Herbs and the Common Cold
You already know to take extra vitamin C at the first sign of a cold. Homemade chicken soup also can help, along with rest. But what about herbs? Do any herbs actually have sound research to support their use for curbing the symptoms of the common cold? Here’s the scoop:
Echinacea: This herb contains active substances that enhance the activity of the immune system, relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and have antiviral and antioxidant effects. While some studies have found no effect, others show that taking echinacea, especially beginning at the very first signs of a cold, can help reduce the severity and duration (taking echinacea regularly has no effect). Different products use different parts of the echinacea plant. A study performed by ConsumerLab.com (an independent company that tests the purity of health, wellness, and nutrition products) found that of 11 brands of echinacea purchased for testing, only 4 contained what was stated on their labels. About 10% had no echinacea at all; half were mislabeled as to the species of echinacea in the product; and more than half of the standardized preparations did not contain the labeled amount of active ingredients. This is one reason why the effectiveness of echinacea differs dramatically from one product to another.
To ensure you get what you paid for, buy products made by reputable, established companies that distribute their products through trustworthy and knowledgeable establishments. When possible, select products with guaranteed potency or standardized extracts. Either the capsules or the drops taken several times during the day are worth a try. (i.e., 1 to 2 grams dried root or herb as tea, 2 to 3 mL of standardized tincture extract, or 300 milligrams of powdered extract containing 4% phenolics).
Astragalus: This herb has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory functions. It also is sometimes used topically for wounds. In addition, studies have shown that astragalus has antiviral properties and stimulates the immune system, suggesting that it is effective at helping prevent colds. Doses from 1 to 25 grams a day are used. Higher doses might suppress the immune system.
Goldenseal: This herb contains a compound called berberine that kills many types of bacteria and might activate white blood cells, making them more effective at fighting infection and strengthening the immune system. It also is used topically for sores and skin infections. Often it is combined with echinacea. As a capsule or tablet, take 500 to 2,000 milligrams up to 3 times daily.
Ginseng: A few studies show a reduction in cold symptoms with Siberian ginseng. But, evaluation of commercial products found that as many as 25% of Siberian ginseng supplements had no measurable ginseng at all. Purchase Siberian ginseng and all herbal products only from reputable manufacturers. (Dose: As a dried root – 500 to 3,000 milligrams daily in capsules or tea.) Cold-fx is a supplement that contains American ginseng. A Canadian study found it reduced the number of colds, as well as the severity and duration. In a second study of nursing home residents, eight of the placebo takers but only 1 of the cold-fx takers got the flu. Consult your physician before taking if you have high blood pressure, are pregnant, or have sleep apnea.
Licorice Root: This herb can soothe a sore throat, but also can contribute to high blood pressure, low potassium levels, and should not be used by people with heart disease, who are pregnant or breast-feeding, or if taking medications such as prednisone.
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Do One of These Diet Do’s Today
Each of us also can achieve our goals for health – one step at a time. According to a Gallup survey, one in every nine women admits that making simple changes in what and how she eats can make the world of difference in how she feels, lowering heart disease risk and even helping with weight loss. Lack of time is the main obstacle when making food choices. The good news is that now-a-days eating well is as quick n’ easy as one, two, three.
One – Never leave home without a snack stash. Pack your brief case, purse, glove compartment, or even your diaper bag with mini-bags of baby carrot or sliced apples, pre-cut fruit, string cheese, and/or whole wheat crackers.
Two – Keep the kitchen stocked with easy-fix meal solutions, such as precut and bagged lettuce, chicken breasts, instant brown rice, bottled minced garlic, and frozen vegetables.
Three – Add one new healthy food to your diet each week, such as kiwi fruit mixed into yogurt, papaya slices or canned kidney beans added to a salad, or toasted wheat germ sprinkled into pancake batter.
The Latest Must-Read Nutrition News
1. DASH Still Ranks #1: For the sixth year in a row, the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, or DASH, diet ranked #1 by a panel of health experts as the best overall eating plan. This diet was designed to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels by limiting fats, red meat, and sugar in favor of healthy 100% whole grains, lean poultry, low- or nonfat milk products, and nuts. It also was the easiest to stick with. The panel was comprised of dietitians and physicians specializing in diabetes, heart health, and weight loss. They evaluated 38 of the most poplar or trendy diets this past year and ranked them in nine categories. DASH scored the highest in all categories, while the MIND diet tied for second place with the cholesterol-lowering TLC diet. The MIND diet includes some features of the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet, such as high consumption of fruits, vegetables, and fish. The Biggest Loser and the DASH diet came in second and third, respectively, in the diabetes category. The Weight Watchers diet ranked highest for weight loss. The Raw Food diet and the low-carb Atkins diet scored poorly overall and ranked low in categories, such as “Best Diets for Healthy Eating.” The Paleo diet tied with the Dukan diet for #36, leaving only one diet worse than that – the Whole30 diet.
