nutrition

The Health Benefits of Mushrooms

Are mushrooms healthy? Like the kinds that you can find at the grocery store? The overwhelming answer is: yes, they are a ‘superfood’. Mushrooms are healthy and have many nutritional properties that make them an important part of a balanced diet. They help the human immune system to function properly in addition to being a high nutrient value, low calorie sustenance. Mushrooms augment gut health and immune regulation.

Here are some nutrients of mushrooms: Amino acids, B vitamins, trace minerals, and Psilocybin is also being studied for its therapeutic benefits to mental health, which is the psychotropic compound found in “magic mushrooms”. The ‘stoned ape theory’ (Terrence McKenna) states that mushrooms were a primary factor enabled the immense increase in brain power of the human species that separates humanity from other animal species and perhaps gave birth to language as we know it. This theory hasn’t received a lot of attention from the scientific community due to McKenna’s lack of anthropological data and evidence. However, Paul Stamets began to introduce his research on Mycology, which has reinvigorated the subject of debate and helped to bring new understanding the how mushrooms function in nature.

In the United States alone every year more than 940 million pounds of edible mushrooms are bought in grocery stores, farmers’ markets and health food stores.

Mushrooms are “packed with vitamins, minerals and other nutrients.1” There are over 10,000 types of fungi that produce mushrooms, which are actually the fleshy fruiting body of a fungus; hyphae is the term used for the roots.

There are also species of mushrooms that are decidedly unhealthy; even some that are deadly. Don’t eat a mushroom, or anything for that matter, unless you can properly identify it.

Mushrooms are incredible lifeforms; some scientists believe they were some of the first organic life forms on planet Earth. The roots of mushrooms, called Mycelium is a network of hyphae, which can develop from a single spore, produced by the fungus3. Mycorrhiza is the mutual association between the fungus and the plant, which play important roles in plant nutritionsoil biology, and soil chemistry.

The Anatomy of a Mushroom

Mushrooms have common features, though there are several deviations that are very interesting. Here are the major features:

  • Caps – can be scaled, warted, or have areolae, some are moist
  • Margin, containing gills, spines, teeth or pores under the cap
  • Spores are released from under the cap
  • Ring, skirt, or annulus, remnants of reproduction
  • Stipe or stalk
  • Volva or cup
  • Basal bulb – connects the mushrooms to mycelium

The Stages of Growth of a Mushroom

The life cycle of a mushroom can be a couple days to several years, to hundreds or thousands of years. There are several distinct stages to the growth.

  1. Spores drop from mushroom cap, spores are the seeds of a mushroom
  2. Two spores fuse and become a hyphae, long tubular structures with genetics
  3. Hyphae link to Mycelium, to obtain nutrients from mycelium to the fruiting body of the mushroom.
  4. Baby mushrooms are formed in a hyphal knot, pinheads begin to grow out of the Mycelium
  5. Growth and maturity

Mushroom Function in Nature

Catherine N. Jacott, Jeremy D. Murray and Christopher J. Ridout - [1] doi:10.3390/agronomy7040075

Mushrooms are the fruiting body of the mycelium and arbuscules are the site of nutrients exchange between a plant and the fungi. Mushrooms, Mycelia and Mycorrhizae are very important for plant and tree root systems to absorb nutrients surrounding the roots and to create resilience against drought, salt, heavy metals, and pathogens.

Most mushrooms are anti-viral and anti-bacterial, and also fight cancer and aging in various ways by boosting the immune system in humans. In short, they are very good for overall health, in ways that science doesn’t fully understand yet. Many pharmaceutical drugs are made using chemicals and molecules derived from mushrooms. Compounds successfully developed into drugs or under research include antibioticsanti-cancer drugscholesterol and ergosterol synthesis inhibitors, psychotropic drugs, immunosuppressants and fungicides.

Mushrooms as organisms are very unique. Mushrooms with psychoactive properties have long played a role in various native medicine traditions in cultures all around the world. They are rich in vitamins and will absorb the metals surrounding them, as proven by their ability to absorb Cesium after Chernobyl.

They can be bad for the body in ways that the general population doesn’t know yet either. Some mushrooms can cause liver and circulatory toxicity when taken in high amounts over long periods of time. Some cause death when eaten. Some are just dangerously poisonous. There is a lot of research to be done to fully understand how these complex organisms interact with the human body.

The benefits of the mushroom are noted largely by their species; each has different nutritional properties and interacts with the human body uniquely, just as each species of mushroom functions differently in nature. Each will have a different reaction within the body due to the diversity of human microbiomes; cooking is used to reduce toxic chemicals.

Some general characteristics and benefits of mushrooms species are noted below. Please do some of your own research and comment on what you find!

Mushroom Nutrition

Basically, mushrooms are good for the human immune system. They contain polysaccharides, amino acids, minerals, anti-oxidants, and are anti-inflammatory. Various compounds from mushrooms are being studied for their positive effects on heart health, blood sugar levels, digestion, immunity, and cellular regeneration; many compounds are being researched for their ability to fight cancer. In short, mushrooms are certainly part of a healthy diet and are a low calorie alternative to processed foods. In fact, many mushroom species are resilient to commercialism, and are extremely difficult if not downright impossible to cultivate.

Mushrooms Species

Oyster Mushrooms

Oyster Mushrooms

These mushrooms are a common edible. They are carnivorous (they eat nematodes and also diesel fuel) and are often used in oyster sauce and various kinds of soup, especially in Asia. It can be found in subtropic and temperate forests. These mushrooms boast high nutrient values (because of their carnivorous nature), high anti-oxidant content, helps to lower blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, and insulin levels. It can also help to improve respiratory tract infections, especially in HIV positive patients. There is also a significant potential for anti-carcinogenic properties and gut health/anti-inflammatory effects. They are also delicious when cooked. More research is needed to understand exactly how the mushrooms interact with the gut and human microbiome, but the general consensus of the scientific community is pretty unanimous to these being a great addition to a healthy diet.

Bolete Mushrooms

Beschreibung: Schale mit Steinpilzen Quelle: selbst fotografiert Datum: August 2006 Fotograf: Karsten Dörre (grizurgbg)

Also known as a porcini or porcino mushroom, these are found all over the world, but was only recently introduced to the Southern Hemisphere. These are difficult mushrooms to commercialize and are mostly foraged. The mushrooms spans root systems and fruit during summer and autumn. It is prized as a culinary edible and is highly regarded for its taste in risotto, pasta, and soup, though it is very difficult to cultivate. It is one of the few mushrooms known for being delicious when pickled. They vary in size. These mushrooms have a tremendous amount of amino acids; more than any other Portuguese mushroom. They contain lots of fatty acids: palmitic acid, stearic acid, oleic acid, and linoleic acid. They are also rich in dietary minerals: sodium, iron, calcium, magnesium, b vitamins, and tocopherols, as well as trace amounts of bioavailable selenium. It also contains a diverse host of phytochemicals: ergosterol and ergothioneine and polyphenols: rosmarinic acid, oxalic acid, citric acid, succinic, and fumaric acids and alkaloids. Suffice to say that this mushrooms species can have tremendous nutrient diversity; if soil composition is diverse enough to support it.

White Button Mushrooms

These are less-mature cremini mushrooms. See below.

Cremini Mushrooms

Cremini or Crimini mushrooms are from the species Agaricus bisporus which includes portobello mushrooms and white button mushrooms. These are all the same type of mushroom, but portobello are the most aged and white buttons the youngest. Age gives them different and more pronounced flavors.

