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When youre struggling to lose weight, it might be tempting to want to try every pill and potion on the internet that promises to blast, burn or melt the pounds away in a matter of weeks. The thing is, those concoctions could make things worse instead of better. So whats the skinny on herbal weight loss supplements? Obesity medicine physician Shweta Diwakar, MD, helps us understand how they work and why its better to stick with a supervised weight loss program.

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According to Dr. Diwakar, there is a lack of high-quality evidence to suggest how herbal weight loss supplements work.

Herbal supplements claim to cause weight loss through:

Most herbal supplements have limited or no consistent data to support long-term weight loss efficacy and safety. They also have the potential for adverse interactions between supplements and prescription medications. Unlike medications, supplements are not intended to treat, diagnose, prevent or cure diseases. Therefore, claims such as reduces pain or treats heart disease arent substantiated. Claims like these can only legitimately be made for drugs that go through scientific rigor, a process thats not routinely followed for dietary supplements, says Dr. Diwakar.

One mistake that people make is thinking that herbal supplements are good for them because the ingredients arent synthetic. Dr. Diwakar points out that herbs are not always safe just because theyre natural. In fact, increased herbal and dietary supplement (HDS) use is directly proportional to increased HDS-induced liver injuries.

HDS-induced liver injuries account for about 20% of the cases of liver damage in the U.S. The major implicated ingredients for these cases include anabolic steroids and green tea extract. Many weight loss supplements that are considered unsafe can be found online. Its important to recognize that these products can come with associated risks.

If youre getting an herbal product from a retail chain, keep in mind that the salesperson might have limited knowledge about how the product works. They also might not be aware of reported problems or how the herbs might interact with medications that you may be taking. Many herbal manufacturers also make false claims about the health benefits of these products. For all of these reasons and the lack of proven health benefits, its best to avoid herbal weight loss supplements or to talk to your healthcare provider about other options.

Other things to keep in mind should you still decide to try an herbal weight loss supplement:

Here are some key points about common herbal weight loss products and some insights as to their effectiveness as weight loss agents.

Ephedrine: Ephedrine is a common ingredient in herbal dietary supplements used for weight loss. Its also an ingredient found in asthma medicine. In addition, ephedrine is used to make methamphetamine or speed.

Ephedrine can slightly decrease your appetite, but no studies have shown it to be effective in weight loss. Ephedrine can be dangerous. It can cause high blood pressure, changes in heart rate, trouble sleeping, nervousness, tremors, seizures, heart attacks, strokes and even death. Ephedrine can also interact with many prescription and over-the-counter medications. In the US, ephedra-containing dietary supplements are no longer available.

St. Johns wort: St. Johns wort, also called hypericum, is a plant that has been used for centuries to treat mental disorders, nerve pain, malaria, insect bites, wounds, burns and other conditions. More recently, St. Johns wort has been studied to treat depression, but studies have shown that it was no more effective than a placebo.

There arent too many studies that examine the use of St. Johns wort as a weight-loss agent. However, keep in mind that it shouldnt be combined with anything that contains tyramine aged cheeses, cured or processed meats, wine, pickled or fermented vegetables and citrus or tropical fruit to name a few.

It also shouldnt be combined with:

Overall, using St. Johns wort for weight loss isnt a good idea because its potentially very dangerous.

5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP). 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is found in some over-the-counter weight loss formulas. This extract from a West African plant seed contains an ingredient that is linked to a rare and potentially deadly blood disorder. It has not been proven to be an effective weight-loss agent. Until more is known, 5-HTP products should be avoided.

Chitosan: This dietary supplement is made from chitin, a starch found in the skeleton of shrimp, crab, and other shellfish. Chitosan binds with fat in fatty food, moves it through the digestive tract and then, the fat is passed out of the body in bowel movements. Some research suggests that combining chitosan with a calorie-restricted diet might result in a small amount of weight loss. But taking chitosan without reducing caloric intake doesnt appear to cause weight loss. People with shellfish allergies might be allergic to chitosan as well.

Pyruvate: Pyruvate is formed when the body digests carbohydrates and proteins. Some research suggests that it may promote slight weight loss. Found in the form of pyruvic acid, pyruvate is in many different types of foods, including red apples, cheese, and red wine. Pyruvate appears to be safe, but its claims of boosting metabolism, decreasing appetite and aiding in weight loss need further study.

Aloe: Aloe, or aloe vera, is a plant that is related to cacti. Oral forms of aloe are added to herbal weight-loss products. Oral aloe causes bowel movements and many aloe weight-loss products are marketed as internal cleansers. Aloe supplements have not been proven to promote permanent weight loss. Taking oral aloe can lead to side effects such as abdominal cramping, diarrhea, electrolyte disturbances, and decreases in potassium. Therefore, taking oral aloe is likely unsafe, especially at high doses.

Cascara: Cascara is only marketed as a dietary supplement. It is a common ingredient in weight loss products and is mostly used as a laxative for constipation. Misuse of this herb can cause disturbances in electrolytes (such as potassium and sodium). Electrolytes help your body maintain normal functioning. Do not take if you are pregnant or lactating (can be passed into breast milk). Cascara may interact with medications such as digoxin and diuretics.

Dandelion: Dandelion is a natural diuretic (a substance that makes you urinate more often). This is how it causes weight loss. Dandelion has been known to cause allergic reactions. People who are allergic to ragweed and related plants (daisies, chrysanthemums, marigolds) are likely to be allergic to dandelion.

Glucomannan: Glucomannan is a sugar made from the root of the konjac plant (Amorphophallus konjac). It is available in powder, capsules, and tablet forms. Glucomannan might work in the stomach and intestines by absorbing water to form a bulky fiber that treats constipation. It may also slow the absorption of sugar and cholesterol from the gut. Glucomannan tablets are not considered safe as they can sometimes cause blockages of the throat or intestines. Glucomannan may interfere with blood sugar control. Blood sugar should be closely monitored if you have diabetes and use glucomannan.

