Watercress or Kangkong - The Must-Eat Green

October12

Watercress or Kangkong is vitamin-and nutrient-packed superfood. It is rich in vitamins A and C and boasts an entire day’s worth of vitamin K. Vitamin K helps keep the bones strong and the heart healthy.

watercress-lancastria

Watercress is an excellent source of vitamins B1, B2, B6, C, E, manganese, and carotenes. It also a good source of calcium, fiber, iron and copper.With just four calories, it is a must-eat green vegetable.

A recent study found that watercress or kangkong could reduce your risk of breast cancer because of its compound that inhibits a protein related to tumor growth. This natural plant compound dubbed as phenylethyl isothiocyanate (PEITC) found in watercress interferes the growth of cancer cells.

Watercress or kangkong is also a mild diuretic. It can help get rid off excess fluid if you’re bloated before your period or because of too much salt.

It’s easy to find this super food because it is available all year round. For optimal health benefits, eat watercress or kangkong raw and as fresh as possible.

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Did You Know You Can Fight Fat With Peppers?

June23

Scientists from the American Institute of Cancer Research are reporting new evidence that capsaicin, the stuff that gives chili peppers their kick, may cause weight loss and fight fat buildup by triggering certain beneficial protein changes in the body.

Past research suggests that obesity can be reduced by preventing immature fat cells (adipocytes) from developing into mature cells.

Past research also linked capsaicin to a decrease in the amount of fat tissue and decreased blood-fat levels. With that knowledge, the researchers tested capsaicin’s effects on pre-adipocytes and adipocytes growing in laboratory cultures.

red-hot-chili-pepper1

They found that capsaicin prevented pre-adipocytes from filling with fat and becoming full-fledged fat cells. The effects occurred at levels just slightly greater than those found in the stomach fluid of an individual eating a typical Indian or Thai diet, the researchers noted. Capsaicin worked by providing a biochemical signal that made fat cells undergo apoptosis, a mechanism in which cells self-destruct.

In the study, rats were fed a high-fat diet, either with or without capsaicin. A comparison group was fed a normal diet, capsaicin-free. Compared to the high-fat eating group, the capsaicin-treated rats showed decreased weight gain and accumulated less fat. The capsaicin-treated animals also gained only slightly more weight than those fed a normal diet.

Analysis found that when the animals were fed a high-fat diet, 37 proteins changed, with many expressing higher levels and others lower. Among these, levels of 20 proteins were partially or fully restored to normal levels in the capsaicin group. The capsulize-treated rats lost 8 percent of their body weight and showed changes in levels of at least 20 key proteins found in fat. The altered proteins work to break down fats.The effected proteins in the capsaicin-treated group are linked with fat and carbohydrate metabolism. “These changes provide valuable new molecular insights into the mechanism of the antiobesity effects of capsaicin,” the scientists say.

Mint Leaves: The Real Money-Maker

March2


“It is the destiny of mint to be crushed.”

-Waverley Lewis Root

You and I are “Mint” to Be

When you say mint, you think of cool, refreshing images such as a nice breezy day, ice cold lemonade, chewing gum, or even toothpaste.

According to Greek mythology, the mint plant came to being when the god, Pluto, fell in love with a beautiful nymph named Minthe. When his wife Persephone found out, she was so furious that she turned Minthe into a lowly plant so it could be trod upon forever more. Pluto could not fathom the cruelty on the object of his affection, so he tampered with the curse and gave the plant a delicious scent.

Could it be that Minthe attracts us as well, with the gift Pluto has given her?

First Spring

The name “mint” was derived from the latin word Mentha. Most mint plants originate from parts of Europe, northern Africa, and western Asia, while some are indigenous to America and Australia.

Mint has been used for both culinary and medicinal purposes for thousands of years and is even mentioned in the Bible.  Dried mint leaves were found as early as 1000 BC in ancient Egypt, where it is still used in teas and breads today. The mint’s tangy sweet flavor has a cool aftertaste that makes it delightful in many ways.  But mint was not always just a food ingredient, it had many other functions.

The first evidence of people using mint as a breath freshener was shown to be the Romans. They mixed it in their wines and dishes. Some women–who were punished for drinking–chewed on a mixture of honey and mint to disguise their breath.

Mint has a history as a strewing herb for temple floors, rooms, places of recreation, and places where feasts and banquets were held. Not only was it used to freshen up the air, but also to get rid of mice. Mice are so opposed to the smell of mint, either fresh or dried, that they will leave untouched any food where it is scattered. It could still be used today as an alternative to mothballs. It was widely used by Native Americans as a medicinal ingredient, home deodorizer, perfume, food and beverage flavoring, and an ingredient in hair oil.

Here are some common varieties of mints:

  • Curly Mint: a form of spearmint which has curly, bright green leaves which is used in a lot in mint sauces.
  • Horsemint: Menths alopecurioide grows to be 6-7 feet tall and is the earliest known mint to be used for medicinal purposes. It was simmered in vinegar to cure dandruff in medieval times.
  • Watermint: Mentha aquatica is a low growing mint found in England. It was used in the Middle Ages as a strewing herb.
  • ŸPennyroyal: also known as creeping mint, Mentha saturelioides. This is a Native Australian mint used in repelling fleas and flies, and bed bugs. Forest Mint, Slender Mint and River Mint are also Native Australian Mints.

