Organic – Is It Really Worth It?

Organic – Is It Really Worth It?

What Actually IS Organic?

We’ve all heard the term ‘organic’, and seen its label on produce and food products.

The short definition of organic reads: “(of food or farming methods) produced or involving production without the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or other artificial chemicals.”

According to the Victorian (Australian) government’s Better Health Channel:

  • Organic farming is the production of food without the use of synthetic chemicals or genetically modified components.
  • Organic foods are not necessarily completely chemical free, but the pesticide residues will be considerably lower than those found in produce manufactured with synthetic chemicals.
  • Organic farming is better for the environment and more sustainable

Are Organic Foods Chemical-free?

Short answer: no.

The Better Health Channel tells us that Organic food “may be grown on land not previously used for organic food production and, therefore, might contain chemical residues. However, the pesticide residues in organic food are considerably lower than those found in foods produced with synthetic chemicals.”

Organic Food Certification

Organic farms can only be certified after they have been following organic farming principles for 3 years. The word ‘organic’ is not regulated in Australia. Australian domestic organic standards are not mandated, and certification is voluntary so it’s important to buy food from certified growers.

Don’t be fooled by the words ‘organic’, ‘natural’ or ‘chemical-free’ if the proper certification labelling from one of the seven Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) accredited certifying organisations is not displayed.

Why is Organic More Expensive?

Organic food is usually more expensive than conventionally-produced food. This is because:

  • Organic farming usually operates on a smaller scale
  • Supply and demand for organic food is relatively lower than that of conventional food – as demand for organic food increases, the costs of production, processing, distribution and marketing will decrease
  • Production of organic food is more labour intensive
  • Organic farmers keep their crops natural and use compost and animal manure, which is more expensive to ship
  • Without herbicides, pesticides and other chemicals, organic crop yields are typically smaller.
  • Acquiring organic certification can be expensive and organic farmers must pay an annual inspection/certification fee
  • Organic crops take longer to grow as they don’t employ the use of growth hormones and their crops are not genetically modified.

US Organic Certification

According to the US organic.org website, “Before a product can be labelled “organic,” a Government-approved certifier inspects the farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer is following all the rules necessary to meet USDA organic standards. Companies that handle or process organic food before it gets to your local supermarket or restaurant must be certified, too.”

The USDA has identified for three categories of labelling organic products:

  1. 100% Organic: Made with 100% organic ingredients
  2. Organic: Made with at least 95% organic ingredients
  3. Made With Organic Ingredients: Made with a minimum of 70% organic ingredients with strict restrictions on the remaining 30% including no GMOs (genetically modified organisms)

Products with less than 70% organic ingredients may list organically produced ingredients on the side panel of the package, but may not make any organic claims on the front of the package.

Is Organic Really Worth The Cost?

Most vegans and vegetarians are typically big supporters of organic farming. Intuitively, this seems like the right thing to promote. The question arises then, should we be focusing not only on encouraging people to eat more vegetables, fruit, and healthy, natural plant foods, but also on buying (often more expensive) organic produce as well?

Dr Michael Greger of Nutrition Facts addressed this question in a series of videos.

Are Organic Foods more Nutritious?

Hundreds of studies comparing organic to conventional produce didn’t find significant differences for most of the traditional nutrients like vitamins and minerals. The conclusion was there is no strong evidence to support the perception that organically produced foods are more nutritious. The studies, did, however, find higher levels of phenolic phytonutrients, which are cancer-protective anti-oxidants. It could be argued, though, that simply by purchasing an extra serve of conventional produce (usually cheaper than organic); the same levels of phenolic phytonutrients could be obtained for around the same cost.

Are Organic Foods Safer?

As Dr Greger puts it, “…organic foods may not have more nutrients per dollar, [but] consumption of organic foods may reduce exposure to pesticide residues and antibiotic-resistant bacteria”.

Studies have shown that although the risk of consuming food poisoning bacteria was the same with organic or conventional meat, exposure to multi-drug resistant bacteria, resistant to multiple classes of antibiotics was lower with the organic meat.

What Of Pesticide Residue On Plant Foods?

According to Dr Greger, “There is a large body of evidence on the relation between exposure to pesticides and elevated rate of chronic diseases such as different types of cancers, diabetes, neurodegenerative disorders like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and ALS, as well as birth defects and reproductive disorders, but they’re talking about people who live or work around pesticides.”

Measuring the levels of pesticide residue running through the bodies of both children and adults after alternating between a predominantly organic and conventional diet, found that “eating organic provides a dramatic and immediate protective effect against exposures to pesticides commonly used in agricultural production”.

These dietary studies showed that during the week with mostly organic consumption, pesticide exposure was significantly reduced – by a nearly 90% drop in exposure.

Dr Greger concluded, “Consumption of organic foods provides protection against pesticides”.

However, does protection against pesticides mean protection against disease? Currently, we don’t have the studies to prove this either way. In the meantime, consumption of organic food is a logical precaution.

vegetables

Are Organic Foods Healthier?

As Dr Greger observes in this video report, “by eating organic we can reduce our exposure to pesticides, but it remains unclear whether such a reduction in exposure is clinically relevant”.

In some studies, organic consumers report being significantly healthier than conventional consumers. However, they also tend to eat more plant foods, less soda and less alcohol, processed meat or milk, and just eat healthier in general. No wonder they feel much better!

Dr Greger notes that the “Million Women Study in the UK was the first to examine the association between the consumption of organic food and subsequent risk of cancer. The only significant risk reduction they found, though, was for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma”.

Certainly, studies have shown that higher levels of pesticides have been linked to higher incidence of conditions including ADHD, testicular cancer and birth defects. It is unclear, though, whether the increased pesticide levels were due to other factors such as higher consumption of animal products and environmental exposure by farm workers.

To date, there haven’t been, according Dr Greger, any ‘interventional trials’, comparing people raised on organic diets compared to those raised on conventional diets – except for, as Dr Greger drolly observes, studies done on fruit flies!

woman with veggies

Organic Food Benefits – Overrated or Underrated?

For 25 years pesticides have been classed as probable carcinogens, potentially damaging our DNA, genes or chromosomes. Most of the damage, however, seems to be done to the farm workers in close contact with these chemicals. Exposure to pesticide residue on produce is at levels well below acceptable limits.

There is still scientific controversy about the safety of pesticide levels, even under the safe limit. Cadmium levels, about half that in organic produce, is another highly toxic heavy metal that accumulates in the body and may be linked to phosphate fertilisers used in conventional crops.

On the flip side, the ‘organic’ food market has grown substantially over the years, and isn’t always a guarantee of health. People may falsely judge organic Oreo cookies, for example, as having less calories than regular Oreos, and believe there is less need for exercise when consuming these ‘organic’ junk foods.

