Sunday, May 20, 2018

Supplements and herbs for men over 50

Some people don't believe in vitamins.  Others don't believe in herbal supplements (or supplements of any kind).  They're wrong.  Yes, you do get a lot of vitamins (normally) from the food you eat.  But if you're male, and you're over 50, that's not enough.  Things are happening in your body, due to the aging process, that need attention - things that you can compensate for.

Most men know that eating a clean & balanced, whole-food diet is critical. This means a diet that includes minimal (if any) processed and refined foods and avoids things like pre-packaged and frozen meals, sodas and other sugary beverages.  You're not a kid anymore.

But what about your hormonal health?

Men’s health may not seem as complicated as female health, due to the fact that there are fewer hormones involved, but (to achieve optimal health) men should aim to support all aspects of their health in ways that are safe, effective, present few risks and improve quality of life.

Along with maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly, these 9 herbs and supplements are worth taking to support the health of any man over 50.  Some of these are not well known, but you can find them online or at quality vitamin/supplement shops.

Here's my list:

1. Tongkat Ali

I’ll admit it has a funny name, but stick with me here.  Tongkat ali is the root of a shrub that has been used to enhance virility for centuries.  Quality clinical research has found it actually works.
A 2012 study found that tongkat ali significantly improved scores on the Aging Males’ Symptom scale (AMS), an international assessment tool used in screening for low-testosterone among men who were experiencing adverse sexual symptoms caused by testosterone loss.  Even more impressive is how effectively tongkat ali also increased serum testosterone concentrations: The percentage of men with normal “T” levels rose from 35.5% to an amazing 90.8% in just 4 weeks!  That's pretty good, right?

2. Beta Sitosterol

Beta-sitosterol is one of the nutrients European doctors routinely look to when their patients are struggling with the frustrations of prostate enlargement.  While it doesn’t shrink the prostate gland, clinical research has found that beta-sitosterol effectively alleviates the symptoms of prostate enlargement, giving many men a long-awaited relief.  A review of four clinical trials found that men who took the supplement had a better urine flow rate compared to men on a placebo.  It's the real deal.

3. Fenugreek Seed

Fenugreek, a plant whose seeds are commonly used in Indian, African and Arabic cooking, has been used for centuries for its positive impact on everything from blood sugar maintenance to cholesterol balance.  It's real claim to fame, though, lies in its ability to re-boot the 'mojo' of men who feel it dropping.

Fenugreek seeds are rich in a chemical compound known as saponins.  According to the authors of one study, among the common saponins found in fenugreek is diosgenin, a steroid-like precursor for the synthesis of a number of sex hormones.  The study, published in the journal Phytotherapy Research, reported that fenugreek boosted libido in 82% of men who consumed the dietary supplement in the six-week study.  Additionally, 63% of the men taking the fenugreek noted an improvement in the quality of sexual performance and 67% of men indicated the herbal extract enhanced their sexual recovery time.

4. Fish oil

It’s been well established that a high-quality fish oil should be a part of everyone’s supplement regimen.  The  essential omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA have anti-inflammatory benefits that are particularly beneficial for men, thanks to their ability to reduce the inflammation that is a result of prostatitis.

Taken regularly, omega-3s may also reduce the risk of benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH).  Prostatitis is an inflammation of the prostate - either bacterial or non-bacterial in nature.  BPH is the enlargement of the prostate due to a proliferation of prostatic cells in the prostate leading to rapid prostate growth.  Both are uncomfortable and can lead to other health problems such as difficulty urinating, urinary frequency, pelvic pain and fatigue.

5. Lycopene

Lycopene is a carotenoid found in foods such as tomatoes, watermelon, pink grapefruit and guava.  This antioxidant is naturally found in the liver, prostate, skin, adrenal glands, lungs, colon and blood serum in humans.  Epidemiological studies have shown that men who have higher amounts of lycopene in their bodies have a lower rate of getting prostate cancer.  BPH is also greatly reduced in men who consume lycopene rich foods four-to-five times a week.  If you are obtaining lycopene from tomatoes, the lycopene is more readily absorbed when cooked - such as with spaghetti sauce.

