Nutrition month food #22, cochayuyo (latin name is Durvillaea antarctica) (pronounced- more or less- coh-cha-you-yo)
Cochayuyo is a type of seaweed found in Chile and the southern areas of New Zealand (not sure what it's referred to as in NZ). Unless you've traveled to either country, you've probably never seen this before. But I'm sure you've tried seaweed in one form or another.
Cochayuyo is a Quechuan word meaning 'plant from the sea'. Cochayuyo (and seaweed generally) is really nutritious and rich in minerals. One hundred grams of dry weight has almost three times the recommended daily intake for magnesium, close to double the recommended intake of iron for women and three times that for men, 100% the recommended daily intake for calcium (yup!), and over three times that for iodine.
As for its macronutrients, cochayuyo has 11g of protein and close to 50g of fibre in 100g. While 100g may be a little over a single serving, you'd still be getting loads of minerals in, even, one third of that. It's a meal on it's own, literally. Mind you, since it comes from the sea, it is very high in sodium. So you need to soak it for a while before eating it.
In Chile, cochayuyo was considered a peasant's food for a long time. It may still be considered as such in certain areas or households. Not 100% sure on this one. Class-ism, in this case, backfired on the classist since this food is truly nutritious. I have, however, seen it on vegetarian menus in Santiago many times. So I do believe it made a comeback.
Cochayuyo salad is a common way of preparing this gift from nature. To make this salad, you need to soak the cochayuyo overnight. The next day, the cochayuyo is boiled for about 15-20 minutes (use fresh water for this and make sure to dump out the water in which it was soaked). The cochayuyo is then rinsed under cold water and chopped up. Add chopped cilantro, finely chopped or sliced onion, lemon (lots!), olive oil and taste it before adding salt. Using one cochayuyo bunch, online recipes suggest this makes 4 servings (so 100g of cochayuyo per person after all!).
23. Celery (apio)
Nutrition month food #23, celery (apio). Celery is an excellent source of antioxidants and vitamins and minerals such as vitamins C, K, B6, folate and minerals like potassium and the not-so-common mineral molybdenum. One of the main roles of molybdenum is acting like a catalyst for enzymes involved in liver detoxification. Celery is very low in calories!
Celery is well-known for its blood pressure lowering benefits. The BP lowering abilities come mainly from the celery seed. The seeds contain several compounds that are anti-inflammatory and help to increase circulation and reduce BP.
Celery is also believed to help lower cholesterol due to a special and unique compound it contains.
The celery seeds and plants are anti-microbial and is suggested to help fight infections. Other proposed health benefits of celery include prevention of UTIs and ulcers, protective of liver cells (especially the bitter leaves and root), and, like many fruit and vegetables, cancer-protective. To be honest, I have never really been a fan of munching on celery sticks ever since I had a slightly traumatic experience eating celery as a child. Having said that, I will definitely help myself to celery sticks (with a creamy dip!) if they're there. And I love love love cold-pressed juices with celery. I love the combination of apple, lemon, ginger and celery. So cleansing! Celery is great for cooking as it adds flavour. Finally, celery with peanut butter, a North American classic.
24. Chia seeds (chia)
Nutrition month food #24, chia seeds. Chia, Salvia Hispanica, is the seed of a herb grown in Mexico, Guatemala and parts of South America like Bolivia.
Chia seeds are very high in fibre containing 5g per tablespoon. The majority of the carbs in chia seeds is in the form of fibre. So their net carb content is close to zero.
Like flaxseeds, they are high in heart heathy omega-3s in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Chia seeds alone, however, are not a good source of the brain nutrient DHA (a type of omega-3). DHA is mainly found in fatty fish like salmon, trout, sardines and herring. Our bodies do a poor job converting ALA to DHA. In order to get your DHA as a vegetarian, try an algae-based omega-3 supplement. ALA is still fundamental for good health and for decreasing the ratio of omega-6s to omega-3s in the diet. The average American consumes 16 or more times omega-6 to omega-3s. That's not good! The optimal ratio is 4:1 omega-6 to omega-3. A high intake of omega-6 is linked to inflammatory conditions like cardiovascular disease. One of the biggest sources of omega-6 is soybean oil, found in almost every packaged product out there. And I'm sure most of us aren't exactly having a salmon fillet with our packaged or processed foods. Omega-6, simply put, is pro-inflammatory. That's not a bad thing as we need inflammation for survival. Omega-3 is anti-inflammatory. But we need to balance them out a little better. So eat your chia seeds!!
Chia is also great for people with diabetes. Studies have shown that chia can help improve insulin resistance and blood sugar control. The high protein and fibre content in chia seeds also makes them more filling. So they are ideal for increasing satiety and weight loss, for those looking to shed a few unwanted pounds.
Chia seeds are also a good source of calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus (the bone minerals) and even iron.
I keep meaning to try and make chia pudding but have yet not. I have tried it though and it's delicious. I like adding chia to my overnight oats as it adds, well, a pudding-like consistency.
