Health Tips: Sowing the seeds of health

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“The Demon Seed,” “The Dragon Seed,” “The Seed of Chucky” -- based on those movie titles you might think seeds were a menace to us all. Quite the opposite. Seeds contain a bounty of nutrients that fight disease and help prevent premature aging. Here are some seeds you might not have tried yet. (Recipes and more info for these are on www.DoctorOz.com and in Dr. Mike’s “What to Eat When Cookbook.”)

-- Pumpkin seeds: 1 ounce delivers 7 grams of protein; 18% of your recommended dietary intake for vitamin K, 33% for phosphorus, 42% for manganese, 37% for magnesium, 23% for zinc; plus 6 grams of omega-6s and 7 grams of polyunsaturated fats. They boost your nutrition and fight inflammation.

-- Flaxseed (pre-ground or grind at home) delivers the most ALA omega-3 fatty acids of any plant source in the North American diet, as well as a good dose of lignans, a phytoestrogen that’s linked to a reduced risk of osteoporosis, heart disease and cancer. It also has soluble fiber, which boosts digestion, lowers lousy LDL cholesterol, stabilizes blood sugar and lowers the risk of heart disease.

-- Plus: Hempseed (pre-ground or grind at home) delivers all nine essential amino acids -- the building blocks of proteins. Sunflower seeds are high in healthy fats, protein, fiber and a super-source of vitamin E (almost 20 mg in 3 ounces). Chia seeds are super-charged with healthy omega-3 fatty acids loaded with 5 grams of fiber per tablespoon, and contain iron, calcium and zinc. We love seeds.

Artificial sweeteners turn bacteria in your gut against you

Victor Lustig was a true con man, offering fake shares in fake businesses (Al Capone fell for it), counterfeiting money and even selling the Eiffel Tower. But all those artificial enterprises just ended him up in Alcatraz, where he died in 1947.

Turns out that you all have been equally conned by artificial sweeteners -- they offer the illusion of sugary flavors with none of the health hazards, but it’s just make-believe.

We have known for a while that the sugar substitutes can fuel your sweet tooth and cause the body to crank up your sugar craving. But until U.K. researchers published their recent study in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, it wasn’t known just how much damage saccharin, sucralose and aspartame can do to the lining of the walls of your intestine -- letting harmful gut bacteria seep into your blood stream, congregate in your lymph nodes, liver and spleen and put you at risk for serious infections.

All it took was the equivalent of two cans of diet soda for the researchers to see that artificial sweeteners significantly increased harmful bacteria’s (E. coli and E. faecalis) stickiness to cells in the lining of the gut. That leads to increased formation of biofilms and opened up entryways for the bacteria to move throughout the body.

The bottom line: Cultivate a taste for the natural sweetness in foods like 100% whole grains, fruits, vegetables and spices. Just like vaping is not a healthy alternative to cigarettes, artificial sweeteners are not the way to avoid sugary foods.

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