What Are the Benefits of Aloe Vera?

Skin lotions and topical anti-inflammatory treatments tout aloe vera as a healing and soothing wonder gel. The gel comes from the thick leaves of the aloe vera plant. It does more than just leave skin soft, however. Aloe vera is used to heal first- and second-degree burns, protect against radiation damage, rev up the immune system, make bowels move, and fight viruses and bacteria. All this, thanks to the vitamins and minerals found in the plant.

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Vitamins

Aloe vera gel is packed with vitamins. It contains B-12, which helps make DNA, and also maintains blood and nerve cells. The gel contains folic acid, which makes new cells and prevents birth defects. It has choline, which transmits nerve impulses in the body and sends signals between the cells. It also contains the vitamins A, C and E, which are antioxidants. Antioxidants protect cells against damaging free radicals, molecules that damage the cells and lead to heart disease and cancer.

Minerals

Minerals are vital to humans, and they abound in aloe vera gel. The gel contains at least nine minerals, which are needed to make enzyme systems and metabolism function properly. Among the standouts in aloe vera are calcium, the key component in bones, teeth and cell signaling; zinc, selenium and magnesium, all essential for as many as 300 metabolic functions; and chromium, which enhances the insulin that provides cells with energy. Aloe vera also contains copper, manganese, potassium, and sodium.

Anti-inflammatories

In addition to vitamins and minerals, aloe vera has ingredients that act as anti-inflammatories. Bradykinase is an aloe vera enzyme which reduces skin inflammation. Aloe vera has 12 anthraquinones, also known as laxatives. It has fatty acids, salicylic acid and hormones called auxins and gibberellins, all of which result in inflammation reversal. These anti-inflammatories work most often by stimulating immune system function and collagen growth, or by blocking the paths of irritants.

Considerations

Aloe vera gel can be applied topically and also taken orally. One can break open the plant leaf and apply the natural gel directly onto the skin, or one can buy the gel in lotions and creams for topical treatment. Aloe vera is also available in capsule and pill form. Users should consult a doctor first, as aloe vera can decrease blood sugar levels and interact with hypoglycemic drugs and insulin. It may also increase the absorption of certain creams, including hydrocortisone.

Digestive Problems

Aloe vera gel capsules may be used to treat digestive problems ranging from heartburn and indigestion to constipation or diarrhea. All4NaturalHealth.com reports that the fatty acids found in aloe vera aid in proper functioning of the stomach, intestines and colon. Regular use of aloe vera can help the body stay healthy by regulating the digestive system, according to AloeVeraHealthBenefits.com. Use caution when taking aloe vera internally, cautions the University of Maryland Medical Center, since it can cause severe abdominal cramps. It may cause uterine contractions, and you should avoid taking aloe internally if you are pregnant.

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Herbs That Help Heal

For anyone with type 2 diabetes, the goal of treatment is to control blood sugar levels. In many cases, exercise and diet is enough to regulate these levels, but when it is not, medicine is available. But even beyond traditional medicine, there are more options still.

As with many other ailments, people often look to natural remedies and herbs to assist with their treatment. Because of this, several botanical and herbal supplements have been studied as alternative treatments for type 2 diabetes, including ginseng, cinnamon and aloe vera. Read onto find out if trying them might work for you.

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• Milk thistle: This flowering herb is found near the Mediterranean Sea. It has been used for its medicinal properties for thousands of years. It is sometimes known by the name of its active component, silybinin. Milk thistle may reduce insulin resistance in people with type 2 diabetes who also have liver disease.

• Fenugreek: This herb has been used as a medicine and as a spice for thousands of years in the Middle East. Benefits of fenugreek for diabetes have been demonstrated in both animal and human trials. In one study of 25 people with type 2 diabetes, fenugreek was found to have a significant effect on controlling blood sugar.

• Psyllium: This plant fiber is found in common bulk laxatives and fiber supplements. Psyllium has also been used historically to treat diabetes. Studies show that people with type 2 diabetes who take 10 grams of psyllium every day can improve their blood sugar and lower blood cholesterol.

• Cinnamon: Consuming about half a teaspoon of cinnamon per day can result in significant improvement in blood sugar, cholesterol and triglyceride levels in people with type 2 diabetes.

