Happy National Nutrition Month! In honor of this celebration, my goal is to produce a weekly blog entry on nutrition for the month of March. This weeks entry was inspired by my Sunday morning jog in Brooklyn. Usually, I stick to my comfort zone and stay in the same area. Today was different, however, I finally explored uncharted territory known as Greenpoint and I was surprised to see Manhattan Avenue lined with Polish bakeries, European natives and sidewalks crawling with the hipsters of Brooklyn.
Unfortunately, being an environmental geek and staying overly cautious about my surroundings and moving to Brooklyn, I quickly searched about the environmental safety of the area. Brooklyn was once an area filled with lead factories and trash dumping, making it an ideal post-industrial area that lends it’s character today. North Brooklyn currently processes half of New York City’s trash storage, yikes! Greenpoint, Brooklyn, also happens to be the site of one of the largest oil spills in the United States. Discovered in the late 1970’s, 17-30 million gallons of oil and petroleum leaked from the nearby Exxonmobile refinery for decades, and unfortunately no one took action until the 1990s. Much damage occured to the wildlife in the nearby Newton Creek, and the plume underlies a large portion of Greenpoint’s residential areas.
So how does this all connect? Well recent headlines say lung cancer is on the rise, and living in a large city with high pollution risk I dedicate this entry to nutrition + healthy living tips for protecting your lungs.
- Antioxidants, Antioxidants, Antioxidants. Both natural and man-made irritants and chemicals in the air can be classified as oxidants. These oxidants damage the lungs, and our body naturally heals itself through the use of antioxidants and a healthy diet. Eating right optimizes our fighting ability and antioxidants convert these oxidants into neutral forms. How do we receive antioxidants in the diet? Fruits and vegetables are your number one choices, more specifically, Vitamin C. Current research shows that Vitamin C and E have the highest antioxidant ability, but I personally believe that food works synergistically for the best effect. Eat a healthy diet and if you’re looking for those vitamins be sure to include broccoli, tomatoes, and oranges.
- Learn about your environment. Was there a previous oil spill in your area? Are you living on top of a landfill site? It’s surprising how much is unknown about America’s past environmental trauma. Does the term ‘cancer’ cluster seem unfamiliar? There’s a lot we’re unaware about, and all of the information is at your hand with the internet. Wiki also has a list of cancer clusters in America here.
- Radon. Grab a radon detector and keep it around the house! Radon is the second leading cause of lung disease among non-smokers. It’s a natural byproduct of the breakdown of uranium and leaks from the ground into houses.
- Exercise. More exercise means more oxygen. Oxygen allows our body to reach optimum levels for the best protection and keeps our lungs healthy and strong.
- Stay conscious of outdoor air pollution. This one is a no brain-er, if you’re walking by an old dusty factory – try to get away as fast as possible or walk a different route. The less exposure the better!
- Manage your indoor air. Did you know that indoor air is typically more dangerous than outdoor air? Due to poor ventilation and multiple irritants from particles and other gases, it’s a leading cause for lung damage. Yup, this surprised me too. This fact helped me enhance my green thumb though, and there are several plants that can help with filtering your indoor air. Purchasing an air purifier also helps.
- Stay away from cigarettes. Title says it all!
- Lastly, fight for your right for clean air! It’s easy to say that as individuals we have no power in taking charge, but as a group we can fight to educate and protect our resources. Unfortunately, the world’s population is only growing, environmental disasters rampantly occurring, and the world’s pollution exponentially increasing. Jet fuel is found in women’s breast milk, and high mercury levels are discovered in habitats of the arctic – far from urban civilization. The future looks bleak, and though the environment is almost always a negative topic we must stay positive and continue fighting for the safety of the future and our children.
What are your ways of protecting your lungs?
Let’s face it… cheese receives a lot of bad rap in the nutrition field. BUT, what you didn’t know was that cheese has the ability to protect your teeth. After eating corrosive acidic foods such as sweets, or my favorite acidic food of choice: coffee, it’s a good idea to consume a small piece of cheese. The high calcium dairy wonder is alkaline, neutralizing the acidic damage in the mouth and preventing tooth decay while protecting your smile from damage.
Can’t get better than nuts. High in magnesium, calcium, and phosphates these legumes have what it takes to keep your teeth strong. The extra chewing required from nuts also aids in saliva production, neutralizing cavity inducing bacteria. The gritty texture of nuts also massages the gums to keep them in tip-top shape and helps clean between teeth.
Besides enjoying the deliciousness of strawberries, you can now indulge in their oral health benefits as well. A wonderful source of Vitamin C, strawberries can help promote collagen growth and keep your dental enamel strong. Tooth enamel is considered the strongest mineral substance in the body, even stronger than your bones!