People tend to overestimate the nutritional benefits of organic food, and overestimate the risk of pesticides. In the US they erroneously believe that as many people die from pesticides residues on conventional foods as die from motor vehicle accidents. Some buyers of organic food might think that eating conventional produce is almost as bad as smoking a pack of cigarettes! The danger of this type of thinking is that it could lead to an overall decrease in fruit and vegetable consumption.

According to a study cited by Dr Greger, if half the US population increased their fruit and vegetable consumption by just one serving a day, an estimated 20,000 cancer cases might be avoided each year. Even if you allow for an additional 10 cases of cancer caused by the pesticide residue ingested due to the extra fruit and vegetable consumption; that represents potentially 19,990 fewer cases of cancer each year!

I’ll leave the last word on this subject to Dr Greger:

“We get a tremendous benefit from eating conventional fruits and vegetables that far outweighs whatever tiny bump in risk from the pesticides, but hey, why accept any risk at all when you can choose organic? I agree, but we should never let concern about pesticides stop us from stuffing our face with as many fruits and vegetables as possible”.

What do you think? Do you make a point of always buying organic, or is it is something you occasionally do, depending on price and convenience? Let me know in the comments below.

Tom Perry

The Surprising Health Benefits of Beans You Need to Know

The Surprising Health Benefits of Beans You Need to Know

Beans Means Health

red lentilsBeans, pulses and legumes have had a really bad rap over the years. The popular opinion of these foods has traditionally ranged from ‘fart-food’ to bland, unappetising stodge favoured by the ‘alternative lifestyle’ brigade, or as cheap, last resort food of the destitute. This is a great shame, because beans are actually packed with texture and flavour, and they are powerhouses of nutrition. Everyone should, as far as possible, eat beans every day.

Does anyone remember the infamous scene in Mel Brook’s Western-spoof ‘Blazing Saddles’, where the cowboys sit around the camp fire, taking turns passing gas after scoffing pans of beans? Or the anarchic 1980’s English black-comedy series ‘The Young Ones’, where the dour hippy character Neil regularly exhorts his house-mates (without success) to eat his revolting-looking lentil stew?

So what’s the big deal about beans, you might wonder?

Beans, pulses, or legumes are an excellent source of:

  • Soluble fibre
  • Antioxidants
  • Protein
  • Complex carbohydrates
  • Vitamins and minerals such as: copper, folate, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, potassium and zinc.

Beans are low in fat with a low glycaemic index. They also help you to lose weight, lower cholesterol and triglycerides. Beans are cheap, filling, tasty, and incredibly versatile. If any food deserves the over-used title of ‘super-food’, it would have to be beans!

Black Beans Vs Beef (per 100 grams) – source: Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine

  • Black Beans: 130 calories  | Beef: 270 calories
  • Black Beans: Total fat: 0 grams | Beef: 18 grams
  • Black Beans: Saturated fat: 0 grams | Beef: 7 grams
  • Black Beans: Cholesterol: 0 grams | Beef: 80 grams
  • Black Beans: Fibre: 8 grams | Beef: 0 grams
  • Black Beans: Iron: 2.9 micrograms | Beef: 2.3 micrograms

The Year of the Pulse

International Year of PulsesIt wasn’t well publicised, but the United Nations declared 2016 as the International Year of Pulses. All around the world people were encouraged to take the ‘Pulse Pledge’, organise ‘Pulse Feasts’ and share their commitment to consuming pulses on social media and YouTube.

As it says on the Pulse Australia website, pulses (including beans) are excellent sources of carbohydrate and protein. For example, chickpeas contain up to 24% protein, and are richer in phosphorus and calcium than other pulses.

Faba (Fava) beans and broad beans are also good sources of carbohydrate and protein, low in fats, and having a crude protein content ranging from 24 to 31%.

Let Them Eat Lentils

let them eat lentils

Far from being ‘new-age’ fare for hippies, lentils are an ancient human food, appearing around 9,500 to 13,000 years ago. You might have seen green or red lentils, but did you know there are about 14 different types?

Lentils have the second-highest ratio of protein to calorie of any legume. They are rich sources of nutrients including folate, thiamine, phosphorus, iron, zinc and fibre.

Lentils are widely used throughout South Asia, the Mediterranean regions and West Asia. Lentils feature in the national dishes of many countries, including Iran, Ethiopia, Egypt, India and Pakistan. In Italy and Hungary, eating lentils on New Year’s Eve traditionally symbolizes the hope for a prosperous new year, most likely because of their round, coin-like form.

According Dr Michael Greger, of Nutrition Facts, and author of ‘How Not To Die’, “Legumes may be the most important predictor of survival in older people from around the globe”.

In an article by Dr Greger he reports that “researchers from different institutions looked at five different cohorts in Japan, Sweden, Greece, and Australia. Of all the food factors they looked at, only one was associated with a longer lifespan across the board: legume intake. Whether it was the Japanese eating their soy, the Swedes eating their brown beans and peas, or those in the Mediterranean eating lentils, chickpeas, and white beans, legume intake was associated with an increased lifespan.”

As for the common concern about beans and legumes increasing farts, Dr Greger says people’s concerns about excessive flatulence from eating beans may be exaggerated. He refers to a recent study, (profiled in his video Increased Lifespan from Beans) which involved adding a half-cup of beans every day to people’s diets for months.  While the vast majority of people in the study experienced no symptoms at all, only a few did report increased flatulence. Even among the small percentage that were affected, 70% or more of the participants felt that flatulence dissipated by the second or third week of bean consumption. So the message is keep eating beans, and your body will gradually get used to it.

Health Benefits of Eating Beans and Legumes

  • Beans can prevent heart disease
  • Beans can fight cancer
  • Beans can lower cholesterol
  • Beans can help you lose weight
  • Beans can reduce risk of diabetes
  • Beans can prevent constipation
  • Beans are a great source of protein, complex carbohydrates, fibre, vitamins and minerals

Medical doctor and nutrition expert Dr Joel Fuhrman calls beans “the ideal carbohydrate”. Dr Fuhrman advises that beans protect against colon cancer and diabetes, stabilize blood sugar and help you feel full – assisting with weight loss:

“Since beans are high-nutrient, high-fibre, and low-calorie, you can eat them in large quantities without the danger of weight gain. The high fibre and resistant starch content of beans also makes them very satiating, allowing you to feel full longer and stave off food cravings; these properties make beans an effective weight loss tool. Those who regularly eat beans have greater intakes of minerals and fibre, have lower blood pressure, and are less likely to be overweight than those that don’t consume beans.” – Dr Joel Furhman

Soy Beans – Protein Powerhouse

super soySoy beans are native to China, where they have been cultivated for over 13,000 years. The ancient Chinese regarded soy beans as a necessity for life. Soy beans are now the most widely grown and utilised legume worldwide, mainly as a result of being used (in GMO form) for feeding animals bred for human consumption (a shocking waste of land, water, food and resources).

soy beansIt’s important to remember that, despite the controversy about eating soy, soy beans are an extremely nutritious member of the legume family.

