Did you know that 50 percent of media headlines about medical studies are dead wrong? And that many of these headlines don’t accurately match the conclusions of the studies they cover? That’s from a reviewpublished in the New England Journal of Medicine.
It makes me sad and furious at the same time that journalists don’t do their homework….
Brazil nuts are a tasty addition to that handful of nuts we can eat daily. But did you know that eating just one Brazil nut a day can help control inflammation, blood sugar and cholesterol levels?
This is precisely what a recent Brazilian study determined. (Of course, it was a Brazilian study.) This and other research confirms that regularly consuming Brazilian nuts can also improve our body’s ability to fight inflammation. When this takes place in the bloodstream, this also reduces the risk of heart disease.
Brazil nuts are rich source of nutrition
Brazil nuts (Brtholletia excelsa) are a rich source of many nutrients.
A cup of Brazil nuts contains 10 grams of fiber, 19 grams of protein, 38 percent of our U.S. Daily Value (DV) of vitamin E, 55 percent DV of thiamin, 21 percent of our DV of calcium, 125 percent DV of magnesium and 96 percent of our DV of phosphorus. A cup of Brazil nuts also contains 38 milligrams of choline and decent amounts of vitamin B6, folate and omega-3 fats.
Key source for selenium
The most important contribution of Brazil nuts is selenium. In fact, Brazil nuts have the most selenium of any other natural food. Just one unblanched Brazil nut will contain about 90 micrograms of selenium. This is a whopping 129 percent of the U.S. Daily Value of selenium.
Selenium is not just a nutrient. It is a precursor to a type of protein called Selenoprotein P. This protein is produced in the liver and uses selenium as a key ingredient, along with cysteine.
The action of Selenoprotein P is that it is a very efficient free radical scavenger. It will facilitate the deposit of selenium throughout the tissues and organs of the body – helping reduce inflammation among those tissues.
Selenium also helps keep the blood vessel walls clean and supple. In addition, Selenoprotein P assists with monitoring cholesterol and blood sugar levels within the bloodstream. And some genetic variants of Selenoprotein P are better than others. Research has found that adequate selenium in the diet produces more healthy variants of Selenoprotein P.
Selenoprotein P also increases the effectiveness of other antioxidants, including glutathione and vitamin C.
Other research has confirmed that good variants of Selenoprotein P result in longer life and fewer health problems.
More:Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Beats Conventional Therapy for Autism
Indeed, selenium is critical to our diet. Yet many of us are, quite frankly, deficient in selenium.
That’s where Brazil nuts come in.
Lowering cholesterol and fasting blood sugar
Researchers from Brazil’s University of São Paulo tested 130 healthy adult volunteers. selected at the University of São Paulo, Brazil. The subjects were given one Brazil nut per day for 8 weeks. Then for another 8 weeks, they did not consume any Brazil nuts.
Before, after and in between, the scientists tested each of the subjects for their cholesterol levels, fasting blood sugar and other factors. They were also tested for levels of Selenoprotein P, and the different genetic types. Remember that some genetic variants of Selenoprotein P are not as healthy as others. The healthy version is produced in the liver in conjunction with selenium.
The researchers found that just one Brazil nut a day for two months resulted in decreases in total cholesterol and fasting glucose levels.
The researchers concluded:
“Supplementation with one Brazil nut a day for 8 weeks reduced total cholesterol and glucose levels. Furthermore, our results suggest that rs3877899 might be associated with glucose concentrations and rs7579 with cholesterol concentrations.”
The “rs” numbers are the genetic variants (single nucleotide polymorphisms or SNPs) of the Selenoprotein P. Those with more pronounced rs3877899 Selenoprotein P variants tended to have higher blood sugar levels. And those with more pronounced Selenoprotein P rs7579 variants tended to have higher cholesterol levels.
Regardless of the variant, the research found that increased intake of Brazil nuts reduced both blood sugar and cholesterol.
Selenium boosts insulin sensitivity
This ability of Brazil nuts’ to reduce fasting blood sugar is based upon insulin sensitivity. When cell receptors become more sensitive to insulin, the cells will absorb and utilize more blood sugar. This gives the cells more energy and reduces the damage that too much blood sugar can have on the walls of the blood vessels.
A 2016 study tested 60 people with type-2 diabetes and heart disease. The researchers divided the people into two groups. One group was given 200 micrograms of selenium per day. The other group was given a placebo. After 8 weeks, the researchers found the selenium group had significantly lower insulin levels in the blood. They also had increased insulin sensitivity.
