Is red meat bad for you? (Part I – gathering the facts)

Red meat slices

What you might miss in studies that claim red meat causes cancer

A lot of people who are attempting to eat healthy are searching for an answer to a question that seems to bother vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike – is red meat bad for you?

At first glance it seems to be a no-brainer.  You will find quite a few studies and experiments proving that red meat causes all sorts of bad things – high blood cholesterol, cancer (specifically colon, prostate and breast cancer), high blood pressure, Alzheimer’s and more.

So many studies can’t be wrong, can they?  Should you be worried?

Well, as with many things, it’s the little details and subtleties of the research behind these grand statements that make all the difference.  Most people do not care (or do not bother to verify) whether conclusions made by research were based on relationships that are causative (when a disease is a direct result of one specific and tightly controlled variable) or associative (where disease isn’t necessarily caused by a specific variable, but is merely  associated with it – with no regard given to other important co-variables).

Most people do not read into the details of such research papers.  Ask them a question “why is red meat bad?” and, most of the time, you will hear some mumbling without any specific reference to studies, reports or conclusions.  They will cite some vague reports that eating meat causes cancer, point to some poorly designed study republished by tabloids that links meat consumption and health decline and even refer to their doctor, who also “recommends limiting the intake of red meat” (and, probably, as ironic as it is – doesn’t mind recommending some “whole grains”, instead).  Or, they will pull out their biggest gun and refer to “The China study”, which, on the surface, seems to have delivered a significant blow to the “omnivore human” theory and converted many thousands of scared adults into vegetarianism.

Except – those little details hidden behind smoke screens and marketing messages matter a lot.  In fact, they are the details that can make or break the whole case – and understanding them and using them to arrive at your own conclusions may prevent you from fatal errors that have a profound impact on your health.

Is meat bad for you?  You can make your own call in the end after looking at all the facts below.  Without diving too deep into any religious restrictions or ethical dilemmas (we have briefly discussed these in a previous article on veganism, let’s just see why some people believe meat is bad for you is and whether the data they are using holds up to scrutiny.

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Supplement selection pitfalls – and things to keep in mind

Herbal supplement bags

Recently, a friend of mine asked me to check out and comment on a certain supplement stack she found online.  This supplement claimed to contain about 200 different active herbal ingredients and, as a result – cure what seemed to be every malaise possible under the sun.  Fatigue, too much body fat, too little muscle mass, bad sleep, depression, slow metabolism, hormone disruption – you name it.  All of this was delivered in a convenient size and was claimed to be “super-concentrated” at a somewhat affordable price.

Seems like a great deal, right?

But, however tempting it sounds, we are not going to discuss this particular one supplement.  Instead, we are going to have a bit of a more general discussion about how to sort through claims made by supplement manufacturers and separate truth from fiction.

If you don’t know how to do this – you will be paying MEGABUCKS for supplements that are questionable at best – and often detrimental in the worst-case scenario.

So let’s look at a few important considerations when picking a supplement from a health store.

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Get better sooner: what to eat when you’re sick with cold or flu

man sick with cold or flu

Ah, that miserable feeling when you’re sick with cold or flu…  Sore throat, headache, muscle ache, fatigue, fever, cough, stuffy nose and perhaps nausea – and no desire to do anything other than lay in bed…

Not fun at all.

If you are lucky (and, generally, diligent in strengthening your immune system to prevent viruses and bacteria from taking you down) – you don’t get sick too often.  But whenever you do – it feels terrible.  A common question that is often asked is, then – what to eat when you’re sick.  Are there foods and supplements that help you get well quicker?  Today we will take a closer look at what you should eat, drink or take when you are sick with cold or flu – and why some conventional methods of overcoming the disease do not work that well.

But first – let’s get the basics right…

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Halloween candy and children: dispelling the myths

halloween

With Halloween just around the corner, kids of all ages are more than ready to trick or treat and bring home a large variety of colorful and sweet stuff – after all, candy has long been an integral part of Halloween.

And while a lot of adults may easily justify their children’s unlimited indulgence in what seems to be several month’s supply of colorful sugary treats (”oh, come on, let kids be kids!”) – you really should know better, because this practice is not as harmless as you  may think – and the way you handle this today may have a huge impact on their health and development in the future.

Halloween is surrounded by myths, superstitions and misconceptions.  But today we are not going to talk about the typical urban legends, like razor blades in candy, or Bloody Mary.  Today we will be talking about other myths – the myths around Halloween candy – which are probably no less scary, when you know and understand the details.

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Nutritional Ketosis, Part I – the State of being a Superman

Bacon, eggs, fat

What is a ketogenic diet? 

If you regularly follow articles on health and nutrition, you have undoubtedly heard about ketosis.  In the last several years, the interest around ketogenic diets has been rising constantly, with more and more studies done and data available to critically assess their effectiveness.

When people hear the word “diet”, the first objective they associate it with is losing weight.  But ketogenic diets are more than just methods of weight-control.  They have profound therapeutic effects on certain medical conditions and, generally, represent an evolutionary advantage that has allowed our species to survive and thrive.

