Why Sunflower Seeds are a Win for Your Health

As a teenager, I remember stopping at the bodega on my home from school for candy and sunflower seeds (don’t judge it’s a NY thing). I can still recall the joy I felt when I crunched into the shell to break open the seeds and slowly chew on them. Sometimes the simple things in life are the best! Sunflower seeds contain tocopherols like vitamin E that protect the body from inflammation and preventing oxidative stress to cells, which is helpful in treating conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and bronchial asthma. What’s more, the seeds are a great source of protein and iron. Sunflower seeds also have folate, niacin, calcium, copper, magnesium, zinc, manganese, selenium, phosphorus, and potassium. Additionally, the seeds contain antioxidants such as caffeic acid and chlorogenic acid and have anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antifungal, and cardioprotective activity. In fact, some studies suggest that consumption of sunflower seeds may reduce the risk of postmenopausal breast cancer. More so, the seeds contain tryptophan and choline that may reduce stress and enhance memory. And sunflower seeds are high in phytosterols that reduce low-density lipoprotein. Further, sunflower seed oil is rich in fatty acids such as oleic and linoleic acid that may reduce or alleviate other conditions such as arrhythmias or used topically for faster wound healing. So feel free to sub out your olive oil for some sunflower oil if that’s your thing. Since the fall is ushering in that chilly weather like a mofo, I thought a really good sunflower pesto was in order.

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Five Basics to Balance Blood Sugar Levels

I have a love-hate relationship with sugar. Love the taste, hate the effects on my body. Maintaining blood sugar levels is always a concern for me because diabetes runs in my family. Type 2 diabetes, which accounts for 90 percent of cases globally, is characterized by insulin resistance and abnormal insulin secretion. While Type 1 diabetes is the most common chronic disease among children. Risk factors for Type 2 diabetes includes obesity, diet, stress, physical inactivity, family history, and even pregnancy-related determinants like gestational diabetes. So one thing that I absolutely do is just limit the amount of sugar that I have and try to go max-up my exercise by taking really long walks. If you have some of these risk factors, it is extremely important to indulge in foods that can assist you with regulating your sugar levels. Here are some of the foods that I enjoy and help me with doing just that:

 

Fenugreek

I came across fenugreek when I was searching for natural ingredients for a deep conditioner for my hair. Fenugreek is a great source of protein that prevents hair fall. But fenugreek is also great for moderating blood glucose levels. In fact, a 2001 study showed that fenugreek seeds improve glycemic control and decreases insulin resistance in mild type-2 diabetic patients. Fenugreek contains beta-carotene, vitamin C, thiamin, riboflavin, calcium, iron, and phosphorus. Additionally, this plant has phenolic compounds like naringenin and quercetin that have antioxidant activity. Further, fenugreek also has shown anti-inflammatory, hepatoprotective, and hypocholesterolemic properties. For example, some animal studies indicate that fenugreek may lower blood cholesterol levels. What’s more, a 2005 study showed that fenugreek may have a protective effect against breast cancer. I like to sprinkle a little fenugreek on a hearty cauliflower dish.

Cloves

As a young child, I remember how during the holiday season my Jamaican parents would almost always get a bottle of sorrel juice from someone as a gift. If you are familiar at all with this particular spicy drink, then you know that one of the main ingredients that adds some kick to it are cloves. Cloves have nutrients such as vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, niacin, pantothenic acid, magnesium, calcium, and manganese. In addition, cloves contain polyphenols such as gallic acid and other compounds like eugenol that have strong antioxidant properties. Some studies suggest that cloves may reduce blood sugar levels. For instance, a 2010 study found that cloves significantly decreased blood sugar levels, prevented oxidative stress tissue damage and cataract formation. Further, some research indicates that cloves show strong antimicrobial, antifungal, and antibacterial activity against certain types of bacteria. Further, cloves may be beneficial in preventing lung cancer and gastric ulcers, and reducing fevers.

 

 

Saffron

To me, saffron will always be synonymous with paella. Seasoned rice, onions, green peas, peppers, and veggie sausage—just heavenly! Saffron contains vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, niacin, riboflavin, potassium, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, and zinc. What makes saffron so special is a rare carotenoid called crocin that has antioxidant activity. And it has been reported that saffron has anti-hyperglycemic effects for diabetic patients. A 2011 study found that saffron reduced blood glucose levels and hemoglobin levels. Even more, saffron may be effective in treating other conditions such as preventing age-related macular degeneration, preventing neuron cell death, alleviating depression, soothing lumber pains associated with menstruation, and preventing skin tumors.

 

Mustard Greens

I love any type of sautéed greens so it’s always a treat when I get to enjoy a big ole plate of them. And mustard greens definitely fit that bill. Mustard greens have nutrients like vitamin C, beta-carotene, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, calcium, iron, magnesium, and zinc. In addition, mustard greens contain antioxidant flavonoids such as isorhamnetin and glucosinolates that prevent cancer. Further, mustard greens have compounds that have shown anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. More so, mustard greens are a potent antidiabetic. For instance, a 2013 study found that mustard greens had a antihyperglycemic effect and may reverse anxious behavorial symptoms that may be associated with diabetes. And a 2002 study showed that mustard leaf may protect against diabetic oxidative stress. Additionally, mustard greens have an antitumor effect by reducing the incidence of colon tumor. I think the taste of chickpeas and mustard greens is a great way to kick off a fall evening.

