August 31, 2011

Ask John Douillard: Summer/Fall “Super” Foods!

Photo: Munira, Flickr Commons

Update: Watermelon juice, rich in the amino acid L-citrulline, prevents muscle soreness after hard exercise (cenm.ag) “The aim of the present study was to determine the in vitro L-citrulline bioavailability from a synthetic standard or natural watermelon juice (pasteurized or not) and, according to these results, determine the effect of a potential functional watermelon juice in an in vivo experiment in athletic performance using a test of maximum effort cycle ergometer.”

Quick Read:

• At the end of summer, especially if you are a hot (Pitta) body type, your body will potentially overheat or dry out. Take this quiz to find out your Body Type.
• Summer Super Foods are cooling seasonal antidotes to stop the heat in its tracks.
• Watermelons are naturally cooling and hydrating.
• Apples support blood sugar and are also heat-removing.
• Pomegranates are one of the most powerful antioxidants.
• Fall is detox season, eat as many of these foods as you comfortably can to support the body’s natural seasonal detoxification.

Keep reading, or watch the video:

As the summer winds down, our body actually heats up, according to Ayurveda. Scientists call it “thermal accumulation” which is the tendency for the earth, and the people on it, to heat up during the second half of summer. As a result, around mid-August you may begin to feel the accumulation of this inner heat. You may notice your skin starting to dry out, your sinuses beginning to run, or your digestive system slowing down.

If you are experiencing any of the following, make sure you eat plenty of The Summer/Fall Super Foods from now through October:

• Dry skin, even rashes
• Hay fever or seasonal allergies
• Slow digestion
• Constipation
• Bloating or gas

Remember Your Nature!

Photo: kahunapulej, Flickr Commons

According to Ayurveda, at the end of each season there will always be an accumulation of the properties of that season. For example, at the end of winter the body becomes more cold and dry. At the end of spring the body is more prone to congestion. And now, at the end of summer, the body will potentially overheat or dry out.

So, if you are a hot body type (Pitta or Summer body type) in the hottest part of the hot season, your tendency to overheat is high. The end of summer is a critical time for preventing excess heat in your body. If you have any Pitta in your constitution, then these Summer/Fall Super Foods are your best medicine right now!

>>>To find out your body type: Check your “Current Body Type” with our free interactive Ayurvedic Body Type Questionnaire.

Challenging Foods in Summer.

While I am a big believer in focusing on “Eating More of the Good Foods” that are in season rather than avoiding foods, it’s good to be aware of the foods that can over heat your constitution. Reduce or avoid the following foods if you have a strong Pitta constitution:

• Spicy foods
• Chocolate
• Coffee
• Red meat
• Yogurt or cheese
• Alcohol
• Fermented foods (ie. pickles, sauerkraut, soy)

Summer/Fall “Super” Foods:

Luckily, as the summer heat builds, nature begins to harvest its Super Foods…cooling seasonal antidotes to stop the heat in its tracks. While I encourage everyone to print out the Free Summer Grocery list of cooling foods, circle the foods that you enjoy and begin to eat as many of these as you comfortably can, these three are ones that I especially favor this time of year: Watermelon, Apples and Pomegranates.


Photo: persocomholic, Flickr Commons

Summer-harvested watermelon is 92% water and extremely cooling by nature. It helps to remove heat due to its sweet taste, ability to hydrate and its mild diuretic properties. Watermelons originated in Africa and are said to be sacred in Egypt, most likely due to their ability to provide water in arid regions. Watermelon is rich in one particular carotenoid called Lycopene, which is a powerful antioxidant.

Watermelons are a very good source of:

• Vitamin C
• Vitamin A
• Lycopene
• Vitamins B6 and B1
• Citrulline – a precursor to Arginine

Watermelon and Arginine.
Watermelon is an exceptionally high source of citrulline, which the body uses to make another amino acid, Arginine. Arginine is very popular today as a supplemental precursor to Human Growth Hormone (HGH) and Nitric Oxide, whose discovery won the Nobel Prize as the body’s own “panacea”.

