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!

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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?

Six Soothers for Sore Gums and Strengthening Teeth

Summertime means cool, refreshing treats like ice cream sundaes piled high with cherries and bananas or sorbet slushies that are frothy and spilling off the sides of your glass. Heaven! But too much of that sugary goodness can do some damage to your teeth and gums. My husband Brian has had a lot of problems with his teeth this year. Let’s just say the words “root canal” were mentioned at one point. Blessedly, he didn’t have to go that route. Growing up, I remember my mother would frequently visit the dentist because of sore gums. Red, bleeding, or inflamed gums is usually a telltale sign of gingivitis and periodontitis, which can be associated with other conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and poor wound healing. Gingivitis is caused by plaque forming on the teeth that then irritates the gums. The longer the plaque sits, the more irritated the gums become. The gums can start bleeding even with gentle brushing. Periodontitis occurs when the untreated gingivitis eventually loosens the tooth from the gums and results in tooth loss. Treatment of periodontitis includes good oral hygiene and professional dental care. I repeat, professional dental care. So if you are suffering from these conditions or other oral care issues, don’t be a hero and sit there with your teeth jacked up–seek out a physician pronto.

According to the World Health Organization, oral disease are the fourth most expensive disease to treat. Risk factors to oral diseases include: smoking, alcohol, behaviors that cause injuries, stress, diet, and dirt (hygiene). Natural anti-inflammatories like curcumin (turmeric) and antimicrobials like tea tree oil can help in treating some periodontal issues. But prevention is key. Start by limiting your consumption of sugars and boosting your intake of fruits and veggies. Okay preach session over.

Other foods I like to add to my arsenal to keep tooth decay at bay are:

Watercress

Watercress is kind of new to my menu. I saw it at the market and decided what the hell, let’s do it. And I’m glad I did. Watercress has a sharp undertone that could easily replace boring lettuce in any sandwich or bring a peppery note to soups and pasta. This Brassicaceae veggie is usually found in cool, running water along the banks of rivers, ditches, and streams (so wash it well because it can have a little dirt y’all). Like its close relatives broccoli and cauliflower, watercress is high in similar nutrients such as vitamins C, E, and K, folic acid, calcium, iron, and iodine. It is also rich in the carotenoids lutein and beta-carotene. Most importantly, watercress is full of isothiocyanates, one of the products of glucosinolates, plant compounds that are known for their cancer-fighting properties. Isothiocyanates activate detoxification enzymes and suppress cancer-promoting enzymes in the body. Some studies have shown that isothiocyanates have reduced the risk of lung cancer and have prevented tumors in other parts of the body such as the liver, pancreas, colon, bladder, and mammary gland (breast). What’s more, it has been reported that watercress supplementation reduced DNA damage that may lead to elevated cancer risk and increased antioxidant concentration of lutein and beta-carotene in adults. In addition, some animal studies suggest that watercress extract may promote the healing of mouth lesions. I like to toss watercress on my pasta for an extra kick of flavor.

Tulsi

By now, you guys have guessed that Mama likes her tea 😉. So I am always looking for any excuse whatsoever to try a new herbal blend. But tulsi is special guys. This adaptogen herb is an antioxidant that contains vitamin A and C, calcium, zinc, and iron. Some animal studies indicate that tulsi may lower blood sugar levels, may promote the healing of keloid and hypertropic scars, and has cardioprotective and gastroprotective effects. Please note that tulsi has also shown antifertility effects as well, so if you have interests in those areas, do abstain. And some evidence suggests that tulsi may exhibit antimicrobial activity against certain types of periodontal bacteria that may cause dental caries. Every now and then, I like to start my morning off with a cup of tulsi to help ease me right into the rigors of the day.

 

Sage

Sage is usually one of my favorite winter spices. I like to add it to my stuffing and really creamy soups like butternut squash or pumpkin. Sage is a strong antioxidant herb that is similar in composition to rosemary because it contains phenolic compounds like rosmarinic acid and carnosic acid. But sage drop kicks rosemary in the antioxidant department because it has additional flavonoids and phenolic acids like sagecoumarin that show moderate antioxidant activity. Some studies have shown that sage extract has anti-inflammatory effects that promote the healing of gingivitis.

