Smorgasbord Health 2017 – Winterising the Body – Immune system boosting eating and recovery plan.


Smorgasbord Health 2017

As we head into October there is the likelihood that you will bump into someone who is desperate to pass on their cold or flu to you.  Whilst you may take every care and have a healthy diet, if you are stressed, overworked, or been on a plane recently!  You might be a perfect host for the odd virus or two.

In the last post I looked at Influenza in more detail as it can move through a family or community rapidly with some serious health concerns for both the very young and old.

The key to preventing upper respiratory infections such as colds and flu developing into the more serious bronchial conditions is to make sure that your immune system is fully functional.

Catching it early

If you are suffering the early signs of an infection, you should understand that it is a secondary condition. The primary condition that you are suffering from is called Lifestyle Induced Health Crisis! It sounds a bit dramatic but the reason you have become susceptible to a virus or bacteria is that your body is not fit enough to fight it. The fact is that we all have germs in our bodies that lie in wait, looking for a chance to escape into the bloodstream and wreak havoc.

When we are poorly nourished, under stress and using too many stimulants, such as cigarettes, sugar, caffeine and alcohol, any pathogens we are hosting get the chance they have been looking for.

Then we have the external opportunists such as cold and flu viruses who are looking for a new host with all the facilities necessary to help it flourish. Both bacteria and a virus love oxygen starved, nutrient poor, acidic, sugar laden, immune impoverished host who has little or no resistance.

The key to not picking up frequent colds, flu and other viral and bacterial infections is keeping your immune system in good working order.  To maintain a healthy immune system it requires constant attention.  You cannot choose a couple of weeks a year to give it a boost.  You have to maintain it with a mainly fresh, unprocessed diet of fresh vegetables, fruit and lean proteins for 80% of the time so that you can enjoy the other tasty foods we all enjoy 20% of the time.

If you eat that way and get fresh air and regular exercise you will find that you do not become susceptible to infections in the first place .  If you do contract a viral or bacterial infection then you need to give your immune system a boost to help it out.  Working with it rather than against it by consuming over the counter cold medication that drive the infection deeper into the system and only masking the symptoms. (Remember that antibiotics are not effective for viral infections such as colds)

Here is a link to a basic shopping list that provides the nutrients for a healthy immune system and in the header you will also find a nutrient directory that list those that are essential for our health with the foods that supply them.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2014/05/19/a-basic-shopping-list-for-a-nutritionally-balanced-diet/

lemons

Before I take a look at the foods, herbs and natural supplements that you can take to help fight, alleviate and protect you from an infection, I am going to give you the golden rules to follow that will support your body and let it heal when you are suffering from an infection of any kind. For those of us who have a pretty good immune system a cold will last approximately 7 days, and for children and young adults, will in fact mature and strengthen our resistance to future viral infections.  The problem is for babies, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems following long term illnesses or the treatments such as for cancer.

So for the rest of us, provided you treat the cold symptoms and your body’s defense mechanism with respect you should not suffer beyond the initial misery of the first few days.  Here are some tips to getting through them without complications to yourself or passing it on to others.

Oh and in case you did not read last week’s post.. it is lovely when you meet someone you know to stop and have a hug, a kiss or two on the cheek and to hold their hand in yours….. But do you know where they have been… and if they have a cold or flu?  Be a little more circumspect from October to May…. might save you 7 days of coughing and spluttering.

