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ABC of Nutrition - A

I am bored, because I have no idea how to relax anymore. So I decided to make a short ABC thingy about random stuff that all falls into the huge field of nutrition. I do not do links, because I am lazy and developed a secondary intolerance to pubmed, which might get better over time. Besides, your google-fu is generally awesome, and I am all for discussion and making up your own minds, as long as it is based on logic or personal preference. Who am I to judge your taste buds? When there are bits that are highly discussed, I will mention it, and state my personal opinion.

A is for Ascorbate:

Ascorbate, ascorbic acid, 2-Oxo-L-threo-hexono-1,4-lactone-2,3-enediol, and also E301 are known better as Vitamin C.


Humans and Guinea pigs are unable to synthesize ascorbate, so we have to take it up with our food. We need at least 2 kiwifruit a day , every day to completely saturate our plasma levels, which means that all other cells have taken everything they need at that point. Resorption is way better if you eat fruits than using supplements, because if you take too much pure Vitamin C, you get the runs.
It is a small compound, but damn, it is important. It is a part of an enzyme that cross links collagen. No Vitamin C: Scurvy, aka no collagen. Collagen is the glue of our body, and without it, our body falls apart: tooth loss, bleeding, weak muscles and pain. But it is also involved in hormone synthesis (adrenalin, noradrenalin), in the degradation of tyrosine, it helps with iron uptake (by putting iron from meat into a better digested version), it is involved in liver functions ( Cyt P450), it is involved with gall production, and on top of that, it is an amazing antioxidant that is able to repair Vitamin E, which protects our cell membranes. It also prevents formation of nitrosamines (Cancerogen) in the stomach.

Disputed parts and opinion: High doses of intravenous vitamin C apparently works like magic for patients with end-stadium diseases like cancer and kidney failure, and improves their life. They are able to function a bit better, with less pain and nausea, for the little time they have left. I have talked to one patient, and she was so happy. I was not apart of such a study, but I met her and her doctor at a conference. Cancers with high concentrations of ascorbate seem to be less severe, less metastasizing, and easier to kill with chemotherapy and radiation. As always in science, much of this is disputed. Many results are not comparable, because every scientists uses their own methods. Other studies have been done with limited time, the wrong version of ascorbate, in the wrong animals, old machines, etc. There is no standardized way to measure stuff like that. But nobody is willing to fund research with compounds that will not make money, and are not cool anymore, like Vitamin C. I tend to lean more on the pro- side.

Besides, it is very hard to overdose on Vitamin C. You have to eat 6 grams of pure ascorbate daily to show symptoms. And honestly, why would you, when Vitamin C is in so many tasty fruits and veggies anyway? Acerola, black currants, kiwifruits...pineapples, oranges and even broccoli.

In food, it is added as an acidity regulator and has the number E301.


A is for Asparagus:

Asparagus is a perennial plant, historically used as an diuretic (making you pee). We eat the shoots only, because as soon as the buds open: Bam, woody. In Germany, they prefer their asparagus white. They keep it strictly in the dark until harvest to prevent the chlorophyll, the green color, to form. Asparagus is rich in asparagine, an non-essential amino acid. Amino acids are the lego pieces of proteins, and non-essential means our bodies make it themselves. But is has also lots of healthy fiber, minerals like zinc and magnesium, and it is rich in vitamins.

Now to the smelly part: every human makes the smelly compounds from asparagus. However, a single point mutation in the genes for our smell receptors is the fault for those people who can actually smell it. This means, if you can smell it, your are a mutant. Sadly, not a cool power to call yourself Asparagus woman/man/person.


Now the fun parts: serving ideas! In Germany, they cook it to death, douse it in hollandaise sauce and serve it with ham. Or Asparagus soup. Anyone remembering pickled asparagus rolled in cooked ham during the buffet-era in the 80s? Asian-style cuisines use it in stir fries with meat or tofu, or in coconut soups with or without salmon. Try it marinated in balsamic vinegar and BBQed. My favorite: lightly pan fried with lots of garlic, tossed into spaghetti with some dried tomatoes. Also nice: asparagus tarte, or in a luxurious omelette.

Tomorrow: B.

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