A-Z of foods and their benefits. A to N.

In this section, I’m going to pick different foods, alphabetically, and describe their benefits on your health. Yes, there are foods beginning with X!

APRICOTS

  • A good source of vitamin A which helps with your vision.
  • Rich in fibre. It improves your digestive system and apricots dissolve in your body easily and quickly break down fatty acids.
  • Reduces bad cholesterol.
  • Good for your skin. Strengthens your bones because they are rich in calcium.
  • Great source of potassium which is needed for maintaining proper fluid balance, aiding muscle function, regulating your heartbeat, promoting healthy digestion and again, strengthening your bones.

Note. If you can’t be bothered with eating fresh apricots, then dried ones are even better sources of fibre, potassium and vitamin A. However, be careful, because they have higher sugar content. Therefore, no more than 30g a day.

Sources

food.ndtv.com, medicaldaily.com, naturalbalancefoods.co.uk, healthyeating.sfgate.com

BROCCOLI

  • One of the healthiest foods you can eat. Full of vitamins, minerals, fibre and antioxidants.
  • High levels of glucoraphanin, a compound that is converted into an antioxidant called sulforaphane during digestion. Some studies show that sulforaphane can reduce blood sugar levels, cholesterol levels, oxidative stress and chronic disease development.
  • May prevent cellular damage in your eyes.
  • Contains compounds that reduce inflammation in your body’s tissues.
  • May protect against certain type of cancers.
  • Good support of fibre; therefore promoting healthy digestion and reducing constipation.
  • Could reduce the risk of heart disease.
  • Sulforaphane may help to slow down your ageing process.
  • Improves bone health.
  • Great for your skin. It’s a fantastic source of vitamin C, which fights skin damage caused by the sun and pollution, reduces wrinkles and improves overall skin texture. Also plays a vital role in the formation of collagen.
  • Good sources of vitamin A & E; also crucial for healthy-looking skin.

I eat broccoli 2 or 3 times a week. I would eat more but I find that if I do, it makes my bum sound very tuneful; if you know what I mean!

Sources

healthline.com, bbcgoodfood.com, medicalnewstoday.com, whfoods.com

CHICKPEAS

  • A fantastic source of vitamins, minerals, fibre and protein. Protein and fibre work together to slow digestion, which helps to promote fullness.
  • They have a low-calorie density – they provide few calories relative to the number of nutrients they contain.
  • They have a fairly low glycemic index. Diets including many low GI foods have been shown to promote blood sugar management.
  • It may benefit digestion because the fibre in chickpeas is mostly soluble. It blends with water forming a gel-like substance in the digestive tract. Soluble fibre may help to increase the number of healthy bacteria in your guts and prevent the overgrowth of unhealthy bacteria. This can lead to a reduced risk of some digestive conditions, such as IBS and colon cancer.
  • Great for your bones because of the iron, phosphate, calcium, magnesium, zinc and vitamin D, which all contribute to building and maintaining bone structure and strength.
  • Benefits your heart because the significant amount of fibre helps to lower cholesterol in your blood.
  • Chickpeas contain selenium which helps the enzymes of the liver to function properly and detoxify some cancer-causing compounds in the body. Also, selenium prevents inflammation and decreases tumour growth rates.
  • Possibly effective against cancer because:-
  1. They contain folate, which plays a role in DNA synthesis and repair, and so helps to prevent the formation of cancer cells from mutations in your DNA.
  2. Contain saponins that prevent cancer cells from multiplying and spreading throughout your body.
  • Finally, they contain choline which helps with sleep, muscle movement, learning and memory and reduces chronic inflammation in your body.

Chickpeas taste fantastic in curries and I eat them in pasta dishes.

Sources

healthline.com, medicalnewstoday.com, livescience.com, whfoods.com, healwithfood.org

DAMSONS

  • Improves your digestive health.
  • Lowers your cholesterol.
  • Protects against heart disease.
  • Strengthens your bones.
  • Increases your energy.
  • Optimizes sleeping patterns.
  • Decreases the risk of certain types of cancer.
  • Boosts your immune system.
  • Good source of iron, potassium, phosphorous, copper, manganese, magnesium. Therefore promotes good bone health.

I love the fact that there is a variety of damson called, “President Plum” and the versatility of this fruit. It can be used in jams, jellies, baking products and my personal favourite use, damson gin!

Sources

organicfacts.net, ayushology.com, nourishmentforlife.org, informationcradle.com

ELDERBERRIES

This fruit has been used for hundreds of years by European herbalists and Native Americans for various health benefits.

Elderberries can boost the immune system, help inflammation, lessens stress and protects the heart.

