Throughout my career I've seen dozens of supplements come and go in terms of trendiness, from herbs and amino acids to antioxidants and extracts. Recently, activated charcoal has been having a moment as a must-try natural remedy.
Early on in my career I worked in a hospital, as well as a substance abuse rehabilitation center, so I am familiar with the medicinal use of activated charcoal. Similar to common charcoal for your grill, activated charcoal is typically made from peat, coal, wood, or coconut shells, treated in a way that makes it very porous, or "activated." It's used commonly in emergency rooms to treat poisoning and drug overdoses due to its ability to trap chemicals and prevent them from being absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract into the blood.
Apparently some health enthusiasts theorized that if activated charcoal can soak up dangerous substances, it should be used routinely, as a way to cleanse the body of other toxins we're exposed to (such as pesticides and chemicals in food packaging). And a trend was born.
Activated charcoal has been making an appearance in a number of bottled beverages, like charcoal water, lemonade and other pressed juices. There are also a myriad of activated charcoal supplements you can buy online, promising to help with gas, and some people are even using it to whiten their teeth. Unfortunately, though, it's not that simple (nor totally harmless). Here are three things you should know about the fad.
Activated charcoal can bind to beneficial substances too
Activated charcoal doesn't distinguish between wanted and unwanted substances. That means it can also bind to nutrients, including vitamin C and B vitamins, as well as other dietary supplements, and prescription medications, preventing them from getting into your bloodstream.
In other words drinking it in juice, for example, may actually make the produce you're gulping less healthy in some ways, not more. The most important thing to remember about anything claiming a "detoxifying" benefit is that your body is equipped with a liver, kidneys, lungs, and digestive system, which work around the clock to perform "detoxing" functions. If you want to help them out, the best things you can do are to drink plenty of water, eat foods that naturally enhance your body's ability to "detox," such as beets, ginger, turmeric, and cruciferous veggies (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale), and avoid artificial additives and processed foods.
Activated charcoal can actually cause digestive distress
The use of activated charcoal to help with gas isn't well studied and the research is conflicting, but it has also been known to cause nausea and vomiting. It can also trigger constipation, slow the movement of food or waste through the digestive system, or even lead to a serious intestinal blockage. And one 2014 report from George Washington University suspects that activated charcoal may have caused colitis (inflammation in the colon) in one patient who repeatedly used it to detoxify his body on his own. In other words, it's unclear how it will affect you individually.
RELATED: 20 Best Foods for Fiber
There is no known safe dosage
Because activated charcoal is not routinely used preventatively, studies haven't been conducted about its long-term effectiveness, or safety, much less an optimal amount to take. So while it may seem beneficial and benign, you could be harming your health in ways we don't yet understand. Bottom line: activated charcoal has been used as medicine for years in emergencies. And some physicians may recommend it to reduce the side effects of chemotherapy or long-term dialysis. However, more research is needed in both of these areas, and in my opinion it's too early to embrace as a home remedy or everyday wellness strategy.
Cynthia Sass is Health’s contributing nutrition editor, a New York Times best-selling author, and a consultant for the New York Yankees.
Certain so-called superfoods seem to be everywhere. They're said to ward off cancer, help with weight loss, extend your life, even whiten your teeth. But do these "miracle" foods really live up to all the hype? To find out, we interviewed experts and pored over research. Here's what we learned about apple cider vinegar, avocados, red wine, and more.
The hype: Almost three-quarters of people in a recent survey said they thought coconut oil was healthy. No doubt that’s because of claims that it protects against heart disease (because it boosts HDL or “good” cholesterol), arthritis, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes; while also helping you lose weight, thanks to a particular kind of fat that your body may metabolize differently than others.
The reality: The American Heart Association (AHA) issued a recent statement that flat out recommended against using coconut oil. Why? A high level (82%) of really-bad-for-you saturated fat. Multiple studies confirm that coconut oil actually raises “bad” LDL cholesterol.
The bottom line: The AHA statement pretty much said it all. If you do go for coconut oil (we know it tastes good), practice extreme moderation. “One tablespoon a day provides nearly the recommended limit of saturated fat for the entire day for most adults,” cautions Malina Malkani, a registered dietitian nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
The reality: Chocolate may protect against heart disease, stroke, and diabetes—but only dark, purer forms of chocolate. Once it’s been processed into prettily packaged treats beckoning from store shelves, it’s basically just sugar and fat.
