Cauliflower’s Remarkable Health benefits

Cauliflower
Cauliflower

Cauliflower is a member of the cruciferous vegetable family – along with cabbage, kale, broccoli, and brussel sprouts.  Recent studies suggest that cruciferous vegetables are an excellent source of natural antioxidants due to their various phytochemicals.

Recent research also demonstrate that cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower are highly correlated with preventing chronic diseases including  cardiovascular disease, diabetes, neurodegenerative disorders, and various forms of cancer.

Top Benefits of Cauliflower

1. Reduces cancer risk

Numerous studies demonstrate that cauliflower is useful for preventing breast cancer as well as colon, liver, lung, and stomach cancers.  Cauliflower has been shown to have chemo-preventive agents that stall early phases of cancer development to help shut off tumor growth.

2. Fights inflammation

Cauliflower is rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds which lower oxidative stress and the presence of free-radicals in our body.  These compounds include vitamins, beta-carotene, quercetin, rutin, and kaempferol.

Cauliflower also contains vitamin C (one cup serving contains 73% of the recommended daily value of vitamin C) which helps to reduce inflammation, boost immunity, and keep the body free of harmful bacteria, infections, and common colds.

3. Decreases risk of cardiovascular disease and brain disorders

High levels of inflammation are correlated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.  Cauliflower’s anti-inflammatory abilities (found mainly in its supply of vitamin K, vitamin C, various antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids) help keep arteries and blood vessels free from plaque build-up.  This lessens the chances of developing high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels.

4. Provides high levels of vitamins and minerals

Cauliflower is a good source of vitamins C and K.  Vitamin C is important for immunity.  Vitamin K is a fat soluble vitamin responsible for  healthy skeletal structure, blood clotting, and fighting inflammation in the body.

5. Improves digestion

Cruciferous vegetables are beneficial for digestion because of their rich supply of sulphur-containing compounds called glucosinolates.  These compounds support proper nutrient absorption and toxin and waste removal.

6. Aids in weight loss

Cauliflower is extremely low in calories (only 29 calories per cup), and yet is high in volume and filling fiber.  This makes it an excellent choice for those looking to lose weight, since you can consume large amounts of cauliflower and fill up without over-consuming calories.

Cauliflower also helps to reduce constipation and to keep excess waste or water moving out of your body, which helps you feel immediately better.

7. Preserves eye health

The sulphoraphane found in cauliflower has been shown to protect the vulnerable tissues of the retinal area from oxidative stress that can result in blindness, cataracts, macular degeneration, and more.

Ways to enjoy Cauliflower

  • Roast it: Cauliflower is delicious when roasted because roasting draws out its natural sweetness and caramelizes the florets.
  • Salads and pilafs: Add roasted cauliflower to salads and grains like quinoa or rice dishes.
  • Puree into soup: Cauliflower adds a great creamy texture to soups.  Just chop, boil, puree, and stir into your favorite recipe.
  • Serve mashed: Steam florets until tender, then puree them with milk, a drizzle of olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste.
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Health Benefits of Oranges

Oranges
Oranges

Long recognized as a potent source of vitamin C, oranges are considered by most to be tasty, juicy, and all too familiar.  The discoveries being made about the power of oranges to support heart health and prevent cancer, stroke, diabetes and other chronic ailments are bringing them and other citrus fruits into the limelight as crucial components of a healthy diet.

Oranges originated in Asia thousands of years ago and have become one of the most popular fruits the world over.  Christopher Columbus brought orange seeds to the Caribbean Islands in the 15th century, and Spanish explorers then brought oranges to Florida in the next century.  About 200 years later, Spanish missionaries brought oranges to California.  Florida and California remain the primary producers of oranges in the United States.

Portable fruits, they are easy to eat and crucial to good health.  They are easy to put in children’s lunch boxes and bags, and they are the perfect mid-day snack when you are craving something sweet.  Oranges are also great flavor boosters when cooked with chicken or lean turkey breast.

Oranges are classified into two general categories: sweet and bitter.  The sweet varieties are the most commonly consumed and popular varieties include valencia, jaffa, navel, and blood oranges.  The blood orange is a hybrid species that is smaller in size and marked by red hues running throughout its flesh.

