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Category — Men’s health

Bacon and Sperm Quality

Bacon and sperm quality

The bacon world (yes, there is a bacon world) is buzzing with the results of a recent Harvard study that claims eating bacon lowers the quality of sperm.  As an outspoken nutritional defender of bacon, I had to put my two cents in here and caution people not to throw the bacon out with the bath water (hardy har har).  Most bacon on the market today is highly processed, full of nitrates, and sourced from pigs that have been raised in toxic confinement conditions requiring the use of antibiotics and fed a nutritionally deficient diet full of genetically modified and pesticide-rich soy.  There is no question in my mind that this type of bacon, and particularly the nitrates used to preserve it, would harm sperm quality.

However, if you are able to purchase bacon that is nitrate-free and sourced from healthy animals that have been raised on chemical-free pasture (grass), then your bacon may be supplying a shot of beneficial saturated fat, which is important for fertility.  Obviously you would need to also eat other foods that help normal cellular production and fertility such as vegetables and seafood.  That is just part of being a human being!  But “as part of a balanced breakfast”, bacon may still be a helpful thing to eat as long as it’s the right kind.

While doing some quick research to respond to this study, I came across an interesting tidbit on nitrates.  I believe it’s mostly the nitrates in processed meats (bacon, sausage, lunch meat) that are harmful to sperm because you need selenium (found in Brazil nuts and seafood) and vitamin E (found in olive oil and avocado) to detoxify nitrates.  Interestingly, selenium and vitamin E are both absolutely essential to producing healthy sperm.  I found an animal study which showed that testosterone levels (both in blood and semen) were significantly lowered in rabbits when their intake of nitrates was high…and I don’t want to know how they harvest semen from rabbits.  The interesting part of the study was that researchers were able to “significantly increase” testosterone and fertility – without reducing nitrate intake – by supplementing those animals with vitamin E, selenium, and vitamin C (found in citrus, broccoli, and organic red bell pepper).   My point here is not to say “keep eating low quality bacon, just take supplements with it” but to say that even if you have been eating nitrate-rich foods and are having fertility problems (I always say a prayer for Jared from Subway when I see those commercials and think of how many years he ate nitrate-filled cold cuts for a primary protein source), there is hope for you!  The human body is very smart and can recover from almost anything if we give it the right tools.  And I’m holding fast to the assertion that one of those tools is an occasional serving of high quality bacon.

October 16, 2013   8 Comments

Homemade Shave Oil Scrub

Tomorrow is Father’s Day!  Mr. Milk (my toddler – need to think of a new name for him since he’s been weaned for quite a while – at 2 years old Mr. Mischief seems appropriate) is at a birthday party with Daddy and Mr. Muscles (the newest addition to the family) is napping so I took this rare moment of peace and tranquility to whip together some homemade shave oil scrub to add to my husband’s shave-inspired Father’s Day gift.  We’ve recently gotten into reruns of Queer Eye on Netflix and he is especially intrigued by their shaving advice so I thought to get him some aftershave in his favorite fragrance which would be a true classic Father’s Day gift from his two boys.  Below is the recipe for the shave scrub I made just now in less than 3 minutes from ingredients I already had in the house!  Now he can exfoliate once a week before shaving just like the guys on tv tell him to.

The ingredients you need are:

  • Exfoliant – I used fine grind Celtic salt that I had in the cupboard.  Finely ground salt or sugar are the best because they dissolve and don’t clog your sink drain but ground oatmeal, almonds, or flax are good also.
  • Oil – I used coconut oil (of course!) but olive oil, almond oil, jojoba, or avocado would work.  Really almost any oil works, just don’t use a janky oil like canola or vegetable oil or something that will become rancid like cod liver oil or flax oil unless you like the smell of dead fish on your man!
  • Fragrance – I used jasmine essential oil to go with the coconut and appeal to my husband’s Hawaiian DNA.  Originally I was going to use peppermint oil but it was in the bedroom with my napping infant and there was no way I was going to go in there to retrieve it!  You can use any essential oil or combo of fragrances that you like.
  • A container – I had a nice glass flip-top container that I picked up at one of those organizational stores for $3.  A small glass mason jar would have worked also.

