Detox Your Liver for Vitality

Your liver is frequently under appreciated, yet is one of the most important organs in your body! The liver has hundreds of different functions, two of the primary being to store vital nutrients for your body and to filter and breakdown chemicals that would otherwise be harmful to our bodies. As our world has become more industrialized, we are now more commonly exposed to both natural and unnatural substances that our livers must filter. These substances can come from a variety of sources, be it chemicals (pesticides, industrial chemicals, solvents, toiletries etc.), drugs and medications, or poor diet (including alcohol, caffeine, and sugar). Exposure to these substances can lead to your liver being overburdened, and an overburdened liver can lead to chronic fatigue, allergies, improper digestion of food, body aches, headaches, brain fog, depression, and fatty liver disease. Some, including myself, argue that an overtaxed liver will result in a toxic body, promoting the ideal environment for almost all chronic diseases and disorders!

There are a number of options to consider when it comes to finding a protocol to help detoxify and cleanse your liver. Some protocols are more extreme than others, so always choose the option you feel most comfortable with. Small changes in your lifestyle can have a dramatic effect on how you feel and your quality of life. That being said, some of the more ‘extreme’ options can be more effective than other ‘less extreme’ options.

Diet and exercise are the foundation of a quality life and is one of the most important protocols for keeping your liver in tip-top shape. Processed foods lack essential nutrients your body requires to function optimally — this includes allowing your liver to work its magic and keep your body clean! Additionally, most processed foods contain preservatives in the form of chemicals, which put a great strain on your liver to eliminate. Usually, they also contain sugar, another substance your liver must eliminate. Keep your foods as simple and whole as possible to provide yourself with the most amount of nutrients, and test yourself for food intolerances and allergies — these foods can put an enormous strain on your entire body, not just your liver. Be sure to include high quality fats in your diet, such as olive oil, coconut oil, or even butter! Your liver works in conjunction with your gallbladder, the organ responsible for digesting fats. If you give your body the proper fats it needs, your gallbladder will release bile for digestion. The magic is that bile is actually created from the toxins your liver removes from your body! Limiting or eliminating alcohol, caffeine, and sugar consumption will also take tremendous strides in detoxifying your liver.

Milk Thistle

Herbs and cleansing foods are another facet to consider to detoxify your liver. Milk thistle is one of the most well known and well researched herbs when it comes to aiding and cleansing your liver. It contains numerous antioxidants and compounds that not only help your liver function more optimally, but also help prevent your liver from absorbing any dangerous compounds it filters while it works. Two other herbs include artichoke and dandelion, both which have been used for thousands of years to promote better digestion and aid the liver. These three herbs can be found at health food stores in whole, capsule, or tincture form, and are frequently placed together in various tonics. Adding specific foods known to help cleanse the liver can also be a great asset to liver detox. Such foods include dark leafy greens, including the three herbs above in their whole form, other green vegetables (such as cabbage and asparagus), garlic, turmeric, citrus fruit, carrots, beets, and apples in their various form. Apples contain two important substances for helping to detox the liver: pectin, a form of soluble fiber, and malic acid, which can help fat digestion and help break down gallstones in your gallbladder.

Dandelion

Liver cleanses and fasting are the more ‘extreme’ methods of detoxifying your liver, and different variations can also be more ‘extreme’ than others. Such variations can include the olive oil liver cleanse, coffee enemas, apple juice fasting, vegetable juice fasting, and water fasting. Each of these techniques deserves their own post, as each requires its own unique protocol while being conducted. Look for a series of upcoming articles beginning this week, starting with the olive oil liver cleanse!

The 5 Flavors of Chinese Medicine

Tao AppleI’ve experimented with many different healing modalities, and I’ve gotten something valuable from each one. Of all the different philosophies I’ve studied, Chinese medicine has been around the longest. I do not profess to be a master herbalist, but I think learning the 5 flavors is extremely helpful in healthy meal-planning. Not only do you get a balanced meal, these flavor principles are similar to those cooking schools. So it’s not just healthy, it can make you a better chef! 5 Elements of Chinese Medicine

Americans often overuse 2 of the flavors (salty and sweet), and leave out the others. You can still keep some salt and some sweet, but it’s so important to integrate the other flavors into your cooking. Here are the 5 flavors, and their nutritional purpose. I’m pretty impressed that the Chinese figured this out 2,500 years ago.

