Exercise and Protein Requirements

Animals have a set requirement for the amount of protein they need in their diet, and this relates to a number of factors, most notably the amount of tissue growth and regeneration that is occurring. Exercise is a stress to the body that necessitates the remodeling of skeletal muscle and this is a very energy dependent process. As well as adequate energy in the diet, the body also needs enough protein, and this requirement can be significantly higher than that seen in a sedentary individual. However, it is difficult to state exactly how much protein is required as this will depend on a large number of factors including the biochemical individuality of the person, the type and duration and intensity of exercise undertaken, as well as the quality of the protein. Generally to remodel skeletal muscle, the body prefers to use the branch chained amino acids. Animal proteins containing high amounts of branched chain amino acids, such as whey protein, will therefore allow a more efficient remodeling process. Lower quality proteins that are not complete proteins, such as plant proteins, may be required in higher amounts and may need to be mixed in order to satisfy both the protein requirement and the essential amino acid requirement. Evidence from numerous studies show that high protein diets are not dangerous in any way to healthy humans, and indeed, may actually improve health compared to high carbohydrate diets. 

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RdB

Lemon, P.W. 1998. Effects of exercise on dietary protein requirements. International journal of sport nutrition. 8: 426-447
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A Little Sauce?

Many people choose to add condiments to their food to enhance the taste. The first thing to note about this is that if there is a requirement to add taste to food, it is likely that the food has not been prepared well and is perhaps of low quality. Most healthy foods, if approached from a perspective of a neutral taste that has not been blunted by the Western diet, are actually fairly tasty when some effort is made to prepare them. The second point to note about sauces, is that in many cases these contain some ingredients that may not be considered healthy. In particular, many sauces are high in added sugar, salt and preservatives. In itself this may not be an issue as the amount eaten may be small, but the problem with adding such sauces is that they can increase the addictiveness of the food and encourage overeating. That they often encourage overeating of junk foods makes matters worse. There are some exceptions to this, most notably apples sauce, which is often added to pork. Apple sauce is essentially mashed up apples, and it therefore retains many of the health properties of the original fruit (minus the peel). Mint sauce may also provide significant health benefits because of the mint it contains, the only other ingredient being vinegar, which is also a health food. Following on from this, vinegar added to food may also have beneficial glycaemic effects. 

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RdB

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Yeast Spreads and Mood Disorders

Yeast spreads are foods that are derived from the brewing industry, and which are designed to be added to bread and toast. Two of the most common brands include Vegemite and Marmite, but most supermarkets sell their own branded versions. These products use the waste products of the brewing industry to create a dark coloured spread that is very high in B vitamins. Often the products are fortified with additional B vitamins. A deficiency of B vitamins has been shown to increase the risk of mood disorders including forms of anxiety and depression. Studies have suggested that eating yeast spreads may reduce the risk of anxiety in some individuals, and this effect is likely most evident in those who have anxiety caused by low levels of vitamins. In particular, B vitamins have been shown to help regulate stress levels and intakes of B vitamins in those who are stressed may have significant benefits. As stress is a primary cause of anxiety, this may explain the benefit of yeast spreads. Yeast spreads can therefore act as a significant source of B vitamins and may have specific benefits on the mental health of the consumer. 

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RdB

Mikkelsen, K., Hallam, K., Stojanovska, L. and Apostolopoulos, V.  2018. Yeast based spreads improve anxiety and stress. Journal of functional foods. 40. 471-476
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Are Phytochemicals and Fibre Essential to the Health?