  1.  Rest is critical: your body, although great at multi-tasking under normal operating circumstances, needs to focus all its energies on fighting the invaders. Sleep is a great healer and you should just go with the flow. If you go to work you are going to pass on your cold to everyone anyway and you will also extend the length of the cold and possibly develop a more serious chest infection. Go to bed or lie on the sofa with a box of disposable tissues and plenty of fluids to hand.
  2. Fluids are also absolutely essential as your body will not only dehydrate but will be forming thick mucus in great quantities, blocking airways. You are likely to have a slight fever, which will raise your body temperature and you will also suffer chills that will make you feel cold. A combination of fresh fruit and vegetable juices and soups, along with 2 litres of fresh water will help flush the toxins from the body efficiently.
  3. The body, as I have just mentioned, needs to focus on getting rid of the infection and it has not got the resources to digest large and stodgy meals during the first few days. Little and often is the key and this is where the soups come in. I will give you the recipes for a chicken and vegetable soup, onion and garlic soup and a beef tea that are great, packed with infection fighting nutrients and can be served with brown rice, a little fresh-baked wholegrain bread or toast. Easily digestible foods such as milk free scrambled egg or spinach omelettes are ideal during this time.
  4. Dairy products increase the production of mucous and therefore congestion and I strongly suggest that you avoid them during the early stages of an infection. Also if bronchitis or other lung problem develops you should also give them a miss. Calcium however is very important in the battle against infection so you need to include other foods that contain this vital mineral.
  5. Bacteria and viruses love warm, moist, sugary and acidic conditions and so processed and sugar based foods and drinks are definitely off the menu. This includes all fizzy drinks, sugar on cereal and in tea and coffee, chocolate and heavily processed meats such as ham.
  6. The symptoms of a cold, flu and of bronchial infections are a detox process, with your body working extremely hard to get rid of the bacteria or virus. Taking suppressive over the counter cold remedies therefore drives the infection back into the body – and this is one of the reasons why something that begins as a simple cold, that the body can deal with, can turn into a more entrenched condition such as bronchitis.
  7. Use tissues rather than a material hanky and throw away after using – it may sound wasteful but if you continually apply infected nose mucus to your hands you will not only re-infect yourself but also others who your hands come into contact with. Put used tissues in a plastic bag and knot securely and dispose of safely.
  8. Wash your hands regularly or use a natural anti-viral hand lotion(see avoiding colds and influenza)
  9. If you are in bed or using a pillow on a sofa do remember that you will be sneezing and contaminating the pillow case during your infectious period. Change every morning and wash at high temperature.
  10. If you have a partner then if possible as soon as you have symptoms go and sleep elsewhere and do not share toothbrushes etc for the duration. Love might be blind but it is certainly not bug resistant!!
  11. If you feel a sneeze coming on then do cover your mouth and nose with a tissue so that you do not dispense germs across the universe.

Components of the immune boosting eating plan

This plan contains all the elements to help relieve symptoms and boost your immune system. The purpose is to boost your immune system as well as naturally support your body as it fights the infection on your behalf.

Fluids

  • Two litres of fresh water. Combats dehydration and helps flush toxins from the body.
  • Fresh squeezed grapefruit and orange juice. Use ½ grapefruit to one large orange. Juice of a whole lemon in hot water with some Manuka Honey. Vitamin C and Manuka honey 15+ has anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties.
  • Cranberry juice –  Antibacterial and for Vitamin C.
  • Herbal Teas – Drink as many of these as you like.
  • Green tea with juice of ½ lemon & teaspoon of honey. Antibacterial, antiviral, antioxidants, Vitamin C and energy. Soothing for throat and chest.
  • Fenugreek & thyme tea with a slice of lemon and spoon of honey. Expectorant – ridding the body of mucous, tonic and soothes sore throats.
  • Camomile tea with a slice of lemon and ginger. Soothing and anti-inflammatory. Ginger also promotes sweating part of the bodies defence system for getting rid of toxins.
  • Elderflower tea – Immune stimulating, anti-inflammatory and relieves catarrh. You can mix this tea with Green tea and serve hot or cold with lemon.
  • Soups – Have three times a day with a small piece of wholegrain toast or mixed with a tablespoon of cooked brown rice. Garlic and onion soup might leave your breath less than fragrant, but the combination of these ingredients provides many health benefits. Garlic, like the onion is anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-viral. With the current concerns that we have about potential ‘Super bugs’ it is interesting that garlic appears to be an effective antibiotic, even against some of these resistant strains.
  • Chicken and vegetable soup – Chicken contains Cysteine an amino acid that has a similar action to a drug called acetylcysteine, which is used to treat patients with bronchitis and respiratory infections. This soup relieves nasal congestion, reduces inflammation caused by active white blood cells, and provides most of the essential immune system nutrients and fluid and warmth.
  • Beef tea soup – This is an adaptation of the tea that has been used for hundreds of years to help invalids recover from most infections, particularly if they were bedridden for days or even weeks. This provides lean protein which the body needs to recover, the B vitamins essential to combat the stress of infection and rehydrates the body.

