Eight Potential Health Benefits of Kombucha

Kombucha is a sweet, fizzy drink made of yeast, sugar, and fermented tea. It has a number of potential health benefits, including gut health and liver function.

This article explores eight potential health benefits of kombucha and looks at the research that supports them.

What is kombucha?

A jar of raw kombucha fermented drink, on a wooden table with chopped up lemon and a stem of ginger.
Kombucha is a fermented drink that is popular for its purported health benefits.

To make kombucha, sweetened green or black tea is fermented with a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast, otherwise known as a SCOBY.

During the fermentation process, the yeast in the SCOBY breaks down the sugar in the tea and releases probiotic bacteria.

Kombucha becomes carbonated after fermentation, which is why the drink is fizzy.

Potential health benefits

There is a range of potential health benefits of kombucha, including:

1. Gut health

As this 2014 study confirms, the fermentation process of kombucha means that the drink is rich in probiotics. Probiotic bacteria are similar to healthful bacteria that are found in the gut.

Consuming probiotics may improve overall gut health. Probiotic bacteria have been found to help treat diarrhea, and some research suggests they may help ease irritable bowel syndrome(IBS).

More research is needed into how kombucha improves gut health, but the link between probiotics and gut health suggests it may support the digestive system.

The link between healthy bacteria in the digestive system and immune function is becoming clearer as more studies focus on gut health. If the probiotics in kombucha improve gut health, they may also strengthen the immune system.

2. Cancer risk

There is growing evidence to suggest drinking kombucha could help reduce the risk of cancer.

2008 study found that kombucha helped prevent the growth of cancer cells. Further research in 2013 found that kombucha decreased the survival of cancer cells. Both studies suggest kombucha could play a role in treating or preventing cancer.

It is important to note that these studies looked at the effects of kombucha on cancer cells in a test tube. More research is needed to see if people who drink kombucha have a reduced risk of developing cancer.

3. Infection risk

A type of acid called acetic acid, also found in vinegar, is produced when kombucha is fermented.

study carried out in 2000 found that kombucha was able to kill microbes and help fight a range of bacteria. This suggests that it may help prevent infections by killing the bacteria that cause them before they are absorbed by the body.

4. Mental health

Young smiling woman drinking fruit juice ice tea.
The probiotics in kombucha are thought to have the ability to treat depression.

There may be a link between probiotics and depression, suggesting that drinking probiotic-rich kombucha could help promote positive mental health.

There are strong links between depression and inflammation so the anti-inflammatory effect of kombucha may help alleviate some of the symptoms of depression.

2017 review looked at a number of existing studies and concluded that there is strong evidence that probiotics may help treat depression. However, further research is needed to prove how effective they are.

5. Heart disease

Levels of certain types of cholesterol increase the risk of heart disease. Studies in 2012 and 2015 found that kombucha helps to reduce levels of the cholesterol linked to heart disease. Cholesterol levels and heart disease are also influenced by diet, exercise, weight, lifestyle habits, and inflammation. However, the research cited here suggests drinking kombucha may help reduce the risk of heart disease.

At the same time, it is important to note that these studies were in rats. More research is needed to prove that kombucha reduces the risk of heart disease in humans.

6. Weight loss

When kombucha is made with green tea, it may aid weight loss. A 2008 study found that obese people who took green tea extract burned more calories and lost more weight than those who did not.

If kombucha is made with green tea, it follows that it could have a similarly positive effect on weight loss.

Again, researchers need to look at kombucha and weight loss specifically before this is certain.

7. Liver health

Kombucha contains antioxidants that help fight molecules in the body that can damage cells.

Some studies, the most recent being in 2011, have found that the antioxidant-rich kombucha reduces toxins in the liver. This suggests that kombucha may play an important role in promoting liver health and reducing liver inflammation.

However, studies to date have looked at rats and more research is needed to say with certainty how kombucha can support liver health in humans.

8. Type 2 diabetes management

Kombucha tea in iced bottles, with fruit segments fermenting.
Kombucha may help to stabilize blood sugar levels and aid in the management of diabetes.

Kombucha may also be helpful in managing type 2 diabetes.

2012 study found that kombucha helped to manage blood sugar levels in rats with diabetes. This finding suggests it may be helpful in type 2 diabetes management.

Again, more research is needed to say with certainty whether kombucha can have the same benefits in type 2 diabetes management for humans.

Are there any risks?

It is important to be careful when making kombucha at home, as it can ferment for too long. It is also possible for kombucha to become contaminated when not made in a sterile environment.

Over-fermentation or contamination may cause health problems so it may be safer to buy kombucha in a store than to make it at home.

