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1 Which of the following supports healthy thyroid function, boosts metabolism and helps normalize insulin and leptin function?
2 How many carcasses per minute must USDA food inspectors inspect for signs of disease and fecal material in chicken slaughter lines?
3 Chagas disease is contracted from and spread by which of the following insects?
4 Which of the following placebo treatments or criteria has been shown to be the most effective?
5 Cumin has a warm, earthy flavor that plays a starring role in which popular spice blend:
6 The SAR value on your cellphone tells you:
7 Which of the following has NOT been scientifically linked to autism?
By Dr. Mercola
What vegetable looks like a cross between a jalapeno, a mini cucumber and a star fruit, has enjoyed a long Southern tradition and was recently found to provide some really incredible benefits for your health? If your answer was okra, you get a thumbs-up, and if you or someone you care about struggles with their blood sugar, not to mention bouts of hunger that only exacerbates their blood sugar woes, listen up.
But first, a little okra history: Also called “ladyfingers,” and closely related to both cotton and hibiscus, okra comes in more than one variety, so it can be tinged with red and have either a smooth or a rough and even prickly texture.
A favorite in the American South and areas of Africa and the Mediterranean, where it’s usually cooked to reveal a slimy texture, there are (fortunately) serving alternatives; five possibilities, with a few twists, are inspired by Smithsonian Magazine:1
- Fried okra is the traditional Southern way of serving okra, involving corn meal and so-called “vegetable oils,” but it’s not the healthiest. If you choose to eat fried okra, at least be sure you use a healthy cooking oil (mentioned below), perhaps with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese added, and cook it at a lower temperature.
- Gumbo with okra2 for taste and as a thickening agent with the obligatory “holy trinity” of bell pepper, onion and celery is a Southern staple. In fact, the African name “gombo” is where the recipe was derived. It’s often mixed with meat, tomatoes and bay leaves.
- Pickled okra,3 especially the sweet and spicy variety, is another way to serve this little pod, often with dried chilies, black peppercorns, mustard seeds, hot peppers, vinegar, fresh dill, salt and rice wine vinegar.
- Grilled or oven-roasted okra4 can be as simple as dousing clean, quartered okra pods with olive oil and sprinkling them with salt and pepper on a baking sheet, then cooking for 15 minutes. The best part: It’s not slimy and actually becomes partially caramelized.
- Stewed okra is a great way to add the nutrients but with stronger-flavored flavors, such as beef broth, lamb, balsamic vinegar, cloves, tomato paste, garlic, mint leaves and spices, like in the case of banya,5 an Egyptian meat and okra stew.
It should be noted that far healthier oils than the standard fare include coconut oil, avocado oil, organic grass fed raw butter, ghee and sesame oil, which are recommended when frying. Olive oil is good, but only at temperatures lower than 180 degrees F, as fumes emitted from cooking olive oils can potentially be carcinogenic; plus, the oil is easily damaged by high heat.
Study Shows Okra To Be a Viable Diabetes Fighter
An animal study conducted in 2014 revealed that okra extracts may help reduce oxidative stress and insulin resistance, and as a result, improve blood sugar levels.6 In another clinical study,7 roasted okra seeds, which people in Turkey have eaten for years to offset diabetes mellitus symptoms, were found to do just that.
Additionally, a large phytochemical analysis showed that okra seed extracts also had antistress (adaptogenic) and nootropic (cognitive enhancing) effects on volunteers.8 I also would like to remind anyone with high blood sugar tendencies that managing your ability to handle stress is an important factor in managing diabetes, as over the long term, elevated stress levels can take a toll on your ability to prevent spikes.
Diabetes.org observes that anything that triggers your fight-or-flight response can cause insulin to “pile up” in your blood.9 In the same vein, one reason listing the health advantages of okra consumption is so timely is that the instances of diabetes cases are steadily rising, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
In 2014, it was reported, for instance, that while around 167,000 youth under age 20 had Type 1 diabetes in 2009, more than 18,000 new cases have been estimated for the same age demographic every year since then.10 Differences between the three types of diabetes (Type 1, Type 2 and gestational diabetes) and the problems each can cause are important to understand.
According to Medical News Today,11 the earlier reference to diabetes mellitus denotes a group of metabolic disorders that prevent your body from properly storing and using glucose, or blood sugar, as fuel; it can be because you don’t produce enough insulin, your body’s cells fail to respond properly to insulin, or both.
