- What Are Antioxidants?
- The Health Benefits of Antioxidants: How Do They Stop Free Radical Damage?
- Different Types of Antioxidants
- Antioxidants You Should Not Miss Out On
- 6 Antioxidant Food Sources You Should Add to Your Diet
- Recommended Antioxidant Supplements
- 6 Lifestyle Changes That Help Maximize Your Antioxidant Intake
1 The following statement is False, having no scientific evidence to support it:
2 Estimates suggest how great a percentage of all processed foods contain genetically engineered ingredients?
3 The following is the only way to gain lifelong immunity against measles infection:
4 The following is not a sign or symptom of a stroke, requiring immediate medical attention:
5 Which of the following is not a sustainable form of agriculture?
6 The following strategy has been shown to effectively reverse desertification and restore fertility to unproductive land:
7 The following is key to sequestering excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing it in our soils:
When you experience symptoms like fatigue, numbness, faint nausea, foggy vision or an increased tendency toward forgetfulness, you might entertain many different scenarios. Some of them might be scary, but a possibility you may not consider is that of a vitamin B12 (aka cobalamin) deficiency.
Nearly half of the American population has less-than-stellar blood levels of vitamin B12, but the symptomology is so varied that it’s hard to pin down just how many people suffer from it, according to Harvard Health, which describes the “sneaky” symptomology behind a 62-year-old man’s seemingly unrelated symptoms, developed over two months. According to his case report, published in The New England Journal of Medicine,1 he had:
“Numbness and a ‘pins and needles’ sensation in his hands, had trouble walking, experienced severe joint pain, began turning yellow, and became progressively short of breath … It could have been worse — a severe vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to deep depression, paranoia and delusions, memory loss, incontinence, loss of taste and smell, and more.”2
It’s problematic that symptoms like the above may cause people to focus on treating them instead of investigating the source of the problem. Sooner or later, though, unless it’s met head-on, a shortage of vitamin B12 in your system can be so devastating that serious disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Crohn's disease and irreversible brain damage could take their toll.
Low Vitamin B12 Symptoms Not so Unrelated After All
The list of symptoms that could be placed on a B12 deficiency’s proverbial doorstep is a long one, but many symptoms are associated with your central nervous system. Too little B12 in your system might also resonate if you’ve experienced poor vision, weakness, tingling in your hands or feet and incidences of “clumsiness.” Eight common signs that indicate low B12 levels are:
But it’s also important to understand that several areas of the body can be adversely affected with a vitamin B12 deficiency, and that while many of the symptoms may seem unrelated, as the saying goes, one thing often leads to another.
Low B12 Can Cause Anemia, Which Has Its Own Set of Symptoms
As is true for every human, vitamin B12 is necessary to keep your nervous system healthy, as well as to make DNA, which is the genetic material in all cells.3 B12 is also needed to produce red blood cells, which transport oxygen throughout your body.
But with a shortage of B12, many of your red blood cells are abnormally formed and/or too large, so they can’t carry oxygen; the process is disrupted. Too few red blood cells or an abnormally low amount of hemoglobin in individual red blood cells causes anemia, one of the most common and noticeable signs that a shortage is becoming a problem.4
Anemia can cause some of the previously listed symptoms, such as weakness, fatigue, dizziness, cold hands and feet, pale skin and chest pain, which occur because your heart has to work harder to move oxygen-rich blood through your body, The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) reports.5 In turn, this can lead to irregular heartbeat or arrhythmia, enlarged heart and even heart failure.6
Recognizing B12 deficiency sooner rather than later is crucial, as left unchecked it can lead to permanent damage in your body.7 According to the Linus Pauling Institute,8 a B12 deficiency may also be culpable in several other serious diseases and conditions, including:
Chronic stomach inflammation10
Neural tube defects12
How Does Low B12 Cause ‘Pins and Needles,’ Jaundiced Skin and Dementia?
Because B12 — and a lack thereof — is closely associated with your nervous system, the sign known as “pins and needles” is one that indicates a nerve issue that should be addressed as soon as possible, and shows how interconnected your body’s functions are.
Because vitamin B12 is important for the maintenance of your central nervous system, including the conduction of nerve impulses and producing the myelin sheath, it protects and "insulates" your nerves. Without this protective insulation, your nerves can be damaged, leading to symptoms like “pins and needles” in your hands and feet, as well as central and peripheral nervous system damage.17
If you’ve noticed that your skin has a pale or jaundiced cast, it’s a warning sign that your body is unable to produce an adequate number of red blood cells. You may not have thought about it, but it’s the red blood cells circulating under your skin that give it its healthy color.
Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause megaloblastic anemia, which can weaken your blood cells, after which other symptoms begin appearing. When your liver breaks down red blood cells, it releases bilirubin, a brownish substance that lends your skin a jaundiced appearance, often seen in infants.18
As if these problems weren’t enough, people with low levels of B12 may also suffer problems with clear thinking, which later turns into the condition doctors call cognitive impairment or dementia.19
The symptoms often become evident when someone has reasoning difficulties and memory loss, but often, that is what is treated rather than exploring the possibility of a B12 deficiency, which could alleviate the symptoms if addressed.
An all-encompassing review in Australia in 2012 revealed associations between low vitamin B12 levels and neurodegenerative disease. A total of 43 studies revealed that “subclinical low-normal ranges are associated with Alzheimer's disease, vascular dementia and Parkinson's disease.”20 Another study notes:
“Vitamin B12 deficiency should always be looked for when a patient presents with memory loss, since it is generally reversible with treatment. Many neuropsychiatric symptoms have been observed, and many in patients who do not have a megaloblastic anemia.
These include memory loss, psychosis including hallucinations and delusions, fatigue, irritability, depression and personality changes.”21
A B12 Deficiency Often Shows Up in Your Mouth
One symptom of anemia that often shows up are mouth ulcers, sometimes known as canker sores or aphthous ulcers, small yellow or white ulcers that can appear on your gums or just inside your lip. While they usually clear up in a week or two, they’re often quite painful.
But a B12 deficiency can cause other symptoms in your mouth as well, including on your tongue. One study relates the experience of a middle-aged female patient — a common demographic for her symptoms — with a persistent burning sensation on her tongue for several months.
Diagnosed with glossitis, which causes a noticeably swollen, smooth, red tongue, she was given a single injection of vitamin B12, which “resulted in complete resolution of her symptoms and the normal clinical appearance of her tongue after three days.”22
Low B12 Carries Increased Risk for Infection by Two Potentially Deadly Pathogens
People with deficiency in vitamin B12 are at a higher risk of infections caused by two potentially deadly pathogens. Findings of a study published in the journal PLOS Genetics23 involved 1 millimeter-long (pencil tip-sized) nematodes or worms called Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans), one of the world’s most basic organisms.
Vital to the study was that nematodes share an interesting characteristic with humans: They can’t produce their own vitamin B12, either. As reported by MedIndia, the study involved two worm populations: one with and one without a diet sufficient in B12, showing that a B12-deficient diet harms the worm’s health at a cellular level by reducing its ability to metabolize branched-chain amino acids (BCAA):
“The research showed that the reduced ability to break down BCAAs led to a toxic buildup of partially metabolized BCAA byproducts that damaged mitochondrial health … ‘We used C. elegans to study the effect of diet on a host and found that one kind of food was able to dramatically increase resistance to multiple stressors — like heat and free radicals — as well as to pathogens,’ said [researcher Natasha Kirienko].”24
Many labs around the world use C. elegans to study the effects of disease. By feeding the worms E. coli, a common and sometimes harmful gut bacteria, and switching between E. coli strain OP50 and strain HT115, the worms’ stress tolerance was “dramatically altered,” Kirienko said. “We found that switching between E. coli strain OP50 and strain HT115 dramatically altered the worm's stress tolerance.” Co-author Alexey Revtovich noted:
“The key difference between the two diets is the ability of HT115 and OP50 to acquire B12 from the environment … We showed that HT115 is far more efficient at this, making about eight times as much of the protein that it needs to harvest B12 as compared to OP50.”25
Significantly, the team also found that C. elegans on an HT115 diet had the ability to resist infection by another deadly human pathogen, Enterococcus faecalis, a leading cause of hospital-acquired infections and recognized by the World Health Organization and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as a superbug.26
Kirienko noted that the B12 finding surprised the research team. They noticed the effect when they studied “the mechanisms of pathogenesis of Pseudomonas aeruginosa (P. aeruginosa), a potentially deadly disease in both worms and humans that infects some 51,000 U.S. hospital patients each year,”27 according to the CDC.28
Higher Risks and How to Optimize Your Vitamin B12 Levels
Some people have a greater risk than others for vitamin or mineral deficiencies, but in this case vegans and vegetarians are at particular risk because B12 is derived from animal products. Additionally, older adults and people with gastrointestinal and malabsorption issues are also at risk.
Studies have also shown that those on metformin (for diabetes) and prolonged use of proton pump inhibitors (for stomach acid) are also at an increased risk for vitamin B12 deficiency, leading researchers to suggest “it seems prudent to monitor vitamin B12 levels periodically in patients taking metformin.”29
Because it’s not manufactured by your body, vitamin B12 must come from another source — namely food and supplements. That said, good sources for cobalamin or vitamin B12 include:
Grass fed organic beef and beef liver
Organic, pastured chicken and eggs
As for supplementation, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH),30 the average person age 14 and older should get 2.4 micrograms (mcg — one-millionth of a gram31) of vitamin B12 per day; pregnant women should get 2.6 mcg; and breastfeeding women should get 2.8 mcg. Newborns and children up to age 13 require between 0.4 and 1.8 mcg.
The type of a vitamin B12 supplement you should take is also something to consider. Between cyanocobalamin, the synthetic form,32 and methylcobalamin, which is the naturally occurring form found in food, methylcobalamin is the better choice, one reason being that your body retains it in greater amounts.33
Three Nutritional Supplements That Can Lower Your Cardiovascular Disease Risk if You Have Elevated TMAO Levels
In recent years, research has suggested trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO) might be a therapeutic target for insulin resistance and gastrointestinal (GI) cancers. As noted in one 2017 scientific review:1
“Through the digestion of animal protein and other constituents of animal products, the commensal bacteria in the gut (the gut microbiota) forms metabolites that can contribute to the development of both insulin resistance and cancer.
Trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO) is such a molecule and has recently drawn a lot of attention as it may be a risk factor for — and a link between — the gut microbiota and cardiovascular and renal disease.
Further, TMAO is anticipated to have significance as a biomarker of — or even an independent risk factor for — other undesirable conditions, including insulin resistance … TMAO originates from a precursor, trimethylamine (TMA) that is a metabolite of various precursors; mainly choline and carnitine from ingested foods.”
In a brand-new paper2 led by James DiNicolantonio, Pharm.D., who is also the coauthor of my latest book, "Superfuel: Ketogenic Keys to Unlock the Secrets of Good Fats, Bad Fats, and Great Health," we show how the likely true cause of elevated TMAO levels — which is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) — is hepatic insulin resistance.
Moreover, the paper shows that krill oil, astaxanthin, fish oil and berberine may be among some of the best supplemental strategies for those with high TMAO levels after diet optimization, as it is simply a reflection of insulin resistance in the liver.
DiNicolantonio has a new book called “The Longevity Solution,” with Dr. Jason Fung, which takes a deep dive into the benefits of omega-3s, including fish and krill oil.
What Causes Elevated TMAO Levels?
As noted earlier, TMAO is created when gastrointestinal bacteria metabolize dietary choline and carnitine found in eggs, liver, meat and fish, just to name a few. The bacteria turn choline and carnitine into trimethylamine, which is subsequently absorbed and oxidized to TMAO with the aid of flavin monooxygenases in your liver, primarily FMO3.
Flavin monooxygenases are a family of enzymes that oxidize xenosubstrates, thereby allowing the compounds to be excreted. Because choline and carnitine raises TMAO, which is thought to be a risk factor for CVD and Type 2 diabetes, some recommend limiting dietary and supplementary intake of these nutrients. However, DiNicolantonio and his coauthors point out there’s a significant flaw in this theory, stating:3
“[N]utritional epidemiology fails to incriminate dietary choline as a CV risk factor; supplemental carnitine is known to be highly protective in patients with vascular disease; and fish, the richest dietary source of preformed TMAO, is also protective.
Hence, TMAO, at least in the moderate concentrations seen in those without severe renal dysfunction, is not a mediating risk factor for vascular disease, but rather serves as a marker for factors that promote vascular disease and diabetes.
Impaired renal function is one of these factors, but not the sole one. The possibility that certain GI bacteria that are adept at generating trimethylamine are also harmful to vascular and metabolic health, remains undocumented. Factors that increase hepatic FMO3 therefore fall under suspicion.
Indeed, subnormal hepatic insulin activity associated with hepatic insulin resistance boosts hepatic FMO3 expression. Hepatic insulin resistance can result from metabolic syndrome and visceral obesity, and may reflect suboptimal activity of adiponectin or glucagon-like peptide-1 — all of which can play mediating roles in CV disease and diabetes.
Diets, nutraceuticals and medications which combat hepatic insulin resistance may therefore be useful for alleviating the health risks associated with elevated TMAO.”
Elevated TMAO — A Risk Factor for CVD and Metabolic Disease?
As noted in the featured paper, the evidence linking elevated TMAO with CVD risk is mixed. Several studies4,5,6,7 have concluded that elevated blood levels of TMAO is predictive of major adverse cardiovascular events in people preexisting heart disease, while others have failed to find support for this connection.8,9
Still, a meta-analysis10 of 11 studies published in 2018 found higher TMAO levels were associated with a 23 percent increased risk for cardiovascular events and a 55 percent increase in all-cause mortality. Animal studies cited in DiNicolantonio’s paper also suggest that very high oral doses of TMAO or its precursors, phosphatidylcholine and carnitine, can have a pro-atherogenic effect.
Case-controlled epidemiological studies have also linked high TMAO to a significantly increased risk for Type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. “Indeed, the correlations between TMAO and diabetes risk appear to be stronger than those for cardiovascular risk,” DiNicolantonio writes.
That said, there’s little evidence to suggest that dietary intake of TMAO or its precursors actually promotes CVD, provided your renal function is normal. On the contrary, choline is crucial not only for your brain, nervous system and cardiovascular function but also for healthy liver function and detoxification.
In fact, it appears to be essential for the prevention of fatty liver disease and is found in high amounts in foods such as fish, which are known for their beneficial influence on CVD — in part due to the benefits of long-chain omega-3 fats. DiNicolantonio writes:11
“With respect to carnitine and CV risk, a meta-analysis12 of prospective clinical trials in patients who had recently experienced a myocardial infarction concluded that carnitine supplementation is markedly protective with respect to total mortality, ventricular arrhythmias and new-onset angina …
Clinical trials13,14 have also reported favorable effects of supplemental carnitine or carnitine esters on angina, intermittent claudication and heart failure.
Moreover, rodent atherogenesis studies, in which carnitine has been administered in doses reasonably proportional to the supplementation doses used clinically, have found that carnitine is anti-atherogenic, despite its propensity to raise TMAO …
It is therefore reasonable to suspect that moderately elevated TMAO, rather than being a mediator of the associated CV risk, is a marker for factors which both promote CV events and increase plasma TMAO.”
Poor Liver Function Significantly Raises TMAO
According to DiNicolantonio, a key factor appears to be insulin resistance in the liver, which has been shown to significantly elevate TMAO. He writes:15
“TMAO arises when dietary choline and carnitine is metabolized by gastrointestinal bacteria to yield trimethylamine, which is then absorbed and oxidized to TMAO by hepatic flavin monooxygenases (FMO), primarily FMO3 … subnormal hepatic insulin activity, as found in those with hepatic [liver] insulin resistance, boosts hepatic FMO3 expression and hence TMAO levels.”
DiNicolantonio goes on to propose that elevated FMO3 activity in the liver can be a reflection of insulin resistance in the organ, which in turn influences cardiovascular health risk. This, he believes, “can rationalize the epidemiology of TMAO.” He explains:16
“Hepatic insulin resistance, and its common concomitant hepatic steatosis, are associated with increased cardiovascular risk, as well as elevated risk for Type 2 diabetes — risks likewise associated with elevated TMAO.
It is therefore straightforward to postulate that TMAO can serve as a marker for hepatic insulin resistance, and that this explains at least a portion of the risk for cardiovascular events and diabetes linked to TMAO.”
How to Reverse Insulin Resistance in Your Liver
If elevated TMAO is indeed a reflection of hepatic insulin resistance that raises your CVD risk, what can you do to correct it and lower your risk? For starters, you’d want to normalize your weight.
Two strategies that are most helpful in this regard are a cyclical ketogenic diet and intermittent fasting. For best results, they should be done together. You can learn more about these strategies in the hyperlinked articles provided. Certain supplements can also be very beneficial in the treatment of hepatic insulin resistance, including:17
• Berberine, which functions much like metformin, a commonly used medication for the treatment of diabetes. Both work, at least in part, by activating adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK). Known as the “metabolic master switch,” AMPK is an enzyme that controls how energy is produced in your body and how it’s used by the cells.
By activating this enzyme, berberine and metformin helps regulate the biological activities that normalize lipid, glucose and energy imbalances. Berberine, used in Chinese medicine to treat diabetes, has also been shown to counteract hepatic insulin resistance in diabetic rodents.18,19
• Astaxanthin, a powerful carotenoid antioxidant, is a PPARalpha agonist with activity similar to that of the cholesterol-lowering drug fenofibrate. PPARalpha agonists indirectly stimulate AMPK in your liver and have been shown to alleviate hepatic insulin resistance in animals fed diets high in fat or fructose, and lower the risk of cardiovascular events in patients with metabolic syndrome.