Store-bought kombucha normally has a lower alcohol content than homemade versions, but it is important to check the sugar content.

There are many potential health benefits of kombucha. However, it is important to remember that research is ongoing and not all benefits have been proven in studies with human participants.

If made properly or bought in-store, kombucha is a probiotic-rich drink that is safe to enjoy as part of a healthful diet.

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Hype or Hope? Killing Cancer with Vitamin C

There are few cancer treatments that give patients long-term hope of survival. Could vitamin C be the missing link?

The number of people who die from cancer each year in the United States has gradually been falling. While this might seem to be good news, cancer remains the second biggest killer worldwide.

According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the cancer death rate for men fell by 1.8 percent between 2004 and 2013, by 1.4 percent for women during the same period, and by 1.4 percent for children between 2009 and 2013.

But 1,960 children still died of cancer in 2014, and 595,690 adults died in 2016.

For patients, family members, and friends, as well as those involved in cancer care and research, these numbers are a stark reminder that despite the many medical advances of the past century, cancer still holds a firm grip on our lives.

The use of vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, as an alternative method to treat cancer has been making headlines since the 1970s.

What does vitamin C do?

Humans cannot make vitamin C because we lack the necessary enzymes. Instead, we need to consume this essential vitamin in our diet.

Vitamin C has several crucial functions, including playing a key role in the production of collagen, which is the central component of connective tissue.

It is also involved in the synthesis of neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and norepinephrine, and in the addition of the protective myelin coat to nerve cells in the brain’s white matter. In addition, it is known to have strong antioxidant properties, protecting cells from oxidative damage.

As vitamin C is involved in a host of processes that help to keep our bodies healthy, it may be no great surprise that research has pointed to several different ways that ascorbic acid can affect cancer.

Three different mechanisms have recently been described.

1. Switch from antioxidant to pro-oxidant

Mark Levine, from the Molecular and Clinical Nutrition Section at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD and colleagues showed that in the presence of metals, vitamin C produces hydrogen peroxide.

This molecule is a powerful oxidant and is very toxic to cells – especially cancer cells.

However, targeting cancer is not as simple as eating some extra oranges each day. Our bodies are extremely good at maintaining healthy levels of vitamin C when it is consumed in our diet. And when there is too much vitamin C in the system, it is simply cleared in the urine.

Levine shows that administering vitamin C by injection at high levels allows it to outfox our body’s control mechanisms.

Dr. Lewis Cantley, from Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City, NY, and colleagues also found that vitamin C had a strong pro-oxidant effect in a study using colorectal cancer cells.

Treatment with high levels of vitamin C caused enough oxidative damage to these cells to kill them by a cell death process known as apoptosis.

In addition to the pro-oxidant effect that vitamin C had on cells in this study, Dr. Cantley found that it inhibited glycolysis, which is a metabolic pathway that cells use to convert glucose into energy.

2. Starving cancer cells from the inside

Making use of the cancer cell’s own metabolic pathways is key to the findings of Michael P. Lisanti, from the Biomedical Research Centre at the University of Salford in Manchester, U.K., and his colleagues.

In a cell model, they showed that cancer stem cells (CSCs) rely heavily on mitochondria for their metabolism. Mitochondria are small structures within cells that generate energy. Glycolysis and mitochondrial metabolism are intricately linked.

Once energy is released from glucose by glycolysis, the end product of this pathway, pyruvate, is taken into mitochondria, where it is the starting point for a series of biochemical reactions that release energy from the molecule.

Lisanti’s work is in agreement with the findings of Dr. Cantley’s study: vitamin C induces oxidative stress in CSCs and inhibits a key enzyme involved in glycolysis.

No glycolysis means no pyruvate, which, in turn, means that the mitochondrial powerhouses cannot generate any energy. The CSCs starve as a result.

And in a follow-up study, the researchers used this knowledge to design a new way of killing CSCs by using a combination of antibiotics and vitamin C. Some antibiotics, such as doxycycline, affect how well mitochondrial work.

Treating CSCs with this antibiotic knocked out mitochondrial function, leaving the cells dependent on glycolysis to generate enough energy to keep them alive. But hitting CSCs with a dose of vitamin C shut off that alternative by inhibiting glycolysis.

The cells were left without energy. The only option was death.

But energy metabolism is not the only weapon in vitamin C’s arsenal, it seems; vitamin C can also act on DNA and affect stem cell development.

3. Switching genetic control mechanism back on

DNA methylation switches off individual genes. Small chemical groups called methyl groups are added to stretches of DNA, making them inaccessible to the enzymes responsible for initiating gene expression.

