Krill Oil vs Fish Oil: What is the Difference?

Are krill oil and fish oil the same?

Which one should you take?

What are the benefits of these supplements?

I receive a lot of questions regarding the differences between krill oil and fish oil.  I decided to answer this question and explore the benefits of these supplements.  Let’s start with the basics.

The traditional fish oil supplements are derived from fatty fish such as salmon, anchovies, tuna, herring, sardines, and mackerel.  Fish oil is one of the most popular dietary supplements consumed world-wide.

Krill oil comes from Antarctic krill, which are tiny crustaceans.  Krill is consumed by other sea animals such as penguins, whales, seals, and birds.

Krill Oil and Fish Oil Both Contain Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are necessary for proper brain and nerve function.  They are an essential component of the membrane that surrounds each of our cells.  Omega-3’s are known as essential fatty acids because they must be obtained from food sources as our bodies cannot produce them.1

 Krill oil and fish oil both contain eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).  These are omega-3 fatty acids that have the ability to improve brain health and heart health.   The difference is how fatty acids are stored.  It appears that krill oil stores omega-3’s as phospholipids, whereas fish oil stores them as fatty acids.

This may be an important factor in how our body utilizes them.  There have been some small studies comparing Fish oil and krill oil.  One study published in 2015 found a higher plasma concentration of EPA and DHA in subjects receiving krill oil compared to those who ingested fish oil supplements.2

Omega-3 supplements have the following benefits:

  • Decreasing high triglyceride levels – When your triglyceride levels are too high, the risk of atherosclerosis and heart disease increases.
  • Treatment of rheumatoid arthritis – Some evidence suggests Omega-3 fatty acids may help with the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. One study published in 2017 concluded that “higher intake of vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids during the year preceding disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs may be associated with better treatment results in patients with early rheumatoid arthritis.”3

Krill Oil Contains Astaxanthin

Astaxanthin is a carotenoid pigment that has many health benefits of its own. This substance gives krill oil its reddish color and is not found in most fish oil supplements.

Astaxanthin acts as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory and may promote cardiac health.4

Krill Oil May Be More Effective in Treating Hyperlipidemia

A multi-center randomized, controlled study found krill oil to be significantly more effective than fish oil in reducing glucose, triglyceride, and LDL levels.5 

Krill oil was also able to significantly lower total cholesterol and increase HDL levels in this study.  

Other Sources of Omega-3s

Omega-3 fatty acids naturally occur in some foods and are artificially added to others.  Some examples include:6

  • Fish and seafood (especially salmon, herring, sardines, mackerel, and tuna).
  • Plant oils (flaxseed, soybean, and canola).
  • Nuts and seeds (Chia seeds, walnuts, flaxseed).
  • Fortified foods (some eggs, yogurt, milk, juice, and soy beverages).

Other sources include cod liver oil and algal oil.  Algal oil is derived from algae and is a great choice for vegans and vegetarians.

Is Fish Oil Easier to Obtain?

Fish oil supplements can be found in most grocery stores.  Krill oil is becoming more popular, and with the ability to order supplements over the internet, it is certainly not difficult to obtain.  Fish oil may be cheaper than krill oil, but our omega-3 and krill oil supplements are similarly priced. 

Side Effects of Krill Oil and Fish Oil

The side effects of krill oil and fish oil are similar and very mild.  These include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Upset stomach and heartburn
  • Bad breath
  • Fishy smelling sweat
  • Acne and oily skin
  • Nausea
  • Flatulence
  • Fishy burps

Drug Interactions

Both fish oil supplements and krill oil can interact with the following drugs:7

  • Anticoagulants and Antiplatelet drugs – Bleeding risk may increase.
  • Antidiabetic drugs – Hypoglycemia risk may increase.
  • Orlistat – May decrease the absorption of krill oil or fish oil.

Should You Take Krill Oil or Fish Oil?

Although the evidence isn’t substantial, I prefer krill oil.  My reason for this is that it may be more bioavailable and has the additional benefit of containing an antioxidant.  Krill oil is not hard to find, and it doesn’t cost that much more to obtain.  Krill oil also doesn’t have the fish odor associated with fish oil supplements. 

It is crucial to ingest essential fatty acids for the proper functioning of the body.  These molecules are important for our cell membranes and  proper brain and nerve function.  Always remember that getting these fatty acids from your diet is a better choice than taking supplements.  The healthiest way to live is to eat a well-balanced diet utilizing mostly whole foods, drink plenty of water, exercise regularly, and get an adequate amount of sleep.

If you don’t believe you are getting enough essential fatty acids, then take a supplement.  I prefer krill oil for the reasons stated above, but fish oil is also a good choice.  Be sure to talk to your physician or pharmacist if you are allergic to shellfish before taking krill oil.  If you use blood-thinning medications, always check with your physician or pharmacist prior to taking any supplement. 

I am always happy to answer questions regarding drugs or supplements.  Send me an email, and don’t forget to sign up for our monthly newsletter below.  You will receive company news and coupon codes for savings on all of our products.

Have a great week, and be happy and healthy.

Michael Brown in Lab Coat with arms crossed

Michael J. Brown, RPh, BCPS, BCPP

Mr. Brown is a Clinical Pharmacist specializing in pharmacotherapy and psychiatry.

Read Michael’s story here.

Feel free to send Michael a message using this link.

 

 

Disclosure:  This post may contain affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click on, or make a purchase through a third-party link.

Some Remarkable Over The Counter Antivirals

The threat of COVID-19 has prompted a lot of questions regarding over the counter antiviral remedies. I thought I would discuss a few herbs that are thought to possess activity against viruses in general. We do not have specific information regarding COVID-19 because it is too new.  

Presently, the only known weapons we have against the spread of COVID-19 are handwashing, social distancing, and wearing masks. 

Until a vaccine is available, our options are limited. I take dietary supplements for several reasons. Some of these may help decrease my risk of contracting this virus. 

I believe benefit far outweighs the risk in this situation.

I have written about many of these herbs in the past. For more information, click the highlighted link to visit the corresponding blog post.

