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Seeds are a specific type of plant product, different from beans (kidneys beans and black beans; take a look at our article “The Healthiest Beans“), pods (like peas), and grains (like rice and wheat; see our article “Healthiest Rice Varieties“). Seeds refer to a small embryonic plant that also consists of a seed coat for protection, and some energy (food) to get it growing (1). Because seeds are nutritional powerhouses intended to grow a plant, they contain a wealth of nutritional benefits for us when we eat them.

Seeds have been credited with aiding weight loss, fighting free oxygen radicals (which can cause cancer and other diseases), regulate blood sugar levels, and provide an abundance of nutrients and proteins. Proteins from seeds can replace meat-based proteins, and provide the building blocks (called amino acids) that we need to maintain our muscles and organs (2). From pumpkin seeds to chia seeds, each has its own set of benefits. But which are the best, nutritionally speaking?

1.     Pumpkin seeds

Pumpkin seeds are often seasoned (salty or spicy), chewy, and delicious. They are also very good for your health, and are used as a treatment for irritable bladder, fever, nausea, gastritis and a host of other health problems (3). Most commonly consumed in Greece, pumpkin seeds have different effects based on whether they are raw or roasted (4), but no matter how you consume them, they should definitely be part of your diet. Pumpkin seeds have anti-inflammatory, anti-thrombotic (reducing blood clot formation), and anti-diabetic properties, and have a wide range of antioxidants in them as well (5).

Pumpkin seed antioxidants can “scavenge” or get rid of free oxygen radicals, which are a by-product of our metabolism (breaking down our food into usable components that become energy). These radicals go on to cause cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis, and other diseases (6). Removing these radicals from the body prevents the detrimental health problems they can cause (7).

2.     Caraway seeds

Caraway has been used historically for treatment of a variety of conditions, from pneumonia to weight loss (8). However, the real treasure of this biennial plant is hidden in the fruit … Or rather, in the seeds. Caraway oil (made from processed seeds) has been used to treat symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and as an anti-colic for infants and young children. Caraway oil has proven itself to be an effective antioxidant and antimicrobial as well (9)!

Caraway has been used as an obesity treatment, and a recent study observing the effect of caraway on active and overweight women once again suggested possible natural therapeutic to aid weight loss (10). Recently, caraway essential oil (processed from seeds) has even been noted to have some potential liver injury healing properties (11). Beyond this, the healthy dose of antioxidants in caraway seeds also serves as potential disease fighters (12), as discussed in the previous section.

3.     Chia seeds

Different studies have found the numerous health benefits of these small, black, bead-like seeds. They can improve your blood lipid profile, have antimicrobial properties, and can even stimulate your immune system, making it more able to fight off future infections (13). Of course, they are also loaded with those healthful antioxidants that we’ve covered for other seeds as well. They are also high in protein (14), which means healthier muscles and tissues, and leaving you feeling fuller for longer after a meal.

These little seeds are also high in omega-3s (you don’t have to eat fish to boost your levels of these healthy fatty acids), and vitamins including niacin, thiamine, and riboflavin (15), all of which contribute to a healthy body system. Among their benefits, these fatty acids can reduce cholesterol (16), which can reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Your risk of diabetes and high blood pressure are lowered by consumption of chia seeds as well, as shown in clinical studies. Finally, chia seeds are high in fiber and low in carbohydrates (17), making them a healthy fiber supplement that is tasty in yogurt, bars, or drinks!

4.     Sunflower seeds

Sunflowers seeds have been used to treat a variety of ailments in the past, and whether consumed as seed oil or raw/baked seeds, they contain a number of vitamins and minerals including vitamin E and B1, magnesium, manganese, copper, selenium, folate, and tryptophan (18). All of these vitamins are essential for maintenance of body functions and health.

In addition to being high in monounsaturated fats, these seeds are also high in disease-fighting antioxidants (19) (primarily tocopherols, compounds with potential antioxidant properties that can prevent cardiovascular disease risk and cancer (20)). The catch with these seeds is that they are high in carbohydrates and calories (21), meaning the healthiest way to consume these seeds is in small doses.

5.     Flaxseeds

Flaxseed products including oil, raw seeds, and derivative products are available in most health food markets (22). Being extremely high in fiber, flaxseeds are great for your digestive system, and can boost you over your recommended 25–30 grams of fiber each day (just 100 grams of flaxseeds contains 27 grams of fiber, your entire daily requirement!). Of course, because they’re so high in fiber, these seeds should be eaten in moderation, and preferably with a large glass of water.

But, don’t let that turn you off from these seeds. Like many seeds in this article, they’re very high in antioxidants. Flax meal can even increase the shelf-life of certain products like breads, increase the viscosity (stretchiness) of pasta, which makes it more delicious, and increase stability of dairy products like ice cream (23).

Among the many health benefits of flaxseed, the flour has also been shown in animal studies to increase spine and bone mineral density (24). Flaxseeds have also been credited with reducing the risk of coronary artery disease and other cardiovascular diseases when consumed (25).

6.     Pomegranate seeds

Touted as being high in vitamin C and potassium, as well as healthful antioxidants, these seeds are packed with healthy qualities. In fact, there’s a reason why the seeds are healthier than drinking purified juice, and it goes far beyond the fiber content of the seeds. To see the full nutrient content of pomegranates, check out our article “10 Healthy Fruit and 10 Not So Healthy.” The seeds are high in healthy fatty acids, vitamin E, and sterols (26), all of which are essential for a healthy body.

In both cell and animal research, pomegranate seed oil has shown anticancer, anti-inflammatory, and antidiabetic properties that are likely due to the many micronutrients contained in the seeds (27). In mice, pomegranate seed oil reduced their type 2 diabetes risk, and reduced the rate of weight gain when supplemented in their diet (28).

7.     Sesame seeds

Sesame seeds are high in fatty acids and different oils that are part of a healthy diet. Some of the primary nutrients contained in sesame seeds include calcium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorous, polyphenols (antioxidants), and fiber (29).

Sesame seed oil is available as an over-the-counter nutritional supplement, and is used for a variety of conditions. Sesame oil can reduce oxidative stress (30), relieving damage to the gastric mucosal lining of your digestive system, partially due to its high antioxidant content. Sesame oil has also been associated with some protection against gastric ulcers (31), though the reason why is still being researched. Sesame seed oil has also been used to reduce the symptoms and pain associated with osteoarthritis, with promising results (32).

8.     Hemp seeds

This is a relatively new addition to many “healthy seed” lists in nutritional guidelines. Hemp products are becoming widely known for their versatility and usefulness in many industries, and nutrition is no exception. Hemp seeds are smaller than many other varieties (33), but high in protein and amino acids, which are good for building and maintaining muscle.

The antioxidant content of these seeds is high (34), and they have been shown to be a good source of these powerful disease fighters. Hemp seeds also are a desirable crop because of their sustainability and nutrient content (some seeds have as much as 30% oil and 25% protein content, measured by weight) (35). Hemp seeds can be consumed as whole or hulled seeds, and are used in oils, flours, and protein powder (36). High in fatty acids and protein (37), they are a nutritious staple whose popularity is just beginning to rise.

In conclusion

Whether vegetarian or not, seeds provide a clean source of many nutrients that help our bodies run smoothly. The cautionary note with many seeds (particularly those seeds that are highest in fiber, like flaxseeds) is to ensure you initially eat them in small quantities with plenty of water. Once you’ve acclimatized to them, seeds have a high level of protein and fiber with low levels of saturated fats and oils (unlike many meat-based sources of protein). These are all the same rules as working you way up to beans (see our article “The Healthiest Beans“).

When it comes to non-pharmaceutical ways to improve your health, your diet is the best option! Seeds are a source of macro and micronutrients, and a powerhouse of energy in a small quantity. They’re easy to pack (don’t need refrigeration or special short-term storage), and versatile (making great toppings for yogurts, in loaves and breads, and even in drinks). Check out the bulk section of your grocery store to see the many varieties of seeds you can add to your diet today.

Our bodies consist of skin, bones, organs, muscles, and blood. In fact, blood makes up 7–8% of the body (1). Blood plays many roles in the body, including acting as a messenger, a clotter, and temperature regulator. Blood flows to all parts of the body to ensure that each organ is operating properly, which is why blood flow is vital for optimal health. Blood flow can be increased through proper diet and exercise. The exercise part is easy, but foods that increase blood flow can be difficult to identify on your own. We made it easy by compiling a simple list of the foods that increase blood flow.

