In Health, Variety is the Spice of Life – Literally

Did you know that variety is the spice of life in many things, including your precious health? The new food guidelines issued by the United States government recommend that all Americans eat between five and nine servings of fruits and vegetables every day. That number may seem like a lot, but it is actually much easier than you think to eat that many servings of fruits and vegetables with your daily diet. For one thing, the produce department of your grocery store is fairly overflowing with fresh fruits and vegetables. In addition, fruits and vegetables are some of the least inexpensive, most nutritious, foods at the grocery store. With all these fruits and vegetables to choose from, it is very easy to make these healthy, delicious foods part of your daily meals and snacks.

When you take into account how much a serving really is, it is actually quite easy to get five to nine servings of vegetables and fruits per day. For instance, the recommended daily amount actually equates to two cups of fruit and two and a half cups of vegetables every day. When you consider the availability of fruits and vegetables, and how low the prices usually are, it is easy to see how attainable this daily requirement really is.

An easy way to get the nutrients you need from fruits and vegetables every day is to take advantage of the huge variety of these foods that are available. Eating the same thing every day quickly becomes boring, so pick a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, in all colors of the rainbow and in every imaginable shape, size and texture, to give yourself a wide-ranging diet every day.

When shopping for fruits and vegetables, it is important to choose a mixture of different colors. This is for more than purely creative reasons. Different colored fruits and vegetables have different types of nutrients, and choosing a mixture of colors will help ensure you get all the vitamins and minerals you need each day.

Finding new recipes is another great way to ensure you get those five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Almost everyone likes to try out new recipes, and the new recipes may just provide the momentum you need to eat all the required fruits and veggies.

New recipes can also provide you the key chances to try out some of those fruits and vegetables you have never tried before. For instance, almost everyone has eaten oranges, but have you tried kiwi fruit or mangoes? How about spinach or kale? Trying new things is a great way to find new favorites while getting the best nutrition possible.

A lot of people mistakenly think that they do not need to eat the full five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables every day if they just take a vitamin pill. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is because fruits and vegetables contain far more than the micronutrients identified by science and artificially manufactured in vitamin pills. While these micronutrients, such as vitamin C, vitamin A and vitamin E are important to excellent health, so are the hundreds of other essentials that are contained in healthier foods like fruits and vegetables. These fundamentals are not available in any pill. They must be taken in through a healthy, balanced diet that contains an abundance of fruits and vegetables.

To boot, fruits and vegetables are much less pricey than vitamin pills. Fruits and vegetables are very inexpensive, especially when purchased in season or grown locally. Ultimately, getting the nutrition you need from the food you eat is much less expensive, and much better for you, than those artificial vitamin pills.

It is easy to get your five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables every day by including fruits and vegetables as snacks, as garnishes, as side dishes as well as meals.

As the chefs say, presentation is everything. By using a variety of fruits and vegetables on your plate, not only with it look great and taste better, but also will provide you with the proper nutrition to carry on a healthy lifestyle and live longer.

Holy Basil Tea & Tulsi Tea – Health Benefits

Holy Basil or Tulsi are names for the Ocimum tenuiflorum plant, also sometimes given the scientific name Ocimum sanctum. Native to and widespread in tropical regions of Asia, the holy basil plant has a long history of cultivation and use both as a medicinal plant, a seasoning, and as an herbal tea.

Aroma and Qualities of Holy Basil Tea:

Holy basil is highly aromatic and produces a rich and full-bodied herbal tea. Upton Tea Imports describes tulsi tea in their catalog as having a complex and spicy character, and compares the aroma to anise, pepper, citrus, cinnamon, mint, clove, and spice. Tulsi tea is caffeine-free and is usually described as having a calming or relaxing effect, and is widely used as a general remedy for stress.

