Six Staples to Soothe Nausea and Prevent Vomiting

SPOILER ALERT: it’s about to get nasty up in here. A week or so ago, I ate some old celery that had been sitting in the fridge past its due date. I looked at the chopped bits and despite the brown-grayish tinge that started to appear, I thought I’m good. About an hour later, I had that stomach-churning feeling, the kind where if you take a breath, something might come up rough. I felt a wave of nausea take over.

Thankfully, I’ve been really blessed in that I rarely ever vomit. But I can darn sure tell you about some nausea. Yep, I have had occasions where I ate the wrong frigging thing. Usually, we use our sense of smell and taste to identify spoiled foods, however, that might not be enough in detecting the quality of foods. Nausea and emesis or vomiting actually play a role in defending our bodies against food poisoning, drug side effects, and disease co-morbidities. Diarrhea and vomiting helps rid the gastrointestinal tract of dangerous ingested toxins. Nausea may serve as a conditioned response to avoid ingestion of harmful substances. While nausea often accompanies vomiting, vomiting may occur without nausea. Told you it would get nasty, but bear with me, it’s all for the greater good 😉.

For those of us that are moms, we all remember the urge to purge when carrying that bundle of joy. Pregnancy-induced nausea and vomiting during the first trimester is associated with a healthy pregnancy because the first trimester is a time of rapid fetal growth that includes the development of the central nervous system, which is highly vulnerable to toxicosis, a condition that results from poison or toxins in the system. Vomiting may offer protection against this condition. And other factors may weigh into your need to hurl. For example, motion-induced nausea and vomiting may be due to sensory conflict between body position in space. Also, modern medicine (e.g. drug treatments and post-surgery recovery) may provoke nausea and vomiting as well.

When I feel a little queasy, I want clear liquids or solid foods like toast. A year ago, my son had a gastrointestinal issue and a nurse asked me if I knew about the BRAT diet. What the hell is that? Bananas, rice, apples, toast. And some research indicates there may be something to this traditional diet. Some animal studies suggest that bananas, rich in amylase-resistant starch may protect gastrointestinal mucosa and improve symptoms of peptic ulcer. And rice-based oral hydration solutions have shown to reduce the volume of stools and duration of diarrhea in cholera patients. Here are some other solutions for stopping nausea and vomiting in its tracks:

Ginger

I might have to cut this post short because if you choose only one remedy to halt nausea and vomiting, it would absolutely have to be ginger. As the daughter of West Indian parents who used ginger for just about every freaking thing, I implore you to please stock ginger in your house—you will not regret it. It is my number one cure-all for mild stomach ailments. I’ve written about its benefits here. Ginger contains minerals such as iron, copper, phosphorus, chromium, calcium, and zinc. This plant has strong antioxidant activity due to vitamin C, beta-carotene, polyphenols, and flavonoids. Ginger gets its pungency from polyphenolic compounds known as gingerols. It is reported that gingerols have antibacterial, analgesic, sedative, and antipyretic properties. Several randomized controlled trials have shown that ginger may reduce chemotherapy-induced vomiting and nausea that was secondary to conditions including post-operative nausea, motion sickness, morning sickness, and chemotherapy-associated nausea. Ginger has also been effective in treating chills related to colds and flu, improving rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, reducing atherogenesis and high lipid levels, as an anti-inflammatory for migraine headaches, and inhibiting low-density lipoprotein. I like to add ginger to my morning tea (y’all know that I’m fanatical with my tea) but I also like to add a touch of ginger to certain meals like this miso-ginger glazed tempeh dish.

 

Fennel

When my husband and I were newlyweds, he used to make this big weekend breakfast of sweet potato hash that was flavored with dried fennel seeds. I adored how the seeds added a slight licorice flavor to the onions, peppers, and diced potatoes. So freaking scrumptious! Fennel has protein, fibers, vitamin A, vitamin C, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, potassium, iron, and phosphorus. This veggie is high in antioxidants like polyphenols and flavonoids like rosmarinic acid and quercetin that exhibit anticarcinogenic, antibacterial, antifungal, and hepatoprotective activities. A 2005 case study showed that a sweet fennel oil blend that included other oils such as peppermint and Roman chamomile may be beneficial in treating nausea. What’s more, some research indicates that fennel is effective with other gastrointestinal disorders including colic and gastric ulcers. Some studies suggest that anethole, a constituent in fennel, can suppress the growth of cancer cells. Since it’s summer, I find that the raw version of fennel is a nice compliment to oranges for a light salad.

