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Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

Bring on the Pepper

Pepercorns

We are all too familiar with pepper. Go into any restaurant, and you’re sure to find one bottle gracing the table. Open your kitchen cabinet and the chances are you’ll find one too. Given our familiarity with pepper, is the once sought after spice taken for granted in our nutritional search for next superfood? Turns out that this often overlooked spice can deliver more than panache to your food.

Know Your Pepper

If you’re wondering what’s the difference between black, white or green pepper, here’s the scoop. The all come from a vine called Piper nigrum. Black peppers are picked early and allowed to dry in the sun. White pepper is allowed to mature on the vine, producing a milder flavor. Green peppers are  picked green and often canned.

Nutritional Profile

These little round globes of spice hold a variety of nutrients. They are rich sources of manganese, iron, potassium, iron, potassium, vitamin C, vitamin K and dietary fiber.

Health Benefits

  • Anti-cancer

Pepperine is a chemical found in pepper and a University of Michigan Cancer Society study suggests that pepperine may be able to prevent breast cancer tumor from developing. The power of pepperine is enhanced when paired with turmeric. This may explain why pepper is often used with turmeric in traditional Indian cooking and they’re both honorary members of curry powder.

  • Natural Decongestant

Ever feel better after taking some warm soup seasoned with pepper? Pepper contains anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory chemicals that help to clear your nasal passages. According to Neil Schachter, MD, a professor at the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, pepper “contains chemicals that irritate your mucus membranes to produce thinner, more watery mucus to help clear out your nasal passage.”

  • Preservative

Due to its antibacterial properties, pepper is often used to preserve food. You may already be utilizing this amazing quality already in your food preparation.

But pepper doesn’t have to be all about food. It turns out that pepper can make a great skin scrub.

Fine grains of pepper not only help to exfoliate skin, its spicy hit stimulates circulation and helps to deliver oxygen and nutrients to the surface of skin. If you’re thinking of a healthier, smoother skin, try a blend used at Bliss Spa:

  • ½ cup unscented massage oil
  • 6 drops of orange essential oil
  • A pinch of ground pepper
  • Stir together with a spoon and rub on wet skin while in the bath or shower.
  • Wash off and enjoy the lingering spicy scent and more radiant skin.

But that’s not all. Pepper can also act as a laundry aid.  According to Karyn-Siegel-Maier, author of “The Naturally Clean Home,” a teaspoon of pepper added to a load of clothes can keep colors vibrant longer. The ground pepper will drain away with the water, so you don’t have to worry about extra cleaning.

4 Simple Ways to Fight Heartburn Naturally

Heartburn has nothing to do with the heart. Instead, it happens when stomach acid refluxes or flows up to the esophagus and irritates it with a burning sensation. Heartburn is a common complaint—one in 10 Americans experiences some symptoms of heartburn at least once a week. Are you one of them? Do have often feel a burning discomfort rising from your chest area up to your throat that prevents you from enjoying your food? If you’re one of them, there are various ways to treat this problem. You can use medication, home remedies or make diet changes.

Heartburn is no fun.

Most people use TUMS or some form of antacid pills, but here are some home remedies that you can use to naturally treat the problem.

Preventive Measures

Knowing what trigger off your heartburn is the very first proactive step you can take. Be conscious of what food sets off the acid refluxes. Is it spicy food? Maybe some sauerkraut, ketchup or dill pickles? Could be hot dogs, chicken wings or French fries? Different people have different food triggers. There are however, certain food categories that can contribute to heartburn: fatty foods, acidic foods, spicy foods and caffeinated, carbonated, or alcoholic beverages. By avoiding these types of foods or going easy on them can help to nip the problem in the bud.

Herbs

There are certain herbs you can stash in your refrigerator to help you quell the burning. Parsley is one of them. Not only is it full of antioxidants, it is a cleansing herb and helps the digestive tract function properly. Add parsley to your cooking, chew on a sprig or two after eating or make yourself a nice cup of parsley tea.

Another favorite herb of mine is fennel. If you frequent Indian restaurant, you will find bowls of candy-coated fennel sitting on the counter when you check out. Pinch a handful and eat them—they fight stomach acid and clean out your breath. I use it often in my cooking and you can do the same. It also comes in tea form, so brew yourself a cup.

Other herbs to consider include cumin, cinnamon and devil’s claw.

Alkaline Foods

Love to munch on something after a meal? I do too. I love nuts and dried fruits and a cup of hot tea. Almonds and hazel nuts (use the unsalted ones) are alkaline and will help to neutralize acid, to give you temporary relief. Raisins and dried figs can do the job too. They’re also high in alkaline and chewing them also produces saliva to help digestion.

