South America is a melting pot of cultural and culinary traditions, as the different countries in the region have their own takes on ingredients like vegetables and meats. In particular, fish and seafood dishes are popular because of the countries’ proximity to the Amazon River and the Caribbean Sea.
If you want to try a South American-inspired dish, look no further than this Mouthwatering Pan-Fried Fish With Fiery Pico de Gallo Salsa recipe. The tender and juicy fish and the fresh yet spicy salsa offer a flavorful balance of the land and the sea.
Note: While this recipe provides flavor and health benefits, be cautious of the very high possibility that the fish is tainted with mercury and other heavy metals and pollutants. Ideally, eat fish in moderation and thoroughly check for labels that verify the fish’s freshness and quality (more on this later).
Pico de Gallo Salsa
2 large organic plum tomatoes, deseeded and finely diced
1/3 cup chopped coriander
1/4 cup organic red onion, finely chopped
1 small organic jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped (keep the seeds if you like it hotter)
1 Tbsp. organic lemon or lime juice (plus extra to serve)
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
4 wild fish fillets of your choice (Alaskan salmon, barramundi, cod, coral trout etc.), skin on
2 Tbsp. Dr. Mercola’s coconut oil
For the salsa:
- Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl. Season to taste with Dr. Mercola’s Himalayan salt and freshly cracked pepper, and add a little more lemon juice or jalapenos if desired.
For the fish:
- Season the fish fillets with salt and pepper and rub them on both sides with the coconut oil.
- Heat a large, non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Put them skin side up on the pan and cook until golden brown for 3 minutes, then flip the fillets with a spatula.
- Cook the fish until completely opaque throughout, for 5 minutes longer.
- Remove fillets from the pan, place them on plates and serve topped with the Pico de Gallo Salsa and lemon.
This recipe makes 4 servings.
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 8 minutes
Make the Most Out of This Fish and Salsa Recipe
This Mouthwatering Pan-Fried Fish With Pico de Gallo Salsa Recipe might require a little effort and caution, especially if you’re a beginner in relatively short cooking time the kitchen, but it’s not a highly technical or complicated dish, and only requires a relatively short cooking time.
Even better, you can make a batch of the no-cook salsa ahead of time and use it for other dishes, too. Feel free to add more flavor to the fish by using other herbs and spices. The number of ways you can prepare this recipe and make it your own knows no bounds.
Why Choosing the Right Fish Is a Big Factor
The fish fillet you choose for this dish is the star of the show, which is why selecting the best portions is a must. However, as mentioned earlier, a huge caveat of fish is the high likelihood of it being contaminated with mercury and other pollutants.
The boom in the fish farming industry has resulted in high profits, but at the cost of producing low-quality fish. Farmed fish are given unnatural feed loaded with dioxins, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and other drugs and chemicals. Even worse, these fish are at high risk for genetic mutations and deficiencies like ear bone deformities and brittle flesh.
The good news is, you can still enjoy your favorite fish dishes by choosing wisely and carefully inspecting the portions you’ll be purchasing. A trusted local fish monger is your best source for high-quality fish, but if you have no choice but to buy from grocery stores or big box retailers, check for these third party labels that’ll assure you of top-quality fish:
- The Marine Stewardship Council logo, featuring the letters “MSC” and a blue check mark in the shape of a fish
- Alaska’s “Wild Alaska Pure” logo, since the state doesn’t allow aquaculture, making all fish wild-caught
- The Global Aquaculture Alliance symbol, if the fish is farmed (although this should be your last resort, as much as possible)
This Simple Salsa Is Flavorful and Nutritious
Salsa, which literally means “sauce,” is popular as a topping for quesadillas and enchiladas, as a dip for tortillas and tacos and as a condiment poured over eggs, fajitas, grilled beef and roast chicken. While tomatoes, onions and chilies are its three main ingredients, sometimes papaya, mango and plantains are also added, alongside spices for additional flavor and heat.
You can reap the health benefits that salsa has to offer by using fresh and organically grown produce instead of canned vegetables (as much as possible, avoid canned salsa). You can have peace of mind knowing that these ingredients are healthy and fresh, without artificial flavorings or spices.
Think About Tomatoes for Improved Health
Juicy and organic tomatoes, which form the salsa’s base, and are a good storehouse of:
- Vitamins A and C and B-complex vitamins
- Minerals like potassium, manganese and phosphorus
- Flavonoids and carotenoids like lutein and zeaxanthin
- Phytonutrients like flavonols, flavonones, hydroxycinnamic acids, glycosides and fatty acid derivatives
Research showed that a carotenoid antioxidant called lycopene in tomatoes can help lower a person’s stroke risk, compared to other antioxidants. Lycopene may also facilitate cell protection and shield skin from ultraviolet damage. Additional findings also highlighted lycopene’s ability to maintain bone density and decrease risk for diseases like osteoporosis, prostate or colorectal cancer and diabetes.
Other positive effects linked to tomatoes include regulating blood pressure levels, supporting better heart health, minimizing constipation, improving eye and skin health and helping prevent defects in infants.
Hot Jalapeno Peppers Can Help Boost Your Well-Being
Capsaicin, an active ingredient responsible for the peppers' pungent odor and burning sensation in your mouth, may help reduce the risk of breast cancer cell growth by activating olfactory receptors on the tumor cells called Transient Receptor Potential Channels (TRPV1).
The researchers stimulated these cells by adding capsaicin to cell cultures for several hours to days. Afterwards, the cells not only began to slowly divide but also started dying in large numbers. Aside from this, adding chili peppers to meals can:,
Help with pain relief
Assist with weight loss
Deliver antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties
Help enhance immunity
Aid with insulin level reduction
Protect the heart
Prevent sinusitis and relieving congestion
About Pete Evans
Pete Evans is an internationally renowned chef who has not only cooked for the general public, but he’s also cooked a royal banquet for the Prince and Princess of Denmark, a private dinner for Martha Stewart, and even represented his hometown at the gala GʼDay USA dinner for 600 in NYC.
Pete’s career has moved from the kitchen into the lounge room with many TV appearances including Lifestyle Channel’s Home show, Postcards from Home, FISH, My Kitchen Rules, and Moveable Feast.
Pete’s latest endeavor, The Paleo Way, is a vibrant health, weight management, and fitness program, tailored to a Paleo lifestyle. Its 10-week activation program teaches you the synergy between eating good food, moving your body every day, and looking at the positive sides and secrets to a healthier and happier life.
By Ronnie Cummins
As noted in “Ditching Nature in Favor of Fake Food Is Not the Solution to Destructive Factory Farming” by Dr. Joseph Mercola:
“Industrial agriculture is one of the most unsustainable practices of modern civilization. The ‘bigger is better’ food system has reached a point where its real costs have become readily apparent.
Like water running down an open drain, the Earth's natural resources are disappearing quickly, as industrialized farming drives air pollution, water pollution, deforestation, rising carbon emissions and the depletion, erosion and poisoning of soils.
The long-term answer, however, lies in the transition to sustainable, regenerative, chemical-free farming practices, not in the creation of food manufacturing techniques that replace farms with chemistry labs, which is the ‘environmentally friendly’ alternative envisioned by biotech startups and its chemists.”
As a campaigner for organic and regenerative food, and a critic of fast food, GMOs and factory farms for over 40 years, I am alarmed and disgusted by the degenerate state of food and farming in the United States.
Not only are misguided farmers, ignorant and corrupt public officials, greedy investors, food corporations and mindless consumers destroying their health and the health of their families through their everyday production practices and food choices, but our Fast Food Nation is rapidly degrading the health of the environment and the climate and life-support systems of our planet as well.
Corporate America’s trillion-dollar taxpayer-subsidized system of industrial food and farming, represented most graphically by factory farms and feedlots, is literally killing us, whether we’re talking about our food-related public health emergency or the fact that our chemical and fossil fuel-intensive system of industrial agriculture is belching out 43 to 57 percent of the greenhouse gas pollution that has dangerously destabilized our climate.1
(The percentages are estimated amounts according to the United Nations Conference on Trade of Development, 2013,2 in which the conference members added food waste, food production, processing, transport and deforestation together.)
The malevolent driving force of Big Food Inc. and their army of chemical farmers, food processors and marketers is the idea that maximizing short-term profits trumps all other considerations — including health, economic justice, animal welfare, environment and climate stability — and that convenient, cheap, artificially flavored fast food and commodities represent the pinnacle of modern agricultural production and consumption.
Boycott Factory-Farmed Food
It’s time to disrupt and take down our suicide economy and our degenerate agricultural and food system. A good starting point is to join the growing movement and consumer boycott of all factory-farmed meat, dairy and poultry products, not just at the grocery store, but in restaurants as well — and not just occasionally, but every day.
Factory farms inhumanely confine, feed and drug 50 billion of the 70 billion farm animals on the planet,3 supplying McDonald’s, KFC, Burger King, et al., and the supermarket chains with the cheap, artery-clogging meat and dairy that are destroying our environment, climate and health.
Concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and the GMO soybean and corn farms that supply them are the No. 1 source of water pollution in the U.S.,4 as well as a major source of air pollution. Monsanto/Bayer’s GMO soybeans and corn for CAFO animal feed are the No. 1 destroyer of grasslands and forest in the Amazon basin and other areas.5,6
U.S. and international factory farm meat and dairy operations are also major drivers of global warming and climate change, spewing out massive amounts of CO2, methane and nitrous oxide emissions7 into the atmosphere from giant feedlots, hog and chicken complexes, manure lagoons and the chemical-intensive, GMO grain farms that supply “CAFO Nation” with millions of tons of taxpayer-subsidized animal feed every year.
Besides degenerating the environment and climate, CAFOs are primary drivers of our deteriorating public health as well. Filthy, inhumane, polluting, greenhouse gas-belching factory farms mass produce approximately 90 to 95 percent of the meat and animal products consumed in America today.
The average U.S. carnivore now supersizes and toxifies themselves with approximately 200 pounds8 of CAFO meat a year, loaded with bad fats (low in omega-3 and other key nutrients) and laced with antibiotic, pesticide and hormone residues that substantially increase a person’s chances of getting cancer, suffering from obesity, dying from an antibiotic-resistant infection, developing Alzheimer’s or having a heart attack.
Approximately 75 percent of all the antibiotics9 in the U.S. today are dumped into factory farm animal feed and water to keep the animals alive under the hellish conditions of intensive confinement as well as to force the animals to gain more weight.
This massive, reckless and often illegal use of antibiotics on factory farms (along with routine over-prescribing of prescription antibiotics by doctors) has begun to spread deadly antibiotic-resistant pathogens into our food, with an average of 90,000 Americans dying from antibiotic-resistant infections on an outpatient basis every year, according to the latest calculations by Cambridge University researchers, who noted that they believe the 23,000 deaths often quoted are far underreported.10
Based upon a study commissioned by the U.K. government, multidrug-resistant infections are projected kill 10 million people a year across the world — more than currently die from cancer — by 2050 unless significant action is taken.11
False Solutions No. 1: Fake Meat
Although I share the same disgust and hatred of factory farms and CAFO meat as my vegan and vegetarian brothers and sisters, I am nonetheless disturbed to see a growing number of vegan activists, Silicon Valley tycoons, genetic engineering cheerleaders and even some climate activists joining together to promote fake meat products such as the “Impossible Burger,” as a healthy and climate-friendly alternative to beef.
Even worse are the growing number of vegans, climate activists and high-tech/GMO enthusiasts who claim that abolishing livestock and animal husbandry altogether will solve our health, environmental and climate crises.
The Impossible Burger, made from a highly-processed mix of soy, wheat, coconut oil, potatoes and genetically engineered (GE) yeast, is Wall Street’s latest darling and a heavily-hyped menu item in many vegan restaurants. As Mercola has previously pointed out:
“The Impossible Burger resembles meat "right down to the taste and beeflike 'blood,' The New York Times notes,12 and has become a hit in some circles. So far, the company has raised $257 million from investors,13 who include Bill Gates, Khosla Ventures, Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz's Open Philanthropy Project, Li Ka-shing (a Hong Kong billionaire) and Singapore's sovereign wealth fund, Temasek Holdings.”
Unfortunately, it appears the Impossible Burger and other fake meat are neither healthy nor, in the case of the Impossible Burger, even proven safe.
Mercola pointed out that fake meat such as the Impossible Burger is nutritionally inferior to real, non-CAFO meat such as 100 percent grass fed beef, which “contain a complex mix of nutrients and cofactors that you cannot recreate by an assembly of individual components.
While it’s true that millions of carnivores, especially in the U.S., are supersizing and poisoning themselves with two or three times as much CAFO meat, dairy and poultry as a natural health expert would recommend, a moderate amount of grass fed or pastured meat and dairy (especially raw milk dairy products) are actually very good for your health.
So, if you want a healthy meal, skip the Impossible Burger and other fake meat and go for a 100 percent grass fed beef, lamb or buffalo burger instead. If you prefer to get your protein boost from seafood, skip the farmed fish and go for wild Alaskan salmon.
If you’re determined to eat a veggie burger, skip the GMO yeast and fake blood and flavors and choose a healthy meat alternative such as an organic tempeh burger, made from fermented soybeans, or a bean burger, made from all natural, organic ingredients.
False Solution No. 2: Abolishing Livestock
Even more bizarre, elitist and uninformed is the recent trendy chorus basically calling for the elimination of the planet’s 70 billion livestock as a major solution to the climate crisis.
These “no livestock” fundamentalists basically ignore the fact that over a billion people, especially in the developing world, rely upon, for their food and survival, raising livestock on the billions of acres of pasture and rangeland that are simply not suitable for raising crops, but which can and do support properly grazed livestock.
Besides providing about one-third14 of the world’s protein, animal husbandry and livestock today provide 33 to 55 percent of the household income for the world’s 640 million small farmers, 190 million pastoralists, and 1 billion urban peasants, more than 66 percent of whom are low-income women.15
Shall we just tell these billion “backward” peasants to go into town and line up for their GE Impossible Burgers and forget about raising their cattle, buffalo, sheep, goats, ducks and chickens like their ancestors have done for thousands of years?
Global Warming and Catastrophic Climate Change: The Animals (and Regenerative Food and Farming) Can Save Us
Perhaps the most fundamental reason why we need to preserve and promote a regenerative system of animal husbandry across the planet on millions of farms and ranches is the little-known fact that properly grazing animals (as opposed to animals imprisoned in factory farms) are the key to sequestering excess carbon-dioxide from the atmosphere and storing this carbon in the world’s 4 billion acres16 of rangelands and pasturelands. As world-renowned climate scientist James Hansen, Ph.D., puts it:17
“If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted, paleoclimate evidence and ongoing climate change suggest that CO2 will need to be reduced from its current levels to at most 350 ppm…”
A growing corps of climate experts have warned us repeatedly that we must stop burning fossil fuels; eliminate destructive food, farming and land use practices; and draw down enough carbon dioxide (CO2) from the Earth's atmosphere through regenerative farming/ranching and enhanced natural photosynthesis to return us to 350 parts per million (ppm) or, better yet, to pre-industrial levels of 280 ppm.
About half the total human greenhouse gas emissions causing global warming today come from burning fossil fuels18 (coal, oil and gas) for transportation, heating, cooling, electricity and manufacturing. The other half, however, unbeknown to most people, comes from degenerative food, farming and land use practices.19
These greenhouse gas-polluting, climate-destabilizing food, farming and land use practices include the massive use of fossil fuels and synthetic, climate-destabilizing chemicals on the farm, including diesel fuel, pesticides and chemical fertilizers.
They also include energy-intensive food processing, packaging, long-distance transportation of foods, confining billions of methane-belching animals in factory farms, dumping rotting waste food and organic garbage into landfills instead of composting it, and wasting 40 percent20 or more of all the food we grow.
These fossil fuel-intensive food and farming practices are compounded by degenerate land use practices, including clear-cutting forests, draining wetlands, degrading marine ecosystems, destructively tilling the soil, dumping soil-killing pesticides and chemical fertilizers on the land, and destroying grasslands.
These degenerate farming and land use practices degrade the natural ability of plants, pasture, rangeland, wetlands, and trees to draw down enough CO2 from the atmosphere (via photosynthesis) to keep the soil, atmosphere, ocean, carbon and hydrological cycles in balance.
So how can we avert climate catastrophe and the collapse of human civilization? Regenerative food, farming and land use, especially grazing and pasturing animals properly on the world’s 4.3 billion acres of pasture and rangeland, is the key to ending CAFO (and GMO grain) emissions and drawing down enough CO2 to reverse global warming.
As Judith Schwartz explains in detail in her recent book, “Cows Save the Planet,” holistic rotational grazing, especially in pastures where perennial trees and plants are growing, is the key to averting climate catastrophe.21 Most people do not yet understand the central role of regenerating the soil and supercharging plant photosynthesis in order to stop and then reverse global warming.
Even fewer understand that the major solution to greenhouse gas pollution and degenerative factory farm and grain-growing practices are properly grazed livestock in perennialized pastures, managed by regenerative ranchers and farmers, supported by conscious consumers who refuse to eat factory farmed meat, dairy and poultry or nonorganic vegetables, fruits and grains.
Plant Photosynthesis and CO2 Drawdown
The most important thing about regenerative food, farming, ranching and land use is that these practices qualitatively increase plant photosynthesis, with a potential to drawdown all of the excess carbon (200 to 250 billion tons of carbon) in the atmosphere that is causing global climate change.
In other words, if the levels of carbon sequestration now being put into practice by thousands of advanced regenerative farmers and ranchers (1 to 10 tons of atmospheric carbon sequestered per acre/per year) can be scaled up globally, we can draw down enough excess carbon from the atmosphere to reverse global warming and restore climate stability.22
Through the miraculous process of photosynthesis, plants (including pasture grasses) have the ability to breathe in CO2 and transpire or release oxygen, simultaneously turning atmospheric CO2 into a form of “liquid carbon” that not only builds up the plant’s above ground biomass (leaves, flowers, branches, trunk or stem), but also travels though the plant’s roots into the soil below.
Exuded or released from the plant’s roots, this liquid carbon or sugar feeds the soil microorganisms in the rhizosphere, the soil food web that not only sustains all plant and animal life, including humans, but also regulates the balance between the amount of carbon in the atmosphere and the carbon in our soils.
Regenerative food and farming, coupled with 100 percent renewable energy, not only holds the potential — through qualitatively enhanced soil health and supercharged plant photosynthesis — to mitigate global warming by drawing down several hundred billion tons of excess carbon from the atmosphere and storing it in the soil, but also to actually reverse global warming while simultaneously restoring the environment, improving the nutritional quality of our food, and regenerating the economic vitality of small farmers, herders and rural communities.23
Michael Pollan, perhaps America’s best-known food writer, explains how enhanced plant photosynthesis, as generated through healthy soils and forests and 100 percent grass fed holistic grazing is the key to drawing down excess carbon from the atmosphere and storing it in our soils in order to reverse global warming:24
“Consider what happens when the sun shines on a grass plant rooted in the earth. Using that light as a catalyst, the plant takes atmospheric CO2, splits off and releases the oxygen, and synthesizes liquid carbon — sugars, basically.
Some of these sugars go to feed and build the aerial portions of the plant we can see, but a large percentage of this liquid carbon — somewhere between 20 and 40 percent — travels underground, leaking out of the roots and into the soil.