 

Cinnamon

When I think of cinnamon, I think Indian summers where it’s warm but muggy. I know weird, right?! But to me, cinnamon means warm snickerdoodles that usher in that change from summer to fall. Cinnamon has calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, potassium, and copper. This spice has antioxidants like caffeic acid that have anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antiallergenic, and antiproliferative activity. Some studies suggest that cinnamon may also improve blood glucose levels and lipid levels. For example, a 2003 study found that cinnamon may lower low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, serum glucose, and triglyceride for people with Type 2 diabetes. Moreover, cinnamon may protect against gastric ulcers and certain types of cancers like leukemia. I like to enjoy a cool refreshing cinnamon-fig smoothie when the mood strikes.

 

So those of some of the foods that I like to eat to maintain blood glucose levels. What do you enjoy?

Five Ways to Conquer Constipation

Time for a little embarrassment: a couple of days ago, I had a tiny bout with constipation. I ate a plate of wheat pasta and I was a little backed up for a couple of hours, if you catch my drift 😉. Eventually, things started flowing again but it definitely made me realize how easily constipation can hit anyone. It reminded me of an incident years ago where a family member in his pre-teens didn’t make a bowel movement for almost a week! Of course, he was eventually taken to his local doctor who prescribed a powerful laxative.

Bear with me, because I’m about to go there with my nastiness. Constipation may be categorized by infrequent bowel movements (typically fewer than three times a week), by the size or firmness of the stools, excessive straining, the sense of incomplete evacuation, excessive time on the toilet or unsuccessful defecation. It is usually seen as a benign and treatable condition. But some people may be afflicted with chronic constipation, which can span at least 12-week period. If you think that you may have chronic constipation, please, please seek a physician.

Causes of constipation include a diet that lacks fiber and liquids, lack of exercise, or a side effect of medications such as antihistamines, antidepressants, iron salts, sedatives, or opiates. It has been reported that constipation accounts for more than 2.5 million visits annually in the United States and it adds tremendously to health care financial burden with a cost of $2757 for diagnostic work up per patient and $3362 per treated child per year. Typical treatment for the condition involves lifestyle modifications (i.e. adding the exercise, fiber, and fluids), possibly switching medications to ones that don’t have an adverse effect, and over-the-counter or prescription laxatives.

When it comes to mild constipation, I like to bulk up on fiber-rich foods like brown rice and apples. Please note that drier foods tend to have higher fiber content such as legumes, dried fruits, and whole-grain cereals. Also, some clinical trials suggest that probiotics may be beneficial in treating this condition. Here are some other foods that may help:

 

Pears

So when I had my wheat pasta episode that I referenced above, I did eat some leftover pears to help my system along—and it absolutely freaking worked. My husband and my son are both diehard pear fans, so we always stock up on them at the supermarket. What I love about pears is that they’re not overly sweet and very digestible. One of the best snacks is pear slices with vegan cheese. DIVINE! Pears are a great source of dietary fiber that promotes regularity and it contains nutrients such as vitamins A, vitamin C, thiamin, riboflavin, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, and calcium. The fruit is an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant because of phytochemicals like caffeic acid and chlorogenic acid, which works to lower cholesterol levels (keep in mind that most of the antioxidants are in the peel). But don’t eat too much because pears contain sorbitol, a sugar alcohol, that may cause side effects such as tooth decay, nausea, or stomach cramps. I like to add pears to my weekend breakfasts or with my lunch for a sweet pick-me-up, but now and again, it’s nice to do decadent dessert like a pear oatmeal crisp. Yum!

 

 

 

Green Peas

As a twentysomething who was just beginning to prepare meals for myself, I used to make simple dishes like green peas and rice with a light butter sauce. It wasn’t fancy but it was scrumptious! Green peas are high in dietary fiber, protein, and folate. In addition, these legumes have beta-carotene, potassium, selenium, magnesium, calcium, copper, iron, and zinc. Peas contain antioxidant flavonoids such as quercetin and apigenin, and carotenoids like lutein that have anticarcinogenic activity. A number of clinical studies show that peas, like other legumes, may be effective in the treatment of cardiovascular and gastrointestinal conditions. For example, a 2008 prospective study found that high legume intake like green peas was associated with a reduced risk of diabetes in Chinese women. And legume consumption may regulate glycemic levels and prevent insulin resistance for diabetic individuals. Though, I enjoy my simple meals with green peas, sometimes I need to do something different like a veggie samosa with green peas as the star ingredient.

 

 

Prunes

Prunes are probably one of the best antidotes to constipation. Unfortunately, I found that out accidentally. When I was about ten years old or so, I found some prunes in the refrigerator. They looked like raisins, so I ate a few. Let’s just say that irregularity wasn’t an issue ☹. Since then, I have enjoyed the chewy taste of prunes mixed in various recipes, sparingly, of course. Prunes contain soluble fiber, vitamin A, vitamin K, B vitamins like thiamin, riboflavin, and pantothenic acid, and minerals such as potassium, calcium, phosphorus, iron, and magnesium. It has been reported that prunes have the highest antioxidant capacity among dried fruits due to the presence of phenolic acids like chlorogenic acid. Prunes have also shown anticarcinogenic, antihyperglycemic, anti-hyperlipidemic, antihypertensive, hepatoprotective activity. Prunes are a powerful weapon against constipation because they contain oxyphenisatin, a contact laxative. What’s more, high sorbitol levels and that chlorogenic acid also contribute to those properties. In fact, a 2007 study found that daily ingestion of prune juice promoted a mild laxative effect. And prune intake has been beneficial in treating other conditions. A 2006 study found that prunes may be protective against colon cancer. Some animal studies suggest that prune supplementation may prevent atherosclerosis by lowering lipid and lipoprotein levels, maintaining blood pressure levels, and preventing age-related cognitive deficits. Some research indicates that prune supplementation may prevent or reverse bone loss. So it turns out that prunes have it all! I like to add prunes to protein balls for an afternoon snack.

