By Tammera Karr PhD
The cacao tree, aptly named Theobroma cacao, by the famous botanist Carl Linnaeus. The cacao tree only grows within twenty degrees of the equator in the tropics’ damp conditions. Once mature, the tree will produce small, white flowers that can only be pollinated by midges, a fly no larger than a pencil’s tip. When cacao pods are mature, they are harvested by hand using a machete. Each pod is broken open to expose the beans and white pulp and collected into a pile. The beans and pulp remain outside in the heat and high humidity to undergo fermentation.
What is fermentation?
Fermentation is a metabolic process that occurs with microorganisms. Bacteria and yeast thrive in hot, moist climates, and the cacao pulp is an excellent nutrient source. In this case, the bacteria and yeast are needed to produce the precursor compounds necessary for chocolate’s characteristic flavor and aroma. Bacteria do this by eating some of the sugar and acid content, converting it into other molecules. Fermentation typically lasts for about a week. Once fermentation is complete, the farmers will separate the beans from the pulp, used as a nutrient source during fermentation. Next, the beans are left to dry in the sun.
A little history
In Greek, Theobroma translates to food of the gods. Chocolate connoisseurs know there is more than a gustatory pleasure to be found in this food of the gods. In 1753, Carl von Linnaeus, a Swedish scientist, thought cacao was so important he named the genus and species of tree Theobroma cacao, which means cacao, the food of the gods. This food dates back to prehistoric times and was extensively cultivated in Mexico, Central, and South America for centuries before Europeans’ arrived. 173 The Mayan Indians began cultivating cacao about 600 AD. The indigenous populations ate only the fruit, which contains numerous health benefits. The seed or cacao nib was set aside for a psychedelic brew, called ayahuasca, and for medicines. According to Aztec myth, the cacao awakened power and wisdom. When the explorer Cortes brought cacao back to Spain in 1528, it was sequestered and enjoyed only by nobility and the wealthy.
The many uses of chocolate
In medieval times, chocolate was viewed as a luxury item and an indulgence. In modern times chocolate is used as gifts for mothers and sweethearts. It is made into cocktails, cold and hot drinks, candies, powders, wines, and lotions. The Spanish are widely responsible for the introduction and development of chocolate foods and beverages.
The making of chocolate foods
The most critical step is roasting. Roasting generates hundreds of the flavor compounds associate with chocolate. The beans are roasted at high temperatures for roughly one hour. There are many chemical reactions responsible for cacoa color, flavor, and aroma. Cacoa naturally has a strong, pungent/bitter taste, which comes from the flavonols. Without roasting, the cacao beans would never obtain the flavor profile we associate with modern chocolate. Cacoa nibs are crushed to form cocoa butter and cocoa liquor. There are several processing steps involved in reducing cacaos bitter taste. Cocoa liquor has a very concentrated, chocolatey flavor with a trace of bitterness and acidity. Other ingredients like sugar, milk solids, vanilla, and emulsifiers are added to the pure cocoa liquor. The addition of these ingredients to the liquor results in a coarse, heterogeneous mixture that still must be further processed. The more chocolate is processed (through fermentation, alkalizing, roasting, etc.), the more flavanols are lost. 174
What science tells us about the health properties of chocolate
Flavonoids are naturally-occurring compounds found in plant-based foods that offer specific health benefits. They are part of the polyphenol group (chemicals found in plants). Flavanols are a type of flavonoid found explicitly in cocoa and chocolate. More than 4,000 flavonoid compounds are found in various foods and beverages, such as cranberries, apples, peanuts, chocolate, onions, tea, and red wine. Most popular commercial chocolates are highly processed, providing little if any health benefits.
Dark chocolate contains a large number of antioxidants (nearly eight times the amount found in strawberries). Flavonoids also help lower blood pressurenitric oxide production; they can also balance certain hormones. The fats in chocolate (1/3 oleic acid, 1/3 stearic acid, and 1/3 palmitic acid) do not impact your cholesterol. Dark chocolate helps restore flexibility to arteries while preventing white blood cells from sticking to blood vessels’ walls. Both arterial stiffness and white blood cell adhesion are known factors that play a significant role in atherosclerosis. Scientists found that increasing the flavanol content of dark chocolate did not change this effect. Research published in the March 2014 issue of The FASEB Journal.
