When Is a Nutrient an Antinutrient?

Antinutrients, like phytates, oxalates, and glucosinolates, are components of food or dietary nutrients that interfere with absorption of other nutrients. In this article, we’ll cover the latest findings on how antinutrients affect your health so you can separate fact from fiction as you continue seeing news coverage on this hot topic.

If you’re interested in optimizing your diet, you’ve likely encountered the word antinutrients before. Certain experts have raised concerns about antinutrients, components of food or dietary nutrients that interfere with the absorption of other nutrients. Different antinutrients, such as phytates, oxalates, and glucosinolates can be found in various types of food, including fruits, veggies, legumes, dairy, and meat.

At this time, the long-term impact of antinutrients on human health has yet to be fully sussed out. Research has shown that while antinutrients can cause health problems, they can also bring health benefits. The majority opinion among health authorities at this time is that the advantages of eating foods containing antinutrients outweigh the adverse effects of forgoing those foods altogether.

Read on to learn more about antinutrients and how they affect your health so you can separate fact from fiction as you continue seeing news coverage on this hot topic.

What Are Antinutrients?

The answer to the question of what antinutrients are can be found in the name itself: while the term nutrients describes substances that provide the raw materials plants and animals (humans included) need to thrive, antinutrients prevent them from absorbing and utilizing those substances. In short, they block the absorption of nutrients. Antinutrients occur naturally in a variety of both plant-based and animal-based foods.

The purpose of those found in plants, like lectins, is to prevent bacterial infections and protect against consumption by predators, as an article published in Plant Physiology outlines. To illustrate that idea, consider the case of the nightshade family of vegetables, which includes potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants. All nightshade vegetables contain solanine and chaconine, antinutrients intended to deter animals and humans alike from consuming them as they can make you sick when ingested in large doses.

A common health concern raised by those worried about antinutrient consumption is that ingesting high amounts can result in nutrient deficiencies, particularly for individuals adhering to diets that classify certain foods as off-limits, particularly vegan or vegetarian diets organized around legumes and grains. Another worry is that they may increase intestinal permeability, resulting in a health condition referred to as leaky gut.

Fact-Checking Concerns About 7 Antinutrients

As described above, antinutrients impede the body’s ability to absorb essential nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and so on. While this clearly has the potential to be problematic, the evidence so far indicates that it’s unlikely to cause issues in the absence of overall malnutrition or dietary imbalances. Furthermore, studies show that in certain circumstances, antinutrients can actually enhance a person’s health—for instance, tannins found in tea can decrease cancer risk and phytic acid can lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

In the sections below, we’ll delve into the details of common concerns raised about seven of the most significant antinutrient groups:

  1. Lectins
  2. Phytates
  3. Oxalates
  4. Tannins and other flavonoids
  5. Glucosinolates
  6. Enzyme inhibitors
  7. Saponins

1. Lectins

Lectins can be found in all plants but in particularly high concentrations in seeds, legumes (most notably kidney beans), and whole grains as they tend to cluster in the parts of seeds that go on to become leaves after sprouting occurs.

In the popular consciousness, lectins have entered into the same category as gluten: a poorly understood substance widely believed to be, somehow, bad.

Going “lectin-free,” in the way you might go gluten-free, is posited as a way to prevent leaky gut syndrome. The theory is that when you eat foods that contain high amounts of lectin, the lectin proteins bind to cells in the walls of the digestive tract where they then create minute punctures that allow the contents of the gut to leak into the bloodstream. In high amounts, lectins may also prevent the proper absorption of certain nutrients, including calcium, iron, phosphorus, and zinc.

According to a literature review published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, some lectins do have “deleterious nutritional effects.” The review also notes that dietary exposure to lectins appears to be widespread. However, the authors could not decisively determine whether lectins caused noticeable health issues.

A separate article states that due to the “ubiquitous” presence of lectins in plants, we all ingest them daily in “appreciable amounts”—unless, of course, you’re taking steps to avoid them. The article goes on to explain that it is the ability of lectins to remain intact in the digestive tract that allows them to cause damage to its lining, though the effects it notes do not include the development of leaky gut, but rather:

  • Loss of gut epithelial cells
  • Damage to the membranes of the epithelium
  • Impaired digestion and absorption of nutrients
  • Disruption to balance of bacterial flora and immune state of the gut

Before you begin to panic about the logistical challenges of avoiding lectins, remember that researchers have yet to find conclusive evidence that consuming lectin-containing foods produces damage significant enough to impact the well-being of individuals who are otherwise in good health.

Phytates

Also called phytic acid, these antinutrients can be found in many of the same foods as lectins—think legumes such as lentils, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and pseudocereals like quinoa. Their purpose for the foods that contain them is to provide the phosphorous necessary for the growing plant.

Studies show that phytates interfere with the absorption of certain minerals and trace elements, including calcium, iron, magnesium, and zinc, by binding to those micronutrients during digestion.

However, an article published in Molecular Nutrition & Food Research notes that dietary phytates also have beneficial effects such as decreasing the likelihood of kidney stone formation and keeping blood sugar and blood lipid levels in the healthy range. The authors note, too, that phytates appear to have antioxidant and possibly anticancerogenic properties.

So, it seems that the phytate content of a food should certainly not be a cause for concern and may even be a boon to your health.

Oxalates

Oxalates, or oxalic acid, can be commonly found in nuts and seeds as well as in leafy greens, fruits, vegetables (particularly rhubarb), and cocoa. Oxalates bind to minerals to form calcium oxalate or iron oxalate. This makes it much more challenging for the body to absorb those minerals.

A review published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition compared the absorbability of calcium from spinach, which contains oxalates, to that of calcium from milk, which does not, and found that the absorption from milk was always higher. The mean absorption for milk was 27.6% while spinach achieved a mere 5.1%.

In some instances, oxalates have also been linked to an elevated risk of kidney stone formation, though thanks to the high nutritional value of oxalate-containing foods, physicians no longer universally recommend low-oxalate diets to those with kidney stones. In other words, there’s no need to try to avoid oxalate-rich foods due to this possible side effect. Most people will harm their health more by avoiding these healthful foods than by ingesting the oxalates they contain.

Tannins and Other Flavonoids

You may be confused to see flavonoids on this list, as this group of naturally occurring polyphenols (which include tannins) have often been discussed as nutraceuticals because of their antioxidant properties. However, these compounds, like the other antinutrients, chelate or bind with minerals such as iron and zinc and reduce the absorption of these nutrients.

For instance, the tannins found in tea, coffee, fruit skins, and legumes have been linked to decreases in iron absorption. Yet they have also been shown to have anticarcinogenic activity and to inhibit the growth of fungi, bacteria, and viruses.

One way to think about tannins, as an article published in Trends in Food Science and Technology aptly put it, is as “a double-edged sword.” It appears, however, that consuming small quantities of tannins will allow you to access their benefits, while larger amounts are needed before the threshold for adverse effects is crossed.

Glucosinolates

These antinutrients are found in high amounts in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage. Like tannins and the rest of the flavonoid family, you may be more familiar with glucosinolates as a desirable phytonutrient.

Yet the same compounds renowned for their ability to help prevent cancer also impede iodine absorption, which can lead to an iodine deficiency and impaired thyroid function. Individuals whose diets contain insufficient amounts of iodine or who have hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) are most at risk for this issue.

There’s also some indication of an association between a greater intake of glucosinolates and a higher risk of type 2 diabetes. Studies so far, such as this one from 2018, have all been population-based, making it too early to say whether there’s a causal relationship at work.

Enzyme Inhibitors

This category of antinutrients includes protease, amylase, and lipase inhibitors, all of which impact the body’s ability to digest and absorb macronutrients. They can be found in a wide swathe of the plant kingdom, including legumes, seeds, and whole grains.

A protease is an enzyme (the -ase ending in chemistry denotes an enzyme) that helps break down proteins, amylase is an enzyme that breaks down certain carbohydrates, and lipase is an enzyme that breaks down lipids (fats). If the enzyme is “inhibited,” it is prevented from breaking down the macronutrient and making it available for absorption. Therefore, protease inhibitors make the body less able to digest protein, amylase inhibitors do the same for carbohydrates, and lipase inhibitors do so for fat.

Food sources of protease inhibitors include beans and other legumes, cucumbers, radishes, broccoli, spinach, potatoes, and egg whites, which contain a trypsin inhibitor along with avidin, which interferes with biotin absorption.

Interestingly, both amylase and amylase inhibitors are touted as having health benefits. Natural dietary sources of amylase include raw fruits and vegetables, along with sprouted seeds, nuts, legumes and whole grains. Amylase inhibitors are found in Garcinia cambogia, guar, inulin, Rosmarinic acid, and other plant foods.

Lipase inhibitors, as already noted, interfere with the enzymes we use to process fats. Lipase inhibitors do not discriminate between fats, meaning absorption of good fats like omega-3 can be compromised. However, they can also be beneficial in that they protect the body from absorbing harmful fats. For that reason, the FDA approved a prescription lipase inhibitor called Orlistat that can increase weight-loss results by allowing fats to pass through your system unprocessed. Orlistat can also beneficially lower total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein, return blood pressure levels to the healthy range, and regulate fasting glucose and insulin concentrations.

Saponins

Saponins are perhaps best known for their ability to produce soapy foam when shaken with water. They can be found in a range of legumes and whole grains and can interfere with normal nutrient absorption. Per an article published in the International Journal of Nutrition and Food Sciences, they may also inhibit the actions of various digestive enzymes in the same manner as the substances discussed in the preceding section, thereby decreasing protein digestibility.

However, that same article notes that there’s evidence saponins lower cholesterol. An article published in the Journal of Medicinal Food went even further, describing saponins as “health-promoting components” and praising them for their ability to decrease your risk of cancer.

Other Antinutrients You May Encounter

In addition to the seven antinutrients discussed above, you may see references to other antinutrients. Keep in mind that what findings exist about their impact on human health likely show the same complicated and contradictory results. With that said, here are several other antinutrients as well as some food sources for each:

  • Allicin and mustard oil: Alliums like chives, leeks, onions, scallions, shallots, and garlic
  • Alpha-amylase inhibitors: Whole grains, legumes, the skins of various nuts, and the leaves of the stevia plant
  • Calcitriol, solanine, nicotine: Nightshade vegetables like eggplant, peppers, tomatoes as well as goji berries
  • Goitrogens: Cruciferous vegetables, soybeans, and peanuts
  • Oligosaccharides: Wheat, legumes, asparagus, and alliums
  • Salicylates: Berries and other fruits like apricots as well as some herbs and spices including cayenne, ginger, and turmeric
  • Uric acid: Primarily animal-based foods like meat (particularly organ meat), eggs, and dairy as well as legumes and some vegetables

14 Common Antinutrients and the Foods You'll Find Them In

How Antinutrients Affect Your Health

It’s challenging to speak generally about the health effects of antinutrients since they depend on an individual’s metabolism, how the food is cooked and prepared, and the presence of any food sensitivities, nutrient deficiencies, or health conditions.

Keep in mind, too, that many dietary substances can act as antinutrients under certain circumstances.  For example, alcohol, when consumed in excess, interferes with the bioavailability of zinc and the B vitamins.

Also, the antinutrient only impairs the absorption of nutrients that are co-ingested in the meal. For example, a phytate-rich snack of raw almonds won’t affect the absorption of iron from a steak consumed later in the day.

There are many other strategies to “neutralize” the antinutrients found in foods. Many culinary techniques such as soaking, fermenting, and sprouting (and, of course, cooking) of beans and seeds are common approaches that increase the palatability and nutrient availability.

In a balanced, omnivorous diet, antinutrients present no problem, and the benefits they confer, such as antioxidant properties and removal of toxic metals, far outweigh any impact on mineral balance.

