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India Has 70%+ Non-Vegetarian Population But Is Considered Vegetarian; Why?

Home Food  India Has 70%+ Non-Vegetarian Population But Is Considered Vegetarian; Why?

By Roshni Ramesan -February 3, 2021
Source: Ed Times

Source: Ed Times
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

India has the highest number of vegetarians in the world, with more than 400 million people identifying as vegetarian. However, various surveys over the years show that the estimated percentage of the vegetarian population is anywhere between 23% and 37%. That leaves a huge percentage of the population with non-vegetarian food habits. 

So why is it that a country, where the majority consumes poultry and meat, is considered as the vegetarian capital of the world? 

Historical evidence of meat consumption

India’s abundant forests, animals, birds and fishes ensured that meat-eating was a widespread practice. Archaeological evidence from the Harappan civilization also points to the consumption of animals. Even animal sacrifices were prevalent.

However, due to the spread of Jainism and the teachings of Buddha, vegetarianism became more common, with Hindu communities too turning to vegetarianism. Yet, other than upper castes, a large population continued eating meat.

Yet now, with a huge population that is verifiably non-vegetarian, for the West, India continues to be a place of strict vegetarianism.

A lot of it has to do with the fact that government data shows that vegetarian households are more affluent and have a higher income, which is how the ‘vegetarian stereotype’ is more likely to take over people’s minds. 

State-wise percentage of vegetarians and non-vegetarians
Source: Ed Times
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

This power to represent communities, regions, or even the entire country is what makes the stereotypes. The term non-vegetarian is a good case in point. It signals the social power of vegetarian classes, including their power to classify foods, to create a ‘food hierarchy’ wherein vegetarian food is the default and is having a higher status than meat. Thus it is akin to the term ‘non-whites’ coined by ‘whites’ to capture an incredibly diverse population who they colonised,” said anthropologist Balmurli Natrajan and economist Suraj Jacob. 


More Indian men consume meat than women

According to the National Family Health Survey, 2015-16, 42.8% Indian women and 48.9% of men consumed poultry and meat weekly. 

The survey also noted that meat and egg consumption increases with increasing household income, however, the richest 20% of Indians consume slightly less meat and eggs, bucking the trend. 

The young state of Telangana has the highest percentage of non-vegetarians with 98.7% of the population consuming meat. West Bengal (98.55%) and Andhra Pradesh (98.25%) follow closely. 

State-wise percentage of vegetarianism
Source: Ed Times
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

Meanwhile, Rajasthan, Haryana and Punjab are states with the lowest percentage of non-vegetarians. 

People from Southern states like Kerala and Goa and Eastern states like Assam and Tripura also had large non-vegetarian populations.

Food consumption of Southern states
Source: Ed Times
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

Weekly consumption

While surveys have identified that India has a small vegetarian population, the weekly and daily eating habits of most Indians stray away from non-vegetarianism. 

Weekly consumption of poultry and meat (men)
Source: Ed Times
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

According to the National Family Health Survey, barely 6% of the population eats meat on a daily basis, and nearly 40% on a weekly basis, thus showing that regular meat-eating Indians are relatively less. 

Daily food consumption of Indian women, 2015-16
Source: Ed Times
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

Underreported meat consumption due to cultural factors

India has a violent history of mob lynching and social ostracization of people who consume beef because a cow is considered to be sacred in Hinduism. India’s ruling party, BJP, does not hide its inclination towards vegetarianism. Food choices have become very much political.

In such a nation, the consumption of beef is not as high as in western countries.

A reported 7% of the population eats beef. However, this figure is disputed by many researchers, who claim that the actual statistic is closer to 15% with people unwilling to admit to eating meat due to cultural and religious factors. A 2015 study of urban middle-class Indians found that young people felt “you eat [meat] in secret, away from your family”.

India, with its smorgasbord of cuisines, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian, should not be restricted to an outdated stereotype that is being propelled into people’s consciousness by sheer ignorance.

Numbers don’t lie, so although daily consumption of meat is not an entirely common phenomenon, it is also wrong to assume that vegetables and pulses are all that an average Indian consumes.


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Find the blogger: @RoshniKahaHain

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What are the benefits to a vegetarian diet to your health despite religious beliefs? How can a vegetable and fruit rich diet impact your health? Why? Why not?

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Africa’s Been At This Vegetarian Thing Longer Than Most of the World

  1. Africa’s Been At This Vegetarian Thing Longer Than Most of the World
Africa’s Vegetarian Roots Are Deeper Than Most of the World’s
Source: Live Kindly
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

Prior to the rise of meat consumption, many African cuisines were vegetarian-friendly, relying on grains, root vegetables, and produce.
BY KAT SMITH
Source: Live Kindly

As vegan meat, dairy, and other alternatives gain an increased presence in Western supermarkets, one might get the idea that plant-based diets are something new. But in many regions across the globe, eating little to no meat has been a cornerstone of national cuisine. Africa is one example. For centuries prior to European colonization, food was often vegetarian.

The Rising Influence of Meat

Goat meat and fish made up small portions of many regional African diets. But today, meat consumption is on the rise.

“What Ghana and many countries with growing economies are seeing are nutritional transitions,” Afia Amoako, the author of the blog The Canadian African, tells LIVEKINDLY in an email.

“As more people enter the middle class, there is more appetite for things that might have been difficult to have much of as children,” she continues. “This includes more cars and for many having more supply of meat.  It doesn’t help that fast food companies are seeing our largely unregulated food system as a market for potential growth.”

Amoako adds that there’s a name for this: nutrition transition. This explains a shift in dietary consumption that coincides with economic development. It’s most often used to talk about a shift away from more grain and fiber-rich diets toward processed meat-heavy Western dietary patterns.Africa’s Vegetarian Roots Are Deeper Than Most of the World’s

Red red, a Ghanaian stew made with black-eyed peas and plantains. | The Canadian African
Source: Live Kindly
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

Showcasing Traditional Foods

Today, many chefs are showcasing plant-forward traditional African dishes. Ethiopian restaurants, such as New York City’s Bunna Cafe and Azla Vegan in Los Angeles, show the diversity of the country’s plant-based dishes.

Amoako, who went plant-based for the environment, dedicates her blog to sharing affordable recipes that pay homage to her Ghanaian roots and other cuisines from around Africa. She also explores broader topics, from healthy lifestyle tips to identity. The goal is to make African cuisine more accessible to all. She adds that her favorite dish is “red red”, a bean and plantain-based stew made with tomato, onion, peppers, garlic, and ginger.

Tendai Chipara, the Zimbabwean blogger behind Plant-Based African, adopted a whole foods, plant-based diet after being diagnosed with type-2 diabetes in 2018. Prior to that, she struggled with other health issues such as anemia, fatigue, joint pain, and depression.

“I realized that I was going down a slippery slope that would end up with me without limbs, blind or worse dead,” she says. “Looking at evidence-based research the most successful way to deal with insulin resistance is to adopt a whole food plant-based diet.”

Chipara explains that growing up, the dishes she ate emphasized plant-based ingredients more than meat. Like other West African cuisines, meat is typically added for flavor. Chipara prefers to leave meat out altogether, but she has also begun incorporating mushrooms or soy chunks.

Africa’s Vegetarian Roots Are Deeper Than Most of the World’s
Source: Live Kindly
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

‘Our Ancestors Followed a Plant-Based Diet’

Fermented food and drinks are common in Zimbabwean food. Common produce includes muboora (pumpkin), magaka ane minzwa (horned melon), and mbambaira (sweet potatoes). Oils, tomatoes, and onion are the “bedrock of most Zimbabwean dishes,” Chipara adds. “The ‘supu’ or sauce is important it can make or break a dish.”

Chipara adds that the plant-based movement is not new to Zimbabwe: “Our ancestors followed a plant-based diet and they thrived and most died of old age. The food they ate was organic and meat and meat products were consumed minimally.”

Many foods marketed as “superfoods,” she adds, are foods that she grew up eating, such as avocados, moringa, and baobab. While Zimbabwean cuisine is easy to make plant-based, meat is a common ingredient. But, it wasn’t always this way. The increase in meat consumption is linked to European colonialism.

“The unfortunate thing that happened to us a people was colonization which led to a massive change to our food production, access to land, and the emergence of processed foods,” Chipara explains. “We now have a high number of the population being affected by lifestyle-related issues such as type-2 diabetes. So I am very passionate about Zimbabwean plant-based cuisine because it is medicine.”

