Are nightshades really bad for you?

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We recently published an article:

http://rawandnaturalhealth.com/white-vegetables-bad/

…that touted the benefits of white vegetables, mentioning that light-colored foods like mushrooms, fennel, cauliflower and potatoes are often overlooked in favor of eating brightly-hued foods. Excited about food and health as we are, we were rather happy to bring attention to white veggies, the underdog of the produce aisle.

Sigh.

Like any food and dietary lifestyles, debate is likely to ensue. In this case, it was the word, “potato” that sparked concern because it is in the nightshade family. Lots of folks agree that the potato has good nutrients and is worthy of taking a place at our dining room table (or TV tray, whatever works). But many people say the potato (not sweet potatoes though), and any other nightshade food, should be avoided like the plague.

What are nightshade vegetables and what’s the issue?

Here’s the scoop. Many of us already know this, but some don’t.

Nightshade veggies (part of the Solanaceae family), are subject to controversy, many times associated with causing or exasperating health issues ranging from arthritis and digestive problems to bone loss and trembling. Bottom line is that all nightshades have a group of substances called “alkaloids” in common and it’s for this reason that many people won’t touch them with a 10-foot pole.

Alkanoids’ interaction in the body may cause joint damage (associated with the potato in particular) and disrupt nerve cell function, leading to a host of health problems. As if this isn’t startling enough, one of the four types of alkanoids present in nightshades that is certainly not associated with good health is . . .  nicotine. Yikes. Well, maybe.

Nightshades include:

  • Potatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Eggplant
  • Sweet and hot peppers, including pimentos, cayenne pepper and paprika

To eat nightshades or not?

So you’d think that after hearing such news, we’d never even want to utter words like “tomato” and “potato” again. One part of us wants to take part in the “everything in moderation” approach, at least as it pertains to our chosen dietary lifestyle. Another part of us has no issue omitting a select handful of foods from our grocery cart. We can live without eggplant and potatoes, right? Of course we can.

Still, there are experts who see the good and the bad with nightshades.  Some say they’re fine to eat and that only people very sensitive to alkanoids might experience issues. Others say the correlation hasn’t truly been proved scientifically.

Then there’s the nicotine issue. On the World’s Healthiest Foods web site, it says, “The levels of nicotine in all nightshade foods are so low that most healthcare practitioners have simply ignored the presence of nicotine in these foods as a potential compromising factor in our health.”

Many who are not fans of doctors or hospitals will react to that quote saying, “Of course they ignore it. Maybe it’s high time they start paying attention to it though.” Many others say low nicotine content or not, any amount just can’t be good. Yet some dismiss the whole nightshade debate, nicotine, trembling and all, holding fast to the notion that variety is the key to eating right and after all, foods like potatoes do contain vitamins C, B-complex and potassium and zinc.

What are your thoughts? Do you have any experiences or stories about nightshades? Are any of them a part of your diet? We’d appreciate your comments.

Mono-fruiting: is it good for us?

There are all kinds of dietary lifestyles out there and mono-fruiting is one of them. Just like it sounds, it involves eating only one fruit for a determined period of time. People who enjoy this way of eating typically purchase fruit in bulk, and it’s not uncommon for some of them to even have two refrigerators or extensive pantry space!

But . . . (cue up the suspenseful music) is mono-fruiting good for us?

Yes, mono-fruiting really works

A woman named Yulia Tarbath swears by the lifestyle, as does her husband.  She prefers bananas in particular since they’re easily available, healthy and affordable. Eating bananas for extended periods of time has improved her concentration as well as her skin.

For more information about her story, click here: http://www.naturalnews.com/043460_banana_diet_mental_clarity_overall_health.html

We can go on. There’s Freelee the Banana Girl, best known for her “30 bananas a day” diet and even people who claim to have cleared their acne by only eating apples.

mono-fruiting

The downside of mono-fruiting

Despite these claims, many people advise against this dietary lifestyle, saying that it doesn’t give our bodies the full amount of nutrients it needs. For those interested in losing weight, it may actually make the numbers on the scale higher. In fact, fitness expert Dr. Melina Jampolis says, “fruit has almost three times the calories per serving as nonstarchy vegetables.”

