Nutrition Before During and After Cancer

Information on nutritional needs for cancer patients


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Summer fruits and their secret

Summer Fruit

The pits and seeds of many fruits contain amygdalin — a plant compound that your body converts to cyanide after eating. Symptoms of cyanide exposure include dizziness, headache, nausea, a rapid heart rate and convulsions.

Amygdalin stays safely in the pit unless you crack it open and eat the substance inside. The flesh of the fruit contains very little of the compound. Stay away from the contents of the pit and eat only the fruit.

What is Amygdalin

The pits of green plums have the highest amygdalin content, followed by apricots, black plums, peaches and red cherries and then Apple seeds.

Suumer Fuits

An adult who eats more than three small raw apricot kernels, or less than half of one large kernel, in one sitting can exceed safe levels of the cyanide-releasing chemical, per European Food Safety Authority.  For toddlers, even one small apricot kernel is risky.

You’d have to chew and eat the seeds of about 18 apples in one sitting to consume a lethal dose of cyanide.

If you just swallow an apple seed or cherry pit intact, the amygdalin shouldn’t get into your system, the shell is hard enough to pass through the digestive system intact.

Heat deactivates the cyanide, so seeds are safe if processed properly, which may involve soaking, drying, cooking, canning and roasting or perhaps fermenting.

People often eat the pits intentionally; some like the taste of apple seeds, while others believe the almond-like substance has health benefits.

Apricot kernels are the basis for laetrile, a purified form of amygdalin, and have been marketed as a cancer cure, but laetrile has shown little anti-cancer effect in studies, the National Cancer Institute noted.

The FDA recently warned more than a dozen companies to stop making claims about herbal products marketed to treat or prevent cancer. Eating apricot kernels poses risk of cyanide poisoning warns the European Food Safety Authority.

Normal fruit consumption of fruits is good for health so enjoy the flesh and skipping the pit.

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Gut Microbiome the Hidden Metabolic Organ

The human microbiome consists of trillions of bacterial cells that live and flourish throughout the body in places such as the skin, lungs, mouth, and urogenital and digestive tracts. Depending on their location in the body, these beneficial bacterial cells have different characteristics and roles in maintaining health.

Microbiome

The gut is home to over 1 000 different species of microbes, with an estimated 100 million to one trillion cells per milliliter, located in the large intestine alone. These microbes contain at least 100 times more genes than are found in the human genome. It has long been known that the bacteria and microbes in the gut are involved in several important functions including:

  • Participating in the synthesis of vitamins B12 and K, folate, and biotin
  • Enhancing the immune system
  • Providing a physical barrier to harmful pathogens
  • Producing short-chain fatty acids that provide energy for colonic cells through fermentation of nondigestible carbohydrates

Unlike the human genome, which is determined at conception, the gut microbiome coevolves with the individual over time and appears to be dependent on a multitude of factors, including: age, long-term dietary habits, lifestyle, environmental exposures, and stress.

Dysbiosis, or disruption of the healthy microbiota, is thought to be a trigger for many diseases. This can be caused by antibiotic use or it may also be a result of stress, or result of the quality and composition of one’s diet. Studies have found that those who eat typical Western diets, high in fat and protein from animal products, and low in plant foods, have less diversity in their gastrointestinal bacteria. Higher fiber diets, and especially those which contain a wide variety of plant foods, appear to promote a greater variety and numbers of healthy bacteria.

There is evidence of an association between the gut microbiome and the following diseases:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome: A lack of bacterial diversity may facilitate adhesion of pathogens to the bowel wall.

IBS

  • Inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis): While IBD has a strong genetic component, studies have also identified an over abundance of certain types of bacteria, which causes chronic inflammation and ulceration of the colon lining.

IBD

  • Colorectal cancer: Cancerous changes in the colon may be due to chronic inflammation caused by dysbiosis, and in turn, the cancerous tissue appears more likely to harbor an overabundance of Fusobacterium, a pathogenic bacterium.
  • Obesity: Obese individuals appear to have differences in the gut microbiome as compared to lean individuals. Consuming excess calories over and above what is needed for weight maintenance can alter the gut microbiota, regardless of the quality of the diet.