Other common mints: Round leaf mint, red mint, lemon mint, ginger mint, Egyptian mint, Corsican mint, bergamot, lavender mint, basil mint, Vietnamese mint, white peppermint, black peppermint, pineapple mint, and apple mint.

And the list goes on and on…

Doctor Mint

It was mentioned earlier in this article that mint was used for medicinal purposes. The essential oil of mint contains varying amounts of menthol, which has been shown to have antimicrobial activity. Mint is known for the following benefits:

  • Helps ease nausea, vomiting, and motion sickness
  • Improves digestion and reduces heartburn
  • Improves bad breath
  • Clears congestion related to colds and allergies
  • Eases stress, tension, headaches, and menstrual cramps

Take note that these are only a few of the things that we benefit from mint.

There are numerous remedies you could try with mint leaves at home, too. Peppermint is the mint of choice for medicinal purposes. The menthol in peppermint soothes the lining of the digestive tract and helps in the production of bile, which is an essential digestive fluid. A hot cup of mint tea after each meal is very beneficial. It is also good to drink mint tea for headaches, gas, and to help in sleep. Along with that, it is also very delicious. *To make peppermint tea, use 1 to 2 teaspoons of dried peppermint leaves per cup of boiling water. Steep for 10 minutes.

Tempting, isn’t it?

Keeping in Mint Condition

Mint is available fresh, dried, in extract, or in the form of oil. It can also be grown in your own backyard. If you want to keep it nice and fresh, here are a few tips on how to store your mint:

When buying fresh mint, choose leaves that are rigid and evenly colored and not wilted. Place the mint, stems down, in a small container of water and place a plastic bag over the leaves. It can be refrigerated for up to a week. Be sure to change the water every couple of days.

Store dried mint in airtight containers in a cool dark place. If you want to dry your home-grown mint, you can air-dry or oven-dry them, but you should be aware that the high moisture content in the leaves can cause them to mold. To air dry, hang small bunches upside down in a cool, dark place for about two weeks. To oven-dry, place individual leaves on a tray and press kitchen paper on top, then place it in a cool oven.

You could also freeze mints. To do this, wash and dry individual leaves in a single layer on a tray, cover it with cling film, and put it in the freezer until it’s solid. You can then transfer them into Ziplocks and store them in the freezer for several months.

Spice Mint Up Your Life!

Mint, especially fresh and dried ones, goes well with many savory ingredients. They are often used in preparing meals because they help enhance the flavor of various meats, vegetables, and fruits. A little mint in a fruit salad can dramatically change its flavor. Mint can also work well in green salads. Some cooked veggies like peas, corn, and carrots can all be infused with mint flavor. As for meals, mint marinades or chopped mint goes very well with certain meats. It also complements certain types of seafood like lobster, scallops, and sole.

Air-dried mint is best used in recipes which call for a longer cooking time such as stews, soups, and meat and poultry dishes. Freeze-dried mint is most suitable for dishes which require little or no cooking such as omelettes, sauces and dressings.

As for beverages, mint can be added to tea and juices to amp the flavor, especially with tropical fruits. Mint leaves are also essential in many alcohol-based drinks, like the ever-popular mint julep.

On the sweet side, the taste goes particularly well with chocolate. Chocolate and mint are natural partners, and your fudge brownies can easily become mint chocolate wonders with a little peppermint extract. Not to be forgotten is how things get even cooler with mint chocolate ice cream!

Mint is such a versatile herb. It can actually cause your taste buds to do loop-da-loops. Excited to experiment?

Worth a Mint

Don’t go brewing up any kind of mint tea just yet, there are a few things you need to know first:

  • Pennyroyal is not to be to be eaten because it is toxic.
  • Peppermint should not be given to children under five as the menthol can cause a choking reaction in young children.
  • ŸAvoid prolonged use of the essential oil as an inhalant.
  • ŸAvoid contact of menthol with the eyes.
  • Pure menthol can be fatal if ingested, and must always be diluted and even then, may still cause some allergic reactions and an irregular heartbeat. Usage must immediately be stopped if such symptoms as headache, rash, or flushing begin.

So be safe, stay cool, and enjoy! Do the Mentha way.

Carrot: The Rainbow Veggie

February16

“Eehhh… What’s up, Doc?”

- Bugs Bunny, Warner Bros. Cartoons

May I Offer You A Carrot, Darling?

We’ve known the ancient Romans and Greeks to be great, passionate lovers. From their dramas and beautiful works of art, little did we know they had a secret weapon: the Greek “Philtron” or the Roman “Carota”–simply known as the modern-day Carrot. In ancient times, they used this taproot as love medicine, making men ardent and women yielding.

Though many were not fond of this vegetable, people knew of the carrot’s many “powers.”

Here are some lines physicians would say throughout the years when their patient says “I’m sick.”

3500 years ago - “Here, eat this root.”

2500 year ago - “That root is heathen, say this prayer.”

150 years ago - “That is superstition. Drink this potion.”

50 years ago - “That potion is snake oil. Take this pill.”

15 years ago - “That pill is no good, take this antibiotic.”

Today - “That is not nature’s way. Here eat this root.”

Coincidence? Maybe, maybe not.