This process is essential to normal cell function because an individual cell does not need to make use of the thousands of genes encoded in its DNA.

When a stem cell becomes a more differentiated cell type, certain genes must be demethylated, or have the methyl tag removed, to allow them to be switched back on.

But in the case of many leukemia patients, who have a mutation in a gene called TET2, this control mechanism does not function properly.

TET2 demethylates DNA and therefore allows access to certain genes. A mutation in TET2 in blood stem cells means that they do not develop into mature blood cells, leaving the body notoriously short of these vital cells. Instead, the stem cells continue to divide, resulting in blood cancers such as leukemia.

Luisa Cimmino, from the Department of Pathology at New York University School of Medicine, and colleagues used a genetically engineered mouse to study this.

In these mice, TET2 could be switched off in stem cells, leading to abnormal cell growth. When high doses of vitamin C were added, DNA demethylation was switched back on, and cell behavior returned to normal.

TET mutations or lower TET levels have also been found in other cancers, including melanoma, colorectal, gastric, prostate, liver, lung, and breast cancer, as well as glioblastoma.

Using vitamin C to turn back the clock on CSCs’ disastrous growth allows them to develop into mature cells instead. This is a completely different approach to killing cancer cells by oxidative damage.

Research shows that both strategies may have merit. But can cancer patients look to vitamin C for real hope?

Hype or hope?

According to the NCI, clinical studies using vitamin C in combination with other cancer drugs have shown mixed results. In some cases, patients felt that their quality of life improved. Other studies showed that tumors had stopped growing.

In some studies, however, vitamin C and conventional drugs used to treat cancer reacted with each other, and the result was that the treatment did not work.

A 2010 study by Levine revealed that U.S. complementary and alternative medicine practitioners frequently use vitamin C injections for a range of conditions – including cancer treatment – despite the fact that vitamin C is not licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for this purpose.

So is vitamin C just another hype? There is no simple answer to this question. Research has certainly shown that vitamin C has the power to kill cancer cells or change how cancer stem cells behave, at least in laboratory studies.

The NCI currently report five active trials investigating vitamin C in combination with other cancer drugs.

What is clear, however, is the passion and drive with which scientific and medical researchers are pursuing this question. Lives are at stake, and everyone wants to know if vitamin C will soon be at the frontline in the fight against cancer.

Health Benefits of Oolong Tea

There is a record of tea being used as a beverage in China since 2,000 B.C.E. Besides water, it is consumed more than any other drink around the world. The four main types of tea are black, green, white, and oolong.

All four varieties come from the Camellia sinensis plant. Herbal teas are not considered true tea because they do not come from the Camellia sinensis plant.

Oolong tea accounts for only 2 percent of tea consumption around the world. Although less popular, oolong tea still has a variety of benefits. Read on to find out more information about oolong tea and its associated health benefits.

What is oolong tea?

Oolong tea is commonly consumed in China and Taiwan. In Asian countries, drinking tea is a large part of the culture and social gatherings. Friends and business associates often meet over tea.

Oolong
Oolong tea has a range of health benefits.

Although all true tea comes from the same plant, the differences occur in the harvesting and processing. Oolong tea is partially fermented, while black tea is fully fermented.

Tea can also differ in amounts and types of antioxidants. Green tea is high in a class of antioxidants known as catechins. Antioxidants in black tea are theaflavins and thearubigins. Oolong tea falls in the middle, regarding the antioxidant amounts.

Oolong tea and green tea contain similar amounts of caffeine, approximately 10 to 60 milligrams (mg) per 8-ounce cup. For comparison, coffee contains approximately 70 to 130 mg of caffeine per 8-ounce cup.

Unsweetened brewed tea is considered a zero-calorie beverage. It contains no fat, carbohydrates, or protein.

Potential health benefits of oolong tea

There are a number of health benefits that are thought to derive from drinking oolong tea, as with other types of tea.

Heart disease

Researchers in China studied the relationship between drinking oolong tea and cholesterol levels, as high cholesterol levels can be associated with an increased risk for heart disease.

They found that people who drank at least 10 ounces of oolong tea per week had lower risks of having high total cholesterol, triglyceride, and LDL or “bad” cholesterol levels. The same was also true of people who drank similar amounts of green and black teas.

People who had been consuming oolong tea for the longest time had lower total cholesterol, triglyceride, and LDL cholesterol levels.

In another study, Japanese men and women were studied for the impact of consuming coffee, green tea, black tea, and oolong tea on their risk of heart disease. Researchers found that men who drank 1 or more cups of oolong tea per day had a lower risk of heart disease.

