By Dr. Mercola
It stands to reason that if different foods offer unique nutrients to heal your body and maintain (or regain) health, it might be a good idea to change up your meals to include as many beneficial vitamins and minerals as possible if you’re not doing so already.
Including as many types of nutrients in your overall daily meal plan has a fringe benefit: A little variety in your life really does spice it up, especially in the area of your food choices. Determining which foods provide the most important nutrients is a good strategy to optimize your health.
The reality, however, is that many people eat the same meals over and over, day after day, usually because they feel they don’t have time to research which foods they should eat and often end up eating snacks by default instead of real food. It’s always easiest to choose what you already know works for you.
If sticking to a set of go-to meals you enjoy eating and take the shortest time to prepare are your main considerations, you may be missing out on delicious options and super easy meal plans that will provide the nutrients you need without a lot of fuss.
A One-Day Meal Plan for Optimal Nutrition?
Many people wonder if it’s possible to get all the nutrients they need from food alone, and the answer is generally yes, provided you focus on high-quality foods (vitamin D, which your body produces from sun exposure, would be one exception). According to Harvard Women’s Health Watch:
“Experts agree that the best way to get the nutrients we need is through food. A balanced diet … offers a mix of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients (some yet to be identified) that collectively meet the body’s needs.”
It’s not a new concept. Harvard Health explored the premise in 2009 when they reported on a study involving nearly 162,000 postmenopausal women in the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI), with an emphasis on how people could get the vitamins and minerals needed through their diet.1 The study revealed that women who took multivitamins had similar rates of heart disease and certain cancers, as well as longevity, as those who did not, which suggests focusing on dietary interventions may be key.2
When it comes to optimal nutrition, eating foods that will fuel your body and help prevent disease is important, but you need to know what to gravitate toward and what to stay away from. As a reminder, whatever you eat, when it comes to meat and dairy, pastured is best, and for other foods, organic is often crucial to avoid ingesting genetically engineered or chemically treated fare.
Harvard expert Dr. Helen Delichatsios, nutrition educator at Harvard Medical School, suggested a variety of foods to include in a one-day meal plan that would, all totaled, provide the general nutritional requirements for a 51- to 70-year-old woman, which I’ve adjusted slightly:3
- Breakfast might consist of 8 ounces of raw grass fed yogurt with a handful of walnuts (14 halves) and a cup of papaya and kiwi, along with 4 ounces of raw grass fed milk
- Lunch could be a colorful garden salad containing 1 cup of dark green lettuce, one red pepper, 1 cup of grape tomatoes and sunflower seeds, with olive oil and balsamic vinegar as your dressing and fresh-ground black pepper on top
- Dinner could be 4 ounces of wild-caught Alaskan salmon, topped with a raw grass fed yogurt, lemon and garlic sauce, and a cup of steamed baby Bok choy
While this might not be enough food for some people, the quantities would vary depending on your size, age and health status. Further, it would be wise to include a wider variety of healthy foods in your diet than is listed above. With that in mind, what would you need to eat to get the right amount of vitamins, minerals and other more obscure compounds to feel and function your best every single day, and even improve your mitochondrial function in the process?
‘Fat for Fuel’ Ketogenic Cookbook: A Superior Option for Your Daily Meals
More than half of all Americans struggle with chronic illness, and 1 in 5 deaths in the U.S. is obesity-related. This is a direct result of eating far too much sugar and grains, too much protein and far too little healthy fat.
To reduce your risk of chronic disease, maintain a healthy weight and improve your mitochondrial function (a key to long-term weight management and good health) through diet, the key is to eat in such a way that your body is able to burn fat as its primary fuel rather than sugars. Ketogenic diets are very effective for this, which is the focus of my latest book, “Fat for Fuel.”
A companion tool to “Fat for Fuel” is my “Fat for Fuel Ketogenic Cookbook: Recipes and Ketogenic Keys to Health from a World-Class Doctor and an Internationally Renowned Chef,” with celebrity chef Pete Evans. It provides you with the delicious, kitchen-tested recipes you can use in your daily life to make the shift to fat-burning.
