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Beverage Recipe of the week

I know that it has been a while since I have posted a shake of the week recipe so I thought that I would share something along similar lines that I have been enjoying for the last few weeks. Don’t fret though, I will get back to shake recipes once I’ve finished the protein I bought…it isn’t very good and I do anything that I can to cover the terrible terrible taste.

This drink is my attempt at stealing recreating a drink sold by Bragg Foods. It is an apple/ginger spice drink and I love how it tastes and the caffeine free energy that it gives me. It involves apple cider vinegar which I have written about before, if you didn’t get a chance to read that, check it out here

. If the benefits of ACV alone aren’t enough to sway you, here’s a link to an article about apple (peels) preventing muscle atrophy. I can’t help but think that you can get a similar benefit for the vinegar.

In addition to the nutritional powerhouse that is ACV, you’ve got some ginger which is great for your stomach. I base that, of course, on nothing other than grandma wisdom which I tend to think is pretty good. Cinnamon is optional but if you throw that in there you get a little boost of blood sugar/glucose metabolism control.

RECIPE:

  • Clean water
  • Apple Cider Vinegar – 1 tablespoon per 12 ounces of water (more or less depending on how strong you like it but I find this to be just about right)
  • 1/2 tsp ginger powder per 12 ounces (I love ginger so feel free to use a bit less but, again, I think this is just right)
  • Stevia to taste…3 scoops (I use the Trader Joe’s 100% pure organic Stevia extract and it’s pretty sweet. Every Stevia brand seems to be different so you may need to play around with this a bit)
  • OPTIONAL: Cinnamon…about 1/4 tsp goes well.

Boom. Simple, tasty, nutritious and a perfect pick me up for any time of the day.

Folk science

This will hopefully be the first of a series of posts on folk medicine vs. science. It will not be a debate on which is better. Rather, it will be an examination of all available science on the efficacy of folk remedies. Hopefully everyone will find this as interesting as I do.

To start things off we are going to examine the basis for use of the Gaea of the alternative medicine movement:

Apple Cider Vinegar

First her, then ACV, then all that other stuff about titans and eating children

What we have in apple cider vinegar is perhaps, at least according to all of the folklore out there, the greatest medicine known throughout the world. It’s purported to affect everything from arthritis and acne to sore throats and strength endurance. It can even get rid of your dogs flees. I have compiled a fairly extensive list from many different sources on some of the most common benefits to ACV consumption:

  • chronic fatigue syndrome
  • diabetes
  • flu
  • heartburn
  • Reduce sinus infections and sore throats
  • Balance high cholesterol
  • Cure skin conditions such as acne
  • Protect against food poisoning
  • Fight allergies in both humans and animals
  • Prevent muscle fatigue after exercise
  • Strengthen the immune system
  • Increase stamina
  • Increase metabolism which promotes weight loss
  • Improve digestion and cure constipation
  • Alleviate symptoms of arthritis and gout
  • Prevents bladder stones and urinary tract infections

These are the more commonly held conditions that benefit and there are literally thousands of anecdotal accounts of to read online that agree.

The available science doesn’t prove most of these benefits, nor, however, does it disprove them. In fact, there is a woeful lack of any experimental data on this centuries old folk remedy that, I believe, is tantamount to negligence on the scientific community.  Anything that has a following as strong, and old, as ACV should be studied but the point of this blog isn’t to debate the politics of science research so I won’t digress further.

Despite this, I have found a few studies that researched ACV.

  1. According to this study, where you can only read the abstract, taking ACV slowed gastric emptying and lowered glucose and insulin levels after eating vs. not taking it. This study inadvertently lent credit to the weight loss benefits of ACV. By keeping insulin levels in check, fat accumulation is kept in check to a small degree. Combine this with slower rates of gastric emptying, which means you feel full for longer and eat less, and you have a potent combination for fat loss or, at the very least, fat prevention. One could also argue that keeping insulin levels low would help prevent diabetes but that wasn’t the point in this instance.
  2. A study done by the Central Research Institute in Japan found that vinegar(they didn’t specify which kind but they all have acetic acid which is the beneficial component of vinegar in the study) reduced body weight, fat mass and serum triglyceride levels (fat in the blood) in obese patients. Again I could only find the abstract but this is a very positive confirmation for the weight loss and cholesterol benefits to ACV as well as a thin connection to diabetes prevention as keeping body fat down is a great way to prevent it.
  3. Another study conducted by the came Japanese group was done on rats using acetic acid. They concluded that acetic acid consumption increased fat burning proteins that inhibited the accumulation of body and liver fats without changing food consumption or skeletal muscle weight. While this was done with acetic acid and not ACV, as stated acetic acid is the main acid in all vinegar. Another check for fat burning/weight loss and, possibly diabetes prevention.

These were the only relevant studies that I could find. Even though there isn’t much, the science that is there certainly lends credence to the weight loss/fat burning properties of ACV.

Another plus to taking apple cider vinegar is that can help prevent acid reflux. It’s well established that taking any acid will down regulate the bodies natural production, thus preventing the accumulation of stomach acids that lead to reflux.

I think, even in the face of limited research, it’s safe to say that ACV has some definite positives that agree with the alternative/folk medicine crowd. I would like to reiterate that, although there is no proof for the other uses for ACV, there is no research disproving it. Being that is it so incredibly cheap and will help you stay lean and sexy, I see no reason NOT to take it and maybe get a little extra something out of it.