 

Strawberries

Who doesn’t love strawberries? Strawberries are probably the only berry I remember having as a child because every member of my family loved it compared to other types of berries. I think that strawberry was my favorite flavor too but that might be because I wasn’t used to other flavors. Yep, poor deprived me but I will save that for another time 😊. Anywho, strawberries are a mega star when it comes to vitamin C content and it is also a good source of vitamin B6, folate, vitamin K, A, and E. It contains minerals such as potassium, iodine, magnesium, copper, iron, and phosphorus. And while vitamin C deficiency doesn’t cause oral conditions like periodontitis, lack of this nutrient can negatively affect collagen synthesis and wound healing needed to avoid such conditions. For example, regeneration of collagen allows the tooth to remain attached to the gums. So pile on those strawberries! I like to have my berries as the main feature of my breakfast bowl.

 

Green tea

I cannot describe in words my love of green tea. It is my go-to boo, my number one stunner, just everything. #mamalovestea Do not mess with me and my green tea. I have written about the benefits of green tea here. Here’s a short recap: green tea is rich in antioxidants such as catechins, which are polyphenols that have anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antimutagenic, and antidiabetic properties. Green tea contains vitamins B, C, and E and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, copper, and selenium. Several studies have shown that green tea is effective in inhibiting the growth of certain periodontal bacteria and treating factors associated with periodontitis such as bleeding and tooth attachment loss. Y’all know that anytime is a green tea time with me, don’t need a reason at all!

 

Aloe Vera

Aloe vera is one of the best healing plants around. As a teenager, I remember snipping off part of the aloe vera leaf, then cutting it open and placing it on my red, itchy rash. I still use aloe vera gel on my acne breakouts, dark spots, and even occasionally on my hair. It’s not the miracle plant for nothing, folks. Aloe vera has vitamins A, C, E, B vitamins like folic acid, and choline. It also has minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, and zinc. What makes aloe vera unique is that it contains 75 active constituents including glycoproteins, polysaccharides, and anthraquinones that, either acting alone or synergistically, may have anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory, and wound-healing effects (when applied topically). Aloe sap and aloe gel are sometimes confused. The gel is the mucilage found within the center of the leaf. The gel contains no anthraquinones, which are responsible for the laxative effect of the plant. Aloe vera’s wound-healing and anti-inflammatory properties have been widely reported and extensively studied. There is some evidence that indicates that aloe vera may be effective as a treatment for oral diseases such as gingivitis and oral lichen planus. But results are mixed. Some studies suggest a delay of wound healing, while others show that it promotes wound healing. WTF?! Here’s why: aloe vera gel varies based on the type of aloe and other factors such as climate, region, and processing method. So you won’t know unless you try it for yourself and see if it works. I like this brand when I can’t get the actual leaf.

That’s my list for foods that amp up strong gums and teeth. What works for you?

Five Foods to Beat Breakouts and Relieve Rashes

  • It’s summertime and the living is easy—and sweaty!

For the past two summers, I’ve noticed that random pimples will pop up on my forehead, usually near the hairline. And I’ve had some redness and irritation from constantly shaving my legs (Mama likes smooth legs 😉). I’ve always been prone to skin allergies and rashes, particularly eczema flare-ups, which I talk about here. Thankfully, this isn’t eczema but just your garden-variety hot weather breakout and rashes. Phytonutrients or compounds found in plant-derived foods such as curcumin (turmeric) and polyphenols found in fruits and veggies like raspberries and pomegranates (rich in antioxidant ellagic acid) are wonderful basic methods of reducing skin inflammation and DNA damage from ultraviolet radiation. In addition, those of us who are vulnerable to occasional whiteheads and blackheads may want to increase our intake of omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids are responsible for skin repair and flexibility. You can read my rundown on this skin mega-nutrient here. That means upping your consumption of foods like flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, and hemp seeds. Here are some of other foods that I partake in when I need to banish breakouts and reduce rashes:

Cucumbers

Cucumber isn’t just a summer-refresher veggie because it has a water content of 95 percent. This vegetable is one of the most important weapons against skin inflammation. Cucumbers are full of antioxidants such as beta carotene (the primary precursor to vitamin A) and vitamin C. It also contains B vitamins, vitamin K, flavonoids such as quercetin and luteolin and minerals such as silica. Silica is absolutely necessary when it comes to collagen production. Collagen is a type of protein found throughout the body and is important for maintaining the tone and elasticity of your skin. I tend to go the traditional route when it comes to cucumbers and enjoy them in my salads, but when I want to go all-out I’ll throw them in a big heaping sandwich like this one.

Brown rice

Rice is my go-to meal when I have no clue what I want to eat for dinner. Or when the clock is ticking and I need something quick fast in a hurry. Or when the cupboards are pretty much out of darn near everything else. You get the picture. Before we jump into the benefits of brown rice, I want to address the elephant in the room: arsenic. It has been reported that rice consumption is linked with exposure to low-level arsenic, which may have adverse health effects. According to the authors of a 2012 study published in Environmental Health Perspectives, “At present, the health effects of low-level arsenic exposure are uncertain…” The conclusion is that further research needs to be done. With that said, brown rice is superior to polished or white rice because it has high dietary fiber and complex carbohydrates (a boon for those who have Type II diabetes), vitamin E, B vitamins, low glycemic index, and minerals such as magnesium, thiamine, and iron. It also has selenium, an antioxidant mineral that is essential for wound repair. Selenium plays a role in protecting the skin from excessive UV light damage and preventing skin cancer. I’m not fussy: I like rice with pretty much everything including lentils, chickpeas, veggie sausage, veggie chicken, black beans, just to name a few.

 

Red bell peppers

Peppers are not something I eat often, but when I do, I love to roast them with a light drizzle of olive oil. Red bell peppers are rich in vitamin C. Most of us know that vitamin C is an antioxidant that destroys free radicals that can damage healthy cells. Vitamin C also forms bonds between collagen fiber strands to provide extra stability and strength. But what makes red bell peppers so darn special is that it contains more than 30 different carotenoids (plant pigments with antioxidant properties) including beta-carotene and zeaxanthin, which I discussed here. Bell peppers also have other nutrients such as vitamin E, thiamine, and niacin. So slice open that sucka and grill it, bake it, or chop it!

Pecans

In my pre-vegan and pre-vegetarian days, I used to cap off a long day at work by stopping at a pretty well-known cookie shop for their signature pecan pie brownies. They were just ooey-gooey madness that melted in my mouth. Those were the good old days before I knew what I know now. But we vegans can still enjoy the sweet taste of pecans and its nutrients. Pecans contain vitamin E, folic acid, calcium, potassium, and magnesium. Some studies suggest that pecans can help prevent the buildup of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol. Best of all, these nuts are a really good source of zinc.  Zinc is a vital nutrient for growth and development including proper immune system function and reproduction (affecting both males and females). Zinc deficiency has been linked to conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, taste impairment, and loss of smell. As far as the skin goes, zinc is a crucial component of wound healing because the nutrient is required for the synthesis of DNA and collagen. I still love pecan pie anything like this treat but my snacks have a little less guilt attached to them.

 

Oats

Oats are my old standby food when it comes to breakfast. They are dependable, filling, versatile, and always healthy. I talk about some of its attributes here. Oats contain vitamin B1, vitamin B6, magnesium, iron, and wound-healing zinc. But oats also have avenanthramides, which are phenolic compounds that are antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Some research indicates that avenanthramides are associated with the cardioprotective effects of oats. In addition, when applied topically, these compounds may alleviate the inflammation and itching that accompany dermatologic conditions such as eczema and atopic dermatitis. If you are going to go the topical route, please use colloidal oatmeal. Colloidal oatmeal is produced by finely grinding the oats and boiling out the colloidal material for usage. Regular oatmeal in your shower drain is not a good look folks.

