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Monday, December 09, 2019

Check The Facts Before Detoxing Or Adding Supplements To Your Dietary Intake

By Barbara Quinn, The Monterey County Herald (TNS)

Let’s just say it feels very good to get back on track when the holidays are over. Why else would I be checking out the detox tea in my daughter’s cabinet on New Year’s Day?

“Detox” generally refers to the process of removing toxins (poisons and other harmful substances) from the body. And need I mention that we humans have a pretty powerful detoxifying system in place, even without detox tea? The liver is the body’s most dynamic detox unit; it removes harmful substances from our blood and zaps and neutralizes chemicals and other substances (such as alcohol) that would otherwise cause damage. Also partnering with the liver to detoxify our bodies are the kidneys and intestinal (digestive) tract. Keep these organs healthy and they work overtime to protect us from dangerous toxins.

Just for fun though, let’s see what’s in this detox tea that might be good for my holiday overloaded body:

Milk thistle (Silybum marianum). Sure enough, ground up seeds from this plant might help protect the liver from toxic chemicals and drugs. There is conflicting evidence, however, whether or not milk thistle can actually help heal a liver damaged by excessive alcohol.

Peppermint oil (Mentha piperita). According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), peppermint oil may ease the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). And herbal combinations of peppermint with milk thistle have been found to relieve heartburn (acid reflux) according to the US National Library of Medicine (NLM).

Dandelion (Taraxacum) Yep, the same plant we dig out of lawns in the summer has been used for hundreds of years to treat upset stomachs and a variety of other health problems. Unfortunately, there is not enough scientific evidence to determine if dandelion is an effective detoxifier.

Sweet Fennel (Foeniculum Vulgare) Fennel seed oil has been shown to be effective in reducing colic symptoms in breast fed babies. Not a lot of evidence for its detoxifying effects, however.

Parsley leaf is an edible green that is high in vitamins A, C and K. It’s also a good source of antioxidant substances that reduce inflammation in the body. Parsley is also high in potassium and phosphorous — nutrients to avoid in excess for some people with kidney disease.

Due diligence is always in order before ingesting any dietary supplement that claims to have a medical benefit. I like to check the evidence from trustworthy sites such as Medline Plus from the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health ( or the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements (

(Barbara Quinn is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula. She is the author of “Quinn-Essential Nutrition” (Westbow Press, 2015). Email her at

©2016 The Monterey County Herald. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: Judit Klein via Flickr


Moving Made Fresh Meal Deliveries A Natural

By Barbara Quinn, The Monterey County Herald (TNS)

Ahh, the adventures of moving. You think you’ve got your precious belongings carefully labeled. Then when you get to your new location, you’re surrounded by strange unpacked boxes that seem to say, “Bet you can’t guess what’s in here!”

Normal meals take a back seat during times of transition. Groceries? My refrigerator has not been this clean — or empty — in a long time. And after begging meals at my daughter’s house all week, I suggested we eat out — again.

“Oh, I forgot to tell you,” she said. “I got an extra delivery from my meal service that I’m not going to use. Do you want it?”

I hesitated, thinking about my empty kitchen cabinets.

“All you need is olive oil and salt and pepper,” she explained. “Everything else is included in the box…even spices.”

Sure enough, this box of food supplies from a company called “Hello Fresh” had all the items, including step-by-step recipes, for three generous meals. I accepted her offer and took it on faith that I could find the necessary cooking utensils…somewhere.

Forty-five minutes later (including 15 to find a knife, cutting board and cooking pot) I sat down to a yummy Cod Cioppino Tomato Stew, complete with toasted baguette for dunking.

I was impressed with the generous proportion of vegetables in these recipes in addition to the more than adequate servings of protein. If I didn’t know better, I’d say this company has a registered dietitian on staff. Sure enough, they do. Thank you, Rebecca Lewis, RDN (Registered Dietitian Nutritionist).

Several such companies exist these days. Registered dietitian nutritionist Tess Warwick of Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula, Calif., gets fresh ingredients delivered to her door each week by a company called “Blue Apron.”

“It’s helped me step out of my culinary comfort zone,” she says. “Meals are balanced, healthy and most importantly tasty!”

And…enough for leftovers the next day, I’d add. All I need is a fork and a plate and I’m in business.

Another nice thing about these companies is how they feature seasonal foods. For example, winter squash recipes and fun facts are included with this fall shipment. Did you know, say these cooking experts, that the squash we call “winter squash” is actually grown in the summer? It gets its name because its hard shell is durable enough to be stored during winter months. And you can choose to peel the thick skin on these winter varieties of squash before or after cooking.

Even with labels, we sometimes don’t know what’s really inside until we investigate. I’m glad I had the chance to try out this new idea of fresh delivered food and recipes. Now where in the world did I pack my cell phone charger?

(Barbara Quinn is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula. She is the author of “Quinn-Essential Nutrition” (Westbow Press, 2015). Email her at .)