You want a ratio of 3 parts exfoliant to 1 part oil.  I had limited time so I just eyeballed it and filled the jar halfway with Celtic salt and then added about 1/3 that volume of coconut oil.

For a traditional body scrub the consistency should be like wet sand, but for shave scrub I wanted to add a little more oil to act as a moisturizer so the consistency was more liquid.  Safety note: don’t forget that this is oil so if you use it in the shower the floor will get slippery!

Once you have the scrub to desired consistency, add a few drops of your essential oil for fragrance and you’re all done!  Father’s Day gift complete – and it was so easy that our sweet boys could have almost made it themselves :)

June 16, 2012   No Comments

Sperm Series: Scary Soy

Lately, I have been receiving an unusual number of inquiries regarding sperm health through my Ask Jessica Q&A service.  I’m not sure what it is about the new year that makes men so urgently concerned about sperm health, but I’m happy to help answer their questions!  I have received so many questions that I thought I should start a series of blogs about sperm health to help those of you out there with the same questions who might be too shy to ask.

One of the most alarming things I have been finding in my sperm research (I’ve been up to my elbows in sperm research lately, thanks to you readers) is the way that sperm interacts with soy.  It keeps on coming up so I thought I would focus on soy for the first installment of this blog series.  Here are a few facts, supported by research, that will have you hiding from the scary soy monster!

  • Soy exposure beginning in infancy and continuing through adolescence causes males to have “significantly higher” levels of estrogen and “significantly lower” levels of testicular testosterone than in control groups.  While the study supporting this was done on rats to determine whether soy exposure changed the physical makeup of their reproductive systems (it didn’t), it is still alarming to me to think of how many little boys start out on soy infant formula, then transition to soy as filler in their school lunch meat – all in the name of good health.
  • Foods that help to improve sperm health include egg yolks and raw (or at least non-homogenized) milk, while soy was found to induce “sublethal” damage to sperm, meaning it doesn’t directly kill sperm, but it gets pretty darn close!  An interesting study was done on ram sperm (really, what could be more manly than sperm from a ram?) which found that freezing sperm with egg yolk or milk protein made it more functional when thawed, while freezing it with soy lecithin created “sublethal damages that seriously affect sperm functionality”.  One more reason to choose creme brulee over soy ice cream for a romantic baby making dessert!  As if you needed a reason…
  • Just a few months ago, a study was done in Japan which found that increased intake of soy and coffee (oh no!) was a “significant contributor to poorer semen quality”.  Other non-dietary factors identified as sperm killers (kind of like Ghostface Killah but different) in the study included exposure to plastics, ingestion of pesticides, and increased levels of cadmium from cigarette smoke.

It’s important to keep in mind the fact that the body can usually deal with soy if it is only eaten occasionally and in small amounts.  The effects of soy are not the same in everyone – some men suffer extreme hormonal changes when eating even small amounts of soy, while some vegan men who use soy as their primary source of protein have no problems with fertility and have several healthy children to prove it.  If you do decide to eat soy, please be sure it is not genetically modified (label would say something like “GMO-free”) and try to stick to fermented forms of soy such as tempeh, miso, or natto over highly processed forms such as tofu.

January 6, 2012   No Comments

Starting the Year with Thankfulness

As the new year approaches, many people start focusing on what is to come and putting together their lists of resolutions and other things they want to do differently in the coming year.  I personally like to take a moment at the end of the year and make a list of things that made me feel thankful over the past year.  I find it to be a calming and encouraging ritual during the craziness of the end-of-year holiday season.  While there are many things I’m thankful for personally, this is not my personal musing blog – it’s my nutrition blog!  So I thought I’d make a list of a few things in the world of health and nutrition that made me feel thankful this year.  Hopefully they make you feel the same!