Vegetarian or vegan diets, on the other hand, may involve the combination of low intake of iron, zinc, and calcium and a high consumption of grains that contain phytates and other antinutrients. The result of this combination can be dietary deficiencies in minerals that, over time, lead to a deficiency. These mineral imbalances result in impaired immune function, anemia, and poor bone health, among other symptoms.

That said, there’s some indication, like this study done in 2012, that the bodies of individuals adhering to such diets may adapt over time to the continued presence of antinutrients by becoming more efficient at metabolizing minerals such as iron and zinc.

Individuals with an elevated risk of developing conditions linked to mineral deficiencies, such as osteoporosis or anemia with iron deficiency may wish to consult a dietitian or nutritionist to develop an eating approach designed to improve mineral absorption. Such a strategy might be to reduce antinutrients, but that’s certainly not the only method. You might instead strategically time intake of foods with high antinutrient content, such as tea, to avoid impeding mineral absorption, or plan to take a high-quality calcium supplement after consuming a legume dish high in phytates.

It’s also worth noting that antinutrients can largely be minimized by food processing and by genetic engineering. In countries with less industrialized agricultural systems, antinutrients have presented nutritional problems, but in the United States, most diets contain micronutrients in amounts well above the minimal requirement.

Interestingly, the tendency to put more and more focus on the benefits of unprocessed fruit, vegetables and grains, increases the likelihood that antinutrients could undermine a well-intended dietary plan.

As established in the last section, antinutrients often have health benefits of their own. While it’s true that phytates interfere with calcium absorption, they also manage the body’s rate of digestion, forestalling blood sugar spikes. Because antinutrients can be quite good for you, most experts do not recommend that you avoid consuming them entirely.  As long as you eat foods with a high antinutrient content in the context of a nutritious, varied diet, there’s very little risk involved.

Conclusion

So, should you worry about  antinutrients? The simple answer is that they don’t need to be a problem if care is taken in preparing foods and timing the ingestion of raw foods and snacks apart from mineral-dense meals or dietary supplements. Certain foods will likely contain some antinutrients no matter how you process and prepare them, however, the nutrients found in those foods will typically have a more pronounced effect than the antinutrients. By eating a wide assortment of foods each day, and taking care not to eat meals centered on a large portion of a food source of antinutrients, you should be able to offset any potential adverse effects of antinutrients.

The Reverse-Aging Diet: Is Autophagy the Key to Staying Young?

By using autophagy fasting techniques and nutritionally superior foods, you can reverse certain aspects of aging and recover your rightful vitality. Here’s what you need to know about the reverse-aging diet.

The reverse-aging diet is also known as “eating for autophagy,” but what does that mean for you? Autophagy is a biological process that allows the body to recycle aging or dying cells to synthesize new and better ones. It’s not exactly like a keto or paleo diet where you can just know what not to eat and carry on—there’s a timing aspect to autophagic eating, as well as specific foods that have their own anti-aging strengths. We’ll cover both aspects of the reverse-aging diet here.

What Is Autophagy and How Does It Reverse Aging?

The body’s autophagy process was discovered in the 1950s and ’60s accidentally by Christian de Duve, a Belgian scientist who was studying insulin at the time. He named the process after the Greek words for “self” (auto) and “eating” (phagy), because in a sense that is what it entails: the body sends cells around to cannibalize the useful parts of dying cells, or to eat up the garbage byproduct of normal cell functioning, and uses those pieces to repair or replace dying cells with stronger cells. It’s like a molecular version of recycling and up-cycling material that would otherwise be clogging up the streets.

Scientific understanding of autophagy didn’t advance again until the 1970s and ’80s, when another Nobel prize-winning scientist, Yoshinori Ohsumi, discovered the genes that regulate the autophagic response. It was ultimately determined that, just as with all the other processes in the body, autophagy starts to decline with age. Autophagy on decline is sort of like having a broken garbage disposal and leaving leftover food bits in your sink: eventually this will gum up the works.

And yet, just as it’s possible to get your garbage and recycling habits back in working order, it’s also possible to trigger autophagy even as you age and the process naturally slows. By using diet to manipulate a “stress response” in the body, you can essentially assign cleaning days to your cells, the same way you might when creating a chore chart for a busy family: some days are for cleaning and some days are for more thoroughly enjoying life in a clean house.

Long story short, by using intermittent fasting practices and eating key nutritional foods, you can regularly bring autophagy out of a sluggish maintenance mode and make sure the cellular garbage in your body doesn’t overwhelm healthy functioning and lead to symptoms of aging.

Autophagy Fasting: How Does It Work?

Autophagy is actually part of some diets like keto and Atkins, diets that carefully put the body into a small nutritional crisis to manipulate healthy results. By inhibiting carbohydrate intake for example, the body becomes alarmed enough to start burning fat stores for energy. Usually the body guards these fat stores like piles of emergency gold in case of famine, but in a modern, First World context, famine is way less of a threat, while obesity contributes to more and more preventable deaths each year.

If you want to fast in a way that triggers autophagic metabolism and slows down the aging process, follow these basic steps:

  • Eat all of your meals within an 8-hour window. You still need your essential nutrients, but you want your body to spend some energy cleaning up rather than digesting and functioning all the time. For the best foods to eat for autophagy, read on to the next section.
  • Fast between 16 and 28 hours intermittently. Periods of nutrient deprivation trigger autophagy. The reason intermittent fasting works is that it triggers the sort of secondary metabolisms we evolved to survive in harsh climates, but it does so in small windows of time without actually starving us.
  • Sustain yourself and your energy with exogenous ketones. While fasting, water, tea, and black coffee are acceptable to consume. If you choose to add MCT oil (medium-chain triglycerides from coconut oil) to your drink, your body will have just enough energy to function and feel satiated without interrupting your fasting goals for weight loss or cellular clean-up.

Autophagy is also triggered by vigorous exercise routines, like HIIT workouts (high-intensity interval training), which, much like intermittent fasting, utilize small windows of high stress to elicit the biological responses we need to stay young and healthy. Modern life is often too safe and sedentary, and our survival mechanisms get weak from lack of use. Autophagy reminds our bodies that each day is still a matter of life and death.

What Is Autophagy and How Does It Reverse Aging

The Reverse-Aging Diet: Which Foods Keep the Body Young?

You’ll want to start by reducing (not eliminating) carbs. Eating more low carb starts inching your body towards ketosis, with the beneficial side effect of losing body fat and weight. In addition to lowering carb intake, you’ll want to consume nutrient-dense foods with compounds that contribute directly to the body’s anti-aging efforts.

Green Tea and Matcha Powder

Green tea has become nearly synonymous with longevity, so much so that statistically the more green tea you consume regularly, the longer you live. This is why it’s a staple in almost every anti-aging diet. Green tea and matcha powder (ground green tea leaves) contain polyphenols that help reduce the inflammation caused by free radical toxins. And catechins in green tea can help prevent the effects on sun damage and the appearance of fine lines when used topically in skincare products.

Kale and Leafy Greens

Cruciferous vegetables and leafy greens are rightly considered superfoods. Kale, broccoli and broccoli greens, spinach, Brussels sprouts—all of these lean greens contain hefty amounts of vitamin K, lutein, fiber, and phytochemicals that help reduce the risk of cancer and guard against the oxidative damage of free radicals. Their vitamin A content contributes to healthy, youthful skin and wound repair, while their vitamin C content serves as a precursor to collagen and new skin cell production. Plus, vitamin C acts as an antioxidant so powerful it helps prevent cold and flu infections. The vitamins and minerals in leafy greens are some of the best anti-aging nutrients to be found.

Walnuts and Almonds

Most nuts contain valuable amounts of omega-3 fatty acids and plant-based protein, but that isn’t the end of their value as anti-aging food. Walnuts in particular may extend life for up to 3 years, possibly by reducing the risk factors for cancer and heart disease. And almonds are full of vitamins A, B, and E, healthy fats, and antioxidants that belong in every healthy diet to help reduce inflammation from the skin to within.

Seeds

Just about any seed that isn’t poisonous is good for you, from chia to sunflower to flaxseeds. Ask any dietitian or nutritionist if you’re eating enough seeds, and the answer will likely be a resounding “no!” Most of us in the modern world don’t consume seeds nearly as much as we’re evolved to. In fact, we have intentionally engineered seedless foods like watermelon and bananas just to avoid what we should be consuming regularly.

Chia seeds are sources of water-soluble fiber that swells with liquid and helps slow down digestion and keep blood sugar levels from spiking. They are anti-inflammatory, full of omega-3s, and contain all nine essential amino acids necessary for new muscle growth at all stages of life.

These features can be found in flaxseeds as well, which have anti-aging nutrients for your skin and flavonoids known to help lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels, improving the ratio between “good” HDL levels and lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease. If you enjoy a good trail mix with sunflower seeds, you’re also fortifying your body with vitamin E, an antioxidant that can help protect against the sun’s UV rays.

Oily, Fatty Fish

Eating the proper ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids is necessary for optimal health. While both fatty acids are essential, the standard Western diet overemphasizes omega-6 fatty foods (they’re in vegetable oils, which infiltrate our foods as additives), and downplays omega-3s, which are found in abundance in oily fish like salmon, sardines, and mackerel.

Omega-3 fatty acids help lower inflammation, and subsequently rates of dementia, heart disease, and arthritis. Salmon is abundant in astaxanthin, a powerful antioxidant that defends against aging. And heart-healthy sardines can help reduce the risk of developing diabetes. Sardines have the added advantage of being on the bottom of the food chain, meaning they are less likely to contain toxins they themselves have consumed (as may be the case with larger fish, which have higher mercury levels).

Access to fresh fish is not always easy to come by or affordable for those who live far inland. Luckily a fish oil supplement is easy to find and can help improve your joint health as well.

Fermented Foods

Fermented veggies like kimchi and sauerkraut along with fermented dairy products like kefir and Greek yogurt carry healthy probiotic bacteria. While prebiotic foods contain fiber for your existing good gut bacteria to digest, probiotic foods introduce new live cultures of beneficial gut bacteria to support healthy digestion, detox efforts, and immune system functioning.

Sweet Potatoes

Don’t just pull out sweet potatoes for your fall menu. These spuds are some of the healthiest carbs around. As we pointed out at the top of this list, while it’s good to lower your intake of carbs (and the fast sugars that come with them), it’s not recommended to eliminate carbs entirely. Carbohydrates in fruits, starchy veggies, and foods like sweet potatoes can provide many beneficial nutrients. Particularly the skin of sweet potatoes contains concentrations of the anti-cancer compound anthocyanin, another valuable asset to staying young and healthy.

Red Wine and Dark Chocolate

Treats like red wine and dark chocolate contain useful nutrients too, specifically resveratrol, an anti-aging antioxidant. Consumed in moderation, the nutrients in the grapes that make red wine and the cacao nibs that make up the majority of dark chocolate provide protection against the age-accelerating damage of free radicals.

Mushrooms

It’s strange but true: while mushrooms are grown in dampness and dark, if you place them in sunlight after harvesting, they soak up vitamin D from the sun just like human skin does. In fact, they soak up so much that 3.5 ounces of mushrooms can provide you 130-450 IUs of vitamin D you need, so you don’t have to spend so much time in the sun or suffer the signs of aging that can come from sun damage.

Dark Berries and Fruits

Raspberries, blueberries, and pomegranates have deep coloring in common, as well as certain antioxidant concentrations that can greatly benefit your health. Pomegranates have enjoyed a recent hey-day as a superfood, but dark berries like blue and blackberries bring the same level of nutrition to every smoothie, yogurt, or dessert that includes them. These fruits’ concentrations of vitamin A, vitamin C, and the antioxidant anthocyanin all work to help prevent chronic conditions from gaining a foothold. They also help increase collagen production for more supple, youthful skin.

