Food Literacy? There’s Room for Improvement

grocery store aisleAsk a typical American where their food comes from, and they’ll probably say something like “the grocery store.” Beyond that, they might not even want to know – just so long as the food they want is there when they want it.

The depths of food illiteracy were recently seen in a new dairy industry survey.

Among the most shocking findings? Almost half of American adults aren’t sure where chocolate milk comes from. Seven percent actually believe that chocolate milk comes only from brown cows.

Really.

If you do the math, that works out to 16.4 million misinformed, milk-drinking people. The equivalent of the population of Pennsylvania (and then some!) does not know that chocolate milk is milk, cocoa and sugar.

Other research cited in the same article found more than half of urban California fourth- through sixth-graders “didn’t know pickles were cucumbers, or that onions and lettuce were plants.”

Four in 10 didn’t know that hamburgers came from cows. And 3 in 10 didn’t know that cheese is made from milk.

The problem of food illiteracy isn’t unique to Americans. A recent survey from the British Nutrition Foundation

found that children between the ages of 5 and 16 have real misconceptions about what they’re eating. Among them: the belief that pasta comes from animals, which about a tenth of 8- to 11-year-olds subscribe to.

…The poll also found that about a fifth of 5- to 7-year-olds believe fish fingers contain chicken. And another 29 percent of them thought cheese was a plant….

Such beliefs don’t necessarily signal a lack of intelligence. They do show that a good many of us are very divorced from the source of our sustenance.

If you grew up in the country, you probably have an idea of how “farm-to-table” actually works. Otherwise, it’s quite reasonable to think that food comes in packages and leave it at that. Food, in that world, is a consumer good, and who thinks about how any consumer good winds up in our hands, the path it took from raw materials to the item we bought online?

The simple fact is that most of us have handed over our food and nutrition needs to third parties. That’s why labeling matters as much as it does. If we don’t make or grow the food ourselves, it’s one of the main ways we have to know much of anything at all about it.

Industrialization reduces food to simply a matter of consumption. We come to think of it as fuel or as a delivery system for nutrients and not as something that’s also important socially, culturally. Just think about any special occasion: a holiday, a birthday, a first date, a funeral. Chances are, food is at the center of it – not for the nutrition it delivers but for its ability to bring us together in our shared humanity.

Improving food literacy could take us a very long way toward improving the health of our nation – indeed, of our world. Alice Waters’ Edible Classroom project is perhaps the most notable effort to reconnect kids with nature through food, and it’s certainly spawned many imitators. After all, it offers beautiful evidence of how kids gravitate toward the real when given the chance.

Image by Sean Gregor

A Look Back at…”Healthy” Smoothies & Your Teeth

Updated from the original post for July 11, 2013

Drink Your Fruit & Veggies?

smoothiesThink you can just drink your fruit and veggies in a delicious fruit smoothie? Research from the BDJ might make you think twice – at least if you care about your teeth.

Researchers found that smoothies can, in fact, be quite damaging to enamel – the hardest tissue in the body, protecting the softer tissues within. But a number of things contribute to erosion, including dry mouth, medications, bruxing (habitual grinding and clenching) and sugars and acids like those you find in the typical smoothie.

Damaged enamel means sensitive teeth and a heightened risk of cavities.

While certain fruits proved to be more damaging than others, the BDJ study found that “some fruit smoothies have the potential to bring about dental erosion if consumed irresponsibly.” To lower the risk, the authors suggest eating while enjoying your smoothie (which, you may argue, may defeat the purpose of having a smoothie, but we urge you: read on).

The trouble with smoothies – as with fruit juices – is their reputation of being “healthy.” There are those who, instead of eating fresh fruit and veg, drink lots of such beverages for a nutritional boost – or, more worrisome, give them to kids instead of whole produce. The drinks’ sweetness makes them especially appealing. Like other animals, we’re evolutionally partial to sweets since they’re associated with high energy foods. (Cats, in fact, may be the only animals that grew out of the sweet tooth.)