However, not just Type 1 diabetes (when your body fails to produce insulin) but Type 2 (when your body fails to produce enough insulin for proper function) and gestational diabetes (which affects pregnant women) are included in the kinds of diabetes that okra consumption may be able to help. While the research is said to still be in its early stages, okra has proven itself effective for diabetes sufferers.
Beneficial Nutrients in Okra and What They Can Do for You
Okra, aka Abelmoschus esculentus, a rather forgotten garden vegetable, provides a number of valuable nutrients, including fiber. Several of the most prominent of them must be obtained through food, and if you don’t get enough of them, a deficiency can seriously compromise your health. Five of the most beneficial include:12
• Potassium — A mineral as well as an electrolyte, meaning it conducts electrical impulses through your body, potassium helps normalize your muscle contractions, heart rhythm, blood pressure, digestion, pH balance and more. Because your body doesn’t produce it, you must obtain an optimal amount of foods containing it, while making sure it balances your sodium intake.
• Folate — One of several B vitamins, this one produces red blood cells and both makes and repairs your DNA, and a deficiency can lead to anemia, depriving your cells of oxygen. One of its most crucial functions is for pregnant women as it’s involved with preventing birth defects.
Note: Although many people interchange them, do not confuse folate, which occurs naturally in foods, with folic acid, which is a synthetic form of vitamin B9 used as a supplement and an additive to processed foods.
• Calcium — Stored in your bones, it works with vitamin D to ensure your body absorbs it properly to avoid brittle, prone-to-break bones. It also works with vitamin K2 to keep calcium from settling in areas it shouldn’t be, such as your arteries and soft tissues, and directing it to where it should be, like your bones and teeth.
• Vitamin K — A fat-soluble vitamin that plays critical roles in protecting your heart, building your bones, optimizing your insulin levels and helping your blood to clot properly, vitamin K can help prevent heart disease, osteoporosis, diabetes, multiple types of cancer and even Alzheimer’s disease.
• Vitamin C — This powerful antioxidant lessens both the duration and severity of a cold and is necessary to produce collagen, the most abundant protein in mammals, which keeps your skin and tissues firm but flexible. A “C” deficiency weakens your immune system and is infamously known for causing the sailor’s dread: scurvy.
Okra Contains Fiber, Antioxidants and Compounds That Fight Fatigue
Mentioned earlier as one of the many benefits of eating okra, dietary fiber is so important for your overall well-being, it really can’t be overstated. Consuming high-fiber foods like okra help the other foods you eat move smoothly through your system and provide the bulk required to eliminate waste from your system. Eight 3-inch-long okra pods provide around 3 grams of fiber.
In one study,13 researchers separated the skin and seeds of immature okra pods to compare their polysaccharides, polyphenols, flavonoids, quercetin and similar compounds, as well as their antioxidant and anti-fatigue activities. It’s interesting to note that the scientists wrote that the fairly small doses given to mice in the study are easily obtainable simply by eating okra itself.
The seeds won; the scientists found significantly more anti-fatigue effects because of reduced blood lactic acid and urea nitrogen, which enhanced hepatic glycogen storage and promoted antioxidant ability by lowering the level of malondialdehyde (a marker for oxidative stress14) while increasing superoxide dismutase and glutathione peroxidase levels.
These results, according to the study, “proved okra seeds were the anti-fatigue part of okra pods and polyphenols and flavonoids were active constituents.” Bulk fiber from eating okra has been shown to aid digestion by reducing your hunger cravings and keeping you feeling fuller, which is an important component for controlling diabetes symptoms.
Further, increasing your fiber intake is shown in clinical trials to encourage improved glycemic control and insulin sensitivity, and lower cardiovascular risk factors and chronic kidney disease in Type 2 diabetes patients.15 The Global Journal of Medical Research16 asserts more health benefits:
- Okra’s anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial action may help with digestive problems and irritable bowel syndrome
- The seeds are a source of high-quality protein and can be ground and used as a noncaffeinated substitute for coffee
- The mucilage in okra binds cholesterol and bile acids to aid the liver in carrying toxins out of the body, and even can be used as a plasma replacement or blood volume expander
- Its polysaccharide content lowers cholesterol levels in the blood
- It can help reduce asthma problems
In summary, the journal concludes:
“One of the better health advantages of consuming okra is definitely the powerful management of the body’s high cholesterol level. This healthy vegetable is beneficial in slimming down and also reducing cholesterol … It is [also] a good vegetable for those feeling weak, exhausted and suffering from depression … [additionally it can be] used for ulcers, lung inflammation [and] sore throat.”
