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by Tammera J. Karr, PhD
Why do people eat artichokes? Is it a love for mayonnaise dip? Boy I hope not, what about the opportunity to have warm garlic butter dripping from your fingers? …. Hummm maybe. Artichokes are a native to the Mediterranean region, and they play a major role in the regional cuisine. Artichokes can be found throughout Europe, Middle Eastern countries, and America.
The edible part of an artichoke is the bud within the flower head before it fully blooms. Timing is key in cultivating them, as they turn hard and nearly inedible once the flower has fully bloomed. Also, one of the most sought-after parts of the thistle is the “heart,” which is the base from which the other buds spring. It is often considered a delicacy or at least the most delicious part of the plant and is generally more expensive.
Artichokes are a versatile food, and although some would consider them a vegetable, they are actually a variety of thistle. Artichokes have also long been famous for detoxifying the body and improving the health of the liver and aiding in digestive issues like indigestion, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and diarrhea. Furthermore, these miraculous little thistles can reduce blood pressure, eliminate hangovers, and stimulate urination.
Artichokes are low in saturated fat and cholesterol while being a rich source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. They contain vitamins which include vitamin C, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, vitamin B-6, B-12, A, E, D, and vitamin K. They also provide minerals such as calcium, iron, zinc, sodium, potassium, manganese, phosphorus, and zinc.
Artichokes contain 4 grams of protein – a significant amount for a vegetable.
One medium artichoke 6 grams of dietary fiber. Artichokes contain a fiber known as inulin. Inulin is a prebiotics; it’s also the preferred form of prebiotic used in diabetes research.
Artichokes have the highest antioxidant levels out of all vegetables, according to a study done by the USDA, and out of 1,000 plants of different types of foods, they ranked 7th in antioxidant content. Antioxidants are one of the primary means of defense for the immune system against the effects of free radicals, which are natural byproducts of cell metabolism that can lead to a number of conditions and diseases in the body.
The antioxidant properties of artichokes come from a number of sources, one of which are polyphenols, which are found in high numbers in them. Polyphenols have chemo-preventive qualities, which means they slow down, stop, or completely reverse the effects of cancer. Their antioxidant ability comes from another source as well, their high levels of quercetin and rutin, two specific antioxidants that have been proven to reduce the chances of developing cancer.
Artichokes are also considered a heart-healthy food. Certain ingredients in their leaves have been found to reduce LDL levels and increase HDL or omega-3 fatty acids levels. On a related note, artichokes are rich sources of potassium, the essential mineral that has an impact on numerous organ systems throughout the body. Potassium helps to neutralize the effects of excess processed sodium, which in some individuals damages the kidneys. Artichokes, therefore, act as a vasodilator and make them a useful dietary addition for those already taking hypertension medicine.
Diabetics are also encouraged to eat artichokes to prevent the complications associated with blood pressure. Finally, a reduction in blood pressure can reduce the chances of stroke, heart attacks, and coronary heart diseases.
Artichokes were used as liver tonics for centuries, but it wasn’t until modern science opened the door of understanding that we learned why. Two antioxidants found in artichokes, cynarin, and silymarin, have been shown to improve the overall health of the liver by reducing the presence of toxins and facilitating their elimination from the liver and the body. Some studies have even shown these antioxidants to actively promote regrowth and repair of damaged liver cells.
We all need Brain food and artichokes fill that bill also. Their quality as a vasodilator allows more oxygen to reach the brain for elevated cognitive function. Phosphorus, an essential mineral found in artichokes, is found in the brain cells. Phosphorous deficiencies have been associated with a serious decline in cognitive ability.
And this is only a small part of the health benefits of artichokes. So look for ways to eat artichokes without the mayo, there are digital cookbooks free from OceanMist.com
To your good health – and real foods
By Tammera J. Karr, PhD
As we move full swing into the Christmas season, we are exposed daily to a barrage of messages – messages for the newest drugs, insurance companies, commodities, and festive food and beverages representing joy, happiness, acceptance, and security. Sugar is a significant player in the holiday foods that fuel memories and stimulate senses. The idea of Christmas without sugar cookies, candy, fudge, pies and candied yams registers merely as unAmerican to many. However, the idea of sugar being important to festivities, in reality, is just another fantasy message.
