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This post started as a broader "benefits of microgreens" write-up, until I realized how broad a topic and therefore bad idea that would be. There are too many types of microgreens in general to encompass in one post... at least for me at this time. :)
As mentioned in my post about growing your own broccoli sprouts, this whole topic came to me in the first place after listening to episode #901 of the Joe Rogan Experience podcast with Dr. Rhonda Patrick. Prior to this episode, the only experience I'd had with microgreens was at the general level when I purchased a "mixed variety" of them from the farmer's market to try adding to my smoothies. I was rough on the science, didn't really think much of it, and felt bad for buying living baby plants just to rip them from the soil and eat over the next few days. I know, the huntress felt bad for killing plants. Whatever.
This specific episode of the podcast, though, went into a ton of detail on why Dr. Patrick loves including broccoli sprouts specifically in her daily smoothie. That's what I'd like to dive into here, as my geeky nature questions the "why" behind everything and I like to have a solid knowledge base to inform people about why I do what I do.
So! What are some of the benefits of eating broccoli sprouts?
- Anti-carcinogenic effects
- Protects the heart
- Protection against inflammation
- Promotion of longevity & life extension
- Increased fat burning in the cells
- Strong antioxidant properties
- Increased insulin sensitivity
- Promotion of muscular growth
That list looks pretty all-encompassing, but I still stand by my use of the word "some" to preface it because there are other possible benefits that have been discovered, but not extensively researched. At the time of this writing, the above list has a good amount of study put to it already.
Wanna go more in-depth?
If the above list convinced you to start sprouting your own broccoli or becoming a regular customer of the microgreens farms at your local farmer's market, great! If you're like me, you want more details on the subject. Never fear, for I am here and slightly angry with myself for loving to do this research so much!
There is a compound in broccoli sprouts called sulforaphane, as already mentioned, which underlies most of the benefits listed. With that in ming, let's get to it!
1. Anti-carcinogenic effects
In a 2004 study(1), certain doses of sulforaphane can actually be as potent as the standard-of-care drug trichostatin A, which works to inhibit a key enzyme in cancer proliferation. The effects of the drug and sulforaphane when taken together seemed to amplify each others' effects.
2. Protects the heart
Cruciferous vegetables are generally considered cardioprotective, i.e. they guard the health of the heart. This is because of a sulfur compound found within them, hydrogen sulfide (H2S), is actually inversely related with the progression of cardiovascular disease(2). The presence of H2S in garlic is why it is generally considered a superfood, as H2S is a vasodilator. Vasodilation is the process of opening up the pathways for blood flow and is considered beneficial for cardiovascular health, as wider flow pathways means less resistance to blood movement and therefore lower blood pressure. A lack of H2S in the body has also recently been linked to decreased endothelial function in obese patients, meaning that the lining of the blood vessels does not respond to vessel size changes as well as it would in non-obese individuals(3). This makes sense, since we just covered that H2S promotes the widening of the vessels.
3. Protects against inflammation
This topic can get broad very quickly. As Dr. Jonathan Mendoza, a wonderful mentor of mine says, "all disease starts with inflammation." To keep it as simple as I can, the aforementioned sulforaphane in broccoli sprouts inhibits something called NF-kB translocation. This action at the cellular level basically describes the movement of an inflammatory compound into the nucleus, or "brain," of the cell. When this compound makes this move, inflammation at that cell boosts and when too many cells experience this, signs of autoimmune disease can appear.
That being said, autoimmune disease is basically the worst outcome of chronic inflammation and compounds to develop over a long period of time. The most-studied autoimmune disease with sulforaphane at this time is Rheumatoid Arthritis, which appears to benefit from mechanisms similar to the NF-kB inhibition at the cellular level(5). Basically, advances in RA seem to be stopped by adding sulforaphane to the diet.
4. Promotion of longevity & life extension
A major cause of the appearance of aging in humans comes from the oxidation of protein in the body. This has led some diets, like the Bulletproof Diet, to promote "protein-cycling," in an effort to recycle some leftover proteins for use in the body so they basically don't just sit around and stagnate from oxidation. With broccoli sprouts, and the sulphoraphane they provide, there appears to be a reduction in the buildup of these proteins in the body. This leads to the theory that cells will age slower, promoting longevity (if your cells die, you die) (6).
