Beans – fiber and protein rich powerhouse of health

Beans, Beans, glorious Beans

Beans, Beans, glorious Beans

Dear Dr. Mo: Are beans really any good to eat? All I know is that they give me gas and cramps, but I’ve heard they might be really healthy so, are they?

Dear reader: Beans are one of the fiber-richest foods out there, especially when it comes to cholesterol lowering soluble fiber. Eating a cup beans, any beans really, a day can lower your total cholesterol levels by as much as 10% and that’s significant.

Soluble fiber dissolves in water and binds cholesterol preventing its re-absorption in the body.

In fact, beans are so nutritious and healthy that the latest dietary guidelines recommend a triple of our current suggested intake, from 1 to 3 cups per week, and like I told you, a cup a day would be the best way to go.

Beans are a good meat protein substitute but they are even more than just a simple substitute. Beans have similar calorie count as meat and their water and fiber content will make you feel fuller for longer, which helps in weight management and weight loss and will allow you to cut total daily calories in your diet without starving yourself or skipping any meals. Meat however, contains zero fiber!

How much fiber?

One cup of cooked beans contains about 12 grams of fiber, which is almost half the recommended dose of 25 grams (women) to 35 grams (men) on average.  Continue reading

The Egg myth debunked – eggs won’t kill you after all

Eggs are fine and in fact, very good for you

Eggs are fine and in fact, very good for you

Dear Dr. Mo: Should I or shouldn’t I eat eggs and are they healthy in any way? People keep saying eggs are full of cholesterol and should be avoided but, is this true?

Dear reader: Contrary to a wide-spread belief (or myth), eggs are very healthy food and a healthy individual can and should eat them on a regular basis. If a person loves eggs vey much and eats too many of them, this can increase cholesterol levels and associated risks for heart disease but if you stick to 4 whole eggs or fewer a week, evidence suggest that any risks you may have will not increase.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), which had revised its dietary guidelines back in 2000 to “allow” healthy adults to consume eggs once again, you may eat one egg every day – so 7 eggs a week, which is even more than I’d recommend. However, the AHA still advises a total daily cholesterol limit to stay at 300 mg. One average egg contains anywhere from 180 to 220 mg of cholesterol so you’ll have to take that into account and read the food labels carefully to balance your daily cholesterol intake. This advice goes for everyone age 2 and older. Continue reading

4 super foods to clean up your pipes

Awful but healthy

Awful but healthy

Dear readers, our modern diets are plagued with unhealthful food choices. Many people are struggling with excess weight and our arteries are taking the toll over the years – they begin to accumulate plaque. Plaque buildup increases the chances for heart disease, heart attack and/or stroke.

This basically means accelerated death. Or debilitation. Then death.

We can use a healthy diet to keep our arteries in good shape and preserve their fitness into the old age.

The following 4 foods are very powerful arterial cleansers – I cannot say which of the first three I hate more but these are my top 3 foods I’ll never ever eat even if it kills me. The 4th food is actually pretty cool.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat them and in fact, you’ll benefit greatly if you introduced all 4 to your daily diet. Here’s why: Continue reading

Fiber and health

Add fiber-rich foods to your daily diet

Dear Dr. Mo: I am looking to improve my diet and fiber comes highly recommended as something to eat daily. What is it and where to get it from? How much is enough?

Dear reader: The reason fiber is highly recommended as a part of any healthy diet is simple – it is really good for you.

Previously, it was thought that fiber was a significant factor in preventing colon cancer but as it turns out, most of the evidence show that fiber has no such effect in prevention of this disease.

Still, fiber has many other good effects, for which it is considered a must-have in our everyday diets.

So, what does fiber do for us?

Fiber helps prevent heart disease, obesity, diabetes (by improving insulin resistance), constipation and diverticulitis (an intestinal problem). It helps to regulate cholesterol levels by slightly reducing the “bad” LDL cholesterol. And last, but certainly not the least of good effects is the increase of the bulk of foods making us feel fuller for longer – that’s another way fiber helps us in avoiding overeating and being overweight.

What is fiber and where to get it from?

Fiber is an indigestible carbohydrate form found in plant foods.There are two types of fiber: Soluble and Insoluble Continue reading

Beer tan – why does booze make us blush?

Dear Dr. Mo: Why do people get beer tan?

Beer makes you blush

Beer makes you blush

Dear reader: We see these people every day – at times, we are those people; also called drunkard or boozed out or, more telling – a red face.