Light Meals

  • As I have already mentioned, it is a good idea not to overload the body with heavy stodgy meals while it is trying to fight infection. Salads tend to be unappealing which is why soups are so good at this time.
  • If you feel like eating something more solid then omelettes and scrambled eggs are light and easy to digest. Add spinach and onions to the omelettes to give you a nutrient boost and serve with a slice of toast.
  • A bowl of porridge with honey and a mashed banana and rice milk makes a creamy and nutritious breakfast or snack. You can also make a rice or semolina pudding with rice milk and add dried fruit or honey.

Fruits

  • Apart from the fluids and juices that I have mentioned, eat whatever fruit appeals to you while you are feeling unwell. Any will give you a great boost to the immune system.
  • One in particular though is great at this time and that is pineapple. Apart from the usual healthy properties it contains Bromelain which reduces inflammation in general but also in the glands that tend to be swollen during an infection.
  • Pineapple also works to cleanse the body and blood and increase circulation, allowing toxins to be moved from effectively from infected sites and out of the body.

Supplements

Thankfully, I do not often get colds but if I feel that I am getting some of the symptoms such as a scratchy throat and runny nose, I immediately start a course of 1,000 mg of Vitamin C three times a day with 30 mg of Zinc.

Zinc is also available in lozenge form and is great for sore throats. Both Zinc and Vitamin C are covered in more detail in the October Issue.

Increase the amount that you are eating as you begin to feel better but still stay with six light meals a day for a period of time until your body is fully recovered.

Recipe for Chicken Soup

Cook whole chicken. Take out of water and remove flesh before returning the carcass to the water for further hour to simmer. Remove carcass and add two finely chopped carrots (vitamin A and C), finely chopped large onion (antibacterial) ½ clove of crushed garlic (anti-bacterial and antiviral), bag of fresh chopped spinach (magnesium, iron and calcium). Bring to boil and cook for 20 minutes until vegetables are tender. Add back chopped chicken meat and bring back to boil. Either add a tablespoon of cooked brown rice to the bottom of a soup bowl or serve with wholegrain toast with olive oil.

Recipe for Beef Tea

This is an adaptation of the tea that has been used for hundreds of years to help invalids recover from most infections, particularly if they were bedridden for days or even weeks. Take 1 lb. of lean beefsteak (lean protein and vitamin Bs) and cut into cubes. Place 1-½ pints of cold water in a pan and bring to the boil. Skim of excess fat that accumulates on the surface. Add the salt and simmer for about an hour. Remove any scum on the surface during this time. Liquidise. Store in the refrigerator until needed and then bring required amount to the boil in a saucepan. Serve again with a little brown rice or whole grain bread and olive oil.

onions

Recipes for Onion and Garlic Soup

Onion Soup
2 Tablespoons of olive oil.
2lbs (1kg) of peeled and thinly sliced onions
11/2 pints (900ml) of vegetable stock or water
2 garlic gloves, peeled and crushed
Lemon juice
Salt and black pepper to taste
Chopped parsley or chives.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan, and then fry the onions until they are soft and deep golden brown but not burnt. Add the stock or water, garlic and a few drops of lemon juice. Bring the soup to the boil and let simmer for about 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper, sprinkle with the chopped parsley or chives and serve with warm wholegrain bread or add two tablespoons of cooked brown rice.

Creamy Garlic Soup
8oz (225 gm.) potatoes scrubbed and diced but not peeled.
2 garlic bulbs broken into cloves.
1-tablespoon olive oil.
Salt to taste
2 ½ pints (1.5litres) water.

Put the potatoes and the garlic in a pan with the water, bring to the boil and allow to simmer for about 15 minutes or until the potato is tender. Allow to cool for 5 minutes and then liquidise and pour through a sieve into a clean pan. Add more water to adjust the consistency to your liking. Whisk in the olive oil and add salt to taste.

Gently reheat before serving with wholegrain bread or Pitta bread.

Next time some alternative help in boosting your immune system… thanks for dropping in and look forward to your feedback.. thanks Sally

 

 

 

 

Smorgasbord Health 2017 – Latest research -Vitamin C and Cancer


Smorgasbord Health 2017

I spend quite a bit of my time reading research articles on the nutrients that we need and this article caught my eye about Vitamin C.