5. Increased fat burning in the cells
While the practical significance of this benefit is still being researched, new studies have emerged to show that in the absence of a primary molecule called AMPK, sulforaphane may be able to release glycerol from the cells to produce energy. However, in the presence of AMPK, sulforaphane may actually block the AMPK function and therefore needs to be further studied to understand the exact mechanism(7)(8).
Another note on this section, though: regardless of sulforaphane's role with AMPK, it does appear to help regulate adipocytes(9), also known as fat cells. It seems to reduce their growth and needs to be studied further.
6. Strong antioxidant properties
In relation to number 5, the study showing sulforaphane's regulation of fat cells also showed that it acts as an antioxidant in monitoring/regulating insulin sensitivity(9). Do you know what the opposite of insulin sensitivity is? Insulin resistance. Do you know the common name for insulin resistance? Prediabetes or even full-blown Type 2 diabetes. Yeah.
7. Increased insulin sensitivity
As just mentioned, insulin sensitivity in the body is crucial for avoiding chronic health issues down the line... specifically, type 2 diabetes. In a 2012 study on rats with type 1 diabetes (i.e. the kind you can't really cure as of now), insulin sensitivity was still improved in this hard-to-control disease when the rats were administered concentrations of sulforaphane(10). That is huge implications for future studies on both types of diabetes!
8. Promotion of muscular growth
In proper conjunction with a few other signaling pathways within the skeletal muscle, a 2012 study(11) found that sulforaphane could have the potential to create anabolic effects in the body's muscle mass. "Anabolic" events are events of growth. See that? #gainz. Had to throw them in there somewhere. This is Flabs to Fitness, after all. :)
Well... thank you for making it with me this far, if that's what you did! As you can see, the benefits of broccoli sprouts largely stem from its high concentrations of sulforaphane. I didn't even go into the other compounds that help the sulforaphane react! For now, just know that you'll get the most out of these little superfoods if you eat them raw (or drink them raw in a smoothie) or only cook them at low temperatures for a short period of time. Examine.com recommends steaming them for no more than 3 minutes to still get the benefits of the sulforaphane.
(1) Myzak MC, et al A novel mechanism of chemoprotection by sulforaphane: inhibition of histone deacetylase. Cancer Res. (2004)
(2) Benavides GA, et al Hydrogen sulfide mediates the vasoactivity of garlic. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. (2007)
(3) Candela, J., Wang, R., White, C. Microvascular Endothelial Dysfunction in Obesity Is Driven by Macrophage-Dependent Hydrogen Sulfide Depletion. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. (2017)
(4) Heiss E, et al Nuclear factor kappa B is a molecular target for sulforaphane-mediated anti-inflammatory mechanisms . J Biol Chem. (2001)
(5) Fragoulis A, et al Sulforaphane has opposing effects on TNF-alpha stimulated and unstimulated synoviocytes . Arthritis Res Ther. (2012)
(6) Stadtman ER Protein oxidation and aging . Science. (1992)
(7) Lee JH, et al Sulforaphane induced adipolysis via hormone sensitive lipase activation, regulated by AMPK signaling pathway . Biochem Biophys Res Commun. (2012)
(8) Garton AJ, Yeaman SJ Identification and role of the basal phosphorylation site on hormone-sensitive lipase . Eur J Biochem. (1990)
(10) de Souza CG, et al Metabolic effects of sulforaphane oral treatment in streptozotocin-diabetic rats . J Med Food. (2012)
(11) Fan H, et al Sulforaphane causes a major epigenetic repression of myostatin in porcine satellite cells . Epigenetics. (2012)
(12) Weil, A. Better boost from broccoli sprouts? Weil. (2012)
Anyone catch the "Paradise" by Coldplay reference in the title? Don't hate me. I had to. It was either this or another pun, so you're welcome that it wasn't worse.