These are the classic mushrooms for fine dining and cuisine and have numerous health benefits, including being anti-inflammatory and reducing blood pressure and alleviating hypertension, which seems to be a characteristic of edible mushrooms. There are B vitamins, D vitamins, Zinc, Iron, Copper, anti-oxidants and some fiber and protein. In short, they are good for balancing gut health; especially when cooked, there are very few side effects.

The presence of selenium in mushrooms is also a huge contributing factor to their health benefits. Selenium is nutritionally essential for humans and is a constituent of more than two dozen selenoproteins that play critical roles in reproduction, thyroid hormone metabolism, DNA synthesis, and protection from oxidative damage and infection. Its important.

Agaritine, which is a carcinogen is present in these mushrooms so eating large amounts of them can imbalance the gut in a big way; but the toxins are degraded when cooked. Plus its only present in small amounts so you would have to eat a large amount of moldy mushrooms in order for it to affect you.

Cordyceps Mushrooms

There are over 600 species of cordyceps mushrooms, mostly in tropical and humid areas in Asia and is a mostly parasitic species of mushrooms, feeding on other mushrooms and insects. The fungus takes over the bodies and brains of its victims forcing their zombified bodies to permanently relocate to the trees and low-lying jungle plants where the conditions are ideal for the fungus to thrive. They are used in traditional medicine across the spectrum of asian religious practices specifically Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine, as well as spiritual mushrooms practices.

Table of Cordyceps benefits from the national library of medicine (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)

Traditional uses of Cordyceps sinensis (Yercha gumpa) in North Sikkim

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These claims are unsubstantiated, but only due to lack of data and testing

Cordyceps is a very interesting mushrooms that we simply do not know a ton about yet. It has been proven to increase stamina and blood oxygen regulation in mice, but beyond that, we don’t have a lot of evidence of how it creates these benefits within the body. However, we do know that it is anti-parasitic.

Turkey Tail Mushrooms – (Trametes versicolor)

This is a common mushroom with a variety of benefits. Paul Stammets sells this mushroom supplement on host defense, due to its benefits for gut health, anti-inflammatory properties, and ability to slow and stop the spread of cancer by enhancing natural killer cell activity in the host body. His mom, after being diagnosed with breast cancer and three months to live went on to live an additional ten years eating eight turkey tail capsules a day. One chemical in the mushrooms, polysaccharide K, is being studied in Japan for its anti-carcinogenic qualities.

Shiitake Mushrooms

Shiitake Mushrooms
Shiitake Mushrooms

Originating in East Asia, Shiitake mushrooms are now cultivated all over the world for their taste and are used in traditional medicine. They grow on the decaying wood of deciduous trees, particularly shii and other chinquapinschestnutoakmaplebeechsweetgumpoplarhornbeamironwood, and mulberry. These are more of a culinary mushroom rather than medicinal, however, shiitake mushrooms still are a low carb, low calorie food that increases immunity. It has been known to cause allergic dermatitis reactions, but these are sometimes mitigated by cooking the mushrooms. Shiitake mushrooms account for about 25% of all commercially cultivated mushrooms.

King Trumpet Mushrooms

King Trumpet Mushrooms are a off-shoot of the oyster mushrooms genus, and are very similar in their benefits. They have tons of fiber, support bone health, and boost the immune system and energy levels of the host. It also has been shown to lower cholesterol. These mushrooms are believed to have co-evolved with nematodes which they can consume predatorily.

Chanterelle Mushrooms

Chanterelles are some of the most popular wild mushrooms to forage. These mushrooms contain mostly water, but also B vitamins, a little protein and fiber and carbohydrates. They are rich in iron, D2 (from sunlight exposure), and riboflavin, magnese, and potassium.

Porcino Mushrooms

See Boletus Mushrooms, same species.

Enoki Mushrooms

enoki shroom

This mushroom is mostly known for its use in Japanese cuisine, Flammulina filiformis. It originated in China, but grows naturally in Japan, and Korea as well and is used commonly in asian cuisine for soups. Like other mushrooms, it grows on deadwood and is cultivated sometimes with sawdust.

One hundred grams of dry enoki mushrooms provide 346 calories, of which 53% is carbohydrates, 26% is protein, 26% is dietary fiber, and 3% is fat. Vitamins and minerals found in enoki include niacin, calcium, iron, potassium, and riboflavin.

In Asian medicine, enoki mushrooms have been used for centuries to treat high blood pressure, high cholesterol, liver disease, and stomach ailments.

There are tons of amino acids in Enoki mushrooms, and also lots of trace minerals and some electrolytes and even iron. And the high water content is probably what makes it so beneficial for the stomach and liver.

Hedgehog Mushrooms (Hydnum repandum)

Hedgehog Mushroom

Also known as sweet tooth or wood hedgehog, these mushrooms are mostly identified by the spines that descend from the roof rap instead of gills. The capo is yellow or light orange and the stem is white, mostly with irregular shaping of the caps and spicy/bitter taste. It also has no poisonous look-alike, which is a major concern for some of the mushrooms that are foraged. It is broadly distributed in European woodlands and fruits during summer and autumn.

It has a nutty taste and crunchy texture, and is well recognized for its edibility. Some even say that it is similar to oysters.

The mushroom is full of nutrients, and seems to be extremely adept at absorbing heavy metals including Cesium from the Chernobyl disaster. It is especially high in copper and manganese, and fatty amino acids.

Armillaria (Honey Fungus Mushrooms)

These mushrooms form the largest living and oldest organisms in the world. In Oregon’s Malheur natural forest, one is know to cover 3.5 square miles and is over 2,500 years old. They are often bioluminescent. Armillaria can be extremely destructive to forests; it causes white rot root disease in trees. It is known to consume decaying and dead plant matter, making is parasitic. The only trees known to be resilient are birch and larch.

Their caps are yellow and brown, somewhat sticky or moist, and has at least one look-alike that is deadly poisonous called Galerina. It usually fruits during autumn.

Honey fungus is regarded as one of the best wild mushrooms in many places in Europe, but they must be cooked because they are slightly poisonous raw. They are more poisonous when ingested with alcohol. They are described as being slightly sweet when cooked.

Several antibiotics have been created from Armillaria14. They are prescribed in China for treating a variety of neurological conditions including Meniere’s Syndrome, vertigo, headache, insomnia, epilepsy, neurasthenia and hypertension. It has high levels of polysaccharides and several indole compounds have been isolated from it, including serotonin. It is also shown to be anti-glycemic, an anti-oxidant, seems to enhance brain function, and has powerful immune boosting activities that promote killer T cells, which balance the bodies bacteria and help to prevent illness. Overall, this mushroom is extremely beneficial, but must be cooked and ingested with care, as it is slightly poisonous raw.

Shimeji Mushrooms

This mushroom is native to East Asia but it cultivated in North America and Europe. It should always be cooked and is normally used in soups and stews and stir-fry. It is rich in Guanylic acid, Glutamic acid, and aspartic acid all of which are amino acids.

It is high in B vitamins, potassium, phosphorus, fiber and iron. It is also a source of selenium, which is good for skin health. It also is high in copper, which is good for heart health, immunity, and gut balance. It is also well known for its cancer fighting abilities.

