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Diet & Health

Move Over Kale, It’s Time For Jicama The Superfood To Shine

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Jicama Vegetable

If you don’t know what Jicama is, it’s about time you got introduced to it. It’s probably the most exciting vegetable you’re not eating, one that could potentially challenge Kale as the next big shot superfood in the world of healthy eating.

Funny name aside, Jicama is very interesting for a number of reasons. It is originally from Mexico and has a bark-like, rough-looking exterior that almost betrays its crunchy yet juicy texture and mildly sweet flavor that’s reminiscent of a savory apple; nutrient-dense and rich in vitamin C, calcium, minerals, natural sugars and fiber; and considered a prebiotic since it helps establish a gut climate in which probiotics can thrive.

Most impressive all, especially for those looking to lose weight and improve their cardiovascular profile, Jicama contains no fat and no carbohydrates. It’s also rich in antioxidants and a good source of the soluble dietary fiber insulin, making it a very viable sweet snack for those with diabetes.

Now that you know what it is, you’re probably wondering how to incorporate it into your diet. Jicama is most commonly eaten raw, whether by itself or in a salad. It can also be cooked and lends itself very well to stir-fries, soups and stews.

Jicama Sticks

Replace French fries with Jicama fries and try Jicama sticks instead of carrot sticks

You know those unhealthy French fries you can’t stop munching on? Well, Jicama can be baked as a lower-calorie replacement. Bored of carrot sticks? Try Jicama sticks for a change — they might even be healthier.

As for where you can find this tasty, seemingly miraculous vegetable, supermarkets like Walmart should carry it. If not, head to your nearest specialty produce, Mexican, Latin American, or Asian grocer.

According David Sax, author of The Tastemakers, for a vegetable to enjoy the superfood status that kale long has, it needs to be versatile, available, and have cultural significance. Jicama scores high on all those criteria, and an increasing number of consumers seem to agree.

Nielsen Perishables, an industry expert in fresh food consulting, noted in a research article that Jicama led U.S. sales in the specialty vegetable category in 2016, accounting for $11.4 million of the total $25.3 million in sales.

Kale has been riding high in healthy eating circles for quite some time now, but other vegetables have been predicted to kick it off the pedestal. 2017 was suppose to be the year of the Jackfruit and some believe rutabaga will enjoy a meteoric rise in popularity in 2018. But it’s Jicama that could potentially unseat Kale as the darling of the produce isle.

In an interview with Fresh Plaza, Karen Caplan, president and CEO of Frieda’s, noted that more and more retailers are offering fresh-cut jicama sticks and that it has only taken 45 years for Jicama to become a household name since Frieda’s introduced it to produce retailers in 1972. She was quoted as saying:

“With all the research and development in the field of the gut microbiome, I believe that produce like jicama and Sunchokes will continue to be in high demand for 2018 and beyond.”

It remains to be seen whether Jicama will become more popular than Kale, but one thing we’re certain of is that it can be a tasty, versatile and extremely healthy addition to just about anyone’s diet, especially those looking to lose weight but have a sweet tooth.

Have you had the opportunity to try Jicama? If so, how do you like to eat it? If not, do you plan on incorporating it into your diet and how? Let us know in the comments below.

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Diet & Health

Improve Your Gut Health By Eating Mangoes

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Fresh Mango

If you suffer from constipation, a mango might just be what the doctor ordered.

A new pilot study carried out by Texas A & M University and published in the the peer-reviewed journal Molecular Nutrition and Food Research found that mangoes contain a combination of polyphenols and fiber that is more effective than an equivalent amount of fiber powder in relieving constipation.

Susanne U. Mertens-Talcott, a corresponding author of the four-week study and an associate professor in the department of nutrition and food science at Texas A & M University, stated:

“Our findings suggest that mango offers an advantage over fiber supplements because of the bioactive polyphenols contained in mangos that helped reduce markers of inflammation and change the make-up of the microbiome, which includes trillions of bacteria and other microbes living in our digestive track. Fiber supplements and laxatives may aid in the treatment of constipation, but they may not fully address all symptoms, such as intestinal inflammation.”

Researchers took 36 adult men and women with chronic constipation and randomly divided them into two groups — a mango group that ate about 300 grams of mango a day (equivalent to about 2 cups or 1 mango) and a fiber group that incorporated the equivalent amount of fiber powder (1 teaspoon or 5 grams of dietary psyllium fiber supplement) into their daily diet.