Studies have shown that they can treat colds and flu. One study of 60 people with flu-like symptoms took 15ml of elderberry syrup 4 times a day. Their symptoms improved 4 days before the people who took a placebo.

Using an elderberry face wash may help to fight acne because of its antiseptic effects.

Elderberries are a good source of fibre.

They can be used in a form of tea to treat UTIs, cystitis and bladder infections.

Can be used to treat allergy symptoms like sneezing, inflamed sinuses, itchy and watery eyes and runny noses.

Caution!

They can be poisonous in their raw form.

I’ll have to admit. I don’t eat elderberries very often. However, I quite fancy trying elderberry tea. I’ll keep you posted if I like it or not.

Sources

webmd.com, medicalnewstoday.com, indigo-herbs.com.

FLAXSEEDS

One of the oldest crops in the world. It was cultivated in Babylon as early as 3000 BC. In the 8th century, King Charlemagne passed laws requiring his subjects to eat it.

Loaded with nutrients, flaxseeds (also known as linseeds), are a rich source of healthy fats, antioxidants, fibre, protein, omega 3 and lignans.

Lignans are micronutrients found in certain plant-based foods and may stop tumours from forming new blood vessels. The lignan content of flaxseeds is thought to be over 800 times higher than other foods. A study, published in 2008, showed that prostate cancer tumours appeared to stop growing in 161 men consuming flaxseeds. Another study found that flaxseeds in the diet reduced the risk of breast cancer.

Flaxseeds may also help to lower your risk of diabetes and heart disease, reduce cholesterol and blood pressure and protect against radiation.

To get the health benefits, ground flaxseeds should be eaten rather than whole seeds as whole seeds remain undigested and pass through the system.

The best thing about eating flaxseeds to help our health is that we only need to eat 1TBSP a day!

I eat mine in my porridge every morning. They can be sprinkled on cereals, mixed in yoghurts and salads.

Sources

medicalnewstoday.com, healthline.com, webmd.com, bhf.org.uk

GRAPES

They’re actually berries.

There are about 8,000 varieties from 60 species.

It takes about 2.5 pounds of grapes to make a bottle of wine.

They’re at least 65 million years old.

29,292 squares miles of the world are devoted to growing grapes. Top producers include Spain, Italy, China and Turkey.

There are grapes that are shaped like fingers called, “Witch Finger Grapes”. See the above photo.

In July 2016, a single bunch of Ruby Roman grapes sold for 1.1 million yen, which is approximately £8400!

Grape seeds are edible and are capable of reducing fat, have anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties.

Grapes also have the following health benefits:-

  • They are high in antioxidants such as vitamin C.
  • Protect against heart disease.
  • Lower your blood pressure.
  • Decrease your cholesterol.
  • Good for your bone health.

What’s even better, I love the sweet taste of them; especially the red ones. I prefer them to the green ones. I only tend to eat the seedless varieties. I didn’t even know you could eat the seeds and not sure if I want to eat them, to be honest!

Sources

webmd.com, justfunfacts.com, wine.lovetoknow.com, kickassfacts.com, heathline.com, medicanewstoday.com, livescience.com

HAZELNUTS

Also known as ‘filberts’. Ancient Greeks used hazelnuts to treat coughs and baldness. Ancient Romans used torches made of hazelnut branches during wedding ceremonies, believing that they would ensure long and happy marriages.

In 1995, evidence of 9000 (!) year old Mesolithic nut processing was found in a midden pit on the island of Colonsay in Scotland. The evidence consists of a large, shallow pit full of the remains of hundreds of thousands of burned hazelnut shells.

748,000 metric tonnes of hazelnuts are produced each year. Nearly 75% of globally consumed hazelnuts originate from Turkey. Ferrero SpA uses 25% of them.

The hazelnut plant can bear fruit even after the age of 50 years.

Health benefits include:-

  • Balancing your cholesterol levels.
  • Reducing your blood pressure and clots.
  • Boosting your immune system.
  • Aiding in weight loss.
  • Helping to manage diabetes.
  • Improving your digestive function. They are a good source of fibre.
  • Helping to prevent cancer.
  • Helping to increase cognitive function.
  • Protecting you against viral and fungal infections.
  • Increasing your red blood cell count.

My first encounter with hazelnuts was basically hazelnut yoghurt. And of course, I love Ferrero Rocher!

I’ve only recently started to eat hazelnuts and I sprinkle a few on my porridge in the mornings.

Sources

softschools.com, mobile-cuisine.com, justfunfacts.com, medicalnewstoday.com, healthline.com

INCA BERRIES

Well, they’re not berries. They’re closely related to tomatoes.

