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Archive for the ‘Nutrition’ Category

Courtesy: Centers for Disease Control

Courtesy: Centers for Disease Control

The amount of sleep we get and the quality of that sleep is crucial to overall health. While we sleep our bodies are repairing and rebuilding. If we are not getting adequate amounts of sleep we may feel sluggish upon rising and fatigued during the day.

Sleep deprivation is associated with a host of health conditions to include diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease (more…)

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I’ve been talking this week about using food as medicine so I thought it only appropriate to share with you one of my favorite local wild edibles, Chenopodium album or Lambsquarter (aka; Goosefoot, fat hen or pigweed).  Each year I grow a garden and I plant all kinds of edible greens such as Collard, Turnip and Mustard.  However, one of the wonderful things about gardening in Florida is that some edibles you don’t even have to plant, they just volunteer.  

Lambsquarter grows everywhere in my area and especially in my garden.  I never pull it up when I am weeding because I use it just like I would any of my other greens.  The leaves of this plant have a very mild taste and are a complete protein. One ounce of Lambsquarter leaves contain 67% of your daily value of Vitamin A,  37% of Vitamin C  and a host of other trace minerals that our bodies need to stay healthy .  This brings us back to the topic of food as medicine.  By eating foods that are high in vitamins and minerals we are nourishing our bodies, keeping our immune system strong and potentially warding off future diseases…that I would say is food as medicine.

Because of its mild taste Lambsquarter can be eaten raw in salads or added to omlets, quiches, fritatas or any other recipe where you might add greens.  If you really want to pump up the nutritional and medicinal value you can cook your Lambsquarters along with garlic, onions and other herbs and spices.

Lambsquarter Fritata

Ingredients:

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 clove of chopped garlic

1/2 cup chopped sweet red pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 eggs

1/2 cup milk

1 cup of fresh chopped Lambsquarter leaves

1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Sautee onion, garlic and peppers in a pan with olive oil until tender.  Add the Lambsquarter leaves and cook until slightly wilted.  Combine beaten eggs and milk and add to the pan along with remaining ingreadients.  Cook for 7-10 minutes over the burner until firm.  May place under broiler for a minute to finish cooking the top. 

Additional notes:  This is just a basic recipe that you can use as a foundation.  Additional herbs and vegetables can be added to suit your taste.  ENJOY!!

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We’ve all heard the saying…”an Apple a Day keeps the doctor away”…right.  The reason behind that may be that apples contain a host of vitamins and minerals, are a good source of dietary fiber as well as vitamin C.  There is also research to indicate that apples may help prevent a host of diseases ranging from diabetes to cancer.  With this said we have to ask ourselves… is an apple food or is it medicine?  Actually, I see them as one in the same, food is medicine.

What about Garlic?  We all know that Garlic is wonderful to cook with, but it also contains a host of nutrients as well as other constituents which benefit the cardiovascular system, are antimicrobial, may help to prevent cancer and improve metabolism of iron.

Culinary herbs and spices added to foods not only help to improve the taste of dishes, but also allow us to incorporate their numerous medicinal benefits to all of our meals.  Cinnamon, fennel, rosemary, thyme or most any culinary herb you can think of has been used as both food and medicine since the beginning of time.   I’ve always had a passion for cooking and as a herbalist I try to get the most out of every meal by adding foods that I know to be healing as well as incorporating as many herbs and spices to my dishes as I can. 

Sometimes it can be really challenging coming up with new recipes that are both tasty and healthy.   Fortunately, I just found out about a class that John Gallagher at Learningherbs.com is hosting on Culinary Herbalism  .  The class will be given by K.P. Khalsa who has over 30 years of experience as a herbalist, is the President of the American Herbalists Guild and the author of several books on natural health.  K.P. Khalsa is presenting this class to teach people how to use herbs as food and to use food as medicine.  This class will also include various meal preparations using therapeutic herbs, over 19 recipes, and lots of information on using herbs to improve and benefit various health conditions. 

One thing I really like about this class is that it is a self paced so you can do it online and at your own pace.  John at Learningherbs.com does such a great job on hosting these events and they are definitely an organization worth supporting.  I’m looking forward to the class and hope you will check it out to see what you think.  Just go to CulinaryHerbalism.com and John has posted a video about the course and more information on K.P. Khalsa.  John is really great at giving away free information and has posted several recipes that will be included in the class.  This class opens tomorrow April 19th and will only be offered through April 23rd so the sooner you get registered the better.

