Turmeric’s Proven Health Benefits

Turmeric

A friend with serious health issues was recently told by her doctor to put herself on an anti-inflammatory diet so she asked me for help. On finishing my research for her I was surprised to find a spice with decades of testing proving its ability to be used as medication for many different health problems.

So many of the single food items I blog about have claims of miracle cures which may or may not be proven.  Turmeric and one of its chemical compounds Curcumin, which is what makes its yellow color, have enough valid studies on the ability to act as an anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory to put it on my map of foods to add to your diet.

What is Turmeric? It’s a strong tasting spice found in a lot if Indian dishes, like curry, and has been called Indian Saffron due to its yellow color. It comes from the root of the Curcuma longa plant which grows 6 feet tall in Southern Asia. It has been harvested for over 5000 years and used for medicinal purposes by both the Chinese and Indians.  Turmeric contains a good amount of magnesium, potassium, vitamin B6, iron and fiber.

I won’t bore you with details on the health benefit studies themselves but you can find many with an internet search.

Here is the huge list of the potential benefits of Turmeric:

  • Prevention of Heart Disease
  • Prevention of Diabetes
  • Reduces Cholesterol
  • Prevents many Cancers
  • Prevents Cystic Fibrosis
  • Improves Colon Health
  • Reduces Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Prevents Stomach Ulcers
  • Reduces Crohn’s Disease symptoms
  • Prevents Liver and Kidney toxicity
  • Reduces Inflammatory Eye Disease symptoms
  • Reduces Gingivitis
  • Reduces Cystic Fibrosis symptoms
  • May Reduce Risk of Neurodegenerative Diseases such as Alzheimer’s
  • Reduces Arthritis symptoms
  • Reduces Pain
  • Speeds up the Healing process from wounds or surgery

My recommendation is to not take Turmeric as a supplement but to use it as a spice in your food. Supplements are made by condensing the chemical into a very strong form and too much of any chemical may have negative effects. For instance, if you have acid reflux, or GERD, or a serious heartburn issue, a supplement of Turmeric may make your symptoms worse. If you are pregnant you should never take a supplement without speaking to your doctor first. Start by adding a little Turmeric to spice up your meals. My friend adds it to her morning eggs and it seems to be working well for her.

Remember that the medical community prefers to see more evidence above the 3rd party research to consider recommending Turmeric as a true drug and I agree with them. I do believe, however, that many doctors who are open to homeopathic remedies would make a recommendation to give Turmeric a try to ease symptoms for their patients.

Talk to your doctor about Turmeric if you think it could help you.

Dehydration Happens Fast        

Water

It’s been very hot recently and I’ve been losing track of time working in my garden and forgetting to drink water. With the heat of summer, dehydration happens faster than you think. It’s so important to drink plenty of water to prevent the results of dehydration including fatigue, headache, dizziness and suppressed mood. If a bad case of dehydration is not treated quickly it can actually lead to death. Older people and children have a higher risk as well as those with heart problems, diabetes or kidney disease.

Watch out for these more severe symptoms:
Dark colored urine or not urinating
Hot but not sweating
Fever
Vomiting
Diarrhea
Fainting

These symptoms are a sign you need to go to the hospital right away:
Difficulty breathing
Confusion
Stomach pain
103°F temperature
Chest pain
Seizures

If not treated correctly dehydration could lead to death by:
Heatstroke
Kidney failure
Brain or Blood issues

How can you prevent or treat dehydration?

Drink a minimum of 6-8 glasses of water a day. Do not drink coffee, soda, alcohol, black or green tea if you are doing heavy activity in hot weather.  These drinks will actually increase your possibility of dehydration due to the diuretic nature of caffeine, to the drying effect of alcohol. Drink small amounts of water frequently. Chugging water once you are already dehydrated with cause nausea and you may even vomit.  In extreme cases you may want to consider an electrolyte drink such as Gatorade.

If you are feeling overly hot expose your skin to cool air or water, but nothing frozen as that will actually create damage to the body. Better yet, limit your amount of time out in excessive heat.

Enjoy your summer fun smartly. Keep water with you no matter where you go and most importantly….drink up!

Do Specialty Sport Shoes Work?

Photo provided by Alicia Scott
Photo provided by Alicia Scott

I’m amazed at the technology that is going into sport shoes nowadays. I’m also amazed at the cost! Seems they make shoes for everything now; running, walking, cross-training, golfing, hiking and dancing, just to name a few. The stated purpose behind these specialty shoes is to improve performance and reduce chances of injury. The question is do these shoes actually do what they claim they do.

Kinesiology experts recently published a paper after reviewing numerous studies on this subject. They found that the number of injuries has not decreased regardless of the increasing technology of sport shoes. As these studies began to surface, some shoe companies added new technology to give buyers less shoe (pictured) claiming the more natural use of your feet is actually better.

So, if the advantages of sport shoes have not been proven, should I buy these shoes or not? The answer is buy whatever feels good to you. It doesn’t have to be expensive or high tech.

What IS important is how you prepare for your sport and your technique. Properly stretch before and after your activity, including your feet. Feet are often missed and why so many people get plantar fasciitis.