I am thankful:

  • That the human body is much smarter than we realize and it is always looking out for our best interest.  One example of this over the past year was learning that candida (the type of yeast that grows in the body) eats heavy metals.  So, for people who have stubborn candida problems that won’t respond to anything else, sometimes the body is allowing the candida to grow in excess because that is helping to relieve their body’s burden of heavy metals such as mercury (and in some cases, copper).  People in this situation may benefit from having a mineral profile test done by their doctor to see if they have an excess of toxic metals and/or a deficiency of healthy minerals and how to deal with it.  This knowledge helped me give hope to a few clients who were struggling with candida and angry at their bodies for letting it overgrow!
  • That a fetus feeds off of the yolk sac for the first few weeks of life, which means it gets the nutrition it needs (as long as mom was building up her own nutrition prior to pregnancy) and is not as directly affected by what its mother eats the way it is later in pregnancy.  This is such an amazing adaptation that I am so very thankful for because in those first few weeks of life a woman may not know she is pregnant and may decide to go on an exciting party date with her husband while on vacation in California because their toddler is with grandma for the evening, and maybe the restaurant they ate at had a $5 martini special and maybe she had too many lemon drop martinis and then found out a few weeks later that she was not alone in her body!  Not that this ever happened to me personally in the last 6 months…
  • That plastics are being recognized as a significant source of health problems for men, women, and children – especially those containing Bis-phenol A and phthalates.  Maybe this seems like something to be sad about, but I am actually thankful that the knowledge is getting out there and more and more people are making changes to avoid plastic exposure.
  • That the FDA recently conceded that raw milk can be transported across state lines for personal consumption.  This doesn’t mean raw milk is becoming legal for sale, but it is quite encouraging to finally have the FDA not persecuting people for ridiculous things such as drinking milk from their own healthy cow.  Yes, there are many other things I am not happy with the FDA for approving (Splenda, aspartame, pesticides, the list goes on) but this is one small victory.
  • That the CDC is working with hospitals and taking steps to encourage women to breastfeed their babies at least through the first 6 months of life.  This is still much less than the World Health Organization’s recommendation of 2  years or more, but it’s an encouraging step!

There are many other things I could list, but these are the first that come to mind.  When you have a minute, I encourage you to make your own list of things over the past year that you are thankful for and tuck it away somewhere – it’s always fun to come across lists like that later on and read them again.  It’s also a great exercise that acts kind of like a mental “feng shui” treatment – clearing out the clutter of stress and worry and helping your mind focus on the things that make you happy.  I have found that being thankful for what I have helps to bring more things into my life to be thankful for.  Happy new year!

December 30, 2011   1 Comment

5 Healthy Last-Minute Gift Ideas

For those of you who have last-minute holiday gifts to take care of, here are a few of my favorites.  They can all be purchased online so you don’t have to fight the crowds.  And if you happen to live on an island in the middle of the Pacific or some other remote place that won’t receive your shipped items before the desired date, you can always cut out a photo of the item and tape it into a card with a note saying it will arrive soon.  Happy holidays!

 

Nothing says “Happy holidays, I’m sorry for being a headache” like the gift of sinus cleansing with a nifty green or blue neti pot.

For the creative, health-conscious chef in your life, a copy of Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. This is my favorite cookbook and even when I’m not cooking I like to read through the informational tidbits in the sidebars of the book.

College students, bachelors, and busy people who tend to eat on the go can all benefit from a basic set of glass storage containers like the ones pictured above by Pyrex.  What seems like a boring gift can be spiced up with the knowledge that you are saving the recipient from countless amounts of exposure to hormone-altering plastic compounds found in most other food storage containers.  So it’s actually an exciting and scandalous gift for their reproductive health – a must-have for every bachelorette party registry!

 

 

 

 

A very creative and healthy gift idea is to buy someone a membership into a CSA (community supported agriculture) program in their area.  Just visit the Local Harvest CSA page and type in the desired zip code to find a nearby CSA.  Most CSA programs function on a weekly or monthly basis and make boxes containing a variety of seasonal produce available to their members.  Depending on the CSA programs available in your area, you can buy a one-week trial membership for $15-20 or a longer membership if desired.  This type of gift is better for someone with some kitchen experience (especially with obscure vegetables).  Weekly boxes of leafy greens, kohlrabi, radishes, and spaghetti squash might be a little overwhelming for the novice cook!

