Tomatoes, Lycopene and Prostate Cancer

TomatoI had the opportunity to write an article for this month’s issue of the Natural Medicine Journal about the connection between Lycopene and prevention of Prostate cancer. This is following results of the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (HPFS) published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute earlier this year. The HPFS is an ongoing study of over 50,000 men who were between the ages of 40 and 75 at the beginning of the study in 1986. After nearly 30 years of following the dietary habits and health status of these men, they have found a distinct protective effect of consumption of foods that are high in lycopene.

Lycopene is a carotenoid, a class of compounds that often give plants a yellow, orange, or red color. The foods that are most common in the Western diet that are highest in lycopene are tomatoes, pink grapefruit, and watermelon. Processed tomato foods such as tomato paste and sauce are particularly high in lycopene because it becomes concentrated. Lycopene has the most potent antioxidant activity of all the carotenoids, and there have been many studies over the past several decades that have demonstrated the ability of lycopene to detoxify, prevent cell damage, and initiate death of cancer cells.

This current study is of particular interest to us because, from a prevention standpoint, it looks at whole foods instead of supplements, and it gives us a long-term look at a large number human subjects rather than animal or in-vitro models. The most significant finding in this study is that “men with the highest (cumulative) intake were half as likely to develop lethal prostate cancer compared with those with the lowest intake”. That is, the men who started eating foods with the highest amount of lycopene earliest in life were least likely to die of prostate cancer.

It is also important to note that these men who fared the best in the study seemed to have better habits overall. Those with the highest lycopene consumption “also consumed less alcohol, coffee and all three types of fats and slightly more fruits, vegetables, and dietary fiber”. Diets rich in fruits and vegetables have also been generally found to be protective against cancers and prostate cancer specifically.

What is the take home message from this study? The best way to take care of your prostate is to eat fruits and vegetables, particularly those high in lycopene, and start early–the impact you will have will be so much more powerful now than making changes once a problem arises.

If you would like to see the full article in the Natural Medicine Journal Click Here

Source: Zu, Ke et al. Dietary Lycopene, Angiogenesis, and Prostate Cancer: A Prospective Study in the Prostate-Specific Antigen Era. Journal of the National Cancer Institute. 2014. 106 (2).

Minimizing Colds and Flu for Athletes

iStock_KidsSoccerCold and flu season is here! This morning when I dropped my kids off at school there were 16 kids missing out of 50 due to illness. Seeing all these spaces on the list made me curious to come home and do some research to see what the scientific literature has found to be the best ways to prevent colds and flu. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the colder Autumn months are associated with the lungs which provide “defensive energy”; meaning our ability to maintain a good barrier between ourselves and the outside world. Here are some of the best ways that Western science has found to help keep our immune systems and lungs strong as we head into the holidays:

Crowded offices, schoolrooms and homes predispose us to sharing germs; higher humidity in these indoor spaces increases the risk of transmission because sneezed or coughed viral particles more readily enter into water droplets that can be inhaled. What to do? Beyond the obvious regular handwashing and sneezing into your elbow, minimize the use of the humidifier and open doors and windows whenever possible to let in fresh air.

Both the quantity and the quality of sleep play a role in immune function; make sure to get enough hours of sleep and try to minimize disturbances during the night.

Both too much and too little exercise tends to decrease immunity and increase incidence of infection. Consistent, daily, moderate exercise has been shown to prevent colds and flu.

While exercise will boost endorphins and immune function, chronic exposure to cold air during endurance exercise can damage bronchial and lung tissue. While you ski, snowboard, run, or skate in cold weather, wear a balaclava or neck gaiter to help warm the air you are breathing.

If you are doing some significant exercise, the most effective way to support the immune system is to ingest a carbohydrate-rich drink before, during, and after. This helps to moderate blood sugar and minimize the impact on immunity.

Generally keeping blood sugar consistent is also key for maintaining immune health. Minimize consumption of alcohol, white flours, and refined sugars, and eat a significant source of protein at least twice per day.

A couple of my favorite immune-boosting foods are jerusalem artichokes and coconut oil.

Stay Healthy!

