bite my words

Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


Leave a comment

Asparagus: Cancer cure?

url

As much as I dislike facebook, I must admit, it sometimes comes in handy for blog fodder. For instance, the post about asparagus that someone in my timeline recently shared. Now, I don’t want to discourage anyone from eating asparagus. Asparagus is both amazingly delicious and extremely nutritious. However, I feel compelled to refute some of the erroneous information in the post.

The post begins:

Subject: Asparagus DO NOT FAIL TO READ THIS AND SEND TO YOUR FAMILY &FRIENDS When I was in the USN, I was stationed in Key West, FL. I worked at the clin…ic at Naval Air Station on Big Coppitt Key just a few miles north of Key West.

Ever notice how the ridiculous posts on FB claiming to provide miracle cures and medical information always include extraneous details about the poster? I mean, who cares if you were in the navy and where you were stationed? This somehow lends credibility to your claims to have knowledge about nutrition and science? Apparently some people must think so, as I can think of no other reason why people continue to share these posts. Anyway…

The author claimed that some old man (a retired biochemist) told him that the reason why asparagus makes your pee smell is because it “is detoxifying your body of harmful chemicals!!!”. Sure glad that biochemist is retired! The real reason that your pee smells is because your body is breaking down sulfurous amino acids in the asparagus and excreting them in your urine. No food has the power to rid your body of harmful chemicals. Sorry.

The post then goes on to provide “evidence”, via four “cases”, that asparagus can cure cancer. The reason why asparagus can do this is alleged to be the presence of “histones“. These are alkaline proteins. Some histones may, in fact, be promising in the development of a cure for cancer. Regardless, while asparagus does contain histones, so do other foods such as all cruciferous vegetables, nuts, seeds, wheat, egg yolks, milk, garlic, etc.

Asparagus is undoubtedly a healthy food choice. Consumption of it, and other vegetables, and other whole foods, may reduce your risk of developing cancer. However, it’s giving false hope to people to tell them that they can cure their existing cancer by drinking two tablespoons of asparagus puree daily. Eat lots of vegetables, eat a variety of them. Don’t look to anyone food to save your life.


Leave a comment

Cancer-killing celery

imgres

I was reading this article touting the benefits of celery for “fighting off pancreatic cancer” and naturally I wondered about the veracity of this news. I managed to get my hands (well, eyes) on a copy of the research on which the news article was based. It seems that very little of the news article was based on the actual research.

The study looked at the effect of two flavonoids: Apigenin (Api) and Luteolin (Lut) on the proliferation of pancreatic cancer cells in petri-dishes. While the news article states that eating plenty of celery can prevent cancer, the authors were examining the effects of the flavonoids on existing cancer cells so there’s not really cause to say that eating foods containing these substances will actually prevent cancer (although, eating a rainbow of fruits and vegetables is certainly advisable to obtain many health benefits). That being said, the authors found that both Api and Lut inhibited growth and proliferation of tumor cells. The greatest benefit was seen when the flavonoids were administered to the cancer cells 24 hours prior to treatment with a chemotherapy. When the flavonoids were administered at the same time as the chemotherapy there was actually a decrease in effectiveness of the treatments.

The authors do not mention celery until the very end of the journal article. In the conclusion they state that:

Api is abundantly present in oranges, grapefruit, parsley,
onions, wheat sprouts and chamomile tea. 

Rich sources of Lut include apple skins, parsley, celery, broccoli, onion leaves, carrots, peppers, cabbages and chrysanthemum
flowers.

It’s hard to say how much celery (or other fruits and vegetables) you would have to eat to get an effective dose of Luteolin.

While this research does provide some hope that there may be cancer-fighting properties to every-day vegetables and fruits it doesn’t mean that you should run out and eat bushels of celery to ward-off pancreatic cancer. For now, eat at least five servings of vegetables and fruits every day and try to consume a wide variety.

 


2 Comments

Another example of why nutrition advice should come from nutrition professionals

photo (1)

photo (2)

A friend, and fellow dietitian, sent me the above screenshots. They were posted by a personal trainer. Of course it’s great to get people eating more vegetables and by no means do I want to discourage that. However, this is yet another example of why nutrition advice is best left to nutrition professionals.

