Fruit for Thought

Fruit For Thought

Fruit For Thought

The benefits of eating organic are obvious: fewer toxic chemicals building up in our bodies. It is a fact that we all have pesticides and plastics in our bodies–babies are born with 232 chemicals in their umbilical cord blood. But the question is how many chemicals can we tolerate before they affect our health.

A recent study  showed that fruit flies who dined on organic bananas and  potatoes were much more fertile, and lived longer than their unlucky cousins who were given non-organic foods.

It’s not always easy to buy organic–it is often more expensive and your nearest grocery store may not stock a lot of items, and one study indicated that organic fruits and vegetable are not necessarily higher in nutrients. However,even though I would like any fruit flies in my kitchen to die young and have few offspring, this study inspires me to think about how vigilant I want to be about buying organic.

Recipe for Best Purple Food You Will Ever Eat!

Best Purple Food You Will Ever Eat !

Purple Glutinous Rice Pudding

(Khao Neow Dum Ptag)

photo(1)

Similar to the Western Rice Pudding this is a Thai dessert that is very nourishing. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, rice congees are prepared for people when they are recovering from an illness. It is also used to nourish a new mother after she has given birth. Congees are basically overcooked, soupy rice that nourishes because the overcooking of the rice makes it easily digested. Although Thai in origin, this  pudding is similar to a congee.
1 cup purple glutinous rice (not black rice). Ingredients:

Can be found at Asian grocery stores and Larry’s Brown Deer Market.

6 cups water

1/2 cup palm sugar

2 cups coconut milk

 

Reduce heat to a slow simmer and cook for 45 minutes, until rice is very soft and soupy. Stir occasionally.

 

Topping:

1/2 cup coconut cream

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 cup palm sugar

(I sometimes skip making the topping and top with fresh mangoes)

 

Rinse and drain rice. Place rice in medium saucepan, add water, and heat to boiling.

Add the palm sugar and coconut milk. Stir well and simmer for another 10 minutes.

Combine topping ingredients and pour a small amount over each serving.

Serves 4

Note: Use of Palm Sugar is important. When I have substituted regular white sugar, it does not have the same flavor. An added advantage of palm sugar is tht it has a low glycemic index, meaning it will keep your blood sugar and insulin more even.

 

 

Berry Good News

photoA study published in the the American Heart Associations’s journal  Circulation, has revealed that women who consume at least three servings per week of blueberries or strawberries per week have a 30% reduced risk of a heart attack. While it is not new news that berries are good for us, it is good to hear it confirmed (especially at the cost of berries). I like this research for two reasons. One, the subjects were young women (in many studies the subjects were men) and two, the researchers “controlled” for variables such as weight, exercise, family history, blood pressure, caffeine and alcohol intake.

It is believed that the active ingredient in the berries is anthocyanin, the researchers caution that it is not possible to know for sure which of the many components of a blueberry is the one responsible for the good effects. It could be another component, or all of them. So eat whole foods, not dietary supplements !

Other good news: research has indicated that the nutrients in blueberries are fairly well preserved in the freezing process.

Click http://www.medpagetoday.com/Cardiology/MyocardialInfarction/36838 for the full story.

 

Endocrine Disruptors and Obesity

chem-1Here is one big, fat reason to finally ditch those plastic bottles and household chemicals.  Endocrine disrupting chemicals, which are found in everyday items such as food packaging, cleaning products, furniture and cosmetics may very well be contributing to the obesity epidemic.  These chemicals mimic the body’s hormones, causing the body to create more and larger fat cells.

Recent studies found that mice exposed to endocrine-disrupting chemicals at at birth were much more likely to be overweight than the mice mot exposed to the chemicals.  Both groups were fed the same diet and had equal opportunity to move and expend energy, leading researchers to conclude that even brief and small exposure to the chemicals had a significant impact on their weight gain.

Several studies have concluded that the chemicals, which are largely unregulated, have the most impact when the exposure occurs in utero.

For more information, please see the following article from the New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/20/opinion/sunday/kristof-warnings-from-a-flabby-mouse.html?ref=todayspaper&_r=0

YUK

gatoradeMy patients have heard me say that it is OK to count all liquids when assessing whether they have reached a good intake for the day. HOWEVER, if they walk in with a brightly colored “Power Drink”, they will have points deducted and will  get a mini-lecture.

Drinks such as Powerade and some citrus drinks made by the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group contain brominated vegetable oil, which is used to keep the fruit flavor evenly distributed in the drink.  Known as “BVO”, it is also used as a flame retardant, in upholstery fabric, and in children’s products. BVO builds up in our tissues and some human studies have linked high levels to neurological impairment, reduced fertility, thyroid changes, and early puberty.

Approximately 10,000 chemicals are used in prepared foods, and only about 3,000 of them have FDA approval. This is because there is a law allowing the FDA to allow use of a chemical based on data from a company’s own “expert”. Brominated vegetable oil is one of the chemicals that lacks adequate testing and is not approved by the FDA. Europe and Japan have banned it already banned its use. So be your own FDA (Fertility Drug Assessor !) and read the labels of your drinks. And since they also contain artificial coloring and often come in plastic bottles, you should pass on them anyway !

Green Tea What?

I just returned from ten days in Japan where I enjoyed REALLY GOOD green tea, properly brewed from high quality tea leaves. Previous to my visit, I was not aware of how green tea has morphed into so many products—green tea cookies, green tea bread, green tea ice cream, green tea fondue, etc.

