Tag Archives: nutrition

Glorious Garlic

Stinky, Smelly, Glorious Garlic.

Garlic is great. I love it and luckily my partner loves it too (though some of our friends may not).

I had always been told that garlic was good for your health – particularly with regards to warding off the common cold – so when I started doing some research on it for this post you can imagine how disappointed I was to find out that this seems to be a bit of an old wives tail, with recent medical studies suggesting it had no significant effect.

There is some good news for it’s health claims though. Taken from the NHS website it states that there is good evidence to show that it reduces blood pressure, produces moderate reductions in cholesterol levels, probably protects against bowel and stomach cancers and increases blood circulation.

When crushed or bruised, garlic releases Allicin which is a sulphuric compound that is a natural antibiotic. WWI soldiers even apparently used crushed garlic on infected wounds suffered in battle.

Garlic contains high levels of vitamin C as well as high levels of iodine which makes it a very effective treatment for hyperthyroid conditions.

Garlic is a great source of vitamin B6 which is needed for a healthy immune system and the efficient growth of new cells. This may also be why it has been suggested to pregnant women who wanted their baby to gain weight in the womb. Vitamin B6 can also assist with reducing mood swings.

Garlic is particularly useful in cooking as it provides an alternative to salt in adding flavour to meals, along with lemon juice, chilli, herbs and spices. By reducing the salt in out diets we reduce our water retention which helps people who are suffering from this or high blood pressure.

As with everything Garlic should be consumed in moderation as in large doses, garlic can be detrimental to your health. The properties of garlic actually get into your bloodstream which is why it is so effective in so many ways. What this does mean, however, is that when you sweat, garlic can come out through your pores. Although this may not be a pleasant side effect it has been said that this deters mosquitoes, so if you suffer badly from reactions to these bites, it may be worth it. Many people who eat larger than normal amounts of garlic report increased body odour, or at least their friends do! If you are increasing the garlic in your diet, you might want to consider increasing your parsley quota too. Chewing on parsley is very effective to remove ‘garlic breath’ which can be a problem.

So whether you are looking for a healthy diet or just have a vampire phobia, enjoy your garlic this week 🙂

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Fabulous Fennel

I didn’t always like fennel, I’m not a big fan of aniseed so I had tended to avoid it.

But not any more!

Young fennel has such a mild flavour, and after having an orange and fennel salad that I really enjoyed, I thought I’d find out more about this crunchy wonder.

Fennel has long been used for it’s medicinal properties.

Fennel contains anethole a type of phytoestrogen which may explain some of its medical effects. Anethole has a liquorice taste and is only slightly soluble in water but exhibits high solubility in alcohol. This difference causes certain anise-flavoured alcoholic drinks to become opaque when diluted with water. This is known as the Ouzo effect. 

The essence of fennel can be used as a safe and effective herbal drug for primary dysmenorrhea (painful periods).

Fennel is widely employed as a carminative, both in humans and in veterinary medicine (e.g., dogs), to treat flatulence by encouraging the expulsion of intestinal gas.

In the Indian subcontinent, fennel seeds are also eaten raw, sometimes with some sweetener, as they are said to improve eyesight. Ancient Romans regarded fennel as the herb of sight. Root extracts were often used in tonics to clear cloudy eyes. Extracts of fennel seed have been shown in animal studies to have a potential use in the treatment of glaucoma.

Fennel may also be an effective diuretic and is a potential drug for treatment of hypertension.

Historical anecdotes suggest that fennel improves the milk supply of a breastfeeding mother. This use, although not supported by direct evidence, is sometimes justified by the fact that fennel is a source of phytoestrogens, which promote growth of breast tissue. However, you should be careful with what you ingest during breast feeding. Two case reports resulted in illness for the newborn child: Both mothers had been drinking more than 2 litres a day of a herbal tea mixture reportedly containing licorice, fennel and anise. The authors attributed the maternal and infant symptoms to anethole, which is found in both fennel and anise; however, the anethole levels were not measured in breastmilk, nor were the teas tested for their content. Symptoms resolved in the children after their mothers discontinued the teas.

So, whether you’re into herbal teas, crunchy salads or roasted veggies, why not add a different flavour with some

Fabulous Fennel

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Excellent Elderberries

At the end of the 19th century a sailor accidentally discovered that cheap port wine coloured with elderberries relieved his arthritis. This may have been the basis for a number of experiments on the medical benefits of elderberries.

Sambucus nigra – European or black elder – may be the cultivar most often used for medicinal purposes throughout the world and over decades and centuries of application. Modern research holds that elderberries may have anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and anti cancer properties.

They contain flavonoids which place elderberries in the category of “antioxidant-rich,” capable of preventing cell damage. One study suggested that the elderberry extract called Sambucol could shorten flu duration by up to three days.

Other traditional uses of elderberry flowers are as external antiseptic washes and poultices to treat wounds, and as an eye wash for conjunctivitis and eye inflammation. It’s been used for cosmetic purposes for millennia due to the reputation of distilled elderberry flower water to soften, tone, and restore the skin and lighten freckles. The flowers can also be steeped in oil to make a lotion that relaxes sore muscles and soothes burns, sunburn, and rashes.

Chemicals in both the flowers and berries may help diminish swelling in mucous membranes like sinuses and help relieve nasal congestion. Herbalists still use it to soothe children’s upset stomachs and relieve gas. Elderberries are reputed to have diuretic and detoxifying properties, and therefore considered good for weight management.

Some doctors recommend that pregnant and breastfeeding women avoid eating elderberries.