• Krill oil is another alternative, as it contains the esterified form of astaxanthin, which increases its bioavailability, along with long-chain omega-3 fats essential for good health, including heart health. As noted in DiNicolantonio’s paper:
“Krill oil, even when compared to fish oil, suppresses hepatic steatosis in rodents. This may be due to its astaxanthin content, which is not found in fish oil.
Moreover, krill oil, but not fish oil, reduces diacylglycerol and ceramide content in the liver. The phospholipid fraction of krill oil has also been noted to reduce hepatic glucose production, unlike fish oil.
Thus, krill oil, being a source of highly bioavailable form of astaxanthin, appears to have additional advantages for reducing hepatic steatosis and hepatic insulin resistance compared to fish oil.”
Summary Overview of Findings
In summary, while there’s some evidence to suggest elevated TMAO levels may be a risk factor for Type 2 diabetes, atherosclerosis and an increased risk for cardiovascular events, nutritional epidemiology studies have not been able to demonstrate a detrimental impact of dietary choline and carnitine, from which TMAO is synthesized.
Nor do studies support the notion that dietary sources of TMAO, such as fish, have a detrimental impact on cardiovascular health. Quite the contrary. DiNicolantonio’s paper proposes that the only time elevated TMAO may in fact be a risk factor for CVD is when it’s accompanied by poor liver function, and elevated TMAO may itself be a sign of poor liver function.
The good news is you can improve liver function and lower your TMAO level with the help of nutritional supplements; berberine, astaxanthin and krill oil being three of the primary ones. DiNicolantonio writes:
“In conclusion, there is reason to suspect that the elevated risk for vascular events and Type 2 diabetes associated with elevated TMAO, after correction for recognized risk factors, is mediated largely by hepatic insulin resistance and the metabolic factors which induce it …
[I]f this analysis is accurate, various measures which alleviate hepatic insulin resistance — correction of visceral obesity, activation of AMPK with metformin or berberine, activation of PPARalpha with fenofibrate or astaxanthin, amplification of adiponectin production with pioglitazone or plant-based diets, and clinical strategies which boost the production or bioactivity of GLP-1 — could be expected to decrease elevated TMAO while also decreasing the risk for vascular events and diabetes associated with this risk factor. Figure 1 summarizes these relationships …
Importantly, this analysis does not exclude the possibility that TMAO might be directly pathogenic at the very elevated levels typically seen in severe kidney dysfunction. Indeed, cell culture studies suggest that TMAO can be pro-inflammatory in the plasma concentrations achieved during kidney failure. It generally is wise to minimize the consumption of nitrogenous compounds in this context.”
Your natural immune function is a key component of your health and disease prevention. An integral part of this system is your natural killer (NK) cells, a type of white blood cell important to your innate immune system.1 Your immune system has two branches — cell mediated immunity (innate) and humoral immunity (adaptive).
As you contract a viral illness, the pathogen infects your cells. Immediately, your cell mediated immune response activates NK cells2 along with chemicals to attract the cells to the site of infection. The white blood cells attack the viral cells and destroy them, thus clearing the virus from your body. During the recovery phase, your humoral immune system begins generating antibodies to prevent the same type of infection from occurring again.
Colostrum, the fluid produced by new mothers in the first day or two after birth, plays an integral part in supporting your NK cells,3 as well as affecting inflammation, metabolism and protecting against the development of cancerous growths.
Athletes report improved performance after using bovine colostrum supplements,4 and one of its components demonstrates the ability to stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria in your gut.5
NK Cells Important in the Prevention of Viral Diseases and Tumors
Before moving further into a discussion of the benefits of colostrum, it’s important to identify the function of NK cells in the immune system and in the prevention of viral diseases and tumors, as this is the foundation of many of the benefits of colostrum. A paper published in Nature describes the functions of NK cells as they are involved in viral disease and tumor treatment:6
“Natural killer (NK) cells are effector lymphocytes of the innate immune system that control several types of tumors and microbial infections by limiting their spread and subsequent tissue damage. . . NK cells can thus limit or exacerbate immune responses.
Although NK cells might appear to be redundant in several conditions of immune challenge in humans, NK cell manipulation seems to hold promise in efforts to improve hematopoietic and solid organ transplantation, promote antitumor immunotherapy and control inflammatory and autoimmune disorders.”
The process of targeting and killing aberrant viral and tumor cells is mediated by molecules stored in a secretory lysosome, or specialized organelle, found in the NK cells. However, NK cells are not antigen-specific, a process used by your humoral immune response. Instead the NK cells help reduce viral replication as the adaptive arm of your immune system creates antibodies.
A deficiency in NK cells may leave you susceptible to viral infections and, potentially, tumor formation.7,8 Although not antigen-specific, NK cells differentiate between normal healthy cells and aberrant cells, leading scientists to seek ways to enhance NK cell function as a way of improving the effectiveness of cancer treatments.9,10
A recent Stanford study11 discovered a biomarker predicting the susceptibility to flu. Using 52 individuals who volunteered to be infected with influenza, researchers evaluated the types of immune cells present prior to the introduction of the virus and found NK cells were consistently low in individuals exhibiting symptoms of flu and those with higher levels had a better immune response.12
Health Benefits of Colostrum
Many of the benefits of using a colostrum supplement are based on the cellular responses in your body originating from supporting your immune system. Multiple studies have evaluated the use of colostrum in raw milk, including the effects on body composition, metabolism, recovery from surgery and protection against viral diseases, including rotavirus responsible for diarrheal illnesses.13
Colostrum is a critical nutrient source for the development of infants. Feeding formula, which does not contain colostrum, is believed to increase an infant's risk of Type 1 diabetes, childhood cancers, colitis, allergies and chronic infections.14
The bioactive molecules in colostrum helps modulate an infant's immune system and avoid over growth of pathogenic microorganisms. In adults, colostrum has been shown to affect:15,16
Allergy and infection — In a mouse study,17 researchers supplemented the experimental group with colostrum and then infected the control group and experimental group with the influenza virus. The mice supplemented with colostrum lost less weight and had a lower viral burden in the lungs compared to the control group.
The researchers then used a primary culture of small intestine epithelial cells stimulated with colostrum and discovered an interaction was potentially dependent on the components of colostrum with receptors in the intestinal epithelium.18
In another study,19 50 percent of orally ingested bovine immunoglobulin G protein (IgG, an antibody molecule) has been recovered in feces having passed through the gastrointestinal tract. The recovered levels in infants are higher than adults, likely due to differences in intestinal conditions, including pH.
Researchers believe this indicates bovine IgG is functionally active throughout the intestinal tract, helping to prevent gastrointestinal tract infections and lipopolysaccharide-induced inflammation.
IgG present in colostrum binds to human pathogens and allergens, neutralizing infection and limiting gastrointestinal inflammation. Researchers theorize the immunoglobulins may be a promising approach to supporting immune function and reducing allergic reactions.
Inflammation — Colostrum is rich in proline-rich polypeptides (PRPs), which have immune regulatory properties, appearing to restore balance and cellular functions. PRP has a regulatory activity in cytokine induction and inhibits the overproduction of reactive oxygen species and nitric oxide.20
PRPs also help relieve swelling by offsetting an overly active immune response and halting responses characteristic in rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia.21 PRPs may also decrease the severity of an inflammatory disease by altering genetic expression.22
The polypeptides have been shown to improve cognition and behavior in older rats, humans and chickens.23 Additionally, the presence of lactoferrin in colostrum plays a role on the development of inflammation. This protein plays a crucial role in iron homeostasis24 and has been shown to inhibit autoimmune responses that trigger inflammation.25 Lactoferrin is a strong antioxidant aiding the body in detoxification and helping decrease the toxic load on your lymphatic system.26
Cancer — The extraordinary effect colostrum has on immunity has translated to the ability to help fight cancer. The combination of inhibiting autoimmune responses, reducing inflammation in the gut and reducing infections is part of the process. Bovine colostrum activates the production of GcMAF, responsible for repairing tissue damage and preventing the growth and spread of cancer.27
Metabolism — Colostrum has also been used in patients with insulin resistance, which can lead to liver injury. In one animal study,28 researchers evaluated the effect hyperimmune colostrum had on hepatic injury and insulin resistance after oral administration.
Glucose intolerance and liver enzymes improved and the mice experienced a reduction in serum tumor necrosis factor, suggesting hyperimmune colostrum preparations help reduce chronic inflammation, liver injury and insulin resistance associated with nonalcoholic steatohepatitis.
Healthy gut — A critical action associated with colostrum growth factors is healing and prevention of damage to the gastrointestinal lining by maintaining tight junctions between the cells. Colostrum helps reduce symptoms of leaky gut syndrome,29 which allows large or partially digested food proteins to pass into the body and trigger an inflammatory response.
The antibodies and lactoferrin help maintain a healthy microbiome, largely responsible for your overall health and wellness.30 Lactoferrin also acts as a prebiotic, stimulating the growth of specific good bacteria.31
Body composition — The high number of antioxidants and growth factors in bovine colostrum has made it a powerhouse for promoting muscle growth and healing ligaments and muscles after injury. Reduction in oxidative stress and overall damage after exercise has made it a supplement of choice for Olympic athletes to support their performance.32
In one study,33 athletes increased their lean muscle mass and performance after eight weeks of using colostrum supplements. The Center for Nutritional Research34 states the growth factors in colostrum are used by athletes to help burn fat, build strength, shorten recovery time and prevent illness after a vigorous exercise program.
In a consensus statement, the International Olympic Committee35 ruled colostrum is a superfood and a legal alternative to banned substances to improve athletic performance.
Veterinarians Use Colostrum to Treat Dogs and Horses
Veterinarians have been using bovine colostrum to treat dogs and horses therapeutically as it provides over 70 different growth factors for tissue repair. Dog owners have used colostrum to help reduce canine allergies, improve leaky gut and externally in the treatment of wounds.36 According to Biostar Whole Food supplements, it's used:37
- To support the immune system and homeostasis, especially when dogs and horses are experiencing stress-related immune issues
- For tissue repair, wound healing and GI tract healing
- For muscle restoration
- For some senior animals who have ongoing issues
Hyperimmune Bovine Colostrum in Clinical Trials
Colostrum contains proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals used by the baby to help fight disease and nourish the body. Antibody levels in colostrum may be up to 100 times higher than levels in regular milk.38
Researchers have now created a special type of colostrum called hyperimmune bovine colostrum, produced after the cow receives a vaccination against a specific organism. The cow develops antibodies against the organism, which is then passed along in the colostrum.
Today, hyperimmune bovine colostrum is being used in clinical trials to test the treatment for diarrhea related to AIDS,39 graft-versus-host disease40 and Clostridium difficile.41
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted orphan drug status42 to hyperimmune bovine colostrum. This gives drug manufacturers who invest special market advantages, such as permission to sell the drug without competition for seven years.
Steer Clear of Colostrum When You’re Fasting
It's important to remember, while there are benefits to using colostrum, the product is rich in growth factors. Athletes use it to boost performance and it may be used to help treat wounds. This means, while you're fasting and trying to induce autophagy, it's important to steer clear of colostrum.
Autophagy is a process your body uses to help to clear damaged cells,43 including old cells no longer serving a functional purpose. The word is derived from Greek words “auto,” meaning self, and “phagy,” meaning eating. In recent studies researchers have observed how this process promotes longevity and benefits the nervous system, heart and metabolism.44
You may help induce autophagy through the practice of fasting, which helps clear old cells from your body and improve your overall health. The use of colostrum during this process is contraindicated, as the growth factors increase growth at the same time your body is attempting to clear old cells.
More Ways to Naturally Boost Your NK Cells
Researchers continue to place their hope in finding an effective flu vaccine, but you don't need drug intervention to boost your NK cells and therefore your protection against virtually all viruses and malignancies. NK cells tend to lose utility with increasing age, leaving you more susceptible to disease. The medical term for this degeneration is "immune senescence."
The good news is you may counteract this decline using a number of different strategies and lifestyle choices, one of which is using a colostrum supplement. However, there are 10 more strategies you’ll find in my previous article, “How to Improve Your Immune Function by Boosting Natural Killer Cells.”
South America is a melting pot of cultural and culinary traditions, as the different countries in the region have their own takes on ingredients like vegetables and meats. In particular, fish and seafood dishes are popular because of the countries’ proximity to the Amazon River and the Caribbean Sea.
If you want to try a South American-inspired dish, look no further than this Mouthwatering Pan-Fried Fish With Fiery Pico de Gallo Salsa recipe. The tender and juicy fish and the fresh yet spicy salsa offer a flavorful balance of the land and the sea.
Note: While this recipe provides flavor and health benefits, be cautious of the very high possibility that the fish is tainted with mercury and other heavy metals and pollutants. Ideally, eat fish in moderation and thoroughly check for labels that verify the fish’s freshness and quality (more on this later).
Pico de Gallo Salsa
2 large organic plum tomatoes, deseeded and finely diced
1/3 cup chopped coriander
1/4 cup organic red onion, finely chopped
1 small organic jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped (keep the seeds if you like it hotter)
1 Tbsp. organic lemon or lime juice (plus extra to serve)
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
4 wild fish fillets of your choice (Alaskan salmon, barramundi, cod, coral trout etc.), skin on
2 Tbsp. Dr. Mercola’s coconut oil
For the salsa:
- Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl. Season to taste with Dr. Mercola’s Himalayan salt and freshly cracked pepper, and add a little more lemon juice or jalapenos if desired.
For the fish:
- Season the fish fillets with salt and pepper and rub them on both sides with the coconut oil.
- Heat a large, non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Put them skin side up on the pan and cook until golden brown for 3 minutes, then flip the fillets with a spatula.
- Cook the fish until completely opaque throughout, for 5 minutes longer.
- Remove fillets from the pan, place them on plates and serve topped with the Pico de Gallo Salsa and lemon.
This recipe makes 4 servings.
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 8 minutes
Make the Most Out of This Fish and Salsa Recipe
This Mouthwatering Pan-Fried Fish With Pico de Gallo Salsa Recipe might require a little effort and caution, especially if you’re a beginner in relatively short cooking time the kitchen, but it’s not a highly technical or complicated dish, and only requires a relatively short cooking time.
Even better, you can make a batch of the no-cook salsa ahead of time and use it for other dishes, too. Feel free to add more flavor to the fish by using other herbs and spices. The number of ways you can prepare this recipe and make it your own knows no bounds.
Why Choosing the Right Fish Is a Big Factor
The fish fillet you choose for this dish is the star of the show, which is why selecting the best portions is a must. However, as mentioned earlier, a huge caveat of fish is the high likelihood of it being contaminated with mercury and other pollutants.
The boom in the fish farming industry has resulted in high profits, but at the cost of producing low-quality fish. Farmed fish are given unnatural feed loaded with dioxins, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and other drugs and chemicals. Even worse, these fish are at high risk for genetic mutations and deficiencies like ear bone deformities and brittle flesh.
The good news is, you can still enjoy your favorite fish dishes by choosing wisely and carefully inspecting the portions you’ll be purchasing. A trusted local fish monger is your best source for high-quality fish, but if you have no choice but to buy from grocery stores or big box retailers, check for these third party labels that’ll assure you of top-quality fish:
- The Marine Stewardship Council logo, featuring the letters “MSC” and a blue check mark in the shape of a fish
- Alaska’s “Wild Alaska Pure” logo, since the state doesn’t allow aquaculture, making all fish wild-caught
- The Global Aquaculture Alliance symbol, if the fish is farmed (although this should be your last resort, as much as possible)
This Simple Salsa Is Flavorful and Nutritious
Salsa, which literally means “sauce,” is popular as a topping for quesadillas and enchiladas, as a dip for tortillas and tacos and as a condiment poured over eggs, fajitas, grilled beef and roast chicken. While tomatoes, onions and chilies are its three main ingredients, sometimes papaya, mango and plantains are also added, alongside spices for additional flavor and heat.
You can reap the health benefits that salsa has to offer by using fresh and organically grown produce instead of canned vegetables (as much as possible, avoid canned salsa). You can have peace of mind knowing that these ingredients are healthy and fresh, without artificial flavorings or spices.
Think About Tomatoes for Improved Health
Juicy and organic tomatoes, which form the salsa’s base, and are a good storehouse of:
- Vitamins A and C and B-complex vitamins
- Minerals like potassium, manganese and phosphorus
- Flavonoids and carotenoids like lutein and zeaxanthin
- Phytonutrients like flavonols, flavonones, hydroxycinnamic acids, glycosides and fatty acid derivatives
Research showed that a carotenoid antioxidant called lycopene in tomatoes can help lower a person’s stroke risk, compared to other antioxidants. Lycopene may also facilitate cell protection and shield skin from ultraviolet damage. Additional findings also highlighted lycopene’s ability to maintain bone density and decrease risk for diseases like osteoporosis, prostate or colorectal cancer and diabetes.
Other positive effects linked to tomatoes include regulating blood pressure levels, supporting better heart health, minimizing constipation, improving eye and skin health and helping prevent defects in infants.
Hot Jalapeno Peppers Can Help Boost Your Well-Being
Capsaicin, an active ingredient responsible for the peppers' pungent odor and burning sensation in your mouth, may help reduce the risk of breast cancer cell growth by activating olfactory receptors on the tumor cells called Transient Receptor Potential Channels (TRPV1).
