Nutrition WiseIn Nutrition Wise, a weekly question and answer column, Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN address hot topics in the field of diet, nutrition and cancer.
Q: How do I know how much weight to use for strength training?
Q: Is it true that high-fiber diets reduce belly fat?
Q: I’m confused by the changing headlines about low-fat diets for weight control. What’s the best advice?
Q: Is it true that tea is actually higher in caffeine than coffee?
“Is Caffeine better for you then Taurine?” One thing that most people do not realize is that caffeine is a stimulant, where taurine is an amino acid.
Where Is Caffeine Found?
Caffeine in its most common form is found in items that most individuals utilize every day, such as coffee, soda, energy drinks, as well as aspirin and acetaminophen. Some athletes or those that work out on a consistent basis are known to utilize caffeine in some form, as they feel that it helps increase their physical performance; however, this statement does not have enough sufficient data to prove that is the case.
Caffeine and Its Effects
Caffeine in most cases is used as a stimulant to help increase mental alertness and focus, however, it is also known to cause high blood pressure in individuals with heart conditions. It also causes an increase in ocular pressure for individuals whom suffer from glaucoma; this increase in pressure usually lasts about 90 minutes. If you are looking to consume caffeine for the purpose of mental alertness or the effect you feel it has on your physical performance at the gym, the safe recommendation is 250mg a day. A cup of brewed coffee can contain anywhere from 95 to 200mg of caffeine.
Neurological development has been shown to be supported by supplementation with Taurine. Taurine is an amino acid that also helps regulate the level of water and mineral salts in the blood. It is an ingredient most commonly found in meat, fish and breast milk. This is also one of the main ingredients that you read about in the energy drinks that are on the market today.
Up to 3,000 milligrams of supplemental taurine a day is considered to be safe; if you consume more taurine then your body needs throughout the day, it is simply excreted by the kidneys. One energy drink can have as much as 2,000 mg’s of taurine in one can. In some cases, taurine is said to increase mental and physical performance, however, as is the case with caffeine, there is not enough sufficient data to prove or disprove these comments.
Moderation Is Key
Moderation is the key with this ingredient, as it is with most things. There is little information available about the effects of heavy or long-term taurine use. There are, however, some concerns about taurine being consumed by those who are pregnant and/or breast feeding. In some cases with both caffeine and taurine, individuals have experienced rapid heart rates; if this is the case with you and it continues, discontinue your use and seek out information from your personal physician. It is always recommended that you speak with your personal physician before adding any new supplement to your daily routine.
There is a war going on all around us and, luckily, we have all the defenses we need to fight off the hordes of bacteria, pollution and chemicals trying to break our immune systems down on a daily basis. Two of the most potent weapons in our arsenals are antioxidants and flavinoids. With these two super defensive systems at our disposal, we may just win this constant and ongoing battle assaulting us every day.
While melodramatic, the above is very true. Thanks to the world we have created around us, our bodily defensive systems are constantly being beaten up by free radicals. Free radicals are pretty much everywhere, and we can’t escape them. Thank pollution, pesticides, sun exposure, cigarette smoke and second hand smoke and more for the proliferation of free radicals everywhere we go. Free radicals are also created when we breathe or when a weight lifter lifts weights. There is simply no escaping them at all.
Antioxidants and flavinoids fight the damaging attempts free radicals make on our systems constantly and then more of the good stuff we get into our bodies, the better. The good news is that we have all the ammunition we need in our homes in the forms of fruits and vegetables and, believe it or not, coffee. Coffee is so full of antioxidants, it’s the number one provider of them in the United States.
What’s the Difference?
Antioxidants have long been heralded as the free radical killers. They basically go through the body scooping up free radicals and neutralizing them in their tracks. Antioxidants can be obtained from a number of sources and, as mentioned, coffee is not only the most common, it’s also one of the most potent. Antioxidants can be found readily in fruits and vegetables, as well as in vitamins A, E, and C, and these were always considered the best defense against free radicals.
Not to be outdone, flavinoids have been showing some incredible prospects as possibly being better at getting rid of free radicals than antioxidants. Testing DNA strands that were damaged by hydrogen peroxide and had torn, the same as in cancer, strands treated with certain flavinoids responded better then those treated with vitamin C (antioxidants). This led to more research and flavinoids are showing great promise as being more potent at removing free radicals than antioxidants.
Where Do I Get this Stuff?
