Sunday, September 26, 2010

Nutrition Notes: Sweet Benefits of Coconut Sugar

Coconut nectar is produced by slicing the bud off the flowering part of the coconut and collecting the sap (nectar) into containers. Coconut sugar crystals are created by kettle boiling the sap or by using low-temperature vacuum evaporation. Amazingly, coconut palm trees can produce fruit and nectar for up to 70 years. 

According to Bruce Fife, ND, Director of the Coconut Research Center and author of "Coconut Cures":

"A farmer can plant a coconut tree as a child and have it produce his entire life. Coconuts are always in season as they produce year round. Artificial fertilizers and pesticides are rarely ever used. Small farmers, who are the major producers, can't afford chemicals and prefer to let nature take its course. Rotting coconut husks and fronds are used as a natural fertilizer. For these reasons, coconut nectar and fruit production are very environmentally friendly."

Coconut sugar also has a low glycemic index of 35. Low glycemic foods are important to overall health since they do not create rapid spikes in blood glucose levels. Increased blood glucose triggers beta-cells of the pancreas to increase insulin. When insulin production becomes excessive, this can set the stage for diabetes mellitus, hypoglycemia, and insulin restistance. 

When a high glycemic food is consumed, excess insulin is secreted and blood glucose levels drop lower over the next few hours than if a low glycemic food had been consumed. This explains why eating high glycemic foods contributes to weight gain and obesity since hunger returns sooner and one eats more with less overall satiety. 

High dietary glycemic loads are also linked with increased serum levels of C-reative protein, a marker for inflammation that is an accurate predictor of heart disease. 

Several studies in Canada, France, and Italy found that consumption of high
glycemic foods increased the risk of breast cancer while a US study showed an increase in colorectal cancer. Higher glycemic loads were also related to a significant increase in gallbladder disease.

In addition to being environmentally friendly and low glycemic, coconut sugar is a nutritious sweetener; high in potassium, magnesium, iron, boron, zinc, sulfur, and copper.


Sources for this Article:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vacuum_evaporation

http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/foods/grains/gigl.html

Ludwig DS. Dietary glycemic index and the regulation of body weight. Lipids. 2003;38(2):117-121.  
Tsai CJ, Leitzmann MF, Willett WC, Giovannucci EL. Dietary carbohydrates and glycaemic load and the incidence of symptomatic gall stone disease in men. Gut. 2005;54(6):823-828
Tsai CJ, Leitzmann MF, Willett WC, Giovannucci EL. Glycemic load, glycemic index, and carbohydrate intake in relation to risk of cholecystectomy in women. Gastroenterology. 2005;129(1):105-112
Comparison of the Elemental Content of 3 Sources of Edible Sugar-  
Analyzed by PCA-TAL, Sept. 11, 2000.  (MI Secretaria et al, 2003) in parts per million (ppm or mg/li). 



Saturday, September 4, 2010

Autumn Yam, Collard, and Tofu Sauté with Ginger-Cilantro Pesto

The weather has turned crisp in this neck of the woods, hinting autumn is on its way. A little shocking, actually, as just last week the temperatures hit close to 100ºF. Instead of cooking up a dish of simple collards with a bit of olive oil as I had intended, the sweet potatoes, tofu, and cilantro in the refrigerator caught my eye. Before I knew it, I was involved in a full-fledged cooking session. This recipe has overtones of Thai flavor, but with a twist of Western sensibility. 

The highlight here is the ginger-cilantro pesto. Ginger for a bit of warming kick and cilantro for its healthful qualities. Cilantro is abundant in antioxidants, a wonderful heavy metal detoxifier, and a plentiful source of cleansing chlorophyl. Also, super-nutritious sunflower seeds are used instead of the traditional pine nuts. Sunflower seeds are a great source of vitamins E, B1, B5, and folate as well as minerals such as copper, manganese, potassium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, selenium, calcium and zinc. These mighty seeds are also a fantastic source of dietary fiber, linoleic acid, and cholesterol-lowering phytosterols.

The orange brightness of the yams against the more subdued green collards is embellished nicely with the tofu. Personally, I like the colors of cooking to accent one another so the pesto is tossed lightly with the greens; the yams and tofu are used as a crowning touch. 


Ginger-Cilantro Pesto
1  clove garlic, crushed
2  tablespoons chopped ginger
1  teaspoon sea salt 
1/4  cup raw sunflower seeds
1  cups chopped cilantro, loosely packed
1/4  cup coconut oil, melted

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the garlic, ginger, salt and sunflower seeds six times. Add cilantro and pulse about nine times until mixture forms a coarse paste. Transfer to a medium bowl and combine with coconut oil. 