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• Holy basil: This herb is commonly used in India as a traditional medicine for diabetes. Studies in animals suggest that holy basil may increase the secretion of insulin. A controlled trial of holy basil in people with type 2 diabetes showed a positive effect on fasting blood sugar and on blood sugar following a meal.

• Ginseng: Ginseng has been used as a traditional medicine for more than 2,000 years. Studies suggest that both Asian and American ginseng may help lower blood sugar in people with diabetes. One study found that extract from the ginseng berry was able to normalize blood sugar and improve insulin sensitivity in mice that were bred to develop diabetes.

• Aloe vera: This plant has been used for thousands of years for its healing properties. Some studies suggest that the juice from the aloe vera plant can help lower blood sugar in people with types 2 diabetes. The dried sap of the aloe vera plant has traditionally been used in Arabia to treat diabetes.

• Bitter melon: This is a popular ingredient of Asian cooking and traditional Chinese medicine. It is believed to relieve thirst and fatigue, which are possible symptoms of type 2 diabetes. Research has shown that extract of bitter melon can reduce blood sugar.

ImageAccording to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, there is still not enough good evidence to support the use of herbal supplements solely as effective type 2 diabetes treatments. While many of these supplements show promise, until results from additional studies come out, do not take herbal supplements without first consulting with your doctor, since many of them have side effects that may interfere with other medications or exacerbate the health condition.

10 Fall Favorites That BURN Fat

‘Tis the season…of comforting fall foods. But guess what? Turning to your favorite comfort foods as the weather gets colder doesn’t necessarily mean drowning yourself in excessive amounts of sugars and saturated fats and gaining lots of weight.

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Here are some fall foods that can actually help you BURN fat…

1. Water

Could taming your appetite be as easy as drinking an extra glass or two of water? Science says yes! In one August 2010 study, people who drank two glasses of water before a meal ate between 75 and 90 fewer calories at the meal than those who didn’t drink water. Love that H2O!

2. Apples

Apples of all varieties and types help suppress hunger for a number of reasons. First, apples are filled with soluble fiber and pectin, which help you feel full. Apples also regulate your glucose and boost your energy level. Finally, apples require lots of chewing time, which helps slow you down and gives your body more time to realize that you’re no longer hungry. Plus, they just taste good!

3. Almonds

Just a handful of almonds is a rich source of antioxidants, vitamin E, and magnesium. Almonds have also been shown to increase feelings of fullness in people and help with weight management, according to a study presented at The 2006 Obesity Society Annual Scientific Meeting. So what are you waiting for? Nosh on almonds for your next healthy snack!

4. Avocado

Full of fiber and heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, avocados suppress appetite when eaten in moderation. In fact, the fats in these little guys send signals to your brain that tell your stomach that it’s full!

5. Dark Chocolate

Love chocolate but have no self control with it? Try slowly savoring a piece or two of dark chocolate with at least 70 percent cocoa the next time you crave it. Just a little dark chocolate helps to lower your cravings because the bitter taste signals the body to decrease your appetite. Not to mention that the steric acid in dark chocolate helps slow digestion to help you feel fuller longer. If dark chocolate is too bitter for you, try having a piece with a cup of black coffee—it’ll bring out the sweetness!

6. Beans

Beans can fill you up quite quickly and about a cup is enough to leave you full for a long period of time. The fiber also helps to keep you full which beans have in abundance. The fiber in beans contains a digestive hormone which works to reduce your appetite.

7. Cayenne Pepper

This spice has been shown to reduce appetite and due to its heat, it can help you burn calories when you eat it. This makes it a great spice to add to foods to reduce your overall appetite.

8. Eggs

The protein in eggs is an excellent source of appetite suppression. The lean protein in eggs can keep you full for a long period. Protein is one of the leaders when it comes to appetite suppression as it keeps you feeling full longer. Eggs for breakfast can control the appetite through the morning hours.

9. Celery

Celery is a low density food and this humble vegetable can actually control your appetite. It only has 8 calories per stick but it takes a lot of chewing to digest it. You get more bite per calorie and it feels like you are eating more when you aren’t.

