Monday, November 30, 2009
Cumin, to me, smells like dirt. Soil, really. It smells like the earth. I'm sitting here, alternating between typing, and smelling ground cumin seeds. It smells like magic.
For years, whenever I was cooking at a friends kitchen, and they had one of those all in one spice racks, or if they were serious enough to have many different jars that they hand selected, I would always go for the cumin, and not because of any health benefits; I didn't know it had any. Cumin could of been as good for you as eating cardboard, I don't know, I just loved that smell. And I know I'm harping on it. And I know there are (potentially insane) people out there who don't like the smell of cumin.
Anyway. Cumin, aside from the smell, is incredibly good for you. Lemme tell you all about it.
i.) VITAMINS! Okay, well, here's the rub. Cumin, per volume, contains more iron than damn near anything, but you're not going to end up eating a ton of cumin, right? I mean, you could eat 10 grams of cumin, and come up with 50% of your iron needs, but I'm not sure there wouldn't be some different problems if you ate a bit over 1/6th of that bottle up there. Still though, cumin does contain iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc in decent quantity, as well as some B and potassium, and so even if you aren't going to look to cumin as your main source of these vitamins, they are going to help out.
ii.) DIGESTION! Well, first off, that smell, which is caused by cuminaldehyde, makes our mouths water, and that saliva is the first part of our digestion, breaking down some of the starches and fats we eat. The second part of cumin's magic is much more impressive: thanks to the thymol in these lil seeds, cumin has been shown to increase the production of pancreatic enzymes that help us digest food . And there's even more! Cumin is considered a carminative, which, before I can even explain what that is, I must comment that I am amazed that such a word exists. A carminative is a spice or an herb that either expels or prevents the formation of gas, which also helps with digestion. So there's cumin's three pronged helpful attack to get you all digested better.
iii.) CANCER! AGAIN! I think it'll be by about post 50 or so that I find myself completely bored with trying to tell you guys how to fight cancer. Cumin has the ability to take out free radicals, which, if I understand this correctly, are bad because of the negative way they affect and react with our dna, causing mutations and tumors. Aside from this awesomeness, research has shown to increase detoxifying agents in the liver, which also help for cancer fighter off ness. Okay, that sentence got away from me, but still. Cumin good fight cancer, okay?
iv.) Respiratory issues be gone! There are two ways that cumin helps you breathe, and I'm going to put them out there, then explain: essential oils and caffeine. Now, the essential oils in cumin (cuminaldehyde) are helpful disinfectants, and have been shown to be anti-inflammatory agents, as well as allegedly (this is traditional medicine, not science) being helpful in drying up excess mucus. Pair that with caffeine, which has been shown to be helpful with oxygen intake and stimulating the respiratory system, and you have a pretty good combination. My only problem with this, is that for the life of me, I can't find out how much caffeine is in cumin. Do you have to eat excessive amounts to get caffeine stimulation? Is it marginal and then just a foot note, and not really something worth writing home about? I can't seem to find out. Someone can feel free to out-research me, and we'll see what's what.
v.) DIABETES! So I was just reading some early studies about the way that cumin effects diabetes, and I promise you this, I tried, really, really, really hard to understand them. But after looking up every big word, and then looking up every big word in the definitions of the previous big words, I could only figure out that it SEEMED like cumin would be a helpful anti-diabetic agent, lowering sucrose levels in lab rats. Early research, but promising.
WHAT TO DO WITH CUMIN:
Aside from sitting in a room, smelling ground Cumin in a jar, there's plenty of fine things to do with cumin. I'm a bigger fan of the ground stuff than the actual seeds, just because sometimes the seeds add a consistency I'm not in the mood for, and if you're only going to have one or the other, the ground is more versatile. I personally put cumin in nearly everything, as I'm madly in love with it, obviously. It's generally used for Indian dishes, curry and the like, or Mediterranean dishes, in rice or stews, soups. A lot of people use it in chili, or when making spanish dishes. Alicia wanted me to point out that it's used a lot in Mexican Flavor Packet Thingies, which are really an American thing more than anything else, but cumin is indeed behind some amazing tex-mex cooking. Really, anything you want to be savory, earthy, spicy, it's perfect for. Ah! I'm so in love. I literally want to make all of that, just thinking about it. And so, since I can't find any contraindications, side effects, it seems fine for people with babies in them and whatnot, here's what I'm going to do:
I'm going to go get a pot. I'm going to put rice, water, olive oil, CUMIN, TURMERIC, and black pepper in it, and heat it, till it's magic. Then I'm going to get a pan: butter, fresh wild chanterelle mushrooms, garlic, green onions, more CUMIN, TURMERIC, a habanero, and I'm going to fry it up until it's magic. Then I'm going to put it all together, and I'm gonna be in heaven. I totally recommend you do the same.
