Obesity and American Culture

A Nutritional Nightmare

It is no secret that there is an obesity problem in America. It is also no secret that we are constantly bombarded with advertisements for every product under the sun. But how much are the two connected? Is the excess of advertising and marketing ploys in both the food and the dieting industry partially to blame for the mess that we are all in? How much of our weight gain is a problem with self-control, and how much of it is a toxic environment? The only way to find out is to look at how habits are formed, what expectations are being made in our society, and how our brains handle information on what causes obesity, and what we can do as a society to make things better.


What Causes Obesity?

oveObesity is a very big problem in America. As of 2014, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases stated that 1 in 3 American adults was considered to be overweight or obese. But this wasn’t the only time that obesity was considered problematic in a society.  In fact, morbid obesity went as far back as the ancient Roman Empire. A time where fast food as we know it did not exist.

So, it is safe to say, that obesity isn’t a new problem either. Meaning that there had to be more than just the invention of fast food involved.  So, where does it come from if not fast food?

It comes from two fronts, genetics, and environmental factors.



The genetic end of things is a more recently discovered concept.  In an article that was published by Choquet and Meyre, it was explained that there are genetic predispositions, as well as environmental factors when it comes to obesity. “Aside from environmental factors, considerable evidence from twin, adoption, and family studies indicates that 40 to 70% of BMI variation is due to genetic factors .”

So, the good news for people who can’t seem to get the weight off or feel like they self-sabotage too much is that it is not all about their lack of willpower. It is a literal genetic condition that can be exaggerated or diminished due to a person’s environment.  This explains why obesity has come and gone in societal waves.

But what was the purpose of people having the genes that store fat in the first place? Why did people with the genes manage to pass the ability to store fat on? The answer is to fight famine.


Fat Storing Was Advantageous

When civilizations rise or fall in wealth, there are shifts in food security, which makes your body react. When obesitythere are times of famine, there is little fat content available to the masses, so the human body reacts by storing every moment of energy it could possibly have.

While your body is starving during a time of famine, your brain will naturally decrease your feelings of satiety. According to F.E.A.S.T, “When starving, the hypothalamus turns up hunger so we can think of little but food; it keeps satiety (fullness) signals low so that when food becomes available we can gorge, and it quiets the part of the brain responsible for self-restraint.” Excessive hunger literally existed as a survival mechanism first and foremost during times of famine.

In fact, this sort of adaptation was not only seen as a necessity for our survival but the survival of our offspring. ” Scientists first began to suspect that a mother’s diet could program her adult child for obesity by studying people born to mothers who were pregnant during the Dutch Hunger Winter of 1945. Hitler cut off food to Holland and thousands died of starvation. Women who were pregnant gave birth to infants that were smaller than normal, but epigenetic modifications prepared the children to survive famine by increasing their appetites and ability to store fat.”

But if there are times of plenty right now, with fast food on every corner then why is there still a huge obesity problem today in both older and younger generations?  There hasn’t been a mass famine since the Great Depression. There has been, but it does not come from a source of food scarcity.


Our Current Environment

obesityAmerican culture as we know it is the perfect storm for the creation of an obese population. It is a vicious cycle of feast and famine that is formed from greed and profit.

The Fitness Industry

For starters, the precedent for starvation is already there due to the existence of marketed fad diets. Commercials, media, and other outside sources plague on the insecurities of the public. Then, they offer a  fast solution to that problem with a specialized diet that comes in various forms, such as, extreme workout programs, special cookbooks, diet pills,  etc.  From there, starvation, drug abuse, and high activity are encouraged.

This makes your body feel aware of its impending starvation and turns on the gene that encourages the fat storing behavior. Which leads to the introduction of the…

Fast Food Industry

…where food is processed quickly with an abundance of oils, fats, red meats. This is in response to the people literally starving themselves then feeling the biological increase in demand for fatty foods. They make money off the people who are responding to forced starvation with addictive behaviors. Eventually, once the binging sessions are over, the people who are responding to these binging sessions feel guilty enough to try and find a solution to the rapid weight gain. Then the cycle repeats.