Morcella or Morel Mushrooms

These mushrooms are highly prized because they only grow in the wild in North America and Europe and are very difficult to cultivate. Typical fruiting season is spring. They seem to do well in alkalized soils, especially after medium intensity wildfires though they are notoriously difficult to find. They are slightly poisonous so they must be cooked and shouldn’t be eaten in massive quantities or with alcohol.

There are 80 different species of Morel mushroom and most are found under trees. Raw morel mushrooms are 90% water, 5% carbohydrates, 3% protein, and 1% fat. A 100 gram reference amount supplies 31 calories, and is a rich source of iron (94% of the Daily Value, DV), manganesephosphoruszinc, and vitamin D (34% DV, if having been exposed to sunlight or artificial ultraviolet light).

Matsutake Mushrooms

These edible mushrooms are found throughout East Asia, Europe, and North America and are enjoyed for their aroma as well as their taste. They are becoming rarer, as competition is fierce for their once a year harvest. They are very difficult to cultivate. It is listed as “vulnerable” due to habitat destruction. Similar to other mushrooms, it has high vitamin content, as well as amino acids, fiber, and is anti-bacterial and anti-fungal. It shares most of the characteristics of the other mushrooms, but perhaps with more protein, and more fiber than most other species.

Maitake Mushrooms – Hen of the Woods, King Mushroom (Grifola frondosa)

This mushrooms has considerable health benefits, and grows wild under elm, oak, and maple trees. It has been shown to stimulate the immune system and can also beneficial for people who have been diagnosed with diabetes.

Benefits: Adaptogenic, antioxidant, useful in preventing and treating breast cancer2, suppresses tumor growth2

Maitake Mushrooms are rich in the following nutritional properties:

  • beta-glucans 
  • vitamins B, C, and D 
  • copper 
  • potassium
  • fiber
  • minerals
  • amino acids

Lion’s Mane Mushrooms (Hericium erinaceus)

Lions Mane Mushroom

Lion’s mane mushrooms are brain boosters and are implicated in neurogenesis and are getting a lot of attention in reducing Alzheimers and Parkinson’s disease and has been used in traditional Chinese medicine. They are being investigated by pharmaceutical companies for Erinancine, which enhances nerve growth amongst other cognitive benefits7. It may help the nervous system to repair itself faster. They typically grow on dead American Beech trees.

Reishi Mushrooms

Reishi mushrooms contain adaptogens and help the body to combat stress. They are known as the king of mushrooms because of their origins in East Asia and use in traditional medicine. They are immune boosters by improving lymphocyte function and increasing white blood cells counts in a very similar way to most mushrooms, but specifically have high amino acid content, which can help fight infection and cancer. This may occur primarily in those who are ill, as mixed results have been seen in those who are healthy8.

Chaga Mushrooms

These mushrooms typically grow on birch trees and resembled a dark chunk of dirt; scientists are getting increasingly interested in the health benefits because of its ability to fight and prevent cancer through triterpenes, which cause cancer cells to self-destruct without affecting healthy cells4. It is also rich in antioxidants and lowers cholesterol, which can help to prevent heart disease. It is also anti-inflammatory by regulating cytokine production, which can help to combat arthritis.

Here are some nutritional properties of Chaga mushrooms:

  • B-complex vitamins
  • rubidium
  • cesium
  • amino acids
  • fiber
  • zinc
  • iron
  • manganese

Healing Mushrooms, “Magic” and Psilocybin

“It is well known that most of the new drugs discovered in the last few decades have originated from nature. Chemical constituents obtained from medicinal plants and other natural products have been increasingly used to treat many infectious diseases.”

Mushrooms are increasingly studied around the world for their pharmacological health benefits. Lion’s mane is implicated in faster nervous system regeneration after a stroke.

There are 4 different substances that create the hallucinations: psilocybinpsilocinbaeocystin and norbaeocystin. There isn’t a lot known about the substances, however they are psychotropic alkaline analogues to psilocybin, meaning they alter the way the psilocybin is processed to create hallucinatory effects in the brain. Not a lot of data is available due to hallucinogenic mushrooms being illegal in most countries.

Psilocybin and the other hallucinogenic compounds are known to interact with Serotonin and the HTP Axis or stress response. This is the most likely explanation for mushrooms being seen as a cure for depression.

We will wait to discover and understand what the real healing capacity of Psilocybin and the other hallucinogenic compounds can be.

Please leave a comment or share this article if you found it to be useful. I tried to combine as many high quality sources and do as much research as I could.

References

  1. Time Magazine – Are Mushrooms Healthy
  2. Healthline
  3. Micropia
  4. Real Eats
  5. Medical News Today
  6. Rejuvii
  7. Erinacine Wikipedia Page
  8. 6 Benefits of Reishi Mushrooms
  9. Draxe.com Cremini Mushrooms – Cremini Mushrooms Benefit the Heart, Gut & Fight Against Cancer
  10. NIH on Selenium
  11. Bolete Mushrooms
  12. Health Benefits of Enoki Mushrooms
  13. The Life Cycle of a Mushroom
  14. Honey Mushroom Nutrition
  15. Shimeji Mushroom Nutrition
  16. Mushrooms Analysis

The Health Benefits of Mushrooms Read More »

vegetable protein

Vegetable Protein Sources for the Average Vegetarian

Vegetable Protein Sources

Vegetable protein isn’t hard to find. In fact, it’s probably already in your house, disguised. I am a pescetarian. I am not a vegan, but I was once. I stopped because it was too hard to stay healthy without eating tons of sugar and it was very difficult to avoid eggs and dairy products (especially goat cheese, that stuff is amazing).

It is extremely hard to be vegetarian in the United States. The system is literally working against the health of the American people; beef companies get huge subsidies, as do dairy farms and monoculture crops are the norm. This is the opposite of biodiversity, which is necessary for health gut bacteria (see the human body is an ecosystem part 4). I won’t even mention that animal agriculture is the cause of over 50% of the planet’s greenhouse gas emissions. I call myself a vegetarian, which isn’t wrong because pescetarianism is a branch of vegetarianism.

Let get to the good stuff; if we don’t eat meat, then where does our protein come from? The answer is vegetables. Consider for a moment that a 350 Lbs low-land gorilla eats almost exclusively leafy greens.

But what vegetables? Here the top 10 from most concentrated to least concentrated:

  1. Lentils & peas – eat lots of these, if you don’t already
  2. Soybeans – you probably already eat a lot of this
  3. Lima beans & corn – you probably eat a lot of this too…
  4. Kale – cook it to change the nutrient quality
  5. Broccoli – see above, can give you energy if you feel down (lots of B vitamins)
  6. Mushrooms – aren’t they great?
  7. Artichokes – yup
  8. Spinach – Popeye, duh
  9. Parsley – I exclusively drink this one…
  10. Potatoes & Carrots – always great!

Da fuq? All of the veggies have tons of protein. Is vegetable protein healthier? Why do I feel like I need meat?

Your body habituates itself to eating meat when it becomes a normal part of the day. After my first week of being vegetarian (at 24, after eating meat daily until that point…) I felt like I had to go back to eating meat and did. After a couple of weeks of eating meat, I realized that I didn’t like it as much and went back to vegetarianism and eventually hardcore veganism. Now I eat fish when its available and a little chicken here and there (probably once a month).