They’re indigenous to the high altitude, tropical regions of South America.

Inca berries are high in antioxidants, rich in protein and very high in fibre.

For your health;

  • They may boost your immune systems.
  • They have anti-inflammatory benefits.
  • Because of their high vitamin K content (a fat-soluble vitamin involved in bone metabolism), they may benefit your bone health.
  • They may improve your vision because of the carotenoid content. Carotenoid is linked to a lower risk of age-related macular degeneration which is the leading cause of blindness.
  • They’re a good source of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep.

I often wondered what was the orange, cherry tomato thingy that has been on top of desserts that I’ve eaten in restaurants!

Inca berries can be eaten in yoghurts and granola. Dried inca berries can be eaten as a snack or you can make jam out of them!

Note. They could be poisonous if eaten unripe.

Sources

healthline.com, nakedfoods.com.au, standard.co.uk, incaberry.com.au, valuefood.info, drhealthbenefits.com

JACKFRUIT

Well, this whopper of a fruit can be as big as 3 feet long, 18 inches wide and weigh in at as much as 50 pounds!

In a year, the jackfruit tree can produce as many as 250 fruits!

It originates from South Asia and was cultivated 3000 to 6000 years ago in India.

It is the National fruit of Bangladesh.

Ripe jackfruit is eaten as a fruit and unripe jackfruit is prepared as a vegetable in stews or curries, boiled, roasted or fried and eaten as a snack.

The root extract can be used to treat fever, asthma and diarrhoea.

The jackfruit tree, jackwood, has termite and fungus resistant properties. It is used in making furniture, houses, musical instruments and oars. Palaces in Bali are made of jackwood.

Believe it or not, the peel is edible!

Health benefits include:-

They contain some of almost every vitamin and mineral that you need such as, vitamins A and C, which may help prevent inflammation and reduce the risk of various chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease.

They contain carotenoids which have been shown to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. They may help with your blood sugar control.

May help reduce your risk of viral infections.

There is anecdotal evidence that eating them may slow down skin ageing.

They may reduce cholesterol.

Finally, jackfruits contain substances with anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties and also may promote wound healing.

I’ve heard a lot about jackfruits so when I spied tinned jackfruit in my local supermarket, I decided to try one out of curiosity.

The consistency reminds me of tuna and even though I don’t like it raw, it tastes beautiful in curries and sauces.

Sources

servingjoy.com, amazingfacts4u.com, justfunfacts.com, health.com, healthline.com, medicalnewstoday.com, webmd.com

KICKASS KIWI

Why have I a picture of a bird instead of a kiwi?

Read on to find out.

The kiwi originates from China and was originally called the “Chinese Gooseberry. New Zealanders renamed it “kiwifruit” due to its resemblance to a kiwi bird. (Rounded body covered with fuzzy, brown plumage, as pictured above).

It grows as vines and there are about 60 different species. The vines can produce fruit for up to 30 years and survive more than 50 years.

Over 1 million tons of kiwifruit are produced each year. Most of it by Italy, New Zealand and Chile.

Kiwis contain 2 times more vitamin C than oranges and are a rich source of vitamins E and K.

In comparison to other fruits, it offers the greatest amount of vitamins and fibres per gram of fruit.

Health benefits of kiwis include:-

  • Helping your digestion. Kiwis contain an enzyme called ‘actinidin’ that can help to break down protein.
  • Boosting your immune system.
  • Contains good amounts of minerals like manganese, iron and magnesium.
  • 100g serving of kiwi contains 15% of the Recommended Daily Allowance of potassium, which helps to lower your blood pressure.
  • Helping with asthma. One study in 2000 found there was a beneficial effect on lung function among those who consumed fresh fruit regularly; including kiwis. May reduce wheezing in children.
  • Lowering the risk of colon cancer.
  • Reducing blood clotting. A study by the University of Oslo found that eating 2 to 3 kiwis a day significantly lowered the risk of blood clotting.
  • Protecting against vision loss. A study showed eating 3 kiwis a day decreased macular degeneration by 36%.
  • Boosting your body’s ability to heal wounds.

I use to like kiwis with meringues and cream!

They taste lovely in fruit salads and I eat them as a snack. I don’t fancy eating the skins though!

Sources

softschools.com, justfunfacts.com, fruitrunner.co.uk, tonsoffacts.com, healthlinecom, medicalnewstoday.com, everydayhealth.com

LEEKS

  • Cultivated in Central Asia and Europe for thousands of years.
  • Prized by the ancient Greeks and Romans; especially revered for their beneficial effect upon the throat. The Roman emperor Nero supposedly ate leeks every day to make his voice stronger.
  • There is evidence that shows the leek was a part of the Egyptian diet from at least the second millennium BCE.
  • The Greek physician, Hippocrates, prescribed the leek as a cure for nosebleeds.
  • The leek is worn in the caps of today’s Welsh soldiers every year on St. David’s Day.