The roots are feeding these sugars to the soil microbes — the bacteria and fungi that inhabit the rhizosphere — in exchange for which those microbes provide various services to the plant: defense, trace minerals, access to nutrients the roots can’t reach on their own.
That liquid carbon has now entered the microbial ecosystem, becoming the bodies of bacteria and fungi that will in turn be eaten by other microbes in the soil food web. Now, what had been atmospheric carbon (a problem) has become soil carbon, a solution — and not just to a single problem, but to a great many problems.
Besides taking large amounts of carbon out of the air — tons of it per acre when grasslands are properly managed … that process at the same time adds to the land’s fertility and its capacity to hold water, which means more and better food for us ...
This process of returning atmospheric carbon to the soil works even better when ruminants are added to the mix. Every time a calf or lamb shears a blade of grass, that plant, seeking to rebalance its ‘root-shoot ratio,’ sheds some of its roots. These are then eaten by the worms, nematodes and microbes — digested by the soil, in effect, and so added to its bank of carbon. This is how soil is created: from the bottom up.”
The Regeneration Revolution Is Long Overdue
After decades of working alongside vegans and animal rights activists in campaigns such as the McDonald’s Beyond Beef campaign (which I organized with Jeremy Rifkin and Howard Lyman in 1992 to 1994), the campaign against Monsanto’s recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) from 1994 until the present, and most recently working with consumers and farmers in campaigns against GMOs, pesticides and factory farm dairy, poultry and beef, I believe the time is long overdue for everyone concerned about food, farming, health, climate and humane treatment of animals to connect the dots between our common concerns and build a powerful united front to take down factory farms and carry out a global Regeneration Revolution.
Breaking through the tunnel vision and self-righteous walls between our issue silos (i.e., my issue is more important than your issue, and my solution is the only solution), and uniting to build a new “Beyond USDA Organic” system of regenerative food, farming and land use, we can bring down the factory farm and GMO behemoth.
Working together rather than rallying behind false solutions such as fake meat and abolishing livestock, we can popularize and scale-up humane, healthy and climate-friendly solutions to our hydra-headed crisis.
We can promote and implement real, positive, shovel-ready solutions rather than promoting simplistic and indeed destructive “silver bullets” such as genetically engineered fake meat and “pharm animals,” that not only fail to address the real roots of climate (and the health) crisis, but ultimately threaten the livelihoods of a billion small farmers and peasant women across the planet.
So, forget about the Impossible Burger and other fake meats and the elitist notion of getting rid of the world’s 70 billion livestock. We’re all in this together, and it’s going to take a regeneration of all living creatures — humans, wild animals, livestock, plants, trees and soil microorganisms — working in harmony to build a new world on the ruins of the old.
Given the horrors of factory farms and factory-farmed food, we need a global boycott of the multitrillion-dollar CAFO industry. Please sign up here to stay in touch with the news and campaigns of the Organic Consumers Association.
More and more of us, conscious consumers and farmers, alarmed by the accelerating climate crisis and the degeneration of the environment, public health and politics are coming together under the banner of regenerative food, farming and land use, the most important new current in the food, farming and climate movement. Please join us today.
About the Author
Ronnie Cummins is international director of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), a nonprofit consumer advocacy and grassroots organization, and a member of the Regeneration International (RI) steering committee.
- What Are Antioxidants?
- The Health Benefits of Antioxidants: How Do They Stop Free Radical Damage?
- Different Types of Antioxidants
- Antioxidants You Should Not Miss Out On
- 6 Antioxidant Food Sources You Should Add to Your Diet
- Recommended Antioxidant Supplements
- 6 Lifestyle Changes That Help Maximize Your Antioxidant Intake
Antioxidants are, without a doubt, an essential part of optimal health. Even conventional Western physicians now acknowledge the significance of getting sufficient antioxidants from your diet or taking high-quality antioxidant supplements. But do you know how antioxidants function in your body and what types you need?
I have compiled some basic facts about antioxidants to broaden your understanding of these nutrients, so you can better appreciate their importance in helping keep you youthful and healthy.
Antioxidants are a class of stable molecules that are capable of inhibiting the harmful effects of free radicals, which are unstable and highly reactive molecular species that target lipids, nucleic acid, proteins and other important molecules. Your body naturally circulates a variety of nutrients for their antioxidant properties and manufactures antioxidant enzymes in order to control oxidative stress.1
Some antioxidants are produced by your body, but some are not. As you age, your body's natural antioxidant production can decline.2 Since antioxidants play a significant role in delaying the aging process by fighting free radicals, losing your body's antioxidant defense could speed up aging.3
To fully understand how antioxidants truly benefit your well-being, you should first be familiar with free radical formation. Biogerontologist Denham Harman was the first to discover the concept of free radicals in 1954, while researching an explanation for aging.4,5
Free radicals are a type of a highly reactive metabolite that is naturally produced by your body as a result of normal metabolism and energy production. They are your natural biological responses to environmental toxins like cigarette smoke, sunlight, chemicals and cosmic and man-made radiation. They even are a key feature of pharmaceutical drugs. Your body also produces free radicals when you exercise and when you have inflammation anywhere in your body.6
Free radical molecules are missing one or more electrons, which are responsible for biological oxidation. The incomplete molecules aggressively attack other molecules in order to replace their missing parts. These reactions are called "oxidation."7 Oxidation is essentially biological rusting, as it's an effect caused by too much oxygen in your tissues.8
Free radicals steal electrons from the proteins in your body, which badly damages your DNA and other cell structures. They can create a "snowballing effect," which means that, as molecules steal from one another, each one becomes a new free radical, leaving a trail of biological carnage.9
Free radicals tend to collect in cell membranes (lipid peroxidation), which makes the cell lipids prone to oxidative damage. When this happens, the cell membrane becomes brittle and leaky, causing the cell to fall apart and die.10
Free radicals can severely affect your DNA by disrupting the duplication of DNA, interfering with DNA maintenance, and breaking open or altering its structure by reacting with the DNA bases.11,12 Free radicals are linked to over 60 different diseases, including:13,14
- Parkinson's disease
- Alzheimer's disease
If your body does not get adequate protection, free radicals can become rampant, causing your cells to perform poorly. This can lead to tissue degradation and put you at risk of diseases. This is where antioxidants come in. Antioxidants are electron donors, so they can break the free radical chain reaction by sacrificing their own electrons to feed free radicals, but without turning into free radicals themselves.15
Antioxidants are nature's way of providing your cells with adequate defense against reactive oxygen species (ROS). As long as you have these important micronutrients, your body will be able to resist aging caused by your everyday exposure to pollutants. If you don't have an adequate supply of antioxidants to help squelch free radicals, then you can be at risk of oxidative stress, which leads to accelerated tissue and organ damage.16
"Numerous studies have confirmed the benefits of antioxidants and the role they play in maintaining good health and reducing your risk of heart disease, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and cancer."
Antioxidants also help slow down the aging process, which can have immense effects on your skin health.17 Other important benefits of antioxidants include:
- Repairing damaged molecules — Some unique types of antioxidants may help repair damaged molecules by donating a hydrogen atom. This is very important when the molecule is a critical one, like those that make up the nucleic acids in your DNA.18
- Blocking metal radical production — Certain antioxidants have a chelating effect that may help keep toxic metals from causing free radical formation and inhibit any chemical reaction from taking place.19
- Stimulating gene expression and endogenous antioxidant production — Some forms of antioxidants may help stimulate your body's genes and increase your natural defenses.20
- Providing a "shield effect" — Antioxidants, such as flavonoids, may act as a virtual shield by attaching to your DNA to help protect it from free radical attacks.21
- Reducing the risk for cancer — Antioxidants may help fight against cancer by interfering with the metabolic activation of chemical carcinogens, causing regression of premalignant lesions and inhibiting the development of tumors.22
In the book "The Antioxidants," author Richard A. Passwater, Ph.D., says that humans have one of the longest natural life spans in the animal kingdom, most likely because of the wealth of antioxidants in our omnivorous diet. Human bodies also produce antioxidant enzymes that cannot be found in other creatures. According to him, "our natural antioxidant processes compensate for one another, covering up momentary deficiencies by their overlap."23
Many people think that taking just a few antioxidants — just one or two mega doses, for example — is sufficient to maintain optimal health. But I strongly disagree. Instead, you must get a wide variety of antioxidants to optimize your well-being.
The science of antioxidants can be quite complex, and this often causes people to be confused about what types they should be taking. In fact, I've been asked several times whether it's necessary to take astaxanthin if you're already taking a resveratrol supplement. The answer is yes — astaxanthin is actually a lipid-soluble antioxidant,24 while resveratrol is a water-soluble antioxidant.25 Each type of antioxidant has its own special function.
When classified according to their solubility, antioxidants can be categorized as either soluble in lipids or fat (hydrophobic) or soluble in water (hydrophilic). Both of these forms are required by your body in order to protect your cells, since the interior of your cells and the fluid between them are composed of water, while the cell membranes themselves are mostly made of fat.26
Since free radicals can strike either the watery cell contents or the fatty cellular membrane, you need both types of antioxidants to ensure full protection from oxidative damage. Lipid-soluble antioxidants are the ones that protect your cell membranes from lipid peroxidation. They are mostly located in your cell membranes.27 Some examples of lipid-soluble antioxidants are vitamins A and E, carotenoids and coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10).28
Water-soluble antioxidants are found in aqueous body fluids, like your blood and the fluids within and around your cells (cytosol or cytoplasmic matrix).29 Some examples of water-soluble antioxidants are vitamin C, polyphenols and glutathione.30
However, solubility is not the only way to categorize antioxidants. They can also be categorized as enzymatic and nonenzymatic:31,32
• Enzymatic antioxidants help break down and remove free radicals. They also help flush out dangerous oxidative products by converting them into hydrogen peroxide, then into water. This is done through a multistep process that requires a number of trace metal cofactors such as zinc, copper, manganese and iron.
Enzymatic antioxidants cannot be found in supplements, but instead are produced in your body. The main enzymatic antioxidants in your body are:33
◦ Superoxide dismutase (SOD) — This can break down superoxide into hydrogen peroxide and oxygen, with the help of copper, zinc, manganese and iron. It is found in almost all aerobic cells and extracellular fluids.
◦ Catalase (CAT) — This works by converting hydrogen peroxide into water and oxygen, using iron and manganese cofactors. It finishes the detoxification process started by SOD.
◦ Glutathione peroxidase and glutathione reductase — These are selenium-containing enzymes that help break down hydrogen peroxide and organic peroxides into alcohols. They are most abundant in your liver.
• Nonenzymatic antioxidants help convert free radicals into nonradical, nontoxic forms, thereby interrupting free radical chain reactions. Some examples are carotenoids, vitamin C, vitamin E, plant polyphenols and glutathione.34
Antioxidants can also be classified in terms of their molecular size:35
- Small-molecule antioxidants work by mopping up or "scavenging" the reactive oxygen species and carrying them away through chemical neutralization. The main players in this category are vitamins C and E, glutathione, lipoic acid, carotenoids and CoQ10.
- Large-protein antioxidants tend to be the enzymatic enzymes outlined above, as well as "sacrificial proteins" that absorb ROS and stop them from attacking your essential proteins. One example of these sacrificial proteins is albumin, which "takes the bullet" for crucial enzymes and DNA.
Isn't it wonderful how nature has equipped you with the perfect combination of different defenses to cover almost every possible biological contingency?
As mentioned, it is crucial that you do not stick to getting just one or two types of antioxidants. You need a wide array of antioxidants to provide you with optimal benefits. Some antioxidants can be produced by your body. These are:
• Glutathione — Known as the most powerful antioxidant, glutathione is a tripeptide found in every single cell in your body.36 When others are talking about it they sometimes refer to it as the "master" antioxidant because it's intracellular and has the unique ability of maximizing the performance of all the other antioxidants, including vitamins C and E, CoQ10 and alpha-lipoic acid, as well as the fresh vegetables and fruits that you eat every day.37
Glutathione's primary function is to protect your cells and mitochondria from oxidative and peroxidative damage. It is also essential for detoxification, energy utilization and inhibition of age-related diseases. Glutathione helps eliminate toxins from your cells and protect them against the damaging effects of radiation, chemicals and environmental pollutants.38,39
Your body's ability to produce glutathione decreases with aging.40 However, there are foods you can include in your diet that may help promote glutathione production, such as high-quality whey protein,41 curcumin,42 raw dairy, eggs and grass fed meat.43,44
• Alpha-Lipoic Acid (ALA) — Aside from its free radical scavenging abilities, this powerful antioxidant may also help:
◦ Modify gene expression to reduce inflammation
◦ Chelate heavy metals
◦ Enhance insulin sensitivity
Like melatonin,45,46 ALA is an antioxidant that can be easily transported into your brain so it can benefit people with brain diseases like Alzheimer's.47 ALA may also help regenerate other antioxidants like vitamins C and E, as well as glutathione. This means that if your body has used up these antioxidants, ALA may help regenerate them.
• CoQ10 (Ubiquinone) — Used by every cell in your body, CoQ10 is converted by your body to its reduced form, ubiquinol, to maximize its benefits.48,49 CoQ10 has been the subject of thousands of studies. Aside from naturally protecting you from free radicals, it also helps:50
◦ Produce more energy for your cells
◦ Support your heart health, immune system and nervous system
◦ Reduce the signs of normal aging
◦ Maintain blood pressure levels within the normal range
As you get older, your body becomes more and more challenged to convert the oxidized CoQ10 to ubiquinol. When this happens, you may need to take a ubiquinol supplement.51
There are antioxidants that cannot be manufactured inside your body and must be obtained from antioxidant-rich foods or potent antioxidant supplements. These are:
• Resveratrol — Found in certain fruits like grapes, vegetables, cocoa and red wine,52 this antioxidant can cross the blood-brain barrier, providing protection for your brain and nervous system.53
Resveratrol has been found to be so effective at warding off age-related diseases that it was dubbed the "fountain of youth."54 Aside from providing free radical protection, this antioxidant may help:55
◦ Inhibit the spread of cancer, especially prostate cancer
◦ Lower your blood pressure
◦ Keep your heart healthy and improve elasticity of your blood vessels
◦ Normalize your anti-inflammatory response
◦ Reduce your risk for Alzheimer's disease
• Carotenoids are a class of naturally occurring pigments that have powerful antioxidant properties. They are the compounds that give foods their vibrant colors.56 There are over 700 naturally occurring carotenoids,57 which can be classified into two groups:58
◦ Carotenes — These do not contain oxygen atoms. Some examples are lycopene (found in red tomatoes) and beta-carotene (found in carrots), which is converted by your body into vitamin A.
◦ Xanthophylls — These contain oxygen atoms. Examples include lutein, canthaxanthin, zeaxanthin and astaxanthin. Zeaxanthin is the most common carotenoid that naturally exists in nature and is found in peppers, kiwi fruit, maize, grapes, squash and oranges.59
• Astaxanthin — Although it's technically a carotenoid, I believe this antioxidant deserves its own special mention due to its superb nutritional advantage. Astaxanthin is a marine carotenoid produced by the microalgae Haematococcus pluvialis when its water supply dries up, to give itself protection from ultraviolet radiation.60
I believe that astaxanthin is the most powerful carotenoid in terms of free radical scavenging. It is 65 times more powerful than vitamin C, 54 times more powerful than beta-carotene and 14 times more powerful than vitamin E.61
Aside from its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier like resveratrol, astaxanthin can also cross the blood-retinal barrier — something that beta-carotene and lycopene cannot do.62
Astaxanthin is more effective than other carotenoids at "singlet oxygen quenching," a particular type of oxidation caused by sunlight and various organic materials.63,64 It's also 550 times more powerful than vitamin E and 11 times more powerful than beta-carotene at neutralizing this singlet oxygen.65 It may also help:
◦ Support your immune function66
◦ Improve your cardiovascular health by reducing c-reactive proteins (CRP) and triglycerides and increasing beneficial high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterols67
◦ Protect your eyes from cataracts, macular degeneration and blindness68
◦ Reduce your risk of dementia, Alzheimer's and certain types of cancers69
◦ Promote recovery from spinal cord injury70
◦ Reduce inflammation71
◦ Improve your endurance, workout performance and recovery72
◦ Relieve indigestion and acid reflux73
◦ Stabilize your blood sugar levels74
◦ Increase sperm strength and count, which in turn improves fertility75
◦ Protect against sunburn and the damaging effects of ultraviolet radiation76
◦ Reduce the oxidative damage to your DNA77
◦ Relieve the symptoms of different diseases, including pancreatitis,78 multiple sclerosis79 and neurodegenerative diseases,80 among others
To learn more about this antioxidant's benefits, I recommend reading "Research on Astaxanthin Demonstrates Significant Whole Body Benefits."
• Vitamin C — This vitamin is a monosaccharide antioxidant that can be obtained from both animals and plants. It's an essential micronutrient for humans.81 Vitamin C plays a role in collagen synthesis, which is an important structural component of your bones, blood vessels, tendons and ligaments.82 It also helps:
◦ Fight oxidation by acting as a major electron donor83
◦ Maintain optimal electron flow in your cells84
◦ Protect proteins, lipids and other vital molecular elements in your body85
The best sources of vitamin C are raw, organic vegetables and fruits, but you can also take it as a supplement or have it administered intravenously (IV).86 When taking a vitamin C supplement, opt for one made with liposomal technology, which makes the nutrient more absorbable to your cells.
• Vitamin E — Natural vitamin E is a family of eight different compounds: four tocopherols and four tocotrienols. You can obtain all these vitamin E compounds from a balanced diet composed of wholesome foods.87 However, if you take a synthetic vitamin E supplement, you will get only one of the eight compounds.88
I believe that when it comes to obtaining nutrients, your diet — not supplements — should be your primary source. If you consume a balanced, unprocessed diet that's full of high-quality, raw organic foods, especially fruits and vegetables, your body will acquire the essential nutrients and antioxidants it requires to achieve or maintain optimal health. Here are some of my top recommendations for antioxidant-rich foods:
• Fresh, organic vegetables — Most of the vegetables you eat, especially the green leafy ones, are loaded with potent phytochemicals, which are plant compounds that act as antioxidants. Phytochemicals can reduce inflammation and eliminate carcinogens.89
However, to maximize the antioxidants in vegetables, you must consume them raw, in a state closest to when they were harvested. I highly recommend juicing as one way to absorb all the nutrients in the vegetables — it is one of the healthiest antioxidant drinks you can add to your diet.90 You may also eat the pulp instead of throwing it away. For valuable tips in vegetable juicing, read my article, "Benefits of Juicing: Your Keys to Radiant Health."
• Sprouts and microgreens — They're powerful sources of antioxidants, minerals, vitamins and enzymes,91 and they allow you to get the most benefit from a plant in the most biologically concentrated and bioavailable form. My top favorites are pea shoots, sunflower sprouts and broccoli sprouts.
• Fruits — Fresh berries like blueberries, blackberries, cranberries and raspberries are the best antioxidant-rich fruits you can consume, as they contain powerful phytochemicals that may help reduce the risk for inflammatory disorders, cardiovascular diseases and cancer.92
Some berries also contain vitamin C, carotenes and carotenoids, as well as nutrients like potassium, iron, calcium and magnesium.93 However, I advise you to consume fruits in moderation, as they contain fructose, which can be detrimental to your health in high amounts.
