By Vasco Stevenson – Holistic Wellness Consultant
Like coconut oil, avocados have been the subject of much misinformation. Avocados are probably the second best fruit on the planet, after the coconut. Avocados are said to inhibit the growth of prostate and oral cancers and are high in oleic acid, which helps prevent breast cancer. They also contain more of the carotenoid lutein than any other commonly consumed fruit. Lutein protects against macular degeneration (gradual loss of eyesight) and cataracts.
They are high in beta sitosterol, a compound that lowers cholesterol, foliate which lowers the risk of heart disease and strokes and are also the best fruit source of vitamin E.
Cocoa, sometimes referred to as “the food of the gods” is considered by some to be a super food, like the coconut. The cocoa tree, just like the coconut palm tree, has no seasons and produces fruit all year round.
Cocoa has several health benefits and is also surrounded by mythology, especially in relation to the heart, which it also supports, quite literally.
Cocoa has an extremely high concentration of anti-oxidants, which shield our DNA from damage by free radicals thus protecting us from age related illnesses. Cocoa is probably the highest source of magnesium, which is an alkaline mineral. Magnesium supports the heart, increases brain power, relaxes muscles, helps build strong bones, helps to relieve menstrual cramps and increases flexibility. Magnesium helps to improve the flow of blood, oxygen and nutrients through the body due to the relaxing effect it has on the veins and arteries.
Cocoa also contains chromium, a trace mineral, which helps to balance blood sugar, manganese, another trace mineral which helps in the oxygenation of blood and the formation of haemoglobin and zinc, another trace mineral which plays a critical role in the immune system, pancreas, liver, skin and sexual fluids. Cocoa is also a great source of vitamin C but has to be ingested in its raw state for the benefits to be realized as heat destroys vitamin C.
Cocoa beans contain no sugar and are an excellent appetite suppressant. Tryptophan, an essential amino acid and a powerful mood enhancing nutrient is found in significant quantities in cocoa. Once it enters our body tryptophan converts to serotonin, a primary neuro-transmitter which controls our moods, hence the feel good factor after eating chocolate.
Cocoa also contains soluble fibre, which helps bulk up bowel movements and cleanses the intestines.
Coconut oil was once vilified as an unhealthy fat but independent research has shown that it is the best oil there is due to its many significant health benefits. These benefits are attributed to the presence of three acids, namely, lauric acid, capric acid and caprylic acid. The main one being lauric acid.
The several benefits of coconut oil include relief from stress, skin and hair care, maintaining cholesterol levels, weight loss, increased immunity, relief from kidney problems, proper digestion and metabolism, lowering of blood pressure, control of diabetes, improved heart functioning and the strengthening of bones. Coconut oil also has anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties and is a powerful anti-oxidant. The body converts lauric acid, the most significant medium chain fatty acid that coconut oil is so rich in, into monolaurin which is said to help in dealing with the viruses and bacteria which cause herpes, influenza and HIV. Coconut oil is also a natural moisturizer and helps with psoriasis, dermatitis and eczema. There is quite a lot of anecdotal information linking coconut oil with major improvements in those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
When buying coconut oil be very careful. Proper coconut oil does not melt until its temperature reaches about 76F. Consequently the oil you buy should look like a white gel and can last for a very, very long time, even without refrigeration. Some supermarkets sell coconut oil that looks like oil but this has probably been hydrogenated and thus becomes a trans-fat which is not conducive to good health. Pure coconut oil is very beneficial when considering a weight loss diet.
Coconut water is more nutritious than whole milk as it contains less fat and no calories. It contains lauric acid which is also present in human mother’s milk and is identical to human blood plasma. It also contains more potassium than most sports drinks.
Coconut milk is a good substitute for cow’s milk and is packed full of potassium, vitamins A, C and E and some vitamin D. It also contains the trace minerals copper and zinc and is also of great benefit to those who are intolerant to lactose. It is also low in cholesterol and helps protect the body from infection and viruses. Coconut milk lowers blood sugar levels, keeps the skin and blood vessels flexible and elastic, thus preventing atherosclerosis. It lowers blood pressure, relieves constipation and eliminates gas.