If you have a bright colorful and natural diet, you are getting flavinoids. If you think you aren’t, eat foods with more color to them. Flavinoids seem to mainly reside in the colorful parts of the food we eat so, don’t skin that apple – eat it all. Antioxidants are found in coffee, cheers to the morning commute, and especially in vitamins A, E and C so eating foods rich in those vitamins will get you well on your way.
If taking supplements and vitamins are your thing, here’s what you’ll need to get a good start going:
- Vitamin C – 1,000mg a day
- Vitamin E – 400 – 1,000 IU a day
While we are talking about antioxidants versus flavinoids, it’s really more along the line of antioxidants and flavinoids and how they both fight the good fight against free radicals. An apple a day wasn’t too far off, was it?
It might be quite a challenge to ensure sufficient vegan vitamin D consumption. But, the fact is that we require a daily intake of this essential substance. It is rarely found in vegan foods, though. Fortunately, there are a few alternative sources of it.
To start, vegan vitamin D is necessary for our bodies to absorb calcium, without which the bones would soften and become brittle, causing bone diseases such as osteomalacia. Daily vitamin D intake is 5 mcg (0.005 mg) for people whose age is below 50 years, and 10 mcg (0.01 mg) for those whose age is ranging between 50 and 70. As mentioned, vitamin D is mostly found in animal products, which sets a challenge for vegans who exclude animal products from their diet because of health or ethical reasons. Fortunately, you can provide your organism with this vitamin choosing other sources of it.
1. Plant Foods: Mushrooms and Yeast
Vitamin D is almost never found in plant foods. However, UV-irradiated mushrooms and yeast are an exception.
2. Fortified Foods
Vitamin D is often added to regular dairy products. But, since dairy is not an option for vegans, you could opt for fortified vegan foods. Consider including the following fortified foods in your diet:
- Rice and soy milk: one cup contains 2mcg of vitamin D
- Margarine: there are 1.275 mcg of vitamin D in 2 tablespoons
- Orange juice: 1.125 mcg in 1.5 cups of juice
These products, often consumed by vegans and vegetarians, are a good alternative source of Vitamin D. Read the labels carefully, since not all brands that specialize in, for example, soy food, offer fortified products. When purchasing vegan margarine, make sure it doesn’t contain such dairy derivatives as lactose, whey, caseinate and casein.
Our bodies have an ability to produce vitamin D in the skin. This happens when the skin is exposed to the sunlight. Staying in the sun (with your skin exposed) for 15 minutes a day is enough to obtain a daily norm of vitamin D3. However, this might not be an option for those who don’t have an opportunity to walk or sunbath outdoors every day, especially in peak hours of sun activity. People who live at Northern latitude areas might considerably lack the sun exposure. In this case other alternatives, such as fortified foods or supplements could be an option.
You can solve the problem of lack of vitamin D by including it into your diet in a form of natural supplement. Beware that vitamin D is fat-soluble, that’s the reason why it is often packaged in form of gelatin capsules. Gelatin, in turn, is derived from animals’ bones and skin. To avoid consuming animal derivatives, opt for vitamin D which is sold in form of tablets or liquids.
As you can see, one might need some creativity to ensure sufficient vitamin D consumption, but it shouldn’t be difficult. Remember to read the labels carefully when you shop for fortified foods and supplements. And, of course, enjoy the sun if you have the opportunity.
Q: Do active video games such as Wii count toward recommended amounts of physical activity?
Q: Is applesauce as good a source of antioxidants as fresh apples?
The term antioxidant refers to a group of organic substances found in plants that can reduce the damage made to cell walls by “free radicals,” molecules made in the environment by substances such as oxygen and carbon dioxide. By reducing this cell damage, antioxidants can be a health benefit by preventing cancer, heart disease and other chronic illnesses. Antioxidants include:
- certain vitamins, such as vitamin A, C and E
- minerals, such as selenium
- plant pigments, such as carotenoids.
Who Takes Antioxidant Supplements?
Many manufacturers are now offering antioxidants as dietary supplements, and Americans are biting. A recent survey from the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), for example, found that as Americans grow older, they are much less likely to make dietary changes that can lower cancer risk but instead turn to dietary supplements. In the study, 43% of Americans state they take a multivitamin daily for cancer protection and 21% take some other type of dietary supplement to lower their risk. Thirty-nine percent of responders have made changes to their diet to prevent cancer.