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There’s nothing like a wonderful soup or stew during the cold winter month’s to help warm your belly and pick up your spirit.  I absolutely love making homemade broths as a base for my soups and stews.  Grandma was right on the money when she recommended chicken soup for, “what ever ail’s ya”.  Hearty and healthy, broth’s are a powerhouse of nutrition and a wonderful way to build up your immune system.  What better way to get your vitamins and minerals than to enjoy a rich and delicious soup.

When I make homemade broth for my family I feel like I’m making them “a pot full of love”, because I know that I am nourishing them from the inside out.  I like to start my broth off with the finest quality ingredients I can find.  If I am not growing it at home I like to buy local organic produce.  I also like to add loads of nourishing herbs and mushrooms to enhance the nutrient value and to help give the immune system a boost.

I start my broth off with organic grass fed/free range beef or chicken bones.  The bones are full of lots of nutrients that are extracted while cooking.  Traditionally, all parts of an animal were used in one way or another.  Unfortunately, these days we disgard the bones and miscellaneous parts of the animal and miss out on all the wonderful goodness that these, “not so choice” parts have to offer.  Today I am using beef neck bones that I was fortunate enough to be given by some friends. 

Along with the bones I add loads of fresh vegetables such as carrots, celery, garlic, onions, shitake mushrooms, etc.  I also add medicinal plants such as Astragalus root, Burdock root and/or Dandelion root.  Really, you could classify everything that goes into this broth as being medicinal.  Even the common kitchen herbs that go into this broth (parsley, basil, black pepper and thyme) contain loads of vitamins and minerals and a host of various constituents which give them medicinal benefits as well.  I also like to add some blackstrap mollasses because it is so rich and nutrient dense and vinegar to help draw out additional minerals from the bones.  I’m not real big on measuring things out, but I will share with you an approximation of the recipe as I make it….

2 – 3 pds of Beef Bones

1 gallon of water (or enough to completely cover bones)

1- 2 hands full of diced carrots

2 large onions (quartered)

6-8 stalks of celery (roughly chopped)

5-6 clove of garlic

6-8 shitake mushrooms

3 tbsp dried thyme, parsley, basil  (or 5-6 tbsp fresh chopped) (actually whatever herbs strike your fancy)

10-15 slices of astragalus root

2 tbsp of Blackstrap Molasses

2 tbsp Apple cider vinegar

The Kitchen Sink (just kidding)

Place everything in a large pot and bring it to a boil.  Turn the heat down and simmer for approximately 1 hour.  Allow the broth to cool and pour into freezer safe containers for later use.  You can also fill up ice trays, freeze them, and then pop the cubes out as you need them.  You can also just strain it and use it right away.  Be as creative as you want and have fun with making up your own recipe.  You can add any combination of herbs which suit your fancy or add sea vegetables in lieu of salt which add additional nutrients.  This broth can be made with either beef, chicken, fish or wild game bones.

Here is just an idea of the health benefits and vitamin content of this broth:

Water = A natural expectorant and helps to keep the body hydrated.

Beef Bones = easily absorbed minerals such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulphur and trace minerals.

Carrots = High in antioxidants and the richest vegetable source of the vitamin A carotenes. May help protect against cardiovascular disease and cancer and also promote good vision, especially night vision.

Celery = Excellent source of vitamins K and C and a very good source of potasium, folate, manganese, and vitamin B6. 

Parsley = Excellent source of Vitamins A, C, and K, and high in antioxidants.

Thyme = Excellent source of Vitamin K, Iron and Manganese and a very good source of calcium.  Various medicinal properties to include its use as an antiseptic, antispasmodic and expectorant to help clear congestion.

Shitake Mushrooms = Helps to strengthen the Immune System, may help to prevent cancer, high in antioxidants, a very good source of iron and a good source of vitamin C.

Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceous) = Long history of use in Chinese medicine as an immune stimulant, aid to digestion and benefits to the respiratory system.

So the next time your thinking about ways to help keep your family healthy think about making them soup.  Just the aroma coming from the pot is one way of telling them you love them and you care about their health.  

Thought I would conclude by adding in a little joke:

“A Jewish woman had two chickens. One got sick, so the woman made chicken soup out of the other one to help the sick one get well”.

– Henny Youngman

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Despite the bad press that coconut oil has gotten over the years it turns out that it has numerous health benefits.