The bottom line: A little of the right kind of chocolate may help reduce blood pressure, but a lot of any kind of chocolate will backfire. “The darker the chocolate the better,” says Malkani. Look for a cocoa content of 70% or more. And stick to one or two squares a day at most.
The hype: Butter is back! Unjustly vilified for so many years, the stuff is actually good for you.
The reality: A lot of the hype stemmed from one 2014 study which found that eating less saturated fat may not cut your risk for heart disease. But that’s a whole lot different than saying eating saturated fat is good for your health.
The bottom line: Don’t become a daily disciple of Julia Child’s high-fat recipes just yet. The current science still tells us to replace saturated and trans fats with unsaturated fats (think olive oil). If butter has a role, it may be to up your intake of indisputably healthy foods: “If used mindfully and sparingly, it can enhance the flavor of vegetables you might otherwise not enjoy,” says Malkani.
The hype: Avocado, the poster child for “good” fats for decades, is rumored to reduce the risk of a host of health ills—obesity, diabetes, heart disease and others—and help you live longer too.
The reality: The fruit’s long-standing reputation may be well-deserved. “There is a large body of evidence that an avocado-rich diet high in monounsaturated fats helps lower LDL or bad cholesterol and raise HDL,” says Malkani. It may also ease pain from osteoarthritis.
The bottom line: Avocado every day may help keep the doctor away. But f you’re trying to lose weight, remember that one serving is actually only one-third of one fruit, says Malkani. Now-trending avocado oil is another matter, warns dietician Sandra Arevalo, director of nutrition services and community outreach at Montefiore Health System's Community Pediatrics in New York City. "The put a lot of additives in [avocado oil] so we have to be careful."
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The hype: Red wine may be the one thing standing between you and heart disease and diabetes.
The reality: This may not be just wishful thinking. Studies going back decades have found a lower risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes among people who drank moderate amounts of red wine compared to those who didn’t drink at all. But overdo it on the vino and you could end up with heart disease, liver disease, and cancer. A 2017 report found that even very small amounts of alcohol may increase the risk for breast cancer.
The bottom line: There’s a fine balance. “[Red wine] is good in moderation,” says Arevalo. The AHA recommends women consume just one alcoholic drink a day (that's 4 ounces of red wine), and that men stick to two.
Apple cider vinegar
The hype: The grapevine claims apple cider vinegar can whiten your teeth, lower blood sugar, fight infection, keep heart disease and cancer at bay, and oh so much more
The reality: Apple cider vinegar may lower blood sugar and help you feel full, but so do other kinds of vinegar. The same with losing weight. It’s not clear if apple cider vinegar has any use against cancer and heart disease. And it looks like it doesn’t help heal wounds. As for your teeth, not only will vinegar not lead to pearly whites, it can also erode enamel.
The bottom line: Apple cider vinegar is a good addition to salads, but don't consider it a potential panacea for health woes.
The hype: Where do we even start? The supposed health benefits of coffee include lowering your risk of type 2 diabetes, liver disease, and heart disease while generally helping you live longer. It may treat Parkinson’s and keep your memory sharp.
The reality: Many of these benefits may be real. Caffeine has been shown to improve movement in Parkinson’s patients, while both caffeinated and decaf coffee may lower your risk of type 2 diabetes. Java is also linked with a reduced risk of several types of cancer including colon and prostate (but an increased risk of lung cancer).
The bottom line: The evidence applies to black coffee, not coffee laden with cream, sugar and syrup. Most studies show the benefits of caffeine come from about 400 milligrams—the amount on three to five 8-ounce cups of home-brewed coffee, say Malkani. If you are hypertensive, talk to your doctor, as caffeine can cause short-term blood pressure spikes. But if you don’t drink coffee now, experts says it's not worth starting the habit. (Same goes for wine.)
RELATED: 18 Superfoods for Your Heart
The hype: Water garnished with a little lemon is reputed to help digestion, speed weight loss, keep you hydrated, and prevent kidney stones.
The reality: The benefit of lemon water probably stems from the water part, not the lemon part, even though lemon has vitamin C. Water is good for you, and most of us don’t get enough.
The bottom line: Drink lots of water every day, with or without lemon. “I don’t think it’s a superfood. It’s just a wonderful way to vary the flavor of water,” says dietician Sharon Zarabi, director of the bariatric program at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. “For those who have trouble taking in 6 to 8 cups a day, lemon might make it a little bit more refreshing.”
This article originally appeared on Food + Wine.