Chipara adds that a few traditional plant-based Zimbabwean dishes include muriwo une dovi (leafy greens with peanut butter), mupunga unedovi (short grain red rice with peanut butter), and sadza reZviyo (porridge made from sorghum or teff).Africa’s Vegetarian Roots Are Deeper Than Most of the World’s

Plantains and legumes are staple ingredients in many West African cuisines. | The Vegan Nigerian
Source: Live Kindly
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

Be Generous With Spices

Tomi Makanjuola, founder of The Vegan Nigerian blog and author of the “Plantain Cookbook,” is a Lagos, Nigeria-born entrepreneur living in London. She explains that “a couple of traditionally plant-based Nigerian dishes include yam pottage and stewed beans with plantain.”

She adds that both dishes are “absolutely delicious.

Other common ingredients in Nigerian cuisine include yam (also referred to as African yam, which has rough brown skin and off-white flesh), cassava, okra, egusi (melon) seeds, and cocoyam (taro).

Makanjuola enjoys making vegan versions of meals that traditionally include meat, such as pepper soup. Yam and scotch bonnet peppers are the key ingredients in this spicy dish. Egusi soup, which features leafy greens, ground egusi seeds, tomato, pepper, and onions, is another favorite recipe.

For these, Makanjuola prefers whole food, plant-based substitutes like mushrooms, eggplant, beans, and lentils. “As long as the meals are spiced well, it won’t seem as though you’re missing out on anything,” she says.

“Nigerian cuisine is wonderfully diverse and big on flavour,” she adds. “It lends itself well to a vegan diet because it is so rich in plant foods that can be cooked and enjoyed in ways that do not require meat or any other animal products.”Africa’s Vegetarian Roots Are Deeper Than Most of the World’s

Nigerian-born blogger Fatimat Adelabu uses mushrooms instead of meat in dishes like jollof rice. | Je Gbese
Source: Live Kindly
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

Replace Meat With Mushrooms

Fatimat Adelabu, the author of the blog Je Gbese, which means “eat credit/debt” or “trouble” in Yoruba, an official language of Nigeria, says that she grew up eating many meat-heavy dishes. Goat, cow tripe, oxtail, and fish were common additions to stewed dishes. She transitioned to plant-based in 2017 after watching the documentary “What the Health” on Netflix.

“I started off watching it with a bowl of chicken and rice, by mid-way I had placed the half-eaten bowl next to me, and at the end,” says Adelabu. “I was in the kitchen bagging meats from my fridge and freezer and tossing them into my garbage can.”

She moved to New York City from Nigeria at age four and has always lived near supermarkets that carry West African produce. This is due to Nigerian, Ghanaian, Senegalese, Guinean, Beninese, and Malian immigrant communities.

“One of my favorite dishes is efo riro, stirred spinach in Yoruba,” she says. “Efo riro is largely spinach and blended stew, with seasonings like locust beans, thyme, and bouillon cubes to bring out the flavors of the stew. The addition of meat is usually to get more of the flavors of the meat to infuse with the stew.”

Adelabu is a fan of replacing meat with mushrooms as well. She also uses them to replace meat-based stock. “For stock, I boil mushrooms, bell peppers, garlic and onion with a dash of soy sauce or mushroom bouillon,” she says. This works well for jollof rice, a one-pot dish made with tomato and onion.

“Nigerian cuisine is very versatile,” she adds. “I encourage everyone to attempt to make jollof rice or efo riro to try out the different flavors of the country. If you see a dish with meat, leave it out or replace it with mushrooms.”The Best Vegan Meat for BBQ Grilling In the UK

Demand for vegan burgers is on the rise.
Source: Live Kindly
Shidonna Raven Garden and Coo

The Future of African Cuisine

But it’s not just Africa’s past that’s plant-based. It’s future is looking that way, too.

Like the rest of the world, meat consumption has increased across Africa. But so has a rise in vegan and vegetarian options. South African vegan meat brand Fry’s is a staple in supermarkets, offering plant-based versions of many classic dishes.

Leading Nigerian agribusiness Chi Farms is the first Nigerian company to bring vegan burgers to the country.

Veganism in Nigeria is popular among the Indian-born minority and among Nigerians returning to Nigeria from abroad,” Johannes Flosbach, Head of Performance Management Group at TGI Group of Companies (Chi Farms’ parent company), told Vegconomist.

Older Nigerians are also shifting away from meat for health reasons, as meat-heavy Western diets can increase the rates of diseases including heart disease and stroke.

Rwanda is now on the brink of creating a “Silicon Valley” that’s aimed at “transforming the continent.”

The innovation destination will be located in the capital city of Kigali. It will work with domestic and foreign universities, technology companies, biotech firms, agriculture, healthcare, and financial services. Like other tech-heavy regions across the globe, this could bring more plant-based food (think Impossible Burgers or JUST vegan egg) to Africa. It could also bring another hot food tech category to the continent: lab-grown cell-based meat.

This is already happening nearby in Israel, where Future Meat Technologies is working on the world’s first pilot production facility for growing cultured meat.

Veganism is also making a name for itself in Africa’s wild, as anti-poaching rangers, including an all-female troupe called Akashinga, are vegan. The troupe is part of the International Anti-Poaching Foundation run by former Navy sniper Damien Mander.

“We need an armed component,” he told the BBC in 2018, “but we need to start moving more and more of our resources into communities, and the best people for that are women.”

Kat Smith, Live Kindly
Kat Smith, Live Kindly

Managing Editor | New York City, NY Kat writes about susainable food, fashion, and food technology. They have a BA in Cinema and Culture Studies from Stony Brook University.https://twitter.com/livekindlykat

How has meat consumption impacted your health? How has food production practices including the use of chemical pesticides impacted your health? Why? Why not?

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The Great Garlic Medicinal Benefits

Source: Medical News Today

Fast facts on garlic

  • In many countries, garlic has been used medicinally for centuries.
  • Garlic may have a range of health benefits, both raw and cooked.
  • It may have significant antibiotic properties.

History

Bulbs and bowl of garlic
There are many medicinal claims about garlic.
Source: Medical News Today
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

Garlic has been used all over the world for thousands of years. Records indicate that garlic was in use when the Giza pyramids were built, about 5,000 years ago.

Richard S. Rivlin wrote in the Journal of Nutrition that the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates (circa. 460-370 BC), known today as “the father of Western medicine,” prescribed garlic for a wide range of conditions and illnesses. Hippocrates promoted the use of garlic for treating respiratory problems, parasites, poor digestion, and fatigue.

The original Olympic athletes in Ancient Greece were given garlic – possibly the earliest example of “performance enhancing” agents used in sports.

From Ancient Egypt, garlic spread to the advanced ancient civilizations of the Indus Valley (Pakistan and western India today). From there, it made its way to China.

According to experts at Kew Gardens, England’s royal botanical center of excellence, the people of ancient India valued the therapeutic properties of garlic and also thought it to be an aphrodisiac. The upper classes avoided garlic because they despised its strong odor, while monks, “…widows, adolescents, and those who had taken up a vow or were fasting, could not eat garlic because of its stimulant quality.”

Throughout history in the Middle East, East Asia, and Nepal, garlic has been used to treat bronchitis, hypertension (high blood pressure), TB (tuberculosis), liver disorders, dysenteryflatulencecolic, intestinal worms, rheumatism, diabetes, and fevers.

The French, Spanish, and Portuguese introduced garlic to the New World.

Uses

Currently, garlic is widely used for several conditions linked to the blood system and heart, including atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), high cholesterolheart attackcoronary heart disease, and hypertension.

Garlic is also used today by some people for the prevention of lung cancerprostate cancerbreast cancerstomach cancer, rectal cancer, and colon cancer.

It is important to add that only some of these uses are backed by research.

A study published in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology warned that short-term heating reduces the anti-inflammatory effects of fresh raw garlic extracts. This may be a problem for some people who do not like or cannot tolerate the taste and/or odor of fresh garlic.

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Benefits

Below are examples of some scientific studies published in peer-reviewed academic journals about the therapeutic benefits (or not) of garlic.

Lung cancer risk

People who ate raw garlic at least twice a week during the 7 year study period had a 44 percent lower risk of developing lung cancer, according to a study conducted at the Jiangsu Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention in China.

The researchers, who published their study in the journal Cancer Prevention Research, carried out face-to-face interviews with 1,424 lung cancer patients and 4,543 healthy individuals. They were asked about their diet and lifestyle, including questions on smoking and how often they ate garlic.

The study authors wrote: “Protective association between intake of raw garlic and lung cancer has been observed with a dose-response pattern, suggesting that garlic may potentially serve as a chemo-preventive agent for lung cancer.”