Sour: A sour flavor comes from fermentation. Traditionally, all cultures had fermented food. Sauerkraut in Eastern Europe, sour bread in Ethiopia, kim-chi in Korea, sourdough in England/America, and tempeh in Indonesia. There’s a reason it pops up in every area of the world…the “healthy” bacteria in fermented food is super important to digestion and the immune system. (It’s also a natural preservative). Healthy bacteria helps fight off food poisoning and viruses. It alsSour Lemon Faceo digests some food; so a lack of healthy bacteria can lead to digestive problems. So add some raw vinegar or fermented foods to almost every meal! Remember, they must be heated at low heat or unpasteurized (or the healthy bacteria dies.)
Sour Foods: Raw apple cider vinegar, nato, tempeh, kim-chi, sauerkraut, yogurt, kefir, home-made honey wine, etc. If you want to make your own fermented food, check out the book Wild Fermentation for tons of recipes.

Bitter: When we eat bitter foods, the bitter taste signals our pancreas to secrete more digestive enzymes. It also signals our brain to secrete more saliva and gastric juices. This is very important for Herbsdigesting food, and may help alleviate indigestion. Americans have almost eliminated the bitter flavor from their cuisine, but if you can slowly re-incorporate it, you begin to enjoy it and crave it. If you don’t want it in your actual meal, you can enjoy a cup of bitter tea or tonic after a meal.
Bitter Foods: Dandelion, unsweetened coffee or chocolate, Mate tea, marmalade/citrus peels, hops, bitter gourd, citrus peel, and wild chicory. You can buy bottles of bitters at the store. For an after dinner tonic, I suggest putting bitters in sparkling water with a squeeze of lemon.

Sweet: Most people know the sweet flavor all too well…it’s been over-used in our modern society. But this flavor does have it’s place: In Chinese medicine it’s very cooling, and the sweet taste releases hormones (dopamine) that make us feel good. (Hence why people reach for chocolate and ice cream when they’re having a bad day.)  Since most people have too much sweet, which can make the body unbalanced, I suggest a sweets reduction. But you don’t have to give it up all together….I just bake my own desserts, and reduce the sugar content 50-75%.
Sweet Foods: Sweet potatoes/yams, fresh sugar-cane, honey, maple syrup, coconut water, etc.

Spicy/Pungent: Spicy and pungent foods, (such as hot chiles and ginger) increase circulation and blood flow. This can be good for someone who has cold hands and feet, (which often means slow circulation) or who is internally chilly. It is also energizing if you’re a bit sluggish. In Chinese Medicine, they say it helps clear up stagnant 5 Flavors of Chinese MedicineChi/Blood, and correlates with the Lungs and Large Intestine.
Spicy/Pungent Foods: Hot peppers, chiles, garlic, onions, chives, spearmint, and ginger.

Salty: Salt is an overused flavor in Western cooking, but it still has medicinal purposes. Salt breaks up mucous, so it can used to treat the cold or flu. (Hence the practice of salt gargling or eating soup.) Salt also increases blood pressure, which may be a negative effect for many, but it can help someone with low blood pressure or adrenal fatigue. Soaking in an Epson salt bath or taking a walk by the sea can give you a daily dose of Magnesium, a much needed mineral that promotes relaxation. ****An important note: Most negative salt reactions come from processed salt. Natural salt is chock full of important minerals, but most salt is bleached and refined, stripping it of any nutritional value. How to tell? If you’re salt is white, it’s unnatural. Salt should only be grey or pink.
Salty Foods and Sources: Grey sea salt, Himalayan pink salt, celery, zucchini, seaweed, miso, cucumbers, and celery salt.

5 Spices of Chinese Medicine

Sugar Substitutes – Are They Safe? (Part 2)

In this article we’ll cover the most commonly used sugar alcohols, Stevia, and how sugar substitutes may affect our appetites.

Be sure to check out Part 1 of this article here if you haven’t already! Get the lowdown on what a Sugar Substitute is, as well as info on the most widely used artificial sweeteners!

Sugar alcohols are a hydrogenated form of a carbohydrate, similar but slightly different to the molecular structure of other sugars. Unlike artificial sweeteners, sugar alcohols are actually less sweet than sugar, with their sweetness compared to sugar varies depending on the sugar alcohol. However, because they taste much more similar to table sugar, they are frequently mixed with artificial sweeteners to create a taste comparable to table sugar. Additionally, sugar alcohols do have calories. On average, they contain approximately 2 kcal per gram. Because of this slight amount of calories contained, sugar alcohols can have an affect on an individual’s blood sugar levels. However, sugar alcohols are partially absorbed by our bodies in the small intestine (rather than almost immediately with common sugar), and so have a much more negligible effect on our blood sugar – again, a very important concern for diabetics. Depending on the country you live or purchase sugar alcohols, they can either be labeled as calorie free (as in the United States), or labeled as having few calories (as in Britain). A word of caution: our bodies are not able to fully breakdown and assimilate sugar alcohols, and thus over-consumption can lead to bloating, flatulence, and even diarrhea. Moderation is key.

