Tag Archives: Health

Fast Facts on Fats

Q: There are so many types of cooking oil on the market. Which one should I use?

A: The healthiest oils are those with the least amount of saturated fat. Choose canola oil, corn oil, olive oil, safflower oil, sesame oil, soybean oil and sunflower oil. These varieties are higher in mono- and polyunsaturated fats, which are heart healthy, because they are able to lower total cholesterol and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol if used in place of other fats. No matter which oil you pick, however, it’s important to use it sparingly. Each tablespoon of a vegetable-based oil packs 120 calories! Stay away from coconut oil, palm oil and palm kernel oil – these three oils are high in saturated fat, which raises your risk for heart disease.

Here’s how to choose among some of the “healthier” oil options:

Canola oil: Has the least amount of saturated fat (only 7%)! Great for sautéing, stir frying, baking and salad dressings. Canola oil does not give off a strong flavor and can be used over high-heat.

Olive oil: Contains a large amount of good, monounsaturated fat. Use it for dressings, marinades, roasting, grilling and low-heat cooking. Olive oil will start to break down at very high temperatures.

Vegetable oil: This oil is usually made from soybeans. It is an all-purpose oil that can be used for baking, sautéing and pan frying. Since vegetable oil has a relatively high saturated fat content, canola oil is a healthier choice.

Corn oil: With about 13% saturated fat, corn oil is not the best option. It can be used for deep frying, stir-frying, sautéing and baking, because of a very high tolerance to heat.

Peanut oil: While it is often used in yummy Asian-inspired stir fry dishes, peanut oil has a very high saturated fat content (about 18%)! This makes it costly to your cardiovascular health.

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Filed under Fats & Oils, Heart Healthy Choices, Meal Tips

Grapefruit-Medication Interactions

Q: I heard grapefruit interacts with certain medications. Is this true?

A: Yes. Unlike other citrus fruits, grapefruit interferes with the metabolism of a few dozen drugs (see partial list below). A chemical component within the fruit prohibits a certain digestive enzyme in the body from breaking down these medications. By continuing to consume grapefruit or grapefruit juice, you decrease the efficacy of the medication you’re on, and the drug itself can build up to dangerously high levels in the blood. Grapefruit should be fully avoided, as its effects wear off very slowly and are still evident 24 hours after consumption. Separating medicine and grapefruit by several hours will not prevent the drug-nutrient interaction. Having grapefruit once accidentally, most likely, will do no harm, but it’s advisable to switch to another type of fruit or fruit juice. The National Institutes of Health recommends not making any sudden diet changes, however, if you’ve always taken your medication with grapefruit. Speak to your doctor first, as your body may be accustomed to a certain level of the drug in your blood.

Avoid grapefruit and grapefruit products when taking the following:

  • The high blood pressure/angina drugs Plendil and Procardia/Adalat
  • The cholesterol-lowering agents Zocor, Lipitor and Mevacor
  • The immunosuppressant medications Sandimmune and Rapamune
  • The anti-anxiety/anti-insomnia drugs Valium, Halcion and Versed
  • The neurological medications BuSpar, Zoloft and Tegretol

Note: This is not a complete list of medications that interact with grapefruit. Always check with your physician and/or pharmacist.

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Filed under Fruits and Vegetables, Medical Conditions

How many supplements do you take?

Q: I take a lot of vitamin and herbal supplements? Is that safe?

A: The sale of nutrient supplements is a billion dollar a year business. But whether you’re looking to ward off cancer, lose weight or make up for poor eating habits, you must be careful when taking supplements! In 1994, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration revised government regulation of dietary supplements, which include vitamins, minerals, amino acids, herbs, enzymes and many other substances. The new law determined that it is up to the manufacturer of the supplement to make sure that the product is safe, the label claims are substantiated by solid evidence and that the supplement’s content matches ingredients declared on the packaging. In short, supplements do not need approval from the FDA prior to marketing, nor does the FDA analyze the composition of these products. Manufacturers are required to investigate and alert the FDA of any reports of adverse health events associated with the product.