6. Saw palmetto

Saw palmetto, or Serenoa repens, is widely known to help support a healthy prostate.  It's a plant similar to the palm.  Saw palmetto is often recommended for men over forty. That is the age at which an enlarged prostate becomes more likely to occur.  Saw palmetto inhibits the action of the hormone dihydrostestosteron, which contributes to enlarging the prostate.  This herb is also anti-inflammatory and may help increase urine output for men who are having difficulty.  As a result, it may enhance male sexual function.

7. Nettle root

Nettle root is also known as Urtica dioica.  The root has been used traditionally and in studies either alone or in herbal blends to reduce the onset of prostatitis and BPH.  It seems to have an effect on prostatitis due to its anti-inflammatory actions.  As for BPH, it is usually triggered by an overproduction of estrogen and dihydrotestosterone.  Both of which lead to prostate enlargement.  Nettle root appears to interfere with the chemical processes that result in the production of the hormones that are involved in BPH.

8. Milk thistle

Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) is essential in supporting healthy liver function.  Depending on the health of the liver, it can help rebuild parts of it as well!  In order for the prostate to remain healthy, your liver should remain in optimal condition in order to continue to effectively remove toxins from the body.  Milk thistle not only protects the liver, it acts as a detoxifying agent in the body.

9. Colostrum

Colostrum helps support your body's immune system, proper metabolism and the production of HGH.  This is about disease prevention, weight management and (critical for anyone over 50) anti-aging properties.  You can read all about it HERE.

Disclaimer:  I do market and sell colostrum supplements.  Why?  Because I believe in it that strongly, that's why.  Colostrum would be my 'desert island' supplement.  In other words, if you take nothing else, then you should be taking this.  It does the same things for your body when you're over 50 that it did when you were a newborn.

There's more than one brand out there, but Anovite produces the only 6-hour certified colostrum in the world.  In fact, virtually every product Anovite produces is colostrum based.

Start taking colostrum as a lifestyle and you'll be a new man. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Healthy Snacking

Here's something a little different: 

Cherry Rice Salad

There's more than one way to do this and that picture on the left is a variation on the concept.  I've never taken a picture of my version, but it's similar to what you see there.

Combining quinoa and wild rice with a hint of cherries for sweetness, my recipe has good protein, healthy carbs, (and even some fat) for a well-balanced, highly nutritious side or snack.

Honestly, I think it's best when cherries are in season.  They really make this salad a tart treat for your taste buds.

The blueprint:

  • ¾ cup wild rice
  • ½ cup quinoa
  • ¼ cup fruit vinegar. Apple Cider Vinegar will do, but you will get more interesting results with something like pomegranate or raspberry
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
  • 2 cups fresh cherries, halved and pitted
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • ¾ cup aged goat cheese, diced. You can substitute other strong, firm cheeses, such as a smoked cheddar or feta. (If you do choose feta, you will probably want to adjust the amount of salt downwards)
  • ½ cup pecans, chopped and toasted

Here's what you do:

  1. In a large saucepan, boil water over high heat. Add wild rice and allow to simmer for thirty minutes. Add quinoa and simmer for an additional 15 minutes, until both rice and quinoa are tender.
  2. About five minutes into the quinoa cooking time, whisk together oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Toss in cherries, celery, cheese, and pecans. Set aside.
  3. Drain cooked quinoa and rice. Rinse with cold water until no longer hot. Stir cherry-oil dressing vigorously, then toss with grains.
  4. Refrigerate up to four hours before serving.

Bringing lunch to work is a really good idea

Some people do this religiously, some do it once in awhile and others will never do it.

You need to bring your lunch to work.  That's it - bottom line.  You'll save a ton of cash and you'll be eating a lot better.  All it takes is some new habit-forming and self-discipline.

