Foods that Cause Oxidation and Disease

The free radical theory of disease suggests that many diseases are caused by the generation of free radicals within cells and their surrounding media. Free radical damage is called oxidative stress. To prevent oxidative stress, cells use antioxidants, some which come from the diet, some which are generated within cells. Free radicals are a normal part of physiology, but too many free radicals can overwhelm the antioxidant defences of the cell and lead to disease. Smoking is perhaps the lifestyle habit that is most damaging in terms of creating oxidative stress, but a number of nutritional components are also very damaging. High polyunsaturated oils can generate free radicals, and cooking with such oils is particularly damaging. In addition, foods low in antioxidants, as found in the typical Western diet are also damaging as they decrease antioxidant defences. Burnt foods and food containing nitrite and nitrate, as often found in processed meat, can also generate significant amounts of damaging free radicals

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Damsons (Prunus domestica): Antioxidants

Damsons (Prunus domestica) are an edible drupaceous fruit from a species of plum tree. Damsons are often used for jam (conserves) as well as in pies and crumbles. They have a tart taste and a deep rich red colour in both their skin and flesh. This red colour relates to the phytochemistry of the damson, which contains high amounts of the flavonoid group of phytochemicals. In particular, anthocyanins confer the deep red to purple colour that is present in damsons, and in this regard damsons are similar to most commercial plums. Plums are also relatively high in hydroxycinnamates, especially neochlorogenic acid, and chlorogenic acid. Damsons may therefore provide significant antioxidant protection to those who consume them, and as such can be incorporated into a healthy diet. In addition damsons are relatively high in fibre including pectin, and this may confer additional health effects. Eating a range of plums, damsons, prunes and other dupes may protect from a number of Western lifestyle diseases. 

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Donovan, J.L., Meyer, A.S. and Waterhouse, A.L. 1998. Phenolic composition and antioxidant activity of prunes and prune juice (Prunus domestica). Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.  46(4): 1247-1252
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Cyanidin glycosides as an Anti-Inflammatory Phytochemical

Anthocyanins are a group of phytochemicals that belong to the flavonoid group, which in turn is part of the larger group of polyphenols. Anthocyanins are present in many fruits, flowers, vegetables and other plant parts, and often confer a red, blue or purple colour on the plant tissue. Berries, cherries, beetroot, red cabbage, red onions and watermelon, are all rich sources of anthocyanins. The health effects of anthocyanins as antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents explains some of the health benefits of plants. Cyanidin glycosides is an anthocyanin that is found widely in numerous plant tissues of various species, and has been identified in high amounts in berries and cherries. Evidence suggests that cyanidin glycosides may have the ability to inhibit the cyclooxygenase enzyme, one of the enzymes responsible for the cellular inflammatory response. Cyanidin glycosides could therefore be one of the components that confers anti-inflammatory effects on those that consume high amounts of fruit. 

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Seeram, N.P., Momin, R.A., Nair, M.G. and Bourquin, L.D. 2001. Cyclooxygenase inhibitory and antioxidant cyanidin glycosides in cherries and berries. Phytomedicine. 8(5): 362-369
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Antioxidants in Mint

Antioxidants are an important component of cell health. Cells require antioxidants for a number of reasons, but perhaps the most importantly, they use them to control oxidation, a process that if left unchecked can significantly negatively affect the health of the cell. Cells can manufacture their own antioxidants, but many are derived from the diet. Plants are high in antioxidants, which plant cells use for the same reason as human cells. Plants such as mint are highly useful in this regard because not only do they provide a significant amount of antioxidants, but mint plants are also very easy to grow even in pots, and this can be a very useful source of additional antioxidants in the diet. Studies show that mint is high in polyphenols and a large amount of the polyphenols in mint are made up of various flavonoids. As with most plants, the leaves are also rich in vitamin C. Adding mint to foods as a herb can therefore provide significant antioxidant protection to the consumer, and can be an easy way to improve health.  

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Fatiha, B., Khodir, M., Farid, D., Tiziri, R., Karima, B., Sonia, O. and Mohamed, C. 2012. Optimisation Of Solvent Extraction Of Antioxidants (Phenolic Compounds) From Algerian Mint (Mentha spicata L.). Pharmacognosy Communications. 2(4): 72-86
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The Nutrition of Plums

Plums are an important commercial crop and one of the most commonly consumed fruits in the Western diet. This makes them nutritionally important as they are a rich source of nutrition in what is generally a poor quality diet. Plums are high in antioxidants, with the skin containing higher amounts of antioxidants compared to the flesh. Some of the nutrients in plums include phenolic acids, anthocyanins, carotenoids, flavanols, organic acids, (e.g., citric and malic acids), fibre (pectin), tannins, aromatic substances, enzymes, minerals (e.g., potassium, phosphorus, calcium and magnesium), organic acids, vitamin A, B vitamins, vitamin C and vitamin K. Like most fruit, plums are reasonably high in sugar, and for this reason they are often used in pies and conserves such as jams. Concentrated forms of plums such as jams appear to retain their antioxidant capacity and are therefore still nutritionally advantageous as part of a healthy diet. The skins of plums are purple because of the high concentration of anthocyanin antioxidants.  