While the Harvard daily meal plan was an improvement over the typical American diet, it misses some key points, like incorporating healthy fats. Examples of the easy-to-prepare, go-to meals you’ll find in my “Fat for Fuel” cookbook are below. Use these recipes to help ensure you’re getting the nutrition you need, without all the fuss:
Green Eggs and Ham (for Breakfast) (Serves 2)
- 4 eggs
- Melted coconut, for brushing
- 4 tablespoons finely chopped herbs (parsley, thyme, basil, mint and/or chervil)
- 4 to 6 slices of ham, to serve
- Raw veggies (lettuce, carrot and celery sticks, cherry tomatoes) to serve
- Fill a small saucepan with water and bring to a boil.
- Reduce the heat to simmering, add eggs and cook for 6 to 7 minutes. Drain, and when cool enough to handle, peel the eggs under cold running water
- Brush the peeled eggs with coconut oil, then roll them in herbs, gently pressing the herbs with your hands until evenly coated.
- Serve the eggs with the ham and raw vegetables.
Fennel, Watercress and Herb Salad with Shallot Dressing (for Lunch)
- 1 large fennel bulb, trimmed and shaved, fronds reserved
- 1 large handful watercress
- 1 handful mint leaves
- 1 handful dill fronds, shaved
- Lemon wedges, to serve
- 1 French shallot, finely diced
- 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Using a mandolin or sharp knife, thinly shave the fennel.
- Place all the herbs in a large bowl and set aside.
- To make the dressing, place all the ingredients in a small bowl and whisk.
- Pour dressing over the salad just to coat and gently toss to combine, season if needed.
- Arrange on a platter to serve, drizzling more dressing on if desired. (Leftover dressing can be stored in a sealed jar and refrigerated up to two weeks.
Crackling Chicken (for Dinner)
- 8 chicken thighs, skin intact
- 1 tablespoon sea salt
- 2 teaspoon coconut oil or good-quality fat
- 2 teaspoons spice mix (like Cajun or Moroccan)
- Lemon wedges, to serve
- Flatten the chicken thighs with a mallet so they’ll cook evenly. Season with salt.
- Melt the oil in a large, heavy pan over high heat; place the chicken, skin side down in the pan and season with the spice mix.
- Fry undisturbed for 6 to 8 minutes or until brown and crispy. Flip and fry 3 more minutes until cooked through. Remove from the pan and keep warm.
- Serve with lemon wedges and vegetables or salad.
Nutrient-Dense Foods to Include in Your Ultimate Meal Plan
Some of the most nutrient-dense foods to include in your diet, in no particular order, include:
Sardines and anchovies
Crucifers, i.e., cauliflower and Brussels sprouts
Pastured organic eggs, milk and butter
Berries, i.e., raspberries, blueberries and strawberries
Nuts, i.e., pecans and macadamias
Seeds, i.e., sesame and sunflower
Olive and coconut oils
Wild-caught Alaskan salmon
Red onions and garlic
Sprouts, i.e., broccoli and sunflower
Fresh herbs i.e., oregano, rosemary and basil
Dark leafy greens
Some people have decided that, due to time constraints or other inconveniences, taking some kind of one-a-day multivitamin to make up for any glaring inconsistencies in the way of nutrition will do the job. However, Harvard Medical School experts digress. Dr. Clifford Lo, an associate professor of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, says this approach isn’t as simple or as foolproof as it may seem, and for a couple of reasons.4
Taking dietary supplements to “fill in the gaps” nutritionally may end up providing more of certain vitamins, minerals and other phytonutrients than is good for you. Too much vitamin A, for example, can overload your system and actually become toxic.5 While in some cases a high-quality daily multivitamin can be beneficial, it’s important to know what your body needs and what you’re not getting through food before including dietary supplements in your routine.
For nutrients that can only come through ingestion, getting them from food as opposed to through supplements is always best. However, if it’s a nutrient you can’t get through food, it’s an essential nutrient. Unfortunately, nutritional deficiencies are becoming more common, and only being informed can help you move toward optimal health.
Eating Well Is Wise, but Other Elements Are Also Important for Health
Eating well isn’t the only thing to pay attention to as you make progress in taking control of your health; other aspects of your life are just as important, especially as there are so many unhealthy aspects that make illness and disease more prevalent, such as free radicals caused by exposure to air pollution and chemicals in household cleaners, lawn fertilizers, pet products and beauty products.