(c)2015 The Monterey County Herald. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: BellaGaia via Flickr

Healthful Cooked Pumpkin Too Often Loaded With Sugar

By Barbara Quinn, The Monterey County Herald (TNS)

It was an amazing display of pumpkins at this roadside junction. Brightly colored pumpkins of every shape and size flirted with us to take them home. So we filled our carts (make it two carts) and hauled them home — some for decoration and others for eating. And all for the fun of this, my favorite season.

Pumpkins are big business this time of year, say those who analyze such things. Everything from pumpkin-flavored almonds to coffee are “in.”

What does the brilliant orange color of our beloved pumpkins tell us about their nutritional value? According to the University of Illinois Extension Service, orange is a dead giveaway that pumpkins are loaded with beta carotene, a substance with antioxidant properties that keep us from aging prematurely and also offer protection from heart disease and some types of cancer.

How do antioxidants work? According to the National Cancer Institute, they neutralize and render harmless certain bodily substances called free radicals that can damage our cells if left unchecked. Beta carotene is the main antioxidant in pumpkins and other orange-colored fruits and vegetables. Other antioxidants include lycopene (a red pigment in fruits and vegetables), and vitamins A, C and E.

One interesting note: A variety of scientific studies have found that taking supplements of antioxidants may not be as protective against cancer and other diseases as ingesting these substance in food. What’s the difference? Individual purified nutrients may not be effective in promoting health as the complex combination of substances in food. That’s probably the reason, say researchers, that diets rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains show great promise at delaying chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease.

Which brings me back to pumpkins, please. Besides being a rich source of antioxidants, pumpkins are what nutrition experts call “nutrient-dense” foods; they pack a ton of nutrients into each calorie. For example, for less than 50 calories, a cup of cooked pumpkin provides protein, calcium, iron, potassium and a host of other vitamins and minerals.

But who am I kidding? We don’t often just eat plain pumpkin, now do we? Case in point: my daughter’s killer pumpkin dessert, enriched with eggs, butter, sugar and spices. Yes, those same good nutrients are there, just with a few gazillion more calories. To which I am reminded, as autumn blows us into pumpkin season…small portions, please.

(Barbara Quinn is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula. She is the author of “Quinn-Essential Nutrition” (Westbow Press, 2015). Email her at .)

(c)2015 The Monterey County Herald. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: Rhonda Fleming Hayes via Flickr

Sounds Nutty, But Here’s Latest On Avoiding This Allergy

By Barbara Quinn, The Monterey County Herald (TNS)

I was surprised when my three-year old granddaughter and her mom (my daughter who lives several states away) suddenly appeared at my recent retirement party. No better surprise than that.

We sometimes get surprises in the world of nutrition, as well. Like the surprising estimate that the incidence of peanut allergy in Western countries has doubled in the past 10 years, according to a recent analysis of this topic in the journal, Allergy. Peanut allergy is also reported to be the leading cause of anaphylaxis (a sudden life threatening allergic reaction) and deaths due to food allergy. Pretty serious stuff.

Peanut allergy usually hits early in life and is seldom outgrown, say experts. No wonder, then, that most clinical guidelines recommend that infants at risk for allergies not be fed highly allergenic foods (such as peanuts). And they recommend that — as early as pregnancy — moms with a history of allergies avoid peanuts and other foods that may cause a problem.

Makes total sense. Except that these cautionary practices do not seem to have helped children avoid serious food allergies.

Then along comes a study that tried something different. Scientists in the United Kingdom proposed that introducing peanuts early in a child’s life (at 7 to 11 months of age) may actually protect a child from developing an allergy to peanuts.

How in the world did these scientists get the courage to do this study? It began with an observation that children in Israel — where peanut-containing foods are introduced to infants around 7 months of age — have one-tenth the risk for peanut allergy as Jewish children who live in the United Kingdom (where peanut products are not typically fed to infants during their first year of life).

In a study named Learning Early About Peanut Allergy (LEAP), scientists recruited infants with severe egg allergy or eczema (red, swollen itchy skin) or both. Two groups were studied: infants who tested positive for peanut allergy on a skin prick test and those who did not. Within these groups, half avoided peanut products until they were five years old; the other half were given small doses of a peanut protein product during the same time period.

At the end of five years, 13.7 percent of the group that avoided peanuts were allergic to peanuts while only 1.9 percent of the protein consumption group was allergic.

These surprising results highlight that we still don’t completely understand how food affects our immune function. Even more surprising was that those who avoided peanuts early in life had more peanut allergies than those who consumed them.

Precaution is warranted, however. This study was done under extremely controlled conditions and with medical supervision. Any child at risk for allergies should be followed closely by a skilled physician. We don’t want any surprises.

(Barbara Quinn is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula. She is the author of “Quinn-Essential Nutrition” (Westbow Press, 2015). Email her at .)

(c)2015 The Monterey County Herald. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: Daniella Segura via Flickr