Seaweed for good health and nutrition

With world population figures now passing 6.5 billion, future sources of human nutrition will most likely come from what covers at least 70% of the world’s surface – the sea. Many countries, especially those with large shorelines, have been receiving a good part of their food from the sea for years. The Japanese in particular have eaten aquatic plant life, known otherwise as seaweed, for centuries; and have also used the beneficial qualities of algae and other plants for traditional health remedies and medicine.

Besides being high in fiber content, seaweed also contains many essential vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, C, and B12. High amounts of iodine and calcium are also present in many varieties.

SeaweedAlthough not all seaweed is edible, there are some types that are used extensively by the Japanese and other sea peoples; and not just for delicacies like Sushi. Some of these types include:

Sargassum – a brownish-green leafy algae, known as haizao to the Japanese and used a lot in oriental medicine.

Porphyra – a purplish-brown algae, known as nori in Japan and is the most commonly used material for wrapping Sushi.

Kelp – a common green seaweed known as kombu in Japan and konbu in China. It is used as food in a number of ways including soups, flavoring, and even picked. Like Nori, it is easily found in oriental food stores or in oriental food sections of most supermarkets.

Laminaria – a green leafy algae called Kunbu in Japan and used in various medicinal remedies including those for the liver, kidneys, lungs, and other organs.

Undaria pinnatifida – a broad leafy form of algae, most popular in soups and salads. Known as Wakame in Japan, it is considered to be a luxury food and is so popular that demand of it far exceeds supply. For this reason, Wakame is often grown extensively in seaweed farms in Japan, Korea, and China.

To give you an idea of the economic importance of seaweed, Japan alone imports around $150 million worth of various seaweed annually from countries like Korea, and exports at least $15 million worth of Nori seaweed wrappings to satisfy the worlds’ growing fondness of Sushi and Nori products. In Japan alone around 21 species of seaweed are eaten as food and the annual per capita consumption of seaweed products is around 4 kilograms. Agar-agar, a gelatin made from Gracilaria and Gelidium types of seaweed, is used both for food and in scientific laboratories as the culture base for growing bacteria specimens. Japan alone exports more than 1,000 tons of Agar annually.

The future of seaweed as a food source will largely depend on the future of the world’s seas and oceans, which are already becoming threatened by widespread pollution. Global warming is also a factor as some seaweed specials are affected by changes in ocean temperatures. In addition, we must also realize that seaweed accounts for more than 20% of our planet’s total oxygen supply, making this perhaps one of the most important attributes for maintaining life on earth.

Source and Picture by Institute for Traditional Medicine

Microwave ovens are a major health hazard

Microwave ovens are an important cooking and food heating tool in many modern homes. Many people may not be aware, however, just how dangerous these gadgets are to human health. For those who are not aware, microwave produce similar electronic frequencies as those who are found in cellular phone relay towers which are now being found to be very dangerous to human health and the cause of a number of types of cancer. It’s not only the type of utensil that holds the food (such as those made from polymer plastics) but the actual appliance itself that is so dangerous that some countries, including Russia, have banned its sale for health reasons.

An example of how dangerous microwaves really are can be seen in a very simple test of placing water in a glass bowl inside a microwave and heating it to boiling (like many people do when heating soup or warming their favorite hot beverage in the morning. When the water cools, place some seeds in two pots and water one pot with the micro-waved water along with similar amount of water straight from the kitchen sink in the second pot. What is really startling is that the seeds in the pot with the “micro-waved” water will not sprout!

Radiation Warning SignThere is apparently some chemical reaction occurring in the micro-waved water that will not allow the seeds to grow. This kind of example is also evident when warming up food in a microwave oven as well as heating milk (including human milk) to feed to infants and babies The heating of the milk in a microwave actually destroys much of the milk’ s nutritional value; and in human milk in particular, the milk’s natural immunity and disease fighting attributes. Heating food items, especially on high heat, also severely alters the bio-chemistry composition of the food, which can have a negative affect on humans, including changes in the body’s blood chemistry.

Other negative effects from microwave ovens include brain damage by causing electrical impulses in the brain to simply “short out”, reducing or altering the nutritional content of ingested food. Eating micro-waved foods also have been found to cause heart attacks and cancers, and can result in memory loss, lack of concentration, and even lower intelligence.

The connection to microwaving foods in plastic containers has been known for some time, and even though many plastic containers are noted to cause cancers, using a microwave has now been found to cause cancer cells to increase in the human blood.

