Long before Joe Vinson Ph.D. published his study confirming coffee as a powerful antioxidant, I joked about coffee being the wonder beverage that kept my hair from turning gray. I’d inched toward age 50 and beyond, and still, I had no gray hair. I decided there had to have been some reason for that, and coffee was the only thing I consumed to excess. Except for popcorn.
Now I realize my obsession with my favorite dark, rich beverage may have been only half of the story. Dr. Vinson and his researchers recently determined that popcorn is also pretty good at chasing away free radicals. Now I know my junk food of choice may not be so junky after all after I find about that online. Click here to see what I came across.
Free radicals do what?
Imagine an army of naughty toddlers running through the house, getting into everything until Mommy makes them stop. That’s what free radicals do inside the body. They are molecules that run around your body, attacking healthy cells and causing oxidation that does damage and triggers the disease. Antioxidants are like mommy molecules. They chase after the naughty free radicals and stop them before they do any damage.
My Coffee Obsession
My belief in the connection between coffee and no gray hair was my little joke, but now I’m beginning to wonder if it’s a joke after all. For decades I’ve consumed coffee obsessively. As a little girl, I learned to make it hot and strong when I sometimes prepared morning coffee for my father. I drank gallons of coffee in college to keep me awake after extended nights… studying. When I was a young wife, I relied on daylong coffee infusions at work after long nights spent mothering my kids when they were sick.
My Popcorn Habit
In my very large family of origin, popcorn was the perfect economical snack. My mother cooked it in a great big kettle, and I continued that just-like-mom popping tradition as an adult. Popcorn.org Industry Facts says producers started selling microwave popcorn in the early 80s. That was around the time that I bought my first microwave, so I made the switch. By the time I pitched my oven about 16 years later, I’d popped hundreds and hundreds of bags of popcorn.
I’ve consumed microwave and traditionally cooked popcorn the way some people smoke cigarettes: at least a pack a day. I bought it from vending machines at work. I kept bags of it at home, and I snacked late into the night after the kids went to bed. When I taught jewelry classes at an inner-city ministry a few years back, I was known for my jewelry making skills and the popcorn I ate during class. I’ve popped my corn in kettles with olive oil, in pots, in stylish domed electric poppers, air poppers, and one funny little cone-shaped plastic device that melted in the microwave one day.
Gotta love those antioxidants
Imagine my joy when I found out that coffee had more antioxidants than pretty much anything. Then a few days ago at a meeting of the American Chemical Society, Joe Vinson Ph.D. gave his antioxidant blessing to popcorn. The ACS press release: “Popcorn: The snack with even higher antioxidants levels than fruits and vegetables.” stated that it may offer protection from such diseases as “… liver and colon cancer, type 2 diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease…” They didn’t say anything about gray hair, but I know better.
I Still Like Popcorn and Coffee
I am so close to 60 now, if I stood on my tippy-toes I could kiss it on the cheek, yet I have so few gray hairs I can count them using my 10 fingers. I can’t say for certain that coffee and popcorn are the reason. Heredity certainly played some part in my gray-less state. Still, I have to pat myself on the back. For decades I thought I was consuming way too much coffee and popcorn, only to find out they were exactly what I needed.
Your diet can determine much about your health, as we’re all aware. What isn’t so obvious are the specific dietary measures you can take to avoid or reduce the affects of diseases and illnesses. In this series of articles, we’ll delve into nutrition and your diet and how that can affect particular ailments. The goal is to help you to plan meals, offer dietary advice and research vitamins, minerals and their adequate dosages just for you.
With the Centers for Disease Control projecting some form of arthritis to affect nearly 19 million adults, scientists are looking for causes so that treatment and prevention can be addressed.
Arthritis is basically an autoimmune disease that results in the inflammation of joints. It may be caused by the body’s inability to produce enough antibodies or antibodies that cannot differentiate between healthy and viral cells, allergies, elevated uric acid levels, obesity, certain repetitive activities and infections. Certain genes have also been linked to specific types of arthritis establishing the possibility of a genetic disease.
Most types of arthritis are more prevalent in women and can affect people at any age, though the disease is more common in the elderly. The four most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis and gout.