Avocados

Avocados are one of the most well-known and versatile healthy fats in a low-carb dieter’s kitchen. Delicious and creamy, they can be eaten as a veggie dip, utilized as a healthy spread, and turned into smoothies and dairy-free ice creams, all while providing you with vitamin A that protects your skin cells and omega-3 fatty acids that help your heart.

Carrots

Famous for improving eye health thanks to their beta-carotene content, carrots do even more to help preserve your youth and vitality. One study found a correlation between carotenoid consumption and romantic appeal and attraction. And if it’s health effects you’re after, the vitamin A in carrots protects your skin from viruses, bacteria, and the potential ravages of aging.

Turmeric

Speaking of brilliantly orange foods, turmeric and its active compound curcumin are famous natural remedies for inflammation, helping to ameliorate significant inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. Time and time again, in study after study, turmeric exhibits proven pain-relieving attributes and anti-inflammatory capabilities. So if you’re looking to reverse aging with diet, you definitely want to pepper turmeric into your food routine. Add a dash of black pepper to increase bioavailability!

Tomatoes

The tomato is a fruit used in culinary capacities as a vegetable, but no matter how you slice it, the lycopene content inside tomatoes provides valuable disease resistance, specifically against osteoporosis, which affects 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men over the age of 50. Along with the health benefits of lycopene, tomatoes provide B vitamins like niacin and folate, vitamin C, and vitamin K. Here’s a pro-tip for eating: add a little olive oil to help increase the nutrient absorption in your body.

Beets

Last but not least, maybe it’s appropriate that beets have the approximate shape of a heart, because the nitrates they contain help improve arterial health and blood pressure, as well as help reduce inflammation like so many other anti-aging foods on this list. The nitric oxide content also helps protect your kidneys, and the rich color of beets makes for a beautiful presentation whether in a smoothie or on your plate.

Aging Can Be Reversed

While you can’t turn back time, you can reverse the symptoms of aging that come from the slow-down of processes like autophagy. With the right supplies in your diet and an active lifestyle, you can easily be in better shape at 60 than you were at 30, when, in the brazenness of youth, many people don’t take proper care of themselves. Damage done by poor diets or unhealthy lifestyles can be reversed, and the more you know about how to best strengthen your body, the better prepared you are to improve with age.

The Top Vital Supplements and Vitamins for Liver Health

The liver is our largest organ, and it’s appropriately named because we cannot live without it. We have the information on the most vital supplements and vitamins for liver health here.

The liver is our largest organ, and it’s appropriately named because we cannot live without it. The liver’s role in human health is to metabolize what comes into our bodies, turning food into energy and filtering out toxins from the blood. Maintaining a healthy liver involves first avoiding intoxicants and poisons as much as possible, and second providing your liver with the essential nutrients it needs to function. On top of that, there are some natural ingredients that help the liver better perform its important duties. We have the information on the most vital supplements and vitamins for liver health here.

How to Support Liver Function

Diseases like alcoholic fatty liver disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), and viral hepatitis damage the liver and sometimes cause life-threatening health problems. Even without a medical condition impacting your liver, certain dietary choices and deficiencies can interrupt the liver’s detoxification processes and have a dampening effect on your overall health.

Luckily the liver is a resilient organ, able to heal and revive the way that other organs (like the heart and the kidneys) cannot. If you’re worried that something is seriously wrong with your liver, it’s important to consult a health care professional for medical advice, but if you’re just looking to support your liver with the proper vitamins and dietary supplements, we have a list of the ones you may need.

How to support liver function

The Best Supplements and Vitamins for Liver Health

Working in conjunction with your other digestive and detox organs, the liver is a real powerhouse, not least because it has the ability to store certain vitamins and nutrients for emergency use (iron, copper, and vitamins A, B12, D, E, and K). Eating a liver flush diet is one way to help the liver function, providing it with the antioxidants needed to fight off damaging free radicals. Another way to aid liver detox is to know which vitamins are most important for inclusion in a multivitamin and which natural ingredients can help the liver work to its best abilities.

Vitamin A and Iron

Deficiencies in vitamin A and iron are some of the most common dietary deficiencies worldwide. Together they help guard against iron deficiency anemia, as vitamin A is involved in regulating the release of iron from the liver. Supplementing with either one without the other could exacerbate your issues. Iron deficiency anemia can be especially dangerous to those with chronic liver disease or cirrhosis, making it all the more important for both nutrients to be in balance and agreement.

B Vitamins

The full array of B complex vitamins is important for liver health. Vitamin B12 is especially important. It can be stored for years in the liver, whereas other water-soluble vitamins generally cannot be stored (they get washed out daily and must be replenished).

Vitamin B12 is found in animal meats (beef and poultry) as well as fish, shellfish, eggs, and dairy products. Fortified cereals contain vitamin B12 as well.

Vitamin B12 is useful in the treatment of liver disease because it acts as a precursor of the amino acid methionine, which then converts to S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe) for possible liver disease prevention.

Amino Acids

There are other amino acids that play a vital role in liver health and help to reduce the risk factors for liver disease and liver cancer.

  • Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs): The BCAAs are valine, leucine, and isoleucine. Not only have BCAA-rich medicines demonstrated positive results in cirrhosis patients, but they have also delayed the progression of chronic liver disease. Popularly known for their inclusion in pre-workout supplements, BCAAs contribute significantly to muscle building.
  • Cysteine (aka NAC): This sulfur-containing amino acid is available as a supplement in the form of N-acetylcysteine (NAC). NAC helps the body detox and prevents the side effects of environmental or drug toxins, so much so that intravenous NAC is given to patients experiencing acetaminophen overdose to help reduce or possibly prevent kidney and liver damage. NAC even acts as an antioxidant to reduce liver inflammation.
  • Methionine: The methionine provided by vitamin B12 converts into SAMe and into cysteine when needed, but beyond those two significant liver advantages, methionine also helps prevent excessive fatty buildup in the liver and beyond by acting as a lipotropic agent and breaking down fat during metabolism.
  • Threonine: A threonine deficiency has been shown to cause mitochondrial uncoupling in the liver and restrict the growth of the organ. Threonine is also used to treat nervous system disorders like familial spastic paraparesis, spinal spasticity, and multiple sclerosis.
  • Histidine: This amino works as an anti-lipogenic agent, able to reduce the fatty liver caused by high-fat diets. It also has anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce joint pain and an ability to prevent certain fungal infections that would otherwise burden our immune systems.

Other amino acids like lysine are needed to help the body absorb zinc, calcium, and iron, while the amino acid carnitine helps the mitochondria in our muscles burn fat, an ancillary benefit when trying to prevent fatty liver disease.

Our essential amino acids work in concert, many of them acting as precursors for others or in support of the overall efforts for protein synthesis and nutrient utilization in the body. A comprehensive amino acid supplement containing all nine essential aminos is therefore the most robust “vitamin” on this list, containing necessary compounds for repair and recovery, for muscle strength, for lipid level control, and for liver fat reduction.

Vitamin C

It’s old news that vitamin C provides powerful antioxidants that may help prevent colds and flu, but this 2014 review points out that vitamin C deficiency may play a role in the prevention of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis.

Preventing the damage caused by oxidation from free radicals helps reduce inflammation throughout the body, but the correlation between a deficiency of vitamin C in NAFLD patients is all the more reason to trust its health benefits in regards to your liver.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D deficiency is also linked to chronic liver disease patients, up to 90% of them. While a lack of vitamin D may not lead to liver disease, vitamin D is necessary to help liver disease patients prevent bone loss and muscle aches due to interferon therapy side effects, and to increase their chance of survival (especially if these patients also have hepatitis C).

If your liver is healthy today, vitamin D also helps support your immune system, bone and tooth health, nervous system, and cardiovascular health, and can help aid in diabetes management by regulating insulin levels. It is also found (like vitamin B12) in animal products such as eggs, dairy, and fish.

Vitamin E and Selenium

Vitamin E and the trace mineral selenium are two more providers of antioxidant liver support. Both contain protective compounds that guard your liver cells, and selenium in particular may help boost the effect of the antioxidant alpha-lipoic acid (next on the list).

Alpha-Lipoic Acid

Found in foods like animal products and green, leafy vegetables, the antioxidant alpha-lipoic acid is both water- and fat-soluble. Alpha-lipoic acid has been medicinally applied to conditions as far-ranging as diabetes nerve-related issues and weight-loss management. It also plays a huge role in removing the byproducts of fat breakdown and the toxic effects of substances like alcohol from the liver. Alpha-lipoic acid also boosts other antioxidants like CoQ10 and glutathione, and may in turn be boosted by taking in combination with selenium (above) and milk thistle (below).

Milk Thistle

When it comes to dietary supplements aimed at liver health and detoxification, milk thistle is the one used most often in the United States. It’s celebrated for its active ingredient, silymarin.

Clinical studies show that silymarin may help liver tissue regenerate, particularly in those with hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and cirrhosis of the liver. By working as an antioxidant, silymarin also helps reduce inflammation.

Silymarin has been shown to improve liver damage suffered by children being treated with chemotherapy for leukemia (a cancer of the bone marrow and/or the lymphatic system). After a 28-day period the children receiving milk thistle showed fewer signs of liver damage.

Silymarin has also been found to reduce specific liver enzymes that are markers of liver damage, specifically in patients with liver disease.

Though milk thistle has several promising indications, there has yet to be a scientific consensus, and additional information is still needed before declaring milk thistle a liver cure. Either way, there is currently no regulation from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on the use of medicinal herbal products like milk thistle, as it is not considered a drug.

Dandelion Root

Speaking of natural herbal remedies, dandelion root has promising influence on liver health. This natural diuretic can help detox efforts in the liver and kidneys by flushing toxins from the body. Dandelion root can increase the liver’s bile flow, and at least one study has found that the polysaccharides in dandelion root may aid in liver health and function.

Again, when it comes to natural remedies, the science is slow to accumulate, but you can evaluate the information that currently stands to help decide which liver supplements may be right for you.

Turmeric

Turmeric, alongside its active ingredient curcumin, though a natural remedy like some of the others on this list, has much more scientific data backing up its anti-inflammatory abilities. Curcumin has been found to help stimulate bile production by the gallbladder. Bile is then used to escort toxins from the body and remove the buildup of harmful substances from the liver. Long used in Ayurvedic and Chinese traditional medicine, turmeric and its health benefits are consistently backed by modern science.

Artichoke

Artichokes contain cynarin, a liver-boosting compound that can speed along the liver’s breakdown and detox processes. Studies show that artichoke leaf may help encourage new liver tissue growth and protect your liver cells from damage.

Cynarin also increases bile production. A study published in Pharmaceutical Biology showed that liver damage caused by drug overdose in rats was lessened significantly by artichoke extract.

Human trials show similar results. People with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease who consumed 600 milligrams of artichoke extract for 2 months exhibited improved liver function, and in obese non-alcoholic fatty liver disease patients artichoke extract reduced inflammation and lessened fat deposition when compared to a control group.

Artichoke also contains silymarin, the same active component in milk thistle, and it and cynarin may be more powerful together.

The Top Vital Supplements and Vitamins for Liver Health

Vegetables and Vitamins for Liver Health

Other herbs show potential for liver health, including cilantro, oregano, and parsley. And a good balance of our essential vitamins in a daily multivitamin is always of benefit, along with an amino acid supplement to make sure your protein needs are met. If you want to help your liver, start with these vitamins and nutrients either in their natural food sources or in supplemental products, and ask your doctor for any further medical advice on preventing or possibly reversing liver damage.

What Do Astronauts Eat? Which Essential Nutrients Make It to Outer Space?