The Root of Global Domination

The carrot has made its way across the oceans through the years. Contrary to the carrot we eat today, the first carrots were white, purple, red, yellow, green, and black. They were bitter in taste and were used mainly for their healing properties. Originally, carrots are native to Afghanistan and later on spread to the Mediterranean area. By 1300 AD, carrots reached north-western Europe, India, Japan and China.

Carrots were not orange in color until the Dutch worked to create an orange strain, cultivating them for the ruling “House of Orange.” This was during the Middle Ages. The Romans invaded Britain in the second century AD and brought leeks, onions, garlic, fennel, mint, thyme, parsley and coriander, along with carrots. Some used them as medicine while others used their stalks to decorate their hair, clothing, and other such things. Carrots as fashion accessories… Who knew?

Then to the Americas, this root comes. Some even started growing in the wild and produced the wildflower known as Queen Anne’s Lace–a flowering plant native to the temperate regions of Europe, Southwest Asia, and Northeast North America.

The carrot has come a long way from being just a medicinal plant (and a fashion accessory!) to finally making its way into our kitchens!

Simon Says, “Eat Your Carrots!”

“The only carrots that interest me are the number you get in a diamond.”

- Mae West, actress (1892-1980)

As we all know, the carrot is a root vegetable.  It is actually part of the parsley family, and can be eaten raw or cooked. It has a sweet taste that makes it a popular choice for vegans and vegetarians to include in their meals. It is an extremely versatile and nutritious root vegetable that is high in sugar and fiber. The orange color in the western carrot comes from carotene, an orange synthetic pigment important for photosynthesis. Carrots are also a good source of other nutrients, such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, vitamin A, and folic acid.

Here are some ways carrots benefit our bodies, according to nutritionists:

  • Boosts immunity (especially among older people)
  • Helps reduce photosensitivity (beta-carotene protects the skin from sun damage)
  • Improves symptoms of HIV
  • Eases alcohol withdrawal symptoms
  • Helps to heal minor wounds and injuries
  • Reduces the risk of heart disease
  • Reduces the risk of high blood pressure
  • Cleanses the liver, and when consumed regularly, can help the liver excrete fats and bile
  • Fights bronchitis
  • Fights infection (vitamin A keeps cell membranes healthy, making them stronger against disease-causing microorganisms)
  • Improves muscle, flesh, and skin health
  • Helps fight anemia
  • Reduces acne
  • Improves eye health

Doesn’t that sound like a super vegetable? One vegetable that offers so many benefits, even animals love them! Perhaps carrots are a little better than the karats in diamonds after all.

Carrot Remedies

The carrot is rich in vitamins A and C as well as sodium, calcium and fiber and all of these active ingredients help the carrot to be an effective natural acne remover. Carrot juice helps cleanse blood and can help clear and beautify the skin.  You can either buy carrot juice from your local store but many store-bought juices contain additives, salt and so on so if possible buy a juicer and make your own juice. Or you could simply eat them.  Carrots can also be used to prevent wrinkles.

“Carrot” All For Me?

The carrot is a cool climate crop and can be sown early in the spring in temperate climates, or in the autumn or winter in sub-tropical areas. It is called a biennial plant and only flowers every two years. In the first year the plant produces the edible root and a leafy top. If a carrot plant is left in the ground for another year, it flowers and seeds are produced.

From the fields to the supermarket, choosing the best carrots for your keeping may be a little tricky. Here are a few tips on how to select them. Look for carrots that are uniform in color from top to bottom and whose skin is smooth and free of cracks. Also try to avoid carrots that have begun to sprout, that have blemishes, soft spots, or large green areas at the crown, and any that have become limp.

Before preparing a meal, gently scrub the carrots under cold running water to remove all the dirt on the surface. Do not wash them until you’re ready to prepare for the meal. Also, rim the ends of the carrots. Use a vegetable peeler and trim thin slices lengthwise from the surface until the entire surface is peeled. Peel only one layer from the surface. If the carrots have a bad spot on them, remove it by cutting it out with a small knife.

When cooking carrots, be sure to cut the pieces at about the same size so they could cook evenly. This will bring out their natural sweetness. If your peeled carrots turn a whitish color, don’t worry. Just soak them in cold water and the beautiful orange color will come back again.

For safe keeping, carrots can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a month if stored properly. To prevent condensation from forming, it is advisable to wrap the carrots in a paper towel and then place them in a bag in the refrigerator, or use a perforated plastic bag. Excess moisture will cause them to rot. Now that you’ve read this, treat your carrots well.

The Truth Behind the Myths

The folk belief that carrots enable one to see in the dark, or at least improve your vision, enabled the British Royal Air Force to disguise its use of radar from the Germans during World War II. It was said that the Air Force bragged that the great accuracy of British fighter pilots at night was a result of them being fed enormous quantities of carrots, and the Germans bought it. But it just made sense for them to believe it because a vitamin A deficiency affects your eyesight. Carrots are rich in beta-carotene, which develops vitamin A.

Another myth is eating too much carrots makes you turn orange. Well, a myth with a name is most likely true. This condition is known as hypercarotenaemia. Large amounts of carotene can build up in your blood and turn your skin slightly orange. The good news is that it’s not dangerous and it usually goes away quickly, as long as you cut back on the carrot consumption. Have you been orange lately? Better check your carrot supply!