Soy beans have the distinction of having the highest percentage of protein of any bean, and they have all necessary amino acids for humans. In other words, soy beans contain ‘complete protein’, that is as usable as protein found in meat and eggs.

According to the Victorian Government’s (Australia) ‘Better Health Channel’ soy beans are a good source of antioxidants, including phytoestrogens such as isoflavones. There is evidence to suggest that that a soy-rich diet helps reduce menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes, because the phytoestrogens act like a mild form of hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Reductions in the rate of hot flushes associated with soy consumption vary from 1.9 % to 45 %.

A meta-analysis of 41 clinical trials found that 20 g to 61 g of soy protein (found in two to three serves of soy products) can significantly reduce total blood cholesterol levels, LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and triglycerides.

Other possible health benefits of whole soy foods include:

  • lowered blood pressure
  • improvements to blood vessels, such as greater elasticity of artery walls
  • reduced risk of osteoporosis
  • protection against various cancers, including those of the breast, colon, prostate and skin
  • management of endometriosis
  • anti-inflammatory effects.

As Dr Neal Barnard of PCRM advises, consumption of simple soy products, such as tofu, tempeh, edamame, or miso, are probably better choices than highly refined soy foods.

Different bean varieties (click on the hyperlinks for more information):

Eat Beans – Not Beings!

eat beans not beings

Eat at least half a cup to a whole cup of beans every day – you can add a beans to your salads; or eat baked beans (navy beans) on wholemeal toast; make bean burgers, a bean loaf, or mix beans into your soup, stew or casserole. You can also consume beans as bean salsa, or bean dip.

Enjoy your fill of healthy, life-sustaining beans, and bean appetite!

Tom Perry

 

Why Low-Carb Diets Can Do You Harm

Why Low-Carb Diets Can Do You Harm

The Great ‘Low-Carb’ Con

What if I offered you a piece of buttered white bread with a serving of french fries? Or, alternatively, a salad made with spinach, tomatoes, carrots, and kidney beans? Which one do you think would be healthier for you? The answer seems obvious, yet all these foods are carbohydrates or ‘carbs’.

As dietitian and plant-based nutrition expert Jeff Novick, says:

“I can’t think of anything that creates more confusion and is more misunderstood than carbohydrates.”

sardinesLow-carb fad diets such as Atkins and Paleo have gained a lot of attention (and sales) from the general public, hungry for solutions to our ever-growing obesity problem. The basic premise is the same – cut right down on carbohydrate foods such as bread, potatoes, beans, pasta, even fruit, and focus mainly on animal protein and fat, with some vegetables thrown in.

The idea with these diets seems to be that if you fill up on protein-rich foods such as eggs and meat, you won’t crave the foods such as bread, pastries and sweets that supposedly make you fat.

Certainly there are reports of some people losing weight on these diets, and then extolling their virtues. On the flip side, anything to do with grains, legumes and even soybean products have been demonized as causing weight gain, high cholesterol, and intolerance’s (particularly gluten). This anti-grain anti-legume stance appears to me to be a vague attempt to revert back to a mystical, mythical past where he-men with spears and six-packs hunted down mastodons with Amazonian women applauding from the sidelines. The problem is, it’s all a giant con.

The fact that the vast majority of animals bred and killed for food are genetically mutated, artificially inseminated, and in many cases housed in filthy, cruel and unnatural factory farms (a relatively recent development), doesn’t seem to concern people who are happy to reject established grain crops that have been cultivated and consumed for many thousands of years (long before anyone had heard of an ‘obesity epidemic’).

Why You Should Ditch Low-Carb/High Animal Fat and Protein Diets

1. Eating too much meat and animal fat is bad for humans, period. Excessive meat and egg consumption has been linked to a host of health problems, including some cancersheart diseasehigh cholesterol, and stroke.

  • Although most of us are omnivores, our teeth and digestive system are much closer to those of herbivorous animals. Too much meat in our system, along with not enough fibre, clogs up and causes a toxic reaction, which simply does not happen with true carnivores like cats or dogs, with their much shorter digestive tract and strong stomach acid. Saturated fats and cholesterol from animal products further clog our arteries and lead to atherosclerosis, heart disease and stroke.
  • A study reported by ABC News in March 2014 showed that consumption of animal-based protein is linked to an increased risk of early death for people in their 50s and early 60s. The study, published in the journal Cell Metabolism, found that more than 6,000 American adults between the ages of 50 and 65 with diets high in animal protein were 74 percent more likely to meet an untimely end than those who consumed less animal protein or got their protein from non-animal sources. For deaths due to cancer, the risk was four times higher. Eating plant-based proteins like nuts and beans seemed to reverse the unhealthy trend.

According to Dr Joel Fuhrman, “Animal protein also elevates IGF-1, which is not only associated with cancer, but cardiovascular disease as well. High-protein, low-carbohydrate diets have now been linked to increased risk of cardiovascular disease and premature death.”

Plant-food nutrition expert and guru Dr T. Colin Campbell, in his book ’The Low Carb Fraud‘, outlines some of the unsavoury side-effects of a low-carb diet: more headaches, bad breath, constipation, and muscle cramps. Even more alarming was a report on the low-carb diet and health, referred to by Dr Campbell in his book, which was a summary of 17 studies published in January 2013 involving 272,216 subjects. According to this report a low-carb diet showed a statistically significant increase in total deaths.

2. Avoiding fruit, vegetables, whole grains and legumes means you are less able to avoid disease and premature death.

A study presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress and reported by the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicinedaily intake of fruit may decrease the risk of heart disease by as much as 40 percent. To quote from the PCRM News site, researchers followed 451,681 participants for seven years and found that in addition to reducing the risk of heart disease, daily fruit consumption reduced the risk of dying from heart disease and stroke by 27 percent and 40 percent, respectively, compared with less than daily fruit consumption.

  • Another study published online in the European Journal of Nutrition found that reducing dietary fat while increasing carbohydrate intake is best for people with type 2 diabetes. Researchers followed the diets of 1,785 type 2 diabetes patients as part of the TOSCA.IT Study, and found that an increase from less than 45 percent to 60 percent or more in complex carbohydrate intake lowered all levels of triglycerides, LDL cholesterol, and HbA1c. They also found that increasing fibre and lowering added sugar intakes also had positive effects on cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
  • A meta-analysis published in the American Journal of Cardiology and reported by PCRM found that adding whole grains to your diet may protect against our biggest killer, heart disease. Researchers summarized results from 18 studies that included 400,492 total participants, of which 14,427 had diagnosed coronary heart disease. The studies showed that people who ate the most whole grains experienced a lower risk for heart disease when compared to those who consumed the least.

