Archive | June, 2009

Coconut water saves lives and prevents wrinkles

29 Jun
young coconut juice is a miracle wrinkle cure that works from the inside

young coconut juice is a miracle wrinkle cure that works from the inside

One natural product that I have totally embraced in my everyday life is coconut water.  There are countless benefits but I really notice the difference in my skin, which feels much better hydrated and therefore a little less crinkly wrinkly… One of the reasons for this effect is that coconut water has the same balance of electrolytes as human blood.

It’s a natural isotonic beverage with the same level of electrolytic balance as we have in our blood. It’s the fluid of life, so to speak,” says Mr. Morton Satin, Chief of FAO’s Agricultural Industries and Post Harvest Management Service.

The clear fluid found in young, green coconuts not only satisfies your immediate thirst, but it also ensures that the water you drink from then on is properly absorbed into and carried around your system so that your body is adequately hydrated ALL over.  Coconut water is so effective because of this quality that soldiers based in the Pacific during the Second World War often used it in place of blood plasma in transfusions.  Even today in many third world countries, it is used as an intravenous fluid where medical saline is unavailable. 

With a very high level of electrolytes, including sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium, it’s a natural isotonic that re-hydrates your body just like a sports drink without the e-numbers, sugars and chemicals.  Hence I particularly thirst for it after Bikram yoga.

“Coconut water is the very stuff of nature, biologically pure, full of natural sugars, salts, and vitamins to ward off fatigue… and is the next wave of energy drinks BUT natural!”, according to Mortin Satin, Chief of the United Nation’s Food & Agriculture Organization.

According to the Coconut Board (yes there is such a thing!) – there are these 16 benefits:

1. Good for feeding infants suffering from intestinal disturbances. 
2. Oral rehydration medium
3. Contains organic compounds possessing growth promoting properties
4. Keeps the body cool
5. Application on the body prevents prickly heat and summer boils and subsides the rashes caused by small pox, chicken pox, measles, etc.
6. Kills intestinal worms
7. Presence of saline and albumen makes it a good drink in cholera cases
8. Checks urinary infections
9. Excellent tonic for the old and sick
10. Cures malnourishment
11. Diuretic
12. Effective in the treatment of kidney and urethral stones
13. Can be injected intravenously in emergency cases
14. Found as blood plasma substitute because it is sterile, does not produce heat, does not destroy red blood cells and is readily accepted by the body
15. Aids the quick absorption of the drugs and makes their peak concentration in the blood easier by its electrolytic effect
16. Urinary antiseptic and eliminates poisons in case of mineral poisoning.

a delicious clear liquid life saver

a delicious clear liquid life saver

Coconut water is also anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-microbial. The lauric acid (also found in human mother’s milk) in coconuts is also used to heal our digestive systems and it’s a great alkaliser if your diet is very acidic. According to ayurvedics, coconut water helps prevent intestinal gas, aids in removing toxins and increases the digestive tract’s ability to absorb nutrients.  Ayurvedic practitioners also believe that coconut water can increase the production of semen in men and restores emotional stability in menopausal woman.

The main thing is that it tastes really, really yummy and in Summer, when it’s well chilled, it’s particularly delicious. I buy Vitacoco from Wholefoods, Rubicon from Bengal City in Brick Lane, but ideally, like to get it fresh, direct from the coconut, from the Rastifarian coconut man at Spitalfields or Portobello Rd markets.

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Scientific proof that a plant-based diet is the way to go

24 Jun

Once again thanks to twitter, I’ve just stumbled on some very interesting info to pass on. This article in Archives of Internal Medicine in June 2009, presents the results of a registered clinical trial conducted by lots of PHDs, MDs, RDs and BScs, that clearly prove a plant-based diet lowers heart disease risks and helps weight loss. 

With a very dry title:  The Effect of a Plant-Based Low-Carbohydrate (“Eco-Atkins”) Diet on Body Weight and Blood Lipid Concentrations in Hyperlipidemic Subjects, the equally mind numbingly dull article is very juicy proof that a raw fruit and vegetable diet is the way forward. Don’t worry it’s a very quick read…

The actual conclusion of the study states that ‘a carbohydrate plant-based diet has lipid-lowering advantages over a high-carbohydrate, low-fat weight-loss diet in improving heart disease risk factors not seen with conventional low-fat diets with animal products’.

You can read the full article about why you should eat more plants, seeds and nuts right here.

Cinnamon has antioxidant superpowers

21 Jun
Who knew that cinnamon can lower your cholesterol and prevent diabetes

Who knew that cinnamon can lower your cholesterol and prevent diabetes

I absolutely love cinnamon, so when I found this article about its amazing superpowers I obviously just had to tell you about it.  But firstly – what exactly is it?

