Archive for Healthy Diet

7 Immune Boosting Foods You Need This Season

The first cases of flu are already making the rounds here in Dallas, Texas. So, it’s time to remind our family and friends of the natural ways to improve the immune system, your body’s first line of defense against nasty bugs and viruses.

While the hospital and ER room are a vital resource for health emergencies, the old saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” comes to mind. We can lower our chance of ending up in the doctor’s office or emergency room with a severe cold or the flu by keeping our immune systems strong.

Here are 7 foods and herbs that deserve to take a place in your “natural” medicine cabinet.

Garlic

This is one of the most readily available immune system boosters. For centuries, garlic has been used as a natural medicine. Garlic has sulfur compounds that act as antibacterial and antiviral agents.

Garlic, when taken as a tea sweetened with honey, is an excellent treatment for respiratory infections, colds, cough, and influenza. You can sweeten “garlic tea” with real honey, which also acts a throat soother. To try this recipe, simply add one crushed glove of garlic to a cup of hot water. Squeeze in the juice of half a fresh lemon and a teaspoon of raw, unfiltered honey and your home remedy for coughs and cold is ready to drink.

If having “garlicky” breath isn’t appealing, there are also natural garlic supplements. Kyolic brand products are one of our favorites because they are “de-odorized”.

Echinacea

immune boosting tea
Echinacea is a natural flowering herb that has been used in natural medicine for centuries. Chinese herbalists often recommend this herb for its immune-boosting properties. At the first signs of a cold or flu, try drinking echinacea tea.

Many herb teas will include additional immune-system boosting herbs and spices, such as licorice, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger. For best results you should continue to take echinacea tea for a few days after your recovery.

Echinacea is also available in a tincture form and in a variety of immune support supplements. Tinctures can be taken in water. Don’t be surprised if you feel a slightly unusual sensation after swallowing. This is echinacea’s trademark “tingle’.

Vitamin C

Early sailors would spend months at sea without any fresh fruit. These sailors often suffered from scurvy, a very serious nutritional deficiency caused by a lack of vitamin C. The condition left them with bleeding gums and a shortage of energy. Fortunately, most of us don’t face anything this severe, however, since our bodies are unable to produce vitamin C on their own, it’s critical we get an adequate supply through food or supplements.  Surprisingly, you don’t need to rely on citrus fruit to supply your daily serving of Vitamin C. Green and red bell peppers, broccoli and kale all contain more vitamin C per serving than an orange! By ensuring an abundant intake of vitamin C, you’re supplying your body with strong antioxidants that can strengthen your body’s natural defenses.

Yogurt and Probiotics

The bacteria located in our gut is absolutely essential for effective and healthy digestion. The good gut flora breaks down the food for assimilation into our system.

Unfortunately, even a single dose of a powerful antibiotic can kill all the bacteria in our gut, both good and bad. To ensure proper and healthy digestion, it’s important to add good probiotics to your diet.

Probiotics or live active cultures, can dramatically increase white blood cells, which are part of the immune system’s “attack team”. The white blood cells search and destroy bad bacteria and viruses.

You can get probiotics by eating a daily serving of yogurt or kefir. If you’re choosing yogurt from a grocery store, avoid those with a high amount of sugar. One of the best ways to receive a therapeutic dose of probiotics is to buy a high-quality supplement.

Green Tea

picture of immune-boosting green tea.
The benefits of green tea in protecting our bodies and boosting the immune system are well documented. Green tea contains an important contains theanine, an important amino acid helpful in fighting illness. Teas are also a good source of antioxidants, which are another critical component of our immune systems. One added benefit of L-theanine is its ability to calm frazzled nerves.

Protein

Protein contains zinc, which the body uses to fight off infections. Zinc is also necessary for that critical immune system agent — white blood cells.

Pharmacies and drug stores will often have an entire row reserved solely for this important mineral supplement. Even a mild zinc deficiency reduces our immune protection.