The effect that dark chocolate has on our bodies is encouraging not only because it allows us to indulge with less guilt, but also because it could lead the way to therapies that do the same thing as dark chocolate but with better and more consistent results,” said Gerald Weissmann, MD, editor-in-chief of The FASEB Journal. Until the ‘dark chocolate drug’ is developed, however, we’ll have to make do with what nature has given us! 175, 177
Benefits of dark chocolate
Chocolate is a complex food with over 300 compounds and chemicals in each bite. Look for pure dark chocolate or dark chocolate with nuts, orange peel, or other natural flavorings. To enjoy and appreciate chocolate, take the time to taste it. Most studies used no more than 100 grams, or about 3.5 ounces, of dark chocolate a day. One bar of dark chocolate has around 400 calories.
Enjoy moderate portions of chocolate (e.g., one ounce) a few times per week, and don’t forget to consume other flavonoid-rich foods like apples, red wine, tea, onions, and cranberries. Your best choices are dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate (especially milk chocolate that is loaded with other fats and sugars) and cocoa powder that has not undergone Dutch processing (cocoa treated with an alkali to neutralize its natural acidity).
Caution: According to the National Hazardous Substances Database: In large doses, theobromine may cause nausea and anorexia, and the daily intake of 50-100g cocoa (1.5 g theobromine) has been associated with sweating, trembling, and severe headache. Occasionally, people (mostly the elderly) have needed hospital treatment for a theobromine reaction.
by Tammera J Karr, PhD, BCHN, CNW, CGP
So often we forget about the nutrients that have been around for decades. Zinc is one of those minerals that have a multifaceted nature. Forty years ago the essential nature of zinc and human health was first reported in the Middle East. It is required for cellular enzyme function, the formation of hormones, and it provides the immune system with a unique skill – zinc is used by the immune system to strengthen the T-helper cells. The current estimate is that over 2,000 transcription factors may be zinc-dependent.
Zinc affects multiple aspects of the immune system. Zinc is crucial for the normal development and function of cells mediating innate immunity, neutrophils, and NK cells. Macrophages also are affected by zinc deficiency. The ability of zinc to function as an anti-oxidant and stabilize membranes suggests that it has a role in the prevention of free radical-induced injury during inflammatory processes.
The role of zinc in modulating oxidative stress has recently been recognized. Oxidative stress is an important contributing factor in several chronic human diseases, such as atherosclerosis and related vascular diseases, mutagenesis and cancer, neurodegeneration, immunologic disorders, and the aging process.
In studies of zinc deficiency, researchers found when zinc intake was insufficient it resulted in; decreased serum testosterone level, oligospermia, severe immune dysfunctions, hyperammonemia, neurosensory disorders, and decreased lean body mass. It appears that zinc deficiency is prevalent in the developing world and as many as two billion subjects may be growth retarded due to zinc deficiency. Besides growth retardation and immune dysfunctions, cognitive impairment due to zinc deficiency also has been reported recently. Our studies in the cell culture models showed that the activation of many zinc-dependent enzymes and transcription factors were adversely affected due to zinc deficiency.
For viruses to anchor to cells, we have to have a week immune system, which is a result of poor diet, sleep and heightened stress. Zinc is pivotal in the effectiveness of the anti-malarial drug function being used for COVID-19, and it is responsible for loss or off-taste and smell being reported by those who have recovered from COVID-19.
A lack of zinc can make a person more susceptible to disease and illness, along with increased risk for macular degeneration and infertility. According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, “zinc-deficient persons experience increased susceptibility to a variety of pathogens.”
According to the European Journal of Immunology, the human body needs zinc to activate T lymphocytes (T cells). T cells help the body in two ways: controlling and regulating immune responses and attacking infected or cancerous cells
Zinc is responsible for a number of functions in the human body, and it helps stimulate the activity of at least 100 different enzymes. Only a small intake of zinc is necessary to reap the benefits. The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for zinc in the United States is 8 milligrams (mg) a day for women and 11 mg a day for men.
