Your Wine May Kill You In Ways You Never Imagined

Is the arsenic in the irrigation water, pesticides, or introduced during processsing?

Is the arsenic in the irrigation water, pesticides, or introduced during processsing?

In case you haven’t heard yet, a class-action lawsuit in California alleges that certain wines have dangerously high levels of arsenic that could cause cancer, cardiovascular disease, or diabetes. USA Today has one of the ubiquitous stories outlining the few details we know at this point.

Furthermore, chronic low-dose arsenic exposure can cause skin changes (e.g., scaly thick skin, darkening, lightening), peripheral neuropathy (numbness, pain, weakness, typically starting in the feet, then hands), peripheral vascular disease, and liver disease. The cancers linked to arsenic are mostly skin, bladder, lung, and liver. The increased cancer risk persists even after the end of exposure.

How Do You Know If You’ve Been Poisoned With Arsenic?

Comments here refer to chronic low-dose exposure; acute high dose poisoning is a ‘nother can o’ worms.

First, see your doctor for a history and physical exam and let her know you’re worried about arsenic. If arsenic poisoning remains a possibility, lab testing is usually a 24-hour urine collection for arsenic, or spot urine for arsenic and creatinine. “Spot” in this context means a random single specimen, not a 24-hour collection. For the 48 to 72 hours before either of those tests, don’t eat fish, seaweed, or shellfish.

What about testing hair for arsenic? In general, it’s not accurate.

Bottom Line

At this point, if you or someone you love drinks wine, I suggest simply keeping an eye on this story as it develops. We need more facts. The whole thing could blow over, with nothing coming of it. Look for discount prices on the involved wines over the next couple weeks. One of the brands mentioned is Sutter Home, one of my favorites.

Was it just a year ago we had the vapors over arsenic in rice?

Steve Parker, M.D.

A Natural Constipation Remedy: Cabbage Soup

There’s something about cabbage…

I spent 30 minutes surfing the ‘Net to find out why cabbage soup can help fight constipation and even cause diarrhea. The answer is raffinose.

Raffinose is sometimes called a fiber but more often is characterized as a trisaccharide, oligosaccharide, or complex carbohydrate. It’s all four.

A typical bowl of cabbage soup has three grams of fiber. If you eat two bowls, that’s six grams, still not all that much, but can predictably cause loose stools or diarrhea in  many folks because of a particular type of fiber: raffinose.

The thing about raffinose is that it passes through the small intestine undigested because we lack the enzyme alpha-galactosidase. When raffinose hits the colon, bacteria start digesting it (aka fermentation), potentially leading to gas, bloating, and/or diarrhea. If your “dose” of raffinose is small enough, you won’t have any symptoms. To use cabbage soup as a constipation preventative or remedy, you have to experiment to see what dose works for you.

Raffinose is also found in beans and cruciferous vegetables like brussels sprouts and cauliflower

Steve Parker, M.D.

PS: Ever heard of Beano? The active ingredient is the enzyme alpha-galactosidase. It breaks down raffinose in the small intestine, to simple sugars we can absorb.

PPS: Raffinose is one of the oligosaccharides to avoid if you’re on a low FODMAPs diet.

Recipe: Spaghetti Squash Spaghetti

paleobetic diet, diabetic diet, low-carb diet, spaghetti squash, spaghetti

Meaty spaghetti sauce over spaghetti squash

Recently we’ve looked at low-carb spaghetti sauce and cooking spaghetti squash. It’s not too much of a stretch to put them together and call it spaghetti. Substituting spaghetti squash for spaghetti pasta means lower calories and more fiber per serving. And everybody needs to eat more vegetables, right?

Use the nutritional analysis below to fit this easily into the Advanced Mediterranean Diet or Low-Carb Mediterranean Diet.

paleobetic diet, spaghetti, squash, low-carb diet, diabetic diet, paleo diet

Cooked spaghetti squash partially teased apart with a fork

Ingredients:

3/4 cup (240 ml) low-carb spaghetti sauce

2 cups (480 ml) cooked spaghetti squash

Instructions:

Prepare the ingredients after clicking on links above. Assemble as in the photo. Enjoy.