What does it take to get food into space? What do astronauts eat in space? What has spaceflight taught us about human health, and how can you use those findings to improve your health? We have (some of) the answers.

What do astronauts eat? Is it some sort of nutritional toothpaste or protein cube? Are there traditional kitchens in space modules? How far away are we from a Star Trek-style food replicator?

While it’s not yet reached the level of science fiction, space food has come a long way from where it started, not just for the sake of the crew members’ taste buds, but for their health and the necessity of maintaining earthly levels of muscle and bone mass in zero gravity conditions. Our own Dr. Robert Wolfe, who developed an amino acid supplement for civilian consumer use, has contributed to this very NASA research in the sphere of muscle preservation and amino acid supplementation in space. We have the details below on what astronauts eat, why certain nutrients are so essential, and what that tells us about the health of all humankind.

What’s on the Menu for NASA Astronauts?

When the U.S. space program first began, astronaut food was not so great. The same way that food packages for our soldiers have evolved into more nutritious fare (and now come in self-heating food containers), NASA space food has come a long way, and the same is true for the European Space Agency.

Astronauts who first braved the final frontier ate freeze-dried powder, concentrated food cubes, and aluminum tubes full of liquid gels. There was no real variety of flavor choice either, though one of the first evolutions of space food was to provide taste options like applesauce, butterscotch pudding, and shrimp cocktail as soon as the packaging improved enough for freeze-dried preservation.

Hot water was available on space missions by the 1960s with the Gemini and Apollo programs. This advancement enabled astronauts to rehydrate their food and enjoy easier access to hot meals. By the 1970s, the food pouches included up to 72 different flavors, and today the technology is even more advanced, allowing astronauts to better enjoy their food during long periods in zero gravity.

Taste isn’t the only factor to consider, of course: priority one is to make sure astronauts are as healthy as possible. Here are a few of the factors at play when it comes to feeding men and women who aren’t Earth-bound.

1. Nutrient Needs

There can be no cutting-corners in space: astronauts need 100% of their daily required nutrients and minerals from the food they eat. That means that not only do scientists and nutritionists have to figure out a way to transport and preserve the various foods we enjoy so casually on Earth, but they also have to take into account which nutrients astronauts need different levels of, like vitamin D (which we get from spending time in sunlight), sodium, and iron. Astronauts need low-iron foods because they’re working with fewer red blood cells while in space, but vitamin D and sodium are needed in higher levels to support bone density. There are no sunny days on a space station, and a lack vitamin D can lead to dangerous bone loss or spaceflight osteopenia.

Food selection also takes into account storage requirements, packaging necessities, and sensory impact (smelly food on a space station, where you absolutely cannot open a window to the vacuum of space, is not good for astronaut morale).

2. Astronaut Feedback

While the mission at hand is the priority of the astronauts sent into space, the main mission of so many other minds on the ground is astronaut health, well-being, and stamina. That means that not only can astronauts provide feedback on preferences they have for the packaged meals, but they are also allowed “bonus foods” they can bring along independently, a choice that garnered a lot of public interest and attention in 2013 when Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield crowd-sourced ideas for what foods he could bring along for a 6-month stay on the International Space Station (ISS) with fellow astronauts, American Thomas Marshburn and Russian Roman Romanenko.

The requirements for bonus foods include having a long shelf life and being appropriate for space travel: nothing that can explode, nothing too wet or messy, and, of course, nothing too smelly for the sake of international (and interstellar) cooperation.

Hadfield ended up taking along foods like dried apple pieces, chocolate, orange zest cookies, jerky, and maple syrup in a tube, all sourced from his Canadian homeland. Those were treats on top of the menu selection each astronaut gets to choose before departing: they can have the same thing every day, or plan for a 7-day meal cycle so no one food gets too dull.

3. Future Hydroponics

NASA researchers are still looking for ways to grow fresh food in space. With an 18-month mission to Mars in the works, the Advance Food System division of NASA has already chosen 10 crops that would provide the nutrition needs for those in space. Those foods are:

  • Bell peppers
  • Cabbages
  • Carrots
  • Fresh herbs
  • Green onions
  • Lettuce
  • Radishes
  • Spinach
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes

Their hopes are to one day get rice, peanuts, beans, wheat, and potatoes growing in space too (you may have seen Matt Damon on the big screen farming potatoes in The Martian, but as of yet that is science fiction still just beyond our reach).

What do astronauts eat in space?

What Do Astronauts Eat? A Space Menu

According to NASA’s own website, astronauts have choices for three meals a day: breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with the calories provided adjusted to the needs and size of each astronaut. The types of food range from fresh fruits (for the first few days before they spoil), nuts (including peanut butter), meats like seafood, chicken, and beef, desserts like brownies and candy, plus beverages like lemonade, fruit punch, orange juice, coffee, and tea. While they can’t yet grow rice in space, they can be sent up with it and other foods like cereals, mushrooms, flour tortillas, bread rolls, granola bars, scrambled eggs, and mac and cheese.

Long-term storage of food in space means that a lot of the food items are rehydratable: dried until the astronauts add water generated by the station’s fuel cells. Many items are thermostabilized or heat-treated to destroy any enzymes or microorganisms that might cause the food to spoil. Packaged fish, fruit, and irradiated meat can be transported into space this way, along with more complex packaged meals like casseroles. Beverages all come in powdered form until they are mixed with water at the time of consumption. Condiments like mustard, mayo, ketchup, and hot sauce (strangely enough) stay exactly the same, and can be sent to space in their commercially available packets.

1. Ham Salad Sandwich

This is actually the first meal that American astronauts had on the moon. Not unlike the chicken, egg, or tuna salad sandwiches we enjoy on Earth, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin ate these sandwiches along with “fortified fruit strips” and rehydratable drinks on the very first lunar excursion. Time magazine states that the Apollo 11 mission ate four meals in total on the moon’s surface, and that their resulting waste is still left behind today in the lunar module.

2. Tubes of Applesauce

Another first here: the first food eaten in space by an American (John Glenn), and this one confirms a lot of what people assume about food during space travel: it’s in a tube, thick enough so it won’t float away from you in a microgravity environment. Just like squeezing out toothpaste, the first American in space squeezed applesauce out of an aluminum tube during the Mercury space mission of 1962.

3. Rehydratable Mac and Cheese

The instant macaroni and cheese you pour hot water over isn’t wholly unlike the kind they eat in space. The same goes for other dishes besides this standard American comfort food, like chicken and rice, dried soups, and instant mashed potatoes. Astronauts can even eat breakfast cereals this way, which come fortified with essential nutrients and packaged with dry milk and sugar for that familiar taste of home.

4. Irradiated Lunch Meat

“Irradiated” sounds like this food just came out of Chernobyl, but in fact most of what astronauts eat is irradiated (not radioactive) to eliminate any traces of insect activity or microorganisms that might otherwise spoil or damage the food before the astronauts can partake. It happens to food on Earth too, especially seafoods and other animal products that have a high potential to spoil when preserved for a long period of time, but it’s also done to fresh fruits and seasoning herbs too. It’s all FDA- and NASA-approved for safety.

5. Cubed Foods (Like Bacon)

Here’s another menu item in line with what the imagination expects: cubed food was part of a space diet from the very beginning, and that still remains true in some instances. In the early days, these bite-sized cubes were rather unappetizing. Let’s just say that along with the hassle of squeezing tubes and dealing with the crumbs from freeze-dried foods, which might interrupt instrument functioning on the vessel, the cubes were not a crowd favorite. (To reduce crumbs, sandwiches and food cubes like cookies used to be coated in gelatin, which makes spaceflight sound less glamorous than ever.)

One of those cubed foods was bacon squares. That’s right: compressed bacon that was enjoyed regularly by the Apollo 7 astronauts according to Popular Science—they were much the favorite over bacon bars, most of which returned to Earth when the mission was complete. Now the nearest approximation to bacon cubes on the International Space Station are some freeze-dried sausage patties, not unlike the kind many people keep in their home freezers.

The variety of food has since expanded to over 200 menu items, but some of them (like chicken dishes) are still cut up into bite-sized chunks: no one has time to carve a turkey in space.

6. Shrimp Cocktail and Hot Sauce

The most popular dish on the International Space Station across the nations is shrimp cocktail. With a powdered sauce infused with horseradish, for whatever reason, among the hundreds of dishes from Russia, the United States, and Japan, shrimp cocktail is the most highly preferred.

Maybe it has something to do with that spicy sauce, because another people-pleaser in space is hot sauce. Even for those star-walkers who don’t like hot sauce back home, hot sauce in space not only livens up otherwise bland dishes, but some astronauts say that taste doesn’t work the same way in space, and that all of the food tastes bland to them, including their usual favorites.

Likewise hot sauce also works practically to help clear the nasal passages: if you get a stuffed up head in space, there’s no fresh air to be found. That “stuffiness” may be what accounts for an inability to taste most flavors and why hot sauce has become a favorite for many.

7. Liquid Spices

Without gravity’s assistance, you can just pepper or salt your food in space like you would on the ground. That leads to items like liquid salt and pepper, so that the spices are actually applied directly to the food instead of floating off to get grit in the space station’s sensitive machines or to end up in a fellow astronaut’s nose or eyes. Salt is applied in the form of salt water, while pepper is suspended in an oil.

8. Powdered Liquids

All the drinks in space start as powders, including orange juice, apple cider, coffee, and tea. The powder is pre-loaded in a foil laminate package. So the dusty particles cannot escape, astronauts must secure the water source to a connector on the packet to add liquid. After that, they drink it from a straw (sort of like a Capri-Sun, but with way more at stake).

Not all foods work in powdered forms however. Ground control used to send people to space with freeze-dried astronaut ice cream, but it’s no longer included on the International Space Station. The astronauts disliked it too much due to its crumbly, chalky texture, which felt uncomfortable against their teeth and left an unpleasant film on the tongue.

9. Tortilla Wraps

Instead of bread (another crumby entity) or lettuce (which wilts), NASA now uses tortillas to make sandwich wraps for space travel. They’re partially dehydrated, and can last up to 18 months on the ISS. It was only thanks to Mexican payload specialist Rodolfo Neri Vela that tortillas were introduced to the space food system, where they are now invaluable.

The ability to last for long periods of time is essential due to the inherent delays in space travel. Fresh fruit and veggies sent to space have to be kept in a special fresh food locker that is resupplied a little more frequently by a space shuttle, but when the supply comes in they have to be eaten quickly before they spoil and rot.

10. Thermostabilized Fish

Remember the irradiated lunch meat from before? Thermostabilization is another type of heat treatment applied to food that may have destructive microorganisms. It’s the same tech used on Earth before canning our seafood, be it tuna, salmon, or sardines. While fish is one of the smellier items allowed on the ISS, it’s nevertheless too important a source of protein and nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids to do without.

What the NASA Diet Tells Us About Human Nutrition

It is imperative that the food sent up with our astronauts helps them keep muscle mass in space, and the same goes for bone density. The more scientists learn about what space does to the human body and how to protect astronauts from damage, the more the world learns about overall human health.

For example, studies on astronaut Scott Kelly and his twin brother reveal how leaving the bonds of Earth impacts the human body, and suggests how long we as a species can withstand the weight loss of zero gravity. Space travel biology provides data on human biology we may never have known otherwise, and here’s how it can positively impact you.

New muscle growth cannot happen without the proper balance of all nine essential amino acids. Discovering that ideal ratio was the first step, and developing the formula was the next. Now there is a supplement appropriate for people under extreme conditions to preserve the muscle they have and replace the muscle that is lost with new growth, reversing space- or age-related muscle loss. In that sense, space exploration and experimentation today is a lot like Star Trek: in many ways exploring space involves finding out what it means to be human.