High quality protein mixes added to milk or milk substitutes can add a substantial boost to your diet. Better yet, add the protein blend to a smoothie made with fruits and vegetables. For vegetarians, look for protein powders derived from peas.

Healthy Oils

Our bodies require healthy fats to function optimally. Without getting into too many technical details, health-conscious consumers should focus on heart healthy oils, such as olive oil and coconut oil. These two oils provide excellent sources of omega 3 fats. Avoid the “cooked” oils such as canola, safflower, vegetable, etc. These oils interfere with cell metabolism of sugar compounds, which can increase your odds of contracting diabetes. Many of these oils have also been produced from genetically modified foods.

Also check out the fatty fish sources of omega-3’s, such as sardines and herring. To boost your heart health, consider supplementing your diet with a professional grade fish oil.

Summing up

As you experiment with adding these natural immune-boosting foods to your diet, remember to avoid foods that may slow down your efforts. Drinking too much alcohol, as well as a diet high-sugar diet can be very detrimental to your overall health.

Keep your immune system healthy and happy, and your body will sail through the year without a sneeze or a sniffle!

Garland chiropractor, Dr. Mixon and the staff of Texas Spine & Wellness take a holistic approach to health. In addition to the treatment of neck and back, and joint pain issues, we also offer bioidentical hormone replacement therapy and nutritional programs.  We stock a wide range of professional grade supplements at the clinic. If you would like more information about our chiropractic care or if we can help you with your nutritional needs, please give us a call at 972-840-2520.

Our Garland chiropractic office is centrally located and is easily accessible by Dallas, Richardson, Mesquite, Rowlett and Rockwall residents.

Artificial Food Colors: Pretty, But Are They Safe?

The basic definition of a food color additive is “any dye, pigment or substance which when added or applied to a food, drug or cosmetic, or to the human body, is capable (alone or through reactions with other substances) of imparting color.”

Girl holding a lollipop with artificial food colors
That’s pretty straight forward. Artificial food colors color food. However—why is coloring food important to begin with? With or without an additive color, the food to which it is applied has the same nutritional value. Well, it isn’t about nutritional value, but economic value. Foods without color simply don’t sell as well. Food companies recognized early on that food has to be appealing to look at as well as tasty, so food color additives, especially for processed foods, came into being.

As part of our healthy body focus, diet suggestions are included in our approach to individualized programs that we offer through Texas Spine & Wellness.

Let’s discuss food color additives, their place in the food chain, and how they can affect health.

The Why of Natural Food Colors

There is one word that describes what color has to do with diet (at least in terms of natural food): phytochemicals. These elements, whose only natural occurrence is in plants, provide additional health benefits past what you get from basic nutrients. And the interesting thing—some of those elements are indicated by the color of the food! The blue of a blueberry represents specific phytochemicals, and the belief is that those phytochemicals act in conjunction with the vitamins, minerals, and fiber inherent in fruits and vegetables to increase their health impact.

The Produce for Better Health Foundation (PBH) indicates that phytochemicals might perform as antioxidants, and may well work to neutralize substances that cause cancer. Just how everything works together hasn’t been determined, but it’s a good idea to incorporate a nice rainbow of foods into your diet to have a good variety of phytochemicals and nutrients.

The Why of Artificial Food Colors

Farmers markets and the produce sections of most grocery stores are picturesquely colorful with the foods they display. The kitchens of the health-minded boast some colorful edibles, as well. In fact, almost everything we eat or drink adds to the rainbow aspect of our diets.

Those health-minded folks already know that bright colored fruits and vegetables are about more than eye appeal, that they’re essential for promoting good health and lowering the risk of disease in the human body. But not all foods are colorful, especially processed foods.

picture of healthy fruits and vegetables

People don’t find gray appetizing and brown isn’t much better. Pink generally makes people think of raw meat, while bluish colors aren’t popular at all. It’s believed that these colors actually depress appetite. By enhancing the appeal of colorless or off-colored foods, artificial food color additives make processed foods a viable commodity.

