Health Benefits of Breadfruit

Breadfruit, botanically known as Artocarpus altilis, is a large fruit obtained from tall, tropical rain-forest fruiting trees growing in areas like Hawaii, Samoa, and the Caribbean in the mulberry family. A staple in the Pacific Islands from where it spread to Africa, breadfruit is quite similar to jackfruit but ranks higher on nutrition. It has prickly skin, a lumpy green flesh, and a potato-like texture.

With an impressive array of health benefits, this exotic fruit is now being hailed as a wonder food. Breadfruit is an apt ingredient for a range of commercial products because of its high starch content, pale color, and mild flavor.

Similar to its bounty of nutritional benefits, breadfruit can be cooked and eaten in different styles.

* Immature breadfruit possesses a flavor similar to artichoke hearts and is eaten as a vegetable.

* Pureed breadfruit makes excellent food for babies whereas dried breadfruit is ground into flour and can substitute any flour for preparing bread and baked goods.

* Mature breadfruit tastes like a baked potato when cooked and can easily replace potato in many recipes, including chips and French fries.

Health Benefits of Breadfruit

Breadfruit is packed with nutrients, which lower cholesterol, fight infections, promote youthful skin and healthy hair. Since it contains a good amount of fiber that reduces the rate of glucose absorption, it is a diabetic-friendly food. It is brimming with the heart-friendly nutrient potassium that regulates blood pressure and heart rate.

Breadfruit benefits the body as it contains omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which stimulate skin and hair growth, regulate metabolism and promote bone health. Good for Weight Watchers

Breadfruit is an ideal food for those on a weight loss program since it is low in calories and high on nutrition. Being a high fiber food, it provides satiety without drastically increasing calorie consumption.

Develops Resistance to Infections

Breadfruit contains plenty of antioxidants, which build resistance against infections and boost the immune system. It scavenges from the harmful effects of free radicals that can otherwise lead to aging, age-related diseases, and cancer.

Brimming with Goodness of Fiber

At 4.9 grams of fiber per 100 grams, breadfruit is one of the highest fiber-rich fruits.

Dietary fiber is associated with a wide range of health advantages like reducing cholesterol levels by preventing its absorption, curing constipation, lowering blood pressure and protecting the colon mucous membrane by warding off cancer-causing chemicals from the colon.

Nourishes Hair

Breadfruit contains several hair-friendly nutrients, essential for maintaining healthy hair. Being a Vitamin C rich food, it facilitates the absorption of minerals particularly iron, which provides adequate nourishment to hair. Iron improves blood circulation in the scalp, stimulates hair follicles and promotes hair growth. The fatty acids present in breadfruit regulate sebum production, reduce dandruff and itchiness. It also inhibits scalp inflammation and cell death, which keeps hair fall in control.

Good for Skin

Drinking breadfruit juice gives the skin a glowing and youthful appearance. The vitamin C content in breadfruit promotes collagen production that provides elasticity to the skin. Breadfruit inhibits the activity of pro-inflammatory enzymes and prevents overproduction of nitric oxides, thus preventing skin inflammation.

Health Benefits of Breadfruit Leaves

The health benefits of breadfruit leaves lie in its blend of compounds like acid hidrosianat, asetilcolin, ribofavlin and tannins.

* Regular consumption of breadfruit leaves treats kidney damage, lowers uric acid and blood sugar levels.

* Breadfruit leaves are also effective in curing hepatitis, dental pain, rashes and an enlarged spleen.

* Research conducted by Chinese researchers concluded that the leaves of breadfruit are very useful for treating cardiovascular problems.

Health Concerns

If you’re eating the leaves of breadfruit as a therapeutic treatment, avoid consuming singkon leaves and spinach leaves. You should also avoid eating red meat because it will thicken blood causing muscle cramps.

Breadfruit Recipes

Breadfruit Curry

Ingredients:

  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp vegetable curry powder
  • 1 breadfruit, peeled and cut into 3cm pieces
  • 2 halved green chillies
  • 100 g finely chopped onion
  • 1 sprig curry leaves
  • tsp turmeric powder
  • tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1-inch cinnamon stick
  • 500 ml coconut milk
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • salt
  • 100 ml coconut cream

For Tempering:

  • 50 ml of vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 sprig curry leaves
  • Sliced onion

Method:

  •  Dry roast coriander and cumin seeds along with vegetable curry powder in a small pan until it turns dark brown.
  • Place all the ingredients except the coconut cream in a saucepan and simmer for 10-12 minutes.
  • For the tempering, heat the oil in a pan. Add mustard seeds, curry leaves, and onion and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the tempered spices to the curry and stir continuously.
  • Now, while stirring continuously, add coconut cream and cook for 3- 4 minutes till the gravy becomes thick and the breadfruit is soft and tender.
  • Season with salt and serve hot.

Spark Solution Diet

What is the Spark Solution Diet?

Nutrition and fitness experts at Spark People.com have devised the Spark Solution diet with a winning weight loss combination of exercise and healthy, reduced-calorie eating. It equips you with ample knowledge needed to establish an effective weight loss regime.