How can we stop the insanity of starvation and binging behavior? How do we remove American society from this destructive cycle of obesity issues?

The Solution

There are three things America would need to focus on if we are ever going to stem the tide of the obesity epidemic.

  • For starters, we need to focus on culturally exploring body positivity. Start demanding from the Media, a positive interpretation of people with all shapes in sizes.
  • Then, we start investing less in fad diets and more on comprehensive nutritional and fitness education.
  • Finally, we would need to also increase the demand for nutritional alternatives from our fast food-based businesses.

It would take time and effort from many people. However, until we start acknowledging the cause of obesity, on a grand scale, we will not see any sustainable change.

Nutrition Myth Busting: Are Organic Groceries Better?

Nutrition Myth Busting: Are Organic Foods Better than Regular Groceries?


Dieting trends have existed probably since the beginning of time. Some of them have sounded more absurd and others actually sound quite convincing. But what are the facts when it comes the statement that “Organic food is better for you”? There are nutritionists, people in the fitness game, doctors and word of mouth that feeds into the contradictory information about organic food, some saying that it is the absolute best for you and others that say its exactly the same.  So, let’s jump past all the speculation and look into how good for you organic food really is.


A Call for Homegrown Fruits and Veggies



Believe it or not, the organic food movement is a lot older than you think it is. The term organic means “food that is grown without the assistance of man-made chemicals.” The term “organic farming” was coined by Walter James aka Lord Northbourne in his manifesto Look to Land.  His book was basically a statement on how much better organic farming was compared to pesticide farming. It was popular enough to start a movement as he continued his research in biodynamic farming. He eventually grew interested in the metaphysical side of things in his writing as he got older.

Organic farming as a whole gained popularity from there since sustainability became a matter of importance in the agriculture industry. It gained a countercultural following from the 1960’s to the 1970’s. It spawned a “back to the land” movement that ended rather poorly because while they had good ideas (such as not using harmful pesticides), they lacked the practical execution of their vision (the regenerative practices of the organic movement).

But their ideas lived on as more people started buying their food from co-ops or local farmers.

Eventually, the growing demand in the marketplace for organic foods made the government take enough notice to the point where they started to research then regulate organic practices.


What are the Differences between Organic and Regular Food?

organicThe latest people to ask about it were the scientists at Stanford University. They conducted decades-long research, wondering how nutritious organic produce and meat were compared to their common practice counterparts.  The results were surprising to say the least.

According to an interview with the Stanford team, other factors play more of a part in the nutrition value of grown produce.  “However, other variables, like ripeness, may influence nutritional content even more. A peach or berry that reaches peak ripeness with the use of pesticides could contain considerably more vitamins than a less-ripe organically grown fruit.”

This means that organic food has little difference in nutritional value than conventional food.

But what about livestock and their byproduct?

It turns out, there is a slight difference but not one that is not enough to make much of a large impact. “The Stanford researchers noted that organic milk does have modestly higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, based on a few small studies included in the analysis.”

As far as pesticides causing harm to people eating food with them in the regulatory amounts, it can decrease the growth and performance of young children, pregnant women and the elderly with chronic health problems, but not drastically so.

A Different Kind of Health Impact

organicIf it is just cheaper to buy food grown with pesticides, then why are we doing this organic stuff anyway? Isn’t it easier to buy regular groceries?Well, the answer to that is a little complicated. While it doesn’t impact your nutrition, organic farming does have a benefit for the farmers and the environment.

Farmers who are regularly exposed to large quantities of pesticide are more likely to get cancer. So do the animals that are exposed to the same pesticides. Some of these pesticides are banned, while others, that are carcinogenic to animals, are still in use. Studies have been conducted and continued by the
EPA and AHA, determining that pesticides in large doses are making people and animals sick.




So, if you are concerned about the environment and the health of our local farmers and are willing to buy pay a few dollars extra for groceries, maybe you want to stick with Wholefoods. If you are too broke, continue to buy regular groceries with the occasional trip to the farmer’s market. Either way, it is not going to make much of a difference to your body.