Cinnamon is the rolled, pressed and dried up inner bark from Cassia trees, which are native to Sri Lanka but cultivated in South America, Vietnam, India, Madagascar and Egypt. The superpower benefits of cinnamon might be news to me but cinnamon and cinnamon extract have been popular ‘medicines’ for thousands of years. 

Sought after and used by ancient civilisations, including the Chinese and the Egyptians, cinnamon was listed as one of the 350 ‘medicinal plants’ by Hippocrates.  According to the book, New Healing Herbs by Michael Castleman, cinnamon is commonly used as treatment for nausea and indigestion and also has antibiotic qualities.  But those benefits are old news.  This article below is written by Joyce Schneider, a health writer from New York, whom I follow on Twitter. 

Cinnamon has 5 times as many antioxidants as ½ cup of bluberries or a cup of pomegranate juice. 

Some of our best medicines are in our kitchen cabinet, not the bathroom cabinet. Recent, surprising studies show that some herbs and spices are antioxidant powerhouses — and that cinnamon is the second highest. (Cloves are the first, but are harder to work into our daily diet).

Here is a list of the top ten antioxidant spices. All these substances have something wonderful in common: their shared anti-inflammatory power is commonly described as helping arthritis sufferers and people with other types of pain. But the bigger picture of antioxidants’ anti-inflammatory power is their ability to reduce inflammation of the inner lining of the arteries and neutralize LDL (bad cholesterol)’s ability to deposit cholesterol, thus preventing atherosclerosis.  

You can read the rest of the article here.

Fasting for hypocrites

15 Jun

I figured that if I’m going to go without food for over a week, then I want it to be in paradise. However it would have to be a budget kind of paradise. Hence I found myself at Spa Samui, a detox spa on Koh Samui, the sadly slightly overdeveloped island in the bay of Thailand. Not exactly paradise, but with lovely beaches, hot sunny days and a raw food restaurant they claim as the world’s best, I can’t complain.

Many religions, from Buddhism, Islam, Judaism and Hinduism include fasting periods in their religious calendars and all for different reasons. Muslims believe that fasting from food also prevents false speech and lustful thoughts and promotes brotherhood as everyone, rich or poor, experiences the same feelings of hunger and need. Jewish people fast as a form of atonement for wrongdoing, for commemorative mourning or commemorative show of gratitude and importantly, also to highlight ‘our’ dependence on God to provide for ‘us’.

I fast to give my poor body a break from the sheer quantity of food it has to process throughout the year never mind the quality I put in. Even though my diet is pretty healthy, I do, as you know, ‘slip up’ all the time and all that bread, meat, wine and cheese are still fighting their way through my liver and digestive system a year later. Fasting also forces me to stop doing anything other than reading, sun tanning, sleeping, turning up for massages and drinking copious amounts of water. It gives every organ in my body the chance to detoxify and heal. It also sets a healthy stage for a raw food diet.

So what was my last meal before fasting?

raw pizza to give pizza hut a run for its money

raw pizza to give pizza hut a run for its money

After scrutinising the menu for a desperate length of time, I was forced to make a decision just to avoid the wrath of my Buddhist waiter.  I chose the raw pizza; a delicious pesto spread covered with chopped courgette, diced red peppers and the most delicious, creamy, mayo-like cashew nut sauce on a dehydrated nut pizza base.  Phew it was the right choice. For dessert, I ordered fresh frozen mango creamed into an icecreamy sorbet-like texture and topped with a super sweet honey and cinnamon sauce.  Yum.

What food did I think about during the fast?

Weirdly, I fantasised constantly about a rare chunk of steak and chips dripping in bearnaise sauce.  I haven’t eaten steak and chips like that for over ten years so it was disturbing to my raw core and didn’t make sense. 

And what was my first meal after the fast? 

raw pesto pasta - my post fast first meal of choice

raw pesto pasta - my post fast first meal of choice

At lunchtime on day ten, I broke the fast and sprinted (weakly) to the restaurant. After ten days pawing, licking and ogling the menu, I had memorised it and knew exactly what I wanted without even looking.

I chose the raw courgette pesto pasta.  Fine spirulised strips of courgette, topped with a rich pesto sauce and served on a bed of lovely lettuce.  It doesn’t sound filling but it was. It was so filling, my poor shrunken stomach ached for hours.  I did also practically inhale it. 

The main thing is I am now free to eat whatever I want.  And right now I can’t stop thinking about avocado.

Revolution in Thailand: the green smoothy kind

9 Jun
Jennifer Thompson green smoothy guru

Jennifer Thompson green smoothy guru

On the night before I began my fast here on Koh Samui, Thailand, I was lucky enough to bump into ‘my’ iridologist, and raw foodist, crystal healer and friend Jennifer Thompson. And as luck would have it she invited me to a free green smoothy talk she was giving that evening. Of course I accepted her very kind invitation and me and my fuchsia sunburn trundled along to her lovely beach hut to have my raw life revolutionised.