Number of Servings: 1

Advanced Mediterranean Diet boxes: 2 veggies, 2 fats, 1/2 protein

Nutritional Analysis: 

52% fat

33% carbohydrate

15% protein

408 calories

36 g carbohydrate

7 g fiber

29 g digestible carbohydrate

1,398 mg sodium

1,201 mg potassium

Prominent features: Rich in B12, copper, iron, niacin, thiamin, B6

Countering Constipation on a Ketogenic Diet

I’ll admit that constipation can be an occasional problem with my Ketogenic Mediterranean Diet. I usually recommend fighting it with higher fiber consumption, Metamucil, or cabbage soup.

Georgia Ede, M.D., has a good article on constipation that is sometimes seen with ketogenic diets. Some think it’s related to low fiber content of the diet. But Dr. Ede found a study that indicates cutting down on fiber consumption helps alleviate constipation! A quote from the good doctor:

If you experience constipation on a ketogenic diet, it is not because you are eating less fiber; it is most likely because you have started eating something that you were not eating before (or a larger amount of something you didn’t eat much of before) that is hard for you to digest. In order to eat a ketogenic diet, which is a high-fat, limited protein, ultra-low-carb diet, most people find themselves turning to high amounts of foods that are notoriously difficult to digest, including nuts, low-starch vegetables such as crucifers, and full-fat dairy products.These foods just so happen to be 3 of the top 5 causes of chronic constipation, regardless of what kind of diet you choose to eat.

Read the whole enchilada for her tips on countering constipation.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Have You Tried Roasted Radishes?

I’m not a big fan of radishes, but a recent post by Darya Pino Rose got me interested in roasting some. Roasting mellows them out. According to NutritionData.com, a half cup of raw sliced radishes has only 2 grams of digestible carbohydrate. That would also supply 29% of the adult RDA for vitamin C, 7% of folate, and 8% of potassium. Antioxidants? Other phytochemicals? Googling “nutritional benefits of radishes” yields a bunch of unreliable sources.

Click for the roasted radish recipe recommended by Darya.

Sardines and Avocado Together? Ewwww!!??

California or Hass avocado

California or Hass avocado

Several years ago, Alton Brown lost a major amount of weight, and one of the items on his diet was sardine-avocado sandwiches. I like sardines. I like avocados. But I never ever would have considered eating them mixed together.

I recently read Franziska Spritzler’s The Low Carb Dietitian’s Guide to Health and Beauty (great book; my review). One of her recipes involves the sardine-avocado combo, so I’m resolved to give it a try. Her recipe was simply 4 oz (120 g) canned sardines mixed with 1/2 medium avocado and sea salt, stuffed in a large red bell pepper. I bet the sardine-avocado mix would be good on a bed of lettuce if I don’t have a bell pepper. A little black pepper and a squeeze of lemon, too?

I may even try Franziska’s Chocolate Avocado Pudding, another combo I never would have imagined.

Click for Alton Brown’s sardicado sandwich.

Steve Parker, M.D.

 

Book Review: The Low Carb Dietitian’s Guide to Health and Beauty, by Franziska Spritzler

247 pages

247 pages

I just finished The Low Carb Dietitian’s Guide to Health and Beauty,
written by Franziska Spritzler, RD, CDE, and published last month. CDE, but the way, means Certified Diabetes Educator. Per Amazon’s rating system, I give it five stars (I love it).

*   *   *

This valuable addition to the low-carb literature is unique: No other book covers the beauty and health aspects of low-carb eating specifically in women.

