Thursday, July 24, 2008

Heavy Metals - not just about music anymore

Poison, Guns and Roses, Metallica, this is what has come to mind every time I think of heavy metal. Another mental reference would be a throwback to high school chemistry or even that second semester of General Chem I took in college (snoozer!), that never showed up on the MCAT. But more recently, I've just learned how important or rather detrimental heavy metals are to your health. There are some that we are all aware of because of how toxic they are: mercury, plutonium, and lead are toxic metals that have no known vital or beneficial effect on organisms, and their accumulation over time in the bodies of animals can cause serious illness. I think many of us are doing what we can to avoid mercury exposure by changing to wild fish from safer waters and being careful on the canned fish we consume. But apparently, we are all exposed to other heavy metals, which in trace amounts can be beneficial, but in excess can be toxic and cause a whole host of disorders.

These metals are: iron, aluminum, or beryllium (the fourth lightest element) or such a semi metal as arsenic. Guess what, there's aluminum in toothpaste and deodorant especially solid deodorant and it gets absorbed into the body with little escape mechanism. Using aluminum in baking (aluminum foil! Foil pans, broiling trays etc.), hair highlighting (god I hope not!, but its on there at least one half hour, not to mention what the color chemicals that close to my brain might be doing) or food storage can cause absorption of aluminum into the body. Excess aluminum in the body can cause dementia, heart attacks and heavy metal excess is linked with ADHD symptoms. So perhaps it is not a coincidence that ADHD is so much on the rise nowadays compared to ten or twenty years ago. Perhaps we need to think about switching our deodorants and cookware to avoid this problem. The good news is that zinc acts as an oral chelator to link to the aluminum and get it out of the body. Food sources of zinc include oysters (highest amount of zinc in any food per serving), zinc fortified cereals, grass fed pastured red meat, and organ meats especially. You can also get a good quality zinc supplement. I like usana brands, solgar, and blue bonnet. I'm trying to get my hands on some isagenix which might also be fortified with zinc.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

B vitamin containing foods

I just checked the world's healthiest foods websites for foods rich in B vitamins...they are:

Excellent sources of folate include spinach, parsley, broccoli, beets, turnip and mustard greens, asparagus, romaine lettuce, calf's liver, and lentils.

Excellent sources of vitamin B6 include bell peppers, turnip greens, and spinach.

Excellent sources of B12 include calf's liver and snapper.

However, the B1, B2 vitamins are also good to get and its important to have a balance of these vitamins not too much of any one of them - which is why supplementing can sometimes not be such a great thing because it leads to imbalances.

I guess I am going to have to develop a taste for liver. I can't say its my favorite - I do prefer snapper, but looks like it might be medicinal. I know a great French place that serves it in the east 50's...and there appear to be many French places on the west side. I do love French food...I'm sure with a nice demiglace its probably quite good.

Vegetarianism, supplements and heart disease

So, I read a book a while back in 2004 called Skinny Bitch. The book made me want to become a vegan and I did. Of course at the time I was dating a man who lived in France and frequent trips to France involved quite a bit of cheese much for veganism. Somehow I also found myself eating quite a bit of steak while I was in France. I also found myself 3 pounds lighter after one week in Europe eating cheese and steak as well as quite a bit of Belgian beer made from cherries. Since 2004 I've had an on again off again love affair with veganism and at times have felt quite good as a vegan and at other times quite tired.

Yesterday I found out I have high levels of homocysteine in my blood. With the knowledge that heart disease runs in my family and now knowledge that homocysteine is linked to heart disease, so I want to get that level down. I've been researching foods that have B vitamins (folate, B6 and B12) and find that spinach contains folate and B6. I had spinach at lunch and well raised animal protein has B12 - check for dinner tonight. I also learned the process of making yogurt deactivates nearly half the B12 in milk - so all the yogurt I have been eating for probiotics have not been helping with B12. Being a vegan for several years probably didn't help either. I was taking B12 supplements - but I forgot to take them and I don't really like having to take pills daily. I am trying now to take fish oil and vitamin D (cod liver oil), but I'm not terribly compliant. I'd so much rather get my vitamins from food. Also I found my cholesterol is slightly elevated. I've been enjoying a diet rich in eggs lately since I found that I can now tolerate them (for 20 years or so I could not eat eggs - but I also had low cholesterol)...but I've also been under a lot of stress lately and I know stress and cholesterol are linked. Being O positive blood type I need to consume some red meat. This evening I had a tenderloin steak which I ordered from a farm in PA where I know the cow was fed grass on pasture and well taken care of. Needless to say, that even in my george forman grill, the steak was delicious. I enjoyed fresh corn, swiss chard and yellow squash from my CSA (the Roxbury Farm in Roxbury, NY). I get my next CSA delivery on 7/31 and I am really looking forward to it. We got a huge delivery this week and I am still not done with even half the veggies.

