Monthly Archives: October 2012

Health Benefits of chillies

ImageThe History

The chilli is native to South America where it’s been cultivated for use in human cuisine for over 7500 years, although not discovered by the western world until Christopher Columbus made his first voyage in 1548. Although Columbus did document the chilli, it was actually the Portuguese who first brought the plant back to Europe. From this point it took just 50 years for chillies to circum navigate the globe and before long the humble chilli had become a staple food in most western cultures.

Health Properties

There is almost no end to the list of benefits to your health that adding chillies to your diet could provide. Some of the most prominent of which are

  • Stabilising blood sugar levels – after eating a meal containing chillies diabetics need 60% less insulin to return there blood sugar levels to normal.
  • Reducing inflammation – chillies contain a substance known as capsaicin , this Neuropeptide has a strong anti-inflammatory effect on the body.
  • Heart health – Studies show that eating chilli regularly helps keep your heart healthy by lowering cholesterol, keeping your blood pressure in a healthy range, and allowing more blood to reach the heart.
  • Maintain bone health – Researchers have found that chilli peppers contain high amounts of calcium, which is important in maintaining strong bones and teeth.
  • Pain relief – Chillies stimulate the release of endorphins that are natural pain killers. It relieves pain caused due to shingles (Herpes Zoster), bursitis, diabetic neuropathy and muscle spasm in shoulders, and extremities. It also helps in relieving arthritic pains in the extremities.
  • Clears congestion – Chilies gives relief from nasal congestion by increasing the metabolism. It also dilates airway of lungs which reduces asthma and wheezing. It relieves chronic congestion in people who are heavy drinkers.
  • Lowers risk of some cancers – It has been noted that vitamin C, beta-carotene and folic acid found in chilli reduces the risk of colon cancer. Chillies such as red pepper have cartonoid lycopene, which prevents cancer disease.

Grow your own

Although chillies are relatively cheep to pick up from your local super market they also happen to be very easy to grow at home even a sunny windowsill can provide your chilli plant with enough light to bare a bumper crop. Once harvested the chillies can be easily dried out and stored away for use throughout the year.

http://boingboing.net/2011/09/08/chili-peppers-surprising-pain-relief.html

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ptr.2417/abstract

http://www.nhs.uk/news/2010/08August/Pages/Chilli-blood-pressure-link.aspx

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD007393.pub2/abstract?systemMessage=Wiley+Online+Library+will+be+disrupted+on+27+October+from+10%3A00-12%3A00+BST+%2805%3A00-07%3A00+EDT%29+for+essential+maintenance

Macrobiotics

The History of Macrobiotics

Macrobiotics is a philosophy, eat correctly, address lifestyle habits and the body should return to its harmonious state of health. For 5000 years, philosophers have believed in the life giving properties of more favorable plants in spite of the changes in our modern western diet of today. For instance, eating fresh vegetables, beans and whole grains on a daily basis may lower your risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer. All of which are diseases that plague the modern western society of today.

Most recently Michio Kushi, who was inspired by the writer-philosopher George Ohsawa who published works in English, Japanese and French, combining over 5000 years of oriental medicine with the traditions of macro-biotics, has developed principles where one can adjust their lifestyle to coincide with any cultural or religious background and live life to it’s most optimum effect. Kushi described his use of the word macrobiotics by writing, “I realized that it was essential to recover genuine food, largely of natural, organic quality, and make it available to every family at reasonable cost.”

The concept of Macrobiotics

These principles are simple really, eat well and your general health will improve causing a shift in your mental outlook on life. No one plan is available as this wouldn’t work for everybody; instead Kushi designed ‘The Great Life Pyramid’ which focuses on lifestyle and macrobiotic suggestions.

For example people living in a temperate climate should eat daily 40% – 60% whole grain cereals such as oats, millet, brown rice, buckwheat, rye, barley and wheat. No more than 5% to 10% should be consumed in pasta or noodles.

20% to 30% of vegetables should be eaten, and include cabbage, kale, cauliflower, pumpkin, watercress, bok choy, mustard greens, dandelion, daikon greens, onions, diakon radish. Whereas some vegetables such as cucumber, lettuce and herbs such as dill and chives should only be eaten two to three times a week.

5 to 10% of legumes, chickpeas, lentils and tofu, tempeh and natto should be consumed daily.

