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5 Reasons Kale Is the New Beef

Until just a couple of years ago, kale did not get nearly the same attention as other leafy greens like spinach or Swiss chard. Many people had not even tried kale and were not quite sure how it was prepared! Fortunately, that has all been changing in these past couple of years as people start to understand more about the amazing nutritional value that kale has to offer – and the amazing health benefits it offers as well. Whether it is chopped in a salad, sautéed in olive oil and garlic or put in a juicer and added to the morning smoothie, kale has got what it takes. Read on to find out more about the health benefits that kale can bring to the table.

Reduces Inflammation

Medical professionals are now increasingly aware of the role that chronic, low-level inflammation plays in many conditions like diabetes, heart disease and even certain forms of cancer. Kale, however, is considered to be one of the great anti-inflammatory foods since it is full of Omega-3 fatty acids, which are able to reduce inflammation throughout the body.

Supports Heart Health

Kale is an incredibly heart-healthy food! It has been shown that a diet rich in kale (and other greens like spinach or collards) are linked to prevention of cholesterol and fat building up in the arteries, a process called atherosclerosis which is a major risk factor for heart attacks.

Boosts Immunity

Kale, like many dark, leafy green vegetables, is a rich source of antioxidants. These antioxidants boost the immune system by helping to remove toxins from the body and by preventing oxidative stress to the cells from free radicals. This, in turn, can also help reduce the development of certain forms of cancer.

Provides Dietary Fiber

Dietary fiber is incredibly important to the overall health of the body – and most Americans simply do not get enough of it!!! A diet high in fiber is associated with improved digestion, easier weight loss, more efficient removal of toxins from the body and even better heart health!

Excellent Source of Nutrients

Because the American diet is so dependent upon highly processed foods, it often lacks not only dietary fiber but many other important nutrients as well. Increasing the consumption of kale can help because it is loaded with vitamins and minerals, antioxidants and even protein, all of which can help those who are trying to overcome various nutritional deficiencies.

Therefore, kale is not just a delicious and versatile vegetable to add to the diet. It also brings with it a ton of health benefits, making it one of the truly great superfoods and a wonderful addition to any diet which seeks to promote heart health, increased immunity and overall better nutritional status.

Culinary Rx: Hibiscus Tea for High Blood Pressure

Dr. Diane McKay of the Jean Mayer USDA Nutrition Research Center on Aging, Tufts University Boston, MA, reported to the American Heart Association in 2008 the results of her study on the use of hibiscus tea to lower high blood pressure. This was a randomized, double blind placebo controlled trial.

Participants consumed 3 cups of hibiscus tea daily for 6 weeks versus a group that consumed a placebo beverage. The trial included 65 men and women aged 30 to 70 whose blood pressure ranged from 120-150 systolic and less than 95 diastolic. See my earlier post for an explanation of systolic and diastolic measurements.

None of the subjects were on high blood pressure medications. The blood pressure reduction achieved is listed in the following table.

Blood Pressure Reduction

The following were the results:

 Systolic  Diastolic
Hibiscus Tea (3 8oz. cups daily)  7-13 points  3 points
Placebo Group  1 point  0.5 points
Avg. Blood Pressure Medication  5-9 points  3-5 points

The average systolic blood pressure reduction was 7 points; however, in those with systolic blood pressures over 129, the average systolic blood pressure reduction was slightly more than 13 points. This exceeds the average reduction achieved by a blood pressure medication of 5-9 points systolic.

A Possible Explanation

Dr. McKay said that the presence of anthocyanins as well as other phytonutrients in the hibiscus tea could have contributed to the significant outcome. The placebo beverage contained no anthocyanins. These substances act in a manner similar to a class of high blood pressure medications called ACE inhibitors.

In another study comparing hibiscus tea against Captopril (a widely used ACE inhibitor), hibiscus tea proved to be equally as effective as the medication in lowering high blood pressure.