Lastly, I found out that zinc is wonderful for lowering negative side effects of being on birth control pills and is good for immunity and preventing infections. Since I do not like to take antibiotics unless I absolutely need to I've been trying to increase my zinc. I just found out that whole grains (which I eat a lot of) have high levels of phalates which inhibit zinc absorption. Good thing is soaking grains can reduce the phalates and phytic acid that does this, so I will be soaking my grains from now on - sure its a pain, but I want to be able to absorb my zinc. Also honey is a natural antibiotic - so I've been having some honey in my kefir (fermented milk, made slightly differently than yogurt - a bit runnier and has even more pre and probiotics which if you suffer from digestive problems like I do is just wonderful). I've also tried kombucha - fresh from the farm (without all the added sugar/evaporated cane juice in the store bought brands), which was a bit sour and was not the apple cider it looked like - but its also quite rich in pre and probiotics which are great for digestive wellness.

I'm using my SPF 8 to get vitamin D, avoiding aluminum in solid deodorant (because my aluminum levels were high - this is linked to dementia and heart disease too, and ADHD symptoms in kids) and aluminum foil on my food in the fridge (and those lovely salmon packets I make in the oven - going to need to switch exclusively to parchment - it actually tastes much better in parchment anyway!

So I bet you are wondering what doctor found all these interesting tidbits about my health. I went to Path Medical 304 Park Avenue South to Dr. Braverman who is an MD who does a lot of holistic testing and is very orientated toward prevention. He's extremely into supplements which is not my preferred method, but I found some very interesting things working with him. He doesn't accept my insurance so right now I can't afford to continue seeing him, but in time I think I will...and in a few months I might try to get the blood tests again with some changes in my diet to boost zinc and B vitamin levels (before I resort to supplements if necessary) and lifestyle see if my cholesterol, aluminum and homocysteine levels have lowered and vitamin D levels have gone up. I encourage you all to get these tested.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

executive breakfasts - stay away from muffins

OK, so I have decided that if ambrosia is the nectar of the gods well then muffins are the nectar of the devil. Seriously, these little fat globules enrobed in sugar are evil. They make you hungry within 1/2 hour to 1 hour of eating them and make you run for the carbs. I was starving, almost sweating from a sugar spike and not ingesting enough protein at this "executive" networking breakfast I attended this morning. Either I am going to have to have a serious talk with the caterer or I am going to have to start eating breakfast at 5:45 AM to avoid another encounter with the muffin. Other glorious options at breakfast this morning: Bagels and cream cheese (aka glue for the alimentary canal, seriously why do you think there's a cow on a bottle of elmer's?), nice bowl of fruit (which on its own probably would have been a good choice - but then I would have been craving protein), hard boiled eggs (which I guess I just detest, the overcooking of eggs like that just makes the protein hardly absorbable or assimilatable to the body) and highly sweetened danon fruit on the bottom yogurt (a 6 oz container has 26 grams of sugar - that's 6 and 1/2 teaspoons...come is completely unnecessary) which not only had regular sugar, but also fructose, corn syrup and if it wasn't sweet enough, high fructose corn syrup, an entirely evil substance. This entire day (and its only 2pm) I've been sluggish, starving for carbs and fairly miserable. I blame the high fructose corn syrup and the muffins. Seriously when I start my day with steel cut oatmeal or a fruit smoothie with greens powder I'm happy, healthy and I want to run 8 miles. Today, I feel like crying most of the time and I am starving...regardless of what I eat. I tried to save the morning with a multi-grain lunch with lentils and swiss chard, but it didn't help and I had a bowl of cereal to stave off the rumbling in my stomach. Seriously, no more muffins, I promise...and I am going to wake up at 5:20 instead of 5:30 on 7AM meeting days. Maybe I can bring some unsweetened yogurt or gasp (really, b/c it should get a gasp) instant unsweetened oatmeal - its slightly better than muffins - but not much - at least it doesn't have all the sugar...and I can guarantee there's some trans fat in those muffins - or at least some soybean oil that's probably highly refined. So I am not writing down my food for you today because its fairly terrible and next Tuesday I'm making breakfast. On a good note - the veggies from my CSA delivery are delicious and I had some salad leaves and a carrot (with the skin still on because I was told there's nothing wrong with the skins of carrots grown locally and organically if you just rinse and scrub them a bit, not sure that I'd give the same inattention to a dole carrot). Hopefully tomorrow will be a better day. I'll be running in the AM and having a lovely breakfast of whole grains and perhaps and egg...maybe I'll sauté or steam some greens or have some of the salad leaves. Maybe I need to do this cleanse after all or just vow only to eat food I have prepared and just be more vigilant about doing the preparation beforehand. This sugar is really getting to me. See what happens when you eliminate sugar - your body becomes very intolerant to it. It could happen to you too you know :)