What is blood?

Blood is a bodily fluid that is made up of plasma, red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. These four components each play a specific role in the body. 

Plasma

Plasma is a component of blood that is made of water, sugar, fat, protein, and salts. It makes up 60% of our blood. Plasma is responsible for moving nutrients, waste, antibodies, hormones, and proteins. Most importantly, plasma carries blood cells, making transportation possible. 

Red blood cells

Red blood cells are the oxygen movers of the body (2). Each red blood cell contains a protein called hemoglobin, which allows the cell to move oxygen from our lungs to other parts of the body. Hemoglobin is also what makes our blood look red. Red blood cells are the most common type of cell found in blood, and are also the smallest. Their small shape is what lets them fit into even the smallest blood vessels. Patients with anemia have low red blood cell levels, which is why patients with anemia tend to feel tired or out of breath.

White blood cells

There are several types of white blood cells, but their main function is to protect the body from infection. White blood cells circulate around the body until they receive a signal that damage has been done to a part of the body. White blood cells are responsible for contributing to allergic reactions and fevers when we get sick. Those with low white blood cell levels are prone to infections. 

Platelets

Platelets roam around until a part of the body gets injured and requires blood clotting. Platelets glue themselves onto the injured part and form a blood clot, which “plugs” the hole where blood was leaking. High platelet counts can lead to unnecessary clotting, which can cause strokes or heart attacks. On the other hand, low platelet counts can lead to excessive bleeding.

Why is increased blood flow important?

Before delving into why increased blood flow is important, it is necessary to explain how blood flow works. Every liquid has a different viscosity, or thickness; for example, molasses and honey have a high viscosity, whereas water has a low viscosity, and blood can vary in viscosity (3). When blood has a high viscosity, there is decreased blood flow. This is because there is more resistance and the heart has to work harder to pump blood. Blood viscosity mainly depends on red blood cell count; higher red blood cell count means higher viscosity. However, low viscosity is not always a good thing. Those with abnormally low blood viscosity tend to be anemic. 

When blood is at its normal viscosity or lower, there is increased blood flow. Imagine pumping a hose full of molasses versus water. You require much less energy to pump the water. The same applies to our blood; we want increased flow from the blood itself so that our hearts do not have to work as hard to get blood to the rest of the body. As a result of increased blood flow, risk of high blood pressure decreases (4). This leads to decreased risk of a multitude of other diseases, including heart attacks and strokes. 

Overall, increased blood flow is related to a decreased risk of serious diseases. While exercise is important to maintaining healthy blood flow, diet is just as, if not even more, important. There are many foods that increase blood flow, and they can be easily incorporated into your daily diet.

Foods that increase blood flow

1. Sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes are high in potassium (5), a mineral that lowers blood pressure. Additionally, sweet potatoes are packed full of fiber and vitamin A, but low in sodium (6). A fun way to include sweet potatoes is by slicing, roasting, and eating them with eggs, vegetables, and turkey for breakfast. 

2. Green tea

In a study, participants were found to have increased blood flow and oxygen delivery to the skin after drinking green tea every day for 12 weeks. This resulted in more elastic, less rough skin. Blood flow was at its highest level after 30 minutes of ingestion (7). 

3. Cinnamon

Cinnamon lowers blood pressure, resulting in increased blood flow. Cinnamon also is an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antidiabetic, antimicrobial, and anticancer spice (8) and is overall an excellent addition to the everyday diet. Cinnamon goes well sprinkled on oatmeal and coffee (hot or cold, whichever you prefer!), and in peanut butter (the perfect dip for apples!). 

4. Beets

Beets are an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and vascular protecting vegetable that have been used to help patients with cardiovascular disease and cancer (9). In numerous studies, beet consumption was linked with lowered blood pressure and inflammation. If you are not the biggest of raw beets, tried blending them up in your favorite smoothie. 

5. Avocados

Avocados are another great source of potassium. This creamy green fruit is also full of omega-6 fatty acids, fiber, and vitamin K (10). Avocado toast, avocado pudding, and guacamole are a few popular ways to eat this blood flow–increasing fruit. 

6. Nuts

Nuts are associated with beneficial cardiovascular effects because of their ability to reduce inflammation and improve vasodilation (11). Vasodilation is the dilation of blood vessels, which lowers blood pressure and increases blood flow. Nuts generally have a good reputation for being rich in healthy fats and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Eating nuts raw, chopped into a salad, or roasted with squash can improve blood flow, which is just one of the many health benefits that nuts have. Take a look at our article “The World’s Healthiest Nuts!” to see what are the best nuts for you, and for the environment.

7. Spinach

Spinach is high in nitrates, which get converted to nitric oxide. Nitric oxide regulates blood flow, which is linked to decreased risk of heart disease and reduced blood pressure. In a study where participants consumed spinach over the course of seven days, participants were found to have reduced blood pressure and less stiff arteries (12). Lowest blood pressure levels after consumption of the spinach meal aligned with highest nitric oxide levels. Spinach can be enjoyed steamed, in soups, fresh in a salad, or blended with fruit in a smoothie.

8. Bananas

A fruit famous for its high potassium levels is the yellow banana. A single, medium-sized banana has 422 mg of potassium, which is 12% of the daily recommended value (13).  Bananas are also high in vitamin B6 and fiber. This bright yellow fruit can be eaten with a spoonful of peanut butter or almond butter, or frozen dipped in dark chocolate as a healthy summer treat.

9. Salmon

Salmon is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which lower blood pressure (14). Salmon is also a good source of healthy fats and is a complete protein. It is recommended to consume salmon or other fatty fish twice a week to receive consistent nutritional benefits (check out “What is the Healthiest Seafood?: From Sustainability to Health” to learn about other healthy fish options). 

10. Garlic

Garlic has been found to decrease blood pressure as well as expand blood vessels (15). This leads to increased blood flow and reduced risk of clogged arteries. The chemical called ajoene in garlic contributes to its increased blood flow health effect because ajoene prevents platelet aggregation. Cooking with garlic can be tricky, since it burns and turns bitter quickly, so garlic is best added near the end of cooking to get optimal nutritional benefits and taste. 

11. Whole grain products

In a study conducted among 33 participants, blood pressure significantly decreased when the participants consumed a whole-grain diet compared to a refined-grain diet (16). Decreased blood pressure is a sign of healthier blood flow, so switching over to whole-grain products may be a way to control or lower high blood pressure.

12. Citrus fruits

Citrus fruits contain flavonoids that have been used to treat cardiovascular disease and atherosclerosis (17). Flavonoids act as an anti-inflammatory, reduce oxidative stress, and improve blood pressure. Overall, citrus flavonoids protect blood vessels. Some commonly known citrus are oranges, lemons, and grapefruits, but there are a multitude of citrus that can be found at your local grocery store including pomelo, sumo mandarins, and blood oranges.

13. White beans

White beans are also high in potassium. These beans are an excellent source of protein, fiber, and iron (18). White beans can be steamed with rice or blended and added to stews. 

14. Ginger

Ginger is known for its anti-inflammatory properties and is used for muscle pain relief (19). Ginger is also known to lower high blood pressure and be an anti-cancer agent (20). Fresh ginger juice can be added to smoothies or consumed by itself.

Foods to avoid

While there are many foods that increase blood flow, there are many that decrease blood flow. Foods that are high in salt increase risk of various diseases such as high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. The daily recommended value of sodium is only 2,300 milligrams, or 1 teaspoon. That recommended value is also much lower for those with high blood pressure. Many go over that recommended value without realizing, so it would be beneficial to be more mindful and wary of sodium levels in the foods we consume. 

But why should we be careful of salt consumption? It is because there is a direct correlation between increased salt intake and increased blood pressure (21). One study found that reducing salt intake by 4.4 grams decreased blood pressure. This effect was found in all age groups regardless of ethnicity, gender, and starting blood pressure. 

Recommendations and final thoughts

All of the foods that increase blood flow that are listed above are beneficial in more than just one way because of how nutritious they are. These foods are also foods that you probably consume already! Ensuring regular consumption of these foods is important for increasing blood flow and preventing cardiovascular disease. Many of these foods can also be combined to create one healthy, nutrient-packed meal. However, it is also important to exercise daily. Physical activity may build muscle on the outside, but it also strengthens muscles on the inside, such as our heart and lungs. 

