hot peppers

Why Do Hot Peppers Bring the Heat?

There are three basic groups of peppers: bell, sweet, and hot. People all over the world eat them in one form or another.  Some eat for them the flavour, some eat them for the challenge and many for a combination of the two.

I am going to focus here on the hot variety and just why they are so.

Peppers are hot because they contain a chemical called capsaicin and related chemicals called capsaicinoids. Capsaicin acts by binding with nerve receptors generally used to transmit heat and heat-related pain in the body. The higher the capsaicin content the hotter the pepper.

Scoville Heat Unit

In 1912 a chemist named Wilbur Scoville invented a scale to measure the heat of peppers.  To this day pepper heat is measured in the Scoville Heat Unit.  Bell and sweet peppers have zero Scoville units since they have no capsaicin. Jalepeno peppers measure from 2,500 to 8,000 Scoville units and the pepper that I mistakenly planted this year, the Bhut Jolokia chili pepper or ghost pepper, which holds the distinction of being the world’s hottest chili pepper, measures 1,001,304 Scoville.

Back to capsaicin. It’s a flavourless and odourless substance found on the inside flesh of peppers. The experience of heat happens when the chemical binds to receptors that are made to respond to pain and heat in the throat and mouth. This tricks the brain into thinking that your mouth is on fire, causing your body to fight the “heat” by boosting your metabolism (increasing circulation) and cooling via perspiration.

After the brain gets this heat alert it sends out the cooling troops to neutralize and remove the heat.  These troops work to increased circulation by initiating cooling perspiration and reactions like a runny nose and teary eyes.

Myth:

A chilli pepper’s spicy heat comes from the seeds so removing them minimizes the heat.

Truth:

A chilli pepper’s spicy heat comes from the pith and ribs of the pepper, not the seeds.

The seeds may be coated with some of the capsaicin because they are in contact with the rib.  But the seeds themselves don’t actually contain any heat.

The ribs contain a good deal of the capsaicin heat but the flesh itself contains a good amount of heat as well.

So why can some people beat the heat while others suffer the fire?

There are 3 reasons proposed to answer this question.

1. Less Capsaicin Detecting Receptors

This theory states that some people inherit fewer of the capsaicin-detecting receptors that line your mouth and throat, making them less sensitive to hot peppers.

2. Training our heat receptors

An associate professor at the Culinary Institute of America, William Phillips, pointed out that people in some parts of the world such as Mexico or India naturally have higher tolerance for spicy food because they begin eating them at a very young age.

This receptor training desensitizes a person to capsaicin over time so they actually perceive less burn from capsaicin.

3. Thrill Seekers Love the Burn

This is interesting.  There was a  study done in 2012 that showed sensation-seeking individuals are more likely to like spicy food. The researchers found that people who are more open to new experiences and enjoy thrill-based activities, think roller coaster and rock climbing, tend to enjoy spicy food even if the immediate sensation is unpleasant.

Nadia Byrnes, one of the researchers stated that “Biologically, spice creates a sensation in the mouth that the brain interprets as burning or being on fire. When your body realizes there’s no real danger, it begins to interpret the sensation as a ‘thrill’ similar to gambling or riding roller coasters.”

Why are peppers healthy?

Hot peppers are healthy and here is why:

  • Capsaicin
    On top of being “hot,” capsaicin has been shown to be anti-bacterial, anti-carcinogenic, and anti-diabetic.
  • Vitamins
    Peppers are a rich source of vitamin C. They also contain antioxidants like vitamin A and also B-complex vitamins like vitamin B-6 and B-1.
  • Minerals
    Chillies have a good amount of minerals like magnesium, potassium, iron, and manganese.

There are countless ways to incorporate hot peppers in to your diet. Your first decision however is to determine what types of peppers pack just the right amount of heat for you.

Hot Pepper Oil

Here is a handy dandy way to use hot peppers.

Is it a recipe?  Not sure but here is how it goes.

In a glass jar with a lid (I use 125ml one) cut up a a few peppers (I use 2-3 different types usually) enough to fill about half of the jar.

Fill the jar with a very good quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil making sure all pepper are covered. Put the lid on the jar and let it sit for at least one day before using it.

This condiment is great on just so many dishes.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

Diabetes, Mitochondria & Cancer

Type 2 Diabetes is a known precursor for many different cancers.

Type 2 Diabetes also appears to confer a significantly greater risk in women than men for cancers of the mouth, stomach, kidney and for leukaemia.

With the knowledge that chronic inflammation fuels complications of Type 2 Diabetes, including cardiovascular and kidney issues, determining the underlying causes of inflammation in Type 2 Diabetes is very important for the development of treatments.  The prevailing assumption has held glucose to be the main determinant.

