Friday, November 29, 2013

Foods Rich in Antioxidants That Can Prevent Cancer

Since my mission is to use this blog to share with everyone not only what I happen to know about cooking in general -- but also how our choices of food can help us to be healthier, and even live longer-- I have been spending a lot of time trying to find out more about the negative and positive consequences of eating certain foods. In one of my research, surprisingly, this is what I have discovered about the formation of cancers and the foods that can really help to prevent these most feared diseases from forming, or even taking over our bodies!

Although researchers believe consuming food rich in antioxidants, vitamins and mineral (selenium) can help to protect the body from oxygen free radicals. In this article, I will be focusing only on antioxidants and its mechanisms of action in cancer prevention.

We will first look at the “bad guys” known as Free Radicals ( the guys to be blamed for cancers). We will then look at “good guys” called Antioxidants (some of the main guys known for defeating these “bad guys”), and the usual strategies used to defeat them. Finally, you will be provided with some examples of foods rich in antioxidants.

What are Free Radicals?

During metabolism most of the oxygen in the human body in converted into stable forms of carbon dioxide and water.  However, a small percentage usually ends up in an unstable form known as oxygen free radicals, which are thought to attack and damage the cell membrane and DNA, leading to the formation of cancers.

What Are Antioxidants?

They are cancer fighting agents

How Do Antioxidants Work?
Antioxidants absorb free radicals before they can cause damage, and they also interrupt the sequence of reactions once damage has begun.

What are Some Good Sources of Antioxidants?

1. Polyphenols - potent cancer-fighting antioxidants found in fresh fruits and vegetables, many grains, and green tea. The antioxidant effect of one of the polyphenols in green tea, epigallocatechin  gallate, or EGCG, is believed to be at least 25 times more effective than vitamin E and 100 times more effective than vitamin C at protecting cells and the DNA from free radical damage that may result in diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and other. It has been said that EGCG is twice as strong as the red wine antioxidants resveratrol that helps prevent heart disease.

Polyphenols are known to do the following:

  • Block the formation nitrosamines and quell the activation of carcinogens(substance that helps to cause cancer) 
  • Turn off the formation of cancer cells 
  • Increase the body’s natural detoxification defenses and thereby retarding the progression of the disease.

2.  Green Tea
Research findings have led some scientists to believe that green tea might be especially helpful in preventing gastrointestinal cancers, including those of the stomach, small intestines, pancreas, and colon. Consumption of green tea also has been linked to a lower incidence of lung, esophageal, and estrogen-related cancers, including most breast cancers. Based on research, in Japan, for example, although people were found to smoke twice as much as people in the U.S, the incidence of lung cancer is surprisingly 50% less than that of the United States. Researchers believe this is due to the fact that the Japanese drink green tea more regular, compared to people in the U.S. For the prevention of cancer, it’s recommended that you drink two or more cups of green tea daily.

3. Phytochemicals
These chemicals are found in abundance in fruits and vegetables. It’s believed that they do exert a remarkably strong effect in cancer prevention by blocking the formation of cancerous tumors and disrupting the process at almost every step of the way.

Video Tags: Phytochemicals, Cancer, Destroy Cancer Cells, Foods, Fight Cancer

Phytochemicals are believed to exert their protective action by:-
  • Removing cancer-causing agents from cells before they cause damage
  • Activating enzymes that detoxify cancer-causing agents
  • Keeping carcinogens from binding onto cells
  • Preventing carcinogens from binding to DNA
  • Disassembling cancer-causing precursors to non-cancerous forms
  • Disrupting the chemical structure of cell molecules that can produce carcinogens
  • Depriving small tumors of oxygen and nutrients by preventing them from accessing small blood vessels

Table below provides a list of Phytochemicals, food you can obtain these from, and their effects.

