Asparagus and Alcohol

Thinking of enjoying a beer or two this weekend? Then celebrate the fact that March is peak asparagus month, as new research suggests the popular spring vegetable offers some protection against the liver damage associated with alcohol consumption. 

Exposure to alcohol can send liver toxicity markers soaring by 250%.But a recent lab study published in the Journal of Food Science found that asparagus extract reduced toxicity by 42%. Asparagus doesn't completely neutralize the health threat but the vegetable appeared to turbocharge enzymes that process ethanol, a benefit not delivered even by commercially sold "hangover cures." Still, exercise moderation to avoid "holiday heart," a dangerous disruption in heart rhythms caused by excess alcohol, which also raises the risk of stroke, brain damage, breast cancer and increased abdominal fat. 

Even teetotalers should embrace asparagus.Its prebiotic fiber helps feed the protective gastrointestinal bacteria which guards against foodborne viruses.The same fiber -- also found in bananas, leeks, onions and artichokes -- helps deter unwanted weight gain and boost bone strength.For a delicious way to enjoy this seasonal vegetable, try our previously featured Superfood Recipe: Broiled Asparagus with Sesame Sauce.

Bonus: If you've overindulged, then have a banana which helps rehydrate and rebalance your system.. 

Blood Orange Prevents Weight Gain

It's basic diet math: Take in more calories than you burn, and you'll gain weight. But startling new research on blood oranges suggests the ruby-red citrus might bend that equation in dieters' favor.

Though results need to be confirmed with human trials, Italian researchers found that mice who drank the juice of blood oranges with their standard diet ended up 13% lighter at the end of three months. Other mice were fed a very high-fat diet complimented by either tap water, blood orange juice, regular orange juice or an anthocyanin extract. As expected, the fat-fed mice got fat -- gaining as much as 23% in body weight -- EXCEPT for the blood orange mice, who gained no weight at all!  

Some previous research suggests the blood orange anthocyanin C3G (also found in strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and red grapes) deserves the credit, by enhancing fat burning and calorie conversion. Yet fat-fed mice on the anthocyanin extract still gained some weight -- yet more evidence that the whole food is always better than the sum of its parts. For example, blood oranges are also high in fiber, which can triple weight loss, and pectin fiber in particular, which helps dieters feel more full. Blood oranges are also high in vitamin C, which also enhances your body's ability to burn more fat during exercise. For a delicious way to enjoy this vibrant citrus, try our Featured Superfood Recipe: Spinach and Blood Orange Salad with Shrimp.

Bonus:  Blood oranges have benefits beyond weight loss. High citrus consumption is linked to a 50% lower risk of cancers of the mouth, throat and stomach.

Combat Iron

Intense Activity Depletes Key Mineral

Military basic combat training is physically grueling, as one might expect. But new research shows it also taxes soldiers' systems in a surprising way: by depleting the body's store of iron.This is important news, not just for recruits -- but anyone undergoing rigorous physical training, say, for an Iron Man competition, which ironically could put athletes at risk of deficiency for that eponymous mineral.

The study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that iron levels of female soldiers dropped 30-35% from baseline during the course of their standard 8-week basic combat training.Iron deficiency (the most common deficiency worldwide) can manifest as low energy, which may explain why the iron-deficient soldiers ran a two-mile track an average of 45 seconds slower than a normal-iron group, and also registered a 45% drop in mood scores (measuring anxiety, anger, etc.). 

Previous research shows that endurance exercise can increase your iron needs by as much as 30%.Why? Workouts that push the body beyond its normal limits can lead to blood loss via profuse perspiration (as with calcium) as well as microscopic tears in muscle tissue and the gastrointestinal tract.The solution is not to scale back on activity, but to pay special attention to deriving iron from healthy sources such as legumes, clams and oat bran.Since the body can only absorb at most 20% of the iron contained in plant sources, double up on foods rich in vitamin C (e.g., peaches, kiwis, broccoli, pineapple) which boosts iron absorption six-fold and prebiotic fiber (e.g. bananas, leeks, onions, asparagus), which can increase iron absorption by 28%.

from Dole Health News

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