Let’s start with the onions. High in fibre? It’s true, sort-of. Once cup of chopped onion contains a respectable 3 grams of fibre. Not exactly “high” but a “good source”. But… Who among us eats an entire cup of onion in a sitting? Certainly not I. At most, I would say I would have a couple of tablespoons. That brings the total fibre down to a whopping 0 grams. Oops. As for the other claims… Anyone telling you something is “great for fat loss” is probably full of it. No one food promotes fat loss. Following a healthy, adequate calorie diet, and healthy active lifestyle will promote fat loss (should you need to lose fat). Glutathione to reduce stress? Not according to WebMD. And just to be annoying, how on earth could eating onions reduce stress??? Will they ensure you don’t lose loved ones, keep your job, prevent moving? I think he must mean that they reduce the effect of stress on your body. Regardless, I’m pretty sure he’s mistaken. EWG did find pesticide residue on onions, however, they were ranked 50th (out of 51) so I’ll let him have that one; they are low in pesticides. Finally, onions do contain the prebiotic inulin. But, the onions aren’t what provide the benefits listed, the probiotics that use the prebiotics to grow are what provide the benefits. Both pre- and pro-biotics are needed to maintain a healthy digestive system.

As for the claim that grains don’t contain as much fibre as “you think” and therefore, you should consume the vegetables listed to obtain your fibre. Let’s compare: asparagus, cooked 1/2 cup = 2 grams of fibre, 1 cup of raw green pepper = 3 g fibre, 1 cup of raw broccoli = 2 g fibre, 1 cup of raw green cabbage = 2 g fibre, 1 cup of raw cauliflower = 3 g fibre, 1 cup of cucumber (with peel) raw = 0 grams of fibre, 1 cup of romaine lettuce = 0 g of fibre, 1 cup of raw mushrooms = 1 g fibre, 1 cup of raw spinach = 1 g fibre, 1 cup of raw zucchini = 0 grams of fibre. Now for the grains: 1 cup of steel-cut oats = 5 grams of fibre, one slice of multigrain bread = 2 g fibre, 1/2 cup of cooked quinoa = 2.5 g fibre, 1/2 cup of brown rice cooked = 2 g fibre, 3/4 cup of bran flakes = 5 g fibre…. I’d also like to mention that 1/2 cup of black beans contains 7.5 grams of fibre! As you can see, yes some of these vegetables contain fibre. However, grains also contain fibre, generally more than the vegetables. The moral here: include a variety of foods, including grains and vegetables, in your diet to meet all of your nutrient needs. Oh, and don’t take nutrition advice from those without a nutrition education.


Leave a comment

How to get children to eat more vegetables

A young boy eats a carrot at a collapsed

Have you ever struggled with getting children to eat their vegetables. If you’re a parent, you more than likely have. Parents, parents to be, grandparents, childcare providers, teachers, dietitians, etc. might be interested in learning about a recent study that took a slightly different approach, than the norm,  to getting children to eat their vegetables.

You’ve probably heard that it can take up to 20 separate attempts to get a child to eat a new food. so far the advice is usually just “keep trying”. I think that it’s also important to get children involved in food preparation whenever possible as their far more inclined to eat something that they had a hand in making. This study looked at using a conceptual framework to get children to eat more vegetables. The researchers hypothesized that children are often more intelligent than we give them credit for and, perhaps, simply telling them to eat their vegetables “because they’re good for them” isn’t good enough. The researchers surmised that if children are taught more specific nutrition information that they’ll be more inclined to eat their vegetables. They had some teachers read nutrition books to their students during snack time. Other teachers conducted snack time as per usual. After about three months it was found that not only did the children being provided with the nutrition education have greater nutrition knowledge than the students who were not provided with the education, they also were voluntarily consuming more than twice as many vegetables as when they started the experiment (the control group did not see a significant change in vegetable consumption).

Of course, we don’t know if vegetable consumption changed outside of snack time. Nor do we know if these dietary changes will be sustained. Even so, it’s worth considering teaching children more about food and nutrition, especially if a benefit may be consumption of more vegetables.


Leave a comment

Dead alive: the future of vegetables

edipeel-organic-edible-coating-stops-fruit-and-vegetables-spoiling_1

Just in case you missed hearing about this on the news I wanted to share this really neat research on vegetables with you.

I blogged before about spinach that’s exposed to light in the grocery store having more nutrients than spinach that’s at the back of the pile. Well, this research expands upon that finding showing that many plants maintain circadian rhythms after being harvested. Thus, continuing to expose them to light and dark cycles helps them to continue to improve their nutrient content (or at least not lose nutrients during shipping and storage) and may also provide increased protection against pests.

Hey Kenmore et al start designing those new and improved refrigerators!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,001 other followers