However, new research from scientists at the University of Kentucky has shown that changes to mitochondria drive chronic inflammation from cells exposed to certain types of fats.  This new finding does not disprove glucose as a mechanism for inflammation but it does shed light on the puzzling situation of people with tight glucose control still seeing disease progression.

What Are Mitochondria?

Mitochondria are organelles found in every human cell except for red blood cells. The more energy a cell needs the more mitochondria it will have.  Mitochondria take in nutrients, break them down and create energy for a vast number of cellular functions.

Improving Mitochondrial Health

With the results of this study in mind, improving the health mitochondria is a logical piece of the puzzle for cancer prevention.

Let’s look at some ways to do this.

Exercise

Mitochondria are essential providers of energy for cellular survival.  They are also key to the function of apoptosis, or programmed cellular death.  Exercise is key to increasing mitochondrial health and biogenesis.

Intermittent Fasting

 Intermittent fasting has been shown to remove damaged mitochondria from the body through a process known as mitophagy. It also improves mitochondria homeostasis leading to more optimal functioning.

As well, by avoiding over consumption you reduce the amount of fuel that your mitochondria is required to burn.  This serves to limit free radicals, a by-product of mitochondrial function.

Toxins

The deleterious effects of environmental toxins on mitochondrial function has been studied extensively in humans.  Doing your best to avoid environmental toxins, improving the environmental health of your home and workplace and supporting your natural detoxification pathways to aid your system in the elimination of acquired toxins are vital for supporting your mitochondrial health.

Diet

Poor diet can lead to excessive free radicals and inflammation.  Your mitochondria also produce free radicals.  Eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables provides needed antioxidants to counteract harmful effects of these free radicals.

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References

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2890380/

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00125-018-4664-5

https://www.cell.com/cell-metabolism/fulltext/S1550-4131(19)30377-8?_returnURL=https%3A%2F%2Flinkinghub.elsevier.com%2Fretrieve%2Fpii%2FS1550413119303778%3Fshowall%3Dtrue

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31674658

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19448716

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6078194/

 

 

 

 

 

Reading Produce Labels. What the Numbers Mean

The sticker that you find on fresh fruits and vegetables in the grocery store is called the PLU code, or Price Lookup Number.  The sticker codes for the price but also tells you how the food was grown. It tells if it is genetically modified, organically grown or produced with chemical fertilizers, fungicides, or herbicides.

What the Numbers Say

Here are the 1,2,3’s of reading the produce code:

  1. Four numbers in the PLU means that the produce was grown conventionally or “traditionally” with the use of chemicals. For example, 4033 is a small lemon.
  2. If there are five numbers in the PLU code, and the number starts with “8”, this tells you that the item is a genetically modified fruit or vegetable.  A genetically modified small lemon would be: 84033
  3. If there are five numbers in the PLU code, and the number starts with “9”, this tells you that the produce was grown organically and is not genetically modified. An organic small lemon would be: 94033

Of note, the adhesive used to attach the stickers is considered food-grade, but the stickers themselves are not.

Protective Coatings Applied to Fruits & Vegetables

Produce develops a natural, protective coating called a cuticle as it grows.  After harvesting and before it is sent to the grocery stores, the produce is washed and most of this protective cuticle is removed.

To replace the natural cuticle, a protective coating may be applied to some produce including apples, lemons, avocados, cherries, nectarines, peaches, oranges and pears.

The coating helps to slow decay, retain moisture and increase the shelf life of fruits and veggies. It also serves to improve the look of the produce and is itself edible.

There are many types of protective coatings that can be used on produce.  All must comply with Canadian regulations and be acceptable for use in Canada.

Label Reading is an Art

Knowing the basics of label reading is important whether you are in the produce section or making your way down through the processed foods area.

It can be confusing.  If you want a short, crash course in Nutrition Label reading head on over to my blog post:

Tips for Reading Nutrition Labels

 

References:

https://www.halfyourplate.ca/fruits-and-veggies/fresh-facts-for-consumers/

Pay Close Attention To These Numbers When Buying Fruit 

 

 

 

 

 

Apps to Help Lessen Anxiety and Stress

I have witnessed countless acts of kindness throughout this difficult time including wonderful trainers and gyms offering ways for us to keep physically active and motivated while staying home.

But along with taking care of our physical needs we must also nourish our mental self.

There are many strategies that we can employ.  One arena to play in are the many apps that have been developed for just this purpose.

There really are so many terrific apps available to help us strengthen and maintain our mental health but I want to highlight 3 that I use personally.