The researchers stimulated these cells by adding capsaicin to cell cultures for several hours to days. Afterwards, the cells not only began to slowly divide but also started dying in large numbers. Aside from this, adding chili peppers to meals can:,
Help with pain relief
Assist with weight loss
Deliver antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties
Help enhance immunity
Aid with insulin level reduction
Protect the heart
Prevent sinusitis and relieving congestion
About Pete Evans
Pete Evans is an internationally renowned chef who has not only cooked for the general public, but he’s also cooked a royal banquet for the Prince and Princess of Denmark, a private dinner for Martha Stewart, and even represented his hometown at the gala GʼDay USA dinner for 600 in NYC.
Pete’s career has moved from the kitchen into the lounge room with many TV appearances including Lifestyle Channel’s Home show, Postcards from Home, FISH, My Kitchen Rules, and Moveable Feast.
Pete’s latest endeavor, The Paleo Way, is a vibrant health, weight management, and fitness program, tailored to a Paleo lifestyle. Its 10-week activation program teaches you the synergy between eating good food, moving your body every day, and looking at the positive sides and secrets to a healthier and happier life.
Antioxidants are, without a doubt, an essential part of optimal health. Even conventional Western physicians now acknowledge the significance of getting sufficient antioxidants from your diet or taking high-quality antioxidant supplements. But do you know how antioxidants function in your body and what types you need?
I have compiled some basic facts about antioxidants to broaden your understanding of these nutrients, so you can better appreciate their importance in helping keep you youthful and healthy.
Antioxidants are a class of stable molecules that are capable of inhibiting the harmful effects of free radicals, which are unstable and highly reactive molecular species that target lipids, nucleic acid, proteins and other important molecules. Your body naturally circulates a variety of nutrients for their antioxidant properties and manufactures antioxidant enzymes in order to control oxidative stress.1
Some antioxidants are produced by your body, but some are not. As you age, your body's natural antioxidant production can decline.2 Since antioxidants play a significant role in delaying the aging process by fighting free radicals, losing your body's antioxidant defense could speed up aging.3
To fully understand how antioxidants truly benefit your well-being, you should first be familiar with free radical formation. Biogerontologist Denham Harman was the first to discover the concept of free radicals in 1954, while researching an explanation for aging.4,5
Free radicals are a type of a highly reactive metabolite that is naturally produced by your body as a result of normal metabolism and energy production. They are your natural biological responses to environmental toxins like cigarette smoke, sunlight, chemicals and cosmic and man-made radiation. They even are a key feature of pharmaceutical drugs. Your body also produces free radicals when you exercise and when you have inflammation anywhere in your body.6
Free radical molecules are missing one or more electrons, which are responsible for biological oxidation. The incomplete molecules aggressively attack other molecules in order to replace their missing parts. These reactions are called "oxidation."7 Oxidation is essentially biological rusting, as it's an effect caused by too much oxygen in your tissues.8
Free radicals steal electrons from the proteins in your body, which badly damages your DNA and other cell structures. They can create a "snowballing effect," which means that, as molecules steal from one another, each one becomes a new free radical, leaving a trail of biological carnage.9
Free radicals tend to collect in cell membranes (lipid peroxidation), which makes the cell lipids prone to oxidative damage. When this happens, the cell membrane becomes brittle and leaky, causing the cell to fall apart and die.10
Free radicals can severely affect your DNA by disrupting the duplication of DNA, interfering with DNA maintenance, and breaking open or altering its structure by reacting with the DNA bases.11,12 Free radicals are linked to over 60 different diseases, including:13,14
- Parkinson's disease
- Alzheimer's disease
If your body does not get adequate protection, free radicals can become rampant, causing your cells to perform poorly. This can lead to tissue degradation and put you at risk of diseases. This is where antioxidants come in. Antioxidants are electron donors, so they can break the free radical chain reaction by sacrificing their own electrons to feed free radicals, but without turning into free radicals themselves.15
Antioxidants are nature's way of providing your cells with adequate defense against reactive oxygen species (ROS). As long as you have these important micronutrients, your body will be able to resist aging caused by your everyday exposure to pollutants. If you don't have an adequate supply of antioxidants to help squelch free radicals, then you can be at risk of oxidative stress, which leads to accelerated tissue and organ damage.16
"Numerous studies have confirmed the benefits of antioxidants and the role they play in maintaining good health and reducing your risk of heart disease, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and cancer."
Antioxidants also help slow down the aging process, which can have immense effects on your skin health.17 Other important benefits of antioxidants include:
- Repairing damaged molecules — Some unique types of antioxidants may help repair damaged molecules by donating a hydrogen atom. This is very important when the molecule is a critical one, like those that make up the nucleic acids in your DNA.18
- Blocking metal radical production — Certain antioxidants have a chelating effect that may help keep toxic metals from causing free radical formation and inhibit any chemical reaction from taking place.19
- Stimulating gene expression and endogenous antioxidant production — Some forms of antioxidants may help stimulate your body's genes and increase your natural defenses.20
- Providing a "shield effect" — Antioxidants, such as flavonoids, may act as a virtual shield by attaching to your DNA to help protect it from free radical attacks.21
- Reducing the risk for cancer — Antioxidants may help fight against cancer by interfering with the metabolic activation of chemical carcinogens, causing regression of premalignant lesions and inhibiting the development of tumors.22
In the book "The Antioxidants," author Richard A. Passwater, Ph.D., says that humans have one of the longest natural life spans in the animal kingdom, most likely because of the wealth of antioxidants in our omnivorous diet. Human bodies also produce antioxidant enzymes that cannot be found in other creatures. According to him, "our natural antioxidant processes compensate for one another, covering up momentary deficiencies by their overlap."23
Many people think that taking just a few antioxidants — just one or two mega doses, for example — is sufficient to maintain optimal health. But I strongly disagree. Instead, you must get a wide variety of antioxidants to optimize your well-being.
The science of antioxidants can be quite complex, and this often causes people to be confused about what types they should be taking. In fact, I've been asked several times whether it's necessary to take astaxanthin if you're already taking a resveratrol supplement. The answer is yes — astaxanthin is actually a lipid-soluble antioxidant,24 while resveratrol is a water-soluble antioxidant.25 Each type of antioxidant has its own special function.
When classified according to their solubility, antioxidants can be categorized as either soluble in lipids or fat (hydrophobic) or soluble in water (hydrophilic). Both of these forms are required by your body in order to protect your cells, since the interior of your cells and the fluid between them are composed of water, while the cell membranes themselves are mostly made of fat.26
Since free radicals can strike either the watery cell contents or the fatty cellular membrane, you need both types of antioxidants to ensure full protection from oxidative damage. Lipid-soluble antioxidants are the ones that protect your cell membranes from lipid peroxidation. They are mostly located in your cell membranes.27 Some examples of lipid-soluble antioxidants are vitamins A and E, carotenoids and coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10).28
Water-soluble antioxidants are found in aqueous body fluids, like your blood and the fluids within and around your cells (cytosol or cytoplasmic matrix).29 Some examples of water-soluble antioxidants are vitamin C, polyphenols and glutathione.30
However, solubility is not the only way to categorize antioxidants. They can also be categorized as enzymatic and nonenzymatic:31,32
• Enzymatic antioxidants help break down and remove free radicals. They also help flush out dangerous oxidative products by converting them into hydrogen peroxide, then into water. This is done through a multistep process that requires a number of trace metal cofactors such as zinc, copper, manganese and iron.
Enzymatic antioxidants cannot be found in supplements, but instead are produced in your body. The main enzymatic antioxidants in your body are:33
◦ Superoxide dismutase (SOD) — This can break down superoxide into hydrogen peroxide and oxygen, with the help of copper, zinc, manganese and iron. It is found in almost all aerobic cells and extracellular fluids.
◦ Catalase (CAT) — This works by converting hydrogen peroxide into water and oxygen, using iron and manganese cofactors. It finishes the detoxification process started by SOD.
◦ Glutathione peroxidase and glutathione reductase — These are selenium-containing enzymes that help break down hydrogen peroxide and organic peroxides into alcohols. They are most abundant in your liver.
• Nonenzymatic antioxidants help convert free radicals into nonradical, nontoxic forms, thereby interrupting free radical chain reactions. Some examples are carotenoids, vitamin C, vitamin E, plant polyphenols and glutathione.34
Antioxidants can also be classified in terms of their molecular size:35
- Small-molecule antioxidants work by mopping up or "scavenging" the reactive oxygen species and carrying them away through chemical neutralization. The main players in this category are vitamins C and E, glutathione, lipoic acid, carotenoids and CoQ10.
- Large-protein antioxidants tend to be the enzymatic enzymes outlined above, as well as "sacrificial proteins" that absorb ROS and stop them from attacking your essential proteins. One example of these sacrificial proteins is albumin, which "takes the bullet" for crucial enzymes and DNA.
Isn't it wonderful how nature has equipped you with the perfect combination of different defenses to cover almost every possible biological contingency?
As mentioned, it is crucial that you do not stick to getting just one or two types of antioxidants. You need a wide array of antioxidants to provide you with optimal benefits. Some antioxidants can be produced by your body. These are:
• Glutathione — Known as the most powerful antioxidant, glutathione is a tripeptide found in every single cell in your body.36 When others are talking about it they sometimes refer to it as the "master" antioxidant because it's intracellular and has the unique ability of maximizing the performance of all the other antioxidants, including vitamins C and E, CoQ10 and alpha-lipoic acid, as well as the fresh vegetables and fruits that you eat every day.37
Glutathione's primary function is to protect your cells and mitochondria from oxidative and peroxidative damage. It is also essential for detoxification, energy utilization and inhibition of age-related diseases. Glutathione helps eliminate toxins from your cells and protect them against the damaging effects of radiation, chemicals and environmental pollutants.38,39
Your body's ability to produce glutathione decreases with aging.40 However, there are foods you can include in your diet that may help promote glutathione production, such as high-quality whey protein,41 curcumin,42 raw dairy, eggs and grass fed meat.43,44
• Alpha-Lipoic Acid (ALA) — Aside from its free radical scavenging abilities, this powerful antioxidant may also help:
◦ Modify gene expression to reduce inflammation
◦ Chelate heavy metals
◦ Enhance insulin sensitivity
Like melatonin,45,46 ALA is an antioxidant that can be easily transported into your brain so it can benefit people with brain diseases like Alzheimer's.47 ALA may also help regenerate other antioxidants like vitamins C and E, as well as glutathione. This means that if your body has used up these antioxidants, ALA may help regenerate them.
• CoQ10 (Ubiquinone) — Used by every cell in your body, CoQ10 is converted by your body to its reduced form, ubiquinol, to maximize its benefits.48,49 CoQ10 has been the subject of thousands of studies. Aside from naturally protecting you from free radicals, it also helps:50
◦ Produce more energy for your cells
◦ Support your heart health, immune system and nervous system
◦ Reduce the signs of normal aging
◦ Maintain blood pressure levels within the normal range
As you get older, your body becomes more and more challenged to convert the oxidized CoQ10 to ubiquinol. When this happens, you may need to take a ubiquinol supplement.51
There are antioxidants that cannot be manufactured inside your body and must be obtained from antioxidant-rich foods or potent antioxidant supplements. These are:
• Resveratrol — Found in certain fruits like grapes, vegetables, cocoa and red wine,52 this antioxidant can cross the blood-brain barrier, providing protection for your brain and nervous system.53
Resveratrol has been found to be so effective at warding off age-related diseases that it was dubbed the "fountain of youth."54 Aside from providing free radical protection, this antioxidant may help:55
◦ Inhibit the spread of cancer, especially prostate cancer
◦ Lower your blood pressure
◦ Keep your heart healthy and improve elasticity of your blood vessels
◦ Normalize your anti-inflammatory response
◦ Reduce your risk for Alzheimer's disease
• Carotenoids are a class of naturally occurring pigments that have powerful antioxidant properties. They are the compounds that give foods their vibrant colors.56 There are over 700 naturally occurring carotenoids,57 which can be classified into two groups:58
◦ Carotenes — These do not contain oxygen atoms. Some examples are lycopene (found in red tomatoes) and beta-carotene (found in carrots), which is converted by your body into vitamin A.
◦ Xanthophylls — These contain oxygen atoms. Examples include lutein, canthaxanthin, zeaxanthin and astaxanthin. Zeaxanthin is the most common carotenoid that naturally exists in nature and is found in peppers, kiwi fruit, maize, grapes, squash and oranges.59
• Astaxanthin — Although it's technically a carotenoid, I believe this antioxidant deserves its own special mention due to its superb nutritional advantage. Astaxanthin is a marine carotenoid produced by the microalgae Haematococcus pluvialis when its water supply dries up, to give itself protection from ultraviolet radiation.60
I believe that astaxanthin is the most powerful carotenoid in terms of free radical scavenging. It is 65 times more powerful than vitamin C, 54 times more powerful than beta-carotene and 14 times more powerful than vitamin E.61
Aside from its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier like resveratrol, astaxanthin can also cross the blood-retinal barrier — something that beta-carotene and lycopene cannot do.62
Astaxanthin is more effective than other carotenoids at "singlet oxygen quenching," a particular type of oxidation caused by sunlight and various organic materials.63,64 It's also 550 times more powerful than vitamin E and 11 times more powerful than beta-carotene at neutralizing this singlet oxygen.65 It may also help:
◦ Support your immune function66
◦ Improve your cardiovascular health by reducing c-reactive proteins (CRP) and triglycerides and increasing beneficial high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterols67
◦ Protect your eyes from cataracts, macular degeneration and blindness68
◦ Reduce your risk of dementia, Alzheimer's and certain types of cancers69
◦ Promote recovery from spinal cord injury70
◦ Reduce inflammation71
◦ Improve your endurance, workout performance and recovery72
◦ Relieve indigestion and acid reflux73
◦ Stabilize your blood sugar levels74
◦ Increase sperm strength and count, which in turn improves fertility75
◦ Protect against sunburn and the damaging effects of ultraviolet radiation76
◦ Reduce the oxidative damage to your DNA77
◦ Relieve the symptoms of different diseases, including pancreatitis,78 multiple sclerosis79 and neurodegenerative diseases,80 among others
To learn more about this antioxidant's benefits, I recommend reading "Research on Astaxanthin Demonstrates Significant Whole Body Benefits."
• Vitamin C — This vitamin is a monosaccharide antioxidant that can be obtained from both animals and plants. It's an essential micronutrient for humans.81 Vitamin C plays a role in collagen synthesis, which is an important structural component of your bones, blood vessels, tendons and ligaments.82 It also helps:
◦ Fight oxidation by acting as a major electron donor83
◦ Maintain optimal electron flow in your cells84
◦ Protect proteins, lipids and other vital molecular elements in your body85
The best sources of vitamin C are raw, organic vegetables and fruits, but you can also take it as a supplement or have it administered intravenously (IV).86 When taking a vitamin C supplement, opt for one made with liposomal technology, which makes the nutrient more absorbable to your cells.
• Vitamin E — Natural vitamin E is a family of eight different compounds: four tocopherols and four tocotrienols. You can obtain all these vitamin E compounds from a balanced diet composed of wholesome foods.87 However, if you take a synthetic vitamin E supplement, you will get only one of the eight compounds.88
I believe that when it comes to obtaining nutrients, your diet — not supplements — should be your primary source. If you consume a balanced, unprocessed diet that's full of high-quality, raw organic foods, especially fruits and vegetables, your body will acquire the essential nutrients and antioxidants it requires to achieve or maintain optimal health. Here are some of my top recommendations for antioxidant-rich foods:
• Fresh, organic vegetables — Most of the vegetables you eat, especially the green leafy ones, are loaded with potent phytochemicals, which are plant compounds that act as antioxidants. Phytochemicals can reduce inflammation and eliminate carcinogens.89
However, to maximize the antioxidants in vegetables, you must consume them raw, in a state closest to when they were harvested. I highly recommend juicing as one way to absorb all the nutrients in the vegetables — it is one of the healthiest antioxidant drinks you can add to your diet.90 You may also eat the pulp instead of throwing it away. For valuable tips in vegetable juicing, read my article, "Benefits of Juicing: Your Keys to Radiant Health."
• Sprouts and microgreens — They're powerful sources of antioxidants, minerals, vitamins and enzymes,91 and they allow you to get the most benefit from a plant in the most biologically concentrated and bioavailable form. My top favorites are pea shoots, sunflower sprouts and broccoli sprouts.
• Fruits — Fresh berries like blueberries, blackberries, cranberries and raspberries are the best antioxidant-rich fruits you can consume, as they contain powerful phytochemicals that may help reduce the risk for inflammatory disorders, cardiovascular diseases and cancer.92
Some berries also contain vitamin C, carotenes and carotenoids, as well as nutrients like potassium, iron, calcium and magnesium.93 However, I advise you to consume fruits in moderation, as they contain fructose, which can be detrimental to your health in high amounts.