The Spark Solution diet helps in sustainable weight loss as a result of nutritious meal plans and regular exercise, which maximize metabolism and positive reinforcement and advice from people who have successfully followed the diet plan.

It is a 28-day program divided into three parts:

* 14-day Jumpstart

* 14-day Let’s Get Started

* Tools for Success

The ‘Jumpstart phase’ focuses on motivating the dieters since initial two weeks of any weight loss program are most crucial in determining its success. It also includes simple tips and tricks for switching to a healthy lifestyle.

The second phase, ‘Let’s Get Started’ emphasizes on meal preparation and exercise in which diet plans and workout schedules are devised.

The final phase, ‘Tools for Success’ encapsulates everything learned in the previous two phases, unlocking the key to long-term weight maintenance.

Key Features of the Spark Solution Diet

Every now and then new diet plans are introduced by experts, which promise instant weight loss by excluding a particular food group or drastically reducing calorie intake. However, once you stop following the diet you regain the lost weight. Hair fall, dizziness, irritability are some of the other problems that accompany such quick-fix diets.

The Spark solution diet, on the other hand, seems to be an ideal, long-term weight loss solution, which advocates a combination of diet and exercise and utilizes principles, advice, and practices from experts.

It is one of the few free weight loss regimens in the world.

Diagnostic tools take into account the time frame to achieve individual goals and then a customized plan is devised accordingly.

It comprises of a convenient, easy-to-follow diet plan providing detailed guidelines about food choices and alternatives for breakfast, lunch and dinner according to taste and accessibility of food.

Dieters are advised to keep their calorie consumption under 1500 calories a day. Calorie counting and food journaling are advised, which keeps the dieter aware of their calorie intake.

Spark Solution diet can be followed by people following different food lifestyles. People following a gluten-free diet can replace grains like wheat, barley, rye and oats with gluten-free substitutes. People who are lactose intolerant can substitute dairy products with soya milk, tofu or almond milk.

The Spark solution diet does not encourage following any fad diet or popping weight loss pills or supplements.

It advocates a balanced eating pattern consisting of a wide variety of foods from all food groups. Since it does not eliminate any food group; all nutritional requirements are met, which nullifies the chance of nutritional deficiencies and its side effects like hair fall, constipation, anemia or lackluster skin.

The Spark Solution diet encourages dieters to increase their fiber intake through consumption of whole-grain cereals, fruits, and vegetables. A good fiber intake coupled with exercise and limited fat consumption promotes cardiovascular health by keeping lipid levels in check.

It also keeps a tab on sodium consumption, which benefits hypertensive patients.

Emotional support and motivation are the biggest USP of the Spark Solution diet. While most diet plans focus only on diet and exercise, this program includes motivational support for dieters to keep their morale high. Forums and support modules have been created for members to enable them to help each other.

Sample Spark Solution Diet Plan

The Spark Solution plan includes eating five to six servings of whole grains and starchy vegetables, two to three servings of protein in the form of lean, low-fat animal meat or plant-based proteins, three to four servings of non-starchy vegetables and two to three servings of fresh fruit. Two servings each of dairy and fats are also incorporated.

A sample diet plan is as follows:

* Breakfast: Spinach-feta wrap

* Mid-morning: Fruit

* Lunch: Chicken/tofu salad, whole grain toast

* Afternoon snack: Berry cobbler cup

* Evening: Whole-grain crackers with hummus

* Dinner: Baked garlic herb fries, whole wheat spaghetti with veggies and egg whites/cottage cheese

Spark Solution Diet Recipes

Here are some delicious and nutritious recipes, which can be relished while following the Spark Solution diet.

Spinach-Feta Wrap:

Ingredients:

* 1 7-inch whole-wheat tortilla

* cup sliced mushrooms

* 1 cup fresh spinach

* 1 tsp olive oil

* 2 egg whites, lightly whisked

* 2 tablespoons crumbled low-fat feta cheese

* Salt and pepper

Method:

* Place the tortilla on a griddle and heat for one minute.

* In a skillet, add olive oil and saute mushrooms and pepper for two minutes.

* Stir in the spinach and saute for another one to two minutes.

* Add the egg whites and cook, stirring often until they are set for about two minutes.

* Place the egg scramble in the center of the tortilla and top it with the crumbled feta. To wrap, fold at one end, then both sides. Serve hot.

Berry Cobbler Cup:

Ingredients:

* 2 tablespoons skim milk

* 1 tablespoons whole wheat flour

* 2 teaspoons powdered sugar

* teaspoon baking powder

* cup fresh berries (blueberries, blackberries, raspberries)

Method:

* Add chopped berries and powdered sugar in a bowl.

* In a separate bowl, mix flour and baking powder. Add milk and stir.

* In a microwave bowl, place the fruits and then place the flour mixture.

* Microwave for about 2 minutes. Cool.

Health Tips

Here are some important tips to consider when choosing a weight loss program.

* Any weight loss program should focus on incorporating all three macro-nutrients – carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Eliminating any one of these nutrients can create health problems.