Green Tea

Green tea (Camelia sinensis) consumption can have significant positive effects on human health.1

Green tea contains catechins, which are polyphenolic compounds. These substances, especially epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), have shown broad antiviral effects.2

Green tea extract has the potential to cause liver toxicity. Products that contain the United States Pharmacopeia (USP) verification stamp must be labeled with the following:

Due to the potential risk for hepatotoxicity with green tea extracts, products that carry the United States Pharmacopeia (USP) verification stamp must include the following text on the label: “Do not take on an empty stomach. Take with food. Do not use if you have a liver problem and discontinue use and consult a healthcare practitioner if you develop symptoms of liver trouble, such as abdominal pain, dark urine, or jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes)”3

Ascorbic Acid ( Vitamin C)

Studies have shown that patients with acute infections have low circulating ascorbic acid levels.4

 

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We also know that vitamin C modulates interferons and cytokines in patients with viral infections.6

Ascorbic acid has also been shown to reduce neuralgia pain associated with the herpes virus.7

There have also been instances where influenza A patients with life-threatening respiratory failure have rapidly improved after receiving ascorbic acid and thiamine.8

Elderberry

Elderberry is a dark purple berry that grows on the European elder tree. There is evidence that elderberry fruit extract taken four times daily can reduce the symptoms and duration of influenza infection if started within 48 hours of symptoms. This extract can reduce the duration of symptoms by 56% on average.9

Another study found that lozenges containing elderberries taken four times daily within 24 hours of influenza onset improved flu-like symptoms compared with placebo 10

Zinc

Zinc is the second most abundant trace element in the human body. This element is essential for growth, development, DNA synthesis, and RNA transcription.11

A review article published in 2019 concluded that zinc can stimulate the body’s viral response.12

In vitro studies have also shown zinc may possess antiviral effects. This paper also stated that zinc treatment at therapeutic doses can drastically improve the clearance of acute and chronic viral infections.13

We know that Zinc lozenges can decrease the duration of the common cold by up to 40%.14

Quercetin

Quercetin is a common flavonoid found in many Chinese herbs and fruits, vegetables, and red wine.  

Quercetin has been shown to possess anti-influenza activity. This is likely due to its ability to inhibit the entry of the virus into the cell.15

This substance has also exhibited the ability to inhibit virus replication in the initial stages of influenza infections.16

Echinacea

Echinacea is the name given to some flowering plants in the daisy family. This plant has been used for centuries by Native Americans to treat many illnesses. 

Currently, Echinacea is used primarily as an herbal remedy in the treatment of the common cold and flu.

 Echinacea extracts have shown antiviral activity against several different viruses.17

 

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There are also studies claiming Echinacea is an efficacious immunomodulator. There is still insufficient evidence available to make therapeutic recommendations for specific disease states.20

We all want to protect ourselves from infection. 

It is much easier to prevent an illness than to treat it. There are some simple steps we can take to stay healthy.

  • Eat whole foods.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Avoid bad habits.
  • Get enough sleep.

I also believe herbal products can help us stay healthy. One of the biggest causes of sickness is oxidative stress. Our cells are bombarded with free radicals daily. 

Just breathing the air can introduce toxins into the body.  

In addition to my products, I take ProtandimTM Tri-Synergizer daily. This not only helps protect my cells from free radical damage but also makes me feel better and improves my energy level. I strongly recommend giving this supplement a try.

With COVID-19 comes uncertainty and fear. Besides staying as healthy as possible, we should also wash our hands often, wear masks when near others, and practice social distancing. Although the products mentioned in this post are not proven to treat, prevent, or cure COVID-19, some have good evidence against other viruses. I think the benefits of taking them far outweigh the risks.

Nutraceuticals have been used in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine for thousands of years. Large, randomized-controlled studies are not always available to support these agents due to prohibitive costs. This does not mean they are ineffective. It usually means there is not enough profit to be made from them to justify the high costs of the studies.

If you have any questions regarding this post or about medications or nutraceuticals, please send me a message. I would also like to invite you to join our email list to receive our monthly newsletter. Our newsletter will keep you up to date on new products, our influencers, and sales.

Until next week, stay happy, healthy, and safe!

Michael Brown in Lab Coat with arms crossed

Michael J. Brown, RPh, BCPS, BCPP

Mr. Brown is a Clinical Pharmacist specializing in pharmacotherapy and psychiatry.

Read Michael’s story here.

Feel free to send Michael a message using this link.

 

 

Disclosure:  This post may contain affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click on, or make a purchase through a third-party link.

Ideas for Limiting Screen Time for Tweens

Do your children spend too much time on electronic devices?  

Are they tuned out of everything besides their phones, tablets, and Television?

What can you do to stop this?

What effects may too much screen time have on your kids?

My wife and I have struggled with this issue for many years. If you let your children spend too much time on their devices, you feel like they aren’t interacting enough with the outside world. They are also at risk of viewing inappropriate information and even can become victims of predators

If you limit their screen time too much, they have a tendency to drive you crazy. Although electronics should not be used for “babysitting,” most of us have become dependent on them for a little reprieve at times. This post is designed to give you some ideas on how to limit screen time effectively.

What are Tweens?

Tween is short for tweenager. A tween is a child between 9 and 12 years of age. These kids are in a transition period between small children and teenagers. Many challenges occur during this period, including:

  • Puberty may start resulting in body changes and mood swings.
  • Peer pressure to engage in dangerous activities often occurs during this time. 
  • Tweens are often coerced into using illegal drugs or having sex. 
  • The increased workload at school occurs. Homework can take many hours per week to complete.
  • Tweens become more concerned with their appearance and social standing.

These kids are also very fond of their electronic devices. 

I am sure you are aware that they begin using them at earlier ages as time progresses. If left unchecked, these kids will likely spend most of their time staring at a screen.

Harmful Effects of Too Much Screen Time

There is much debate as to the effects of too much screen time on our developing children. It is beyond the scope of this post to go into all of the studies regarding this topic. My philosophy is anything that interferes with basic human needs can be detrimental. 

These basic needs include:

  • Social interaction.
  • Adequate sleep.
  • A healthy, well-balanced diet.
  • Exercise.

It is clear that too much screen time can have a negative effect on all of these. In addition, other problems can arise based on what the child is watching on the screen. 

My opinion is that screen time should be limited to keep our kids from missing out on the basic needs listed above. 

I am writing this post to help parents with this daunting task.

Ideas to Limit Screen Time

I have researched this topic and will list what I believe to be the best techniques to limit screen time. Please remember that these are not the only options, but ones that I believe are the best.  

Identify time periods where electronic devices are not allowed

The first step in limiting screen time is to identify “blackout periods.” These can be whatever you, as a parent, decide. Some examples are.

Meal periods – I believe meals should be family time. We have a rule in our house prohibiting electronic use during dinner. 

This should be a time to discuss what happened during the day. Remember to role model this behavior. If you are talking on the phone or texting during dinner, it is hard to convince your children not to do the same.  

Before Sleeping – You have probably heard that using electronic devices just prior to sleep decreases sleep quality.1

My suggestion is to take the devices away from your children at least one hour before bedtime. There are several reasons for this.

  • Evening exposure to LED-backlit screens has been shown to decrease melatonin levels and decrease daytime alertness and cognitive performance.2
  • Having a phone or tablet close by while sleeping increases the risk of nocturnal awakening. Phones may ring at night, and tablets may produce sounds due to various apps.
  • The fact that the device is available to the child may result in them waking up earlier to begin using it.

Family time – Holidays and special occasions should be a time to interact with family and friends. This may also include vacation time. Make specific rules around screen time during these periods and stick to them.  

Encourage Exercise and Outdoor Activities

One way to limit screen time is to send the kids outside to play. My family invested in a full-size trampoline to help with this. You could also have them help in the garden or play sports with them. This also helps with exercise.   

Playdates with other kids is also an option. 

Anything that gets them moving works. 

Use Electronic Devices as Rewards

If your children believe they can use their electronics whenever they choose, it can be difficult to limit screen time. 

Change the rules and only allow screen time after homework, chores, and physical activities are completed. 

