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Let food be your medicine

 

 

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CARBOHYDRATES, FIBRE and FATS

Fibre or 'roughage' (fiber American spelling) provides bulk in foods that helps slow the digestion of carbohydrates, stabilizing the body's level of blood-sugar and sustaining energy from one meal to the next.

It is an important component of the diet for suppressing the body's hunger response and improving weight stability. Dietary fibre binds to bile salts (a product of cholesterol) and decrease their re-absorption in the colon. Fibre contains prebiotics which feed the friendly bacteria in the large intestines (colon) which have many beneficial and vital functions which are listed below. In the digestive system (from mouth to anus) there are ten times the bacteria as the numbers of all the human cells.

Humans would not function at all if it wasn't for the friendly bacteria in the guts, where battles are fought, essential substances are manufactured, and the immune system is bolstered. Most of the ‘friendly’ bacteria live in the colon.

For optimum health you can feed the friendly bacteria in your colon and consume more of them through certain live probiotic foods. See below.

A minimum of 25g of fibre is required to be consumed each day for a healthy digestive system. This should consist of at least 13 grams of whole grain fibre and 6 grams of fibre from fruit each day.

Most fibre, like other carbohydrates, is made up of many glucose molecules. However, fibre does not break down into glucose before it gets to the colon, and often not even there. Even so, fibre does have effects on our digestion all along the way.

Both insoluble and soluble fibre are responsible for keeping the cells of the colon healthy and preventing such conditions as ulcerative colitis, colon cancer and diverticular disease.

Fibre also helps regulate cholesterol and insulin responses, lower cholesterol and triglycerides, prevent ulcers, particularly in the beginning of the small intestine (duodenal ulcers) which can prevent diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Leaky gut

Because lectins are extremely small and resistant to decomposition by living systems they tend to accumulate and incorporate into tissues where they interfere with normal biological processes. It takes only 500 micrograms (about half a grain of sand) of ricin (a lectin extracted from castor bean casings) to kill a human. A single, one ounce slice of wheat bread contains approximately 500 micrograms of lectin but will usually only attack the mucosal lining of the gastrointestinal tract after constant accumulation in the diet. Unfortunately most bread also contains gluten which can cause similar issues and processed flour often has additives to help it flow freely, last longer and can be bleached white using chlorine.

The disruptive and damaging effects of wheat consumption are formidable in someone whose protective mucosal barrier has been compromised by non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) use. Anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen and aspirin, increase intestinal permeability (as does gluten in grains and the glycoalkaloids found in plants from the nightshade family) and may cause absorption of even larger-than-normal quantities of pro-inflammatory lectins as well as undigested proteins.

Certain bacteria and viruses, including the influenza and herpes viruses, can also damage cells making them more susceptible to lectin and antibody/antigen reactions.

The type of lectin in wheat known as wheat germ agglutinin (WGA), like gluten, irritates and causes premature cell death in the gut and leads to a leaky gut condition with all the detrimental effects that will follow. It also disrupts the mucus membrane in the gut which can cause bacterial overgrowth and leads to a host of digestive issues like gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GERD), ulcers and nutrient deficiencies.

The wheat germ agglutinin and another unknown factor in wheat also cause vitamin D stores to deplete abnormally fast and can therefore lead to vitamin D deficiency, with all its accompanying issues like weakening of the bones, a weakened immune system and a vulnerability to infectious diseases and bacterial attacks.

Prebiotics and probiotics

The correct balance of the gut bacteria is vital to life and health. Many factors can upset this fragile intestinal flora such as drugs, especially antibiotics, stress,  toxins and excessive amounts of sugar and protein. Once the this equilibrium is upset many health issues can develop.

Health issues that can be caused by intestinal flora imbalance

Prebiotic foods, containing carbohydrates such as as inulin, encourages a healthy intestinal environment to benefit probiotic intestinal flora. Prebiotic is a fairly recently coined name to refer to food components such as oligosaccharides, resistant starch and fermentable fibre that feed certain kinds of bacteria in the colon (large intestine) that have an important influence on the rest of the body. The human digestive system has a hard time breaking down many of these carbohydrates. Almost 90% escapes digestion in the small intestine and reaches the colon where it performs a different function; that of a prebiotic.

The bacteria that feed on fermentable carbohydrate produce many beneficial substances, including short-chain fatty acids, vitamin A, vitamin K2 and certain B vitamins. They also promote further absorption of some minerals that have escaped the small intestine, including calcium and magnesium and vitamin K2 which is vital to direct calcium to the bones and is needed in conjunction with vitamin D. This is why it is very important to consume both prebiotic and probiotic foods throughout life and especially when suffering from any kind of infections or health disorders.