* Exercise is a non-negotiable aspect of a successful weight loss program. Any weight loss program, which does not advocate any form of physical activity, will not bring the desired results.

* Any diet plan, which replaces a major meal like breakfast or dinner with meal replacement powders or shakes, should not be followed as it leads to only temporary weight loss.

* Starvation or drastically cutting down calories only causes muscle loss and water loss. Fat loss can be achieved only by following a healthy eating pattern of small, frequent meals.

Flavorings Used in E-Cigarettes Can Up Your Risk for Heart Disease

Flavoring liquids added in electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes such as cinnamon, menthol, caramel, fruit flavor, caramel, vanilla, and butterscotch have found to be harmful and may increase risk of heart disease when inhaled finds recent study led by Won Hee Lee, PhD, now an assistant professor at the University of Arizona, and Sang-Ging Ong, Ph.D., now an assistant professor at University of Illinois-Chicago The findings of the study appear online in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology

Using Lab Generated Endothelial Cells To Study Effects of E-Cigarettes

Although e-cigarettes reduce the risk of lung cancer, their effect on the heart and blood vessels are less clear and the study aimed to look at the effects of nicotine and flavoring liquids in e-cigarettes on the heart.

To this end, the study team analyzed human endothelial cells created in the laboratory from induced pluripotent stem cells or iPS cells. Human iPS cells are capable of differentiating into several cell types and enable scientists to study changes in human cells, which otherwise would be difficult to obtain directly from a patient.

Endothelial cells are cells that line the interior of blood vessels and have several important functions including the formation of new blood vessels and promoting wound healing.

This is the first study to use endothelial cells derived from human stem cells to directly analyze the effects of nicotine and added flavorings on their structure and function.

Effects of E-Cigarettes on Endothelial Cells

* The study team looked at the effects on stem cells derived endothelial cells of six different popular flavors added to e-cigarettes namely fruit, sweet tobacco with caramel and vanilla, tobacco, cinnamon, menthol and sweet butterscotch with nicotine levels varying from 0, 6, and 18 mg/ml.

* They found that most flavors were moderately toxic to the endothelial cells, but the menthol and cinnamon flavored e-cigarettes markedly reduced the viability of cultured endothelial cells even when the e-cigarettes did not contain nicotine.

* The e-liquids also increased the endothelial cell concentrations of reactive oxygen species (chemicals that cause DNA damage) as well as levels of molecules involved in programmed cell death.

* Addition of cinnamon and menthol flavored e-liquids to the cell culture markedly affected the ability of the cells to form new blood vessels necessary for wound healing.

* The caramel and vanilla flavored e-liquids also disrupted new blood vessel formation but not as severely as menthol and cinnamon flavors.

* Endothelial cells exposed to caramel, cinnamon and vanilla flavors showed an increased uptake of low-density lipoproteins and lipids, which increases blood vessel inflammation and injury as well as a decreased ability for wound healing.

* Certain effects of the different e-liquids were dependent on the nicotine levels, but reduced migration of endothelial cells to the site of injury and loss of viability were independent of nicotine levels suggesting that both nicotine and the e-liquids had combined injurious effect on the blood vessels.

* On comparing the blood levels of nicotine in people after smoking e-cigarettes with those who smoked traditional cigarettes, it was seen that the nicotine concentrations in the blood were similar in the two groups after smoking for 10 minutes at a constant rate.

The findings of the study suggest that e-cigarettes are not safe for heart and blood vessels and can adversely affect the health of young kids smoking e-cigarettes, believing them to be safe

According to Joseph Wu, MD, PhD, director of the Stanford Cardiovascular Institute and professor of cardiovascular medicine and of radiology, “Until now, we had no data about how these e-liquids affect human endothelial cells. This study clearly shows that e-cigarettes are not a safe alternative to traditional cigarettes. When we exposed the cells to six different flavors of e-liquid with varying levels of nicotine, we saw significant damage. The cells were less viable in culture, and they began to exhibit multiple symptoms of dysfunction.”

In summary, flavoring liquids added to e-cigarettes cause significant damage to heart and blood vessels and strict regulations should be enforced to control the use of e-cigarettes especially among children. In fact, the FDA has ruled that only tobacco, menthol, and mint flavors can be sold at all shops while the other flavors including cinnamon can only be sold at adult venues.

Coconut Oil – How Healthy is It?

Are the claims about coconut oil lowering cholesterol, blood pressure, heart diseases true? All the current information available on coconut oil makes us wonder whether the oil is the correct choice over others. Websites too are making larger than life claims of coconut oil’s many benefits such as helping promote weight loss, curing hypothyroidism among others.

Previously the coconut was thought to raise cholesterol levels though people in various coastal regions around the world consumed it with no apparent adverse effects. Current research recommends coconut consumption for its rich nutritional benefits. Coconut in its various forms and the oil are definitely a healthy addition to one’s diet.

