This month is a perfect time to change your routine and pick up a handful of nuts instead of the usual bag of chips, and celebrate Heart Health month.
Nuts are an awesome snack that frequently get passed over for a bag of chips or some other type of junk food. I remember growing up and going to my grandmother’s house, where there was always a bowl of fresh assorted nuts (in shell) and a nutcracker next to the bowl on the table. Not only were the nuts delicious, but it was fun getting them open.
Nowadays, nuts fall under the banner of trendy food that gets buzzed from time to time on one of the many social media channels, but many people still tend to ignore this classic healthy snack that’s nutrient dense with healthy fats, fiber, polysterols, vitamin E, and L-arginine[i].
Many studies have concluded that increased nut consumption is associated with lower cardiovascular risk factors[ii] and lower mortality rates[iii]. In fact, specific types of nuts may be better than others when it comes to lowering cardiovascular and coronary heart disease, as one recent study by Guasch-Ferré M, et al. suggests. In their research they concluded that cardiovascular disease could be reduced by 13% - 19% and the risk of coronary heart disease could be diminished as much as 15% - 23% by consuming peanuts and tree nuts (2 or more times/week) and walnuts (1 or more times/week).[iv]
Why nuts you ask?
Nuts happen to be in the category of super-foods. Mostly known for their protein, but they also have a lot of heart healthy nutrients that can assist in heart health and possibly aid in lowering cholesterol.
Here are two nutrients found in nuts that are clearly supported by research in lowering cardiovascular disease:
Essential fatty acids Nuts are a superb source of “healthy fat” from monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA), which include Omega 7 and 9. Research has shown MUFAS to be associated with weight loss[v],[vi], lowering total and LDL cholesterol, as well as, influencing insulin levels. The nuts with the highest levels of MUFAS are Hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans and pistachios. Most nuts also contain n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), which are also considered healthy fats in extreme moderation. PUFAs also have a positive effect on decreasing LDL and triglycerides.
Dietary fiber Increased amounts of dietary fiber has been related to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease[vii],[viii], but these studies did not include fiber from nuts. Aside from the lack of specific studies including nut sources of dietary fiber, nuts are still a great source of this necessary nutrient, which make them a healthy bet.
Nuts are an incredible snack, jam packed with healthy nutrients that fill you up and provide cardioprotective benefits, mainly in the form of cholesterol lowering properties. Eaten in moderation nuts are an important addition to your diet so you can enjoy life longer!
Considering there arn't that many worthy probiotics out there, and taking probiotics can be quite expensive; it should be the consumer’s priority to know what they’re buying and whether it will be beneficial to them or not. Below are three questions you want to answer before spending your money on a probiotic.
Here are 3 important questions you want to answer when choosing a quality probiotic:
1. Is it alive/active? This is pretty simple. A dead bacterium will have zero health benefits, so don’t bother buying or taking it. You want to look for the words, “live cells”, “live organisms”, “active cells” or “viable cells”.
2. Is the potency of the product guaranteed until the expiration date? Aside from question #1, this is probably the most important question you want a clear answer to. Frequently, a manufacturer will label their probiotic supplement as “guaranteed potency at time of manufacture”. If you see this on the label, DO NOT buy! It’s completely irrelevant if it’s potent at the time of manufacture; that does you no good. Along the same lines as “alive” or “dead”, if a product loses its potency while it’s sitting on a shelf, there’s no reason to take it. You want probiotics that are potent for the entire “shelf life” of the product. This means that you will get exactly the amount of probiotic (ex. 50 billion CFU), the label says you will get at the time of consumption.
3. How many CFUs are there? CFU stands for colony forming units, which is the number of viable probiotics contained in a supplement. This number is usually given as the total amount contained in the product. It is preferred if the manufacturer gives a CFU number for each strain the product contains, but this is rarely the case.
The CFU number is very important because you need a certain amount of probiotic in order to achieve the desired therapeutic effect. Different illness' require different amounts of probiotic based on research. Also, keep in mind that a larger number doesn’t always equal greater efficacy. Most probiotic studies only used products that contained 1 -10 billion CFUs.
Here are the probiotic brands that I personally use and recommend to my patients.
These can all be purchased online at: The Healing Lotus Store.