Strawberries also have the power to whiten teeth. Malic Acid, a component found in these berries, helps remove surface stains attained from wine, drinking coffee, or other substances.
A great source of Vitamin D, calcium almost relies on this vitamin for proper absorption. Calcium is one of the backbones for healthy teeth and gums so make sure you’re taking full advantage of your calcium supplies!
5. Green tea
Green tea has the ability to prevent sugar from breaking down into the more damaging form, remove plaque, and reduce harmful bacterial in the mouth. Green tea also kicks inflammation and cancer cells to the curb with it’s high polyphenol (antioxidant) contents. New studies show that green tea has the ability to super-charge your body’s oral defense systems and increase the efficiency of protecting your teeth. I’ll cheers to that!
I found another reason why you should tie up your laces and exercise. More and more studies are discovering a relationship between physical activity and satiety. To get a better grasp, satiety can be described as the “feeling” of fullness, and is not wholly understood because of the variety of factors that affect it. In fact, the discovery of hormones that control satiety is only very recent and poses a possible theory as to why our appetite’s change under different conditions. Another study was just released concluding exercise over a long period of time demonstrates a stronger control over appetite. Pretty cool eh? Researchers suspect that exercise’s power to regulate hormones play a major role. The only catch is that you have to repetitively work and get your blood pumping which requires a change in lifestyle.
I know you’re probably thinking the impossible, but it is completely do-able. How much control do you have? All throughout high school I sat in front of my computer playing MMORPGs. The first time I attempted to jog, I couldn’t even make it once around the track without huffing and puffing. I’ve changed my lifestyle habits and never felt better. I can’t say it wasn’t easy though – blood, sweat and tears my friends.
Last spring, I had a wonderful opportunity to participate in a lab based nutritional science capstone. Best of all, I got to spend my semester exercising… can’t get much better than that right? Well… except for pricking my fingers 15-20 times a session to take blood samples, haha.. Our mission was to figure out the relationship between exercise, satiety and blood glucose. Although our data was mostly inconclusive due to the time constraints, lack of technology, and sample size, we still saw some interesting trends. As predicted, the five of us observed an enhanced response to blood glucose absorption. The men (n=3) in our study saw an initial decrease in satiety (hungry) after exercising while the women (n=2) found an initial increase in satiety (not hungry). It’s pretty cool to see similar findings coming to light in mainstream media. Make sure you thank your science geek friends for their hard work the next time you see them. 😉
On this glorious day in 2013, I can’t help but look back on the highlights of 2012:
- Graduated with a bachelors degree, in NUTRITION!
- Participated in my first large scale research project based on exercise & blood glucose.
- Made it through one year of a long distance relationship with my Matthew.
- Traveled to Asia for the first time since I was 2 years old — covered Tibet, Phlippines, China, and Japan!
- Moved to NYC and started another chapter in life.
- Made significant improvements under my cooking belt.
- Acceptance into Dental School!
Now to recap on my new years resolutions, I can confidently say that I’ve worked on each and every one of them. It’s all about improving yourself each year and trying to accomplish new highs. For 2013, I came up with another list of goals that I’d like to complete one step at a time.
- Find more ways to exercise. I noticed living in NYC, it’s expensive to acquire a gym membership. It’s also exhausting commuting to and from work and finding the time to make it out for a jog. My goal is to exercise at least 5x/week, like I did in college. NO EXCUSES!
- Find a hobby. I really want to find a hobby that I enjoy, whether it is finally joining that pick up soccer league, or learning a new skill. Tailoring clothes would come in handy.. hmm..
- Spend more time with friends. I’ve started getting better at this, but my social anxiety likes to kick in…
- Call my parents more often. I love my parents, but dread using my phone..
- Eat organic when possible. Nothing extremely major, but I’d like to limit my chemical/pesticide intake even more and try to buy organic whenever I can.
- Become Yelp Elite. Just one of those things I’ve always wanted to be a part of haha
- Get my tattoo. I’ve wanted one since I was 16… I still want one at 22, so I think I’m ready.
- Learn more Tagalog/French. I love languages… It’s a goal to become bilingual before I leave this world. Plus, with the help of the awesome free app Duolingo, it is all that more tangible. 🙂
Lots has happened over the past year – I graduated college, traveled to Asia, and moved to New York City. Yup, as Jay-Z promised, the bright lights inspired me. Now that I have a bit of time on my hands after applying for Dental School, I decided to reignite my blog and journalize my adventures here. My most recent one involves making Kombucha.