Brain cancer

Organo-sulfur compounds found in garlic have been identified as effective in destroying the cells in glioblastomas, a type of deadly brain tumor.

Scientists at the Medical University of South Carolina reported in the journal Cancer that three pure organo-sulfur compounds from garlic – DAS, DADS, and DATS – “demonstrated efficacy in eradicating brain cancer cells, but DATS proved to be the most effective.”

Co-author, Ray Swapan, Ph.D., said “This research highlights the great promise of plant-originated compounds as natural medicine for controlling the malignant growth of human brain tumor cells. More studies are needed in animal models of brain tumors before application of this therapeutic strategy to brain tumor patients.”

Hip osteoarthritis

Women whose diets were rich in allium vegetables had lower levels of osteoarthritis, a team at King’s College London and the University of East Anglia, both in England, reported in the journal BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders. Examples of allium vegetables include garlic, leeks, shallots, onions, and rakkyo.

The study authors said their findings not only highlighted the possible impact of diet on osteoarthritis outcomes but also demonstrated the potential for using compounds that exist in garlic to develop treatments for the condition.

The long-term study, involving more than 1,000 healthy female twins, found that those whose dietary habits included plenty of fruit and vegetables, “particularly alliums such as garlic,” had fewer signs of early osteoarthritis in the hip joint.

Potentially a powerful antibiotic

Diallyl sulfide, a compound in garlic, was 100 times more effective than two popular antibiotics in fighting the Campylobacter bacterium, according to a study published in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy.

The Campylobacter bacterium is one of the most common causes of intestinal infections.

Senior author, Dr. Xiaonan Lu, from Washington State University, said, “This work is very exciting to me because it shows that this compound has the potential to reduce disease-causing bacteria in the environment and in our food supply.”

Heart protection

Garlic in heart-shaped bowl
Garlic may contain heart-protective chemicals.
Source: Medical News Today
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

Diallyl trisulfide, a component of garlic oil, helps protect the heart during cardiac surgery and after a heart attack, researchers at Emory University School of Medicine found. They also believe diallyl trisulfide could be used as a treatment for heart failure.

Hydrogen sulfide gas has been shown to protect the heart from damage.

However, it is a volatile compound and difficult to deliver as therapy.

Because of this, the scientists decided to focus on diallyl trisulfide, a garlic oil component, as a safer way to deliver the benefits of hydrogen sulfide to the heart.

In experiments using laboratory mice, the team found that, after a heart attack, the mice that had received diallyl sulfide had 61 percent less heart damage in the area at risk, compared with the untreated mice.

In another study, published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, scientists found that garlic oil may help protect diabetes patients from cardiomyopathy.

Cardiomyopathy is the leading cause of death among diabetes patients. It is a chronic disease of the myocardium (heart muscle), which is abnormally thickened, enlarged, and/or stiffened.

The team fed diabetic laboratory rats either garlic oil or corn oil. Those fed garlic oil experienced significantly more changes associated with protection against heart damage, compared with the animals that were fed corn oil.

The study authors wrote, “In conclusion, garlic oil possesses significant potential for protecting hearts from diabetes-induced cardiomyopathy.”

Human studies will need to be performed to confirm the results of this study.

High cholesterol and high blood pressure

Researchers at Ankara University investigated the effects of garlic extract supplementation on the blood lipid (fat) profile of patients with high blood cholesterol. Their study was published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry.

The study involved 23 volunteers, all with high cholesterol; 13 of them also had high blood pressure. They were divided into two groups:

  • The high-cholesterol normotensive group (normal blood pressure).
  • The high-cholesterol hypertensive group (high blood pressure).

They took garlic extract supplements for 4 months and were regularly checked for blood lipid parameters, as well as kidney and liver function.

At the end of the 4 months, the researchers concluded “…garlic extract supplementation improves blood lipid profile, strengthens blood antioxidant potential, and causes significant reductions in systolic and diastolic blood pressures. It also leads to a decrease in the level of oxidation product (MDA) in the blood samples, which demonstrates reduced oxidation reactions in the body.”

In other words, the garlic extract supplements reduced high cholesterol levels, and also blood pressure in the patients with hypertension. The scientists added that theirs was a small study – more work needs to be carried out.

Prostate cancer

Doctors at the Department of Urology, China-Japan Friendship Hospital, Beijing, China, carried out a study evaluating the relationship between Allium vegetable consumption and prostate cancer risk.

They gathered and analyzed published studies up to May 2013 and reported their findings in the Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention.

The study authors concluded, “Allium vegetables, especially garlic intake, are related to a decreased risk of prostate cancer.”

The team also commented that because there are not many relevant studies, further well-designed prospective studies should be carried out to confirm their findings.

Alcohol-induced liver injury

Alcohol-induced liver injury is caused by the long-term over-consumption of alcoholic beverages.

Scientists at the Institute of Toxicology, School of Public Health, Shandong University, China, wanted to determine whether diallyl disulfide (DADS), a garlic-derived organosulfur compound, might have protective effects against ethanol-induced oxidative stress.

Their study was published in Biochimica et Biophysica Acta.

The researchers concluded that DADS might help protect against ethanol-induced liver injury.

Preterm (premature) delivery

Microbial infections during pregnancy raise a woman’s risk of preterm delivery. Scientists at the Division of Epidemiology, Norwegian Institute of Public Health, studied what impact foods might have on antimicrobial infections and preterm delivery risk.

The study and its findings were published in the Journal of Nutrition.

Ronny Myhre and colleagues concentrated on the effects of Alliums and dried fruits, because a literature search had identified these two foods as showing the greatest promise for reducing preterm delivery risk.

The team investigated the intake of dried fruit and Alliums among 18,888 women in the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort, of whom 5 percent (950) underwent spontaneous PTD (preterm delivery).

The study authors concluded, “Intake of food with antimicrobial and prebiotic compounds may be of importance to reduce the risk of spontaneous PTD. In particular, garlic was associated with overall lower risk of spontaneous PTD.”

Garlic and the common cold

A team of researchers from St. Joseph Family Medicine Residency, Indiana, carried out a study titled “Treatment of the Common Cold in Children and Adults,” published in American Family Physician.

They reported that “Prophylactic use of garlic may decrease the frequency of colds in adults, but has no effect on duration of symptoms.” Prophylactic use means using it regularly to prevent disease.

Though there is some research to suggest that raw garlic has the most benefits, other studies have looked at overall allium intake, both raw and cooked, and have found benefits. Therefore, you can enjoy garlic in a variety of ways to reap its advantages.

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Parsley & Pasta

Shidonna Garden and Cook Parsley and Pasta

There are few things that go together like parsley and pasta. Some of us love cheese and others do not. But, nothing goes better than a cheese based Italian sauce / dish and parsley. We brought our parsley plant indoors for the winter and she has been doing even better than when she was outside. Her stems are very tall as she reaches for the resources of the sun. We will have to remember to turn her so she does not lean to one side causing her stems to weaken. Our parsley plant was already in the pot and ready to go. She had been sitting on the porch.

As one can see this pasta dish is tomato based and our parsley was used as a garnish. Parsley typically has a very mild flavor and is often used as a garnish. Despite its mild flavor a nice cheese based Italian sauce really brings at its mild notes. We used garlic in our dish. Garlic is typically difficult to avoid when cooking Italian dishes particularly tomato based ones. Keep reading to learn more about the medicinal benefits of the great garlic! What plants have you been growing indoors? How have the been doing in the winter? Are the fruit bearing plants? What type of dishes would you like to see and what are their health benefits?

Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing!

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.

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Salinas Valley continues to grapple with contamination problem

Canada’s crackdown on romaine lettuce a stark reminder of frustrating battle to keep leafy greens safe

Source: Silicone Valley

Romaine lettuce in particular has had contamination problems. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, file)
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

By STEPHANIE MELCHOR | newsroom@montereyherald.com
PUBLISHED: December 26, 2020 at 3:52 p.m.
UPDATED: December 31, 2020 at 1:11 p.m.

The Salinas Valley has long billed itself as the Salad Bowl of the World. Last year alone, Monterey County grew $1.4 billion worth of lettuce.

But for years the valley, which grows the majority of the nation’s lettuce, has also increasingly been known for something else: dangerous contamination in its leafy greens — particularly romaine lettuce — and an apparent inability to solve the problem.

