How Tomato Sauce Can Boost Your Gut Health

Maria Cohut wrote . . . . . . . .

If like me, you enjoy the occasional bowl of pasta with fresh tomato sauce, then I’ve got great news for you. Research fresh out of the pan has found that cooked tomato sauce helps to improve the activity of probiotics in the gut.

Does tomato sauce boost gut health? And if so, should we choose raw or cooked?

Over the past few years, researchers and consumers alike have been taking interest in whether or not the foods that eventually reach our tables are “functional.” But what are functional foods?

“All foods are functional to some extent because all foods provide taste, aroma, and nutritive value,” explains researcher Clare Hasler in a Journal of Nutrition article.

“However,” she goes on to clarify, “foods are now being examined intensively for added physiologic benefits, which may reduce chronic disease risk or otherwise optimize health.” And those foods seen to bring specific health benefits are deemed “functional.”

Probiotic foods — such as certain types of yogurt, kefir, or kimchi — fall into this category, as they boost the population of good bacteria in our guts, which contribute to our overall health in many ways.

Now, however, researchers from the Universitat Politècnica de València in Spain are looking at how gut bacteria interact with antioxidants in the gut.

Specifically, senior researcher Ana Belén Heredia and her team were interested in seeing how tomato sauce — rich in antioxidants — would behave in the presence of good bacteria in the gut.

And, since tomato sauce can be served raw or cooked, they wanted to understand what effect this would have on the antioxidant-gut bacteria interaction.

Antioxidants and probiotics

Tomatoes are considered a healthful food because, among other things, they contain a pigment called lycopene — an antioxidant that helps to protect cells from damaging factors. Existing research also suggests that tomatoes have probiotic properties — that is, that they can boost the activity of healthful bacteria in the gut.

In the current study, the research team conducted in vitro experiments to see how Lactobacillus reuteri — one of the main bacterial species that contribute to gut health — would interact with antioxidants derived from tomato sauce, and how the cooking process would influence that interaction.

For this purpose, the researchers chose to use pear tomatoes, as they have a higher content of lycopene.

“We have evaluated the viability of the probiotic strain along the digestive process individually and the presence of antioxidants from vegetable sources, as well as the impact of the probiotic strain on the changes suffered by antioxidant compounds and the resulting bioaccessibility,” explains Heredia.

Cooked or raw?

The results of their experiments — now published in the Journal of Functional Foods — indicate that the digestive process resulted in a loss of antioxidants, both in the case of raw and cooked (fried) tomato sauce.

Also, the presence of L. reuteri appeared to prevent some of the antioxidants from being absorbed into the blood system.

At the same time, however, the research team found that the antioxidants from the tomato sauce enhanced the positive effects of L. reuteri. And in this context, cooked tomato sauce appeared to be more effective than the raw equivalent.

Cooking the sauce also transformed the lycopene present in the tomato — a process known as cis-trans isomerization — which actually helped to preserve the integrity of this antioxidant through the digestive process, allowing more of it to be absorbed.

“We worked with raw and fried tomato to determine the impact of processing,” notes Heredia.

“And among the results, we found that serving meals rich in probiotics with fried tomato sauce boosts its probiotic effect; as well as causing a progressive isomerization of the lycopene of the tomato, from form cis to trans throughout digestion, which positively results in an increased final bioaccessibility of this carotenoid.”

These results suggest that, when assessing foods for health benefits, it is important to look not only at the effects that cooking may have on them — by submitting their components to various chemical transformations — but also at the impact of the digestive process on these nutrients.

An increased awareness of both of these effects, the researchers argue, would allow companies in the food industry to create truly “functional” foods that can boost our health.

Source: Medical News Today

Pasta with Shrimp and Tomato Sauce


3 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound peeled large shrimp
3 large garlic cloves, forced through a garlic press
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup sweet (red) vermouth
1 (14- to 15-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 pound capellini (angel-hair pasta)


  1. Heat oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers, then cook shrimp and garlic with oregano, salt, and pepper, turning once, until golden, about 2 minutes total.
  2. Stir in vermouth and tomatoes, scraping up any brown bits from bottom of skillet. Add cream and briskly simmer until sauce has thickened slightly, about 1 minute. Stir in lemon juice.
  3. cook capellini in a 6- to 8-quart pot of well-salted boiling water until al dente.
  4. Reserve 1 cup cooking water, then drain pasta.
  5. Serve immediately, topped with shrimp and sauce. Thin sauce with some reserved cooking water if necessary.