It may be difficult to think about eating foods that increase blood flow on a daily basis, but making the simple switch to whole-grain products is a good first step. Also remember that too much of a good thing can be a bad thing, so overconsumption is not the way to go. There is no “catching up” on nutrients; regular consumption is what matters. 

According to the American Dietary Guidelines, we should be eating 8 oz., or 2 servings of fish each week, as part of a healthy diet. Fish is high in omega-3 fatty acids and other nutrients that prevent disease and keep us healthy. But, some varieties of fish have high heavy metal and mercury levels, and others are endangered. So here is a list of some of the healthiest seafood and the best and worst (most and least sustainable for the environment).

The best and healthiest seafood options

1.     Albacore tuna

The best tuna for you is troll- or pole-caught albacore tuna, which typically ends up in a can. Fresh and frozen tuna tend to have higher levels of mercury, and lower omega-3 counts. Canned albacore tuna minimizes potential mercury exposure, and Pacific troll-caught albacore has been shown safe, in terms of mercury levels. Canned albacore is high in protein (14 g per serving!), essential amino acids for body maintenance, and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids (150 mg per serving or more). Plus, it’s a great source of NAD (a compound essential to our metabolism). Take a look at our article “What Foods Are High in NAD” to learn more about why NAD is important and what foods are high in it.

2.     Oysters

Farmed oysters are a surprisingly good choice for seafood. They are high in iron, vitamins C and E, and zinc. In addition to being healthy to eat, they are great for the environment. Oysters are filter-feeding shellfish, which means they filter water and consume what is contained in the water supply. This means they can improve water quality, attract fish by acting as a natural reef system, and feed off of low-nutrient water. However, this poses a risk for consumption. Many prefer to eat oysters raw, but these filter-feeders can contain Vibrio bacteria (which causes food poisoning–like symptoms and can require hospitalization), and high levels of heavy metals that may be in surrounding water. For these reasons, eat oysters for their nutrients, but be cautious of the source and season when eating them raw. Always be aware of the water source whenever possible, to avoid heavy metal contamination.

3.     Sardines

Sardines don’t usually make the list of favorite ocean treats, but they ought to! These tiny fish have 23 grams of protein per can (3.75 oz), and are loaded with vitamin B12, vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids. These vitamins and acids can ward off depression, prevent heart disease, lower cholesterol, and keep your bones in good health. Sardines have also been noted for their high antioxidant content, which can reduce your cancer risk, keep skin healthy, and maintain organ function.

4.     Rainbow trout

Rainbow trout is highly recommended by nutritionists because of its low fat, high nutrient content. Containing 22 grams of protein and little fat or sodium in each serving, this fish comes packed with potassium, selenium, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12. The preferred source of rainbow trout is farmed, as lakewater fish are often contaminated with high levels of mercury or heavy metals.

This fish is another fantastic source of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been strongly associated with good cardiovascular health. Omega-3s have been credited with reducing deaths associated with cardiovascular disease, and weekly consumption of at least two servings of fish high in omega-3s is recommended.

5.     Pacific mackerel

Mackerel is a rich-tasting fish that can go in a variety of dishes. High in omega-3 fatty acids, it contains a whopping 18.6 grams of protein per serving, and is a great addition to any meal. Atlantic mackerel can also grow quickly, repopulating lost stocks at high speed, so you don’t have to worry that you’re damaging the environment when you eat this tasty fish.

This is where geography comes in . . . Mackerel is great, but you want Pacific mackerel, not Atlantic mackerel. The difference is mainly in environmental impact, and in many locations (including all of Canada and most of the United States), you cannot even purchase Atlantic mackerel. The first reason why is that they’ve been overfished to near extinction, historically, and their numbers have not yet recovered. Pacific mackerel are still at high enough populations that they’re considered stable, and continue to be sustainably fished and farmed. The other problem with mackerel is that bycatch (this means catching animals like seabirds, turtles, dolphins, and other marine life by mistake) has been high in Atlantic Canada. For environmental reasons, enjoy mackerel, but ensure you purchase pacific fish.

6.     Wild-caught Alaskan salmon

I know what you’re thinking—salmon should’ve been the first fish on this healthiest seafood list. But salmon comes with a side-story that is rarely discussed, and that is its contaminant and mercury content. Farmed salmon tend to be high in contaminants because they are often housed in close quartered environments, and an accumulation of pollution, waste, bacteria, and dead food can add up to a high level of contamination. This is bad for the salmon, bad for our health, and bad for the environment. In waters already polluted with industrial waste, salmon pose an even bigger threat to our health.

So back to our Alaskan salmon. Alaskan salmon is being monitored by biologists, ensuring water quality is high. This results in healthy, uncontaminated fish, and higher omega-3 counts. Alaskan salmon oil has also been tested, and found to be high in these helpful fatty acids, even when canned. Salmon is a healthy, nutrient-packed food shown to be a healthy dietary addition, as long as you are aware of where it comes from! Canned or fresh, Alaskan, wild-caught salmon is your healthiest choice.

Seafood options you should avoid

Bluefin tuna

Once (and still to this day, in some regions) considered a delicacy, this fish has a few problems. The first issue is that Bluefin Tuna are endangered …To be precise, they’re critically endangered. Fishing is prohibited, but the population continues to decrease as demand and market prices rise, and poaching continues to plague the Bluefin.

The second issue is contaminants. One contaminant is mercury, which is quite high in Bluefin Tuna, and the second is a plastic byproduct called polychlorinated biphenyl, or PCB. PCBs come from your old electrical equipment and appliances that are not disposed of properly, which then leech these cancer-causing chemicals into oceans. The chemicals are then eaten by fish, and subsequently by us.

7.     Chilean sea bass (also called Patagonian toothfish)

The Chilean sea bass is a long-lived fish that doesn’t reproduce very quickly, which means it’s susceptible to overfishing. This is precisely what has happened in recent years, as illegal fishing for this premium-priced prehistoric fish increased along with the price on the black market. The Chilean sea bass are working their way out of the endangered category, but it is still recommended to eat them rarely if at all, allowing the population to recover. Another historical problem associated with Chilean sea bass fishing has been accidental bycatch of sperm whales, sea birds, and other marine life. This problem is slowly being mended, but techniques are still under improvement. While this is a healthy fish, for environmental reasons, there are better alternatives with the same health benefits.

8.     Grouper

Another slowly reproducing and long-lived fish, groupers are high in mercury, which poses a threat to human health. In particular, groupers from the Gulf of Mexico have posed sub-lethal but present levels of mercury, which leads nutritionists to advise other types of fish for the omega-3 and other fish-based nutrient portion of your diet.

9.     Farmed salmon

We already covered why farmed salmon is not a good option, and why you should be looking at wild, Alaskan-caught salmon instead. Farmed salmon are housed in an extremely small area, to reduce operating costs, which means a buildup of contaminants, waste, and old food is a chronic problem. Farmed salmon can often have problems with parasites and viruses, which can be transferred to you if the salmon is not cooked properly. Finally, PCBs are a rampant problem in farmed salmon, and a solution has not yet been found to fix this problem.

10.  Orange roughy

The orange roughy has one of the slowest growth rates of any fish, with an extremely high maturation age (23-40 years of age!) and a lifespan of up to 100 years. Given these factors, it doesn’t reproduce very quickly, and overfishing for this delicacy has been a problem. In many places, orange roughy are not targeted for fishing due to sustainability issues; however, they are often a bycatch of a fishing method called “deepwater trawling,” which consists of sweeping the ocean floor with an oversized net. As a result, orange roughy populations may still not be recovering to sustainable levels. The other negative factor about the orange roughy is, as with most fish on this “avoid” list, it is high in mercury and other toxic substances.

11.  Tilapia

When tilapia first became available, it was touted as a superfood, rich in omega-3s and other nutrients. However, it soon came to light that this fish is actually quite low in nutrients and omega-3 fatty acids. It’s also high in inflammatory fats, but studies on this are ongoing. Unfortunately, this fish can also contain high levels of heavy metals, and cyanotoxins, particularly when farmed.

