31 December 2014

Happy New Year 2015

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Happy New Year 2015

I wish all the readers of Priya's Diet Corner a Happy and Wonderful New Year 2015. I wish you all a happy, peaceful, colourful and healthy year ahead.


29 December 2014

The healing power of figs

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The health benefits of Figs

“ Figs are restorative. They increase the strength of young people, preserve the elderly in better health and make them look younger with fewer wrinkles ”
— Pliny (52-113 AD).
Figs (Ficus Carica) are one of the most primitive fruits cultivated. The fig fruit is mentioned as a sacred fruit in all the holy books. There was a fig tree in the Garden of Eden, and the fig is the most mentioned fruit in the Bible. In the Kuran, Mohamed mentions that if he has to make a choice it would be the fig tree that would be brought to Heaven. Siddharta Gautama received the revelation that formed the basis of Buddhism while sitting under a fig tree. In all the great cultures and religions, the fig tree is used as a symbol. The fig also played an important part in the Olympics. Early Olympic athletes were given figs as a training food and figs were given as laurels to the winners of the first Olympics as a medal [1].

Although considered a fruit, the fig is actually a flower inverted into itself. The seeds are the real fruit in figs. Most figs are now consumed as dried fruit and are a concentrated source of nutrients. The fruits are a rich carbohydrate source, with 94% of the energy and a rich source of dietary fibre, with a 100-g portion providing 12.2 g of dietary fibre, Figs are also an impressive source of minerals, especially calcium and iron. They are low in sodium and a rich source of potassium. They are fat free, sodium free and, like other plant foods, cholesterol free [2].

The edible fig can be utilised in various ways, the most common being fresh and dried. Dried figs can be directed to table consumption or for processing as paste or canned. Fig paste can be used in confectionery as mixed with nuts, fig bars or biscuits. In fig paste, the seeds can be grinded or kept as whole depending upon the request of the buyer. Dried or fresh figs can be put in syrup and sold as jam [3].

Diseases That Have Implications Relevant to Fig Consumption

Denis Burkitt is usually credited with popularizing the idea that dietary fiber may protect against the development of Western diseases, including diabetes, hypercholesterolemia, heart disease, diverticular disease and colon cancer. Because figs contain approximately 5g of dietary fiber in a 40g serving, they represent one of the few concentrated fruit sources of dietary fiber.

Glycemic response

Dried fruits, especially ones like figs, with a high amount of dietary fiber and nondigestible carbohydrate have lower glycemic indices than do other carbohydrate sources. Therefore, it prevents the rapid spike in blood sugar.

Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a significant public health problem. As the populations continue to age, reduced bone density eventually results in osteoporosis. An important nutrient in short supply in the women’s diet is calcium. Although dairy products are concentrated sources of calcium, many women prefer not to consume dairy products and are left with few other rich sources of calcium. Figs are high in calcium and can provide needed calcium for women, although energy density must be considered.

Anaemia

Being rich sources of iron, even a week supplementation of dried fig can improve the haemoglobin content of the body.

Antineoplastic

Figs are a concentrated source of benzaldehyde, which has been used for cancer prevention. Ongoing research suggests that figs are a rich source of a wide range of phytochemical that have antiproliferative effect [4].

Apart from supplying a wide choice of nutrients, figs supply a wide range of phytochemicals, non-nutrient plant chemicals that may decrease risk for chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes. A return to our ancestral lifestyle where figs were a mainstay of the diet should be motivated.

References

  1. U. Aksoy, Why Figs, an old tasta and a new perspective , SHS Acta Horticulturae 480: International Symposium on Fig
  2. The functional food properties of figs,1999 American Association of Cereal Chemists, Inc. , Vol. 44, NO. 2 page 82
  3. Shamkant B et al, Traditional uses, phytochemistry and pharmacology of Ficus carica: A review November 2014, Vol. 52, No. 11 , Pages 1487-1503
  4. Joanne L. Figs Past, Present and Future, Nutr Today. 2006; 41(4):180-184

Image Credit: Flickr/ Francisco Antunes

16 December 2014

Is Saffron good for you?

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Why Saffron is good for you?

Crocus sativus, commonly known as saffron, comprises the dried red stigma of the perennial herb Crocus sativus linn and is widely cultivated in countries such as India, Iran and Greece.

Here are the various names of Crocus:

  • Hindi ­- Kesar, Zaffran
  • Sanskrit - Avarakta, Saurab, Mangalya, Kumkuma
  • English­ - Saffron
  • Gujarati - Keshar
  • Telugu - Kunkumapurva, Kunkummapurru
  • Tamil and Malayalam - Kunkumappu
  • Kannada - Kunkumakesara
  • French and German - Safran.

Stigma of Saffron contains more than 150 volatile and aroma yielding compounds. It also has many non-volatile active components, many of which are carotenoids including zeaxanthin, lycopene, and various α­ and β ­carotenes.

Characteristic components of saffron are crocin, picrocrocin, and safranal. The stigma of the flower possesses listless medicinal properties and used widely in traditional system of medicine.