 

Peppermint

As a child growing up in the Bronx, our landlord used to grow mint leaves in the front yard. Occasionally, she would gift my mother some mint leaves on special occasions like Easter and Christmas. My mother would carefully parcel out just a few of the leaves and then steep them for an extraordinary long time for a cup of tea. When I took a sip, I was immediately overwhelmed by the powerful mint flavor. It made the mint tea we picked up from the supermarket seem puny in comparison. Eventually, I decided to expand my palate to other flavors but that mint tea always holds a special place in my heart. Peppermint contains beta-carotene, potassium, calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, and selenium. This herb is an antioxidant with polyphenols like hesperidin, rosmarinic acid, and caffeic acid. Peppermint is a dynamo herb because it also has anti-inflammatory, antitumor, antiviral, anti-allergenic, antibacterial, antimicrobial properties. A 1997 study showed that peppermint may reduce nausea in post-operative patients. Furthermore, peppermint has been used in the treatment of other gastrointestinal disorders such as colon spasms, abdominal pain, irritable bowel syndrome, and dyspepsia. And a 1988 study found that inhalation of menthol, a compound found in peppermint, may significantly improve air flow nasal sensation (so Mom was right after all).

 

Lemongrass

Lemongrass is not something I have often but I remember tasting lemongrass for the first time in a sweet and sour-type dish years ago. I loved how the fragrant subtle lemon taste cascaded over the rice and veggies. Lemongrass has protein, fiber, carbohydrates and minerals such as potassium, zinc, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus. This plant is loaded with antioxidant constituents such as caffeic acid and it has shown antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antimutagenic, and hypolipidemic activity. Some research indicates that lemongrass may prevent vomiting. For instance, a 2011 study found that lemongrass extract showed anti-emetic activity. In addition, some animal studies indicate that lemongrass may be effective as a treatment for diarrhea. And the plant may be beneficial in preventing low-density lipoprotein. Lemongrass makes a perfect addition to curries and soups like this one.

Papaya

I have a confession: I’ve always been a little scared of papaya. Why? Because it looks like a beast when it comes to chopping it up and getting rid of those seeds. But it is so worth it. So juicy and succulent. Just thinking of slicing it whisper-thin for a summer salad is mouthwatering. Okay enough of that. Papaya contains dietary fiber, protein, and carbohydrates. The fruit is rich in vitamin C and a good source of beta-carotene, B vitamins like folate, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, as well as minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus. Papaya has antioxidants like caffeic acid and hesperidin and it also shows antiulcer, antitumor, anthelmintic, and immunomodulatory activity. It has been reported that papain, a digestive enzyme found in papaya, may improve gastrointestinal conditions including nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. Additionally, some animal studies show that papaya may also accelerate wound healing, lower blood glucose levels, reduces oxidative stress and high blood cholesterol levels. So go ahead and cut open that papaya and slather it on your salad.

 

Cardamom

I’ve always been curious about cardamom because so many people rave about it so I decided to give it a try. Cardamom has a citrusy flavor that is perfect for frothy shakes, iced teas, and creamy desserts. This spice contains minerals such as calcium, sulfur, and phosphorus and antioxidants including quercetin that are also anticarcinogenic and anti-inflammatory. A 2014 study found that cardamom essential oil may relieve chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting in cancer patients. Furthermore, some animal studies suggest that cardamom may reduce gastric lesions. And research shows that cardamom may lower blood pressure levels in stage 1 hypertension patients and may prevent bronchospasms associated with asthma.

 

Those are the foods I like when my tummy is topsy-turvy—what cures your nagging nausea and vomiting?

Six Summer Quenchers that Satisfy Your Body

Summer sizzle is on and blazing! The temperature has been scorching. My son and I were outside tooling around and within five minutes, FIVE minutes y’all, sweat was pouring down my legs! I kid you not. Lucky thing I was wearing black shorts—always bet on black 😉.

The average global temperature is increasing and it is estimated to go up another 1.8 to 4.0 degrees Celsius by 2100 depending on efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Then throw in modern urban development fixtures that can add more degrees to local temperatures such as heat absorption in road tar-seals and concrete buildings. Increasing local temperatures means higher human exposure to heat, which may create unhealthy and potentially dangerous situations for people who don’t have air conditioning or other cooling methods.

The human body maintains a core temperature of 37 degrees Celsius. During hot weather, your body typically cools itself off through sweating or contact with cooler air and air movement. But if these methods are inefficient, that heat generation needs to be reduced. If physical activity is high in a hot environment with an increased core body temperature above 38 degrees Celsius (100.4 degrees Fahrenheit), then diminished physical capacity and mental task ability may occur, resulting in heat exhaustion. Some symptoms of heat exhaustion may include headache, dizziness, fatigue, malaise, and nausea, which can be resolved by proper hydration and cooling. But serious heat stroke and possibly death can happen if body temperature exceeds 40 degrees Celsius. This is particularly important for those who work outside, children, older adults, and those who are chronically ill during these extreme temperatures. So please, please stay hydrated and dress comfortably and, if you can, check in a loved one who needs it during these hot patches.