Health Food Trends: Tofu

What’s the Big Deal About Tofu?

When someone asks you to think of an alternative to meat and meat byproduct tofu is the first thing that comes to mind. This soy-based product has been popular in America for decades as a great source of protein from dieters, vegetarians, and vegans alike. But how much do we know about it? Is it really good for you, and if so, what can we benefit from it? The only way to know the truth is to look it up. So let’s dive in and find out how tofu came to be as well as how far it has come.



Tofu is a lot older than most people think. If someone from America didn’t know any better, they would swear it was a byproduct of the 60’s hippie craze. The truth is it has been a dietary staple for centuries in the Eastern part of the world.

Tofu, as we call it today, is the Japanese word for processed soymilk that is processed through salt from seawater and is pressed into large white blocks. Its processing technique is not that much different from making cheese and has been the staple of the Japanese diet for centuries. But that is not where Tofu came from.

The Japanese, before us, borrowed both the cooking technique and the word from another country of origin. Tofu is a derivative of the Chinese word “dofu” and the earliest signs of its creation have been dated far back from the Han Dynasty (220 BCE – CE 220). However, it wasn’t a main staple of the Chinese diet until much later in the Song dynasty (960CE–1279CE).  Back then, it was popular among the lower classes and could only be made and sold during the wintertime. Over time its popularity spread throughout Korea, Taiwan, and Indonesia from either migrants who came from China or Japanese soldiers trying to gain territory over time.

It was first mentioned in America as “Chinese cheese” by Benjamin Franklin to John Bartram via letter in 1770. However, it was not well known or mainstream in America until the 20th century.  From there, the West was exposed to Eastern cuisine.

Types of Tofu

Because tofu is such a well-traveled food, over time there have been several different types that have been developed as a byproduct of cultural exchange and experimentation with ingredients.


There are types of tofu that differ in texture such as the firm tofu or the silken.  And, there are types of tofu that differ from the type of milk such as almond, chickpea, and peanut tofu. There is a website dedicated to classifying the different types of tofu that exist and have recipes. You should check them out if you are interested in experimenting with it.


Nutritional Benefits of Traditional Tofu

Since it is made from soybean curds, it naturally has a high amount of protein and a low amount of carbs. It has a good source of calcium since it comes from soymilk. And because it is derived from a bean, it also has a good source of iron.  Also, because it is made of soy, it has the same benefits that come from soy, mainly isoflavones
According to the lead scientists studying the nutrient “The consumption of soy products has many health benefits, including protection against breast cancer, prostate cancer, menopausal symptoms, heart disease and osteoporosis. Many of these health benefits of soy are derived from its isoflavones.”
There are about 177 calories in a single block, which isn’t too bad.
If you think you want to experiment with putting it in your daily diet, then go ahead. Just don’t overdo it and you should be fine. 

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Nutrition Myth Busting – Are Eggs Bad for You?

Are Eggs Bad for Your Cholesterol?

When it comes to eggs, we get quite a lot of mixed signals. Whether it is about the origins of the chicken or whether the yolk is bad or good for you, this natural life source has been a hot topic of debate.  I personally have seen health trends regarding the egg rise and fall several times over the course of two decades, and there is still no solid consensus.  The burning questions of today are: Should we eat eggs? What is the best way to prepare an egg? And how does it help or hurt your cholesterol? We are finding out today!


The Purpose of the Egg

The “creation” of the egg was more of an evolutionary advantage than most people realize. Paleontologically speaking, eggs with soft shells for fish and reptiles predate any eggs with hard shells. The earliest evidence of an egg with hard shells is dated at 312 million years ago, for the common ancestor of the modern-day turtle.  These hard shells had the natural advantage of being harder for predators to get into the growing embryo.  And it helped contain both the necessary water and nutrients for the growing creature inside.  This advantage meant that the animals with hard shells no longer had to return to the water to give birth.  Also, it gave them the option of living closer to their food source on land, ensuring their survival.


Why are Eggs Food?

