The list of health benefits just seems to grow and grow. From preventing heart disease and cancer to fighting off infections, researchers are finding encouraging results with garlic. The chief health-promoting "ingredients" in garlic are allicin and diallyl sulfide (sulfur-containing compounds). Although allicin is destroyed in cooking, cooked garlic still contains the powerful antioxidants C and E, and the mineral selenium. Crushing, chopping, or chewing garlic helps release enzymes (allicin and diallyl sulfide) that trigger many of its beneficial actions which can include:
Improve Cholesterol Levels: Garlic has been found to lower levels of LDL cholesterol, the "bad" cholesterol, as well as raise HDL (good cholesterol) in the short term. Its effects last about three months when taken daily. It may also help to dissolve clots that can lead to heart attacks and strokes. Even when cooked, garlic helps keep cholesterol in your bloodstream from oxidizing and damaging the lining of your blood vessels, which helps prevent the formation of plaque.
Antimicrobial: Garlic has also been found to inhibit the growth of, or even kill, several kinds of bacteria, including Staphylococcus and Salmonella, as well as many fungi and yeast. Animal studies have found that garlic helps prevent colon, lung, and esophageal cancers. How much is enough? Researchers suggest you can enjoy the benefits of garlic every day by eating a typical clove weighing 3 grams.
Hormone Balance: Garlic and other foods in the allium family (onions, leeks, chives, shallots, and scallions) work to stimulate the production of glutathione, an antioxidant that is especially important in the liver, where it helps remove hormone-disrupting chemicals. Preliminary research suggests that garlic may boost testosterone, giving you more energy.
Treats Diabetes: Garlic appears to be frequently used as an alterative medicine for the treatment of diabetes. Onions (which are in the same family) have anthocyanins, effective free-radical destroyers that might also help combat obesity and diabetes.
Garlic & Weight Loss
Increases Thermogenesis: Garlic’s constituents are able to stimulate the secretion of noradrenaline, and this increased secretion of noradrenaline works on the β-adrenergic receptors of brown adipose tissue to increase thermogenesis (heat production). In vitro, garlic components also appear to suppress lipogenesis (fat accumulation) and reduce the proliferation of fat cells.
Increases Brown Fat: The difference between brown fat and white fat is that brown fat cells contain mitochondria (which produce energy), these actually help and promote fat burning. Kids have lots of brown fat cells throughout their bodies (this is why they never seem to be as cold as adults!). In adults, brown fat is generally located in smaller amounts around the neck and upper chest/back.
In research animals, garlic supplementation has shown to stimulate the production of brown fat (over the course of just 28 days!). Brown fat tissue in rodents given garlic extracts tend to have higher mitochondrial content than do controls. So there appears to be an increase in the overall quantity of brown fat in rats that are fed garlic, this suggests that it may also apply to human in the same way.
Increase Adiponectin: Aged Garlic Extract administration for 12 weeks increases adiponectin levels. Adiponectin (a hormone produced in and sent out from your fat cells) can decrease inflammation, boost your metabolism and fuel overall fat loss when high levels of it are maintained in the body. Even though it’s made by fat cells, adiponectin actually helps us lose fat by improving how our body processes glucose and insulin from the food we eat.
The best type of supplement to buy is 'Aged Garlic Extract'. Aging garlic for 20 months has the benefit of making the garlic supplement odorless. The major brand name for aged garlic extract is 'Kyolic'. If you can’t find these, regular garlic supplements appear to yield the same results when taken at higher doses.
If you’re eating fresh garlic, chop it up and leave it to oxidize for several minutes before adding it to your food or swallowing it like a pill – this oxidation process is what lets the active ingredients out.
When it comes to weight loss, garlic appears to be a miracle food. Once you learn to appreciate its pungency, most anything tastes better with garlic. And once you learn its possible health benefits, you may learn to love it.
Here is a breakdown of the health benefits of various herbs and spices that you may, or may not, have around the house.
Cinnamon has the highest antioxidant value of any spice. It has been shown to reduce inflammation and lower blood sugar and blood triglyceride levels. Cinnamon has also been used to alleviate nausea and to increase sensitivity to insulin and aid in fat burning. It provides manganese, iron and calcium. It’s antimicrobial properties can also help extend the life of foods.
Basil has anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties and can help prevent osteoarthritis. It has been used in digestive disorders and is being studied for its anti-cancer properties. Though commonly used in Italian cooking, Basil is a versatile herb that can be added to practically anything. Fresh is always best, but dried is ok too as long as it is freshly dried. Basil can be sprinkled in omelets, on baked or grilled veggies, in soups, on meats or sliced fresh into salads.