• Nuts — Pecans, walnuts and hazelnuts are excellent antioxidant foods that may help boost your heart health and overall well-being.94,95 Look for nuts that are organic and raw, not irradiated or pasteurized. I do not recommend consuming peanuts, as they are usually pesticide-laden and can be contaminated with a carcinogenic mold called aflatoxin.96
• Herbs and spices — Aside from being an abundant source of antioxidants, herbs and spices may have potential anticancer benefits.97 Herbs and spices differ mainly by source, as herbs typically come from the plant's leaves while spices come from the bark, stem and seeds. Both have been used for thousands of years to flavor foods and help treat illnesses.98
Some of your best choices are ground cloves, ground cinnamon, oregano, turmeric, ginger and garlic. Ideally, you should opt only for fresh herbs and spices, as they are healthier and have higher antioxidant levels than processed, powdered versions.99
• Organic green tea — This antioxidant-rich drink contains epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), a catechin polyphenol that's considered one of the most powerful antioxidants known today.100
EGCG helps lower your risk of heart attack, stroke, glaucoma, high cholesterol levels and more.101,102 Studies have also found that it may help improve your exercise performance, increase fat oxidation and even reduce the risk for obesity due to its regulatory effect on fat metabolism.103
However, remember that not all green teas are created equal. Some processed green tea brands can contain very little or no EGCG at all.104 Some tea bags are also contaminated with fluoride or hazardous plastics that can leach into your tea when brewing.105
To ensure you're drinking high-quality green tea, be sure to buy only organic, loose-leaf tea from a reputable source. My top tea choices are organic matcha tea and tulsi tea.
I also recommend consuming high-quality whey protein that's cold-pressed, derived from grass fed cows, and free of hormones, sugar and chemicals. Whey protein provides all the essential key amino acids for glutathione antioxidant production: cysteine, glycine and glutamate.106 It also contains glutamylcysteine, a unique compound that's considered to be the key factor in the glutathione-promoting activity of whey protein mixture.107
As many of you know, I do not recommend taking many supplements, as they cannot replace the nutrients and benefits you can get from whole organic foods. Supplements should only be taken to supplement your diet, and not to completely replace it.
However, due to today's fast-paced and busy lifestyle, many people are now neglecting the importance of consuming whole, organic foods. They do not have time to cook and prepare wholesome meals, causing them to miss out on essential nutrients, including antioxidants. In this case, taking a high-quality antioxidant supplement may be an ideal option. Some of my personal recommendations are:
- Krill oil
- Acai berry
- Vitamin E
- Liposomal vitamin C
However, remember that overloading on antioxidants, especially from supplements, can have negative effects on your health.108 It can be easy to overdose when taking antioxidants as supplements, so always remember the Goldilocks equation: not too many, but not too few.
An antioxidant-rich diet will not work to your advantage if you do not follow a healthy lifestyle. Remember, there are unhealthy lifestyle habits that can promote free radical formation.109
Failure to put a stop to unhealthy habits can result in the levels of free radicals in your body rising to dangerous levels, putting you at risk of inflammation and paving the way for disease and illness. Aside from consuming a wholesome diet, here are a few lifestyle pointers I highly recommend:110
1. Reduce and eventually eliminate sugar (especially fructose) and grains from your diet — According to Dr. Robert Lustig, professor of pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), fructose undergoes the Maillard reaction with proteins, which leads to superoxide free radicals to form in your body. These damaging free radicals can cause liver inflammation similar to that caused by alcohol.111
Fewer sugars and grains (which convert into sugar in your body) in your diet may help decrease your antioxidant stress. Plus, the antioxidants you have will work better and last longer. I also advise against consuming any type of processed foods, especially soda, as these usually contain high amounts of fructose.112
2. Exercise — Exercise may help boost your body's antioxidant production but in a paradoxical way, as it actually creates potent oxidative stress. However, if you do it properly and in moderation, it may help improve your body's capacity to produce antioxidants. This is why I recommend doing short bursts of high-intensity exercises like Peak Fitness instead of prolonged cardio like marathon running, which puts excessive stress on your heart.
3. Manage your stress — Stress can exacerbate the inflammation and poor immune function caused by free radical formation. Studies have found significant links between acute and/or chronic emotional and psychological stress and numerous health issues.113
To manage your stress effectively, I recommend using energy psychology tools, like the Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT). EFT is a form of psychological acupuncture — but without the needles — that can help you can correct the emotional short-circuiting that contributes to your chronic stress.
4. Avoid smoking — Smoking forms free radicals in your body, which accelerates the aging process.114 Even being around people who smoke can affect your health by narrowing the blood vessels in the outermost layer of your skin, which limits its blood flow and impairs its ability to absorb oxygen and nutrients, leading to accelerated wrinkling and aging.115
Smoking also contributes to the pathobiology of various diseases, the most well-known of which is lung cancer.116
5. Get enough sleep — High-quality sleep is one of the cornerstones of good health, and science has now established that a sleep deficit can have severe far-reaching effects on your health.117 Six to eight hours of sleep per night seems to be the optimal amount for most adults, and too much or too little can have adverse effects on your well-being. If you are having problems sleeping, I recommend reading "Top 33 Tips to Optimize Your Sleep Routine."
6. Try grounding — Also called "earthing," grounding may provide potent antioxidant effects that help alleviate inflammation in your body. Walking barefoot on the earth may help you absorb large amounts of electrons through the soles of your feet.118
The best way to incorporate grounding into your lifestyle is to exercise barefoot outdoors, such as on the beach or in your yard. It's one of the most wonderful, inexpensive and powerful ways to uplift your health.
By Ronnie Cummins
As noted in “Ditching Nature in Favor of Fake Food Is Not the Solution to Destructive Factory Farming” by Dr. Joseph Mercola:
“Industrial agriculture is one of the most unsustainable practices of modern civilization. The ‘bigger is better’ food system has reached a point where its real costs have become readily apparent.
Like water running down an open drain, the Earth's natural resources are disappearing quickly, as industrialized farming drives air pollution, water pollution, deforestation, rising carbon emissions and the depletion, erosion and poisoning of soils.
The long-term answer, however, lies in the transition to sustainable, regenerative, chemical-free farming practices, not in the creation of food manufacturing techniques that replace farms with chemistry labs, which is the ‘environmentally friendly’ alternative envisioned by biotech startups and its chemists.”
As a campaigner for organic and regenerative food, and a critic of fast food, GMOs and factory farms for over 40 years, I am alarmed and disgusted by the degenerate state of food and farming in the United States.
Not only are misguided farmers, ignorant and corrupt public officials, greedy investors, food corporations and mindless consumers destroying their health and the health of their families through their everyday production practices and food choices, but our Fast Food Nation is rapidly degrading the health of the environment and the climate and life-support systems of our planet as well.
Corporate America’s trillion-dollar taxpayer-subsidized system of industrial food and farming, represented most graphically by factory farms and feedlots, is literally killing us, whether we’re talking about our food-related public health emergency or the fact that our chemical and fossil fuel-intensive system of industrial agriculture is belching out 43 to 57 percent of the greenhouse gas pollution that has dangerously destabilized our climate.1
(The percentages are estimated amounts according to the United Nations Conference on Trade of Development, 2013,2 in which the conference members added food waste, food production, processing, transport and deforestation together.)
The malevolent driving force of Big Food Inc. and their army of chemical farmers, food processors and marketers is the idea that maximizing short-term profits trumps all other considerations — including health, economic justice, animal welfare, environment and climate stability — and that convenient, cheap, artificially flavored fast food and commodities represent the pinnacle of modern agricultural production and consumption.
Boycott Factory-Farmed Food
It’s time to disrupt and take down our suicide economy and our degenerate agricultural and food system. A good starting point is to join the growing movement and consumer boycott of all factory-farmed meat, dairy and poultry products, not just at the grocery store, but in restaurants as well — and not just occasionally, but every day.
Factory farms inhumanely confine, feed and drug 50 billion of the 70 billion farm animals on the planet,3 supplying McDonald’s, KFC, Burger King, et al., and the supermarket chains with the cheap, artery-clogging meat and dairy that are destroying our environment, climate and health.
Concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and the GMO soybean and corn farms that supply them are the No. 1 source of water pollution in the U.S.,4 as well as a major source of air pollution. Monsanto/Bayer’s GMO soybeans and corn for CAFO animal feed are the No. 1 destroyer of grasslands and forest in the Amazon basin and other areas.5,6
U.S. and international factory farm meat and dairy operations are also major drivers of global warming and climate change, spewing out massive amounts of CO2, methane and nitrous oxide emissions7 into the atmosphere from giant feedlots, hog and chicken complexes, manure lagoons and the chemical-intensive, GMO grain farms that supply “CAFO Nation” with millions of tons of taxpayer-subsidized animal feed every year.
Besides degenerating the environment and climate, CAFOs are primary drivers of our deteriorating public health as well. Filthy, inhumane, polluting, greenhouse gas-belching factory farms mass produce approximately 90 to 95 percent of the meat and animal products consumed in America today.
The average U.S. carnivore now supersizes and toxifies themselves with approximately 200 pounds8 of CAFO meat a year, loaded with bad fats (low in omega-3 and other key nutrients) and laced with antibiotic, pesticide and hormone residues that substantially increase a person’s chances of getting cancer, suffering from obesity, dying from an antibiotic-resistant infection, developing Alzheimer’s or having a heart attack.
Approximately 75 percent of all the antibiotics9 in the U.S. today are dumped into factory farm animal feed and water to keep the animals alive under the hellish conditions of intensive confinement as well as to force the animals to gain more weight.
This massive, reckless and often illegal use of antibiotics on factory farms (along with routine over-prescribing of prescription antibiotics by doctors) has begun to spread deadly antibiotic-resistant pathogens into our food, with an average of 90,000 Americans dying from antibiotic-resistant infections on an outpatient basis every year, according to the latest calculations by Cambridge University researchers, who noted that they believe the 23,000 deaths often quoted are far underreported.10
Based upon a study commissioned by the U.K. government, multidrug-resistant infections are projected kill 10 million people a year across the world — more than currently die from cancer — by 2050 unless significant action is taken.11
False Solutions No. 1: Fake Meat
Although I share the same disgust and hatred of factory farms and CAFO meat as my vegan and vegetarian brothers and sisters, I am nonetheless disturbed to see a growing number of vegan activists, Silicon Valley tycoons, genetic engineering cheerleaders and even some climate activists joining together to promote fake meat products such as the “Impossible Burger,” as a healthy and climate-friendly alternative to beef.
Even worse are the growing number of vegans, climate activists and high-tech/GMO enthusiasts who claim that abolishing livestock and animal husbandry altogether will solve our health, environmental and climate crises.
The Impossible Burger, made from a highly-processed mix of soy, wheat, coconut oil, potatoes and genetically engineered (GE) yeast, is Wall Street’s latest darling and a heavily-hyped menu item in many vegan restaurants. As Mercola has previously pointed out:
“The Impossible Burger resembles meat "right down to the taste and beeflike 'blood,' The New York Times notes,12 and has become a hit in some circles. So far, the company has raised $257 million from investors,13 who include Bill Gates, Khosla Ventures, Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz's Open Philanthropy Project, Li Ka-shing (a Hong Kong billionaire) and Singapore's sovereign wealth fund, Temasek Holdings.”
Unfortunately, it appears the Impossible Burger and other fake meat are neither healthy nor, in the case of the Impossible Burger, even proven safe.
Mercola pointed out that fake meat such as the Impossible Burger is nutritionally inferior to real, non-CAFO meat such as 100 percent grass fed beef, which “contain a complex mix of nutrients and cofactors that you cannot recreate by an assembly of individual components.
While it’s true that millions of carnivores, especially in the U.S., are supersizing and poisoning themselves with two or three times as much CAFO meat, dairy and poultry as a natural health expert would recommend, a moderate amount of grass fed or pastured meat and dairy (especially raw milk dairy products) are actually very good for your health.
So, if you want a healthy meal, skip the Impossible Burger and other fake meat and go for a 100 percent grass fed beef, lamb or buffalo burger instead. If you prefer to get your protein boost from seafood, skip the farmed fish and go for wild Alaskan salmon.
If you’re determined to eat a veggie burger, skip the GMO yeast and fake blood and flavors and choose a healthy meat alternative such as an organic tempeh burger, made from fermented soybeans, or a bean burger, made from all natural, organic ingredients.
False Solution No. 2: Abolishing Livestock
Even more bizarre, elitist and uninformed is the recent trendy chorus basically calling for the elimination of the planet’s 70 billion livestock as a major solution to the climate crisis.
These “no livestock” fundamentalists basically ignore the fact that over a billion people, especially in the developing world, rely upon, for their food and survival, raising livestock on the billions of acres of pasture and rangeland that are simply not suitable for raising crops, but which can and do support properly grazed livestock.
Besides providing about one-third14 of the world’s protein, animal husbandry and livestock today provide 33 to 55 percent of the household income for the world’s 640 million small farmers, 190 million pastoralists, and 1 billion urban peasants, more than 66 percent of whom are low-income women.15
Shall we just tell these billion “backward” peasants to go into town and line up for their GE Impossible Burgers and forget about raising their cattle, buffalo, sheep, goats, ducks and chickens like their ancestors have done for thousands of years?
Global Warming and Catastrophic Climate Change: The Animals (and Regenerative Food and Farming) Can Save Us
Perhaps the most fundamental reason why we need to preserve and promote a regenerative system of animal husbandry across the planet on millions of farms and ranches is the little-known fact that properly grazing animals (as opposed to animals imprisoned in factory farms) are the key to sequestering excess carbon-dioxide from the atmosphere and storing this carbon in the world’s 4 billion acres16 of rangelands and pasturelands. As world-renowned climate scientist James Hansen, Ph.D., puts it:17
“If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted, paleoclimate evidence and ongoing climate change suggest that CO2 will need to be reduced from its current levels to at most 350 ppm…”
A growing corps of climate experts have warned us repeatedly that we must stop burning fossil fuels; eliminate destructive food, farming and land use practices; and draw down enough carbon dioxide (CO2) from the Earth's atmosphere through regenerative farming/ranching and enhanced natural photosynthesis to return us to 350 parts per million (ppm) or, better yet, to pre-industrial levels of 280 ppm.
About half the total human greenhouse gas emissions causing global warming today come from burning fossil fuels18 (coal, oil and gas) for transportation, heating, cooling, electricity and manufacturing. The other half, however, unbeknown to most people, comes from degenerative food, farming and land use practices.19
These greenhouse gas-polluting, climate-destabilizing food, farming and land use practices include the massive use of fossil fuels and synthetic, climate-destabilizing chemicals on the farm, including diesel fuel, pesticides and chemical fertilizers.
They also include energy-intensive food processing, packaging, long-distance transportation of foods, confining billions of methane-belching animals in factory farms, dumping rotting waste food and organic garbage into landfills instead of composting it, and wasting 40 percent20 or more of all the food we grow.
These fossil fuel-intensive food and farming practices are compounded by degenerate land use practices, including clear-cutting forests, draining wetlands, degrading marine ecosystems, destructively tilling the soil, dumping soil-killing pesticides and chemical fertilizers on the land, and destroying grasslands.
These degenerate farming and land use practices degrade the natural ability of plants, pasture, rangeland, wetlands, and trees to draw down enough CO2 from the atmosphere (via photosynthesis) to keep the soil, atmosphere, ocean, carbon and hydrological cycles in balance.
So how can we avert climate catastrophe and the collapse of human civilization? Regenerative food, farming and land use, especially grazing and pasturing animals properly on the world’s 4.3 billion acres of pasture and rangeland, is the key to ending CAFO (and GMO grain) emissions and drawing down enough CO2 to reverse global warming.
As Judith Schwartz explains in detail in her recent book, “Cows Save the Planet,” holistic rotational grazing, especially in pastures where perennial trees and plants are growing, is the key to averting climate catastrophe.21 Most people do not yet understand the central role of regenerating the soil and supercharging plant photosynthesis in order to stop and then reverse global warming.
Even fewer understand that the major solution to greenhouse gas pollution and degenerative factory farm and grain-growing practices are properly grazed livestock in perennialized pastures, managed by regenerative ranchers and farmers, supported by conscious consumers who refuse to eat factory farmed meat, dairy and poultry or nonorganic vegetables, fruits and grains.
Plant Photosynthesis and CO2 Drawdown
The most important thing about regenerative food, farming, ranching and land use is that these practices qualitatively increase plant photosynthesis, with a potential to drawdown all of the excess carbon (200 to 250 billion tons of carbon) in the atmosphere that is causing global climate change.
In other words, if the levels of carbon sequestration now being put into practice by thousands of advanced regenerative farmers and ranchers (1 to 10 tons of atmospheric carbon sequestered per acre/per year) can be scaled up globally, we can draw down enough excess carbon from the atmosphere to reverse global warming and restore climate stability.22
Through the miraculous process of photosynthesis, plants (including pasture grasses) have the ability to breathe in CO2 and transpire or release oxygen, simultaneously turning atmospheric CO2 into a form of “liquid carbon” that not only builds up the plant’s above ground biomass (leaves, flowers, branches, trunk or stem), but also travels though the plant’s roots into the soil below.
Exuded or released from the plant’s roots, this liquid carbon or sugar feeds the soil microorganisms in the rhizosphere, the soil food web that not only sustains all plant and animal life, including humans, but also regulates the balance between the amount of carbon in the atmosphere and the carbon in our soils.
Regenerative food and farming, coupled with 100 percent renewable energy, not only holds the potential — through qualitatively enhanced soil health and supercharged plant photosynthesis — to mitigate global warming by drawing down several hundred billion tons of excess carbon from the atmosphere and storing it in the soil, but also to actually reverse global warming while simultaneously restoring the environment, improving the nutritional quality of our food, and regenerating the economic vitality of small farmers, herders and rural communities.23
Michael Pollan, perhaps America’s best-known food writer, explains how enhanced plant photosynthesis, as generated through healthy soils and forests and 100 percent grass fed holistic grazing is the key to drawing down excess carbon from the atmosphere and storing it in our soils in order to reverse global warming:24
“Consider what happens when the sun shines on a grass plant rooted in the earth. Using that light as a catalyst, the plant takes atmospheric CO2, splits off and releases the oxygen, and synthesizes liquid carbon — sugars, basically.