It’s one of those properties of alcohol for which, taken only in moderation, it is known to have actual health benefits. Well, in case of beer tans, we are no longer talking about moderation and any potential benefits are long gone. Continue reading

Why is gluten-free a risky way of eating?

Dear Dr. Mo: Gluten-free food is gaining in popularity and suddenly a lot of people think gluten is bad for health – is that true and should I consider a gluten-free diet?

Dear reader: Actually no, going gluten-free for no particular reason can be a very risky business.

This is NOT a gluten-free bread - it is a multi grain

This is NOT a gluten-free bread – it is a multi grain

Why gluten-free diets can be bad for you?

Gluten-free diets exclude many whole grains and are lower in fiber content while higher in simple carbohydrate content.  Continue reading

Mediterranean diet – a healthy way of eating

Dear readers: Many posts on this site discuss different aspects of a healthy diet and mostly emphasize the importance of balanced, versatile and flexible but

Versatile and healthy food choices

Versatile and healthy food choices

healthy food choices, whether you are staying put or travelling.

This pattern of eating could be named in different ways and many have heard of the so called Mediterranean diet, which is in fact exactly that – a variety of good foods arranged in a flexible manner throughout the day.

The most recent and very exciting results came out of one Spanish trial just a few days ago, proving without a shadow of a doubt, the benefits of this ‘Mediterranean’ eating style. Continue reading

Butter or Margarine?

Dear Dr. Mo: I love butter but is margarine better for my health? And which one?

butter

Butter is tasty but could hurt health

Dear reader: I remember when I was a child, I used to steal a stick of butter from the fridge and eat it whole, biting on it as if it were an apple. I loved the way it melted through my little fingers and the greasy and salty taste it had as I munched on it. Whenever my theft was discovered, my grandmother wasn’t too happy about it – she thought I would spoil my stomach with that much butter – often times she was right.

For a little child to eat food high in fat content is actually beneficial so my ventures to the fridge weren’t too harmful to my health (apart from occasional diarrhea) but as we age, eating a lot of butter on a regular basis can hurt our health. Butter is made from animal fat (usually from cow’s milk), which is high in saturated fat and cholesterol. Continue reading

Alcohol – that social lubricant

Dear Dr. Mo: I want to know some basic facts about alcohol and what it does to me when I drink. Is there a safe amount that’s actually good for health?

Don’t drink and drive!

Dear reader: Sometimes you might hear from a doctor that moderate alcohol consumption is good for health.

The peril lies in the word “moderate” for it is arbitrary; it is not the same for everyone and one could easily slip from moderation to amounts that are not at all useful to health. We could certainly argue if alcohol is useful in any amount because while it may be beneficial to one part of the body, it is damaging to another.

We don’t really need alcohol as far as maintaining our health is concerned so if you’ve never drank, don’t start as risks outweigh potential benefits.

Chocolate & health

Dear Dr. Mo: Are there any health benefits I could possibly get by eating chocolate? I just love it so much.

Dear reader: What a sweet question (and I mean literally).
The answer is YES but let me make one clarification right from the start: when we talk about potential health benefits of chocolate, we always refer to dark chocolate, which has a high cocoa content.

Dark chocolate has health benefits

It is the Flavanols in cocoa beans that have antioxidant effects responsible for most of the benefits that come from dark chocolate consumption. Flavanols reduce cell damage implicated in heart disease and also help lower blood pressure and improve vascular function. In addition, some research has linked chocolate consumption to reduced risks of diabetes, stroke and heart attack. Eating a moderate amount of dark chocolate was associated with a lower risk of being hospitalized for heart failure.

Flavanols are thought to also reduce the levels of stress hormone Cortisol and its metabolic effects and they are being researched for their sun protecting abilities, doubling the time before which skin turns red in the sun, marking the beginning of a sun burn. Continue reading

Ibuprofen – pros and cons

Dear Dr. Mo: Why is Ibuprofen so ‘good’ and always prescribed as a medication in flu conditions? Are there any known side effects for using it?

Dear reader: Ibuprofen belongs to a class of medications called NSAIDs – non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. It works by discontinuing the body’s production of chemical messengers that cause pain, fever, and inflammation. These substances are called ‘prostaglandins’. But prostaglandins also help protect the lining of your stomach and other tissues, so blocking their production can cause side effects such as ulcers and gastrointestinal bleeding, which is the most common concern when NSAIDs are being used.