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Vitamin C (a.k.a. ascorbic acid) is one of the worse supplements you can buy over – the – counter (OTC). Like other OTC supplements, you never know what you’re truly getting in the ingredients, because most all OTC brands use low-quality ascorbic acid that has been sourced from China, the world’s largest producer of ascorbic acid. Between the years 2013 and 2015 China contributed 80 – 90% of the world’s vitamin C supply.
If you remember, China does not have a very solid reputation when it comes to quality, especially as it pertains to keeping chemicals and unknown substances out of their products; i.e. recent examples include lead in toys, contaminated infant formula and powdered milk.
To make this problem worse, the U.S. government does not test imported vitamins and supplements or their ingredients. For cheap OTC supplement brands this is a plus, because they can adulterate the products with unknown substances.
This is just one of many reasons I strongly recommend patients and consumers alike to purchase physician grade supplements, which are held to a much higher standard of scrutiny.
Recommended Supplement Brands
Spice up this Easter with Chinese tea eggs!
Meet Chinese fast food. These hardboiled eggs are flavored with tea & spices making them a tasty and portable snack..
Eggs are one of the best super-foods around and that's why this snack gets an A+ for being nutritious!
Great for breakfast or a snack - to - go!
Tea Egg Recipe #1
Rinse the eggs with water and place them in a pot and cover with water. Bring the water to a boil, then lower the flame and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the eggs with a slotted spoon and place them in a strainer. Run cold water over them and set on the counter until room temperature. Using the back of a spoon, gently tap the outer shell of the eggs, creating uniform cracks around the entire egg, but don’t remove shells. Return the eggs to the pot with the water and add the remaining ingredients. Bring the liquid to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes; stirring occasionally. For a stronger, richer taste, soak the eggs for 4 to 10 hours, and then serve. Left – over eggs may be kept in the refrigerator for up to 2 -3 days.
Tea Egg Recipe #2
Place eggs in a large pot, cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 8 minutes. Remove from heat, drain and soak in cold water for a couple of minutes. When cool, gently tap eggs with the back of a spoon to crack the shells, but do not remove the shells.
In a large pot, combine tea leaves, salt, sugar, Sichuan pepper, star anise, tangerine peel, cinnamon powder, cooking wine and cumin with water and egg. (about 4-5 cups of water, enough to cover all the eggs). Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for 1 hour. Remove from heat and let them steep overnight or longer.
*Tips: Before combining the tea leaves with the spice liquid, soak them in warm water for 15 minutes, drain and remove. This can remove the bitter taste.
job's Tears or Yi Yi Ren (a.k.a. Chinese pearl barley), is one of the greatest herbs in Chinese medicine for aiding in weight loss!
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) theory, all foods have their own properties, some more therapeutic than others. In the case of Job's Tears, it has a sweet and bland taste, cool in temperature and has an affinity for the Spleen, Lung and Kidney meridians; all three heavily involved in water metabolism.
The reason job's tears is so effective in a weight loss program is due to the therapeutic actions of the food / herb. The 3 most relevant actions in weight loss are: Strengthening the Spleen, Resolving dampness and clearing heat and damp-heat. Keep reading to learn more about these three actions and at the end you will find 2 recipes for weight loss that can be added to a comprehensive individualized weight loss program.
3 Key Actions of Job's Tears that Can Aid in Weight Loss
Tonifies (strengthens) the Spleen - In TCM, the Spleen is a crucial organ system that plays a critical role in maintaining gut health, proper digestion, providing nourishment to the tissues, and overall well-being. When the Spleen becomes dysfunctional, as it is in many Western patients, its ability to perform the all – in – important function of transformation & transportation (T&T) becomes inhibited. This function, with the help of the Stomach and Pancreas, is responsible for breaking down food, extracting nutrients, delivering those nutrients throughout the body, and sending the “clear” (nutrients) upward and the “turnbid” (metabolic waste downward.
Resolving dampness - As mentioned above, one of the main causes of the accumulation of dampness is a dysfunctional Spleen. Dampness, if untreated, can transform into phlegm, which can cause many pathological issues. Both damp and phlegm can be complicated by combining with either cold or heat. Pathogenic damp is one of the hardest pathogens to clear – up due to its sticky and turbid nature.
Dampness can be correlated to adipose tissue, the retention of water, metabolic waste, a decline in beneficial bacteria, fungus, turbid bodily discharges, and elevated levels of cholesterol.
