Cucumbers are one of those “go to” salad ingredients that everyone enjoys. They are refreshing to eat and will help rehydrate the body. They have good amounts of vitamin K, C, B, manganese, potassium and copper. Below I have put together a list of their main benefits and why you should eat them on a regular basis.
Pinky And The Brains
One of the main benefits of cucumbers is that they contain antioxidants called fisteins. Fisteins are vitally important for brain health as they prevent inflammation. It is also great for improving memory and preventing damage to nerves in the brain, one of the leading causes of degenerative diseases like alzheimer’s.
As well as fisteins, cucumbers are packed full of other essential antioxidants incusing beta-carotene and vitamin C. Flavonoids are also abundant in the form of kaempferol, apigentin, luteolin and quercetin. Quercetin is great for people who have hay-fever and other allergies as it helps prevent histamine being released in the body, making it a great natural antihistamine. Kaempferol has been shown to protect you from the two leading causes of death (cancer and heart disease).
They Help Prevent Inflammation
A really cool thing about cucumbers is that they target enzymes that cause inflammation in the body after they have carried out their roles. This is particularly great if you are already suffering from inflammatory diseases, which most people are!
They Help Prevent Cancer
Cucumbers are packed with lignans, a type of polyphenol (or an antioxidant). Many leading studies have demonstrated that people who regularly consume foods that contain lignans had a much lower risk of developing prostate, breast and ovarian cancers. Cucumbers are also loaded with cucurbitacins, a chemical compound contained in plants that also helps ward of cancer growth.
To have a healthy gut you need to provide it with an abundant supply of fibre and water. Cucumbers provide a rich source of both. The water helps hydrate the digestive tract and the fibre adds bulk to your stools and speeds up transit times. They are also great for relieving the symptoms associated with IBS and acid reflux.
Avoid Dog Breath
If you are struggling with bad breath then it is probably caused by a poor diet. Having said that, some people are often afflicted with bad breath as a result of conditions such as tonsil stones. Cucumbers can help reduce the odours produced by bacteria. Simply place a slice of cucumber in your mouth and swish it around while it dissolves. By doing this it will help remove some of those unwanted odours!
Avoid The Stress
People who have low levels of certain B vitamins are generally more prone to mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression and stress. Cucumbers contain a good amount of B1, B5 and B7 that will help reduce some of the symptoms associated with these conditions.
Maintain A Healthy Weight
There are basically no calories in cucumbers. But their fibre content will make you feel fuller for longer, making them a great snaking food throughout the day. Cucumbers also break down into a gel-like texture as the body digests them. This texture slows down the digestive process slightly, making your feel fuller for longer.
A Healthy Heart
To maintain a healthy heart function you need a diet rich in potassium. Potassium helps maintain a regular beat as well as maintaining a healthy blood pressure. Potassium is also an electrolyte and interacts and regulates sodium in the body. This process is essential for a healthy heart contractions and overall heart health.
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1. Lost your appetite recently? Eat some fresh ginger on an empty stomach before a meal and it will stir up your appetite. Particularly effective if you have recently been unwell and have a very poor appetite. 2. Ginger has been shown in many studies to assist the absorption of many essential nutrients. 3. It keeps the lymphatic system moving and prevents your glands becoming clogged. 4. Not a keen flier? Chew on a cube of ginger and it will take away some of that nausea. 5. Regular ginger consumption has been shown to improve the symptoms of IBS and flatulence. 6. Always have a gurgling stomach? Then chew on ginger! 7. Suffer with joint problems? Ginger is great as it has fairly potent anti-inflammatory properties. Eating lots of ginger will help reduce the inflammation as will adding ginger essential oil to your bath. 8. Feeling congested? Drink a cup of fresh ginger and honey tea to clear the nose and throat. Particularly good during those long winter months.
What health benefits do you normally get from ginger?
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You can’t open a magazine or newspaper today without seeing new fad detoxification programmes. These are usually accompanied by subscription services, books or other merchandise in an attempt to get you to part with your money. And let me let you in on a little secret. You don’t need any of these. Save your money.