10. Soup

As part of your lunch or dinner, enjoy a cup low-calorie soup. On average, you’ll eat about 134 calories less at each meal, and save a total of 684 calories for the day.

Return To The Days When The Butcher And Baker Mattered…

I am a home cook from a food-obsessed family. Everything that happened centered on food. After all, I grew up in a three-generation household with my Latin-American grandparents as well as my parents. My household wasn’t unique in a food culture sense. But while many of the foods and recipes were similar to those from other families, the stories are what bring the food to life. The best way to delve into Latin-American cuisine and stories is through a typical family meal. And that starts with shopping for the ingredients.

A butcher shop back then was a different place. Sawdust was on the floor to absorb the meat and drippings while the butchers worked their magic. Once up to the counter, my mom would watch the butcher cube and then grind the beef, veal and pork they would then use to make meatballs. Nothing was prepackaged in those days, and the meats were from local animals.

Then on to the produce store where only local, in-season fruits and vegetables were sold. My mom said it was like a photo; she was in awe of the abundance of all the brightly colored fruits and vegetables. She notes that she had never had a strawberry out-of-season and that the fruit was not shiny. Their next stop was the cheese shop where they bought fresh ricotta and mozzarella and other cheeses. Imagine next stepping into a shop entirely dedicated to butter. Butter of all kinds was sold from large barrels by the pound, which sounds heavenly to me.

Saturday markets are full of ingredients for soup

The bread store was perhaps my mom’s favorite. The smell alone made her feel warm and cozy and hungry. When she became old enough to shop without my grandmother, Nana would give my mom an extra to buy the fresh-out-of-the-oven warm loaf, which she would then nibble on or devour all the way home. My grandmother knew this was a special treat for my mom, and to this day, warm bread and butter is one of her absolute favorite things. It’s one of mine.

Last but not least, on the shopping extravaganza was the poultry shop. Saturday was soup day. One Saturday when my grandmother wasn’t feeling well, she sent my mom and her sister, my aunt, to get the chicken. They were still little girls. They selected the live chicken and waited patiently for it to be processed and packaged to bring home. While walking home, the bag started to jump.

They so wanted to drop the bag but being the obedient kids that they were, ran as fast as their little legs could go all the way home, imagining as only little girls could, what kind of spooks were in that bag. When they delivered the jumping chicken bag to Nana in a whirlwind of excitement, panic and fear, Nana giggled and told them, “Sweet girls there are no spirits in the bag it’s settling in.”

While my mom clearly describes the rich palette of textures and smells of the Saturday markets of her youth, she also revels about the joys of being connected to her neighbors and friends. She said they were having a great time because all the neighbors, relatives and friends were out on Saturday. This ritual was not a chore, it was an exciting day. It was the social fabric of creating the family meal. I have even heard stories of recipes being shared at the butcher counter. One Jewish lady I know learned how to make killer Italian meatballs from the Italian ladies at the butcher shop.

So, while we seem far removed from the 50’s and 60’s Saturday shopping trek, I implore you to think about this question:  Is not the farmers market in your neighborhood or community a social hub of sorts?

Modern society has changed the way we shop for food and interact at the grocery store, often with blinders on as we roll our carts down the aisles. But at the farmers market you make eye contact, chat with the farmers and purveyors and smile and chat with your fellow shoppers.  I think we have found the “avenue” of my mom’s youth.

Chicken Soup

I have learned that just about every cuisine has a version of chicken soup and even within a cuisine, there are many variations.  It’s what I call  similar but different.

Ingredients

One chicken cut up into parts and cleaned (this would include chicken feet in the old days)

Enough water to amply cover the chicken

2 to 3 onions, chopped

Bunch of carrots, chopped

4 to 5 parsnips, chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

2 to 3 garlic cloves, minced

Parsley, minced

Optional: Noodles, escarole, eggs. Sometimes, we added a little tomato paste, or tomatoes, the butt of the Pecorino Romano cheese

Directions

1. Boil the chicken for about 20 to 30 minutes.  Skim off the scum.

2. Add the vegetables, including the parsley and garlic. Add salt and pepper. Simmer for about 3 hours.

3. Remove chicken from broth.  You can either remove chicken from bones and put back into soup or eat separately.

4.  At this point, you can use the optional ingredients.

If using, add noodles that were boiled separately (thin or medium; your preference.)

