Eat More Fiber to Ward Off Allergies

Ahh Fall! Vibrant colors on the trees, crisp air, apple picking on a sunny hillside, The New England Patriots once again dominating the NFL, and…..runny noses…? Fall is by far one of my favorite seasons, especially in New England; however, with all the beauty also comes the predictable Changing-Of-The-Seasons colds and allergies.

Besides taking my daily 1000 mg of Vitamin C and continuing a healthy lifestyle of fresh, organic foods and daily exercise, how is it possible to ward off the oh-so-familiar scratchy throat every morning?

It all comes back to the immune system. There is way too much to write about here, but suffice it to say that the human body is truly an incredible machine that, when working properly, can heal itself and keep an amazing balance amidst all the rigors to which we subject ourselves. Here’s a great article on all the ins and outs on how the immune system works to keep us healthy. For today, I want to talk about the importance of fiber in fighting off seasonal colds and flues.

Yes, that’s right. Fiber.

Considering the fact that the small intestine carries over 80 immune cells and what is called “Peyer’s Patches” (lymphoid tissue which is vital in immunity) it makes sense that having a healthy GI Tract leads to health in other areas. A plethora of ailments, including cancer,comes from having an unhealthy gut and one of the best ways to keep it clean and “moving along” is by incorporating a fair amount of fiber into one’s diet.

Fiber doesn’t have to be in a cereal or bran muffin. Most of the fiber we consume actually comes from the fresh (hopefully organic) produce we consume. Fiber is categorized into two basic types: soluble and insoluble. Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water. It is the non-digestible carbohydrates which we consume. Think of it as a brillo pad for your intestines: it helps to scrub build up from the intestinal walls and pushes everything else through. Soluble fiber, on the other hand, does partially dissolve in water to form a sort of gel-like paste and it helps in lowering bad cholesterol and glucose levels.

Other benefits of fiber (both kinds) besides keeping a healthy gut which in turn leads to overall good health includes lowering your risk for diabetes, heart disease, constipation, and cancer.

Other great sources of fiber? Whole grains (avoid anything white!) and legumes (aka beans and nuts).
So reach for the celery instead of the chips and I bet you’ll start blowing your nose less.

Sources:
The Health News
Microbiology Bytes
How Stuff Works
The Mayo Clinic

Spice of Life

SPICE OF THE WEEK: Paprika

Paprika is made from the grinding of red bell and/or chili peppers. It is used to add color and flavor in cooking and can range from mild to hot. The “finest” paprika comes from Hungary, although other countries of origin include Spain, South America, and the U.S. (California). Flavors also vary from country to country. Hungarian paprika, labelled as from the Szeged region, has six classes ranging from delicate to hot. The hot variety usually has cayenne added to bring the heat up.

Nutritional Benefits

The peppers used to make paprika (capsicum) have extremely high Vitamin C content and it is retained in the spice, which actually makes paprika higher in Vitamin C by weight than lemon juice. It is also high in antioxidants which help to fight free radicals in the body.

Paprika also does not release its flavor until heated, so it can be used as a garnish for almost any dish without disrupting other flavors.

Uses

Paprika blends well with many foods and, depending on what variety you have (sweet, mild, spicy, smoked) it can add a full-bodied flavor to any dish. It’s more than just a spice to sprinkle over deviled eggs or potato salad. Try adding it to marinara sauces, cauliflower au gratin, spanish rice, white fish, or chicken.

Like most spices, paprika goes stale quickly, so only buy it in small quantities and keep it stored in a cool, dark place in an airtight container.

Happy spicing!

Sources: Kitchen Dictionary, Wikipedia, The Epicenter

Recipe of the Week

With the onset of Autumn, our thoughts turn to preparations for one of the best seasons for food: The Holidays! We are also coming into apple season, one of my favorites. I have fond memories of traveling to Western Massachusetts and Connecticut with my family every Columbus Day Weekend specifically to go apple picking. The weeks following our return was spent in a delectable haze of apple pie, apple crisp, apple sauce, a flurry of canning.

Here is the recipe to one of my favorites – baked apples. So simple, but so delicious.

Ingredients:
4 large tart apples
3-5 pitted dates, chopped
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup raisins and/or dried cranberries
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon nutmeg

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 F.

Wash apples, then remove cores to within 1/4 inch of the bottoms. Combine dates, walnuts, raisins, cranberries, and spices, then distribute equally into the centers of the apples. Place in a baking dish filled with 1/4 inch of hot water and bake until apples are soft, 40 to 60 minutes. Serve warm or cold.

Nutrition Information:

Per apple:
calories: 129
fat: 0.4 g
saturated fat: 0.1 g
calories from fat: 2.8%
cholesterol: 0 mg

protein: 0.7 g
carbohydrates: 34.4 g
sugar: 26 g
fiber: 5.9 g

sodium: 2 mg
calcium: 22 mg
iron: 0.5 mg
vitamin C: 9.9 mg
beta-carotene: 58 mcg
vitamin E: 0.5 mg

Spice of Life

Copied from Rethinking Cancer: Non-Traditional Approaches to the Theories, Treatments and Prevention of Cancer

Humans have been sprinkling spices on their foods as far back as 50,000 B.C. But, beyond adding flavor, these dried seeds, fruits, root or bark can also add years to your life. Spices are rich in phytonutrients and other active ingredients that protect against disease and promote healing. In worldwide studies, spices have been linked to the prevention and treatment of chronic conditions such as heart disease, cancer, Type II diabetes, and Alzheimer’s. And, unlike pharmaceutical drugs, spices can be used long-term without concern for side effects. In short, spices are among the great gifts Nature has bestowed upon us.

