Dec
16

Soup It Up For The Holidays

Well, the Holiday Season is upon us with all its sparkling fun. Last week, Gloria hosted her seasonal pot-luck dinner, and her guests ate and drank and laughed until the wee hours. Around the world, people are doing similar things: getting together with friends, eating delicious food, and staying up late.

We’re among the first to enjoy a good soiree and all its indulgences, but we also look after our basic nutrition at this time of year because we know sugary treats and late nights can depress the immune system. Eating healthfully, taking our supplements, and getting proper rest (well, at least most of the time) helps to keep our immune systems robust, so we don’t succumb to the colds and flu that often arrive about the same time as poinsettias arrive at the local florists’.

One nutritional trick that can be helpful at this time of year is to eat healthfully, but lightly, before heading out to a party.  One of our favorite light meals is good, old-fashioned, homemade soup. A bowl of hot soup before a dinner party can help you eat less at the buffet table or warm your chilled bones after a skating party.

While soup is one of our favorite light meals, homemade chicken noodle soup is one of our favorite soups. Let’s face it, there isn’t much that can squelch your cravings or warm your bones better than a steaming bowl of homemade chicken noodle soup. Right?

Here’s a story for you: When Jerre was a boy, most things were homemade. In those years, however, homemade sometimes seemed dull, while packaged seemed new and exciting—which is why his mother sometimes bought packaged chicken noodle soup. On those occasions, Jerre often stole into the cupboard late at night, picked out a package, and ate the dry noodles and the tablespoon of salt and spices that, when boiled in water, constituted instant chicken noodle soup. Yuck!

Now that Jerre’s developed a more grown up palate, he much prefers tasty homemade chicken noodle soup—which is far more nutritious and tasty than a package of salt and white flour.

Here’s our recipe:

Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 1 litre (4 cups) of homemade soup stock (see our previous blogs on Shopping for the recipe)
  • Salt to taste
  • 100 gm (3.5 oz) of uncooked whole wheat or spelt spaghetti, broken into short pieces about 2.5 cm (one inch) long
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 100 gm (3.5 oz) of cooked chicken, finely cut or shredded
  • 2 handfuls of fresh spinach
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions: Bring the soup stock to a boil. Add salt to taste. Add the broken spaghetti and the chopped carrot to the soup stock. Cook for the time specified on the spaghetti package directions.

While the pasta is cooking in the soup stock, wash the spinach and place it in the bottom of two bowls. Note: Spinach often is on the Dirty Dozen list detailed in our book Eat To Save Your Life, so choose certified organic whenever possible.

When the pasta is cooked, stir the cooked chicken into the broth. Heat through until the chicken is hot. Pour the steaming soup over the fresh spinach leaves. The spinach will wilt in the hot soup, but remain flavorful.

Sprinkle with freshly ground pepper, if desired. Serve hot.

Alternative:

For an Asian twist on this soup, add some minced garlic and ground ginger to the soup broth. Then, substitute rice noodles in place of the spaghetti noodles, and fresh bean sprouts in place of the spinach. Garnish with finely snipped chives or green onion tops and/or fresh cilantro.

So there you have it: In the midst of rich and decadent Holiday fare, this yummy chicken noodle soup will give you a nutritious and satisfying light lunch, après-ski snack, or first course at dinner. And when the Holidays are over and January grips the northern hemisphere in its icy fist, this soup is nothing short of satisfying then, too. Keep the recipe handy.

Here’s to souping up for the Holidays,

Gloria and Jerre

Dec
8

Confusion, Not Cholesterol, May Be Our Enemy—Part 3

Part 3: Steps You Can Take

Lab-prepared Images of Cholesterol Sulphate Spheres

Our two previous cholesterol blogs listed some persistent, widely-held beliefs linking excessive cholesterol and heart attacks—links supported traditionally by several research studies. However, our previous blogs threw a wrench into the nutritional works when we ended with other research studies warning that heart disease (and other diseases, too) actually may be linked to insufficient supplies of cholesterol in the cells.

The resulting debate among researchers leaves many people uncertain of how they should respond when they are advised to reduce blood cholesterol, primarily by taking one of the many statins available to them, such as Crestor and Lipitor.

For those who accept the argument that statin drugs cause more damage than they prevent, there can be some understandable apprehension that refusing their doctors’ prescriptions is a wise decision.

Here’s a case in point: After reading a number of our blogs and other research into the matter of statins, a dear friend of ours queried his family physician about the right course of action. After chatting for a while about the pros and cons of taking statins, our friend asked the physician if he would take statins if his own doctor prescribed them.