Vitamin C breakthrough discovery: Low-cost nutrient halts growth of cancer stem cells… 1000% more effective than cancer drug… peer-reviewed science confirms powerful effects

(Natural News) An exciting medical breakthrough published in the science journal Oncotarget has discovered the astonishing ability of concentrated vitamin C to halt the growth of cancer tumor stem cells.

The study, conducted at the University of Salford in Manchester — (see full text of the study at this link) — tested the impact on cancer stem cell metabolism for seven substances:

Three natural substances, including vitamin C
Three experimental pharmaceuticals
One clinical drug currently in widespread use

The study’s astonishing results reveal “the first evidence that Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) can be used to target and kill cancer stem cells (CSCs), the cells responsible for fuelling fatal tumours,” reports the flagship science publisher Alpha Galileo.

Find out more about the research into how Vitamin C found to work up to 10 times better than a cancer pharmaceutical: http://www.naturalnews.com/2017-03-22-vitamin-c-breakthrough-discovery-low-cost-nutrient-halts-growth-of-cancer-stem-cells-1000-more-effective-than-cancer-drug-peer-reviewed-science-confirms.html

For more information about the essential nutrients we need you will find my posts in this directory: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/nutrient-directory-a-brief-overview-of-the-nutrients-we-need-and-the-foods-that-supply-them/

Smorgasbord Health – The Lungs – Foods that support the respiratory system


I hope that I have already established over the last three here in the health posts that eating a natural, unprocessed diet at least 80% of the time is essential to your health. As is reducing the refined sugars which impact the ability of your immune system, to clear the body of toxins, and to provide an effective defence system.

In addition there are certain nutrients that are of specific benefit to the lungs and if you have a weakness in this area, such as repeated bronchitis  or other chest infections, you should consider including more of the particular foods in your diet on a regular basis.

I advise that you obtain these nutrients from food sources as this is the most effective way for the body to process and use. Taking supplements is not something to contemplate lightly. Whilst it might seem cost effective to respond to the cheap adverts in the papers it can be a false economy with much of the tablet passing straight through you without any impact on your nutritional health. However, during an illness or when you are recovering, you might consider taking a high quality supplement under the guidance of a qualified nutrititional advisor or pharmacist.

The old saying “Trust your gut” is very appropriate in relation to our immune system and our general health. By eating a balanced and varied diet you will be supporting the billions of flora in your gut that are essential for the efficient digestion and processing of the food that you eat. Without the right balance of bacteria you would not be able to process and harness the energy from carbohydrates or the nutritional benefits of fats. Your healthy diet of vegetables and fruit would be a waste of time without the right elements to process and extract the vitamins and minerals to deliver to the body.

Back to the 80/20% rule.. If 80% of your diet is natural, unprocessed foods your gut bacteria will have plenty to work with. Here are some of the specific nutrients that support your respiratory system.. Provided you have nurtured the processing plant of bacteria in your gut!

carrots

Vitamin A, which is a wonderful antioxidant, has a specific role in the lungs. It prevents damage to the small hairs (Cilia) inside the bronchial tubes that help move mucous and trapped toxins out of the lungs. Vitamin A is converted by the body into a number of other substances that are crucial in the efficiency of our immune systems by stimulating the activity of the killer cells, macrophages and other blood cells.

eggs

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin mainly found in Liver, Fish Liver oils, Butter, Cheese, Free Range Eggs, Oily Fish. Beta-carotene is converted from plant sources by the body into Vitamin A and is found in Carrots, Green leafy vegetables, Orange and Red coloured Vegetables. Particularly apricots, asparagus, broccoli, butter, cantaloupe melon, carrots, cashews, cheese, nectarines, peaches, peppers and spinach.

oranges

There is some evidence to suggest that Vitamin C can help prevent oxidative damage to tissues in the lungs and it is therefore another reason to enjoy a diet that is rich in fresh fruit and vegetables. If you are still a smoker or have recently given up it is a good idea to also take a Vitamin C supplement of at least 1,000 mg per day to help your lungs recover more effectively. Vitamin C will also boost your immune system and help your body fight off infections. Tomato and Onion soup is a wonderful expectorant, as well as being packed with other nutrients to support you while you recover.

brussel sprouts

Vitamin C is water soluble and found in all fruit and vegetables with best sources being Blackcurrants, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, cherries, grapefruits, guavas, kiwi fruit, lemons, parsley, peppers, rose hips, potatoes, tomatoes and watercress.