Although the sugar in smoothies can be a problem – and there can be a lot of sugar (see this and this, for instance), as as much or more than in most sodas – the BDJ study was concerned more with acidity. Food and drink with a pH value lower than the critical pH of tooth enamel (5.5) are erosive. Most smoothies have a pH value around 2 or 3. Most sodas do, too.

This PSA from the Wisconsin Dental Association pounds the point home:

What about using a straw? Some say it helps get the beverage past the teeth while getting nutrients into the consumer, but that skirts a related issue. As Dean Kathryn Harley of the Faculty of Dentistry at the Royal College of Surgeons has suggested, if kids are constantly exposed to sweet foods like juice, candy and desserts, they may increasingly reject lesser sweet foods such as whole fruits and vegetables.

Remember that the easiest way to get your fruit and veggie intake up is by eating them, not drinking them. To get kids to eat vegetables, try serving them alongside foods you know they enjoy, or serve fresh vegetables as a snack. In her excellent post on “11 Proven Ways to Get Kids to Eat More Vegetables,” blogger Darya Rose suggests using the one bite rule: require your child to try one bite of an unfamiliar food before rejecting it altogether – along with 10 other great ideas.

None of this is to say that you have to cut out smoothies or juices completely. If you like them, enjoy them once in a while. But here’s an added plus of opting for more whole fruit and veg over smoothies and juice: Not only do you avoid the sugars and acids, the more complete nutritional intake can help remineralize your teeth, keeping them strong and healthy. Foods rich in nutrients such as calcium, antioxidants, Vitamin D and phosphorous are especially beneficial.

Image by Ken Hawkins

4 Books on the Mouth-Body Connection that Just Might Change Your Life

Woman reading bookMany who seek our services have immune system challenges. They’re looking for the most biocompatible materials and the least invasive approach to dentistry they can find. Others have nagging symptoms they – and their health care providers – have been unable to identify.

As a biological dental office, we believe the best solutions to nagging health issues require a comprehensive look at the whole person, not just the mouth. We recognize that medical doctors are trained to focus their attention on the body, minus the mouth. Yet current scientific research indicates the mouth can be a focal point for health issues.

This means, the more familiar you are with the mouth’s connection to your body, the more you can help yourself.

One way you can do so is through reading. So we offer up this short list of new books to help you navigate both the medical and the dental realms and bring them together into a cohesive whole.

Mirror of the Body: Your Mouth Reflects the Health of Your Whole Body by Dr. James Rota
If you’re concerned about the materials in your mouth, you’ll want to read this book for sure.

Though Dr. Rota had an inkling of mercury amalgam dangers when protestors first handed him a brochure on mercury’s toxicity, it wasn’t until faced with his own health crisis that he dug beneath the surface of this commonly placed material.

His book not only describes his own journey but looks at the politics behind dental associations and their assurances of safety to the public despite a lack of scientific evidence. It will encourage you to have more than a voice in your health care; it will encourage you to listen to your body.

Six-Foot Tiger, Three-Foot Cage: Take Charge of Your Health by Taking Charge of Your Mouth by Felix Liao, DDS
Using case studies from his patients, Dr. Liao showcases how the mouth and body relate. In doing so, he allows us to see how body symptoms can refer back to mouth issues. From posture, neck and muscle pain, and headaches to numbness, fatigue, sleep disorders, dizziness, and more, your mouth may be the culprit.

This powerful book gives you the tools to

  • Understand the role your mouth plays in your overall health.
  • Recognize that an impaired mouth can lead to health conditions that often defy easy diagnosis.
  • Seek holistic or biological support.
  • Think of dental care as part of whole body care.

book jacketsThe Holistic Dental Matrix: How Your Teeth Control Your Health and Well-Being by Dr. Nicholas Meyer
If you’ve ever wanted to speak up to a health care provider but didn’t feel you knew enough to actually do so, this book will empower you. By book’s end, you’ll realize that no one can know your body like you do. Sure, doctors and dentists have specific training, but many fall back on methods that are, at best, one-size-fits-all – despite the fact that each of us is unique, from what we eat to how we think, the exposures we face daily, the stress we encounter, the foreign materials placed in our bodies, and more.