Protecting your ability to get eight hours of sleep every night is one consideration toward reaching optimal health, as is avoiding setting your cellphone by your bedside or carrying it near your body, exposing yourself to harmful electromagnetic fields (EMFs). As for putting together a nutritionally based meal plan, getting an array of different nutrients is one of the most important strategies for fighting disease.
Coming up with what to eat for your daily meals is half the battle to eating right, which is why relying on a cookbook like “Fat for Fuel” makes getting healthy so much easier. Make it your go-to source for meal planning and soon you’ll have confidence that in at least one area of your life, you actually are taking control of your health.
By Dr. Mercola
A foundational recommendation for healthy eating is simply to eat REAL food. To protect your health, I advise spending at least 90 percent of your food budget on whole foods, and only 10 percent, or less, on processed foods. This article will highlight 22 foods known for their potent health benefits.
As a quick aside, while food selection is foundational for health, it’s important to realize that certain lifestyle choices have an equal if not greater impact. Four of the most important lifestyle strategies to protect your health are:
- Fasting; intermittent fasting and/or multiday water fasts
- Sleep. Every single organ in your body has a biological clock that needs to be synced to the master circadian clock in your brain. These body clocks regulate everything from metabolism to psychological functioning. Over the long term, skimping on sleep (which is a surefire way to dysregulate your circadian clock) can contribute to a whole host of chronic health problems
- Sensible sun exposure, as this is the primary and most efficient way to optimize your vitamin D level
- Avoiding electromagnetic field exposure from cellphones, tablets, routers, laptops and other electric and magnetic fields, as this radiation activates voltage-gated calcium channels in the membrane of your cells. As a result of this activation, extremely potent oxidant stressors and reactive free radicals are produced, capable of causing severe harm
Top Six Foods for Your Brain
That said, let’s return to the topic at hand. These are my top picks when it comes to foods that nourish your brain, heart, gut, muscles, immune system and more. Can you boost your brainpower with the foods you eat? You bet. Topping the list of brain-boosting superfoods are foods high in healthy fats. This should come as no surprise considering your brain is mainly made up of fats.
1. Avocados are a great source of healthy oleic acid (monounsaturated fat, which is also found in olive oil), which helps decrease inflammation.1 Avocados have also been shown to effectively combat nearly every aspect of metabolic syndrome, a risk factor of dementia and most other chronic disease. Aside from providing healthy fats, avocados also provide nearly 20 essential nutrients, including potassium, which helps balance your vitally important potassium to sodium ratio.
2. Organic coconut oil. Besides being excellent for your thyroid and your metabolism, its medium chain fatty acids (MCTs) are a source of ketone bodies, which act as an alternate source of brain fuel that can help prevent the brain atrophy associated with dementia. MCTs also impart a number of health benefits, including raising your body’s metabolism and fighting off pathogens.
3. Grass fed butter and ghee. About 20 percent of butterfat consists of short- and medium-chain fatty acids, which are used right away for quick energy and therefore don’t contribute to fat levels in your blood. Therefore, a significant portion of the butter you consume is used immediately for energy, similar to a carbohydrate. Ghee, which has a higher smoke point than butter, is a healthy fat particularly well-suited for cooking. It also has a longer shelf life.
4. Organic pastured eggs. Many of the healthiest foods are rich in cholesterol and saturated fats, and eggs are no exception. Cholesterol is needed for the regulation of protein pathways involved in cell signaling and other cellular processes. It’s particularly important for your brain, which contains about 25 percent of the cholesterol in your body.
It is vital for synapse formation, i.e., the connections between your neurons, which allow you to think, learn new things and form memories. For a simple snack, see this healthy deviled egg recipe.
5. Wild-caught salmon and other fatty fish. While most fish suffer drawbacks related to contamination, wild-caught salmon and other small, fatty fish, such as sardines and anchovies, are still noteworthy for their health benefits in light of their low risk of contamination.
Wild-caught salmon and other oily fish are high in omega-3 fats necessary for optimal brain (and heart) health. Research2 also suggests eating oily fish once or twice a week may increase your life span. Avoid farmed salmon, however, as they’ve been identified as one of the most toxic foods in the world. For tips on how to cook salmon steaks, see this salmon cooking guide.
6. Organic raw nuts such as macadamia and pecans. Macadamia nuts have the highest fat and lowest protein and carb content of any nut, and about 60 percent of the fat is the monounsaturated fat oleic acid. This is about the level found in olives, which are well-known for their health benefits.