Weight loss

study in mice showed that the animals receiving oolong tea extract while being fed a high fat, high sugar diet, gained less abdominal fat than mice on the same diet that did not receive the tea extract.

Green tea and black tea extracts also resulted in the less abdominal fat gain. The mice that received the green tea extract also consumed fewer calories.

study in overweight and obese Chinese adults looked at the effect of oolong tea consumption on body weight. Study participants drank 300 milliliters (mL) of oolong tea four times per day. After 6 weeks, more than half of the participants had lost more than 1 kilogram.

Cancer

Researchers in Taiwan examined the association between drinking tea and the risk of head and neck or throat cancer.

Each cup of oolong tea consumed per day equated to a 4 percent lower risk, but the result was not significant. Each cup of green tea consumed per day equated to a 6 percent lower risk for head and neck cancer, which was more significant.

Another study in Chinese women found that drinking green, black, or oolong tea was linked to a decreased risk of ovarian cancer.

However, according to the National Cancer Institute, there is not currently enough research to say for certain that drinking tea decreases cancer risk.

Diabetes

Some studies have shown that drinking 3 or more cups of tea per day is associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.

However, studies specifically looking at oolong tea have had varied results.

In one study, healthy men drank almost 6 cups per day of oolong tea. At different times, they drank oolong tea that contained supplemental antioxidants, which were in the form of catechins or polyphenols. Each of the teas was consumed for 5 days. Researchers found that drinking oolong tea did not improve blood sugar or insulin levels.

Interestingly, one study found that working men who drank 2 or more cups of oolong tea per day had a higher risk of developing diabetes than men who consumed 1 cup of oolong tea per day or no oolong tea.

Dental health

Fluoride is an element that is often added to drinking water, toothpaste, and mouthwash to help prevent dental cavities.

Tea leaves naturally contain fluoride, so drinking oolong tea could help prevent cavities. Excess fluoride can be harmful, but drinking less than 1 liter of oolong tea per day is safe for most adults.

Other possible benefits:

While there is not enough current research to support the following benefits, drinking tea has also been associated with:

  • healthier gut bacteria
  • lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease
  • lower risk of Parkinson’s disease
  • natural defense from the sun’s ultraviolet rays
  • stronger bones

Studies that examined long-term consumption of oolong tea showed the greatest results. Although it is not a cure for any condition, drinking tea regularly appears to have numerous health benefits.

Risks and Considerations

Oolong Too much
Too much oolong can affect the absorption of iron into the blood.

Although oolong tea contains less caffeine than coffee, people who are sensitive to caffeine should still limit their intake.

Tea can decrease the amount of iron absorbed from plant foods. Also, some researchers found that young children who drank tea were more likely to have lower iron levels.

It may, therefore, be better to drink tea outside of meals to limit its impact on iron absorption. When consumed together at meals, eating foods rich in vitamin C can increase the amount of iron absorbed from plant foods.

Tea is a healthy beverage that has been consumed by people around the world for centuries. Oolong tea is a lesser known variety that may also provide health benefits. However, from some of the research reviewed above, drinking green tea may offer the most health advantages.

Bottled tea contains smaller amounts of beneficial polyphenols and may have excessive amounts of added sugar. If buying bottled teas, it may be better to look for ones that are unsweetened or to brew tea at home and sweeten it with a small amount of honey.

Oolong tea should be steeped for as long as possible to increase flavonoids, and people can consume 2-3 cups per day.

Food as Medicine: Shallot (Allium cepa var. aggregatum, Amaryllidaceae)

Overview

Shallot (Allium cepa var. aggregatum, syn. A. ascalonicum, Amaryllidaceae) is a variety of the common onion (A. cepa).1 Shallots grow natively in the mountains of central Asian countries, including Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Pakistan, and parts of Siberia and China, and they gradually spread throughout Europe as international trade expanded.2 It is a herbaceous plant with alternating foliar leaves that sheath at the base to create the superficial impression that they originate from an above-ground stem.1 Shallot bulbs, which are bunched in groups that resemble large garlic (A. sativum) bulbs, are the portion of the plant commonly used.3 While edible, the above-ground stems and leaves generally are discarded. France, the Netherlands, Great Britain, and the United States are major commercial producers of shallots, and many other countries throughout Southeast Asia and Africa also cultivate and export them.1,2

