Medicine Woman’s Larder – Potatoes – Versatile and Nutritious.


Medicine Womans larder

Time to showcase some of my favourite foods that I consider should be part of everyone’s diet again. Delicious, nutritious and easy for the body to process to provide energy and life-sustaining vitamins and minerals.  This week a reminder of why potatoes are so good for us.

I firmly believe that with a healthy, unprocessed diet you can support most of the systems in your body.  There are occasions, particularly as we get older, that supplementing the foods that we eat is probably beneficial.  Also today there is concern that many of the natural foods that we do eat may not be as nutritious as they were 20 years ago.  The soil that they are grown in has to be rich in nutrients first to pass them on.  This is why when buying your fresh produce you should not skimp – buying from farm shops for example enables you to see the produce straight from the ground.  There are organic suppliers who have certification for their growing methods and soils.  Just remember that this body of ours needs to last a lifetime and if you are willing to spend a great deal of money on keeping your car safely on the road with fuel and maintenance, you should be at least willing to spend as much or more on keeping your engine in high performance mode.

NOTE If you are on any prescribed medication do not take yourself off it without consultation with your doctor.  If you follow a healthy eating programme and lose weight and are exercising you may not need the same dose and with your doctor’s agreement you may be able to reduce or come off the medication all together.

Most of us walk through the fresh produce departments of our supermarkets without really paying much attention to the individual fruits and vegetables. This is a great pity because the vast majority of these foods have been cultivated for thousands of years, not only for their nutritional value but also for their medicinal properties. If you eat a healthy diet you are effectively practicing preventative medicine and I would like to introduce you to a common vegetable that is definitely on my shopping list.

potatoesThe not so common Potato

You cannot claim Irish ancestry and not be aware of the significance of the potato in our history. For my great-grandfather, as a child in Cork, in the 1830s, the potato would have been an essential and daily addition to his diet.  By 1845 by the start of the great famine in Ireland caused by the potato blight, over a third of Irish people were reliant on this humble vegetable to sustain their families.  My family were lucky in as much as they were close to the sea and had access to other foods but for millions inland it was the most devastating disaster in Irish history.  Apart from those that perished, it instigated a mass migration that was to impact countries around the world.  So why should the potato be considered so nutritionally important to us today?

Potatoes were the most common carbohydrate for most of us in the western world up until after the second world war.  Another ten years and we were starting to develop more exotic tastes and first the Indian restaurants and then the Chinese introduced us to rice in its various varieties. And, over the last 50 years or so they have been chucked in and out of our diet at the whim of “experts” who one minute want us to stop eating carbohydrates, then they are in, then they are out………….

In my mind they should definitely be in and I hope that when you have read all the history of this simple but essential vegetable and all that it offers you too will include in your weekly shop.

The history of the potato.

There are some legends regarding the introduction of the potato into Ireland, around 1600. Some believe that Sir Frances Drake brought specimens back from the West Indies and handed some over to Sir Walter Raleigh who cultivated them on his farm in Ireland. I prefer the far more quirky explanation that potatoes were washed up on the shore after the Armada was sunk and – with typical Irish ingenuity – were transformed into a national treasure and alcoholic beverage.

This humble root vegetable has travelled thousands of miles to adorn our dinner plates and there is archaeological evidence that they were first cultivated in Peru around 4,500 years ago although wild potatoes had been eaten as early as 10,000 years ago.  I would imagine that ancient civilisations would have also eaten them in one form or another.

Wheat and corn could not survive the cold of the mountains in the same way as the potato, and the Inca cultures actually developed frost-resistant varieties and a technique to freeze dry the mature root, providing flour that could be stored for a number of years. Like in Ireland, the potato became the staple food for South American’s living at high altitudes and they even produced alcohol in the form of a beer called chicha.

As I mentioned, in recent years carbohydrates have found disfavour with the diet industry and unfortunately this includes the potato. In fact the potato  has far fewer calories than rice, pasta and bread; provided it is not laden with cheese and butter. It is a highly nutritious, low fat and healthy accompaniment to any meal.

There are over 100 different types of cultivated potatoes available today, and some of the more familiar to us are the King Edward, Maris Piper, Kerr Pink and Rooster varieties. Some older varieties were reflective of the time they were cultivated, such as Irish Peace.