Makes 4 servings.

Source: Gourmet Italian

In Pictures: Foods of Thoughtful Thai Restaurant in Queens, New York

Thai Cuisine

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Your Low-carb Lifestyle Comes with a Mental Health Risk

Allie Volpe wrote . . . . . . . .

Avishek Saha’s first became aware of his body at age 12 when he developed gynecomastia, a hormonal imbalance which leads to swollen breast tissue in men. Self-conscious through much of his adolescence, Saha joined the track team in high school and made a habit of regularly working out. “I had this epiphany if I trained really hard I could reverse my gynecomastia,” Saha says. “It’s actually impossible to reverse it through diet, but I thought to myself, I could do it if I put in enough effort. That’s when I put in so much effort that it started to ruin my health.”

For about nine years, Saha lifted weights almost daily, and toyed with raw vegan and low carb diets. Over time, he noticed his energy wane, he was unable to perform his usual workouts, and when he hit the gym, his eyes were bloodshot.

One day, he came across Dr. Steven Bratman’s website. It was populated with narratives surrounding people’s stringent food habits—cutting out this, never going near that—and how it disrupted their daily lives, from canceling dinner plans with friends out of fear of unhealthy menu items to malnutrition. Saha identified with these stories and took Bratman’s self-assessment for a condition called orthorexia, a compulsive obsession with healthy eating, a term he coined in 1996. Questions on Bratman’s test include “I spend so much of my life thinking about, choosing and preparing healthy food that it interferes with other dimensions of my life, such as love, creativity, family, friendship, work and school” and “My personal sense of peace, happiness, joy, safety and self-esteem is excessively dependent on the purity and rightness of what I eat.”

Saha completed the short questionnaire and self-diagnosed with orthorexia, not a Diagnostic and Statistical Manual-recognized eating disorder, but an affliction that was impacting his day-to-day. “A lot of people thought I was healthy,” Saha remembers, “but internally, the way I viewed my own body wasn’t healthy at all.”

Now 27, Saha has written about nutrition in the books How You’re Meant To Eat and an upcoming text on orthorexia. He’s working hard to correct the disordered eating habits associated with orthorexia and instead preaches the benefits of listening to your body regarding the kind of fuel it needs.

Because orthorexia is not a formally classified eating disorder, it’s difficult to put a number on how many people experience the condition, though results of a study released in 2016 estimated less than one percent of researcher’s sample of 275 U.S. college students had orthorexia. A 2004 study found that out of 404 subjects, 6.9 percent of participants suffered from orthorexia, most of whom were male. Research from 2010 showed that men had a higher tendency for orthorexia than women. Further, male nutrition and dietetics students in Istanbul reported more orthorexic behaviors than their female counterparts, according to a 2017 study.

If someone is eating in a certain way because they want to change their body, if it’s impairing their functioning—that’s orthorexia.

For Saha, aesthetic and athletics were his gateways into disordered eating. Brian St. Pierre, director of performance nutrition at digital coaching platform Precision Nutrition, says these fixations are prevalent within the fitness and nutrition communities, regardless of gender. Since the lifestyle is their job, he says, the line between what is healthy and what could potentially be damaging is blurred. When there’s pressure on high performance, like in bodybuilding, people tend to focus on the final product, often comparing themselves to highly edited images in magazines and on social media without realizing the process to get to such a point shouldn’t be maintained over an extended period of time. “The images that are sold of really fit men and what people often don’t realize is how doctored those photos are, though,” St. Pierre says. “Even someone like Hugh Jackman, who’s being paid to look a certain way on screen, still goes through a really intense protocol to look better just for that one day. People think they can look like that every day. It’s a discrepancy versus what’s an everyday reality.”

But because of our culture’s heavy focus on clean eating—and praise for doing so—what can begin as meal prep can quickly escalate into a rigid routine, says Los Angeles marriage and family therapist Christie Tcharkhoutian. Men in particular, she continues, “are often praised for their discipline in working out,” and can take that same control into their meals. “They will often be the one in the kitchen cooking so they know what is going in their food at all times.”

In her work as a dietician, Jessica Setnick has seen both men and women face the same pressures when it comes to body image, however men often have less to work with in terms of transformative tools, like makeup and hair. “Guys really only have their hair, their facial hair, and their bodies,” Setnick says. “There absolutely can be a lot of pressure.” Opposed to “traditional” dieting, men might gravitate toward food challenges like Whole 30 and keto as a way to focus on the health aspect of eating rituals.