Phytochemicals and Constituents

Of all the onion varieties, shallots contain the highest amount of total flavonols, which have been shown to reduce systemic inflammation and cellular oxidation.4 Many of these bioactive components have been isolated and studied in vitro for their potential protective effects against chronic diseases such as cancer and diabetes.5 One such flavonol is quercetin, which is one of the many phenolic compounds found in many fruits and vegetables that exhibit biological activities.6 Quercetin is reportedly more bioavailable from the dry skin of shallots rather than the flesh, where it is mainly found in the form of quercetin glycosides (quercetin glycosides can be broken down in the body to produce quercetin).7 When metabolized, quercetin forms metabolites that are less biologically potent than quercetin glycosides, but these metabolites still retain some anti-inflammatory properties that have been shown to protect against inflammation-related diseases such as cardiovascular disease (CVD).5

Antioxidants are a group of bioactive compounds that, among other activities, reduce free radical damage to lipids and DNA by reactive oxygen species (ROSs). Antioxidants either accept or donate an electron to stabilize ROS and to reduce their damaging capabilities. Phenolic compounds such as flavonols, carotenoids (fat-soluble pigments that give some plants their orange, yellow, and red colors), ascorbic acid (vitamin C), thiols, and tocopherols (vitamin E) are all examples of antioxidant molecules.8

Flavonols have been widely shown to have potent antioxidant activity in vitro and in vivo. Flavonols have also been extensively studied for their actions on inhibiting the proliferation of cancer cells in vitro. The antioxidant capacity and the anti-proliferative ability of flavonols change depending on how these compounds are metabolized. When tested in liver and colon cell lines designed to mimic human metabolism, the antioxidant activity of the flavonols found in shallots was retained more than the antioxidant activity of the flavonols found in other onion varieties.8

Shallots and other Allium crops have high concentrations of organosulfides, which are sulfur-containing phytonutrients that are metabolized by the enzyme alliinase when the plant tissue is ruptured (e.g., from cooking, chewing, or crushing).9,10 These compounds give Allium plants their recognizable flavor and pungency, with different species differing in flavor and pungency due to variations in the concentrations of types of organosulfides.9 Organosulfides are highly bioavailable in animal models, preserved through metabolism, and can be detected in the blood at dose-dependent concentrations.10 As a result, their antioxidant activity is retained. In humans, their bioavailability is unknown, so further investigation is needed to determine whether biologically active concentrations of organosulfides can be achieved through traditional dietary intake or through pharmacological interventions.10

Finally, isoliquiritigenin is a flavonoid found in high concentration in shallots. Like organosulfides, isoliquiritigenin is highly bioavailable.11 Isoliquiritigenin absorption is dose-dependent and varies depending on tissue type.

Historical and Commercial Uses

There is little information regarding the historical medicinal uses of shallot, which was originally named Allium ascalonicum after its popularity in the city of Ascalon, Syria, but Allium crops generally were used to treat gastrointestinal issues and tumors and known for their anti-microbial properties.12 The Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder mentioned the shallot as one of six types of onions known to the Greeks in his 77 CE encyclopedia Naturalis Historia.1 By 1554, shallots were grown in Spain, Italy, France, and Germany and Baldassare Pisanelli, a 17th-century doctor in Italy, described the shallot as “a delicious food that stimulates the appetite when it is hot and makes tasty to drink.”4 Cultivation of shallots spread to England from France by 1663, and shallots became a common crop in the United States by 1806.1 Today, shallots are used for culinary purposes: cooked in stews and soups, diced raw in salads or to accompany meats, or pickled.1

Modern Research

There are limited data regarding the effect of shallots as a whole food on the disease, but specific phytonutrients from shallot have been isolated and studied for their activities and effects on different disease states.

Cancer Prevention

Plants in the genus Allium, including shallot, have been shown to significantly reduce the risk of gastric cancer in humans. A meta-analysis of epidemiological studies showed that the consumption of 20 grams daily of Allium vegetables (equivalent to the weight of one garlic bulb) reduced the incidence of gastric cancer in individuals when compared to those who consumed lower amounts.13 Similarly, the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) in conjunction with the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) published a comprehensive report of the existing literature on diet and cancer that found strong evidence to support shallot’s inhibiting effect on cancer cell lines.14 In addition to reducing the risk of gastric cancer, Allium vegetables were also credited with reducing the risk of all cancers.14 However, the WCRF/AICR report recommended a higher dosage of Allium vegetables (100 grams daily) to reduce the risk of gastric and other cancers than that specified by the previously mentioned meta-analysis.13,14

Individual phytonutrients present in shallots have been studied for their capabilities to inhibit the initiation, promotion, and progression of certain types of cancer.  Isoliquiritigenin, for example, has been shown to be a potent inhibitor of the metastatic potential of human prostate cancer cells.15 This essentially results in the cell’s ability to “turn off” growth in order to prevent the uncontrolled cell growth and division important for tumor survival. Isoliquiritigenin has also been shown to induce apoptosis (normal, pre-programmed cell death) via mitochondrial-mediated effects.16,17 Similar apoptotic effects were observed when hepatoma, gastric, and melanoma cancer cell lines were treated with isoliquiritigenin.16,17 In addition, treatment with isoliquiritigenin in human lung cancer cells resulted in cell cycle arrest, which inhibited cancer cell growth and proliferation.18 Studies that monitor in vivo effects of isoliquiritigenin are needed to further explore the anti-tumor potential of this compound.