Monday, November 23, 2009
I really wanted to get this out there before Thanksgiving, to try and entice some of my American readers to eat more sweet potatoes, but alas.
So, I feel like I need a couple of disclaimers right of the bat, and we'll start with this: I used to HATE sweet potatoes. It's true. Part of it came from working at a produce warehouse. For those of you who haven't, let me in on a little secret: sorting cases and cases and cases of rotten sweet potatoes is the most disgusting job ever. Worse than blown out citrus, worse than the end of tomato season, hell, I can't even think of anything almost that bad to add to this list! So when I already have an aversion to sweet potatoes, and then I get to deal with these horrible... well, I really ought not describe it. Point is, I was near ruined. I had never really cared for the taste, and the texture was by far not my favorite, and I really never understood why we couldn't just have yukon golds, and then the job, and there you go. Over it. No sweet potatoes for me.
And then two things happened.
First was the fact that our local, wind powered, super all awesome fast food restaurant Burgerville made Sweet Potato French Fries, and I found out about it, and I tried them, and they were awesome. (though the Artic Circle in McMinnville also has them too, I've now found, and they're better) Not that I'm really advocated fast food on a health blog, am I? (for those not around from around here, neither of these restaurants are your typical fast food places, and let's be honest, sometimes you're out driving and you get hungry, and that Banh Mi place with the drive through is a little too far away, and a delicious fish sandwich sounds perfect, right?)
The second, of course, is that learned that they are amazingly good for you. And you know me, sold on the taste of something when that taste transforms into the taste of not getting sick.
i.) VITAMINS! Beta-Carotene, B, C, Calcium, Iron, Potassium, Phosphate, Magnesium! Sweet potatoes are more jam packed with vitamins than damn near anything, and we all love vitamins.
ii.) FIBER! Definitely helpful for when you haven't been eating as healthfully as you should be.
iii.) ULCERS! The combination of vitamins and fiber helps sooth the savage belly beast, as well as helps clean things out, as constipation has been shown to increase stomach pressure, as well as shown to increase your body's production of acid, which could aggravate ulcers further, as well as agitate acid reflux.
iv.) Diabetes! Early testing shows that sweet potatoes have been shown to balance blood sugar levels as well as lower insulin resistance. These results are based on preliminary animal testing, and so are not one hundred percent something I'd vouch for, but it's a good sign for people wanting something sweet, that's not a chemical or a potentially bad for them sugar. And I'm assuming when they say that sweet potatoes might be beneficial for diabetics, they aren't talking about having them covered in brown sugar and marshmallows.
WHAT TO DO WITH SWEET POTATOES:
So, here's the part where I am the wrong person to ask. I legitimately can not get behind some of the ways a lot of people like sweet potatoes: all mashed potatoey with sugar and marshmallows, any texture at all that is mashey is really not my cup of tea. It's strange, because I love mashed potatoes, and I love sweet things, but for some reason the idea of sweet mashed potatoes doesn't do it for me. And no, I also don't like sweet potato pie. I KNOW. I'm totally doing it wrong. Really sorry. There are a lot of people that REALLY love sweet potatoes that are totally in love with the way their mom or dad made it, and that's fine. Have at it. And honestly, the first person who passionately posts a recipe in the comments section will inspire me to edit this, and post it here. But don't get mad when I don't make it for myself.
What I do with them, honestly, is try to make them like I would a potato. Baked. Fried. In soups. And around savory ingredients. Aside from being in love with sweet potato french fries (which I'm sure takes away a bit of the health benefits, but I'm also sure that it is better for me than eating regular old french fries), my favorite thing to do with sweet potatoes is to add them to a massively spicy dish. Savory, and spicy, with that sweet in there to offset and make interesting, I've been making my vegetable soups with habaneros and pepper, cumin and mushrooms, and with sweet potatoes boiled to the same texture that I would a russet or a yukon gold. It's a potato soup with the added benefit of a sweetness to combat the blindingly hot pepper, and the savory earthy flavors of the rest.
Am I trying to get you to fall in love with sweet potatoes the way I like them? No, not at all. Make pies till your heart's content. Make sweet potatoes however you like. You should eat them, they're good for you. I'm just happy that I found a way that these healthy little guys can be something I can stomach. And don't judge me. I've heard some of you don't like mushrooms. THAT'S insane.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
So, I'll admit it. I like to post about things people don't already know about. I mean, I could write about apples and bananas on here, but I'd say damn near everyone in the universe already knows that apples and bananas have health benefits, and I doubt there's anything I can write about either one of those that will make people be like, "oh, yeah, I SHOULD go eat an apple!" And so when I started thinking about if I should post about habaneros, I felt the twinge of, "dude, they already know, move on to sweet potatoes already". And then I bought some, for some soup (believe it or don't), and a friend asked me what they were, and I realized that maybe some people weren't already on the habanero train, and I should write about these little dudes, and help spice up everyone's lives.