Vegetarians may require up to 50 percent more than the recommended intake of zinc because of the low bioavailability of zinc from plant-based foods.
Foods with the highest reported zinc content are:
raw oysters (Pacific),
beef, lean chuck roast
baked beans, canned
King Alaskan crab,
ground beef, lean
Zinc supplements are also available in the form of capsules and tablets. However, the tolerable upper limit for zinc is 40 milligrams for males and females over 18 years. It has been proven time and again that isolating certain nutrients in supplement form will not provide the same health benefits as consuming the nutrient from whole food. First, focus on obtaining your daily zinc requirement from foods, then use supplements as a backup if necessary.
To a Healthy Spring, Real Foods and Resiliency
Prasad, Ananda S. “Zinc in human health: effect of zinc on immune cells.” Molecular medicine (Cambridge, Mass.) vol. 14,5-6 (2008): 353-7. doi:10.2119/2008-00033.Prasad
by Tammera J. Karr
Often we catch the flu because our immune systems have been worn down by poor eating habits, stress, long hours and overindulging. This may be one of the reasons, so many folks come down with the flu following the holiday season.
All the news is about the Coronavirus – as we have learned from Dr. Jane M. Orient, this virus makes regular runs through the population. The effects on health vary because of the individual immune system response. So, the healthier your immune system the better chances you have of dodging any flu viruses that you may encounter. Over time, silver has been used for numerous medical conditions, mostly empirically before the realization that microbes were the agents of infection.
At the turn of the century, there were over 90 medications that contained silver; it is still used in third world countries due to its affordability and effectiveness. Burn patients, whether from radiation therapy or accident, are treated with Silvadene cream due to its ability to reduce inflammation, pain, and scar tissue and prevent infection.
Because silver weakens the wall of the bacteria, it also allows conventional antibiotics to enter more easily. Research on mice at Boston University showed that with silver added, lower doses of antibiotic drugs were needed to kill bacteria. Silver was also able to reverse the antibiotic resistance of E. coli bacteria, making them once more susceptible to tetracycline. The mice were left unharmed by the silver.
This is huge, if only because it may force medical authorities to recognize silver as a therapeutic agent. It could also be the answer to the growing problem of antibiotic-resistant diseases that are becoming endemic
Vitamin C has a long and well-documented history of improving immune function. Not everyone can tolerate high dose vitamin C in the form of ascorbic acid; however, taken in natural food form, the associated GI disturbances are often a non-issue. Citrus is one of the best-known sources. Of all citrus fruits, lemons and limes have the highest citric acid content, about 1.4 grams per ounce, or about 8 percent of their dry weight. Lemons and limes also contain ascorbic acid, or vitamin C, and malic acid.
Pomegranate juice contains higher levels of antioxidants than most other fruit juices. It also has three times more antioxidants than red wine and green tea. The antioxidants in pomegranate juice can help remove free radicals, protect cells from damage, and reduce inflammation. The juice of a single pomegranate has more than 40 percent of your daily requirement of vitamin C.
Viruses do not become resistant to herbs like they do to commonly prescribed medications, many of which are intended for bacterial infections. Herbs strengthen the immune system without killing the beneficial flora that resides in the digestive system. Remember that 85 percent of your immune system is in your digestive tract. Overuse of antibiotics can lead to side effects and drug-resistant microbes.
Horehound has been used to make lozenge candies that are believed to help heal sore throats, improve your appetite, and relieve intestinal gas. Horehound contains a variety of nutrients that are needed for the immune system to work they include; Examples include B-complex vitamins, iron, potassium, and vitamins A, C, and E. Other conditions that horehound may help include sinus inflammation, hay fever symptoms, and abdominal swelling. Horehound is also known to increase immune system activity.
Garlic and Onions
Studies have shown that onion extracts, like those of garlic, decrease blood sugar and lipid levels, prevent clots, lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation (onions are one of the only foods that contain prostaglandin E1), improve asthma and allergies and retard viruses by strengthening the immune system. Vitamin C, fiber, biotin, folate, chromium, vitamin K, and thiamine are found in members of the onion family.
