A- Z of foods and their benefits. O to W.

AWESOME OATS

My porridge.

My daily breakfast; porridge. It fills me up and the way I prepare it, is like eating pudding every day! Even better, oats are a superfood.

Oats were the earliest cereals cultivated by humans; they have been grown in China since 7,000 BCE. The Ancient Greeks were the first race known to have made a recognisable porridge from oats.

Oats are among the healthiest grains on the planet because they are a fantastic source of vitamins, minerals, fibre and antioxidants.

Health benefits include:-

  • They may reduce blood pressure.
  • Reduced cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels and insulin response.
  • Increased growth of good bacteria in the digestive tract.
  • May help with skin conditions like Eczema. (Only when applied directly to the skin.) Quite a few beauty products that can be bought, contain oatmeal.
  • May help to relieve constipation. Oats contain ‘beta-glucan’, a type of soluble fibre. In one study, out of 30 elderly patients who ate soup or a dessert containing oat bran every day for 12 weeks, 59% were able to stop using laxatives, after the trial.
  • One study showed that feeding oats to babies before the age of 6 months, is linked to a decreased risk of childhood asthma.
  • Help to fight off infection. Oats contain selenium and zinc which are important nutrients for warding off infections. Also, beta-glucan as mentioned earlier, helps neutrophils (type of white blood cells) travel to the site of an infection, more quickly and improves their ability to eliminate the bacteria they find there.

Sources                                             mobile-cuisine.com, healthline.com, everydayhealth.com, medicalnewstoday.com, theguardian.com, lifehack.org, goodhousekeeping.com, fitnessmagazine.com.

THE HUMBLE SPUD

Vitelotte potatoes

The humble potato is the 4th most important crop in the world. China is the world’s largest producer.

Despite each potato containing about 80% of water, it is a fantastic source of important nutrients.

The potato originated in Peru, where it was first domesticated between 3000 and 2000 BCE. The Incas believed that if you carry one with you, it could prevent rheumatism and soothe a toothache. They also used raw potatoes for healing broken bones, easing frostbite and helping to clear up blemishes on the skin.

The Spanish were the first people to introduce potatoes in Europe.

They are among the most environmentally friendly vegetables to grow because they don’t need large amounts of fertiliser and chemical additives.

Some believe that potatoes ease aches by rubbing the sore area with the water from a batch of boiled potatoes.

When you notice your potatoes are a bit green, this could be a sign of a toxic plant compound called, ‘solanine’. Symptoms of solanine poisoning include:

  • Nausea & vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Sweating
  • Headaches
  • Stomach pain
  • Paralysis
  • Hallucinations
  • Coma
  • Death!

Err… basically chop off any green bits of potatoes or throw them away!

Health benefits of potatoes include:

  • Helping with good bone health because of the content of iron, phosphorous, calcium, magnesium and zinc, help the body to build and maintain bone structure and strength.
  • Helping to maintain blood pressure because the significant amounts of fibre helping to lower cholesterol in the body.
  • Fighting cancer because of the folate content. Folate prevents many types of cancer cells from forming due to mutations in the DNA.
  • Relieving constipation.
  • Improving blood sugar control. Potatoes contain “resistant starch” which is not broken down and fully absorbed by the body. When it reaches the large intestine, it becomes a source of nutrients for the beneficial bacteria in our guts. Research has linked resistant starch to the reduction of insulin resistance, which, in turn, improves blood sugar control. You can increase the resistant starch content of potatoes by, storing boiled potatoes in the fridge overnight and eat them cold, the next day.

Potatoes may help with depression, stress and perhaps, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, because they are a good source of B6 vitamins. B6 helps to create useful brain chemicals, including serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine.

The healthiest way to eat potatoes is with their skins on; that is where most of the nutrients are found.

Of course, like most people, I love chips. I eat them at the most, once a week

One of my favourite meals is, vegetarian chicken, marinated in smoked paprika, rosemary, golden syrup and rapeseed oil, served with broccoli and of course, jacket potatoes!