I got into spicy foods when I was 19 or so, and vegan. I had said something to a friend about how it seemed bad that all of the vegans I knew put so much salt on everything, because everything was so bland. None of us were great cooks or anything, so most vegan meals where starchy and unexciting, and the fact that we were poor made it so that most of those meals also weren't made from the best or freshest ingredients. All of us had grown up eating lots of amazing Mexican food, so we knew to put hot sauce in our beans and rice burritos, but it wasn't until this conversation with him that I realized that hot sauce, and spicy foods, could go a long way in both keeping healthy with a less than nutritious diet, as well as take some of the pressure off of salt to keep everything tasting good. And the biggest selling point for me, was the magic of the endorphins. From there on out, I was putting chili sauce in my stir fry, and peppers in my pasta, and sauteeing peppers, and adding them to soups. It's been an amazing love affair.
And years later, I met a guy who put habaneros in maple syrup for breakfast. What a nut job! Right guys? Actually, he totally was on to something. But before I jump into the "how do I eat this?" part, how about I run down the "why do I eat this it really burns a lot seriously man what the hell" part first.
i.) Let's get HIGH! So, one of the things that really made me think I was onto something with spicy foods, was that feeling of happiness that I'd have afterward. Before I knew any better, I thought it was just the satisfaction of a good meal, and I'm sure that was a part of it. But really, it was that I had totally just tricked my body into releasing endorphins, which made me feel wonderful. The way it works is that your body associates capsaicin (the spicy part of peppers) with pain. This is because cells in your body react to capsaicin the same way they do to fire. No joke. So, your body thinks it's on fire, literally, and floods your system with endorphins, so that you can feel some pain relief from the seeming fire. Since, of course, there is no fire, you just get to kick back and enjoy the endorphin wave going over you.
ii.) HEART ATTACK! Years ago, I heard from an EMT friend that the first thing to do if someone was having a heart attack was to get them to eat some habaneros. Well, he may have said the first thing was 911, the second thing was habaneros, but still. Habanero or Cayenne tea have histories of halting heart attacks or strokes due to blood clots, and there's claims you can even place capsaicin under the tongue, assuming you have some pure capsaicin sitting aroung. The science seems to support it as well, capsaicin cleans out the clogs in your vessels by reducing platelet aggregation, increasing cardiac performance, lowering blood pressure, flushing harmful toxins from your blood, increases circulation, lowering triglycerides as well as improving the ratio of good to bad cholesterol. So good heart health all around.
iii.) Vitamins! Antioxidents! Yes, vitamins got third on this list, maybe just because feeling good and not having a heart attack are potentially more important to me. Higher in vitamin C than citrus (as much as 300% more!), these guys are also jam packed with A, E, B9, and potassium.
iv.) Clean out your sinuses! If you've ever eaten spicy food, you probably could have figured out this one on your own, these guys are great for opening up clogged sinuses. Great for being stuffed up with a cold, not so great for being on a date.
v.) Diabetes! There's two studies, that are probably related, but there hasn't been that next study to connect them. One says that capsaicin helps the insulin producing cells in your body create insulin again and even makes new insulin producing cells, and one says that the amount of insulin needed to lower blood sugar after a meal is less if that meal contains capsaicin. Either way you look at it, pepper's are good.
vi.) Pain relief! One could deduce that the release of more endorphins is why peppers are good for pain relief, and that might be the lot of it, but there is more research into the effects of capsaicin and how it's possible pain blocking skills can be used to help in the future. Plus, studies have shown that capsaicin can be used topically for joint pain!
vii.) Digestion! Habaneros help to get things out. If you know what I mean. Good for life, again, not great for a date. From increasing gastric secretions to loosening clogged bowels, peppers help everything work a little better.
viii.) Kill food bacteria! Researchers did a test against the 30 most common food bacterias, and chilies killed 75% of them. I wouldn't feel super safe without a study that says it kills 100% of them, but it's a nice bonus, and good to keep in mind if you're traveling or eating out of a garbage can or something. 75% less to worry about!
ix.) CANCER! So, I almost didn't include it. You guys are already preventing cancer with everything else you're eating, right? But this is different. Dudes. Capsaicin fights PROSTATE CANCER! Alright! That's wicked rad, right? Research has shown that in cell studies, prostate cancer tumors treated with capsaicin are 80% smaller! 80% less cancer! Yay! Also, there's early research in Japan and China that show that it might have anti-lukemic principles. I mean, I'm already fighting my junk cancer, I might as well also fight my bone cancer, plus there's a study that shows it could fight against lung cancer. BUT, not so fast, because there's a small chance that large quantities of chilis COULD be related to stomach cancer.Three beats one, I'm sticking with peppers.