What Are The Health Benefits Of The Potato?

There is a very good reason why the potato has been regarded as a staple food in so many cultures. When conditions are tough, and nothing else will grow, the potato will thrive and provide many essential nutrients the body needs to survive.

Provided you do not eat a pound of saturated fat with your potatoes (a bit of real butter however is delicious!), including them as part of your diet may prevent a number of potentially serious illnesses. Research into elevated cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, poor immune system function, cancer and hormonal imbalance show that the properties in the potato could well help prevent these conditions from developing in the first place. If you need to lose weight, eating potatoes will provide you with a great many nutrients and energy without adding excess calories or fats to your daily diet.

Despite being around for thousands of years this vegetable still holds surprises and recently scientists have isolated kukoamines in potatoes. Previously, these were only found in some Chinese herbal remedies. The main property of this chemical is its ability to reduce blood pressure levels. As elevated blood pressure is becoming increasingly more common, for both men and women, eating potatoes regularly in the diet could be very beneficial.

Potatoes are also high in Vitamin C, B6, Copper, Potassium, manganese and fibre. They also contain phytonutrients called flavonoids and carotenoids that are extremely important anti-oxidants.

Most of us are familiar with the health benefits of Vitamin C especially in relation to our immune system, but this vitamin also protects the harmful cholesterol LDL from oxidative damage, which leads to plaque forming and blocking our arteries.

Vitamin B6 is involved in nearly every major process in the body and is necessary for the health of each cell in our bodies. It also assists in the formation of several neurotransmitters in the brain and helps regulate our mood.

High levels of homocysteine have been linked to heart disease, osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s disease and B6 has been shown to lower homocysteine levels in the blood.

B6 is necessary for the formation of haemoglobin, which is the oxygen carrying pigment in our blood, and is therefore linked to our energy levels. B6 also helps balance female hormones so eating potatoes regularly as part of a balanced diet is useful for PMS and other hormonal imbalances.

Copper is an essential trace element needed to absorb and utilise iron. It is needed to make ATP, which is the fuel that we run on, and some hormones and blood cells.

Potassium reacts with sodium and chloride to maintain a perfect working environment in and around each cell; it allows the transmission of nerve impulses and helps maintain correct fluid balance in the body. Without the correct amount of potassium our heartbeats can become irregular.

Manganese is needed for healthy skin, bone and cartilage formation as well as ensuring glucose tolerance. It is also part of our antioxidant defence system.

It is important that you eat the skin of the potato as this contains a concentrated source of fibre, which our bodies need to remove waste and toxins efficiently. If you buy pre-washed potatoes, remember to clean them before eating as the potato will have become susceptible to fungus and bacterial contamination. Scrub the potato under running water and remove any eyes or bruises before cooking. You can boil, bake, dry roast, mash and dice potatoes. If you want to mash or roast with a little fat, use olive oil and herbs rather than butter or margarine.

Next time you pass the display of potatoes in a supermarket don’t think “fattening”, think “mashed with a little olive oil and garlic” or “roasted with rosemary and Mediterranean vegetables with a little lamb on the side”!

Next Thursday.. Carrots.. in glorious technicolour… and something to put in your hat!

©sallycronin Just Food For Health 2007

 

Smorgasbord Health – The Blood – The foods and menu.


As we get older, our bodies find it more difficult to metabolise the food that we eat in an efficient manner. Illness and stress can also cause deficiencies to occur. As I have covered in the last few blogs, one of the most common health problems we are likely to encounter is anaemia in varying degrees from mild to dangerous levels. The aim is to consume a diet rich in the specific nutrients needed to maintain healthy blood but it is difficult to visualise when someone simply tells you to eat B6, B12, Folate etc. So I have put together those nutrients with the foods that contain them so that you can just pop to the supermarket and fill your trolley.

I would suggest that anyone who like me is 60+ should include these foods on a regular basis in your daily diet.

This specific eating plan includes the foods that will provide you with the necessary nutrients for healthy blood but do remember that if you are exhibiting any symptoms that indicate you are anaemic you should go to your doctor and seek medical advice. You will find those in one of the previous posts which are linked to below.

