view of what determines a life span or how a person ages has swung back and
forth. A few decades ago it was all about what we eat and environmental issues.
Then the view switched to genes, the idea that you either inherit the
right combination of genes that will let you eat fatty steaks and smoke a pack
a day and live to be 100 or you do not.
In more cases than not when a
patient consults a health practitioner with some or other health issue he will
mention an ancestor or two who suffered from this same complaint and so he
pronounces: “I have inherited this disease”. And this is how it has been for a
long time now. By keeping us focussed on the all-importance of genes
themselves, the message conveyed to us is one of a basically predetermined
helplessness, except through the possibilities afforded us by conventional
medicines and modern medical technology.
Well you’ll be glad to know that this is all poppycock! It is now believed there is no drug that can regulate genetic expression better or more powerfully than your diet can. Enter the field of Nutrigenomics – the study of how different foods and their constituents can interact with specific genes to increase or lessen the risk of common chronic diseases. It is believed we “actually control anywhere from 80 to 97% of our own genetic expression with respect to potential disease processes and even longevity.
Genes are turned on and off by regulatory
genes and regulatory genes are controlled mainly by nutrients. So it is not the genes themselves that predispose us to
disease or determine how long we will live but rather those things within our
diet and environment that can act upon our genes. Although environmental
chemical exposure certainly plays a role, foods fundamentally serve as our
basic genetic instruction and guidance information. The lesson we learn from this: Nutrients can
in fact modify human physiology which means to a great extent we are in control
of our destiny. The genes you inherited are no longer your life sentence.
This goes along with what I’ve been saying
for years to those who blame their lousy inherited genes: “With all due respect it is more likely to be
the kinds of food and the methods of cooking that have been passed down from generation
So forget the past, watch what you put into your body and indulge in moderate exercise, so that you don’t give your “lousy inherited genes” the opportunity to express themselves. Resolve to, from now on, see them simply as genetic “tendencies” not genetic certainties. Be the one telling your genes how long you will live – not the other way round. It is never too late to take control of your destiny.
Have you had your broccoli today? If not, then you have missed out on a healthy dose of a long list of nutrients such as vitamins C, K, A, B and D, folate, manganese, calcium, magnesium and fibre. Although the health benefits of all the cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and kale are well documented, it is broccoli that is receiving the most attention in research circles these days. It is now undisputed that broccoli contains anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and pro-detoxification components making it a unique food in terms of cancer prevention.
Antioxidants and anticancer
agents are continually being isolated from broccoli and its sprouts, making it
the most researched vegetable in the past 20 years. The antioxidant benefits of
broccoli can be attributed mainly to the high vitamin C content enhanced by
significant amounts of flavonoids and carotenoids. The anti-inflammatory
components are its omega-3 content in the form of alpha linolenic acid and a
flavonol called kaempferol.
The ability of broccoli to enhance detoxification in
our bodies thus ridding us of harmful substances that threaten our cells is due
to a family of potent phytochemicals called isothiocyanates (ITCs) made from
the glucosinolates in broccoli. Two of these ITCs, namely sulforaphane and Indole-3-Carbinol, also
called I3C, are at the centre of most of
the research being done pointing towards broccoli or broccoli sprouts being
protective against most cancers in humans. Researchers believe that ITCs in
broccoli spark hundreds of genetic changes, activating some genes that fight
cancer and switching off others that fuel tumours.