It’s this relationship with food that Setnick says is the most important when it comes to orthorexia. If a person’s diet is lacking in grains or fats, for example, there’s usually an underlying reason for why. Were you prohibited from eating sweets as a kid because of your weight? Did a relative make comments at family gatherings whenever you ate bread? These sorts of memories tend to stick with us and impact our views on food.

St. Pierre says it boils down to a black-and-white “good” and “bad” food scale. “Get away from moralized food,” he says. “That mindset ends up leading you down the road of disordered eating.” Instead, he suggests looking at food on a spectrum and so long as most of your diet isn’t on the lower end of that range (foods with little-to-no nutritional value), you’re on the right track.

Setnick agrees: “Everybody loves those books: ‘Eat This, Not That!’ Top ten things you should eat for a long life. We love anything that makes the decision for us,” she says. “The problem is, there is so much context when it comes to food.” According to Setnick, men will take the death or medical emergency of a loved one into consideration when altering their diets. If Dad has to eat a low-cholesterol diet, so should I becomes the mantra. “How much cholesterol can you cut out because you worry that your dad’s going to die?” Setnick says. “Changing our food intake doesn’t change any of that. For a short period of time, it may make you think you’re taking control of the situation.”

Regardless of health trends—from lifestyle changes like paleo and biohacking, to fitness ideals like building muscle or leaning out—if thoughts of food dominate your day, it may be time to seek treatment. (The International Federation of Eating Disorder Dietitians has a specialist locator on their website.)

“If someone is eating in a certain way because they want to change their body,” Setnick says, “if it’s impairing their functioning—that’s orthorexia.”

Source : Playboy

Can Exercise Help Curb Dementia? One Study Says No

A new study suggests that moderate or even rigorous exercise won’t slow mental decline in older people with dementia.

People with early dementia were able to follow an exercise regimen and boost their physical fitness. But that did not translate into “improvements in cognitive impairment, activities in daily living, behavior, or health-related quality of life,” according to British researchers at the University of Oxford.

Still, the conclusions run counter to prior research that’s shown how exercise can help the aging brain. So, experts who reviewed the study say more and better research may be needed.

In the study, a team led by Sarah Lamb, of Oxford’s Center for Rehabilitation Research and Center for Statistics in Medicine, tracked outcomes for nearly 500 people averaging 77 years of age. All patients had been diagnosed with mild or moderate dementia and were enrolled in aerobic exercise and strength training regimens.

The overall health and fitness level of each person was assessed when the study began. Then, 329 of the volunteers were assigned to a supervised exercise and support program while 165 patients continued to receive their usual care.

Those in the exercise group completed 60- to 90-minute workout sessions in a gym twice per week for four months. They also performed home exercises for another hour each week and received consistent support.

At six months and again at 12 months, the researchers assessed the participants’ adherence to their assigned regimen. They also analyzed the progression of the patients’ dementia, as well as the number of falls they sustained and their overall quality of life.

During the 12-month study, all of the participants continued to experience mental decline, according to the study published May 16 in the BMJ. Those in the exercise group became more physically fit, but their dementia scores were actually slightly worse than the patients who received their usual care.

There was also no difference in the number of falls or the quality of life among the two groups, the researchers said in a journal news release.

But two U.S. experts in brain health said the study had flaws, and exercise might still help people with early dementia.

“The design of the study was not ideal, and the conclusion that all fitness interventions do not alter rates of decline in people with dementia is not supported,” said Dr. Jeremy Koppel. He’s a Alzheimer’s researcher at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Manhasset, N.Y.

Koppel believes there was too little supervision of the study participants to be sure they were doing the exercise as recommended. “The study also mixed strength training with aerobics, potentially limiting the ability of participants to gain muscle weight,” he added.

Dr. Gayatri Devi is a neurologist and memory disorder specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. She said numerous studies have shown that exercise has benefits for brain cell health, including the growth of new cells in the hippocampus, the brain’s memory center.

She agreed with Koppel that better supervision might have uncovered a benefit for certain people.

“It is possible that some patients, better able to follow directions, may have benefited from the exercising, while others did not,” Devi said. “In my opinion, further research is needed in this area and possibly individual programs tailored to the needs of individual patients.”

Source: HealthDay

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