Erythritol and Xylitol are two of the most commonly used sugar alcohols for food consumption, as they taste most similar to table sugar and have little if any after taste. Erythritol is approximately 60-70% as sweet as sugar, while Xylitol is approximately 90% as sweet as sugar. However, both are frequently labeled and sold as being the same sweetness as table sugar. Erythritol is more fully absorbed by our bodies than any other sugar alcohol, and thus has the least amount of flatulent or laxative affects. Research on Xylitol has been shown it to reduce harmful strains harmful micro-organisms. Specifically, it has been shown to reduce strains of Mutans streptococci, a group of bacteria shown to be a significant contributor to tooth decay.

Stevia is one of the newest sugar substitutes widely available for sale and used for food consumption in the United States, although has been used for decades to centuries in other countries (such as Japan). It is an herb of the species Stevia rebaudiana, and frequently referred to as sweet leaf. Stevia is approximately 300 times sweeter than sugar! Stevia does has marked aftertaste that some find undesirable, and is thus frequently mixed with sugar alcohols when used in food products. If small amounts of Stevia are used, the aftertaste is less marked. Stevia extract is used for processed food consumption, and is labeled as rebaudioside A. Stevia has been used for centuries by the indigenous people of Paraguay, where it was used a folk remedy to help control blood sugar. Recent research has validated this remedy, showing Stevia as being beneficial to help regular blood glucose levels.

Do Sugar Substitutes Affect Our Appetites? Various studies have been conducted through the years regarding whether sugar substitutes affect our metabolism in direct ways that could trigger our body’s desire to consume more calories or even directly affect our body’s metabolism and systems for storing fat. Sugar substitutes generally do not exist in nature (perhaps other than Stevia), and thus our bodies have evolved to associate a significant number of calories with a sweet flavor. Studies within the past few years on rats have shown that rats fed a surplus diet sweetened with saccharin (an artificial sweetener) gained more weight than rats fed a surplus diet sweetened with glucose or sucrose. When the rats’ core temperature was analyzed, the rats fed artificial sweeteners had a lower core temperature than those fed with glucose or sucrose immediately after eating. Core temperature is an indication of metabolism – a lower core temperature in rats fed artificial sweeteners indicated that the mechanism in the rats’ required to burn excess calories was not triggered, leading to lower overall metabolic rate. Additionally, the rats fed artificial sweeteners ate more total calories than rats fed glucose/sucrose.

While no studies have been conducted on humans regarding artificial sweeteners and metabolism, it is important to understand that artificial sweeteners recreate a taste our bodies are equipped to handle in a very specific manner. While we can’t say if they will in fact slow our metabolism, we do know that many people will crave more sweets the more they eat. Simply because a food contains artificial sweeteners, it does not mean it can be eating to excess – it still contains whatever calories it would have without sugar.

If you’re going to eat a cookie, eat a cookie. Don’t eat the whole box!

If you’re having trouble with sugar cravings, be sure to check out: Understanding Sugar Cravings!

Sugar Substitutes – Are They Safe? (Part 1)

Many people are attempting to limit calories in their diet, and one of the many ways this can be accomplished is by limiting your sugar intake. Many herbs have traditionally been used as sugar alternatives, and since the late 1800s artificial sweeteners (man-made substances that mimic the sweetness of sugar) have also been utilized in our food. While we know that white sugar (sucrose) itself is devoid of nutrients, and even requires additional nutrients for your body to process, spikes our blood sugar, and can be a leading cause of being overweight and obesity, what is the safety of sugar substitutes? Proponents of sugar substitutes argue their benefit in helping to reduce calories and limit sugar intake (especially important and necessary for those with diabetes!). Opponents of sugar substitutes argue that many have toxic components, but can also overstimulate our taste buds and cause us to crave more sugar and food!