Well considering human nutrition, the essential nutrients that are known to be required for health include 8 to 12 amino acids, vitamin, minerals, 2 essential fatty acids, water and sunlight. These elements are required for health and without them, the condition of tissues gradually deteriorates until disease ensues. However, more recently a number of questions have been raised as to whether a number of other factors should be included in the list of essential elements. Two of the strongest contenders to fill this extension of the category include fibre and non-vitamin phytochemicals. Fibre is a large and broad group of non-digestible carbohydrates that is categorised as soluble and insoluble. Fibre plays an important role in human nutrition because it acts as a substrate for the microbiome in the gut, and this microbiome is essential to the health of humans. A number of phytochemicals also feed this microbiome, and in this way are also important contributors to the health of the individual. In addition, phytochemicals from plants play a significant role in conferring protection from oxidative stress in tissues and in this regard are considered to be a key factor in the prevention of many diseases. 

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RdB

Rowland, I. 1999. Optimal nutrition: fibre and phytochemicals. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society. 58(2): 415-419
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Fish Oil and Cardiovascular Disease

Cardiovascular disease is a disease of inflammation that can be caused by consumption or pro-inflammatory foods. The typical Western diet is high in pro-inflammatory foods and this explains the increased risk of cardiovascular disease in those that consume it. Eating foods that are anti-inflammatory is one way to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, and in this regard fish oils may be particularly beneficial. This relates to the fact that fish oils contain the long chain omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA, C20:5 n-3) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, C22:6 n-3). These two fatty acids feed into the essential fatty acid pathway and contribute to an anti-inflammatory effect because the metabolites of this pathway inhibit the formation of pro-inflammatory eicosanoids. This provides a significant benefit to the consumer, and this effect can be significant at improving long term health if the intake of these omega-3 fats is maintained. Fish that contain high amounts of these beneficial oils include mackerel, sardines (pilchards), trout, fresh tuna and salmon. 

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RdB

Weitz, D., Weintraub, H., Fisher, E. and Schwartzbard, A.Z. 2010. Fish oil for the treatment of cardiovascular disease. Cardiology in Review. 18(5): 258
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What Foods Can Keep You Warm?

Food has a significant effect on body temperature. This is evident during a period of fasting when body temperature can drop substantially. This is because during periods of food deprivation, the body will reduce its oxidation of food to preserve energy. Therefore from this we can say that one of the best ways to keep warm is to eat more food. Further, the types of food can play a significant effect on the temperature of the body tissues. Carbohydrate and protein foods increase body temperature more than fat and so a higher protein and carbohydrate meal will increase body temperature more than a high fat meal. In addition, certain foods such as ginger, capsaicin from chili peppers, Coleus forskohlii and jalapenos can increase body temperature by activating the adrenergic branch of the central nervous system, Lastly, hot beverages such as tea and coffee are excellent way to increase body temperature because not only does the hot water pass its energy to the body, the caffeine within the drinks also speeds metabolism through activation of the adrenergic part of the nervous system. Therefore what you eat can have a significant effect on body temperature, and this can be used to good effect to stay warmer in the winter months. 

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RdB

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The Beneficial Effects of Cruciferous Vegetables

Cruciferous vegetables are those that belong to the Brassicaceae family. Nutritionally and economically these vegetables are an important crop for humans. The varieties of cruciferous vegetables sold commercially differ significantly from their wild counterparts in terms of their palatability, nutritional content and their resistance to pests, and it is for this reason that they have been bred. Cruciferous vegetables are beneficial to the health because they contain a number of bioactive compounds which include the glucosinolate and S-methyl cysteine sulfoxide compounds. The mechanisms by which these phytochemicals are protective include protecting the cell against DNA damage, deactivating carcinogenic substances, conferring antiviral and antibacterial effects, triggering apoptosis in cells with disrupted structure, inhibiting the migration of tumour cells thus decreasing metastasis and reduction in the development of angiogenesis. The S-methyl sulfoxide compounds may also block genotoxicity. The current recommendation is to incorporate cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, cauliflower, brussel sprouts and broccoli into the diet in order to help reduce the risk of developing a range of cancers. Cruciferous vegetables are currently being explored as possible functional foods that can be used to provide increased amounts of anticancer nutrients to the diet. 