Eggs, both hard and soft are considered food for carnivores and omnivores alike. This is because the yolk of the egg containseggs protein and nutrients that are specifically intended for the growth of the offspring. These nutrients range from minerals like selenium to zinc to vitamins B, K, and E.

The shell also provides a certain amount of calcium for predators and mother alike. Yes, even hens will eat their own eggs if they are running low on calcium and think that their offspring aren’t going to survive.

Humans are natural omnivores. If something doesn’t poison us, we will eat all sorts of meats, plants, and seeds to our heart’s content. Since they do contain a natural source of protein and vitamins our ancient ancestors and those of us today still eat eggs as part of our diet.

There are people who object to eating eggs from a moral standpoint, but there has been quite a lot of dietary confusion on whether or not eggs should be part of our diet at all. This all boils down to our understanding of how eggs affect our cholesterol levels.

eggsHow do Eggs affect your Cholesterol?

Eggs do contain a high amount of cholesterol, one egg almost has the daily value of it in our recommended diet. However, in the 80’s and 90’s when it was in vogue to eat only egg whites for fear of getting a heart attack, they had little understanding of how cholesterol worked.  After a bit of research, we found out that the natural cholesterol found in foods do very little to increase the cholesterol in your bloodstream.

The heart attack inducing cholesterol comes from a diet in high amounts of saturated fat and simple sugars, not the natural cholesterol found in eggs and nuts.  There are people among the general population that do have a genetic predisposition to high cholesterol in the bloodstream from regular food, but those range from 10-30% of the general population.

So, unless your doctor tells you otherwise, one to three eggs a day are safe in your daily diet.


What is the Best Way to Prepare an Egg?

Well, another blog has the better answer to that one, so I will paraphrase what they listed in the form of a list.

  • If you are trying to cut back on calories, choose poached or boiled eggs.
  • Eggs go really well with vegetables.
  • In general, pasture-raised and organic eggs are thought to be nutritionally superior to caged and conventionally-produced eggs.
  • The longer and hotter you cook your eggs, the more nutrients you may lose. Using higher heat for longer may also increase the amount of oxidized cholesterol they contain. This is particularly true of pan frying.



The short answer is that no, for most people, eggs yolks do not raise your cholesterol. They provide protein and important nutrients, and this outweighs the effects of your bloodstream. Just be careful of the quality of eggs that you get and be moderate with how many you eat.


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Health Food Trends: Why are Cabbages Superfood?

Cabbages – Why are they a Superfood?

There is a running joke among dieters that the only things they could eat were celery and ice chips. That is because celery is the type of food that typically burns more calories than they add during digestion. But this isn’t the only food that can do that. Cabbages, for instance, are a type of food that naturally burns more calories than they add. But is that the only thing the cabbage has to offer? Let’s check out why cabbage can be an important asset to the daily diet, as well as its history and a couple of recipes for you to try.

cabbageCabbage History

The species of round cabbage that we know of today are part of the scientific genus Brassica. It is the same genus that contains broccoli, cauliflower, kale, collard greens, etc. There has been records of evidence pointing to the common ancestor of the cabbage being cultivated in ancient Mesopotamia. However, the features of the modern-day cabbage were first cultivated in England and France, at around the time of the rule of Charlemange in the Early Middle Ages.

The Anglo Saxons of Britain called this new strain of round ball cabbages caboches and it has since then been spread through different parts of the world through various trade routes.  In the 16 and 1700’s, German, Dutch, and Scandinavian sailors pickled their cabbage to preserve their nutrients and prevent scurvy. Cabbage seeds were planted by early American colonists in the mid-1500’s and also made their way to Australia in 1778. As of today, the modern cabbage can be found in most parts of the world.

Nutritional Benefits of Cabbage

So, just what makes cabbages popular enough for it to be spread all over the world like that? And just how could they prevent scurvy? Well, let’s look at the nutritional index of the cabbage. Red Cabbages have:

  • 79% Vitamin K
  • 69%Vitamin C
  • 20% Vitamin B6
  • 14%Fiber

And that is just the tip of the iceberg. Red cabbages have high antioxidant and anti-flammatory properties, which are great for the prevention of disease and inflamed joints.