Remember, you are in charge, not them. 

They may squawk at first, but they will survive.

Not only will this result in less screen time, but it will also incentivize your children to get their work done.

Consider Third Party Programs to Help

There are programs available at reasonable prices to help parents keep their children safe on-line. One such product is bark. This program can:

  • Monitor texts, email, YouTube, and 30+ apps and platforms
  • Get alerts for issues like cyberbullying, on-line predators, suicidal ideation, and more
  • Manage screen time
  • Filter which websites your kids can visit
  • Keep up with kids with location check-ins

Another product is Net Nannytm This program also manages screen time and can block inappropriate content from reaching your children.

I am not affiliated with these companies in any way but believe their products are useful. You can find these and other products by doing a simple Google search.

Kids love electronics. I remember how excited my brother and I were when we opened our first video game console back in the dark ages. Pong was a game where each person had a flat paddle and moved it up and down the screen, trying to hit the moving square.  

Video games are much more sophisticated these days. 

They are designed to keep players engaged for hours. I am sure if these were available when I was younger, I would have been hooked as well.

As parents, we must protect our kids from all threats. Too much screen time can rob our children from some of their basic needs. It is essential to model the behavior we want our kids to display. I spend a lot of time on my phone, but it is almost entirely work-related. Even though this is the case, what my kids see is me on my phone most of the time. It is difficult to make them stop doing something that you are doing yourself.

Try to spend time with your kids doing things that don’t involve screens.  

  • Play board or card games.
  • Take a hike in the woods.
  • Visit the beach.
  • Play sports with them.
  • Bake goodies with them.
  • Read a book to them.

There are many activities that can be done without electronics.  

Finally, if you are worried about what your children are being exposed to or want some help managing their screen time, consider purchasing a program like bark or Net Nannytm. These can

filter out damaging content and alert you when your kids are doing inappropriate activities on-line.  

Electronics are not going away any time soon. These are just a few ideas to help your children grow up happy and healthy. If you have any comments about this or any other post, please send me an email.

Until next week, be happy, healthy, and safe!

 

Michael Brown in Lab Coat with arms crossed

Michael J. Brown, RPh, BCPS, BCPP

Mr. Brown is a Clinical Pharmacist specializing in pharmacotherapy and psychiatry.

Read Michael’s story here.

Feel free to send Michael a message using this link.

 

 

Disclosure:  This post may contain affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click on, or make a purchase through a third-party link.

How to Relieve Sunburn Itch and Pain

Getting a sunburn can ruin a portion of your summer fun. Sometimes we end up with a sunburn even when applying sunscreen.

  • What are the dangers of getting a sunburn?
  • How do you protect yourself?
  • How do you get rid of the pain and itch that occurs when you get a sunburn?

A few weeks ago, our family traveled to Seattle to spend time with my sister-in-law and fiancé. 

We spent several hours on their boat having fun taking in the sites. I put sunscreen on my face, arms, and thighs. Unfortunately, I must have skipped my lower legs because they both became sunburned.  

I have fair skin and burn quickly. The following day, I woke up in pain. I decided to write a post on sunburns because I know this is a common problem, especially during the summer.

It is crucial to protect your skin from the sun. It is unhealthy to get a sunburn, but it can also ruin a vacation or weekend, and the pain may last for several days.

The Risks of Getting a Sunburn

The most significant risk involved with sunburn is skin cancer. This is the most common type of cancer in the United States. Melanoma risk is substantially increased with a severe sunburn early in life. The good news is this risk factor (sunburn) is easy to modify.1

 

It is important to begin protecting a child’s skin from the sun early in life. Use sunscreen and cover the body with adequate clothing when venturing outdoors. 

Remember, sunburns can also happen when it is cloudy.  

 

 

 

How to Protect your Skin from the Sun

If you plan to be in the sun, be prepared. Sunburn can happen in as little as 15 minutes. 

Here are some tips to help avoid those pesky sunburns.

  • Stay in the shade when possible. Find a tree or building that blocks direct sun exposure. Late morning through midafternoon is when the sun’s rays are the most damaging.
  • Wear sunglasses. It is essential to wear sunglasses that protect your eyes against UVA and UVB light. 

Wear a hat. Wide-brimmed hats are best, but a baseball cap is better than nothing. Hats can protect your head and neck from damaging rays. 

  • If you are bald like me, this is especially important!
  • Cover your skin with clothing. It is best to cover as much of your body as possible. There are many clothing options available designed to block the sun.
  • Use sunscreen. I know this is obvious, but sunscreen can be easy to forget. It is important to reapply sunscreen every two hours or after swimming, sweating, or drying off with a towel. Always use a sunscreen with a high SPF (at least 15) and be sure it blocks UVA and UVB.

 

Treatment of Sunburn Pain and Itch

If you find yourself suffering from a sunburn, there are some steps you can take to ease the discomfort. I often get questions about what to do for sunburns. As a pharmacist, my primary role is to help people live a healthier life. Here are my recommendations for the treatment of sunburn.

 

Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) – This will help with the pain and inflammation that can accompany a sunburn. I recommend taking ibuprofen with food to avoid stomach upset. Be sure to consult your physician or pharmacist if you take other medications or have kidney disease before taking ibuprofen.  

 

Acetaminophen (Tylenol) – Although acetaminophen doesn’t help with inflammation, it is a safe pain reliever. It also has fewer drug interactions than ibuprofen. One strategy is to alternate ibuprofen and acetaminophen.

 

Aloe Vera Gel – This is a cooling, soothing, moisturizing product that can significantly decrease the itch and pain that occurs with a sunburn. 

We always keep a bottle of this in our refrigerator just in case.

 

Take cold showers or baths – This can help cool the skin. After bathing, gently pat yourself dry and apply a moisturizer. This helps trap moisture in your skin and can relieve dryness.

 

Drink plenty of water – Those of you who follow this blog know I am a proponent of adequate hydration.  

 

Allow skin blisters to heal – If your skin blisters, do not pop them. 

These blisters help protect your skin from infection. If the blisters are severe, seek medical attention.

There are many products available at your local pharmacy that are specially designed to treat a sunburn. Here is a link to one that I recommend:

SunBurnt After Sun Gel

We have all experienced a sunburn at some time in our lives. Even with the proper preparation, it happens from time to time. The important thing is to limit sunburns as much a possible. The more you sunburn, the higher your risk for skin cancer. This is especially true for younger individuals.  

 

We all love to be outside, especially during beautiful weather. Getting exposure to the sun is vital for our mental health and also increases vitamin D levels. Just be sure to protect your skin!

 

I hope you are all having a great summer. Remember to exercise, eat whole foods, drink plenty of water, and spend as much time with your “happiness elements” as possible.  

 

Michael Brown in Lab Coat with arms crossed

Michael J. Brown, RPh, BCPS, BCPP

Mr. Brown is a Clinical Pharmacist specializing in pharmacotherapy and psychiatry.

Read Michael’s story here.

Feel free to send Michael a message using this link.

 

 

Disclosure:  This post may contain affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click on, or make a purchase through a third-party link.