So, taking all of the above into account, there are many reasons for “retiring” your microwave oven before it is too late!

Source: Natural News

Indian herbs may replace chemical food preservatives

Indian herbs, including Amaranthus paniculatus (cultiv.), Coccinia indica, and Coriandrum sativum (coriander) may soon be replacing chemical preservatives in many foods. The herbs have high quantities of antioxidants which are known to retard spoilage and “aging” in both foods and human beings as well. Most plants produce some antioxidants, but these herbs appear to have much higher levels and chemicals such as ascorbic acid, flavonoids, phenolics and tannin.

Tests have shown that the high levels of antioxidants in these herbs have a positive effect in people’s bodies and though not completely proven, can be utilized by people who are interested in a “natural” manner to preserve foods as well as to prevent aging.

CorianderOne of these herbs, known to Westerners as Coriander and to Asians and Middle Easterners as “Cusbara” is very commonly used in households as a food enhancer and a cooking herb. Although the plant’s pungent, almost bitter, taste is not agreeable with many westerners, people living in the Mediterranean regions love it and use the plant in their foods almost every day.

Synthetic antioxidants used in many foods include butylhydroxytoluene (BHY) and Butylhydroxyanisole (BHA), both of which are very common. By using the Indian ideas of utilizing less synthetic and more natural vitamins, the end result may enable foods to be preserved in a healthier manner by using these herbs. Oxidation is a big factor in what causes food products to spoil so quickly. The Amaranthus plant contains high levels of beta carotene, ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) and folates, all of which are excellent anti-oxidants.

The demand for natural antioxidants has resulted in a global market for natural antioxidants that now reaches nearly $ 70 million. Indian herbs have been known to have many curative properties, and high antioxidant levels are just some of the many attributes of Indian herbs. These herbs are found in both fresh and dried versions, and those wishing to preserve food items simply have to add certain amounts of these herbs to the foods. In addition to preserving food, many of these herbs, including Coriander and Amaranthus are used extensively in salads to add a unique, zesty flavor.

Source: Natural News; Picture by Gernot Katzer

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

Astaxanthin – a new miracle nutrient, or “miracle hype”?

Recent communicated articles and press releases concerning a newly discovered phytonutrient, derived from a species of micro-algae has been showing up on various media and internet networks that deal in health and nutrition products. The nutrient, known as astaxanthin is being touted as being high in antioxidants (as much as10 times higher than other carotenoids) and is said to be excellent for a number of physical health problems, including prostate glands in men and pre-cancerous conditions in female breasts.

Astaxanthin is said to be derived from a micro-algae called Haematocuccus, and is red in color. The red color in this algae and phytonutrient is said to be what causes certain species of Salmon to have that appealing pink color. Astaxanthin is a concentrated anti-oxidant that is claimed to prevent damage to body cells caused by free radicals – the byproduct of energy created by oxygen reaching cells each time we breathe.

Astaxanthin Chemical MakeUpWhile astaxanthin is found naturally in smaller quantities, when synthesized into a concentrate, it is said to do wonders for improve egg production in animal species like chickens and fish – especially salmon. It is claimed that salmon which are fed food containing this phytonutrient were able leap far higher and further than those who were given the supplement. And chickens given astaxanthin are said to live longer and produce better quality eggs.

So why might there be problem with this kind of nutrient; especially after all the claims to it’s health qualities? Like many other health supplements, this product is currently being promoted on on-line marking websites and is not yet available in health food and health supplement stores. This usually adds a lot of money onto the price of the product due the way it is marketed, i.e. by direct or multi-level marketing campaigns where the price of the product is made more expensive due to many people being involved in the “pyramid” sales structure.

From a health standpoint, it must be determined that the product has been tested and certified to be acceptable by organizations such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (it has been approved by the FDA as a food coloring), especially in light of a number of health supplements and vitamins coming from countries such as China being found to be unsafe for human consumption.

There are a lot of tested and certified health supplement products currently on the market, and many of them are available at large chain stores such as GNC, and even ones like Costco and Wall Mart. If astaxanthin turns out to live up to all that is being said about it, then it should eventually be available at well known retail and discount establishments; and not just via online marketing.