Other high alkaline foods  include Barley grass, broccoli, celery, cilantro and raw spinach.

Chewing Gum

Carry a pack of gum with you. Just make sure it’s not mint, peppermint or spearmint. The act of chewing produces saliva which helps to digestion. Saliva contains bicarbonate, our body’s own natural antacid to neutralize acids.

Manage heartburn with these natural remedies. If you experience regular or constant heartburn, you may be suffering from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Consult your doctor and ask for advice.

Cornea Sunburn: Cause and Cure

Is it possible for your eyes to get sunburned? Yes—and we’re referring to the cornea of the eye. The cornea is the clear tissue that covers the iris to protect the inner structure of the eye. Because the cells in the cornea behave like skin cells, they suffer the same fate—sunburn is a great possibility, especially if your eyes are exposed to bright light sources.

Radiation from the sun in the form of UV rays can inflict harm not only the skin causing photo-aging, age spots, wrinkles and even skin cancer, it can also harm your eyes. Two main types of UV rays—UV-A and UV-B are notorious culprits. UV-A rays can harm your central vision and damage the macula (the part of the retina at the back of your eye). UV-B rays with longer wavelengths can actually cause even more harm and is responsible for cornea sunburn.

If you’re looking for a technical term, the word is photokeratitis.  Any prolonged exposure to sunlight (anytime from 3 to 12 hours) can do that. UV-rays reflecting off bright surfaces such as bodies of water, snow, sand or bright surfaces can also cause cornea sunburn. However radiation is not just limited to the sun. Other examples include powerful light sources such as the photographer’s flood lamp, the sun lamp in the tanning booth, the halogen lamp or even the welder’s arc.

Symptoms can be mild or severe. Tell-tale signs include pain in the eyes, light sensitivity, tearing, blurry vision or bloodshot eyes. In severe cases, especially prolonged exposure to bright reflecting surfaces such as snow, temporary blindness can set in for a day or two.

Although you can’t lather sunscr
According to the American Optometric Association, it is highly advisable and downright smart to don protective eyewear, whenever you’re out and about, even on cloudy days. Look for sunglasses or contact lenses that offer 99 to 100 percent UV protection and cut off 75 to 90 percent of visible light.

The effort is minimal. You may even look stylish in trendy sunglasses and you can definitely save yourself some eye-grief in the long run. Cornea sunburn can lead to cataracts, macular degeneration, tumors and formation of Pinguecula (unsightly yellow bumps on white of the eye.

 

If you’re looking for a pair of protective sunglasses, read this: Protective UV Sunglasses: How to Choose a Good Pair

Health Benefits of Nutmeg

 

Nutmeg spice

Nutmeg is warm and spicy...a great spice to add to food.

 

Once upon a time, nutmeg could launch wars, as in did when the Europeans vied for dominance in the spice trade. The competitors (Venice, Genoa, the Netherlands, Portugal and England) fought ferociously and in the process, the natives of Banda Islands in the Indonesian archipelego (where nutmeg abounds) were nearly wiped out. It was also the poor man’s dream–selling  a few nutmeg nuts can generate enough money to offer financial stability for life.

That was a few hundred years ago. Though nutmeg has lost much of its “nobility,” it’s still  highly regarded in the medicinal world. Its medicinal value has health implications. Let’s consider some proven health benefits:

Zap Zits

Harsh acne application can dry your skin and it may not necessarily banish those unsightly bumps. Try nutmeg–it has anti-inflammatory effects. Simply mix a few pinches of nutmeg with enough whole milk to form a paste. Apply to troubled spots, leave for a couple of minutes and rinse off.

Eases Stomach Problems

Indigestion, diarrhea or intestinal gas? Try nutmeg.  According to Andrew Gaeddert, author of Healing Digestive Disorders, essential oils and other chemicals found in nutmeg can regulate gastrointestinal tract. Simply sprinkle some nutmeg powder on your morning cereal for a couple of weeks.

Aphrodisiac

Since ancient times, nutmeg has been used to increase sexual desire. In Arab countries, nutmeg is used as an aphrodisiac. In China, they use it to treat impotence. Sex therapist Lori Buckley suggests adding a dash of nutmeg to your meal–it tastes great on lasagna or add it to sauteed vegetables.

Dental Health

Nutmeg oil can treat anything from toothaches, to sore gums to bad breath. Research shows that nutmeg oil exert anti-bacterial properties that is useful in fighting oral bacteria. Sara Snow, author of Sara Snow’s Fresh Living, offers this easy home remedy: Massage a drop or two of nutmeg oil onto your gums if they’re painful or inflamed.