Coconut is a nutrient-rich one-seeded drupe. It is a good source of iron, phosphorus, zinc, and other minerals and vitamins. It is also a good source of protein and fiber while containing a few naturally occurring sugars. Around 92% of coconut fat is saturated. This has lead to the belief that coconuts are ”bad for health”, particularly in relation to heart disease. Recent research, however, has established that most of the saturated fats in coconut are medium-chain fatty acids whose properties and metabolism are different from saturated fats of animal origin. The lauric acid in coconut oil is used by the body to make disease-fighting fatty acid derivative monolaurin.

The coconut tree bears fruit all year round. Studies show that every coconut cultivar has its own unique characteristic which explains variances in the percent composition of fatty acids like lauric fatty acid in the oil. This is attributed to factors such as location and varietal differences. Ten to thirteen-month-old coconuts have the highest oil content.

Coconut oil, though saturated fat, is composed mostly of small and medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) as opposed to other saturated fats from animal fats which are long-chain triglycerides (LCTs).

MCT are good fatty acids. When ingested they are readily burned in the body and dissipated as energy, unlike LCT which goes to the circulatory system before finally being used as energy. This process leaves fatty deposits in the tissue. Prematurely born infants given MCT-enriched diets increase their fat and mineral absorption to the same level as in normal term infants. MCT is a good source of energy for the sick and convalescent too. Most tube feeding formulas contain MCT’s as the source of fat and energy. Studies show that the intake of MCT-rich foods or supplements 30 min before meals results in a significant decrease in calorie intake.

Although these are great findings for justifying the consumption of coconut oil along with another omega 3 fatty acids rich oils, this is no reason to indiscriminately consume it. Large amounts of any oil are it coconut oil or olive oil, are unhealthy. As much as possible the oils should be ingested without heating. If used for cooking the cooking temperature should be kept as low as possible. Hydrogenated forms of oils should never be used.

Coconut oil v/s Other oils

The health benefits derived from coconut oil are unique and compelling. They are underappreciated today by the consumer. Studies which showed a raise in serum cholesterol by coconut oil ingestion usually only stated that coconut oil was not as effective at lowering the serum cholesterol as was the more unsaturated fat being compared. Later the positive effect of coconut oil over its serum cholesterol-raising nature was justified as coconut oil did not drive cholesterol into the tissues, which in return showed up with an increase in the serum cholesterol levels as compared to the other unsaturated oils.

Coconut oil contains less than ten percent unsaturated fats. This makes it the most stable oil not requiring the need to be made stable. In contrast, certain vegetable oils containing good amounts of polyunsaturated fats need to be partially hydrogenated in order to make them stable. Partial hydrogenation produces trans-fatty acids that causes elevation in cholesterol Clinical studies done at the New England Deaconess Hospital (NEDH), a Harvard medical school affiliate, show that coconut oil is neutral in its effects on blood lipids and does not cause an increase in cholesterol. At the same time, coconut oil increases the High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL) or the ‘good cholesterol’, further reducing the risk for coronary heart disease. From a plethora of research reports, it appears that there is lowering of total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol in hypercholesterolemic on the incorporation of coconut oil in the diet.

Biologically active substances naturally occur in plants and when the oil is extracted from oilseed, most of these substances are present in the oil.

As plant product, coconut oil contains biologically active substances which have been identified to provide various health benefits. Although studies may take years to probe the pharmacological effects of these substances, there is growing interest worldwide in the role of these biologically active substances in health and disease. Tocopherols, known as potent antioxidants, have a role in the prevention of certain chronic diseases like coronary heart disease and cancer. Tocotrienols said to be better antioxidant than tocopherols are effective in treating many ailments.

Phytosterols have been known to lower the LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol. Phospholipids are important emulsifiers and essential constituents of cells. MCT is a good source of energy to the sick, convalescent, healthy individuals and also to preterm infants. Phytochemicals are linked to cancer prevention and mono- and diglycerides as antimicrobial and antiviral substances. Flavonoids (isoflavones) and other polyphenols, stanols help in preventing/curing some chronic diseases.

Recent Research and Recommendations

Plenty of studies have been conducted and coconut oil is being researched upon for its weight loss and other health benefits. A study aimed to analyze the effects of dietary coconut oil on the biochemical and anthropometric profiles of women presenting abdominal obesity. The trial involved 40 women aged 20-40 years. The groups received daily dietary supplements comprising 30 ml of either soybean oil (group S) or coconut oil (group C) over a 12-week period, during which all subjects were instructed to follow a balanced low caloric diet and to walk for 50 min per day.

At the end of the trial, Group S presented an increase in total cholesterol, LDL and LDL: HDL ratio, with a decrease in HDL levels. Such changes were not observed in group C. The study thus proved that the dietetic supplementation with coconut oil did not cause high lipid levels and seemed to promote a reduction in abdominal obesity.

Oils like fish oils, flaxseed, extra virgin olive, krill oil have great health implications. It is preferable to incorporate a small amount of different oils rather than relying primarily on one type. This way one derives benefits from a number of different fatty acids rather than just one.

Fish oils and flaxseed oil are the healthiest options, but virgin olive oil, virgin coconut oil have extraordinary health benefits too and should be incorporated in the diet.