I’m a strong proponent of carbohydrate-restricted eating for weight management and cure or control of certain medical conditions. The great advantages of low-carbing for weight loss are 1) suppression of hunger, and 2) proven greater efficacy compared to other types of dieting. Nevertheless, I wasn’t aware that this way of eating also had potential benefits in terms of beauty maintenance or improvement. The author persuasively makes that case in this ground-breaking book.

Just because she has RD (registered dietitian) behind her name doesn’t mean you just have to take her word for it. Franziska gives us references to the scientific literature if you want to check it out yourself.

The author focuses on health and beauty; the weight loss happens naturally with low-carb eating. That’s a helpful “side effect” since 2/3 of women in the U.S. are overweight or obese.

She covers all the basics of low-carb eating, including the rationale, potential side effects and how to prevent or deal with them, the science of “good fats,” the importance of plant-derived foods and fiber, info on artificial sweeteners, and management of weight-loss stalls.

Then Franziska does something else unique and very helpful. She offers three different eating plans along with a simple test to help determine which is the best for you. The options are 1) low-carbohydrate diet, 2) high-fiber, moderate saturated fat, low-carb diet, and 3) intermittent fasting low-carb diet with weekly treat meal. You can dig right in with a week’s worth of easy meals made from readily available ingredients.

It was interesting for me to learn that the author ate vegan-style and then pescetarian for awhile. In 2011 she was eating the usual doctor-recommended “healthy” low-fat high-fiber diet when life insurance blood work indicated she had prediabetes. So she cut her daily dietary carbs from 150 grams to 50 or less, with subsequent return of the labs to normal ranges.

I only had a few quibbles with the book. For instance, there’s no index, but that’s mitigated by a very detailed table of contents. The font size is on the small side for my 60-year-old eyes. If either of those issues bother you, get the ebook version. “Net carbs” are mentioned briefly before they are defined, which might confuse folks new to low-carbing.

A particular feature that appealed to me is the vegetarian meal options. Low-carb eating is often criticized as being meat-centric. Franziska shows it doesn’t have to be.

I also appreciate that she provides the net carb grams and calorie counts for her meal plans and recipes. All diabetics and many prediabetics need to know the carb grams. Calorie counts come in handy when analyzing the cause of a weight loss stall. Yes, calories still count in weight management.

I don’t think it’s giving too much away to say that the author’s top low-carb beauty foods are avocados, berries, cinnamon, cocoa/dark chocolate, fatty fish, flaxseed, full-fat dairy, green tea, nuts, olives/olive oil, and non-starchy vegetables. I was skeptical at the start of the beauty foods chapter, but Franziska’s scientific references support her recommendations. I’m already eating most of these foods. Now I’m going to try green tea and ground flaxseed (e.g., her flaxseed bread recipe).

The author will also get you going on exercise. I heartily agree with her that exercise is truly a fountain of youth.

Menopausal? The author has your special challenges covered.

If you’re curious about the paleo diet, note that only about a quarter of these recipes are pure paleo. Dairy products disqualify many of them.

Here are a just a few tidbits I picked up, to help me remember them:

  • a blood test called fructosamine reflects blood sugar levels over the previous three weeks
  • you’ll have less wrinkles if you can reduce the advanced glycation end-products (AGEs) in your skin
  • Japanese women on the highest-fat diets have less wrinkling and better skin elasticity
  • soluble fiber from plants helps to reduce appetite, improves blood sugar control, and helps with weight regulation (see her table of high-fiber plants, including soluble and insoluble fiber)
  • seitan is a meat substitute for vegetarians
  • erythritol (an artificial sweetener) may have less gastrointestinal effects (gas, bloating, diarrhea) than many other artificial sweeteners
  • maltitol (another artificial sweetener in the sugar alcohols class) tends to increase blood sugar more than the other sugar alcohols
  • I’m going to try her “sardines mashed with avocados” recipe (Alton Brown popularized sardine-avocado sandwiches, so it’s not as bizarre as it sounds!)

I wouldn’t be surprised if Franziska’s recommendations help men as well as women keep or regain their youthfulness.

Steve Parker, M.D.