Source:Werner W.K.Hoeger et al, Lifetime Physical Fitness and Wellness, 6th ed.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Poor Food Handling May Lead to Bacillus Cereus Illnesses

Bacillus Cereus is among some of the many species of bacteria that usually lurked around our home kitchens and other food handling or food preparation environment. Because this bacterium can cause severe illnesses, it’s of paramount importance that we know what steps to follow when we are handling foods. In this post, we will be particularly looking at the following:

  • Source of this bacterium
  • Illnesses this genus usually cause 
  • Signs and symptoms of these illnesses
  • Recommended (USDA) primary & secondary medical interventions 
  • Recommended temperatures that hot and cold foods should be kept

Bacillus Cereus 
The bacterium Bacillus cereus, otherwise refer to as B. cereus is a genus usually found in foods. It tends to multiply rapidly at room temperature, and produces toxins that can cause several illnesses.

Foods that have sat out for an extended period of time at room temperature, in particularly rice and other leftovers are usually one of the main sources of this bacterium. Sauces, soups, and other prepared foods, can also harbor its growth, if they have sat out for too long at room temperature. Thus, prompt refrigeration or maintaining leftovers and other prepared food at the recommended temperature is extremely important.

Two Known types of illness Cause By B. Cereus
1. Diarrheal: characterized by diarrhea and abdominal cramps within 6-
   15 hours.
2. Emetic toxin: characterized by nausea and vomiting with 30 minutes –      
    6 hours.

Immediate Response To Signs and Symptoms
A person who has been experiencing constant or prolong diarrhea and vomiting secondary to consuming toxin produce by Bacillus cereus can become dehydrated very quickly. Thus, it’s very important that he/she tries to re-hydrate himself or herself as quickly as possible, by returning sufficient fluids to the body to compensate for that amount lost. If not, this can lead to a loss of electrolytes, sodium in particular, and an overall disruption of metabolic process.
Based on the advice provided by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), one should drink plenty of fluids and get enough rest. However, if you are unable to drink enough fluids to prevent dehydration, you should seek medical attentions immediately.

Food Handling Recommendation
To reduce the risk of becoming ill from Bacillus cereus, hot foods should be kept hot (above 140°F). Similarly, cold foods, should be kept cold (40°F or below). Cooked foods should be stored in a wide, shallow container and refrigerate as soon as possible. It’s best to refrigerate all leftovers within 2hrs.

Bacteria in general, are not visible to the naked eyes; Usually, they can only be seen under a microscope. As a result, there’s no way for us to tell whether or not they are sitting in foods we are about to consume. In fact, if this was the case, we could easily avoid becoming ill from Bacillus cereus.

Often, it’s only after we have gotten ill from eating a bacterium infested meal that we have become aware of the fact that they were indeed present in our foods. For this reason, we should always try to practice safe food handling techniques, but more importantly, try our uttermost best to follow all the recommended precautionary measures provided by the USDA and other food safety related agencies.

Friday, November 1, 2013

The Butter - Margarine Debate --- Which is Really Healthier?

Many people have been switching to using margarine as opposed to butter as a way to reduce their intake of saturated fats. Now researchers are questioning how really healthy a choice is margarine, even though it has far less saturated fat than butter.

A Comparison of Saturated and Unsaturated Fats

To read, open image in a new window  

Butter versus Margarine
Based on findings, the distinguishing characteristic between margarine and butter is not the caloric content, as they are about equal, but the composition of their fatty acids. About 62% of the fatty acids in the butter are saturated compared with 20% in margarine. During the manufacturer of margarine and some other vegetable shortenings, unsaturated corn, soybean, or sunflower oil is partially hydrogenated---a process called hydrogenation wherein hydrogen is added to the oil.

This causes the chemical structure of the original polyunsaturated oil to be arranged to a liquid not found in nature that is more hardened (saturated) but not as hard as butter. When one of the hydrogen atom along the carbon chain moves from its naturally occurring position(cis position) to the opposite side of the double bond that separates two carbon atoms (trans position), the restructured fatty acid is referred to as a trans unsaturated fatty acid. From 17 to 25% of the fatty acids in margarine are trans unsaturated fatty acids, compared with only 7% in butter fat.

The fact that margarine is made from vegetable oil, it contains no cholesterol; butter, on the other hand, is made from a dairy source and contains between 11 to 15 mg of cholesterol per teaspoon. The current controversy over margarine versus butter centers on the possible detrimental health effects of trans, unsaturated fatty acids. A diet high in margarine and other foods containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oils increases LDL cholesterol concentration to about same degree as a diet high in saturated fat. Unlike saturated fats, however, they also decrease the concentration of the beneficial HDL cholesterol. Scientists estimate that the dietary trans unsaturated fatty acids do contribute to increased risk for heart disease.