As with any dietary choice we make, it’s smart to do your research and know pros and cons of each.  Read, plan and do your best to make sure that you consume organic, whole foods when possible.

Happy eating!

To get in on the debate regarding the healthful/adverse effects of mono-fruiting, check out this story.

Looking for natural alternatives to blood pressure medications and statins?

Many people often turn to natural foods to keep their health issues in check. It’s not uncommon that the ultimate goal is to wean themselves from medications. In this case, let’s focus on blood pressure medications as well as statins which are typically used to regulate cholesterol levels.

We’re big believers that natural is the way to go, yet we know that it’s easy to get involved in the doctor/medication cycle too. Sadly, most of us are very aware that they do more harm in some cases than they do good. Of course, we always advocate discussing any change in dietary or lifestyle habits with your doctor since only they know the intricacies of your condition and we’re here to provide our opinion.

So, let’s get to it!

Best foods to reduce cholesterol and blood pressure naturally

When it comes to reducing cholesterol levels, plant sterols and stanols are worth exploring. They exist in Brussels sprouts and legumes, and even olives have trace amounts of plant sterols.  Not a fan of those foods? Walnuts and oatmeal are also effective cholesterol-lowering foods. 

For more details about plant sterols, check out this article: http://www.ehow.com/info_8557621_fruits-vegetables-plant-sterols.html

As for lowering blood pressure, foods like swiss chard and crimini mushrooms are very good sources as are bananas and unsalted sunflower seeds (unsalted since high sodium plays a large role in elevated blood pressure levels). Lots of other foods, including blueberries, can also combat hypertension.

For more ideas on what kinds of healthy foods are high blood-pressure busters, check out this article: http://www.aarp.org/health/medical-research/info-04-2011/6-foods-fight-high-blood-pressure.1.html

Browse through the various options as some of them may not be part of your preferred dietary lifestyle or may interact negatively with current medications.

Don’t forget to exercise

As with most any health condition, exercise does wonders to keep the body in top-notch condition, inside and out. Exercise can help with everything from anxiety reduction to diminished depression symptoms and of course, lead to weight loss.

Ah, weight loss. That in itself can be a great way to reduce high blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Even just a 10 pound loss has been shown to provide health benefits. In fact, check out this story about a man who lost a lot of weight (120 pounds to be exact) by enjoying more raw foods. Now, he no longer relies on blood pressure and cholesterol medications!

So, @jorjonzn and everyone else searching for natural alternatives to blood pressure and cholesterol medications, we hope this sheds more light on some options. They’re readily available choices that can help make a difference.

We wish you all the best of luck and health!

Sources for this article include:

March is National Nutrition Month: easy ideas to boost your health

March is National Nutrition Month, a campaign started by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to increase awareness about healthy dietary and physical habits. It actually started in 1973 as a mere week-long event, but with growing interest in nutrition, it became a month-long observance in 1980. We think it’s a great idea, especially since we’re hearing more stories about the obesity epidemic, fast-food horrors and the hazards of sitting instead of stretching.

We know you’re health-minded in the first place or you wouldn’t be reading the stories here at Raw and Natural Health (thank you). But why not take this month as a time to assess what you’re eating and how you’re exercising and maybe consider trying something new?

We’re not suggesting you abruptly go vegan when all along you’ve enjoyed eggs or that you show the world what you look like in spandex when light stretches at home has always worked for you. It just never hurts to take a closer look at your routine, from the gym to your dinner plate, and change things up a bit.

Easy, no-fuss ways to participate in National Nutrition Month

Here are a few ideas if you want to get in on what National Nutrition Month is all about:

Whip up a new recipe

We’ve got plenty here, from starting your day with a beet and orange juice or making no-bake, vegan granola bars.

They’re super healthy, easy to make and are a fun way to participate in National Nutrition Month right from your own kitchen.