Add escarole (cut, steam separately and drain). Mix 2 eggs, ¼ cup of Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper then add to broth.

Seasonal Health Benefits of Persimmon

The persimmon fruit is really not a fruit but a berry. Persimmon nutrition is especially healthful due to the many phytonutrients that are also anti-oxidants.

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Persimmon’s native country is China, where it was nicknamed “Apple of the Orient“. From China, persimmon diffused into Japan, where it still plays a primary role in the Japanese cuisine, and then all over the world.

Persimmon (Diospyros—Greek for “fruit of the gods“) is really not a fruit, but a large, round, succulent berry, with a smooth, thin peel of variable color (from yellow to brilliant orange), depending on the degree of ripening. The pulp is soft, creamy, almost gelatinous when the fruit is fully ripe.

A ripe persimmon tastes very sweet and has a “honey flavor”. Some parts of the flesh may turn brown but this is not because it has turned bad, but is actually the sugar in the fruit.

There are generally two types of persimmons—astringent and non-astringent. The astringent persimmon contains high level of tannin before softening, which makes the fruit inedible. Whereas the non-astringent persimmon loses the tannin sooner making the fruit edible even while firm.

The shape of the fruit varies from spherical to acorn to flattened or even squarish. The color varies from light yellow-orange to dark orange-red. The size of a persimmon can vary from about the size of small orange to as big as a grapefruit, depending on the variety.

Persimmons are usually not juiced but are eaten on its own, like a mango, or pureed or for making smoothies. They are highly fibrous, delicious and nutritious.

Parasite Defense

Parasite Defense

Nutritional Benefits

Persimmon is an excellent source of a few known phytonutrients:

  • cryptoxantin that gives it the brilliant orange color
  • catechins, gallocatechins are anti-oxidants from the flavonoids family, known to have anti-inflammatory and anti-hemorrhagic properties
  • anti-tumor compound betulinic acid
  • beta carotene, lycopene, lutein, zeaxanthin, and cryptoxanthinare anti-oxidants that help neutralize free-radicals and prevent oxidation and cancer

Persimmon is rich in vitamin A, C, the B vitamins. In the minerals department, it is dense-packed with calcium, potassium, iron, manganese, phosphorus and copper.

Health Benefits

Persimmon does have laxative and diuretic properties and is particularly recommended for people suffering from liver problems. It is also an energy-dense fruit. That’s why it is recommended for children, people playing sports and people who are physically or mentally tired.

Below are various therapeutic and healthy properties of this very sweet fruit:

Cold and flu:  Thanks to its content in vitamin C, persimmon is highly effective in enhancing the immune system function and can help relieve the symptoms of flu and cold, as well as many other infectious or inflammatory conditions.

Constipation:  Due to its high content in fiber and water, persimmon does have excellent laxative properties that can be a powerful natural remedy for constipation.

Diuretic effect:  Persimmon does have excellent diuretic properties, due to its high content in potassium and calcium. Eating a persimmon a day is an effective way to prevent or relieve water retention. Daily consumption of persimmon is better than the use of diuretic drugs, since persimmon does not cause potassium loss which is associated with many known diuretics.

High blood pressure:  Helps reduce high blood pressure and prevent many heart conditions associated with hypertension.

Liver health and body detoxification:  Persimmon is an excellent source of anti-oxidants which play a key role in liver health and body detoxification. Anti-oxidants help neutralize toxins and other harmful substances in the body, prevent and treat the damages caused by free-radicals.

Natural energizer:  Persimmons are highly digestible fruits and also provide a lot of readily available energy (in the form of sugars) to sustain any energy-requiring activity. That’s why they are particularly recommended for children and people who practice sports or other physical activities.

Stress, tiredness and fatigue:  Due to their high content in sugars and potassium, persimmon juice can help reinforce the body with energy and relieve the symptoms of stress, fatigue and tiredness without the need to use special energetic and nutritional supplements.

Parasimmon Juice Cleanse

Consumption

To check if persimmons are ripe, lightly depress the fruit. If it’s hard, it’s not yet ripe, do not eat unless you’re certain that you’ve got the non-astringent variety.