Sources                          kickassfacts.com, justfunfacts.com, mobile-cuisine.com, foodrepublic.com, healthline.com, medicalnewstoday.com, livescience.com, organicfacts.net

QUEEN QUINOA

Creamy Vegetarian Chicken, Courgette & Mushroom Stew. (See my recipe page.)

Wow. What a superfood this is!

Even though it’s used as a grain, it’s not one. It’s related to spinach, beets and chard and the part we eat, is the seed part of the plant.

There are more than 100 types of quinoa.

Pronounced as “keen-wah,” quinoa was first cultivated in South America, near the Andes; thousands of years ago. It remains largely unchanged. The Inca warriors ate balls of quinoa and fat to keep them going on long marches and in battle.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture organisation declared 2013, ‘The International Year of Quinoa,’ because of its high, nutritive value, impressive biodiversity and role in combating hunger around the world.

NASA has proposed quinoa as an ideal food for long-duration space flights.

A quinoa plaster was traditionally thought to heal bones.

Nutritionally:-

  • Quinoa has 4x the amount of iron per serving and cooks quicker than brown rice.
  • It’s a good source of fibre, iron, copper, thiamine, Vitamin B6, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese and folate.

Health benefits include:-

  • May help decrease the risk of chronic inflammation.
  • Helping promote healthy gut microbes, which is important for preventing obesity, inflammation and disease.
  • Aiding in lowering cholesterol levels.
  • Can provide heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, omega-3 fatty acids and alpha-linolenic acids. Most foods lose their healthy fatty acids when oxidised, but, quinoa nutrients hold up to boiling, simmering and steaming.
  • Good for digestion because of its fibre content.
  • It is high in quercetin, a plant oxidant that has been shown to have anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-cancer and anti-depressant effects.
  • Good for blood sugar control because of it has a low glycemic index.
  • Helps to fight ageing and many diseases because of its high antioxidant levels.

Quinoa is boiled like rice but needs to be thoroughly rinsed in cold water before cooking because quinoa seeds are coated with ‘suponins’; chemicals designed to protect plants from diseases caused by fungi, bacteria and viruses. These chemicals could cause stomach irritation.

I started eating quinoa, out of curiosity, a few years ago, when I heard somewhere that it’s good for you. I just didn’t realise, how good for you it is!

I eat it as a substitute for rice with curries and also, with stews, as above. I prefer the mixed coloured quinoa because it is more aesthetically pleasing than just white.

I’m surprised at how little you need per person (30-50g) and how much it expands when it’s cooked.

Sources: shape.com, thedailymeal.com, livewirenutrition.com, finedininglovers.com, livescience.com, healthline.com

RAVISHING RASPBERRIES

Archaelogical evidence shows that Paleolithic cave dwellers ate  raspberries.

In Greek mythology, raspberries were white but the nursemaid of Zeus, Ida, pricked her finger on a thorn, turning the berries red with her blood.

The word ‘raspberry’  may come from the old French ‘raspise’, a term meaning, ‘sweet, rose-coloured wine.’

In early Christian artwork, raspberries were used to symbolize kindness.

The English King, Edward the First, is credited with encouraging the cultivation of raspberries throughout  England.

There are over 200 different species, including in other colours of purple, black and yellow, but only 2 species are grown on a large scale.

Russia is the world’s leading producer of raspberries. Other countries that produce them, are U.S., Poland and Mexico.

Health benefits include:-

  • Better digestive health. Raspberries are an excellent source of fibre.
  • Improved memory because of the Vitamin C & E content. There is evidence that show, that these two vitamins may help to protect a person’s ability to think and remember information as they get older.
  • Improved cardiovascular health. Research had shown that one group of flavonoids, (anthocyanins), can suppress inflammation that may lead to cardiovascular disease.
  • May help to prevent cancer. In 2010, scientists treated stomach, colon and breast cancer cells with an extract of Meeker red raspberries. The extract killed more than 90% of the cells!
  • May help to improve vision. Raspberries contain ‘zeaxanthin’ which filters out harmful blue, light rays. Therefore, it may be involved in protecting the eyes from problems, such as, age-related macular degeneration; a condition, causing vision problems in older people.