12.  Caviar

The final seafood on our “avoid” list is caviar, which is usually harvested from Beluga sturgeon, a fish that has walked the line between endangered and “not quite endangered” for many years. This is the first reason to avoid caviar. The second reason is that the increased demand for caviar, even as desires and recommendations to limit or end commercial fishing for this delicacy increased, led to a serious poaching problem—particularly in the United States. In one specific case, more than 2,000 adult sturgeon were estimated to have been killed by poachers, who harvested 1,500 kg of caviar from them. This damage to the population and environment is the second reason to avoid caviar. While it is high in omega-3s, iron, magnesium, and several vitamins, the unethical harvesting as a result of the endangered status of the Beluga sturgeon lands this seafood on the “avoid” list, as there are many other sustainable sources of these nutrients

In conclusion

For a combination of health and sustainability reasons, there are certain types of seafood that are better than others. Befriend your local fishmonger, learn what is fished sustainably close to where you live, and get your omega-3s and micronutrients, while protecting our species and environment at the same time!

If you want to learn about other foods that impact the environment, our article “The World’s Healthiest Nuts!” has great information on the most sustainable and not-so-sustainable nuts.

Honey is a delicious, sweet, sticky substance that has many health benefits. It is made by honey bees, who collect nectar from flowers to make honey. Bees eat honey as their primary food source.

Honey consists of sugar (75–79%), water (20%), proteins, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, flavonoids, phytonutrients and antioxidants (Matzen RD, 2018). The sugar in honey is fructose and glucose (Burlando B, 2013). It has amazing health properties which we will discuss in this article.

The Benefits of Honey

Honey contains over 180 substances (Lan Nguyen HT, 2019). The non-sugar components of honey are responsible for the health benefits. Due to its unique mix of ingredients, honey has antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antiproliferative, anticancer and antimetastatic effects on health (Samarghandian S, 2017).

Anti-bacterial

Historically honey has been used as a dressing for wounds and burns (Burlando B, 2013). It has antibacterial properties, keeps a wound moist and is a protective barrier to prevent infection (Mandala MD, 2011).

The antibacterial effect of honey is due to the presence of hydrogen peroxide, flavonoids and other substances it contains (Vallianou NG, 2014). Through enzymes, hydrogen peroxide is naturally produced in honey (Alam F, 2014). Other phytochemicals such as bee defensin-1 and methylglyoxal (MGO) are also antibacterial (Kwakman PH, 2010).

Honey has been shown to stimulate the immune response and reduce inflammation, which speeds up wound healing (Molan P, 2015)

Anti-microbial

Honey prevents the growth of microorganisms (Moussa A, 2012). It is acidic with a low pH between 3.2 – 4.5 (Mandala MD, 2011). This is low enough to inhibit several bacterial pathogens (Haniyeh K, 2010). Honey is high in sugar and low in moisture, making it very concentrated or highly osmotic (Mandala MD, 2011). Honey’s acidic nature and the high concentration and presence of hydrogen peroxide, MGO, and bee defensin-1 (an antimicrobial) in honey are unique properties that make it antimicrobial (Kwakman PH, 2010).

Antioxidant

Honey is rich in phenolic compounds such as quercetin, caffeic acid phenethyl ester (CAPE), acacetin, kaempferol and galangin (Khalil MI, 2010). These compounds found in raw honey benefit health and are natural antioxidants.

Dental health

Honey-based mouthwash has an antimicrobial effect on dental caries, plaque and gums (Singhal R, 2018). In one study, a 40% manuka honey mouthwash and a 20% raw honey mouthwash were equally effective at reducing plaque and inflammation of the gums in a 22-day trial (Singhal R, 2018).

Heart health

Honey can reduce the development of plaque build-up in the arteries, due to its phenolic antioxidant content (Lan Nguyen HT, 2019). The phenolic compounds are associated with reduced risk of heart diseases (Khalil MI, 2010). Flavonoids in honey decrease the risk of heart disease by improving vasodilatation, decreasing blood clotting and preventing LDLs from oxidizing (Khalil MI, 2010).

Cough relief

Honey performed better in a comparison of a cough suppressant medication and a single nightly dose of honey in treating a cough and sleep difficulty in children with upper respiratory tract infection (Paul IM, 2007).

Blood pressure

Oxidative stress is involved in high blood pressure (Erejuwa OO, 2012). Antioxidants combat oxidative stress. Adding honey to the diets of hypertensive rats significantly decreased their blood pressure due to improving oxidative stress in the kidneys (Erejuwa OO, 2012).

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria

Honey may be the solution against antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Medical grade honeys have strong antibacterial activity against antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which can cause life-threatening infections (Mandala MD, 2011).

Skin benefits

The benefits of raw honey on skin are powerful. Honey can be used to condition hair, keep skin young looking, slow down wrinkle formation, and prevent skin infections, due to its phytonutrient and antioxidant content (Burlando B, 2013).  

What type of honey is the best?

Be sure to buy only “raw honey.” Check the ingredients label to avoid extra, unhealthy ingredients or preservatives. Pure raw honey will naturally last a long time and does not need anything added to it.

If you can’t find pure raw honey in your supermarket, try a farmer’s market or a local health food shop.

Pasteurized honey has no health benefits. It is just sugar. Heating honey decreases the activity of hydrogen peroxide and its other antibacterial components (Matzen RD, 2018). One study found that the antibacterial activity of honey was negated at a temperature of 60° C (140° F). Make sure not to surpass this temperature when using honey at home (Matzen RD, 2018).

Are there any issues with honey?

Honey is high in sugar and calories. One tablespoon of honey has 60 calories and 16 grams of sugar. This is equal to 4 teaspoons of sugar. It has an effect of raising blood sugar. So, while honey has amazing health benefits, eat it moderately to avoid excessive sugar in your diet.

If you are going to have sugar, then raw honey is the one to have. Other forms of sugar have less or no nutrient content and health benefits. If you are in the mood for a sweet treat, make it a moderate amount of raw honey and enjoy the health benefits!

If you’re interested in other surprising foods with amazing health benefits, check out our articles “Benefits of Chlorella,” and “The Health Benefits of Moringa.”

One of the new health trends to come out of this decade is innovative ice creams. Oat milk, soy milk, coconut milk, and Lactaid based ice creams are being sold in grocery stores all over the nation after the increase in vegans and vegetarians. Cow dairy alternative ice creams are just one trend, but low-calorie and sugar-free ice creams are also popular items in the frozen section.

The idea of sugar-free ice cream sounds too good to be true, but health junkies claim that sugar-free ice cream can be healthier and lower in calories. However, as it is with all health trends, sugar-free ice cream needs to be investigated further before it can be truly considered healthier. 

History of sugar-free ice creams

As people live more sedimentary lives and eat more sugar- and fat-rich foods, obesity increases. As a result, high demand for low-calorie, low-fat, and low-sugar foods, and food led production companies to respond with an abundance of snacks, ice creams, microwaveable meals, and beverages that were marketed as “healthier” because of their low-calorie, low-fat, and low-sugar content

This trend also led to the creation of sugar substitutes. A sugar substitute is a food additive that tastes like sugar but is low in calories. Often, these sugar substitutes are dozens to hundreds of times sweeter than sugar, which means that less needs to be added in order to get the same effect as sugar.

For example, the artificial sweetener neotame, which is more commonly known as NutraSweet, is 8,000 times sweeter than sugar. Because sugar substitutes are often more potent than sugar, they are also beneficial for the companies that produce them because of their low production costs and high-profit margins. 

Populations that benefit from sugar-free ice creams

1. Those looking to lose weight

Since sugar-free ice creams are often low calorie due to the lack of calories from sugar, sugar-free ice creams may be a good, healthier alternative for people who wish to lose weight.

However, it should be noted that consumers should still be limited since sugar substitutes are not appetite suppressants, and sugar-free ice creams are not the sole reason behind weight loss. A nutritious diet along with regular exercise is the best recipe for healthy weight loss! 

2. Children with poor dental health

Since sugar substitutes are not fermented by the bacteria in our mouths, they do not rot teeth. A scoop of sugar-free ice cream can serve as a cold treat for your child.

3. Patients with diabetes 

For people with diabetes, it can be hard to control blood sugar levels. Sugar intake can be limited by substituting regular ice cream with sugar-free ice cream.

Sugar substitutes are metabolized more slowly than sugar itself, which can prevent blood sugar spikes. (For other tips on how to manage diabetes, see our articles “Top 10 Arginine-Packed Foods,” and “The Best Time to Take Probiotics.”)

Cons of sugar-free ice creams

Though sugar-free ice creams are beneficial for certain populations, there are reasons why people still choose regular ice cream over sugar-free ice cream. Here are a few reasons to consider when making your decision at your local grocery store’s frozen aisle. 