Zinc Rich Foods for Vegetarians

Zinc is an essential trace element that is necessary for many functions in our body.  Animal studies have shown those deficient in this element are at risk for alopecia, testicular atrophy, thickening of the epidermis, and growth failure.1

Zinc deficiency is prevalent in developing countries, but the elderly as well as vegetarians and vegans, are also at risk.2

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Low levels of zinc may also predispose people to many diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and atherosclerosis.  Other possible effects are an increase in chronic inflammation, oxidative stress, and impaired cognition.7

 

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Vegans and vegetarians do not consume meat, which is a rich source of zinc.  Foods containing unrefined cereals, legumes, or plants rich in phylates bind zinc, decreasing its absorption.11

This article will review some of the foods other than meat that are a good source of this element.  Keep in mind that the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for zinc in adults is 8 mg/day for women and 11 mg/day for men.

Hemp Seeds (Hulled) – (9.9 mg zinc per 100 g)

Nutritional Information

Hemp seeds are actually nuts.  They are very nutritious and have been used as food and medicine in China for 3,000 years.12

Hemp seeds may reduce the risk of heart disease by increasing nitric oxide concentrations, which help blood vessels dilate and relax.13

Hemp seeds are a good source of essential fatty acids and can be used to make salad dressings or sprinkled over vegetables, pasta, or popcorn.

Pumpkin Seeds (Organic) (6.43 mg Zinc per 100 g)

Nutritional Information

Pumpkin seeds are not only high in zinc, but also can lower blood sugar levels, improve prostate, heart and bladder health, and protect you from certain types of cancer. 

These seeds also contain antioxidants, magnesium, and healthy fats.

Pumpkins seeds can be eaten raw or roasted as a snack, added to smoothies, or sprinkled on fruit.  They can also add “crunch” to salads or baked into bread.

Cashews – (5.36 mg Zinc per 100 g)

Nutritional Information

Cashews have many uses and can be used to make vegan cheese.

Click for Vegan Cheese Recipe

Cashews come from a tree (Anacardium occidentale) native to the tropical regions of Brazil.  They are fruits, not nuts.  Cashews are found at the end of cashew apples.  Cashews are poisonous prior to roasting. 

Tofu (Silken, Firm) – (0.61 mg per 100 g)

Nutritional Information

Tofu is food our family enjoys often.  I fry the tofu in coconut oil until browned and add different vegetables, coconut milk, and curry paste.  I serve this with rice.  Very tasty and nutritious.

Tofu has many uses. 

Click here for tofu recipe ideas

 

Quinoa – (2.68 mg Zinc per 100 g)

Nutritional Information

Quinoa is one of the most popular health foods available.  This grain is high in fiber, protein and contains all nine essential amino acids.

Quinoa contains high amounts of quercetin and kaempferol, which are strong antioxidants.14

Quinoa can be added to salads, soups and vegan garden-burgers.  It can also be added to pancake batter for an easy health boost.

Chia Seed – (4 mg Zinc per 100 g)

Nutritional Information

Chia seeds are one of the superfoods.  These seeds contain a fantastic amount of nutrition with few calories.  Even though chia seeds contain 12 grams of carbohydrates per ounce, 11 of these are non-digestible fiber. 

These seeds are able to absorb 10-12 times their weight in water.  This helps expand the stomach making one feel full.15

Chia seeds can be mixed with water and used as an egg substitute in vegan cooking.  They can be added to smoothies, sprinkled on cereals or oatmeal.  They can also be added to bread or muffin and baked.

Lentils, pink or red, raw – (3.6 mg Zinc per 100 g)

Nutritional Information

Lentils have always been a food I enjoy.  Red lentil curry is delicious and nutritious.  This recipe is fantastic.

Ethiopian Spiced Red Lentils

Lentils can also be added to soups or eaten as a side dish.  They can also be made into a loaf as a substitute for meatloaf. 

Walnuts (3.09 mg Zinc per 100 g)

Nutritional Information

My grandparents had walnut trees, and we used to crack them open and sell them to neighbors. 

These nuts are probably most often used in baking. 

Walnuts can be added to fudge, bread, and cakes. 

They are rich in antioxidants and are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids.

Dark Red Kidney Beans (3.29 mg Zinc per 100 g)

Nutritional Information

Kidney beans can be used for chili, added to soups, or added to salads. 

Kidney beans are a good source of protein and fiber.

  They also contain antioxidants and can help promote colon health.

All-Purpose Enriched, Bleached Wheat Flour (0.72 mg Zinc per 100 g)

Nutritional Information

Wheat flour can be used for many baked goods. 

My favorite use of wheat flour is to make sweet potato muffins. 

I have included this recipe because it is one of my favorites. 

This recipe came from Runner’s World magazine.  I discovered this while training for a marathon.

Sweet Potato Muffins

Zinc is vital for many functions of the body.  We must obtain zinc from our diet.  Since vegans and vegetarians don’t consume meat products, it is critical to get this trace element from other sources. 

Some seeds, nuts, and legumes can provide the zinc necessary to keep our body healthy.  Zinc can also be taken as a nutritional supplement.

I hope you have found this post useful.  If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to send me an email. 

Enjoy your summer, and stay healthy and safe!

Michael Brown in Lab Coat with arms crossed

Michael J. Brown, RPh, BCPS, BCPP

Mr. Brown is a Clinical Pharmacist specializing in pharmacotherapy and psychiatry.

Read Michael’s story here.

Feel free to send Michael a message using this link.

 

 

7 Healthiest Water Flavoring Ideas to Try

If you have been following my blog, you know I have written posts on the importance of hydration and the negative consequences of consuming too much sugar as well as artificial sweeteners.

I have explained that it is best to drink eight, 8 oz. glasses of water daily.  This is the rule under normal conditions.  If you are sweating more than usual or out in the heat for extended periods, this amount should be increased accordingly.

Many of us get bored drinking plain water all day.  I decided to find some good water-flavoring ideas and put them in a post for your convenience.

This has been enjoyable because I have been able to try the different flavors.

Cucumber and Blueberry

This is one of my favorite combinations.  

  • 8 ounces water
  • 1/4 c. Blueberries
  • 1/4 Cucumber
Blueberries are loaded with antioxidants.  Cucumber is low in calories and high in fiber and also contains antioxidants.  This is a favorite of mine, as blueberries are my favorite fruit.

Cucumber, Lemon and Apple Detox Water

Besides its antioxidant properties, cucumber also acts as an anti-inflammatory.  Lemon adds flavor to the water as well and can help boost immunity.

  • 8 cups water
  • 1 small cucumber, sliced
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • 1 apple, cored and sliced

Cucumber, Watermelon and Mint Infused Water

This flavor combination is a real treat!  The watermelon and mint add spark while the cucumber producer a mellow, soft flavor to the mix.

  • 8 cups water
  • 1 small cucumber, sliced
  • 1 cup cubed watermelon
  • Fresh mint to taste

Red Currant Infused Water

Red currants are high in flavonoids and vitamin B.  This can help protect body tissues and prevent arteriosclerosis and diabetes. Red currants taste like a raspberry, rhubarb mixture.

