Exotic Superfood Swap! –

Exotic Superfood Swap! -

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It’s probably impossible to count all the times you’ve run across an article or study featuring this or that “superfood” found only on some exotic island or in the wilds of China. Information about many superfoods is everywhere, and while they’re interesting and their nutritional profiles may be impressive, aren’t there any superfoods near where you live? How odd is it that everything that seems to be the best at aiding weight loss, preventing cancer and boosting brain power comes from halfway around the world?

Every state in America has a list of native foods offering impressive vitamins, minerals and other elements essential for health, so wherever you live, there are local foods you may not have thought of to augment your health. Below are five local-for-exotic superfood swaps that not only may surprise you, but will get your culinary juices flowing.

Super Swap: Lemon Balm for Cacao

Not many would think these two could be interchanged, and maybe the flavors aren’t so similar, but the effects they provide seem to be. If you’re a chocolate lover, you know one of the reasons people crave it: It’s soothing and even somewhat stress relieving. Comparatively, lemon balm — emphasis on “balm” — does what it’s said to do, lifting your spirits but without the stimulation from caffeine.

Native to the eastern Mediterranean and West Asia, Melissa officinalis, like so many other herbs, has been used for centuries as a therapeutic remedy due to its antiviral, antibacterial, antispasmodic and antidepressant compounds. Its modus operandi, according to Natural Living Ideas,1 includes stress relief, relief of pain from indigestion and improving your appetite.

Another use for lemon balm is to promote sleep. You can chop the leaves and steep them in boiling water to make a tea or rub a few leaves on your skin to allow the natural oils to seep into your bloodstream, which helps you relax. In fact, a University of Maryland study found that 81 percent of the participants who used lemon balm with valerian root got a better night’s sleep than those on a placebo.2

And a Northumbria University study reported that experiments with lemon balm returned memory-strengthening and improved problem-solving abilities when they took capsules filled with the dried herb. The subjects also performed “significantly” better when taking standardized computer tests on memory in comparison with those given a placebo.3

One of the great things about lemon balm, a perennial herb and member of the mint family, is how easy it is to grow, particularly in the spring. It can be sown from seed, or you can buy a small plant from a farmers market or nursery, and you’ll be amazed how quickly it grows and spreads.

Acai Berries Can Be Swapped for Blueberries

Acai berries (pronounced ah-sah-EE), a sort of cross between a grape and a blueberry, look very much like the latter and, oddly, taste a little like a berry dipped in chocolate. They’ve been used in traditional medicine to treat infections from parasites, ulcers, hemorrhaging, ulcers and diarrhea. Acai berries come from the Amazon region. Besides the berries themselves, the juice and pulp are commonly added to teas, fruit drinks, fruit bars and other products geared toward health and vitality.

Nutritionally, these little berries contain high levels of antioxidants, flavonoids and anthocyanins. But as beneficial as acai berries are, their nutritional profile is very comparable to that of blueberries, grown on both U.S. coasts and all over the heartland. The two types of blueberries are differentiated as highbush and lowbush, the latter being the wild variety and higher in anthocyanins. According to the Blueberry Council:

“The first commercial crop of little blue dynamos traveled from farm to table 100 years ago … Native to North America, blueberries have been around for more than 13,000 years — so they have deep roots in our country’s history. Today, we’re still reaping the health benefits of blueberries, and are discovering they have more to offer than our ancestors could have ever imagined.”4

Blueberries have truly remarkable benefits for cardiovascular health, as well as for your brain, insulin response and even cancer prevention. Packed with vitamin C, which boosts your immune system and helps collagen to form, they’re also loaded with fiber for greater regularity, impacting your heart health, and manganese, a mineral noted for energy conversion and proper bone development.

Chickweed: The New Wheatgrass

As green as any grass you’ve ever seen, wheatgrass has been a main event in health food circles for decades. People will line up to pay big bucks for a small shot of the stuff, which tastes pretty much like you’d imagine, similar to the aroma of new-mown hay; as one company describes it, “unfamiliar, but not unpleasant.”5

Several of this commodity’s features include fighting aging by revitalizing skin cells, cleansing the blood and fighting tumors. Clinical studies show that it contains 90 minerals, 20 essential amino acids, 13 vitamins and 80 enzymes.