Prebiotic foods that feed the existing beneficial bacteria

 

  • Agave

  • Apples

  • Asparagus

  • Banana

  • Beans

  • Bran

  • Broccoli

  • Burdock root

  • Cabbage

  • Cauliflower

  • Celeriac

  • Chicory root

  • Cocoa (raw)

  • Coconut flesh

  • Dandelion root

  • Elecampane

  • Elephant foot yam

  • Garlic

  • Jerusalem artichoke

  • Jicama root
  • Kale
  • Leeks
  • Lentils
  • Mashua
  • Mugwort
  • Oats
  • Onions
  • Parsnips
  • Peas
  • Radish
  • Rampion
  • Salsify
  • Turnip
  • Swede
  • Sweet potato
  • Whole grains
  • Yacon root
  • Yams

Making a rich soup with any of these ingredients and consuming daily can help to restore the balance of the intestinal flora. Add plain yoghurt, spices and herbs for added benefit.

Probiotic foods contain beneficial bacteria and come from the fermentation process that the food has been allowed to undergo. During and after any treatment with antibiotics, it is advisable to include more probiotic foods in the daily diet to replenish the friendly bacteria that are wiped out by antibiotics. It is advisable to consume probiotics at least an hour before other foods to enable enough beneficial bacteria to survive and pass through the strong stomach acids.

Probiotic foods that contain beneficial bacteria

  • Brine pickles (eggs, fruit, nuts, seeds and vegetables that have been fermented by lactic acid bacteria)

  • Kefir (fermented milk drink)

  • Kimchi (a fermented, spicy Korean side dish)

  • Kombucha (fermented black or green Asian tea)

  • Miso (a Japanese fermented seasoning made with soya beans, salt and a type of fungus called koji)

  • Sauerkraut (finely shredded cabbage that has been fermented by lactic acid bacteria)

  • Tempeh (fermented soya beans)

  • Yoghurt (plain with live cultures)

For more about probiotic 'good' and pathogenic 'bad' bacteria and the diseases they can cause see Bacteria.

The Gastrointestinal Tract

Click to enlarge

Stomach

In the stomach, fibre is bulky, so it provides a feeling of being full.

Insoluble fibre moves out of the stomach fast unless there is fat, protein or soluble fibre to slow it down.

Soluble fibre, especially the viscous types that hold onto water, will slow down stomach emptying, especially when eaten with lots of fluid and some fat. This is partly why soluble fibre tends to decrease the glycaemic effect of a meal (raising of the sugar level), the contents of the stomach enter the small intestine more gradually and from there, the blood.

Small intestine

In the small intestine the presence of insoluble fibre speeds transition up and the gel-like soluble fibre slows it down.

Colon

There are more than 36 different species of bacteria that reside in the colon. More than 20 species of bacteria grow in the stool of meat-eaters and all of them produce highly toxic waste products. One is salmonella, which is often found in the meat and eggs of poultry, and can produce a seriously debilitating illness which is usually called "food poisoning". Another is E. Coli which is actually beneficial in normal small amounts, but unhealthy when allowed to overpopulate in the colon. One of the strains of E. Coli bacteria releases a toxin which is deadly to humans.

The colon is a place where water is removed from whatever is left from digesting the food, and the rest is moved along towards the anus for expulsion. More minerals are absorbed into the bloodstream in the colon too such as magnesium and calcium. Asthma and migraines have been closely linked to magnesium deficiencies.

Processes that intestinal bacteria are responsible for

  • Constructing vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin B7 (biotin) and vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin). The beneficial bacteria in the colon can produce at least half of the estimated requirement of 100mg per day of vitamin K. Vitamin B12 is manufactured in the colon by bacteria but because it is below the ileum where B12 is absorbed into the blood stream this B12 is only used by the bacteria themselves or excreted.

  • Crowding out the pathogenic bacteria that cause disease, such as Salmonella

  • Lowering the levels of toxins and toxicity from nitrites added to processed foods

  • Producing enzymes which enable digestion various types of food

  • Manufacturing natural antibiotics which help control or destroy the harmful bacteria

  • Manufacture short-chain fatty acids, most are absorbed into the bloodstream, but some are used to feed the cells of the colon.

  • Protecting the intestinal mucosa tissues from harmful fungus or yeast infestation - mainly by crowding out the yeast and fungus organisms and preventing them from adhering to the tissue where they could grow and spread

The health of colon cells, which turn over rapidly, is largely dependent upon the bacteria in the colon which in turn is dependent upon the food ingested for these bacteria. For more information see Intestines.

See also the interesting article about the history of probiotics written by Lisa Richards:  www.thecandidadiet.com/the-history-of-probiotics

Fibre

The intestines needs both soluble and insoluble fibre in balanced amounts to gain maximum benefit and digestion. Soluble fibre dissolves in water. Insoluble fibre does not. To some degree these differences determine how each fibre functions in the body and benefits the health. See below for more about soluble and insoluble fibre.

Women should consume at least 25g of fibre per day, while men should consume 30 to 38 g per day. Eat more vegetables and whole fruits instead of juice and add whole grains, pulses and legumes to meals, for baking and for breakfast.