Obesity

  • Allergy: Certain allergic diseases such as atopic eczema, asthma, rhinitis, and some food allergies may be linked to dysbiosis, especially in infants. In many cases, those affected have less bacterial diversity, possibly due to the “hygiene hypothesis”—a high level of hygiene during the neonatal period that likely reduces exposure to microbes.

Allergies

  • Diabetes and insulin resistance: As in the case of obesity, individuals with diabetes appear to have similarities in their gut microbiome.

Insulin Resistance

Although research on the association between disease and the gut microbiome is still emerging, there appears to be significant evidence that diet plays an important role in developing and maintaining a healthy gut microbiome, which in turn may promote wellness, and/or help to manage numerous diseases.

Diet

Consume a high fiber, plant-based diet that includes a variety of fiber sources, to increase the diversity of the gut microbiome.

fiber

Limit excess energy consumption, regardless of the composition of the diet.

Consume probiotic rich foods such as kefir, yogurt, and fermented vegetables, with live and active cultures.

Be aware that probiotic supplements may contain varying strains of bacteria, which may target different disorders.

Look for ways to reduce stress, especially if it results in unhealthy eating habits, and/or constipation or diarrhea.


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Mystery of steel-cut oatmeal

Despite its super-nutritious image, steel-cut oats are similar in nutrition to other forms of oatmeal that don’t contain added sugar or sodium. All forms of oatmeal are whole-grain, containing the same vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and fiber, including the soluble fiber shown to lower blood cholesterol. Both steel-cut and rolled oats are relatively slow to raise blood sugar and therefore classified as low in glycemic index (GI). Traditional oatmeal is referred to as rolled oats, because the whole-grain oats are softened by steam and flattened on rollers to form flakes. Steel-cut oats, also known as Irish or Scotch oatmeal, are oats cut by steel blades into small pieces without being flattened. Quick-cooking (one-minute) and instant oatmeal are steamed, cut and flattened in progressively smaller pieces to cook more quickly.

Oatmeals

Most of these basic kinds of oatmeal differ mainly in cooking time and texture. Steel-cut takes longest to cook and has a heartier, chewier texture. Quick-cooking oatmeal is 100 percent oats and has zero sodium. A serving of instant oatmeal may seem lower in fiber than other forms when you check label information, but that’s only because a packet usually makes a smaller serving. Instant oatmeal does have added salt with one packet having about the same amount of sodium as in 20 potato chips, almost one-tenth of the most sodium you should have in one day. Moreover, many varieties of instant oatmeal contain almost three packets of added sugar (12 grams). A few varieties of flavored instant oatmeal use zero-calorie sweeteners instead of sugar, and some add gums or soy protein isolate to add additional fiber or protein. Make sure to check Nutrition Facts panel information at the store to see what’s in oatmeal so you can compare the added sugar and sodium among the options.

Most children and adults in the U.S. are getting less than the recommended amounts of whole grains and dietary fiber.

whole grains and dietary fiber

Researchers found people who did eat the recommended three or more servings of whole grains each day also tended to consume the most fiber.

Whole grains are present in some types of hot and cold cereal and bread. Previous studies have tied whole grain intake to a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease among adults. The health benefits are in part attributed to the fiber in whole grains.

fiber

Eating fiber has been linked to better gut health, less heart disease and lower weights. Fiber is found in whole grains in varying quantities as well as in fruits, vegetables and beans.

Dietary guidelines from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Department of Health and Human Services say at least half of all grains consumed should be whole grains. That works out to a minimum of three one-ounce servings per day for adults.

Fiber recommendations vary by age. Young kids need 19 to 25 grams of fiber each day while older kids, teens and adults need anywhere from 21 to 38 grams per day.

Consumers can read labels and look for a special whole grain stamp when shopping.


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Vinegar and its story

Vinegar

Adding bacteria to diluted wine, ale, or fermented fruits or grains creates vinegar. Vinegar is made from nearly any food that contains natural sugars. The acetic acid is what gives vinegar its unique tangy flavor.

Generally unopened vinegars will keep for 1 to 2 years in a cool, dark place. Vinegar will keep for about 6 months once opened. Because of vinegar’s complex flavor and ability to accentuate a food’s other flavors, less salt or fat often is needed in recipes that contain vinegar.

