C is for Cookie: July 2006

Monday, July 17, 2006

Oh my poor stomach!

It's summertime and all our favourite fruits and veggies are ripe and fresh for the eating. Berries are everywhere, piled up seductively at local stores and their sweet aroma hits you before you even catch sight of them. Now that's fresh. It's a bad time for me to discover that what's at the root of long-standing tummy troubles is difficulty digesting raw fruits and vegetables. All I want to do right now is chow down on fresh lettuces and berries but my stomach sends sharp distress signals each time I try to eat these beloved foods. It makes me feel like crying, but I have a solution.

Are you like me? Do you eat raw food and get painful gas and bloating? Raw foods are filled with enzymes and vitamins that our bodies need, and that a processed diet often lacks. Some of these enzymes and vitamins get damaged by cooking, and that's why so many people advocate a diet that is high in raw foods. Raw foods are also a delicious way to get your daily requirements of fruits and vegetables. Munching on some of these foods on a hot day is a joy: cherries, peaches, raspberries, strawberries, grapes, melons, celery, carrots (yellow and orange!), bell peppers, and so many delicious sprouts.

Fortunately, it is possible to get the benefits of fresh fruits and vegetables in other ways. Juicing is one. Finding a juice bar or a health food store that makes juice is a lifesaver for those of us experiencing difficulty with digesting plant fibres. All the enzymes, minerals and vitamins are present in fresh juice, so you lose very little. But without the fibre, the naturally-occuring sugars have nothing to slow them down when being processed in your stomach, so you will get a bit of a sugar rush. An added bonus for some. Also don't forget that juicing can add up to a lot of calories since often quite a few large fruits and vegetables are used to make one seving of fresh juice.

Another option is one of the many greens products out there on the market. Powdered greens are processed at low temperatures and impart the goodness of several healthy green vegetables in a single spoonful. I recommend New Chapter's Berry Green and any other greens product that doesn't contain grasses (such as wheatgrass) which can cause problem for tender tummies. We are now even seeing powdered greens in some very tasty snack bars, such as Zen Organic bars and my absolute favourite the Organic bar. Yum!

Vegetables juices are another good way to get your greens, although all commercially sold juices are pasteurised (boiled) so you will lose some of the vitamins. I hated vegetable juice until I tried Knudsen's Very Veggie, which for some reason tastes very delicious. Try different ones on the market, as there is bound to be one that is to your liking.

Of course, I've not forgotten to eat cooked vegetables and in this regard, I am thankful to live in Vancouver where there are many Asian restaurants offering cooked, tasty vegetable-rich meals. Also dried fruits when chewed carefully can impart a good supply of vitamins, minerals and flavour.

Even if you do not have a problem digesting raw fruits and veggies, every one of us should chew our meals slowly and carefully. Our stomachs and intestines have no teeth! They must break foods down by tossing them around in an enzyme-rich soup. As we age, we produce less chemicals to aid in this breakdown process so the more work we can do with our teeth to break down our food, the happier our tummies will be!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Forget SPF! Pass me the chocolate, please.

Yippee!! Those scientists just keep on finding new reasons to eat chocolate. All you chocolate lovers out there know that we don't need any more reasons, anyway, but keep up the good work men and women of science.

The Journal of Nutrition's June 2006 issue featured a study on the effects of chocolate to protect women from skin damage. One of the ways that everyone agrees that free radicals can harm us is through the sun's rays. And antioxidants in food definitely help to counteract the bad effects of those free radicals. So, did the women spread chocolate on their skin and go lie in the sun, you ask? Heavens no. What a waste that would be......they had a cup of hot cocoa each day, and the cocoa happened to be high in flavanols (plant-based antioxidants). The results?
Compared to the control group of women who had no cocoa, the cocoa drinkers:
- had 15% less skin reddening after UV light exposure after six weeks of drinking the cocoa, and 25% less after 12 weeks
- experienced a doubling of blood flow in the skin in tissue 1 millimeter below the surface, and a 37.5% increase in tissue 7 to 8 mm deep
- had skin that was 16% denser, 11% thicker, 13% moister, 30% less rough and 42% less scaly, compared to the beginning of the study

The amount of flavanols in the study were the equivalent of a 3 oz bar of dark chocolate; think Lindt, for example. I plan to eat more chocolate than ever now, to protect my skin from all the sun exposure it's getting from swimming outdoors this summer. And I get less scaly skin thrown in as a door prize, nice!

Speaking of dark chocolate, I went to Toronto last week and visited a man who brings beans from all over the world to his magical Chocolate Laboratory and store. He roasts, then conches the beans on-site, then makes the most wonderful chocolates! Shout outs to David Castellan at Soma Chocolate!

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