Sugar substitute allergies

There is such a thing as an allergy to aspartame, which is a commonly used sugar substitute in beverages, gums, and ice creams. IIn every 20,000 children, 1 is born with the inability to metabolize phenylalanine, which is one of the main byproducts of aspartame. This causes dangerous levels of phenylalanine build-up in the brain, which is especially harmful to children. 

Taste differences 

Sugar is one of the main ingredients needed to make ice cream, and sugar substitutes cannot mimic sugar’s role in ice cream well enough. Low-sugar and sugar-free ice creams often have a bitter aftertaste and are not as creamy as regular ice cream.

This is especially an issue with chocolate-flavored sugar-free ice creams because chocolate is already a bitter compound. The bitter aftertaste of the sugar substitute further contributes to the bitterness of chocolate, which leads to an unpleasant taste.

Gastrointestinal issues

Sugar-free ice creams that contain sugar alcohols (certain types of alternative sweeteners) may cause flatulence, discomfort, or diarrhea if consumed in large amounts. This reaction occurs with all sugar alcohol products and is different from lactose intolerance, which is an allergic reaction to lactase, which is found in many cow dairy products. 

Final recommendations

Sugar-free ice cream is a result of the demonization of sugar and fat from earlier decades. Sugar is not necessarily bad or unhealthy; it is the overconsumption of sugar that is unhealthy. If you enjoy eating sugar-free ice cream, continue to enjoy it!

For those who enjoy eating regular ice cream, continue to enjoy it as well! Moderation is key, which means that you can still treat yourself to a scoop of full-fat, full-sugar ice cream or low-fat, sugar-free ice cream as long as it is a treat that is enjoyed once in a while. 

There’s a lot of hype out there about probiotics. But just what are probiotics? And what is the best time to take probiotics, so that you can maximize the health benefits that come with them?

What Are Probiotics?

Bacteria are an essential part of our body, amounting to 1 kilogram of weight in our intestines alone (never mind the rest of our body!) and outnumbering our own cells 10:1. Now that’s a lot of bacteria! Technically, probiotics are officially defined as “live microorganisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.” These microbes help us digest foods, fight off diseases, and regulate our body systems.

The first known probiotic was isolated from yak milk and was officially categorized by Elie Metchnikoff, who had worked with Louis Pasteur in the 1800s. She came across lactobacilli (a very common probiotic bacterium, found in your Activia yogurt), and found this had a positive effect on overall health. Now, we know probiotics are found (or added to) a variety of foods, including yogurt, cheese, chocolates, cream, meat, and milk, providing us with a wealth of powerful disease fighters.

The Probiotic Market

Of course, when researchers and doctors heard that this miracle cure was natural as well as effective, it took off like wildfire. To date, more than 700 human clinical trials have been run, and in 2008 alone, probiotics resulted in over 1,000 articles, and 2,000 probiotic products launched into the natural/holistic medicine market. Because probiotics are naturally found in the human body and many foods, they are considered safe. This means safety studies and regulations are not always as stringent as with other pharmaceuticals, which may be a cause for concern.

That said, probiotics are typically well-tolerated, but many pseudo-science products are now called “probiotics” when they do not meet the criteria of a probiotic. In a study performed on commercially available E.coli probiotics, researchers found the amount of probiotics that survive the gut was actually two orders of magnitude lower than the label claimed, meaning that the amount of probiotics you get is approximately100 times less than advertised.

Considerations of Probiotics

The biggest challenge facing probiotics as health supplements are making sure they meet several criteria. First, the probiotic survives until it reaches the target organs, including stomach acid and extreme pH of the small intestine. To do this, most probiotics have a polymer coating that protects against the extreme pH conditions of the intestine.

The probiotic should also have antipathogenic properties, meaning either through competition (killing off other bacteria in our digestive system) or foreign contaminants, it reduces our pathogenic microbe count.

From a manufacturing perspective, the resulting probiotic should be stable for storage, be easy and cheap to produce, and withstand humidity during storage. The board in charge of governing probiotics, including whether or not foods and supplements can be called probiotics, is the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics.

When Should I Take My Probiotics?

Several studies have been performed to determine when the optimal time to take probiotics is. It turns out, the best time to take probiotics is with a meal or 30 minutes before you eat. This is because, once you’ve eaten, stomach acid and other digestive juices increase, which can break down and reduce the effectiveness of probiotics. Ideally, probiotics should be taken just before a meal containing fat or 1% milk, which showed the best final absorption.

The worst survival and effect of probiotics was seen when taken with water or juice or taken 30 minutes after eating a meal. Probiotics are most effective when they’re actively being taken, with studies showing they lose effectiveness approximately 1–4 weeks after you stop taking them. For some good ideas about how to incorporate probiotics into your diet, take a look at our articles “5 Vegetables that Affect Your Gut,” and “What Is the Healthiest Milk?”

So, What Can Probiotics Treat?

Health Canada recommends taking 1×109 CFU (colony forming units, a form of measuring the amount of bacteria present), and these should be taken for at least 5 days. Probiotics have been used for the treatment of antibiotic-associated diarrhea, irritable bowel disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and C. difficile associated diseases. Other conditions it can treat include hypercholesterolemia and atopic dermatitis (probiotics seem to have an anti-allergy effect too, although it’s unclear why).

Likely, these effects are because probiotic bacteria are able to inhibit the dangerous bacteria that cause these disorders and bulk up the lactobacillus and bifidobacteria that are the good bacteria in our digestive system. By decreasing the number of harmful bacteria and increasing our helpful bacteria, probiotics can regulate and reduce the symptoms of these conditions.

Some probiotics have recently been used experimentally for cancer therapy, and seem to target tumors. Probiotics have also been investigated for their ability to reduce fasting glucose levels in diabetic patients. They can also stimulate the immune system, and research is currently examining their applicability as a delivery system for vaccines and booster for treatment effectiveness.

Anti-inflammatories and antibiotics can change the gut microbiome (proportions of good and harmful bacteria in our gut) incredibly quickly, and probiotics taken with or shortly after these treatments may reverse negative changes and restore the natural microbiome.

As an added bonus, probiotics can also help lower cortisol (the stress hormone). Read our article “Stay Calm with These Cortisol-Lowering Foods (Including Chocolate!)” to learn more.

A Brief Word of Caution

Probiotics are largely considered safe but can pose a problem for geriatric patients or those with immune disorders. They are not formally recommended by doctors, but in the words of Anthony Komaroff, MD, “There is some evidence that probiotics may help prevent or treat several different conditions. … For now, what I tell my patients is that if they find probiotics help them … I know of no reason not to take them.”

What is cortisol?

Cortisol is our main stress hormone. It is produced in the adrenal glands when we are confronted with a stressor, and it is part of the “fight or flight” stress response. In modern life, we are virtually inundated with stress. Chronically elevated cortisol can become a problem and ultimately could lead to “burn out,” as well as many other health problems. It is a good idea to try to consciously do things to reduce your cortisol levels and keep them low. We will discuss some specific foods that lower cortisol and general diet advice to help lower your cortisol.

foods that lower cortisol infographic

Which foods can help?

Carbohydrates

In one study, increasing carbohydrates as part of a whole-foods diet decreased cortisol levels, particularly during the period following a stress test (Soltani H, 2019). This same effect did not happen with eating more protein (Soltani H, 2019). Another, older study found that a diet high in carbohydrates reduced cortisol and negative mood after stress (Markus R, 2000). Focus on good gluten-free carbs like rice, white potatoes, sweet potatoes, root vegetables, vegetables (read more in our article, “5 Vegetables that Affect Your Gut“) , fruit, millet, amaranth, and other gluten-free grains.

Probiotics

One study of athletes found that probiotics contributed to lower cortisol levels, indicating improved responses to physical or mental stress (Jäger R, 2019). One specific strain of probiotic, Bifidobacterium longum 1714™, has been shown to decrease cortisol and stress responses in people exposed to acute stress (Wang H, 2019).

Prebiotics 

The composition of the gut microbiome has an impact on the regulation of the stress hormone cortisol (Schmidt K, 2014). Prebiotics are foods that feed the good gut bacteria. The best sources of prebiotics are rice, cooked and cooled (for 24 hours); white potatoes, cooked and cooled (for 24 hours); raw garlic; lightly cooked, still-crunchy onion; green bananas; asparagus; leeks; and chicory root.