Nutmeg’s health benefits are not limited to the above,. Consider its diverse benefits: it can promote sleep, reduce flatulence, improves memory, relax muscles (often used to relieve  rheumatic pain.) and in homeopathy, the essential oil of nutmeg is used to treat anxiety and depression.

So, include nutmeg in your food–sprinkle it on your cereal, add a dash to your tea or coffee, include it in your baking and cooking and reap great health benefits. Only go easy on it–no more than 1/2 teaspoon. Too much can cause nausea.

Food as Skin Savers?

Get Good Skin

Get Good Skin

If you can eat your way to good skin, wouldn’t that be lovely?  The truth is—you absolutely can.  Ok, we’re sick of “you’re what you eat,” but the often repeated maxim holds–at least for skin.

If food can make or break your skin, what categories of foods are skin-friendly? According to health experts, there are many:

Vitamin A

Absolutely essential for good skin. First of all, vitamin A is a well-know antioxidant, which rightly enables it to capture free radicals from damaging cells, even those on the skin. You can obtain vitamin A from fruits and vegetbles, but low-fat dairy products are best. According to nutrition expert, Liz Lipski, low-fat yogurt takes the prize.  Why? Low-fat yogurt is not only high in vitamin A, it boosts high levels of  the probiotics, acidophilus (good live bacteria), that patrol the gut to ensure intestinal health and anything that keeps digestion normal is going to be reflected in healthy skin.

Antioxidants

Deeply pigmented fruits and vegetables are colorful because of a group of powerful antioxidants, anthocyanins. These potent antioxidants protect skin against cellular damage. Now, that’s a good thing for skin cells.  A recent study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry listed its own famous quartets of health–Blackberries, blueberries, strawberries and plums–they  have the highest “total antioxidant capacity.” So, load your grocery cart with the gang of four and yes, while you’re at it, don’t forget artichokes, beans, pecans and prunes–they are not far behind in their antioxidant count.

Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs)

Don’t let the word “fatty acids” scare you–not all fatty foods are bad. In fact, some fatty foods are downright essential, even necessary for vibrant skin. EFAs contribute to healthy cell membranes and we know that cell membranes hold in water.  The healthier the cell membranes, the better they work at preserving moisture, keeping skin cells  plump and juicy. The enviable ensues:  Radiant  supple skin. But that’s not all they can do, EFAs offer protection against inflammation  and we know that inflammation harms cells. Include fish, walnuts and flaxseed oil in your diet to boost your intake of EFAs.

Healthy Oils

You’ve heard of essential oils to moisturize your skin and now…healthy edible oils can nourish your skin from inside out. Healthy oils contain more than EFAs, the nutrients also keep the skin lubricated.  When shopping for healthy oils, look for cold pressed, expeller processed or extra virgin. They are not heavily processed and do not have solvents added. Extra virgin olive oil, safflower oil, grapeseed oil are just some examples.

Selenium

Health experts say that selenium play a key role in the health of skin cells.  Selenium facilitates the uptake of nutrients, so it is highly crucial to include selenium in your diet. Turns out that selenium is found in many foods such as whole grain bread or muffins, cereals, turkey, tuna and brazil nuts.

Green Tea

The goodness of green tea is extolled in many researches–from preventing cancer to bad breath.  To add to its bunch of health accolades, it also promotes skin health.  From drinking the tea to using it as a topical application, green tea’s rich supply of catechins, potent antioxidants are good at protecting cell membranes as well as fighting inflammation of the skin. A study in the Archives of Dermatology shows that green tea can even reduce risks of skin cancer.

Water

If cells are 70% water, it goes without saying that water is essential for keeping skin cells hydrated and fresh-looking.  Drink at least 6 to 8 glasses of water. And don’t tell me your mother didn’t tell you….

So, if you’re looking for skin savers–just load your grocery cart with the right kind of foods.  Nature has not left us defenseless–it has equipped us with a wide arsenal to fight the conspirators of bad skin.

Know Your Acne Treatments

Is your face a showcase of red bumps and glistening spots? Do you hate words like pimples, zits, whiteheads and blackheads and they are on your face? If you do, you’re not alone.  Acne is a very common skin disorder and 40 to 50 million Americans have to deal with this problem everyday. If you’re a teenager, the chances of having them increase manifold.  In fact, 80% of teenagers have them and yes, you can blame the increase of Androgen hormone production at this volatile time of life.  But if you think age is a determining factor–not quite–acne can strike at any age.