“No darn way,” came the reply.

Nevertheless, bound by regulations under which he practices, this doctor dutifully recommended statins to his patient. What a conundrum for the doctor and for his patient.

But that’s only part of it. Now, some researchers argue that people actually should be increasing (not decreasing) their cholesterol. And so, another question arises: What should people do to ensure sufficient supplies of cholesterol are present in their body’s cells?

Dr. Stephanie Seneff recommends focusing on reducing the liver’s statin-induced production of the small, dense LDL particles that produce plaque and rob the heart of cholesterol. In general, she points to two things:

  • Reduce levels of fructose ingested mainly as HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup)
  • Get off statins

Seneff argues that the combination of HFCS and statins is a mix of ingredients that “…allow you to grow old faster.” Perhaps surprising to many, she adds the following observation:

My research has uncovered compelling evidence that the nutrient that is most crucially needed to protect the heart from atherosclerosis is cholesterol sulfate, [which is produced by the skin] in large quantities when it is exposed to sunlight. (“How Statins Really Work Explains Why They Don’t Really Work,” March 11 2011)

Two things are important in her statement: First, the need for sulphur in the human diet and, second, the need for sufficient cholesterol to transport the beneficial sulphur (in the form of a sulphate) to every cell in the body.

Sulphur, she argues, provides a host of health benefits. For example, sulphur plays an essential role in energy production within cells’ mitochondria, and it transports cholesterol through cell membranes ten times more readily than cholesterol can on its own. As a result, stress on skeletal and heart muscle cells is greatly reduced when cholesterol sulphate is present in sufficient amounts. Put another way, insufficient supplies of cholesterol sulphate can evoke a biological crisis involving skeletal and heart muscle.

We have, then, according to Seneff and others, two important, linked alternatives to statins. The first is increased sunlight exposure (where possible and safe) to ensure your body can produce cholesterol sulphate, and the second is through foods that are rich in both cholesterol and sulphur so your body has the basic elements available for cholesterol sulphate production.

Seneff and others are not proposing brazenly sunbathing until you look like a lobster escaped from a chefs’ pot, but they do recommend safely increasing the amount of sun exposure typically experienced by North Americans (regardless of latitude).

They also recommend eating adequate amounts of the following sulphur-rich foods:

  • Eggs, both the whites and the yolks, because they are rich in both cholesterol and sulphur
  • Liver
  • Oysters
  • Red meats
  • Fermented foods such as yogurt and sour cream
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Cabbage
  • Broccoli
  • Yams and sweet potatoes

We’re a little wary of increasing intake of liver or oysters because of toxins, but the rest of this list looks great to us. A simple googling of sulphur-rich foods will extend this list considerably and accommodate both meat-eaters and vegetarians.

According to Seneff, implementing these measures may well reduce your risk of heart attack, increase overall mobility, enhance production of vitamin D3, reduce levels of stress (physical, mental, and emotional), improve brain and neurological performance, and reduce the strain of aging.

Rethinking cholesterol and paying attention to sulphur intake seems well worth consideration, yes? We invite you, now, to put these matters relating to cholesterol into their proper context—optimal nutrition. We have written Eat to Save Your Life specifically to provide that context and to help you take charge of your own nutritional status. It’s available for you at the top of the blog, and you can get it as a paper book or an e-book.

Here’s to your good health,

Gloria and Jerre

Nov
30

Confusion, Not Cholesterol, May Be Our Enemy–Part 2

 [Be prepared—this is a bit technical, but we feel it is the lack of just this kind of information that keeps us all from being in charge of our own health. So here we go.]

No one concerned about cholesterol and statins is going to take charge of their health until they rid themselves of unhelpful language, especially concerning LDL. Many people think of LDL as “bad.” It is not bad cholesterol.

Dr. Stephanie Seneff (a researcher at MITT) explains it this way:

Also contains “enabling” protein, vitamin D3, fat, and anti-oxidants

LDL is not a type of cholesterol, but rather can be viewed as a container that transports fats, cholesterol, vitamin D, and fat-soluble antioxidants to all the tissues of the body. Because they are not water-soluble, these nutrients must be packaged up and transported inside LDL particles in the blood stream. If you interfere with the production of LDL, you will reduce the bioavailability of all these nutrients to your body’s cells. (“How Statins Really Work Explains Why They Don’t Really Work,” 2011)

Your liver actually makes these LDL containers, or “particles,” and fills them with just the right amount of cholesterol and other nutrients before sending them off to your heart, brain, and, well, every cell in your body. That’s one of the many jobs your liver is tasked with. And it handles this task, and all its others, with finesse. Unless, that is, you throw your liver into a state of imbalance, burdening it with unnecessary tasks that interfere with its ability to manufacture and distribute LDL with all its nutrient treasures.