Fully ripe persimmons are soft to the touch, very sweet and creamy that they can be eaten as they are. Simply cut them into two halves and eat the pulp with a spoon. They can also be used to prepare delicious sauces, creams, jams, jellies and smoothies.

To speed up the ripening process, put persimmons out at room temperature. Storing them in the fridge will slow down the ripening process, keeping them for longer.

A Cup Of Beets A Day… Helps to Keep Your Blood Pressure Under Control

There are so many tips and tricks for keeping your blood pressure under control, but what really works? This may be news to you but, a cup of beetroot juice a day may help reduce hypertension, according to a small study in the American Heart Association.

People with high blood pressure who drank about 8 ounces of beetroot juice experienced a decrease in blood pressure of about 10 mm Hg. But the preliminary findings don’t yet suggest that supplementing your diet with beetroot juice benefits your health, researchers said.

The health benefits of beet juice aren’t well known, but they are profound. Beet juice is best known as a blood purifier and blood builder that helps in the creation of red blood cells. It improves blood structure and cures diseases of the circulatory system, large intestine, and digestive system.

Benefits of Beetroot Juice

Known for decades as a liver-protective food, beets may not be the newest kid on the superfood block, but mounting research is showing why you should take another good look at this root vegetable in juiced form.

Just Beet ItMany say that juicing beets will give them more energy for their day. Research is showing that this may be due to the ability of components in the juice to improve blood flow. Beetroot juice has been shown to help the body respond better to exercise, by balancing oxygen use and increasing stamina.

Beetroot juice is one of the richest dietary sources of antioxidants and naturally occurring nitrates. Nitrates are compounds which improve blood flow throughout the body – including the brain, heart, and muscles. These natural nitrates increase a molecule in the blood vessels called nitric oxide, which helps open up the vessels and allows more oxygen flow as well as lower blood pressure.

Beetroot juice may also be an important ally to lower blood pressure. Whether the yellow or red kind of beets, the juice provides excellent blood pressure-lowering ability. Meta-analysis (a quality study that reviewed many past studies) of 254 people between 2006 and 2012 showed clear reductions in blood pressure, with the systolic blood pressure (the number on top) showing the best reduction.

Eat Or Drink?

In many cases, eating the whole food is the best way to get all the nutrients, fiber and healthy effect. But, in this particular case for blood pressure lowering, you are actually better off drinking the juiced beet root to get the maximum benefit. When you cook the beet or ferment a beet (like we find in a pickled beet), the amount of healthful nutrients for blood pressure benefits will decrease. By juicing, you are going to get 100% of the phytonutrients (plant chemicals) that help your blood pressure decrease.

How Much?

One to two cups of beetroot juice a day have been shown to have a significant effect for lowering blood pressure. Many doctors have been quite surprised by how little was needed to see a benefit for people with high blood pressure. You can juice the beets on your own, which is freshest and cost efficient, or you can spend about $7 for a prepared bottle at the health food store. Because beets are a potent detoxifier, some patients feel best when starting with a lower dose (like a quarter cup) and increase the amount over time.

Please note it is important to not change any prescription blood pressure medication without speaking to your prescribing doctor. Please let your doctor know you are using natural means to lower your blood pressure, which may result in requiring less medication.

Side Effects?

The dark carotenes of beet juice may give your urine and bowel movements a red color. This color change is harmless. Since beets are high in oxalates, people who tend to make oxalate kidney stones may want to avoid beet juice.

Aren’t Nitrates Unhealthy?

Cured foods like hot dogs and bacon are known to be high in nitrites, which are known cancer-causing compounds. Beets, spinach and radishes all have naturally occurring nitrates, which will convert to nitrites during digestion in your body. These naturally occurring versions are not harmful to the body and are very safe when they are eaten with the wonderful natural antioxidants that beets and radishes also provide. The more dangerous nitrites that are added to hot dogs, bacon and cured meats are really the ones to worry about and should be minimized.

In Conclusion…

Treating blood pressure encompasses working on ways to reduce stress, eating healthy food choices, exercising, and getting intake of the proper nutrients.

Beetroot juice can be an excellent addition to a natural regimen designed to help bring blood pressure under control while increasing a person’s stamina and energy.