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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Five Basics to Balance Blood Sugar Levels

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

 

Fenugreek

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

Cloves

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

 

 

Saffron

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

 

Mustard Greens

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

 

Cinnamon

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

 

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

Five Ways to Conquer Constipation

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

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

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

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

 

Pears

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

 

 

 

Green Peas

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

 

 

Prunes

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

 

 

 

Cabbage

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

 

 

Figs

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

 

 

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

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?

Five Fortifiers for Supporting Your Immune System

I hope that many of you have been out and about slaying this summer! It’s been a little schizo with the weather. One minute, it’s sizzling hot and the next, it’s rainy and cool (I actually prefer a little coolness to walk around without the sweatiness but that’s just me 😉). Anywho, my son and I did a little day trip to a museum in the city and had a blast. But a few days later, my nose was stuffy and I was constantly blowing it like a trumpet. My husband said, “Looks like you have a cold.” What the hell! In July?! Who catches a cold in summer! My immunity has been a little comprised lately. Generally, your immune system acts to protect the host from infectious agents in the environment like bacteria, fungi, and viruses. But the immune system may be impaired by factors including short-term and chronic stress, aging, and poor nutrition. Truth be told, I have had some additional stressors lately in my life that I’m learning how to manage slowly but surely. Meditation and journaling has helped me tremendously. There are times when I feel angry or sad and I accept it; I don’t try to fight it off as I instinctively want to do.

Some evidence suggests that deficiencies in nutrients such as vitamin A, C, E, zinc, and selenium may also play a pivotal role in immune function. So there are some foods that I bone up on to help boost my immunity. Some of them are as follows:

Red onions

As a young 20-something carnivore, I went through this weird phase where I would put caramelized onions on everything like tuna sandwiches or grilled chicken. I have no freaking clue why I did that. Don’t judge me! Eventually, I outgrew that little scenario. Recently, I have slowly started integrating red onions back into my life. Just a little bit here and there on my veggie burgers and pasta dishes just to add some zing. Again, just a little bit. Onions contain vitamins C, E, B vitamins, potassium, calcium, and selenium. Red onions have a higher concentration of nutrients such as potassium, phosphorus, and magnesium than yellow onions. Vitamin C is crucial to the immune system because it prevents oxidative damage to lipids, proteins, and DNA in the body that can lead to the development of chronic conditions including cardiovascular disease and cancer. Also, vitamin C regenerates vitamin E when it becomes oxidized by free radicals. Some animal studies indicate that selenium deficiency decreases the body’s ability to fight off viral infections such as influenza and Keshan disease. Furthermore, low selenium levels have been associated with illnesses such as thyroid dysfunction, depression, and sperm abnormalities. In addition, this plant has strong antioxidant properties because it has flavonoids like catechin, kaempferol, myricetin, and quercetin. Quercetin protects against low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) and reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. I decided to do my own spin on this side dish of creamy cauliflower that is lightly topped with red onions for an extra punch.

Peaches

Peaches are an occasional treat for me, mostly if it’s in season or something like that. But when it is available, honey!!! Grilled peaches on top of ice cream—LOVE!! Okay, let me turn off my greedy button and get to it. Peaches are a good source of beta-carotene, the precursor to vitamin A. Some studies have shown that beta-carotene enhances the immune system by increasing the number of T-helper cells and natural killer cells, which are instrumental in terms of immune response to infected cells. Beta-carotene also has cancer-fighting potential because of its antioxidant ability to combat single-oxygen free radicals that may lead to conditions such as skin and lung cancer. What’s more, beta-carotene is converted to retinol that is needed for optimal vision. And this fruit has other nutrients like vitamin C, potassium, calcium, and phosphorus. As I said before, peaches are great on top of rich desserts but sometimes I need to keep it light and fresh with a summer salad.

 

Carrots

Carrots are king when it comes to beta-carotene because it is one of the best sources of this nutrient. As such, it has been reported that carrot intake has immuno-enhancing properties and has a protective effect against conditions such as stroke, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, cataracts, arthritis, heart diseases, bronchial asthma, and urinary tract infection. This antioxidant veggie is also loaded with other phytonutrients such as polyphenols like caffeic acid that have antimutagenic and antitumor properties. In addition, it contains dietary fiber and nutrients like vitamin C, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folic acid, potassium, calcium, and magnesium. My son eats carrots all the time so we always have it in the house. I tend to snack on carrots with almond butter from time to time, but every now and then I fancy it up by roasting it with a dash of thyme and agave nectar.

Mango

My family is Jamaican, so mangoes were always around our house when I was growing up. And you didn’t eat it all chopped up and pretty. You held that sucker in your hand, chomped right into the skin, peeled the skin off, then slurped on the juicy, succulent fibrous strands until you reached the seed. Yep, yardies are hardcore my friend! Anywho, mangoes are rich in immuno-enhancing vitamin C and E, as well as essential nutrients such as potassium and copper. This fruit is high in antioxidants because it contains close to 25 different carotenoids including beta-carotene. Mangoes have polyphenols like quercetin, caffeic acid, and catechin. But the fruit has its own unique phenolic compounds such as mangiferin. All of which show anticarcinogenic, antiatherosclerotic, antimutagenic, and angiogenesis activity against degenerative diseases. Some studies suggest that mangiferin may be effective in treating heart disease. And it has been reported that mango consumption may reduce the risk of prostate and skin cancers. I love to slather mango salsa in my wraps and salads, but when it’s hot, mango salsa on a veggie burger is promising too.

