Spices, herbs, tinctures and essential oils have been used for millennia to season our food, heal our bodies and boost our spirits. In our Throwback Thursday (#TBT) series, we at re:iimmune will take you back in history to learn how these gifts from Mother Nature have been used. We'll focus on their use through the ages and beneficial purposes in regard to nutrition, natural health and household care. This week we discuss plantain, a "weed" that has many benefits!You’ve probably seen plantain (the plant variety, not the fruit related to the banana) growing in your backyard and dismissed it as a weed. However, this plant has been used for thousands of years by native peoples as a source of nutrition and healing. Plantago major or common plantain can grow almost anywhere, sprouting up even through cracks in asphalt and concrete and it can thrive in nearly any climate. Related to spinach, plantain leaves provide iron, beta carotene, calcium, ascorbic acid and contains vitamins A, C and K. It can be added raw to salads but adult leaves tend to be stringy. It can be cooked just like spinach and the seedpods are edible as well, a bit like asparagus. Plantain is a little more bitter than spinach or asparagus and are great to use in stews or soups and stir-fries. They also have gentle astringent properties which help to dry up excess secretions in the respiratory and digestive tracts and can be helpful in treating chest colds and diarrhea. Plantain is also commonly used as a natural poultice to draw out toxins and stingers from bug bites and stings and to alleviate other irritations. Crushed and added right to the problem area like a paste, it’s anti-inflammatory properties make it useful on wounds, burns and even removing splinters. Even if you don’t plan on harvesting the plant for use from your own backyard, it’s good to keep this information in your mind when camping or hiking in the woods! Plantain can also help to cool and heal sunburns and because it contains a phytochemical called allantoin it generally promotes healthy skin by stimulating new cells and healthy tissue. While you may be able to find plantain in your own backyard, if it’s been sprayed with chemicals and fertilizer you may want to find it from a different source. It is invasive so if you are thinking about planting some in your yard, be forewarned. Also keep in mind that while young shoots are more tender, the larger leaves contain more of the beneficial phytochemicals.
- Bananas are a significant source of potassium which plays a key role in cardiovascular health. Lack of potassium can also cause muscle cramping so if you are getting those charley horses in the middle of the night, it’s time to reach for a banana. You’ll be helping your bones as well since potassium plays a key role in retaining calcium in the body.
- Tryptophan is also found in bananas. When consumed, tryptophan is converted into serotonin which elevates mood and relieves stress. It also helps to regulate sleep patterns, body temperature, memory and appetite.
- For digestive health, bananas are a super hero of the fruit world. They are a natural antacid, giving relief from heartburn and acid reflux. Because they coat the lining of the stomach against acid, they are the only raw fruit recommended to people suffering from stomach ulcers. The pectin in bananas aids in digestion and removal of toxins and heavy metals from our system. They produce enzymes which assist in absorbing nutrients during digestion. They play the role of prebiotic, acting as a food source for friendly bacteria in the gut. A banana can also be a soother for two very opposite problems, soothing both constipation and diarrhea.
- The high water content and levels of Vitamin A in bananas help to repair dry and damaged skin cells. By ingesting the fruit or using a banana face mask, you can help restore moisture to the skin and renew damaged cells. Many also swear by banana peels for treating acne and it’s also effective at neutralizing the itch from bug bites.
- Start the day with an Orange Pecan Waffle or a Turmeric Raspberry Almond Smoothie, and the Vitamin E found in the nuts will work to protect vulnerable brain fat (plus the fiber keeps you satisfied until lunch).
- Enjoy Garlic Butter Shrimp over Zucchini Noodles and Mussels with Garlicky Kale Ribbons and Artichokes, and the zinc and magnesium from the seafood will help stimulate the growth of new brain cells.
- Want to slow down your brain’s aging process? Indulge with a cup of Turmeric Cinnamon Hot Chocolate, and the flavanols found in chocolate both increase blood flow to the brain and help fight age-related memory decline.