3. High carb whole plant food diets are best for weight loss.

A diet high in unrefined carbohydrates is best for weight lossVegetables, whole fruits, beans, and whole grains provide a huge variety of tastes, textures, and natural fibre packed with life-sustaining nutrients. Studies show that reducing fat and eating whole plant foods is better for boosting your metabolism and losing weight than cutting carbs.

  • Good carbohydrates include nutrient-rich, naturally low-calorie vegetables and fruit, which, due to their high fibre, high-water content, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phyto-chemicals, should form the bulk of your caloric intake.

Good Carbs vs Bad Carbs

burgerBy way of definition, ‘bad carbs’ are made from highly processed ingredients, such as refined white flour and sugar. Think donuts, muffins, cookies and cakes. They are made from flour with much of the fibre and goodness stripped out, and often mixed with loads of animal fats in the form of butter, milk and eggs. It’s unlikely that anyone would promote these types of foods as appropriate for healthy weight loss, let alone a healthy diet.

‘Good carbs’, on the other hand, refer to relatively unrefined or whole foods, foods such vegetables, beans, chickpeas, fresh fruit, quinoa, buckwheat, barley, and oats. This list would also include wholemeal bread, wholemeal pasta and brown rice. For good carbs think of foods close to, or within their natural state, and naturally high in fibre, and low in fat and sugar.

The truth is that rather than avoid carbs, we should base our diet on whole-food carbohydrates. These provide a host of health benefits, as well as being a major source of energy. Based on my research, medical advice and experience, I advocate a whole-food plant-based diet, following classic 80-20 principles. By that I mean, basing your diet roughly on 70-80% good, high-fibre carbohydrates, including fresh vegetables and fruit, beans, legumes, whole grains, and 20% fats and plant protein.

vegetables

Dr Campbell summarizes the benefits of the WFPB – Whole Foods Plant Based – diet, which provides “an exceptionally rich bonanza of anti-oxidants, complex carbohydrates, and optimum intakes of fat, protein, vitamins, and minerals; many of which contribute to disease prevention.”

Carbohydrates, available almost exclusively from plants, provide the body with the most efficient form of energy, and is the only source of fuel for the brain. Whole-food carbs include the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet: vegetables, fruit, beans, whole grains, seeds and nuts. Foods that all of us should base our diet on.

Tom Perry

Soy-spiracy

Soy-spiracy

Soy Bad…Soy Good?

So Good soy milkI was a bit taken aback recently when I went to buy a litre of soy milk. The lady serving me commented “oh, I heard that stuff is bad for you!”

Wait,…what? Who would think it’s not only ok, but almost their duty to warn a perfect stranger – about to buy one of their shop’s goods – about the dangers of soy! Anyway, I smiled and told her that I’d drunk this ‘stuff’ for years (since about 1983 for the record!) and it was perfectly healthy.

Apart from the dubious practice of making negative comments about a customer’s product choices, this demonstrated to me the power of propaganda against certain plant foods. And yet, I can’t really blame her. It seems that on a regular basis there’s some crack-pot article or online diatribe about the many ‘dangers’ of the humble soybean.

Recently, on some website called ‘Real Farmacy’ (whatever that means!) they posted an article with the hyperbolic title of ‘This “healthy” food can cause Brain Damage and Breast Cancer- You Should stop eating it IMMEDIATELY‘ – by long-time anti-soy campaigner Dr Mercola.

To summarize, some of the allegations listed were that:

  • Over 80% of soy is genetically modified (while that is true, most commercial soymilk brands state ‘GM free’ on their cartons and some brands are also certified organic);
  • The isoflavones in soy cause breast cancer (according to nutrition expert Dr Joel Fuhrman, “…it appears that isoflavones have a number of anti-cancer effects that are unrelated to their ability to bind the estrogen receptor”)
  • Plant estrogens found in soy, called phytoestrogens, can lead to infertility and  breast cancer in women (again, Dr Fuhrman advises: “Overall, the research suggests that soy intake helps to protect against initial breast cancer development (especially postmenopausal breast cancer), breast cancer recurrence, and breast cancer mortality.”)

Other articles against soy make all sorts of sensationalist claims, and would have the nutritious soybean and its food derivatives cast as a toxic villain of international conspiracy – or ‘soy-spiracy’ – proportions.

Some of the other main claims against soy are that:

  • Soy causes malnutrition and digestive distress
  • Soy increases the risk of cancer and heart disease
  • Soy consumption is linked with immune system breakdown, thyroid dysfunction, cognitive decline, reproductive disorders and infertility.

Soy Doesn’t Stop You Having Babies

baby boyThe last claim of soy causing infertility has no basis in reality. I have been a vegetarian – and now vegan – for 35 years, and successfully produced 4 children. A vegan brother of mine, another big soy consumer, has 3 big healthy boys. None of the vegetarian or vegan men I know of or have heard of have experienced any fertility problems. That is not to say it has never happened, but there is not a shred of evidence to show that men (or women) who consume high levels of soy have greater fertility problems, on average, than the rest of the population. Indeed, the huge populations of big soy consumers in Asian countries such as China and Japan would suggest this claim is more than a little fanciful!

Soy Is Safe For Kids

The anti-soy lobby’s claim (led by Joseph Mercola) that we are damaging our children by feeding them soy is not supported by the evidence.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, in their policy statement on Use of Soy Protein-Based Formulas in Infant Feeding, states that:

“in term infants whose nutritional needs are not being met from maternal breast milk or cow milk-based formulas, isolated soy protein-based formulas are safe and effective alternatives to provide appropriate nutrition for normal growth and development.”

A 2005 study compared the nutritional status and growth of 168 infants who were allergic to cow’s milk and were fed either soya-based infant formula or hydrolyzed whey formula. In both groups, nutrient intake and growth were ‘within reference values’ – in other words, they grew normally (Seppo et al., 2005).

All four of my children had soy formula as babies, and still enjoy soy milk on a regular, daily basis. All are healthy and developmentally normal; in fact taller than average for their age.

