Q: A reader asked about nonprescription help for gout. I have it, and tried your tart cherry juice recommendation. That didn’t work for me.
Previously, a reader suggested celery seeds. I find that it helps a lot. I take about one-quarter teaspoon a day with my other supplements. I also limit sugar and refined carbs. If I eat a sugary dessert, I can feel it very quickly in my gouty big toes!
A: While celery seed isn’t as well known as tart cherries, it does have an ancient reputation as a gout remedy.
We have found some recent research establishing its ability to lower uric acid and block xanthine oxidase in rodents (Molecular Medicine Reports, November 2019). Elevated uric acid contributes to gout flare-ups. Another study in mice found that combining parsley and celery extracts works even better to control the effects of gout (Scientific Reports, June 11, 2020).
You are smart to avoid sugar. A diet rich in fructose-containing foods or beverages is a risk factor for gout (American Family Physician, Nov. 1, 2020).
Q: Are there any studies on the herbs and spices used in Mediterranean countries? I have recently started cooking ethnically Mediterranean and find the food to be full of flavor.
I know turmeric has health benefits, and cinnamon is good for you. What about cumin, cardamom, coriander, saffron, tarragon, parsley, cilantro, thyme, oregano and rosemary? Will I get the same benefits if I simply adapt a typical American diet to include more beans, fruits and veggies, cook with olive oil and substitute fish for beef? Or do I need all those spices to affect my health, too?
A: That is a wonderful question. So far as we can tell, no one has done a study comparing Mediterranean-style diets with and without spices. However, Italian researchers have reviewed the research on typical Mediterranean foods and spices like olive oil, onion, garlic, saffron, rosemary, oregano, hot pepper, hazelnuts and pistachio (European Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, Jan. 15, 2020). They found that bioactive components in these products help lower insulin resistance, improve lipid levels, increase blood vessel flexibility and reduce inflammation.
You can learn more about such herbs, complete with research references and recipes, in our book “Spice Up Your Health: How Everyday Kitchen Herbs & Spices Can Lengthen & Strengthen Your Life.” You will find it in the books section of the store at www.PeoplesPharmacy.com.
Q: My cholesterol is elevated, and my doctor has given me a list of foods to avoid. One of them is avocado, which I love.
Some friends have told me avocados are fine even if you have high cholesterol. Who is right?
A: We are going to side with your friends. Researchers noted that avocados lower LDL cholesterol and studied “whether a healthy diet with 1 avocado daily” would reduce dangerous oxidized LDL cholesterol (Journal of Nutrition, Feb. 1, 2020). They invited 45 overweight men and women to follow three different diets for five weeks each: a low-fat diet, a moderate-fat diet and a diet containing one avocado daily. The avocado diet lowered oxidated LDL better than the other diets and reduced small, dense LDL particles. This sounds like a win.