Cranberry-Apple Crisp (Gluten Free, Vegan)

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Apple-Cranberry Crisp (Gluten Free, Vegan)
We had some old friends over for dinner the other night to catch up and let the kids run around together.  We had this for dessert and the recipe was requested, so here it is!
Baked fruit desserts are my go-to standby for company because they are simple, easy to make ahead, relatively healthy, and great the next morning with yogurt for breakfast.  This is a gluten free, vegan winter version that utilizes what’s in season now.
(serves 6-8)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
5 small apples, peeled and cut into chunks
2/3 cup fresh cranberries
2 Tbsp corn starch
2/3 cup maple syrup
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/3 cup almond flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup oil (I used avocado, but any mild oil or butter is fine)
In a medium bowl, mix apples, cranberries, corn starch, and 1/3 cup maple syrup. Transfer to an 8X11 baking dish.  Using the same bowl, mix oats, flours, salt, cinnamon, vanilla, oil, and the other 1/3 cup maple syrup until it forms a crumb texture.  Sprinkle over the fruit, making sure all fruit is covered. Bake 45 minutes to an hour until the fruit bubbles and the topping is brown.

Making the Most of the Garden: Pickled and Fried Green Tomatoes

Fried Green Tomatoes

Fried Green Tomatoes

So, as Lilly mentioned in her last post, we had our first real freeze a couple of weeks ago which means just about everything from the garden had to come in. (In case you’re wondering, I keep the carrots and parsnips in the ground until it freezes hard because they keep better out there than in my fridge). Along with all the greens, indian corn for grinding, popcorn for popping, potatoes, zucchini, peppers, tomatillos and ripe tomatoes, I also ended up with about 15 pounds of green tomatoes.

What to do?  If you’ve read my other posts, you know that I am a tomato obsessive:  these overly nurtured babies started out as seeds last February, so even if they’ve not ripened they will not go to waste.  In past years I’ve stuck them in a paper sack and allowed them to ripen, but this year I decided to celebrate them for who they are.  Green tomatoes have their own nutritional benefits:  They are very high in Vitamins A, C, and pantothenic acid, plus are a great source of potassium.  But let’s be honest, I’m not eating them for their nutritional value, I’m loving them for their own unique deliciousness.

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So, the first ten pounds went into jars.  PIckled tomatoes will have all the same health benefits I mentioned in my post about pickles if you prepare them in a similar way.  My folks have found that they need about twice the salt though so I followed their lead.  Sadly, the season for big, overgrown dillweed with large seed heads has passed here so I had to go with the more demurely plastic packaged baby dill from the grocery store. Otherwise, I stuck with the formula.

Next, fried green tomatoes.  I have always heard about this mystical dish and have tried them from time to time but haven’t ever quite gotten the wow I was imagining, so I decided to improvise a bit. I may have mentioned in the past that my husband is a bit of a breaded food obsessive:  chicken fingers, pork cutlets, fish sticks, mozzarella sticks, zucchini fritters–they are all well loved, so I’ve become fairly well practiced at making gluten free, healthy versions of these crispy delights.  These turned out good enough to share the recipe, with a crispy, flavorful crust and a tangy middle.  mmm.  Can’t wait for next year.

GF Fried Green Tomatoes:

2 large green tomatoes, sliced ⅜ inch thick

2 Tbsp high heat oil, such as safflower

1 egg

½ cup grated parmesan

½ cup almond meal

¼ cup arrowroot starch (potato or even corn would also probably work fine)

½ tsp smoked paprika

½ tsp garlic powder

sea salt

Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium high heat and add enough oil to coat the pan generously.  Scramble the egg in a bowl.  Mix the remaining ingredients except salt into another bowl.  Dip tomato slice into egg, allow to drip, then using your other hand, coat with the parmesan/almond mixture.  Place in pan.  Repeat with all the tomato slices.  Salt the upper side.  When the bottom in nicely browned, flip tomato slices, salt, and brown the other side.  You may need to turn heat down to medium if the pan starts to get too hot.  Eat when hot and crispy out of the pan.

