Sour to Sweet

Miracle FruitHere’s a fruit that will turn sour to sweet. It’s called, appropriately I might add, miracle fruit. The fruit itself, a simple berry, is nothing special. But chew it up and let it sit on your tongue a bit, and for the next 30 minutes or so, everything will taste sweet.

No one is sure exactly how this works scientifically, but the theory is that the protein in the fruit binds to taste receptors and changes the shape of molecules that bind to taste buds, so sour receptors register sweetness instead.

As the video notes, aside from the fun in sucking on a lemon and tasting sugar, miracle fruit can also help chemo patients eat by making their food taste better to them, not to mention dieters who want to eat healthier but can’t stand macrobiotic foods.

Vitamin B-12 Deficiencies in Pregnant Women Linked to Birth Defects

Pregnant women with vitamin B-12 deficiencies are more prone to have babies with birth defects, a recent study found. The findings concluded that women who do not consume enough foods containing adequate amounts of this vitamin, otherwise known as folic acid, are more likely to give birth to babies suffering from a condition known as neural tube defect (NTD) ; a serious and often fatal condition resulting from inadequate development of the brain and spinal cord which often results in death. Although all pregnant women are at risk in regards to this condition affecting their unborn child, those women with folic acid deficiencies have a much greater risk in giving this condition to their unborn child.

Vitamin B-12 is usually found naturally in foods like meats, milk, cheese and eggs. Women who are vegans, or complete vegetarians (who do not consume either meat, eggs or dairy products) are at greater risk of being deficient in folic acid and thus giving birth to a NTD affected child. Vegan women can offset not receiving folic acid in meat and dairy products by consuming certain kinds of nutritional yeast, fortified cereals, fortified soy milk, foods known as fortified meat analogues ( wheat gluten, and soy beans for example); and by taking fortified vitamin B-12 supplements.
Women with the highest risks are those who have a pregnancy blood levels of less than 250 ng/L These women can greatly reduce the risks having a NTD affected child by increasing their vitamin B-12 levels to an amount above 300 ng/L.

For these reasons, it is vitally important for all pregnant women, especially those who have been found to have vitamin B-12 deficiencies, to take a folic acid food supplement before and during the first few weeks of pregnancy. By their doing so, at least 50% or more cases of NTD afflicted births can be prevented. Since many pregnancies are not “planned”, women of child bearing age should consume at least 400 micrograms of folic acid daily.

Again, women who are vegan vegetarians should consume either meat or dairy substitutes, as noted above, or a vitamin B-12 supplement.

A secret called Tahini

Tahini SpreadToday I want to tell you about my favorite dip — A greyish natural spread called Tahini, or otherwise, Sesame Paste. It is a dish well known in the Middle East and in Africa, much appreciated there for its nutritional value and its unique, slightly bitter, taste.

Tahini is made from sesame seeds. First you have to separate the seed’s oil from the rest of its content, and then you roast and grind each substance separately, only to be merged again afterwards. The result is a thick and smooth paste, which you can buy and store in your cupboard for long periods of time.

Whether you buy whole-seed tahini (thicker, bitter, healthier) or hulled-seed tahini (thinner, slightly sweet), the paste is full of protein, calcium, and healthy fatty acids such as Omega 6. Even better, it is relatively low in carbohydrates.

To make a fresh paste you simply pour some pure tahini into a bowl, mix it with an even amount of water, and add some fresh lemon juice. That’s the basic recipe, and it’s fast and easy to make! But if you feel like investing a bit more time in making an authentic sesame spread, the kind of which you could buy on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, I suggest taking a single clove and and scraping it with a small grater directly onto the bowl. Then, add some chopped parsley (organic parsley is my preferred) into the mix, and top the bonanza with a touch of salt and black pepper.

Congratulations! You now have a home-made tahini, which you may spill over your salad or spread over a piece of bread. Heck, sometimes I eat it straight with a spoon.

Picture by: About.com

Broccoli – a natural immunity plant

Broccoli PowerBroccoli is a plant that is more than just a good source of vitamins, minerals and as a defense against various forms of cancer. This green, fibrous vegetable is now being regarded as a way to acquire immunity against a number of debilitating factors that effect people in old age.

Already an excellent provider of vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B6, C, E, and K, research studies are discovering that frequent eating of broccoli, especially raw, protects people from the effects of oxidants known as free radicals. Broccoli contains a chemical known as sulforaphane which assists the body to activate certain genes and enzymes in the body’s system to create antioxidants which can fight free radicals and reduce the dame they cause to the body which helps to hasten the effects of old age. For those who are not familiar with the term “free radicals” they are found in a large number of environmental surroundings including pollution, sunlight, unhealthy diets (especially ‘fast foods’) and many other elements that surround people every day of their lives. Too many free radicals in the body can result in injury to body cells and cause cells to die prematurely, hastening the ageing process; as well as bringing on a number of diseases, including cancers.