A crucial defining point to sugar substitutes is that they are actually sweeter than sugar itself. This means the amount of a sugar substitute required to get its ‘sweet effect’ is negligible compared to sugar. Because of this, and their very nature, sugar substitutes have either no caloric value to our bodies, or a very minimal caloric value. For those looking to trim up a bit, this can be quite important as a means of decreasing calorie intake. Sugar substitutes primarily consist of artificial sweeteners. The four major artificial sweeteners consumed in the United States include:

  • Acesulfame Potassium (Acesulfame K, Ace K, and Sunnett)
  • Saccharin (Sweet N Low)
  • Aspartame (Equal, Nutra-Sweet)
  • Sucralose (Splenda)

New sugar substitutes available include sugar alcohols and herbs:

  • Erithrytol
  • Xylitol
  • Stevia, an herb (rebiana, Truvia).

Let’s look at each sugar substitute individually:

Acesulfame Potassium was developed in the late 1980s, and is widely consumed in manufactured and packaged foods. It is 200 times sweeter than sugar. In high concentrations, Acesulfame K is bitter, and so is usually mixed with other sugar substitutes. The FDA has cleared Acesulfame K for human consumption, and backs their decision by citing over 90 studies as to its safety. Opponents of Acesulfame K cite conflicting studies, especially regarding a specific component it contains known as methylene chloride. Methylene chloride is as known potent carcinogen – a cancer causing substance – and has also been linked to kidney and liver damage, nausea, and headaches.

Saccharin was accidentally discovered in the late 1870s by a chemist working to develop coal tar derivatives, who happened to discover a sweet taste on his hand. Since the 1950s, saccharin has been used as a sugar substitute in our foods, and is commonly found on tables everywhere. Saccharin can range anywhere from 200-700 times sweeter than sugar. Studies in the 1970s indicated that saccharin could cause bladder cancer in mice, but the FDA confirms that this risk is not major in humans. Ever since the early 1900s, saccharin has had a bumpy road to being legal to sell for food consumption. The director of the bureau of chemistry for the USDA in 1907, Harvey Wiley, stated that saccharin is “extremely injurious to health.” It took another 50 years to legalize saccharin, and the FDA itself has put saccharin up for review and attempted to ban its sale. Other than being potentially carcinogenic, saccharin has also been linked to allergic reactions, headaches, and breathing issues.

Aspartame was discovered in 1965 by a chemist attempting to develop an anti-ulcer drug. Aspartame is about 200 times sweeter than sugar. Originally cleared for food consumption in 1974, objections by a neuroscientist put the approval on hold. It wasn’t until 1981 and 1983 that aspartame was approved for both dry and liquid goods, respectively. Perhaps more than any other sugar substitute, controversy abounds around aspartame’s safety. Because of the large amount of controversy, more tests have been performed regarding aspartame than any other substitute, as well. The FDA states that aspartame has been thoroughly tested, perhaps more than any other food additive, and that it is safe for consumption. The main opposition toward aspartame comes in two parts. Firstly, aspartame is composed of 50% phenylalanine. People with a genetic disorder known as phenylketonuria (PKU) cannot metabolize phenylalanine, which can lead to lethal concentrations in the brain, and so must avoid aspartame. Secondly, aspartame also contains approximately 10% methanol, or wood alcohol, which breaks down into formaldehyde in the human body. Formaldehyde is a known neurotoxin, symptoms which include gastrointestinal disturbances, memory lapses, numbness and pain in bodily extremities, retinal damage and blindness, and is also a known carcinogen.

Sucralose is the newest of the common artificial sweeteners, have been confirmed for consumption in 1998 under the brand name Splenda. Sucralose is 600 times sweeter than sugar. Because of the mild flavor of sucralose, it is much more favorable to most people compared to other artificial sweeteners. Before clearing sucralose for consumption, over 110 studies were reviewed by the FDA, and it was deemed that sucralose posed no toxic carcinogenic, neurological, or reproductive dangers. However, no long term toxicity studies have been conducted on humans. Sucralose is made from actual sugar, but the chemical process it undergoes involves chlorination, and thus transforms the sugar into a new substance. It is this primarily this chlorination process that brings the safety of sucralose into question. A number of studies, including those reviewed by the FDA, indicate that approximately 15% of sucralose ingested by the body is not eliminated in a timely fashion. Opponents argue by not eliminating even this small amount of sucralose over a long period of time could result in chlorine toxicity.

Stay tuned later this week for Part 2, as I cover the sugar alcohols, Stevia, and how sugar substitutes affect our appetites!