 

There you have it, my foods for soothing breakouts and itchy rashes. What do you do?

Five Foods to Maximize Memory

It’s been even more freaking hectic than usual. #ughh The school year has ended for my son and summer camp is on and poppin’ without barely a break in between. As a WAHM, this tremendously jacks up my routine but in a good way. It means that I push myself beyond my usual comfort zone to remember things that ultimately benefit my family like remembering new faces and names of camp personnel and different pick up/drop off times. So guess what else gets jacked up? Yep, my memory. Remembering little things like whether or not I brushed my teeth before going to bed becomes an issue when trying to balance other items on my agenda. I generally have a decent memory when it comes to the important things (okay I do have this thing when it comes to music where I can’t remember a song title or lyric to save my life but that’s another story for another day 😊).

 

One of the best things that you can do to boost your memory is eat choline-rich foods. Choline is a nutrient that plays a vital role in the development of the brain, particularly the memory center or hippocampus. Choline is the precursor to the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is responsible for memory. Lack of acetylcholine means declining memory. Please note that expecting moms are very vulnerable to this deficiency because pregnancy and lactation may deplete choline reserves. Adults may be susceptible to memory decline as they age. Choline can be kind of tricky for vegans because animal sources tend to outnumber plant-based ones with this nutrient. But there are some foods like wheat germ, wheat bran, and quinoa that are great sources to satisfy your choline requirement. In addition, you should increase your fruit antioxidants to scavenge for those damaging free radicals that may lead to conditions that affect memory. There is much evidence to suggest that fruit flavonoids promote beneficial effects on memory and learning by promoting cerebral blood flow. More brain flow means optimal brain function. Here are some of the memory foods that I like:

 

Apples

Apples are loaded with antioxidants. In fact, it has been reported that when compared with other fruits consumed in the United States, apples had the second highest level of antioxidants after cranberries. This means a decreased risk of chronic diseases that may screw with your memory. Some studies have linked apple consumption with a reduced risk of lung cancer, Type II diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. But before you start slicing up that McIntosh or Granny Smith, please note that the peel has the highest level of antioxidants. Apples also contain a plethora of phytochemicals or beneficial chemical compounds such as catechin and quercetin. Quercetin may be effective in improving spatial learning and memory deficits. I like to have cooked apples with a dash of cinnamon (a great stimulant) every now and then with my dinner or dessert.

 

 

Blueberries

Blueberries are another huge fruit in the world of antioxidants. That antioxidant punch may come from anthocyanins that give the fruit its blue pigment. Blueberries have phytochemicals such as folic acid, vitamins A and C, carotenoids, and dietary fiber. Some studies suggest that blueberry consumption may decrease the effects of age-related memory loss and may halt deficits in spatial working memory. In addition, a 2010 study found that blueberry supplementation decreased depressive symptoms in older adults who suffered from memory changes. I have blueberries in salads, chia pudding, smoothies, but it’s summertime so I want blueberries on my ice cream y’all! BTW, I like this ice cream a helluva lot right now.

 

Cauliflower

Cauliflower was always second best for me compared to broccoli. It seemed like bland runner-up to other veggies. When I became a vegan, I found out that cauliflower could be exciting. You can make cauliflower hot wings—MADNESS! Soooo good!!! Cauliflower, like other brassica vegetables, contains carotenes, vitamin C, folic acid, calcium, and iron. And it has glucosinolates, plant metabolites that can protect against cancer. Most importantly, cauliflower contains memory-enhancing choline. Half a cup of cooked/boiled cauliflower can supply 24mg per serving of choline. So don’t be afraid to cram on this cruciferous veggie!