Highest natural sources of fibre

  • 3oz (85g) of cooked split peas 16 g

  • 3oz (85g) of cooked lentils 15 g

  • 3oz (85g) of black beans 15 g

  • 3oz (85g) of millet contains 15 g

  • 3oz (85g) of lima beans contains 13.2 g

  • 1 medium (globe) artichoke 10.1 g

  • 4oz (113g) of green peas 9 g

  • 4oz (113g) of raspberries 8 g

  • 3oz (85g) of cooked pearl barley 6 g

  • 4oz (113g) of broccoli 5 g

  • 1 medium sized pear with skin 5.5 g

  • 1oz (4.5g) of bran flakes 5.3 g

  • 1 medium sized apple with skin 4.4 g

  • 1 oz psyllium husks contains 4.3 g

  • 3oz (85g) cooked oatmeal  4 g

  • 3oz (85g) of cooked brown rice 3.5 g (vs. 1 g in white rice)

  • 1 medium banana 3.1 g

  • 1 orange 3 g

psyllium

Soluble fibre

Soluble fibres attract water and form a gel, which slows down digestion by delaying the emptying of the stomach and creating a full feeling, which helps control weight. Slower stomach emptying may also affect blood sugar levels and have a beneficial effect on insulin sensitivity, which may help control diabetes.

Soluble fibre can also help lower LDL blood cholesterol by interfering with the absorption of dietary cholesterol.

Gums and pectin are the best type of fibre for the fermentation processes in the colon. Soluble fibre lowers LDL cholesterol and helps with treating cancer, gastrointestinal disorders, obesity and strokes

Psyllium husks are an excellent source of soluble fibre and can help to treat constipation, diarrhoea, irritable bowel syndrome and other intestinal and bowel disorders. Take one teaspoon in juice per day followed by a large glass of water.

Baobab fruit powder is also an excellent source of soluble fibre and can be taken daily as above.

Other sources of soluble fibre

Insoluble fibre

Insoluble fibre has a laxative effect and adds bulk to the diet, helping prevent constipation. These fibres do not dissolve in water, so they pass through the gastrointestinal tract relatively intact and speed up the passage of food and waste through the intestines. Insoluble fibre is not available for much fermentation, but it is still important in the colon.

Not only does it provide bulk in the stool, its tendency to speed transition along meaning that the fermentation will take place all along the length of the colon, including the near the end, where the majority of colon cancer occurs. Without insoluble fibre, most of the fermentation would take place in the top part of the colon, so only the colon cells there would get any benefit. Eating foods high in insoluble fibre, such as rye, can help to avoid gallstones.

Insoluble fibre also increases insulin sensitivity so is good for diabetics and lowers triglycerides (blood fats).

Insoluble fibre is found in dark leafy vegetables, fruit and root vegetable skins.

High sources of insoluble fibre

High-fibre snack or breakfast

Make a high-fibre snack jar using around 85 g-113 g (3-4 oz) of each ingredient to eat whenever hungry. Mix well and place in a small container to eat on the move. Or add yoghurt and eat as home made muesli for breakfast.

  • 3oz (85g) of unsweetened coconut flakes 16 g

  • 3oz (85g) sunflower seeds 3.9 g

  • 1oz (28g) or 25 almonds 3.5 g

  • 1oz (28g) or 49 pistachios 2.9 g

  • 1oz (28g) or 19 halves pecans 2.7 g

  • 3oz (85g) of dried fruits 3 g

  • 2 figs 1.1 g

Choose dried fruit such as: apples, banana chips, cranberries, raisins, goji berries, chopped fig, date and apricot pieces etc.

NOTE: Coconut fibre belongs to the class of compounds known as flammable solids. It easily catches fire upon ignition, so keep external sources of potential ignition, such as sparks, matches and lit cigarettes, away from coconut fibre at all times. Spontaneous combustion may also occur due to self-heating so it must be stored in a cool place or the refrigerator. If coconut fibre ignites, use carbon dioxide or foam to extinguish the flames.

Energy sources (carbohydrates, fats and protein)

Carbohydrates, fats and protein from foods are converted by the body into adenosine triphosphate (or ATP) which is an energy-bearing coenzyme found in all living cells. The formation of nucleic acids, transmission of nerve impulses, muscle contraction and many other energy-consuming reactions of metabolism are made possible by the energy in ATP molecules which are composed of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen and phosphorus atoms. The energy in ATP can be released as heat or can be used in the cell as a power source to drive various types of chemical and mechanical activities. Adenosine triphosphate was first discovered in muscle tissue by scientists in Germany and the United States in 1929. Its role in the storage and supply of energy was first explained in 1941 by the German-American biochemist Fritz A. Lipmann.

The large polymeric molecules in food are broken down by digestion into their monomer sub-units: proteins in amino acids, polysaccharides into sugars and fats into fatty acids and glycerol through the action of enzymes. After digestion, the small organic molecules enter the cytosol of the cell where their gradual oxidation begins. Oxidation occurs in two further stages of catabolism.