But with all types of food, it is best to moderate your intake. Too much fiber can create blockages in your digestive system, making bowel movements difficult in bouts of constipation. They are also considered to be goitrogenic, a type of substance that could de-regulate thyroid hormone production and cause it to swell large enough to become a goiter.

Cabbage Recipes


Braised Red Cabbage With Apples

This recipe takes advantage of the natural sweetness found in red cabbages and pairs it with a just as sweet fruit.  Click on the photo below to find the recipe link.



Southern Fried Cabbage

According to the original poster of this recipe:” This dish was always a favorite at Mammaw’s house. ” It is the most Southern recipe I have ever come across. Click on the photo below for the recipe.

cabbage recipe


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Health Food Trends: What’s up with Quinoa?

Quinoa – A Puzzling Grain

There are certain foods that are part of the fad dieter’s bandwagon. You know the ones I am talking about. Superfoods, foods that come from exotic places with special properties that can cure cancer, make you lose 50 lbs, and extend your life to over 100 years. Naturally, if you bring this up with nutritionists and dieticians, both would eye-roll at the notion. Human beings need a varied diet with a combination of nutrients if they plan to live long and healthy lives.

Now, there isn’t to say that there is no benefit at all to these ‘superfoods’. Just because there are no shortcuts to nutrition and health doesn’t mean that they are completely out of the equation. It just means that you have to take it with a grain of salt before trying to start out on a diet of only one thing to make yourself miserable in the long run.  So, today we are going to look at one of those superfoods to see what benefit they could possibly have to us. Meet our guest grain with the craziest sounding name, quinoa.

What is Quinoa?

quinoaAfter reading it a few times, I bet you are trying to figure out it is pronounced. I have heard it two ways: “Kin-Oh-Wah” and “Keen-Wah”.  With either pronunciation, you can probably guess that they aren’t a food that comes from an English speaking region. Indeed, they were first found and cultivated by the Inca, who were native to the Andes Mountains on the edge of South American territory over 5000 years ago. While they are certainly classified as a type of grain or cereal for human consumption, botanically, they are a pseudo-grain. This is because this whole grain has its edible seeds intact whenever it is harvested for consumption.

The high demand for quinoa from first world countries has made the UN and other groups invested in international trade questioning the ethics of the mass export of the seeds from local villages. So far, it has been a mixed bag with both good and bad results for both the people supplying and demanding quinoa.

The Nutritional Value of Quinoa

Wheat and pasta that are white and are finely processed have little in the way of nutritional value these days because the human digestive system can process them quickly. That is not the case for whole grains like Quinoa. According to Medical News today, Quinoa has:

  • 222 calories
  • 8.14 g of protein
  • 5.2 g of fiber
  • 3.55 g of fat, of which 0.42 g is saturated
  • 39.4 g of carbohydrate
  • Magnesium – 30 percent recommended daily allowance (RDA)
  • Manganese – 30 percent RDA
  • Folate – 19 percent RDA
  • Phosphorous – 28 percent RDA
  • Copper – 18 percent RDA
  • Iron – 15 percent RDA
  • Zinc – 13 percent RDA
  • Potassium – 9 percent RDA

One cup also contains more than 10 percent of the RDA of the vitamins B-1, B-2, and B-6, and traces of vitamin E, B3, and calcium.

The rate of protein and nutrients in comparison to any other grain makes this seed a formidable substitute for refined grains and wheat. It is still prudent to eat vegetables and other sources of protein to make sure you are getting your recommended daily amounts. Overall, it isn’t bad for what it is and if you feel the need to eat it on occasion and have the financial means to do so, go for it!

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Dietician vs. Nutritionist

Dietician vs Nutritionist: Is there any Difference?

Specialized/Layman terms and Definitions

english is weirdAt the risk of sounding like the utterly bizarre “left & right” Twix commercial campaign, both the words Dietician and Nutritionist seem to mean the same thing. It is easy for any layman to confuse specialized and mundane definitions for similar words. For instance, until my sister went to college, I did not know the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist. And I was chewed out for that one until I got it correct.