Guarana: Made from the seeds of a plant native to Brazil, guarana is an effective central nervous system stimulant. It is used as a weight loss product due to its stimulant and diuretic effects. Guarana contains caffeine and may cause high blood pressure. Some of the extracts have been known to interact with anticoagulants (e.g., warfarin [Coumadin]) and lengthen the bleeding time in the event of a health emergency. Many advertisements state that guarana is free from side effects; however, this statement is not true. Side effects may include nausea, dizziness, and anxiety.

Yerba mate: Also known as Paraguay tea, yerba mate is a strong central nervous system stimulant (the doses typically used mimic that of 100 to 200 milligrams of caffeine). The main reported side effects excessive central nervous system stimulation (speeding up the bodys mental and physical activity) and high blood pressure. Yerba mate has not been proven as a weight-loss aid. A few cases of poisoning, which led to hospitalization, have been reported with the use of this product. When taken in large amounts or for long periods, yerba mate increases the risk of mouth, esophageal, laryngeal, kidney, bladder and lung cancers. This risk is especially high for people who smoke or drink alcohol.

Guar gum: Also known as guar, guar flour, and jaguar gum, guar gum is a dietary fiber obtained from the Indian cluster bean. Guar gum is often used as a thickening agent for foods and drugs. It has been studied for decreasing cholesterol, managing diabetes and weight loss. As a weight-loss product, it helps move foods through the digestive tract and firms up stool. It can decrease appetite by providing a feeling of fullness. However, like glucomannan, guar gum and guar gum preparations have been linked to causing blockages in the esophagus. The water-retaining ability of the gum permits it to swell to 10- to 20-fold and has led to gastrointestinal blockages. Guar gum can also cause large swings in blood glucose (sugar) levels. Diabetic patients should avoid this ingredient.

Herbal diuretics: Many herbal diuretics are commonly found in over-the-counter (OTC) weight-loss products and herbal weight-loss products. Most of the diuretics used OTC come from xanthine alkaloids (like caffeine or theobromine). Avoid anything that contains juniper seeds (capable of causing renal damage), equistine (neurotoxic and can cause brain damage) and horsetail/shave grass (contain several dangerous ingredients that can lead to convulsions or hyperactivity).

Herbal diuretics can interact with certain drugs like lithium, digoxin, or conventional diuretics such as furosemide or hydrochlorothiazide. They also do not provide enough water loss to be considered effective weight loss aids.

While many products out there suggest that they can help you lose weight fast, they can also come with a slew of health concerns. If you need help with starting your weight loss journey, talk to your provider. They can steer you in the right direction and help you find a program that is safe and effective.

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Aug 28th, 2021 | Filed under Diet Safely

As the highly infectious Delta variant continues to spread and make a devastating impact on Americans' lives, it's even more vital now to provide your immune system with the tools it needs to keep your body safe.

While getting the COVID-19 vaccination is the absolute best way to prevent yourself from enduring severe symptoms of the Delta variant, eating a diet rich in foods that support your immune system is just one extra step you can take (in addition to the vaccine) to help you combat the disease.

RELATED:Here's Exactly How a Plant-Based Diet Can Protect You From Disease, According to Experts

A recent study published in theBMJ found that those who follow a plant-based diet and/or a pescatarian diet have lower odds of experiencing moderate-to-severe COVID-19 symptoms. The study looked at healthcare workers, who had substantial exposure to COVID-19, from six countries: France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Participants were asked to complete an online survey from July 17 to July 25, 2020, that covered demographic characteristics, dietary information, and COVID-19 outcomes.

"Compared to participants who reported following plant-based diets, those who reported following 'low carbohydrate, high protein diets' had greater odds of moderate-to-severe COVID-19," Hyunju Kim, Ph.D., assistant scientist at Johns Hopkins, and the first author of the study tells Eat This, Not That!

However, one major limitation of this study is that the majority of participants were male physicians, so the findings would also have to be replicated in female healthcare workers to be more conclusive. Still, eating a plant-based diet has been shown to provide a host of benefits to both your immune system and overall health.

"This study tells us that diet does indeed play a role in COVID-19 infections, including the severity of symptoms and duration of illness," says Sharon Palmer, M.S., R.D.N, also known as The Plant-Powered Dietitian. "While no studies have previously looked at this, we do know that research has shown a strong link between nutrition and immunity, which includes not only the quality of diet people consume, but also if they have health factors related to poor diet, such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease."

RELATED:Dangerous Side Effects of Having High Blood Pressure

More specifically, the study identified that those who followed a plant-based diet had a 73% lower chance of suffering from moderate-to-severe COVID-19 compared to those who didn't eat a plant-based diet. The findings didn't surprise Palmer, adding that we already know certain nutrients including vitamins A, C, and E as well as phytochemicals and fiber, may be significant for supporting immune health.

"These nutrients are rich in whole plant foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, pulses, nuts, and seeds. In addition, vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids may be protective, and they are rich in pescatarian diets," she says. "In contrast, Western-style eating patternshigh in red meat, processed meat, and refined grainsare linked with [being] pro-inflammatory and [have] other negative effects."

Kim says she and her colleagues also found that supplementation of specific nutrients, such as vitamins A, C, and E decreased the risk of respiratory infections, such as the common cold, and even shortened the duration of these types of ailments. Keep in mind, there's more research that needs to be done.

"Our results need to be confirmed in prospective studies, studies with a larger sample size of individuals with COVID-19, studies with detailed macronutrient and micronutrient intake data, and objective markers, [or] biomarkers such as plasma micronutrient levels," says Kim.

In the interim, why not test out some more plant-based recipes to help support your immune system and overall well-being?