Speak with an expert or trainer on technique for your sport. Ask specifically what to watch out for to decrease your chance of injury. Follow instructions with diligence and it will not only prevent injury but also increase your performance.

It may disappoint you that you may not be able to depend on high tech shoes to prevent injuries, but you have to admit, it’s now opened up your options to find cheaper and possibly more comfortable shoes.

Okra…The Little Known Superfood

Okra

Okra is one of those vegetables you rarely hear about and most people don’t seem to know how to cook with it. There are a lot of complaints about the mucilaginous quality (slimy) of okra but this is the component that makes okra great as a thickener in soups and stews. It’s a shame okra is so misunderstood because it has many health benefits that rank right up there with your best superfoods.

Okra is only 30 calories per cup. It has virtually no fat or cholesterol, is high in fiber, low sodium and actually has 2 grams of protein which is unheard of in the vegetable world! Okra is high in vitamins and minerals including vitamin C, A, K, and the energy producing vitamin Bs.

Here is a list of health claims that are based on the nutrient and antioxidant content of okra:
• Improves digestive processes
• Reduces ulcers
• Prevents colon cancer
• May assist in weight loss due to high fiber
• Prevents diabetes by normalizing blood sugar
• Prevents kidney disease
• May reduce respiratory issues due to immune boosting vitamin C
• Assists in a healthy pregnancy
• Lowers cholesterol
• Maintains eye health from the vitamin A
• Healthy skin due to antioxidants
• Protects against free radical damage
• Improves energy levels
• Improves mood

It’s believed that Okra was cultivated by the ancient Egyptians in the 12th century B.C and expanded in use from there. It’s an annual tropical plant that can grow to 7 feet tall. It made its way to the Caribbean and then to the U.S. when slaves were brought from West Africa. In the southern United States it became popular in a creole dish called gumbo.

Okra is a member of the Mallow family, which includes hollyhock and hibiscus. The flower of the okra plant creates the edible green pod which is best harvested when it’s about 4 inches long. If they grow much longer it becomes tough and stringy.
They are best eaten very fresh when the pods are tender. Store them in a paper bag in the refrigerator. Wash okra just before you use it not before. This should reduce the amount of slime build up. The fresher the okra the less slime you will have.

My favorite way to enjoy okra is fried in canola oil. I learned from an old southern gardener that the best way to prepare for frying is to sliced the pod into ½ to ¾ inch slices, dip them in milk and dredge each piece in cornmeal with a little salt and pepper. No flour needed. I lay out the pieces on a cookie sheet and put it in the freezer for 10 minutes. That reduces the chances of the cornmeal falling off during frying. Pour ½ inch canola oil in a frying pan (not a deep fryer) and heat to 400 degrees. Make sure the oil is hot before you add the okra. This will cook it quickly and keep it from absorbing a lot of oil. Drop the pieces in a single layer in the pan. Once it turns golden brown flip the pieces over like you would a pancake. Once the second side has browned, pull out of the oil and place on a paper towel to absorb excess oil. It only takes a couple minutes to brown. Although fried food is not something I usually recommend, having a little canola oil fried okra, when done right, is a nice treat. Plus you still get the health benefits listed above.

The other way I like my okra is in gumbo. My recipe is on my website. Other common ways you can eat it is steamed or pickled and cooked with corn, peppers and onions.
If you’ve never eaten okra I recommend going to a restaurant to try it for the first time. I know you will get hooked!

Salads Better than a Single Vegetable

salad

There is nothing more attractive than a multi-colored salad. It’s interesting to take your fork and try a number of different tastes on one plate. Relative to crunching on a handful of carrot sticks, eating a salad motivates me to get my vegetables in.

Salads also have health benefits not found in a single vegetable.  Vegetables of different colors have different nutrients.  For instance, greens are high in iron and trace minerals, red and orange are high in vitamin A and C, and blue or purple are high in antioxidants. The deeper the color, the more nutrients they contain.  Mixing produce together can give you a nice balance of your daily requirements. In fact, there are some nutrients that are absorbed more readily with the aid of compounds from other foods. One example is a little bit of fat in your salad dressing actually increases the absorption of fat soluble vitamins and minerals from your vegetables.  A nice benefit from a little tasty dressing.

You may have heard of diets that have strict guidelines on what foods you can combine, limiting the eating certain foods together.  The thought was that some combined foods cause digestive stress and may not allow you to absorb correctly. There is no scientific proof of this and to the contrary, there are proven benefits to mixing foods together. If you still have concern, keep in mind that whenever you eat, everything mixes together in your stomach and a high amount of natural acid breaks down your food, regardless of what type of food it is. If you are having digestive issues with a certain food, assume you either ate too much or you have a specific issue with that particular food.  This is no reason to assume you are having eating combination issues, just stop eating that one food.

Focusing on single foods, single ingredients or the latest health craze will limit the variety of nutrients you take in or may cause you to take in too much of one thing.  There is a reason the USDA recommends a “well balanced diet”. The body requires so many different compounds to live day to day. So why not start with a healthy, colorful salad with a light olive oil dressing? It’s a simple way to a healthy you.