 

 

 

Cabbage

I inherited a love of cabbage from my mother. She used to stir-fry jullienned cabbage with different veggies like broccoli and carrots with palmfuls of chopped garlic (I’m a garlic fiend too but that’s another story). I was always surprised at how fresh and delicious it was despite just a few ingredients. As an adult, I load my fridge with sauerkraut—I love my fermented vegetables y’all. But cabbage is also great at combating constipation. Cabbage is loaded with dietary fiber and it has protein, carbohydrates, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, iron, copper, manganese, and zinc. This plant contains antioxidant flavonoids such as kaempferol and quercetin, as well as glucosinolates, anticarcinogenic nutrients. In addition, some varieties of cabbage like red cabbage contain anthocyanin pigments that are antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and have a protective effect against many diseases. Some research indicates that glucosinolates may prevent the risk of prostate cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer, and bladder cancer. Some animal studies have shown that red cabbage extract may reduce blood glucose levels, restore renal function, and body weight loss for diabetic patients. Further, some evidence suggests that cabbage juice may heal gastric ulcers. Cole slaw is a great way to kick off the last official weekend of summer.

 

 

Figs

I honestly don’t have a lot of experience with figs. There was a beautiful fig tree in the backyard of my father’s house but he cut it down because no one ate anything from it. Looking back, what a waste! Figs have a chewy and luscious skin that is chock-full of sweet, crunchy seeds. Figs are also a powerhouse when it comes to controlling constipation because it is one of the highest plant sources for fiber. But the fruit also has thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin K, calcium, manganese, copper, magnesium, and potassium and dried figs are high in iron. Figs have strong antioxidant activity due to carotenoids such as lycopene, beta-carotene, and lutein. Furthermore, the fruit has shown anti-inflammatory, anticarcinogenic, hepatoprotective, hypoglycemic, hyperlipidemic, and antimicrobial activities. A 2010 study showed that fig fruit supplementation improved symptoms in patients suffering from functional constipation. Additionally, some animal studies found that fig fruit and leaves may improve diabetic complications including kidney and liver function and improve blood sugar levels. And it has been reported that other parts of the fig plant including the latex may suppress the growth of cancerous cells including stomach cancer cells. A frothy almond milk shake blended with figs is the perfect after dinner treat.

 

 

These are my ways to wallop constipation—what does it for you?

Five Foods to Fight Water Retention

For the past few weeks, we have been spending our summer weekends at local parks. #cheapcomfythrills Last week, while we were wading into the ocean water, my husband complained about a swollen ankle. Occasionally, my husband will retain water in his legs or ankles. He usually wears a compression hose on his leg for a couple of days and that seems to alleviate the symptoms. Fluid retention may accompany many conditions such as sleep apnea (like my hubbie), hypertension, renal disease, pregnancy, and menstruation. In fact, as a teenager, I had plenty of bloating during that visit from Aunt Flo. One of the best ways to deal with water retention is to cut back on salty foods. Several studies have linked high sodium intake to fluid retention. Also, believe it or not, body position can affect that salt/water balance in the body. For example, a 1981 study found that women who sat for prolonged periods of time (about eight hours a day) experienced leg swelling that was reduced with intermittent leg exercise. And a 1997 study showed that exercises like knee-bending, which uses the thigh and calf muscle, may prevent lower leg swelling. In addition, diuretics like fennel have been shown to be useful in reducing fluid retention. Here are some other foods that I munch on to manage water retention:

Arugula

Arugula used to be one of my favorite leaves when it came to salads. It has a crisp but light peppery taste that is not too distracting from salad toppings (e.g. avocado, tomatoes, chickpeas, cucumbers). But as I expanded my palate to other leaves like kale and spinach, I gradually veered away from this leaf. Every now and then, I like to indulge my arugula cravings. Arugula or rocket salad contains vitamin C and beta-carotene, and minerals such as calcium, potassium, sulfur, and iron. This veggie, like its relatives cauliflower and broccoli, has sulfur-containing anticancer nutrients glucosinolates  and antioxidant flavonoids like kaempferol. What’s more, it has been reported that arugula has shown diuretic activity, which will definitely work with that extra water weight. Additionally, a 2009 study found that arugula may reduce gastric lesions and some research indicates that arugula may improve hyperglycemia, lipid profiles, inflammatory skin diseases like psoriasis and inhibit the growth of cancer cells such as colon and lung cancer. I love to toss arugula in salads but I wanted to try something a little different with a breakfast crostini.