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This One Diet Can Protect Your Immune System, New Study Says | Eat This Not That - Eat This, Not That

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Aug 28th, 2021 | Filed under Diet Safely

India has a sizeable portion of people who suffer from various nutritional deficiencies. According to studies by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), prevalence of Vitamin D deficiency ranged from 40 per cent to 99 per cent, while that of vitamin B12 deficiency was at least 47 per cent in the Indian population. Deficiencies of important nutrients like iron, folic acid and macro nutrients like protein are also very common in India. Speaking on this, Mihir Gadani, Co-Founder, OZiva, says, Nutritional deficiencies are due to the absence of right nutrition in daily diet or other physiological conditions. Vitamin deficiencies can lead to various health conditions and can affect the overall functioning of the body. Hence it is imperative to supplement your diet with the right kind of vitamins and minerals.

Nutritionists and experts across the world suggest that picking the right supplements is the key to fighting nutritional deficiencies. That being said, there is a cloud of contention regarding the usefulness and overall impact of dietary supplements. Gadani acknowledges that overconsuming a particular supplement for a sustained period can put the individual at risk of suffering from a condition known as vitamin overdose. While water-soluble vitamins like B and C are flushed out of the body, synthetic vitamins A, D, E and K will be stored in the body as they are fat soluble. Such storage usually happens in the fatty tissues and liver, leading to various health hazards like nutritional imbalance and the same can also upset the equation of the body with other nutrients and minerals, he adds.

Addressing Nutritional DeficienciesSo, what can one do to address nutritional deficiencies that might be developing in the body? Well, start with eating the right kind of food that can lend you the essential nutrition and energy necessary for everyday function. If you stick to eating a well-balanced diet consisting of fresh fruits and vegetables, you are likely to meet your necessary vitamin intake. However, a substantial percentage of people who manage to eat good food still suffer from nutritional deficiencies. Therefore, consuming some kind of supplement to fulfill the required nutritional quota is also important. Global experts recommend choosing clean and plant-based nutritional supplements like natural vitamins and minerals over synthetic supplements.

Keep In Mind: Choose supplements according to your health needs Read labels, go for plant-based supplements free of chemicals, added sugars, etc Buy supplements from a trusted source or brand Know the recommended daily amount (RDA) for all vitamins and minerals and avoid ingesting more than whats required; take expert advice for the same and stick to the dosage Never substitute dietary supplements for wholesome food Take fat soluble vitamins with high-fat meals to facilitate better absorption; ingest water soluble supplements first thing in the morning or half an hour before meals Taking probiotics like yoghurt with supplements can aid digestion and increase nutrient absorption Reduce caffeine consumption if youre taking calcium supplements, avoid taking zinc and copper, and iron and calcium supplements together Pair certain nutrients to increase absorption vitamins D and K2 boost calcium absorption, while vitamin C helps increase iron absorption

Read more: Herbs And Spices To Boost Your Kids Immunity During The Pandemic

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Understanding The Role Of Dietary Supplements And How To Use Them Safely - Femina

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Aug 28th, 2021 | Filed under Diet Safely

VALLEY CENTER, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 10: General view of the atmosphere at Bates Nut Farm on October 10, 2020 in Valley Center, California. (Photo by Daniel Knighton/Getty Images)

Its officially the arrival of pumpkin spice season thanks to Starbucks, but we already know that this seasonal spice mix is not dog friendly. But what about actual pumpkin? Is that a dog safe treat?

As Fetch by WebMD explains, pumpkin is actually a doggy superfood. Not only does it help to soothe an upset stomach (in moderation), but it also helps to remove excess water in a dogs digestive tract. Dog owners can even use this product to help their pups when they have diarrhea.

Basically, pumpkin is magic when it comes to dogs and we love that. The thing about pumpkin, is that it can be added to your dogs regular meal as needed or it can be used as an ingredient in pet friendly dog treats. The fact that it is actually a pretty versatile product for our dogs is a great reason to keep in on hand.

Just because pumpkin is good and safe for your dog to eat, that doesnt mean that there are not some things to pay attention to as well. In fact, while this is good for our dogs, it can still cause problems if we give them too much.

This is a high calorie ingredient, which means it should never be more than 10 percent of your dogs diet. Its also important to remember that too much fiber can also be a bad thing, so we should always try to be careful when incorporating this into your pups meals or treats.

All this to say that it looks like our pups can join us in our Fall foodie extravaganzas. Or at the very least, they can get into the Autumnal spirit with their own pumpkin treats.

Yes, pumpkin is dog safe and also good for your dog. But just like anything, it is important to remember moderation is key. Just like with us, too much of a good thing can easily become a bad thing.

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Aug 28th, 2021 | Filed under Diet Safely

Protein powder is one of the top nutrition supplements on the market.

Some people use it to support muscle growth, and others use it because they want to consume more protein than theyre getting from food alone. Protein powder can be part of a balanced diet.

However, you may wonder if consuming a lot of protein powder can be harmful. The short answer is no, but it may have minor side effects.

This article discusses whether consuming too much protein powder is dangerous, reviews the research on its side effects, and examines some misconceptions about protein powder.

Protein powders are concentrated forms of protein from animal or plant sources. You can buy them at many health food stores and online, and theres a wide range of brands, types, and flavors to choose from.

Animal-based protein powders are usually made of two milk proteins called whey and casein, with whey being more popular. While less common, protein powders containing beef or chicken protein are also available.

Whey protein powder is isolated from whey, a liquid byproduct of cheese making that manufacturers spray-dry into a powder (1, 2).

Plant protein powders can be made from various plant-based proteins, such as brown rice, pea, soy, and hemp. Typically, plant-based protein powders contain a blend of plant proteins (3).

Both types of protein powder will generally provide 2030 grams of protein per scoop, so they are a great way to get additional protein in your diet. They also commonly contain added vitamins, flavors, and sweeteners.

