Sunday, February 27, 2011

Six Foods You Didn't Think Were Good for You...But Are; Tisanes Tea; Q Fever From Pets?

Good to know cuz I love them all>>and, yes, apparently I am on a health kick today! ;-)
I highly recommend subscribing to two online weekly e-newletters loaded with all kinds of useful info, not just regarding health, but most anything you can think of is in Bottomline Secrets; great women's health info in their Healthy Women e-letter>>

6 Foods You Didn't Think Were Good for You...But Are
John La Puma, MD
Santa Barbara Institute for Medical Nutrition and Healthy Weight

Many foods that we perceive as nutritional lightweights actually are just as healthy as -- and, for many people, more enjoyable than -- the so-called superfoods, such as broccoli and spinach. Here, some of the best...

The light green color of iceberg lettuce suggests that it isn’t rich in nutrients.

Fact: Iceberg contains lutein and zeaxanthin, carotenoids that reduce the risk for cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, the leading causes of blindness in older adults.

Bonus: Eat a salad at the beginning of a meal. It is low in calories and, like any food, stimulates the release of cholecystokinin (CCK), a satiety hormone that reduces appetite and causes people to consume fewer calories overall.

It contains more water than most fruits. The high liquid content, along with the sugars and fiber, make watermelon the perfect snack before workouts. But it’s more than a snack food.

Fact: Watermelon contains 40% more lycopene than fresh (uncooked) tomatoes. Lycopene is a potent antioxidant that strengthens the immune system and may lower the risk for breast and prostate cancers.

Helpful: When you take a watermelon home, keep it on the counter even after cutting it open. Room-temperature watermelon continues to produce antioxidants for about two weeks. It will contain up to 40% more lycopene and up to 139% more beta-carotene than cold watermelon.

Fresh, minimally processed vegetables are presumed to be the healthiest. Not always.

Fact: One study found that women who ate at least four weekly servings of fermented cabbage, better known as sauerkraut, were 72% less likely to develop breast cancer than those who ate less.

Eating fermented cabbage changes gut metabolism and may help to protect the intestinal tract. Isothiocyanates, which are naturally present in all the cruciferous vegetables, appear to inhibit the proliferation of cancer cells and accelerate the death of these cells.

Korean kimchi, a spicy form of fermented cabbage, appears to have similar effects.

Most people use onions mainly as a seasoning ingredient in soups and stews and on burgers and salads. For good health, use a lot of them.

Fact: Onions are high in vitamin C, fiber, vitamin B-6 and folate. They also are rich in quercetin, a flavonoid with powerful anticancer effects, and allyl sulfides, the same protective compounds that are present in garlic.

Studies have found that people who eat between 14 and 22 servings of onions a week can reduce their risk for oral cancer by 84%. They have a 56% reduced risk for colon cancer, a 25% reduced risk for breast cancer and a 71% reduced risk for prostate cancer.

Red onions have the most quercetin. However, pink shallots contain the richest mix of chemical compounds and more antioxidants than other onions.

They’re work to eat, but the payoff can be better digestive health.

Fact: One study found that people who took an artichoke leaf extract had a 26.4% reduction in symptoms from irritable bowel syndrome. One of the chemical compounds in artichokes, silymarin, is reputed to improve liver health in patients with hepatitis, but this hasn’t been proved.

I advise patients to eat whole, natural foods rather than depending solely on supplements. Artichokes contain a mix of antioxidants, including narirutin and apigenin-7-rutinoside, that aren’t necessarily included in supplements.

Helpful: Look for artichokes with long stems. When cooked, the stems are almost as tasty as the hearts. Peel the stems to make them more tender. Canned, frozen and jarred artichoke hearts are good, too.

Avocados have the distinction of being higher in fat than any other fruit or vegetable. One medium Hass avocado, for example, has about 29 grams of fat and about 320 calories.