Why we believe much of what we do about sugar is the result of “fake” news:
Dr. Cristin Kearns published her findings in the Online JAMA Internal Medicine on September 12, 2016. Dr. Kearns’s paper exposes how Drs. Stare and Hegsted, both now deceased, worked closely with a trade group called the Sugar Research Foundation, which successfully influenced public understanding of sugar’s role in disease.
Dr. Stare founded the department of nutrition at Harvard in 1942 and was regularly sought out by the media as the expert on healthy eating. Dr. Hegsted was a member of that department, subsequently holding essential positions with the US Department of Agriculture and various top advisory bodies.
In a Harvard library basement, Dr. Cristin Kearns dentist and researcher from the University of California-San Francisco discovered old letters beginning in 1942 between members of the sugar industry and leading Harvard nutritionists, Dr. Fredrick Stare and Dr. D. Mark Hegsted—collusion and intent to publish fraudulent information to the public is clear.
Dr. Kearns’ has revealed evidence the sugar industry did more than merely sponsor review studies on sugar— in fact; they controlled them from beginning to end. Correspondence from Stare, Hegsted, and the Sugar Research Foundation documents the sugar industry initiated the studies in the first place and influenced their results with the specific goal of eliminating any evidence of sugar as a significant risk for coronary heart disease. I
ncluding suppressing studies that showed a relationship between high-sugar diets and coronary heart disease. Direction was given by Big Sugar for scientists to focus instead on the link between coronary heart disease and dietary fat and cholesterol.
The historical documents disclose the Sugar Research Foundation paid the equivalent of over $48,000 to respected nutrition professors—Drs. Stare and Hegsted and Harvard scientist, Robert McGandy—they were to produce a research paper for publication in a prominent peer-reviewed journal. The objective – shift the blame for coronary heart disease away from sugar. The biased research the sugar association bought appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1967.
The early publications by the Harvard scientists Stare, Hegsted and McGandy’s official stance discredited the research-proven dangers of sugar, and determined only one dietary change could prevent Coronary Artery Disease —reducing saturated fat and cholesterol intake.
A few of Dr. Stare’s questionable recommendations that influenced government, media, mainstream medicine, and the public for generations:
While impossible to blame historical figures for all deaths from excess sugar consumption over the past 50 years, Stare’s position at Harvard and collusion with the sugar industry has played a role in preventable disease, morbidity, and death in America.
Assessed worldwide deaths from ischemic heart disease, stroke, and diabetes caused by elevated blood glucose measure 3.2 million every year. High blood glucose accounts for 21% of all ischemic heart disease deaths and 13% of all stroke deaths. At this mortality rate, total deaths over 50 years from sugar intake could equal 158 million…… That grim number is more than double the overall number of deaths resulting from World Wars I and II combined.
So consider – are those sugary treats during the ensuing holiday season worth the price of your health?
Kearns CE, Schmidt LA, Glantz SA. Sugar Industry and Coronary Heart Disease Research: A Historical Analysis of Internal Industry Documents. JAMA Intern Med. 2016;176(11):1680-5.
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
by Tammera J. Karr, PhD
Millions of people worldwide love chocolate in all its many forms. This food of the “gods” comes from the cacao trees. The most common variety of cocoa comes from the Forastero making up 90% of the world crop. The rarest variety Criollo is sought after by artisan chocolate makers.
The first chocolate bars, made from cocoa butter, cocoa powder, and sugar, was introduced by the British chocolate company J.S. Fry & Sons in 1847. However, the history of chocolate goes back at least 4,000 years to the Maya and other indigenous peoples of Central and South America. This food dates back to prehistoric times and was extensively cultivated in Mexico, Central, and South America for years before the arrival of Europeans. In the 17th century, cocoa and chocolate were considered potential medicine, and historical documents in Europe reveal they were used to treat angina and heart pain.
During the late 1930’s the importance of chocolate was recognized by the USA, shipping space was allotted for cocoa beans because officials believed chocolate would improve the morale of US soldiers. Today rations still include 4 ounces of chocolate and has been to space with astronauts.
Research has also revealed chocolate has some impressive health benefits, provided you are willing to give up the sweetness of milk chocolate.
