Meet Your New Favorite Tuber! (6 Health Benefits of Cassava)

Similar to a potato, a tuber known as cassava is a largely overlooked vegetable that deserves a place in your rotation of plant-based foods. And that's largely because of the many health benefits of cassava.

While it’s known for being very filling and even higher in calories than your standard potato, cassava offers some interesting health benefits that warrant a closer look.

So, let’s discuss what cassava is, how it differs from other tubers, and the many health benefits of cassava that you can take advantage of!


What is Cassava?

As I mentioned above, cassava (also known as yuca) is a tuber vegetable, similar to potatoes, yams, Japanese artichokes, and more. Tubers have high starch content and tend to be higher in calories than other vegetables.

Cassava has a unique nutty, slightly sweet flavor. And it’s important to note that it must always be peeled and thoroughly cooked before consumption.

Raw cassava actually contains a chemical known as cyanogenic glycosides—the very chemical that can result in cyanide poisoning. The good news is that once it’s fully cooked, all of the harmful chemicals disappear.

Cassava also has an impressive mineral profile, with a particularly high amount of magnesium. And with over 800 different essential roles within the body, magnesium is one mineral you want to make sure you’re consuming every day.

It’s necessary for everything from regulating blood pressure to supporting blood sugar control and even building proteins in your body.

Considering that 45 percent of Americans are deficient in magnesium, it stands to reason that we need to get more mineral-rich foods into our daily diets.

After all, magnesium deficiency symptoms are associated with many chronic medical conditions, including:  [1234]

Cassava is also rich in fiber, potassium, and vitamin C. This makes it not only filling but a great way to help support your immune system health. After all, studies have shown that vitamin C is critical for helping you battle and/or catch everyday viral infections.

In fact, a 2013 meta-analysis of 30 trials involving 11,350 participants reported that consuming 200 mg of vitamin C each day can reduce someone’s risk of getting a cold by 50 percent. [5]

As you can see, cassava is a solid source of nutrients. That said, it also does contain anti-nutrients, so it’s important to make sure you don’t eat too much of it.

Now that you know a bit more about this vegetable, let’s take a look at some of the top health benefits of cassava.

6 Health Benefits of Cassava

Here are six of the top health benefits of cassava.

1. Supports healthy gut bacteria

One of the top health benefits of cassava is its ability to support digestion and healthy gut bacteria. This is due to its high fiber content.

According to a review published in 2020, consuming fiber has the potential to positively change gut bacteria and even alter metabolic regulation in humans. [6]

Another study published in 2015 found that fiber actually feeds healthy good bacteria. In the study, 21 adults consumed an extra 21 grams of fiber daily for three weeks and were found to significantly increase the number of beneficial bacteria in their guts. [7]

Interestingly, they also decreased the number of harmful gut bacteria, showing that fibrous foods such as cassava are incredibly beneficial for maintaining healthy gut bacteria.

2. Helps fight inflammation

Another one of the health benefits of cassava is that it helps to fight inflammation in the body.

In fact, a 2018 study revealed that people who ate more fiber each day had higher levels of indolepropionic acid, an anti-inflammatory chemical produced by healthy gut bacteria. [8]

Given what we know about how inflammation is at the root of many of our modern illnesses, such as diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and more, this is one of the more important health benefits of cassava.

3. Supports healthy blood sugar levels

Cassava is also high in resistant starch, which means it passes through your digestive tract unchanged—much like soluble fiber.

Interestingly, resistant starch has been shown to not only improve insulin sensitivity but also help to support blood sugar levels and even help reduce appetite!

One study showed that consuming a drink high in resistant starch lowered insulin responses and post-meal blood sugar levels—a particular concern of those with diabetes. [9]

Additionally, according to the 2018 study mentioned above on levels of indolepropionic acid, people who ate more fibrous foods, such as cassava, each day were less likely to develop type 2 diabetes. [10]

4. Boosts energy

When it comes to the health benefits of cassava, you may be surprised to learn that this food is one of the most important sources of energy in the tropics. And that’s largely because of its low cost and high calorie content.

In fact, when compared to the calories in other root vegetables, cassava typically contains anywhere from 50 to 100 percent more calories. [11]

The takeaway here? If you’re in need of a quick source of energy, cooked cassava is a great alternative to sugar-laden sodas and other sweets. But use caution in consuming it too frequently, as it could lead to unintentional weight gain.

5. Supports healthy weight management

Given what we just discussed about cassava leading to unintentional weight gain, of all the health benefits of cassava, this one may be the most surprising. But if you think about it, it does make sense.

Because cassava is a great source of fiber, it only makes sense that this tuber could help support healthy weight management. After all, fiber is known to support satiety, which helps reduce appetite—leading to less snacking and cravings for unhealthy foods.

Studies have confirmed a link between consuming fiber on a regular basis and reduced risk of obesity. In fact, researchers have gone so far as to hypothesize that the high rates of obesity in the U.S. could be tied to American’s low fiber intake. [12]

6. Helps maintain hair and skin health

Finally, the health benefits of cassava also extend to your appearance. And, once again, it’s thanks to its vitamin C content.

Vitamin C is a cofactor in the synthesis of collagen, meaning it’s required for your body to make the collagen needed to maintain the structure of your bones, muscles, tendons, skin, and more.

Without the proper amount of collagen in your body, you’ll begin to experience joint pain and discomfort, signs of aging in your skin, and more.