Most people are familiar with the fact that green tea can be good for our health because it contains anti-oxidants . These anti-oxidants scoop up the waste products of cells that are  harmful to health. These waste products include dead cells, extra cholesterol,etc.

This is a good thing of course, but there are some facts that consumers should know.

Green tea is relatively high in caffeine, and can therefore raise blood pressure, keep us awake at night, and can stimulate the nervous system causing tremors or headaches. It can also cause stomach upset in sensitive people as caffeine stimulates stomach acid.

While the anti-oxidants  effects are good for people struggling with infertility, the vaso-constriction action of caffeine could be detrimental to an early pregnancy. That is, in theory, as the capillaries constrict in response to the caffeine, the blood supply to a baby embryo could be compromised.

So if you are trending up in your blood pressure, have problems getting to sleep, or are actively trying to conceive, brew your tea on the weak side, and limit yourself to just a couple of cups per day.

To Bean or not to Bean…..

I recently returned from Japan where I consumed a lot of soy, which made me think about how many of my patients have asked me about whether soy is good or bad for health. Some of my patients have heard or read that soy is “good” and so consume a lot of it.

The fact is, whether eating soy and soy products is good or bad for our health depends on which research studies you read. However there are some facts you can ponder.

Soy plants contain “phytoestrogens”, or plant based estrogens, which in theory can affect our bodies the way that our own endogenous estrogens, or synthetic estrogens can.

Some studies seemed to show that intake of soy could block the effect of our own estrogen by attaching to estrogen receptor cells in the breast, thereby reducing the growth of estrogen sensitive breast cancers. However a recent study in the Journal of Cancer Prevention Research casts doubt on this theory. Some studies have shown that menopausal hot flashes are reduced for some, but not all people taking soy supplements.  A POSSIBLE link between soy and increased cognitive impairment in older people has also been observed, but other research has come to the opposite conclusion.

So what is a person to do ? So much that I advise patients about always comes back to what I call the “Goldi Locks Principle”.  Not too much, not too little. Everything in moderation.

I always have new patients keep a food journal for a week. One of my patients who came for help with irregular periods recorded that she had soy milk on her cereal for breakfast every morning, followed by soy yogurt for a mid morning snack, and frequently ate soy cheese as an evening appetizer.  She liked cheese and thought soy would be better than dairy based cheese.

I would say this is probably too much to have everyday, especially since the above products may contain a lot of “processed soy” which contains large amounts of soy “isoflavones” that may be a culprit in some of the possible negative effects of soy.

There may be something about whole soy beans and fermented soy that is healthier for us than soy supplements or soy isoflavones. So unless your physician advises you to avoid all types of soy for a specific reason, you should enjoy edamame (whole soy beans), tofu (preferably pickled or fermented), tempeh (a form of fermented soy), and miso (fermented rice, barley, and soy combined).  Maybe just not three servings per day, seven days per week.

 

High Fructose Corn Syrup and Infertility

We haven’t heard about it in awhile, as its reputation has moved from OK to bad, and now to “controversial”. HCFS as it is known, is sugar that has undergone enzymatic processing to convert some of the glucose in sugar to fructose for added sweetness. Some scientists believe that it can affect the body’s metabolism, which can indirectly affect our metabolism, weight and fertility. The Corn Refiners Association refutes this and claims that HCFS is metabolically no different than plain sugar.  But none the less the association applied to change the name of HCFS to “corn sugar” on food labels. Fortunately the FDA denied this request in May 2012 , stating that “sugar is a solid crystallized food, not a syrup”.

While the food industry often tries to confuse consumers, and researchers cannot agree on the potential negative impact, it is in the best interest of fertility and general health to avoid products made with high fructose corn syrup. If you might be having some infertility problems or will be starting a family soon, read all food labels for the words high fructose corn syrup and avoid them if possible. Note: HCFS can be found in breads, pastas, beer, salad dressings, etc. In products made in Europe, it is legal to list it as “glucose-fructose syrup”.

 

Psychological Stress and Infertility

It doesn’t take research to know that dealing with infertility is stressful. However, what research does tell us is that stress levels can affect a couple’s ability to conceive as they are going through infertility treatments. In fact, this research is the very subject of a paper written by Dr. Alice Domar, Phd, a leader in the field of mind-body medicine.

Dr. Domar examined a number of studies on the correlation between high levels of stress and number of live births. In general, several trials showed lower birth rates for women with high levels of stress, when compared to women with lower stress rates. Of course these results come as no surprise. However, what is interesting is the reason most often cited by couples who dropped out of IVF treatment after unsuccessful attempts.

This reason most couples drop out of IVF treatments is not related to cost, as I would have guessed. The most commonly given reason was the “psychological burden” of the treatments — or stress. In a study of 974 couples in Sweden, a country where three IVF cycles are covered under the national health plan, 65% dropped out before using all of their attempts. Similarly sized studies in Germany and Australia showed the same trend.  In the US, 211 couples with insurance coverage were asked why they dropped out of treatment and, again, stress was the most common response. The second reason was perception of poor prognosis.

What we can deduce from these studies is that, when couples face fertility challenges, they would do well to engage in stress reducing practices — like acupuncture and meditation.

Acupuncture and Low Fat for Male Factor Infertility

Several very interesting studies show that sperm count and quality can be increased with acupuncture treatments.

However, according to a study profiled in the online journal Human Reproduction,  reducing dietary saturated fats can also have a profound impact on sperm quality. Authors found that the higher the intake of saturated fat, the lower the quality of sperm. Intake of “good fats” — such as Omega-3’s — was also associated with improved sperm quality.