A single serving of macadamia nuts also provides 58 percent of what you need in manganese and 23 percent of the recommended daily value of thiamin. Pecans are a close second to macadamia nuts on the fat and protein scale, and they also contain anti-inflammatory magnesium, heart healthy oleic acid, phenolic antioxidants and immune-boosting manganese.
Three Foods to Boost Your Heart Health
Like your brain, your heart needs healthy fats, so all of the foods just mentioned will benefit your heart as well. Aside from that, the following three are known for their cardiovascular benefits:
1. Beets, raw or fermented. Research shows beets have powerful health benefits, courtesy of their high nitrate content. Your body transforms nitrates into nitric oxide, which enhances oxygenation and blood flow and has a beneficial impact on your circulatory and immune systems. Research3 shows raw beet juice can lower blood pressure by an average of four to five points in just a few hours.
Since 36 percent of each beet is simple sugars, if you have diabetes or are insulin resistant, fermented beets, also known as beet kvass, would be a preferable option, as the fermentation significantly reduces the sugar content. Beet kvass is also a great source of healthy probiotics.
2. Arugula, a relative of the cruciferous family of vegetables, contains flavonoids known to help improve blood vessel function, increase blood flow, lower blood pressure and lower inflammation.
Arugula even has cleansing properties to counteract the poisoning effects of heavy metals in the system, particularly in the liver,4 and helps eliminate pesticides and herbicides from your body. With a tangy, slightly peppery kick, arugula is a tasty addition to just about any meal. For a simple, no-cook meal, check out this grapefruit arugula salad with avocado recipe.
3. Sprouts, microgreens and baby greens. Harvesting greens before they reach maturity results in nutrient-dense plant foods that allow you to eat less in terms of volume. A simple way to dramatically improve your nutrition is to simply swap out lettuce for sprouts and/or microgreens in your salad — or on burgers, sandwiches or tacos.
According to research by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)5 in which 25 different microgreens were evaluated, all were found to have higher nutritional densities than their full-grown counterparts, including 10 times higher amounts of valuable antioxidant compounds.
As noted in “Microgreens: Novel, Fresh and Functional Food to Explore All the Value of Biodiversity,”6 even a few grams of microgreens per day can “entirely satisfy” the recommended daily intake of vitamins C, E and K, based on recommendations by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). Vitamin K, both K1 and K2, are particularly important for health and cardiovascular health.
Four Foods to Get Your Gut Health on Track
Mounting evidence reveals there’s more to nutrition than previously thought — a large component of it actually revolves around nourishing the health-promoting bacteria in your body, thereby keeping harmful microbes in check. One of the reasons a healthy diet is able to influence your health is by the fact that it helps create an optimal environment for beneficial bacteria in your gut, while decreasing pathogenic or disease-causing bacteria, fungi and yeast. Among the top contenders in this category are:
1. Raw, grass fed kefir. This cultured milk product, which is easy to make at home with raw grass fed milk, is loaded with probiotics. It also contains fiber, which is another important source of nourishment for the healthy bacteria in your gut.
2. Fermented vegetables. One of the best and least expensive ways to optimize your gut microbiome is to eliminate sugars and processed sugars and eat traditionally fermented foods. Kefir is one; fermented vegetables are another. Here you have plenty of choices, as you can easily ferment just about any vegetable you like.
Using a special starter culture made with vitamin K2-producing bacteria will also turn your fermented veggies into a great source of vitamin K2. If you like cabbage, check out this simple sauerkraut recipe.
3. Organic bone broth. Bone broth is quite possibly one of the oldest meals on record, going back to the Stone Age. It may also be one of the most healing. Not only is it very easily digested, it also contains profound immune-optimizing components that are foundational building blocks for the treatment of leaky gut and autoimmune diseases.
This includes but is not limited to bioavailable minerals, collagen, silicon, components of bone and bone marrow, glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate and the conditionally essential amino acids proline, glycine and glutamine. However, if you choose this food you must be absolutely certain it is organic, as nonorganic bone broth may be worse than junk food. Bone broth is best made at home from scratch, using organic grass fed bones. You can find a hearty bone broth recipe here.