Fact: Nearly all of the fat in avocados is the healthful, monounsaturated form. In a study of patients with high cholesterol, those who included avocado in their daily diet had a decrease in total cholesterol, along with an 11% increase in beneficial HDL cholesterol.

As a source of healthy fat, avocado is better than butter and is delicious when spread on toast or a sandwich.

Bottom Line/Personal interviewed John La Puma, MD, an internist at Santa Barbara Institute for Medical Nutrition and Healthy Weight in Santa Barbara, California. A professionally trained chef, he hosts the Lifetime television series What’s Cookin’ with ChefMD? He is author of ChefMD’s Big Book of Culinary Medicine: A Food Lover’s Road Map to Losing Weight, Preventing Disease and Getting Really Healthy (Three Rivers). He writes the blog "Paging Dr. La Puma" at

Easy Aromatic Tisanes Give an Instant Energy Boost
Tisanes, aromatic tealike beverages made from herbs or spices, provide a gentle yet immediate surge of mental and physical energy, we heard from Mao Shing Ni, PhD, DOM, LAc, an expert on traditional Chinese medicine and author of Secrets of Longevity.

He explained that smelling and tasting the pungent volatile oils in such infusions transmit signals to your nervous system that increase the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain and vital organs and boost production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), a molecule known as the "energy currency" for cells throughout the body. Results: Increased alertness and energy that typically last at least an hour, depending on your levels of blood sugar, stress hormones and neurotransmitters, Dr. Mao said.

To make a tisane: Pour eight ounces of very hot water over one or more of the herbs and spices mentioned below... cover your mug and steep for no longer than five minutes so the volatile oils do not dissipate... strain... and be sure to inhale the aromatic steam as you drink.

"Have a cup first thing in the morning to get yourself going, in the late afternoon 'witching hour' when energy often fades, and any other time you want a pick-me-up," Dr. Mao recommended. Other advantages: Tisanes also help settle the stomach... do not interfere with sleep the way caffeinated beverages can... and have no harmful side effects (with the possible exception of a garlic tisane, which can trigger heartburn for some people when used in excess).

Almost any herb or spice with a strong aroma will work equally well, Dr. Mao said, so experiment to see which individual one or combination you like best. Try...

One tablespoon fresh or one teaspoon dried cilantro, dill, mint, parsley or sage.
One teaspoon fresh or one-half teaspoon dried chives.
Three to five fresh or dried bay leaves.
Two sticks cinnamon or one teaspoon ground cinnamon.
One quarter-sized medallion fresh ginger.
One stalk green onion, cut to fit into your mug.
One whole clove garlic (remove skin but do not crush or cut the clove).

Concerned about getting bad breath from the onion and garlic? Combine them with cilantro or parsley.

Source: Mao Shing Ni, PhD, DOM (doctor of Oriental medicine), LAc (licensed acupuncturist), is chancellor and cofounder of Yo San University in Los Angeles and cofounder of Tao of Wellness, an acupuncture and Chinese medicine center in Santa Monica, California. He is the author of 12 books, including Secrets of Longevity: Hundreds of Ways to Live to Be 100 (Chronicle).


Is It the Flu... Or Could You Have "Q Fever"?
Fever, chills, cough, headache, muscle aches... sounds like an obvious case of the flu, doesn’t it? But: Recently, I learned about a masquerader called Q fever, which causes symptoms so similar that even doctors often mistake it for the flu.

Therein lies the danger. Although Q fever is easy to cure if properly diagnosed early on, left untreated it can lead to pneumonia, heart damage, hepatitis or even death. And here’s a scary fact -- you can catch it from your dog or cat, even if your pet seems perfectly healthy.

You’ve never heard of Q fever? Neither had I. And neither have many doctors... so you may need to bring up the subject with your physician if you ever develop possible symptoms of the disease.

Thankfully, Q fever is rare -- though no one knows just how rare because it is underreported, I was told by infectious disease specialist Edward A. Dominguez, MD, of Methodist Dallas Medical Center. Here’s how to protect yourself...