Understanding Sugar Cravings

Is sugar an obstacle standing in the way of you and great health? Sugar can disrupt Candyinsulin levels, feed “bad” bacteria and fungus in the body, and if unused, be converted to body fat. So why is a sugar habit so hard to kick? Sugar cravings can be caused by multiple factors. Luckily, once you understand your sugar cravings, there are solutions.

Causes of sugar cravings:

  1. Dehydration/need for water
  2. Amino acid/hormone Imbalance
  3. Habits: Psychological and physical associations with food.
  4. Lack of “good” bacteria in the body and/or too much yeast or fungus in the body.
  5. Inflammation or disease that feeds off sugar.
  6. Body is agitated after ingesting food it can’t process well.

Problem: Dehydration/Thirst
WaterThis may seem too simple, but sometimes when you’re hungry for sweets, you’re just thirsty! This is especially true between meals. If you’re hungry only an hour or so after eating, you probably just need water.
Solution: If the thought of eating something healthy, like a salad or apple, doesn’t sound good, but candy does, you’re probably thirsty! Also, think about the last time you had a drink. You shouldn’t go longer than ½ hour-1 hour without water.


ProThe Mood Cureblem: Amino Acid/Hormone Imbalance
Many people lack certain nutrients and amino acids, or their hormone production/regulation is off. Lacking certain amino acids can cause sluggishness, depression, hyperactivity, or sleeplessness. A hormone imbalance can have similar effects. Lack of energy or low serotonin causes sugar cravings, since sugar gives a boost that gives temporary relief.
Solution: If you think you have a thyroid problem or an amino acid deficiency, get tested at a practitioner’s office. If you can’t afford a test, or you don’t have insurance, read The Mood Cure. The book offers self-diagnosis tools and a supplementation regimen that can be seriously helpful.

Problem: Habits-psychological and physical associations with food.
When we do something on a regular basis, our brain is carved with little neural pathways. This is a habit! Evolution has designed us to feel comfortable with habits. As long as the summer and rain came when it was supposed to, and winter was on schedule, our ancestors could predict food and migration patterns. Unfortunately, the cookie you eat after every meal is not beneficial to your survival. But our brain carves the neural pathway just the same, so every time you’re done eating, you will crave a cookie. The same goes for a drink after work, or chocolate every day at lunch break.
Solution: Catch yourself having “habitual” cravings! Break the habit by doing something different; change the association. Every time you get home from work, have strawberries instead of cheesecake. You will soon crave the strawberries! Habits can change.

Problem: Lack of Good Bacteria/Too Much Yeast/Fungus
This is a surprisingly common condition. The common diet today has almost NO fermented food, which our ancestors ate daily. Fermented food (i.e. raw sauerkraut, kimchi, nato, kombucha, and homemade ginger beer) contain beneficial bacteria that feed the “good” bacteria in our gut. This good bacteria helps digest food, fights off infections and supercharges our immune systems! Sugar can be harmful because it “feeds” the negative bacteria and yeast. This can cause digestive upset, low energy, and a sluggish immune systems. Sugar isn’t the only cause of a yeast imbalance (often referred to as “candida”), alcohol, over-consumption of starch, medications, and yeast also cause candida.
Symptoms: You may have a yeast imbalance if you have: Toe fungus, yeast infections, thrush (candida in the mouth and throat), digestive issues, bloating, low-functioning immune system,Wild Fermentation and constant sugar cravings.
Solutions: Take probiotic supplements. They come in the form of capsules, liquid, and concentrated yogurt. Eat fermented foods daily. Make they sure they are raw/unpasteurized and unsweetened. You can buy them at health food stores, or make your own! It can be cheap and fun. My favorite fermentation recipe book is called Wild Fermentation Stay away from refined sweets and starchy desserts for awhile. (Once your back in balance, you can give yourself a “treat day.”)

Problem: Inflammation/Sickness
Many things in our body feed off sugar, and most of them are harmful. There are plenty of helpful organisms (like the beneficial bacteria mentioned earlier), but there are plenty of harmful ones that make their livelihood leaching nutrients, causing disease, and giving us weird cravings. For instance, sugar makes cancer cells grow and multiply. Parasites thrive Fermented Foodsoff it. Even a fungus that grows during a sinus infection is fed by sugar. Sugar also causes inflammation, and inflammation is the cause of arthritis, Chrohn’s disease, fibromyalgia, and many other problems. Since sugar causes inflammation, eating less sweets can be a big step towards reducing it. (There are more lifestyle changes that reduce inflammation, and I will go into greater detail on this point in another post.)
Solution: Eat less sugar and reduce stress!