Kombucha, commonly known as the ‘elixir of life’, is a fermented probiotic drink made from tea, sugar, and ‘the mother’. The mother is a term used for a colony of bacteria also called “SCOBY” (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast) and this produces health benefits for humans through ingestion of the tea.
- Improved Digestion
- Fights Bad Bacteria (i.e. Candida which causes Yeast Infection)
- Helps Arthritis
- Boost Immune System
While the elixir of health dates back almost 2000 years, there is mixed evidence on Kombucha. Brewing can be especially difficult since it can pose health risks if the process is done incorrectly. My advice is to try reputable Kombucha and focus on how it makes you feel. My favorite brand is GT’s and be sure to look for raw and organic brands because heat will kill the goodies. Once you finish the deliciousness you should feel energized and if not, then it may not be the right drink for you. Always follow your intuition!
How to Grow the Mother from a store-bought bottle of Kombucha
- GT’s Original Kombucha (can be any raw/organic kombucha)
- 1 cup filtered water
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon high quality, washed, Sencha or 1 bag of tea
- Wash and sterlize everything that will come in contact with the Kombucha
- Boil the water and sugar mixture until dissolved
- Add the green tea leaves and brew for 5-7 minutes
- Remove leaves and pour into 1 gallon jar
- Wait until cool to the touch
- Remove 1/3 of Kombucha liquid (you can drink this!) but try not to lose any of the floating bacteria at the bottom
- Pour the rest of the 2/3 into your jar with the sweetened tea mixture
- Place in a dark, warm area that is sanitary
My first Friday night back at Michigan State University during the last semester of my undergraduate career, and I spend it watching an educational documentary. Nonetheless, I do not regret this decision as I was able to stumble upon one of the most inspiring stories I’ve seen so far and the overall message from Joe Cross’s, Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead is quite genuine. However, while bias may influence my tastes, this documentary discusses the issues of diseases such as autoimmune disorders and other cardiovascular and metabolic illnesses that are near and dear to my heart. My father is diagnosed with Type II Diabetes and an autoimmune disorder known as Myasthenia Gravis, and my mother has a previous history of stroke and cardiovascular problems. What’s more frustrating than knowing that you have the power to fix a problem, is the fact that you still aren’t able to establish a change and ignite an epiphany. For those who can relate, or those who are interested,*caution spoilers!* ‘Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead’ examines two main characters who follow a fruit/vegetable juice fast for 60 days. With a short period of struggle and pain, both characters undergo dramatic weight loss and discover the positive benefits associated with their dietary choices.
When I was home this past winter break, I saw how my dad’s autoimmune disorder changed him. I wanted to do everything in my power to help him, and started trying to make green (vegetable) smoothies. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to keep my word as our schedules differed. I’m glad I gave this documentary a chance and I forwarded it to both of my parents in hope that they’d watch it. Hopefully they take this to heart, because I wont give up trying to instill that health is a major priority.
Maybe someday I’ll attempt a 60 day juice fast and document the changes and feelings I experience on that journey. For now, if you’re interested in nutrition, fasting and health I would recommend this documentary. Afterall…
‘70% of the diseases that affect us now are caused by our life choices: how we exercise, if we smoke and what we eat.’ – Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead
If you’ve kept up with the news as of late, you may have seen the recent discovery that a renowned researcher falsified red wine data from a study he conducted. Initially I was shocked – probably more disgusted with the fact that we’re supposed to trust in research publications as they are the only real and factual basis available. However, I realized that this is what the media intended. They want to confuse their audience, after all, the world of nutrition is full of contradictions. Coffee for one, was known for it’s detrimental effects on the body, however with modern research they’ve proved that it can stimulate the brain and “may” stave off Alzheimer and Diabetes. Nothing is proven, and there’s always that exception to the rule.
Image from http://www.thelivingwine.com
As a red wine enthusiast, I won’t put down my glass just yet. There are plenty of studies demonstrating a positive correlation of the health benefits of red wine and it’s future seems quite promising. If there is one thing I learned throughout my major, it is that nutrition is an extremely complex field with many shades of gray. Everyone is different and reacts to certain foods in various ways; think of all the food, mineral, vitamins, and toxin combinations! Not to mention the addition of lifestyle factors as well as the environment. Ultimately, if there is something I would want to pass down to my loved ones, I would tell them to be your own experiment. Listen to your body, follow your intuition and learn your family health history.
If you’re really interested in finding out factual information, there are plenty of resources available! Sites where scientific journals are published such as http://scholar.google.com/ and http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/ are what I most commonly rely on.
Cheers to health 🙂