• Nuts — Pecans, walnuts and hazelnuts are excellent antioxidant foods that may help boost your heart health and overall well-being.94,95 Look for nuts that are organic and raw, not irradiated or pasteurized. I do not recommend consuming peanuts, as they are usually pesticide-laden and can be contaminated with a carcinogenic mold called aflatoxin.96
• Herbs and spices — Aside from being an abundant source of antioxidants, herbs and spices may have potential anticancer benefits.97 Herbs and spices differ mainly by source, as herbs typically come from the plant's leaves while spices come from the bark, stem and seeds. Both have been used for thousands of years to flavor foods and help treat illnesses.98
Some of your best choices are ground cloves, ground cinnamon, oregano, turmeric, ginger and garlic. Ideally, you should opt only for fresh herbs and spices, as they are healthier and have higher antioxidant levels than processed, powdered versions.99
• Organic green tea — This antioxidant-rich drink contains epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), a catechin polyphenol that's considered one of the most powerful antioxidants known today.100
EGCG helps lower your risk of heart attack, stroke, glaucoma, high cholesterol levels and more.101,102 Studies have also found that it may help improve your exercise performance, increase fat oxidation and even reduce the risk for obesity due to its regulatory effect on fat metabolism.103
However, remember that not all green teas are created equal. Some processed green tea brands can contain very little or no EGCG at all.104 Some tea bags are also contaminated with fluoride or hazardous plastics that can leach into your tea when brewing.105
To ensure you're drinking high-quality green tea, be sure to buy only organic, loose-leaf tea from a reputable source. My top tea choices are organic matcha tea and tulsi tea.
I also recommend consuming high-quality whey protein that's cold-pressed, derived from grass fed cows, and free of hormones, sugar and chemicals. Whey protein provides all the essential key amino acids for glutathione antioxidant production: cysteine, glycine and glutamate.106 It also contains glutamylcysteine, a unique compound that's considered to be the key factor in the glutathione-promoting activity of whey protein mixture.107
As many of you know, I do not recommend taking many supplements, as they cannot replace the nutrients and benefits you can get from whole organic foods. Supplements should only be taken to supplement your diet, and not to completely replace it.
However, due to today's fast-paced and busy lifestyle, many people are now neglecting the importance of consuming whole, organic foods. They do not have time to cook and prepare wholesome meals, causing them to miss out on essential nutrients, including antioxidants. In this case, taking a high-quality antioxidant supplement may be an ideal option. Some of my personal recommendations are:
- Krill oil
- Acai berry
- Vitamin E
- Liposomal vitamin C
However, remember that overloading on antioxidants, especially from supplements, can have negative effects on your health.108 It can be easy to overdose when taking antioxidants as supplements, so always remember the Goldilocks equation: not too many, but not too few.
An antioxidant-rich diet will not work to your advantage if you do not follow a healthy lifestyle. Remember, there are unhealthy lifestyle habits that can promote free radical formation.109
Failure to put a stop to unhealthy habits can result in the levels of free radicals in your body rising to dangerous levels, putting you at risk of inflammation and paving the way for disease and illness. Aside from consuming a wholesome diet, here are a few lifestyle pointers I highly recommend:110
1. Reduce and eventually eliminate sugar (especially fructose) and grains from your diet — According to Dr. Robert Lustig, professor of pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), fructose undergoes the Maillard reaction with proteins, which leads to superoxide free radicals to form in your body. These damaging free radicals can cause liver inflammation similar to that caused by alcohol.111
Fewer sugars and grains (which convert into sugar in your body) in your diet may help decrease your antioxidant stress. Plus, the antioxidants you have will work better and last longer. I also advise against consuming any type of processed foods, especially soda, as these usually contain high amounts of fructose.112
2. Exercise — Exercise may help boost your body's antioxidant production but in a paradoxical way, as it actually creates potent oxidative stress. However, if you do it properly and in moderation, it may help improve your body's capacity to produce antioxidants. This is why I recommend doing short bursts of high-intensity exercises like Peak Fitness instead of prolonged cardio like marathon running, which puts excessive stress on your heart.
3. Manage your stress — Stress can exacerbate the inflammation and poor immune function caused by free radical formation. Studies have found significant links between acute and/or chronic emotional and psychological stress and numerous health issues.113
To manage your stress effectively, I recommend using energy psychology tools, like the Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT). EFT is a form of psychological acupuncture — but without the needles — that can help you can correct the emotional short-circuiting that contributes to your chronic stress.
4. Avoid smoking — Smoking forms free radicals in your body, which accelerates the aging process.114 Even being around people who smoke can affect your health by narrowing the blood vessels in the outermost layer of your skin, which limits its blood flow and impairs its ability to absorb oxygen and nutrients, leading to accelerated wrinkling and aging.115
Smoking also contributes to the pathobiology of various diseases, the most well-known of which is lung cancer.116
5. Get enough sleep — High-quality sleep is one of the cornerstones of good health, and science has now established that a sleep deficit can have severe far-reaching effects on your health.117 Six to eight hours of sleep per night seems to be the optimal amount for most adults, and too much or too little can have adverse effects on your well-being. If you are having problems sleeping, I recommend reading "Top 33 Tips to Optimize Your Sleep Routine."
6. Try grounding — Also called "earthing," grounding may provide potent antioxidant effects that help alleviate inflammation in your body. Walking barefoot on the earth may help you absorb large amounts of electrons through the soles of your feet.118
The best way to incorporate grounding into your lifestyle is to exercise barefoot outdoors, such as on the beach or in your yard. It's one of the most wonderful, inexpensive and powerful ways to uplift your health.
You add it to your morning cup of coffee or tea. You bake it into pastries, cakes and cookies. You even sprinkle it all over your breakfast cereal or your oatmeal for added flavor.
But that's not all. It's also hidden in some beloved "treats" that people consume on a daily basis, such as sodas, fruit juices, candies and ice cream. It also lurks in almost all processed foods, including breads, meats and even your favorite condiments like Worcestershire sauce and ketchup.
This additive is none other than sugar. Most people view sugary foods as tasty, satisfying and irresistible treats. But I believe there are three words that can more accurately describe sugar: toxic, addictive and deadly.
Sugar, in my opinion, is one of the most damaging substances that you can ingest — and what's terrifying about it is that it's very abundant in our everyday diet. This intense addiction to sugar is becoming rampant, not just among adults, but in children as well.
But how exactly does sugar work in your body, and what are the side effects of excess sugar on your health?
Today, an average American consumes about 17.4 teaspoons of sugar per day, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.1 While this is down by about a fourth since 1999, when Americans' sugar consumption was at its peak,2 It is still significantly higher than the 12 teaspoons that the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020, has set.3
This is definitely alarming, considering the average Englishman in the 1700s consumed only 4 pounds of sugar per year4 — and that was mostly from healthful natural sources like fruits, quite unlike the processed foods you see in supermarket shelves today.
What's even more disturbing is that people are consuming excessive sugar in the form of fructose or high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). This highly processed form of sugar is cheaper to produce, yet 20 percent sweeter than regular table sugar, which is why many food and beverage manufacturers decided to use it in their products.
HFCS is found in almost all types of processed foods and drinks today. Just take a look at this infographic to see just how much fructose is hiding in some of the most common foods you eat.
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The bad news is that the human body is not made to consume excessive amounts of sugar, especially in the form of fructose. In fact, your body metabolizes fructose differently than sugar. As explained in the next section, it is actually a hepatotoxin and is metabolized directly into fat — factors that can cause a whole host of problems that can have far-reaching effects on your health.
Dr. Robert Lustig, a professor of clinical pediatrics in the division of endocrinology in the University of California and a pioneer in decoding sugar metabolism, says that your body can safely metabolize at least 6 teaspoons of added sugar per day.
But since most Americans are consuming about three times that amount, a majority of the excess sugar becomes metabolized into body fat — leading to all the debilitating chronic metabolic diseases that many people are struggling with. Here are some of the effects that excessive sugar intake has on your health:
- It overloads and damages your liver — The effects of too much sugar or fructose can be likened to the effects of alcohol.5 All the fructose you eat gets shuttled to the only organ that has the transporter for it: your liver. This severely taxes and overloads the organ, leading to potential liver damage.
- It tricks your body into gaining weight and affects your insulin and leptin signaling — Fructose fools your metabolism by turning off your body's appetite-control system. It fails to stimulate insulin, which in turn fails to suppress ghrelin, or "the hunger hormone," which then fails to stimulate leptin or "the satiety hormone."6 This causes you to eat more and develop insulin resistance.
- It causes metabolic dysfunction — Eating too much sugar causes a barrage of symptoms known as classic metabolic syndrome.7 These include weight gain, abdominal obesity, decreased HDL and increased LDL cholesterol levels, elevated blood sugar, elevated triglycerides and high blood pressure.
- It increases your uric acid levels — High uric acid levels8 are a risk factor for heart and kidney disease. In fact, the connection between fructose, metabolic syndrome and your uric acid is now so clear that your uric acid level can now be used as a marker for fructose toxicity.
One of the most severe effects of eating too much sugar is its potential to damage your liver, leading to a condition known as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).9
Yes, the same disease that you can get from excessive alcohol intake can also be caused by excessive sugar (fructose) intake. Lustig explains the three similarities between alcohol and fructose:10
- Your liver metabolizes alcohol the same way as sugar — Both serve as substrates for converting dietary carbohydrate into fat. This promotes insulin resistance, fatty liver and dyslipidemia (abnormal fat levels in your blood).
- Fructose undergoes the Maillard reaction with proteins — This causes superoxide free radicals to form, resulting in inflammation — a condition that can be also caused by acetaldehyde, a metabolite of ethanol.
- Fructose can directly and indirectly stimulate the brain's "hedonic pathway" — This creates habituation and dependence, the same way that ethanol does.
Additionally, research from some of America's most respected institutions now confirms that sugar is a primary dietary factor that drives obesity and chronic disease development.
One study found that fructose is readily used by cancer cells to increase their proliferation, promoting cell division and speeding their growth, which allow the cancer to spread faster.11
Alzheimer's disease is another deadly illness that can arise from too much sugar consumption. A growing body of research found a powerful connection between a high-fructose diet and your risk of developing Alzheimer's disease and dementia, through the same pathway that causes Type 2 diabetes. According to some experts, Alzheimer's and other brain disorders may be caused by the constant burning of glucose for fuel by your brain.12
Other diseases that are linked to metabolic syndrome and may potentially arise because of too much sugar consumption include:
Sugar, in its natural form, is not inherently bad, as long as it's consumed in moderation. This means avoiding all sources of fructose, particularly processed foods and beverages like soda. According to SugarScience.org, 74 percent of processed foods contain added sugar stealthily hidden under more than 60 different names.16 Ideally, you should spend 90 percent of your food budget on whole foods, and only 10 percent or less on processed foods.
I also advise you to severely limit your consumption of refined carbohydrates (waffles, cereals, bagels and more) and grains, as they actually break down to sugar in your body, which increases your insulin levels and causes insulin resistance.
As a general recommendation, keep your total fructose consumption below 25 grams per day, including that from whole fruit. Keep in mind that although fruits are rich in nutrients and antioxidants, they also naturally contain fructose, and if consumed in high amounts may actually worsen your insulin sensitivity and raise your uric acid levels. Check out this article to see how much fructose is in the common fruits you eat.
It's also wise to avoid artificial sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose, as they actually come with a set of health problems that are much worse than what sugar or corn syrup can bring. Here are some additional dietary tips to remember:
- Increase your consumption of healthy fats, such as omega-3, saturated and monounsaturated fats — Your body needs health-promoting fats from animal and vegetable sources for optimal functioning. Some of the best sources include organic butter from raw milk, (unheated) virgin olive oil, coconut oil, raw nuts like pecans and macadamia, free-range eggs, avocado and wild Alaskan salmon.
- Drink pure, clean water — Simply swapping out sweetened beverages like sodas and fruit juices for pure water can go a long way toward improving your health. The best way to gauge your water needs is to observe the color of your urine (it should be light pale yellow) and the frequency of your bathroom visits (ideally, this is around seven to eight times per day).
- Add fermented foods to your meals — The beneficial bacteria in these healthful foods can support your digestion and provide detoxification support, which helps lessen the fructose burden on your liver. Some of the best choices include kimchi, natto, organic yogurt and kefir made from grass fed milk, and fermented vegetables.
The temptation to indulge in sugary foods will always be there, especially with the abundance of processed foods and fast foods that are available. However, most sugar cravings arise because of an emotional challenge. If this is what causes you to crave sugar, the best solution I could recommend is the Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT). This psychological acupuncture technique is a simple and effective strategy to help control your emotional food cravings.
The video below, which features EFT practitioner Julie Schiffman, demonstrates how to use EFT to fight food cravings.
If you feel that your emotions and/or your own self-image are pushing you to keep consuming sugar-loaded foods and other unhealthy treats, I recommend you try this useful technique. Prayer, meditation, exercise and yoga are also effective tools you can try to ward off your sugar cravings.
Editor's Note: This article has been amended to correct an editing error in a statement about sugar feeding cancer.
The Savory Institute documentary “Running Out of Time,” features ecologist and international consultant Allan Savory, who in a 2013 TED Talk discussed how grazing livestock is the solution to our ever-growing climate change problem. Born and raised in Zimbabwe, Savory is a passionate conservationist.
He founded the Africa Centre for Holistic Management1 (ACHM) in 1992, to support the adoption of holistic land management practices in Southern Africa in order to reduce and reverse land degradation2 that threatens the very survival of mankind, as without healthy productive soil, we cannot grow food. Central teachings taught by ACHM include how to:
- Restore water catchments and river flow
- Increase forage, livestock and wildlife production
- Raise crop yields through concentrated animal impact
- Restore damaged or degraded land
- Employ low stress animal handling
Grazing Cattle Are a Crucial Part of the Solution
Current agricultural practices encourage the degradation of soil, causing desertification (when fertile land dries up and turns to desert) and climate change.
Desertification happens when we create too much bare ground. In areas where a high level of humidity is guaranteed, desertification cannot occur. Ground cover allows for trapping of water, preventing the water from evaporating. According to Savory, a staggering two-thirds of the landmass on earth is already desertifying.
This situation can only be effectively reversed by dramatically increasing the number of grazing livestock, Savory says. In essence, it’s not an excess of livestock that are causing the problem, but that we have far too few, and the livestock we do have, we’re not managing properly. To improve soil quality, we must improve its ability to maintain water. Once land has turned to bone-dry desert, any rain simply evaporates and/or runs off.
The solution is twofold: The ground must be covered with vegetation, and animals must roam across the land. The animals must be bunched and kept moving to avoid overgrazing, thereby mimicking the movement of large wild herds. The animals serve several crucial functions on the land, as they:
- Graze on plants, exposing the plants’ growth points to sunlight, which stimulates growth
- Trample the soil, which breaks capped earth allowing for aeration
- Press seeds into the soil with their hooves, thereby increasing the chances of germination and diversity of plants
- Press down dying and decaying grasses, allowing microorganisms in the soil to go to work to decompose the plant material
- Fertilize the soil with their waste
The documentary shows and explains how Savory’s system works in the real world, on his own farm and elsewhere — and how the African wildlife is integrated with the livestock — and how local communities that have adopted the program have massively improved their living conditions.
In one village, where they could only produce enough food for three months out of the year, they now grow ample food year-round. The ACHM trains farmers from all-around the world, not just locals, and is planning about 100 international training hubs. Online training is also in the works.
Lessons Learned From the Unnecessary Massacre of 40,000 Elephants
In his 2013 TED Talk (embedded above for your convenience), Savory recounts how, as a young biologist, he was involved in setting aside large swaths of African land as future national parks. This involved removing native tribes from the land to protect animals.
Interestingly, as soon as the natives were removed, the land began to deteriorate. At that point, he became convinced that there were too many elephants, and a team of experts agreed with his theory, which required the removal of elephants to a number they thought the land could sustain.
As a result, 40,000 elephants were slaughtered in an effort to stop the damage to the national parks. Yet the land destruction only got worse rather than better. Savory calls the decision “the greatest blunder” of his life. Fortunately, the utter failure cemented his determination to dedicate his life to finding solutions.
Areas of U.S. national parks are now turning to desert as badly as areas in Africa, and studies have shown that whenever cattle are removed from an area to protect it from desertification, the opposite results. It gets worse. According to Savory, the reason for this is because we’ve completely misunderstood the causes of desertification.
We’ve also failed to understand how desertification affects our global climate. He explains that barren earth is much cooler at dawn and much hotter at midday. When land is left barren, it changes the microclimate on that swath of land. “Once you’ve done that to more than half of land mass on planet, you’re changing macroclimate,” he says.
We’ve failed to realize that in seasonal humidity environments, the soil and vegetation developed with very large numbers of grazing animals meandering through. Along with these herds came ferocious pack hunting predators. The primary defense against these predators was the herd size. The larger the herd, the safer the individual animal within the herd.
These large herds deposited dung and urine all over the grasses (their food), and so they would keep moving from one area to the next. This constant movement of large herds naturally prevented overgrazing of plants, while periodic trampling ensured protective covering of the soil.
As explained by Savory, grasses must degrade biologically before next growing season. This easily occurs if the grass is trampled into the ground. If it does not decay biologically, it shifts into oxidation — a very slow process that results in bare soil, which then ends up releasing carbon rather than trapping and storing it.
To prevent this scenario, we’ve traditionally used fire. But burning the ground also leaves soil bare to release carbon. In addition, burning just 1 hectare (just under 2.5 acres) of grasses gives off more pollution than 6,000 cars. According to Savory, more than 1 billion hectares (2.4 billion acres) of grassland are burned in Africa each year.
How Federal Policy Contributes to Climate Change Woes
In the U.S., federal policy is still worsening the environmental concerns addressed by Savory in his TED Talk. Corn and soy — a majority of which are genetically engineered (GE) — have overtaken native grasslands in a number of states, which may have a significant impact on regional and global climate alike.
A consequence of this is that we also lose our ability to secure our food supply long-term. As discussed in a Mother Jones article,3 the conversion of grasslands to crop fields is the exact opposite of what is in our best interest.
“[T]o get ready for climate change, we should push Midwestern farmers to switch a chunk of their corn land into pasture for cows.
The idea came from a paper4 by University of Tennessee and Bard College researchers, who calculated that such a move could suck up massive amounts of carbon in soil — enough to reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture by 36 percent. In addition to the CO2 reductions, you'd also get a bunch of high-quality, grass-fed beef ... Turns out the Midwest are doing just the opposite.”
According to a 2013 paper5 by South Dakota State University researchers, grasslands in the Western Corn Belt, which includes North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska, is being lost at a rate "comparable to deforestation rates in Brazil, Malaysia and Indonesia."
Between 2006 and 2011, nearly 2 million acres of friendly native grasses were lost to corn and soy, two of the staples in processed foods that are driving chronic disease rates in an ever steepening upward incline. The same thing is happening in South America, where native forests are leveled in order to plant soy.
