1.15.2016

Benefits of Drinking Water - What Does Water Do For Your Body?

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Drinking a decent amount of water every day is correlated with a longer life and better health. That makes common sense, since water is essential for human life. But there are many subtle health benefits of drinking goodly amounts of water. The generally accepted rule of thumb is to drink eight 8-oz glasses of water every day, but that's actually a bogus stat, albeit easily remembered (8 by 8). There is actually no hard scientific evidence for drinking this amount of water. In fact, some people may need more water and some less, depending on a lot of things like body type, climate, exercise, diet, medications, and more.

Water is needed for basic biological processes in your body (metabolism), but it is also critically important for flushing toxins from your body via the kidneys. The main toxin secreted in your pee is urea nitrogen, a normal by product of protein metabolism that builds up in your blood stream. But your pee also removes other toxins and by products, such as pesticides in foods or prescription drug metabolites. Although you should be eating a healthy diet all the time and trying to minimize consuming toxins, you aren't always going to succeed. Water is a good solvent and it helps flush water soluble toxins out of your body, along with normal metabolic waste products.

Pee is one way we get rid of toxins and waste products in the body. But so is poo. Drinking lots of water actually helps keep things moving in your intestinal tract and prevents constipation, which is basically when your dehydrated body pulls water out of your poo to try to maintain your bodily fluid levels. When your poo gets really dried out, it doesn't have enough lubrication to move freely through your colon and “the Browns never make it to the Super Bowl,” as they say in the vernacular.

Drinking water is correlated with weight loss (SOURCE). Obviously, drinking water instead of other beverages with ridiculous amounts of sugar and calories is going to reduce your caloric intake overall. But water also fills up your stomach volume, so drinking it before a meal can make you feel full sooner and therefore eat less. Water can be used to postpone hunger cravings too. The “grumbellies” (aka stomach rumbling) occur when your stomach is empty and you start thinking about food because you are a little bit hungry. The stomach muscles begin to contract in anticipation of food and cells in the wall of the stomach secrete digestive juices. This is what makes the annoying noises. It is basically your stomach saying, “Feed me!” When you have the grumbellies, drinking a big glass of water may help. This fills your stomach with something so that the sounds of your protesting stomach are stifled.

Your muscles burn a large portion of the calories your body uses in a day and they are most efficient at this when they are well hydrated. That's why the “experts” always tell you to stay hydrated when you are exercising. You sweat during exercise to regulate your body temperature and that takes water out of your body, dehydrating you. When you are dehydrated, your muscle cells actually shrink and this can lead to premature muscle fatigue in which the cells are not burning calories as efficiently as they should. So keeping your body well watered maximizes the ability of your muscles to burn calories, contributing further to weight control, even at rest.

When you get a cold, everyone always tells you to drink lots of fluids. My doctor told me that drinking a lot of water was just as effective as taking an expectorant (Guaifenesin) for chest congestion during a cold. I drank a lot of water for that cold, but I still think the Guaifenesin worked better to loosen up my chest. The concept was sound though. Guaifenesin basically works by bringing more fluid to your lungs to help dilute and thin the mucous so that you can cough out the infection better. Drinking a shite ton of water should accomplish the same thing, in theory, but your body is really good at maintaining water balance, so any benefits of watering up your lungs might be short lived as your kidneys quickly get rid of the excess water. I'll stick to Guaifenesin for cold relief, I think.

Last but not least, drinking plenty of water can prevent kidney stones. If you have ever had a kidney stone or know someone who has, well...enough said on that. Don't get a kidney stone by drinking lots of water. Boom.

A side note: It is possible to drink too much water, but it takes some doing, and unless you are a marathon runner, you probably don't have to worry about that. You are more likely to consume too little water and get dehydrated. That's what mainly causes health problems.

I am a big proponent of drinking warm (not iced) water, ranging from room temperature to as hot as is tolerable. I haven't been able to find any scientific studies to suggest drinking warm water is better for you than drinking cold water, nor do I know many people who drink warm water, but here is some circumstantial evidence that drinking warm water might be better than cold.

In Europe, ice is used in far smaller quantities in beverages than in America, merely to chill them a little, not deep freeze them (SOURCE). I have long suspected that the American custom of adding huge amounts of ice to beverages is actually a construction of the beverage industry, allowing them to make more money selling you less soda by displacing it with ice in the cup. In fact, Europeans feel they are getting cheated if there is too much ice in the glass (SOURCE). You don't see Americans adding ice to beer, for example, because they don't want to be cheated on alcohol content. It doesn't matter for mixed drinks because those have a measured amount of alcohol that is independent of the ice. I think the custom of adding ice to water is just a carryover of the habit of putting ice into other kinds of non-alcoholic beverages.