Homemade Tomato Sauce and the Benefits of Lycopene

Homemade Tomato sauce

Homemade Tomato Sauce

It’s tomato harvest time here in my backyard, and as my mom says, we are up to our earballs.  Each year at the beginning of September, I go through the same process of frantically calling upon friends and neighbors to please come with large bowls and take some home to enjoy. I also repeat the same ritual of attempting to make a large pot of sauce so I can preserve some of the garden goodness for the months ahead, but always with mixed results.  This year, however, I decided to stop cutting corners and do it right: I grew more romas than slicers or cherry tomatoes, and went through and blanched, skinned, and seeded the tomatoes before putting them in the pot. I always cringe at the thought of getting rid of so much of each precious tomato, but it yielded a thick sauce free of skins and seeds that is worth sticking in the freezer for a colder month.

Because I love to get the most nutrition possible out of my food, I am always wary of any process that involves taking out a significant portion of the food (like skins and seeds) and then cooking it for many hours, so making sauce seems a bit antithetical to this principle.  However, in this case, this food processing can actually boost the benefit of the food because of a little molecule called lycopene.  Lycopene is a carotenoid, or substance that gives the tomato its red color.  It is also found in other pink fruits such as watermelon, papaya, and guava, but the highest amount in the western diet is found in tomatoes.   

In the body, lycopene acts as a powerful antioxidant, meaning it gives electrons to oxygen or other molecules that are missing an electron.  Without an antioxidant these molecules then “steal” electrons from places like our DNA or cell membranes, causing damage to the tissues.  Lycopene has been shown to be a more effective antioxidant than Vitamin E or beta carotene, and can help to prevent cancer of the liver, lung, prostate, breast, and colon.  In cancer cells, it can arrest cells growth and promote cell death while having no effect on normal cells.  It also has been shown to prevent inflammatory disease of the liver, heart and neurological systems.

Interestingly, there are two ways in which cooking helps boost the benefits of lycopene.  First, by cooking out the water, the lycopene content becomes more concentrated, so you get more of it in each bite.  For instance, in a raw tomato, you may get as little as 8.8 mcg/g of lycopene, whereas in tomato sauce, you may get as much as 131 mcg/g. Powdering and freeze drying tend to decrease the amount of lycopene and makes it very unstable, whereas freezing and heat processing stabilizes the lycopene. Also, there are two molecular forms of lycopene, called trans and cis.  In a raw tomato, lycopene is in the trans form, while heat processing converts the lycopene to a cis form.  The longer the cooking, the more of this conversion takes place.  This cis form is more “bioavailable” to the body, meaning it is easier for it to utilize.

One other important thing to note is that how the tomatoes are grown also makes a difference.  Conventionally grown tomatoes have been found to be lower in many nutrients, including Vitamin C, polyphenols, quercetin, and flavonoids like lycopene.  So looking for tomatoes that have been organically grown or growing your own will yield a sauce richest in this health-promoting substance.  Plus, it will be the best sauce you’ve ever tasted.  

Enjoy!

Tomato sauce from scratch:

This is not a quick recipe, but it is a great way to use the bounty of your garden and you will never get a sauce from a jar that tastes as good as this!

Yield: 3-4 quarts

8 pounds fresh roma tomatoes

½ cup red wine

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 yellow onion, diced

5 garlic cloves, minced

2 stalks of celery, diced

2 tsp dried basil

1 tsp dried oregano

½ tsp black pepper

1 Tbsp kosher salt

1 heel of parmesan (optional)

1 small can tomato paste (optional)

Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil.  Put the tomatoes in (as many at a time as you can fit) and let them sit 2-3 minutes, until you can see the skin starting to crack on a few of them).  Strain the tomatoes out and put in a large bowl, repeat until all the tomatoes are done.  Empty the pot.  With each tomato. make a small slit in the skin and “pop” the insides out.  Cut this in half and gently squeeze out the seeds.  Place the skinned and seeded tomato in the pot.  Repeat until all the tomatoes are done. Add the rest of the ingredients except the tomato paste to the soup pot. Cover and bring to a simmer over medium high heat. Reduce heat and continue to simmer, about an hour.  At this point, you can take a potato masher and break up the tomatoes a bit more.  Continue to simmer uncovered until the sauce thickens, about 2 hours more. If you want to add some extra lycopene and give the sauce a bit more heft, you can add the tomato paste for the last hour of cooking.  Serve with pasta and homemade meatballs.