More:Fermented Wheat Germ Treats Multiple Cancers
The selenium supplementation also resulted in higher levels of antioxidant capacity and reductions in high-sensitivity C-reactive protein. This means the selenium helped reduce their inflammation levels.
Brazil nuts boost immune response
Brazil nuts’ ability to reduce inflammation and boost immune response was translated in research on HIV patients.
Researchers from the University of Alabama’s School of Public Health found in 2010 that low levels of selenium relates to higher rates of HIV infections and a faster progression to AIDS. Those who had lower levels of serum selenium concentration had greater risk of dying from AIDS as well.
The research analyzed a combination of laboratory experiments and human clinical trials. The laboratory tests showed that selenium boosts the liver’s ability to counteract toxins. The human clinical tests illustrated that selenium supplementation could significantly boost the immune system and reduce hospitalization.
Selenium deficiency has been linked with lower levels of the selenium-dependent liver enzyme, glutathione peroxidase. Glutathione peroxidase is a significant antioxidant and blood purifier produced in the liver. Low levels of glutathione peroxidase can result in various conditions, such as thyroid problems, lung issues, and greater susceptibility to infection.
Glutathione peroxidase is the leading enzyme responsible for the breakdown and removal of lipid hydroperoxides. Lipid hydroperoxides are oxidized fats that damage cell membranes. As they do this, they create pores in the cell. The resulting damage eventually kills most cells. Lipid hydroperoxides are one of the most damaging molecules within the body. They are responsible for many deadly metabolic diseases, including heart disease, artery disease, Alzheimer’s disease and many others.
Brazil nut consumption
The bottom line is that Brazil nuts provide the best way to naturally increase our selenium levels. And increasing our selenium levels reduces inflammation, improves blood sugar levels, increases insulin sensitivity, and improves cholesterol.
The research also shows that we don’t need to eat a lot of Brazil nuts every day. In fact, it’s best to be conservative. Just one to three of these nuts per day will significantly improve our selenium levels.
Case Adams is a California Naturopath with a PhD in Natural Health Sciences, and Board Certified Alternative Medicine Practitioner. He has authored 26 books on natural healing strategies. “My journey into writing about alternative medicine began about 9:30 one evening after I finished with a patient at the clinic I practiced at over a decade ago. I had just spent the last two hours explaining how diet, sleep and other lifestyle choices create health problems and how changes in these, along with certain herbal medicines and other natural strategies can radically yet safely turn ones health around. As I drove home that night, I realized I needed to get this knowledge out to more people. So I began writing about health with a mission to reach those who desperately need this information. The strategies in my books and articles are backed by scientific evidence along with wisdom handed down through traditional medicines for thousands of years.” Case connects with the elements by surfing, hiking, biking, and being a beach bum.
Sweet cherries are a great source of potassium, which is important for maintaining normal blood pressure, and contain a number of potent anticancer agents
Tart cherries have been shown to improve athletic performance, endurance and recovery, reducing post-exercise pain and inflammation. Tart cherries also help relieve and prevent arthritis and gout
If you live in a sub-tropical area, growing acerola cherry trees in your backyard can provide you with this potent super food for several months of the year. Relying on commercially-available cherries will limit them to just a few weeks a year
By Dr. Mercola
Cherries are a favorite summer treat with a number of health benefits. Harvest season runs from May through July, and with high susceptibility to disease and a short shelf life, cherry season is a short one. An exception is if you grow your own Barbados or West Indian cherry, more commonly known as the acerola cherry.
I have several acerola trees and harvest cherries nearly nine months of the year. Acerola cherries1 also are one of the highest sources of vitamin C. Each acerola cherry provides about 80 milligrams (mg) of natural vitamin C with all the other important supporting micronutrients, unlike synthetic vitamin C. When I have a bountiful harvest and eat more than 100 cherries, I get close to 10 grams of vitamin C.
The recommended daily allowance for vitamin C in the U.S. is a mere 75 to 90 mg for women and men respectively, so just one of these cherries can provide you with all the vitamin C you need for the day.
You pretty much have to grow acerola cherries on your own, though, as they cannot withstand transportation and storage. Deterioration can occur within four hours of harvesting and they ferment quickly, rendering them unusable in five days or less. Unless you intend to use them for juicing, they also do not fare well being kept in the freezer. Sadly, they only grow outdoors in subtropical climates like Florida.