In stage two, a chain of reactions called glycolysis converts each molecule of glucose into two smaller molecules known as pyruvate. Sugars other than glucose are also converted into pyruvate after their conversion into one of the sugar intermediaries in this glycolytic pathway. In this pyruvate formation, two types of activated carrier molecules are produced known as adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide + hydrogen (NADH). The pyruvate then passes from the cytosol into the mitochondria. There each pyruvate molecule is converted into carbon dioxide plus a two-carbon acetyl group which becomes attached to coenzyme A (CoA) forming acetyl CoA. Large amounts of acetyl CoA are also produced by the breakdown and oxidation of fats which are carried in the bloodstream, imported into the cells as fatty acids and then moved into the mitochondria for acetyl CoA production.

Stage three of the oxidative breakdown of food molecules takes place entirely in the mitochondria. The acetyl group is linked to coenzyme A through a high-energy linkage and is easily transferrable to other molecules. After its transfer to the four-carbon molecule oxaloacetate, the acetyl group enters a series of reactions known as the citric acid cycle or the Kreb Cycle. The acetyl group is oxidised to carbon dioxide in these reactions and large amounts of the electron carrier, nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide + hydrogen (NADH) are produced. The high-energy electrons from NADH are passed along an electron transport chain within the mitochondria inner membrane where the energy released by their transfer is used to drive a process which produces ATP and consumes molecular oxygen.

Adenosine triphosphate (containing 3 phosphates) is converted to adenosine diphosphate (containing 2 phosphates) with the release of energy. Adenosine diphosphate then passes into the mitochondria where adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is remade by oxidative phosphorylation.  This ATP recycling occurs approximately every 10 seconds in a normal person.

The energy the body requires to live, do everyday activities and cardio exercise such as long distance running, is generated by the sugar burning process in the body’s cells known as aerobic respiration. Carbohydrate, fat and protein contribute to the fuel supply needed by the body to perform exercise. These nutrients get converted to energy in the form of adenosine triphosphate and it is from the energy released by the breakdown of ATP that allows muscle cells to contract.

Nutrients get converted to ATP based upon the intensity and duration of activity, with carbohydrate as the main nutrient fuelling exercise of a moderate to high intensity and fat providing energy during exercise that occurs at a lower intensity. If exercising at a low intensity (or below 50% of the maximum heart rate), there will be enough stored fat to fuel activity for hours or even days as long as there is sufficient oxygen to allow fat metabolism to occur. As exercise intensity increases, carbohydrate metabolism takes over. It is more efficient than fat metabolism, but has limited energy stores. This stored carbohydrate (glycogen) can fuel about two hours of moderate to high level exercise. After that, glycogen depletion occurs (stored carbohydrates are used up) and if that fuel is not instantly replaced an athlete may collapse. Glycogen is glucose which is stored in the liver and the muscles and lipid metabolism is one of the main ways that the body’s glycogen  (glucose stored in the liver and muscles) store is replenished after exercise.

Energy production and exercise

Under normal circumstances, i.e. physical activities below 50% of the maximum heart rate, fat provides 70% of the energy required by muscles and sugar provides 30% energy. Fat provides the main fuel source for long duration, low to moderate intensity exercise (endurance sports such as marathons). Even during high intensity exercise, where carbohydrates naturally become the main fuel source, fat is needed to help access the stored carbohydrate (glycogen). Using fat for fuel, however, is dependent upon the following important factors:

  • Fat is slow to digest and be converted into a usable form of energy (it can take up to 6 hours).

  • Converting stored body fat into energy takes time. The body needs to breakdown fat and transport it to the working muscles before it can be used as energy.

  •  Converting stored body fat into energy takes a great deal of oxygen, so exercise intensity must decrease for this process to occur.

It is for these reasons that the body switches to gaining energy from sugar instead of fats.

Lower intensities of exercise will naturally gain the energy required from fat but as the intensity of physical activity increases, carbohydrates become more and more important until at very high intensities, almost all of the energy to fuel exercise comes from carbohydrate burning and none from fat-burning. As the exercise intensity (in watts) increases, the rate of fat burning increases, reaching a maximum of around 35 grams per hour at 180 watts. Above 180 watts, the amount of fat used for energy drops off rapidly so that by 300 watts, it is contributing virtually nothing. Carbohydrate burning increases steadily too but at around 180 watts (just as fat burning drops off) it jumps dramatically so that by 300 watts, it is contributing 100% of the energy for exercise.

Some runners, especially older ones, may develop an emaciated upper body because they fail to give the body time to recover between runs to allow the refuelling of glycogen in their muscles. In normal activity it takes about 24 hours before the liver is relieved of its glycogen stores, however runners will use up far more far faster and many will run more than once every 24-48 hours which means the liver will fail to regenerate enough glycogen to replenish its store.