Glutathione in Okra: One of the Most Dramatic Compounds for Your Health
One of the most dramatically game-changing compounds in okra is glutathione, which one study acknowledges has anticarcinogenic properties. According to Immune Health Science,17 foods containing glutathione fall into two categories: those containing the glutathione molecule and those that promote glutathione production and/or “upload” the activity of glutathione enzymes in your body.
However, it must remain uncooked; cooking glutathione foods diminishes its content. Storage methods can affect it, too. One study shows that dietary glutathione intake can lower your risk of oral and pharyngeal cancer,18 while an animal study19 observed that it protects against diabetic nephropathy (damage to kidneys due to diabetes) and neuropathy (damage to nerves and eventual renal failure).20
But here’s the kicker: Among all the foods listed as having the highest glutathione content, one study reflected the “Glutathione in foods listed in the National Cancer Institute’s Health Habits and History Food Frequency Questionnaire,”21 ranking okra fourth in milligrams (mg) per a 100-gram (3.5-ounce) serving. According to Immune Health Science,22 here’s the breakdown:
- Asparagus — 28.3 mg
- Avocado — 27.7 mg
- Spinach — 11.4 mg
- Okra — 11.3 mg
Forms of Okra: Water, Peel and Powdered Seeds
Whether or not you’re aware of this “craze,” okra water has become a thing. In fact, drinking Bhindi juice (another name for it) is said to impart several health advantages besides those already mentioned. How it’s prepared, however, can make all the difference. Diabetes Self-Management offers this recipe for making okra water:23
“Take two to four small pods, cut off the tips, puncture or slice the sides and soak them overnight in 8 ounces of water. Then take the pods and squeeze the goop into a new cup and water to that.”
Shredded okra peel is how this veggie has been used in traditional medicine. Simply use a grater, and just one-half of a teaspoon is enough to provide nutritional benefits. When looking for okra pods to try a few culinary forays, look for bright green, unblemished pods to ensure freshness, and smaller pods, which are tastier and more tender, but still firm.
Store okra without washing it first; a paper bag will do just fine, but store it in a warmer part of your refrigerator as the colder it is, the faster it decays. To freeze it, simply flash-blanch it, trim it, dry it thoroughly on paper towels and store in freezer containers or reusable baggies.
By Dr. Mercola
Turmeric, a yellow curry spice used in Indian cuisine, has a long history of medicinal use in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and Ayurvedic medicine. Curcumin is one of the most well-studied bioactive ingredients in turmeric,1 having over 150 potentially therapeutic activities, including anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and powerful anticancer actions.
Cancer has an incredible global impact and places a vast financial and emotional burden on the families it touches. Nearly 40 percent of American men and women will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime and over $125 billion is spent annually on medical treatment and patient care.2
The American Cancer Society estimated there would be over 1.6 million new cases diagnosed in 2017, equating to 4,630 new cases and 1,650 deaths every day.3 The most common types of cancer include breast, colon, lung and prostate.4
Despite advances in cancer treatment protocols, scientists realize prevention plays an essential role in reducing the number of people who die from the disease. After 30 years of testing more than 1,000 different possible anticancer substances, the National Cancer Institute announced that curcumin has joined an elite group that will now be used in clinical trials for chemoprevention.5
Curcumin May Play a Multitargeted Role Against Cancer Cells
In this interview, Dr. William LaValley discusses the interaction curcumin has on cancer and the multiple ways this molecule affects cancer growth. If you have ever been diagnosed with cancer, it may feel as if it grew overnight when, in fact, cancer cells take years to develop.
The progression of a cell from normal growth to cancer happens through several stages. Deregulation of physiological and mechanical processes that initiate and promote the growth of cancer cells makes use of hundreds of genes and signaling routes, making it apparent a multitargeted approach is needed for prevention and treatment.
Research has demonstrated that curcumin has a broad range of actions as it is able to effect multiple cellular targets.6 Studies have found, based on the activities of curcumin in the body, the spice could be an effective method of cancer prevention, or in treatment when used in conjunction with conventional treatment protocols.
