A-Z of Foods and their Benefits. X to Z.

X is for Xigua.

Chinese for watermelon.

Image from whataboutwatermelon.com

Pronounced as ‘she gwah’.

There are over 1000 different varieties.

China is the world’s largest producer of xiguas.

The whole of the fruit can be eaten. Yes, seeds and rinds too. In China, the rinds are often stir-fried or stewed and the seeds are dried and roasted to make a light snack.

Cube-shaped ziguas, as pictured above, are produced in Japan, as well as heart-shaped ones.

The world’s heaviest, in 2013, weighed a whopping 350.5 pounds!

HEALTH BENEFITS 

Ziguas have some of the highest content of a plant nutrient known as, ‘lycopene’ of any fruit and vegetable.

Lycopene:-

May help to reduce cancer.               

One way by lowering the insulin-like growth factor (IGF), a protein involved in cell division. High IGF levels are linked to cancer.

May reduce inflammation and increase the levels of antioxidants.       

In one study, people were given lycopene-rich tomato juice and overall, their inflammation markers went down and their antioxidant levels increased.

Helps to maintain cardiac health.         

Xiguas contain potassium and magnesium which help to lower blood pressure. A study showed that in postmenopausal women who took watermelon extract for 6 weeks, both their blood pressure and arterial stiffness reduced compared to the women who didn’t take the extract.  Also, in 2012, watermelon extract lowered the blood pressure of middle-aged people with obesity.

May help to delay the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

Xiguas also contain ‘citrulline’ another plant nutrient. Citrulline may increase nitric oxide levels in the body, which helps your blood vessels expand, therefore, boosting your circulation and helping to reduce muscle soreness.

Also, the fibre content of xiguas will help to maintain your digestive health.

The high water content, 92%, will help to keep you hydrated and could help with preventing urinary tract infections.

Finally, because xiguas contain a pigment called ‘beta-crytoxanthin’, which may protect your joints from inflammation. Some studies have even shown that it could make you less likely to get rheumatoid arthritis!

It’s best to let your watermelon fully ripen before you eat it. The redder it gets the higher concentration of lycopene there’ll be.

I’m not really a melon fan, to be honest. The one’s I’ve had tasted of nothing. However, I quite like watermelons because they do taste sweet.

Sources:                                 

healthline.com, goodbelly.com, healthybenefits.info, healthbenefits.com, medicalnewstoday.com, mentalfloss.com, livescience.com, webmd.com

Y is for Yams.

Image from Dreamstime.com

They are not the same as sweet potatoes. They are related to grasses and lilies!

The cultivation of yams started around 10,000 years ago, in both Africa and Asia.

They are still grown in Africa and Asia, as well as in Latin America and the Caribbean. They are available all year round.

There are approximately 600 species in the world. One, known as a ‘water yam’ cultivated in Southeast Asia, can grow up to 8 feet long and can weigh over 100 pounds!

Yams can also be as the same size as a small potato.

One species of yam is used to make a dye in Southern China.

They use to be used commercially to produce hormones for contraceptive pills and steroids.

They are one of the highest vegetable sources of carbs.

Health Benefits

Yams are used in Japanese, Korean, and Chinese medicine, in one way as a poultice to abscesses and boils. This is because yams contain ‘allantoin’ which is known to speed up the healing process.

Also yams:

May Enhance Brain Function. Yams contain a compound called ‘diosgenin’ which has been found to promote neuron growth. People who took a yam extract supplement, in a 12-week study, scored higher in a brain function test than those in the placebo group.

May have Cancer-fighting Properties. It has been suggested via animal and test-tube studies that the antioxidants in yams may have anticancer effects; though human research is needed.

May help to Reduce Inflammation Related to Various Diseases.

May Improve Blood Sugar Control. This effect has been seen in animal studies and is thought to be due to yams’ high resistant starch and dietary fibre content.

May Protect against certain Drug-resistant Bacteria.

Improve Digestive Health. The starch, as mentioned earlier, may increase digestive enzymes that help to break down food and increase the number of good bacteria in your gut.

Finally, yams help to improve cholesterol levels. In 1 study, women who ate 18oz of yams per day for 30 days showed a 6% decrease in blood cholesterol levels.

Sources: justfunfacts.com, foodreference.com, theabcsofeverything.com, healthline.com, stylecraze.com, health benefitstimes.com

And finally.

Z is for…..PizZa

Well. I’m not writing about ‘zucchini’. Too obvious!

Image from Boston Magazine

I know pizzas are usually classed as junk foods. But you can make healthier ones.

For a start, you can have thin-crust pizzas.

Let’s look at the typical toppings on pizzas.

CHEESE

Well, I know cheese isn’t generally seen as a healthy food. However, mozzarella could be used and it’s:

  • Lower in sodium and calories than most other cheeses.
  • Full of calcium, about 18% of our daily intake in 1oz.
  • A good source of protein.
  • A good source of probiotics which may improve gut health, provide immunity and fight inflammation in your body.
  • A source of riboflavin which can help fight various illnesses and conditions like migraines and anaemia and also has proven antioxidant properties.
  • A source of niacin which helps to turn fat into energy in your body and control cholesterol and also helps to prevent the onset of diabetes and arthritis.

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.

MUSHROOMS

  • The antioxidant content in mushrooms may help to prevent lung, prostate, breast and other types of cancer.
  • There is evidence that they may be beneficial in the treatment and management of Alzheimer’s.
  • They can help to lower cholesterol.
  • Mushrooms are a good source of potassium which can regulate blood pressure and this may decrease the risk of hypertension and cardiovascular disease.

So you can eat a reasonably healthy pizza. Especially, if you add your favourite vegetables to it, as well as the above ingredients. Enjoy!

Sources: stylecraze.com, home.bt.com, nutritionadvance.com, healthbenefits times.com, livestrong.com, healthline.com