Not only does Dr. Meyer address the systemic effects of dental materials such as mercury and fluoride, he delves into some of the most challenging dental situations and how they can impact overall health.

The visual resources here – including meridian charts, diagrams, photos, and resource pages – promote a deeper understanding of the material. This particular book will help you go to your next dental office equipped to be your own best advocate.

Teeth: The Story of Beauty, Inequality, and the Struggle for Oral Health in America by Mary Otto

Medical journalist Mary Otto is the only author in our selection who is not a dentist. But her investigative experience provides a well-rounded approach to oral health as it relates to overall health.

From a biological perspective, what we find particularly interesting about this book is how Otto illuminates the distinctly negative effect that the separation of dentistry from general medical care has had. Like those of us who work from a holistic or biological perspective, she notes the devastating and wide-reaching effects of this segregation. But her perspective goes far beyond the individual desire for well-being, extending to the role dentistry plays in societal health, as well. Otto’s book encourages you to look beyond your own well-being to see the bigger picture.

Image by Paul Bence

A Look Back at…Keeping Your Teeth Naturally Healthy

Originally posted June 4, 2015

The Caries Crisis

tooth models showing cariesAccording to the latest CDC statistics, almost all adults have experienced dental caries – 91% to be exact.

“It is not what people are doing wrong,” Dr. Bruce Dye, who led the survey, told Today. “It is maybe what we can do better.”

Well, that’s a way of putting it – and a positive one at that. Yet tooth decay doesn’t happen just because it happens. Some “wrong” things are playing a role – or, at the very least, are doing little to help.

Consider fluoride, which the Today write-up mentions as one intervention that “greatly reduces rates of tooth decay.” Consider that nearly 70% of Americans receive fluoridated water. Consider that in some stores, it is near impossible to find non-fluoridated toothpastes. Fluoride is everywhere.

Then consider again: 91% of American adults have experienced tooth decay. More than a quarter have untreated tooth decay.

The upside to that startling statistic is that it may be partly explained by the fact that more of us are keeping more of our natural teeth for a longer time. In fact, the rate of edentulism – having no teeth – has dropped almost 40% over the past 50 years.

But the ideal, of course, is not just to keep all your teeth but to keep them in their naturally healthy condition.

A major help is ditching soft drinks and fruit juices – the two biggest culprits when it comes to enamel erosion, which leaves the teeth more vulnerable to decay. Even better is when that’s part of a move to a simpler, more wholesome diet.

It’s interesting to note that our distant ancestors typically had far less oral disease than we do. For instance, people living during the Middle Ages did have problems like worn down or broken teeth, but as recently discussed in a column on Slate:

Contrary to the depiction of medieval peasants with blackened and rotting teeth, the average person in the Middle Ages had teeth that were in very good condition. This is substantially due to one factor—the rarity of sugar in the diet. Most medieval people simply could not afford sugar, and those who could used it sparingly, usually as a seasoning or minor ingredient and almost never as a condiment or the basis of a dish. This means that most people used natural sugars, such as those in fruits and honey; even then, they ate this kind of sugar sparingly. Taken with a diet high in calcium via dairy, high in vegetables and cereals, and low in foods that cause decay, the average medieval person ate the way most modern dentists would recommend for good teeth.

Not surprisingly, tooth decay was actually much less prevalent in the Middle Ages than it became in later centuries, when mass imports of sugar from the tropics made it a staple rather than a rarity. Surveys of archaeological data from the medieval period show that an average of only 20 percent of teeth show any sign of decay, as opposed to up to 90 percent in some early 20th-century populations.

This is totally in line with what Dr. Weston Price found through his observations of indigenous populations. He found that who ate traditional diets consumed at least four times the minerals and water-soluble vitamins than those who ate industrial diets, and had good orofacial development and good oral health. Once they transitioned to a Western, industrial diet with its white flour and refined sugar, crowded, crooked teeth, caries and other problems soon appeared.