Isoliquiritigenin has the potential to act as a safe alternative to commonly used chemotherapies. In a mouse study, renal carcinoma was treated with isoliquiritigenin, which suppressed pulmonary metastases without the leukocytopenia and weight loss associated with the administration of the commonly used chemotherapy drug 5-fluorouracil.19 More studies are needed to determine the dosage at which isoliquiritigenin is effective and safe in humans, but this phytochemical may offer a promising alternative to approved chemotherapies that are associated with harmful side effects.

Organosulfides also contribute to the antioxidant activity of shallots.10 These compounds have been studied in vitro for their ability to halt cell cycle progression, induce apoptosis, and inhibit angiogenesis of tumor cells.10 Similar effects have been observed in vivo, in which organosulfides have been linked to the inhibition of skin carcinogenesis and prevention of both carcinogen-induced colon cancer and carcinogen-induced esophageal tumors in rats.10 In a clinical trial involving the administration of a high dose of metabolized organosulfides (200 mg per day) over a five-year period, researchers observed a 22% lower incidence of all cancers and a 47.3% lower incidence of gastric cancer in these individuals compared to those who did not receive treatment.10 No adverse effects were observed with this high-dose treatment, highlighting the safety of these compounds. However, further research into the efficacy of these metabolites for cancer chemoprevention is needed.

Diabetes

Shallot as a whole food has been studied for its hypoglycemic activity. In a mouse study, juiced shallot bulbs were administered orally.20 The blood glucose levels of mice treated with shallot bulb juice were found to be 13.3% lower in the treatment group, compared to an increase of 1.57% in the control group and the end of the 15-day study period. Another animal study compared the glucose-lowering effects of a shallot bulb extract and the commonly prescribed blood glucose-lowering drug, metformin, in rats.21 The reduction of blood glucose observed with shallot bulb extract treatment was similar to that observed with metformin. In addition, treatment with the shallot extract significantly inhibited the metabolism of ingested carbohydrates and increased the cellular absorption of circulating blood glucose.

Another animal study compared the antioxidant and hypolipidemic properties of the shallot bulb extract and metformin in diabetic rats.22 In the group treated with the shallot bulb extract, the following increases in phase II antioxidant enzyme activity were observed compared to the control group: superoxide dismutase by 65%, glutathione peroxidase by 43%, and catalase by 55%. Metformin only slightly increased superoxide dismutase activity by 8% when compared to the control group. When comparing lipid profiles, the shallot bulb extract affected only very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL), which was reduced by 24% in comparison to the control group. Treatment with metformin was half as effective, reducing VLDL by only 12%.

Anti-Inflammatory

A high daily intake of flavonoids from fruits and vegetables is associated with an approximately 50% reduction in mortality from CVD compared to consuming low amounts.8 As quercetin is metabolized by the human body, it retains the ability to function as an anti-inflammatory agent and inhibits the expression of adhesion molecules on the surface of endothelial cells.5 (The presence of adhesion molecules on the surface of endothelial cells can contribute to vascular inflammation and the formation of atherosclerotic lesions.5) By reducing these effects and by reducing the damage caused by oxidative stress, flavonols can act as anti-inflammatory agents to further reduce the risk for inflammatory-related diseases such as certain types of cancer, diabetes, and CVD.23

Antimicrobial

Allium plants are well-known for their disease resistance, which has been attributed in part to the antimicrobial activity of saponins present within these plants.24 These same properties have also been applied to human pathogens. Exposure to antibiotic-resistant Mycobacterium tuberculosis to shallot bulb extract resulted in bacterial death.25 Organosulfides have specifically been studied for their anti-fungal properties against several genera of human pathogens including Candida, Cryptococcus, Trichophyton, Epidermophyton, and Microsporum.12 Organosulfides have also been shown to be effective against many bacteria, including Bacillus spp., Enterococcus spp., Escherichia coli, Helicobacter pylori, Salmonella Typhimurium, Staphylococcus aureus, and Vibrio cholera. Organosulfides have synergistic effects when combined with antibiotics and broad-spectrum fungicides.