Medicinal benefits:

  • In Ayurveda, saffron is used to cure chronic diseases such as asthma and arthritis.
  • It is also useful in treating cold and coughs.
  • Ayurvedic medicines containing saffron are used to treat acne and several skin diseases.
  • A paste of the spice can be used as a dressing for bruises and superficial sores.
  • Saffron enjoys great reputation as a drug which strengthens the functioning of the stomach and promotes its action.
  • Ancient texts on Ayurveda have information about the herb’s use as an aphrodisiac.
  • Prolonged intake of saffron improves memory and used in the treatment of neurodegenerative disorders.
  • It is believed to boost immunity, improve sleep and muscle relaxant. Hence given to pregnant mothers in her final trimester of pregnancy.

Word of Caution

Saffron is one among the most expensive spices in the world. Because of its high cost, saffron is frequently adulterated with safflower, marigold stigma. So one must be careful while buying Saffron.


Image Credit: Wikimedia/ Safa Daneshvar


15 December 2014

How to make bread omlette?

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Bread Omlette is a simple, quick and tasty food to make. Its one of the favourite food items for many of us. In this article, I have tried to record the making of bread omlette. This is my first attempt of a video recipe in this blog. Hope you like it.


Please leave your valuable comments on the above video.
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6 December 2014

Eat as colourful as rainbow

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Colour categories of fruits and vegetables

Increasing interest in nutrition, fitness and beauty consciousness has enhanced concerns over a healthy diet. Fruits and vegetables are capable of providing additional health benefits, like prevention or delaying onset of chronic diseases, as well as meeting basic nutritional requirements. Appropriate intake of a variety of fruits and vegetables ensures sufficient supply of nutrients and phytochemicals. Low consumption of fruits and vegetables is among the top ten risk factors resulting in global mortality. Annually, 2.7 million lives could be saved with sufficient consumption of various kinds of fruits and vegetables [1].

Fruits and vegetables fall into five different colour categories:
  1. Red,
  2. Purple/ Blue,
  3. Orange,
  4. Green and
  5. White/ Brown.
Each colour carries its own set of unique disease fighting chemicals called phytochemicals. It is these phytochemicals that give fruits and vegetables their vibrant colour and of course some of their healthy properties [2].

Phytochemicals are nothing but plant chemicals that do not have any nutritive value but essential for the prevention and treatment of diseases. Foods contain millions of phytochemicals and the colour doesn’t mean that they contain that particular phytochemical.

Thus foods are classified according to the principal phytochemical they comprise, into five sorts as discussed below.

Red

Lycopene is the predominant pigment in reddish fruits and veggies. A carotenoid, lycopene is a powerful phytochemical that is responsible for prevention of heart attacks and prostate cancer. Lycopene is less bioavailable when raw, processing method could help to release the lycopene from the matrix in fruits and vegetables, and thus increases bioavailability. Lycopene is found in Tomato, red capsicum, red apple, strawberries, guavas, watermelons.

Purple/ Blue

Blue/ purple veggies and fruits contain anthocyanin pigment. Anthocyanin play a beneficial role in visual acuity, cancer, heart diseases and neurodegenerative disorders. They are found in Eggplant, Beet root, purple cabbage, blueberries, blackberries, prunes, plums, pomegranates.

Orange/ Yellow

Carotenoids give this group their vibrant colour. A well-known carotenoid called Beta-carotene is found in mangoes, corn, orange, papayas, sweet potatoes, pumpkins and carrots. It is converted to vitamin A, which helps maintain healthy mucous membranes and healthy eyes and immunity. Taking large doses of vitamin A can be toxic, but your body only converts as much vitamin A from beta-carotene as it needs. That means beta-carotene is considered a safe source of vitamin A.

Green

The natural plant pigment chlorophyll colors green fruits and vegetables. Cruciferous veggies such as broccoli and cabbage contain the phytochemicals indoles and isothiocyanates, which may possess anti cancer properties.

Green vegetables are excellent sources of vitamin K, folic acid, potassium, as well as carotenoids and omega­3 fatty acids. Vitamin K is essential in blood clot formation. Diets high in potassium are associated with lowering blood pressure, and there is an inverse relationship between cruciferous vegetables and cancer, especially colon and bladder cancers. Chlorophyll pigments are essential for wound healing.

White/ Brown

ANTHOXANTHIN is a white to yellow pigment found in onions, garlic, potatoes, mushrooms, cabbage, cauliflower, turnips, parsnips, white wheat flour, and pears. Garlic and onion contain a range of health-promoting phytochemicals such as allicin which is known for its antiviral and antibacterial properties. Some members of the white group, such as bananas and potatoes, are also a good source of potassium. Benefits include lowering blood pressure, cholesterol, and stomach cancers.

Conclusion

Consuming an assortment of fruits and vegetables everyday not only provides you with variety of taste and texture but also provides you with a wide range of nutrients and increases protection against diseases. Each colour provides various health benefits and no one colour is superior to another and a balance of all colours is important.

So from today, let your plate be a rainbow of colours with vegetables and fruits.

References

  1. WHO. Fruit, Vegetables and NCD Disease Prevention; World Health Organization: Geneva, Switzerland, 2003
  2. Eat a rainbow, Fact sheet, Nutrition Australia ACT Division, 2013.

Image Credit: Flickr/OhKyleL