A psychologist focuses on tackling the environmental factors of a patient’s life in order to heal their shattered mind. A psychiatrist focuses on using medicinal treatment to heal that same person’s mind.

The difference is slight to anyone who is using either term in a conversation, but it means everything to the patient who is getting treatment and the doctors who studied their practice for years.  A pill isn’t going to cure an alcoholic father, and all the counseling in the world can’t change someone’s dopamine intake.

That is why it is important to know what you are looking for when you are trying to treat your dietary habits and meet your nutritional needs.  Do you know who you need to treat your specific problems?  The only way to look it up and find out.


What is a Nutritionist?

To kickstart this dietician vs. nutritionist debate I am going to first look at the definition of the words, then look at the requirements.dietician vs. nutritionist

According to learn.org, “A nutritionist is an expert in the relationship between food and health. These professionals work with patients to apply principles of nutrition for disease prevention and to promote healthy lifestyles.”

That makes sense.  What are the requirements for a person to become a nutritionist?

After a bit of research, I have found that there is a consensus across most states is that the minimum education required for a nutritionist is a Bachelor’s Degree. The level of regulation is determined on a state by state basis, so there are some nutritionists that are allowed to practice without further certification.


What is a Dietician?

dieticianA dietician, according to the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute,”is the only qualified health professionals that assess, diagnose and treat dietary and nutritional problems at an individual and wider public health level.”

Already, we can see a few key differences. Dieticians can diagnose and treat dietary and nutritional problems on a medical capacity, not unlike a doctor. They also can research and tackle the nutritional needs and issues of populations, not just one person.  They can also diagnose eating disorders, and manage food-based illnesses on top of watching over a patient’s dietary and exercise habits.

To become a dietician, a person must receive a bachelor’s degree from a nutritional program at an accredited college or university. That is a given since at least nutritionists do this. But the list of requirements expands beyond that. There is also at least a supervised internship of 6 months to a year at a medical facility, additional study, and the passing of a national exam.

The definition and title of a dietician are much more rigid than that of a nutritionist.


 Dietician vs. Nutritionist Conclusion

In the simplest terms, a dietician is a medical expert in nutrition, while nutritionist is more like a personal trainer that can only interfere so far medically.  A Dietician can give you a recommended diet and exercise program like a nutritionist, but a nutritionist cannot diagnose an eating disorder or determine a food allergy.

However, there is an added factor that I had no room to mention until now.  Nutritionists can work their way towards a certification that can allow them to expand their practice toward a medical field.  In fact, it is required in some states, including Alabama, for practicing nutritionist to at least have a Registered Nutritionist (RD) License to perform specific nutritional counseling.  So, you are bound to find nutritionists more qualified in Alabama, than you would in the state of West Virginia, where nutritionists can provide counseling without a license, but with some insurance restrictions.

The best way to look at it comes from what sort of needs that need to be met.  If you are looking for a way to lose a few extra pounds after winter, go to a nutritionist. If you are suffering from a severe food-related condition like Celiac’s disease, go to a dietician.

Are Spicy Foods Good for you? Part 2

Life with Spice

spicy foods, capsaicin

As someone who detests spicy foods and is surrounded by friends and family members who adore them, an inquisitive part of me wonders why people eat spicy foods in the first place. Last week we covered what made food spicy in the first place and what sort of scales are being used to determine how spicy a pepper is.  These are a good starting point, but it still leaves two more questions unanswered. “Is spicy food good for you?” and “Can spicy foods be dangerous?” Let’s dive in and figure it out.


Is there a Benefit to Spicy Foods?