A research group at the Institute of Food Research led by Professor Richard
Mithen has provided an explanation of how eating
broccoli might reduce prostate cancer risk. For the study1, men who
were at risk of developing prostate cancer ate either 400g of broccoli or 400g of peas per week in addition to their normal
diet over 12 months. Tissue samples were taken from their prostate gland before
the start of the trial and after 6 and 12 months, and the expression of every
gene measured using Affymetrix microarray technology. It was found that there
were more changes in gene expression in men who were on the broccoli-rich diet
than on the pea diet, and these changes may be associated with the reduction in
the risk of developing cancer, that has been reported in epidemiological
studies. 400g a week equates to a very manageable 10 spears of broccoli. More
benefit and protection could be derived in men by eating two cups of broccoli a
And in women
There’s good news for women
too: In research conducted at the University of Michigan,
sulforaphane was demonstrated to target cancer stem cells in cell cultures and
in mice. Cancer stem cells, which are not destroyed by chemotherapy, are
believed to be the reason breast cancer can recur, grow and spread. Researchers
injected varying concentrations of sulforaphane derived from broccoli extract
into mice implanted with breast tumours. This resulted in a substantial
reduction in cancer stem cells in these tumours. Additionally, cancer cells
derived from animals that received sulforaphane that were reimplanted into
other mice failed to form tumours. Tests in cultured human breast cancer cells
showed a similar reduction in cancer stem cells. This shows the potential of
sulforaphane to prevent or treat cancer by targeting the critical cancer stem
broccoli extracts against cervical cancer has been extremely promising as well. In one double-blind
placebo controlled trial using a daily dose of I3C, one-half of women with
biopsy-proven early stage cervical cancer had complete regression of their cancer where none in the control group did3. In addition, a study done on mice suggests that adding the chemo
protective agents to the maternal diet during pregnancy and nursing may just
reduce the incidence of cancers in their offspring 4.
But warding off
cancer is not all that broccoli is good for. Researchers from Johns Hopkins
University have found
that eating just a few ounces of broccoli each day may significantly reduce a
person’s risk of stomach ulcers. The risk of stomach ulcers as well as stomach cancer
is significantly increased by the presence of the Helicobacter pylori bacterium
which causes chronic inflammation of the stomach lining. A reliable marker of
infection is a chemical called HpSA found in the stool. In this study5, 50 people in Japan
were assigned to eat either 2.5 ounces of broccoli sprouts or 2.5 ounces of
alfalfa sprouts each day for two months. Alfalfa is not a cruciferous vegetable
and contains no sulforaphane. Consumption of alfalfa sprouts had no effect on
HpSA levels; however among those who ate broccoli sprouts, HpSA levels
decreased 40 percent by the end of the experiment. Participants were then told
to stop eating broccoli sprouts. After another two months, HpSA levels had
returned to pre-study levels. This implies we need to eat broccoli and keep on
eating it! The researchers also found that inflammation levels of the stomach
were reduced in those eating broccoli and hence broccoli raw and cooked can be
included in the diet of ulcer and gastritis sufferers to prevent inflammation
of the stomach lining progressing into serious illness.
Although much of the
research has been done using extracts from broccoli sprouts, normal broccoli
also contains these protective phytochemicals, just in lesser quantities, so
you need to eat more of it.
The best ways to eat broccoli:
If you have only experienced overcooked, soggy, khaki-green broccoli then this is probably not your favourite vegetable. However your whole perception of this natural wonder may change with a better method of preparation. Start with fresh broccoli and wash it well to remove traces of pesticides. Steam the spears in unsalted water for just 3-4 minutes so that they’re bright green and still crisp. Shake the water out of each spear. Eat plain or sprinkle with a little olive oil and lemon juice. Then there are also all delicious broccoli soups one could make. See recipe below. Of course juiced and raw broccoli (shredded in a coleslaw is good) would ensure that none of the nutrients are lost but be sure to chew raw broccoli very well to derive all the benefits.
So have you had your broccoli today?
Broccoli and Blue Cheese Soup
Ingredients: 1 Tbsp Olive Oil 1 Onion, peeled and chopped 2 cloves Garlic, crushed 2 heads Broccoli, trimmed and cut into florets 4 cups Vegetable or Chicken stock ½ cup Cream 50g Blue Cheese, crumbled salt and pepper to taste freshly grated nutmeg 25g Blue Cheese, extra
Method: Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 4-5 minutes, or until golden. Add the broccoli and stock to the pan. Cover and bring the soup to the boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until the broccoli is tender. Pour the soup into your blender and whizz until it is smooth. Stir in the cream and blue cheese. Season to taste with the salt and pepper.Ladle the soup into bowls, crumble over the extra blue cheese and sprinkle grated nutmeg.
Traka M, Gasper
AV, Melchini A, Bacon JR, Needs PW, et al.
Broccoli Consumption Interacts
with GSTM1 to Perturb Oncogenic Signalling Pathways in the Prostate. PLoS One, 3(7): e2568 DOI:
Li Y, Zhang T, et
al. Sulforaphane, a dietary component of broccoli/broccoli sprouts, inhibits
breast cancer stem cells. Clin Cancer Res.