Problem: The body is agitated after ingesting food it can’t process well.
Even if you try to be healthy, it’s easy to slip off the wagon and grab a doughnut when you’re in a hurry. Don’t beat yourself up over small treats here and there, but there is more to that gas-station food than extra calories. When our body ingests something that it can’t process well (chemicals, hydrogenated oils, allergens, etc), it wants to push it out. There’s no use for it and it’s toxifying, so the body wants it gone! So it makes us crave sweets, since sugar is an intestinal irritant, and might “speed things along.” (In layman’s terms: You will poop the faster, before the toxic food has the chance to hang around in the intestines and cause more damage.) But as mentioned, this causes inflammation, which has its own problems.
Solution: Eat whole, chemical-free food that your body has use for. Cut down on processed food, and eat out less.

So pay careful attention to your sugar cravings! When are they happening? Why are they happening? Are you stressed, low on energy, or eating out of habit? Try keeping a food journal and chart your cravings! You can find unexpected links, and learn the ways of your mind and body. And hey, everyone once and awhile…it’s ok to have some ice cream.

What is a Carb?

Carbohydrates are molecules composed of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen that all plant foods (beans, grains, fruits, vegetables, etc) contain. There are four different types of carbs, which all serve a certain purpose:

“Simple Sugars:” Monosaccharides and Disaccharides : The simplest forms of carbohydrates, simple sugars are immediate sources of energy. All other forms Simple Sugarsof energy (fat, protein, starch, complex carbs) need digestive enzymes in the stomach to break them down before they’re converted to energy for our cells. Sugar enters our blood stream as soon as it dissolves in our saliva. (This can be useful when running a marathon or riding a bike, since our body doesn’t have the energy to digest, but needs the calories.)

Sugars

What kinds of foods constitute simple sugars? Many foods contain sugar (even milk, which contains lactose), but pure simple sugar is usually extracted from a whole food (except honey.) “Concentrated fruit syrup,” table sugar, brown rice syrup, maple syrup, etc., are almost pure sugar. Many foods contain sugars, but most of them contain fiber, protein, and/or fat as well, so the sugar will not absorb into the body as quickly.

The prebiotic: Oligosaccharides: Oligosaccharides are carbohydrates made up of 3-10 simple sugars linked together, and humans cannot fully digest them. That can actually be beneficial…the undigested bits serve as food for intestinal microflora, (bacteria in our gut!)

Chicory Root

What kinds of foods contain oligosaccharides? They are found in plants in small amounts. Chicory root and Jerusalem artichokes contain the highest amount, but they’re also found in: wheat, jicama, the onion family, asparagus, burdock root, and other plants.

“Complex Carbs,” Polysaccharides: “Complex Carbs” release their energy more slowly than simple sugars, since it takes longer for our bodies to break them down. This causes a less severe spike in blood sugar, and gives your body more time to “burn off” or “use” the energy. The scientific definition of polysaccharides is a chain of monosaccharaides (sugars) linked together by glycosidic bonds. There are different kinds of polysaccharides, which are “structure” or “storage” related: Starch

Starch: Starch is the way that plants store excess glucose (energy). Almost all vegetables and grains contain starch in varying degrees-common food sources include potatoes, wheat, rice, corn, taro root, yams, cassava, barley, and rye.

Fiber (or Cellulose): Cellulose is supposedly the most abundant substance in the living world. It is present in almost all plant foods. Cellulose is classified as “dietary fiber.” It is actually indigestible to humans and most animals. (For instance, wood, cotton and paper are almost pure Dietary Fibercellulose.) That may seem odd, since fiber is supposed to be good for us. But it’s indigestibility is actually its function…it changes the nature of our digestive tract, binds to bile acids to lower cholesterol, and changes how nutrients and chemicals react in the intestines. Fiber is extremely important, and I will devote an entire blog post to explain it.

Glycogen: Humans store “extra” energy in their livers and muscles in the form of glycogen. It is a kind of carbohydrate that can be broken down in glucose, or blood sugar, when the body has been deprived of food. All the glycogen in our bodies can be used up in one 24-hour period of fasting, or an intense workout. Luckily, it is replenished by the ingestion of carbohydrates.

There are other forms of fiber (structural polysaccharides) such as chitin, the compound that shellfish exoskeletons are made from, or pectin, a form of soluble fiber found in fruits.  Most plant foods contain a combination of starch and fiber, and humans have consumed these foods throughout history, (although the amount we should consume is a hot debate). I will bring in anthropology sources as a response to that question in a later post….