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