The recurring contamination has sparked distrust in international markets, leading to a bombshell announcement in October that Canada was imposing harsh restrictions on the importation of Salinas Valley-grown romaine lettuce through the end of the year. The new import rules applied to romaine planted in four counties: Monterey, Santa Cruz, San Benito and Santa Clara.

Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had announced a sweeping plan in March aimed at reducing outbreaks related to leafy greens, Canada wasn’t willing to take the risk, the country’s food inspection agency said.

The move was a stark reminder to local growers who have been working vigorously for more than a decade to safeguard leafy greens from contamination — a journey that in many ways has been an exercise in frustration.

“We absolutely recognize that there are millions of servings of these products consumed every single day. And the food is safe — except when it isn’t,” said Trevor Suslow, a food safety expert at UC Davis who recently stepped down as the vice president of produce safety at the Produce Marketing Association.

Any level of illness caused by leafy greens, Suslow said, is not acceptable.

Despite the addition of numerous testing and safety procedures, contamination still occurs in leafy greens. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

Salinas Valley’s contamination problem drew international attention in 2006 when three people died and more than 200 people across the U.S. and in Canada were sickened from eating raw spinach contaminated with E. coli O157:H7, a virulent strain of bacteria that can cause severe stomach pain, bloody diarrhea and kidney failure.

Even though the source of the outbreak was eventually traced to a remote valley in San Benito County, where a cattle ranch owner had leased land to a spinach grower, the eyes of the world were suddenly on the Salinas Valley.

Federal investigators could not say definitively how the spinach became contaminated. But they did find the outbreak strain in nearby cattle and wild pigs, theorizing the pigs had traipsed through the spinach field or bacteria from the animals’ feces had made its way into wells used to irrigate spinach.

And the outbreaks didn’t stop there. According to a recent study by several U.S. and Canadian government agencies, there were 32 E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks in the U.S. and Canada linked to leafy greens from 2009 to 2018.

In the fall of 2019 alone, three major outbreaks of E. coli O157:H7 were traced back to romaine lettuce grown in the Salinas Valley. All told, 188 people across the U.S. and Canada got sick from those outbreaks, leading to 92 hospitalizations and 16 cases of hemolytic uremic syndrome, a potentially fatal condition caused by bacterial toxins damaging blood vessels in the kidneys.

Romaine lettuce and other leafy greens are particularly susceptible to contamination. The crops are grown directly in the ground, sometimes putting it into direct contact with animal feces containing E. coli. And romaine’s large, open leaves can catch potential contaminants spread by air and water. Most importantly: Because romaine lettuce is eaten raw, there is no “kill step”— an opportunity to destroy pathogens through cooking.

Recurring contamination of leafy green products such as lettuce harvested in the Salinas Valley has sparked distrust in some international markets. (Monterey Herald file)
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

Canada’s announcement took many in the industry by surprise, in part because there have been no outbreaks traced to the valley this year, said Norm Groot, executive director of the Monterey County Farm Bureau.

To some scientists, however, the Canadians’ decision seemed like a no-brainer.

“What took them such a long time?” said microbiologist Mansour Samadpour, president of IEH Laboratories and Consulting Group in Seattle.

Years ago, Samadpour was hired by San Juan Bautista-based Natural Selection Foods — which had packaged the tainted spinach that triggered the 2006 crisis — to overhaul microbial testing procedures.

Despite numerous investigations, no one has been able to find the exact source of contamination in last year’s outbreaks.

As was the case in the 2006 outbreak, fecal contamination from nearby pastures is suspected, according to an investigative report by the FDA on the 2019 outbreaks released last May. Investigators found a strain of E. coli O157:H7 that matched one of the outbreak strains at a cattle grate less than two miles upslope from a lettuce farm tied to the contamination.

Federal investigators said irrigation water was another suspect, as were environmental factors such as heat, humidity, wind and wildlife, making the source of the outbreaks a moving target.

The FDA recently launched a multi-year study aimed at determining how human pathogens persist in the environment and contaminate produce.

But growers need answers now.

“How do we move forward with practices and implement something that works when we don’t have that full understanding?” Groot asked.

UC Davis’ Suslow said the food-safety system doesn’t need to be overhauled. “I think there are ways to more effectively and strategically apply what we do know, while we’re waiting to work out some of the things we don’t,” he said.

One organization committed to improving the safety of leafy greens is California’s Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement. The LGMA was created by farmers in response to the 2006 E. coli outbreaks.

Membership in the LGMA is voluntary and allows growers to agree to a layer of food-safety regulations that exceed government requirements.

To reduce the risk of contamination from neighboring livestock farms, the LGMA last spring stepped up its efforts to scrutinize adjacent land use and has extended the required distance of buffer zones — land where no grazing is allowed and no leafy greens can be grown.

But Samadpour said that while the larger buffer zones might curb direct produce contamination from livestock, they won’t stop birds and other wildlife that routinely travel long distances from spreading contamination between pastures and row crops.

To combat pathogens in irrigation water, the LGMA in 2019 approved more stringent standards for testing and treating water used to irrigate leafy greens. The new standards include treating within 21 days before harvesting all water from open sources like canals and rivers that will be used in overhead irrigation.

“This is a pretty staunch new metric – something that’s never been done in fresh produce before,”  Greg Komar, LGMA’s technical director, said at a Sept. 1 webinar outlining the new standards.

Samadpour, however, said that just testing for generic E. coli won’t do much to catch O157:H7. He said that many common tests detect E. coli by observing a chemical reaction caused by a bacterial enzyme. But many strains of O157:H7, he said, don’t cause this chemical reaction, allowing dangerous strains of E. coli to slip by undetected.

“The problem is that nobody’s found the needle in the haystack,” said Steve Church, CEO of Church Brothers Farms in Salinas.

But Samadpour thinks there is a way to find the needle.

“We make the haystack smaller,” he said. “And we make our needle larger.”

Growers, he said, can shrink the “haystack” by testing smaller plots of land – say a quarter of an acre rather than 10 acres. And the “needle” can be enlarged by taking dozens of sample leaves instead of just one and testing them together, increasing the likelihood that the test will pick up evidence of contamination, Samadpour said.

Bill Marler, a Seattle attorney who has represented thousands of food poisoning victims, said Salinas Valley growers need more government regulation to “save them from themselves.”

“They may not like regulation,” but neither did the beef industry in the early 1990s, Marler said.

In 1993, an outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 in Jack in the Box hamburgers sickened more than 700 people and killed four children. The tragedy led to immediate changes in how beef was regulated, including a federal mandate that burgers must be cooked to an internal temperature of 155°F.

In addition, E. coli O157:H7 was classified as an “adulterant” in ground beef. That meant that any beef containing the bacterial strain could not be sold.

“They got their act together and, in fact, they put me out of business,” Marler quipped.

Groot, however, argued that the LGMA has actually been outpacing the FDA when it comes to raising standards for safely growing and processing leafy greens. The U.S. Food Safety Modernization Act of 2012, he noted, incorporated food safety standards originally established by the LGMA.

“The industry is a lot more nimble and can adapt itself a whole lot quicker,” Groot said.

Suslow points to a growing body of research on leafy greens contamination by various research groups. But, he said, there needs to be a system for sharing data on a large scale so that growers, scientists and government officials can learn from each other.

“No single grower or single commodity or industry,” he said, “is going to be able to fix this alone.”

Where does your lettuce come from? What could be contaminating the lettuce in Silicon Valley? What else could it be contaminating?

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It’s a long way to Donegal and the best roast chicken

Source: Berkshire, The Edge

I decided to roast two chickens, which provided us with most of the main courses for our lunch and dinners over the next three or four days. The other advantage was this savings allowed us to enjoy more pints of Guinness at the local

pub.BY BOB LUHMANN
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About 12 years ago, not long after Lois took me in and saved a wretch like me, we made our first trip as a couple to the cottage I’d inherited in County Donegal, Ireland. That year, the dollar to euro exchange rate was a gruesome $1.65 or so. Irish petrol being consistently three times higher than here, on top of the terrible exchange rate, limited the length of our car trips exploring that beautiful island, so we took more than our usual long walks to be found in the immediate area.

This was hardly a hardship, as the surrounding area has some of the most starkly dramatic scenery to be found anywhere. This was confirmed by National Geographic Traveller awarding Donegal, and specifically the area in Donegal along The Wild Atlantic Way where we happen to be located, as number one on their “Cool List” in 2017. While we love this most remote county of Ireland, I’m not sure all of Ireland would term it “cool.” In fact, there was a time when I was searching for my rental car at Dublin Airport, and a man who worked there asked if he could help. Since most of Ireland needs to know where you came from, where you’re going, and any other bits of personal information you’re willing to offer and I’m essentially an open book, we struck up a conversation. When I told him, we were headed to Donegal, he replied cheerily, “Oh! You mean the arsehole of nowhere?”