Any favourite chia pudding recipes I should try?
25. Kale (kale)
Nutrition month food #25, kale. Kale is considered a superfood. And for good reason. It's loaded with nutrients and phytochemicals.
Kale is a member of the Brassica family along with cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and cauliflower. This group of vegetables is generally a nutrition powerhouse. Kale is loaded with vitamins. It contains high amounts of vitamins A, C and K. One cup of kale has over 100% of the daily recommendation for the vitamins mentioned. In fact, close to 700% for vitamin K making it one of the top food sources of this vitamin. Vitamin K (K1) is needed for blood clotting.
Kale is rich in antioxidants. In addition to vitamin A (beta-carotene) and vitamin C, kale contains quercetin and kaempferol. These powerful antioxidants have been studied and found to be cardioprotective, blood pressure lowering, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and even anti-depressant.
Kale can lower cholesterol. It binds to bile, gets eliminated from the body and then cholesterol is used for the synthesis of new bile. Basically, it prevents bile from being recycled. Steamed kale is said to be more effective for cholesterol-lowering. It's also easier to chew. You don't lose all of the benefits by steaming kale. You do by over boiling it though.
Kale is a good source of calcium. The calcium in kale is suggested to be better absorbed than that of spinach. That's because spinach contains oxalic acid which decreases nutrient absorption.
Steaming kale might help some of the minerals in it become more available to your body. If you have hypothyroid or borderline hypothyroid and are trying to increase your levels naturally, don't eat raw kale. Along with its family members (i.e. broccoli) it contains goitrogens which interfere with thyroid function. If your levels are normal, not too worry. You can continue eating raw kale. My advice is to change it up. Sautee it one day, steam it the next, maybe a salad the time after that. Speaking of kale salad, it's always best to make it a few hours before and leave it alone or in the fridge for a few hours or from one day to the next. Doing this will soften the leaves and tough fibres.
26. Kiwi (kiwi)
Nutrition month food #26, kiwi. Kiwi fruit is native to China. They were taken to New Zealand later on. Today they are grown in several countries including the US, Japan, Greece and Chile.
Kiwis are high in vitamin C, vitamin E and other antioxidants. Eating one to two kiwis a day for about a month can reduce oxidative damage and lower triglycerides.
Some studies have shown that kiwis can help improve respiratory health. This is due to, again, their vitamin C content. The studies found that consuming kiwis helped reduced symptoms such as wheezing and head congestion.
Kiwis are good for the skin and eyes. That's because they contain lutein, a powerful antioxidant that protects the skin and eyes by filtering UV light. Kiwi's vitamin C content is also needed for formation of collagen, the protein that gives skin its elasticity. Kiwi is also great for the cardiovascular system as it contains antioxidants, blood-pressure lowering potassium, cholesterol-lowering fibre, and other vitamins and minerals needed for optimal health.
Kiwis can help you sleep. They contain serotonin, the feel good, relaxing hormone. So having a couple of kiwis as your bedtime snack might be a good idea. Just remember to check your email at least one hour away from bedtime. If you have trouble sleeping, checking your phone or computer right before bed won't help.
In order to get the most nutrition out of kiwis, eat them as soon as you peel them. The antioxidants, especially, lose their potency once exposed to air.
27 & 28. Oregano & Tomato (oregano y tomate)
Nutrition month foods #27and #28, oregano and tomato. Two of my favorite foods- especially together!
Did you know that oregano was a symbol of happiness among the Greeks and Romans? The latter part of the word ganos means joy in Greek.
On my recent trip to Chile, I would see oregano being sold in giant bags at the local markets. When you open one of those bags, the smell is so concentrated and incredible. I have to say that sticking my nose in one of those bags of oregano is one of my favourite things to do when I'm down there. No joke!
As for its medicinal properties, oregano contains volatile oils that are anti-microbial. Have you ever taken oregano oil to try and fight off a cold?
Oregano is very high in antioxidants. It is believed that oregano has the most antioxidants of all herbs. You likely don't get the antioxidants from the dried stuff, but you will from freshly picked oregano. If you haven't grown oregano at home make sure to do so this summer.
As for food uses of oregano, where do I start? It goes with pretty well everything, but I especially love it in Mediterranean-type foods. As pictured, I love oregano on tomatoes with garlic and olive oil...and feta, on pizza, pasta, bruschetta, Greek salads, to name a few. Today I added lots to a chicken soup I made for my son who was feeling ill last night. So lots of antimicrobial properties to help fight off any nasty bugs.
Tomatoes are native to the Americas. They were taken to Europe by Columbus. For a long time, tomatoes were avoided in Europe because they were believed to be poisonous since they are a nightshade vegetable. Interestingly, today in day they are still avoided by some because of this same reason. Except with the belief that nightshades are inflammatory and worsen joint pain, not poisonous.