Another reason for the inclusion of artificial food colors is to replace color when it’s lost due to exposure to air, light, moisture, extremes in temperature, and poor storage conditions. Sometimes there are natural variations in color and the food company wants a specific product to have a standard color. Colas are expected to be brown, and margarine yellow, and that great mint ice cream must be green. Almost all processed foods are enriched with color additives.

And it works. Studies indicate that around 90% of American food budgets go toward processed foods that, after being butchered or harvested, have been altered in some way by treatment, stripping, or refining. Many of these foods don’t appear on the “what’s healthy?” list, but if it tastes and looks good, people buy and consume it with gusto!

Unfortunate Issues of Artificial Food Colors

While natural food colors are healthy and safe, the same can’t be said of all artificial food colors. Some of the issues attributed to artificial food color include increased hyperactivity in children, the possible worsening of asthma symptoms (Yellow No. 5), and cancer in test rats (Red Dye No. 2). FD&C Yellow No. 5 and sulfating agents can cause an allergic reaction (food intolerance) in some consumers. Blue No. 1 and No. 2, red No. 40, yellow No. 6, and yellow tartrazine are common artificial food dyes that have been banned in Europe. The suspected issues: brain and behavioral issues, thyroid and adrenal cancer, and chromosomal damage.

Europeans are far more cautionary regarding the use of artificial food colors, and in the mid-2000s they urged companies to remove the color additives from food products. However, in the United States the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates all ood color additives to ensure 1) they’re safe to eat, 2) that they contain only ingredients the FDA has approved, and 3) that the additives are accurately labeled. In spite of the prevailing beliefs and standards in Europe, the FDA continues to approve the use of artificial color additives because they consider them safe as long as they are used properly. In the United States you’ll actually find these additives hidden in boxed macaroni and cheese, some sweet snacks, soda, cereal, energy drinks, and most ice cream.

Are There Alternatives to Artificial Food Colors?

It’s interesting to look at a couple of examples that show the differences between the artificialfood color additives used in the United States and the natural color choices the United Kingdom prefers.

  • Fanta orange soda:
    U.S. Red 40 and Yellow 6 dyes
    U.K. pumpkin and carrot extract
  • Kellogg’s Strawberry Nutri-Grain Bars:
    U.S. Red 40, Yellow 6, and Blue 1 dyes
    U.K. beetroot red, Annatto, and Paprika extract
  • McDonald’s Strawberry Sundaes:
    U.S. Red 40 dye
    U.K. strawberries

Of course, these aren’t the healthiest foods to consume even when natural color additives are used. However, the comparison serves to show that there are options. Unfortunately, synthesized food dyes are easier and less expensive to produce than their naturally produced alternatives, and American food companies tend to focus more on the bottom dollar than on health concerns.

The FDA uses available science to determine whether or not there is “a reasonable certainty of no harm.” A reasonable certainty is not a certainty, but that’s the level of FDA safety coverage. The main regulation the FDA has managed is that artificial food color additives should be used only at their intended level and for their intended purpose.

Where to Go from Here?

Popular foods such as Froot Loops cereal, Pop-Tarts, Cheetos, Hostess Twinkies, and numerous other snacks use artificial food dyes. It’s difficult to cut out foods you enjoy. Whatever your favorite processed foods, start by cutting back and easing them out of your diet at a pace you’re comfortable with. If you don’t want to cut them out entirely, restrict yourself to only an occasional indulgence.

Check labels carefully and when you can, find a substitute food that either doesn’t contain the color additive you’re concerned about, or which appears to at least contain less of that given color additive. Some grocery chains, including Whole Foods Market and Trader Joe’s, make it easier by refusing to sell foods with artificial coloring.