4. Organic psyllium. Psyllium is a healthy dietary fiber that helps nourish healthy bacteria in your gut, reduces intestinal inflammation, and may provide some relief from irritable bowel syndrome. The recommended daily amount of fiber is between 20 and 30 grams, but I believe about 50 grams per 1,000 calories consumed is ideal.
Two Potent Anti-Inflammatory Spices
While several of the foods already listed could belong in this section, two potent anti-inflammatory spices worthy of special mention are:
1. Turmeric, nicknamed the “spice of life,” has a long history of medicinal use for Ayurvedic medicine and traditional Chinese medicine. Its bioactive compound, curcumin, has been found to help maintain a healthy digestive system, modulate some 700 genes, positively control more than 160 different physiological pathways, improve the orderliness of cell membranes, and directly interact with inflammatory molecules to help lower inflammation.
Research also shows it has potent anticancer activity. Ready for a tasty novelty? Try this golden cauliflower flatbread recipe spiced with turmeric.
2. Ginger is also well-known for its medicinal qualities. The Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences recently published a review7 showing ginger may protect against a wide range of chronic diseases, in part due to its beneficial effects on oxidative stress and inflammation.
Like turmeric, ginger has also been found to have anticancer activity, driving “mitochondrially mediated apoptosis” (programmed cell death), decreasing the size of prostate tumors without disturbing normal tissues.8 For a tasty, gut-healing beverage, try this dairy-free coconut and ginger kefir recipe.
Two Immune-Boosting Superfoods
Your immune system is the first-line defense against all disease, and a majority of your immune function resides or starts in your gut. Hence, all the gut-healthy foods already mentioned will help boost your immune function as well. In addition to those, the following two categories are worthy of special note:
1. Allium vegetables9 — garlic and onions. The unique scent emitted by allium vegetables when cut comes from sulfur-containing compounds such as allicin, which have many health-promoting effects. Studies have demonstrated garlic may inhibit a vast array of diseases by reducing inflammation, boosting immune function and improving cardiovascular health.
It’s also been shown to combat at least 14 different kinds of cancer cells, including brain, lung, breast, gastric and pancreatic cancer cells. Sprouted garlic and fermented, black garlic are two variations you can try for variety’s sake as well. Both have been shown to provide additional health benefits over regular, fresh garlic. To learn more, see the link provided above.
Onions also have a wealth of beneficial properties; they’re antiallergic, antihistaminic, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant all rolled into one. Polyphenols are plant compounds recognized for their disease prevention, antioxidant and antiaging properties, and onions ;have a particularly high concentration of them.
Onions are especially rich in polyphenol flavonoids called quercetin, a powerful antioxidant with antihistamine and anti-inflammatory properties that may help fight chronic diseases like allergies, heart disease and cancer.10
2. Mushrooms. Aside from being rich in protein, fiber, vitamins B and C, calcium and minerals, mushrooms are excellent sources of antioxidants, including antioxidants that are unique to mushrooms, such as ergothioneine, recognized as a “master antioxidant.” A study in the journal Nature11 discussed the importance of ergothioneine, which appears to have a very specific role in protecting your DNA from oxidative damage.
Some of the most potent immunosupportive agents are also found in mushrooms, which is one reason why they’re so beneficial for both preventing and treating cancer. Long-chain polysaccharides, particularly alpha and beta glucan molecules, are primarily responsible for the mushrooms’ beneficial effect on your immune system.
In human nutrition intervention studies,12,13,14 dried shiitake mushrooms were found to have a beneficial, modulating effect on immune system function. For an immune-boosting side dish, try this easy slow cooker garlic mushroom recipe.
Two Muscle-Boosting Superfoods
Proteins are found in every cell in your body. These chains of amino acids are important for repair, maintenance and growth of cells, and are essential for healthy muscles, organs, glands and skin. As protein is broken down and used up in your body, you must replace it by consuming protein via your diet. There’s no question that eating enough high-quality protein is essential to good health, but many Americans tend to eat far more than they need.
Excessive protein can have a stimulating effect on a biochemical pathway called the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR). This pathway has an important and significant role in many cancers. When you reduce protein to just what your body needs, mTOR remains inhibited, which helps minimize your chances of cancer growth.
So, remember, there appears to be a Goldilocks’ Zone when it comes to protein. You want just enough — not too much and not too little — and your individual requirement will vary depending on your age, sex, physical activity and more. As a general rule, most people likely need about one-half gram of protein per pound of LEAN body mass. To calculate your lean body mass, simply subtract your percent body fat from 100, then multiply that percentage by your current weight.
