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!

Advertisements

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?

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?

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?