The researchers claim the land being converted into corn and soy fields is actually much better suited for grazing than crop agriculture, as it is “characterized by high erosion risk and vulnerability to drought." So why would farmers opt to use such risky land for their crops? According to Mother Jones:6
“Simple: Federal policy has made it a high-reward, tiny-risk proposition. Prices for corn and soy doubled in real terms between 2006 and 2011, the authors note, driven up by federal corn-ethanol mandates and relentless Wall Street speculation.
Then there's federally subsidized crop insurance ... When farmers manage to tease a decent crop out of their marginal land, they're rewarded with high prices for their crop. But if the crop fails, subsidized insurance guarantees a decent return.
Essentially, federal farm policy, through the ethanol mandate and the insurance program, is underwriting the expansion of corn and soy agriculture at precisely the time it should be shrinking.”
USDA Admits Current Agricultural System Is Unsustainable
According to a report7 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), "Climate Change and Agriculture in the United States," our current agricultural system, which is dominated by corn and soy, is unsustainable in the long term. Should temperatures rise as predicted, the U.S. could expect to see significant declines in yields by the middle of this century.
Concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) have a central role in this impending disaster. As noted in my interviews with a number of sustainable farming pioneers and ecological experts over the past several years, the separation of various livestock from crop farming is where we went completely off the rails. This was supposedly done to increase efficiency and reduce costs, but the hidden costs of this segregation are enormous.
As explained in Peter Byck’s short film, “One Hundred Thousand Beating Hearts,” farm animals form symbiotic relationships where one species helps keep parasites from overwhelming another. It is the separation of crops and animals into two distinctly different farming processes that has led to animal waste becoming a massive source of toxic pollution rather than a valuable part of the ecological cycle.
Today, food animals are reared in cages and tightly cramped quarters, and their feed consists of grains, primarily GE corn and soy, instead of grasses. To prevent the inevitable spread of disease from stress, overcrowding and lack of vitamin D, animals are routinely fed antibiotics and other veterinary drugs. Those antibiotics pose a direct threat to the environment when they run off into our lakes, rivers, aquifers and drinking water, and drive the rise in antibiotic-resistant disease.
In “How Factory Farming Contributes to Global Warming,” Ronnie Cummins, founder and director of the Organic Consumers Association, explains:8
“CAFOs contribute directly to global warming9 by releasing vast amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere — more than the entire global transportation industry. The air at some factory farm test sites in the U.S. is dirtier than in America’s most polluted cities, according to the Environmental Integrity Project.
According to a 2006 report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), animal agriculture is responsible for 18 percent of all human-induced greenhouse gas emissions, including 37 percent of methane emissions and 65 percent of nitrous oxide emissions.
The methane releases from billions of imprisoned animals on factory farms are 70 times more damaging per ton to the earth’s atmosphere than CO2. Indirectly, factory farms contribute to climate disruption by their impact on deforestation and draining of wetlands, and because of the nitrous oxide emissions from huge amounts of pesticides used to grow the genetically engineered corn and soy fed to animals raised in CAFOs.
Nitrous oxide pollution is even worse than methane — 200 times more damaging per ton than CO2. And just as animal waste leaches antibiotics and hormones into ground and water, pesticides and fertilizers also eventually find their way into our waterways, further damaging the environment.”
Holistic Land and Herd Management Is Key for Sustainability
The alternative to CAFOs is precisely what Savory teaches, namely the widespread implementation of smaller-scale systems created by independent producers and processors focused on local and regional markets.
Following Savory’s strategy, large herds could be moved across areas in planned grazing patterns, which would be beneficial for the environment, global climate, the health of the animals, and subsequently the health of humans consuming those animals.
There’s no denying that rising population, rapid conversion of fertile land to deserts and global climate change is a serious threat to us all. And technology in the form of ever larger-scale, industrial farming methods simply isn’t the answer. It’s only contributing to the problem and speeding up our demise.
I believe Savory is correct when he says we have only one option, and that is to revert back to what worked before. Allowing large moving herds to graze on the land will address most if not all of our most pressing issues, from food security to climate change.
As noted in a 2016 article10 by Pure Advantage, “There is no current or envisioned technology that can simultaneously sequester carbon, restore biodiversity and feed people. But livestock can.” Gabe Brown, a regenerative land management pioneer, also discussed the importance of herd management in our 2014 interview, covered in “How to Regenerate Soil Using Cover Crops and Regenerative Land Management.”
Support Sustainable Agriculture With Your Food Budget
For now, you can help move our agricultural system in the right direction by purchasing your foods from local farmers who are already doing this on a small scale.11 If you live in the U.S., the following organizations can help you locate farm-fresh foods:
Demeter USA — Demeter-USA.org provides a directory of certified Biodynamic farms and brands. This directory can also be found on BiodynamicFood.org.
American Grassfed Association (AGA) — The goal of the American Grassfed Association is to promote the grass fed industry through government relations, research, concept marketing and public education.
Their website also allows you to search for AGA approved producers certified according to strict standards that include being raised on a diet of 100 percent forage; raised on pasture and never confined to a feedlot; never treated with antibiotics or hormones; and born and raised on American family farms.
EatWild.com — EatWild.com provides lists of farmers known to produce raw dairy products as well as grass fed beef and other farm-fresh produce (although not all are certified organic). Here you can also find information about local farmers markets, as well as local stores and restaurants that sell grass fed products.
Weston A. Price Foundation — Weston A. Price has local chapters in most states, and many of them are connected with buying clubs in which you can easily purchase organic foods, including grass fed raw dairy products like milk and butter.
Grassfed Exchange — The Grassfed Exchange has a listing of producers selling organic and grass fed meats across the U.S.
Local Harvest — This website will help you find farmers markets, family farms and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area where you can buy produce, grass fed meats and many other goodies.
Farmers Markets — A national listing of farmers markets.
Eat Well Guide: Wholesome Food from Healthy Animals — The Eat Well Guide is a free online directory of sustainably raised meat, poultry, dairy and eggs from farms, stores, restaurants, inns, hotels and online outlets in the United States and Canada.
Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) — CISA is dedicated to sustaining agriculture and promoting the products of small farms.
The Cornucopia Institute — The Cornucopia Institute maintains web-based tools rating all certified organic brands of eggs, dairy products and other commodities, based on their ethical sourcing and authentic farming practices separating CAFO "organic" production from authentic organic practices.
RealMilk.com — If you're still unsure of where to find raw milk, check out Raw-Milk-Facts.com and RealMilk.com. They can tell you what the status is for legality in your state, and provide a listing of raw dairy farms in your area.
The Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund12 also provides a state-by-state review of raw milk laws.13 California residents can also find raw milk retailers using the store locator available at www.OrganicPastures.com.
Buying a Tesla new will set you back anywhere from $42,900 to $137,000, depending on which model you choose.1 The Model S, Tesla's midpriced sedan, starts at $85,000, but Rich Benoit, a 30-something father of three and IT worker, got one for $6,500. It's the topic of his now infamous YouTube page, Rich Rebuilds, which has racked up more than 39 million views.2
The sought-after electric cars have been growing in popularity along with the U.S. electric vehicle industry, which experienced an 81 percent jump in sales in 2018 compared to the year before.3
Tesla was responsible for more than half of these sales, selling nearly 140,000 of its lower cost Model 3 units alone. When sales of the Model 3 are removed, the statistics show a very different picture, with just 11 percent growth in the entire electric vehicle market.4
It’s safe to say that consumers are on the hunt for lower priced electric cars — but Benoit’s cost is virtually unheard of. So how did he get an $85,000 vehicle for a fraction of the cost? As The Boston Globe reported, it started when “He pulled a 1,300-pound, 400-volt battery out of a Tesla that had been under water."5
Man Rebuilds Tesla From Salvage Yard — With No Help From Tesla
Benoit purchased a Model S that he calls “Delores” from a New Jersey salvage yard. The vehicle had been stuck in a flood, but the amateur mechanic was undeterred, determined to rebuild the car from the ground up, starting with removing its massive battery. But he was quickly met with a number of obstacles, not the least of which was Tesla’s reluctance to help anyone fix their cars.
Massachusetts has a Right to Repair Initiative, which grants vehicle owners access to information to help them fix their own cars — the same type of information furnished to dealerships and repair shops. However, since Tesla doesn’t have any dealerships, it’s exempt from this requirement.
"We're in a society where if you need to know something you Google it, but there was nothing out there, no one who knew how to fix them," Benoit told the Globe. But this was only the first obstacle. After stripping the car of its damaged parts and electronics, he contacted Tesla to order new ones, and was quickly turned away.
"Tesla does not want anyone working on its cars besides Tesla, and it refused to sell Benoit the parts he wanted," according to the Globe. "A Tesla representative, in a statement to the Globe, said 'there are significant safety concerns when salvaged Teslas are repaired improperly or when Tesla parts are used outside of their original design intent, as these vehicles could pose a danger to both the mechanic and other drivers on the road.'"6
One Year and $6,500 Rebuilds Tesla Model S
Since he was unable to buy parts from Tesla or anywhere else, he found another salvaged Model S, this one with usable electronics and batteries. Using the parts, he was able to slowly but surely piece Delores back together, documenting his journey on YouTube at every step of the way.
It took about a year, but the restored vehicle ultimately passed state inspection and looked like new. After tallying up his costs, including those he was able to recoup by selling duplicate and extra parts, he paid only $6,500 for the car. The story continues, however, as Benoit now helps other Tesla owners interested in fixing their cars.
Tesla has a limited number of service centers and reportedly struggles with parts shortages, and now Benoit is opening a new repair shop solely for electric vehicles — and even has a former Tesla mechanic to work there.
It's a boon for Tesla owners, who often complain they have to wait months to find a mechanic who can service their vehicle — and when they do may be charged upward of $175 an hour.7 Ultimately, he hopes the service center will also be a place to educate owners about electric vehicles and even convert gas-powered vehicles to electricity.
"It has been a long, complicated, strange trip since he opened that waterlogged battery, wondering if he was about to electrocute himself. And despite all of the ups and downs, he insists he is not at war with Tesla. 'Maybe I was for a few weeks after they wouldn't sell me the parts,' he says. No, this is a love story, of how a man who says he has gas in his veins decided to go electric," the Globe wrote.8
Electric Cars Cost Less to Make and Service
Analysts believe the electric vehicle industry is going to continue to grow in 2019, with more manufacturers and models entering the mix.
Chris Nelder, manager of Rocky Mountain Institute's mobility practice, told Green Tech Media, "I don't think 2019 is going to be all about the Model 3. There are a lot more manufacturers making a lot more EVs … In 2019, we're going to have much more significant participation from other major manufacturers, especially in the high-end luxury crossover/SUV segment."9
The growth may be so explosive that Morgan Stanley estimated 3 million traditional auto industry jobs could be lost over the next three to five years as a result.10 In fact, it's estimated that it takes 30 percent less labor to manufacture an electric vehicle than a gas-powered one, with some estimates putting it up to a 50 percent cut.
Maintenance and servicing of electric vehicles is also less costly, which could heighten the demand for them even further, especially once service centers become widespread.
Are There EMF Concerns in Electric Cars?
Electric cars appear to be a clear winner for the environment, although there are a few considerations, such as the rare minerals that must be mined for the batteries and the need in some areas to power your "electric" car from a power plant using coal. However, another potential concern is exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMFs).
According to Joel Moskowitz, Ph.D., director of the Center for Family and Community Health at the University of California (UC) Berkeley:11
"Hybrid and electric cars may be cancer-causing as they emit extremely low frequency (ELF) electromagnetic fields (EMF). Recent studies of the EMF emitted by these automobiles have claimed either that they pose a cancer risk for the vehicles' occupants or that they are safe.
Unfortunately, much of the research conducted on this issue has been industry-funded by companies with vested interests on one side of the issue or the other which makes it difficult to know which studies are trustworthy.
Meanwhile, numerous peer-reviewed laboratory studies conducted over several decades have found biologic effects from limited exposures to ELF EMF. These studies suggest that the EMF guidelines established by the self-appointed, International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) are inadequate to protect our health."
Both the World Health Organization and the International Agency for Research on Cancer have said magnetic fields are “possibly carcinogenic” to humans, which, Moskowitz suggests, means the precautionary principle should prevail, and products should be designed to minimize consumers’ exposure to ELF and EMF.
"This especially applies to hybrid and electric automobiles as drivers and passengers spend considerable amounts of time in these vehicles, and health risks increase with the duration of exposure," he said, adding:12
"Based upon the research, more than 230 EMF experts have signed the International EMF Scientist Appeal which calls on the World Health Organization to establish stronger guidelines for ELF and radio frequency EMF.
Thus, even if EMF measurements comply with the ICNIRP guidelines, occupants of hybrid and electric cars may still be at increased risk for cancer and other health problems."
Are Electric Cars the Future?
A poll conducted by Clean Energy Canada found that 64 percent of Canadians want the majority of vehicles sold to be electric, and 72 percent believe that electric vehicles will become the majority worldwide in the future.13 The findings echoed a U.S. survey, which similarly found that 74 percent believed electric cars were the future.14
Overall, the associations with electric cars were positive, with most believing the long-term savings on gas would outweigh the vehicle's higher upfront cost. Nearly 60 percent also felt that electric vehicles would have a more positive environmental impact than recycling, switching to paperless billing or regulating their energy at home.
As for barriers, electric vehicle owners cited a need for faster and upgraded public charging stations, such as making them available at coffee shops and gyms, and giving an option to pay for a faster charge. For now, electric vehicles represent only a small fraction of cars on the market, but industry analysts agree that's going to change, possibly sooner rather than later.
"Electrification, you cannot stop it anymore — it's coming," Elmar Kades, a managing director with the consulting firm AlixPartners, told NPR. "We have fantastic growth rates, between 50 and 60 percent on a global level."15 While in 1997 there were just two electric cars on the market, there are now 98, and it’s expected that nongas cars, including electric, fuel cells and hybrids, will triple by 2025.16
The tipping point — when electric vehicles will outsell gas-powered ones — could be as near as 2025 or 2030, according to some analysts,17 and Benoit, who says he felt like a trailblazer when he first started his attempt to rebuild a Tesla,18 is likely only hastening the appeal by letting people know that — with a bit of grit and ingenuity — a Tesla could be had for under $10,000.
A process known as “succession” occurs when one plant species replaces another.1 As explained in the National Geographic short film featured above, when an area is left to its own devices, it will naturally turn into a forest over time, replete with a wide variety of plant species, and this diversification occurs unaided by man.
The film features a man-made “forest garden” designed to mimic this kind of naturally occurring ecosystem, where fruit and nut trees grow intermingled with shrubs, herbs, vines and a variety of perennial vegetables in a seemingly wild-grown setting. According to National Geographic:2
“U.K.-based Martin Crawford is one of the pioneers of forest gardening. Starting out with a flat field in 1994, his land has been transformed into a woodland and serves as an educational resource for others interested in forest gardening.
This short film by Thomas Regnault focuses on Crawford's forest garden, which is abundant, diverse, edible and might be one answer to the future of food systems.”
Diversity Allows the Entire System to Thrive
In his unconventional garden, Crawford grows 500 different edible plants and trees, yet the garden only requires a few hours of maintenance per month. This low maintenance requirement is a direct result of creating a self-sustainable and renewable ecosystem where everything is working in a symbiotic and supportive fashion.
While many today think of food production as the process of planting an annual crop, this really isn’t natural, Crawford says. In a natural ecosystem, there are several layers of plant growth, starting with tall trees at the top, with shorter trees, medium and low shrubs, root crops, climbing plants and low-lying ground cover underneath.
What’s more, while many of these produce edible foods directly, other plants, referred to by Crawford as “system plants,” are there simply to help the system as a whole thrive. In this group you have nitrogen-fixing plants, mineral accumulators and plants that attract pollinators and insects that serve as natural pest control by eating other more harmful bugs.
Aside from being low-maintenance, this kind of diversification also protects your crops from all manner of bad weather, be it storms, excessive rains or droughts. While some may fail, others may benefit and do better, but in many cases, a majority of your crops will survive and do well no matter what the weather is doing, Crawford says.
This cannot be said for monocrop farming, where if conditions are poor, the entire crop will fail all at once. As such, having a diverse garden is key to food security. “It gives you maximum resilience,” Crawford says.
How to Use Regenerative Farming Principles in Your Own Garden
Over the years, I’ve interviewed several pioneers in regenerative agriculture, among them, Gabe Brown, who has a regenerative farm in Bismarck, North Dakota. As explained by Brown, to grow healthy food you have to create healthy soil.
There are five basic principles to building a healthy soil ecosystem, and most of these can be implemented even if all you have is a small garden plot in your backyard:
Avoid disturbing the soil microbiome with tillage, herbicides, pesticides and fungicides — The less mechanical disturbance, the better. The same applies in your home garden.
The more you till, the faster the soil degrades and is destroyed, as it destroys soil aggregates and mycorrhizal fungi, which houses the microorganisms needed for nutrient transfer. Similarly, by adding synthetic nitrogen to the soil, the biology is radically altered — it starts consuming carbon in the soil aggregate, which destroys the soil structure.
Without soil structure water cannot infiltrate and move throughout the soil profile and be stored via organic matter. The soil aggregates also provide the home for soil biology, which is critical to producing nutrient dense food.
Protect the soil’s surface with cover crops and cover crop residue — Forest and prairie land is completely covered with vegetation and this is the environment farmers need to emulate. That vegetation protects the soil not only from wind and water erosion, but also from excessive heating and cooling. These living plants are what end up actually "growing" topsoil.
In your home garden, you can use mulch, wood chips or lawn clippings to do this. You never want to leave soil bare, as bare soil will have a negative effect on soil biology and the water cycle. Cover crops and other forms of “soil armor,” such as wood chips, effectively prevent water evaporation and lowers the soil temperature.
There is easily a 20-degree F difference or more between soil that is bare and soil that is covered. When air temperatures reach 90 degrees or so, soil temperatures will rise well above 100 degrees, which will dry everything out and fry the plants’ roots.
“If you have good armor or residue on the soil surface, the temperature there can be in the 80-degree range. Those plants are growing. It’s a huge difference in production for the producer,” Brown says.
Diversify — Having a diverse array of plant life is essential, and cover crops fulfill this requirement as well. Home gardens will also benefit from cover crops, helping to improve the soil, attract beneficial insects and capture more sunlight (energy).
Maintain living roots in the ground as long as possible — In conventional farming, once a cash crop is harvested, there’s nothing left in the field to capture sunlight and keep growing. Maintaining some kind of growth at all times is key. If you have a small vegetable garden, don’t leave it bare once you’ve harvested your veggies. Instead, plant a cover crop in anticipation for the next season.
To make the transition back from cover crop to your chosen vegetables the following season, avoid the temptation to till the cover crop into the soil. Instead, use one of the following methods to kill off the cover crop and prepare the plot for new crop growth:
Once the cover crop has been killed off, you’re ready to plant your vegetable seeds. For a small garden, use a hoe to part the cover crop remains over to the side. Create a small slice in the soil, drop in your seeds and cover with a small amount of soil. If you’re planting a transplant, simply move the cover crop aside, dig the hole and plant as normal.
Integrate livestock and other animals, including insects — Centuries ago, large herds of bison and elk moved across the landscape, foraging, depositing manure and trampling vegetation into the ground. All of this is part of the natural cycle that is missing when animals are kept in concentrated animal feeding operations.