Sea vegetables are highly recommended, such as sea weed, nori and agar agar and engage a macrobiotic diet as they are high in B12 vitamins, a difficult almost impossible vitamin to digest from land vegetables. Consequently if you are looking for B12-like substances which are found in certain organisms, including  Spirulina, you can click on this link to our website and it will take you directly to our product.

Seasonings such as miso, tamari soy sauce and sea salt are widely advised by researchers of macrobiotic researchers.

Living the Lifestyle

Not simply a diet, the lifestyle  suggests you should chew your food at least 50 times before swallowing it to allow for good digestion although just sitting up straight and making sure your relaxed would suffice.

Go for walks, spend time outdoors and use cleaning products made from natural resources. Of course this list is by no way exhausted and can be found by researching lifestyle advisories of macrobiotics such as http://www.kushiinstitute.org/html/what_is_macro.html

Karen’s Miso Soup Recipe for 4 persons

A bunch of Spring Onions

1 Block of Tofu, cut into small 1 inch cubes

Miso, depending on strength and quality, 2 to 4 tablespoons

Carrots, daikon radish and mushrooms can be added depending on your choice and taste.

When I make miso soup I tend to add the miso (fresh if available) to a stainless steel pan of hot water, adding very small chopped up carrots, sliced mushrooms, spring onions and finally the tofu. It is important not to let the water boil as this will destroy the active ingredients in the miso.

 

 

The Health Benefits of Kale

–      The Health Benefits of Kale    –

ImageKale (Brassica oleracea) has been cultivated for over 2000 years and was the most popular green vegetable throughout Europe up until the middle ages. Native to the Mediterranean region of Europe the kale plant was intensively propagated with a preference to tightly clustered leaves over time this led to the cabbage “head” we know to day.

  1. Kale is high in iron. Pound for pound kale actually contains more iron than beef. Iron is essential for a healthy body and helps in formation of haemoglobin and enzymes that are used to transport oxygen to various parts of the body
  1. Low calorie kale contains zero fat. Great news for those of you looking to loose a few pounds, one cup of kale contains only 30 calories, 6 grams of fiber and 0 grams of fat, Kale is also brim full of nutrients and minerals your body needs such as magnesium, folate and vitamins
  1. Anti-oxidant power. Kale is a great source of anti oxidantswith compounds such as carotenoids and flavonoids able to help protect your body from various form of cancer.
  1. Kale is high in vitamin k. Vitamin K is necessary for a whole host of different bodily functions including normal bone health and the prevention of blood clotting. The use of vitamin K has also been known to help people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease
  1. The kale detox. Kale is filled with fibre and sulphur both great at detoxifing your body and keeping your liver healthy

 

Storage methods:

To store, wrap kale in a damp towel or in a plastic bag and refrigerate, preferably in crisper drawer, for up to 1 week. Leaves will droop if allowed to dry out. Plunge in cold water for 10 minutes to re hydrate.

 

Freezing:

Like most vegetables kale can be frozen,

• Put on a big pot of water to boil.
• Wash kale in sink of water then drain in a second sink or on a towel on the counter top.
• Tear or cut into 2 inch strips or manageable sizes (I did not freeze the big thick stems from the curly kale but smaller stems are ok).
• Fill sink with clean cold water, including as many ice cubes as you have on hand.
• Place the cut kale in boiling water and boil for 3 minutes.
• Take kale out of pot with tongs, a colander, and/or slotted spoon.
• Put hot kale in cold water and swish around.
• Take kale out of water.
• Drain any excess water off greens (save for future soup broth!).
• Measure either 2 cups or 4 cups and place into freezer bags.
• Mark freezer bag with date and type of greens.
• Press any excess air out of bag and freeze.

Some great ways to eat healthy on a budget

It’s widely believed that to eat a fresh healthy diet costs more money, but this is not always the case. Buying high end organic produce will no doubt have a negative effect on your pocket. But the standard fruit and vegetables available at your local green grocers can be a lot cheaper than you realize, and still offer you 99% of the nutritional value of the more expensive organic options.

Avoid eating out. – This might seem obvious to a lot of people but you would be surprised how many people grab a takeaway or a pub lunch of a weekend and the money spent on just one meal out could be enough to have bought the majority of your weeks shopping.