Cucumber, Lemon, Lime and Mint Infused Water

This is a very refreshing recipe.  Think of this as spa water.

  • 8 cups water
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • 1 lime sliced
  • 1 small cucumber, sliced

 

Lavender and Lemon Infused Water

Lavender is known for its calming properties.  It also takes lemon water to another level.  Try this combination.

  • 1 lemon
  • 1 Tbsp dried lavender buds
  • 2 quarts cold water

Cucumber, Lemon, Lime, Berry and Mint Infused Water

Lastly, for the adventurous types out there.  Here is an infused water with many flavors.  Have fun with this one.  Try different amounts of the various ingredients and enjoy the results!

Michael Brown pictured with Final Thought written

Most of us don’t drink enough water.  The recommended intake is eight, 8 oz. glasses of water per day under normal conditions.  

If you become tired of drinking plain water, consider infusing it using some of the ingredients listed in this post.

If you are looking for a good fruit infuser water bottle, click here.

I would love to hear about the ideas you have for other infused water flavors.  I am always looking for new ways to keep the healthiest drink on the planet more tasty.

For the best 10 infusion pitchers to buy in 2020, click here.

Have a great summer, everyone.  Stay happy, healthy, and safe!

Michael Brown in Lab Coat with arms crossed

Michael J. Brown, RPh, BCPS, BCPP

Mr. Brown is a Clinical Pharmacist specializing in pharmacotherapy and psychiatry.

Read Michael’s story here.

Feel free to send Michael a message using this link.

 

 

Disclosure:  This post may contain affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click on, or make a purchase through a third-party link.

Is Aspartame Sweetener Bad for You

What is aspartame?

Is it bad for you?

My favorite soft drink is Diet Coke. Diet Coke is sweetened by a substance called aspartame. I have been trying to improve every aspect of my life regarding health choices. One thing I plan to change is what I choose to drink. 

Not surprisingly, water is going to be my main drink going forward. Water can be flavored using fruit for a different taste. Stay tuned for a future blog post on different ways to enjoy the healthiest drink on the planet!  

Disclosure:  This post may contain affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click on, or make a purchase through a third-party link.

What is Aspartame?

Aspartame is an artificial sweetener marketed under the following names:

  • NutraSweetTMCanderelTM
  • EqualTM

This substance is found in over 6,000 food items and is consumed by millions of Americans daily.1

 

2

 

3

Aspartame is found in many diet soft drinks, chewing gum, and vitamin supplements. It is not a good sweetener for baking because it breaks down and loses most of its sweetness when heated.  

Aspartame is a dipeptide of two natural amino acids, L-aspartic acid, and L-phenylalanine. After ingested, aspartame is broken down into-

  • Aspartic acid
  • Phenylalanine
  • Methanol4
  • Formaldehyde5
  • Formic acid

Aspartame and your Health

Aspartame has been a subject of controversy for years. Many believe that this sweetener is hazardous to one’s health. We will take a look at some of the available studies.

Effects on the Brain

The metabolism of aspartame mentioned above may lead to the following effects on the brain.

  • Phenylalanine acts as a regulator of neurotransmission.6

  • Aspartic acid is an excitatory neurotransmitter 7

Studies have shown a decrease in the production of dopamine and serotonin following aspartame ingestion. 

This is believed to be caused by an increase in aspartic acid and phenylalanine.

8

 

9

We know that aspartame also increases the permeability of the blood-brain-barrier altering concentrations of some substances such as dopamine in the brain. This change in dopamine concentration may lead to the pathogenesis of some mental disorders.10

Other researchers have concluded that these adverse effects of aspartame only occur at very high concentrations not generally achieved by typical aspartame consumption.

11

A study published in April of 2014 tested the effects of high-aspartame meals (25 mg/kg/day) vs. low-aspartame meals (10 mg/kg/day) on spatial orientation, working memory, mood (irritability), depression and headaches.

This study was double-blind, and the subjects served as their own controls. They received either the high-aspartame diet or low-aspartame diet followed by a two-week washout period. During this washout period, they consumed their regular diet. After the washout period, they received the other aspartame diet (high or low).  

The treatment periods were eight days in length.

The results are shown in Table 1 below.

 

 

This study found that subjects showed weaker spatial orientation and an increased frequency of irritability and depression when consuming the high-aspartame diet 12

Another study by Walton et al. in 1993 also found high aspartame diets caused more irritability and depression. This study was not completed due to adverse reactions experienced by the study subjects.13

 

Aspartame and Cardiometabolic Health

An analysis of 7 trials (1003 subjects) was published in 2017. These subjects were obese, overweight, or hypertensive. This study found that artificial sweeteners, including aspartame, may be associated with increased body mass index (BMI) and cardiometabolic risk.14

More experimental studies are needed to compare different sweeteners with regard to BMI and cardiometabolic effects. At the current time, research does not support a benefit of artificial sweeteners for weight management.

 

 

 

Other Health Concerns Regarding Aspartame

Aspartame has been a controversial substance for many years. Here are some of the other risks reported with its use.

  • Lupus
  • Cancer
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Dizziness
  • Seizures
  • ADHD
  • Erectile Dysfunction (ED)

Some people have also reported headaches after ingesting aspartame. 

My recommendation for anyone suffering from headaches is to keep a journal. Keep track of what you eat and drink daily. When you have a headache, write down the time and severity in the journal.

Determine if patterns exist.

Are certain foods a possible trigger? 

If you are taking medications for psychosis or suffer from phenylketonuria, you should avoid aspartame.  

Please see my blog post on low glycemic sweeteners by clicking here. 

My research shows the most likely adverse effects resulting from aspartame consumption are weaker spatial orientation and an increased frequency of irritability and depression. These only seem to be a concern when consuming higher amounts of aspartame.  

Although aspartame has been blamed for many other negative health effects, the available research doesn’t support this.

I look at aspartame as a risk vs. benefit situation. 

Since there are other sweeteners available, I am going to limit my intake of aspartame. My goal will be to consume black coffee, water (flavored and plain), and AXIO.

I don’t feel the risk of consuming aspartame is currently worth the benefit.

As always, if you have any questions or comments, please let me know.

Have a great week, and be happy and healthy!

Michael Brown in Lab Coat with arms crossed

Michael J. Brown, RPh, BCPS, BCPP

Mr. Brown is a Clinical Pharmacist specializing in pharmacotherapy and psychiatry.

Read Michael’s story here.

Feel free to send Michael a message using this link.

 

 

Low Glycemic Sugar Substitutes

Losing weight is something most of us are interested in doing. We are bombarded by advertisements for sugar-free and calorie-free products on a daily basis.  

Are sugar-free products better?

Are they healthy?

What are the best options to replace sucrose?

This post will explore some alternatives to table sugar.

What we are looking for is a substance that:

  • Contains very few if any calories or carbohydrates.
  • Is safe for human consumption.
  • Has either no effect, or a positive effect on blood sugar levels.
  • Does not cause unwanted side effects when consumed at reasonable doses.
  • Has research to support its safety.
  • Contains no hidden sources of carbohydrates.
  • Can be used in cooking. Does not decompose into simple sugars or become bitter or toxic when exposed to heat.