WHAT TO DO WITH HABANEROS:
There's a lot of options here. Salsa's a great one, either make your own, or buy some fresh salsa, and the sky's the limit. I'm sure that people have just as many ways to make salsa as there are stars in the sky, and so I refuse to get into such a debate. People get really serious about salsas! Maybe I'll try to convince Alicia/Double J to come up with a recipe worth publishing, but I'll clue you in now and just say that mine has to do with a food processor, onions, and other fresh veggies. Not too exotic, but I love it.
Soups, obviously, are a highly recommended use. I generally just get one whole habanero, cut it into small pieces, and chuck it into a soup like that. If you're making enough soup for two people, one lil habanero will probably be enough for both of you to have some wonderfully spicy times, it doesn't take a lot to power a soup. I also really like the idea of using habaneros with mac-n-cheese, not only because you can dull the burn with the dairy, but because I think spicy mac is delicious.
One thing I've always wanted to do, and let me know if you've tried it, is make chile relleno with habaneros. I think it would be amazing. And I plan on trying it whenever I get around to it, probably within the next month. A friend recommended I try asadero cheese with it, I'll let you know how it goes.
And then there's the crazy people. I've had it. It's intense. Not honestly sure how I feel about it. But there's a serious fan base out there. And I support you. Habanero and maple syrup. I'm sure that if you've had the two, you could imagine the taste together. I honestly have mixed feelings, but if you like spicy and sweet, I say you give it a try. I found a company that makes it, I've only had the homemade version, but if you've had this or something like it, feel free to let me know: http://www.moosewoodhollow.com/sweet_heat.html
Like all good things, people have found a way to put it in a pill and charge you extra for it. So if you want the benefits, and don't want the heat, check out your supplement section.
WHAT'S WRONG WITH THIS STUFF:
People with Acid Reflux should avoid capsaicin. It has a tendency to make things worse. Also, people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome should avoid capsaicin. Otherwise, as best as I can tell, you should go for it. As always, check with doctors, etc.
REALLY IMPORTANT INFORMATION ABOUT COOKING WITH THIS STUFF:
It's recommended that you use gloves if you cook with habaneros, especially if they're fresh and you're dicing the hell out of them. The reason is that the oil's get on your skin, which COULD make you have skin irritation, if you have sensitive skin. Potentially worse than that, the oils are a HUGE pain in the ass to get all the way off, which means you can later rub your eyes, and now you're burning and it hurts. Which is what happened to me last night. It was a bummer. So, even after a good 2-3 minute "I really don't wanna burn myself later" hand washing, I still missed a spot, and there we go. Spent another couple of minutes making sure I got under each and every nail and hiding space, and it was fine, but heed my warning: gloves, or REALLY, REALLY good hand washing. Just a good fyi. Cause what's the use of not getting sick if yer damn eye hurts?
Monday, November 16, 2009
I'm gonna be honest, I didn't know a damn thing about parsley until recently. There's this BBC show that Emilie and I used to watch (and still would, except neither of us have BBCAmerica anymore), called You Are What You Eat, which I think is really good, for a reality show. Basically there's the tough but loving nutritionist, who analyzes individual people's diets, helps them lose weight and live healthier. A lot of the time she starts them off on a near vegan diet, cuts off a lot of boozing and sugars, it's all stuff that, from a nutrition standpoint, makes total sense to me. But as Em and I spent more and more time watching it, something kept striking me as odd, and that was the fact that the smart British lady always had them using parsley. And I was like, um, why? Because even though we sold a lot of it through the organic produce distributor I used to work for, I just for some reason thought that there was a lot of dishes that needed a lot of garnishing.