Chocolate contains more than three hundred naturally occurring chemicals, caffeine and theobromine are the most familiar to consumers. Caffeine is a stimulant that speeds heart rate and stimulates the central nervous system. Theobromine, formerly known as xantheose, is a bitter alkaloid of the cacao plant along with tea, and coffee. This alkaloid stimulates the release of endorphins, one of our feel good brain chemicals known as neurotransmitters. Cocoa is rich in antioxidants and may be as high as ten percent depending on the quality of the product purchased. The Flavanoids found in cocoa can lower cholesterol, blood pressure and reduce the risk of blood clots and the amino acid arginine is essential in the production of nitric oxide, necessary in the prevention of heart disease and hypertension. However, this same amino acid is required for the herpes virus to replicate. One of the downsides to cocoa is an oxalic acid which increases the occurrence of gout in some individuals.
Flavanols are what give cocoa a strong, pungent taste. When cocoa is processed into chocolate products, it goes through several steps to reduce its bitterness. The more chocolate is processed through fermentation, alkalizing, and roasting, the more flavanols are lost. Most commercial chocolates is highly processed. Flavonoids are naturally occurring compounds found in plant-based foods that offer certain health benefits. Flavonoids are part of the polyphenol group of chemicals found in plants. More than 4,000 flavonoid compounds can be found in a wide variety of plants: cranberries, apples, peanuts, chocolate, onions, tea and red wine. Flavanols are a type of flavonoid specifically found in cocoa and chocolate.
Dark chocolate contains a large number of antioxidants; nearly eight times the number found in strawberries. However just like strawberries, chocolate is a common food allergy. Flavonoids also help relax blood pressure through the production of nitric oxide and balance certain hormones in the body.
Naturally occurring compounds in the cacao’s bean are responsible for its health benefits: epicatechin (a flavonoid) and resveratrol, of which resveratrol has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties believed to protect nerve cells from damage. Resveratrol, a potent antioxidant, is known for its neuroprotective effects. Research has shown this effective antioxidant is capable of crossing the blood-brain barrier, enabling resveratrol to moderate inflammation in your central nervous system (CNS). This inflammation of the CNS plays a major role in the development of neurodegenerative diseases such as MS, Lou Gehrig’s Disease, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
Norman Hollenberg, a professor of medicine at Harvard who has spent years studying the Kuna people of Panama who consume up to 40 cups of cocoa a week, Hollenberg believes epicatechin is so important it should be considered a vitamin. The Kuna have less than a 10 percent risk of stroke, heart failure, cancer, and diabetes, which are the most prevalent diseases ravaging the Western world.
Several recent studies have confirmed cacao can benefit the heart, blood vessels, brain, nervous system, and helps combat diabetes and other conditions rooted in inflammation.
In one study, patients consuming 100 grams of flavanol-rich dark chocolate for 15 days showed decreased insulin resistance.
According to a paper published in the journal Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, cocoa polyphenols may have specific benefits for cardiovascular and inflammatory diseases, metabolic disorders, and cancer prevention.
The authors note that: “Cocoa contains about 380 known chemicals, of which are psychoactive compounds … Cocoa has more phenolics and higher antioxidant capacity than green tea, black tea, or red wine … The phenolics from cocoa may … protect against diseases in which oxidative stress is implicated as a causal or contributing factor, such as cancer.”
A 2013 report in the Netherlands Journal of Medicine also reviewed the many health benefits of cacao, noting that many consider it a “complete food.” Healthy fats, Antioxidants, Nitrogenous compounds, including proteins, methylxanthines theobromine, and caffeine. Chocolate also contains minerals, including potassium, phosphorus, copper, iron, zinc, and magnesium, Valeric acid (which acts as a stress reducer despite the presence of stimulants).
So, for now, enjoy moderate portions of chocolate (e.g., one ounce) a few times per week, and don’t forget to eat other flavonoid-rich foods like apples, red wine, tea, onions, and cranberries. Your best choices are dark chocolate over milk chocolate (especially milk chocolate that is loaded with hydrogenated fats and sugars), and cocoa powder that is not Dutch cocoa is treated with an alkali to neutralize its natural acidity.
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