While a rush of endorphins come after the feeling of pain, most people don’t go out of their way to seek it out, simulated or otherwise. So, does this mean that spicy foods benefit people in other ways? Is there a reason people try to endure the hottest sauces known to man outside of thrill-seeking? Are spicy foods integral to a balanced diet? The short answer is yes. Spicy foods, specifically the capsaicin does have benefits to your health. These benefits include but are not limited to:


  • Weight Loss –  

“Research suggests that when you eat hot peppers, it increases your body heat, which boosts metabolism up to five percent, and increases fat burning up to 16 percent,” says nutritionist Pamela Peeke, M.D., author of The Hunger Fix: The Three-Stage Detox and Recovery Plan for Overeating and Food Addiction. When your body temperature goes higher, your autonomous processes go faster, such as your circulatory system or your digestive tract. When your autonomous processes start running faster, it needs more energy to burn, hence, you lose a little bit of weight when adding spicy foods to your regular diet.

  • Heart Disease Prevention –

Peppers and Tumeric are both greatly beneficial when it comes to lowering your bad cholesterol and increasing your good cholesterol. Hot peppers also contain antioxidants which are great for people who are worried about aging.  According to Dr. Miller, a professor of cardiovascular medicine, “it can help to reverse damage to blood vessels, and research by my colleagues at the University of Maryland shows that it may help lower cholesterol and prevent bad cholesterol from building up.”

  • Chronic Pain Relief –

Chronic pain is no laughing matter. Whether you have arthritis, or shingles constant pain from autoimmune issues can be problematic for your daily life. However, capsaicin in concentrated amounts have been proven and utilized for pain relief. If you are in a pinch, you could rub any area where you are hurting with a hot pepper. However, over the counter pain creams tend to have a more concentrated amount of capsaicin in them, so doctors recommend them instead.

  • Cancer Prevention – 

Various medical institutions have been conducting various studies to see what sort of elements can possibly prevent the growth of cancer cells. According to one of their contributors the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, 80 percent of prostate cancer cells were killed in mice after they were dosed with concentrated amounts of capsaicin. The normal cells were not disturbed. There has also been evidence of concentrated amounts of capsaicin have been able to kill breast cancer, cervical cancer, and stomach cancer cells.


too spicy, hot
Copyright Fox and Matt Groening

Can You Have Too Much Spice?

Alas, no one can have a perfectly balanced diet with one food group alone, and that includes spice.  Too many hot peppers can at best give you a loss of appetite and at the worst, destroy your gut. Acid reflux is also a consequence of too many peppers. Your small intestine would also have a rough time with gastritis.  Symptoms of gastritis involve vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, fever, and blood in your stool.  While too many peppers could cause death, according to Dr. Bosland, the scenario would most likely not play out. Your body would get sick first before it got fatal. If you want the benefits of spice without too much risk, it is recommended to eat peppers or other spicy foods from 2-3 times a week.

Are Spicy Foods Good for you? Part 1

Life with Spice

I must confess, dear readers, I am not a fan of spicy foods. Compared to the rest of the population, I am, in fact, a wimp. Black pepper is too much for me at times. My father and sister, on the other hand, love to eat spicy foods in moderate amounts. My brother in law, who hails from Jamaica, lives breathes and dies by spice. So, it is no wonder that the rest of the US is divided on the issue of spice. However, it does have me thinking, is there a benefit to eating spicy food in your regular diet, or is it dangerous? The only way to find out is to research as much as I possibly can on the subject matter. So, let’s dive in on the wonderful world of spicy food.


What Makes Spicy Food Hot?


spicy foodsIn order to find out what makes food spicy, we first have to look into two key elements. The first is the chemical composition behind the plants that we call spicy.  The thing that causes heat in peppers and other plants is called Capsaicin (pronounced cap-say-a-sin). It is an organic compound produced by the seeds in these plants and is the active ingredient that gives spicy food its heat.   There are botanists that hypothesize that peppers produce capsaicin to ward off intruders that try to eat it.

The second thing that we need to figure out is why our tongues can pick up things like heat in the first place. This is thanks to a class of pain receptors called vanilloid (VR1). They bind to the capsaicin that naturally grows in the seeds of the spicy plants which creates a sensation of pain. The same kind of pain that comes when you hover an open hand over a hot stove. The kind of signal that tells us that there is damage being done to the body.  However, when these capsaicin molecules are bound via oils from the peppers to the VR1 receptors, no damage is actually being done to the body.  In other words, spice is just a false alarm that triggers pain.