Once the glycogen stores of the liver run out, the body turns firstly to fatty acids for fuel, breaking down the fatty acids in the reserves of fat in the body and around the organs. It not only takes the glucose from glycerol in the fat tissues but also the amino acids in muscle, thus beginning the process of muscle deterioration. When the body cannot gain the energy it requires using glucose via the Krebs Cycle it begins to use nitrogen from amino acids to create a molecule very similar to glucose to feed the starved muscles. This means these amino acids used can no longer be used to build tissues and the body goes into a state of protein deficiency regardless of how much protein is being consumed. The first muscles to suffer losses are those of the neck, chest, shoulders and upper arms.

Starvation and energy

Normal body cells are able to create energy by using the food consumed and the oxygen inhaled to complete normal cellular respiration and make ATP (adenosine triphosphate), which is the main cellular energy source. Most of this energy production happens in the mitochondria, tiny organelles which act as cell fuelling stations. Normally, the body does not use protein to produce energy, however, if it runs out of glycogen stores, and no glucose is available to replenish them, the body goes into a state of ‘starvation’ and will then resort to breaking down its own muscle tissue to release amino acids. Muscle tissue is made up mostly of protein, which, in turn, is made up of amino acids. These amino acids are sent to the liver, where they are converted to glucose in a process called gluconeogenesis. When the body starts to use muscle tissue for energy, it loses muscle mass. The immune system antibodies, which are also made of protein, can also be used to provide energy which lowers the immune system response and can lead to an increase in infections.

Anaerobic and aerobic burning

The terms aerobic and anaerobic refer to the presence and absence of oxygen, respectively.  Most of the body’s cells prefer to get their energy by using oxygen to fuel metabolism.  During exercise with adequate fuel and oxygen (aerobic), muscle cells can contract repeatedly without fatigue.  During anaerobic or non-oxygen conditions (higher intensity exercise), muscle cells must rely on other reactions that do not require oxygen to fuel muscle contraction.  This anaerobic metabolism in the cells produces waste molecules that can impair muscle contractions.  This deterioration is known in sports performance as fatigue.

As exercise begins, adenosine triphosphate is produced via anaerobic metabolism. Anaerobic respiration occurs in the cytoplasm. This is effective for vigorous exercise of between one to three minutes duration, such as short sprints. If the intense exercise requires more energy than can be supplied by the oxygen available, the body will partially burn glucose without oxygen (anaerobic).

With an increase in breathing and heart rate there is more oxygen available and aerobic metabolism begins and continues until the lactate threshold is reached. If this level is surpassed, the body cannot deliver oxygen quickly enough to generate adenosine triphosphate and anaerobic metabolism takes over again. Since this system is short-lived and lactic acid levels rise, the intensity cannot be sustained and the athlete will need to decrease intensity to remove lactic acid build-up.

Ketosis and ketoacidosis

Ketosis is a condition in which levels of ketones (ketone bodies) in the blood are elevated. If there is not enough glucose (from carbohydrates) in the bloodstream the body draws on fat stores for fuel, causing the appearance of ketones in the blood. Ketones are formed by the liver from fatty acids when glycogen stores in the liver have run out. They are small carbon fragments that are the fuel created by the breakdown of fat stores. When ketone levels are elevated the body switches from being a carbohydrate-burning organism into a fat-burning one.

Some people, including doctors, get the dangerous condition of ketoacidosis confused with normal benign dietary ketosis but they are different conditions. Normal nutritional ketosis is not dangerous. Every person alive goes into mild ketosis each time they go without eating for 6-8 hours. Unless an individual is a Type 1 diabetic (meaning the pancreas makes no insulin at all) or a Type 2 diabetic with a dysfunctional pancreas, ketosis is kept in check by the presence of insulin in the body. Insulin not only regulates blood sugar levels it also regulates the flow of fatty acids from the body’s fat cells. As long as insulin is circulating within the body the flow of fatty acids and the production of ketone bodies is highly regulated and limited to a range that is not dangerous. Ketones consist of acetone, acetoacetate or beta-hydroxybutyrate and very high ketone levels can be toxic, making the blood more acid, hence the name ketoacidosis, and this may damage such organs as the kidneys and liver. Ketoacidosis can also occur with alcoholism, starvation and with a low-carb, high fat/protein diet. The human body tries to lower ketone levels by breathing it out causing a sweet and fruity breath. It also reduces keytone levels by expelling them through the urine.

See also Diabetic ketoacidosis

Fructans

Sandwiched in between the simple sugars (monosaccharides) and the starches (polysaccharides) are a group of oligosaccharide carbohydrates like inulin and oligofructose which belong to a class of carbohydrates known as fructans. They are a zero calorie, sweet inert carbohydrate and do not metabolize in the human body.