Bitter oranges are often used to make jam or marmalade, and their zest is used as the flavoring for liqueurs such as Grand Marnier and Cointreau.

Reasons To Eat Oranges

1. Oranges protect against cancer

Oranges contain a phytonutrient called limonene.  Limonene stimulates our antioxidant detoxification enzyme system, helping to stop cancer before it begins.  Oranges contain significant amounts of limonene in the peel and smaller quantities in the pulp.  Limonene has been proven to help fight a number of varieties of cancer including that of the lung, skin, breast, stomach, and colon.

Vitamin C, abundantly available in oranges, also plays a role in fighting cancer.  One study of Swiss men found that those who died of any type of cancer had vitamin C concentrations about 10 percent lower than those who died from other causes.

2. Oranges lower cholesterol

One cup of orange segments contain four grams of fiber, most of which is soluble fiber.  Since they are full of soluble fiber, oranges help lower cholesterol by binding with cholesterol in your gut and preventing it from being absorbed into your bloodstream.  This reduces risk of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease.

3. Oranges strengthen immunity

Scientific studies show the abundance of polyphenols in oranges protects against viral infections.  The vitamin C in oranges also protects cells in your body by neutralizing free radicals.  Free radicals cause chronic diseases, like cancer and heart disease.

4. Oranges lower stroke risk

Oranges are rich in vitamin C, and several scientific studies found a high blood concentration of vitamin C is associated with a lower stroke risk.  In one large study published in 2008, University of Cambridge researchers measured vitamin C levels in roughly 20,000 people and followed them for over a decade.  The participants were divided into four groups based on vitamin C levels.  The researchers found that those with the highest concentrations of the vitamin in their blood had a 42 percent lower stroke risk than those with the lowest concentrations.

5. Oranges regulate blood sugar levels

The orange has a glycemic index of 40.  Anything under 55 is considered low.  Therefore oranges will not spike your blood sugar and cause problems with insulin and weight gain as long as you do not eat too many at one time.

6. Oranges support heart health

Oranges are full of potassium, an electrolyte mineral responsible for helping the heart function well.  When potassium levels get too low, you may develop an abnormal heart rhythm known as an arrhythmia.

7. Oranges regulate high blood pressure

The flavonoid hesperidin found in oranges helps regulate high blood pressure.  Oranges also contain potassium and magnesium which help maintain blood pressure.

8. Oranges protect your vision

Oranges are rich in carotenoid compounds which are converted to vitamin A and help prevent macular degeneration as we age.

Putting It Into Practice

  • Warm your day: Oranges added to oatmeal is a great way to start your day.
  • Spice up your fruit salad: Be sure to include oranges in your next fruit salad.  Mix orange slices, mango chunks, and strawberries to your fruits salad with a sprinkle of chili powder.
  • Vibrant salad:  Add orange slices, strawberries, and walnuts onto a bed of your favorite field greens for a salad that is sure to please.
  • 100 percent juice: Just squeeze fresh oranges and enjoy.  Keep in mind that the whole fruit is more nutritious than the juice, because it contains more fiber.
  • Slice it or just peel and eat: Whatever your favorite way to eat an orange is, just take a bite into this delicious citrus fruit.
  • Use the peel: Orange peel is both flavorful and healthy.  If your recipe calls for orange zest, be sure to use organically grown oranges since conventionally grown fruits have pesticide residue on their skin and may also be artificially colored.

Health Benefits of Green Tea

Green tea
Green Tea

Tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world, second only to water.  There are three main types of tea, green, black, and oolong.  Scientific studies suggest that green tea in particular has many health benefits.  Researchers believe the antioxidants, which are mostly polyphenols, in the tea leaves are responsible for the health benefits.

Green, black, and oolong teas are all derived from the leaves of the Camellia synensis plant.  This plant grows throughout Asia, parts of the Middle East, and Africa.  Green tea is prepared from unfermented leaves.  The leaves of oolong tea are partially fermented, and the leaves of black tea are fully fermented.  The more the leaves are fermented, the lower the polyphenol content and the higher the caffeine content.  Green tea has the highest polyphenol content, while black tea has 2 to 3 times the caffeine content of green tea.  Therefore green teas have the most nutritional benefits, followed by oolong and black teas.  You may have heard of white tea, which is simply the unfermented young leaves and buds of the Camellia synensis plant.