Tart Versus Sweet Cherries
Conventional cherries can be divided into two primary categories: sweet and tart (sour). Sweet varieties such as Bing cherries are typically eaten fresh, while Montmorency tart cherries are typically sold dried, frozen or as juice.2 Tart cherries develop a fuller flavor when they’re used in cooking, which is why they’re often used in baked desserts. As noted by the Cherry Marketing Institute:3
“When it comes to nutritional science and cherries, most studies involve tart Montmorency cherries. In fact, more than 50 studies have examined the potential health benefits of Montmorency tart cherries, and the research is continuing.
This research strongly supports the anti-inflammatory qualities of Montmorency tart cherries, as well as the benefits of muscle recovery and pain relief from conditions like arthritis. Studies have also found that Montmorency tart cherries contain [m]elatonin, a naturally occurring substance that helps regulate sleep patterns.”
One 8-ounce glass of tart cherry juice will give you:4
62 percent of your recommended daily intake (RDI) of vitamin A (about 20 times more vitamin A than sweet cherries)
40 percent of your RDI of vitamin C
14 percent of your RDI of manganese
12 percent of your RDI of potassium and copper
7 percent of your RDI for vitamin K
Sweet cherries are a great source of potassium,5 which is important for maintaining normal blood pressure. It plays an important role in your fluid balance, and helps offset the hypertensive effects of sodium. Sweet cherries also contain a number of potent anticancer agents, including:
•Beta carotene, which converts into vitamin A (retinol), important for healthy vision as well
•Vitamin C, the “grandfather” of the traditional antioxidants, the health benefits of which have been clearly established. It’s a powerful antioxidant, which helps neutralize cell-damaging free radicals
•Anthocyanins, including quercetin. Sweet cherries have three times the amount of anthocyanins than tart cherries, and those with deep purple pigments (opposed to red) have the highest amounts.
Quercetin is among the most potent in terms of antioxidant activity and has a wide range of other health-promoting properties as well. As a group, anthocyanins have been shown to promote cell cycle arrest and apoptosis of mutated cells, thereby reducing your cancer risk
•Cyanidin,6 an organic pigment compound with powerful antioxidant activity. By promoting cellular differentiation, it reduces the risk of healthy cells transforming into cancer cells. One study found cyanidin isolated from tart cherries was superior to that of vitamin E and comparable to commercially available antioxidant products7
•Ellagic acid, this polyphenol “prevents the binding of carcinogens to DNA and strengthens connective tissue,” thereby preventing the spread of cancer cells.8 It also inhibits DNA mutations and inhibits cancer by triggering apoptosis (cell death) in cancer cells
Mind Your Portions
Just beware that cherries, both sweet and tart, are relatively high in fructose. One cup, about 10 pieces, contain about 4 grams of fructose. It’s important to take this into account if you’re tracking your fructose consumption. I recommend keeping total fructose below 25 grams per day if you’re otherwise healthy, or as low as 15 grams if you struggle with health issues associated with insulin resistance. The good news is you don’t need to eat much more than a handful to get good amounts of antioxidants.
Alternatively, if you have confirmed that you are burning fat as your primary fuel and are engaging in cyclical ketogenesis, then, on the days that you are strength training (about twice a week), you can increase your net carbs to 100 or 150 grams, so you can have larger amounts of cherries on those days. Just be sure not to binge on large amounts daily for the entire cherry season as you are just asking for unnecessary metabolic challenges.
Tart Cherries — A Natural Endurance-Boosting Super Food
In one recent study,9 Montmorency tart cherries, taken in the form of a juice concentrate, were found to improve athletic performance and recovery among semiprofessional soccer players, decreasing post-exercise inflammation and muscle soreness.
Similarly, athletes consuming tart cherry juice prior to long-distance running experienced less pain than those who did not.10 Other research has confirmed tart cherry juice is a valuable endurance sports drink. As noted by Running Competitor:11
“The best way to accelerate muscle recovery after exercise is to prevent muscle damage from occurring during exercise. And one of the best ways to do [sic]prevent muscle damage during exercise is to consume the right nutrients before exercise. Tart cherry juice does just that. This was demonstrated in a 2010 study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports.
Twenty recreational runners consumed either cherry juice or placebo for five days before running a marathon, then again on race day, and for two days afterward as well. The lucky runners who got the cherry juice exhibited less muscle damage immediately after the marathon. They also showed lower levels of inflammation and recovered their muscle strength significantly quicker.”
Cherries, courtesy of their high vitamin C content, may also stave off exercise-induced asthma, the symptoms of which include cough, wheezing and shortness of breath when exercising. A meta-analysis12 from Finland found vitamin C may reduce bronchoconstriction caused by exercise by nearly 50 percent.