The first thing you notice about Jennifer is that she glows.  A problem if you come from Chernobyl but in this case it’s a very good thing.  She is gorgeous, vibrant and energetic and lives a raw food life in a way that I don’t think would ever fit with my hectic London schedule and weak willpower.

Six of us sit around a low table groaning with a giant pile of green leaves, exotic fruit and bananas and of course, a blender.  Nothing fancy, it’s just a slightly battered well loved, plastic blender I’ve seen in Sainsbury’s for a tenner.

First off we define what a green smoothy is.  Jennifer tells us; ‘it is not a naughty treat, it’s a healthy meal in itself.  Green as in green leaves are the only thing in nature that the sun turns into edible energy and blending them helps break them down and open up the nutrients to our bodies. ’ She also told us that ‘green leaves are not a carbohydrate like vegetables or fruit and they provide lots of essential minerals and proteins normally associated with meats.   They are a category of their own.’ 

Jennifer continued and rapidly fired off the benefits of green smoothies. Here are the top seven I managed to remember:

1. it’s an EASY way to get your nutrients (iron, calcium, magnesium, Vits K, C, E, B) for the day;
‘A smoothy is a perfect way to eat greens because we need such a big volume of them that we couldn’t get in a salad. You just add the green leaves to a fruit base such as apples, pears, bananas, berries, whatever and blend.’

2. it’s a QUICK way to get all your nutrients for the day;
‘We’re all too busy to chew.’

3.  You’ll have LOTS OF ENERGY;
‘When you start drinking green smoothies you’ll notice you’ll have a lot more energy because it is energy coming directly from the sun.’

4. It’s CHEAP;
‘Instead of coming all the to Thailand you can a three day or two week  (or whatever) green smoothy diet and fast every month.’

5. GREAT FOR BABIES;
‘Green smoothies are a great transitional food for babies because they’re delicious and easy to swallow.’

6. it’s a HEALING food; and
‘Your body can’t heal itself without the tools.  The tools are the nutrients.’

7. STOP CRAVINGS.
‘Underneath every addiction, is your body craving for nutrients.’

The one major yet superficial benefit of green smoothies that Jennifer didn’t really go into, is that you’ll lose weight.  Once you stop succumbing to the cravings, your body has the nutrients it needs to heal itself and because it will feel the love from you, you’ll shift the pounds! She also mentioned that because of the high level of fibre in the smoothy they can last up to three days so you can make them at night and eat them the next day. Oh – and they’re packed with anti-oxidants.  I’m 99% sold at this point and already visualise my new life as a green smoothy disciple.  And so we begin to blend…

For more information about the nutritional value of green leaves I found this easy to understand article on About.com.

Heston Blumenthal is ‘onto’ raw food

6 Jun
Blurry and distant pic of guru Heston Blumenthal at Hay Festival from the back seat

Blurry and distant pic of gurus Heston Blumenthal and Jay Rayner at Hay Festival from the back seat

I managed to speak to Fat Duck’s super-chef Heston Blumenthal and Observer food critic Jay Rayner in Hay and asked them both the same question; ‘What do you think about raw food?’

Jay’s response was so ‘interesting’ it deserves its own story, which I’ll write when I finish reading his book; ‘The man who ate the world; in search of the perfect dinner’. Heston, however replied; ‘It’s a big area and we’re onto it. It’s not just about blending though is it?’

Firstly – wow. It’s extremely exciting to me that one of the world’s best chefs acknowledges the existence of the raw food movement without choking and is actually doing something about it (not that I have proof…). Heston is already famous as a molecular gastronomist but now he is also apparently looking at the chemical and nutritional impact of the food on the human body over the long term. Very cool indeed.

Secondly, he’s also right on both counts:
1. I squirmed when he said the thing about the blender because I rely heavily on mine. And if someone asked me what the most important piece of equipment is for raw foodists, I would have to say their blender comes in the top three (alongside a good chopping board and knife). But he’s right – there’s got to be more to raw food than blending (and soaking, and sprouting, etc…).
2. The area of food that makes up the raw food movement is such a big, big, big area already and it’s growing. But do I think he means by ‘big area’? Here’s a list of diets/lifestyles that incorporate and/or affect our choices of raw food and how we eat it.

Raw fruit and vegetables
Wild raw fruit and vegetables
Veganism
Vegetarianism
Biodynamic
Local
Organic
Alkaline vs acidic
Body type 
Blood Type
Juices only
Grapes only 
Food combining
Living foods
Macrobiotic

It’s by no means a complete list but just noting it down makes me realise that there is so much information about healthy diets out there and to embark on a mission to maximise both flavour and nutritional value is a big and beautiful task.  And isn’t it inspiring to think that such a talented man is ‘onto it’? I’ll just have to find a way to ask Heston exactly what that means.