Nutrient Profile26

Macronutrient Profile: (Per 1/4 cup chopped shallot [approx. 40 grams])

29 calories

1 g protein

6.72 g carbohydrate

0 g fat

Secondary Metabolites: (Per 1/4 cup chopped shallot [approx. 40 grams])

Good source of:

Vitamin B-6: 0.14 mg (7% DV)

Manganese: 0.12 mg (6% DV)

Vitamin C: 3.2 mg (5.3% DV)

Dietary Fiber: 1.3 g (5.2% DV)

Also, provides:

Potassium: 134 mg (3.8% DV)

Folate: 14 mcg (3.5% DV)

Iron: 0.5 mg (2.8% DV)

Phosphorus: 24 mg (2.4% DV)

Magnesium: 8 mg (2% DV)

Calcium: 15 mg (1.5% DV)

Thiamin: 0.02 mg (1.3% DV)

Trace amounts:

Riboflavin: 0.01 mg (0.6% DV)

Niacin: 0.08 mg (0.4% DV)

Vitamin K: 0.3 mcg (0.4% DV)

Vitamin A: 2 IU (0.04% DV)

Vitamin E: 0.02 mg (0.01% DV)

DV = Daily Value as established by the US Food and Drug Administration, based on a 2,000-calorie diet.

Recipe: Kumquat-Shallot Vinaigrette

Courtesy of Catherine Applegate

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon champagne or white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon brown or Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 5 kumquats

Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients except the kumquats in a jar or bowl.
  2. Grate the zest from two kumquats into the dressing. Halve and seed all kumquats, leaving the peel intact, and juice them into the dressing. Add the juiced kumquats into the jar or bowl.
  3. Mix all ingredients together with a whisk or by putting a lid on the jar and shaking it vigorously.
  4. Refrigerate in an airtight container for a few hours before use.
  5. Serve dressing over a roasted beet or fresh green salad, or use as a sauce over chicken, pork, or fish.

References

  1. Peterson J. The Allium species (onions, garlic, leeks, chives, and shallots). Staple Food Domest Plants Anim. 1987;2:249-271.
  2. Shallots over the world. Shallot.com. Available at: http://www.shallot.com/shallot-en/facts/shallots-over-the-world.aspx. Accessed January 25, 2017.
  3. Goldman IL. Onions and other Allium plants. Encycl Food Cult. 1994;(1963):8-14.
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Best Snacks For People With Type 2 Diabetes

Diabetes can lead to a wide range of symptoms including high blood pressure, circulation issues, kidney damage, blindness, and skin problems. But the right diet can help manage these symptoms.

Healthful snacks for people with diabetes can keep blood sugar in check. They may also help reduce the severity of diabetes symptoms such as high blood pressure.

Eating right can feel daunting, particularly at first, but people with diabetes can continue enjoying a wide range of snacks.

Foods high in protein

High-protein foods include nuts, legumes, animal products such as eggs and cheese, and alternatives to meat such as tofu and mushrooms.

[bowls of humous]
Hummus, which is made from chickpeas, makes an excellent protein-rich snack.

Healthful snacks for people with diabetes that are satisfying and rich in protein include:

  • roasted chickpeas
  • apples or celery with almond butter
  • almonds, walnuts, or pistachios
  • trail mix, particularly if it doesn’t contain sweetened ingredients
  • hard-boiled eggs
  • turkey or smoked salmon roll-ups
  • plain yogurt, particularly Greek yogurt
  • low-sodium cottage cheese mixed with fresh fruit
  • diced avocado and cherry tomatoes
  • snap peas or other raw veggies with hummus

Several of these options can work well as both sweet and savory snacks. Honey-roasted chickpeas provide a good balance of sweet and savory. Nuts can be paired with slices of cheese or dried fruit. Adding nuts or fruit can also make yogurt sweeter or more savory.

For the turkey roll-ups, people can use thinly sliced turkey or lettuce to replace the pita. Adding hummus and vegetables makes for a hearty snack.

High-fiber snacks

Vegetables, legumes, and nuts are excellent sources of fiber. Whole grains, oats, and some fruits are as well.

People with diabetes can try some of these high-fiber snacks:

[yogurt with granola and figs]
Plain yogurt with oats and fruit, such as figs, is a high-fiber snack that can help a person feel full longer.
  • smoothies blended with high-fiber, non-starchy vegetables
  • sprouted, whole-grain bread
  • whole-grain or bean pasta
  • oatmeal, mixed with fresh berries or sliced banana for additional sweetness and fiber
  • avocado slices
  • figs dipped into Greek yogurt
  • kale or spinach chips, which can satisfy a chip craving without the added sodium and fat
  • carrots dipped in hummus offer protein and fiber in a low-sodium snack
  • sweet potato foods, including baked sweet potato fries, cooked whole sweet potatoes, or sweet potato toast

To sub sweet potatoes for toast, people should toast thinly sliced sweet potato for three or four cycles and top with regular choices of toppings.