Better food: A better way than fluoride to support good oral health.

Image by Xauxa

Dietary Balm for Gum Disease

toothy grin with gum diseaseYou do all the right dental things. You brush at least twice a day. You floss (even if some insist there’s “no scientific evidence”). You schedule your next hygiene appointment before you leave your last one. Still, you have gum disease.

So what base might you be missing? It could well be diet.

A recent pilot study suggests that switching to a low inflammation diet may help that gum disease finally heal.

The small study focused on 15 adults with gingivitis and an apparent appetite for carbs – a major contributor to chronic inflammatory conditions. Ten of them followed a low-carb, anti-inflammatory diet. They were also directed to increase their intake of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin C, vitamin D, and antioxidants.

The remaining five served as the control group and kept on eating their typical high-carb diet. All participants were told to stop using floss or other interdental cleaners but otherwise keep up their usual oral hygiene habits. Each group followed their plan for six weeks.

After the four observational weeks, the experimental group showed significantly reduced gingival and periodontal inflammation compared with the group who did not change their diet. Specifically, reducing carbohydrates led to a significant improvement in gingival index, bleeding on probing, and periodontal inflamed surface area. In addition, increasing omega-3 fatty acids and fibers improved plaque index.

The improvements pose many questions for further studies to explore. First, since the periodontal health indicators occurred despite both groups showing no change in periodontal values, the authors question the actual role plaque plays in the development of gum disease.

Further research will likely be done to determine if one particular component of the anti-inflammatory diet was more significant than another. But one thing’s certain from this very limited study: Dietary pattern plays a significant role in the development of periodontal disease.

In the meantime, you don’t need to wait. You, friend, can be an experiment of one. Give the study’s protocol a try:

  1. Put the kibosh on carbs.
  2. Get on your omega-3 fatty acids.
  3. Welcome the vitamin C and vitamin D.
  4. Eat a rainbow of antioxidants.
  5. Fiber up!

And by all means, keep practicing your effective oral habits!

Image by Morgan

A Look Back at…10 Tips for Eating Organic on a Budget

A recent article over at Vox goes into “the shifting economics of organic food.” But while some organic food is getting cheaper, the fact remains that it can be pricey. But as we point out in this post from October 2013, buying organic doesn’t have to break the bank…

 

You often hear complaints about how expensive organic food is. And if you rely on lots of processed food products or measure value only by calories-per-dollar, then foods grown with chemicals or bioengineered or manufactured in factories might seem the best deal.

But in terms of human and environmental health, they’re only a bargain in the short run. As they say, you can

pay

Why are organic foods priced higher than conventionally grown? Rest assured, the pricing’s not arbitrary. The fees organic farmers pay for certification are hefty and frequently go up. Operations are small, and special facilities are often needed. Organic is more time-consuming and not focused on the subsidized commodity crops at the heart of the modern, conventional food supply. (You can read more reasons for the cost differences here.)

Still, it’s entirely possible to eat organically even on a tight budget. Here are 10 ideas for keeping your food bill low without compromising your health:

  1. Plant a garden! Probably the cheapest way to have organic food is to grow your own. Mother Earth News has a great guide on growing organic food by crop. And if you rent or don’t have the space to garden, there are community gardens that offer space across the country.
  2. If you do grow a garden, consider using heritage seeds – seeds collected from harvested foods and saved for the next growing season. Doing so maintains trusted plant varieties and encourages diversity in our gardens.
  3. Prioritize and buy organics selectively. The Environmental Working Group provides a handy list of what it calls the Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15 – respectively, foods to buy only in organic form due to their tendency to retain pesticide residues and foods that are acceptable whether conventionally or organically grown.
  4. Buy whole foods – unprocessed grains, vegetables, fruits and meats. Whole foods have the most nutrition and give you more bang for your buck.
  5. Buy food in season. Seasonal food is usually cheaper and always better than off-season. There is greater nutrition per dollar than in the same product during the off-season.
  6. Stock up when there’s a sale. If the food is perishable, consider canning or freezing it for later use.
  7. Buy in bulk – not Sam’s Club bulk but things like grains, dried beans, seeds and nuts. Because you’re not paying for fancy labeling, packaging or marketing, you save money. And you also reduce your environmental footprint by using less disposable packaging. Many natural food stores allow you to bring in pre-weighed containers for shopping their bulk aisles, and they may even offer a discount at the register for bringing your own.
  8. Buy local. Support your local economy, help save the environment and get better and cheaper food by doing business with your friendly, neighborhood farmer. If the produce at the farmer’s market food isn’t marked as certified organic, it still may be organic, so don’t be afraid to ask! Remember that cost of certification is prohibitive, so some farmers may forgo certification. If these reasons don’t convince you, here are 10 more reasons to enjoy shopping locally.
  9. Sign up with a CSA, or community supported agriculture. You get local, seasonal food delivered to you or you can pick it up each month. This may not be significantly cheaper per product, but the vegetables are much fresher than you’ll find in a grocery store, which makes the actual nutrition far cheaper.
  10. Shop online. Is there an organic product you like, such as a sunflower seed butter? Try comparison shopping at your computer to see if you can get cheaper through the mail.

The important thing here is to eat food that is good for you and that you enjoy. You shouldn’t have to be wealthy in order to enjoy good, wholesome food.

Have tips of your own for eating healthfully on a budget? Share them in the comments!

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Fat as the Enemy of Health? Hardly!

healthy fatsFor the first time in human history, we have constant access to more food calories than ever before. Thank advanced, organized agricultural production for that. Food security – yay!

But like any strength overplayed, it has become our Achilles heel.

We eat too much industrialized food. In fact, only 31.2% of US adults are normal weight or less. As for the rest of us?

  • 33.1% are considered overweight.
  • 35.7% are considered obese.
  • Among the obese, 6.3% are considered extremely obese.

Yet these rates rose during a time when fat was considered the enemy and diet foods came into vogue. Many of us cut out high calorie fat by replacing it with “healthier” carbs.

Now science continues to show that we not only have little to fear from fat; good dietary fats support good health.

Case in point? A pair of recent studies on full-fat dairy.

The first, published in Circulation, looked at the effects of consuming full-fat and low-fat dairy on obesity risk in female participants. Those who had the highest levels of dairy fat in their blood had a 46% lower risk of developing diabetes in a span of 15 years, compared to those with the lowest levels.

In the second, published in the American Journal of Nutrition, researchers found that women who consumed the most high-fat dairy products had an 8% reduced risk of being overweight or obese.

This could be because dairy fats help improve the ability of the liver and muscles to break down sugar from food. Or it may be that microbes found in high-fat dairy foods such as cheese improve the body’s response to insulin. But also, since eating more fat offers satiety, it could be that participants just ate fewer carbs and less sugar.

Sugar and refined carbs act as fillers for the absence of fat. The thing is, sugar and carbs support inflammation in the body. Inflammation in the body fuels chronic disease: gum disease, tooth decay, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s, depression, cancer.

And truth be told, your body needs fat – for energy, for proper brain function, for transporting and storing fat-soluble vitamins, cell function, hormone formation, and more.

Contrary to the accepted view, which is not scientifically based, saturated fats do not clog arteries or cause heart disease. In fact, the preferred food for the heart is saturated fat; and saturated fats lower a substance called Lp(a), which is a very accurate marker for proneness to heart disease.

Saturated fats play many important roles in the body chemistry. They strengthen the immune system and are involved in inter-cellular communication, which means they protect us against cancer. They help the receptors on our cell membranes work properly, including receptors for insulin, thereby protecting us against diabetes. The lungs cannot function without saturated fats, which is why children given butter and full-fat milk suffer less often from asthma than children given reduced-fat milk and margarine. Saturated fats are also involved in kidney function and hormone production.

