Tag Archives: carbohydrate

The Turkey Tryptophan Myth

Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that is important for good health. You need tryptophan to build certain proteins. Your body also uses tryptophan in a multi-step process to make serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter in your brain that regulates sleep. I asked Jody Victor to tell us all about it.

Jody Victor: Turkey has tryptophan, but all meats have tryptophan. Chicken and pork contain more tryptophan than turkey per gram. Even cheddar cheese has more tryptophan per gram.

What really triggers your Thanksgiving after-dinner sleepiness is not the turkey. It?s the carbohydrates-rich meal (not the protein-rich meal) that increases the level of tryptophan in your brain, which leads to serotonin synthesis. The carbs stimulate your pancreas to secrete insulin. When this happens, some of the amino acids that compete with tryptophan leave your bloodstream and enter your muscle cells. This causes an increase of tryptophan in your blood stream. You then synthesize the serotonin that makes you sleepy. A high fat meal also contributes to your sleepiness. Fats take a lot of energy to digest. Your body redirects blood to your digestive system to break down the fats. Your energy level declines. Overeating in general takes a lot of energy and more blood is directed away from your other organ systems to your full stomach to aid in digestion. Sleepiness ensues.

Nutritionists say that the tryptophan in your Thanksgiving turkey probably doesn?t trigger your body to produce more serotonin because tryptophan works best on an empty stomach. It?s not the turkey that makes you sleepy after your Thanksgiving feast because it has to compete with all the other amino acids in your body. The truth is that you could leave out the turkey in your Thanksgiving meal and still feel the sleepiness factor after dinner.

Thanks Jody

All the Best

Steve Victor

Gluten-Free Fad

Ten years ago no one in the United States had a problem with eating gluten in breads and other foods. Today gluten-free products are quickly going out the doors of grocery stores. Restaurants offer gluten-free dishes. Churches are even offering gluten-free Communion wafers. Americans will spend about $7 billion this year on gluten-free foods. I asked Jody Victor to tell us more about it.

Jody Victor: For a very small number of people gluten is a big health risk. For a few more people gluten can be an annoyance. For the majority of people who have jumped on the gluten-free bandwagon it appears to be a fad; a fad that researchers are studying in trying to determine whether there is a biological basis for it, or not.

Gluten is a protein compound made of gliadin and glutelin, which are bound together by starch (a carbohydrate). In nature, gliadin is found mostly in the seeds of grasses. Edible seeds of grasses are known as grains. Grains are made up of three parts: the bran or hull, the germ, and the endosperm. Whole grains contain all three. Gluten is found in the endosperm, the part of the grain that is retained when grains are refined. And so gluten is present in grains such as wheat, rye, and barley whether they are whole or not. Genetic modifications have increased the gluten content of wheat and other grains. Modern food processing has also added more gluten to our foods. Everything from candy, to deli meats, to potato chips contain gluten, which is used as a texturizer.

Grasses are not native human food. People can’t digest the stalks and the seeds of most grasses are too small to offer any nutritional benefits. Grains entered the human diet with the advent of agriculture in the Fertile Crescent over 12,000 years ago. Domestication led to increased seed size. The large seeds of wheat and other edible grains are the product of the careful growing by humans of the grasses nature provided. One reason some people have problems consuming gluten is that it is a recently introduced nutrient. Gluten is foreign to the Stone Age diet that shaped humans’ biological adaptations. Twelve thousand years may be long enough for human selection to change grains, but it’s not enough time for natural selection to change humans.

The big health problem associated with gluten is commonly called celiac disease (or celiac sprue or non-tropical sprue). Celiac disease is diagnosed with blood testing, genetic testing, or biopsies of the small intestine. If you have celiac disease your immune system responds to gluten as if it were a dangerous invader. The inflammation from the response damages your intestinal lining and leads to malabsorption of nutrients, including vitamins and minerals. Symptoms from celiac disease can be severe starting with abdominal discomfort, bloating, and intermittent diarrhea to manifestations of nutrient deficiencies to an itchy rash to, eventually, increased risk of intestinal cancer. Unaddressed, the condition can be lethal. Celiac disease was once considered extremely rare in the U.S. But about 20 years ago a few scientists began to explore the disease and concluded that it was not that rare, just underdiagnosed. Recently a research team at the Mayo Clinic determined that celiac disease is actually increasing. Their research confirmed estimates that about 1 percent of U.S. adults have it today, four times more common than it was 50 years ago. Scientists believe there is more celiac disease today because people eat more processed wheat products like pastas and baked goods than before. Those processed items use wheat that has high gluten content. Gluten helps dough rise and gives baked goods structure and texture. Mayo Clinic’s Dr. Joseph Murray, head of the research, also believes it could be the changes made to the wheat itself. In the 1950s, scientists began cross-breeding wheat to make it hardier, shorter, and better-growing.