nuts and seeds

Vitamin E, which is another powerful antioxidant, may also help relieve breathing problems particularly for emphysema sufferers and can be taken from food sources and also in supplement form but under the supervision of a health professional.

spinach

Vitamin E is fat soluble and found in nuts such as almonds and walnuts, sunflower seeds and their oil, whole grains like maize, egg yolks and leafy green vegetables like spinach. Also found in apples, bananas, broccoli, brown rice, carrots, lamb’s liver, onions, Sunflower oil, oily fish and shellfish.

onions

Quercitin is an antioxidant flavonoid, which inhibits the activity of cells that release histamine from mast cells. It works very well with Vitamin C and might help relieve the symptoms of allergic asthma. It is also an anti-inflammatory, which should help relieve some of the symptoms associated with lung problems. Eating foods that contain Quercitin every day may help prevent infection in the first place but certainly they should be included any diet during the first few days and during recovery.

green tea

Quercitin is found in apples, onions, garlic, green tea, green leafy vegetables and beans.

pumpkin seeds 2

Zinc, in conjunction with Vitamin C, is a powerful combination that can assist the normal healing processes in the body. I take both as supplements if I feel I am about to come down with an infection and with the inclusion of lots of citrus fruit in my diet I can usually shake off a cold before it gets a chance to take hold. Zinc helps repair damage in the body and for men approaching middle age it may help prevent an enlarged prostate or possibly other health problems. Certainly, eating a handful of pumpkin seeds which are rich in other nutrients too will do more good than harm for your entire body.

seafood

The best food sources for Zinc are seafood (particularly oysters), pumpkinseeds, sesame seeds, wheat germ, egg yolks, black-eyed peas and tofu.

Thanks for dropping by and as always would love your feedback.  Sally

 

Smorgasbord Health – Vitamin of the Week – Vitamin C – Immune System and 3000 biological reactions.


smorgasbord healthVitamin C is probably one of the best known of our nutrients. It is rightly so as it has so many important functions within the body including keeping our immune system fighting fit. The best way to take in Vitamin C is through our diet, in a form that our body recognises and can process to extract what it needs.  For example a large orange a day will provide you with a wonderfully sweet way to obtain a good amount of vitamin C, but to your body that orange represents an essential element of over 3000 biological processes in the body!
.
Vitamin C or Ascorbic Acid is water-soluble and cannot be stored in the body.  It therefore needs to be taken in through our food on a daily basis.  It is in fact the body’s most powerful water-soluble antioxidant and plays a vital role in protecting the body against oxidative damage from free radicals.  It works by neutralising potentially harmful reactions in the water- based parts of our body such as the blood and within the fluids surrounding every cell. It helps prevent harmful cholesterol (LDL) from free radical damage, which can lead to plaque forming on the inside of arteries, blocking them.  The antioxidant action protects the health or the heart, the brain and many other bodily tissues.

Vitamin C is an effective agent when it comes to boosting our immune systems.  It works by increasing the production of our white blood cells that make up our defence system, in particular B and T cells.  It also increases levels of interferon and antibody responses improving antibacterial and antiviral effects.  The overall effect is improved resistance to infection and it may also reduce the duration of the symptoms of colds for example.  It may do this by decreasing  the blood levels of histamine, which has triggered the tissue inflammation and caused a runny nose.  It has not been proven but certainly taking  vitamin C in the form of fruit and vegetable juices is not going to be harmful. Another affect may be protective as it prevents oxidative damage to the cells and tissues that occur when cells are fighting off infection.

This vitamin plays a role along with the B vitamins we have already covered in the conversion of tryptophan to serotonin, a neurotransmitter in the brain that helps determine our emotional well being.

Collagen is the protein that forms the basis of our connective tissue that is the most abundant tissue in the body.  It glues cells together, supports and protects our organs, blood vessels, joints and muscles and also forms a major part of our skin, tendons, ligaments, corneas of the eye, cartilage, teeth and bone.  Collagen also promotes healing of wounds, fractures and bruises.  It is the degeneration of our collagen that leads to external signs of ageing such as wrinkles and sagging skin.  There is a similar affect internally that can lead to degenerative diseases such as arthritis.  Vitamin C is vital for the manufacture of collagen and is why taking in healthy amounts in your diet can combat the signs of ageing.