Clear heat & damp-heat - In general, job’s tears is really useful for clearing heat away. This heat can be generated by physiological processes that are overworking due to stagnation (metabolic pathways that have become obstructed or micro stasis of blood / dead blood). If there is an accumulation of pathogenic damp and the presence of pathogenic heat, these two can combine into damp-heat, which is double trouble.
Job's Tears Soup
Drink soup and eat grains. You can add some honey for taste.
Tips: If you soak the Job's tears 2-3 hours in advance, it'll take shorter time to cook it. But I don't think it's necessary if you have enough time.
After boiling, you must turn to low heat, otherwise the water will evaporate very fast.
You can add more water if you want to drink the soup.
Job's Tears and Red Bean Soup
Small red bean is very effective for removing edema. It also helps to lose weight. When Job's tears and small red bean are cooked together it strengthens the therapeutic function.
Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin (FSV), and should be taken with a meal that contains a small amount of dietary fat, because it attaches to the fat molecules, which transport it through the body.
Research shows that vitamin D is better absorbed when taken with the evening meal, which tends to be the largest and fattiest meal of the day. This same study also concluded that serum levels of vitamin D (25(OH)D) were increased by as much as 50% when supplemented in this fashion.[i]
The absorption of vitamin D can be inhibited by other FSV, because they use the same metabolic pathways and compete for the same fat molecules[ii]; so it is best to separate dosages by several hours.
. . . is one of my favorite summertime drinks to cool off with; and it's super easy to make!
Just chop - up a cucumber and throw it into a quart jar or a pitcher with some mint leaves, shake it up and stick it in the fridge overnight.
The next day you shake / stir - it again and enjoy!
Related article: 5 Cooling Foods to Boost your Health This Summer
It's October already, which signals cooler weather and the beginning of fall, football, the turning of leaves, Halloween, and pumpkin season. Everywhere you go, there’s pumpkin spice this and pumpkin spice that; people go bonkers for pumkin spice.
Have you ever wondered why pumpkin spice is so popular this time of year? Why is there no pumpkin spice craze in the summer?
Well, aside from the obvious fact that it’s pumpkin season, pumpkin spice contains spices, non of which are made from pumpkin, that have special properties that are of particular interest for the fall and winter season when 2 things happen; 1. it gets colder and 2. we do a lot of extra eating.
Traditional pumpkin spice consists of:
Sometimes you will see variations, which include star anise and cardamom.
Whether this combination was combined with a therapeutic intent is difficult to say, but from a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) perspective there’s a reason why these particular spices would be combined into a seasonal favorite.
All spice, cinnamon, cloves and ginger belong to a category of herbs that warm the interior, expel cold and alleviate pain. These herbs have a thermogenic property, which means they are all warming to hot in nature. They all have an acrid taste, and cinnamon & allspice also include a sweetness.
These properties give them the ability to warm the interior by dilating vessels and increasing circulation through anti-platelet activity, as well as, increasing metabolic activity; which cinnamon and clove are the strongest.
The sweet aspect of cinnamon & all spice tonifies and nourishes (Qi, blood, Yin and Yang) the body, and moderates & harmonizes these aspects.
Together, the sweet and warming properties tonify the essential substances of the body, and reinforce the functioning of the internal organs.
The acridness of the herbs has the power to disperse wind (wind carries pathogens) and cold, and is able to break-up and eliminate pathogenic factors. It also promotes the movement of Qi and blood, and aids in water metabolism. It’s the acridness which opens the meridians (dilation) to reduce stagnation.
The only herb from a different category is nutmeg, which is categorized as an astringent, stabilizing & binding herb. This herb astringes the intestines and stops diarrhea. Like the other herbs, it warms the middle jiao, regulates Qi and alleviates pain. Nutmeg is also warm and acrid, and like the other herbs it has a powerful effect on digestion.
Common pharmacological actions of these herbs:
See brief comparison of herbs below:
In a recent review paper in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, researchers suggest that daily consumption of cacao (cocoa extract) can reduce cognitive decline in age related neurodegenerative diseases, and help maintain brain health throughout aging.
Researchers found that dietary polyphenols, one of the many nutrients in cacao, have the ability to cross the blood brain barrier, and affect areas of the brain that are responsible for the development of Alzheimer's Disease.
In other studies, cacao has been found to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.
See Product of the Month - Navitas Naturals Cacao Nibs