Osteoarthritis typically develops when the cartilage between bones wears down causing the edges of the bones to rub together resulting in pain and stiff joints. Usually weight-bearing joints are commonly affected, such as hips and knees.
The causes of fibromyalgia are unknown, but researchers conjecture that genetics and physical or emotional trauma may be possible contributors. Fibormyalgia sufferers experience general body-wide pain with specific tender joints. Among its symptoms, people with fibromyalgia usually experience sleep disturbances and fatigue.
Rheumatoid arthritis tends to distress all joints, destroying cartilage and tissues around joints and sometimes the bones themselves. When this happens, joints are fused together with scar tissue and may cause swelling and pain.
Gout is generally attributed to obesity and a diet high in fats, refined carbohydrates and alcohol consumption. Affecting more men than women, gouty arthritis is a result of uric acid accumulation in the small joints of hands and feet. According to the Office of Dietary Supplements nutrition may help sufferers of arthritis, though medical treatment is also recommended. Consult your doctor for any dietary practices you are thinking of implementing. Following is a list of vitamins and minerals that could help ease the pain of arthritis.
Nutrition and Food
It is also important that we carefully make wise decisions about the food we take. Our diet is one of the necessary factors that determine how we live a healthy life. The good news is that there are some websites that will educate you about proper diet and nutrition. One of those is Nutshell Nutrition.
Benefits: Also known as ascorbic acid, vitamin C prevents capillary walls in the joints from breaking down. A primary function of vitamin C is maintaining collagen, a protein necessary in the formation of connective tissues in the skin, ligaments and bones. Also an antioxidant, Vitamin C is able to assist in the removal of damaging oxidizing agents in the body and regenerates substances, such as iron and copper, which are linked to the pain and inflammation of rheumatoid arthritis.
Recommended dosage: 90 milligrams per day are recommended for adult men and 75 milligrams for adult women. People with high copper or iron blood levels need larger daily dosages. Conditions which also require elevated vitamin C intake include schizophrenia, hypoglycemia and stress. Smoking, birth control pills, and periods of menstruation additionally require increased dosages.
Dietary suggestions: High concentrations of vitamin C are found in red peppers, orange juice, kiwifruit, oranges and grapefruit juice. Green peppers, broccoli, strawberries, tomato juice and cantaloupe contain a third to half of the recommended allowance. However, baking soda creates an alkaline medium that destroys vitamin C and drinking excessive amounts of water will also deplete the vitamin. Vitamin C deteriorates rapidly in processing, storage, cooking, cutting and exposure to light, air and heat. Storage of food is important in retaining its store of vitamin C.
Benefits: Selenium is an essential mineral that can prevent and relieve arthritis and many other diseases by preventing the degradation of elasticity in tissues, acting as an antioxidant protecting cell membranes, and maintains certain energy-producing cells by ensuring adequate oxygen supply. Selenium is related to optimal health and increased lifespan. In conjunction with vitamin E, selenium has been proven to be an immune system builder.
Recommended dosage: Adult males should have an intake of 70 micrograms of selenium per day and 55 micrograms for women (higher dosages are recommended for pregnant or lactating women).
Dietary suggestions: Once ounce of dried Brazil nuts offers the highest concentration of selenium, but it can also be found in oil-canned tuna, beef, cod, turkey and non-fatty chicken breast. Lower concentrations are also found in eggs, low fat cottage cheese, oatmeal, rice and whole wheat bread.
Benefits: In adequate dosages, manganese can repair worn cartilage. It also plays a part in maintaining healthy nerves and brain, skeletal development, boosting the immune system and the formation of blood. Manganese is also effective in increasing copper excretion from the body.
Recommended dosage: Adult men and women are suggested to have a manganese intake of 2 to 5 milligrams per day. A high calcium and phosphorus consumption necessitate an increase in the daily dosage, though very high dosages can result in the body’s inability to store and utilize iron, causing anemia.
Dietary suggestions: High grain cereals, avocados, seaweed, egg yolks, nuts, seeds, legumes, blueberries, pineapples, spinach, dried peas, and green vegetables are some of the better sources for manganese. Though little is stored in the body, typically 12 to 20 milligrams at any given time, the content in the food you eat is dependent on the amount of manganese in the soil the food in which the food is grown.