But it’s the 70 percent ratio of chlorophyll, structurally similar to red blood cells (hemoglobin), that makes it a superfood. World Lifestyle notes that once it’s absorbed, it converts to hemoglobin, mimicking red blood cells and carrying oxygen to vital areas of your body, and may even kill off cancer cells because “cancer cells can’t survive and thrive in oxygen-rich environments.”6

But get this: Chickweed (Stellaria media) is a wild, edible plant (beautiful, too, by the way) growing prolifically in every area of the world other than those that are coldest, like Antarctica. Besides decreasing insect damage to other plants, it’s chockfull of many vitamins, minerals and, like wheatgrass, chlorophyll. Chickweed stems and flowers can be used raw in salads and sandwiches, tossed into soups and stews or added to cooked dishes (but at the end as the stems and leaves are delicate).

Frontier foragers learned that when they gathered chickweed, almost exclusively in the spring, it was useful as both food and medicine. As a food, Foraged Foodie7 observes, the raw form is covered with a fine layer of fibers, which are minimized when they’re gently chopped and sautéed or wilted. Natural medicine expert Dr. Josh Axe notes:

“Chickweed is taken by mouth to treat stomach problems, intestinal complaints such as constipation, disorders of the blood, arthritis, lung diseases including asthma, kidney disorders, inflammatory conditions of the urinary tract, rabies, and scurvy or vitamin C deficiency. It is also used to relieve extreme exhaustion. Chickweed is applied on the skin relieve various skin conditions such as skin wounds, ulcers, burns, arthritis pain and symptoms of eczema.”8

Rose Hips Can Take the Place of Goji Berries

Goji berries are renowned for having a lot of vitamin C. Originally from Asia, they were used by the ancients to replenish body fluids, improve skin and soothe jangled nerves. The bush-like plant belongs to the nightshade family of plants with tomatoes and peppers and is reputed to be beneficial for insomnia, tuberculosis and to increase testosterone.

On the other hand, rose hips, the fruits or seed pods of the wild roses you see growing everywhere throughout the U.S in late summer or fall, contain so much vitamin C, aka ascorbic acid, they’re actually known to be the most abundant source in the world, which explains why they’re so sought after by many markets.

It was only in the last several decades that anyone thought to consider if there might be actual nutrition in rose hips. Once used in animal food, today they’re an ingredient in jams, jellies and pie, as well as soups, bread and wine. Bon Appetit adds:

“The hips, like the petals, are high in flavonoids, those small but mighty antioxidant friends. Like nettle, rose hips are anti-inflammatory. The pectin in rose hips also make it a heart healthy medicine … “9 

Mother Nature Network10 adds vitamins A and E to rose hips’ benefits, so they can be made into tea or even eaten to help treat colds and sore throat. Because they also contain free radical-fighting antioxidants, the anti-inflammatory properties can even treat rheumatoid arthritis.11

The odd pods also contain pectin, which is good for your heart. Organic Facts12 reveals more advantages of consuming rose hips in some form, including an ability to optimize cholesterol, boost your immune system, prevent chronic disease such as cancer, regulate your blood sugar and eliminate toxins.

Nettles Compared to ‘Superfood’ Spirulina

Although spirulina technically does grow in ‘the States,’ it’s only one: Hawaii, as well as other exotic areas of the world, so it’s understandable that many think of it as not exactly around the corner. But first of all, what is it? If you’ve heard of blue-green algae, you’re halfway there. Spirulina’s deep blue-green color reveals its active ingredient — chlorophyll — clearly. Health.com13 explains it as one of the oldest life forms on Earth and possibly consumed in Aztec and African diets centuries ago.