So you're really here to hear about what collagen has to offer, yes? Or maybe somehow your Reddit rabbit hole pulled you this way? Either way, I'm glad you're here. Stay a while and learn something useful.
I recently wrote a review for Vital Proteins, but I felt like I couldn't really go into huge detail on why collagen is so important to add to your regular diet. Beauty gurus have been talking about it for years to women who want thicker/shinier hair, better nails, and clearer skin. But I think everyone should try using it to see what it can do for them, because the benefits of this stuff aren't just skin-deep.
So what's in it for me?
Basically, a comprehensive list of things I've been able to find about collagen benefits is as follows:
- Prevention of osteoarthritis (the most common form of arthritis)
- Increased joint mobility
- Reduced wrinkles & overall healthier skin
- Increased hair thickness & strength
- Prebiotic factors (your gut bacteria likes to munch on it!)
Uhm, yes please to ALL the things!! If you're me and you want more info, here's some stuff to back me up on this.
Prevention of Osteoarthritis & Increased Joint Mobility
According to a study published by Bello & Oessner in 2006 (1), collagen supplementation has the potential to prevent the onset of osteoarthritis. This form of arthritis is the most common type, and it's basically the kind that you get when the padding on your joints is worn out from use. I hate to call it "aging arthritis," but if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck... :)
Anyway, collagen is the building block protein of the "padding" in your joints. So it seems pretty straightforward to me that it would help you out by eating some to supply your body with extra for when you need it down the road!
Along the same vein (or joint?), Dr. Josh Axe (2) uses the analogy of a creaky door hinge needing oil. Think of your tight joints and tendons as the hinge, and the collagen as the oil! Improved body elasticity and decreased joint soreness have been noted in multiple studies on collagen benefits (3, 4).
Reduced Wrinkles & Overall Healthier Skin
This was a big pull for me to start using collagen regularly. Not so much the wrinkles (yet!) but I've always had acne issues. Many a study has shown the benefits of reduced wrinkles with the use of collagen (5), but the connection of collagen to acne clearing is harder. Studies are currently ongoing as to how exactly stress causes acne, though one article claims that the release of more oil from stress clogs your pores more readily, thus causing the nasty little buggers (6).
That being said, I dug around to see if the stress/leaky gut connection has anything to do with it, and it appears to do just that: stress can cause leaky gut, leaky gut can put you into a cycle of greater stress on the body (7), leaky gut can begin to be healed with collagen (1). So I'm not crazy in observing fewer breakouts from stress and from food since supplementing with collagen!
Increased Hair Thickness & Strength (8)
Here's the beauty section of the article: does collagen really make hair more luxurious? Well, according to a study by Wickett et. al. (8), it does. This study showed a significant increase in both tensility (strength) and thickness in the hair of subjects who were given collagen for a period of time, versus those not given collagen.
As for myself, I've always had thin hair but I've noticed a big decrease in breakage and I even stretch out my hairbands now. I credit this to a combination of eating better since going paleo and the added collagen to my diet.
Prebiotic Factors (9)
And since I'm a big pusher for gut health, I need to let y'all know that collagen is great for improving those little bacteria living in there. While a probiotic is something you injest that adds bacteria to your large intestine, a prebiotic is something that feeds the bacteria already there. Most traditionally-recognized prebiotics are carbohydtate-based, usually starchy. But some new studies have recently been published that prove collagen's benefit as a prebiotic in its own right - even though it's a protein (9). For me, that just proved my method of mixing some collagen into full-fat organic yogurt once in a while even more justifiable. Getting in those pro- AND prebiotics at once, ya feel?
So, what's the final word?
Based on this blossoming research and my own n=1 self experimentation with collagen, I think it's definitely worth trying to incorporate to your life for a few months to see what it can do for you. When combined with healthy eating, exercise, and stress reduction, I think it could work wonders for you. Keep in mind that this is one of those things, like other lifestyle changes, that takes a bit of time. But if you grant it that, you could set yourself up to reap any or all of the benefits discussed here.
If you'd like to purchase some top-of-the-line collagen, click here.
