Here are my featured foods from the 15th to the 21st, week 3. As a refresher March is nutrition month and so I've decided to feature one food (gift from nature) each day.
15. Cinnamon (Canela)
Nutrition month food #15 (half way there), cinnamon, canela. Mmm...I can smell it just thinking about it.
Cinnamon is a spice that comes from the inner bark of a tree called Cinnamomum. The majority of cinnamon comes from India and Indonesia. Cinnamon has incredible healing properties. The main active ingredient in cinnamon is called cinnamaldehyde. It is an oily compound which gives cinnamon it's distinct smell and flavour.
Cinnamon contains a high amount of antioxidants, making it anti-inflammatory and protective of diseases.
Cinnamon is good for blood sugar regulation. It helps cells become more sensitive to insulin which helps to improve insulin resistance. Insulin sensitivity is when the cells take up insulin more easily, which lowers blood sugar. Insulin resistance is basically the opposite.
Cinnamon is, not surprisingly, beneficial for people with type 2 diabetes. Cinnamon can help slow down carbohydrate digestion lowering the amount of sugar that enters the blood stream. It has also been suggested that cinnamon can weakly mimic insulin, thereby increasing glucose uptake into cells. The suggested therapeutic dose is between 1 to 2 teaspoons. If you're trying to naturally lower your blood sugars (i.e. if you're pre-diabetic) it is a great idea to include cinnamon in your diet. But you need to combine it with an overall balanced diet, exercise and weight management. Cinnamon is not a miracle drug or supplement.
Cinnamon is also anti-microbial, helping to fight infections and fungus.
What is your favourite way of having cinnamon? I've been putting lots lately in my oatmeal (I think I've mentioned my oatmeal in every post almost!). Truthfully, while in Chile, I've replaced my smoothie with oatmeal and I've actually found it to be a lot more helpful to my digestion than smoothies, not to mention more filling.
16. Coriander (Cilantro)
Nutrition month food #16, coriander (cilantro). You either love it or hate it. No seriously! It is estimated that approximately 5-15% of the population perceive the taste of coriander as tasting like soap. I'm personally glad I'm not one of those people because I love coriander (though I have met a couple of people who experience this aversion). In the natural health world, cilantro is believed to help the body get rid of heavy metals, like arsenic, cadmium, aluminum, lead and mercury. It is considered to be detoxifying.
Cilantro contains antioxidants and helps protect the body from oxidative stress. Some claim that cilantro is a natural sedative, has anti-anxiety effects, and improves sleep.
Cilantro may also have antimicrobial properties. It is often used supplementary to help fight urinary tract infections.
Some other suggested benefits of cilantro include improved blood sugar control, digestive benefits, menstrual regularity, skin health and prevention of neurological inflammation.
I like adding cilantro in quinoa salads. In Chile, it's used in a sauce called Pebre, made with tomato, onion, garlic, parsley, olive oil and cilantro.
17. Pepino Fruit (Pepino)
Nutrition food #17, pepino fruit.
Many have probably never tried this fruit because it's a pretty rare fruit, at least internationally. Pepino means cucumber. It is also referred to as "sweet cucumber". Pepino is native to the Andean regions of South America. Although pepino's flavour is a combination of cucumber and honeydew melon, it is actually a night-shade and related to tomato and eggplant.
Pepino is rich in vitamins A, Bs, C, K, calcium, iron and potassium.
Pepino is said to be good for diabetics. The reason partly being that it's high in sugar-regulating fibre.
It's high soluble fibre content also makes it cholesterol-lowering.
Vitamins A, C, and beta-carotene act as antioxidants which help fight harmful free-radicals.
Pepino is also good for bones as it contains calcium.
Look out for this this in international supermarkets. If you can get your hands on one do try one. They are really delicious!
18. Oats (Avena)
Nutrition month food #18, oats (avena). Oats are heart healthy. That’s because oats contain beta-glucans, a type of souble fibre that helps lower cholesterol (and blood sugars for that matter). Studies show that increasing soluble fibre by five to ten grams daily can reduce LDL (“bad”) cholesterol by 5%. Most foods containing fibre have both soluble and insoluble fibre. Aim to meet (and exceed ideally) the daily recommendations for fibre which is 25g for women and 38g for men. Other high-fibre foods include most fruit and vegetables, beans, nuts, whole grains, quinoa, chia and flax seeds. As for oats, 1/3 cup of dry oats contains 3g of fibre.
Oats also hep to regulate blood sugar. This is attributed, again, to its so-good-for-you beta-glucans. Beta-glucans form a thick gel during digestion which delays both gastric emptying and release of glucose into the bloodstream. Mind you, the 'wholer' the oats the slower the digestion. In order of least to most refined you have oat groats, steel cut oats, rolled oats, quick oats and instant oats. Try as much as possible to choose the wholer forms to get the most health benefits.