Studies made by researchers at UCLA involved treatment of old mice with sulforaphane that came from broccoli resulted in the mice regaining their immune system to the level it had been when they were much younger. The conclusion was that the same result could also be had in humans, with older people regaining the immune system they once had against disease when young adults. The researchers have gone one step further by concluding that if older people can regain at least some of their former immunity against disease, children can make their immune system even stronger by eating broccoli and other green vegetable on a regular basis. The only problem now is how to get them to do it, since children usually prefer sweets and ice cream to vegetables.

Like all vegetables, broccoli should be eaten when it is fresh; either raw or cooked in a manner that keeps from it losing it’s vitamins and other beneficial components. We can all suppose that a broccoli based ice cream-like desert bar is now being worked on somewhere.

Sources: Natural News; Healing Daily
Picture by: Pennsylvania Department of Health

Where is the Rice?

Rice Farmer in VietnamWorld food prices appear to be on the rise, almost to the point where people the world over are beginning to see for themselves the consequences of global warming. With populations booming in most Asian countries, particularly heavily populated ones like China, Japan, India and Indonesia, find that these rising food prices are affecting one of the worlds’ most basic yet stable food commodities – rice.

The old saying that bread (largely made from wheat and similar grains) is “the staff of life” no longer appears to be the case, as rice, Asia’s most commonly eaten food, is gaining in popularity. This fact is not really surprising as some of Asia’s most heavily populated countries depend heavily on the starchy grain which contains not only a good percentage of needed carbohydrates but essential vitamins as well. Rice has been a food staple in China and other Asian countries for thousands of years; and out of the world’s 6.5 billion inhabitants, rice is a vital food grain for at least 3 billion human beings.

Rice is relatively easy to grow and can be cultivated in marshy or swampy regions where other food grains are scarce. An average grain of brown rice (rice which still has the rice germ and bran hull) contains 78% carbohydrates, Vitamins B and E, proteins, and minerals such as potassium. Although people living in North America and Europe tend to eat the bleached white rice, which has less food value, more and more people are opting out for whole grain rice, found in better quality supermarkets and whole food stores. A 200 gram serving of cooked, brown rice contains 282 calories, 1.6 gm of dietary fiber, 1 mg of iron, 220 mg of magnesium, 198 mg of potassium, 0.3 mg of vitamin B1, 0.4 mg of vitamin B2, and 1.4 mg of zinc.

The most popular types of rice are long grain, Persian style, Basmati (popular in countries like India) and round, which is the basis for most Sushi recipes. Recent world weather fluctuations has resulted in severe damage to many Asian rice crops which is causing chromic to severe rice shortages in countries where inhabitants depend heavily on successful annual rice crops to ward off starvation. Rice shortages in Asian countries are also finding their way their way to Western countries, where rice has also become an important part of many peoples daily diet due to its easy digestibility and nutritional benefits.

Much emphasis has recently been placed on foods having a high GI or Glycemix Index. Foods with high GI indexes put weight on people faster and are high in glucose. White rice has a high GI or Glycemic Index and is therefore less healthier than brown varieties which have a much lower GI index.

Blueberries for your mind

Blueberries For Your BrainBlueberries are more than just a wonderful tasting fruit. They help improve our memory and delay the effects of aging. The beneficial properties of the berries of this plant, known by it’s Latin term of Cyanococcus vaccininum, has been evident for centuries. The plant has many varieties, and is found in both North America and Europe.

Blueberries are rich in antioxidants which help deter aging. They are an excellent source of flavonoids which have positive attributes to keep the brain from losing its memory function, even in old age. Scientific studies of the effects of flavonoids on the brain have found that they help brain cells by enhancing existing neuronal or brain cell connections. Parts of the brain dealing with learning and memory are especially benefited by eating blueberries. Blueberries are also said to help improve eyesight, which was related by British air force pilots during the Second World War, who ate blueberry pie or jam prior to going on flying missions.

Prominent neurologists have found that the high level of flavonoids found in blueberries are very helpful to older people and helps slow down memory loss and even more pronounced memory loss conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. While all blueberries are high in antioxidants and flavonoids, wild blueberries or bilberries as they are often called in Europe, have even higher levels of these anti-aging and memory retentive compounds.