As always I do stress that it is better to ‘cook from scratch’ but there are certain staples that you can include in your pantry. Many people prefer an easy start to the day with a bowl of cereal and perhaps a piece of toast. Cereals today are very different from our childhood when all you got was the grain. Today I am afraid you are likely to get a lot more sugar and salt which somewhat negates the benefit of the wholegrain. If I have cereal I have porridge oats but for the sake of variety do check the labels and buy wholegrain varieties with as little sugar as possible.

In recent months there has been a lot of speculation about wholegrains in our diet in relation to what is referred to as our ‘gut brain’. I covered the topic in an earlier series on digestion but my opinion remains the same. Provided you are not celiac or have chronic intestinal problems, wholegrains are essential in our diets to provide B vitamins, other nutrients and fibre. We certainly need less as we get older because our activity levels drop but carbohydrates from grains are needed to provide the fuel that we require for our energy levels. Drop those too low and your fatigue will be intensified. You can still eat carbohydrates from potatoes and other root vegetables and add in one or two portions of grains per day depending on your exercise levels.

Here are some suggestions for the main meals of the day plus snacks.

wholegrains

Breakfast choose one selection per day and rotate so that you are getting variety and different nutrients.

  • Most cereals have B12, B6, Folic Acid and Iron – check the labels to establish that. Some will be added as fortification but if it is a wheat cereal it will have natural nutrients.
  • Have cereal or porridge and a glass of orange juice to help the digestion of iron with Vitamin C. Have some soaked prunes on your porridge or chopped dry prunes on your cereal, as these are high in iron.
  • If you are not trying to lose weight then have a piece of wholemeal toast with butter and marmalade as well. Better to have small amount of good quality chunky marmalade than a watery processed diet version.
  • Sprinkle a dessertspoon of wheatgerm on the top of your cereal or your porridge as this has B6, iron and manganese together (B12, B6, Folic Acid, Iron, Manganese and Vitamin C)
  • Half a grapefruit with two pieces of wholemeal toast and marmalade. (Vitamin C –Manganese)
  •  For a cooked breakfast you could have poached egg on two pieces of wholemeal toast with an orange juice. (Manganese, Vitamin C, B12 and B6)

(A tip here is to avoid wheat bran, as this can actually prevent absorption of iron. As can unfortunately too much tea so do try and restrict your intake to no more than three cups a day of good quality leaf tea rather than the processed bags. Coffee has some health benefits too and a cup or two of fresh ground coffee with some hot milk is fine. If you have high blood pressure however you might have ground decaffeinated instead.

 pumpkin seeds

Snack

  • Have a mid-morning snack as part of your healthy eating plan. You could have a handful of the mixed seeds and nuts (B6, Manganese)
  • 2 mandarin oranges (Vitamin C again, to help the iron you have already ingested to be absorbed)
  • A banana (B6)
  • Slice of wholemeal toast with mashed banana (Manganese and B6)

 index

Lunch

Assuming this is your main meal of the day – choose from the following meats:

  • · Lamb
  • · Chicken
  • · Turkey
  • · Salmon
  • · Beef
  • · Lamb’s liver
    (try to have liver at least once a week) (folate, B6, B12 and iron)
  • · Potatoes
  • · Wholemeal rice or pasta (manganese – folate)

Lots of vegetables including every day a serving of a dark green leafy vegetable like spinach (Folate-Iron) Cauliflower (raw) (Vit K), Broccoli (calcium)

Use olive oil or good quality sunflower oil for cooking or as a dressing (Essential fatty acids and Vitamin E)

oranges

Snack

  •  Nuts and seeds. For men pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of Zinc and helpful to keep the prostate healthy.
  •  Slice of wholemeal toast with butter and a thin slice of mature cheddar.
  •  Home-made wholemeal scone with butter and sugar free jam.
  •  Fruit such as oranges.
  •  Yoghurt live with no sugar but chop up some fruit such as berries into it.

If you are not going to hit the dance floor every evening, having a heavy meal at night can cause digestive problems and provides energy that you are not going to use up.. This will result in storage of the excess around your middle. If it is your main meal of the day keep your grain and other carbohydrates to your lunch and eat protein with lots of freshly prepared salads and vegetables. A smaller amount of carbohydrate up to 2 hours before going to sleep is fine. As you will see from the lists one piece of toast, one piece of Pitta bread,

Dinner

baked beans two

Assuming this is a lighter meal.