Also, check out our hearty and healthy breakfast, Swiss muesli.

Consider trying a food you’ve never eaten, even if it looks weird

Rutabaga, with its waxy skin and uneven round-ish shape isn’t much of a thing to look at. Lots of people shun foods because of how they look, thinking that something that’s odd looking can’t possibly taste good, let alone be good for us. Not true.

Rutabaga, for example, can be eaten raw or cooked and has good amounts of fiber and phytochemicals that keep our system working right. So go for it!

Reach for something lumpy, bumpy and strange. You might be surprised! For more information about rutabaga, check out this story.

Try a different exercise

There’s nothing wrong with using a treadmill for 45 minutes, then going off to work on those biceps. But why not change things up slightly? If you can, increase that incline a little more.

Or, stay on the treadmill another five minutes. Feeling really adventurous? Sign up for a class you’ve always secretly wanted to try, but for some reason, never attended. Zumba? Yoga? You have nothing to lose.

Think positively

What does thinking good thoughts have to do with overall health? Well, there’s a lot to be said about the mind-body connection and that what the mind thinks, the body often perceives as actually happening to it. Powerful stuff, right?

Just like food and proper nutrition, why not “feed” ourselves with good thoughts during National Nutrition month? So if you’re one to beat yourself up for over-consumption of a certain “bad” food or missing two days in a row of exercise, focus on something good that you did do for your health . . . like that new recipe you tried or that freaky looking veggie you tasted : )

For more about National Nutrition Month, read this: http://www.eatright.org/nnm/

Tell us, is there anything you might do differently in light of it being National Nutrition Month? We’d love to hear from you!

Swiss muesli recipe: a hearty and healthy breakfast

I’ll be the first to admit that I used to skip breakfast. After losing 70 pounds in 2007, I fell into a silly mindset that went like this: occasionally skipping the meal = consuming fewer calories = keeping those pounds at bay. Then I had lots of headaches. I was grumpy often. Life got foggy.

However, I now know better (I have for years). These days, enjoying a breakfast is a must! Most of us know that eating a healthy breakfast gives us fuel to start the day right and when it comes to our weight, actually helps keep it in check.

One delicious discovery I’ve made along the way is Swiss muesli. It’s gluten-free and vegetarian, adding to the good-for-us health factor. Plus, it takes only about 10 minutes to make. So let’s get to it!

Prep tonight to have it ready to go in the a.m.!

Swiss muesli recipe

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 2 cups gluten-free rolled oats
  • 2 cups almond milk
  • 1/2 cup orange juice (this is optional. I broke out my juicer for this one so I could skip the stuff in a carton)
  • 1 cup low-fat or whole plain yogurt (while the recipe I went by doesn’t say it’s optional, I’ve made it before without yogurt and it comes out just as good, only thicker, which I prefer anyway)
  • 2 Tbsp. honey (I used raw, organic)
  • 1 crisp apple chopped in small pieces (You can swap this for the fruit of your choice. In the past, I’ve also made it with prunes or apricots)
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds (feel free to add another kind of nut if you want. Whatever you prefer!)

Let’s make it:

  1. First, stir milk, orange juice, yogurt and honey together in one bowl.
  2. Next, add the milk/juice mixture to another bowl that contains the oats, apples and almonds. Mix with spoon.
  3. Finally, soak overnight in the refrigerator so the oats can soften. Soaking also absorbs the other flavors, so every bite has a subtle hint of orange juice or honey.

That’s all there is to it. You now have a wonderful breakfast to look forward to tomorrow.

One serving has 0g saturated fat, 1g of fiber, 3g protein and is only 80 calories.

Swiss-mueslibreakfast

Health benefits of muesli

It’s no secret that Swiss muesli is full of healthy goodness. In fact, it was first made by a Swiss physician who served it as a healthy diet for hospital patients in the 1900s.

Here’s a closer look at some of the ingredients and why they’re good for us:

– Oats are rich in fiber and antioxidants that are said to help regulate cholesterol levels, reduce inflammation and fight free radicals in the body.