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Birwal, P., Deshmukh, G., Saurabh, S.P. and Pragati, S. 2017. Plums: a brief introduction. Journal of Food, Nutrition and Population Health. 1(1): 1-5
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Effects of Grass on Cow’s Milk: Nutrition

The milk produced by dairy cows reflects the nutrition that the cow is exposed to. Higher quality milks are produced by higher quality diets. Dairy cow’s are generally fed grass, and this grass can vary in its nutritional content. One of the biggest determinants of this variation is the season in which the grass is grown, with winter grass generally having a different profile to summer grass. Studies have analysed the effects of seasonality on grass and how this affects the milk of dairy cows. In general, summer grass produces a higher fat milk compared to winter grass, and this includes high concentrations of certain important fatty acids such as alpha linolenic acid (ALA, C18:3 (n-3)) and cis-9, trans-11 conjugated linoleic, as well as lower concentrations of some of the nutritionally less important fatty acids such as palmitic acid and myristic acid. Therefore summer grass may improve the nutritional content of milk and butter and this may have consequences for those that consume dairy products as part of their healthy diet. 

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Sojak, I.F.W.L.L. 2010. Fatty acid composition of summer and winter cows’ milk and butter. Journal of Food and Nutrition Research. 49(4): 169-177
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Peanuts (Arachis hypogaea)

Peanuts (Arachis hypogaea) are an important food crop because of their high nutritional value. The peanut is perhaps most commonly consumed in its salted or roasted form with the shells removed. In these forms it is easy to over consume peanuts, and this can increase sodium consumption significantly. Peanuts can also be made into peanut butter, and this again is easy to over consume. Peanuts are actually legumes, and consuming them has been shown to provide some of the nutritional benefits of legumes and their pulses, including weight loss and appetite control. Overconsuming peanuts may be detrimental as they are high in energy and therefore it becomes possible to consume excess energy in the diet if moderation is not maintained. However, that is not to say that all the energy in peanuts is absorbed, as evidence suggests that a significant portion never enters circulation. As with all plant foods, peanuts also contain antioxidants, which may explain some of their beneficial effects. 

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Higgs, J. 2003. The beneficial role of peanuts in the diet–Part 2. Nutrition & Food Science. 33(2): 56-64
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Coleus forskohlii As A Weight Loss Supplement

Coleus forskohlii is a plant that belongs to the Lamiaceae or mint family of plants. The plant grows naturally in India, where it is cultivated for its medicinal properties. As with most plants Coleus forskohlii is high in antioxidants and this provides a significant protection against oxidative stress in the consumer. However, Coleus forskohlii also has a specific anti-obesity effect in humans and animals which may relate to its ability to upregulate the generation of cyclic AMP in cells. Rat studies attest to the anti-obesity effects of Coleus forskohlii. In one study a group of rats were fed a cafeteria style diet containing foods that might be expected to cause obesity. However, another group of rats were fed the same diet with a Coleus forskohlii extract. The Coleus forskohlii extract was significantly effective at reducing the appetite of the rats and also reduced the rate at which the diet was able to cause detrimental weight gain. This supports the contention that Coleus forskohlii is an effective anti-obesity herb. 

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RdB

Shivaprasad, H.N., Gopalakrishna, S., Mariyanna, B., Thekkoot, M., Reddy, R. and Tippeswamy, B.S. 2014. Effect of Coleus forskohlii extract on cafeteria diet-induced obesity in rats. Pharmacognosy Research. 6(1): 42
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Niacin as a Treatment for Migraines

Niacin is a compound that belongs to the B vitamin group of vitamins. Niacin is also referred to as nicotinic acid and it is available as a supplement, usually in tablets of anywhere from a few milligrams to a few hundred milligrams. Oral niacin has been suggested to be a treatment for tension and migraine type headaches and a number of studies have reported beneficial effects when using niacin for this purpose. The exact mechanism by which niacin causes this benefit is not known, but it may relate to the flushing effects of the skin, and it has been speculated that this may cause changes to cerebral blood flow, thus modifying the conditions under which the headache formed. The flushing effects of niacin are caused by its ability to release prostaglandin D2 in the skin, which leads to increase of its metabolite, 9α, 11β-PGF2, in the plasma. This metabolite may have cellular effects and it has been speculated that this may be the factor that facilitates alleviation of the headache or its symptoms. As beta-alanine also causes flushing, it could be hypothesised that beta-alanine may have the same migraine relieving effects. 

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RdB

Prousky, J. and Seely, D. 2005. The treatment of migraines and tension-type headaches with intravenous and oral niacin (nicotinic acid): systematic review of the literature. Nutrition Journal. doi:10.1186/1475-2891: 4-3
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Happy Hens Lay Healthy Eggs

Eggs are a highly nutritious food because they contain all the nutrients required to make a small chicken. However, eggs are not fertilised and as such are not living organisms. One aspect of egg production that has come under scrutiny is the battery system of farming, and whether the animal’s welfare is maintained in this system. Evidence from studies suggests that battery hens are not as healthy nor as happy as free range chickens, and that the eggs that free range chickens lay are more nutritious. The reason for this may partly be due to the ability of the chicken to fulfil normal behavioural patterns in a free range environment. However, there is also a nutritional aspect as free range chickens are able to find their own food, including insects and grubs, and these provide an advantage to the chicken in terms of optimal nutrition, and this allows the growth of a healthier chicken. In turn, a healthier chicken lays healthier eggs, and so although they are more expensive, free range eggs are nutritionally worth the extra cost. 

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RdB

Bray, H.J. and Ankeny, R.A. 2017. Happy chickens lay tastier eggs: motivations for buying free-range eggs in Australia. Anthrozoös. 30(2): 213-226
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