Natural sources of fructans

Oligosaccharides (Fructans)

Oligosaccharides are carbohydrates which have three to ten simple sugars linked together. They are found naturally, at least in small amounts, in many plants and help to feed the beneficial bacteria in the colon but are not metabolised by the body itself. They can be very beneficial because they nurture the beneficial bacteria at the expense of pathogenic bacteria such as E Coli. Most oligosaccharides have a mildly sweet taste and have certain other characteristics, such as the texture they give to food, which has drawn the interest of the food industry as a partial substitute for fats and sugars in some processed foods as well as improved texture. Because of this, more and more of the oligosaccharides in non-natural food are synthetically produced.

Inulin (Oligosaccharide or fructan)

Inulins are a group of naturally occurring carbohydrates produced by many types of plants. They belong to a class of soluble dietary fibres known as fructans. Oligofructose is a subgroup of inulin. Unlike more familiar carbohydrates, which are broken down in the small intestines and turned into fuel for the body, inulin passes through the small intestines to the colon where it stimulates the growth of "good bacteria" and is fermented by bacteria.

Prebiotic inulin supports bone health, immune function and gut balance, encourages a healthy intestinal environment to benefit probiotic intestinal flora which helps to produce many nutrients required by the body. It also promotes normal development of epithelial tissue, supports absorption of calcium and magnesium, supports immune cell function and antibody production in the gut, promotes a healthy pH in the lower gastrointestinal tract and promotes healthy waste elimination.

Starch

This provides food for the colon bacteria. Different ‘bacteria food’ produces different kinds of short chain fatty acids and other products, so it's important to consume a wide variety of fibre and starch in food. Foods rich in a carbohydrate called resistant starch pass through the body without counting calorically because they “resist” immediate digestion while still giving a full feeling. Plus they help burn fat fast, improve digestion and fight disease.

Polysaccharides (starch)

This is a carbohydrate molecule that has a lot of chains which requires more time to digest. The commensal bacteria in the large intestines breakdown polysaccharides or fibres in the diet into short-chain fatty acids. These can be absorbed by the large intestine by passive diffusion. The bacteria also produce gas (flatus), which is a mixture of nitrogen and carbon dioxide, with small amounts of the gases hydrogen, methane and hydrogen sulphide. These result from the bacterial fermentation of the undigested polysaccharides.

Natural sources of starch

Fat digestion

Fat digestion begins with the stomach because of its churning action which helps to create an emulsion. Fat entering the intestine is mixed with bile and is further emulsified. The emulsion is then acted upon by lipases secreted by the pancreas. In humans, fat digestion is efficient and is nearly completed in the small intestine. Pancreatic lipase catalyses the hydrolysis of fatty acids to yield monoacylglycerols. Phospholipids are hydrolysed by phospholipase and the major products are lysophospholipids and free fatty acids. Cholesterol esters are hydrolysed by pancreatic cholesterol ester hydrolase.

The free fatty acids and monoglycerides are absorbed by the enterocytes of the intestinal wall. Fatty acids with 14 or more carbons are re-esterified within the enterocyte and mainly enter the circulation via the Iymphatic route as chylomicrons although some are also absorbed via the portal route. Fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) and cholesterol are delivered directly to the liver as part of the chylomicron remnants.

Fatty acids are transported in the blood as complexes with albumin or as esterified lipids in lipoproteins. These consist of a core of triacylglycerols and fatty acid esters of cholesterol and a shell of a single layer of phospholipids interspersed with unesterified cholesterol. Chylomicrons are lipoprotein particles derived from dietary fat and packaged by the mucosa cells. Lipoprotein lipase located on the interior walls of the capillary blood vessels hydrolyses the triacylglycerols which releases fatty acids. These enter the adipose tissue where they are stored and the muscles where they serve as fuel.

Acetate is the eventual product from fatty acids. The remnants of chylomicrons are cleared by the liver within a few hours of the ingestion of a fat-containing meal. Low-density lipoproteins are the end-products of very-low-density lipoprotein metabolism. Very-low-density lipoproteins are large triacylglcerol-rich particles produced in the liver from endogenous fat, as opposed to chylomicrons which transport exogenous fat. The major apolipoprotein of high-density lipoprotein is known as apoA-I and is secreted from the liver in a lipid-poor form. Once in plasma, it rapidly acquires lipids to be converted into a high-density lipoprotein particle.

Fatty acids

Fatty acids used to be known as vitamin F but were then re-categorised as fats. Fatty acids are often ignored in a world obsessed with dieting. Fat is every bit as important in the diet as any other nutrients. Sixty percent of the brain is fat. Fat and foods rich in fatty acids allow the nervous system to function well. The various types of cells in the body, including the cells in the eyes, brain and heart require fat in order to survive and function properly. Fat is also necessary to keep the immune system working and keep a host of diseases away. Some consumption of fat is beneficial and very necessary for good health, as it helps the body absorb nutrients and can supply energy for extended periods of physical activity.