Some varieties of vinegar

Apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar: This vinegar is made from fermented apples. It is inexpensive and quite tangy. It is best in complex-tasting dishes, such as stews or marinades, but it is not as good for more delicately flavored foods.

Balsamic vinegar

Balsamic vinegar: This vinegar has a sweet and fruity flavor and mild acidity. It is used in a wide variety of dishes, ranging from grilled meat and cheese plates to fruit salads. Balsamic vinegar is available in many different qualities and price ranges. Traditional balsamic vinegar is made in Modena, Italy, and must meet the standards set forth by the Consortium of Producers of the Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena. These vinegars will carry a seal advertising that they adhere to these guidelines.

Balsamic vinegar aged for 3 to 5 years is good for salad dressings, dipping sauces, sauces, and marinades. Balsamic vinegar aged for 6 to 11 years is great for a number of dishes, including for sauces, risotto, and pasta dishes, in marinades, and mixed with mayonnaise or sour cream on sandwiches. Balsamic vinegar aged from 12 to 150+ years is best when used to finish dishes that are already cooked and in mild foods, so that the flavor of the vinegar is prominent.

Homemade salad dressing

Champagne vinegar: This vinegar is so mild and sweet that it is most often used on salads or vegetables.

Distilled white vinegarDistilled white vinegar: Distilled white vinegar is most often used for pickling. It also is frequently used for cleaning and other household chores.

Fruit vinegar

Fruit vinegar: The most popular fruit vinegar is probably raspberry. These vinegars are good for making salad dressings and also add a nice flavor to meats, poultry, and fish.

Malt vinegar

Malt vinegar: This is made from malted barley. It is used  in the preparation of chutneys and is not a good choice for delicately flavored recipes.

Red wine vinegar

Red wine vinegar: This vinegar is frequently used in French cuisine, including in marinades, stews, and sauces. It is also good in fresh salsa.

Rice vinegar

Rice vinegar: Popular in Asian cuisine, rice vinegars are sweet and mild. They sometimes are referred to as “rice wine vinegars” in recipes. White rice vinegar is used in both Chinese and Japanese dishes. It is a key ingredient in sushi.

Vinegar has been receiving some attention lately for its possible role in lowering blood glucose levels after eating. While not much research has been done on this topic and the research that has been done is conflicting, a few studies have found that if people with diabetes or those at risk regularly drink a small amount of vinegar at the beginning of meals it may help lower blood glucose levels after eating.

The active ingredient in vinegar is acetic acid, and it is present in all types of vinegar. It is thought that acetic acid may influence blood glucose levels in several ways.

  • Delay how quickly the stomach empties after eating. Slowing digestion could cause the food to be digested more slowly and raise glucose less quickly.
  • Prevent the complete breakdown of starches, causing less to be digested and absorbed into your blood stream.
  • Help muscles use glucose more effectively.
  • Whether vinegar works the same on all types of carbohydrate-containing foods is unclear from the research.

How much do you need?

The research studies cited used between 2 teaspoons to 2 tablespoons of vinegar, mixed with at least 8 ounces of water.

Side Effects

  • Vinegar is high in acid, which can burn your mouth or esophagus, and damage tooth enamel if it is not properly diluted. Also, for some people with diabetes who have a complication called gastroparesis (slow stomach emptying), taking vinegar can worsen the condition and be dangerous.
  • Use caution if you take one or more glucose-lowering medications that can cause low blood glucose (hypoglycemia), especially insulin. If the vinegar lowers blood glucose, this can put you at risk for hypoglycemia.
  • Do not use vinegar as a substitute for your glucose-lowering medications. If you would like to use vinegar, discuss it first with your dietitian and healthcare provider to make sure you use it safely and minimize side effects.


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Food preservatives

Food Preservation

Food preservation was designed to prevent spoilage, the first food preservation practices were, salting of meat and fish, adding sugar in canned foods and pickling vegetables.

Food preservatives play a vital role in preventing deterioration of food, protecting against spoilage from mold, yeast, life-threatening botulism and other organisms that can cause food poisoning. Preservatives reduce food cost, improve convenience, lengthen shelf life and reduce food waste.

Functions, Names and Labeling

There are two modes of preservation: Physical and chemical.

Physical preservation refers to processes such as refrigeration or drying.