Buy your staples in bulk. – Staples on their own might not be the most exciting options when you look in your cupboard, but once combined with the right ingredients they make the backbone of the vast majority of your healthy meals some example of foods worth stocking up on are here.

  • Beans and lentils. – These great ingredients can be added to soups & stew as well and some more exotic dishes.
  • Brown rice. – Rice is the worlds 3rd Most important crop every year over 685 millions tons produced throughout the world
  • Pasta. – This is one of my favorite items for a quick healthy meal. It can be combined with a huge variety of healthy ingredients and is a staple food source for rich and poor alike
  • Potatoes. – First originating from the Andes in Peru these unique root vegetables have successfully spread throughout the globe. I suggest buying your potatoes by the sack full and keeping them in a cool dark place, in these conditions they can last for months.

Eat less meat. – This is a tricky one as unlike fruit and vegetables when it comes to meat price matters. Animal welfare is a serious issue and cheep meat means badly treated animals. But what can I do? Well one great way of still getting your weekly meat rations without having to worry about welfare issues is to try less conventional cuts of meat available from your butch and a great price.

  • Pork – Try Trotter, cheek, liver, pork hock
  • Lamb – Shoulder of lamb is a great tasty cut of meat available at very good prices from all good butchers
  • Chicken – Chicken thighs are by far the cheapest cut of chicken you can pick up organic free range chicken thighs for rock bottom prices
  • Beef – There are some really good cuts of beef that are not often used in this country. Feather steak, skirt, Hereford brisket and oxtail can all be used to make some great healthy dishes

Grow your own – Whether you have a nice big garden or just a couple of spare window sills this is one option that everyone should be doing. Growing your own produce is not only a great way to make sure you know exactly what’s gone into your food, but it can also offer you a great sense of achievement and accomplishment.

Take your own lunch to work – People seem to think it’s embarrassing taking their own lunch into work, maybe it brings back some childhood memories of nasty packed lunches at school, but there really is no excuse. Shop bought sandwiches are packed full of nasty preservatives and low quality ingredients. Save money save your health and save your sanity by mixing things up and getting creative with your lunchbox.

Types of tea and their health effects

Types of tea and their health effects

 

A brief history

Tea has a rich history dating back to its first recorded use by Chinese emperor Shen Nung in 2737BC. The consumption of tea spread quickly throughout Chinese culture by 800A.D the first book describing tea and its uses had been written.  From its home in China tea next arrived in Japan, this was thanks to a Buddhist priest named Yeisei who hoped to use tea to enhance religious meditation.

It wasn’t until 1560 that a Portuguese missionary named ‘jasper de cruz’ finally brought tea to Europe. After arriving in Lisbon, tea was shipped to France and Holland and eventually on to England first arriving here in around 1652. It didn’t take long for tea to replace ale and gin as England’s national drink. Nowadays tea is officially the most popular drink in the world, with 165 million cups of tea drunk every day in England alone.

 

What tea is for me?

There are actually five main types of tea available each with its own unique taste and health properties

  • Green Tea – This tea is pan fried or steamed to prevent the leaves from oxidizing or fermenting
  • Oolong Tea – The most expensive of all varieties of tea due to its semi fermented nature
  • Black Tea – black tea is by far the strongest form of tea fully fermented it carries up to three times as much caffeine as other varieties
  • White Tea – White tea is quite rare made from the buds of the tea plant as apposed to the green leaves
  • Pu Erh Tea – double fermented then left to grow mould, this tea is an acquired taste but it holds the most health benefits out of all the varieties

All these teas come from the same plant ‘camellia sinensis’ but it’s the different preparation methods that give each blend its unique taste and health benefits.

 

The healthy option

After years of alcohol as the standard drink for the middle and lower class in the U.K there is no surprise that the adoption of tea instead had a massive effect on the general health of the population. But aside from the obvious advantages of drinking this non alcoholic beverage tea also has a number of unique health benefits now verified by modern science.

Tea to help your heart

A national study of 1,765 women in Saudi Arabia concluded that regular tea drinkers were up to 20% less likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease.

Tea ranks as high or higher in antioxidants then many fruit and vegetables. This is due to compounds known as flavonoids that are known to help prevent blood clots and lower cholesterol.

Tea as a anti-cancer plant

It’s now becoming clear to modern science that if you drink four or more cups of tea a day you are up to 60% less likely to develop cancer this is due to the high levels of antioxidants in tea leaves.