The key to managing these disrespectful weather conditions is to stay cool and hydrated. So I stock up on my usual high-water content foods like pineapple (also anti-inflammatory) and cucumber. Here are some other surefire ways to beat the heat:

Watermelon

What list for cooling foods wouldn’t be complete without watermelon? Watermelon is synonymous with summer. And I’m saying this as a person who used to abhor watermelon at cookouts. But as you get older, you get wiser and all that. Watermelon is a great hydrator with a moisture content of 93 percent. The fruit is also rich in lycopene, the red antioxidant that gives the fruit its pigment and protects against cancer. It has been reported that the lycopene concentration of fresh watermelon is 40 percent higher than raw tomato. #watermelonwins Some evidence indicates that lycopene is effective against certain cancers including breast cancer, prostate cancer, and lung cancer. What’s more, lycopene works with vitamin E to prevent low-density lipoprotein, the bad cholesterol that results in heart disease. The fruit is also a good source of chromium,  a nutrient that benefits patients with diabetes by regulating blood sugar levels. Watermelon has beta-carotene and vitamin C, vitamin B1, vitamin B6, potassium, and magnesium. It’s summer so watermelon sippers are definitely on hand.

 

Zucchini

I have a love/hate relationship with zucchini, depending on the type of dish that I make with it. Why am I telling you this before I try to encourage you to eat it? Because you will either love it or hate it, depending on the type of dish you make. What I’ve found is that zucchini generally work better when it’s thinly sliced, julienned, or spiralized. Otherwise, you are asking for a sea of mushy veggies. And Mama don’t like mush. This is just my opinion, I repeat my opinion, go for what you know. Zucchinis have a water content of 95 percent and it contains the antioxidants vitamin C and eye-boosting lutein that protects against age-related macular degeneration. The vegetable also has beta-carotene, folate, potassium, magnesium, and phosphorus. Some evidence suggests that zucchini consumption may be beneficial in preventing conditions such as colon cancer and heart disease. Two years ago, we got a spiralizer and it totally changed my relationship with zucchini. Zoodles (zucchini noodles) is one of the best dishes to have on a hot summer night.

 

 

Coconut water

I grew up hearing the lyrics to Harry Belafonte’s song, “Coconut Woman” before I could even speak. Get you coconut water, Man, it’s good for your daughter. When I was about nine years old, I went to Jamaica for the first time to visit my family. I watched with trepidation and excitement as men would climb coconut trees and get green coconuts that looked odd compared to the brown hairy bowling-ball ones that were in America. They would chop off the top with a machete, scoop out a little of the coconut meat, then stick a straw in it (if you were a newbie like me) or lift that shell to right to your lips to drink the sweet juice. I said it once and I will say it again: yardies are hardcore! At the time, I thought it was the craziest thing ever but now I realize how lucky I was to experience coconut water straight from the source itself. Coconut water has protein, sugars, vitamin C, B vitamins, potassium, and iron. This water also has antioxidant and anticarcinogenic properties. But what makes coconut water really special is that electrolytes like potassium and sodium make it a great hydrator for restoring the losses of electrolytes from the body, particularly from areas such as the skin and urinary pathways. According to a 2000 study published in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine, coconut water was effective as a short-term intravenous hydration fluid for one critically ill patient. Don’t get any ideas because this was due to hospital shortage in a remote area of the world. But when it comes to mild dehydration, you can’t go wrong with coconut water when it comes to replenishing those fluids in your body.

 

 

Oranges

I go through these food phases where I will eat a certain kind of food for one of my meals pretty much five days a week. And that was oranges. My weekday breakfast used to be soy yogurt with about half an orange. It was a perfect light breakfast that kept me satisfied until midday. I’ve moved on from that humble breakfast but I still love oranges. What is wonderful about oranges is that they are usually so accessible. I’m a New Yorker so I’ve gotten oranges from street vendors, bodegas, supermarkets—you name it. Oranges are also a high-water fruit with a water content of 85.7 percent. We all know that oranges are chock full of vitamin C and dietary fiber. In addition, the fruit contains thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, and vitamin E, as well as minerals such as calcium, potassium, iron, and phosphorus. Oranges are loaded with antioxidant flavonoids and carotenoids that have anti-inflammatory, antimutagenic, and anticarcinogenic properties. Flavonoids prevent the growth of tumors such as colon, oral, breast, and lung cancer cells. Furthermore, these compounds protect against oxidative stress that may lead to cardiovascular disease. Red or blood oranges contain other antioxidant compounds such as anthocyanins that are not present in other varieties of oranges. I love the addition of oranges to a nice lunch or dinner salad.

 

 

Celery

Sometimes at 3:00 or 4:00 in the afternoon, I need a little snack to tide me over until dinner and I have absolutely no freaking clue what to eat. Celery has a crisp, sharp taste that works so well with dips like almond butter and hummus. Chop up a few sticks of this veggie with something to dip with and mission accomplished! Celery is a perfect hot-weather hydrator because it has a water content of 95 percent. This vegetable is rich in vitamin C, folic acid, beta-carotene, potassium, magnesium, silica, chlorophyll, and fiber. Some studies indicate that celery has shown antifungal activity against certain types of bacteria. What’s more, it has been reported that celery is a mild diuretic that may benefit arthritis and gout patients in eliminating uric acid and that the vegetable may have anti-inflammatory potential to reduce joint swelling and pain. I like to add a little celery to my chickpea salad sandwich for crunch and coolness.