These are just a few of the hundreds of effective holistic ingredients that support our health during times of virus outbreaks.
To a flu-free late winter and spring.
by Tammera J. Karr, PhD
Cultures throughout the ages have celebrated the return of spring after a long, harsh winter by eating the first new greens they can find. Native Americans took advantage of fresh, wild plants to supplement their winter diets of dried foods; foraging in woodlands or near streams could bring in an entire meal in some cases.
Mushrooms often sprouted with the renewed moisture of spring; experts had to hunt for this very nutritious, but dangerous food. Women hunted dandelions, wild onions and leeks, ramps, chickweed, poke, and wild mustard (or a related plant called “creasy greens”) as soon as possible since many of these plants get more bitter as they grow older. Even young, tender leaves and shoots can be bitter, but these wild plants are very nutritious and have long been considered a tonic to wake up the liver and kidneys after a long winter diet of dried starches (like beans and pumpkin) and meat.
Traditional (Algonquin) Green Salad: One-part wild onions or leeks, chopped, and one and a half parts dandelion leaves, to four parts watercress. Add a small amount of sheep or wood sorrel, and then flavor to taste. Add a bit of maple syrup for sweetness, or use other traditional flavorings like salt, along with enough oil to coat the leaves.
Spring Food locally available
Purple Sprouting Broccoli, Broccoli, Cabbages, Curly Kale, Rhubarb, Leeks, Spring Greens, rabbit, lamb, Wild Salmon, steelhead, Crab, Oysters, Cauliflower, Celeriac, Chicory, Cockles, Cod, Hake, Parsley, Mint, Spring Onions. Lettuces, Radishes, Spring Greens, Sea Kale, Watercress, Morel Mushrooms, Wild Garlic, Sorrel, Rhubarb, New Potatoes, Halibut, Sea Bass, Lemon Sole, Spinach.
All and many more of the foods listed here are available in our local farmers markets. Eating seasonally provides us with a opportunity to rebalance our immune systems, restore vital nutrients, control blood sugars and weight, reduce heart disease and cancer risks and improve digestion and cognition.
Here are a few reasons to spend your food dollars at local Farmers Markets or CSA’s when it comes to your health.
The Science for Seasonally Eating
According to research studies, nutrient content changes in foods depending on which seasons they were produced in. For example, in a study conducted by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in London, England researchers found that nutrient content was different in milk harvested in the summer versus winter. Because of the change in the cow’s diet to less fresh plants in the summer, these cows produced nutritionally different milks. Japanese researchers also found tremendous differences in the nutritional content of spinach harvested in summer versus winter. ,
A Stanford study backs seasonal eating for healthy Microbiome; published in the Science journal; researchers found that the microbes in the members of the Hadza tribe in Tanzania change dramatically with each season, in sync with seasonal changes made to their diet.
The study showed that certain gut microbes that reside within the gut in one season may almost disappear in the next – suggesting there are dramatic changes taking place in the microbiome from one season to the next. The researchers concluded that the Hadza tribe’s gut microbes and their digestion is cyclical, and in sync with the precise bio-rhythm of nature. ,,
A study published by the University of Missouri confirmed availability of local food as key to improving food security. This is so very important for the low income of every community which are made up in large part by elderly and children. Most strategies to assist the hungry, including food banks and providing food stamps through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, are short-term, emergency solutions. Those who rely on these programs face daily shortages of fresh and healthy foods, which lead to poor diet choices, nutritional deficiencies, and health problems. An expert at the University of Missouri says the production of sustainable, locally grown foods is key to providing long-term food security for communities.
“We have to recognize that access to food is a human right,” says Michelle Kaiser, researcher in the School of Social Work in the College of Human Environmental Sciences.
So Let’s head out to a local Farmers Market, or CSA – our health will be better for it.
by Tammera J Karr, PhD
I love pomegranates, they are one of the few foods I can eat every day for months and never get tired of the flavor. When I was a kid, pomegranates were only available during the Christmas and New Year season in rural Eastern Oregon. Today they are available in fresh, cleaned seeds and juice forms almost year around. For those who grew up in southern California, you may have had a tree in your yard and remember the beautiful deep red jellies made by family members from the pomegranate fruit.