People often use protein powder after workouts to support muscle growth. Your muscles need enough protein to rebuild muscle tissue after a strength training workout (4, 5, 6, 7).

You might use it if you have difficulty meeting your daily protein needs through food alone for example, if you arent eating large amounts of food or youre following a vegan diet (8, 9, 10).

That said, if youre getting enough protein through food, its unlikely that youll see much benefit from taking protein powder.

The DRI (Dietary Reference Intake) for protein is 0.36 grams of protein per pound (0.8 grams per kg) of your body weight per day.

However, if youre aiming to build muscle, this can go up to 0.60.9 grams per pound (1.42.0 grams per kg) per day. A good general rule is to try to get 2040 grams of protein per meal (4, 5, 11, 12).

Protein powder is a concentrated form of protein from plant or animal sources. Available types include whey, casein, pea, soy, and rice.

Simply put, protein powder is not bad for you.

Its a convenient source of protein that helps many people meet their daily protein needs.

Of course, if you have allergies to a certain type of protein or other ingredients in a protein powder, then it will cause you to have an allergic reaction. In that case, you should avoid that type of protein powder.

The ingredients in protein powders vary significantly among brands and products.

While the Food and Drug Administration regulates dietary supplements such as protein powder, manufacturers are responsible for evaluating the safety, effectiveness, and labeling of their products (13, 14).

This means that the labels on protein powders and other dietary supplements could provide misleading ingredient or product information. In fact, one study found that numerous protein powders actually contained lower-cost proteins such as chicken, rice, and soy (15).

Though this is rare, protein powders may sometimes contain harmful ingredients or substances that have been banned in sports. Fortunately, many reputable protein powder brands use third-party testing to demonstrate their products safety and transparency (16).

Try to select a protein powder from a reputable company with third-party testing. And make an effort to eat a balanced diet that includes plenty of protein-rich whole foods, such as lean meats, poultry, eggs, beans, lentils, tofu, nuts, and seeds.

Protein powder is not bad for you. Some protein powders may contain unwanted or harmful ingredients, but this is rare. Be sure to buy powders that have been through third-party testing they will say this on the label.

You might be worried about taking too much protein powder because youve heard that it affects your liver, kidneys, or bones. But research has shown that these claims are false.

Heres a look at these misconceptions in detail.

One major concern some people raise about taking protein powder is that it affects the kidneys and liver.

Experts once thought that too much protein could damage the kidneys and liver in healthy people, but many recent studies have disproven this (17, 18, 19, 20).

In one study, 48 men and women consumed a high protein diet from both food and whey-beef protein powder during an 8-week heavy resistance training program. Those who took the protein powder didnt have any difference in kidney function (21).

However, those with kidney disease or decreased kidney function have more difficulty excreting protein waste products in their urine and will need to monitor their protein intake.

Decreased kidney function is defined as an estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) of less than 90 (22, 23).

Therefore, unless you have chronic kidney disease or decreased kidney function, consuming protein powder and other high protein foods is likely safe.

People once thought a high protein diet was harmful for bone health. This myth was rooted in the idea that proteins high acid content stripped bones of their calcium, leading to high calcium levels in the urine and weaker bones (24).

However, current research suggests that a high protein diet may actually boost bone health.

Researchers believe it does this by promoting calcium absorption, supporting the growth of skeletal muscle mass, and preserving bone mass during weight loss (24, 25, 26, 27).

In an 18-month high quality study, 280 older men and women consumed 45 grams of whey protein or a placebo each day. Results showed no differences in bone composition between the groups (28).

Interestingly, the whey protein group preserved significantly more muscle mass, suggesting that protein may help reduce age-related muscle loss. This may benefit bone health by allowing aging people to stay active longer (28).

To date, there is no evidence that consuming protein powder or high protein foods is harmful to bone, liver, or kidney health. If you have kidney issues, speak with a doctor before taking protein powder to make sure its safe for you.

Protein powders are generally recognized as safe, although you may experience digestive side effects if you consume large amounts of protein powder.

If youre lactose intolerant or otherwise sensitive to lactose, dairy-based protein powder may lead to stomach upset, bloating, and gas. Instead, opt for a plant-based protein powder or try whey protein isolate, which is much lower in lactose than other dairy protein powders (29).

If you want to use plant-based protein powder, read the ingredient label carefully to identify any potential food allergens or sensitivities. For example, soy and gluten are common allergens found in plant-based protein powders (30).

Furthermore, those who have irritable bowel syndrome or are sensitive to FODMAPs (fermentable oligo-, di-, and monosaccharides and polyols) may experience bloating and cramping from pea protein powder or powders with added sugar alcohols (31).

Companies may add sugar alcohols as low calorie sweeteners.

Trial and error will help you determine the best protein powder for you.

The main side effects of consuming a lot of protein powder are digestive issues such as bloating, gas, and cramping. If you have any food sensitivities, be sure to read the label first.

Most peoples bodies can process excess protein from food and supplements and can safely tolerate 1.141.5 grams per pound (2.53.3 grams per kg) of protein per day (4, 32).

However, more research is needed to investigate an upper limit for protein powder consumption.

Until then, if you want to use protein powder, stick to 12 servings per day and get the rest of your protein through food.

Theres no known safety limit for protein powder. Most research shows healthy people can tolerate up to 1.5 grams of protein per pound (3.3 grams per kg) of body weight per day from both food and protein supplements with no side effects.

Protein is important for growth and development during childhood and adolescence. Most experts agree that children and teens should get their protein from food sources such as (33, 34, 35):

In some cases, a healthcare professional might recommend that a child take a protein supplement, such as PediaSure, if the child is malnourished, is a picky eater, or has strict dietary restrictions.

While there is no data to suggest that protein powder is harmful to children and teens, relying on protein powder and supplements may displace nutritious, whole foods in the diet. Therefore, protein-rich whole foods should come first (36).