Since there seems to be a controversy over whether a diet high in margarine can increase LDL cholesterol to approximately the same degree as a diet high in saturated fat, and that it may also cause a reduction of good (HDL) cholesterol, the best advice here is to use margarine in moderation. Better yet, instead of using butter or margarine, you can use olive oil to lightly sprinkle your toast and vegetable oil to cook or bake. You may also baste roasted food with tomato juice, pureed vegetables or fruits, in place of oil.

Chemical Structure of Saturated and Unsaturated Fats

Monday, October 28, 2013

Diverticula and Colon Cancer - Due to Insufficient Dietary Fiber

It’s a fact that diseases or illnesses of the large intestine such as colon cancer and diverticula can be caused by a diet low in fiber. For this reason, we shouldn’t be consuming foods just to satisfy our hunger, but also to prevent the risk of both illnesses. If you have the tendency to eat a lot of processed or refined foods for example, you should be aware that when foods are processed or refined, almost all of the natural fiber are removed. However, one dietary approach that we can take to reduce the risk of diverticula and colon cancer, is to incorporate sufficient dietary fiber in our daily diets.

What is Dietary Fiber
Fiber is a form of complex carbohydrate. A high fiber diet gives a person a feeling of fullness without added calories. Food rich in fiber includes starchy vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grain breads, and cereals,  Because dietary fiber cannot be broken down by human digestive enzymes, it passes down the intestinal tract and adds bulk to the stool which helps us to move our bowels. During the digestive process, it binds water  --- producing softer, bulkier stools, and aids in a more rapid movement of waste materials through the intestines. Thus, it plays an exceptional role in the digestive system.  It’s quite normal for individuals who frequently consume a diet rich in fiber to experience easy bowel movements.

If a person’s diet is low in fiber, during digestion, there won’t be enough fiber to bind water; hence the stools will be hard. The formation of hard stools can create extra squeezing work for the large intestine. Over time, this excessive amount of squeezing can weaken the walls of the large intestine, leading to diverticula. Most typically this occurs in the descending colon (which lies on the left side of the body). Diverticula can sometimes lead to lower GI bleeding and/or pain, classically in left lower quadrant(diverticulosis). Diverticula can also become inflamed (diverticulitis)

Because the bladder is located next to the descending colon, in severe diverticulosis, the diverticula can rapture and adhere to the bladder, even creating a communication between the two. This colovesical fistula can cause pneumaturia (air in the urine) and fecaluria ( feces in the urine).

Colon Cancer
Studies show that cancer of the large bowel (colon cancer) is very common in economically developed countries such as the United States, Canada, and Western Europe. On the contrary, colon cancer is relatively rare in less developed areas of Africa, where the diet is usually lower in fat and animal protein, and consists of high-fiber, unprocessed plant foods.

Although the recommended amount of fiber intake is about 25 to 30 grams per day. Most people in the United States eat only 10 to 12 grams of fiber daily. Simply increasing your daily intake of  fiber, or in other words, eating more fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, and cereals daily, can significantly reduce the risk of colon cancer, diverticulitis, and even breast cancer.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Cancer - The Benefits of Cruciferous Vegetables

Cruciferous Vegetables
Patients undergoing Radiation therapy for cancer have not only known to frequently experience damage of healthy tissues but also several other side effects. However, based on a most recent study featured in an academic journal, dated 10/16/13, cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli is believed to contain an anti-cancerous compound that is able to  protect healthy tissues from radiation damage or decrease the side effects often observed in cancer patients undergoing radiation therapy.

According to this group of researchers, this anti-cancer compound which has first proven to protect rodents from lethal doses of radiation has already shown to be safe in humans also. This compound they call “DIM” has been studied as a cancer prevention agent for many years, but this is the first indication that it can also act as a guard against radiation.