Some of these sugars go to feed and build the aerial portions of the plant we can see, but a large percentage of this liquid carbon — somewhere between 20 and 40 percent — travels underground, leaking out of the roots and into the soil.
The roots are feeding these sugars to the soil microbes — the bacteria and fungi that inhabit the rhizosphere — in exchange for which those microbes provide various services to the plant: defense, trace minerals, access to nutrients the roots can’t reach on their own.
That liquid carbon has now entered the microbial ecosystem, becoming the bodies of bacteria and fungi that will in turn be eaten by other microbes in the soil food web. Now, what had been atmospheric carbon (a problem) has become soil carbon, a solution — and not just to a single problem, but to a great many problems.
Besides taking large amounts of carbon out of the air — tons of it per acre when grasslands are properly managed … that process at the same time adds to the land’s fertility and its capacity to hold water, which means more and better food for us ...
This process of returning atmospheric carbon to the soil works even better when ruminants are added to the mix. Every time a calf or lamb shears a blade of grass, that plant, seeking to rebalance its ‘root-shoot ratio,’ sheds some of its roots. These are then eaten by the worms, nematodes and microbes — digested by the soil, in effect, and so added to its bank of carbon. This is how soil is created: from the bottom up.”
The Regeneration Revolution Is Long Overdue
After decades of working alongside vegans and animal rights activists in campaigns such as the McDonald’s Beyond Beef campaign (which I organized with Jeremy Rifkin and Howard Lyman in 1992 to 1994), the campaign against Monsanto’s recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) from 1994 until the present, and most recently working with consumers and farmers in campaigns against GMOs, pesticides and factory farm dairy, poultry and beef, I believe the time is long overdue for everyone concerned about food, farming, health, climate and humane treatment of animals to connect the dots between our common concerns and build a powerful united front to take down factory farms and carry out a global Regeneration Revolution.
Breaking through the tunnel vision and self-righteous walls between our issue silos (i.e., my issue is more important than your issue, and my solution is the only solution), and uniting to build a new “Beyond USDA Organic” system of regenerative food, farming and land use, we can bring down the factory farm and GMO behemoth.
Working together rather than rallying behind false solutions such as fake meat and abolishing livestock, we can popularize and scale-up humane, healthy and climate-friendly solutions to our hydra-headed crisis.
We can promote and implement real, positive, shovel-ready solutions rather than promoting simplistic and indeed destructive “silver bullets” such as genetically engineered fake meat and “pharm animals,” that not only fail to address the real roots of climate (and the health) crisis, but ultimately threaten the livelihoods of a billion small farmers and peasant women across the planet.
So, forget about the Impossible Burger and other fake meats and the elitist notion of getting rid of the world’s 70 billion livestock. We’re all in this together, and it’s going to take a regeneration of all living creatures — humans, wild animals, livestock, plants, trees and soil microorganisms — working in harmony to build a new world on the ruins of the old.
Given the horrors of factory farms and factory-farmed food, we need a global boycott of the multitrillion-dollar CAFO industry. Please sign up here to stay in touch with the news and campaigns of the Organic Consumers Association.
More and more of us, conscious consumers and farmers, alarmed by the accelerating climate crisis and the degeneration of the environment, public health and politics are coming together under the banner of regenerative food, farming and land use, the most important new current in the food, farming and climate movement. Please join us today.
About the Author
Ronnie Cummins is international director of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), a nonprofit consumer advocacy and grassroots organization, and a member of the Regeneration International (RI) steering committee.
The Savory Institute documentary “Running Out of Time,” features ecologist and international consultant Allan Savory, who in a 2013 TED Talk discussed how grazing livestock is the solution to our ever-growing climate change problem. Born and raised in Zimbabwe, Savory is a passionate conservationist.
He founded the Africa Centre for Holistic Management1 (ACHM) in 1992, to support the adoption of holistic land management practices in Southern Africa in order to reduce and reverse land degradation2 that threatens the very survival of mankind, as without healthy productive soil, we cannot grow food. Central teachings taught by ACHM include how to:
- Restore water catchments and river flow
- Increase forage, livestock and wildlife production
- Raise crop yields through concentrated animal impact
- Restore damaged or degraded land
- Employ low stress animal handling
Grazing Cattle Are a Crucial Part of the Solution
Current agricultural practices encourage the degradation of soil, causing desertification (when fertile land dries up and turns to desert) and climate change.
Desertification happens when we create too much bare ground. In areas where a high level of humidity is guaranteed, desertification cannot occur. Ground cover allows for trapping of water, preventing the water from evaporating. According to Savory, a staggering two-thirds of the landmass on earth is already desertifying.
This situation can only be effectively reversed by dramatically increasing the number of grazing livestock, Savory says. In essence, it’s not an excess of livestock that are causing the problem, but that we have far too few, and the livestock we do have, we’re not managing properly. To improve soil quality, we must improve its ability to maintain water. Once land has turned to bone-dry desert, any rain simply evaporates and/or runs off.
The solution is twofold: The ground must be covered with vegetation, and animals must roam across the land. The animals must be bunched and kept moving to avoid overgrazing, thereby mimicking the movement of large wild herds. The animals serve several crucial functions on the land, as they:
- Graze on plants, exposing the plants’ growth points to sunlight, which stimulates growth
- Trample the soil, which breaks capped earth allowing for aeration
- Press seeds into the soil with their hooves, thereby increasing the chances of germination and diversity of plants
- Press down dying and decaying grasses, allowing microorganisms in the soil to go to work to decompose the plant material
- Fertilize the soil with their waste
The documentary shows and explains how Savory’s system works in the real world, on his own farm and elsewhere — and how the African wildlife is integrated with the livestock — and how local communities that have adopted the program have massively improved their living conditions.
In one village, where they could only produce enough food for three months out of the year, they now grow ample food year-round. The ACHM trains farmers from all-around the world, not just locals, and is planning about 100 international training hubs. Online training is also in the works.
Lessons Learned From the Unnecessary Massacre of 40,000 Elephants
In his 2013 TED Talk (embedded above for your convenience), Savory recounts how, as a young biologist, he was involved in setting aside large swaths of African land as future national parks. This involved removing native tribes from the land to protect animals.
Interestingly, as soon as the natives were removed, the land began to deteriorate. At that point, he became convinced that there were too many elephants, and a team of experts agreed with his theory, which required the removal of elephants to a number they thought the land could sustain.
As a result, 40,000 elephants were slaughtered in an effort to stop the damage to the national parks. Yet the land destruction only got worse rather than better. Savory calls the decision “the greatest blunder” of his life. Fortunately, the utter failure cemented his determination to dedicate his life to finding solutions.
Areas of U.S. national parks are now turning to desert as badly as areas in Africa, and studies have shown that whenever cattle are removed from an area to protect it from desertification, the opposite results. It gets worse. According to Savory, the reason for this is because we’ve completely misunderstood the causes of desertification.
We’ve also failed to understand how desertification affects our global climate. He explains that barren earth is much cooler at dawn and much hotter at midday. When land is left barren, it changes the microclimate on that swath of land. “Once you’ve done that to more than half of land mass on planet, you’re changing macroclimate,” he says.
We’ve failed to realize that in seasonal humidity environments, the soil and vegetation developed with very large numbers of grazing animals meandering through. Along with these herds came ferocious pack hunting predators. The primary defense against these predators was the herd size. The larger the herd, the safer the individual animal within the herd.
These large herds deposited dung and urine all over the grasses (their food), and so they would keep moving from one area to the next. This constant movement of large herds naturally prevented overgrazing of plants, while periodic trampling ensured protective covering of the soil.
As explained by Savory, grasses must degrade biologically before next growing season. This easily occurs if the grass is trampled into the ground. If it does not decay biologically, it shifts into oxidation — a very slow process that results in bare soil, which then ends up releasing carbon rather than trapping and storing it.
To prevent this scenario, we’ve traditionally used fire. But burning the ground also leaves soil bare to release carbon. In addition, burning just 1 hectare (just under 2.5 acres) of grasses gives off more pollution than 6,000 cars. According to Savory, more than 1 billion hectares (2.4 billion acres) of grassland are burned in Africa each year.
How Federal Policy Contributes to Climate Change Woes
In the U.S., federal policy is still worsening the environmental concerns addressed by Savory in his TED Talk. Corn and soy — a majority of which are genetically engineered (GE) — have overtaken native grasslands in a number of states, which may have a significant impact on regional and global climate alike.
A consequence of this is that we also lose our ability to secure our food supply long-term. As discussed in a Mother Jones article,3 the conversion of grasslands to crop fields is the exact opposite of what is in our best interest.
“[T]o get ready for climate change, we should push Midwestern farmers to switch a chunk of their corn land into pasture for cows.
The idea came from a paper4 by University of Tennessee and Bard College researchers, who calculated that such a move could suck up massive amounts of carbon in soil — enough to reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture by 36 percent. In addition to the CO2 reductions, you'd also get a bunch of high-quality, grass-fed beef ... Turns out the Midwest are doing just the opposite.”
According to a 2013 paper5 by South Dakota State University researchers, grasslands in the Western Corn Belt, which includes North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska, is being lost at a rate "comparable to deforestation rates in Brazil, Malaysia and Indonesia."
Between 2006 and 2011, nearly 2 million acres of friendly native grasses were lost to corn and soy, two of the staples in processed foods that are driving chronic disease rates in an ever steepening upward incline. The same thing is happening in South America, where native forests are leveled in order to plant soy.
The researchers claim the land being converted into corn and soy fields is actually much better suited for grazing than crop agriculture, as it is “characterized by high erosion risk and vulnerability to drought." So why would farmers opt to use such risky land for their crops? According to Mother Jones:6
“Simple: Federal policy has made it a high-reward, tiny-risk proposition. Prices for corn and soy doubled in real terms between 2006 and 2011, the authors note, driven up by federal corn-ethanol mandates and relentless Wall Street speculation.
Then there's federally subsidized crop insurance ... When farmers manage to tease a decent crop out of their marginal land, they're rewarded with high prices for their crop. But if the crop fails, subsidized insurance guarantees a decent return.
Essentially, federal farm policy, through the ethanol mandate and the insurance program, is underwriting the expansion of corn and soy agriculture at precisely the time it should be shrinking.”
USDA Admits Current Agricultural System Is Unsustainable
According to a report7 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), "Climate Change and Agriculture in the United States," our current agricultural system, which is dominated by corn and soy, is unsustainable in the long term. Should temperatures rise as predicted, the U.S. could expect to see significant declines in yields by the middle of this century.
Concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) have a central role in this impending disaster. As noted in my interviews with a number of sustainable farming pioneers and ecological experts over the past several years, the separation of various livestock from crop farming is where we went completely off the rails. This was supposedly done to increase efficiency and reduce costs, but the hidden costs of this segregation are enormous.
As explained in Peter Byck’s short film, “One Hundred Thousand Beating Hearts,” farm animals form symbiotic relationships where one species helps keep parasites from overwhelming another. It is the separation of crops and animals into two distinctly different farming processes that has led to animal waste becoming a massive source of toxic pollution rather than a valuable part of the ecological cycle.
Today, food animals are reared in cages and tightly cramped quarters, and their feed consists of grains, primarily GE corn and soy, instead of grasses. To prevent the inevitable spread of disease from stress, overcrowding and lack of vitamin D, animals are routinely fed antibiotics and other veterinary drugs. Those antibiotics pose a direct threat to the environment when they run off into our lakes, rivers, aquifers and drinking water, and drive the rise in antibiotic-resistant disease.
In “How Factory Farming Contributes to Global Warming,” Ronnie Cummins, founder and director of the Organic Consumers Association, explains:8
“CAFOs contribute directly to global warming9 by releasing vast amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere — more than the entire global transportation industry. The air at some factory farm test sites in the U.S. is dirtier than in America’s most polluted cities, according to the Environmental Integrity Project.
According to a 2006 report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), animal agriculture is responsible for 18 percent of all human-induced greenhouse gas emissions, including 37 percent of methane emissions and 65 percent of nitrous oxide emissions.
The methane releases from billions of imprisoned animals on factory farms are 70 times more damaging per ton to the earth’s atmosphere than CO2. Indirectly, factory farms contribute to climate disruption by their impact on deforestation and draining of wetlands, and because of the nitrous oxide emissions from huge amounts of pesticides used to grow the genetically engineered corn and soy fed to animals raised in CAFOs.
Nitrous oxide pollution is even worse than methane — 200 times more damaging per ton than CO2. And just as animal waste leaches antibiotics and hormones into ground and water, pesticides and fertilizers also eventually find their way into our waterways, further damaging the environment.”
Holistic Land and Herd Management Is Key for Sustainability
The alternative to CAFOs is precisely what Savory teaches, namely the widespread implementation of smaller-scale systems created by independent producers and processors focused on local and regional markets.
Following Savory’s strategy, large herds could be moved across areas in planned grazing patterns, which would be beneficial for the environment, global climate, the health of the animals, and subsequently the health of humans consuming those animals.
There’s no denying that rising population, rapid conversion of fertile land to deserts and global climate change is a serious threat to us all. And technology in the form of ever larger-scale, industrial farming methods simply isn’t the answer. It’s only contributing to the problem and speeding up our demise.
I believe Savory is correct when he says we have only one option, and that is to revert back to what worked before. Allowing large moving herds to graze on the land will address most if not all of our most pressing issues, from food security to climate change.
As noted in a 2016 article10 by Pure Advantage, “There is no current or envisioned technology that can simultaneously sequester carbon, restore biodiversity and feed people. But livestock can.” Gabe Brown, a regenerative land management pioneer, also discussed the importance of herd management in our 2014 interview, covered in “How to Regenerate Soil Using Cover Crops and Regenerative Land Management.”
Support Sustainable Agriculture With Your Food Budget
For now, you can help move our agricultural system in the right direction by purchasing your foods from local farmers who are already doing this on a small scale.11 If you live in the U.S., the following organizations can help you locate farm-fresh foods:
Demeter USA — Demeter-USA.org provides a directory of certified Biodynamic farms and brands. This directory can also be found on BiodynamicFood.org.
American Grassfed Association (AGA) — The goal of the American Grassfed Association is to promote the grass fed industry through government relations, research, concept marketing and public education.
Their website also allows you to search for AGA approved producers certified according to strict standards that include being raised on a diet of 100 percent forage; raised on pasture and never confined to a feedlot; never treated with antibiotics or hormones; and born and raised on American family farms.
EatWild.com — EatWild.com provides lists of farmers known to produce raw dairy products as well as grass fed beef and other farm-fresh produce (although not all are certified organic). Here you can also find information about local farmers markets, as well as local stores and restaurants that sell grass fed products.
Weston A. Price Foundation — Weston A. Price has local chapters in most states, and many of them are connected with buying clubs in which you can easily purchase organic foods, including grass fed raw dairy products like milk and butter.
Grassfed Exchange — The Grassfed Exchange has a listing of producers selling organic and grass fed meats across the U.S.
Local Harvest — This website will help you find farmers markets, family farms and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area where you can buy produce, grass fed meats and many other goodies.
Farmers Markets — A national listing of farmers markets.
Eat Well Guide: Wholesome Food from Healthy Animals — The Eat Well Guide is a free online directory of sustainably raised meat, poultry, dairy and eggs from farms, stores, restaurants, inns, hotels and online outlets in the United States and Canada.
Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) — CISA is dedicated to sustaining agriculture and promoting the products of small farms.
The Cornucopia Institute — The Cornucopia Institute maintains web-based tools rating all certified organic brands of eggs, dairy products and other commodities, based on their ethical sourcing and authentic farming practices separating CAFO "organic" production from authentic organic practices.
RealMilk.com — If you're still unsure of where to find raw milk, check out Raw-Milk-Facts.com and RealMilk.com. They can tell you what the status is for legality in your state, and provide a listing of raw dairy farms in your area.
The Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund12 also provides a state-by-state review of raw milk laws.13 California residents can also find raw milk retailers using the store locator available at www.OrganicPastures.com.
Buying a Tesla new will set you back anywhere from $42,900 to $137,000, depending on which model you choose.1 The Model S, Tesla's midpriced sedan, starts at $85,000, but Rich Benoit, a 30-something father of three and IT worker, got one for $6,500. It's the topic of his now infamous YouTube page, Rich Rebuilds, which has racked up more than 39 million views.2
The sought-after electric cars have been growing in popularity along with the U.S. electric vehicle industry, which experienced an 81 percent jump in sales in 2018 compared to the year before.3
Tesla was responsible for more than half of these sales, selling nearly 140,000 of its lower cost Model 3 units alone. When sales of the Model 3 are removed, the statistics show a very different picture, with just 11 percent growth in the entire electric vehicle market.4
It’s safe to say that consumers are on the hunt for lower priced electric cars — but Benoit’s cost is virtually unheard of. So how did he get an $85,000 vehicle for a fraction of the cost? As The Boston Globe reported, it started when “He pulled a 1,300-pound, 400-volt battery out of a Tesla that had been under water."5
Man Rebuilds Tesla From Salvage Yard — With No Help From Tesla
Benoit purchased a Model S that he calls “Delores” from a New Jersey salvage yard. The vehicle had been stuck in a flood, but the amateur mechanic was undeterred, determined to rebuild the car from the ground up, starting with removing its massive battery. But he was quickly met with a number of obstacles, not the least of which was Tesla’s reluctance to help anyone fix their cars.
Massachusetts has a Right to Repair Initiative, which grants vehicle owners access to information to help them fix their own cars — the same type of information furnished to dealerships and repair shops. However, since Tesla doesn’t have any dealerships, it’s exempt from this requirement.