Strawberry: The Berry That’s Not A Berry

February10

Strawberries

Alluring Strawberries

“Doubtless God could have made a better berry (than the strawberry),

But doubtless God never did” – William Allen Butler

Warm a Heart with a Heart

In ancient Rome, the strawberry was a symbol of Venus, the Goddess of Love. Legend says that when Venus wept on the death of Adonis, the tears that rolled off her cheeks turned into strawberries. In the provincial areas of France, it is a tradition to serve newlyweds cold strawberry soup of thinned sour cream, borage and powdered sugar as an aphrodisiac to help promote romance.


There’s also a legend saying that if you break a double strawberry in half and share it with someone of the opposite sex, you will soon fall in love with each other. Legends and customs do rotate on one truth–that strawberries are such a versatile fruit that symbolizes love.


The sensuality of strawberries drew its popularity but its benefits gave it our respect.

The Sweet Heart

Strawberries are originally wild plants that grew around the world. The Romans started to cultivate strawberries more for its medicinal properties than for culinary use. The product of the farms were small, quite bland and less aromatic. It was only during the 17th century when French military engineer, Amédée-François Frézier, brought back the Beach Strawberry from his South American expedition to Europe. In Frézier’s writing he stated:

One there cultivates entire fields of a type of strawberry different than ours by their rounder leaves, fleshier and with strong runners. Its fruit are extraordinarily big as whole nut, and sometimes as a small egg. They are of a red whitish colour and a little less delicate to the taste than our wood strawberries.”

In fact the ancient surname Frézier derived from fraise, the French word for strawberry. His introduction of the New World strawberries brought the revolution of plump delicious hybrid fruits which we know of today.


For some time the hybrid strawberries were considered as luxury food, affordable only for the high society. But as time lapsed to the 19th century commerce, modern agriculture and transportation made strawberries and other items available to more areas.


Now according to FAS - Foreign Agricultural Service, the top fresh strawberry producers in sequential order are: United States, China, and Spain. Spain is also the top exporter of both fresh and frozen strawberries. Approximately the United States alone can produce about 1 million tons of in a year! Yes, strawberries are undoubtedly loved by many.

Bed of Roses

The word strawberry comes from the Old English word “streawberige”. The reason for its name is uncertain, perhaps the berries appear to be “strewn”, some say that it means spreading berry.

Strawberries are Stolon plants, meaning they send out runners or horizontal slender stems along the ground to propagate. If you have seen healthy strawberry fields, you should see not only beds of flush dark green leaves with growing plump red hearts but also a handful of small delicate white flowers. Little is known about these white flowers. Some use them for teas and others as a garnish. This makes sense since strawberries fall under the family Rosaceae, and all roses both wild and cultivated are edible.

It does give a romantic touch to know that strawberries are related to roses; but a more interesting fact is that a strawberry is a false berry and a false fruit.


Fruits are the products of ripened ovaries of flowering plants. The term False fruit–also known as pseudocarp or accessory fruit–resembles a fruit but is not developed from a flower. A False berry is a type of epigynous accessory fruit. Some examples are bananas and cranberries.


So exactly what is it? The strawberry is the receptacle (stem where the floral organs are attached) and the yellow “seeds” dimpled on its surface are the real fruits.

The Super “Fruit”

Strawberries are just the most luscious, delicious, nutritious fruit!

There are several studies conducted on strawberries all giving the same results: Strawberries are just without a doubt a berry bursting with nutritious goodness! Here is some proof, a study on the nutrient density of fruits conducted by the American college of Nutrition, placed strawberries in the top three fruits which provides recommended amounts of 9 essential nutrients. A Harvard study shows that consuming strawberries help reduce risk of having elevated inflammation in blood vessels. A 2008 study based by the Overall Nutrition Quality Index (ONQI), developed by Yale’s Prevention Research Center and several leading health and nutrition experts, shows that strawberries earn the highest nutrient-density score of 100 the highest score possible!

Now let’s see how eating just eight so-called “berry of the gods” help your overall health. Strawberry is famed to be packed with Vitamin C, manganese, folate, and dietary fiber. It is also a very good source of iodine, potassium, riboflavin, vitamin B5, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B6, vitamin K, copper and antioxidants. With all these nutrients, this low carbohydrate, low sugar treat helps improve memory and eyesight, whitens teeth, and helps prevent obesity.

The heart-shaped fruit is good for the heart. It’s a good source of ellagic acid which has strong antioxidant properties that helps lower blood pressure and carotid artery wall thickness.


Strawberry contains beneficial phytonutrients that includes anthocyanins and ellagitannins or ellagic acid. The anthocyanins are water-soluble pigments that give strawberries their radiant red color. It helps protect the fruit from the sun’s harmful UV rays. As for us, they serve as powerful antioxidants that help protect our cells from oxygen damaging particles and/or bad cholesterol, and together with ellagitannins, the strawberry becomes a super fruit to help prevent cancer cell proliferation. A few servings of strawberries a week can help reduce risks of cervical, breast, esophageal and skin cancers and also nitrosimine formation, a carcinogen that can lead to stomach cancer.