Yam, Collard, and Tofu Sauté
2  medium yams, peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch thick rounds
2  tablespoons coconut oil
1/2  cup water
1  14-oz package of extra-firm tofu, sliced into 1-inch cubes
4   tablespoons lime juice
1  teaspoon sea salt
1  tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
6  collard leaves, sliced in 1-inch wide ribbons
3  green onions, thin slice
1/4  cup coconut milk
1  tablespoon red pepper flakes

In a large covered skillet over medium heat, sauté yams with water and 1 tablespoon coconut oil for 8 minutes or until just tender. Remove from heat and transfer to a small mixing bowl. Next, sauté tofu over medium heat with remaining coconut oil for 3 minutes on each side until lightly browned. Add to yams and toss lightly with lime juice and salt. Sauté collards with olive oil and green onions for 5 minutes. Stir in cilantro pesto and coconut milk. Remove from heat and place collards on serving plate. Top with yams, tofu, and red pepper flakes. Bon appétit.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Nutrition Notes: Xylitol. The Sweet Alternative to Antibiotics


Xylitol has been shown to have many health benefits, yet few know of its healing power to prevent ear infections in children by inhibiting bacterial growth thus helping to avoid the use of dangerous antibiotics.

Xylitol is a natural low-calorie, low-glycemic sugar substitute produced from the fibers of fruits, vegetables, and trees such as plums, raspberries, corn, and birch. Xylitol is as sweet as sugar and can be used safely by diabetics. As xylitol is a mild sugar alcohol, excessive consumption over 30 grams per day can cause a temporary laxative effect that disappears with continued use as the body adapts. It is also important to find a source of xylitol that is GMO free if made from corn.

The health benefits of xylitol were discovered during the sugar (sucrose) shortages of World War II in Finland where xylitol was produced locally in abundance from birch trees. The Finns began to notice a substantial drop in tooth decay as well as ear infections. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of 857 children it was found that those using xylitol chewing gum reduced the incidence of ear infections by a full 40%. A daily amount of 8.4 grams of xylitol was divided and given five times per day for two months. The study concluded that xylitol inhibits the growth of Streptococcus pneumoniae and Haemophilus influenza, both of which are the primary bacteria that cause ear infections. Lozenges or xylitol syrup were found to be ineffective as was a dosage of anything less that five times a day at the specified amount. 

In the United States, ear infections are treated aggressively with antibiotics. Use of antibiotics can lead to numerous health complications such as the creation of "super bacteria", recurrent infections, the destruction of  friendly flora in the intestines leading to an overgrowth of fungi and yeast, and a compromised immune system. Antibiotics may also intensify, or sometimes create, symptoms of autism by aggravating Candida albicans overgrowth. Ironically, antibiotic treatment does not prevent complications associated with ear infections such as serous otitis, pneumococcal meningitis, or hearing loss. 

For those concerned with the risks of using antibiotics for ear infections, xylitol has proven to be a safe and effective alternative.


Sources for this article:

Uhari M, Kontiokari T, Niemela M. A novel use of xylitol sugar in preventing acute otitis media. Pediatrics. 1998;102:879-884.
Kontiokari T, Uhari M, Koskela M. Anti-adhesive effects of xylitol on otopathogenic bacteria. J Antimicrob Chemother. 1998;41:563-565.
Ear infections: researchers study chewing gum as "preventative medicine," allergies as cause. Autism Research Review International. Volume 11, Number 1, 1997;7

Butler CC, Van Der Linden MK, MacMillan HL, et al. Should children be screened to undergo early treatment for otitis media with effusion? A systematic review of randomized trials. Child Care Health Dev. 2003;29:425-432.
Kaleida PH, Casselbrant ML, Rockette HE, et al. Amoxicillin or myringotomy or both for acute otitis media: results of a randomized clinical trial. Pediatrics. 1991;87:466-474.
Rothrock SG, Harper MB, Green SM, et al. Do oral antibiotics prevent meningitis and serious bacterial infections in children with Streptococcus pneumoniae occult bacteremia? A meta-analysis. Pediatrics. 1997;99:438-444.
Schmidt, Michael. Beyond Antibiotics: Strategies for Living in a World of Emerging Infections and Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria North Atlantic Books, 2009.

Hence, it appears that xylitol must be used at least 5 times a day in order to effectively reduced ear infections (Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2007 May;26(5):423-7).