According to a 2015 study, applying vitamin C topically significantly induced collagen synthesis in women of all ages, but especially in those under age 50. [13]

Vitamin C is also known to make your hair stronger by strengthening your hair follicles. This is because collagen helps to strengthen your hair as well as promote the health of your scalp. [14]

Health benefits of cassava - Dr. Pingel

How to Use Cassava

There are many ways to tap into the health benefits of cassava. Some of my favorites include:

However you choose to use it, take advantage of the health benefits of cassava by incorporating it into your diet. You’ll love the taste and versatility of this vegetable.


Key Takeaways

5 Incredible Selenium Benefits

You know how important vitamins are to your overall health and wellbeing. But did you know that minerals are just as important? In fact, one mineral—selenium—is crucial for many areas of your health. Selenium benefits everything from reproduction to thyroid health to immunity!

Given its far-reaching health benefits, it only stands to reason that selenium intake should be a priority in your daily diet. So, let’s review exactly what selenium is, how it works in your body, and a few of the incredible selenium benefits you can expect from incorporating more of this mineral in your diet.


All About Selenium

There are several minerals that your body needs to function but can’t produce on its own. As a result, you need to consume them each day from your diet.

These minerals are known as “trace minerals,” and though you only need small amounts each day, they have very big roles in your body’s ability to function and remain healthy. And selenium is one of these important trace minerals.

The majority of the selenium you consume is stored in your skeletal muscle, though small amounts can also be found in your hair, nails, and blood. [1]

Selenium plays a critical role in many areas of the body, such as supporting DNA synthesis, thyroid health, and reproduction. It even helps fight infections. [2]

To help take advantage of the many selenium benefits, the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for adults is 55 mcg. Meanwhile, pregnant women require 60 mcg while those who are breastfeeding need about 70 mcg each day.

Top 10 Food Sources of Selenium

Now that you know what selenium is and why it’s so important for your body’s essential functions, let’s take a look at the foods that contain the most selenium.

While you’ll notice that many of these foods are animal-based, I want to encourage you to prioritize the plant-based foods on this list, since they’re less likely to cause inflammatory responses upon consumption.

  1. Brazil nuts
  2. Sunflower seeds
  3. Cashews
  4. Lentils
  5. Brown rice
  6. Eggs
  7. Fish and shellfish (such as tuna, halibut, sardines, and shrimp)
  8. Ham
  9. Beef
  10. Poultry

Interestingly, of all foods listed above, brazil nuts contain the most selenium by far. In fact, a single ounce of brazil nuts (about six to eight nuts) contain 544 mcg per serving. That’s almost 10 times the amount the average adult needs each day!

It’s also worth noting that you can choose to take a quality selenium supplement if you’re concerned about a selenium deficiency.

Let’s now take a look at some of the top selenium benefits you can expect from consuming selenium-rich foods.

5 Selenium Benefits 

Here are five of the top selenium benefits to look for when increasing your selenium intake.

1. Aids reproduction

Believe it or not, one of the primary selenium benefits is its ability to support reproductive health.

In fact, several scientific reports have noted that a deficiency in selenium is linked to infertility, miscarriage, preeclampsia, preterm labor, gestational diabetes, and more. [3]

Furthermore, a 2015 study showed that selenium levels are higher in large healthy ovarian follicles. As a result, the researchers surmised that selenium could perform vital antioxidant functions for the ovaries during later follicular development. [4]

2. Supports thyroid hormone metabolism

Another one of the major selenium benefits is that it supports your thyroid function. In fact, of all the organs in your body, your thyroid gland contains the highest amount of selenium per gram of tissue. [5]

So, how does selenium support thyroid health? Well, studies have shown that when patients with autoimmune thyroiditis supplement with selenium for three months, they experienced reduced thyroid antibody levels and improved thyroid ultrasound features. [6]

The patients even reported better mood and general wellbeing, resulting in improved quality of life.

Additionally, a 2011 study revealed that selenium benefits the thyroid by lowering the risk of enlargement. According to the study, being low in selenium increases the risk of developing both an enlarged thyroid gland and multiple thyroid nodules. [7]

3. Helps control dandruff

Amazingly, selenium benefits also extend to supporting the health of your skin—specifically, your scalp.

Researchers have found that applying selenium sulfide topically to the scalp can help to control dandruff. This effect is achieved thanks to selenium sulfide’s anti-fungal properties. [8]

In fact, according to a study on 180 patients with moderate-to-severe dandruff, 93 percent of the patients reported significant improvements in dandruff. After two months, 88 percent reported that the improvements remained. [9]

There are many selenium sulfide shampoos on the market today, so if you find that you’re in need of some anti-dandruff support, consider trying one for a little relief.

4. Supports immune system health

Perhaps of significant interest right now is the fact that selenium benefits immune system health as well.

It’s long been known in the scientific and medical communities that having adequate selenium levels are crucial for maintaining optimal immunity. But they also help to regulate immune responses and chronic inflammation to keep either from overacting.

Studies have shown that selenium positively impacts the barriers to infection in the immune system, while a selenium deficiency impairs their function. [10]

Specifically, selenium has been shown to strengthen the body’s epithelial barriers (barriers composed of epithelial cells, tight junctions, and a mucus layer that not only regulated nutrient absorption but also helps stop invasive bacteria from entering the body.

Additionally, selenium deficiency has been linked to a higher risk of contracting viral illnesses, such as the flu.

