Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Health benefits of eating almonds

In our quest for healthy foods, we recently found many studies that show almonds improve cardio vascular health and help with weight loss. LDL cholesterol (the bad type) has been shown to be reduced by eating almonds and almond butter. One study even found that eating almond butter increased HDL (the good kind of cholesterol for your heart).

Nine different studies have shown that eating almonds reduces LDL cholesterol. The Journal of the American Medical Association reported that eating almonds worked substantially better than eating a whole grain low fat diet in lowering LDL cholesterol and the same or better than most Statin drugs, such as Lovastatin. A study published by the Journal of the American College of Nutrition in 1998 compared subjects who ate an almond diet with those who ate an olive oil diet and others that ate a cheese and butter based control diet and found that the LDL cholesterol was reduced significantly in the almond eating group. The cholesterol levels increased in the control diet group and remained the same in the olive oil diet group.

Almonds are rich in vitamin E, B17, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, zinc, calcium, and folic acid. An ounce of almonds (approximately 20-25 nuts) contains as much calcium as ¼ cup of milk, 6 grams of protein, and 3 grams of fiber. The fat content of almond butter makes it a high calorie food, yet studies show that almonds support weight loss when added to a low calorie diet. A study published in the International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders found that adding almonds to a low calorie diet can help overweight people lose weight faster and another study showed that adults who ate an additional 300 calories in nuts every day to what they were already eating had no increase in their weight over 10 weeks. The high fiber content in almonds appears to help block the absorption of fat and carbohydrates and create a feeling of fullness, which may the reason behind their cholesterol lowering and weight- maintenance attributes.

We have added almonds to our diet and have been eating the nuts after soaking them in water overnight to soften them, by the spoon full as almond butter, and in the form of almond meal mixed with maple syrup. Any way we eat them, we find them extremely filling and satisfying. Let us know what you think about the benefits of eating almonds.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Healing Blue Light

Recently we bought a blue LED light to find out if it has the healing affects that health researchers have been reporting for years. We purchased a Zadro Sunlight 365, Artificial Sunlight 365 Days a Year.  So far, we have found that the blue light makes us feel more energetic especially on days of thick VOG (volcanic smog) here on the Island of Hawaii.

Researchers have been finding significant healing effects from specific wavelengths or light color. Though the healing affects reported are exciting, the lasers to create the exact wavelengths of light were so expensive it was not practical for home use. Recently very bright and inexpensive LED lights that generate enough light at the specific wavelengths to heal have become available so that anyone can buy them and find out for themselves if the healing properties are real. Blue LEDs produce light in the 430 to 485 nm. spectrum and have been shown to help with periodontal disease, acne, and bacterial infections. The blue LED light also helps reduce inflammation, pain, and kill bacteria. Below are some of the studies on the healing power of blue light.

The antibacterial affect of blue light at wavelengths of 400–500 nm was reported in Photochemistry and Photobiology (Vol 80 Issue 3 Page 412-415, November 2004) and described how they showed blue light sources to be toxic to the oral microorganisms P. gingivalis and F. nucleatum. The British Journal of Dermatology (Vol 142 Issue 5 Page 973-978, May 2000 ) published a study that used blue light (peak at 415 nm) in the treatment of acne reporting that patients treated with blue light and mixed blue and red light improved by 76% in inflammatory lesions over 12 weeks. The FDA has approved blue LED for treatment of both acne causing bacteria (P.acnes) and inflammatory acne vulgaris.

The most surprising studies were done by Dr. Chukuka S. Enwemeka and his colleagues at the New York Institute of Technology. They found that MRSA (the drug resistant staph superbug) died when exposed to blue light from an LED. The researchers tested two MRSA strains: one typical of the strains that are invading hospitals, and one of the strains found in the community. Both strains were susceptible to the blue light. Relatively low doses of blue light (about 100 seconds) killed off about 30% of MRSA in laboratory cultures. Longer doses were more effective, although with diminishing returns. It took about 10 times longer exposure to kill off 80% of the MRSA in culture dishes. The study was published in the April 2009 issue of Photomedicine and Laser Surgery.