We're taught that steaming vegetables, fish, and everything in between is healthier than, say, dumping broccoli florets into a boiling water bath and letting all those good vitamins—fiber, B6, and potassium, to name a few—seep out into the H2O. And new research suggests that when it comes to fish, this couldn't be more true: streaming tilapia and other filets keeps dangerous toxins from entering your body.
Researchers from the University of Seville took a look at whether steaming fish or boiling fish filets could better reduce cylindrospermopsin, a cyanotoxin found in some of the most eaten freshwater fish, such as tilapia. They found that while boiling fish does reduce the toxin—by about 18 percent, in fact—steaming the filets reduced it even more, to a rate of about 26 percent. What's more, biotoxins also pass into the steaming water and avoid our bodies almost entirely—which is a very good thing.
Cylindrospermopsin impacts animals' organs, including the liver, kidneys, heart, intestines, lungs, and brain. In humans, cylindrospermopsin can be drank, ingested, or aspirated—and symptoms include headaches, diarrhea, nausea, abdominal pain, dehydration, fatigue, dry eyes, and even kidney damage. According to the researchers, the cyanotoxin is transferred to food from water that contains it, so it can be found in everything from plant-based foods to cereals, fish, and shellfish.
"It is fundamental to continue investing research resources in this area, as the real exposure [of cylindrospermopsin] to consumers is not known, and therefore the risk is also unknown," the researchers wrote in their study, published in Food Control.
Until then, if you don't want to take the risk of ingesting any more of this cyanotoxin than necessary, the report suggests you steam your fish for at least two minutes. And be sure to throw out any steam water you use in your cooking—think: don't use it for stocks, or to make a sauce—as it will have absorbed the toxin itself. The researchers say their next steps will be to test the results of other common cooking methods like grilling and microwaving in the future.
This article originally appeared on Time.com.
Mushrooms are healthy because of the significant amount of dietary fiber, protein, amino acids, vitamins (including B1, B2, B12, C, D and E) and trace minerals that they contain, as well as the fact that they’re low in fat and calories.
But, according to researchers from the Mushroom Technological Research Center of La Rioja in Spain, mushrooms’ composition, antioxidant capacity and nutritional content can be negatively affected by the cooking process.
For the study, which was published in the International Journal of Food Sciences, the team evaluated the influence of boiling, microwaving, grilling and frying white button, shiitake, oyster and king oyster mushrooms. After cooking the four types of mushrooms, which were chosen because they are the most widely consumed species of mushroom worldwide, the samples were freeze-dried and analyzed, with the results compared to raw versions.
The researchers concluded that the best way to cook mushrooms while still preserving their nutritional properties is to grill or microwave them, as the fried and boiled mushrooms showed significantly less antioxidant activity. The fried mushrooms in particular revealed a severe loss in protein and carbohydrate content, but an increase in fat.
“Frying and boiling treatments produced more severe losses in proteins and antioxidants compounds, probably due to the leaching of soluble substances in the water or in the oil, which may significantly influence the nutritional value of the final product,” said Irene Roncero, one of the study’s authors, in a statement.
Jenna Dewan Tatum Eats Only Plant-Based Foods (which Includes French Fries!): What She Eats in a Day
This article originally appeared on People.com.
Jenna Dewan Tatum sticks to eating foods that make her feel her best.
“I consider eating healthy a way of life because I feel better, plain and simple,” she tells PEOPLE. “I’m not a fan of dieting, which is why I choose to eat healthy most of the time. I keep it in balance, so I don’t have to crash diet. When I want to splurge I allow myself and don’t beat myself up — I just make a plan to eat extra healthy the next day or work out.”
When she decides to splurge, Dewan Tatum goes for “salty, savory food,” including her favorite: “French fries!”
“I also choose to eat plant-based foods because not only is it healthy and yummy, but I feel ethically right,” says the World of Dance host, 36. “We have become so off-balance with our animal consumption. Even one meatless meal a week helps!”
Check out Dewan Tatum’s daily food log below, and for more on her diet, pick up a copy of PEOPLE, on newsstands now.
2 liters of water
Kimberly Snyder’s Glowing Green smoothie with spinach, romaine lettuce, water, celery, apple, pear, banana, lemon juice, cilantro and parsley
Cucumber and tomato salad with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper
Fruit smoothie with apple, banana, raspberries, blueberries and water
Quinoa bowl with black beans, chopped tomatoes, roasted squash, zucchini, red peppers, avocado, corn, salsa, tortilla strips, lime, vegan chipotle sauce, salt and pepper
“Jenna does a great job getting her daily fruits and vegetables,” says Atlanta-based dietitian Marisa Moore, who also commends Dewan Tatum’s lunch and dinner choices for being “packed with plant-based fiber and protein.” However, she notes that “Jenna may need more calories to cover vigorous physical activity like dancing or a busy day on-set.”