So I hit research mode, and I found out some stuff. Which I will of course now share with you. Before I do, and before you start nibbling, there's some downsides to parsley which I will cover at the end, so read it all. Or just skip to the WHAT'S WRONG WITH THIS STUFF section.
i.) Vitamin K (there's a lot), as well as C, A magnesium, calcium, B, and Iron.
ii.) Cancer be gone! Okay, again, let me just point out that none of you should have cancer at this point. However, I know there's a lot of people that smoke. I did too, for 8 years or so, and I can only chock it up to being a jackass while younger, and being an addict while older. It happens. I just passed two years nicotine free, and I'm pretty stoked about it. For those of you that can't/haven't/don't want to quit, I feel for you, it's a hard road to travel. And not like this is a good way to justify your smoking, BUT, if you are, maybe you should do all of us who love you a favor, and work some parsley in your diet. Parsley contains a series of volatile oils, which, I know, sounds terrifying and not something that you want to eat. However, these oils, especially myristicin, have been shown to stop the production of tumors, especially in the lungs. The hydrocarbons that come from smoking, grilling, burning things, or whatnot, are said to be expelled from the lungs thanks to the magic of parsley. And what sounds more magical than MYRISTICIN?! I wanna start an epic wizard band with lots of synths and call it that, but I won't be bummed if you steal the idea from me. So, smokers, get with the myristicin. Or, you know, quit smoking.
iii.) Flavonoids! So many great veggies are chock full of these magics, which are antioxidents that help with daily life, as well as the ability to reduce cancer possibilities.
iv.) KIDNEYS, BLADDER, BLOOD, INTESTINES! BE CLEAN! I look at parsley like this, and I'm okay with this not being the most scientific explanation: It cleans everything. It's a diuretic, it clears out both kidney stones and gall stones, it helps against bladder infections, it cleans toxins from your blood, and I've heard it recommended for people with irritable bowel syndrome. When you've been living your life in an active and say, less than healthy way, really, parsley is the answer of how to clean everything. And who doesn't need to tidy up every now and again?
v.) The rumors: Okay, in doing research into this, I've found people saying that parsley helps everything from deafness and ear problems, to sexual problems, to curing bruises as a topical application. And there may be anecdotal research to support a lot of that, and it all seems like good information, but it seems like there's not a lot of science to back it up. And you know I'm not Mr. Science Pants or whatever, I just like it better when a bunch of hippies AND some science guy come to the same conclusion. So, I'm gonna leave a lot out of my list of health benefits. Possible benefits are everything I've mentioned, plus more, but I feel like I should already have sold you on it. Plus, it tastes great, so eat it.
WHAT TO DO WITH PARSLEY:
Just like damn near everything else I really like, I am prone to throw these guys in soups of all kinds. I've also steamed parsley and used it over rice, and in dishes where I'd typically use spinach, I've added parsley and subtracted a bit of spinach. It's flavor isn't a spinach substitute, but it's texture is comparable, and color, of course, and I like the slightly sweetness of fresh parsley, which also goes well with dandelion leaves, if you're one who cooks with weed parts like I am. Parsley's flavor is really fresh and somehow sweet and peppery, but none of these are overpowering, and if you cook in the "let all the ingredients fight it out" way that I do, it's taste will get a bit lost in the mix, which could be bad, but also means that if you're not into it, you should be able to hide it pretty easily behind some other flavors.
WHAT'S WRONG WITH THIS STUFF?
Okay, so there's some debate, and not a lot of great research, but here's the lowdown. Parsley eaten in excessive amounts can be bad for you. It appears that those cleaning agents, which are so good for you, can be a bit much in large quantities. Basically, while they are stripping the sodium from your kidneys, they have been known to strip other things as well, like calcium. So don't eat parsley in large quantities.
Now, what the hell is a large quantity? There's the question. And I have no idea what the answer is. I DO know that the same people that say that too much is bad DO recommend eating up to two ounces a day. And unless you are either juicing, or REALLY into parsley, you probably wouldn't go over that anyway. So, maybe it's not a concern? Maybe it's over cautiousness on my part to even put this out there? So be it.
Another problem can come with people that are on blood thinners, either because they are trying to 86 an existing clot, worried about possible clots, or because of whatever other reason they put people on blood thinners. Parsley has high amounts of vitamin K, which helps your blood clot. So if you're on blood thinners... Well, I'm sure you got it. People that I've talked to that are on blood thinners should have already had this explained by their doctors, and many vegetables should be avoided, but you should be talking to your doctor about this.
PREGNANCY! Really. Parsley has the ability to induce a period, can induce contractions, and can lead to problems with your baby's blood. Now, from what I've read, parsley isn't so intense that it will induce an abortion, but it seems like it's at least possible that it will do so. It also seems like this is another example of "IN LARGE QUANTITIES IN CAN BE BAD FOR PREGNANCY", which, again, no one's 100% sure what large quantities means. But you know what? I'm just gonna go ahead and say that if you're someone who eats large amounts of parsley/juices with parsley/cuddles with parsley at night, you might want to avoid being pregnant. Or kick parsley to the curb if you are or think you are pregnant. Though, if you think you are pregnant, the first thing you should do before worrying about parsley, is go get a pregnancy test. Right guys?