 

Edamame (soybeans)

I have talked about my fan fair with certain types of soy like tempeh here. Soy is a top plant-based protein that contains all the essential amino acids to maintain and build muscle. Some research has shown that soybeans may have potential for cancer prevention because of the high content of genistein, one of its isoflavones. But soybeans are also a high-choline food. Some animal studies have shown that soy isoflavones may reduce memory deficits and may have a positive influence on spatial memory tasks. What is great about edamame is that they are immature soybeans that have more protein and vitamins than regular soybeans. Edamame contains vitamins B1 and B2, calcium, and phosphorus. I love to snack on edamame as an appetizer when we go out to restaurants because of the light, mild taste never overwhelms the rest of the meal. I like to eat this brand at home.

Rosemary

Rosemary is the ultimate brain booster. I talked about how rosemary may help improve your focus here. Rosemary has antioxidant polyphenols such as rosmarinic acid that also has antiviral and antibacterial properties. It has been reported that rosmarinic acid may be a therapeutic agent for Alzheimer’s disease. Other compounds found in rosemary such as carnosic acid have anti-inflammatory and antitumor effects. And some evidence suggests that rosemary may serve as an antidepressant. Some animal studies indicate that rosemary may improve short and long-term memory processes. In fact, a 2012 study showed that rosemary had a positive effect on memory speed for older adults. Fresh rosemary is killa’ on top of potatoes but when that’s not available, dried rosemary can be a refreshing addition as well.

 

Those are the foods I use to fight memory loss, what foods fuel your memory?

Five Ways to Calm Your Menstrual Cramps

One of the wonderful things about being a lady is dealing with that time of the month or when Auntie Flow from Red Hills comes for a visit, as they say in my neck of the woods. When I was in my teens and twenties, I absolutely hated that visit. Bloating and lots and lots of cramping. #bigsweatshirtweek. Now, the cramps and bloating are almost non-existent, thank goodness. Unfortunately, for some people managing your menses can be a freaking nightmare that includes severe cramps that may affect your ability to function. This common condition is known as dysmenorrhea and it is underdiagnosed and undertreated. What causes all these cramps are hormonelike substances called prostaglandins, which are usually kept in check by progesterone during much of the monthly cycle. But before menstruation begins, progesterone levels drop and prostaglandin levels increase. The prostaglandins in the menstrual blood trigger the uterus to contract and cramp and that means a cycle of pain. Women with gut-wrenching cramps have more prostaglandins than women who aren’t as affected by them.

Dysmenorrhea is divided into two categories: 1) primary dysmenorrhea, which is menstrual pain without organic disease; and 2) secondary dysmenorrhea where the pain is related to an identifiable disease. So don’t be a hero—if your pain is so severe that you need a medical professional, please, please, do something about it.

There are certain things that I like to do when my auntie likes to come by like applying warm castor oil to my abdomen. Some research indicates that applying a heat wrap for an extended time can relieve pain. Another thing I like to do is to eat more high-calcium and high-magnesium foods right before my period. It has been reported that increasing calcium reduces pain, mood symptoms, and water retention during the menstrual cycle. And magnesium has been effective with reducing dysmenorrhea symptoms. So I pile on my broccoli, lentils, and chickpeas during that time of the month.

Here are some other foods I eat that provide relief from those moody menses:

Carob

Way before I became a vegan, I thought carob was only something that patchouli-smelling hippies ate. This was also before I realized that, deep down inside, I was a patchouli-smelling hippie. I was never really a chocolate aficionado. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some chocolate when the mood strikes but I never really went crazy to get it. So when I passed carob powder one day at the supermarket, I thought why the hell not? Carob is a natural sweetener that looks similar to chocolate but what makes carob so special is that it doesn’t contain the stimulants caffeine and theobromine. Also, carob is high in calcium. What’s more, carob is a good source of vitamin E, vitamin C, vitamin B6, folic acid, niacin, iron, and potassium. I like to mix carob powder into protein balls, frothy smoothie-like drinks, and baked goods like this chocolate cake.

