Archives for May 2012

Another Super Food — Mushrooms!

Mushrooms, along with cruciferous vegetables and onions are another Super Food!  

Mushrooms are not a vegetable, but rather are classified as fungi.  Yes, I agree, that sounds gross, but mushrooms have amazing anti cancer and disease preventing properties.

Mushrooms have a long history dating back to the ancient Chinese, Egyptians, Greeks and Romans.  The Chinese used mushrooms to treat cold and flu symptoms. The ancient Egyptians considered mushrooms a delicacy.  The Greeks believed that mushrooms gave strength to their warriors.  Romans only served mushrooms on special occasions, believing them to be a gift from God.

There are 14,000 different types of mushrooms, 3,000 are edible, and about 700 have known medicinal properties, and 140 are recognized as poisonous.  So don’t eat mushrooms you pick in a field!  Make sure they are from a reputable grocer.

Mushrooms are an excellent source of potassium, a mineral that helps lower elevated blood pressure and reduces the risk of stroke.  One medium Portobello mushroom has even more potassium than a banana.

Mushrooms are a good source of selenium. Selenium is an antioxidant that works with vitamin E to protect cells from the damaging effects of free radicals and inhibiting the growth of cancerous cells.  Typically we get selenium from animal protein, so mushrooms are an important food for vegetarians.

Mushrooms have been shown to be effective in preventing breast and prostate cancer. The Beta-Glucans and conjugated Linoleic Acid in mushrooms have anti-carcinogenic effects.  The Beta-Glucans in mushrooms inhibit growth of cancerous cells in cases of prostate cancer.(1)  Studies have shown that males who consumed twice the recommended daily intake of selenium cut their risk of prostate cancer by 65 percent. In the Baltimore study on Aging, men with the lowest blood selenium levels were 4 to 5 times more likely to have prostate cancer compared to those with the highest selenium levels. (2)

Linoleic acid is particularly helpful in suppressing effects of estrogen, the prime cause of breast cancer in post menopausal women. “Just 10 grams of mushrooms daily (about one mushroom per day) had a 64% decreased risk of breast cancer. And in women who ate 10 grams of mushrooms and drank green tea daily – an 89% decrease in risk for pre-menopausal women, and 82% for postmenopausal women.” (3)

Mushrooms care also effective for diabetics.  They contain natural insulin and enzymes which help break down sugars in food. Mushrooms contain compounds that help proper functioning of liver, pancreas and the other endocrine glands, promoting formation of insulin and its proper flow through the body. (2)

Shiitake mushrooms known by the ancient Chinese and Japanese to treat colds and flu, have been shown to stimulate the immune system, help fight infection, and demonstrates anti-tumor activity.  Mushrooms provide vitamin A, C and B vitamins that strengthen the body’s immune system.

Mushrooms contain natural antibiotics, as a matter of fact, penicillin is extracted from mushrooms.  They also help heal ulcers and ulcerous wounds and protect them from infections.

Mushrooms are also the only vegetable to contain vitamin D in edible form. As a matter of fact, they are the second known source for edible vitamin D –after cod liver oil!

Mushrooms are also rich in calcium, iron and copper (a mineral with anti bacterial properties).

All this being said, I have taken to adding mushrooms to everything I cook!



Cramming for a 10K

I am running in the Market Square Day10K  in Portsmouth in just 3 weeks.  My training was going nicely up until a month or so ago when I was sidelined by a horrific cold and/or sinus infection.  A measly cold never has slowed me down like this.  I went about 2 weeks without doing any exercise (other than coughing), so now I am trying to get my training in quickly!

This is a fun race as the route makes a loop of Portsmouth and even goes right by my house at the 2 mile mark.  As a matter of fact, my blog’s header photo was taken during last year’s race.

I feel pretty good about getting back into my training this week.  I managed to run twice and get to yoga twice.  This week, the goal is to run 3 times.   Wish me luck!

Another Miracle Spice — Cayenne

In an earlier post, I outlined the benefits of the spice turmeric.  Another healing spice is cayenne.  Yes hot and spicy cayenne pepper is a powerful anti-inflammatory and can help relieve pain, prevent ulcers, aid in cardiovascular health and relieve congestion.  It is also an excellent source of vitamin A.

Cayenne is a member of the Capsicum family of vegetables, also known as chili peppers.  The substance in cayenne and other chili peppers that gives them their “hotness” is capsaicin.  The hotter the pepper, the more capsaicin it contains.  Capsaicin has been shown to reduce inflammation and pain associated with arthritis, cluster headaches and psoriasis (2)

Research has shown that Cayenne and other red chili peppers have been shown to reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels (2), and to prevent the formation of blood clots (1).   Cultures who use cayenne and hot peppers regularly in their cooking have a much lower rate of heart attack, stroke and pulmonary embolism.

The Capsaicin in cayenne also helps drain nasal passages and clear congestion.  It is recommended to drink a tea made of hot water and cayenne to reduce symptoms of a cold or flu!

Cayenne is also high in vitamin A.  (two teaspoons of cayenne pepper provide 47% of the daily value for vitamin A).  Vitamin A helps protect the body from infections.

Cayenne is good for digestion.  It stimulates the flow of enzyme production and gastric juices, aiding the body’s ability to metabolize the food.  It has been used to relieve intestinal gas  as it stimulates intestinal peristaltic motion, aiding in both assimilation and elimination. (1)

Believe it or not, cayenne is associated with a reduced risk of stomach ulcers.  Rather than cause ulcers, cayenne may help prevent ulcers by killing bacteria, and stimulating the cells lining the stomach to secrete protective buffering juices that prevent ulcer formation.

Lastly, cayenne helps boost metabolism, aiding in weight loss.



What Happens to Our Body when we Run

I saw a great post on written by Laura Beil for Women’s Health describing our body’s reaction during a 30-minute run.  This pretty much sums up why it takes me about a mile before I feel good!

Within the first 90 seconds

  • Our bodies start using ATP (adenosine triphosphate) these are the energy molecules that our body makes from food
  • As only a limited amount of ATP can be stored in muscle cells, and so ATP is converted into ADP (adenosine diphosphate).
  • ADP will only provide 2-3 seconds worth of energy, so ADP needs to be converted back into ATP.  The body does this by breaking down glycogen (a form of glucose stored in our muscles), and through glucose in our blood.
  • This process causes our muscles to release lactic acid

After the initial surge, during the next few minutes

  • Our muscles require more oxygen to use the glucose that is releases
  • Our heart beats faster and directs blood to our muscles and away from bodily functions we aren’t currently using
  • We begin to breathe heavy
  • Our glutes, legs and core work to keep us erect, control our gait and extend the hip joint so our feet can push off the ground
  • We begin to burn calories at a rate of about 100 calories per mile.
  • As we burn glycogen and oxygen for energy, our body temperature rises.  In an effort to keep from overheating, our circulatory system diverts blood flow to our skin and our sweat glands release moisture.

Within the first 10 Minutes (or for me, at about the mile mark)

  • If we are in good shape our bodies efficiently uses oxygen, burns fat and glucose and we feel strong.
  • If we haven’t been keeping up with our training, or we are running faster than usual (as in a race) the ATP can’t keep up with demand, lactic acid floods our body, and we feel it!