Many have started raising chickens in their backyards again and chickens are an excellent addition to a sustainable garden. Rabbits, pigeons and ducks are other alternatives that could work in some suburban areas, but even if circumstances or local laws prevent you from adding animals, be sure to plant flowering plants that attract pollinators and predator insects, as these will naturally help ward off pests that might otherwise decimate your main crop.
Tips to Help You Design Your Own Permaculture Garden
While Crawford refers to his garden as a “forest garden,” it’s essentially a form of permaculture garden. Permaculture epitomizes sustainability by harnessing mutually beneficial relationships to create synergistic, self-supporting ecosystems. Its principles incorporate the best of organic, biodynamic and regenerative agriculture. According to the Permaculture Institute:3
"Permaculture is an ecological design system for sustainability in all aspects of human endeavor. It teaches us how to design natural homes and abundant food production systems, regenerate degraded landscapes and ecosystems, develop ethical economies and communities and much more."
In short, permaculture is an agricultural system in which the parts of the system are all interconnected, working with nature as opposed to against it. The word "permaculture" derives from "permanent agriculture" or "permanent culture." The focus is not on any one element of the system but on the relationships among them — animals, plants, insects, microorganisms, water, soil and habitat — and how to use these relationships to create self-supporting ecosystems.
If you want to shoot for a forest garden like Crawford’s, take his advice and just start planting some larger trees (or incorporate ones you already have on your property), then add smaller trees, shrubs and plants as you go along. You don’t have to have it all planned out before you begin.
While there’s no set formula for designing a permaculture garden, here are a few basic guidelines to consider:4
- Copy a forest blueprint with a tree canopy that gives way to smaller trees, flanked by shrubs, with smaller shade plants under the canopy
- Group plants by compatible roots and canopy systems, and by soil type, such as acid lovers in one area and drought-resistant in another
- Identify microclimates in your yard and use them to your advantage, such as cooler shady corners, full sun, rocky areas and areas that receive abundant drainage
- Incorporate as much diversity as possible, focusing on native plants and animals
- Plan your area in zones based on use and accessibility; for example, plant your herb garden and greens in the areas easiest to access, such as along the driveway or along a path near your deck
Should you have a large enough piece of land, you could go a step further and take into account the five permaculture zones as illustrated in the following diagram. At its center are you and your house, but its outermost zone is untamed wilderness.
Zones are organized in a way that maximizes energy efficiency, so activities are sorted by frequency of use, tending, visits and so on. For more detailed information about these zones, check out the Permaculture Research Institute’s “Permaculture Zones Primer.”5
Growing eggplant shouldn’t be intimidating when you’re anticipating spring garden planting. Getting your seeds off to a good start, then tweaking them if needed, will help produce a harvest of nutritious fruit.
That’s what eggplant is, by the way, although many people think eggplants are vegetables. There are many beautiful varieties: large, purple Globe; Rosita, the 8-inch pinkish-lavender heirloom variety; long, thin Japanese eggplants and yellow, green and white-hued varieties with slightly varying flavors.1
Considered tropical perennials, eggplants can be grown as annuals in plant hardiness zones 5 through 12.2 They require full sun. Harvest times vary depending on the variety. Most require at least two months to mature. Some take 70 days or more, which is why starting seeds indoors helps get a jump on the season.
How to Grow Eggplant Inside
Regarding materials, you’ll need small pots, a seed-planting mix and seed packets. Always keep the packets as they often provide information about planting depth (which is deep), spacing, eggplant germination time and when to take the seedlings outside. This depends on your area’s last frost date, which your area’s planting zone will determine.3
Using garden soil might prevent your seeds and seedlings from draining properly and may expose them to unwanted bacteria, disease spores, plant-eating insects and a fungual disease known as “damping off.”
A sterile seed planting mix will give your eggplants the best chance of survival4 and allow you to blend ingredients to amend the medium you’re working with, such as bark, a coconut fiber called coir and vermiculite.5 Avoid synthetic fertilizer. Organic gardening and natural growing hacks are far superior.
Start seeds inside about eight to 12 weeks before your last frost date. Watering from the bottom up allows you to see the moisture levels and keep them even. Eggplants require lots of light and heat to grow properly. If there’s no natural sunlight from a south-facing window, artificial lighting is recommended.
Even if using a heat mat, make sure you provide light as soon as the seeds begin germinating, which usually takes seven to 14 days. The ideal soil temperature is 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Indoor plants also need moving air; a fan at a low setting will help produce sturdier plants.
Growing Eggplant in the Garden
In eight or 10 weeks, you’ll be able to transplant the seedlings into your garden. However, growing eggplant in containers6 is another option. According to The Spruce, soil pH7 of 6.5 to 6.8 (slightly acidic) is ideal, although the plants are not too particular.8
Either way, it helps to stake eggplants or use coated tomato cages to avoid disturbing established roots when the fruits get large. Mulch, straw or wood chips covering the soil around the plant will help keep it moist.
How long does it take for eggplant to grow? Eggplants are ready to harvest when they’re glossy and “give” slightly when you press into the skin. Here are some key points you’ll likely find useful:
- Plants can be bushy and reach 2 to 3 feet in height, and their size and weight may cause stems to bend or break.
- Eggplant stems are prickly, so it's a good idea to wear gloves.
- Overripe eggplants may be bitter and full of seeds, although a little salt can help.
- Eggplant should be stored in the refrigerator and is best used within a couple of days but can be stored for up to two weeks.
- Cut rather than pull eggplants from their vines, but don’t cut them until you’re ready to prepare them, as the flesh discolors almost immediately when exposed to air.
Health Benefits of Eggplant
One reason to plant and grow eggplant at home is all the healthy nutrients. Besides vitamins, minerals, folate, potassium, manganese and vitamins C, K and B6, eggplant phytonutrients include:
- Phenolic compounds known as anthocyanins, which are flavonoids that help protect heart health9
- Chlorogenic acid, a free radical scavenger with numerous beneficial properties10
- Nasunin, shown to improve blood flow and protect brain cell membranes from damage11
- Antioxidant and antiproliferative activities against colon and liver cancer cells12
Healthy Recipes Using Eggplant
When looking for eggplant recipes, possibilities abound, as it can be baked, roasted, stuffed and included with other ingredients.
Baked Eggplant Caprese Stack — basically a stacked caprese salad — is easy and delicious, requiring few ingredients besides the basics: sliced tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, eggplant, basil and olive oil. For extra protein, almond meal is used rather than wheat flour, which may cause digestive problems.
Many healthy eggplant recipes can be found, such as eggplant moussaka and an eggplant sandwich, which makes growing your own eggplant even more fun. As always, organic ingredients make it even healthier.
Planting more trees — to the tune of 1.2 trillion — could be the answer to saving the Earth, with the trees capable of storing so much carbon dioxide (CO2) that they would cancel out a decades’ worth of human-made (CO2) emissions.1 Further, thanks to the work of ecologist Thomas Crowther and colleagues at Swiss university ETH Zurich, it’s now known that there’s room for an additional 1.2 trillion trees on the planet.
The team global forest inventory data from the Global Forest Biodiversity Initiative (GFBI) combined with satellite data to gain an understanding of the global forest system. They also studied data from the Global Soil Biodiversity Initiative (GSBI), which revealed a first glimpse of global patterns in biomass and diversity of the global soil microbiome.
“Using this combination of above ground and below ground data we can identify regions of high priority for biodiversity conservation,” Crowther said in research presented at the 2019 American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in Washington, D.C. “Additionally, we can finally start to understand the feedbacks that determine atmospheric carbon concentrations over the rest of the century.”2
Planting Trees the ‘Most Powerful Weapon’
Crowther stated that planting trees was our “most powerful weapon” in protecting the planet, with their research suggesting an additional 1.2 trillion trees could be planted across the globe to capture massive amounts of carbon from the environment. Currently, the Earth is home to 3 trillion trees, which is seven times more than previously believed.
“There’s 400 gigatons [of carbon] now, in the 3 trillion trees, and if you were to scale that up by another trillion trees that’s in the order of hundreds of gigatons captured from the atmosphere — at least 10 years of anthropogenic emissions completely wiped out,” Crowther told The Independent.3
The United Nations already responded to the findings, changing their Billion Tree Campaign to the Trillion Tree Campaign, which states, “Global reforestation could capture 25 percent of global annual carbon emissions and create wealth in the global south.”
More than 13.6 billion trees have already been planted as part of the campaign,4 which tracks not only where trees have been planted but also where forests currently exist and where forests could be restored. The Trillion Tree Campaign states that there is actually space for up to 600 billion mature trees on the planet, without taking space away from agricultural land.
However, since some planted trees won’t survive, the target is to plant at least 1 trillion trees to reach the 600 billion mature tree goal. “Additionally, we must protect the 170 billion trees in imminent risk of destruction. They are crucial carbon storages and essential ecosystems to protect biodiversity,” they state.5
Planting Trees Protects Biodiversity
Loss of biodiversity is another major environmental hurdle that planting trees could help remedy. Deforestation, forest degradation and other factors are currently threatening about half of tree species worldwide, which could have dire consequences on the productivity of ecosystems therein.
Using more than three-quarters of a million sample plots in 44 countries containing more than 30 million trees, researchers revealed that continued loss of biodiversity would result in accelerating decline in worldwide forest productivity.6 The work, a product of GFBI, Crowther and colleagues, found that, on average, a 10 percent loss in biodiversity leads to a 3 percent loss in productivity.
“The value of biodiversity in maintaining commercial forest productivity alone — $166 to $490 billion per year according to our estimation — is by itself over two to six times the total estimated cost that would be necessary for effective global conservation. This highlights the need for a worldwide reassessment of biodiversity values, forest management strategies and conservation priorities,” GFBI explained.7
Crowther added to The Independent, “We are not targeting urban or agricultural area, just degraded or abandoned lands, and it has the potential to tackle the two greatest challenges of our time — climate change and biodiversity loss.”8
Australia Aims to Plant 1 Billion Trees by 2050
Australia, as the seventh-largest forested area in the world, is well suited to contribute to the 1 trillion trees goal, and they’ve pledged to plant 1 billion trees by 2050 as part of a forestry plan to meet Paris Agreement targets, including reducing carbon emissions by 26 to 28 percent by 2030. If the tree-planting target is met, it’s estimated that 18 million tons of greenhouse gas would be removed per year by 2030.9
The fact is, forest represents one of five carbon sinks on Earth (the others are nonindustrial regenerative farmland, atmosphere, ocean and fossil deposits), and removing the renewable grasslands and forests that not only can sustain, but also regenerate our soils and solidify this fragile carbon balance, is a major part of the problem.
If you’re wondering what a carbon sink is, the Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science explains it this way:10
“The carbon cycle involves the flux, or flow, of carbon between different earth systems. An object or process that absorbs and stores carbon is called a sink, while one that releases carbon faster than it is absorbed is termed a source. For example, a healthy plant is a carbon sink because it is taking in CO2 from the air and storing it in new leaves and roots and a larger stem.”
In the U.S., although forests make up 90 percent of the carbon sink, they sequester only about 10 percent of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions.11 Further, it's estimated that one-third of the surplus carbon dioxide in the atmosphere stems from poor land-management processes, including clearing forests, overgrazing and tilling the soil that contribute to the loss of carbon, as carbon dioxide, from farmlands.12
Planting trees is considered to be an invaluable part of carbon sequestration, which is the process via which trees and other plants take up carbon dioxide and store it as carbon in their trunks, branches, foliage and roots. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service:13
“The sink of carbon sequestration in forests and wood products helps to offset sources of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, such as deforestation, forest fires and fossil fuel emissions.
Sustainable forestry practices can increase the ability of forests to sequester atmospheric carbon while enhancing other ecosystem services, such as improved soil and water quality. Planting new trees and improving forest health … are some of the ways to increase forest carbon in the long run.”
Mercola.com Has Planted Over 200,000 Trees
Mercola.com, in partnership with Trees for the Future, has planted over 200,000 trees.14 This organization is working to end hunger and poverty for small farmers by revitalizing degraded lands, using their Forest Garden program. They work in six sub-Saharan countries, actively planting trees in Senegal, Cameroon, Kenya, Tanzania, Guinea and Uganda. According to Trees for the Future:15
“The Forest Garden Program is a simple, replicable and scalable approach with proven success. By planting specific types of fast-growing trees, fruit trees, hardwoods and food crops in a systematic manner over a four-year period, families can positively change their lives forever.
Forest Gardens consist of thousands of trees that provide families with sustainable food sources, livestock feed, products to sell, fuel wood and a 400 percent increase in their annual income in four years.”
Their initial goal aims to work with 125,000 impoverished families to plant 500 million trees. In the last five years alone, Trees for the Future has planted more than 155 million trees, restored nearly 8,000 acres and sequestered nearly 200,000 tons of carbon.16 Further, on an individual level, 86 percent of the families they’ve worked with are food secure after one year.
The Many Health and Environmental Benefits of Trees
Beyond acting as valuable carbon sinks, trees offer invaluable benefits to human health and the environment. For example, trees and forests in the U.S. removed 17.4 million tons of air pollution in 2010, a benefit to human health valued at $6.8 billion.17
By improving air quality, forest and trees eliminated more than 850 deaths and 670,000 cases of acute respiratory symptoms, according to a study published in Environmental Pollution.18
What’s more, living around an extra 11 trees per street lowers the risk of heart disease, diabetes and obesity and “decreases cardiometabolic conditions in ways comparable to an increase in annual personal income of $20,000 and moving to a neighborhood with $20,000 higher median income or being 1.4 years younger.”19
In urban environments, green spaces including trees, are linked to better mental health, lower blood pressure and stress levels and increased physical activity. Access to natural settings like forests, or even views of them, may also reduce crime and aggression and improve outcomes after surgery.20
What’s more, when comparing the benefits of trees and grass in New York City, there was a higher reporting of “very good” or “excellent” health for those living near the most trees, but the same could not be said for grass.
The researchers concluded, “Findings imply that higher exposure to vegetation, particularly trees outside of parks, may be associated with better health. If replicated, this may suggest that urban street tree planting may improve population health.”21
Everyone Should Plant Trees
What’s great about trees being a primary solution to environmental crises is that everyone can take part in planting trees. The Trillion Tree Campaign suggests that everybody should plant at least 150 trees, although it recommends those in wealthy countries set a higher target of 1,000.
This may sound like a lot, but it’s a target for an entire lifetime, and the Trillion Tree Campaign website has a tool for you to set and keep track of your target.22
They’re officially counting all trees that have been planted since November 2006, when the campaign started, and you can invite your friends to join in too. Even if you live in a region where you can’t plant trees, or in an apartment with no backyard, you can donate or gift trees to be planted.
As Crowther told The Independent, “It’s a beautiful thing because everyone can get involved. Trees literally just make people happier in urban environments they improve air quality, water quality, food quality, ecosystem service, it’s such an easy, tangible thing.”23
Fall is a great time to plant trees due to moderate temperatures and rainfall allowing them to acclimatize and grow strong roots before the heat and dryness of summer, but springtime planting works well too, depending on your region. So, choose a tree that’s well-suited to your region and get started planting today.
Strokes are sometimes referred to as "brain attacks" (instead of "heart attacks") because they occur when a blood clot blocks an artery or blood vessel, cutting off blood flow to your brain, as opposed to your heart.1 As a result, brain cells die and brain damage can occur. Without proper and timely treatment, a stroke can be lethal.
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, an estimated 795,000 strokes occur each year in the U.S.2 It's the fifth leading cause of death, killing an estimated 142,000 annually. It's also a leading cause of long-term disability in the U.S.3
While most strokes occur in the elderly, younger people are by no means immune. Between 1995 and 2012, stroke rates nearly doubled for men between the ages of 18 and 44, according to the National Stroke Association.4,5 Estimates suggest 10 percent of all strokes occur in people under the age of 50.6
The recent death of Luke Perry at 52,7,8,9,10 a popular actor on the 1980s television show "Beverly Hills 90210" and many others, has brought renewed attention to the risks of stroke, especially among younger adults and the middle-aged.
Analyses reveal 9 in 10 strokes are preventable by addressing lifestyle factors such as high blood pressure, obesity, hyperglycemia, hyperlipidemia, kidney dysfunction, smoking, unhealthy diet and sedentary behavior.11 There's also evidence showing your vitamin D12 and magnesium13 status play a role, and alcohol consumption in middle-age appears to be a significant risk factor.14 As noted in one study:15
"Data from longitudinal studies have shown that some of the most powerful lifestyle modifications to lower risk of stroke include reducing elevated blood pressure, cessation of smoking, daily physical activity and maintenance of a healthy diet and weight. It has been demonstrated that even a modest change in lifestyle risk factors are achievable and have a substantial effect on risk.
Genetic background, information on risk factors and behaviors, and presence of subclinical conditions provide the most realistic appraisal of an individual's future vascular risk. For the community at large, improving health behaviors provides the best approach to reducing risk of stroke and its recurrence."
Signs and Symptoms of Stroke
Nine out of 10 strokes are ischemic strokes,16 which result from an obstruction in a blood vessel supplying blood to your brain. Research17 shows about 15 percent of ischemic strokes occur in "young adults and adolescents." The other form of stroke is known as a hemorrhagic stroke, which is when a blood vessel actually ruptures.
Strokes can be particularly devastating because they often occur without warning, and the longer your brain goes without oxygen, the greater your risk of lasting damage. This is one area where emergency medicine excels, as emergency medications can dissolve the clot that is blocking blood flow to your brain.
In order to be effective, however, you typically need to get help within three hours18 — the sooner the better. Research also shows primary stroke centers have lower mortality than other hospitals,19 so if a stroke is suspected, be sure to ask them to take the patient to a primary stroke facility.
The following symptoms can signal a lack of oxygen to your brain, which could be due to a stroke. If any of these occur, call for immediate emergency medical assistance (in the U.S., call 911).20
Remember, you need to get to the hospital as quickly as possible. When suspecting a stroke, don't drive to the hospital. Call for an ambulance, as this will ensure the most rapid assistance, and every minute counts.
- Sudden numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg, especially when occurring on one side of the body; face drooping, typically on just one side
- Sudden confusion; trouble talking or understanding speech
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes, or double vision
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness or loss of balance or coordination
- Sudden severe headache with no known cause; nausea or vomiting
It's important to pay attention to these symptoms even if they last only a short time and suddenly disappear, as it could be a sign of a mini-stroke, known as a transient ischemic attack. While brief, it's important to get it checked out to rule out a serious underlying condition that could lead to a more severe episode later. A helpful acronym to memorize is FAST:
F: Face drooping
A: Arm weakness
S: Speech impairment
T: Time to call 911!