 

 

Star fruit (Carambola)

I wasn’t really familiar with star fruit until my son pointed it out at the supermarket and asked if he could try it. I knew enough about it to know that it tastes similar to apple, so why not give it a try? And yes, the fruit does taste like apple with a slight sour undertone. Star fruits are a wonderful refresher because they have an average moisture content of 90 percent. The fruit has nutrients such as vitamin C, beta-carotene, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, calcium, iron, phosphorus, potassium, proteins, and dietary fibers. The leaves and pulp are also a good source of antioxidants flavonoids like quercetin and apigenin that have anti-inflammatory and anticarcinogenic properties. Some research indicates that star fruit may be effective in reducing blood glucose levels and reducing serum triglyceride and total cholesterol levels that may lead to cardiovascular disease. What’s more, the fruit has shown selective activity against brain tumor and liver carcinoma cells. Please note that there have been some reports of toxicity after star fruit consumption for some patients with kidney disease. I like to mix star fruit in my beverages, salads, or just have it plain for a midday snack. No fuss, no muss.

 

 

These are a few of the foods that I like to cool off with. What works for you?

Six Soothers for Sore Gums and Strengthening Teeth

Summertime means cool, refreshing treats like ice cream sundaes piled high with cherries and bananas or sorbet slushies that are frothy and spilling off the sides of your glass. Heaven! But too much of that sugary goodness can do some damage to your teeth and gums. My husband Brian has had a lot of problems with his teeth this year. Let’s just say the words “root canal” were mentioned at one point. Blessedly, he didn’t have to go that route. Growing up, I remember my mother would frequently visit the dentist because of sore gums. Red, bleeding, or inflamed gums is usually a telltale sign of gingivitis and periodontitis, which can be associated with other conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and poor wound healing. Gingivitis is caused by plaque forming on the teeth that then irritates the gums. The longer the plaque sits, the more irritated the gums become. The gums can start bleeding even with gentle brushing. Periodontitis occurs when the untreated gingivitis eventually loosens the tooth from the gums and results in tooth loss. Treatment of periodontitis includes good oral hygiene and professional dental care. I repeat, professional dental care. So if you are suffering from these conditions or other oral care issues, don’t be a hero and sit there with your teeth jacked up–seek out a physician pronto.

According to the World Health Organization, oral disease are the fourth most expensive disease to treat. Risk factors to oral diseases include: smoking, alcohol, behaviors that cause injuries, stress, diet, and dirt (hygiene). Natural anti-inflammatories like curcumin (turmeric) and antimicrobials like tea tree oil can help in treating some periodontal issues. But prevention is key. Start by limiting your consumption of sugars and boosting your intake of fruits and veggies. Okay preach session over.

Other foods I like to add to my arsenal to keep tooth decay at bay are:

Watercress

Watercress is kind of new to my menu. I saw it at the market and decided what the hell, let’s do it. And I’m glad I did. Watercress has a sharp undertone that could easily replace boring lettuce in any sandwich or bring a peppery note to soups and pasta. This Brassicaceae veggie is usually found in cool, running water along the banks of rivers, ditches, and streams (so wash it well because it can have a little dirt y’all). Like its close relatives broccoli and cauliflower, watercress is high in similar nutrients such as vitamins C, E, and K, folic acid, calcium, iron, and iodine. It is also rich in the carotenoids lutein and beta-carotene. Most importantly, watercress is full of isothiocyanates, one of the products of glucosinolates, plant compounds that are known for their cancer-fighting properties. Isothiocyanates activate detoxification enzymes and suppress cancer-promoting enzymes in the body. Some studies have shown that isothiocyanates have reduced the risk of lung cancer and have prevented tumors in other parts of the body such as the liver, pancreas, colon, bladder, and mammary gland (breast). What’s more, it has been reported that watercress supplementation reduced DNA damage that may lead to elevated cancer risk and increased antioxidant concentration of lutein and beta-carotene in adults. In addition, some animal studies suggest that watercress extract may promote the healing of mouth lesions. I like to toss watercress on my pasta for an extra kick of flavor.

Tulsi

By now, you guys have guessed that Mama likes her tea 😉. So I am always looking for any excuse whatsoever to try a new herbal blend. But tulsi is special guys. This adaptogen herb is an antioxidant that contains vitamin A and C, calcium, zinc, and iron. Some animal studies indicate that tulsi may lower blood sugar levels, may promote the healing of keloid and hypertropic scars, and has cardioprotective and gastroprotective effects. Please note that tulsi has also shown antifertility effects as well, so if you have interests in those areas, do abstain. And some evidence suggests that tulsi may exhibit antimicrobial activity against certain types of periodontal bacteria that may cause dental caries. Every now and then, I like to start my morning off with a cup of tulsi to help ease me right into the rigors of the day.