In fact, studies have shown that being deficient in selenium results in greater lung problems in those with the flu than in those who have adequate amounts of selenium in their bodies! [11]

5. Fights oxidative stress

Finally, selenium benefits your body by also fighting oxidative stress. As you may recall, oxidative stress is an imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants in your body that leads to cellular damage.

Because it’s often caused by inflammation, it’s linked to the development of many of today’s chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and more. And since selenium is a powerful antioxidant, it’s known to help fight the free radicals that cause oxidative stress.

Accordingly, studies have found that supplementing with selenium can help to reduce DNA damage and even reduce cancer risk!

In fact, a 2016 meta-analysis revealed that having high selenium levels was linked to a decreased risk of breast cancer, lung cancer, esophageal cancer, gastric cancer, and prostate cancer. [12]

Additionally, according to 2019 study on 94 patients with type 2 diabetes, supplementing with 200 μg of selenium daily helped to improve their glycemic and lipidemic profiles. [13]


Selenium benefits - Dr. Pingel


As you can see, because selenium benefits so many body functions, including selenium-rich foods in your diet is a great way to support your overall health and wellbeing.

You can start by simply eating a few brazil nuts each day or consider taking a supplement if you have a nut allergy. Either way, you’ll be supporting your body’s essential functions, which will help to set you up for optimal health!


Key Takeaways

Discover the Top 6 Health Benefits of Vitamin A (You’ll Love #5!)

Do you know what avocados, mangoes, butternut squash, carrots, sweet potatoes, and peaches have in common? Aside from all being plant-based, all of these delicious foods offer some incredible health benefits of vitamin A!

That’s right—each of these colorful foods are rich in beta-carotene, which your body converts to the all-powerful vitamin A it needs to perform basic functions. What functions? I’m so glad you asked.

Let’s take a closer look at the fascinating way your body uses vitamin A and all the amazing health benefits you can get from eating the foods I mentioned above.


All About Vitamin A

When you first hear about vitamin A, you may think of it simply as a part of your daily multivitamin. Or maybe you just think of it as the first in a long line of vitamins and minerals you’re told you need to consume on a daily basis. And while you’re technically not wrong, vitamin A is so much more than that.

We often hear—especially in our current climate—about the importance and power of vitamin C. After all, it’s vital to support your immune system right now, and that’s what vitamin C is know to do. But did you know that vitamin A also supports your immune system while also aiding many other important bodily functions?

This arguably makes it one of the most critical vitamins in your body. So, let’s learn a little more about it.

Vitamin A comes in two forms—active and inactive. And while you may naturally think that the active form is more important, I’m inclined to disagree.

Here’s why: The active form is typically found in inflammatory animal products, such as meats and dairy. If you’re getting health-promoting vitamin A, but your body’s busy fighting off the inflammation that so often accompanies consuming these foods, you won’t absorb as much of this critical vitamin.

However, if you consume the inactive form of vitamin A, which is commonly known as carotenoids (such as beta-carotenes), from anti-inflammatory plant-based foods, your body will work to convert these carotenoids into the active form of vitamin A (known as retinol)! Pretty fascinating, isn’t it?

Because vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin, it’s mainly metabolized in your liver. And this is where your body converts most of the carotenoids you consume into vitamin A.

Now, speaking of your liver, t’s important to know that if you take too much pure vitamin A (retinol) in supplement form, it can be a bit too toxic to your liver. This means that carotenoids aren’t only a great way to get the nutritional benefits of vitamin A, but they also help to protect your liver and avoid overdosing this amazing fat-soluble vitamin.

Once your body metabolizes carotenoids and has the active form of vitamin A, some amazing effects begin to take place. Let’s take a closer look at some of these powerful health benefits of vitamin A.

The Top 6 Health Benefits of Vitamin A

Here are six of the incredible health benefits of vitamin A.

1. Supports immune system health

When it comes to the health benefits of vitamin A, one of the most important—yet commonly overlooked—benefits is its ability to support immune system health.

While we often immediately think of vitamin C as the go-to “immune booster,” vitamin A offers some incredible support as well.

In fact, scientists have determined that adequate consumption of vitamin A is absolutely essential for maintaining a strong immune system. First, studies have shown that a vitamin A deficiency blocks the normal regeneration of your mucosal barriers, which is known to impair your natural immunity to bacteria and viruses. [1]

This means that if you don’t have enough vitamin A in your body, you’re more likely to catch bacterial and viral infections!

Hard to believe? Well, amazingly, studies have shown that a vitamin A deficiency disrupts normal lung physiology and actually increases the risk of both severe tissue dysfunction and even respiratory illnesses and diseases. [2]

Additionally, studies have shown that consuming vitamin A can help to support immune responses in children, the elderly, post-surgery patients, and even those with parasitic infections. [3]

2. Contains anti-inflammatory properties

In alignment with its immune-supporting abilities, another one of the great health benefits of vitamin A is that it helps calm inflammation.

Studies have shown that having adequate levels of vitamin A helps to fight inflammation by keeping your immune system from overacting.

According to a 2017 review, several studies have shown that consuming carotenoids reduced systemic inflammation in young infants as well as neuroinflammation in people with brain injuries. [4]

Furthermore, the researchers surmised that vitamin A’s positive effects on both the immune system and the integrity of epithelial tissue (the protective tissue surrounding your organs and blood vessels) are the main mechanisms in preventing disease.