Today it’s touted for its ability to strengthen the immune system, reduce fatigue and combat allergies. Nettles are another plant with chlorophyll that even rivals the amount found in spirulina, but they’re often found in ditch banks, forests and riverbanks. It’s sometimes called “stinging nettle” because it does just that; if you touch it without wearing gloves, the tiny hairs on every surface sting like a bee due to the presence of formic acid, leaving small red welts. But internally, Bon Appetit asserts, it acts like a tonic:

“Taken over time, nettle will strengthen your circulatory, immune, and endocrine systems to promote peak function. The stronger these systems, the better position our bodies are in to deal with whatever might come our way.”14

Cooked or dried, though, this pesky stinging problem goes away completely; good thing, too, because this free foraging food is highly nutritious, containing fiber, lecithin, chlorophyll, sodium, iron, phosphorus, sulfur, potassium and vitamins A and C, according to Mother Earth News. It’s been used in birth rooms and battlefields to stop bleeding, both internally and externally, and is considered to purify blood, as well. As a tea:

“It has been found to help cure mucus congestion, skin irritations, water retention and diarrhea … stimulate the digestive glands of the stomach, intestines, liver, pancreas and gall bladder. Applied externally, nettle tea … relieves rheumatism in both people and animals, makes a first-class gargle for mouth and throat infections, helps to clear up acne and eczema and promotes the healing of burns.”15

The top two or three pairs of leaves are the most tender. Again, use gloves then tongs to transfer the saw-toothed leaves from your gathering bag to the sink for rinsing, and to the pan for sautéing, say, with onions and garlic in oil, sea salt and Parmesan cheese.

What About Common, Local, Easy-to-Grow Superfoods?

Among all the vegetables grown in the U.S. (although elsewhere, as well) broccoli is arguably one of the most nutritious. You don’t have to look far for the reason: sulforaphane, an organic sulfur found in broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables. Not only does it support normal cell function and division, it helps your body detoxify and reduces inflammation and damage from reactive oxygen species (ROS).

Broccoli sprouts — the nutrient-dense superfood starter from broccoli seeds — are linked to the prevention of many serious diseases, from heart disease to diabetes. They, too, can help detoxify even such environmental pollutants as benzene and protect against cancer. Besides sulforaphane, this is also due to powerful compounds such as the glucosinolate glucoraphanin, which helps improve blood pressure and kidney function, and isothiocyanate, known to normalize DNA methylation.

Arugula is another powerhouse veggie, often known as “rocket” due to its spicy flavor. As a green, it’s very versatile. As another brassicaceae along with cabbage and broccoli, it has many of the same nutrients and healing compounds, including fiber, vitamins A, C (to boost the immune system) and K (for bone strength), folate, calcium, potassium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and manganese.

One study shows arugula to be a powerful aid against gastrointestinal ulcers, psoriasis and skin, lung and mouth cancers. Many more vitamins and minerals help lower blood pressure and improve blood vessel function. The amazing thing is this fancy-looking green is very easy to grow and, like many others, can be mixed with other greens with supportive nutritive value.

Then there’s avocado, or Persea Americana, used by the Mayans as an aphrodisiac. Loaded with fiber, one avocado contains 36 percent of the dietary reference intake (DRI) in vitamin K, 30 percent of the folate and 20 each of pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, vitamin C and potassium. Plus, avocados have more than twice the potassium of a banana. The avocado’s nutritional benefits rival any exotic food on the planet, as it has multiple beauty uses as a mask and facial scrub, natural sunscreen and moisturizer.

It’s also one of the only fruits (this one’s a drupe) offering plentiful and beneficial monounsaturated fats and helps optimize cholesterol levels. You can only skim the surface to imagine what all those other compounds do to boost health and fight disease. So, you don’t have to eat foods grown 3,000 miles away. You can often find them growing, or at least being sold, within an hour of you. Look around and see what’s available.



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This dirt cheap ancient spice fights cancer and improves blood circulation –

This dirt cheap ancient spice fights cancer and improves blood circulation -

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Cayenne pepper, whose color can range from yellow to reddish-brown, has been used by households all over the world to add flavor and a little bit of heat to dishes for a while now – around a thousand years now. But did you know that eating cayenne on a regular basis can help your body fight cancer-causing elements and make it so that there is a steady and healthy flow of blood in your body?