The Space Between

As humans we should all be proud of the advances we’ve made in space travel, and just how far we’ve gone as a species. Likewise we here at the Amino Co. are proud to be associated with the important work Dr. Wolfe has done, and the findings he’s brought back from NASA that are now accessible to anyone looking to preserve or build muscle, even under circumstances that are literally out of this world. Explore the available formulas, and help your body become space-strong.

Betaine Sources, Uses and Health Benefits

Betaine supplementation may help improve liver detoxification, heart health, digestive function, muscle building, body fat loss, and more. Find out how this amino acid derivative works.

Betaine is a methyl derivative of the amino acid glycine and can be found in food sources like sugar beets, spinach, shellfish, and wheat. As a methyl donor in chemical reactions within the body, betaine is important for liver and kidney health, and without it there can be fatty accumulation in the liver leading to serious cerebral, coronary, vascular, and hepatic diseases—dangerous consequences for your brain, your heart, your bloodstream, and your liver. With a sufficient amount of betaine you can protect your organs, improve certain cardiovascular risk factors, and increase your physical performance. For more about where betaine comes from and how it impacts your health, read on.

What Is Betaine? Where Does It Come From?

A naturally occurring amino acid derivative, betaine is also known as trimethylglycine (TMG). It’s a nonessential nutrient, meaning we don’t have to consume it to get it, as our normal functioning produces betaine as a byproduct of the nonessential amino acid glycine. However, beneficial amounts of betaine can be found in foods, including:

  • Sugar beets
  • Rye grain
  • Brown rice
  • Quinoa
  • Wheat bran
  • Sweet potato
  • Turkey breast
  • Beef
  • Veal
  • Spinach
  • Shellfish

Betaine was first discovered in the 19th century in sugar beets, which is where its common name is derived from. Its scientific name, trimethylglycine, describes its chemical composition: a glycine derivative attached to three (tri-) methyl groups on the molecular level. This is what gives it the ability to be a methyl donor (along with vitamin B12 and folic acid) when it comes in contact with other chemical compounds throughout the body. Methyl donation occurs in a process called methylation. The methylation process is crucial in protein function and many other critical actions in the body.

Betaine is also an organic osmolyte, a compound involved in the osmosis process, moving fluid into and out of cells to maintain fluid balance and prevent cell shrinkage or rupture. An imbalance there could lead to cell death.

The Health Benefits of Betaine

Betaine has long been a subject for scientific study in the realm of heart health and the prevention and treatment of heart disease, but more recently people have been taking betaine to enhance their exercise performance and improve their body composition as well. For more on how betaine can impact liver detoxification, heart health, digestive function, muscle building, and body fat loss, read on.

Betaine sources, uses, and health benefits.

1. Liver Function and Detoxification

Fatty acid buildup in the liver can lead to severe health consequences, including obesity, diabetes, and fatty liver disease. Fatty acids can accumulate due to dietary choices like eating too many sugary or fatty foods or consuming excessive amounts of alcohol. Liver buildup of fatty acids can cause abdominal pain, fluid retention, cardiovascular problems, and muscle wasting, not to mention damage and scarring to the liver. While the liver is one of our most resilient organs (able to heal itself in ways that our heart and our kidneys, for example, cannot), long-term damage and scarring can build up too, causing permanent damage and even liver failure or death.

The use of betaine treatments for hepatoprotection against conditions like fatty liver disease and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis has proven effective due to betaine’s ability to aid in recovery from liver damage and protect the liver from certain hepatotoxins like ethanol or carbon tetrachloride. Those toxins can find their way into our bodies through contact with pesticides, herbicides, and even some prescription medications. Detoxing them from the body without long-lasting liver damage is one of the top benefits we can all gain from betaine.

2. Heart Health

The cardiovascular benefits of betaine are the most thoroughly documented by researchers. By quickly and safely reducing the plasma homocysteine concentrations in our bloodstream, betaine protects us from homocystinuria, a condition characterized by high homocysteine levels that can lead to the development of arterial plaque and ultimately heart disease.

Betaine can lower homocysteine levels by providing homocysteine molecules with one of its three methyl groups, transforming homocysteine into the amino acid methionine, which is beneficially used in protein synthesis and liver cell protection against toxins, like in cases of acetaminophen (Tylenol) poisoning. Betaine has even gained Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for safe use in treating homocystinuria.

3. Digestive Aid

Our stomachs require a sufficient amount of stomach acid to digest the food we eat. If you have low stomach acid (a condition called hypochlorhydria), your food will only be partially digested, resulting in a lower absorption rate of the nutrients you consume. In some instances (as in the case of essential amino acids, vitamins, and minerals) we can only gain the necessary nutrients needed to live and function by consuming and then absorbing them. Absorption disorders can quickly lead to different forms of anemia, malnutrition, and wasting that detrimentally impact our health. Gastrointestinal overgrowth of Candida (a yeast bacteria) has been scientifically linked with lower levels of stomach acid.

The biggest component in stomach acid is hydrochloric acid (HCl), and an estimated half of individuals over 50 are not producing enough of it. Luckily betaine HCl, a combination of betaine and hydrochloride naturally found in beets, can work as an effective treatment for hypochlorhydria (a total absence of stomach acid). When taken as a supplement, betaine HCl increases the production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach, aiding digestion and enhancing the absorption levels of nutrients like iron, calcium, vitamin B12, and protein.

It should be noted, however, that betaine HCl should not be taken by those who have peptic ulcers, severe atrophic gastritis, or an inflammation of the stomach lining. While it used to be an over-the-counter drug often combined with vitamin B6, this form of betaine has since been banned (in 1993) from over-the-counter sale because it could not be recognized as “generally safe” by the FDA. It is now only available in supplement form, and because supplements are largely under-regulated, you should consult a health care professional for medical advice on the proper doses of betaine hydrochloride before taking it.

And while we’re on the subject, betaine hydrochloride should not be confused with betaine anhydrous, which is the FDA-approved form of betaine that is deemed safe and effective for treating high levels of homocysteine.

4. Muscle Building and Fat Loss

Due to betaine’s role in metabolizing protein, it has recently come into popular use as a workout supplement for muscle building and bodyweight management. Included in many pre-workout nutrient formulas, clinical trials have shown that betaine supplementation can help increase muscle power and endurance all while promoting the loss of dangerous body fat. This combination results in improved body composition for those who utilize betaine as a workout enhancement.

Be Better with Betaine

Betaine supplementation is not advised for children or pregnant or breastfeeding women. This is due not to any adverse side effects reported, but because of a lack of scientific evidence on the effects of high betaine levels in those populations. Likewise betaine hydrochloride can be dangerous for anyone with peptic ulcers or issues with their stomach lining, and should only be taken under a doctor’s approval.

However, as betaine is a naturally occurring compound in our bodies and vital for many important functions, it’s otherwise regarded as a safe way to protect your liver, enhance your physical performance, and help your heart. Consult with a medical professional if you have any hesitations, and find out what betaine supplementation could do for you.

Liver Flush: What Ingredients Actually Help Liver Function?

Will a liver flush or cleanse actually work? Find out what damages your liver, and which supplements and foods can actually help prevent liver disease.

Your liver is the undefeated detoxifier. Along with your kidneys, it’s the organ that detoxes you, and there’s only so much you can do to help detox it. That being said, while a liver flush is not as simple a concept as, say, clearing out your rain gutters with a high-powered spray of water, there are things you can do to support your liver’s natural detoxification processes, so it can flush itself and your entire body of any toxins swirling around in your bloodstream. This article details what substances can harm your liver and which liver aids have scientific reasoning behind them.

Liver Flush: Fad vs. Fact

Your liver is your largest internal organ. As big as an average football, the liver resides on the upper right side of your abdomen, above your stomach but beneath the divide separating your lungs from your guts: the diaphragm.

Many homemade liver cleanse concoctions involve fruit juice (organic apple juice, lemon juice, grapefruit juice), along with epsom salt and extra virgin olive oil. Some go so far as to suggest a coffee enema, but which one if any of these ingredients actually benefits your liver, and how? Let’s first dispel some misconceptions, and then read on for a list of foods and beverages that are proven to benefit your liver.

Is There Anything Useful in Liver Supplements?

Your liver is unique among your organs because it has the ability to heal and regenerate itself that other vital organs like the heart, lungs, and kidneys simply do not have. While you need to consume certain substances such as essential amino acids and antioxidant vitamins to support even your most basic functions, most of those nutrients can be found naturally in whole foods.

Many supplements on the market are sold without clinical testing or FDA approval, but there are certain ingredients that have been proven scientifically to help the liver do its job.

Can a Liver Flush Help with Weight Loss?

There really is no quick shortcut to losing weight. There are only two ways to shed body fat: one is burning more calories than you consume and the other is consuming fewer calories than you burn.

Because there are so many questionable claims surrounding liver cleanses on the market, studies have actually looked into and found that certain supposed liver-cleansing diets actually succeed in lowering your metabolic rate, therefore impeding weight loss rather than aiding it.

Instead of trying to find a shortcut to weight loss via your liver, focus on more tried-and-true methods of healthy weight loss (which in turn benefit your liver by cutting down on fatty deposits that may lead to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease). You can do this by:

  • Reducing caloric intake. It’s recommended that women eat 1,600-2,400 calories per day, and men 2,000-3,000. Staying closer to the lower end of the appropriate range is ideal for both your waistline and your liver’s health.
  • Burning calories through exercise. To burn off the body fat you already have, especially dangerous abdominal fat that could be negatively impacting your vital organs, take up regular exercise. Even evening walks or gentle at-home morning yoga can help get harmful fat deposits off your body and away from your liver.
  • Upgrading your diet. The better foods you choose, the more you can eat. If you want to lose weight without feeling like you’re starving yourself, eat superior foods from each food group: whole vegetables and fruits, unrefined whole grains, lean proteins like fish, chicken, and eggs, and healthy fats like those in nuts and olive oil.

Will a Liver Detox Diet Help Prevent Liver Disease?

Liver disease can arise from many different conditions, the most well-known being hepatitis (from infection by the hepatitis A, B, or C virus), alcohol abuse (leading to inflammation of the liver, scarring, and ultimately cirrhosis), and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, which can come about through poor exercise and diet. The best way to prevent liver disease depends on the cause of it, and includes:

  • Safe sex and hygiene practices: Hepatitis can be contracted through unprotected sex, needle-sharing, or from mother to child during birth.
  • Alcohol moderation: The best way to prevent alcoholic fatty liver disease and other adverse health conditions (like kidney damage) is to drink alcohol in moderation or not at all.
  • Proper diet and exercise: To prevent the buildup of fat in your liver (not to mention your arteries), eating well and exercising regularly are key.

While the liver can recover and repair itself, once there is scarring of the liver tissue, that scarring cannot be reversed. Severe scarring of the liver is known as cirrhosis, and can ultimately lead to liver failure and death.

Avoiding fatty foods by choosing a liver detox diet can only prevent some of the risk factors for liver disease, not all, so be careful with your liver—unlike your kidneys, it’s the only one you’ve got.

If you have a family history of liver disease, consult a health care professional for medical advice on how to maintain optimal liver function.

What You Can Do to Protect Your Liver

There are foods and substances that can help cleanse or flush your system and aid liver health, but before we get to dietary solutions, here are other things you can do to maintain a healthy liver.

1. Vaccinate Against Hepatitis

Some forms of hepatitis are incurable, and preventing infection is the best way to make sure your liver does not have to suffer damage from the disease. Hepatitis viruses are not just sexually transmitted; they can be caught during travel to countries with unsanitary conditions, by healthcare workers who work in close proximity with infected patients, or from tattoo parlors with unsafe needle practices. The proper hepatitis vaccinations may save you from infection no matter how you’re exposed to these viruses.

