cancer

Why are apples so fabulous?

An apple a day keeps the doctor away


Photo by  Roberta Sorge  on  Unsplash

 

A cliché, I know, but actually there seems to be a lot of truth in this old saying. A 2011 review of the existing research on apples found that apples have been associated with beneficial effects on risk markers (such as cholesterol) and the development of cancer, cardiovascular disease, asthma and Alzheimer’s disease. There is also research to suggest that they may help prevent cognitive decline, diabetes, weight gain, osteoporosis, lung function and gastro-intestinal problems. A recent (2016) study found that apple consumption is inversely associated with all-cause and specific disease mortality in the elderly. In plain English: The more apples elderly people eat, the longer they live. I’m sure it is safe to say that apples are beneficial for younger people as well then. (Note: Association is not causation – just because two things occur together doesn’t mean that one causes the other.)

So what is it about apples that makes them so fabulous?

Different things, not just one.

First of all, they contain lots of antioxidants. Those are nutrients that have the ability to safely disarm free radicals – a normal byproduct of metabolism, but in this day and age increased by environmental and dietary toxins. Free radicals lead to cell damage, so you want to load up on those antioxidants. Apples contain vitamin C and quercetin, but also catechin, phloridzin and chlorogenic acid – some of the lesser known antioxidants, which give apples particularly strong antioxidant power. Apples also contain an unusually high concentration of phenolic compounds, a class of biochemically substances belonging to the flavonoid group, which are really, really good for us.  

The above mentioned quercetin (also contained in onions, black tea, berries, and peppers) is anti-inflammatory and is used to fight cardiovascular disease, allergies and asthma, insulin resistance and diabetes, stomach ulcers, viral infections, cognitive impairment and even chronic fatigue syndrome.  

Apples also contain pectin, a soluble fibre. Soluble fibre develops a gel-like consistency in the gut because it absorbs water. It bulks up stool and allows the muscles of the gut to ‘grab’ on to waste and move it along. It’s ability to absorb water means that pectin can also help reduce the incidence of diarrhoea.  

But here’s the thing: It’s not only through quercetin that apples help reduce inflammation – and remember, inflammation is now thought to be at the root of all chronic disease. Pectin feeds beneficial gut bacteria and they then produce – as a thank you – anti-inflammatory chemicals for us as well. In rats at least, apple-pectin has been found to achieve that, thus suppressing weight and fat gain (2016).

Lastly there’s boron. You may have spotted the mention of osteoporosis above. Boron is a mineral that has bone-building properties and is important for the prevention of osteoporosis (bone loss) and arthritis (joint inflammation). As it happens, apples are one of the best sources of dietary boron. As a mineral, this is not destroyed by heat and unless you boil the apples and throw out the water, it’ll still be there if you prefer your apples cooked.

How about the other nutrients: Yes, you will lose probably all vitamin C and levels of other antioxidants will be reduced, but you’ll still get some. Pectin, however, is heat resistant.

I frequently recommend stewed apples for those of my clients who suffer from intestinal hyperpermeability (‘leaky gut’) and that is due to its pectin. I want my clients to feed their good bacteria so that they can make their contribution in healing the gut. It’s really rare that anyone refuses to eat stewed apples with cinnamon. I mean, why would you?  

This week’s Nutrilicious News will have a delicious recipe for a healthier apple crumble. It’s not too late to sign up!

 


 

 

Nutrition from the Ocean

It’s not something most of us in the west grew up with, but sea vegetables – or ‘seaweed’ – is something we should all consider incorporating into our diets. It enhances our diet from a culinary as well as a health perspective. In Japan, sea vegetables have been eaten for thousands of years, but even here in the UK – where we are surrounded by water after all – seaweed is part of a traditional dish: Welsh laverbread.

 

nutritionist Southend-on-Sea Leigh-on-Sea

Sea vegetables contain virtually all the minerals found in the ocean, and there are no other plants that carry more nutrients, trace minerals and minerals. As a group, sea vegetables are known for their ability to detoxify environmental toxins and heavy metals, such as cadmium, from the body. Not only are sea vegetables rich sources of iodine – a mineral required for proper thyroid function – but also calcium, magnesium, potassium and iron. They also supply some B vitamins, such as folic acid, riboflavin (B2) and pantothenic acid (B5). Moreover, they contain lignans – a chemical compound from plants – that is thought to provide protection from cancer and helps alleviate menopausal symptoms – as well as fucans, which can help reduce inflammation. Lignans (another great source are flaxseeds) block the hormonal signalling of oestrogen-related cancers. In addition, seaweed appears to impair angiogenesis, the growth of blood vessels for the nutrient supply to tumours. Fucoids, another component of sea vegetables, a polysaccharide (carbohydrate) that is particularly rich in kombu and wakame, is believed to be cancer-protective, too, but is easily destroyed even by light cooking. To benefit from it, kombu or wakame need to be consumed in their raw or dried form.

The sea vegetables most commonly used for food are from the family of brown seaweeds (arame, hijiki, kelp, kombu, wakame) and red seaweeds (nori, dulse).

Arame

This wiry Japanese sea vegetable has a sweet and mild flavour. It contains 100 – 500 times more iodine than shellfish and is a great source of iron and vitamin A. Arame has ten times more calcium than milk.