“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well if one has not dined well” - Virginia Woolf
It is in this spirit that we present re:iimmune’s new blog series “Whole Foods Spotlight” where we will focus in on a specific whole food, its nutritional benefits and provide you with a few links to some tasty recipes that may inspire you to add more of that particular food into your diet. After all, good health begins with good nutrition! This week we focus on the protein/potassium powerhouse. . . black eyed peas!If you are from the southern United States, chances are you’ll have your black eyed peas on New Year’s for good luck. If you don’t know about this tradition, check out this article on americanfood.about.com . Today we want to share some of the amazing health benefits packed in this powerful little pea, which is actually a bean. Black eyed peas are used in cuisines throughout the world. In the southern region of the United States, “Hoppin’ John” is perhaps the traditional dish folks would have on New Year’s to ensure their luck. In Portugal, black eyed peas accompany cod and potatoes. Egyptians call them “lobia” and use them in very popular rice dish cooked with garlic, onions, tomato juice and meat. Meanwhile, in Vietnam they are used in a sweet sticky rice and coconut milk dessert called chè đậu trắng and in India they are used in many ways, including a curry made with black eyed peas and potatoes. A popular traditional street food of Brazil is called akara, which originates from Nigeria. The black eyed peas are peeled, mashed and then the paste is used to form balls which are then deep fried. They are usually served split in half and stuffed with Vatapá (a dish made of bread, shrimp, coconut milk, finely ground peanuts and palm oil mashed into a creamy paste) and a condiment called caruru which is made from okra, onion, shrimp, palm oil and peanuts or cashews. Akara is topped with diced green and red tomatoes, fried sun-dried shrimp and homemade hot sauce. There are so many delicious ways to use this simple little bean! Not only are black eyed peas delicious, they are highly nutritious. They are packed with potassium and protein. Potassium helps to regulate blood pressure which lowers your risk of heart disease and it supports muscle and bone health too. Getting cramps in your legs or feet? Foods rich in potassium are the first things to reach for. As for protein, they are a smart alternative for those who don’t eat meat. Protein supports the health of most of the parts of your body including muscles, skin, hair and nails and it also helps your cells repair and grow while providing you with energy. Dried black-eyed peas contain 6.7 g of protein per ½ cup and the same size serving of canned black eyed peas contain 5.7 g. Be sure to rinse canned beans of any kind to reduce sodium and to help prevent problems with flatulence. They are a great high fiber, low calorie food to rely on if you are trying to achieve or maintain a healthy weight. We already provided a couple of links to some seriously great black eyed pea recipes above but here are a few more very simple ways to incorporate more of this whole food into your diet. . . Black Eyed Peas and Dill Potato Skillet Hot Black Eyed Pea Dip Black Eyed Pea Salad
“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well if one has not dined well” - Virginia Woolf
It is in this spirit that we present re:iimmune’s new blog series “Whole Foods Spotlight” where we will focus in on a specific whole food, its nutritional benefits and provide you with a few links to some tasty recipes that may inspire you to add more of that particular food into your diet. After all, good health begins with good nutrition! Today we focus on the awesome nutritional benefits of the sweet potato. . .Botanically part of the Morning Glory family, the sweet potato’s origins can be traced back to Incan and pre-Incan races whose ancient pottery even show depictions of many different varieties. By the time it was introduced to European explorers, it was not found growing wild there but another member of its family “wild potato vine” or “wild sweet potato” can still be found in parts of U.S. such as Illinois and Indiana. The sweet potato was brought back to Europe before the continent was even introduced to Irish potatoes. It immediately became a rare delicacy whose popularity spread it throughout the world. The plant only produces seed in warmer tropical clients and in colder climates new plants come from planting roots or cuttings of the vines. They are a prolific producer, yielding more pounds per acre than any other plant including Irish potatoes and corn! This is good news because this tasty orange jewel provides a host of beneficial nutrients to us if included in our diet. Potassium Potassium rich foods, such as sweet potatoes are known for improving blood pressure control. Potassium improves kidney function, reduces blood clotting and helps to regulate the opening of blood vessels. If your doctor is concerned about blood pressure control, they may recommend increasing intake of potassium. Iron They are also high in iron, an essential mineral vital in producing energy in the body. Whether you are just feeling a little sluggish or are full blown anemic, adding sweet potatoes to your diet is a good idea. Iron deficiency is linked to many health issues such as impaired cognitive and immune function, problems with body temperature regulation and gastrointestinal issues. Beta-carotene That beautiful orange color is a signal from nature that a food is high in beta-carotene which provides Vitamin A. This is vital in maintaining and improving both retinal health and bone strength. Get some more of the delicious sweet potato into your diet! Here are some links to a few delicious recipes. . . Roasted Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili Spicy Roasted Sweet Potato and Kale Salad BBQ Chicken Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
Spices, herbs, tinctures and essential oils have been used for millennia to season our food, heal our bodies and boost our spirits. In our Throwback Thursday (#TBT) series, we at re:iimmune will take you back in history to learn how these gifts from Mother Nature have been used. We'll focus on their use through the ages and beneficial purposes in regard to nutrition, natural health and household care. This week we focus on the herbal savior, sage!“How can a man grow old who has sage in his garden?” is an old proverb quoted throughout much of Europe, China and Persia. During the 17th century, sage was so valued by the Chinese that Dutch merchants discovered that they would trade three chests of Chinese tea for just one chest of sage. The word sage derives from the Latin word salvare which means “to save” bestowed for it’s many healing and curative properties. Native Americans called the sagebrush “spirit caller” and used it in the cleansing and purification of their dwellings. Still today, people looking to cleanse their home of bad vibes or just to refresh the air will burn a smudge stick made of sage. Some even find relief from the smoke for sinus congestion or pain as well as migraines. Sage contains saponins which improve circulation and its been used for over a thousand years in the treatment of Cerebrovascular disease. Like its family member rosemary, it is also known for improving memory and many studies are showing that it may even help treat and prevent Alzheimer’s. With these benefits, it’s no wonder we use the word “sage” to describe a very wise person! The herb is prized for it’s strong flavor and for many people the smell of it evokes the holidays. Which is perfect, as the herb is known for its ability to assist the body in digesting all those fatty foods we enjoy this time of year! Also, red sage has been used traditionally as a treatment for inflammation of the mouth, throat and tonsils so it’s one to turn to for relief during cold season. In the garden, sage is a fragrant and often overlooked spring flowering plant. There are dozens of varieties; some for cooking, some for medicinal purposes and some ornamental. Most are very hardy and prefer well drained soil. Common sage, which is most often used in cooking, produces beautiful purple flowers which attract bees and other beneficial insects to the garden. We’ve collected a few useful DIY’s for you that take advantage of sage’s many wonderful offerings. Enjoy! Sage Tincture for Colds and Sore Throats (scroll to bottom of article) Homegrown Smudge Sticks Fresh Sage Wreath