kris ulland

Your Nutrition Partner

The principle endocrine glands are the thyroid, parathyroid, pituitary, pineal, hypothalamus, thymus, testes (in men), ovaries (in women), and the pancreas. They are scattered all over the body but work together closely. These glands are mostly tiny and altogether weigh no more than a few ounces but they are tremendously important to your happiness and well-being.

Hormones are produced by these glands and sent into the bloodstream to various tissues in the body. Signals sent to those tissues to tell them what they are supposed to do. When the glands do not produce the right amount of hormones, diseases develop that can affect many aspects of life.

An endocrine gland is one that secretes its products directly into the bloodstream, as opposed to exocrine glands, which secrete onto the surface (like sweat glands onto the skin or salivary glands into the mouth).

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped endocrine gland located in the base of your neck. It is about 2-inches long and lies in front of your throat below the prominence of thyroid cartilage sometimes called the Adam’s apple. The thyroid has two sides called lobes that lie on either side of your windpipe, and is usually connected by a strip of thyroid tissue known as an isthmus. Some people do not have an isthmus, and instead have two separate thyroid lobes. The thyroid:

  • Controls the rate at which cells burn fuel for energy
  • Speeds digestion, liver function, GI motility and nerve impulses
  • Supports mental acuity and memory
  • Supports serotonin synthesis (serotonin is the key hormone that stabilizes our mood, feelings of well-being, and happiness)
  • Supports heart health by setting heart rate tempo and regulating cholesterol
  • Supports breathing
  • Supports central and peripheral nervous systems
  • Helps maintain body weight
  • Helps maintain muscle strength
  • Helps regulate menstrual cycles
  • Helps regulate body temperature

The thyroid gland uses iodine from the foods you eat to make two main hormones:

  • Triiodothyronine (T3)
  • Thyroxine (T4)

It is important that T3 and T4 levels are neither too high nor too low. Two glands in the brain, the hypothalamus and the pituitary, communicate to maintain T3 and T4 balance.

The hypothalamus produces TSH Releasing Hormone (TRH) that signals the pituitary to tell the thyroid gland to produce more or less of T3 and T4 by either increasing or decreasing the release of a hormone called thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH).

  • When T3 and T4 levels are low in the blood, the pituitary gland releases more TSH to tell the thyroid gland to produce more thyroid hormones.
  • If T3 and T4 levels are high, the pituitary gland releases less TSH to the thyroid gland to slow production of these hormones.

T3 and T4 travel in your bloodstream to reach almost every cell in the body. The hormones regulate the speed with which the cells/metabolism work. For example, T3 and T4 regulate your heart rate and how fast your intestines process food. So if T3 and T4 levels are low, your heart rate may be slower than normal, and you may have constipation or weight gain. If T3 and T4 levels are high, you may have a rapid heart rate and diarrhea or weight loss.

Listed below are other symptoms of too much T3 and T4 in your body (hyperthyroidism):

  • Anxiety
  • Irritability or moodiness
  • Nervousness, hyperactivity
  • Sweating or sensitivity to high temperatures
  • Hand trembling (shaking)
  • Hair loss
  • Missed or light menstrual periods

The following are other symptoms that may indicate too little T3 and T4 in your body (hypothyroidism):

  • Trouble sleeping
  • Tiredness and fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Dry skin and hair
  • Depression
  • Sensitivity to cold temperature
  • Frequent, heavy periods
  • Joint and muscle pain

Gluten, along with other food sensitivities cause inflammation which can cause thyroid dysfunction. Gluten causes autoimmune responses in many people and can be responsible for Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, a common autoimmune thyroid condition. Approximately 30 percent of the people with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis have an autoimmune reaction to gluten.

Gluten sensitivity can cause your gastrointestinal system to malfunction, so foods you eat aren’t completely digested, often leading to a leaky gut syndrome. These food particles can then be absorbed into your bloodstream, where your body misidentifies them as antigens, or substances that shouldn’t be there, and then produces antibodies against them.

These antigens are similar to the molecules in your thyroid gland. Because of this, your body accidentally attacks your thyroid. This is known as an autoimmune reaction, in which your body actually attacks itself.

Testing can be done for gluten and other food sensitivities, which involves measuring your IgG and IgA antibodies.

Virtually thousands of scientific studies now link soy foods to malnutrition, digestive stress, immune system weakness, cognitive decline, reproductive disorders, infertility, and a host of other problems, on top of the damage it causes your thyroid. Soy phytoestrogens are potent anti-thyroid agents that cause hypothyroidism and may cause thyroid cancer. In infants, consumption of soy formula has been linked to autoimmune thyroid disease.

Properly or traditionally fermented, organic, and unprocessed soy products such as natto, miso, and tempeh are fine. It’s the unfermented soy products that you should stay away from, like soy meat, soy milk, soy cheese, etc.