(1) Bello, A. E., Oesser S. (October 10, 2006). Collagen hydrolysate for the treatment of osteoarthritis and other joint disorders: a review of the literature. Taylor & Francis Online. Retrieved from http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1185/030079906x148373
(2) Axe, J. (2016). What is collagen? 7 ways collagen can boost your health. Dr. Axe. Retrieved from https://draxe.com/what-is-collagen/
(3) Bruyère, O. et. al. (January 20, 2012). Effect of collagen hydrolysate in articular pain: a 6-month randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled study. PubMed. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22500661
(4) Clark, K. L. et. al. (April 15, 2008). 24-week study on the use of collagen hydrolysate as a dietary supplement in athletes with activity-related joint pain. PubMed. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18416885
(5) De Luca, C. et. al. (January 19, 2016). Skin antiageing and systemic redox effects of supplementation with marine collagen peptides and plant-derived antioxidants: a single-blond case-control clinical study. PubMed. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26904164
(6) Kam, K. (2016). Stress and acne. WebMD. Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/acne/features/stress-and-acne#1
(7) Kresser, C. (March 23, 2012). How stress wreaks havoc on your gut - and what to do about it. Chris Kresser. Retrieved from https://chriskresser.com/how-stress-wreaks-havoc-on-your-gut/
(8) Wickett, R. R. et. al. (December 2007). Effect of oral intake of choline-stabilized orthosilicic acid on hair tensile strength and morphology in women with fine hair. Springer Link. Retrieved from http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00403-007-0796-z
(9) Sheveleva, S. A., Batishcheva S. (n.d.). Characteristics of collagen's material bifidogenic properties. PubMed. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22642160
(10) n.a. (2016). Foods for healthy skin. Health & Eating Food. Retrieved from http://healtheatingfood.com/foods-for-healthy-skin/
(11) Horton, D. (n.d.). Kickback ent. Retrieved from fhttp://dantehortonphotography.com
(12) n.a. (n.d.). Welcome! River Oaks Wellness Center. Retrieved from http://riveroakswellnesscenter.com/
In planning for my trip to Florence for the summer (the term "planning" being used very loosely here) I knew one thing for sure: I did NOT want to deal with jet lag. Even though my stay there was long enough for me to consider myself living there for a bit, I didn't want to miss even a few days of the excitement due to a whack sleep schedule. Yes, I just said "whack." It's hip. Whack.
Luckily for me, I happened to see one of Ben Greenfield's talks at Paleo f(x) 2016 a week before I was supposed to leave. If you aren't familiar with him, Greenfield is essentially the definition of a "biohacker". This basically means he likes to find ways to enhance his health and athletic performance using the things available in this era, without disregarding evolution. Self-proclaimed biohackers tend to have a few things in common, including: an interest in paleo or pseudo-paleo diets for optimal food intake, alternative workouts that promote fitness AND wellbeing, mental health practices like meditation, all-natural products for body care. But they still tend to include breaking-edge technology to track their health statistics to see which variations of all of the above are really helping improve their health.
I can dig it.
So when Greenfield gave us his top 10 latest methods he's been using to biohack his performance, my ears perked up. One of the items included on the list was hot-cold therapy. This can be done in cold chambers and saunas if you have access to them like he does, but it works just as well in a shower that can change temperatures quickly. Greenfield claimed this was the way he beats his jet lag every time he travels... which is a lot of the time.
That same weekend, I also finally got to meet Sarah and the other lovely people of Vital Proteins. While chatting it up with them, I asked if they thought any of their products would potentially help with jet lag. Sarah immediately handed me a bottle of their Beef Liver Capsules. I didn't know it at the time, but the B-vitamins in beef liver are actually great at easing digestive issues, like...
Travel constipation (1). I know, TMI, but I always have to deal with this. It's apparently not uncommon, either (2).