Risk Factors That Raise Stroke Risk in Middle-Aged and Younger Adults
According to Dr. Lee H. Schwamm, director of the comprehensive stroke center at Massachusetts General Hospital, and Dr. Lawrence R. Wechsler, chairman of the department of neurology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, the risk factors for stroke among patients under the age of 50 differ from those in older patients, and include the following:21
Arterial dissection causing a blood clot — Causes of arterial dissection, which is when the lining of an artery tears, can occur during sudden neck movements, including sports injuries to the neck and jolting that can occur when riding a roller coaster
Hole in the heart (patent foramen ovale) — An estimated 1 in 4 people has this condition, which raises your odds of a stroke, as it can allow a blood clot to cross through your heart and into your brain
Heart defects or disturbed heart rhythm
Narrowing of the arteries caused by stimulants or drugs, causing a sudden lack of oxygen to your brain
Aneurism or arteriovenous malformation
Vitamin D and Magnesium Deficiencies Raise Your Risk of Stroke
Certain nutrient deficiencies can also play a role. Two important ones are vitamin D and magnesium. According to research presented at the 2010 American Heart Association's (AHA) annual Scientific Sessions, vitamin D deficiency doubled the risk of stroke in Caucasians, but not in African-Americans.22 That said, low vitamin D has been linked to arterial stiffness in black teens,23 which is a risk factor for stroke.
Chinese researchers have also found a correlation between magnesium intake and stroke risk.24 After looking at more than 1 million people across nine countries, those who consumed the most magnesium had a 12 percent lower stroke risk. According to this study:
"No significant association was observed between increasing dietary magnesium intake (per 100 mg/day increment) and the risk of total CVD [cardiovascular disease] or CHD [coronary heart disease].
However, the same incremental increase in magnesium intake was associated with a 22 percent reduction in the risk of heart failure and a 7 percent reduction in the risk of stroke."
Lead study author Fudi Wang, Ph.D.,25 pointed out that while current U.S. guidelines recommend a daily magnesium intake of 300 mg for men and 270 mg for women, deficiencies are still common.
Indeed, research26 suggests 45 percent of American adults do not get the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) amount of magnesium from their diet, and teen statistics27 published in 2014 suggest nearly 92 percent of teenagers between 14 and 18 do not meet the estimated average requirement for magnesium from food alone. The most likely reason for this is because they do not eat fresh vegetables on a regular basis.
Stroke Prevention Strategies
Considering the vast majority of strokes are predicated on modifiable lifestyle factors, I strongly encourage you to take control of your health to reduce your risk. Conventionally speaking, many of the same risk factors that increase your risk of heart disease also increase your risk of stroke, such as:
High blood pressure
Elevated homocysteine level
Low levels of HDL cholesterol and high levels of LDL cholesterol
High level of TMAO
To address these and other risk factors, consider implementing the following prevention strategies:
Eat real food — A diet of unprocessed or minimally processed whole foods will protect your heart and cardiovascular health by minimizing toxins and synthetic ingredients while providing high-quality nutrients.
Certain preservatives, such as sodium nitrate and nitrite found in smoked and processed meats have been shown to damage your blood vessels, which could increase your risk of stroke. I recommend avoiding all forms of processed meats, opting instead for organic, grass fed or pastured meats.
Eat plenty of probiotic-rich foods — Metabolites produced by certain gut microbes have been linked to an increased risk of atherosclerosis, heart attack, stroke and early death.
Even among those with traditional risk factors, having low metabolite counts appear to protect against clot-related events. Probiotics found in fermented vegetables and cultured raw dairy products such as yogurt and kefir may help lower these metabolites.
Probiotics have also been found to lower your risk of high blood pressure, which is yet another risk factor for heart attack and stroke. The most significant benefit appeared to be among those whose blood pressure was higher than 130/85. In studies, probiotics containing a variety of bacteria lowered blood pressure to a greater degree than those containing just one type of bacteria.
Another animal study found the probiotic lactobacillus marinus effectively prevents salt-sensitive hypertension by modulating TH17 cells. (Other research has found high salt intake inhibits lactobacillus marinus, thereby contributing to hypertension.)
Boost your fiber intake — Researchers have found that for every 7-grams more fiber you consume on a daily basis, your stroke risk is decreased by 7 percent. This conclusion was drawn based on data from eight observational studies. Fiber is the nondigestible parts of plants, which can be either soluble or nonsoluble. Water soluble fiber was found to reduce stroke risk the most.
Avoid "diet" soda — Research presented at the American Stroke Association's International Stroke Conference in 2011 showed that drinking just one diet soda a day may increase your risk of stroke by 48 percent. Ideally, strive to eliminate all soda from your diet, as just one can of regular soda contains nearly twice my recommended daily allowance for fructose in order to maintain good health and prevent disease.
Exercise regularly — Strength training may be particularly important for heart health. Research shows less than an hour of strength training per week can reduce your risk for heart attack and stroke anywhere from 40 to 70 percent, independent of aerobic exercise.
The fact that the cardiovascular benefits of weightlifting were independent of aerobic exercises such as walking and running means strength training is sufficient in and of itself. It alone will lower your risk of heart attack and stroke, even if you don't meet the recommended guidelines for aerobic activity.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends at least 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise each week, 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity, or a combination of both. I also strongly recommend standing and walking as much as possible on a daily basis.
Optimize your vitamin D level — Ideally, measure your vitamin D level twice a year and make sure you maintain a healthy level between 60 and 80 ng/mL (150 and 200 nmol/L) year-round, either from sensible sun exposure or oral supplementation, or both.
Optimize your magnesium level — Check your RBC magnesium level and track signs and symptoms of magnesium insufficiency to determine how much magnesium you need. Low potassium and calcium are also common laboratory signs indicating magnesium deficiency.
To raise your level, eat magnesium-rich foods and/or take a magnesium supplement, balanced with vitamins D3, K2 and calcium. While the RDA for magnesium is around 310 to 420 mg per day depending on your age and sex, some experts believe you may need around 600 to 900 mg per day.
Personally, I believe many may benefit from amounts as high as 1 to 2 grams (1,000 to 2,000 mg) of elemental magnesium per day. The reason why I believe the higher dose is warranted is because most of us have EMF exposures that we simply are unable to mitigate, and the extra magnesium should help lower the damage from that exposure.
Lower your stress — Stress is a general risk factor for stroke, and the higher your stress, the greater your risk. One 2008 study found that for every notch lower a person scored on their mental well-being scale, their risk of stroke increased by 11 percent. Not surprisingly, the relationship between psychological distress and stroke was most pronounced when the stroke was fatal.
My favorite overall tool to manage stress is EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques). It's a handy, free tool for unloading emotional baggage quickly and painlessly, and so easy that even children can learn it. Other common stress-reduction tools with a high success rate include prayer, meditation and yoga, for example.
Address elevated TMAO levels — Studies have shown high levels of trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO) are associated with an increased risk of heart attacks and stroke, so measuring your blood level of TMAO could be a powerful predictive tool for assessing your stroke risk. In one analysis, high blood levels of TMAO increased the risk of dying from any cause fourfold in the next five years.
In a paper led by James DiNicolantonio, Pharm.D., who is also the coauthor of my latest book, "Superfuel: Ketogenic Keys to Unlock the Secrets of Good Fats, Bad Fats, and Great Health," he explains how the likely true cause of elevated TMAO levels is hepatic insulin resistance.
Moreover, the paper shows that krill oil, astaxanthin, fish oil and berberine may be among some of the best supplemental strategies for those with high TMAO levels after diet optimization, as it is simply a reflection of insulin resistance in the liver.
Limit alcohol consumption — Research shows heavy alcohol consumption in middle age can be a risk factor for stroke. Those averaging more than two drinks a day were found to have a 34 percent higher risk of stroke than those who averaged less than half a drink per day.
According to this study, "Midlife heavy drinkers were at high risk from baseline until the age of 75 years when hypertension and diabetes mellitus grew to being the more relevant risk factors. In analyses of monozygotic twin-pairs, heavy drinking shortened time to stroke by five years."
Quit smoking — As one of the major risk factors for stroke, quitting smoking is an important consideration if you're concerned about your stroke risk.
Neuroplasticity Training Following a Stroke
If you, a family member, or close friend aren't able to navigate implementing the prevention recommendations above, then you need to know what to do immediately after you are in the hospital. With nearly 800,000 people having a stroke in the U.S. every year, there is a strong likelihood you will personally know someone who has a stroke.
I recently interviewed Bob Dennis about his excellent book, "Stroke of Luck: NOW! Fast and Free Exercises to Immediately Begin Mastering Neuroplasticity Following Stroke — Right Now!" and I would recommend everyone download a copy now. This is the book you want to have when you are in the ER so you can rapidly begin the process of activating your neuroplasticity and regain as much lost function from the stroke as possible.
Just as it's important to get rapid medical assistance when suffering a stroke, the sooner you begin taking steps to heal your brain after a stroke, the faster and more complete your recovery will be. This interview should be published sometime in the near future, so if this is a topic that interests you, be sure to keep an eye out for it.
- The 6 Health Benefits of Marjoram You Should Know About
- 4 Ways to Use Marjoram Effectively
- Growing Marjoram in Your Home
- Try This Healthy Recipe: Spicy Roast Chicken With Tomatoes and Marjoram
- Marjoram Essential Oil Has Unique Benefits, Too
- How to Make Marjoram Essential Oil
- Using Marjoram Essential Oil Properly
The marjoram plant (Origanum majorana) is an aromatic herb known for its aromatherapeutic and culinary uses. Its botanical name literally means “mountain beauty.” Interestingly, since marjoram and oregano (Origanum vulgare, which means mountain joy when translated), have often been confused through the years, you may also see marjoram referred to as mountain joy.
In Greek mythology, Aphrodite was believed to have grown this herb, as well as oregano. Romans, on the other hand, believe marjoram was made by Venus.1
Marjoram is classified as a perennial, and can grow up to a height of 24 to 36 inches. It’s closely related to (and often confused with) oregano, because of their similar appearances, most notably because of their oval, flat green leaves.2
To make things even more confusing, as mentioned, their botanical names are quite similar. But even more confusing, Origanum vulgare, which is the common oregano, is also known as wild marjoram. Since it can be very confusing, be sure to do your research before you purchase either of these plants.3
Marjoram can be used in cooking or in aromatherapy, in its essential oil form. That being said, depending on how it’s used, marjoram is known to provide the following health benefits:
- Antioxidants — A 2005 study showed that marjoram contains various antioxidants. Most notably, Egyptian varieties contained more antioxidants compared to Hungarian ones.4
- Antimicrobial — Extracts of marjoram have been found to be effective against several species of fungi and bacteria.5
- Anti-inflammatory — In vitro examination of marjoram showed that it may help manage inflammation. Researchers discovered that the plant suppressed pro-inflammatory cytokines. Sabinene hydrate and terpineol have been identified as the main anti-inflammatory compounds.6
- Better digestion — A mice study showed that marjoram extract exhibits antiulcer properties, as well as reducing basal gastric secretion and acid output. In addition, marjoram may help repair the gastric mucosa.7
- Reduced risk of cancers — A PLOS One study showed that marjoram has promising potential in modulating breast cancer growth and metastasis.8 Another study shows that marjoram extracts have beneficial effects against human lymphoblastic leukemia cell line.9
- Better heart health — A study found that marjoram helped alleviate erythrocytosis, granulocytosis, thrombocytosis and myocardial oxidative stress, as well as other cardiovascular factors.10
The beauty of marjoram is that it can be added to various dishes and can be used for different cooking methods, such as:
- Soups — It gives vegetable soups more flavor.11
- Roasted meats — Marjoram can add an herbal aroma to roasted meats, such as chicken.12
- Sautéed vegetables — Side dishes such as sautéed vegetables become more flavorful with a dash of marjoram.13
- Marinades — Upgrade the taste of your marinated meat and fish dishes by adding marjoram to the marinade.14
Planting marjoram in your garden can reap benefits as well. Not only does it create a beautiful atmosphere, but it also helps attract butterflies and other insects that feed on pests and decomposing matter, and can even pollinate plants.15,16
Oregano can be used as a substitute for marjoram if you don’t have it at the moment. But remember that although these two plants are very similar in appearance, they do have slight differences in flavor. Oregano has a pungent, spicy taste, while marjoram is sweeter and floral. If you want to use oregano in place of marjoram, only use a small amount to mellow out its strong taste.17
Marjoram is quite easy to grow in the comfort of your own home. It can be placed in an indoor container, window box or outdoors in your garden.
Start by making sure your soil has good drainage. Sunlight exposure must be at its fullest for the plant to grow well.18 Plant marjoram seeds during the late winter or early spring, because the extremely cold temperatures will damage the plants and may even cause seedlings to die out.19
If you’re just starting out, plant indoors first and when the snow has melted, you can transfer your site outdoors. Make sure that the location has plenty of sunlight, and the soil follows the appropriate conditions.20
Start planting seeds by placing them just beneath the surface of the soil. As the seedlings grow, remember to clear up space by placing each of them 10 inches apart in all directions. The plants are ready for harvesting once they reach a height of 3 inches. To get the best flavor, pick them before the flowers start to open.
Once picked, dry them to seal in their taste and aroma. Simply group plants in small bundles and hang them upside down in a dark room with good ventilation. Afterward, remove the stems, then crush or grind before using.21
This recipe from Bon Appétit uses marjoram to provide roast chicken with a wonderful aroma and flavor. With the addition of tomatoes and red pepper, this dish is not only delicious, but warm and inviting as well.22
- 4 pasture-raised chicken breast halves with ribs
- 24 ounces cherry tomatoes (about 4 cups), stemmed
- 1/4 cup coconut oil
- 5 garlic cloves, pressed
- 1 1/4 teaspoons dried crushed red pepper
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh marjoram
- Himalayan salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- Heat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Toss the tomatoes, coconut oil, garlic, crushed red pepper and a tablespoon of marjoram in a large bowl.
- Place the chicken slices on a rimmed baking sheet.
- Pour the mixture over the chicken, while arranging the tomatoes in a single layer on a sheet around the chicken.
- Sprinkle the chicken slices generously with salt and pepper.
- Roast until the chicken slices are cooked through and the tomatoes are blistered, for about 35 minutes.
- Transfer the chickens to plates.
- Spoon the tomatoes and juices over.
- Sprinkle the plates with the remaining tablespoon of marjoram and serve.
Marjoram oil has been a popular fixture in folklore medicine for a long time. Research shows that it has been used as an antimicrobial as well as anti-inflammatory. A 2017 study summarizes the main possible benefits of marjoram essential oil:23
Modern manufacturing of marjoram essential oil is achieved through steam-distilling the tops of the plant. Depending on the source, the final product is a yellow to yellow-green oil. Spanish varieties produce an orange color.24
Before using marjoram essential oil (or any essential oil), you need to be aware of any potential allergic reactions. If you have any pre-existing medical conditions or are pregnant, it’s important to consult with your doctor first and let them know of your intention to use marjoram essential oil.
Once you’ve gotten permission from your doctor, do a skin patch test on your arm with a drop of the oil and check for any allergic reaction or irritation. Should a negative reaction occur, stop using the oil immediately.
Type 2 diabetes is curable and the cure is free. According to a January 2019 update by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 114 million American adults live with diabetes or prediabetes.1 Diabetes was the seventh leading cause of death in 2015, and continues as seventh in 2019. In a 2017 press release, then-CDC Director Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald stated:2
"Although these findings reveal some progress in diabetes management and prevention, there are still too many Americans with diabetes and prediabetes. More than a third of U.S. adults have prediabetes, and the majority don't know it. Now, more than ever, we must step up our efforts to reduce the burden of this serious disease."
While a commendable goal, the reality is the disease is rooted in insulin resistance and a faulty leptin signaling system.3,4 In other words, it's triggered by your diet and the cure is readily available to anyone willing to change their eating habits.
Unfortunately, a cure is not usually a consideration after a diagnosis with diabetes, which is why the medical community begins treatment with medication. Conventionally trained physicians continue to pass along flawed nutritional information pulled from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) ChooseMyPlate program5 or the equally flawed U.K. Eatwell Guide.6
In a 12-minute presentation before the U.K. Parliament, Zoe Harcombe, Ph.D., succinctly demonstrates how bad science supports rising rates of diabetes and other nutritionally triggered diseases.7
The Bad Science Behind Food Guidelines
The consequences faced by those who follow published dietary recommendations is tragic, as bad science has twisted information and triggered a global epidemic. As Harcombe discusses in her presentation before the U.K. Parliament, the human body is unable to produce essential proteins and fats on its own. However, there are no essential carbohydrates.
A statement from Chapter 6 of the Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids,8 reads:9 "The lower limit of dietary carbohydrates compatible with life apparently is zero, provided that adequate amounts of protein and fat are consumed."
Harcombe has spent years investigating and researching dietary guidelines as they relate to nutrition and obesity.10 In her presentation she discusses the results of her Ph.D. thesis examining randomized control trials prompting the introduction of dietary fat recommendations in the U.S. and U.K.
She makes the point that when a natural diet tends to be 15 percent protein and recommendations limit total fat to 30 percent, by definition the remainder are carbohydrates.
When your body requires essential nutrients from proteins and fats but not from carbohydrates, the question becomes, why would Mother Nature put essential fats and proteins, not produced in the body, in the same foods that are trying to kill us?
Analysis of Findings Shows No Evidence for Dietary Recommendations
Harcombe studied the trials prompting our dietary recommendations and asked the question: If those trials were re-evaluated today, would the same recommendations be made? She and her team found no difference for putting people on any dietary fat intervention against the impact of all-cause mortality or coronary heart disease.
Interestingly, the team also found that all of the trials involved fewer than 2,500 men who had already had a heart attack. The trials included no women and no healthy individuals. Yet the results of these trials changed nutritional guidelines for more than 220 million Americans and over 55 million residents of the UK.11
She and her team then asked what the data revealed in research performed after 1977, and found there continues to be no evidence for introducing guidelines that limit dietary fat. Some of the same research was also being done by seven other teams around the world.12,13,14,15,16,17,18
These teams evaluated 40 separate studies. Only three of the 40 studies revealed any negative results from eating fat. Of those three, one determined trans-fat had a negative impact and two were from the same team who essentially reviewed their own findings.
However, after the two studies were subjected to a sensitivity test, the results did not stand up. Essentially, none of the 40 studies evaluated showed that total or saturated fat was associated with cardiovascular disease, mortality or heart events.19
The U.K. Eatwell Guide website states:20 "The Eatwell Guide shows how much of what we eat overall should come from each food group to achieve a healthy, balanced diet. You do not need to achieve this balance with every meal, but try to get the balance right over a day or even a week."
In Harcombe's analysis of the new guidelines,21 she found when calories were assigned to the portions demonstrated in the guide and to the menus published, the diet was nutritionally deficient and the percentages of carbohydrates skewed even further than past recommendations, rising from 55 percent to 65 percent of daily intake.22
Understand Type 1 Diabetes, Type 2 Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome
Before going further, it's helpful to briefly clarify the differences between Type 1 diabetes and Type 2 diabetes, and the terms metabolic syndrome and prediabetes. Although the dietary changes to reverse all but Type 1 diabetes are similar, it helps to understand the process. The effect of glucose intolerance may be measured through fasting blood glucose, oral glucose tolerance or an A1c.
• Prediabetes — There are no clear symptoms of prediabetes so you may not even know you have it. It's a term used to describe an early state of insulin resistance known as impaired glucose tolerance. Conventionally, prediabetes is diagnosed with a fasting blood sugar between 100 and 125 milligrams per deciliter.23
• Metabolic syndrome — As insulin resistance progresses, if you suffer from three or more of a group of symptoms triggered by insulin and leptin resistance, it leads to a diagnosis of metabolic syndrome. These symptoms include high triglycerides, low HDL, higher blood glucose, elevated blood pressure and an increased amount of belly fat.