There is a very popular cultural myth in the United States that you need meat as a protein source. This is one of the health tragedies currently plaguing us, as hamburgers are cheaper than salads. For someone trying to be healthy, it really sucks. Besides, where do those enormous cows get all of their protein to grow far larger than humans? It’s in the vegetable protein. Grass. But if you are really serious about losing weight, you’ll do what I did. I didn’t eat sugar for about six months.

You’ll never see it advertised, but if you really want to lose weight, stop eating sugar and drink more water. It’s that simple. Don’t even worry about protein. I’m speaking from my personal experience in a world that will do anything to make you think you need more food to be healthy. If you’re American, less is probably best. And no, I’m not talking to any girls out there with anorexia. You should be trying to eat early in the morning to maintain healthy metabolism. Try salad for breakfast. Dieting is far more important that exercise for weight loss, especially once you are in good physical shape. Trust me, I’ve been fat and in amazing shape. There is a lot of truth to the myth that abs are made in the kitchen. The only part that’s a myth is that you need to do ridiculous amounts of abdominal exercises to have your abdominal muscles be visible. Or just do yoga twice a day for 3 months and weight lift a few times a week.

Limiting your meat consumption could be the healthiest thing you can do for your body today. The second could be a yoga class 😉

Another excellent source of protein that I didn’t mention is quinoa. I love the stuff and its full of protein, but it’s not a vegetable protein so it isn’t on the list. Stick to leafy greens and remember how much protein lowland gorillas get from eating leaves all day long.

 

Sources:
  1. Healthalicious
  2. Cooking Light
  3. Body Building
  4. Women’s Health
  5. Mind Body Green
  6. Livestrong
  7. No Meat Athlete
  8. Wikipedia

 

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Microbiome_Wikipedia

The Human Body is an Ecosystem (Part 1 of 5)

Part 1: Anatomy of the Human MicroBiome

Please see the other sections of the article; once they are completed the links will be active:

Part 2: micro-organisms on the skin
Part 3: micro-organisms in the mouth
Part 4: micro-organisms in the gut
Part 5: implications for modern medicine

Your ability to think of yourself as one whole being is an incredible phenomenon; especially considering that the human body is made up of 37.2 trillion human cells that can act somewhat independently, which is really a gross estimate at this point. What is really interesting is that the majority of the cells in your body are actually bacteria cells, mostly that reside in the human gut. Modern estimates say the proportion is about 10 to 1 (baceria to human cells). That means there are possibly over 300 trillion bacteria cells in your body. In fact, there is evidence to suggest 90% of our cells are microbes or micro-organisms. (small animals,fungi, bacteria, archaea, algae, and protozoa). Outside of the body, on the skin, there are also a fair amount of micro-animals that are excluded from the human microbiota, or the aggregate of the micro-organism genomes on the skin, in the gastrointestinal tract, in the saliva, oral mucosa, and conjunctiva.

Your body might have a proportion of 10 to 1 micro-organisms to human cells, according to one study, which makes it important to consider your body as an environment. Basically, you have an entire ecosystem in your digestive track and this aspect of your body is what merges you with your environment. The digestive tract, from the mouth to the rectum and anus, is essentially a part of the outside world which is why there is so much bacteria and other micro-organisms living there. This is also the reason behind recent skepticism of the effectiveness of antibiotics for certain illnesses and why there is so much emphasis on probiotic in modern nutrition science.

With our new understanding of the micro-organisms that co-exist within humans, we have also begun to study and catalogue the different genomes, however, scientists have found a nearly infinite variation in how the micro-organisms interact and function. The same bacteria cells might function completely differently within the body of another, making the biome extremely difficult to study. The Human Microbiome Project (HMP) is the organization fueling the majority of this research and they are attempting to catalogue the different bacteria and their functions in the body in a similar way to how the Human Genome Project catalogued the human genome.

What this means is that there are not baseline calculations for micro-biome health because it varies so greatly from person to person. Also, different sites on the body have their own distinctive communities; skin and vaginal sites have a smaller amount of diversity than the mouth and gut. Different bacteria like to inhabit different places in the mouth from person to person and can also have different, specialized functions. Over 500 types of bacteria live in the gut alone, mostly in the large intestine or colon. These bacteria are incredibly useful because they break down food and allow for the absorption of nutrients into the human body, however, in times of lowered immunity they can also act as opportunistic pathogens (meaning they can cause disease). E. Coli is one of the bacteria that exist in the gut, and certain mutated strains of this can also cause disease (as you probably heard in the news). But this is a healthy bacteria that when balanced against a strong immune system provides enormous benefit to the digestion and absorption of nutrients.

Here are the elements that create the chemical balance of your body and their associated proportional mass:

  • Oxygen = 65%
  • Carbon = 18%
  • Hydrogen = 10%
  • Nitrogen = 3%
  • Calcium = 1.4%
  • Phosphorus = 1.1%
  • Potassium = .25% (can be radioactive)
  • Sulfur = .25%
  • Sodium = .15%
  • Chlorine = .15%
  • Magnesium = .05%
  • Iron = .006%
  • Fluorine = .0037% (toxic in large amounts)
  • Zinc = .0032%
  • Silicon = .002%
  • Rubidium = .00046%
  • Strontium = .00046%
  • Bromine = .00029%
  • Lead = .00017% (toxic in high amounts)
  • Copper = .0001%
  • Aluminum = .00000087%
  • Cadmium = .00000072% (toxic in high amounts)
  • Cerium = .00000057%
  • Barium = .00000031% (toxic in high amounts)
  • Tin = .00000024%
  • Iodine = .00000016%
  • Titanium = .00000013%
  • Boron = .00000069%
  • Selenium = .00000019% (toxic in high amounts)
  • Nickel = .00000014%
  • Chromium = .000000024%
  • Manganese = .00000017%
  • Arsenic = .00000026% (toxic in high amounts)
  • Lithium = .000000031% (toxic in high amounts)
  • Mercury = .00000019% (toxic in high amounts)
  • Caesium = .000000021%
  • Molybdenum = .00000013%
  • Cobalt = .000000021%
  • Antimony = .00000011% (toxic in high amounts)
  • Silver = .00000001%
  • Niobium = .0000016%
  • Zirconium = .000006%
  • Lanthanum = .00000137%
  • Tellurium = .00000012%
  • Gold = .000000140%
  • Vanadium = .00000026%
  • Uranium = .0000000013% (toxic in high amounts)
  • Beryllium = .00000000005% (toxic in high amounts)
  • Radium = .0000000000000000001% (toxic in high amounts)

You’ll notice a few very interesting things about some of these elements. The first is that many substances can be toxic in high dosages, and obviously you can be malnourished if you have less of these elements. The second is that there are radioactive elements in your body; yes you are radioactive, just like the Earth. The radioactive elements are particularly interesting: Potassium40 has over 4,000 events per second in the human body; Carbon14 has over 3,000; Rubidium has over 100; and Lead210, Tritium, Uranium238, Radium228, and Radium226 all have under 20 events per second. To me, this emphasizes the need for balance in the human body; not too much and not too little.

It is astonishing to think that there is a hole, a series of tubes really, inside of you that is really a part of the outside environment. But this makes perfect sense to a Taoist, who would say that a human ‘is the same’ as the environment they are in. Two sides of Yin and Yang that are always playing together to continue life. Most research suggests that our gut flora (or the collective bacteria in an ecosystem) is symbiotic and has a direct relationship with the functioning of the body.