𝗠𝗶𝗻𝗱 𝗦𝗵𝗶𝗳𝘁

Developed by Anxiety Canada, Mind Shift is an app that is designed to help you cope with mild to moderate anxiety aiming to change how you think about anxiety.

It is based on proven scientific strategies helping you to engage in healthy thinking. You check in each day to track your anxiety and work with tools in the app.

This is a free app.

𝗖𝗮𝗹𝗺

In 2017 Calm was named iPhone App of the Year. Calm is a wonderful app for everyone including those experiencing stress and anxiety.  The App offers daily Calm sessions and guides you through meditations, sleep stories and breathing programs.

There is a free version and a paid version.

𝗚𝗿𝗮𝘁𝗶𝘁𝘂𝗱𝗲 𝗛𝗮𝗽𝗽𝗶𝗻𝗲𝘀𝘀 𝗝𝗼𝘂𝗿𝗻𝗮𝗹

Daily recording of gratitude has been shown to increase happiness and improve mood.

As the Gratitude Happiness Journal app description states:

the app was built out of a personal need to cope with anxiety & depression

This app offers unlimited journal entries and affirmations.

There is a Pro version but I have been using the free one and I love it!


RECIPE

Ashwagandha Milk Tea

(I have published this recipe before and have had many positive feedbacks from it)

Ashwagandha (Withania Somnifera) is an Ayurvedic adaptogenic herb.  An adaptogen helps to bring balance and stabiliziation. Ashwagandha is best known for its stress-lowering effects.

 

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tsp Ashwagandha Powder
  • 1 date
  • 10 Goji Berries
  • 4-5 cardamom buds

Directions:

  1. Add milk, water, Ashwagandha powder, date and Goji Berries to a small saucepan and bring to a boil
  2. Once reduced to about half strain in to a teacup, add cardamon buds and enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Neutropenia: A Common Side Effect of Cancer

Neutrophils are a type of white blood cell and an extremely important part of our immune system as they help our body to fight infection.

Neutropenia is a condition where a person has an abnormally low concentration of neutrophils.

People who have neutropenia have a higher risk of getting serious infections because they do not have enough neutrophils to fight off invading and harmful bacteria, viruses and fungi.

Cancer patients who are receiving treatment can be at risk of neutropenia. Neutrophils are made in the bone marrow and cancer treatments such as radiation and chemotherapy can affect a patient’s bone health thus impacting neutrophil production. Neutropenia is also a common side effect in people with leukemia and can also be caused by solid tumour malignancies if they infiltrate the bone marrow.

Neutropenia is diagnosed by a routine complete blood count (CBC).

Symptoms of Neutropenia

The following are common signs of neutropenia:

  • A fever
  • Chills or sweating
  • Sore throat, sores in the mouth
  • Abdominal pain
  • Pain near the anus
  • Pain or burning when urinating, or urinating often
  • A cough or shortness of breath
  • Any redness, swelling, or pain (especially around a cut, wound, or catheter)
  • Unusual vaginal discharge or itching

Allopathic Management of Neutropenia

The treatment of neutropenia depends on its cause and severity. In some cases cancer treatment may be suspended until neutrophil count rises to an adequate level.

Patients may be given medication to help bone marrow regenerate new neutrophils.

And in cases where a disease has caused the drop in neutrophils, treatment of the disease will occur.

How Can You Support Your Immune System If You Are At Risk of Neutropenia?

Eat a healthy diet

  • Protein is the building block for the immune system. Foods such as eggs, quinoa and

       lean white meat are good sources

  • Zinc is a strong immune booster. Foods rich in zinc include pumpkin seeds, shellfish and

       beans

  • Omega‐3 fatty acids increase phagocyte activity. Phagocytes are white blood cells that

        consume bacteria. Foods include flax seeds, wild caught salmon and chia seeds

  • Folate increases neutrophil count. Foods high in folate include leafy green vegetables,

        beans, and lentils.

  • Stay well hydrated drinking at least 8 glasses of water per day

Wash your hands frequently

Washing your hands helps to prevent the spread of germs to your nose, eyes and mouth.  All entry points to your body

Stay away from large groups

You are at greater risk of infection when your immune system is compromised.  During this time avoid large groups to help reduce your risk of coming in to contact with potentially harmful germs

Get lots of sleep

Proper sleep is a key piece of a healthy immune system.  Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep each night

Neutropenia can be serious.  Be aware of the symptoms and contact your doctor if you begin to experience any of them.


References:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4059501/

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

https://www.cancer.net/coping-with-cancer/physical-emotional-and-social-effects-cancer/managing-physical-side-effects/neutropenia

Chemotherapy, Radiation, Surgery Natural Strategies for Preparation & Dealing with Side Effects of Cancer Treatments by Cathy Biase BSc., RHN, CPCC