Other benefits of raspberries include, helping with blood sugar control, weight loss and arthritis.

Finally, in a 8 week study, ageing rats, fed a diet with 1% or 2% raspberries, showed improved motor functions, including balance and strength.

Personally, I find fresh raspberries a little bit tart to eat. I eat frozen ones, mixed in my morning porridge, most days. I’m genuinely amazed with their researched health benefits!

Sources:                                            mobile-cuisine.com, justfunfacts.com, tenrandomfacts.com, medicalnewstoday.com, healthline.com

SWEET POTATOES – REALLY, THEY’RE FLOWERS!

They’re part of the same genus as the Morning Glory flower. They’re only distantly related to regular potatoes.

I always thought they only come in orange,) but, they also, come in white, yellow, red and purple, as pictured above.

Sweet potatoes have been cultivated, since, at least, 5000 years ago in  Central America.

Christopher Columbus liked them so much that, on his 4th voyage, he took some home to grow in Europe.      They were introduced into China in the late 16th century and spread through Asia, Africa and Latin America during the 17th and 18th centuries. Now, 90% of the world’s crop is grown in Asia.

In March 2004, the world’s heaviest sweet potato weighed in at a whopping 37kg!

Health Benefits

Sweet potatoes are good sources of Vitamins C & E, fibre, potassium, iron and low are in fat and cholesterol.               

They are also high in beta-carotene, which your body converts into Vitamin A. Studies have shown that Vitamin A deficiency increases gut inflammation and reduces the ability of your immune system to respond properly to potential threats.

Vitamin A can also prevent damage to your eyes, promotes healthy skin and hair and delays the sign of ageing.

There are studies, which show, that sweet potatoes’ antioxidants may reduce your risk of cancer.

The fibre and antioxidant content promote the growth of good gut bacteria and contribute to a healthy gut.

Finally, animal studies have shown that sweet potatoes may improve brain health, by reducing inflammation and preventing mental decline. However, more research is needed with humans involved.

It took me a while to like sweet potatoes. I use to find them a bit stringy.

Over time, I found I liked mashed, sweet potato and chips made from them.                                                

I prefer to buy frozen sweet potatoes and I love them in curries, mainly.       I have, as yet, to eat other coloured sweet potatoes, besides orange, so, I shall keep my eyes opened for them, when I do my weekly shop.

Sources: onehundreddollarsamonth.com, justfunfacts.com, almanac.com, healthline.com, bbcgoodfood.com

🎼You like Tomato and I like Tomahto….🎶

“Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.” Miles Kington.

Image from Wikipedia

Random Tomato Facts.

Tomatoes are originally from Peru.

People used to be afraid to eat them, thinking they were poisoness, due to their relation to the belladonna, (deadly nightshade) plant.

They were first brought to Europe in the mid 1500s, and, they were yellow varieties. The Italian for tomato, ‘pomodoro’, translates as, ‘golden apple’.

There are over 10,000 varieties of tomato, in a variety of colours, including, pink, purple, black, yellow and white.

Warning. A couple of gross facts, now.

Tomatoes, that are under attack by caterpillars, can trigger a chemical response that makes their leaves taste vile; resulting in the caterpillars eating each other instead!

Your body can’t digest tomato seeds. They are often found growing in sewage works.

Health Benefits of Tomatoes.

They are better for you, cooked, than raw, because more beneficial chemicals are released.

Tomatoes are an excellent source of Vitamins C & K, and a good source of copper, potassium, manganese, fibre, folate, niacin and phosphorus.

Tomatoes:-

Are Good for Your Heart. A study of middle-aged men, linked low blood levels of lycopene and beta-carotene to increased risk of heart attacks and strokes.