Increasing Nitric Oxide and/or HGH naturally in the body has been a subject of extensive research for years. In one study, subjects who drank three 8-ounce glasses of watermelon juice a day increased their Arginine in the blood by 11%, and those who drank six 8-ounce glasses increased their Arginine by 18%(2).* Any increase of Arginine in the blood, since it is a direct precursor to Nitric Oxide and HGH, is a significant finding.

Arginine has also been found to support:

• Blood pressure (1)
• Blood sugar (1)
• Relax blood vessels and protect against erectile dysfunction (1)


Photo: Chetna Lawless

Apples are natural heat-removing purgatives. They are harvested in abundance at the end of the summer, as if nature is sending a message to eat a lot of these now. The body’s natural way of dispersing heat out of the body is purgation, which is the promotion of loose stools. This is why a fever is often followed by diarrhea. Eating enough apples from August through October to just slightly loosen the stools can be a therapeutic dose.

Apples Balance Blood Sugar.
While apples are thought to be problematic for those with blood sugar issues, research has shown that apples have numerous phyto-nutrients that actually support blood sugar. The following benefits are found significantly in fresh whole or freshly juiced apples.

•  Quercitin in apples may slow the breakdown of carbs into simple sugars in the gut, thus supporting blood sugar (3).
•  Polyphenols in apples may lower the rate of glucose absorption, decreasing blood sugar spikes.
•  Apples support the pancreas to produce more insulin to help support blood sugar(3).

Apples Lower LDL Cholesterol.
The pectin in a whole apple (while not an extremely high source) has been shown to interact with other phyto-nutrients and may lower the bad fats in the blood without having to take high dosages of daily fiber. Apples may also decrease the breakdown of good fats by damaging free radicals, otherwise called lipid peroxidation (3).

How To Eat Apples.
Eat only organic apples! Apples are on a list of 12 foods that are commonly contaminated with pesticides, called the “Dirty Dozen“.
The magic of apples seems to be the combination of the phyto-nutrients and the apple pectin. The best way to get these is from eating the whole fruit. Apples freshly juiced in a juicer still hold onto many of these beneficial properties. Store-bought apple juice, however, will have significantly fewer of these benefits. During the end-of-summer days, try to eat 2-4 apples a day.


Photo: yuckbannanas, Flickr Commons

Pomegranates have been used in Ayurveda as an anti-pitta and anti-heating agent for the blood and lymph. In one study, pomegranates showed that their antioxidant properties may far exceed those of blueberries, grapes, red wine, vitamin C, vitamin E and others(4).

Pomegranate’s many benefits:

•  Cardiovascular: Pomegranates may offer benefits for the cardiovascular system by protecting arterial walls, promoting healthy blood pressure levels and improving blood flow to the heart (4). In one Israeli study, with only 2 ounces a day of pure pomegranate juice, blood pressure fell by 21% after one year and plaque lesions in the carotid artery were reduced in size by 35%(4).
•  Blood Sugar Levels: Pomegranates may help blood sugar levels and support the cardiovascular system from blood sugar related damage(4).
•  Supports Prostate: Pomegranates may show promise in prostate(5).
•  Supports Cholesterol: Pomegranates may lower lipid oxidation, which is a leading cause of high cholesterol levels(5).
•  Antioxidant: Studies show that pomegranates may increase the production of one of the body’s most potent antioxidants – the Nobel Prize-winning Nitric Oxide – by a whopping 130%(4).
•  Anti-aging: In addition, pomegranates may protect the brain against stress-induced changes that may lead to cognitive concerns that are associated with aging(5).

Based on my research, I suggest drinking at least 2 to 8 ounces a day of the pure juice for maximum benefits. You can mix those ounces of juice with just about anything if the astringent taste is too strong for you.

Wrap Up:

Make a special effort from August through October to eat as much of these three fruits as possible. This is detox season and these foods are responsible for the body’s natural seasonal detoxification. For more information about seasonal detox, please check out the Colorado Cleanse,  October 11-24, 2011.

1. whfoods.org (watermelon)
2. Nutrition. 2007 Mar;23(3):261-6
3. whfoods.org (apples)
4. LEF.org: Is Conventional pomegranate Extract Enough? May 2010
5. LEF.org: Pomegranate Favorably Modulates Gene Expression. Nov 2009

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