Coconut flour, which is the ground dried flesh of the coconut is a natural alternative to wheat flour and is not only full of protein but is also full of dietary fibre. Fibre, as you know is essential for proper elimination of waste from the body. It slows down the release of glucose and is low on the glycemic index, which means it is helpful to diabetics and pre-diabetics. Coconut flour is 58% dietary fibre, more than any other flour, 14% coconut oil and 28% water, protein and carbohydrate (wheat bran is 27% fibre). It is gluten free, promotes heart health, supports the immune system, promotes the absorption of vitamins and minerals, helps in detoxifying your body, reduces cholesterol and facilitates better digestion.
Coconut flour does not bind naturally but this can be solved by adding some eggs, barley flour or even breadfruit flour. Coconut palm sugar, made from the buds of the coconut palm tree, is the latest in the line of coconut products and is low in fructose and also said to be low on the glycemic index (35) although this has not been properly verified. If it is, then that means that coconut palm sugar is ideal for diabetics and pre-diabetics. It is not to be confused, however, with palm sugar which comes from the sap of the date palm tree or sugar date tree. Coconut palm sugar tastes like brown sugar but with a hint of caramel.
Try out a “smoothie” with coconut milk and cinnamon- hot or cold.
The green banana is an unripe yellow banana with which most people are familiar. Unlike the ripe banana you cannot just peel off the skin and eat it. It has to be cooked and this can be done with the skin still on or peeled. The easiest way to peel a green banana is to boil it with the skin still on and then peel it. The other way is to peel the skin before cooking the green banana. To do this you clip both ends off the banana and slice it lengthways. You then peel off the skin. Green bananas can stain your clothes very badly so be careful here.
Green bananas are a good source of vitamins, minerals and a starch that may help with weight management, lower cholesterol and control of blood sugar. Good news for diabetics and pre-diabetics. This starch is a type known as “resistant starch” due to the fact that it cannot be broken down by the enzymes in the digestive system and therefore acts like fibre. In addition to this, green bananas are a good source of natural fibre, more good news for diabetics, as fibre plays a very important role in helping with the management of diabetes. Both green (unripe) and yellow (ripe) bananas are high in potassium which not only energizes you but helps with the control of high blood pressure. Green bananas are high in vitamin B6 which also helps with the control of blood pressure and is also necessary for the formation of haemoglobin, the protein that carries oxygen to all parts of the body. Resistance starch makes you feel fuller and helps you burn fat more quickly. Good news for anyone who is trying to lose weight. Green bananas contain short chain fatty acids which are absorbed by the cells that line your intestines. Keeping these cells healthy means that your body will more readily absorb nutrients, like calcium. A study has shown that those with diarrhea, whether adults or babies had their stools return to normal after eating green bananas and rice as this allowed the body to absorb more nutrients.
Whether they are green or yellow bananas have the same nutritional benefits. The only difference is that as the banana ripens the carbohydrates change from starch to sugar. In addition to potassium bananas are high in magnesium and phosphorus and also contain some vitamin C and good amounts of vitamins A and B. Magnesium is vital for the proper formation of bones and teeth, relaxation of blood vessels, regulation of blood sugar levels and it also helps with detoxification. Some ailments that benefit from magnesium are fibromyalgia, migraine, premenstrual syndrome, aging and type 2diabetes.
Plantains are large bananas which are usually used for cooking whether they are green or yellow. They are usually treated like potatoes and can be boiled, grilled, roasted, baked, mashed or fried and can be added to different dishes. They undergo the same changes as bananas, where the starch changes to sugar as they ripen but retain a higher percentage of starch when yellow. As bananas ripen they give off ethylene gas which not only speeds up the ripening process of the bananas themselves but any other fruits that are in contact with the gas. Consequently, if you are ripening any other fruit, avocados for instance, you should put a half ripe banana with the avocado in a brown paper bag before putting it in a warm place to ripen.
The banana fruit grows in bunches and each bunch is made up of “hands” like the palm of your hand with your fingers extended. Individual bananas on a hand are even referred to as fingers. There are usually about eight bananas to a hand and about 16 hands to a bunch. The banana plant only bears fruit once before it dies and new plants sprout from rhizomes. Rhizomes are underground shoots which the parent plant sends out before it dies. These shoots then produce a new young banana plant known as a sucker. In all there are about 250 different varieties of bananas.