Varieties:

According to Mountain Rose Herbs, a company that sells an organic loose-leaf variety of the herb, tulsi is classified into three varieties: Krishna, a purple-leafed variety, Rama, the most common and green-leafed variety, and Vana, a wild variety growing naturally in forests. The names Krishna and Rama refer to the Hindu deities, whereas Vana means forest. A different cultivated variety, usually called kha phrao or Thai Holy basil, is used as a seasoning in Thai cuisine. This plant is a different species from the usual Thai Basil, which is a variety of sweet basil.

Effects & Health Benefits:

Tulsi has a long history of use in Ayurvedic medicine, a form of traditional medicine originating in India. Modern herbalists have begun to discuss holy basil as an adaptogen, a plant safe for general consumption that has a stabilizing effect on the body’s systems and a positive effect on overall health. The scientific research on tulsi is relatively young and much of it is not conclusive, but there is a growing body of evidence that points towards a number of health benefits and seems to support the view that holy basil is good for overall health. Like tea and many other plants, tulsi is rich in antioxidants. Other benefits with some scientific evidence supporting them include antiviral activity, stimulation of the immune system, protection against liver damage, prevention and treatment of cancer, and protection of damage caused by stress, among others.

Precautions & Risks:

Although holy basil tea is generally safe for regular consumption as a beverage, there are a few points of concern. If grown in polluted area, the plant can accumulate potentially dangerous levels of chromium, a toxic heavy metal. Knowing the source of your herbs, and buying organic herbs when possible, or growing your own, is thus important.

There is also some evidence that tulsi may slow blood clotting, similarly to aspirin. The tea should be used with caution whenever slow blood clotting could be problematic, such as during pregnancy, or for people undergoing surgery.

Growing Holy Basil / Tulsi:

Tulsi is easy to grow in a sunny location. It will grow as a perennial in tropical and mild climates, but can be grown as an annual in colder regions.

Top Health Benefits of Carrots

The health benefits of carrots can be traced back to when it was originally cultivated in the Middle Eastern, central Asian countries and parts of Europe thousands of years ago. These original carrots did not resemble the carrots we see today. There were purple, red and yellow colored carrots. During the 15th and 16th centuries in Europe, carrots were widely cultivated and were initially brought to North America around this time.

In the commercial marketplace today, China produces approximately one-third of all the carrots that are bought and sold all over the world. Russia is second and the United States is a close third. Currently American adults consume approximately 12 pounds of carrots yearly.

The name “carrot” is derived from the word “karoton”, which is Greek. The first three letters -kar designate a horn-like shape, referring to the part of the carrot that is underground and generally eaten.

The Nutrient Value of the Raw Carrot

The Food Chart that details the percentage of daily value of a single serving of carrots shows that each serving provides an excellent, very good or good %DV of the necessary nutrients and confirms the health benefits of carrots. Because of this, carrots are considered one of the world’s healthiest foods. Carrots contain over 80 nutrients. One cup (122.00 grams) of raw carrots has 52.46 calories.

Health Benefits of Carrots

The carrot a root vegetable that is renowned for its rich supply of beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is an antioxidant nutrient that gained its name from the carrot because of the large quantities the carrot contains.

A carrot contains many other nutrients as well. The carrot offers a multitude of other nutrients that benefit the cardiovascular system, have anti-cancer properties and assist the immune system.

Antioxidant Benefits in the Carrot

All the different varieties of the carrot contain very valuable amounts of nutrients with antioxidant values. The more traditional antioxidant vitamin C and the phytonutrient antioxidant beta-carotene are just a couple of the many antioxidants the carrot contains.

The amount of phytonutrient antioxidants varies depending on the variety of carrot. For example, the purple and red carrots are well-known for their abundance of the antioxidant anthocyanin. The orange carrots are loaded with beta-carotene, accounting for 65% of their entire carotenoid content. Half of the yellow carrots carotenoids are from lutein. It does not matter which variety is chosen, each contains excellent antioxidant benefits.

The Cardiovascular Benefits of the Carrot

It is not a surprise that numerous studies have shown that the health benefits of carrots extend to cardiovascular benefits. Much of this is due to their rich antioxidant content. The cardiovascular system is in need of constant protection from free radical damage. This is especially true for the arteries because they are responsible for transporting highly oxygenated blood throughout the body.