2. Seafood and Your Brain: The omega-3s in fatty fish lower the risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, according to a review of studies from researchers at Zhejiang University in China. The researchers included 21 studies on omega-3 intakes in this meta-analysis for a total of 181,580 participants and 4,438 cases of people with mild cognitive impairment, cognitive decline, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and/or Parkinson’s disease. Results showed that as little as one serving of fatty fish a week was enough to show a reduced risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Intakes of at least 1,000 milligrams of the omega-3 fat DHA was associated with a 14% lower risk of dementia and a 37% lower risk for Alzheimer’s disease.
Zhang Y, Chen J, Qiu J, et al: Intakes of fish and PUFAs and mild-to-severe cognitive impairment risks. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2015; December 30th.
3. What Works, What Doesn’t: While poor nutrition is a leading cause of disease and obesity, some recommendations are founded in science, and some aren’t, state researchers at Tufts University in Boston. First, the researchers warn that we must focus on the overall diet, not individual nutrients, since the complex interactions of different foods and ingredients are far more important than simply counting calories or milligrams. The scientific evidence supports diets rich in colorful fruits and vegetables, nuts, legumes, fish (especially fatty seafood), yogurt, and minimally processed whole grains. Other foods should be limited, such as red meat, processed meats, foods rich in refined grains, starch, and added sugars, salt, and trans fats. More investigation is needed before recommendations can be made when it comes to probiotics, coffee, tea, tropical oils, and eggs. There is little or no evidence to support at this time other popular trends, such as organic, grass-fed, and non-genetically modified (GMO) foods.
Mozaffarian D: Dietary and policy priorities for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity.: A comprehensive review. Circulation 2016;January 8th.
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Food & Mood Tip –
Food, Mood & Mind: In a Nutshell
What people eat for breakfast could affect how they feel by mid-afternoon. For example, the balance of carbohydrates and protein in a meal affects levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin. An all-carbohydrate meal or snack raises serotonin levels, relieving depression, especially in carbohydrate-craving obesity, premenstrual syndrome, and seasonal affective disorder. High-protein snacks, in contrast, increase alertness.
Omega-3 fats also affect cognition and mood. These highly-unsaturated fats are major components of cell membranes, affecting function and cell membrane fluidity. Intakes affect mood and behavior by direct effects on nerve cell function as well as alternations in serotonin function. Low intake of omega-3s might increase vulnerability to depression, hostility, and aggressive behavior. Countries where people consume the most omega-3-rich foods also have the lowest incidence of depression, while depression rates are highest in countries, such as the United States, were vegetable oil intake far outweighs fish consumption. People with the most severe depression also have higher ratios of vegetable oil fats to fish oil fats. People fed omega-3s show improvements in hostility and aggression. An inverse relationship also exists between fish oil consumption and dementia, especially Alzheimer’s disease.
Low intakes of several vitamins are linked to increased risk for depression and cognitive decline. Low folic acid intake alters serotonin metabolism and raises homocysteine levels, both of which are associated with depression and mental abnormalities. Vitamins B12 and B6 also lower homocysteine levels and improve memory and alertness. Cognitive decline might be prevented or significantly delayed with increased intake of antioxidant vitamins, such as vitamins C and E and beta carotene. Neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, show significant free-radical damage to the central nervous system, which is inhibited by antioxidants. Age-related cognitive decline also is greatest in seniors with low antioxidant status, while people who consume antioxidant-rich diets are most likely to retain optimal cognition in later years.
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Mood-Boosting Recipe of the month –
Mango Pineapple Salsa (From The Food & Mood Cookbook by Elizabeth Somer and Jeanette Williams)
This sweet and spicy salsa goes well on firm fish, such as halibut or sea bass, as well as grilled shrimp or salmon. As an appetizer, serve with baked tortilla chips or thin slices of apple.
1 whole mango, peeled, pitted, and chopped into cubes
1 /2 cup fresh pineapple, chopped into small cubes
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/3 cup red onion, diced
1/3 cup red pepper, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons canned chilies, drained
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Combine all ingredients in medium-sized bowl. Cover and refrigerate for one hour before serving. Makes 2 cups or 4 servings.
Nutritional Analysis per ½ cup serving: 54 Calories; 4% fat (< 0.5 grams); 0 grams saturated fat; 5% protein; 91% carbohydrate; 2 grams fiber.
Your Nutrition Questions Answered
1. Do you lose nutrients when you cook in a microwave oven?
Actually, microwaving is one of the best ways to retain nutrients when cooking foods. Nutrients, such as water-soluble vitamin C and folate, that are vulnerable to heat and air are easily destroyed when overcooked on the stove. They also are lost if water is added when steaming or boiling and then that water is tossed, taking with it much of the vitamin C and folate. The longer a food is cooked, the more likely you have lost valuable nutrients. However, cooking times are short with a microwave, so more nutrients are retained. The key to nutrient retention whether in a microwave or on the stove is: 1) Use the freshest vegetables, 2) cook for the shortest amount of time, and 3) cook in minimum water.