Benefits: Zinc is an anti-inflammatory that also fights disease and protects the immune system. It assists enzymes, such as carbonic anhydrase, which aids in digestion and metabolism and is necessary for tissue respiration. It is a component of insulin as well as part of the enzyme that helps break down alcohol. As an anti-inflammatory, zinc helps to relieve symptoms associated with arthritis.
Recommended dosage: 8 to 11 milligrams of zinc on average are suggested for adults. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should increase their intake to 11 to 14 milligrams. While zinc is relatively nontoxic, high doses could induce side effects such as diarrhea, nausea, dizziness, loss of muscle coordination and, in men, a decrease in the level of HDL (the good kind of cholesterol). Vitamin A is also needed in large amounts when zinc is added to a diet. Extremely large doses of zinc may impair the immune system and antagonize the beneficial effects of selenium.
Dietary suggestions: Diets high in red meat and poultry, oysters, whole-grains, brewer’s yeast, wheat bran and wheat germ, herring and pumpkin seeds are typically high in zinc. Talk to your doctor about increasing the levels of foods containing zinc into your diet.
Other dietary measures
Vegetarian diets prepared with natural ingredients have been found to benefit arthritis sufferers. Reducing fats in your diet can relieve inflammation. According to the Nutrition Almanac, canola oil is the best to use since it contains both omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids, though olive oil is acceptable. Herbs such as chickweed, feverfew, comfrey, chaparral, yucca extract and devil’s claw have been helpful for arthritis and Wobe-Mugos, enzymes found in pineapple, have been particularly helpful in rheumatoid arthritis cases.
Exercise is important in prevention and treatment of arthritis since unused joints tend to become stiff. Yoga, swimming and other water exercises have been shown to be slow enough to loosen joints without causing undue discomfort. Posture can cause weight to be distributed unevenly in the body putting more pressure on joints. Obesity also affects weight-bearing joints, which may increase the likelihood of contracting osteoarthritis. Always talk to your doctor before engaging in a radical dietary change or introducing supplements into your daily routine as some drugs used to treat arthritis may interfere with these nutrients.
Like many other people around the world, I love Starbucks. Many hate Starbucks, but I can tell by the long lines at the many Starbucks that many people still do love their daily fix. When things get tight financially, though, it’s very hard to justify spending over $3 for a beverage – no matter how good it is. My weakness is an iced mocha. It can be freezing cold in the dead of winter and I’ll pick an iced mocha over anything else. So a few months ago I decided to play around in my kitchen to see if I could come up with a decent alternative to Starbucks. After a few failures I finally got it right and ended up with a very good version. It’s not quite as good as Starbucks, but for only pennies a cup it’s a small sacrifice to make.
Start off by brewing strong coffee. I eyeball it (like everything else I cook) but it’s about a heaping tablespoon for every cup. Once the coffee is made, I take it off the coffee machine and put it on the counter to cool for a little while. After 20-30 minutes, I start assembling the drink. You don’t have to wait… I’m a busy mom with 3 young children so I rarely have time to wait like this… I just think it’s a bit better when I do. Anyways… after letting the coffee cool a little bit, pour 1 cup into a shaker container or small pitcher. You could use a tall glass, too. Add 3/4 cup of milk (I use skim milk) and 1/4 cup of liquid coffee creamer. I prefer French Vanilla but I’ve also used other, including plain, and they turned out alright, too. I really enjoy the Peppermint Mocha flavor the stores carry this time of year. Then I add a few tablespoons of chocolate syrup. I just eyeball it “until it looks right” so I can’t give an exact measurement here. Start by adding a little because you can always just add more until you get the taste you desire. After mixing it up very good, I pour it over ice in a tall glass or 4-in-1 5 cup and enjoy! And guess what, it was one of the best I have ever tried!
You can always adjust the milk/creamer ratio if you’d like. There have been times I’ve left out the creamer completely because we ran out and it still tasted good. I’ve also used whole milk and soy milk. It’s a very forgiving recipe so just change it up depending on your tastes and what you have. I like experimenting with the different flavors of coffee creamers, too. Even if you end up not liking your creation, you can always start again — and it’ll still be cheaper than a fancy coffee house!