There are major benefits to packing a healthy lunch for you and your kids.  First of all, it helps you control the quality and quantity of food you’re eating - and avoid urges to grab junk food.  Plus, you always have a nutritious, energy-boosting meal readily available when you’re hungry  - not to mention the savings in time and (and as I mentioned) money.  Going out to lunch all the time costs a lot.  Seriously, keep a daily spending log for 30 days and get ready to be shocked.

OK, so I've made my point about the money thing.  Everyone can understand that.  Prepping for lunch, on the other hand, is the one aspect that seems to trip many people up  - and that’s where all those great benefits can quickly go out the window.  If you’re not prepared, it becomes too easy to buy overpriced junk food and fall back into old habits that may seem like a quick, easy option, but lead to long-term disadvantages.

Here are 4 Easy Tips to make taking your lunch to work or school a healthy habit:
  1. Get Organized: The proper tools make all the difference. Invest in:
  • Tupperware or other containers (lunch-sized and larger for storing bigger batches of food)
  • Plastic baggies
  • A portable and reusable lunch box
  • Ice packs
  1. Rotate Favorite Meals: Choose 3 or 4 go-to meals that are enjoyable, satisfying, and budget-friendly.  Make a batch of chicken salad with veggies ahead of time; separate into 3 containers and you’re ready for a few lunches this week.  Next week, choose another favorite meal, and so on…
  1. Pack Dinner Leftovers: Making a little extra at dinner time then packing it away for lunch is one of the best time saving, money saving, and health-conscious tips you can follow.  Do this twice per week to supplement your pre-packed lunches (from tip #2) and you’re ready for a full week of healthy, satisfying lunches.
  1. Pack the Night Before: I don’t know too many people who have time to prep lunch in the morning  - often just getting in a healthy breakfast seems monumental.  To pack your lunch the night before:
  • Organize everything you need into Tupperware and plastic bags as needed.
  • Place items together in the fridge for an easy grab & pack in the morning.
  • Place utensils and napkins along with non-perishable items into your lunchbox and set the lunchbox on the counter where it’s visible.
  • In the morning, put Tupperware and all your food into the lunchbox with an ice pack and you’re set for the day.
Being prepared and having what you need to be successful is the first step.  Follow these 4 easy steps to lunch prep to maximize you and your kids’ happiness and health!

Monday, April 30, 2018

Mediterranean Diet vs Statins

Do you take statin drugs?  Many millions of people do.  I've been prescribed statins myself.  But you know what?  You might not need them if you're willing to change your lifestyle enough - specifically, your food choices.  A Mediterranean diet could be better than statins at reducing the risk of an early death for millions of people worldwide, research suggests.

Leading heart experts said patients should be prescribed the diet - rich in fruit, vegetables, fish, nuts, whole grains and olive oil - before being put on drugs.  In fact, they've been saying that for awhile.  They're saying it more, now.  In the first major study to look at the impact of the 'Med' diet on survival of heart patients, experts found it cut the chances of early death by 37 per cent!  Previous research has found just taking statins cuts mortality by 18 per cent. That's why I got on them.  Experts said the figures were not directly comparable, though - and that many heart patients could get maximum benefit by doing both.

In reality, the results were so remarkable that the government should consider handing out free fruit and vegetables, or subsidising such produce, to encourage the public to change its eating habits.  I'm not kidding.  That would be a whole lot cheaper than what it spends on Medicare, Medicaid, 'Obamacare', etc... which is a staggering sum.

Hey, it's just an idea.

These new findings, presented at the world's biggest heart conference in Rome, Italy, were received as extraordinary, showing that the diet was 'more powerful than any drug'.  I don't know why this isn't front-page news.  Seriously!