Interestingly, another powerful and natural strategy to accelerate muscle recovery is photobiomodulation. I have a 1-foot by 3-foot panel of red (660 nm) and near-infrared (850 nm) LEDs that I use every day for about five minutes. The bed is a few thousand dollars but you can achieve similar results with a smaller near-infrared device from Amazon.13 It just takes longer as it has fewer LEDs. You also need to remove the plastic lens and put black electrical tape over the green photodiode so it will turn on in the daytime.
On the days that I lift heavy enough to cause muscle challenges serious enough to make it difficult to sit down or use the toilet the next day, I use the light bed for 10 minutes and that is enough to completely abort the post-exercise stiffness and pain. It is an amazing mitochondrial support; every time I use it, I’m surprised that I can avoid the post-exercise pain and stiffness.
Cherries Are Potent Anti-Inflammatories
Tart cherries contain two powerful compounds, anthocyanins and bioflavonoids. Both slow down the enzymes cyclo-oxyygenase-1 and -2, which helps to relieve and prevent arthritis and gout.14Gout occurs when the metabolic processes that control the amount of uric acid in your blood fail to do their job effectively.
The stiffness and swelling are a result of excess uric acid-forming crystals in your joints, and the pain associated with this condition is caused by your body’s inflammatory response to the crystals. Dr. Nathan Wei, a nationally known rheumatologist, recalled this story about the powerful effect of cherries on gout:15
“Dr. Ludwig W. Blau, relating how eating a bowl of cherries one day led to complete relief from pain, sparked off the interest in cherries in the treatment of gout … Blau’s gout had been so severe that he had been confined to a wheelchair. One day, quite by accident, he polished off a large bowl of cherries, and the following day the pain in his foot was gone.
“[Blau] continued eating a minimum of six cherries every day, and he was free from pain and able to get out of his wheelchair … Blau’s research led to many other people suffering from gout who reported being helped by cherries.”
In a study16 of over 600 people with gout, those who ate a one-half cup serving of cherries per day for two days, or consumed cherry extract, had a 35 percent lower risk of a subsequent gout attack. Those who ate more cherries, up to three servings in two days, halved their risk. Other studies have found:
Eating two servings (280 grams) of sweet Bing cherries after an overnight fast led to a 15 percent reduction in uric acid and lower nitric oxide and C-reactive protein levels (which are associated with inflammatory diseases like gout).17 The researchers noted the study supports “the reputed anti-gout efficacy of cherries” as well as “evidence that compounds in cherries may inhibit inflammatory pathways”
Consuming tart cherry juice daily for four weeks may lower your levels of uric acid18
By reducing inflammation, the anthocyanin and bioflavonoids in cherries may also help reduce:
Migraine headaches. These compounds are actually known to have similar activity to aspirin and ibuprofen
Pain from inflammatory osteoarthritis.19 According to one study,20 women with osteoarthritis who drank tart cherry juice twice daily for three weeks had significant reductions in markers of inflammation and a 20 percent reduction in pain. The researchers noted that tart cherries have the “highest anti-inflammatory content of any food”
How Cherries Support Healthy Sleep
Interestingly, cherries contain natural melatonin,21 a powerful antioxidant and free radical scavenger that helps “cool down” excess inflammation and associated oxidative stress. It also plays a vital role in sleep, cancer prevention and general regeneration. Based on daily environmental signals of light and darkness, your pineal gland has evolved to produce and secrete melatonin to help you sleep.
Research suggests that consuming tart cherry juice increases your melatonin levels, thereby improving time in bed, total sleep time and sleep efficiency. According to the researchers:22
“…consumption of a tart cherry juice concentrate provides an increase in exogenous melatonin that is beneficial in improving sleep duration and quality in healthy men and women and might be of benefit in managing disturbed sleep.”
Other Health Benefits of Cherries
Tart and sweet cherries also have a number of other important health benefits. For example, they’ve been found to:
•Improve risk factors associated with diabetes and heart disease. In one animal study, rats fed tart cherry powder along with a high-fat diet gained less weight and accumulated less body fat than rats not fed tart cherries. They also had lower levels of inflammation and triglycerides, suggesting a role in heart health.23
Quercetin is also known to have a beneficial impact on cardiovascular health by reducing your blood pressure. According to a study investigating the effects of quercetin in hypertension, “The results of this meta‐analysis showed a significant effect of quercetin supplementation in the reduction of blood pressure, which suggest that this nutraceutical might be considered as an add‐on to antihypertensive therapy”24
•Reduce your risk of stroke. Tart cherries activate peroxisome proliferator activated receptors (PPAR) in tissues, which help regulate genes involved in the metabolism of fat and glucose. PPAR activation has a beneficial effect on blood pressure, cholesterol levels, diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
In fact, research suggests eating cherries may provide heart benefits similar to prescription PPAR agonists,25 drugs prescribed for metabolic syndrome. The problem with these drugs is that while they may improve risk factors associated with heart disease, they may increase your risk of stroke instead.