Our hormones require Vitamin C for the synthesis of hormones by the adrenal glands.  These glands are situated above each kidney and are responsible for excreting the steroid hormones.  The most important of these are aldosterone and cortisol.  Cortisol regulates carbohydrate, protein and fat metabolism.  Aldosterone regulates water and salt balance in the body and the other steroid hormones, of which there are 30, help counteract allergies, inflammation and other metabolic processes that are absolutely essential to life.

The cardiovascular system relies on Vitamin C that plays a role in cholesterol production in the liver and in the conversion of cholesterol into bile acids for excretion from the body.  The vitamin also promotes normal total blood cholesterol and LDL (lousy cholesterol levels) and raises the levels of the more beneficial HDL (Healthy cholesterol) It supports healthy circulation and blood pressure, which in turn supports the heart.

The other areas that Vitamin C has shown it might be helpful to the body is in the lungs reducing breathing difficulties and improving lung and white blood cell function.  It is recommended that smokers take Vitamin C not just in their diet but also as supplementation.  Exposure to cigarette smoke may severely deplete the presence of Vitamin C in the lungs leading to cell damage.

Many studies are showing that Vitamin C can protect the health of the eye by possibly reducing ultra violet damage.  The vitamin is very concentrated in the lenses of the normal eye which can contain up to 60 times more vitamin C than our blood.  Damaged lenses appear to have a much lower amount of vitamin C which indicates that there is not sufficient to protect the lens from the effects of free radicals or support the enzymes in the lens that normally removed damaged cells.

Research is ongoing with Vitamin C and certainly in the fight against cancer there are some interesting developments.  As usual I will be covering the latest medical research of our featured vitamin and mineral.

Vitamin C works as part of a team helping in various metabolic processes such as the absorption of iron, converting folic acid to an active state, protecting against the effects of toxic effects of cadmium, copper, cobalt and mercury (brain health).

One word of warning if you are on the contraceptive pill. Vitamin C in large supplemental doses can interfere with the absorption of the pill and reduce its effectiveness.

QUESTION – WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF DEFICIENCY OF VITAMIN C.

A total deficiency is extremely rare in the western World.  A total lack of the vitamin leads to scurvy, which was responsible for thousands of deaths at sea from the middle ages well into the 19th century.  Some voyages to the pacific resulted in a loss of as much as 75% of the crew.  The symptoms were due to the degeneration of collagen that lead to broken blood vessels, bleeding gums, loose teeth, joint pains and dry scaly skin Other symptoms were weakness, fluid retention, depression and anaemia.  You can link these symptoms back up to the benefits of vitamin C and understand how many parts and processes of the body this vitamin is involved in.

In a milder form a deficiency has also been linked to increased infections, male infertility, rheumatoid arthritis and gastrointestinal disorders.

Best Food Sources.

fruit and veg banner

The best food source of vitamin C is all fresh, raw fruit and vegetables.  Avoid buying prepared peeled and cut vegetables and fruit, as they will have lost the majority of their vitamin C.  If you prepare juices at home, always drink within a few hours preferably immediately.  Do not boil fruit and vegetables, it is better to eat raw whenever possible preserving all their nutrient content, but at the very least only steam lightly.

Researchers believe that taking in adequate amounts of Vitamin C is the best private health insurance that you can take out.

The best food sources is of course fresh fruit and vegetables but the highest concentrations are in Blackcurrants, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, cherries, grapefruit, guavas, kiwi fruit, lemons, oranges parsley, peppers, rosehip, potatoes, tomatoes and watercress.

I hope that you have found this useful and please feel free to share… thanks for dropping by.. Sally

Smorgasbord Health – The circulatory System – Eat your Omegas and Shitakes


Before we move onto the fascinating sequel to the circulatory system, “The Blood”, I just want to finish up with some specific foods and their nutrients which will provide your blood vessels with the essential ingredients to repair themselves, remain flexible and plaque free.

If you are already following my recommended diet of high levels of natural foods, ‘cooked from scratch’, including whole grains, fruit, vegetables and lean protein you will be providing your body with most of the essential elements necessary for a healthy circulatory system. More importantly if only 20% of your diet comprises the processed, high sugar types of food you are on the right track.