  • · Scrambled Eggs on toast (B6, B12, Folate, Manganese)
  • · Omelette and Green leafy mixed salad (B6, B12, Folate)
  • · Wholemeal Pitta bread with chicken or tuna and salad filling (B6, B12, Iron)
  • · Eggs Florentine – baked egg on spinach with some hollandaise sauce
  • · Homemade wholemeal pasta in tomato sauce on toast.
  • · Small tin of sugar free baked beans on wholemeal toast.
  • · Seafood cocktail on with clams – cockles – prawns. Serve on half an avocado Slice of bread and butter.

Snack

bananas

  •  One of the snacks from above that you have not already had.
  •  Cup of Cocoa (iron)
  •  Cup of Ginger Tea and a wholemeal digestive biscuit (Manganese)
  •  A banana (B6)

As you can see from the above eating plan, there are many foods that will help keep your blood healthy. Get creative in your own kitchen, using fresh unprocessed ingredients and you can’t go wrong.

That is the end of the series on our life blood and I hope you have found interesting.

Previous posts in the blood series

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2015/05/29/smorgasbord-health-blood-the-stuff-we-take-for-granted/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2015/06/05/smorgasbord-health-blood-fatigue-headaches-and-iron/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2015/06/02/smorgasbord-health-the-blood-oxygen-distribution-and-waste-disposal-and-anaemia/

 

 

 

The Cholesterol Myth – Carbohydrates – Not all are demons….


So far I hope that I have established that cholesterol is important for many areas of our health and that it is the LDL (low density lipoprotein) with its smaller particles, particularly when those particles are oxidized, that causes plaque build-up in the arteries.

This oxidation occurs when we have a diet high in white fat and white carbohydrates, sugar and indulge in activities such as smoking. Since the white fat diet is the most popular today – flavoured latte’s with muffins – cookies, high sugar white cereals, etc etc, the LDL levels of a great many people is going to cause health problems eventually.

wholegrains

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are a component of food that supplies us with energy in the form of calories to the body. Along with proteins and fats they provide the human body with the main elements required to be healthy. Carbohydrates are made up of sugars (simple carbohydrates), starches (complex carbohydrates) and fibre. If you take the fibre out of the formula through over processing you are just left with the sugars.. These are intense and result in blood glucose fluctuations. You may have experienced this for yourself after a heavy lunch with lots of white rice followed by a rich and sugary dessert. You become light headed and feel faint requiring a top up around 4pm in the afternoon!

To lower cholesterol levels naturally you need to eat carbohydrates that have retained the fibre element as this helps absorb some of the sugars and prevent blood glucose fluctuations.

Carbohydrates are not the demons that some would make out. They have essential elements that are required to make the perfect fuel mix for our bodies.

However,our requirement for carbohydrates will change as we get older. When we are children and young adults our growing bodies require a supercharged fuel – carbohydrates are also needed in higher concentration during periods of high activity as you get older but should be allied to that particular period of exercise. When men and women pass through the mid-life change the requirement certainly drops but levels again depend on how active your life style is.

If someone is a total couch potato drifting from bed to table, table to car, car to desk, desk to car, car to sofa – then putting a high octane fuel into the body will simply be converted to fat. However, stopping all carbohydrates is wrong – there are certain nutrients and fibre within wholegrain carbohydrates that the body needs so that the chemical balance is maintained. Here is the link to Food Pharmacy – Brown Rice and this will show you what is actually removed from the grain.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2014/05/28/food-pharmacy-brown-rice-packed-with-nutrients-and-fibre-and-helps-rid-your-body-of-toxins/

As far as LDL cholesterol is concerned there is some evidence that a lower carbohydrate intake can decrease the numbers.  I think that this is likely to be because of the reduction of sugars when the carbohydrates usually consumed are white without the fibre and B-vitamins element. However, a certain amount of wholegrain carbohydrate with the fibre attached should still be eaten in certain quantities.