 

Sage

Sage is usually one of my favorite winter spices. I like to add it to my stuffing and really creamy soups like butternut squash or pumpkin. Sage is a strong antioxidant herb that is similar in composition to rosemary because it contains phenolic compounds like rosmarinic acid and carnosic acid. But sage drop kicks rosemary in the antioxidant department because it has additional flavonoids and phenolic acids like sagecoumarin that show moderate antioxidant activity. Some studies have shown that sage extract has anti-inflammatory effects that promote the healing of gingivitis.

 

Strawberries

Who doesn’t love strawberries? Strawberries are probably the only berry I remember having as a child because every member of my family loved it compared to other types of berries. I think that strawberry was my favorite flavor too but that might be because I wasn’t used to other flavors. Yep, poor deprived me but I will save that for another time 😊. Anywho, strawberries are a mega star when it comes to vitamin C content and it is also a good source of vitamin B6, folate, vitamin K, A, and E. It contains minerals such as potassium, iodine, magnesium, copper, iron, and phosphorus. And while vitamin C deficiency doesn’t cause oral conditions like periodontitis, lack of this nutrient can negatively affect collagen synthesis and wound healing needed to avoid such conditions. For example, regeneration of collagen allows the tooth to remain attached to the gums. So pile on those strawberries! I like to have my berries as the main feature of my breakfast bowl.

 

Green tea

I cannot describe in words my love of green tea. It is my go-to boo, my number one stunner, just everything. #mamalovestea Do not mess with me and my green tea. I have written about the benefits of green tea here. Here’s a short recap: green tea is rich in antioxidants such as catechins, which are polyphenols that have anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antimutagenic, and antidiabetic properties. Green tea contains vitamins B, C, and E and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, copper, and selenium. Several studies have shown that green tea is effective in inhibiting the growth of certain periodontal bacteria and treating factors associated with periodontitis such as bleeding and tooth attachment loss. Y’all know that anytime is a green tea time with me, don’t need a reason at all!

 

Aloe Vera

Aloe vera is one of the best healing plants around. As a teenager, I remember snipping off part of the aloe vera leaf, then cutting it open and placing it on my red, itchy rash. I still use aloe vera gel on my acne breakouts, dark spots, and even occasionally on my hair. It’s not the miracle plant for nothing, folks. Aloe vera has vitamins A, C, E, B vitamins like folic acid, and choline. It also has minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, and zinc. What makes aloe vera unique is that it contains 75 active constituents including glycoproteins, polysaccharides, and anthraquinones that, either acting alone or synergistically, may have anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory, and wound-healing effects (when applied topically). Aloe sap and aloe gel are sometimes confused. The gel is the mucilage found within the center of the leaf. The gel contains no anthraquinones, which are responsible for the laxative effect of the plant. Aloe vera’s wound-healing and anti-inflammatory properties have been widely reported and extensively studied. There is some evidence that indicates that aloe vera may be effective as a treatment for oral diseases such as gingivitis and oral lichen planus. But results are mixed. Some studies suggest a delay of wound healing, while others show that it promotes wound healing. WTF?! Here’s why: aloe vera gel varies based on the type of aloe and other factors such as climate, region, and processing method. So you won’t know unless you try it for yourself and see if it works. I like this brand when I can’t get the actual leaf.

That’s my list for foods that amp up strong gums and teeth. What works for you?

Four Tips to Curb Caffeine

My son’s camp is finishing up and so Mommycamp has begun. That means cramming six weeks of fun-filled activities together for my son with usual work demands. But it is exciting, exhilarating, and exhausting! So I picked now to try to cut down on caffeine ☹. I know, I know, sad day for me. Anywho, I’m a green tea drinker so I always figured that I was okay in the caffeine department. I was averaging around three to four cups a day at one point. After all, green tea is high in antioxidants and lower in caffeine compared to black teas and various coffees, right? But the caffeine content with some teas may vary based on the type of tea and the brewing time.

What the heck is caffeine anyway? Caffeine is an alkaloid found in plants that acts on the central nervous system. It is an ingredient in many foods, beverages, and proprietary drugs (the FDA’s National Center for Drugs and Biologics lists more than 1,000 over-the-counter drugs with caffeine as an ingredient—yikes!). Small amounts of this stimulant may alter metabolic rate, respiratory rate, heart rate, and blood pressure. Other effects may include frequent urination (diuretic) and increased blood sugar levels.

Some research indicates that caffeine comes with a mixed bag of results. Moderate amounts of caffeine can decrease fatigue (yeah!), enhance cognitive and physical performance, quicken reaction accuracy, and increase focus.  Too much caffeine may alter your hormone levels and deplete essential nutrients such as calcium and magnesium. In fact, caffeine intake has been associated with risk of endometriosis, osteoporosis, and anxiety and gastrointestinal disorders. Some other problems that can occur with overconsumption of caffeine include insomnia, headaches, nervousness and nausea. For example, some evidence suggests that consumption of five or more cups of coffee a day is linked with a low risk of Type II diabetes but lower consumption levels are inconclusive. Okay, before we all burn our stashes of coffee and tea, remember the risk comes with caffeine overconsumption. So keep it moderate folks.