Unfortunately, with typical dietary choices of today – driven largely by clever marketing messages and hidden agendas of large food corporations trying to convince you that eating their stuff is the best thing you can do and you should really ignore any potential health implications – ketosis has become a forgotten skill.

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The Essential Guide to Vitamins and Minerals – Part V (Selenium, Zinc and Iron)

Minerals (selenium, zinc, copper)

(Continued from Parts I, II, III and IV)

SELENIUM

Benefits of Selenium

Selenium supports efficient thyroid hormone synthesis, and protects from oxidative stress.

It is responsible for regulating the delivery of zinc (see below) to zinc enzymes throughout the body for proper zinc metabolism.

Selenium also supports cognitive function, immune system and fertility for both men and women. Studies have confirmed strong positive correlation between selenium and testosterone levels in males (good for both muscle building and sex drive).  On top of that, selenium increases sperm count and enhances sperm quality.

Severe selenium deficiency in adults is pretty rare, though minor deficiency is common and can have some unpleasant effects on our health.

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The Essential Guide to Vitamins and Minerals- Part IV (Potassium and Sodium)

Potassium-sodium-salt

Continued from: Part I; Part II; and  Part III;

POTASSIUM

Potassium is another mineral many people do not get enough of –especially if they overcook meat (the juices leaving the meat leach out potassium) or avoid tubers and fruits (both high in potassium) – or don’t eat meat to begin with.

Benefits of Potassium

Potassium is an electrolyte that is important for maintaining healthy blood pressure (it works in conjunction with – and counterbalances the effect of – sodium) – low levels of potassium, however, are not only associated with a risk hypertension, but also with heart disease, stroke, arthritis, cancer, digestive disorders, and infertility.   As such, potassium is important for proper functioning of heart, kidneys and other organs and maintaining acid-base balance.

Potassium’s primary functions in the body include regulating fluid balance and controlling the electrical activity of the heart and other muscles.  Basically, it helps nerves and muscles communicate. It also helps move nutrients into cells and waste products out of cells.

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Calories and why counting them is not a good idea

counting calories

One of the most frequent questions I get is something along the lines of: “I am only eating 1000 calories per day, which is far less than my calculated number of calories to maintain weight, how come I’m not getting slimmer?!”

It appears that everyone has been conditioned to think in terms of calories all the time, when evaluating nutritional value of foods and effectiveness of exercise.  Food manufacturers are trying to convince us that a specific product is awesome simply because it has zero calories (diet Coke, anyone?) and equipment manufacturers incorporate all sorts of displays to show calories burned during exercise.  Calorie calculators are abundant on the net and apps, programs and even smart kitchen scales exist to let you easily determine – and maintain – your specific daily caloric intake.

Calories have long become a cornerstone of modern nutrition – the concept of a calorie is realtively easy to explain (and even easier to sell).  But it would probably surprise you to learn that this system is completely useless for all practical purposes – counting calories to maintain weight (or calories needed to lose weight) is too unpredictable, hard to adhere to and often detrimental.

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The essential guide to vitamins and minerals – Part I

Vitamins and Supplements

In the day and age when you can pick up a wide variety of supplements that promise to satisfy your daily requirements in vitamins and minerals with only one pill a day and when many foods you might buy seem to be fortified with several of those essential elements, it is hard to imagine that people may still be deficient in them – even those who diligently take these multi-vitamin pills daily.

Sure, nobody expects you to get ALL your vitamins and minerals from synthetic supplements – you are expected to consume a certain amount of whole foods which serve as a major source, but when you look at many labels and see close to 100% of Recommended Daily Allowance noted beside a lot vitamins and minerals in a large list, you get some comfort, thinking that you are doing something right and taking appropriate insurance against diseases and supporting general health overall.

In reality, though, this might be an act of self-deception.  It is somewhat dangerous because you may think you are getting what you need when, in fact, you might be severely lacking in some very important vitamins and minerals.

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Quitting Bread: Why Adopt a Grain Free Diet

Grain based products

Most people can’t t even imagine being on a grain free diet.  Any time you find yourself at a bakery, surrounded by beautifully-displayed paper bags of freshly-baked bread, the temptation to buy one is just too strong to resist – especially if you are even a little bit hungry.  Perfectly-looking brown crust that produces unmistakable crunching sound when you squeeze it and that seductive pastry aroma filling up the whole  bakery are enough to make most people succumb to the temptation.

It appears that the love for grains is hardwired in our brains.  Baked, toasted, fried, or grilled – grain and specifically wheat products fall into the category of what most people call “hearty” foods – foods that fill you up and give you a lot of satisfaction.  Those are universally acceptable throughout the world, those are the foods that you never get tired of and that could easily be (and, for many people – are) a daily staple.

In fact, In many cultures and languages, “bread” is synonymous with “food” (think of all the phrases you’ve heard – “the daily bread”, “breadwinner”, “the bread and butter” of something, the job that “puts bread on the table”, etc.) – and that’s understandable.  Grains, flour and bread – the different stages of the same product – have historically been cheap enough to fill people’s bellies and versatile enough to be used in hundreds of different dishes, giving the illusion of variety.

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