Reasons to Drink Green Tea

The health benefits of drinking green tea:

  1. Green tea is rich in antioxidants: The antioxidants found in green tea are mainly polyphenols.  A particular polyphenol, EGCG has been studied extensively, can powerfully destroy free radicals (metabolic byproducts that are chemically reactive and that can damage cells).  In research published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the polyphenols found in green tea are reported to be 6 times stronger than those found in black tea.
  2. Green tea lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol:  Research shows that green tea lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol and raises HDL (good) cholesterol in people.  One large-scale study found that men who drink green tea have lower total cholesterol than those who do not drink green tea.
  3. Green tea fights atherosclerosis: Large scale studies suggest the polyphenols in green tea help prevent atherosclerosis, the plaque buildup in your arteries.  The researchers believe that green tea fights atherosclerosis by lowering cholesterol and triglycerides.  Studies show that black tea has similar effects.  In fact they  estimate the rate of heart attacks decrease by 11 percent with consumption of three cups of tea daily.
  4. Green tea lowers risk of high blood pressure: A study published in 2004 reported that regular consumption of green and oolong tea reduced risk of developing hypertension.  Another study published in 2012 reported that regular long-term consumption of black tea lowered blood pressure.
  5. Green tea lowers cardiovascular disease risk: In a large-scale study, drinking three cups of green tea or black tea is associated with a 20 percent reduction in stroke risk.
  6. Green tea lowers cancer risk: Risk of cancer of the GI tract has been shown to be 17 percent lower in women who drink at least 3 cups of green tea a week.  There have also been lower risks associated with green tea consumption of the following cancers:  bladder, breast, ovarian, lung, pancreatic, prostate, and skin.
  7. Green tea strengthens your bones: The Harvard School of Public Health states that the tea polyphenols are thought to strengthen bones and protect against fractures.  Also a study published in Nutrition Research found the bioactive components of green tea may help decrease the risk of fractures by improving bone mineral density.
  8. Green tea helps protect your vision: A 2010 study reported that the components in green tea positively affected the tissues of the eyes, particularly the tissues of the retina.
  9. Green tea improves memory and cognitive function: Some of the compounds found in green tea boost certain brain tasks associated with working memory.  Working memory is the brain function that keeps in mind and manipulates multiple pieces of information simultaneously, helping you to plan ahead, organize information, solve problems and retrieve information, such as names.
  10. Green tea calms and relaxes you: L-theanine is the standout ingredient in green tea that has been studied for its calming effects on the nervous system.  A study published in Trends in Food Science & Technology found that green tea produces relaxing effects without drowsiness after just 40 minutes of ingestion.

Putting it into Practice

  • Brew it yourself: For the biggest benefit, definitely brew it yourself.  Bottled tea has significantly fewer polyphenols than home-steeped tea, plus added sugar that add unwanted calories.  You can serve it hot, or make a pitcher of home-brewed iced tea during the warmer months.
  • Watch the additives: It is not a good idea to resort to additives to make tea more palatable.  Be careful not to add spoonfuls of sugar to make tea go down easier.  The health benefits were observed for tea with little or no additives.  So maybe try a little honey or lemon to taste without compromising the purity of your tea, but stop there.
  • Daily dosage: The University of Maryland Medical Center recommends two to three cups of green tea per day.  This provides about 240 to 320 mg of polyphenols.
  • Try a healthy alternative: If you just can’t stomach green tea, you may want to try a healthy alternative – coffee.  Coffee is a perfectly reasonable and possibly equally healthful alternative.  Click here to read my article on coffee.
  • Caution if you are pregnant: Because of its caffeine level, green tea can be unsafe for pregnant women and their babies.  Always consult your doctor about consuming caffeinated beverages while pregnant.
  • Problem with iron: Drinking green tea may cause your body to absorb less iron, so it is best not to drink green tea with an iron-rich meal.  Rather drink green tea between meals.  Consult your doctor if you are anemic.