Cranberries

Who doesn’t love cranberries?! Seriously, I want to know so I can unfriend that person 😊. I put cranberries on chickpea salads, wild rice, sweet potatoes, and a plethora of other amazing dishes. And so should you. Cranberries have vitamin C and E, fiber, potassium, selenium, and eye-boosting nutrients such as lutein and zeaxanthin. This fruit is rich in phytonutrients such as anthocyanins that are responsible for its pigment and that are associated with anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic properties. Cranberries have shown diuretic activity and some evidence supports its effectiveness in other conditions as well. For instance, some clinical trials have shown that cranberry juice consumption is associated with reduced risk of recurrent urinary tract infections (so the rumors are true ladies). Furthermore, a number of studies suggest that cranberries may lower low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, improve insulin sensitivity, and lower blood glucose levels. Since fall is just around the corner, why not start the season with a luscious cranberry sauce?

Leeks

The first time I tried leeks was an unpleasant experience. Why? Leeks are sandy, I repeat leeks are frigging sandy. But once the sand was gone, I loved it. The taste was reminiscent of onions but slightly different. Perfect for that rich pumpkin bisque or hearty pasta dish. Leeks contain nutrients such as vitamin C, vitamin A, B vitamins like thiamin and riboflavin, manganese, phosphorus, calcium, and potassium. Leeks are a great source of glucosinolates and antioxidant flavonoids like quercetin that have shown antibacterial and antitumor activity. This relative of the onion family is a diuretic with laxative and anti-arthritic properties. And some research shows that allium vegetables like leeks may reduce the risk of prostate and gastric cancer. Some evidence suggests that the calcium in leeks may have blood-clotting abilities and the polysaccharides in leeks may enhance the immune system. More so, a 2006 study found that leeks decreased low-density lipoprotein cholesterol. Creamy pumpkin bisque accented with roasted leeks is right on point for a cool evening meal.

Parsley

Parsley is a true staple in many of my dishes. When I’m making a meal and I want to add something extra to make it pop, I almost always reach for parsley (and garlic but that’s another story). This herb is a good source of beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, thiamin, riboflavin, folate, calcium, and iron. Parsley is loaded with antioxidants like apigenin that are antibacterial and anticarcinogenic. But parsley is also a powerful diuretic. A 2002 animal study shows that parsley extract significantly increased urine flow rate. Additionally, parsley has been effective in reducing the risk of peptic ulcers, decreasing blood glucose levels, regulating blood pressure levels, and improving testosterone and sperm count levels. Parsley leaves make a great base for a tasty chimichurri.

Dandelion

I’ve been wanting to try dandelion leaves for a while now ever since another blogger recommended them to me regarding cold remedies. Dandelion has a sharp bitter tone that goes well with lemon or smoked vegan cheese. Think arugula but with a more pronounced taste. Please take into account that, like leeks, dandelion leaves are incredibly gritty. I recommend that you let them sit in bowl of warm water for a couple of minutes before dealing with them. But when you do—so good! Dandelion has vitamin C and D, beta-carotene, and B vitamins like thiamin, riboflavin, and pantothenic acid. This vegetable is an excellent source of potassium and other minerals such as choline, zinc, manganese, iron, magnesium, copper, and phosphorus. In fact, it has been reported that the high potassium content may be responsible for dandelion’s diuretic activity. This plant also has antioxidant phenolic compounds such as hydroxycinnamic acids and it is an anti-inflammatory and a choleretic. Dandelion may be effective in treating various other conditions. For instance, a 2005 study found that dandelion may have a protective effect against acute pancreatitis. Further, dandelion consumption may improve gastric ulcers, constipation and diarrhea in chronic colitis patients, hepatitis infections, and immune function. Please note that there have been some reports of contact dermatitis with dandelion, so practice caution if needed (i.e. again, wash the heck out of it). I like to add sauteed dandelion to a pasta dish like this one. Hope you do the same!

So these are some foods I use to wash away that water weight. What are the foods that help you?

Six Staples to Soothe Nausea and Prevent Vomiting

SPOILER ALERT: it’s about to get nasty up in here. A week or so ago, I ate some old celery that had been sitting in the fridge past its due date. I looked at the chopped bits and despite the brown-grayish tinge that started to appear, I thought I’m good. About an hour later, I had that stomach-churning feeling, the kind where if you take a breath, something might come up rough. I felt a wave of nausea take over.

Thankfully, I’ve been really blessed in that I rarely ever vomit. But I can darn sure tell you about some nausea. Yep, I have had occasions where I ate the wrong frigging thing. Usually, we use our sense of smell and taste to identify spoiled foods, however, that might not be enough in detecting the quality of foods. Nausea and emesis or vomiting actually play a role in defending our bodies against food poisoning, drug side effects, and disease co-morbidities. Diarrhea and vomiting helps rid the gastrointestinal tract of dangerous ingested toxins. Nausea may serve as a conditioned response to avoid ingestion of harmful substances. While nausea often accompanies vomiting, vomiting may occur without nausea. Told you it would get nasty, but bear with me, it’s all for the greater good 😉.

For those of us that are moms, we all remember the urge to purge when carrying that bundle of joy. Pregnancy-induced nausea and vomiting during the first trimester is associated with a healthy pregnancy because the first trimester is a time of rapid fetal growth that includes the development of the central nervous system, which is highly vulnerable to toxicosis, a condition that results from poison or toxins in the system. Vomiting may offer protection against this condition. And other factors may weigh into your need to hurl. For example, motion-induced nausea and vomiting may be due to sensory conflict between body position in space. Also, modern medicine (e.g. drug treatments and post-surgery recovery) may provoke nausea and vomiting as well.