Soy Protects Against Cancer

Most evidence suggests that soy protects against many types of cancer, rather than increases the risk of it. Consider these facts:

  • The average Japanese person consumes 50-80 grams of soy food daily
  • The average American eats 5 grams of soy a day
  • Japanese people have much lower rates of colon and lung cancer than Americans
  • Japan has the lowest rate of death from heart disease for men in the world, and the second lowest for women
  • American women are 5 times more likely to die from breast cancer than Japanese women
  • American men are 5 times more likely to die from prostate cancer than Japanese men

As noted in an online article by Neal Barnard M.D, Adjunct Associate Professor of Medicine at the George Washington University School of Medicine and President of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington, DC:

“…regular consumption of at least a modest amount of soy products cut the risk of recurrence [of breast cancer] by 25 percent.”

Dr Joel Fuhrman advises that:

“…a 2009 meta-analysis of studies on soy and prostate cancer found that higher soy intake was associated with a 26% reduction in risk.”….and also: “soy foods are not only associated with decreased risk of hormonal cancers, but also lung, stomach, and colorectal cancers.”

Dr Michael Greger, the plant-based nutrition expert, says that:

“…one study showed regular consumption of just one cup of soy milk daily lowered overall mortality among breast cancer patients by up to 38%.”

Soy Good For You

As Dr Barnard explains, studies show that soy protein is “highly digestible”.

Dr Barnard also says that soy foods “do not cause thyroid problems in people with normal functioning thyroids”, and that, despite the presence of some phytates in soy, studies show that “calcium [in soy products] is absorbed as well as calcium from cow’s milk.”

The good news is that tests have shown that soybean protein is equivalent in quality to protein found in beef, milk and egg white. Soybeans are packed with iron, zinc and calcium; are high in fibre; low in saturated fat and contain no cholesterol.  Their polyunsaturated and omega 3 fats help lower blood cholesterol and prevent blood clotting.

Want more proof of the health benefits of soybeans?

The Truth About Soy’s Health Benefits

The Australian state of Victoria government’s Better Health Channel (with information produced in consultation with and approved by Deakin University here in Melbourne) states that:

“Soybeans are members of the pea (legume) family of vegetables…and contain hormone-like substances called phytoestrogens that mimic the action of the hormone oestrogen. The health benefits of soy for menopausal women could include fewer hot flushes, protection from coronary heart disease (CHD) and lowered risk of osteoporosis.

This website lists all the other health benefits of soybeans:

  • high in fibre
  • high in protein
  • low in saturated fat
  • cholesterol free
  • lactose free
  • a good source of omega-3 fatty acids
  • a source of antioxidants
  • high in phytoestrogens.

tofuThe incredibly versatile soybean can be consumed in a myriad of forms, including miso; soy breads and cereals; soy cheese; soy milk; soy flour; soy grits and soy flakes; soy meats; soy pasta; soy sauce; soy snacks; soy bean oil; tempeh; Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP); tofu, and tofu desserts such as soy ice-cream and yoghurt.

As always, for optimal health I recommend that you focus mainly on whole soybeans, or foods made with whole soybeans, and traditional soy foods with minimal processing, such as tempeh and tofu.

“The soybean contains all of the essential amino acids, as well as an impressive list of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). Micronutrients in rich supply in soy include: calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9, C and zinc. Fiber and omega-3 and 6 fatty acids are also present in soy.” – Holly Wilson, MD

Meat-Eaters Eat The Most Soy

With all the anti-soy propaganda around, perhaps the ultimate irony is that people who eat pork, beef, chicken, dairy and fish indirectly consume the most amount of commercially farmed soy.

According to online reports by the soy industry, “about 85% of the world’s soybeans are processed, or “crushed,” annually into soybean meal and oil.”  Nearly all (98%) that soybean meal is further processed into animal feed. Most of the oil (95%) is consumed as edible oil; the rest is used for “industrial products such as fatty acids, soaps and biodiesel.”

So, if you genuinely want to boycott the commercial, GM soy crop industry, you have only one choice: avoid consuming edible oils (better for your health anyway) and to go vegan!

Final Word On Soy

I urge you to pay no heed to the ‘chicken littles’ who would convince you the sky will fall down if you consume some tempeh, soymilk or tofu. I have happily consumed soy products for over 30 years, and as part of a healthy, balanced diet I, and my family, can heartily recommend them (just quietly, so can billions of other people all over the world, too!).

Bean appetit!

Tom Perry

Further References:

The Book of Tofu, by William Shurtleff and Akiko Aoyagi

All You Need to Know About Soy – Sanitarium Health Food Company

Soy Miracle, by Earl Mindell

The Simple Diet Switch to Help You Live Longer and Age Slower – Without Pills or Potions

The Simple Diet Switch to Help You Live Longer and Age Slower – Without Pills or Potions

The Dietary Fountain of Youth

man with spadeWant to live a long time with your health and mental faculties intact?

Want to keep your youthful looks and vigour well into middle, and even old age?

If you answered yes to these questions, you’re not alone. According to Transparency Market Research the anti-ageing market is estimated to be worth USD$191.7 Billion globally by 2019.

In our youth-obsessed culture it seems there are no shortage of products and procedures to help make you look and feel younger – at a price.

But what if you’re not interested in cosmetic surgery, pills or supplements, botox, and anti-ageing creams and potions? Is there a natural, inexpensive way to reverse the ageing process and stave off the modern diseases that kill so many of us?

The answer is yes, and the answer is diet-related.

According to the Plant-based Dietitian, Julieanna Hever, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition,

“One of the worst things you [can] do is assault your body every day with anti-nutrients: animal protein, saturated fat, hydrogenated fats, dietary cholesterol, and processed foods.”

Best-selling author of ‘Eat to Live‘ and other books, Joel Fuhrman, M.D., says:

“Scientists have discovered a link between animal protein and cancer in both laboratory and human epidemiological studies, and reducing one’s consumption of animal protein slows the ageing process.”

Plant Foods for Better Skin

girl with appleWhen we think of improving our skin, we usually think of moisturisers and other cosmetics. But rather than focus on what we put on our face, we should first consider what we put in our mouths.

Whole plant foods are excellent sources of vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants to help our skin have and maintain that youthful glow. Think foods such as walnuts, ground flaxseeds, avocado, brazil nuts, tomatoes, kale, spinach, bell peppers, blueberries, citrus fruits, broccoli, almonds, pomegranates, carrots, beans, sweet potato, lentils, watermelon, whole grains and pumpkin.

How Telomeres Relate to Aging

Each of us has 46 strands of DNA in each of our cells. These strands are coiled into chromosomes with a ‘cap’ at the end of the DNA strand which are called telomere. As we age these telomeres are shortened. When they die, we die.

“As scientists continue to examine the complex role of telomeres in the ageing process and the role they play in our health, we have come to understand that shorter telomere length is associated with biological ageing and lifestyle-related diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, and cancer, and premature death.” – Dr Joel Fuhrman

In a study by Dr Dean Ornish, it was discovered that a whole-foods, nutrient-dense, plant-based diet increased telomerase activity that is associated with slowing down the ageing of our cells.