3. Supports eye health

As we age, our bodies begin to deteriorate—and this includes our eyesight. The good news here? You can slow that process by making sure you’re getting the eye health benefits of vitamin A by eating foods rich in carotenoids.

You may be surprised to learn that night blindness is actually one of the first signs of being deficient in vitamin A! Here’s why: Vitamin A is a fundamental component of rhodopsin—a pigment found in the retina that’s extremely sensitive to bright light. [5]

Another common eyesight concern? Age-related macular degeneration, which is worsened by oxidative stress. You see, oxidative stress causes damages to the cells in your eye and speeds up the process of macular degeneration.

Amazingly, researchers have found that vitamin A acts as an antioxidant and helps to reduce oxidative stress, which help to soothe eye inflammation and slow down the progression of macular degeneration. [678]

Finally, another way vitamin A benefits eye health is by fighting dry eyes. According to a 2019 study, vitamin A consumption improved the quality of tears in patients with dry eye, exhibiting how helpful vitamin A can be for eye health. [9]

4. Helps block environmental toxins

We discussed above how studies have shown that a deficiency in vitamin A impairs your natural immunity. Here’s why: A vitamin A deficiency actually blocks the normal regeneration of your mucosal barriers. And these barriers are responsible for helping to protect you from environmental toxins. [10]

So, that means one of the top health benefits of vitamin A is its ability to help protect your body from environmental toxins.

In fact, according to a 2019 review, researchers found that both vitamins A and D help to block environmental toxins by regulating the gut’s microbes, barrier function, and mucosal immune responses. [11]

Remember, mucosal barriers are the parts of tissue in your body that are pink, such as the inner lining of your mouth and nose. They extend through your gut and lungs as well. These surfaces are there to protect you by secreting mucus to get rid of toxins, infection, and more.

The reason they’re located in places where you have input from outside sources, such as food, water, and air, is that they are your first line of defense to protect your body. If your mucosal barriers aren’t fully intact and functioning well, then toxins can enter other areas of your body.

As you can see, keeping your mucosal barriers functioning is a fantastic benefit of vitamin A!

5. Aids in slowing the aging process

This is perhaps one of the most exciting health benefits of vitamin A for many people: Vitamin A has been shown to help slow the aging process! Sounds too good to be true, right? Fortunately, it isn’t.

Research has found that vitamin A promotes skin regeneration. Basically, the retinol in vitamin A actually helps stimulate new skin cell production! It’s been shown to help slow the aging process by protecting against the breakdown of collagen. [12]

Moreover, applying vitamin A to your skin has been shown to help reduce the appearance of wrinkles! According to one study, applying a lotion containing vitamin A significantly reduced the appearance of age-related fine wrinkles by increasing collagen production and inducing glycosaminogycans (polysaccarhides, or fats, that aid in keeping cells healthy and hydrated). [13]

6. Supports bone health

When it comes to the health benefits of vitamin A, its ability to support bone health is a critical one. As we age, our bones become more brittle, putting us at greater risk of experiencing a broken bone. But, despite common beliefs, having strong bones goes far beyond simply taking a calcium supplement.

For example, according to a 2017 meta-analysis of more than 319,000 participants, higher intake of vitamin A may decrease your risk of fracturing a bone. [14]

This is because vitamin A influences the cells responsible for building your bones as well as the cells responsible for breaking down your bones!

But one word of warning: You don’t want to overdo it with vitamin A—especially when it comes to your bones. Newer studies are showing that excess vitamin A could actually increase your risk of fractures. So, working with your doctor to find your right amount is important.

Interestingly, researchers are beginning to question if it’s the type of vitamin A that affects your bone health.

In fact, some are theorizing that the active form of vitamin A (the kind you get from animal products) is associated with poor bone health by promoting the breakdown of your bones.

Meanwhile, researchers are also beginning to believe that the inactive form of vitamin A (which comes from plants) is actually protecting your bones! [15]


Health benefits of vitamin a - Dr. Pingel


As you can see, there are many amazing health benefits of vitamin A. So, make sure you're consuming lots of plant-based, beta-carotene rich foods to take advantage of these effects. Here's to your health!

Key Takeaways

The 6 Surprising Health Benefits of Blueberries

One of my favorite things about spring and summer is that berries are officially in season! And while I love all berries, I specifically love taking advantage of the many health benefits of blueberries.

Rich in nutrients and health-promoting antioxidants, blueberries are deliciously sweet and offer so much nutritional power that I encourage my patients to consume them on a regular basis. Plus, they’re really versatile!

You can eat a handful as a healthy snack or incorporate them in your breakfasts or desserts. They’re even great for creative recipes such as my Summer Blueberry Shrub Recipe (which is such a fun mocktail that’s perfect for a warm summer night!).

So, given all the ways you can eat them, plus the fact that they’re so easy to get any time of year, let’s discuss the many health benefits of blueberries. You’ll leave knowing exactly how this delicious fruit supports your health and wellbeing.



What Makes Blueberries So Healthy?

Blueberries are native to North America, and their peak season is summer. But thanks to modern production, you can find them anytime. Usually, you don’t think of something so readily available as a great health food, but that’s exactly the case with blueberries.

Here are two of the major reasons we see so many health benefits of blueberries.

1. Blueberries are rich in antioxidants and phytochemicals.

First, blueberries are rich in antioxidants and phytochemicals (health-promoting chemicals found only in plants). One of these phytochemicals is known as anthocyanin, and it’s the compound that actually gives blueberries their deep blue color.