Bromines are a common endocrine disruptor. Because bromide is also a halide, it competes for the same receptors that are used in the thyroid gland to capture iodine. This will inhibit thyroid hormone production resulting in a low thyroid state.

When you ingest or absorb bromine, it displaces iodine, and this iodine deficiency leads to an increased risk for cancer of the breast, thyroid gland, ovary, and prostate. In addition to psychiatric and thyroid problems, bromine toxicity can manifest as skin rashes and severe acne, loss of appetite and abdominal pain, fatigue, a metallic taste in the mouth, and cardiac arrhythmias.

Bromines can be found in:

  • Pesticides, specifically methyl bromide, used mainly on strawberries, predominantly in California
  • Plastics, such as those used to make computers
  • Bakery goods and some flours often contain a “dough conditioner” called potassium bromate.
  • Soft drinks, including Mountain Dew, Gatorade, Sun Drop, Squirt, Fresca, and other citrus-flavored sodas (in the form of brominated vegetable oils)
  • Medications such as Atrovent inhaler, Atrovent Nasal Spray, Pro-Banthine (for ulcers), and anesthesia agents
  • Fire retardants like polybromo diphenyl ethers or PBDEs is used in fabrics, carpets, upholstery, and mattresses

Stress is one of the worst thyroid offenders. Your thyroid function is intimately tied to your adrenal function, which is intimately affected by how you handle stress. Many of us are almost always under chronic stress, which results in increased adrenaline and cortisol levels, and elevated cortisol has a negative impact on thyroid function. Thyroid hormone levels drop during stressful times, which is when you actually need it the most.

When stress becomes chronic, the flood of stress chemicals, adrenaline and cortisol produced by your adrenal glands, interfere with your thyroid hormones, causing a whole gamut of health-related issues like obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and/or unstable blood sugar levels.  The stress of your body dealing with pollutants such as petrochemicals, organochlorines, pesticides, and chemical food additives negatively affect thyroid function.

Learn next week how to support thyroid health.

Hazelnuts

Hazelnuts have been harvested from the Black Sea region of Turkey for at least 2,300 years. Turkey is still the world’s primary hazelnut exporter. Today, they’re also grown in the U.S. Pacific Northwest.

In ancient times, the hazelnut was used as a medicine and a tonic. It was mentioned in Chinese manuscripts that date back as far as 2838 B.C.

The hazelnut blooms and pollinates in the middle of the winter. After pollination, the flower stays dormant until June, when the nut begins to form. During the summer months, the nuts mature, changing from green to shades of hazel. Hazelnuts are typically harvested in late September or October after they fall to the ground.

Hazelnuts are also called filbert, named by French settlers in England. Filberts were named after St. Philibert, because his day (August 22) regularly coincided with ripening dates of the nuts. The English later changed the name to hazelnut, and in 1981, the Oregon Filbert Commission decided to promote the name as the production in the U.S. expanded.

Tree nuts are some of the most nutrient-rich snacks you can add to your diet. And, although there is some reluctance to eat nuts due to fear over their fat and calories, with a proper serving sizes, nuts can provide filling protein, fiber, unsaturated fats, and many other important vitamins and minerals. Hazelnuts contain compounds that can battle heart disease and diabetes, boost brain function, and even help you lose weight.

Hazelnuts are a particularly versatile nut because of all of the different ways they can be used – raw, roasted, or in a paste. They’re commonly found added to chocolate or in Nutella. Hazelnut flavoring is commonly used for coffee and pastries, as well as a topping and garnish for desserts and savory dishes.

One ounce (28 grams, or about 20 nuts) of hazelnuts contain about:

  • 176 calories
  • 4.7 grams carbohydrates
  • 4.2 grams protein
  • 17 grams fat
  • 2.7 grams fiber
  • 1.7 milligrams manganese (86 percent DV)
  • 0.5 milligram copper (24 percent DV)
  • 4.2 milligrams vitamin E (21 percent DV)
  • 0.2 milligram thiamine (12 percent DV)
  • 45.6 milligrams magnesium (11 percent DV)
  • 0.2 milligram vitamin B6 (8 percent DV)
  • 31.6 micrograms folate (8 percent DV)
  • 81.2 milligrams phosphorus (8 percent DV)
  • 1.3 milligrams iron (7 percent DV)
  • 4 micrograms vitamin K (5 percent DV)
  • 190 milligrams potassium (5 percent DV)
  • 0.7 milligram zinc (5 percent DV)
  • 2.7 grams of dietary fiber ( 1 percent DV)

Hazelnuts also contain vitamin C, niacin and calcium, vitamin B6, folate, phosphorus, potassium and zinc.