One study looked at the effects of two prebiotics on the stress response. Prebiotics were associated with decreased cortisol levels and a change in focus of the participants, from negative thinking to positive thinking (Schmidt K, 2014). Previous studies have found that probiotics have an anxiety-reducing effect, which ties in with these findings on prebiotics. The study concluded that prebiotics may balance out the stress response as probiotics do (Schmidt K, 2014).

Omega-3 fats

Three weeks of a diet with Omega-3 fats showed a decrease in mental stress and cortisol among subject of one study (Delarue J, 2003). Omega-3 fats inhibited the adrenal and stress response activation that happens as a result of mental stress. The study authors proposed that this stress-inhibiting response was related to central nervous system function. Good sources of Omega-3 fats are wild salmon, herring, anchovies, sardines, flaxseed oil, and walnuts.

Water

Dehydration is a stress on the body and will trigger the stress response. One study found that cortisol was higher during dehydration than during normal hydration levels (Maresh CM, 2006).

Vitamin C

In rats, vitamin C reduced the levels of stress hormones in the blood, and reduced other typical indicators of physical and emotional stress (American Chemical Society, 1999). A more recent human study done with cashew apple juice, which contains high levels of vitamin C, found that 4 weeks of cashew apple juice significantly reduced the stress hormone cortisol, as well as lowered oxidative stress (Prasertsri P, 2019). For information on some great sources of vitamin C, read our article on healthy fruits!

Black tea

Black tea can help with stress recovery (Steptoe A, 2007). Drinking black tea for six weeks reduced people’s cortisol in response to stress and provided greater relaxation, according to the study participants (Steptoe A, 2007).

Dark chocolate—hurrah!!

Cocoa in dark chocolate contains flavonoids. Flavonoids have been found to reduce the stress response and cause a fall in cortisol levels (Wirtz PH, 2014). Make sure your dark chocolate has a 70–90% cacao content and is organic and fair trade.

Bananas and pears

One study performed on male cyclists showed a reduction in cortisol from eating bananas and pears on the bike ride, as compared to just drinking water (Nieman DC, 2015).

Overall diet advice

To keep cortisol levels low and manage stress, follow a diet that balances blood sugar. Any wild swings up or down in blood sugar strain the body and can trigger cortisol production when blood sugar falls too low. A diet of organic whole foods will avoid this. Avoid high sugar foods as well, since they cause surges in blood sugar levels. Be sure to eat enough, because starvation is a cue to raise cortisol levels.

With a whole-foods diet low in processed items, and these cortisol-lowering foods, you are on your way to a diet that helps to manage stress!

A complete protein is a protein that contains all nine amino acids: histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine. A few examples of complete proteins are quinoa, tofu, chicken, and beef. However, there are a few nonessential amino acids that many people do not get enough of in their diet. One of these amino acids is arginine; so keep reading to learn about 10 foods high in Arginine, and why that is important!

Arginine is often overlooked because many assume that, since it is not one of the essential amino acids, that we get enough in our daily diet. Arginine, though naturally synthesized in our bodies, is not always consumed in the amounts that our bodies require. Foods high in arginine should be eaten regularly to make sure our bodies function properly and healthily.

What is arginine?

As mentioned above, arginine is an amino acid. It is one of the nonessential amino acids that our body needs for daily function. Arginine is naturally synthesized as an intermediate in what is called the urea cycle pathway, which is how the body gets rid of ammonia. Arginine is considered one of the metabolically diverse amino acids, because it is involved in the synthesis of nitric oxide, glutamate, and creatine. 

Why do we need arginine?

Arginine is incredibly vital to bodily functions because of its diversity. Arginine deficiency has been found to contribute to various inflammatory and oxidative processes that are related to heart disease and metabolic disorders. For example, arginine is directly involved in production of nitric oxide, which acts as a signaling molecule. 

Changes in the nitric oxide production pathway are related to the development of diseases such as cardiorenal syndrome, neurodegenerative diseases, diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease. Since arginine is involved in so many processes, having adequate or high levels of arginine can be highly beneficial for health. 

What are the health benefits of arginine, and how does it work?

There are many health benefits of arginine. While the health effects of arginine are still being studied to this day, there are a few notable benefits that you may want to take note of!

1. Lower blood pressure

Arginine was found to lower blood pressure in adults with hypertension and in pregnant women with gestational hypertension. Additionally, lower arginine levels have been found in women with gestational hypertension or preeclampsia. Pregnant women with preeclampsia have lower amounts of circulating nitric oxide, which increases blood pressure; since arginine is directly related to the production of nitric oxide, adequate arginine consumption can lower blood pressure by raising nitric oxide levels.

2. Better hospital recovery

Arginine was found to reduce infection rates in surgical patients and the length of their stay in the hospital. Additionally, patients that were provided arginine therapy showed increased levels of CD4 T-cell counts, which regulate immune cell activity. CD4 T-cells are vital to the creation of adaptive immune responses that help our bodies fight off future infections. 

Arginine also promotes protein synthesis and speeds up the process of healing a wound. This is because arginine is involved in the production of collagen and is a precursor for polyamine synthesis, which encourages cell growth. 

3. Improved fertility in men

Arginine, when administered to infertile men for 6-8 weeks, was found to increase sperm counts and motility in most of the patients in the study and ultimately led to successful conception. This could be because of better synthesis of arginine proteins in sperm and the role of nitric oxide in sperm motility. Nitric oxide, produced in part by arginine, also plays a part in sustaining healthy fertilized eggs

4. Healthy fetal development

Nitric oxide is important in the growth of the placenta and new blood vessels. In a study conducted on a group of pregnant women carrying fetuses that had restricted growth, the women that were given 20 grams of arginine every day for a week produced children with increased birth weight.

5. Possible treatment for obesity

Patients with obesity and type 2 diabetes that were given an arginine supplement were found to have lower levels of glucose, fatty acids, and triglycerides, along with improved insulin sensitivity. Arginine supplementation is seen as advantageous over other drug-based treatments such as metformin because arginine reduces adiposity and improves insulin sensitivity. 

6. Anti-aging effects

Due to arginine’s cumulative positive health effects, arginine has been said to have anti-aging properties. These effects include reduced risk of vascular and heart disease, improved sexual function, improved immune response, and prevention of increased acid in the stomach. A study found that participants that were administered arginine reported higher energy, a clearer mind, increased stamina, improved hair and nail growth, improved skin quality, improved circulation and temperature in fingers and toes, and overall improvement of bowel movement and urine output.

Foods high in Arginine

The most natural way to get arginine in our bodies is to consume it in the food we eat. However, if you are unfamiliar with arginine, it can be difficult to know what you are looking for. We have made it easier by creating a list of the top 10 foods that are high in arginine. 

1. Steamed crab

Steamed crab is low in saturated fat, but high in vitamin B12, a vitamin which helps create DNA and keeps nerves and blood cells healthy. Steamed crab also has 1.8 grams of arginine per 3 oz serving. However, steamed crab is often served with butter or salty seasonings, so it may be wise to skip those seasonings and stick with a squeeze of lemon for maximum health benefits. 

2. Watermelon seeds

A surprising addition to this list is watermelon seeds. Although they are often discarded, watermelon seeds can actually be dried, roasted, and consumed like many other seeds. A quarter cup of watermelon seeds has 1.3 grams of arginine. Watermelon seeds are also extremely high in omega-6 fatty acids and high in magnesium. These seeds, once roasted, can be seasoned and then added to salads, or blended into a powder to be added to smoothies. 

3. Pumpkin seeds

A quarter cup of roasted pumpkin seeds has 3.1 grams of arginine. This comes in handy during pumpkin carving season, so make sure you save the seeds. These seeds are high not only in arginine, but also in vitamin K and fiber. When roasted with a pinch of salt and oregano, pumpkin seeds are delicious as a healthy addition to a salad or as a light afternoon snack.

4. Spirulina

This blue-green algae is packed full of nutrients, including arginine. A quarter cup of spirulina has 1.2 grams of arginine and is high in thiamine and riboflavin, two vitamins that aid in energy metabolism. Spirulina can be blended into a smoothie or put into a pesto to brighten up any meal. Take a look at our article “6 Amazing Health Benefits of Spirulina!” to learn more about this algae’s great health effects.

5. Turkey

One cup of turkey has 2.9 grams of arginine. Turkey is known as one of the leanest meats due to its extremely low fat content of 4.5 grams per one cup serving. Because turkey is an animal-based protein, it is a complete protein. A simple way to incorporate turkey into your diet is to add it to a sandwich or salad, or eat it roasted with a side of steamed vegetables and brown rice.