Numerous studies, including both animal-based studies and human-based clinical trials, have shown that anthocyanins possess antioxidant and anti-microbial activities. As a result, foods high in anthocyanins are known to support visual and neurological health and even protect against several chronic diseases by neutralizing free radicals. [1]

2. Blueberries are nutrient-dense.

The health benefits of blueberries aren’t only due to their antioxidant and phytochemical composition, but also due to their rich nutrient profile.

Blueberries contain a significant amount of vitamin K, vitamin C, and manganese. They’re also a great source of fiber.

Specifically, one cup of blueberries contains almost 4 g of fiber, 28.6 mcg of vitamin K, 14.4 mg of vitamin C, and 0.5 mg of manganese. And while those amounts may not sound like much, they actually make up a good chunk of your recommended daily amounts (RDA)! [2]

You can get 36 percent of your RDA of vitamin K by eating a single cup of blueberries. And that’s important because vitamin K is incredibly important for your bone health. Simply put, your body can’t absorb calcium properly without an adequate supply of vitamin K.

Accordingly, many studies have shown that vitamin K not only helps to increase bone mineral density in people with osteoporosis, but it also helps to reduce their fracture rates. [3]

Vitamin K also benefits postmenopausal women by providing significant improvements in their bone mineral density. [4]

Additionally your body requires manganese for proper brain development and cellular health. And one cup of blueberries provides 25 percent of your RDA of this important mineral!

Manganese is known to fight the free radicals that cause cancer, autoimmune disorders, neurodegenerative diseases, and many other modern diseases. [5, 6] In fact, a 2014 study on 3,996 participants revealed that manganese levels were significantly lower in those with diabetes than in those without diabetes. [7]

Now that you know what makes blueberries so healthy, let’s take a look at some of the top health benefits you can expect to get from eating them!

6 Surprising Health Benefits of Blueberries

Here are six of the top health benefits of blueberries.

1. Help reverse signs of aging

Thanks to their antioxidant content, one of the great benefits of blueberries is their ability to help reverse signs of aging.

According to a 2013 study, consuming blueberries has been shown to prevent collagen loss. [8] This is important because collagen, which is the most abundant protein in the human body, is necessary for skin elasticity. Plus, the more collagen you have, the more youthful your skin appears.

Additionally, as confirmed in a 2018 review, pterostilbene, the primary antioxidant found in blueberries, has beneficial effects as anti-aging compounds. Specifically, pterostilbene has been found to inhibit oxidative damage, inflammation, telomere attrition, and age-related cell deterioration. [9, 10]

2. May reduce risk of Parkinson's disease

Believe it or not, scientific research has shown that consuming blueberries may actually reduce the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. Given how devastating Parkinson’s disease is, it’s safe to say that’s arguably one of the most amazing health benefits of blueberries, right?

I’m sure you’re wondering how it works; I know I was! But to fully understand it, we have to get a little technical and science-heavy for a minute. Basically, there’s a protein in your brain called alpha-synuclein, which is suspected to play a role in the development of Parkinson’s disease.

Now, alpha-synuclein is known to help regulate the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine. And dopamine, which is known to aid motor control, is widely believed to be lacking in those with Parkinson’s disease. And this leads us to the scientific breakthrough that happened in 2014.

To gain a better understanding of how alpha-synuclein works, researchers injected it into fruit flies and found that those flies experienced many negative effects, including shorter lifespans.

Interestingly, the researchers then compared the effects of consuming blueberries with a control diet. They found that the flies who ate blueberries experienced a 15-percent longer lifespan than those who followed the control diet. [11]

In addition, numerous studies have directly shown that eating berries rich in both anthocyanins and proanthocyanidins may reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease. Specifically, researchers found that anthocyanins and proanthocyanidins provided greater neuroprotective effects than other polyphenols. [12]

3. Support urinary tract health

While cranberries are commonly known to help treat urinary tract infections (UTIs), you may be surprised to learn that one of the health benefits of blueberries is that they also support urinary tract health.

Once again, the anthocyanins in blueberries are to thank for this benefit. Specifically, anthocyanins contain anti-bacterial properties that are shown to act against UTIs.

In an in vitro study published in 2020, scientists tested the anti-bacterial activity of the anthocyanins in blueberries against multiple bacterial strains from patients with UTIs. Amazingly, they discovered that the blueberry extracts inhibited all of the UTI strains! [13]

So, if you find that you’re experiencing a UTI and you’re short on cranberry juice or supplements, consider turning to blueberries or blueberry juice until you can seek further help.

4. May prevent—and reverse—memory loss

Would you believe that anthocyanin has also been shown to enhance memory? According to animal studies, some of the benefits of blueberries are their ability to support memory and even boost focus. [14]

Even more interesting? Research has shown that consuming foods rich in anthocyanin boosts focus and attention in children.

According to a 2012 study, children ages 7 to 9 drank either a control beverage (with no anthocyanin), a beverage containing a moderate amount of anthocyanin, or a beverage containing a fairly large amount of anthocyanin.

The children were then asked to complete certain memory- and focus-related tasks. The researchers found that memory, attention, and focus were all significantly better in the children who consumed a beverage containing anthocyanin than those who drank the control beverage. [15]

Additionally, a 2008 study revealed that supplementing a regular diet with blueberries improved participants’ spatial working memory. While the study lasted 12 weeks, the improvement was seen in just three weeks. [16]

The researchers noted that the flavonoids were responsible for these incredible benefits of blueberries by activating certain proteins in the hippocampus, which controls learning ability and memory.

