It may not share cinnamon’s popularity, but turmeric is another spice with powerful culinary and medicinal qualities that deserves our attention. Turmeric, known officially as curcuma longa and historically as Indian saffron, is a rhizome (root) of the ginger family. Its horizontal root system is dug up, baked, and ground into a bright orange powder, which then goes into any number of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and Southeast Asian dishes. Pretty much every curry you come across anywhere, for example, includes a generous portion of turmeric. Common yellow mustard also includes turmeric, mostly as a food colorant. Recently, the health benefits of turmeric have come to light, and people are looking for more ways to get more turmeric into their diets.
Turmeric imparts a unique flavor: slightly bitter and a bit spicy, with a mustard-like scent. Upon tasting a dab of turmeric powder by itself for the first time, one is reminded of curries and other Asian stews. It’s a bit of an “Aha!” moment – when you taste it, you can finally put your finger on the earthy flavor that’s so common in your favorite dishes from around the world. Turmeric itself is actually fairly mild and unassuming, so using it as a solitary spice won’t turn every dish into a curry bonanza – in case you were worried.
In this article, I’ll cover the health benefits of turmeric, the science behind it, and how to get more of it.
When I say “electrolytes,” what do you think of? Maybe rowdy professional athletes dumping a cooler of some neon-colored sports drink over their coach’s head after winning the championship. Electrolytes have a much bigger role in winning than just soaking the coach. What do electrolytes do?
If you’re an endurance athlete or a keto dieter, you might already supplement electrolytes as part of your daily routine. But do you know why? What are electrolytes anyway, and why do you need them? Does everyone need electrolytes, and are you missing out if you aren’t taking electrolyte pills?
In fact, electrolytes are unsung heroes that allow your body to run smoothly. Too much or too little, and your health is seriously impacted. Thankfully, the body’s delicate system of checks and balances usually keeps everything operating as it should. Still, you need to be mindful of your electrolyte intake if you want to maintain optimal health. (And isn’t that what we all want?)
Protein is an incredible essential macronutrient. Fat is plentiful, even when you’re lean, and there are only two absolutely essential fatty acids; the rest we can manufacture from other precursors if required. Carbs we can produce from protein, if we really must, or we can just switch over to ketones and fats for the bulk of the energy that would otherwise come from carbs. Protein cannot be made with the raw material available in our bodies. We have to eat foods containing the range of amino acids that we need.
In other words, protein is incredibly important—which is why today I’m writing a definitive guide on the subject. After today’s post, you’ll have a good handle on the role protein plays in the body, how much protein you need to be eating, which foods are highest in protein, and much more.
Magnesium is an essential mineral that doesn’t get the attention it deserves. You’d be hard pressed to find any activity in the body that doesn’t use magnesium in some way. It has literally hundreds of functions. Cellular energy production, protein synthesis, DNA and RNA synthesis, and cell signaling—which controls the secretion of certain hormones, among other things—all depend on magnesium. It plays an important role in ion channels that allow nerves to fire, potassium and sodium to cross cellular membranes, and muscles to contract. Production of ATP, the energy currency of the body, depends on magnesium. Your heart beats rhythmically thanks to magnesium. Not surprisingly, then, magnesium deficiencies seem to factor into a wide range of health issues. Let me tell you about some of the biggies. Health Issues Related to Magnesium Before getting into the details, I want to draw your attention to a few challenges with the research literature. One, which I’ll return to later, is that magnesium levels in the body are tough to measure. Second, lots of studies try to link dietary magnesium intake to specific health outcomes. Foods that contain magnesium, like leafy greens and fish, also contain a host of other vitamins and minerals, fiber, sometimes amino acids. This makes it hard to isolate the effects of any single nutrient. The way magnesium intake is measured, usually with the Food Frequency Questionnaire (FFQ) or food diaries, is also fraught with error. I don’t put too much stock in studies that correlate dietary intake with any specific health outcome. Correlation doesn’t prove causation anyway, as you know. I’ll mention them here to give you a complete picture of what researchers are working with. Ideally, though, I like to see randomized controlled trials. Instantly download your Primal and Keto Guide to Eating Out Magnesium and Inflammation It’s increasingly clear that inflammation is at the heart of many, if not most, chronic disease states. Studies have shown that people who consume less than half the recommended daily allowance of magnesium have higher levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker of inflammation. Magnesium intake negatively correlated with CRP in two large observational studies, the Women’s Health Initiative Study and the NHANES Study . These observations are supported by experimental studies which, according to a 2018 meta-analysis. confirm that magnesium supplementation lowers CRP levels The Link Between Heart Health and Magnesium There are many well-documented metabolic pathways through which magnesium can affect heart health. Magnesium may reduce heart disease risk by reducing arterial stiffness, improving endothelial function, and/or lowering chronic inflammation. It also inhibits platelet aggregation, which is itself a risk factor for heart disease. Several large prospective studies have correlated higher magnesium intake or higher magnesium levels in the blood with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke. Magnesium deficiency is considered a risk factor for cardiac arrhythmia and hypertension (high blood pressure). A recent review of the available evidence concluded that while it’s fair to say that magnesium intake is important for cardiovascular health overall, more randomized … Continue reading “The Complete Magnesium Manual”
As a health-minded individual, you’ve no doubt gotten the memo that omega-3 fatty acids are important. You may dutifully eat your weekly servings of small, oily fish. Perhaps a fish oil pill is even part of your daily supplement routine. But do you know why?
Looking back, I used to write about omega-3s a lot in the early days of Mark’s Daily Apple (more than a decade ago, geez!) Since then, I’ve covered the topic here and there, but I thought it was time for a refresher. Today I’m going to focus on giving you a broad overview of their function and an update on the state of the research literature.
It would be impossible to cover all the reasons that omega-3s are important for health in a single post, nor all the areas of ongoing research. I’ll try to hit the big ones here. Let me know in the comments what else you’d like me to cover in future posts.
For decades, the health community had written off collagen as a “useless” protein. It wasn’t essential, in that it contained no amino acids you couldn’t make yourself. It didn’t contribute directly to muscle protein synthesis, so the bodybuilders weren’t interested. In all my years running marathons and then competing in triathlon at an elite level, no one talked about collagen. It was completely ignored, especially after the rash of collagen-based “liquid diets” ended up with a lot of people dead or in the hospital.
But you know my bias is to look at things from the perspective of human evolution and ancestral environments. And there is a ton of collagen on your average land animal. Close to half the weight of a cow is “other stuff”—bones, skin, tendons, cartilage, and other collagenous material. Most meat eaters these days might be throwing that stuff away, if they even encounter it, but humans for hundreds of thousands of years ate every last bit of that animal. Even as recent as your grandmother’s generation, utilizing every last collagenous bit of an animal to make soups, stocks, and stews was standard practice. This was the evolutionary environment of the ancient meat-eating human: rich in collagen.