Saturated fats are required for the nervous system to function properly, and over half the fat in the brain is saturated. Saturated fats also help suppress inflammation. Finally, saturated animal fats carry the vital fat-soluble vitamins A, D and K2, which we need in large amounts to be healthy.

But not all fats are created equal. Those to avoid are trans fats (hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils), industrially processed oils, and oils from genetically modified crops such as soy and corn.

Instead, look to natural saturated and monounsaturated fats. Butter. Coconut oil. Lard. Extra virgin olive oil. Chicken, duck, or goose fat. Expeller-expressed flax, sesame, or peanut oil. Fish liver oils.

As ever, opt for organic when you can – as well as pastured dairy and other animal products.

These are the kinds of fats our bodies were designed to consume. We’re designed to eat real food, fat and all. According to the Weston A. Price Foundation, traditional diets included

  • 30% to 80% fat (most of it saturated and monounsaturated).
  • No refined or denatured foods.
  • Animal protein.
  • Raw dairy.

Maybe all we really need to do is embrace what our ancestors knew all along.

Liposomal Delivery for Effective Immune & Antioxidant Support

So let’s get back to this business of liposomal supplements we mentioned last time.

liposomes“Liposomal” means relating to liposomes – which is no help at all, really, unless you know what a liposome is. That word comes from two Greek words: lipo (fat) and soma (body) – a great descriptor for this round vesicle with at least one double layer – a bilayer – of lipids (fat). The bilayers form a spherical vesicle that encloses fluid.

In this form, liposomes can transport and release any material in the vesicle into a cell.

Liposomes were first described in 1965, and it didn’t take long for researchers to consider them as a way to deliver drugs. If, for instance, they could carry chemotherapy drugs, they could deliver them right to cancer cells and not expose the rest of the body to their toxins.

Over the years, the technology has been used to safely deliver a number of drugs for use in antiviral, antifungal, anti-tubuercular, and gene therapies.

While liposomal delivery of medication offers promise against a whole host of medical diseases, it’s also of help to those of us who want to prevent disease before it starts. Liposomal technology is now being used for the delivery of antioxidant nutrients such as vitamin C and D, B-vitamins, and immune boosters such as glutathione and alpha lipoic acid.

Here’s how it works:

The importance of applying this technology to beneficial nutrients is significant. Why? Because, as one paper noted, most natural antioxidants are unstable, not very soluble in water, and poorly distributed to target sites. All this lowers their bioavailability.

Many of us try to solve the problem of variability of nutrients through diet and supplementation. We want to ensure our bodies get the all the nutrients they need for optimal health. Other times, supplement therapy is a critical part of naturopathic healing from chronic health conditions – a time when we need more than just the minimum.

But there can be problems with this approach.

This greater bioavailability of liposomal supplements is exactly what makes liposomal delivery so great. Nutrients go directly into your body’s cells. This gives you the best potential to get the antioxidant and immune support your mouth – and your body – needs.

Image by Wellcome Images

Know Your Nutrients: Vitamin C

citrusWhen it comes to vitamins, we probably know more about vitamin C – and its antioxidant properties – than any other vitamin. To a large degree, we have Nobel laureate Linus Pauling to thank for that. A physical chemist and peace activist, Pauling was an early researcher and promoter of the healing powers of vitamin C.

Pauling questioned the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for vitamin C, which was set at a level just enough to prevent scurvy. This, he argued, was not enough – not if you wanted to live “in the best of health.” Pauling was ridiculed by the medical orthodoxy for his recommendation of mega doses of vitamin C for optimal health.

Today, the work Linus Pauling started is being carried out at the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University. Their mission: to “promote optimal health through cutting-edge nutrition research and trusted public outreach.”

While the foundation of Pauling’s work has expanded exponentially, the research on vitamin C proves Pauling was far ahead of his time.

What We Know About Vitamin C

Vitamin C, ascorbic acid, is a water soluble vitamin. Most mammals and other animals can make their own. Humans can’t. We have to get vitamin C from the food we eat.