Elderberries are a very good source of vitamin A, providing 17 percent of the daily value, but that is eclipsed by it’s infection-fighting vitamin C content giving a massive 87 percent – reportedly more than any other plant besides black currants and rosehips. Other prominent ingredients in elderberries include iron (13 percent of the daily value) as well as potassium, vitamin B6, and lots of betacarotene.

The Food Standards Agency recommends cooking elderberries to destroy toxins present in the raw berries – some people find that eating raw elderberries makes them feel nauseous, while others suffer no ill effects.

Looking for things to do with elderberries – here are a few ideas from Wildcraft Vita

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Delightful Dates

  Dates are Great….the fruit that is…not the going out with another person sort of date. I mean I’m sure that can be great too, but that’s not what this blog’s about.

The Date is the fruit of the date palm, thought to originate in Iraq, but now grown all over the world, from Australia to Spain, from China to America. Not surprising that it has spread so far when you know that it has been cultivated for at least 8000 years and even appears in fossil records from 50 Million years ago!

Dates provide a wide range of essential nutrients, and are a very good source of potassium. The sugar content of ripe dates is about 80% so it is pretty high on the Glycemic Index (between 30 and 50 depending on the type of date). That doesn’t make them particularly healthy, but it does make them a great ingredient in cakes where they can be used as a substitute for refined sugars. Banana and Date loaf is a classic ‘healthy’ cake and is ideal for using up browning bananas.The rest of the date consists of protein, fibre, and trace elements including boron, cobalt, copper, fluorine, magnesium, manganese, selenium, and zinc.

Having enough fibre in your diet can help to maintain a healthy gut. It is believed that one of the causes of colon cancer is that food has too slow a transit time in the gut leaving the the colon to interact with carcinogens for a longer period. Low levels of dietary fibre also lead to constipation and bloating as well as making it uncomfortable to go to the toilet. During times of life when constipation is more likely e.g. during pregnancy, it may be a good idea to increase your fibre intake, and adding dates to your diet is an easy way to do this.

There has also been a study which suggested that eating dates in the final four weeks of pregnancy has positive effects regarding labour. Women who had six dates daily were compared to women who did not eat dates. The date-consuming group had greater mean cervical dilation, higher proportion of intact membranes, higher proportion of spontaneous labour and shorter latent phase of labour.

Dates have even been suggested as a healthy and delicious way to reduce the levels of LDL cholesterol in the body, which is a major contributing factor heart attacks, heart disease, and stroke. Therefore, when taken twice a week, dates can seriously improve the overall health of the heart.

I hope you enjoy your dates this week – fruity or otherwise 🙂

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Classy Cauliflower

Despite being a paler relation of the brassica family, Cauliflower has many of the same health benefits as Broccoli (see Brilliant Broccoli ) and should be considered in a healthy diet.

It has a low GI index and is High in Vitamin C, K and Folic Acid as well as being a good source of dietary fibre.

Most people are aware of how good Vitamin C and K are for you, but what about Folic Acid? We often hear about it being used a s a supplement during pregnancy, But what is it and why do we need it?

Humans cannot synthesize folic acid themselves; therefore, it has to be supplied through the diet to meet the daily requirements. The human body needs it to synthesize and repair DNA, as well as to act as a cofactor in certain biological reactions. It is especially important in aiding rapid cell division and growth, such as in infancy and pregnancy. Both children and adults both require folic acid to make healthy red blood cells and prevent anaemia.

It is believed that having a good supply of Folic acid

  • Supports red blood cell production and help prevent anaemia
  • Help prevent homocysteine build-up in your blood
  • Supports cell production, especially in your skin
  • Allows nerves to function properly
  • Helps prevent osteoporosis-related bone fractures
  • Helps prevent dementias including Alzheimer’s disease

Signs that you may need more Folic Acid in your diet include

  • Irritability
  • Mental fatigue, forgetfulness, or confusion
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • General or muscular fatigue
  • Gingivitis or periodontal disease

Cauliflower is an incredibly versatile food. It can be cut up finely and steamed or stir fried to use as a substitute for rice or potatoes in a dish, it can be a side dish to a main course or it can be the main event in a curry or soup. However you choose to eat them, fresh fruits and vegetables help us to maintain a healthy mind and body, and are delicious too…

….How will you be eating yours this week?

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Amazing Apples

Apples are ace – I’m talking about the fruit, not the computers.

I’m not saying they’re not ace, I’m just not talking about them here.

An average apple weighs about 242g (that’s over half your daily minimum fruit and veg intake right there) and has approx 126 cals. You might think ‘but I could have a pot fat free yoghurt or a biscuit for that amount of calories’ and you would be right, but they wouldn’t provide you with phyto nutrients and antioxidants that reduce your risk of cancer. They wouldn’t boost your immune system with a dose of vitamin C or support your body and help combat PMS with a range of vitamin B’s. They wouldn’t reduce your risk of colon cancer by being rich in dietry fibre which not only keeps your gut healthy but also reduces your LDL cholesterol keeping your heart healthier.

Flies fed on apples lived 10% longer than their apple deprived brothers and sisters. In tests, rats fed on a diet rich in apples, were shown to increase muscle and reduce obesity. They even showed an increase in acetylcholine production ( a neuro transmitter) which led to a reduction in cognitive decline.

They are cheap, easily available, last for ages in the fridge and take no preparation apart from a quick wash. You don’t even need to peel them, because their skin is good for you!

So do yourself a favour – Eat an Apple.

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