There is a very good health reason to avoid iced water, especially in public. The guitarist in my rock-n-roll band GUPPY EFFECT is a health inspector. He's the guy that goes to restaurants and makes sure you aren't eating contaminated food. He told me that one of the most contaminated areas in a bar or restaurant is often the ice machine. It's a cool, moist, dark environment, perfect for the growth of pathogenic bacteria. He said he finds nasty stuff growing inside ice machines all the time and I have asked for “no ice” in my water at restaurants ever since I found that out. So iced water can actually be hazardous. Although one hopes all the health inspectors in the world are doing a good job of getting establishments to clean their ice machines, I strongly recommend avoiding ice in beverages consumed outside of the home.

There is a very good environmental reason to avoid iced water too. Ice machines use a lot of electricity to cool water down to the freezing point. Ice machines are refrigerators that run all day 24/7/365 to keep the ice cold even when the machines are not seeing a lot of traffic. That means somewhere there are fossil fuels being burned nonstop to make and maintain ice. When you drink water without ice, you are actually helping to save the Earth a little tiny bit.

Iced water is fine to cool off on a hot summer day when it is 95 degrees and so humid that sweating doesn't cut it. But I can't understand drinking iced water any other time of the year, especially in the winter, when it will just lower your core body temperature and make you colder. It can't be a taste thing, because water is tasteless and odorless (or at least it is supposed to be), so there is no gustatory advantage to drinking water cold. If you really feel you can't drink plain unchilled water, you can always try adding a slice of lemon or better yet...make some tea, which is mostly water anyway (but don't add sugar or you defeat the purpose!).

So in conclusion, for your health and the environment, drink lots of water and skip the ice.

11.24.2015

How to Make Fruit Yogurt at Home

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I made a batch of homemade fruit yogurt tonight. It's pretty easy and it's low calorie and healthy.

Get a container of unsweetened plain yogurt (Greek style if you want more protein), a bag of organic frozen blueberries, and a packet or two of Stevia sweetener.

Put some frozen blueberries in a microwave safe bowl, just enough to cover the bottom (fruit on the bottom). Microwave the blueberries about a minute, until warm, and then remove from the microwave (obviously).

Add the Stevia sweetener and enough plain yogurt to fill the bowl about 3/4 full. Stir it all up with a spoon and voila!

It tastes just as good if not better than store bought fruit yogurt with much less added sugar. It's also cheaper, especially if you buy yogurt and frozen berries (any frozen fruit will work) in bulk.

Try it and leave a comment here about your results.

11.13.2015

How is Imitation Crab Meat Made?

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The salad bar at work was out of hard boiled eggs, my usual protein source for lunch. Instead, I added some of the less desirable grilled turkey strips and some imitation crab, wondering just what exactly comprises the latter.

I discussed this with my GF Deborah a bit as we ate in the work cafeteria.

“I am pretty sure I looked this up once before,” I say, examining a chunk of the textured something at the end of my fork. “I think it’s basically whitefish that they process and then add food coloring to make the fake skin.”

I decide the making of this “seafood” substitute is worthy of a little research, since it is always good to know what one is putting into one’s body.

My description is not too far from the truth. Imitation crab is made by processing ground up white fish flesh into crab meat shaped and colored bits, with particular emphasis on making it resemble the leg meat of snow crab or Japanese spider crab.

Also known as crab sticks, or kanikama in Japanese, imitation crab has its origins in Japan and usually does not contain any crab, except perhaps as a flavoring agent. Due to the lack of actual crab meat, some places forbid use of the moniker “crab sticks” due to labeling laws. So alternate names often used are Krab Sticks (the one letter substitute apparently meets compliance specs), Ocean Sticks, or Sea Legs.

The most common white fish used to make imitation crab is Alaska pollock (Theragra chalcogramma) from the North Pacific. The ground up flesh is mixed with fillers, including wheat, egg whites, and other binding agents to give it its rubbery texture. Crab flavoring (either artificial or derived from actual crabs) is added and after processing into the proper shape, red food coloring is applied to the surface to make it resemble actual crab meat.

That’s pretty much it. It does not sound too horrible. After all, it is still mostly actual seafood. Some forms might even be OK for people with allergies to shellfish, though that is total speculation on my part. Conversely, people with allergies to eggs, wheat, and/or red food dye might want to avoid imitation crab.

SOURCE