Besides the benefits previously noted, blueberries have also been found to be good in treating various forms of cancers as ingredients such as anthocyanins, proanthocyanidins, flavonols and tannins are effective in keeping cancer cells from developing. The berries are also effective in preventing strokes in both humans and animals. Other healthful ingredients in blueberries include vitamins C and E, dietary fiber, and the mineral manganese.

Because of their healthful benefits, blueberries are very popular in organic and whole foods stores, where their healthful ingredients are very much appreciated.

So, next time you decide to make some pancakes or muffins for breakfast, consider adding some fresh or frozen blueberries to the batter, as well as using a spread made from blueberry jam. The benefits received will be more than just good taste.

Choline a vital nutrient for good health

Choline is an organic compound that was first discovered in 1864. It is classified as being part of the B-vitamin group and is found mostly in eggs, soy products, and cooked meats. Although this compound is considered as very important to maintaining good health, very few people are familiar with it. It is found in cell membranes and is considered as vital for maintaining healthy human cell growth. Scientific studies have concluded that choline intake in humans should be between 425 and 550 milligrams per day. As eggs are one of the commonest and least expensive sources of choline, eating one egg per day supplies a good portion of an average person’s need.

Choline is especially vital in women. Recent studies conducted by laboratories of the U.S. National Institute of Health have found that by consuming adequate amounts of choline daily, women have less chance of having breast cancer. Carried out among 3,000 adult women, the studies found that by consuming at least 450 milligrams of choline daily, women had 25% less chance of developing breast cancer than those who consumed lesser amounts. The studies concluded that choline is a very important nutrient for all persons, no matter what age or sex. Women of child bearing age need adequate amounts of this nutrient; especially pregnant women. One egg has around 125 mg of choline, or about a quarter of normal daily requirement. High amounts of choline are also found in liver, soy beans, cauliflower, and wheat germ (found in health and natural foods stores).

In addition to being effective against breast cancer, choline is also good for maintaining memory functions and against heart disease.

Choline can have an unpleasant side affect, however, as many people are not able to cope with high levels of choline in their bodies; which results in a disorder known as trimethylaminuria or “fish odor syndrome” in which their bodies begin to emit a strong, unpleasant order that smells like fish. People suffering form this condition are advised to consume less foods high in choline, especially liver (all kinds) and other organ meats.

Despite this problem, the benefits of this essential nutrient far outweigh any possible detriments, and people are advised to make sure they consume adequate amounts of choline in their daily diets.

Cinnamon and Honey for Good Health

Honey BeesMany people may not know that taking a daily mixture of two common household food items, honey and cinnamon, they can not only improve their health but even help cure a number of diseases and debilitating health conditions. In an article published several years ago in a Canadian magazine, Weekly World News, the value of honey as a medicine is shown to be even more effective if combined with cinnamon. A common household spice. Just a few of the suggested uses for this “miracle health duo” are noted as follows.

Arthritis: This common affliction that strikes many people over age 40 can be treated by drinking twice daily a cup of hot water with two tablespoons on honey and half a teaspoon of cinnamon. In a study conducted at Copenhagen University medical school, it was found that out of 200 patients who tried this treatment 75 were virtually without pain after one month, and many others were able to walk and do other body movements again with much reduced pain.

Common Colds: Taking one table spoonful of honey and a quarter teaspoonful of cinnamon with warm water gives great relief for the sinus and bronchial sufferings of common colds after 3 days. This also holds true for those suffering from influenza symptoms as well.

Indigestion and upset stomach: taking at least two spoonfuls of honey mixed with cinnamon removes the acid and bloated feelings of indigestion and reduces stomach pain and nausea associated with upset stomach. The combination is also said to be good in treating conditions such as stomach ulcers.

Heart diseases: Eating a mixture of honey and cinnamon daily at breakfast time, instead of butter and jelly, helps keep arteries clear and reduces the chance of having heart attacks. Those who already have had an attack, have less chance of having another one. It also reduces the level of blood cholesterol, which causes fat deposits to build up in arteries.

Cancer: Many kinds of cancer, including stomach and bone cancer, can be treated with good results by taking one tablespoon of honey and one teaspoonful of cinnamon by mouth three times per day.

Longevity and aging: Due to being high in anti-oxidants, drinking a tea-like mixture of 4 tablespoons of honey and 1 spoonful of cinnamon powder mixed with warm water helps reduce the aging process, and even adds years to one’s life.

Before embarking on this kind of cure, be sure to use a good quality natural honey and not one mixed with sugar and other substances, such as corn syrup. It is also advisable to make sure you are not allergic to taking large doses of honey (many people are and aren’t aware of it). With this advice in mind, using these two ingredients is a good idea for maintaining good health.