But wait, there’s more! The phenols are also the reason why it gives the fruit the ability to help prevent inflammation without any harmful side effects. The high potency of Vitamin C and the anti-inflammation effects of these fruits is a gift for those who want to prevent inflammatory polyarthritis–a form of rheumatoid arthritis.

The strawberry is such a phenomenon that it was even requested by reputable athletes to be served at the Beijing Olympics.

Strawberry Fields Forever

If you are fortunate enough to be able to pick these berries fresh from a farm, carefully pick the berry by pinching the stem between your thumb and forefinger then pull with a twisting motion. Leave the stem on the fruit. For both the pickers of the strawberry fields and those from the groceries, pick only the strawberries that are bright red in color with their caps intact and green. Fresh berries should give out a light sweet fragrance and should be slightly firm to the touch. Avoid soft or shriveled berries and those with white or brown color patches. If the berries are pre-packed make sure you check the underside of the container for any indication of juice or rotting berries.

Strawberries, like any other berries, are quite delicate and should be consumed once bought. Rule of thumb: don’t wash strawberries if you are going to store them. Storing wet strawberries in a plastic container is pretty much like storing rotting berries.   Wash the berries under cold, running water when you are ready to eat them. Remove the green caps only after rinsing to prevent any excess water from getting into the strawberry.

To store strawberries, place them on a paper towel in a tightly-covered container or plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days.

Freezing is also a great way to serve or store your berries. Wash the berries and pat dry with a paper towel. You may remove the green caps. Spread the strawberries over wax paper on a tray or cookie sheet. Once frozen you have choice to transfer the frozen berries in thick re-sealable plastic bag and return it to the freezer. Storing depends on your culinary purpose. Frozen berries can last up to a year.

Berry Good!

The goodness of strawberries is that ellagic acid (the cancer fighting properties) retains its effectiveness even when transformed to any culinary art! Meaning it can be baked into strawberry shortcakes, frozen into ice cream, blended into milkshake and it’s still a great antioxidant!

To get the most nutrients out of your berries though, eat them as soon as possible!

Remember the other nutrients start to deteriorate the moment is it picked from the plant.

Valentine’s Treat

Heart’s Day is peeping around the corner, a day to give time to your loved ones and even yourself. The deep red, heart-shaped fruit with its luscious sweet taste and aroma is a feast for senses. So why not sweeten that special someone’s day with heart-shaped strawberries? Just a simple trick of candle light, chocolate dip, champagne and the most luscious strawberries you can find can make a perfect setting for a romantic indulgence.

These timeless berries are appreciated around the world across different cultures, children and adults, man and woman alike. Surprise your loved ones and show them how special they are to you. Give a basket of fresh strawberries–a nutritiously sweet surprise that would definitely bring smiles to their faces.

Merry Berries

Treating yourself is also equally as important. These pretty berries are more then hearty healthy treats; they can help make you look more radiant inside and out.


Simple Strawberry Facial Scrub
A super simple and gentle skin exfoliate. Strawberries contain alpha-hydroxy acid, a great skin-loving ingredient that helps remove dead skin cells. Slice a berry in half then lightly rub the inner flesh on your skin in a circular motion. Let the strawberry juices sit for a few minutes then rinse off.


Acne Remedy
Here is a natural way to help remove those blemishes:

Ingredients:
1/2 cup sliced strawberries
1 tablespoon sour cream

Mash well to combine, then apply mixture to your face, avoid areas around the eyes. Leave on for about 10min. Rinse thoroughly.


Puffy Eye Remedy
Place a strawberry slices under your eyes and relax for 10 minutes, then remove the slices and moisturize.


Strawberry Tooth-Whitener
Rub crushed fresh strawberry pulp directly on your teeth to clean and gently remove stains. Though the taste may be tempting, it’s best to gargle off remaining residues for hygiene purpose.

Safety


Pesticides

According to the Environmental Working Group’s 2006 report “Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce,” strawberries are among the 12 foods on which pesticide residues have been most frequently found. Organic fruits are still the best way to assure safe diets.


Strawberries and Oxalates

Strawberries are one of the few foods which contain oxalates. Oxalate acids combined with some corresponding metals that can be found in your body may form calcium oxalate crystals. These crystals make up about 80% of kidney stones, and are also responsible for other intestine problems. Those with kidney disorders and gallbladder problems should consult your doctor before eating food with oxalates. Here are some oxalate containing foods listed in decreasing order: rhubarb, buckwheat, star fruit, black pepper, spinach, chocolate, most nuts, most berries and beans.


Strawberries and Goitrogens

Strawberries contain goitrogens, a substance that interferes with the iodine in our body which suppresses the function of thyroid. People with thyroid problems should avoid strawberries. Some foods that also contain goitrogens are the following–in random order: soybeans, peanuts, pears, peaches, spinach, radishes, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, Chinese cabbage and turnips.



Parsley, the Favorite Herb of the Devil?

February2


Herbs are identified as plants that have become essential for its medicinal properties, flavor and aroma. With the vast amount of flora on the face of our planet, our ancestors have given us an easier time to sum up and classify these small edible plants for us.


Herbs played an essential role in history. It was worn as crowns by great warriors, gave hope for those who were sick, and symbolized Gods and Goddesses. All herbs were heavily respected except one. The Parsley.