– Almond milk is a great alternative to cow’s milk, plus it has selenium which is great for building a healthy immune system.

– Apples are a good source of fiber, contain phytonutrients that play a role in keeping blood sugar levels on track and is thought to alter the bacteria in the large intestine so its cells have more fuel.

If you’re a fan of apples, you’ll love this story which tells you even more about the various health benefits of the fruit, including information about how it also improves memory and endurance.

Tell us, what do you think of Swiss muesli? If you end up making this recipe, let us know what ingredients you may have added or omitted and what you thought. We’d love to hear from you.

Recipe adapted from: http://www.cooktj.com/trader-joes-recipes/swiss-muesli

A no-bake, vegan granola bar recipe that makes the perfect snack

If you’re craving healthy granola bars and are in the mood to whip up some homemade goodness, you’ve come to the right place. We came across a no-bake vegan granola bar recipe that takes only 5 minutes to make. Heaven!

Plus, it calls for ingredients you likely already have in your pantry, so no need to plan a trip to the health food store (although it never hurts to go anyway, right? I can lose myself in some aisles. But I digress).

Follow this recipe to fulfill your granola bar craving

You’ll need two bowls.

In the first bowl, mix:

  • 2 1/2 cups rolled or quick oats
  • 1 cup raw pumpkin seeds (any seed or nut will do. I made my granola bars with almonds and walnuts)
  • 1/2 cup raisins (experiment a little! You can swap out the raisins for cranberries, as an example)
  • 2/3 cups raw almond butter (I prefer the taste of sunflower butter, so that’s what I used)

In the second bowl, mix:

  • 1/2 to 2/3 cup agave nectar, brown rice syrup, or other natural sweetener. (I went with the nectar. Again, this was just a matter of preference)
  • 1/8 teaspoon sea salt

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1) First, add the content from the second bowl into the first, mix.

In both the case of the nectar or syrup and the sea salt, adjust according to taste as well as how everything is holding together. You don’t want a runny texture, yet you don’t need it so thick and heavy that you could use it as a bowling ball.

2) Next, spread the mixture in a foil-lined, shallow dish, then place another piece of foil on top and use your hands to press and flatten everything.

3) Finally, refrigerate for up to 4 hours. (Ok, so that’s the only drawback we can think of: it needs a few hours to harden, so we have to wait a little bit before we can sink our teeth into its deliciousness – but trust us, it is well worth the wait.

No-bake granola bar health benefits

1900052_710758762290561_1512436679_nOnly whole foods and the recipe involves a non-heated process.  Heating, as many of us know, is thought to alter the nutrients in certain foods in a way that not only diminishes its health benefits, but that adds a little something called toxins to our meal. Not good.

As for the specific foods, oats are high in fiber, specifically a kind called beta-glucan that’s been shown to help regulate cholesterol levels. Of course, it’s great for our digestive system too.

Nuts are always a wise choice, and pumpkin seeds in particular are rich in antioxidants which mean there are antimicrobial benefits and as some studies suggest, even cancer-reducing properties. They’re also high in zinc which can help bolster immunity and diminish depression, according to some studies.

Nut butters allow us to get in an added dose of nut benefits like nutrients and fibers.

So, what are you waiting for? This super healthy recipe is a win-win and definitely something worth making again . . . and again . . . and . . .

Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from: http://food52.com/recipes/22107-five-minute-no-bake-vegan

The turmeric smoothie might just be the most powerful antioxidant smoothie ever

Brace yourself: we’ve found a smoothie that just might be the Smoothie of all Smoothies. Seriously, it contains some of the most powerful antioxidants around and no, you won’t be crinkling up your nose in disgust after every swallow. This one’s a must. Ladies and gentlemen, I introduce: the Turmeric Smoothie.

Now, the name’s a bit deceiving because it has tons of other immune-strengthening, cancer-busting, blood-purifying foods and spices, not just turmeric. So, let’s get to it.

Turmeric smoothie recipe

We found the recipe on this site.