Among the roles it plays in our health:

  • It synthesizes collagen, a structural component in the body.
  • It synthesizes neurotransmitters critical to brain function and mood.
  • It’s essential for the conversion of fat into energy.
  • It’s involved in the conversion of cholesterol to bile acids.
  • It’s an effective antioxidant, protecting molecules in the body from free radical damage.
  • It may be able to regenerate other antioxidants, such as vitamin E.

After much scientific research, in 2000, the RDA for vitamin C was increased, proving Pauling was well ahead of his peers. But it’s important to note that the recommendation continues to be based on the prevention of deficiency, not on the prevention of chronic disease and the promotion of health as Pauling had hoped.

Since Pauling’s initial work, science has illuminated many more ways in which C supports optimal health. Perhaps most important is its role in immunity. Vitamin C stimulates white blood cells – particularly neutrophils, a type of white blood cell that attaches foreign bacteria and viruses. C also increases the serum level of antibodies and may protect the integrity of immune cells.

Can it help with specific diseases? That has yet to be answered thoroughly. But decades’ worth of notable studies continue to suggest C’s importance.

Heart Disease & Stroke

Research has shown significant reductions in cardiovascular heart disease (CHD) among vitamin C users in well-nourished populations. Studies have also shown a lower risk of stroke. One, for instance, found a 29% lower risk among participants with higher vitamin C levels. Another found a 54% reduction among those who ate C-rich vegetables 6 to 7 times weekly compared to those who ate them twice a week or less.

Cancer

Eating more C-rich vegetables and fruit has been associated with a lower risk for many types of cancer. For instance, one 2014 study found that every extra 100 mg of C each day lowered lung cancer risk by 7%. A study of postmenopausal women with a family history of breast cancer showed that those who ate at least 5 daily servings of fruits and vegetables had a “modestly lower risk of breast cancer” than those who consumed 2 servings a day or less. Newer studies, however, have been inconclusive.

Cataracts

Research published earlier this month found that higher blood levels of vitamin C (300+ mg per day, for several years) were associated with a lower risk of cataracts.

Gout

Higher C intake has been associated with lower serum levels of uric acid. Other research has suggested that supplemental vitamin C may help prevent gout – at least in men.

Oral Health

Vitamin C plays a significant role in oral health, helping maintain the integrity of bone, connective tissue, and teeth. It speeds recovery from dental procedures, supports dental healing, and maintains dental health. It stimulates the immune system and reduces the potential for post-surgical infection. It enhances healing after extractions by strengthening blood clots, constructing scar tissue, and laying down collagen.

C prevents scurvy, a chronic disorder with dental symptoms such as gingivitis, gum inflammation, and eventual tooth loss. It also lowers risk of mouth and throat cancers.

A Healing Diet

Your best source of vitamin C – like most all nutrients – is real, whole food. That way, you take advantage of all the interrelated factors a whole food can provide.

Good sources of vitamin C include

  • Oranges, grapefruit, and other citrus.
  • Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower.
  • Cantaloupe and watermelon.
  • Green and red peppers.
  • Kiwi.
  • Spinach, turnip greens, and other dark, leafy greens.
  • Mango and papaya.
  • Tomatoes.
  • Pineapple.
  • Winter squash.
  • Berries.

Make sure you eat for color here. Color indicates phytochemical content that can enhance the benefits of vitamin C. C-rich vegetables are associated with bioflavonoids which can also enhance the the beneficial effects of vitamin C.

C can also be taken in supplement form, as well – as a tablet, powder, or liquid. The key is proper absorption. If C isn’t properly absorbed, it can’t get to the cells to do its magic.

Liposomal vitamin C is the newest supplement form. It uses liposomal encapsulation technology, which offers liquid delivery for greater absorption in the small intestine. This improves the bioavailability because it minimizes exposure to stomach acids.