Chemical preservation is adding ingredients to a food for the purpose of preventing potential damage from oxidation, rancidity, microbial growth or other undesirable changes — and is considered a “direct additive.”

food-preservation

Per U.S. Food and Drug Administration, both natural preservatives, like lemon juice, salt and sugar and artificial preservatives are classified as “chemical preservatives.” While many common preservatives occur naturally, manufacturers often use synthetic versions of these chemicals.

All preservatives added to food products must be declared on the ingredient list on the food label using common names of ingredients. When no such name exists, synthetic forms can be listed. For example, synthetic vitamin B9 can be listed as “folic acid.” Preservative ingredients must either be identified as a preservative or the specific function must be given, such as “sorbic acid (to retain freshness).”

food label

Safety

According to the regulatory authorities, preservatives are generally recognized as safe, or GRAS, in the quantities in which they are allowed in individual food products. “Safe” for food additives is defined to mean “a reasonable certainty in the minds of competent scientists that the substance is not harmful under the intended conditions of use.” Still, there are some preservatives of concern.

Sodium nitrite/nitrate used in processed meats is an example of compounds that may increase the potential of these foods to cause cancer. Studies have linked eating large amounts of processed meats with an increased risk of colorectal cancer.

No Nitrites Label

Sodium benzoate and sulfites appear to be safe for most people, but may cause adverse reactions in others. A 2007 study published in The Lancet suggests sodium benzoate and artificial food colorings may exacerbate hyperactivity in young children.

Although butylated hydroxyanisole, or BHA, is listed by the National Toxicology Program as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen,” the FDA considers it a GRAS substance in minute quantities. Meanwhile, butylated hydroxytoulene, or BHT, has been banned in some countries but has not been shown conclusively to be carcinogenic.

A diet full of processed foods may contain excessive preservatives — both artificial and natural (salt and sugar) and should be limited. But preservatives within the context of an overall healthful diet help safeguard food and protect consumer health.

Removing preservatives compromises food safety, and there is no good scientific reason to avoid them. The risk of getting botulism from processed meats far outweighs the risk of the preservative especially when consumed in moderation.

Nonetheless, emerging technological innovations aimed at replacing traditional preservatives are in the works. Development of technologies, such as high pressure processing and ultrasonic preprocessing with pulsed light are promising and may yield additional benefits such as reduced water usage, energy efficiency and improved food quality.

High Pressure Processing

HPP-Process


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Your Digestion

Proponents of “food combining” argue that the body is unable to digest foods properly if they’re eaten in the wrong combinations, can lead to bloating, gas, heartburn, weight gain, malnutrition and even disease.

One of the tenets of food combining is that fruit should be eaten only on an empty stomach. Since fruit is digested more quickly than protein and starchy foods, you’ll realize its maximal nutritional value only if you eat it by itself. Eat it 30 to 60 minutes before a meal, or two to four hours after a meal. If you eat fruit in combination with other foods, though, it will get “trapped” in your stomach and start to “rot” before it can be digested and its nutrients absorbed. You’ll also feel digestive distress.

Another common food-combining rule: Avoid eating protein (e.g., meat, poultry, fish, eggs, tofu) and starchy foods (e.g., bread, pasta, grains, winter squash, potato) together in the same meal. The theory goes that since protein and carbohydrates require different enzymes to be broken down, enzymes that operate at different pH levels in the gut, eating them together will “cancel out” or neutralize their digestive enzymes and prevent proper digestion of either food.

The Real Story

The proposed rationale behind food combining goes against the physiology and biochemistry of human digestion. Our digestive tract is, in fact, very well equipped to effectively digest and absorb mixed meals.

Protein is partially digested in the acidic stomach and that carbohydrates are broken down into their building blocks in the alkaline environment of the small intestine. When food reaches the stomach – be it beef, fish, grains, fruits or vegetables (alone or in combination) – hydrochloric acid is released. The acidic environment of the stomach and its mechanical churning turns the food into a partially digested mass called chyme.

Hydrochloric acid also activates a protein-digesting enzyme called pepsin which degrades protein into smaller particles, which must then undergo further digestion in the small intestine.

When chyme enters the small intestine, the pancreas secretes different enzymes needed to digest protein (protease) into amino acids, carbohydrates (amylase) into glucose and fats (lipase) into fatty acids and glycerol. These small molecules are then absorbed into the bloodstream.