Kale, fig and tomato salad

Ingredients

  • Salad Ingredients:
  • 2 cups finely chopped kale
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons Sweet Balsamic Dressing (see recipe below)
  • 3 to 4 cups chopped romaine lettuce
  • 1 ripe tomato, chopped
  • 4 large dried figs, stemmed and sliced very thin
  • 2 tablespoons sliced almonds
  • Dressing Ingredients:
  • 1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Add sea salt to taste (I'm big on pink Himalayan sea salt)

Instructions

  1. Put the kale into a medium size bowl.
  2. Pour 1 tablespoon of the dressing on top of the kale.
  3. Then massage the dressing into the kale and let the kale marinate in the dressing for about 20 minutes.
  4. Put the lettuce, tomato, figs, and sunflower seeds in a large salad bowl.
  5. Prior to serving, add the kale and more dressing to taste.
  6. Toss everything together to coat evenly and serve at room temperature.

The powerful health benefits of a turmeric smoothie

I consider this a “superfood smoothie” if ever there was one. It’s terrific that the banana gives us our potassium and the mango chunks our vitamin A and flavonoids, but the health doesn’t stop there.

Adding turmeric ramps up the health benefits considerably. The spice’s pigment, curcumin, has incredible anti-inflammatory properties that contribute towards a better cardiovascular system and staves off growth of cancer cells.

Ginger is believed to help with everything from proper bone growth and migraine prevention.

And coconut oil, one of my all-time favorites, helps to regulate weight, promote energy and keep skin in top condition. For some lesser-known uses of coconut oil (hint: your bookshelves might benefit from it), check out this story: http://blogs.naturalnews.com/top-5-lesser-known-and-helpful-uses-for-coconut-oil/

I could go on forever about the benefits of the other ingredients like cinnamon and chia seeds, but believe me when I say that everything in this smoothie makes it the crème de la crème of smoothies.

It’s brimming with antioxidants, has a frosty, thick texture and a sweetness that delivers a subtle turmeric “kick.”

Here’s to your health!

Is animal rennet vegetarian?

With recent news, some vegetarians are feeling a little duped. As discussed in this article, most cheeses aren’t so much vegetarian after all.

Most cheeses have rennet.

Wondering if your rennet-containing cheese is vegetarian? Not so much. If you’re decision to go vegetarian was for animal cruelty reasons, drop cheese from your diet.

What’s rennet you ask?

“It’s an enzyme that helps to separate the milk into solid curds and liquid whey during the cheese-making process and it’s in lots of cheeses, even your beloved ones with labels that come with an rBST or rBGH-free promise.”

But no worries. I dug a little deeper.

What to look for to avoid rennet

Labeling on products can be a tricky, slippery slope and are typically designed to give companies, not consumers, the advantage. Just like many companies use the word “fragrance” as the blanket statement that really means it may be made from a slew of toxic chemicals, some cheese companies may list “enzymes” as part of the ingredients.

Translation: rennet.

It still means the lining of the fourth stomach of a newborn lamb or calf played a role in getting that cheese to market. Other words to keep an eye on are “chymosin,” “rennin” and “rennaise.” Same deal.

To avoid this, obviously, take more care in reading those labels. Many cheddars, jalsbergs and feta’s contain rennet. Certain kinds of brie, colby and swiss have the microbial kind. Do research and never hesitate to ask questions right then and there in the supermarket. Don’t fall for pretty packaging full or rBST-free wording and assume it’s up to your vegetarian standards.

If you prefer, consider cheese alternatives like tofu and soy. I know, GMO right? Well if possible, find cheeses made with plant-based enzymes such as fig leaves, safflower or wild thistle.

Read more here:

http://www.naturalnews.com/044085_rennet_vegetarianism_GMO_foods.html

Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/anneh632/5766697640/

A juicing recipe with beets to jump-start your day

Starting the day with a juice that has beets in it may make lots of people crinkle their noses.  A root vegetable in the morning?  Why not?