Rejecting the strong set belief of coconut oil being unhealthy for heart health, recent research and study on the nut encourages it to be used for cooking up meals or just as such or in various food preparations. In such a case it should be replaced with the current oil rather than just simply adding it to the day’s intake. An individual’s total visible fat intake (oil, ghee, butter, cream, margarine, mayonnaise) should not exceed 25 to 30ml per day with 30 being the upper limit for sound heart health and 25 being the upper limit for cholesterol reduction.

In a nutshell coconut oil offers protection from heart disease, cancer, and other degenerative conditions, improves digestion, strengthens the immune system, and helps in weight loss to some extent. Coconut oil is now being labeled as one of the ‘healthiest dietary oils on earth’.

Healthy Gut Bacteria Reduces Risk of Death in Heart Failure Patients

Heart failure patients who eat more dietary fiber have been shown to have healthier gut microbial flora, which in turn reduces their risk for death or the need for a heart transplant, according to a recent study led by Dr. Cristiane Mayerhofer, of Oslo University Hospital, Norway.

The findings of the study were presented at Heart Failure 2019, a scientific conference of the European Society of Cardiology.

Heart Failure and Altered Gut Bacteria

Microbial flora in the gut composed of trillions of organisms has the potential to affect our health more than we realize. Previous research has shown that patients with heart failure tend to have changed in the composition of their gut bacterial flora.

The current study aims to study whether reduced dietary fiber intake may result in altered gut bacterial composition and impact overall health outcome in patients with heart failure.

Effect of Reduced Dietary Fiber in Heart Failure Outcome

* The study team enlisted 84 patients with chronic heart failure on treatment and 266 healthy people

* The composition of gut microbes between the two groups was determined by sequencing the bacterial 16S rRNA gene in their stool samples

* The study team observed that heart failure patients had significantly lesser biodiversity in their intestinal bacteria than healthy controls, with marked differences in the two main phyla of bacteria normally occurring in the human gut

* Heart failure patients had a lower ratio of Firmicutes/Bacteroidetes (F/B) compared to healthy persons, especially marked when heart failure was not caused by ischemic heart disease

* Also, patients who died of heart failure or needed heart transplant had reduced biodiversity of gut flora and a lower F/B ratio than healthy controls

* It was shown that increased bacterial diversity and higher F/B ratio had a direct association with increased dietary fiber intake

* Increased intake of meat was associated with increased levels of trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO) in heart failure patients

* High TMAO levels are associated with an increased risk of adverse heart events, and gut bacteria are involved in its formation

The findings of the study suggest for the first time that increasing the intake of fiber content in the diet by including cereals, whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables and reducing the consumption of meat is associated with healthier gut bacteria and a better outcome in heart failure patients. “Our findings suggest that the altered microbiota composition found in patients with chronic heart failure might be connected to low fiber intake,” said Dr. Mayerhofer. “If these findings are confirmed in future studies, my advice will be to choose foods high in fiber such as cereals, fruits, and vegetables to stimulate a healthy gut flora.”

About Gut Bacteria In Brief

In the last few years, research has focused on human microbial flora, especially gut bacteria. An important reason for this is the realization that these microorganisms are not just bystanders in the host, but may actually impact several host functions as well. There are approximately 160 bacterial species in the gut of any individual and the composition is host-specific and is very different in unrelated persons. Loss of diversity in gut bacteria can affect host health adversely.

Substances that promote the growth of good gut bacteria include the following:

* Prebiotics (a nutrient that favors the growth of good gut bacteria and prevents the growth of harmful bacteria)

* Probiotics (oral preparation containing live bacteria that replenishes the loss of good gut bacteria following antibiotic treatment or severe diarrheal diseases) and

* Polyphenols (plant derivatives that favor the growth of good gut bacteria such as bifidobacteria and lactobacilli)

Altered gut microbial flora has been implicated in obesity, colorectal cancer, liver disease and inflammatory bowel disease.

Ongoing Studies on Gut Flora Effects On Heart Failure By The Team

The team is currently conducting the GutHeart trial, a randomized control study to observe the effect of a probiotic and antibiotic on gut microbial flora, heart function, and inflammatory changes in the heart in patients with heart failure.

The study aims to look at the effects of altering gut bacteria by administering probiotic and antibiotic in patients with heart failure in the clinical setting.

Summary

Consumption of increased dietary fiber by heart failure patients promotes the growth of healthy gut bacteria and reduces the risk of death or need for a heart transplant.

Eating Organic Can Boost Optimal Health

In times where much of our diet is loaded with preservatives, artificial ingredients or dangerous pesticides, eating organic foods is a pro-active step towards good health and well-being.

Defined

Organic is defined as food that is produced without the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), artificial pesticides or herbicides. Each country has its own laws as to what organic means- this law is referred to as a standard. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has established an organic certification program that requires all foods labeled as organic to meet strict government standards.