Medically, acne is not a huge threat.  It’s not a disease but a case of clogged pore that manifest itself in acne. When sebum, produced in the sebaceous glands found under the skin is trapped inside pores because of dead cells or overproduction of sebum, bacteria grow and acne shows up.  Not a welcome guest, definitely.

If acne is not a medical threat, why do we hate them so much?  If you ever have one, you will know the emotional stress it causes–yes, even one can do the trick. Especially when it shows up at the most prominent of places–like on the nose or smack in the middle of the cheek. You want a magic wand to wish it away.  Maybe, that’s asking too much.  However, there are over-the-counter acne treatments that you can turn to for some relief.

Not all anti-acne treatments are the same.  Look for these active ingredients:

  • Salicyclic acid : Unclog pores
  • Benzoyl peroxide:  Kills bacteria
  • Glycolic acid:  renews skin
  • Sulfur : Dries sebum
  • Azelaic acid:  normalizes skin

Since these different ingredients perform different tasks, it’s advisable to buy one with a combination of these ingredients.

Another word of advice, look for inclusion of natural extracts as these help to heal acne without the harsh effects. Look for:

  • Green Tea:  regulates skin sebum
  • Tea Tree Oil:  reduces inflammation
  • Allotoin:   stimulates healthy tissue
  • Licorice root:  even out skin tone
  • Olive Leaf:  kills acne bacteria
  • Vitamin A, C and E: provides good nutrients for the skin

If you’re worried about the amount of chemicals used, try home remedies.  Read “Banish Acne Angst With Simple Tricks.

If acne festers and turns nasty with plus, consult a dermatologist. Severe acne can leave scars.

Anthocyanins: The Secret to Goji Berries

My mother used to have tons  of goji berries stashed in her pantry–in plastic containers, in bags and dainty packs of herbal mix.  She used it relentlessly– in soups, in herbal teas and in her main dishes.  She would brew bitter nasty tasting broth, reputedly a magic cure for any kind of ailments and then had to chase us around the kitchen to get us to drink it.

Along with Goji berries was her often repeated health adage, “Eat this, it’s good for your eyes.”  Good for the eyes– seemed absurd when you’re young and your eyes are perfectly good but that didn’t not keep her from pushing her health agenda.

While doing some research on Anthocyanins, I found that my mother knew a thing or two about Goji berries, even if she didn’t know the medical term for it.  It turns out that Goji berries are loaded with Anthoyanins, a potent antioxidant, that also give Goji berries its bright red color.

Anthocyanins are color pigments found in fruits, vegetables and flowers.  Red grapes, pomegranates, eggplants, carrots, peaches, watermelon, guava, grapefruit–to name a few–all these owe their vibrant color to the presence of anthocyanins.  What can anthoyanins do for your health?  For starters, they are supper antioxidants, scavenging the body for free radicals and neutralizing their capacity for cellular damage, thereby reducing risks of cancer. They are also anti-inflammatory agents, fighting against the stresses of aging, improving cardiovascular health and brain function.

Now, back to my mother’s fascination with goji berries.  Scientific researches concur that goji berries are in rich alpha-carotene and zeaxanthin, both anthocyanins. While apha-carotene can be readily converted to Vitamin A and serves as an antioxidant and  an immunity booster, zeaxanthin plays key role in protecting the retina of the eyes.  By absorbing blue light and acting as an antioxidant for the eyes, zeaxanthin can decrease the risk of age related macular dengeneration, a leading cause of vision problem and blindness in people over 65.

So my mother was right.   Ancient wisdom is seldom wrong–after all, goji berries were used by herbalists in China, Tibet and India for more than 6,000 years.

If she were here today, she would say, “Told you so,” and  you won’t find me  rolling my eyes.

Goji berries can be eaten as a snack–a lot of health stores carry goji berries as a healthy snack, either on its own or in trail mix.  Toss a handful into chicken soup or incorporate them in your main dishes.  Here is a simple stir fry dish:

Goji Chicken

1 thumb of ginger, thinly sliced

4 or 5 cloves of garlic, sliced

1 handful of goji berries

1 stalk of spring onion, cut into 1″ lengths

1 tablespoon of oyster sauce

salt and pepper to taste

Method:

Sautee sliced ginger, garlic and goji berries in a teaspoon of oil until fragrant.

Add sliced chicken, oyster sauce and sautee until cooked through.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Garnish with green onion.

Want to find out more about Anthocyanins?  Read Anthocyanins:  Colors of Health.