Use pain relievers with caution

Ibuprofen is one of the drugs used to relieve pain, tenderness, swelling, and stiffness caused by osteoarthritis (arthritis caused by a breakdown of the lining of the joints) and rheumatoid arthritis (arthritis caused by swelling of the lining of the joints).

Most people use ibuprofen to reduce fever and to relieve mild pain from headaches, muscle aches, arthritis, menstrual periods, the common cold, toothaches, and backaches. Ibuprofen also works well to alleviate hangover symptoms (mostly headache and chills).

All these effects are reasons why this drug is so often prescribed and used.

Now let’s turn to the other part of your question: the side effects. Continue reading

Drink water to stay healthy

Dear Dr. Mo: How much water do I really need to stay hydrated and healthy?

Dear reader: This is the time of year where common colds are indeed common and when you will often hear that advice to drink lots of fluid, usually herbal teas or water. Of course, water is essential to your health but the needs for water vary from person to person and many factors may influence that, like for example your health condition, your daily activities, where you live, your age, metabolic rate etc.

Water means health!

Water is our main constituent – it makes up about 60% of our body mass. We need water to maintain normal functions: we throw out waste matter dissolved in water, water participates in digestion of food, it carries nutrients to cells, we use water to show emotions when we cry etc.

Water also helps to regulate body temperature through perspiration (sweating).

When water is insufficient we dehydrate. Dehydration is a state in which our cells don’t have enough water to function normally. Even a mild dehydration could cause fatigue because when tissues lose water, enzymes are slowing down their functions and energy production drops.

A simple way to see the link between health and water is to observe what happens when we age. As we age, the water content of our bodies is decreasing steadily and while a newborn is 80% water, in an adult this ratio is at 60% and it keeps on decreasing as years go by. Continue reading

Diabetes and weight – what is the link?

Dear Dr. Mo: What is the link between being overweight and developing Type 2 diabetes? Can diabetes be prevented or cured somehow?

Dear reader: First of all it is worth pointing out that diabetes is a chronic condition. For most types (except gestational type) this chronicity means that once it occurs, it stays for life – this is not a disease we can effectively cure with our present knowledge but we can quite successfully manage it.

Before I go into your question, let me first explain the diabetes landscape and basic mechanisms behind it as Type 2 is not the only game in town.

Diabetes occurs either when the pancreas no longer produces enough insulin or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces. Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar.
The danger of diabetes lies in a condition called Hyperglycaemia – raised blood sugar level – which is a common result of uncontrolled/undiagnosed diabetes, which over time causes serious damage to the body, especially to blood vessels and nerves.

Food choices affect our health

Diabetes has its types and these differ in both the ways they start and the ways in which we manage them.

Type 1 Diabetes

This type had previously been known as insulin-dependent, juvenile or childhood-onset diabetes. Here, our pancreas gland becomes deficient in insulin production and there is simply no longer enough of it to properly regulate our blood sugar levels. Management requires daily administration of insulin and this type cannot be prevented with our current understanding as the cause is not known although we do think it is due to the self-inflicting damage to pancreas (process called “auto immune response”). Continue reading

Saunas and health

Dear Dr. Mo: Is sauna really healthy and should I go there when I have a flu?

Dear reader: When you are in most saunas, its dry heat, which can become as high as 85° C (in some saunas, even higher), can have some intense effects on the body.

Your skin temperature spikes to about 40° C within minutes. The average person will pour out a half a liter of sweat during a short stay in a sauna.

Saunas have been around for centuries – its relaxing and well-being effects on the body are well known

The heart rate jumps by 30% or more, allowing the heart to approximately double the amount of blood it pumps out each minute (its minute volume).
Stress hormones ACTH and Cortisol rise substantially while Adrenalin and Noradrenaline are reduced; other changes in hormonal balances happen as well.

These effects (vigorous sweating, increased heart rate and hormonal changes) are similar to those induced by a moderate exercise, which is why saunas could be so appealing.Circulation patterns change while in sauna and most of the extra blood flow is directed to the skin, which becomes reddish; the circulation actually diverts blood away from the internal organs.

Blood pressure in saunas is always unpredictable, rising in some people but falling in others, which might be a health risk for some people with blood pressure problems. Saunas generally should not be considered as a therapeutic approach to hyper or hypotension – visit your doctor first. Continue reading