Cayenne is one of the hottest members of the pepper family, racking up a good 30,000 to 50,000 Scoville heat units (SHU) in the Scoville scale, along with Tabasco. The hottest in the pepper family is the Carolina reaper with 1,400,000 to 2,200,000 SHU, which is closely followed by the Trinidad scorpion with 1,200,000 to 2,000,000 SHU. The mildest of them is the bell pepper, which has no Scoville heat units.

There are two kinds of cayenne: the American cayenne whose hotness range in the 30,000 to 50,000 area, and the African birdseye cayenne, which is more potent than the first one. It can be mixed in meals and desserts or used in capsule form and creams. Aside from that, it provides healthy benefits to people. Some of them are as follows:

  • Ingesting cayenne pepper can increase the capability of your white blood cells to protect your body from the attack of cancer cells. It increases your body’s immunity against infections, as cayenne, along with other capsicums and hot peppers, neutralize up to 75 percent of bacteria that it encounters, protecting the body against food poisoning.
  • Cayenne pepper also aids in digestion, for it contains the compound capsaicin, which is responsible for making the cayenne pepper hot.
  • Cayenne pepper can also be used as a muscle and joint relaxant. Apply it topically on aching muscles and joints for best results. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, topical applications that are made of cayenne or other peppers have .025 percent to .075 percent capsaicin and can be applied to the affected area for four times a day. It may take three to seven days before you notice any noticeable difference.
  • Cayenne can be used to relieve pain incurred from arthritis, chronic migraines and headaches, diabetes, lower back pain, nerve damage, skin ailments such as psoriasis and shingles, and fibromyalgia, which is a disease that can be described as whole muscoskeletal pain, fatigue, and tenderness. This is because cayenne tells your brain to release endorphins, which are your body’s natural Ibuprofen or Paracetamol.

Also, here is the shocking truth: Capsaicin is able to kill bad bacteria in the digestive system and lessen the occurrences of inflammation in the body. This, despite its bad rep that peppers can cause ulcers. Cayenne has also been traditionally used in Asian as well as Ayurveda as an agent to improve blood circulation.

Capsaicin can positively impact the tissue lining the mucus membranes in the sinus cavity by clearing the mucus from nasal passageways, thereby making breathing easier when you’re infected with the common cold or a respiratory infection.

Cayenne to substitute the antibiotic injected on pigs, chickens?

Cayenne can also be used as an alternative to antibiotics. In fact, a new study showed that cayenne, along with other spices such as cinnamon and turmeric, gave livestock effects that are similar with antibiotics, which were administered to entire herds and flocks to stimulate their growth and help them strengthen their immune systems. Farmers still continued administering these prophylactics even under the threat of these bugs developing resistance.

The study found that like humans, chickens and pigs eat more of the food they are served with when the items were flavored with spices; for instance, their food intake is greater when their food is laced with dried ginger, oregano, rosemary, and thyme. However, since the spices also have antimicrobial properties, the livestock are not only encouraged to ingest more, ensuring their growth, they are also protected from the likelihood of disease.

The spices were also shown to protect intestinal health in chickens and piglets, increase gut bacteria, and activate enzymes that regulate digestion.



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What Really Works For Arthritis

What Really Works For Arthritis

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More than 50 million Americans live with the pain and discomfort of Arthritis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CureTogether, a free resource owned by 23andMe, asked 1,292 people who have Arthritis to share what treatments work best for them, and the results are fairly evenly split between medical and lifestyle-driven interventions.

People who participated in the survey reported that corticosteroids, heat, rest, and massage helped them feel better. They also said that the drug Low-Dose Naltrexone and having joint replacement surgery eased their discomfort. Treatment ideas that didn’t seem to help as much included glucosamine and aspirin.