These standards regulate how such foods are grown, handled and processed. Any farmer or food manufacturer who labels and sells a product as organic must be USDA certified as adhering to these standards. Many people confuse natural with organic- natural does not equal organic. Natural has to do with how a food product is processed. Natural foods – apples, beef, or corn – can be organic or not. On the other hand, organic foods can be processed into foods that are not classified as natural – such as bread made with organically grown wheat but made with non-natural preservatives.

The Bottom Line

Organic foods are important since chemical pesticides and fertilizers used in conventional agriculture remain in the products we eat and create havoc in our bodies. When the chemicals in conventional foods mix with air, oxidization begins and a chemical reaction begins. This reaction kicks off the release of toxins that are the root cause of disease in the human body.

Eating right helps us to be physically stronger- according to researchers, the nutrients in organic food are more potent than in their conventional counterparts. The reason is organic food is grown slowly and therefore able to build nutrients and draw minerals from the ground. Conventionally grown crops are grown quickly and fertilized- water and growth is literally forced into the plant- stimulating growth and not allowing the plant to build nutrients.

When purchasing organic food consider the following: buy fruits and vegetables in season to ensure the highest quality. Also, try to buy your produce the day it is delivered to ensure you are buying the freshest food possible. Read food labels carefully- just because a product says it is organic or contains organic ingredients does not necessarily mean it is a healthier alternative. Some organic products may still be high in sugar, salt, fat or calories.

Lobia – The Hidden, Healthy Gem

What is Lobia?

Lobia, also called cowpea and black-eyed peas, is a textured oval-shaped bean with a black eye. A native to Africa, lobia is cultivated in Latin America, South-east Asia and southern parts of the United States.

It is an interesting fact to know that the famous hip-hop music band, ‘Black Eyed Peas’ chose to name themselves after this super bean.

Available in both dried and fresh forms, lobia is used in various soup and salad recipes as well as dal and vegetable preparations to enhance their nutritive value multi-fold. Purple eye, light brown eye, red eye, cream, crowder, and clay are different variants of cowpeas. Although not as popular as chickpea or kidney bean, lobia ranks much higher on nutrition, making it a hidden healthy gem.

They are brimming with the goodness of B-complex vitamins, protein, zinc, calcium, and iron.

What are the Health Benefits of Lobia?

From its magical cholesterol-lowering properties to being diabetic friendly as well as promoting weight loss, lobia is a super bean with a bevy of health benefits. The different varieties of lobia are abundant with anti-oxidant compounds which keep aging and cancer at bay. Lobia also contains a significant amount of flavonoids that protect against cardiovascular problems. Additionally, it also eases problems associated with urination.

* Good for pregnant women: Iron, protein, and folate are the key nutrients whose requirement increases substantially during pregnancy. Being a rich source of these vital nutrients, lobia is a must include in the diet of pregnant women. A diet rich in folate lowers the risk of neural tube defects in the newborn.

* Assists weight loss: A high protein and high fiber legume, lobia keeps hunger pangs at bay by promoting satiety. A serving of lobia provides fewer calories in comparison to commercially available calorie-laden snacks, making it a smart, nutritious option for people on a weight loss program.

* Keeps cholesterol levels in check: Incorporating cowpeas in your diet on a regular basis lowers cholesterol levels. They are an excellent source of soluble fiber, which forms a gel-like substance and binds cholesterol and bile acids in the small intestine and eliminates them from the body. Since cholesterol is an integral component of bile, the liver utilizes more cholesterol for producing more bile acid.

* Helps digestive system: Lobia cures problems associated with stomach, pancreas as well as spleen. Being a fiber-rich food, it keeps the digestive system working like a well-oiled machine.

* Great for diabetics: Apart from the aforementioned health advantages, lobia is considered a super-food for diabetics. The protein and soluble fiber content of the super nutritious legume are on the higher side, which makes it a low glycemic index food and ideal for diabetics.

  • Lobia Recipes

Some innovative recipes to include this nutrition-packed bean in your diet are:

1. Veggie and Bean Salad

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon chopped dried oregano
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 cups peeled and diced cucumbers
  • 1 cup boiled lobia
  • 2/3 cup diced red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup sliced onion
  • 2 tablespoons chopped black olives

Method:

  • Whisk oil, lemon juice, salt, oregano, and pepper in a bowl until they combine properly.
  • Add cucumber, black-eyed peas, bell pepper, feta, onion, and olives. Toss well.
  • You can serve it at room temperature or chilled.

2. Black-eyed Pea Chili with Quinoa and Corn

Ingredients:

  • 2 large chopped onions
  • 1 large chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 large chopped green bell pepper
  • 6 minced cloves garlic
  • 2.5 cups black-eyed peas (soaked overnight and drained)
  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 teaspoons cumin powder
  • 2 teaspoons chili flakes
  • 2 cups diced tomatoes
  • 1.5 cups boiled corn
  • 1/3 cup uncooked quinoa
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon oil

Method:

  • Heat a large, non-stick pot. Add oil, garlic and onions and cook, until the onions become translucent.
  • Add the bell peppers and cook for 2-3 minutes.
  • Add black-eyed peas, broth, and the spices. Bring to a boil. Cook for 4-5 minutes. Simmer the flame to low, and cook until the peas are tender.
  • Add quinoa and cook until the quinoa becomes tender for approximately 20 minutes. Add the boiled corn, salt, and pepper.
  • Serve hot.