It was my mother who pointed out to me early on while discovering Ireland, that when first meeting someone from Ireland they’re exceptionally good at finding out everything they can about you, but give up little information about themselves until they’ve got to know you better. Not to diminish the fact that the people of Ireland are typically genuinely friendly, extremely helpful, and generous to a fault, it was interesting how often I found that characteristic to be true. I attribute this to centuries of harsh British rule, when survival often meant keeping as low a profile as possible while being hyperaware of strangers and their business.

At any rate, a big thank you to my parents, Dave and Katie Luhmann, for being ahead of the cool, and we will be back as soon as it becomes safe to travel again. Also, thanks to them, it gave us comfort to know the cottage was there as a safe haven if Trump had been reelected.

For Irish music fans, Donegal may be best known as the birthplace of Enya and the groups Altan and Clannad, but there’s so much more. Most of Donegal is designated as a Gaeltacht region, which are officially designated areas of the country where Irish Gaelic is primarily spoken and so much of Irish culture is preserved, including traditional Irish folk music, or trad as it’s called locally. During non-COVID times, there’s a pub hosting a trad music session, simply referred to as a session, somewhere within driving distance from anywhere in Donegal, which is not uncommon anywhere in Ireland. These are generally loosely organized sessions in which musicians gather and play trad music in a corner of a pub, however I’ve heard songs such as “The Tennessee Waltz” played, as well.

Photo courtesy Bob Luhmann
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

Traditional Irish music is also played live for social céilí dances, where a form of Irish folk dancing takes place. In our area of Donegal, céilí dancing can be found on most nights somewhere, but because of the space requirements for céilís, they are found in large pubs or community halls. At the risk of being severely admonished by my merciless Irish friends, I’ll take a crack at describing céilí dancing as I understand and observed it. The Irish folk dancing at céilís has similarities to our square dancing, which, of course, to put a circle on that square, has roots in the folk dances found at céilís. Two big differences are céilí dancing is more intricate than typical square dancing and there’s rarely a caller. It was fascinating watching my first céilí, as I couldn’t comprehend how everyone knew what to do, especially since the dances are so intricate and generally fast paced. I found it much too dangerous for all involved for a dancing bear like me to participate.

The music played at céilí dances is predominantly Irish folk music involving jigs, reels, and hornpipes, but because it’s dance music for a formalized style of dance, it’s much more structured and has somewhat different roots than the more improvisational trad music. In Donegal céilís, which are the only ones I know, you’ll often hear a good dose of waltzes and American country music, with its roots in Irish/Scottish folk music. Much of Donegal of a certain age is mad for American country music, with New York, Boston, and Nashville being three of the most popular East Coast destinations when visiting America. I still remember on my first trip to Ireland in 1973; I turned on the radio after I checked into my Dublin hotel to hear what Irish music sounded like and was surprised to hear a tremendous amount of American country-pop music. The first song I heard was “Paper Roses” by Marie Osmond, which I would hear ad nauseum during that first trip.

While speaking of Irish music, it should also be noted that the classic spiritual, “Amazing Grace,” sung so brilliantly by so many artists and at church services across the land, including so poignantly by President Barack Obama in his eulogy for Reverend Clementa Pinckney in 2015, has its roots in Donegal. It was originally written as a hymn by the Anglican clergyman John Newton, in 1773, inspired by his having been involved in a violent life-threatening storm off the coast of Donegal while captain of a slave ship in 1748. It was during that storm he called out to God for mercy despite having no particular religious conviction at the time. Surviving that storm and finding sanctuary in Donegal after his call for God’s mercy began his spiritual conversion, eventual path to the clergy, and becoming an active abolitionist.

While in Ireland on our trip 12 years ago, the question of food arose, which is usually my first thought when I wake up in the morning no matter where I am. However, due to the terrible exchange rate, our food budget received far greater scrutiny than normal, so I decided to roast two of Ireland’s consistently excellent chickens. Those comparatively inexpensive chickens provided us with most of the main courses for our lunch and dinners over the next three or four days. Beyond the first night’s roast chicken dinner, there were sliced chicken sandwiches on wonderful Irish wheaten bread, chicken salad, and a big pot of chicken soup. The other advantage was this savings allowed us to enjoy more pints of Guinness at the local pub.

Photo courtesy Bob Luhmann
Shidonna Raven and Garden and Cook

This was a predictable rambling way to get to the point of this article, which is a recipe for roast chicken. However, since this story begins in Ireland, where the longest stories are told, it’s altogether fitting. Since most of us are pinching pennies and missing our friends and extended families while huddling in our homes during this COVID winter, why not turn to a healthy inexpensive comfort food to ease what ails you, such as an excellent roast chicken and medicine-for-everything chicken soup? Just as it did for us in Ireland 12 years ago, a roast chicken provides for a delicious dinner, and what’s left of it makes a glistening, rich stock for an equally delicious pot of soup. As far as the food budget is concerned, one four-pound chicken provides the Lovely Lois and I not only a roast chicken dinner the first night, but soup for dinner two nights later, followed by as many as four bowls of soup for lunch. It’s hard to beat the combination of comparatively easy preparations providing soul-satisfying, comforting nutrition while causing such a small dent in the food budget.

I’ve tried many methods for roast chicken over the years and have settled on the method first described by the wonderful cookbook author, master chef, and culinary teacher Marcella Hazan. I’ve made a couple of minor, but meaningful, adjustments including tweaking roasting temperatures and timing, but otherwise follow it exactly.

My first meaningful adjustment is salting and drying the chicken, uncovered, overnight in the refrigerator, which guarantees a crispy skin and acts as a dry rub, aiding the chicken in remaining moist. If you’re salt sensitive or don’t care much about crispy skin, skip this step. If you do salt the chicken, be careful salting it any further before serving. In addition, I deglaze the roasting pan by adding white wine to the pan juices and reduce, before enriching the reduced juices with butter, while Marcella simply pours the pan juices over the chicken meat. However, I believe everything’s better with butter. No matter whether you incorporate my adjustments or not, you’ll serve a delicious chicken as I’m sure Marcella did many times for her family and guests.

Roast Lemon Chicken

Ingredients:

  • 1 approximately 4 lb whole chicken
  • 1 large lemon, washed and pierced all around with a fork
  • 2 Tbl kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 or 2 sprigs of rosemary (optional)
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 Tbl butter, cut in half

Method:The day before your meal, remove any giblets and any extra fat from the chicken, dry the chicken thoroughly inside and out with paper towels, and rub the chicken all over with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Store uncovered in the refrigerator overnight to dry.The next day, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Dry the chicken inside and out with paper towels again, stuff the washed and pierced lemon into the cavity with the rosemary, if using. Close the cavity with a couple of toothpicks and tie the legs together with kitchen twine. It’s not necessary to close the cavity or tie the legs together tightly.Place the chicken breast side down in a cast iron skillet or any pan which can withstand a 400-degree oven temperature and is able to be used over direct heat. There’s no need to add any oil or butter to the pan or chicken, as the chicken is self-basting. Place on the oven rack in the upper third of the oven and set your timer for 30 minutes.After 30 minutes, flip the chicken breast side up and put back in the oven for 20 minutes.After 20 minutes, turn the oven temperature up to 400 degrees F and roast the chicken for 20 minutes longer before checking the internal temperature of the chicken, at the thickest part of the thigh, with an instant read thermometer, which should register 165 degrees F when done. Depending on the size of the chicken, it could take another 10 minutes longer.After removing the chicken from the oven, using a combination of folded paper towels and a spatula, remove the chicken from the pan and, while holding the chicken tightly, tip to drain the juices from the cavity into the pan. Allow the chicken to rest for about 10 minutes on a cutting board. During this time, you can deglaze the pan over medium heat by adding the white wine to the chicken juices in the pan and scrape up the brown bits with a whisk. Make sure to drink the rest of the bottle with dinner. A shot of good Irish whiskey after dinner doesn’t hurt either, just to ward off the chill of winter, mind you.Reduce the liquid in the pan by half and whisk in the butter until it’s fully incorporated, then remove from heat. Thickly slice the chicken and plate with butter-enriched, deglazed juices poured over the meat.