• Type 1 diabetes — The majority with diabetes have Type 2 diabetes.24 Only about 5 percent have Type 1 diabetes, which can occur at any age. Previously called juvenile diabetes, there are actually more adults with Type 1 diabetes than there are children with the condition. In Type 1 diabetes your body does not produce insulin.
Type 1 diabetes may be triggered by an autoimmune disease in which the immune system destroys the cells producing insulin in your pancreas. Often called insulin-dependent diabetes, new research has achieved a cure several times in animal studies. However, work in humans has not been as successful and several options are under clinical trial.25
• Type 2 diabetes — Also called noninsulin dependent diabetes, your pancreas continues to produce insulin but is unable to use it properly. In fact, this is an advanced stage of insulin resistance typically triggered by a diet high in sugars and carbohydrates.
Although anyone can develop Type 2 diabetes, you are at higher risk of it when you're overweight, sedentary, have family members with Type 2 diabetes, have a history of metabolic syndrome or are a woman who has had gestational diabetes.26
Type 2 Diabetes Is Not Just a Chronic Disease
Although millions suffer from the condition, diabetes must not be considered an inevitable risk of life. There are significant short- and long-term risks with diabetes, but the good news is that with the correct treatment you can avoid them completely.
Although conventional medicine focuses on administration of medications, simple lifestyle changes may be all you need to get your diabetes under control. Since diabetes often develops slowly, you may not realize you have high blood glucose and this can cause some serious damage. Short- and long-term complications may include:27,28,29
Hyperosmolar hyperglycemic nonketotic syndrome (HHNS)
Diabetic neuropathy: peripheral, autonomic, proximal and focal
Retinopathy leading to blindness
Alzheimer's disease (Type 3 diabetes)
Bacterial and fungal skin infections
Peripheral vascular disease
Insulin May Accelerate Your Risk of Death
In an effort to control high blood sugar, insulin therapy may actually be doing more harm than good. A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine30 concluded insulin therapy in Type 2 diabetic patients, particularly in people over age 50, may not always outweigh the negatives. Reported in Medical News Today, study co-author Dr. John S. Yudkin, emeritus professor of medicine at University College London, commented:31
"If people feel that insulin therapy reduces their quality of life by anything more than around 3 to 4 percent, this will outweigh any potential benefits gained by treatment in almost anyone with Type 2 diabetes over around 50 years old."
Medical News Today32 gave this example of what the author meant. If a person with Type 2 diabetes begins insulin at age 45 and lowers their A1c by 1 percent, they could experience an extra 10 months of healthy life. But for someone beginning treatment at age 75, the authors estimate therapy may give the patient an additional three weeks of life.
The researchers believe this prompts the question, is 10 to 15 years of pills or injections with possible side effects worth it? Another recent study prompted researchers to question if insulin therapy may be outdated, saying:33
"Although several old studies provided conflicting results, the majority of large observational studies show strong dose-dependent associations for injected insulin with increased CV [cardiovascular] risk and worsened mortality. Insulin clearly causes weight gain, recurrent hypoglycemia, and, other potential adverse effects, including iatrogenic hyperinsulinemia.
This overinsulinization with use of injected insulin predisposes to inflammation, atherosclerosis, hypertension, dyslipidemia, heart failure (HF) and arrhythmias. These associations support the findings of large-scale evaluations strongly suggesting insulin therapy has a poorer short- and long-term safety profile than that found in many other anti-T2D therapies."
Science Has the Answer to Reverse Type 2 Diabetes
In Harcombe's presentation to the U.K. Parliament, she points out Public Health England put together a panel to recommend what would be in the Eatwell Guide, and of the 11 representatives, only one had no conflict of interest. Several organizations represented included the Institute of Grocery Distribution, the British Nutrition Foundation and the Association of Convenience Stores.
Some of the members of the British Nutrition Foundation include Nestle, Kellogg's, PepsiCo, McDonald's and British Sugar. In her plea to Parliament, Harcombe makes two requests for the future of the Eatwell Guide and another for patients, asking:34
- Don't base the guidelines on the one macronutrient we don't need and diabetics can't handle.
- Don't allow the fake food industry to set our guidelines.
- Offer patients choice. There are three evidence-based ways to put Type 2 diabetes into remission. Patients should be offered both dietary options — low-carb and low-calorie.
Prevention and treatment of insulin/leptin resistance and Type 2 diabetes requires a little care in your food choices and your nutritional planning. However, done slowly, these habits are tasty and satisfying, and lead to increasing energy and easier weight management.
You'll find explanations about fats, proteins, exercise and how sleep and intermittent fasting may be the simple choices you've been searching for in my previous article, "How to Reverse Type 2 Diabetes, Why Insulin May Actually Accelerate Death, and Other Ignored Facts."
It may start as a tickle in the back of your throat, or a full throttled bark as you try to clear a growing amount of secretions in your upper respiratory tract. But, however it begins, most would like the coughing to stop.
Usually a cough will accompany a cold, beginning as a runny nose, scratchy throat and sneezing. A cold is caused by a virus, the most common of which is the rhinovirus. It may be responsible for up to 50 percent of all colds. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),1 most get colds in the winter and spring, but it is possible to experience a cold anytime of the year.
Although you're likely to recover from most symptoms within 10 days, your cough may continue for several weeks. Each year, millions in the U.S. get the common cold. The CDC estimates2 the average adult will have two to three colds per year and children tend to have even more bouts. It is the main reason children miss school and adults miss work.
Socioeconomic Burden of Coughing
Coughing is one of the most common reasons for medical consultation, both among children and adults. In a study3 evaluating the impact of coughing in an employee population in Finland, researchers found coughing decreased the quality of life for the adults and had a socioeconomic impact by increasing doctor's office visits and sick days.
Research published in PLOS ONE4 evaluated data based on how coughing varied by age and sex in a pediatric population. In a group of over 7,500 children, 10 percent of the children coughed more than others and 69 percent coughed when they had a cold.
Coughing was more common in boys than girls in the first decade of life, but the differences were not statistically significant in the early teens, eventually reversing by age 14. The researchers suggested5 meta-analyses of multiple studies are only valid when similar questions and age groups are compared.
As most parents can likely attest, coughing disturbs sleep in children and parents alike. In one study,6 researchers found it disturbed sleep in 88 percent of children and 72 percent of parents. Another study7 found a cough is the most common reason children are brought to their physicians and are more common in preschoolers than older children.
Upper respiratory tract infection or acute bronchitis are two diagnoses representing at least 75 percent of all reasons for a cough seen in the doctor's office.8 Symptom relief is often what drives people to see their doctor or health care provider when they have a cold and cough.
However, over-the-counter (OTC) cough suppressants have been found to be ineffective and may even be dangerous. Despite such evidence, cough medicines are still commonly given to children.9
There's No Proof OTC Cough Medications Work
According to the Consumer Healthcare Products Association,10 the number of allergy sufferers using OTC medications has risen from 66 percent to 75 percent, and nearly 70 percent of parents have given their child an OTC medicine at night to ease a sudden medical symptom.
Data also shows colds cost the U.S. economy nearly $40 billion each year, substantially more than other chronic health conditions, such as heart failure and emphysema.11 Researchers have also found the average consumer spends $338 per household each year on OTC medications.12
With all this money spent on OTC medications to provide symptom relief, you might have assumed what was being purchased is effective and safe. However, there is a lack of evidence for value in any of the OTC remedies often used to treat cough.
Dr. Norman Edelman, pulmonologist at Stony Brook University School of Medicine and scientific adviser at the American Lung Association, spoke to a New York Times13 reporter suggesting people anxious for relief are convinced cough medicines work. Although he didn't state cough medicines don't work, he commented that, as yet, there is no proof they do.
Pediatricians Recommend You Don't Use Cough Medicine in Young Children
Unfortunately, there is proof they can have significant side effects and may be hazardous for children and those who suffer from high blood pressure or congestive heart failure. For instance, a common ingredient found in cough syrups, dextromethorphan, has had a history of drug abuse since the 1960s.14
In high doses, the drug can cause abnormal heartbeat and sedation, but it also creates a sense of euphoria and can lead to hallucinations. Misuse of dextromethorphan is responsible for an estimated 6,000 visits to the emergency room by teens every year.15
The drug can also negatively affect those suffering from asthma, diabetes, liver disease, chronic bronchitis or emphysema. Additionally, there is a long list of medications with which dextromethorphan will interact.16
Promethazine, an antihistamine used to block allergic reactions, sometimes found in cough medicines, has a direct central effect and comes with side effects such as sedation, disorientation, hallucinations, muscle spasms and catatonic states.17
The American Academy of Pediatrics18 says cold and cough medicines should not be recommended, prescribed or used for respiratory illnesses in young children, as research demonstrates very little benefit and potentially serious side effects.
What's in Cough and Cold Medicines?
Medications commonly recommended for cough and cold in children fall into four categories — decongestants, cough suppressants, antihistamines and expectorants. Collectively, these are known as cold medications and are often combined in products, increasing the risk for overdose when more than one medication is used.
• Decongestants — Decongestants include the active ingredients pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine, which work by shrinking the lining of your nose and decreasing secretions. However, they also raise your heart rate and blood pressure, and can trigger hyperactivity, agitation and sleeplessness in children.19
• Cough suppressants — A common active ingredient in cough suppressants is dextromethorphan, but evidence of its effectiveness is weak.20
Studies evaluating the combination of codeine and dextromethorphan in children has not been found effective,21 and in one study comparing codeine, dextromethorphan and a combination of codeine and dextromethorphan against a placebo, researchers found none was significantly more effective than a placebo.22
• Antihistamines — Research has found that while antihistamines may help reduce symptoms, the risks far outweigh the benefits.23
• Expectorants — The fourth type of cough and cold medications are expectorants that are supposed to thin mucus to make it easier to expel. The active ingredient in expectorants, guaifenesin, is marketed under the brand name Robitussin. According to the American Family Physician, despite broad use, studies have been inconsistent in supporting the effectiveness as an expectorant.24
In one study published in Respiratory Care,25 researchers reported the results of a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial examining the effects on volume and physical properties of sputum. The researchers found guaifenesin did not work as an expectorant, and did not increase the volume of sputum, compared to placebo.
Beware of Codeine
It's important to remember to never give your child a cough suppressant containing codeine, as it is a habit-forming opiate. As noted in Medline:26
"Codeine may cause serious or life-threatening breathing problems, especially during the first 24 to 72 hours of your treatment and any time your dose is increased …
When codeine was used in children, serious and life-threatening breathing problems such as slow or difficulty breathing and deaths were reported. Codeine should never be used to treat pain or a cough in children younger than 18 years of age. If your child is currently prescribed a cough and cold medicine containing codeine, talk to your child's doctor about other treatments."
Coughing — Healthy But Irritating
Coughing is a normal reflex your body uses to clear airways of small particles, mucus or microorganisms. However, as described by researchers,27 the common form of cough caused by an upper respiratory tract infection is actually a natural defense mechanism hijacked by a virus in order to infect others.
Despite the resolution of the majority of your cold symptoms within 10 days to two weeks, your cough may persist for several weeks afterward. In fact, 1 in 10 children will be coughing well past three weeks after their cold began, and while irritating to child and parent, the cough does not need medical treatment.28
Instead, consider the natural cough remedies below to help calm the cough and get some rest. Researchers29 are studying how the virus hijacks your coughing reflex long after the original infection has been cleared in order to help reduce the spread of colds and the socioeconomic impact it has on society.
The virus increases mucus production along your respiratory tree, extending from your nose to deep in your lungs. If the mucus remains, it attracts bacteria that may eventually trigger more inflammation, mucus and a bacterial infection.30
Coughing helps your body get rid of the mucus before bacteria has a chance to replicate. Your coughing reflex brings the mucus out of the lungs and agitates the mucus, preventing bacteria from replicating and developing biofilm. As such, coughing is actually helping prevent more serious illness.
When to Seek Medical Attention
While common after a cold, not all coughing is benign. It's important to recognize the differences and know when you can treat a cough at home using natural remedies and when it's important to seek medical attention.
If your child has not had a recent cold or has additional symptoms, such a fever, listlessness, blood in the sputum, difficulty breathing and mood changes, it is time to seek medical attention. Aside from a cold, coughing may be triggered by:31,32
Bronchitis and pneumonia
Chronic obstructive lung disease
Exposure to very dry, cold air
Post nasal drip
Inhaled foreign object
Steer Clear of Antibiotics
It's also important to steer clear of antibiotics as they are effective only against bacteria and not against viruses that cause the common cold. Overuse of antibiotics worldwide has led to a global crisis of antibiotic resistance, which the CDC33 calls "one of the most urgent threats to public health."
Every year at least 2 million Americans are infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and according to the most recent calculations, multidrug-resistant infections are now killing anywhere from 82,276 to 91,207 people per year.34 Antibiotics do save lives, but 30 percent are prescribed unnecessarily in the doctor's office and emergency departments.35
According to the CDC,36 antibiotics are not effective against health conditions caused by viruses, such as the cold, flu, bronchitis and runny noses. Despite what you may have heard, even when mucus is thick, yellow or green you may still have a viral infection.
While antibiotics can save lives, when used unnecessarily, the risks outweigh the benefits. Some of the common side effects can include rash, dizziness, nausea and yeast infections. Another long-term side effect is the damage done to your gut microbiome. Find more information in my previous article, "Antibiotics Send 70,000 Kids to the ER."
Help Is as Close as Your Kitchen
Prevention is the best medicine. In my previous article, "How Long Does a Cold Last?" I discuss several strategies you may use to help support your immune system and prevent contracting a viral illness. Calming your cough may be as close as your kitchen cabinet. Consider trying the following natural remedies to soothe your cough:
• Apple cider vinegar — The antibacterial properties in apple cider vinegar may help your sore throat and soothe your cough. Gargle with a mixture of one-third cup apple cider vinegar with warm water as needed.
• Herbal remedies — Herbs such as eucalyptus, peppermint, anise, slippery elm and fennel (and their oils) act as cough suppressants. One study found an echinacea/sage throat spray worked just as well as a chlorhexidine/lidocaine spray in relieving sore throats in children.37
• Raw honey — Raw honey has antiviral and antibacterial properties, and may also support your immune system. It has also been found to relieve symptoms of upper respiratory tract infection in children38 and is as effective as dextromethorphan at relieving a cough without the side effects.39
• Salt water — One of the simplest ways to soothe a sore throat often associated with a cough is to gargle with natural salt, which helps kill bacteria, ease sore throat pain and prevent upper respiratory tract infections.40 Salt water may also reduce the buildup of phlegm at the back of the throat, reducing your cough trigger.41 Try a solution of one-half teaspoon salt in one-half cup of warm water.
A nasal saline rinse can also effective in treating viral infections and recurrences. It may also help thin mucus secretions. These should only be done with sterile normal saline water as tap water may increase the inflammatory response and carries parasites.42,43
Mandatory use of the first vaccine — the smallpox vaccine — became common in the 19th century because that infection had a mortality rate of 30 percent.1 Measles is not and was never as deadly as smallpox. In 1962, a year before the measles vaccine was licensed in the U.S., the measles death rate was reported to be 1 in 1,000 cases.2
However, that 20th century death rate has been challenged by Physicians for Informed Consent arguing that the case fatality figures are based on reported cases and most cases of measles are benign and go unreported.3
Recovery from measles confers lifelong naturally acquired immunity. There is evidence that whatever immunity the measles vaccine provides can wane over time and wear off completely within a decade4 or two.5,6
The answer, we're told, is booster shots, and making sure every single individual is vaccinated in order to ensure "herd immunity" — a concept that historically applies to naturally-acquired immunity following the recovery from the disease.
Measles infection in developed countries like the U.S. very rarely involves complications that lead to injury or death. If you're over 50, you might recall a time when measles was a common childhood illness, and most children experienced it and were immune by age 15.7
Parents were not extremely fearful of measles before the vaccine was widely used because, like chickenpox, it was accepted as a childhood rite of passage and complications were rare.
However, measles does have more serious complications for older children and adults, which is why parents in the past wanted their children to get the disease when they were young. Authors of a recent study8 in The Lancet Infectious Diseases reported that when measles infection is delayed, negative outcomes are 4.5 times worse "than would be expected in a prevaccine era in which the average age at infection would have been lower."
According to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data9 published in 2018, the annual number of reported measles cases since 2000 has ranged from a low of 37 in 2004 to a high of 667 in 2014. As of March 7, 2019, a total of 228 measles cases have been reported across the U.S.10
You can see a graph of the exact number of measles cases for each year going back to 2010 on the CDC's website.11 The National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) also has a page detailing the history of measles in the U.S. and other countries with accompanying statistics and references.12
According to the CDC, the last recorded measles-associated death in the U.S. occurred in 2015.13 But even before the measles vaccine was introduced and given to children in the early 1960s, the annual death toll from measles in the U.S. was between 450 and 500,14 and never approached the high death rate of smallpox, which was a far more deadly disease, and which prompted calls for states to pass mandatory smallpox vaccination laws for children.15
While any death, for any reason, is tragic, it is reasonable to ask whether it makes sense to mandate that children receive vaccines for diseases with low mortality rates when there are many other causes of death that are not only easier to prevent but would save far more lives.
According to a special report16,17 on child mortality published 2018 in The New England Journal of Medicine, 20,360 children aged 1 to 19 died in 2016; it goes on to list the top 10 causes of death in this age group.
Twenty percent of deaths (4,074 children) were caused by motor vehicle crashes, which came in at No. 1, followed by firearm-related injuries at 15 percent (3,143 deaths). In terms of disease, cancer was the primary cause of death (1,853 deaths), followed by suffocation (1,430 deaths) and drowning (995 deaths). A total of 982 children died from drug overdoses. Heart disease killed 599 children and chronic lower respiratory disease took the lives of 274.
Where is the evidence that measles is a catastrophic public health concern comparable to smallpox that warrants forcing all children to get vaccinated or be barred from getting a school education?
Senators Paid by Big Pharma Lead Fight for Mandatory Vaccinations
The U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions held a hearing March 5, 2019 titled "Vaccines Save Lives: What Is Driving Preventable Disease Outbreaks?" 18 The entire hearing centered around the testimony of five witnesses, all of whom were in favor of vaccines.
Meanwhile, more than 500 people, a majority of them mothers of vaccine-injured children, remained unheard in a crowded hallway or overflow rooms, unable to enter the small hearing room.19 According to The Washington Post, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., was the only senator or witness who made a statement questioning vaccine mandates and the threat they pose to autonomy and liberty.20
It's worth noting that two of the most impassioned senators advocating for mandatory vaccinations and the elimination of vaccine exemptions, Sens. Bill Cassidy, R-La., and Bob Casey, D-Pa., have also received the largest payments from the drug industry.21 Cassidy received $156,000 from the pharmaceutical industry in 2018, and Casey received $532,859 that year.
Fourteen other Republicans and 12 Democrats also received tens of thousands of dollars apiece from Big Pharma last year. For a complete listing of each member and the exact amount, see Matt Novak's February 26, 2019, article in Gizmodo.22 Many other members of Congress have received hundreds of thousands of dollars from Big Pharma.23
How can we expect impartiality from lawmakers advocating that everyone should be forced to buy and use vaccines when so many members of Congress have financial conflicts of interest with Big Pharma?