Raw Food Diet

Raw food diet consists of uncooked and unprocessed food items that have not been heated above 46 degree Celsius. This new trend is catching popularity day by day in the world of health, diet and weight loss. Supporters of the raw food diet claim that the benefits of eating raw food diet include weight loss, ample amount of energy every day, a fit mind and body, clear skin, improved digestion, and improved overall health.

‘Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances of survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet’- Albert Einstein

People who follow a raw food diet believe that cooking or heating denatures the enzymes and nutrient value of the food. For example, sulfonamides, cancer-fighting compounds in broccoli are greatly reduced when they are cooked. Vitamin C and folate in food are also destroyed by heat. Cooking also promotes the formation of harmful compounds in food during cooking, such as heterocyclic amines. However, there are certain food items, like tomatoes, whose nutrients are increased when cooked.

Types of Raw Food Diet:

Raw Vegans: Vegans are those people who exclude meat, eggs, milk and other animal-derived ingredients. Many vegans avoid refined white sugar, processed with animal charcoal and wine. Some people can go to extremes avoiding animal-derived non-food products, such as leather, fur and wool.

A raw vegan diet contains unprocessed, raw plant foods that have not been cooked or heated above 40 degree Celsius. There are several ways to make such vegan food. Some of the ways are mentioned below:

* Soaking and Sprouting: Enzyme inhibitors present in beans, legumes and nuts destroy the digestive enzymes present in our body. Soaking and germination or sprouting help remove these enzyme inhibitors thus making the nuts nutritious.

* Dehydrating: Food items can be heated at 20 degree Celsius or below using a dehydrator, which stimulates sun drying. Sun-dried tomatoes, kale chips, crackers, bread, and fruit leathers are a few examples of dehydrated vegan food. Dehydrated food items can be preserved for a longer time.

* Blending: Fruits and vegetables are blended for making recipes like smoothies, soups, hummus. Blending helps to mix a variety of fruits and vegetables to enhance the nutrient value and taste of the food.

* Juicing: Juicing is the process of taking out juices from fruits and leafy vegetables. For instance, juice of fresh coriander leaves mixed with dried spices and oils is the best source of antioxidant and is an antidote for the harm caused to the body due to smoking cigarettes.

Raw Vegetarianism:

Vegetarianism is the practice of eating only fruits and vegetables and abstaining from animal food products such as meat, fish, and poultry but includes dairy and eggs. Common food items are vegetables, sprouts, nuts, grains, legumes, dairy, eggs, and honey that are included in this diet.

There are several kinds of vegetarianism:

* Lacto-ovo Vegetarians: Lacto stands for milk and Ovo stands for egg. Lacto-ovo vegetarians are those who eat egg and milk and its products such as cheese, butter, and yogurt but they abstain from meat, poultry, seafood and fish.

* Lacto-Vegetarians: Lacto-vegetarians consume milk products, but they exclude eggs, meat, poultry, seafood, and fish.

* Vegans: Vegans are those people who are complete vegetarians. They eat only plant foods and avoid food items that come from animals in any way.

Raw Animal Food Diets:

Raw animal food diets are followed by those people who eat uncooked animal products, such as raw muscle-meats, raw organs, eggs, fermented meat and fish and dairy products such as non-pasteurized milk and derivatives made out of it such as cheese and butter. The Primal diet and Paleolithic diet are examples of a raw meat diet. The Primal diet consists of fatty meats, organ meats like kidney, liver and brain, dairy, honey, minimal fruit and vegetable juices and coconut cream, all in raw condition. The paleolithic diet consists of raw eggs, raw plant foods, raw seafood, raw meats, and raw organs to name a few.

Benefits of Raw Food Diet:

* Eating raw food gives a person a higher amount of energy and the person feels less tired and lazy.

* It keeps your body hydrated, as raw foods require minimal body fluids for digestion.

* Raw food diet helps people to lose weight more easily and efficiently.

* It is very clear that a cooked bean does not grow but a raw one does. This shows that all the vital nutrients are present undestroyed in raw food that benefits our health.

* Raw food items that are rich in fiber naturally clean our clogged bowels and keep our body free of toxins.

Disadvantages of the Raw Food Diet:

* The fruits, vegetables, and meat if not washed and cooked well can let some parasites like tapeworm and liver fluke inside the body. This leads to food poisoning.

* Raw meat and eggs are not easy to digest and cause indigestion.

* Studies from the Archives of Internal Medicine state that raw food diet causes low bone density and associated risks.

* Several studies published by the American Journal of Clinical nutrition show that vegans who just depend on raw fruits and vegetables are prone to Vitamin-B12 deficiency, which is important for blood cell production and healthy functioning of the brain.

* Vegans who avoid milk and milk products have higher risks of deficiency of vitamin D if they are not taking any supplements.

Hence, it is suggested that a balanced diet should contain portions of every kind of food, both cooked and uncooked.