My chicken stock and soup routines:

My routine after we’ve had our chicken dinner is to remove as much meat as possible from the chicken that night, to be reserved separately for adding to the soup later. I’ll put whatever is left of the chicken in a pan large enough so the bones and chicken skin can be covered with water by 2 inches or so. I’ll store the pan and its contents overnight in the refrigerator to be used to make stock the next day.

The next day, I’ll cover the contents of the pan by about 2 inches of water and, over medium heat, bring it to a slow simmer, adding water as necessary to keep the contents of the pan covered. I let the stock barely simmer for about 4 or 5 hours or until, when stirred, the bones fall apart. There’s no need to add carrot, celery, and onion to the stock as I use all the stock for soup which contains those vegetables. I’ll strain the stock and refrigerate to use the next day. There’s really no reason it can’t be used for soup that day, but this is my routine and I like my routines.

You should have about 6 cups of rich, glistening stock to use. For the soup, begin by sautéing until lightly browned, add about 1½ cups each of diced onions, carrots, and celery in olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot large enough for the soup; a Dutch oven is a good choice. At this point, it’s up to you to add whatever vegetables, herbs, pastas or rices strike your fancy or need to be used. Add the stock and simmer the vegetables until they reach the desired consistency. I often end up putting in leftover vegetables from previous meals, a bag of baby spinach, and the reserved diced chicken meat in at the end. Once the spinach has wilted, add water if necessary. Turn off the heat after the soup has just returned to a boil. Once again, if you pre-salted the chicken as I suggested, taste your soup before adding any additional salt.

What are your favorite meats? What are ways you can introduce more vegetables and fruits into your diet? How could this help your over all diet?

Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing!

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Marigold & Parsley

Parsley and Marigold Plant Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

When we brought our African Marigold flower and Parsley Plant in for the winter we were not sure how quickly and successfully they would transition from being outside to being inside. We are happy to report that parsley seems to be doing very well. We will be clipping her soon and adding her to a dish.

Marigold on the other hand grew very tall and bent way over as she reached for the sun. The single stalk that carries her bountiful blossom weighed down heavy as we tried to straighten her stem out by rotating her pot. When we rotated her pot she bent back to reach for the sun, as plants do, and bent her stalk. She is still repairing under a straw cut down the center and placed around her stem as a brace. We will let you know how she recovers.

What plants have you brought in for the winter? How are they doing? Where are you located? What is the climate like where you are?

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12 Proven Health Benefits of Avocado

Source: Health Line
The avocado is a rather unique fruit.

While most fruit consists primarily of carbohydrate, avocado is high in healthy fats.

Numerous studies show that it has powerful health benefits.

Here are 12 health benefits of avocado that are supported by scientific research.

1. Avocado Is Incredibly Nutritious

Source: Health Line
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

Avocado is the fruit of the avocado tree, scientifically known as Persea americana (1Trusted Source).

This fruit is prized for its high nutrient value and is added to various dishes due to its good flavor and rich texture. It is the main ingredient in guacamole.

These days, the avocado has become an incredibly popular food among health-conscious individuals. It’s often referred to as a superfood, which is not surprising given its health properties (2Trusted Source).

There are many types of avocado that vary in shape and color — from pear-shaped to round and green to black. They can also weigh anywhere from 8 ounces (220 grams) to 3 pounds (1.4 kg).

The most popular variety is the Hass avocado.

It’s often called alligator pear, which is very descriptive, as it tends to be pear-shaped and has green, bumpy skin like an alligator.

The yellow-green flesh inside the fruit is eaten, but the skin and seed are discarded.

Avocados are very nutritious and contain a wide variety of nutrients, including 20 different vitamins and minerals.

Here are some of the most abundant nutrients, in a single 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving (3):

  • Vitamin K: 26% of the daily value (DV)
  • Folate: 20% of the DV
  • Vitamin C: 17% of the DV
  • Potassium: 14% of the DV
  • Vitamin B5: 14% of the DV
  • Vitamin B6: 13% of the DV
  • Vitamin E: 10% of the DV
  • It also contains small amounts of magnesium, manganese, copper, iron, zinc, phosphorous and vitamins A, B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin) and B3 (niacin).

This is coming with 160 calories, 2 grams of protein and 15 grams of healthy fats. Although it contains 9 grams of carbs, 7 of those are fiber, so there are only 2 net carbs, making this a low-carb friendly plant food.

Avocados do not contain any cholesterol or sodium and are low in saturated fat. This is why they are favored by some experts who believe these substances are harmful, which is a debated topic, however.

SUMMARY

Avocado is a green, pear-shaped fruit often called an “alligator pear.” It is loaded with healthy fats, fiber and various important nutrients.

2. They Contain More Potassium Than Bananas

Potassium is a nutrient that most people don’t get enough of (4).

This nutrient helps maintain electrical gradients in your body’s cells and serves various important functions.

Avocados are very high in potassium. A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving packs 14% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA), compared to 10% in bananas, which are a typical high-potassium food (5).

Several studies show that having a high potassium intake is linked to reduced blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart attacks, strokes and kidney failure (6Trusted Source).

SUMMARY

Potassium is an important mineral that most people don’t get enough of. Avocados are very high in potassium, which should support healthy blood pressure levels.

3. Avocado Is Loaded With Heart-Healthy Monounsaturated Fatty Acids

Avocado is a high-fat food.

In fact, 77% of the calories in it are from fat, making it one of the fattiest plant foods in existence.

But they don’t just contain any fat. The majority of the fat in avocado is oleic acid — a monounsaturated fatty acid that is also the major component of olive oil and believed to be responsible for some of its health benefits.

Oleic acid has been associated with reduced inflammation and shown to have beneficial effects on genes linked to cancer (7Trusted Source8Trusted Source9Trusted Source10Trusted Source).

The fats in avocado are also rather resistant to heat-induced oxidation, making avocado oil a healthy and safe choice for cooking.

SUMMARY

Avocados and avocado oil are high in monounsaturated oleic acid, a heart-healthy fatty acid that is believed to be one of the main reasons for the health benefits of olive oil.

4. Avocados Are Loaded With Fiber

Fiber is another nutrient that avocados are relatively rich in.

It’s indigestible plant matter that can contribute to weight loss, reduce blood sugar spikes and is strongly linked to a lower risk of many diseases (11Trusted Source12Trusted Source13Trusted Source).

distinction is often made between soluble and insoluble fiber.

Soluble fiber is known for feeding the friendly gut bacteria in your intestine, which are very important for optimal body function (14Trusted Source).

A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of avocado packs 7 grams of fiber, which is 27% of the RDA.

About 25% of the fiber in avocado is soluble, while 75% is insoluble (15Trusted Source).

SUMMARY

Avocados tend to be rich in fiber — about 7% by weight, which is very high compared to most other foods. Fiber may have important benefits for weight loss and metabolic health.

5. Eating Avocados Can Lower Cholesterol and Triglyceride Levels

Heart disease is the most common cause of death in the world (16Trusted Source).

It’s known that several blood markers are linked to an increased risk.

This includes cholesterol, triglycerides, inflammatory markers, blood pressure and various others.

Eight controlled studies in people have examined the effects of avocado on some of these risk factors.

These studies showed that avocados can (17Trusted Source18Trusted Source19Trusted Source20Trusted Source21Trusted Source22Trusted Source23Trusted Source):

  • Reduce total cholesterol levels significantly.
  • Reduce blood triglycerides by up to 20%.
  • Lower LDL cholesterol by up to 22%.
  • Increase HDL (the good) cholesterol by up to 11%.

One of the studies found that including avocado in a low-fat, vegetarian diet significantly improved the cholesterol profile (24Trusted Source).

Though their results are impressive, it’s important to note that all of the human studies were small and short-term, including only 13–37 people with a duration of 1–4 weeks.

SUMMARY

Numerous studies have shown that eating avocado can improve heart disease risk factors like total, “bad” LDL and “good” HDL cholesterol, as well as blood triglycerides.

6. People Who Eat Avocados Tend to Be Healthier

One study looked at the dietary habits and health of people who eat avocados.

They analyzed data from 17,567 participants in the NHANES survey in the US.

Avocado consumers were found to be much healthier than people who didn’t eat this fruit.

They had a much higher nutrient intake and were half as likely to have metabolic syndrome, a cluster of symptoms that are a major risk factor for heart disease and diabetes (25Trusted Source).

People who ate avocados regularly also weighed less, had a lower BMI and significantly less belly fat. They also had higher levels of “good” HDL cholesterol.

However, correlation does not imply causation, and there is no guarantee that the avocados caused these people to be in better health.

Therefore, this particular study doesn’t carry much weight.