Supplements are indicated for certain groups of people: people with diagnosed nutrient deficiencies, pregnant women, infants, those who are lactose intolerant, perpetual dieters, those addicted to drugs or alcohol, strict vegetarians, and those suffering or recovering from illness, surgery or injury. While these may be valid reasons to be taking supplements, you should always notify your doctor of any over-the-counter products you’re consuming.

Taking supplements increases your risk of toxicities. High potency single nutrient supplements can cause accidental poisoning that can result in liver damage, shock and possible death. High doses can be very dangerous and labels can sometimes lure you with misleading or unproven claims. Certain nutrients, such as the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, can build up in your system over time. In fact, intakes of vitamin A just twice the recommended amount, taken over a few years, are associated with osteoporosis, while daily supplements of beta-carotene may increase lung cancer risk in smokers.  Always adhere to government-set tolerable upper intake levels, unless your doctor suggests otherwise. (Click here for detailed information on daily recommendations and upper limits for vitamins and minerals, divided by age and gender.)

Supplements can also affect the absorption and metabolism of medicines you take and nutrients in the food you eat. For example, when taken in a pure form, zinc interferes with copper and calcium absorption and calcium hinders magnesium and iron absorption. In addition, the herbal product St. John’s Wort can severely limit the effectiveness of AIDS medications and is not recommended when simultaneously taking an antidepressant from the SSRI family. Clearly, taking multiple over-the-counter supplements increases your chance for harmful food-drug and drug-drug interactions.

My best advice is to try and get all your nutrients from food! Taking a multivitamin can help “cover your bases,” but any amount of certain vitamins or minerals consumed in excess of what your body needs will generally be excreted. While a banana and a tablet may both contain potassium, the fruit provides a balanced assortment of nutrients, fiber and phytochemicals (beneficial, active plant compounds) that can temper the effects of the mineral.

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Combating cold sores

Q: Can certain foods exacerbate cold sores?

 

A: Cold sores, or fever blisters, are caused by the herpes simplex virus. While the virus cannot be cured, cold sores can be treated. Along with avoiding triggers, such as excessive sun exposure, stress and colds, there is some evidence that nutrition plays a role in cold sore prevention.

Studies have shown that topical zinc oxide cream shortens the duration of a herpes outbreak, while oral zinc tablets are associated with reduced frequency and duration of flare-ups. In addition, lemon balm may speed up the healing process, but has no impact on prevention. 

Lysine and arginine are amino acids – building blocks of proteins – that have been implicated in cold sore management. Lysine has been shown to inhibit normal replication of the virus, thereby lessening outbreak duration, while arginine seems to promote growth of the virus.   Thirty years ago, a multi-centered study gave patients 1,200mg daily oral lysine doses, which appeared to accelerate recovery from infection and suppress recurrence of outbreaks (Griffith et al., 1978). It is difficult, however, to make a recommendation for daily lysine supplementation, because more recent studies have supplied participants with anywhere from 500 to 3,000mg lysine per day and long-term research is inconclusive.

In short, there does seem to be some consensus that diets high in lysine and low in arginine are beneficial for those who suffer from cold sores. See below for a list of potentially beneficial foods and a list of foods to avoid. If you find that limiting certain foods makes no impact on your cold sore symptoms, add those items back into your diet! Very restrictive diets may not supply adequate amounts of certain necessary nutrients. 

Beneficial: Foods high in lysine & low in arginine

Dairy (e.g. milk, cheese, yogurt)

Meat, chicken, fish

Mango, apricots, pears, apples, figs

Beets

Papaya

Avocado

Tomato, tomato juice, tomato paste

 

Foods to avoid: High in arginine & low in lysine

Coconut

Grape juice, orange juice

Rice

Peanut butter

Chocolate

Caffeine

Puffed wheat, corn, rice and oats

Nuts

Onions

Oatmeal

Plantains

Yams

Tahini

Lastly, in the midst of an outbreak, it may be best to avoid acidic foods, such as soda, citrus fruits, tomatoes, vinegar and alcohol, which may exacerbate the blisters.

For additional food information click here.

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