Luck is about being grateful for what you have

I’m not superstitious, I believe good luck is in part simply being grateful for what you have or what you receive. Having a positive attitude in itself may be more physiologically healthy than a negative attitude, so being grateful for what you have may help health by promoting a more positive mood.

Respecting tradition, or participating in tradition, is also something I appreciate. Having black-eyed peas for New Year’s Day wasn’t a family tradition while I was growing up. I first tried black-eyed peas  and tried cooking them after learning of their significant nutritional benefits. The southern tradition may have started out of a negative situation – no other food to eat, but the people left hungry got lucky in the food that was available.

Black -eyed peas are a very good source of folate, a B vitamin that is important for the immune system and for a good energy level by promoting healthy fully mature red blood cells. Without adequate folate a type of anemia with immature, non-functional or poorly functioning red blood cells can occur even when adequate iron is available in the diet. Black-eyed peas can help prevent anemia risk with the folate content and their iron content is also quite good at 2.2 milligrams per 1/2 cup serving. (Black-eyed Peas Health Benefits Including Anemia Prevention, Health Tips)

Per 100 grams of the food (about 4 ounces or 1/2 cup), black-eyed peas have 208 micrograms of folate while sugar has 1 microgram of folate. Green peas have 65 micrograms of folate per 100 grams. (Google: black eyed peas and folate)

So was it lucky to be left with very little food during the Civil War – no. Was it lucky to be hungry enough to try the legumes that were meant to feed farm animals – no. Was it sensible to cook them and see how they tasted – yes. Sometimes we make our own luck by working hard and accepting what is available as a positive rather than having a negative attitude and giving up. Black- eyed peas do have a slightly stronger flavor than many other beans and peas but sometimes strong flavor is a sign of more nutrients. Trying things because you learn they are good for you may be an unfamiliar habit but if you try something a few times or more the taste can become familiar and may even become something you enjoy.

With young children it is recommended to not force foods to be tried or eaten in large quantities if they are new but to offer a taste or two regularly. It can take thirty tries of a new food for a toddler to become used to the new food as something familiar and enjoyable. If force and negativity is involved however they may instead develop an aversion, a negative feeling about the food. I use the word toddler because that is the best time to accustom children to a wide range of foods. If caregivers give in too regularly to “I don’t like it” attitudes then that habit may become more fixed for the child and trying to change it later may be more difficult. Children also copy what they see adults doing so having a wide variety of healthy foods on the table and sharing a few tastes of what you are having can also be a good way to start toddlers and children with a taste for variety of flavors and foods. (Getting Kids to Try New and Healthy Foods, pbs.org)

If allergies are a problem then that should be taken into account but there are still many nutritious foods that are not regularly used and are not common allergens that could be added to a menu plan. Avoid this list of eight foods that cause up to 90% of allergies and you’ll be avoiding the most common food allergens, (unfortunately some of the ingredients are in practically most commonly used mixed dishes – so that isn’t easy to do):

  • Milk (mostly in children)
  • Eggs.
  • Peanuts.
  • Tree nuts, like walnuts, almonds, pine nuts, brazil nuts, and pecans.
  • Soy.
  • Wheat and other grains with gluten, including barley, rye, and oats.
  • Fish (mostly in adults)
  • Shellfish (mostly in adults) (this group may include shrimp as well as crab and lobster) (WebMD)

I am avoiding everything on the list except tree nuts so most of the recipes on this website do not use those foods. The almond meal in the recently posted Chocolate Cookie recipe that was included in the post with the Black-eyed Pea Soup recipe (New Year, new recipes) could be substituted with more brown rice flour or buckwheat flour is used in the original Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe. A discussion of modifying recipes is included with that recipe: (G8. Chocolate Chip Cookies)

Herbs and spices that aren’t too hot with hot pepper or horseradish are also a good way to add flavor and nutrients to simpler foods. A child’s tastebuds don’t need too much hot pepper but a small amount of spicy things may be enjoyed and tolerated well. A child’s tastebuds may be more sensitive than an adult’s so they may prefer simpler things because they simply need less flavor to activate their tastebuds. A child’s sense of smell may also be more acute than an adult’s and aroma adds significantly to the apparent “flavor” of food. The tastebuds don’t notice as much difference as our sense of smell can appreciate and differentiate. (Do children have more sensitive taste buds than adults? Ella, age 7: blastscience.co.uk)

Luck and superstition are two different topics and I believe luck is one part hard work and two parts good attitude, throw in a dash of common sense and who knows what might be possible. And superstition may include some common sense, someone may have had an accident occur when they walked under a ladder and the superstition that it is unlucky may have grown out of the common sense habit to not walk under things when you don’t know what is above – it may have grown out of an ancient instinctual knowledge that predators leap down from hiding places.