Top 5 Health Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet

Fresh asparagus with radishes and fennel
Fresh asparagus with radishes and fennel

Although the Mediterranean diet reflects the ways of eating that is traditional in the countries that surround the Mediterranean, you can bring the remarkable health benefits and affordable style of eating to your own kitchen.  Your local supermarket has all the fresh and flavorful ingredients needed to follow this healthy way of eating.  The Mediterranean diet emphasizes:

  • Eating mainly unprocessed plant-based foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds.
  • Replacing butter with healthy fats, such as olive oil.
  • Using herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods.
  • Limiting red meat to a few times a month.
  • Eating fish and poultry at least three times per week.
  • Low consumption of dairy products.
  • Drinking red wine in moderation (optional).
  • Avoiding saturated and trans fats.

The Health Benefits

Scientists have studied the eating patterns of the Mediterranean diet for over 50 years.  To date, there is a large body of scientific evidence supporting the healthfulness of the traditional Mediterranean diet.  Here are the top 5 health benefits:

  1. Increased lifespan.  A convincing scientific study published in 2013 showed that a Mediterranean-style diet warded off premature death in addition to cardiovascular disease.  Researchers looked at the dietary habits of over 10,000 women in their 50s and 60s.   The study found that women who ate a Mediterranean diet in midlife were about 40% more likely to live into their 70s without chronic illness and with less physical and mental problems than those who ate unhealthy diets.  The healthiest women were those who ate more plant foods, whole grains and fish; ate less red and processed meats; and had limited alcohol intake.  While you probably get the most benefit by eating this way earlier in life, this study shows that starting the Mediterranean diet as late as in your 50s and 60s results in significant benefits.
  2. Decreased cardiovascular disease risk.  The Mediterranean diet has been linked to better cardiovascular health through many scientific studies.  The benefits include lower risk for people who have been diagnosed with heart disease.  A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2012 shows that a Mediterranean-style diet can help prevent future cardiac events (like chest pains and heart attacks) in people with heart disease.  People who ate the most vegetables, salads, and nuts lowered the risk of repeat heart trouble the most compared to those who ate the least of these heart-healthy foods.
  3. Decreased diabetes risk.  Intake of processed foods filled with fat, sugar, and refined grains has been linked to obesity and type 2 diabetes.  Because the Mediterranean diet emphasizes whole unprocessed foods, risk of type 2 diabetes is reduced.  In 2014, researchers in Vienna, Austria reviewed data of over 122,000 adults to investigate the association between the Mediterranean diet and diabetes risk.  After analyzing data between 2007 and 20014, the scientists found that greater adherence to a Mediterranean diet is associated with a 19% reduction in the risk of type 2 diabetes.
  4. Reduced age-related cognitive decline.  Turns out that the nutrient-rich Mediterranean diet keeps your brain intact.  A study conducted by the American Academy of Neurology shows that the Mediterranean diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, beans, fish, and good fats like olive oil, is linked with better brain health and fewer age-related thinking problems.  In another study published in 2013, researchers in the UK looked at the possible relationship between the Mediterranean diet, cognitive function, and dementia.  They found that a greater adherence to the Mediterranean diet is associated with slower mental decline and decreased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
  5. Reduced risk of colon cancer.  A huge study published in 2012 involving nearly 2 million people showed that increasing  your intake of high-fiber whole grains reduces the risk of colorectal cancer.  According to the study, eating 3.25 ounces of whole grains per day was associated with a 20% lower risk.  Fiber helps improve digestion and absorption of nutrients, and it helps control appetite by keeping you full for a longer period of time.  Men over 50 should get at least 30 grams of fiber, while men 50 years old and younger should get at least 38 grams.  Women over 50 should get at least 21 grams of fiber, while women 50 years old and younger should get at least 25 grams.

The vast body of scientific evidence shows the Mediterranean diet has many health benefits, and many health experts are hoping you’ll be inspired to start the journey to better health Mediterranean-style.  The Mediterranean diet is affordable and one your whole family can follow for good health.

Choose Healthier Protein Sources

Chicken Breast, Sage, Spinach
Chicken Breast with Sage and Spinach

The human body is made up of over ten thousand different proteins.  Protein’s building blocks are called amino acids.  Because our bodies are constantly making new proteins and because we do not store amino acids as we do fats, we need a daily supply of protein.