Sucrose

 

Sucrose is what we refer to as table sugar.  This is the substance that all other sweeteners are compared to.

 

Sucrose is known as a disaccharide because it is composed of two monosaccharides, glucose, and fructose.

This substance is a natural compound found in plants.

 

Sucrose is obtained mostly from sugarcane in hot climates and sugar beets in colder regions. Hot water is used to extract the sucrose, and this mixture is then concentrated into a syrup. The syrup is then crystallized to make table sugar.

  

One teaspoon of table sugar contains about 16 calories and 4 grams of carbohydrates. These are known as “empty calories” because they are very limited in their nutritional value and contain no vitamins or minerals.  

The glycemic index (GI) is a measure of how quickly a food increases blood sugar levels.

 

Foods with a low GI typically release glucose slowly and steadily, whereas those foods with a high GI release glucose into the bloodstream rapidly, causing a “spike” in blood glucose levels.

 

Spikes in blood glucose cause the body to release more insulin, which can lead to health problems over time. Some of these include metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and insulin resistance.

   

Those foods that contain fiber, fat, and or protein have a lower glycemic index because the body cannot digest the food as quickly.  

The glycemic load (GL) is a measure of the effect a serving of food will have on the blood sugar level.

 

The GL is obtained using the following equation:

 

Glycemic Load (GL) = Glycemic Index (GI) x Carbohydrate (g) per portion /100

A low GL = 1-10

Moderate GL = 11-19

High GL = greater than 19.

 

The glycemic load is significant because it takes into account the amount of food being consumed, which leads to a more accurate estimate of the effect of the food on blood sugar.

The table below lists GI and GL values for some common foods.

 

There are three main types of sweeteners.  

  • Natural Sweeteners
  • Sugar Alcohols
  • Artificial Sweeteners

Natural Sweeteners

Stevia, also known as the sugar leaf, is 100 to 300 times sweeter than table sugar. This natural sweetener has been used in South America for its sweetening properties for hundreds of years.1

Stevia is calorie-free. This is the sweetener I choose to use.

  

Stevia has some studies to suggest it may lower blood pressure.2

3

4

Another study has shown no significant change was seen in patients with mild hypertension.5 

Stevia is sweet but doesn’t taste much like sugar. It also has a bitter aftertaste, which some dislike.

 

Some individuals may suffer from digestive problems when using stevia.

Stevia: GI = 0, Net Carbs (per 100g) = 5, Calories (per 100g) = 20

 

Allulose is a sugar that resembles fruit sugar or fructose. This sugar is only about 70% as sweet as table sugar. Although not calorie-free, allulose provides about 0.4 calories per gram (g), which is much lower than sucrose. The body does absorb this sugar but does not metabolize it into glucose.

  

A 2018 study of 144 individuals with a BMI greater than or equal to 23 kg/m2 found allulose was able to reduce body weight in overweight or obese subjects. This study also stated that the effects are likely dose-dependent.6

 

Another study from 2015 suggested allulose may also have benefits for type 2 diabetes.7

Some studies suggest It may even have antioxidant and lipid-lowering effects, although more studies are needed to confirm this.

 

Allulose has no glycemic index or net carb count because it is excreted by the body unchanged.

  

This substance is more expensive than some other sweeteners and not as sweet as table sugar.

Allulose GI = 0, Net Carbs (Per 100g) = 0-5, Calories (Per 100g) = 20-40

 

Monk Fruit is a medicinal fruit from China.

 

It has been used as a digestive aid and in the treatment of the common cold.

 

Monk fruit sweetener is 100-250 times sweeter than sugar and contains no calories, carbohydrates, or sugars.

 

Like stevia, this product may leave a bitter aftertaste. The sweetness comes from mogrosides that are antioxidants separated from fresh-pressed juice during processing.

 

Monk fruit is more expensive than some other sweeteners but is a viable healthy option.

Monk fruit GI = 0, Net Carbs (Per 100g = 0-25, Calories (Per 100g) = 0-100

 

 

 

 

Tagatose is a monosaccharide that occurs in some fruits such as apples, oranges, and pineapple. It can also be found in sterilized milk.

 

This substance is about 92% as sweet as table sugar but only contains about 38% of the calories. This sugar has a minimal effect on insulin and blood glucose levels.

  

Tagatose contains more calories than some other sweeteners and is also more expensive than some.

  

Tagatose has also been shown to have some probiotic properties.

Tagatose GI = 3, Net Carbs (Per 100g) = 35, Calories (Per 100g) = 150

 

Inulin is a soluble fiber found in some plants. It is also a prebiotic, meaning it feeds beneficial bacteria in the gut.

  

Inulin has also been shown to improve the body’s ability to absorb calcium, which may lead to stronger bones and teeth.8

 

This sweetener is only 35% as sweet as sugar.  The good news is, inulin caramelizes like sugar and doesn’t have a bitter aftertaste.  The bad news is, it may cause gastrointestinal symptoms to become worse.

 

Another problem with inulin is that if heated above 275 degrees Fahrenheit, a portion of the molecule will break down into fructose.

Fructose will not spike blood sugar levels, but it does contain calories.

Inulin GI = 0, Net Carbs (Per 100g) = 1, Calories (Per 100g = 150

 

Sugar Alcohols

Sugar alcohols, or polyols, are substances that are hard for the body to metabolize and thus have less effect on blood sugar than table sugar. Since these are hard to digest, they are mostly broken down by bacteria in the large intestine. This can lead to gas and bloating, especially at higher doses.

 

These molecules are not sugars or alcohols.  They are carbohydrates that have a structure that resembles sugars and alcohol.  Besides providing a sweet taste to foods, sugar alcohols add bulk and texture and inhibit browning.

  

An advantage of sugar alcohols is that they are not acted on by bacteria in the mouth, and because of this, do not promote tooth decay.9

 

One of these substances, xylitol, has been found to inhibit bacteria.

  

There are many sugar alcohols. This post will focus on just three.

 

Xylitol (pictured above) is as sweet as table sugar and is found in fruits and vegetables.

This substance has 40% fewer calories than sugar.

 

Xylitol is great for your teeth because it starves harmful bacteria in the mouth and increases calcium absorption into the teeth. This leads to its widespread use as a sweetener in gums and toothpaste.

  

Please be aware that this sweetener is toxic to many animals, including dogs and cats, even in small doses.

 

Keep this substance and anything containing it away from your pets.

  

Xylitol may cause excessive gas and bloating especially at higher doses.

Xylitol GI = 13, Net Carbs (Per 100g) = 60, Calories (Per 100g) = 240

 

Erythritol is present in some fruits and vegetables. It is the sugar alcohol with the lowest calories and net carbs.

 

This sweetener also causes fewer GI complaints compared to the other sugar alcohols because it gets metabolized before reaching the colon.

 

Erythritol has been available as a sweetening agent since 1990.

 

It does produce a cooling sensation on the tongue, especially when used in large quantities.