Sources:

Hallmann E., Orv Hetil. The influence of organic and conventional cultivation systems on the nutritional value and content of bioactive compounds in selected tomato types.J Sci Food Agric. 2012 Nov;92(14):2840-8. doi: 10.1002/jsfa.5617. Epub 2012 Feb 20.

Györéné KG, Varga A, Lugasi A. A comparison of chemical composition and nutritional value of organically and conventionally grown plant derived foods. 2006 Oct 29;147(43):2081-90.

Shi J, Le Maguer M.   Lycopene in tomatoes: chemical and physical properties affected by food processing. Crit Rev Biotechnol. 2000;20(4):293-334.

Unlu NZ, Bohn T, Francis DM, Nagaraja HN, Clinton SK, Schwartz SJ. Lycopene from heat-induced cis-isomer-rich tomato sauce is more bioavailable than from all-trans-rich tomato sauce in human subjects. Br J Nutr.  2007 Jul;98(1):140-6. Epub 2007 Mar 29.

Trejo-Solís C, Pedraza-Chaverrí J, Torres-Ramos M, Jiménez-Farfán D, Cruz Salgado A, Serrano-García N, Osorio-Rico L, Sotelo  Multiple molecular and cellular mechanisms of action of lycopene in cancer inhibition. J.Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013;2013:705121. doi: 10.1155/2013/705121. Epub 2013 Jul 21.

Lycopene. Wikipedia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beans and Hormone Health

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There is nothing more fun than returning from a few days away from the garden and finding what has sprouted and ripened in my absence.  This morning, after a weekend away camping, I discovered about 30 pounds of zucchini and a bumper crop of yellow string beans.  I love planting beans and peas in my garden both for the delicious harvest and the nitrogen they give back to the soil.  Let’s talk a bit about their specific health benefits as well:

Just about everyone has become familiar with the controversy surrounding soy and its effect on hormones.  We know that soy contains a class of compounds called isoflavones, which have a phytoestrogenic effect on the body.  Soy and soy products, particularly concentrated soy proteins (frequently found in bars, protein powders, and vegetarian “meat” products), are particularly high in these compounds, and can significantly impact the body’s hormone balance.  Why is this important when we are talking about beans?  While soy is particularly high in isoflavones, all members of the bean or pea family will contain some amount of these compounds.

So, what is a phytoestrogen?  To understand this, we need to know a bit about estrogen.  Estrogen is a hormone–a chemical produced by the body that stimulates a receptor on a cell and tells the cell what to do in a specific way.  Estrogen is a growth stimulator, so it tells your body to change from a kid’s body into a grownup’s body.  During the menstrual cycle, estrogen tells your uterus to grow the lining that will support a pregnancy.  It also helps to maintain the strength and integrity of the bones.  A phytoestrogen is a chemical that comes from outside the body that will stimulate an estrogen receptor. Phytoestrogens are generally not as strong as estrogen, so it stimulates that receptor weakly.  So, for people who have very low estrogen levels a phytoestrogen will help the body feel like it has “more” estrogen, but for those with very high estrogen levels, a phytoestrogen may block those receptors and help the body feel like it has “less” estrogen. Because of this moderating quality of these compounds, it can be useful to help balance hormones for those who are both deficient in or have excess estrogen.

As with many botanical families, the legume family has these isoflavones in common throughout its members.  This means that some amount of these compounds can be found in a wide variety of plants that belong to this family: licorice root, alfalfa, clover, lentils, dried beans, peas, and even those fresh green beans.  It is important to keep in mind that isoflavones are only one class of chemical among many found in these foods.  This phytoestrogenic effect will generally be gentle and will be accompanied by all the other benefits of legumes:  fiber, minerals, protein, starches, and green energy in those beans that are eaten fresh.