If youre concerned that your child or teen isnt getting enough protein, speak with a registered dietitian, a qualified nutritionist, or your childs doctor.

Children and teens should aim to get their protein from food first to ensure theyre getting enough calories and nutrients. A healthcare professional may recommend a protein supplement for picky eaters or those with malnutrition.

Protein powder can be a great addition to a balanced diet. However, here are a few important considerations.

It might feel overwhelming to choose a protein powder from the many available options online or at the health food store. Here are a few things you can do to make it easier:

Though protein powder can be a great addition to your diet, you dont need to consume it to be healthy.

Whole, protein-rich foods contain vitamins and minerals that are important for health. Whats more, they take longer to digest than protein powder, so they may make you feel full longer.

On the other hand, protein powder is considered predigested and will leave your stomach more quickly after you consume it than whole foods do (37).

Instead, use protein powder to supplement your balanced diet at times when you may not be able to meet your protein needs.

When shopping for a protein powder, look at the label to ensure the product has been third-party tested and doesnt contain any unwanted ingredients. Ideally, use protein powder in addition to a nutritious diet, not as a replacement for one.

If youve ever wondered whether protein powder is safe to use, you can rest assured that it is.

Due to protein powders popularity, many research studies have investigated its safety and effectiveness. Theyve found that its safe and does not pose a risk to bone, liver, or kidney health, even if you take it in large amounts.

Still, its best to get most of your protein from whole, minimally processed foods and use protein powder only to address any unmet protein needs.

The best protein powders will be third-party tested, contain 2030 grams of protein per scoop, and contain ingredients you can personally tolerate.

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Is Protein Powder Bad for You? Downsides and More - Healthline

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Aug 28th, 2021 | Filed under Diet Safely

Introducing your little one to solid foods is an exciting sometimes overwhelming time. It can be tricky to figure out which foods are safe and which should be avoided for babies under a certain age.

Infant cereal, fruits, and vegetables are popular choices for babys first foods, but you may wonder whether other foods, such as fish, are safe for your baby.

This article discusses how to introduce your baby to fish, as well as the related benefits, safety considerations, and precautions.

Parents often begin introducing solid foods to their babies around 46 months of age. Breast milk or formula is the main source of nutrition for babies under 1 year, and any solid foods offered to babies are considered complementary (1).

Babies get almost all of the nutrition they need through breastmilk and formula. However, vitamin D and iron are two nutrients that breastfed babies may not get enough of, so its beneficial when the foods they eat contain them.

Vitamin D is crucial for healthy bones and brain development, and iron is an essential mineral thats important for many bodily functions, including transporting oxygen (2, 3, 4, 5).

Formula is fortified with these nutrients, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends iron and vitamin D supplement drops for breastfed babies (6).

Many parents start solids by offering infant cereals, which are typically fortified with iron. Fish is another great food for your baby, as its a source of iron (7).

Some types of fish, such as salmon, are also a great source of vitamin D, which breastmilk lacks (8).

Additionally, fish is a great source of protein, an important nutrient that builds and repairs tissues in the body, allowing for healthy growth in little ones.

Fish also offers a healthy amount of zinc, another mineral that plays a crucial role in a healthy immune system and cellular growth (9, 10).

Some types of fish contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential fatty acids that provide several health benefits for both babies and adults.

In babies specifically, omega-3 fatty acids are important for healthy brain, eye, and immune system function and development (11, 12, 13, 14).

Vitamin B12 and iodine are two more nutrients found in fish that are beneficial for healthy brain development and red blood cells in babies (15, 16).

Its considered safe for babies to eat a wide variety of foods once they begin eating solids. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends waiting until your baby is 6 months before introducing any solid foods (17).

Fish is among the most common allergens, known as the Big 8, which is a list of foods responsible for most allergic reactions (18).

In the past, experts recommended delaying these foods. However, more recent research has shown that theres no need to delay introducing allergens, and introducing them early, at age 46 months, may help prevent an allergy (19, 20).

Most experts recommend introducing fish and other potential allergens when you introduce other solid foods, but its best to focus on one new food at a time.

By introducing one potential allergen every few days, you can monitor your baby for a potential reaction and identify the trigger more easily (17, 21).

Not all fish are considered safe for babies, as certain types contain high levels of mercury. Here are some safe fish choices to offer babies (22):

Currently, there are no recommendations regarding the amount of fish to serve babies. However, the recommendation for children ages 23 is 1 ounce (28 grams) of fish once or twice per week (23).

While all fish contain some mercury, certain types have higher amounts than others. Too much mercury can lead to toxicity and be a severe health concern. For babies, its best to avoid high mercury fish, such as (22):

According to the United States Department of Agriculture Dietary Guidelines, babies and young children should not consume raw fish, so avoid offering sushi or sashimi to your little one (24).

There are several ways you can offer fish to your baby. If you are using a baby-led weaning approach, you can simply cook the fish to a soft texture and cut it into appropriately sized pieces.

If youve chosen to stick with pures, you can cook the fish and pure it yourself. Alternatively, buy it premade.

In order to prepare the fish safely for your baby, remove the skin and debone the fish (lookout for small bones, too) to reduce their risk of choking.

Next, be sure to cook the fish to an internal temperature of 145F (62.8 C). A meat thermometer can help ensure the fish reaches a safe temperature (24).

Ideally, the fish will be soft so that your baby can chew it easily. Try cutting the fish into small pieces or flakes before offering it, or you can pure it if you prefer to offer the fish on a spoon.

Canned and frozen fish provide the same nutritional benefits and often come boneless and skinless. They can also be more affordable and easier to keep on hand.

You can prepare these for your baby similarly to how you would cook fish for yourself. Try baking, broiling, or poaching fish. Fish cakes are another popular way to serve fish to your baby.

Sodium and added sugar should be limited for babies, so avoid adding salt, as well as sugary or sweet sauces. Be sure not to add honey to the fish you prepare for your baby, as babies under 1 year should avoid honey.