When I feel a little queasy, I want clear liquids or solid foods like toast. A year ago, my son had a gastrointestinal issue and a nurse asked me if I knew about the BRAT diet. What the hell is that? Bananas, rice, apples, toast. And some research indicates there may be something to this traditional diet. Some animal studies suggest that bananas, rich in amylase-resistant starch may protect gastrointestinal mucosa and improve symptoms of peptic ulcer. And rice-based oral hydration solutions have shown to reduce the volume of stools and duration of diarrhea in cholera patients. Here are some other solutions for stopping nausea and vomiting in its tracks:

Ginger

I might have to cut this post short because if you choose only one remedy to halt nausea and vomiting, it would absolutely have to be ginger. As the daughter of West Indian parents who used ginger for just about every freaking thing, I implore you to please stock ginger in your house—you will not regret it. It is my number one cure-all for mild stomach ailments. I’ve written about its benefits here. Ginger contains minerals such as iron, copper, phosphorus, chromium, calcium, and zinc. This plant has strong antioxidant activity due to vitamin C, beta-carotene, polyphenols, and flavonoids. Ginger gets its pungency from polyphenolic compounds known as gingerols. It is reported that gingerols have antibacterial, analgesic, sedative, and antipyretic properties. Several randomized controlled trials have shown that ginger may reduce chemotherapy-induced vomiting and nausea that was secondary to conditions including post-operative nausea, motion sickness, morning sickness, and chemotherapy-associated nausea. Ginger has also been effective in treating chills related to colds and flu, improving rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, reducing atherogenesis and high lipid levels, as an anti-inflammatory for migraine headaches, and inhibiting low-density lipoprotein. I like to add ginger to my morning tea (y’all know that I’m fanatical with my tea) but I also like to add a touch of ginger to certain meals like this miso-ginger glazed tempeh dish.

 

Fennel

When my husband and I were newlyweds, he used to make this big weekend breakfast of sweet potato hash that was flavored with dried fennel seeds. I adored how the seeds added a slight licorice flavor to the onions, peppers, and diced potatoes. So freaking scrumptious! Fennel has protein, fibers, vitamin A, vitamin C, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, potassium, iron, and phosphorus. This veggie is high in antioxidants like polyphenols and flavonoids like rosmarinic acid and quercetin that exhibit anticarcinogenic, antibacterial, antifungal, and hepatoprotective activities. A 2005 case study showed that a sweet fennel oil blend that included other oils such as peppermint and Roman chamomile may be beneficial in treating nausea. What’s more, some research indicates that fennel is effective with other gastrointestinal disorders including colic and gastric ulcers. Some studies suggest that anethole, a constituent in fennel, can suppress the growth of cancer cells. Since it’s summer, I find that the raw version of fennel is a nice compliment to oranges for a light salad.

 

Peppermint

As a child growing up in the Bronx, our landlord used to grow mint leaves in the front yard. Occasionally, she would gift my mother some mint leaves on special occasions like Easter and Christmas. My mother would carefully parcel out just a few of the leaves and then steep them for an extraordinary long time for a cup of tea. When I took a sip, I was immediately overwhelmed by the powerful mint flavor. It made the mint tea we picked up from the supermarket seem puny in comparison. Eventually, I decided to expand my palate to other flavors but that mint tea always holds a special place in my heart. Peppermint contains beta-carotene, potassium, calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, and selenium. This herb is an antioxidant with polyphenols like hesperidin, rosmarinic acid, and caffeic acid. Peppermint is a dynamo herb because it also has anti-inflammatory, antitumor, antiviral, anti-allergenic, antibacterial, antimicrobial properties. A 1997 study showed that peppermint may reduce nausea in post-operative patients. Furthermore, peppermint has been used in the treatment of other gastrointestinal disorders such as colon spasms, abdominal pain, irritable bowel syndrome, and dyspepsia. And a 1988 study found that inhalation of menthol, a compound found in peppermint, may significantly improve air flow nasal sensation (so Mom was right after all).

 

Lemongrass

Lemongrass is not something I have often but I remember tasting lemongrass for the first time in a sweet and sour-type dish years ago. I loved how the fragrant subtle lemon taste cascaded over the rice and veggies. Lemongrass has protein, fiber, carbohydrates and minerals such as potassium, zinc, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus. This plant is loaded with antioxidant constituents such as caffeic acid and it has shown antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antimutagenic, and hypolipidemic activity. Some research indicates that lemongrass may prevent vomiting. For instance, a 2011 study found that lemongrass extract showed anti-emetic activity. In addition, some animal studies indicate that lemongrass may be effective as a treatment for diarrhea. And the plant may be beneficial in preventing low-density lipoprotein. Lemongrass makes a perfect addition to curries and soups like this one.

Papaya

I have a confession: I’ve always been a little scared of papaya. Why? Because it looks like a beast when it comes to chopping it up and getting rid of those seeds. But it is so worth it. So juicy and succulent. Just thinking of slicing it whisper-thin for a summer salad is mouthwatering. Okay enough of that. Papaya contains dietary fiber, protein, and carbohydrates. The fruit is rich in vitamin C and a good source of beta-carotene, B vitamins like folate, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, as well as minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus. Papaya has antioxidants like caffeic acid and hesperidin and it also shows antiulcer, antitumor, anthelmintic, and immunomodulatory activity. It has been reported that papain, a digestive enzyme found in papaya, may improve gastrointestinal conditions including nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. Additionally, some animal studies show that papaya may also accelerate wound healing, lower blood glucose levels, reduces oxidative stress and high blood cholesterol levels. So go ahead and cut open that papaya and slather it on your salad.