2. Take Medications Cautiously and as Directed

No matter whether it’s a prescription or nonprescription drug, your liver must process the medication you take. If it’s possible to use natural remedies instead of pharmaceutical drugs, you may want to try those first.

If you need certain medications, take them as directed by your doctor (don’t stop a course of antibiotics for example when you start feeling better, as this can lead to drug-resistant viruses), and do not mix any medications with alcohol, including and especially over-the-counter medicine like Tylenol (acetaminophen), which should never be taken within 24 hours of imbibing alcohol, and vice versa.

3. Limit or Avoid Alcohol Intake

Liver damage from alcohol use is one of the most preventable conditions around. Alcohol is a poison, a toxin that your liver has to clean up. In fact, your liver has the lion’s share of the responsibility, as 90% of the alcohol you ingest is metabolized by your liver. The recommended limit is no more than 1 drink per day for women, and 2 drinks per day for men.

It’s not just liver disease you need to be concerned about with alcohol. When the liver metabolizes alcohol it converts it into acetaldehyde, which is a cancer-causing agent. While a glass of red wine with dinner is connected to heart health, excessive drinking and hard liquor consumption can cause inflammation, fatty buildup, and permanent scarring, which compromises your liver’s ability to detox your body, and no liver flush or cleanse can reverse that kind of damage.

4. Protect Yourself from Needles (and with Condoms)

If you need to use needles regularly for insulin injections or other medications, if you’re a healthcare worker who frequently handles needles, or if you are in the market for a tattoo, be proactive in making sure your needles are properly sterilized and never shared. Should you get stuck with a previously used needle, seek immediate medical attention, and do not take street drugs at all, especially if they involve injection.

Many viruses can be transmitted not just by blood, but via other bodily fluids as well. When engaging in intercourse, practice safe sex precautions like condom usage, dental dams, regular STD testing, and preventative medications like PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis).

5. Handle Chemicals with Caution

Household chemicals, paint, insecticides, fungicides, etc. are all toxins you can inhale or ingest, and it is up to your liver to process and eliminate those toxins. Protect yourself by wearing gloves, a mask, and protective skin coverings (like long-sleeved shirts and pants) to reduce the amount of toxic chemicals you’re exposed to in any given situation.

6. Reduce Unhealthy Food Consumption

Salt, sugar, and processed foods can all be detrimental to your liver’s health. For example, consuming excessive salt can lead to fluid retention, water weight gain, and extra stress on both your kidneys and your liver. If you don’t consume enough water along with the salt, your body may produce an antidiuretic hormone (vasopressin) that prevents urination, and you’ll retain the water instead of using it to flush toxins from your system. In this situation, more water intake, decreased salt intake, or increased potassium could help, as potassium helps balance out the effects of sodium.

When it comes to sugar and processed foods, it’s a metabolic nightmare. Added sugars like refined sugar and corn syrup are permeating processed foods, from cookies and candies, to salad dressings, pasta sauces, and even granola bars. High sugar consumption not only can lead to the development of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, but can also contribute to other chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease.

Maintaining a healthy weight via diet and exercise can help prevent gallstone formation, which arises when you have too much cholesterol in your bile. Your gallbladder is attached to your liver courtesy of the common bile duct, and acts as a storage site for the necessary bile your liver produces. Bile that is thick with cholesterol can form stones that block your gallbladder or your liver (making them liver stones), and interrupt or damage the liver’s normal functioning.

Replacing junk foods with healthier alternatives, as well as eating more whole foods instead of processed ones, invariably leads to better health for you and your vital organs.

What ingredients work for a liver flush?

Healthy Foods for Liver Cleansing

So here we are: one of the best ways to help remove toxins from your bloodstream and your liver is to avoid consuming them in the first place. However, that begs the question, “What foods are good for a liver flush?” Here’s a list of foods and beverages that are particularly suited to promoting your liver’s health and helping it eliminate toxins.

1. Coffee

Good news: coffee is an excellent drink for liver health. It can protect against the development of liver disease, even for those who already have compromised liver function. For instance, multiple studies have shown that regularly consuming coffee lowers your risk for cirrhosis, even for those who already have chronic liver disease. Researchers urge those with liver disease to drink coffee, as many as 3 cups per day, because it may even lower the risk of death.

These amazing benefits are attributed in the above-linked studies to coffee’s ability to block collagen and fat buildup, two huge contributors to liver disease, and to aid in the production of glutathione, an antioxidant that helps guard against the oxidative stress caused by free radicals. Coffee comes with many health benefits, including improved liver function.

2. Grapes

Darker grapes (purple and red) are famously well-known for containing resveratrol, the compound that makes red wine a heart-healthy beverage. Grapes and grape juices have been shown to benefit the liver in various animal studies, preventing damage from toxins and lowering unhealthy inflammation.

One human study conducted in 2010 found that supplementing with grape seed extract for 3 months improved the liver function of participants with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, leading to the supposition that consuming concentrated, unsweetened grape fruit juice could help those with even severe liver conditions feel better.

3. Grapefruit

Another fruit that can provide natural hepatoprotective (liver-protective) antioxidants is grapefruit, thanks to its concentrations of naringenin and naringin. These antioxidants have been shown to help guard against liver damage and help reduce dangerous inflammation. They can also discourage the development of hepatic fibrosis, a condition wherein connective tissue excessively builds up in the liver and causes chronic inflammation.

Naringenin specifically has been shown to increase fat-burning enzymes and prevent metabolic dysregulation, while naringin is known to improve alcohol metabolism and mitigate alcohol’s adverse side effects. So if you find grapefruit juice in a liver flush recipe, it has scientifically backed reasoning to be included, not to mention it’s a great source of vitamin C, another antioxidant that’s known to help prevent cold and flu infection.

4. Nuts

Full of the antioxidant vitamin E and high in healthy fats, nuts are great benefactors for heart health and possibly the liver as well. This observational study conducted in 2015 found that consuming walnuts helped improve liver enzyme levels of 106 participants with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. And an observational study from 2014 demonstrated that men who consumed nuts and seeds in large amounts had a lower risk of developing nonalcoholic fatty liver disease in the first place.

5. Tea

Tea (especially green, black, and oolong tea) has been shown to consistently improve the health and longevity of those who consume it regularly. Tea consumption has also been found to benefit the liver in particular, as can be seen in this study of Japanese men who drank 5-10 cups of green tea each day and had improved blood markers of both cardiovascular and hepatic health. In another study of 17 participants with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, drinking green tea for a 12-week period decreased fat deposits in their livers, reduced their oxidative stress levels, and improved their liver enzyme levels.

Green tea has also been found to help prevent the development of liver cancer, and black tea too has been observed reducing the negative liver effects of a high-fat diet while also improving liver health blood markers. If you have an active liver condition, consult your doctor before supplementing with green tea extract, but if you’re just looking to flush your liver of toxins, drinking green tea is a strong place to start.

6. Dark Berries

Deep-colored berries like blueberries and cranberries contain antioxidants known as anthocyanins. This compound gives berries their rich colors and is connected to improved liver health. For example, cranberries can help prevent toxic liver injury, and blueberries can help positively modulate T-cell activity in the immune response to your liver.

Blueberry extract has even managed to inhibit human liver cancer cell growth in laboratory studies, and may someday have practical anti-cancer application in humans.

7. Beetroot Juice

Beetroot juice contains betalains, nitrates that function as antioxidants for heart health. When it comes to the liver, beetroot juice also serves to increase your production of natural detoxification enzymes, improving your liver’s detox capacity. It also lowers inflammation levels in the liver and blocks oxidative stress damage.

8. Prickly Pear

The prickly pear, aka Opuntia ficus-indica, is an edible cactus that you may remember from the song “The Bare Necessities” in Disney’s The Jungle Book. A long-standing staple of traditional medicine, the prickly pear is used in modern medicine to treat wounds, ulcers, liver disease, and even hangovers.

That’s right: those who overindulge in alcohol and wake up the next morning with symptoms like dry mouth, nausea, and lack of appetite may lessen the severity of those ill effects according to this study from 2004. This is thanks to the detoxification-enhancing abilities and anti-inflammatory properties of the prickly pear. A more recent study from 2012 on rat models found that prickly pear helped protect the liver from the after-effects of alcohol consumption as well.

9. Fatty Fish

You might not think nonalcoholic fatty liver disease could be helped by eating more fat, but it’s the quality of fat that counts, as well as the omega-3 fatty acid content. Eating oily, fatty fish like salmon or halibut is well-known to be good for heart and cholesterol health, and consuming fish oil may help alleviate arthritis inflammation.

Fatty fish are good for your liver health as well, because they can help balance your ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids (most people in the modern world get far too much omega-6 and nowhere near enough omega-3 fatty acids), which is important because an imbalance between the two may help promote liver disease development.

10. Olive Oil

Olive oil can not only replace unhealthy refined vegetable oils in your diet, but it can also improve your liver enzyme levels, as was seen in this 2010 study of 11 nonalcoholic fatty liver disease patients. As with fatty fish, olive oil is a healthy fat that can improve your metabolic rate, optimize insulin sensitivity, and even increase blood flow to your liver.

Liver, Laugh, Love

When it comes to optimal liver function, it’s half about what you add to your body, and half about what you abstain from adding. Avoid overtaxing your liver with poison like alcohol and drugs, but do be sure to make a habit of consuming detoxification aids like green tea, grapefruit juice, healthy whole foods, and the occasional nutrient supplement designed to provide the liver-protective nutrients you don’t naturally gain from food.

Fatty Liver Diet: How to Help Reverse Fatty Liver Disease

These 10 foods are central to the fatty liver diet, with science backing up what they can do to reverse fatty liver disease, decrease liver fat buildup, and protect your liver cells from damage.

Liver disease comes in two major types: alcoholic fatty liver disease and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. About a third of American adults are affected by fatty liver disease, and it’s one of the primary contributors to liver failure in the Western world. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is often associated with obesity and is frequently caused by highly processed food diets and a sedentary lifestyle. Treating fatty liver disease by eating a fatty liver diet can help reduce the amount of unhealthy fats in your food and restore your liver to its optimal functioning so that it can go on producing digestive bile and detoxing the body.

Top 10 fatty liver diet foods.

Top 10 Foods for the Fatty Liver Diet

A fatty liver diet includes high-fiber plant foods like whole grains and legumes, very low amounts of salt, sugar, trans fat, saturated fat, and refined carbs, absolutely no alcohol, and plenty of fruits and vegetables. Eating a low-fat diet like this goes a long way in helping you lose weight, another factor in fatty liver disease. Reducing body fat and consuming less dietary fat help reverse fatty liver disease before it leads to dire health consequences, so consider these top 10 foods to be part of a fatty liver cure.

Top 10 fatty liver diet foods.

1. Green Vegetables

Eating green veggies like broccoli, spinach, kale, Brussel sprouts, etc. can help prevent fat buildup in your liver. Broccoli, for example, has been shown to prevent liver fat buildup in mice models, and eating a diet full of green leafy vegetables is well-known for helping to encourage weight loss and better overall health. Try this recipe for Tuscan Vegetable Soup from LiverSupport.com to find out just how tasty vegetables can be when you include them in your diet.

2. Fish

Fatty fish like trout, salmon, tuna, and sardines are not bad for you just because they’re fatty—healthy fats make a world of difference. Fatty fish contain high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, which can actually improve your liver fat levels and reduce liver inflammation. Check out another low-fat recipe from LiverSupport.com for Cornmeal and Flax-Crusted Cod or Snapper to get an idea for fish dishes that could improve your health.

3. Walnuts

Walnuts are also a good source of healthy fat full of omega-3 fatty acids just like fish. Research confirms that including walnuts in one’s diet helps treat nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, improving liver function tests and bettering the health of patients.