May Help to Lower Your Bad Cholesterol (LDL). This is suggested by clinical trials that lycopene in tomatoes may help to lower bad cholesterol.

May Help with Your Blood Clotting. They have a high Vitamin K content. Vitamin K controls the balance between blood clotting too quickly and too slowly. So, any injuries you may have can heal.

May Help with Reducing Risk of Getting Prostate, Lung and Stomach Cancers. More research is needed though. However, one study has showed that carotenoids, found in tomatoes, may help to protect against breast cancer.

Can Help to Reduce Your Risk of Sunburns. In a study of people who ate 40g of tomato puree, providing 16mg of lycopene, with olive oil, every day for 10 weeks, experienced 40% fewer sunburns.

Protect Your Eyes. Tomatoes contain lutein and beta-carotene, which, protect against eye conditions like cataracts and macular degeneration.

May Help to Reduce Menopausal Symptoms. A 2015 study, found that tomato juice did help to alleviate menopausal symptoms, such as, anxiety, in 95 women, aged between 40-60 years who consumed 200ml of unsalted tomato juice, twice daily for 8 weeks.

And finally, tomatoes:-

May Help with Diabetes. Studies have shown that people with Type 1 diabetes, who consume high fibre diets, have lower glucose levels, while those with Type 2 diabetes, may have improved blood sugar, lipids and insulin levels.

If I be honest, I don’t like supermarket, ordinary, red tomatoes. I find they don’t taste of anything. I prefer the smaller varieties, like, baby plum tomatoes and cherry ones; I love those!

I’m a huge fan of tomato ketchup and I, regularly use tinned, chopped tomatoes in my meals. They’re just as nutritious as fresh ones. They go so well with pasta and in curries.

Sources: quickdrop.co.uk, kickassfacts.com, nature.com, guardian.com, nytimes.com, justfunfacts.com, healthline.com, health.com, bbcgoodfood.com, medicalnewstoday.com

UGLI FRUIT

Image from GourmetSleuth.com

This fruit, apparently, tastes nicer than it looks!

It’s actually known as a ‘tangelo’. ‘Ugli’ is the brand name of the company who produces it.

It’s a natural hybridization of a tangerine or orange, with a grapefruit.

It was first discovered growing wild, near Brown’s Town, Jamaica, about 100 years ago. Jamaica, is still the leading producer of this fruit.

Health benefits:-

Helping with weight loss because it’s low in calories.

An Ugli fruit contains almost a day’s worth of vitamin C, which is a powerful antioxidant. This antioxidant can prevent damage caused by high levels of free radicals, which can lead to chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer. However, more human research is needed.

Also, vitamin C, plays an important role in wound healing and the development of collagen; a main part of skin, muscle and connective tissue.

The folate, calcium and potassium content are important in your metabolism, muscle control and bone and heart health.

Ugli fruit contains ‘naringenin.’ This antioxidant has been shown to reduce liver damage in mice.

Finally, this fruit can cut the risk of developing constipation, because, of its fibre content.

I must confess, I’ve never tried this fruit before. I’m going to keep my eyes opened for it.

Sources:                                      wikipedia, healthline.com, healthyeating.sfgate.com, nuffieldhealth.com, draxe.com

Vanilla is not Vanilla

Did you know that vanilla is the only fruit-bearing member of the orchid family?

Image from vainillaazteca.com

The Totanac people, from the East coast of Mexico, were possibly the first to cultivate vanilla, followed by the Aztecs. The Aztecs named the fruit ‘tlilxochitl’ or ‘black flower’ which, shrivels and turns black shortly after it’s picked.

The flower that produces the vanilla bean lasts for only one day, so these orchids are pollinated by hand, by using a small, toothpick-like stick. The beans undergo an extensive, curing process which results in the release of vanillin, with its distinct smell and flavour.