The functions of the flora are the following (though it has been found that some people can function without gut bacteria):  fermenting unused energy substrates, training the immune system, preventing growth of harmful species, regulating the development of the gut, producing vitamins, and producing hormones. Extensive modification and imbalances of the gut microbiota and its micro-biome or gene collection are associated with obesity. However, in certain conditions, some species are thought to be capable of causing disease by causing infections or increasing risk for cancer (paraphrased from Wikipedia).

So obesity might be better understood as an imbalance in gut bacteria that leads to slower digestion and less nutrient absorption. It also makes sense that there is a cascade type of effect, where the body has “momentum” to digest with large amounts of built up gut bacteria. So a ‘fast metabolism’ might be summarized as healthy gut flora. Interesting stuff right? In my opinion this is some of the most exciting science being researched today.

This is part of the reason why a balanced diet is key to being healthy. There is a lot more information coming, I’m especially excited to get into the gut flora and their implications for mental and cognitive health. The next article will be about the skin, and all of the micro-organisms that live on you. Stay tuned, hoping to have it out tomorrow.

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Chemicals in Yoga

Everything is chemical. It is the basis of all matter in the universe.

It is easy to think of some chemicals as good and some as bad, but this is really a silly way to look at it, because most chemicals are useful in one form or fashion. Some interact poorly with the chemical composition of your body and this is why you view them as good, or bad, or what have you.

The truth is, that chemicals have a very real potential and a very real danger when misunderstood and mistreated. Some great examples are drugs, oil, water, food, really all of the imbalances that we perceive in our current world are chemical imbalances. But we ourselves are natural and chemical, so it is important to remember that being a human is having a mostly stable chemical composition.

So we can say that certain chemicals, especially purified chemicals, can be extremely potent to the human body and can enact change within the body, to produce a certain effect. This has become known as medicine, where we take mostly plants and process them, somehow to interact with the body.

Even the word ‘naturally’ is a corrupted word in modern marketing; synthesized chemicals are certainly natural, but people tend to think that natural means closer to nature, or less processed. But since processing itself is natural, everything is viewed as natural. So it is a repetitive word that can be ignored. But in any case, saying chemical is repetitive. Of course it is chemical.

What people really are referring to when they say they want less chemicals is that they want less processing, less synthesis and more extrapolation. Purity is becoming more and more preferable as an ideal in food and cleaning products and things that we are exposed to, which is really a transference from other aspects of culture, religiousness and such from our ancestors.

So its important to realize that there is nothing that happens inside of you that isn’t there. All of the chemicals in your brains are what create all of your experiences. Each one has happened inside of you. Drugs are not magical, they interact with the brain in very specific patterns, however, we have coined drugs as strange chemicals with strange effects, things to be feared. They are not things to be feared, but parts of your self to be understood. For each acts as a mirror, a specific poison giving you a window into the unknowable, into the deep fathoms of your unconscious mind. To fear a drug is to fear an aspect of yourself, and perhaps there is no greater fear than to fear yourself.

Drugs are really an internal interaction cause by the reaction of introduction of a new substance. Your experience on the drugs is your bodies reaction to them, the processing of them. It is not something that exists outside of you, although you have introduced a foreign substance into your body’s chemical make-up. So your body is essentially reacting and this is what you experience. This is why certain drugs have nearly no long-term effects and some have effects that can last a lifetime, because your body is more or less efficient at processing them. And it learns and adapts. This is why psilocybin can have less and less effects the more that you do it, the same with LSD, marijuana, etc. So there is really nothing happening outside of what your body is doing and how it is interacting and reaction to the substance that you have introduced to it.

This leads us to see the body as having an enormous potential and as understanding how we subjectively view things as changing us. In fact, we are changing ourselves.

To move on to some more significant discussion, I would like to talk about 3 substances, chemicals, which yoga seems to have a tremendous effect on. Serotonin, Dopamine, and Melatonin are in my opinion three of the most interesting molecules or chemicals in existence.

All three are hormones/neurotransmitters, all three are present in a vast spectrum of life, contributing to the homeostasis of lifeforms across the biological spectrum.

Melatonin might be the most interesting, seen in plants, fungi, and bacteria in anticipation for the daily onset of darkness. In humans, it regulates the internal clock, or circadian rhythm, as well as seasonal cycling. There are many popular uses for melatonin, but there are few studies on its long-term effects and there is almost no research to show usefulness as medicine, or therapy. Its long-term effects are almost completely unknown. However, it can be found in the retinas of the eyes and seems to interact in very strong ways with dopamine and serotonin, and has a tremendous effect on the immune system and for protecting specific important cells. It is used as a drug primarily to allow humans to co-exist in nocturnal environments.

Dopamine is an intrinsic part of the action-reward cycles of conscious attention and is extremely important for learning. It interacts strongly with melatonin and can be found in the retinas of the eyes as well. Melatonin and dopamine both interact in interesting ways to light, stimulating dopamine while suppressing melatonin. This is mostly affected by stimulants, such as cocaine (why users always want more), or ADD medications such as adderoll, conserta, ritalin, etc. By overstimulating the prefrontal cortex and the dopamine pathways within, you can keep hyperactive children quiet, because their brain is receiving added stimulation from the slow release of chemicals in their brain. It is what allows for beings to interact intelligently with their environment.

Serotonin is one of the most interesting hormone/neurotransmitters in the body. 90% of it is in the gut, yet it is known as the happiness neurotransmitter. Its is probably the primary communication device between the stomach and the brain. Again, the messenger is found in fungi and plants, and it is believed it is one of the primary factors in a feeling of abundance or scarcity of resources. It is also evidenced to have a role in social rank, because the availability of food signifies this. It can also have an effect in stimulating bone mass. Studies have also shown that nutrition in early life can have an effect upon the body later in life. This is the chemical that most euphoric drugs are attempting to target, with the exception of cocaine. MDMA is one of the purest ways to stimulate serotonin release from the synaptic vesicles of neurons.

Now lets talk about yoga. It’s easy to see how yoga can affect the dopamine system; rebalancing due to lack of stimulus. This is why many people find yoga to be tortuously boring, yet understand the effect of spending an hour and a half in mindfulness, or mediation, or whatever. Dopamine regulation is indeed a major goal of the yogic practice: to keep the fluctuations of pleasure and pain on an even keel. Thus you keep the mind from fluctuating.

Melatonin is something that seems to receive large effect from yoga, as sleep patterns have been clinically evidenced to improve from yoga classes while even studies on injected dopamine have not evidenced the same positive effects. Learning to cycle with the sun, or at least to adjust to the sun’s cycling is an intrinsic part of the yogi’s journey. “Sun Salutations” seem to have quite a bit more meaning in light of the melatonin system.

Serotonin, lastly, is one of the more interesting of the three. This is where nutrition in yoga starts to become a larger and larger factor. Eventually, you will begin to find more equilibrium within your digestive system to optimize time in the yoga studio, in the asana, as it would be. Your bodies nutrition can have a direct effect upon your happiness, though modern science has nearly no data on this type of emotional nutrition relationship. There is too much money to be made in between the science with fads such as fat-free, sugar-free, diet, which are really marketing campaigns for food manufacturers.

With yoga, you can find balance between the three systems, inverting the bodies fluids moving them around, heating them up in various ways and using various techniques, breathing, sitting still, and a certain concentration on nothing to allow the pleasure/pain/stimulus/reward system to re-balance.