Let’s consider one of the ways in which you can do that.

Another of your liver’s tasks is to break down fructose and convert it to fat. Fructose is a sugar we all need. We get it from many sources, including fruit, a wonderful source of many nutrients. However, we tend in North America to really over-do our intake of fructose. We drink way too much fruit juice for one thing (a large glass of orange juice is equivalent to about 12 oranges, for example), but more significantly, we are awash in high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) present in so many of the processed foods, prepared juices, and carbonated beverages we seem addicted to. And HFCS happens to be about ten times more active than glucose in attacking protein (the attack is called glycation; in non-scientific language it means sugar-coating). Potent!

Back to LDL for a moment—those little containers are shells made (in part) of a cholesterol coating, fats, and an enabling protein that is responsible for helping the container actually get to its destination: your cells.

The cholesterol coating is there to:

  • Protect the fats from oxidation by blood oxygen.
  • Protect the enabling protein from attack by sugars in your blood, especially fructose. If you have a diabetic condition, your blood sugars will be in very high concentrations, making the protein even more vulnerable and more in need of protective cholesterol—a  double whammy that highlights the importance of sufficient cholesterol.

But that protective coating may not be sufficient if the liver has become distracted by dealing with excess fructose (and perhaps intake of damaged fats and junk foods, as well). In an effort to handle the excess fructose while also attending to its job of making LDL particles, the liver sends out low quality LDL particles that are smaller, much denser, and cholesterol-reduced compared to a high quality LDL particle. (Some scientists call high quality LDL particles “fluffy” LDL).

Since the small, dense particles can’t deliver the required amount of cholesterol, your body responds by collecting as many of these particles as it can in order to strip them of whatever cholesterol they do have. The particles stick around the artery walls in large numbers, waiting to be processed.

And here’s where it all can turn bad: those small, low quality LDL particles (which at this point are likely rancid from fat oxidation) can actually squeeze through the lining of your arteries and cause damage and inflammation. Fluffy LDLs can’t do that.

This destructive process has long been attributed to excessive cholesterol in the blood. But if the on-going research is correct, and evidence is mounting that it is, then the problem is a lack of cholesterol caused by dietary issues that burden the liver: exactly the opposite of what has been held to be true for so long.

Add statins to unhealthy dietary decisions, and you have a genuine crisis on your hands. Statins, of course, are designed to inhibit the liver’s manufacturing of cholesterol. The combination of excessive fructose and a statin inhibitor, therefore, appears to be a very serious health threat.

We’ll end by upping the ante a bit and remind you of what Dr. Seneff pointed out above: LDL particles are coated and filled with cholesterol and other essential nutrients such as vitamin D3. So by inhibiting the production of healthy, fluffy LDL particles either by ingestion of excessive fructose or by taking statins to lower cholesterol (or both), patients may well be causing themselves damage on a wide number of fronts.

Our next blog will build on this information by looking at what researchers are suggesting can be done to prevent atherosclerosis and other diseases that may be linked to insufficient supplies of cholesterol in the cells.

Here’s to your fluffy health,

Gloria and Jerre

Nov
26

Confusion, Not Cholesterol, May Be Our Enemy–Part 1

PART I

 Most of the people we talk with about health and nutrition issues tell us they know this about cholesterol:

  • High cholesterol can cause heart attacks
  • Everyone should reduce the amount of cholesterol they eat
  • There is a bad form and a good form of cholesterol, and it’s the bad cholesterol that causes heart attacks
  • LDL is bad cholesterol; HDL is the good form
  • To get rid of LDL, you need to be on statins, like Crestor or Lipitor
  • Statins will protect you against having a heart attack

Is Your Heart Falling Between the Cracks of Scientific Disputes?

Do you tend to agree? Chances are you have nodded your head throughout the entire list. And for good reasons: science and medical authorities, the media, families, and friends have long accepted cholesterol as a health threat and, since 1986, statins as the means to mitigate the threat.

Consider the following quotation from the prestigious Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) in their September 2012 bulletin:

After nearly 100 years of exploration, we now have four lines of persuasive evidence—experimental, genetic, epidemiologic, and therapeutic—that implicate the cholesterol-carrying LDL particle as the primary cause of atherosclerosis. Very few, if any, chronic diseases of adults have ever been subjected to such intensive research, and in very few, if any, chronic diseases of adults has the cause been so convincingly demonstrated in so many ways.