The new research showed that high consumption of vegetables had the greatest impact on survival, followed by oily fish intake, amount of fruit eaten and consumption of mono-unsaturated fat, found in olive oil.  Professor Giovanni de Gaetano, head of the Department of Epidemiology and Prevention at the IRCCS Neuromed Institute in Italy, said: "We found that among those with a higher adherence to the Mediterranean diet, death from any cause was reduced by 37 per cent in comparison to those who poorly adhered to this dietary regime."

Anyway, this new study I'm talking about tracked 1,200 Italians with heart disease over seven years, and participants recorded their food intake.  Adherence to the Mediterranean diet was appraised under a nine-point scoring system.  Over seven years, there were 208 deaths among those being tracked.  After controlling for age, sex, education, exercise, smoking, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, diabetes and cancer, a two-point increase in the Mediterranean diet score was linked with a 21 per cent reduced risk of death.

Overall, the closest adherence to the Mediterranean diet was associated with a 37 per cent lower risk of death compared with the bottom category.  A previous study of 92 trials involving 200,000 patients found that people with heart disease were 18 per cent less likely to die early if they took statins.  Based on this, the researchers said the next step would be to investigate why exactly the Mediterranean diet appears to reduce the risk of dying early.

Dr. de Gaetano said: ”This was an observational study so we cannot say that the effect is causal.  We expect that dietary effects on mediators common to chronic diseases such as inflammation might result in the reduction of mortality from any cause but further research is needed."

Dr Aseem Malhotra, a London cardiologist, said: "The results of this robust observational study are quite extraordinary.  “The Mediterranean diet is more powerful than any drug at reducing death rates in patients with cardiovascular disease.”

Prof Jeremy Pearson, Associate Medical Director of the British Heart Foundation, said: "It is good to know that even if you already have a history of cardiovascular disease, adhering to a Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of death.  This study suggests that even if you are already receiving medical care, if you add a Mediterranean diet, it will have further benefit.  Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, even if you have had a heart attack or stroke is really important and continues to benefit you.”

Is that enough proof?

Friday, April 27, 2018

Common nutrition myths that too many people believe

There are lots of these (nutrition myths, I mean), but here are just four very basic ones that I picked out today.  The main problem, I think, is public perception.  That comes from advertising, product packaging, the news media, certain 'health-gurus', etc...

Anyway, here are (in my opinion) four healthy eating myths that should be exposed:

1)  Skimmed milk is better for you than whole milk.

Low-fat milk is not necessarily a healthier option.  Choosing standard milk for breakfast (instead of a low-fat option) is guaranteed to make you overweight and unhealthy, right?  Not really.  The truth is that 'full-fat' milk may not be such a villainous food after all. 

Skimmed milk has been lauded as part of a drive against saturated fat and its links to obesity, and (in turn) heart disease and diabetes.  However, a recent study which reviewed existing research on milk revealed that people who drink whole milk did not face a greater risk of developing heart disease or type 2 diabetes.  “In terms of obesity, we found no support for the notion that low-fat dairy is healthier,” said Dr Mario Kratz, author and nutrition expert at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre in Seattle.

The fact is that you need dairy in your diet.  As long as you don't overdo it, you should be fine.  “In nutrition, there are no absolutes, only relative statements in the context of everything else someone eats,” says Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition at New York University and author of 'What to Eat, and Food Politics'.

2)  Don't eat potatoes.

It's not so much the potatoes themselves, as what you put on them and how their cooked that matters.  Potatoes are a good source of fiber.  Potato chips, french fries and loaded baked (or mashed) potatoes come to mind when you think of the reasons to avoid them.

But a healthy diet does not have to be a potato-less one.  Like anything else, just don't load up on them every day.  In fact, they're a good source of vitamin C and fiber.  Thus, they can play an important role in your diet, particularly if they are cooked and served without salt or fat.  Also, leaving the skin on potatoes acts as a shield when cooking and can boost the fiber and vitamins in your diet.