Most Effective Rated Treatments for Patients with Arthritis

  • Low-Dose Naltrexone (LDN)
  • Corticosteroids
  • Steroid injections
  • Joint replacement
  • Enbrel
  • Heat
  • Massage
  • Braces/splints
  • Rest
  • Pecans

These are all treatments suggested and reported by patients, so some redundancy in the terms used is to be expected. In addition, the term “treatment” in this study refers to anything patients describe using to help them feel better, whether it is an officially prescribed medical treatment or not. Where did this data come from? This is the result of a four-year CureTogether study on Arthritis, in which 1,292 people shared information about their symptoms and what treatments worked best for them.

CureTogether’s research findings are different than those made by 23andMe, which look at genetic associations with illness, traits and drug response. CureTogether present its findings just as they are – patient-reported data – to stimulate discussion and generate new insights for further research.

Please tweet, blog, or pass this along to anyone who can benefit or is interested in Arthritis. Thank you!



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Suffering From Gout? It Might Not Be What You Ate… –

Henry VIII

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We at IQYOU love genetics. Whether or not you take stock into the wondrous world of Snps is up to you – but hey, it’s science and it’s fact! This time, we’re going to discuss genetics and gout. And yes – genetics do have an impact on your gout – or lack there of.

Gout was once the disease once associated with gluttonous indulgence and King Henry VIII. Diet clearly plays a role, but genetics has a big influence on whether a person will develop this painful form of arthritis, which is caused by high uric acid levels.

Estimates are that about four percent of people in the U.S. have gout at any given time, and 10-20 percent of people may suffer a gout attack at some point in their lives.

Gout has become increasingly prevalent in recent decades as rich diets have become more commonplace. But genetics also plays an important role in the condition, specifically variants in genes involved in the excretion of uric acid from the kidneys.

Variants in the genes ABCG2 and SLC2A9 are associated with increased risk for gout. The gene ABCG2 encodes a protein that transports uric acid out of cells, while SLC2A9 encodes a protein that helps regulate the amount of uric acid removed from the blood by the kidneys.

Gout can be quite painful. When the body produces too much uric acid, the uric acid can form crystals in the joints that trigger attacks from the immune system. Consuming rich foods, sugary drinks, red meats and beer can increase the risk for developing the condition. For those at risk or who already have the condition, there are treatments and recommendations for keeping attacks at bay. Among the recommendations are staying well-hydrated, limiting the intake of red meat, beer and sugary drinks and regular monitoring of the uric acid level in your blood. There are also some medications used to help control the condition. Gout is also associated with other conditions including cardiovascular disease, hypertension, kidney disease and obesity.

“KING OF DISEASE”smiling_dalmatian

Everywhere there is DNA being made or broken down, there is uric acid. The build up of uric acid causes gout, but uric acid is also a molecule that is one of the building blocks of genes.

So why is it that gout is an extremely rare disease in the animal kingdom? The answer goes by the name “uricase.” This gene produces a protein that breaks down uric acid.

Uricase evolved a very long time ago and exists in organisms ranging from single-celled bacteria to almost all vertebrates. Its existence protects against uric acid build-up and, therefore, against gout. Unfortunately, for us humans, the uricase gene in our DNA is so mutated it no longer works. But we are not the only species to suffer from the so-called “King of Disease.”
Dalmations also famously get gout. In their case the mutations occur in a gene called SLC2A9 that helps excrete uric acid from the body. Interestingly, variations in this same gene are also associated with gout in humans. Most birds and some reptiles also develop gout, especially when kept as pets. This seems to be the result of extremely high protein diets and kidney failure.

Perhaps the most surprising species afflicted with this disease is the T-rex. Fossil evidence of damaged joints have provided a convincing argument that the King of Dinosaurs, perhaps appropriately, harbored the King of Diseases. However, in this case, we may never be sure whether it was caused by a genetic mutation or a diet rich in red meats.

Fossil evidence of damaged joints have provided a convincing argument that the King of Dinosaurs, perhaps appropriately, harbored the King of Diseases. However, in this case, we may never be sure whether it was caused by a genetic mutation or a diet rich in red meats.



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