Enlightenment, it seems, could be broken down into the consistent flow of dopamine, without fluctuation, seratonin flushing from the gut up to the brain through inversions such as Sirsasana, Sarvangasana, and continually folding forward, bending the spine back and forth to get the circulatory system pumping everything into a balanced state for the body to enjoy for the day. Intense yoga classes can also stimulate the adrenal glands in specific ways that allow for deeper relaxation and “letting go”.

Just some thoughts, some research that I did on Google Scholar, etc. If you would like me to post some supporting evidence I’ll be happy to!

 

 

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10 Metabolic Facts to help you Optomize your Nutrition

I have been experimenting with nutrition for over 6 years, ever since I had the desire to get the most out of my yoga practice. I believe I have found the best strategies for my own body. These are some tips to manage your body’s metabolism.

The first step is reading labels. Do it with everything at first, then you can do check-ins. You’ll be surprised to notice how often the chemicals in food change. Everything is a chemical, so don’t get too concerned, but be aware of what you are consuming. This means using Google, probably a lot at first to figure out what you are consuming. This is the true key to dieting.

Once you are aware of what you are eating, you can start to cut out certain chemicals, say hydrogenated oils and preservatives. You can start to look for organic ingredients, which typically are higher quality and less toxic. If you can, go organic with most things, the food has more nutrition and less toxins due to having no exposure to pesticides.

Here are 10 things to consider as you eat during the day:

  1. Your metabolic rate is set by your endocrine system, your hormone regulation system. Stay cool, not stressed. Stress releases in your day are essential to keeping things running smoothly underneath the hood, endorphins help the body to handle stress and keep you content.
  2. Your metabolism moves fastest when you wake up in the morning. Ideally, you eat your meals in an upside down pyramid sort of way throughout the day, stopping before 8 at night. Start early, end early. When it gets dark, stop eating, if you can.
  3. Sweating stimulates toxin excretion and your metabolism. Get enough exercise to stimulate your sympathetic nervous system, but there’s no need to become a marathon runner, or king of the elliptical.
  4. You are in control of your metabolic rate. There are people with genetic metabolic disorders, but they are about 1 in 1,400. This means that there is likely no genetic reason for obesity.
  5. Your body has internal clocks and regulators you should know how your body has been programmed to work by your past behavior. Often, people change diets dramatically when trying to lose weight and this, in and of itself, can shock the body into digesting slower. This happens when people decide to “go vegan”. Meet your body where it is, add things slowly to your diet, rather than taking things away at first. The body also seems to really like eating on a schedule, I saw this in France where there are no obesity problems.
  6. Eat a large breakfast because your metabolism can process the food all day and it gives your body momentum to get started in the morning. Eat within an hour of waking up if you can.
  7. Keep your parasympathetic nervous system active while exercising to burn fat and use your bodies stores of energy. Yoga is great for this, so is walking, meditation, breathing exercises, etc. Low energy output tasks that don’t require exertion will target the fat tissues for energy.
  8. There is a protein myth in modern health, that you need more of it than fat and carbohydrates, but in truth you need all three in fairly equal portions for optimal digestion. That means even if you are consuming lots of protein, you need to consume fats and carbs to digest efficiently.
  9. Don’t cut calories, just sugar. The easiest ways for many people to lose weight are simple. Less sugar. potato chips, and meat.
  10. Water keeps everything moving, dehydration can lead to stagnation in the metabolism. Electrolytes are key here because they keep the fluids in the body concentrated with energy. The less toxic the fluid content in the body, the easier energy currents can flow though it.

These are just a few tips that I use personally. Balance your food groups. Find new stuff to eat, not the new flavor of cheetos, try a new kind of fruit, even if its nasty, spit that shit out. Try these guidelines out, see how they affect you before doing anything strict. I have found them to be incredibly useful for myself. They are simple, but HARD to execute. Especially water and hydration. Most americans (~75%) are chronically dehydrated, so water consumption throughout the day is a great place to start. I come back to it almost every day.

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The Last Diet you’ll ever Need.

Are you looking for the list of ten things? I hate to break it to you, but your body’s nutritional needs are much more complex than a 10 item list, so stop looking for the easy way out. With that said, I have about 5 or 6 points I would like to make :), these are lessons that I have learned myself, with guidance of some very educated and experienced people along the way. This diet post is going to be different, because I would like to educate you about your endocrine system, and why your emotions have far more of an effect on your body weight than you could have ever imagined.

What if I told you that your metabolic speed is directly related to your actions? That you are 100% in control and that genetics don’t play a large role in metabolism? What if the way you felt directly correlated with how you looked?

What if you had more control over your metabolism, how fast energy recycles in your body?

If you were thinner, more energetic, and more prepared to face the physical stresses of your future, would you be happier? Maybe how you feel is a more important question than you have ever realized.

All of these things are controlled by the endocrine system, a chemical messaging system that runs through your bloodstream and is released by your brain, your kidneys, and your digestive system. Seratonin is the neuro-hormone that scientists have found correlates with happiness, and 90% of our seratonin is in the intestines. What you eat correlates with your state of well being, and is the single largest contributor to good health beyond your mental state.

 

I am pretty sure humans were meant to be sensitive to our environment to help us survive. That is what will really have to change, if you want to change the way that your body operates, because you are the same as your environment, a part of it. Think there is an easy way out of the food question? Your ancestors didn’t either. Its time to step up and educate yourself so that you can become self-sufficient and eat optimally for your happiness, because its probably having a much bigger effect on your life than you realize.

The endocrine system is the chemical messaging system your body uses for slower change, such as digestion, growth, hormone regulation, etc. When we talk about dieting, this is probably the most important aspect of your body to pay attention to. Unfortunately, modern foods tend to have lots of excess chemical additives for extended preservation, which cause our internal chemical systems to get messed up. A lot of these chemicals are used in junk food, but also in things like meat, dairy, and poultry, so when we eat them, they can really mess up certain chemical processes in the body because the body doesn’t really know how to react to them because it isn’t evolved to consume and process them. They are engineered chemical additives that cause imbalance and things like obesity and illness due to improper nutrition and overconsumption and with time, things like cancer and heart disease.

1. This takes me to the first major thing you have to understand to optimize your body’s nutrition; your body is an ecosystem. 37 trillion cells, according to recent, incomplete estimations. Approximately 60% of the human body mass is water; less if you are obese, more if you are an infant or child.

2. This takes us to the second major point, water consumption; you are a walking hydraulic water lift system! Water and fluid content of your body is an enormous contributor to your metabolism, and one of the most overlooked aspects of dieting. Foods with high water content tend to be cleansing for the gastrointestinal tract and can provide the body with electrolytes, like potassium or magnesium from bananas or mangos. Legumes and big fruits are great. Harder, more sinuous vegetables like spinach and kale tend to build tight muscle. You are what you eat! Onto #3

3. Your environment has a huge effect on your body. Our body is designed to fight gravity from the moment we are born, and to take in the air around us through our lungs. The human body contains 65%  oxygen, 18.5% carbon, and 9.5% hydrogen yet oxidation is a force that we are constantly fighting with the recycling of the cells in our body. So there is a certain balance that the body maintains, and that cycles with the environment. This brings me to the third point, your environment is a part of your body and your body is a part of your environment. We have to consider where you do the things that you do and ensure that you spend time around other humans and ideally nature. Other humans and their bodies are also a part of this environment and highly stressful situations can lead to higher stress levels, requiring greater outlets for stress release. Pay attention to the cycling of the moon, eat the food that is more abundant in your season, give your body a chance to cycle with the earth. Try to eat before 8pm and right when you wake up, eating a few meals earlier in the day rather than a huge dinner. Give your body nothing but the best, maybe go organic or find some local farms, try to avoid preservatives. Do you think that stuff is easy for your stomach to digest? Of course, if you live in the city, lots of these things aren’t available to you, but you should explore your city! Find way of exploring cuisine that bring you satisfaction, and don’t worry too much about it! This brings me to the fourth point:

4. Stress is the single biggest contributor to death in north america, in the form of heart attacks and cardiovascular disease. Stress is something that needs to be released on a regular basis, and can really be useful to maintaining a high level of physical performance. However, like all things, stress must be maintained in balance. Physical yoga could be defined as a certain type of stressing of the body, so there are definitely good types of stress, as well as bad. The single largest contributor to stress’ affect on your is your perception of stress, whether you like it or don’t like it, essentially, and your confidence level for success. In reality, it is all about your perception of the stressor. This brings me to the final, last, but certainly not least point:

5. It’s all in your head. When you are happy and at peace, your body will be too, even if you are eating less that optimally for your nutritional balance. Imbalance always correct themselves in one way or another, but happiness is truly something that is generated from within.

There are things no authors talk about in their ultra-marketed books made for mass consumption (sounds like McDonalds to me) because it would alienate their audience. The truth is very simple. Sugar is the number one drug on the planet. Its mass consumption is killing us, releasing its toxicity through our pores, giving us acne, causing massive dehydration because people prefer it to water, and getting us addicted to dorritos, cheetos, cheeze-its, and chilly dogs. High fructose corn syrup seems to be in every single desert at the major gorcery stores. America is sick, and only we can fix ourselves. Humans are not supposed to be obese, in fact, this new epidemic is 100% a result of the lifestyles we have chosen as Americans. Convenience. No, I’m not talking about the people with endocrine disorders, mental illness, or the genetics that cause those things. I’m talking about overconsumption.

6. Convenience kills. Things that look too good to be true often are. Cheesecake is ridiculous. Soda should be illegal. So should fast-food. Not really, but it really is that bad for you. Once a month, maybe, but why? Can’t you be more satisfied with something fresh that you cook for yourself? This brings me to my final point, I don’t even want to talk about the agricultural industry: You really aren’t meant to eat much meat.

There is some weird obsession about getting enough protein in the US. I’m not saying protein isn’t important, but its only 1/3 of the equation, with fats and carbs. Eating balanced in every meal is hard, but is makes it easy for the body to digest. Lentils and beans are great sources of protein if they are cooked properly.

I am not trying to offer rules, only guideance, these are things that work for me. I am almost completely pescatarian and try to eat organic when I can, but its hard because its expensive. But I do believe in supporting things economically, so where I spend my food money is important to me. I eat mostly from local grocery stores that buy the stuff that is around me. Whole foods when I can, though they have lots of junk now. Be careful out there, let me know how you do.

 

 

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Basics of Nutrition

Nutrition is the concept of selecting and preparing food to be eaten, which largely contributes to the health of the body. Diet is the selection of foods that the body receives and palpability is the taste or perceived pleasantness of the food. There are four macro-nutrients and a few other types of nutrients that the body requires to function optimally.

The body then uses the received nutrients to grow, repair, or maintain itself. All food contributes to the body’s wellbeing and must be processed or broken down through the gastrointestinal tract and expelled from the body. The quality of the nutrients that you consume are directly related to your health, alongside your genetics and medical history. The body is a vehicle of momentum, so dietary changes normally take anywhere from 30-90 days to begin to show, sometimes longer. Exercise will help to expedite the process. A diet is not something that should be difficult to maintain; challenging, maybe, but it should be rewarding because you are feeling healthy and energized. Eventually breaks happen more and more occasionally as you settle into a healthier lifestyle.

Yes, it is more expensive. But it pays for itself in medical bills over the years, in sick days from work, in focus and energy at work. Health is something that allows you to live life more fully and vibrantly, it is priceless. That is my opinion and I know people that live happily and disagree with it so take it with a grain of salt. Just like everything else you hear from people.

There are four macro-nutrients, or big categories of nutrient: fats, carbohydrates, proteins, and water. Fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals make up the micronutrients. Poor health can be caused by too little of a required nutrient, or too much of a required nutrient. Each requires balance and agility; adjust to the body based upon its response to what you feed it. The four macro-nutrients should be relatively balanced in each meal, as much as possible. Tweak your diet and ratios depending on the sensations and results in your body. Yoga can help you to tune into your internal organic processes. Remember too much water can kill you, just like overloading on anything else; however, its probably not going to happen. Be careful out there.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are things like rice, noodles, bread, grain, and really represents sugar. Monosaccharides, disaccharides, oligosaccharides, and polysaccharides are all hydrates of carbon, meaning water molecules mixed with carbon molecules. Normally monosaccharides and disaccharides are referred to as sugars, which saccharide means in Greek, and very often the two cause words to end in ‘ose’. Monosaccharide glucose is grape sugar, disaccharide sucrose is cane sugar, and disaccharide lactose is milk.

Most people consider polysaccharides to be complex carbohydrates because they are more useful in storing energy and repairing structural components as opposed to sugar molecules. However, the body is shown to digest both at similar rates so there isn’t too much truth to needing to eat complex carbohydrates rather than the ‘lighter’ carbohydrates. A balance of both is good, but consider carbohydrates to be the primary energy source for the body, whereas fats and proteins are needed more for maintenance and repairing the body.

Fats

Fats are long chained organic acids, also known as fatty acids. The longer the chain of acids, the higher the melting point of the fat. Oils, fats, and lipids are often used interchangeably, but there are differences between the three: lipid is a general term used to describe all fats, not necessarily limited to triglycerides.  Oil is usually used to refer to fats that are liquid at room temperature and fat it usually used to refer to fats that are solid at room temperature. Fats serve both metabolic (processing) and structural needs.

There are two essential fatty acids, alpha-linolenic acid and linolenic acid, omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, respectively. Other fats used by the body are synthesized and broken down from these fatty acids. Fats and other lipids are broken down by enzymes called lipases in the pancreas.

Fat is categorized according to the number and bonding of carbon atoms in the aliphatic chain. Saturated fats have no double bonds, while unsaturated fats have one or more double bonded carbon atoms in the chain. Some have more than one double bond and they are called polyunsaturated fats. Unsaturated fats can be divided into cis fats, the most common in nature and trans fats, which are very uncommon in nature. Hydrogenation is the process used to bind hydrogen to the fat and creates saturated fat from unsaturated fats. However, during this processes of hydrogenation (which is used to create vegetable shortening) trans fat is also created as a by-product and trans fat is proven to increase the risk of coronary heart disease. Try to stay away from hydrogenated oils; they make cooking easier but are not processed well by the body or circulatory system.

Fats store energy for the body, mostly for long term survival, as opposed to short bursts gleaned from carbohydrates. This is why slow rates of metabolic activity tend to target fat rather than muscles. Walking is often more effective at reducing body-fat than running due to the way that the body stores fat and uses carbohydrates before fats for energy. Fat is important in every meal, as it allows for a cascade of chemical reactions that the body requires fat to initiate; Vitamins A, D, E, K, are all fat-soluble, meaning fat is required to process them. Fat is also important for body temperature regulation, insulating organs from shock (think hypothermia), maintains the skin and hair, and promotes health cell function (each cell has a fatty cell wall). Fat is also very useful in fighting disease; fat cells can store unwanted substances to keep it from the bloodstream. Fats are essential for the bodies maintenance and a a required part of balancing your diet.