“Telomerase is an enzyme that rebuilds the telomeres at the end of our cell’s DNA. Scientists believe that if we can slow down the loss of our DNA’s telomeres, we can slow down the aging process, allowing us to live longer.” – Dr Linda Carney

Foods that accelerate the ageing process and shorten telomeres:

  • Processed meats
  • Fish
  • Saturated fat (found primarily in meat, eggs and dairy products)

Foods that slow down the ageing process and boost the activities of telomeres:

  • Whole plant foods high in fibre and vitamins – fruits and vegetables (peppers, carrots, spinach, tomatoes, and root vegetables had the highest correlation to increased telomere length)
  • Regular exercise helps too!

The Dangers of IGF-1

As Dr Joel Fuhrman advises, IGF-1 (Insulin-like Growth Factor – one) is one of the body’s important growth promoters during fetal and childhood growth. However, later in life IGF-1 promotes the ageing process.

In adulthood, reduced IGF-1 levels are associated with reduced oxidative stress, decreased inflammation, enhanced insulin sensitivity and longer lifespan. On the flip-side, elevated IGF-1 levels have been shown to promote the growth, proliferation and spread of cancer cells, and are linked to increased risk of several cancers.

Foods that Raise IGF-1

  • Meat, including poultry and seafood
  • Dairy products
  • Refined carbohydrates, like white flour, white rice, and sugars

Plant Food Power Prevents Disease

root vegetablesOf the 63% of deaths worldwide due to chronic diseases and conditions in 2008, poor diets were a major contributory factor according to the World Health Organization.

The national or regional rates for main types of diseases such as certain cancers, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and diabetes type 2, are considerably lower where plant-based diets are more common, compared to areas where animal-based diets are more prevalent.

Why plant-based diets are good at preventing disease

Mounting medical evidence shows that a plant-based diet supports longevity and good health. A balanced, varied whole-food plant-based diet protects health because:

  • It’s high in fibre.
  • It provides adequate protein for growth and repair.
  • It’s high in antioxidants that are critical to neutralizing free radicals that cause ageing and chronic disease, including cancer.
  • It’s high in vitamins and minerals.
  • It’s low in saturated fat that promotes heart disease and increases ageing

Our biggest killer disease

What is the biggest killer in our society? Is it suicide, substance abuse, violent attacks, car accidents, or cancer? These issues often receive major media coverage and sympathy, and rightly so. However they don’t kill the most people.

For most wealthy, western countries like my country, Australia, the largest single cause of death is the same – heart disease, or cardiovascular disease (CVD).

Consider these grim statistics:

Australia (data source: The Australian Heart Foundation):

  • Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in Australia, killing one Australian every 12 minutes, and claiming the lives of 45,600 Australians (almost 30% of all deaths)
  • Affects one in six Australians or 4.2 million
  • Lower socio-economic groups, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and those living in remote areas had the highest rate of hospitalisation and death resulting from CVD in Australia

United States (data source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention):

  • About 610,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year – 1 in every 4 deaths
  • Every year about 735,000 Americans have a heart attack
  • In the United States, someone has a heart attack every 42 seconds.
  • Coronary heart disease alone costs the United States $207 billion each year in health-related costs

Heart disease – a global disaster

It is not only affluent English-speaking countries that have high rates of heart disease though. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), heart disease is a global problem. Of the top 10 leading causes of death worldwide, the number 1 is – you guessed it – cardiovascular disease.

Interestingly, when you compare the leading cause of deaths for low income countries to that of middle income, and especially high income countries, heart disease is more prevalent with a higher income.

This implies a relationship between diet and lifestyle of affluent countries contributing to an increase in heart disease. Which leads us to the key lifestyle factors to help prevent heart disease.

Lifestyle Factors to Reduce Risk of Heart Disease

Eat a heart-healthy diet – which is low in saturated fat, cholesterol and trans-fats, low in salt & sugar, and high in fibre-rich whole-grains (such as oats and barley), unsalted nuts (such as almonds and walnuts), legumes, soy products, beans, vegetables and fruit. Use fats sparingly, and include those found in whole foods such as raw seeds, nuts and avocado.

  1. Eat a heart-healthy diet
  2. Quit smoking
  3. Maintain a healthy weight
  4. Exercise regularly – 30 minutes per day
  5. Reduce or eliminate alcohol consumption
  6. Reduce salt intake
  7. Control diabetes
  8. Manage stress

Fat, cholesterol and L-carnitine

meatWe already know that the saturated fat and cholesterol in meat (and eggs) can contribute to increased cholesterol levels and blocked arteries. Recent research suggests another reason why red meat can be dangerous in your diet if you have high cholesterol or are at risk of heart disease.

According to a study published in the prestigious journal ‘Nature Medicine’, a compound in red meat called L-carnitine is associated with the build up of plaque in arteries that causes heart attacks, strokes and vascular disease.  (Fish, poultry, milk and other dairy products are also good food sources of L-carnitine).

Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic found that the compound in meat, L-carnitine, is converted by the liver into a chemical called TMAO, Trimethylamine N-oxide. TMAO is found in abundance in red meat and crustaceans, and as an ingredient in energy drinks, energy pills and some weight-loss products. TMAO is also known to increase heart disease and hardening of the arteries, also called arteriosclerosis which is a known indicator of heart attacks and risk of strokes. Eggs are also implicated in studies as a leading source of TMAO.

According the leader of the study, Dr Hazen, chronic ingestion of carnitine fundamentally shifts the metabolism of cholesterol.

“It’s changing it in a way that will make you more prone to heart disease,” he said. “Eating carnitine causes more cholesterol to be deposited onto artery walls, and less to be eliminated from the body”.

The researchers found that adults who avoid meat and eat fewer animal products produced much lower concentrations of TMAO in the blood compared with the meat eaters.

As a result of these research findings, doctors are giving warnings about excessive consumption of red meat.

In Australia these warnings especially apply to kangaroo meat, which for a long time has been considered to be one of the healthiest meat choices because of its low fat content.

Executive chairman of Obesity Australia and Professor of Medicine at Monash University John Funder said given that kangaroos had more L-carnitine per gram than any other red meat. Professor Funder recommended that consumers be wary of excessive consumption of kangaroo meat.

What is known that plant foods such as soy and wheat do not contain other known factors in heart disease, such as high levels of saturated fat, cholesterol or L-carnitine (on the contrary, soy is known to help lower cholesterol).

Why take the extra risk with a high consumption of red meat, or supplements with added carnitine or TMAO when you can get plenty of protein and other nutrients from healthy plant food alternatives?

Cutting the Big C

The second biggest killer in our society, after heart disease, is cancer.

