Category: Gut Health

Dear Mark: Beans/Legumes

Dear Mark,

I’m a former vegetarian who still enjoys cooking with all kinds of beans. I don’t see them in any of the MDA recipes. What’s your take on them?

Legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas, split peas, etc.) aren’t, by any means, the worst thing you can eat, but they don’t make the ideal meal either. In my estimation, legumes fall into the “O.K.” category with wine, chocolate, cheese and other dairy, etc.

On the upside, legumes offer protein, and they tend to be good sources of several minerals like potassium and magnesium. On the downside, they offer only a moderate at best amount of protein (generally 4-9 grams per ½ cup serving). As the How to Eat Enough Protein post showed, legumes’ protein content is dwarfed by the 28 grams you’d get from a cup of cottage cheese or the 50+ grams you’d get from six ounces of several meats. And this relatively small amount of protein comes with a hefty carb content: as high as 28 grams for that same ½ cup serving!

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Fun With Fiber: The Real Scoop

One of our most cherished pleasures in life happens to be challenging conventional wisdom (CW). You never would’ve guessed, right? After all the talk of meat and fat this week, we’ve been feeling, well, rather off. We figured it was the perfect time to take on everyone’s favorite gristly subject: fiber.

CW says Americans need serious fiber in their diets. And by “fiber” CW often means bran buds, whole wheat, psyllium husks – you know, sticks and twigs roughage. We’re talking that 1980’s Saturday Night Live bit about Super Colon Blow cereal. Let’s just say that the more sensitive among us, in particular, want to broach the question: “Is this really the best way?”

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Flame Thrower: Top 10 Natural Ways to Reduce Inflammation

Puffy, bloated, swollen. Sound attractive? Sounds like inflammation.

On the most basic level, inflammation is the way in which the body reacts to a disturbance, be it infection, irritation or other injury. More specifically, however, the inflammatory response – which in addition to swelling can also include redness, warmth and pain – occurs when blood, antibodies and other immune system components rush to the scene of the crime to attempt to repair the damage.

In most areas of the body, the pain associated with inflammation informs you of the damage, the swelling limits injury site mobility and prevents further irritation and the increased heat, redness and occasional itching are all signs that the immune system is doing its job! However, if this inflammation goes undetected – or is ignored – it can build up in the body, causing damage to other surrounding tissues and organs. In cases where inflammation is not adequately controlled, symptoms of chronic inflammation can occur, manifesting as arthritis, heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s, chronic fatigue, chronic pain, hair loss and dozens of other ailments and conditions.

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How to Stop Heart Burn Naturally

Heart burn is a bit of an umbrella term we use informally. We’ve probably all experienced the isolated case of heart burn or indigestion, but if you’re dealing with chronic discomfort, it’s time to take a look at your diet and lifestyle. Also be aware that heart burn and GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) are not the same thing, although prime time drug commercials would love to convince you otherwise. (GERD is – in my opinion – essentially an invented condition, though technically it’s a combination of chronic heart burn and acid reflux. I would argue that in the majority of cases, lifestyle is to blame. I’m just not aware of any genetic component behind heart burn, acid reflux, and “GERD”. Nevertheless, it’s serious – let it get out of control and you risk major esophageal damage, even cancer.)

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Are Germs Making You Fat?

A fascinating article in New Scientist discusses the impact that germs have on your weight.

In short, our digestive tracts are host to millions of microbes that aid in fermenting and digesting food. There are germs that help break down carbohydrates, germs that help digest fats, and so on. What’s fascinating is the new finding that obese people have more of a particular type of microbe that not only digests “better” but digests carbohydrates “better”.

However, in this situation, “better” is not better at all. In times when food was scarce (certainly not a problem now), being able to maximize every bit of nutritional value from each bite was a benefit. That’s not such a good thing now, particularly for carbohydrate digestion. What this means is that being overweight makes you more likely to become even more overweight.

This is really big news, Apples.

It’s a self-perpetuating system. The more carbohydrates are taken in – because the body is becoming better and better at digesting them – the more those carbohydrates are stored as fat. The body literally is set on a “get fat” course because the digestive tract becomes “efficient” at turning food into stored fat. All thanks to germs.

These digestive microbial bacteria are developed early in life – within the first few years. You can see how a childhood spent eating bad foods sets people up for a lifetime of obesity. And because of the self-perpetuating nature, the more fat you get, the more fat you get.

There’s good news, however. When study participants were put on a reduced-carbohydrate diet, the carbohydrate-friendly microbes began to die, coming closer to levels found in thin people. And, of course, the individuals lost weight. Eventually, the body can be retrained, and the digestive microbes we want – the ones that don’t extract quite as much from the food we eat – increase. All it takes is the first step, and the body can be retrained.

More on this in coming posts, Apples.

Aside from the carbohydrate and weight issues, there’s a further issue to consider: should we be supplementing with beneficial bacteria? And if so, which kind?

[tags] digestive tract, bacteria, gut bugs, germs, carbohydrates, metabolism [/tags]

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