So, that's seemingly all of the contradictions. That's all I know of. Check up on it yourself if you're concerned, please. I'm going to keep on using it when I get sick, and on a semi-regular basis to keep everything cleaned out. Because I'm pretty damn sure I'm not going to end up pregnant, and because I have no need to be on blood thinners. As per usual, this stuff is amazing for you, as long as your doctor doesn't disagree. And if she does, then listen to her. Because she's probably smarter than me.
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Okay, so this isn't going to just be a mushroom blog, I promise, but I've got a couple of magical eats that I gotta talk about, not just because of the health benefits, but also because they're delicious.
Tasty, readily available in most (good) grocery stores, these mushrooms are always my favorite choice when exotics aren't available. They taste great, are wonderful fried or in soups, and of course, have magical healing health benefits. Would you like me to tell you more? OF COURSE:
i.) Not shockingly, they're chock full of good stuff,B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, D2, iron, protein, and fiber.
ii.) Fuck a cancer! Really? I really found another way to fight cancer? I mean, if you guys are paying attention even a little bit, you should be cancer free already. Shiitakes are rich in Lentinan, which is a beta-glucan similar in nature to the D-fraction in Maitakes. Basically, there's lab results that show that Lentinan increases white blood cell count and generates reticular fibers which are known to eradicate both bacteria and cancerous cells. While there's no studies I can find on it, it seems sensible at least to assume that if you had Lentinan and D-fractions in your system at the same time, you'd be even better off. Beta-glucans for everybody!
iii.) Cholesterol is combated by eritadenine, another magical ingredient found in shiitakes.
iv.) HIV fighting! Thanks to the above mentioned Lentinan, white blood cell generating shiitakes have been recommended to people with HIV as a way to support western drug regiments.
v.) Blood pressure! Okay, so a double edged sword, if you have high blood pressure, this is great, if you have high blood pressure and are already on medication for it, or if you have some sort of really low blood pressure issues, not so great. As usual, see a doctor, etc.
WHAT TO DO WITH THEM:
So, best case scenario, get a cast iron grill, over an open flame, with butter and garlic and onions and maybe some black pepper, and you fry it to perfection. But really, these mushrooms are versatile and taste great weather fried, grilled, or sauteed, and I use them quite often in soups or pasta sauces. For people that aren't into the texture of mushrooms (get over it), I recommend getting dried mushrooms, grinding them up, and adding them to dishes where they won't be noticed. The best I've found for the picky eater lately is making cheesy mashed potatoes, you won't be overwhelmed and you will be healthier. These are also available in pill form for those that want the benefits but not the taste/texture.
Oh, beautiful exotic magic creature. How many ways can I express my love for the Lion's Mane? Probably a billion, so I'll try to narrow it down. Firstly, they're pretty mild to the taste on their own. But you know how vegans and vegetarians and everyone always says "oh, like tofu sucks up the flavor of like whatever, man"? Well, I'd like to put it like this: You can beat flavor into tofu. You can drown the tofu in flavor for hours, and it will have no choice to conform. You can shoot ray guns filled with flavor at tofu for days, and it will indeed become saturated in awesome flavor. Lion's Mane on the other hand? You whisper the word "flavor" to Lion's Mane, and our mushroom friend sucks it all up, and asks you if you have any more. Put the Lion's Mane in a room with a frying pan, and some butter, some garlic and onions, and just BLINK, and you are magically delighted by a delicacy that Kings and Queens are not worthy of.
But this isn't supposed to be a drool inducing foodie blog, where I tell you about the flaky and tender majesty that will remind you of the best sea food you've ever had, but be vague enough where you just can't place it, you just know you want more. This is a blog about health. So as you're devouring this amazingness, just remember, you're doing it for your health.
i.) Let's fight dementia! As someone who has been called crazy for YEARS, this seems like good news. Studies are showing that these guys stimulate the synthesis of Nerve Growth Factor, which would be helpful in fighting dementia as well as Alzheimer's.
ii.) There are anti-tumor properties, and it looks like there's been significant results when used specifically to fight hepatoma (liver cancer, basically).
iii.) Nerve regeneration! Okay, honestly, I don't get this THAT much. But here's the best that I've got in understanding: Myelin is an insulating material that helps electrical currents move along a nerve. That's probably REALLY dumbed down, but it's the best I've got. As Myelin breaks down, electrical information is less able to be sent along a nerve, and a nerve may break down completely due to the lack of Myelin. There is early (in vitro) research being done that would suggest that Lion's Mane mushrooms have the ability to increase myelination, which is basically the building of myelin around the nerve. When an extract from Lion's Mane was added to cells, myelination happened earlier and faster than when there wasn't myelination added to the cells. (I feel like a fifth grader writing a report on the moon, by the way). Anyway, there's a possibility that all of this could mean that these mushrooms have the ability to help with Multiple Sclerosis, as well as other nerve damage. So, yeah.