Are Supplements as Good as Real Food?
Although there is much research on antioxidant compounds that show health benefits, most of the studies have involved diet changes such as increasing fruits, vegetables and whole grains, not dietary supplements. In fact, there have been some studies, for beta-carotene for example, that found that dietary supplements have been linked to an increased risk cancer risk, particularly lung cancer.
Fruits and vegetables contain more healthful substances than single doses of antioxidants. In fact, scientists stress that there continue to be new discoveries on beneficial compounds in produce that have not previously been known, and therefore are not included in antioxidant dietary supplements. Garlic, for example, provides beneficial antioxidants, but supplements are missing important compounds found in the plant that convert the compound into its active form. Another recent study, conducted by the Institute of Food Research in England, found that fruit actually contains more beneficial antioxidants than they previously thought. The study was conducted on apples, peaches and nectarines, and the researchers found that these fruits contained up to five times more antioxidant compounds, called polyphenols, than had been estimated from prior studies.
In addition, fruits and vegetables contain energy and fiber, neither of which is included in a nutritional pill or powder. Fiber is important for the digestive system, in reducing cholesterol levels, and may have benefit in the reduction of colon cancer. Energy, of course, is needed to fuel the cells for daily activity and to repair body tissue damaged from daily use.
What Do the Experts Say?
The American Heart Association is one group that does not recommend using antioxidant supplements until more data is available on its benefits and safety. They continue to recommend dietary changes such as including more fruits and vegetables in the diet, and to lower fat, cholesterol and sugar by using lean meats, whole grains and monounsaturated fats from beans, nuts and seeds.
When Are Supplements Beneficial?
There is a certain population for whom supplements are useful:
- the elderly
- those with a reduced food intake
- heavy drinkers
- frequent aspirin users
- people with chronic immune deficiency diseases
However, most of these individuals would benefit more from a multivitamin rather than specific antioxidant supplements. Multivitamins contain the recommended daily allowance for many of the substances that the body uses to produce its own natural antioxidant compounds.
There are a multitude of health benefits that come along with drinking wine in moderation; one of the most important is drinking wine for antioxidants.
What Are Antioxidants?
Antioxidants are both enzymes and nutrients that help to control the damage done to the body’s cells, proteins and DNA by free radicals. Antioxidants are found in foods such as onions, garlic, broccoli, blueberries, tea, and even chocolate and wine.
Free Radicals, Antioxidants and Chronic Disease
Free radicals are harmful byproducts and are impossible to avoid. They are produced when the body uses oxygen through such processes as respiration or metabolism and are also obtained through external sources like pollution and sunlight. These free radicals wreak havoc on the body, and it is believed they are involved in the development of various chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, strokes and even Alzheimer’s. Antioxidants help to repair the damage done by these free radicals and so are believed to play an extremely important role in preventing the chronic diseases that they are related to.
What’s Wine Got to Do with It?
Poly-phenolic flavonoids are antioxidants found in the skin of grapes. Red wine has a higher level of this antioxidant as the skin of the grapes is included during the fermentation process. According to the National Cancer Institute, research on this specific antioxidant has shown that may help to slow the development of certain types of cancer.
Everything in Moderation
Wine, specifically red wine, has various health benefits including, but not limited to the antioxidants it provides for our bodies. It also helps to keep the heart healthy and lower bad cholesterol levels. But it’s important to drink alcohol only in moderation as consuming large quantities can result in the reverse affect on the body. The USDA defines moderate drinking as one glass of wine per day for woman, two for men. So enjoy your glass of red wine with dinner by knowing the great health benefits you’ll receive from it, but don’t go overboard!
Green tea is an excellent source of antioxidants. Specifically, it is rich in polyphenols, a type of antioxidant which has been called a “wonder nutrient” in terms of eliminating harmful free radicals in the body. Green tea has 8 to 10 times the polyphenol levels found in fruits and vegetables, so it’s definitely worth drinking.
To get the maximum antioxidant “punch” from your green tea, how should you brew it?
Buying Green Tea
Your best choice for maximum polyphenol levels is small, loose leaf green tea, because this type infuses more quickly. Large or tightly curled tea leaves require longer infusion times.
Loose leaves are preferable to teabags, again because they infuse faster and are less processed than teabags. If you do use teabags, continuously dunk them in the teapot rather than letting them float.