Tomatoes contain lycopene, vitamins C, K, biotin, folic acid, B vitamins, and a few others. Lycopene is a highly studied antioxidant. It has been shown to be protective of several forms of cancer including prostate, breast and lungs. Lycopene is actually better absorbed when its cooked and with a source of oil. So yes, homemade tomato sauce all the way!
29. Olive Oil (aceite de oliva)
Nutrition month food #29, olive oil (aceite de oliva). Olive oil is heart healthy. This has been known and talked about for at least a couple of decades. What makes it heart healthy is its oleic acid (omega-9) content, a type of monounsaturated fat.
Oleic acid helps prevent LDL ("bad") cholesterol from becoming oxidized. It is the oxidized form of LDL that is said to be damaging to the arteries. Not all LDL particles are oxidized. Some studies have shown that replacing animal fats with olive oil helped to significantly lower LDL cholesterol. Whether saturated fats are bad for health, however, is a hot debate today in day.
Olives and olive oil are loaded with antioxidants. Their high antioxidant content makes them anti-inflammatory and beneficial for conditions such as heart disease, arthritis, diabetes and even asthma.
Olives are a rich source of vitamin E. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant needed for proper immune function, for healthy eyes and skin.
Don't discard the leaves! Olive leaf is antimicrobial. It is used as an antifungal, for candida infections, and bacteria. Olive leaf is also used for strengthening the immune system. It is also believed to be beneficial for arthritis, brain function, diabetes, and others. You can buy olive leaf extract in supplement form at health food stores. You can also buy the dried leaves form a herbalist (or health food store possibly). If you live in a Mediterranean country, you probably have an olive tree within a kilometre radius (lucky you!). I love olive oil every way. I use it it in all my cooking, salads, by itself to dip fresh bread, and even in baking (I used olive oil for my son's birthday carrot cake!).
30. Green Tea (te verde)
Nutrition month food #30, green tea (te verde). Green tea and black tea are grown from the same plant called Camellia sinensis. Black tea is consumed four times more than green tea worldwide.
Green tea is made by lightly steaming the fresh-cut leaf. This process preserves their polyphenols. In contrast, black tea is made by oxidizing the leaves. This process removes much of their polyphenol content.
Tea is believed to have started been consumed 5000 years ago. It is primarily produced in East Asia.
Green tea is very high in antioxidants, specifically EGCG (Epigallocatechin Gallate). Some studies have shown that green tea polyphenols inhibit the growth of cancer-causing agents. The cancers that green tea specifically target include cancers of the gastrointestinal tract like stomach, small intestine, pancreas, colon, and especially breast and prostate.
Green tea improves brain function. This benefit is due both to its caffeine and L-theanine content. L-theanine is an amino acid that increases the activity of the anti-anxiety neurotransmitter GABA. Though it would appear that caffeine and L-theanine have opposing effects, they actually work synergistically.
Several studies have shown green tea to be protective against neurological degenerative disease like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.
Green tea is also antibacterial and has been suggested to be protective of dental caries.
If you're a coffee addict like me, take a short break once in a blue moon and replace it with green tea. Speaking of blue moons, today, March 31st, is the second blue moon of the year. A blue moon is the second full moon within the same month (it also happened in January!). The things you learn from your kid's space book! (Pictured: Easter bun. Not a gift from nature but certainly a gift from people to Easter!)
31. Turmeric (curcumina)
Nutrition month food #31, last but certainly not least, turmeric. Turmeric, Curcuma longa, is related to ginger. It is cultivated in India, China, Indonesia and some tropical countries. Turmeric has been used for thousands of years.
In the last decade, the popularity of turmeric exploded in the west because of its potent anti-inflammatory benefits. The anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric come from the curcumin, which is the yellow pigment.
Some studies have shown curcumin to be comparable to anti-inflammatory drugs like hydrocortisones and ibuprofen. Other studies have found that curcumin can help relieve pain and symptoms associated with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). These studies found a comparable effect between curcumin and medications for RA. Symptoms it helped included stiffness, walking time, and joint swelling.
Turmeric is also very high in antioxidants. There is some evidence suggesting that curcumin is protective against colon cancer. Curcumin also helps the body destroy cancer cells. The interesting part is that it does this via different routes, such as by helping to inhibit particular compounds or enzymes that promote the division of cancerous cells. It's a bit more complicated than that but you get an idea.
In addition to protection from pain and cancer, turmeric may be useful in the prevention of heart disease, and degenerative diseases like Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, and multiple sclerosis.
Curcumin is beneficial to people suffering from, not just rheumatoid arthritis (an auto-immune condition) but also osteoarthritis ("arthritis"), since its been shown to help relieve pain and inflammation.
Curcumin is poorly absorbed by the body. Absorption of curcumin is increased with black pepper and fat. Some supplements include pepper in their formula to optimize absorption. You can always add extra pepper to your fat containing meal to maximize absorption, whether you're eating the fresh stuff or takign a supplement.
I throw turmeric in my smoothies. I should add black pepper to it though.