Hijiki

Another Japanese sea vegetable, which is the highest in calcium, but also a good source of iron (eight times more than beef) and vitamin A. It has a stronger flavour than arame. Both hijiki and arame are available dried (long strands, similar to pasta) and will expand when rehydrated.

Kelp

Kelp – like arame is a rich source of iodine and has four times more iron than beef. It is often sold as a powder or flakes.

Kombu

Kombu is sold dried in wide strips or sheets. Adding a strip of kombu to dried beans and lentils during cooking helps them cook faster and alleviates digestive problems (flatulence, bloating) some people suffer when eating pulses. It contains potassium, calcium, iodine and vitamins A and C.

Nori

Nori is probably the best known sea vegetable as it is used to wrap sushi. It is usually sold in shiny, black sheets that are made in a similar way to paper, from nori pulp, but is also available as flakes. Nori is rich in calcium, iron, potassium and vitamin A.

Dulse

Dulse has a reddish brown colour and a chewy texture. It is available in pieces (dried) or as flakes. Although all of the above contain protein, dulse and nori are particularly rich sources of it, with 20 – 30 per cent of their dry weight consisting of protein.

Most health food shops sell dried seaweed, either as long, dried strands, sea vegetable salad (dried pieces) or flakes. It is also available as a condiment, mixed with sea salt. Some supermarkets sell seaweed, too, but mainly nori for sushi making. It is also a component in some healthy snack foods such as crackers or savoury biscuits. Note that ‘crispy seaweed’ in Chinese restaurants or the ready meals aisle in the supermarket is not usually made from seaweed, but cabbage. Delicious as it may be, it is also deep-fried and covered in sugar and salt, so it really has nothing in common with the sea vegetables discussed above.

For ideas on how to incorporate sea vegetables into your diet, read tomorrow’s Nutrilicious News. It is not too late to subscribe!

 

Now in Season: Strawberries

They’re here at last: British strawberries! All berries – including strawberries – are excellent low-sugar food, which is very rich in nutrients. They are high in vitamin C and K, fibre and – the best thing about them – flavonoids.

 

nutritionist Southend-on-Sea Leigh-on-Sea

Flavonoids are phytonutrients (plant nutrients), which have a wide range of health benefits. The most powerful flavonoids in strawberries are anthocyanins. They are what give them their rich, red colour. Anthocyanins have been found to be protective against inflammation, cancer, and heart disease. The anti-inflammatory properties of these phytonutrients mean that they can impair the activity of the enzyme cyclooxygenase (COX). Some painkillers, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin and ibuprofen, work by blocking COX, but they come with side effects such as intestinal bleeding. Anthocyanins do not cause any side effects.

Strawberries are also a good source of manganese, a mineral that helps protect bones and supports the thyroid gland.

To get the full load of flavonoids from strawberries, they need to be ripe. A perfect strawberry is red, shiny, plump and firm and of course free of mould. I only buy strawberries when they are in season, and then only British ones. Although many other countries grow perfectly good strawberries, I avoid foreign ones because transport means that they have been picked too early, before they have had a chance to develop their nutrients, flavour and fragrance. The more local your strawberries, the fresher they are. If there is a ‘pick your own’ field near you, then that’s what you should take advantage of. Those will be the ripest, yet freshest strawberries you can get.

Unfortunately – like all berries – strawberries are very delicate. They are prone to disease and fungal attack and therefore get heavily sprayed with pesticides and fungizides. Strawberries always end up among the Dirty Dozen. So, if you can find (and afford) organic strawberries, they’re the superior choice. As with most fruit and veg, you can get a much better deal at the farmers market or greengrocer than you will at the supermarket. Those places may also have the tastier varieties, as supermarket fruit is grown for durability and looks rather than flavour.

Thanks to air transport, strawberries are now available all year round, if necessary from far flung countries. For reasons stated above, however, they do not taste all that good, but are very expensive. It really is worth waiting for the British season. Eating seasonally has the added advantage that the food in question – in this case strawberries – becomes more special, because there are times of year where I have to go without.

If you can’t get organic ones, spray them with diluted additive-free soap or commercial produce wash before eating or freezing. Strawberries are great for freezing, but they won’t retain their shape once thawed. They’ll look a bit soggy. I like to use frozen strawberries in shakes and smoothies or blend them with frozen banana for instant dairy- and sugar-free ice cream. If you freeze them straight after purchase, they’ll preserve most of their vitamin C.

Strawberries contain moderate levels of oxalates. If you are prone to kidney stones, it is advisable to limit your consumption. Unfortunately, strawberries are also one of the most common food allergens.

What to do with strawberries?

If you love strawberries, you probably won’t need any recipes and just eat them straight out of the punnet. That’s fine, but here are some ideas, just in case: 

  • Whip up some fresh cream with a teaspoon of powdered vanilla and dip your strawberries in it.
  • Chop into quarters and stir into yoghurt or quark.
  • Mix chopped strawberries with cinnamon, lemon juice, and maple syrup and use as a topping for pancakes (e. g. coconut flour pancakes).
  • Gently melt some dark chocolate and dip your strawberries in it. Leave to cool and for the chocolate to harden. 
  • Add sliced strawberries to a mixed green salad.
  • For the more adventurous: Blend strawberries with 2 – 3 basil leaves, 2 tbsp of xylitol, Greek yoghurt, and a grinding of black pepper.

My tomorrow’s newsletter will have an easy recipe for a delicious strawberry-based breakfast shake. It’s not too late to subscribe!