But why would people put themselves through physical pain if it is an unpleasant sensation?

The answer to that is what happens after the initial feeling of pain, dopamine.

As our bodies feel pain, our brains do their best to compensate by pumping endorphins and dopamine. Both of them block pain and create a sensation of pleasure.  People who have felt the pain from eating something spicy also felt the reward of pleasure through dopamine, and try to seek out that feeling again.


The Measurement of Spice


Now that we know what makes food spicy and why people eat spicy food in the first place, it leaves me and possibly you wondering, is there a reason why some foods are spicier than others? Is scoville heat scale, spicy food, pepperthere even a way we could tell which pepper is hotter than others? How do you know if something is too spicy or not spicy enough? Well, there is a way to measure how hot a pepper is against another, and we call it the Scoville scale.

According to Wikipedia, peppers are processed and measured in the Scoville scale by determining the exact weight of a dried pepper is dissolved in alcohol to extract the heat components (capsaicinoids), then diluted in a solution of sugar water. Decreasing concentrations of the extracted capsaicinoids are given to a panel of five trained tasters until a majority (at least three) can no longer detect the heat in a dilution. The heat level is based on this dilution, rated in multiples of 100 SHU. 

However, it has been pointed out that there is a level of subjectivity at play when it comes to taste. And after time, people just get used to tasting the same thing over and over again. This criticism has been acknowledged and a new scale is coming out of the woodwork thanks to Dr. Paul W. Bosland, from the University of New Mexico.  He and other scientists are devising a new scale by determining how many parts per million of heat-causing alkaloids are present in a pepper.  Here’s hoping that we will get more accurate over time.

Next week, we will find out if there are nutritional values to be found in spicy foods like peppers.

Summertime Fruits and Vegetables – Okra

Summertime is on the way, a season that offers hot days, cool swimming pools, and refreshing lemonade. There are also plenty of fruits and vegetables to enjoy at this time of the season. So let’s take a quick look at some of the best that summer fruits and veggies have to offer. We will take a quick look at what nutritional value these fruits and vegetables have to offer, as well as their origins and a couple of refreshing recipes for the summer season.




If you live in the South, Carribean,  Africa, or India, then you may be more familiar with this vegetable. Okra or “Ladyfingers” grows best in warm climates and are at their best for eating when they are immature, at about a week after they first sprout. According to several sources, The geographical origin of the plant is disputed, with supporters of South Asian, Ethiopian and West African origins. There is written documentation about the spread of Okra from Ethiopia to Egypt between the 12th and 13th century. From there, it was spread from Africa to the Southern United States and the Carribean from the African slave trade.


Okra Nutrition

Okra is already a nutritious vegetable from just its structure. Its pods have natural fibers, and its seeds produce both pectin and fibers, which is great for weight management.  Other nutritious benefits that the Okra has to offer include:

  • Vitamin A

Vitamin A has antioxidant properties and exists to destroy any free radicals that may invade the bloodstream. Antioxidants are great for repairing both inner and outer cell damage in both your eyes and your skin.

  • Lectin

Lectin is a type of protein found in vegetables like this one, beans, peanuts, and grains. Studies were conducted in 2016 with the attempt to determine if lectin played a role in the prevention and reversal of breast cancer.  While there still needs to be some verification with further studies, there is a chance that the lectin in okra may play a role in the reduction of certain types of cancers.

  • Vitamin K

Foods that are high in vitamin K, such as okra, are good for bone health. Vitamin K, which can be found in okra and other leafy plants like arugula, helps your bones absorb calcium and prevent fractures.


 Sauteed Okra Recipe

If you want to try the vegetable, but aren’t sure about the slimy texture of the seeds inside, then there is good news for you. Baking or frying okra can bypass the gummy seeds that you can get when okra is stewed.  This simple recipe is healthy, provides clear instructions on how to slice and prepare the vegetable, and is quick and easy to make! Of course, if you want to try it yourself, you can click on the photo below for the recipe.