The changes made to wheat in the 1950s may have contributed to the annoying condition now known as “gluten sensitivity”. Gluten sensitivity patients suffer bloating and other celiac symptoms but don’t actually have the disease. They seem to be helped by avoiding gluten. A study in Australia asked for volunteers who had gluten sensitivity symptoms. Half were put on a gluten-free diet and half on a regular diet for six weeks. The people who did not eat gluten had fewer problems with bloating, tiredness, and irregular bowel movements. Gluten sensitivity is estimated to affect 6 percent of the U.S. population. Celiac disease can be diagnosed by tests whereas gluten sensitivity has no test. The only reliable test for gluten sensitivity is a trial elimination of gluten to determine if symptoms come and go with its intake.

The adverse health effects of gluten in people with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity have caused a preoccupation in the public discourse with gluten. People are getting the impression that gluten is a bona fide toxin and is harmful to all. This is a false assumption. Gluten is not bad for people who can tolerate it any more than peanuts are bad for people who are not allergic to peanuts. For the vast majority of the people in the U.S., a gluten-free diet appears to be much ado about nothing. The argument supporting the fad is that going gluten-free may lead to weight loss because avoiding gluten means avoiding a lot of processed foods, lowering calorie intake. The theory that lowering calories leads to weight loss is not some new-fangled idea.

People who suffer from celiac disease and gluten sensitivity are grateful for the gluten-free fad. Until a few years ago they found it hard to find gluten-free choices at grocery stores and restaurants. Gluten-free foods used to taste like cardboard. Now the shelves are filled with tasty gluten-free options.

Thanks Jody

All the Best,

Steve Victor

CARBS: The Good, The Bad, and The Confusing

Carbohydrates (carbs) are a necessary component for good health in your diet. I asked Jody Victor® to tell us more about it.

Jody Victor®: Carbs are sugars that provide your body with energy. According to the Mayo Clinic, a 2,000-calorie daily diet should include 225 to 335 g. of carbohydrates. The National Academies Institute of Medicine recommends that adults get 45 to 65 percent of their calories from carbohydrates.

 

Carbs are either complex or simple. Complex carbs are broken down into glucose more slowly by your body, which helps you maintain a higher level of energy all day long. Complex carbs provide your body with the necessary fiber, vitamins and phytonutrients your body needs to function. Foods high in fiber not only give you energy but they also give you a sense of feeling full longer; help to lower cholesterol levels; aid your body in toxin removal; help prevent colon cancer; and promote weight control. Good sources of complex carbs are whole-grain brown rice, oatmeal, pasta, spaghetti, corn, peas, and yams. Simple carbs are digested quickly and are necessary to good health as well. Simple carbs provide a quick source of energy needed for your body to function properly. Good choices for simple carbs include yogurt, milk, and honey.

 

In the midst of all the confusion out there with low-carb diets, no-carb diets and all-carb diets, how can you figure out whether carbs are good for you? Or not? The answer is that carbs can be both. As a general rule good carbs are found in plant foods that are closest to their natural state. Plant foods that are not processed (whole) are high in fiber. Fiber is the part in plant foods that humans can’t digest. Even though fiber isn’t absorbed, it still does great things for your body. Fiber slows down the absorption of other nutrients eaten at the same meal. This slowing down helps prevent peaks and valleys in your blood sugar. The general rule for avoiding bad carbs is to eliminate refined and processed carbs from your diet. Refining and processing foods strips away the nutrition and highly beneficial fiber from your food. Refined and processed carbs are also loaded with many additives, including colorings, flavorings, and preservatives.

 

Whole plant foods = good carbs. Refined and processed plant foods = bad carbs.

 

GOOD CARBS

  1. Fruits
  2. Vegetables
  3. Beans
  4. Legumes
  5. Nuts
  6. Seeds
  7. Whole grain breads, cereals, pastas
  8. Some dairy products

 

BAD CARBS

  1. Refined grains such as white bread and white rice
  2. Processed foods such as cakes, cookies, chips
  3. Hotdogs and certain lunch meats
  4. Soft drinks
  5. Alcohol

 

The Nutrition Facts section on packaged food labels can help you sort out the good from the bad carbs. Look for the line that says” Total Carbohydrate”. Grams of “fiber”, grams of “sugars”, and grams of “other carbohydrates” will make up that total. The more grams of “Dietary Fiber” in the Total Carbohydrate line the better the carbs will be. The “Sugars” line tells you the total amount of carbohydrate from all the sugar sources- natural (lactose and fructose) and added (high-fructose corn syrup, white, and brown sugar). Look for more natural sugars instead of added sugars in the Ingredients Label. Also check the list of ingredients and make sure the sugar ingredients are not the top three or four items in the listing. “Other carbohydrates” represent the digestible carbohydrate that is not considered a sugar. Some labels may also break out “sugar alcohols” under “Total Carbohydrate”. For some people sugar alcohols can cause intestinal problems. On the Ingredient Label the “sugar alcohols” will be listed as lactitol, mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol, and others. Many “sugar-free” or “reduced calorie” foods contain some sugar alcohols even when an alternate sweetener like Splenda is already in the product.

All the Best!

Steve Victor