Amazing Health Benefits of Nutmeg

What is Nutmeg?

Botanically known as Myristica fragrans, nutmeg is a hard brown seed that grows on the nutmeg tree, native to Indonesia, which has a slightly sweet taste peculiar to Asian and Western dishes.

The nutmeg tree provides not one but two spices – mace and nutmeg.

Nutmeg is used in dishes like pies, custard, cookies, spice cakes, cheese sauces, soups, and vegetable dishes whereas mace is used in light-colored dishes to get saffron-like color.

Essential oils obtained by steam distillation of ground nutmeg are used extensively in pharmaceutical industries as well as a natural food flavoring in baked goods, syrups, beverages, and sweets.

Nutmeg has long been prized for its health benefits, which include strengthening cognitive functioning, detoxification, curing infertility, promoting healthy skin, reducing insomnia and improving blood circulation. It has a pungent and spicy aroma.

Health Benefits of Nutmeg

Since Roman and Greek civilizations, nutmeg has been used as a remedy for various ailments and for improving overall health. It helps to clear congestion in colds, stimulates the cardiovascular system, aids in detoxification and functions as a brain tonic. For pregnant women, regular massage of abdominal area with nutmeg oil, three weeks before delivery helps in a smooth delivery.

A 2007-study published in the Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand found that essential oils in nutmeg induce cell death apoptosis of leukemia cells, thereby stopping the metastasis of leukemia. Another study published in the May 2005 issue of Toxicology Letters demonstrated that nutmeg promotes apoptosis of brain cancer cells.

Some of the health benefits of this wonder spice include:

  • Skin Health

Topical application of nutmeg paste mixed with water or honey works wonders for glowing skin. It possesses anti-inflammatory properties that reduce inflammation and promote hydration as well as reduce acne and boils marks.

  • Oral Health

Due to its antibacterial properties, nutmeg oil is used in many toothpastes as it reduces the build-up of bacteria in the mouth thus treating halitosis . As it is an antiseptic, it cures toothaches and gum problems.

  • Relieves Pain

Nutmeg is used in Chinese medicine to treat abdominal pain because of its anti-inflammatory properties. Nutmeg oil is used in treatment of menstrual cramps, muscular and joint pain. Incorporating nutmeg in daily cooking reduces pain associated with wounds, injuries and chronic inflammation in arthritis. External application of nutmeg powder with sesame oil relieves rheumatic pain, neuralgia and sciatica.

  • Digestive Health

Nutmeg helps in effectively treating digestion-related problems like diarrhea, constipation, bloating and flatulence. Nutmeg powder mixed with apple juice or banana is an effective remedy for diarrhea caused by indigestion. The nutmeg mix works as a digestive tonic by promoting peristalsis and secretion of various gastric juices and enzymes.

  • Promotes Kidney and Liver Health

Nutmeg helps in detoxification of both the kidney and liver and improves overall functioning and efficiency of these two organs. It also reduces the incidence of kidney stones.

  • Brain Health

Nutmeg oil works as a brain booster by improving blood flow to the brain and improving concentration. It contains compounds like myristicin and macelignan that reduce degeneration of neural pathways and cognitive function afflicting those suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

  • Treats Insomnia

Nutmeg is a magnesium-rich food, which reduces nerve tension and stimulates the release of serotonin, which functions as a sleep inducer, relieving people of insomnia. Drinking a glass of milk with nutmeg prior to bedtime is effective in treating insomnia.

Recipes:

Spiced up Yam Chips

Ingredients:

  • 2 large yams, sliced into inch thick pieces
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • Olive oil and honey for drizzling

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
  • Place the sliced yam pieces in an oven-safe dish. Drizzle little olive oil over it. Sprinkle cinnamon and nutmeg. Drizzle honey over the yam pieces.
  • Bake for 20 minutes.
  • Allow the chips to cool before serving.

Pumpkin Nutmeg Dinner Rolls

Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup lukewarm milk
  • 7 cups refined flour
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup cold unsalted butter
  • 1 lightly beaten egg
  • 2 cups fresh pumpkin puree
  • An egg wash made by beating 1 large egg yolk with 1 tablespoon water

Method:

* In a small bowl, proof the yeast with 1 teaspoon of the sugar in milk for 5 minutes, till the mixture becomes foamy.

* In another bowl, combine flour, nutmeg, salt, and the remaining sugar and butter until the mixture becomes coarse.

* Add egg, pumpkin puree, and the yeast mixture and stir the dough until it is combined properly.

* Divide the dough into 14 pieces, and form each piece into a ball. Place the balls into a buttered pan and let them rise in a warm place for 45 minutes.

* Brush the rolls with egg wash and bake them in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 40 – 50 minutes.

* Serve hot.

Caution While Using Nutmeg:

* While nutmeg plays an important role in boosting overall health, large dosage i.e. 30 grams of nutmeg can be toxic, resulting in disorientation, double vision and convulsions.

* Side effects such as thirst, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, dry mouth and abdominal pain might occur in some people.

* In pregnant women, nutmeg may cause miscarriages or birth defects and must be avoided.