Brazil nuts

Brazil nuts are definitely new to my repertoire. If you love peanuts, these nuts are for you, despite the large, weird, triangular shape. Brazil nuts taste the same—trust! Brazil nuts have protein, fiber, vitamin E, vitamin B6, thiamin, niacin, calcium, iron, potassium, copper, and magnesium. But Brazil nuts are also the best plant-based source of that immune-boosting antioxidant selenium. It has been reported that one Brazil nut provides 160 percent of the US Recommended Daily Allowance of selenium, which may lower the risk of conditions such as prostate, liver, and lung cancer. And Brazil nut consumption has been associated with lowering blood cholesterol levels. Please note that Brazil nuts do contain barium and radium, which are potentially toxic in large amounts. The best way to enjoy Brazil nuts is mixed with other nuts like cashews and almonds. Moderation is always the way to go.

 

So these of some of the foods that I like to load up on when my immune system is out of wack. What are some of the ones you eat?

Four Tips to Curb Caffeine

My son’s camp is finishing up and so Mommycamp has begun. That means cramming six weeks of fun-filled activities together for my son with usual work demands. But it is exciting, exhilarating, and exhausting! So I picked now to try to cut down on caffeine ☹. I know, I know, sad day for me. Anywho, I’m a green tea drinker so I always figured that I was okay in the caffeine department. I was averaging around three to four cups a day at one point. After all, green tea is high in antioxidants and lower in caffeine compared to black teas and various coffees, right? But the caffeine content with some teas may vary based on the type of tea and the brewing time.

What the heck is caffeine anyway? Caffeine is an alkaloid found in plants that acts on the central nervous system. It is an ingredient in many foods, beverages, and proprietary drugs (the FDA’s National Center for Drugs and Biologics lists more than 1,000 over-the-counter drugs with caffeine as an ingredient—yikes!). Small amounts of this stimulant may alter metabolic rate, respiratory rate, heart rate, and blood pressure. Other effects may include frequent urination (diuretic) and increased blood sugar levels.

Some research indicates that caffeine comes with a mixed bag of results. Moderate amounts of caffeine can decrease fatigue (yeah!), enhance cognitive and physical performance, quicken reaction accuracy, and increase focus.  Too much caffeine may alter your hormone levels and deplete essential nutrients such as calcium and magnesium. In fact, caffeine intake has been associated with risk of endometriosis, osteoporosis, and anxiety and gastrointestinal disorders. Some other problems that can occur with overconsumption of caffeine include insomnia, headaches, nervousness and nausea. For example, some evidence suggests that consumption of five or more cups of coffee a day is linked with a low risk of Type II diabetes but lower consumption levels are inconclusive. Okay, before we all burn our stashes of coffee and tea, remember the risk comes with caffeine overconsumption. So keep it moderate folks.

In my quest to control my caffeine, there are some foods that I rely on:

Parsley

I confess that I used to be one of those people that would toss the parsley right off my meal at restaurants like what the heck do I need that for?! #don’tknownobetter. In my defense, most restaurants tend to use curly leaf parsley that has no flavor. Flat leaf parsley—yep, much better. But parsley can be just as tasty and healthy as the main meal. This diuretic herb is an antioxidant because it contains the flavonoid apigenin, which also has anti-inflammatory, anticarcinogenic, and antimutagenic properties. In addition, parsley has vitamins C and E, beta carotene, thiamine, folate, iron, and calcium. Calcium levels decrease with high caffeine consumption. Please note: be very careful with high-calcium foods because some of them may contain oxalates. I talk about that here. I do love some flat leaf parsley when I can get it but when I can’t, dried parsley will do just fine on my soups and salads.

Almond Butter

Like many of you, I grew up with peanut butter in my house. When my parents weren’t home and we didn’t want to heat anything up, it was peanut butter to the rescue. I didn’t try almond butter until I was an adult. And, admittedly, at first I friggin’ hated it. It took tweaking the right combination (almond butter and a dash of agave nectar FTW) to really bring out the flavor of this nut butter. Almonds are loaded with vitamin E, phosphorus, potassium, and dietary fiber. This nut is also rich in magnesium and calcium, both of which are reduced by high caffeine intake. Almond butter has more fiber, calcium, and potassium than other nut butters like peanut butter. What’s more, it has been reported that high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (the good cholesterol that decreases risk for heart disease) increased with almond butter intake. I like almond butter occasionally on toast or as a snack with whatever fresh veggies or fruit are available in the house.

Black-eyed peas

I used to think black-eyed peas were just something you ate to celebrate the new year. Before I became a vegetarian and then a vegan, I thought black-eyed peas were just “awkward” as my son says about foods he abhors. But then I discovered Texas caviar—DIVINE! The flavor combination of the peas, onions, red bell peppers, and tomatoes with just a hint of oil and vinegar. Here’s a nice recipe for it. Just plain lovely. Black-eyed peas or cowpeas are also a nutritional powerhouse because it is a good source of flavonoids like quercetin, protein, carbohydrates, and nutrients such as niacin, thiamine, iron, magnesium, and calcium.

Tahini (Sesame seed butter)

Tahini or sesame seed butter is definitely a dressing that I discovered when I became a vegan and I’m glad that I did. It is creamy, filling, and a great compliment to meals like falafel tacos or even pasta—who knew! Sesame seeds are high in protein, carbohydrates, and dietary fiber. And sesame seeds are rich in phytosterols or compounds that resemble cholesterol in humans and ultimately reduce our blood cholesterol levels. Tahini is made from sesame seeds that are ground or milled into a paste. Tahini has B vitamins like niacin and minerals such as calcium, potassium, iron, and magnesium. Special advisory for those with allergy issues: sesame seeds do contain immunoglobulin E, which are mediated food allergens. When it comes to tahini, basic is best. Nothing tops off a night like a spoonful of tahini over a plate of falafels.

Those are some of the foods I like to combat my caffeine craziness. What do you like?