We wonder if these new LED lights will turn out to be a revolutionary development in health or if it will be just another gadget that looks great but does not work as promised. For the moment we are enjoying being bathed in blue light on mornings that it is overcast to help us wake up.

Monday, December 6, 2010

2011 Year of the Rabbit

Every year we enjoy reading the predictions for the upcoming Chinese year and about the animal associated with the new year. We have found the advice given by Chinese astrologers helpful in planning what we will do during the next year. The Year of Metal Tiger, ending in February 2011, was predicted to be a year filled with upheaval and turmoil. The nations with the Tiger as their symbol were predicted to have difficult changes and they certainly have. We hope that we, and by that we mean the world, gets through the rest of Tiger Year without a major war starting in a Tiger country, as happened at the end of the last metal Tiger year in 1950.

The new Chinese year, starting February 3, 2011, is the Metal Rabbit. Unlike the ferocious Tiger, the Rabbit year is predicted to be placid with rest and calm. World leaders will find that diplomacy is better than force and international relations will take center stage. Countries will act with more discretion and concessions will be made with less conflict. In the past, major treaties have been signed in Rabbit years. The Treaty of Paris was signed in the Rabbit year of 1783 ending the war between the United States and England. The US, Australia and New Zealand signed a mutual defense pact called the ANZUS treaty in the metal Rabbit year of 1951. That same year, the Treaty of Japan was signed in September 1951 by 48 nations as well as the Japan-US Security Treaty. The Soviet Union formed its Olympic committee in 1951 in preparation for joining their first Olympics Games the following year.

In the Rabbit year calm, no one will want to deal with unpleasant realities or uncomfortable tasks. Law and order will be looser and rules and regulations will be less rigidly enforced. Those that criticize or point out weaknesses will be very unpopular. Cunning and subterfuge will be rewarded over open and honest communication. Leaders will avoid dealing with human rights infractions, suffering, or any misery that might upset the world’s new calm and secure diplomacy.

Conflicts from the Tiger year will likely last into the Rabbit year, as it did in the last metal Rabbit year. That year, the Korean conflict (which had started when North Korea invaded South Korea in the preceding Metal Tiger year) escalated to the capture of Seoul by Chinese and North Korean armies at the start of the 1951 Metal Rabbit year. The sudden rise to fame of Senator McCarthy at the onset of the Metal Tiger year in 1950 and his accusations of disloyal Americans (the Red Scare) took four years to finally lose steam and get him censured. Memories of Tiger year conflicts may escalate research into technologies to protect from terrorism in much the same way that methods of mass destruction were advanced in the 1951 Metal Rabbit year when the first thermonuclear weapon was tested on Eniwetok Atoll.

The tough economic times of the Tiger year will let up for some and money will be able to be made with less labor. People will feel more carefree and once again have luxuries in their lives. Many will regain happiness and contentment in their jobs and families. Good taste and refinement will emerge and some may overindulge.

A person born in the Rabbit year deftly caters to others desires to get what he wants and is warm, witty, sympathetic, and adept at sparing others feelings. She may go all out on a task or event, but when she’s had enough she’ll drop it all for rest and relaxation. Rabbit is not in a hurry to get anywhere and is not much of a disciplinarian or even critical of others. He makes few enemies, but at the same time is not willing to stick his neck out for a friend or cause. The Dragon, Horse, Monkey, and Dog get along well with the Rabbit and may find the year to be positive and successful. The Tiger, and Rooster love a good fight and will probably find the Rabbit year stifling.