For health, leeks are:-

  • Low in calories, yet high in vitamins and minerals.
  • High in carotenoids; important for vision, immune function, reproduction and cell communication.
  • A good source of manganese, which may help reduce premenstrual syndrome and promote thyroid health.
  • A rich source of antioxidants that fight oxidation. Oxidation damages your cells and contributes to illnesses like diabetes, cancer and heart disease.

Leeks also contain “kaempferol” which reduce inflammation, killing cancer cells and preventing these cells from spreading.

They improve digestion.

Finally, leeks contain antimicrobial, cholesterol-lowering and potential anti-cancer properties.

I use leeks as substitutes for onions in my cooking. Delicious!

Sources

softschools.com, tenrandomfacts.com, justfunfacts.com, british-leeks.co.uk, whfoods.com, theguardian.com, livestrong.com

MUSHROOMS

Death Cap Mushroom

  • There is a type of mushroom that tastes like fried chicken.
  • The Amanita Muscaria can cause hallucinations where you feel larger or the world feel larger.
  • There are more than 75 species that glow in the dark.
  • Over 200 species of mushrooms contain “psilocybin” the main ingredient which causes hallucinations.
  • Mushrooms can become very large. There is one called “Armillaria Bulbosa”. One was found in a Michigan forest that weighs as much as a blue whale! It was spawned by a single spore more than 1500 years ago.
  • They are a natural pesticide. They repel over 200,000 species of insect.
  • Human beings have been tripping on mushrooms for a long time. Maybe as far back as 9,000 BCE.
  • In ancient Egyptian society, mushrooms were revered as the plant of immortality. Only royalty ate them.
  • Rare European white truffle is the world’s most expensive mushroom. The cost can exceed 2,200 Euros per 1 pound!
  • Before trees overtook the land, Earth was covered by giant mushrooms – about 24 feet tall and 3 feet wide.
  • The Death Cap mushroom, as pictured earlier, not only looks safe, it tastes nice and gives no symptoms of poisoning until after it has already destroyed your liver and kidneys. Nice!
  • Mushrooms are more closely related in DNA to humans than most plants. Modern technology has shown that both animals and fungi share the common ancestor that branched away from plants 1.1 billion years ago.

For our health:

  • 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 your cholesterol levels.
  • Mushrooms are a good source of potassium which can regulate your blood pressure and this may decrease your risk of hypertension and cardiovascular disease.

I find that mushrooms are incredibly versatile. I can eat them in anything! Apparently, they are healthier grilled or microwaved, rather than fried. Some articles state that some mushrooms are safe enough to eat raw but others advised against eating them raw.

You can pick mushrooms in the wild and eat them but only if you’re an expert. Well, you wouldn’t want to eat a Death Cap mushroom, would you!

Sources

m.ranker.com, justfunfacts.com, kickassfacts.com, foryourhungrybrains.com, bbcgoodfood.com, healthline.com, medicalnewstoday.com

Nutmeg

Nutmeg has been prized in European medieval cuisine as a flavouring, medicinal and preservative agent.

In Elizabethan times, nutmeg was popular because it was believed that it could ward off the plague.

Around 1600 BCE, it became important as an expensive, commercial spice in the Western world.

Nutmeg trees may bear fruit for more than 60 years!

Contains myristicin, a natural compound that has mind-altering effects if ingested in large doses. The buzz can last 1 to 2 days and can be hallucinogenic, like LSD!

Just 2 tsp of nutmeg powder or 1 to 3 whole nutmeg seeds, causes illness in most people.

For our health, nutmeg may:-

  • Relieve pain.
  • Reduce insomnia.
  • Help digestion.
  • Reduce flatulence.
  • Protect your teeth and gums.
  • May improve your blood sugar levels.
  • Reduce inflammation.
  • Strengthen your immune system.

Nutmeg contains powerful antioxidants, has antibacterial properties. Finally, it makes you happy because it stimulates the production of serotonin and dopamine; the happiness hormones.

Obviously, nutmeg is used in confectionery items but it can be used in curries. Personally, I enjoy a pinch in my black coffee.

I believe to get the health benefits, you need to use nutmeg seeds, rather than the dried variety. And, NEVER use more than a pinch. Even 2 tsp have been known to cause toxicity and even death!

Sources

justfunfacts.com, savagefacts.com, healthline.com