The best thing you can do to help your body detoxify naturally is to increase the amount of detoxifying enzymes produced by the liver. And what is the most effective known phase 2 enzyme-inducer? Drum roll please…….it’s……sulforaphane. And where do you get sulforaphane? Well, there are lots of different sources but the 3 most (known) abundant sources in the world are: #1 broccoli, #2 kohlrabi (part of the cabbage family) and #3 cauliflower.
Interestingly, while broccoli is the most abundant source of sulforaphane, it doesn’t actually contain any until you start chewing it. Crazy I know! A good analogy is glow sticks. You snap them and then the various chemicals come together and cause a chemical reaction which in turn causes the illumination effect. A similar principle applies with broccoli and sulforaphane . In broccoli cells you have both an enzyme called myrosinase and a compound called glucoraphanin (a type of glucosinolate or in simple terms the thing that gives brocolli its pungency). When you start chewing the broccoli the myrosinase and glucoraphanin mix and sulforaphane is born.
The most important thing to remember when eating broccoli is to chew vigorously. The more you chew and break down the broccoli cells the more sulforaphane will be produced. Just have a look at the results from this leading study that showed how much sulforaphane is produced by those who chewed broccoli compared to those who just swallowed whole chunks without chewing.
If you are not keen on the taste of broccoli then simply throw it in a smoothie. Either way, ensure that broccoli is a regular component of your diet.
You may recall from part one (Cellular Ageing & Telomeres: Part 1 of 3: Stress & Meditation) that the ageing process is largely governed by telomeres and that there has been contentious debate as to whether it is stress management, exercise or diet that has the greatest impacts on telomere activity and length. Part one looked at stress management. Today we look at exercise and diet.
In recent studies researchers looked at 2400 twins and analysed their exercise activity levels against their telomere lengths. Their findings are summarised in the graph below. Essentially, telomere length was positively associated with increased physical activity. So the more you do the greater the impacts are. But to get the greatest impacts you need to be the equivalent of an olympic athlete running 60 miles a week! This group had telomeres that were more than 200 nucleotides longer than the other exercise groups. I don’t know about you, but I am not keen on those numbers!
So to recap on what we have learned thus far. The greater your stress levels the shorter your telomeres. You can get slight increases in telomere length by meditating for 12 minutes a day. The greatest benefits, however, were found in those who meditated for 500 hours. So realistically, meditation isn’t going to help most people to significantly increase telomere length, unless you have a lot of time. Equally, you have to run for approx 60 miles a week to get the greatest impacts from exercise (walking provides only small increases). Hmmmmm, there has to be another easier way to increase telomere length. Time to look at diet, and I hope this is more favourable for my longevity prospects, because I certainly don’t want to meditate for 500 hours or run 60 miles a week!
At last we have some good news. Recent studies have shown that you will increase your telomere length dramatically by consuming a healthy diet :). And these benefits are far greater then even meditating for 500 hours or running 60 miles per week. But before looking at anything else, lets look at dietary factors that will shorten telomere length.
One of the worst culprits are short chain fatty acids (or saturated fats). Recent leading studies have shown that those in the top quartile for fat intake had significantly shorter telomere lengths. But the study also showed that if these people in the top quartile removed just 1% of the saturated fats from their diets, they would be able to add approximately a years worth of ageing onto the length of their telomeres. In simple terms, the more saturated fats you remove from your diet, the longer you live.
This rule can also be applied to cholesterol. We know from recent studies that those who had a lifetime of low cholesterol levels had significantly longer telomere lengths. So avoid both cholesterol and saturated fats and have even longer telomeres :).
The science has become so advanced over recent years that you can now see how much certain foods will shorten your telomeres. I strongly suggest you have a look at this study to see how much damage those burgers are doing to your life expectancy.
In summary, the below schematic shows the constant warfare that your telomeres undergo. All the bad stuff hacking away at their length and cutting down on your life expectancy. At the same time, a healthy diet, exercise and stress management are constantly trying to rebuild them.