2010 May 1;16(9):2580-90. Epub 2010 Apr 13.
Bell MC, Crowley-Nowick P, et
al Placebo-Controlled Trial of
Indole-3-Carbinol in the Treatment of CIN. Gynecologic Oncology Volume
78, Issue 2, August 2000, Pages 123–129
Yu Z, Mahadevan B, et al.
Indole-3-carbinol in the maternal diet provides chemoprotection for the fetus
against transplacental carcinogenesis by the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon
2006 Oct;27(10):2116-23. Epub 2006 May 16.
A, Fahey JW, et al. Dietary Sulforaphane-Rich Broccoli Sprouts Reduce
Colonization and Attenuate Gastritis in Helicobacter pylori-Infected Mice and
Humans. Cancer Prevention Research, 2009; 2 (4): 353
If you grew up on a farm, you will be familiar with “amasi” or sour milk and its health benefits, especially its probiotic (beneficial bacteria) content. But hold onto your hat, because this new kid on the block is sour milk with a difference. Called kefir (pronounced kuh-feer) , its benefits far outweigh any other probiotic foods such as amasi or yoghurt.
The word “kefir”
is derived from the Turkish word “keif”, which literally translates to the “good
feeling” one has after drinking it. (No it is not alcoholic). Kefir originated thousands
of years ago amongst the tribes of the Caucasus Mountains of the former USSR and for
centuries traditional cultures have attributed healing powers to this beverage
but it is only recently that much scientific research has determined its true benefits.
What is Kefir?
Kefir is the fermented milk beverage that results from the fermentation activity of bacteria and yeast that make up the “grains” used to culture the milk (not actual grains, but a grain-like matrix of proteins, lipids, and sugars that feed the microbes in the milk). If you have made amasi you will know how to make kefir.
It can be made from the milk of any ruminant animal – cow, goat, or sheep. Simply add milk to the grains (raw is ideal however pasteurised also fine), strain after 1-3 days, and repeat the process. Kefir, the beverage, is slightly sour and becomes more so the longer you leave it.
Once you have kefir grains you have them for life and when they multiply you can share with friends.
What are the health benefits?
containing highly beneficial bacteria and yeasts, kefir is a rich source of
many different vitamins, minerals and essential amino acids that promote
healing and repair, as well as general health maintenance.
By providing the
gut with many types of beneficial microbiota, kefir helps in preventing
diarrhea or reducing its duration. This includes conditions like infant’s
diarrhea, colitis, IBS, Crohn’s disease and gastroenteritis. Kefir consumption can
also alleviate chronic constipation and re-establish intestinal microflora
after a course of antibiotics. It has also shown efficacy against Helicobacter
pylori associated with peptic ulcers, gastritis, and gastric cancer.
Kefir is a
great source of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and vitamin K2, hence highly
beneficial to bone health.
consumption has been found to be effective in reducing the symptoms of food
allergies, because it has the ability to reduce intestinal permeation of food
antigens, whilst suppressing IgE and IgG1 responses. Even those with lactose
intolerance may find they can drink kefir as the lactic acid bacteria improve
lactose digestion as well as increase immune function.
has also demonstrated that kefir may have an anti-tumour effect, inhibiting
tumour growth, and suggesting that it may play a role in cancer prevention.
Studies have also concluded
that kefir could play a role in the prevention of certain heart diseases due to
its anti-inflammatory properties. A lowering of the systolic and the diastolic
blood pressures as well as of heart rate have been recorded in hypertensive
patients. A significant lowering effect on levels of LDL cholesterol have also
It is a
good source of most B vitamins including biotin.
contains the amino acid tryptophan, making it is a great beverage to drink just
before bedtime to induce a restful sleep.
applied topically, kefir is an effective antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory
agent for improved wound healing.
Kefir can greatly contribute to your overall health and well-being and I highly recommend including this nutritious superfood in your diet.
Because kefir has become so popular of late it should not be too difficult to find someone who is able to share a few starter grains with you. Then culture your own kefir and drink it by the glass, use it in the place of yoghurt in your smoothies or to make sourdough bread or as a substitute for buttermilk in baking.