More Dramatic Blood Pressure Reduction

The Journal of Human Hypertension (August 2008) published a study in which hibiscus tea was compared to black tea in a group of diabetic patients. This group included 60 diabetic patients (Type 2 Diabetes). None of the group were on high blood pressure medications. For a period of one month, one group drank 2 cups of hibiscus tea while the other drank 2 cups of black tea.

The hibiscus tea group went from a systolic blood pressure of 134 to a systolic blood pressure of 112. There was no statistically significant difference in diastolic blood pressure. The authors conclude that their study confirms what other studies have found: hibiscus tea has an antihypertensive impact.

Questions and Cautions

There have been some questions raised regarding drinking hibiscus tea while pregnant. Dr. McKay indicated that in Nigeria, parts of the population consume the equivalent of 25 cups of hibiscus tea per day with no reported side effects. As always, if you are taking medication or considering a change in diet, consult with a licensed health practitioner.

Enjoy your hibiscus tea, and tell us your favorite natural snack that goes with it!

Statin drug use nearly doubles your risk of diabetes, study claims

The use of cholesterol-lowering statin drugs could double your risk of developing diabetes, suggests a study conducted by researchers from the VA North Texas Health System and the University of Texas Southwestern that was published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine on April 28.

Previous studies have shown a link between statin use and increased diabetes rates, but the new study is the first to show that statins seem to increase diabetes risk even in otherwise healthy people who are not predisposed to the disease.

"In our study, statin use was associated with a significantly higher risk of new-onset diabetes, even in a very healthy population," lead author Ishak Mansi said. "The risk of diabetes with statins has been known, but up until now it was thought that this might be due to the fact that people who were prescribed statins had greater medical risks to begin with."

Diabetes complications also more likely

The researchers examined the medical records of approximately 26,000 people who were enrolled in the military health system Tricare between October 2003 and March 2012. They used a particularly robust method of data analysis known as propensity score matching, in which 3,351 statin users were matched with an equal number of non-users who were very similar to them in 42 separate health and demographic variables. This is considered a particularly effective way of ruling out potential confounding factors.

The analysis showed that people taking statins had an 87 percent higher risk of developing diabetes. The diabetes that they developed was also more likely to be serious; statin users were 250 percent more likely to develop diabetes with complications than non-users.

The study is the first to show a connection between statins and diabetes complications. Confirming prior results, the analysis also showed that statin users were 14 percent more likely to become overweight.

The researchers also performed a more conventional analysis, directly comparing the roughly 4,000 statin users in the sample with the 22,000 non-users while controlling for certain known risk factors. This analysis found that statin users were more than 100 percent more likely to develop diabetes than non-users.

Both methods of analysis showed that the higher the dose of statins a person was taking, the higher their risk of obesity, diabetes and diabetes complications.

Lifestyle changes safer, more effective

The study suggests that the short-term trials used to secure drug approval might not "fully describe the risks and benefits of long-term statin use," Mansi said.

Patients should be made aware of the full risks of the drugs doctors prescribe, he added.

"Knowing the risks may motivate a patient to quit smoking, rather than swallow a tablet, or to lose weight and exercise," Mansi said. "Ideally, it is better to make those lifestyle changes and avoid taking statins if possible."

An emerging body of research is suggesting that statins are not only dangerous, but that they do not even reduce rates of heart disease or death. Indeed, some studies suggest that statins might actually raise the risk of cardiovascular disease. This is because although statins are great at lowering cholesterol, new findings suggest that blood cholesterol is simply a marker of heart disease risk and not a cause of the disease.

A recent analysis published in the Expert Review of Clinical Pharmacology concluded that the benefits of statins have been consistently exaggerated while their risks have been downplayed. The analysis showed that statins reduced cardiovascular disease by only a paltry 1 percent. Greater benefits claimed by drug advocates are "statistical deception," they said.

"The adverse effects suffered by people taking statins are more common than reported in the media and at medical conferences," the researchers wrote. "Increased rates of cancer, cataracts, diabetes, cognitive impairments and musculoskeletal disorders more than offset the modest cardiovascular benefits of statin treatment."