However, as we do get a bit older it is quite important to pay particular attention to those nutrients and foods that preserve our body since we get less efficient in extracting what the body needs from our normal diet. Taking extra supplementation is not always successful as our bodies are not designed to process that either. So upping the amounts of specific foods is the right way to go.

The components that are the most essential for blood-vessel health include Vitamin C for collagen production and nutrients that keep the blood-vessels clear of plaque, debris and keep the blood flowing as it should through the body.

Collagen

Most diseases that are related to the integrity of the blood-vessel walls are partly due to a lack of effective collagen. Collagen is not just responsible for keeping the elastic sheath around blood-vessels healthy but also our tendons, cartilage, gums and our immune system.

Collagen is one of thousands of proteins in the human body. Most proteins are only in small amounts but collagen is present in the skin, bones, teeth, blood-vessels, eyes, and heart as well as in our connective tissues such as tendons.

Collagen, as you can imagine, is in constant use and needs a very high maintenance programme to replace and repair itself. To keep up with this rate of repair we need to take in a great deal of Vitamin C on a continuous basis because not only is the Vitamin C essential in the manufacture of collagen but also gets destroyed in the process.

oranges

Vitamin C

An interesting fact emerged when long term prisoners of war were examined on their release. A vast majority were discovered to be suffering from severe Vitamin C deficiency but also unexpectedly very high levels of fatty deposits (atherosclerosis) which was unlikely to have come from eating a high fat diet. It is therefore very likely that the two are connected, giving a further reason for including Vitamin C in generous amounts in your diet.

Vitamin C is also needed to protect us from cardiovascular disease, cancers, joint disease and cataracts. It is a fantastic antioxidant that is specific to the health of our blood-vessels because of its prevention of oxidation of LDL (lousy cholesterol) leading to plaque and narrowed and hardened arteries.

Vitamin C is found in most fruit and vegetables and one of the best reasons for including more than the recommended ration of five portions per day.

I would suggest three to four portions of vegetables per day and three to four portions of fruit. Vitamin C is very sensitive to air, water and temperature and about a quarter of the Vitamin C in fruit or vegetables is lost in steaming or boiling them for just a few minutes. If you over cook vegetables, or cook them for longer than 15 minutes, you will lose over half the Vitamin C content. Canned fruit and vegetables that are then reheated end up with only a third of their original nutrient value which is why eating as many fruits and vegetables as possible – in their raw state – is the only really effective way to get the amount of this vital vitamin that you need.

The side effect of improving your collagen production is that your face will benefit as you get older by being smoother and more elastic. Less Botox expense!

What other nutrients should we include to help maintain our blood-vessel health?

A balanced diet will help your body protect itself but there are certain nutrients that have a particular responsibility for keeping our blood flowing as it should through healthy arteries and veins.

salmon

Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) are necessary fats that humans cannot synthesise and must be obtained through diet. There are two families of EFAs Omega-3 and Omega-6. Another variety, Omega-9, is also necessary but is classified as “non- essential” as the body can make it if the other two fatty acids are present.

EFAs are essential because they support our cardiovascular, reproductive, immune and nervous systems. We need these fats to manufacture and repair cells, maintain hormone levels and expel waste from the body. Although they are important for other functions in the body, such as fertility, they play a major role in the process that regulates blood pressure and blood clotting, making them an important addition to our diet if we are at risk from circulatory conditions.

Omega-3 (Linolenic Acid) is the principal Omega-3 fatty acid and is used in the formation of cell walls, improving circulation and oxygen absorption. A deficiency can lead to decreased immune system function, elevated levels of LDL (bad cholesterol) high blood pressure and irregular heartbeat.

nuts and seeds

Omega-6 (Linoleic Acid) is the primary Omega-6 fatty acid. Omega-6 can improve rheumatoid arthritis, PMS, and skin problems such as eczema and psoriasis.

There is growing evidence that the non-essential Oleic acid, Omega‑9, may help to lower cholesterol by decreasing the unhealthy cholesterol, LDL (low-density lipoprotein), while at the same time raising the level of healthy cholesterol, HDL (high density lipoprotein).