Coconut oil is a saturated fat.  People have been indoctrinated to believe that saturated fats are bad for us and will lead to heart disease. 

However, as I pointed out in a previous article on “Fats”, research has concluded that there is no evidence to support the theory that saturated fats cause an increase risk for heart disease. (1) 

Initial studies conducted  on coconut oil used hydrogenated fats which created an essential fatty acid deficiency which in turn caused serum cholesterol levels to rise.  These hydrogenated fats were contributing to an increase risk of heart disease. (2)

However, when various groups were studied who had a traditional diet including unprocessed coconut oil they found that vascular diseases which were associated with hydrogenated oils did not exist with the saturated fat from coconut oil. 

Benefits associated with Coconut Oil include:

Increased Metabolism

  • Coconut oil contains medium-chain triglycerides which the body uses as an immediate source of fuel.  This consumption increases metabolism and helps you to lose weight.  Fat also helps you feel fuller and keeps you satiated longer so you are less hungry.

Immune System:

  • As I mentioned before, Coconut oil contains high levels of medium-chain fatty acids (known as MCFA). These fatty acids are the same substances produced by mothers milk which helps protect infants from infectious illnesses.  These medium-chain fatty acids have strong anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-protozoal properties.

Acne

  • The lauric acid contained in coconut oil has anti-microbial activity which may be beneficial in the treatment of Acne vulgaris. (3)

Skin Conditions

  • Not only does coconut oil contain essential fatty acids which help to reduce the effect of oxidation, but they may also be beneficial in the treatment of various forms of atopic dermatitis. (4)

Colitis

  • May be a potential therapeutic treatment to help reduce inflammation and decrease the incidence of colitis. (5)

The list of benefits of coconut oil go on and on.  What I really love about coconut oil is that if you are cooking with it and get some on your hands you can use that excess as a skin moisturizer.  That’s right, just rub it right it in to your hands and your hands will be nice and smooth.  Coconut oil can be used as a base for lotions or salves and can be used in lieu of conventional cooking oils. 

These are just some of the reasons I’m “Cuckoo for Coconut”!

References:

(1)  Am J Clin Nutr (January 13, 2010). doi:10.3945/ajcn.2009.27725.,   Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease1,2,3,4,5., Patty W Siri-Tarino, Qi Sun, Frank B Hu and Ronald M Krauss http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/content/abstract/ajcn.2009.27725v1

(2)  Nutr Clin Pract. 2006 Oct;21(5):505-12.Trans fatty acids and coronary heart disease. Zaloga GP, Harvey KA, Stillwell W, Siddiqui R.Clintec Nutrition, One Baxter Parkway, Deerfield, IL 60015, USA. gary_zaloga@baxter.com

(3) Biomaterials. 2009 Oct;30(30):6035-40. Epub 2009 Aug 8.  The antimicrobial activity of liposomal lauric acids against Propionibacterium acnes.  Yang D, Pornpattananangkul D, Nakatsuji T, Chan M, Carson D, Huang CM, Zhang L. Department of Nanoengineering, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093, USA.

(4)  Dermatitis. 2008 Nov-Dec;19(6):308-15. Novel antibacterial and emollient effects of coconut and virgin olive oils in adult atopic dermatitis.  Verallo-Rowell VM, Dillague KM, Syah-Tjundawan BS.  Skin and Cancer Foundation, Pasig, Philippines. vmvrmd@gmail.com

(5)  J Nutr. 2009 Mar;139(3):603-10. Epub 2009 Jan 6.  Partial replacement of dietary (n-6) fatty acids with medium-chain triglycerides decreases the incidence of spontaneous colitis in interleukin-10-deficient mice.  Mañé J, Pedrosa E, Lorén V, Ojanguren I, Fluvià L, Cabré E, Rogler G, Gassull MA. Health Sciences Research Institute, University Hospital Germans Trias i Pujol, 08916 Badalona, Spain.

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An enzyme is basically a protein molecule, which acts as a catalyst to speed up a reaction. Think of an enzyme like a spark plug which initiates every reaction that occurs in the body. Some of the reactions which occur because of enzymes are nerve impulses, digestion of food, and detoxification. Each enzyme has a specific function. There are three primary categories of enzymes: metabolic, digestive, and food enzymes.