A food questionnaire was then given to the participants to assess their food intake and ensure their eating habits remained consistent (i.e. equivalent amounts of calories, carbohydrates, fiber, protein and fat) and measures of constipation severity were taken at the beginning and end of four weeks.

Their analysis revealed that while both the mango and fiber groups improved over the course of the study, mangoes proved more effective in reducing the symptoms of constipation than fiber alone.

Mango supplementation significantly improved constipation status (e.g. stool frequency, consistency and shape), increased short chain fatty acids levels, which indicate improvement of intestinal microbial composition, and helped to reduce certain biomarkers of inflammation.

Mangoes have long been know to be a rich source of dietary fiber, but Texas A & M University’s study is possibly the only study ever to be dedicated to the efficacy of the tasty fruit at relieving constipation.

But as promising as these findings are, the researchers concluded that more research is needed to determine the exact mechanism behind the protective effect of mangoes in constipation and the role mango polyphenols may play in supporting the beneficial effects of fiber.

A mango day keeps your food moving smoothly and easily, right?

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Diet & Health

Shirataki Noodles Are Very Good For You In Many Ways

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Shirataki Noodles in wood bowl

What is satiating, gluten-free, fat-free, virtually carb- and calorie-free, and potentially delicious? Shirataki Noodles! Heard of them?

The thin, translucent, gelatinous Japanese noodles (also called miracle noodles, glucomannan noodles, konjac noodles, or konnyaku noodles) are becoming increasingly popular as a low-carb, ketogenic pasta replacement, so let’s have a look at just what makes them so miraculous.

For starters, they are made from the konjac yam (AKA devil’s tongue yam or elephant yam) that’s native to China’s Yunnan province and cultivated other regions in eastern Asia. They can be purchased wet (soft) or dried at Asian markets and some supermarkets.

The Good

Shirataki noodles are composed of 97% water, 3% fiber and traces of protein, fat, and calcium, meaning they have virtually no calories and carbohydrates.

More specifically, there are four calories and roughly only one gram of net carbs in every 100 g / 3.5 oz of shirataki noodles, which is astonishing for a plant-based food. Such a nutritional profile makes them perfect for any diet, especially a low ketogenic diet.

The reason why the packaging may say “zero” calories or “zero carbs” is because, at least in the United States, Canada and elsewhere in the world, products with less than five calories and/or less than 1 gram of carbs, protein and fat are allowed to to be labeled as zero.

Because Shirataki noodles are mostly water and fiber, they leave you feeling more satiated than comparable high-carb, low-fiber foods like pasta and less likely to reach for that bag of chips. Moreover, the noodles provide a unique type of fiber that is rarely found in western diets.

Replacing any high-carb food like pasta and rice with a virtually zero calorie and zero carb food like shirataki noodles could do wonders for your weight and overall health, manly because of the glucomannan they contain.

Studies have found that glucomannan, a soluble fiber that comprises 40% of the dry weight of the konjac plant, has many properties that are conducive to weight-loss and better cardiovascular health. In addition to promoting satiety by keeping you fuller for longer and with less food, it has a number of other benefits:

Shirataki noodles are truly miraculous, and you have little to lose by including them in your diet. However, there are a few potential drawbacks that you should be aware of.

The “Bad”

Shirataki noodles have very little micronutrients, and as beneficial as glucomannan may be, it expands rapidly and can absorb up to 50 times its weight in water, so much water, in fact, that emptying a single glucomannan capsule into a small glass of water turn the entire thing into gel. This helps trigger satiety, but it can also cause discomfort.

If glucomannan expands before reaching the stomach, it may cause choking or blockage of the throat and esophagus. But this is an issue that can be prevented by washing it down with 1-2 glasses of water or other liquid.

Glucomannan has also been found to cause bloating, flatulence, and soft stools or diarrhea. It can potentially reduce the bioavailability of oral medications and supplements; if that happens to you, try taking your medication at least 4 hours after or one hour before consuming it.

It is important to note, however, that all of these side effects stem from glucomannan itself and not Shirataki noodles. The fact that the noodles are usually saturated with water and sauce when eaten means you probably won’t experience any of these side-effects.

The Verdict

There has been an outpouring of research showning that Shirataki Noodles are an excellent addition to any weight-loss diet, thanks mostly to the glucomannan they contain. Glucomannan is gluten-free, and as a soluble fiber, absorbs water in the stomach to make you feel fuller for longer.