Additionally, they are a rich source of mono and polyunsaturated fats and contain a good amount of omega-6 and omega-9 fatty acids, such as oleic acid. However, hazelnuts contain phytic acid, which has been shown to impair the absorption of some minerals, like iron and zinc, from the nuts. Soaking them for a couple of hours, rinsing and drying them on a low temperature in the oven will mitigate the effects of the phytic acid.

The most abundant antioxidants in hazelnuts are known as phenolic compounds. They are proven to help decrease blood cholesterol and inflammation. They are also beneficial for heart health and protecting against cancer.

The majority of the antioxidants present are concentrated in the skin of the nut. However, this antioxidant content decreases after the roasting process. I recommended eating these nuts with the skin but most recipes ask that you remove them. An 8-week study showed that eating hazelnuts, with or without the skin, significantly decreased oxidative stress compared to not eating hazelnuts.

Hazelnuts also have the highest content of proanthocyanidins (PACs), a class of polyphenols that give foods like red wine and dark chocolate their “astringent mouth feel” compared to other nuts. Some test-tube and animal studies have shown that proanthocyanidins may help prevent and treat some types of cancers.

Eating tree nuts fights heart disease. There are a handful of vitamins and minerals found in hazelnuts that promote heart health. Aside from being a great source of fiber, they contain a large amount of monounsaturated fatty acids, which help to reduce LDL cholesterol and increase HDL cholesterol.

Studies conducted by the American Society for Nutrition and published in the European Journal of Nutrition showed that diets high in hazelnuts and other tree nuts resulted in lowered LDL cholesterol, reduced inflammation and improved blood lipids. The American Heart Association also recommends that, for optimum heart health, the majority of the daily fats that individuals should consume should be monounsaturated fats, which are the same found in hazelnuts.

In hazelnuts, the high concentration of antioxidants and healthy fats may increase antioxidant potential and lower cholesterol levels in the blood. One month-long study observed 21 people with high cholesterol levels who consumed 18 – 20% of their total daily calorie intake from hazelnuts. The results showed that cholesterol, triglycerides and bad LDL cholesterol levels were reduced. Participants also experienced improvements to artery health and inflammation markers in the blood.

A  review of nine studies including over 400 people also saw reductions in bad LDL and total cholesterol levels in those who ate hazelnuts, while good HDL cholesterol and triglycerides remained unchanged.

Because hazelnuts also contain a considerable amount of magnesium, which helps to regulate the balance of calcium and potassium. Magnesium is also crucial to controlling blood pressure.

Thanks to hazelnuts’ high number of antioxidants, they’re important cancer-fighting foods. Hazelnuts provide 21% of DV of Vitamin E in a one ounce serving. Studies have shown vitamin E’s capabilities for decreasing risk for prostate, breast, colon and lung cancers, while also preventing the growth of mutations and tumors. Vitamin E has also shown possibilities of aiding in multi-drug resistance reversal and cancer treatments.

The vitamin E in hazelnuts can help maintain healthy skin and hair by improving moisture and elasticity. Vitamin E’s antioxidant capabilities can help prevent damage from UV rays or cigarette smoke. It also helps improve circulation and reduce inflammation. Vitamin E is has been shown to help treat scars, acne and wrinkles as well, thanks to its ability to regenerate skin cells.

Higher levels of vitamin E coincide with less cognitive decline as individuals age and can also have a major role in preventing and treating diseases of the mind like Alzheimer’s, dementia and Parkinson’s. Manganese has been proven to play a major role in the brain activity connected to cognitive function as well.

In other studies, manganese complexes were found to exhibit potential anti tumor activity. An ounce of hazelnuts provides 86% DV in one ounce. Research conducted by the School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at Jiangsu University in China and published in the Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry found that manganese complex could be a “potential anti-tumor complex to target the mitochondria.”

Hazelnuts boost your metabolism. Thiamine (12% DV) plays a major part in maintaining a healthy metabolism. It helps convert carbs into glucose, which is the source of energy that the body uses to operate. Thiamine also has a hand in producing new red blood cells, which are optimum in maintaining energy.

The protein, fiber and high fat composition of hazelnuts helps you feel full, which prevents overeating and keeps you satisfied for longer.

Hazelnuts are full of elements that can improve brain and cognitive function and help prevent degenerative diseases later in life. The high levels of vitamin E, manganese, thiamine, folate, and fatty acids in hazelnuts can help keep your brain sharp.

Thiamine (12% DV) is commonly referred to as the “nerve vitamin” and plays a role in nerve function throughout the body, which plays a key role in cognitive function. It’s also why thiamine deficiency can be damaging to the brain. The high levels of fatty-acids and protein help the nervous system and also help to combat depression. In a recent study published in Nutritional Neuroscience, hazelnuts were shown to be able to improve healthy aging, improve memory and lessen anxiety.