The typical side effects observe in cancer patients who have received radiation therapy, are usually a reduction of :- red blood cells, white blood cells and blood platelets. However, these scientists also found that mice treated with this anti-cancer compound have shown less loss of the above blood cells and platelets

A few years ago, another compound was also discovered in cruciferous vegetables that allegedly improves DNA repair in cells, which in turn helps prevent them from becoming cancerous.

Definition of Cruciferous Plants
Cruciferous plants are those that produce cross-shaped leaves. Other cruciferous vegetables not mentioned above include Brussels sprouts, and Kohlrabi. They have long shown to contain phytochemicals that appears to exert a powerful effect in preventing cancer by blocking the formation of cancerous tumors and disrupting the process at almost every step of the way. Although the recommended daily consumption of fruits and vegetables is 5-9 servings, many of us have not been eating this amount of fruits and vegetables --- especially Cruciferous vegetables --- on a daily basis

As you can see cruciferous vegetables not only can help to protect cancer patients against the damage of healthy tissues and other side effects of radiation therapy, they also play a very important role in reducing the risk of developing cancer.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Foods That Can Cause Spontaneous Abortion

Being malnourished alone during pregnancy, doesn't lead to spontaneous abortions, premature births, or cause women to lose their babies shortly after birth. In fact, teratogens, lifestyles, consuming the wrong foods or too much of certain foods are all responsible.

The Effects of Malnutrition

In countries ravaged by famine or war, for example, such as Somalia or Rwanda, the effects of malnutrition on child development are obvious. There are usually high rates of miscarriage and failure to thrive. Even in developed societies such as the U.S, a small percentage of all live births have shown indications of fetal malnutrition.  Researchers believe most fetal malnutrition, however, occur in low-income families, simply because during pregnancy, these often economic disadvantaged women cannot afford the right nutrition --- specifically, a balanced diet rich in protein and calcium. In this post however, we will be focusing primarily on some of the foods that are known to cause spontaneous abortion.

A Balance Diet is Important
To minimize the risk of spontaneous abortion, a balance diet is very important. However, it’s equally important that pregnant women also know exactly what foods to avoid.

Foods to Avoid
Excess Vitamins
Ingesting excess amounts of vitamin A, which can become toxic, is not good for the health of a fetus, especially during certain critical stages of development.

Fish with mercury exposure, such as sharks, swordfish, king mackerel, tile fish and others, should be avoided. Even though canned, chunk light tuna has shown to have a lower level of mercury, it still should be eaten in moderation, as it increases the risk of spontaneous abortion.

Other Foods to Avoid
 Any blood borne pathogen that has the ability to cross the placenta may infect an unborn baby. Deli meats for example, have been known to be contaminated with listeria, which has the ability to cross the placenta leading to the infection of a fetus and consequently a miscarriage. It’s therefore recommended that all Deli meats should be reheated to a safe temperature, before eaten (If you are pregnant).

What is Listeriosis
Listeriosis is caused by Listeria monocytogenes, a bacterium found in soil and water. It can be found on vegetables, meats, and dairy products, as well as in processed foods such as soft cheeses and in cold cuts. Thus, it’s best to always wash all vegetables, avoid unpasteurized dairy products, soft cheeses, and cold cuts; and cook meats to recommended safe minimal internal temperatures, should you ever become pregnant.

Fetal Toxoplasmosis, caused by the parasite Toxoplasma gondii, can also cause spontaneous abortion if a pregnant woman passes toxoplasmosis on to her fetus. You might ask yourself the question, how will this parasite be able to find its way into her body in the first place? Well, the explanation is simple --- If a pregnant woman unconsciously or accidentally places her hands in her mouth after gardening, cleaning a cat’s litter box, or touching anything that has been exposed to cat‘s feces, she can introduce the eggs of this parasite into her body.

There are other foods that can cause miscarriages such as some fish used in sushi bars, raw shell fish, raw eggs and more. Since restaurants don't usually cook or prepare separate dishes for pregnant women, you have to be careful with your selection of food whenever you dine out, or it's best that you try to prepare your own meals.

One final word of advice, because pregnant women usually experience changes in metabolism and circulation which may increase the risk of food poisoning, infections and consequently spontaneous abortion, they should make it their duties to do their own research, just to confirm the following information shared above, and have their health care providers further validate it.