In a study that was recently done in the Netherlands, participants were monitored over a period of ten years. This study has provided us with some riveting new information concerning carrots and the role they play in preventing cardiovascular disease (CVD).

During this study the participants’ fruit and vegetable intake was categorized according to color. The focus of this study was on four colors: orange/yellow, green, white and red/purple.

The orange/yellow variety of fruits and vegetables was found to be more protective against CVD than the other colors. The deeper the shade of orange/yellow the more protection the food offered.

In the dark orange/yellow group of foods, carrots were found to be the one main risk-reducing food concerning CVD. The participants who did not eat very many carrots had the smallest amount of risk reduction for CVD. Even so, they still received some reduced risk of CVD from their carrot intake.

Participants, who consumed 25 more grams, which is almost one-quarter cup of carrots, had a significant decrease in their risk of CVD. The participants who consumed 50 to 75 grams more demonstrated an even higher reduction in their risk of CVD. This study surely demonstrates how easily the risk of CVD can be reduced. The best-researched polyacetylenes found in the carrot are falcarindiol and falcarinol. Preliminary research has shown that the polyacetylenes that are found in the carrot have anti-aggregatory properties and anti-inflammatory properties. The anti-aggregatory properties assist in preventing the red blood cells from excessively clumping together.

The Carrot and Vision Health

Growing up our parents always told us to eat our carrots because they were good for our eyes. However, there are not many studies documenting the benefit of carrot consumption on human eye health. The majority of studies have focused on the carotenoid levels in the bloodstream and the carotenoids activity themselves, not the foods, like carrots, that contain them. Even so, there have been smaller scale studies done on humans that show benefits to the health of the eye with the consumption of carrots.

For example, one study showed that women who consumed carrots no less than twice weekly have a lower rate of glaucoma (optic nerve damage generally associated with excessive eye pressure) than women who only consumed carrots on occasion.

Geranyl acetate is one of the photonutrients present in the carrot seed and has been shown to reduce the risk of cataracts in animal studies.

The Anti-Cancer Benefits of Carrots

The majority of the research on the cancer fighting benefits of the carrot was in the area of colon cancer. Some participants in the studies actually drank carrot juice. Other research studied the various human cancer cells in the lab.

Much more research is necessary; however, the results of the studies that have been done to date have been very encouraging. Lab studies indicate that carrot extracts have the ability to inhibit the growth of the cancer cells of the colon. The polyacetylenes that are found in the carrot, especially falcarinol, have been particularly linked to inhibiting the growth of these cells.

A Few Quick Serving Ideas

Raw Carrots

Shredded carrots are a nice addition to a salad as well as being one of the purest ways to enjoy the health benefits of carrots.

Eat carrots as a salad by shredding them and then adding them to chopped beets and apples for a healthy snack.

Cooked Carrots

The best way to cook carrots is to steam them.

Butter Steamed Carrots with Parsnips

Ingredients:

Six carrots
Six parsnips
Two tablespoons of butter
Salt

To Prepare:

Peel and trim the ends of the parsnips and carrots. Cut them in half (lengthwise).

In a five to six quart pan, melt butter on medium/high heat. Add the carrot halves and a 3/4 cup water; cover and cook three minutes.

Add the parsnips, cover and continue to cook about eight to ten minutes longer (until tender when pierced with fork).

Uncover and shake the pan frequently until the liquid evaporates. Pour the vegetables into a bowl and salt them to taste.

Caution Concerning Children & Carrots

Avoid serving small children coin-shaped slices of carrots. There is a chance they could choke on them. The best thing to do is cut the carrots into julienne strips.

Summary

As well as the numerous health benefits of carrots outlined above, the carrot can add a variety of colors and textures to many vegetable dishes and can be enjoyed raw as a tasty snack, cooked or as carrot juice for a nutritious drink.