In my quest to control my caffeine, there are some foods that I rely on:

Parsley

I confess that I used to be one of those people that would toss the parsley right off my meal at restaurants like what the heck do I need that for?! #don’tknownobetter. In my defense, most restaurants tend to use curly leaf parsley that has no flavor. Flat leaf parsley—yep, much better. But parsley can be just as tasty and healthy as the main meal. This diuretic herb is an antioxidant because it contains the flavonoid apigenin, which also has anti-inflammatory, anticarcinogenic, and antimutagenic properties. In addition, parsley has vitamins C and E, beta carotene, thiamine, folate, iron, and calcium. Calcium levels decrease with high caffeine consumption. Please note: be very careful with high-calcium foods because some of them may contain oxalates. I talk about that here. I do love some flat leaf parsley when I can get it but when I can’t, dried parsley will do just fine on my soups and salads.

Almond Butter

Like many of you, I grew up with peanut butter in my house. When my parents weren’t home and we didn’t want to heat anything up, it was peanut butter to the rescue. I didn’t try almond butter until I was an adult. And, admittedly, at first I friggin’ hated it. It took tweaking the right combination (almond butter and a dash of agave nectar FTW) to really bring out the flavor of this nut butter. Almonds are loaded with vitamin E, phosphorus, potassium, and dietary fiber. This nut is also rich in magnesium and calcium, both of which are reduced by high caffeine intake. Almond butter has more fiber, calcium, and potassium than other nut butters like peanut butter. What’s more, it has been reported that high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (the good cholesterol that decreases risk for heart disease) increased with almond butter intake. I like almond butter occasionally on toast or as a snack with whatever fresh veggies or fruit are available in the house.

Black-eyed peas

I used to think black-eyed peas were just something you ate to celebrate the new year. Before I became a vegetarian and then a vegan, I thought black-eyed peas were just “awkward” as my son says about foods he abhors. But then I discovered Texas caviar—DIVINE! The flavor combination of the peas, onions, red bell peppers, and tomatoes with just a hint of oil and vinegar. Here’s a nice recipe for it. Just plain lovely. Black-eyed peas or cowpeas are also a nutritional powerhouse because it is a good source of flavonoids like quercetin, protein, carbohydrates, and nutrients such as niacin, thiamine, iron, magnesium, and calcium.

Tahini (Sesame seed butter)

Tahini or sesame seed butter is definitely a dressing that I discovered when I became a vegan and I’m glad that I did. It is creamy, filling, and a great compliment to meals like falafel tacos or even pasta—who knew! Sesame seeds are high in protein, carbohydrates, and dietary fiber. And sesame seeds are rich in phytosterols or compounds that resemble cholesterol in humans and ultimately reduce our blood cholesterol levels. Tahini is made from sesame seeds that are ground or milled into a paste. Tahini has B vitamins like niacin and minerals such as calcium, potassium, iron, and magnesium. Special advisory for those with allergy issues: sesame seeds do contain immunoglobulin E, which are mediated food allergens. When it comes to tahini, basic is best. Nothing tops off a night like a spoonful of tahini over a plate of falafels.

Those are some of the foods I like to combat my caffeine craziness. What do you like?

Four Staples to Improve Eye Health

Here’s a common freelancer and full-timer scenario that has happened to me time and time again: I will read some article until the end on my laptop and decide to read it again for clarity. But on that second go around, I’m squinting like this:

 

 

Eyestrain—it is the mortal enemy of many of us who work on computer screens all day, every day. Maintaining our eye health should be a huge concern for all of us. Some research indicates that a link between certain eye disorders and free radical damage. Antioxidants such as carotenoids help prevent this damage that may lead to conditions such as cataract and age-related macular degeneration, which is the leading cause of severe visual loss in people age 50 and older in the United States. Carotenoids are the pigments that give fruits and vegetables their vibrant colors. Lutein and zeaxanthin are two of the carotenoids responsible for preventing those eye disorders. And unfortunately, I hate to break it to you, but carrots are not high in either of these carotenoids ☹(still eat them because they are a good source of beta-carotene). Don’t fret though, many other fruits and vegetables provide these two powerhouse eye nutrients, here are some of the ones that I enjoy eating:

Spinach

When I started my vegan journey three years ago, my green vegetable of choice was spinach. Spinach provided all the nutrients that I was looking for such as vitamins C, E, K, and B9, magnesium and calcium. And spinach is milder in taste for me than other green veggies like kale. But spinach, like many green vegetables, is high in lutein. In fact, it has been reported that 50g of cooked spinach may be sufficient for satisfying the daily recommended requirement for these carotenoids. Please note that spinach contains oxalates and too much oxalates may lead to the development of renal calcium stones. Though I have expanded my palate to other green veggies, I still hold a special place in my heart for spinach. I prefer my raw spinach in a nice side salad.