Source: Natural News ; Picture by: Wikipedia

Plastic nursing bottles may be health hazards

Plastic nursing bottles are now being seen to have similar health hazards to infants and young children as plastic drinking water bottles are to older persons. Studies made by U.S. and other laboratories are linking chemicals found in the plastic material in nursing bottles to be instrumental in causing various forms of cancer later in life, including breast and prostate cancer. In addition, these chemicals, including some known as BPA or Bisphenol-A may also affect a child’s reproduction capabilities later in life.

Baby bottleBPA is defined as an organic compound containing two phenol functioning groups which have a semblance to estrogen hormone. BPA is an important ingredient in the polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins used to make the strong, shatter-proof plastic bottles that people rely on to heat up baby formula. The plastic material in itself is relatively safe when only water or juices at room temperature are poured inside. The problem arises when the formula is heated to a high temperature prior to being given to a baby; as well as when the bottle is washed at a high temperature, as in an automatic dishwasher. The heating process causes the chemicals in the plastic to be released into the fluid inside the bottle which then enter the child’s body and bloodstream. The chemical reactions are similar to what occurs to water inside plastic water bottles which are exposed to high temperatures (when left in a car, etc.)

Warnings of the possible dangers of BPA chemical reactions in infant feeding bottles are now being issued by U.S. government agencies such as the National Toxicology Program. Their findings indicate that these chemical reactions may cause harm to humans, especially children, and result in problems such as early puberty, reproductive problems and even neurological problems.

BPA is found in a number of plastic containers as well as in the coatings often used in a number of soft drink products. Although tests are still being conducted, the main concern is that continuous exposure to BPA could result in a chronic toxicity which will result in the aforementioned health problems.

Plastic infant feeding bottles have been in use for decades, and mothers rely on them to nourish their babies. The dangers of chemical toxicity are now becoming more publicized, and some countries, including Canada, are planning to declare that Bisphenol-A is a toxic substance. Some American states, including California, are also considering the banning of products containing BPA.

As for an alternative to BPA, perhaps the old adage that “breast is best” is in the end the best and safest infant feeding method.

Malaria is a disease without borders

April 25, 2008 was designated as the first annual date to commemorate the fight being made against a disease that strikes and kills millions of people all over the warmer regions of the world. Often referred to as a “disease without borders”, Malaria kills more than a million human beings annually, many of them old people and children under age 10. Malaria has been designated as the most destructive disease presently known to man, and has killed and disabled more people than any other cause since the dawn of history – including famine and warfare. The debilitating affects of the disease causes an estimated $15 billion worth of damage annually to the world’s economy due to lost productivity.

Because of the dangers of this disease, which seems to be on the upsurge in Asia, South America and Africa, the U.N. World Health Organization authorities declared in May, 2007, that a Malaria World Awareness Day would be inaugurated the following year to bring more attention to this devastating disease. And due to so many cases occurring on the African Continent, it was decided to change what was formerly called African Malaria Awareness Day to a world event to bring the problem to the attention of everyone living on this planet.

Malaria is caused by the bite of the Anopheles mosquito which carries four types of protozoan parasites. When the mosquito bites someone, it injects some of these parasites into the person’s bloodstream where they eventually reach the person’s liver. There, they multiply rapidly and cause the disease that brings on severe chills and high fever that lasts up to 48 hours or more each time the disease recurs. Malaria is a virtual “life sentence” for those infected by it, and can recur annually for the rest of a person’s life. Due to it’s severity during an attack, the disease can cause a number of severe complications, including heart failure; and as a result, it is often fatal to small children and people who are physically weak – especially older people, and those inflicted with chronic and acute ailments, such as HIV/AIDS. The most dangerous times for being exposed to the mosquitoes carrying this disease is in the evening hours when the sun sets and the early morning hours before sun-rise.

More than 100 countries, containing 40% of the world’s population, have problems with this disease. The African Rift Valley, that long, often marshy section of Eastern Africa is a virtual incubator for the Anopheles mosquito, resulting in the inhabitants of countries such as Kenya, Tanzania, the Congo, Rwanda, Zambia, and Burundi being some of the most devastated by this disease.

UN World Health authorities estimate that an investment of around $2.2 billion will be enough to control the disease. Although there are a number of medications to treat the affects of the disease, including that age old remedy quinine, the best treatment is prevention which can be had by simply providing people at risk, especially children, with mosquito netting when they go to sleep at night. With the augmentation of a world Malaria awareness day, it is hoped that more attention will be given to helping to control a scourge that has attacked mankind for centuries.

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.