While theres no specific recommendation regarding how much fish babies should consume, the CDC recommends that adults eat 23 servings, or 812 ounces, of low mercury fish per week.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a 1-ounce (28-gram) serving for children 23 years of age, so your baby will likely eat a little less than that (23, 25).

When offering any type of food to babies, its important to make sure it has been handled, stored, and cooked safely to reduce the risk of foodborne illness.

Fish should first be cooked to an internal temperature of 145 F (62.8 C), and then cooled to a safe temperature for your baby (24).

Cooked fish can be stored in the refrigerator for 23 days, or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Raw fish should only be kept in the fridge for 1 or 2 days before cooking or freezing. Fish should not be left out at room temperature for longer than 2 hours (26).

Because fish is considered a top allergen, its a good idea to become familiar with the signs of an allergic reaction.

Call your pediatrician if you notice a mild reaction to fish. That may include swelling around the lips and mouth, diarrhea, or vomiting.

Call 911 if you notice a more severe reaction, such as anaphylaxis, which often presents as drooling, vomiting or diarrhea, scratching, and drowsiness in babies. Other signs might include wheezing, coughing, or hives (27).

Allergic reactions can happen either immediately or over time, so its recommended that you introduce one potential allergen every few days so that you can identify any triggers.

Fish can provide a good source of protein, iron, zinc, omega-3, iodine, and vitamin B12 for your baby, all of which are important nutrients for healthy growth and development.

Be sure to choose a fish that is low in mercury, and prepare it safely by cooking it to an internal temperature of 145F (62.8 C) and either cutting it into appropriately sized pieces or pureing it.

Before introducing any solid food, be sure to talk with your babys pediatrician, especially if food allergies run in your family.

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Nuts and seeds are a great calorie-dense staple, rich in fiber, plant-based protein, and healthy fats, according to the journal Nutrients. They are also incredibly versatile. You can enjoy a handful as a snack, sprinkle some on top of oatmeal, yogurt, and salads, or even use them in place of bread crumbs on meat, poultry, or fish before baking. The Nutrients study also found that eating nuts regularly is associated with lower cholesterol and lower risk of gallstones, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. In fact, another study that used data from the Nurses Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study found that eating nuts daily was linked to a longer, healthier life.

Theyre perfect in an emergency because, while they can be added to any dish, they dont have to be cooked. If you dont have power, go nuts! And dont forget seeds chia, flax, sesame, and sunflower seeds all contain those healthy fats and fiber too, according to research, and chia and ground flax seeds are both sources of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

Shelf life: Six to 12 months (bagged), 12 to 24 months (canned), per the Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank

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For the first time in nearly half a century the Illinois Department of Public Health doesnt have a do not eat warning for folks consuming fish from the 270-mile long Illinois River, reports the Chicago Tribune.

Department of Health advisories were made following a fish sample study collected from the Illinois River at various places. It issues annual advisories for about 50 rivers and streams, plus lakes and portions of Lake Michigan.

The Illinois River is an important Midwest waterway stretching diagonally across the state from just southwest of Chicago to where it enters the Mississippi River north of St. Louis.

Fish consumption advisories are based primarily on protecting sensitive human populations, including women of childbearing age, pregnant women, fetuses, nursing mothers, and children younger than 15 years of age.

The previous advisory for the Illinois River suggested people should not ingest fish from it during a given length of time, such as once per week or once per month. Now the mostlimiting advisory for Illinois River fish consumption is along two regions of the river for those eating channel catfish, which the department has now relaxed, advising one meal per month.

All of this suggests a positive direction for diminishing pollution in the Illinois River, which for nearly half a century had fish deemed unfit for human consumption. According to the Tribune, state officials say concentrations of polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, have declined, leading to the advisorys removal for the first time since the 1970s.

PCB toxic contaminants were used as insulating fluids for electrical equipment, and were banned in 1979 because they harm the environment and are detrimental to humans. Prior to the ban, PCBs entered the air, water, and soil during manufacture and use. Wastes containing PCBs often were placed in dumps and landfills.

Read Next: Illinois Record Lake Trout Caught Off Chicagos Montrose Harbor

PCBs in water contaminate fish, as they build up in fatty fish tissue that can be consumed by humans with toxic consequences. Traces of PCBs have been found in people and animals world wide even in the remote Arctic.

But according to NOAA, PCBs break down over time and diminish in the environment, which likely is what is helping the Illinois River.

PCBs degrade in the environment by sunlight or by microorganisms, says NOAA. Sunlight plays an important role breaking down of PCBs when they are in the air, shallow water, or surface soils. Microorganisms, such as bacteria, algae, or fungi, biodegrade PCBs when found in soil or sediments.

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Illinois Lifts Ban on Eating Fish for the First Time in 50 Years - Outdoor Life Magazine

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Aug 28th, 2021 | Filed under Diet Safely

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. Encounters between bears and humans continue throughout southern Colorado; a common theme this time of the year in Colorado bear country.

Bears are in hyperphagia which means they are eating about 20 hours a day, said Assistant Area Wildlife Manager, Tim Kroening. They are trying to consume 20,000 to pack on all that extra weight.

With hibernation right around the corner, now is the time to be bear aware, since bears tend to become more aggressive while on the prowl for food.

This time of year, our bears are going to be more active than any other time of the year, said Kroening.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife says the best way to keep you and bears safe is bear proofing your home.

Some of those tips include making sure your trash is in a secure location, clean out dumpsters regularly, and be sure to use a bear-resistant trash can or dumpster.

They can smell up to five miles if conditions are right, they have an amazing nose, better than a bloodhound, said Kroening.

Nearly two years ago, CPW found several items inside the stomachs of several bears throughout the state.

