candidate for cooking vs. other polyunsaturated oil which are unstable under heat and can trigger increased inflammation in your body.

Health benefits summary

The list of health benefits is quite impressive and explained by the various fat & acid compounds found in coconut oil including poly-phenols, vitamin E, K and iron.
  •            Improved and increased metabolism (can help achieve your weight loss goals)
  •            Good for your heart due to positive impact on your cholesterol and arteries
  •          Very stable and healthy oil for cooking (reduced inflammatory risk)
  •         The saturated fat may have some anti microbial properties. Its various acid compounds may also help improve your immune system
  •            Can also help your hair and skin

Virgin coconut oil - my experience

I purchased this week my first bottle of virgin coconut oil. My goal right now is to use it mainly as a replacement for my other vegetable oils and monitor the effect on my body

As you can see, the composition of coconut oil is solid which is normal since its melting temperature is 24 degrees Celsius.

My first impressions:
  •           Delicate and pleasant taste (quite tasty when used on bread instead of butter)
  •            So far works great for cooking of any meat, vegetables, eggs etc.
  •            I did notice a mild  increased blood flow effect after eating a bigger quantity (1 tablespoon) which may be due to its increased metabolism effect
I will keep you posted on my future observations.
Please feel free to post any comment or share your experience with coconut oil.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Sardines: Superfood?

This article will share what I learned recently regarding Sardine, its impressive health benefits and why it could be considered a "superfood".

Now, before you say "Yurk, I don't want to eat Sardines!" please read below the nutrition facts regarding this small fish and what it can do for your health.

Sardine - what is it?

You can get the complete definition of a sardine from Wikipedia but essentially it is a small and oily fish that was named after the Mediterranean island of Sardinia. The actual name of this fish may depend of where you live. For example, in Quebec, Canada, where I live, the sardines that I buy originate from New Brunswick saltwater (North Atlantic Ocean).

Why so healthy?

Find below the nutrition facts from sardines I purchased recently.

Probably the most important nutrition aspect of Sardines is that they contain a lot of healthy Omega-3 fat. Omega-3 fat is now more and more recognized globally as an oil that may:
  • Decrease risk of heart disease
  • Decrease inflammatory processes within your body (very important to reduce risk of artery plaque build-up)
  • Decrease bad cholesterol and increase the good one
  • Can also help you in your fat loss goals
  • And the list goes on...(I will get back on Omega-3 via separate articles once I do more research)
Sardines also contain a lot of muscle-building protein (amino acids), quite important as well. Also, since most sardines are canned with their soft bones, you also get a lot of vitamin D & calcium which is quite important for your bone health. Sardines also contain vitamin B12, E, iron and potassium.

Now you may wonder, "other fishes too have Omega-3, protein etc. so again why Sardines?". Another important point is the toxic contamination these days found in fish. This is particularly a concern for big fishes such as Tuna since they can live long enough to accumulate higher amount of toxic substances such as mercury. Sardines are low in the food chain which means they tend to contain much lower level of mercury. 

Bottom line, you get all the benefits of fish oil (Omega-3) and more with much lower level of contaminants so no surprise this little fish is getting all that good press these days... 

Sardines - my experience

I started to consume  sardines about 2 weeks ago and one positive side effect I can feel on my body after a meal is increased blood flow. I did some research on this and this may be due to the Omega-3 which is known to improve the blood flow by opening up the blood vessels. This may also be due to the vitamin B12 which is known to increase energy and metabolism rate. Also, after a sardines meal, I don't feel the need to eat any junk food or refined sugar. My current target is to eat sardines about 3-4 times per week.

My only problem right now with sardines is the taste but the solution I found so far is to add a lot of lemon juice on top. I'm hoping that sardines will become an "acquired taste" soon.

Please feel free share your experience of eating sardines, the effect on your body and recipes.

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