6. Soy milk

Soy milk contains soy protein isolate, and soy protein isolate is extremely high in arginine. In 100 grams of soy protein isolate there are 6.7 grams of arginine, along with all the nine essential amino acids. Soy milk is a great way to get a complete protein in if you are vegan or vegetarian. If the “beany” taste of soy milk is too overpowering for you to drink it by itself, try adding frozen fruit and a handful of spinach to make a smoothie.

7. Chicken breast

Similarly to turkey, chicken breast has a reputation for being high in protein and low in fat. One cup of chicken breast has 2.6 grams of arginine, and is high in niacin, a vitamin involved in metabolic processes. An easy way to season chicken breast is with a variety of herbs and spices such as black pepper, thyme, oregano, paprika, and salt (in moderation of course!). 

8. Braised beef without fat

This item may seem quite bland, but 3 oz braised beef with its fat trimmed off has nearly 2 grams of arginine. To make it flavorful, season the beef with your favorite spice mix or rub. To ensure optimal health benefits, make sure that your spice mix or rub is low in sodium! 

9. Pine nuts

Pine nuts are a delicious, flavorful nut that is high in omega-6 fatty acids, mono- and polyunsaturated fats, and manganese, which is a mineral that is essential in enzyme synthesis and activation, as well as glucose and lipid metabolism. You will find 2.3 grams of arginine in 100 grams of pine nuts, and they make a delicious addition to pesto. Pesto is made of basil, olive oil, parmesan, and pine nuts, but can be made even healthier when kale or spinach are added.

Also see our article “The World’s Healthiest Nuts!” for other nutritious and delicious nuts to add to your diet.

10. Steamed shrimp

Shrimp is yet another seafood that made it to this list. Steamed shrimp is low in fat and has 1.6 grams of arginine in 3 ounces. It can be seasoned and eaten cold or hot and goes great with cold soba noodles, in a salad chopped up with some peppers and tomatoes, or alone with a squeeze of lemon and some black pepper. 

How much is too much arginine?

There is such a thing as too much arginine. Consuming more than 9 grams of arginine per day can lead to gastrointestinal pain, nausea, and diarrhea. However, only certain people have these side effects, which are caused by nitric oxide being created too quickly and in excess. For those who are very sensitive to arginine supplementation beyond 9 grams, citrulline supplementation may be a better option for you. Excess production of nitric oxide can be dangerous to people with severe infections, active inflammatory disorders, active autoimmune disorders, pathological angiogenesis or late stages of cancer. With arginine, it is important to intake an adequate amount each day rather than over supplement, due to the potential negative effects. The goal with arginine, as with many nutrients, is to have regular intake in order to have normal availability and prevent an imbalance of nutrients in the body. 

Final thoughts

Arginine is an amino acid that plays an important role in many different, important processes. The most important production process seems to be the production of nitric oxide, since it plays a part in lowering blood pressure, improving fertility, promoting healthy fetal development, and reducing risk of diabetes, heart disease, and neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. With its various beneficial health effects, having adequate amounts of arginine on a regular basis is necessary. However, arginine consumption should be monitored, as excess nitric oxide can irritate the stomach and cause unpleasant side effects. Overall, it is important to eat foods high in arginine, and as represented in the list above, arginine can be found in foods that we already consume such as chicken breast, turkey, and soy milk. 

What is NAD?

NAD stands for nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, and is a compound that is essential for our metabolism (how we break down food into the micronutrients that our body needs to function). In other words, NAD helps give us energy. NAD is made from amino acids, which primarily come from the proteins we eat and are the building blocks of our body tissues. We need NAD to process our foods into usable “pieces” and properly salvage nutrients from our foods.

Our metabolic cycles occur in the mitochondria, which many of us remember having to memorize in high school as “the powerhouse of the cell.” The mitochondria take food that has already been broken into sugar molecules and further break those down into usable subunits of energy called ATP. This cycle requires NAD to function efficiently and correctly, supplying our body with the energy it needs to run. This highlights the necessary role of NAD for our body.

NAD is also involved in signaling between neurons and bladder, intestine, and other body organs. It is also highly active in the brain, and decreases of NAD are known to have a role in several neurodegenerative disorders. Clearly the applications of NAD in the human body are diverse, and research has only touched the tip of the iceberg in terms of what we know about how this interesting molecule functions.

What happens when NAD levels are too low?

Skin cell disease and skin cancer rates rise

Foods that have NAD have been shown to be vital in our response to healing UV-induced DNA damage within our skin cells. When the UV rays from sunlight hit our skin, mutations and damage to DNA in the skin cells occurs, which can lead to cell death (a severe sunburn) or progress to uncontrolled cell replication (a cancerous tumor). Low levels of NAD make the cells unable to heal their DNA and prevent these problems as they normally would, resulting in melanoma (skin cancer) and other skin damage.

Hypoxia begins

Hypoxia refers to low oxygen in your bloodstream, meaning your tissues and body systems are failing to receive the vital oxygen molecules they need to keep running. NAD and hypoxia have long been linked, because of their overlapping functions (oxygen is also needed for metabolism, acting with and on NAD to complete metabolic cycles). Hypoxia can also lead to cancer development in multiple organs.

Heart and cardiovascular health decline

Foods that have NAD have been noted to improve the remodeling of heart tissue following heart failure, a process that is as complex as it is long. In animal trials, higher NAD levels were also correlated with improved recovery from coronary artery disease symptoms and damage. Finally, using NAD as a therapeutic for cardiac disease and vascular dysfunction has repaired damage at a faster rate in mice, compared to those not receiving NAD.

Metabolic disorders rise

Although not all fats are bad (take a look at our article “What Are Healthy Fats?” for more information on good fats), diets high in fat and carbohydrates can lead to health problems. However, in a recent study, mice supplemented with a compound, nicotinamide riboside (NR), that leads to more NAD in the body did not have the same problems as non-supplemented mice when fed a high fat diet. This meant mice feeding on higher fat and carbohydrates did not have the insulin fluctuations indicative of diabetes development or metabolic dysregulation that would be expected as a result of their diet. The mice who received therapeutic NR had similar fasting-blood glucose to mice on normal diets, and had improved skeletal muscle function, as well as better energy expenditure. The increased NAD in their bodies made the mice burn their calories from high fat and sugar foods more efficiently, and their skeletal muscles worked better when they received this therapy.

Neurodegeneration and associated brain disorders increase

NAD is thought to have a role in neuronal resilience. Neurons in the brain carry signals to and from the brain and the rest of the body, keeping us functioning. If neurons begin to die or dysfunction occurs, disorders such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases begin to develop. Metabolites associated with NAD’s metabolic functions have been related to reduced neurodegenerative diseases including Huntington’s and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, although the mechanism behind how this occurs remains unknown.

Age-related changes in the brain continue to be examined around the globe, and NAD concentrations seem to decrease in the brain as we age. This also suggests that NAD has an important role in neuronal health and overall brain functioning.

What foods are high in NAD?

Dairy milks

Surprisingly, animal milk (unfortunately, this does not include nut and soy milks) is extremely high in NAD. From human to cow to donkey, these milk sources are a great source of NAD, which can also be boosted by the content of vitamin B3 naturally present and occasionally supplemented in milk. Vitamin B3 is also called niacin, and it is a precursor of NAD.

Cow’s milk is also high in nicotinamide riboside (NR) which later becomes NAD when digested. These important precursors in milk are important for protection against glucose intolerance, metabolic diseases, and other disorders, as seen in clinical trials. You can learn more about the benefits and cons of different types of milk in our article, “What Is the Healthiest Milk?”

Tuna, salmon, and other fish

Trout and eel have been noted to have high NAD concentrations in the brain, heart, gills, kidney, liver, and muscle tissues. Of course, the muscle is of special importance, because that’s the white fish tissue that we love to eat. While eel is a less-enjoyed delicacy, it also is a good source of NAD, especially in the liver and muscle. Salmon is another fish whose NAD levels appear to be high, with one study finding that NAD was present in 10 different salmonid fish species. Many other types of fish including tuna and sardines are also good sources of this helpful nutrient.

However, a note of caution accompanies this. While further studies are being conducted, preliminary work has determined that freezing fish can lower the nutritional value, including the NAD content. Fresh fish muscle tissue with little fat is the best source of NAD. While freezing preserves fish for future consumption and is not bad for your health, it does lower the levels of this valuable substance.