Green bananas help keep your colon clear thus reducing the risk of colonic cancer. They also help reduce weight and blood pressure and provide food for the good bacteria in your gut thus helping to strengthen your immune system. Because they are a complex carbohydrate they are excellent for diabetics and pre-diabetics (those who are not yet diagnosed as diabetic but are on their way there). It is because of these health benefits green banana is indeed a super food.
Green tea is said to contribute to weight loss as it boosts the metabolic rate, reduces the risk of diabetes and heart disease, lowers cholesterol and blood pressure, reduces the risk of cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, combats depression and tooth decay and is regarded as being anti- viral and anti- bacterial and kills flu virus and plaque forming bacteria in the mouth. One study also found that men who drank green tea regularly had a 48% lower risk of developing prostate cancer and a Japanese study also showed that those who drank green tea regularly had a 42% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Green tea is high in antioxidants some of which are said to improve the function of the brain and studies have shown that catechin compounds in green tea can protect the neurons (nerve endings) in the brain thus reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, the two most common neuro-degenerative disorders. An amino acid called L-theanine, also found in green tea, is said to be able to cross the “blood brain barrier” reducing the risk of dementia and related illnesses.
Caffeine is an active ingredient in green tea and is a known stimulant so you should drink green tea in the mornings rather than at night. How many cups of green tea you should drink in a day to derive the full benefits from its health giving properties is debatable. Some “experts” say as little as three cups while others say eight cups, which I would consider to be too many. Remember too that in addition to caffeine green tea also contains tannins which can decrease the absorption of iron and folic acid. With these many health benefits green tea can be considered a superfood. Nowadays many people start their day with a warm cup of water with added lime or lemon juice. Why not substitute a cup of green tea for the water and still add the lime or lemon? This should stimulate you first thing in the morning and you can drink the water later in the day.
The guava is the unsung hero of tropical fruits. It is low in calories and fat and chock full of vitamins. It is also a rich source of dietary fibre. Guava is an excellent source of vitamin C, providing five times as much as an average size orange. It is also a good source of vitamins A, E and K with moderate amounts of vitamin B. Guava also provides the minerals magnesium, copper and manganese and the antioxidants beta carotene, lycopene (pink guavas only) and lutein. In fact, in the lycopene department guava outperforms tomatoes with 100 grams of pink guavas providing 5204 grams of lycopene to 2573 in an equivalent amount of tomato. On a weight for weight basis guava also outperforms bananas in providing potassium and contains less sugar than apples, oranges and grapes.
Guava is useful in the treatment of diarrhoea, dysentery, constipation, high blood pressure, coughs, colds, constipation, skin care, eye sight, weight loss and paradoxically can help thin people gain weight.
A tea made from the young leaves of the guava tree is said to benefit the heart and the cardiovascular system and may reduce blood pressure and cholesterol. It has also been promoted as a treatment for diabetes, bronchitis, toothaches, sore throats, gum disease and even dengue fever and is also said to be effective in removing acne and black spots from the skin. The formula for the tea is quite simple. Boil nine young leaves in five cups of water until there is only about three cups of liquid left. Strain and cool the tea and drink a cupful three times a day.
There are over 50 varieties of kale and they all have tremendous health benefits to the extent that kale is sometimes referred to as the “queen of greens.” Kale is high in iron and is said to have more of this mineral than beef. It has no fat, is low in calories and very high in soluble fibre making it a wonderful aid to digestion and elimination. Soluble fibre, as you know, is also food for the good bacteria in your gut that form part of your immune system. Kale is anti-inflammatory which is of great benefit, as inflammation is one of the main causes of most degenerative diseases. It is also high in vitamins A, which is excellent for vision, K which helps blood to clot, helps protect against cancer, helps those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and works with calcium to strengthen bone and C which not only helps protects against colds among its benefits but is central to the proper functioning of the other vitamins.
Kale is full of antioxidants such as carotenoids and flavonoids and also helps support the cardiovascular system. Additionally kale contains sulforaphane which helps with the immune system and together with sulphur helps keep the liver healthy through detoxification.
“Every leaf of kale you chew adds another stem to your tree of life” – Ancient Turkish Saying
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