 

For the sparkling water lover in your life, try this soda maker with glass carafe.  It’s a little pricey up front, but in the long run it will save money and space in your recycling bin (I suggest buying this for someone in your house so you can reap the benefits also!).  If you need more reasons to make your own sparkling water at home rather than buying it from a company, just watch the documentary Flow and see the impact bottled water has on the environment, indigenous cultures, and our health.  After I watched that movie I had no choice but to give up my beloved boxes of San Pellegrino water from Costco!

December 20, 2011   No Comments

Finally, a Purpose for Ridiculously Tiny Crockpots!

As a person who can never turn down free kitchen gadgets from friends who are moving or trying to get rid of clutter, I have assembled a collection of those 16 ounce “Little Dipper” crockpots for ants that come free with the normal size crockpots.  Each time I accept another free tiny crockpot, it is wrapped in the original packaging, which means that my friend never used it in all the years they had it in their possession.  Despite this, I get visions in my head of an amazing Mexican-themed dinner party with several flavors of homemade cheese dip being kept warm in the little baby crockpots, all snuggled in a row.  Well, after 2 years of storing a family of tiny crockpots still in their original packaging in my cabinet, I have finally come up with a daily use for them – making oatmeal!

My husband leaves for work pretty early and I always want to send him off with a warm breakfast (especially during the winter when it gets down below 70 degrees here in Honolulu at night – freezing!) but there’s no way that this pregnant lady with a toddler is going to get up early enough to make something fresh for my hard working honey.  He really loves oatmeal and it’s actually quite a healthy and filling breakfast if it’s prepared properly by soaking before cooking to reduce levels of phytic acid (a nutrient blocker that makes grain difficult to digest).  Here’s what I do:

  • Place 1/4 to 1/2 cup of oats in the crockpot and add twice as much water.  I like to use steel cut Irish oatmeal but just get whatever you can find at the store that seems the least processed.  If you are a gluten-free person make sure the oats are labeled as “gluten free” because many times, oats and gluten-containing grains are processed on the same equipment so there is cross-contamination.    Gauge how much you soak based on how much cooked oatmeal you want – using 1/4 cup of oats will expand to about a cup cooked, and 1/2 cup will expand to about 2 cups.  If you have time, let this soak for a few hours.  I like to put this on before I make dinner since I’m in the kitchen anyway.  Once in a while I don’t have time for this step so I skip right to the next one and my husband seems to survive okay!
  • After the initial soak, dump out this water and then add about 3 parts of water to 1 part of soaked oats.  You can also add a dash of buttermilk or whey if you have it to help make the oats even more digestible.  I add a pinch of Celtic salt at this stage to increase the mineral content, and a dash of cinnamon so the kitchen smells warm and comforting when my husband wakes up to eat.
  • Plug in your tiny crockpot and let cook overnight!
  • In the morning, mix with any toppings that make you happy to be awake: butter from grassfed cows, coconut milk, minimally processed cow’s milk or cream, chopped raw nuts, raisins, dried cranberries, raw honey, shredded unsweetened coconut, chopped dates, apple sauce, protein powder – whatever your heart desires.  If you’re more of a savory person, you can also mix an egg and some bacon or sausage in for a salty pudding reminiscent of a big hairy Irish man.
  • Fill crockpot with water to soak so it’s easy to clean up and use for the next day, unless you’re like me and have several tiny crockpots that can be switched out so there’s no hurry to clean up the used one and it can just sit on the counter taking up space and waiting to be washed.  Not that I ever do that.

If any of you readers out there have uses for tiny crockpots (other than cheese dip, I figured that one out already) please share them in the comments section!  I love finding new and exciting uses for all my kitchen gadgets.

December 7, 2011   2 Comments