Monday, July 21, 2008

Health Challenge Progress and NYC Greenmarkets

I have not yet received the Isagenix products. This is probably because I live in a non-doorman building and I am never home. It could also be because I never ordered them :) I will, soon. I'm having second thoughts about cleansing. There are so many wonderful ways to get all the nutrients I need right here in food which I can get without going more than a few blocks from my apartment. I've been doing some modified cleanses. I've been only eating fresh fruits and vegetables I buy from farmers markets or my CSA. I also got some meat and dairy from weston a. price foundation which comes from a farm in PA. I have had some gluten free or non wheat grains from the health food store and occasionally a bread or cheese from the farmer's market. I've had a bit of cheese from Fairway as well. Today, I had a spinach and feta cheese omelet with salad that I am sure was not organic at a diner near Westchester Square in the Bronx because I was traveling. I know how hard it is when you travel. I was appalled by the supermarkets and food stores in this supposedly nice section of the Bronx. Processed cheese, very few fruits, only white bread, scary looking pork products. Its ridiculous what these places call food. No wonder why so many people are obese and struggle with their health. This country is just not set up to be healthy and I guess there's a third world right here north of 106th Street and west of Columbus Avenue. I can see I have my work cut out for me. However, there is a green market right on 106th and Central Park West every Saturday and there are a few on 125th as well. There are community gardens all around the neighborhood. There is a wonderful Pathmark near 125th with a pretty decent (but not organic) produce section (but selling a lot of other questionable processed food like items) There are just a lot of options and people need to be educated.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Get Healthy Challenge

I am trying out a new product for cleansing called Isagenix. I am about to order their 9 day cleanse and I will report my progress here. I am also going on a new health challenge which I encourage everyone to join me in. I am going to restrict myself to local seasonal foods from the farmer's market or health food store. I am going to try and only have meat from sources I know and not have it more than once a week. I will have whole grains, green vegetables, other vegetables, fruits and yogurt but very little other dairy. I will write down my daily meals here. I will avoid repeating a day like today:

Multi-grain wheat free hot breakfast cereal with raw goat milk - 9am
Black Tea with unpasteurized raw goat milk

1 cup of raw goat milk at 4pm (client day)
1 cup of water

Quinoa and Lentils with Hearts of Red Lettuce with squeeze of lime
3 organic chicken apple sausage links
handful of blueberries and raspberries
a few bites of leftover brown rice crispy treats.

I felt better about my day once I got to dinner time. I was starving most of the day, but too busy to eat. I know many of us get in these situations and this was poor planning on my part.

I encourage all of you to be better food planners. Tomorrow I am going to start the 30 day food challenge where I write down all my meals and provide inspiration for all of you. As well I'll be starting the isagenix cleanse as soon as it arrives and trying their greens drink as well.

I'm trying out a few new supplements recommended by a new holistic MD I went to see yesterday. I am not a strong believe in supplements, but i thought I would give these a try.