Week 7 – Day 1

The history of the onion is an interesting story. The onion is believed to have originated in Asia, though it is likely that onions may have been growing wild on every continent. Dating back to 3500 BC, onions were one of the few foods that did not spoil during the winter months. Our ancestors must have recognized the vegetable’s durability and began growing onions for food.

The site Care2.com highlights the benefits of onions:
The phytochemicals in onions improve the working of Vitamin C in the body, thus gifting you with improved immunity.
Onions contain chromium, which assists in regulating blood sugar.
For centuries, onions have been used to reduce inflammation and heal infections.
Raw onion encourages the production of good cholesterol (HDL), thus keeping your heart healthy.
A powerful compound called quercetin in onions is known to play a significant role in preventing cancer.
Got bitten by a honeybee? Apply onion juice on the area for immediate relief from the pain and burning sensation.
Onions scavenge free radicals, thereby reducing your risk of developing gastric ulcers.
Those bright green tops of green onions are rich in Vitamin A, so do use them often.

Today, onions are a staple in many types of cuisine around the world. According to Dr Ian Smith MD, a guest of Dr. Oz’s show, onions contain flavonoids called quercetin, known for their anti-inflammatory properties. Cooking onions increase the potency of these flavonoids; ideally sautéing onions for no more than 5 minutes will optimize their properties.

We eat onions at least 3 times per week, although I will admit I cannot tolerate raw onions. I add them to my stir fry, my spaghetti sauce, chili and other meals. Long live the onion!

Week 6 – Day 7

We use it in apple and pumpkin pies, we sprinkle it on toast, we add it to coffee or oatmeal… and it smells wonderful! I’m talking about cinnamon.

According to the dictionary, cinnamon is the aromatic inner bark of any of several East Indian trees belonging to the genus Cinnamonum, of the laurel family, especially the bark of C. zeylanicum (Ceylon cinnamon) used as a spice, or that of C. loureirii (Saigon cinnamon) used in medicine as a cordial and carminative.

Mao Shing Ni, a guest researcher for Dr. Oz wrote about the 5 Spices to Invigorate Energy and Health. Amongst those five spices is cinnamon. Many clinical studies have linked cinnamon consumption to lowered blood sugar. Both in vitro and human studies show improvement in insulin sensitivity with cinnamon polyphenols, as well as total and LDL cholesterol.

Cinnamon is also thought to detoxify the system and stimulate brain function. Its antiseptic properties give it the ability to fight bladder infection, and if taken in the first 48 hours of the onset of symptoms, a cup of strong cinnamon tea might just nip a bladder infection in the bud.

Healthdiaries.com indicate that studies have found that smelling cinnamon boosts cognitive function and memory. it is a great source of manganese, fiber, iron, and calcium and has an anti-clotting effect on the blood.

I like to sprinkle it on my oatmeal, on my fresh apples and include it in some of my teas.

Week 6 – Day 6

Dr. Oz’s guest Dr. Andrew Weil spoke of his ultimate eating plan. He states that amongst the 5 foods for better health, cruciferous vegetables belong to the cabbage family. What’s great about these greens is that they protect against cancer. Look for cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, bok choy, kale and brussels sprouts.

Some of the its health benefits include:

* Vitamin A, cabbage is said to be very good for your eyes as well as your skin.
* Contains phytonutrients that help the body in fighting against the free radicals responsible for damaging the cell membranes. At the same time, phytonutrients aid the production of enzymes that help in detoxification.
* Associated with lower incidence of cancer, especially lung, stomach and colon prostate cancer.
* Is very good for building of muscles; this is because it is rich in iodine, which is necessary for proper muscle development.
* Fresh cabbage juice helps in the healing of stomach ulcer.
* Fresh cabbage juice comprises of sulfur and is thus, very effective in the treatment of fungus infection. Gastritis is also effectively treated by cabbage juice.
* Has been related to lowering of serum cholesterol.
* The vitamin B in cabbage helps in sustaining veracity of nerve endings as well as boosting of energy metabolism.

I typically use cabbage in my soups however I do want to learn how to incorporate this vegetable more often in our meals.

Week 6 – Day 5

Sweet potato

Ah sweet potatoes – those weird looking orangey potatoes are loaded with fat-fighting benefits. When eaten with the skin on (roasted whole or cut up into oven fries), a sweet potato has as much fiber as half a cup of oatmeal, for about 100 calories, says dietitian Joan Salge Blake, author of Nutrition & You.

One medium sweet potato (often called a yam, although they’re not the same thing) is rich in beta-carotene and meets your daily need for vitamin A. It also provides nearly a third of the vitamin C you need each day.

Sweet potatoes contain carotenoids that appear to help stabilize blood sugar levels and lower insulin resistance, making cells more responsive to insulin. This can ultimately help with your metabolism.

Sweet potato provides a good amount of vital minerals such as iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, and potassium that are very essential for enzyme, protein, and carbohydrate metabolism.