Keep your focus

One of teas most notable effects is its ability to help your concentrate and stay focused on a task for long periods of time. This effect is due to the amino acid L-theanine which first gets absorbed through your gut and then travels in the bloodstream to your brain. The best thing about this is unlike coffee it actually has a calming effect on the body.

Weight loss

Many modern studies have now confirmed what Chinese doctors have been telling us for centuries. Tea dose in fact boosts your metabolism which in turn helps you to lose weight

 

How to make your cuppa healthier

 

Don’t add milk

It might seem obvious but one of the main reasons people don’t reap all the benefits tea can offer is due to the western obsession of mixing it with milk. This detracts greatly from teas medicinal uses and can cause some serious adverse effects in the long term

Don’t add sugar

Sugar has so many negative effects on the human body, by reducing your daily intake of sugar you also reduce the risk of strokes heart attacks and countless other health issues

Get your tea from a clean area

It’s well worth while looking into where your tea is being produced, tea has the ability to take on toxins from its local environment some areas of China and India now have extremely high levels of air pollution which is then passed into the tea. It’s always best to source your tea from remote places if possible. As a general rule Chinese green tea is grown in higher more remote areas.  

Sources:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19897346

http://www.tea.co.uk/tea-4-health

http://tregothnan.co.uk/tea-plantation-bar/a-brief-history-of-tea/

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn10913-milk-wrecks-the-health-benefits-of-tea.html

http://www.tea.co.uk/nutrition

Health benefits of potatoes

Health benefits of potatoes

Potatoes are without a doubt the nation’s most popular vegetable with a staggering 1337 million potatoes consumed worldwide each year. The humble potato is the fifth most important crop world wide after wheat, corn, rice and sugar cane. And is a staple food source for rich and poor alike. Currently there are 575 known varieties of potato and the list is still growing.

It was the South Americans that dug up the first potato around 6,000 years ago in the foothills of the Andes Mountains in Peru. Belonging to the nightshade (Solanaceae) family of plants, many of the varieties of potato are in fact poisonous. This is due to high levels of a chemical compound known as alkaloids. The American Indians managed to identify a variety known as diploid that was the first ever cultivated potato.

It wasn’t until the 1600s that potatoes first made it across the Atlantic to Europe and a further 300 years until large scale production began with many of the old breeds not able to cope with the longer days and colder winters it took around 150 years of intense crossing and breeding to end up with the potato we all know and cherish today.

Potato Health Facts:

  • Cholesterol: 100 grams of potato provides  70 calories but just 0.1 grams of fat and no cholesterol
  • Fibre: Potatoes are a great source of both soluble and non soluble fibre. This helps with constipation and could even help avoid colon polyps and cancer
  • Diabetic: Helps to maintain steady levels of blood sugars meaning potatoes are a reliable source of carbohydrates in diabetics
  • Potassium: – potatoes contain very high levels of potassium a single potato can give you up to 50% of your recommended daily intake. Potassium may help to lower blood pressure
  • Other mineral content: – each large potato contains around 44.8mg of calcium, 3.2 mg of iron, 83.7mg of magnesium, 209 mg of phosphorus as well as significant quantities of sodium, zinc, copper, selenium, and fluoride.
  • Digestion: as potatoes are predominately made of carbohydrates they are very easy to digest. This makes them first choice for patients and babies who cannot digest hard food.
  • Skin care: the pulp from crushed raw potatoes mixed with honey has been used for hundreds of years as a facial wash to promote soft supple skin
  • Heart diseases: Potatoes contain a substances known as carotenoids which are beneficial to not only the heart but all bodily organs

Things to watch out for:

Although potatoes do have a huge number of beneficial factors and there is strong evidence suggesting they help with problems ranging from heart problems too weight gain, there are a few things its wise to remember when ordering your next portion of chips.

In a 2011 Harvard study of unhealthy foods the humble potato came in first place. Why is this? Although plain potatoes can be a great addition to your weekly diet, some of the cooking methods and things such as cheese that they are commonly served with mean that you might not be doing yourself as much good as you think.

Sources:

http://www.health.harvard.edu/fhg/updates/update0705c.shtml

http://yarchive.net/food/potato_alkaloids.html

http://www.healthwatchmd.com/2011/06/potatoes-can-add-plenty-to-waistline/