It is difficult to get some of these fats from ingested food, so the body relies on the process going on in colon to make these fats. They are important in keeping the cells of the colon healthy and preventing such conditions as ulcerative colitis, colon cancer and diverticular disease. They also help regulate cholesterol and insulin responses, can reduce risk of heart disease, assist those with some types of autoimmune disorders and act as a mood regulation for those who suffer from manic depression.

There are two groups of fatty acids that have been identified as the linolenic acid (omega 3 fatty acid group) and the linoleic acid (omega 6 fatty acid group) and jointly are commonly referred to as essential fatty acids (EFA's). Although there are a number of omega 3 fatty acids, the primary one responsible for so many biological functions is alpha linolenic acid. It is responsible for the formation of healthy cell walls by making them flexible and supple while also improving circulation in the bloodstream. The omega 3 fatty acids also foster mental acuity, a healthy nervous system, immunity, reduction in blood clots, reduction in triglycerides, reduction in LDL cholesterol, regular heart rhythm and healthy growth in children. In some cases omega 6, linoleic acid, works in conjunction with the omega 3 fatty acids to carry out some of these processes.

Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) fatty acids are among the most documented in nutrition research. However, a third key fatty acid, docosapentaenoic acid (DPA) has recently been shown to play probably the most powerful role in key health outcomes. DPA is an elongated version of EPA and has drawn the attention of scientists because it is present in relatively high levels in the diets of the Greenland Inuit people, a population group with exceptional cardiovascular health. Menhadon fish are a prime source of docosapentaenoic acid more so than most other oily fish. There are links between the consumption of fish and cognitive development as well as reducing age related losses in memory and cognition.

Symptoms of deficiency of fatty acids in the diet include:

  • age-related degeneration

  • allergies

  • depression

  • high blood pressure

  • hyperactivity

Expecting mothers consuming foods rich in fatty acids during the course of pregnancy reduces the chances of birth defects drastically. Defects related to the brain and spine can be reduced and also the deficiency of vitamin B9 (foliate) in the mother’s body can be reduced.

EPA, DHA and DPA (omega-3 fatty acid)

These omega-3 fatty acids are primary structural components of the human brain, cerebral cortex, skin, sperm, testicles and retina. They can be synthesized from linolenic acid found in plants or obtained directly from the foods below. They smooth muscle cell proliferation which can prevent the development of atherosclerosis and restenosis. They also also reduce triglycerides and can reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL cholesterol).

Highest sources of omega-3 fatty acids in milligrams per 100 grams

  • Krill oil 36000 mg

  • Flaxseed oil 22813 mg

  • Chia seeds 17552 mg

  • Walnuts 9079 mg

  • Caviar (fish eggs) 6789 mg

  • Cloves (ground) 4279 mg

  • Oregano (dried) 4180 mg

  • Marjoram (dried) 3230 mg

  • Tarragon (dried) 2955 mg

  • Mackerel 2670 mg

  • Herring 2365 mg

  • Salmon (wild) 2018 mg

  • Lamb 1610 mg

  • Basil (dried) 1509 mg

  • Sardines 1480 mg

  • Anchovies 1478 mg

  • Soya beans 1433 mg

  • Trout 1068 mg

  • Pecans, sea bass 986 mg

  • Pine nuts 787 mg

  • Bell peppers (green) 770 mg

  • Oysters 740 mg

  • Radish seeds sprouted 722 mg

  • Purslane 400 mg

  • Basil (fresh leaves) 316 mg

  • Rabbit 220 mg

  • Kidney beans 194 mg

  • Wakame seaweed 188 mg

  • Alfalfa sprouts 175 mg

  • Brussel sprouts 173 mg

  • Rocket 170 mg

  • Cauliflower 167 mg

  • Spinach 138 mg

  • Broccoli 129 mg

  • Raspberries 126 mg

  • Lettuce 113 mg

  • Blueberries 94 mg

  • Summer squash 82 mg

  • Strawberries 65 mg

  • Milk 75 mg

  • Eggs 74 mg

  • Chinese cabbage (pak choy) 55 mg


Linoleic acid (omega-6 fatty acid)

 

Linoleic acid is a polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acid that forms the lipid component of all cell membranes in our body. The word "linoleic" comes from the Greek word linon (flax). Oleic means of, relating to, or derived from oil of olive relating to oleic acid because saturating the omega-6 double bond produces oleic acid. Linoleic acid has anti-inflammatory, acne reductive and moisture retentive properties when applied topically on the skin. Linoleic acid reduces bone loss associated with osteoporosis, helps to improve psoriasis and eczema and lowers serum cholesterol levels.

It has been reported that the human body ideally needs a balance of 3 or 4:1 of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. Hemp seed is the only natural food that provides this perfect balance. Flaxseeds, almonds, soybean, walnuts and olive oil do not contain this correct balance and can lead to an unhealthy imbalance if consumed daily.

Deficiency of linoleic acid can cause hair fall, dry hair and poor wound healing.