*NOTE: These mushrooms have MUCH less research information than some of the more typical and common mushrooms on the market. There could be other health benefits as well (white blood cell count increases, for example) that are early in the research stages. I've found a couple studies that say they're high in anti-oxidents for example, but nothing really conclusive. I will update later if I hear more, especially if I hear bad things. Oh, and Alicia, they do regulate (lower) blood sugar, thought I couldn't find specifics on how much.
WHAT TO DO WITH THEM:
You want to know what food heaven's like? Cut these into 1/4 inch cubes, drop them in a hot pan with butter and any seasoning you personally like to add to shrimp or lobster or seafood in general, and fry them. Great with fish, over rice or pasta, or any other way that you'd eat sea food. For the vegan/vegetarian that is missing that sea food taste, these would be a PERFECT replacement. For everyone else, they're just plain delicious. Sorry Chantrelles, our love affair was great, but you're going to have to take a back seat here. Lion's Mane are pretty difficult to find commercially, you might have to hunt them out. Trust me, it's worth the effort.
NO MORE MUSHROOMS!
Obviously that's not true. But I am taking a break, so that those kids that haven't figured out how awesome they are will be able to appreciate some health benefits from some other foods. Anyway. Stop getting sick, guys.
Sunday, November 1, 2009
Whenever anyone asks me why I'm so into nutrition, there's two answers that come up. The first, I've already discussed, which is Maitake mushrooms, which was the first food that made me realize that eating the right way can have immediate benefits to your health, as opposed to some far off "it's good for you" empty promise. The second, which I believe now to be just as magical, is turmeric. Used primarily as a spice, it posses powers unparalleled by near anything I've found (yet?). The rhizome(let's just call it a root), which I tried and failed to find fresh in the greater Portland area, looks a lot like ginger, except oranger. The powder, which can be found in damn near any grocery store's spice aisle, looks like that brilliant orange stuff in my hand there. I recommend ALMOST everyone (I'll clear that up later) go and get some, as soon as possible. Let me tell you why:
i.) CURCUMIN. This is where the awesome comes from. To the best of my knowledge, everything listed below is because of Turmeric having this wonderful curcuminoid.
ii.) LET'S FIGHT CANCER! Every single report the medical industry machine says about curcumin starts out with: "uh, yeah, so we did all these tests, and curcumin like, totally kicks the shit out of cancer. but, like, we don't really know exactly why, and like, we don't wanna be wrong, or think that you guys could beat cancer at home, so, like, don't sue us, and, you know, keep up the chemo." And I get that, they're greedy fucks, and are paranoid about being wrong, and you might as well keep up the chemo while you're at it (a recent study showed that curcumin also lowered the side effects of chemo. how rad is that?). HOWEVER. They do studies on rats. They do studies on other animals. They do studies on test tubes. They do studies on people. And in a lot of cases, the results look good, and many doctors also believe that there is a high potential for curcumin to not only kick the shit out of existing cancer, but to also prevent the formation of cancerous cells. Believe it or don't (I do). Just don't be surprised when some drug company makes a super curcumin that is easily bioavailable, and "cures cancer".
iii.) LET'S FIGHT HIV! So, the best way my brain understands this, and I could be dumbing it down to much, so, if yer wicked smart, feel free to explain it to me better, but it appears that curcumin could block a gene that makes HIV replicate, or that it's antioxidant properties are really what's helping. I read one study that claimed that it might block HIVs ability to replicate by protecting healthy cells. Again, this is all early research, but it's good to know, and I'm sure Harvard (and everyone) will continue doing research till it's all figured out. Right guys?
iv.) LET'S FIGHT DIABETES! No, really, turmeric and curcumin aren't anywhere near done yet. Blood sugar levels drop after some good curcumin (sorry Alice, and other hypoglycemics!), which is a plus for people trying to keep their blood sugar levels on the level. It's also a negative for people with diabetes who are on medication that lowers their blood sugar, as turmeric + this medication COULD drop your blood sugar lower than it should be, so talk to your doctor, etc.
v.) LET'S FIGHT MALARIA! Okay, so, odds are good, that no one reading this has had malaria. However. Turmeric has been shown to inhibit some of the parasites that have been known to cause malaria, including Plasmodium falciparum, a drug resistant parasite that causes cerebral malaria. So, um, that's good for people that are worried about malaria (I'm totally waiting for the one person that's had it to give me shit for down playing it's existence in western culture, I'm just saying that I've never heard of anyone I know having it).