4. Milk and Dairy

Low-fat dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt contain whey protein, which is not only a popular supplement for muscle growth among bodybuilders, but has also been shown to protect liver cells from damage sustained due to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, according to this 2011 animal-based study.

5. Olive Oil

A staple of the Mediterranean diet, olive oil is full of omega-3 fatty acids and can be used in cooking to replace butter, shortening, or margarine for much healthier meals. Olive oil can help bring down your liver enzyme levels and body weight. Start cooking with olive oil with this recipe for a Healthy Mixed Vegetable Stir-Fry.

6. Green Tea

The science behind green tea is extraordinary, leading researchers to believe that it can literally help you live longer. Studies support the conclusion that green tea can help enhance liver function and decrease liver fat storage as well.

7. Coffee

Speaking of beverages, coffee can help lower high liver enzymes. The Mayo Clinic points out that studies have found coffee drinkers with fatty liver disease experience less liver damage than those who don’t drink any caffeine at all, and further studies show that the amount of abnormal liver enzymes in those at risk for liver disease can be reduced by caffeine intake. If you were ever looking for an excuse to drink more coffee, now you have a really good reason.

8. Tofu

Soy protein like the kind found in tofu has been found to reduce fat buildup in the liver. Not only that, tofu and other soy products provide a plant-based protein that can help other areas of your health when eaten regularly, including reducing the risk of heart disease.

9. Oatmeal

Whole grains like oatmeal help lower blood sugar spikes and other risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes and also contribute to weight-loss efforts and improve your liver health and function. Including oatmeal as part of a healthy diet can aid your digestive health as well. Check out these various oatmeal recipes from Yumma at FeelGoodFoodie.

10. Sunflower Seeds

Sunflower seeds are full of vitamin E, an antioxidant that can help fight off free radical damage in the body and protect the liver. This 2016 review of studies details vitamin E’s ability to protect the liver and avoid the development of liver cancer. A regular habit of snacking on sunflower seeds may just help save your life.

Fatty Liver Foods to Avoid

Now that you have some idea of what you should eat to combat fatty liver disease, let’s quickly review the foods that should be avoided.

  • Alcohol: It may seem obvious, but if your liver is at all compromised, alcohol is too dangerous to consume.
  • Fried foods: High in calories and trans fats, commercially fried foods should be avoided (if you love fried foods too much to say goodbye, try an air fryer instead as a healthy alternative).
  • Salt: Bad for your blood pressure and for water retention, try to keep salt intake under 1,500 milligrams each day.
  • Added sugars: Added and refined sugars in prepackaged products like cookies, candies, sodas, and fruit juices spike your blood pressure and contribute to fatty liver buildup.
  • White bread, pasta, and rice: White instead of brown or whole grain carbs are highly processed and stripped of their valuable nutrients, so they can raise your blood sugar without even contributing healthy fiber—hard pass.
  • Red meat: While fish and lean meat like poultry can help you gain muscle and lose excess fat (which leads to a healthier weight), red meat should be avoided.

Other Ways to Fight Fatty Liver Disease

In the hopes of avoiding chronic liver disease or even a liver transplant, first seek medical advice from a trusted health care professional to get blood tests done and evaluate your specific circumstances. Then, outside of perfecting your diet, these other avenues can help:

  • Lower your cholesterol levels. An improved diet will go a long way toward lowering your cholesterol and triglyceride levels, but so can medications or (if you prefer) natural remedies for optimizing your cholesterol ratios.
  • Get regular exercise. Just 30 minutes of aerobic exercise per day makes a massive difference in your health and your energy levels.
  • Prevent/manage type 2 diabetes. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and type 2 diabetes often go hand-in-hand. If you’re prediabetic, making the above lifestyle changes could help you avoid the chronic condition that is diabetes. If you already have diabetes, staying on top of managing the disease can help you avoid a number of other painful health conditions and adverse results.

Livers for Life

Incorporating the 10 foods listed above into your diet and replacing unhealthy foods with better alternatives can help you lose weight and better the health of your liver before it’s too late.

Soy Sauce Substitutes: Your Top 7 Options

Soy sauce substitutes: what condiment products can replace soy sauce, avoid allergens, and reduce your sodium intake? Are amino acids the perfect answer you’re looking for? They may just be!

Soy sauce is a staple of many Asian cuisines, and is often found in many a kitchen and refrigerator across the United States. As a dipping sauce, a marinade, a salad dressing, or various other forms of flavorings in soups and main courses, soy sauce seems irreplaceable. But what happens when soy sauce is detrimental to your health? The high sodium content of soy sauce can be prohibitive, as can the soy and often wheat contained in it for those who have soy allergies or a gluten sensitivity. What are your options for a soy sauce substitute then? This article details seven soy sauce alternatives, from Worcestershire sauce to Bragg Liquid Aminos. Read on to find the unique benefits of each.

Why Would You Need a Soy Sauce Substitute?

There are several reasons why you might need to replace soy sauce in your diet. It’s such a common condiment that many people refrigerate soy sauce alongside their ketchup and mustard without giving it a second thought, but as the main ingredient in soy sauce is of course soy, that can become a problem. Among children, 0.4% have a soy allergy, and though some may outgrow it, some of them do not. Many soy sauces also contain wheat, so those with gluten sensitivity or celiac’s disease must avoid them as well.

Apart from the allergen concern with soy sauce, there is also about 879 milligrams of sodium per 1 tablespoon of soy sauce. Too much sodium can impact your kidneys and your blood pressure, leading to cardiovascular issues like stiffening arteries, high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke. Finding a low-sodium soy sauce substitute could be a great boon to your overall health, and may be vital for those who already have high blood pressure.

Top 7 soy sauce substitutes.

The Top 7 Soy Sauce Substitutes

Without further ado, here are the top seven soy sauce substitutes you can purchase or make at home, plus their unique benefits.

1. Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce

Originating from the city of Worcester in Worcestershire, England, this is the original Worcestershire sauce invented by the chemists John Wheeley Lea and William Perrins in 1837. Still produced in Worcestershire today, this umami-rich sauce is best known for its inclusion in Bloody Mary drinks and as a dipping sauce for steaks, but can also be used less traditionally in stir-fry veggies or to replace the normal uses of soy sauce.

Worcestershire sauce does not contain gluten or soy, and while the original recipe is much lower in sodium than soy sauce is (167 milligrams per tablespoon), it’s reduced-sodium recipe can do you even better, with only 135 milligrams of sodium per tablespoon.

2. Coconut Secret’s Coconut Aminos Sauce

Soy free, gluten free, and vegan, this soy sauce substitution comes from coconut sap, is fermented naturally, and then combined with sea salt for a natural whole foods product. Not only does it contain significantly less sodium than soy sauce (270 milligrams per tablespoon), but as a fermented product it also gives you the benefits of a probiotic, adding good gut bacteria to your intestinal environment. It contains 17 different essential and nonessential amino acids, including all nine of the essential building blocks needed for protein synthesis and new muscle growth. Non-GMO and with no MSG, this is a strong contender for replacing soy sauce.

The only downside to coconut aminos is their availability and cost, and the reports that people detect a sweetness in taste not commonly associated with traditional soy sauce.

3. Ohsawa White Nama Shoyu Sauce

This is a Japanese sauce made from distilled sake, wheat, and sea salt, which gives it a thick texture (though clearly precludes its use by those with a gluten sensitivity or allergy). It has a honey-like golden appearance and is reportedly fruity-smelling and sweeter than the soy sauce you’re used to.

Shōyu is Japanese for “soy sauce,” and yet it is a soy-free product. However, its sodium content is higher than that of soy sauce at 966 milligrams per tablespoon, so while it’s a soy-free alternative to traditional soy sauce, it may not be the best fit for your needs overall.

4. Red Boat Fish Sauce

Made from wild-caught anchovies from the Gulf of Thailand, this fish sauce has zero soy bean proteins and is a gluten-free product. On the allergen front it’s an excellent alternative to soy sauce, but not so much for sodium. With a whopping 4470 milligrams per tablespoon, if you’re avoiding soy sauce because of its salt content, you’ll have to avoid this fish sauce as well.

5. MAGGI Asian Seasoning Sauce

This sauce may contain soy, most certainly contains wheat, and has about 1850 milligrams of sodium per tablespoon. Why is it on this list? Well, it’s still a flavor alternative to soy sauce that can be used in much the same way in Asian dishes and as a marinade, though it won’t serve as an alternative in the areas of food allergies or sodium content.

6. Bragg Liquid Aminos

One of the better-known soy sauce substitutes on the market, when it comes to Bragg amino acids vs. soy sauce, the liquid aminos benefits really shine through. Though it has 960 milligrams of sodium per tablespoon, Bragg’s amino acids benefits include eight out of the nine essential amino acids required for new muscle growth (histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, and valine—all but tryptophan which you could get if you used this sauce on some turkey), plus eight more nonessential aminos on top.

While Bragg Liquid Aminos does contain soy, it’s made using no chemicals, no artificial coloring, no alcohol, and no preservatives. It’s also non-GMO and gluten free.

7. Homemade Soy Sauce Alternatives

The best way to know what you’re eating and the exact measure of salt is to make your own homemade sauces, and there are many ways to replace soy sauce with creative recipes.

  • This recipe from Melissa Joulwan’s Well Fed food blog combines blackstrap molasses, beef broth, cider vinegar, and an optional addition of fish sauce like the above-mentioned Red Boat’s for flavoring.
  • Katie Wells’ Wellness Mama recipe also uses beef stock, fish sauce, and traditional molasses, but with the tangy addition of balsamic vinegar and red wine vinegar as well.
  • For those who need a vegan option, this soy sauce substitute recipe from Teenuja and Kevin of the Veganlovlie blog includes blackstrap molasses, fenugreek seeds, and vegetable bouillon to mimic the flavor of soy sauce.

Soy-Free Soy Sauce

If regular soy sauce has lost its magic, or if you need a soy sauce alternative for your health, these soy sauce substitutes are only some of the many options available. When shopping around be sure to check the nutrition facts for sodium content and allergen warnings, browse for alternative condiments like Japanese teriyaki sauce, and know that even if you have to say goodbye to soy sauce, you don’t have to miss the real thing if you find your perfect alternative sauce.

The Benefits of Coconut Aminos

Coconut aminos are the gluten-free, no-MSG, low-sodium alternative to soy sauce—find out what other benefits they can provide, no matter what dietary restriction or allergies you have.

Find out what are coconut aminos, why some people use them to replace soy sauce, how to get them, and how to use them. We’re also dishing on the health benefits of coconut aminos, which are pretty impressive!

What Are Coconut Aminos?

Coconut aminos are sold as a liquid condiment, a dark sweet-and-salty product that is often used as an alternative to tamari or soy sauce. With low salt and low glycemic contents, coconut aminos are also vegan, gluten free, soy free, and full of amino acids as the name suggests.

A favorite among those eating a paleo diet or dealing with a gluten sensitivity or celiac’s disease, coconut aminos are actually a great product for anyone who wants to avoid the high salt content of soy sauce.

Coconut aminos, unlike coconut oil, are made by fermenting raw coconut-blossom nectar (sap) with mineral-rich sea salt. From those unopened flowers come a wide array of products, including alcohol, vinegar, syrup, sweeteners, and coconut aminos. Coconut sap needs no additives to ferment, as it naturally has all the right yeast, sugar, and bacteria. It ages from a milky white color to a dark brown, and then is mixed with sea salt for flavoring.

A natural whole food with B vitamins, vitamin C, and 17 amino acids (including all nine essential amino acids required for new muscle growth), coconut aminos have a lot to offer.

Are Coconut Aminos Healthier Than Soy Sauce?

