Posts Tagged ‘World’s Healthiest Foods’

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Just Add Spice

November 23, 2009

Don’t forget to enter my POM juice giveaway!

I have a very big collection of herbs and spices in my pantry. I adore herbs and spices, and I like playing around with different flavour combinations in dishes. But it seems that I always come back to the same ones, because for some reason I just can’t get enough of them: cinnamon, cumin, red pepper flakes, oregano, basil, and rosemary. Those are my standbys: if I feel that I need a little something extra to jazz up a dish, I’ll toss in one or a combination of the above, and voila! Problem solved.

When we tend to gravitate towards the same kinds of foods, it’s usually because that food contains something our body really needs. We can learn something about what might be missing from what we can’t seem to get enough of. In Chinese medicine, it has to do with warming/cooling foods and the effect that these things have on the body. I was curious about the health benefits from the spices that I mentioned above, and what that might mean about what my body is lacking and therefore requires from external sources. This is an overview of what I found:

Cinnamon:

– 1 tsp of cinnamon contains the same amount of antioxidants as 1 cup pomegranate juice or 1/2 cup blueberries

– Contains polyphenols, which act like insulin and thus regulate blood sugar levels (diabetics, rejoice!)

– Has anti-inflammatory properties to prevent blood clots

– Boosts metabolism and aids digestion

– Protects against fungi diseases and can help with the healing process when you have the flu

Cumin:

– Helps with digestion and insomnia

– Boosts immune system

– Detoxifies and prevents against cancer

– Improves health of skin and skin disorders

– Combats respiratory disorders

Red Pepper Flakes:

– Rich in antioxidants

– Increases satiety, making us feel full faster and thus helps to control our appetites

– Boosts metabolism

– Kills bacteria that causes stomach ulcers and stomach cancer

– Clears congestion

Oregano:

– 1 tsp of oregano contains as many antioxidants as 3 oz of almonds and 1/2 cup chopped asparagus; gram for gram, it is 4 times as potent as blueberries when it comes to antioxidants

– Inhibits bacteria and parasite growth

– Very good source of nutrients such as fibre and iron

– Ancient Greeks and Romans used oregano as a symbol for happiness (aww!)

– Excellent source of vitamin K

Basil:

– Excellent source of vitamin K (I find that oregano and basil often go very well together, so it makes sense that they would have a similar nutrition profile)

– Very good source of iron, calcium, and vitamin A

– Good source of magnesium and potassium

– Blocks an enzyme in the body that causes swelling, thus helping people who have arthritis

– Contains flavanoids which prevent cell structure from being damaged by radiation and oxygen

Rosemary:

– Stimulates the immune system and increases circulation

– Improves digestion

– Contains anti-inflammatory compounds that reduce the severity of asthma

– Increases blood flow to the brain, thus improving concentration

– Fresh rosemary has 25% more manganese than its dried counterpart, but it also has 40% less calcium and iron than when it’s dried, so it’s good to use both interchangeably to reap all of the benefits

The Universal Food Rating System is as follows:

Excellent Source: the food provides more than 75% of your recommended daily value of that nutrient per serving

Very Good Source: the food provides more than 50% of your recommended daily value of that nutrient per serving

Good Source: the food provides more than 25% of your recommended daily value of that nutrient per serving

Spices for Health

I find it really interesting that so many of these herbs and spices have the same kinds of health benefits. And all of them are things which I know that my body really does need help with. I found the notes about digestion and insomnia particularly interesting for myself, personally. I’m looking forward to bringing this up with my nutritionist to hear what she has to say about all of it. It could be that my body needs extra help with all of those antioxidants, too.

How about you? What herbs and spices do you find yourself using repeatedly? Do you think that it might be partly because your body needs the properties and nutrients contained within those herbs and spices?

The above information about herbs and spices can be found in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, World’s Healthiest Foods, and Organic Facts.

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Poll: How do you like your bananas?

October 9, 2009

Last month’s poll

Last month we discussed ingredient lists which, truth be told, are a favourite subject of mine (as you probably already know if you’re a regular reader around here!). I’m ecstatic to report that out of 35 voters, 71% always read the front of the package, the nutrition facts table, and the ingredient list! 26% sometimes check the ingredient list, 3% don’t really care what’s in their food, and 0% say that they trust the nutrition claims made on the front packaging of food products.

Obviously, with the demographic of readers we have here, as always the results are going to be heavily skewed. But it is so nice to see such a high percentage of people reading ingredient lists. I fully support not trusting major food corporations, until those food manufacturers smarten up and start caring about our health rather than solely about making a profit.

This month’s poll

This week while I was studying researching procrastinating, I came across this post at The Delicious about bananas. It occurred to me that Sarah is onto something: no one really seems to “like” bananas.

I eat bananas in some form nearly every day. But I never eat just a banana. No. It’s mixed into oatmeal. It’s smeared with nut butter. It’s turned into bread or muffins. It’s used as a substitute for fats in baking. It’s tossed into smoothies. It’s sandwiched between a couple slices of bread or rolled inside a tortilla or pita. But to take it along with me as a snack, all by its lonesome? Preposterous!

Bananas are a fantastic source of nutrition, and as Sarah pointed out, just about any home will have a lonely bunch hanging from a basket in the kitchen. But who eats them? And how do they get eaten? Does anyone really care for bananas when they aren’t combined with something else? I’m interested to know.

That is our (very profound, thought-provoking, and deeply philosophical) question for this month’s poll! What’s your opinion on bananas? When I went to Cambodia, we made banana flower salad and used banana leaves to create cups. A woman I met there knew all about the fruit because she owned a banana plantation in the Caribbean. Bananas are a great source of vitamin B6 (vegans, are you listening? :)). All around, they’re a pretty great fruit!

The World’s Healthiest Foods website- one of my favourite resources to learn about nutrition- talks all about the health benefits of bananas if you’re interested in reading more.

Speaking of the World’s Healthiest Foods website, I’m thinking about writing a separate blog post for every food on the website, to spread the awareness about the nutrients in each of these foods and to post a recipe for each. Let me know if that’s something you’d all be interested in reading more about! I would probably pick a different food each week so that one out of every three blog posts would be featuring a World’s Healthiest Food (the other two posts each week would be regular Living Healthy articles).

Leave your opinions about the World’s Healthiest Foods idea or about your thoughts on bananas in the comments!

You still have a few days left to enter my giveaway for Mimi Spencer’s 101 Things to Do Before You Diet, too.