A little history
Pomegranate is one of the “seven kinds” mentioned in the Bible which Israel was blessed with long ago. An ancient legend, world religions, history and traditional medicine, have all celebrated the unique beauty and health benefits of the pomegranate. It is a fruit of legend and power – a sacred symbol of human civilization.
Mankind has revered the magical, mystical pomegranate since the dawn of recorded history. Ancient Greeks, Romans, and the peoples of China, India and the Middle East found its properties to be life-giving and invigorating.It grew in the region for thousands of years and is very much adapted to it. As befits a fruit with many seeds, the pomegranate is the traditional representation of fertility and seems to have its origins everywhere. The pomegranate was cultivated in Egypt before the time of Moses. It was found in the Indus valley so early that there is a word in Sanskrit for pomegranate.
The pomegranate is significant in Jewish custom. Tradition holds that a pomegranate has 613 seeds to represent the 613 commandments in the Torah. The design of the pomegranate was woven into the high priest’s robes, and brass representations were part of the Temple’s pillars. It is mentioned six times inch Song of Solomon.
The pomegranate tree is native from Iran to the Himalayas in northern India and has been cultivated since ancient times throughout the Mediterranean region of Asia, Africa, and Europe. The most important growing areas are Egypt, China, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iran, Iraq, India, Burma and Saudi Arabia.
The tree was introduced in California by Spanish settlers in 1769. It is grown for its fruit mostly in the dry zones of that state and Arizona. In California, commercial pomegranate cultivation is concentrated in Tulare, Fresno, and Kern counties, with small farms in Imperial and Riverside counties.
Pomegranate seeds get their vibrant red hue from polyphenols. These chemicals are potent antioxidants. Pomegranate juice contains higher levels of antioxidants than most other fruit juices. It also has three times more antioxidants than red wine and green tea. The antioxidants in pomegranate juice can help remove free radicals, protect cells from damage, and reduce inflammation.
The juice of a single pomegranate has more than 40 percent of your daily requirement of vitamin C. Vitamin C can be broken down when pasteurized, so opt for homemade or fresh pomegranate juice to get the most of the nutrient. In addition to vitamin C and vitamin E, pomegranate juice is an excellent source of folate, potassium, and vitamin K.
Pomegranate juice made a splash when researchers found it helped stop the growth of prostate cancer cells. The antioxidants in the juice and their high concentration are believed to stall the progress of Alzheimer disease and protect memory. Pomegranate juice can reduce inflammation in the gut and improve digestion. It may be beneficial for people with Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and other inflammatory bowel diseases.
Pomegranate juice is a potent anti-inflammatory due to its high concentration of antioxidants. The juice has been found to reduce inflammation throughout the body and prevent oxidative stress damage. Flavonols in pomegranate juice may help block inflammation that contributes to osteoarthritis and cartilage damage. The juice is currently being studied for its potential effects on osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and other types of arthritis and joint inflammation.
Pomegranate was traditionally used as a remedy for diabetes in the Middle East and India.
Researchers believe the effects of pomegranate on diabetes may help decrease insulin resistance and lower blood sugar.
Pomegranate juice is in the running as the most heart-healthy juice. It appears to protect the heart and arteries. Small studies have shown that the juice improves blood flow and keeps the arteries from becoming stiff and thick. It may also slow the growth of plaque and buildup of cholesterol in the arteries. Drinking pomegranate juice daily may lower systolic blood pressure.
Between the vitamin C and other immune-boosting nutrients like vitamin E, pomegranate juice can prevent illness and fight off infection. Pomegranates have also been shown to be antibacterial and antiviral in lab tests. They are being studied for their effects on common infections and viruses.
These are just a few of the benefits research is finding – soooo here is to superfoods with vibrant red!
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Ferreira, Mandy. “15 health benefits of pomegranate juice.” Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 12 Jul. 2017. Web.
12 Jan. 2018. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318385.php