Why Sunflower Seeds are a Win for Your Health

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

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Five Basics to Balance Blood Sugar Levels

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

 

Fenugreek

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

Cloves

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

 

 

Saffron

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

 

Mustard Greens

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

 

Cinnamon

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

 

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

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?