2. Do you crave certain foods when your body is low in a nutrient?
I wish!! If that were true, most Americans would be craving lots more spinach and a whole lot less cookies, cakes, chips, hamburgers, fries, and fried chicken! In reality, our brains evolved to crave nutrients that were scarce in the ol’ hunter-gatherer days, i.e., fat, salt, and sugar. Today, food manufacturers have loaded junk foods with the very ingredients our brains have a hard time saying “no” to. You must use your higher brain center, the cortex, to over-ride that basic instinct in order to choose foods your body needs to thrive, including colorful fruits and vegetables, legumes, 100% whole grains, fatty fish, and other real, unprocessed foods.
See Next Month for Answers to These Questions…
1. Does coffee dehydrate you?
2. People should fast every so often to cleanse the body of toxins.
Food Finds/Food Fails:
1. Helios Organic Greek Nonfat Kefir: Kefir is a fermented milk drink made with yeast and lactic acid bacteria cultures. Kefir typically has up to 12 different probiotic cultures in it and some of those are suspected to actually thrive in the GI tract, unlike the probiotics in yogurt that must be replenished daily or at least frequently. While kefir is not required to list the probiotics, Helios does, listing 7 different strains. This kefir also is an excellent source of calcium, protein, and vitamin D. If drinking a cupful is more tartness than you can stomach, choose the fruit flavored kefir. (Check the ingredients list to be sure it contains little or no added sugar.) Another option is making a smoothie with this kefir and delicious ripe fruit. You can even add kefir to instant pudding mixes.
2. Bumble Bee Canned Pink Salmon: You need at least two servings weekly of a fatty fish for the omega-3s, DHA and EPA, so important for heart and mental health. A recent study found that the omega-3s in fish were even better at protecting your brain than the ones in supplements. So, keep the cupboard stocked with canned salmon, which also is rich in protein ad low in calories. Use instead of tuna for sandwiches, in salads, hash, chowders, wraps, casseroles, and more.
1. YoCrunch Oreo Cookies & Cream Low-fat Yogurt and YoCrunch M&Ms: These two items are obvious no-brainers. Anything with “cookie” or “candy” in the title is junk, even if it is located in the refrigerated yogurt section of the grocery store. A dinky 4-ounce serving of the Oreo yogurt packs 120 calories and 4 teaspoons of sugar, with refined flour, sugar, and palm oil predominant in the ingredient list. The M&Ms are even worse with 130 calories and 5 teaspoons of sugar…which means 62% of the calories are coming from sugar! How do people working for these companies look themselves in the mirror?
2. Post Golden Crisp: The front panel says this cereal is “naturally sweetened.” Well, they got that half right. It is sweetened with 3 ½ teaspoons of sugar for every 3/4 cup serving, and sugar is the first ingredient, with corn syrup and honey coming in at a close #3 and #4. Nothing “natural” about that, unless you’re a hummingbird. The only other ingredients in the product are refined wheat, caramel color, and salt. Touted as the “ultimate late night snack,” you basically are just scooping teaspoons of sugar into your mouth just before hitting the sack. Nutrition-wise, you can’t get much farther from Post GrapeNuts in the cereal aisle.
This Month’s Menu Ideas:
Put know how into practice with this simple, nutritious meal plan. Eliminate the snacks if you want to cut additional calories. And, with all the menus in my newsletter, feel free to tweak to your food preferences and choices.
Scrambled eggs made with 2/3 cup liquid egg substitute. (Spray pan with cooking spray)
1 slice whole wheat toast topped with 1 tablespoon apple butter
2 medium tomatoes, sliced
1 cup grapefruit juice
Coffee or tea
1 ounce nuts w/ 2 tablespoons craisins
6 ounces plain, nonfat yogurt topped with 1 /2 cup blueberries
2 cups baby spinach w/ 3 ounces canned salmon, red onion slices, and 2 tablespoons low-fat dressing
1 piece French bread
1 cup strawberries dunked in 3 tablespoons fat-free dark chocolate syrup
1 cup nonfat milk
1 serving Mango Pineapple Salsa with 1 ounce baked whole grain tortilla chips
6 ounces tomato juice
Dinner and Dessert:
2 cups chunky vegetable soup
1 slice whole wheat bread
Tossed Salad: 2 cups chopped romaine lettuce, sliced red onion, grated carrot, and 2 tablespoons salad dressing
Fruit Parfait: Layer in a parfait glass: 1 /2 cup chopped papaya, 1/3 cup fresh or thawed raspberries, 1 /2 cup low-fat, plain yogurt, topped with: 2 tablespoons light dessert topping
Nutritional Analysis for the day: 2,021 Calories; 25% fat (56 grams); 15 gram saturated fat; 2.7 grams omega-3 fats; 19% protein; 56% carbohydrate; 37 grams fiber.
What has Elizabeth been up to?
January 25th: AMNorthWest, KATU Channel 2 in Portland, Oregon. Topic: Probiotics: The Pros and Cons. http://katu.com/…/lifestyle-hea…/pros-and-cons-of-probiotics
January 27th: The Real Simple Diet: How to Eat Well in a Fast-Paced World Webinar.
February 25th: AMNorthWest, KATU Channel 2 in Portland, Oregon. Topic: Heart Healthy Foods You’ll Love
February 27th, Elizabeth is speaking at the Chicago Dental Association’s annual meeting.
March 3rd: San Diego Living (CW). Topic: Sugar Busters