The Institute of Medicine determined that the daily protein intake be 10 – 35% of calories.  The Institute of Medicine also recommends 0.8 grams of dietary protein per kilogram of body weight or just over 7 grams per 20 pounds.  This translates to about 55 grams of dietary protein for a 150-pound person and 75 grams of dietary protein for a 200-pound person.  Many different foods contain protein.  These include fish, poultry, eggs, red meat, processed meat, nuts, seeds, vegetables, beans, whole grains, and dairy.  Because it is so easy to get protein, it is uncommon for western diets to have a protein deficiency.

Animal and Plant Proteins

Our bodies make protein in two different ways: Either from scratch or by modifying other amino acids.  A few amino acids must come from food.  These are called essential amino acids.

  • Animal protein contains all the amino acids we need, and they are called complete proteins.
  • Plant protein sources, such as fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds, lack at least one essential amino acid.  These are called incomplete proteins.

The Protein Package

Some high-protein foods are healthier than others because of what comes along with the protein.  This could be healthy or harmful fats, beneficial fiber, or hidden salt.  It is this “protein package” that is likely to differentiate one protein source as healthier than another.  For example, a 6-ounce broiled porterhouse steak has 40 grams of protein, but it also has a whopping 12 grams of saturated fat. That is 60 percent of the recommended saturated fat intake for a person on a 2,000 calorie per day diet.  Also a 6-ounce ham steak has only 2.5 grams of saturated fat, but it has 2,000 milligrams of sodium.  That is 500 milligrams more than the recommended maximum sodium intake.

On the other hand, a 6-ounce serving of wild salmon has 34 grams of protein, is naturally low in sodium, and has only 1.7 grams of saturated fat.  Salmon and other oily fish are excellent sources of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.  A cup of cooked lentils provides 18 grams of protein and 15 grams of fiber, and it has very little saturated fat and sodium.

If you like beef, choose the leanest cuts you can find.  Chicken, turkey, and fish are better choices.  Beans, nuts, whole grains and other plant sources are even better because they are generally low in saturated fat and high in fiber.  Also low-fat and non-fat dairy products are better than full-fat products.

So plant protein sources are healthier than animal sources because there protein package is healthier.  Because plant proteins are incomplete proteins, it is important to eat a variety of plant protein foods to get all of the amino acids needed to make new protein.

Putting it into Practice

  • Reel in Fish.  Seafood is important in a heart-healthy diet (particularly salmon, herring, and sardines).  Adding fish instead of red meat reduces saturated fat intake and increases omega-3 fats.  These marine omega-3 fats (EPA and DHA) improve blood cholesterol levels.  Aim for at least three servings per week.
  • Bulk up on Beans.  Beans contain soluble fiber which lowers the level of LDL (bad) cholesterol in your bloodstream.  LDL cholesterol causes plaque to build up in your arteries.  Beans also contain the minerals magnesium and potassium which help lower blood pressure.
  • Be a little Nutty.  Eat nuts and seeds to get plant protein along with unsaturated fats.  Try mixed nuts like walnuts, almonds, peanuts, pecans, and hazelnuts to get more nutrients.  Seeds like chia seeds and flaxseeds are also good sources of omega-3 fats.  Nuts and seeds are high in calories, so limit them to one to two ounces per day.
  • Go with Whole Grains.  In addition to protein, whole grains like brown rice, oats, quinoa, and whole wheat contain fiber which helps lower heart disease risk.
  • Choose Non-fat and Low-fat Dairy Products.  Full fat dairy is rich in saturated fat, which increases LDL cholesterol. Non-fat and low-fat dairy products are better choices.
  • Put that Steak Out to Pasture.  Like full fat dairy, red meat also contains a lot of saturated fat, which increases LDL cholesterol.  Limit red meat to a few servings per month.
  • Avoid Processed Meat.  Eating small amounts of processed red meat regularly has been linked to increased risk of heart disease.  They are also leaded with salt and added sugar.  Also the World Health Organization (WHO) recently announced that processed meats probably cause cancer.
  • Choose Poultry.  Turkey and chicken have less saturated fat than beef.  They are both good sources of protein.  Eat these instead of red meat.
  • Nutrient-rich Eggs.  Eggs are rich in vitamins and minerals, so eating up to four eggs a week is a good idea.  People with heart disease or diabetes may want to limit egg consumption to three a week.