In a 2015 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, an interesting result occurred regarding how diabetics reacted when supplementing their daily diets with tree nuts. Like other studies, it was concluded that individuals introduced to heightened nut consumption in their diets experienced lowered cholesterol levels. The surprising variable was that higher nut doses provided a stronger effect on diabetics, doing more to lower blood lipids than for non-diabetics.

Diabetics with high cholesterol should consider adding hazelnuts and other tree nuts to their daily diets. Proven to improve glucose intolerance, hazelnuts’ high levels of manganese are also helpful in the fight against diabetes when used as a diet supplement.

Interestingly, eating 60 grams of hazelnuts every day for 12 weeks helped reduce inflammatory markers in overweight and obese people. A study examined how eating hazelnuts affected inflammation. It showed that eating 40 grams of hazelnuts may reduce the inflammatory response in healthy people.

Oleic acid, which is the main fatty acid in hazelnuts, has been shown to have beneficial effects on insulin sensitivity. A two-month study showed that a diet rich in oleic acid significantly reduced fasting blood sugar and insulin levels.

How to Buy

Hazelnuts can be purchased most anywhere nuts are sold, including grocery stores in the nut and grain section, as well as in health food shops and gourmet food shops, especially those specializing in baking supplies. Because they have a long shelf, filberts can be bought in bulk, then stored in small airtight packages in a cool, dry place. However, make sure the nuts you are purchasing have been recently toasted or harvested, especially if you are buying shelled filberts.

You can purchase hazelnuts raw, roasted, whole, sliced or ground.

How to Store

Shelled, toasted hazelnuts can be kept in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for six to 12 months but should be tasted periodically to make sure they have not gone rancid. Hazelnuts in the shell can also be stored in the same way for up to a year. Both shelled and unshelled filberts can be placed in airtight bags and stored in the freezer for a year or more.

How to Cook

Hazelnuts can be used in many different ways – in cakes, cookies, and chocolate production, and in soups, salads, and other savory dishes. They can also be used to make a high-quality finishing oil, or as a flavoring for coffee and other beverages. They make tasty ice cream too.

Hazelnuts are excellent toasted and served before a meal with hors d’oeuvres. Crack and toasted filberts sprinkled over sweet potato soup are delicious.

If you are starting with whole filberts in the shell, the shell will need to be cracked and the nuts removed. If you have to take off the skin for a recipe, this can be done in one of two ways: Place the shelled filberts on a baking sheet and heat in a preheated 300 F oven for about 15 minutes, then rub them with a damp towel. Alternatively, the husks can be removed by blanching: Add baking soda to boiling water, add the filberts, boil for about 3 to 4 minutes, then test one by running it under cold water and gently rubbing it. If the skin doesn’t slip off easily, boil them a bit longer. Remember that the highest concentration of antioxidants is in the skin.

Peeled hazelnuts can be ground to make flour for baking or to make hazelnut butter, a nutritious spread.

Hazelnuts are delicious coated with chocolate or spices, like cinnamon or cayenne.

4-Ingredient Nutella

Minimalist Baker/ Photo credit: Minimalist Baker

20 - 2 tablespoon servings

Ingredients

  • 3 cups raw or roasted unsalted hazelnuts
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 2/3 cup dairy-free dark chocolate – If you don’t want to use melted chocolate, sub cocoa powder. Once the nut butter has formed, add 3 Tbsp cacao or unsweetened cocoa powder, vanilla, and sea salt and puree. Once incorporated, add 1-2 Tbsp maple syrup.

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and add hazelnuts to a baking sheet in a single layer. If raw, roast for a total of 12-15 minutes. If already roasted, roast for 8-10 minutes just to warm the natural oils and loosen the skins. This will make it easier to blend into butter.
  • Remove from oven and let cool slightly. Then transfer to a large kitchen towel and use your hands to roll the nuts around and remove most of the skins. You want to get as much as possible off because it yields a creamier Nutella. But it doesn’t have to be perfect.
  • Leaving excess skin behind, add hazelnuts to a food processor or high-speed blender (a high-speed blender yields best results). Blend on low until a butter is formed – about 8-10 minutes total – scraping down sides as needed.
  • In the meantime, heat the chocolate over a double boiler or in the microwave in 30 second increments. Set aside.
  • Once the hazelnut butter is creamy and smooth, add the vanilla and salt and blend well. Then add melted chocolate a little at a time and blend again until well incorporated. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed, adding more salt or vanilla if desired.
  • If your Nutella isn’t sweet enough, add stevia or 1-2 Tbsp maple syrup.
  • NOTE: The more liquid sweetener you add the firmer/stiffer the Nutella will get, so add sparingly.
  • Transfer to a clean jar and store at room temperature for everyday use for 2-3 weeks or more.

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