Chocolate Not Only Sweet But Healthy

Chocolate, though often high in calories, is actually one of the healthiest food products we can eat. The secret if reaping the benefits from chocolate is to eat it in it’s purest form; i.e., dark or bittersweet chocolate with at least 60 to 70% pure cocoa butter, which is chocolate in it’s most natural state. Chocolate in commercial chocolate candy and chocolate bars though often contain high amounts of sugar, as well as corn syrup, and a number of preservatives which we can really do without.

Studies made by some of the leading commercial chocolate producing companies have found that worldwide, some 69% of total chocolate consumption is bittersweet chocolate, with milk chocolate coming in second at 21% and white chocolate third at 10%.

The best types of natural chocolate is the dark, bittersweet variety usually found in high quality natural and organic foods stores; and much of this kind of chocolate comes from central America and the Caribbean. The making of chocolate has been in existence in Central America for more than 3,000 years. The health benefits include a number of alkaloids which not only induce a pleasurable effect on the body but also are help reduce risks of cardiovascular diseases by lowering blood pressure levels.

Besides its confectionery qualities, chocolate is also widely used in baking cakes and cookies. Who hasn’t enjoyed a truly well made chocolate cake, or chocolate chip cookies and brownies? Chocolate fondue dips are also a favorite at parties, especially during the winter months.

Those who fancy the types of chocolate that is sold in high quality candy and confectionery stores will find a garden of earthly delights in a product that is still one of the most popular gift items for romantic calendar dates such as anniversaries, and of course Valentine’s or Love Day, in which gifts of chocolate are becoming popular in countries like China and Japan.

Although Switzerland is still well acclaimed for it’s chocolate, especially milk chocolate, Belgium is perhaps the king of truly quality chocolates such as Godiva which must be constantly under refrigeration and is sold by weight. Fine quality chocolate of this type can sell for $50 a pound, and is definitely a cut above the “Mister Goodbar” types you usually find in discount department stores.

Of course, chocolate is high in calories and must be eaten in moderation, or most of its health benefits will be null and void. But if people know their “chocolate limit” and don’t overdo it, why not enjoy all the merits of fine chocolate, especially its taste!

Drinking the “Juices of Life”

With all the information available concerning natural health remedies, none are so beneficial as those involving drinking fresh fruit and vegetable juices to receive natural vitamins and minerals that are essential to good health. Many people may not be aware, however, that it’s not only drinking these juices, but the right combination of these natural elixirs that are even more important for maintaining good health. Taking this fact in mind, here are some of these natural juice “cocktails” that should be taken together in order to receive their full benefits:

Carrots, ginger, and apple: Most people are familiar with these; one being a yellow vegetable, one an herb, and one a fruit. By drinking a combination of 45% Carrot and 45% apple juice, with the addition of 5% ground fresh ginger, the result is a very refreshing drink that boosts our immune system and keeps us regular. Carrots are also said to be excellent for healthy eyesight and ginger has a number of medicinal uses, especially in preventing and treating certain forms of cancer. And as for apples, the old saying o f “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” alleges to the healthful benefits of this very versatile fruit.

Apples, cucumbers and celery are said to help fight cancer, reduce cholesterol levels in the body and for relieving upset stomachs and treating headaches. Cucumbers also contain an ingredient useful for treating skin conditions, and celery is rich in vegetable fiber which helps prevent colon problems, especially cancer.

A combination of carrots, apples, pears and mangos helps lower body heat (which rises during illness or when stressed) counteracts toxicity, lowers blood pressure, and reduces free radicals which cause oxidation and aging. Mangos are rich in flavenoids which are excellent anti-oxidants.

A combination of honeydew melons, red grapes, water melon and whole milk creates a drink that is high I vitamin C and B2 which not only helps stimulate cell growth and activity but strengthens to body’s natural immune system. Although the milk does contains some cholesterol, it is counterbalanced by the acidity and vitamin C in the fruit. Red grapes, which contains high amounts of flavenoids, help clean our cardiovascular system and slows down the effects of aging.

And a cocktail of fresh papayas, pineapples, and milk is rich in vitamin C and E, as well as in iron. This combination drink is said to aid our metabolic rates as well as improve skin complexions. Papayas in themselves are considered high in flavenoids and other antioxidants, as well as being a great aid in digestion.

From these fruit and vegetable combinations, we can see that it is possible to obtain many health benefits at relative low costs. It simply makes good sense to go the “natural way” for maintaining good health.