5. Support skin health

One of the great benefits of blueberries is their ability so support skin health. Largely due to their phenolic and anthocyanin properties, blueberries have been found to actually support the wound healing process.

According to a 2019 study, the anthocyanins and phenols in wild blueberries actually boosted endothelial cell migration, which is an important factor in wound healing. [17] And another study found that consuming blueberries could offer protection against premature aging of the skin due to UV exposure. [18]

6. Fight stress and anxiety

When you think of health benefits of blueberries, fighting stress and anxiety probably doesn’t come to mind. But that’s exactly what blueberries do! And it may be one of the most critical benefits we’ve discussed.

Here’s why: Psychological stress and anxiety can cause physiological stress on your body, leaving you vulnerable to symptoms and disease development. But oxidative stress has been shown to decrease as a faster rate by consuming blueberries! [19] And because oxidative stress is linked to so many serious diseases, this is a huge benefit!

Additionally, a 2013 study found that the flavonoids found in blueberries can help to moderate anxiety and even provide anti-depressant effects. This is achieved by flavonoids binding to benzodiazepine sites on GABA receptors. [20]


Health benefits of blueberries - Dr. Pingel


So, the next time you’re feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or anxious, consider reaching for a handful of blueberries to take advantage of these incredible health benefits. You’ll get a ton of flavor along with a solid health boost to help carry you through the day.


Key Takeaways

Too High in Calories or a True Health Food? Discover the 6 Nutritional Benefits of Cashews

Let’s talk about one of my favorite types of nuts: cashews! While it’s had a bad rap in recent years due to its higher calorie content, the nutritional benefits of cashews are incredible.

From promoting heart health and satiety to fighting cellular damage and even type 2 diabetes, the mighty cashew is one plant-based food you’ll want to add to your regular rotation of healthy foods.

So, get ready to learn all about the nutritional benefits of cashews—including what gives them their health-promoting properties and different ways to enjoy them!



What Makes Cashews So Healthy?

To truly understand why cashews are a great health food, we must first look at its composition. Cashews are made up of about 45 percent healthy fat, 20 percent protein, and 35 percent carbohydrates. [1]

While cashews are higher in calories than other nuts, they also have lower fat content. But they do contain high amounts of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs)—the fatty acid known to promote heart health, satiety and more.

But that’s not all. Cashews also have a rich nutrient profile, containing significant amounts of copper, manganese, magnesium, zinc, iron, phosphorus, vitamin K, vitamin E, B vitamins, and more.

In fact, a single ounce of cashews (about 18 cashews) delivers almost 70 percent of your daily copper requirement! That’s important because copper is a crucial trace mineral involved in energy production, connective tissue synthesis, brain development, and even immune system performance.

Let’s take a closer look at exactly how the nutrients in cashews offer many health benefits to your body.


Nutritional benefits of cashews - Dr. Pingel


6 Nutritional Benefits of Cashews

Here are six of the top nutritional benefits of cashews according to scientific findings.

1. Support heart health

Thanks to their MUFA content, one of the top nutritional benefits of cashews is their ability to support heart heath.

According to one study containing over 125,000 participants, substituting MUFAs for saturated fatty acids (SFAs) actually lowered the participants’ risk of coronary heart disease by 15 percent. [2]

Additionally, studies have shown that, in comparison to other diets such as those high in carbohydrates, MUFA-rich diets help to lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. [3]

2. Support satiety and weight management

As I mentioned above, cashews are known for their high caloric content, so it may surprise you that one of the nutritional benefits of cashews is their ability to support weight management.

But because they’re rich in healthy fats, which are known to be more filling, cashews actually support satiety. This means you’re less prone to snacking between meals.

Even though cashews contain less fat than other popular nuts (such as almonds and walnuts), their nutrient content actually leaves you feeling satisfied!

Why? Well, when you eat highly nutritious foods and your body gets the energy it needs to function, you feel energized and less hungry! Incredible, right?

In fact, regularly eating nuts has been shown to boost your metabolism and help you burn up to 15 percent more calories each day! [4]

3. Fight cellular damage

You may be surprised to learn that one of the top nutritional benefits of cashews is the fact that they’re known to fight cellular damage caused by oxidative stress. And this is due to the fact that they’re rich in antioxidants, such as vitamins E and K.

In fact, in a review published in 2020, researchers confirmed that in vitro studies found that nuts exert antioxidant effects by repairing DNA, preventing the oxidative degradation of lipids, and inhibiting inflammatory pathways.

They also confirmed that nut consumption improved biomarkers of oxidative stress in animal studies. [5]

In addition, a 2010 study followed the impact of nut consumption on 50 adults with metabolic syndrome. The researchers divided the participants into two groups: one group ate a healthy diet and the other group ate the same diet but supplemented with 30 grams of nuts.

The participants followed their assigned diets for 12 weeks. At the end of the 12-week period, the researchers discovered that the nut group experienced significant reduction in DNA damage compared to the control group. [6]

As a result, the researchers noted that regular nut consumption not only benefits those with metabolic syndrome but may also help prevent and/or fight several chronic diseases.