If coconut aminos still contain salt, how is coconut amino liquid healthier than soy sauce? Though coconut aminos do come with sugar and salt, as a soy sauce alternative they have less sodium per gram. A 5-gram serving of coconut aminos yields 5 calories, 1 gram of carbs, zero fat, and about 73% less sodium than soy sauce does. That’s roughly 113 milligrams of sodium per serving, just 5% of the recommended daily value.

Coconut aminos also have a low glycemic index number, which ranks foods based on how they impact blood sugar levels. At a 35 on the glycemic index, coconut aminos are a much healthier choice for those with diabetes, and for maintaining healthier blood sugar levels over all. Coconut amino seasoning sauce in Asian food recipes like fried rice is better than soy sauce in a few more ways.

  • Soy sauce can come fermented or unfermented. Fermented soy sauce offers the benefits of probiotics, but unfermented does not, and often contains wheat (a problem for those with food sensitivities to gluten).
  • A lot of soy sauces are genetically modified (GMO) products, the health effects of which are not fully known, and may cause allergies in children.
  • Soy sauce contains monosodium glutamate (MSG), which can cause weakness, muscle pain, and headaches in those who are vulnerable to its affects.
  • A high-sodium diet can have a dangerous impact on anyone’s blood pressure, and with 73% more sodium in soy sauce than coconut aminos, it’s safer to go with the low sodium option.

For those reasons, many people are saying goodbye to commercial soy sauces and hello to the gluten free, sustainable, and organic coconut amino alternative instead.

Coconut aminos: health benefits and dietary uses.The Benefits of Coconut Aminos

While coconut aminos have not been extensively studied, coconut sap has, in both its fresh and fermented form. That research provides the following beneficial credits.

Amino Acid Content

Amino acids not only make up all the protein in your body, but are also responsible for hormone synthesis and regulating your immune function and response. With 17 essential (all the essentials in fact!) and nonessential aminos, coconut aminos provide you with the building blocks of protein and more.

Probiotic Digestion Aid

Fermented foods like kefir, kimchi, and coconut aminos improve your gut’s bacterial content by adding more good bacteria into the mix, and coconut aminos provide an organic probiotic boost to the health of your gut flora. Scientifically shown to benefit digestion and help decrease the symptoms of allergies, probiotics are a healthy choice.

One of the commonest fungal infections in modern times is candidiasis, resulting from a bacteria that tends to overgrow in our digestive tracts and is responsible for symptoms like bloating, gas, nausea, and diarrhea. The lactobacillus contained in coconut aminos helps to inhibit fungal candida albicans, reducing the likelihood that it will overgrow and cause harm to its host (us humans).

An MSG- and Gluten-Free Alternative

Those with a sensitivity to MSG, which is often added to soy sauce, can use coconut aminos instead. MSG has been shown to exacerbate migraine headaches, increase blood pressure, and negatively harm the human body. Moreover, as coconut aminos are gluten free, it’s a safer and healthier alternative for many, especially those who suffer from celiac disease and cannot ingest gluten whatsoever without severe consequences.

How to Use Coconut Aminos

What might you use soy sauce for? That is where coconut aminos can sub in perfectly. From a sushi dipping sauce to a marinade to salad dressing, coconut aminos have the same consistency and a similar taste to soy sauce and pair well with any Asian culinary dish. A vegetable stir fry with 73% less sodium? That’s an extremely healthy and easy way to use a soy sauce substitute.

Coconut Aminos: Dietary Restrictions and Allergies

Even better, because coconut aminos are so allergen-free, they fit into any healthy diet, from the Whole30 diet, to the keto diet, to paleo and AIP diets, vegan and vegetarian diets, gluten-free diets, and the Candida diet (designed to prevent bacterial overgrowth). Whatever your restrictions or dietary choices, you can rely on coconut aminos.

The same cannot be said about tamari though, so for those still deciding between tamari vs. coconut aminos in the great soy sauce replacement debate, tamari products are not always 100% gluten-free. Though it’s made without the roasted grains of soy sauce, you’ll have to check tamari’s label every time to make sure there is no wheat in use at any stage in the process. Also for those with soy allergies, it’s a no-go: tamari is still the end result of fermented soybeans.

So in the end, if you’re looking for a soy-free seasoning sauce that won’t disrupt your carefully kept diet, you’re probably looking for coconut aminos. That goes the same for coconut aminos vs. liquid aminos: liquid aminos are made by treating soybeans with an acid that breaks down its proteins into amino acids, and while it (like coconut aminos) is a gluten-free product, it still has soy, and a lot more sodium per serving size to boot. A teaspoon of coconut aminos comes with 90 milligrams of sodium, while liquid aminos have 320 milligrams per teaspoon—that’s even higher than many traditional soy sauces.

Side Effects

Good news: there are no reported adverse side effects to consuming coconut aminos. Short of being allergic to coconuts, coconut aminos are safe to welcome into your diet and have no noted interactions with any medications whatsoever.

Go Loco for Coco Aminos

For an alternative to soy sauce that’s sustainable, organic, soy free, gluten free, vegan, kosher, and free of MSG, coconut aminos are your ideal answer. Not only will you lose the unhealthy impact of soy sauce, but you’ll also gain the probiotic benefits of a fermented food product. While it may be hard to find on store shelves outside of the largest health food chains, you can easily browse the Internet and research the many brands of coconut aminos to find one that fits perfectly to your liking. Look for organic products only, and in a glass bottle that you store in the refrigerator once opened and then enjoy for months to come.

L-Phenylalanine: Weight-Loss Solution?

Discover the uses of L-phenylalanine for skin and mood disorders, as well as what it can do to help you achieve weight loss. We’re also covering the possible side effects of supplementation, and where to find phenylalanine from dietary sources.

If you’re looking for proven ways to support weight loss, you may have come across L-phenylalanine, an essential amino acid in your body that is important for muscle development and skin health. L-phenylalanine weight-loss studies are newer to the field, and people are naturally curious: how can L-phenylalanine help you lose weight? Read on to find out, along with its potential side effects and the natural food sources of L-phenylalanine.

What Is L-Phenylalanine?

Phenylalanine is an essential amino acid, and one of the building blocks of protein and the muscles in your body. Phenylalanine is considered “essential” because you need it to function, but your body cannot synthesize enough of it independently, so it must be consumed either from food or via phenylalanine supplementation.

There are two forms of phenylalanine, L-phenylalanine and D-phenylalanine. They are very nearly identical, but with slightly different structures. It’s the L-form molecule that is gained from foods and used to make new proteins in the body, while the D-form of phenylalanine may be used in various medical applications. L-phenylalanine can be found in both animal and plant sources of food.

Above the role phenylalanine plays in protein synthesis, it’s also important for producing other molecules in the body, several of which are important for signal transmission. Phenylalanine has also been the subject of clinical research on skin disorders (vitiligo), pain, and depression.

A note of caution: Phenylalanine is considered dangerous for those with phenylketonuria (PKU), a genetic disorder which causes phenylalanine levels to build up. For more information on possible side effects, skip to the end of this article.

Phenylalanine for Normal Functioning

Phenylalanine is principally needed for protein creation, and proteins are not just located in your muscles. Many proteins are at work in your blood, brain, and internal organs—basically all throughout your body. Even more valuable, phenylalanine is needed to make other important molecules, including:

  • Epinephrine and norepinephrine: These are the molecules that give you the “fight-or-flight” response to danger and stress.
  • TyrosineThis fellow amino acid directly results from phenylalanine, and is used to make protein or converted (if in excess) to the other molecules in this list.
  • DopamineThis molecule allows us to feel pleasure and happiness, and also plays a vital role in the development of our memory and learning skills. Basically every happy memory you have, you can thank dopamine for. 

Without proper functioning of these molecules, your health will be at risk, and phenylalanine is needed to make them. Not only that, medical application of phenylalanine can help treat specific medical conditions.

Phenylalanine for Certain Medical Conditions

Scientific studies have been performed to explore phenylalanine as a treatment for certain medical conditions. For instance, phenylalanine may help treat vitiligo, a skin condition that causes pigmentation loss and the appearance of blotchy patches on the body. Phenylalanine supplements have been studied in conjunction with ultraviolet (UV) light exposure to treat this pigmentation disorder.

Phenylalanine’s ability to produce dopamine has been applied to instances of depression, which is a mood disorder often associated with dopamine dysfunction. Both L- and D-forms of phenylalanine have been studied for treating depression. According to a study published in the Journal of Neural Transmission, of 12 participants with depression, two-thirds showed improvement after receiving a mixture of L- and D-phenylalanine.

Alongside vitiligo treatment and anti-depressant application, phenylalanine has also been studied for use in the following conditions.

  • Parkinson’s diseaseThere is evidence that phenylalanine could be beneficial in treating the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, though more research is required.
  • Alcohol withdrawalPhenylalanine, along with some fellow amino acids, has shown indications that it could be useful in treating alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
  • Chronic painD-phenylalanine may help with pain relief in certain instances (like low back pain), though so far research results are still spotty and not all of the studies produced results with statistical significance.

L-phenylalanine supplements for weight loss. Do they work?

L-Phenylalanine: Weight-Loss Applications

As a dietary supplement, L-phenylalanine may help with weight loss in a couple of ways. First the hormone cholecystokinin (CCK), which is stimulated by L-phenylalanine, may act as an appetite suppressant and thus lead to lower calorie consumption throughout the day. It’s been difficult so far for scientists to pin down whether the consumption of more L-phenylalanine will directly impact CCK production, but it is a weight-loss link that is being explored.

L-phenylalanine’s direct impact on dopamine via L-tyrosine’s weight-loss influence has more evidence to back it up. Because dopamine is responsible for feelings of pleasure (the kind you may get from eating your favorite dessert, for instance), regulating dopamine levels can be beneficial in the treatment of obesity. If L-phenylalanine can be used to keep your tyrosine and thus dopamine levels high while you go on a diet (and cut your usual dopamine supply), it may help reduce food cravings and lead to more sustainable weight loss.

Phenylalanine is also considered a ketogenic amino acid along with tryptophan, tyrosine, isoleucine, threonine, and lysine and leucine (which are exclusively ketogenic, as opposed to the glucogenic amino acids). Phenylalanine is a switch-hitter, and can operate both as a glucogenic (for synthesizing glucose, or sugar) or ketogenic (for synthesizing ketone bodies, or fat burners). Those looking to start a ketogenic diet to lose weight may find amino acid supplementation all the more useful in achieving fast and healthy weight loss.

Possible Side Effects of Phenylalanine Supplementation

It’s “generally recognized as safe” to take L-phenylalanine according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). And various studies suggest no adverse side effects reported for supplementation within 23–45 milligrams per pound of body weight. Still there are still some people who should not take L-phenylalanine.

Pregnant women are advised to avoid it, as are those with the disorder PKU who are genetically unable to properly process phenylalanine and usually are directed to eat a low-protein diet throughout their lives.

For otherwise healthy individuals, phenylalanine is still essential, and can easily be gained from eating foods high in phenylalanine. For those interested in taking it as a nutritional supplement, consult a health care professional for medical advice before adding it to your routine.

Foods High in Phenylalanine

For food sources of phenylalanine, you can choose from both animal and plant products.

  • Animal sources of phenylalanine: Eggs, certain meats like seafood (cod), and Parmesan cheese.
  • Plant sources of phenylalanine: Soy products, seaweed, nuts, and seeds (particularly squash and pumpkin seeds).

Eating a nutritious variety of protein-rich foods should effortlessly provide you with plenty of phenylalanine, as well as the other essential amino acids.

Phenomenal Phenylalanine

L-phenylalanine is the essential amino acid that can help regulate depression, pain, skin disorders, and weight loss if applied properly as a supplement. Otherwise gaining phenylalanine from a normal diet is essential for your overall health and well-being.