When a few of us at Raw and Natural Health came across a “morning glory” recipe online at http://www.juicerecipes.com/recipes/morning-glory-29 we couldn’t resist trying it ourselves. Not only does the name sound like a peaceful way to start the day, but with three simple ingredients, it’s a no-fuss recipe that’s incredibly healthy. What more could we ask for?

Here’s what you need:

  • Juicer
  • 3 Beets (peeled, raw)
  • 2 Carrots (raw)
  • 2 Oranges (peeled, raw)

That’s it. Put these foods in the juicer and power up.

No need to break out dozens of fruits and veggies and surround yourself with more cooking utensils than the late Julia Child.  You’re not on a syndicated cooking show (well, likely not), you’re at home for crying out loud! 🙂

This “morning glory” recipe is a quick, easy and supremely healthy way to jump start the day. Bonus: it’s flavorful; the oranges balance out the root taste of the vegetables so it has a refreshing, subtly sweet taste all around.

beetsorangescarrots

The health benefits of the “morning glory” juice recipe

You won’t be missing out on good nutrition with this juicing recipe, that’s for sure. Here’s the breakdown:

Beets – known to be an anti-inflammatory powerhouse, beets are rich in choline, a vitamin that regulates inflammation in our cardiovascular system.  Beets are also important for detoxing.

Carrots – high in antioxidants that have been known to help with eye health and even play a role in cancer prevention.

Want more info about carrots? Check out these surprising facts: http://www.naturalnews.com/042513_carrots_surprising_facts_health_benefits.html

Oranges – an outstanding source of vitamin C, oranges are essential in ridding our bodies of free radicals.

Ideally, all of these should be organic and if possible, come from a local farmer’s market. That way, you’re sure to get the most out of your foods from a health, flavor and good-for-the-community standpoint.  Give it a try today!

For more information about the foods in this juicing recipe, check out this site: http://www.whfoods.com/foodstoc.php.

Editor’s note:

I understand the concern of food combining, in particular mixing fruits with any food other than greens. I address that here.

Come back and tell us what you thought of the recipe!

Does pine pollen increase testosterone?

In a past interview between Matt Monarch and “Health Motivator and Longevity Strategist” Daniel Vitalis, the topic of pine pollen was discussed.

Pine Pollen is being widely used through Asia, namely China and Korea, and has been used there for thousands of years. More specifically, what seems to have Daniel and Matt excited most about this “magical super food” is the effects it has on hormonal balancing. In its wild state, Daniel claims this potent pollen is at the root of many drugs supplied by pharmacies to aid in low testosterone levels.

During the interview, the two liken the effects of pine pollen to the effects of sperm.. saying that pine pollen is to the forested world what sperm is to humans.

And apparently, even the animals will feed on the pollen to help them with their nutrition and androgen, fuelling growth. One of the scientific claims on this product is that inside this powerful food lives superoxide dismutase, which is an extremely strong anti-oxidant, so powerful it is said to increase glutathione levels. This element is key in helping to break down and remove environmental and pollutant-ridden toxins.

Other claimed benefits include restoring hormone levels, stronger libido (as a result of the higher testosterone claims), skin rejuvenation, improved immune system, and many anti-aging properties, to name just a few.

Pine Pollen can be taken without difficulty, easily mixed into drinks, either with a powder, or tincture (an alcoholic extract). According to Daniel, the tinctures are even more potent than the powders, using an organic grape alcohol in combination with pine pollen extract.

In the interview, Daniel and Matt impress that this product is not super expensive and will last a very long time, as the potency is such that it does not require huge amounts to maximize it’s benefits.

There’s no doubt that these two “food dudes” are enthusiastic food debaters, and while they may be slightly biased 😉 both are also enthusiastic consumers of this ancient superfood.

If you don’t have access to a pine tree to harvest your own, you can get a long-lasting canister for less than $30 on Amazon through this affiliate link. Look for the brand by Surthrival.

You can also get your hands on this free report which talks about other ways to boost testosterone naturally, including the consumption of raw pumpkin seeds!