The best approach, of course, is to eat only natural, whole foods. In most cases, it’s simply suggested that you add as much of those foods to your diet as you can. Just make sure to include “rainbow” fruits and vegetables to ensure a diet that supports good health. Talk to us at Garland Chiropractic Clinic, and in conjunction with any exercise rehabilitation, massage therapy, or other chiropractic measures your health requires, we’ll help you plan the best diet possible to achieve an active and fit lifestyle.

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Want to Protect Your Heart? Eat Red Meat Like Grandpa Used To

By now, if you follow the latest diet trends you might be a little confused. What’s the best way to eat if you want to be healthy? Should you follow a low fat, high carb diet or just the opposite? Should you eat like a caveman or live on protein shakes?

If you’ve always thought that Grandpa and Grandma ate what they wanted to and seemed to do just fine — you may be right.

image of a grilled steak
Over the decades, many medical experts have led us to think that red meat, whole milk, eggs and bacon are enemies to good health and a healthy heart. But are these deeply ingrained beliefs really accurate?

It doesn’t seem so. A meta analysis (a review of research about previous research) of almost 400 studies indicate that saturated fat rich foods like beef and full fat dairy won’t increase your risk for heart disease..(1)

Another study, executed by the Department of Nutritional Sciences at Pennsylvania State University between 2007 and early 2009, showed that a daily serving (between 4 and 5.5 ounces of lean beef) actually reduced cholesterol levels when eaten alongside a healthy diet consisting of vegetables, fruit and whole grains.

Grass-fed beef delivers superior benefits

To ensure you’re getting the highest quality beef, look for grass fed and grass finished beef. The fat in cattle raised under these conditions delivers three to five times more conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a powerful fatty acid, than the CLA in grain feed cattle.

CLA is also found in raw, grass-fed dairy.

The proven benefits of conjugated linoleic acid include:

  • Improvements in long-term weight management
  • lowered inflammation within the body
  • improvements in insulin resistance
  • reduction of tumor size in patients who have cancer
  • lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels

In addition to CLA, grass feed beef has higher levels of certain vitamins including vitamin E, thiamin and riboflavin and is higher in omega 3 fatty acids.

As for whole fat dairy, a frothy glass of ice cold whole milk could also benefit your heart. That’s because the calcium in the milk helps to lower blood pressure and the vitamin K2, found in whole milk has artery protecting benefits. Organic whole milk is also rich in omega-3 fatty acids. And if you eat raw cheese, you’ll tap into even more of the benefits of conjugated linoleic acid.

So back to Grandma’s and Grandpa’s diet. (For you twenty and thirty year olds, you may need to think back one more generation.) If you’re like me, you may remember a relative who lived to a ripe old age. In my case, it was my grandmother, who lived to be one month shy of 98. She was very healthy, never fussed over her cholesterol levels and ate what she wanted to.

So what was the difference with this generation of healthy 70, 80 and 90 year olds? The answer seems pretty simple.

Your Nana and PawPaw, and my grandmother, ate lots of home cooked food, including meats, vegetables and whole grains. My grandmother started off each morning with yogurt and fresh fruit.

What they didn’t do was eat a shopping carts worth of highly processed foods like potato chips and crackers each week. Neither did they supplement their daily meals with McDonalds and Taco Bell. And if you were to monitor their sugar consumption, you’d probably find that they drank less soda pop and ate fewer desserts.

Vegetables were a stable of their diet. And exercise was a natural part of their daily routines, whether it took the form of gardening, raking leaves or walking to the store.

We know that it’s hard to let go of long held beliefs, so If you’re still afraid that a steak might not be good for you, then follow the American Heart Association recommendations — 6 ounces of lean meat a day. Lean cuts include chuck, loin, sirloin or round. In the context of healthy eating, there’s nothing wrong with adding red meat and whole fat dairy in moderation to your diet.

So, if you’re craving a succulent grilled steak, go fire up the grill. And if you’re accompanying that steak with a baked potato you might try adding some grated raw milk cheddar cheese to the top.

Go ahead, live a little! You deserve it.