Next, multiply your lean body mass by 0.5 to get your approximate protein requirement in grams. Seniors, pregnant women and athletes generally need about 25 percent more than the general population. When it comes to protein-rich, muscle-boosting foods, quality also matters. Two of the top contenders here are:
1. Grass fed beef. Compared to conventional beef from animals raised in concentrated animal feeding operations, grass fed beef tends to have significantly better omega-6 to omega-3 ratios, higher concentrations of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and antioxidants, and a lower risk of being contaminated with antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
When buying meat, be sure to look for the American Grassfed Association’s certification mark. At present, this is the only logo able to guarantee the meat comes from animals that have been fed a 100 percent forage diet, never been confined to a feedlot, never received antibiotics or hormones, and have been raised on an American farm (i.e., the meat is not imported).
2. Whey protein, a byproduct of milk and cheese (often referred to as the gold standard of protein), was promoted for its health benefits by Hippocrates as early as 420 B.C. Besides providing all of the essential amino acids your body needs, high-quality whey protein from organically raised grass fed cows also contains three ingredients of particular importance for health: leucine, glutathione and CLA.
Both leucine and CLA can be helpful if you’re trying to lose weight, while glutathione boosts your overall health by protecting your cells and mitochondria from oxidative and peroxidative damage. As with beef, make sure your whey protein is certified organic and derived from grass fed cows, and is minimally processed with no added sugars and preservatives.
Three Anticancer Foods to Eat More Of
Many previously mentioned foods also belong in this section as well. Three additional foods with potent chemoprotective activity that many don’t eat enough of are:
1. Broccoli (and other cruciferous vegetables). Broccoli has definitely earned its place among chemoprotective foods, thanks to plant compounds such as sulforaphane, glucoraphanin, phenolic compounds and diindolylmethane (DIM). Studies have shown sulforaphane causes apoptosis (programmed cell death) in colon,15 prostate,16 breast17 and tobacco-induced lung cancer18 cells.
Three servings of broccoli per week may reduce your risk of prostate cancer by more than 60 percent.19 It’s also an anti-inflammatory,20 and encourages production of enzymes capable of reducing reactive oxygen species by as much as 73 percent.21
Glucoraphanin also influences the process of carcinogenesis and mutagenesis,22,23 while phenolic compounds have a potent ability to eliminate damaging free radicals and quell inflammation.24,25,26 DIM also has multiple potential benefits, including boosting your immune system and helping to prevent or treat cancer.27,28
To really optimize these benefits, be sure to eat your cruciferous veggies with some organic mustard seed powder. If you don’t like broccoli, keep in mind that many, if not most, of the members of the cruciferous family have similar plant compounds and health benefits.
2. Leeks, an allium vegetable closely related to onions and garlic, have much to offer in the way of good health. Like garlic, many of its therapeutic effect come from its sulfur-containing compounds, such as allicin. Leeks also contain kaempferol, a natural flavonol also found in broccoli, kale and cabbage, which research29 has linked to a lower risk of cancer.
3. Black cumin, also known as black seed (Nigella Sativa), has at least 20 different pharmacological actions, including natural antibacterial properties, antioxidant, renal protective and gastro-protective properties. Some have even called it a “seed of blessing” because it provides protection against both heart disease and cancer.30
1 Which vegetable did researchers recently suggested can be most helpful in the treatment of leaky gut?
2 Class-action lawsuits have now been filed against Coca-Cola Co., PepsiCo, Dr Pepper Snapple Group and Dr Pepper/Seven Up Inc., charging them with false advertising for the deceptive use of this word.
3 Even a small deficiency in this elements level may reduce your IQ by up to 15 points.
4 This year’s Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine has been awarded to three U.S. biologists for their discovery of master genes that are impacted by:
5 As little as 120 minutes of this activity per week may reduce mortality risk in older adults.
6 What is the most common mental illness in the U.S.?
7 Americans are no longer alone in our fight for medical freedom of choice, as the aggressive push for mandatory compliance of this has gone international.
By Dr. Mercola
A warming cup of tea offers many comforts, especially when the temperature begins to dip, but while the advantages of green tea are many and well noted, there’s another type — black tea — shown by recent research to positively impact not only your quest for weight loss but to lead to a healthier gut microbiome in the process.
