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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Three Ways to Boost Joint Flexibility

What’s up, y’all! Go shorty, it’s my birthday! Getting older in life means a lot of changes in your body. Every now and then, I get aches and pains just like the next person. Sometimes things start cracking and bending more than they should. I know some friends and family members that suffer from osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis. Osteoarthritis is a disease where the prevalence increases with age. The total annual cost in the United States is almost $65 billion for treating arthritis. Some symptoms of osteoarthritis include pain, reduced function, stiffness, and joint instability. Some treatment options include muscle-strengthening exercises, weight loss, and in some cases, joint replacement surgery. But there are some preventive measures that may be taken in terms of diet. When I get certain types of joint pains, particularly in my knees and elbows, I definitely like to eat my usual anti-inflammatory foods like turmeric and pineapple. Here are some other foods that may help:

 

Capsaicin

I wrote a little about capsaicin here. Some studies indicate that capsaicin is effective at relieving joint inflammation associated with arthritis and other conditions such as pruritus. Some research indicates that capsaicin may repress the growth of lung cancer cells. What’s more, capsaicin has been beneficial in treating conditions such as cluster headaches, diabetic neuropathy, and rheumatic diseases. Here’s a great DIY capsaicin rub recipe (please omit the beeswax and use more vegan-friendly waxes like candelilla wax) but feel free to improvise and use your own carrier and essential oils.

 

 

 

 

Red grapes

I grew up watching my father and my brother gorge on grapes. Red grapes were a favorite in my household because they were more accessible in our local market. Admittedly, I am not really a fan of grapes on a regular basis, however, I do get my fix on every now and then. Grapes have nutrients such as vitamin A, vitamin C, thiamin, riboflavin, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, and copper. Grapes also contains boron, a nutrient that aid in strong bones. Further, red grapes contain strong antioxidants such as anthocyanins that have antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. But what makes red grapes so special is resveratrol, an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anticarcinogenic compound (also found in red wine so feel free to enjoy a glass if you must 😊). In fact, several studies indicate that resveratrol may prevent bone cartilage loss associated with arthritis. For instance, a 2005 study found that resveratrol protected cartilage against the development of osteoarthritis. More so, some animal studies show that resveratrol may reduce the risk of certain types of cancer including colon and skin cancer, prevent atherosclerosis, improve serum cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and decrease low-density lipoprotein levels.

 

 

Cherries

My husband is a huge cherry fanatic—sorbet, pies, you name it. I love to indulge my cherry craving when I need a hit of something really sweet, juicy, and luscious like a big cherry turnover. Cherries have vitamin A and C, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, and calcium. And like red grapes, cherries are full of those antioxidant anthocyanins and flavonoids such as quercetin and kaempferol. But cherries may alleviate arthritis and gout-related pain. A 2005 study found that other compounds in cherries like cyanidin decreased the inflammation associated with arthritis. And a 2003 study showed that cherry consumption reduced the uric acid levels in gout patients. In addition, a 2010 study found that cherry juice decreased exercise-induced inflammation and oxidative stress in runners. I found this yummy cherry blend smoothie that I highly recommend.

Just a little note: I am making a few changes to the blog and scaling back on a few things so I can highlight more products that might be helpful to you busy people out there. Enjoy this holiday weekend!

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?

Four Ways to Quench Heartburn

About a week or so ago, I experienced an uncomfortable but familiar burning sensation in my chest after indulging a plate of leftover rotini pasta. I knew that I had been hit with a case of heartburn. Blessedly, I’m not a chronic heartburn sufferer but I do have family members who know this condition all too well. My mother-in-law was diagnosed with acid reflux, which is associated with heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

According to a 1999 report by the Archives of Internal Medicine, twenty-five million adults experience heartburn daily and more than $1 billion was spent on nonprescription heartburn remedies. Heartburn occurs when the esophagus is exposed to gastric acid because the lower esophageal sphincter, which normally prevents acid from entering the esophagus, becomes relaxed. The esophagus ain’t built to handle the acid like the stomach can. That burning sensation happens when sensory nerve endings are stimulated by acid reflux or esophageal distention. Acid reflux may be a sign of GERD, a chronic condition that may damage your esophagus. Certain types of food such as peppermint, onions, garlic, and alcohol may induce heartburn. Even body position (e.g. reclining or bending over) can stir that burn. And of course, lifestyle factors such as stress, cigarette smoking, and obesity may result in heartburn.