SPICE OF THE WEEK: CINNAMON

Cinnamon (Cinnamomum cassia, Cinnamomum zeylanicum), believed to have come originally from Sri Lanka, is the dried, fragrant bark of the cinnamon tree.

Cinnamon comes in ‘quills’, strips of bark rolled one in another. Whole quills will keep their flavor indefinitely. Unfortunately it is difficult to grind, so for many recipes the powdered variety will be preferred. Like other powdered spices, cinnamon loses flavor quickly, so should be purchased in small quantities and kept away from light in airtight containers.

Medicinal Properties

Ironically, studies have found that cinnamon, a spice most often used in sweet confections, actually helps control blood sugar. People with Type II diabetes taking one gram (about 1/2 tsp.) of cinnamon a day for three months experienced a drop in blood sugar, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine (09/10/09). This amount of cinnamon per day also has been shown to reduce cholesterol (especially LDL or “bad cholesterol) and triglyceride levels by as much as 20% in Type II diabetes patients. Controlling diabetes can help prevent coronary artery disease and high blood pressure.

Cinnamon is also helpful in:

  • slowing angiogenesis, the development of new blood supplies to tumors. American researchers published in the journal Carcinogenesis that an extract of the spice “could potentially be useful in cancer prevention and/or treatment.”
  • curbing the urge for tobacco. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends chewing cinnamon sticks when trying to quit the use of tobacco. Another effective product that people use to help with overeating and tobacco use is cinnamon toothpicks.
  • combatting diarrhea and morning sickness because it’s a carminative (an agent that helps break up intestinal gas). Due to its mild astringency, it is particularly useful in infantile diarrhea. The spice is also a good source of manganese, fiber, iron, and calcium.
  • working as a male aphrodisiac according to a study by Alan Hirsch, M.D. at the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago.
  • improving memory according to a study, conducted by Phillip R. Zoladz, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology at Ohio Northern University. After smelling or tasting cinnamon, students scored better on several mental performance tests, showing improved memory, more focused attention, faster reflexes. Researchers concluded that cinnamon has potential for decreasing test anxiety and even preventing age-related memory loss. Continue reading…

As a bonus, here’s a great recipe for Raw Cinnamon/Apple Oatmeal!

It Starts In The Gut

“Disease begins in the colon. Unless foods are properly metabolized and wastes eliminated, the body cannot sustain itself…” Dr. June M. Wiles, PhD, M.M.T

For years, various physicians have referred to the colon as the “seat of health (or disease).”  The colon is the last stop our food takes before being expelled as not necessary and not healthy for the body. Before this point, the digestive system has already extracted all vitamins, minerals, fluids, and nutrients the body needs for existence. Whatever gets sent to the colon is being sent out the back door…literally. So, while it’s not the most appetizing of subjects, it makes sense. If the body is not properly eliminating the toxins sent to the colon, then it is re-absorbing them.

Sir William Arbuthnot Lane even went so far as to conclude that degenerative diseases (including cancer and diabetes) stemmed from “poor drainage.” In other words, if the body is not eliminating its waste, it’s the equivalent of a sewer backing up and flooding the streets (blood stream) with toxins (from a speech by Ruth Sackman).
In the same speech, Sackman goes on to say that “a polluted colon is the seat of many health problems and the problem can be remedied through careful diet, colon cleansing, exercise and stress reduction. These are simple, safe ways to preserve health and prevent disease. It is easier to prevent cancer than to treat it.”

Cancer. It is such a dirty word to me. I believe all people familiar with the word have an inherent fear of it. However, it becomes an expletive when it strikes too close to home. I lost my paternal grandmother to pancreatic cancer in November of 2010, not even a full year ago. Throughout her treatment, it became even more clear to me that chemotherapy and radiation are not the only, or even the best, forms of treatment. She began a more natural therapy late in her illness, and while it worked for a time, it was too little, too late. She could barely use the bathroom at the end. And while that is indicative of pancreatic cancer, it also comes back to health and disease being seated in the colon.

I remember my mom bringing me to a naturopath when I was a young girl. She was “converted” to the holistic lifestyle early on in my life because my older sister was chronically ill. This was when we first became familiar with how important colon health really was. I still remember the ridiculous recipes my mom would come up with to try to make the same foods she always cooked healthier, gluten-free, and sometimes vegan. I hated every one of them and craved the salty, sugary, processed foods all my friends were able to eat and from which they never seemed to suffer. Going to college and being exposed to those same processed foods without the influence of an overbearing mother was perhaps the worst health (and weight) risk of my life.

It wasn’t until I three years after graduating when I was diagnosed with Candidiasis that I began to seriously take responsibility for my own health and learned that cooking without gluten, sugar, molds, or animal products can be full of nutrition, flavor, and joy. Approximately 80 percent of Americans suffer from candidiasis without even knowing it since it causes such a wide array of symptoms and can often be mistreated. It almost goes without saying that the candida albicans yeast (which naturally grows in the body) live in the gastrointestinal tract which includes, of course, the colon.

We know so little about our own bodies that sometimes it’s shocking to finally find out not only what it’s capable of, but also what it’s not. Restoring proper colon activity is a fairly simple achievement, but it requires first a desire to be healthy over anything else, and second a willingness to change one’s diet and lifestyle.