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This blog is about gut flora, good bacteria, scientific research, and anti-inflammatory food. It’s a prescription for anyone who wishes to eat their way to a healthier life. It’s impossible to overdose on this course of treatment.

Recipes, Therese Elgquist

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Chocolate Protein Smoothie in a Nutshell

Did you know that plant-based ingredients contain protein? Yeah, if you fill your bowls, plates and smoothie glasses with different types (and sufficient amounts) of raw plant materials everyday you will get just what your body needs. If you want to learn more, simply click on Therese Elgquist’s mini-series about plant-based protein: Part 1, 2 and 3.

This smoothie, perhaps more reminiscent of a milkshake, is stuffed with plant protein and fits perfectly when a sweets craving kicks in, when you are on the go or when it is a weekend brunch. The inspiration for the smoothie comes from a small jungle cafe in India.

Chocolate protein smoothie
(2 large glasses)

organic green bananas, sliced and frozen
2 tablespoons unsweetened peanut butter
2 tablespoons husked hemp seeds
1/2 dl raw cacao
2 fresh dates, pitted
5 dl unsweetened oat milk
a pinch of sea salt

Topping:
a sprinkle of hemp seeds

Run all ingredients in a high-speed blender until you have a smooth smoothie. Add more liquid if needed and maybe another date for a sweeter taste. Sip and enjoy!

The recipe is a favorite from Therese Elgquist’s latest cookbook The new green protein (only in Swedish currently). Photo by Fanny Hansson.

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Recipes

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Hemp Milk for Newbies

Just around the corner from our office is a wonderful little café called Kavalleriet (the Cavalry). This is where we go as soon as we want some peace and quiet, their Bircher muesli (the original overnight oats) with raspberry compote and roasted almonds is divine, especially alongside a cup of tea made from fresh ginger and mint.

And over our Bircher muesli, we often pour the Cavalry’s homemade hemp milk. No only is it delish but hemp is also environmentally friendly. Hemp is both durable and fast-growing and can grow well on nutrient-poor soils and even in colder climates (which often have better access to water).

With a titch of cinnamon and cardamom, this milk becomes very smooth and kind. Here’s the recipe:

Homemade Hemp Milk
(just over 2 cups)

¼ cup pumpkin seeds (soaked overnight)
¼ cup of hemp seed
2 cups of water
sea salt
0.5-1 teaspoon cinnamon
1-2 teaspoons of cardamom

Mix in blender!

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Karolinska Institutet

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Twins – An Important Epigenetic Tool

An important part of my work is to carefully plan my studies so that we actually measure what we intend on measuring and nothing else. Maybe this sounds straightforward but it’s not quite that easy.

As an epigeneticist, I study the impact of the environment on the genome (read more here). What makes it all difficult is that our epigenome is not static, but constantly exposed to changes from our environment. For example, if we discover an epigenetic difference between sick and healthy people, we cannot say whether the difference seen  is the cause of the disease or a consequence of it. In most cases we are studying people who are already sick. And, to make things all the more complicated, most diseases are the result of a combination of heritage and the environment.

So how do we get around around this? There are a few different ways to design a study to filter out the noise of unwanted signals, and clarify what is cause and effect. One way to sort out the noise from our genes and just study the environmental impact is to use twins. Identical twins have the same genome and to some extent a common environment, however, the older they get the more separated their living environment and habits tend to become. And this is what we benefit from when studying twins where only one twin has suffered from a particular disease.

In one of our studies, we studied epigenetic changes and rheumatic disease with the help of identical twins from the Swedish Twin Registry. And to find out more about the onset of the disease, and not just the effect, we also studied “healthy” twins who have not yet been affected by rheumatism, but who are likely to develop the disease as they have a certain type of antibody in their blood that is associated with rheumatism (antibodies against ACPA).

With this approach, we were able to identify methylation differences that were not dependent on the interference of the genes. But why do you want to do this? Well, in the vast majority of studies that investigate rheumatism, a certain group of genes pop up, the so-called HLA genes. These genes encode proteins that help our immune system talk about what is body-like or body-foreign.

The HLA genes are involved in one way or another in rheumatism, and also in many other autoimmune diseases. But, with the help of identical twins, we could identify other genes involved in addition to the HLA genes. The PCDHB14 gene was found to be differently methylated in both the “healthy” twins with ACPA antibodies in their blood and the diseased twins, suggesting that this gene is involved in the actual development of the disease.

PCDHB14 belongs to a large complex gene family that is mainly expressed in the brain and which has been reported to be involved, just like the HLA genes, in sensing what is own and body foreign. Super interesting! In the mentioned study, we could not point out which environmental risk factor or factors could possibly be behind the development of the disease, but we gained knowledge about which biological systems could be involved in rheumatism. One puzzle piece at a time!

In another study, we focused instead on one of the most common risk factors for many autoimmune diseases, namely smoking. We wanted to investigate how smoking affected MS patients and then looked at smokers, former smokers and MS patients who had never smoked. But I’ll tell you more about this in my next post here at Food Pharmacy.

Louise Sjöholm has a education in molecular biology and a doctorate in depression genetics from Karolinska Institutet. She has been working as an epigeneticist for seven years and is researching the role of the gastrointestinal tract in autoimmune diseases, i.e., diseases in which the body’s immune system attacks its own tissue. She is also interested in understanding the epigenetics of bacteria and its connection to health and disease. The views in the chronicle are the writer’s own.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

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Crispy Carrot-Bacon

A few years ago, the World Health Organization (WHO) came out with information that stated that processed meat would be classed as carcinogenic. The new classification put regular breakfast, lunch and dinner items such as bacon, ham, sausage and pâté in the same risk category as smoking and arsenik. Yikes! However, WHO does not believe that consumption of processed meat should be equated with, for example, smoking. Both are classified as carcinogens, but not necessarily to the same extent.

The fact that we should cool off a bit on meat consumption is no novelty. According to multiple Food Administrations, we should not eat more than a total of 500 grams of red meat and meat products a week, but unfortunately this is a recommendation few of us follow.

It is especially the sandwich meats and sausages, the processed meat, that we should be careful with. Common to these foods is that they contain preservatives and other ingredients that protect against bacteria and prolong the product’s shelf life. More research is needed, but it is likely all of the additives which contribute to the increased risk of cancer, perhaps due also to being in combination with large amounts of salt and fat.

We haven’t munched on bacon for several years and rarely crave processed meat in general, but when we heard about carrots being transformed into bacon, we had to try it. So smart, simple and good! Carrot bacon, or fake-on as you could say, is essentially the opposite of everything you find in the original. Surprisingly similar to ordinary bacon, though this time a hundred times better. And better for the body too.

Carrot Bacon

3 large carrots
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon of garlic powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika powder
1 teaspoon salt

Heat the oven to 160°C/ 325°F and turn on the convection function if you have it.

Rinse the carrots, but don’t peel them because most of the nutrition is in the peel. Slice lengthwise using a mandolin and place the slices on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Combine the oil, garlic powder, paprika powder and salt, and brush the mixture on both sides of the carrot slices. Place in the oven for about 15 minutes. Easy peasy! Mother’s day is just around the corner, perhaps this could be on your brunch menu! Also worth noting is that they are pretty tasty on top a salad.

Yum! Thanks Lisa and Erik’s health blog for the recipe!

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