 

Cardamom

I’ve always been curious about cardamom because so many people rave about it so I decided to give it a try. Cardamom has a citrusy flavor that is perfect for frothy shakes, iced teas, and creamy desserts. This spice contains minerals such as calcium, sulfur, and phosphorus and antioxidants including quercetin that are also anticarcinogenic and anti-inflammatory. A 2014 study found that cardamom essential oil may relieve chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting in cancer patients. Furthermore, some animal studies suggest that cardamom may reduce gastric lesions. And research shows that cardamom may lower blood pressure levels in stage 1 hypertension patients and may prevent bronchospasms associated with asthma.

 

Those are the foods I like when my tummy is topsy-turvy—what cures your nagging nausea and vomiting?

Five Foods to Fuel You and Prevent Post-Lunch Dip

Summer is finally winding down. On the first day of August, my son looked at me and said sadly, “Summer is almost over.” I looked at him like this.

 

At that point, he still had about five or six weeks of me time. But it was a good reminder that once school starts, my schedule will be a little more amped up. Right now, it’s about trying to get things done while finding time to entertain an eleven-year-old boy. #trialsofWAHM

Lately, I’ve been noticing a post-lunch dip. What the hell is that? Well, in some cultures, an afternoon siesta is needed to replenish mental and physical energy. Here in the states, that is generally frowned upon. But depending on a person’s circadian rhythms, there might be a propensity to experience low energy in the afternoon. In other words, most of us adapt to changes in our schedule if needed, however, there are a handful of people who are morning and evening-type people. There’s some evidence that personality may play a role. Introverts (like yours truly) tend to be morning people and extroverts tend to love the nightlife. But I have been experiencing a case of manic mornings that result in afternoon blahs. What I’ve found is that I need foods that raise my energy but calm me the heck down without making me crash and wanting to reach for a chocolate chip cookie at 4:00 pm. That means foods that are filling, don’t raise my blood sugar level, and that are plump full of nutrients that benefit me mentally like B vitamins. Here are some of the foods that I like to indulge in to fight that disastrous dip in energy during the afternoons:

Oregano

When I started going out with my husband many years ago, he would take me to his neighborhood pizzeria where almost every customer would sprinkle oregano on their slice before eating it. Mind you, the oregano was from a big family-size container that was zip-tied to the counter. It’s the Bronx, y’all—don’t play that mess! Taking that first bite of that slice always felt better with that warm pungent herb. As a vegan, I still enjoy a dash of oregano to kick up the flavor of my meals. Generally, oregano has been used to prevent food spoilage and has nutrients including calcium, zinc, iron, copper, and manganese. This herb is a strong antioxidant due to phenolic compounds such as caffeic acid. Furthermore, oregano contains other components such the anti-inflammatory rosmarinic acid and antimicrobials like carvacrol and thymol. Oregano constituents also have antimutagenic and anticarcinogenic properties. For example, carvacrol and thymol may suppress the growth of melanoma cells and carvacrol may be useful in regulating blood glucose levels. Some studies suggest that oregano may be effective in preventing bacterium associated with gastritis. And some animal studies indicate that rosmarinic acid may produce an antidepressive effect, which can be beneficial in combating that afternoon slump.

Buckwheat

When I think of buckwheat, I think of luscious noodles with lightly sautéed veggies accented by a sweet gingery sauce. Yep, Mama’s hungry now. When it comes to healthy food to beat those afternoon blahs, you can‘t go wrong with buckwheat. Buckwheat is high in dietary fiber, proteins, carbohydrates, and polyphenols. In fact, buckwheat’s protein content is higher than rice, wheat, millet, sorghum, and maize. Some nutritional studies indicate that buckwheat proteins have the highest cholesterol-lowering properties among the plant proteins known to science so far. These proteins may have a protective effect against colon cancer. And research indicates that buckwheat protein isolates may be effective in treating hypertension, constipation, and obesity. This plant also contains brain-boosting B vitamins such as thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin, as well as other nutrients such as vitamin E, zinc, potassium, phosphorus, and magnesium. What’s more, unlike many grains, buckwheat does not contain the antinutrient phytic acid and it’s gluten free. Phytic acid hinders mineral absorption. In addition, buckwheat has antioxidants like quercetin that are anti-inflammatory and anticarcinogenic. It has been reported that buckwheat contains two to five times more phenolic compounds than oats and barley. Please note that buckwheat does contain potential allergens for those of us who might be prone to those things. Otherwise, feel free to enjoy a bowl full of glistening, succulent, delicious buckwheat noodles (I intend to enjoy some tonight).

