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.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Protecting Yourself From One of the Most Common Food Bugs

For decades, food poisoning has been a common occurrence globally. In the U.S. alone --- based on data from the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) --- during January 1, 2009 through December 31, 2010, there were 1,527 foodborne disease outbreaks resulting in 29,444 cases of illness, 1,184 hospitalizations, and 23 deaths. Of the 790 outbreaks with a laboratory-confirmed illness, norovirus was found to be the most commonly reported infection outbreaks, followed by Salmonella.

What is Solmonella
Salmonella, is one of the most common causes of food poisoning in the United States. It is usually caused by foods such as contaminated eggs, poultry, meat, unpasteurized milk or juice, cheese, contaminated raw fruits and vegetables such as alfalfa sprouts and melons. Other sources include spices, and nuts. Usually, symptoms last for a few days and most people are able to recover without treatment. However, Salmonella can cause more serious illness in older adults, infants, and persons with chronic diseases.

Victims of Salmonella poisoning often experience symptoms ranging from diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps, vomiting and others, which can last anywhere From 4-7 days. If for some reasons you are unable to receive immediate medical attention, the advice is that you drink plenty of fluids and get enough rest. Fluids will help to prevent dehydration secondary to diarrhea. If your symptoms prevail or are severe, try to see a doctor as soon as possible.

How to Protect Yourself Against Solmonella
You can protect yourself from becoming a victim of Solmonella food poisoning by following the USDA's, CDC's and other related agencies' recommended cooking and pasteurization precautions. One of such recommendations is that, you should avoid eating high-risk foods, such as raw or lightly cooked eggs, undercooked ground beef or poultry, and do not drink milk, unless it’s pasteurized.

Nine Tips On Protecting Yourself from Solmonella
Make sure you practice these few food preparation, storage, and food handling techniques below at all times:

  • Food should be always kept refrigerated at the correct temperature at all times, prior to cooking.
  • Always wash your hands (including between fingers) thoroughly with soap and warm water at all times, prior to handling food.
·        Sanitize all cutting boards and other surfaces used for preparing food before using them.
·        Store cooked and ready-to-eat foods separately.
·        Raw meats and other uncooked foods should not be stored above cooked foods.
·        Wash all knives and other utensils that were used on raw foods thoroughly, before using them on cooked foods.
·        Cooked foods should not be placed on plates where raw foods once were, not before these plates are washed or properly sanitized.
·        Practice using a meat thermometer to test foods to make sure they are cooked to a safe internal temperature.
·        Foods should be chilled promptly after serving and also when transporting from one place to another.
·        If you come in contact with animals, their food/treats, or their living environment, you should wash your hands properly with soaps and warm water before preparing foods for humans.

Whether you are working as a chef in a restaurant/food industry or just cook for family and yourself, if you at least follow the above food handling precautions, you can help to prevent those you prepare meals for and also yourself, from becoming ill from Solmonella -- one of the most common bugs that causes food poisoning in the United States.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Cooking - Common Terminologies Used

There are several common terms often used in cooking. The goal of this post is to  provide you with a few of these terms along with their definitions: 

Smoking is cooking food indirectly in the presence of a fire. This is done much more slowly than grilling, so meats that are less tender benefit more from this method. Below are two different ways you can smoke meats:

  1. 1. This  can be done in a covered grill with a pan of water placed beneath the meat or poultry on the grill. This method allows a natural smoke flavor to permeate the meat.
  2. You may use a "smoker," which is an outdoor cooker especially designed for smoking foods. The temperature in the smoker should be kept at 250 to 300 °F for safety. 
Pit Roasting 
This is a technique used to cook meat in a large, level hole dug in the earth. A hardwood fire is built in the pit, with wood about 2½ times the volume of the pit. The fire is allowed to burn until it reduces to burning coals that usually fills the pit half-way. It can take up 4 to 6 hours for the hardwood to reduce to coals.

Although  it usually takes anywhere from 10 to 12 hours for the meat to be cooked, it’s not always easy to estimate the time, due to factors such as the outdoor temperature at the time of roasting, the size and thickness of the meat, the toughness of the meat, and how fast the coals are burning. A whole pig for example, would take more time than one half of a pig. For these reasons, a food thermometer is essential to determine the meat's internal temperature for doneness and safety.

To cook food by directly exposing it to an open flame or a hot metal surface is referred to as grilling.

A marinade is a prepared savory sauce (a blend of different herbs and seasonings) in which a food is soaked to enrich its flavor or to tenderize it. Foods are to be marinated only in the refrigerator, not on the counter or anywhere else.

This refers to a technique used for roasting or simmering less-tender meats. The meat is placed in a tightly covered pan with a small amount of liquid and is allowed to roast or simmer.

A small amount of grease or oil is heated in a skillet or pan and the food is added to it. The meat -- or whatever the food is -- is allowed to cook on both sides until brown in color. Browning adds not only texture but also flavor to the dish.

To broil something is to cook it using the direct dry heat source of your oven. You may also use a broiler pan.  Commonly broiled food includes, lamb, steak, fish, chicken etc, or in other words meats, poultry and fish in general. However, some people broil fruits and vegetables also.

This means to cook foods in liquid or water over a fire. For example, boiling eggs, pasta, etc.

To bake means to cook food using dry heat usually inside an oven. In some cultures, slow burning fire coals are placed on top and also at the bottom of the baking container.

How to Prepare Healthier Meals

In order for anyone to prepare healthy meals they have to first know what are some healthy foods, where and how to shop for healthy foods, then finally, how to prepare healthy foods. The reason for saying this is simply because even though you might purchase the healthiest food items, such as a potato, it can be made unhealthy after it has been baked, by adding things to it, such as sour cream, butter etc.

How to Shop Healthier
Have you ever taken the time to look at the way food items are usually arranged in most supermarkets? If you haven’t, this is how they are arranged most of the times:- When you enter a supermarket, the first thing you will notice is that there are several rows of canned, frozen, and packaged goods. These products are usually stocked in the center of the store.

What you will find along the walls are foods that have not been highly processed such as meats, poultry, and fish; vegetables and fruits; and milk and dairy products.  Today, more and more supermarkets are adding salad bars, that are also located close to the walls. Unlike the foods located in the center of the store that generally have a much longer shelf life, food items close to the walls not only have a rapid turnover rate, they also required careful handling and refrigeration.

The question is now, how can this help you to shop healthier? Well, the answer is simple; all you have to do to shop along the walls for those foods that have higher nutritional value.  The reason they tend to be more nutritious is simply because they have undergone minimal processing. After you have done this, you may shop throughout the store to find just a few more processed foods that may needed to complement a healthy diet.

Tips on How to Prepare Healthier Meals
·        Prepare as much unprocessed food as possible
·        Bake, steam, or broil food as opposed to frying
·        Rather than using oil or butter, baste roasted food with tomato juice, fruit juices or broth
·        Have a variety of colors on the plate --- green (spinach), red (pepper), yellow (corn), black (beans), brown (bread), beige (chicken), white (rice). This helps assure that there is a full range of nutrients in the meal. This is also a way of guaranteeing that you at least have a wide range of vegetables.

Since most of us have taught ourselves to cook, I know for sure that you don’t have to be a professional cook in order to cook like one, or to cook healthy. In fact, most of the times, all it takes is just for you to be aware of the food items that are healthier or more nutritious. Once you have healthier food items in your pantry or kitchen, as opposed to unhealthy foods, you will be more inclined to cook healthier --- so learn how to shop smarter. Finally, take the time to prepare your meal the right way.