Q fever was first reported in Australia in the 1930s. The Q stands for query, because nobody knew what the disease was or how to treat it.

Unlike flu, which is caused by influenza viruses, Q fever is caused by a germ called Coxiella burnetii. "It’s not a bacterium, virus or fungus. Instead, it is a rickettsia, an infectious parasitic microorganism similar to those that cause typhus or Rocky Mountain spotted fever," Dr. Dominguez said.

Q fever is a zoonotic infection, meaning that people get it through contact with infected animals, such as horses, goats, cows, sheep, rabbits, cats and dogs. People most likely to be exposed are veterinarians, breeders, ranchers and others who work with animals, but pet owners may be at risk, too.

The likelihood of transmission is highest when an infected animal gives birth or is killed. (Dr. Dominguez recalled a group of poker players who all contracted Q fever after an infected cat gave birth in the same room.) The disease most often is caught when a person inhales air contaminated with this type of rickettsia, so poorly ventilated or enclosed spaces (small rooms, sheds) pose a greater risk than outdoor areas. But Q fever also can be transmitted through food if a person drinks milk or eats meat from an infected animal.


About half of people who get infected develop no symptoms and experience no short-term or long-term problems. For the other half, symptoms typically develop within three weeks after exposure and last one to two weeks. Warning signs of acute infection: High fever (up to 104° or 105°!)... chills and/or sweats... severe headache, joint and muscle aches... sore throat, cough, chest pain... nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 30% to 50% of patients with a symptomatic infection develop pneumonia... and in 1% to 2% of acute cases, the disease is fatal.

Long-term danger: When the acute form of the disease does not get successfully treated or clear up on its own, patients may develop chronic Q fever. Serious complications can include hepatitis, an inflammatory condition of the liver, and endocarditis, inflammation of the heart lining and/or valves. For chronic Q fever patients, the CDC reports a death rate as high as 65%.

I asked Dr. Dominguez whether people who recover from acute Q fever might later develop the chronic form. He said, "If recovery was induced by antibiotics, no. If the infection went away on its own, chronic infection is unlikely -- but not impossible."

Self-defense: Of course you must see your doctor if you have symptoms that suggest Q fever. But: Since physicians often do not recognize Q fever in patients with flulike symptoms, Dr. Dominguez said, you also should tell your doctor about any recent animal exposure and ask, "Could this be Q fever?"... request blood tests to check for antibodies to the rickettsia and other evidence of Q fever’s effects on the body, such as thrombocytopenia (reduced blood platelets), electrolyte imbalances and abnormal liver function... and ask for a chest X-ray to check for pneumonia.

When acute Q fever is caught early, it generally responds well to a 15- to 21-day course of oral tetracycline antibiotics (since the rickettsia, like bacteria, is vulnerable to antibiotics). Sulfa drugs or quinolone antibiotics also can help. Note: If your doctor does not prescribe antibiotics because your initial blood test for Q fever was negative, yet you still feel ill two weeks later, ask to be retested. It can take several weeks for antibodies to build up to detectable levels.

Chronic Q fever may require daily intravenous antibiotics for eight weeks or longer. If the infection causes heart valve damage, valve replacement surgery may be necessary.

Prevention pointers: The Q fever vaccine used in other countries is not approved in the US because it can trigger a severe skin reaction if the rickettsia is already present. Research is under way for a better vaccine, but for now the best bet is to minimize your risk of exposure to Q fever. Dr. Dominguez’s advice...

Stay outdoors or in well-ventilated areas when around farm animals.
Do not drink unpasteurized milk or eat raw meat.
To reduce your pet’s risk of being infected with the rickettsia (and thus reduce your risk of catching it from your pet), limit your pet’s exposure to animals who live on farms, on ranches or in the wild. It also is a good idea to get a veterinary evaluation for your pet, especially if it is pregnant.

Source: Edward A. Dominguez, MD, is the medical director of Organ Transplant Infectious Diseases at Methodist Dallas Medical Center and a fellow of the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

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