Posts tagged ‘Heart Health’

Buckwheat: The Gluten-Free and Delicious Alternative

Delicious, nutritious, gluten-free, and easy to use in recipes – what could possibly be better? Buckwheat is actually not technically a grain as most assume, it is the seed of a fruit – but it functions much like a grain.  It can be used to make fabulous raw pizza crusts and breads, and it is perfect for granola and cereal (mmmmm with some fruit and almond milk…).

One of the marvelous qualities of buckwheat is that is contains all eight essential amino acids – so it is great for all you lovely vegans and vegetarians out there (though if you eat whole raw foods there is no reason to worry about protein).  Buckwheat is also a great source of magnesium, fiber, manganese, phosphorous, and pantothenic acid.

Good for your heart:

  • It contains the flavonoids rutin and quercetin, which act as antioxidants, extend the action of vitamin C, maintain blood flow, prevent platelets from excessive clotting, and keep free-radical oxidation from turning low-density lipoproteins into possibly destructive cholesterol oxides.
  • It may help lower the risk of heart disease as it has been linked to a lower risk of developing high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

So… how should one use buckwheat?  There are several amazing recipes out there.  I most frequently eat buckwheat for breakfast in a cereal when I am craving something more substantial than juice or a smoothie.  RECIPE: I soak buckwheat, raw oats, and goji berries in filtered water while I make some nut or seed milk and chop up some fruit (bananas and strawberries are my favorite), then drain my ingredients, throw them into a bowl, throw the fruit on top and pour my nut milk over the creation… HEAVEN!  Sometimes I sprinkle some cinnamon on top as well.

As with all seeds, it is important to soak (“sprout”) the buckwheat to release the enzyme inhibitors and increase the nutritional value.  If you plan to make buckwheat flour for bread, first soak the buckwheat, then dehydrate at low temperatures until dry before blending your buckwheat into powder.

Here are some other tasty buckwheat recipes – enjoy!

Rawmazing Buckwheat Treats

Buckwheat Porridge

Raw Radiant Health Buckwheat Salad

Happy buckwheat adventures!



August 3, 2010 at 12:16 am Leave a comment

Garlic: The Stinkiest Medicine?

Versatile and delicious, garlic makes most entrees taste better: soups, salads, breads, crackers, sauces, spreads, wraps, etc.  One thing, however, is important to remember when eating garlic: make sure whoever you are sleeping with eats as much of it as you do.

In 1609, Sir John Harrington wrote in The Englishman’s Doctor:

Garlic then have power to save from death

Bear with it though it maketh unsavory breath,

And scorn not garlic like some that think

It only maketh men wink and drink and stink.

We all know the havoc garlic wreaks upon one’s breath and body odor.  This unfortunate aroma cannot be cured by a breath mint or deodorant – it literally oozes out of your pores until the culprit leaves your system.  I am here to implore you not to let this annoyance keep you from embracing garlic in your diet.  There have been more scientific studies on garlic than almost any other food you can eat (over 200 human studies and at least 800 animal studies) and the results are astounding, strong and consistent: garlic has magnificent healing powers.

Heart Troubles? Try Garlic.

  • Studies show that garlic lowers total serum cholesterol levels and increases serum HDL cholesterol levels (which protects against heart disease).
  • Garlic has been shown to lower blood pressure – specifically lowering systolic pressure by 8 mm Hg and diastolic pressure by 5 mm Hg in patients with high blood pressure.
  • Garlic helps to inhibit harmful blood clotting (aggregation) as it prevents the clumping of platelets and lowers fibrinogen – a protein involved in blood clotting and linked with heart disease.
  • Garlic promotes healthy blood circulation, specifically increasing circulation to capillaries.
  • In a 1997 study, garlic has been shown to help protect the elasticity of the aorta – which an extremely important thing to protect!  This can help prevent an aortic aneurysm.

Cancer Troubles? Try Garlic.

  • Garlic has been shown to lower the risk of cancers of the colon, stomach and esophagus.  The theory is that garlic’s sulfur compounds help to control carcinogens.  One study of 41,000 women showed that one or more servings of garlic a week was linked with a 35% decrease in risk of colon cancer.
  • Allicin and other substances in garlic have been shown to protect colon cells from succumbing to the deleterious and toxic effects of cancer-causing chemicals as well as to actually stop the growth of already existing cancer cells.

Infection Troubles? Try Garlic.

  • Garlic has been called the “Russian penicillin” due to its antibacterial qualities.  Allicin is responsible for garlic’s antimicrobial activity, and has been demonstrated to be effective against common colds, flu, stomach viruses, Candida yeast, and also powerful pathogenic microbes such as tuberculosis and botulism.

Odor Troubles? Well…

  • Taking a long and hot bath may speed up the process of excreting the odor of garlic from the body.  Chewing on parsley, mint, basil and/or thyme may also help.