3)  Gluten free food is healthier. 
Gluten free cookies are not necessarily better for you.  In fact, neither is gluten free anything.  Until recently, coeliacs (who are hypersensitive to gluten) struggled to find products which did not contain the protein found in wheat and some grains.  Recently the selection of gluten-free products has grown, and "free from" breads, cakes and cereals suitable for those with the digestive disease have appeared on supermarket shelves.  That's great if you are among the very small percentage of the population who would benefit from more choices.

But... many have confused “gluten free” as a synonym for “healthy” and have eradicated the protein from their lives despite not being diagnosed as coeliac.  "Cutting gluten from your diet can cause a deficiency in vitamins, minerals and fibre", Dr Peter H.R. Green, director of the Coeliac Disease Centre at Columbia University told WebMD.

So why do it if you don't need to?

4)  Juice is full of fruit.

Juices (i.e. juice drinks) can also be high in sugar.  Products with healthy-sounding names, covered in photographs of fruit, make juice drinks seem like a quick solution for hitting the recommended five a day.

Just be mindful that juice "drinks" can be deceiving and are not the same as pure fruit juice.  Check the packet or bottle, and you will likely find many of these products contain artificial flavorings, added sugar and added water - all of which outweighs the benefits of any fruit inside.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Healthy Snacking

Chocolate nut clusters are healthy snacks?  Yeah, absolutely. 

Think about it.  Nuts are a great source of protein (and healthy fat) and dark chocolate is a potent source of polyphenols.  Polyphenols activate insulin-signaling and have neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory benefits.  They're also in green tea, grapes and so on.

Anyway, this simple mixture makes a great snack or a right-sized dessert, and it's an easy crowd-pleaser.

Here's the blue print:

  • Dark chocolate (70-80% cacao) by the ounce
  • Roasted and unsalted nuts (whatever you like)
  • The ratio should be 1 oz. chocolate to 1/4 cup nuts

Here's what you do:

  1. Melt chocolate by heating 10 seconds at a time in the microwave
  2. Stir together with nuts
  3. Drop the mixture in ½ teaspoon portions onto wax paper. Refrigerate until set.

Different substitutes for beef

Back in the 80's and 90's, there used to be television and magazine ads with the slogan, 'The other White Meat'.  The idea was to promote pork as a healthier alternative to beef - putting it in the same category as poultry and fish.

So, is there something that could be advertised as 'The Other Red Meat'?  Of course, there is.  'Red meat' actually encompasses a lot more than just beef.  There's lamb and horse, for example.  Also, despite the ads decades ago, I believe that pork is still classified as red meat.

Anyway, as a healthy eater, you know that too much red meat - such as every meal - isn't a good idea.  Too much of anything isn't a good idea, so that's why you need a balanced diet.  Hey, I'm not a vegetarian (I'd gnaw my arm off), but I don't like the way cattle are often treated - in fact, all animals that are raised and processed for food.  Sickening cruelty is a fact of life in that industry, and that includes turkeys and chickens.  I'm not saying it happens all the time, but it happens enough to make me re-think my food choices now and then.

Another thing to remember is the fact that most commercial farm animals are pumped full of antibiotics and growth hormones.  Of course, seafood makes you worry about pollutants and - especially -  mercury.  Can't win, right?  Well... not necessarily.

OK, first of all (since this is the topic), it’s important to know exactly why you don't want to overload on beef in the first place.  First up, like I said, are the antibiotics.  Cows can be extra-prone to infection and disease when they’re being raised for meat in crowded conditions.  It’s similar to how dangerous diseases in humans only really became a problem when we started living in dense cities.  Cattle farmers try to stop this process by keeping their cows on a constant regimen of antibiotics.  That's OK, but... when you eat a lot of beef you may be unwittingly medicating yourself with antibiotics that are affecting your gut flora.  In addition, constant exposure to antibiotics actually breeds drug-resistant strains of bacteria known as “superbugs.”  It's the truth.