 

Wild rice

I remember having wild rice for the first time a couple of years ago. I grew up eating rice and peas because my family is Jamaican and I always ordered white rice in restaurants so wild rice was definitely a novelty for me. But once I tasted it, there was no going back. I loved that unique nutty flavor. Then I found out that wild rice isn’t rice at all. Wild rice is an aquatic grass. Whatever, grass tastes good, y’all (and I mean that in a non-pharmaceutical way 😊, shhh, it’s my blog so I get to be corny if I want). Anywho, wild rice is a good source of dietary fiber, protein, carbohydrates, B vitamins like niacin and riboflavin that are all wonderful for fighting that post-lunch dip. Wild rice also contains minerals such as phosphorus, iron, and potassium. This grass does contain flavonoids like apigenin that are anticarcinogenic. Some animal studies have shown that wild rice consumption may be effective in lowering liver cholesterol levels and reducing the risk of colon cancer. Wild rice can be a great transitional dish because it’s perfect for both hot summer nights and cool fall evenings.

Lemon

I’ve always been a lemon girl, meaning I love to put lemons in most of my beverages. Hot tea, ice tea, plain water, juices, sometimes they all need a lemon for that extra punch. Lemons are ubiquitous, you can find them in grocery stores, fruit stands, hell even in a decorative bowl on your favorite auntie’s kitchen table. Lemons are a powerful weapon against post-lunch dip because they are chock full of vitamin C, provide energy, and have protein and fiber. Lemons also contain B vitamins like folate, thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin, and minerals such as potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc. This plant is huge in terms of antioxidants because of the combination of vitamin C and flavonoids like hesperidin and naringenin that show anticarcinogenic, antimicrobial, antiproliferative, and anti-inflammatory activity. For instance, some animal studies suggest hesperidin may have a protective effect on bones, may have therapeutic value as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, and may lower blood lipid levels. Several studies indicate that lemon may be used in the treatment for conditions such as fatigue, oral cancer, urinary bladder cancer, liver cancer, cardiovascular disease, gastrointestinal diseases, obesity, and dementia. And essential oils of lemon prevent low-density oxidation and reduce plasmatic cholesterol and triglycerides that may lead to heart disease. What can’t lemons do?!! Sometimes I like to use lemons to make a refreshing, zesty dressing to top a light side salad.

White navy beans

White bean hummus is one of the most satisfying midday meals that can maximize your mood and energize you through the rest of your day. Roasted white beans drizzled with olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, dill, a touch of cream, combined to create something that’s just…heaven. Okay, I’m back 😉. White navy beans, like other legumes, are high in protein and a great source of folate, but these beans also have thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, copper, iron, magnesium, and zinc. Navy beans have polyphenols that are antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. It has been reported that legume intake may result in reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, and colon cancer. In addition, legumes may prevent insulin-resistance and help with glycemic control for diabetic patients. Please note that white navy beans may contain trace amounts of phytate for those with possible gastrointestinal issues. Make some white bean hummus—trust, I promise you that you will not be sorry!

 

Okay, those are my go-to foods to raise my energy, mellow my moods, and get me through that post-lunch hump. What foods do that for you?

Six Summer Quenchers that Satisfy Your Body

Summer sizzle is on and blazing! The temperature has been scorching. My son and I were outside tooling around and within five minutes, FIVE minutes y’all, sweat was pouring down my legs! I kid you not. Lucky thing I was wearing black shorts—always bet on black 😉.

The average global temperature is increasing and it is estimated to go up another 1.8 to 4.0 degrees Celsius by 2100 depending on efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Then throw in modern urban development fixtures that can add more degrees to local temperatures such as heat absorption in road tar-seals and concrete buildings. Increasing local temperatures means higher human exposure to heat, which may create unhealthy and potentially dangerous situations for people who don’t have air conditioning or other cooling methods.

The human body maintains a core temperature of 37 degrees Celsius. During hot weather, your body typically cools itself off through sweating or contact with cooler air and air movement. But if these methods are inefficient, that heat generation needs to be reduced. If physical activity is high in a hot environment with an increased core body temperature above 38 degrees Celsius (100.4 degrees Fahrenheit), then diminished physical capacity and mental task ability may occur, resulting in heat exhaustion. Some symptoms of heat exhaustion may include headache, dizziness, fatigue, malaise, and nausea, which can be resolved by proper hydration and cooling. But serious heat stroke and possibly death can happen if body temperature exceeds 40 degrees Celsius. This is particularly important for those who work outside, children, older adults, and those who are chronically ill during these extreme temperatures. So please, please stay hydrated and dress comfortably and, if you can, check in a loved one who needs it during these hot patches.

The key to managing these disrespectful weather conditions is to stay cool and hydrated. So I stock up on my usual high-water content foods like pineapple (also anti-inflammatory) and cucumber. Here are some other surefire ways to beat the heat:

Watermelon

What list for cooling foods wouldn’t be complete without watermelon? Watermelon is synonymous with summer. And I’m saying this as a person who used to abhor watermelon at cookouts. But as you get older, you get wiser and all that. Watermelon is a great hydrator with a moisture content of 93 percent. The fruit is also rich in lycopene, the red antioxidant that gives the fruit its pigment and protects against cancer. It has been reported that the lycopene concentration of fresh watermelon is 40 percent higher than raw tomato. #watermelonwins Some evidence indicates that lycopene is effective against certain cancers including breast cancer, prostate cancer, and lung cancer. What’s more, lycopene works with vitamin E to prevent low-density lipoprotein, the bad cholesterol that results in heart disease. The fruit is also a good source of chromium,  a nutrient that benefits patients with diabetes by regulating blood sugar levels. Watermelon has beta-carotene and vitamin C, vitamin B1, vitamin B6, potassium, and magnesium. It’s summer so watermelon sippers are definitely on hand.