Parsley



Forbidden Past


During the early civilization everything from the simple shrubs to the stars had a story behind it, back then practically anything that was given a name was blessed with a legend.


It’s true, that unlike other herbs, the Parsley has a remarkably twisted past. Let me show you. Sage symbolized wisdom and skill. Roman soldiers bathed in thyme because it was said to give vigor, strength and courage. Dill was for luck and wealth. Marjoram and oregano was said to be created by the Greek God Venus which symbolized love, honor and happiness. They were also known to be the favorite herbs of Aphrodite. Mint resembled hospitality from a story with Zeus himself.  The Parsley on the other hand was associated with death.


The superstition of parsley was so great among the Greeks, that this fear was used against them during a battle! According to Plutarch, a Roman historian, a Celtic kingdom was saved by sending asses covered in parsley to the invading Greek soldiers, causing them to flee in fear.


So why was parsley associated with death when all other herb had a happy story?


In Greek Mythology, parsley was said to have sprung from the blood stained rock of the baby Archemorus, when he was strangled by a serpent. This labeled him as the “forerunner of death”.


The rock in the legend does give its toll in the name of the parsley, Petroselinum crispum. Derived from “Petroselinum” a combination of two latin words Petros which means “rock” and Selinon ancient Greek for “celery”. The herb was first noticed to be abundant in rocky areas.


From its history alone, it’s no wonder why parsley isn’t favored as food. Instead its purpose is somewhat a little more interesting. What we find now as an equivalent to breath freshener was used before as wreaths to adorn tombs. It was also used to cover corpses to help control the stench. Luckily the herb does have a less gothic use. During the Isthmian Games (similar to our present day Olympics), parsley was woven as crowns to be rewarded to the victors.

Parsley “The Herb of Darkness”


It just keeps on getting darker. In the same line of death is sickness, fear, evil and ultimately the devil. Man had decided that the superstitions just wouldn’t be complete if the man down under isn’t involved.


Parsley seeds have a natural tendency to take two weeks to grow. The biochemistry and soil moisture plays a heavy role for the length of its germination period. But since our white coat scientists and their fancy gadgets didn’t exist a few hundred years ago, the devilish parsley continued its rein of terror even in its state as an itty bitty seed!


Legend says that the parsley seed is the favorite herb of the devil. So it traveled from the devil and back several times before it can sprout.


‘Sow on Good Friday, seven times down to Hell afore it chits [sprouts (dialect)].’
[1981 in A. Hewins Dillen xiv.]


Growing parsley was so tabooed that a rule was made that the male head of the family could only plant parsley on a Good Friday. It was thought that this can counter act the curse since the Good Friday resembled the forgiveness of all sins. The most amusing superstition though is that virgins could not plant parsley at all for fear of being impregnated by the devil!


The strong symbolic meaning also has its benefits. The reason why parsley has not been condemned into existence is because it was perceived to have magical powers capable of curing several sicknesses.


Silver Lining


Nowadays, the Parsley name has its good news and bad news. The good news is parsley no longer has any connotation with death nor is it feared by virgins. The bad news is from being something with such strong symbolism it is now in majority considered to be just a garnish. A fluffy green ornament to put a little art on a platter of food, and if you ate garnish in a social event you would be considered deprived or someone who lacks proper upbringing. But truth beholds that its “magical powers” to improve health still prevails.


Parsley is a member of the family Umbelliferae, meaning it possess an aromatic characteristic and has hollow stems called umbellifers. Also included in this family are parsnip, celery, dill, cumin, coriander, carrot, and a number of others.


There are two main types of parsley used as herbs: the curly leaf and the flat leaf or Italian. The curly leaf is the one we commonly use as garnish. The flat leaf has a more potent flavor and aroma. The third type is called the Hamburg parsley or the parsley root, it is cultivated as a root vegetable. It looks similar to a parsnip and tastes somewhat like celery.  It can be eaten raw but it’s commonly cooked in stews.

The World’s Healthiest Garnish


As said earlier, the herb made its mark because of its medical use. A lot of nutrients can be found in this little green herb.


Parsley roots, leaves, and seeds all contain volatile oil. Parsley oil contains two major chemicals, apiol and myristicin. Apiol, which is considered to be found exclusively in parsley, gives this herb it’s main characteristic to stimulate blood flow and also serve as a diuretic.


If you take parsley, it can help you if you have:


Amenorrea – This is a common case for females today. Because of stress and unhealthy lifestyle, most women find themselves having irregular menstruation cycles. The Apiol as said earlier is an oil found in parsley that helps treat this condition.


Fever - Apiol also has antipyretic properties, which helps reduce fever. But don’t think that it can replace medicines. Using parsley in your diet helps complement medicines to fight fever.


High Blood Pressure – This is one of the top leading health problems in the world. Some causes of hypertension that can be prevented are high cholesterol levels, nutritional deficiencies in potassium, magnesium, calcium and vitamin C, and being overweight. Parsley is known to be a good diuretic and also has quite the potency of Vitamin C. Diuretics increase the production of urine to release excess fluid. This helps reduce excess weight and bloating. But more importantly it also helps rid the body of excess salts and may reduce blood volume thus help prevent hypertension. According to the USDA Nutritional Database, 100g Parsley = 133mg Vitamin C. This is 80mg more vitamins from 100gm of peeled orange! This herb is also an excellent source of Vitamin K and A, a power pack for cell regeneration and proper growth, which helps fight free radicals in our body.