The precise benefit stems from the way black tea (and green tea, too) can change the ratio of gut bacteria, decreasing the percentages of a type previously linked to obesity, and increasing bacteria associated with lean body mass, Prevent Disease reports.1 Research from the University of California published in the European Journal of Nutrition,2 revealed that not only may drinking black tea change your gut microbiome for the better, it may also improve your gut function. Lead study author Susanne Henning explains:
“Our new findings suggest that black tea, through a specific mechanism through the gut microbiome, may also contribute to good health and weight loss in humans. The results suggest that both green and black teas are prebiotics, substances that induce the growth of good microorganisms that contribute to a person’s well-being.”3
It now appears that both green and black teas have metabolism-boosting effects, with green tea working via your bloodstream and black tea via your gut bacteria.4 In addition, antioxidant polyphenols in both green and black tea fight against free radicals, helping to ensure proper function of DNA and cell membranes.5
However, by altering your gut microbiome, black tea helps prevent weight gain and obesity, making it “anti-obesogenic.” Psychology Today explains part of the mechanism for how this works, as well as the importance of intestinal health:
“Each of us has trillions of microorganisms and diverse bacterial communities — commonly referred to as microbiome or gut microbiota — residing in our gastrointestinal tract at any given time. Microbiota is a diverse ecological community of microorganisms that are generally a combination of both beneficial ‘good bacteria’ and potentially harmful bacteria.
The human gut is similar to that of a mouse and generally harbors over 100 trillion microorganisms. Microbiome colonies begin to reside within our intestines immediately after birth and are vital to the healthy development of your immune system and are associated with various important neurobiological and physiological functions.”6
Study: What Black Tea Can Do for Your Gut
Four groups of mice involved in the research were given different diets to compare over a four-week period: low-fat and high-sugar; high-fat and high-sugar; high-fat, high-sugar plus green tea extract; and high-fat, high-sugar plus black tea extract. Evaluating the results, UCLA Newsroom7 adds, the scientists found that the mice given the green or black tea extracts dropped the same amount of weight as the ones who were fed a straight low-fat diet.
Simultaneously, samples were collected from the large intestines of the mice so their bacteria could be accounted for, as well as from their liver tissues so they could measure their fat deposits. The scientists’ findings indicated that the mice that had ingested the tea extracts exhibited a change in the ratios of two significant microbiome family groups.
The first was a decrease in Firmicutes bacteria linked to obesity, with an upsurge in Bacteroidetes that had in previous studies been associated with lean body mass. The team listed the eight bacteria that “significantly correlated” with weight loss induced by tea extracts:
Only mice that had ingested black tea showed an increase in Pseudobutyrivibrio, with the added increase in the intestinal formation of short-chain fatty acids,8 which the team explains may be the bacteria that make the difference in how black tea and green tea change the way energy is metabolized, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution9 observes.
The molecules in green tea, being smaller, are absorbed directly into your bloodstream and liver, while black tea stays in your intestinal tract because the molecules are larger. The study authors explain:“When black tea molecules stay in the intestinal tract, they enhance the growth of beneficial bacteria and the formation of microbial metabolites involved in the regulation of energy metabolism.”10
Black Tea’s Other Advantages Over Disease
Black tea can retain its robust flavor for several years, while green tea typically goes flat if it’s not used within a year, but that’s just one of many benefits of black tea consumption. According to studies conducted in Saudi Arabia, the Netherlands and Western Australia, the advantages of drinking black tea increase with the consumption of four or more cups per day,11 while the risk of several diseases and disorders is reduced, including stroke, heart attack, high blood pressure, diabetes and even cancer.
Similarly, a study at King Saud University in Saudi Arabia showed that the study participants who drank more than six cups of tea a day had a “significantly lower prevalence of coronary heart disease” than non-tea drinkers.12 A study at the Netherlands National Institute of Public Health and the Environment found an association between black tea and decreased stroke incidence, as well.13 Prevent Disease notes:
“Researchers looked at data from a study examining the health benefits of foods that are high in flavonoids — phytonutrients with antioxidant benefits. While some of the flavonoids were obtained from fruits and vegetables, 70 percent came from black tea.”14
Cancer is another disease scientists have found black tea to be protective against. A 2000 study at Rutgers University found what they termed black tea’s “secret weapon,” a potent anticancer polyphenol called theaflavin-3′-monogallate (TF-2). One researcher, Kuang Yu Chen, Ph.D., noted that the compound showed “very interesting properties” against colon cancer cells. “While exposure to TF-2 leaves normal cells unharmed, cancer cells ‘commit suicide’ in droves”15 in a process called apoptosis, or programmed cell death.