 

 

Nettle

I started drinking nettle tea last year for a relentless case of allergies. As some of you may know, nettle is a potent antioxidant and antimicrobial. Some research suggests that nettle may be effective as a treatment for conditions such as gastrointestinal diseases and rheumatism pains. In addition, nettle contains vitamin A, vitamin B1, potassium, and calcium. I like to kick back with a nice cup of nettle tea when I need to build a defense against those uncomfortable menses moments.

 

Oats

I have always, always been an oatmeal lover. Back in the day, it would be nothing for me to sit in front of the TV with a plate of oatmeal raisin cookies or enjoy a bowl of instant oatmeal. There is a small controversy over whether or not it is appropriate to eat steel cut oats, rolled oats, or quick-cooking oats. That all boils down to the fact that steel cut oats have a higher cooking time but are lower on the glycemic index than rolled oats and quick-cooking oats. Choose whatever floats your boat. Oats are a gluten-free food but, depending on where it is processed, there may be a possibility of wheat contamination, so always practice caution in terms of the brand you choose if needed. Oats contain magnesium, vitamin B1, fiber, and iron. And some studies have shown that the consumption of oats can significantly lower cholesterol levels. I like to put oats in my chia pudding, muffins, and cookies.

 

Dill

Dill used to remind me of summers as a kid: barbecues that featured potato salad slathered with mayonnaise and chopped fresh dill with relish. Even back then I had more fondness for the side dishes than all those meat-laden stuff. But dill is more than just a flavoring for your cousin’s salad. This herb is a powerful antioxidant and antimicrobial. Dill is loaded with calcium, manganese, and iron. Some research indicates that dill may be effective as a treatment for gingivitis, indigestion, and menstrual disorders. In fact, a 2014 study showed that dill reduced the pain severity of women who suffered from primary dysmenorrhea. This herb also contains minerals such as magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. Even though I’m a vegan now, I do tend to follow tradition and mix a teaspoon of dill in some vegan mayo to top my veggie sausages or falafels.

Blackstrap molasses

My husband always talks about my weird taste in food. For example, years ago before I became a vegan or even a vegetarian, I went through this phase where I was growing tired of chicken (I never really liked red meat except for the occasional fast food burger—my, how the tide done turn!). Anyway, I didn’t know what to do to make my meals more interesting so I got the bright idea to use dark molasses as a topping for my grilled chicken. Let’s just say it wasn’t a good idea then. Maybe I didn’t choose the right one because it wasn’t a pleasant experience at all. But later, after much research, I finally figured out the right way to use blackstrap molasses. Molasses is the concentrated and clarified extract of sugar cane that is made by boiling cane juice until most of the water is evaporated. There are three grades of molasses: mild, dark, and blackstrap. The grades can be sulphured or unsulphured. Sulphured molasses are made from young sugar cane that is treated with sulphur dioxide during the extraction process. Not good. We want unsulphured molasses that are made from mature sugar cane with no sulphur added. Blackstrap molasses is the most concentrated form of the sugar cane extract. This sweetener is a great source of B-complex vitamins, calcium, iron, potassium, and magnesium. And please note that this is still sugar, so use it sparingly. I like this brand a lot. I like to drizzle about a teaspoon of molasses on sweet potatoes or combine it with about two and half tablespoons of unsweetened coconut shreds for coconut bacon.

 

 

These are some of the ways I alleviate monthly cramps. What are some of the ways that help you?

Five Ways to Handle Headaches

Last Sunday, I woke up with a bothersome sinus headache. I knew that it was connected to the pollen floating around from the previous day. In fact, as my family and I were driving back and forth for our errands, my son looked out the car window and pointed to the small white wisps and said, “Look at all the pollen blowing in the wind!” I rarely get headaches at all, thank goodness, but unfortunately headaches are all too common for many people that we know and love. Common triggers for headaches may include:

  • Foods such as ripened cheeses, chocolate, vinegar, and fermented foods
  • Caffeine
  • Hunger
  • Dehydration
  • Drug-related reactions
  • Hormonal factors such as menstruation and pregnancy
  • Visual stimuli such as glare, eyestrain, and flicker
  • Odors and smells such as paint and exhaust fumes
  • Seasonal factors such as sudden changes in weather, humidity, heat, and cold
  • Allergens such as pollen
  • Head trauma
  • Neck pain
  • Sexual intercourse

Chronic headaches can result in lost peace of mind and income. It is estimated that 156 full-time work days were lost because of headaches, at a possible cost of $25 billion in lost productivity. So it is absolutely important to identify these triggers and to prevent these headaches from occurring if possible. And most importantly, seek professional medical attention if you are a chronic sufferer.

On the rare occasions that I do have a headache, there are certain foods that I like to indulge in for relief. Here are some of them:

Green Tea

Green tea leaves contain caffeine (I know, I know, I just said caffeine may be a trigger—I’ll explain), theophylline, essential oils, and polyphenols. Okay, caffeine influences the central nervous system by decreasing fatigue, increasing wakefulness, and facilitating idea association. That’s why we like it now and again, but moderation is the key. In addition, theophylline causes a relaxation of the bronchial smooth muscle and stimulates on a respiratory level. This is beneficial for those of us who are suffering from allergy-related headaches. Also, those polyphenols are powerful antioxidants that have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties that boost our immune system, definitely a plus when healing your body. Green tea is my beverage of choice for most mornings. I have it plain without an ounce of sweetener (it took me a while to get used to that!) with a dash of amla powder and lemon or ginger juice.

 

Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne Pepper contains the compound capsaicin that stimulates circulation and aids digestion.  Some evidence suggests that capsaicin has strong anti-inflammatory properties that may be useful in treating conditions such as neuropathic pain. And some clinical studies have found that capsaicin may be effective in relieving and preventing sinus headaches, cluster headaches, and migraine headaches. Cayenne peppers also contain vitamins and minerals such as vitamins A, C, and E, calcium, magnesium, iron, and potassium. I like to sprinkle cayenne pepper on my morning avocado toast on when I need it.

Garlic

I grew up with a Jamaican mother who wouldn’t hesitate to put fresh garlic or garlic powder on any meal she was preparing for dinner that night. And when I say garlic, I don’t mean a dash. I mean a full-blown massive attack where you are walking away with some halitosis. I am proud and, a little bit scared to admit, that I inherited a little of her sensibilities when it comes to this plant. I don’t think I put as much garlic in my dishes as she did, but just enough for my husband to yell that he can smell it from the living room 😊. Garlic is a stimulant, antiseptic, antihypertensive, and carminative. This plant has vitamin A, C, sulfur, iron, calcium, selenium, magnesium and manganese. But most importantly, garlic contains compounds such as allicin that have antioxidant properties for scavenging the body for those damaging free radicals, which is definitely helpful when combating pain. I like to have raw garlic cloves with my dinner for that extra boost of flavor.

 

Ginger

One major rule in my household is that we use garlic and ginger in treating a lot of common illnesses like colds and coughs. Again, it’s the Jamaican background, my friend. Ginger, like garlic, is a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. This plant has been studied as a treatment for conditions such as post-operative nausea and vomiting. But some studies indicate that ginger may be as effective as medications like sumatriptan for treating acute* migraines. I like to have a spoonful of fresh minced ginger first thing in the morning before eating any meal. Lately, I’ve been enjoying this brand below.

 

Magnesium-Rich Food

I have spoken about why it is important to have magnesium as a staple in your diet here. Magnesium deficiency may be associated with headaches. For example, some studies have shown that low magnesium levels have been found in patients with cluster headaches. And it has been reported that magnesium may be an effective complementary treatment for migraines. I like to take the preventive route and have a high magnesium food like chickpeas with rice when I feel the slightest bit of pressure coming on.

 

So these are some of the ways I ward off headache woes. How do you do it?

*Again, please note that I am not a medical professional, so it is absolutely important to consult one before using any method to treat a serious condition.