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RdB

Ağagündüz, D., Teslime, Ö.Ş., Yılmaz, B., Ekenci, K.D., Özer, Ş.D. and Capasso, R. 2022. Cruciferous Vegetables and Their Bioactive Metabolites: from Prevention to Novel Therapies of Colorectal Cancer. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Article ID 1534083
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Mint Teas: Hormonal Effects

Mint tea is used in traditional medicine for a number of reasons, the most well known being its benefits of digestive function. For example, peppermint tea has been shown to aid digestion and be beneficial in a number of digestive disorders including bloating and stomach cramps. Peppermint may also have systemic hormonal effects and some of these effects have been researched in animal models. For example, in one study, researchers investigated the effects of Mentha piperita labiatae (peppermint) and Mentha spicata labiatae (spearmint) herbal teas on the testosterone, luteinising hormone, and follicle-stimulating hormone levels of rats. The teas caused increases in luteinising hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone levels and a decrease in testosterone levels in the male rats in the experimental group, when compared to the control groups receiving no mint tea. However, whilst these effects are interesting, the dose provided to the rats was very high, and in this regard did not reflect a normal nutritional intake. Therefore whilst mint has the ability to interact with the hormonal system, it is unclear what these effects would be in humans consuming a relatively more normal intake of mint. 

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RdB

Akdogan, M., Ozguner, M., Kocak, A., Oncu, M. and Cicek, E. 2004. Effects of peppermint teas on plasma testosterone, follicle-stimulating hormone, and luteinizing hormone levels and testicular tissue in rats. Urology. 64(2): 394-398
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No Such Thing As A Balanced Diet?

The often referred to “balanced diet” is actually a misnomer as no such diet exists. This point is highlighted by the fact that a wide range of diverse and nutritionally distinct diets exist that can result in optimal health. There are a number of reasons for this observation, the most obvious one being that many different foods can supply the optimal amounts of nutrients for an individual despite apparently appearing different visually. For example, essential vitamins, vitamins, essential amino acids and essential fats can all be obtained from a large range of foods. Where these nutrients are obtained from is largely irrelevant, and as long as the individual is meeting their requirements, then the diet can be considered “balanced”. Similarly, an “unbalanced diet” can indeed contain a wide range of different foods and so can be defined differently for each individual person. The general rule to ascertain the benefits of a diet is to ask whether the foods within the diet are prone to deterioration during storage. Such foods would include fruits, vegetables, fish, meat, eggs, butter, milk and cheese. These foods tend to be healthy, whereas the foods with long shelf lives such as cakes, biscuits, sugar, processed meat and processed grain, tend to have very long shelf lives and are associated with poorer health outcomes. A balanced diet should contain mainly foods from the former category. 

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RdB

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Phosphatidylserine to Blunt Cortisol Release

Phosphatidylserine is a phospholipid found in the cell membranes of plants and animals. The presence of phosphatidylserine is required for normal membrane function, and in addition to membrane fluidity, this may include the regulation of key membrane bound enzymes and enzyme cascades. Eating plant and animal foods provides low levels of phosphatidylserine, but levels in the diet can be increased significantly by consuming supplements that are usually made from soybean cell membranes. Increasing the intake of phosphatidylserine can have beneficial effects on health because evidence suggests that it can reduce the negative effects of cortisol, thus improving health. For example, in one study 400 mg of phosphatidylserine mixed with phosphatidic acid (a precursor for phosphatidylserine) were administered to male volunteers had a normalising effects on adrenocorticotropic hormone, blood cortisol and salivary cortisol following exposure to stress over 43 days. This indicates that phosphatidylserine may be an important supplement for blunting the stress response and in this respect could be a useful supplement for athletes or those who feel they are exposed to significant stress. 

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RdB

Hellhammer, J., Vogt, D., Franz, N., Freitas, U. and Rutenberg, D. 2014. A soy-based phosphatidylserine/phosphatidic acid complex (PAS) normalizes the stress reactivity of hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal-axis in chronically stressed male subjects: a randomized, placebo-controlled study. Lipids in health and disease. 13(1):1-11
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