 

Zucchini

I have a love/hate relationship with zucchini, depending on the type of dish that I make with it. Why am I telling you this before I try to encourage you to eat it? Because you will either love it or hate it, depending on the type of dish you make. What I’ve found is that zucchini generally work better when it’s thinly sliced, julienned, or spiralized. Otherwise, you are asking for a sea of mushy veggies. And Mama don’t like mush. This is just my opinion, I repeat my opinion, go for what you know. Zucchinis have a water content of 95 percent and it contains the antioxidants vitamin C and eye-boosting lutein that protects against age-related macular degeneration. The vegetable also has beta-carotene, folate, potassium, magnesium, and phosphorus. Some evidence suggests that zucchini consumption may be beneficial in preventing conditions such as colon cancer and heart disease. Two years ago, we got a spiralizer and it totally changed my relationship with zucchini. Zoodles (zucchini noodles) is one of the best dishes to have on a hot summer night.

 

 

Coconut water

I grew up hearing the lyrics to Harry Belafonte’s song, “Coconut Woman” before I could even speak. Get you coconut water, Man, it’s good for your daughter. When I was about nine years old, I went to Jamaica for the first time to visit my family. I watched with trepidation and excitement as men would climb coconut trees and get green coconuts that looked odd compared to the brown hairy bowling-ball ones that were in America. They would chop off the top with a machete, scoop out a little of the coconut meat, then stick a straw in it (if you were a newbie like me) or lift that shell to right to your lips to drink the sweet juice. I said it once and I will say it again: yardies are hardcore! At the time, I thought it was the craziest thing ever but now I realize how lucky I was to experience coconut water straight from the source itself. Coconut water has protein, sugars, vitamin C, B vitamins, potassium, and iron. This water also has antioxidant and anticarcinogenic properties. But what makes coconut water really special is that electrolytes like potassium and sodium make it a great hydrator for restoring the losses of electrolytes from the body, particularly from areas such as the skin and urinary pathways. According to a 2000 study published in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine, coconut water was effective as a short-term intravenous hydration fluid for one critically ill patient. Don’t get any ideas because this was due to hospital shortage in a remote area of the world. But when it comes to mild dehydration, you can’t go wrong with coconut water when it comes to replenishing those fluids in your body.

 

 

Oranges

I go through these food phases where I will eat a certain kind of food for one of my meals pretty much five days a week. And that was oranges. My weekday breakfast used to be soy yogurt with about half an orange. It was a perfect light breakfast that kept me satisfied until midday. I’ve moved on from that humble breakfast but I still love oranges. What is wonderful about oranges is that they are usually so accessible. I’m a New Yorker so I’ve gotten oranges from street vendors, bodegas, supermarkets—you name it. Oranges are also a high-water fruit with a water content of 85.7 percent. We all know that oranges are chock full of vitamin C and dietary fiber. In addition, the fruit contains thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, and vitamin E, as well as minerals such as calcium, potassium, iron, and phosphorus. Oranges are loaded with antioxidant flavonoids and carotenoids that have anti-inflammatory, antimutagenic, and anticarcinogenic properties. Flavonoids prevent the growth of tumors such as colon, oral, breast, and lung cancer cells. Furthermore, these compounds protect against oxidative stress that may lead to cardiovascular disease. Red or blood oranges contain other antioxidant compounds such as anthocyanins that are not present in other varieties of oranges. I love the addition of oranges to a nice lunch or dinner salad.

 

 

Celery

Sometimes at 3:00 or 4:00 in the afternoon, I need a little snack to tide me over until dinner and I have absolutely no freaking clue what to eat. Celery has a crisp, sharp taste that works so well with dips like almond butter and hummus. Chop up a few sticks of this veggie with something to dip with and mission accomplished! Celery is a perfect hot-weather hydrator because it has a water content of 95 percent. This vegetable is rich in vitamin C, folic acid, beta-carotene, potassium, magnesium, silica, chlorophyll, and fiber. Some studies indicate that celery has shown antifungal activity against certain types of bacteria. What’s more, it has been reported that celery is a mild diuretic that may benefit arthritis and gout patients in eliminating uric acid and that the vegetable may have anti-inflammatory potential to reduce joint swelling and pain. I like to add a little celery to my chickpea salad sandwich for crunch and coolness.

 

 

Star fruit (Carambola)

I wasn’t really familiar with star fruit until my son pointed it out at the supermarket and asked if he could try it. I knew enough about it to know that it tastes similar to apple, so why not give it a try? And yes, the fruit does taste like apple with a slight sour undertone. Star fruits are a wonderful refresher because they have an average moisture content of 90 percent. The fruit has nutrients such as vitamin C, beta-carotene, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, calcium, iron, phosphorus, potassium, proteins, and dietary fibers. The leaves and pulp are also a good source of antioxidants flavonoids like quercetin and apigenin that have anti-inflammatory and anticarcinogenic properties. Some research indicates that star fruit may be effective in reducing blood glucose levels and reducing serum triglyceride and total cholesterol levels that may lead to cardiovascular disease. What’s more, the fruit has shown selective activity against brain tumor and liver carcinoma cells. Please note that there have been some reports of toxicity after star fruit consumption for some patients with kidney disease. I like to mix star fruit in my beverages, salads, or just have it plain for a midday snack. No fuss, no muss.

 

 

These are a few of the foods that I like to cool off with. What works for you?