How healthy is Soy?

In 1992 the soy industry was a  fringe part of the health food market that took in about 300 million. By 2007, it had grown into a 4 billion dollar giant. Since 2000, the food industry has introduced over 2700 new foods with soy as an ingredient and according to research on consumers’ attitudes toward food, 85% of American consumers perceive soy products to be healthy.  These things make soy look like a winner for both food companies and consumers, but recent research has raised some questions as to soy’s benefits and has many health and nutrition experts questioning their views on soy. So what is the truth about Soy? Is it a true health food or a creation of the food industry that should be avoided. Here is some information from recent research that may make you think twice about soy  so you can decide if it is right for you.

  • A study involving Japanese-American men showed those that ate the most tofu during midlife increased their risk of later developing Alzheimer’s disease by up to 2.4 times. When compared to men who never consume tofu, men who ate it at least twice per week had more cognitive impairment and actually had increased brain shrinkage.
  • Excessive soy ingestion might suppress thyroid function in healthy people (this can lead to a depressed metabolism and to weight gain).
  • Soy phytoestrogens can disrupt endocrine function and may contribute to infertility. Some studies show men have a decreased sperm count from continued soy consumption.
  • Women who consumed soy phytoestrogens (for up to 5 years)  had an increased occurrence of endometrial hyperplasia.
  • Men who consumed large amounts of soy had higher rates of stomach cancer. Both men and women who consumed lots of soy had more colorectal cancer.
  • Infants who drank soy milk and consumed soy products were nearly three times as likely to develop  peanut allergies later in life.

A great link to these peer reviewed studies and many more can be found athttp://www.soyonlineservice.co.nz/

Which ones are unhealthy?

The unhealthy forms of soy are actually the ones that are most commonly found on the market today. Soy tofu, soy milk, soy protein and soy oil (commonly labeled as “vegetable oil”) all have negative health aspects and should be avoided. Modern food processing techniques are a major reason why these forms of soy are so unhealthy.

Is any form of soy healthy?

Fermented forms of soy including natto, tempeh, miso and soy sauce are actually healthy for you since the fermentation process negates many of the unhealthy aspects of soy. Traditional processing techniques of soy took months if not years to accomplish, not like many foods today which are processed very quickly using methods that strip nutrients or use unhealthy chemicals.

I don’t need to worry about soy, I don’t eat tofu or drink soy milk, right?

Think again, soy is found in the majority of food products in the supermarket including crackers, packaged foods, conditments, and many more. Usually it is found as soy protein isolate or soy oil (sometimes labeled as simply vegetable oil) in these foods.

Why do so many Americans believe soy is a health food and if soy is not healthy for us, why have we been lead to believe it is. Those are questions beyond the scope of this article and are dealt with in amazing depth in Dr. Kaayla Daniel’s excellent book The Whole Soy Story or her website www.thewholesoystory.com Two other great sites for information on soy are www.mercola.com and www.westonaprice.org/soy-alert.

Easy Ways to Improve your Sleep

Restful sleep is essential for not only optimal mental functioning (concentration, memory, etc) but also for ideal hormonal balance. Numerous studies have linked the lack of sleep to increased rates of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cancer  (see our post on “Sleep and Your Health” ). If you are having trouble  falling asleep, waking up tired, or dragging through your day, below are some fairly simple ways you can improve the quality of your sleep.
  • Avoid snacks before bedtime, especially processed grains and sugars. These late night snacks will raise blood sugar and inhibit restful sleep. Later, when blood sugar drops too low, you might wake up and have trouble falling back asleep.
  • Sleep in complete darkness or as close to darkness as possible. The smallest amount of light in the room can disrupt your circadian rhythm and your pineal gland’s production of melatonin and serotonin. If you get up in the middle of the night to use the restroom, make sure not to use a bright light.
  • Avoid using the computer or watching TV right before bed. Even better, get the TV out of the bedroom. If your sleep routine involves watching TV to induce sleep, you are not sleeping as soundly as you could. Leave your bed for two things, sleep and well….you know. If you are always watching TV and/or on your laptop working in bed or surfing the web your body will associate your bed with those activities and it will be harder to get restful sleep.
  • Follow your body’s natural sleep rhythms. Try to get into bed with the lights out by 10pm and wake around 6am. Due to your body’s hormonal cycles, the two hours of sleep before midnight are important for helping you wake feeling completely rested.
  • Wear socks to bed. The feet have poor circulation and can get cold before the rest of the body. A recent study has shown that wearing socks can reduce your chance of waking.
  • Remove the clock from your view. Being able to see the clock can create more stress if you are having any trouble getting quality rest.
  • Establish a bed routine. Try to “wind-down” before bed time by turning off TVs and computers, as well as putting away work at least one hour before your scheduled bed time. Use this time to relax and dim the lights to calm your body and prepare for sleep.
  • If you are hungry and must eat something (see the first tip above), eat a high-protein snack with a small piece of fruit before bedtime. The protein can provide the L-trytophan (an amino acid) needed to produce melatonin and serotonin. The small piece of fruit will help the trytophan cross the blood-brain barrier.