They have to be hand-pollinated because these orchids can only be pollinated by the Melipona bees, (as pictured above) found only, in Mexico. (Most vanilla is produced by Indonesia and Madagascar, now). So, hence the reason why vanilla is the most expensive spice in the world after saffron.

It was once used in nerve stimulants and aphrodisiacs.

The Spanish Conquistador, Hernan Cortes is credited with introducing vanilla to Europe in the 1520s. (He also introduced chocolate to Europe! 👍👍👍👍👍)

Health Benefits

Helps to Fight Disease.

Vanilla pods are rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants help to neutralize free radicals in our bodies, which can lead to disease. See my Antioxidants post for more information.

Has Antibacterial Properties.

A study has found, that the growth of specific bacterial cells was inhibited when vanilla essential oil was applied to them.

May Help to Ease Colds.

Apparently, using vanilla extract mixed with warm water can help to soothe sore throats and its antibacterial properties may reduce inflammation and irritation.

Can Reduce Cholesterol Levels.

May Promote Hair Growth.

Vanilla, can strengthen your hair and induce blood flow to your scalp, promoting hair growth, if it’s used as an essential oil.

Can Help with Anxiety

When vanilla is used as part of an aromatherapy treatment, its smell can help to calm you down and relieve stress.

Can Help to Treat Acne

Because of its antibacterial properties, if you dab a few drops of vanilla essence on the acne-prone areas on your skin, leave it overnight and rinse your face in the morning, it will help to clear it.

Finally, if you’re frightened of spiders, they hate the smell of vanilla. So, feel free to sprinkle vanilla essence or extract around points of entries to your home!!

My earliest memories of vanilla is, of course, vanilla ice cream. Basically, I love the taste of vanilla in cakes and desserts.

My partner has used vanilla pods for baking and the smell and taste is out of this world.

Did you know that vanilla extract can be used in cooking, as well as baking? It can be used to enhance the flavour of grilled and barbecued meat and fish and to enrich the taste of tomato sauces.

Sources:                                  webmd.com, dailymeal.com, mobile-cuisine.com, thillist.com, tastemade.com, crystalspring.co.uk, livestrong.com, healthbenefitstimes.com, swirlster.ndtv.com

WALNUTS – Nut that looks like a brain

Image from Pixabay

Technically, walnuts are seeds, not nuts.

Walnuts are the oldest tree food known to us, dating back to 7,000 BCE.

Walnut trees can live for 300 years or more, in the right circumstances.

Early history reveals that English walnuts came from ancient Persia. The word ‘walnut’ derives from ‘wealhhnutu’, Old English for ‘foreign nut’.

There are more than 30 varieties of commercially produced walnuts.

The Greeks called walnuts, ‘karyon’ which means, ‘head’ because the shells resemble human skulls and of course, the walnuts, themselves look like brains.

The ancient Greeks and Romans used to write about the walnut’s special health benefits.

Health Benefits

Walnuts:-

Are rich in antioxidants.                 Antioxidants can help to fight oxidative damage in your body, including damage done to “bad” LDL cholesterol, which promotes atherosclerosis. (Plaque in your arteries).

May help to lower the risk of type 2 diabetes.  In one study, 100 people consumed 1 tbsp of walnut oil a day for 3 months, while continuing their diabetes medication and balanced diets. This resulted in an 8% decrease in their fasting blood sugar amount.

May help to lower Blood Pressure.
Some studies suggest eating 28g of walnuts daily may help to improve blood pressure.

Packed with essential vitamins, minerals, fibre, fats and plant compounds that may help to support physical functioning.


Supports good brain function. That’s handy since walnuts look like brains! Even though more studies are needed, older adults who ate walnuts regularly, show better brain function, including faster processing speed, more mental flexibility and better memory.

So, to get the potential health benefits, apparently, only 7 whole walnuts are needed to be eaten!

Sources:  health.usnews.com, justfunfacts.com, jessicalevinson.com, healthline.com, bbcgoodfood.com, webmd.com, lifehack.org