"We're in a society where if you need to know something you Google it, but there was nothing out there, no one who knew how to fix them," Benoit told the Globe. But this was only the first obstacle. After stripping the car of its damaged parts and electronics, he contacted Tesla to order new ones, and was quickly turned away.
"Tesla does not want anyone working on its cars besides Tesla, and it refused to sell Benoit the parts he wanted," according to the Globe. "A Tesla representative, in a statement to the Globe, said 'there are significant safety concerns when salvaged Teslas are repaired improperly or when Tesla parts are used outside of their original design intent, as these vehicles could pose a danger to both the mechanic and other drivers on the road.'"6
One Year and $6,500 Rebuilds Tesla Model S
Since he was unable to buy parts from Tesla or anywhere else, he found another salvaged Model S, this one with usable electronics and batteries. Using the parts, he was able to slowly but surely piece Delores back together, documenting his journey on YouTube at every step of the way.
It took about a year, but the restored vehicle ultimately passed state inspection and looked like new. After tallying up his costs, including those he was able to recoup by selling duplicate and extra parts, he paid only $6,500 for the car. The story continues, however, as Benoit now helps other Tesla owners interested in fixing their cars.
Tesla has a limited number of service centers and reportedly struggles with parts shortages, and now Benoit is opening a new repair shop solely for electric vehicles — and even has a former Tesla mechanic to work there.
It's a boon for Tesla owners, who often complain they have to wait months to find a mechanic who can service their vehicle — and when they do may be charged upward of $175 an hour.7 Ultimately, he hopes the service center will also be a place to educate owners about electric vehicles and even convert gas-powered vehicles to electricity.
"It has been a long, complicated, strange trip since he opened that waterlogged battery, wondering if he was about to electrocute himself. And despite all of the ups and downs, he insists he is not at war with Tesla. 'Maybe I was for a few weeks after they wouldn't sell me the parts,' he says. No, this is a love story, of how a man who says he has gas in his veins decided to go electric," the Globe wrote.8
Electric Cars Cost Less to Make and Service
Analysts believe the electric vehicle industry is going to continue to grow in 2019, with more manufacturers and models entering the mix.
Chris Nelder, manager of Rocky Mountain Institute's mobility practice, told Green Tech Media, "I don't think 2019 is going to be all about the Model 3. There are a lot more manufacturers making a lot more EVs … In 2019, we're going to have much more significant participation from other major manufacturers, especially in the high-end luxury crossover/SUV segment."9
The growth may be so explosive that Morgan Stanley estimated 3 million traditional auto industry jobs could be lost over the next three to five years as a result.10 In fact, it's estimated that it takes 30 percent less labor to manufacture an electric vehicle than a gas-powered one, with some estimates putting it up to a 50 percent cut.
Maintenance and servicing of electric vehicles is also less costly, which could heighten the demand for them even further, especially once service centers become widespread.
Are There EMF Concerns in Electric Cars?
Electric cars appear to be a clear winner for the environment, although there are a few considerations, such as the rare minerals that must be mined for the batteries and the need in some areas to power your "electric" car from a power plant using coal. However, another potential concern is exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMFs).
According to Joel Moskowitz, Ph.D., director of the Center for Family and Community Health at the University of California (UC) Berkeley:11
"Hybrid and electric cars may be cancer-causing as they emit extremely low frequency (ELF) electromagnetic fields (EMF). Recent studies of the EMF emitted by these automobiles have claimed either that they pose a cancer risk for the vehicles' occupants or that they are safe.
Unfortunately, much of the research conducted on this issue has been industry-funded by companies with vested interests on one side of the issue or the other which makes it difficult to know which studies are trustworthy.
Meanwhile, numerous peer-reviewed laboratory studies conducted over several decades have found biologic effects from limited exposures to ELF EMF. These studies suggest that the EMF guidelines established by the self-appointed, International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) are inadequate to protect our health."
Both the World Health Organization and the International Agency for Research on Cancer have said magnetic fields are “possibly carcinogenic” to humans, which, Moskowitz suggests, means the precautionary principle should prevail, and products should be designed to minimize consumers’ exposure to ELF and EMF.
"This especially applies to hybrid and electric automobiles as drivers and passengers spend considerable amounts of time in these vehicles, and health risks increase with the duration of exposure," he said, adding:12
"Based upon the research, more than 230 EMF experts have signed the International EMF Scientist Appeal which calls on the World Health Organization to establish stronger guidelines for ELF and radio frequency EMF.
Thus, even if EMF measurements comply with the ICNIRP guidelines, occupants of hybrid and electric cars may still be at increased risk for cancer and other health problems."
Are Electric Cars the Future?
A poll conducted by Clean Energy Canada found that 64 percent of Canadians want the majority of vehicles sold to be electric, and 72 percent believe that electric vehicles will become the majority worldwide in the future.13 The findings echoed a U.S. survey, which similarly found that 74 percent believed electric cars were the future.14
Overall, the associations with electric cars were positive, with most believing the long-term savings on gas would outweigh the vehicle's higher upfront cost. Nearly 60 percent also felt that electric vehicles would have a more positive environmental impact than recycling, switching to paperless billing or regulating their energy at home.
As for barriers, electric vehicle owners cited a need for faster and upgraded public charging stations, such as making them available at coffee shops and gyms, and giving an option to pay for a faster charge. For now, electric vehicles represent only a small fraction of cars on the market, but industry analysts agree that's going to change, possibly sooner rather than later.
"Electrification, you cannot stop it anymore — it's coming," Elmar Kades, a managing director with the consulting firm AlixPartners, told NPR. "We have fantastic growth rates, between 50 and 60 percent on a global level."15 While in 1997 there were just two electric cars on the market, there are now 98, and it’s expected that nongas cars, including electric, fuel cells and hybrids, will triple by 2025.16
The tipping point — when electric vehicles will outsell gas-powered ones — could be as near as 2025 or 2030, according to some analysts,17 and Benoit, who says he felt like a trailblazer when he first started his attempt to rebuild a Tesla,18 is likely only hastening the appeal by letting people know that — with a bit of grit and ingenuity — a Tesla could be had for under $10,000.
You add it to your morning cup of coffee or tea. You bake it into pastries, cakes and cookies. You even sprinkle it all over your breakfast cereal or your oatmeal for added flavor.
But that's not all. It's also hidden in some beloved "treats" that people consume on a daily basis, such as sodas, fruit juices, candies and ice cream. It also lurks in almost all processed foods, including breads, meats and even your favorite condiments like Worcestershire sauce and ketchup.
This additive is none other than sugar. Most people view sugary foods as tasty, satisfying and irresistible treats. But I believe there are three words that can more accurately describe sugar: toxic, addictive and deadly.
Sugar, in my opinion, is one of the most damaging substances that you can ingest — and what's terrifying about it is that it's very abundant in our everyday diet. This intense addiction to sugar is becoming rampant, not just among adults, but in children as well.
But how exactly does sugar work in your body, and what are the side effects of excess sugar on your health?
Today, an average American consumes about 17.4 teaspoons of sugar per day, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.1 While this is down by about a fourth since 1999, when Americans' sugar consumption was at its peak,2 It is still significantly higher than the 12 teaspoons that the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020, has set.3
This is definitely alarming, considering the average Englishman in the 1700s consumed only 4 pounds of sugar per year4 — and that was mostly from healthful natural sources like fruits, quite unlike the processed foods you see in supermarket shelves today.
What's even more disturbing is that people are consuming excessive sugar in the form of fructose or high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). This highly processed form of sugar is cheaper to produce, yet 20 percent sweeter than regular table sugar, which is why many food and beverage manufacturers decided to use it in their products.
HFCS is found in almost all types of processed foods and drinks today. Just take a look at this infographic to see just how much fructose is hiding in some of the most common foods you eat.
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The bad news is that the human body is not made to consume excessive amounts of sugar, especially in the form of fructose. In fact, your body metabolizes fructose differently than sugar. As explained in the next section, it is actually a hepatotoxin and is metabolized directly into fat — factors that can cause a whole host of problems that can have far-reaching effects on your health.
Dr. Robert Lustig, a professor of clinical pediatrics in the division of endocrinology in the University of California and a pioneer in decoding sugar metabolism, says that your body can safely metabolize at least 6 teaspoons of added sugar per day.
But since most Americans are consuming about three times that amount, a majority of the excess sugar becomes metabolized into body fat — leading to all the debilitating chronic metabolic diseases that many people are struggling with. Here are some of the effects that excessive sugar intake has on your health:
- It overloads and damages your liver — The effects of too much sugar or fructose can be likened to the effects of alcohol.5 All the fructose you eat gets shuttled to the only organ that has the transporter for it: your liver. This severely taxes and overloads the organ, leading to potential liver damage.
- It tricks your body into gaining weight and affects your insulin and leptin signaling — Fructose fools your metabolism by turning off your body's appetite-control system. It fails to stimulate insulin, which in turn fails to suppress ghrelin, or "the hunger hormone," which then fails to stimulate leptin or "the satiety hormone."6 This causes you to eat more and develop insulin resistance.
- It causes metabolic dysfunction — Eating too much sugar causes a barrage of symptoms known as classic metabolic syndrome.7 These include weight gain, abdominal obesity, decreased HDL and increased LDL cholesterol levels, elevated blood sugar, elevated triglycerides and high blood pressure.
- It increases your uric acid levels — High uric acid levels8 are a risk factor for heart and kidney disease. In fact, the connection between fructose, metabolic syndrome and your uric acid is now so clear that your uric acid level can now be used as a marker for fructose toxicity.
One of the most severe effects of eating too much sugar is its potential to damage your liver, leading to a condition known as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).9
Yes, the same disease that you can get from excessive alcohol intake can also be caused by excessive sugar (fructose) intake. Lustig explains the three similarities between alcohol and fructose:10
- Your liver metabolizes alcohol the same way as sugar — Both serve as substrates for converting dietary carbohydrate into fat. This promotes insulin resistance, fatty liver and dyslipidemia (abnormal fat levels in your blood).
- Fructose undergoes the Maillard reaction with proteins — This causes superoxide free radicals to form, resulting in inflammation — a condition that can be also caused by acetaldehyde, a metabolite of ethanol.
- Fructose can directly and indirectly stimulate the brain's "hedonic pathway" — This creates habituation and dependence, the same way that ethanol does.
Additionally, research from some of America's most respected institutions now confirms that sugar is a primary dietary factor that drives obesity and chronic disease development.
One study found that fructose is readily used by cancer cells to increase their proliferation, promoting cell division and speeding their growth, which allow the cancer to spread faster.11
Alzheimer's disease is another deadly illness that can arise from too much sugar consumption. A growing body of research found a powerful connection between a high-fructose diet and your risk of developing Alzheimer's disease and dementia, through the same pathway that causes Type 2 diabetes. According to some experts, Alzheimer's and other brain disorders may be caused by the constant burning of glucose for fuel by your brain.12
Other diseases that are linked to metabolic syndrome and may potentially arise because of too much sugar consumption include:
Sugar, in its natural form, is not inherently bad, as long as it's consumed in moderation. This means avoiding all sources of fructose, particularly processed foods and beverages like soda. According to SugarScience.org, 74 percent of processed foods contain added sugar stealthily hidden under more than 60 different names.16 Ideally, you should spend 90 percent of your food budget on whole foods, and only 10 percent or less on processed foods.
I also advise you to severely limit your consumption of refined carbohydrates (waffles, cereals, bagels and more) and grains, as they actually break down to sugar in your body, which increases your insulin levels and causes insulin resistance.
As a general recommendation, keep your total fructose consumption below 25 grams per day, including that from whole fruit. Keep in mind that although fruits are rich in nutrients and antioxidants, they also naturally contain fructose, and if consumed in high amounts may actually worsen your insulin sensitivity and raise your uric acid levels. Check out this article to see how much fructose is in the common fruits you eat.
It's also wise to avoid artificial sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose, as they actually come with a set of health problems that are much worse than what sugar or corn syrup can bring. Here are some additional dietary tips to remember:
- Increase your consumption of healthy fats, such as omega-3, saturated and monounsaturated fats — Your body needs health-promoting fats from animal and vegetable sources for optimal functioning. Some of the best sources include organic butter from raw milk, (unheated) virgin olive oil, coconut oil, raw nuts like pecans and macadamia, free-range eggs, avocado and wild Alaskan salmon.
- Drink pure, clean water — Simply swapping out sweetened beverages like sodas and fruit juices for pure water can go a long way toward improving your health. The best way to gauge your water needs is to observe the color of your urine (it should be light pale yellow) and the frequency of your bathroom visits (ideally, this is around seven to eight times per day).
- Add fermented foods to your meals — The beneficial bacteria in these healthful foods can support your digestion and provide detoxification support, which helps lessen the fructose burden on your liver. Some of the best choices include kimchi, natto, organic yogurt and kefir made from grass fed milk, and fermented vegetables.
The temptation to indulge in sugary foods will always be there, especially with the abundance of processed foods and fast foods that are available. However, most sugar cravings arise because of an emotional challenge. If this is what causes you to crave sugar, the best solution I could recommend is the Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT). This psychological acupuncture technique is a simple and effective strategy to help control your emotional food cravings.
The video below, which features EFT practitioner Julie Schiffman, demonstrates how to use EFT to fight food cravings.
If you feel that your emotions and/or your own self-image are pushing you to keep consuming sugar-loaded foods and other unhealthy treats, I recommend you try this useful technique. Prayer, meditation, exercise and yoga are also effective tools you can try to ward off your sugar cravings.
Editor's Note: This article has been amended to correct an editing error in a statement about sugar feeding cancer.
Growing eggplant shouldn’t be intimidating when you’re anticipating spring garden planting. Getting your seeds off to a good start, then tweaking them if needed, will help produce a harvest of nutritious fruit.
That’s what eggplant is, by the way, although many people think eggplants are vegetables. There are many beautiful varieties: large, purple Globe; Rosita, the 8-inch pinkish-lavender heirloom variety; long, thin Japanese eggplants and yellow, green and white-hued varieties with slightly varying flavors.1
Considered tropical perennials, eggplants can be grown as annuals in plant hardiness zones 5 through 12.2 They require full sun. Harvest times vary depending on the variety. Most require at least two months to mature. Some take 70 days or more, which is why starting seeds indoors helps get a jump on the season.
How to Grow Eggplant Inside
Regarding materials, you’ll need small pots, a seed-planting mix and seed packets. Always keep the packets as they often provide information about planting depth (which is deep), spacing, eggplant germination time and when to take the seedlings outside. This depends on your area’s last frost date, which your area’s planting zone will determine.3
Using garden soil might prevent your seeds and seedlings from draining properly and may expose them to unwanted bacteria, disease spores, plant-eating insects and a fungual disease known as “damping off.”
A sterile seed planting mix will give your eggplants the best chance of survival4 and allow you to blend ingredients to amend the medium you’re working with, such as bark, a coconut fiber called coir and vermiculite.5 Avoid synthetic fertilizer. Organic gardening and natural growing hacks are far superior.
Start seeds inside about eight to 12 weeks before your last frost date. Watering from the bottom up allows you to see the moisture levels and keep them even. Eggplants require lots of light and heat to grow properly. If there’s no natural sunlight from a south-facing window, artificial lighting is recommended.
Even if using a heat mat, make sure you provide light as soon as the seeds begin germinating, which usually takes seven to 14 days. The ideal soil temperature is 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Indoor plants also need moving air; a fan at a low setting will help produce sturdier plants.
Growing Eggplant in the Garden
In eight or 10 weeks, you’ll be able to transplant the seedlings into your garden. However, growing eggplant in containers6 is another option. According to The Spruce, soil pH7 of 6.5 to 6.8 (slightly acidic) is ideal, although the plants are not too particular.8
Either way, it helps to stake eggplants or use coated tomato cages to avoid disturbing established roots when the fruits get large. Mulch, straw or wood chips covering the soil around the plant will help keep it moist.
How long does it take for eggplant to grow? Eggplants are ready to harvest when they’re glossy and “give” slightly when you press into the skin. Here are some key points you’ll likely find useful:
- Plants can be bushy and reach 2 to 3 feet in height, and their size and weight may cause stems to bend or break.
- Eggplant stems are prickly, so it's a good idea to wear gloves.
- Overripe eggplants may be bitter and full of seeds, although a little salt can help.
- Eggplant should be stored in the refrigerator and is best used within a couple of days but can be stored for up to two weeks.
- Cut rather than pull eggplants from their vines, but don’t cut them until you’re ready to prepare them, as the flesh discolors almost immediately when exposed to air.
Health Benefits of Eggplant
One reason to plant and grow eggplant at home is all the healthy nutrients. Besides vitamins, minerals, folate, potassium, manganese and vitamins C, K and B6, eggplant phytonutrients include:
- Phenolic compounds known as anthocyanins, which are flavonoids that help protect heart health9
- Chlorogenic acid, a free radical scavenger with numerous beneficial properties10
- Nasunin, shown to improve blood flow and protect brain cell membranes from damage11
- Antioxidant and antiproliferative activities against colon and liver cancer cells12
Healthy Recipes Using Eggplant
When looking for eggplant recipes, possibilities abound, as it can be baked, roasted, stuffed and included with other ingredients.
Baked Eggplant Caprese Stack — basically a stacked caprese salad — is easy and delicious, requiring few ingredients besides the basics: sliced tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, eggplant, basil and olive oil. For extra protein, almond meal is used rather than wheat flour, which may cause digestive problems.