 

 

Good news for coffee drinkers

A recent study by the department of health at Harvard University looked at the role coffee plays in type 2 diabetes prevention. It was concluded that the exact mechanism for this prevention is still unknown, with a possible hypothesis being tied to the study results.

What did the study conclude? Basically you should drink coffee…and a pretty good amount of it. Study participants drank 5 cups of coffee per day, spread throughout the day. Although “no changes in glycemia and/or insulin sensitivity were observed after 8 weeks of coffee consumption, improvements in adipocyte and liver function as indicated by changes in adiponectin and fetuin-A concentrations may contribute to beneficial metabolic effects of long-term coffee consumption.(1)”

Just what the heck does that mean? Allow me to shed some light on the two important proteins named: adiponectin and fetuin-A.

Adiponectin is a protein hormone that modulates a number of metabolic processes, including glucose regulation and fatty acid catabolism, a.k.a fat burning. Adiponectin is exclusively secreted from fat tissue into the bloodstream and levels of the hormone are inversely correlated with body fat percentage in adults. In other words, the higher the level of adiponectin, the less body fat you will have/the more likely your body is to burn fat as opposed to storing it.

Fetuin-A is a protein hormone secreted by the liver into the bloodstream. It is a binding hormone that aids in transport and availability/regulation of substances in the blood, such as calcium. A Low fetuin-A level is associated with malnutrition, inflammation, and atherosclerosis (carotid plaques), as well as with increased cardiovascular and all-cause mortality (2). To put it in simpler terms, if this glycoprotein is low your risk of death is much higher.

Put all of that together and you get a recipe that tells you to have coffee and don’t feel bad if you have a second (or fifth) cup, in fact you can now say you are doing it for your health!

 

1. Effects of caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee on biological risk factors for type 2 diabetes: a randomized controlled trial
2. Low fetuin-A levels are associated with cardiovascular death: Impact of variations in the gene encoding fetuin.

To Paleo or not to Paleo

Eat like a caveman

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock while listening to your ipod at the loudest volume possible for the last year or so, you’ve probably heard some of the hype around the new wunderdiet known as the Paleo Diet. In case you haven’t heard about it, take your ear buds out and allow me to fill you in.

The easiest way to describe this diet (and, in fact, the way that proponents sum it up) is to say “eat like a caveman.” In other words, you should only eat foods that would have been available to paleolithic humans, a.k.a cavemen, the logic being that we haven’t evolved much in the last 10,000 or so years and our bodies are best adapted to this type of diet. Eating this way, it has been claimed, will keep you thin, strong and disease free. If you compare this to the typical western diet (read: shitty) it’s hard to refute.

What does this allow you to eat, you ask? Perhaps a better place to start would be what you CAN’T eat.

All grains, especially those containing gluten, are gone.

Dairy is out.

No processed food allowed.

Beans and legumes of any kind aren’t allowed (this means peanuts, too).

Coffee and non-herbal teas have gone bye-bye.

Alcohol? Think again.

This may not seem like a lot but this combination probably makes up 90% of most westerners diets. What this leaves is essentially meat and fish, of any kind so long as it was raised organically and in its natural environment eating the diet it was evolved to eat, vegetables of all kinds with an emphasis on the green leafy type, the occasional consumption of fruits that are in season, nuts, squashed and tubers (but not potatoes because we have essentially bred the nutrition out of them, though some allow for potatoes and most are okay with yams).

Some aspects of this diet that I like:

  • It is, by it’s nature, pretty low carb and that is always useful for maintaining low body fat and staving off disease
  • There is no nonsense about saturated fat or cholesterol intake. Paleo eaters cook with lard and coconut oils and eat (unprocessed) bacon
  • Tons of vegetables are eaten which means lots of vitamins, minerals and fiber
  • With the exception of the occasional fruit, there is almost no sugar consumed

It's whats for dinner

Things I don’t like:

  • There is the assumption that all paleo man had access to the same foods. A caveman in Scotland, for example, wouldn’t have had access to coconut oil
  • It can be a bit contradictory. They say no dairy yet allow the use of butter from pasture raised cows
  • No dairy. If you have a problem with dairy, don’t consume it. If you don’t it is a wonderful source of protein, vitamins, minerals, and tastiness. I for one have zero digestive problems with dairy and feel no better or worse when I don’t consume it.
  • No processed foods. I’m not saying that I advocate packing down Hungry Man dinners as the next diet craze, but there are some processed foods that aren’t bad for you. Whey protein, for instance, is highly processed from milk and it has innumerable health benefits, not the least of which is a highly convenient source of protein.
  • I freaking love coffee and tea and both are quite healthy and good for you.

With all of that in mind I think that this is a great eating style that someone could adopt should they want to follow a mainstream dieting style. If however, you don’t want to do that I still think there is some value to take away from this. It would be hard to argue that having a diet centered around meat and veggies isn’t good.

Personally, I follow something close to a paleo style of eating. Roughly 80% percent of the food I eat is meat and vegetables and I generally don’t eat grains (except on Fridays which are always pizza night). I do eat tons of dairy but, as I stated, I have no issues with it.

If you do decide to follow a similar style of eating I encourage, as with all diets, to allow yourself an indulgence once in a while. If I had, let us say, a gluten intolerance that was bad (diarrhea for instance) but not life threatening, it would be worth it to me to enjoy something tasty two or three times a months and spend a little extra time on the throne. Although, I will admit that that might be linked to a, perhaps unhealthy, sense of satisfaction from pooping.