Dietary factors have the most beneficial impacts over telomere lengths, but you should take measures to reduce stress and increase physical activity to receive maximum benefits. Otherwise, progressive shortening of your telomeres will lead to premature cell death and mutation, both of which will lead to serious health consequences and a shortened lifespan.
The power is in your hands. Your genes cock the gun but the environment (you subject your body to) pulls the trigger.
In this 3 part series we will look at how stress, diet and exercise affect our cellular ageing processes and how you can limit the damage to your DNA and talomeres.
In a recent article I looked at whether diet or exercise was more important for your longevity prospects. (See: What’s More Important? Diet or Exercise?). We know that diet wins hands down in terms of reducing risk factors. But you should never underestimate exercise and stress management. Pioneers like Dr Dean Ornish and Dr Caldwell Esselstyn where among the first to show that if you combined a low fat, plant based diet, with walking and stress management, not only could you prevent and reverse heart disease (and many other chronic conditions), but you could also increase telomerase activity. But what is telomerase activity and why is it so important?
On the end of chromosomes we have these little caps called telomeres. You can think of telomeres as like the plastic on the end of shoe laces that prevents the lace from fraying. When you increase telomerase activity you increase the enzyme activity that slows down the ageing of our cells. If you get the balance right you can slow down the ageing process. For many years there has been a contentious debate over whether it was diet, exercise or stress management that enabled increased telomerase activity. Recent studies over the last 10 years have actually offered some interesting clues on the matter. Today we look at stress, Monday, exercise and Tuesday, diet. So here we go…..
We all know that stress is no good for us. But do stressed people have shorter telomeres? This is what researchers looked at in the study: Accelerated Telomere Shortening in Response to Life Stress. The researchers measured the length of telomeres from parents with chronically ill children. There probably isn’t many more stressful situations in life. They found an unexpected correlation: The longer the parents had spent time caring for their chronically sick children, the shorter their telomeres were. The correlation showed that this telomere shortening process was comparable to a decade of ageing. So in simple terms, the more stressed you are, the shorter your life will potentially be.
Similar telomere shortening correlations can be seen in those who experience constant stress at work, those who go through any bereavement, those caring for ill parents and even those with anxiety or other mental health conditions. This was a particularly worrying finding. It meant that the more stress you had in life the greater the likelihood that you would lead a shorter lifespan. But is there anything you can do about this? If you reduce your stress levels can you grow these telomeres back?
In a word yes 🙂 In a 2011 study, researchers looked at Intensive Meditation Training, Immune Cell Telomerase Activity, and Psychological Mediators. The researchers analysed those who who went off to meditation retreats and measured their telomere activity after meditating for 500 hours. They found massive increases in telomere length and activity. That’s great if you have 500 spare hours. But what if you want the same benefits in a shorter time-frame? How long would you need to meditate for?Recent studies have answered this dilemma. A pilot study of yogic meditation looked at those who meditated while looking after family members with dementia. They found that those who meditated over a period of 8 weeks for just 12 minutes a day had significant increases in telomere activity. But not only that, these subjects also experienced greater mental and psychological function. Happy days 🙂 Who can’t spare 12 minutes a day 🙂
If you ask most people why they drink milk you will generally get the response “because it contains lots of calcium and is good for bones”. “It contains essential proteins”. “It’s something we have always done”. While these statements are true, many people are unaware that milk also contains other constituent parts that can have detrimental effects on our health.
So if milk has increased health risks associated to it, what other sources can you get calcium from, I hear you cry? Well funnily enough there are lots of other healthier sources of calcium. Leafy greens, such as kale, for example, contain up to 150 mg of calcium per 100 grams, whereas milk contains around 120-125 mg (See my article:Facts Everyone Should Know About Kale). Leafy greens also contain other benefits that are absent from milk: folate, fibre, phytonutrients and many other nutrients. There is also a growing trend for nut milks, such as almond and soy milk. One cup of almond milk provides up to 300 mg of calcium, which is approx 25%-30% of your RDA (depending on country).