Many healthy eggplant recipes can be found, such as eggplant moussaka and an eggplant sandwich, which makes growing your own eggplant even more fun. As always, organic ingredients make it even healthier.
A process known as “succession” occurs when one plant species replaces another.1 As explained in the National Geographic short film featured above, when an area is left to its own devices, it will naturally turn into a forest over time, replete with a wide variety of plant species, and this diversification occurs unaided by man.
The film features a man-made “forest garden” designed to mimic this kind of naturally occurring ecosystem, where fruit and nut trees grow intermingled with shrubs, herbs, vines and a variety of perennial vegetables in a seemingly wild-grown setting. According to National Geographic:2
“U.K.-based Martin Crawford is one of the pioneers of forest gardening. Starting out with a flat field in 1994, his land has been transformed into a woodland and serves as an educational resource for others interested in forest gardening.
This short film by Thomas Regnault focuses on Crawford's forest garden, which is abundant, diverse, edible and might be one answer to the future of food systems.”
Diversity Allows the Entire System to Thrive
In his unconventional garden, Crawford grows 500 different edible plants and trees, yet the garden only requires a few hours of maintenance per month. This low maintenance requirement is a direct result of creating a self-sustainable and renewable ecosystem where everything is working in a symbiotic and supportive fashion.
While many today think of food production as the process of planting an annual crop, this really isn’t natural, Crawford says. In a natural ecosystem, there are several layers of plant growth, starting with tall trees at the top, with shorter trees, medium and low shrubs, root crops, climbing plants and low-lying ground cover underneath.
What’s more, while many of these produce edible foods directly, other plants, referred to by Crawford as “system plants,” are there simply to help the system as a whole thrive. In this group you have nitrogen-fixing plants, mineral accumulators and plants that attract pollinators and insects that serve as natural pest control by eating other more harmful bugs.
Aside from being low-maintenance, this kind of diversification also protects your crops from all manner of bad weather, be it storms, excessive rains or droughts. While some may fail, others may benefit and do better, but in many cases, a majority of your crops will survive and do well no matter what the weather is doing, Crawford says.
This cannot be said for monocrop farming, where if conditions are poor, the entire crop will fail all at once. As such, having a diverse garden is key to food security. “It gives you maximum resilience,” Crawford says.
How to Use Regenerative Farming Principles in Your Own Garden
Over the years, I’ve interviewed several pioneers in regenerative agriculture, among them, Gabe Brown, who has a regenerative farm in Bismarck, North Dakota. As explained by Brown, to grow healthy food you have to create healthy soil.
There are five basic principles to building a healthy soil ecosystem, and most of these can be implemented even if all you have is a small garden plot in your backyard:
Avoid disturbing the soil microbiome with tillage, herbicides, pesticides and fungicides — The less mechanical disturbance, the better. The same applies in your home garden.
The more you till, the faster the soil degrades and is destroyed, as it destroys soil aggregates and mycorrhizal fungi, which houses the microorganisms needed for nutrient transfer. Similarly, by adding synthetic nitrogen to the soil, the biology is radically altered — it starts consuming carbon in the soil aggregate, which destroys the soil structure.
Without soil structure water cannot infiltrate and move throughout the soil profile and be stored via organic matter. The soil aggregates also provide the home for soil biology, which is critical to producing nutrient dense food.
Protect the soil’s surface with cover crops and cover crop residue — Forest and prairie land is completely covered with vegetation and this is the environment farmers need to emulate. That vegetation protects the soil not only from wind and water erosion, but also from excessive heating and cooling. These living plants are what end up actually "growing" topsoil.
In your home garden, you can use mulch, wood chips or lawn clippings to do this. You never want to leave soil bare, as bare soil will have a negative effect on soil biology and the water cycle. Cover crops and other forms of “soil armor,” such as wood chips, effectively prevent water evaporation and lowers the soil temperature.
There is easily a 20-degree F difference or more between soil that is bare and soil that is covered. When air temperatures reach 90 degrees or so, soil temperatures will rise well above 100 degrees, which will dry everything out and fry the plants’ roots.
“If you have good armor or residue on the soil surface, the temperature there can be in the 80-degree range. Those plants are growing. It’s a huge difference in production for the producer,” Brown says.
Diversify — Having a diverse array of plant life is essential, and cover crops fulfill this requirement as well. Home gardens will also benefit from cover crops, helping to improve the soil, attract beneficial insects and capture more sunlight (energy).
Maintain living roots in the ground as long as possible — In conventional farming, once a cash crop is harvested, there’s nothing left in the field to capture sunlight and keep growing. Maintaining some kind of growth at all times is key. If you have a small vegetable garden, don’t leave it bare once you’ve harvested your veggies. Instead, plant a cover crop in anticipation for the next season.
To make the transition back from cover crop to your chosen vegetables the following season, avoid the temptation to till the cover crop into the soil. Instead, use one of the following methods to kill off the cover crop and prepare the plot for new crop growth:
Once the cover crop has been killed off, you’re ready to plant your vegetable seeds. For a small garden, use a hoe to part the cover crop remains over to the side. Create a small slice in the soil, drop in your seeds and cover with a small amount of soil. If you’re planting a transplant, simply move the cover crop aside, dig the hole and plant as normal.
Integrate livestock and other animals, including insects — Centuries ago, large herds of bison and elk moved across the landscape, foraging, depositing manure and trampling vegetation into the ground. All of this is part of the natural cycle that is missing when animals are kept in concentrated animal feeding operations.
Many have started raising chickens in their backyards again and chickens are an excellent addition to a sustainable garden. Rabbits, pigeons and ducks are other alternatives that could work in some suburban areas, but even if circumstances or local laws prevent you from adding animals, be sure to plant flowering plants that attract pollinators and predator insects, as these will naturally help ward off pests that might otherwise decimate your main crop.
Tips to Help You Design Your Own Permaculture Garden
While Crawford refers to his garden as a “forest garden,” it’s essentially a form of permaculture garden. Permaculture epitomizes sustainability by harnessing mutually beneficial relationships to create synergistic, self-supporting ecosystems. Its principles incorporate the best of organic, biodynamic and regenerative agriculture. According to the Permaculture Institute:3
"Permaculture is an ecological design system for sustainability in all aspects of human endeavor. It teaches us how to design natural homes and abundant food production systems, regenerate degraded landscapes and ecosystems, develop ethical economies and communities and much more."
In short, permaculture is an agricultural system in which the parts of the system are all interconnected, working with nature as opposed to against it. The word "permaculture" derives from "permanent agriculture" or "permanent culture." The focus is not on any one element of the system but on the relationships among them — animals, plants, insects, microorganisms, water, soil and habitat — and how to use these relationships to create self-supporting ecosystems.
If you want to shoot for a forest garden like Crawford’s, take his advice and just start planting some larger trees (or incorporate ones you already have on your property), then add smaller trees, shrubs and plants as you go along. You don’t have to have it all planned out before you begin.
While there’s no set formula for designing a permaculture garden, here are a few basic guidelines to consider:4
- Copy a forest blueprint with a tree canopy that gives way to smaller trees, flanked by shrubs, with smaller shade plants under the canopy
- Group plants by compatible roots and canopy systems, and by soil type, such as acid lovers in one area and drought-resistant in another
- Identify microclimates in your yard and use them to your advantage, such as cooler shady corners, full sun, rocky areas and areas that receive abundant drainage
- Incorporate as much diversity as possible, focusing on native plants and animals
- Plan your area in zones based on use and accessibility; for example, plant your herb garden and greens in the areas easiest to access, such as along the driveway or along a path near your deck
Should you have a large enough piece of land, you could go a step further and take into account the five permaculture zones as illustrated in the following diagram. At its center are you and your house, but its outermost zone is untamed wilderness.
Zones are organized in a way that maximizes energy efficiency, so activities are sorted by frequency of use, tending, visits and so on. For more detailed information about these zones, check out the Permaculture Research Institute’s “Permaculture Zones Primer.”5
Planting more trees — to the tune of 1.2 trillion — could be the answer to saving the Earth, with the trees capable of storing so much carbon dioxide (CO2) that they would cancel out a decades’ worth of human-made (CO2) emissions.1 Further, thanks to the work of ecologist Thomas Crowther and colleagues at Swiss university ETH Zurich, it’s now known that there’s room for an additional 1.2 trillion trees on the planet.
The team global forest inventory data from the Global Forest Biodiversity Initiative (GFBI) combined with satellite data to gain an understanding of the global forest system. They also studied data from the Global Soil Biodiversity Initiative (GSBI), which revealed a first glimpse of global patterns in biomass and diversity of the global soil microbiome.
“Using this combination of above ground and below ground data we can identify regions of high priority for biodiversity conservation,” Crowther said in research presented at the 2019 American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in Washington, D.C. “Additionally, we can finally start to understand the feedbacks that determine atmospheric carbon concentrations over the rest of the century.”2
Planting Trees the ‘Most Powerful Weapon’
Crowther stated that planting trees was our “most powerful weapon” in protecting the planet, with their research suggesting an additional 1.2 trillion trees could be planted across the globe to capture massive amounts of carbon from the environment. Currently, the Earth is home to 3 trillion trees, which is seven times more than previously believed.
“There’s 400 gigatons [of carbon] now, in the 3 trillion trees, and if you were to scale that up by another trillion trees that’s in the order of hundreds of gigatons captured from the atmosphere — at least 10 years of anthropogenic emissions completely wiped out,” Crowther told The Independent.3
The United Nations already responded to the findings, changing their Billion Tree Campaign to the Trillion Tree Campaign, which states, “Global reforestation could capture 25 percent of global annual carbon emissions and create wealth in the global south.”
More than 13.6 billion trees have already been planted as part of the campaign,4 which tracks not only where trees have been planted but also where forests currently exist and where forests could be restored. The Trillion Tree Campaign states that there is actually space for up to 600 billion mature trees on the planet, without taking space away from agricultural land.
However, since some planted trees won’t survive, the target is to plant at least 1 trillion trees to reach the 600 billion mature tree goal. “Additionally, we must protect the 170 billion trees in imminent risk of destruction. They are crucial carbon storages and essential ecosystems to protect biodiversity,” they state.5
Planting Trees Protects Biodiversity
Loss of biodiversity is another major environmental hurdle that planting trees could help remedy. Deforestation, forest degradation and other factors are currently threatening about half of tree species worldwide, which could have dire consequences on the productivity of ecosystems therein.
Using more than three-quarters of a million sample plots in 44 countries containing more than 30 million trees, researchers revealed that continued loss of biodiversity would result in accelerating decline in worldwide forest productivity.6 The work, a product of GFBI, Crowther and colleagues, found that, on average, a 10 percent loss in biodiversity leads to a 3 percent loss in productivity.
“The value of biodiversity in maintaining commercial forest productivity alone — $166 to $490 billion per year according to our estimation — is by itself over two to six times the total estimated cost that would be necessary for effective global conservation. This highlights the need for a worldwide reassessment of biodiversity values, forest management strategies and conservation priorities,” GFBI explained.7
Crowther added to The Independent, “We are not targeting urban or agricultural area, just degraded or abandoned lands, and it has the potential to tackle the two greatest challenges of our time — climate change and biodiversity loss.”8
Australia Aims to Plant 1 Billion Trees by 2050
Australia, as the seventh-largest forested area in the world, is well suited to contribute to the 1 trillion trees goal, and they’ve pledged to plant 1 billion trees by 2050 as part of a forestry plan to meet Paris Agreement targets, including reducing carbon emissions by 26 to 28 percent by 2030. If the tree-planting target is met, it’s estimated that 18 million tons of greenhouse gas would be removed per year by 2030.9
The fact is, forest represents one of five carbon sinks on Earth (the others are nonindustrial regenerative farmland, atmosphere, ocean and fossil deposits), and removing the renewable grasslands and forests that not only can sustain, but also regenerate our soils and solidify this fragile carbon balance, is a major part of the problem.
If you’re wondering what a carbon sink is, the Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science explains it this way:10
“The carbon cycle involves the flux, or flow, of carbon between different earth systems. An object or process that absorbs and stores carbon is called a sink, while one that releases carbon faster than it is absorbed is termed a source. For example, a healthy plant is a carbon sink because it is taking in CO2 from the air and storing it in new leaves and roots and a larger stem.”
In the U.S., although forests make up 90 percent of the carbon sink, they sequester only about 10 percent of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions.11 Further, it's estimated that one-third of the surplus carbon dioxide in the atmosphere stems from poor land-management processes, including clearing forests, overgrazing and tilling the soil that contribute to the loss of carbon, as carbon dioxide, from farmlands.12
Planting trees is considered to be an invaluable part of carbon sequestration, which is the process via which trees and other plants take up carbon dioxide and store it as carbon in their trunks, branches, foliage and roots. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service:13
“The sink of carbon sequestration in forests and wood products helps to offset sources of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, such as deforestation, forest fires and fossil fuel emissions.
Sustainable forestry practices can increase the ability of forests to sequester atmospheric carbon while enhancing other ecosystem services, such as improved soil and water quality. Planting new trees and improving forest health … are some of the ways to increase forest carbon in the long run.”
Mercola.com Has Planted Over 200,000 Trees
Mercola.com, in partnership with Trees for the Future, has planted over 200,000 trees.14 This organization is working to end hunger and poverty for small farmers by revitalizing degraded lands, using their Forest Garden program. They work in six sub-Saharan countries, actively planting trees in Senegal, Cameroon, Kenya, Tanzania, Guinea and Uganda. According to Trees for the Future:15
“The Forest Garden Program is a simple, replicable and scalable approach with proven success. By planting specific types of fast-growing trees, fruit trees, hardwoods and food crops in a systematic manner over a four-year period, families can positively change their lives forever.
Forest Gardens consist of thousands of trees that provide families with sustainable food sources, livestock feed, products to sell, fuel wood and a 400 percent increase in their annual income in four years.”
Their initial goal aims to work with 125,000 impoverished families to plant 500 million trees. In the last five years alone, Trees for the Future has planted more than 155 million trees, restored nearly 8,000 acres and sequestered nearly 200,000 tons of carbon.16 Further, on an individual level, 86 percent of the families they’ve worked with are food secure after one year.
The Many Health and Environmental Benefits of Trees
Beyond acting as valuable carbon sinks, trees offer invaluable benefits to human health and the environment. For example, trees and forests in the U.S. removed 17.4 million tons of air pollution in 2010, a benefit to human health valued at $6.8 billion.17
By improving air quality, forest and trees eliminated more than 850 deaths and 670,000 cases of acute respiratory symptoms, according to a study published in Environmental Pollution.18
What’s more, living around an extra 11 trees per street lowers the risk of heart disease, diabetes and obesity and “decreases cardiometabolic conditions in ways comparable to an increase in annual personal income of $20,000 and moving to a neighborhood with $20,000 higher median income or being 1.4 years younger.”19
In urban environments, green spaces including trees, are linked to better mental health, lower blood pressure and stress levels and increased physical activity. Access to natural settings like forests, or even views of them, may also reduce crime and aggression and improve outcomes after surgery.20
What’s more, when comparing the benefits of trees and grass in New York City, there was a higher reporting of “very good” or “excellent” health for those living near the most trees, but the same could not be said for grass.
The researchers concluded, “Findings imply that higher exposure to vegetation, particularly trees outside of parks, may be associated with better health. If replicated, this may suggest that urban street tree planting may improve population health.”21
Everyone Should Plant Trees
What’s great about trees being a primary solution to environmental crises is that everyone can take part in planting trees. The Trillion Tree Campaign suggests that everybody should plant at least 150 trees, although it recommends those in wealthy countries set a higher target of 1,000.
This may sound like a lot, but it’s a target for an entire lifetime, and the Trillion Tree Campaign website has a tool for you to set and keep track of your target.22
They’re officially counting all trees that have been planted since November 2006, when the campaign started, and you can invite your friends to join in too. Even if you live in a region where you can’t plant trees, or in an apartment with no backyard, you can donate or gift trees to be planted.
As Crowther told The Independent, “It’s a beautiful thing because everyone can get involved. Trees literally just make people happier in urban environments they improve air quality, water quality, food quality, ecosystem service, it’s such an easy, tangible thing.”23
Fall is a great time to plant trees due to moderate temperatures and rainfall allowing them to acclimatize and grow strong roots before the heat and dryness of summer, but springtime planting works well too, depending on your region. So, choose a tree that’s well-suited to your region and get started planting today.
Strokes are sometimes referred to as "brain attacks" (instead of "heart attacks") because they occur when a blood clot blocks an artery or blood vessel, cutting off blood flow to your brain, as opposed to your heart.1 As a result, brain cells die and brain damage can occur. Without proper and timely treatment, a stroke can be lethal.
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, an estimated 795,000 strokes occur each year in the U.S.2 It's the fifth leading cause of death, killing an estimated 142,000 annually. It's also a leading cause of long-term disability in the U.S.3
While most strokes occur in the elderly, younger people are by no means immune. Between 1995 and 2012, stroke rates nearly doubled for men between the ages of 18 and 44, according to the National Stroke Association.4,5 Estimates suggest 10 percent of all strokes occur in people under the age of 50.6
The recent death of Luke Perry at 52,7,8,9,10 a popular actor on the 1980s television show "Beverly Hills 90210" and many others, has brought renewed attention to the risks of stroke, especially among younger adults and the middle-aged.