Pancreas releases all of these digestive enzymes regardless of what you eat, be it a steak with mashed potatoes and cauliflower or an apple with a cup of milk.

There’s no evidence that eating fruit with a meal, or eating brown rice with chicken, results in “gut rot.”, the harsh acidic conditions of the stomach keep it free of micro-organisms.

There are reasons, though, why some people don’t efficiently absorb nutrients from foods, including lack of stomach acid, prolonged antibiotic use, inflammatory bowel disease, pancreatic diseases and intestinal infections. But these factors are not related to improperly combined foods.

Reasons to combine foods

Eating protein and carbohydrates together, for instance, help keeps you feeling satisfied and energized longer after eating.

Combining fruit that’s high in vitamin C (e.g., strawberries, cantaloupe, etc.) with oatmeal will enhance your body’s ability to absorb iron from the cereal.

Adding calcium-rich milk or yogurt to a green smoothie can help bind oxalates from greens such as spinach, an important consideration for people with calcium oxalate kidney stones. Lentils, kidney beans, black beans and the like – are a combination of protein and carbohydrate.

Food-combining diet has been the subject of only one randomized controlled trial, which found no evidence that it improved weight loss or health above and beyond a balanced diet with controlled portions.


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Food Labels

In the last blog we learned a little bit about food labels, let’s take it a little further and figure out a few more details. Remember some numbers are in grams and others in milligrams.

Food Labels

Servings information

Serving size:

This is an amount of the food that is considered a single serving. The rest of the nutrition facts then provide information based on that amount. If the serving size says 1/2 cup, then the calories, fat, cholesterol, sodium, protein, carbohydrates, fiber and other nutrients shown are for 1/2 cup of that food.

Servings per container:

This number tells you how many servings there are in the whole package. So if a package has 7 servings and you eat the whole package, you’ll be eating 7 times the calories and other nutrients. Yes! They add up.

Calories:

The calories are the number of calories in one serving. Don’t forget this important fact. So if you eat more than one serving, you have to multiply the calories by how many servings you eat. If a package says 1/2 cup is a serving and you eat 1 cup, that’s two times the servings (1/2 cup x 2 = 1 cup).

Fat, Cholesterol, & Sodium

Total Fat:

This is the number of grams of fat in a single serving. In a 2,000 calorie daily diet, most people should aim for between 45 and 78 grams of total fat per day, mostly from sources like plant oils, avocados, seeds and nuts.

Saturated fat:

This fat is often called a bad fat, but a little saturated fat in the diet may not be harmful. Most people should aim for 7-10% or less of their calories from this fat or about 20 grams or fewer per day based on a 2,000 calories diet.

Trans fat:

This is a bad fat. If the label shows trans-fats, find another food. Even if it says 0 grams, it’s important to look at the ingredient list to see if the word “hydrogenated” is on the list.

Cholesterol:

Most people are advised to consume less than 300 mg of cholesterol each day. Take a look at the number and pick foods with low cholesterol so it doesn’t add up to more than 300mg at the end of the day.

Sodium:

Most people should aim not to exceed 1,500 mg of sodium daily, while some are advised that 2,300 mg is safe. The label will say how many milligrams of sodium are in a single serving. It will also list a DV (Daily Value) showing what percentage of 2,300 mg  is in one serving.

Fiber, Vitamins and Minerals

Fiber:

This is listed in grams on the package. Women are advised to get 25 grams or more daily, men are advised to reach 35 grams.

Vitamins and Minerals:

Nutrition Facts panels are required to list Vitamins A, C, E and the mineral Iron. They will be listed by percent only. The goal is to achieve 100% over the course of the day.

Protein, Carbohydrates and Sugars

Protein

This will be listed in grams. Protein can help with feeling satisfied. Protein needs vary for people with kidney disease and other illness, on an average we need about 0.9 g x with your weight in kilograms. Not all foods will have protein.

Carbohydrates and Sugars:

Carbohydrates are listed in grams and there are many forms of carbohydrates from complex whole grains, fruits and veggies to simple sugars like honey, cane sugar (table sugar), and maple syrup among others. While recommendations for individuals will vary, carbohydrate recommendations can generally go up to 300 grams per day in a 2,000 calorie diet.