I try to do the best I can to be careful and simply clean up salt that is spilled, tossing more over my shoulder seems silly rather than respecting a holiday tradition such as having black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day. However in more ancient times when salt was difficult to find and was treated as a rare and expensive commodity it may have been a worse catastrophe – very bad luck – to spill some. Throwing a tiny pinch of what was spilled over shoulder to ward off more bad luck may have occurred at that time. During the Middle Ages there was a saying regarding table placement – to be seated above the salt meant you were important and would get served sooner from the shared dish of salt or other more expensive and sparse entrees. To be seated below the salt meant you were of less noble lineage in medieval times. (wisegeek.com) Salt is an important nutrient and more is needed in situations where it is hot and more sodium is lost in sweat from working or just from the hot environment.

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.

 

It is not a coincidence that my phospholipid rich diet overlaps with Nrf2 promoting foods

The punchline – phospholipids are the building block of cannabinoids which are also a phytonutrient that causes an increase in production of Nrf2. (1, 3) The most concentrated source of cannabinoids or phospholipids is found in medical marijuana or the non-euphoric CBD oil which is more likely to be available legally. However there are other legal sources of phospholipids and cannabinoids. The phytonutrients are also found in cocoa beans/baking cocoa/dark chocolate (processing reduces the concentration and availability of the ‘bitter’ tasting nutrients in more processed milk chocolate and chocolate syrup.) Phospholipids add a slight bitter taste to foods which I’ve always been able to taste and tend to prefer. A genetic screening did find that I have a double/ both sets of genes/ difference in my ability to make any chemical with phosphorus – the phospho- part of phospholipids which are important in many chemicals in the body not just cannabinoids. (4 – an open access textbook on phosphorylation)

For example the original Lemonhead TM candies have more flavor to me than the more recent version of lemon flavored Chewy Lemonhead, (lemonhead.com). Bitterness is something we have a specialized set of tastebuds to detect. Our tastebuds have a few specific types and there are some that detect sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and some for Umami (fermented protein/free amino acid/a hint of soy sauce like flavor). Recently reseachers have suggested a set detect starch but sweet is also a starch so it might be similar to the sweet detecting tastebuds. The article explains that the difference between simple sugars and complex, longer chain carbohydrates called polysaccharides, can be detected suggesting there are two types of carbohydrate sensing tastebuds. (2)

Our sense of smell adds a lot more differences to our enjoyment of foods and beverages. Terpenes are particularly good smelling and other phenolic compounds also add aroma. Cinnamon and vanilla, basil, oregano and lemon are all sources of phenolic compounds or terpenes. These were discussed in more detail in the recent post on Nrf2 and diet tips for promoting Nrf2. It is a protein that causes genes that make important antioxidants to become active so it helps protect us against damage from oxidative stress which can be caused by health factors or by real world worries whether an upsetting conversation or bad traffic.

Pomegranate seeds (not the juice) and pumpkin seed kernels are also good sources of phospholipids. The spice cardamom powder is also a good source. See the section The DASH Diet and Pumpkin Seeds on the home page of my other website: effectivecare.info. A salad recipe and more information about genetics and cannabinoids are also available on that site or in the post Is it Starvation or Addiction?

Pomegranate extract has been studied in animal based research to examine in more detail how it helps hypertensive blood pressure problems and reduce oxidative stress. The mechanism was found to involve increasing Nrf2. The formation of mitochondria increased, and their function improved. Before treatment the hypertensive animals had fewer of the specialized proteins that are involved in production of mitochondria. Mitochondria are the cellular organelles primarily responsible for turning blood sugar/glucose into usable energy. (5)

This study uses a pomegranate extract that incorporates the peel, seeds and juice as all contain the bioactive phytonutrient, punicalagin, thought to be most helpful for anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor and anti-diabetic effects. The animals who received the extract were found to have better blood pressure, reduced heart hypertrophy ( a sign of worse heart health) and a lower heart rate. Neuronal/nerve cell activity and oxidative stress markers were decreased in the experimental treatment group compared to the control group which received a saline solution and no pomegranate extract. Angiotensin converting enzyme which is involved in blood pressure control was lower in the experimental group  that received pomegranate extract and may be the mechanism for the lower blood pressure. Pro-inflammatory cytokines were reduced in the experimental group after treatment, an indication that hypertensive inflammation was reduced. The pomegranate extract treatment led to increased levels of phosphorylated AMPK which then leads to an increase in Nrf2 and its resulting increases in antioxidant proteins which protect against injury and inflammation from oxidative stress chemicals. (5)

Pomegranate is referred to as an ancient fruit in a research study on its benefits against hepatocellular carcinoma. Spoiler alert – it was found beneficial. (6)