Storing Green Tea
Purchase green tea in small quantities. A single ounce of tea leaves should produce 15 to 30 cups of tea, so you don’t need to buy a lot. Fresher tea leaves have a higher antioxidant content. Additionally, choose a container close to the size of the tea. Extra air in the container will contribute to the tea oxidizing.
The pantry is a good place to store your tea. Refrigerating it can result in damage from moisture and odors, and the condensation that forms when thawing frozen tea will ruin it.
Brewing Green Tea
Now you’re ready to make some tea. Heat water in non-reactive teapot (stainless steel, porcelain or china are good choices). These materials don’t create “off” flavors or toxic residues. Never steep water for tea in an aluminum or plastic container.
There is some debate over whether or not to heat the water to boiling, with some sources recommending a lower temperature (165 – 170 degrees) for a longer steeping time (2 to 4 minutes) to allow the polyphenol content to reach higher levels.
Other sources suggest that using boiling water promotes enhanced extraction of polyphenols from the tea. So, to play it safe you may want to try brewing green tea both ways (using boiling and non-boiling water) and see which taste you prefer.
Regardless of the water temperature used, you will only want to steep the tea for a maximum of 5 minutes. You can add a heaping teaspoon of tea for every 8 ounces of water, and you can use a batch 3 or 4 times.
Evaluating Your Green Tea
Taste the tea and see if you like its flavor. If you want to tweak the taste, adjust the amount of tea and not the brewing time.
Green Tea Caveats
As with any food product, green tea has its caveats. Its caffeine conent is moderate (about half that of coffee). It does have high levels of fluoride and aluminum, which can be toxic in high amounts. It’s worth noting that decaffeinated green tea has higher levels of these two substances than regular green tea, and that adding lemon to your green tea increases aluminum absorption up to 10 times.
Enjoy the health benefits of green tea by brewing a pot today!
Scientists have known for some time now that a diet consisting of foods high in antioxidants helps to improve sight. One of the earliest studies of antioxidants and vision found that people at high risk of developing Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD), a leading cause of vision loss, lowered their risk by about 25% when treated with a combination of vitamins C, E, beta-carotene and zinc–all are antioxidants.
Free Radicals and Antioxidants
Antioxidants work by neutralizing the free radicals that damage the body’s cells, DNA, and other proteins. Free radicals exist everywhere. The exact same process is what causes apples to turn brown and metal to rust. In the eyes, free radicals are thought to aid in the development of cataracts as well as AMD.
Free radicals are essentially molecules that are unbalanced due to the loss of an electron, an electron that they gain back by taking it from the nearest stable molecule. That molecule in turn becomes unbalanced, and the process starts all over. Given enough free radicals, the cascade effect from all the electron theft will grow large enough to damage your cells, just as it will rust metal left outside.
How Antioxidants Work
Rust is also known as “oxidation,” though your body can’t really rust. Oxidation is what happens when any substance interacts with oxygen molecules. Antioxidants are any substance that slows oxidation down. They work by being able to give up an electron without becoming free radicals themselves. Their very presence inside a cell interrupts the electron stealing process, as long as there are enough antioxidants to go around. Low levels of antioxidants have been linked to a number of afflictions, including asthma, psoriasis, and possibly even autism, so it’s important to keep your antioxidant levels as high as possible.
Foods High in Antioxidants
Fortunately, there are a number of foods high in antioxidants, and there are more on the rise. It was in part due to vision studies like the one mentioned above that British farmers began growing a so-called “super carrot, ” containing 40 percent more beta-carotene than normal carrots.
Fortunately, you don’t have to fly to the United Kingdom in order to construct a diet rich in antioxidants. Carrots, even of the non-super variety, provide large amounts of the antioxidants carentenoid and vitamin A . Vitamin C is found in almost every fruit or vegetable, but papayas, bell peppers and strawberries have some of the highest concentrations. Berries of any kind contain a number of antioxidants, as do broccoli. tomatoes and spinach. You can even color-code your antioxidant fruits and vegetables. Purple foods such as eggplant, beets and purple cabbage are high in antioxidants, as are blueberries and red wine. For meat eaters, beef and chicken liver are both high in vitamin A, and vitamin E is present in salmon, milk and eggs. Walnuts, peanuts and hazelnuts are also high in antioxidants.
It’s easy to keep your antioxidant levels high, given the plethora of sources available to you, so eat hearty. Your eyes, not to mention the rest of your body, will thank you.