Soy does tend to contain isoflavones in higher amounts than other members of the legume family, and they will be particularly concentrated in processed soy protein products and soy extracts.  In this case, there will be a more specific medicinal effect because they are being used in a more drug-like manner.  For people who are concerned about a history of estrogen-dependent cancers, this will be more relevant with soy protein products than with other legumes.  Soy protein can also be inappropriate in large amounts for those who would normally have a very low amount of estrogen in their systems, such as young children and men.

Eating for Skin Health

“You are what you eat”–one of our most familiar platitudes for trying to convince ourselves to put good things into our bodies. However, there is great truth to this statement and nowhere is this more obvious than on our skin. One of the basic premises of Naturopathic Medicine states that if the body has optimum nourishment and is free of obstacles, it will come to a state of ideal health. This is an easy way to think about eating for healthy skin. The basic rules of thumb are as follows:

Obstacles to Avoid:

Any allergens or foods to which you are sensitive. Dairy, gluten, and eggs are common “hidden” culprits that can contribute to skin breakouts. If you are unsure of if you have any sensitivities, blood testing can be helpful to find out.
Refined sugars tend to promote breakouts, as do alcoholic beverages
Fatty meats tend to be pro-inflammatory
Nutrients to Include:

Omega 3 fats such as fish and flax oils decrease inflammation and create healthy skin cell membranes. Eating whole fish and flax are great too!
Fiber from sources such as flax, apples, pears, and psyllium help to move toxins from the digestion and reduce inflammation in the body
Water helps to hydrate the skin and flushes toxins from the body
Bright orange fruits and vegetables are a good source of carotenes which convert to Vitamin A, which is important for making healthy cells
Pumpkin seeds are a great source of zinc, which is also helpful for making healthy skin cells
Happy Eating!

Tangy Quinoa Salad

Inspired by Mary Shaw
Preparation: 15 minutes

1 Cup Quinoa
¼ Cup walnuts
3 Tbsp extra virgin Olive Oil
Zest of 1 lime
Juice from 1 lime
½ tsp sea salt
4 Tbsp chopped fresh herbs
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsp red onion, chopped
½ chopped tart apple

Wash and dry toast quinoa, and place in a pot with 2 cups water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cover for 10 minutes until quinoa is dry and fully cooked. Chop nuts and dry toast in a pan. Combine oil, lime juice and zest, sea salt, garlic, and herbs, and mix until well combined. Mix nuts, dressing, onion and apple into cooked quinoa and serve.
Serves 4

Dr. Kaycie’s Top Ten Detoxifying Foods

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Strawberries are high in bioflavonoids that protect the cells of the liver. The whole plant can also be made into a medicine that is good for restoring digestive health.

Spring has finally arrived!  I don’t usually find myself waiting until the end of May to say this, but I think the snows are finally behind us, and the garden is planted.  Now that the weather has warmed somewhat, our bodies are also starting to warm and be ready for the exercise and outdoor activities of summer.  In addition to getting our bodies into ideal shape for the summer through exercise, we can also help to boost vitality through cleansing.  For more information on what spring cleaning and detoxification is, you can look at my article “What is Detoxification?” from last spring. There are many detoxification protocols out there, and finding the right one will depend on your constitution, health status, and commitment to the program.  However, an easy first step is to start incorporating detoxifying foods into each meal using the basic theory of detoxification: improve elimination of waste through optimizing the function of the digestive tract, urinary tract, skin and liver.  Here is a list of my top ten favorites:

 

10. Garlic

Garlic can help to reduce blood triglycerides and improve circulation and sweating to remove wastes via the skin. It also helps stimulate digestion.

9.  Apples

Apples are a great source of insoluble and soluble fibers.  The insoluble fiber helps to move waste through the digestive tract. When cooked, the pectins found in apples help to absorb excess cholesterol, delay absorption of sugars into the bloodstream, and bulk the stool.

8.  Dandelion Greens

Dandelion greens, which are commercially available in many areas, act as a diuretic to help remove wastes through the urine.  The beauty of dandelion greens is that they also replace any minerals lost through the process of diuresis.