NOTE: It is recommended that women eat at least 1,200 calories per day, and men eat at least 1,800 calories per day.
Ever find yourself going about your day, not even thinking about food . . . when all of a sudden your appetite kicks in, and you’re at the drive-thru or rummaging through your pantry, looking for whatever it is you crave? That’s because feeling hungry often has little to do with whether your system really needs food and a lot more to do with some sneaky cues and behaviors you encounter without realizing it. These 6 are among the biggest offenders tricking you into thinking you’re hungry when you really aren’t.
There may be a downside to turning to TV for recipe inspiration. A new study found that people who cook from scratch based on recipes they got off a cooking show weighed 11 pounds more than those who watched these shows but didn’t cook very often. The authors of the study, from Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab, think the extra pounds might have to do with how indulgent TV recipes are. When people make them at home and consume them, they think it’s okay to take in all the extra calories.
Orange- and red-colored foods
From a biological perspective, humans “tend to seek out vibrant colored foods, as these contain the most vitamins and minerals,” says Susan Albers, PsyD, clinical psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic and author of 50 More Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food. “The response is subconscious…think about a time when you’ve walked through a grocery store and found yourself picking up a sack of oranges or bag of red peppers.” But that instinct works against you when you’re face to face with a plate of mac and cheese or gooey nachos. These dishes share a similar hue as oranges do, but they have way more fat and calories.
Food packages on your kitchen counter
You know the saying, out of sight is out of mind? That definitely applies to food as well, and it sums up the dangers of not putting your groceries away as soon as you come back from the supermarket or leaving out half-eaten boxes of takeout pizza. When you see these items, even in their containers, your appetite gets going, and it’s hard to resist consuming them.
“People tend to reach automatically for foods that are within arm’s reach,” Dr. Albers says. “If it’s there, you’re likely to eat it.” One study shows that people who keep soda and cereal on their counters weigh a startling 26 pounds more than those who opt to tuck them away in a pantry.
RELATED: 12 Foods That Control Your Appetite
Other people eating near you
You’re having drinks with friends when someone orders a round of apps. You weren’t hungry at all before the order was placed, so why did you dig in when the food arrived at the table? We automatically match the pace at which people around us eat and “mirror” their behavior, Dr. Albers explains, and that’s true even if they’re at another table and you don’t know them. You could also blame a little social anxiety. “We’re simply trying to fit in and make a situation more comfortable,” she adds.
If you’re served a heaping pile of food on a large plate, you’ll likely try to finish it, even after you’re already full. “We naturally eat more off of large plates and bowls,” says Dr. Albers. It’s a mean trick your eyes play on you. Larger plates cause us to think a serving of food is smaller than it actually appears. One study showed that people scarfed down 16% more cereal than usual when it was served to them in a bigger bowl.
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A happy mood
You know about stress eating: tough day of work = pint of ice cream. But it’s not just negative emotions that lead us to dive into our kitchens. Positive emotions like joy, excitement, and even love can crank your appetite as well. It has to do with the fact that certain foods, like chocolate, trigger satisfying neurochemical responses in the brain. “We want to hold onto [those happy emotions], and another creamy bar of chocolate or crispy bag of chips promises to keep the good feelings rolling,” says Dr. Albers.
Also, when life is going well and you feel good, you’re more relaxed and less vigilant about your calorie intake. “People actually eat more when they’re in a happy relationship,” Dr. Albers notes.
This article originally appeared on Time.com.
The caffeine powers that be have started slowly, subtly rolling out test “Coffee Ice” — ice cubes made of frozen coffee, not just water — at a select number of the behemoth chain’s many outposts. While significantly less Instagrammable than the multi-colored or multi-flavored novelty drinks of yore, Coffee Ice has the admirable quality of being actually useful for everyday coffee consumption. In fact, it’s possible that Coffee Ice could save us all from the summer scourge of watered-down iced coffees and cold brews, those unappetizingly lukewarm beverages that litter our June, July, and August afternoons.
Some patrons have already begun to discover the joy of Coffee Ice at stores in Baltimore and St. Louis, as Cosmopolitan reports. The new and improved ingredient is becoming available just as the weather heats up and can be added to any iced drink, including frappuccinos. But it will cost customers an extra $0.80 per drink. And, as Reddit commenters have noted, baristas still have to go into the back freezer to grab your fancy ice. And yet. Those eighty cents and extra seconds might just all add up to a blissfully water-free coffee-drinking experience. That, of course, is priceless.