Eating red meat (beef, pork, and lamb) is associated with increased rates of cancer and heart disease. The American Cancer Society recommends eating a healthy diet for the prevention of cancer “with an emphasis on plant foods.

Foods high in animal protein, including meat, eggs and dairy products, may also contribute to increased cancer risk. When we consume too much animal protein, the body increases its production of the hormone IGF-1. As noted, elevated IGF-1 levels have been shown to promote the growth, proliferation and spread of cancer cells, and are linked to increased risk of several cancers.

eggsPlant based diets can also protect against the formation of blood vessels that feed cancerous tumors (angiogenesis). The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), published a report in February 2011 explaining how many cancers can be delayed or even prevented through a balance of regular physical activity and a plant-based diet.

Dietary choline in eggs has also been linked to the progression of prostate cancer. Studies have shown that men who eat 2.5 eggs or more a week have an 81% increased risk of lethal prostate cancer, compared to men who had less than 0.5 eggs per week.

6 ways to prevent cancer

Researchers with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine published six dietary guidelines for cancer prevention in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition.

The six dietary recommendations to reduce risk of several types of cancer are:

1. Limit or avoid dairy products to reduce risk of prostate cancer.

One glass of milk each day increases risk of prostate cancer by 10 percent. Consuming two glasses of milk each day increases risk of prostate cancer by 60 percent.

2. Limit or avoid alcohol to reduce cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, colon and rectum, skin, and breast.

One drink per week increases risk of mouth, pharynx, and larynx cancers by 24 percent. Two to three drinks per day increase risk of colorectal cancer by 21 percent.

3. Avoid red and processed meat to reduce risk of cancers of the colon and rectum.

Each 50-gram daily serving of processed meat, equivalent to two slices of bacon or one sausage link, increases risk of colorectal cancer by 21 percent.

4. Avoid grilled, fried, and broiled meats to reduce risk of cancers of the colon, rectum, breast, prostate, kidney, and pancreas.

Certain heterocyclic amines (HCAs) are associated with cancer of the colon and rectum. HCAs form in cooked skeletal muscle, increasing with higher cooking times and higher temperatures. When ingested, HCAs can disrupt DNA synthesis.

5. Consume natural soy products, such as edamame, to reduce risk of breast cancer.

A global study shows women who consume 11 grams of soy protein each day reduce risk for both premenopausal and postmenopausal breast cancer by about 30 percent.

6. Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables to reduce several forms of cancer.

The fiber and phytochemicals available in fruits and vegetables, especially leafy greens, help reduce overall cancer risk—while a Western diet (high amounts of meat and fat with minimal amounts of fruits and vegetables) doubles the risk.

Thanks to PCRM for this list.

Foods that protect against cancer:

  • Diets high in fruit may lower the risk of stomach and lung cancer.
  • Diets high in non-starchy vegetables, such as broccoli, spinach, and beans, may help protect against stomach and esophageal cancer.
  • Eating oranges, berries, peas, bell peppers, dark leafy greens and other foods high in vitamin C may also protect against esophageal cancer.
  • Foods high in lycopene, such as tomatoes, guava, and watermelon, may lower the risk of prostate cancer.
  • Beta-carotene, present in dark green and yellow vegetables, helps protect against lung cancer and may help prevent cancers of the bladder, mouth, larynx, esophagus, breast, and other sites.
  • Selenium is found in whole grains and has the same antioxidant effects as vitamin C and beta-carotene. Vitamin E also has this effect. Caution is advised in supplementing selenium, which is toxic in large doses.
  • Cruciferous (broccoli, kale) and Allium (garlic, onion) vegetables seem to be the most potent anti-cancer vegetables

NOTE: Please always see your doctor for advice or treatment for cancer or any other illness.

Medical Studies Show the Power of Plant Food

Numerous studies over the last few decades have shown that people whose diets include a large intake of plant foods tend to have a lower risk of chronic disease. The reasons are many:

  • Plant-based foods are naturally rich in antioxidants, which help eliminate free radicals that damage cells and cause chronic inflammation.
  • Dr. Dean Ornish’s research showed that eating a very low-fat, plant-based, vegetarian diet and other lifestyle changes could, in fact, reverse heart disease. Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn also succeeded in arresting and reversing heart disease in patients who were seriously ill.
  • The Adventist Health Study-2 found that vegetarians had a lower risk of Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.
  •  There is also compelling research indicating that eating meat causes the bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract to produce a compound that may increase the risk of atherosclerosis (clogged arteries).

Go Veg – Live Longer

healthy heart foodA study published on the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) website shows that people who follow a vegetarian diet can enjoy an almost 12 per cent lower mortality rate than their meat loving counterparts.

Dr. Michael Orlich of the Loma Linda University Medical Center in California, the lead author of the study report, noted that vegetarian diets have clear beneficial effects in the prevention of chronic diseases and the improvement of longevity in humans.

More than 70,000 Seventh-Day Adventist participants were interviewed by researchers in this study. Those who identified as vegetarians were categorised included vegans (eating nothing but plant foods), lacto-ovo vegetarians (eating plant-foods as well as dairy products and eggs), and semi-vegetarians (eating mostly plant-foods but also some animal products like fish and poultry).

Over a six-year period researchers followed the study group to determine differences in mortality. They found that over a one year period five to six per 1,000 vegetarians had died compared to seven per 1,000 meat eaters. Importantly, this study yet again confirms that people who eat mostly plant-based foods are less likely to develop chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes and certain forms of cancer.

“Vegetarian diets are associated with lower all-cause mortality and with some reductions in cause-specific mortality,” the authors concluded.

The point with following a plant-based vegan diet is not just a slower ageing process or longer life, but one marked by less obesity, less disease, and more enjoyment of all the things in life that are not just good, but good for you, animals and the planet.

Tom Perry

 

8 Reasons Why Eating Fruit Just Might Save Your Life

8 Reasons Why Eating Fruit Just Might Save Your Life

My Fruit-Filled Aussie Childhood

orangesI grew up in a small Australian country town in northern Victoria on the mighty Murray river. It was hot, dry, and fruit grew abundantly – as long as the trees were kept watered! Even in our own (large) backyard, we easily grew fruit and nut trees: mulberry, orange, lemon, apricot, almond, walnut and loquat; as well as a huge grapevine bursting with purple grapes that covered most of our verandah. In Summer we would regularly fill up our washing-basket with loads of ripe, delicious, home-grown fruit – and still have plenty left over for the birds!

Should You Limit Your Fruit Intake?

I was very lucky, growing up having access to so much fresh, cheap – mostly organic – fruit. So where does the notion come from that fruit is not so good for you, or contributes to obesity? I have heard the misconception amongst some people that you shouldn’t eat too much fruit. That the sugar in fruit increases your blood sugar, and too much will expand your waistline.