 That’s a pretty impressive, conclusive statement, and it should inspire confidence that the correct medical remedy is one that sets out to reduce LDL cholesterol.

But the HHMI opinion is not without its doubters, including scientists and medical people who are becoming increasingly vocal and whose statements seem as credible as HHMI’s.

Consider the work of Dr. Stephanie Seneff, a researcher with MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), and her team. She disputes previous conclusions that cholesterol is a heart threat, and she does it with the same measure of confidence we find in the HHMI Bulletin quoted above. Here is one of her research conclusions published in her online article “How Statins Really Work Explains Why They Don’t Really Work”:

My research has uncovered compelling evidence that the nutrient that is most crucially needed to protect the heart from atherosclerosis is cholesterol sulphate.

Seneff’s on-going reevaluation of cholesterol significantly challenges widespread views on the role of cholesterol and statins. Her work points, instead, to a lack of dietary sulphur combined with excessive amounts of sugars, especially fructose, as the cause of atherosclerosis.

More than that, Dr. Seneff argues that statins are, in fact, causing much of the damage they are intended to prevent as they block the production of LDL. In fact, she and her team are very clear that they believe more cholesterol, not less, is what people need. Yow!

As more research emerges and contradicts established thought and practice, the more difficult it becomes for patients and doctors alike to determine the best course of action: Statins or not? Egg yolks or egg whites? Is cholesterol good or is cholesterol bad? How are you to think?

Up until now, patients have learned to accept their doctors’ advice: Take a statin drug to lower cholesterol levels. Even patients wary of statins, suspicious they may not be a safe or effective remedy, nevertheless attempt to lower cholesterol by avoiding cholesterol-rich foods.

Then along comes Dr. Seneff recommending more cholesterol, championing foods rich in sulphur compounds, and claiming statins can acerbate cardio-vascular disease, in part by reducing the production of CoQ10 in the heart and by causing the buildup of a special form of LDL particles in the arteries leading to the heart. What are you to do?

In our opinion, the first thing to do is to become as informed as possible because you need to have some intelligent conversations with your doctor and make some good decisions that will put you in charge of your own health and maybe save your life.

We want to support your efforts to become better informed. So, in the next two blogs, we’ll share what we’ve learned and detail some of Dr. Seneff’s most significant findings—findings that challenge the list at the beginning of this blog, especially those points concerning LDL. We’ll summarize Seneff’s position and discussion about cholesterol sulphate, fructose, and the miraculous work of your own liver.

Meanwhile, we’ll end the present blog with a short-list that details all the good things that cholesterol does to promote good health. These are a few facts that are not in dispute:

  • Your body uses cholesterol to manufacture steroids, or cortisone-like hormones, including the sex hormones: no cholesterol, no babies!
  • Your body uses cholesterol to make vitamin D3, so essential to your health yet missing in most people’s bodies.
  • Your body uses cholesterol to help form the bile acids used for digestion.
  • Your body uses cholesterol to keep your brain functioning optimally by helping form the protective layer over your nerves and preventing dysfunction.
  • Your body uses cholesterol in the brain to help with retaining memory and building new ones, especially important in senior years.
  • Your body uses cholesterol to give cells structural integrity, significantly reducing the problems of aging.

And there’s much more, but you can see even from this short-list, that tampering with your body’s production and utilization of cholesterol is a very serious matter. If we don’t get it right, we’re in big trouble.

Here’s to getting it right,

Gloria and Jerre

Nov
15

Three-Step Shopping: Step 3, After You Shop

Our last two blogs have dealt with a single theme: grocery shopping. This week, we’ll wrap up our Three Step Shopping Plan with the last step, which includes a culinary adventure. Read on.

Okay, so you’ve done a little checking into the foods in your pantry and fridge (Step 1) and you’ve shopped based on some new things you’ve learned and were willing to try (Step 2). Now that you’ve finished grocery shopping, it’s time to complete the last step. Ready? Here goes:

  • If you’ve purchased new things that you’ve never cooked or eaten before, make a simple plan to use them within the next 4 – 5 days. Don’t let them lose flavor in the fridge by storing them too long. Find a recipe or two that intrigues you (ask a friend for favorites), and begin incorporating new foods into your routine.
  • Check out the labels on anything packaged. Do you know what the ingredients are and what they do inside your body? Likely, you won’t know everything just yet, so pick an unfamiliar ingredient or two that’s listed on a label and research it this week to determine if you should be eating it at all.
  • Eliminate processed foods steadily. We realize it takes time to implement changes in your dietary habits, so be careful of eliminating things at a pace that you can’t maintain. Over time, though, you’ll want to get rid of most processed foods so you don’t increase your risk of cancer, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, arthritis, asthma, irritable bowel syndrome, or anything else that will derail your life.
  • Store oils in the fridge (except heat-stable coconut oil and olive oil). Before you use any oil, though, taste it. If it’s bitter, the oil already has oxidized (turned rancid) and should be thrown away. Oxidized oils introduce unnecessary levels of dangerous free radicals into your body and should be absolutely avoided.
  • If you’ve purchased nuts or seeds (including ground flax seed and hemp hearts) put them in the fridge, too. Like oils in a bottle, the oils in nuts and seeds go rancid quickly if they’re not refrigerated. Nuts and seeds should be kept cold in the grocery store, too, so you may have to buy them at a health food store that keeps them refrigerated; unfortunately, most supermarkets keep nuts and seeds at oil-damaging room temperature. Note: When you’re shopping, buy raw nuts and seeds (never salted or roasted) because roasting also oxidizes their delicate oils.
  • Search some homemade broths and soups on line; you’ll soon discover it’s quick, easy, cost-effective, and delicious to make your own—and making your own offers some peace of mind, too, because you won’t have to worry about thickeners, emulsifiers, so-called natural flavorings (including MSG), and too much salt.
  • Finally, give yourself a big pat on the back if you found some nutritious bread, avoided commercially-grown versions of  the Dirty Dozen, found locally-grown food, or focused on certified organic whenever possible. Give yourself another pat on the back if you had some fun and excitement on your grocery adventure. Pat. Pat. Pat. If you managed all this, you’re well on the way to having a pantry and fridge stocked with healthy and tasty things to eat. Well done!

Did you buy ingredients to make your own homemade chicken broth? If so, here’s the tasty recipe we promised:

Homemade Chicken Broth

  • 3 pounds (about 1 ½ kg) of chicken parts (necks and backs work well, but choose some meatier parts, too, if you want some cooked chicken on hand for other recipes)
  • 2 large carrots, chopped into 1” pieces
  • 2 stalks of celery, chopped into 1” pieces
  • 2 large onions, coarsely chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 sprigs of fresh thyme or a pinch of dried thyme
  • Cold, filtered water (see www.nsf.org for information on effective water treatment systems)

Toss the chicken parts, chopped vegetables, and herbs into a large soup pot. Add cold, filtered water until the other ingredients are barely covered. Begin cooking over high heat. Just before the water boils, turn down the heat and continue cooking at a gentle simmer.

As the broth starts to simmer, you’ll notice that fat from the chicken becomes foamy and rises to the top. Skim the foam away, so it doesn’t make your broth cloudy, but don’t worry if you don’t get it all. It won’t affect the yummy taste.

Simmer the broth for about two hours until it’s tasty, then take the chicken pieces out of the pot, and remove all the chicken meat from the bones. Discard the bones, and reserve the chicken meat for other uses (homemade chicken noodle soup, for example).

Strain the broth into a large container, and discard the vegetables. Allow the broth to cool to room temperature (about an hour). Once cool, cover and refrigerate the broth for a few hours or overnight. Once the broth is completely cold, any remaining fat will rise to the surface. Skim off the fat.

Once you’ve skimmed the fat away, your yummy homemade chicken broth is ready to be enjoyed as a clear broth or used in various recipes. It freezes well and can be frozen in covered ice cube trays (handy when you just need a few tablespoons of broth) and in serving-size or recipe-size containers.

Yield: 3 – 4 liters (quarts)

Cooking Notes:

  • Did you notice there’s no salt in this recipe? That’s because you don’t need a lot of salt if you use ample amounts of chicken, vegetables, and herbs—which explains why so many commercially-prepared broths and soups contain so much salt. The manufacturers have skimped on other ingredients.
  • If you roast a chicken for dinner, you can make a tasty homemade chicken broth by simply throwing the bones into the soup pot after dinner and cooking them with the veggies and herbs in the manner described above. You won’t get quite as much flavor out of cooked bones as you will from raw bones, but the broth is still very good—and certainly better than pretty much anything in a package.

Now that you’ve planned and shopped and put things away and tried a new recipe or two, it’s time to repeat Steps 1 – 3 for a few weeks and complete any elements that need more attention as you go along. Over time, our Three Step Shopping Plan will become second nature—and you’ll have to do less and less work as you become familiar with labels and ingredients.

Most of all, we hope you’ve enjoyed some new shopping and culinary adventures over the past few weeks, and that the changes you’re making become healthy, tasty, permanent additions to your culinary habits and lifestyle.

Here’s to more culinary adventures,

Gloria and Jerre

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