Rheumatoid Arthritis - A study conducted by the Arthritis Research Campaign (ARC), proved that consuming foods with vitamin C helps prevent the development of inflammatory arthritis.


Bad Breath - Parsley contains high levels of chlorophyll and fluorine. Chlorophyll, the main ingredient in most breath fresheners such as Clorets, helps inhibiting the spread of bacteria and fungi. This anti-bacterial properties support its ability to flush out toxins and prevent several sickness.

Serving the Green Fluff


“Parsley - the jewel of herbs, both in the pot and on the plate.”
Albert Stockli


Parsley has slowly made its way to an array of dishes. People have become more comfortable cooking with parsley as an ingredient then just putting it on the side of a plate. This herb is incredibly diverse, it can be placed with all sorts of meat, placed in drinks, fresh salads, made into soups, even simply deep fried as finger food. Of course, like any other vegetable, the best way to serve greens is fresh.

Keeping it Fresh


When you choose your parsley always get those with a full green color. Make sure you look through the bundle of parsley that it does not have any light green or yellow leaves. Parsley is an aromatic herb so it should give off a nice fresh scent. Wash the parsley in cold water and damp it down lightly with a paper towel to remove the excess water. After this, wrap it again with another paper towel and place it in a plastic bag. Then you can put it in the refrigerator. The paper towel will absorb moisture and prevent molds.

As The Old Saying Goes…


… too much of a good thing is bad.  Like anything else, if you consume it in an extreme dosage it can cause more damage, especially food with high oil and vitamin content. Parsley should not be taken in high dosages, especially for females. The capabilities for parsley to regulate menstrual flow can harm pregnant women.


Just How Well Do You Know The Cucumber?

January10

cucumber

A FRUIT WITH “CULTURE

The time line of the great cucumber can be traced back to about 2000 B.C. during the Cradle of Civilization. In this Mesopotamian Era, man had cultivated and bared this fruit which in record was known to be freely available to all social classes. Other sources show that it was cultivated in Western Asia for 3,000 years. Later on, famous historical figures showed their interest in this humble fruit which led to its global spread.


Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar brought the cucumber to Europe and Rome. The Roman Emperor Tiberius became so fond of the fruit that he had one of the first greenhouses created to make the cucumber available throughout the year. In the Renaissance Era, the famous Charlemagne also grew cucumber in his garden in France.


The popularity of the cucumber slowly spread to Great Britain during the 14th century and was introduced to the America’s by Christopher Columbus by the mid-16th Century. This is how the cucumber fruit came about in our diet today.


THE FUNNY FRUIT


What is the first thing that enters your mind when you hear cucumber? If you thought of a fresh cylindrical green fruit, it means you have met everyone’s common salad friend.


Now like getting to know someone a bit more, let me introduce the family members. Meet Yamato, Crystal Apple, Boothy Blond, Burpless, Gherkin, Hokus and Midget. Sounds like names from the seven dwarfs, but these are some examples of types of cucumbers.


Cucumbers (Cucumis sativus) fall under gourd family Cucurbitaceae, which includes squash, watermelon, zucchini, and pumpkin. The plant grows creeping vines that wrap on other structures for support. And for the simple reason that it generates seeds it is considered as a fruit.


Generally, there are three varieties of cucumbers: greenhouse or indoor, outdoor or ridge, and pickling cukes or gherkins. Crystal Apple, Danimas, Telegraph, Telegraph Improved, and Yamato are grown indoors or in greenhouse settings. Some outdoor varieties are Burpless, Tasty Green, Chicago Pickling, and Marketmore. Some kinds of pickling cucumbers are Arena, Athene, Gherkin, Hokus, and Midget.


Cucumbers come in an array of colors, size, texture, taste and aroma. This explains the different ways of consuming them, but they are most commonly eaten raw. Most cucumbers are harvested and consumed while they are still green. When a cucumber ripens the color changes from deep green to light green, white, then yellowish, orange-yellow, or with a shade of brown. When it is fully ripe the taste becomes bitter and sour.


Let us now return to our common green cucumber, which is the Marketmore.

GREEN’S ANATOMY


Cucumbers are valued for two reasons. First, it is very low in Cholesterol, Saturated Fat, and Sodium. Second, it is 95% water. One cup of chopped cucumbers is equivalent to about 90ml of pure water and only 20 calories, making the cucumber a great candidate for weight lost.


In summary, the cucumber flesh is a good source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Folate, Pantothenic Acid, Phosphorus and Manganese. While its hard skin is rich in dietary fiber, and contains Potassium, Molybdenum, Magnesium, Phytosterols.


Diuretic


Fresh cucumber serves as natural diuretics. This water-filled fruit helps increase the flow of urine which eliminates toxins, excess body fluids and salt. It also helps reduce water retention and bloating.


The exterior cover of the cucumber has an important health role as well. It provides dietary fibers and contains a good source of potassium and manganese. The potassium lowers blood pressure while the manganese nutrients greatly help in metabolism.


Moreover, the cucumber skin contains phytosterols, which reduce cholesterol absorption in the intestines.