4. Support healthy blood sugar levels

When it comes to the nutritional benefits of cashews, a great one is its impact on blood sugar levels. And this is due to their fiber content, which is known to help prevent spikes in blood sugar.

In fact, according to a 2018 review of meta-analyses, consuming the highest amounts of dietary fiber can help to reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Specifically, the researchers found that using β-glucan or psyllium fibers on type 2 diabetic participants resulted in the greatest reductions in both fasting blood glucose concentrations and glycosylated hemoglobin percentages. [7]

Additionally, a 2019 study showed that daily consumption of cashews had a marked benefit on blood sugar control.

The researchers divided 50 patients with type 2 diabetes into two groups: either a control group or an “intervention” group that consumed 10 percent of their total calorie intake from cashews. The participants followed their assigned diets for eight weeks.

After the eight-week period, the researchers found no significant difference in the participants’ weight, body mass index (BMI), or waist circumference. They did, however, discover that those in the intervention group saw significant improvements in their serum insulin and cholesterol levels. [8]

5. Support the health of your bones

Due to its magnesium content, the nutritional benefits of cashews also include supporting bone health.

As you may recall, magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in your body, and  about 50 to 60 percent of it is found in your bones. This means that a deficiency in magnesium would impact the integrity of your bones.

In fact, studies have shown that a magnesium deficiency directly contributes to the development of osteoporosis because magnesium provides a stabilizing effect in bone synthesis. [9]

When your bones lack magnesium, they’re more prone to crystal formation and weakness.

Accordingly, a 2017 study on confirmed that having low levels of magnesium increase the risk of bone fractures while higher levels can prevent them.

The researchers followed 2,245 men between the ages of 42 and 61. The found that those with lower magnesium levels were over 40 percent more likely to experience bone fractures than those with higher levels. [10]

6. May support immune system health

Finally, when it comes to the nutritional benefits of cashews, we can’t leave out one of the most relevant: it’s ability to support immune system health. Cashews offer this important benefit due to their rich zinc content.

Did you know that many in the scientific community actually refer to zinc as the gatekeeper of immune function? [11]

In fact, zinc is known to activate your body’s T-cells. This is important because T-cells not only stimulate and moderate your immune system but also attack viruses, bacteria, and even cancerous cells. [12]

Now, consider that more than 5 percent of a cashew is made up of zinc! So, eating one ounce of cashews offers about 1.5 mg of zinc. That’s a lot of nutritional bang for your buck, right?

Incorporating More Cashews Into Your Diet

While a handful of cashews can be a great and easy snack (especially when you’re on the go), it’s important to remember that you can take advantage of the nutritional benefits of cashews in many ways!

Personally, I love to make cashew cream sauce that I can utilize in many dishes. And it’s so simple! I just use a base of cashews, water, lemon juice, and nutritional yeast.

Then, depending on how I’m using it, I make it thick or thin and add different spices and herbs to complement the meal. Some spices I tend to incorporate pretty often include cayenne, Italian seasoning, or curry.

Cashews are also great to sprinkle on top of a salad, stir fry, or curry dish. I even use cashew milk in place of cow’s milk in certain recipes.

As you can see, there are many ways to reap the nutritional benefits of cashews. All you have to do is start experimenting and see what appeals most to you!


Key Takeaways

5 Incredible Zinc Benefits: From Fighting Viral Infections to Supporting Vision and More!

If you’ve been watching the news lately, there’s no doubt you’ve heard about how zinc benefits your immune system and can even help to fight viral illnesses. But, aside from that, how much do you really know about zinc?

Were you aware that zinc benefits other areas of your health as well? If not, you may be shocked to learn that zinc also supports the health of your eyes, hair, and more! Plus, it’s found in many foods that are readily available at your supermarket.

So, let’s take a look at exactly what zinc is, how it supports your body, and some of the key zinc benefits you need to know about now!


What is Zinc?

Zinc is a trace mineral that your body needs in order to function properly. But in order to truly understand what zinc is, we must first take a closer look at minerals.

Minerals are elements found in nature that can be made up of one element or multiple elements (known as chemical compounds). They’re divided into two categories: macro minerals and trace minerals (also known as micro minerals).

The key difference? While both macro and trace minerals are essential minerals found only in your food (or supplements), you only need small amounts of trace minerals. Conversely, you need larger amounts of macro minerals.

So, even though your body only requires tiny amounts of trace minerals, they’re still essential for proper body function and even healthy development.

This leads us to zinc, which is the second most abundant trace mineral in your body. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) ranges anywhere from 8 to 11 mg, though that amount absolutely varies depending on your current health state and history.

In my clinical experience, I tend to focus on 15 to 50 mg daily as a guideline, which is based on favorable research in that range.

But why is zinc necessary?

Well, first, zinc plays an important role in the function of your immune system and in fighting inflammation.

According to a 2010 study, zinc activates your body’s T-cells, which are known to not only stimulate and moderate your immune system but also help attack invaders (such as viruses, bacteria, and even cancerous cells). [1]

Additionally, zinc has been shown to fight inflammation, which isn’t only the precursor to many of our modern chronic diseases, but it’s also been tied to worsening symptoms during illness.

In fact, a 2010 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that seniors who took 45 mg of zinc each day for six months experienced a greater reduction in inflammatory markers than those who didn’t take zinc.

The researchers surmised that this effect was due to zinc’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant functions. [2]

But that’s not all that zinc does for your body. As I mentioned above, it’s absolutely crucial for proper development, with deficiencies being tied to many symptoms and even some disorders.