From personal experience, I know the way I feel is also hugely influenced by how well I treat my gut. If I'm not eating pre- and probiotics regularly, I feel it. And as it turns out, I'm not wrong in drawing the connection between that and feeling less-than-stellar while traveling. Sitting for long periods of time can apparently cause clogging in the large intestine, where most of your gut bacteria lives. A normal amount of daily activity moves you around enough to prevent it, but you can't exactly get in 10,000 steps on a 10-hour flight (3). So I decided to pack the Primal Probiotics that I won a while back from Primal Blueprint Publishing, since I wasn't sure what the situation with those would be like in Italy.
And lastly, my dad is a seasoned overseas traveler. Upon his advice, I was to try and sleep as much as possible on the way to Europe, and try to keep myself awake for the even-longer trek back to the states, when the time came. So with my knowledge from Greenfield, a bottle of beef liver, a container of Primal Probiotics, and Woj's best words, I set foot on my first 20-hour journey across the big pond.
Sleeping on the plane over was easy enough with the free wine offered on the ride. Sorry not sorry about that. It was still strange stepping off in Munich to see that it was somehow morning again, but I can get on board with a time warp here and there. Once I made it to Florence, I made sure that the first few things I unpacked were the beef liver capsules and probiotics. I took a serving of each and was #blessed to avoid the travel constipation that evening.
I didn't shower until the next morning, because my luggage had been lost on the flight over so I didn't have a change of clothes. Luckily, my rockstar roommate (s/o to you, Hannah!) let me borrow the essentials to wash the world off my body. I tried the hot/cold therapy tips recommended by Greenfield: 30 seconds of cold water, 10 of hot. Switch back and forth like this for several minutes and your nervous system will be hopping so much, your body clock suddenly decides you're fully awake. And it worked just as promised! I faced a day full of the labyrinth that is Florence without much of an issue. That morning and the following few began this way, plus a serving of beef liver right after the shower. The probiotic capsules helped me out each night, as I took one right before bed until finding some yogurt I trusted enough to ease me off those capsules.
On my return trip, I knew things would be trickier. Staying awake for 24 hours is never a good idea when you're me. Mama needs her 8 hours. I'm basically the worst college student ever.
However, I took a dose each of the beef liver and probiotics again before bidding "ciao!" to my home for the summer, and managed to stay awake with lots of coffee help until I made it back to Austin. I passed out for the night, and made myself take another hot/cold shower the next morning. I was tired that next day from the travel, and I let myself be lazy but avoided napping. I managed to make it through a full day back on Texas time awake and my body clock was reset by the second day after I returned home!
So, the list of things to do (which is probably the only thing you came to this article to read anyway, yes?):
- If you're traveling to a time zone later than yours (east on a map with the Atlantic ocean at the center), sleep on the way there and stay awake on the way home. If you're traveling to a time zone earlier than yours (west on a map with the Atlantic ocean at the center), do the opposite.
- Utilize hot/cold shower therapy to wake yourself up when you want to be awake in the new time zone.
- Supplement with Vital Proteins Beef Liver capsules & quality probiotics, like Primal Probiotics, to avoid travel constipation.
Oh, and remember to ENJOY your trip! :)
(1) Holland, K., Carter, A. (March 25, 2016). 5 vitamins that can relieve constipation. Healthline. Retrieved from http://www.healthline.com/health/digestive-health/vitamins-for-constipation#1
(2) Monastersky, Konstantin. (2016). What causes traveler's constipation?. Gut Sense. Retrieved from https://www.gutsense.org/constipation/travel.html
(3) Bloudoff-Indelicato, M. (December 28, 2015). The science behind vacation constipation. The Atlantic. Retrieved from http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/12/all-i-got-for-christmas-was-constipation/422046/
(4) St. Pierre, B. (n.d.) Eliminating jeg lag: strategies to reduce, even avoid, symptoms. Precision Nutrition. Retrieved from http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-jet-lag
(5) n.a. (n.d.) Setting up your shower valve: a smart solution for your bathroom. Delta Monitor Shower Faucet. Retrieved from http://deltamonitorshowerfaucet.net/setting-up-your-shower-valve-a-smart-solution-for-your-bathroom
(6) Elizabeth, H. (June 15, 2016). #STOP. Facebook.