Ironically, while defending the absolute safety of vaccines, Casey and Cassidy are cosponsors of the Vaccine Access Improvement Act (S.3253), introduced in 2018-2018.
This legislation aimed to streamline the taxation for new vaccines eligible for coverage under the federal Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP), which was created by Congress in the 1986 National Childhood Vaccine Injury and expanded under the 21st Century Cures Act enacted in 2016. Cosponsor senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., commented on the bill in July 2018:24
"The Vaccine Access Improvement Act offers a commonsense solution to get vaccines to patients more quickly, helping to protect Americans against life-threatening diseases while ensuring that the small number of patients who experience side effects get the care they need."
The Acts passed by Congress in 1986 and 2016, as well as the Vaccine Access Improvement Act (which died in committee in July 2018),25 acknowledge that damage occurs from FDA licensed and CDC recommended vaccines and that injured children and adults should receive financial aid. So why were no individuals who have been personally affected by vaccine injuries and deaths allowed to speak at the hearing?
Healthy Eighteen-Year-Old Complains About Mother's Decision to Not Vaccinate Him
One of the five witnesses was 18-year-old Ethan Lindenberger, whose mother made an informed decision and did not vaccinate him as a child. After doing his own online research, when he turned 18 he made the choice to get vaccinated. In his testimony, a transcript26 of which can be found on the U.S. Senate website, he talks about his mother's views, saying:
"These beliefs were met with strong criticism, and over the course of my life seeds of doubt were planted and questions arose because of the backlash my mother received when sharing her views on vaccines. These questions and doubts were minor and never led to a serious realization of how misinformed my mother was."
Repeating identical talking points offered by all of the invited witnesses and all but one senator on the committee, Ethan also stated confidently, "In its essence, there is no debate. Vaccinations are proven to be a medical miracle, stopping the spread of numerous diseases and therefore saving countless lives."
"There is no debate?" Typically, only talking heads paid by industry take a denialist position like that. A rationally thinking person who has taken the time to look at all of the evidence quickly realizes that the debate is far from over and vaccine science is nowhere near settled.
House Hearing on Measles Outbreak
The week before the senate's hearing on vaccines, the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee held a hearing on the measles outbreak and response efforts.27 This hearing can be viewed in its entirety on C-SPAN's website.28
As expected, the witnesses and members of the committee denied there are serious vaccine risks — or if there are, they are almost nonexistent — and pointed the finger at parents with unvaccinated children attending school as the reason for measles outbreaks.
However, according to the CDC, over 94 percent of kindergarten children nationwide have received two doses of measles-containing MMR vaccine and only about 2 percent of children attend school with vaccine exemptions.29
The herd immunity threshold for vaccine-acquired artificial immunity is thought to be between 80 and 95 percent,30 depending on the disease in question. For measles, it's between 90 and 95 percent. Yet, the high vaccination rate in the U.S. isn't enough to thwart outbreaks, and evidence suggest they would probably continue to occur even if vaccine coverage was at 100 percent.
Measles Outbreaks Repeatedly Occur in Highly Vaccinated Populations
One of the problems is that measles outbreaks occur even in highly-vaccinated populations.31,32,33,34,35,36 A 1994 study37 looking at measles incidence in Cape Town, Africa, indicated that as vaccination rates increased, measles became a disease in populations where the majority of children had been vaccinated. The immunization coverage was 91 percent and vaccine efficacy was estimated to be 79 percent.
According to the authors, "The epidemiology of measles in Cape Town has thus changed as evinced in this epidemic, with an increase in the number of cases occurring in older, previously vaccinated children. The possible reasons for this include both primary and secondary vaccine failure."
By the early 1980s, about 95 percent of children entering kindergarten in the U.S. had received a dose of measles-containing vaccine but, in 1989-1990, there were outbreaks of measles among school-age children and college students.
Public health officials responded by recommending a second dose of MMR vaccine for all children. In an article published in Clinical Microbiology Reviews in 1995, researchers stated:38
"Measles, which was targeted for elimination from the United States in 1979, persisted at low incidence until 1989, when an epidemic swept the country. Cases occurred among appropriately vaccinated school-age populations and among unimmunized, inner-city preschool children.
In response to the epidemic, measles immunization recommendations have been modified. To prevent spread among school-age populations, a second dose of MMR vaccine is recommended at 5 to 6 or 11 to 12 years of age."
Today, measles outbreaks are occurring even in populations that have received two or more doses of measles vaccine, and/or where vaccination rates are above the "herd immunity" threshold. Examples include:
• A 2017 measles outbreak in a highly vaccinated military population in Israel, ranging in age from 19 to 37. The first two patients identified had both received two doses of measles vaccine. Patient zero, a 21-year-old soldier, had documentation of having received three doses.39
• A 2014 study40 conducted in the Zhejiang province in China found that populations that have achieved a measles vaccination rate of 99 percent through mandatory vaccination programs are still experiencing consistent outbreaks far beyond what the World Health Organization expects.
What's more, 93.6 percent of the 1,015 participants in this study tested seropositive for measles antibodies, which theoretically means they should have been protected against the disease.
Ignoring Vaccine Injuries Is What Causes Mounting Public Distrust
Parents who have experienced the pain of watching a perfectly healthy child decline shortly following vaccination, or who die or are left with disabilities and chronic poor health, are legitimately crying foul for being left out of congressional hearings that called for stricter mandatory vaccination laws, and which criticized parents of unvaccinated children while suggesting vaccine conversations about vaccine risks should be censored on social media.
Public concern about the safety of vaccines is indeed growing. There is a growing distrust of federal health agencies responsible for regulating the safety of vaccines and making vaccine policy, and it's because Big Pharma and the government are trying to bury the evidence.
Where are the scientifically sound studies comparing the health outcomes of vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals?
When government officials flat-out deny the obvious, the seeds of public mistrust are planted. Today, many of us know someone who has been injured by a vaccine, and more and more people are sharing their stories in an effort to prevent others from having to live through the same pain. It is a reality that simply cannot be denied any longer. To learn more about vaccine injury reports, visit:
- The NVIC International Memorial for Vaccine Victims,41 where you can search for vaccine injury reports by state and by vaccine or post a vaccine injury report yourself. You can also record your own video reporting a vaccine injury or death and post.
- Vaccine Injury Stories on Vaxxed.com.42 Here, you can find nearly 7,000 written and recorded stories detailing people's vaccine injuries, sorted by state or by vaccine. To submit your own story, use this online submission form.43
- MedAlerts is a searchable database of vaccine injury reports made to the federal Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) and can be accessed through the website of the National Vaccine Information Center at NVIC.org
The health editor for the Daily Mail recently published an article touting the merits of statin cholesterol-lowering drugs and, worse, eschewing the "deadly propaganda of the statin deniers."1
Pointing to an analysis published in BMJ, which suggested 200,000 patients may have stopped taking statins due to negative media reports about the drugs,2 the article attacks those who question statins' merits and claims the notion that statins reduce the risk of a major cardiac event as "indisputable scientific fact."3
The real story is far from black and white, however, which is why the great statin debate continues — and experts in the field continue to speak out against statins in an attempt to clear the widespread myths about cholesterol and your health.
Are Concerns Over Statins 'Fake News'?
The Daily Mail examined what it said amounted to "fake news" on statins, including the idea that having high cholesterol is harmless. The fact is, "high cholesterol" as defined by many health organizations is not one in the same with the levels of high cholesterol that can actually harm your health.
Here the article points to familial hypercholesterolaemia,4 an inherited condition characterized by abnormally high cholesterol, which tends to be resistant to lowering with lifestyle strategies like diet and exercise. I have long stated that the only group of people who may benefit from a cholesterol-lowering medication are those with genetic familial hypercholesterolemia. This is the vast minority of people taking these drugs, probably far less than one in 1000.
However, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), these drugs are also indicated for anyone who has already had a heart attack or stroke or been diagnosed with peripheral arterial disease, has an LDL cholesterol of 190 mg/dL or higher, or is between the ages of 40 and 75 with an LDL level of 70 mg/dL or higher and diabetes or a high risk of developing heart disease or stroke.5
In short, a staggering number of Americans are "eligible" for cholesterol-lowering drugs. According to the CDC, that number is more than 78 million Americans, who are either eligible for the drugs or already taking them.6 Yet, the Daily Mail article pointed out that "millions of middle-aged people who would benefit from taking statins, don't," which could be "because they've been led to believe that the drugs don't work."7
There's More to Heart Disease Than Cholesterol
Statins are effective at lowering cholesterol, but whether this is the panacea for helping you avoid heart disease and extend your life span is a question worthy of closer scrutiny.
Such has been done by Dr. Malcolm Kendrick, a British physician and author of "Doctoring Data: How to Sort Out Medical Advice from Medical Nonsense," "The Great Cholesterol Con" and "A Statin Nation: Damaging Millions in a Brave New Post-Health World" — and also one of the "statin deniers" targeted by the Daily Mail. Kendrick is among those who believe cholesterol does not cause heart disease — and he fires back at the Daily Mail article in the video above.
Kendrick states the most concerning risk factors for cardiovascular disease are actually insulin resistance, Type 2 diabetes and the chronic inflammation associated with these conditions, along with factors such as how you eat — whether you're rushing or taking your time — and other stress-related factors, both physical and psychological.
He believes the conventional LDL/cholesterol hypothesis is flawed, in part because damage of the interior layers of your arteries precedes heart disease,8 and this damage can be induced by a number of factors, including smoking, high blood pressure, elevated blood sugar and inflammation.
Once the artery is damaged, cholesterol-rich plaque begins to build up as a protective mechanism. Problems arise when the rate of damage and resultant blood clot formation outpace or outstrip your body's ability to repair. As noted by Kendrick, "For good health, you want to maintain a balance between the blood being too ready to clot, and the blood not clotting when you need it to."9
So, what factors might lead to a situation in which the arterial damage is greater than your body's ability to repair it? Kendrick's "short list" includes over 30 factors alone, which include:
- Use of certain drugs, including oral steroids, omeprazole, Avastin and thalidomide
- Diseases such as Cushing's disease, Kawasaki disease, rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, chronic kidney disease and acute renal failure, sickle cell disease, malaria and Type 2 diabetes, as well as bacterial and viral infections
- Acute physical and mental stress, and chronic mental stress
- Heavy metal exposure, including lead and mercury
- Certain nutritional deficiencies, including vitamins B and C deficiencies
Without Cholesterol in Your Body, You Would Die
Another "statin denier" outed by the Daily Mail is Zoe Harcombe, Ph.D., nutritional researcher, author and public speaker. She states, "It is virtually impossible to explain how vital cholesterol is to the human body. If you had no cholesterol in your body you would be dead."10
Your liver manufactures most, about 80 percent, of the cholesterol your body requires, which in and of itself suggests your body cannot survive without it. The remaining 20 percent comes from your diet. However, dietary cholesterol is absorbed at a rate of 20 to 60 percent, depending on the individual, and if you consume less, your body will compensate by making more and vice versa.
Contrary to popular belief, cholesterol is a crucial molecule necessary for optimal health, and not nearly the damaging culprit it's been made out to be. Since cholesterol is a fatty substance, it does not travel well through your water-based bloodstream. Hence it is encapsulated in a lipoprotein.
As noted by Harcombe, the notion that there is good and bad cholesterol is also wrong. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) are not even actually cholesterol; they're carriers and transporters of cholesterol, triglycerides (fat), phospholipids and proteins. "LDL would more accurately be called the carrier of fresh cholesterol and HDL would more accurately be called the carrier of recycled cholesterol," she says.11
Ivor Cummins, a biochemical engineer with a background in medical device engineering and leading teams in complex problem-solving, similarly likens the very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) your liver makes to a boat that shuttles not only cholesterol but also triglycerides through your bloodstream to your tissues.
The VLDL will dock onto receptors in your muscle tissue, where it releases triglycerides to be used for energy. If your triglycerides are high, it means you're eating too many net carbohydrates, because it's actually sugar that causes triglycerides to rise, not dietary fat.
Once the VLDL has dropped off the triglycerides to be burnt for energy (or stored as fat if you're not using the energy due to inactivity), the VLDL becomes a low-density lipoprotein (LDL), which in conventional thinking is a "bad" kind of cholesterol.
High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is colloquially known as "good" cholesterol, and the HDL is indeed beneficial in that it acts as a master manager, helping protect the LDL against oxidation and transporting triglycerides and cholesterol in and out of the VLDL. In a healthy person, the LDL will be reabsorbed by the liver after about two days, where it gets broken up and recycled.
As a general rule, a high-sugar diet will cause damaged LDLs to rise, beneficial HDLs to drop, triglycerides and, often, total cholesterol to rise. Coming full circle, all of these are conventional indicators of atherosclerosis or inflammation in your arteries that can precipitate a heart attack.
For Those at Low Risk, Eating an Apple a Day Will Lower Your Heart Attack Risk as Much as a Statin
Dr. Aseem Malhotra, an interventional cardiologist consultant in London, U.K., is the third "statin denier" attacked by the Daily Mail. He gained quite a bit of publicity after the publication of his peer-reviewed editorial in BMJ in 2013, which argued that you should ignore advice to reduce your saturated fat intake, because it's actually increasing your risk for obesity and heart disease.12
In addition to defending the merits of healthy saturated fats, Malhotra highlights the risks of statin drugs, noting that more than half of statin users stop using the drugs within a year, most citing side effects as the reason.13
Fatigue, nausea, joint and muscle pain and increases in blood sugar have all been associated with statin drug use, most of which cease when the drugs are stopped. He also points out that unhealthy diet, including excess sugar consumption, is the true culprit in heart disease:
"Over 80 percent of CVD [cardiovascular disease] is attributable to environmental factors, notably unhealthy diet and also smoking, alcohol and physical inactivity. Diet has primacy, accounting for a larger burden of CVD disease and death than tobacco, alcohol and inactivity combined. For those at low risk eating an apple a day has an equivalent risk reduction for myocardial infarction [heart attack] as taking a statin."14,15
Statins Increase Diabetes Risk
Statins have been shown to increase your risk of diabetes via a number of different mechanisms. The most important one is that they increase insulin resistance, which can be extremely harmful to your health. Secondly, statins increase your diabetes risk by raising your blood sugar. Statins work by preventing your liver from making cholesterol.
As a result, your liver returns the sugar to your bloodstream, which raises your blood sugar levels. These drugs also rob your body of certain valuable nutrients, which can also impact your blood sugar levels. Two nutrients in particular, vitamin D and CoQ10, are both needed to maintain ideal blood glucose levels.
Importantly, statins deplete your body of CoQ10, vitamin K2, dolichol and selenium, thereby threatening your heart and overall health even further. Statins' ability to lower the risk of minor heart attacks may actually be related to their ability to lower C-reactive protein, far more so than the lowering of cholesterol.
Researchers with the Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands recently analyzed data from more than 9,500 patients. Those who had ever used statins had a 38 percent higher risk of Type 2 diabetes, with the risk being higher in those with impaired glucose homeostasis and those who were overweight or obese.16
The researchers concluded, "Individuals using statins may be at higher risk for hyperglycemia, insulin resistance and eventually Type 2 diabetes. Rigorous preventive strategies such as glucose control and weight reduction in patients when initiating statin therapy might help minimizing the risk of diabetes."
But a far better strategy may be preventing insulin resistance in the first place, by avoiding statin drugs and eating a healthy diet. According to Malhotra and a colleague:17
"In young adults, preventing insulin resistance could prevent 42 percent of myocardial infarctions, a larger reduction than correcting hypertension (36 percent), low high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) (31 percent), body mass index (BMI) (21 percent) or LDL-C (16 percent).18
It is plausible that the small benefits of statins in the prevention of CVD come from pleiotropic effects which are independent of LDL-lowering. The focus in primary prevention should therefore be on foods and food groups that have a proven benefit in reducing hard endpoints and mortality."
How to Identify and Lower Your Heart Disease Risk
Rather than focusing on cholesterol, two tests that are far more important for assessing your CVD risk are the serum ferritin and gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase (GGT) tests.
The GGT test can be used as a screening marker for excess free iron and is a great indicator of your sudden cardiac death risk. The recommended, ideal levels, of ferritin and GGT are as follows. For more information about these tests, read "Cholesterol Does Not Cause Heart Disease."
• Ferritin — Adult men and nonmenstruating women: 30 to 40 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL) or 75 to 100 nanomoles per liter (nmol/L).
The most commonly used threshold for iron deficiency in clinical studies is 12 to 15 ng/mL (30 to 37 nmol/L). You do not want to be below 20 ng/mL (50 nmol/L) or above 80 ng/mL (200 nmol/L). High iron during pregnancy is also problematic; having a level of 60 or 70 ng/mL (150 or 175 nmol/L) is associated with greater odds of poor pregnancy outcomes.
• GGT — Below 16 units per liter (U/L) for men and below 9 U/L for women. Above 25 U/L for men and 18 U/L for women, your risk of chronic disease increases significantly.
In order to protect yourself against heart disease, here are a number of suggestions that can help you lower your insulin resistance and restore your insulin sensitivity, among other heart-protective mechanisms:
Avoid environmental pollutants and toxins, including smoking, vaping, heavy metals, herbicides and pesticides, especially glyphosate.
Minimize your exposure to electromagnetic fields and wireless radiation from cellphones, Wi-Fi, routers, smart meters and more, as this kind of radiation has been shown to cause serious free radical damage and mitochondrial dysfunction.
Eat an unprocessed whole food-based diet low in net carbs and high in healthy fats. A ketogenic diet — which is very low in net carbohydrates and high in healthy fats — is key for boosting mitochondrial function.
When your body is able to burn fat for fuel, your liver creates water-soluble fats called ketones that burn far more efficiently than carbs, thereby creating fewer reactive oxygen species and secondary free radicals. Ketones also decrease inflammation and improve glucose metabolism.19
Eat nitrate-rich foods to help normalize your blood pressure. Good sources include arugula, cilantro, rhubarb, butter leaf lettuce, mesclun mixed greens, beet greens, fresh beet juice, kvass (fermented beet juice) and fermented beet powder.
Get plenty of nonexercise movement each day; walk more and incorporate higher intensity exercise as your health allows.
Intermittently fast. After you've become accustomed to intermittently fasting for 16 to 18 hours, you can try a stricter fast once or twice a week, when you eat a 300- to 800-calorie meal loaded with detox supporting nutrients, followed by a 24-hour fast. So, in essence, you're then only eating one 300- to 800-calorie meal in 42 hours.
If you have heart disease, consider enhanced external counterpulsation (EECP). To find a provider, see EECP.com.20
If you have heart disease, you may also consider taking g-strophanthin, an adrenal hormone that helps create more parasympathetic nervous system neurotransmitters, thereby supporting your parasympathetic nervous system. It also helps flush out lactic acid. Strophanthus is the name of the plant, the active ingredient of which is called g-strophanthin in Europe, and ouabain in the United States.
Get sensible sun exposure to optimize your vitamin D status and/or take an oral vitamin D3 supplement with magnesium and vitamin K2.
Implement heart-based wellness practices such as connecting with loved ones and practicing gratitude.