The FDA has approved the following claim for phytosterols: “Foods containing at least 0.4 gram per serving of plant sterols, eaten twice a day with meals for a daily total intake of at least 0.8 gram, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease.”


So instead of buying over-the-counter medicines, a lot of people start to move towards natural diuretics. Now you have every reason to eat the cucumber skin!


Healing


The benefit of being a green fruit, it contains Vitamin K, which is commonly known to aid the body to absorb calcium and blood clotting. If you have a history of heart related diseases and osteoporosis this would be essential knowledge.


Beauty


There is a reason why cucumbers are the most popular fruit eye pad in the world. Its ability to help prevent bloating and its content of vitamin A and C gives added rejuvenating characteristics. As antioxidants their function is to remove free radicals.


Picture this, oxidants are free radicals. A nail that oxidizes becomes rusty; similarly, our blood accumulates oxidants that lead to various health diseases. The vitamins detoxify, helping the body to heal itself faster. Thus, faster tissue repair and more collagen buildup lead to glowing skin.

CHOOSING MR. GREEN


To make sure you get the best of the best when picking your cucumbers, always choose those that have a hard and smooth surface with an evenly deep green color. Cucumbers are basically full of moisture so those with deep embedded lines, dimples and have a soft texture means that it is dry.

STORING AND SERVING


To keep the natural crispiness, store cucumbers in the warmest part of the refrigerator which is the top most shelf. Not at the bottom or in the freezer. As said earlier, the cucumber is pure moisture. If placed in a colder setting the fruit will crystallize, and when thawed it will give a soggy inner texture.


Cucumbers are served fresh, pickled or cooked. It is best though to consume them raw, to maximize its nutrients. Cucumber salads are the most common preparation.


SAFETY


Commercialized grown cucumbers may be waxed to protect them from bruising during shipping and to increase its shelf life.


Unfortunately, to remove the wax from non-organic is to remove the skin. Washing will not remove all the wax. You can peel a thin layer of skin, to keep the healthy vitamins and minerals lie right below it.

Just How Well Do You Know The Cantaloupe?

December21


NAME & HISTORY

The cantaloupe is one of the most frequently purchased fruits in the United States. Although more commonly referred to as a cantaloupe, this variety of melon is in fact a muskmelon which is characterized by its netted skin. The true cantaloupe comes from Europe and the texture of its skin is rough and warty with deep ridges.

The cantaloupe may have originated in India and Africa in ancient times. Later on, it was grown largely in France. It was supposedly named after Cantalupo, a papal villa near Rome where the variety was cultivated. The muskmelon was introduced to the United States during colonial times, but it was grown commercially only during the late nineteenth century. The term cantaloupe has since then been the generic name for most varieties of melon in the country.

In Australia and New Zealand, it is called ROCKMELON for the hard and bumpy appearance of its skin. In South Africa, it is called SPANSPEK, which means sweet melon.

Cantaloupe melons are more closely related to cucumbers than watermelons. They are in the same gourd family as cucumbers, squash, and pumpkins.

They are available whole year round with its peak growing and harvesting season from June thru

October.

NUTRITION & HEALTH BENEFITS

Like its cousins the summer and winter squash, cantaloupes are nutrient dense with low calorie content. This fruit contains significant amounts of vitamins A and C and has excellent levels of potassium and beta carotenes. It is also a good source of dietary fiber. Cantaloupes are also good to consume on hot days to help stay hydrated because it has high water contents.

Cantaloupe contains the compound adenosine. This is currently being used for patients with heart disease. It helps to keep the blood thin and relieve angina attacks.

SELECTION AND STORAGE

When selecting a cantaloupe, avoid those with a stem. These have been harvested too early. Look for the ones with a smooth, shallow basin where the stem was once attached. Make sure that there is no mold here. The cantaloupe should have good webbing over a yellowish buff skin color. Avoid those with bruises and cracks. It should also have a fragrant aroma that doesn’t smell too strongly. A ripe cantaloupe will have a musky sweet smell at the stem end of the melon. An odorless melon is likely to be tasteless.

If cantaloupe is still firm it can be left at the room temperature for a days to allow its fresh to become softer and juicer. Once it is ripe. It should be stored in the refrigerator. Melon that has been cut should be refrigerated and wrapped. It is important to cover it since it emits ethylene gas that may affect the taste and texture of other fruits and vegetables stored in the same place.

PREPARATION

Cantaloupe are grown in close contact with the ground so the skin must be thoroughly scrubbed and cleansed well to avoid transferring any bacteria from the rind to the flesh of the fruit when slicing. After cutting the melon open, the seeds and the netting can be scooped out. Make sure that all utensils and surfaces that the melon comes in contact with once opened are clean.

It can be cut into halves, quarters, wedges, or cubes. It can also be scooped out with a melon baller and served with sorbet, cottage cheese, or yogurt. The cantaloupe’s flavor combines well with almost any other fruit so it serves as an excellent ingredient in fruit salads. For a little zest in an appetizer or to complement a light meal, it can be tossed with lemon, lime, or fresh coriander.

SAFETY

To avoid the health risks from pesticide residues frequently found on melons, opt for organically grown ones it they are available. The skin of organically grown cantaloupe is just highly nutritious as the flesh so it can also be juiced.