Oleic acid is also emerging as a regulator of blood-sugar levels and as a possible protection against breast and prostate cancer. So, including half an avocado in your diet every day may well protect you from the harmful long-term effects of a number of diseases.

The B-vitamins

wholegrains

B-Vitamins play a role in maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system in general but Vitamin B3 (niacin) B6, B12 and folic acid are of particular interest.

Vitamin B3 plays a critical role in the chemical processing of fats in the body and although B3 is required for production of cholesterol by the liver, the vitamin has repeatedly been used to successfully lower total blood cholesterol. It has yet to be proved whether including B3 rich foods in your diet will also reduce cholesterol levels, but it would appear that the vitamin has a component that may help balance the amount that is produced and present in the blood at any given time. As I mentioned in my post yesterday on safe sun absorption, Vitamin B3 could be effective in the prevention and treatment of certain skin cancers.

Homocysteine is an amino acid in the blood. Too much of it is related to a higher risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and atherosclerosis (fatty deposits in the arteries) leading to damage of the inner linings of the arteries and promoting blood clots.

There is increasing evidence that lowered levels of Folic acid, B6 and B12 are linked to higher levels of homocysteine and therefore the risk of strokes and heart attacks. Including them in your diet is easy if you are not vegetarian and may require supplementation if you don’t include animal products in your diet. This is why giving up whole grains completely which is one of the new trends in diet advice can impact your levels of B vitamins.

Fibre, particularly in the form of beta-glucan helps keep your arteries clear of debris and plaque. Including oats, brown rice, as well as your daily rations of fruit and vegetables, will provide you with adequate amounts of this type of carbohydrate.

Best food sources for these nutrients and for fibre

This is not the complete list of foods that contain the appropriate nutrients but they are some of the best sources available.

  • Avocado for essential fatty acids Omega 3 and Omega 9.
  • Banana has fibre too, which helps clear the system of debris and keeps the arteries clean. Also contains B6 for lowering homocysteine levels.
  • Beef (lean) for its protein and B6 and B12.
  • Broccoli for high levels of Vitamin C and folate.
  • Brown rice helps keep your cholesterol down and your arteries healthy with its fibre.
  • Calf’s liver for B3, B6 and B12 and folate.
  • Cauliflower and red bell peppers for high levels of Vitamin C
  • Chicken and Turkey for B3 and B6 and Omega 6.
  • Cow’s milk and yoghurt for B12
  • Fruits in general for their Vitamin C and fibre.
  • Green tea with its antioxidant, which inhibits the enzymes that produce free radicals in the lining of the arteries. This not only prevents plaque from forming but also improves the ratio of LDL (lousy cholesterol) to HDL (healthy cholesterol)
  • Halibut for B3, B6 and B12
  • Kiwi fruit, papaya and strawberries for high levels of Vitamin C
  • Lamb for B3 and B12
  • Lentils and beans for low fat protein and folate.
  • Oats with their fibre called beta-glucan which helps lower cholesterol and prevents plaque from forming in your arteries.
  • Olive oil and olives for Omega 6 and Omega 9.
  • Onions and garlic which contain sulphur compounds that along with B6 and chromium help lower homocysteine levels in the blood
  • Oranges with their Vitamin C and fibre.
  • Pumpkinseeds and other seeds for Omega 3 and Omega 6.
  • Salmon with its Omega 3, B3 and B6 and B12
  • Scallops and shrimp for B12
  • Shitake mushrooms for B3 and B12 and Eritadenine, which lowers cholesterol levels.
  • Spinach and asparagus and very green vegetables for the folate to help reduce homocysteine levels, Vitamin C and Omega 3
  • Tuna for Omega 3, B3 and B6
  • All vegetables are rich in anti-oxidants, which remove free radicals from the system and also promote the growth of healthy cells and tissue.
  • Venison with low fat protein and B3, B6 and B12.
  • Walnuts and other nuts Omega 3, 6 and 9 and B6
  • Whole grains for fibre and B3.

Including the above foods several times a week will help you protect not only your circulatory system but also your heart and the health of all your major organs that rely solely on the nutrient and oxygen packed blood that is brought to them by the system.

If you have any questions that might be useful for other readers of the post then please include in the comments section.. If you would like to ask something more personal then please contact me sally(dot)cronin(at)moyhill.com.

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©sallycronin Just Food For Health 2009