SUMMARY

One dietary survey found that people who ate avocados had a much higher nutrient intake and a lower risk of metabolic syndrome.

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7. Their Fat Content May Help You Absorb Nutrients From Plant Foods

When it comes to nutrients, your intake is not the only thing that matters.

You also need to be able to absorb these nutrients — move them from your digestive tract and to your body, where they can be used.

Some nutrients are fat-soluble, meaning that they need to be combined with fat in order to be utilized.

Vitamins A, D, E and K are fat-soluble, along with antioxidants like carotenoids.

One study showed that adding avocado or avocado oil to either salad or salsa can increase antioxidant absorption 2.6- to 15-fold (26Trusted Source).

So, not only is avocado highly nutritious, it can dramatically increase the nutrient value of other plant foods that you are eating.

This is an excellent reason to always include a healthy fat source when you eat veggies. Without it, a lot of the beneficial plant nutrients will go to waste.

SUMMARY

Studies have shown that eating avocado or avocado oil with vegetables can dramatically increase the number of antioxidants you take in.

8. Avocados Are Loaded With Powerful Antioxidants That Can Protect Your Eyes

Not only do avocados increase antioxidant absorption from other foods, they are also high in antioxidants themselves.

This includes the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, which are incredibly important for eye health (27Trusted Source28).

Studies show that they’re linked to a drastically reduced risk of cataracts and macular degeneration, which are common in older adults (29Trusted Source30Trusted Source).

Therefore, eating avocados should benefit your eye health over the long term.

SUMMARY

Avocados are high in antioxidants, including lutein and zeaxanthin. These nutrients are very important for eye health and lower your risk of macular degeneration and cataracts.

9. Avocado May Help Prevent Cancer

There is limited evidence that avocado may be beneficial in cancer treatment and prevention.

Test-tube studies suggest that it may help reduce side effects of chemotherapy in human lymphocytes (31Trusted Source).

Avocado extract has also been shown to inhibit the growth of prostate cancer cells in a laboratory (32Trusted Source).

However, keep in mind that these studies were done in isolated cells and don’t necessarily prove what may happen inside people. Human-based research is unavailable.

SUMMARY

Some test-tube studies have shown that nutrients in avocados may have benefits in preventing prostate cancer and lowering side effects of chemotherapy. However, human-based research is lacking.

10. Avocado Extract May Help Relieve Symptoms of Arthritis

Arthritis is a common problem in Western countries. There are many types of this condition, which are often chronic problems that people have for the rest of their lives.

Multiple studies suggest that avocado and soybean oil extracts — called avocado and soybean unsaponifiables — can reduce osteoarthritis (33Trusted Source34Trusted Source).

Whether avocados themselves have this effect remains to be seen.

SUMMARY

Studies have shown that avocado and soybean oil extracts can significantly reduce symptoms of osteoarthritis.

11. Eating Avocado May Help You Lose Weight

There is some evidence that avocados are a weight loss friendly food.

In one study, people eating avocado with a meal felt 23% more satisfied and had a 28% lower desire to eat over the next 5 hours, compared to people who did not consume this fruit (35Trusted Source).

Should this hold true in the long term, then including avocados in your diet may help you naturally eat fewer calories and make it easier for you to stick to healthy eating habits.

Avocados are also high in fiber and very low in carbs, two attributes that should help promote weight loss as well, at least in the context of a healthy, real-food-based diet.

SUMMARY

Avocados may aid weight loss by keeping you full longer and making you eat fewer calories. They’re also high in fiber and low in carbs, which may promote weight loss.

12. Avocado Is Delicious and Easy to Incorporate in Your Diet

Avocados are not only healthy, they’re also incredibly delicious and go with many types of food.

You can add them to salads and various recipes or simply scoop them out with a spoon and eat them plain.

They have a creamy, rich, fatty texture and blend well with other ingredients.

A notable mention is guacamole, which is arguably the most famous use of avocados. It includes avocado along with ingredients like salt, garlic, lime and a few others depending on the recipe.

An avocado often takes some time to ripen and should feel slightly soft when ripe. The nutrients in avocado can oxidize and turn brown soon after fleshing it, but adding lemon juice should slow down this process.

SUMMARY

Avocados have a creamy, rich, fatty texture and blend well with other ingredients. Therefore, it’s easy to add this fruit to your diet. Using lemon juice may prevent cut avocados from browning quickly.

The Bottom Line

Avocados are an excellent food, loaded with nutrients, many of which are lacking in the modern diet.

They’re weight loss friendly, heart healthy and, last but not least, taste incredible.

What did you learn about avocados? How could they contribute to your health? How can you introduce them into your diet?

Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing!

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THE HUNGRY SWIMMER: WHAT I EAT IN A DAY AS A ‘SWAMMER’

If you’re still lost on what to eat as a former swimmer, check out some meal ideas below as I walk you through what I eat in a typical day as a swammer! Current photo via Zoe Gregorace

The Hungry Swimmer: What I Eat in a Day as a ‘Swammer’
Source: Swim Swam
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

TW: disordered eating  

Swimmers are notorious for being big-time eaters. I mean, grueling practices and dry-land workouts definitely work up a massive appetite! And of course, as a high performance athlete, it’s imperative to give your body the fuel it needs to complete all that yardage. But, what happens after you hang up the goggles?…

Throughout my 16 year career as a competitive swimmer, my relationship with food was complicated. Food was constantly on my mind and my thoughts revolved around what and how much I would eat before practice, after practice, before the meet warm-up, in between prelims and finals, etc. It is also worth noting that as an athlete, my relationship with food not only evolved but was shaped by a variety of factors. From middle school to high school and well into college, this relationship looked completely different. The accumulative pressure of societal expectations, peer comparison and anxieties associated with growing up took a major toll, impacting the quantity and quality of food I consumed and affecting my performance as an athlete.

After I hung up the goggles in 2018, I was confronted with the single most dreaded thought of (most likely) every swimmer: Am I going to get FAT?!?

Well, I am here to report that this is certainly not the case, in fact, I am excited to share some newfound wisdom with you all as an almost 3-year swammer. After shedding my identity as a swimmer and leaping into a completely new world with a lot less chlorine, I will be the first to admit that the swammer road was quite a difficult one to navigate. Yes, I felt lost at first, but was excited to continue exploring my passion for competitive physical activity (think cross fit, spin and boxing). And while my career in the pool had come to an end, I was able to think more about my relationship with food and rebuild. I’ve learned to appreciate and listen to my swammer body, discover the foods that make me feel my best and avoid peer comparison. It is important to remember that every person is unique and the corny saying rings true, comparison IS the thief of joy.

So, you’re still lost on what to eat as a swammer? Check out some meal ideas below as I walk you through what I eat in a typical day as a swammer!

Breakfast

Soure: Swim Swam
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

9:30 AM: Right now, I am on a HUGE avocado toast kick and I’ve been loving sourdough bread. I like to toast the sourdough until it’s nice and crispy then mash the avocado on top and add a tiny drizzle of olive oil on top before adding my seasoning. My avocado toast seasoning preferences are always changing, but I can promise you that the Everything But the Bagel seasoning and red pepper flakes will never go out of style. As for the eggs, I alternate between preparing them over easy or sunny-side up. I also love adding some greens to boost the nutritional density of the meal- today I sauteed a big handful of baby spinach along with the eggs. If you want to spice things up, I highly recommend topping your toast masterpiece with a generous drizzle of your favorite hot sauce. Along with this beautiful plate, I had two cups of drip coffee with a splash of almond milk.

Lunch

Source: Swim Swam
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

1:00PM: I’m not a huge fan of lunch, but when I’m feeling it, I like to make a vibrant greens bowl with filling healthy fats and added nuts or berries for a burst of flavor. For this bowl, I combined baby spinach, sliced cucumbers, drained and rinsed chickpeas, a few slices of avocado (can you tell, I’m addicted!), some pumpkin seeds and pomegranate seeds. I mostly went for the leftover produce I had in my fridge and took advantage of this opportunity to exercise some culinary exploration! And to my surprise, this flavor combination “slaps”, as the kids say. I finished the bowl off with a drizzle of olive oil and some cracked black pepper.

Snack

Source: Swim Swam
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

3:30PM: This limbo time between lunch and dinner is what I like to call snack time! If you know me, you know thatI have a serious sweet tooth. So, instead of daydreaming about chocolate and completely cutting it out of my diet, I allow myself to enjoy it without going overboard. I typically like to make a snack mix and munch on this a few hours before I make my dinner. For this mix, I combined my favorite gluten-free pretzels (the crunch on these are INSANE), pumpkin seeds, roasted chickpea snacks and dark chocolate chips.