Excessive consumption of linoleic acid can cause depression, attention deficiency disorder, weight gain, obesity, poor sleep patterns, cancer and arthritis.

 

Highest sources of linoleic acid in alphabetical order

  • Amaranth

  • Black seeds

  • Brazil nuts

  • Buckwheat

  • Eggs

  • Chia seeds

  • Coconut and coconut oil

  • Corn oil

  • Cottonseed oil

  • Evening primrose oil

  • Grape seed oil

  • Hemp seeds

  • Maqui berry

  • Pecans

  • Pine nuts

  • Poppy seed oil

  • Poultry

  • Safflower oil

  • Salicornia oil

  • Sesame seeds and oil

  • Soya bean oil

  • Spirulina

  • Sunflower oil

  • Whole grains

 

Linolenic acid (omega-3 fatty acid)

 

Linolenic acid is a poly unsaturated omega-3 fatty acid which is found in plants. It is similar to the omega 3 fatty acids that are in fish oil called eicosapentaenoic acid. The body can change alpha linolenic acid into eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid.

 

Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation and help prevent chronic diseases, such as heart disease and arthritis. They may be also important for brain health and development, as well as normal growth and development. It supports the body's manufacture of hormone-like substances known as prostaglandins which help regulate functions of the circulatory system. GLA assists the body with its energy processes and is a structural component of the brain, bone marrow, muscles and cell membranes.

Marine mammals (such as whale, seal, and walrus) and the oil derived from cold-water fish (cod-liver, herring, menhaden and salmon oils) provide eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosa­hexa­enoic acid (DHA). EPA and DHA are fatty acids that are made from linolenic acid in marine animals that consume plants.

Highest sources of linolenic acid in alphabetical order

 

Oleic acid (omega-9 fatty acid)


Oleic acid is a monounsaturated fatty acid that can help to lower LDL cholesterol and increase HDL cholesterol levels in the blood. Some compounds of oleic acid act as anti breast cancer agent by blocking a cancer causing oncogene. High concentration of oleic acid lowers blood pressure levels and cholesterol and the risk of risk of heart disease and can obstruct the progression of Adrenoleukodystrophy. Oleic acid also aids brain development in unborn children and has been linked to reduced rates of premature birth and low birth weights.

The human body has the ability to produce oleic acid but it requires the presence of linolenic acid (omega 3) and linoleic acid (omega 6) to do so. The main benefits are that it generally enhances immune function, helps to regulate blood sugar by lowering resistance to insulin and can reduce hardening of the arteries by lowering cholesterol. It can also aid in protection against certain types of cancer.

To absorb carotenoids from food, they should be consumed alongside foods rich in oleic acid.

 

Highest sources of oleic acid in alphabetical order

 

 

Trans fatty acids

 

Trans fatty acids can be found in many fat sources although its prevalence is very low. Bovine (cows, steer, oxen, etc) food sources are probably the greatest natural contributors of trans fatty acids to the human diet. Beef, butter and milk triglycerides may contain 2 to 8 percent of their fatty acids as trans fatty acids. Cattle are not solely responsible for generating this trans fatty acid content. It is actually the bacteria in their unique stomachs that produce it. These fatty acids are then absorbed by the cow and make their way into the tissues and milk of these animals

 

In addition, trans fatty acids can be created during the heat processing of oils (i.e. margarine and other hydrogenated oils) and as cooking oils which are used over long periods for cooking, such as in restaurants and fast food outlets. In more recent decades, more than half of the trans fatty acids in the human diet were derived from processed oils either consumed plain or used in recipes (e.g. fried foods, baked snack foods). Biscuits, crisp, crackers and other snack foods that use hydrogenated vegetable oil may contain up to 9-10 percent of their fatty acids as trans fatty acids which is linked to the increased risk of heart disease.

 

Multiple sclerosis can be caused by over consumption of trans fatty acids.

 

It is wise to use virgin cold-pressed oils for cooking, cut down on meat consumption and cut out snacks and fried foods.

 

Sources of trans-fats

 

Beef, biscuits, butter, crisps, crackers, margarine, milk, cooking oils used by restaurants and fast food outlets, fried snacks and foods, hydrogenated vegetable oils andf peanut butter

Triglycerides

Triglycerides are a form in which fat is carried in the bloodstream. In normal amounts, triglycerides are important for good health because they serve as a major source of energy. High levels of triglycerides, however, are associated with high total cholesterol, high LDL (bad) cholesterol and low HDL (good) cholesterol), and therefore, with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

In addition, high triglycerides are often found along with a group of other disease risk factors that has been labelled 'metabolic syndrome', a condition known to increase risk of not only heart disease, but diabetes and stroke. Metabolic syndrome is the combined presence of high triglycerides, increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess weight and low HDL (good) cholesterol.

Two servings of Omega-3-rich foods a week can naturally lower triglycerides.

 

Associated subjects

 

 

See the A-Z of Nutrients page for more information.

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