Curcumin triggers a variety of actions that affect the growth, replication and death of cancer cells. Cancer cells lose the ability to die naturally, which plays a significant role in the hyperproliferation of cells common to cancer. Curcumin is able to turn on the apoptosis (cell death) signaling pathway, enabling the cells to die within a natural time span.10
Cancer cells thrive in an inflammatory environment. Although short-term inflammation is beneficial for healing, long-term inflammation increases your risk of disease. Curcumin is able to block the pro-inflammatory response at several points and reduce the levels of inflammatory cytokines in the body.11
The strong anti-inflammatory effects of curcumin may match the effect of some drugs.12 Early in development, cancer cells learn to replicate and grow in an environment cells normally find inhospitable. Curcumin may change the signaling through several pathways, and put a stop to this replication.13
Curcumin may also stop the ability of cancer stem cells from replicating and reduce the potential for recurrence after treatment. Curcumin also helps support your immune system, capable of seeking out and destroying early cancer cells naturally.
Curcumin May Enhance Cancer Treatment and Chemotherapy
Some of the same ways that curcumin works in your body are the processes used to enhance your cancer treatments and chemotherapy.
While some chemotherapy has been developed to target specific cells, most therapy drugs are nonspecific and affect all cells in your body. Some studies in the past decade have demonstrated exciting potential for curcumin in the fight against cancer.
In addition to changes to your cells mentioned above, researchers have found curcumin may help protect your body against the damage caused from chemotherapy and radiation treatments, and it may enhance the effect of these same treatments, making them more effective.
Patients treated for chronic myeloid leukemia with chemotherapy exhibited a reduction in cancer growth factor when curcumin was added to the treatment protocol, potentially improving the results of the chemotherapy over being used alone.17
Protection against radiation therapy was demonstrated in a study using breast cancer patients receiving radiation therapy.18 At the end of the study those taking curcumin had less radiation damage to their skin.
Curcumin has also been effective against angiogenesis in tumors, or the growth of new blood vessels to feed the overgrowth of cancer cells, and against metastasis.19
Curcumin is able to affect cancer cells through multiple pathways and has fulfilled the traits for an ideal cancer prevention agent as it has low toxicity, is affordable and is easily accessible. However, while effective, it has poor bioavailability on its own.20
Poor Absorption Has One Benefit
In my interview with LaValley, he discussed the poor bioavailability of curcumin in raw form. Only 1 percent of the product will be absorbed; even supplements that have a 95 percent concentration are absorbed at 1 percent.
This means, when the supplement is taken alone, it is a challenge to maintain a therapeutic level. However, in the case of colon cancer, this poor absorption into the bloodstream may be an advantage.
As there is poor absorption, higher levels of curcumin stay in the intestinal tract for longer periods of time, having an effect on gastrointestinal cancers. In one study, participants took a 1,080 milligram (mg) dose per day of curcumin for 10 to 30 days between their initial biopsy and surgical removal.
A team of scientists at the University of Pittsburgh and at Pondicherry University, India, discovered the bioactive ingredient in turmeric, curcumin, can both prevent and cure bowel cancers.22 The team found the compound triggered cancer cell death by increasing a level of protein labeled GADD45a.23 Lead author Rajasekaran Baskaran, Ph.D., who has more than 20 years of experience in cancer research, commented:24
“Studies on the effect of curcumin on cancer and normal cells will be useful for the ongoing preclinical and clinical investigations on this potential chemopreventive agent.”
As an increased bioavailability and absorption may also improve the actions of curcumin in the body, researchers have studied a variety of different delivery methods, including oral, intravenous, subcutaneous and intraperitoneal, as well as different formulations of the product.25
Bioavailability improved when curcumin was delivered as a nanoparticle, in combination with polylactic-co-glycolic acid, liposomal encapsulation26 and when taken orally with piperine, the active ingredient in black pepper.27
Multiple Types of Cancer Affected by Curcumin
Research demonstrates that while curcumin has multiple pathways through which it impacts cancer cells, the substance also has an effect on multiple types of cancer. Studies estimate that genetics may play a role in approximately 5 percent of all cancers, with the majority of cancer growth attributed to lifestyle choices.28
Research demonstrates curcumin exhibits activity against breast cancer and decreases the toxic effect against some of the chemotherapy agents commonly used.29 Mitomycin C is a potent antineoplastic drug. However, prolonged use may lead to kidney and bone marrow damage, with secondary tumor growth. Curcumin appears to reduce the side effects of Mitomycin C and improve the efficiency of the drug at the same time.30
Another study demonstrated that curcumin inhibited the growth and metastasis of lung cancer cells.31 One of the deadliest cancers worldwide, pancreatic cancer, also appears to respond to the use of curcumin in preclinical trials.32 The antiproliferative effects on pancreatic cancer appeared to be from a reduction in oxidative stress and angiogenesis and triggering apoptosis of cancer cells.