Mushrooms are high in NAD!

In addition to being high in NAD themselves, crimini mushrooms are high in niacin, which in turn elevated NAD levels in human clinical trials. Crimini mushrooms in particular are high in NAD, but many varieties of mushrooms have trace amounts of this nutrient. Any mushroom addition to your diet is good, but crimini are the best for NAD content.

Yeast and yeast-containing products high in NAD!

From bread to beer, there are many fermented yeast products that have a permanent place on our plates (or in our glasses). Yeast is a living organism, and like us humans, utilizes NAD for its metabolic cycle. A study on Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast revealed that the metabolic process utilizing NAD is shockingly similar to humans.

This NAD can be harnessed when we eat yeast-containing products, and results in many of the previously mentioned health benefits. Scientists have noted the importance of NAD content of yeast dating as far back as the 1970’s. While the best sources of NAD from yeast products are still debated, the NAD content of baker’s yeast may be a favorable source for human health, and it is agreed that fermented yeast alcoholic beverages (including beer) are not the best source of NAD.

Green Vegetables high in NAD!

We’ve always been told to eat our greens because they are high in nutrients, and here is another reminder! NAD levels are especially high in broccoli, colored cabbages, calçot, and green onions. Those dark green colored vegetables are typically high in NAD and so many other micronutrients that we need to keep our bodies running smoothly.

Studies are ongoing regarding the potential health consequences of a NAD by-product called NAD(P)H quinone oxidoreductase, which was initially thought to be carcinogenic (cancer-causing); however, there appears to be a complex interplay between the benefits of NAD and consequences of NAD(P)H quinone oxidoreductase. NAD(P)H oxidoreductase from brussels sprouts was also noted to detoxify oxygen radicals, which tend to cause cancer and other cellular problems. More research to clarify this relationship is needed, but for now, we know broccoli, brussels sprouts, and other green vegetables seem to be more beneficial than they are harmful, and should continue to be part of your overall diet.

Whole Grains

Whole grains are another great everyday source of NAD. Cereals, breads, granola bars, bagels, and pastas can all be bought in whole grain varieties, which are good for your health for many reasons. Whole grains contain niacin, vitamin B3, which is a precursor to NAD.

Niacin can be absorbed in the stomach or intestines, and is a quick way to increase NAD levels. However, in many sources of whole grains, such as bread, niacin is poorly absorbed into our bodies. Preferred sources of niacin (later, NAD) include corn flakes, cheerios, and bran flakes. It turns out that being slightly processed makes the NAD more available for absorption, though the mechanics of this remain unknown.

Chicken

Chicken is another animal that uses niacin and NAD for its metabolism, and it shows in the levels found in the meat. An important note regarding chickens is that niacin supplementation has been used experimentally to decrease white fat and increase muscle tone in broiler chickens and hens raised for consumption. Niacin in chicken feed is normal, and varying amounts help chickens grow to the optimal size and tissue type (fat versus muscle) for sale. Overall, chicken tissue is a great source of high levels of NAD and is widely utilized in poultry agriculture to maximize production and profits.

Overall Conclusion

Many mechanisms and functions of NAD in humans and other animals remain unknown. However, we do know that this molecule is essential for metabolism in the mitochondria that provide us with energy to move around and function on a daily basis. A shortage of NAD leads to a host of problems, from the brain to skin to digestion. It’s important to include many of the foods that are high in NAD in your daily diet, including fish, poultry, green vegetables, and mushrooms. Diversity is the spice of life, and, in addition to giving you your healthy dose of NAD, these foods provide a large range of other micronutrients that will leave you feeling good and help maintain your health. So help yourself to a large serving of these healthy dishes, and remember to look for foods high in NAD!

Moringa leaves have been extensively studied as a functional food for its health properties. It contains many bioactive components, including vitamins, phenolic acid, flavonoids, isothiocyanates, tannins, and saponins. Moringa leaves are beneficial for several chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, fatty liver, and general inflammation.

Today, we will interview Jacquelyn Turner-Haury, the founder of Fera Moringa, who shares her perspective on, and relationship with this potent functional food.

Satia: What is Moringa?

Jacquelyn: “Moringa is a highly concentrated superfood that comes from the leaves of the Moringa tree. It is considered one of the most effective supplements to hit the holistic health market.

Moringa trees contain some of the most nutrient-dense leaves on the planet. These nutritional leaves are dried and ground into a superfood powder that contains incredible health benefits for your body. It is often referred to as the “Miracle Tree” because every part of the tree has advantages, including the roots, leaves, bark, flowers, pods, gum, and seeds. Whether it’s boosting your smoothie with antioxidants, making your “latte” extra anti-inflammatory, or nourishing your skin with nutritionally rich oil, this plant has it all. 

This nutritionally dense superfood has endless health benefits. It has been utilized in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years, which claims it can be used as a preventative for over 300 diseases. Moringa is an excellent source of vitaminsminerals, and antioxidants as it contains a very concentrated amount of nutrition, including 7x more Vitamin C than oranges.”

Satia: What is your personal relationship with Moringa?

Jacquelyn: “Moringa has had a huge impact on my life. About 15 years ago, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, which had an incredibly debilitating effect on my health. I was chronically ill, losing too much weight, deprived of nutrients, and severely anemic. After attempting Western medicine unsuccessfully, I changed my lifestyle and started incorporating Moringa into my routine. Within weeks my body went into remission, which showed me the power of healing myself naturally. Moringa helped nourish my body with concentrated nutrients and replenish my iron levels, which alleviated my anemia. It became an integral part of my diet and changed my life for the better. I now live symptom-free and lead a full and abundant life.” 

Satia: What is the story behind FERA?

Jacquelyn: “I was inspired to start FERA because I felt more people should benefit from the incredible healing properties of this superfood. Moringa profoundly changed my life, and I wanted to help others who were eager to find a natural solution. I created an Etsy account and started selling my mother’s Moringa from our garden in Florida. Eventually, she could no longer keep up with the demand. That ignited me to put together a business plan, which evolved into FERA. It became an online marketplace for the highest quality USDA organic certified Moringa, both loose powder, and capsules. 

While Moringa continues to be the core of the brand, it has evolved over the past year, offering coaching sessions and an in-person retreat in Mexico. The purpose of FERA has always been to help people heal naturally and nourish their bodies. Now we provide a 6-month coaching program where you can work directly with me for a more intimate and personalized experience to heal your gut naturally. 

The retreat in Mexico is the merge of a retreat and co-living and co-working space. It’s a place to transform your health and enrich your life. You will be immersed in an inspiring setting to unlock your deepest passions and purpose in life. More information on the retreat can be found here. “

Fera Moringa

Satia: What health benefits does consuming Moringa have? What evidence is there to support these claims?

Jacquelyn: “Moringa is a highly nourishing superfood with an abundance of health benefits. Below are some of the top benefits of corresponding scientific studies

  1. Contains A Rich Nutritional Profile
  2. Is Abundant in Antioxidants
  3. Provides Plentiful Anti-Inflammatory Compounds
  4. Balances Blood Sugar Levels (Helps Fight Diabetes)
  5. Lowers Cholesterol 
  6. Balances Hormones
  7. Nourishes the Skin
  8. Stabilizes Mood
  9. Enhances Brain Health “

Satia: Are there any other supplements you take to keep yourself healthy?

Jacquelyn: “I try to naturally get most of my nutrients through food, but I love making turmeric or mushroom lattes at home to get the extra boost of nutrients and added benefits. I’ve also added zinc to my diet as a booster against Covid-19.”

Satia: What else do you do to keep yourself feeling good?

Jacquelyn: “I wholeheartedly believe that to feel good, you need to take a holistic approach with your life. If one thing is out of balance, it completely disrupts the harmony. For example, if you eat green veggies all day long, but you are bursting with anxiety and stress, then you won’t be digesting and absorbing the nutrients very well, let alone feel very well. 

Some ways I maintain my overall health include daily meditation for 20 minutes, exercise, journaling, digital detoxes, time in nature, self-care, and working on harmonious relationships.

As for exercise, I enjoy running and yoga, but I also try to incorporate it into my lifestyle instead of forcing myself to do a workout routine. For example, I enjoy going for hikes or long walks in the neighborhood or biking to work. This makes me feel healthy and active without going to the gym every day.”