Next come all the hormones.  In order to fatten cows up, many farmers load their cattle with all sorts of growth hormones.  They do that with poultry too, but we're talking cattle here.  Anyway, when you eat that hormone-loaded beef, your estrogen and progesterone levels can go haywire.  By the way, wreaking havoc on estrogen and progesterone levels is a great way to get cancer - especially breast cancer.

The bad news doesn’t even end there.  Many cattle are fed corn - which, sadly, increases the risk of e. coli outbreaks.  Why?  Because when cows eat grass, as they were biologically designed to do, their stomach (or rumen) is pH neutral.  But when they’re force-fed a diet of corn, it creates an acidic environment in the cows’ rumens.

Typically, OUR stomach acids are enough to kill off the occasional exposure to e. coli.  But the corn-fed cattle industry is actually breeding acid-resistant strains of e. coli… leaving us more vulnerable to infection that we’ve ever been.  Have you noticed the increased incidence of e. coli outbreaks in recent years?

Luckily, you can avoid many of these issues by sticking to organic, grass-fed beef, raised in free-range conditions.  It's more more expensive, but I hope you see why it’s worth it.

That won’t protect you from all the dangers of too much beef, though.  For example, heme - a protein found in red meat - often turns into N-nitroso compounds in your gut.  Don’t worry about the name. Worry that these compounds have been linked to a number of cancers, with colorectal cancer being the worst.

Also, when you either fry red meat, or cook it over open flames, you start a chemical reaction that creates heterocyclic amines.  These nasty compounds damage DNA in your body, increasing your risk of every cancer.  Hey, it's true.

Three Other Red Meats That You Can Try

As more consumers wake up to the potential dangers of over-eating beef, more alternatives are springing up.  The most readily available, and perhaps the best alternative, is bison.  Bison contains far fewer calories than beef - only 96 in a three-ounce portion, compared to 162 in beef.  Bison meat also contains less than a quarter the fat, yet it has just as much protein, and nearly the same amount of Vitamin B12 - perhaps the most important nutrient you get in red meat.  What’s more, when prepared correctly, many people don’t even know they’re eating bison, instead of cattle.  This isn’t a case of accepting a poor substitute in the name of health.  This is a case of switching in a nearly-indistinguishable, healthy alternative.  In fact, for those with sensitive pallets who can tell the difference, bison often comes out on top in taste tests.

Here in Houston, you can find more than one restaurant that serves it.  A classic (that's been around forever) is Bubba's Burger Shack.  Their bison burgers are very popular, and I'm a big fan.

Another option is venison.  With a third of the fat, venison is a much leaner meat.  It does have slightly more cholesterol - but venison also contains a lot more protein, so you can eat less and feel just as full.  Deer meat does taste different, so this will be a matter of preference. Some people love venison, while others can’t stand it.  Othe people just don't like the idea of eating 'Bambi'.  I get it, but there's different ways to use venison meat (chili, for example) where you can't tell the difference.

Anyway, give it a try sometime!  It’s a much healthier alternative to “regular” steak.  Also, in all seriousness, deer hunting is actually good for the environment and the deer population as a whole.

Finally, one exotic meat is starting to make serious inroads here in America.  I’m talking about ostrich.  You probably don’t think of birds when you think of red meat, but ostrich definitely fits the bill.  It has less than half the saturated fat, while boasting more protein and more than double the Vitamin B12, compared to beef.

The danger with ostrich is how often it’s overcooked.  If you aren’t careful, ostrich meat can dry out easily - and that has sometimes led people to look down on the meat.  That’s a mistake.  If you have well-prepared ostrich, dryness isn’t a problem at all.

Whatever your taste, if you’re determined to eat red meat this summer - or anytime - try to replace beef with one of these three healthier variations now and then.  Variety is the spice of life!

These alternative meat products will often be found in healthy and organic food markets, or the organic section of grocery stores.  Your well-being and longevity is worth the extra time it takes to seek out a red meat that delivers all the taste and the vitamins that your body craves... without the potential drawbacks.