Erythritol GI = 0, Net Carbs (Per 100g) = 5, Calories (Per 100g) = 20

 

 

 

Maltitol is commonly used as a sugar substitute because it tastes and bakes similarly to sugar with fewer calories.

 

It does have a higher glycemic index than the other sugar alcohols and can spike insulin levels.

  

I would advise against consuming products containing maltitol if you are trying to lose weight. The other problem is this sweetener tends to cause more bloating, abdominal pain and diarrhea when compared to erythritol and xylitol.

Maltitol GI = 36, Net Carbs (Per 100g) = 67, Calories (Per 100g) = 270

Artificial Sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners are the compounds synthetically produced to replace sugar. These are sucralose, aspartame, and saccharin.

 

Aspartame is contained in one of my favorite soft drinks, Diet Coke. Drinking this beverage is one of the few bad habits I have that affect my health. Let us take a look at these sweeteners.

 

Aspartame is probably the most studied artificial sweetener. This substance is 200 times sweeter than sucrose. If you consume sugar-free products, chances are you are being exposed to aspartame.  There have been reports of aspartame causing everything from headaches to cancer.

  

Aspartame is composed of aspartic acid and phenylalanine. These are both amino acids. When aspartame is metabolized in the body, a portion of it is converted to methanol. Methanol is toxic in large doses.

  

Those who have phenylketonuria (PKU) and those taking medications for schizophrenia or Parkinson’s disease should avoid aspartame. Those with PKU already have too much phenylalanine in their blood. Aspartame is toxic to these individuals.

 

Aspartame may increase the risk of tardive dyskinesia in those receiving antipsychotic medications.

A study published in 2014, found rats fed a diet containing aspartame experienced hyperglycemia and insulin resistance. This is thought to be due to its effect on the gut microbiota.10

Aspartame GI = 0, Net Carbs (Per 100g) = 85, Calories (Per 100g) = 352

 

 

 

 

Sucralose is 600 times sweeter than table sugar. This substance is very poorly absorbed by the body. It becomes unstable when heated and can release cancer-causing substances, so do not use it in cooking.

 

Notice that the GI for sucralose has a range. In its powdered form, sucralose has a higher GI than sucrose, which can lead to large insulin spikes.

Sucralose GI = 0-80, Net Carbs (Per 100g) = 0, Calories (Per 100g) = 0

 

Saccharin is one of the oldest sweeteners available. It is 400 times sweeter than sugar.  This sweetener is not as popular as it used to be due to the bad press it has received. It has been shown to cause cancer in animal models.

 

Since these studies can not be performed in humans, we are not sure of its cancer-causing potential.

 

There have also been studies that have shown saccharin, and other artificial sweeteners can cause glucose intolerance by altering the intestinal microbiota.11

Saccharin GI =variable, Net Carbs (Per 100g) =94, Calories (Per 100g) = 364

 

There were no surprises found while writing this post. Here are my recommendations:

  • Avoid artificial sweeteners. Although we don’t have concrete evidence that they are harmful, I believe the risks outweigh the benefits.
  • Xylitol is a good option for dental products because it increases calcium absorption into the teeth and decreases harmful bacteria.
  • Monk fruit is a reasonable option as its sweetness comes from antioxidant compounds.
  • Stevia is also a good choice, although it may produce a bitter aftertaste that some may not prefer. It also has a different taste than sucrose.
  • It is crucial to avoid high fructose corn syrup whenever possible. This is a highly processed sweetener that has been linked to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity.

I plan to write an entire blog post on aspartame in the near future.  This sweetener is very popular and I want to give my readers a better understanding of the health effects of using it.

Please read your food labels and remember, it is always best to eat whole foods. Limit artificial and processed foods.

Drink plenty of water, at least eight, 8 oz. glasses per day and exercise for at least 30 minutes five times per week.  

Michael Brown in Lab Coat with arms crossed

Michael J. Brown, RPh, BCPS, BCPP

Mr. Brown is a Clinical Pharmacist specializing in pharmacotherapy and psychiatry.

Read Michael’s story here.

Feel free to send Michael a message using this link.

 

 

9 Amazing Benefits of the Vegan Macrobiotic Diet

Disclosure:  This post may contain affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click on, or make a purchase through a third-party link.

Macrobiotics is defined as follows by the Kushi Institute:

 “Macrobiotics is a system that can be used to create extraordinary health, through using both traditional wisdom and modern knowledge to ascertain the underlying causes of an individual’s current health challenges, and make adjustments to their food and lifestyle choices that support health improvement. Not simply a diet, macrobiotic recognizes the profound effects food, environment, activities, and attitude all have on our body-mind-emotions.”

The Kushi institute is recognized as a standard for those following a macrobiotic diet.  Macrobiotic diets (MCDs) are one of the popular alternative treatments for those with cancer and other life-threatening diseases.  This is a whole-foods diet that is predominately vegetarian.  There have been reports suggesting recovery from some cancers with poor prognosis can be attributed to whole-food diets.1

2

3

4 

  1. The macrobiotic diet decreases total body fat and body mass.   2. It also has a positive effect on serum glucose, 3. lipids5
  1. and immunologic parameters.6
  1. Macrobiotic diets are also associated with a decrease in inflammation.7

I have stated many times in previous posts that a decrease in inflammation is thought to reduce cancer risk as well as recurrence.8

9

10

11

Macrobiotic Thinking

Let’s take a step back and explore the thinking behind macrobiotics.  Macrobiotics is much more than a diet.  It is a way of living.  A different way of thinking.  It is a belief that we are all in harmony with nature and interconnected with one another.  What we do and how we eat not only affects us, but our world and everyone in it.  We start looking at food in a different way, as an energy source.  6.  This makes it easy to create healthy, delicious meals.

The vegan macrobiotic diet uses seasonal fruits and vegetables.  It is more natural way of eating that leads to a greater understanding of how the food we eat makes us feel.  7.  This leads to the consumption of whole foods and eliminates unhealthy processed foods from the diet.

 

The Vegan Macrobiotic Plate

It is not surprising that vegetables will be the star of the show.  Root vegetables such as beets, carrots and parsnips combined with green leafy vegetables will fill the plate.  Broccoli, cauliflower and seasonal squash add to the colorful array.  Don’t forget fruit!  Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and blackberries add antioxidants and color to the plate.  Pineapple, bananas and kiwi are other yummy additions. 

Complex carbohydrates are also essential so whole grains will be added.  Bulgur, brown rice and oatmeal are examples.  Fats and oils are also important.  Coconut and olive oil are great choices.  Nuts and seeds add nutrition and crunch. 

More Benefits

  1. Once we learn how much better we can feel eating whole foods, we make healthier choices. One of the most positive life-changing bits of information I obtained happened after completing the Whole30 diet.  Not only did I lose weight, I also learned how much better my body could feel as the result of eliminating processed foods and added sugar from my diet.  This thirty-day period will change the way I think about food forever.  9.  Eating a macrobiotic diet also benefits the environment.  We all need to help protect the earth.  Macrobiotics helps us to focus not only on our health, but the health of our environment as well.  Eating a plant-based, whole foods diet benefits each and every one of us.

