The vitamin everyone needs to take

Dirty air is bad for everyone. Linked to higher risks of heart attacks and strokes in adults, air pollution from highways, industrial factories and wood smoke has even been found to cause behavioral problems in children born to mothers with high exposure.

Most of the time, the only way to counteract the damage that particulate matter can do to your heart and brain is to move away from it — not always a practical solution. Now, scientists have found that omega-3 fish oils can fight damage caused by dirty air.

In a new study published in Environmental Health Perspectives, researchers from the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Institute for Environmental Health Scientists gave 29 healthy middle-aged adults either omega-3 fish oil supplements or a placebo of olive oil supplements. After four weeks of supplementation, the test subjects were placed in enclosed chambers for two hours while being exposed to pollution levels similar to those you might be exposed to in an average urban environment. Their blood was tested before and after the exposure.

After exposure to pollution, the people on fish oil supplements experienced much lower heart rate variability, a marker for cardiovascular damage, and other markers of cardiac distress, than the people taking olive oil supplements. At the same time, although both groups had similar LDL (bad) cholesterol and lipid (blood fat) levels before exposure, those levels spiked in the olive oil group but remained steady in the fish oil group.

The effects of air pollution on heart health have become so pervasive that an entire medical field, called environmental cardiology, has cropped up to treat them. And most environmental cardiologists previously believed that the best way to protect against the damages of air pollution was to ward off heart disease entirely, for instance, eating healthfully, eliminating cigarettes and exercising to reduce both weight and stress levels. This study shows that adding fish oil supplements to that list will help keep you from succumbing to air-pollution-induced heart problems.

The participants in this study took 3 grams of fish oil per day every day for four weeks, which is an average dose for most over-the-counter supplements. However, not all supplements are created equal, particularly with fish oil.

It’s important to choose high-quality products to prevent exposure to contaminants such as mercury and PCBs:

• Consult independent tests . Although most fish oils used in supplements come from species that aren’t high in mercury and PCBs, that doesn’t mean a few poisoned poisson don’t make it into the mix. The Environmental Defense Fund surveyed 75 fish oil manufacturers to see if they purify their fish oils to remove PCBs and mercury, and published a list of the healthier supplements. Alternately, consult the third-party supplement-testing service , which conducts annual tests on fish oils and looks for contaminants that could undermine the health benefits of your fish oil supplements.

• Read labels wisely . Concentration of the different omega-3s in the fish oil can vary, according to tests from ConsumerLab. The most beneficial fatty acids are EPA and DHA. In this study, the effective dose contained 410 milligrams of EPA and 274 milligrams of DHA.

• Don’t confuse price with quality . Just because a brand costs more doesn’t mean you’re getting a better-quality product. In ConsumerLab tests, some of the best-quality supplements with the lowest levels of contaminants cost just 6- to 10 cents per serving.

• Don’t be duped by meaningless claims . “Pharmaceutical-grade,” “contaminant-free” and “tested in FDA-approved laboratories” do not carry weight. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not approve analytical labs, although some labs could be FDA registered and inspected.

credit:Emily Main

What you need know about hemp seeds


Think about eating hemp seeds and what springs to mind? Maybe hippies selling hemp bracelets at music festivals? And will they make you high?

Actually, hemp seeds are legal to purchase, and you can’t get high from them either. Hemp seeds have only 0.3 percent of THC, the psychotropic ingredient found in marijuana. The plant is only a cousin of cannabis, but it has been sharing the bad reputation for decades.

“While it may look like marijuana, the hemp plant is actually a different species of cannabis and contains very little of the active ingredient, THC,” says registered dietitian Rene Ficek, the lead nutrition expert at Seattle Sutton’s Healthy Eating in Illinois. “This inaccurate association has prevented many Americans from fully experimenting with the superfood.”

So what the heck is hemp?

Hemp fabric dates back to 8,000 B.C. in what is now Turkey. Used for food, fuel and fiber, it was a primary source of paper and textiles.y

In the United States, hemp was a threat to the wood paper industry and hemp-based ethanol fuel was a threat to the oil industry. The crop is self-sustaining, so pesticide and chemical companies would also lose sales to farmers. Plus, hemp-based plastics were stronger than steel, which hurt another major U.S. industry. Unsurprisingly, hemp became stigmatized and erroneously banned with the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937.

However, the U.S. imports hemp from a number of countries, mainly Canada. In 2014, a provision in the farm bill removed hemp grown for research purposes from the Controlled Substances Act. Now, U.S. farmers are getting in on this multibillion-dollar industry, and a handful of states have their own hemp legislation.

Why should we eat it?

Besides all the other innovative uses it provides, hemp also has been dubbed a superfood of sorts. Hulled hemp seeds expose the white inner meat, known as hemp hearts or hemp nuts. Hemp protein powder, ground up and ready to be added to smoothies and soups, is an excellent source of plant-based protein that is free of gluten and lactose.

Yogurt with hemp seeds, walnuts and berries“Hemp seeds can be a healthy addition to any diet,” Ficek says. “These superseeds are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, an essential fatty acid that helps to reduce inflammation.”

Omega-3 fatty acids are typically found in fatty fish, so for vegans, vegetarians or anyone who doesn’t include a couple of servings of fatty fish in their diet per week, hemp is a great substitute.

Ficek says hemp’s fatty acids may reduce the risk of heart disease, help lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure, and play an important role in memory and cognition.

What’s more, hemp seed contains all the essential amino acids, which makes it a complete protein — an important plant-based alternative to meat sources of protein in the American diet.

“Hemp seeds are rich in many essential minerals such as magnesium, phosphorus, iron and zinc,” says Ashley Harris, outpatient clinical dietitian for the James Cancer Hospital at Ohio State University.

Harris says hemp is a better protein source than chia or flax seeds:

1 tablespoon of flax = 2 grams of protein
1 tablespoon of chia = 2.5 grams of protein
1 tablespoon of hemp = 3.5 grams of protein
“Two tablespoons is a good serving, and you’re getting about 7 grams of protein,” Harris says.
The calories are comparable, about 170 per 3 tablespoons, and hemp is a nutty, chewier, creamy seed that doesn’t need to be ground up to reap the benefits, as does flax seed.

Hemp is also loaded with fiber, about 10 to 15 percent, or 1 gram per 3 tablespoons. You’ll feel fuller after eating hemp and should notice reduced constipation.

Hemp seeds can be used in place of flax or chia seeds. Adding hemp seeds to hot cereal, yogurt, salad or a smoothie can add 10 grams of high-quality protein to the meal. You can also try baking them in veggie burgers or casseroles and blending them into pancakes and breads.

So remember: Hemp is not just for hippies. In fact, hemp seeds have long been part of the food supply in many areas of the world such as Asia, where roasted hemp seeds are eaten as a snack. In fact, Buddha reportedly ate them during his fast of enlightenment. So load up!

Source: Jennifer Nelson