vi.) LET'S FIGHT GETTING FAT! If you haven't ran to the pantry and started eating spoonfulls of turmeric yet, this maybe will be the one that pushes you over the edge. A recent study (man, there's apparently no end to the funding for medical studies, I tell ya) showed that curcumin seemingly has the ability to make it more difficult for your body to create fat cells. Basically, they fed a bunch of fatty foods to rats, and half of them got curcumin added in. The curcumin did NOT lower appetites, as both sets of rats ate the same amount of food. However, the curcumin rats gained considerably less weight. Does that mean it's going to work the same way in humans? Should we rely on turmeric to make us thin? No, and no, but I was already busy fighting cancer and everything else, so why not fight getting fat at the same time?
vi.) LET'S FIGHT ALZHEIMER'S DISEASE! No, really. Did I not promise magic? UCLA study says that this gem has the ability to break up harmful plaques and beta-amyloid both associated with the disease.
vii.) LET'S FIGHT HPV! HPV uses proteins to bond to healthy cells. Curcumin uses those same proteins, and is more aggressive, blocking HPV's ability to bond to those cells. They've done tests on individual cells, which show that HPV's bonds to human cells break, we'll see what happens in human trials.
viii.) LET'S FIGHT HERPES! I mean, seriously, spoonfulls, right guys? HSV-1: studies show that it works on not only suppressing the virus, but also interfere with the replication of the virus. HSV-2: studies in animals show that it's effective in protecting from infection. I love turmeric, but keep wearing condoms.
ix.) LET'S FIGHT DEPRESSION, STRESS, and ANXIETY! My god (curcumin) is also an anti-depressant. It has a positive effect on neurogenesis in the hippocampus, which, I don't really know what it means, but it's like, really good, look it up. And if that weren't enough, it increases concentrations of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which is good for your mood, as well as you memory.
x.) LET'S FIGHT PSORIASIS! Turmeric's anti-inflammatory abilities can help! It seems that it doesn't actually remove the discoloration, and the "unsightliness", so if those are your biggest problems with your skin, I'm sorry, but it does seem to help with swelling, itching, and potentially diminishing, though the jury's still out on that last part.
IS THAT ALL?!
No, actually, it's not. But if I really have to keep prattling on about it to convince you this is something you ought to include in your diet, then I really just think that I'm going to have to give up on you. I mean, c'mon. WHY AREN'T YOU EATING THIS STUFF ALREADY?
WHAT TO DO WITH TURMERIC:
Okay, so the first thing, is that you're going to want to also invest in a little black pepper. Pepper has pepperine, which helps A LOT (up to 2000%) with curcumin's absorption. You don't need a lot, something along the lines of 1 part pepper for every 4 parts turmeric, but without it, it's pretty difficult for your body to work out the good stuff. The next OPTIMAL thing to do (which I miss out on a lot) is to add your turmeric to some heated olive oil, which also adds to bioavailability, though not as dramatically as the pepper.
Once you have your black pepper and turmeric, the sky's the limit. I mostly include this combo in soups, but I've added it to everything from curries (obviously) to on top of a cheese burger. Basically, just get it in you. Really. If you find that you like turmeric and pepper in your coffee, make it happen. Also, that's gross.
Curcumin IS available in pill form, but it's so incredibly more expensive than turmeric, that I just can't imagine how you could hate it's taste THAT much. But hey, however you don't get cancer is good by me.
SOME OF YOU SHOULD NOT BE EATING TURMERIC!!!
Okay, so there's some small problems. The first, is hypoglycemia. A magic food that lowers blood sugar can be bad for people with lowered blood sugar to start with. I would contend that the health benefits are so much that you might want to talk to a doctor about how to deal with this hurdle, but that's the most important part. TALK TO YOUR DOCTOR. PLEASE.
Also, this could be bad for people who are diabetic and on medication for their high blood sugar already. TALK TO YOUR DOCTOR.
Individuals with gallstones, bile duct obstruction, or are pregnant should also TALK TO YOUR DOCTOR.
Also, I was mostly joking about the eating this by the spoonful. There has been some research into overdosing on curcumin extracts, and so it's a good idea to take the recommended amount. It's unlikely that one will get so much curcumin just from turmeric that there will be any problems, but if yer eating it (and pepper) by the pound, you probably have other problems besides what the too much curcumin will do.
AGAIN, with everything that I, some dude at his computer, recommends, if you have any existing medical conditions, TALK TO YOUR DOCTOR. I know this can be expensive. And your doctor COULD be an idiot. And it's a pain in the ass. Please just don't blindly listen to things I say. Please.
And on that note, go eat some curry.