In fact, studies have shown that supplementing with zinc can actually help improve focus in children diagnosed with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). [3] It’s believed that this effect occurs due to the fact that zinc helps your brain to manage dopamine, which plays an important role in both memory and focus.

But that’s not all. Zinc is actually involved in more than 250 enzymatic reactions within the body. It aids in healing wounds, supports thyroid hormone production, DNA and RNA replication, making new red and white blood cells, and so much more!

Seems that zinc is a pretty powerful trace mineral, right? Given its importance, let’s take a look at the different forms of zinc.

The Different Types of Zinc

You may be surprised to learn that there are actually different types of zinc. And should you choose to take a supplement, the type of zinc you take is incredibly important.

My two favorite types are zinc bisglycinate and zinc picolinate. Here’s why: Both of these types are bound to a highly absorbable amino acid, which carries the zinc with it into your body. This makes the zinc you take more absorbable, meaning you get more benefits from it.

Conversely, there are several forms of zinc that aren’t well absorbed by the body. These include zinc citrate, zinc gluconate, zinc oxide, and zinc sulfate. Ironically, these are also the types you can more easily find in your local pharmacy!

The takeaway here? If you decide to supplement with zinc, make sure to read the label and take only the highest quality supplements containing the most absorbable forms to get the best zinc benefits.

Top Food Sources of Zinc

Now that we’ve reviewed the best forms of zinc in supplement form, let’s take a look at some of the best food sources of zinc.

 Zinc is most commonly found in animal-based food and seafood. But given the toxins and/or hormones that are more readily found in those foods, I prefer to obtain my zinc from plant-based sources. Here are a few foods rich in zinc.

If you want to include more plant-based foods in your diet that are also rich in zinc, consider incorporating some of the above-listed foods in a healthy rotation.

For example, I like to use chickpeas to make hummus for my kids as a snack. I’m also known to grab a handful of pumpkin seeds for a quick pick-me-up between meals.

If you’re looking to make zinc-rich foods a feature in a dish, try my Wild Rice Soup, which is sure to please the whole family!

Now that you know why zinc is so important and some of the best natural food sources for it, let’s take a closer look at some of those specific zinc benefits you can expect to get.

Zinc benefits - Dr. Pingel

The Top 5 Zinc Benefits

Here are five of the top zinc benefits for your health and wellbeing.

1. Shown to shorten length of cold by 42 percent

It’s common knowledge that zinc can help relieve cold symptoms, largely thanks to its impact on the immune system. But did you know that zinc benefits your health by shortening the duration of a cold by almost half?

According to a 2011 study, using a minimum of 75 mg each day of zinc lozenges reduced cold duration by up to 42 percent! Interestingly, the study found that using zinc lozenges in daily dosages of less than 75 mg had no effect. [4]

2. Supports vision and overall eye health

Believe it or not, according to numerous studies, zinc benefits your eye health as well!

One study revealed that taking high doses of zinc (80 mg) significantly reduced people’s odds of developing advanced age-related macular degeneration, even in those who were considered to be high-risk. [5]

Other studies have confirmed the importance of zinc in maintaining eye health. This is due to the fact that zinc is present in high concentrations throughout your ocular tissue.

In fact, it’s particularly present in your retina and choroid. (Your choroid actually supplies your outer retina with nutrients and even regulates the temperature of your eye.) As a result, researchers have stated that zinc “appears to play an integral role in maintaining normal ocular function.” [6]

3. Helps resolve diarrhea

If you’ve ever had diarrhea, you know how uncomfortable, worrisome, and exhausting it can be. But if a child begins to experience several bouts of diarrhea, it can be absolutely frightening.

Amazingly, studies have shown that zinc benefits children who experience persistent diarrhea. In fact, one study showed that when children with persistent diarrhea supplemented with zinc, they were 24 percent less likely to continue having diarrhea. [7]

Even the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF recommend that children supplementing with zinc in the event they have acute diarrhea. Not only does it help to decrease the severity of the episodes, but it also has been shown to prevent future occurrences!

4. May support fertility

If you’ve ever struggled with infertility, there’s a chance that zinc deficiency may have played a role. And this seems to be especially true for men.

According to a 2018 review, researchers have found that zinc displays a hormone balancing role and actually supports testosterone, the prostate, and even acts as an anti-bacterial agent in men’s urea system.

They also noted that zinc “is essential for maintaining the lining of the reproductive organs.” Perhaps most interestingly, according to multiple studies, zinc benefits sperm quality as well, with a direct relationship shown between levels and sperm quality. [8] 

5. Promotes hair growth and repair

Finally, zinc benefits extend into the beauty realm as well. Not only has zinc deficiency been linked to hair loss, but supplementing with zinc has been shown to help treat alopecia. [9]

One study notably found that when alopecia patients supplemented with 50 mg of zinc daily for 12 weeks, approximately 66 percent saw improvement in hair regrowth. [10]

And in another study, every patient with zinc deficiency-related alopecia who supplemented with zinc either improved or cured their hair loss. [11]

So, if you’re suffering from hair loss, a zinc deficiency and supplementation may warrant consideration.


As you can see, zinc is an incredibly important trace mineral for your overall health and wellbeing. If you suspect that you may be low in zinc, begin adding more zinc-rich foods into your diet and speak with your doctor about the possible need for additional supplementation.


Key Takeaways