Turmeric is a common ingredient in Indian foods, and a great addition to soups. It contains Curcumin, a cancer-fighting compound. It is more often taken medicinally in America for its ability to reduce inflammation and improve joints. For a spark of flavor, add to egg dishes, soups, meat dishes, sauces and baked foods.
Fresh cloves are always best, but powdered, minced and granulated forms provide excellent flavor. Is great in just about everything - from eggs, to tuna salad, to baked fish for dinner. Studies show that just 2 fresh cloves a week provide anti-cancer benefits.
Dill has antibacterial properties but is most known for its stomach settling ability (ever wonder why pregnant women crave pickles?). It contains a variety of nutrients but loses most when heated to high temperatures. For this reason, it is best used in uncooked recipes or in foods cooked at low temperatures. It is a great addition to any type of fish, to dips and dressings, to omelets or to poultry dishes.
Cayenne has many health benefits and can improve the absorption of other nutrients in foods. It has been shown to increase circulation and reduce the risk of heart problems. Though available in capsule form, it is also a great addition to many foods. In small amounts, it can be added to practically any dish, meat, vegetable or sauce. As tolerance to the spicy flavor increases, the amount added can be increased also.
Traditionally used to calm digestive troubles and alleviate nausea. Many people enjoy a tea made from peppermint or spearmint leaves, and the volatile oils in both have been used in breath fresheners, toothpastes and chewing gum. Externally, the oil or tea can be used to repel mosquito. This herb is easiest to consume in beverage form, and also goes well with meat dishes or dessert recipes.
Oregano (and it’s milder cousin, Marjoram) are antiviral, antibacterial, anticancer and antibiotic. It is extremely high in antioxidants and has demonstrated antimicrobial properties against food-borne pathogens like Listeria. Its oil and leaves are used medicinally in treatment of cough, fever, congestion, body ache and illness. Combined with basil, garlic, marjoram, thyme and rosemary, it creates a potent antiviral, anti-bacterial, antimicrobial and cancer fighting seasoning blend. It can also be sprinkled on any kind of savory foods. A couple teaspoons added to a soup will help recovery from illness.
Cumin provides a distinct and pleasant taste. It is most often used in the U.S. in Mexican or Spanish dishes and in seasonings for tacos or chili. I recommend just buying in bulk and using with chili powder to season these dishes. This will provide better flavor and save money. Cumin has antimicrobial properties and has been used to reduce flatulence. It is a wonderful addition to curry powder or to flavor Mexican or Middle Eastern dishes.
Curry can have a wide variety of ingredients, but often contains turmeric, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, mustard powder, cayenne, ginger, garlic, nutmeg, fenugreek and a wide variety of peppers. With all these ingredients it has an amazing range of beneficial properties. Curry is an acquired taste, but can be added to meats, stir frys, soups and stews.
Rosemary has a high concentration of the antioxidant carnosol and research shows it may have benefits in cancer treatment and healthy digestion and use of cholesterol. It has a pine/lemony scent and is often used in soap making due to its smell and ability to fight aging by rejuvenating the small blood vessels under the skin. Try it on meat dishes, in soups or with vegetables. Water boiled with Rosemary can be used as an antiseptic.
Thyme is a member of the mint family and contains thymol- a potent antioxidant (and also the potent ingredient in Listerine mouthwash). Water boiled with thyme can be used in homemade spray cleaners and or can be added to bathwater for treatment of wounds. Thyme water can be swished around the mouth for gum infections or for the healing of wounds from teeth removal. Teas made with thyme have been used to treat athletes foot and vaginal yeast infections. Thyme tea can also be taken internally during illness to speed recovery. In foods, it is often used in French cooking (an ingredient in Herbs de Provence) and Italian. Add to any baked dishes at the beginning of cooking, as it slowly releases its benefits.
There are many other beneficial cooking herbs and spices and I hope to cover them all at some point. I encourage you to branch out from salt & pepper and try all the wonderful culinary combinations that can be made with these herbs and spices.
The thyroid, a butterfly-shaped gland in the neck, can have a dramatic impact on a huge variety of bodily functions as well as your weight and overall health. Here are just a few of the symptoms of low thyroid function (hypothyroidism): exhaustion, feeling down, anxiety, brain fog, high blood pressure, always cold, can’t sleep, weight gain, high cholesterol. Today’s blog explores the way in which you can help re-balance your thyroid function naturally through your diet.