I have seen many clients make significant strides in their health and weight loss goals by making small changes in their sleeping routines. Give some of these tips a try and see how much better you feel after getting the sleep you really need.

What you should know about Carbohydrates

Much like dietary fats, carbohydrates have gone from the center of America’s dietary recommendations to the root of all dietary evils.  Advice as to the amount of carbs you should have in your diet varies greatly depending on which expert you ask or which hot new diet trend is selling the most books. So what is the truth about carbs and what types should you be consuming in your diet? In this article we will give you some quick and useful information about carbs so you can make better choices when you shop.

Along with fat and protein, carbohydrates are one of the three main macronutrients. Carbs have been traditionally classified as either simple sugars (table sugar, maple sugar, fruit juices, etc) or complex carbohydrates (vegetables, whole grain pastas and breads, oatmeal, legumes, etc). Simple sugars contain very few essential vitamins and minerals and are broken down very quickly by the body, which results in a rapid rise in blood glucose. When blood glucose rises rapidly, your pancreas will produce insulin to help remove the excess sugar from the bloodstream. Insulin has numerous roles in the body, but when it comes to excess sugar in the diet, insulin’s job is to store that sugar as FAT. If insulin levels are constantly high from eating too much sugar you will have an extremely hard time burning body fat.

One of the best ways to find carbohydrates that do not raise blood sugar (and therefore insulin levels) too much is to use the glycemic index. Although it does have a few drawbacks, the glycemic index gives a good indicator of how high blood sugar levels will rise after eating specific foods. Here is a list of some various vegetables and fruits and their glycemic index rankings.

Low Glycemic Index (under 20)

  • Fruits: cantaloupe
  • Vegetables: spinach, celery, cucumber, broccoli, asparagus, cabbage, cauliflower

Medium Glycemic Index (20-60)

  • Fruits: bananas, oranges, peaches, apples, strawberries, plums, grapefruit, tomatoes
  • Vegetables: Brussels sprouts, onion, peas, string beans, peppers, greens

High Glycemic Index (60-100+)

  • Fruits:  any dried fruit, pears, pineapple, mango, grapes
  • Vegetables: carrots, corn, potato, sweet potato, squash

Just because you may see some of your favorite fruits and vegetables under the “high glycemic index” list, it doesn’t mean you can’t eat them any more. Many of these foods can be high in vitamins and minerals. But if you have weight loss as a goal and you are a big fan of one of these foods, you might want to cut back a little on those items since the end result of those foods can be higher blood sugar. The first thing you should absolutely eliminate from your diet are the highly processed, sugar laden, nutrient deficient foods that are broken down quickly and then signal your body tostore them as fat (sweets, cakes, pastries, sodas, etc).  Look at the ingredients on the foods you buy for any words that ends in “-ose”, such as sucrose (table sugar), fructose (fruit sugar), since these are all sugars.

If you do consume a form of sugar, make sure to have it with a healthy protein or fat. This will slow down its break down by the body and minimize the rise of insulin.

The take home advice on carbs is similar to that regarding fats; avoid many of the man made carbs (processed foods, sweets, pastries, sodas, white bread) and choose the natural ones (lower sugar fruits and vegetables). If you are trying to lose weight, you might want to cut back on some of the higher gycemic carbs (corn, potatoes, dried fruits, etc). Try to vary your sources of carbohydrates by trying new vegetables and emphasize the fruits and vegetables that are lower on the glycemic index like spinach, many of the leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage. Remember carbs are not the enemy, just do your best to avoid sugars and foods that break down too quickly and raise your blood sugar.

 

Food Additives. What is in your food?

 

Food additives are added to food to increase the food’s shelf life and also to  enhance the taste and texture of food. Most often this is to compensate for things that have been lost or changed in the processing of that food.

At least one hundred new synthetic additives are added to the food supply each year. Ingredient companies sell $4 billion worth of additives to the food  processing  industry every single year.

Of the more than 2000 chemicals used in various combinations to produce specific flavors, few have been researched or tested to determine effects of health, much less the possible synergistic effects inside the human body.

One commonly used food additive MSG, or monosodium glutamate, is often found in fast food, potato chips, soft drinks, frozen and canned  foods and diet foods.

  • Some animal studies have linked MSG with brain lesions, retinal degeneration and obesity.
  • MSG is often present in foods labeled as “MSG free”, usually    disguised as another ingredient such as hydrolyzed vegetable   protein, yeast extract, and textured protein among others.
  • Many vegetarian foods including meatless hamburgers, bacon, and others contain MSG. Many soy products contain MSG as it is formed during processing.
  • According to Russell Blaylock, M.D, a neurosurgeon and expert on the human brain and nervous system, both glutamate (from MSG) and aspartame (artificial sweetener) excite neurons in the brain until these cells degenerate and die. He also states that chemical additives can also act as neurological time bombs and accumulate over a lifetime until some neurodegenerative diseases are triggered (Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s).
  • You can find more information on many of these potentially harmful food additives in Blaylock’s 1997 book, Excitotoxins, The Taste that Kills.

Read Labels!!! Look at the foods you now eat and see how many of the   ingredients you know or can even pronounce. Remember, the more the food is removed from it’s natural state, the more it has been processed and it is likely that it will be less nutritious for you.