3 pictures of the stomach contents of 3 bears that we lost, all full of human supplied food sources. Their stories

1-Bear that attacked a woman in Aspen2-Bear that bluff charged officers in Boulder3-Bear involved in attack of man Monday in Pine

This is preventable pic.twitter.com/CodzE6nhWl

We have had bears die from eating trashwhether its a blockage in their throat from plastic bags and skewer puncture their pancreas before, said Kroening.

CPW says situations like this can all be prevented, and that violators will be issued warnings and could face additional fines if the problem continues.

Its up to us as Coloradans we are living in bear habitat and we also have to do our responsibly attractants are secured so our wildlife stays wild, said Kroening.

To learn more about bears and other wildlife in Colorado, visit this website.

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Prickly pear, a type of edible cactus fruit, is a sweet and delicious food that may have health benefits.

It has long been used in Mexican cuisine, and its growing in popularity in the American Southwest and beyond. Many parts of the plant are edible, and prickly pear fruit is used in cocktails, juices, jams, and other dishes.

In addition to its culinary uses, prickly pear has an impressive nutritional profile and may help promote health and protect against certain diseases.

This article explores prickly pears nutrition, possible benefits and downsides, and ways to prepare it.

Prickly pear, scientifically known as Opuntia ficus-indica, is a member of the Cactaceae cactus family. Its also called nopal, tuna, sabra, and paddle cactus.

The prickly pear cactus has wide, flat, green pads (or paddles) that are commonly referred to as nopales. Nopales are edible and served in Mexican egg dishes, salads, tacos, and soups (1).

They are fairly crunchy but can have a slimy texture, depending on how theyre prepared. The taste of nopales has been described as vegetal, slightly tart, and citrus-like (1).

The small, oval fruit that grows on top of nopales is the prickly pear, also known as tuna. It varies in color and can be green, pink, red, purple, or yellow-orange (1).

The flesh of prickly pears is juicy, contains seeds, and has a sweet taste similar to that of watermelon. You can eat prickly pear flesh raw or cooked. Its often turned into juice and added to cocktails or cooked down into jams. Prickly pear flowers are also edible (1).

As the name suggests, prickly pear fruit and pads have prickles on their exterior. Known as glochids, they can stick to your hands and be very painful. Glochids need to be removed before consuming prickly pear (1).

Since it mainly grows in desert environments, prickly pear is very common in Mexico and the American Southwest. In fact, prickly pear cactus is the state plant of Texas. It is also grown in Italy and other parts of the Mediterranean (2).

You can find prickly pear fruits (and nopales) at markets and grocery stores in these areas. They may also be imported to grocery stores in other locations, particularly Mexican food markets and grocery chains that carry unique fruits or ingredients.

Due to the many beneficial plant compounds and nutrients it contains, prickly pear was used in Mexican folk medicine to treat ulcers, liver conditions, and other issues. The potential medicinal properties of this cactus fruit continue to be explored (2, 3).

Prickly pear is the name of the oval fruit with prickly skin and juicy flesh that grows on top of cactus paddles. Its a common ingredient in Mexican cuisine and was historically used for medicinal purposes.

The nutritional profile of prickly pears may vary slightly depending on the variety. Theyre generally a good source of fiber and contain many vitamins and minerals.

One cup (149 grams) of raw prickly pear contains (4):

Prickly pears are a good source of dietary fiber, providing about 19% of the DV in 1 cup (149 grams). They contain both soluble and insoluble fiber, both of which are important for healthy digestion (4, 5).

The magnesium, potassium, and calcium in prickly pears are key nutrients for healthy blood pressure, while vitamin C plays an important role in immune system health (6, 7).

Prickly pears also contain many beneficial plant compounds, including phenolic acids, flavonoids, and pigments, which act as antioxidants.

Antioxidants help prevent oxidative damage thats caused by reactive molecules called free radicals and can lead to disease (2, 3).

Prickly pears are good sources of fiber and provide several vitamins, minerals, and antioxidant compounds.

Many of the purported benefits of prickly pear stem from its fiber and antioxidant content. While few human studies have analyzed prickly pears ability to promote health, preliminary research suggests promising results.

The fiber in prickly pear cactus plants may aid weight loss by binding to dietary fat, increasing its excretion and reducing energy absorption (8, 9).

A study including 20 healthy adults found that taking 2 tablets, each containing 500 mg of cactus fiber, 3 times per day (a total of 3 grams of cactus fiber daily) after meals led to significantly more fecal fat excretion, compared with a placebo (9).

The study authors concluded that these results supported the idea that cactus fiber could play a role in weight loss by reducing the amount of dietary fat available for absorption. However, they did not measure weight loss in the participants (9).

However, other studies on cactus fiber tablets ability to increase fecal fat excretion have tracked weight loss. One 12-week study noted that supplementing with cactus fiber led to greater weight loss, compared with a placebo (8).

While the results of these studies are interesting, its important to note that they have focused on fiber tablets derived from the prickly pear cactus plant not the fruit itself.

A typical prickly pear fruit contains more than three grams of fiber and is relatively low in calories, so you may see similar weight loss benefits. However, more research is needed to understand how eating prickly pear may play a role in weight management (4).

Eating prickly pear is often boasted as a way to get glowing skin and shiny hair. Variations of prickly pear are even added to hair conditioners and skin care products.

Some of its compounds and nutrients, like vitamin C and betalain pigments, have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. Prickly pear also contains polyunsaturated fatty acids, especially in the seeds and peel, which play a role in skin and hair health (10, 11).

A small study including 18 healthy adults found that consuming 250 grams of prickly pear fruit pulp twice daily for 2 weeks was comparable to a vitamin C supplement in regards to increasing blood levels of the antioxidant vitamins C and E and reducing oxidative stress (10).

The antioxidant boost from prickly pear may improve skin and hair health by protecting against damage to these areas caused by oxidative stress related to aging, inflammation, sun exposure, or other causes (12, 13).