Black Tea Lowers Blood Pressure and Diabetes Risks
It may come as no surprise that, when the compounds in black tea are busy improving the ratio between the good and bad critters in your gut, it’s also helping to lower your proclivity toward diabetes. As a prebiotic, the polysaccharides in black tea contained more glucose-inhibiting properties when compared to two other teas, including green and oolong teas.
The study showed that polysaccharides from black tea may take the edge off sugar spikes after a meal better than similar compounds from green and oolong tea, which provides potential diabetes management.16 “Inhibition of intestinal alpha-glucosidases delays the digestion of starch and sucrose, flattens the postprandial blood glucose excursions, and thus mimics the effects of dieting”17 on people with blood sugar issues.
In addition, JAMA’s Archives of Internal Medicine published a six-month study conducted by a team of scientists from the University of Western Australia (UWA), led by professor of nutrition and epidemiology Jonathan Hodgson, which reported that drinking three or more cups of black tea per day (which provides about 429 milligrams (mg) of polyphenols) may reduce blood pressure, which could in turn help decrease your heart disease risk, and also have a long-term effect.18 Hodgson noted:
“Our study has demonstrated for the first time to our knowledge that long-term regular consumption of black tea can result in significantly lower (blood pressure) in individuals with normal to high-normal range (blood pressure). At a population level, the observed differences in (blood pressure) would be associated with a 10 percent reduction in the prevalence of hypertension and a 7 percent to 10 percent reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease.”19
Following the six-month trial period, the study team reported that the systolic and diastolic blood pressure of the study participants fell between 2 to 3 mm Hg compared to non-tea drinkers. Jane Rycroft, senior nutrition and health manager at Unilever’s Research & Development, stated:
“This is further evidence to suggest that tea and its natural ingredients can help people become healthier. While a 2-3 mm Hg decrease is a small change to an individual’s blood pressure, it’s tantalizing to think what positive impact this could have on reducing the risk of heart disease among the general public.”20
The Difference in Teas: How It’s Processed
All tea comes from Camellia Sinensis, a white-flowered evergreen, The Spruce explains, adding that the basic difference between black and green tea stems from their production methods: Black tea undergoes full oxidation and fermentation while green tea doesn’t.21 Besides containing caffeine and the aforementioned polyphenols, one 8-ounce cup of black tea contains several other unique and health-beneficial properties, Nutrition Data22 reports:
Another way of saying it is that black teas may be oxidized for two to four hours, while green tea isn’t exposed to oxygen at all. Different colors and flavors of tea depend on the way the plant is processed. The darker the tea, generally the longer it has been oxidized, or exposed to oxygen. One thing you want to watch for when you’re buying tea is the processing methods, which is why you want to look for organic teas. Otherwise, it may have undergone a heavy dose of pesticide spray.
Another problem with tea may be exposure to toxins from soil and water, such as heavy metals and fluoride. A clean growing environment is essential to producing a pure, high-quality tea, so be mindful of this when choosing your source.
When you think of all the Chinese sages who’ve ingested probably thousands of cups of tea in their lifetimes, it’s no surprise that drinking tea can even help prevent dementia by 50 percent, and peoples’ risk for Alzheimer’s disease could be reduced by 86 percent, according to another study.23
In fact, “the protective role of tea consumption on brain function is not limited to a particular type of tea — so long as the tea is brewed from tea leaves, such as green, black or oolong tea.”24 So from your brain down to your gut, drinking high-quality tea may boost your health in multiple ways.
(Nadine Alexander) Let’s clear the air before I proceed with the topic at hand please. I struggle with titles like the one for this article. For starters, I do not have all the answers. I don’t think that I am the epitome of perfect parenting. My desire is to offer insight into my life – and my daughters – with the hope that I may be a mirror for you. Things are always clearer when we are on the outside looking in. This is undeniable.
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