“PE (Pomegranate Extract) treatment (1 or 10 g/kg), started 4 weeks prior to the DENA challenge and continued for 18 weeks thereafter, showed striking chemopreventive activity demonstrated by reduced incidence, number, multiplicity, size and volume of hepatic nodules, precursors of HCC (Hepatocellular Carcinoma).” (6)

One to ten grams per kilogram (1 to 10 g/kg) (6gives us a quantity but that is of the extract which is made with the juice, seeds and peel. The inner peel is whitish in color while the outer peel is vibrantly colored similarly to the juice. An average adult weighs somewhere around 70 kg (68 kg ~ 150 pounds) so the animal study used an equivalent of 70 to 700 grams of pomegranate extract. Five grams is about a teaspoon so 70 grams would be slightly less than 5 Tablespoons or about 1/4-1/3 cup which is roughly a half a pomegranate worth of seeds with the juice and would be a reasonable serving size. Ten times that would be more than a typical serving at approximately two and a half to three and a third cups of pomegranate extract per day, for 22 weeks (6– but if you have Hepatocellular Carcinoma that might sound good compared to other chemotherapy treatments.

My health and anxiety seems to be improved with a half a pomegranate worth of the seeds per day, or half in the morning and half in the evening when anxiety is worse. I have not tried using any part of the peel or interior whitish colored membranes so I don’t know what how edible they would taste. Pumpkin seed kernels are a higher fat food and the serving size is about 2 to 4 tablespoons, 1/8 to 1/4 cup as a snack my themselves or sprinkled on a salad. I prefer to have some of both foods every day. As well as other dark green leafy vegetables and herbs, beans, rice, nuts and other seeds, and ground lemon powder and/or lime or lemon juice. One healthy food alone isn’t enough to improve my health and mood on it’s own however the half a pomegranate can improve my mood when I’m having a worse anxiety moment. Pumpkin seed kernels are a higher fat and protein substance and don’t seem to have the quick acting mood lifting effect but I notice when I run out of them and don’t have any for a few days.

Regarding the “ancient fruit” reference in (6), yes pomegranate is mentioned in the Bible, Old Testament; 1 Samuel 14.2, “Saul was staying in the outskirts of Gibeah under the pomegranate tree…” and Old Testament; Haggai 2.19: “Is the seed yet in the barn? Do the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate, and the olive tree still yield nothing? From this day on I will bless you.” (7)

Menu tips to be continued later, Happy holidays!

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.

  1. Li X., Han D., Tian Z., Gao B., Fan M., Li C.Li X., Wang Y., Ma S.Cao F.,

    Activation of Cannabinoid Receptor Type II by AM1241 Ameliorates Myocardial Fibrosis via Nrf2-Mediated Inhibition of TGF-β1/Smad3 Pathway in Myocardial Infarction Mice., Cell Physiol Biochem 2016;39:1521-1536, https://www.karger.com/Article/FullText/447855 (1)

  2. Chase Purdy, The human tongue has a sixth sense and its a taste bud that loves carbs. Quartz, qz.com, Sept. 8, 2016, https://qz.com/776857/the-human-tongue-has-a-sixth-sense-and-its-a-taste-bud-that-loves-carbs/ (2)
  3. Wang Y, Ma S, Wang Q, Hu W, Wang D, Li X, Su T, Qin X, Zhang X, Ma K, Chen J, Xiong L, Cao F: Effects of cannabinoid receptor type 2 on endogenous myocardial regeneration by activating cardiac progenitor cells in mouse infarcted heart. Sci China Life sci 2014;57:201-208. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24430557 (3)
  4. Claude Prigent, Editor, Protein Phosphorylation, Publisher: InTech, Chapters published November 29, 2017 under CC BY 3.0 license InTechOpen.com, https://www.intechopen.com/books/protein-phosphorylation (4)
  5. Wenyan Sun, Chunhong Yan, Bess Frost, Xin Wang, Chen Hou, Mengqi Zeng, Hongli Gao, Yuming Kang,and Jiankang Liu,

    Pomegranate extract decreases oxidative stress and alleviates mitochondrial impairment by activating AMPK-Nrf2 in hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus of spontaneously hypertensive rats., Sci Rep. 2016; 6: 34246.   https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5054377/ (5)

  6. Anupam Bishayee, Deepak Bhatia, Roslin J. Thoppil, Altaf S. Darvesh, Eviatar Nevo, and Ephraim P. Lansky.,  Pomegranate-mediated chemoprevention of experimental hepatocarcinogenesis involves Nrf2-regulated antioxidant mechanisms., Carcinogenesis. 2011 Jun; 32(6): 888–896. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3314278/ (6)
  7. Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Containing the Ole and New Testaments, Thomas Nelson & Sons, New York, 1952, 1 Samuel 14.2, page 297, Haggai 2.19, page 984 https://www.amazon.com/1952-Revised-Standard-Version-Bible/dp/B000U2L3E0 (7)