Nutrients that support our thyroid
Iodine (I): This is the most important trace element found in thyroid functioning. Without iodine, our thyroid does not have the basic building blocks it needs to make the necessary hormones to support all of the tissues in the body. Thyroxine (T4) and Triiodothyronine (T3) are the most essential, active, iodine-containing hormones we have
Selenium (Se): This element is indispensable to our thyroid in several ways. Selenium-containing enzymes protect the thyroid gland when we are under stress, working like a “detox,” to help flush oxidative and chemical stress, and even social stress – which can cause reactions in our body. Selenium-based proteins help regulate hormone synthesis, converting T4 into the more accessible T3. These proteins and enzymes help regulate metabolism and also help maintain the right amount of thyroid hormones in the tissues and blood, as well as organs such as the liver, kidneys, and even the brain. Selenium also helps regulate and recycle our iodine stores.
- Brazil nuts
- Sunflower seeds
- Fish (halibut, sardines, flounder, salmon)
- Shellfish (oysters, mussels, shrimp, clams, scallops)
- Meat (Beef, liver, lamb, pork)
- Poultry (chicken, turkey)
- Mushrooms (button, crimini, shiitake)
Zinc (Zn), iron (Fe), and copper (CU): These three trace metals are vital to thyroid function. Low levels of zinc can cause T4, T3, and the thyroid stimulating hormone(TSH) to also become low. Research shows that both hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroids) and hypothyroidism (under active thyroids), can sometimes create a zinc deficiency leading to lowered thyroid hormones.
Foods that block Thyroid function:
Here are nine foods to limit or avoid as you manage hypothyroidism:
Soy: The hormone estrogen can interfere with your body's ability to use thyroid hormone. Soy is loaded with plant-based phytoestrogen, and some researchers believe too much soy may increase a person's risk for hypothyroidism. People with hypothyroidism should moderate their intake of soy. However, because soy hasn't been definitively linked to hypothyroidism, there are no specific dietary guidelines.
Cruciferous Vegetables: such as broccoli and cabbage, can interfere with the production of thyroid hormone, particularly people who have an iodine deficiency. Digesting these vegetables can block the thyroid's ability to absorb iodine, which is essential for normal thyroid function. People with hypothyroidism may want to limit their intake of broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, turnips, and bok choy. Cooking the vegetables can reduce the effect that cruciferous vegetables have on the thyroid gland. Limiting your intake to 5 ounces a day appears to have no adverse effect on thyroid function.
Peanuts and peanut butter: This common legume is very acidic and contains goitrogens.
High-mercury fish: Mercury is a known thyroid disruptor. The worst offenders are swordfish, king mackerel, tilefish, shark and most tuna
Sugary Foods: Hypothyroidism can cause the body's metabolism to slow down - that means it's easy to put on pounds if you aren't careful. You want to avoid the foods with excess amounts of sugar because it's a lot of calories with no nutrients…and can quickly lead to weight gain. Complete elimination of added sugars in your diet is best…but at the very least, making smarter (lower sugar) choices will also go a long way.
Processed Foods: Processed foods tend to have a lot of sugar and sodium, and people with hypothyroidism should avoid both! Having an underactive thyroid increases a person's risk for high blood pressure, and too much sugar/sodium further increases this risk.
If you are on thyroid hormone replacement medication, you should also avoid:
Gluten (wheat, barley, rye, and other grains). Gluten can irritate the small intestine and may hamper absorption of thyroid hormone replacement medication.
Fatty Foods have been found to disrupt the body's ability to absorb thyroid hormone replacement medicines, Fats may also interfere with the thyroid's ability to produce hormone as well. Some health care professionals recommend that you cut out all fried foods and reduce your intake of fats from sources such as butter, mayonnaise, margarine, and fatty cuts of meat.
Also, avoid taking your thyroid hormone at the same time as:
- Soybean flour
- Cottonseed meal
- Iron supplements or multivitamins containing iron
- Calcium supplements
- Antacids that contain aluminum or magnesium
- Some ulcer medications, such as sucralfate (Carafate)
- Some cholesterol-lowering drugs, such as those containing cholestyramine (Questran) and colestipol (Colestid)
To avoid potential interactions, eat these foods or use these products several hours before or after you take your thyroid medication.
Use herbs. There are many herbs that can support thyroid function, such as sage, ashwaganda, bacopa monnieri, and coleus forskohlii. Combined with iodine and selenium, these herbs can help boost energy and support healthy metabolism. A functional medicine practitioner can help with the formula based on individual need.