Many of the benefits of garlic are lost when it is heated – the raw form is the most medicinal.  Unfortunately the same substances in garlic that cause its foul and lingering odor are the ones that are largely responsible for its healing powers.  Garlic’s so-called volatile factors are probably responsible for its therapeutic properties.  These include the sulfur-containing compounds allicin, diallyl disulfide, diallyl trisulfide, etc.

Other Beneficial Substances in Garlic:

  • Vitamin B6
  • Manganese
  • Selenium
  • Vitamin C
  • Good source of the minerals phosphorous, iron, copper, potassium, and calcium.

Although garlic does leave a rather unfortunate odor after it is eaten, it is incredibly delicious!  Here are some yummy raw recipes to help you include more healing garlic in your life:

Finally, here is a lovely short video on the benefits of eating raw garlic (complete with calming background music):

Much love to all the stinky people!


June 15, 2010 at 6:47 pm 1 comment

Cinnamon: The Yummiest Medicine?

As a kid growing up in Acton, MA, I used to sip hot apple cider through a rather unique straw: a cinnamon stick.  It was surprisingly effective as a straw, but it would also tantalize my youthful taste buds with a continuous subtle hint of delicious cinnamon.  I doubt I am alone in associating cinnamon with happy childhood memories: winter holidays by a fire, surrounded by family and music; comforting breakfasts and desserts; happiness and magical camaraderie.

Cinnamon is obtained by peeling away the inner bark of evergreen trees native to Sri Lanka, southwest India and parts of Asia.  As the bark dries, it curls into the delightful cinnamon sticks – also called quills.  It has been revered as a medicinal (and tasty) spice since biblical times.  In the Bible, the first century CE Roman emperor Nero burned a year’s worth of cinnamon on his wife’s funeral pyre as a symbol of the depth of his loss.  Cinnamon was used in ancient Egypt for embalming purposes, as a medicinal herb, and in beverages.  It was even mentioned in one of the earliest books in Chinese botanical medicine, dated to about 2700 BCE.  Cinnamon was also one of the first commodities traded consistently between Europe and the Near East.  All in all, cinnamon is not exactly a new superfood – people of several cultures have known how amazing it is for literally millennia.

There are over 200 types of cinnamon.  The most popular kinds are Ceylon cinnamon (considered “true” cinnamon) and cassia (a Chinese variety).  North American companies frequently use cassia in lieu of Ceylon cinnamon or heavily supplement with cassia because it is significantly less expensive than Ceylon cinnamon – even though the taste is harsher and far less refined.  There is a simple test to determine whether your cinnamon has cassia mixed in: cassia is full of starch whereas true cinnamon is not.  Starch turns blue when it meets iodine, so unleashing an iodine dropper upon a sample of your cinnamon will reveal its ingredients.  Cassia will turn blue and true cinnamon will retain its golden brown color.

Like most delicious plant foods, cinnamon has many healing qualities.  Some of the scientifically confirmed effects of cinnamon are that it has antibiotic, diaphoretic (inducing perspiration – helpful for detoxing), antiulcerative, digestive, anticonvulsant, diuretic, and carminative (flatulence relieving) properties, as a sedative for smooth muscle, and as a stimulant for circulation.

In North America, cinnamon is most frequently used as a supplement to help regulate blood sugar.  In one scientific study of 60 people with type 2 diabetes, 1 to 6 daily grams of cinnamon for 40 days reduced fasting blood glucose by 18 to 29 percent.  Triglycerides were reduced by 23 to 30 percent, LDL cholesterol by 7 to 27 percent, and total cholesterol by 12 to 26 percent.

The essential oils in the bark are responsible for cinnamon’s healing qualities.  The oils contain many volatile substances, including the active components cinnamaldehyde, cinnamyl acetate, eugenol, trans-cinnamic acid, and cinnamyl alcohol.  These oils have been demonstrated to have antifungal, antiviral, bactericidal effects, and antioxidant properties.

Ground cinnamon and cinnamon sticks should both be stored cool, dark and dry in a tightly sealed glass container.  Ground cinnamon stays good for about six months and cinnamon sticks stay good for about a year.

Word of caution: much like spinach, cinnamon contains moderate amounts of oxalate and thus should be avoided by those with a history of oxalate-containing kidney stones.  Also, there have not been sufficient tests done on pregnant and lactating women to ensure cinnamon’s safety when used as a supplement during these times – although cassia appears to be safe.

Here are some recipes to help any cinnamon-consuming endeavors you may  have (I mean, who can blame you?):

The Renegade Health Show has a very informative video about how cinnamon is harvested:

I have been doing quite a bit of recipe experimentation with cinnamon recently, so Vibrant Maine is bound to post new cinnamon recipes soon!  Until then, toodle-loo!