7.  Sweet Potato

Sweet potatoes are thought of as one of the least allergenic foods available.  Unless you have an intolerance to all carbohydrate, sweet potatoes are a good source of lower glycemic carbohyrates that help to soothe the digestive tract and decrease inflammation.

6.  Cilantro

Cilantro and its seed coriander are calming to the digestion and help to dispel gas.  Cilantro also helps to convert blood cholesterols into bile which can aid in reducing blood cholesterol levels.  Cilantro extracts have also been shown to remove mercury from a water solution, so there is speculation about whether cilantro could aid in mercury detoxification when consumed.

5.  Seaweed

Hijiki, Wakame, and Kombu (all types of seaweed) have all been shown to increase breakdown of fats in the body.  Seaweeds are also a good source of iodine, which is necessary for proper thyroid function.  These two actions together help to boost metabolism and removal of excess fats from the system.  Traditional Chinese Medicine also regards seaweed as a detoxifier which mobilizes heavy metals and turns them into inorganic salts that can easily be excreted through the urine.

4.  Lemon

Lemon and lemon juice are wonderfully bitter and sour.  Taken especially before meals, they help to start the digestive process early, which makes the digestive absorb nutrients and eliminate wastes more effectively.

3.  Kale

Kale and other members of the cabbage family contain indoles, which help the body metabolize and remove excess steroid hormones such as estrogen. Members of this family have also been found to repair damage to the liver.  Kale is also high in fiber and chlorophyll to increase energy and optimize digestion.

2.  Flax

Flaxseed is high in omega 3 fatty acids, which help to balance cholesterol and reduce inflammation.  Even more important for detoxification though is the high concentration of soluble fibers that help to trap excess fats and cholesterol, bulk the stool, and ensure effective elimination of waste via the digestive tract.

1.  Beets

There is extensive research supporting the protective and regenerative effect of beets on the cells of the liver.  This effect has even been seen with molasses derived from sugar beets.  The pigments in beets have also been shown to have a protective effect against the formation of cancer cells. Beets are also great for assisting with effective waste elimination through the bowels.

Muscle and Bone Health–What Calcium Should I Take?

The answer, of course, is that every person has different needs, so it is important to find a calcium supplement that is right for you. For anyone taking Calcium, I recommend balancing it with Magnesium, Boron, and Vitamin D, as all of these are critical for healthy bones. Many people also find Calcium to be constipating; Magnesium tends to help things move along so a supplement containing both can be beneficial to the digestion.

Although there are many Calcium supplements out there, I carry three basic types of Calcium ath the Golden Naturopathic Clinic. Liquid Calcium Magnesium is what I use most often because it is easy to take and easy for the body to absorb. In addition to bone health benefits, this formula can help with constipation, muscle cramping and can improve the quality of sleep. For this reason I usually recommend taking this at night before bed. For people with greater severity of these symptoms, I will often use a formula with equal parts Magnesium and Calcium; otherwise there is a formula with equal parts of these minerals.

Cal-Mag Chela Max is a chelated formula that is very easy to break down and absorb. It is formulated specifically for people who have difficulty taking other calcium supplements because they irritate their digestive tract.

For people with osteopenia or osteoporosis, I use a formula called Osteoprime. This formula contains Strontium, the only mineral found to help replace bone rather than just prevent further bone loss. Osteoprime also has a full complement of Vitamins and Minerals so it can substitute for your regular multi.

If you are wondering how much Calcium you need, this will vary somewhat based on your individual needs. Pregnant, lactating, and postmenopausal women, for example will have greater Calcium needs than other adults. That said, shooting for somewhere between 1000 and 1200mg/day is a good rule of thumb.

It is important to remember that Calcium ideally should come from food sources. The amount you take as a supplement is just that: supplementary. To get a feel for calcium amounts in food, assume that an 8 oz glass of milk (including non-dairy milks as long as they are fortified) contains 300mg of calcium. Beyond milk, 1 oz of hard cheese, 1 cup of broccoli, collard greens or spinach, ½ cup of almonds, ½ cup of tofu (made with calcium), 4 canned sardines, or 8 dried figs all contain about 200mg of calcium. For a longer list, a good source is this document from Harvard: click here to view