Proteins

Proteins are large molecules consisting of one or more long chains of acids called amino acid residues. The functions of proteins are vast including catalyzing metabolic reactions, replicating DNA, responding to stimuli, and transporting molecules. The primary difference in proteins is their sequence of amino acids, which is dictated by the genes of the protein, more specifically the nucleotide sequence, which results in the three-dimensional folding of the protein for its specific purpose.

Proteins have to be recycled because they are constantly degrading, or depreciating against the bodies usage because they are essential parts of organisms and participate in nearly every cellular process. The average half-life of proteins are 1-2 days, sometimes lasting months and other times used for minutes. Abnormal or malfunctioning proteins are recycled faster.

Proteins participate in some of the most complex processes in the body including: many catalyze metabolic reactions, have structural or mechanical functions in muscle fibers and cells, some are important for cell signaling, others for immune responses, cell adhesion, and are extremely necessary in diet because they give the body amino acids it needs to metabolize other foods. The body needs all 20 of the regular amino acids and a few of them are considered essential because they are required by the body to metabolize:

Essential Nonessential **
Histidine Alanine
Isoleucine Arginine*
Leucine Aspartic acid
Lysine Cysteine*
Methionine Glutamic acid
Phenylalanine Glutamine*
Threonine Glycine*
Tryptophan Proline*
Valine Serine*
Tyrosine*
Asparagine*
Selenocysteine

 

During starvation protein is used to help the body sustain itself, most notably, muscle tissue. Proteins are a necessary element of every meal.

Water is also essential in every meal, but you should also be adding electrolytes in accordance with your physical activity and exertion. Coconut water, bananas, and most fruits are great for replenishing electrolytes.

The micro-nutrients are vitamins, minerals, and fibers. Here are the required Vitamins and Minerals:

Vitamins

Dietary minerals (elements that humans need nutritionally)

Many of these vitamins and minerals are required by the body for functioning and some can only be broken down by complex biological bacteria before the body can use them. Apparently, scientists have only begun to appreciate the role of beneficial bacteria in nutrition somewhat recently. Many of these dietary elements are necessary for the different chemical processes in the body and the amount that the body needs of each can be from kilograms to milligrams.

Too many nutrients can lead to deficiencies and ultimately poison the body. Too little will leave the body malnourished and forced to sustain itself with muscle mass. Balance is the single most important concept in nutrition. Four to six meals a day is optimal, try to drink plenty of water in between each meal. Keep things moving, your body wants to cycle at the rate of the planet. Try to get to sleep at 10 and wake up at 6. Eat heavier at the beginning rather the end of the day because your body uses the time when your awake to process food, and doesn’t metabolize while you are asleep.

 

 

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Electrolytes and why they are essential

Electrolytes are extremely important for the human body and cellular activity in general. Have you ever had a cramp? Ever done exercise until muscle failure? Ran a triathlon or marathon? Then chances are that you have needed electrolytes before and felt a lack of them in your body.

Really, electrolytes are what your body uses to carry electricity from your nervous system to your muscles. The human body is mostly water (blood), so there are certain chemicals that the body uses to spread electrical charge using ions. The major electrolytes are:

  • Sodium – In animals, sodium ions counter potassium ions to build up charges on cell membranes, allowing transmission of nerve impulses when the charge is dissipated.
  • Potassium – the most common radioactive chemical in the human body, this is completely necessary for all cell functionality. Key for nerve transmission, K is also a part of the pump mechanism that each neuron in your body uses (the brain alone has over 20 billion nerves) and is used to close cell membranes
  • Calcium – the most common metal in animals, used for bones and shells and an important signal mechanism for cell cytoplasms
  • Magnesium – This is an extremely important reactant, used by the body for DNA, RNA, and ATP synthesis. Is used to calm excited nerves
  • Chloride – salt, helps regulate firing of nerves by controlling the fluid into and out of cells, found in all bodily fluids

As you can see, all of these chemicals are extremely important conductors and regulators of electricity, which is how the body sends signals. These chemicals are found in almost all life, including plants and animal nervous systems and could be considered basic building blocks of life.

Yoga is something that cultivates life-force, that grows and strengthens nervous connection. Supplementing electrolytes and ensuring that the body has enough fuel is extremely important, especially for yogis that sweat often and heavily with their practice. A proper amount of electrolytes in the bloodstream can really make the difference between a great asana practice and a mediocre one.

This is how drinking too much water can dehydrate you, water is not the only thing your muscles need to function. You need these salt-like chemicals to conduct the electric currents flowing from your brain, through your spinal cord, and down into your muscles through your nerves.

Here are the electrolyte sources that I use to replenish:

  1. bananas
  2. coconut water
  3. sliced mangos
  4. sea salt
  5. spinach
  6. avocado
  7. dark chocolate
  8. olives
  9. almond milk

Magnesium is found mostly in leafy greens and I put sea salt on meals often. Far and away, coconut water and bananas are the most effective foods for me. What do you use to replenish after yoga, or a tough sweat intensive workout?

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Kale’s Nutritional Qualities

Kale is fresh and nutritious and in season right now during winter because it loves frost and chill. Cultures around the world use the kale plant in various quality dishes and praise it for its versatility, as well as its health benefits and nutritional properties. Kale can even make good chips (crisps if you’re british).

Some people really don’t like the taste, but I don’t mind it in salads, or cooked with some light oil. It can really fluff up a salad! Cooking of course alters the nutrient properties, but there is so much awesome stuff in Kale that you are still getting massive amounts of nutrition in both ways of consumption.

kale growing naturally out in a farm

Here are the nutritional properties of the flower-like veggie, they are pretty incredible:

  • Beta Carotine – interesting nutrient, small amounts seem to be really healthy
  • Vitamin K – super good for us, from leafy vegetables (photosynthesis), greases the metabolic passageways
  • Vitamin C – anti-oxidizer, necessary for metabolic reactions and is a powerful enzymatic enabler
  • Calcium – combined with phosphate to form hydroxylapatite is the mineral of our bones. It is also extremely involved in neural functionality, including action potential release in muscles and neurotransmitters. Too much can be bad and it is regulated by vitamin D (sun exposure)
  • Sulforaphane – has possible anti-cancer properties
  • Indole-3-Carbanol – is the subject of on-going Biomedical research into its possible anticarcinogenic,[3] antioxidant, and anti-atherogenic effects. Inverse relationship to prostrate and breast cancer because of increased estrogen regulation.
  • Magnesium – essential nutrient for every cell (allows for photosynthesis in plants)

There are also Phosphorus, Potassium, Maganese, and several other trace minerals, including all the electrolytes and Vitamin B6. Kale is basically your multivitamin’s ingredients in raw form, similar to broccoli. Most could stand to eat more.

Like anything else, moderation is necessary, so find some balance among other food groups and don’t go kale crazy.

Daily consumption might not be a bad idea, especially for heart and artery health due to its digestive and anti-oxidant properties. Green drinks, Kale/almond ice cream, omelets, find a way to make the taste insignificant. It’s always interesting how nutrition inevitably becomes biochemistry.

Kale_nutrients
garden of Kale flowers

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