As reported by Science Daily, 26 “… [R]esearch from the U-M Cardioprotection Research Laboratory suggests that tart cherries not only provide similar cardiovascular benefits as the prescribed medications, but can also reduce the risk of stroke, even when taken with these pharmaceutical options”
•Lower your risk of dementia. Inflammation and oxidative stress are associated with an increased risk for dementia. The polyphenols in tart cherries effectively combat both, thereby lowering your risk of cognitive decline.
As explained in one recent study,27 “[P]olyphenols from dark-colored fruits can reduce stress-mediated signaling in BV-2 mouse microglial cells, leading to decreases in nitric oxide (NO) production and inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) expression. [T]art cherries — which improved cognitive behavior in aged rats … may be effective in reducing inflammatory and OS-mediated signals”
•Lower your risk of colon cancer by substantially reducing formation of heterocyclic aromatic amines (HAAs) when added to hamburger patties. It also slows meat spoilage.28 HAAs are potent carcinogenic compounds created when food is charred, and have been linked to an increased risk of colon cancer. Hamburger patties with just over 11 percent tart cherries in them contained anywhere from 69 to 78.5 percent less HAAs after cooking, compared to regular patties
Storage and Washing
To retain the best flavor, consume fresh cherries within two days if kept at room temperature, or store in the refrigerator for longer shelf life. Avoid washing them before storing, as this accelerates deterioration. Instead, wash them immediately before eating.
As mentioned, growing a few cherry trees or bushes29 in your backyard can provide you with this potent super food for several months out of the year. Relying on commercially-available cherries will limit them to just a few weeks a year. I eat a few acerola cherries every day, right from my own organic garden.
Blueberries rank second to strawberries in popularity of berries regarding U.S fruit consumption. Not only are they popular, but blueberries are continuously ranked in the U.S diet as having the highest antioxidant capacities among other fruits, veggies, seasonings, and spices.
Blueberries are native to North America; hence they have been enjoyed by Native Americans for many years. They have been quite popular in Mediterranean and Asian cuisine, too.
Recent studies emphasize the fact that we can freeze blueberries without doing any damage to their antioxidant content. These antioxidants include many types of anthocyanins, pigments that give berries their shades of purple, blue, and red. After freezing blueberries at low temperatures for periods between three to six months, researchers have found no lowering of their antioxidant capacity.
As a matter of fact, mounting evidence suggests that freezing fruits can make them even healthier! This applies to organic blueberries specifically, where the anthocyanin content it far more powerful after a stay in the freeze. Note that the already discussed anthocyanins contain various anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic properties which might revolutionize the medical industry.
What does freezing do?
When you freeze the blueberries for either short or longer period of time, the low temperatures penetrate the fruit and affect the tissue structure, making the antioxidant content much more available.
As mentioned in the very beginning, the berries actually have their color because of the anthocyanin content in the tissue. Organic blueberries are better option as they have higher nutritional profile. However, freezing can notably increase the following benefits:
1. Improving Heart Health
Eating frozen blueberries on a regular basis is associated with lower risk of heart disease, since the nutrients relax the arteries in the vascular wall, which in turn keeps them from getting damaged. As a result, this improves blood circulation as well, giving you a healthy blood pressure levels in the process.
2. Reduced Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease & Other Forms of Dementia
The antioxidant content in blueberries can improve many memory functions as well as protect the brain from any cell damage. This protection makes the retrieval processes more fluid, which in turn makes recalling much easier. Blueberries also make communication between cell processes easier, improve nerve cell growth, and delay nerve cell aging.
3. Improved Nervous System Health
Again, the same antioxidant content protects the nerve cells, and thus protects the brain from damage caused by toxins that it is exposed to on a daily basis. The antioxidants create a safeguard around the nervous system, which in turn keeps it strong and healthy for longer.
4. Improved Motor Function
Individuals above the age of 70 years typically suffer from impaired movements. The good news is that one study found that eating frozen blueberries improved their cognitive ability, which shows improved motor ability compared to other subjects in the same age group.
5. Improved Digestion
Ultimately, the antioxidants in blueberries protect the digestive tract from damage from outside sources. Most of the people who lack antioxidants in their diets eventually develop cancer due to their poor gastrointestinal health. Those who are at higher risk of developing colon cancer should eat more frozen blueberries.