Dinner

Source: Swim Swam
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

6:30PM: Salmon and a bunch of roasted vegetables is one of my favorite dinners to prepare! It’s easy, quick and nutritious. I’ll either plate the salmon and veggies or, layer this on top of a big bowl of greens if I have them on hand. For this bowl, I started with a base of baby spinach and added roasted bell peppers, mushrooms, Brussels sprouts and salmon. I also added some feta cheese, hummus, a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of paprika on top.

After dinner, sometimes I’m still hungry. And even if it is “late” or close to bedtime, I will listen to my body and eat if I’m hungry! I typically go for a yogurt bowl, some form of nut butter on toast or reach for a sweet-tooth satisfier I have on hand (the Chewy Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate Cups are my favorite!)

Check out my page for more recipe inspiration and be sure to share your swammer eats with me @whatzoeeeats (https://www.instagram.com/whatzoeeeats/).

Avocados are one of our favorites too. What did you think of Zoe’s meals? What did you like? How could this be beneficial to your diet?

<strong>Zoe Gregorace</strong>
Zoe Gregorace

Zoe Gregorace is currently studying Nutrition Policy at the Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and recently graduated from Tufts University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology and was a proud member of the Tufts Swimming and Diving team (Go Jumbos!). During her 16 year career as a competitive swimmer, she developed a passion for sports nutrition. She enjoys writing on the topic of nutrition, health and wellness and posts her meal creations on her Instagram page @whatzoeeeats. As a former college swimmer, she strives to share recipes and nutrition tips to promote balanced eating and optimize sports performance.

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Are Raisins Good for You?

Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Raisins Grapes

Source: Healthine
Feature Photo Source: Unsplash, Leander Neumann

What are raisins?

The shriveled yellow, brown, or purple morsels known as raisins are actually grapes that have been dried in the sun or in a food dehydrator.

Raisins are commonly used:
  • as a salad topping
  • mixed into oatmeal
  • in yogurt
  • in granola or cereal

You also may have eaten them baked into delicious cookies, breads, and muffins. Despite their small size, raisins are packed with energy and rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

Raisins are naturally sweet and high in sugar and calories, but they’re beneficial to our health when eaten in moderation. In fact, raisins can aid digestion, boost iron levels, and keep your bones strong.

So the next time you’re craving candy or sweets, consider munching on some raisins to satisfy your yearning. Your body will reap the healthy benefits.

The nutrition of raisins

There are several factors to consider about the nutritional benefits of raisins. Read on for a breakdown of what raisins have to offer, both good and bad, to determine if the benefits outweigh any risks.

Sugar and calories

One-half cup of raisins has about 217 caloriesTrusted Source and 47 grams of sugar. For reference, a 12-ounce can of soda has about 150 calories and 33 grams of sugar, depending on the brand.

For this reason, raisins aren’t exactly a low-calorie, or low-sugar treat. It’s no wonder they are sometimes referred to as “nature’s candy.”

High amounts of sugar and calories are pretty typical of dried fruit, which is why keeping an eye on how many raisins you are eating in one sitting is key.

Raisins are often sold in small, single serving boxes, each containing roughly 100 calories. If you have problems with portion control, try purchasing these prepackaged raisins to keep your intake in check.

For endurance athletes, raisins are a great alternative for expensive sports chews and gels. They offer a quick source of much-needed carbohydrates and can help improve your performance.

2011 studyTrusted Source found that raisins were just as effective as a brand of sports jelly beans in improving performance for athletes engaging in moderate- to high-intensity endurance exercise.

Fiber

One-half cup of raisins will give you 3.3 grams of fiberTrusted Source, or roughly 10 to 24 percent of your daily needs, depending on your age and gender.

Fiber helps aid your digestion by softening and increasing the weight and size of your stool. Bulkier stools are easier to pass and can help prevent constipation.

Fiber also helps keep you full for longer because it slows down the emptying of your stomach. If you’re trying to lose weight, eating fibrous foods may help.

Fiber also plays a role in cholesterol levels. Dietary fiber is known to decrease levels of the “bad” low-density lipoprotein (LDL) type of cholesterol.

Iron

Raisins are a good source of iron. One-half cup of raisins contains 1.3 milligrams of iron. That’s about 7 percent of the recommended daily amountTrusted Source for most adult females, and 16 percent for adult men.

Iron is important for making red blood cells and helping them carry oxygen to the cells of your body. You need to eat enough iron in order to prevent iron-deficiency anemia.

Calcium and boron

Raisins have about 45 milligrams of calcium per 1/2-cup serving. This translates to about 4 percent of your daily needs. Calcium is essential for healthy and strong bones and teeth.

If you’re a postmenopausal woman, raisins are a great snack for you because the calcium helps prevent the development of osteoporosis, a disorder characterized by bone loss that usually occurs as you age.

To add to that, raisins contain a high amount of the trace element boron. Boron works with vitamin D and calcium to keep your bones and joints healthy. It also plays a role in treating osteoporosis.

Antioxidants

Raisins are an exceptional source of naturally occurring chemicals called phytonutrients, such as phenols and polyphenols. These types of nutrients are considered antioxidants.

Antioxidants help remove free radicals from your blood and may prevent damage to your cells and DNA. This can lead to diseases like cancerheart disease, and stroke.

Antimicrobial compounds

2009 studyTrusted Source noted that raisins contain phytochemicals that could promote healthy teeth and gums. Phytochemicals present in raisins, including oleanolic acid, linoleic acid, and linolenic acid, fight the bacteria in your mouth that lead to cavities.

In other words, eating raisins in place of sugary snack foods can actually keep your smile healthy.HEALTHLINE NEWSLETTERGet our weekly Men’s Health email

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How to eat raisins

Raisins can be enjoyed right from the box, or they can be thrown into a variety of dishes. From breakfasts to desserts to savory dinners, there are countless possibilities. Here are some ideas on how to incorporate more raisins in your diet:

  • For a healthy take on classic oatmeal raisin cookies, try this flourless version. View the recipe.
  • Raisins add excellent flavor to just about any type of sweet spread. Try making this cinnamon raisin cashew butter if you’re in the mood to try something new. If cashews aren’t your favorite, you can substitute another nut. View the recipe.
  • Spice up chicken salad with raisins and sweet apples. View the recipe.
  • Contrary to popular belief, granola is easy to make at home. Raisins are always an excellent addition to your standard granola recipe. This recipe for cinnamon raisin granola can also be made vegan or gluten-free. View the recipe.
  • Pumpkin, raisin, and flaxseed muffins are full of healthy fiber. View the recipe.
  • It may seem strange to add raisins to your pasta. This pasta dish from the staff at the Mayo Clinic includes spinach, garbanzo beans, and raisins. It’s high in iron, protein, and fiber. View the recipe.

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Make your own raisins

Want to try making your own raisins? It’s simple:

  1. Get some grapes.
  2. Remove the large stems.
  3. Wash them in cool water.
  4. Place them on a tray, and set the tray outside on a dry, sunny day (it works best if the tray has holes or cracks for air circulation).
  5. Rotate the grapes to ensure even sun exposure.

In just two or three days, you’ll have your own raisins.

Next steps

Raisins contain healthy vitamins and minerals. They are also fat-free and cholesterol-free, high in antioxidants, and an excellent source of fiber. Raisins may help you:

  • relieve constipation
  • prevent anemia
  • build and maintain strong bones
  • protect your teeth
  • lower your risk of cancer and heart disease

Raisins contain enough sugar to give you a burst of energy and are a great addition to a healthful diet for most people. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, consider replacing unhealthy, sugary snacks with raisins.

Of course, like any dried fruit, eating too much can be borderline unhealthy because of their high sugar content and calories. While you shouldn’t be afraid to include raisins in your diet, make sure to keep it to a handful at a time.


Jacquelyn Cafasso
Jacquelyn Cafasso

Jacquelyn has been in a writer and research analyst in the health and pharmaceutical space since she graduated with a degree in biology from Cornell University. A native of Long Island, NY, she moved to San Francisco after college, and then took a brief hiatus to travel the world. In 2015, Jacquelyn relocated from sunny California to sunnier Gainesville, Florida, where she owns 7 acres and 58 fruit trees. She loves chocolate, pizza, hiking, yoga, soccer, and Brazilian capoeira. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

What medicinal benefits can you reap from raisins? Have you considered eating raisins as a quick and health snack? How could your health and diet benefit from eating raisins?

Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing!

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.