Next time you are reaching for the white potatoes, consider reaching a bit further down the aisle and bring a few sweet potatoes home with you. Your body will thank you for it!

Week 6 – Day 4

Here is my holiday OLIVE tree I made a few years ago. Olives are one of my favorite bite-size snack.

I eat olives a few times a week, and on the Camino, olives were a daily staple of ours as it helped us replenish our salt levels. You can imagine walking 6-8 hours per day in very hot sun made us lose a high level of salt and minerals from our bodies.

Olives, a staple in the Mediterranean diet, also help control insulin and blood sugar, which are key to keeping a flat belly. They contain mono-unsaturated fats that help to lower cholesterol and reduce risks for heart attack.

Olives are good for you in so many ways.

• They have a high content of monounsaturated fatty acids and antioxidants as well, making it an ideal food for the prevention of cardiovascular disease by decreasing cholesterol levels (bad) cholesterol without lowering good cholesterol.
• They prevent arteriosclerosis
• They have a protective effect and toning the skin.
• In addition their high level of fiber improves slow intestinal constipation.

So whether you make an olive tree or eat them from the jar, olives are good for you!

Week 6 – Day 3

Dark, leafy, bumpy and oh so good – Spinach.

Based on Dr. Oz’s Joint health quiz, a cup of spinach contains noticeably more calcium (240 mg) than broccoli (180 mg), acorn squash (90 mg), kale (55 mg) or corn (10 mg).

Healthdiaries.com gives 11 benefits of spinach:

One cup of spinach has nearly 20% of the RDA of dietary fiber, which aids in digestion, prevents constipation, maintains low blood sugar, and curbs overeating.

Flavonoids — a phytonutrient with anti-cancer properties abundant in spinach — have been shown to slow down cell division in human stomach and skin cancer cells. Furthermore, spinach has shown significant protection against the occurrence of aggressive prostate cancer.

Neoxanthin and violaxanthin are two anti-inflammatory epoxyxanthophylls that play an important role in regulation of inflammation and are present in unusual amounts in spinach.

The vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, manganese, zinc and selenium present in spinach all serve as powerful antioxidants that combat the onset of osteoporosis, atherosclerosis and high blood pressure.

Blood Pressure
By inhibiting the angiotensin I-converting enzyme, peptides within spinach have been shown to effectively lower blood pressure.

Both antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin are especially plentiful in spinach and protect the eye from cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.

One cup of spinach contains over 337% of the RDA of vitamin A that not only protects and strengthens “entry points” into the human body, such as mucous membranes, respiratory, urinary and intestinal tracts, but is also a key component of lymphocytes (or white blood cells) that fight infection.

The high amount of vitamin A in spinach also promotes healthy skin by allowing for proper moisture retention in the epidermis, thus fighting psoriasis, keratinization, acne and even wrinkles.

One cup of boiled spinach provides over 1000% of the RDA of vitamin K that can prevent excess activation of osteoclasts (the cells that break down bones), as well as promote the synthesis of osteocalcin, the protein that is essential for maintaining the strength and density of our bones.

Vitamin K is a crucial component of the process called carboxylation, which produces the matrix Gla protein that directly prevents calcium from forming in tissue. Eating one cup of spinach contributes to this process that fights atherosclerosis, cardiovascular disease and stroke.

Brain and Nervous Function
The abundance of vitamin K in spinach contributes greatly to a healthy nervous system and brain function by providing an essential part for the synthesis of sphingolipids, the crucial fat that makes up the Myelin sheath around our nerves.

I prefer my spinach raw as I find that cooked spinach has a slightly bitter taste. I mix spinach with romaine lettuce leaves and add these to my lunch wraps. However you prefer your spinach, eat it often and let your body gain all its benefits!

Week 6 – Day 2

Artichokes is one of the vegetables that truly intimidates me. How do we cook this? How do we eat this? It just plain looks strange to me. This said, until a few years ago, I had NEVER eaten an artichoke, or part of! I attended a dinner party where the hostess served pickled artichoke hearts as an appetizer.

I was amazed and impressed at how good those were! According to Dr. Oz’s site, eating just three artichokes a day in any form – fresh, canned, or frozen – may neutralize the effects of damaging free radicals by 60%? As it turns out, artichokes have antioxidants that promote healthy liver function and, in turn, detoxify the body. Artichokes also quell digestive upset, such as bloating and gassiness, by 70%, some scientists say in just 6 weeks. Free radicals (skin and life-reducing chemical compounds) can cause chronic diseases (think cancer, heart disease), and at the very least, cause wrinkles and early-aging skin disorders.