This article originally appeared on People.com.
In an interview with CBS This Morning‘s Charlie Rose on Wednesday, the New England Patriots’ wife and supermodel, Gisele Bündchen, says she is the reason the family steers clear of eating white sugar, white flour, MSG, caffeine, fungus, dairy, nightshades and yes, even strawberries.
“In my situation, we have a plant-based died and we’ve been having it for 10 years,” says the mom of two. “Because we feel better, it is better for our health and everything we put into our body has an affect on us, has an affect on our energy and how we feel.”
When Rose asks her directly if she initiated their healthy lifestyle, Bündchen reluctantly admits, “it has come from me.”
Though a personal chef for the family told Well+Good last year that Brady—who recently launched a $78 per week plant-based meal kit with Purple Carrot—also incorporated lean meats into about 20 percent of his diet, it seems he’s since gone full vegetarian. And that decision appears to be paying off.
The thing is, he said he’s been feeling so much better,” says Bündchen. “I have to say it’s amazing, you know, the way he feels. He doesn’t feel achy. He just feels so much more energy.”
But Bündchen isn’t taking all the credit for Brady’s five Super Bowl wins. “He has to thank his commitment, his dedication to it, because he still has to want to do it, right?” she says. “In the beginning, it was a little bit different for him, but now he loves it and he wouldn’t have it any other way because he feels better.”
This article originally appeared on RealSimple.com.
By now, most of us have either seen cauliflower crusts all over Pinterest, or we’ve taken the plunge and made one ourselves. With enough cheese and herbs, they can actually be quite tasty, and a great pizza crust option for our gluten-free friends.
We bought two crusts, which are sold frozen, and tried it two ways: plain, and with margherita pizza toppings. We baked the plain crust directly on the oven rack (per the instructions), and were surprised it barely took on any color in the oven. We slid it under the broiler to try and force some browning, but the entire floppy disk stayed pale as a rice cake.
Then, we took a bite—our first and last. The plain crust tasted like a flavorless rice cracker, with an unpleasant aftertaste. The box actually encourages you to try it plain, “for snacking.” We prayed some cheese would help its cause.
We topped the second unbaked crust with drained whole peeled tomatoes, lots of fresh mozzarella, some shredded Parmesan, salt and pepper. This time, taking it out of the oven was a hot mess. The flimsy crust buckled under the weight of our toppings, falling apart when we tried to slide it off the rack. Two people and three spatulas later, it somewhat successfully landed on the cutting board.
After a topping of fresh basil, we cut ourselves a slice, only to immediately regret taking another bite. No amount of cheese can save this poor crust. If we had liked it, we would have been disappointed at the serving size, which is one-sixth of the pizza, or one sad slice.
Our advice to you: If you’re looking for an alternative to a traditional crust, we recommend making it yourself. Or, if you’re excited about cooking with cauliflower, try one of our three genius ways to transform cauliflower rice.
It’s makeover time for the chocolate bars you’ve loved since you were a kid. On Thursday, some big-brand candy companies made a joint announcement that they’ll be shrinking the package size of their products, which in turn will lower the total calorie count. The label on the front of the bar will also list the exact number of calories inside.
The changes, to be completed by 2022, are all part of an effort to tackle the high rates of obesity in the U.S. The companies made the announcement at a meeting organized by the Partnership for a Healthier America; participating brands include Mars Chocolate, Wrigley, Nestle USA, Ferrero, Lindt, Ghirardelli, Russell Stover, and Ferrara Candy Company.
Here’s a rundown of how the candy counter is going to change. First, half of the individually wrapped products made by the above brands will be available in smaller single-serving packages that have no more than 200 calories. Calories counts will also be easier to read and understand, as they’ll be printed right on the front of the package. The calorie count will cover the entire bar or bag. (No more serving-size mumbo-jumbo.)
Information about candy will be easier to access as well. A new website, AlwaysATreat.com, will become a digital resource to help consumers understand what ingredients go into the candy and chocolate and have any questions answered.
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Currently, most of the individually wrapped products these companies sell already have less than 250 calories per package, so the change won’t seem drastic. But with more size options, people can more easily choose how they’d like to indulge.
“Educating the public about food products, even candy, is key to helping consumers make informed choices,” says Libby Mills, RD, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. But despite the changes, “consumers need to remember that smaller portions with nutritional information on the packaging doesn’t mean that the candy item is healthy.”