We are Roosters, the enemies of Rabbit, and expecting to find the year particularly difficult for our habitual hen-pecking and argumentative personalities. We realize that the upcoming Rabbit year will not bear fruit for us using our well developed skills at conflicts and disagreements. We plan to stay calm, be positive, and get along with everyone. And we will watch our health and keep from Rabbit-induced overeating and overspending. We will try to develop some Rabbit-patience while waiting for the arrival of the Water Dragon on January 23, 2012 when our love of direct communication and controversy will once again be in fashion.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Shiitake Mushroom Health Benefits

Mushrooms have been used as a medicine in Asia for over 6000 years and are grown and consumed on a massive scale. Some people don't realize that mushrooms are a fungus, not a vegetable, and have no roots, leaves, flowers or seeds. Shiitake mushrooms, in particular, are popular because they are an excellent source of selenium and iron and a good source of protein, dietary fiber, and vitamin C. China grows over 3 billion pounds of Shiitake mushrooms a year and Japan grows over 200 million pounds of Shiitake mushrooms each year. In Japan, mushrooms make up so much of the average diet that they are one of the primary sources of protein for many people.

However, studies have shown that Shiitake mushrooms have health benefits far beyond their nutritional value.

Studies conducted over the last ten years have uncovered an active component in Shiitake mushrooms called eritadenine that lowers cholesterol levels for all types of fats eaten. And the more eritadenine given, the more the cholesterol levels drop. In a 1974 study (reported by Kenneth Jones in "Shiitake Medicine in a mushroom",Herbs for Health,Jan/Feb 1997), 40 elderly individuals and 420 young women consumed 9 grams of dried Shiitake (equivalent to 90g of fresh Shiitake) every day for 7 days. After a week, total cholesterol levels had dropped 7 to 15% in the older group and 6 to 12% in the young women.

Shiitake mushrooms have also been shown to shrink tumors, protect from cancer, and fight infection and disease. In 1969, scientists at Tokyo's National Center Research Institute isolated a polysaccharide compound from Shiitake they named lentinan. In laboratory trials, lentinan caused tumors in mice to shrink or vanish in 80 to 100% of the mice. Lentinan appears to stimulate immune-system cells to clear the body of tumor cells. Lentian injections are used in Japan to supplement radiation therapy and have been found to have positive results for cancer patients in the US, showing that it can reduce the size of tumors and increase the longevity of cancer patients. Lentinan's other healing benefit is its ability to support the immune system and help to fight infection and disease. Against influenza and other viruses, lentinan has been shown to be even more effective than prescription drugs. It even improves the immune status of individuals infected with HIV, the virus that can cause AIDS.

Another extract from Shiitake, LEM (short for Lentinula edodes myucelium) has been shown to be more lethal to HIV-infected cells than AZT, a medication developed to delay the progress of AIDS. LEM lignins have been shown to block HIV cells from reproducing and damaging helpful T cells. These lignins also stop cell damage from herpes simplex I and II, two viral infections that often plague individuals with HIV. In the 1980s, a trial involving 16 clinics in Japan investigated the impact of LEM on hepatitis B. The studies indicated that LEM may stimulate the body to produce antibodies. Forty individuals with chronic hepatitis B ingested six grams of LEM daily for four months. All of the patients experienced relief from hepatitis B symptoms, and in 15 patients, the virus was inactivated.

Most mushrooms contain L-ergothioneine, a powerful antioxidant. A research team at the 2005 American Chemical Society meeting revealed that mushrooms contain higher concentrations L-ergothioneine than either of the two sources previously believed to have the most: chicken liver and wheat germ. And L-ergothioneine is not destroyed when mushrooms are cooked.

A caution, mushrooms are high in purines which can be a problem for people who suffer from excessive accumulation of uric acid. Gout and kidney stones from uric acid can be related to excessive intake of purine-containing foods.

Adding mushrooms to our diet is looking like a very smart move.  After reading the research, we have added dried Shiitake and other mushrooms to our meals and are finding the taste of roasted mushrooms with garlic surprisingly pleasant.