Still, no studies have specifically focused on prickly pears benefits for skin or hair. As such, the theory that antioxidant-rich prickly pair protects against skin and hair damage is mostly untested.

However, topical applications of prickly pear for skin but not hair have been studied.

One study in test tubes and rats found that oil pressed from prickly pear seeds had antimicrobial effects against skin infections and wound-healing properties (14).

Whether topically applying prickly pear oil to human skin or eating prickly pear fruit would have similar benefits for skin health is unclear. Overall, the skin and hair benefits of prickly pear are not yet fully understood.

Another possible benefit of prickly pear is its use in blood sugar management and diabetes complications.

The soluble fiber pectin in prickly pears may have blood-sugar-lowering properties and beneficial effects on blood fat levels (15, 16).

Some preliminary studies in humans suggest that prickly pear consumption may decrease fasting blood sugar levels and post-meal insulin levels in both healthy adults and those with type 2 diabetes (15).

However, the findings have been mixed, and the effects of prickly pear seem to be largely dependent on the form of consumption and the part of the plant used.

One review of 20 human studies found that consuming the flat pads of the prickly pear cactus led to significant reductions in blood sugar and insulin levels. The prickly pear fruit had no significant effects on blood sugar (15).

However, prickly pear fruit may be more beneficial than the pads when it comes to heart health. Many people with type 2 diabetes have high triglyceride and total and LDL bad cholesterol levels, which may increase the risk of heart disease (17, 18).

Eating prickly pear fruit may lead to significant reductions in total and LDL cholesterol levels, according to another systematic review of 11 studies including both healthy adults and those with type 2 diabetes and other metabolic conditions (17).

On the other hand, the consumption of cactus pads or powders made from this part of the cactus did not appear to have equally beneficial effects on blood fat levels (17).

More research is needed to understand how much and what form of prickly pear is most helpful for managing blood sugar levels and improving blood fat levels.

Prickly pear has been historically used to treat liver problems, and some modern studies back this idea.

Its thought that the antioxidant compounds in prickly pear help protect against inflammation and oxidative stress that can damage the liver (11).

One study in rats with obesity found that eating prickly pear cactus may protect against nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, in part by decreasing oxidative stress (19).

Another study in mice suggested that prickly pear juice helps prevent liver injury caused by chronic alcohol consumption by enhancing antioxidant status and preventing oxidative damage triggered by alcohol (20).

Prickly pear may have similar effects in humans who drink alcohol. A study in 55 healthy adults found that taking an extract of the cactus plant before drinking alcohol helped reduce hangover symptoms and blood markers of inflammation more than a placebo (21).

However, more research in humans is needed to better understand prickly pears effects on liver health. Its also unclear whether consuming prickly pear fruit offers benefits comparable to those of consuming other parts of the plant.

Studies suggest prickly pear may help with weight loss, promote skin and hair health, improve blood sugar and blood fat levels, and protect the liver. However, more research is needed.

Prickly pear is safe to consume when properly prepared, but it may have some downsides.

If you eat too much prickly pear, you may experience side effects related to excessive fiber consumption. These include diarrhea, indigestion, bloating, or nausea.

Additionally, prickly pear fruit seeds have been linked to rare cases of bowel obstruction. When consumed in excess, they could form a nondigestible obstruction that causes fecal impaction (22, 23).

Eating prickly pear fruit or cactus pads in the amounts commonly used in recipes is generally considered safe.

However, there isnt much research on prickly pear supplements and extracts. Pregnant and lactating people should talk with their healthcare team and probably avoid these products due to a lack of knowledge about their side effects.

The glochids (prickles) on the exterior of prickly pears need to be carefully removed during preparation so that they dont get lodged in your skin or ingested.

Prickly pear is safe to eat in moderate amounts when properly prepared. Due to its high fiber content, excess consumption of this food could lead to digestive discomfort and related symptoms.

When preparing prickly pear fruit or cactus pads, you must first remove the glochids. Wear gloves and use tongs when handling prickly pear.

Depending on where you got the prickly pear fruit or pads, the glochids may already be removed.

If the prickles are still on the cactus pads, use a blunt knife to scrape them off and then remove the eyes that held them. Peel the pads with a vegetable peeler to remove the skin (1).

You can then slice the cactus pads into strips or dice them into cubes to use in recipes.

To remove the prickles from a prickly pear fruit, you can singe them off over a gas stove or fire. Use tongs to hold the fruit if you use this method. Alternatively, you can scrub the glochids off with a vegetable brush (1).

Next, make a few slits in the skin and peel it off. Cut the prickly pear in half and remove the seeds before slicing it into your desired shape (1).

To properly prepare prickly pear fruit or pads, you must first remove the glochids and skin. Then you can slice it into your desired shape and use it in recipes.

Add prickly pear cactus pads (nopales) to soups, stir-fries, eggs, and salads. Theyre especially delicious when grilled or served with scrambled eggs.

When cooking nopales, you may notice that they emit a gel, similar to what you might see on okra. Isabel Eats, a recipe blog run by a first-generation Mexican American, provides tips on removing the slimy liquid and how to cook nopales.

Prickly pear fruit, on the other hand, is usually used in juices, cocktails, jams, and more. It also makes a delicious snack cut up and served on its own or with other fruits.

Try making homemade prickly pear juice, prickly pear margaritas, or a prickly pear and coconut water smoothie.

Enjoy prickly pear cactus pads with scrambled eggs or added to salads and soups. Prickly pear fruit is delicious on its own or in juices and smoothies.

Prickly pear fruit grows on top of the flat paddles of the Opuntia ficus-indica cactus plant.

Its rich in fiber and contains many antioxidant compounds. As a result, its thought to help with weight loss, blood sugar management, liver health, and more. However, more research in humans is needed.

You can enjoy prickly pear fruit and pads in a variety of recipes, especially Mexican cuisine.

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