Glucomannan is an effective weight-loss supplement, and Shirataki Noodles are versatile, keto-friendly and gluten-free alternative to regular noodles, spaghetti and pasta, rice and any other staple rich in carbs, starch and calories. However, as with just about every weight-loss strategy, neither works in isolation. For you to achieve lasting results, you need to make a permanent change to your lifestyle.

Are you up for the challenge?

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Diet & Health

10 Signs You Are Allergic To Gluten

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Long Bread

Intolerance to gluten has been a running buzz in the healthy living circles for the past decade, and there is no sign of that changing. The condition can lead to detrimental health effects relating to the gut, skin and even nervous system, with the most common symptoms being depression, fatigue, gastrointestinal problems and pain.

Gluten is a protein found in such grains as wheat, rye, barley, spelt and is what makes bread light and fluffy and dough a sticky texture. Wheat and rye are most commonly found in cereal and bread, as well as in pasta in the case of the former and even beer, salad dressings and soups with the latter. Barley is often used in stock feed products.

Not only do all of these grains contain gluten, but they can also cause insensitivity to gluten. Unfortunately, they are a common part of the diets of millions, if not billions, of people around the world.

Gluten intolerance has also been associated with celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that can cause damage to the small intestine, making it harder for the body to absorb nutrients. Around 1 out of 100 people suffer from the condition in the United States alone!

Fortunately, symptoms of gluten intolerance subside after removing gluten from one’s diet. Here are 10 of the most usual signs that you may be suffering from it:

1. Unexpected Weight Gain

Caused by malabsorption and gut permeability from the systemic inflammation triggered by the protein, unexpected weight gain is related to gluten intolerance. Sufferers who eliminate gluten from their diet will notice an improvement in their weight.

2. Brain Fog

In an article published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, one titled “Gluten sensitivity as a neurological illness,” researchers found that immunoglobins (AKA antibodies) react abnormally to gluten and the reaction contributes to reduced cognitive function.

3. Abnormal Immune function

The IgA antibodies, which are found in the gastrointestinal tract and saliva, are the body’s primary response to colds, flu or other illnesses. If you are gluten sensitive, these antibodies have a counter effect on your immune system, inhibiting its ability to properly defend against such illnesses.

4. Headaches, Migraines

A recent study discovered that 56 percent of the gluten intolerant participants suffered from migraines, while only 14% of the control group had the condition.

5. Dental Issues

A study published in the BMS Gastroenterology found that there is a connection between gluten intolerance and “aphthous stomatitis”, a condition characterized by the repeated formation of mouth ulcers and canker sores in otherwise healthy individuals. Malabsorption can cause gluten intolerant people to also have low calcium levels, which undermines oral health.

6. Skin Problems

Malabsorption resulting from gluten intolerance has been associated with eczema, acne and dermatitis herpetiformis (DH), with symptoms including redness, itching, rashes, burning and blisters. Described by the Gluten Intolerance Group as “a chronic disease of the skin marked by groups of watery, itchy blisters that might resemble pimples or blisters,” DH is a very difficult condition to have.

7. Joint And Muscle Aches

Researchers have long known that people with autoimmune forms of arthritis are at higher risk for celiac disease, and a growing body of research now finds that here is a possible connection between gluten and non-pathologic joint pain. When a person with celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity eats gluten, the immune system jumps into action, causing inflammation.

8. Fatigue And Exhaustion

This symptom is similar to brain fog in that the mechanism involved are still a mystery. There is little scientific research on the the purported correlation between fatigue/exhaustion and gluten intolerance; however, the fact that fatigue is one of the most frequent symptoms mentioned by those with celiac or gluten sensitivity has led medical experts believe gluten intolerance can cause fatigue and exhaustion through inflammation likely because of de-allocation of the energy reserves.

9. Hormone Imbalances

Gluten is a known to disrupt a number of hormones, including estrogen, and has been linked to Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), abnormal PMS, and unexplained infertility. According a article published by the Gluten Free Society, the removal of gluten often resolves hormone imbalance.

10. Anxiety, Depression, ADD, Mood Swings

Depression and anxiety symptoms have been linked to gluten consumption in celiac sufferers, while one small study found that excess gluten possibly depleted the serotonin levels of non-celiac suffers, leading to feelings of depression.

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