June 13, 2010 at 6:40 pm 3 comments

The Wonders of the Grapefruit

What would you get if you allowed an orange and a pomelo to spend quality time alone together in Barbados during the mid-eighteenth century?  A beautiful, delicious, and powerfully healing fruit… Grapefruit!

Named “grapefruit” due to its tendency to grow in clusters just like grapes, each innocent-looking grapefruit contains numerous potent healing properties – not to mention an addictive blend of tart and sweet tastes in every bite.

Healing for your heart:

As grapefruit is high in the fiber pectin (just like apples, carrots and peaches!), it can help lower unhealthy levels of cholesterol, which in turn helps to prevent heart disease.  Grapefruit also contains good amounts of the antioxidant lycopene (the darker red the grapefruit, the higher the lycopene levels), which has been shown to assist in protecting against cancer, macular degeneration, and… heart disease!  As heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US, we consider these qualities of grapefruit to be rather fabulous.

Good for your hematocrit levels (what?!):

Hematocrit levels is a fancy way of saying the percentage of red blood cells per volume of blood.  Studies have shown that eating grapefruit can help normalize hematocrit levels – in other words, if you have too many red blood cells per volume of blood, eating grapefruit is likely to reduce the red blood cells; and if you have too few, grapefruit will make its mission increasing your red blood cells.  The studies have also shown that if your hematocrit levels are perfect, the magical grapefruit will just leave them alone.  Mighty clever, yes?  This healing quality is most likely attributable to the flavanoid naringin in grapefruit (which is also largely responsible for grapefruit’s charmingly bitter taste).

Other fun facts about grapefruit:

  • Good source of potassium, vitamin C and folic acid.
  • Contains the healing phytochemicals liminoids, flavonoids, lycopene and glucarates.
  • Glucarates may help protect against breast cancer by helping the body remove excess estrogen.

In general, grapefruit is a delectable treat for your palate and your health – low in calories and extremely nutrient dense!  Here is a cute and informative video by Freshtopia about this wondrous fruit:

Happy Citrus Eating!


May 22, 2010 at 12:00 am Leave a comment

The Avocado (What Will It Do Next?)

Perhaps because avocados are featured in our most recent video (Sweet Velvet Torte), I felt the desire to begin Vibrant Maine’s bi-weekly blogs with an ode to this creamy fruit.  Firstly, I love avocados.  I put them in almost everything: smoothies; salads; soups; nori rolls; pudding; raw pizza, and who could possibly forget… guacamole!  The taste alone is enough to make me keep coming back, but I also love to know what the foods I ingest are doing to help my body.  To that end I have done some research and put it together for you.  Enjoy!

Good for your heart:

  • Avocados are an extremely good source of monounsaturated fatty acids, specifically oleic acid and linoleic acid, which have been demonstrated to help lower harmful LDL cholesterol and raise healthy HDL cholesterol.

Avocados are a wonderful source of vitamin E, which has several health-promoting qualities, including:

  • As an antioxidant it helps protect cell membranes from damage – and is particularly helpful in protecting the cell membranes of neurons in the brain.
  • It has been shown to decrease the risk of cancer, heart disease, strokes, and viral infections.
  • It is an important nutrient for healthy, glowing skin – helpful both topically and when ingested.

Another wonderful nutrient avocados have in abundance is potassium:

  • A healthy balance of potassium and sodium in the body is essential for maintaining health.  Too much sodium (salt) and not enough potassium can lead to high blood pressure, cancer and heart disease.
  • As potassium is an electrolyte, it can be lost in large quantities through sweat; so it is important to replenish your body’s supply of potassium after exercise or a hot day.

How to use avocados:

  • Eat them frequently!  They are great in both entrees and desserts.  Also, try this simple trick:

Cut an avocado in half and remove the pit.  With a fork, pierce the avocado several times so that there are little holes evenly spaced throughout.  Squeeze a little lemon on top, sprinkle a little salt, and then grab a spoon and enjoy!  The hard avocado skin functions as a bowl.

  • Put them on your dry skin and hair!  What could be healthier for your absorbent skin than a raw food you would gladly eat?  The vitamin E in avocados makes it a wonderful facemask and hair-soothing tool.  Mash it up and smear it on as is or find some good natural recipes.

Avocado Mask for Dry Skin (David Wolfe, Eating for Beauty):

Puree one ripe avocado with 6-7 drops of a fresh-squeezed orange.  Add one tablespoon of hemp oil.  Massage this mixture into the face and neck.  This mask has excellent effects on any part of the skin.  After application, lie down and relax.  Rinse off with lukewarm water after 20-30 minutes.”

Even squirrels love avocados…!


February 16, 2010 at 2:49 pm Leave a comment

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