Although I am in favour of the LCHF Diet, that also goes by the names Banting, Paleo and Ketogenic Diets, and see it as a fundamentally healthy way of eating that mirrors the diet we evolved to eat and is in accordance with our innate physiology, I do harbour some reservations. This diet (which I prefer to refer to as an eating plan) in the hands of followers who have scant knowledge of nutritional needs of the body or harm that can be done by toxic chemicals, can become risky. Balancing proteins and fats with fresh fruit and vegetables and sourcing organic and grass-fed produce are fundamental to the success of this LCHF plan. I see people losing unwanted kilograms but at what cost?
Acid-alkaline balance goes
Eating only protein and fat and totally avoiding vegetables – any man’s dream! I hear of people eating just eggs, bacon and more bacon for breakfast. Some may even have a 400g steak for breakfast – nothing else! So what’s the problem with this? A huge one: No acid-alkaline balance. Vegetables and fruits are alkaline-forming and meat, dairy and fats are acid-forming. You need a balance or else disease will prevail. Cancer thrives in an acidic environment. High protein diets can lead to acidosis setting the stage for osteoporosis, hormonal imbalances and gut dysbiosis and can potentially lead to kidney stones, arthritis and gout.
If you’re not eating enough fruits and vegetables you’re missing out on many essential nutrients and anti-oxidants. Without them you are putting yourself at risk of vitamin and mineral deficiencies as well as oxidised or rancid cholesterol which can result in arterial plaque and inflammation. By not following the LCHF diet correctly you are losing out on potential good health and vitality.
Exposure to more toxins
Processed meats such as bacon are known to be potentially carcinogenic (cancer-forming) due to the nitrosamines formed during frying. Even non-processed meats, if from commercial sources and not from grass-fed animals, are full of toxins such as xenoestogens, antibiotics and growth hormones. Remember too that toxins are stored mainly in fat cells so the more fat you are eating from feedlot animals, and not those reared on grass, the more toxins you are taking in.
Not all cheeses are good
Then there’s the matter of “eat all the cheese you want” claim that is bandied about by some followers who have lost the plot. There are good cheeses and bad and the bad ones from feedlot animals are just as high in the toxins mentioned for meat. Processed cheese is also high in sodium and eating too much of it can result in magnesium and potassium imbalances, never mind that cheese is also highly mucous-forming and constipating!
Vitamin B deficiency
Finally, this diet is also devoid of all grains so if you’re not eating organ meats, nuts and seeds then watch out for vitamin B deficiencies including biotin. If hair-loss occurs or your stress levels rise, a vitamin B supplement would be advisable. Also have your homocysteine levels checked. High levels can cause hardening of the arteries and to reduce these levels you need most of the B vitamins which are abundant in whole grains, which you are no longer eating!
LCHF not working so well for you?
Perhaps you are one of the unlucky ones for whom this eating plan does not result in weight-loss but rather makes you feel unwell. There is a very probable reason for this: As mentioned before, toxins are stored in fat cells, hence overweight people tend to carry more toxins because there is more “space” so to say. Fat is much more difficult to move in a toxic body so it is essential to start your weight-loss program with a detoxification program that includes a digestive tract and lymphatic system cleanse and liver support. Continue with this throughout your weight-loss program so that the toxins move out and don’t get stuck.
LCHF no longer working so well for you?
Perhaps you found that you were but are no longer losing weight on this diet? Could it be that you are eating too much protein? Most people don’t realise that a significant percentage of excess protein will ultimately be converted to sugar and stored as fat. You simply have to stick to the rules: protein portions should be no bigger than the area and thickness of the palm of you hand, minus fingers. And you simply have to include 5-7 cups of fresh vegetables and fruits daily to benefit from this type of eating plan. Without the fibre provided by these foods a clogged digestive system will be the order of the day. These foods are also your anti-oxidants, neutralising free radicals, keeping you healthy and slowing down ageing.
On the positive side
My intention is not to throw cold water on an eating plan that is working for you, all I ask is that you do not compromise your health for the sake of weight-loss. If followed correctly the LCHF diet can be very beneficial for most people as an every day eating plan.
The best news is that two positives have come out of everyone “banting” these days: the harmful refined carbs like sugar and flour are out and secondly, the no-fat and low-fat myths have been busted! Cheers to that!
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