For example, on the popular ‘I Quit Sugar’ website, they claim to support consumption of fresh fruit – up to a point. They advise you to cut out all types of fruit for 4 weeks while on their 8-week program, and then have no more than 2-3 pieces of fruit per day.

According to the Australian government, most Aussies eat only about half the recommended quantity of fruit. The Australian Heart Foundation cites alarming figures showing that in 2011/12 only 5.5% of Australian adults had an adequate usual daily intake of fruit and vegetables.

A recent survey, the largest of its kind done in Australia, has shown that four out of five Australians are not getting enough fruits and vegetables in their diet, with men faring worse than women.

The US CDC – Centre for Disease Control and Prevention – stated in a recent online publication that:

“during 2007–2010, half of the total U.S. population consumed [less than] 1 cup of fruit and [less than] 1.5 cups of vegetables daily; 76% did not meet fruit intake recommendations, and 87% did not meet vegetable intake recommendations.”

holding apple and pearThe paper went on to note that: “Substantial new efforts are needed to build consumer demand for fruits and vegetables through competitive pricing, placement, and promotion in child care, schools, grocery stores, communities, and worksites.”

To clarify, I’m not talking fruit juice, which is high in calories and has most of the fibre stripped out. I’m referring to fresh, whole fruit – the way nature intended.

As I will show with quotes and information from researchers and health experts, you should eat plenty of fresh fruit every day. And, far from being bad for you, eating fruit just might save your life! Here are 8 reasons why:

  1. Fruit Increases Your Life Span

As published online by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine “according to a… meta-analysis published in the British Medical Journal…researchers analyzed 16 separate studies, including one with 833,234 participants, and found that each serving of fruit and vegetables decreased the risk of dying by 6 and 5 percent, respectively.”

Also from PCRM, “a review published online in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health….[found that] those who consumed seven or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day saw a 42 percent decreased risk of death due to any cause, compared with those who consumed the least amount. Fruit and vegetable consumption was specifically associated with a 25 percent and 31 percent decreased risk of death from cancer and heart disease, respectively.”

  1. Fruit Reduces Risk of Type-2 Diabetes

Some people think that the natural fructose, or sugar in fresh fruit is bad for you, and might contribute to type-2 diabetes. Dr Michael Greger, of Nutrition Facts, explains that it is only when sugar or fructose is added to foods that it becomes a problem, while fruit (with natural sugar) is “beneficial in almost any amount” (Harvard Health).

But, hang on, what does “almost any amount” actually mean?

When I was a fit young teenager, still playing (Aussie Rulesfootball in the country, I once ate about 3 kilograms (6.6 pounds) of bananas in one sitting – was that too much?! Well, no, according to Dr Greger. Dr Greger highlights a study where 17 people were scoffing around 20 servings of fruit each day, with a combined sugar intake equivalent to “8 cans of soda”. Despite the high fructose content of this diet, no adverse effects were reported. On the contrary, there were even possible benefits for body weight, blood pressure, insulin and lipid levels after 12-24 weeks.

Harvard Health School notes: “In a study of over 66,000 women in the Nurses’ Health Study, 85,104 women from the Nurses’ Health Study II, and 36,173 men from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study who were free of major chronic diseases, findings suggested that greater consumption of whole fruits – especially blueberries, grapes, and apples – is associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.”

  1. Fruit Protects Against Heart Disease

According to the Harvard Health School, “The higher the average daily intake of fruits and vegetables, the lower the chances of developing cardiovascular disease. Compared with those in the lowest category of fruit and vegetable intake (less than 1.5 servings a day), those who averaged 8 or more servings a day were 30 percent less likely to have had a heart attack or stroke.(1)”

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine reports that “those who consumed seven to nine servings of fruits and vegetables a day experienced less plaque accumulation and were 25 percent less likely to have heart disease, compared with those who consumed fewer servings of fruits and vegetables. Fruit and vegetable intake may lower plaque deposits by improving blood pressure, lowering cholesterol, and increasing intake of antioxidants.

  1. Fruit Helps You Lose Weight

In 2015 PCRM reported on a review published in the Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. The review showed that a diet rich in whole fruits helps people maintain a healthful weight.

“Researchers analyzed 17 studies looking at fruit intake and the effects on long-term weight gain in adults. Those who added whole or dried fruit to their diets had a reduced risk for long-term weight gain.

  1. Fruit Helps with Gastrointestinal Health

Havard Health School tells us that the fiber in fruit “absorbs water and expands as it passes through the digestive system. This can calm symptoms of an irritable bowel and, by triggering regular bowel movements, can relieve or prevent constipation. (12) The bulking and softening action of insoluble fiber also decreases pressure inside the intestinal tract and may help prevent diverticulosis.”

  1. Fruit Protects You Against Cancer

According to best-selling author and nutrition expert Dr Joel Fuhrman “Fruit consumption has been shown to offer the strongest protection against certain cancers, especially oral, esophageal, lung, prostate and pancreatic cancer.”

  1. Fruit Helps You Age Slower

Dr Joel Fuhrman advises us in his book ‘Eat For Health‘ that researchers have “discovered substances in fruit that has unique effects on preventing aging and deterioration of the brain. Some fruits, particularly berries, are rich in phytochemicals that have anti-aging effects. Studies have shown that blueberries have protective effects for brain health in later life.”

  1. Fruit Helps You In The Bedroom

In January 2016 PCRM posted online a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition which said that adding more fruit to your diet reduces your risk for erectile dysfunction.

“Researchers followed the diets of 25,096 men as part of the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study and monitored incidence for erectile dysfunction. Participants with the highest intakes of anthocyanins, flavones, and flavanones, phytonutrients found in fruit, lowered their risk for erectile dysfunction by 14 percent when compared to those who consumed the least.”

Why Fruit is So Healthy

assorted fruitFruit is packed with vitamins, minerals, fibre and antioxidants, which reduce inflammation and improve endothelial function. Berries, for example, are packed with fibre and antioxidant phytochemicals, including flavonoids. High flavonoid intake is associated with a considerable reduction (up to 45%) in risk for coronary heart disease.

According to Dr. Fuhrman, researchers found that berries reduced oxidative stress, decreased oxidation of LDL cholesterol (which helps to prevent the production of atherosclerotic plaque), increased blood antioxidant capacity, and in some cases improved lipid levels, blood pressure or blood glucose.

As Dr Fuhrman puts it, “Fruit is an essential part of our diets. Eating fruit is vital to your health, well-being and long life.”

What are some of your favourite fruits, and how do you incorporate fresh fruit into your daily dietary regime?

Tom Perry