People who dislike spinach, kale, or wheat grass can hide their tastes by adding sweet or citrusy fruits such as oranges and mangoes to smoothies while still getting high-fiber nutrition.

Whole-grain bread and bean pasta are an excellent way to manage carbohydrate cravings. To increase their nutritional value, people can try adding almond butter to whole-grain bread or eating high-fiber bean pasta mixed with vegetables.

Snacks for diabetes: The basics

Healthful snacks for people with diabetes promote feelings of fullness, reducing any urges to snack on unhealthy packaged foods and sweets. There are healthful foods in every food group, so there’s no need to feel like diabetes means foregoing enjoyable food.

No single snack is perfect, and no food can provide perfect nutrition. That is why it is important to eat a wide variety of foods and to try a range of snacks.

Healthful snacks for people with diabetes will offer one or more of the following benefits:

High fiber

High-carbohydrate diets can elevate blood sugar levels. Fiber, which is a carbohydrate, is an exception to this rule, however.

[oats on a wooden spoon]
Oat bran is high in soluble fiber, which helps control blood sugar levels.

Fiber comes in two main varieties, both of which are good for people with diabetes.

Soluble fiber is found in high levels in oat bran, legumes, and some fruits. This type of fiber controls blood sugar levels and can lower cholesterol.

Insoluble fiber is found in high levels in wheat bran and many fruits and vegetables. It can relieve constipation and may reduce the risk of cancer.

Because fiber is digested slowly, it can increase feelings of fullness. This makes it an ideal snack component that can prevent overeating.

People with diabetes should consume 25 grams (g) or more of dietary fiber each day.

Low sugar

Sugary foods can elevate blood sugar and cause weight gain. Sweets such as cookies, cupcakes, and candy are obvious sources of high sugar.

People with diabetes also need to be mindful of carbohydrates, such as those found in bread, pasta, fruits, vegetables, and many other foods. Carbohydrates aren’t bad on their own, but keeping carb intake low can control blood sugar.

Drinks such as soda, sweetened fruit juices, and alcohol also contain high levels of sugar. Adding these beverages to an otherwise healthful snack can cause blood sugar levels to spike.

High protein

Protein supports feelings of fullness between meals. It is the body’s building block, supporting healthy muscles, organs, and skin.

While everyone needs protein in their diet, protein is particularly important for people who are physically active or who lift weights. The average person needs at least 0.36 g of protein per pound of body weight per day. This works out at 56 g a day for the average man and 46 g a day for the average woman.

However, research generally suggests that people should consume even more than these minimal amounts. A 2005 study found that women who increased their protein intake to 30 percent of total calories a day ate 441 fewer calories per day. They also lost weight during the 12 weeks. There was no follow-up to confirm if those women maintained the weight loss, however.

Increasing protein intake may support healthy weight loss and reduce unhealthy snacking.

Low sodium

[man pondering his options at the supermarket by stroking his chin]
A large percentage of sodium intake comes from salt added to processed foods, so reading the nutritional label is important.

A low-sodium diet can lower blood pressure, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and heart attack.

While reducing the use of table salt can help, as much as 75 percent of sodium intake comes from salt processed foods rather than adding salt to meals.

Portion control

No matter how healthful a snack is, eating too much of it can lead to unhealthy weight gain. This may disrupt blood sugar levels.

Consulting a snack’s nutrition facts makes it easier for people to eat a single serving. Nutrition facts also provide information about calorie, protein, sugar, and carbohydrate content.

Other tips for healthful snacking

Healthful snacking with diabetes is not just about choosing the right foods. Knowing which foods to avoid, how to manage cravings, and how fluid intake affects appetite is also vital.

The following strategies support healthful snacking with diabetes. People should aim to:

  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day. Thirst can feel like hunger, and drinking water can support feelings of fullness.
  • Limit consumption of sodas, sweetened juices, and other sweetened drinks. Coffee and tea are fine in moderation, but adding sugar, cream, and other flavoring agents can elevate blood sugar.
  • Limit processed and prepackaged foods. This is the simplest way to reduce sodium and sugar intake. Stick to the refrigerated sections of the grocery store and avoid most of the freezer sections.
  • Space meals evenly throughout the day to avoid blood sugar dips and spikes. It is preferable to eat five to seven small snacks or meals instead of three large meals.
  • Avoid fried foods, particularly fried meats.