 

Orange juice

I was raised with orange juice as a constant in my household. I think my Jamaican parents thought it was a mark of being a real American to buy a certain popular brand of orange juice. Every now and then, we would stray and pick up some other fruit juice or two but no matter what, we always picked up orange juice at the market. And now my husband and I maintain that tradition. We all know that orange juice is chock full of antioxidants vitamin C and flavonoids. The juice also contains folate and fortified juices may contain other nutrients such as vitamin D and calcium. In addition, orange juice is a great source of provitamin A carotenoids and other carotenoids such as lutein and zeaxanthin. What else is there to say about orange juice? Have it whenever the mood strikes.

 

Corn tortillas

I know, I know, it is a very odd choice for a list of natural foods to promote eye health. Corn tortillas are usually made by a process referred to as nixtamalization. During nixtamalization, corn is soaked and boiled in water and lime (calcium hydroxide) to form masa. The masa is used to make products like tortillas and tortilla chips. This process is critical in terms of making corn products because it enhances the nutritional value of corn. Nixtamalized corn reduces the phytic acid for better mineral availability and it contains significant amounts of calcium, protein, and niacin. Corn doesn’t have niacin and people who rely on a corn-heavy diet are vulnerable to the disease pellagra. But corn products such as tortillas are rich in lutein and zeaxanthin. Most of the time I like to use corn tortillas for tacos, however, vegan enchiladas are a great treat too.

 

Cilantro

Cilantro used to be synonymous with fresh guacamole for me. I honestly don’t remember having it any other time beyond that prior to my vegan days. Cilantro can be so much more than that. This herb is great for flavoring curries, noodles, and pesto dishes. Cilantro is an antioxidant herb loaded with vitamin A and vitamin C. It also has vitamin K, thiamine, zinc, and fiber. Some studies suggest that cilantro may be an effective treatment for lowering blood sugar levels and relieving gastrointestinal conditions. What’s more, it is wonderful for great eye health because it is high in lutein. Sometimes simple is best when it comes to an ingredient like cilantro and use a few sprigs to brighten up a rice dish like this one.

So those are some of the foods I use to boost my eye health. What works for you?

Five Ways to Handle Headaches

Last Sunday, I woke up with a bothersome sinus headache. I knew that it was connected to the pollen floating around from the previous day. In fact, as my family and I were driving back and forth for our errands, my son looked out the car window and pointed to the small white wisps and said, “Look at all the pollen blowing in the wind!” I rarely get headaches at all, thank goodness, but unfortunately headaches are all too common for many people that we know and love. Common triggers for headaches may include:

  • Foods such as ripened cheeses, chocolate, vinegar, and fermented foods
  • Caffeine
  • Hunger
  • Dehydration
  • Drug-related reactions
  • Hormonal factors such as menstruation and pregnancy
  • Visual stimuli such as glare, eyestrain, and flicker
  • Odors and smells such as paint and exhaust fumes
  • Seasonal factors such as sudden changes in weather, humidity, heat, and cold
  • Allergens such as pollen
  • Head trauma
  • Neck pain
  • Sexual intercourse

Chronic headaches can result in lost peace of mind and income. It is estimated that 156 full-time work days were lost because of headaches, at a possible cost of $25 billion in lost productivity. So it is absolutely important to identify these triggers and to prevent these headaches from occurring if possible. And most importantly, seek professional medical attention if you are a chronic sufferer.

On the rare occasions that I do have a headache, there are certain foods that I like to indulge in for relief. Here are some of them:

Green Tea

Green tea leaves contain caffeine (I know, I know, I just said caffeine may be a trigger—I’ll explain), theophylline, essential oils, and polyphenols. Okay, caffeine influences the central nervous system by decreasing fatigue, increasing wakefulness, and facilitating idea association. That’s why we like it now and again, but moderation is the key. In addition, theophylline causes a relaxation of the bronchial smooth muscle and stimulates on a respiratory level. This is beneficial for those of us who are suffering from allergy-related headaches. Also, those polyphenols are powerful antioxidants that have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties that boost our immune system, definitely a plus when healing your body. Green tea is my beverage of choice for most mornings. I have it plain without an ounce of sweetener (it took me a while to get used to that!) with a dash of amla powder and lemon or ginger juice.

 

Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne Pepper contains the compound capsaicin that stimulates circulation and aids digestion.  Some evidence suggests that capsaicin has strong anti-inflammatory properties that may be useful in treating conditions such as neuropathic pain. And some clinical studies have found that capsaicin may be effective in relieving and preventing sinus headaches, cluster headaches, and migraine headaches. Cayenne peppers also contain vitamins and minerals such as vitamins A, C, and E, calcium, magnesium, iron, and potassium. I like to sprinkle cayenne pepper on my morning avocado toast on when I need it.

Garlic

I grew up with a Jamaican mother who wouldn’t hesitate to put fresh garlic or garlic powder on any meal she was preparing for dinner that night. And when I say garlic, I don’t mean a dash. I mean a full-blown massive attack where you are walking away with some halitosis. I am proud and, a little bit scared to admit, that I inherited a little of her sensibilities when it comes to this plant. I don’t think I put as much garlic in my dishes as she did, but just enough for my husband to yell that he can smell it from the living room 😊. Garlic is a stimulant, antiseptic, antihypertensive, and carminative. This plant has vitamin A, C, sulfur, iron, calcium, selenium, magnesium and manganese. But most importantly, garlic contains compounds such as allicin that have antioxidant properties for scavenging the body for those damaging free radicals, which is definitely helpful when combating pain. I like to have raw garlic cloves with my dinner for that extra boost of flavor.