Analyses reveal 9 in 10 strokes are preventable by addressing lifestyle factors such as high blood pressure, obesity, hyperglycemia, hyperlipidemia, kidney dysfunction, smoking, unhealthy diet and sedentary behavior.11 There's also evidence showing your vitamin D12 and magnesium13 status play a role, and alcohol consumption in middle-age appears to be a significant risk factor.14 As noted in one study:15
"Data from longitudinal studies have shown that some of the most powerful lifestyle modifications to lower risk of stroke include reducing elevated blood pressure, cessation of smoking, daily physical activity and maintenance of a healthy diet and weight. It has been demonstrated that even a modest change in lifestyle risk factors are achievable and have a substantial effect on risk.
Genetic background, information on risk factors and behaviors, and presence of subclinical conditions provide the most realistic appraisal of an individual's future vascular risk. For the community at large, improving health behaviors provides the best approach to reducing risk of stroke and its recurrence."
Signs and Symptoms of Stroke
Nine out of 10 strokes are ischemic strokes,16 which result from an obstruction in a blood vessel supplying blood to your brain. Research17 shows about 15 percent of ischemic strokes occur in "young adults and adolescents." The other form of stroke is known as a hemorrhagic stroke, which is when a blood vessel actually ruptures.
Strokes can be particularly devastating because they often occur without warning, and the longer your brain goes without oxygen, the greater your risk of lasting damage. This is one area where emergency medicine excels, as emergency medications can dissolve the clot that is blocking blood flow to your brain.
In order to be effective, however, you typically need to get help within three hours18 — the sooner the better. Research also shows primary stroke centers have lower mortality than other hospitals,19 so if a stroke is suspected, be sure to ask them to take the patient to a primary stroke facility.
The following symptoms can signal a lack of oxygen to your brain, which could be due to a stroke. If any of these occur, call for immediate emergency medical assistance (in the U.S., call 911).20
Remember, you need to get to the hospital as quickly as possible. When suspecting a stroke, don't drive to the hospital. Call for an ambulance, as this will ensure the most rapid assistance, and every minute counts.
- Sudden numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg, especially when occurring on one side of the body; face drooping, typically on just one side
- Sudden confusion; trouble talking or understanding speech
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes, or double vision
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness or loss of balance or coordination
- Sudden severe headache with no known cause; nausea or vomiting
It's important to pay attention to these symptoms even if they last only a short time and suddenly disappear, as it could be a sign of a mini-stroke, known as a transient ischemic attack. While brief, it's important to get it checked out to rule out a serious underlying condition that could lead to a more severe episode later. A helpful acronym to memorize is FAST:
F: Face drooping
A: Arm weakness
S: Speech impairment
T: Time to call 911!
Risk Factors That Raise Stroke Risk in Middle-Aged and Younger Adults
According to Dr. Lee H. Schwamm, director of the comprehensive stroke center at Massachusetts General Hospital, and Dr. Lawrence R. Wechsler, chairman of the department of neurology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, the risk factors for stroke among patients under the age of 50 differ from those in older patients, and include the following:21
Arterial dissection causing a blood clot — Causes of arterial dissection, which is when the lining of an artery tears, can occur during sudden neck movements, including sports injuries to the neck and jolting that can occur when riding a roller coaster
Hole in the heart (patent foramen ovale) — An estimated 1 in 4 people has this condition, which raises your odds of a stroke, as it can allow a blood clot to cross through your heart and into your brain
Heart defects or disturbed heart rhythm
Narrowing of the arteries caused by stimulants or drugs, causing a sudden lack of oxygen to your brain
Aneurism or arteriovenous malformation
Vitamin D and Magnesium Deficiencies Raise Your Risk of Stroke
Certain nutrient deficiencies can also play a role. Two important ones are vitamin D and magnesium. According to research presented at the 2010 American Heart Association's (AHA) annual Scientific Sessions, vitamin D deficiency doubled the risk of stroke in Caucasians, but not in African-Americans.22 That said, low vitamin D has been linked to arterial stiffness in black teens,23 which is a risk factor for stroke.
Chinese researchers have also found a correlation between magnesium intake and stroke risk.24 After looking at more than 1 million people across nine countries, those who consumed the most magnesium had a 12 percent lower stroke risk. According to this study:
"No significant association was observed between increasing dietary magnesium intake (per 100 mg/day increment) and the risk of total CVD [cardiovascular disease] or CHD [coronary heart disease].
However, the same incremental increase in magnesium intake was associated with a 22 percent reduction in the risk of heart failure and a 7 percent reduction in the risk of stroke."
Lead study author Fudi Wang, Ph.D.,25 pointed out that while current U.S. guidelines recommend a daily magnesium intake of 300 mg for men and 270 mg for women, deficiencies are still common.
Indeed, research26 suggests 45 percent of American adults do not get the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) amount of magnesium from their diet, and teen statistics27 published in 2014 suggest nearly 92 percent of teenagers between 14 and 18 do not meet the estimated average requirement for magnesium from food alone. The most likely reason for this is because they do not eat fresh vegetables on a regular basis.
Stroke Prevention Strategies
Considering the vast majority of strokes are predicated on modifiable lifestyle factors, I strongly encourage you to take control of your health to reduce your risk. Conventionally speaking, many of the same risk factors that increase your risk of heart disease also increase your risk of stroke, such as:
High blood pressure
Elevated homocysteine level
Low levels of HDL cholesterol and high levels of LDL cholesterol
High level of TMAO
To address these and other risk factors, consider implementing the following prevention strategies:
Eat real food — A diet of unprocessed or minimally processed whole foods will protect your heart and cardiovascular health by minimizing toxins and synthetic ingredients while providing high-quality nutrients.
Certain preservatives, such as sodium nitrate and nitrite found in smoked and processed meats have been shown to damage your blood vessels, which could increase your risk of stroke. I recommend avoiding all forms of processed meats, opting instead for organic, grass fed or pastured meats.
Eat plenty of probiotic-rich foods — Metabolites produced by certain gut microbes have been linked to an increased risk of atherosclerosis, heart attack, stroke and early death.
Even among those with traditional risk factors, having low metabolite counts appear to protect against clot-related events. Probiotics found in fermented vegetables and cultured raw dairy products such as yogurt and kefir may help lower these metabolites.
Probiotics have also been found to lower your risk of high blood pressure, which is yet another risk factor for heart attack and stroke. The most significant benefit appeared to be among those whose blood pressure was higher than 130/85. In studies, probiotics containing a variety of bacteria lowered blood pressure to a greater degree than those containing just one type of bacteria.
Another animal study found the probiotic lactobacillus marinus effectively prevents salt-sensitive hypertension by modulating TH17 cells. (Other research has found high salt intake inhibits lactobacillus marinus, thereby contributing to hypertension.)
Boost your fiber intake — Researchers have found that for every 7-grams more fiber you consume on a daily basis, your stroke risk is decreased by 7 percent. This conclusion was drawn based on data from eight observational studies. Fiber is the nondigestible parts of plants, which can be either soluble or nonsoluble. Water soluble fiber was found to reduce stroke risk the most.
Avoid "diet" soda — Research presented at the American Stroke Association's International Stroke Conference in 2011 showed that drinking just one diet soda a day may increase your risk of stroke by 48 percent. Ideally, strive to eliminate all soda from your diet, as just one can of regular soda contains nearly twice my recommended daily allowance for fructose in order to maintain good health and prevent disease.
Exercise regularly — Strength training may be particularly important for heart health. Research shows less than an hour of strength training per week can reduce your risk for heart attack and stroke anywhere from 40 to 70 percent, independent of aerobic exercise.
The fact that the cardiovascular benefits of weightlifting were independent of aerobic exercises such as walking and running means strength training is sufficient in and of itself. It alone will lower your risk of heart attack and stroke, even if you don't meet the recommended guidelines for aerobic activity.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends at least 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise each week, 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity, or a combination of both. I also strongly recommend standing and walking as much as possible on a daily basis.
Optimize your vitamin D level — Ideally, measure your vitamin D level twice a year and make sure you maintain a healthy level between 60 and 80 ng/mL (150 and 200 nmol/L) year-round, either from sensible sun exposure or oral supplementation, or both.
Optimize your magnesium level — Check your RBC magnesium level and track signs and symptoms of magnesium insufficiency to determine how much magnesium you need. Low potassium and calcium are also common laboratory signs indicating magnesium deficiency.
To raise your level, eat magnesium-rich foods and/or take a magnesium supplement, balanced with vitamins D3, K2 and calcium. While the RDA for magnesium is around 310 to 420 mg per day depending on your age and sex, some experts believe you may need around 600 to 900 mg per day.
Personally, I believe many may benefit from amounts as high as 1 to 2 grams (1,000 to 2,000 mg) of elemental magnesium per day. The reason why I believe the higher dose is warranted is because most of us have EMF exposures that we simply are unable to mitigate, and the extra magnesium should help lower the damage from that exposure.
Lower your stress — Stress is a general risk factor for stroke, and the higher your stress, the greater your risk. One 2008 study found that for every notch lower a person scored on their mental well-being scale, their risk of stroke increased by 11 percent. Not surprisingly, the relationship between psychological distress and stroke was most pronounced when the stroke was fatal.
My favorite overall tool to manage stress is EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques). It's a handy, free tool for unloading emotional baggage quickly and painlessly, and so easy that even children can learn it. Other common stress-reduction tools with a high success rate include prayer, meditation and yoga, for example.
Address elevated TMAO levels — Studies have shown high levels of trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO) are associated with an increased risk of heart attacks and stroke, so measuring your blood level of TMAO could be a powerful predictive tool for assessing your stroke risk. In one analysis, high blood levels of TMAO increased the risk of dying from any cause fourfold in the next five years.
In a paper led by James DiNicolantonio, Pharm.D., who is also the coauthor of my latest book, "Superfuel: Ketogenic Keys to Unlock the Secrets of Good Fats, Bad Fats, and Great Health," he explains how the likely true cause of elevated TMAO levels is hepatic insulin resistance.
Moreover, the paper shows that krill oil, astaxanthin, fish oil and berberine may be among some of the best supplemental strategies for those with high TMAO levels after diet optimization, as it is simply a reflection of insulin resistance in the liver.
Limit alcohol consumption — Research shows heavy alcohol consumption in middle age can be a risk factor for stroke. Those averaging more than two drinks a day were found to have a 34 percent higher risk of stroke than those who averaged less than half a drink per day.
According to this study, "Midlife heavy drinkers were at high risk from baseline until the age of 75 years when hypertension and diabetes mellitus grew to being the more relevant risk factors. In analyses of monozygotic twin-pairs, heavy drinking shortened time to stroke by five years."
Quit smoking — As one of the major risk factors for stroke, quitting smoking is an important consideration if you're concerned about your stroke risk.
Neuroplasticity Training Following a Stroke
If you, a family member, or close friend aren't able to navigate implementing the prevention recommendations above, then you need to know what to do immediately after you are in the hospital. With nearly 800,000 people having a stroke in the U.S. every year, there is a strong likelihood you will personally know someone who has a stroke.
I recently interviewed Bob Dennis about his excellent book, "Stroke of Luck: NOW! Fast and Free Exercises to Immediately Begin Mastering Neuroplasticity Following Stroke — Right Now!" and I would recommend everyone download a copy now. This is the book you want to have when you are in the ER so you can rapidly begin the process of activating your neuroplasticity and regain as much lost function from the stroke as possible.
Just as it's important to get rapid medical assistance when suffering a stroke, the sooner you begin taking steps to heal your brain after a stroke, the faster and more complete your recovery will be. This interview should be published sometime in the near future, so if this is a topic that interests you, be sure to keep an eye out for it.
- The 6 Health Benefits of Marjoram You Should Know About
- 4 Ways to Use Marjoram Effectively
- Growing Marjoram in Your Home
- Try This Healthy Recipe: Spicy Roast Chicken With Tomatoes and Marjoram
- Marjoram Essential Oil Has Unique Benefits, Too
- How to Make Marjoram Essential Oil
- Using Marjoram Essential Oil Properly
The marjoram plant (Origanum majorana) is an aromatic herb known for its aromatherapeutic and culinary uses. Its botanical name literally means “mountain beauty.” Interestingly, since marjoram and oregano (Origanum vulgare, which means mountain joy when translated), have often been confused through the years, you may also see marjoram referred to as mountain joy.
In Greek mythology, Aphrodite was believed to have grown this herb, as well as oregano. Romans, on the other hand, believe marjoram was made by Venus.1
Marjoram is classified as a perennial, and can grow up to a height of 24 to 36 inches. It’s closely related to (and often confused with) oregano, because of their similar appearances, most notably because of their oval, flat green leaves.2
To make things even more confusing, as mentioned, their botanical names are quite similar. But even more confusing, Origanum vulgare, which is the common oregano, is also known as wild marjoram. Since it can be very confusing, be sure to do your research before you purchase either of these plants.3
Marjoram can be used in cooking or in aromatherapy, in its essential oil form. That being said, depending on how it’s used, marjoram is known to provide the following health benefits:
- Antioxidants — A 2005 study showed that marjoram contains various antioxidants. Most notably, Egyptian varieties contained more antioxidants compared to Hungarian ones.4
- Antimicrobial — Extracts of marjoram have been found to be effective against several species of fungi and bacteria.5
- Anti-inflammatory — In vitro examination of marjoram showed that it may help manage inflammation. Researchers discovered that the plant suppressed pro-inflammatory cytokines. Sabinene hydrate and terpineol have been identified as the main anti-inflammatory compounds.6
- Better digestion — A mice study showed that marjoram extract exhibits antiulcer properties, as well as reducing basal gastric secretion and acid output. In addition, marjoram may help repair the gastric mucosa.7
- Reduced risk of cancers — A PLOS One study showed that marjoram has promising potential in modulating breast cancer growth and metastasis.8 Another study shows that marjoram extracts have beneficial effects against human lymphoblastic leukemia cell line.9
- Better heart health — A study found that marjoram helped alleviate erythrocytosis, granulocytosis, thrombocytosis and myocardial oxidative stress, as well as other cardiovascular factors.10
The beauty of marjoram is that it can be added to various dishes and can be used for different cooking methods, such as:
- Soups — It gives vegetable soups more flavor.11
- Roasted meats — Marjoram can add an herbal aroma to roasted meats, such as chicken.12
- Sautéed vegetables — Side dishes such as sautéed vegetables become more flavorful with a dash of marjoram.13
- Marinades — Upgrade the taste of your marinated meat and fish dishes by adding marjoram to the marinade.14
Planting marjoram in your garden can reap benefits as well. Not only does it create a beautiful atmosphere, but it also helps attract butterflies and other insects that feed on pests and decomposing matter, and can even pollinate plants.15,16
Oregano can be used as a substitute for marjoram if you don’t have it at the moment. But remember that although these two plants are very similar in appearance, they do have slight differences in flavor. Oregano has a pungent, spicy taste, while marjoram is sweeter and floral. If you want to use oregano in place of marjoram, only use a small amount to mellow out its strong taste.17
Marjoram is quite easy to grow in the comfort of your own home. It can be placed in an indoor container, window box or outdoors in your garden.
Start by making sure your soil has good drainage. Sunlight exposure must be at its fullest for the plant to grow well.18 Plant marjoram seeds during the late winter or early spring, because the extremely cold temperatures will damage the plants and may even cause seedlings to die out.19
If you’re just starting out, plant indoors first and when the snow has melted, you can transfer your site outdoors. Make sure that the location has plenty of sunlight, and the soil follows the appropriate conditions.20
Start planting seeds by placing them just beneath the surface of the soil. As the seedlings grow, remember to clear up space by placing each of them 10 inches apart in all directions. The plants are ready for harvesting once they reach a height of 3 inches. To get the best flavor, pick them before the flowers start to open.
Once picked, dry them to seal in their taste and aroma. Simply group plants in small bundles and hang them upside down in a dark room with good ventilation. Afterward, remove the stems, then crush or grind before using.21
This recipe from Bon Appétit uses marjoram to provide roast chicken with a wonderful aroma and flavor. With the addition of tomatoes and red pepper, this dish is not only delicious, but warm and inviting as well.22
- 4 pasture-raised chicken breast halves with ribs
- 24 ounces cherry tomatoes (about 4 cups), stemmed
- 1/4 cup coconut oil
- 5 garlic cloves, pressed
- 1 1/4 teaspoons dried crushed red pepper
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh marjoram
- Himalayan salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- Heat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Toss the tomatoes, coconut oil, garlic, crushed red pepper and a tablespoon of marjoram in a large bowl.
- Place the chicken slices on a rimmed baking sheet.
- Pour the mixture over the chicken, while arranging the tomatoes in a single layer on a sheet around the chicken.
- Sprinkle the chicken slices generously with salt and pepper.
- Roast until the chicken slices are cooked through and the tomatoes are blistered, for about 35 minutes.
- Transfer the chickens to plates.
- Spoon the tomatoes and juices over.
- Sprinkle the plates with the remaining tablespoon of marjoram and serve.
Marjoram oil has been a popular fixture in folklore medicine for a long time. Research shows that it has been used as an antimicrobial as well as anti-inflammatory. A 2017 study summarizes the main possible benefits of marjoram essential oil:23
Modern manufacturing of marjoram essential oil is achieved through steam-distilling the tops of the plant. Depending on the source, the final product is a yellow to yellow-green oil. Spanish varieties produce an orange color.24
Before using marjoram essential oil (or any essential oil), you need to be aware of any potential allergic reactions. If you have any pre-existing medical conditions or are pregnant, it’s important to consult with your doctor first and let them know of your intention to use marjoram essential oil.
Once you’ve gotten permission from your doctor, do a skin patch test on your arm with a drop of the oil and check for any allergic reaction or irritation. Should a negative reaction occur, stop using the oil immediately.