If you’ve seen the many links on the internet to make your own liposomal vitamin C, don’t bother. Commercially prepared products using liposomal technology are the way to go. (In our next post, we’ll go into more depth on liposomal delivery.)

As for how much C, it all depends – on things like your medical history, medications, stress level, smoking, and other lifestyle habits. We recommend you schedule a consult with a knowledgeable naturopath or other qualified holistic professional for an individualized assessment.

Image by USDA

Yet More Reasons to Take Diet Seriously

colorful fruit and vegetablesThe two best things you can do for a healthy smile are to make good hygiene routine and to eat healthfully. At minimum, the former includes regular brushing and flossing, but may also include practices like oil pulling and using an oral irrigator. The latter means basing your diet on whole, not hyper-processed, foods, especially fresh vegetables and other plant-based foods. It includes little to no added sugars or other refined carbs.

This is especially important for preventing gum disease, which is marked by rampant, chronic inflammation. Rich in antioxidants and other key nutrients, plant-based foods are anti-inflammatory. Sugars and refined carbs, on the other hand, fuel it. (The same goes for many animal-based foods.)

Of course, it’s not just your teeth and gums that benefit from this way of eating. Your whole body does. And as recent research suggests, it supports good mental health, as well.

The study, published this past October in BMC Psychiatry, looked at the effect of fruit and vegetable consumption on psychological distress. The dietary habits and mental health of more than 20,000 Swiss individuals over age 15 were assessed. The recommended produce consumption was a minimum 5 servings a day – 2 of fruit, 3 of veg. (This is in line with current US recommendations, as well).

The 5-a-day recommendation was met by 11.6 % of the participants with low distress, 9.3 % of those with moderate distress, and 6.2 % of those with high distress. Consumers fulfilling the 5-a-day recommendation had lower odds of being highly or moderately distressed than individuals consuming less fruit and vegetables.

In other words, more produce consumption, better mental health. This, the authors note, is in line with previous research.

As for the why, it may be the result of plant-based foods’ power to fight inflammation. As science is showing more and more, depression is an inflammatory condition. In fact, one study just published in Molecular Psychiatry suggests that fighting inflammation may help especially with persistent cases of depression.

Another factor may be the increased folate (a B vitamin) intake that comes from eating more fruit and veg. As the authors of the BMC Psychiatry study note,

Folate is a further substance in fruit and vegetables that has been shown to be linked to depression. A meta-analysis of observational studies showed significant inverse associations of folate status with depression. The included studies were mostly cross-sectional, but the result was also supported by one cohort study. The latter study hypothesized that folate increases methylation processes and the regulation of neurotransmitters, such as serotonin which, in turn, is associated with a lower risk of depression.

More, a healthful diet supports brain health, cellular regeneration and a healthy balance of gut flora. Research continues to show that the last is linked closely to mental health.

Interestingly, a study published earlier this year in the Journal of Indian Society of Periodontology found “a direct correlation between the severity of periodontal disease and the severity of depression in patients.”

Depression is associated with negligent oral health care and another mechanism proposed disturbance in the hypothalamic-pituitary axis system and hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid system, which can affect the periodontal status by affecting the immune system.

Of course, just as diet is only one part of oral health, it’s also just one part of the complicated mental health landscape. As Dr. Felice N. Jacka noted in a recent interview with BMC Psychiatry, many triggers can prompt depression and other mental health disorders.

It is important that we take a life course approach to resilience. One of the challenges is that so many of the environmental factors that impinge on the risks for mental disorders happen outside of the mental health sector. Thus it really does need a whole population approach. We need to protect people from vulnerability risk factors, such as child abuse and neglect, poverty, bullying, workplace stress, and social isolation, and target these by building resilience through education, social and emotional learning, and community-based interventions… Improving physical health and health behaviours, such as diet, physical activity and smoking, is really important.

But even if it is only a small part, diet should be taken seriously as it affects every aspect of your health, from your head to your toes. For though your health can, in theory, be segmented into categories, in reality, everything is connected.

Image by Joan Nova