Apoptosis, anti-inflammatory actions, reduction in angiogenesis and reduction in the adverse effects of chemotherapeutic agents has also led researchers to consider curcumin an adjunctive therapy in the treatment of liver cancer.33 Curcumin also inhibited and slowed the development of bladder cancer in rats,34 stopped the formation of metastasis in prostate cancer,35 and when combined with ultrasound, increased death of cervical cancer cells.36
But not all scientists are convinced by the number of studies over the past 15 years demonstrating the multiple effects curcumin has on the inflammatory response and cancers, as well as the low toxicity profile.37 In one meta-analysis, researchers claimed curcumin could not meet the criteria for a good drug candidate.38
More Benefits to Curcumin
Curcumin offers additional benefits to your health. It may work as well as some anti-inflammatory medications to treat arthritic conditions.39 In combination with aerobic exercise, curcumin was found to improve endothelial cell function in postmenopausal women,40 and was also found to ameliorate arterial dysfunction and oxidative stress in the elderly.41
Your brain can develop new connections powered by brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).44 Reduced levels of this hormone may be linked to depression and Alzheimer’s disease. However, curcumin can increase your levels of BDNF45 and effectively reduce your potential for suffering from age-related reduction in brain function.46
Researchers have also discovered that curcumin has an effect on several pathways in your body that may reverse insulin resistance, hyperlipidemia and other symptoms associated with metabolic syndrome and obesity.47 The reduced potential for metabolic syndrome and obesity is related to the anti-inflammatory effects of curcumin, which may also have an effect on heart disease, atherosclerosis and Type 2 diabetes.48
Genetic Regulation May Be One Powerful Way Curcumin Fights Cancer
It is becoming widely accepted that cancer is not a preprogrammed inevitability, but rather the result of the impact of your environment on genetic regulation that may trigger cancer cell growth. There are multiple influences that may damage or mutate DNA, and consequently alter genetic expression, including:
Free radical damage
Toxins and pollution
Infectious toxic by-products
Researchers have demonstrated curcumin may affect more than 100 different pathways in your cells, helping to prevent hyperproliferation of cell growth characteristic of cancer, and aiding in the treatment of the disease. Through the reduction of inflammation, prevention of the development of additional blood supply to support cancer cell growth and destruction of mutated cells to reduce metastasis, curcumin has great medicinal and preventive potential.
Several studies have demonstrated an impact on transcription factors and signaling pathways, and have reviewed the molecular mechanisms curcumin uses to regulate and modulate gene expression.49,50,51 Overall, curcumin is powerful, cost-effective and has a low toxicity profile.52
Using a Curcumin Supplement
Turmeric is a wonderful spice used in Eastern culture cuisine. It is one spice I recommend for your kitchen as it works well with tomato sauces, soups, leafy greens, cauliflower, stir-fries and stews. Choose a high-quality turmeric powder instead of curry powder as studies have found some curry powders have very little curcumin.
If you are looking for therapeutic effects, you may want to consider a supplement. It is difficult to achieve a dose of curcumin used in research solely from your diet. Typical anticancer doses range between 1,200 and 3,000 grams of bioavailable curcumin extract.
You can increase the absorption by making a microemulsion, combining 1 tablespoon of curcumin powder with one or two egg yolks and 1 to 2 teaspoons of melted coconut oil, as the curcumin is fat soluble. Then use a hand blender on high speed to emulsify the powder.
Absorption may also be increased through boiling. Add 1 tablespoon into a quart of boiling water. (If you add it to room temperature water and then boil, it doesn’t work as well.) After boiling it for 10 minutes, you will have created a 12 percent solution and you can drink this once it has cooled down. The curcumin will gradually fall out of the solution over time, and in about six hours it will be a 6 percent solution, so it is best to drink the water within four hours.
Curcumin is a very potent yellow pigment and can permanently discolor surfaces if you aren’t careful. To avoid inadvertently staining your kitchen yellow, I recommend you perform any mixing under the hood of your stove with the exhaust fan on to make sure no powder gets into your kitchen.
Alternatively, it is far easier to take curcumin in supplement form — just make sure it’s a high-quality brand that is formulated to increase bioavailability. And, look for a turmeric extract with at least 95 percent curcuminoids. Just be aware that these are relatively rare and hard to find.