I have spent more time thinking about what I put in my body since starting Sunshine Nutraceuticals nine months ago.  This journey has helped me not only think about myself and my family, but also the environment.  We are all responsible for leaving a healthy planet for the generations to come. 

I learned about the vegan macrobiotic diet while researching healthy diet options.  I truly believe we can all benefit by eating as much of a whole foods diet as possible.  Many health conditions we face are the result of unhealthy habits we have developed.  Smoking, drinking alcohol, over-eating and lack of exercise are just a few examples. 

Michael Brown in Lab Coat with arms crossed

Michael J. Brown, RPh, BCPS, BCPP

Mr. Brown is a Clinical Pharmacist specializing in pharmacotherapy and psychiatry.

Read Michael’s story here.

Feel free to send Michael a message using this link.

 

 

4 Remarkable Beetroot Medicinal Uses

Disclosure:  This post may contain affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click on, or make a purchase through a third-party link.

Beets have recently gained popularity for their medicinal uses.  Red beetroot (Beta vulgaris rubra) is a source of nitrate and also contains betalain pigments.  Beetroot ingestion causes an increase in nitric oxide availability and  may lead to a natural treatment for hypertension as well as an improvement in endothelial functioning.  The betalain pigments possess antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and chemo-preventive activity in vitro and in vivo.1

These properties may lead to beetroot’s usefulness in the treatment of diseases occurring due to oxidative stress, inflammation, decreased cognition and altered endothelial function.

Beetroot Capsules for High Blood Pressure

Hypertension is either the primary cause or contributes to more than 1,000 deaths in the United States daily according to the CDC.  High blood pressure increases the risk of stroke, heart attack and heart failure and is also a risk factor for kidney disease.

 

Beetroot is a good source of dietary nitrate which is converted to nitrite and nitric oxide in the body.  Nitric oxide is known to relax and dilate blood vessels which leads to lower blood pressures. 

 

A systemic review and meta-analysis was conducted in 2017 to investigate the efficacy of beetroot juice supplementation on decreasing blood pressure in human subjects.  The results of this analysis is summarized in Table 1.

1To assess statistical heterogeneity, the I2 statistic and Cochran’s Q statistic were used according to specific categories (low = 25%, moderate = 50%, and high = 75%) and significance level (P < 0.10), respectively. *, P for WMD; **, P for Q value. DBP, diastolic blood pressure; SBP, systolic blood pressure; WMD, weighted mean difference.
2Blackcurrant juice (n = 10), low-calorie juice (n = 5), and control diet for NO3 (n = 1).

This study concluded that the hypotensive properties of beetroot are a potentially safe and effective nutritional approach to manage hypertension.  They recommend further clinical studies with larger sample sizes and longer duration to confirm clinical usefulness. 2

Antioxidant Effects of Beetroot

If you have been a reader of my blog, you know how important antioxidant activity is.  Oxidative stress can lead to functional impairment of the cells.  If this occurs over a long period of time, diseases such as cancer may result.  One estimate suggests oxidative stress plays a role in over 200 clinical conditions.3 

Reactive oxygen and nitrogen species (RONS) are molecules capable of oxidation.  These are continuously generated during cellular metabolism.  When aberrant cell metabolism, UV radiation, xenobiotics or increased inflammation lead to more RONS than the cells antioxidant defenses can combat, an imbalance results.  This leads to the condition referred to as oxidative stress.4 

Beetroot is very rich in antioxidant compounds.  The betalain pigments have been shown to protect cellular components from oxidative stress in several studies.5

 

6

 

7

Beetroot also contains many highly bioactive phenolics, including rutin, epicatechin and caffeic acid that are also known to be potent antioxidants.8

 

9

 

10 

Beetroot as an Anti-Inflammatory

Inflammation is one of the defense systems used by our body.  It causes the release of substances that expand blood vessels increasing blood flow to injured areas helping to speed the healing process.  If inflammation persists for an extended period of time, cell dysfunction may occur.11 

Chronic inflammation has been associated with many clinical disorders including heart disease, cancer, obesity and liver disease.12

 

13

 

14 

We have treated inflammation with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) since the 1970’s.15

Like any medication, these agents have side effects especially when used over long time periods.  NSAIDs can cause kidney damage and bleeding issues.  They also interact with several other medication classes.  Furthermore, NSAIDs have been shown to be ineffective for many inflammatory related conditions.16

The focus has been changed from NSAIDs to natural food sources as a potential alternative to combat chronic inflammation.17 

Betalains and beetroot extracts are potent anti-inflammatory agents.  A study by Reddy et al in 2005 found that betanin inhibited cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) enzyme activity by 97%.  This effect is comparable to the anti-inflammatory drugs Ibuprofen, Vioxxtm and Celebrextm.  This was the first study to show betanin’s strong anti-inflammatory properties.18  

In 2010, Pietrzkowski et al, found beetroot capsules alleviated inflammation and pain in osteoarthritic patients.19

Beetroot and Cognitive Function

It is well known that cognitive function decreases with age.  This is believed to be due, in part, to a reduction in cerebral blood flow.20

21

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This reduction in cerebral blood flow has been implicated in dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.23

24 

It would seem reasonable to conclude that beetroot could improve cerebral blood flow by increasing the availability of nitrous oxide.  We also know that a lower concentration of nitrous oxide can impair cerebral energy metabolism and neuronal activity. This may lead to neurodegeneration and cognitive deficits over time.25

26

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A study published in 2013 found improvements in systemic and cerebral vascular hemodynamics after ingestion of beetroot juice.  The investigators came to the following conclusion.

The hemodynamic improvements associated with the beetroot juice treatment appear to be consistent with counteracting some of the pathophysiologic cerebral vascular features of hypertension, Alzheimer’s, and other diseases associated with brain hypoperfusion and cognitive deficits.28

 

Beetroot Capsules Dosage

I recommend taking two capsules of Sunshine Nutraceutical’s Beetroot Powder Caps (1300mg) once daily.  Our product is all-natural, non-GMO and 100% organic.  This supplement is vegan and made in the United States.

After researching the benefits of beetroot, I decided to add it to our product line.  I work on a unit that cares for dementia patients so I am always interested in novel treatments for this disease.  Beetroot is high in antioxidants and is a great source of nitrates which are converted to nitrous oxide in the body.  I discussed four medicinal uses of this super food in this post but other possible uses also exist.  The increase in nitrous oxide and blood flow could be helpful in the treatment of erectile dysfunction.  The antioxidant properties may also prove to be beneficial in the treatment of some types of cancers in the future.  Finally, beetroot may be useful in improving exercise tolerance in athletes.  More studies will surely be done in the future regarding the many uses of beetroot. 

Thank you for reading this post.  As always, please contact us with any questions or comments.  Have a great week and be happy and safe.

Michael Brown in Lab Coat with arms crossed

Michael J. Brown, RPh, BCPS, BCPP

Mr. Brown is a Clinical Pharmacist specializing in pharmacotherapy and psychiatry.

Read Michael’s story here.

Feel free to send Michael a message using this link.