In my pre-vegan days, my roll of antacids was my best friend if I felt any sort of discomfort. Now, I try to really pay attention to the foods I eat, although I do have my moments (look, Mama needs chocolate cookies every once in a while or she goes batsh** crazy! 😉). Potassium-rich foods like sweet potatoes may be helpful because potassium causes the contraction of the lower esophageal sphincter muscles and prevents that acid from entering into the esophagus. Here are some other foods that may help halt heartburn for you:

Deglycyrrhizinated licorice

Coming from a West Indian family, I have always been somewhat familiar with licorice and its medicinal purposes. But licorice is a well-known remedy for heartburn and other stomach ailments. Commercial licorice products come from the root extracts of the plant. The roots are reported to have demulcent, antacid, anti-ulcer, anti-inflammatory, diuretic, expectorant, and antimicrobial activity. The sweet taste comes from the substance glycyrrhizin, which is reputed to be 50 times stronger than refined sugar. But glycyrrhizin may also cause severe hypertension. So deglycyrrhizinated licorice is the best bet for the benefits of licorice without those nasty side effects. Deglycyrrhizinated licorice works by increasing blood flow to damaged stomach mucous membrane to promote healing. Licorice contains antioxidant compounds like glabridin that prevent low-density lipoprotein. In addition, some studies suggest that licorice may be beneficial in treating other gastrointestinal disorders. For example, a 1995 study found that licorice reduced the number and size of gastric ulcers. Further, some research indicates that licorice extracts may suppress the growth of breast cancer cells. Occasionally, I really like this particular brand of licorice whenever I need a little extra help with heartburn.

 

 

Seaweed

I am not ashamed to admit that I have always loved seaweed. Some of the best eating times involve seaweed: Back in the late nineties, I remember ordering a kombu and tempeh combination at one of my favorite veggie restaurants back in the day, Angelica’s Kitchen (RIP). Or eating veggie sushi with my friends in the backyard of a restaurant on Carmine Street in the Village. Yeah, Mama’s that old. For our purposes, when I am referring to seaweed or marine algae, I mean the brown, green, and red algae like kelp, kombu, nori, or Irish moss. What is great about seaweed is that it does contain fiber but its not digested to any great extent in the gut. So that means easier digestion as it passes through the gastrointestinal tract. Seaweed contains nutrients such as vitamins A, thiamin, riboflavin, folate, B12, C, and E, and calcium, iron, zinc, copper, and iodine. If you’re a chronic heartburn sufferer, you are familiar with alginates that are derived from brown seaweed, which are used as an alternative to antacids. What’s more, most seaweed varieties contain polyunsaturated fatty acids such as linoleic acid (LA) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) that are essential for growth and development. Additionally, seaweed is full of carotenoids like beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin as well as metabolites that have antifungal, antiviral, antibacterial, and antimicrobial properties. In fact, it has been reported that the polysaccharides from marine algae may inhibit the mumps and influenza B viruses. I like to keep it really simple with seaweed, so I did this mash-up of kelp, kombu, carrots, and broccoli for dinner.

 

Marshmallow root

I first heard about marshmallow root in my attempts to find a natural hair detangler. Marshmallow root contains mucilage that makes it oh so easy to run a comb through even the most wicked hair knots. But this plant is so much more than that. Some evidence shows that the roots may counteract excessive stomach acid that may result in that dreaded heartburn. Marshmallow root, like seaweed, is a good source of polyunsaturated fatty acids like LA and ALA. More so, marshmallow root has antioxidant flavonoids such as kaempferol and other constituents like polysaccharides that show antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory, and antitussive activities. For example, a 2011 study found that marshmallow root extracts may be effective in treating certain types of oral cavity bacteria. Further, a 2007 study showed that marshmallow root significantly reduced the coughing of hypertension patients. And some animal studies suggest that the polysaccharides from marshmallow root may reduce blood glucose levels. I like to use this particular brand when I need to get my marshmallow fix.

 

Beetroot

When I started going out with my husband, one of the first things he said to me was never give him anything with beets. Apparently, his mother ate a bit too much beets when she was pregnant with him and he came out the womb despising them. For those of you who are like him, I implore you to give beets are chance because they can absolutely be tasty and wonderfully healthy—I promise you! Beetroot contains nutrients such as vitamin C, potassium, and magnesium. In addition, beetroot also has phenolic compounds such as caffeic acid and bioactive pigments known as betalains that have high antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Beetroot has nitrates that increase gastric blood flow, which may be beneficial in combatting heartburn. But please note that some studies link high nitrate intake with gastric cancer, so do your own research. Some research indicates nitrate-rich beetroot may be helpful increasing cerebral blood flow in young adults. And a 2010 study showed that beetroot extract alleviated pain and inflammation in osteoarthritic patients. This juice will make you a believer when it comes to beets.

 

So those are the foods that I use to douse heartburn–what do you use?

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?

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?