Going back to the last post on the liver – the organ that is vital in converting the carbohydrates into energy – keeping the liver healthy is extremely important and if it is working efficiently your carbohydrate uptake can be less but still effective.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2015/01/29/the-cholesterol-myth-ldl-vs-hdl-and-your-best-friend-your-liver/

I am afraid I do not class white carbohydrates as a food group – they are sugars pure and simple and most have little or no nutritional value. By the time the wholegrain has been stripped of its fibre, vitamin B and other nutrients to suit today’s palate you have nothing but white stodge on a plate. There are exceptions – those of an Italian origin have been eating white pasta made with a specific flour for generations but it is offset too by their love of olive oil, lots of tomatoes, onions and garlic etc which is actual the predominant part of their diet not the pasta.

It is important that the grain carbohydrates should be wholegrain – rice, wheat and oats. However, wheat is one of the newer grains and does not suit everybody’s digestion –

Gluten.

Gluten is a protein present in grains such as wheat, barley and rye and it can be very difficult for some people to digest. Celiac disease is an inherited autoimmune disease that can ultimately badly damage the intestines. Having one parent or close relative with celiac disease your chances of being affected are around 1 in 25. An interesting study in China where the grain of choice is rice, has noted an increase in celiac disease and also the less severe gluten intolerance. There is some evidence to suggest that as more people adopt a western diet with industrially produced bread products they are developing this rarely reported reaction.

If you are reading this and you are an adult, have eaten wheat products all your life, have never suffered from prolonged bloating, stomach upsets and fatigue, then the chances are that you are not sensitive to gluten. If on the other hand you are suffering from these symptoms look at your food for the last few weeks and circle all items that contain wheat, especially industrially  processed.

I am personally better with home-made bread made from good quality organic flour than I am with commercial sliced bread of any kind which tends to have many more additives.

Back to carbohydrates.

Whatever age you are, if you are very active you can eat a diet of wholegrain carbohydrates, lean protein and healthy fats and plenty of vegetables with some fruit to obtain the nutrition needed for optimal fuel.

Breakfast – Porridge oats (buy guaranteed gluten free – they may be contaminated if milled in the same place as wheat) – or homemade muesli with nuts, seeds and a small amount of fruits – go easy on the dried fruit as it has higher concentration of sugars.

Oats contain soluble fibre and this works on your cholesterol in a couple of ways – If both your HDL and LDL are on the high side – the fibre will reduce the total absorption of cholesterol into your bloodstream but it will also reduce the LDL cholesterol which is what you should be aiming for.   You need about 10 grams of soluble fibre a day and by having a bowl of porridge (6grams) and a banana (4 grams) you will have started the day well.

If you enjoy a cooked breakfast then one slice of wholegrain toast with a scrape of butter and a poached egg and perhaps a tomato…

potatoes

Lunch – I medium potato with lots of green vegetables and some carrots or perhaps two tablespoons of brown rice with lean protein is all that is needed. If you enjoy pasta than buy a high quality italian variety or better still wholegrain.  Limit yourself to around 75gm and eat with lots of tomato sauce and onions. Avoid pies and other pastries unless you have made yourself with wholegrain flour and real butter (not margerine).

Supper -A bowl of homemade vegetable soup. A large salad with roast chicken. Salmon and green vegetables.  If you are going to be enjoying a night on the sofa and television the carbohydrate is not going anywhere except your waistline.

If you are working out three times a week then add another spoonful of wholegrain rice to your dinner the night before – eat a banana before your workout.

Other carbohydrates

nuts and seeds

Other foods to include with your carbohydrates are nuts and seeds – walnuts are great, beans, but only a handful, certain fruits such as apples (contain pectin which helps keep your bile ducts healthy) and prunes, and my favourite, banana, again not huge amounts but the fibre from all of these will not only help keep the LDL numbers in balance but also keep the bowels working and healthy.

Next time the greatest myth about cholesterol… that all fats are bad for you..

Here is part one and two in the cholesterol series.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2015/01/27/the-cholesterol-myth-part-one-why-your-body-needs-cholesterol/
https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2015/01/29/the-cholesterol-myth-ldl-vs-hdl-and-your-best-friend-your-liver/

©sallygeorginacronin Just Food for Health 2008