Although there are estimated to be between 40000 – 50000 enzymes present in human cells, only 24 of those are related to digestion. Of these 24 the three main digestive enzymes are proteases, amylases, and lipases. Proteases are enzymes which help to digest proteins, amylases for carbohydrates, and lipases for fats. These enzymes help to break down food so that the nutrients can be extracted and distributed throughout the body.

Our bodies naturally produce the enzymes that we need for digestion. However, according to the Law of Adaptive Secretion we only secrete enough enzymes to digest a particular food. This means that if we eat foods which are high in enzymes our bodies won’t have to secrete additional enzymes to aid in digestion. This can be very important because as we age or during an illness enzyme production declines until we have fewer and fewer enzymes to do the work needed for proper digestion. Also, when we cook, microwave or irradiate food it destroys or denatures these enzymes so that they are no longer useful. In order to help extend the life of many fruits and vegetables, they are actually sprayed with enzyme inhibitors. Therefore, if we eat foods that are devoid of enzymes the body will continue to use up its own personal stores which may already have been depleted. Without these essential enzymes digestion will become poor which can eventually lead to chronic diseases and a poorly functioning immune system.

In his book, Enzyme Nutrition, Dr. Edward Howell suggests that eating foods void of enzymes causes an enlargement of the pancreas, and also stresses associated endocrine glands, such as the adrenals, pituitary, ovaries and testes. One study conducted at Tufts Medical School found that 100% of the cases of obesity studied were deficient in lipase. Some research indicates that lowered lipases levels have been found in people with obesity, arteriosclerosis, and high blood pressure. Not only are enzymes effective in digesting food, but they also appear to be useful in the prevention and treatment of such conditions as vascular disease, inflammation, infections, auto immune diseases, injuries, stress, rheumatic diseases, and cancer.

Although enzyme therapy may take several weeks or months to be effective it is much safer and more effective in the long term than cortisone for inflammation and aspirin for improving circulation. Because enzymes help reduce inflammation and act as an immune modulator, they may be helpful in osteoarthritis, multiple sclerosis, pelvic inflammatory diseases, endometriosis, arthritis, chronic prostatitis, chronic pancreatitis, and urinary tract infections.

In summary we have concluded that enzymes are not only important to proper digestion, but they also help the body utilize vitamins and minerals, help the body detoxify, help modulate the immune system, help reduce inflammation, and may help with a host of diseases ranging from multiple sclerosis to cancer. Supplementing with a natural source of high quality enzymes or eating plenty of raw or minimally cooked fruits and vegetables may be just what is needed not only to improve your digestion, slow the aging process, but also to maintain optimum health.

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Blackstrap Molasses is the liquid byproduct in the production of refined sugar and was once used as the primary sweetener in foods.  What is so wonderful about Blackstrap Molasses is that it is loaded with minerals and is an easily assimilated form of energy for the body.

People have known for ages of the health benefits of Blackstrap Molasses.  Numerous home remedies have included molasses in the treatment of anemia due to its high iron content.  Along with iron, molasses is also an excellent source of calcium, potassium, manganese, copper and magnesium and a good source of vitamin B6 and selenium.

Two teaspoons of Blackstrap molasses provides your body with 11.8% of your daily need for calcium, 13.3% of your iron, 14% of your cooper, 18% of your manganese, 9.7% of your potassium and 7.3% of daily need for magnesium.  (1)

Traditional folk remedies tout Blackstrap molasses as a panacea or a “cure-all”.  Although, it might not actually be a “cure-all”, blackstrap molasses has been traditionally indicated for the following health conditions:

  • Arthritis
  • Ulcers
  • Dermatitis and eczema
  • High blood pressure
  • Constipation and colitis
  • Varicose veins
  • Anemia
  • Bladder troubles such as difficult urination
  • Nerve damage

Here are a couple of traditional remedies once used for anemia:

Mix 2 teaspoons each of apple cider vinegar and blackstrap molasses with water to strengthen the blood (2)

Another remedy called for using 1/3 of a cup blackstrap molasses mixed with milk or as a sweetener (2)

If you don’t like the taste of Black Strap Molasses you can add two tablespoons to your soups.  I have been adding it to my beef stew and find that it adds just a hint of sweetness which actually improves the flavor of the soup or stew.

When selecting blackstrap molasses choose one that is organic and unsulphured as it contains no chemicals which are often used in processing and has a much better taste.

References:

(1) The George Mateljan Foundation

(2)  Todd, J.C., Herbal home remedies.  (2005), Llewellyn Publications, St. Paul, MN.

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