 

Ginger

One major rule in my household is that we use garlic and ginger in treating a lot of common illnesses like colds and coughs. Again, it’s the Jamaican background, my friend. Ginger, like garlic, is a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. This plant has been studied as a treatment for conditions such as post-operative nausea and vomiting. But some studies indicate that ginger may be as effective as medications like sumatriptan for treating acute* migraines. I like to have a spoonful of fresh minced ginger first thing in the morning before eating any meal. Lately, I’ve been enjoying this brand below.

 

Magnesium-Rich Food

I have spoken about why it is important to have magnesium as a staple in your diet here. Magnesium deficiency may be associated with headaches. For example, some studies have shown that low magnesium levels have been found in patients with cluster headaches. And it has been reported that magnesium may be an effective complementary treatment for migraines. I like to take the preventive route and have a high magnesium food like chickpeas with rice when I feel the slightest bit of pressure coming on.

 

So these are some of the ways I ward off headache woes. How do you do it?

*Again, please note that I am not a medical professional, so it is absolutely important to consult one before using any method to treat a serious condition.

Four Tips to Allay Anxiety

Memorial day weekend is finally here! That means cookouts, family gatherings, and late-night fiestas with friends and long-lost acquaintances. But for some of us more introverted folks, that means a potential case of anxiety. Don’t get me wrong—I love to socialize with my peeps when I get the opportunity, which is far and few between these days. But as a WAHM, I’m used to spending hours alone during the week with random social media breaks then afternoons/evenings with my husband and son. So I look at opportunities for social events with lots of excitement and nervousness. Let me be clear: I am referring to mild anxiety that a person may experience with specific events like starting a new job, meeting a potential bae, or speaking in front a group of people. This differs from social phobia that can prevent you from functioning and meeting basic needs. Please seek the help a physician if you suffer from the latter.

Anywho, one of the first things that I like to indulge in foods that are rich in magnesium, calcium, and potassium since those nutrients tend to get depleted during high anxiety times. Some studies suggest that magnesium deficiency may be linked to anxiety. Magnesium works together with calcium and potassium for optimal health. Fortified orange juice and plant-based milk, spinach, and almonds are some great choices. In addition, some research indicates an association between vitamin C and cognitive performance, particularly in older adults, so definitely boost your intake of those foods such as strawberries, citrus fruits, leafy green veggies, and potatoes. Here are some other things that I include in my diet during those anxious moments:

Vitamin B12

Among the vitamins and nutrients that are decreased during times of stress are B complex vitamins. This is bad, very bad. For example, low levels of folate are linked to depression. And deficiency of vitamin B12 has been associated with age-related cognitive impairment. This is particularly crucial for vegans because most vegan sources of B12 only contain trace amounts or are inactive. You can read this article for further details. And while many fortified foods do contain this vitamin, supplementation is the key. I take a B12 supplement in addition to my multivitamin throughout the week.

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Chickpeas

Chickpeas (garbanzo) are a good source of carbohydrates and protein. This pulse contains dietary fiber, zinc, magnesium, and calcium. Chickpeas are also a high folate food. But more importantly, chickpeas have tryptophan, a precursor to serotonin, the good-mood neurotransmitter. Foods with high levels of tryptophan also contain amino acids that all compete for access into your brain so very little of tryptophan gets beyond that blood-brain barrier. Chickpeas are the exception to this crappy scenario. I like chickpeas salads during the warmer weather but I love falafels all day, any day. I enjoy them in salads, tacos, with rice in my own Buddha bowl, whatever floats my boat.

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Walnuts

Walnuts are high in omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. For more on that information, please read here. Some studies have shown links between low levels of omega 3 fatty acids with mood disorders and social anxiety disorder. These nuts contain vitamin E, folate, and fiber. Walnuts also have the antioxidant melatonin, which facilitates sleep. My husband is a real walnut aficionado and he puts them on his morning yogurt. I tend to like them chopped in my baked goods like muffins or other desserts.

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Flaxseeds

Flaxseeds are probably one of the top sources of omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. What’s more, these seeds contain B vitamins, vitamin E, magnesium, iron, and manganese. Some studies have shown that flaxseeds are an anti-inflammatory beneficial in combating cardiovascular diseases and an antioxidant with some anti-cancerous properties. Also, some research indicates that flaxseeds may be effective in conditions such as blood clotting and regulating reproductive function and insomnia. I’m really feeling this flax cracker brand as a snack during my hectic anxiety-provoking afternoons.

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Special note: I absolutely believe in the concept of self-care and highly encourage others to engage in it. So if you need to, take a break from whatever you are doing, breathe, and do what you need to do when you need to do it. Enjoy a safe, happy, and healthy holiday!