Oats can relieve constipation. A little personal sharing of info here but I've always had difficulties going to the bathroom. This year, for whatever reason I started eating oats...like every morning! Maybe it's because in the winter I don't always feel like having smoothies so I have oatmeal instead. I tell ya, it's done me wonders.
Oats are really versatile. You can use them in any baked good pretty much for added fibre. I almost always add oats to muffins and breads. I also grind them up and add them to energy balls, especially when my energy balls are wet and hard to work with.
19. Pomegranate (Granada)
Nutrition month food #19, pomegranate. Pomegranates are a nutrition powerhouse.
They are high in vitamin C, K, folate, potassium and fibre.
They are extremely high in antioxidants. Their antioxidants are believed to have three times the antioxidant capacity of red wine and green tea. That's pretty potent stuff.
Their antioxidant content also results in pomegranates being anti-inflammatory.
Pomegranates may protect against prostate and breast cancer. There is some evidence that intake of pomegranate juice helps inhibit cancer growth.
Pomegranates are good for arthritis. This is due to their anti-inflammatory properties.
Pomegranates are also anti-microbial. Have fresh pomegranate juice if you're suffering from any bacterial or fungal infections (like candida or yeast infections). If you require antibiotics, have pomegranate in addition.
Pomegranates have also been suggested to help lower blood pressure, improve memory, help treat erectile dysfunction, prevent heart disease, and aphrodisiac.
Enjoy this delicious and delicate fruit on its own, in salads, etc. Just be careful! They stain!
20. Figs (Higos)
Nutrition month food #20, figs. Figs grow on a tree called the Ficus tree and is related to the Mulberry family. Figs are native to the middle east and parts of Asia, but can grow in dry, Mediterranean climates.
Firstly, figs (fresh) are delicious. I love dried figs as well (especially with a strong cheese like blue cheese). Figs are loaded with vitamins and minerals including vitamins A, Bs, C, K, and the minerals potassium, magnesium, zinc, manganese, copper and iron.
Like many fresh fruit and vegetables, figs are rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants are needed to protect the body from oxidative damage caused by free radicals which are byproducts of eating processed foods (fried especially!), the polluted environment, toxic chemicals, and also uncontrollable factors like age. Oxidative damage contributes to cardiovascular disease, autoimmune and inflammatory disorders, cataracts, and diabetes to name a few conditions. This is one of the reasons why it is so important to EAT YOUR FRUIT AND VEGETABLES!
Figs are believed to be antibacterial and antifungal. There isn't a whole lot of evidence to support this however.
Fig tree leaf extract is claimed to be good for the skin, such as for acne and- especially- wrinkles.
Dried figs are a great snack, especially when combined with a protein-rich food like nuts and seeds. They add fibre to breakfast cereals (stick to hot cereal like oatmeal), yogurt, etc. If you get your hands on fresh figs, eat them as is. They're so good! Savour them. But of course knock yourself out if you're creative in the kitchen.
21. Grapes (Uvas)
Nutrition month food #21, grapes (uvas). When I worked as a health educator, patients often gave up grapes because they felt it would worsen their diabetes. Though fruit should certainly be measured and reduced for individuals with diabetes, they do not (and should not) need to be eliminated. Including grapes.
The skins of grapes are high in the antioxidant resveratrol. Resveratrol is suggested to be anti-aging and brain protective. Resveratrol also protects the cardiovascular system by increasing HDL (good) cholesterol, lowering blood pressure, protecting blood vessels from oxidative damage and lowering inflammation. Resveratrol may increase insulin sensitivity making it beneficial for individuals with diabetes and insulin resistance. Wine contains high levels of resveratrol as the skins are used in the fermentation process of wine-making.
Grapes are medium to low glycemic. They're not high on the glycemic index as many people believe. They're also medium on the glycemic load. The glycemic load is based on a person's blood sugar response to a specific portion of food. The glycemic load of grapes is based on a 120g portion. That's a little over a cup of grapes. That's a lot of grapes! People with diabetes are encouraged to eat a 1/2 cup serving at a time, about 16 grapes. Not bad at all if you ask me.
There is concern about the level of pesticides in grapes. Grapes are one of the fruits that always make the dirty dozen list, a list that tests different fruit and vegetables to determine which contain the highest amount of pesticide residues. A couple of things you can do to reduce the pesticide exposure is by buying organic grapes, or soaking them in water with a natural vegetable and fruit wash and then patting them dry. If you can't afford organic produce, please don't stop eating fruit. Wash it thoroughly instead.