Oceanmist.com shows us how to Prepare your fresh artichoke:
Rinse it well under cold water. Using any soft kitchen brush and giving the choke a quick brush down to remove the natural, light film an Artichoke produces while growing.
“Top and tail” the Artichoke with your knife:
• With a sharp, serrated kitchen knife, cut about one inch from the top of the Artichoke.
• Then, trim the stem about one half inch or remove the stem if you need it to “sit up” on a plate for stuffing or filling. Remember, the Artichoke stem is a continuation of the Heart, so don’t cut it off unless you need you to.
You can steam, bake, stuff grill your artichoke.

The Artichoke is a low-calorie, nutrient-rich vegetable. According to the USDA, one medium Artichoke is an excellent source of fiber and vitamin C, and a good source of folate and magnesium. Artichokes also are a natural source of antioxidants. In fact, recent research shows cooked Ocean Mist artichokes are the highest antioxidant source among all fresh vegetables. Source: adapted from American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2006) Study data.

This is one vegetable I will incorporate in our specialty veggie-list! Until then, I’ll enjoy the pickled version with great delight!

Week 6 – Day 1

When I was young, my mother, brother and I visited my sister in Saskatoon Saskatchewan. One of our outings was to a location where we swam… with shrimps! This wasn’t one of those “swim with the NAME THE FISH” type place, but simply the place we swam in also was where shrimps lived! I can’t recall where this was, but I do remember those little critters swimming around us.

Today, I prefer my shrimp on a platter than swimming around me! Shrimp has often had a bad rap due to its level of cholesterol which has been known to be high. Steamed shrimp, which is naturally low in fat, can be safely included in heart-healthy diets for people without lipid problems, conclude scientists from The Rockefeller University and the Harvard School of Public Health in a report published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

A Diet Rich in Shrimp Increased LDL Cholesterol Levels (bad cholesterol) but the ratio of ‘Good’ and ‘Bad’ Cholesterol Stayed Favorable. In fact, it raised the HDL cholesterol levels (good cholesterol) more than more than it increased levels of LDL, and the scientists concluded that the resulting HDL to LDL ratio was favorable.

Shrimp are loaded with selenium. Several population studies suggest that the risk of death from cancer, including lung, colorectal, and prostate cancers, is lower among people with a higher intake of the trace mineral selenium.

I prefer my shrimp either “naked” (not breaded) cooked and cold served with a nice tangy tomato base sauce, in a paella or cooked on the barbecue. As in the case of most food, any excess of one type can lead to complications, therefore, MODERATION is always a good approach.

Week 5 – Day 7

Beautiful strawberries.
Who can resist those luscious juicy morsels of red scrumptious delight? Fresh or frozen, strawberries offer a multitude of goodness to our body. They contain fistin, a flavanoid which has been shown to help improve brain power. Eating strawberries can help reduce belly fat, and can also reduce insulin spikes that may cause weight gain.

One serving of strawberries contains 51.5 mg of vitamin C—about half of your daily requirement according to Toronto-based registered dietitian Madeleine Edwards. Double a serving to one cup and get 100 percent. Vitamin C is a well-known immunity booster, as well as a powerful, fast-working antioxidant.

The antioxidant properties in strawberries may also help to prevent cataracts—the clouding over of the eye lens—which can lead to blindness in older age.

Researchers at the Clinical Nutrition and Risk Factor Modification Center in Toronto studied the effect of strawberries on a cholesterol-lowering diet and concluded that adding strawberries to the diet reduced oxidative damage, as well as blood lipids—both of which play a role in heart disease and diabetes.

One of my favorite strawberry benefit is the fact that antioxidants and phytochemicals found in strawberries may also help to reduce inflammation of the joints, which may cause arthritis and can also lead to heart disease. A study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health shows that women who eat 16 or more strawberries per week are 14 percent less likely to have elevated levels of C-reactive protein (CRP)—an indication of inflammation in the body.

I personally enjoy strawberries year round. I prefer fresh ones, but in winter I’m happy to leverage frozen strawberries for my morning oatmeal or just as a snack.

Week 5 – Day 6

Care of our beautiful knees.
This picture from the athletic advisor site shows the anatomy of a knee. Knees are quite complex and given the amount of pounding they take each step WE take, it’s amazing to me that they support us for such a long time in our lives.

More than 30 years ago, I broke my patella while roller skating (not inline, 4 wheel roller skating) and since then, I’ve had issues with one of my knees. I’ve even been told that I will eventually need a knee replacement, which considering my many marathons (walked/jogged, not ran), and my long distance walking I’ve likely shortened that timeline quite a bit.

One fact that I came across while reading the hundreds of articles on the Dr. Oz show’s website, each pound of weight loss was associated with a 4-pound reduction in knee-joint load. That adds up to 4,800 pounds per mile walked. Lose 10 pounds and you’ll reduce the load on your knees by 48,000 pounds per mile walked!

My upcoming Camino (which will include some time in Portugal) will end up being a walk over more than 1,100 km (683 miles) – therefore a 10 lbs loss would reduce my Camino knee-joint load by more than 3.2 million pounds ! Now there’s a HUGE additional reason for working towards a lighter ME!